Chapter 3 : A Bit of Bromance and Espionage
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Albus had first suggested we organize these in my 3rd year when it was quite clear we were going different ways. As in north and south.
I had insisted to set the meetings early so no one would see our lame bonding. Years later, I have begun to regret this choice.
It was five past six when I grumpily plopped into the hard wooden chair across from Albus, who was engaged in a thick book.
“Oh, good morning,” he said, setting down his book. He was wearing his favourite thick-black-frame glasses and a thin pinstriped tie. For a while I thought he was gay but considering he’s been dating Kathryn (who he likes to call “Ryn…” gag) for two and a third of a year, he must relatively straight.
“So, ‘brother,’ happy 5th year to you.”
Albus slid his glasses up his nose to smile politely at me, his green eyes blazing with a friendly light. “Thanks. How are things going? And why, may I ask, is ‘brother’ in air quotes? Please tell me you’re not becoming one of those types.”
That was his way of telling me I was becoming ‘mainstream’ and ‘dulled by society.’ It was part of his great theory of mankind, which he actually wrote up as a theses and kept under his bed.
Here is the story of our brotherhood: I loved him in an affectionate and confused way-- he was so different and special. During the summers, we became super close and as soon as school started we always drifted apart.
“Good. How’s..” I groaned inwardly, “Ryn doing?”
Albus brightened. He knew I resented their relationship and loved when I asked about her.
“Good. She’d love to hang out with you more this year, you know.”
Well, I’d rather eat maggots.
“When she’s done ‘knitting’ and ‘searching for quibbstis?’” I suggested meanly. Albus was unfazed and instead critiqued my language.
“You can’t put air quotes around knitting, either James. It’s a legitimate activity. She made me these socks,” he demonstrated, pulling up on his slim grey slacks to show of some intricate fair-isle green socks.
“Wow,” I said with total sarcasm. “Had any interesting literary discussions lately?”
“Oh please. I don’t feel like being defensive. What about you tell me about your friends? How’s Gracie?”
“Good enough,” I sighed. “I have to find a seeker and Charlie says she’ll get Gracie to like me.”
“Hmm. That will be an enigma.” (This is why Albus is a Ravenclaw.)
“Well, if you have any ideas let me know. I am getting pretty desperate.”
Albus frowned disapprovingly. “There are other ways to steal a girl’s heart, you know. I promise Ryn wasn’t manipulated by her friends.”
That’s because she has no friends. Kathryn Lovegood was as weird as her mom. No one even knew who her father was.
“Yeah, I know Al, I bet you whipped up some sonnet to read to her bathing form.”
“That’d be kind of creepy.”
I laughed. He could be funny.
“Well, it’d be cute because your glasses would fog up and you wouldn’t be able to see the words.”
“Please. I’d have it better prepared then that. If I was going to read Ryn a sonnet while she was taking a bath, I’d have a plan.”
“Let’s change subjects.” Enough talk about Ryn bathing.
“You chose that topic too. That’s two for nil.”
My brother always make me feel good about myself.
“Okay, okay. You gonna try out for Quidditch?”
“Yes. I’m going to” (okay, Albus, I get it) “try out for keeper maybe. I don’t know. School and Ryn take up a lot of time.”
Well, you could always break up with her. “Can you talk to Lily about it?”
“She’s your sister too, why don’t you talk to her?”
My relationship with Lily is a much longer story. I will tell it soon.
“Whatever. Well why don’t you talk to be about school then.”
Albus then gave a long explanation of the classes he was taking and his incredible advances in divinations.
As always, when I left, I couldn’t tell if I was happy or annoyed.
Transfigurations was pretty miserable.
Imagine a middle aged woman way too passionate about her subject showing off for twenty minutes, then giving you a test.
Professor Kisten always went a bit overboard, and I resorted to harmless doodles of Gracie’s face. Then her hands, which are so lovely and smooth, then her elbows because they are adorable.
And that was when I was summoned from class.
McGonagall looked up at me from her desk with iron authority. “Do you know why you have been called down here today?”
“No, ma’am,” I said, acting relaxed. My heart was going crazy. I had no idea why she’d pulled me out of transfiguration and dragged me all the way to her office. Was this still about the on-train fireworks? Surely that stunt was harmless compared to the other stuff we’d done. Then again, we hadn’t been caught doing that other stuff.
“Meet Benjamin Aguilliard.”
I turned and suddenly noticed a tall, thin boy standing against the wall.
BEEP BEEP BEEP RED ALERT.
He was one of those guys that immediately sets off your man-guard with his obvious attractiveness. This kid had blond, curly hair and angular cheekbones. Shit. He was going to take all the ladies. He was a freaking underwear model.
“Erm, hello,” I said defensively. Should I duel him to prove my dominance? What if Gracie saw him? I was doomed.
Looks aren’t everything, looks aren’t everything.
“Sit down, Mr. Potter,” McGonagall instructed. Shit. Sit down. This was bad. I quickly found a chair and firmly planted myself, eying the boy. Who was he? What was he doing here? More importantly, what was I doing here?!
“Mr. Aguilliard is a transfer student from Beauxbaton,” McGonagall explained. Bloody dingdats. He was going to be a student. I needed to send out a distress call. A Frenchie was here.
“What?!” I sputtered. McGonagall ignored me and continued talking.
“He will be joining us this year due to a recent move. I have conducted a private sorting; he will be entering Gryffindor in your year. I have selected you to be his mentor and help him find his place at Hogwarts.”
“Me?” I squeaked.
“Yes, you,” the headmistress said, patience slipping.
Why me? This made no sense. What about Miranda or Dominick, one of the nerdier ones? Why me???
“I’m Benjamin,” the boy said in remarkably good English, leaning over to give me a firm handshake. I considered having our first man-duel and trying to squeeze off his hand but couldn’t muster the strength.
“You speak English?!” I squawked, sounding like an idiot. He didn’t even have a classic French accent that would slur his vowels into a mash of consonants that I could make fun of. This was going downhill fast.
“My mum’s from Dover,” he said by ways of explanation. “I grew up bilingual.”
Ohhh, Frenchie? You grew up bilingual! Well, I grew up freaking TRI LINGUAL!
LEMME DUEL HIM. He was obviously trying to incite me to pull out a spell and get in trouble.
Be the better man, James. Don’t give into his petty remarks.
“England is beautiful,” he complimented earnestly. “I’m going to miss France, but I’m happy to attend Hogwarts.”
I eagerly looked at McGonagall hoping she would yell “I HATE SUCK UPS DIE IN HELL,” but she simply smiled. “I’m happy to hear that,” she said instead. “I’m sure you will find Hogwarts satisfactory. We take academics seriously, and rules—“ she looked at me pointedly (what, who me?), “but also have an excellent choir, astronomy and Quidditch department. Do you play?”
“A little,” he admitted. “I dabble.”
Who uses the word dabble? What the Merlin?
He was trying my patience. Hold on. Wait till McGonagall leaves, then he’ll get what’s comin’ for him.
“Great,” I said sarcastically. “Well, I hope you’re not trying for chaser. We already got one.”
There was a long, awkward pause.
“One? Don’t you play with three? Or are there different rules?”
“No, Benjamin, you are correct,” McGonagall answered graciously, clearly wanting this introduction to speed up. “We play with three. Well, Mr. Potter, I have arranged for Mr. Aguilliard to share classes with you for the time being—you may return to transfiguration.”
There was another, less humiliating silence as Frenchie and I stood up and pushed in our chairs.
“Welcome to Hogwarts!” she called after us like a hotel receptionist. I was huffing flames. This kid was a total prick.
I watched him disgustedly as we descended the magical staircase. What if Gracie liked him? What would I do? Maybe if I broke his nose, it would mar his man-beauty.
Bitterly, I scowled at the ground. And he was obviously one of those really obnoxious people too. Just pretending to be smarter at everything. Like Domidick. They will get along. “Ohhh, I’m bi-lingual!! Hehehehehehehe!!!!”
“That was one hella scary lady,” he said absentmindedly, glancing up the stairs. I looked up, confused. Who just said that? Obviously not Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes over here.
Being clever and valiant, I immediately impressed him with my commanding observations.
“What?” I said stupidly. Good work James. Really splendid. At least you can catch him off guard in your inevitable duel.
“She was insane,” he said. “I literally was forced to undergo a 45 minute lecture on the danger of the Astronomy Tower.”
My curiosity was piqued by this suspiciously complaining nature. This was not normal for a goody-two-shoes. Perhaps he was a mole!! A double agent!
THIS WAS ESPIONAGE!
“Oh- damn- watch it!” Frenchie exclaimed too late.
My foot sunk into thick, jelly like stone.
“AHH!” I yelled in shock. My voice was a couple octaves higher than normal as my rage surfaced. “WHAT THE HELL?”
The stone was like soft clay but was prickling at my foot, which was totally submerged. Several tugs brought no success at reconquest. FRICKING ESPIONAGE! I CALLED IT!
“Shit McGonagall’s protection charms have backfired,” I swore. “Go get her.”
“No,” he said, whipping out his wand and casting some quick charm. To my amazement, my foot was suddenly free.
“Wait—that was you?!”
“Shhh!” he hissed. “I was trying to get revenge for her trying to teach me English.”
I frowned. Well here was a plot twist. Little Frenchie had put a nasty little charm of McGonagall’s staircase.
Not Lovegood’s or Binn’s.
McGongall!!! That took a huge pair o’ tonsils, as Albus would say.
“Are you serious?” I asked, impressed. MILDY IMPRESSED, mind you. I wasn’t all lovey-dovey or anything.
“Yeah,” he admitted, blushing. “A bit stupid. Most of my decisions are.”
THAT IS THE STATEMENT I LIVE BY!
“That’s awesome. You are a lot cooler than I thought.” A enemy of McGonagall’s is a friend to me!
He looked at me suspiciously. “I feel like you’re about to haze me.”
“Nah!” I scoffed. “We’ll save that for late. C’mon, let’s go to the commons.”
He made no objection to my blatant dismissal of class. Yet another good sign. Perhaps I judged too quick. A common error. I mean, espionage is, after all, a completely justifiable thing to be concerned about. Dad would be proud.
I taught him the password—he laughed a bit at the Fat Lady’s lecturing about mooning—then I found him an empty bed in the dormitory.
“Kay, mate,” Benjamin said, unloading his trunk. “If you don’t mind, I’d love to know about Hogwarts. I’m getting the feeling you’re not really a brilliantly annoying pupil but don’t want to jump to conclusions.”
“Psh, please do,” I said, tidying up my stuff. “I’m the archetype of the handsome leader student.”
“Good to know,” Benjamin laughed.
“Well what do you want to hear about? The boys? Ladies? Classes? Quidditch?”
“Sounds like a good order.” Benjamin began folding clothes and placing them in his dresser. “I feel like such a aristocratic French kid coming here. Anything helps. I’d love to get in a good fistfight to solidify an intimidating reputation, so if you could suggest a victim I’d appreciate it.”
I had to recalibrate everything. This kid was freaking cool. Henry was going to love him. Hell, everyone was going to love him. Damn. Just hopefully not Gracie.
“Okay, you’ve got my best mate Henry, funniest asshole you’ll ever meet,” I started, “my brother, Albus, weird, weird kid; Leo, our semi-reliable keeper, relatable but odd; Scorpius, kind of pompous loser but fun to talk to, our chaser too; Colin Mapps is this slimy kid who dates all the girls; Dominick is our annoying resident genius. Call him Domidick, everyone else does.”
“Wow,” Benjamin said. “Sounds like a fun bunch.” He was now arranging a bunch of prank stuff under his bed. Like a ridiculous amount of punching bubble gum and black eye toothpaste. This kid was going to be a blast.
“There’s others, too,” I said. “That’s all I feel like talking about. Wanna here about the datable lasses of this fine school?”
“Sure. I’m sure you’re probably the dominating male here.”
I puffed out my chest. “Logically. You’re welcome to anyone, really. Just not my current, well, lifetime obsession Gracie.”
“Hmmm. Sounds like an interesting story.”
“Not really. Just her, being her glorious self, and ignorant of my charming presence.”
“A path well trodden. I chased this gorgeous girl Arielle Barsalou two years ago.” He said her name with such grace I immediately remembered he was French. “It got to the point where I started writing love letters like a hopeless romantic.”
“She eventually sent me a howler telling me to back off,” he sighed. “It was hard. I hate getting so wrapped up in people.”
“Well, if I start writing love letters, you have permission to hex me,” I said solemnly. I couldn’t imagine getting that attached to someone. Gracie was a fond obsession but that was it.
“Any-hoo, you said you had a good Quidditch team?”
“Absolutely,” I enthused. “We’ve won the past 4 years straight. The house cup, that is. Our team dominates.”
“How so?” Benjamin looked very eager to learn more.
“Well, there’s one of my best friends Charlie Wood on the team, whose signed to play professional. Char scores an insane amount of goals. They basically use scientific notation on the scoreboard.”
“Nice,” Benjamin said, impressed. “That’s sweet.” He stood up and stretched. “I love Quidditch. When are tryouts?”
“Next week,” I answered coolly, but my heart was beating fast. “What do you play?”
“Seeker,” he said breezily.
My mouth dropped open.
“Are you kidding me?”
“What? Is that what you play?”
“NO! I promised Charlie I’d find a seeker! BRILLIANT!” Considering Benjamin’s presence guaranteed Gracie’s love, I couldn’t help but give him a massive hug.
“Wow, this is odd. Is this normal for English boys? In France, we don’t really hug unless we’re gay—“
“I love you,” I said into his shoulder. Even his cologne was fantastic. “You are my new favourite person.”
“Lucky me,” he said sarcastically. “Your name’s James, right? Well, James, I am hungry. Would you mind showing me the dining hall?”
“Gladly,” I said, releasing him, giddy with excitement. “My new favourite person.”
“Can you explain this to me?” he asked as I raced down the steps. “Was that really normal or are you screwing with my head? Also, you never told me who I should beat up?”
“I’ll tell you when I figure that out.”
I saw a couple girls’ jaw drop when Benjamin entered the Dining Hall, half the tables turned to gawk at him. Even the Ravenclaw ghost winked. Damn.
“Who is this handsome bloke?” a voice said.
“Oh, hey, Colin,” I said, trying to ignore his I’m-cool tone. “This is Benjamin from France.”
“Nice ta meet ya,” Colin said, giving him a hearty handshake. Colin smiled and nodded like a real asshole. All I could do was remember the time we peed on his pillowcase and he slept on it for a solid month before noticing the stain.
Sometimes, memories can sweeten momentary pain.
I sat Benjamin down by my friends. Both Gracie, Miranda, and Kaylie’s eyes bugged out when they saw him.
“Shit, who is this?” Kaylie said. Yes, this is my previously mentioned ex. And yes, she broke up with me, OMG, LOLZ, FML, if you really care about that stuff.
“Benjamin, but I call ‘im Frenchie,” I said.
“Frenchie? As in French kiss?” Kaylie asked flirtatiously.
Just know Kaylie has some other things going for other than her personality.
“No, more like French Resistance in World War 2,” Benjamin said so casually that I was the only one that caught the joke beside Charlie, who glanced up from her forms to shot an amused glance to me.
“Cool! We should hang out sometime,” Kaylie said. “I can help you in Magical History, if you want a tutor. It’s a tricky class.”
“Tutor? Magical history?” Henry asked as he wormed onto the bench in between Gracie and I. “Kaylie, I thought Charlie was your tutor.”
Kaylie laughed uncomfortably and we chuckled. Oh, Kaylie. Such charm and wit. She brushed her long, shiny blond hair out of her tan skin and continued staring at Benjamin.
“Who is the Quidditch one?” Benjamin asked. “Charlie?”
“That’s me,” Charlie said, grinning suddenly. “I like going as the Quidditch one. You are?”
“Benjamin, Lottie,” Kaylie hissed. “Weren’t you listening?”
“Nope,” Charlie said plainly. She reached a hand across the table and shook Benjamin’s.
“You’re a girl!” Benjamin exclaimed surprised.
“Yep,” Charlie said, tearing into a piece of bread. “Observational skills are functional. You play Quidditch?”
“He does, Char!” I interrupted. “I’ve found you a seeker.”
Charlie’s face lit up like I’d just told her she was president of the universe. “YES! Fantastic! I’m scheduling an early morning practice on the pitch tomorrow—4:30 to sevenish. You should totally come.”
“No one’s coming, Charlie,” Henry interjected. “Just so you know. I’m Henry by the way, known as the enforcer ‘round here.”
“Oh yeah, the ‘enforcer’” mocked Charlie. “Absolutely. And you better come, Benjamin, Henry, James, etc. Because your spot on the team depends on it.”
“Remember last year? How many people showed up?”
“After 3 weeks of daily workouts, yes, the total was 1 attendee on September 12th. But this year I’m going to be stricter.”
“Here’s some advice, mate,” Henry said gruffly to Benjamin. “Don’t go.”
Charlie scowled. “If you want us to lose.”
“Guys? Topic change please?”
Everyone turned to look at Gracie.
“You must be Gracie,” Benjamin said. Gracie nodded.
“I hope you like Hogwarts,” she said, being her normally kind self. I hoped Frenchie didn’t take it for flirting.
“Me too,” Benjamin said, eating some soup.
“Tell us about Beauxtabons,” Gracie encouraged.
“Let him eat, Gracie,” I said. I was going to be quite protective over our new seeker. If he was harmed, my beautiful plan would fail. And the more I could reduce Gracie- Benjamin interaction the better.
“Gracie, tell me about your first week,” I encouraged.
“It was good.” She glanced over to the Hufflepuff table like she wanted to go. “Same as last year. Potions seems interesting though. I’m looking forward to that class.”
“Ah, yes,” I agreed. “It’s a fun one. Fascinating stuff.”
I continued to make pathetic small talk with Gracie while Charlie consumed an outrageous amount of calories and Henry talked to Benjamin about various pranks we’d pulled.
It was a fairly successful outing. Gracie still didn’t really seem that attracted to me, so I was kind of dejected.
But at least I wasn’t writing any love letters yet.
Benjamin had to leave to go check in with the professors to make sure he was properly enrolled so Henry and I retreated to the common room.
“He seems okay,” Henry remarked.
“I like him. In a non-sexual way.”
“I cannot say the same,” Henry said gravely.
I laughed. “He will fit in perfectly. I told you about what he did to McGonagall’s staircase, right?”
“Like ten times. Do you think he’ll go after Gracie?”
Shit! Henry hadn’t moved on. “Hopefully not. There’s other girls in the school.”
“No other truly dateable ones,” Henry sighed.
There was a silence. I was worried my agreeing would give away my crush on Gracie but Henry didn’t respond. I mean, we both knew it was true. There were literally no other attractive, cool girls in Hogwarts that we hadn’t dated and deemed terrible.
“I warned him that she was m-your business.”
“Thanks, mate,” Henry said brightly. “I appreciate it.”
We played cards in the common room. It was a stereotypical perfect night. The fire was roaring, there were a couple people snogging on the couch, everyone was happy and laughing. We snuck in all our non-Gryffindor friends and I noticed Kendra and Leo plastered to the wall.
“Looks like someone must like that cologne,” Scorpius muttered in my ear and he passed by.
I was happy. Somehow a keg of butterbeer found its way into the room and everyone got funnier and louder.
Benjamin was a terrible card player and gracefully lost, accepting the punishment of licking the bathroom floor. Everyone ewwed and all the girls squealed.
We went to bed around one, everyone (even so-called “no-party” Charlie) mildly drunk and cheerful.
I climbed into the bed, still chuckling. It felt so good to be back at Hogwarts. At that moment, I felt everything was going to word out. Hell, I would’ve sworn my life on it.
How’s that for foreshadowing?