Chapter 22 : Chapter twenty-two - Flying Again
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Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or anything else that you might recognize.
Chapter twenty-two – Flying again
The weather definitely wasn’t on my side that grey Tuesday morning when I Apparated to the Quidditch field in Portree. The cold, heavy rain came down hard, blurring my vision as I tried to get used to my new surroundings, but even that wouldn’t wipe the smile off my face. In just a few moments I would be flying again and nothing could dampen my mood.
“Miss Miller, Miss Miller!”
The calls caught me off guard for a moment and I turned around, trying to find their source. My expression fell immediately when I realised what was going on, and I started towards the pitch as fast as I could, pulling my hood up to cover my face from the flashing camera lights. Somehow I hadn’t realised they would be here already, even though the fear for the upcoming interview I was supposed to give today had never left my mind.
The reporters caught me quickly even though I tried to escape them. They kept shouting irrelevant questions at me, showing their cameras in my face as I rushed forwards. My hands clenched into fists, my fingernails digging into my skin, as I pushed through the mob while forcing myself not to grab one of their cameras and smash it into millions of pieces.
“What happened at the Portree stadium yesterday?”
“Are you seeing someone at the moment?”
“Are you excited you get to fly again?”
“Is your leg still sore?”
“Care to share some light in your best friend’s situation?”
I blocked the rest of the questions out and squeezed my mouth shut, not even bothering to give my regular answer – the ‘No comments’ wouldn’t silence their questions. I just pushed forwards, the entrance of the stadium already so close I could almost touch it.
There I noticed the first weird sign. A guard, dressed in his orange uniform, was standing next to the opening. He gave me a small nod as a greeting when I slipped past him, then stepping in front of the photographers to block their way.
“Off limits,” he only grunted when the group started to protest.
I glanced once behind me towards the flashing lights, frowning at the whole situation. There was supposed to be a spell there, not a guard, blocking all unwanted visitors. Had it stopped working?
“Damn vultures,” a voice commented from the other side of the corridor and I snapped my head that way to see Coach McCormack approaching me. “Bugger off, you tossers! You’ll get your chance to ask your questions. But if you keep causing trouble, I’ll cancel the whole bloody thing and leave you to explain that to your editors!” he shouted to them.
Most of the photographers yielded and backed away from the side entrance, but a few stayed, clicking their cameras in our direction. Coach led me forwards along the corridor in a hurry, out of sight.
When we turned around the corner, I finally asked him. “What’s going on?”
He sighed. “You didn’t open the paper this morning, did you?”
“I don’t order the Prophet. Too much shit printed between the pages.”
“Well you should. You would’ve been prepared.”
Another sigh escaped his lips and his hand went for his hair. Unlike James, who always ran his hand smoothly through his hair, Coach seemed like he was trying to pull his out. “There was a break-in last night.”
I stopped on my track, close by to our locker room. “What?” the question slipped before I even realised. “How did that happen?”
Coach shrugged. “Haven’t got a bloody clue, do I? Somebody managed to wreck every single spell protecting the stadium.”
“But why?” I asked. “Why would someone try to break in here?”
“Don’t know. Maybe try to nick some of the brooms?”
My heart leaped to my throat immediately. My Dragonstar was here, I left it last night so the maintenance team could check it was in perfect condition even after my accident.
“Relax,” Coach said, sensing my worry. “Your precious broom is safe. The guards got here in time. No one had entered the locker room by then.”
I sighed out of relief. “Good.”
“We have no idea how the press found out,” he continued then. “Luckily they don’t know what happened, only that the spells collapsed, but they went completely bonkers. We’ve been swarmed by reporters the whole morning. They’re trying to get in and find out what happened, making the security team work their arses off,” Coach said, taking the last few steps to the locker room door and pulled it open for me.
But I didn’t enter. “So the spells aren’t working yet?” I asked instead.
Coach shook his head. “Not yet, at least not all of them. There’s a team of experts working on it the whole time. Hopefully they’ll get them up and running soon so we can let the reporters in. They’re not making it any easier out there, complaining about the rain, some of them even trying to force their way in since there’s apparently a flaw in our system. Too bad they can’t figure it out either, would help us to find out how the burglar did it.”
“Where are James and the rest of the team?”
“Flying, where else? You think I’d cancel practise for something as trivial as this? You know deathbed is the only acceptable excuse for absence.”
He was being completely serious. Our whole team knew that. None of us even dared to dream about skipping practise. Coach would hunt us down and the consequences wouldn’t be a pretty sight.
“Of course not,” I muttered sarcastically under my breath, rolling my eyes as I finally stepped inside the locker room.
He chuckled. “I heard that,” he said when I passed him.
I didn’t bother commenting or even glancing in his direction. I made my way to my locker, climbing over several sports bags and discarded items of clothing. My team mates were complete pigs, the locker room looked like something had exploded there every time we had a practise.
Coach lingered on the doorway for a few moments. “How’s the leg?” he asked.
“No trouble after the first practise? The flying wasn’t too much for it?”
This time I did turn to glare at him. “You let me fly for only fifteen minutes. You really think that was too exhausting?”
His face broke into a grin. “I knew you wouldn’t let that go.”
I scoffed. “Is that why you escaped yesterday before I got the chance?”
“Patience, Miller. You can’t rush these things.”
“Oh, I’ve been patient. But that was just evil.” I kept glaring at him. “It was a payback, wasn’t it? For flying with James?”
“Maybe.” He smiled. “No, I’m only kidding. That rule came from the Healers. They thought it would be enough for the first time.”
“What about today then? Will I get to fly longer?”
“That I can guarantee,” he promised. “You might even get to fly ten feet above the ground this time, instead of the five you did yesterday.”
At that my gaze travelled towards the broom stand where the Cleansweep I had used in yesterday’s practise was. It looked just like any other racing broom, but I already knew that wasn’t the case. It was just a practise model, designed especially for situations like this. It wouldn’t go fast enough, or even high enough. I frowned at it.
My eyes found my own broom in the same stand, all shiny and beautiful, practically begging me to pick it instead. “Any chance I could use my own broom today?” I asked, already frowning as I knew what he would say.
“You know you can’t. It’s too risky when we’re not sure that your legs are working properly.”
“Yes, but will they continue to do so under pressure?”
I said nothing. I didn’t want to admit it, but he was right; I couldn’t be sure of that.
“Don’t worry. You’ll get to try it again at some point. In a few weeks maybe? I can’t make any promises though, it’s not me you’ll have to convince, it’s the Healers,” Coach told me.
I nodded, accepting it. I knew I shouldn’t be impatient about it, but it was just so frustrating. I knew I could handle it, I could feel it, but they were all being extra careful with everything. It was all for my own good, they told me.
I extinguished the small sigh that almost escaped my lips and tried to think of happier thoughts. At least I was able to fly again, right? I would get there eventually.
Coach glanced at his watch. “I have to go see if Potter has actually managed to follow some orders and wrap up the practise. Bet you five Galleons he’s making them do some crazy exercises.”
I shook my head. “Not going to take that bet. I know you’re right.”
Coach huffed, stomping towards the door. “You warm up while we have our team meeting. We’ll be done in thirty minutes I suppose.”
“I get to fly before the interview?” I asked.
“Yes. So try to focus on that, I need you on a good mood when you eventually talk to the press. And try to keep the death glares at minimum.”
“I promise nothing,” I muttered sullenly.
“I knew you’d say that. Oh well. It’ll show the bosses what a great decision they made by choosing you for the role,” he said and with that, he exited the room, closing the door on his way out. His laughter echoed from the corridor even through the closed door.
I shrugged off my jacket and shoved it into my locker with the rest of my stuff. I didn’t put on my gear just yet, but decided to go and do a few laps before the practise, or maybe join the team in their last warm-up. Just to be extra prepared. Like Coach had said, I needed to convince the Healers. So the more I practised, the sooner I’d be able to fly with my own broom.
When I reached the field, I realised I should have thought this whole thing through more thoroughly. The team wasn’t there anymore, they must have moved the warm-up session inside to the stadium’s gym. And not just because of the rain. The break-in seemed to have affected every spell in the stadium, including the one that kept the ground from getting soaked. Because now there was mud everywhere, covering the whole surface of the field. At least the raining had slowed down a little, but it didn’t improve the situation much.
“Perfect,” I muttered to myself, staring at the newly formed swamp.
I was about to turn around, to head back inside and run up and down the stadium stairs when I heard the commotion from above me. One glance upwards revealed its source, leaving me to stare at the dozen or more camera lenses directed towards me. Apparently the press had gained entrance.
That forced me to revaluate my choices – a warm, completely dry staircase, buzzing with reporters versus the drenched, cold field, with mud up to my knees. Suddenly the latter didn’t seem like I bad choice after all, not even when I realised I had left my wand back in the locker room and couldn’t charm my shoes to repel the filth.
I just closed my eyes and got over it.
Splat-splat-splat-splat. The sounds filled my ears, but I ignored them, as well as the slimy essence that filled my shoes in only few seconds. The lights kept flashing in the stands, but I stared forwards, keeping my eyes focused on everything but them. I kept running, only thinking about the moment when I got to kick off the ground again. It would be worth this all.
When I was half way through my tenth lap, I spotted a familiar figure leaning against the arena gates and I couldn’t prevent the smile that escaped to my lips. I had been waiting for him to show up when their practise ended. I knew he wouldn’t just leave the pitch without saying hi first.
“Who are you and what have you done to my best friend?” James called when I was close enough to hear him.
I just rolled my eyes at him and continued to close the distance. The cameras went crazy above him, trying to get a picture, but he was hidden from view. Either the security spells covering the stands were already in place, or even the photographers had enough sense in their head and didn’t try to levitate to get a decent picture. They just kept trying to lean forwards and shove their cameras in our direction.
James didn’t seem that bothered by all that. His eyes were only on me. “You realise you’ve spent years complaining about laps and how they’re the cruellest torturing method ever invented. And now you’re doing them voluntarily?” he said when I stopped next to him.
“I figured it wouldn’t hurt to exercise the leg as much as possible,” I said, breathing harshly as I leaned against my thighs, catching my breath and wiping sweat off my forehead.
“You’re nervous?” he questioned, sounding a bit surprised by my answer. “What for? I thought the leg had healed quite well already?”
“I’m not nervous as much as anxious to show everyone that it can handle the pressure. That way they might let me try flying with my own broom sooner,” I told him.
A small frown appeared on James’s forehead at that. “You should take it easy, there’s no need to hurry the process.”
Oh come on, not him too!
“Yes there is!” I protested. “I want back in the team as soon as I can and there’s not much season left. The semi-finals are starting in a month!”
“Yeah, but you could do that with any broom. We could get you the newest Firebolt, or maybe a Ventus – you like those too, don’t you?”
“Sure, but I still prefer my own broom,” I said, scowling a little at the subject. Since when had he been against me flying with my Dragonstar?
“I just think you shouldn’t hurry,” he concluded his thoughts.
“Why are you suddenly so cautious about that? You don’t think I can handle it anymore?” I asked, trying not to let it get to me. It’s not like I had lost my skills in the accident, just the feeling from my legs. With some other minor fractures. Not a big deal.
“No, no, it’s not that…”
“It’s just… you have no idea how it felt to watch that accident. Any other broom would’ve just steered you into a wall once and then crashed down. But yours kept going on and on, trying to throw you off its back,” he said, scratching his neck awkwardly. “You’ve heard them all say it, it’s a miracle you even survived the whole thing.”
So that was why he was so hesitant about it.
The frown on my face melted into a warm smile. “If you’re worried about me getting hurt, you shouldn’t let me fly at all.”
“Trust me, if that was an option, I wouldn’t.” He grinned at me. “No, I’m just saying, it was some scary shit to watch, I’ve never been that afraid in my life. I don’t ever want to witness something like that again. So please, think about it at least?”
“I will,” I promised, and meant it. I would consider it, but I doubted it would make a difference. I yearned to fly with my own broom again, that’s where I felt the most comfortable. And I had used it for years without any serious incidents, I couldn’t let one little mishap change that.
“Why are you still in your gear?” I asked James then, realising that he was still wearing all his Quidditch equipment even though he should be on his way home to rest.
He didn’t say anything, just stared at me like the answer should be obvious.
“You’re going to stay for my practise today too?” I continued, frowning again.
“Of course I am,” he said, his tone suggesting it was the only possibility.
“But you need to rest! You have another practise later today. And don’t even try to tell me you’re not tired, I can see how exhausted you are.”
“I can handle it.”
“Gwen…” he replied, mimicking my tone. “I’m serious, I can handle it. I’ll rest later.”
“You don’t need to stay.”
“But I’m still going to.”
I let out a sigh, but yielded. With his mind made up, it was pointless to argue. “Suit yourself. I still have a few more laps to go. Since you’re staying, want to join me?”
“Oh no, I’ve done my mandatory warm-ups already. I’ll just settle for watching,” he replied, his face splitting into a familiar grin.
I was about to comment something clever, but the distant flashing lights diverted my attention. The reporters had moved to a further stand, but this time they had a straight view towards us.
I sighed. “On second thought, maybe I’ve run enough for one day. Let’s go, I need to clean all this crap out of my shoes and gear up.” And with that, we disappeared inside the stadium, away from the flashing cameras, making our way towards the locker room.
Our team mates must have left in a hurry, everyone eager to avoid the lingering press, since the room was empty when we entered and all their stuff was already gone. I noticed that none of them had left their brooms behind; the break-in must have scared everyone enough not to leave their most priced possessions here anymore.
A quick cleaning spell got rid of the mud from my shoes and another one dried them. Charms had always been my – only – strong subject back at Hogwarts, so the shoes were good as new when I finished and slipped them back on. Fastening the Quidditch gear didn’t take much longer with a spell, but this time I was going to double check everything just to be sure.
I could feel James’s eyes on me, examining me as I worked my way through all the pads, making sure the spell had fastened them tightly enough. It was hard to keep myself distracted from him, but I tried.
“You nervous about tomorrow?” I asked, just for the sake of conversation.
I knew the answer to my question already. He still didn’t like talking about Kat and the whole baby business more than necessary and tomorrow he was supposed to give his statement to the press. They would go mental. I was sure even James, who was always natural with every social situation he faced, wasn’t eager about this one.
“No,” he replied tersely nonetheless.
I didn’t even bothering to lift my glance from the elbow pad I was currently checking. “You’re lying.”
“Yes you are.”
The small groan that escaped his lips was barely audible. “Just drop it, okay? I don’t want to talk about it, especially here.”
I rolled my eyes. He was just being paranoid. The press didn’t have access anywhere near our locker room. “What do you want to talk about then?” I asked as I kneeled down to secure the knee pad on my injured leg.
The straps were all tightly fastened, but I still touched every one of them, just to…
“About how smoking you look in your Quidditch gear,” James’s reply interrupted me and I yanked the strap harder than I intended.
It fastened around my knee tighter than necessary, but I barely noticed. My eyes snapped in his direction immediately, my stunned expression revealing my emotions precisely as my mouth repeating the only thought from my mind. “What?”
Although in my head it sounded more like ‘EXCUSE ME, WHAT?!?!’
James was smirking. “Mm-hm, it’s true. I’ve quite missed the sight actually.”
I stared at him for a few seconds, too stunned to say anything and unable to understand why he had just said that. It didn’t take long for the blush to start burning my cheeks, so I forced myself to turn my eyes down and try my best to ignore it – I definitely didn’t want him to notice that now when he still hadn’t witnessed me blush. “Have you hit your head?” I asked just to say something while I loosened the too tight strap.
He ignored my question and chuckled. “Will you look at that – Josh was right! You do blush!” he exclaimed a bit incredulously.
“No I don’t!” I protested, even though I knew it was pointless. My face was still burning hot. “I’m just flushed from all the running.”
“Why haven’t I noticed it before?” he quizzed with a puzzled tone, ignoring my objections. “Surely I’ve called you stunning before, if that’s what makes you go all blushy on me?”
Well not quite like that, not so unexpectedly! Especially when my stupid hair was tied up!
I promised myself never to do that again. Why did I never learn?
“Arse,” I muttered to him, trying to force my concentration back to what I was doing and not on the fact that he was still staring, that stupid grin blasted all over his face.
“Oh, come on!” He laughed. “It’s really cute.”
Ignore him, that’s what I was going to do from now on too. Annoying git. He only said it to make me blush. In which he succeeded!
“Are you mad at me now?”
No, not you. With myself.
When I didn’t respond, he continued: “You are, aren’t you?”
“Don’t be mad at me.”
“Come on, Gwen, talk to me.”
“It wasn’t a joke, if that’s what you’re worried about? You really do look hot in your Quidditch gear.”
“The hottest Quidditch player ever. None of the others compare to you.”
I kept my mouth squeezed shut the whole time, ignoring everything he said. I couldn’t be sure if he really meant it, or if he was just trying to make me blush more. I wasn’t going to let him succeed on the latter.
When he had begged enough for my forgiveness and I had finished checking my pads, I finally got up and fixed my glare in his direction. His puppy dog eyes didn’t affect me, I forced myself to stay cool. “You done already?”
“Good. I’ll punch you next time, just so you know.”
His grin turned wide. “Aww, come on. You can only blame yourself, you know? You should’ve known I would keep trying as long as I made you blush.”
“Why am I friends with you again?” I muttered out loud with a sigh.
“Because I’m amazing and the best friend one could ever have.” His eyes shined with amusement. “And because I think you’re hot.”
My glare was deadly.
“No more blushing?” he asked.
I didn’t respond, just glared.
“Damn it,” he said dejectedly, then sent one more mischievous glance in my direction. “But I still think it’s true though. You’re quite gorgeous, and stunning, and –”
He didn’t get to finish that sentence. I chased him all the way back to the pitch, trying to whack him with the Cleansweep. He just laughed, one step ahead of me the whole time.
Coach McCormack and The Healers were already there, in the middle of a conversation when we arrived, me still chasing James. Coach just shook his head at our actions, and Healer Smith and his assistant stared with no expression. We both calmed down and greeted them, but I could tell from James’s expression he had a hard time keeping his laughter at bay.
Smith questioned me about my condition and if I had experienced any difficulties after yesterday’s practise. I was a bit surprised to see him here today, he hadn’t supervised my first flying session, but he explained that he would be joining the interview to answer some questions about my healing process. I nodded. It made sense. But I still would’ve rather done it by myself or with some other Healer. Smith wasn’t any more likeable now than he had been during my whole treatment.
“Do they really have to be here?” I asked Coach when Smith was giving a little briefing to the photographers about what we were going to be doing soon.
Coach glanced at me and saw me glaring towards the flashing lights and the Healer. “Who? The reporters or Smith?” he asked, a grin twitching the corners of his mouth.
“Pick one,” I muttered.
“It’s all about the image, Miller,” Coach replied, patting my shoulder.
“Awesome. My flying time is already limited so why not bring some reporters to ruin it completely?” I complained.
“Just suck it up, it’ll be fine.”
“Easy for you to say,” I murmured, slouching towards where James was.
He wrapped his arm around my shoulders and pulled me closer. “Relax, you’ll forget all about them the moment you kick off the ground,” he comforted me.
I nodded, knowing he was right.
“Does this mean you’ve forgiven me?” he whispered.
“If you promise to behave.”
“I will,” he said. “For now.”
His grin didn’t fade even when I elbowed him.
Soon after that the practise started and I barely even noticed the flashing lights anymore. Just like James had predicted, I forgot all about them the moment I kicked off the ground. The cool wind brushed my face as did the few drops of rain that were still falling down, but none of them mattered. I felt alive again. I didn’t even want to complain about the slow broom.
I did every exercise they gave me like a good, obedient girl, desperate for them to see how well my leg was coping. Because it was. I had no trouble with any of it. In fact, my leg was working much better than my throwing arm which still lacked some of its power. My throws didn’t fly long enough. But I was glad this practise was strictly about flying. I didn’t want the press to get a sniff of that.
I got to fly about half an hour this time, something that made me frown, but Coach promised I could get another go if I behaved in the interview. An excellent bit of blackmail, I had to admit, so I agreed. I’d always wondered why Coach didn’t make me give all the mandatory interviews while flying. I would be much more cooperative and relaxed then. But I wasn’t going to mention that to anyone, better not give them any ideas. It’s their loss if they didn’t figure it out by themselves and I didn’t really care enough.
The interview itself was much less painful than I had expected. The reporters were told to ask strictly Quidditch based questions and aside from few little slips that I shrugged off with my ‘No comments’, they actually did as they were told.
They asked me about the accident and why I hadn’t dodged Ryan’s bat. I didn’t even have to lie when I told them I hadn’t seen it coming, a rookie mistake, but I had been too concentrated in our own problems. They asked about the hospital and my treatments there, and I actually smiled a little when I explained that, something I very rarely did in front of the camera. Luckily they didn’t get that the smile was all for a certain Healer whom I would see later tonight.
Smith stepped in at that point, explaining the operations they did with more detail and all the injuries I had suffered. I wasn’t sure if I had even realised before how much of body had broken in the accident. So many broken bones, a punctured lung and internal bleeding in more than one place – I seriously had no idea how they had even managed to save me. I really needed to give Joshua a more profound thank you later.
At the end of the interview I gave the press an official report on what had happened to the stadium’s security spells. Meaning I read it straight from the paper that had soared in during the interview, shaped like a paper plane. Coach had caught it and read it through once before shoving it in my hands.
Not that I would’ve been any more articulate about it if I had had time to practise.
Apparently we were saying one of the spells had expired, causing others that depended on it to collapse as well, which caused some sort of chain reaction. No mention of a break-in. I guess they were trying to cover it up, but why would they do that? Wouldn’t it be better if someone investigated it properly? I didn’t have a chance to question Coach about it, but he did offer me a small shrug after I had read it out loud and found his gaze.
When the interview ended, Coach disappeared to guide the reporters out, quickly ushering me out of the room and back to the pitch where I got to fly for an additional half an hour under the supervision of Smith’s assistant Healer. Smith himself returned to the hospital, apparently too busy to stay now that the cameras were gone.
After my flight time, I returned home. James had left when the interview started since Coach didn’t allow him there. My best friend had promised to pick up some lunch on his way home and have it ready and waiting when I got back. I smiled gratefully on my way up in the elevator when my stomach made an angry sound, demanding to be fed immediately.
But when I reached his apartment, I was faced with a surprise.
“What are you doing?” I frowned at the sight of him in the kitchen.
“Making us some food,” he replied, shooting a quick glance over his shoulder. “Why?”
“You don’t cook.”
The smile danced on the corners of his lips, but he didn’t look my way. “I’ve been practising.”
“Mm-hm.” He nodded.
“When?” I asked. I had never seen him spend much time in the kitchen. And since he returned, I hadn’t even spent that much time with Joshua that would’ve explained why I hadn’t noticed.
He just shrugged and continued his work.
I moved closer to examine what he was doing. The vegetables were already chopped – a pile of neatly cut tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and lettuce were already in the bowl. That was no surprise, he was always good at that, but now he was actually cutting the chicken in pieces and preparing to fry it. I contemplated if I should step up and do it for him or just let him finish it and most likely burn it.
But before I could say a word, he already ushered me away from the counter. “Oh just sit down, I’m not going to ruin it. I told you, I’ve been practising.”
“Okay?” I said with a hint of uncertainty. I really hoped he was right, but his recent history in the kitchen didn’t give me much hope.
I still obeyed, sitting down at the table, a bit surprised by this sudden development. Why had he been practising cooking? Was he trying to impress someone? The thought didn’t make me feel any better.
“They covered up the break-in,” I told him then, desperate for something else to think about.
James shrugged. “I guess they didn’t want the press to know what a crappy job the security team was doing.”
“You think that’s just it?”
“Well what else would it be? They don’t want people to know how easy it is to sneak into our stadium, of course they would cover that up.”
I nodded. “Yeah, I guess that makes sense.”
It did make sense, but still I couldn’t shake the uncertain feeling. Why would someone want to break into our stadium? There was nothing valuable there.
But I didn’t have any more time to ponder that as there was a buzzing sound, informing there was an incoming message from downstairs. And soon, the doorman’s voice boomed through the room. “Ms Samantha Carmichael here to see you, sir.”
James looked surprised. “Really? Wonder what she wants?” he said to me before sending a message back to tell the doorman to let Vic’s friend in.
James went to the door and opened it before she arrived. I heard the sounds of the elevator arriving and watched James smile. “Hey, Sam. What brings you here?”
“Hi,” she said, sounding a little breathless, or maybe nervous. “I was in the neighbourhood and started thinking – we have yet to discuss about the bachelor/bachelorette party. So I decided to drop by and see if you had time now.”
“Do we have something to discuss about it?” James asked, puzzled.
I guess Samantha nodded because I couldn’t hear her respond. ”Well, come on in then,” James said, stepping aside to let the black-haired woman enter. “Hope you don’t mind that we eat at the same time, I need to head back to Portree in an hour.”
“No problem,” she said as she walked in.
Her gaze found me and she smiled politely. I’d always liked her, and she seemed to be one of the few females who actually liked me too, but I could tell from her expression that she had hoped to find James alone. I guess she had heard the news then.
“Sit down,” James said, gesturing towards the table. “I’m almost done with the salads, then we can chat.”
“Thanks,” Samantha beamed, blushing a little when James smiled. She always did.
She sat down across from me. “You seem fine. Are you completely healed then?” she asked.
I nodded. “More or less. Just some stiffness left that’ll go over time.”
“That’s good. The accident looked really bad,” she said sympathetically.
“Yeah,” I said, then distracted from her when James brought my food.
It actually looked a lot better than I had expected and tasted absolutely perfect. I had to say I was surprised. I guess he really had been practising. I glanced in James’s direction and saw him grinning at my astonished expression.
“So, I heard you’re dating Joshua Llewellyn?” Samantha questioned then and I turned my attention back to her.
I nodded slowly, chewing my food, still distracted by its amazing flavours.
“I don’t know if Vic’s told you, but I had the biggest crush on him back in Hogwarts.”
“Yeah, she mentioned something like that,” I replied after swallowing. “Can’t really blame you,” I managed to add then with a small smile.
She chuckled. “I know, right? Those eyes,” she said with a dreamy sigh. “I don’t think anyone could resist those.”
I smiled, not really knowing what else to say.
“Are you talking about me?” James asked, grinning as he joined us, taking the seat next to me.
Samantha blushed deep red. Apparently she wasn’t going to offer him an answer, so I had to. “Joshua,” I told him.
“Hmph,” he said, feigning a hurt expression. “I was sure you were talking about me. I have very dazzling eyes.”
I rolled my eyes to my salad and let out a little hem, while Samantha assured him that he was right.
“What? You don’t like my eyes?” he asked, pouting his lips when I turned to look at him.
“Sure I do, they are very pretty,” I replied, patting his shoulder in a comforting way. I tried to sound unaffected, but I don’t know who I was kidding. Like I had established many times before, he owned a very gorgeous pair too.
“Not as pretty as yours though,” he then said, staring straight into mine.
Yes, I froze, for a little moment before turning away from him and rolling my eyes for the millionth time today. I knew what he was trying to do and I wouldn’t let it affect me this time. “Yeah, right,” I said.
But he was already laughing. “Are you blushing again?” he asked, wiping some of my hair behind my ear. “Is that how you’ve been hiding it? With your hair?”
Fortunately I wasn’t.
I shook it right back down. “Oh shut up,” I said. “It was one time only. You’re not succeeding again.”
“Well it won’t be from lack of trying,” he grinned at me smugly.
“Funny. I seem to remember you promising to behave,” I pointed out and glanced a bit nervously in Samantha’s direction to see what she was making of this all.
She was staring at us both with a curious expression on her face and I felt the need to say something as an explanation.
“Don’t mind him, he’s just being an arse who deserves a good punching,” I told her, sending a quick glare in James’s direction.
He laughed. “Oh come on, I can’t help it. I can’t believe I haven’t noticed you blushing before, I have to make up for the lost time.”
“If you want to try your luck,” I muttered to him, but he just chuckled and messed up my hair.
I kept gritting my teeth together, hoping he would stop it, or that Samantha would change the subject. It wouldn’t do me any good if he continued to act that way, I could feel the tingling in the bottom of my stomach and I did the best I could to ignore it.
Luck seemed to be on my side for once, since Samantha opened her mouth a moment later. “So, about the party…”
“Yeah?” James said, taking the bait and turning his concentration towards the black-haired woman.
“I was thinking, maybe we could have a joint party for them?”
“Really?” James asked, frowning a little. “I don’t know…”
“I mean, of course you could have your own stuff with Teddy during the day, but we could end it with a joint party,” Samantha hurried to add.
“Oh, well, that’s an idea. I’ll take it to consideration,” my best friend said, nodding. It was obvious from his tone that he didn’t really like the idea and was going to decline as quickly as possible.
Samantha seemed to sense that too. “I’m only suggesting it because I’ve had many of their friends asking me when the parties are and if they’re held on separate days. They have so many mutual friends who would like to attend both parties.”
“Hmm, that’s true.” James was nodding, considering the idea again. “Well, I guess… I don’t know, I’ll have to think about it and discuss it with the other guys first, okay?”
“Sure,” Samantha nodded eagerly.
“We can meet up sometime next week. I’ll let you know then what we decide,” he said.
“I’m free Tuesday,” she suggested.
“Tuesday it is then,” James agreed.
Samantha beamed happily. “Great! I’ll see you then,” she said, getting up from the table.
“Oh, you’re going already?” James asked.
She nodded. “Yeah. I’ll leave you to your lunch, I don’t want to intrude.”
“Nonsense,” James said.
But she just declined politely, saying she only planned to drop by quickly and let him know of her plans.
James got up too and walked Samantha to the door, helping her into her jacket. They exchanged a few more words, but I concentrated on my salad rather than the blushing woman with my best friend.
“What do you think of that idea?” James asked when he returned to his seat.
I shrugged. “I guess she has a point. They do have many common friends. I know I would want to participate in both, but I can’t really make that decision, can I? Not when they gave us a specific day to hold both parties.”
“Yeah, my dear cousin’s not a control freak at all.”
“Oh come on, that’s not fair. You know it’s only because they had just two weekends free and they didn’t want to lose them both. It was a mutual decision.”
“Meaning Vic disguised it as a suggestion and Teddy just nodded, avoiding a pointless argument he knew he couldn’t win.”
I rolled my eyes, but didn’t comment. He probably wasn’t that far from the truth.
“Oh well, I guess I’ll have to really think about it even though I don’t want to. It’s Teddy’s party after all, and I know he would want as many of his friends there as possible. Urgh, Sam better not be planning any stupid couple’s games.”
I bet she was.
“Although…” he added then, pondering for a moment. “Maybe there are good sides too. We could hold the party at the beach near Shell Cottage. I know you’d look smoking in a bikini.” He grinned, making his attempts well known.
I crossed my arms and glared at him as hard as I could.
“Still not blushing again?” he asked.
My glare answered for me once again.
He sighed. “Fine. I’ll stop,” he promised.
If only I could believe him.
A/N: *hides from the angry readers* Hey, I'm back! Please don't kill me d: After all I brought you a shiny new chapter with lots of Gwen/James. Will you forgive me?
I'm really sorry it took me so long to update. I don't really have excuses except life and a runaway muse. But I'm here now, and the next chapter will be soon here too, because it's already finished ^^
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