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Chapter 22 : of stars & constellations
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“Why do you and Oscar always wish the other one was here whenever I tell one of you about James?” I said, beginning to get annoyed at this recurring theme between my two best friends.
“Because,” said Aspen, as we sun-bathed beside our tent, “we both agreed to consult with the other before giving you executive advice about James.”
“What?!” I cried, shooting up, yanking my sunglasses off my face to stare at Aspen. She rolled her eyes, returned back to lavishing sun lotion upon her already mildly bronzed limbs, and it was the contrast between her gorgeous aureate legs and my milky white twigs that further fuelled my annoyance. “Executive advice? You and Oscar- you’ve been consulting? Behind my back-”
“Oh, don’t act like you and Oscar didn’t do the same about Scorpius and me,” she replied, sounding as waspish as Aspen could sound. Which, of course, was not very. “Or me and you over him and Robert Macmillan.”
“Yeah, but Macmillan’s annoying,” I retorted, slipping my sunglasses back on in a sulky defeat, snatching our copy of Witch Weekly USA from Aspen’s side of the towel beneath her and thumbing through it. Robert Macmillan was the Fifth Year Oscar had been seeing for the last few weeks of school, and whilst first impressions can only reveal so much about a person, his “please do not call me Rob, I am not a Muggle plumber” reflected his personality to such perfection I was baffled I was the only one of the group who could see just how ridiculous a being he was.
“He has a shit sense of humour-”
“He just doesn’t find you funny-”
Aspen snorted, and readjusted her bikini straps. “Whatever. I love Robert. He adores Oscar, and besides, he is a fantastic croquet player-”
“Yes, Effy. I told you you’d like croquet club, but you spent all of Sixth Year playing Quidditch and banging on about feminism.” She thought about it, and added with a small snort, “feminism wasn’t the only thing you were banging-”
“Inappropriate,” I hissed, brandishing the magazine at her smirking face. “I just told you about what a prick he was to me this morning.”
“Oh, Effy,” Aspen said, snatching the magazine from my fingers and lying back down on our towel. “He’s still not over you. You wounded his ego, you went on a date with the boy James worried about your entire relationship, and unlike any of his previous girlfriends, he doesn’t see you sobbing in libraries over him.”
I snorted, thinking of Mary O’Sullivan, his only girlfriend of his Fifth Year, the leggy beauty spending weeks in the library, crying up the Restricted section.
“But to say all of that just because of a date?” I demanded. “After we had broken up, may I add-”
“Babe!” cried Aspen, looking up. “I’m with you. It’s him you need to beef it out with.”
“He wants nothing to do with me- I’m over him-”
“Fine. Whatever. He’s made it perfectly clear he wants nothing to do with me,” I said, firmly. “I’m not going to chase after him, begging him for what, a second chance? I’m not Dahlia Moss-”
“Don’t beg him for a second chance,” said Aspen, earnestly. “Make him beg you for a second chance. Make him jealous-”
I thought about it, as Aspen’s excited smile grew and grew. “No.”
“He’s a dick,” I concluded. “I can’t stand him. He’s graduated, and I’m over him- well, nearly over him. Why would I want to get back together with that-”
“Oh Effy,” sighed Aspen, returning back to her magazine. “You make everything so difficult-”
“Girls!” my mum called, interrupting Aspen. She stood by the entrance to our tent, her short brown hair fluttering in the late afternoon breeze. “We’re to leave for the match in an hour. Come inside, have something to eat- God knows I’m not spending half our Gringotts bank on hot dogs and coffee!”
Aspen stood up, and I followed.
“I truly want nothing to do with him,” I told her, as we picked up our magazines and towels. “He’s despicable, isn’t he? You know, I think I hate him. I really do.”
“You really do not.”
I looked at Aspen, and she looked at me, and I shoved her into the tent for being so… Aspen.
By the time the match had actually started; not the presentations and celebrations of each country, not the parades to celebrate the game, and not the excited commentary by Lee Jordan on the English and Argentinian players’ profiles, but the actual game; it was dark, and the sky was once again a total inky black, studded with stars.
Great lights illuminated the pitch, as the players kicked off. We had really good seats, at the top so we could see everything that was happening, right with other senior Daily Prophet staff and Ministry workers. We weren’t in a box- this American stadium was all open, nothing exclusive, very American- and from where I stood, I could see the outline of James’ face, where he stood with Freddie, only a few seats to the left of me.
“And Shacklebolt passes to Ashley, who passed- Christ! Intercepted by Rodriquez, who passes to Suez, who passes back to Rodriquez- nice pass to Garcia, there and- goal! Ten nil to Argentina, and Ashley has the Quaffle…”
“Keep an eye on Corner,” my dad murmured, and whether that was advice to me or an instruction to his deputy editor beside him, I didn’t know.
“Corner!” cried Aspen. “Cecelia’s brother!”
“He a relative of a school friend of yours?” my dad asked, turning around to address Aspen and me.
I removed the omnioculars from my face, and nodded, before pressing them once again to my eyes and returning to the match.
“Oh yes,” chattered Aspen. “Cecelia Corner, she’s a Gryffindor, she’s his brother-”
“And he is our secret weapon,” retorted my dad’s colleague.
“Will,” said my dad, sternly. “Keep it for the Prophet tomorrow-”
“What do you mean?” I asked, taking the omnioculars from my eyes for the second time to face my incredibly secretive dad. “Secret weapon? He’s only twenty one-”
“Just you wait and see,” he replied, smirking a little.
“Oh come on, this isn’t the Department of Mysteries, this is just Quidditch-”
“It’s never just Quidditch!” howled my brother Jack and his friends sat behind us.
“Shut up,” I wittily retorted, turning back to the game, as Aspen giggled.
We were ten-all, for Shacklebolt had just scored, and the cheers of the English around me were deafening, especially coming from my brother and his friends. They were the type of boys- not the brightest, not the kindest, but relatively good-looking and obnoxiously laddish- that the Quidditch World Cup was designed for.
Twenty-ten to Argentina, then Thirty-ten, then Forty-ten until England bounced back again, and the people next to me got so excited they tipped half a can of beer down my leg. My red and white face paint was beginning to rub off from the sweat and the pressure of my omnioculars. It had been a half hour until I noticed the snitch for the first time that match.
“Look,” I said, tapping my dad’s shoulder in the seat below me. “Right over there- by that display of the Argentinian flag opposite us- shit! It moved.”
“Language, Elizabeth,” my mum replied.
“Please tell me about this secret weapon business,” I pleaded, and my dad chortled.
“For you to sell to that Witch Weekly reporter over there? No chance.”
“I would never!”
“You wouldn’t want me to ruin the outcome of the game, would you Elizabeth? I- YESSS, Shacklebolt!” For Fallon Shacklebolt had scored again. As I stood up and cheered, I caught a glimpse of James, stood in between Albus and Freddie, clapping his hands aggressively.
He turned towards me, and I turned towards the pitch, pressing my omnioculars to my face with such pressure I involuntarily winced.
Argentina committed a foul ten minutes later, and England scored a penalty. An English beater got into a physic al fight with an Argentinian Chaser, and they were both sent off. The score was one hundred and ten-seventy, to Argentina, until-
“And is that Barnaby Corner, England’s youngest Seeker for fifty years- he’s following the snitch, ladies and gentlemen! Holy cricket, I can see it too- right by the English middle post- and Argentina’s Diaz is flying fast behind him, but- but- it’s moved- but- and Corner is flying, flying the fastest we’ve seen this Cup- AND CORNER CATCHES THE SNITCH!”
I screamed, but I didn’t even know if any noise was coming out, the seats around me were electrifying, deafening, a massive sea of elated red and white, screams and cheers and singing and jubilation and everything like that, a surge of white heat, overwhelming noise.
Celebrations raged on in the English area of the World Cup campsite. Some people had charmed their tents to replicate the exact moment Corner had caught the snitch, and others just of Shacklebolt and the team as they celebrated on the pitch below their admittedly surprising success. Fireworks were being launched into the sky every half minute, the sound of the shooting sparks just as exciting with every launch, scattering the English tents in red and silver drops of glimmering dust.
“I luuuuurrvveee Eng-er-lurnd,” said Scorpius happily.
We were stood outside a tent of a year above Slytherin- now a graduate, how weird is that, I was still not used to referring to the year above us as graduates, let alone our own year as Seventh Year- who had thrown a celebration party, fill with their year and ours, a few Fifth Years too.
“That’s the spirit,” said Louis enthusiastically, clamping a hand on Scorpius’s shoulder. Albus and I had left the party to get some fresh air, and Scorpius and Louis had joined us only moments later, Louis badgering on and on about American girls. He hadn’t shut up about them for days.
“I misssssss Rose,” Scorpius went on, sounding sad.
“That’s the spirit,” I said, mocking Louis’s voice, and Albus chortled as the boy of imitation himself sent me his middle finger.
“I’m Howler-ing you in my head, Wilderson,” he informed me.
“Ooooo,” I taunted, as Albus continued to laugh, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “Good one, Weasley.”
“Have you seen Poppy?” Albus wanted to know, screaming above the noise, craning his neck at the open tent beside us, squinting his eyes to catch a glimpse of the ginger Hufflepuff among the crowd of partying teenagers. “She’s meant to be here!”
“WHAT?” Louis roared across the circle, cupping his ear with his hand. “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”
I turned to Albus. “You’ve spoken to her since last night?”
“No,” he replied, and I was standing close enough beside him to hear what he was saying. Louis, opposite us, had clearly given up, and I watched him watch a group of girls, knowing him well enough after a year of being Herbology partners to know he was hosting an internal debate within his head on whether the blonde hit the 8 criteria on the Louis and Rudy female measuring scale. “Eve Feltham told Teddy Oliver who told Liam who told Scorpius who told me-”
“You,” said Scorpius, thrusting a finger at Albus, “need to get drunk.”
“Good idea, Scor!”
“With what alcohol?” I demanded, sounding harsher than I meant to. But to be fair, I had seen James inside with a girl from Beauxbatons, and I was dying for a shot or two or eleven.
“Rude,” said Scorpius, looking sad again. “Just like-”
“Fuck’s sake, don’t say Rose again,” demanded Louis, turning towards us once more, scrunching up his nose in annoyance. “I have ten cousins, and you choose her?”
“Who should he have gone for instead,” I asked. “Dominique?”
“Howler-ing you again, Wilderson,” he shot, his eyes already slowly moving towards the girl group again.
“What a pleasure, Weasley.”
“I think I have some firewhiskey in my tent,” said Albus, snapping out of his Poppy Atticus-trance and coming to his senses. “Do I have my wand- accio Firewhiskey!”
Moments later, a bottle of the stuff- a rather big bottle, for the Potter boys seemed to really subscribe to the mantra of go hard or go home (were they American?)- came flying into his outstretched hand, and he smirked triumphantly at us.
And we smirked triumphantly at him. I thought the age restrictions on buying alcohol in the USA was a joke, conjured up for plot lines of teenage comedy films. My brother was fuming to learn his twenty years of age meant nothing to a supermarket’s alcohol aisle.
Cecelia Corner and Cornelia Boot suddenly appeared, two Gryffindor girls whom Louis thrust arms around at their arrival, and it was like the word firewhiskey had summoned them like some sort of First Year spell. They were dressed up in England Quidditch shirts, high heels and nothing else, beaming eagerly at the glass bottle in Albus’s hand.
“Go on, Al,” said Cecelia. “I am the sister of Barnaby Corner, after all-”
“Oh fine,” said Albus, removing the lid of the bottle and taking a swig. And then he took another, another, and one more, as the rest of us grew impatient.
“Oh Al,” I said, grabbing the bottle from him, ignoring his protests. I gulped the substance down, forcing myself to ignore the metallic, heated taste of it, counting three gulps before handing the bottle to Louis- deliberately ignoring Scorpius, he was already drunk- and wiping excess firewhiskey away from my face.
We passed the bottle around, like excitable Third Years upon discovering an unlocked drinking cabinet in their parents’ house, each of us getting progressively more and more drunk until the almost full bottle had run out.
“Oops,” I said, shaking the now empty bottle upside down. I had finished it.
“Wilderson!” cried Louis, looking fit to cry.
“You finished it!”
“Yes, well, that’s how limited resources work-”
“It was my go after!” he cried, rugby tackling me to the ground. I tried to push his stomach off my chest, smelling his Lynx aftershave and the general scent of sweat, but to no success. He was a Beater, I was a Seeker.
“Fuck’s sake, Weasley! Get your smelly body off me before I hex you all the way back to the Gryffindor tower-”
“You’re not legal yet, Effy,” said Scorpius, smartly. “Sucks to be born in July.”
Louis looked up at this triumphantly, and repositioned himself, putting his hands either side of my face and sitting on my stomach, his face only inches away from mine.
“If you,” I began slowly. “Are going to do what I think you are going to do… No.”
“Yes,” he said. I could see him trying to store as much saliva in his mouth as possible, and I tried to move my head to limited success.
“Well, see ya!” trilled Cecelia and Cornelia, satisfied with their fill of alcohol, slipping back inside the tent. And I didn’t even blame them. Why hang out with cool year above graduates when you could instead chill with a drunken Scorpius, a lovestruck Albus and two clowns escaped from the nearby circus, one holding me pinned to the earthy ground below?
“You look like you’re going to snog me,” I said, trying to distract Louis.
“Take that back.”
“Take what back-”
“The firewhiskey you swallowed that was meant to be mine-”
“You want me to vomit it up-”
“Oh my,” drawled a voice above me. “What do we have here.”
I looked up, straining my eyeballs to look behind me. It was Freddie, with James right behind him.
“Can’t keep your hands off the Weasley family, Wilderson?” Freddie taunted, and James sniggered.
“Technically,” I said, even though every vein, every pulse, every organ in my body was screaming for me to not go there- I was already in direct threat of Louis’s spit on my face, how many boys was I going to piss off tonight- “Louis is the only Weasley I’ve had contact with. James is a Potter, not a Weasley. You can’t talk about the Weasley family, I didn’t go for you, I personally find you kind of unattractive-”
“You think you’re really clever, don’t you Wilderson-”
My mouth. Why couldn’t I keep a lid on it? I was drunk, I was exhilarated by the loud music, the loud fireworks and the recent match. I was also, it seemed, suffering from verbal diarrhoea.
“Well, I am predicted seven Outstandings for next year,” came my witty response.
“Oi!” cried Louis, still on me. “Freddie, fuck off! I’m being a dick to Effy, not you!”
“Louis, get off me-”
“I see Poppy,” said Albus, unexpectedly. I craned my neck, and saw him stood next to James. The second I looked up, James looked away. “Come on Effy, get off the ground! Let’s go-”
“Al, don’t tell me to get off the ground, clearly I’m not here for leisure-”
“Yeah, Effy owes me alcohol-”
“You can get more alcohol inside,” said Albus, heaving me up, his hands under my armpits. I stood up, shook the dirt off my back, and shot Louis a dirty look.
“Let’s go,” said Albus, taking me by the arm and thrusting me inside. I took one last glance at James, who was welcoming a group of even more Beauxbaton girls, all tanned and blonde and skinny, descending on James and Freddie like moths to a flame, hugs and cheek kisses and skin on skin.
“Fuck’s sake, Atticus!” roared Albus. Oh my God, he was so drunk. I should probably stop it.
“Fuck off, Potter!” she screamed back. No, I don’t think I will stop it. Not quite yet, anyway.
“Just listen to me-”
“Just listen to me! You’re insufferable-”
“I thought you were meant to fancy me-”
“Well not right now, I don’t!”
“What happened?” asked Scorpius, standing beside me.
“I think Poppy and Albus snogged, but I’m not too sure.”
“They did,” said Eve Chang beside me, who was also following the argument at the side of the tent. “But then he also got with Cecelia Corner, and she doesn’t seem too happy about that.”
“He’s so drunk,” I said, watching him reach for a shot on a floating plate between them, as she stormed off. “He’s going to pass out any second.”
“I doubt it,” said Scorpius.
“Want to bet?”
We shook on it, just as Heath Tomlinson, Albus and Scorpius’s Slytherin socialist friend came walking up to us. He was just as good looking as he had been when I met him only months ago at a Ravenclaw after party, the night Jasmine almost got date-raped.
“What just happened?” he wanted to know.
“Heath!” cried Scorpius excitedly, man-hugging the broad-shouldered, dark-haired almost stranger.
“Hey,” he replied, grinning at Scorpius. “And look, it’s Effy the Feminist.”
“Funny. I was just thinking of you as Heath the Socialist.”
“Fighting for social equality does come with it’s fair share of decent nicknames,” he observed, and I laughed. I don’t even know if it was that funny of a joke, but like Albus I was drunk, drunk, wildly excited from the summer heat of the night and intensely exhilarated from the throbbing music, the loud noise around, the darkness of the party and the sensational freedom of being young and free and fluorescent in my adolescence.
“Should go find Al,” said Scorpius, as I opened my mouth to reply to Heath. “He’s probably crying somewhere over Poppy, oh boo hoo gaga gaga.”
“Yeah, Al really does sound exactly like that-”
“Laters,” trilled Scorpius, leaving Heath and I alone.
He was so good-looking. And he was funny, and intelligent, and had all these anecdotes about his Muggleborn youth, his hatred for Quidditch. And when he leaned in to kiss me, his hand cupping my jaw and neck, I leaned in too, feeling his lips on mine-
“Fuck!” I cried, looking down at whatever had crashed into my leg, and my annoyance slipping into shock when I realised it was Al. “Oh my god- Al!”
Albus was flat out on the ground beneath us, and everyone was gasping, the room full of Oh my gods! and Did someone stun him? I crouched by him, feeling for a pulse, and sure enough, found one.
“He probably had too much to drink,” I said, looking up at the half curious, half anxious faces around him. “He should-”
“Thanks,” said a cool, crisp voice. “But I can take over from here.”
I looked up, as the speaking figure crouched down opposite me. It was, obviously, James.
“It’s fine,” I said, through gritted teeth. The crowd around us clearly lost interest, and the music seemed to turn back on again after I concluded it was just Albus being a casual paralytic, nothing to worry about.
“No,” he insisted, matching my tone, as we crouched between people’s bare legs and jeans. I could barely hear him over the noise, and situated in this forest of limbs and shoes it felt like we had fallen into some weird, alternative world, with only the unconscious body of Albus between us. “Wilderson-”
“I thought you weren’t going to call me that anymore?”
“I don’t want to call you full stop-”
“Okay, cool, so you can go now-”
“He’s my brother-”
“I’ve been with him the whole night!”
“Well, now I can take over-”
“Potter,” I said coldly, and he looked momentarily almost startled at the use of his surname. “I know you’d rather be with your French girls and Freddie than tending to Al, so stop being so fucking noble- and go!”
“Well,” he retorted, his voice dripping with annoyance, looking at me icily, “I know you’d rather be snogging Heath Tomlinson, so to quote you- go!”
He said go in a high-pitched voice, which really sounded nothing like me.
“I’ll take Albus to my tent,” I said, taking him by his armpits and attempting to stand up. He was almost too heavy for me, but I pulled through, and James rose with me as I steadied the unconscious Potter son to his feet. “I was going to go anyway, I have a headache-”
“Our tent’s only a small walk away,” James retorted, slinging one of Albus’s arms around his shoulders, and walking away from me with his brother hanging off him, not even looking like he was remotely struggling under the weight.
I ran to catch up, and followed them out of the stuffy, loud tent into the cold, crisp night air. The silence of being outside engulfed the two of us, so contradictory to the noise within the party. The occasional sound of crickets chirping and the dimmed, far off noise of other tent bashes acted as reminders that humanity existed, and will always continue to do so, outside James Sirius Potter. It was a reminder I needed every now and again. “You don’t even want to do this, you’re just here because you think you’re so fucking brave- you’re not brave, you’d so much rather be inside partying-”
“Are you quite done?”
“The best thing is for Al to come back with me,” I snapped, trying unsuccessfully to take one of his arms and putting it around my shoulders, mirroring James, except I was angling Albus towards the direction of my tent. “You know it, I know it, you’re just here to prove a point.”
“No I am not-”
“Yes you are! You’re not even doing this for the best of your brother, you’re doing it to make yourself feel good! How awful is that?” I demanded, pulling Albus north, whilst James pulled him east.
“I am perfectly happy to look after Albus-”
“You’re such an awful liar, it’s embarrassing to watch you,” I said coldly, and shifted Albus closer towards me. “How vile are you, using your own brother’s health to prove a point-”
“Fine!” screamed James, suddenly. “Fine, Elizabeth, we’ll go back to my tent and you can look after him-”
“I don’t want to be alone in your tent any more than I want to be alone with you-”
“Then I’ll take Albus to your tent- where is it?”
I told him it was an eight minute walk away north, and he snorted. “No way can I carry him that far. Fine. We’ll both look after him in my tent. You’re right, you’re clearly better at dealing with stuff like this, but as if I’m going to let you stay alone in my tent-”
Dirty prick. “I didn’t want to be alone at yours in the first place!”
“Do you ever shut up?”
I opened my mouth, and then closed it, choosing instead to glare at him, as we trudged along in silence. The air was cool, damp, and the clouds started to scatter the inky black sky above us. I could make out the black silhouette of trees, the scent of pine tree, around the tents, and the Potters’ tent was positioned beside such a tree. I followed him to his tent, back into this crazy, west atlantic land of pine trees and starry skies, morning dew and the most vivid of pink skies I had ever seen- this place of such difference, such variety, so many different wizards and witches around the world and yet here I was, yet again, with James, I thought- perhaps I was drunk, perhaps I was on this cray adrenaline rush of summer fever- I thought, oh my god, James. James.
“In here,” said James, directing us inside. I followed him to what I assumed to be Al’s room, the tent deadly quiet, almost pitch black.
“Where are your parents?”
“Probably at some celebration party,” he answered. “Take his legs.”
I took Al’s legs as he took his arms, and we lifted him onto the small bed, moonlight filtering in through the small window above him. Poor Al, I thought. He was going to have the worst hangover tomorrow morning.
“He looks okay,” said James. “To be honest, we can both probably just go. I imagine now he’s in bed he can wake up in his own time.”
I took another long look at the second Potter boy, and then turned to James and nodded. “Fine.”
But he didn’t move, and neither did I. We stood there, in the moonlit silence, staring at each other.
“Why did you kiss Lancaster?” he demanded, suddenly. His voice rang loud in the empty tent, coarse and bitter. “Jesus Christ, Wilderson-”
“I wouldn’t have done it if I knew you were right there!” I cried. He made to open his mouth, but beside us, Albus stirred at our voices, and he took me by the arm and dragged me outside, into his tent living room.
“So you would have what, kept it within the common room?”
“No!” I shouted, as he crossed his arms. “That’s not true! I was upset, he was there, and-”
“The whole relationship, I worried about you and Lancaster, and the second we break up-”
“It was not the second- you dated Dahlia long before Mikey and me! Oh my god, James! Stop it!” I screamed, feeling hot tears spring to my eyes. “You’re being a fucking prick over this-”
“The day after I told you I was- was-”
“Was in love with me? But you’re not, you were drunk-”
“It was still the truth-”
The brutality of the past tense hit me like a slap, and my mouth dropped open. I didn’t say anything. I just nodded, looked up at him, and made to walk out of the tent, back outside, into the night.
“Okay,” I said, walking, faced away from him.
“Wilderson-” I could hear him pace to catch up with me, and I felt his hand on my wrist. “Wilderson!”
“What?” I asked, turning around. In retrospect, I think I sounded a lot more hysterical than I thought I did at the time. At the time, I imagined myself to look composed and sound cool, but I think I was really over-estimating my maturity.
“You can’t just leave!”
“I thought you said to never speak to you again-”
“Yeah- but now we are speaking, and you can’t just leave me hanging like that-”
“We discussed this on the Quidditch pitch-”
“That wasn’t really much of a discussion-”
I took back my wrist from his grip, and crossed my arms in defiance. “You think?”
He looked frustrated, and used his now free hand to run a hand through his hair. “Perhaps I didn’t quite give you the opportunity to explain-”
“Absolutely not!” I cried, and he put a finger to his lips and pointed aggressively at Al’s door. I took a deep breath to compose myself, and he used this as an opportunity to talk, but I interrupted him. “You never do! You have the biggest victim complex ever-”
“I do not-”
“It was a fucking kiss the week after I have to hear you had asked Dahlia to your graduation prom- call me Mr. Brightside, but-”
“What the fuck do the Killers have to do with this-”
“It was only a kiss!” I protested loudly, and this time, instead of telling me to lower my voice he raised his, drawing in closer to me.
“Clearly not, you went on a date-”
“What was I meant to say? Sorry Mikey, I can’t talk to other boys, I live in a society that encourages the male to ask out his ex-girlfriend days after we break up, but as I’m not a male I have to live in recluse until my virginity grows back-”
“That is so not what I meant-”
“And why am I not yelling at you about Dahlia? Oh my God, you are so full of double standards-”
“I-” he had started yelling his interruption, only inches away from me, but then stopped, closed his lips, and stared at the ground. If I didn’t know him, I would have said he felt uncomfortable.
“Exactly,” I said, crossing my arms across my chest. I suddenly felt cold.
We stood there for a moment, and then I nodded, this time set on walking out of the tent. And I did, slipping out of the flapping fabric door alone, walking under this majestic sky of stars and constellations and you know, it was just starting to get light, you could see how the previously almost jet black sky was slowly turning blue-
I heard the sound of feet jog up to me, but I kept on walking.
The weird sound of my nickname coming from his voice was effective in making me stop, and after a moment I turned around, watching him run to me. In the light of nothing but the moon, the impending sunrise and the embers of the fire beside us, the celebrations of the match over for the night, I could see how messy his hair was, and I found myself yearning to smooth it over.
“I’m-” he paused, and I waited. I waited a bit more, and then I nodded.
He grabbed my arm, not letting me walk away again.
“Perhaps I was too harsh,” he said, talking slowly. “Perhaps I said things that I shouldn’t have. I don’t think I even ever truly meant them. But- fuck, Wilderson, this is so difficult- I- I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I was wrong and-” he turned away, laughing, pinching the bridge of his nose. “You’re right, I was unfair, and I know this is shit, but you know what, I was jealous, and you were just there, all uncaring and nonchalant-”
“No, let me finish- it’s just- fuck, why is this so difficult to say?”
“You’re incredibly out of touch with your feelings.”
“Fuck off- you’re just- you were there, and I was shit, you know?” He paused, thought about, and nodded. “Anyway, you were right, I was wrong. I-”
And just to hear that phrase from the world’s biggest ego, in this strange environment of pink skies and luminescent stars- I don’t know really, I wasn’t usually like this, and perhaps it was the euphoria of hearing those words, or perhaps I was still very drunk- we were again, only inches apart, and I found myself running into his arms, holding his head as I kissed him, and he- a bit surprised at first, but I felt his smile on my lips, kissed me back, cupping my chin and bringing my as close to him as possible.
“I can’t believe you said you were wrong,” I said, grinning into his mouth.
I could feel his hot breath on my face as he laughed. “It wasn’t fun. I don’t think I’m going to do that again.”
“And you are soooooo still into me. You fancy me, James Potter-”
“I have no idea why,” he said, smirking down upon my face, tucking my hair behind my ear.
“It’s because I’m irresistible-”
“You’re just moody because now Barnaby Corner is Britain’s most eligible batcher, not you-”
“Well, you really did do wonders for my public image- Witch Weekly’s missed speculating who my secret dark haired lover is-”
“And-” but he, slowly weaving his fingers in my hair, pressed his lips against mine. It was cold, but his arms radiated warmth, and I was kind of overwhelmed by the smell of his laundry, his faint smell of cigarettes, the even fainter smell of strawberries on his lips. Above us, the first signs of the day’s sunrise started to emerge, as the stars and the moon faded to dull.
“And that is why,” said Jasmine, swishing her long black hair, held up in a straight ponytail over her shoulder, “Hogwarts is racist.”
There was a pause at the lunch table, until Aspen spoke up. “Because of the ghosts?”
“Exactly,” she said, sipping on her iced tea. “They’re all white.”
“Well, yes,” I said, stabbing my fork at my salad. “That’s kind of the point of ghosts.”
“And don’t even get me started on the cultural appropriation problems!” cried Jasmine, as Oscar nodded in agreement with me. “Visiting my grandma in Trinidad really opened my eyes to all the problems us black sisters face. I swear to god, if I see one more white girl at a party with cornrow’ed hair, I will hit a bitch, you white people literally steal everything-”
“Don’t they just!” Oscar cried in agreement, almost spilling over Aspen’s diet coke in his earnestness. “White people steal everything!”
“Oscar, you are white,” I began, before he cut me off.
“Yes, but as a gay person, I can so relate to Jasmine. I mean, hello? Anal sex? So stolen off the gay community, and god forbid we get any credit for it-”
“I don’t think you can really claim heterosexuals stole anal sex off the homosexuals-”
“Oh trust me, they did, I got an Outstanding in History of Magic-”
“History of Magic, not history of intercourse-”
“Speaking of sex,” said Jasmine, who was of the habit of jumping from conversation to conversation as long as she remained either in charge of the discussion or conversation focal point, “have you and Robert Macmillan had sex yet? Effy and I think you have, but Aspen is adamant in saying you haven’t-”
“A gentleman never kisses and tells,” stated Oscar, and Aspen snorted.
“Oscar, you threatened veritaserum on Effy when she didn’t initially tell us about her and James having sex,” she said, and I laughed at the memory of it.
“You’ve so had sex,” said Jasmine, looking excited. “Oh my god, I knew it! I even said to Ophelia-”
But we never quite got to know what Jasmine said to Ophelia about Oscar and Robert the Croquet Playing Hufflepuff, as she interrupted herself with a loud shriek, leaving our small table outside a cafe in Diagon Alley and running over to what looked like Albus and Scorpius on the other side of the busy, cobbled road. Jasmine had only flown back to London yesterday, after spending a month in the Caribbean with her grandmother, and I understood her excitement to see people.
We- Aspen and I- only came back to England a week ago, after said country got knocked out of the Cup in the semi-finals round. My parents had tickets to the finals, and therefore stayed in the States, but I suddenly felt a lack of interest towards the championship after our humiliating 480-120 loss to India.
But I loved being back in the UK, especially in London. It was considerably cooler than in downstate Virginia, and not as beautifully sunny, but there was a certain, almost unexplainable magnetism to the city, both the wizarding and muggle quarters. It was mildly sunny now, with light clouds scattered over a periwinkle blue sky, but it had rained in the morning, and the cobbled, winding streets of Diagon Alley glistened in the sunlight, as I watched Jasmine excitedly embrace Scorpius and Al.
“Al looks happy for a boy who keeps on getting rejected,” commented Oscar smugly.
I turned to him, knowing that tone of voice all too well. “What do you know?”
“Ask him,” he said, sticking his nose up in the air with a sigh of martyrism. “He is your closest guy friend, after all…”
“Oh shut up. You know you’re my closest guy friend, Oscar, but you’re different to Al-”
“I know,” he said bubbly, and Aspen laughed, as Jasmine dragged the boys over to us. “I just wanted to hear you say it. So I hear she thinks he was the one to leak that article to Witch Weekly- scandalous, I know-”
“Well, it wasn’t,” said Albus, slinging an arm around my wooden chair and sliding down beside me. “I reckon it was Davina Fletcher in her house that submitted that awful piece, I hear she’s fancied me for ages.”
“That’s a horrible thing to say,” said Aspen.
“Well, it’s true,” said Scorpius.
“But it isn’t very nice.”
“No, it’s not,” Albus agreed, helping himself to one of the sweet potato fries by Jasmine’s plate. “I don’t really care, it’s just petty tabloid gossip- August is a shit month for Witch Weekly, everyone’s on holiday and their Quidditch player girlfriends are all in the ‘states, they’d make a story out of anything.”
“And Eve told me that Poppy was going tomorrow anyway,” said Aspen. “So she can’t be that angry.”
“True,” Albus mused, before standing up again with Scorpius, and saying they really should be off, they had to meet his mum in a few minutes, he’d see us tonight anyway. And he would; Albus was hosting a not-quite-party, not-quite-gathering at his, an assortment of Hogwarts students congregating at his house in West London, as his parents were out for the night.
You’d think, he had written in his letter to me, that the saviour of our wizarding world and his highly acclaimed wife would be out of the house more often than once or twice a summer holiday, but no, not at all, it’s a wonder James, Lily and I have any sort of social skills whatsoever.
Who’s going? I replied back. Within seconds, because I clearly did not know the proper teenage etiquette of owl’ing my peers.
You’re so keen, Effy, a reply within five minutes of sending my owl? Hmmm. I’ve invited the usual suspects- you, Scorpius and the Slytherin boys- Heath, Dev etc- some of the girls, I suppose I had to. And likewise with Louis, I couldn’t not invite my cousin, and obviously I had to extend it to Ruddy, they’re practically Siamese. Jasmine, the Gryffindor girls, Ophelia, POPPY ATTICUS, Eve Feltham. And then you Ravenclaws- Aspen Oscar Mikey Declan etc etc. Now I sum it up, practically half the year. Everyone who’s relevant, anyway. Is that mean? I don’t care, I’m still bitter over the World Cup.
As the two boys left, another boy approached the table, asking Aspen if she had any plans for tomorrow night. I watched the scene in front of me with a detached sense of reality, too distracted to fully relate to the real time action occurring right in front of my eyes, my mind a hazy, abstract field of sudden nostalgia. I was having a real out of body experience, as we basked under the late English summer sun.
“Oi,” said Jasmine, snapping her fingers in my face.
“What,” I said, not quite ready to depart from my daydream. Sometimes, at times when the air is just right, and the weather is particularly pleasant, I find myself slipping into an almost semi-coma, so content with my place in the world that particular moment I felt paradoxically borderline removed.
“He was fit, right? Aspen, you should so go for him,” said Jasmine.
Oscar shook his head. “He’s so skinny. And has that clever boy arrogance about him, I can’t stand that.”
“I quite like clever boy arrogance,” I said after a moment of reflection upon the subject, and watched my three friends burst out in laughter. “What?”
“We were just saying how he’s so much more your type than mine,” Aspen said, munching on her sandwich. I looked at her in confusion, and she inclined her head towards one of the two boys that had approached the table a few minutes ago, walking away from us, towards Weasley Wizard Wheezes opposite. “Dark haired, confident… Speaking of which, is James going tomorrow night?”
“I don’t care-”
“Spare the bullshit, Wilderson,” Oscar ordered. “Admit you’re so excited to see him. You haven’t seen him since the Cup, have you?”
“You saw him in the ‘states?” asked Jasmine, interrupting Aspen’s attempt to speak. “Oh my god. C-uh-lassic. Nobody ever tells me anything-”
“Maybe he’ll be out- doubt he’d want to stay inside for his younger brother’s party-”
“And here I was, banging on about Trinidad-”
“But then again, it is his house-”
“You kissed him! What!”
I grinned, and then shrugged. “I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to him, I haven’t spoken to Mikey, and Al’s successfully dodged all questions I’ve asked at him over James. I don’t want to push the subject-”
“You wouldn’t be able to handle it if he wasn’t interested,” Aspen confirmed, leaning over the table with a smug, all-knowing grin upon her face.
But I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of being right. “Whatever happens, happens,” I said bubbly. “Anyway, he’s graduated, I’m still at Hogwarts, I-”
“It’s all very romantic, darling-”
“Thank you, Oscar.”
“No problem, Effy-kins.”
The day had been gloriously sunny, but the evening that followed had welcomed thundery, purple storm clouds, the colour of bruised skin. Aspen had side-apparated me to the end of my road- never to my house, that would disturb the Muggle neighbours- and the second she apparated back it started raining, raining disgustingly, raining so heavily that within seconds I was soaking.
It wasn’t cold- it was actually rather warm- but I was only wearing shorts and a thin knitted sweater, the material sticking to my skin. My hair was flattened to my skull, and pools of water started gathering in my shoes, under my feet.
“Fuck,” I said, out loud in the silent, empty street, with only the heavy patter of the rain for company.
The sound of thunder clapped in the sky above as I hugged my body, running to my house at the other end of the street. I could dimly hear the sound footsteps bounce behind me, as the sound of thunder erupted once again in the violent, violet skies above.
I thought I heard someone call my name, but I didn’t turn around. The only people in the area who would call me would call me Elizabeth, or Lizzie, my primary school nickname; and besides, after a month in the USA, I reminded myself that this was Britain. Nobody was considered worth staying outside in the rain for.
But then, just as I reached my front door, I heard somebody call my name again, and this time- as the sky rumbled for the third time- and I was so overcome with rain I felt like the water had become part of my personality- I recognised the voice.
“James?” I cried loudly, turning around, my keys in between my fingers, and my vision was blurred by the water drops cascading down my eyelashes.
James Potter was running towards me, his dark hair plastered to his skull like mine, and his dark grey tee-shirt highlighted every single curve, groove, outline of his chest and torso. He looked slightly different from when I saw him last, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
He stopped when he was only metres away from me, and we stood there, staring at each other.
“Oh my god,” I said, breaking our elongated silence. The rain continued, and lightning flashed after another rumble of thunder.
Finally, he spoke. “I had to talk to you,” he roared over the thunder and rain.
I stared at him.
There was another pause. More rain, more thunder, and the second round of lightning.
“I miss you.”
I know I say this a lot- both in my author notes and also in my replies to reviews- how big a part of my life Fluorescent Adolescent has been over the past three and a half years. I started it aged fifteen, when my writing capability extended to English GCSE and whatever plotline of Skins / Gossip Girl I found most exciting- and here I am, first year into university, hopefully a little bit more sophisticated in my writing, but still kind of confused, very excited, totally still using FA- and in particular, Effy- as a parallel to my life, an quasi-alter ego, semi-diary of sorts to centre the various melodramas and events of the years into a different context.
So yeah, FA means a lot to me. Learning that I had won Best Romance and Most Addicting in the 2017 Dobby's was hugely exciting, hugely overwhelming- I am just totally, totally overwhelmed! I had that same rush of hysteria I hadn't felt since A Level results day (lol) but this was different I suppose- just because FA means SO much to me!
So yeah, sorry for the ultra-long AN. My friends don't know I write HPFF so I'm totally doing all the gushing on here. I just want to thank you guys so, SO SO much for everything: reading FA, for reviewing FA, and for voting for FA. Love you guys ENDLESSLY ♥
Also- totally don't own Mr Brightside by the Killers (Island Label) nor Lynx deodorant.
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