“Study hard – NEWTs will be here before you know it – make sure you eat healthy – that includes vegetables, mind you – and it wouldn’t kill you to write more often,” Mum said as we stood at Platform 9 3/4, fussing with my scarf to make sure it was securely wrapped around my neck. Part of me was wondering if she wasn’t going to use it to strangle me – it’s never too late for her to commit the murder I’m sure she’s been itching for during the entire duration of the holiday.
“Don’t worry, Mum,” I replied, pulling her in for a hug. “I’ve managed six and a half years at Hogwarts without causing any permanent damage.”
“It’s never too late,” she replied with a stern look that was ruined when she winked right after. My mum is cooler than your mum.
She moved on to Selene, who was standing next to me, telling her to be careful about her health and to write any time she needed. Selene was responding with a genuine smile as I turned to say goodbye to Dad. He held out his hand, which I took for a firm shake that dissolved into a gruff hug.
“Keep up the good work, James,” he said.
I smiled at him and nodded. Much as I love my mother, nothing quite compares to getting praise from my dad.
He’d returned from Selene’s parents’ house late in the afternoon that day, bringing all her stuff with him and wearing the angriest expression I’ve ever seen on his face. He wouldn’t tell me what happened – I don’t think he even told Mum. The only person he talked to about it all was Selene, and she didn’t say anything about it either, except to thank me for telling Dad about the situation.
After we’d all said goodbye, Selene, Al, Lily, and I all boarded the train. Al broke away from our little group after spotting two of his Slytherin friends who had also gone home for Christmas. He shot me a look over his shoulder as he left and I gave him a subtle thumbs up. I was going to give him another “Girl Lesson” tonight. I’m still not sure why he asked me, but I was just going to go with it.
Lily followed me and Selene as we searched the train for Nick and Louis. Wrapped up in Dad’s Invisibility Cloak was the tank with Nick’s platypus, which she was returning to him now that we were going back to Hogwarts, although a bit reluctantly. Lily was freakishly attached to the little bugger. Why does everyone like platypuses so much? Or is it platypi? I really need to look that up sometime.
She and Nick had exchanged many letters throughout the course of the holidays. Seriously. There was a letter every day. Which, from my perspective, is really weird. Why is my friend writing to my sister so much? Surely there can’t be that much about one platypus for those two to talk about? That, of course, leads me to the conclusion that they were writing about much more than just Mr. Sprinkles. And that’s where I have a problem.
Nick may be a good bloke, but… he’s a bloke. Who’s excessively talking to Lily. My baby sister.
No. Not going to happen. Not on my watch.
I’m definitely going to have to talk to Nick about this. But, you know… later. When Lily isn’t around to overhear. She likes to ignore the part about me “being a good brother” and “having her best interests at heart” and accuse me of “being a meddling prat with a nose too big for his face.” Which is not true at all.
My nose is perfectly proportional to the rest of my face, thank you very much.
As we walked down the corridor, glancing into each compartment as we passed, I took Selene’s trunk from her. She shot me a glare that clearly said she could take care of herself, but I flicked my eyebrows upward. I could tell she was feeling tired. Her pregnancy was truly blossoming now, the curve of her stomach even more pronounced.
Not that anyone could tell, though. When Mum took her out to shopping on Boxing Day, she’d gotten her a whole array of pregnancy clothes and new Hogwarts robes. Right now, Selene was wrapped up in a puffy Muggle jacket that was so large that no one would suspect her of pregnancy.
The thing was, that wasn’t going to last very long. Selene’s weight gain was becoming increasingly obvious and it wasn’t just in her stomach. According to the Terrible Book of Horrors, this is perfectly natural. Nonetheless, before long there would be no doubts as to what Selene’s current… condition was. And I had no idea what we’d do after that. Hogwarts students are known for being particularly gossipy.
We had just found Nick’s compartment when Selene stopped. I turned to look at her, raising an eyebrow. “Wait a second,” she said. “Louis’s in there, isn’t he?”
“Well, yeah, I suppose he would be,” I replied, a little nonplussed.
Selene’s jaw tightened and I heaved a sigh, realizing what was going on. “You’re not still mad at him for Christmas, are you?”
Selene didn’t respond, instead she pulled her arms in closer to her body, shoulders hunching almost imperceptibly. This is her defensive stance, which means yes, she is still mad.
“You don’t have to talk to him if you really don’t want to,” I said in resignation, “but will you please just sit in there? He’s not just my cousin, he’s also my mate. He’s your mate, too.”
Once again, Selene didn’t say anything, she just pursed her lips.
“For me?” I pleaded.
She rolled her eyes. “Fine. You’re lucky I like you.”
“If you two are done,” Lily interjected, making me jump. I’d actually kind of forgotten she was there. Which is sad, considering the brevity of my half-conversation with Selene and the fact that Lily’s my little sister. My little sister who is giving me a smug, knowing look that I don’t like at all. “I have a platypus to deliver and then some friends to find.”
“No one said you had to wait for us,” I muttered. Although, I was actually glad she did wait. That way I can observe her when she talks to Nick and keep my eyes peeled for any suspicious, unsavory behavior.
Lily slid the compartment door open and the three of us walked in. Nick and Louis were sitting there, already in the middle of a game of Exploding Snap. Nick doesn’t have the longest attention span and needs to be entertained constantly. Sometimes I wonder if the rest of us aren’t his friends so much as his babysitters. Maybe I should ask his parents to pay me.
After pulling the blinds shut over the window, Lily pulled the Cloak of the platypus with a flourish. “Safe and sound, just like I promised!”
Nick jumped up eagerly, his game with Louis completely forgotten. “Mr. Sprinkles!” he cried excitedly. “I missed you!”
Ah, there’s nothing more beautiful than the sight of a boy reuniting with his beloved platypus. Except, you know, anything and everything else in the world. This is just strange.
“Do the two of you need a moment alone?” Selene asked dryly as Nick cooed over his ridiculous pet. I tried and horribly failed at suppressing a snort of laughter. The resultant noise sounded something akin to the sound of a dying seal. I’m really sexy.
“Need some water?” Selene asked, rounding on me. “It sounds like you might be choking on your dignity.”
Laughter echoes around the compartment as I flopped down next to Louis, trying to ignore the sight of a legal, of-age wizard fawning over a monotreme. It’s not even cute, I don’t understand. It’s a freaking beaver-duck hybrid.
Much more worrying than Nick’s possibly illegal pet, though, was the way he interacted with my sister. Nick and Lily have known each for a few years through me – and Louis too, I suppose – but they’d never been what I would call friendly. They were cordial, acknowledged each other’s presence, but it didn’t really go further than that. But now… well, it was a bit different.
They were chatting amiably about what the typical platypus diet was and whether there should be any adjustments to Mr. Sprinkles’s. Seriously. That’s what they were talking about. Their whole body language showed they were much too familiar with each other. They were making eye contact and leaning forward and all that rubbish.
It’s just not acceptable.
“You’re clenching your teeth,” Selene whispered in my ear, squeezing into the available space between myself and the window.
“Your teeth. They are grinding into one another. Relax, James. Lily is allowed to talk to members of the opposite sex.”
“Not like that,” I muttered back to Selene, narrowing my eyes when Lily laughed.
How dare Nick make my sister laugh. And here I thought he was my mate.
“You are such a stereotypical older brother,” Selene told me, still speaking in an undertone. “Why is it that blokes always go mental over the women in their life talking to other blokes? It’s the 21st century, Neanderthal. Women are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.”
“If Nick so much as touches Lily, he won’t have to worry about having hands anymore,” I hissed.
The look Selene gave me was pure exasperation. “You are such a child.”
“I retain my youthfulness proudly, thank you very much.”
“It wasn’t a compliment.”
“It never is with you.”
“I just speak the truth. It’s your own fault that it isn’t a pleasant truth.”
“Are the two of you going to let the rest of us in the conversation, or are we going to have to put up with you whispering back and forth for the whole train ride?” Louis asked us impatiently.
Selene flicked her eyebrows up as she glanced at him, before she looked away, arms tightly crossed once more. Louis frowned and looked at me in askance. I just shrugged. As if I was going to explain that Selene was upset with him right in front of her. That’s a recipe for bruises.
Lily turned away from Nick – finally! – to give me a knowing look that was almost obscenely smug. That was when I noticed how close together Selene and I had gotten. I mean, we’re in a train compartment with three people on the bench, so there wasn’t a lot of space to begin with, but someone during the hushed conversation, we had shifted so close that Selene was practically on my lap.
“You two look very cozy,” Lily said, smirking. “You know, I’ve always thought the two of you looked nice together. You’d be a very lovely couple.”
Is my face burning? I think my face is burning. I must be on fire. That’s the only explanation for why I feel so hot. It can’t be because I’m blushing. Nope. Not at all.
I quickly glanced over at Selene out of the corner of my eye, while simultaneously trying to glare at Lily. I don’t think the end result turned out all that well, to be honest. Louis gave me a worried look. Selene, however, just rolled her eyes. “Lily, now you just sound like every stupid, gossipy student at Hogwarts. Did you know that every time James goes on a date, I get someone asking me if I’m jealous or upset? Honestly, you’d think people have never heard of boys and girls being just friends before.”
Well. That was… comforting? Disappointing? At this point, I’m really not sure if I want Selene to fancy me or not. I’m not even sure if I want to fancy her or not. Adolescence is a complicated thing.
“I’m just saying,” Lily said. “You two look very cute together. The baby’s going to be a genetic goldmine.”
“Baby?” Nick asked.
Lily’s eyes widened in horror and I felt Selene stiffen next to me. Well shit. There’s that cat out of the bag.
“The, uh, hypothetical baby, they’d have if they were to, er, hypothetically get together someday. You know, after they get hypothetically married. And hypothetically decided to have children. Hypothetically,” Lily stammered. Smooth, Lil. Really smooth. It’s times like this that I can really tell that we’re related.
“Do I hear the trolley coming? Anyone want some chocolate frogs?” I asked, my voice far too loud as I sprang to my feet.
“The train hasn’t even left yet. Why would the trolley be – OUCH.”
Louis gave a harsh glare at Selene, who had viciously stomped on his foot to shut him up.
Nick was looking from me to Selene, to Lily, back to Selene. “Am I missing something here?”
Honestly, as this point I wasn’t even sure what the point of keeping the pretense up was. My family all knows about Selene and myself, there really was no good reason as to why we couldn’t tell Nick. Besides, we can’t just dismiss this now. Nick might be a little bit thick sometimes, but he’s not stupid. He knows something’s going on.
I looked over at Selene, only to find her already staring at me. One corner of her mouth twitched and she jerked her head slightly. All right then. I guess we’re doing this thing. I sat back down.
“Well, Nick, uh, there’s something that Selene and I haven’t told you. And it’s not that we didn’t want you to know, but it just never seemed like a good time and the situation was a little messy and we just-“
“I’m pregnant. James is the dad. No, we’re not dating. It just happened. Can we move on?” Selene interrupted my inane ramblings. Bless her. If she hadn’t done so I probably would’ve prattled on for ages before getting to the point.
“Will you name it after me?”
I snorted loudly and soon everyone joined in my laughter. The world needs more people like Nick O’Leary in it. The boy is a precious gift to humanity.
“The James Potter School of Tips to Talk to Girls is now officially open for business and class has started!” I exclaimed. A few days after coming back to Hogwarts, Al and I met in an empty classroom so that I could begin tutoring him in the ways of women. It’s all a bit of a lark, really. I’m still not sure why he asked me, of all people, but I’ll go with it. The disaster that is sure to follow these lessons will probably be fun to watch, at the very least.
Al was sitting at a desk towards the front of the classroom while I paced back and forth in front of him. “Now, be sure to take excellent notes and ask questions when you need clarification, because there will be exams. If you need any help outside of class, be sure to send an owl. I’m a very busy man, and I do not keep regular office hours.”
“Do take care to remember that this is a serious class and your performance will have an effect on your future. There will be no silly wand-waving or buffoonery in this class. I will not hesitate to take away points or give out detention if necessary.”
“Any complaints about this class will be directed to me. However, do not forget that you are one of many students that must be taught. Lessons will not be catered to your whims and desires. If you find yourself disagreeing with my methods, you will just have to cope. Personal differences will have no effect on your final mark in this class.”
I turned to face Al. “Mr. Potter, I must ask you not to interrupt me when I am talking. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please raise your hand.”
“James, this isn’t a real class. You aren’t an actual teacher.”
“You will address my by Professor Potter or sir. Any further disrespect will result in points being docked from your house.”
“Yeah, you don’t actually have the power to do that. Why? Oh yeah, because you’re not a real teacher, James.”
“You never let me have any fun.”
Al sighed, but then gave a small laugh. “James, you are better than anyone I know at making a situation fun. You can find humor in anything. You’re always having a laugh, so I really doubt I, or anyone else, could stop you. Well, except maybe Mum.”
I was kind of… touched by that. I don’t know, it’s just that sometimes it feels like Al disapproves of me making a muck of things and taking the mickey out of any situation I can. But the way he just said that didn’t sound disapproving at all. It actually sounded almost envious. “It’s not me just making up the fun bits, Al. They’re always there; people just choose not to see them. Life is better when you’re laughing. And it’s at its best when you get other people to laugh with you.”
“You are a ridiculously good person sometimes.”
“Not really. But thanks, Al.”
I wasn’t sure what to say after that. How do you respond to your brother telling you that you’re a good person? “Anyways, let’s get down to business.” I grabbed a chair and swiveled it around to sit on it backwards. “Let’s talk about girls, shall we?”
“Hmm? Oh, yeah, right. Girls.” Al looked flustered for a bit, running his hands through his hair.
“Really, talking to girls isn’t that difficult, even if it’s a girl that you fancy. In the end, girls are just like blokes, they just happen to have different bits. When you’re talking to a girl you like, don’t think of it as trying to talk to a girl. You’re talking to a person.”
“But what if I get nervous? I want this girl to like me, and I don’t know what to say, so I can’t talk to her,” Al said.
“Everyone wants to be liked, Al. Just… when you’re first talking to her, find a common point of interest to bring up. Establish a common ground to build an acquaintance on. Is she in a class of yours? Ask about the homework assignment. Yeah, it’s not particularly creative, but it’s something. Does she like Quidditch? Does she publicly endorse a team? Talk to her about that. Just find some simple fact about her and use it as a means of starting a conversation. From there, find out more about her. What are her interests? What do the two of you have in common? Start with the simple things. A relationship – be it friendship, dating or whatever – doesn’t just happen all at once. You have to let it build and grow.”
Al nodded thoughtfully, seeming to think over my words. Hey, what do you know. I think that actually may have been some good advice. Who knew I had it in me?
“So how did you and Selene become friends? I mean, I know you two met on the train, but how did it start?”
I paused for a moment, letting myself think it over. Selene and I were two pretty different people. It wasn’t an uncommon thing for others to be confused about how our friendship came to be. “I don’t know, Al. We were eleven at the time, just kids. Making friends as kids is a bit different than it is when you’re older. It just kind of happened.”
“So why did you stay friends?”
“Because we enjoy each other’s company. I make her laugh, she keeps me grounded. It just works.” I was a bit baffled at the turn this conversation had taken. I shook my head, wrenching my thoughts away from Selene. “But anyways, isn’t this supposed to be about you? I thought I was supposed to help you get with the girl you fancy, not talk about my friendship with Selene.”
Al smirked a bit. “Yeah, friendship. That’s the word.”
Don’t blush, don’t blush, don’t blush. Oh, who am I kidding. I have the red-faced Weasley genes in abundance, there’s no stopping a blush. “Shut up, Al, it’s not like that.”
“But you want it to be.”
“Doesn’t matter if I want it or not. Unless both of us want it, then it’s not going to happen. That’s the thing about relationships, it requires two people.” I paused for a moment, looking at Al closely. “Why do you keep pushing this? Do you want me to date Selene or something?”
Al shrugged, staring down at the desk he sat it. “I just want you to be happy.”
I raised my eyebrows. “I am happy.”
“Would you be happier if you were dating?”
I sighed. It looked like my internal voice had found an external source in Al. “I don’t really know and I’m not sure I want to find out. What if it isn’t? It’s just not a choice I really want to make, you know?”
Al frowned. “Choosing to do nothing is still making a choice, James. You really don’t think it’d be better to just… take the leap and say something to her?”
“Look, Selene and I had a rough couple of months recently.” Understatement. “Things are finally getting back to a semblance of normalcy and I would just like to enjoy that. Things are going to be on the turbulent side for a while, what with the whole baby thing, there’s no need for me to start making things even more complicated.”
“Right, right,” Al nodded, looking a bit appeased. “I reckon you’re right.”
“Aren’t I always?” I grinned and Al replied with a snort. “So anyways, let’s talk about the girls in your life, now, shall we?”
Right, so here’s the thing about the whole Selene situation: I haven’t got a bloody clue what to do. I’ve liked Selene for a while now; I think that’s been pretty well established. However, I have also dated other girls, even while liking Selene. And I’m not saying that I was using those other girls as a method of trying to get over Selene, because that’s not entirely accurate. I mean, yeah, I hoped that by dating them I wouldn’t fancy Selene so much, but I also genuinely liked those girls. But even so, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I started going out with them during times when I was feeling particularly hopeless over the whole “oops, I fancy my highly irritable best friend” thing.
Take my sixth year, for example, when I dated Emily Gunner from Hufflepuff. Selene had the flu and was spending the day in the Hospital Wing, leaving me without a partner for Herbology. Nick and Louis weren’t taking it at the NEWT level, so I was left to find someone else. Enter: Emily. She had reddish-blonde hair, dimples, and soft brown eyes to go along with a very sunny, optimistic outlook on life. She agreed to be my Herbology partner that morning and also agreed to go on a walk around the grounds later that afternoon. I was very suave, if I say so myself.
Later, when I was visiting Selene as she choked down awful medicine Madam Pomfrey threatened to force-feed her, I mentioned my date with Emily and Selene told me that I would be an unbearably cheesy boyfriend and that it would be as gag worthy as the potion she just drank. Now, I’m used to Selene insulting me. I know that it’s her way of showing she cares for me, but that comment stuck with me. Selene had absolutely no desire to date me and probably never would. And so began my relationship with Emily.
These days, with my friendship with Selene being strained by the fact that she’s pregnant with my kid and my lingering doubts about whether or not I even want to date Selene, the familiar desire to find some other girl to fancy began to rise up. However, the fact that Selene is pregnant with my kid makes the idea of dating someone else seem like a really fucking terrible idea. But it was one I was nonetheless considering because I’m clearly barmy.
I tend to speak before thinking, giving the impression that I’m stupid or ignorant, but I do have some observational skills. Which means that I am fully aware that Mickey Daniels is flirting with me. Before leaving for the holidays, we were spending a fair amount of time with each. I mean, it was a project in Potions, but we were still in each other’s company. And I certainly wasn’t blind to how she preferred sitting next to me rather than across from in the library or how she would move her chair closer than was strictly normal during class. I was aware of smiles and the winks and I would have had to have been blind not to notice all the opportunities she took to flash her cleavage.
So yeah. I know that Mickey Daniels fancies me. And I might be a little interested in her myself. She’s fun to be around, she’s smart, and she’s not exactly hard to look at either. But there’s also the tiny little inconvenient fact that Selene absolutely despises her.
Now Selene, as a general rule, hates everyone. She doesn’t socialize, she avoids public places if she can, and she waxes poetic about the failings of humankind. She’s really not a people person. But there is a special spot in lovely little hate-filled heart for Mickey. I think the only people she abhors more than Mickey are her parents.
I don’t know why Selene hates Mickey so much. I’ve asked, but she only makes some vague comment about her being the scum of the earth, but not giving reasons. I always just kind of went with it, even though I’ve always found Mickey to be a generally amiable person.
“Hey James, mind if I sit?”
Speak of the devil. Mickey hovered next to the armchair beside the one I was occupying. I had been attempting to read The Evil Book of Horrors – worst punishment ever, seriously – but had been spacing out because truly discovering what it means to be a girl is appalling. Anyone who has to deal with menstruation deserves a medal. Good Merlin, does it sound horrific.
“Nah, go ahead,” I replied, nodding at the chair. Mickey settled in, shaking curly brown hair off her face and smiled at me. When she smiles, the left side of her mouth curls up before the right. It’s kind of adorable.
“So, what’s that your reading?” she asked, tilting her head to look at the title. Oh sweet Jesus, no. Why did I decide to read this in public again?
Quickly, I moved the book behind me, flinching out of embarrassment. Seriously. Why would I read this anywhere but from the comfort of my own bed? With the curtains drawn.
It seems I was too late in moving the book, though, as Mickey was now fixing me with a bewildered stare. “The Reproductive Systems of Women? That’s a… unusual choice in books.”
“It’s a cruel and unusual punishment, actually,” I grumbled, feeling the warm rush of blood to my cheeks. “My mum’s an evil mastermind. Clever and devious.”
Mickey laughed. “Of course, blame it on your parents. It’s not because you’re interested in the topic.”
“I’m telling the truth!” I protested. “Why would I ever read this by my own choosing? Er, that is – I mean – I don’t mean to be offensive, I just –“
“You know, if you were really curious, you could have just asked me,” Mickey teased, eyes sparkling. “In case you haven’t noticed, I am a girl. I kind of know how all that works.”
I spluttered incomprehensibly for a bit. I’m so smooth.
“James, breathe. Relax. I’m just mucking around.” Mickey’s amusement was now joined by a hint of concern. I’m sure I’d turned a rather alarming shade of red. My face felt so hot I wouldn’t be surprised if my hair were to go up in flames. That’d look kind of cool, actually.
“Right, right, sorry. It’s just that reading this book is torture. It’s so awful. Girls are so hardcore, how do you all survive this?”
Mickey smirked at me. “Are you genuinely asking me how I deal with a period every month?”
And this is why I should think about my words before I open my mouth. “No. Nope. I don’t want to know. Don’t tell me. For the love of all that is holy, please do not tell me.”
She laughed. “You’re cute.”
Oh look, my blush is back. How do I respond to this? Do I tell her she’s cute too? Do I say thanks? Awkwardly stare at her without saying anything? Yeah, I think I’ll do that last one.
“Are you always this easily flustered?” Mickey asked. She was leaning forward in her chair, hands clasped together across her knees. This may or may not have made her cleavage look especially noticeable. I may or may not have noticed.
“My brain hates me,” I said. Well that was a stupid reply. “It likes to malfunction and shut down and make me look like an idiot.”
Mickey laughed again. “Well lucky for you, those dimples completely make up for an idiocy.”
She’s flirting with me. Abort mission. Abort mission.
I made some sort of incoherent noise that made me want to cover my face in shame, but it just made Mickey smile wider. Her nose gets all crinkly when she smiles. It’s pretty cute.
“There’s a Hogsmeade weekend coming up soon,” Mickey said, kind of abruptly. She twisted her hands restlessly. “Would you maybe like to come with me? I can laugh at more of your adorable brain malfunctions while you blush and stammer the whole time.”
Oh no. Oh no, oh no, oh no. What do I do?
I like Mickey. I really do. She’s funny and pretty and I like spending time with her. She thinks my crippling awkwardness is endearing. I truly think she and I would work well together. But Selene – my best friend and mother of my unborn child – hates her. It wouldn’t be fair to Selene if I started dating Mickey. After all, the two of us are just starting to patch up our relationship again. I can’t do this to her.
And it would be awfully cruel of me to say yes to Mickey when I’m battling feelings for another girl. I was horrid to those other girls I dated because I was so conflicted about fancying Selene. I can’t do this to another girl. Mickey deserves better. I need to say no.
But of course, my thought process is entirely disconnected to my mouth. So instead of politely declining, instead I say, “Yeah, I’d like that.”
Fuck my life.
Hi. So, I’m not dead. In case you were wondering. It’s only been what, a little over a year since I updated? That’s not that long, is it? It is?
Sorry it took so long – I could give an abundance of excuses, but you don’t really care, do you? I’ll just say this: I have no plans to abandon this story. I will finish it, even if I die trying.
So, if you all can find it in your hearts to forgive me, perhaps you’d like to leave a review? I’d really appreciate it.