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Chapter 9 : Juicy Gossip
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“Rumor has it that you, Jacqueline Winters, Albus Potter’s girlfriend, were spotted with notorious playboy and quidditch star James Potter early this morning, laughing and talking closely. Any comment?”
I look down my nose at the girl asking this, a short ‘Puff with wild brown curls and bubblegum-pink lipstick. She is staring up at me with an eagerly attentive expression, while a bright pink quill scribbles away on a piece of parchment paper. I am so stunned by her completely inappropriate nosiness that I don’t even respond with a bitchy comment, just continue to stare at her, utterly nonplussed.
Good word, right?
Luckily for me, Clark is never tongue-tied.
“Who the hell are you?”
“Lindsey Gable, with the weekly hog?”
This girl’s voice is so peppy and idiotic-sounding that every sentence seems to end in a question.
Oh my god. I just met her and I already hate her so much.
“The fuck is a weakly hug?” Clark asks, and even though I can’t physically see her, I can imagine the sneer on her face perfectly.
“The Weekly Hog. It’s our school’s newspaper?”
“And why the fuck are you doing a story on who James Potter talks to?” There. I found my voice again. And good thing, too. I can see the pink quill scribbles away with gusto, and I’m guessing none of what it’s writing is good.
“I’m the head writer of the gossip section!”
Clark and I exchange a glance.
Sweet fucking hell.
“You know, like page six?” this girl continues, oblivious to our shared hatred of her.
“I was raised Amish, I don’t know what page six is,” I say drily. As Clark and I walk away, I catch one last glance of That Girl out of the corner of my eye.
She looks totally lost.
“Raised Amish,” Clark snickers. “That was a good one, Jack.”
“Why thank you!” I toss my hair over my shoulder, and we continue walking towards the quidditch pitch, quickly becoming overwhelmed in a crowd of people. That’s fine with me, just as long as we lose That Girl.
“Seriously though, what were you doing with James at five in the morning? And Laela said his jaw was broken?”
“It wasn’t broken,” I mumble, avoiding the question and Clark’s eyes. She sighs.
“Tell me, bitch. I’m your best friend. If you can’t tell me, who can you tell?”
“Fine!” I throw up my hands in surrender. And, taking a deep breath, I told her. “IhadabaddreamaboutJacobsoIranoffintotheForbidden
“You had a dream about Jacob?” Clark sounds immediately concerned, dropping her usual persona of an utter bitch.
Okay, yeah, it’s not a persona.
See, this is why she’s my best friend. I just told her loads of juicy gossip, but all she cares about is that I am upset over my long-dead brother.
“Yeah,” I sigh, rubbing the back of my neck and doing a quick look-round to make sure none of the quidditch-going herd is listening in.
“But it’s been almost a year! Why now?”
“Today is his birthday,” I whisper, barely even loud enough for Clark to hear over the rumble of the crowd.
“Jack, I...” she trails off. She’s not the best at comforting people. That’s good, because I don’t want anyone’s pity. I wrap my arms around myself and look straight ahead.
I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me.
“That sucks,” Clark finally says, bluntly. Unbidden, a smile flickers onto my face.
“It does, doesn’t it?” I say with a short laugh.
“Let’s see. You had a dream about your dead brother, had a fight with your archenemy then punched him and made up, and now you’re heading off to a quidditch match where you’ll spend the entire time pretending to be the girlfriend of someone you hate, in order to win a bet with the aforementioned archenemy... all before eight o’clock in the morning.”
“Well, when you put it like that...”
We both crack up at the pure ridiculousness of my life.
Seriously, what the fuck am I doing?
“I am sorry, love,” my best friend says quietly, bumping into me subtly, our own version of a hug.
Because we don’t really hug.
“I know. Thank you,” I reply, giving Clark a small smile and elbowing her lightly in the ribs.
By the time we reach the Slytherin side of the bleachers, Grant and Peter are already there, waiting for us. Sun, Pete’s new girlfriend, is with them; I decide I like the two of them together, because he manages to greet Clark coherently for the first time ever.
All due to Sun.
The wonders of Hufflepuffs, eh? When they’re not annoying the hell out of you, they’re solving the world’s problems of your guy friend having a crush on your best mate.
“Is Christina coming?” I ask Grant with a sly smile, and he actually blushes, something he never does.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
Sun snickers, and I like her even more.
By the time the players march all über-dramatically onto the pitch, Christina is here, and even Clark is warming up to Sun. After all, she’s smart, funny, pretty but not beautiful enough to threaten my best friend- in other words, the perfect friend-slash-sidekick to Clark’s and my fabulous adventures. And she seems to make Pete happy, so that’s a bonus.
“Captains, shake hands!” the referee, Coach Wood, yells. We all snap to attention at the sound of his magically magnified voice. James and Albus approach each other, older brother pitted against younger.
“This oughtta be good,” Clarks hisses in my ear, and I grin. Nothing like your frenemy and faux-beau in a quidditch grudge match.
And oh, it’s good alright.
It’s basically Albus versus the rest of the weasels; only one person on the Gryffindor quidditch team isn’t a weasel: Estrella Carlisle, a fourth-year who plays Chaser along with James and Louis Weasley. Lily is the Seeker, Fred and Hugo are Beaters, and Rose is the Keeper, playing opposite Scorpius on the other team.
I’m sure she loves that.
It seems like a given that a team full of weasels will win the game, but my boys on Slytherin are giving them a run for their money.
“And it’s Carlisle with the quaffle! Carlisle to Potter to Weasley to Potter to- OUCH! And there’s a nicely-aimed bludger by Ericsson on Slytherin! Krisser of Slytherin with the quaffle, dodges a bludger aimed by Weasley- don’t ask me which- she shoots and- Nice save there by Weasley!” Lysander Scamander, the third-year quidditch commentator and school oddball, yells over the crowd.
I laugh quietly to myself. Grant, getting the joke, sniggers along. Beside him, Christina asks,
“What’s so funny?”
“You can’t even tell who the hell he’s talking about!” Grant laughs. Now getting the joke, Christina cracks a smile.
It’s like the goddam sun is coming out.
“And it’s Weasley with the quaffle! Weasley to Potter, nice feint there, DUCK! And he does, folks! It’s Potter on goal, Potter shoots and- he scores!”
“FUCK!” Clark and I scream together. Even though James and I are friends again, I just can’t help it.
Habit, I suppose.
“I would’ve saved that,” my best friend mutters mutinously, eyeing Scorpius with distaste.
“Give him a break,” I nudged her. “Not everyone can be as good as you at quidditch, doesn’t mean they’re not awesome at other things.” I pointed to myself. “Case in point.”
Clark rolls her eyes. She hates it when I get all lecture-y on her.
I’m right, though.
Clark- and James, for that matter- are better than most professional quidditch players. They’re on a whole other level. Below them are the people like Albus and Lars: good, probably even good enough to play professionally... but not superstars. Then, below them, are those like Scorpius and Rose and Fred, who all play just for the fun it. That’s not to say they’re not fantastic too- certainly better than me- but they’re just not as obsessive about quidditch as Clark and James are.
“Gryffindor is gonna win,” the Keeper sighs dejectedly, resting her head in her hands and giving up hope on Gryffindor sucking this year.
“But Al is gonna catch the Snitch,” I predict suddenly. Grant, hearing this, looks over at me immediately.
“I’ll take that action!”
We seal it with a handshake, and I grin. I know I’m right. Albus isn’t an idiot; he can see as well as I can that Gryffindor is the better team- but he’s a better Seeker than his sister, as this is only her second year on the team. So he’ll catch the Snitch and save Slytherin the humiliation of losing by hundreds of points.
I settle down with a smile to watch the game unfold.
I’m right, of course.
By the time two hours are up, the score is 240-60 Gryffindor.
“Dammit, you’re going to win,” Grant mumbles.
“Maybe you shouldn’t have made the bet,” Christina suggests with a mild smile. My eyes go wide.
Is she teasing him?
Maybe she can be fun after all.
“Shut up,” he mutters, and she laughs her tinkling-bells laugh.
“What’s that? Potter- the Slytherin Potter- is diving straight for the stands!”
And indeed, Al is dive-bombing right at us, his eyes narrowed and focused on a tiny flicker of gold.
“Potter- screw it, Lily- is on his tail, right behind! But she’s too late! Albus Potter has caught the Snitch!”
“Told ya,” I whisper to Grant, who sighs and digs around in his pocket for the money he owes me.
“Gryffindor wins, but Slytherin gets the Snitch! Who could ever have seen that coming?”
“Me,” Clark and I say together, voices identically dry. Christina laughs, and Grant grumbles as he hands over five galleons.
“They’re tough,” my best friend considers, eyeing the Gryffindor team. “We shouldn’t have a problem with Hufflepuff or Slytherin, but them.... they’ll be a challenge.”
“The war, part two,” I say with a smile. “This one’s on you, Clark.”
“Great catch, Al,” I tell my boyfriend as I lean in to kiss him.
“Oy, girl in the locker room!” Lars yells overly-dramatically when he catches sight of me. To be fair, he is in nothing but fitted black boxers, but I don’t really see why that should be a problem for him. I’m estimating that about twenty or so girls have seen him naked.
“I’m Captain, and she’s my guest!” Albus says definitively, and kisses me back. I hear Lars groan, and he catches my eyes and winks before disappearing deeper into the changing room. Forcing myself to close my eyes and enjoy the kiss, I find, to my surprise, that I actually can. Enjoy the kiss, that is.
It’s not nearly as bad as the first one was.
Maybe I’m getting used to it!
“Break it up,” a hostile but familiar voice orders darkly, and I pull away from Al to give Scorpius Malfoy a look.
“Malfoy,” Al greets him.
“Potter. I hope you don’t mind, but I need your girlfriend for something.”
Oh, how nice, they’re fighting over me.
Albus and Scorpius skewer each other with death glares for a full two minutes before my faux-beau capitulates.
I guess blue eyes beat out green.
“Fine. Bye, Jack!”
“Bye, Al!” I wave as Scorp tows me out of the locker room.
“Thanks,” I sigh as soon as we’re clear. The dark look on Scorp’s face immediately clears, and he smiles at me in his usual friendly way. See, he’s an amazingly nice person to everyone but Albus. Usually, he’s a peacemaker, not a fire-starter. But he and Al have always had an uncanny hatred of each other, since the moment they met. I don’t know why, but Scorp hated Albus on sight.
Oh wait, I do know why.
Because he’s a jag.
Same reason I hate him.
Hate him, that is
I still do.
“So what are you up to today?” Scorp asks with a smile, once we step into the Great Hall. He doesn’t put an arm around my shoulders, though, like Grant or Lars would have done. That I appreciate. I am not feeling all too touchy-feely right now.
“Going to find James, actually,” I tell my friend. I need to find James Potter and talk to him about this morning, before That Girl from the weakly hug or whatever gets to him.
“Oh yeah, I heard you two did it.”
“What?!” I shriek, harpy-like, whirling on Scorpius.
“Merlin, relax, I’m only kidding,” he says, giving me a look. Then his mouth drops open, and he stares at me wide-eyed. “Wait. Did you?”
“No, of course not,” I snort. “But rumors do spread fast around here, so I just want to make sure no one gets the wrong idea about what did happen.”
“And what did happen?”
“I punched him in the face.”
Scorpius howls with laughter.
“Right? It’s pretty funny.”
“Jack, you are bloody hilarious,” Scorp wheezes, grabbing on to my elbow before he falls to the ground. Now I start laughing, just at the ridiculous of my usually poised friend literally rolling on the floor laughing. He’s even attracting the attention of some second-year Puffs having an early lunch. Or late brunch.
“C’mon, idiot, get up,” I chuckle, bending down and offering Scorpius Malfoy my hand. He grabs it and drags himself to his feet, still convulsing with laughter.
“What? I just punched him!”
The laughter gets worse.
“Oh, you’re hopeless,” I grumble, deciding to just leave him here, seeing as he can’t even control himself.
“So... funny... your face...” he gasps, falling back to his knees.
“Whatever,” I mutter, starting to get a little pissed now. “See you at supper, Scorp.”
All I hear behind me is the sound of my most mature friend hooting with laughter, just because I punched someone in the face.
“No,” the Fat Lady says tiredly.
“Um... fairy lights?”
“You’re thinking of Christmas.”
“How about... Geranomium!”
“That was last month’s.”
“Fuck!” I exclaim. I’ve been trying all the different Gryffindor passwords I’ve ever learned, hoping one of them will turn out to be right. It’s getting close to suppertime and it’s been at least ten minutes since I got here, yet I’m not even close.
All this in just the vague hope that James will be in there.
“Will you just let me the hell in?” I yell, frustrated.
“Not if you talk to me like that,” the Fat Lady says stuffily, turning her piggy little nose up in the air. Suddenly, the portrait hole swings open and emits a burst of music, barely missing my own nose. Marshall, standing in the opening, regards me with surprise.
“Marshall! Thank god!”
Yes, I know, hell and all that.
“Jack? What are you-”
“No time for that!” I grab his arm and tow him out of the common room. “Where is James?”
“I don’t think I’m supposed to tell you...” Marshall said slowly, eyeing me like a was some kind of deranged mental person. Which, to be honest, I am.
“Cross my heart and hope to die, c’mon!” I say, frustrated. Can’t we be friends without saying it by now?
“No, not that,” Marshall says, reading my mind. “I really don’t think I’m supposed to tell you.”
“Seriously?” I ask, doubtful now. Where could James be that I’m not supposed to know about?
“Well, he’s really not supposed to be there, so...”
“I’m calling in my favor!” I shout over him suddenly. I know it’s rash to use it so soon, but I really need to speak to James, before this whole news story thing gets out of control.
“What?” Marshall looks shocked. I think he expected me to hold onto that for a lot longer.
“You have to tell me, you owe me.”
He looks at me for a second, denim blue eyes considering. Then, finally,
“Fine. Fine, I’ll tell you.”
“He and Fred went to Hogsmeade.”
“Hogsmeade?” I crinkly my brow. “What for?”
“He’s sneaking into Honeydukes, for food and stuff for the party. See, every time we win a game, we, uh...”
“Have a rager?”
“And I wasn’t invited?” I pretend to be offended.
“Well, I, uh,” he stutters.
“Kidding. Thanks, Marsh. I’ll see you later!” I wave and head off, as Marshall calls after me,
“If James asks, I didn’t tell you, alright?!”
I shake my head, a small smile gracing my face. Hogsmeade. A rager. I should’ve guessed.
If I’m right, James took the secret passageway under the witch’s hump to sneak into Honeydukes (Clark and I discovered it in my second year); which means that- assuming he left rather recently- I have only half an hour to get to Hogsmeade before he does. And there’s only one way to get there that fast.
“Clark?” I ask sweetly, sticking my head into our dorm. Clark, whose head is stuck in some fashion magazine, narrows her eyes at me suspiciously.
“What do you want?”
“Well, I need to talk to James because-”
“Of the weakly hug thing, go on,” she interrupts, nodding.
“And, see, he’s currently on his way to Hogsmeade...”
“And you want to borrow my broom so you can meet him there.” Clark gives me a doubtful look. “Are you sure? Last time didn’t go so well.”
“I remember,” I say dryly, recalling how I’d only barely been able to cast a cushioning charm in time before I fell five hundred feet to the ground.
“Maybe you should take that Hippogriff instead,” my best friend suggests lazily, flipping the page in her magazine.
“Would take too long to call one.”
“Why don’t you just take the secret passageway and intercept James on his way back?”
“Oh.” I pause, considering. “I guess I didn’t think of that.”
“Uh-huh.” Clark flips over the next page.
“Want to come?” I offer. With that, she slams down her magazine, rises to her feet, and grins hugely.
“I’d love to!”
About ten minutes later we are climbing into the witch’s hump and setting off down a long tunnel-like passage, wands lit before us.
“Why are you so upset about That Girl and her gossip anyways?” Clark asks me as we walk, her quiet alto voice echoing off the walls.
“I just don’t like when people say things that aren’t true,” I murmur. Clark knows this about me. I’m a good liar, yes, and a good actress. But I have a firm belief that the world would be a better place if I didn’t have to lie. If everyone everywhere would just be brutally honest with each other. Tell the truth.
You might never get the chance again.
“At least they don’t know the real truth.”
“What do you mean?”
“Can you imagine if they found out you were only dating Albus because of a bet you made with James? Love, they’d have a field day.”
“Oh my god, you’re right!” I laugh. “That’s fantastic!”
“But wait.” Clark holds up a hand, stopping me mid-laugh. “Is the bet even still on? I mean, now that you and James have made up, it seems kind of unnecessary.”
“Add that to the list of things I need to talk to him about,” I say, frowning. Clark’s right: the bet does seem kind of redundant now. But still... a hundred galleons. And an end to the war, which means we can all be friends for real.
“I mean, I do still want to win the war...” Clark murmurs, echoing my own thoughts.
“So do I. And you have to admit, it would be nice to just be friends for real, without still having all this underlying enmity.”
“Nice for you, love. I have no desire to be friends with James Potter,” she spits out his name like a curse.
“What about Fred?” I ask smoothly, and Clark flips her hair over her shoulder, what she does whenever she’s stalling.
“Well, yeah, it would be good I guess.”
“Mmhmm, I bet it would be good,” I wiggle my eyebrows suggestively, and Clark narrows her eyes at me.
“No need to be so raunchy, love. We’re just friends.”
“For now!” I sing. Personally, I can totally see them together. They are complete opposites, but just enough so that they balance each other out. Clark, though not uptight, is the ultimate ice queen, perfect and cold, not to mention an utter bitch; Fred is warm and happy, all grins and jokes and laughter, easy-going to the extreme. As for things they have in common...
Well, they’re both friends with me, so obviously they’d be perfect together.
“Shut up,” Clark grumbles, but she doesn’t deny it. I smile, and for a few minutes we walk in silence. It’s not uncomfortable silence, though; it never has been. See, Clark and I, we’re the same. Yes, obviously you can see that we’re very different in countless ways, but we’re the same where it matters. We’re both stubborn and independent and willful to a fault; we both hold grudges like nobody’s business; and we’re both experts at hurting people, in a multitude of ways.
Clark’s three exes and James’s jaw can vouch for that.
But the thing is, we will never hurt each other. We swore that, at the end of my first year, after seeing all that we both are capable of. We swore that we would never hurt each other, no matter what.
And so every silence that falls between us is easy, comfortable. We can tell each other everything, and truly be best friends, forever.
Because we will never hurt each other.
I contemplate this as we walk down the long, dark passageway. Maybe that’s the reason I’ve never felt the need for a boyfriend, or the longing for a husband or children- everything in my life has taught me that friends will love me and understand me no matter what, while family will hate me or leave me, one way or the other.
“You look very deep in thought,” Clark interrupts my earth-shattering revelations with her characteristically direct voice.
“I was having an epiphany,” I shrug, my tone implying that it is no big deal. My best friend snickers.
“What about? Your all-too-obvious abandonment issues?”
I stick my tongue out at her.
“Jack has abandonment issues?”
It really is a testament to my violence- and martial arts training- that upon hearing this loud and unexpected voice, I don’t scream or jump. Instead I lash out and strike the first thing I see move.
Luckily for Fred Weasley, that’s his hand and not his face.
“Goddamn it!” he shrieks girlishly, clutching the wrist I have probably just broken. James, standing next to him and directly in front of me, busts out laughing. Clark joins him, adding in a bit of pointing as well.
“Sorry,” I say unapologetically. His fault for surprising me.
“C’mon, it really hurts,” Fred whines over-dramatically, cradling his wrist. Clark rolls her eyes.
“Let me see it.”
I snort. Clark couldn’t heal a paper cut, much less a broken wrist.
“Shut up, Jack. I can at least see if it’s actually broken.”
“I really doubt it!” I sing as Clark drags Fred a distance away- by his damaged appendage.
“Owwwww,” he complains, then yelps as Clark kicks him in the shin. “You two are so physically abusive!”
“Suck it up,” Clark and I say in unison.
After they disappear- presumably to find a better-lit area- I turn back to James, who is still chuckling.
“How did you guys get back so fast?” I ask curiously. They were much faster than I thought they’d be.
“We ran there,” James admits. “Every second we’re not in Gryffindor tower is a second of the party wasted!” Then he narrows his eyes and finally seems to figure out what’s wrong with this picture. “Wait. What are you doing here?”
“Looking for you, actually.”
“We need to talk.”
“All right then,” he says cheerfully, nonverbally summoning two butterbeers from the Honeydukes bags floating behind him. I grab one thankfully- I’m oddly thirsty- and then lean against the wall and slide down to sit on the floor. James joins me, propping his lit wand next to him. The twin spots of bright white light- my wand and his- framing us give our little section of floor an odd cast.
Maybe it’s the weird double-shadows.
“So, we need to talk? It sounds serious,” James prompts.
“Since when have you ever been serious,” I snort. This is my way of stalling. Truthfully, I don’t know how to begin. I mean, how do you tell the guy you’ve until very recently hated that soon the entire school will think you slept with him, even though you’re supposedly dating his brother, even though that is just because of a bet the two of you made that may or may not still be on.
I’m confused just thinking about it.
Okay no, I’m not, but it’s still complicated.
“C’mon Jack, you know I can be serious,” he says, taking a sip of his butterbeer and looking at me with those big and unfairly bright hazel eyes.
“I know,” I whisper, hugging myself in that way pitifully depressed girls do. Then, since I’m not pitiful (or depressed), I immediately let go and slump against the wall, imitating the boyish pose James has adopted.
It’s actually quite comfortable.
His words bring back a memory of this morning, which I am trying hard to forget. I just want this day to be over already, so I can put all those bad memories behind me. But he’s right- he was a really good friend to me then, and I know he can be now. I know he won’t judge me, no matter what I want to do or say.
“So what is it?” he asks, nudging me with his elbow.
“Well...” I take a deep breath.
James just looks at me, his eyes huge.
“You are the weirdest person I have ever met,” he says flatly.
“Thank you,” I respond with a bright grin, legitimately flattered. I pride myself on being a freak.
“Umm...” James looks lost for a second, his bright eyes going scattered, before he re-catches his train of thought. “To start with, I’ll make sure everyone knows that we’re not sleeping together, we’re just friends. Don’t worry about how,” he holds up a hand before I can voice my doubts. “I’ve got connections. And as for the bet, well, I do still want to end this war.” He smirks at me.
“It’s still on, then?” I say, an air of excitement in my voice. This may be even more fun now that it’s not a grudge match.
“Oh, it’s on.”
We shake again, and James quickly adds.
“Rules are still the same, though.”
“And I get Fred and Marshall back on my side, now that I’ve apologized.”
I scowl at this, but still I agree. He’s still only got two back-ups as opposed to my five.
“Feel better now that that’s all taken care of?” James asks me, standing to his feet and offering me a hand.
“I do, actually.” I smile at him and take his hand. James smiles back.
You know, I’m glad the two of us are friends again. Despite all his flaws, James is a very good friend.
“Coming to the party?” he questions as we start meandering back down the passageway, wands held before us, bags following behind.
“I could spare a moment,” I say with a smirk, and he laughs.
And then my wandlight falls on the most disturbing sight I’ve ever laid eyes on.
And they’re like totally making out.
Holy fucking shit.
A/N: Whaaaaat!? Clark!? And Fred!? Who could have seen this coming!? Jk. It was pretty obvious. Besides, I thought it was about time Clark got a guy in her life (mostly so we can see her make him cry). Soooo... tell me what you think! (by reviewing) (please) :D
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