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Chapter 25 : something new
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“RISE AND SHINE!” she sung, and I could feel the mattress beneath me sink as I felt her body bounce upon my bed. I let a soft moan emit from my lips, and rolled over.
“WAKE UP!” she trilled, clapping her hands and out of the corner of my eye I saw her long, thick, wavy blonde hair bounce across the horizons of my squinted eyes. She was dancing.
“Shut up, Aspen,” muttered another voice from the room. I felt too sick to even attempt to identify the voice to the Ravenclaw seventh year.
“Little Miss ELIZABETH here has QUIDDITCH TRY-OUTS in an HOUR,” she sung, and my eyes flashed open in horror at the reminder. “Little Miss WILDERSON is now QUIDDITCH CAPTAIN of our proud HOUSE and must remember her RESPONSIBILITIES-”
“No, seriously, Spinelli,” muttered another voice. “Shut the fuck up.”
“Wake UUUUUUP!” she called, and she ripped the duvet from my body.
I screamed, but all that came out was a hoarse gargle. Why was I… Why was I stupid to drink so much the night before I arranged nine in the morning Quidditch trials?
Oh my god. A sudden, overwhelming wave of nausea engulfed my body, and I sat up, feeling last night’s various cocktails flow through my mouth, into the bucket Aspen had conjured, floating under my chin. I turned to my best friend, who was standing by my bed, a huge smirk almost breaking her pretty face in two.
“I can’t do this,” I muttered weakly. I could feel last night’s make up on my face, crusty and gross in the way only last night make up can be: clumpy mascara suffocating my eyelashes, bronzer making my cheeks itch, foundation congregate just where my face was most vulnerable to dryness.
But most of all, I really, really needed to throw up. Maybe die, if the former wasn’t an option.
“Hangover potion in the toilets.” She saw my pleading eyes, and shook her head. “Yes, you better get up to get it.”
“Fuck off,” I muttered, about to fall back into bed before another crashing wave of nausea overcame my body. The bucket was there before I even acknowledged its need, and I gave Aspen what felt like a thunderous look, but was probably as threatening as Flitwick’s baby photos.
“Fine,” I mumbled, heaving myself out of bed, throwing myself into the bathroom, my fingers shaking as my bleary, eyeshadow smudged eyes navigated the small, vivid purple liquid perched innocently by Aspen’s large, overflowing make-up bag.
After gulping it down with such greed and haste I was almost humiliated, my symptoms- the nausea, the headache, the stomach ache, the fatigue- disappeared, and I stormed into the other room, gazing around at the three Ravenclaw girls still lying in bed. It was a perfectly sunny day, with only a few wisps of cloud floating lazily in a late summer sky, and I bet the weather was cool, but not cold, a temperate I would miss about lowlands Scotland in the early Autumn next year.
“Right!” I sang, noticing Veronica Clearwater’s bed was empty. At eight in the morning on a Saturday? Fucking loser. “Rise and shine, ladies! It’s a beautiful morning, and your Quidditch Captain is assembling her brand new team today!”
I was answered with silence, punctured by Aspen’s sniggers.
“Honestly, Effy,” said Liza Pacino, her thick, black mane of hair in the most awful mess as she sat up and addressed me, “you carry on like this, and I’ll petition Clearwater hourly to get you replaced by Liam Finnegan.”
“I’ll petition Clearwater to get you banned from the sport all together,” Nancy Cameron-Scott offered, and I tutted loudly, striding across the room, and back into the bathroom. Quick shower, quick blow-dry with a few masterful flicks of my wand, quick mascara and eyeliner run over- done by hand, I hadn’t quite mastered doing it by wand yet- a few dabs of concealer, a hasty change into Quidditch shorts and an Appleby Arrows sweatshirt, and I was good to go.
“Breakfast?” I asked Aspen, brightly.
She had, of course, been ready since she woke me up, and I wondered if she knew I would get hammered at the Slughorn party, despite me definitely, desperately telling her I wouldn’t. We didn’t usually keep hangover potions in our bathroom- they were expensive and our hangovers weren’t usually bad enough to warrant one.
But then again, I hadn’t drunk as much as I did last night in a long time.
“Breakfast,” said Aspen, a glint in her eye.
For the first time in my life, I held back from telling my Aspen- Aspen, my best friend since we were eleven, my almost twin, my confessed platonic soul mate- the truth.
Of course I told her about kissing Mikey. Of course I told her I didn’t just kiss Mikey, I kissed him for ages, and told her kiss was too delicate a word to do justice to what we got up to. You went further? Aspen asked, her eyebrows raised. No, I replied honestly. But the longing entwined with the savage nature of the kiss made it feel like, the morning after, we did.
And I told her, over a breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon, in a Great Hall that was deserted for the most part, about Poppy practically confessing her love? like? fancy? for Albus, and the disappearance of the two during the night.
But- and I continued recalling the Slug Party to my listening friend as we left the Great Hall and walked down to the Quidditch pitch, a late summer breeze making the ends of our hair flutter, the tails of our robes fly behind us- I deliberately, knowingly, purposefully, left out my letter to James.
What was it? Not a big deal. I was still drunk, I told myself, and wrote a bit of a letter. It was practically a diary entry. I didn’t send it. No reason why Aspen would care.
But as Aspen left me for the stands, a mischievous gleam in her eyes as she would play audience to however- and it truly was however, for Mikey’s interactions with me today (and mine to him) was anyone’s guess, we had no idea how the two of us would act around each other- Mikey would be during the Quidditch tryouts.
I didn’t bother getting changed, and instead collected my broom and the chest of balls, standing in the middle of an empty pitch, feeling the September sun warm my legs and my face, as I watched people gradually enter the grounds. My badge was attached to the left of my faded grey sweatshirt, and my hair was tied up in a ponytail, the cool breeze already enticing a few strands out of place, and I felt them flutter against my face.
“Alright,” I called, suddenly aware of the butterflies that erupted in my chest. For the third time today, I thought I was going to hurl. But I caught the gaze of Josh Wood- fucking Josh Wood, the most annoying boy in the whole of Ravenclaw (god, shouldn’t he be thankful for the existence of Ruddy Walcott and Louis Weasley, saving him from being the most annoying boy in the school)- and his trusting grin surprisingly put me at ease. “Alright, it’s a few minutes past night, let’s start.”
“Appleby Arrows?” demanded a kid in reference to my sweatshirt, tall and lanky in the way only adolescent boys could be. I remember Mikey looked like that when we dated in fourth year, and tried not to smirk. “Are you kidding me?”
A few titters amongst the twenty-strong crowd, and I rolled my eyes. Don’t be Danny Alton. Don’t be Danny Alton. Don’t be Danny Alton.
“Yeah, I paid two galleons for this sweatshirt out of irony,” I snarled, and that garnered even more laughs from the huddle. “You’re lucky I haven’t booted you out of try-outs all together, you little shi-”
“Sorry we’re late!” trilled a mild Irish accent, interrupting me. It was Liam and Mikey, running up in similar kit to me- Ravenclaw shorts and baggy sweatshirts- and I didn’t even try to hide the look of relief on my face at their arrival. “We got stopped by Hagrid on the way down here, he wanted help-”
“Whatever,” I said, dismissing their lateness with a wave of my hand, trying desperately not to look at Mikey. “I see that everyone from the team last year is here again- great, nice to see you all. But let me be clear- I, under no circumstances, am prepared to save your spot on the team just because we played together last year.”
“Brutal,” commented the Appleby Arrows kid.
“Shut up,” I snapped, giving him a dirty look. “We only lost last year by only the wildest of circumstances, and I am determined to piece together a team that’ll see us win the Cup this year. Being on a Quidditch team isn’t like the First Year Quidditch League, you don’t practise one a week and hope the broom your parents got you for being Sorted into a decent house’ll help you score a few points, this is intense, this is frustrating… You’re going to hate me most of the time and plot to murder me at least once a week, but when we win- and we will- the Cup next summer- and you’re on the winning team, you’re the one with the feature in the Daily Prophet Sports pages, you’re the one who has that summer of glory… It’ll be worth it.”
Silence. Not even the Appleby Arrows kid had a comment to make, and I suddenly felt flustered from the impromptu speech I delivered. I allowed myself one quick glance at Mikey, who's eyes were focused right on mine. He nodded with a smile, and a warm feeling of confidence surged through my veins.
“Alright then. No quitters? Good. Since we won’t be trying for a Seeker today, I want you to divide yourselves into those trying for Keeper on the left, Chaser in the middle, and Beater on the right. Now, kid,” I barked at the Appleby Arrows guy, who stared up at me, confused.
“What if you want to try out for them all?” he wanted to know.
I gritted my teeth. “Has anyone ever told you you remind them of a taller Peeves?”
“Many,” he replied, to another round of sniggering. I raised my eyebrow at him, and he scuttled off to the middle, standing beside Mikey and Lara.
“Alright,” I said, a soft smile growing slowly on my face, as I drew my gaze from Mikey to the rest of the applicants. “Lets… go.”
I stood in the Captain’s office of the Ravenclaw quarter, feeling almost naughty perched on the desk, almost waiting for Danny Alton to come in and tell me off for being in his office, to fuck off Wilderson, go find the snitch!
I felt an overwhelming rush of appreciation for Danny. He had been my friend since Second Year, when I was the youngest player on the squad, the baby of the team. Even though he had Asher Garfield in his year to hang out with- although I don’t think the two were particularly close, Garfield was replaced by Mikey the next year and I hadn’t seen the two interact for their remaining years of Hogwarts- he always made room for me, defended me against the brutal banter of the changing rooms. And there I stood as an annoying Sixth Year, beating him up for only wanting to win! So what if he was Quidditch obsessed? So what if he made Lara Swift cry twice in a practise and introduced five-am practises to the school?
I stared down at my assembled team, feeling immensely satisfied. Elizabeth Wilderson as Seeker; Joshua Wood as Keeper; William Finnegan and Indigo Coates as Beaters; Michael Lancaster, Lara Swift and Julius Pacino as Chasers, the latter an olive-skinned Fourth Year, brother of a girl in my dormitory, who initially tried out for Beater but was so, so obviously crafted to be a Chaser. Speedy, graceful, with quick reflexes and admirable mastery of his broom and aim, he was- dare I say- probably better than Lara, and almost as good as Mikey.
I finished writing down the updated team list for Madame Hooch, and pinned another copy onto the Captain notice board beside my previous shortlist of the team’s substitutes, smiling in spite of myself.
I turned around. Short, dark hair, a burly jawline, dancing dark blue eyes, and shoulders that looked even broader when positioned in this angle to the midday sunlight.
“Hey,” I said, moving from the notice board to Mikey.
“Good try outs,” he said.
“I’m just glad you turned up,” I said, and it was the most sincere thing that I had said all week. “Honestly, Mikey… I have no idea what I’m doing.”
“Yeah you do,” he said easily, swinging himself on the desk. “You really were great, Eff. Although I’m slightly gutted that that Fabian kid didn’t land a spot.”
“Nah, he’ll be alright,” I said, smiling slightly at the thought of Fabian Dawes-Lewinsky, the mouthy Appleby Arrows boy, who had spent the whole tryouts trying to debate Apples versus Tornados with me. “I’ve already put his name forward as a commentator.”
Mikey laughed, a nice, genuine laugh, and tilted his head to look at the line-up posted on the noticeboard. “And Liza Pacino’s brother is better than you could have hoped for.”
“I know, right? Cannot believe he had been too interested in studying to not bother trying out before. Like, Mikey- I’m good. You’re good. Danny Alton’s good. But Julius Pacino’s got the kind of talent-”
“That’ll see him play professionally in a few years,” said Mikey, easily finishing my sentence.
I nodded, smiling. “Yeah.”
There was a silence, and I looked at Mikey, desperately trying to find another topic of conversation.
“Hey, Eff,” said Mikey. “I came here- I actually, came here, came here to ask- well, you know Seventh Years are allowed to go to Hogsmeade anytime over the weekend.”
I smiled. “That privilege has been embedded into my head after the celebrations thrown by Louis and Ruddy when Sinatra announced it in our welcome back assembly.”
“Well,” he said, grinning, and a flicker of uncertainly crossed his face. “Do you want to grab lunch?”
“I’d- I’d love to, yeah.”
We walked out of the office together, and I summoned my wallet with my wand. It was a wonderfully sunny day, warm with a cool breeze, and sunlight made the grass beneath us glitter an emerald green, the Black Lake we walked beside glimmer an enticing dark turquoise, the medieval stone of Hogwarts almost sparkle.
“And- and Effy,” said Mikey, and I tore my eyes away from the castle.
“I mean this as a date.”
My life, more than ever before, gradually- yet, simultaneously, also suddenly- turned into this blur of lessons, mock NEWT timetables, Quidditch practises, upcoming matches. Career advice and post-school advisory sessions were increasing by the week, the fresh excitement of a new term of being back at school decreased by the day, and one day I turned from my parchment to the open homework diary beside me and gasped.
“Yeah?” asked the owner of the offending diary, Teddy Oliver, distractedly, the gaze of his slightly squinted eyes still upon his parchment.
“It’s… it’s October!” I said, and turned around frantically, wondering if anyone else in the Arithmancy class that Wednesday morning had too noticed the change in month.
“It’s been October for six days now,” he retorted drily.
“Where has the time gone?” I cried, a note of hysteria in my voice.
Teddy looked up from his parchment, his handsome brown eyes crinkled slightly as he stared at me, concerned. “You alright, Effy?”
“Totally,” I said, feeling slightly dazed. Teddy smiled and returned back to his work, and I stared down at my parchment, unable to contribute further to the essay, my head loud, fast and explosive in the silent classroom.
The bell rang for the end of the lesson and Teddy clapped me on the shoulder as he walked on by, catching up with another Hufflepuff boy I knew to be his friend.
I walked from the fourth floor of the Colin Creevey Ward in the direction of the Great Hall, my feet and subconscious taking me the quickest route to Flitwick’s office as my mind wandered elsewhere. Faces and bodies passed by me in an unintelligible blur as I crossed my arms, felt my bag bump against my left side, deep in thought, deeper in my daze.
October. It was already October. I had been back at Hogwarts for a month now, been Quidditch Captain for a month now, been dating Mikey for a month now, been out of correspondence with James for a month now. A sudden wave of hysteria hit me once again, retreating as quickly as it came, leaving a cool, numbing sense of confusion in its wake.
Where had the time gone? One month in, one month closer to graduation, one month less of Hogwarts.
The crowds and clusters of students in the corridors began to thin as I approached the corridor of the Heads of Houses, situated right above the Great Hall, adjacent to the corridor of Sinatra’s, the Deputy Head. There was clearly, I thought drily to myself, no better time for an After Hogwarts session than my random borderline panic attack in morning Arithmancy. Arithmancy! Out of all the classes to start questioning the concept of time in!
I turned around, and it was Rose Weasley, who had turned around the corner and was striding towards me in the confident, self-assured manner only Rose Weasley could command.
“Hey!’ I said. Rose wasn’t one for hugs, but she grinned boyishly at me in replacement. “You here for a session too?”
“Oh god yeah,” she said, and we took our seats by the window. “Of course you’d have the same appointment time as me, we’re both W surnames.”
“I could have had appointment times with Louis Weasley,” I replied smartly. “Or Ruddy Walcott.”
“Yeah, I bet you’re gutted you don’t,” she retorted lazily, stretching out. “You know, I just love these sessions. Twenty minutes off timetable, all you have to do is talk about yourself, it’s fucking great. Especially as I’ve gone and done the Healer internship, there’s really nothing Longbottom can say. Where were you last week?”
“I had a Quidditch meeting,” I said, smiling slightly at the sudden image of Rose Weasley as a Healer in my head. “I haven’t had an appointment yet- what’re they like?”
“God, the greatest,” she enthused. “I mean, fucking useless, you’re never going to get any half-baked career advice from a teacher, but it’s a total ego stroker. Forget stroker, it’s an ego blow job.”
I burst out laughing. “You needing a lot of external ego satisfaction then, Rose?”
“Don’t we all?” she countered. “Let’s see, shall we? A month in and I’m likely to fail my NEWT mocks- not because I’m an idiot, I’m predicted all O’s and E’s, just because I cannot be bothered- Hermione’s on my case about a letter home about getting caught with gillyweed, Scorpius is keeping secrets from me, god, he’s been writing these secret letters-”
“What?” I said, staring at her in confusion. “I thought he worshipped you. Also- you call your mother by her first name?”
“Nah, that honeymoon stage is way over,” she said, ignoring my second question. “You’ve been seeing Mikey recently, haven’t you? Well, about fucking time, but anyway- don’t bother with him after three months, boys get shit after three months.”
“What’s this letter business?” I asked, amused by her chattiness. Rose was initially in front of my seat in Defence this year, and it had taken her only a minute to get the Slytherin beside me to switch places with her so she could sit with someone “that didn’t have the haircut of some fucking neo-Nazi”, which coming from Rose was quite the compliment.
“God,” she said. “Don’t mention it to others, right- and you have got to properly fill me in about you and Lancaster- but urgh, he’s been in frequent correspondence-” and it was her random emphasis on words of no need to be drawn out that made me realise how much I had grown to like the girl over the past month, and this realisation made me smile at her as she spoke- “with some randomer, no idea who, but he insists he cannot tell me and insists its important!”
“Wow,” I said, wrinkling my nose half in confusion, half in genuine annoyance at the blonde-haired Slytherin. “How long are the letters?”
“Long,” she said. “All I know is that the first letter of the recipient is J.”
“J…” I said, thinking of any J’s I knew, apart from the glaringly obvious but he was Rose’s cousin, he was the last one to be in cahoots with her boyfriend in secrecy, the whole idea of him and Scorpius being friends was so not James I smirked at the thought of it. “Jasmine Azalea?”
“Nah, not someone within the school,” she said. “Because James gave me his Maury Map- I mean like, fine, I have to share it with Albus, but he only uses it for Poppy-”
She stared at me in astonishment. “You dated him for eight months,” she said. “And he didn’t bring up the Marauders’ Map?”
This had been the first time someone had brought up mine and James’ relationship so explicitly to my face I blinked at her strikingly handsome face and didn’t even realise no sound was coming out of my opened mouth.
“Sorry,” she said, brazenly. “I assumed it wasn’t too soon to start discussing my cousin. Since you are, you know, seeing Mikey Lancaster.”
And there was such an undercurrent of hostility in her breezy tone that I found myself speechless once again. Rose Weasley was loud, she was quick-tempered, she was outspoken and brutally honest, she was the last person I could think of to bother concealing her true feelings. She was human veritaserum and to hear a sentence come out of her mouth that didn’t match its tone puzzled as much as it almost scared me.
“Miss Wilderson,” said Flitwick, poking his head out of his opened door. I looked down at the smiling Professor, and rose from my seat. “Sorry to keep you waiting. Hello, Miss Weasley! How’s your Charms essay coming along?”
“Coming along almost as fast as Longbottom here,” she retorted, nodding in the direction of the Head of Gryffindor’s closed office door. Flitwick didn’t even bother to hide his amused expression as I followed him inside, not bothering to glance back at Rose in farewell.
“How was the meeting?” Aspen asked, as I sat down and joined the group of Seventh Years she was sat with at the Gryffindor table that lunch time. I had walked down straight after my meeting, easily making the decision to not bother with the second half of Transfiguration that already cut into the lunch period every second Wednesday over timetabling issues. “Don’t you have Trans?”
“No, I’m cisgender,” I said, and Oscar, on the other side of Aspen, turned around to face me and shook his head in disdain.
“Awful joke babe. Poking fun at the linguistics surrounding social minorities only perpetrates the notion said minority is, itself, a joke.” And before I could retort, he turned back to his conversation with Scorpius and Declan Ainsley, leaving Aspen smirking in my direct eyesight.
“It was… whatever,” I said, pouring myself some water. “I really don’t know what I want to do when I’m older. I just don’t care-”
“How can you not care?” she asked, surprised. “Everyone’s been speaking non-stop about what they want to do.”
“Yeah, I know, but-”
“Like Ophelia’s already secured an internship with the WMH in London-”
“She got in with the WMH?” I asked, feeling my eyes widen in both shock and envy. The Wizarding Museum of History was the biggest museum of British Wizardry and it was a huge part of the establishment, a real flagship of the national magical community.
“Yeah, how good? Jasmine’s got curse-breaking, which is so Jasmine- Oscar’s sent off his application for Witch Weekly USA-”
“-God, yeah, I remember that evening-”
“-I know, I don’t think the parchment industry will ever recover from all that waste- er, Liam’s got something at the Ministry, so does Declan-”
“-And you’ve got something with Gringotts,” I said, miserably. Aspen’s decision to go into banking surprised no one that knew her beyond her looks; she was the best at Arithmancy in the year, and had held subscription to the Prophet’s Sunday Financial Times since Fifth Year.
“Don’t forget about me,” said a familiar voice, as a familiar body slid down beside me.
“Sorry, already did,” I said, leaning comfortably against Mikey’s body, swinging my feet up upon the bench, the toes of my black leather shoes grazing Aspen’s robes, the ends of my hair spilling over his lap, dark brown locks against jet black school robes. “What are you doing? Something in the Ministry, I hear?”
“That’s your second failed joke of the hour, Effy,” Aspen said, looking down at me in amused pity. “At least we can tick off comedian from your list of potential post-school career paths.”
“Hygienist too,” said Mikey above me, and I tilted my head up to see him crinkle his nose in disgust. “Is it just me or do you smell?”
I suddenly felt too tired and too thin-skinned to be able to tolerate the banter between Aspen and Mikey and decided to change the subject before I randomly burst into tears. I knew the unusual behaviour of Rose before the meeting should not, should not be overanalysed and I was usually good at avoiding overthinking but her aggressive tone of voice kept on playing in my head and all I could think of was James.
All I could think of was James as my head lay in Mikey’s lap. Where was he? What was he up to? He wasn’t in any of the gossip tabloids or columns, Albus rarely mentioned him (and I never asked): his existence had been temporarily suspended from life outside my head until Rose mentioned his name only an hour ago.
“You guys going to this year below party Friday night, then?” I offered as a change of subject. Opposite me on the parallel bench I could hear people extend the cluster of Sixth Formers and when I looked up it was Al and Jasmine.
“We discussing Solly Alexander’s birthday party?” Jasmine asked, and I pulled my body from the warmth and comfort of Mikey’s into a regular dining position. “Obviously we are going? Why is this even a question?”
“Jasmine just needs an event for an excuse to get really, really drunk,” Albus informed us as Jasmine’s mouth dropped open in outrage, and I laughed at her indignance. “After I smashed her in today’s Defence practical-”
“Alright, you little failed Gryffindor,” she said, her mouth full of food, holding her forefinger to his face to silence him. “One. That non-verbal spell you pulled was not in the curriculum for this term-”
“It still counted, you three minute long Sorting-”
“Because I have Slytherin qualities, okay- And you promised not to tell anyone!”
“You,” said Mikey flatly to Jasmine. “Have Slytherin qualities. No way. Shocked. Get out of town.”
I laughed at his sarcasm, and laughed even harder at Jasmine’s attempt to scowl at both Mikey opposite her and Albus beside her without moving her head too much.
“I agree, Jas,” said Aspen, smoothly. “Obviously we’re going to Solly’s birthday. We haven’t been to a party since the first week back.”
“We had Heath Tomlinson’s last weekend,” Scorpius offered, turning from his conversation with Declan and Oscar to ours’.
“Fuck off right now,” Jasmine commanded. “If you think that gathering of twenty was a party. God. You know what we need? We need a party, and my pride is wounded that we’ve resorted to the fucking year belows for one. We need loud music, big lights and lots and lots of alcohol.”
Her eyes glimmered wickedly and everyone sat around her watched in half excitement, half awe.
“And we need it tonight.”
The whole day had been characterised by an overcast sky: thick, light grey clouds had saturated the sky from horizon to horizon, the kind of cloud that has no movement, no density, no ripple, is so thick and constant in its tone you begin to wonder if the sky will ever be blue again.
But it was now blue, it had turned into a delightfully blue sky of a late afternoon, and whilst it was- as I had only just learnt- October, it was still early enough in the season for the sky to remain its glorious, victorious shade of late summer’s azure blue well past the end of lessons.
And then when the sky started turning slightly darker, and the wisps of white cloud turned a vivid peachy pink, and the horizon of the Forbidden Forest looked more lavender than blue, Mikey grabbed my hand under the dinner table that night and we went to his room, went to his gloriously empty dormitory, and lay on his bed, looking up at the wonderful sunset beside us, for his bed like mine was placed right beside the window.
I loved these moments with Mikey. I loved feeling the body mass of someone beside me, feeling someone’s fingers trail my left arm and my left thigh, play with my hair, entwine my legs with. Mikey was as familiar as a summer’s day and I think there will always be a part of me that will always love him.
For whilst Mikey had clearly- clearly- grown up since the eleven year old boy I first knew him as, the twelve year old boy I first became friends with, the thirteen year old boy I first fancied on the Quidditch team and the fourteen year old boy I first kissed, he was still Mikey. His voice was still Mikey, his wide, dark blue eyes were still Mikey, his slightly tanned olive skinned was still Mikey whether it be his face or his permanently coarse hands.
“I could lie here all day,” I said, running my thumb over his hair. He had kept his summer’s internship’s buzzcut, and I was still not used to the empty space his long, thick locks used to occupy. “All night. I don’t want to go to this party.”
“So don’t go,” he suggested, and I could feel his warm breath on my neck with every word, every exhale. “I’m not.”
“Mm, I don’t know,” I said, turning to him and propping myself up with one elbow. We had discarded our robes by the foot of his bed and I could feel the softness of his pillow under the thin cotton material of my school shirt as I looked down at his face, his half-closed eyes, basked in the light of this autumnal sunset. “Everyone seems to be going. We haven’t had a big year party since… Last year, I suppose.”
“Who cares?” he asked, slowly opening his eyes. “We see our friends every day, anyway. I don’t care about the others. And we have that mock Transfiguration exam next week, Eff… fuck, you’re genuinely going?”
I sighed, and felt the same background frustration I had felt for the past few weeks at his lack of interest, lack of care for anyone outside himself and his friends. I looked at his peaceful face as he lay there, his eyes still closed, his handsome face coloured amber and pink and peach from the window beside him.
He hadn’t always been this… exclusive, I suppose, exclusive like an up and coming Shoreditch nightclub. eager to review the options but almost always convinced they weren’t good enough for his company, and transparent in his pursuit of the big and wonderful. The skin around his eyes were almost lavender with exhaustion, and his broad nose was still pinkish from the bludger he took to the nose two days ago.
“Let’s go,” I said, running my hand through that short, black hair. “You used to love parties-”
“Come on, Effy,” he said, opening his eyes and sitting up. “I used to, but then I grew up. It’s the same get withs, the same stories, the same scandals. How have you not outgrown them?”
“How have you?”
We stared at each other, the sunset still colouring our bodies with its extraordinary palette of pinks and oranges, and I wondered if he was feeling as lost in my company as I was increasingly feeling.
“I’m going to go,” I said, swinging off his bed easily and grabbing my robe. “Get ready. For tonight. Are you definitely not coming-”
“You know what, Effy,” he said, his voice a lot softer than it had been recently. “You’re right. I think I will come, yeah.”
I could feel my eyes widen in surprise; I totally did not expect to win this argument so easily. He looked up at me, and I looked back down at him, and wondered why this minor victory felt so shallow.
It has been said- quite frequently- that hell hath no fury like Jasmine Azalea scorned (her short temper and flare for the dramatic matched only her house peer, Rose Weasley), and if one was to interpret her feelings towards the lack of party effort by the year group as scorn, this was- as Scorpius drily called it- one hell of a party.
It was the first time I had ever been to a party in a classroom, and I don’t think that reflected my lack of Hogwarts parties, but more the ambition of the Azalea, Weasley & Walcott party efforts. Ruddy, despite his laddish ways and boyish bravado, was a natural talent at Defence spells and mechanisms, and had fixed the room- itself already partially concealed by featuring just below a staircase- with strong silencing spells and the disillusionment charm, whilst Jasmine practised the Defence spell of the month; a particular form of the concealment spell, revealing the interior of the spell’s reach to only those who knew the password.
Louis, annoyed and upset to be of no use to the Gryffindor duo, demanded to at least be able to choose the password. Which was, naturally, pussy pussy pussy marijuana, uana.
“What else was it going to be?” Oscar drawled, as we muttered the words to the classroom door. “The first ten digits of pi? The concluding words of Romeo and Juliet? Voltaire?”
But I didn’t reply, I was so taken by the interior. I could barely even hear the end of Oscar’s sentence. Loud drum and bass saturated the room, making the floor and wall almost shake, and despite our rather prompt arrival- like, the party only started a half hour ago, we weren't exactly late- seventy or so Seventh Years clustered around the already overpacked room, dancing and jeering and cheering and laughing, beer bottles and loose limbs only mildly juxtaposed by the uniform worn by their owners.
And whilst Mikey told me he’d meet me inside, after three minutes of searching the throbbing, boiling, electric in its teenage energy room I could only find Albus.
“Have you seen Mikey-”
“Effy!” he screamed, he roared, and I could only hear his voice by pressing my ear against his lips. I listened to him as I watched Ruddy and Louis were waving their shirts in the air as they stood behind the year below DJ, the sweat of their bare torsos glistening in the moonlight and the flicking, fluorescent coloured lighting of the room. And Aspen and Jasmine, the long-legged duo only as beautiful as the other, stood beside Ruddy and Louis, gigglingly resisting their calls to join him.
“Have you SEEN POPPY!” he continued, his eyes wide and excited.
“OKAY, thank you SO MUCH!” And he left as quickly as I came, his face excited and merry as he pulsed through the throbbing crowd of the year group, sweaty body against sweaty body in this weird, wonderful make-shift party room.
If there’s anything worse than feeling like the only sober person in a room full of drunk students I am yet to discover it. It took me minutes that felt like hours trying to find my friends for some alcohol, and when I met Scorpius, Rose and Heath Tomlinson passing a joint between them by the window at the back, I didn’t even care that their firewhiskey was lacking in mixer.
“I don’t even use mixer anymore,” Rose declared smugly.
“God,” said Heath, looking at her in astonishment and admiration. “Scor, mate, your Gryffindor girlfriend is more Slytherin that you’ll ever be.”
“Cheers,” said Scorpius, drily. Heath caught my eye and winked, and I smiled back, already buzzed from the metallic liquor and feeling a bit devoid of any attention since I had arrived at the party.
“Ha!” said Rose, suddenly, as Heath was about to say something to me. Our heads turned to the ketchup haired girl as she screamed over the noise of the party, impossible to really hear anything even as far on the edges as we were. “I told you Aspen Spinelli and Louis fancied each other-”
“No they do not-” I begun, ever the expert on my best friend, and Rose’s smirk widened as she placed two hot hands on my head and moved it in the direction of the DJ booth. Aspen, big eyed and golden haired, was dancing so close with Louis Weasley it almost looked like they were kissing-
“They’re just dancing!” Scorpius roared over the music. “That doesn’t prove anything-”
“Exactly,” I said, earnestly, the alcohol only heightening my feeling of annoyance that Rose would know something about Aspen I didn’t. “They’ve snogged a few times in the past-”
“Whatever,” Rose said, passing the joint to me as she put her hands on her hips. Heath, as Heath did well, just watched the scene beside him with observational amusement, and I found myself strangely attracted to his lopsided smirk as his eyes followed the conversation. “Louis is my cousin and its clear he fancies Spinelli-”
“Well she doesn’t fancy him-”
“How would you know, Elizabeth?” Rose begun, almost mockingly. “You her keeper?”
Before I could retort, I felt a pair of hands at my waist, and I spun around to see Mikey behind me, who passed my forehead with his lips as he high-fived Scorpius and Heath.
“Didn’t think you’d come, man…”
“Wish we didn’t come, I hate parties…”
“Tell me about it, Effy’s the one that dragged me out here…”
I wasn’t even listening to the boys’ weird competition of who could be more pathetic. I had taken Mikey’s bottle of firewhiskey from his big jeans pocket and was gulping it down like it was tap water, almost desperate in my attempt to feel something new.
“Let’s go,” I said, suddenly, to Mikey, tilting my head so I’d interrupt his eyesight of Scorpius and Heath. “Come on…”
I heard Mikey laugh to the two boys beside him, a head taller than me, and felt his warm body radiate behind mine, his sweaty hands loosely threaded through my even sweatier fingers. The music and the bright lights throbbed around us, familiar faces of those we had grown up only a part of the human mosaic of the party. I felt my body dance with his behind me, could feel his smirk on my neck, his hands clasping my waist tighter than they ever held my hands.
“What’s spurred this on,” he murmured into my ear. I knew the firewhiskey was working because by this round of gulping, still from his bottle, I didn’t shudder as the liquor cascaded down my throat. “You’re surely not actually pissed Aspen’s getting it on with Louis…”
“No,” I said, suddenly, turning around and feeling my nose press up on his chin, my arms move from my sides to circulate around his shoulders, like some adolescent ballerina. “Obviously not…”
I knew that Mikey knew that I knew he knew me better, and he smirked down at me as he clearly decided it would be better for him to drop it. I watched him lick his lips, his eyes glinting wickedly in the neon lights, and we kissed, our bodies so sweaty and entangled on the dance floor I couldn't tell what limb was mine, what was his, what was someone else’s beside us. What is a Gryffindor to a Ravenclaw, a boy to a girl, a nerd to a Quidditch player, on a dance floor? A sudden flash of a picture being taken went off beside us, and I could feel Mikey’s left hand fingers tighten their grasp ever so slightly as he held the back of my head.
“Wanna get out of here,” he muttered into my mouth, so only I could hear him.
“Come on, Effy…”
“Okay, yeah, sure…”
I held his big, hot hand as we slipped through the crowd of individual bodies dancing and screaming and kissing to the beat of this year below DJ, faces of my life made anonymous by the night, and when we tumbled into a dark broom closet down the corridor the sound of the classroom throbbed in my ears so loud I couldn’t hear anything else.
I had never hooked up in a broom cupboard before, and I smirked in Mikey’s mouth to think how cool and bad and seventh year I was being, snogging my boyfriend in a broom cupboard.
His fingers were in my hair, my fingertips pressed into the skin under his shirt. His left hand left the back of my neck and I moaned into his mouth as they trickled further and further south- I could still hear the drum and bass of the party further down the corridor, and as my ears cleared the sound of our pantings only grew louder- his hand crept under my school skirt, further up-
“Oh, come on…”
“No, like- no-”
He tore himself away from me, and in the pitch black of the broom cupboard I could only imagine his face. “Effy- seriously-”
“We’ve been dating for a month, and you’re still-”
“Fucking hell, come on-”
“Don’t even- I know you did it with James-”
I felt my mouth drop open at the sound of his name in Mikey’s voice and my hands, once in the warmth of his chest, had curled up into tight fists by my side. “You are kidding me-”
“No, Effy, and you refuse to discuss it-”
“There’s nothing to discuss!” I cried shrilly. “I-”
I heard a cough and it didn’t come from opposite me. My eyes flew even further open- as if that was possible- and I grasped Mikey’s wrist, pressing my body further into him.
Did you hear that, I whispered, my lips to his ear, so quietly I’m not sure even he heard.
Yes, he breathed back, and- stood there in my bra and school skirt- I wondered if I was going to die by broom cupboard murder.
“Hello?” Mikey called out, after an elongated pause that felt like an hour, an hour of my heart beating two hundred, three hundred, four hundred beats an hour. My hand was gripping his wrist so tight even my fingers were beginning to feel numb.
There was another silence, and my fingers were just about to open the door and run away from the cough, run away from Mikey, even if it meant walking back into the party shirtless-
“Oh, come on, Poppy, we might as well tell them.”
“Well, do you think-”
“You’ve already said my name, you fucking special needs prat, we’ve already told them-”
“Al?” Mikey asked, hoarsely, into the darkness of the cupboard. “Poppy?”
There was a pause, and I truly do not know what came first on this weird, bizarre night: the lighting of Al’s wand, illuminating four perfectly semi-naked bodies clustered together, or the hideous screeches from the party down the corridor, as Sinatra’s voice bounced off the walls and the music stopped.
“I suppose,” said Albus, as the four of us sat there, on the cold floor of the broom cupboard, white school shirts found and slipped on but buttons still left undone, our bodies still warm from the heat of the party. “You two were going to find out sooner or later. Our best friends.”
“Your best friends,” Poppy said pointedly, and it struck me that in the confusion she was in Mikey’s shirt and he was, to my left, in hers, the thinness of the cotton fabric stretched awfully tight across his chest. “Eve and the girls still know nothing-”
“Well, it was all your decision in the first place, Poppy-”
“I know, I-’
“So how long have you two been hooking up for?” I asked, my voice still hoarse, and Mikey nudged my leg with his foot. It was my turn on the rota to keep my hand on the closet door handle, apparently. The second we heard the professors raid the party, Albus and Poppy reached for their wands and performed protection and silencing spells with such quickness and zest it occurred to me this clearly wasn’t their first time doing it.
But Mikey was a paranoid freak who was terrified of detention lest it blemish his perfect Healer record, so we had decided to contribute our part to the hiding effort.
Holding the door handle.
Albus and Poppy turned to each other. Now the small cupboard was illuminated by Albus’ wand, I could see the duo perfectly, in all their messy hair and swollen lip glory. Al’s hair was sticking up even more than usual, a perfect, jet black mess, and Poppy’s wonderful bronze locks glimmered in the golden light of the wand.
“I only realised how much I liked Al at the Slug Party,” she said, simply, and Albus smirked proudly, like a kid at his Year 4 awards ceremony. “I don’t know, I… We had kissed, at parties, over summer, but it was only when… Ahh…”
“I sat her down and told her this was it,” said Albus, gushing, and it was obvious he had been waiting for someone to stumble into his secret so he could talk about it. It was a true testament to his adoration for Poppy that he hadn’t let this affair slip earlier, and I smiled at him. “I was like-”
“He was all like, paralytic on fucking elfish champagne-“
“Whatever, Poppy- I told her she could either give me a go now or I’ll never chase her, never ask her out, never even look at her again, because I was done with it all- so she kisses me, and…”
“You’re dating in secret?” Mikey asked, his voice sounding even lower than usual compared to Al’s fruity, excitable West London accent. “Man, I thought this was just a friends with benefits thing-”
“Nope!” Albus trilled. “We’re dating!”
“In secret?” I asked, sounding just as dumbfounded and dubious as Mikey did.
“Yes,” Poppy said, like it was obvious. “We’re seeing how it goes before we tell people.”
“And hows it…” Mikey, with all his Healer capabilities, still had the emotional intelligence of a cheese grater and his opinion on this… relationship as dumb and idiotic shone through in his tone. Good thing Albus was too oblivious to ever notice. “Going?”
“Poppy’s just scared the second it goes public, I’ll lose interest or something-”
“It’s a perfectly justifiable reason, Al, I just- wait!” And Poppy’s eyes flew open in panic as she turned from Albus to Mikey and myself opposite her. “You guys won’t tell anyone, will you-”
“Course not,” said Mikey, and I nodded in agreement.
“Oh my god, thank you so much- I just-“
“Don’t worry,” I said, smiling. “Total secret.”
“You guys definitely go public in your own time,” Mikey echoed, and he didn't even bother to hide how ridiculous he thought the two were being in his tone of voice.
I nudged him with my foot. It was his turn to hold the door handle.
Of course, you can’t stay in a broom cupboard forever. After a half hour, silence in the corridor and four badly cast disillusionment spells, we left for our respective common rooms.
I saw Mikey for lunch that next day, and we had barely anything to say to each other. Maybe it was me, maybe it was him.
“How’s that Transfiguration essay coming along?”
“Yeah, well enough. Your Defence one?”
“Don’t know if it’s any good though.”
A pause, as Mikey’s gaze left mine for his plate before him. “I’m sure its fine.”
On the table next to ours, right perfectly in my eyesight, sat Poppy beside Albus. They weren’t arguing, they weren’t even flirting- just simply engaged in what seemed to be the most riveting conversation of mankind thus far. Her eyes wrinkled when she grinned with laughter, and his face face distorted pleasantly as he spoke about something with vivid passion. They couldn’t seem to stop talking, their voices only getting louder and louder as they spoke over each other, fighting for dominance in the conversation.
I turned to Mikey, who was watching me dully.
The more I looked, the more Albus’ conversation with Poppy reminded me of my old conversations with James.
Does the angst EVER STOP! No, because they're in their senior year/ Year 13 and I'm feeling particularly malicious at a fictional cohort of students that don't even have UCAS or univerisity grades to worry about. Like hello? IMAGINE if Effy & co had all of this, PLUS A*AA grade demands. I'm watching my younger sister go through it now and god, its been almost two years now and I do NOT miss it...
But whatever. What do you think!! I know its been a very James-less few chapters recently, and trust me, it feels weird not writing him. But he 1. will make a return (obv) and 2. let me know what you think of Effy & Mikey! Poppy & Albus? Like, everything? Please! Please?
Also, shout out to the Harry Styles album (especially Two Ghosts and Ever Since New York), everything written by Lorde ever, Haim's new album, Weak by AJR and Taylor Swift's 1989 + Red ballads for SERIOUS inspiration for this chapter. We're in such a good music season atm I love it!!! You guys listening too? If not, what are you?
Oh! And Romeo and Juliet obviously belongs to William Shakespeare.
Lots of love as ALWAYS XXX
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