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Chapter 5 : dark rooms, bright lights
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“Morning,” said a familiar voice to my left.
I felt my body shudder with surprise, but it was only Mikey.
“Mikey,” I said, softly. “What-”
“You were too drunk to walk up the girls’ stairs by yourself, and none of your friends could carry you. So we let you stay the night here.” He grinned down at me, and then added, “You're welcome.”
“Feel more than welcome to call me Jesus, Effy, for I am your saviour. You know Fred Weasley and Alfie Ronson came in seven minutes later than you and now they’re in detention for a fortnight? McGonagall is half witch, half dictator, honestly.”
“Oh my God…” I felt myself murmur, and Mikey's voice drifted in and out of my grasp of understanding, his looming face twirling and circling in front of my eyes, as if the dark-haired, blue eyed boy was behind some enchanted kaleidoscope.
“I deserve a bloody medal, I do, only the hero of the night. And I let you stay in my bed, instead of throwing you to Oscar because Oscar snores like a pig-”
“I’m going to explode…”
“I wonder what they’d do in detention. Declan Ainsley said-”
“For Christ’s sake, Mikey!” snapped a voice, and I felt almost embarrassed at how long it took me to connect the Irish accent to its owner, Liam. “Get the girl some water! She’s suffering from a hangover, yer twat, she doesn’t want to hear about fucking Declan.”
I nodded weakly, and winced, every movement of my body aching more than the previous movement, sending ripples of dull pain throughout my bones. I felt Mikey rise from the bed. A few seconds later, a cool glass of water was pressed into my hand.
“Did you mix it with a hangover remedy?” asked Liam.
“Two drops? Exactly?”
“Yes, Liam! I am a Ravenclaw, you know.”
I sipped tentatively from the glass, and after a few moments of silence, I sat up, wrapping the duvet around my shoulders, and smiled sleepily at Mikey. “So what happened?”
Mikey and Liam looked at each other; Mikey burst out laughing, and Liam grinned reluctantly.
“Last night was potentially one of the funniest nights of my life,” said Liam. “Pity you were too drunk to remember anything.”
“I can remember some things,” I began. Memories didn’t flood to me, but came in a gentle stream of abstract sounds and images that didn’t quite connect. Heavy, pounding music with a throbbing bass line that made the core of my narrow shake; Aspen and I sneaking out of the castle hidden underneath black robes, which we discarded by a shrub. Thick eyeliner, high heels and sequined hot pants; meeting Oscar, Jasmine and Ophelia just outside Hogwarts. Apparating with Jasmine to Diagon Alley. Dark rooms, bright lights, firewhiskey burning my throat.
“I can only remember the first part of the... club?" I offered. “I know we decided to go to the opening of the new club at the south end of Diagon Alley and then- oh! I remember you, Liam, Albus and Scorpius turned up! Oh, of course... I can't believe I actually went."
For the opening of this new club, named with a sense of wry humour Bolt, after the postwar Minister of Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt, had been the talk of the year group and the year above for weeks now. I had sat through what felt like endless lessons with Louis Weasley and Ruddy Walcott going on and on about how excited they were, their plans to sneak in using borrowed IDs, and excitement over the night had created a sense of enticing, exotic, dangerous fun amongst the upper years.
I hadn't bothered to join in; I had my date with Albus during the day, and a lengthy Mermish essay worth a quarter of my overall NEWT due in on Monday. I had listened to Oscar, Aspen, Jasmine Azalea and a host of others, both in my year and above, chatter excitedly about the upcoming night, barely concealed envy saturating my tone when I'd tell my friends to shut up on it.
But as it turned out, I did get to go. And I couldn't remember any of it.
Mikey nodded smugly. “Liam and I have this remarkable ability to become best friends with people after just a few hours.” I blinked in confusion, lost in my thoughts about my Mermish essay and the reality of the night, and slowly realised he was referring to Albus and Scorpius Malfoy.
"You're friends with... Albus and Scorpius?"
"Oh yes," Mikey smirked. "Don't get too jealous now, Effy-kins. There's enough Albus Potter for the rest of Ravenclaw."
"Oh... fuck off," I retorted, wittily.
“I do really like Scorpius and Al though,” said Liam. “Remember, we agreed to have dinner with them tomorrow.”
“And then Oscar will want to come, so I suppose I’ll go find him and let him know.”
“Can I come?” I asked.
“No,” they said simultaneously.
I scowled at them and crossed my arms. “I didn’t want to go in the first place. Anyway, so what happened?”
Mikey continued. “Liam and I were going to go to the opening of Bol anyway, but then Scorpius was pissy about Aspen, and Albus had lost you, so we decided to invite them. We walked to the edge of Hogsmeade, and was about to hail a Knight Bus, when we overheard some seventh year girls discussing it- they let us side-apparate with them. I snogged one of them, actually,” he said smugly. “Melanie Deschanel, Slytherin. Anyway yeah, so we’re there, and there’s about twenty-odd sixth and seventh formers there, and half way through James Potter, Alfie Ronson and Freddie Weasley turn up.”
“They forgot that Freddie had a detention with Professor Sinatra, though,” said Liam. “So the teachers were looking for him, and they realised that several other students of the upper years were gone, and it was obvious we weren’t at some Herbology convention.”
“By this time, Effy, you were so drunk,” said Mikey, “and that seventh-former kept on coming after me, and I decided to go round the back with you, give you a cigarette to sober you up a bit. Then James Potter and Dahlia Moss burst out into the courtyard, and they tell us that the teachers were there- they let us apparate with them back to Hogwarts, and we snuck in through the kitchens.”
My mouth dropped open. “I wish I was sober for that,” I said mournfully.
Liam nodded excitedly. “You four missed the better part of it,” he said. “Inside the club it was utter chaos- Professor Longbottom had set an anti-magic spell on the premises, so nobody else could apparate out, and then he got into a fight with the club manager.”
“Meanwhile,” said Mikey, “us four were sitting inside the kitchens-”
“What?!” I cried. “I was in the kitchens? And I can’t remember?!”
Mikey smirked. “Then Jasmine Azalea and Freddie Weasley burst in, and Jasmine threw up on you, but you laughed it off and vanished it. We sat there until around four in the morning, until we were sure the teachers weren’t on the lookout anymore. We danced for a bit, and you and Freddie Weasley had a rapping competition. You were hysterical, Effy.”
Faint memories started coming to me. “I think I’m remembering know. So what’s happening to you, Liam? And Aspen, and Albus, and everyone else?”
Liam shot us a dirty look. “Twenty hours of detention. I’m on Hagrid duty,” he snapped. “You two, Freddie, James, Dahlia and Jasmine were the only ones who snuck out successfully.”
I smiled up at Mikey. “Thank you,” I said, putting my head into his lap and falling asleep again.
Rain trickled down the window, and when I rested my head on the glass pane, it was cold and sent shivers down my spine. It was a few weeks on from the Halloween Fair, and everything was normal again. Albus has, bizarrely, disappeared, but after six years of being in Hogwarts, the student population were used to his family leaving for whole weeks occasionally.
I was in Mermish, and Professor Mendeleev was reading to us an extract from a Mermish language book, and like every dull class, my thoughts were elsewhere.
Why couldn’t I stop thinking about James Potter? I was mortified at myself; dozens of girls in the year obsessed over him, Aspen included, and I had never joined it, thinking myself above it. But there was something about the way his brown eyes flickered gold in the late autumn sunshine, something about his throaty laughter, something about the way he smelt. Even a fortnight on I could still smell his scent of tobacco and strawberries.
My ponderings came to an end, for the Mermish lesson was about to finish and I had to run from the classroom to the Quidditch pitch for training.
“Oscar, can you take my bag upstairs with you?” I asked, stuffing my parchment and my quill into my bag.
“Sure darling,” he said, looking a bit bemused. “Do you have Quidditch practise now?”
“Yeah… Don’t be too jealous.” We walked out of class, and down the corridor, away from the general crowd of students rushing to the Dining Hall.
“Oh you,” he chuckled, for Oscar was a notorious hater of the sport. “Danny Alton is working your bones to powder This is ridiculous! You practised in the morning, in lunch, after class…”
“We have our first match against Gryffindor next weekend,” I reminded him. “After they beat Hufflepuff last Saturday, we need to work as hard as possible. They’re our biggest rivals, Oscar, and Danny Alton would rather be eaten alive by maggots than lose to James Potter. They hate each other.”
“Who hates who?”
We spun round, and I saw Albus, running up to catch up with us, his school robes flying behind him, his hair looking messier than usual.
“Albus,” I said, and he smiled.
“Oscar, do you mind if I-”
“Darling, she’s all yours.” And with that, Oscar left me, and it was just Albus and me walking through the Fourth Floor Eastern Wing, on my way to the Quidditch changing rooms.
“We haven’t spoken since the Fair two weeks ago,” he stated. He wasn’t angry, I observed, but interested, and this nuance in tone was something I greatly appreciated, a quality indicative of Ravenclaw house, a quality I liked to pride myself on. I was always curious and always asking questions- it was intriguing, and mildly satisfying, to see that Albus shared the same quality.
“I wanted to speak to you on the Sunday, but then Scorpius told me you were in France?”
“I know, sorry,” he said, holding a door open for me. “Teddy and Victoire’s wedding, James and I were the ringmen…” Of course. I had obviously seen the ten page spread of it in last week’s copy of Witch Weekly; everybody, it seemed, was there. The school for the past fortnight had felt empty, for the Potters, the Weasleys and anybody with parents in the Dumbledore’s Army circle were gone. Danny Alton rejoiced in this, for it meant James wasn’t present for Quidditch training. It had left me, on the other hand, lost and confused as to where I stood with Albus.
“Oh, right. How was it?”
He rolled his eyes, as we walked down a narrow staircase. “My French side of the family…”
I nodded. “I assume Victoire’s mother was in charge?”
“Oh my God, it was like a modern day version of the English and French Hundred Year War of the fifteenth century! My grandmother Molly and Victoire’s grandmother were utterly crazy, it was the first marriage of both of their grandchildren and I had never been so frustrated in my life! Effy, it was ridiculous,” he insisted. “My gran wanted English rose petals scattered over the aisle, but Victoire’s grandmother went ahead and ordered French lilies.”
“Poor little white boy,” I said, and he laughed.
“And then James snogged half of Paris’s female population and Dom was furious…” Dominique Weasley, Victoire’s older sister, was so cool. She was a Gryffindor in the year above, and was so pretty, so cool, so stylish. I think every girl of Hogwarts harboured a girl crush on Dominique Weasley.
“Anyway,” said Albus, pausing. I was on the step below him and he was directly above me, and he was smiling gently. “We need to talk.”
“Are you breaking up with me?” I cried, in mock horror. “Oh Albus. My love, my life, my muse.”
“Oh shut up,” he said, hitting me lightly. “I just don’t know what we’re doing.”
“Same,” I said. And he smirked down at me, clearly seeing the relief that flooded my face; I was never good at concealing my emotions, right now especially, for I hadn't realised how much of a burden my uncertainty with Albus had been until just now. “I feel we’re both thinking the same thing?”
“On the count of three.”
We both counted down from three, and our mouths erupted at the same time.
“I like you but I don’t want to snog you,” Al said, as I spewed out, “I liked you more when we were friends but I really like you as a friend.”
We stood there, in silence, comprehending what each other had said.
"Why don't you want to snog me?!" I cried out in mock annoyance.
Albus hitched his bag further up his shoulder, and the corners of his vivid green eyes creased ever so slightly. The smirk on his face had transformed into a genuine smile, and it occurred to me not for the first time how strikingly good looking Albus Potter really was.
"I would tell you," he said, in a slightly sing-song voice. "But no can do, I'm afraid."
"Ah, no way," I said, sighing. "Does Scorpius fancy me?"
He laughed, tilting his head back as he did, his laughter heavy and of substance, the kind you can hear be conjured in one's belly, the kind that makes the corners around one's eyes crease into little, little folds of skin. I laughed along at Al's laugh and as we strolled through the quiet, bright corridor, the overcast sky of the windows beside us casting an almost pearly, ethereal quality over the castle's stone- I found myself really, truly appreciating his company.
"Not quite Scorpius."
"So a guy does fancy me then, huh? God! So many boys, so little time!"
"How do you know it's a boy? A bit heteronormative, don't you think?" He teased, and I shoved him in response.
“But, really, thank God,” I said, as we continued walking down. “I was so worried, because Al, I love you as a person but I don’t think we could ever be more than mates, you know? Especially with Aspen and Scorpius.”
“I agree entirely,” he said, grinning. “You’re so witty and opinionated, and I think I confused admiring those traits with fancying those traits, you know?” His voice perked up on the last two words, mimicking me, and I shoved him to my left.
“Man, I’m the whole package,” I joked, and he laughed again.
“But promise me we can still be friends after this.”
"Only if you promise to keep complimenting me with words like witty and opinionated daily."
We had come to the end of the staircase, and I walked out into the Quidditch pitch with him. November had brought grey days and ugly skies but I couldn’t let the impending winter ruin my mood.
“Al, I think we could really close,” I said, as we walked across the pitch to the changing rooms. “I think you’re so great and I think we’re going to find this hysterical after a few months.”
“Effy, you’re so great,” he said warmly. God, Albus was good looking. But when I saw him I no longer felt giddy and excited, but affectionate and protective, like when I look at Oscar or Mikey. “I’ve never had close girl mates. They always want to snog me before getting to know me.”
“Must be so hard being you. I’ll start a charity,” I said, matching his warm tone, and he put his arm around me.
“Oh Elizabeth,” he sang.
“Oh Albus,” I sang back, and we laughed, until I had to depart when I reached the Quidditch changing room doors.
The two weeks from my encounter and our Quidditch match against Gryffindor sped by. Mornings turned into lessons, then a quick lunch- often interrupted by Alton demanding a quick practise- lessons or a study sessions in the library, and three hours of rigorous practise. And when we weren’t practising, for James Potter was training his team, if possible, harder than Alton was training us, we were holed up in Alton’s office, going over tactics.
The day was November twenty-first and the big game was November twenty-fourth. The whole school was alive with anticipation for this game; Ravenclaw and Gryffindor were the two best teams and the captains of Ravenclaw and Gryffindor, Danny Alton and James Potter, were two of the most popular boys in the school student body. James was the bad boy who smoked gillyweed on the Hogwarts Express and was in detention so often he practically got his mail delivered there; Danny was, on the other hand, a nice and friendly Prefect who just wanted the best for humanity. I often complain about Danny, now he’s taken on this tyrannical Quidditch captain persona, but before that he was one of the kindest, funniest guys around.
I reminded myself of this whilst Danny stood there, yelling at Mikey and me. His face was contorted with anger and annoyance and his voice echoed through the room.
“Will you two fucking shut up!” he roared. “This is not the Michael and Elizabeth show! Nobody gives a shit about what you two are talking about! WE ARE PLAYING GRYFFINDOR IN LESS THAN FOUR DAYS!”
“Sorry,” I repeated, but it was no use.
“YOU DON’T EVEN UNDERSTAND, ELIZABETH, THIS IS WAR-”
“Battle of Hogwarts round two,” said Josh, and next to him, Lara Swift snorted.
Danny suddenly froze. His face grew cold and he crossed his arms, and walked over to his desk. He sat on his desk, and clapped his hands together, as if he was praying. I think he was praying.
“You’re all fucking insane,” he muttered, and pressed his hands to his face. His eyes gravitated upwards and it was a very spiritual moment, watching Danny Alton pray to the Gods above for success on the upcoming match. It was just a match. But Danny and James Potter saw it as a war and the pitch their territory; we players were nothing but warriors, fighting for the victory of the blues or the reds.
But then Danny’s hands collapsed, and he was no longer praying, but he was walking into the Captain’s changing room. I’ve only been in the Ravenclaw Captain changing room before and that was when Winona Franklin was Captain, two years ago. I imagine it looked a lot difference under Danny’s control. He probably had mannequins with our faces on them and took to punching our mannequins when he was frustrated. Like now.
“Can somebody remind me why I wanted to be on the Quidditch team in the first place?” voiced Indigo Coates, a Beater in the year below.
“Being a Quidditch player gets you the girls,” I said, and Lara giggled.
“Didn’t really work out there, then, did it Coates?” said Mikey, and we all laughed, as Indigo hit Mikey. We were a tight knit group, united by our mutual dislike for Danny and our mutual hatred for playing in bad weather conditions. Lara Swift- a pretty girl two years below me with bright violet eyes- was a Chaser, along with Mikey and Danny Alton. Josh Wood was the Keeper, a loud-mouthed, handsome lad in the year below us, and he was the nephew of the famous Oliver Wood. Liam Finnigan and Indigo were the Beaters, and whilst the Gryffindor Beaters were tougher and stronger, Liam and Indigo were faster and swifter; we were a team of light and nimble players who were delicate and springy, whereas the Gryffindor players were bold and burly, especially the Chasers.
“I feel bad for Danny,” said Lara. Mikey was right, her fourteen year old girl crush on our Captain was pretty evident. Lara was two years younger than me and she was new to the team this year, a replacement of Winona Franklin, who left Hogwarts last year to pursue a career in art.
“Lara, you’re new,” I said, turning to my left and leaning out, in order to address the small girl sitting further down the bench from me. “Speaking as a member of the Ravenclaw team of the past three years, when one winds up the neurotic Captain, one does not regret it afterwards.”
“We put in hard work on what is now turning into an hourly basis,” added Mikey, putting his arm around me. “Yet when it comes to the Quidditch after party, who gets all the credit? Who gets all the girls? Who gets the drunkest and who makes the speech? Danny Alton!”
“Captains live a high life. Last after party,” said Josh, “I snogged three girls in one night. This is impressive, but you see, Winona Franklin- the Captain last year- she snogged seven boys. And she’s a girl. And she did more than snogging but I’m keeping it Parental Guidance for you, Lara.”
“Oh, Winona,” sang Indigo. “Come on, Liam.”
“No,” said Liam, turning his back on Indigo.
“Come on, mate,” said Mikey, slapping his best friend on the back.
Last year, Liam and Indigo wrote a song for Winona. Winona was a very eccentric Captain; she was passionate, wild and spontaneous and also one of the biggest sluts of the year. But she was cool because she was the only female Quidditch captain of the past few years and if anything, had the standards of a boy. Winona was what Mikey called bat shit crazy and spent our whole Quidditch salary that Flitwick had granted us on team trust workshops.
“Oh Winona, oh Winona, oh Winoooooona R. Franklin,” began Indigo, and much to our chagrin, Liam joined in.
“Whaaaaat shall we do without you, oh Winoooona, R. Franklin?
You spent twenty, twenty galLouisns
On team uuuuuuunity workshops
You got Lancaster to land on Wilderson
And she fell, her top came off.”
“It did not,” I protested, and my interruption of this song to clarify exaggerations was just a part of the melody by now, I always said it and Liam and Indigo never altered the lyrics. I knew there was no point, but I liked my little piece. It was my contribution to the team.
You did the dirty, with Thomas Foster,
To find ooooooout, his team tactics,
And that is how we won the Semi Final,
Oh Mr Foooooooster, what a silly prick.” Thomas Foster, Captain of Hufflepuff house. His teammates never forgave him and I think he’s still heavily drinking in attempt to get over it.
Oh Winona, oh Winona, oh Winooooona R. Franklin!
What shall we do without you, oh Winooooona R. Franklin!
Then something happened, and this shocked everybody. Danny Alton came out of his office and sat on the bench with us, right in between Liam and Mikey. And then when Indigo and Liam were too shocked to continue with the song, Danny’s booming voice filled the room with the last verse.
You decided, to teach Josh Woooooood,
how to daaaaance the Muggle Tango,
And then in the middle of the game
You screamed at hiiiiiiiiim, to dance it good.
This surprised, the mighty Slytherins,
And Josh Wooooood became a legde,
But in reality, it was because of you,
We have haaaaaad the best year yet.”
Then on the last syllable of the song, the room fell silent, and Danny stood up, walked over to his desk, and addressed us.
“Look, you lot,” he said, and the old warmth and compassion from previous years filled Danny’s voice. “You’re the most annoying group of twats I have ever spent time with. Sometimes it feels like this isn’t a school Quidditch team but a convention for the mentally insane. But at the end of the day, I’ve been with you guys since I joined the Ravenclaw Quidditch team in my Fourth Year, with Effy and Liam. And Effy, Liam and I bonded over our dislike for the Captain of that year, Rileyn Fayre, and then a year later- when Mikey and Josh joined- the five of us came together due to our shared detest for Henry York.
“What I’m trying to say, I suppose,” said Danny, “is that I’ve always been Danny Alton, Ravenclaw Chaser, and I never thought I’d be Captain- let alone another crazy dictator like Fayre and York.” He shook his head ruefully. “I’m not going to even count Winona Franklin because she was such a nut case. And I want to apologise for being so hard on you all over the past months. It’s just that I didn’t realise what responsibility being Captain was, especially of Ravenclaw house, you know? And I so desperately want to win this year, because it’s my last year at Hogwarts and I’m a Muggleborn, it’s not like I have any family relatives or anything that I can pass on the Alton family reputation too…”
“Oh, Danny,” I said, a lump in my throat. I decided to speak up because it was Liam and I who became friends with Danny when we were younger, and out of everyone, I had maintained the best relationship with him. “Danny. You don’t need to have a big Wizarding family to pass on your Quidditch reputation too. You have us.”
“Yeah,” said Liam, rising. “Mate, we have your back. I know we’re a fucking nuisance and all but we are a family, aren’t we?”
“A really weird, crazy, dysfunctional family,” said Mikey, nodding.
“Sounds like the Weasleys,” sniggered Indigo, and we all laughed.
“And honestly Danny,” said Josh, walking up to Danny and patting him on the back. “We’re going to thrash those lions. You said it before, but I’ll say it again. We’re the best team there.”
“And we might not always win,” I added, “but that doesn’t mean we aren’t the best.”
“Well,” said Liam. “It kind of does…”
“Yeah,” chirped Lara. “My friend Nathan is on the Gryffindor team and he said that they all hate each other.”
“No hating going on here,” said Josh, hugging Danny.
“Oh my God, you guys,” said Danny. “You’re all so bloody cliché. This isn’t Swiss Family Robinson.”
“This is Swiss Family Wilderson,” I said, nodding, and Danny laughed.
“Let’s go down to dinner,” said Danny, smiling. “As a team. I don’t care if we had scheduled the pitch until ten tonight, Potter can have it, yeah?”
“Bloody hell,” said Mikey, impressed. “You’re easy to swing.”
“Oh shut it, Lancaster. I’m still your Captain, you cheeky sod.” But Danny laughed, and we all laughed, and we walked out of the changing rooms- not as a divided Captain vs Teammates fraction but as a unity team. And that was a really big moment in my life, and a moment I will always look back on, I think. Because playing Quidditch was always such a big part of my upbringing, but from that moment on, whenever anybody asked me what my favourite part about the sport was- why I had continued playing from a young girl well into my adolescence- the answer was simple. The family I gained from the team I trained with. I had always been part of it, but only now, I realised, I realised it.
I don't own anything you recognise. Reviews are the fire beneath my bosom and I'd love to hear your reaction! Not a lot happened I suppose- a bit of a filler- loads more James & Effy next chapter, though. Also, shout out to Mendeleev! My brother is in the middle of his Chermistry GCSE revision and I has JUST sent him my old notes, so yeah.
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