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Chapter 7 : Flaming Lies
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Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
It’s Tuesday and I’m officially basking in my new work place, although my small stuffy office will be dearly missed. I’m right next to Mrs Potter this time, so we can collaborate and discuss articles as needed. She was very happy for me, stating that she would’ve given me the job herself, if Mr Lee hadn’t been the one with the responsibility. Thankfully, now I have Chief on my side.
I mean, can life be any more perfect than right now?
That’s when my daydream is shattered upon hearing two guys arguing while nearing my office. I already know who they are but that doesn’t prevent me from sighing when Albus and James enter the room, practically barking at each other.
„I will never forgive you for leaving me alone in that dirty office, Tatum.“ James whines upon directing his attention from his brother at me.
„She doesn’t like being called that.“ Albus interrupts.
„What?“ James is puzzled.
„Tatum.“ Al rolls his eyes.
„But that’s her name.“
Albus and I share a disbelief ridden look.
„James.“ I stand up. „Go back to your office. If your mother sees you wandering around...“
„I’m not a child!“ He whines yet again and runs out of the room, leaving his brother alone with me.
„I swear, sometimes I wonder if mum had an affair before delivering me and Lily.“ He sighs.
I chuckle in response. „It appears he’s getting worse with the wedding nearing. Although, I can’t blame him. It seems Vanessa is torturing him with suit shopping and hair fixing and whatnot.“
„He chose her as a girlfriend, so there’s no one else to blame, really.“ Albus shakes his head.
I decide to drop the issue, not in the mood to discuss James’ girlfriend any further, instead focusing my attention on the other Potter.
„So, to what do I owe the honour?“ I smile at him teasingly.
„I just dropped by in my lunch break to inform you that Rose and Scorpius want to give you their pre wedding interviews this afternoon.“ He sighs, handing me a paper with the address of their apartment written on it. „Did I mention that I detest being her emergency guy already?“
„Every day.“ I confirm, mocking him slightly.
Albus finally smiles, letting his tension melt away. „Also, I wanted to ask if you could come over to my flat tomorrow?“
A warm, tremulous feeling suddenly awakes from the pit of my stomach.
„Why?“ I ask all shilly-shally.
„To try out our outfits together, play games, have fun, just something to ease the stress.“ He bites his full lip. „James isn’t the only one becoming more nervous as the wedding approaches, you know.“
I nod my head in understanding. „I know. All right then, I’ll come over. Where do you live?“
„I’ll pick you up after work, don’t worry.“ He smiles and comes over to place a kiss on my cheek. „See you tomorrow.“
With that, he exits the office, leaving me alone.
Great, Jill. You just can’t seem to refuse making favours for Potters, can you?
But this isn’t a favour, I remind myself. Albus is my friend, the one James never could or wanted to be. I guess it’s just hard getting used to a Potter boy actually caring in return.
Rose and Scorpius don’t live in a flat, but a two story house, much to my disbelief. It’s located in the garden suburb of Hampstead, about seven miles from the city centre of London. The sight actually takes my breath away as it feels out of place so near to the hustle of England’s biggest city. The yard is shielded by a one meter high green barrier and the outer walls of the building are covered in red climber plants, making it easy to believe that this house has grown out of the ground by itself, just like the numerous herbs. I step inside the court and immediately my gaze is drawn by a house elf tending to the garden flowers of all colors and sizes. He looks up me, as well, his big, strikingly green eyes piercing mine.
„Hello.“ I smile at him, a little startled that a house elf is walking around in broad daylight in a muggle suburb.
„Greeny wishes you a good day, Miss Kenward.“ He bows slightly. „Miss Rose and Mr Scorpius are waiting for you in their home.“
„Oh, thank you. Have a nice day, too.“ I nod at him and proceed to the door.
I knock loudly, since there isn’t any door bell, which doesn’t surprise me. The house appears to be quite old, after all, albeit well kept.
A moment later, Rose opens the door, beaming at me. „I’m so happy Albus came to his senses and you’re going to the wedding. Come in.“
I walk inside only to be even more amazed at their house. The interior is dominated by white wood and quirky furniture, but it’s clearly all matched in style by someone who has a neck for art.
Rose leads me into the living room, which is bright and smells of home made sweets. To the right there’s a big fireplace and a line of cupboards with plenty of framed photos standing on their wooden tops. To the left, a big couch and a few armchairs in mainly red colors are surrounding a wide black table with a bowl of cookies on it. Ahh, so that’s where the lovely smell comes from.
A medium sized window just opposite the entrance reveals the house elf still working in the garden.
„Greeny is our employee.“ Rose supplies. „Does lovely work with the flowers. Mum would disown me if he was working for free.“
I smile amused, because, yes, Hermione Weasley certainly would have an outrage in that scenario, but then, suddenly, I remember my puzzlement from before. „But isn’t it a bit dangerous for him to wander around in a muggle suburb?“
„Oh, no.“ Rose chuckles. „Hampstead is very much aware and open to magic and everything that comes with it. Children are constantly flying on brooms and befriending each other, no matter their heritage. It’s kind of like an utopia of some sort.“
„It must be great living here.“
„Oh, it is!“ Rose agrees enthusiastically. „When I first moved in with Scorpius I thought it’d drive me insane. I mean, Rose Weasley in a suburb? A little hard to picture.“
She snorts and I grin because she’s completely right. It is hard to picture. But Rose doesn’t fail to surprise me as of late.
„But then, after actually residing here for some time, I realized... this is the best bloody place in the world!“
„It sure looks heavenly.“ I comply.
As if she just remembered something, Rose turns to me hastily. „Hold on, I’m going upstairs to call Scorpius. He’s working on some boring paperwork for the Ministry, the poor thing. Make yourself comfortable.“
She leaves me to myself and runs up the stairs next to the living room. I look around and decide to take a glance at the photos to kill some time as I wait. Most of them are of the happy pair, as I note upon observing. There’s one of them dancing, one of them making faces at the camera and one with splashing around in water. And all of them have one thing in common: Rose and Scorpius look so in love, it’s tangible even in moving frames. It makes me feel beyond jealous. What? It’s hard not envying someone so lucky.
Soon enough Rose is back with Scorpius following her step, a big grin on his sharp features. „Well, isn’t it Tatum Kenward, Hogwarts’ star reporter.“
He hugs me before I even produce an answer. „How do you know me?“
„How can I not know you?“ He lets me recover from his tight grip as we all sit down around the table.
„I always had this impression that I was a nobody at school.“ I joke (but not really).
„Rose and I couldn’t ignore you when you constantly wrote about us, even if we wanted to. Plus, that last article... Really, who was your source?“
„Mal, I already told you she can’t reveal that.“ Rose rolls her eyes in amusement.
„Right, journalists’ honour.“ He smiles at me. „Besides, now you’re hanging out with Albus. So we’re bound to bump shoulders. But, I must warn you, I’m very possessive of him.“
„I sometimes wonder who should really be getting married here.“ Rose mocks, leaning into a kiss.
„What can I say, bromances are in style now.“ Scorpius shrugs with nonchalance before responding to the kiss.
Merlin, pour some more salt into my single’s heart wound, will you!?
I smile at them, trying not to appear as ragingly jundiced of their love as I truly am.
„Well...“ I get my paper and pen charmed to take notes for me out of the bag thrown over my shoulder and smile at them. „Shall we begin?“
I end up staying for diner, since the interviews, both joint and separate, take more time than expected.
„Are you guys ok with me selling them to Spells?“ I ask as Rose levitates my plate in front of me, followed by a cup of lemon tea. „After I do the wedding exclusive too, of course?“
„You can do whatever you please.“ Rose notes and Scorpius nods in agreement. „After all, there may not even be a wedding without you.“
„I don’t think I’m that responsible for you two getting together.“ I shake my head.
„Rose never forgets favours, however small and unintentional they are.“ Scorpius smiles at her in adoration.
I nod, feeling a bit uneasy.
Albus is right, Rose won’t stop until something happens between the two of us. I don’t like being forced into things. It usually makes me lose interest for the very same thing I’m being forced into. And, besides, Albus is pining after another girl, which I’m pretty certain Rose must be aware of to some extend. It’s clear the fates are not in our favour.
So then why does Rose keep insisting?
Will and Ash wait for me patiently since I, quote, need their help to at least appear decent tomorrow.
„Girls, it’s not a date.“ I roll my eyes at their insisting.
„I beg to differ. It may even get physical.“ Will winks at me in a suggestive manner.
„Eww, no.“ I frown.
„Are you saying Albus Potter repulses you?“ She looks at me in shock.
„No, he doesn’t.“ Ash smirks at me, knowingly. „She thinks he’s cute.“
„Praise Merlin. I was beginning to think you’re in love with me or something.“ Will bounces back.
„Well, maybe I am. Why do you think I call you to come visit all the time?“ I play along.
„It’s true. Oh the burden of being so fabulous.“ Willow chuckles while Ash sighs at our childish behaviour.
She takes it on herself to Accio the whole content of my closet and lay it down on the floor. We look into the numerous clothing items, lost in thoughts. The conclusion we draw together, after awhile, is that I need to buy something new from time to time, in spite of my protests. In the end Willow borrows some of her clothes, modifying them a bit to fit my slightly rounder figure.
„I just want to state, once again, that this is not a date.“
„Shut up and come out!“ Will insists so I obey.
The two girls stare at me when I enter the living room again. In Will’s mini skirt and a fun red shirt I believe I look decent enough. They don’t seem to follow my line of thoughts, though.
„There’s something missing...“ Ash says and Will agrees, nodding her head.
I hate how in sync they are.
So Ash takes her wand and performs a series of spells on my hair, with Willow providing approving sighs. After about ten minutes, they urge me to look in the mirror. I’m shell shocked to find my otherwise wavy hair completely straight and shiny. It makes me look somewhat... different. But in a good way.
It all reminds me of that dreaded Pre-Christmas ball, which turned out to be the catalyst for my hatred toward James.
The twentieth of December, 2022
I had never felt so happy like that day. From waking up to lambent snow falling slowly over the castle, to unwrapping my gown that mum sent me via our family owl. Everything was perfect, which was a nice change. If I was still sharing my dorm, my room mates would be highly annoyed by me, no doubt. They often claimed I stumbled into their house by mistake, since I was so overly enthusiastic.
„You’re a Hufflepuff in disguise, I swear.“ Bella Cartwright would tell me, scoffing.
And every time, without exceptions, I would fail to mention that the Sorting Hat indeed had trouble deciding where to place me. But upon stating that I’ll always be more self preserving than friendly, the babbling hat put me into Slytherin. And it was right. I tended to be self absorbed more often than not.
Even today, I was getting ready with little to no worry about the mess I was making. Thankfully, there were no whinny girls surrounding me this time. After hours of preparation, though, at nine o’clock sharp, I was ready. I took a look in the big mirror next to the window, sighing contently. I was in a long purple dress that clung to my figure in a quite flattering manner. And my hair was cooperating, which was good enough for me. I looked so different that I had trouble recognizing my own self. And that was a secure sign my mission was accomplished.
I walked out only to see James in an elegant suit, waiting for me with a startled expression. „You look... different.“
„The good kind of different, I hope.“ I smirked, feeling overly confident.
„You’re always full of only good surprises.“ He answered and added. „Shall we?“
I nodded and took his offered hand into mine. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I mean, yes, after Halloween I fantasized about being his date, but those were just that-fantasies. I never expected any of them to come true. But.... somehow they did.
We arrived to a full Hall and immediately girls were giving me envious looks, which just made me even more happy. I thrived on their jealousy. I acted like a true Slytherin that night, maybe even a bit too much.
The space was filled with floating candles as always, but now, they were red and glowing, making the Hall shimmer with ruddiness. It was beyond beautiful. I was only sad Willow refused to go with us. I mean, I understood. The two of us had a long tradition of avoiding the ball. And maybe I betrayed it in a way. But this was James. I couldn’t say no. I just couldn’t.
The long tables were replaced with round small ones, fit for about four people. James led me to the table that was near the bar, which was already occupied by Liam Wood and his date for the night, whom I didn’t know. She presented herself as Bridget Grignard after Wood did, even though I was well aware who he was. James started hanging out with him not so long ago, after they bonded over who knows what. I felt as though I didn’t have to know much about Bridget, though. James was all I needed for the night, after all.
As, always, I was so monstrously wrong.
At first Liam and James talked and joked around, with Bridget and myself staring awkwardly into distance. This was interrupted when a nice slow song came on and both boys offered us dances, which we gladly accepted. As James led me to a full floor, I could feel dozens of eyes watching me. But that all stopped mattering as soon as he put his arm on my lower back and swayed me to the rhythm of the song. I felt like flying, and not just because of the suspicious pumpkin juice I drank beforehand. I rested my head on his chest, listening to his heart beat steadily.
„Thanks for asking me to the ball.“ I whispered.
„That was the least I could do after you crashed all those parties with me.“ I could hear a smile in his voice.
I breathed in deeply, never feeling so content.
Only for that feeling to be crushed in mere hours later.
Namely, James and Liam disappeared after that song, leaving me alone with Bridget. I didn’t bother to strike up a conversation in hopes that James would come around soon enough. But she did that for me, anyway.
„Would you mind coming to the bathroom with me?“ She pleaded. „I’m kind of scared going there, what with that shrieking ghost.“
I accepted, only because I hoped it would kill me some time until James returns. But as we rounded the first dark corner, I got my answer as to where the said boy disappeared. He was kissing Juliet Watson, his Quidditch team and house mate. And, apparently, snogging buddy. They were so engrossed with each other that they didn’t even notice Bridget and myself staring at them.
I took that as an opportunity to turn around and run, only stopping when I was safely away and alone, dropping to my knees in the abandoned corridor. And I started sobbing, my breath getting cut off numerous times. I felt like I was suffocating, which wasn’t too far from the truth. Because in that single moment all of my hopes about James, that were even more inflamed after Halloween, were crushed. And, after years of waiting for him to notice me, I was finally too broken to continue clinging to a silly dream.
Soon, a warm pair of hands were resting on my back and I looked up to see Bridget giving me a compassionate gaze. I didn’t even care that her name was the only thing I knew about her. I threw myself into her embrace, sobbing even harder. She never said a word. And that’s why I felt forever grateful to her.
You can say that my only make-over turned into a disaster, so I don’t really like practising them, to put it lightly.
„It’ll last ’till tomorrow night, don’t worry.“ Ash assures me, interrupting my wandering thoughts. „Now, I have to go to work and I hate you for not letting me sleep even a little.“
„What?“ I protest. „You two stayed up waiting for me on your own. Don’t blame me.“
„She can’t blame me either because I’m her favourite. Right, Ash?“ Will smiles sweetly at her.
Ash sighs. „I regret the day I thought I could handle a life with a room mate.“
With that, she apparates away.
„Now you see what she’s usually like.“ I snort.
„Yeah, the illusion is shattered.“ Willow jokes, clearly not fazed. „But back to you and the younger Potter.“
„Urgh, Will, give it a rest.“
„No, wait. I just wanted to say...“ She puts her warm hand on my shoulder and smiles at me. „I don’t think you’re crazy anymore.“
„And why’s that?“ I cross my arms, not even commenting on the absurdity of her statement.
„Because you’re finally going after someone who’s emotionally available.“
She kisses my cheek and disappears into the bedroom leaving me with a very bad feeling. Ok, so I kind of didn’t mention Al’s crush in the whole story. What? He obviously wants it to be a secret between just the two of us.
Oh, Merlin. You didn’t intend for my best friend to ever think I’m sane, did you?
That day Mrs Potter seeks me out in my office with an excited grin on her face. „Come now, I’m taking you to your first game.“
My heart leaps, as I pick my bag up in a hurry.
„You should bring your jacket, as well.“ Mrs Potter suggests pointing to my coat flung over the chair.
„Why? Where exactly are we going?“ I wonder.
„North.“ Is all my boss says (Well, she is still my superior.) as we exit my office.
Two hours later, I’m fighting the horrific Northern Ireland rain, trying to see anything of the game being played between Ballycastle Bats and Wimbourne Wasps.
„Oh Merlin, this is a disaster!“
Mrs Potter chuckles at me. „Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it!“
I conjure a pair of rain glasses, inspired by the ones my boss has, and put them on, finally able to see the players. Trying to use my self writing note and pen won’t work now, so I try to memorize everything. Until I notice Mrs Potter filming the game with a magically enhanced camera, obviously way better prepared than I am. I sigh, defeated.
She notices this and pats my back in sympathy. „You think I was any better when I started? Unlike you, it took me a significant amount of time to learn because none of the more experienced journalists had time or really wanted to help me.“
„Yes, because I will teach you everything I know. Just have a little patience. This is your first game, after all.“
I smile, nodding and finally relaxing enough to watch the game in enjoyment. It’s messy and fast paced, the rain only adding to the effect. The most unnerving moment is when, due to a hard wind, Ballycastle’s Seeker Tarah Attri almost falls of her broom. But she stays collected enough and, somehow, even manages to catch the Snitch before Wasps’ Neal Beaufort.
I leap out of my seat, cheering. „That was a bloody amazing save!“
Mrs Potter’s lips turn into a knowing smirk. „I think we have our title.“
Near the end of my working hours I smile contently at the article I just finished. An amazing save leads into an amazing finish. After additional consulting with Mrs Potter she suggests that I run it by Chief. I skip happily toward her office when I notice James walking up and down in front of it.
„James?“ I utter, confused.
He snaps from his thoughts and stares at me, mortified. „I, uh... I lost my... wand... somewhere around here.“
There’s two reasons why I know he’s lying. First, he can easily use Accio to track down his wand at any time. And second, his wand is clearly stuck in his back pocket. I look at it in amusement and James noticed.
„Whatever. I don’t need to explain myself!“
„I didn’t even ask you to.“ I shrug.
Suddenly, there’s a noise heard from Chief’s office and James runs to me, pulls me over to a dark corner and puts his palm over my mouth. This should probably excite me, what with his face being just a few inches away from mine. But, surprisingly, it doesn’t. Instead, I’m just completely perplexed by the whole situation.
James waits for the noise to settle down, then pulls away from me, letting me go. „Sorry.“
„May I ask what that was for?“ I cross my arms in anticipation.
„Nothing, I just...“ He sighs. „I want to talk to Chief but I can’t. If that makes any sense.“
I narrow my eyes at him.
Before I can ask him why, though, James adds. „Please, don’t tell her I was here.“
He sounds rather desperate so I nod my head, after what James leaves in the direction of our old office.
Chief doesn’t seem to be aware of James practically stalking her. Or if she is, she doesn’t bring it up so neither do I. She accepts my article and puts it away to review later, congratulating me on surviving the first on-scene job.
I return to my office quite proud of myself only to see Albus sitting on the edge of my desk, waiting for me.
„Shall we?“ He hops of the table to offer me his hand.
I shake my head, slightly disturbed my the resemblance to the day of the Pre-Christmas ball.
No, Jill. This is not the same boy and not the same situation, therefore, he’s not a prick and you’re not miserably in love with him.
I finally smile and link my arm to his. „Lead me to your humble home then, Al.“
He smiles at me, raising his eyebrows. „So you decided to drop the other nickname?“
„Only if you drop Ward.“ I return.
He chuckles. „Agreed.“
Albus then leads me outside the building, where it’s safe to apparate, and we leave for his apartment.
„Well... I’m not convinced this should be called a humble home at all.“ I mutter after walking through his flat.
It’s conveniently located near his work place, St. Mungo, and it’s a part of a small residential building consisting of only four floors. And Albus’ happens to be occupying the last two. It’s like a two story house inside a building. The dominating color is white, with a few touches of gray, blue and green, fully expected from Albus.
„I mean...“ I look around in awe. „It’s huge!“
„Yeah, I think I exaggerated a bit when I bought it.“
„You actually own this place?“ I gape at him in amazement.
He shrugs. „Healers are well paid.“
I nod in agreement. „Makes sense. Since you suffered through your studies, unlike the rest of us.“
He laughs. „Oh, come on. Your flat is lovely. Well, the little I saw of it.“
„There’s not much more than the little you saw, to be frank.“ I add, to what he snickers in amusement.
He shows me around until we settle in the living room, debating what to do.
„Exploding snap?“ I suggest.
„No, something more... spicy.“
„Strip exploding snap?“ I suggest playfully.
He gives me an entertained look.
„What? I’m not ashamed of my body.“
„I’ll tell you what. I won’t forget your suggestion. For future references.“
„I was only joking.“ I say erratically.
„But...“ Albus ignores me. „What do you say about playing Flaming lies this time around?“
„Oh Merlin, are you sure you want this?“ I bite my lip nervously.
„After your reaction, even more so.“ He doesn’t give up.
So we prepare to play Flaming lies, which is basically a form of Truth or dare, slightly changed to fit the wizarding world. Basically, it’s mostly played by two people with a little help of a watered down version of the Veritaserum potion made and sold by the Weasleys, its effects lasting a couple of minutes at best. One player asks the question, the other drinks the potion and, obviously, has to tell the truth. If you try to fight it and lie anyway, the potion acts so that your hands become red, resembling a fire, in honour of the funny saying Liar, liar, pants on fire. Only here the hands are the ones that appear to be on flame. And if you lie, the opponent has a right to dare you to do something ridiculous, magic or no magic involved. In fact, he or she can take it so far that you have to tell the truth, anyway, as a compensation.
Being a true gentleman, Albus lets me ask the first question.
„All right, here we go. Do you...“ I think for a moment, before it hits me. „Do you hate your name?“
He laughs, obviously knowing why I ask that. „I did, when I was little. Not anymore, though.“
I observe his hands, which stay perfectly common. Crap, I lost my chance to embarrass him at the start!
Albus smirks at me and hands me the glass containing the mild truth potion. I sigh, already expecting a disaster.
„What did you think of me when we first met at St. Mungo?“
Crap! „Um... that you’re nice?“
Naturally, my hands are flaming. Double crap!
It is clear Albus is enjoying himself thinking up an impossible dare. „I dare you to tell your crush that you’re in love with him.“
He smiles trying to appear oh so innocent.
„Urgh, fine. I thought you were weird, annoying and kind of cute. Happy?“
Albus chuckles at me. „Quite, thank you. Your turn.“
„All right, then. You want to go deep, let’s go deep.“ I stare at him with confidence. „What did you think about me that day?“
„Stop copying me, Ty.“ He smiles, amused. „I thought you were interesting. And, yeah, cute.“
I try to suppress my blush, since his hands aren’t turning red. „Well, thank you.“
„I’m just telling the truth.“ Albus winks at me. „Now, entrust me... do I know your crush?“
I instantly freeze. „I thought you didn’t need to know that.“
„No, you said you didn’t need to know the identity of my crush.“
„Because I believed you’d return the favour.“ I utter, now a bit annoyed and, well, angry.
„Apparently not.“ He retorts happily. „Come on, I’m not asking for his name here. You know that my crush is a childhood friend, after all.“
„Urgh, fine.“ I bite my lip, giving up. „You do know him.“
„Is he from my family?“
„Albus, it’s not your turn to ask the question.“ I remind him.
I stay silent for a moment before I add quietly. „He is.“
„Do you still love him?“ Albus throws a significant look my way.
„Yes.“ I mutter, a little peeved, because he already knows this.
But Al is not staring at my face anymore as he’s observing my hands. I follow his gaze only to find my palms to be flaming red.
„I don’t!?“ I ask myself, completely bemused.
„I guess not.“ Albus smiles at me contentedly.
I look up to meet his blithe, emerald eyes, feeling lost.
When the bloody fuck did that happen?!
A/N: Oops, Tatum fell out of love with James. :D Does that make you happy like it makes me? I mean, just look at how James treated her at the Pre-Christmas ball. She had a right to plan a revenge, didn’t she?
Btw, the next chapter is finally dedicated to the wedding! More interesting things are coming. ;)
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