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Chapter 10 : some aloe vera?
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“I actually fought in the Battle of Hogwarts,” smirked Romilda, twisting her spaghetti around her fork. Romilda had long, black hair and big, dark brown eyes, coated feverously in mascara. Her eyebrows were thin and her skin was waxing, but she still maintained that pretty look she had in all the pictures of her and my mum at school.
As far as aunts went, Romilda wasn't the worst. She was an absolute nut, and never remembered birthdays, but that only meant I got an assortment of random presents throughout the year.
“And you tried to give Harry Potter a love potion,” added my brother, Jack.
“Jack!” hissed my mum, as my dad and I laughed. Romilda’s boyfriend, a handsome, olive-skinned man who didn’t look a day over 25, grinned, but looked slightly confused.
“No, no,” said Romilda, waving. “We were all a bit crazy when we were younger.”
“You more so than anyone,” said my dad, flicking his wand lazily to refill his glass of wine.
“I think it’s admirable how you fought in the war,” I said, earning a pleasant beam from Romilda. The dress my mum picked out for me for the upcoming Daily Prophet Christmas Ball was unsurprisingly disgusting, and Romilda had told me she’d talk to my mum about finding a new one.
“Why thank you, darling,” she said.
“Where were you during the war, dad?” my brother asked. Jack Wilderson was twenty years old, and a reserve Chaser for the Appleby Arrows. When he was at Hogwarts, he played on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and was still idolised by schoolgirls, two years on.
My dad shrugged. “I’m a Muggleborn, you know that Jack. I was lucky enough to be able to move in with an uncle in Massachusetts for a short period.”
“Italy doesn’t have wars,” added in Romilda’s new boyfriend. He was called Angelo, and spoke with a heavy Italian accent. “We just have dictators.”
My dad snorted whilst Romilda and my mum burst into laughter. “Oh Ange,” said Romilda, nuzzling his nose. “You’re so funny.”
Across the table, Jack and I exchanged glances.
“If war breaks out, will you enlist?” I asked Jack.
“Of course,” he said immediately.
“You’ll probably be drafted, anyway,” said my dad, sprinkling salt over his plate.
“Politics isn’t a suitable discussion for the table,” said my mum, brusquely. “It’s Effy’s first night back home, after all!”
“Yeah, let’s discuss Jack’s new girlfriend,” I said, grinning, as he threw a bit of meat at me.
“Jack!” cried my mum.
“Sorry,” he said, smirking at me.
“What girlfriend?” said Romilda, leaning into the table. “I thought you were dating a Muggle?”
“We broke up last month,” said Jack, lazily. “I’m seeing somebody else- and we’re not dating, it’s not exclusive, mum.”
“You broke up?” said my mum, surprised. “I had no idea- who’s this girl, Jack?”
“Darcy O’Connell,” I said, and across the table, Jack rolled his eyes.
“Darcy O’Connell?” asked my mum, and Romilda looked midly impressed. “Have I heard of her before?”
“Yep," said Jack, grinning proudly. "She's a model."
“Well he is a Quidditch player,” said my dad. “That is the cliché.”
“Yeah, he’s a sub,” I muttered, and Jack threw another piece of meat at me.
“JACK WILDERSON, STOP THAT THIS INSTANT-”
“Wasn’t she in Ravenclaw?” I asked, thinking back to the pretty blonde girl with long, willow legs and big lips.
Jack nodded. “I asked her if she knew you, and she didn't.”
“Bring her round!” cried my mum.
“No!” said Jack, and this time it was my turn to smirk at him, his outraged face. “We’re not really dating, mum! We’re just seeing each other. It’s different.”
“It wasn’t when I was a teenager,” my mum huffed.
“Mum, when you were a teenager it wasn’t dating, it was courting,” I said, and Jack and my dad burst out laughing. My mum pulled an annoyed face but then giggled, and as Romilda changed the subject to the Daily Prophet ball my dad winked at me from the head of the table, his bright blue eyes twinkling.
“You’re going away?” cried Oscar, outraged. “Wherever too?”
“Sweden,” said Aspen, sipping on her hot chocolate with a smug air.
“How long?” I asked, twirling my spoon in my lukewarm coffee. We were sitting in a café in West London, near Oscar’s house for breakfast, the first morning back, and already Oscar was complaining about something. He was looking very disgruntled at hearing of Aspen’s family’s spontaneous decision to go to Sweden, his perfectly trimmed eyebrows furrowed and his lips pursed.
“A week,” she said, beaming. Her golden blonde hair was straight, with perfect curls at the bottom, and her face was devoid of any make up, apart from mascara and a dab of concealer near her chin. She was wearing a baggy, crean cashmere sweater over a pair of light denim jeans, nothing fancy, and yet the two waiters behind the till were definitely ogling her, in all her quarter Veela beauty.
“And I assume you’re skiing?”
“Why, of course, Effy,” said Oscar. “It’s Sweden, what else is there to do?”
Aspen snorted, and I started counting names off my fingers. “So that’s you off to Sweden, Jasmine off to Morocco, Ophelia in Edinburgh, and Mikey, Al and Liam in Devon-”
“What are they doing in Devon?” asked Aspen, surprised.
“Camping,” said Oscar, exchanging disgusted looks with Aspen.
“Al said they invited you, Oscar,” I said, puzzled by their expressions.
“Yes, well, I wasn’t really paying attention, babe, until Liam mentioned the term sleeping bag and to be honest, it all went downhill from there on,” said Oscar, shaking his head.
“Why?” asked Aspen, interested.
“Oscar doesn’t keep plastic bags, let alone a sleeping bag,” I said, referring to Oscar’s loathing for anything he considers slightly middle class.
“I once knew a girl who had a sleeping bag,” said Oscar. “We’re not friends anymore. I wasn’t going to buy a sleeping bag for that Muggle Studies trip to Paris last year, and I’m certainly not purchasing one for this tacky camping trip with those losers.”
"They're you're friends," I said.
“Scorpius has a theory that Mikey and Liam are gay together,” Aspen contributed to the conversation.
“Isn’t Scorpius in France?” I asked Aspen.
“Oh yes,” she said. “And he said that Rose bloody Weasley is there, too!”
“She’s such a weirdo,” said Oscar happily. “Her and Parker Wills. They’re like this awkward throwback to well written and badly acted teen movies from the 1990s. It’s a no from me.”
“Ophelia said that she saw Rose in the Portkey office and she dyed her hair black,” I said, and Oscar looked delighted at the gossip.
“Rose is such a tacky name,” said Aspen. “Let’s not mention it.”
“Do we hate her?” asked Oscar excitedly.
“Aspen and I overheard her bitching about Aspen in the toilets the other day,” I said, and Aspen flicked her hair over her shoulder.
“We definitely hate Rose Weasley,” said Aspen.
“Fabulous. And please don’t decide halfway through that you actually want to try and tolerate her, darlings, once I’m set, I’m set. Like tennis. Bitching is my tennis. You know?”
“Princess Bitch,” I goaded, and Oscar nodded.
“That’s King Bitch to you, you slut. Speaking of slut, isn’t your date with James Potter tonight?”
Before I could open my mouth to respond, Aspen cut in bubbly. “Oh yes! What are you going to wear, Effy?”
“What I’m wearing now,” I said, and Oscar shooked his head vehemently.
“Are you a peasant? You’re going on a date, not some juvenile Hogsmeade weekend. No, seriously what are you going to wear?”
“Where’s he taking you?” asked Aspen.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, where are you meeting?”
“I don’t know.”
“Emily Davidson did not get run over by a horse for you to not know the details of tonight’s date!” cried Oscar passionately, slapping the table. “Girl power, baby, GIRL power! You’ll wear your hair down and tumbling, but not curly- Aspen, don’t you think there’s such a difference between tumbling and curly?”
“Definitely,” said Aspen, nodding.
“Tumble, Effy, tumble. Like Tumblr, but not Tumblr. Tumble.”
“Red lipstick, minimal eyeliner,” said Aspen, scribbling it all down on a napkin.
“Camel or khaki?” asked Aspen.
“I’m actually feeling navy!”
“I was just thinking of going in an onesie,” I said in a bored tone, and Oscar choked on his sparkling water.
“If you’re not joking, Elizabeth Wilderson, you can walk right out that door.”
“Of course, you idiot.”
“Good. Don’t ever scare me like that again. An onesie! My god. That trend died in 2012 and it’s not going to do a Jesus and come back alive after a bit, oh no.”
Aspen nodded in agreement. “Wear your new red lipstick.”
“Make that roasted plum,” said Oscar, leaning over Aspen and scribbling over her neat handwriting.
“You mean purple?”
“No darling, roasted plum. Lovely shade, would bring out your cheekbones,” said Oscar, happily. “Anyway, I must rush, Vivienne’s bringing her newest boyfriend round for lunch. He’s probably Asian, they all are. Or Jewish. She only dates the Oriental and the Jewish.”
“Oscar, you can’t say Oriental,” I said, as Aspen laughed. “It’s politically incorrect.”
“So are these disastrous physical education lessons next term, darling. Alright, kisses, love you both,” he said, standing up and delicately putting on his designer woollen coat, kissing the two of us on the cheek. “Tah rah for now.”
He whipped out a Muggle note from his wallet and placed it on the table, and left pretty sharpish as we watched him run outside and hail a taxi.
“At least he didn’t try to call down his yacht this time,” I remarked.
"One day he'll wake up a socialist," she replied. "And I cannot wait for that day."
Aspen laughed, and we spent the next hour lazily chatting, in the way that you can only do with close girlfriends, you know? We talked about Scorpius, James, what boys where overrated in our year and which boys were underrated; we discussed predictions for Al’s party next weekend, and argued over what we were to get Oscar for a Christmas present. She told me that she had a dream about having sex with somebody who wasn’t Scorpius and I assured her it wasn’t cheating, and she told me that she doubted James would try and go further on the date tonight.
“And if so, who cares?” she said.
“I’ve only been further with Mikey, and that turned out fucking fantastic.” It was in the Ravenclaw changing rooms during fourth year, and Danny Alton walked in on us.
Aspen laughed. “Owl me as soon as you get home,” she told me, before joining into the chorus of the cheesy Christmas song blasting from the radio.
“OH I WISH IT COULD BE CHRISTMAS, EVERY DAAAAAY-”
“Oh my God, shut up.”
“You know what, Effy? Why don’t you shut up? Like in a box. Shut yourself into a box. Yeah.”
I nodded at Aspen, who was looking very pleased with herself. “Good one.”
“Thanks, it’s been brewing in my head for over a month now. Might officially debut it at Al’s. Should we go?”
We had been sitting inside the café for over two hours, and it had steadily gotten busier. Aspen and I, after Oscar’s departure, had drank ourselves through six cups of cappuccinos and hot chocolates, and I scooped up the last crumbs of a muffin as Aspen hailed a waiter over for the bill.
“Thank you,” Aspen said gracefully, as the gangly, blonde waiter put down our cheque. “Should we half it?”
“Yeah,” I said, digging around in my wallet for the right change. We had a workshop on how to cope in the Muggle world in our second year, and Aspen never quite got to grips with Muggle money. “Aspen, just put down a tenner.”
The waiter looked slightly bemused. “Oh, Aspen,” I chuckled. “Classic foreigner, ha ha ha.”
“I’m not a foreigner, I’m from Norfolk- aha! Found a tenner.”
“That’s a five pound note.”
“Isn’t it the same thing?”
I rolled my eyes at her, and snatched her purse from her willow fingers. I fumbled around for the correct change, and then gave it to the waiter.
“Thank you!” I said, rising and grabbing Aspen by the elbow, thrusting us outside of the shop and into the bustling cold outside. It was already getting dark, even though it was only a few minutes past three, and thick white snowflakes lazily floated down. The cold air make my cheeks tingle, but the busy crowd of people walking past us, left and right, kept my limbs fairly warm.
To our left, a band was playing a Christmas song, slow and melodic, the type that my parents dance to in the late evenings of the holiday season, whenever it comes on the radio. Muggle stores flashed bright with sales and slogans, and my ears were saturated in laughter and chatter floating in from all around me.
“I love Christmas,” said Aspen dreamily, pulling her cream coloured coat over her arms. I was dressed in dark blue skinny jeans, a grey knitted sweater and burgundy trainers, and I followed Aspen’s lead by slinging my olive green parka over my arms.
“You look like a throwback to the 90’s.”
“Like your dear friend Rose?”
“Shut up. On the train yesterday- when you were off with James,” and she broke her speech to wolf-whistle- “she came to tell Al something, and she was wearing a choker. Can you imagine?”
“Just because you dress like a preppy princess, doesn’t mean everyone else has too.”
“And now apparently, she has black hair. I can’t work her out- she’s not a goth, like Julianna and Ella in Slytherin, but all she wears is black and tartan. And she’s sarcastic!”
“Oh no, sarcasm…”
“Maybe you, Rose and Parker all belong to some sarcasm convention,” shot Aspen.
She laughed and elbowed me, as we walked through the busy streets of Chelsea.
But then it turned four, the hour Aspen’s mum told her to be home, and the time I told my dad I’d be back. Aspen had said she’d apparate me home, and as we stood there in the toilets of some Muggle clothes shop, I had never been more scared in my life.
“Are you sure you can apparate?” I said.
“Yes! I’m really good at it, actually!”
“I’m terrified of splinching myself-”
“Shut up, have faith, you bitch. I’m amazing at this.”
I held onto her arm and squeezed my eyes shut, and suddenly it felt like I was being squeezed through a tube, a really narrow tube, that compressed my bones into bones and if that moment had gone on any longer, I could have sworn I would have thrown up-
“See!” said Aspen, triumphantly. I blinked, and we were just outside my house.
“Amazing,” I breathed, checking my body. “I haven’t splinched.”
“Thank you,” she said, smugly.
“Are you going to come in?”
“No, I need to be home now. Love you loads,” she said, as we hugged each other. “Remember to owl me as soon as you get back from the date! Or no- floo me! I’ll be in my bedroom alllllllll night-”
“Alright,” I said, grinning, my cheeks red hot from the cold. “See you later.”
“See you,” she smiled, as I twisted my keys through the door’s keyhole and Aspen apparated right next to me.
Three hours later I sat in my room, bored and verging on pissed off. I had washed my hair, and let it tumble, as Oscar had put it, into loose waves that cascaded down my shoulders and curling just above my ribcage. In the yellow light of the lamp by my desk, my hair looked even more boring than usual, the same dark shade of brown it’s been for my sixteen years of existence.
I was wearing dark blue skinny jeans and a dark purple knitted sweater that sat nicely on my hips and I kind of liked how if I raised my arms, the sweater would rise slightly and you could kind of see a layer of skin.
I drummed my fingers on my desk and looked out of the window, and then back at the clock. It was three minutes to seven, and James had said seven. He didn’t say where, but he said seven and oh my God, was I being stood up? Embarrassment and mild anger ran through my body, and I picked up a pen to doodle an axe being buried into a doodled James’ left ear.
“Honey, dad and I are going out now.” I whipped my head around and faced my mum, who was standing by the door. “You’re dressed nice- where are you headed, then?”
“I’m meeting Aspen in a minute,” I lied. “For Al’s birthday dinner.”
“Have fun, darling. Jack’s out too- we should be back by ten, and if you’re not back by eleven I’ll expect an owl.”
“See you later!” she beamed at me and closed the door, and a minute later I heard the front door slam shut. I glanced at my clock again, and it was a minute past seven. I continued with my drawing of James and the axe, and I began to feel quite impressed with myself. I hummed along to whatever song was on the radio, as I added a caption underneath the doodle. Big fat prick face. Then I finished it off with drawing three piles of poo up his arms, and I smirked at the drawing with immense satisfaction.
Suddenly, there was a sharp tapping by my window. I glanced at it, and all I saw was a moonlit sky, which is always nice to see in winter, no sarcasm. I returned back to my drawing.
Then the tapping happened again, and after the fifth tap I reluctantly rose from my desk and looked outside my window. It wasn’t until I looked onto the grounds of my front garden that I did a double take.
“What are you doing?” I called down to James.
“Getting your attention,” he called back up. He was leaning against the fence of my front porch, his hands in his pockets and his classic, cocky grin plastered on his face.
“Do you want me to come down?”
“No, I think I’ll come up.”
“What do you mean-”
“Accio Sapling 360!”
“Oh no-” I began, but it was too late; James had summoned his broomstick, which came flying out of nowhere, and he had flown up to my window, his face right by mine. I could see every single detail of him; his twinkling brown eyes, every hair of his thick eyebrows, the way the moonlight hit his long, slightly crocked nose, and the way the moonlight curved under his sharp cheekbones, his set jawline, that always slightly, kind of took my breath away.
“You going to invite me in then, Wilderson?” he said, and only then I noticed his red his cheeks were from the cold.
“I’d rather not,” I said.
“Well, you know. My bedroom. Haven’t really decorated it since I was ten years old. Bit embarrassing, really. Still got up all my Barbie and Ken posters.”
“I can see your room right now, Elizabeth, and I don’t see anything apart from a collage of you and your friends. Am I on the collage?”
“Good, you wouldn't be on mine. Come on, then, let me in.”
I scowled at him, and withdrew from the window. I watched him slide off his broomstick, and smoothly walk into my bedroom, tucking his mahogany broomstick under his arm. He ruffled the back of his hair with his other hand, and smirked at me.
“Want me to put the kettle on, then? Rustle up some biscuits? Bring out the guest slippers?”
“You have guest slippers? Yeah, go on then.”
I watched him as he thrust his hands into the pockets of his jeans, his broomstick still under the crook of his arm, as he walked around my bedroom. And I watched him as he watched the collage of moving photos I had up over my desk, his cheeks still pink.
I joined him by the collage, and watched him gently thumb under the photos I had been stacking on top of each other since first year. Most pictures were of Aspen, Oscar and me; we only really got into capturing memories in fourth year. One of my favourite photos of fourth year is of Mikey and me on a boat by Mikey’s house in Cornwall, on the creek he lived by. It was a glorious summer’s day, and Oscar, Liam, Aspen and I had spent the day there. Mikey and I were still dating, and he had his arm lazily wrapped around my shoulder, as we laughed at each other.
“That’s a nice one, Effy. Of you and Lancaster.”
“He’s called Mikey.”
James turned to me, and then turned back to the photos. I saw him smile slightly at a photo of Albus and I over breakfast, angrily shouting at Scorpius to put my camera away, and I saw him grin at a photo of my brother Jack and me.
“Oh yeah, I forgot your brother’s Jack Wilderson. He was my Captain until my fourth year.”
I smiled, and then I sighed as he raised his eyebrow at a picture of Mikey kissing my cheek with Liam next to him, rolling his eyes. It was taken this September, on the Hogsmeade trip before the Halloween one.
“Let’s go,” I said.
He turned to me and grinned, before he glanced at my desk.
“Noooo,” I drawled, as he picked up the drawing of him. He turned back to me and his grin grew bigger, as he stuck the doodle right in the centre of my pictures.
“Now I’m on your board,” he said, standing back and crossing his arms with satisfaction. “Yeah, let’s go.”
“Where are we going?”
“I haven’t decided yet. Is there anywhere you want to go?”
“Get on then,” he said, motioning to his broomstick. I rolled my eyes, and mounted his broomstick behind him, pushing my body behind his and leaning my head over his shoulder. I squeezed my eyes shut as he flew out of my window, and then I made him go back again to close the window.
“Can we go now?” he said impatiently.
“Where are we going?”
“I said, I don’t know. You’re looking absolutely beautiful, Wilderson, by the way.”
“Oh, thank you!”
He turned around and grinned at me. It was absolutely freezing, and I held onto him tighter than before as we rose higher and higher into the sky. It was totally cloudless, and the full moon hung to my left, turning James’ skin into ivory magnificence. His jaw, his cheekbones, his nose, his forehead… I kissed the skin where his jaw and his neck meets without even thinking, and he groaned quietly.
“Effy,” he murmured.
“Keep your eyes open,” I said, imitating Danny Alton at Quidditch practise. “Pay attention, Potter.”
“God, you’re annoying.”
With the moon being the only thing I could see apart from James right ahead of me, I could have sworn that in that minute, I had never felt so elated. Excitement and love pulsed through my body like wicked firecrackers, and I laughed into the strong winds we were flying against. My hair, so perfectly done, was flying wildly behind me, and I clutched onto James tighter than before.
We flew in perfect silence until he murmured something.
“Let’s go to Donny’s,” he said louder.
“Alright,” I said, not really knowing who Donny was but knowing that I was with James and I had never been happier in my life.
We eventually touched back down, and my little utopia was smouldered. I hopped off his broomstick, my legs feeling slightly numb, and looked around. We were in some kind of courtyard, some form of garden- I turned around and saw we were somewhere urban, and right by what looked like a bustling restaurant, loud with the sounds of chatter and laughter and jazz music.
“Welcome to Donny’s,” said James, who had returned from tucking his broomstick somewhere. He hoisted up his leather jacket, and I followed him inside a set of doors and into the restaurant ahead of us.
“Where are we?”
“Just off Notting Hill, London. Freddie, Alfie and I come here all the time, but Freddie’s ill and Alfie’s busy. Just you and me,” he said, grinning. “Hi- table for two, tah.”
I looked around me, at the Muggle joint. It was dimmed lighting, and a loud jazz band was playing, and I watched a few people dance to it. Waiters bustled around, pouring wine and holding plates of hot food, whilst customers, sat in pretty chairs, talked loudly and freely, like all good restaurants enable. It was a pretty place- nothing too fancy, nothing too posh, nothing too special. It was perfect.
“This way,” said a dark-haired waiter, and I followed him and James up an elegant flight of stairs and by a window table, overlooking a canal of some sort. Upstairs was much quieter than downstairs, I had noticed, and yet the jazz music still floated up the stairs. The moonlight hit the lazy ripples beautifully, and I turned to James, who was sitting down opposite me.
“Is this alright?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said, almost breathlessly.
He smiled. He didn’t grin, or smirk- he just smiled, and he had never looked so handsome. “Good.”
“Here are menus,” said the waiter, placing one in front of James and one in front of me. “Any drinks, mate?”
“I’ll have a Coke.”
“Not your usual, James?”
“Nah, mate.” I raised my eyes to him, and he shrugged. “I’m a regular.”
“And for you?”
“A lemonade, please,” I said, after quickly scanning the menu. I waited for the waiter to walk away, before turning to James. “A regular?”
He smirked. “Freddie, Alfie and I can’t go anywhere in Diagon Alley. We used to, but some Witch Weekly reporter would take a picture to insert on some back page, or some gang of girls would come over, you know.”
“Yeah, urgh, happens to me all the time. Quite the nuisance.”
“Well, I live near here, and the staff are all really nice. We’ve been coming here for the past year or two. It’s a bit of a trek for Freddie, they live in South London, but after he learned to apparate it was all okay.”
“What about Alfie?”
“Alfie’s dad lives a half hour’s walk from me. His mum, on the other hand, lives all the way in Liverpool.”
“So does Danny Alton,” I said, without thinking. “Oh yeah, sorry, I forgot you don’t like him. Why?”
James shrugged. “It’s not that I don’t like him, it’s just that he’s my toughest competition. Not only regarding Quidditch, but in school. He’s never liked being challenged for top spot in school subjects by a Gryffindor.”
“And do you get the top spots?”
“Well,” he said, leaning in. “I don’t like to brag.”
“Shut up. All you do is brag.”
“Now come on, Wilderson, we all know that’s not true,” said James, his eyes glinting.
“The first thing you said to me was that you’re the best at Quidditch in the whole school.”
“Really? When was that?”
“Third year- when I got the place of Ravenclaw seeker.”
“I thought the first thing I said to you was call you a pretty princess, and make some remark about Alton having sex with you in a broom cupboard,” he said.
“I remember that! I was fuming about it to Oscar and Aspen,” I said, laughing.
He leaned back, and smiled slightly. “Yeah, I actually broke up with Dahlia over it. I was fuming, too, I had never been cheeked by a girl who I wasn’t related to before.”
“So why did you break up with Dahlia?”
He smiled at me, and leaned back in, crossing his arms. “I told her about it, and I wanted her to say, yeah James, that sixth year was right, you can be a massive prick. Or whatever you wrote about me in that doodle. But instead she was all, awh baby, do you want me to speak to that awful slutty bitch Ravenclaw? And I didn’t like that.”
“Awh, baby,” I cooed.
“Fuck off,” he grinned, as the waiter arrived again, with our drinks.
“Want me to come back later for food?”
“Yeah, give us a minute, tah.”
I propped my chin on my hand, my elbow stood firmly on my napkin, and smiled up at the waiter. “Thank you.”
“Polite bird you got here,” said Dylan to James.
James smirked. “Cheeky gob.”
“Nah, you know what I’m like,” said Dylan, crossing his arms and turning to me. “You know the first time James and his lot came here, they drank almost our whole off-license and didn’t even throw up in the toilets?”
“Yeah, they do that on a weekly basis at school,” I said.
“Oh, do you go to that boarding school in Scotland too?” asked Dylan, looking interested. “Interesting. Anyway, I need to go now, Donny’s giving me a dirty look.” I half waved at Dylan’s back, and then turned to James.
“What?” said James, taking a sip of his drink and shrugging.
I laughed, and leaned in. “You have something on your chin.”
He leaned in too, propping his chin on his hand and looking into my eyes, smiling slightly. “You look good too.”
I smiled, and the band below us played a softer song, with a huskier voice and melodic, folky acoustics. “I’m flattered,” I said, and I could see every single fleck of gold in his brown eyes, glinting copper and amber in the dimmed candle light.
“I was being sarcastic, Wilderson,” he said, and he leaned in even closer, so our noses were almost touching.
“You want to borrow some aloe vera?”
“You wish,” I breathed, as he tucked a loose strand of hair behind my ear. James’ face was a little above mine, as he was taller, and I craned my neck into his hand, as he loosely wove his fingers around strands of my hair. I could smell him, that indescribable scent of tobacco and summer and something else that just made me grin like a giddy five year old.
“Yo! James, boy!”
I whipped my head around, and saw Freddie Weasley, Alfie Ronson, Eve Chang and Annie Delta walk up the stairs, Freddie dragging a table over to ours’.
“Wagwan, mate! Didn’t know you’d be in Donny’s!” said Freddie, brightly, taking a big gulp of James’ drink. “I tried ringing by your door but Harry said you were out.”
“I tried to stop him,” Alfie informed James quietly, and James raised his eyebrow at him. Alfie shrugged, and Freddie beamed to me from opposite James.
“Is that diet?” asked Annie Delta, sitting next to Freddie and leaning across Alfie to dip her finger into my drink. “No, it isn’t. Can I still please have some?”
“Just call a waiter, Annie,” said Eve Chang, waving at Dylan, the waiter who served him earlier. “He’s hot, isn’t he?”
“I’m hotter,” said Freddie, whipping his arm out and tensing.
“Stop showing off!” cried Annie, hitting him.
“Have you ordered?” asked Freddie, snatching James’ menu. “I think I’ll get a burger. What about you, Alf?”
“Same,” said Alfie, and Annie leaned over the table to take the menu from Freddie’s fingers.
“I think I’ll order a salad,” said Annie, running her slim fingers over the side of the menu, pursing her lips as she thought.
“Nah, I think I’ll spaghetti,” said Eve, leaning over Annie’s shoulder to read the menu.
“Going back to your roots then, Chang?” teased Freddie.
“I’m Chinese, not Italian, you dipshit,” said Eve.
“Still foreign,” Freddie shrugged.
Next to me, Eve nudged me and winked. “So what’s life without the pressure of NEWT revision, then?”
I smiled at her. “Fabulous.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot you’re sixth year,” said Alfie, looking at me and smiling. “What NEWTs are you taking?”
“Defence Against, Transfiguration-”
“Here’s the drinks!”
“Who ordered the two beers?”
“I’m not even surprised by now.”
“Are you sure this Coke is diet?”
“Shut up, Annie.”
“Yeah Freddie, maybe it’s Chinese.”
“They’re both Communist countries!”
“Fuck off, Alfie.”
Something kicked against my foot, and I turned to James, who rolled his eyes at me. Let’s go, he mouthed, and I nodded in agreement. He stood up and hoisted his leather jacket up, and I followed him, standing up and taking one final sip of my drink.
Freddie was engaged in a discussion with Alfie and Eve, and Annie was fiercely scanning the menu. I bumped into her as I walked past her chair, and she looked up.
“Where you heading, Effy?”
“Going to the toilets,” I said.
“Okay,” she chirped, and looked to Freddie as he called her name. James, hidden in the shadows, cocked his head towards the stairs, and I hurriedly followed him down the stairs and right out of the restaurant, into the cold winter’s night.
The street was pretty busy, and thick snowflakes fell down on us in a tirade, making my hair stick to my scalp and dripping off as little water droplets from James’ eyelashes. He grabbed me by the crook of my elbow and we ran through the streets, muttering half-hearted apologies to people we had bumped into and I burst into laughter when he apologised to a lamppost. We ran until the end of the road, until we came to a small, park-like area, and then I followed him as he jumped over the locked fence, swinging his legs over with ease and helping me down, even though I didn’t need it.
I looked up to him and he laughed, and I laughed too, until he slung his left arm around my shoulders and kissed me.
He wove his fingers in my hair and pulled my head gently up to meet his, and then dropped a hand to hold my back, push me further into his body. I lay my cold hand on the warm side of his neck, my other hand upon his chest, but then when it was obvious that my hand was only preventing our bodies being as close as possible I laid it over his shoulder, and he clutched me even tighter.
I would later learn that that night, temperatures had plummeted to below five degrees, making it one of the coldest evenings of the year. But I didn’t feel any of the icy weather as I stood there wrapped up in James, my hair soaked in the torrent of snow, water sliding off our faces and hands and fingers.
“Elizabeth,” he murmured into the crook of my neck, and started kissing me there.
“James,” I murmured back, clutching his hair. He then slowed down, and leaned his forehead against mine, our heavy breaths in sync with each other.
“Sorry about dinner,” he said hoarsely.
“I’m over it,” I replied.
We swung over the park gates again, and down the high street, stopping by a kebab shop. James bought an open wrap of chips, and he saturated it in salt and vinegar and ketchup, sheepishly grinning at me as we walked out of the place.
“Too much ketchup?”
I took a piping hot chip, and smeared the ketchup down the side of my face. “Ah, no, I’m bleeding.”
He snorted, and threw me a wooden fork, as we walked through the street. The sky was a dark orangey colour, tinted by the streetlights, and shops were closing whilst restaurants, pubs and cafes were thriving. Christmas music echoed through the street, as did the merry chatter from the people around us.
“Are you going to the Prophet Ball tomorrow night?” asked James, as he chewed on a chip.
“Yeah, are you?”
“Yeah,” he groaned, ruffling the back of his hair. “We go every year.”
“So do we!”
“I’ve never seen you around before,” he said, shrugging.
“We’d sit on different tables. I’d be in the Sports department, you wouldn’t.”
He snorted. “Yeah, I have the absolute delight of sitting with my dad and the rest of the war veterans- I bet the topic of discussion will be the upcoming war.”
“So do you think there will be a war?”
He looked at me, and nodded. “Susan Bones is against it, but the rest of the politicians are bored. That’s what my dad says, anyway. Wizarding Britain’s been peaceful for too long.”
“Yeah, God, how annoying is peace? It’s the worst,” I said, bitterly. “Fuck democracy.”
“You’re saying fuck democracy, but that’s the actual reason why we’d be going in in the first place,” James said smartly, and I knew he was right.
“I don’t see why we can’t just let America fight on humanitarian grounds. Their Auror army is ten times bigger than ours! And their military budget.”
“Because it’s not the honourable thing to do,” said James. “Imagine all the lives that would have been saved if another country had intervened when Britain was going through the past two wars.”
He didn’t say it, but the words like my grandparents lingered in the air. “And imagine all the lives that we’d sacrifice in order to fight.”
“Lives that would have died in bravery and chivalry-”
“Not if they’re drafting! Which they will be!”
“It is better to die fighting for others than fighting for yourself,” snapped James.
“Who said that?”
“I knew it! And I highly disagree!”
James turned on me, and he looked livid. “Alright, then,” he said coldly.
“Why should we draft thousands of young men into a war that doesn’t concern this country? America is more than capable of fighting by itself! It’s just bloodthirsty boys like you who want a chance to prove yourself-”
“You know what?” said James, holding up the palm of his left hand. “It’s fine. We don’t have to talk about politics. Let’s talk about something else instead.”
I looked up at him, and smiled. His nose was all red from the cold, and yet his cheeks were paler than ever, making his already prominent cheekbones look even hollower than usual. His hair was sticking up from the dampness in the air, and only then did I notice gentle snow was falling.
“It’s snowing,” I said, startled.
James raised his eyebrow and looked around him. “You’re right,” he said, after a moment. “London’s shit with snow, though. It just turns out to be some grey mushy shit on the pavement, none of the thick white stuff up in Hogwarts, a massive disappointment all round.”
“You sound like Professor Flitwick describing my Charms coursework,” I said, and he barked with laughter.
We kept on walking, through the streets of Soho and then through the long, majestic Regents Street, the whole road filled lit by Christmas decorations and restaurant lights. Jazz music emitted from a swing band playing nearby, and we passed it just as the saxophone embarked on a solo.
“I wish I could play an instrument,” I commented, looking at the player.
“There are so many things I wish I could do,” replied James, pulling me in tighter. His arm was around my shoulders, and my head fit in perfectly into the crook of his neck.
“Play chess,” he commented off-handedly.
“Yeah, you’re missing out on so much,” I drawled, and he snorted.
“I can’t draw, either.”
“Mm. At least you can conjure a patronus,” I said, in regards to what we would be studying next term in Defence Against.
“What do you think your patronus will be?” asked James. “Freddie’s is a donkey, how embarrassing.”
“Oh my God,” I moaned. “I bet you mine’s going to be something awful. I’ll probably end up as a hedgehog or something.”
“Hedgehogs aren’t that bad, a girl in my year’s a chicken.”
“I’m so not saying,” he said, looking down and me, a grin slowly appearing. “You won’t let me hear the end of it.”
“Is it a worm, or something?”
I burst out laughing, and I couldn’t stop, not when he demanded it, not when he pleaded, but only when his lips came crashing down onto mine, and we stood there, in the middle of the street, under the falling snow, kissing like it was the first time.
James was the sort of person who had an opinion on everything, and when there was something he didn’t know about, he would bluff his way through discussing it, just for the sake of discussion. It was practically impossible to run out of things to talk about- conversation flowed, sometimes at top speed when we were arguing, then sometimes slower, because we weren’t in a rush, we could talk all night.
“I think I might start a feminist society at school,” I said, in regards to the new societies cropping up, headed by sixth and seventh years desperate for something to put on their resumes. Except that I didn’t really care about my CV, I really wanted to have a weekly meeting discussing feminism. It was something that I had been thinking about for a while, and I really did think it would be a good idea.
“That is the worst idea I have ever heard,” said James.
“No, it’s innovative and exciting.”
“No, it’s kind of embarrassing.”
I frowned. “Why?”
“Because firstly, feminism just isn’t a thing anymore-”
“Oh wow, you are so wrong-”
“And secondly, do you want to embarrass yourself like that? I mean, honestly? A feminist society… Oh my god.” He started laughing, and laughed even harder when he saw my face. “Oh come on. Admit you can see why it’s funny.”
“No, it’s not funny. And feminism is still an issue! Just because women can vote and are equal to men in the eyes of the law, does not mean that the two genders are equal in social attitudes- we’re well into the twenty-first century and the Western world is still such a patriarchal society-”
“A war is about to break out in Russia and you’re concerned about social attitudes-”
“Just because you’re a heterosexual, white, middle class male does not mean the rest of us are!” I exclaimed, hotly. A few passerbys stared at me, because, in retrospect, I suppose I was screaming a little.
“Calm the fuck down,” ordered James, using his Quidditch voice. But you know, that just spurred me on even more.
“And don’t tell me it’s an embarrassing thing to do!”
“Well don’t do it!” said James, crabbily. “It’s so embarrassing-”
“Your aunt started up SPEW!” I cried, in regards to the animal welfare society at Hogwarts.
“Animals are different to women,” said James, shrugging it off. “Come on, Effy. A feminist society. It’s ridiculous, surely you must see that-? No? Look, look- Effy! It’s just not a good idea! I’m saying this because look, I really like you and I-”
“Why is advocating equality embarrassing and yet boasting about how many girls you’ve snogged in a night not? Don’t you see what’s wrong with this culture? And you know, if I went around bragging about the sexual conquests of the night the way a guy would, I would be called a slut, not a lad-”
“Did you hear what I just said?” said James, hotly.
“Did you hear what I just said?” I demanded, matching his tone. “You’d so happily fight for the rights of Muggleborns in Russia, and yet when it comes down to the women in your life you wouldn’t even join a society-”
“And anyway,” said James, coolly. “You can’t go around bragging about sexual conquests, because you haven’t exactly done anything yet, have you?”
I didn’t really know what to say to that. All I knew was that it was a bit of a slap to the face, and I think I must have gasped in shock, which, when thinking about it in retrospect, is a bit embarrassing. So I simply turned around and walked off, ignoring him calling my name behind my back and apologising at the top of his voice, walked all the way to Charing Cross, where when approaching The Leaky Cauldron, I floo’ed to Aspen’s.
The reviews are so so great and I so so love them, I realise this sounds kind of insincere as I type but I mean every word! With teachers putting more and more emphasis on future careers and roles with every week, your review on not only the story but my writing mean so much to me as an aspiring writer. That sounds really cliche, but I suppose I am quite cliche. I'm reading this out loud as I'm typing and my friend's just told me to stop with the cringe, so I'll stop with the cringe.
I don't own Tumblr (David Karp) and I don't own Made in Chelsea (Channel4 Productions) which is kind of what I used to base the Aspen/Oscar/Effy scene on I suppose? I don't own anything you recognise, yeah. Also!! The chapter description is an extract from California English, a song by Vampire Weekend.
I hope this is okay, please keep on reviewing! If you don't to teach me a lesson over my disgraceful updating I'll understand. xoxo
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