Chapter 12 : May Maybe
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"Dear Quiet Girl with All the Answers,
Perhaps you could give me one more answer for now... Would you accompany me to the May Ball this year? I hope you say yes.
Anxiously awaiting your reply.
I sprinted towards the Quidditch pitch to tell Delilah, not bothering to pay attention to my surroundings, until I was banging my fist on the locked locker room door.
"Woah, where's the fire?" Instead of Delilah's voice my ears picked up on a deeper tone, which was distinctly male. The sight I was greeted with was James Potter wrapped in a towel hanging low on his hips, which I couldn't help noticing had water drippings drifting downwards. Where was the fire indeed? And how did I put it out?
"Why are you naked?!" I covered my eyes, turned around, and tried to rush away at the same time. The end result, as you could expect, was not well and I ran into the wall. The git sounded like he was restraining a laugh.
"I'm not," James objected, touching my shoulder lightly. "I was just showering but you were tenaciously knocking on the door."
"This is supposed to be the Ravenclaw locker room," I protested, peeking out from between my fingers to meet James' eyes. Surprisingly, his hazel eyes were behind a pair of specks that appeared to have been hastily placed upon his face.
"Gryffindor locker room, love." He tapped the wall behind me, which had the Gryffindor crest painted on it. In my mortification, I covered my face with my hands and slid down the wall until I was seated at James' feet. Unfortunately, he didn't even seem to have ugly feet. The boy's outward appearance was fit, nearing on perfect.
My eyes focused on his toes because James Potter had to have one abnormal, or flawed body part. Am I right? One can't escape biology that much to not have one single appearance issue. Of course, what was I saying? His parents were attractive, too, so it only made sense that the genes would continue...
"Hey, Ainsley." James snapped his fingers in my face, prompting me to meet his gaze. "You alright?"
"Not really," I mumbled. After a full inspection of his toes, I am forced to conclude that there is nothing abnormal, or even slightly strange, about James Potter's feet. Damn.
"Is there a reason you're scowling at my feet like that?" He sounded amused.
"Not really," I sighed and looked away.
"Well, tell me about you being 'not really' alright then," he replied, sliding down to sit next to me.
Did you forget he was only wearing a towel? Good, because I sure as hell had not. A blush spread across my cheeks as I felt his leg graze mine and I desperately kept my eye from gawking at his strong chest and abdomen. I bet you could crack a walnut off of him and he wouldn't feel a thing.
"Is this what you were running to Delilah for?" James picked up the slightly crumpled letter from Admirer and I panicked.
"No," I objected loudly, waved my hand in James' face to stop him from reading it, and then tackled him to the ground. My face heated up when I realized what I had done, which involved me being on top of a nearly naked James Potter. "Oh Merlin," I groaned, resisting the urge to bury my face in shame, as James' arms snaked around my waist.
"Ainsly," he murmured against my neck, the vibrations of his voice erupted goose flesh down my arms and at the back of my neck. "Perhaps you can pay me to give you the letter back," he joked.
"Pay you," I repeated back to him, absentmindedly. "I don't have any money." This situation made me feel very nervous. James' shoulders....his eyes...the sensation of his skin against mine. Absolutely everything about him made me feel nervous.
"With your body then," James suggested hotly in my ear and I gulped.
"Prat," I replied coldly, pushing him off of me. "Not happening."
James laughed. "Sorry sorry," he apologized, holding up his hands in surrender. "I was only joking, I swear."
"Your joking attempts sometimes fall in the category of sexual harassment," I remarked harshly.
"Fair point," he sighed. "I'll stop." He stood up, adjusting his towel with one of his hands and then offered it to help me up. I
accepted it without meeting his eyes.
"Thank you," I said, focusing on the floor. James grabbed my hand, caressed the back of it, and pressed something into my palm. My letter.
"I hope it's something that pleases you," he commented, softly, and withdrew his hand. "You were close, you know. Ravenclaw's locker room is just next to us."
When I searched the direction he referred to, I smiled as I caught sight of Delilah juggling her gear and broom. "Thank you," I said, again, and began running towards Delilah. I was halfway across the field when I heard James shouting my name behind me.
"Ainsly!" He called again, clenching his towel as he waved at me. Delilah dropped her broom and gawked between me and James, a gasp escaping from her mouth. The look she sent me meant I was going to have to do a lot of explaining later. "The letter, or whatever it was. It made you smile, so it can't be too bad. Right?"
His words confused me even more.
Present (One Year Post-Hogwarts)
Ugh. What did I do now? Well, I knew I'd been a prat again, but I didn't know how to fix it.
"Yesh, you're looking bloody dreadful this morning," Al commented.
"Thanks," I replied drily, stirring the porridge I had in front of me.
"Is there a reason you're brooding in your porridge? Based on your elated mood last night I'd half-considered Sly let you shag her." Al leaned against the kitchen counter on one arm, while the other contained a hand curled around a steaming cup of coffee. If mum had seen the amount of sugar he put in that cup she'd faint.
"Half-considered?" I asked in a cocky tone, which was the complete opposite of how I was feeling. His casual use of Ainsly's nickname was perplexing, as well, since she was selective in people utilizing it.
"Well," Al responded, acting like he had to think about his answer carefully, and then met James' eyes with a blank green stare. "The girl does have some standards."
I stared down into my porridge, pretending the words didn't sting.
"Oh, come off it. Not going to even tell me to piss off?" Al shook his messy black hair. "The old James would have never bellied up just as you have."
"Well, maybe I don't want to be the old James anymore..." I mumbled, stirring my porridge once more. "He was a right awful prat, wasn't he?"
Al's eyes just watched me silently in obvious disbelief. The pause that followed was heavy and painful.
"Did you know I talked to Ainsly quite a bit during your Seventh Year?" Al appeared to consider his words before he continued. "I suppose it was her Seventh, as well." Albus' tone changed to something more severe, like he was about to deliver grim news.
I shook my head. "No, I didn't know. What did the two of you chat about?" Seventh Year was when she out right ignored me, and my conscious had been too ashamed and guilty to pursue her further.
"I talked to her," Al corrected. "Ainsly never talked back, until close to the end of that year. Really freaked Scorpius out, especially when he attempted to go outta his way to cheer her up the one time."
"She ignored you, too?" I frowned, feeling frustrated.
Al shook his head. "James...Sly was practically mute all of her Seventh Year, unless a Professor directly called on her."
"No..." I felt my frown deepen. "I would have definitely noticed that."
"Well... Perhaps it went over your head." Al smiled sardonically. "Hogwarts was pretty cruel to her." Al's eyes lost their humor, becoming stormy with understanding what the extent of being unpopular at Hogwarts meant.
"People joked," I reasoned.
"Yeah. People sure like to do that," he said sarcastically. "Did you ever happen to see Ainsly laughing along?" Al argued, setting down his coffee mug to refrain from squeezing, or smashing it.
"Well..." I bit my lip, remembering all of the times she'd been on the receiving end of jokes and stupid remarks. Ainsly plugged her ears with ear phones to block out the comments and she never smiled at them. Al was right, of course, and I had not exactly made any easier for her. I'd never felt more like a prat...
I woke up the next morning, groggy with my hair smashed on one side and breath on my cheek. Hak, our three legged pitt bull, cocked his head sideways when he caught me staring, which immediately prompted him to clumsily lick the length of my right cheek up to my temple.
"Hak," I groaned, but smiled despite the slobber. "Your breath is as foul as ever... Shall we go see what mum's cooking?" At the request, Hak tripped, got up, and then rushed out of my bedroom wagging his tail.
When I walked into the kitchen, mum was busy flipping blueberry pancakes and humming a tune. Meanwhile, the kettle was whistling on the stove begging to be made into a cup of tea.
"I thought you had a morning shift," I commented, walked over to the stove, and started preparing the morning tea.
"I traded it with Mary," she stated, giving me a hard look. "Figured we had some talking to do, especially considering the handsome bloke that came in asking for you last night."
I stirred honey into mum's tea, just the way she liked it, and brought it over to the table. I released a sigh as I sat down.
"What have you been getting into Ainny?" Her words were cautious, guarded yet anxious of potential problems. Her posture assumed mother bear position.
"Mum... I want to know about dad," I began, focusing on the tea that's in my hands. The sound of glass shattering echoed in the kitchen, while my eyes soaked in the scene of mum frozen, eyes widen at the sight of the glass shards of plates on the floor. Well, this was a good start. I grabbed the broom as she knelt on the floor, carefully picking up larger shards with shaking hands. "I got it, mum. Go sit down, please." Her movements were slow as she listened to my request, plopping into a seat like it was a death sentence.
"Ainsly, your father..." I nodded for her to continue, disposing of the broken glass, and pushed her tea closer to her. "We were in a very difficult situation. The church was so...involved in our lives. No, I suppose that's putting it mildly."
I nodded my head, attempting to make sense of it all. Why did I have this great sense of dread when I thought about my father? "I remembered the song that kids would sing at bible school. The catching witches one," I said, watching her reaction.
"Yes," she sighed, and ran a hand through her hair. "Awful thing. It seems it has spread around America. It feels like yesterday I was patching up the cuts and bruises on your fists from a scuffle." She smiled, cherishing the memory of Ainsly's fighting spirit.
"What happened that night when dad called me down the stairs?" My mother's smile faded, as if I'd slapped it off her face. The blue eyes I knew so well avoided my gaze. "Mum, please."
"Your father was so faithful to the church, so much so it frightened me. He didn't like it when others diverted from The Path, and you and me were included in that."
"Did he...hurt you?" My mother's face flinched at my question, but she met my eyes with a look of determination.
She nodded. "He did, but I refused to let him ever harm you. And he was so hell bent on keeping to the ways of The Path. Abnormalities were never accepted."
"He noticed when I showed signs of magic," I filled in with conviction.
"To some extent he did," she agreed. "And I knew we had to leave."
"Because of me?" I frowned, thinking about all the yelling and screaming that took place in our house in the States.
"No, darling," she placed a hand on my cheek. "It was because it wasn't safe for either of us to stay. The Path destroys all in its way out of its stubborn belief: an absolute conviction that magic is real, and that witches and wizards ought to be exterminated wherever they were found." She smoothed back my hair, reminiscent of how she did when I was young, and then let her hand fall away.
"You knew about magic folk?"
"Yes," she confirmed with another heavy sigh. "But it was in a different way. My family and those around me always believed that magic was not a good thing. It was something to be feared and smothered before they took over our world." A chill ran down my spine, as my thoughts automatically went to the rallies, crimes, and killings going on in the States.
"Did dad know magic actually existed?"
"To the extent that I know now?" She asked into her tea, took a sip, and then continued. "I don't know, honestly. Your father was just so focused on catching anyone that had even an inkling of magic, or abnormality, that it was difficult to challenge if he knew the truth."
"What about with me?"
"He had his suspicions, of course, but I always made up an excuse," she shook her head. "A trick of light, the wind blowing on a flower, or anything else that was a sign of magic. But the day I decided we'd had enough your father was so angry, I didn't think it was safe for us to stay."
"Was that when he stormed out of the house?" I asked, thinking back to vision of my father's back after he sent a chilling glare at me.
"It was," she replied, shortly. She stood up and grabbed the pancakes from the counter.
"Tell me more about why he left that day," I insisted to her back.
"It was the closest he'd ever gotten to finding out about you performing magic," she explained to the plate of pancakes she set in front of us. "And he had a church meeting that evening, so I knew it wasn't safe for us to stay. So I packed us up and we left."
I nodded, sensing that my mum was reaching her threshold of answering questions. There was only one more burning question I had. "What does a Scourer mean?"
My mother became visibly pale. "I don't know." She made a point of carefully cutting her pancake, avoiding my eyes as she placed the morsel in her mouth. I honestly do not believe that she tasted it as she chewed and then swallowed.
"Mother please," I pled.
"He never explained it to me, Ainsly," he time was hard, signaling that the conversation was over. She took another tasteless bite of breakfast, as if she was just going through the motions. "And I was too afraid to ask."
I believed her. However, that didn't stop me from needing more answers, so I decided to write a letter.
Dearest Slytherin Sulking Sod,
You told me once if I needed a favor all I had to do was ask. Please consider this me asking, but allow this information to escape the knowledge of your best mate, as well as your "newfound" sweetheart. Of course, in return, I will not share our correspondence with your loving cousin. Will you allow me access to your library?
Awaiting your owl,
I smirked at the addition of "newfound sweetheart," as if the pale haired man had ever been vague in his fancies. I might not have access to Hogwarts, but if I could get close to a portion of the same knowledge I'd take it.
So for now I waited...
The next night I still had not received a letter, which was starting to concern me. Well, as much as I was allowing it to worry me, which was far more than I'm willing to admit to anyone else. As a result, here I was... Pretending the only thing that consumed my attention was my job.
"Sooo, tonight's event is café maid style," Delilah said causally and placed another serving tray into our catering van.
"Pardon?" I blinked at her, certain that I'd misheard her.
"It's a maid café style, you know like for cultural exploration." She smiled encouragingly at Savannah and I.
"Mmmm," Savannah muttered, exhaling a deep breath and glancing at me for a translation.
"In traditional maid cafés in Japan, the wait staff act as servants, treating and calling customers as masters and mistresses. It's considered a type of cosplay restaurant." I explained it to her as I continued to place boxes into the catering van.
"Nerd," Savannah remarked, playfully nudging me. I rolled my eyes, ignoring her.
"Are we uniformed?" I asked Delilah.
Delilah grimaced, which was not a good sign. "Yeah..." Her face brightened. "We are going to look so cute!" And then she thrusted the maid uniforms in our arms.
Savannah started at the uniform, lifting the frilly, white apron away from the black dress. Fortunately, the uniforms weren't pink... not that the current color pleased Savannah either. Her affect was as flat as ever when she stared back at Delilah. "Doneven," Savannah drawled out, her face impassive.
"It'll be fun," Delilah argued desperately, grasping Savannah by the shoulders as if to cease her from sprinting away. Savannah awarded her a blank, unenthused stare. "You always said you wanted to do cosway, or whatever, right Sly?"
"Cosplay," I corrected.
"Nerd," Savannah remarked again with a small smile, and then she released a defeated sigh.
"It's going to be great fun," Delilah insisted, practically oozing optimism as she clapped her hands together cheerfully.
"Mhmm," Savannah and I replied with skepticism. Well, mine was skeptical at least.
Shockingly, it was not great fun. Perhaps that's a bit harsh, but our set up for a maid café style event with disrespectful patrons, or er I guess I should say masters and mistresses, was downright dreadful. In everything I had read about maid café it was an atmosphere filled with innocence and fun. In those settings there are rules and a detailed structure for the café, but that was not the case for us. I'd lost count of how many times a "master" tried to get me to bend over to pick something up. Tossers.
"Welcome back, Master," I said, with a forced smile on my face and upbeat cheer. I still could not manage to make eye contact with guests because it was so uncomfortable.
There was a long silence when the guest entered. "Woah...Ainsly." James stood in the doorway with an amused grin on his face and his hands in his trouser pockets. My face flamed up at the introduction, while my mind went back to our last conversation. The one where I'd hung up on him. It's alright...focus. Yes, I just needed to focus and not let my guard down. Don't let him mess with your heart, Ainsly, and most importantly do your job. Do. Your. Job.
"Your fat arse is blocking the way, mate." Freddy strolled in behind James dressed in a kilt paired with bagpipes. "What do you think, Irish gal?" He gestured to his attire.
I raised my eyebrows at James. "He thought guests were cosplaying, too." James turned to Freddy again, glaring at him. "My arse isn't fat, you tosser. Right Ainsly?"
I stared at him, uncertain if I'm actually supposed to answer. Was it supposed to be a rhetorical question? There was another pregnant pause. "Uuh," I started and bit back an awkward smile.
"Tough break, mate." Freddy laughed and clapped a hand on James' shoulder. "Another thing to blame on your dad. Your doughy rear." James glared at him, again, as a response.
I covered my mouth to hide my laughter. James threw me a reproachful expression. "Laugh it up, Sly. You meanie." His pending grin ruined his attempt to appear offended, or disappointed with me.
"Anyways, a kilt is Scottish, Freddy. Not traditional Irish attire," I explained as I surveyed Freddy's bagpipes. "The bagpipes are a nice addition, though."
"Aw man," Fred groaned, but then shared a cunning look with James.
"Don't say it," James warned Fred and I arched an eyebrow at the exchange.
"She likes my pipes, Jamie." Fred teased and nudged James. James ran a hand over his face and groaned, while I just rolled my eyes.
"Ainsly, what are you doing?" Another server, Daisy, whispered to me. "The manager is going to be pissed if you're not in character. Be careful." Meanwhile, she was twirling her hair about and eying James the entire time she was scolding me. "Welcome Master!" She giggled outrageously and continued to twirl her hair. "Can I get you anything?"
"Ummm," James squirmed under her overly attentive gaze. "I think we are good, eh?" He exchanged a look with Freddy.
"Ohh, you haven't gotten your ears yet!" Daisy giggled again. "Ainsly, do you have a pair on you?"
"Oh, um, yeah." I pulled two pairs out of my apron and handed them over to Daisy.
"Oh, you can attend to the other Master," Daisy pointed out, winked, took a pair of bunny ears from my hand, and gestured for me to assist Freddy. However, I just watched, like it was playing out in slow motion, as Daisy stood on her tiptoes to place the bunny ears on James' messy head. He laughed as she whispered something to him, leaning in close to graze his shoulder with her fingertips. A weight dropped into my stomach and it felt like a hand squeezed at my heart, like it was some sort of stress ball. Was I catching a stomach bug?
"Alright there, Ainsly?" I blinked, turned to meet Freddy's eyes, and allowed him to take the bunny ears that I'd been gripping in my hands. "The furs a little squished now, but I think it gives it character, ya?"
Instead of watching Daisy and James, I focused on Freddy placing the ears on his head and he hopped over next to me. "Is someone getting green?"
I rolled my eyes at him. "No," I shrugged. I didn't really have a reason to be because it wasn't like James and I were together like that... there had been harmless flirting, certainly, but he hadn't kissed me, or even tried to kiss me. Not like when I was in sixth year when it'd been random and unsentimental.
"The man went to Ireland to make sure you were okay, Ainsly. I don't think you have to worry about that sod," Freddy insisted, throwing another pointed glance at James, who managed to untangle himself from Daisy. When he reached us, James narrowed his eyes and scrutinized us like we were harboring a conspiracy. "We were just discussing your doughy rear, James. No need to look constipated."
James' cheeks tinted pink and he glared at Freddy, groaning out the curse, "You arse." He stole a glance in Daisy's direction and quickly turned away, visibly cringing. "She's quite aggressive that one. Wanted me to buy some package on the menu where she'd sing to me all night, which she made sound frighteningly similar to a lap dance."
"Bloody hell," Fred cursed, shaking his head. "What'd ya say?"
"No thank you," he shrugged. "What else was I supposed to say?"
"You could have said your fit arse was promised to another," Fred offered, casually. James coughed and covered up a rising blush, knocking his shoulder into Fred.
"Give it a rest, Freddy." James grumbled, refusing to make eye contact. "Also, is my arse fit now? You make zero sense, mate."
"Perhaps it is the bunny ears that lengthen your physique," Fred considered, taking a drink from a nearby tray. "You should wear them more often. It's quite slimming to the derrière."
"Arse," James replied, rolling his eyes.
"Well Ainsly," Fred snapped his heels together and awarded me a salute. "It's been a pleasure. I'm going to try to find our party."
I curtseyed dramatically and extended my hand with a smile.
"Good-day mate," Fred cheered, shaking my hand enthusiastically.
"Putter there pal," I responded with a grin.
"Let's saw some logs," Fred challenged, like this was some bizarre greeting contest.
"Let's dock some hours," I replied because why not, right?
"...." Fred just stared at me. "Let's dock some hours...? What does that even mean?" Frankly, I had no idea, so just shrugged my shoulders. Fred grinned, shook his head, and hopped away calling out, "See you around, Ainsly."
So that left James and I standing there...alone. "You look nice," Jame said, awkwardly clearing his throat and shuffling his feet.
"Thank you." My tone sounded clipped even to my own ears, which was probably why James' face cringed.
"Listen..." He trailed off, shifting his eyes around the room to find the right answers.
"I should really be working," I replied and stole a glance at the kitchen area, where are boss watched from a small sliver of the door opening. Her hand waved out, enthusiastically telling me to take my time despite the warning that Daisy had given me. Our boss, Katie, was a little too boy crazy for her mature, forty-five year old age.
"Well, how about I get a table then? And you can show me all the stuff there is to order, as my uh-" he stopped and examined my maid outfit. "What am I to call you? Freddy didn't tell me very much about the event tonight, except that he was insistent on going."
The guidelines for what patrons were supposed to call us wasn't exactly outlined, per say. Delilah had explained that we were only supposed to call them "master" or "mistress," but that was it for as far as names went. When I looked back up, James was still awaiting my answer but from behind him I saw Daisy make a beeline for us.
"Right this way to your table, Master," I spoke loudly and clear enough for Daisy to stop, scowl slightly, and move away towards another table. Across the room I felt her eyes on my back as I grabbed James' elbow and led him to a table near the back.
"Ainsly," James began, again, once he was seated and I placed a menu in front of him. His fingers were fiddling with the plastic menu and I realized that he was nervous. "Look, about the other night..."
"Might I suggest the omelette rice, curry, or the cutesy cutesy ice cream sundae." I tapped the menu to show him the items I was speaking of and he grasped my finger.
"I never though I'd hear the words "cutesy cutesy' pass those lips," James said with a grin. "Alright. I'll take them."
"Which ones would you like, master?" I stared at the menu, avoiding eye contact with James.
"All of them that you suggested. Is there a drink and a program that you'd suggest, as well? Preferably one where I saw you all night," James explained, softly, a blush rising on his cheeks.
"I think that can be arranged," I nodded with a small smile and blush of my own.
After leaving James' table and putting his order in, I felt a tug at my side and saw Albus, or I guess I should say part of Albus because it was just his floating head. Resisting a scream at his appearance, I pushed on where his body was supposed to be and gave a sigh of relief as I was able to force him into the kitchen. "Are you mental? Bloody hell, Al. It's a mix of Muggles and magic folk out there, so do be more careful."
"Ya, ya." He waved my fretting off. "Nice getup by the way," Albus teased. "Now you call me, Master, right?" He smirked with humor in his green eyes.
"Shove off," I retorted hotly and folded my arms across my chest.
"What a kind greeting for an old friend," he tutted as I rolled my eyes. "Anyways, as much as I love our chats, I have something that Scorpius wanted hand delivered." Albus held out a letter, which I immediately grasped firmly in my hand.
"Thank you, Albus." As I placed the letter safely into my apron, I paused and wondered if Scorpius had shared the information concerning my letter with Albus. "Did he share the contents of the letter with you?"
"Nah," Albus denied, running a hand through his black hair. "But if you needed assistance, you could have come to me, as well."
"Good to know," I nodded. "I appreciate it."
"I meant books from Hogwarts as well, Sly." I sent him a look of disbelief. Didn't read the contents of the letter my foot. "I figured that was your aim with Scorpius, though I'm all for your future pillow fights.
"Alright, Albus." I rolled my eyes, but smiled at him easily. "Thank you for the delivery and the offer."
"Anytime," he replied, waving his hand. "Oh yeah. Also, let James know that I'm taking his curry."
"Albus...what-?" Before I was able to formulate a question for that he was already gone. And so was the curry.
Darn that sneaky Al...What is he up to? Hope you're liking as the plot continues. I'm anticipating a lot more answers (big reveal) in the next chapter.
Tell me what you'd like to see more of? Sorry if the suspense has been gruesome for some, but I've been really picky with what I want to write and editing it again and again. I think work has me hitting a wall, as well. Anyways, thank you for sticking with me!
As always, I don't own Harry Potter or Fantastic Beasts!
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