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Chapter 16 : Let The Sound Take You Away
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‘Brilliant, Cap’n,’ sneered Micah as we ran along the grounds not fifteen minutes after our rumble with the Slytherin Quidditch team, also known as Hardcore Buzzkill. ‘We haven’t even had our first practice yet and you go agreeing to challenges wiv Jackie Murdoch and Company? We don’t even know if we’re a crap band! We could be absolutely terrible, but we don’t know!’
For all his whining and stroppiness, I couldn’t deny that I loved watching Micah Horowitz run. Such long, graceful strides, down the slope towards the tannenbaum grove. And the trees had almost completely matured, which was convenient for Hagrid considering that Christmas was coming.
‘Oi Horo!’ called J.D. breathlessly, losing a bit of the swagger in his swanky-running as he grew fatigued. ‘If you don’t stop bitching at J.S. then I’m going to Fiendfyre your ass! And things’ll get really interesting when the flames get to your hair, considering all the product you stick in it!’
‘I don’t need you to fight my battles for me!’ I protested, feeling a cramp in my lower abdomen.
‘I love you, remember?’ Fancy New J.D. shouted. ‘Remember how we’re going to say that to each other more often? I fricking love you, mate!’
Tegan and Freddie shared a glance that was oversaturated with horror and befuddlement. While I’d always dreamed of my dear J.D. becoming more in tune with his emotions, I was not certain of how much I liked it. It’s like he’s got two personalities, or something: J.Dizzle and Fancy New J.D. Who is this kind, valiant Fancy New J.D., and what has he done with my cantankerous ol’ J.Dizzle?
At least both J.D.s hate Micah. There is hope for Fancy New J.D. yet!
‘Tegarino, H.U.W. promised he’d meet us at the edge of the tannenbaum grove, yeah?’ I confirmed, desperately hoping our run to asylum would be over soon. Why were we running, anyways? ‘Snot like anyone in school was awake yet. Except the Slytherin Quidditch team.
‘You know H.U.W.!’ she yelled back, not quite as out of breath as I was. ‘He’s about as reliable as a monkey at a frozen banana stand!’
I was not familiar with this colloquialism. Maybe it’s a Welsh thing. Probably not.
Speaking of Wales, I was very very excited to visit Scotland’s south-westerly neighbour this fine Saturday. I’d never been to fair Tegan’s home, despite our friendship of nearly five and one-half years. But, having recently made Eleni Richelieu-Llewellyn’s acquaintance, I was very aware of why Tegan had never invited me or the other Gryffies to her house.
Her mum is the mistress of darkness. And if she is not the mistress of darkness, then Eleni is definitely scarier. Like, she’s the mistress of darkness’s mistress of darkness.
‘Oh, one more thing,’ Tegan piped back up, looking around as we reached the tannenbaum grove. ‘H.U.W. is currently on the lam, so it’d be great if you don’t mention any of this to anyone. Ministry officials, bounty hunters…best steer clear of Arlie, too. Her dad probably wouldn’t find H.U.W.’s story as heart-warming as H.U.W. does.
‘Additionally,’ she added, ‘H.U.W. is an acronym to protect his true identity, but his true identity is Huw. He’s rather sensitive and very stupid, so it’s “Haitch, You, Double You”, yeah? Not Huw.’
Freddie ambled along, looking a bit like his Ursidian Patronus. ‘Pardon?’
‘Forget it,’ said Tegan, gesturing to no one in particular.
We ran through the trees, our pace slowing as we grew increasingly weary. I stumbled on a rock and Micah screamed when he got a pine needle wedged in his eye, but we made it to the boundary of the Hogwarts grounds without any major injuries. Which is an accomplishment for a Quidditch team that was known as The Invalids only a few months ago.
Tegan came to a stop and we men of Gryffindor did the same. She glanced at her wristwatch, then peered through the trees, looking prepared for disappointment.
‘Stop hiding, H.U.W.!’ she shouted, oh so slightly snarling. ‘We don’t have time for your tricks, we’ve got limited practise time and an impending showdown with our greatest rivals!’
Then a cloud of smoke erupted to our right, and a familiar tall, balding man appeared before us.
‘You don’t have time for my illusions, McTegan!’ yelped H.U.W., looking hurt. ‘You don’t have time for my illusions!’
Tegan bit her lip, but looked relieved nonetheless. ‘Mates, this is my cousin, Hieronymus Ulrich Wronski,’ she said, nodding towards H.U.W. ‘He’s a magician, which is exactly what it sounds like. Cousin H.U.W., these are my Quidditch/band mates: J.D., Freddie, Micah, and you’ve already met James.’
‘Lord Pottermort!’ H.U.W. exclaimed gleefully, galloping over to me and giving me a great big hug. ‘It’s been ages! I want to keep in touch, mate. We’ve got to send each other owls. All the time.’
I patted him on the head and fortunately, he let go of me. ‘Absolutely,’ I lied.
Micah stared at Tegan’s big cousin as he swished his cape about and grinned. ‘You,’ Micah stuttered, ‘your dad was “Dangerous” Dai Llewellyn, yeah? Before the chimera got him, of course. “Dangerous” Dai Llewellyn?’
H.U.W. opened his mouth to say something, but thought for a moment. ‘No, silly little boy,’ he scoffed. ‘That is ridiculous. I am not Huw Llewellyn, the infamous and notorious Azkaban escapee. I am simply the humble Snitch-manufacturing magnate Hieronymus Ulrich Wronski, who miraculously woke up from his coma several weeks ago. My coma. Our coma.’
Freddie stared at him. ‘Hieronymus’s son was Josef, right? Josef Wronski, who invented the Wronski Feint sixty years ago?’
Tegan elbowed him. ‘Don’t push it!’
‘Why, yes, other silly little boy!’ said H.U.W. quickly. ‘How humbling, you must be a fan of my dear son’s! Oh yes, his mother and I are terribly proud of him. Quidditch is in his genes, though.’
‘You have an 80-year-old son?’ Fred asked, smirking.
H.U.W. chuckled nervously. ‘What is also humbling is how young people think I look! They say the coma took seventy, perhaps eighty years off my appearance! You silly, clever little boy…too clever for my liking.’
Micah, who often lost seventy, perhaps eighty points off his intelligence quotient when in the company of a possible celebrity, was puzzled. ‘Isn’t Josef dead?’ he asked. ‘And your wife, too? And didn’t the Ministry for Magic declare you a missing person?’
‘They’re just so excited to meet you, H.U.W.!’ Tegan interjected. ‘And they’re saying things…so many things.’
‘You ready to go, then, Mr Wronski?’ J.D. spoke up, looking cheerful. ‘Thank you so much for giving us a lift to Tegan’s house. By the way, how are we getting there?’
H.U.W. laughed. ‘Don’t call me Mr Wronski, you make me feel so old!’
Tegan shot us all a glare that said to keep our mouths shut. ‘You’re not taking us via Side-Along Apparition, are you, H.U.W.? There are too many of us.’
‘For the love of Mordred, McTegan!’ H.U.W. burst. ‘I think I’m in enough trouble with the law for Apparition! And what fun is Apparating when you can take a…magic carpet ride!’
He snapped his fingers and suddenly there was a large Oriental rug hovering before us at about knee-height. I gasped—I’d never seen a magic carpet before. No one uses them in England, cos they’re so expensive and impractical. And…pretty….
I stepped forward to touch the carpet. ‘H.U.W., this is gorgeous. The colours, the design, the craftsmanship…’
‘What?’ said H.U.W. absentmindedly. ‘Yeah, the weaving…er, stitching…crocheting?...is utterly…mediocre. All right, children, hop on and away we shall fly!’
Freddie and Micah scrambled on to ensure their spots in the front, but Tegan held me and J.D. back.
‘Is there some sort of cloaking device?’ she asked matter-of-factly. ‘Invisibility booster? H.U.W., how’re we going to fly over most of Scotland, the Irish Sea, and half of Wales without Muggles seeing us?’
H.U.W. clicked his tongue. ‘That, right there, is a very good question.’
‘Do you have a solution to it?’ Tegan asked.
H.U.W. swished his wand, and a bundle of shiny, furry coats appeared in his arms. ‘The solution is to create the illusion of invisibility!’
Micah turned ‘round. ‘It’s December, yeah, but we’ve already got warm coats.’
‘You truly are a silly little boy,’ H.U.W. mused. ‘These are illegal Demiguise coats! They make you transparent, and very nearly invisible! Essential for a great magician such as me!’
I looked to Tegan, who smiled weakly.
‘Are they like Invisibility Cloaks?’ I asked meekly.
‘Half the price and half the effectiveness!’ H.U.W. beamed. ‘Get your coats on, home skillets, and be sure to cover the entire carpet with the extra furs.’
I slipped on the Demiguise coat and pulled the hood over my head. I held my hand in front of my face…it was still very visible, but more transparent and shiny. I looked kind of liquid…ooh, Fancy New James is just a shinier version of Old Jamesie. I like shiny.
‘Hurry, Pottermort!’ H.U.W., shinier and slightly more transparent, shouted.
I boarded the now shiny and somewhat transparent magic carpet and squeezed myself in between Tegan and J.D.
‘We’re not invisible,’ Tegan whispered.
‘Obviously not,’ J.D. said back. ‘But right now, our best prospects of getting to Wales lie with your barmy cousin.’
‘You remembered the country where I’m from, for once,’ said Tegan, pleased.
J.D. grinned. ‘Fancy New J.D. is not only a better lover, he is a better friend. Oi H.U.W.! We’re prepared for departure!’
I turned around to see H.U.W. give a salute.
‘Carpet, I command you to proceed in the south-southwesterly direction!’ H.U.W. declared.
With a lurch, the shimmery carpet began to rise. Tegan gave a gasp and grabbed my arm, while I groped for the fibres of the carpet with my left hand.
We rose higher and higher and sailed past the tall trees of the Forbidden Forest, until we broke through the canopy and found ourselves in the grey sky. It was slightly colder at this elevation and I was almost relieved to have the extra layer of the Demiguise coat.
As we started to plateau, Micah called to H.U.W., ‘How about we go a little higher, to get the cloud cover?’
‘Don’t think you want to do that, silly little boy!’ H.U.W. shouted back. ‘We’d all be soaked through! Plus there isn’t enough oxygen up there to keep us alive!’
Micah frowned and faced forward again.
Something like twenty minutes passed. Nobody said anything.
‘I really hope we’re invisible enough!’ H.U.W. eventually piped up. ‘I really do not need to be in anymore trouble with the Ministry for Magic!’
No one was willing to give him the sad news that no, we weren’t invisible enough, and only someone with eyesight as poor as my dad and brother’s couldn’t see us, shimmering as we flew against the grey clouds.
A while later, I held Tegan’s wrist up to try to read her shiny and mostly transparent watch. Forty-five more minutes had passed.
Soon enough, we were flying over the sea, the mountains and valleys and farms of Scotland behind us. I had the horrible thought of falling hundreds of metres to the frigid, grey water. The impact alone would probably kill you. But I don’t know, cos I’ve only fallen off my broomstick about fifteen metres, and I hit the nice, hard grass of the pitch.
Ah, Quidditch. How I miss thee.
I think I’ll compose a limerick:
There once was a sport we called Quidditch
And Tegan frequently caught the Snitch
But Snorky was mad
He did something bad
And now a ride with H.U.W. we did hitch
Ooh, that’s a good one, Jamesie boy! Definitely writing this in the Imagination Journal later.
Some more time passed. No one said anything. I don’t know if it’s cos they were disgruntled, or terrified that we were actually revealing the magical world to Muggles and we would go to Azkaban.
Well, if we all did end up in Azkaban, H.U.W. could probably break us out, yeah?
H.U.W. said something to the carpet and we turned ever so slightly to the left. I could start to see a bit of land to the side, a coastline. We stayed over the sea, though. Probably a wise precaution.
‘That’s the Isle of Anglesey,’ Tegan told me. ‘You see Holyhead in the distance?’
‘That’s where my parents lived!’ I said. ‘Before I was born, when my mum played Quidditch!’
‘Ah, just a bit up the coast from Aber,’ said Tegan.
We continued our jaunt down the coast. Wales looked nice, really pretty. And less populated than I’d feared.
‘Here’s Cardigan Bay,’ said H.U.W., positively chipper. ‘Next stop: Aber!’
Cold. Wet. Antsy.
‘The Prom!’ Tegan suddenly shouted excitedly. ‘The Promenade!’
She pointed to a long row of seaside shops, and I reasoned that the sight might be prettier on a sunnier day. On a sunnier day that is not in December.
Cold. Wet. Antsy.
‘Carpet, let’s take it east,’ said H.U.W., and the magic carpet obeyed. We were now heading perpendicular to the beach, and beyond it, I saw green, hazy mountains.
‘Tanybwlch Beach!’ said Tegan, tugging at my arm and pointing to the deserted beach below us.
‘Ooh,’ I replied. ‘Yes, very sandy.’
‘And I give you…Tanybwlch House,’ H.U.W. announced.
I didn’t see anything.
‘In the trees, there,’ said Tegan. ‘At the base of that hill.’
And then I saw it. But I also didn’t see it.
Cos what H.U.W. called Tanybwlch House could not qualify as a house.
It was something between a manor house and a castle. Late 19th century, perhaps.
Micah laughed. ‘Swanky digs, Tegan!’
I knew Tegan was rich, but I never realised that she’d live in a rich person’s house. Don’t get me wrong, my family’s very well off and we have a terribly comfortable home in the countryside, but Tegan’s house looked to be one-quarter of the size of Hogwarts. And that’s large.
It was big, but Tanybwlch House looked sad, too. I dunno if it’s cos of the fog and gloomy mist thing, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a massive, homicidal black dog poke his head out of the surrounding wood.
Not that I have anything against massive black dogs. My Snuffles is blind and deaf and not homicidal in the least, and I love him to death.
‘Right, then,’ said H.U.W. after telling the carpet to begin the descent. ‘I’ll drop you lot off. I’m doing a funeral in Somerset in twenty minutes.’
‘Wait…you’re doing a magic show at a funeral?’ Tegan asked.
‘Yeah,’ replied H.U.W. ‘I’m really a very talented illusionist, McTeg, and my services are very much in demand. Oh, don’t worry, it’s going to be very dignified. I promised the family I wouldn’t do the Cosmic Fireball.’
We were three metres above the ground when H.U.W. pushed Freddie off the magic carpet.
‘Oi!’ I shouted. ‘What’re you—’
‘I’m dropping you off!’ said H.U.W. ‘I’ll never make it to Somerset in twenty minutes! Now jump!’
J.D. obeyed immediately, falling two metres and tumbling into the grass a ways away from Freddie. Micah shot Tegan a look, but jumped off of the moving magic carpet without a snide remark. Tegan took my hand.
‘Er, thanks, H.U.W.,’ she said hollowly. ‘You’ll pick us up at 5, please? Right, James, one, two, three…’
Luckily we only had to fall one point five metres. But it still was uncomfortable, and as I watched H.U.W. fly off, all shimmery and semi-transparent, I wondered how much later it would have made him if he’d “dropped us off” in a more ceremonial manner.
J.D. pulled off his Demiguise coat, and I’d half-forgotten I still had mine on.
Tegan shook out her hair after she took her coat off. She looked pretty. ‘Hold on to these…weird furry silver things,’ she said. ‘Until we find a means of transportation better than H.U.W. and his sodding magic carpet, we need them.’
Freddie frowned. ‘Teggers, am I remembering incorrectly, or did your cousin just push me off a magic carpet whilst in-flight?’
She opened her mouth, then closed it, then said, ‘Sorry, Freddie. I’m not sure what else I can say. He doesn’t like you very much.’
‘Everyone loves me,’ said Fred, mumbling. ‘I’m Freddie Weasley. Heeey!’
Following Tegan, we trekked up the sloping lawn towards Tanybwlch Mansion/Castle/Palace/Fortress. It was a dark, greyish brown in colour, with massive windows. There was not a hint of light coming from the inside.
‘Your parents know we’re coming, right Tegs?’ I asked.
‘Yeah, I wrote my dad,’ she answered. ‘He’s working today…well, he works almost every day…so you probably won’t have the chance to meet him. I haven’t spoken to my mam since the last Hogsmeade visit, but Dad said she was on holiday in France. Seemed rather cheery about it, he did.’
I just had the strangest image of Eleni Richelieu-Llewellyn, cackling and villainous, standing on the roof of Tanybwlch House and casting an evil spell on me. Which is odd, cos she pretends she can’t do magic.
We made our way up the sloping grounds towards the foggy, ominous, and creepy-looking Tanybwlch House. Tegan led us ‘round back where the façade was slightly less grand. We filed in through the back door, proceeded down a dingy corridor (I had to duck my head to avoid hitting the ceiling), and soon found ourselves in a large, dark kitchen.
‘Oi,’ said Micah, ‘this is a Muggle kitchen. You’ve got a blender!’
‘Yeah,’ replied Tegan. ‘This was a Muggle house when my dad bought it. It has electricity and everything.’
Micah looked much more cheerful; the only Muggle-born of our group, I’d never considered what a massive adjustment living at Hogwarts must be for him.
‘Luned!’ Tegan called. ‘Luned, it’s Tegan! Dad should’ve told you I was coming home!’
‘Is that your house elf, Tegan?’ asked J.D.
‘No,’ she replied. ‘My mam sold my dad’s family house elf years ago. Luned is a person.’
Just then, a haggard, stooped-over old woman shuffled into the kitchen. ‘Miss Tegan?’ she said, her voice hoarse.
‘Hi Luned!’ said Tegan, giving the woman a quick hug. ‘Miss me?’
‘Ah, but of course, my Tegan,’ said Luned, her squinty eyes somewhat bright.
‘James,’ Freddie whispered to me. ‘Is their house elf a person?’
‘I dunno,’ I said. ‘Seems a bit barbaric.’
‘Everyone, this is Luned,’ said Tegan. ‘She’s our housekeeper and is probably more responsible for my upbringing than my parents are! Luned, these are my mates: Micah, James, J.D., and Freddie. We formed a band and Dad’s letting us practice in the attic.’
‘Oh, lovely to meet all of you,’ said Luned. I think she was smiling, but her face was so wrinkled that it was difficult to say.
‘Could we have lunch ‘round noon?’ Tegan asked politely.
‘Ah, yes, anything for you, dear,’ said Luned.
I gave her a small wave as we followed Tegan out of the kitchen, through dark, ornate room and dark, ornate room.
‘Luned’s not a witch, is she?’ I asked, whispering. Not quite sure why I was compelled to whisper; this house was abandoned except for Luned.
‘No,’ said Tegan. ‘She’s a Muggle and thinks my family’s Muggle. The only magical stuff in the house belongs to my dad, and Mam forces him to keep it in the attic. He brought home some work once, which was chaos. Luned used the Firebolt XL7 to do a bit of sweeping, and needless to say, we had to put a few memory charms on her.’
We reached a wide staircase of dark wood and began to climb it. I looked up and saw that there were several more storeys to Tanybwlch House, and I silently cursed Eleni for sticking all of her husband’s instruments in the attic.
Clomp clomp clomp our feet went, ascending the stairs. Clomp clomp clomp.
‘Tegan,’ said J.D., breathing heavily, ‘why the frick does your house have to have so many fricking stairs?’
‘Honestly,’ said Tegan, rolling her eyes. ‘You have to climb so many more stairs to get to Gryffindor Tower than to get to my attic.’
‘Tell your mum to install a lift,’ said Micah.
He then spent the next several minutes explaining what a lift was. I think Granddad Weasley talks about them sometimes. I don’t usually pay attention to Granddad Weasley.
After what seemed like hours, we reached the top of the final staircase and Tegan opened a door that was clearly constructed many years ago, when people were shorter. I ducked and followed her into the attic room.
‘Brilliant,’ Freddie, Micah, J.D., and I chorused once we were all inside. It was like an enormous, well-stocked music shop, only dustier.
‘You could have a string octet!’ I marvelled.
‘And a heavy metal rock band!’ chirped Freddie.
‘And Rosh Hashanah service!’ said Micah.
‘Several times over,’ said J.D.
‘Yeah, my dad’s accumulated many instruments over the years,’ remarked Tegan. ‘James, go pick out the Page Platinum series over there. It’s the red guitar. Fred, you see the Grohl series drum set in the centre of the room? We’ll gather ‘round you, cos it’s a pain to lug the Grohl around. Micah, my dad bought about a dozen shofars when my mam went through her anti-Semitic phase, so take your pick. You must know shofars better than I do. And J.D., go grab a mic from the closet.’
‘Who’s Mike?’ he asked.
‘Mic is a thing that amplifies your voice,’ said Tegan. ‘There’s a little compartment you stick your wand into that powers it. It’s like what Muggles have, only more energy-efficient. All these instruments are magic-powered, actually, so we’ll be able to use them for the battle of the bands.’
We all did as she said and assembled ‘round Freddie’s drum set. He clenched his drumsticks excitedly as Tegan carried her bass guitar over.
‘Right, then,’ she said. ‘Er, let’s start off with a G chord. James, you know that, and Micah, you good? Right. Freddie, give us a light tapping on the snare, and hold off for now, J.D. Let’s make sure the musicians are all on the same page.
‘All right, a one, two, three, four—’
And then came the worst, loudest, most ugly noise I’d ever heard.
‘Stop, stop!’ shouted Tegan. ‘Oh dear God, no. No offence, but that was rubbish. Freddie, that’s the bass, not the snare! James, a G chord, not G7! And what’s happened to your hand position? Micah, you were all right. A bit quieter, though.’
‘It’s only got one volume!’ Micah protested.
‘James and Freddie aren’t quite ready, Tegan,’ said J.D. lazily. ‘Why don’t we give them some one-on-one time?’
Tegan sighed. ‘Yeah, okay. I’ll take James—’
‘That’s what she said!’ gasped Micah, for the first time in months. ‘Sorry, it just slipped out—’
‘—and J.D. and Micah, collaborate with Freddie. Hopefully together you’ll be able to figure out which one’s the cymbal,’ Tegan finished.
But the door to the attic opened, and a well-dressed man stooped to get in.
‘Dad!’ Tegan shouted, taking off her bass and nearly dropping it. I caught it with my free hand and placed it tenderly on the ground.
‘Tegan!’ The man laughed as she raced over to him and gave him a hug.
‘I thought you were working!’ said Tegan. Getting a look at the two of them together, I had to agree with H.U.W.: Tegan looked a good deal like her father. Well, he had blond hair and blue eyes, and Tegan definitely didn’t, but their noses were the same.
‘How could I stay at the office when I knew my little girl was coming home?’ said Mr Llewellyn, grinning. ‘Albeit for a brief time.’
Tegan turned to the rest of us. ‘Mates, this is my dad, Rhys Llewellyn. Dad, this is J.D., Freddie, Micah, and James.’
Mr Llewellyn focused his attention on me. ‘Nice to meet you, lads. Now, this is James?’
Tegan blushed and I bit my lip. I had to meet Mr Llewellyn sometime, if me and Tegan are going to get married and have kids and stuff.
‘Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr Llewellyn,’ I said, holding out my hand to shake and letting my guitar hang on my shoulder.
He took my hand and gave it a very firm shake. ‘Likewise, James,’ he said warmly. ‘And feel free to call me Rhys. That goes for all of you lot. “Mister Llewellyn” is a mouthful.’
I thought I heard Micah whisper “that’s what she said”.
‘So this is your little band?’ Rhys asked, walking farther into the room. ‘Don’t know if I’ve told you this, Teg, but I was in a band when I was at Hogwarts.’
‘No you weren’t!’ said Tegan eagerly.
‘Yes, I was,’ said Rhys. ‘Spawn of Salazar, we were called. A terribly unoriginal name, but most of us were stupid, uncreative Quidditch players.’
Spawn of Salazar? I thought. Mr Nice-Pants was in Slytherin?
‘Hey Rhys,’ said J.D. ‘You were in Slytherin?’
Tegan’s dad gave a half-smile. ‘Don’t look so horrified. Slytherins are people too. Granted, we’re a tough lot, but we’re rather vulnerable on the inside.’
‘No worries,’ said J.D. ‘My parents were in Slytherin. My sister is, too. I’m some sort of anomaly, a Nott who wasn’t Sorted into Slytherin.’
‘Ah, so your father is Theodore?’ asked Rhys. ‘He’s a good man. Controversial family, but a good man.’
‘The Slytherin Quidditch team has formed a band, too,’ said Tegan. ‘Hardcore Buzzkill. We have a shred-off scheduled for the last day of term.’
Rhys gave a warm laugh. ‘Really, then? Glad you kids have found something productive to do during the strike. It’s absolutely killing my business. But let’s see, would you mind if I stuck around for your practice today? I could give you some pointers, if you like. And I promise that I’m no saboteur. I support whichever side my daughter’s on, regardless of my own allegiances.’
‘That would be great, Dad!’ said Tegan. ‘We’re rubbish at the moment. Freddie, d’you mind if my dad shows you the ropes?’
And so we began our introductory workshop with Mr Rhys “Spawn of Salazar” Llewellyn. He showed Freddie how to hold down a beat, showed me his signature power stance, and suggested that Micah pick up a few instruments in addition to the shofar, to give our sound more depth. By lunchtime, our dear Micah was nearly proficient on the pan flute, balalaika, castanets, conch shell, drejelire, frula, accordion, and bagpipes as well.
For lunch, Luned served leek and parsley soup at the small table in the kitchen. Despite the vow I made at age 8 to never eat leeks, I found the soup to be surprisingly delicious. The food we get at school is wonderful, of course, but it’s mass-produced. It was nice to have a meal that was made with a little bit more love. And Luned made it without magic, obviously, which blew my little mind.
Rhys ate with us, which was fun. He’s the funnest Slytherin I’ve ever met.
‘Horo,’ said J.D., ‘what’s with the “that’s what she said” jokes all of a sudden?’
‘Well, there’s obviously something wrong with your head, and I figured I’d take advantage of the opportunity,’ said Micah.
‘What’s a “that’s what she said” joke?’ asked Rhys.
J.D. looked at him. ‘Sir, you may have a lot to teach us about music, but we have even more to teach you about life.’
‘This could take a while,’ Tegan whispered in my ear. ‘Wanna see what my room looks like?’
I took one last sip of my soup (I did not slurp…my mum taught me better than that). ‘Yeah, sure.’
We excused ourselves and Tegan took my hand as we headed toward the big, fancy pants staircase. I was still a bit startled that this house was so dark…it wasn’t just because of the cloudy day. The wood panelling in every room was terribly deep in hue, and the impersonal, ornate furnishings didn’t help matters. Tanybwlch House was just so…different…from my house. Bigger, grander, but colder and far more formidable. Tegan and Rhys, truly wonderful people, weren’t responsible for this. It reeked of Eleni. Even in France, she cast a dark shadow over the Llewellyn family homestead. How metaphorical.
Tegan squeezed my hand and grinned at me. ‘So, what do you think? Do you like my dad?’
‘Absolutely!’ I automatically answered. And it was true. ‘He’s definitely a contrast to your mum.’
She laughed. ‘I must agree with you there, James. Without my dad and Luned, I don’t know how I’d be sane. But Eleni is usually gone, so she isn’t often an issue.’
We climbed the staircase, with Tegan sort of directing me where to go. Her bedroom was on the second floor, at the very end of the corridor.
Tegan opened the door and we went inside. At first, it seemed like the typical room in Tanybwlch House: dark floral curtains, wooden furnishings and panelling, lack of proper lighting. But there were a few hints of Tegality here and there. There was an old Holyhead Harpies poster above her dresser. Naturally, my Teg supported the Wales-based, women’s only club. I grinned when I saw a faded, younger version of my mum on the poster. She was smiling proudly and grasping an old Nimbus broomstick. I sort of missed her…but it was already December and I’d see her, Dad, and my entire extended family at Christmas. It would be a traditional Weasley extravaganza.
Above the large, bare desk there was a bright Gryffindor banner that was impossible to miss. The illustrated lion silently roared, looking so sure of himself. And beside the banner was a photograph of the Gryffies, after we won the Quidditch Cup last year. Tegan was in the centre, holding up our huge trophy and waving it about. She was the star player of the match, catching the Snitch at the most crucial of moments. And then I saw a slightly younger version of myself, cheering noiselessly, my arm around Tegan’s shoulders. It was so much less complicated then. Tegan was my mate, the best Seeker in school. I didn’t like her eyes or her slight mammary growth yet.
Tegan then let go of my hand and took a step back, searching expectantly for my reaction. ‘It’ll never be my home like my dormitory at school, or even your dormitory at school,’ she said, humble, ‘but it’s my sometimes-home.’
I smiled crookedly at her, but a nice crookedly. Not like: “Blaaah, I’m a serial killer and I’m gonna get you!” More like: “Hello, love of my life. Your room is a surprisingly accurate representation of your personality. I can’t help but love it, like I so dearly love you.”
‘It’s perfect,’ I finally said.
She beamed at me and scurried over to her bed. Tegan crouched on the ground and poked her head under the bed, looking for something. She finally emerged, holding a bright scarlet Quaffle.
‘My dad gave it to me for my tenth birthday,’ said Tegan. ‘He always dreamed that I’d be a Chaser, like him. But he isn’t angry that I like Seeking better. Think fast!’
And she whipped the Quaffle towards me. My Chaser skills went into effect immediately, and I caught the Quaffle, one-handed. I grinned.
‘Hold on,’ said Tegan, walking back over to me. ‘You caught that one-handed.’
‘Yeah,’ I said coolly. ‘Cos I’m the best Chaser ever. Obviously.’
‘You caught it with your left hand,’ said Tegan, grabbing my aforementioned hand.
I stood there stiff, not sure what to do. ‘Yes. My left hand is very good at catching things.’
‘Frick,’ said Tegan distantly. ‘And you write with your left hand too. Frickety frick, how stupid am I?’
She still held on to my left hand, and I gulped. ‘You’re not stupid. Not that many people are lefties. We’re an often ignored segment of society. There’s no love for lefties in the Wizarding world. Inkwells are made for righties, few wandmakers make left-handed wands…’
‘Shit,’ she said, finally letting my left hand free. ‘You’re left-handed. How did I not realise that? What kind of girlfriend/guitar instructor am I?’
‘You’re a brilliant girlfriend/guitar instructor,’ I reassured her. ‘I’m just rubbish at guitar.’
‘No,’ she said severely. ‘I’m teaching you to play guitar as a rightie. It should be upside down! You should be strumming with your left hand, with your right hand on the frets! You should be using a leftie guitar!’
I cocked my head to the side. ‘So…I might not be crap at guitar?’
‘Yeah,’ said Tegan, blushing. ‘I messed that up. Frick, I’m so ignorant and self-absorbed. Well, this afternoon I’ll be sure to fix everything. My dad bought me two guitars when I was born, in case I turned out to be right- or left-handed. He must still have the Cobain somewhere.’
‘You are not ignorant and self-absorbed. But if it helps, I forgive you,’ I said. ‘Even though you didn’t do anything wrong.’
Tegan stepped towards me and took my hands in hers. ‘Okay, Cap’n. I didn’t do anything wrong.’
I let go of her hands and put mine low on her waist, pulling her towards me. ‘How many times do I have to tell you that it’s James, not Cap’n?’ I said smugly. ‘Cap’n is for when we’re on the Quidditch pitch. And we’re currently in the middle of a pointless Quidditch strike, so I’m afraid Cap’n won’t be necessary for a long while.’
Tegan put her arms around my neck and smiled madly. ‘Whatever you say, James Sirius Potter.’
I faked sighed. ‘Ah, I suppose you’re getting better. But it’s James. One syllable, very simple.’
‘Whatever you want, James,’ Tegan said in a low voice, and started to kiss me.
I was pleased, of course. At school, me and Tegs almost never get time alone. I suppose that’s a common problem when two close mates who are part of a larger group start dating. You can never get rid of the larger group. J.D. or Freddie or Micah is always there, and sometimes all three are. It’s even worse when Arlie and Mattie spend time with us instead of their regular friends. I love my Quidditch mates, but I love my Tegan more.
Sometimes we’ll escape to my dormitory, but a Gryffie or Snorky Scamander is usually there. Once Tegan carried me up to her dormitory (which was difficult as she is quite scrawny), but Miranda Matilda Melinda Shitforbrains is always there, chatting with her inane friends and admiring her boring blonde hair.
The Gryffindor common room always has one of my relatives, so it isn’t an option for kissy time either. We’ve tried broom closets several times, of course, but Mr Bleck’s hedgehog, Spiny Norman, found us once and we were almost caught by Bleckie out of bed after curfew. It was a close one.
In conclusion, I don’t get to snog Tegan nearly as often as I’d like. Which is why, as I gradually realised, she seduced me into following her to her bedroom.
Tegan pulled me tighter, kissing rather vigorously. I can’t say that I opposed this, and did my best to return the vigour by opening her mouth with my tongue.
Apparently this was a spectacular idea. Tegan ran her hands through my hair, my black, untidy Potter hair. I just held her close to me, intent on savouring this rare private moment we had.
And then Tegan lightly bit my lower lip. I don’t know what happened…my hands immediately found their way to her bum and my tongue slapped against hers, messy as hell. I think she liked it…she kissed back so messily too and dug her fingernails into my shoulder blades.
We were kissing and kissing and kissing. I lost track of where I was, why I was here…there was only Tegan, and she was right in front of me, and apparently she needed a good snog. We pushed and pulled and tried to breathe in between kisses. It was like how I’d always fantasised…except there was a good deal more spit and everything was terribly sloppy. But in the best way, if that makes sense.
Being the stupid sixteen-year-old boy that I am, I nudged her towards the bed. She jumped at it, very enthusiastic at the notion. Without thinking, I let her pull me on top of her as she lay on her back.
We are horizontal.
This is uncharted territory.
Well done, Jamesie!
But you have no idea what to do.
All right, hovering over Tegan. Good! This is how it’s supposed to be! I think.
I was too scared to kiss her now. She looked up at me, smiling, goofy and beautiful. I don’t tell Tegan how beautiful she is often enough. Sure, she’s not the standard, voluptuous sort of beautiful. She has freckles and eyes that are somewhere between green and brown and decent mammary and gluteus growth. I think that is beautiful.
‘You’re pretty,’ I said in a low voice, just hovering, like an idiot, hands at either side of her shoulders.
‘C’mon, James,’ said Tegan slyly. ‘Don’t bitch out now.’
I gulped, very much wanting to bitch out, but unable to summon the courage. Sometimes you have to be very brave to run away from your fears.
But, being a very cowardly Gryffindor, I lowered by face towards Tegan’s and puckered my lips. You can do it you can do it you can do it you can—
‘Tegan?’ I heard a dangerously familiar voice call from the doorway.
Me and Tegan whipped our heads ‘round to get confirmation, and something weird snapped in my neck. Ow…
Frick. Rhys was standing right there, looking like he’d been kissed by a dementor. Not that I have first-hand experience with that (obviously…I’m full of life!), but Teddy Lupin tried to teach us one day and apparently it stuck.
Tegan pushed me off of her and I fell to the ground. She then came to standing and helped me up.
Rhys looked like he had so much to say, he could barely get anything out. ‘What? No.’
‘I’m sorry Dad, but we weren’t doing anything!’ Tegan insisted. She stomped on my foot.
I yelped. ‘No, sir! Nothing of any significance happened, was happening, or was going to happen! To be frank, it was almost a disappointment—that’s how much of nothing happened!’
Rhys, expressionless, stepped forward, pulled back his arm, and punched me in the face.
OWWW! I lost my footing and fell to the floor. Tegan grabbed the collar of my shirt and yanked me up.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ she shrieked at her dad.
But Rhys looked crushed. ‘I…I just didn’t realise how much you’d grown up. And so quickly.’
Rubbing the bruised side of my face, I had to agree here. Before this year, Tegan had really been nothing special to look at. She could’ve been Micah’s little brother, or something. But then—BAM, the Puberty Fairy paid her a visit, and he was very gracious to her. Very gracious indeed.
‘I’m not a child, Dad,’ said Tegan reluctantly. ‘I couldn’t be your little girl forever. I just—it just isn’t how it works. Baby hippogriffs have to fly the nest eventually.’
Ohh, that’s what Rhys meant! Tegan’s grown up psychologically, not physically! Well, physically too, but that isn’t important right now. I think I’m finally on the right page.
‘I’m just taken aback, is all,’ said Rhys, like a dementor had sucked his heart out along with his soul. ‘I never expected that you would turn out like your mother.’
Tegan’s face turned the same colour as a Quaffle. ‘First of all, I am nothing like Eleni! And secondly, don’t you dare call her my mother! She has never done anything motherly towards me and she never will!’
Rhys furrowed his brows. ‘Pardon? She told you? Oh, that c—’
‘Told me what?’ Tegan demanded.
At that moment, I did not think I could possibly feel any more uncomfortable.
‘So she didn’t tell you?’ Rhys asked.
‘Tell me what!’ yelled Tegan.
Ah, there it is. The most uncomfortable feeling I’ve ever experienced.
‘Nothing!’ Rhys shouted.
‘No, it’s not nothing!’ said Tegan. ‘Why are you and Eleni so fricking nebulous about everything?’
‘We’re arguing about nothing, so this argument is over,’ said Rhys coldly. ‘I’m ringing H.U.W. to come pick you and your friends and your…James…up.’
‘You’re ringing him what?’ Tegan yelled as she followed Rhys out the door.
‘He invested in a mobile phone for his business!’ Rhys answered. ‘It’s that thing your biological mother loves more than me!’
I sat back down on Tegan’s bed, alone in her room. Frick, I thought in wonder. Just…frick.
A/N: Tanybwlch Mansion is a real home in Aberystwyth. In the course of my research, I haven’t come across anyone who knows who the current owner is.
This chapter is so much longer than I intended it to be. Ça alors! But I hope it was to your liking. Why not offer a review to share your feelings with me? A brief comment will do. Thank you very much for staying with the Gryffies for 16 chapters, through thick and thin, originality and cliché. I hope you continue to read…you’ll want to see how the battle of the bands goes.
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