Chapter 4 : IV. Pie Pressure
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Do I know, though?
I can’t say what it is, but Poppy… Poppy might just be right. She’s definitely the most literary of all of us. She… writes. Stuff. Sometimes. I guess. She’s more prolific than James, at any rate, although if he’s the standard of prolific-ness (just as he already is the standard for Good Looks and Better Butts), we’d all come out winners in that comparison. I don’t think it’s probable that there’s any element of a metaphor in the song lyrics, but it could be… possible.
Maybe I’m moving too fast. Maybe I’m seeing ghosts where there are none. Maybe I’m just bored and would prefer to find this situation hilarious for a few days instead of horrific and traumatic. Maybe I am genuinely interested in seeing what is going on in James Potter’s head.
Frankly, Poppy is right. James would so be the type of boy who falls in love with someone and not even know it. And he’d so channel that strange antsy sweet energy into his music. After all, this merma–merperson, sorry–song is a new one, and I’ve explained how rare those are.
I hate it when people are either more insightful or more paranoid than I am. I’m not sure which Poppy is right now, but either way, this is very upsetting for me.
And if it’s bad for me, imagine what it’s like for the other girls, who don’t even have as strong a background in James Potter Mental and Emotional Observation as I do.
They probably feel much the same as I do. It can’t be true. It’s too good to be true. It’s so good it has to be true. It’s so stupid. It’s so clever. It’s so stupid it’s clever. Our thought processes would admittedly diverge a bit, as theirs would branch off into How could he love me when we haven’t ever spoken? Of course he loves me, he’s just too shy to tell me directly! and mine would continue with, I think I shall take a confused nap and wake up refreshed and ready to sleuth.
Ivy Fawcett and Claire Olsen are not the only ones who chase after James in the next few days. They have never been the only ones, but they are, perhaps, the most baldly persistent as this state of affairs drags on (without my sleuthing, because sleuthing is so difficult and time-consuming and would require probably extraneous kitchen runs. I hate extraneous activity, even if it means there’s food when it’s all said and done).
James doesn’t mind that he’s being stalked and accosted all the time by Ivy and Claire in particular. He talks to one or both of them multiple times a day. For example, Ivy once waylaid him on the way back from Quidditch practice and almost kidnapped him into helping her learn to play the guitar. (I don’t know where she got a guitar). The next day, Claire brought pudding to Herbology–James’ favourite dessert, as we all know by now. (I do know where she got pudding: she bakes. Bitches love baking). The day after that, Ivy performed her first song, entitled Archipelagos and Arpeggios, which consisted of alternating G and C chords with lyrics that were very clearly had something to do with going up a scale and reaching the apex and then sadly coming back down again. (Even James is not so oblivious to have missed that, to my relief and mild horror). The day after that, Claire orchestrated a great big Heart-to-Heart with him in which she revealed how very Unsure She Is About Her Future. (Orchestrated it, in case it is not obvious, so he would pat her hand and hug her and assure that Everything Would Be All Right In The End).
I could go on, but it is so bloody boring.
And again, Ivy and Claire are not the only ones who chase after James. The others are far subtler, whether out of shyness or a sense for strategy. Some are amused by the idea that James Potter might fancy them, others hinge the rest of their lives on it.
James is graduating in less than eight months. (So am I!). This is basically their last chance to catch him before he joins the Real World and is officially claimed by the harpies at the over-seventeen wizarding clubs in London and Ibiza and New York.
They chase me very differently.
I could detail that pursuit, but honestly, I would prefer to not relive that nightmare. It’s not super important, anyway, to the momentum of this narrative. Let’s leave it at this:
Witches be crazy.
Three weeks pass and the rumour mill does not stop churning. Every thirty-six hours, a new girl is posited as the frontrunner for James’ affections, and those thirty-six hours easily constitute the most emotionally volatile period any of those girls has experienced in her life. The movement is so powerful and pervasive that genuinely everyone gets invested in it somehow. Boys and girls, firsties and soon-to-graduate-ies, everyone from snooty Ravenclaws to brooding Slytherins to non-confrontational Hufflepuffs to excitable Gryffindors get into it; it’s a phenomenon of the highest order. There are betting pools. There are smoke-filled backroom deals, alliances to launch one candidate over the others in the public imagination. The line of thinking here is, if James is as easily persuadable as everyone thinks he is, then even if you back a witch he does not fancy, advertising will probably trickle into his brain and he might just fall in love with the new girl not on his radar.
It is a dumb line of thinking, but most lines of thinking are dumb, so I’m not sure what I expected.
Over the course of those three weeks, I am approached about every ten hours with requests for my blessings or requests for my involvement or requests for answers or all of the above. This is a very quick turnaround. It is possible because one job of the candidate coalitions is making contact with my roommates (or for the more desperate and/or sneaky, making contact with any female Gryffindor) to pass subliminal messages along to me, even as I sleep.
For reference, the first message I get is: “Samantha Jordan for James Potter’s Girlfriend, Sammy Jordan for Girlfriend of James Potter!”
Simple, elegant. Understandable.
It gets much worse.
On the twenty-fourth night after that disastrous Charms class, I awake to the following:
“You’re veeeery sleepy… you’re… huh, well, you’re veeeeeery asleep-y… you will tell me who James Potter faaaancieeees… no? Okay… then YOU WILL AGREE IT SHOULD BE JESSAAAAA DURHAMMMMM!”
This is getting too bloody much to tolerate.
I rise from the dead. Seeing who it is makes me even more exasperated. “You don’t even like Jessa Durham!”
Afsana Naqvi lowers her wand, which she lit and was just using to illuminate her face in a spooky way. Totally beyond the point, as I’m supposed to be asleep and therefore unable to appreciate the spooky effect. “She got me, Augusta.”
Through barely functioning eyes, I see a giant gift basket perched on her bed. It’s got a bunch of rectangles sticking out of it, which, knowing Afsana, means that Jessa Durham has some very high-up contacts at Honeyduke’s.
“Hey, d’you mind if I tell her you didn’t wake up in the middle of hypnosis?”
I clap my hands over my eyes and will not remove them until I hear Afsana moving back to her bed. Since I do not hear her moving, I respond, “With the money they’re all shelling out to bribe you lot, at least one of them should be able to hire a real hypnotist.”
It is two-thirty in the morning. So naturally this is the time when the rest of my dorm chimes in.
From Tiffany Rocha: “Carys Geiger is a hypnotist. She’s fielding offers. Doesn’t want to undersell her hand now that she actually has a market clamouring for her skills.”
From Laurel Melsbach: “Josie Zhang promised anyone who gets hold of James’ journal gets pie every week for the rest of term.”
And from Poppy: “Margo Sweeney says she’ll pay forty Galleons to whoever learns Occlumency in the next three days.”
Laurel again: “You should take it, Poppy. Three days is so much time! All things considered, obviously.”
“You think? I was looking it up in the library and I got the idea somehow that it might take a little longer. Like a week, maybe, I dunno.”
Tiffany interrupts them with a self-seriousness that even this time of night cannot extinguish. “Isn’t Occlumency the thing where you close off your mind from being psychically penetrated?”
“Merlin, are you guys immature.”
Laurel chokes out the words, “You said penetrated.”
“Wait wait wait. Now that I think about it–” Poppy hasn’t actually thought about it yet, but now she takes half a second to do so “–I think you’re right, Tiffany. I think Occlumency is the mind-guard-y thing. What’s the mind reading one again, anyone?”
“It sounds like Legless-ly.”
“Oh my gosh, that’s totally right! Thanks, Afsana! I have to learn Legless-ly.”
“At least I’m close. You were going to learn the total opposite thing you were supposed to.”
“You’re by no means close.”
Tiffany crows after another moment, “Legilimency! That’s the thing!”
“See! I was close!”
“Okay, whatever. The bigger question is, do I learn Occlumency or Legilimency to earn my forty Galleons?”
“Legilimency would probably be more useful in the long run. And the short run,” Tiffany adds as an afterthought. “With the, uh, James stuff. Which is the heart of all matters here.”
“But Margo said anyone who wanted the money had to learn Occlumency,” Poppy whines. “I remember specifically. So did she mix them up or does she really want us to learn Occlumency?”
Laurel scoffs, “What does Occlumency have to do with anything?”
“Maybe she just wants to encourage girls to protect themselves?”
I can sense Poppy’s answer before she even opens her mouth (as far as I can tell):
As if there hasn’t been enough hysterical laughter in this dormitory over the last few weeks, more breathless giggles erupt amongst my legal adult roommates.
“You know what?” Poppy continues, sounding like she’s wiping tears from her eyes. I don’t know how you can sound like that, but there is some mild sniffling and latent chuckles going on, so I guess that’s it. “I think Legilimency would be easier to learn in such a compressed timeframe, don’t you guys? Offense is easier than defense. It’d look way better on my CV, too, I think. Sexier.”
Everyone oohs and ahhs at such sterling reasoning. Laurel adds earnestly, “That’s great and sexy and all the things you just said, however, I really want pie.”
Now everyone makes sympathetic, torn-between-money-and-dessert: the-worst-possible-things-to-be-torn-between noises before Poppy starts thinking again. “There’s… wait. There’s like, no conflict of interest here, Laurel. I can learn Legilimency and you can steal the journal, and I still get forty Galleons and you get pie for the rest of term. Which you’ll have to share with us, obviously.”
“Well, no pie for Afsana,” snickers Laurel. “She’s already got all the chocolate Durham could levitate up High Street.”
“No pie for me?!” she squeaks, and Afsana is very good at squeaking. Dunno how she does it. “After my very close hint about what Poppy actually is supposed to learn? Hmph! Then no more chocolate for you idiots! Ever! All term, all our lives, I’m never sharing chocolate with you again!”
Poppy and Laurel are outraged, and the former loud enough to remind us. “Oh, come on! You can’t eat that all by yourself!”
“I don’t need you two. Tiffany can help. She can help right now. You want to help me finish off all this delicious gourmet chocolate, Tiffany?”
“Girl, I thought you’d never ask.”
I just want to sleeeep.
You’d think James, being the one who actually matters, would be subject to this kind of bullshit every night. But no, he is not. Disturbing the Slumber of James Potter is akin to Disturbing the Peace of Hogwarts. I’m not sure why this is–it’s not like he needs beauty sleep, unlike me–but whatever, he’s too sweet and pretty to be treated the way I am. Nonetheless, to confuse potential hypnotists, he hides in his cousin Louis’ dorm a few nights a week. I take this as a sign that he is beginning to get… irritated… by the attention that he still does not entirely understand. He disagrees and says he does it to spare the sleep of his roommates.
The morning after the chocolate-pie debate (Afsana and Tiffany versus Laurel and Poppy, with Augusta–me–not offered any of either), I fall prostrate to my knees at James’ feet in the common room.
“You know you could feel safe in your own bed again–therefore make it so I feel safe in my bed again–if you just told everyone what your song’s about!”
“Poppy’s got everyone thinking it’s a metaphor. Won’t help.”
“Is it a metaphor?”
He scowls–just a little bit, but I can tell what it is. He doesn’t scowl often, but I’m in no mood to heed what it means about his mood. “How have you not asked me this already?”
“I used to respect you mildly. That stopped when I was denied pie.”
The scowl dissipates like smoke, replaced with what passes with him as righteous anger on the rise. “Who refused you pie?”
Morgana’s slippers. “I don’t know why I try with you.”
“Is there… still pie? Available? For, uh–”
“I know who you want pie for, idiot. Give Josie Zhang your journal and you’ll have one a week for the rest of term.”
He doesn’t seem to have heard this one, so he furrows his straight, Romanesque brows and considers the issue at hand. Pie or privacy?
“Term only lasts ‘til the middle of December. Then the new term starts. So, even if we counted from right now, that makes only, like, five weeks and five pies. I could eat that much pie in half the time I’d have to wait for one of hers.”
Morgana’s cotton pyjama sets. “So you’re telling me if she guaranteed a pie every week for the rest of the year to whoever gives her your most precious possession, that’d seal the deal for you.”
“I… I’d consider it.”
I wring my hands, shut my weary, bleary eyes, mostly because he’s got a point: I’d be tempted to take the journal and deliver it to the sixth-year Slytherin myself if it meant pie every week for the rest of the year.
To distract from the realisation that I could be induced to sell my soul for food, I mock-collapse on the carpet in front of him. After he nudges me (with his foot!) and is satisfied that I am still alive, he returns to whatever he was doing before, which I care nothing about.
The despair is almost greater than I can bear. But I do have to bear it. For another week.
On that particular date–it’s mid-November now–two Ravenclaw fourth-years, Maisie Taylor and Sienna Pullman, succumb to Josie Zhang’s pie pressure, as no one has yet come to collect.
Well, no, someone did come to collect. Diana Moore, a Slytherin in our year, went up to Josie during lunch a few days prior with a James Potter Journal she’d forged. It was brought to me for certification. I don’t know why James himself wouldn’t be consulted about the possible theft of his own journal. Anyway, I fully dismissed it, as it was far too legible to possibly be James’ own. And in any case, I don’t know why Moore would have had to forge it, as she occasionally hooks up with Noel Graham, James’ Quidditch Captain, and could’ve used that as her in to get to the Gryffindor seventh-years’ dorm and nick the real thing.
(I would like to clarify at this time that I have been consulted on ways to break into James’ dormitory before. And it was before all this hullaballoo, too. But that’s another parenthetical detour for another time.)
So, we have Sienna and Maisie. Two naïve, horny young witches, eager to put their O.W.L.-honed smarts to the test. Their plan is not nearly as complicated as the hypothetical one I just made up for Diana Moore, but it’s a plan, which is I guess something to be commended.
While James was showering after Quidditch practice, they snuck into the locker rooms to ferret out the journal. Which, for the record, he does bring everywhere, as “you never know when inspiration’s going to strike!” It never has, but he doesn’t let that stop him.
Several minutes into the girls’ ransacking of the locker rooms, he emerged from the showers.
Sienna Pullman took one look at James Potter wearing nothing but a Red Towel slung low Around His Godly Waist, and promptly fainted.
And hit her head on a bench.
She’s been in the hospital wing for two days.
This must end, and there’s only one person who can end it.
Author's Note Whoops, I forgot all about the November-ish update! I know this is seems kind of filler-y but 1. it really isn't and 2. hopefully it entertained you along the way! This was absolutely one of my favorite chapters to write, especially the beginning. (Funny story: it was originally much shorter but I said Occlumency when I meant Legilimancy and didn't catch it until months later, so I spun off that and... well, now we have a chapter).
As always, thank you for the great responses thus far, I love hearing what you have to say so please type your thoughts in the little box down there, and I hope you enjoy what's coming next :)
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