Jack Goddard rolled his eyes as the rest of team glared at me. They had all been looking at a very complicated diagram of some Quidditch manoeuvre and, obviously, I had not been listening. I had been sleeping.
Recently, I had been racked with a bout of insomnia that I couldn’t cure. I was having a recurring dream over and over again, and it would start off perfectly: someone would be kissing me and they smelt wonderful and everything was blissful and amazing. The world was made of jelly. The person had long, dark hair, but then I would watch as they morphed into someone with orange skin and blonde hair, and I watched as that person then proceeded to eat my favourite socks and throw slugs at me.
They had started the night that my parents decided it would be wonderful for me to invite Henrietta over for dinner. At the Burrow. With my entire family.
“Please try and stay awake, James,” Goddard continued as he pointed to a nondescript black dot on the board, “this is meant to be you.”
And then he tapped the board with his wand and the dots began zooming around. I tried to keep following mine, but I soon got lost and then my head hurt and all I wanted to do was go back to sleep.
“I feel so uncomfortable. Are you sure about the dress code? Are you sure you don’t want me to look nice? Make a good impression? Ergh, I’m panicking. What if they don’t like me? I know how much family means to you and I really don’t want to mess anything up.”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath before the ringing the bell to the Burrow. The sun was out, and it was far too hot to even comprehend doing something this stressful. The air seemed to boil. I couldn’t remember the last time it rained, and the wireless had been filled with warnings of drought and water shortages. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen Amelie.
Henrietta was stood next to me, and for once she was not wearing some hideously tight dress and high heels, but jeans and a t-shirt. I had told her that no one would appreciate the way she dressed; apart from Hugo maybe, who would drool and stare at her. She had complained and cried, and had somehow still managed to pour make-up on her face without me looking.
Our relationship had taken a distinct turn for the worse after I found out that she was only with me for my money and my obvious good looks (I wasn’t even sure about the latter). I would lurk around at the training centre until closing, or make sure I had seen every single one of my cousins for a long and meaningful discussion about their future careers. I would babysit Teddy and Victoire’s baby for hours on end. I would try and avoid Henrietta. It would be main priority. I even put it before pudding.
“Are you sure I look okay? Please say if I don’t, because I think I look horrible.”
“It’s fine,” I replied sullenly.
I sometimes wondered what she did when I wasn’t there. I wondered whether she saw other people, whether she had a bit on the side, whether all she did was get dressed up to have dinner on her own. In those moments, I felt a little sorry for her, but then I realised she was a gold-digging bitch who stopped me being with Amelie and who stopped me from being happy. Or maybe those were the same thing, I don’t know.
I watched as Henrietta pulled a bottle of perfume out of her bag and drowned herself in it. I held my breath as she came to stand next to me at the doorstep. Where the hell was everybody? Why did I have to spend so long with Henrietta while I waited for them to get off their arses and answer the bloody door?
“I mean, I think I should have gone with tighter jeans.”
I knocked again. I knew I should have accepted that key when Gran offered me one.
“Maybe that gold shirt I got on Saturday? You know, the one with no back?”
I opened the letterbox and peered inside. The kitchen appeared to be deserted.
“At least you let me wear high heels. I don’t know what I would have done if...”
I shoved passed Henrietta, who continued to titter on about her clothes or make-up, whether she had should have stolen the chocolate from the small child or kidnapped those old lovable nuns. I walked around the side of the house, angrily kicking the wellies out of the way. A stray gnome wandered into my path and I drop kicked it over the shed.
“Oh, Jamesy, you shouldn’t do that. The poor ickle gnomes!”
Of course Henrietta would find them adorable. Of course her addled mind would like gnomes and not pumpkin pasties. Of course she wouldn’t appreciate Quidditch or pranking ability or the rain or anything like that. She could only appreciate my money.
“Shut up, Henrietta!” I turned to face her, hoping that my family had somehow heard my shout and come to my rescue. But, knowing them, they would probably wait it out and watch me suffer. Miserable bastards.
“Jimmy...” she said, pouting.
“Don’t call me that!”
I started pacing. I needed somewhere to shout, to argue, to relieve some of this ridiculous tension. I knew Henrietta would simply start screeching and wailing if I did anything to any of the gnomes, and kicking the wellies seemed too weak and feeble. I needed to have a drink, or to play Quidditch, or someone with some arguing ability so I could have a decent challenge.
I considered just calling Henrietta ugly so that she’d retort with something ridiculous that I could mock.
“Sometimes I think you don’t love me.”
And sometimes I didn’t need to do anything.
“You’re just annoying...” I began, but then quickly added, “... sometimes.”
“It’s just I think you don’t appreciate me as much as you should.”
“And how much should I appreciate you?”
Henrietta shoved her perfume back into her bag, and tottered around in her high heels. She looked so out of place, in amongst the wellies and the chickens and the gnomes that I wondered, for the millionth time that day, why I had decided to bring her here.
“Oh, at least come home once in a while?” She replied, attempting to stumble towards me, “at least pretend that you’re vaguely interested in seeing me?”
“This is what today is for!”
“You can’t just say that one day is ‘designated Henrietta time’! I need looking after! I need you! I need constant attention!”
“You can say that again.”
“And you wouldn’t let me go out and see my friends! You wouldn’t let me go and visit Marie when she was in town!” I could see tears prickly in her eyes and her mascara was threatening to spill down her cheeks, but I held my ground.
“That was because it was three o’clock in the morning and you were drunk!”
“Because you made me drink all that firewhiskey at that party!”
“Yes, a party that you made me go to!”
Henrietta attempted to stamp her foot, but her stupid pink satin heel just sank further into the mud. She let out a frustrated yell before composing herself. She took out a compact mirror, opened it, and began reapplying make-up. It took her a good five minutes, but I was still angry when she put it away and turned to talk to me. Where the hell was my bloody family?
“Do you love me, James?”
I was caught like a gnome in wand-light. She was staring at me, waiting for a reply, and I just stood there. My shoes were caked in an inch of mud, and I could feel sweat pooling at my brow. She kept staring at me. She kept looking at me. She wanted answers from me when I all I wanted was to leave and find Amelie and make my recurring dream some sort of reality.
“Aaah, James! You’re here! Talk about fashionably late!” I was swamped by a mass of red, curly hair as Rose tumbled into my arms. I lifted her up, and twirled her round as she laughed and giggled. Henrietta was still huffing and puffing as she redid her hair.
“Well, aren’t you going to introduce me?”
I set Rose down. “Rose, meet Henrietta. Henrietta, Rose Weasley.”
“I know about her,” Henrietta replied scathingly, her tone of voice suggesting that she was going to add ‘stupid’ after her sentence but then thought better of it, “I was talking about Blondie over here.”
Rose disentangled herself from me, and I could see Scorpius Malfoy lurking by the back gate. His blonde hair had grown, but he was still lanky and tall, and he was sporting a Chudley Cannons t-shirt. He looked petrified.
“Henrietta,” I said, “this is Scorpius Malfoy.”
At the mention of ‘Malfoy’, Henrietta automatically smiled and stepped towards him. Any mention of someone powerful and rich and Henrietta was all over of them like some orange, sequined rash. I watched with disdain as she limped towards him, walking like a hunchback as her heels got stuck in the mud. She had to pull her leg so her shoe was free. My cousin and I watched as Henrietta attempted to make conversation with Scorpius; she was overly tactile as she was with anyone she thought could get her something, and her voice was too high-pitched and her laugh too frequent to be genuine.
“Still with him, then?” I whispered to Rose.
“Yes. Is that all right?” She replied, and I noticed the sarcastic tone creep into her voice. “I just really wouldn’t want you to lose your childhood sweetheart over something so trivial.”
“Oh, I get it,” I replied, “you think you’re funny.”
“Quite hilarious, actually,” she quipped, then smiled. I ruffled her hair affectionately. I could hear the laughter and noise of my family in the back garden, and I prepared myself mentally for the drilling that would no doubt be headed my way. News of work, social life, whether I was close to ‘settling down’ and providing Nana Molly with those all-important grandchildren would be shared. Merlin knows how they’ll take to Henrietta.
Rose led us through the gate, Scorpius and Henrietta following, and I was bombarded with hugs and kisses as my girlfriend stood awkwardly beside me. We took our seats; Teddy on my left and Rose on my right. She leaned close to whisper to me.
“Remember last time you brought a girl home?” She said, and we both glanced at Henrietta, sitting opposite, “before you got too involved with the Quidditch star lifestyle? Do you remember the tradition?”
“The test run.” Amelie had wanted to prove herself, and I hadn’t let her. She had gone behind my back and won anyway. Memories of my cousins with rotten apples and broomsticks flooded to the front of my mind. Fred with electrified hair and covered in soot.
“Do you reckon she’ll pass?”
We watched as Henrietta picked up her fork and inspected it for dirt. She apparently saw something wrong with it, pulled out her wand, and began to polish it. Roxanne, seated next to her, turned to look at her. Her eyebrows rose in confusion.
“I think she’s got Hugo’s vote.” The brown-haired boy was busy staring at Henrietta’s chest area. I shrugged nonchalantly. “But I doubt she’ll be able to answer any questions on anything remotely cool or be brilliant at pranking or anything.”
“Not like Amelie.”
“No, she was awesome at Quidditch as well and so...” I stopped myself at the smug look on Rose’s face. “You’re irritating.”
Great bowlfuls of soup floated down the table and, almost simultaneously, every single pair of hands around the vast table reached up and grabbed a bowl. Henrietta obviously didn’t, and so hers fell onto the table and split soup all over her. She squealed stupidly, and Roxanne immediately began helping her. The remainder of my family - well, at least the older half - returned to their soup and started talking about the Ministry and the olden days and how old they were.
“And you’re so gentlemanly,” Rose whispered, “really. You’re rushing to her aid.”
I took a sip of my soup and it burnt my mouth. “She can take care of herself.”
“Why did you even bring her here?”
I looked up the table, towards where Fred and Alice were sitting. When I had seen them last week, they could not stop talking about Ewan - Amelie’s new boyfriend - how wonderful he was, how clever, how gracious, how amazing and beautiful they were together. They didn’t stop talking about how happy she was now, how I shouldn’t try and mess that up.
Maybe, I thought, as Henrietta started complaining about the state of her shirt, maybe if I looked like I was happy, Fred and Alice will tell Amelie and she’ll be jealous.
“Aww, Henri,” I said, leaning over the table and offering her my napkin, “are you alright? You can borrow one of my t-shirts if you want.”
“No, James,” she replied, her tone spiteful, “I’m quite alright, thank you.”
Obviously it would take more than a few kind words. Of course Henrietta would hold a grudge, and my inability to declare my feelings for her before lunch had obviously upset her. I picked up my spoon again. I would have to turn on the charm.
“So, Henrietta, what do you think about the Wimbourne Wasps?” And so it began. Teddy, as always, dived in first, Victoire simpering at his side.
“Well, actually, I don’t follow Quidditch,” Henrietta replied. We all turned to look at her. Lucy pushed her glasses further up her nose. Albus, who had been playing catch with a Quaffle, forgot about it in midair and it crashed into his bowl of soup. An owl hooted. A cat meowed. Time passed achingly slowly.
This charm thing was going hard to commit to when Henrietta was so damn dislikable.
Dom was the first to break the reverie. “So... you don’t have a favourite team?”
“Well, how can I?” Henrietta giggled and Roxanne recoiled. “I don’t know any of them.”
“Don’t be silly,” I added, with a laugh that was obviously false, “you know the Chudley Cannons.”
“Oh. Yeah. I suppose.”
Teddy swallowed. His eyes were a little glazed over. “What about Oliver Wood, as manager for Puddlemere United?”
“Oh, he is so good-looking.”
It took all my considerable mental strength to stop myself from leaving. My gaze drifted briefly towards Fred and Alice, both smiling politely at me, and I reminded myself of my intentions: to send them a message - that Henrietta and I were together and perfectly functioning, that Amelie was a thing of the past and that I was happy.
“Well, Henrietta does have a wonderful taste in men,” I quipped easily. Rose snorted at my attempt to clear things up. Albus just laughed.
“We were just comparing exam results,” Molly began, “Victoire was suggesting how they affect your whole career, and Dom was saying the opposite. What do you think, Henrietta?”
“Oh, well, I don’t know.” Henrietta looked a little scared as Molly pushed her horn-rimmed glasses further up her nose. She watched as Molly straightened her tie - some sort of feminine statement that was lost on Henrietta’s small mind - and opened her mouth to speak. “I didn’t do too well in my NEWTs and it hasn’t hurt me one bit.”
“But you’re different, aren’t you?” Molly continued, her tone indifferent. I wondered whether she realised how rude she sounded. “Born into a rich family and with... apparent good looks.”
“Molly, this isn’t the time for your quasi-intellectual preaching...”
“No, please carry on,” Henrietta giggled, toying with a strand of hair. Of course, she loved people talking about how pretty she was. I should have abused that angle.
“Yes! Remind me of how beautiful my wonderful girlfriend is. Not that I need reminding, of course...”
This received mixed reactions. Fred and Alice stared at me, eyebrows knitted together in confusion, as if trying to work out whether I was being sarcastic or not. I could hear Henrietta’s breath hitch in her. She was obviously flattered, and she sent a small smile my way before remembering she was meant to be angry with me.
“You’re a creep, James,” Teddy muttered. I brushed him off.
“She doesn’t need to pass her exams or know about Quidditch when she’s that pretty,” I continued. Henrietta blushed.
“You’re talking about Quidditch?” The voice came from down the other end of the vast table, and I turned to see Dad looking at us over his glasses.
“I think it would be wonderful if we all had another game,” Grandpa added. “Henrietta, do you play?”
Henrietta swallowed the spoonful of soup she was eating and smiled broadly. She didn’t play Quidditch. She didn’t follow it. No-one could ever get her on a broom and flying. The only thing she liked about the sport was me, and even I wasn’t sure about that.
So when she said, “yeah, I play,” I rolled my eyes and contemplated drowning myself in my soup.
Following a massive plate of roast beef and then an enormous bowl of trifle, the entire Weasley-Potter congregation moved to the orchard. Someone had dug out some old broomsticks, and Uncle Bill started dividing up the teams. They wouldn’t let me play because I did it professionally. I supposed they were just bitter.
And then they started playing.
To say that Henrietta was bad at Quidditch would be an understatement. She made the Tornadoes look good.
There were times when I couldn’t even look at the game. I couldn’t watch and pretend to be happy and in love with the girl swooping and swerving ridiculously across the pitch. She fumbled with the Quaffle, she dropped it, she threw it aimlessly at the goalposts. At one point, she didn’t steer in time and she collided with the post. The Weasleys assembled on the ground groaned as one. I tried shouting words of encouragement as she played, trying once again to be the perfect picture of a loving couple, but by the end I couldn’t say anything that was remotely encouraging.
“No! Henrietta! Keep your legs together!”
I heard Fred snort from beside me and I punched him in the gut.
“Watch out for Angelina! She’s coming from your left!”
There was a cry of confusion.
“Your left! Not my left!”
There was a cry of pain.
“For Merlin’s sake, woman! You are ridiculous!”
Someone blew a whistle for half-time and the players flew to the ground. Henrietta took longer the others: she had somehow managed to make her broom go round and round in circles, and it took my uncle George to go up and get her down. She stumbled over towards me and I forced myself to hug her, feeling the piercing gaze of Alice on my back.
“Well done, Henri,” I said weakly, my voice strained, “you’re doing great.”
She pushed herself out of my grasp. Her face had twisted into a horrible snarl.
“Don’t say that, James. Don’t lie to me. You’re embarrassing me with your stupid comments.”
“I’m sorry, honey,” I replied. I reached out to put a strand of hair behind her ear but she swatted my hand away. “I’ll stop.”
“You won’t. And stop playing creepy.”
I rolled my eyes. “I’ll only do that when you stop playing awfully.”
Henrietta huffed and stalked away towards the rest of my family. I tried to picture Amelie’s face in my mind, slowly turning green with envy as she pictured Henrietta and I together as a wonderful couple that loved each other and could remotely stand each other. I imagined her running towards me in the rain and confessing her undying love for me. I imagined her and Henrietta fighting over me. I imagined her smiling.
“You alright, James?” Alice had put her hand on my elbow, her voice soft in my ear.
“Could you tell her?” I turned to face her. “Could you tell her that I’m happy?”
“But you’re not, mate,” Fred replied. “I just you saw argue with...”
“But just say I am. I don’t want to seem pathetic.”
Alice shot me a sad smile that made me feel even more pitiful than I already did. Fred clapped me on the back as a comforting gesture. Henrietta glared at me from the other end of the pitch. Yeah, I was pathetic.
Yes, hello. I have not died. Sorry, sorry, sorry for the lateness of this chapter: I just took a while to get back into the swing of this story (I've got to a pretty major point in my other one so I'm pretty focused on that at the moment), and I apologise for the sub-par quality of this chapter. I love all of you. ♥