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Chapter 3 : more than nice
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Albus Potter and Oscar Green
chapter image; livilulu @ tda
The days, as they often do in Autumn, sped by. Warm days slipped into cooler nights, until it became too cold to forgo tights, and then the next week- before you knew it- scarves were being brought out, even though you promised yourself you wouldn't succumb to it until at least November.
I smiled down at little Lara Swift- LLS, as Mikey and Liam had taken to nicknaming her. She was small and wiry and quick, and the my two friends has initially laughed at her appearance at Quidditch try-outs a few months ago. We already have a Seeker, jeered Liam. Yeah, jeered Mikey wittily in response. I still remember the look on their faces when Lara outshone the dozen or so other students who tried out for Chaser that sunny September morning, her performance so good even Oscar- who knew nothing about Quidditch- commented on it.
"So true," I said in agreement. "If I knew house colours would've been such a big part of my life I would have asked the Sorting Hat to put me in Slytherin for the sake of complementary colours."
"Yeah! I mean- blue and bronze?”
“What was Rowena thinking?"
"Well, the blue represents air and I think the bronze is meant to symbolise-"
"Come on, Lara, I don't really care..."
We chatted until we were both in our blue and bronze Quidditch attire, and then walked out into the Meeting Room, where we met the rest of the team. Mikey patted the seat next to him and I sat there; Lara went across the bench to sit with Indigo Coates, a boy in her year.
“Nice of you to finally join us, girls,” said Danny Alton as he banged on his desk with his fist. We instantly silenced, and Mikey sighed in annoyance. Oh Mikey, oh Mikey, how I missed Cool Danny too.
Danny sat there talking about Gryffindor and Slytherin’s upcoming match and now, in a fortnight from that, we would play the winner. Danny spoke about how he expected Gryffindor to win and how after years of playing against James Potter he felt he knew their every strength and weakness; whilst Gryffindor was the tougher team, we knew them better than Slytherin and so a match against the latter would be played on sheer talent, not the old Ravenclaw way of tactics and plans and statistics.
“And we are a good team,” concluded Danny. “In fact, I’d say we’re the best, most solid, most consistent team I’ve seen throughout my six years of Quidditch at this bloody school. We have the strongest Chaser trio, a Keeper who almost never missed the Quaffle, two Beaters who are so bloody violent you’re one broken skull away from Azkaban-” Liam Finnigan and Indigo Coates exchanged hi fives across Lara Swift, who sat there, taking in every single word- “and an absolutely smashing Seeker who, in her four years of playing, has only lost three games-"
"Well, four-" Mikey begin, and Danny and I shot him equally dirty looks.
"There is no excuse for losing," he continued, shaking his head at Mikey. "Now start warming up, you scurvy little twats, whilst I get out the brooms and equipment.”
“Be careful with mine, Danny,” I said, slightly anxious because Danny was a notorious klutz and my broomstick- a sixteenth birthday present from my grandparents this summer- was the broomstick to have right now. Even Teddy Lupin, Keeper for the Arrows, recommended the Firebolt 360. But Danny just rolled his eyes and I walked out, praying that my grandparents had remembered insurance.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning; unlike the last time we had played a morning practise, the sun was out and only a few lazy clouds dotted the sky. It was still cold but that was only due to the cool Highlands wind, not the air, and after a few laps I felt warm and excited. I loved Quidditch. Maybe it’s because of my older brother Jack’s influence on me throughout my childhood but Quidditch; watching, playing, talking; is easily my favourite thing to do. I wonder if Albus liked Quidditch? I knew that James Potter did, obviously; if he didn’t, I could easily change that, I mused.
“Fucking hate laps,” said Mikey, running up to my left.
“Do you need to sit down, Mikey? Can’t handle a man’s game?” asked Liam, running up to my right.
“Mikey just wants his mummy,” I cooed. “Mikey wants his mummy to hold his hand and run with him.”
“You two bully me,” Mikey hissed, and Liam and I smirked at each other from across his self pitying face. “And I do not like it.”
Liam was about to open his mouth to retort when I noticed half a dozen students sitting on the stands, watching us. “Looks like we have an audience.”
“It’s ‘cos of me,” said Mikey, stretching his arms and tensing.
“Who is it?” asked Liam, stopping and craning his neck.
“Oscar, Aspen,” said Mikey, for he had perfect vision, “Scorpius Malfoy- oh, they’re kissing, what a surprise- Albus Potter, and two year below girls. Told you it was me.”
“Albus is here?” I cried.
“Oh shit, yeah. No, don’t worry Effy, you look fine. I like your hair in two braids, you look... European.”
I looked at Liam, and he looked back at me. We held our mutual baffled gaze for an elongated moment, before turning to Mikey.
"European?" we echoed, and Mikey nodded, looking unsure himself over his choice of adjective.
But then Danny came out with seven broomsticks and the chest of Quidditch balls. He gave me my broomstick, which I was relieved to see was just as glossy and groomed as I had left it two nights before, and I started flying, half searching for the Snitch and half dreaming about Albus.
“Effy!” cried Aspen, as I was about to make my way back into the changing rooms with the rest of the team, after a solid hour of rigorous practise. I looked up and then swung back onto my broomstick, and flew over to the five of them.
“You look so nice,” said Aspen, as I approached them. “What happened?”
“Good seven hours of beauty sleep,” I said. You know when you're desperatedly trying to impress someone and they're not even looking at you so you half joke to yourself, maybe I should do something drastic, like perform a cartwheel or cry my support for the British National Party? But then the serious side of your brain is like, what is wrong with you, obviously don't do that? For Albus wasn't even looking at me; I doubted he even noticed I had arrived.
“The Ravenclaw team are serious competition this year,” said Scorpius, who was leaning back with his arms crossed. He was a Chaser for Slytherin. “I underestimated him at first, but Alton is such a good Captain.”
“Total pain in the neck though,” I said, and Albus laughed.
“You were really good,” said Albus, his green eyes twinkling.
I smiled. “Thank you.”
“I remember last year, you narrowly beat Alfie Ronson to the Snitch in a Ravenclaw and Gryffindor match. The next week we all went home for Christmas and James did not shut up about it. It’s probably why he’s so determined to beat Ravenclaw this year,” said Albus. “And I've heard he's being such a prick about it too.”
“Oh, you heard about that?”
"Who didn't?" sulked Oscar, who hated talking about Quidditch, or anything not relating to himself or Jackie Kennedy, his recent obsession.
Albus looked over and grinned, the left corner of his mouth lifted lazily. "Sorry."
"Oh, that's quite alright," said Oscar, beaming.
But Oscar had no interest at all in the game had left to go convince Danny Alton of his hidden homosexuality; Aspen and Scorpius, however, were cuddling and discussing matching outfits for next weekend. It was just Albus and me.
“Yeah, and I’m really sorry. It was bang out of order what he said to you.” Albus sounded different to his brother; the husky, raspy, pronounciated English accent that his brother had was replaced with a clearer, loftier, fruitier pitch, a voice that warmed me on this cool October morning.
And his bright green eyes were wrinkled and his lopsided smile was just ever so charming and I felt my heart, for the first time since my conversation during lunch with Mikey, speed up to what could have been a thousand beats per second.
“I’m over it,” I said, slightly breathlessly. “Honestly, my older brother Jack is the same. It’s nice that he’s so big on Quidditch.”
“It’s nice that you stood up for him. Not a lot of girls do.”
I smiled. “I suppose I’m just a nice girl.”
His smile grew bigger and his eyebrows furrowed slightly. “I think you’re more than nice, Effy.”
To our left, Aspen and Scorpius were kissing like a pair of thirteen year olds who had never kissed before. Albus started walking, and I, still seated on my broom, followed him at the same pace, my feet perched on my broomstick to prevent them from hitting the seats below.
We walked onto the pitch; the sun was beating down onto my Quidditch kit, making my skin warm and the Scottish breeze making my hair flutter against my chest.
“Fuck me, it’s cold,” said Albus. I only then noticed he was just wearing an old grey shirt and black jeans, and goosebumps ran up his arms. His incredibly defined, toned arms.
“Do you want to wear my jacket?” I asked, beginning to take my Quidditch jacket off.
He laughed. “Isn’t it meant to be the other way round? Aren’t I meant to give you the jacket?”
"Well... I suppose it depends how you look at it,” I replied, my fingers absent mindedly playing with my hair. Before the practise they were in two French braids, but now they were messy and tangled, a mess of various shades of browns.
Hair was hanging in front of my face, dangling beside my eyelashes, and I pushed it behind my ear.
“Well,” he said, slowly, and I looked up at him. His eyes really were the most vivid shade of green. “I’m the guy who woke up early on a Sunday morning to accompany my best mate and his girlfriend to watch her best mate play Quidditch for an hour, after spending a good ten minutes in front of the mirror getting my hair in just that style of effortlessly messy, only to be offered a girls’ jacket.”
I laughed. “I think your hair looks great.”
“I think yours looks greater.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“You Ravenclaw,” he snorted. His lips were chapped and dry from the cold and yet I found that all I wanted to do was kiss them. But instead I just laughed, and he continued.
“Do you want to come with me to this Halloween thing next week, Effy?” He said this with a grin but then looked down at the ground, and his cheeks turned a bit red.
“Okay,” I said breathlessly, and his head shot up.
“Yeah, is that okay?”
“Is that okay? Is it okay with you?”
“Yes but I don’t want to do anything unless it’s okay with you-”
He burst into laughter. “God! We’re so awkwardly British.” I laughed, and then we stood there, smiling at each other, like utter fools.
“Well,” he said, “okay. That settles it. We’ll go to the Halloween fair together. Cool.”
“Groovy,” I said, nodding my head, and then we both burst out into laughter.
“If you think that word is in any way as retro as groovy," I began, "You are wrong, wrong with a capital W. Oscar uses that word on an hourly basis." And he smirked at the mention of Oscar.
“Do you want to go?” he murmured. “Because Scorpius and Aspen are staring at us.” I looked up, and he was right; the beautiful blonde couple were staring intensely at us, but as soon as Aspen noticed that I had noticed her she automatically ducked, Scorpius following suit a second later.
“Sure,” I said, and then I added, “Are you sure about my jacket? I’m fine, honestly.”
“I’m fine, thanks,” he said, laughing, and I decided that his laugh was one of the nicest sounds ever. “Let’s get breakfast. I’m absolutely famished, Scorpius insisted we be here for the whole practise.”
“Well he wanted to suss out the competition this year,” he said, lowering his voice. “But I reckon it’s just to ensure I wouldn’t back out of this.” His hand moved to the back of his head, and he ruffled the top of his hair, giving me a sheepish grin. “I’ve been meaning to ask you this for a while, Effy, but there just wasn’t the right moment.”
“Oh Al! Every moment is a good moment.”
“I don’t know, what about if you rejected me? Especially if we were in front of people. I wouldn’t be able to risk running into the Gryffindor boys for at least a month afterwards.” I snorted.
“Isn't Louis Weasley meant to be your cousin?”
"Oh... He's not so bad..."
Albus looked up from the pitch and his eyes glimmered in the golden morning light. "He's awful, it's fine."
I laughed at his frankness. Louis Weasley- and his best friend, Ruddy Walcott- were the self elected coolest boys in the year, perched on their self-made throne of Gryffindor pride and Beater thuggery. They weren't mean- Ruddy was even relatively nice, if you caught him at the right moment- but they were loud and domineering, the biggest personalities at a party, the biggest hungovers on a Sunday morning. Mikey called them the human versions of Peeves.
"I quite like them, too be honest," I mused, as we continued strolling. "I know it's very fashionable in the Ravenclaw and Slytherin circles to think they're annoying, but I think they're hilarious."
“Right? It's like they're the year group's biggest guilty pleasure.”
And we continued talking. Discussing other people in the year, teachers, classes, that exciting small talk made with someone when the two of you are perched upon something greater, something bigger. Does that even make sense? I don't know.
And then he did something which even when I think of now, makes my back tingle and my teeth chatter with excitement. He took his hand in mine, and I felt the warm rough cotton texture of his black cotton gloves entwine with my cold fingers, numb and calloused from the game of Quidditch which, right now, seemed like days ago.
“Hellooooo,” sung a familiar voice. I looked up, and it was Mikey, a smug smile sat comfortably on his face. He slipped in between Aspen and me, ignoring her half-hearted protest, and turned to me, his smile widening.
“Hey,” I replied, as Liam sat beside Oscar opposite us. “Roast courgette?” For we were in the Great Hall, underneath a hideously thundery ceiling, despite it being a perfectly clear, star-studded night outside.
But floating candles illuminated the Hall with their warm, golden light, and the merry chatter, quiet laughter of students and Professors alike too filled the room, countering any tempestuous weather the enchanted ceiling above was offering for the night. I loved Hogwarts on nights like this.
“I don’t eat vegetables,” he said, pushing the fork away so passionately it slipped off and hit the back of a Hufflepuff’s robes beside us. I snorted, and faced Mikey.
“Sooooooo,” he drawled. “You… and Albus….”
“Sitting in a tree… K I S S I N G-”
“Oi, Lancaster,” said Teddy Oliver, the Hufflepuff Seeker, striding towards us from the Hufflepuff table. Teddy was in several of my classes this year, my Potions partner for a term last year, one of those boys that are so friendly, so easy to get along with, and just so good looking I couldn’t help but grin up towards him.
“Oliver,” said Mikey, easily. I will never understand why boys like to refer to each other by their surname. I knew Mikey and Teddy weren’t overwhelmingly close, but they were definitely friends, surely on a first name basis by now.
“Hey, Effy,” said Teddy, grinning at the two of us, as we looked up at him. “How’s it going? Written that Defence essay yet?”
“Haven’t even learnt the title.”
“Come off it,” he said, laughing. “You’re a Ravenclaw- on your third draft, I’d imagine.”
“Oo!” I cooed, teasing him. “Quite judgemental for a Hufflepuff, aren’t you?”
He laughed, and turned to Mikey, who had watched the exchange with an amused smile. “I cleared it all up with Molly Weasley,” he said, crossing his arms. “She said it’s fine… As long as its still okay with you?”
“Yeah mate, its cool,” Mikey said, nodding.
“Thanks again,” Teddy gushed, giving him a grateful smile. “Eve’s insistent on this Quidditch practise tonight, and I felt bad leaving my patrolling partner alone… Especially as it’s not like you’re even a Hufflepuff, but they’re all celebrating Poppy Atticus’s birthday tonight, nobody wanted to miss out…”
Mikey dismissed Teddy’s gratitude with a wave of his hand. “Who’s your partner?”
Teddy cracked a sheepish smile, and I leant in, eager to hear who could warrant such an uncomfortable moment of silence before communicating the truth. “Veronica Clearwater. Thanks again Mikey got to go you’re a legend and a half bye!”
And I watched him practically sprint over to his table as Mikey started to comprehend what he truly let himself in for.
“She’s not that bad…”
“Who’s not that bad?” asked Aspen, leaving her conversation and listening into ours.
“Mikey’s filling in for Teddy Oliver’s prefect patrols tonight with Veronica Clearwater,” I announced, and Aspen giggled into the cuff of her robe.
“Oh fuck,” she echoed, smirking at Mikey’s terrified face.
Veronica Clearwater. How does one describe Veronica Clearwater? Can the English language do such a character as herself justice?
Veronica was a Ravenclaw Sixth Year, shared a dormitory with Aspen and me, a prefect too. My parents, especially my dad, would tell us how in their Hogwarts days all the nasty characters ended up in Slytherin house; which I could never imagine- imagine Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy sleeping in a dormitory of junior Death Eaters; yet I understood it enough to know that Veronica was exactly the sort of god-awful individual they referred to.
For she was humourless, strict, unforgiving and- especially ever since she was made Ravenclaw Prefect last year- totally merciless. Universally detested by the year- brought the year group together, in fact, really united us- bar a few individuals in Slytherin she considered good enough to associate with, she was easily the scariest person I knew. Obsessed with the rules- she put the whole dormitory in detention for letting Oscar come in to visit Aspen when she was feeling ill a month ago- and kind of, perhaps less explicitly, obsessed with blood status- she made Rose Weasley look like Hagrid.
(And Rose Weasley was a nightmare too, but in a different way. Veronica and Rose had enough hate between each other to start another war. Although I don’t know who’d fight in it; Veronica had her Pureblood associates, I suppose, and Rose had Parker Wills, another goth-punk type in the year obsessed with burning stuff. What was that called? Pyromania? Parker the Pyromaniac. And her best friend, Rose Weasley, the regular maniac.)
“This is fucking awful,” said Mikey, as he stood up to leave the Common Room that night. “I was literally boasting last night to a group at dinner how I’ve managed to avoid Clearwater for a consecutive two years now. Well. That taught me.”
“Quite funny on Teddy’s behalf,” said Liam, who was still red from laughing when Mikey told him. “I’m sorry mate, but it’s hysterical.”
“And he has rounds with her every night,” said Aspen, frowning slightly, staring over at the Hufflepuff table to her left. “Poor guy.”
I stood up, and stretched. “I did replacement rounds for Veronica when she had that stomach bug last year. Maybe she’ll let me do it with you two for a bit, since you’ve never really done it before.”
Mikey’s face lit up. “You’d do that, Effy?”
“Yeah, course. You helped me out with Albus-”
“Actually, I did most of it,” cut in Aspen, and Liam chuckled.
“Yeah, and I’ve finished my work for tonight. Besides, I’m in the mood for a walk. How bad can it be?”
Mikey put his arm around me in affection, squeezing me to his body in a semi hug. “Thank you so much. You life saver. I love you.”
“Yeah, duh,” I said, elbowing him. “Come on, let’s go.”
We walked out- he was to meet Veronica at the trophy cabinet by the Gryffindor tower- lazily chatting, neither of us really paying much attention to the conversation, the flickering candles making the shadows in front of us dance in an amber light.
“Do you hear that?” he said, as we approached the trophy cabinet. I could make out the silhouette of Veronica’s sharp bob, her slight body ahead of us. We paused. I thought it was a tactic to delay contact with Veronica for a few seconds, but as we stood beside a tapestry, I could make out the undeniable signs of a Hogwarts hook up; ripples in the fabric, quiet, yet not silent murmuring, heavy panting.
“Go on then,” I mouthed. “You’re the one doing rounds.”
He smirked, and ripped aside the curtain.
“Rounds,” he announced loudly and obnoxiously, as I peered over his shoulder to see the couple. It was a pretty, year above brunette, anxiously buttoning up her blouse- and James Potter, who stood there, his shirt wide open, his tie hanging around his throat, his usually messy hair even wilder than usual.
“You’re not a Prefect,” he said to Mikey, a slight smirk on his face.
“Yeah, I know,” Mikey replied, trying not to look at the brunette besides him pull her skirt up. “Filling in for-”
“-Teddy Oliver, I’m familiar with the timetable. And you’re not Clearwater,” he said, turning to me, the humorous look on his face vanishing, slowly replaced by a scowl of sorts.
“What a revelation,” I remarked drily.
Mikey looked between James and me, as the brunette ran off, her robe clutched in her hand, fluttering behind her.
“I don’t even know how to dock points,” Mikey said. “So I’m not going to bother.”
“Ten points from Gryffindor,” I said, in spite of myself. “Usual protocol is a detention, isn’t it, but I’m nice.”
James Potter stared at me. “Yes,” he said, after a moment. “I hear you’re more than nice.” And- with his shirt still unbuttoned, his trouser zipper still undone- he walked out of the tapestry, giving me a look as he retreated into the darkness.
And it was only halfway through my rounds with Mikey and Veronica- rounds in which she insisted on absolute silence- that I realised those words were exactly what Albus had said to me at Quidditch practise.
09/09/2016- those two last scenes are totally recent, as of last week. all my love xoxo
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