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Chapter 20 : whiny male protagonist
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Usually parties were inter-year; with only a hundred students in every year, all the big parties had no choice but to be inclusive to the upper years; but the end of NEWTs party was an exception. No Sixth Years allowed, and nobody in my year really wanted to gatecrash one of the last memories shared by the year above as they celebrated the end of exams.
(It would be our turn next year, anyway.)
So Danny was at this party, the location I still had no idea what was called, although Albus and Scorpius did not stop boasting that, of course, they did- and Mikey and I decided to host a late-night Quidditch practise, this time with Josh Wood finally playing Keeper for us.
“I should be partying for the end of OWLs,” Josh muttered bitterly, as we all got changed.
“Win this game, and you can party all you like,” Mikey retorted, and I nodded in agreement.
It was the only semi-successful practise run by the two of us. I think we both finally realised that the finals were this Saturday, and if we lost, it would only be our faults. A few Ravenclaws came to watch our practise (Mikey spent at least ten minutes making sure there were no Gryffindor spies), and they sat in the stands, talking throughout the whole thing.
Aspen had come down with Declan Ainsley, and Lara’s friend was down too. Indigo’s group of annoying fourteen year-olds spent the whole two hours trying to flirt with Aspen, and Josh spent the whole practise explaining that all his friends were celebrating the end of OWLs without him, could he please leave early?
“We’ve been playing for two hours straight,” he whined. Josh was such a whiner, I struggled to muster more than half-hearted annoyance at him for, you know, at least he was being consistent in character. “I have a twenty-one no-goal streak. Please, Mikey-”
“Fine,” he said. I turned to him in surprise. “You’re all tired, we’re not going to improve any more tonight. Let’s call time.” In all honesty, I was annoyed that he didn’t discuss the matter with me beforehand, but a wave of relief washed over me at his words as I realised how tired my limbs were, how cold my face was, how numb my fingers were under my gloves.
“I’ll be out in a second,” I called out to Aspen, and she nodded, turning back to the barely pubescent boys, rap battling in the seats in front of her, rhyming Aspen with Long pins.
I got changed sharpish, eager to get up to bed as soon as possible. Aspen was waiting outside the changing rooms for me, and spent five minutes talking about how charming fourteen year olds have become recently- oh, it was such a pity that they weren’t four years older-
“You mean three? You’re seventeen-”
“Yeah, but I only go for Seventh Years now.”
We turned a corner, Aspen still talking my ear off about Indigo’s friends.
“Honestly, Aspen, Indigo’s a pain in the neck, I bet his mates aren’t any better-”
“But seriously, Eff. How young would you go? I know you’re a feminist- so am I, I’ve decided- but I don’t think I could ever go for young men. I would so much rather be the young woman in the relationship than the old woman.”
“I see what you mean, actually. Did you read that article in Witch Weekly about silver foxes-”
“Oh yes! Kingsley Shacklebolt is the perfect example of a silver fox. I couldn’t be happier that he’s gone and divorced his wife- oh fuck off, Effy!”
She hit me as I laughed, and I laughed even harder when she realised she had just clasped my boob- she tried to hit me again, but I dodged her, and she somehow managed to hit my armpit- by this time she was laughing too, linking her arm in mine.
Our laughter echoed off the empty corridor walls, but two figures came round the corridor, as we were alone no more.
I knew full well that the party was probably fully raging on right now- it was ten at night- I just didn’t know where the party was, only that it was on the seventh floor, and unfortunately, we needed to cross the seventh floor to get to the Ravenclaw common room.
I think I knew the two figures were James and Freddie before their faces fully transpired. They were clearly drunk, yelling at the top of their voices, firewhiskey bottles clutched in their hands.
“Oh look,” jeered Freddie, stumbling slightly as they approached us. “Elizabeth Wilderson.”
“Frederick Weasley,” I said, raising my eyebrow at him as Aspen crossed her arms. “What a delight.”
“I should fucking hope so… You know, I really don’t like you, Wilderson,” he said, pointing a drunken finger at me. “Yeah! I don’t like you! Fuck you!”
“I’m hurt,” I said, and Freddie threw his head back in laughter.
“I don’t like you… Oi, James, do you like Effy?”
James was probably even drunker than Freddie was. He turned around from watching a portrait, and smirked at me like he had only just noticed me.
“Of course I don’t like Wilderson,” he sneered, his usual voice sounding chipped and fragmented- somehow much rawer- under the influence of all that alcohol.
“Oh no,” I drawled, and Aspen snickered. “You should go before I drown this corridor in my tears-”
“That sarcasm, man,” said James, shaking a drunken finger in my face. “Why’s that necessary?”
“Are you se- joking?”
“Just very, very, drunk… You were going to say serious but you changed it to joking… Because my middle name’s Sirius… Ha ha ha…”
“Urgh,” I said, shifting my sports bag further up my shoulder. Aspen tugged on my sleeve, inclined her head towards the end of the corridor.
“Come on, Effy…”
“I don’t like you at all,” said James, shaking his head at me, running his finger along my jawline. “You’re a fucking bitch. I always go for the bitches. I just didn’t expect to ever fall in love with one.”
Aspen stopped tugging on my sleeve, and my jaw dropped open, as Freddie cackled with laughter.
“Fuck yeah,” he continued, shaking his head, barking with laughter. “I’m going to my graduation ball with a girl that makes me feel good, and yet I can’t stop thinking over the girl that makes me feel shit.”
“I took your virginity, didn’t I?” he whispered into my ear. His breath was warm and smelt of firewhiskey, his words tickling my skin. “I bet you don’t even care that we had sex only a month into our relationship. I don’t care, but I have sex all the time. You should too, Wilderson, you’re not half bad at it. You know what, Wilderson? You lost your virginity to an absolute wanker, and I’m in love with a complete bitch. HA.”
“Don’t tell me to call you Effy,” he called, as Freddie dragged him away, probably towards the party. “You’d hate that, Wilderson. I know you.”
He looked at me, and I looked at him, and he smirked his classic smile, before he laughed, and turned his back to me to walk towards the party with Freddie, and Aspen turned to me, her eyes as round as saucers. She said she had never been more confused in her life, but that was nothing on what I was feeling.
“I hate Quidditch,” I muttered, pushing the oatmeal around in my bowl.
“You always say that,” Josh retorted brightly. “I don’t think you actually do though.”
“Shut up Josh,” barked Liam.
“Liam,” I shot. “So unnecessary-”
“I agree with Effy, that was quite unnecessary-”
“Thank you, Indigo.”
Indigo sat there, smirking, and Liam glared at him. Josh was in a very good mood, having finished his OWLs only this Tuesday, and Liam was, by contrast, in a very bad mood, still sour that he was passed over for temporary captain, despite mine and Mikey’s poor leadership.
Today was the morning of the Quidditch finals. Danny was gulping down coffee at a tremendous speed- Indigo had wondered if he was trying to drown himself, or at the very least, give himself explosive diarrhoea. I knew he was under a lot of pressure. Danny wasn’t interested in Quidditch post-Hogwarts, but it was to be his last game, and Ravenclaw hadn’t won the cup since I was in Third Year. Which isn’t too far away, not bad at all, by contrast Slytherin hadn't won in seven years, but far away enough to remind Danny that he had failed to come first place last year, failed in another game against Gryffindor.
It was a very sunny day, once again. Unlike the last match, it wasn’t cripplingly hot, but a regular temperature for a Scottish June, warm with a cool breeze.
Mikey and I still weren’t friends, but at least he had cooled off a bit towards me, and as a result, I had lessened my hostility towards him. To be honest, we were forced into civility by Danny who demanded his team be on perfect relations with one another, lest it affect our performances.
“This is my last match at this school,” he warned. “I’m a Muggleborn, I don’t have a family legacy. If you don’t get your act together in time for Saturday, I will get it together for you. I don’t care if you have to have make-up sex on my fucking bed- you will make up in time for Saturday!”
Lara was buzzing, and Indigo looked quite nervous as well. I forgot they were Fourth Years, and that this was Lara’s first finals. Finals were a whole other story from other Quidditch matches. They were a massive deal. Finals were reported on wizarding radios up and down the country; parents came down to watch and, more importantly, so did scouts. There was always a page in the Prophet dedicated to the winning team’s players, especially their captain.
I suddenly felt very guilty for not training as hard as we should have done. But then I remembered that James had no choice but to leave, by comparison, Ruddy and Louis in charge of Gryffindor’s team, and felt a lot better.
But then I remembered how it was ultimately my fault that we lost to Gryffindor last time we played the finals, as I failed to catch the snitch, and I felt bad all over again.
“Effy!” cried Jasmine, running up and hugging me. She was coated in red and gold. “Good luck!”
“You’re a Gryffindor,” said Liam suspiciously.
“And she’s my friend,” Jasmine retorted. “You guys are always so competitive. Ruddy threatened to hex off my boobs if I spoke to Effy.”
“Well, your boobs have definitely not been hexed off…”
“Shut up, Josh,” the table barked.
As Jasmine left, I suddenly felt overwhelmingly hot in my uniform. My hair was in two French braids, blue ribbon interweaved from my roots to my hairs’ ends, skilfully done by Aspen this morning. Half my face was painted in the same shade of royal blue- pretty much all of Ravenclaw was. Lara had somehow convinced Mikey to paint his lips and hair blue, and I gazed at the blue lip-shaped rim on his coffee mug.
“Alright lads- guys,” began Danny, standing up. “Let’s go.”
I tuned out the hooting and cries from our blue and bronze table, the boos and jeers from the gold and red table beside us. That was another thing about Quidditch finals- everybody sat on their house tables. It was a day of house celebration, even if your house had done shit in the league this year. Such as Slytherin, unfortunately for Scorpius.
In the changing room, Danny began speaking. We were already changed, and we were downstairs a good half hour earlier than we should have been.
“I don’t know what to say, lads. Before I start discussing last minute tactics, I just want to say- it’s been a privilege flying with all of you over the year.”
The six of us erupted in coos and laughs, and amidst the noise, I saw Mikey grin, leaning back against the bench and crossing his arms. He had gotten quite muscular over the past year- not in the hench way Liam always was, but in an incredibly, embarrassingly attractive way.
His Quidditch jersey flattened against his chest and forearms, and his hair was streaked in blue, half his face painted in the face paint Lara had coated the whole team in. His eyebrows looked ruffled and he already looked slightly red- from nerves, I’d imagine.
He turned to me, a grin still on his face, and I turned away from him towards Danny.
“It’s not about winners- oi! Fuck off Wood, it’s not. It’s about a good game. They’re a good team, we’re a good team. All those Prophet journalists, team scouts? They’re looking at each one of us, carefully selecting the future faces of the sport. And let me tell you something- you can’t stand out as an individual if you can’t stand with the team first. Stay in the link. Too many teams have been ruined by individuals chasing glory. Glory comes from teamwork, lads. And lasses- sorry, Effy. You think the scouts out there want a Chaser that can’t pass, only score? A Beater that can’t pass, only hit? A Keeper that can’t throw, only save? Absolutely fucking not.”
“What about Seekers, Dan?” I asked, and Indigo and Josh chuckled. Even Liam snorted a little.
“Nah, fuck you Effy, you need to be as selfish as possible out there,” replied Danny, and everyone laughed.
Twenty minutes later, a Fourth Year commentator from Slytherin called us out. Freddie wasn’t allowed to commentate, threat of bias was too strong.
I was almost deafened by cheers and screams from the stands. The sun shone in the cloudless, azure blue sky, and the stands were almost fit to burst with people. There must have been over a thousand people watching.
Danny led us out, and shook hands with James. I didn’t look at him, I doubt he looked at me. Quidditch was Quidditch. I shook hands with Alfie Ronson.
Adrenaline clouded my head, my brain, my heart, my veins, my fingertips. I gripped my broom and felt a sudden breeze flutter against the fibres of my Quidditch jersey, loose strands of my brown hair, the dried paint on my face tingle.
Let’s fucking gooooo, I mouthed to Liam, and he grinned, as the whistle was blown.
I was off. I was buzzing from three cups of coffee, buzzing from adrenaline, buzzing from the sounds of the spectators below me, buzzing as I flew across that wide, majestic sky of vivid, unwavering blue, as the game unfolded below me.
“And we’re off, ladies and gentlemen! Potter has the Quaffle, he passes to Drake, and Drake passes to Nigel- ooo, cleverly intercepted by Ravenclaw’s Lancaster, who passes it to Alton- SCORE! Not even a minute into the game, and Ravenclaw is up ten points!”
I was shaking from nerves. I had one eye on Ronson, the other eye on the rest of the stadium, sensitive for a flicker of gold, a small beat of a bronze wing.
Danny thought that Ronson would give me an easy game, as compensation for fouling me the last time we played. He’s that type of Gryffindor, Danny said, but I didn’t want to bank on it. I needed to win. Being a Seeker was too much pressure. Maybe next year I’ll try out as a Beater.
Ronson was following the snitch.
I flew after him. No way. It was far too early for the snitch to be caught. I flew as fast as I could on my broom, panic rising at the top of my throat-
The dirty prick was leading me on!
I leaned out sharply before I crashed to the ground, and flew back up to my position above the game before. There was no snitch. Alfie Ronson had attempted to call my bluff only five minutes into the game, and the commentator was practically orgasming over it.
“Trying to out-think a Ravenclaw, Ronson? That may have worked beautifully in your last match against Slytherin, but find new moves for this bandit of brain surgeons- Ten all, as Potter scores for Gryffindor!”
Ten-twenty, ten-thirty, forty-thirty as James scored a hat-trick within the same minute. I remembered what Danny said about working as a team, and I observed that Gryffindor, as talented as they were, were working in fragments.
But of what importance was that, if Alfie ended up catching the snitch?
The game went on, and only got dirtier and dirtier. Ruddy and Louis were putting up a brutal attack on Josh and me, and I had spent the past twenty minutes avoiding their Bludgers over looking for the snitch.
“And Alton scored! Seventy-fifty, with Gryffindor still in the lead!”
The Gryffindor Chaser trio was two boys scouting the Quaffle for James to score. That wasn’t necessarily James’ selfishness, but just his major outperformance on their behalf. At least Danny and Mikey were as good as each other, with Lara being the fastest, smallest flyer of us all, easily seeking the Quaffle to pass onto the boys.
Josh was a great Keeper, it’s just that Hugo Weasley was better. He must have been the best Keeper in the school. Danny and Mikey had more possession of the Quaffle, they just struggled getting it past Weasley on the defence.
“Eighty-seventy, and Swift has got the Quaffle…”
I flew higher and higher, desperately trying to seek the snitch. It was difficult seeing it in the sunlight, but at least the air was much cooler, much drier than last time we played.
“Drake has the Quaffle, he passes to Potter- skilfully intercepted by Swift, who passes to Lancaster- MERLIN! Oh my GOD! Was that a foul?! The game has paused as Madame Hooch walks onto the pitch…”
I flew down with the rest of the team. Josh Wood was lying on the pitch, his left arm and both legs crooked at an awful angle. Ruddy or Louis must have sent him a particularly hard Bludger.
“The Quaffle was within fifteen metres of him,” said Madame Hooch, as James ran up to her from the Gryffindor huddle. “It’s not a foul. It was fair play.”
“Josh,” said Lara sadly, stroking his hair. He moaned.
“Can you play?” asked Danny, bending down and inspecting his left leg.
“Absolutely not!” said Madame Pomfrey, pushing through the hoard of Quidditch players situated around Josh and Hooch, a wild assortment of blue and red, gold and bronze. “He would be lucky if he’s just facing three broken bones-”
“You can fix bones in seconds!” cried Danny, frantically. “My mum can fix his bones if she has too, and she’s a bloody muggle!”
“I’m sorry, Mr Alton-”
“We can’t not have a Keeper!” he roared, and Ruddy and Louis winced, standing shoulder to shoulder. “Fucking hell-”
“Language, Mr Alton,” said Hooch, sharply. “Where is your substitute Keeper?”
Alton looked confused, and then clapped his hands in delight, as he turned to Mikey and me. “Oh yes! Where’s Adam Goldstein?”
Mikey and I looked guiltily at each other. I cleared my throat, as the twelve other Quidditch players and the two Madames stared at me. There was a long moment of silence, before I spoke up. “He’s gone to a wedding in the Bahamas.”
There was a moment of silence, punctured by James bursting out in laughter. Danny looked fit to strangle me.
“He made a very convincing case,” Mikey protested weakly, and I flinched at Danny’s cursing directed at us. I don’t think I had ever felt more guilty in my entire life. “You can’t not go to a wedding if you’re the ring bearer-”
“Can we even play without a Keeper?” asked Lara, who looked on the verge of tears.
Hooch grimaced. “You must. You can’t forfeit. This hasn’t happened since 2003, mind you… Alright, players, in the air in ten… nine…”
“We’ll go easy on you,” James smirked to Danny, clamping him on the shoulder and Madame Hooch had to intervene before Danny resorted to Muggle violence, as Madame Pomfrey rushed Josh off the pitch on a summoned stretcher. I noticed a crowd of Fifth Year girls wait for him in the stands. To be honest, knowing Josh, I bet he was loving this, even if he was in excruciating pain.
“Three… two… one…”
“And the game has resumed! I hear that the Ravenclaw substitute Keeper isn’t even in Scotland right now, leaving the ‘Claws totally defenceless! The show isn’t over yet though, folks, don’t forget that the game doesn’t end until a Seeker runs victorious, and Wilderson hasn’t lost a match all year…”
Mm. More pressure. Thanks, Fourth Year Slytherin Commentator.
Mikey stood by the three hoops on our side of the pitch, but despite his sporting talents he couldn’t double up as an effective Keeper and Chaser. Liam and Indigo tripled their efforts, and yet after ten minutes Gryffindor was fifty points ahead.
Danny scored three times as Liam and Indigo pelted Hugo Weasley with Bludgers, but then Ruddy intercepted and swung the ball towards Lara, who had the Quaffle. She didn’t drop it, but failed to score again, the Quaffle caught up by James.
I scanned the pitch for the snitch. I flew around as opposed to sitting still like I usually did, circling the air, desperately avoiding Bludgers and other players.
The game only got dirtier, and the booing and cheering increased. Danny and James were in their last year of school, and the two seemed determined to go out with a bang. Liam hit the Bludger towards the Gryffindor Chaser Nigel, and he fell to the ground. Madame Hooch declared it fair play, but still awarded the other team a penalty.
Players were going down like dominos. Quidditch had become a game of chess. Their Chaser substitute came on, but was no match for Mikey, Danny and Lara.
“Ravenclaw can win this game on tactic alone. They’re down a Keeper, and desperately trying to limit Weasley’s efforts- and you know what? They’re not succeeding, but they’re not failing either. What a match! And ten points to Ravenclaw, as Lancaster scores!”
Two hundred and ten to ninety. We were losing drastically, almost comically, but Danny was not going to go down without a fight.
And then I saw it. The snitch. Fluttering on the other side of the pitch, closer to Alfie than me.
Alfie was looking the other way, distracted by the game. He was about to turn around to the snitch beside him, but a Bludger gone a-wire distracted him.
I couldn’t fly after the snitch, because he would catch on, and most definitely catch it. I couldn’t ignore it, though, because who knows when it would next appear? I could gamble and wait to watch it’s next move, but it could always move closer to Alfie. And besides, we were down over a hundred points, two hours into the game.
It had to end soon.
I had only practised this move with Danny a few times. He said to only use it in the most extremist of circumstances. It was a move he had crafted, created for the smaller, swifter player. A kinder Wronski Feint.
“Only use it when the game is gone,” he had said. “Once you use it, you can’t go back to it, the other Seekers won’t fall for it again.”
I flew closer to Alfie, and succeeded in gaining his attention. I flew towards the ground close to where James was hovering, banking on the gold stitching of his uniform to work effectively as a faux-snitch. All Alfie had to do was see a glimmer of gold, and he would be right on my tail.
And he was. I flew fast down to the ground, right underneath the snitch, and Alfie flew under me. I could hear the commentator speaking of Wilderson and Ronson, but I blanked him out.
Alfie was right on my back. I could hear him. He was stronger, but I was faster.
And right when he was about to meet my speed, I flew up, a total right-angle. I think I was almost flying upside-down. The snitch was still there, and I felt the blood rush to my face- I was upside down, my legs grasping my broom for my life, Danny was right, this was wild, but desperate times called for desperate measures- the wind rushed past me, and I felt sick with the altitude, sick from flying upside down, sick from adrenaline-
I couldn’t catch it with one hand from my position. I could hear gasps from the audience below as I straddled my broomstick upside down, reaching for the snitch with both my hands-
“AND WILDERSON HAS CAUGHT THE SNITCH!”
I could feel my legs buckle from the pressure, and somebody grabbed me roughly by the stomach, placing me backwards on the broom. It was Danny.
“I HAVEN’T EVER SEEN A HOGWARTS MATCH END LIKE THIS! MERLIN! GRYFFINDOR WINS THE GAME ON RAVENCLAW CATCHING THE SNITCH! WHAT A FORECAST FOR THE SUMMER’S UPCOMING QUIDDITCH WORLD CUP! JESUS CHRIST- MERLIN!”
The stadium was screaming the colours of red and gold, and fireworks displaying a colossal, majestic lion filled the vivid blue sky above us. I heard somebody mention Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, and faintly made the connection between Freddie Weasley and the comic store in Diagon Alley.
We touched ground, and out poured Gryffindor house in the hundreds, oh my God, saturating the grounds in their cries of victory and pride. The Fourth Year commentator kept on talking, and I stood with Danny, watching the scene before me, not noticing the woman that was approaching us until she waved a hand in my face.
“Oh, hello,” I said, only realising how light-headed I was as I spoke.
“Rachel Prewett-Cohen,” she said, grasping my hand in a ridiculously firm handshake. “Manager of the Tutshill Tornados.”
“Elizabeth Wilderson,” I said, blinking furiously and noticing I was still shaking her hand. “Um, Ravenclaw Seek-”
“Of course,” she said, sharply. “How old are you, Elizabeth?”
“Seventeen this July-”
“You ever considered a career in Quidditch?” she said, finally dropping my hand and pushing her wayfarer glasses further up her face. She had that clean, polished look of a professional woman who had no patience for time wasting or idleness, an individual who had had to work twice as hard to prove herself in such a male-dominated industry. She spoke incredibly fast, and in her expensive suit and high-heeled shoes, looked almost alien in such an outdoor environment.
“Well, not really-”
“That move,” she said, raising her left eyebrow, “was certainly something special. I haven’t seen such strategy in amateur flying since I recruited John O’Sullivan, who, as I’m sure you are aware, is flying for the Irish National team this summer-”
“Oh!” I said, dumbly. “That wasn’t my strategy at all. My captain designed it-”
“Name?” she asked, already scanning the pitch behind me.
“Daniel Alton- hey- here he is- Danny!”
“Well, it was still a pleasure,” she said, earnestly shaking my hand once again, as I watched Danny leave two adults dressed in Muggle clothing I assumed to be his parents. “Unfortunate outcome, but great game, Eleanor-”
“Rachel Prewett-Cohen,” she said, already grasping Danny’s hand. He seemed to have grasped her motive much faster than I had, and I turned away from the two, and watched the celebrations ahead of me before walking off the pitch, feeling incredibly underwhelmed.
“Well, I’m happy for Danny,” concluded Oscar, as we sat cross-legged on his bed, the curtains closed around us, the day’s sunlight still filtering in through the drape’s blue fibres.
“Same,” I said, nodding. “He didn’t want to venture into playing Quidditch professionally, but seemed really excited by the idea of starting out as a junior strategist for the Tornados. And now he can travel to the World Cup for free, which to be honest, is totally better than winning the Cup.”
“And now, I suppose, he doesn’t have to feel worried about his NEWT results. But he’ll still worry about them anyway, he’s a Ravenclaw. Anyway, good for him,” said Oscar, nodding his head. “He’s too handsome to be locked up in Healer school for four years.”
I chortled. The hysteria over the match had simmered down, and it seemed like almost everyone had ventured outside to bask in the summer weather, especially OWL and NEWT students, who were still celebrating the end of their exams. Loads of parents had turned up to the match, notably Muggle parents, who couldn’t access the school but could access the grounds.
I was a bit annoyed that my mum didn’t turn up today- my dad couldn’t, he was overwhelmed with work for the first match of the World Cup next week- and even more annoyed at the game’s outcome.
“It was an unfair game,” said Oscar, after I voiced my complaints aloud for the tenth time that afternoon. “Even I could see that, and you know darling, I know nothing about Quidditch. There’s probably Hufflepuffs who know more about Potions than I do Quidditch- oh, I know it’s so naughty of me to be mean about Hufflepuffs, but I can’t resist…”
“At least we still have next year to win,” I said, and he drew away from me in shock.
“You’re still going to play? Oh, come on, Effy, think of all the time you waste flying when you could be with me… We never see each other…”
“We’re seeing each other now!”
“Because you’re hiding from anyone wearing red or gold and I’ve lost my SPF 50 suntan lotion-”
“And God forbid you pick up a tan-”
“Darling, I don’t tan, I burn, and I’m seeing Robert tomorrow-”
“Oh my God!” I cried, slamming the covers in excitement as Oscar laughed. “I completely forgot!”
“Yes, well, you’ve been pre-occupied,” he said, pulling a disgusted face, “with Quidditch.”
I laughed again, as the dormitory door opened. I was about to open the curtain when Oscar slapped my hand, putting a forefinger to his lips.
What? I mouthed.
I think it’s Declan Ainsley and Teddy Oliver, he mouthed back, looking ecstatic. I’m finally going to catch them being gay together!
I smiled, as a voice perked up. It wasn’t the Scottish accent of Declan nor the slightly cockney accent of Teddy, but the sharp and incredibly lofty voice of Albus, his clear pronunciations puncturing the silence of the room.
“Thank you so much for giving me a distraction from my parents,” he said. “Lily told my mum about Poppy Atticus, and she won’t stop bothering me about her.”
“Even though James just won the Cup?” asked a second voice. It was Mikey.
“My dad won it in his Sixth Year and she played professionally,” he answered drily.
“Yeah, she likes to think she is, but she isn’t,” he said, and Mikey laughed. “Oh my God, she was awful, and then my dad wanted to meet her- Poppy, that is- and started sprouting all this jazz about his parents- honestly, telling them I’m gay would be easier than this. Or pregnant, come to think of it.”
“I know exactly what it’s like,” said Mikey, and I heard the sound of rummaging clothes outside our closed curtains. “I told my older brother, Saul, I liked Effy in Fourth Year and my parents still bring her up. I’ve tried telling my parents I don’t fancy her anymore, but they don’t believe me.”
“Because you do still fancy her,” said Albus, and my eyes widened.
“Oh yeah, of course,” he said naturally. “But they don’t have to know that.”
“How’s ignoring her going?”
“Terribly. Aspen had a go at me for being a prick to Effy when she apparently needed her best guy friend the most.”
“She said she was replacing you with me as champion of that title,” said Albus, and Mikey snorted.
“I’m so sick of being the Mayor of the Friend Zone. It’s becoming embarrassing.”
“Is ignoring her not making it easier?”
“No!” he whined, and the sound of rummaging stopped. “Fuck, I can’t find your book. Maybe it’s in Liam’s trunk… You know what, I’ve liked her for three years straight now and she’s just so hung up on your fucking brother I don’t think she’s even noticed my hostility.”
“I told you not to listen to Scorpius for relationship advice,” said Albus smartly. “I have no idea how he’s still seeing Rose.”
“Yeah, that’s a relationship more fucked up than you and Poppy.”
“Right? At least you’re friends- or used to be friends with Effy. I can’t get Poppy to give me a fucking chance. She’s driving me up the wall. You know, I actually had a kind of decent conversation with her yesterday, before she managed to find something to take offence at-”
“What was it?”
“She said she liked Muggle poetry, I said any kind in particular, she said she liked modernism, and I said well, have you read any T.S Eliot? And she said she didn’t-”
“What! How can you like modernist poetry but not read T.S Eliot? Oh, she said she liked Virginia Woolf and George Eliot, but honestly, that’s like saying you like 60’s pop music but didn’t know who the Beatles were!”
“Did you say that to her?”
“And she blew up?”
“Said I was obnoxious and always putting down her intelligence, and I said I wasn’t, I was just saying she clearly didn’t like modernist poetry! And she went off on one, and then said I didn’t respect her because she was a Hufflepuff, and then I said stop victimising your house-”
“She then said that was the last time she ever gave me a chance, and I said look Poppy, I’m crazy about you, but you wouldn’t respect me if I wasn’t honest with you- and then she said, I don’t respect you anyway, I go why…”
The door slammed shut, and their voices faded away. We sat there, in a stunned silence, before Oscar pulled out his wand from his pocket and performed the body revealing charm. It was negative, we were in the room alone again, and he gasped.
“Oh,” he began. “My. GOD!”
“OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!”
“I know!” I cried, clutching my face. “I know…”
“Mikey’s liked you since you two dated in Fourth Year!” he exclaimed, shaking my shoulders excitedly. “It all makes so much sense now!”
“So that’s why he was acting so beefy at you… Albus was right, Scorpius is terrible at giving advice. I wish I had more knowledge on his relationship with Rose, but alas I’m not friends with neither him nor Rose. Gosh, that was so much better than Declan and Teddy being in a secret gay relationship. I can’t believe this! Although, I’m not really surprised… It all makes sense!”
“Aspen was right,” I said, staring at the duvet beneath us. “What do I do now?”
He paused, and looked pensive. “Well, do you like him?”
I thought about it, before Oscar interrupted my internal monologue.
“Golly, what bad timing. Just after James told you he was in love with you. Sucks to be popular.”
“Oh, shut up,” I said. “James was drunk last night when he said that.”
“The truth always-”
“I saw him kiss Dahlia Moss on the pitch today, after the game,” I said flatly. “He hasn’t spoken to me all day. Aspen suspects it was just a tactic to distract me before the game, and honestly, I wouldn’t put it past him-”
“He wouldn’t do that to you-”
“But he’d do it for his team,” I said, looking up at Oscar. “And you know, he was with Freddie, and Freddie really does not like me.”
“Hmph,” said Oscar, biting on his lip. “And Mikey?”
“I had a sex dream about his last week,” I said, the corners of my mouth curling despite my attempts to flatline the sentence. Oscar looked scandalised, and told me that was was serious, Effy, this is not time for joking about.
“If only Aspen was here,” he said, wistfully. “We really need her input to make a complete group decision about what we’re going to do next.”
“Oh come on, Effy, you don’t think you’re going to decide this all on you’re on, do you? I’m afraid I’ve inherited the meddling match-making qualities of my Jewish mother…”
“Oscar!” I cried, laughing. “You’re not Jewish!”
“Oh yes I am, Elizabeth, even if I haven’t been bar mitzvah! I spoke to my Rabbi- well, I spoke to Adam Goldstein before he flew to the Bahamas- and I am culturally Jewish, if not religiously, and you know what Effy, I am gay, half Korean, left-handed, a wizard, and Jewish, which officially makes me the biggest minority in the school, so I would not cross me if I were you!”
“Being a wizard in Hogwarts doesn’t make you a minority, you absolute cretin.”
“Stop insulting me… Is this Scotland or Berlin, 1933?”
“Oh stop being insulted on my behalf, I’m the Jew here, not you…”
I left the boy’s dormitory that afternoon in hysterics, and found Aspen in our dormitory, who had been trying to find the two of us, and we stayed in our room for the rest of the evening, as we discussed Mikey and James and Quidditch and the future and the present and all those things that I believe one can only really explore with their closest of friends, their soul’s mate, if not their soul mate, and Aspen was such a friend.
“You’re the best,” I said, yawning, as I lay in her lap and she stroked my hair.
“I know,” she said lightly, as the door opened, and other girls of our dormitory walked in. I laughed, and she smiled down at me. “But no, seriously- you have to admit, this is all quite exciting, isn’t it?”
“When I look at it in retrospect, I expect it will be,” I admitted. “But right now, I feel incredibly guilty about Mikey and- I don’t know, both neglected and disappointed in James.”
“Your speech has improved so much since you’ve started reading that Jane Austen novel.”
“I know, it always does when I read old literature. But then I pick up Witch Weekly and I start indenting my sentences with like all over again.”
She snorted, and said we should start getting ready for bed. Which we did, and even though I had neither lunch nor dinner, I fell asleep quite quickly, only to wake up in the early hours of the morning, my stomach churning. I glanced at my bedside clock. It was quarter past two in the morning.
I pulled on a pair of cotton shorts and smoothed down my bed hair, before slipping on socks I found by my bed and closing my dormitory door shut behind me, careful not to wake anyone up, not even Veronica Clearwater, whose forehead I contemplated drawing a penis on.
“Oh,” I said, walking down the stairs to the common room. “Mikey.”
He looked up from his book, initially startled, and then relaxed when he saw me. “Oh. Hey, Eff.”
“Eff?” I asked, crossing my arms and walking over to him. “Not her? Not Elizabeth?”
He yawned, and massaged his temples. “I’m too tired for this.”
“I’m too hungry.”
“Yeah, I didn’t go down for dinner either. Which was stupid, because Declan told me the Gryffindor table was pretty much empty, they were all celebrating.”
Moonlight shone from the majestic Georgian windows around the room, casting the floor and it’s furniture in a pearly, translucent light, looking almost eerie compared to the humble, yellow lighting of the lamp beside Mikey.
I noticed a copy of J.D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye held in his right hand. Mikey loved, luved, lurvveed whiney white male protagonist novels.
“I want to go to the kitchens,” I said. “Except I don’t know the route.”
He sighed heavily. “Oh fine.” He said. “I’ll take you.”
“Well, it’s not like you had dinner-”
“Oh, come on, Effy.”
We walked out of the empty, moonlit common room, and walked in an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes, before I spoke up. “We still have next year to win,” I said, and he snorted. “Everybody knows we would have won- or could have won- if it wasn’t for Josh being knocked out. Literally, and figuratively, Ruddy and Louis literally knocked him out of the game-”
“Have you been to see him?” asked Mikey, sharply.
I paused. “No.”
“He’s broken five bones and won’t be able to fly for two months.”
“At least he’ll still be able to try out for practise next year-”
He stared at me. “You’re so selfish, Effy,” he stated. “You really don’t think about anyone else apart from you, do you?”
I opened my mouth to protest, and then closed it again. He was absolutely right.
“You’re absolutely right.”
He raised an eyebrow at me, and snorted, before returning back to his book.
“Mikey,” I said. He looked up, his face softening slightly.
“Do you like me?”
“What?” he repeated, his eyebrows furrowed, and before I could think about any consequence or potential outcome I leaned over and kissed him, cupping his chin with my hands, feeling his lips on mine, the ends of his hair tickling the tops of my fingers.
“Effy,” he said, pulling away from me. “What-”
“I heard you in your dormitory this afternoon,” I said. I don’t know why I had kissed him, but I knew when I looked back at the night I would be glad I did. I think seeing him all alone in the grand common room after hearing his confessions ring in my ears all day was what decided it for me. “You should definitely not have listened to Scorpius’s advice.”
“Well, I don’t know,” he said. “He’s clearly been successful with Albus and Poppy.”
I laughed, and he smiled, our faces almost touching, my hands still holding his face. I could see all the freckles on his sun-kissed face, glowing almost translucent in the pearly moonlight of the window beside us. And this time, he was the one who kissed me, and it all felt so natural, so- you know, when you absolutely believe you are in the right place at the right time? A real sense of belonging overcame me, and I smiled into his lips.
I heard footsteps, as Mikey’s hands gripped my hair. I could feel his cool fingertips on my warm temple, his hand on my pyjama-clad waist, and yet I pushed away from him slightly, my mouth not even an inch away from his, but my eyes darted behind his back.
I saw, in the June moonlight, the outline of someone tall, with messy raven hair and a hand clutching a piece of parchment I had seen once or twice before.
“Just felt a bug on me,” I lied.
The Beatles (Apple Studios), Virginia Woolf, George Eliot, T.S. Eliot, J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye... All brilliant artists in their own right, and goes without saying I don't own a nano-smidge.
Thanks so much for continuing to read and continuing to issue your lovely, lovely, overwhelmingly lovely reviews. I am over the moon with it all! We're fast approaching the three year anniversary of FA being published; and already at the three year anniversary of it being an idea discussed between my too-cool-for-school Potterhead (pothead, too) friend Seb in Year 11... It's crazy how FA's been so entwined with my life over the past three years. I can't thank you guys enough for staying with me during it! I get nostalgic over this silly story's beginnings. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
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