Chapter 4 : A Game, A Goodbye, and Is That An Owl?
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James was waiting for me to think of 20 Questions to ask him. I was too busy reliving the past 24 hours. How had my day turned out this way? Two hours ago, I had woken up to find myself snuggling with him, on my bed! Now he was harassing me every two seconds about asking questions and I couldn’t stop laughing. Which, in and of itself, was something I couldn’t come to terms with. I don’t open up easily to anyone. I have my 2 best friends- one of whom is, oddly enough, James’s cousin, and those are pretty much the only two people I’m myself with. Even my sisters and I aren’t all that close, they’re just close with each other.
For me to be this open with James Potter of all people was strange. I knew his reputation, although I do believe that people are more than how others see them. James was probably the same way. We all wear masks. Which James was actually doing literally, he’d found one of my fancy ballroom masks. Seeing him wearing a mask and feathers, while walking around mooing and doing the Egyptian was something I won’t ever forget. Was he that bored waiting for me?
“James! Stuff it!”
“What am I supposed to stuff, exactly?”
“A sock, in your mouth. As in, shut the hell up!”
“Temper, temper Ms. Gray!”
“This coming from you?”
“I have no temper, you lie.”
“Do you remember the last day of school, 4th year, when you had a spectacular fit in front of the entire school because Piper Smith refused to sit with you at the Gryffindor table?”
“Oh yea, that. I’ve matured since then!”
“Or a few weeks ago, also on the last day, when you knocked out Jeremiah Edgecombe for asking Rose on a date over the summer?”
“She didn’t like him!”
“I pity the guy that goes after your sister.” His eyes narrowed.
“You’re stalling. Ask me a question.”
“Determined to embarrass yourself aren’t you?”
“Well, we won’t know until you stop stalling and ask me a bloody question!”
“Prepare yourself James Potter. I ask good questions.”
“I’ll be the judge of that.”
“What’s your biggest regret?”
“Oho! You start with the big guns, don’t you?” My mouth went up at one corner, and I just looked at him pointedly.
“Are you going to answer, or start with a pass?”
“I’m not afraid of that question. Let’s see… biggest regret. Giving away a gift that I later found out was actually very important to the person I took it from.”
“Details?” I looked at him, laid across my bed, dying of curiosity. He turned his head to look at me and cocked an eyebrow up.
“Are you using one of your two…”
“No. I’ll save them.”
“Next question then.”
“Least favorite animal that Hagrid has ever shown you in class?”
“Awww, I love them. Really? Hippogriff? Over everything?”
“Yup. They freak me out, ok? Don’t tell anyone.” He winked at me. “Promise?” I didn’t say anything and then James tackled me and started tickling me until I agreed. I caved only because I couldn’t breathe anymore.
“Fine! I promise! I won’t tell anyone! Stop!” He lay back down next to me, closer this time. For quite possibly the millionth time that night, I wondered what was going on. This was a very, very strange evening.
“Hmm… Has James Potter ever been in love?”
“I asked you that, you can’t ask me the same question.”
“Wrong. You asked me if I had ever had my heart broken, those are two differentquestions. Fess up.”
“No, I’ve never been in love. I hope it happens though.”
“Do you like zebras?”
He laughed and said, “I have nothing against them.”
“If you were an ice cream flavor what would you be?"
“Ok, no. Uh, I don't know. Rocky Road?
“What is people’s biggest misconception about you?”
“That I’m a spoiled brat that won’t make a name for himself and just live off my family name. Makes me angry.”
“More info- I’m using a request.”
He sighed loudly before giving me an answer. “I’m more than just Harry Potter’s son. I mean, I know he saved the world and all, but I’m not him. I don’t want to be him. I play pranks and act like I’m less than I know I can be, because I know people won’t take me seriously. As if I can’t be both a joker and a serious student. I feel like I’m the least important Potter child, and so I act out to get attention, instead of being a better person and getting attention for that. Not saying anything more.” James looked at me after a while, because I hadn’t said anything. He seemed slightly worried that he was opening up this much to, lets admit, a near total stranger.
“I’m sorry James.”
“Don’t be… it’s my choice to be this way. C’mon ask me another question.”
“Lemon soufflé or brownies?”
“Brownies! I hate lemon desserts.”
“You’re weird. Favorite place to be?”
“On a broomstick.”
“What’s makes you fancy a girl?”
“Someone with spirit. Although a pretty face and a nice body, doesn’t help. Oh, don’t look at me like that, I’m 16!”
“Fair enough. You haven’t passed on a question yet.”
“That’s cause you haven’t asked anything I’m afraid to answer. Think of better questions.”
“Have you ever sabatoged a friends relationship?”
“Ok, pass.” Ooh, that was a story I’d have to get at some point. I stared up at the glow in the dark stars pasted on my black ceiling.
“What’s your favorite prank that you’ve successfully pulled off?” His face lit up and he was quiet for a moment, laughing every once in a while.
“Ok, I know. You know how Gryffindor and Slytherins don’t get along?”
“Well one time Freddy and I snuck into their common room, and well, we did a few things in the guys dorms- all of them. 1st year to 7th year. We snuck into every bathroom and put clear wrap on every toilet, then used a spell to make it invisible. Then we put a permanent dye into every shampoo bottle- turning their hair into rainbow colors, which wouldn’t come out for 3 days. And then we mixed up all their assignments, so that 5th years ended up with 1st year essays, 2nd year with 4th year, you get it. We glued scary pictures onto the tops of their bunks, and then let off some decoy detonators from my Uncle George’s shop. So they shot out of bed, saw the pictures, and all screamed like little girls. Fun times.”
“You did that?!?I remember that day! Mad props James. I mean, I’m all about house unity, but that was pretty funny. Ok, ok, if you weren’t in Gryffindor, which house do you think you’d be in?”
“I’m not nice enough to be in Hufflepuff, not sure I’m smart enough to be in Ravenclaw, so, and I say this grudgingly, Slytherin.”
“Will you ever talk to me again after today?”
“Most definitely.” And there was the famous James Potter smile that made girls melt.
“What is something people don’t know about you?”
“That I’m really good a juggling.”
“I can’t picture it.”
“I’ll show you sometime.”
“Looking forward to it. If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?”
“Have you ever cheated on a girlfriend?”
“What’s your favorite scent?”
“The way it smells after it rains, like now.” James had stood up and walked over to the window, throwing it open wide. He took a deep breath and smiled. The air rushed into the room, clean and cool. It was refreshing, and I had to agree with James, the way it smelled after a rainstorm was something I wish they would bottle up and sell. Maybe that’s what I should do with my life. Ok, stop thinking about bottling scents and ask another question Charlotte, I chided myself.
“I don’t have one yet.”
“You have got to be kidding me. All the girls you’ve snogged, one of them must stand out.”
“I want more info.”
“What’s there to tell? I can’t say I’ve ever really cared about the girls I’ve been with. Yes, that makes me sound shallow and horrible. You know how everyone always wants that spark between themselves and another person? The fireworks, the passion…?” My head bobbed up and down in acknowledgment. “I’ve never had that.”
“You and Annabelle seemed to have a lot of uh, passion?”
“Not the good kind. You saw how much we fought. Besides, someone else liked her better than I did.”
“Something you have to do before you die?”
“Go scuba diving in the Great Barrier reef. I know what it’s like to fly, I want to know what it’s like to be underwater for a while.”
“If you could kick out any team from the Quidditch league, which team would it be?” He looked at me, horrified. “Hey, you asked me a stupid question about which state I would get rid of, so I’m asking you an equally stupid question.”
“That’s just not fair! That’s Quidditch, you can’t ask me that about a team!”
“I did and you used up both passes.” I stuck my tongue out at him.
“The Canons, and if you ever tell my Uncle Ron that I will end you.” He looked like he meant it too, so I swore that I would take that secret with me to the grave. I’m pretty sure he didn’t believe me. He went back to staring out my window and I looked back up at my ceiling. We lapsed into another bout of silence.
My ankle was throbbing painfully again. I had to go and trip over that stupid rock. My hair had fallen into my face, and I reached over, trying to reach my bedside table. I always kept a bundle of elastic bands in the drawer. I was just a bit too far, reached out farther and fell down onto my side, a loud oomph escaping my lips.
A shadow passed across my face and I looked up. James was looking down at me.
“Why are you always looking at me with worry and amusement?”
“Because you keep hurting yourself, and you look cute right now.” James Potter thinks I look cute with messy hair, in leggings and a fashionably loose t-shirt. Liar. “And no, I’m not lying, so don’t think it.” What is he, psychic? “And I’m not reading your thoughts either.” He laughed loudly at the look that passed across my face. “Now, what do you need?”
“Well, I’d like to brush my hair and tie it up. But my brush is in the bathroom, I can’t walk and so I’ll settle for a band.”
“Why don’t you ask for the brush? I didn’t trip and hurt myself today, I can still move around.”
“I don’t like asking for help. I’m stubborn.”
“I can see that.” James went and got my brush anyway, and started brushing my hair. What the hell is going on today?!?
“You’re brushing my hair. Why are you brushing my hair?”
“Well everything you try to do ends up with you hurt… so I figured I should just do everything.”
“Like brushing my hair?”
“I used to brush my sisters hair, and don’t you dare tell anyone that either!” James waved the brush in front of my face, and I was slightly afraid he was going to accidentally smack me with it. So, of course, I covered my face with my hands, which caused James to growl at me. “I won’t hurt you!”
“Put the brush down and maybe I’ll believe you.”
“You have really soft hair.” Did he really just say that? Ok, I’m having a fangirl moment.
“Thank you.” Silence. Crickets chirping. Yea, what just happened?
We spent the rest of the night watching movies in my room, after James gave me another near panic attack by leaving my room to retrieve a massive bowl of popcorn. While he was gone I hobbled over to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. Flushed skin, which shouldn't surprise me. Thanks to James, I was either constantly blushing or about to blow a blood vessel from laughing so hard. My silver gray eyes were shining. I bit my lower lip and messed with my hair a bit, pulling a few strands out of the pony-tail to frame my face. I pulled a drawer open and grabbed my tube of mascara, applying just enough to lengthen my lashes, but not make it obvious I had put any make-up on.
If Georgia were here, she’d be telling me to go all out, which was far more suited to her way of doing things. Instead of putting a full face of make-up on, at 4am in the morning, I grabbed my favorite tinted chapstick and applied a little bit. How did I smell? Sniff test wasn’t bad, but just in case, I dabbed a bit of my favorite solid gardenia perfume on. The second sniff test was much better. I waddled back into bed, and just in time to, as James chose that exact moment to come bursting through the door. All in all, that was definitely one of the best nights of my life. James finally left around 8 in the morning, after promising up and down to write me over the summer. I wanted another shower, and now that my ankle was feeling marginally better, I left the comfort of my bed and sat back in the shower for a really long time. After putting on nothing but an oversize shirt and crawling back into bed, I fell asleep clutching the pillow James had been leaning against most of the night. It smelled like him and I didn’t want to think about how I already missed him. I’d gone most of my life without being close to James Potter, I could do it again. Couldn’t I?
A week passed without hearing from him, and I was mopier than normal. My ankle was mostly all better, but I still couldn’t run on it. My one escape from this house had been taken away from me (for now), and my normal distractions weren’t working. Mostly, I was just sitting on the window seat in my room, with the windows open and looking across the valley. I was seriously debating taking up painting and seeing if I could use that as a distraction. The sky was a brilliant blue today and the air smelled sweet and clean. It had rained a lot the last few days, but the storms had finally passed. Birds were chirping and insects were buzzing lazily around the flowers. It was the one thing my mother did well, her gardens. She loved them more than her children. It’s a self-defeating thought, but it’s true.
My mother was the greatest gardener in 20 counties. Roses, lilies, poppies, foxglove, primrose, honeysuckle… the list goes on and on. Our front and back yard looked like the Garden of Eden, and I had found myself retreating to whichever garden my mother wasn’t currently tending. My level of boredom was so high that I actually named some of the flowers and had conversations. Is it time to go to school yet? Or even for my sisters to show up? They were coming in two weeks, and although they’d probably spend most of their time over at the Potters, at least there would be noise in the house. Other than the noise I made anyway.
My arms were burdened with a large vase full of fragrant flowers, and so I didn’t immediately notice the large tawny owl sitting on my desk chair. I put the flowers on my dresser and fiddled around with them, making the arrangement look as nice as possible. My lungs filled with fragrant air and I hummed a song to myself.
One of the stems was a bit too long, and I reached over to the desk drawer to grab a pair of scissors. That’s when the owl hooted and I threw the scissors up in the air in surprise. They landed far behind me, thank God, and I stared at the owl, who just hooted happily at me. My own owl had been sleeping in her cage, and was now hooting angrily. Not a good match of sounds, my ears were hurting.
“Athena! Shush, calm down.” Athena was one of my favorite things to come out of Hogwarts. She was a barn owl and I loved her, named her after my favorite Greek goddess. She looked at me with wide eyes and then tucked her head back under her feathers. I turned again to the large tawny owl sitting on my chair, realizing it had gotten in through the open windows. It hooted happily again and stuck its leg out. It was only then that I realized it had a piece of parchment attached to its leg.
After removing the paper, I fully expected it to fly away. No, it stayed put, and promptly fell asleep on my chair after I had given him a few treats. Was I supposed to respond immediately? I opened the letter and saw a single word. Not even a long word. A two letter word, written in a large neat letters.
My brow furrowed in confusion. Who was writing to me? I didn’t recognize the owl. It wasn’t Georgia’s, or Dom’s. Should I write back? What if this is some kind of creepy stalker? Like anyone would stalk me, I thought to myself. Barely anyone in the magical world even knows I exist. James? Aha, yes, this could be James. Only one way to find out, so I wrote the same single word the mystery person had used and sent the owl back on his way. I watched the owl flying away, and it didn’t fly too far, down below the hill just a little ways from my front door and I didn’t see it again after that. Just as I was turning my back the owl swooped in again. What the hell? I unfurled the paper again, and laughed. So began my afternoon of writing with James, taking turns with our owls. Although I’m fairly certain that wasn’t necessary, as I was utterly convinced that he was lying in the grass just behind the hill.
I hope you haven’t injured yourself again. I can’t be a hero twice in a week. It’s far too exhausting.
Well I almost killed myself when your owl hooted at me… so that would have been all your fault.
You really are accident prone, aren’t you?
I really am not. Your owl surprised me.
Sure, blame the owl.
I can’t do that. He’s too fluffy and cute.
My owl is not cute! He’s masculine, like me.
Whatever you say James.
I didn’t say who I was.
So you aren’t James?
I’m Dread Pirate Roberts the 15th. Your friend told me about you, and I fancied a witty conversation.
Dread Pirate Roberts huh? Tell me, have you rescued any damsels in distress lately?
Pirates pillage and loot, they don’t rescue!
My apologies Pirate Roberts. Have you had any good pillaging and looting adventures lately?
No, sadly. Have any advice for a place with lots of gold I could steal?
You could try Gringotts, if you can get past the dragon.
Dragon you say? Sounds like a plan. Will you be my partner in crime?
Dread Pirate Roberts needs a partner in crime? I missed that advertisement.
He doesn’t, but his prisoner does. James is quite bored and needs some entertainment. I can’t take his whining anymore.
Oh, well in that case, I’d be happy to take him off your hands. I know how whiny he can be, I truly sympathize with your situation.
I do not whine!
So this is James!
You figured me out. J
You must truly be bored if you’re writing to me.
I’m not falling for that feminine trap.
No one has ever accused me of that before.
Then I’m happy to be the first.
I’d rather you be the first at something else.
What, pray tell, would that be?
I have, never ever, as in ever, been to a Muggle movie theatre and would like to go. Would you join me?
What’s in it for me?
The pleasure of my company, obviously.
What if I’d rather stay home and read a book?
Then that means that I have fallen very far indeed, if even a book is more interesting.
Maybe I just had enough of you last week.
You don’t think anyone can get tired of you?
It’s really not possible. I’m too sparkly, people love to admire me.
Quite the ego you have there James Potter.
I’m just confident.
No, just confident. And because I’m confident, I’m going to ask you again, and trust that your second answer will be more acceptable.
Is that a yes?
That’s a maybe.
I know that that means in girl speak! You can’t be that entertained that you’ll turn down an evening with me. I’ll even pay for dinner. Now you can’t say no.
I suppose I can’t.
Are you agreeing to come with me?
Yes, I’ll join you.
Excellent! See you in two minutes!
So you were hiding behind that hill!
I knew my Ravenclaw girl would figure it out.
I’m not dressed you know.
Then I’ll really put some coal into the engine to get there faster. ;)
Would you just open the front door? Preferably while still undressed.
I wrapped up the pieces of paper we had been writing all over after re-reading it, and tucked them into my journal while James was in the downstairs bathroom. A smile as large as Manhattan was spread across my face. I couldn’t help thinking that it may be quite easy indeed to fall for James Potter. Which, given his track record, is probably a very, very bad idea.
“What in the seven hells am I going to wear?!?” Nothing screamed out at me. I didn’t know if this was a date or not, and had no clue how to dress. Dinner and a movie means casual, but sexy. I didn’t have anything that was both casual and sexy. James came bounding into my closet, making me scream. I was only in jeans and a bra.
“Get out! I didn’t say you could come in here!” My hands shot up and tried to cover up my bra as best as I could. I was mortified.
“Are you doing that girl thing and trying to find the perfect outfit out of 7,000 items of clothing?”
“How do you know about that?”
“I have a lot of female cousins, and a sister. We’re never on time as a family because of this issue.” James was wandering around my large walk-in-closet, pulling things off, shaking his head and then putting them back. “Are you going to be wearing those jeans?”
“Yes, unless there’s something wrong with them?”
“Nope, they look great on you.” I blushed, couldn’t help it. “What shoes are you wearing?”
“Boots, obviously. We’ll have to walk half the countryside to get to a theatre.”
“I have a motorcycle actually, so you won’t be walking. You can’t be trusted not to trip and break your other ankle.” He walked over to my pile of shoes and picked out my tallest heels and shoved them at me. Deciding not to argue with him, I put my hand on his shoulder and used him for balance as I put on the heels and gained 4 inches. It occurred to me as I was doing it that James must surely be enjoying the view. “Much better, now my neck won’t hurt trying to find you all the way down there.”
Before I could protest, he had shoved some clothes at me and just told me to put them on. I walked into the bathroom and shut the door firmly behind me. I looked down at the fabrics in my hand and realized the guy had good taste. He had pulled out one of my favorite shirts- a cherry red silk blouse with pearl buttons and cap sleeves. He had also managed to hand me my favorite leather jacket- it was soft as butter and the color of caramel. All in all, the outfit worked. I walked back into my room, leaning up against the doorframe.
“Are you sure you’re not gay?” I asked, using my hands to indicate my outfit. He whistled at me, then proceeded to drag me out of the room. Thank God I already had make-up on.
My one thought, all night, was that this was not the James Potter I was used to seeing. So he either does what I do, which is walk around pretending, or he’s been body snatched by aliens. James was a perfect gentleman, well mostly. He was still a 16 year old boy. It was the best-non-date I had ever had. When he finally brought me back to my house, he made a point to walk me to the front door.
“Thank you for a wonderful evening James.”
“You’re welcome. I hope we can do this again soon.”
“You’re getting awfully attached to me for only really knowing me a week.”
“I’ve known you my whole life.”
“And ignored me for most of it.”
“Well, I’m done ignoring you. I like spending time with you. Are you ok with that?”
“I’ll see you soon Charlotte.”
“Good night James.” I leaned up and kissed his cheek quickly, and then spun inside and shut the door. Did I really just do that? What would he think of me now?
A/N- Hopefully you’re still enjoying this story. I love writing it and would love, love, love some feedback! What do you all think will happen next? J Seriously, any guesses? J Please keep reading, Charlotte and James will be at Hogwarts soon… and that will bring lots of changes. What kind of changes you ask? You'll have to keep reading to find out. :D
Dread Pirate Roberts is a reference to a character in The Princess Bride novel by William Goldman. There is also a movie of the same name, directed by Rob Reiner.
Credit again, goes to J.K. Rowling for creating this universe and the many amzaing things in it.. All I can take credit for are my original characters.
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