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Chapter 33 : It's all about James
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Early in the second week of term, Mary and I had our breakfast unexpectedly interrupted when James and Sirius, followed closely by Remus and Peter, sat themselves down next to us at the Gryffindor table. I was surprised, especially since Lily was sitting on the other side of us and there were spare seats nearby, but it appeared James for once had something else on his mind.
“Morning, ladies,” he said airily from his spot next to me, reaching for a pile of plates and doling them out to his friends. “Quidditch trials are on this Friday,” he added casually, looking at me. “You coming?”
“Why would I do that?” I asked, pouring myself some orange juice.
“Come on,” said Sirius from opposite him, pushing his hair out of his eyes. “I saw how well you throw. You’d be a cinch for the spare Chaser’s spot.”
“She dodges darn well, too,” Mary put in, helping herself to more kippers. “Ye shoul’ see her i’ a snowball ficht.”
I glared at her. I had no intention of trying out for the House Quidditch team, I knew I’d be useless and I wasn’t particularly interested in humiliating myself in front of the whole school. Or, more importantly, Sirius.
“Sounds great,” James said with a grin. “You know I’m captain this year? What with Anna graduating and all. We could definitely do with someone with a good arm on the team.”
“Thanks, but no thanks,” I said. “I’m really not the sporting type.”
“You don’t like Quidditch?” asked James, looking shocked.
Mary almost choked on her kippers. “Tha’s nae wha’ she said,” she pointed out. James looked confused.
“I love Quidditch!” I clarified, wondering that no one had mentioned to him that I’d been to all the games the previous year. And every other year, for that matter. “Didn’t have much choice, with my childhood. My dad’s a mad Quidditch fan. I think he was disappointed he had two girls and no boys, but he took us to games all over when we were kids. Still does, occasionally, when he has time, but not so much lately ’cause he thinks the games might be targeted. We all went to the last World Cup, though. I just can’t actually play.”
There I was again, talking too much because I was nervous. Sirius often had that effect on me these days. Thank goodness he was on the opposite side of the table, it was reassuring having that physical barrier between us to stop me doing anything I may later regret.
James was grinning, having obviously decided to test me on my Quidditch knowledge. “Who’s your team then?” he asked, pouring himself a drink.
“Caerphilly Catapults,” I said immediately. “We are Welsh, after all.”
Sirius was smiling too. “’Dangerous’ Dai Llewellyn,” he said . “Too bad they’ve been in a bit of a funk since he got eaten.”
Peter laughed from his spot on the other side of James. “Yeah, like twenty years ago!” It was true: since the Catapults had won the European Championship in 1956 – four years before I was even born – they had gone downhill and stayed there.
I smiled grimly. “I can’t help it if my team’s going through a bad – er – generation. At least we’re not as bad as the Cannons.” The Chudley Cannons had changed their motto about five years previously to ‘Let’s just cross our fingers and hope for the best’. It didn’t seem to have worked yet.
“Why not the Harpies?” asked Remus. “If you’re from Wales, you could have picked either. And they’re in better form.”
I shook my head. “Holyhead’s way up north,” I explained, “in Anglesey. I’m from just outside Cardiff. Caerphilly’s only five or ten miles from where I grew up. And there’s a big difference between south Wales and north Wales.” I recognised the irony of talking about Holyhead as being ‘way up north’ when I was currently in Scotland, but I was sure they knew what I meant.
He nodded. “Right. I must admit, Welsh geography isn’t one of my strong points.”
“Nor anyone else’s, who’s not from there,” I agreed with a smile. I had noticed that a lot since moving to England – English people as a whole didn’t seem all that interested in the other parts of the British Isles.
“So why don’t you play?” asked James, never one to give up. Just ask Lily.
Peter clearly agreed. “Yeah, you can throw, you can dodge, what more do you need?”
“Well, yes, but I can’t do either of them very well if I’m on a broomstick,” I said wryly, pouring myself a cup of coffee.
James nodded. “Right. I can’t say I’ve seen you fly, but I won’t argue with you,” he said. “I’ll let you off, just this once.”
“Besides, my broom’s still in pieces in the bottom of my trunk,” I went on, realising I was talking too much again. I’d have to have a word to Mary about stopping me when I was doing that. “I haven’t had a chance to reassemble it since we got back to school, and I don’t know that I’d have time before Friday. Not if I’m going to do it properly.”
They all looked dumbstruck, and Mary giggled to herself across the table at their reaction. “I didn’t know you were a broomstick whiz,” Sirius said eventually, looking impressed. “That is to say, not many people can just take their broom apart and put it back together again.”
James was nodding. “Even I have trouble with that sometimes,” he acknowledged, helping himself to more toast and fried eggs. “It never seems to fly so well afterwards.”
“I imagine there’s a lo’ ye dinna know aboot us,” Mary said with a broad smile. I suspected she was thoroughly enjoying the conversation going on around her, including any discomfort I might have been feeling, and it crossed my mind that I really should talk to her about that sadistic streak. She went on, still smiling. “Laura here’s nae jus’ a pretty face.”
Well, that was asking for a response. “Not even a pretty face, you mean,” I said, grinning at her, throwing back the line we always used with each other. “Anyway,” I continued, turning to James before anyone could comment on what I’d said, “you are putting the tail back on before you re-do the flying charm, and not after?”
“Does it make a difference?”
“Of course it does,” I said, a little surprised he of all people didn’t realise that. “If you do the charm first, the broom adjusts to what its features are at that time. You need to reattach the tail first and clip it down and all that, and then re-do your charm so that it applies to the whole thing. That should probably sort out any problems you’re having.”
James was looking flabbergasted. “Are you sure you don’t want to join the Quidditch team?” he asked. “Your broom knowledge alone could get you a spot I’d think.”
I laughed. “Not a hope, sorry, James. Couldn’t play anyway,” I went on. “Dad’s really keen for me to do as well as possible during NEWTs, so he doesn’t want me distracted by anything. Meaning, no extra-curricular stuff. Bea had the same rule.”
“Adviser, then,” he suggested. “Come and give us tips.”
“I’ll think about it. But only if it doesn’t interfere with NEWTs.” I grinned. “Can’t go against darling daddy’s rulings!”
“By the way,” Remus said, changing the subject, “we hear you’re going out with Caradoc Dearborn. Were you ever planning on telling us?”
“Am I?” I asked, baffled. This was the first I’d heard of it. “That’s weird, you’d think I would have noticed.” I suddenly realised what Remus had said. “And why would I tell you something like that anyway?”
“Because we’re your friends,” James said easily, raising an eyebrow at Sirius across the table. “But do we take you to mean you’re not seeing Dearborn?”
“Not that I know of,” I said carelessly, having some more coffee. “Where’d you hear that one?”
“Not telling,” said Sirius, pretending to lock his lips and throw away the key. “But that makes things easier.” He looked a little relieved, truth be told.
“How so?” I asked, dreading the answer. The boys clearly had something planned, and that could never be a good thing.
“It means we don’t have to threaten to curse him into next week if he mucks you around, after what happened with Aubrey,” James replied, shrugging as he piled a forkful of bacon and eggs into his mouth.
“I don’t see you being so protective of Mary here,” I said.
“But she’s with Ogden,” said Sirius, looking surprised. “He’s fine, nothing wrong with him.”
“Nae any more, we brok’ up,” Mary pointed out. “Ye havna hear’ any rumours aboot my love life?”
James looked like he was thinking about it as he swallowed his mouthful of food. “Uh – no,” he said after a pause. “Just Laura’s. And Dearborn’s. Though if our information’s wrong, we don’t have to challenge her sanity for going out with a prefect.”
“You’re a fine one to talk,” I shot back at him. “Head Boy – and Quidditch captain, I might add – who’s pining after the Head Girl. And you have a problem with me dating an authority figure?”
Sirius, with a mouthful of food, was trying rather unsuccessfully not to laugh, and in the process knocked his fork onto the floor.
“Doesn’t matter anyway,” James said nonchalantly, ignoring my jibe. “If it’s not happening, we don’t need to do anything about it.”
“Well, it’s definitely not happening,” I agreed. “While there’s been a lot to take in since term started, I’m sure I would remember if I’d been snogging someone on a regular basis. Especially Caradoc – he’s really not my type.” I winced involuntarily. While Caradoc was a nice enough bloke, his pale hair and eyes, bulbous lips and weak chin all distinctly turned me off. “Besides,” I went on vaguely, helping myself to more bacon and fried tomatoes, “I’m not allowed to go out with anyone this year anyway, so it’s a bit of a moot point.”
This was clearly a surprise for them – while the girls in my year knew the story, it was obvious the boys didn’t. James’ fork stopped about two inches from his mouth and sagged in his hand, its bacon and eggs dropping back onto his plate. Sirius, who had ducked beneath the table to retrieve his fork, hit his head on his way back up. Peter accidentally snorted some tea he had raised to his mouth at the time, and even the normally composed Remus looked surprised, though why any of them would have cared anyway was a bit beyond me.
Peter found his voice first. “What do you mean, you’re not allowed to go out with anyone?”
“Same as the Quidditch,” I explained with a shrug. “No extra-curricular activities. That includes boyfriends.”
Mary was looking at the boys scornfully. “Ye didna know? An’ ye call yerselves her friends!”
“Well,” Remus said evenly, “if no one tells us something, we can’t reasonably be expected to know it. Laura here obviously didn’t think it was worth mentioning.”
“Slipped my mind,” I said glibly as I tried to corner an errant piece of tomato that was evading my fork.
“You’re not going to keep to that, though, are you?” asked James, his eyes flicking to Sirius, who was still rubbing his head where it had hit the table.
“Yeah, how would he find out anyway?” Sirius added. It was a bit hard to hear him as he was now concentrating on pouring tomato sauce over his scrambled eggs and didn’t raise his head. “It’s not like he’s got any spies here, and what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”
“Well, I’ll cross that bridge if and when I come to it,” I said, having successfully captured my bit of tomato. “Though I don’t anticipate it will be much of an issue anyway.” I stole a glance at Sirius when I said it – it was true, but one word from him and I would have abandoned any idea of following Dad’s rule. Hopefully he didn’t realise that though, I couldn’t stand the humiliation.
This time it was James who dropped his fork and stooped beneath the table to pick it up. I suspected he was trying not to laugh, as his shoulders were shaking so much he knocked my knees as he scrounged around trying to find the wayward utensil. Eventually he resurfaced, face a bit red, glasses askew, and wordlessly reached for more eggs. For the life of me I couldn’t work out what was so funny.
“And, on the bright side,” I went on, opting to ignore this little show, “at least I won’t have to go into Madam Puddifoot’s again!”
Sirius groaned with me. “Hear, hear,” he said with feeling. “Clio dragged me in there at the start of the year. It was appalling!”
“Wasn’t it though,” I agreed, shuddering. “Chintz and floral and lacy doilies everywhere – it was like going to Grandma’s but without the good cakes, and far more claustrophobic.”
Mary got my attention by pushing her empty plate away from her. “I’m done,” she said, looking at me. “Shall we?”
“Why not,” I agreed, hastily swallowing the last of my bacon and standing up with her.
“See ye aroond, lads,” she said airily, waving as we made our way out of the Great Hall. The boys waved us off and then followed James as he shuffled down a couple of places to where Lily was.
Mary looked at me once we’d left the hall and were heading towards the Transfiguration classroom. “I though’ I’d better ge’ ye oot o’ there an’ all,” she said with a smile. “Ye were gettin’ a wee bi’ carried away.”
“It took you that long to notice?” I asked sharply. “You could have stopped me when I was rambling on about Quidditch or brooms. Did myself no favours there.”
She laughed. “I’m nae so sure,” she grinned. “James wa’ pretty impressed, he micht e’en encourage it nou.”
“Great,” I said glumly. “We’ve convinced James, now all we need to do is convince Sirius. That should be a breeze. I mean, it’s not like I’ve got any competition or anything.”
“Dinna bea’ yerself up aboot it,” she scolded. “An’ ye micht hae half th’ battle won. Everyone knows tha’ if there’s one person Sirius listens t’, it’s James. Same as Sirius is th’ only one James will listen t’. So I think ye were jus’ helpin’ yer chances, if anythin’.”
I looked at her, considering. “You know, Mary, you might just be on to something there.”
She grinned. “An’ if naethin’ else,” she went on with a wink, “ye’re one up on Elvira an’ th’ fan club,” she went on.
I raised an eyebrow. “How?”
“A’ leas’ he talks t’ ye.”
I nodded, half a smile crossing my face – that much at least I had to concede.
As it turned out, it appeared that the boys’ information source about me actually was good, it was just a bit premature, as Caradoc Dearborn did indeed ask me out as we left Herbology later that week. Like I’d said, he really wasn’t my type in any way, shape or form – Sirius he definitely was not – so using Dad’s rule was a good way to turn him down without hurting him too much. I was surprised, however, that it had come up so quickly, and decided that was probably what James had found so amusing that day at the breakfast table.
That weekend I settled in to get my part of the dorm the way I liked it, putting up my Catapults poster, Gryffindor and Welsh rugby banners on the wall, and some photos and books from home on my bedside cabinet. I had also set aside the requisite hour or two to get my broom ready for the school year – as I had told James, there was no chance I would have been able to do that properly before his Quidditch trials were scheduled on the previous Friday.
Once I’d put my broom back together and re-adjusted the charms on it I felt much better. While I was never going to try out for the Quidditch team, it did mean that I could take it for a spin whenever things were getting too much for me, which I had heard could happen a lot during one’s NEWT year. Or whenever I’d been seeing too much of Sirius and needed the equivalent of a cold shower, which I had the feeling would soon be getting to be more and more often.
However, while going to or from the solitary rides I did take, I would occasionally get interrupted by James and various other Gryffindor Quidditch players, who had got it into their heads (probably thanks to James) that I was the person to ask for help whenever they had any broom problems. While I didn’t mind helping them out, I preferred it when they asked me once I’d got back from my ride rather than on my way out, and more than once I’m afraid I even snapped at someone who had got me at the wrong time. (I blamed Sirius, of course – if he hadn’t got me into such a spin I wouldn’t have had to re-set myself so often.)
James also got it into his head that he wasn’t going to let me forget my promise to teach him to drive. No matter how many times I pointed out that we didn’t exactly have a car at our disposal, he refused to give up the idea and insisted that as well as Sirius, who I had also promised (like I could forget), I should also be teaching Remus and Peter. In the end, as a way of shutting him up, I wrote to Mum and got her to send me half a dozen copies of the Highway Code so I could give it to the boys for some background reading. Like my mother I thought it an excellent idea that they have some understanding of the road rules before attempting to get behind the wheel of a car. The ploy worked in as much as they stopped bugging me about teaching them until they had studied the manual – which, in the case of James and Sirius at least, seemed to take approximately fifteen minutes. Oh well. It had seemed like a good idea at the time.
In the end, it turned out to be Lily who finally got James off my back, at least as far as driving lessons were concerned. After we had been back almost a month she was getting increasingly frustrated.
“I never thought I’d say this,” she complained during Charms one day, “but James is too much of a gentleman.”
Charlotte dropped her wand in surprise. “What did you just say?”
“He’s too much of a gentleman,” Lily repeated, trying in vain to make the Gryffindor lion on her parchment change shape and replicate. “I’ve been waiting since we got back to school for him to ask me out, or even make some sort of lewd comment that I could respond to, and he hasn’t done it yet. He keeps on being polite and respectful and concentrating on Head Boy duties. I’m starting to lose patience.”
I laughed, forgetting the wand movement I was supposed to be practicing. “You’re right, Lily, we never thought you’d say that either.”
“Why dinna ye ask him oot?” Mary asked reasonably. “It’s nae lik’ he micht say no.”
“I don’t know,” Lily said nervously. “I’ve never asked a boy out before. How do you do it?”
“Simple,” said Martha. “You go up to them and ask if they want to go out with you.”
“Ah, but we’re not all as bold as you,” Charlotte pointed out, casting what she probably thought was a furtive glance at Remus.
“Yes, I don’t know if I could do that,” Lily agreed.
“Ladies,” came Professor Flitwick’s voice, “more practicing, less chatting.” He came over to us. “How are your Protean Charms going?”
I looked him in the eye and, muttering the spell he’d taught us, changed my Gryffindor lion to a Ravenclaw eagle. All the other lions on my parchment also obediently changed shape, mimicking the original. Flitwick blinked in surprise.
“My apologies. Carry on, carry on,” he said, and shuffled off to inspect the girls at the Ravenclaw table.
“Good one, Laura,” Martha muttered under her breath. “Now, can you show us how you did that?”
As it turned out, Lily did have it in her. That evening after supper, she walked right over to James in the common room and looked him in the eye. “James, can I have a word please? Outside. Heads’ business.”
James looked surprised but nodded and followed her. After an hour they hadn’t returned, and we were all getting more than a little suspicious.
Suddenly I had an idea and, working up some courage, headed over to where the boys were sitting in their usual spot by the fire. “Do you know where they’ve gone?” I asked quietly, taking a seat on James’ empty armchair.
“No idea,” said Sirius, looking up from what appeared to be a Muggle motorcycle magazine. Ah, I thought, Mary had guessed right about whose bed was whose. “She said it was Heads’ business, though.”
“Heads’ business my foot,” I snorted. “If they’re still talking I’ll eat a Hippogriff. Have you got that map of yours handy?”
Remus looked vaguely surprised, but fished around in his bag and pulled out the enormous bit of parchment. “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,” he said, spreading it out on the seat next to him and tapping it with his wand. Once the map appeared on the parchment, he scanned it quickly. “They’re in that old classroom just down the hall,” he said. “The one opposite the statue of Lachlan the Lanky.”
“Hmm,” I mused. “I guess we can’t borrow that Cloak of his without asking, can we? Just to take a peek, I mean.”
“You’re not proposing spying on the Head Boy and Girl, are you?”Sirius asked with mock indignation, though he was smiling. “You can’t do that.”
“Of course we can,” Peter piped up. “He’d do it to us.”
“That’s true,” Remus conceded. “But no, Laura, we can’t borrow his own Cloak to spy on him. That would be beyond the boundaries of honour.”
“I hadn’t thought of it like that,” I admitted. “You’re right. I guess we’ll just have to sit here and speculate on what they’ve been doing for the past hour then.”
“Peter will do it, won’t you Wormtail?” Sirius said suddenly, pushing his hair out of his eyes. “He doesn’t need a Cloak.”
I looked at Peter, surprised and more than a little confused, but he just smiled an almost malevolent smile and nodded. “Okay. I’ll go.” He climbed out of the portrait hole and was back within a minute. “Uh, Laura, what exactly was it that you thought they were up to?” he asked, looking slyly at me.
“If I had to guess, I’d say they were giving their tongues a good workout without saying a word,” I said archly, leaning back in the armchair and trying not to look at Sirius. I had tensed up again, inwardly thanking Merlin that we were sitting on separate chairs and therefore weren’t likely to come into any physical contact.
“Got it in one,” he said, smiling again. Sirius and Remus grinned maniacally and high-fived each other with gusto.
“About bloody time,” said Remus.
“Yeah, hopefully he’ll stop pining now,” added Sirius, who then frowned slightly. “Though he’ll probably go all soppy and revolting and won’t spend any time with us any more.” He looked at me suddenly with new interest. “How did you know?”
“You forget, I share a dorm with her,” I said, getting up from my chair. “Thanks, guys. I’d better share the news.” And I went back to our favourite table by the window, smiling broadly.
“So?” Mary asked immediately. “Where are they?” The girls had obviously guessed why I had been talking to the boys by the fire.
“World’s biggest snog-fest, apparently,” I said. “In an empty classroom down the hall.”
They all got the same maniacal grins that Sirius and Remus had worn. “Brilliant!” said Martha. “So she did get the guts up.” And, abandoning our homework, we spent a good half hour speculating on what would happen with Lily and James from here on in.
Lily didn’t come back until after we had gone up to the dorm to get ready for bed. She looked deliriously happy and more than a little dishevelled, and was obviously hoping we’d gone to sleep already and wouldn’t quiz her: the look that came to her face when she saw me in the bathroom and Charlotte still getting changed into her pyjamas was one of disappointment.
Martha had seen it too. “Sorry, Lils, you were sprung,” she said with a broad smile. “What happened?”
Lily pouted. “If we were sprung, you shouldn’t need me to tell you,” she pointed out.
“All we know is that you and James were snogging each other senseless,” I said, putting my toothbrush away and coming back into the dorm. “What we don’t know is how long that took to happen.”
Lily sighed, sitting down on her bed. “About five seconds, actually,” she admitted. “I took him to an abandoned classroom, and he looked at me with those eyes and said, ‘Right, what’s up?’, and I just kissed him. I couldn’t help myself.”
Mary raised her eyebrows. “Couldna help yerself? Tha’ was why ye go’ him oot o’ th’ common room i’ th’ firs’ place, wasna it?”
“Yes, all right,” Lily said. “I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it, you know, asking him out, and it just seemed the easiest way. And he didn’t seem to mind.”
“Of course he didn’t,” said Charlotte, who had finished putting her pyjamas on. “Did you actually talk at all?”
“You know, we did,” Lily admitted, sounding surprised herself. “For ages. In between snogging, of course. He’s a great kisser.” She paused for a bit, smiling to herself with a dreamy expression on her face. “I really don’t know why I waited this long. We could have had all summer.” And she lay back on her bed, looking at the canopy above her head.
“I think she’s down for the count, girls,” said Martha, still smiling. “How about we leave her to her daydreams for a bit and get some sleep? And, in the morning, I’ll organise a plaque for that classroom down the hall to commemorate this momentous occasion – it has taken six years, after all.” She grinned mischievously while Lily made a vague movement to throw her pillow at her, but didn’t follow through.
“I micht hold ye t’ that,” smiled Mary, settling into bed herself and turning off the lamp closest to her. “Nou goo’ nicht everyone.” And we all settled down into our beds and pretended not to notice the occasional contented sigh coming from Lily’s direction.
Author’s note: Ah, Lily and James finally getting together. I wanted them to have as long a time as a couple as I could realistically manage within the narrative, so about a month after school went back seemed reasonable. And James, of course, had finally got the hint and backed off a bit to give Lily room, so it was up to her to make the first move … I’m smiling at the very thought.
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