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Chapter 21 : An Abundance of Potters - Part Two
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The true disadvantage of wearing a rather low-back dress was the staggering amount of sweaty arms and shoulders that had already made skin contact with me tonight. Fortunately, somewhere between my third and fourth glass of champagne, I had stopped to care.
“This is my friend Seth!” I heard Katie shout over the loud background music and suddenly her hand wrapped around my elbow, tugging urgently. “Seth, what are you doing?”
“Just a moment,” I protested, trying to get the large strawberry at the bottom of my empty champagne flute to roll into my mouth. Despite the many delicious dishes that were carried around by an army of house elves, the fruits in the drinks had been the only food I had been able to scavenge this evening. It might not have been a substantial food source, but it was still better than nothing.
“Seth is also a big fan,” Katie announced to the group of guys in front of us, her fiery red lips curling upwards into a bright smile. How on earth she had managed to hog Hey Hey Hippogriff for half an hour already when there were at least a dozen other girls, clustering round the musicians like insects around a light source, was beyond me.
“Seth - that’s a weird name for a girl.” One of them said in a kind of bored, drawling accent that reminded me of old American western films. His hair was dark and almost shoulder-length; probably an attempt to disguise his soft pretty-boy features that would have ruined his rock n’ roll credibility.
“Not really.” I gave him a deadpan look, which earned me a rather hard blow into my ribcage from Katie.
“Don’t take her too seriously, Fate,” she said, forcing a laugh, “Seth likes to joke.”
“Fate?” I looked at him with an arched eyebrow, ignoring Katie, who let out a long, deep groan next to me. “That’s your name? Fate?”
“Yeah, why?” He drawled in that lazy I-don’t-really-give-a-damn kind of voice; yet, his blue eyes rested on my face curiously.
“Well,” I snorted, unable to stop myself. “It’s just really absurd that someone called Fate thinks I have a weird name.”
“What?” Fate frowned at me, looking thoroughly bewildered. It was hard to believe that no one had ever commented on his name before. However, before I had the chance to point this out, one of his band mates announced that they had to perform in about ten minutes and they left for the stage.
“What is wrong with you?” Katie looked at me, her heavily made-up eyes wide with disbelief. “Why are you being so aggressive?”
I sighed, shaking my head at her. “I don’t know,” I whined. “I’m hungry and I feel like I want to punch someone. Really hard.” There was a sort of inexplicable anger bubbling in the pit of my stomach ever since I had run into James Potter before and I just couldn’t shake it off.
Katie studied me for a moment, her facial expression softening slightly. “How much have you had to drink?”
“A bit,” I admitted. “I’m woozy.”
“Come on,” she sighed, putting her arm around my shoulder and leading me out of the crowd that had started to gather in front of the stage. “Let’s find you something to eat.”
I would have preferred to be in my most comfortable and soggy pyjamas, curling up in bed with the blanket over my head. Instead, I was leaning against an incredibly uncomfortable wall, nibbling on a piece of dry baguette as I stared vaguely into the distance. The party was in full swing with everybody dancing to Hey Hey Hippogriff and enjoying themselves as they were tossed around in the dense crowd that had accumulated in front of the stage.
“There you are!” I heard Sam’s voice before I actually saw him, tripping over a chair as he stumbled towards me. His short hair was sticking up oddly and the silver tie hung crookedly around his collar, dangling back and forth as he moved. “I hate parties.”
“Me too! Baguette?” I offered him a piece of bread as he slumped against the wall next to me, a sort of miserable scowl on his face.
“No thanks,” he shook his head, accidentally hitting the wall. “It took me an hour and a half to get drunk. I can’t risk sobering up again.”
I watched him for a moment as he fumbled clumsily with his tie, probably trying to remove it for good.
“Here,” I said, loosening the knot and pulling it over his head. “Better?”
“No problem.” I handed him the silky tie, watching him crumpling it up and unceremoniously stuffing it into his pocket. When he looked up again, he was grinning broadly, looking like a mischievous four-year-old.
“Hey, can you remember when I tried to hit on you?”
I snorted, leaning my head against his shoulder. “I try not to.”
“Yeah.” Sam laughed, examining the slowly fading butterbeer foam on the bottom of his empty glass. “That was weird. You’re really bad at flirting, Seth.”
“I know,” I sighed, not even bothering to contradict him. I hated flirting - it was something you couldn’t actually learn; there were no rules, no definite instructions, which made it unpredictable and, frankly, quite scary. “I’m really good with cats, though.”
Sam laughed, grabbing two glasses of red wine from a passing elf’s tray and handing one to me. “I’ll drink to that. Cheers.”
“Cheers,” I echoed and took a sip from the rich, sweet liquid.
“What the hell are you two doing?” Katie’s voice cut through the loud music, her pink dress swinging back and forth as she moved towards us. “You’re not supposed to give her more to drink!” She chastised Sam, taking the glass out of my hand so ferociously that some of the wine slopped over the edge and right onto the floor.
“I’m fine, Kat,” I assured her, hoping that she wouldn’t notice the slur in my voice. It was weird, but I felt lighter than usual, almost relaxed.
Katie frowned, obviously not quite convinced, and thrust a plate of bite-sized puff pastry into my hand. “Here, eat.”
She watched me study the small squares on the plate, her arms knotted tightly in front of her torso. The pastry smelled delicious and my stomach churned desperately at the mere prospect of biting into one of them, but somehow I was reluctant to eat. As much as I knew that my body needed food to cope with the unusually large amount of alcohol in my blood, I didn’t want to lose this feeling. For once, I wasn’t thinking - I wasn’t analysing everything and everyone around me - and it was like a heavy weight was lifted off my mind.
“I don’t really feel all that-” I had wanted to say ‘hungry’, but the word got stuck in my throat the moment I looked up at Katie; Tarquin stood right behind her, his eyes meeting mine as he gave me a nervous nod.
“What’s wrong?” Katie asked, looking at me concerned. “You look weird. Are you going to throw up? I can’t handle vomit, you know that.”
I began to shake my head, not sure if I was doing it in response to her question or to keep Tarquin from doing anything rash. This party was hardly the right place to declare his love to Katie; there were people around us everywhere, pushing and shoving into each other and it felt as though the room had a thousand degrees. Tarquin, however, didn’t even look my way.
“Can we talk?” he said briskly, his brows furrowed behind his black-rimmed glasses. He looked unusually formal in his black suit and bowtie - a little like a gameshow host.
Katie whipped around, her eyes widening with surprise for a moment before she began shaking her head. “No.”
“I’m busy, Tarquin.” She pointed vaguely behind her back, where Sam and I were still lingering awkwardly like a couple of toddlers that were already way past their bedtime.
“I love you,” Tarquin spluttered, his face turning a dark shade of puce.
“No,” Katie hissed as she looked around anxiously to see if people were watching.
“Yes. I do,” Tarquin insisted, the red colour slowly draining from his face as he stood up straighter. “I love you. You’re amazing and funny and fierce and beautiful. I know that I’m not exactly your type, but that doesn’t change that I love you.” He paused, his chest heaving as he looked at her, obviously unaware of the crowd that had meanwhile gathered around us, observing the scene.
“I just - I wanted you to know this,” he said, somewhat lamely, looking thoroughly flustered. “And - thank you. And, um, goodnight.” With that, he turned on the spot and walked away, almost running into a house elf before vanishing into the crowd.
For a moment, no one said anything; I could feel Sam staring at me from the side, but my eyes were trained on Katie. Her cheeks had flushed with colour and she seemed to be breathing more quickly.
“Can you believe him?”
I had opened my mouth, trying to think of something to say, but my brain was sluggish and slow, and before I could produce anything helpful, Sam had chipped in.
“Actually, no,” he said, sounding almost angry. “Because no one does that, ever.”
“Exactly,” Katie agreed heatedly, but Sam was shaking his head, running a hand through his hair.
“No, Katie. I mean, no one does that,” he said, considerably softer this time, giving her a sad smile. “Ever. Not in real life.”
It seemed to sink in very slowly; Katie’s furrowed eyebrows rose again and the creases on her forehead vanished as her features softened to an almost bemused expression.
“But I don’t-”
“You should,” said Sam firmly.
Katie stared at him for a moment before she turned to look at me, her eyes wide. “Seth?”
I shrugged and gave her a small smile. “No one can decide this for you, Kat. Just - don’t make him wait around for you. He’s a good guy. He deserves to be treated that way.”
Katie blinked and stared down at her shoes, her eyes unfocused. When she finally looked up again, she seemed determined.
“Don’t drink any more alcohol,” she told me firmly. “I’ll be right back.” And with that, she plunged into the crowd, vanishing between clusters of glitter and cloth, until even the last layer of her tulle skirt had been swallowed.
“Well, I guess that leaves only the two of us,” I sighed, turning around to face Sam, just to discover that, he too, had disappeared.
“Or me,” I said to myself, snatching a glass of wine from a passing elf’s tray. “That leaves only me.”
I hadn’t moved; not much, at least. After half an hour of standing at the wall, clutching a wine glass that was approximately the size of a baby Niffler, I had relocated to a slightly less sad spot, leaning against a window sill as snow drifted by idly behind my back.
The party was still in full swing, but without Katie and Sam, I really was quite alone. Katie had not returned from her hunt for Tarquin and, frankly, I was glad about it. It meant that they were together, which was good. Sam had not reappeared either and I had the strong suspicion that he had long gone back to Ravenclaw Tower to sleep off the alcohol. There was, thus, no reason for me to prolong this evening any further.
Yet, I couldn’t get myself to leave.
“Great party, isn’t it?” A deep voice suddenly said and I looked up, surprised to find Harry Potter standing next to me. “May I?” He gestured towards the free space on the window sill and I simply nodded, still too dumbfounded to produce actual words. It wasn’t everyday that the saviour of the entire wizarding world asked to share a window ledge with you.
“I was actually never a fan of Horace’s parties,” he sighed, the green eyes behind his round glasses scanning the sprawling room. “Always tried to find an excuse if I could. There are just too many important people here.”
I nodded again and, realising how idiotic I must have looked, added a meek “I know what you mean.”
Mr Potter gave me a warm smile and I noticed with a jolt that it was the same one I had seen on James.
“So, according to Horace, you actually saved my son from failing potions.”
It was as though he had read my mind and I shifted uncomfortably on the sill. After all, Harry Potter was head of the Auror office and I was sure he knew a wealth of mind-reading methods that I hadn’t even heard of yet. It seemed ridiculous that he would use them in a situation like this, but I couldn’t help feeling uneasy; if he knew what I really thought about his oldest son, he would probably stop being nice to me.
“I wouldn’t say that,” I said quickly, looking down at the strappy sandals on my feet. “It was just a couple of lessons. He didn’t show up for half of them.”
I hadn’t meant to say the last bit; it had simply spilled from my mouth before my brain had even realised what was going on.
To my surprise, however, Mr Potter laughed, nodding his head slowly. “Yeah, that sounds like James. Has he been giving you a hard time?”
I contemplated the question for a moment, staring at the velvety liquid in my wine glass. A part of me wanted to say yes - the sudden appearance of James Potter had made my life not exactly easier - but I hated to admit that his existence had had even the slightest impact on me, so I shook my head.
“No. I mean, it’s not like we spend much time together. I just helped him with Potions, that’s all.”
“Oh. Right.” Mr Potter nodded very slowly before looking up at me with a sort of searching look. I couldn’t be sure but it looked like he wanted to say something. Then, quite suddenly, he seemed to have changed his mind.
“Well, then. I don’t want to keep you from enjoying the party any longer. It was a pleasure meeting you, Miss Woodley.”
I shook his outstretched hand, unable to ignore the sudden awkwardness that seemed to have settled between us. “Oh, um, yes - I mean, you too, Mr Potter.”
He gave me one last smile and then - like everyone at this party - disappeared into the crowd.
It was time to go. It had been for a while but - for reasons I didn’t even know myself - I had hung around, scanning the room from my perch on the window ledge without knowing what I was actually looking for. There was no one left to wait for and Katie’s shoes were killing me. I had definitely been at this party for too long already, drinking too much wine and ignoring the pitying looks that were cast my way whenever a group of people walked by my window.
Sighing deeply, I slid off the sill, wincing inwardly as my sore feet made contact with the ground. It was then that I suddenly saw him in a shady corner in the back of the room: James Potter had lost his black jacket; the sleeves of his white shirt were rolled up carelessly and the tie dangled loosely around his opened collar as he bent over a dark figure that was leaning against the wall. They looked like they were entwined, doing Merlin knew what, and I forced myself to look away again, brushing aside the sudden heavy feeling in my stomach.
Whatever Potter did, it was none of my business.
“What?” I squinted at the tall boy that had planted himself in front of me. Distracted by the low cut V-neck that exposed his curly dark chest hair and the silver cross dangling from a chain, it actually took me a moment to realise that I was talking to Fate, the unfortunately named drummer of Hey Hey Hippogriff.
“Dance,” he repeated, exposing a row of blindingly white teeth. “I asked if you wanna dance.”
The frown on my forehead probably deepened to an unprecedented level as I stared at him, trying to figure out if he was being serious. There was, of course, the likely possibility that he was completely high on Gillyweed.
“Fate, listen, I really - I don’t dance.”
“You should.” He was still smiling, which was somehow off-putting; apparently, he seemed to think I was flirting with him.
“Yes. Right,” I sighed, glancing towards the exit. “Listen, I-”
“I’ve been watching you,” he said confidently, but when he noticed the slightly alarmed look on my face, he quickly shook his head. “Not in a creepy way, of course. You’ve been standing against walls all night. Mostly alone.”
“Thanks, Fate, for summing up my tragically sad life.”
He laughed, probably thinking I was joking. “That’s not what I meant. Just, dance with me, okay?”
I knitted my eyebrows, not sure how to respond. Fate the drummer wanted to dance with me and, even though I was a lousy dancer and Katie’s shoes hurt like hell, I hesitated. After spending the majority of the evening alone, backed up against walls and windows, it was somehow nice to be asked to dance.
“So?” Fate asked, his eyebrows rising expectantly as he studied my face.
Before I could even open my mouth to answer, however, a loud, high-pitched screeching sound filled the room and the music stopped abruptly.
For a short moment, I thought that maybe Slughorn had decided to give a speech, which, after a certain amount of Ogden's Old Firewhiskey, he usually did, but as I turned to look at the stage, my heart plummeted to my stomach; Sam was tapping his fingers clumsily against the microphone, making it screech once again.
“‘Ello?” His slurred voice rang out, reverberating from every corner of the room. “Can you ‘ear me?”
He was swaying back and forth dangerously and I knew that, no matter what he was about to do, it couldn’t be good.
Without thinking, I thrust my half-empty wine glass into Fate’s free hand and, ignoring his shouts of protest, began to plough my way through the crowd, recklessly pushing and shoving people out of the way as I tried to get to the stage. I wasn’t sure what exactly I was going to do, once I had reached it, but I needed to get Sam out of here.
Unfortunately, my progress was too slow.
“My name is Samuel Henderson,” he continued, looking oddly hunchbacked as he cowered over the microphone. By now, a low humming sound filled the room and absolutely everybody seemed to be staring at him.
“And I jus’ wanted to say that-” He paused for a second, squinting into the room as though he was looking for someone, and I suddenly knew what he was about to do.
“No! Sam!” I cried out, but my voice drowned in the buzzing that had erupted around me. I was tossed to the side and my shoulder collided rather painfully with a hard obstacle, just as Sam bent down to the microphone again, slurring into the speaker.
“I’m gay. And Hector Chang is a fucking coward!”
The muttering grew into excited clamour and I resumed my struggle to get to Sam as two security wizards climbed the stage, trying to drag him off. He was clutching the microphone reluctantly, apparently unwilling to come quietly, but they finally managed to remove him from the stage, leading him towards the exit.
I swerved, elbowing my way through the mob to get to the door, but suddenly a sort of uniform motion swept across the crowd - almost like a wave in the ocean - and it parted as Hector Chang emerged, his face a deep shade of red.
We reached the door at the same time, but, just as I wanted to push it open, he suddenly turned towards me, a determined look on his face.
“I got it.”
I narrowed my eyes at him, ready to protest; I wanted to tell him that he had absolutely no right to go after Sam after everything that had happened and that I really didn’t trust him to be alone with him right now, but something in the way he looked at me, made me hesitate.
Hector’s face was still a formidable nuance of magenta, but there was a sort of sincerity that, in six years of sharing a common room and sitting in classes together, I had never seen on him before.
“Right,” I finally said, taking a step back to clear the exit. “But, just so you know, I know hexes you haven’t even heard of, so -” I trailed off but my message was understood; Hector simply nodded, somewhat grimly, and then walked past me and out the door.
I had waited a couple of minutes before following Hector out onto the dimly lit corridor. I didn’t want it to look as though I was checking on Sam and him, even if that was exactly what I had in mind. Naturally, my trust issues - which, after sixteen years of being a Woodley, had carefully been inculcated in every fibre of my body - extended beyond my own personal life to include my friends.
I treaded carefully, trying to keep the clacking of my heels to a minimum as I skulked along the sombre corridor. At least my family couldn’t see me like this, hobbling on the balls of my feet, peeping around corners.
I must have looked like an idiot.
Suddenly, there was a weird grunting noise, followed by a dull thud, and I stopped dead in my tracks, pressing my body up against the wall. It took me a moment to notice the dark mass that moved rather jerkily on the second floor landing and I quickly reached for my wand, my heart beating in my ears.
It seemed to be two people who were either embracing each other or fighting, but it was impossible to tell which one it was. If Hector was hurting Sam, I needed to act; if the two of them were sharing a romantic moment, however, I would look quite the prat pointing my wand at them.
“Come on, move!” One of them whispered and they both tumbled towards the stairs without breaking the embrace. It looked odd - almost like only one of them could walk properly - and I realised that, whatever this was, I definitely had not stumbled in on a love scene.
Taking a deep breath, I pushed myself off the wall and strode towards the landing, my wand pointing at the two figures, who had frozen at the sound of my heels hitting the stone floor. I was prepared to hex Hector Chang into next year; however, as I got close enough to discern more than vague shadows, I realised that it wasn’t Hector Chang who was looking at me with a mixture of shock and disbelieve.
I blinked, unable to produce actual words as my wand pointed directly at James’s heaving chest.
In his arms, he held the limp form of Albus Potter.
“What the hell is this?”
I could hear the panic in my own voice as I stared at the two brothers; Albus’s head was lolling on James’s shoulder, who seemed to be struggling to keep his younger brother from slumping to the ground.
“It’s - nothing. Just, go,” James snapped, still trying to keep Albus upright. It was only now that I realised he wasn’t unconscious; Albus, while definitely drowsy, was apparently fighting his brother’s attempts to hold him.
“Did you hex him?”
“What? No!” James said indignantly, a sort of angry look flashing in his eyes. “He’s completely pissed, the prat. I told him to take it slow at the party but then I found him squatting in a corner like this.”
I narrowed my eyes at James, still not fully convinced by the story; everybody knew that Albus was the good brother and that James was usually the one who got drunk and needed assistance to find his way back to the Gryffindor common room.
“Are you taking him to Madame Pomfrey?”
James looked at me as though I had just suggested throwing his brother off the Astronomy tower. “Sure, so that he gets a life-long detention.”
“But-” I protested as James dragged Albus’s arm around his shoulder and made to haul him down the stairs. “Where are you taking him?”
“Hagrid,” he said, slightly out of breath. “And I’d really appreciate it if you - you know - don’t report this.”
It took me a moment to even realise what he was talking about, but then it dawned on me; I was a prefect - technically it was my duty to report any kind of substance abuse to the headmistress immediately.
“I - I won’t,” I said quickly and James gave me a miniscule nod.
I watched him half-carry, half-drag Albus down the first couple of stairs and knew that they weren’t going to get far. If they were lucky, they would maybe make it to the entrance hall without being caught by Peeves or Filch, but then James still had to wade through the thick blanket of snow to get to Hagrid’s hut.
They were going to get caught and, even though I shouldn’t have cared, I couldn’t just let them go.
“Wait!” I hissed and climbed down the steps towards the Potters, my heels clicking loudly on the stone staircase. James simply stared at me, looking utterly bewildered.
“What are you doing?” He whispered, just as Albus let out a low groan.
“I can help,” I told him, but he just shook his head.
“I don’t need-”
“Yes, you do.” I pushed past him, my wand outstretched as I led the way down the stairs. To my surprise, James did not protest again, which was probably due to the fact that he had to force Albus to come with us while simultaneously supporting his entire weight.
“Why are you doing this?” He panted as we reached the first floor landing, adjusting his grip on a feebly struggling Albus.
“I don’t know.” I simply shrugged without turning around to look at him. “I’ve had a lot to drink.”
Getting Albus out of the castle had proven easier than I had expected; at one point, Mrs Norris II had poked her head around a corner, but the small yellow bird I had conjured up had quickly attracted all of her attention so that we managed to slip out unnoticed.
The grounds, however, were quite a different story. Despite my rather accomplished hot air charm, which cleared a broad path for us in the deep snow, James had difficulty navigating on the rough ground with Albus - who had fallen asleep halfway - draped over his shoulder.
I was freezing in the thin dress and Katie’s sandals, already regretting not bringing a change of clothes. It would have been too risky to summon anything from the castle now; randomly soaring jumpers and shoes in the middle of the night usually attracted attention, even in a school for magic. It was, thus, quite a relief when the small wooden cabin at the edge of the forest finally came into view.
“I can see light,” James said behind me as we had reached the porch; Albus was dangling from his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, his bum next to his brother’s face, and I couldn’t help wondering if James had carried me like this too, after I had been poisoned at the Gryffindor common room party.
I hoped not.
“Professor?” I called out after knocking twice, listening intently for any signs of movement behind the thick wooden door. For a moment, it looked as though nobody was home, but then heavy footsteps were clearly audible on the other side and the door swung open, revealing the bearded face of Professor Hagrid.
“Seth?” He said, a look of confusion on his wrinkly face that was only surpassed by the one on James’s.
“Who’s Seth?” He asked, frowning deeply as he cast a quick look around to see if there was somebody else.
I simply rolled my eyes, feeling once again confirmed in my opinion that James Potter was a self-absorbed git; even after all this time, he didn’t even know my name.
“I’m Seth,” I snarled and pushed past him, bumping hard into his shoulder as I did so.
James had dropped Albus onto Hagrid’s large bed, immediately making way for the Care of Magical Creatures teacher to examine his brother.
“What did Al do that for, eh?” He grumbled as he searched his lax arm for a pulse.
“No idea,” James admitted, mussing up his already dishevelled hair. He glanced up at me but when our eyes met, he quickly returned to staring at Professor Hagrid’s enormous back. “I found him like that.”
“I’ll need milk thistle and berberis from the garden.”
“I can get it,” I offered immediately, feeling quite useless only standing around in the corner; however, before I could even so much as move, James had already crossed the cabin and opened the backdoor.
“I know where it is,” he mumbled and slipped out into the darkness.
As soon as the door closed behind him, Hagrid shook his hairy head, giving me a slight smile.
“Those Potter boys, I tell ya,” he grunted, albeit not without affection in his booming voice. “Nothin’ but trouble, they are.”
“So, this happens a lot?” I asked, leaning against the wooden wall, hugging my arms around my freezing torso.
“Well, usually it’s not Al,” Hagrid sighed, picking up a woollen blanket from a large basket at the end of the bed and handing it to me. “James and Freddie, though - well, ye know.”
“Thank you.” I wrapped the plaid piece of cloth around my shoulders, feeling an immediate surge of warmth spreading through my body. At least I wouldn’t have to freeze to death on my way back.
“It’s nice of you to help James,” he said and I looked up, feeling my cheeks blush immediately. It just hit me that Hagrid didn’t seem properly surprised at the fact that I had helped James to get his drunk little brother out of the castle, wearing nothing but a tiny party dress and high heels.
“Oh um, I didn’t do it for James,” I said quickly, feeling my face burn even more. “I just wanted to help Albus.”
The door snapped close and I jerked my head up to find James’s tall frame standing in the dimly lit room, a bundle of reddish and green plants in his hands and a deep frown on his face.
“Here,” he said gruffly, holding the herbs out to Hagrid without even so much as looking at me. I wasn’t sure if he had heard me, but it shouldn’t have mattered anyway.
“Good,” Hagrid sighed, “that will do. Now, how ‘bout some tea?”
“Oh, um, I think I should go, actually,” I said quickly, pointing vaguely over my shoulder towards the door; with James standing at the opposite wall, his hands knotted in front of his torso, the cabin felt terribly small all of a sudden and I had the strong urge to run, just so that I wouldn’t have to look at his broody face anymore.
The door fell into the lock behind me and I closed my eyes as the cold, clean winter air enveloped me once again. I hadn’t even noticed that I had been holding my breath, until I had left the warmth of the cabin behind me.
Still wrapped into the woollen blanket and wearing a pair of too big, old rubber boots that Hagrid kept as a spare for students, I left the porch and headed out into the snow, hoping that none of the creatures that lived in the Forbidden Forest had decided to take a night-time stroll on the castle grounds. As much as I hated to admit it, I had felt considerably safer with James trailing behind me.
Suddenly there was a sharp bang, followed by the scrunching of snow, and I whipped around, my hand wrapped around my wand.
“Seriously, Woodley, that’s the second time in the last hour that you’re pointing that thing at me. Maybe you should consider yoga. I heard it helps.”
For a moment I only stared at James dumbfounded, unable to lower my wand. “What are you doing?”
“What does it look like?” He snapped, looking rather annoyed as he stuffed both of his hands into the pockets of his black trousers. There was something odd about the way he spoke, almost as though he had to force himself to talk to me, and I realised that Hagrid had probably made him follow me to make sure I got back up to the castle alright.
“I don’t need you,” I said flippantly, drawing the blanket a little tighter around my torso; I must have looked like a crazy old cat lady with the green plaid draped around me like a cape and the too large wellies that flapped around my naked calves. “I am perfectly capable of looking after myself.”
Even in the weak moonlight, I could see James roll his eyes. “That again.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I snapped, narrowing my eyes at him. He acted as though he actually knew me - the boy who had had no idea I was called Seth until two minutes ago - and it agitated me even more.
“You’re incapable of admitting that you need help,” he said matter-of-factly, an infuriatingly arrogant look on his face that made me grind my teeth.
“Well, I don’t.”
“Yeah, right,” he scoffed and for a moment I thought I saw a small smile flit across his face. “Except for when I saved your arse this year. Multiple times.”
“Multiple times?” I could only stare at him with disbelief, fighting the urge to throw a stinging hex at him. Who did he think he was?
“Hey!” He shouted after me as I turned on the spot and began to trudge up the path I had cleared before, taking large strides. The faster I walked, the sooner I could get away from James Potter.
“Running away only means that I won the argument,” he taunted and I stopped dead in my tracks, turning around once again. To my surprise, James was much closer than I had expected and I stumbled backwards a little, only just regaining my balance. Like so many times before, it seemed as though he was only playing a game and, all of a sudden, a hot wave of anger swept over me, drowning out my usually powerful voice of reason.
And before I even knew it, I was shouting at him.
“You tripped me up!”
“What?” He looked at me, a frown creasing his forehead.
“And you ruined my miniature tree!”
“What?” The wrinkles around his eyes deepened as he furrowed his brows, looking completely bewildered.
“You ruined my miniature apple tree and you can’t even remember!” I snapped, only dimly aware that I probably wasn’t making much sense.
James simply shook his head. “I don’t even know what-”
“It was perfect!” I cut him off. “Perfect miniature apples. On a miniature tree. I could have had tiny apples for breakfast every day!”
“Oh, am I?” I said sharply, my breath banking up in front of me in small, white clouds. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew that I needed to get away from James before I embarrassed myself even further. “Just, leave me alone.”
“Woodley, wait!” He called as I turned around again and resumed my climb up the rolling hills. I could hear him run after me, his footsteps falling heavily behind mine. “Listen -”
“No, you listen,” I snapped, cutting him off in mid-sentence again. “First you leave me waiting in the potions classroom like a complete idiot. Twice. Then you accuse me of being a crazy stalker. Suddenly you invite me to parties and expect me to skip class with you and your exclusive friends - for whatever reason - and I get attacked by some crazy loons because they think I’m your shag mate. And then, suddenly, it’s the cold shoulder again.”
“Woodley-” He started, but I didn’t want to listen to him. I had never meant to say any of this; it had simply spilled from my mouth and I was unable to stop.
“I don’t mind that you got bored of me, really.”
“I really don’t care. It’s great actually, now I can-”
“Seth!” James had gotten hold of my arm from behind and suddenly I was tugged backwards, crashing into his chest. Instinctively, I wanted to pull back but his arm had wrapped around my waist and I couldn’t move.
He was close - way too close - so close that I could see the concentrated look on his face, the tiny birthmark next to his ear, the snowflakes that had caught on his dark eyebrows.
I could feel his warm breath on my cold skin, his nose brushing against mine and then, suddenly, his lips on mine.
“James! James!” A booming yell pierced the quiet night and I pulled back with a jerk, biting my own lip in the process.
“James!” Hagrid yelled again and James’s hand slid from my waist as he turned around towards the wildly waving gamekeeper.
“It’s Albus!” He called, the panic now clearly audible in his voice. “Something’s wrong!”
A/N: Ta-dah! Finally, the scene I have been promising you for so long. I hope you enjoyed it and I am really really looking forward to hear what you lot think about it and the whole chapter in general. Also, I am really interested in what you think is wrong with Al and what will happen after this - maybe slightly awkward - kiss between Seth and James...
I also wanted to say that I really appreciate all the love this story gets from you guys! It is so amazing to get your feedback and I can’t tell you enough how much it means to me that so many people are sticking with Seth and putting up with my belated updates.
You’re all fantastic, brilliant people and I just want you to know that you’re the reason I’m writing this story :)
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