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Off the Rails by water_lily43175

Format: Novel
Chapters: 64
Word Count: 257,739

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Mild violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: Humor, Romance, Angst
Characters: Harry, Ginny, Albus, James (II), Lily (II), Rose, Scorpius, OC
Pairings: James/OC, Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione, Rose/Scorpius

First Published: 09/16/2011
Last Chapter: 05/10/2014
Last Updated: 05/14/2020


Off the Rails: To start behaving strangely, in a way that is not acceptable to society; to lose track of reality.

James' life is perfect. He plays Quidditch for the Falcons, an England future seems certain, and the female attention isn't to be scoffed at.

Then he hooks up with a Muggle.

"Remember when you jumped off the Quidditch hoops without a broom? That was a better idea than this."

Dobby Award Winner 2014 - Best Plot Twist

Chapter 4: four

As was usual on Saturdays, though last week had been the exception necessary to prove the rule, Mum woke me at eight.

“How was your Which Broomstick? interview?” she asked as she bustled round the kitchen, restocking my food cupboards and cooking eggs and bacon at the same time.

I shrugged nonchalantly.

“They wanted my opinion on the Nimbus 6000,” I said.

She frowned.

“You fly a Firebolt Series Six.”

“I test-rode the Nimbus before doing the interview.”


“You’ll have to read the interview,” I said cheekily, then had to duck the saucepan she playfully swung in my direction. “Okay, okay! It’s pretty damn good actually. Nought to two hundred in ten, same as Fiona, but it has better balance. The steering seems to come more naturally when I’m using Fiona though, but that might just be because I’ve had her a couple of years. I was only on the Nimbus for half an hour.”

“The Harpies are thinking of ordering a batch,” Mum said, flipping the bacon with her wand.

“Of Nimbuses?” She nodded. “Not a bad shout ... I’d prefer to fly the broom I know I get on with though, even if the team were willing to supply me with a free one.  I’ve flown Firebolts as long as I can remember. Whereas Roxie, she’s been on Cleansweeps all her life, and that Nineteen isn’t bad. Murph prefers the Nimbuses. Della and Klaus fly German makes, and Alfie and Julia wouldn’t dream of flying anything other than Comets, which is hardly surprising given that their families founded the company.”

“Ordering a batch of Firebolts didn’t do the Irish team much harm,” she pointed out.

“Sinead said she preferred her Nimbus. Not because it was better; the Firebolt was way ahead of its time back then, but because of the feel of her Nimbus. It felt right. I know what she means. Fiona feels right, it’s like she knows what I’m thinking. And it didn’t take long to become that comfortable flying her. It was the same with Faith, and Freya before her.”

Mum shook her head.

“I’m not sure which is more worrying, the fact that you name your broomsticks or the way you refer to them as if they were people.”

“Ryan does the same,” I pointed out. “He has Nadine, and he had Naomi before her. See, this is why you never played for England, Mum.”

I ducked to avoid the saucepan again.

“Watch the lip, Potter, or I won’t cook you Saturday breakfast again,” she said threateningly.

Like most traditions, ours had started with a spur-of-the-moment idea. It had been the day of my first ever match for the Falcons, and Mum, being Mum, had predicted accurately that I would be absolutely terrified, so she’d turned up at eight to cook me breakfast. Since then, we’d had breakfast together almost every Saturday, even if I didn’t have a match, or if we were playing on a Friday or Sunday – which, admittedly, didn’t happen often.

“How was your interview with Della?” I asked as she began to dish up breakfast.

“Nightmare,” she said. “Della was still pissed as a fart. It was an hour before we could get anything sensible out of her. Something to do with Heidelberg mead apparently. And Brigid was a moping wreck. Something to do with Freddie pulling on Tuesday night.”

I frowned.

“What idiot told her about that?”

“Della when still drunk, by the sounds of it. Honestly, you can tell that boy was raised by George and Angelina, he hasn’t a clue when it comes to women.”

I knew Mum wasn’t making a jibe at Aunt Angelina. She and Mum actually got on really well, but she’d never been one to talk about feelings and shit and it showed with both Freddie and Roxanne, who was, as Aisling had observed, very boyish in her mannerisms.

“Mind, you’re not much better...” Mum added.

“I resent that remark,” I said, glaring at her back. “If I was in Freddie’s position – you know, quite fancying a rather fine specimen of a woman who’s madly in love with me – I wouldn’t be hesitating to hook up with her. It’s not even as though Freddie’s commitment-phobic, I think he just wants to string it out a bit, wind her up.”

“He’s getting worse, though,” Mum observed, handing me a plate loaded with food. “Does he honestly expect her to wait around for him? If he’s not careful he’ll just drive her away, and then who’ll be looking stupid?”

I shrugged.

“I’d tell him this, but we don’t really chat about relationships. It’s not a manly thing to do.”

“Well then you’re a fool.” She sat opposite me with her own breakfast. “Surely Brie means more to you than sounding ‘manly’? Besides, the manliest men are the ones that can talk about their feelings.”

“Is that true, or do you just tell Albus that to make him feel better?”

She glared at me.

“Sometimes I wonder whether I did raise you, or whether you grew up with Fred or Hugo.”

“This is child abuse,” I complained.

“I’ll show you child abuse,” she muttered. “Honestly, James, would it kill you to be a little more considerate of people’s feelings?” She paused a moment and looked at me over her cup of tea. “If only you and your dad would just talk more-”

“We talk just fine, thank you,” I said flatly, turning my concentration to my eggs and bacon.

“Maybe you should come for dinner tomorrow-”

“Or maybe not. Heard from Lily yet?”

She sighed sadly. “You’re both hopeless...” she said morosely. “No, I haven’t, which can only be a good thing. She only writes when she’s upset or needs something these days. I assume you haven’t either?”

I shook my head.

“She’s back at the end of January, isn’t she? For Grandma’s birthday?”

Mum nodded.

“Who took her back to school on Sunday anyway?”

“I did,” she replied. “Took the whole lot of them, the fool I am. Lily tried to forget her school books as usual, but we got there in the end. She told me to remind you that her tournie is on the fifteenth of March, which is a Sunday so you shouldn’t have a match-”

“Mum,” I said, “I’m the wrong person to be telling this. Tell Brie. I’ll have forgotten by next week, let alone March.”

Her response was interrupted by the owl delivering the Daily Prophet.

“Della’s interview should be in this one,” she said, as I paid the owl.

I sat down and flipped over to the sports pages. Sure enough, a couple of pages in I found an article entitled “Adelheid Brand on dating, falcons and James Potter”, accompanied with a large photo of her which grinned at me.

“I’m glad you put that comma there. But really, did you need to put me in the headline?”

She shrugged.

“You’re hot news right now,” she said. “People will read anything you’re mentioned in. The bit about you is worth reading. The whole thing is, actually, but I know what you’re like; you’ll only read the bit about you.”

“You make it sound like that’s a bad thing,” I said sorrowfully.


Mum left shortly afterwards, and I decided to read the article. I soon got bored however, and skipped to the bit about me, slightly annoyed to be proving her right as usual.

“’Quidditch pundits all round the world have called the Falcons’ Chaser attack the best in the world. In light of these observations, can you tell us what it’s like to work with your fellow Chasers and whether you feel this is accurate?’”

I skipped through her comments on Ryan to find the bit about me.

“’James ... is an interesting one. He has talent, there’s no doubt about that. I mean, look at his pedigree; a father who rivalled Viktor Krum in terms of flying ability and a mother who played Chaser for the Harpies for years. There’s no doubting that he’s inherited both of your Quidditch talent. And at times it shows. At times, he can be the best Chaser in the world. But I don’t think he quite understands just how good he can be. I almost think he wastes his talent to some extent. I know that sounds incredible; he seems amazing to the average watcher. But when I see him in training, I see so much more than he shows in matches, hard as that is to believe. He just doesn’t see the player that he could be, if only he didn’t squander so much of his talent. But the exciting thing is that he’s young – he’s still only twenty-one – so he has a good twenty years or so of Quidditch left in him. As he matures, he’ll become a better player, and someday he’ll be up there with the best who ever played. I think he should be playing for England in the World Cup this summer. I know that as a German player, I would fear an English team with James in it much more than one without him.

“’In terms of our dynamic as a trio, I think I bring the experience and seniority – I certainly keep the other two grounded – Murph [Murphy] brings the speed and strength, and Junior [Potter] brings that youthful exuberance and unpredictability that make him so formidable. And we just work together. Being called the best attack in the world is a huge compliment, especially given other attacks like the Ballycastle Bats, the Vratsa Vultures and the Heidelberg Harriers – not to mention the international attacks. Bulgaria, Peru and Ireland, for example, are incredibly talented. But I’m not letting it go to my head. I’m just concentrating on my game; on the Falcons’ season first and foremost, but also on getting into the World Cup squad, along with keeping Murph and Junior well and truly grounded!’”

I scowled and threw the paper across the room. I wished I hadn’t read it. Another comparison to Mum and Dad was the last thing I wanted, even if Della had hinted that I was better than them both put together.

And how could she think that I didn’t give the game my all? I played my heart out for the Falcons every time I pulled the kit on. And I was hardly big-headed either, though she’d hinted at that too.

Suddenly feeling restless, I got up and fed Cordelia, who chirped at me in delight before sitting in her food bowl to eat.

“Bloody idiot,” I muttered. Even my pets were stupid.

I sighed heavily, before picking up my house phone. I dialled the second speed dial and put the phone to my ear.

It was answered on the third ring.

“Brigid Murphy, sports agent, how can I help?”

“It’s your favourite client,” I said.

“You’re not Cato Bagman,” came the reply.

“Oi, quit your googly-eyed obsession with Bagman, Mini Murph. It’s not healthy. I need a night out and so do you.”

“You’ve had two nights out this week, do you really need a third? Besides, Leggy Allie must be fed up with you by now, surely?”

“I always need a third night out, Brie,” I replied. “And Allegra could never get fed up with James  Potter. Come on, it’ll be fun! We could go to the Tavern?”

The Witch’s Tavern was a nightclub not far from the Leaky – but on the muggle side. We’d come across it a couple of years ago when on a pub crawl round muggle London, and had decided that a muggle nightclub with that name was just crying out for us to go in.

“James, remember what happened last time you went to the Tav?”

“It wasn’t that bad-”

“She nearly fell over your goddamn broomstick! What a fine way to break the Statute. Not a good idea, Jimmy.”

“Oh, come on Brie, lighten up! Look, Freddie’s less likely to pull if we go to the Tav.”

There was a pause.

“I’ll be at yours at seven. I’ll bring the Firewhisky. You can ring Freddie, Roxie and Lu. I’ll ring Ryan and Della-”

“No!” I interrupted. “I – just me, you and Freddie. Like old times.”

Given that I wanted to escape Della, a night out with her was not what I fancied.

“Okay,” she agreed. “Can Ryan come though?”

“I can’t believe you want to go on a night out with your brother,” I said. “Roxie hates doing it, and I can’t see Lil jumping at the opportunity of having a night out with me.”

“Ryan isn’t you or Freddie though, is he?” she said sweetly.

“I hate you.”

“Find another agent then. See you at seven!”

The line went dead.

I scowled again. Bloody women.


“James, can I ask you something?”

Ryan entered the kitchen and shut the door quietly behind him.

I frowned. Needing to talk to me about something wasn’t like Ryan.

“Sure,” I said, shrugging and pushing a bottle of Firewhisky across the kitchen table to him. He stopped it and popped the cap.

“Did you read your mum’s interview with Della?” he asked.

“The bit about me, yes. Nothing else though. Why?”

“So, you didn’t read the bit where she said she thinks blokes don’t find her attractive?”

I frowned.


“She said that she struggles to find dates, that she’s not the type of girl that guys want.”

“Well,” I said, “she’s hot, but she’s got a voice like a foghorn and muscles that would intimidate any guy-”

“Would you date her?” he interrupted.

“Of course I wouldn’t! I don’t see her in that way at all. She’s like a sister-”

“Or is it because she’s not your type of chick?”

“Look, I – why are you even bothered about this, Murph?”

“Look,” Ryan said, looking a bit flustered, “we always pull girls, right? At Quidditch parties, in the pub, at the Hinky... They’re interested in us, because we play Quidditch. But Della doesn’t get that. Neither does Roxie, to be honest. Or Aisling, or-”

“What’s your point, Murph?” I raised an eyebrow. “Why is this bothering you?”

“Just because you don’t care about other people’s emotions, Jim, doesn’t mean I don’t,” he said, but he was grinning slightly. “I just – it’s unfair, don’t you think? I mean, she’s a cracking girl, any guy would be lucky to date her-”

“What’s your plan, make a nationwide broadcast telling people about how hard it is to be a female Quidditch player and asking for sympathy from blokes? Or getting one of your mates to date her?”

“I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” he replied.

“Date her yourself if you’re that bothered about her feelings, Murph,” I rolled my eyes.

“Na, she wouldn’t be interested.”

He was trying to sound casual, but I could hear a hint of emotion in his voice. Every now and again my emotional depth surprised even me.

“Merlin’s left bollock, you like the girl!”

His cheeks tinged with pink.

“No, I just-”

“Why the hell don’t you do something then?” I asked.

He snorted.

“What, and then ruin the team when it all goes tits up? I’m fine, thanks.” He paused for a moment. “You know, I had mixed feelings when she started getting all those offers after the exhibition match. I mean, if she moved club then I’d barely see her ... but, at least then...”

“You could go for it,” I finished. “Why didn’t you move then? Not that I want you to, but...”

“I’d never leave the Falcons,” he said. “Even if Mum moved on. The Falcons gave me a chance. I wouldn’t be here if not for them. It wasn’t just cause Mum’s the manager, it was the entire coaching team, and I owe it to them. Not to mention the fans. I wouldn’t even move if the Kestrels gave me an offer.”

The Kenmare Kestrels were Ryan’s local team; he’d supported them growing up, and even now backed them after the Falcons.

“You know,” I said after a pause, “you and Brie are a right pair. Neither of you have the balls to take a chance-”

“Brie’s got good reason.” He scowled.

He wasn’t keen on Freddie. He used to like him, but since he’d started playing the field, Ryan had gone off him and thought Brigid could do better. To be fair, given Freddie’s current behaviour, she probably could.

“And so have I,” he continued. “I’ve told you, I’m not risking the dynamics of the team, not for a girl.”

“I admire your thinking, Murph.” I clapped him on the shoulder. “Now, with a bit of luck, Freddie and Brie will be lip locked on my sofa...”

It wasn’t to be. Instead when I opened the kitchen door, I saw Freddie draped across the sofa and Brigid curled in one of the chairs. They were both drinking Firewhisky and watching the television. They’d managed to find a replay of the 2002 World Cup final, between Ireland and Bulgaria, which had been a repeat of the 1994 Cup. The commentator’s voice was booming out of the speakers.

“Moran, Troy, Mullet, back to Troy, Moran – oh,Volkov’s aimed a Bludger at her face, and there’s a time out while Moran gets her nose seen to, there’s blood everywhere. That could well be broken...”

“Mum’s still got the scar from that,” Brigid said offhandedly, as the cameras panned round to show a much younger Sinead landing on the ground, blood everywhere, and the Mediwizards running onto the pitch to treat her. “She said she chose to keep it, said she was hardly a Quidditch player without any bumps or scrapes.”

I pulled a face.

“I’m fine without any, thanks.”

“No, don’t you worry, Jimmy, we couldn’t possibly have your beautiful face damaged by a nasty little scar, could we?”

Brigid winked at me and I returned it with a rude hand gesture.

“How rude,” she said delicately, before downing the last of her Firewhisky and setting the empty bottle on the coffee table. She got to her feet and smoothed down her dress. “Anyway, we’d better get going before we all get trashed here or we’ll be turned away from everywhere. And remember, James,” she added, pointing at me, “no pulling any Muggles tonight.”

“You say that as though I pick up a girl every time I’m out,” I grumbled.

She raised an eyebrow.

“That’s because you do. Man slag.” She shot me a cheeky grin.

Freddie snickered and knocked his bottle over, spilling Firewhisky over my carpet.

I really needed to trade my mates in for better versions.


“Brie’s not looking bad tonight, is she?”

Freddie had joined me by the bar but his eyes were on Brigid, who was chatting to a group of guys not far from us. Not far away, Ryan was talking to a couple of Kenmare Kestrel players we’d bumped into earlier, but he had half an eye on his sister.

“She always looks good,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, but tonight she’s looking extra good. Has she done something different with her hair or something?”

I rolled my eyes.

“You should tell her you think she looks good.”

He shook his head.

“Na, she’s getting enough attention, I doubt she’d be bothered with what I think.”

I resisted the urge to slap my hand to my forehead at his idiocy.

He suddenly let out a low whistle.

“Check out the hottie at two o’clock,” he said.

I turned my head in the direction he’d indicated and saw a tall blonde girl in a very short dress, chatting to another girl while shooting looks in our direction.

“She seems interested...”

“Yeah, eyes back on Mini Murph, Freddie,” I said and turned back to the bar, starting slightly as I realised someone was standing on the other side of me.

“Evening, Keily,” I said.

“Alright, Potter?”

Brianna Keily was the Kestrels’ Seeker and another Irish national player, who was also managed by Brigid.

“Want a drink?” she asked.

“I’ll buy; it’s fine,” I said. “How many of you are out tonight then?”

“Oh, the whole squad,” she replied, while trying to get the attention of one of the bar staff. “Making the most of our last week of freedom.”

I grimaced. Pre-season started in nine days for all teams.

“Not that any of us are really in a fit shape for training,” she continued. “You guys must be fighting fit after your exhibition match. The rest of us haven’t played since October.”

I snorted slightly.

“You have no idea how much alcohol has been consumed by the lot of us since that match,” I said. “We’ve got a fair few big drinkers in our squad. Trust me, it’s not looking too good right now.”

She gave a slight laugh.

“All the better for the rest of us then, we need some kind of advantage over you to get us all back on a level pegging. Any reason you picked the Tav for tonight?”

“Quieter than the Hinky, isn’t it?” I said. “Slight chance of being left to your own devices, which is nice every once in a while. Same for you?”

“That, and the exchange rate favours Muggle money at the moment,” she replied. “Where’s Weasley gone, anyway? I wanted to ask him about the Decoy Detonators.”

Just then, she got the attention of a barman, but I was busy looking for Freddie, who was no longer next to me. He wasn’t with Brigid either, which meant that he could only be chatting up some chick. I sighed with annoyance and turned back to Brianna, who thrust a drink into my chest – she was a good half a foot shorter than me.

“It’s on me,” she insisted. “Consider it a victory drink, three weeks late. Now, come and have a chat with the team. Connors wants tips on a Porskoff Ploy...”


Heading back to the bar, half an hour or so later, I saw the girl who’d been chatting with the blonde Freddie’d noticed earlier, sitting by herself on one of the bar stools. I was surprised I hadn’t noticed her earlier. She was very good-looking, with thick, curly black hair and quite a brown complexion. She had damn nice legs too ... clearly I was a sucker for the leggy type.

“What’s a pretty thing like you sitting by yourself for?” I asked, taking the stool next to her.

“Friend-supervising,” she said, nodding towards the dance floor. I turned to follow her gaze and saw Freddie with her blonde friend. I inwardly cursed him.

“No need to worry, that’s my cousin. He’ll more or less behave,” I said, turning back to the girl.

“And, of course, the word of a total stranger is going to reassure me about my friend’s safety,”  she said dryly, and drained her glass.

“Can I get you a drink?” I asked her.

“I’m fine, thanks,” she replied lazily.

“No, really, let me buy you a drink.”

She raised an eyebrow at me.

“I have expensive taste,” she said.

“No matter. I’ve got the money.”

“Really, I can buy my own drinks-”

“Oh, come on. One drink. It won’t harm you.”

“You’re persistent.” She looked slightly amused.

“Only with the really good-looking ones.”

She rolled her eyes.

“How corny...”

“But true. I didn’t quite catch your name...”

“That’s because I didn’t tell you it,” she drawled.

I smirked a little at her hard-to-get attitude.

“What is it then, may I ask?” I said.

She tutted and looked annoyed.

“Carlotta,” she said.

“Weird name. Is it foreign?”

She nodded. “Spanish.”

“Are you Spanish then?”

“My mother is.”

Ah. So that explained the slightly exotic looks.

“I’m James,” I supplied.

“Such a common name...”

“Yeah, named after my dead grandfather. Sorry if it offends you.”

She winced slightly. I hid another smirk, having finally got some emotion out of her.

“But it’s fine,” I continued, “I’ll let you off if you let me buy you a drink.”

She sighed.


I tuned her out as Brigid appeared in front of me.

“I’m gonna go now,” she said, looking downcast.

“What?” I frowned. “But you’ve hardly been here. Don’t go yet! What about those guys you were chatting to?”

She shook her head.

“I don’t want to stay any longer, Jimmy.” She looked close to tears. I saw her glance at Freddie, and made a mental note to hex him next time I saw him.

“Oh, Brie, he’s a tosser, just ignore it-”

She shook her head again. I sighed.

“Do you want me to take you home?” I asked her gently.

“Ryan’s taking me,” she replied softly. “Thanks anyway. You stay, have fun, you wanted a night out anyway. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.”

“But Brie-”

Before I could say any more, she turned away and left through the crowd. I sighed in aggravation.

“Unrequited love?”

“More like he’s playing hard-to-get when he doesn’t need to,” I replied, turning back to Carlotta. “So, that drink-”

“Will she be okay?” she interrupted. “Should I take Evie home?”

I suddenly really liked this girl.

“It’ll be fine. It’s their battle to fight. He’s just being a plank. Now, this drink-”

She smiled slightly.

“You are ridiculously persistent,” she said. “It’s fine, I’ll get them. Oi, Matt!” she turned to one of the barmen. “Two double vodka and cokes, dock them off my wage.”


“I work here,” she supplied. “Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.”

“You said you had expensive taste,” I said as the barman slid two drinks across the counter to us. “I don’t call this particularly expensive.”

She shrugged.

“I was testing your willingness to buy me a drink. Someone who isn’t willing to buy me something slightly more expensive isn’t worth my time, I figure.”

“You’re hard to please,” I told her.

“Yeah, but it gets rid of the lousy ones,” she pointed out.

“Does that mean I’m not lousy?” I smirked slightly.

“Don’t get too excited just yet.”

Her mate interrupted before I could reply.

“You alright, Evie?” Carlotta asked.

“I’m going back to Freddie’s,” she giggled drunkenly, pointing at him. He was a few feet behind waiting for her. I groaned inwardly and raised an eyebrow at him. He winked back at me.

“You sure you’re going to be okay?” Carlotta asked.

“I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me. I’ll ring you tomorrow morning. You stay here and have fun...” She tailed off, casting her eyes over me, and giggled again.

“Don’t mind if I do,” Carlotta replied. “Look after yourself, Evie. I don’t fancy having to chase around the whole of London for you tomorrow morning.”

“I’ll be fine.” She smiled and headed back to Freddie, gave me another wink before taking her hand and leading her out.

“Right then.”

Carlotta’s voice drew my attention back to her.

“As I’m no longer on babysitting duty, we can stop all this pussyfooting it around,” she said. “Where do you live?”

I stared at her incredulously.

“Just round the corner, literally about two minutes...”

“Closer than me then. Drink up, we’re going.”

She got to her feet.


She shrugged.

“Unless you want to stay here, but I don’t see much point in that when your eventual aim is to get me back to your place. I’m hardly going to sit here for the next hour, pissing around and playing hard to get, when we both know that however it plays out, we’re going to end up at yours.”

I blinked.

Damn, this girl was good.

“Sounds good to me,” I said, downing my drink, as she’d already done and setting the glass on the bar. I got up from the stool as she turned to leave, reaching forwards to take her hand so as not to lose her in the crowd.

Outside she started to shiver. It was only January and she’d clearly not brought a coat.

“I normally bring a jacket out,” she said, as though reading my mind, “but Evie rushed me tonight and I forgot.”

“You can have my shirt if you want,” I offered.

She raised an eyebrow.

“And to think they say chivalry is dead,” she said. “You surprise me. You were the last person I’d have expected chivalry from. I’m fine, really, you’ll freeze without it.”

I cursed us both that she was a Muggle. If she were a witch one of us could have cast a Heating spell to keep her warm. I let go of her hand and wrapped my arm round her shoulders in an attempt to warm her up.

“You’d better not have been lying when you said your place was close,” she said, as we rounded the corner.

I laughed.

“I was telling the honest truth. Look, it’s just here.” I steered her towards the block of flats where I lived, then through the front doors and up the stairs. We came to a halt outside my front door and I dropped my arm from round her shoulders.

“Give me two seconds,” I said, digging in my pocket for the key.

She laughed.

“I’m used to messy places, it’s fine-”

“No, really. Two seconds.” I opened the door just enough for me to slip through, then turned back to her. She was grinning slightly and leaning against the wall.

“I’m not going to run off, you know,” she said, sounding amused.

I winked at her and shut the door.

I drew my wand and waved it in a sweeping motion that wasn’t at all feminine. In an instant, my photos froze, my broomstick and other Quidditch gear flew into the airing cupboard, my Quidditch Weeklys and Prophets dropped into the drawer under the coffee table, and the television clicked to tell me that the wizarding channels had hidden themselves. A cloth appeared out of nowhere to rest over Cordelia’s cage.

“Nicely done, James,” I muttered to myself. I hadn’t done that spell in a while. I slid my wand into the table drawer, giving the house one last check to ensure it was fully Muggle friendly, before opening the front door again.

Carlotta raised an eyebrow as she stepped across the threshold and looked round the living room.

“If this is it after you’ve had time to tidy, then you must be one hell of a slob.”

I grinned slightly and locked the door behind her.

“Nice place, though,” she continued, slipping off her shoes and dropping her bag into the chair in front of her.

I nodded.

She turned to face me, leaning against the back of the chair; her dress rose a few inches and my eyes fell to her thighs.

“Are you normally this inarticulate with women or is it just my sheer charm and good looks that are putting you off?”

I opened my mouth to give her a witty reply, but before I could say anything she had pushed herself up off the back of the chair and her lips were against mine.

Damn, I liked this girl.