Chapter 9 : A Denial, A Restless Night and A Halloween Party
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I was miserable. I had been all week. The weather wasn’t helping. It hadn’t stopped raining for three weeks. For the people living in my brain, you might be wondering why I was miserable. It all centered around a gray eyed girl, who was busy spending every free moment with someone other than me. Which should not have bothered me in the slightest. Except it did, and I didn’t like any of it.
I was not helping my argument that I didn’t like her. Everyone had picked up on it pretty quickly. Asher had stopped eating at our table and instead spent all his time at the Ravenclaw table. Traitor! And I seriously needed to get a grip. I banged my head down on the table. Anything was better than staring at them.
Something smacked me in the shoulder and I looked around, annoyed. Freddy elbowed me and pointed down at my plate. Sitting on top of my untouched pile of potatoes was an origami panther. Why was Dom sending me a piece of origami? I looked over at her and she mimed opening the paper and reading. I scowled at her and she just grinned at me, before going back to talk to Charlotte. I sighed. Charlotte looked especially lovely today, and now I’m back to thinking about her. Enough!
I slammed my fork down on the table, causing everyone to look at me and shrink back. The panther roared at me and climbed onto my hand. What did Dom want? As I picked up the paper, it fell apart into an easily readable sheet of parchment.
My lovely cousin, please stop staring at Charlotte. It’s not becoming and it makes you look jealous, which isn’t a good look on you. She’s happy, and if you wanted to be the one over here making her laugh, you should have asked her out before Asher did. So either fess up, tell her how you feel because it’s obvious to everyone. Or let her enjoy the attention.
The paper started smoking and turned to ash in my hands. I raised my head and looked at Dom. She looked back, and her face was full of compassion.
“I’m sorry.” She mouthed at me. I stood up suddenly and stalked out of the dining hall. I needed to get over this, it’s was starting rumors. It would be best to turn my attention to something else. The party was only a few days away, and there was still a lot to do to get everything in order.
I stalked up to my room, and pulled my curtains shut against the world. I spent a few hours doing homework and writing out reminders for the party on Saturday. It might just be the best one yet, and I went over every detail in an attempt to push other thoughts out of my head. It only half worked.
After a few hours, I finally pushed everything to the end of the bed and pulled out a letter from underneath my pillow. Mum had sent it a few weeks ago. She had sent along a picture she had taken of Charlotte and I, with an annoying note about how happy I looked in the picture. I spent most nights staring at picture, waiting for the moment in the loop when Charlotte looked back at the camera and smiled. It was wrong, on so many levels.
The guys came back into the room a while after dinner was over. Asher lay in the bed next to me, and I heard the Will and Harry ribbing him about how little they saw him these days. I wanted to pound them when they started making jokes about Asher getting Charlotte into a dark room and having some quality time with her. Asher, to his credit, told them he wasn’t even thinking about that and would never pressure her into anything. A knife stabbed into me when I heard him say that kissing her was enough. I didn’t realize he had. I tortured myself imagining it.
I should be happy for Asher, I really should. I should be happy for Charlotte, she deserved to have a good bloke to spend her time with, to share her amazing self with. I was almost dreading seeing her at the party. She’d be coming with him. Maybe I’d just get drunk, find the nearest willing girl and go find a dark spot. Even as I thought the idea, I felt disgusted with myself. I rolled over, shoving the picture back under my pillow and closed my eyes.
Everyone else had long since gone to bed. I couldn’t sleep. Thoughts of a certain person kept plaguing me, and around one I finally gave up the fight. Sleep clearly wasn’t going to happen. As quietly as possible, I rooted through the bottom of my trunk and grabbed the infamous invisibility cloak and map. Sneaking out was something I happened to be very good at, and managed to make it outside the common room without waking a single soul. Once outside I lay back against the cool castle wall and let out a deep sigh.
School had started almost two months ago, and it was already unbearable. It had nothing to do with homework, although there was a lot of it. Nothing to do with Quidditch, my team was amazing and they would for sure win, again, this year. All my problems centered around a girl. This was a new problem. Girls had always been easy to come by, but no one had ever gotten past my wall. I used them, and then I discarded them. It was a game. I wasn’t like Albus, who, at 15 had already found his soul-mate in Ava. Ironically enough, it happened to be one of Charlotte’s sisters.
What was it about those girls and the Potters? Lily and Harper were two peas in a pod. And now, it seemed, I was falling for the oldest. There was way more to that girl than met the eye. I kept thinking back to that night in her room. At the time, it seemed a good idea to stay and make sure she was ok. How the devil was I supposed to know that it would lead to one of the best nights of my life, where literally nothing happened but conversation and a few chances to rescue her from herself.
My eyes closed and I saw a face floating behind them. Pale skin, wavy dark hair and those gray eyes that had been haunting my dreams. In an attempt to rid myself of the image, I slammed my head back against the wall. Great, now I was seeing birds. That hurt.
“What gave that away?” The portrait I was sitting underneath chuckled. Glad to know my torment was amusing.
“Poor child, first love is never easy is it?”
“Love?!?” Who said anything about love? This is just a silly crush, I can get over it. No commitment. I’m James Potter, that kind of thing doesn’t happen. No way, no how.
“Deny it all you want dear, I know that look. Had it myself once, a very long time ago. Let’s see, that was way back in 1705. Most handsome man you’d ever seen. No one approved, but I loved him still.”
“I am not in love!” The person in the painting just chuckled again, then yelled at the painting next to her. “Does he look to be in love to you?” That got them all going and I bolted to the sounds of their affirmations that yes, I was clearly in love. I tried to find another spot, but there were paintings all over the bloody castle! My blood was rushing through my head and I was breathing heavily. No way I was out of shape, I was worked up because of this. Damn. Beautiful. Ravenclaw that I maybe, sort of, kind of liked. Just a bit.
I banged my head against the stone again and yelped in pain. Giving myself brain damage was apparently my solution to all of this. My body froze for a while, and I just stood there leaning against the wall. I gave in, and opened up the map, just to find her name. Charlotte Gray. She wasn’t in Ravenclaw tower. Panic rose up in me, and I immediately started to envision all the scenarios where she could be hurt or stranded somewhere. It had happened before. A smile crept across my face at the thought of rescuing her again. No! Stop thinking about her, but where was she? I was about to rip the map to shreds in frustration, her name was nowhere to be seen. Wait, there! What is she doing there? With Georgia, Rory, Sky and Dom no less. Huh?
I slipped the cloak over my body, and walked towards where the map said they were. Is it possible for the map to lie? What would 5 sixth year Ravenclaws be doing out of bed at this hour? There was no way for me to know that this was a tradition. It was pretty smart of them actually, I hadn’t even been in this part of the castle before. They could probably make as much noise as possible and no teacher would find them. I heard the faint sounds of music coming from just up ahead. Singing, definitely singing. I crept quietly towards the door, and wondered how I was going to get in.
I was saved from having to think about a way in when the door burst open and Sky and Rory came bursting out, laughing. And drunk. Why wasn’t I invited, this seemed like my kind of party. Who knew the studious Ravenclaws knew how to have fun. My brain told me not to lose this opportunity and I slipped inside, staying flat against the wall. Good thing I did too, because the twins came back in moments later and shut the door. Great, now I was trapped in a room with 5 girls. Actually, this wasn’t the worst problem I’d ever had.
“Charlie! Your turn.” I heard a singsong voice and I recognized it as my cousins.
“Why do you insist on karaoke every year?” There she was, my beautiful Lottie. Stop thinking that!
“Because it’s fun, and you have a beautiful voice!”
“You do Charlie, you really do.” That was a bit much for my Charlotte and I saw her blush. Which didn’t help me any, because that only made her more endearing. How did I never notice how amazing she was? Because you were stuck in your selfish little world playing games with other girls was my first thought. My jaw dropped when I saw her take a swing from a flask. Charlotte grinned, grabbed a cowboy hat and sauntered over to the old desk. I worried she might trip trying to climb on top, but she got up in one quick hop.
“What would my lovely audience like to hear?”
“Show the girls a true, American country song dear cousin.” Georgia grinned at her and Charlotte grinned back. They were doing that telepathic thing that I sometimes did with Freddy. They both finally nodded and using some sort of small portable metal device Charlotte picked the agreed upon song.
Immediately upon hearing the music, a very different Charlotte came out. I liked it, a lot. She danced, and she sang. I had never heard the song before, something about a good girl. Up on that desk, she became a rock star, swinging hips and all. I had never been more attracted to her. When the song ended, she fell down laughing, a full blown body laugh that I hadn’t heard since that night in her room.
This is turning out to be a great night of no sleep. I had a stupid grin all over my face I’m sure, and just enjoyed staring at Charlotte. Stalker was the lone word that passed across my thoughts. It wasn’t untrue.
“I have to go to the loo, then it’s my turn!” Dom was definitely slurring her words a bit, but I followed her as she bounced out of the room. Who knew when I’d get the chance to leave, and as much as I would like to stay and just stare at Charlotte, that was crazy behavior. Even for me.
Dom went one way out the door and I went the other, using the map to help get me back towards a more familiar section of the castle. I walked past the same portrait that had been harassing me earlier and whispered, “You win.” I crept back into the Gryffindor common room and up to my bed, falling asleep mere moments after lying down. I guess being a stalker wears a guy out.
The days passed quickly and dawn spread her glorious colors across the sky on Halloween morning. It had finally stopped raining a few days ago, which was quite fortunate for Freddy and I, having planned our party outdoors this year. We had enlisted Hagrid’s help in turning the Quidditch pitch into party central, complete with a maze that was 20 feet high.
The maze was made courtesy of my Uncle George. Just plant a seed and three days later, a full blown maze appeared. It was enchanted to be invisible to everyone but the names on the list. That was how it worked, you wrapped the seed in a piece of parchment, on which was the list of invited people. It was brilliant. I had no way of knowing that my Uncle had failed to tell me all the things that might happen in the maze.
After a quick and light dinner, there was going to be tons of food at the party, Freddy and I sprinted up to our room to change. I was going as The Count of Monte Cristo and he was going as Houdini. We both made sure the costumes were complete and then walked slowly through the common room and out into the castle. Everyone was aware of our annual party. I was convinced that even the teachers knew, and they just let us have our fun, but were hidden chaperones. Two of our teachers were registered Animagi and I’m pretty sure that if we went way out of line, they would turn back into humans and we’d be in trouble.
Freddy and I tried to keep it under control. There was alcohol, but not massive amounts. People got drunk, but never blacked out. We never broke any major school rules, or tried not to anyway. No one had ever been sent to the Hospital Wing for major injuries. It was just a fun costume party, with our own little pranks thrown in.
Given that it was our party, and we didn’t hold to the fashionably late rule, we were the first to arrive. The maze looked dark and scary and Freddy and I high fived each other. The house elves had out done themselves with the food this year. It was going to be an epic party.
Freddy and I lounged in the golden thrones at the entrance to the tent. We were waiting for people to show up so we could judge what they were wearing and why they were there. This year, we had the brilliant idea to set up a magic trick, of sorts, for people as they walked past the barrier set up to keep our party invisible. Upon walking past the barrier, your hair would have a colored streak it in.
The color of the streak indicated why you were at the party- for the thrills (gray), the food and drink (purple), to hook up (red), etc. If there was no color, it meant you were truly just there to have fun. I had set up a special color for Charlotte, if at any point after passing the barrier she thought about me more than once, a gold streak would appear in her hair. It was my test. Maybe if I knew that she truly wasn’t thinking about me and was perfectly happy with Asher, I could try and pry myself free of these feelings choking me.
People started to arrive, and we cranked up the music. There was a large dance floor inside the tent, and lots of small tables with cushy chairs. People seemed to be enjoying themselves so far. I was still staring at the barrier, watching as people magically appeared between one moment and the next. Freddy snuck up behind me and slapped me on the back.
“Come join the party! Stop sitting up here looking bored.”
“I’m not bored. I’m having fun watching for… as people come in.”
“You’re watching for her, I know.” Freddy just shook his head, smiled and stared at me. I wouldn’t tell him he was wrong, and he knew it. He slapped me again and went back to the party.
I looked around. Dom had dressed up as a pirate wench and was doing things I didn’t want to see to a 6th year Slytherin I wasn’t acquainted with. Al and Ava were dressed up as Noah and Allie from the Notebook. I knew that because Lily had made me watch it with her about a thousand times, and I’d been annoyed every single time. They were dancing in the middle of the floor, both alight with joy. They seriously needed to make something happen; it was getting old waiting for him to make a move. Or her, she was a Gryffindor after all.
Rose and Scorpius, I noticed with a scowl, were standing very close together. He was playing with her hair and they were being what Dom called awkwardly cute with each other. They had dressed up as Romeo and Juliet- absolutely no creativity there. There was another friendship that needed to go to the next level, permanently. I had accdientally walked in on them kissing once, but ever since then they both acted like it had never happened.
Will and Harry were looking quite content, sitting at a small table with their girlfriends on their laps. Sky and Rory were dressed as fairies. Georgia was dressed like a 20’s era American flapper and was flying around the dance floor with her very talented partner, who I was surprised to see, was the Hufflepuff Quidditch Captain. Who knew Puffs could move. Everyone but me was having an amazing time, and this was my party. Where the hell was Charlotte? Was she still coming?
At that moment, my wrist flared with pain and I looked down, then up. As part of the barrier enchantment, I had made it so that when she finally did cross the barrier, I would know. An eagle symbol would appear on my skin, and to make sure I wouldn’t miss it, I had it burn for 5 seconds.
There she was, hand in hand with Asher. For the first time all night, I grinned. She was here and looking radiant. It took me a moment to realize who she was dressed as. Once I did, I wondered if I should curse the universe or thank it.
Of all the characters to dress up as, she chose Mercédès Mondego, the first love of The Count’s life. I stared at her until she looked back, and I saw the realization pass across her face instantly. She looked like she was having the same thought as me- was this a sign or just a coincidence?
Charlotte smiled at me and waved, then titled her head up a bit as Asher leaned down to whisper in her ear. He kissed her temple afterward and the smile left my face. She looked back at me, pained, and detached from Asher. At least she was coming towards me.
“Count.” She grinned at me and curtsied. Her costume looked very well put together, it looked like one of the dresses straight out of the movie, although I know she preferred the book. Her hair was curled, and little ringlets hung around her face. I reached out and tugged on one. She smacked my hand away and then started chuckling.
“You look…,” I didn’t know what word to use. Ravishing was too telling, lovely wasn’t enough, “time period appropriate.” Really brain? That’s what you settle on? I hate you brain!
“Thanks, I guess.” She laughed again and my insides warmed. I wasn’t liking this whole actually liking someone thing. “You look time period appropriate too.”
“Of all the people for you to dress up as, and you go with Mercédès.”
“I like the Count of Monte Cristo.”
“I know.” She looked surprised. “I do remember what you tell you me.”
“I’m confused now James. Does this mean I should follow you around, being that we are dressed as lovers from the same book, or should I follow Asher around?” Her voice was light and joking, but I wondered if she was serious.
“I don’t think you want my actual opinion on that.” She looked at me sharply and was about to respond when Asher walked up, wrapping an arm around her waist. They’d gotten very comfortable with each other in just a few short weeks.
“James, awesome party! How do you come up with all these ideas?”
“Just brilliant I guess.” Asher laughed and didn’t pick up on how annoyed I was that he was interrupting my time with Charlotte. I was a bad person. “Do you mind if I take your date for a dance? After all- she and I are dressed as characters from the same book.”
“Count of Monte Cristo.” We spoke at the same time and smiled at each other.
“Never heard of it.”
“Well, there’s no accounting for taste. Do you mind?”
“If Charlotte doesn’t mind, and promises to behave herself.” He kissed her forehead again.
I grabbed her head and yelled over my shoulder, “I think you should be more worried about me behaving.” The song playing was an upbeat song from one of the more popular wizarding bands. We stood a few feet apart and just jumped around, not really dancing.
“You should, behave yourself you know.” She had to raise her voice, it was much louder over here.
“Don’t I always?” I grinned at her cheekily and received an eye roll in response. “Hey! I behaved myself plenty around you this summer.”
“And not at all since school started.” Ouch, ok, she was right.
“I’m sorry about that, now can we just enjoy this dance?” I knew the song well enough to know the ending was coming, and I grabbed her hand, pulling her into me before spinning her back out. She threw her head back and laughed, looking back up at me as I spun her back into the circle of my arms.
The music changed to a slow song from an American singer, and I selected it specifically because it was one of Charlotte’s favorite songs. I swear I didn’t plan the way this happened, although I was turning out quite perfectly. She looked up at me, confused and slightly impressed.
“Did you plan this?”
“I knew you liked this song, but if you’re talking about dancing with you to it, no.” I pulled her closer, I’d enjoy this moment for as long as I could. I placed one hand on her waist, and wrapped my free hand around hers, placing it on my chest. Her free arm held onto my shoulder and she surprised me by laying her head on my chest. She started singing the lyrics under her breath, and I realized how perfect this song was given the gymnastics my heart was doing.
You’re contagious, understated, beautiful and true
My heart races, I’m invaded hopelessly infused
“You have a beautiful voice Charlotte. All I learned about you this summer and I never knew that.”
“It’s nothing personal. I don’t sing around many people.”
“Have I told you that you look beautiful?” She pulled back a bit, and stared up at me. I couldn’t read her expression.
“No, you just said I looked time period appropriate.”
“Which was a stupid thing to say. I should have just said you look beautiful.”
“That’s twice now, that you’ve called me beautiful.”
“Well, you are.” The song ended and went back to an upbeat song, but we didn’t move along with the beat. I wasn’t aware that Freddy, Dom and Rose were all staring at us with sad smiles. I wasn’t aware that Asher had been watching the whole time and was now walking towards us. I wasn’t aware of anything but the feeling of Charlotte in my arms.
“Can I cut in?” Go away Asher! I’m busy enjoying dancing with your girlfriend. Instead of saying those things, I looked up, but didn’t let go. He didn’t look thrilled, but he also didn’t look like he wanted to punch me. Which was good, as it meant that he was not using Legilimency on me. Charlotte detached herself from me and let Asher lead her away, looking back over her shoulder at me. What was with the sad smile?
I watched as they slow danced, and then found myself frozen when Asher started kissing her in the middle of the dance floor. A burst of anger and pain made its way through me and I stalked off into the maze.
The maze had changed since the last time I had walked around it, I didn’t know it would do that. I had no clue where I was going, and kept expecting to run into someone. I didn’t know that the maze had a mind of its own, and that Uncle George had mixed in a love spell with the magic that made the maze.
Whenever two people who fancied each other walked into the maze, separately or together, the maze got to work. If they were together, vines flew out, wrapped around the couple and drew them into a private wooded sanctuary.
If they were separate, one person was trapped inside the sanctuary until the other arrived. The maze was also determined to scare people, for everyone that didn’t fall under the lover category, their biggest fears would jump out at them. It was Halloween after all.
After only five minutes wandering around the maze, looking for something familiar, I gave up. Deciding I needed to cool down anyway, I was about to sit down on the ground and wait for a while, when vines shot out of the maze wall and pulled me in. I yelled in protest and fumbled for my wand. I was not so gently deposited onto a cool, stone floor.
What the hell? I looked around in utter confusion. The floor was a black slate, and there was a bubbling fountain in the middle. There were blooming rose bushes and music was drifting from somewhere. There was a small gazebo, made entirely out of jasmine and ivy. Where the hell was I?
“Uncle George, I’m going to be having some very angry words with you when I get THE HELL OUT OF HERE!” I tried throwing a spell at the wall, and jumped back in surprise when words formed in mid-air.
You’re stuck until your partner arrives.
I didn’t have a partner! This wasn’t a game! How was I going to get out of here? I tried to worm my way out physically, and kept hitting a solid brick wall. Now my costume was ruined and I had scratches all over my hands and face. I tried to summon my broom to fly out, as there was no ceiling. Nothing happened. I tried to blow up the fountain and all it did was grow larger, and shoot a jet of water at me.
I lay back down on the ground and went over my options. Surely, I’d be released at some point. By morning hopefully, if not, someone would have to come looking for me. Uncle George was a dead man next time I saw him.
“A LITTLE WARNING MIGHT HAVE BEEN NICE!”
I wasn’t sure how much time had passed, a few minutes or a few hours. Nothing changed in here, wherever here was. I had no watch, and every attempt to use magic failed. Great, I’m a wizard in an anti-magic room. I’m fucked.
A/N- And that wraps up this chapter, what’d you think? I’ve found that I quite like writing from James’s POV, and hope you like knowing what he’s thinking and feeling too. This is the part where I beg for reviews… if you liked it, let me know. If you didn’t- let me know that too. And if you don’t- that’s ok. Thanks for reading this story. Onto the next chapter! It will be a two part chapter from Charlotte’s POV. There was so much being written it was the only good way to do it. Enjoy (hopefully)!
Credit to The Count of Monte Cristo and Mercedes Mondego goes to Alexandre Dumas. Noah and Allie are characters from The Notebook- written by Nicholas Sparks. Romeo and Juliet are from Shakespeare.
Houdini was a famous magician.
The song I was referring to (that Charlotte was singing) was Good Girl by Carrie Underwood. The song Charlotte and James dance to is Contagious by Marc Robillard.
And because I can't thank her often enough- credit goes to my favorite author J.K. Rowling for creating this world. :)
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