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Chapter 14 : It's Not My Fault I'm Happy
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I knocked on the partially open wooden door. "Hey, what did you guys need me for?"
Rose leapt off her bed and dragged me into the room. "It's finished!"
"Er…what's finished?" My brows knit together in confusion.
Alex gave a wan smile and closed her book as she gestured for me to come over to her. "We found a cure for the poison in your cheek."
My fingers flew to the marred skin, gently tracing the wound. The dittany had only done so much, and there was still a trace amount of toxins in it that had prevented it from healing fully. "You really didn't have to do that."
"Is that your complete shit way of thanking us?" Rose demanded with a grin.
I accepted a small vial of a pale green potion from Alex, bending down to wrap her in a hug. "Of course not. Thank you both so much."
"Merry Christmas, Clara," Rose said as I went to her for a hug next.
A smile spread across my face. "Merry Christmas." That was the first time in a long while that I'd had a friend to say that to.
I stayed in their dormitory for another few minutes, watching them pack and discuss their plans for the break, trying to ignore the pang of jealously in my stomach. Sure, I would get to see my mother, but she would be at work for the better part of every day, so aside from Christmas, I would be spending an awful lot of time with myself. Not to mention, we didn't exactly live in a comforting location. It wasn't uncommon to see drunkards passed out at bus stops or have to cross the street to avoid junkies who were begging for a buzz.
"Hey, I've got to finish packing as well. See you lot on the train?"
Rose glanced up at me from her position on the floor in front of her trunk. "Sure, see you then."
With a wave to Alex, who was trying to stuff a large stack of books into a rucksack, I returned to my own dormitory, where my belongings were spread out on my bed. I didn't have much; I had three pairs of jeans, six sweaters, a few blouses, four sets of pajamas, and a tiny bag of toiletries. With a sigh, I glanced into my trunk, which wasn't even half full. I added a scuffed pair of trainers and a pair of boots I'd gotten from Maggie last Christmas.
"That took all of five minutes," I muttered to myself. I placed the potion on my end table and put in my headphones, allowing the music from my WizPod to cloud my senses. It was ironic that the few nice possessions I owned were gifts from Maggie, Sierra, and Tamara. I'd always known they had cruel sides to them, but they'd been loyal to me for six years, cheering me on at my quidditch matches, paying for my drinks at the Three Broomsticks when I didn't have any pocket money, and teaching me how to do things such as plait my hair or apply mascara, as my mother hadn't exactly been around to show me how to be a proper girl.
I marveled at how much my life had changed in the span of three months. I had gone from being Gryffindor's star chaser, to Ivan's girlfriend, to social outcast, to punching bag, to James Potter's girlfriend. I allowed myself a small grin of satisfaction. I was James Potter's girlfriend. I could hardly believe it. It made all of the terrible things that had happened over the course of the first semester seem miniscule.
There was a light tapping on the window. "I was just thinking about you," I said as James slid into the room, shaking off drops of rain.
He didn't say anything, he just settled onto the bed beside me. "I see Rose and Alex gave you your present."
"Yeah…should I try it now?" At his nod, I uncorked the solution. It smelled of apples. With a shrug, I plugged my nose and tossed it back, swallowing it all in one breath. A pleasant sort of feeling overtook my body, and the skin of my cheek began to tingle.
After thirty seconds, the sensation stopped, and I ran to the bathroom to see. "It's gone!"
I ran back to the bed. "James, it's gone!" I cried, yanking him into a hug. Finally, I was healed of all the physical damage. I no longer had to stare at myself in the mirror and be reminded of the whip against my skin, or their faces leering down at me as I drifted in and out of consciousness…
James pulled back slightly and stroked the smooth skin where it had once been marred. "Good as new."
"Thank you. I know how much you and Fred risked to get the poison from them. And Rose and Alex must have been working on this for ages…" I trailed off, realizing just how much the four of them had done for me. I only hoped my gifts for them could even pass as satisfactory; theirs had gone above and beyond.
"You're worth it," he told me, his voice quiet and his expression serious.
I blushed and stepped away, tucking my hands into the back of my jeans. "Would now be a good time for me to give you your gift?"
His face remained impassive. "You didn't have to get me anything."
With a roll of my eyes, I walked over to my trunk. "It's not often that I have anyone to buy anything for, and I do have a bit of pocket money saved up."
Slowly, I pulled out an envelope and pressed it into his hands. He opened it wordlessly and slid out two red and silver tickets. "Tornadoes versus Arrows? Are you kidding me Clara? This is the game of the season! This must have cost you a fortune!"
My chest expanded as I let out the breath I'd been holding. This was the very first time I'd seen James excited about something, and it was because of me. "I bought them months ago. I was hoping you'd go with me."
"Of course I'll go with you, this is incredible. And these are good seats, too!" In a rare display of affection, he reached over and kissed me, his lips molding to mine gently. "Thank you."
I shrugged like it wasn't a big deal, even though I was forty galleons in the hole. "You're welcome."
His mouth twitched. "I know you're curious as to what I got you."
"Maybe." I refused to admit anything, biting my lip to keep myself form grinning.
James settled back onto my bed and patted the spot beside him. As I took a seat, he ordered me to close my eyes, and I sat, nervously, until a small, leather book was placed in my lap. "Okay."
I obeyed, and stared down at the faded lettering. "James, what is this?"
"Find out," he replied, and with a crease in my brows, I obediently flipped it open.
October 10th, 2011
I met a girl today. She found me on the quidditch pitch. Her name is Clara. I think she's crazy. She must be crazy if she's talking to me. She's a Muggle-born, she hangs around with Turner and Daley. Her attitude's kind of annoying, she talks a lot, like there's something we have in common. But she's someone to play with, I guess.
My mouth gaped open. "Is this…?"
"My journal. Or at least, all the pages that talk about you. You're always complaining about how you never know what I'm thinking, well…you better never say that again."
Briefly I scanned through it, noting the dozens of pages that whizzed by. "So, how much of your actual journal talks about me? All of it? Three quarters? Half?"
"Shut up," he muttered, nudging me so I fell over onto my side.
I flipped over onto my back, my legs now dangling over the edge of the bed. "James this is the best gift I've ever gotten. I mean it."
He stood. "Good. Because I had literally no idea what to get for you, and I hope you know how terrified I am to place that in your possession."
With a grin, I stood as well, the tips of my shoes brushing against his. "What are you afraid of? Do you think I'm going to sell all your deep, dark secrets to the highest bidder?" My words were whispered, my eyes searching his as I leaned into breath.
His head nodded yes. "No."
Just as my lips were about to capture his, he stepped back, and I stumbled forward slightly. He smirked. "Someone's got packing to do."
My jaw dropped as he straddled his broom. "James!"
"See you on the train," was all he said, and then he was gone. I slammed the window shut in exasperation, turning around to face my messy room. It was small, and it was crowded with the beginnings of my packing. My eyes strayed to the journal on my bedspread.
Immediately I sprinted for the corner, snatching up my schoolbooks, parchment, and quills, tossing them on top of my robes. Next into my trunk were my nice blouses and jeans, followed by toiletries and socks. Slowly it became more filled, until I added the last item, the framed photo of Fred, Rose, Alex, James and I from my desk. I closed and locked it, jumping onto the bed and catching James' journal on a bounce.
I settled back into the pillows and pulled my knees into my chest as I eagerly drank in his words.
December 12th, 2011
Clara's not so bad. She's still too perky, but I was like that first year too. She's pretty decent at quidditch, for someone so scrawny. Almost beat me today, of course that would have been embarrassing. She's been playing for two and a half months, and I've been playing for seven years. Nearly told Fred about her, but I caught myself at the last minute. He'd be pretty angry if he knew I was talking to her. Can't be too safe, right?
The pages blurred together as I sped-read through them, my heart jolting every time I spotted my name, smiling happily as I saw the curve of the C that connected with the 'l.' I don't know how long I stayed in that position, nothing moving but my eyes, my breath rapid from the exhilaration of James' most private thoughts.
"Clara?" I was startled from my reading by the sound of Lily's voice. Her pale, freckled face bounded into view. "I've been sent to get you. The train should be arriving in Hogsmeade soon!"
Blearily, I glanced out the window, where the sun was burning brightly. "Oh…right. Yeah, I'll be down in a minute."
Her green eyes widened. "Is that James' diary?"
"Journal. But, yeah." I licked my lips nervously. If she told anyone I had this, James would be furious.
"Don't worry, I won't say a word. But Clara…that's a big deal. He's never shown that to anyone, not even Fred, and he gave it to you."
With a wink, she disappeared down the steps, her red hair rippling behind her. Barely containing a girlish squeal, I donned my jacket and tucked the book into an inner pocket, grabbing both my wand and the handle of my trunk as I made my way down to the common room.
We'd all agreed to wait until the last minute and take the short cut through the Honeyduke's passageway to avoid any hexes or jinxes. Considering what had happened to James, Hugo, and Alex these past few months, I wasn't the least bit surprised. I was also wary. It seemed a lot of students got the urge to blow off steam around the holidays.
When I reached the thick carpet of the common room, I found Fred with an arm around Alex, his eyes carefully watching a small group of fifth years by the fire. Hugo and Lily were playing Wizard's Chess atop James' trunk. Rose had her nose buried in a book while James stood behind her, his wand twirling between his callused fingers.
"Are we all set?" Fred asked.
I shrugged. "I'm ready if you are. Sorry if you were waiting for me, I was…packing," I finished lamely. Lily's eyes twinkled.
"Well let's get going then. We're meeting everyone else in ten minutes." Fred levitated both his and Alex's trunks, leading the way out of the portrait hole. Hugo put away his chess board and followed suit, not looking eager to be left behind. Rose, still reading, levitated her own trunk. Lily was next, opting to drag hers.
I half glanced at James, who, after a beat, sighed and pointed his wand at my trunk. "Don't recall asking you for help," I murmured, reluctantly trailing after him.
"I'm not allowed to help my girlfriend?" he quipped sarcastically. I disarmed a Hufflepuff with buckteeth who had his wand pointed at Lily.
My cheeks flushed. "That's the first time you've said that."
His response was cut off as we came to a statue of a one-eyed witch with a hump on her back. Already gathered around it were Louis, Albus, Scorpius, Molly, Lucy, Roxanne, Vincent Chang, and Davina Wood. Lucy's yellow robes and Molly's blue stuck out from the crowd of Slytherins. I vaguely wondered if the Potters and Weasleys were upset their children wore green. The whole lot of them had been in Gryffindor.
James rolled his eyes and whacked Albus across the back of his head. His lips detached from Davina's with a loud suctioning sound, and he smirked as we wiped a hand across the back of his mouth.
"Nice to see you're keeping an eye out, Al." James folded his arms across his chest.
"What? Louis and Scorp are here," he responded. "Besides, have you even seen my girlfriend? You wouldn't be able to keep your hands off her either."
I blinked. I'd barely ever heard Albus speak, other than our confrontation in the library. I supposed it was only fitting that he acted like a misogynistic prick. Is that redundant?
"Excuse me, we are also fully capable of protecting ourselves, you know," Roxanne said drily. To enunciate her point, she blasted a hole in the floor the size of a first year before quickly repairing it.
Fred rolled his eyes at his sister, choosing to ignore her. "We shouldn't be standing around this corridor, we're basically sitting ducks. Louis, you first, then Lucy and Molly, Vincent you next, Al, Davina, Lily, Rose, Hugo…"
It was humorous to say the least. It reminded me of a bunch of clowns coming out of a tiny car, like at the circus my dad had taken me to once, just in reverse.
"All right, Clara, you follow James and I'll come after you," Fred directed, and with a shrug I slid down the tunnel as gracefully as possible. I hastily cast 'lumos' as I reached the bottom and turned just in time to see James barrel straight into me, grabbing me by my hips and pressing me up against the wall.
My heart raced as my hands found their way to his chest. Our trunks went crashing past.
"Just wanted to make sure you didn't get hit," he murmured, before stepping back and dusting himself off.
"Tosser," I replied, stalking off down the tunnel. After what seemed like a ten minute walk, we finally emerged into the cellar of Honeyduke's. Fred had to stop both Hugo and Albus from trying to steal sweets.
"It's not like you don't have the sickles to get that stuff on the train, you dolts!" he exclaimed in exasperation. "Now get up the stairs, hurry!"
If the shop owner was at all surprised to see about fifteen Hogwarts students bursting into his store with all their belongings, he didn't show it. In fact, he greeted Fred and James quite cheerfully. They only managed to escape out onto the street once their pockets were stuffed with licorice wands and acid pops.
"That was cute." Fred scowled as I swept past him to walk alongside Lily.
The fourth year smiled up at me. "So are you ready to put our plan into action? I'm thinking we start on the train ride back to school."
I nodded thoughtfully. "That would probably be best. I'm ready if you're ready."
I grinned as she saluted me, and she clambered up onto the train after Hugo. Louis and Vincent had remained on the platform to load everyone's trunks; Albus had led the rest of them down the corridor and into a compartment that was empty save for the Scamander twins. I wiggled my brows at Lily, who flushed crimson.
I found myself seated between Molly and Rose, who was cuddled up next to Scorpius. Albus and Davina were snogging up against the window. James was across from me, and he was beside Fred, who had Alex tucked under his arm. Lucy was now trying to defeat Hugo in wizard's chess, while Lily struck up conversation with the twins. Vincent was staring off into space. I'd yet to hear him speak a word, but Roxanne looked content as she laid her feet across his lap, flipping through a quidditch magazine.
Ducking as a chocolate frog went whizzing past my head, I couldn't contain my grin. This was already the best train ride I'd ever had, and we'd only just left the station.
"So Clara, are you coming to the Christmas Eve gala at the Ministry?" Molly inquired politely from my left.
My brow furrowed. "The what?"
"Did James not invite you?" Alex demanded, leaning around her boyfriend to shoot James a dirty look.
He rubbed a hand across his face. "I didn't invite her because you know what we're going to be doing while we're there."
"Yeah, and she can help," Rose spoke up hotly. I jumped. I thought she'd been asleep.
I watched the two of them banter back and forth for a moment before I cut in. "Help with what? What's going on? Fred?"
He sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose. Albus detached himself from Davina, eyeing his cousin with interest. Even Vincent had tuned back in. "We're going to infiltrate the Minister's office."
Many sets of eyes suddenly swiveled towards me, eagerly watching for my reaction. I stared at James, whose face was hard. Rose patted my hand comfortingly. "Then I want to help."
Albus cocked a brow and leaned back, closing his eyes. Vincent shrugged. Alex nodded matter-of-factly. James didn't say a word.
A/N: Hey guys, sorry it took a while to update, I'm just recently getting over the flu and college is pretty hectic. I've already started working on Chapter 16 though, so don't worry! I apologize also for the fact that this is both short and a filler, but I'm setting up for the good stuff. Feel free to leave a review, and thanks for reading!
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