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Chapter 13 : labradors, hedgehogs
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“Think of a happy thought,” said Mikey irritably, as he always got. Mikey never really understood that others weren’t on the same intellectual level as he was, and he often accidentally found himself upsetting people in our year through this. “Come on, you’re loaded- think about doing a shit on a mountain of galleons, or whatever rich people do.”
“What were you thinking about before?” I asked, looking up from my essay.
“First time I learnt how to fly,” Scorpius said, rolling back his sleeves and sinking back into his chair. “This is fucking useless. Even if I do learn how to conjure a patronus, it’ll end up being a worm, or a pigeon, or something.”
“We don’t learn the animal form of our patronus until next lesson,” I said.
“Well, I already know mine.”
“We know,” I snapped, and Mikey grinned smugly. He and Teddy Oliver were the only ones in our year to not only learn how to conjure a patronus, but their patronuses didn’t float in small silver wisps like Oscar, Al and Nancy Cameron-Scott’s, but took on full corporeal patronus form.
Teddy Oliver’s was a little bear cub, and his girlfriend of two years- a blonde Hufflepuff called Rachel Tate, did not stop squealing about it.
“Oh, how cute!” she mused, clapping her hands excitedly. Aspen turned to me with an annoyed look on my face, and I knew what we’d be complaining about tonight.
“Maybe think about you and Aspen?” I asked, turning to Scorpius.
“Mm, I tried that,” he said, and then looked in the distance to think again. I shrugged, and turned back to Mikey.
“What was your thought?”
He smirked at me. “Snogging you behind the Quidditch stands.”
“Oh fuck off. No, seriously,” I said, laughing.
Mikey’s smirk turned into a smile, and he shrugged sheepishly. “Mine actually was learning how to fly for the first time,” he said. “I was so worried I was a Squib when I was ten, I hadn’t displayed any signs of magic.”
I grinned, and then turned to my parchment. I had written a few lines on the theory of the corporeal patronus, but I didn’t know what else to say. Mikey had offered his essay, but his handwriting was so illegible I had learned not to even both in second year. I was going to ask Scorpius, and just as I looked up to him he suddenly jumped.
“Oh my God,” he said, his eyes wide.
“What?” I asked.
“Look,” he breathed. He bit his lip and muttered expecto patronum under his breath, and I watched thick wisps of white smoke emit from his wand, coiling and dancing in the air.
“Good one, mate,” said Mikey, grinning. “Was it Aspen, then?”
Scorpius looked pale. “Shit. I need to go.”
“Wait- I can teach you how to make it corporeal! Scorpius!” hissed Mikey, but Scorpius was already bundling his parchment and books back into his bag, slinging his robes over his shoulders and closing his ink bottle.
“You alright?” I asked him, but he was already walking away from us.
I turned to Mikey, frowning. “What was that?”
Mikey shrugged. “I dunno.”
After a minute of studying in silence, I stood up, slinging my robes off my arms.
“Where are you going?” asked Mikey, not looking up from his parchment.
“Find a book on patronuses,” I said, and that was kind of the truth, because I did need extra information, and our Defence professor recommended trying the library. But there was, of course, another reason why I got up.
I walked over to the Defence Against area of the library, the DADA sign that indicated the two rows of tall, slightly uneven and very full shelves looking tatted and worn out, as it had been since my first day of Hogwarts.
I had seen him come in with his friends a few minutes after we did, and I couldn’t concentrate since then. He plagued my thoughts and clouded my subconscious, ever since I ran into him a week ago by the Gryffindor tower.
I didn’t even glance at his table when I walked by it- I had done enough secret glancing when I was with Scorpius and Mikey, looking at him out of the corner of my eye. James, Alfie and Freddie had their table absolutely covered in papers and books, parchment and quills, and their laughter and loud bickering had gotten the attention of the librarian more than once.
I turned to the bookcase, my fingers gliding over the broken leather book covers, shades of purple and red, navy and brilliant green, all slightly mulled by their age.
I turned around, and smiled. “Hey.”
He smirked at me. “I need to get a book.”
“Do you want to move?”
“I was here first.”
“Alright then, Wilderson,” he said. And then he pressed his body up against mine, trapping me between himself and the bookcase behind me, and I was intoxicated by his smell, his undying smell of cigarettes, of summer, of fresh laundry. Something musky and something fruity, something cleaner and purer.
He held onto to a shelf and thrust his hand to grab a book on the top shelf, and my eyes met his mouth. It smelt of cigarettes and the strawberries that were offered as dessert for lunch today, and I noticed his lips were redder than usual.
He looked down at me, and I swear that we had never been physically closer before, his body pressed so tightly against my body.
“I’m fine,” I said breathlessly, looking up at him.
He smirked, and then suddenly he stepped back, his hand still holding the bookshelf that I was leaned up against.
“Got it,” he said.
I tilted my head, and looked at the cover of it. “Animagi isn’t a part of the NEWT syllabus.”
He cocked a grin. “And I suppose you can explain your sudden interest in the second year syllabus?”
“What do you mean-” and then I noticed I had been hovering by the lower school Defence aisle, and that all the OWL and NEWT books were on the shelves opposite me.
He smirked, tucking the book under his arm and crossing them. He leaned against the bookcase, facing me, and tilted his head slightly. “What’re you studying?”
I took a strand of hair and looped it around my thumb and forefinger. “Patronuses.”
“They’re always fun,” he commented. “I was the second in the year to produce a corporeal form- Alexander Boot in Ravenclaw was the first, annoyingly enough. What’s your form?”
“I haven’t produced one yet,” I said, looking away, and then I looked back at him. “Stop laughing! It’s not about the magical ability, is it, it’s about the strength of the memory of the individual, and I haven’t got any!”
“Don’t be silly,” he said, his mouth curved in a smirk as he leaned towards me. “What memory are you using now?”
“My first time on a broom-”
“How generic,” he said, rolling his eyes. “You can do better than that, Wilderson.”
I crossed my arms and sank further into the bookcase. “Oh really.”
He stroked the skin by my ear, and his thumb grazed my temple. “You’re not thinking deeply enough,” he said. “You’re too scared to actually think of your actual happiest memory, so you convince yourself it’s something easier to explain, like flying.”
“But I like flying-”
“Yeah, and I like pissing off my cousin Molly, but that doesn’t mean it feels me feel good inside enough to conjure a patronus.” He drew closer to me, and looked over my shoulder before looking back at me. “I need to get back to Freddie and Alf.”
“Alright,” I said.
“Remember what I said, Wilderson,” James called, and he walked away towards Freddie Weasley and Alfie Ronson, the latter smiling at me as James sat down next to Freddie, and handed the book on animagi over.
That night, I was reading a book on patronuses that Al had leant me in the Ravenclaw dormitory. I was in my pyjamas- a dark grey Appleby Arrows tee-shirt that was three sizes too big for me and navy gym shorts- and my washed hair was in a French braid down my back, the dampness of it chilling the back of my neck.
Veronica Clearwater wasn’t in, which was a relief, but she had been avoiding me ever since the day after the scene in the PE changing rooms. Jasmine had confronted her in the changing room afterwards, and Jasmine was really intimidating if you weren’t friends with her. She had a bold, brazen streak to her nature and a cockney London accent which came out when she was angry, and she was also more likely to use Muggle ways of fighting, rather than wand work, in which Veronica would trump her easily.
Aspen wasn’t in, either- the only person who was in the dormitory was Riley Connelly. She had her dirty blonde hair in two long braids, and her massive, circular glasses were perched on the end of her thin nose. She had also produced a Patronus, apparently, in the other Defence Against class of our year, and Al told me it took on the form of a dove.
Riley wasn’t really friends with Veronica- Veronica hung around with a group of Slytherin girls. Riley was close with the two other Ravenclaw girls, Lisa Pacino and Nancy Cameron-Scott. The three of them were nice enough, I suppose, although I didn’t talk to them much, for Lisa didn’t like Aspen. I think this was because Lisa dated Liam Finnigan in Fourth Year, and Aspen decided she liked Liam, and spent the term trying to break the two up.
“How did you produce a corporeal patronus?” I asked, suddenly, snapping my book shut.
Riley looked up. “Pardon?”
“How did you produce a corporeal patronus?” I repeated, tilting my head slightly and bringing my braid around to my chest, playing with it.
“Oh,” said Riley, looking surprised. “Oh, I- I don’t know. I just thought about my dad, and it came out.”
“Your dad?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said, nodding. “He died when I was ten.”
“Oh my God!” I cried. “I’m so sorry- I had no idea, Riley!”
She shrugged, and smiled. “It’s fine. You just have to think of something really happy, you know?”
I nodded, and smiled back at her. “Oscar told me you produced a dove. That’s so cool.”
“Thanks,” she said, looking pleased. “My boyfriend’s is a puffin, so that’s cool, how they’re compatible.”
“Who’s your boyfriend?”
“Lucas Cohen, in the year above,” she said, blushing slightly. Lucas Cohen? He was a tall, lanky boy in Ravenclaw, with olive skin and messy black hair. He, like Riley, was artistic, and had a quiet yet quirky charm to them. I think he was friends with Danny Alton, and I made a mental note to ask him about Lucas at Quidditch practise.
I grinned, and prompted my elbow on my thigh, and then leaned my head on my hand. “I don’t know anything, Riley. That’s so cool- he’s quite fit, isn’t he?”
She rolled her eyes. “He thinks he’s a lot fitter than he actually is,” she said. “And don’t worry, it’s only been a month.”
“How did you two meet?”
“Actually, we met at the Ravenclaw and Gryffindor match,” she said, closing her book. “Nancy went to the toilet, just as Lucas and his friends came to ask if somebody was sitting by us- the match was just starting, you see, and the Ravenclaw stands were all full.”
“That’s so exciting,” I gushed. “Riley! That’s so cool! You’re dating a year above!”
“Yeah, I mean, I know it’s materialistic and stuff, but it’s so much cooler when they’re older, isn’t it?”
“So much,” I said.
“What about you and James Potter? If you don’t mind me asking,” she added, looking interested.
I shrugged. “Honestly, I have no idea. I can’t work out if he likes me, or if he finds me the most annoying girl in this school.”
“I’m sure he doesn’t,” she comforted. “NEWTs are really stressful, it’s probably that.”
“Yeah, I know, but it’s like-”
“Me and Scorpius just broke up.”
I spun around, and saw Aspen standing by the door. I jumped up and ran to her, and after looking at her tear-streaked face, I threw my body around her in a hug.
“Oh my god,” I said, stroking her hair. “Are you okay? Why?”
She took a deep breath, and sat down on her bed, looking up and tugging on her hair as she does when she’s upset. “I suppose I saw it coming,” she said, after a moment. “It was mutual. It just wasn’t working out like it did before, you know?”
I stroked her hair, as she continued. “It hasn’t been the same since around November, when we went through that stage of non-stop arguing. Like, I feel like I can’t trust him, and he felt like I was clingy.”
“Do you think you’ll ever get back together-”
“No,” she said, quietly. “I think that’s the end. I’m going to go shower now.”
“Are you sure-”
“I’m fine,” she said, and rose from her bed. I turned to Riley, but once again she was engrossed in her book. And I still couldn’t conjure a patronus.
It was around twelve, and I had given up. Dementors were banned from Britain in 1998, and I quite like Britain, I don’t really have any intentions of leaving this Dementor-less land- was a patronus really necessary? Not at all, I comforted myself smugly.
It was dark, and everyone else was sleeping. Aspen had said she wanted an early night, and closed the curtains around her bed straight after she came out of the shower. I had gone down to the Common Room to try and find Mikey or Liam, who might have been able to give me more information on what happened, but they didn’t know anything either.
“Hey,” whispered a voice.
I turned around sleepily. Of course it was Aspen.
“Come here,” I murmured, scooting over in my bed.
“I’m not okay.”
“Of course you’re not, honey.”
“I’m so upset.”
“I know you are.”
She climbed into bed with me, and I wrapped my arms around her.
“I think it’s for the best though,” she said, continuing to whisper. “Now I can concentrate on my NEWTs, and we’re still friends.”
“Was it mutual?”
“Yes. I suppose I had been feeling it all along. It was going to have to end at some point, Effy.”
“I know babe,” I said, stroking her hair. “You did the right thing.”
“It happened after dinner,” she said. “He wanted to speak to me, and I had a feeling I knew what it was going to be about. We walked in silence for a bit, and then he said, maybe we should try another break. And then I said, no, maybe it would be better if we called it quits. And then we hugged for a bit, and we spoke about other stuff, and decided to remain friends.”
“But that’s the best way to do it though, isn’t it?” I whispered. “Not like Ophelia and Ruddy last year, when they both tried to hex each other’s noses off.”
She giggled. “Yeah,” she agreed. “It’s just weird, not having Scorpius as a boyfriend.”
“But at least you still have him in some form,” I said.
I could hear her nod in the darkness. “Love you, Effy.”
“Love you too, As.”
And we fell asleep like that, our bodies entwined, like seven-year olds at a sleepover party.
Aspen and I walked down to breakfast together the next day, talking quietly about what to expect from the upcoming days. Her relationship with Scorpius was well-known throughout the year (to be fair, any relationship that lasted over a month was) and Scorpius and Aspen, like all beautiful people, drew instant opinions towards themselves and their relationship.
She wasn’t wearing any make-up, but her hair was blow-dried and done in a loose braid down her left shoulder. She smiled politely at people who had looked up to her with interest, obviously hearing the news, and didn’t break her poker face until we slid onto a bench opposite Jasmine and Ophelia.
“I hate our year,” she muttered darkly, grabbing a banana.
Jasmine looked up from the week’s edition of Witch Weekly, and grinned. “Welcome to my world.”
“Are you alright, babe?” asked Ophelia, rubbing Aspen’s hand.
Aspen smiled, and nodded. “It could be a lot worse, you know? I just suppose it feels weird.”
“This is why I don’t do relationships!” cried Jasmine.
“No, Jas, you don’t do relationships because you don’t understand the laws of monogamy,” Ophelia said drily, and I grinned at her.
“Aspen!” I turned around, and saw Mikey, Liam and Oscar run towards us, and it was Mikey who called her name.
“Oh darling,” said Oscar, pushing me aside to hug her. “I am so sorry. You’re fabulous, so much better than he is-”
“Hey!” cried Ophelia. “We laid dibs on Aspen for breakfast!”
“No fair,” Mikey argued back, pointing his finger around. “We’ve known her longer.”
“We’re girls,” Jasmine said, irritably. “We know how to handle this sort of stuff. You’ll just spin some Quidditch metaphor and compare Aspen to some Elle Delacour model.”
“Actually, no, you’re wrong,” said Mikey, and it was clear that that was exactly the speech he had in mind. “I was going to offer her the eternal love and support of the Michael Lancaster committee.”
“I was going to tell Aspen a story about an old Irish folk story,” said Liam, his Irish accent even bolder than ever. “Here, Aspen, I gotta good story for you-”
“No, no, no no,” emphasized Mikey, his voice, sharp and upper class contrasting against his best friend’s. “I wanted to tell her a story-”
“You’re like, best friends with Scorpius,” I said. “Shouldn’t you be throwing him a pity party?”
“He’s got Al,” said Mikey, shrugging it off.
“And he’s a guy,” added Liam.
“With all the firewhiskey running in the Slytherin black market-”
“Guys!” cried Aspen, suddenly, and all our bickering ceased. “I’m fine. I appreciate your concerns, but I’m doing just fine.”
I beamed. “That’s my girl.”
“See?” said Jasmine, turning to Oscar. “I definitely influenced Aspen’s independence and sass.”
“Of course, darling,” said Oscar smoothly, and as soon as Jasmine turned to Mikey, he started shaking his head violently.
I rolled my eyes, and picked up an apple. It was a sunny morning, and even though the walk from the Ravenclaw common room to the Great Hall had been freezing, there wasn’t a single cloud in the cornflower blue sky. Perfect weather conditions for the Hufflepuff and Slytherin match next Saturday, I mused.
“We should get going,” I said, standing up. “We’ve got Defence next.”
“First period doesn’t start for another twenty minutes!” cried Ophelia, looking slightly upset.
“She just wants to conjure a corporeal patronus,” said Mikey, lazily.
“Oh, so do I,” said Oscar, excitedly, breaking off from his murmured conversation with Aspen, his hands clenching hers. “I want a really good one, like a lion, or a tiger. Something fancy, to put on my shield as I ride into war…”
“A hedgehog?” cried Oscar, as I rolled on the floor with laughter and Aspen cried big, salty tears.
“I can’t even,” she choked. “I’m dead.”
“Your patronus is a hedgehog!” I cackled, clutching onto my sides. “HA!”
“At least I can form one!” he shot. “Maybe it’s a superior breed to a squirrel…”
“No, babe, it’s a hedgehog,” I said, as I watched it scurry around Mikey’s patronus of a golden retriever. The big, handsome dog barked, and the hedgehog scurried away.
“Good, Mr Green,” said our Defence teacher, Professor Lewis. “Very impressive. Miss Spinelli and Miss Wilderson, if you don’t compose yourselves I’ll simply have to send you out.”
“Sorry, Professor,” we murmured, and I tried not to catch Aspen’s eye as we stood up and brushed ourselves down.
Aspen had cheered up a considerable amount since breakfast, but I think this was largely due to her not seeing Scorpius all day, and hearing from Al that he was just as sad as she was. Additionally, Aspen had managed to produce a patronus within the Defence Against double lesson, and it was a beautiful gazelle that Aspen conjured again now, beaming at the gliding, silver animal.
“It’s so pretty,” she purred. “Urgh, Mikey, tell your patronus to stop being so annoying!”
“It’s not my fault that Archie likes deer,” Mikey shot back from the other side of the classroom.
“You named your patronus?” Declan Ainsley, a Ravenclaw, asked him doubtfully.
“Course, bro,” said Mikey happily. “Archie, ‘cos it rhymes with Effy, and she can’t conjure a patronus.”
“Language, Miss Wilderson! Fifteen points from Ravenclaw- and you’re lucky that’s not a detention, young lady!” Mikey howled with laughter and I glared at him.
“I hate you,” I hissed, as Mikey swanned over to us.
“No you don’t,” he said, lazily, and sliding into a seat next to mine. “Do you want to discuss how Danny Alton came running into my dormitory at four in the morning today, just to double check that our next match wasn’t for another month?”
I burst out laughing. “Classic Danny. That’s not as bad as Winona Franklin, though, she used to hang voodoo dolls of the other team’s captains in her room.”
“Oh yeah, I heard that. So are you rooting for Hufflepuff or Slytherin?”
“Slytherin, of course.” Ravenclaw played the winner of the upcoming game, and it was considerably easier to play Slytherin than Hufflepuff, due to Slytherin adopting the age of tactic of more brawn, less brain.
“Cheers, Effy,” said Teddy Oliver, turning around from in front of me.
I gasped. “I forgot you were the Hufflepuff seeker!” I cried. “No hard feelings-”
“Nah, don’t worry about it,” he said, grinning lazily.
“I’m not cheering for anyone,” Oscar contributed. “In fact, I don’t even know if I’m going to go. I hate the new Quidditch uniforms, like, what’s the point?”
“What do you mean?” Teddy asked, frowning slightly.
“Your bums don’t look half as good-”
“Shut up Oscar,” said Mikey, throwing a scrunched up paper ball at him, and we laughed as Oscar successfully dodged it, and it hit Rose Weasley instead.
“Fuck off,” she said sharply, turning around and giving Mikey a dirty look. Parker Wills, Rose’s only considerable friend, also turned around, and shot an identical glare at Mikey.
“Rose!” cried Mikey, dramatically clutching his heart. “Rose! Rosalina! Rosanna! Rosabella!”
“You’re so annoying,” shot Parker, and Rose nodded in agreement. I tilted my head slightly, and looked at Rose. Her hair was back to its usual shade of dark red, after dying it black over the winter, and I wondered if that had anything to do with parental input. She wore noticeable eyeliner, but so did I; however, mine was just above the eyelids in a quick flick, but Rose’s was around the eyes, making them look bigger and more dynamic than they really should. She could be pretty, if she didn’t look so striking and yet bored all the time.
The bell went suddenly, signifying the end of the double Defence lesson.
“If you haven’t yet conjured a patronus,” Lewis called from the front, “I expect one to be produced by Monday, or you’ll be seeing me for lunch sessions until you can produce one.” I thought this was a bit unfair, as some people might not have any happy memories, just considerably mediocre ones. “Weekend homework is to answer questions three to seventeen in your NEWT Defence books on patronus forms. Due in next lesson. Have a good weekend,” he called as we filed out, “and good luck to all players for tomorrow’s match!”
“As if,” muttered Teddy under his voice. “He hasn’t turned up to a single Quidditch game since the final in third year.” I laughed, and said bye as we went our separate ways.
“I’m so excited!” cried Aspen, happily. “I produced a patronus!”
“Alright,” I said tiredly, but then I felt mean, because Defence was one of Aspen’s worst classes, and she sufferer a nervous breakdown whilst revising for the OWL.
“We are telling the others that my patronus is a horse,” said Oscar determinedly. “Or a panther, or a lion- you are not to tell anyone that my patronus is a-”
“Hey, Oscar!” said Ophelia chirpily, siding up to the three of us with another Hufflepuff girl, Eve Feltham. “I hear your patronus is a hedgehog!”
“No it is not!” he snapped. “It is a dragon!”
“I haven’t been able to produce one,” said Eve, frowning.
I beamed. “Same!”
“I mean, I know I don’t do Defence for a NEWT, but I’ve been trying it in my dormitory and it is so hard!” Eve continued, and my smile dropped.
“Ha!” cried Oscar, excitedly. “Exactly! At least I can produce a patronus!”
“Yes,” I said tiredly, “but it’s a hedgehog.”
After dinner that night, there was a meeting in one of the bigger Transfiguration classrooms, compulsory for all students taking Mermish NEWT. It wasn’t a very popular subject- not like Defence, or Charms- and out of the two years combined, there were only thirty students in the classroom, ten from our year and twenty in the year above.
“Sorry, Az,” I said, rising from the table. “It’s compulsory.”
“Oh, that’s quite all right,” said Ophelia, cheerfully, coming up and linking arms with Aspen. “She can come with us to the library.” Aspen’s face cheered up considerably after hearing she won’t be walking alone to the common room, and I left them to walk with Oscar and Mikey.
Most of the Mermish NEWT students were Ravenclaws- in fact, the only students that weren’t in my house was Teddy Oliver, Ruddy Walcott and Janet Raisenbeck, a girl from Slytherin. Mermish was only offered as a NEWT to twenty students every year, and most Heads of Houses discouraged their students from taking it, according to Albus, who was also offered to take it- except for Flitwick, for Mermish was a skill pioneered by Ravenclaw house, he told us excitedly.
“I bloody wish it wasn’t,” muttered Mikey, as the three of us walked into the classroom. We spotted Declan Ainsley and Nancy Cameron-Scott, two other Ravenclaws in our year, and I followed him towards them.
“I wonder what it’s about,” Declan pondered. “Do you think there’s going to be a class trip?”
“What, to the Black Lake?” asked Nancy. “I hope not- oh, hey, Janet…”
“Hey nerds,” said Ruddy, throwing his body down on the bench, beside Oscar. “It’s an honour to be spending this fine evening with simply the crème de la crème of Hogwarts’ society-”
“Shut up, Ruddy,” said Teddy Oliver, in a good-natured manner as he sat down next to Ruddy.
“How come you take it, Ruddy?” Mikey asked, leaning over me to address the smirking Gryffindor.
“I had to learn Latin in prep school, and Latin and Mermish are sister languages,” explained Ruddy. “And, of course, I’m a brilliant all-rounder with a flair for academia.”
“That genuinely sounds like the caption of a biography about me,” said Mikey pensively.
“Come on now,” I said, squeezing Mikey’s cheeks. “They only write biographies about important people-”
“I’m not saying I’m Harry Potter or anything, but yeah, I consider myself an individual with the potential to be-”
“Important, sure,” I interrupted. “For the wider Wizarding community.”
“To know about when you’re locked up in Azkaban-”
“For what? Being able to conjure a patronus?”
“You are so annoying-“
“Lancaster! Wilderson!” snapped Deputy Headmaster, Professor Sinatra, and I noticed James, Freddie Weasley and Alfie Ronson walk into the room and take the leftover seats by the back of the room. “The two of you didn’t shut up when I had you for Astronomy in fourth year, and it’s clear that some things don’t change around here!” Sinatra always liked us- she was the sort of teacher who called upon her favourites, and I could catch the twinkle in her eye.
From in front of us, Danny Alton whipped his head around and gave us a disappointed look. I glared at him, and Mikey stuck out his tongue.
“Ha!” cried Ruddy, “I’m telling you Professor, they’re definitely going to shag sometime soon-”
“That is quite enough, Walcott!” yelled Sinatra. “Twenty points from Gryffindor for inappropriate language- God, your year is a pain. Okay, so Mermish students- I’m sure you’re all wondering why you’re here tonight…”
I turned to Ruddy, who was sitting back, his arms crossed, and a massive smirk on his face. “You should be locked up, Ruddy. A true danger to society.”
“Come on,” he said lazily. “The Gryffindor lads have a bet going on all the couples who are going to have sex at the Valentine’s Day party me and Louis are throwing, and you two are number two on our list.”
“Course we are,” said Mikey, throwing his arm around me and cupping my chin. “My ickle wickle Effy-kins-”
“Urgh,” I said, pushing him off me and shooting Ruddy a dirty look. “You’re both so annoying.”
“You’re both so annoying,” said Ruddy, intimidating my voice.
I elbowed him. “Okay, so, firstly, I do not speak like that.”
He grinned at me, and Mikey stretched, doing that annoying thing they do when boys get their arms to line against the back of the bench, his fingers drumming on Ruddy’s shoulder. Aspen said it had something to do with male dominance, but Mikey was about as male-dominating as Oscar’s hedgehog.
“Slight changes to your course… Instead of learning about the tenses in such vivid intensity, we’ll be exploring and testing out vocal abilities of each students in a series of controlled assessments this spring…”
Our Mermish teacher, Professor Mendeleev, had a very droning voice- totally monotone, with a slight Russian accent. I yawned, and looked over at Mikey- he, too, was looking exhausted, his eyelids droopy and stifling a yawn with his left fist. He was taking eleven NEWTs this year, and I knew he often worked until three in the morning completing essays.
Oscar had his glasses on, and was scribbling down notes at such a rapid pace I’m sure it didn’t match Mendeleev’s vocal speed. Knowing I could easily borrow his notes, I leaned my head against Mikey’s, crossing my arms and clutching my robes tighter against me.
Mendeleev went on and on and on, and Oscar shot me an exasperated look when Ruddy fell asleep on his shoulder. Peasant, Oscar mouthed, and I smirked. Mikey’s eyes, too, were closed, and I gazed around the room, looking at different people.
Danny Alton and his group of Ravenclaw friends were discussing something quietly in front of us, and to their left, a trio of girls were looking at the week’s edition of Witch Weekly. I remembered that the year above has twice as many Mermish students as our year did, which explained why I didn’t really recognise many people.
But then as my eyes rotated around the room, I noticed somebody I did recognise. James was sitting perfectly straight, his left arm around the back of the bench like Mikey’s was- although, I only just noticed how Mikey’s arm had snaked to being around my shoulders, rather than at the back of the bench like earlier on. He had a pair of glasses on, and was writing down notes with in a lazy, reluctant manner. Alfie Ronson, to his left, had his arms crossed, and was merely watching Mendeleev; Freddie Weasley, however, was quietly murmuring to a girl from Slytherin, with pretty blue eyes and big, pink lips.
I caught James’ eye, and he looked at me, as I looked at him. He was so perfect looking, you know? His every feature looked to be sculpted lovingly by some higher being; the way his hair was so messy, a dark shade of brown that glinted warmer shades in the amber lighting of the fire brackets in the room. His cheekbones, his jawline, the slight curve of his temples- his thick, straight eyebrows and his full, slightly chapped lips. I could see his dark brown eyes beneath his glasses, and they were looking straight at me.
I don’t know how long we looked at each other, but just as I was about to draw away, he smirked lazily at me, and I smiled back.
The next day was Saturday, the match between Hufflepuff and Slytherin. Like the day before, it was a beautiful sunny day, and not a single cloud hung in the late January sky. Yet it was still really cold, and Aspen and I sat in the Ravenclaw stands, sharing an old Ravenclaw blanket over our shoulders.
“Oi, share it out,” said a voice. I looked up, and it was Mikey and Liam.
“Alright then,” I said, scooting closer into Aspen to make room for the two of them. Liam passed down cups of hot chocolate, and Aspen and I graciously took them. She immediately started drinking, but I rolled my cup around my hands, letting the warmth spread to the rest of my arms.
“Scorp is doing a good job,” said Mikey, squinting slightly. “He’s a fantastic Chaser.”
“I know,” Aspen agreed, smiling. “Scouts are here, and he really wants to impress them.”
“So you are you and Scorpius alright now?” Liam asked, leaning over Mikey and me to address Aspen.
She nodded, grinning. “I ended up having a massive talk with him in the Owlery last night,” she said, repeating everything she had said to me last night. “We agreed to try our hardest to continue the friendship we had whilst we were dating, and I love that.”
“Good,” said Mikey, nodding. “See, Eve Feltham’s a good captain, but her Beaters are too weak.” I nodded in agreement. Eve was the only female captain this year, and I wanted her to be good on behalf of female Quidditch players worldwide. Additionally, I kind of knew that Mikey would end up becoming the Ravenclaw Captain next year, and I suppose I projected my annoyance at that onto my support for Eve.
“Crane’s a brilliant Keeper,” I commented, after he defected a particularly good attempt at a goal from a Slytherin Chaser.
“He’s weak on the attack, though- could have easily passed it to a more able Chaser-”
“YES, Eve!” I cried, cheering with everyone as Eve scored.
“Urgh,” moaned Aspen. “Where is Oscar? I hate Quidditch!”
“Don’t worry, Aspen,” said Liam comfortingly. “This match’ll be over soon, I can feel it.”
“Alright, calm down Trelawney- oh my, that is definitely a foul!” shouted Mikey.
“Send him off!” I cried, shocked by the brutality of Blyton, one of the Slytherin Chasers. Madame Hooch, however, didn’t- but she awarded a penalty towards Hufflepuff, and Eve scored again.
The match went on for another half hour, before Teddy Oliver caught the snitch. The quarter of the stands saturated in black and yellow burst into cheers, and the majority of Ravenclaw did too, for a Hufflepuff win was beneficial for Ravenclaw to remain on the top of the Quidditch league.
“Party in the Hufflepuff common room!” we heard several Hufflepuffs shout, as we all ambled out of the stands.
“I love Quidditch,” Aspen said, brightly, and I laughed.
“I hate parties,” I said to Al, as we stood at the back of the Hufflepuff common room. I had only been in the common room once before, and that was to witness the scene in fourth year, when James, Freddie and Alfie had decided to saturate the room in bright, plastic balls, turning the room into some giant ball pit.
The common room was dark, bathed in a dull amber lighting, and loud singing and cheering raged in front of us. Eve Feltham was chanting along to some rap version of the Hogwarts song, perched on the shoulders of some Hufflepuff year aboves, and a huddle of excited girls stood around Teddy Oliver, chatting at the top of their voices.
Al turned to me, and nodded in agreement. “At least I won’t have to wake up with Jasmine Azalea’s sex cries at four in the morning.”
“Yeah, I heard they’re quite cat-sounding.”
“Really? They weren’t particularly. Hey,” he said, suddenly, and flicked his head in the general direction of a huddle of Hufflepuff girls in our year. “What do you think of Poppy Atticus?”
I tilted my head, and gazed at the girl he was talking about. She was giggling at something Ophelia had said, and I noticed the way her hair- a shade caught in the middle of red and blonde, what was the name for it? Strawberry blonde? –glimmered in the weak firelight.
“Mikey was her Potions partner in Fifth Year, and she managed to blow up a consecutive three cauldrons in one lesson,” I said. “I was very impressed.”
“Apparently she fancies me,” he said off-handedly, but I suppose when you’re Al Potter, being fancied by numerous girls isn’t really a big deal. Props up on the breakfast menu, underneath Eggs (scrambled, fried, boiled) for predictability.
“I thought you were doing a thing with Rachel Cartwright in your house?” I asked.
He shrugged. “We went on a date just after New Year’s, and she did not stop talking about herself. I hate it when girls do that.”
I turned to him, my face a mask of mock empathy. “You know what’s worse? AIDs.”
“Oh go away, Effy.”
“Actually, I don’t think I will,” I said. “I lost Aspen a half hour ago, and Oscar’s spending the night re-writing his Astronomy essay, even though he already got an O on it. He’s so annoying.”
“You know what’s worse? HIV.”
I tried not to laugh, but it kind of bubbled from my lips, like an estranged fart, and he burst out laughing at that. And then suddenly, the grins were wiped straight off our faces when a girl to our right suddenly puked everywhere.
“Want to go?”
And that’s how we wound up in the Hogwarts kitchens at half past ten, and after the general excitement of being in the kitchens- the kitchens! What an exciting, unexplored place to be! And wow, how cute are the house elves, like seriously? Do you want anything, miss? Ziley really likes your hair, miss. Are you Mr Potter’s girlfriend, miss? We like Al Potter, miss!
“This is so cool,” I said excitedly, sitting down on a table- slightly smaller than the tables in the Great Hall above us, and a totally darker shade of wood, and Al smirked.
“You are so easily impressed!”
“Let’s discuss Poppy,” I said, digging into a generous portion of strawberry ice cream. “What do you think of her?”
“Well, she fancies me,” he said bluntly, and I snorted. “And… I suppose she has good legs? What else am I meant to say? I barely know her. Scorpius thinks I should give it a shot, but I don’t know…”
“Al, how many dates have you been on this academic year?”
“How many girls?”
“Eight. Oh- that includes you, Effy!”
“I know!” I said. “That’s a pattern, isn’t it? None of these dates are working out!”
“Maybe I don’t want them to work out,” he said, and before I could interrupt him, he spoke again. “You have ice cream on your nose.”
“I was saving it for later. So why aren’t these dates working out?”
“Well,” he began, counting off his fingers. “First it was Hilary Boston, and she was nice, but quite boring.”
“Fair enough,” I said, thinking of the Gryffindor girl he was referring to.
“Then it was you, and I couldn’t take you seriously after you said that you thought the Chudley Cannons are the worst team in Britain-”
“I hold true to that statement four months on!” I snapped, and Al rolled his eyes.
“Sit down, Effy. Jools O’Sullivan in the year below was cool, I suppose, but her friends are annoying-”
“And then there was Janet Raisenbeck- I snogged her again at New Year’s Eve, but she’s not particularly good at it-”
“You have standards higher than unemployment rates in Bulgaria, mate.”
“Oh yeah?” he asked, grinning, and digging his spoon into his bowl of ice cream- peanut butter, and I am not afraid to admit I’m judging. “If you’re such an expert on relationships, what’s happening with you and my brother?”
“You aren’t meant to phrase it like that. You’re meant to be like, huh, stay away from my bro if you want your front teeth, dude-”
“Firstly, he’s my older brother, not my younger sister. Secondly, he’s more than capable to keep on top of himself. Thirdly, we’re not back state Americans in a bad 90’s movie.”
“I was going more for 80’s, actually.”
“He likes you,” said Al, conversationally, like we were discussing the weather. “You’re very outspoken, very opinionated, very arrogant, and he’s like that as well.”
“This isn’t a Match.com advert-”
“Fuck off. But because he’s like that- yeah, exactly! You both share your worst traits, and that’s a struggle for him, because he doesn’t like acknowledging he’s anything but perfect.” I raised my eyebrows in surprise, and Al smirked. “There. Now who’s the relationship guru?”
“You think I’m arrogant?”
“The first thing you said to me was that I should be really lucky I sit next to you in Transfiguration, you’re the best in the year.”
I grinned at the memory. “Well, I did get one mark off 100% in the Fourth Year end of years.” Then I frowned at him. “Don’t distract me! Ask out Poppy Atticus!”
He sighed. “Fine.”
“But I’ll have to run it past Scorpius first.” I rolled my eyes- I hate it I remember my friends have other friends. But then I remembered something.
“What’s Scorpius doing right now?” I asked.
“He was at the party with some boys from Slytherin- why?”
I laughed, and dug my spoon into the ice cream. “No, you’ll think I’m a total neurotic.”
“No I won’t, Effy,” said Albus. “Hey! Tell me!”
I swallowed my ice cream and looked up, spinning the spoon between my fingers. “Remember when you got me to pretend to be Scorpius’s mum that one time, and he started bleeping on about Rose?”
Al nodded slowly.
“They’re not doing anything, are they?”
I was kind of nervous when delivering that line, because I knew Rose was Al’s cousin and Scorpius was obviously his best friend. I also knew through James that Rose and Al used to be joined at the hip before she became some radical 90’s sarcastic bitch, and it was a sensitive topic for Al.
Al’s eyebrows furrowed, and his voice dropped. “I won’t pretend I haven’t thought about it.”
I brushed a lock of hair away from my face, and tilted my head slightly as he spoke. “Rose really liked him, and he really liked her. It was a different kind of love than what he felt for Aspen. Aspen was this cool, exotic, absolutely beautiful girl from Ravenclaw who has a reputation amongst the boys for being hard to get, right? And Scorpius had just started getting proper girl attention in fifth year. Not just from girls in our house, but girls all over the year. It was exciting for him. Aspen was new, and Rose was old. He didn’t know that Rose liked him back, but he knew Aspen did.”
I nodded, and remembered back to that summer, when Aspen and Scorpius started talking at Ruddy Walcott’s party before sixth year. And the dating, the long talks on the beach by Aspen’s house, the kisses and the summer romance that blossomed into a real thing in school.
“But then Scorpius and Rose met again in France? Rose was with your cousins, and Scorpius was with his family.”
“Yeah, and you know how that sort of stuff works out. There’s some Beauxbaton kid who throws a party, and my cousin Dom takes Rose, and Scorpius knew the boy from vague family friendship.”
“At least it was a mutual break up,” I said, licking my spoon thoughtfully. “It could have been so much worse, you know, especially with Aspen.”
He nodded. “Anyway, Scorpius hates Rose’s new persona. He wouldn’t do anything with her when she’s like that anyway.”
“Do you think?”
“Yeah,” he said, scooping out a very generous spoonful of his ice cream. “I wouldn’t-”
“No way! What a pleasant surprise!”
I spun around, and walking towards us was Mikey and Jasmine, and from the way Jasmine was swaying and Mikey was strutting, they were definitely drunk.
“Urgh, is that strawberry ice cream?”
“Mikey Lancaster! Only God can judge me-”
“Yeah,” said Mikey, pointing to himself. “Good analysis… sis.”
“Sis?” I suppose it was better than being called dude, man or bro, as he’s called me numerous times in the past. It’s always nice knowing your friends are aware of your gender.
“Oh, how helpful, Aries!” said Mikey, turning to a particularly keen house elf, as Jasmine slung herself down next to me. “Since it’s January, it seems only fitting to get ice cream- like our good friends over here! Mint chocolate chip flavour, if you please!”
“Can I have vanilla?” asked Jasmine, poking her head over me.
“So is this a date?” asked Al, unsuccessfully trying to hide a snigger as Mikey almost tripped over. Mikey glared at us three witnesses, claimed he was only testing gravity, and threw himself down next to Al.
“Nuh-uh!” sang Jasmine. “We were just getting a bit bored of the general Hufflepuff happiness.”
“Hufflepuffs are always happy,” Al said.
“Welcome to Hogwarts!” I added brightly, and we high-fived.
“Yes,” said Mikey, “but it is so very annoying in that high a dosage. I don’t understand it.”
“Well, they did just win a Quidditch game-”
“We weren’t like that at our victory party!” cried Mikey, and Al laughed.
“Yes, you were.”
The night went on, and Mikey and Jasmine slowly sobered up, therefore the conversation got generally deeper, as we asked for more and more refills of ice-cream.
We spoke about the future. Mikey wanted to become a lawyer, maybe a judge on Wizengamot, and Al wanted to be a Healer. Jasmine was doing all the NEWTs required to be an Auror but didn’t think she’d pass Potions.
“And anyway,” she said, “I don’t really want to do it, I was just crushing on Freddie Weasley and that’s what he was wanting to do.”
“What about you, Eff?” asked Al, turning to me.
“She doesn’t know,” said Mikey. “And I should know, we had to write an essay in Mermish about future plans and she totally freaked out and got a detention for not being able to write it-”
“Shut up!” I cried. “I just have a lot going for me-”
“There!” cried Al, standing up and brandishing his spoon at me. “Arrogance! Again!”
Hey! I tried really hard to finish this off as quickly as possible because I hate leaving you waiting for so long, especially now I've finished exams there really isn't an excuse- so it's quite rough, I'm not too sure and I'll definitely be revisiting this chapter again. I know you may be disappointed by the lack of James & Effy action in this chapter, but 1. there will be LOADS next chapter (I've decided it'll be the biggest 'Jeffy' chapter yet) and 2. Effy is her own gal! James is only a certain aspect of her life, and I want to really establish her as an individual, not as Harry Potter's son's girl! You know? So yeah, apologies but wanted to explain myself about that hahahah. Hopefully I made up for it with the Rose/Scorpius and a good Oscar scene- but if not, please tell me!
Your reviews honestly make my day. They are endlessly and undescribably encouraging and I can't thank you enough! Thank you thank you thank you! xx
PS- I know it's waaay too early but I've officially decided not only where FA is headed- like I've mentally mapped up the upcoming events, chapters and how it will end- but I've decided on a sequel, and what's going to happen in it. SO EXCITED !!
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