As I sat on a comfortable couch back in my own common room half an hour later, I had no time to think about how fast and straightforward my encounter with Rose had been. She had barely given me details, simply the outline of her plan. And I had not questioned it. And now I was sitting in front of the fire, watching the flames dance, and wondering what the hell my mad cousin had in stall for tonight.
The common room behind me was slowly filling up with people. Louis had set out a table with snacks and drinks and a spiked punch for those who preferred not to drink alcohol intentionally. There was music playing, and people chatting, and I wanted to be alone in my room with my cat.
Normally I was a very social guy, whom, despite what Rose liked to tell me, did very well with the ladies. Most ladies. All ladies but the lady that he wanted. Beside the point, though, because it had suddenly struck me that Rose’s plan was complete bullshit. I had dated pretty girls in front of Aphrodite before, and it had most definitely not made her want snog me senseless. Why would a new, fake one be any different?
Damnit Rose, I thought, you’re supposed to be a genius! And seduction lessons? From Louis? That was preposterous! What was she thinking? What was I thinking, agreeing to this?
Bloody fuck, I was screwed. I was going to live a sad and sorry existence. I was going to die alone. And I was going to get very drunk tonight.
I was just about to make my way over to the drink table (which had a distasteful banner that read ‘Happy 17th Jemson!’ in large letters hanging over it) when I was intercepted by a certain pretty girl with long blonde hair, who had stumbled across my path. I grabbed her shoulders to steady her before she fell over. She smiled at me, and my heart almost stopped.
“James!” Aphrodite exclaimed, teetering lightly, “I did not see you there. Did I step on your toes?”
I grinned at her in a psychotic manner, “I daresay that’s a drink in your hand,” I informed her stupidly, just in case she had not realized what it was she had been sipping out of for the past half hour. Aphrodite sent me an uncertain smile.
“Yes James,” She agreed slowly. Her words were slightly slurred, “It is a drink. Would you like one?”
I nodded vigorously, “Yes,” I told her happily, “I’ll get it!” And I walked off, leaving her staring after me with a quizzical and drunken expression on her face.
At least, I liked to think she was staring after me. But when I turned around to check, I saw that she had already engaged in conversation with a brunette Ravenclaw I recognized from potions class. I sighed. It was hopeless.
“Never going to happen,” This was Louis speaking. He was standing behind the drink bar, serving people as they came, and had caught me staring wistfully at the Goddess of love. I scowled at him.
“It’s my birthday, wanker, be kind,” I replied, pulling a hand through my hair, “Now serve me the most extravagant drink you can concoct. And then serve one for yourself and get Henry to mind the table.”
Henry Drill, who was standing beside to me in line, sent me a shocked glance.
“James, that’s not such a good idea. I don’t even know what half these drinks are called,” He told me, staring anxiously up at me from behind his large blonde fringe. I could just picture that fringe flying up and down in slow motion when he ran. It was the kind of fringe my grandmother sported when she was twenty six.
“Rubbish, Henry, you’ll do great,” I told the boy, patting him on the back, “No one else knows what they are called either, just make it up as you go. That’s what Lou does, right Lou?”
“You know it,” My cousin agreed, just as he finished creating our very much alcoholic beverages. He was holding them up with pride; they were bright pink, held in shapely cocktail glasses, and had fruit stuck onto the side. I stared at him.
“Good luck convincing Andy you like girls,” I stated, shaking my head, “Even she wouldn’t drink a drink that feminine.”
Louis paused, “Really that bad?” She asked me, frowning. I nodded.
“Really that bad,” Henry agreed solemnly. “Do I still have to mind the drinks?”
“Yes. Hop to it. Louis, come with me.” I took one of the pink drinks from my cousin’s hand, and began walking over to our couches in front of the fire. Louis followed behind, sipping his beverage noisily.
“Where is Andy?” Louis asked, glancing around the now crowded room as he sat down. I shrugged and tried out his drink. It was scrumptious. I wondered if it were possible to produce the same taste in something amber coloured that sat in a tall, unshaped glass. I was guessing not, but I was hopeful.
“Why are you so keen to sleep with her?” I asked my cousin, taking another sip of my drink, “She’s our friend, don’t you find it weird?”
Louis shook his head, “She’s fucking attractive,” He told me. I could not disagree with him there, “And she has so much fire in her… I’m sure she would be very-”
“Enough,” I held up a hand, “I do not want to know, Lou, she’s one of my best friends. And I have to be honest with you when I say I don’t think you have a chance.” I pried a cherry off the rim of my glass and popped it in my mouth.
“Because it’s Andy. And she’ll hit you. In the face.”
“Not necessarily. She’s been attracted to me before, she can be attracted to me again.”
I looked dubious as I sucked on a slice of lemon. I think the effect of my was doubt was dampened by that somewhat, “What makes you think that?” I asked my friend. He shrugged.
“She kissed me.”
The lemon juice went down the wrong way, and I choked. “Kissed!?” I repeated, coughing harshly. I took a sip of my drink to clear my airway. My eyes were watering, “She kissed you? When?”
“At the start of the year,” Louis told me, “On the first Hogsmeade weekend. It was just the two of us. Nickie had stayed back, Dash had a date and I think you were following them around under your cloak. It was just Andy and I…” I could not believe what I was hearing. Andy had shocked me speechless twice in less than two hours, “We were outside Zonco’s, joking around, and she just leant up and snogged me. It was awesome, man,” Louis grinned at me, “But then she told me that if I told anyone about it she would castrate me with her bare hands, and that it was not to happen again either. And then she went back up to the castle.” He sighed. “But I want it very much to happen again.” His pretty face turned suddenly worried, “Do not mention this to anyone, Jem. She will kill me.”
I nodded, but I didn’t know what to say. The thought of Louis and Andy was even stranger to me than the thought of Andy and Al. Sure, hearing Louis talk about wanting to sleep with her was kind of amusing, but I had never taken it seriously. Louis joked about sleeping with anything that had boobs. But now I was hearing that not only had something already happened between them, but that Andy had initiated it? I couldn’t react. I didn’t really want to, to be honest. The thought of two of my best mates getting it on was too much for me to bear.
“I think you should talk to Al,” I told my cousin, my throat still croaky from the mis-swallowed lemon juice, “About Andy. Ask him about Andy.”
“Al? How come?”
“Just do it,” I said, glancing at my watch, “Now, I’ll be right back.” I stood up, placing my finished drink down on the table, “Al. Talk. Now,” I added, pointing at my cousin as I walked away.
It was seven thirty; the time Rose had asked me to meet her outside the portrait hole. I pushed through the crowd until I was outside.
“You’re late,” Rose stated, as I stepped into the corridor. “By five minutes. You look like shit.” She was standing with her arms crossed, her foot tapping impatiently against the stone floor. I nodded and sent her an apology, but I was slightly distracted by the fact that she looked like a teenager. A real live one. With a short dress and messy hair and makeup. The scuffed Docs she was wearing slightly dampened the effect of the tight, sequiny thing she had on in guise of clothing, but still, I was very surprised. Rose caught my raised eye-brows, and lifted her shoulder slightly.
“I’m sixteen years old, James, you don’t have to look so amazed,” She sighed, still seeming bemused by my stupidity, “You, on the other hand, don’t look remotely party worthy. Isn’t this whole thing set up for you?”
“Yes,” I said, trying not to scowl at her insult, “It’s my birthday.”
“That’s nice. Do you want to let me in?”
“Sure, Rose,” I answered, “Seeing as you’re such a lovely being of wonder and delight,”
She just scoffed and pushed me roughly towards the painting of the fat lady. The latter was smirking down at me, her painted face looking highly amused. I sighed, gave her the password, and wondered if this was possibly one of the worse birthdays I had ever had.
When we emerged back into the common room, the volume had risen noticeably. I turned to face Rose, who was glancing around with distaste, and asked her what we were going to do.
“You are going to do nothing,” She told me, staring over my shoulder, “I am going to find Poppy,”
“Poppy. I’ll be back soon, stay out of trouble.”
Before I could grab her arm and ask her what the elusive ‘Poppy’ was, she had disappeared into the crowd. I stood where she had left me for a couple of seconds, staring at the people around the room - who were becoming gradually more sloshed by the minute - before remembering that a strong drink was going to be necessary to get me through the night.
When I reached the drink table it was to find Henry gone, replaced by a short girl with green hair whom I had never seen before in my life. She asked me what I wanted and I said surprise me, and ended up with something that burnt my throat and tasted like dragon piss. I thanked her gingerly, and carried my drink back over to the couches.
“Hey, birthday boy,” Andy greeted when I joined her on the two seater. She had been sitting alone, clutching a cup in her hands and staring into the fire. I quickly checked to see that her drink did not resemble pink lemonade, and sat down beside her.
“Enjoying yourself?” She asked me, unfolding her legs and laying them over my lap. She was wearing a cute, dark green dress and stockings with no shoes on. Her dress was short. I wondered what was up with all the females in my life right now.
“The enjoyment is palpable,” I answered, staring moodily into my cup. Andy tsked me.
“Cheer up, Jem!” She said nudging me with her foot, “If you continue to be moody, you’ll end up with no friends and you’ll cry.”
“I know. So smile.”
We sat in silence for a while, staring into the flickering flames, until Nick came and joined us, looking perplexed. I was relieved to see that she, at least, was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt that covered her chest area. She sat down across from us.
“I think Frank Long just mistook me for his girlfriend,” She said, looking half worried, half disgusted, “He touched my hair and called me ‘pretty lady’.”
“Drink?” Andy asked, holding her cup out to her friend. Nickie nodded and took a sip.
“How are you, Jem?” She asked me, crossing her legs, “Still annoyed that Louis threw you this party?”
“I’m ecstatic,” I answered flatly, wincing when Andy dug her heel into my leg, “I really am. Are you having fun?”
“Apart from Long’s misdirected affections, yes,” Nickie answered, smiling. “Is Rose here? I thought I saw her from a distance.”
“What was she doing?”
Nick shrugged, “Talking to some blonde girl.” She said.
I perked up. “Aphrodite?”
“No, not Dash, James. Is your mind capable of thinking of something else?”
I shrugged. “Probably not.”
“Well, I’m going to get a drink. Andy, here’s yours,” Nick passed Andy back her glass, and stood up, stretching slightly. “Do you guys want anything?”
We both replied with a negative, and Nickie walked off, leaving us in silence once again.
“Where’s Al?” I asked Andy after a while. She shrugged.
“Probably getting ready,” She suggested, with a small smile, “That tousled, just-got-out-of-bed look of his must take hours to perfect.”
“My dad has worried on many an occasion that he may in fact have two daughters,” I told her, grinning. Andy smirked.
“What does that make Lily then?” She asked me, her expression cheeky. I glowered at her.
“Ha-ha, Andira, funny,” I deadpanned.
“If you do see Al, tell him to come find me,” Andy said, pulling her legs off my lap. I felt suddenly cold, “And tell him to bring a drink,” She kissed me quickly on the cheek, sending shivers down my neck, and sauntered off into the crowd. I watched her go, a strange feeling in my stomach. Girls were going to be the death of me, I swear. Why do they have to have such wonderful breasts and lovely legs and entrancing lips?
Fuck me. I should just become a monk.
“James?” I looked up and saw Rose standing in front of me, a very pretty blonde girl by her side. Brilliant, just what I needed. Another attractive female. “James, stop staring. This is Poppy,” She gestured at the blonde, “Poppy, this is my cousin James,”
Poppy sent me a wide, crooked smile, and tucked a strand of her long, slightly tousled hair behind her ear. I recognized her now; she was a Hufflepuff in my Potions and Charms classes. I had vague recollections of staring at the tumbling mess of her hair during particularly dull moments in our lessons. She had wide blue eyes and an impish smile, and was dressed in a way that made me want to tuck her hair behind her ear and kiss her on the nose. She was very good-looking. I needed a cold shower.
“Poppy, sit down,” Rose told the girl, and the girl obliged, sending me a wide-eyed, rather amused look. I grinned in response. Rose herself stayed standing, and surveyed us both coldly. “James, you know how I said I’d find you a girl to help with your Aphrodite situation?” She asked me, beginning to pace in front of the fire. I flicked my gaze quickly over to the blonde, and nodded.
“Well that’s Poppy.”
“Poppy’s the girl?” I asked, glancing over at her once again. Poppy shrugged.
“I’m the girl,” She said meekly. Rose nodded.
“I get the feeling you’re a little thick,” She muttered, referring to me, before ceasing her pacing and turning to face us once again. “I helped Poppy out in the past, and she owed me a favour. She wasn’t thrilled when I explained the idea to her, but she’s perfect for the job and I don’t actually care whether she wants to or not anyway,”
Poppy crossed her arms, looking a little peeved. I tried not to laugh.
“So what’s the plan?” I asked Rose, wishing she’d sit down. I didn’t want her close to throwable objects, such as logs, and tables.
“You can figure that out with Poppy, James,” Rose stated, “But basically anything that will make Dash notice you. Have you asked Louis about the lessons?”
I shook my head, and Rose rolled her eyes.
“Do it. I’ll get started on Tim.” She plucked my drink out of my hand, sent me a wry smile, and strutted off, head held high. I cursed and stared after her, wondering what ‘started on Tim’ actually entailed. I hoped she wasn’t thinking of throwing him out the window.
“I think you’re a little mad, James Potter,” Poppy was saying, staring me down with those giant blue eyes of hers. I blinked and tried to dispel the naked images out of my mind. “But I think Rose is madder, and she scares me, so I guess you’re the better option.”
“I’m flattered,” I answered, pulling a hand through my hair, “And I’m very sorry for dragging you into this.”
Poppy shrugged, and crossed her legs underneath her. She was dressed in yellow cotton shorts and a baggy shirt with buttons undone just low enough to be distracting. I was under the impression that Merlin had cursed me with many female temptations tonight. I couldn’t spend more than fifteen minutes without having a pretty girl thrown in front of me. If I hadn’t pledged my love to Aphrodite, I could be a very happy man.
“It’s all a little exciting, actually,” She said, tucking her bottom lip under her teeth. “And a little weird. Very weird. I may be weirded out for the duration of this all, so just ignore that.”
I nodded, “You know what we should do?” I said, looking thoughtful. Poppy cocked her head to the side.
“We should get to know each other. Just simple stuff, like your last name and your hobbies and whether or not you play Quidditch…”
“Ah.” Poppy grinned, “In that case, my name is Poppy Campbell. I take Potions, Herbology, Charms, Divination and Care of Magical Creatures. I enjoy reading, swimming, eating and knitting, I do play Quidditch, though only with family or friends on Summer afternoons. I suck at it, but I find it fun. I have four sisters and we all live with our Grandparents, I am the youngest. I’m in Hufflepuff, don’t laugh!” She rolled her eyes at my chuckles, “I want to be a florist or a herbalist of some form of plant person when I finish school, I have an owl named Jules who is a complete idiot, my good friends are Harriett Blake, Oliver Dibbs and Juliet Morrison, and I do not like eating seafood.” She stopped here, smiling brightly and staring at me expectantly. I let my shoulders slump.
“I’m afraid I can’t even fake-date anyone who doesn’t like anchovies, Poppy,” I sighed dramatically. She rolled her eyes and nudged me gently with her knee.
“Your turn,” She said lightly.
“Alright.” I cleared my throat, “I am James Potter. I’m in your Potions class and your Charms class and I wasn’t even aware that Divination was still running. I also take Transfiguration, Defence, and History of Magic. I play Quidditch, and I’m keeper for the Gryffindor team. I’m bloody good, too. I like to eat, sleep, and sometimes go to class in between. I have a giant family, and we’re pretty tight knit, so Christmas dinners are a mess. I have no idea what to do when I finish school, I have a small cat I named Pipsqueak whom I dearly love, my close friends are mostly related to me which is sad, and I actually don’t like anchovies. But I do like spinach. And I’m pathetically head over heels for someone who may or may not think I play for the other team. Which I guess is where you fit into it all.”
Poppy laughed. “So Aphrodite Dash is the girl, I hear,” She said, tugging on the end of her wavy hair, “She’s very pretty, but I thought she had a boyfriend?”
I nodded glumly. “She does,” I said, “But Rose has plans for him.”
Poppy’s pretty eyes widened. “That’s frightening,” She stated, biting her lip, “Don’t you feel guilty?”
“I want to,” I told her, “But no, not really.”
“James, you’re going to have to tell me what you want,” Poppy stated, placing an absentminded hand on my knee. I felt it there like a block of lead. I did not want her to ever take it off. I began to question my sanity. “Rose didn’t explain much. She just approached me and told me that it was time to pay back my debt. And then she informed me that this required helping you make Aphrodite Dash jealous and that I was not to question it. Then she dragged me here. I am still confused.” Her hand slid off my leg, making me want to reach for it and hold it in mine. I needed some female attention, and soon. I was going insane. I was going Louis.
“She hasn’t said much to me either,” I sighed, pulling a hand down my face, “And I feel terrible making you be part of this. There’s nothing in it for you.”
“Just tell me what we’ll be doing.”
“I guess we can simply-”
“Birthday King!” Louis bounded over, cutting me off midsentence. “Where have you been at, J-money? I been searching for my brother since he – hello,” He had suddenly noticed Poppy, and his attention shifted. I rolled my eyes. “I’m Louis Weasley,” He held out his hand, sending the girl an award-winning grin. She took his hand and shook it lightly.
“Poppy Campbell,” She said, grinning back. “You were saying?”
“Oh,” Louis turned back to me, “James, I don’t want you disappearing again. Preferably, I want you very drunk and shouting nonsense and basically making a fool out of yourself, but if not, at least be around. Now drink.” He held his cup out to me, “So, Poppy, was it…?” He turned back to the blonde, who I was glad to see didn’t have any of the usual symptoms Louis generally produced from girls (blushing, giggling, professing of everlasting love…) and simply looked very amused.
“I’m getting another drink,” I informed the two blondes, standing up. The alcohol I had consumed in the past hour rushed to my head, making me sway. “Poppy, do you want anything?”
“No thanks James,” Poppy answered, with a smile that could have fuelled a small village for weeks, before turning back to her conversation.
I was feeling a little more relaxed now. That last drink Louis had handed me must have been rather strong. I sauntered up to the drink bar, and got myself a bottle of some variety. Taking a sip, I swaggered over to the cleared space in the middle of the room where people were dancing in a jumbled mess. I thought of joining them, but my mind was still partially cohesive and I had too much pride. So I didn’t.
I got a couple of Happy Birthday’s and back pats from persons walking past me, which was nice and made me want to hug them. In fact, I did start hugging people. I hugged Henry and my cousin Roxanne and a fine-looking girl in a red dress, and then began to feel dizzy and happy. I like to feel dizzy and happy, I thought, so I’m getting another drink.
I hugged a girl on my Quidditch team on the way to the drink table, I hugged the green haired bartender when at the drink table, and I hugged several people on my way back to the dance floor. All the while persons were wishing me a Happy Birthday, and I was suddenly feeling like I was actually 17. My night was improving drastically.
“I’m Cassie!” The girl in the red dress was back, and she was standing next to me, yelling something in my ear. I smiled at her.
“And I’m James!” I answered, taking a swig from my bottle, “Are you having a good time?”
Cassie nodded, and before I could stop her (stop her? Why was I wanting to stop her?) she had launched herself into my arms and pressed her lips against mine. I blinked in surprise, and gently pried her away.
“Cassie,” I stated solemnly, holding her at arm’s length and staring into her confused and drunken eyes. “I appreciate your interest in my body, but I can’t snog you tonight. I hope you’ll understand.”
Cassie didn’t answer. She just stumbled away, muttering something under her breath. I watched her go sadly.
“Classy,” Said Rose, who had appeared beside me. She had her arms crossed, and despite the festive dress, did not look like she wanted to be here at all. “I am leaving now James. And it has been done. Dash is free to be impressed by your manly ways,” She sounded very sarcastic, and also a little bored, “It was almost too easy.”
And with one last sigh at the idiocy of her classmates, Rose patted me on the shoulder, and turned to leave. I waved her off, then turned back to watch the dancing bodies in the middle of the room. I wondered if I was intoxicated enough to join them now.
And that was when I spotted Aphrodite. She was at the other side of the room.
Snogging Wood. On the face.
My stomach flipped over, and I looked quickly away, frowning. It was not something I wanted to see right now, or ever. I briefly wondered how she could have found someone so fast, but then I remembered; she was Aphrodite. Of course she was snogging someone. She was beautiful.
“Is that her?” Poppy was beside me now. I looked down at her, and noticed that she was slightly taller than I thought she had been. I nodded, and downed the rest of my drink in one go.
“That sucks, man,” Poppy sighed, slipping her hand into mine. I gave it a squeeze.
“Tell me about it.”
“Wanna get more to drink?”
I looked at her. She was smiling slightly, her eyes creased at the side, her hair tumbling about her face. She had amazing hair. I thought of stroking it, but I didn’t, because, well, creepy. Instead I grinned and said;
“I think I like you, Poppy Campbell.”
She rolled her eyes, “Well I think you’re an arrogant prick. Drinks?”
“Oh so many.”
“Did I mention that you’re mad, James Potter?”
“And you’re pretty. And I’m drunk. And Aphrodite is snogging Isaac Wood. Life is great.”
Poppy didn’t answer that one. She just tightened her grip on my hand, and led me over to the drinks.
A/N: Hola my fanfictioning friends! Hope you liked this chapter, reviews are nice things :)