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We Gryffies by gryffindorseeker

Format: Novel
Chapters: 25
Word Count: 130,210
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme, Contains Spoilers

Genres: Fluff, Humor, Romance
Characters: Teddy, Scorpius, Albus, James (II), Lily (II), Hugo, Rose, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Other Pairing

First Published: 09/12/2007
Last Chapter: 05/01/2009
Last Updated: 05/01/2009


2008 Dobby Winner :: Best Next Gen | 2009 SAYS Award Winner :: Best Humor

I'm James Sirius Potter, Cap'n of the Gryffindor Quidditch team of 2021-2022. *non-12+ removed by staff*. Unfortunately, I've recently noticed that the Gryffies' lovable tomboy, Tegan Llewellyn, has some very excellent legs and an adorable sampling of freckles on her nose, which I find distracting...

Banner by PadfootStripQuidditch!

Chapter 1: The Numerous and Constantly Multiplying Weasley Clan
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A/N: Sorry, another new story idea! My take on a next generation fic, a purely light-hearted and fun drama. Thanks for giving it a shot!

It happened again. Six times I’ve walked Platform 9 3⁄4 bound for the Hogwarts Express, and it happens every time.

“Excuse me, Mr. Harry Potter, sir?” some shy yet precocious seven-year-old would ask, tugging on my dad’s sleeve. “May I please have an autograph? Sir?”

And he always obliged, a cool smile on his face. I guess I had to respect my dad for putting up with all this unwanted attention. I wasn’t the angsty kid of a famous bloke or anything. I liked my dad well enough, even if he wouldn’t lend me his Invisibility Cloak.

“James Sirius Potter,” said Dad in that stern tone of his the most recent time I begged for the Cloak. “I always intended to give my first-born child my most prized possession, until a valuable piece of parchment of mine went missing the day before you first left for Hogwarts.”

“Huh, so you still haven’t found the Marauder’s Map?” I asked in feigned shock. “Gosh, that’s unfortunate.”

Dad frowned. “I’ve moved the Cloak to Gringotts, and I don’t recommend that you go looking for it, James. Believe me, it is not easy to break into that bank.”

So I left for sixth year with the Map, but without the Cloak. This would complicate me and my mates’ mischief making.

I’m doing a rather poor job narrating, yeah? Let’s get to the action, then. Scene: Hogwarts Express, 1st September 2021. Approximately 11:02 AM. The young and handsome James Sirius Potter is trawling the corridors of the train, searching for his Quidditch mates.

We travelled in a pack, the Gryffindor Quidditch team. And as I was their newly appointed cap’n, I got to boss everyone around. Or, at least that’s what Lorelai Lin-Wood, cap’n of the team when I was a first year, always did. She was terrifying, but quite fit.

I peeked in a compartment and spotted my very best mate, J.D. Nott, sitting with my cousin Rose.

I burst in and exclaimed, “Ahoyhoy! J.S., requesting high five clearance from J.D.!”

J.D. and I often refer to each other by our initials. His real name is John, which is totally stodgy and way too close to mine. Other people will call me James, though, but no one calls J.D. John.

But J.D., my bestest mate and better half, glared at me and did not grant the high five clearance. “What?” he seethed, his dark eyes expressing contempt.

“Hey James,” smiled Rose warmly. She’s my Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione’s oldest kid, and she’s smart and cool and stuff. A Gryffindor, of course. It’s like the law that anyone with Weasley blood is in Gryffindor. My mum’s a Weasley, by the way.

I was about to greet my little cousin, when I realized that J.D.’s hand was touching Rose’s arm. Hmm, this was strange. It was like J.D. had been chatting up Rose before I barged in. Silly thought, Jamesie.

“I should be going,” said Rose reluctantly. “You two will want to ride up with the other Gryffies,” referencing the street name for our Quidditch team. She stood up and strode out, her bushy hair swaying, and I took her seat.

“Hullo mate!” I smiled broadly at J.D.

“What the frick is your problem?” he growled.

“Oi, what are you—oh no, you were chatting up Rose just now!”

“Perceptive much?”

“J.D., she’s my baby cousin!”

“She’s attractive.”

“She’s your little sister’s age!”

“Which means she’s fifteen, and I’m sixteen, so it’s hardly controversial. Plus, Rose’s got a nice bum.”

I squealed. “What the frick!”

“Honestly, when you do the squealing thing, you sound just like a girl—”

Just then, the compartment opened and my cousin Fred walked in. He was in our year and played Beater. His dad is my Uncle George, and Freddie is named after Uncle George’s twin who died during the war or something. Like, half the people in my family are named after dead people. Even me. I’m named after my dead granddad and my Dad’s dead godfather.

“Freddie!” I screeched. “J.D. wants to shag our cousin! Hex him!”

“Whaaa?” exclaimed Fred. “Two questions: which cousin, and why can’t you hex him yourself?”

“Rose, and I can’t do the deed because J.D. and I have been blood brothers since second year, and it’s against the blood brother code to hex the other!” I whined.

Fred mulled it over, then looked at J.D., who was smirking. “As long as it’s not Lily, because she’s fricking thirteen, and you don’t knock her up, I’m fine with you and Rose.”

“Not helping, Fred!” I said.

“You’re making excellent progress assembling the Potter-Weasley Army, J.S.,” laughed J.D. “So what if I fancy your cousin?”

Before I could think of what would have inevitably been a fabulous retort, more Gryffies entered our little compartment. My fellow Chaser and our resident Jew, Micah Horowitz (you can’t succeed in Quidditch without Jews) and our Seeker, Tegan Llewellyn, moseyed in.

“Ooh, Weasley family drama, I hear?” chimed Micah. “Nothing half as exciting as what happens to you lot happens to the Horowitzes.”

“Marry into the clan, Micah,” suggested Tegan cheerfully. “Then when you pry, it’ll actually be your business.”

A series of groans echoed through the compartment. Tegan, the great-niece of the legendary “Dangerous” Dai Llewellyn, was the quick wit of our team.

“I’ve had my eye on Madeleine for a while,” mused Micah dreamily.

“She’s my Uncle Bill and Tante Fleur’s daughter, plus she’s a seventh year and she’ll never go for you!” I said, exasperated.

“I’ve got a theory that within two generation’s time, every witch and wizard’s gonna be distantly related to a Weasley,” said Fred. “There’s so damn many of us and we multiply like rabbits.”

All laughed, except Tegan. “Lovely visual of you multiplying, Freddie,” she cringed.

Oh silly Tegan. The only girl of our number (excepting the lovely Arlie Shacklebolt, who was a seventh year and whose dad was Minister for Magic, so she was usually off doing cool things with her cool friends, though she occasionally has time for us Gryffies), Tegan is Welsh and freckled and the fact that she is a girl was ignored by her Quidditch mates. Except every so often, I was startled when I realize that Tegan Llewellyn is a girl. With legs and boobs.

“J.D. fancies Rose!” I yelped in horror.

“Hmm. Well, she’s got a nice rear end,” said Micah.

“Not helping!” said Tegan as she smacked him upside the head.

“I was so sure that she fancied Malfoy, but she doesn’t,” said J.D. smugly.

“No, Malfoy’s got his eye on your sister,” said Fred tauntingly of Kate Nott, the Slytherin fifth-year Seeker.

“Frick!” shouted J.D. “That cockroach!”

“That’s what you get for fancying my little cousin!” I exclaimed.

“She’s fifteen!” retorted J.D.

“I’d watch out for your own sister, Cap’n,” said Tegan slyly.

“Why?” I demanded of her.

She grinned. “Rumour has it that she’s dating Dobby Longbottom.”

Smoke probably flew out my ears. “My thirteen-year-old sister is with the poor schmuck named after a dead house elf?”

“Snaps for the use of Yiddish in your raging seethe,” commentated Micah.

“Dobby’s adorable for a third year,” said Tegan nonchalantly. “He’s a good kid, James.”

So weak I was unable to prop myself against the backrest, I tumbled over and lay on the floor of the compartment, my head next to J.D.’s trainers. “Why must all every ruddy bloke in this school fancy my Weasley relations?”

Fred kicked my leg semi-affectionately. “You gotta accept that we Weasleys are quite good-looking and charming. Someday, you’ll turn into a butterfly like the rest of us and all the girls’ll be over you, James.”

I groaned and rolled over on my stomach, my face in the dirty carpet. What the frick.

As the train pulled into Hogsmeade Station, I quickly changed into my school robes (time was of the essence, so it was in the compartment—it was just my mates in there, and Tegan hardly counted as a girl) and ran off in search of as many Weasley-Potters as I could find.

“Octavian!” I bellowed as I caught up with my Uncle Percy’s seventh-year son. “We’ve got a family crisis! Half the school is trying to shag our cousins!”

Octavian, being a smarmy redheaded Head Boy with an unpleasant sneer, whipped round and chastised, “Find a carriage, James. I’ve got to direct the first years.”

Frick. Octo was no help. As per usual.

“Madeleine!” I ran after my other seventh year cousin. “We’ve got a situation! Code red!”

She was standing with a gaggle of her pretty, giggly friends, and looked at me pitifully. “Oh James,” she sighed. “Enough with the family emergencies. This is my last year at school, and I’d appreciate it if you’d keep your crises contained within your little Griffie clique.”

It was to be expected that Madeleine would be little help. She was more Delacour than Weasley anyways, in my opinion.

Then it was time to round up the younger ones. “Lily ‘n Hugo!” I yelped, rushing over to them. “Argh, not you Longbottom!” I barked at Dobby, who walked off dejectedly.

“James, don’t be mean to him!” screeched Lily.

“No time, no time!” I said quickly. “We’ve got a huge problem. Hugo, my mate J.D. fancies Rose.”

“But you like J.D., yeah? He’s your best mate,” said Hugo.

“But she’s your own sister!” I explained. “Don’t you want to thwart this relationship?”

“Why?” he asked. “If they’re going to be happy—”

“Frick!” I yelled. “Why will no one agree with me?”

“You’re a psychotic nutter, James,” said Lily.

I saw more relatives out of the corner of my eye, and ran from Hugo and Lily to Albus and Rose, who were walking toward a carriage with the Malfoy boy and Kate Nott.

“Slytherins be gone!” I exclaimed, hissing at Malfoy and J.D.’s sister.

“Whatever,” Kate rolled her eyes. “Al and Rose, me and Scorpius will be in the carriage.”

Once those two climbed in, I began my barrage on my fifteen-year-old brother and fifteen-year-old cousin. “Rose, J.D. fancies you and he’s my best mate and that should be fine but it’s not because I know him and I know the sorts of things he’s into and believe me, Uncle Ron would not approve of you doing those things, and Al, you have to watch out for her because I can’t watch her 24/7 cos I’ve got Quidditch and Gryffie business, and you’re a bookworm with nothing better to do, and you owe me because I’ve begged almost every family member we’ve got at this school for backup and they’ve all laughed and called me a nutter—”

“James!” said Rose strongly, looking quite like Aunt Hermione. “I fancy J.D. and he fancies me back, and that’s the end of discussion! It’s not of your fricking business you ponce!” With that, she followed Kate and Malfoy into the horseless carriage.

“It seems Rosie has spoken, James,” said Albus, shrugging his shoulders. He followed his cousin into the carriage.

And so I stood, abandoned by my family in my noble quest and completely ignorant of where my Gryffie mates might be, in the mud on the outskirts of the wood leading from Hogsmeade to the ‘warts, my mind racing to develop a plan that would keep my devilishly handsome best mate and my ingénue of a cousin apart. Without sacrificing the threads of amicability I currently shared with them.


Um, if you’re wondering why they keep saying “frick”, it’s future vernacular for a word you can probably figure out. It’s just fun to say.

Chapter image by me!

Chapter 2: Wise Advice From The Dobster
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A/N: Thanks for giving Chapter 2 a chance! I really appreciate all my readers, and especially my reviewers! Thanks so much!

The night we arrived at Hogwarts, I called a secret Gryffie meeting. Technically, we weren’t allowed to begin practices for at least two weeks after classes started, so this meeting had to be covert. And also, technically, I was supposed to hold tryouts as cap’n, but the seven people I was going to pick anyways had been flying together for two years, and it would be stupid to screw that up.

“Gryffies!” I exclaimed, attempting to silence the chatter. We had assembled in my (the sixth year boys’) dormitory after dinner.

But no one stopped talking. “Is your dad going up for reelection?” Tegan asked of Arlie Shacklebolt, a seventh-year Chaser. “He’s undecided at this point,” replied Arlie. “He feels guilty for putting our family in the spotlight, but he loves being Minister for Magic.”

“Pardon!” I yelped, trying unsuccessfully to quell the din.

“People always treat you different!” exclaimed Mattie Thomas, our fifth year Keeper. “It isn’t easy being a minority,” said Micah. “I mean, I’m only Jewish and it’s hard. You’re black. Not that there's anything wrong with being black. It’s just that people automatically assume you like rap music.” “And that I talk like this: Hippibity bibbity, give me da slibbity!” said Mattie. “But it’s not too bad when I’m around Arlie, cos she’s black too. And Freddie, though some people just think he’s really tan.”

“Order, order!” I shouted.

“Can you get your dad to send me a box of Ton-Tongue Toffees and put it on my tab?” J.D. asked Fred. “If that Malfoy boy fancies my sister, I’m going to have to teach him a lesson.” “I’ll ask, but owl deliveries from Weasley Wizard Whizzes don’t usually pass Mr. Bleck’s inspections,” answered Fred. “Stupid old git, always patrolling the corridors with his stupid hedgehog.”

“Frick!” I yelled. Everyone finished their conversations and looked at me.

“You have Tourette’s now, J.S.?” asked J.D. snidely.

I exhaled. “Now that I finally have your attention, we can begin our meeting.”

“Why did you call this meeting, anyways?” interrupted Arlie. “We’re not supposed to have practices for two weeks.”

“Yes, but we needed—” I began.

“And we haven’t even had trials yet,” said Micah. “When’re those?”

“Yes, I know we need to have trials, but don’t worry, you’re all on the team,” I said.

“That doesn’t seem very fair,” said Tegan. “What about giving every Gryffindor a fair shot?”

I felt my ears turn bright red. “I wanted to call an early meeting so we can start to plan for the upcoming season and get a head start on all the other teams! I just wanna be a good cap’n!”

“Okay,” said Fred nonchalantly.

I sighed. “Right, then. I read a few new books on strategy over the summer and wrote out diagrams of a couple moves that I think we could master before the first match of the season. I’ve also gone over all the matches from last year and pinpointed a lot of broom handling problems. For example, Tegan, you hold it with your hands right over left instead of left over right, and I think it’s interfering with your Snitch-catching ability.”

“But it’s how I learned to fly,” argued Tegan, her pretty olive eyes accusing me of something nefarious. “It’s habit and it’s more comfortable. And what about my Snitch-catching ability? I caught the Snitch and won us the Quidditch Cup last year!”

“You can’t just settle!” I retorted. “You have to always try to improve your skills!”

“J.S., mate,” said J.D. calmly. “We’re the best team in the whole school. Everyone knows it. Lay off Tegan.”

“I’m not laying on her!” I said strongly.

“That’s what he said!” Micah laughed.

“That was a stupid, lame, and weird thing to say,” said Arlie to him. “No one even says ‘That’s what she said’ anymore!”

“We can’t just settle for being best in the school!” I chimed back in. “We have to perform to the best of our ability, yeah? Why not train as hard as we can so that we can be the best Quidditch players we can be?”

“Cos it’ll be painful and time-consuming?” asked Mattie.

I glared around the room. “Fie on you. Fie! This is not what Quidditch is about! Quidditch is about hard work and perseverance and discipline, and impressing the girl you fancy by casually slipping in, ‘Got to run, I’ve got Quidditch practice.’ But most of all, Quidditch is about the camaraderie! We are a team, Gryffies! We eat together, some of us live together, most of us go to class together, we prank the Slytherins together, and most important, we train together. Because each of us has taken up the noble sport of Quidditch and has vowed to uphold the integrity of the sport and its players! You have to know what it takes to be a true Gryffie!

There was an uncomfortable silence, until Arlie looked at her wristwatch and reluctantly said, “I’m supposed to meet my girlfriends now. Can I be excused?”

“I’ve got detention. I know, I know, we’ve only been at school for four hours, what could Freddie have done to earn himself a detention already? Well, it’s a funny story I’ll save for another day,” spieled Fred.

“I’m going to go find Madeleine,” said Micah of my and Fred's cousin. “She was totally checking me out during dinner.”

Mattie snorted. “No she wasn’t. And I’m really sorry, but I told my parents I’d write them tonight and I want the owl to make it home by morning.”

“I’m supposed to meet a lady friend,” said J.D. carefully.

“Rosie?” I asked snidely.

He nodded in pain.

“I’ll deal with you later,” I grumbled. “Fine, all of you, be gone! I have nothing more to say as your cap’n! Just be there for the ceremonial trials in two weeks!”

The five Gryffies jumping ship hustled out of the dormitory, and soon I was left with only Tegan. She scooted over to sit beside me on my bed, her shiny brown hair smelling of citrus.

“They just had stuff in their extra-Quidditch lives to do tonight,” she said supportively, rubbing my arm. “They love the Gryffies, and they’re still loyal to the Gryffies.”

“They think I’m a crazy fascist cap’n, with no life or grasp on reality.” I pouted.

“Aw,” she paused, “so what if that’s true? The life of a Gryffie is a great life. We whoop ass on the pitch and regardless of the score, we always have fun off it. And, if it’s any consolation, I can be your crazy communist Seeker. Since I was a communist for about three months during third year. It was my difficult phase.”

I whipped my head ‘round to maniacally grin at her. “Help me devise my genius plan.”

She raised her eyebrow in that cute little way. “What plan do you speak of?”

“The one to destroy J.D. and Rose’s relationship,” I replied curtly.

Tegan groaned. “Potter! Though you might be uncomfortable about it initially, you really oughtn’t meddle in the business of your best mate and cousin!”

“But it’s what I do! I meddle!” I whined.

She smiled coyly and understandingly at me, and I felt the urge to hug her. “If you have the compulsive urge to meddle, then fine,” said Tegan. “But don’t drag me in with you. I, apparently, have to work on my broom handle grip.”

“Sorry I was on you about that,” I quickly apologized.

“Ah,” she said, holding her hand up, “that’s what she said!”

“Please don’t turn into Micah!” I groaned. “I love the Jew just as much as anyone, but he’s annoying as hell!”

“Hey, you cursed without saying frick,” smiled Tegan. Oh, those pearly whites…

“I’m working on that,” I said nonchalantly. “Increasing my swear word vocabulary, I mean.”

She got up to leave, facing the door but turning her head around so that I had a view of both her nice bum and friendly face. “Good luck with that, Potter.”

“Good luck with…yourself…Llewellyn!” I shouted as my farewell fizzled in eloquence.

Tegan grinned. “See you in class tomorrow, Cap’n.”

The after classes on our first day, I hurried to the library, found a quiet corner, and got to work.

“James?” I heard a young boy’s voice from behind me.

“What?” I snapped, turning to see Dobby Longbottom, staring at me wide-eyed. (Oh, what awful parents could have given him such a name? That’s right, Professor Longbottom and his wife Hannah. But my mum insists that it’s very sweet, considering the namesake was a brave-to-the-very-end house elf, and that as a sixteen-year-old male I am hopeless to fully comprehend this sweetness.)

“Um…Mr Potter, sir?” gulped Dobby. “I think we need to talk. Sir.”

I looked at him funny. “Sure, whatever. Sit down and I’ll get to you when I finish with these schematics.”

Dobby sat across from me at the mahogany table, bit his lip, and started bouncing his foot irritatingly.

I threw down my quill and looked up at him. “What do you want, Dobby?”

“I wanted to talk to you about Lily,” said the thirteen-year-old bravely. “I respect that you are very protective of her, but she is very independent-minded and she doesn’t listen to anyone, and for some wonderful reason she fancies me, and I fancy her too. I’m not asking your permission, Mr Potter, but I wanted to let you know that my intentions are perfectly honorable.”

I sat back in my chair and evaluated the little scamp. “Dobby…Dobster, if you will,” I began, tapping my fingertips, “Lily is my only sister. I concur that I am extremely protective of her. So, naturally, I am extremely suspicious of any boy who fancies her. But, I’ve known you for most of your life, Dobster. You lack any spine, but you’re kind and loyal. I guess I could admire that in an alternate universe. But, probably the most important reason I feel I might possibly one day be able to trust you with my baby sister is that your parents named you after a valiant house elf, a house elf who, I am told, helped mine and Lily’s dad in saving the world from this Voldemort schmuck. So, Dobby Longbottom, I think I can promise that I won’t start shouting at you if I see you holding hands with my little sister. If you do anything more to her, then I can’t be responsible for my actions.” I smiled brightly. “Good talk, kid. Now make yourself scarce.”

But stupid Dobby didn’t leave. He looked over at the parchment I’d been writing on and asked, “What’cha doin’?”

“Nunya,” I mumbled, grabbing the pages and covering them up.

“Huh?” asked Dobby, his rounded face scrunched up.

“Nunya business.” I smirked, grabbing my quill and trying to get back to work.

But Dobby didn’t flee. “It looks like a bunch of stick figures standing in the common room. Those two snogging are labeled ‘J.D.’ and ‘Rose,’ and the one hexing them is labeled ‘Commander Cool.’”

I grabbed the parchment and clutched them to my chest. “Sod off, Dobby!”

“Are you developing a harebrained scheme to break up Rose and J.D.?” he asked. “Why? They seem really happy together.”

“She’s my cousin and he’s my best mate!” I exclaimed, though not too loudly since we were in the library.

“But you just kind of gave the okay for me to date your own sister,” said Dobby, confused.

“It’s different, all right?” I insisted.

“How so?” he prodded.

I huffed. “Why do you care, Dob-O?”

Dobby shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t have an older brother. Or any siblings, for that matter. I just want to understand why you’re so much more bothered by Rose and J.D. than by me and Lily.”

Fine, Dobby,” I said, exasperated. “J.D.’s my best mate, yeah? He has been ever since first year and we have hundreds of secret handshakes and inside jokes and all that. It used to be whenever he got…some,” I worded carefully for my sister’s thirteen-year-old suitor, “I could congratulate him. But I can’t do that, be supportive, if he’s getting some with my own cousin.”

Dobby nodded slowly. “I think I see. You’re scared that your relationship with J.D. has to change, and that you’re going to be put in an awkward situation.”

“Precisely,” I muttered.

“Well, I think you should share these feelings with the both of them,” said Dobby. “You’re important to the both of them, and they’ll hear you out.”

I couldn’t believe a gangly, slightly pimply thirteen-year-old named Dobby Longbottom had given me advice. “Er, thanks kid,” I mumbled.

“Bye James,” said Dobby smiling, taking his book bag and walking out of the library.

I mulled his words over for a minute. The advice was logical, and I really ought have taken it. But then again, I was James Sirius Potter, Cap’n of the Gryffies. It was my duty to take the irrational and overcomplicated route of a grand gesture to destroy J.D. and Rose’s romance.

Uh oh, what is Jamesie planning? And poor James, feeling abandoned by his Gryffies. But all is not lost! The Gryffies will reunite very soon and make Quidditch history!

Chapter 3: A Snog, An Imagination Journal, & A Chanting Mob
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“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” groaned Tegan as we hid behind a couch in the common room.

“Shush,” I whispered. “I lost my only pair of Extra-Extendable Ears, so we’re really going to have to listen up to be able to hear them.”

Tegan rolled her eyes incredibly loudly. Her shiny, olive eyes… “Why do I agree to help you?” she muttered.

“Cos you lurve me,” I grinned maniacally and gave her a great, awkward hug as we were schlumped against the floor and the back of the couch.

She sighed and didn’t relax her body. “I really need to get some non-Gryffie friends,” she said. “You lot are completely mental. Mostly you, I guess.”

I quickly let go of her when I heard J.D.’s smooth voice. “You want to sit here?”

Then I heard a quick giggle, clearly coming from Rose. “Sure.”

I couldn’t move into a position where I could see then without giving myself up, so I just stayed there, crouched behind the couch with an annoyed Tegan.

“Rosie,” piped up J.D. again (probably holding her hand…the ponce), “I’ve fancied you ever since last year, to tell you the truth. But I didn’t have the courage to tell you how I felt.”

“Fricking wanker!” I exclaimed quietly. “He shagged Sarah McLaggen for half the bloody summer!”

“Keep the outbursts to a minimum, you nit!” snapped Tegan quietly.

“I’ve fancied you for quite a while myself, J.D.,” said Rose sweetly. “But I never thought that you’d even look my way, considering that you’re best mates with James, and James is my cousin.”

“How could I not look, Rose?” said J.D., laying on the charm. “You’re beautiful…”

“Translation,” I interjected at a volume only Tegan could hear, “well-endowed.”


“Translation: really well-endowed.”

“…really funny…”

“Translation: not a dull prude, ergo more likely to put out.”

“…and most importantly, you’re sweet,” finished J.D., probably grinning like mad.

“Which everyone knows is a codeword for well-endowed,” I mumbled.

“Shut it, you’re making it difficult for me to hear,” whispered Tegan.

“Aw, J.D.,” said Rose.

“No! Don’t fall for it! He’s just a horny chauvinist deep down. That’s all J. Dizzle will ever be!” I declared softly.

“Rose,” said J.D. very carefully, “will you be my girlfriend?”

No Rosie, I thought, tell the schmuck you’ve actually been itching to join a convent…

“Of course, J.D.,” said Rose happily. Horrible, nauseating kissing sounds ensued.

“Quickly Tegan!” I said, not caring about whether or not I was whispering.

“What?” she asked. “You haven’t told me the details of your grand master plan yet. I doubt you've even finished it!”

“Here’s the plan,” I growled at her impropriety and pulled her up to standing. Right next to the couch where J.D. and Rose were snogging, I grabbed Tegan’s waist and slammed my lips against hers. She tried to jerk her head back but I moved my hand to keep it in place, and she quickly gave up the struggle and stood there, limp and unmoving, as I pecked at her face.

“J.S.?” I heard J.D. ask, grateful that I could finally stop torturing Tegan.

“Why, hallo old chap,” I said courteously, turning to face my seated best mate and cousin. “Oops. Did I interrupt an important moment with a snogging session of my own?”

Tegan crossed her arms and glared at me, while J.D. looked startled and Rose chuckled quietly.

“I’m so, so sorry,” I said bombastically. “Hey, you two ought to get going on your homework, yeah? J.D., the Transfiguration essay isn’t going to write itself before tomorrow!”

Before either member of the lovely couple could respond, Tegan violently grabbed my arm and dragged me towards the boys’ stair.

“You’re essentially a sociopath!” she spat as we walked up the stone steps. “Granted, not as bad as that Voldemort fellow must’ve been, but you’re a bloody fool! Why can’t you just be happy for your best mate?”

Tegan finally let go of me when she shoved me into my dormitory. As a digression, Tegan gives the sickest Indian burns you’ve ever seen. She’s got such weirdly strong hands and fingers you’ve got red lines on your wrist for days.

“It’s my state of nature!” I argued. “I meddle in business I have no business in! I can’t help it! It’s a fricking addiction! I should start on some sort of multi-step program!”

“You’re not addicted to interfering in people’s lives!” exclaimed Tegan, as if the notion were ridiculous. “You’re completely mad, however.” She had collapsed on my bed, while I sat on Micah’s desk.

“I’m sorry for kissing you without your permission, if that’s why you’re mad,” I conceded. “It was just the first thing I could think of.” Because I’m constantly thinking of kissing you, I thought.

She was sprawled on the bed, arms like an eagle’s and legs looking very, very long beyond her uniform skirt.

“Whatever,” she sighed, breathing heavily. “Dramatic gestures just come with the package when you’re friends with James Potter.”

I loosened my scarlet and gold tie, which was too much like a noose. When I graduate, I refuse to take a job that entails wearing a tie.

“Aw, but my quirks and strange habits are part of the charm, yeah?” I asked hopefully, noticing that her legs were oh so slightly apart and that if I tilted my head to the left, I might actually get a look at her knickers…

“You’re a weird kid, James,” said Tegan so bluntly that it sounded strange coming from such a pretty girl. “You gossip more than any girl I know, and only seem to take any real joy in pulling stupid pranks and playing Quidditch, and you write in your dodgy little diary with the unicorn on the cover every bloody night.”

“It’s my Imagination Journal,” I clarified, continuing to ever so slowly move my noggin leftwards. “And it was my grandfather James the First’s, I’ll have you know, so I’d appreciate it if you don’t insult the book that holds all of my hopes and dreams.”

Tegan rolled her brilliantly shining eyes. “You make that damn diary sound so interesting, I think I’d like to get a look at it.”

Keep going, you’re almost there, I told my head. Now my entire top half was leaning off Micah’s desk.

“No, it’s quite boring, actually,” I said crisply, feeling my balance wobble as I could almost see up her skirt.

“I’ll be the judge of that!” grinned Tegan, jumping up and moving to my nightstand.

Nooo! the more randy half of my brain screamed. But then the more proper half of the brain joined in a chorus Nooo! as I fell straight off the desk and landed on the hard floor with an “Oomph!”

“Here it is,” smirked Tegan, clasping my pink journal. “A simple Alohomora should open it right up.”

I jumped from the floor and bounded over to her. “Private thoughts, private thoughts!”

She shrieked and laughed as I tried to grab it from her, then engulfed her as she held it teasingly out of my reach. I swiped at it and she pulled it close to her chest. I had to choice put to pick her up, throw her over my shoulder, and refuse to let her down until I got my Imagination Journal back!

“Aie!” exclaimed Tegan as I easily threw her long, lean body over my shoulder. “Lemme go!”

“Drop the book!” I ordered.

I heard the flipping of pages. “Ooh, here’s an entry from two days ago: Why is J.D. such a sucky best mate? I mean, frick, he’s always like, ‘Merlin, your cousin has amazing boobs.’ What am I supposed to say to that?? I mean, come on!! Oh, trusty Imagination Journal, please guide me on my crusade against this heinous relationship! Give me guidance when I am lost, strength when I am weak, and a paper bag to be sick in if I ever walk in on them snogging…oomph!”

I dropped Tegan (over the bed, so she wouldn’t hit the floor) and grabbed my Imagination Journal. “I don’t want you reading it!” I exclaimed.

She seemed taken aback and regretful. “I’m sorry, James,” said Tegan slowly. “I was just joking around. That’s what Gryffies do, yeah? Joke around?”

I helped her up and looked at her seriously. “It’s fine. Just never do it again.”

Tegan apologized again, excused herself, and left. I sat on my bed, looked regretfully at my Imagination Journal, and opened it to the latest entry.

Dear Imagination Journal, I had written the previous night, I don’t know if journals have best friends, or can fancy girl journals, but I was wondering if you could help me sort out my nonsensical feelings.

I know I’ve written to you about my Gryffie friend Tegan hundreds of times, of how we prank Slytherins together and train for Quidditch together and go to class together and copy each other’s homework and occasionally have leg-wrestling contests, but something very strange happened at the beginning of this year.

Let’s say you have a best mate journal, who theoretically is a girl journal. But then, one horrible day, you realize that your best mate journal has a really big, shiny lock on the cover and sexy, crispy white pages inside. What would you do, Imagination Journal?

This happened to me with Tegan, and I don’t know how to proceed. I can’t just tell her how I feel, cos what if it’s just physical nonsense? She’s my fricking Seeker, and the best fricking Seeker in school. Plus, and possibly more importantly, she’s one of my best mates. What if I tell her I think she’s quite fit and she’s revolted, quits the squad, and won’t be my mate anymore?

Oh, wise Imagination Journal, I do not know how to proceed. I trust that with your noble guidance, I will be able to plan a course to action to resolve this situation. In addition to my incomplete plan to keep Rose and J.D. as far away from each other as possible.

Yours truly,
James Sirius Potter

I coughed as loudly as a herd of rampaging crups, but all the bloody Gryffie hopefuls just kept on chattering inanely. Tryouts are over, people! I’m tryin’ to tell you which ones I’ve cut!

My next cough was more akin in volume to the stampede of a herd of thestrals, yet the din persisted.

“Hellooo?” I piped meekly, a wee bit timid in front of a crowd of forty social Gryffindors clad in Quidditch gear.

Panicking at their insolence (and perhaps my newly discovered lack of authority), I trotted over to my cousin Freddie, who was chatting up a blonde girl in our year.

“Freddie!” I squeaked, tapping his shoulder. “They’re not listening and I want to read the squad list and it’s nearly seven and my stomach’s rumbling, and I hope that they have chicken pot pie in the Great Hall for dinner, I really love any sort of pie—”

Fred whipped his head round to look at me. “James, we voted you cap’n. If you can’t silence a bunch of untalented Gryffie wannabes, then how’re you gonna lead us into battle?”

“Wannabe?” gasped the blonde girl behind him. “You think I tried out just to be in your stupid club?”

“No Miranda, what I meant is that every other person here is a wannabe. You’re brilliant at Seeking,” said Fred smoothly.

“Freddie!” I whined. “I have to get them to quiet down! The pie could be getting cold!”

Fred groaned. “Potter, we voted you in despite the very vocal lobby from Micah in his own support.”

“Micah just has an inferiority complex that causes him to grope at leadership positions,” I said analytically. “He didn’t really want to be cap’n.”

Fred rolled his brown eyes. “Point is: you should be able to do this. Take control, James! Be a man! Search deep down inside you for a drop of testosterone!”

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, and shrieked, “Freddie, I order you to silence the swinish multitudes!”

Fred just laughed. “Hopeless, James. You’re hopeless.”

“But that’s why you all love me so,” I grinned.

Freddie cleared his throat and bellowed, “OI, you lot currently squatting on the Quidditch pitch! Mister James Potter here, cap’n of the legendary Gryffies, has got a rather important announcement that I think you’ll find relevant!”

I stepped up beside him and shook his hand. “Thank you, Fred.”

He saluted me. “For you, cousin and cap’n.”

I cleared my own throat and attempted to sound as authoritative as I could. “Hi,” I began. “Um, I gave my talk before the tryouts began, how Quidditch is more than just a sport to Gryffindor House and if you were selected, you’d have to uphold the honor and dignity that being a member of the Gryffies entails. I also wanted to thank all forty some odd of you for trying out, because the squad can only get stronger with more and more talented flyers trying out. Unfortunately, we’ve only got room for seven, as dictated by the Department of Magical Games and Sports, so I figure I’ll call out these names. I just want to say that I’m really sorry for cutting you, if I cut you, but as cap’n it’s my responsibility to build the strongest team possible.

“Chasers: Micah Horowitz, James Potter, Arlie Shacklebolt. Beaters: John Dorian Nott, Fred Weasley. Keeper: Mattie Thomas. Seeker: Tegan Llewellyn.

“Okay, that’s it. Thanks again for coming out, and if you didn’t make it, I wish you all the best for next year’s tryouts, and come support us in our battle against Slytherin!”

“I hate cutting people,” I muttered, poking my chicken potpie with my fork at dinner later than evening. We Gryffies, the original seven, were sitting together in the Great Hall later that evening.

Micah gulped down a swig of pumpkin juice and exhaled loudly. “Cap’n, you had to do it. I mean, unquestionably, the seven of us were the seven best flyers out there. Yeah?”

Arlie carefully cut her chicken, slowly brought it to her mouth, and methodically chewed it. “Micah’s right. It’s always unpleasant being cap’n, James. I suppose that’s why so many of them go mental. Most of you weren’t on the team when Lorelai Lin-Wood was cap’n, but she was a monster. We had a perfect season, though.”

I rested my head in my hands. “My dad was cap’n. And so was my granddad, apparently. I can’t muck this up.”

J.D. took a break from shoveling pie into his mouth to pat me on the back. “You’re gonna do great, mate,” he said, mouth full of food. “You’re the best flyer amongst us, and how hard could it be to transition from player to cap’n?”

“And you’re our cap’n elect,” added Fred, he too speaking with his mouth full. “We voted for ya cos we have faith in ya.”

“But if you’re nervous about calling plays and stuff,” mumbled Tegan, her mouth as filled as J.D.’s and Fred’s, “my great-uncle Dai left me a bunch of Quidditch playbooks in his will, after he was eaten by that chimera. I could have my mam send them to you, if you like.”

I kipped up. “That would be great, Teg. Thanks!”

“We’re gonna show those Slytherins moves they hain’t ever seen before!” declared Mattie.

“What team?” shouted J.D.

“Gryffindor!” we Gryffies chanted back.

“What team?” bellowed J.D. again.

“GRYFFINDOR!” This time the entirety of the Gryffindor table yelled back.

“Whose house?” I shouted.

“GODRIC!” came the reply.

“What team?” yelled J.D.

“GRYFFINDOR!” our house replied.

“Whose house?” I yelled.

“GODRIC!” was the thunderous reply.

“What team?” shouted J.D.

“GRYFFINDOR!” our 250 housemates yelled, much to the dismay of the members of the three other houses currently dining.

But who cares about them? We’re Gryffies!

A/N: Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who’s read this far! And a bigger THANK YOU to you fantastic reviewers! You have no idea how much I appreciate your kind and constructive comments! Writing this story is such a joy, and I love sharing it with you all. Aw, I’m so corny ;)

Chapter 4: How Aberystwyth Can Reflect A Girl’s Internal Strife
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Q, I wrote on the scrap of parchment Freddie had enchanted to entertain us with an interactive gang of hangwizard. We couldn’t really say our guesses aloud, really, since we sixth year Gryffies were allegedly paying attention in History of Magic. But Professor Binns isn’t getting any more interesting; supposedly, he’s been boring students with his nonsensical goblin rants since before my parents’ time.

The parchment crumbled itself up, then rolled out again, revealing that my guess of Q had been dismissed and a leg had been added to the stick wizard on the gallows. “Frick,” I mumbled, passing the parchment on to J.D.

He stared at it and frowned. Tegan had definitely come up with a hard word (but she’s the clever Gryffie, I s’pose). So far, all Fred, Micah, and I had been able to come up with was A, space, space, R, space, S, space, space, W, space, space, H.

J.D. pouted and scribbled something on the sheet, and I peeked over and saw that it was a U.

The parchment rolled and unrolled again, mocking J.D. with the addition of another leg to the hangwizard.

Micah grabbed the paper and shook his head. He jotted down a C and mouthed to the rest of us, “C is the most common consonant, you ponces!”

But the parchment rejected his guess and further detailed its drawing of the hangwizard.

“Teg!” whisper-shouted Micah. “What stupid word goes ‘A, space, space, R, space, S, space, space, W, space, space, H’ wiv no C?”

She narrowed her eyes and smirked. “If you lot don’t figure this out,” she whispered back, “you’re pretty rotten friends.”

Fred grabbed the parchment from Micah and wrote a large E with his quill. “How has no one picked E yet?” whispered Fred.

Instead of crumpling itself up and continuing to detail the hangwizard, the parchment added an obnoxiously sparkly E, so it now read A, space, E, R, space, S, space, space, W, space, space, H.

“Who’s awesome?” whisper-shouted Fred in delight.

“But we still don’t know what the frick it is,” grumbled Micah.

‘Twas my turn, so I daintily swiped the parchment from Freddie and began to think, feather quill tickling my chin. Hmm, what to guess…?

I carefully wrote a Z, but the parchment rolled up and added a head, completing the hangwizard.

“You moron!” whisper-sneered J.D. “We were one mistake away from losing and you pick zed?

“Fine deductive skills!” added Micah sarcastically.

“Don’t blame this all on me!” I whisper-implored. “We all made wrong guesses, and this is obviously the most random, weird word in the English language!”

Tegan angrily grabbed the parchment and scribbled something. “Aberystwyth!” she whisper-snapped, showing us the paper. “Ahh-bear-ist-with! How hard is that?”

“Hard?” whispered Fred.

“That’s what she—” began Micah.

“Do not go there,” mumbled J.D.

“And it’s not English!” continued Tegan.

“What is it, then?” I whisper-asked.

“Gobbledegook?” asked Micah.

“It’s Welsh,” whispered Tegan shrilly. “It’s the town where I grew up!”

We all stared at her blankly.

“Aber?” she continued. “By the sea?”

“I thought you were from Belfast,” said J.D. bluntly.

Tegan’s face was bright red, and her freckles seemed to pop. “How can you lot not remember my hometown?” she whispered in disbelief. “I’m certain I’ve mentioned it in the six years we’ve been friends!”

“Miss Llewellyn,” droned Professor Binns. “Kindly refrain from interrupting any more of my lecture on the controversial ownership of goblin-made treasures.”

Tegan clenched her jaw and looked like she was about to shout at the ghost, but the bell rang and the rest of the class woke up from their naps and began to file out.

I sensed that something was not right with my Seeker, so I said her name and tried to grab her arm, but she threw her books in her bag and hurried out of the classroom.

I grabbed my own things and followed her, leaving the other Gryffies to slowly mosey their way out. “Tegan!” I called again, jogging through the busy corridor.

She looked straight ahead when I caught up with her, and I think she rolled her eyes. “What’s wrong?” I asked quickly.

Tegan snorted, clearly irritated. “Even you, James,” she muttered.

“I’m sorry I didn’t guess Aber…Abery…”

“Ahbearistwith,” she said crisply. “But everyone calls it Aber.”

“Well, even if I had thought of it,” I said hesitantly, “I probably couldn’t’ve spelled it. You would have won hangwizard anyways. And hey, you won! Winning’s good, yeah?”

“James, my four closest friends can’t remember where I’m from. How do you think that makes me feel?”

I thought for a moment. “Like crap on toast?”

Tegan finally made eye contact with me (oh, those soulful olive eyes!). “I at least thought you cared about me, James.”

“Of course I care about you!” I said too enthusiastically. “I mean, the team cares about you.”

She chortled. “J.D. thinks I’m Irish, Micah has a man-crush on my dead Great-Uncle Dai, and last spring Freddie asked me why I always change in the girls’ locker room.”

“Well, J.D. recognized that you weren’t English, which is really observant for him, and Micah isn’t just friends with you because your great-uncle was a Quidditch legend—or I hope not, cos then he’s probably only friends with me because my dad’s sort of famous, and Fred, well, Freddie knows you’re a girl. Now.

“I guess I just have to face the fact that I’m a tomboy,” sighed Tegan. “My best mates are blokes, I spend all my free time sweating on the pitch, and no member of the male sex will ever see me as anything other than a tall twig with no discernable mammary growth, a tangled mess of brown hair, and dressed in a muddy Quidditch kit.”

I gulped. “Er…you have discernable mammary growth. A little bit. Maybe.”

Tegan looked slyly at me. “Thank you. I think.”

“I think you’re wrong about guys not taking a fancy to you,” I said without thinking. “I mean, your hair’s only gross right after you’ve been flying, but your face is nice and freckly, and faces can’t get windblown. And your Quidditch kit is usually the cleanest on the team, though sometimes Arlie’s has less caked on mud. And some blokes like twiggy girls who are almost as tall as them, cos they probably have good legs.”

She narrowed her eyes. “You have quite the way with words, James Potter.”

“Uncontrollable, incoherent babbling is both a gift and a curse, I’ve found,” I shrugged.

Tegan smiled slightly. “So you’re saying that blokes more perceptive than Freddie Weasley might notice that I’m a girl?”

“Of this, I’m fairly certain,” I replied, trying not to blush. “And, we Gryffies love you and appreciate you and usually listen to stuff you say, but we’re sorry that we forgot you were from Aber—”

“Just call it Aber, it’s easier.”

“—Aberystwyth,” I said slowly.

She grinned widely. “Not so hard now, is it?”

I smiled back and stopped myself from kissing her. “Not when you’re showing one of your best friends that you appreciate and care for them.”

“You’re so corny, Potter,” said Tegan as we walked into Transfiguration.

“But I love corn, that vegetable comprised of sweet yellow kernels indigenous to the North American continent,” I said, following her.

I lay on my stomach at the foot of my bed, elbows propped and head bent over my Imagination Journal as I furiously wrote in it. It was Friday afternoon and we had a match against Slytherin (hisssss!) Saturday morning.

“Wot you doing, Cap’n?” asked Micah absentmindedly as he gelled his hair with Herr Salzwedel’s Premium Hair Salve. As a side note, Micah Horowitz has the most glorious head of hair I have ever laid eyes on. A rich, deep shade of brown, meticulously coiffed in a windblown, devil-may-care style…

“Planning plays for tomorrow’s match,” I answered automatically. Though I wasn’t!

Micah double-checked his outstanding gel job in the mirror, and quipped a quick, “Bye!” before running down to the common room.

Phew! Now I could return to my important Imagination Journal work.

James hearts Tegan
J.S.P. loves T.R.L.
James Sirius Potter & Tegan Rhiannon Llewellyn
Mr. & Mrs. James Sirius Potter
Mrs. Tegan Rhiannon Llewellyn Potter

The parents of Miss Tegan Rhiannon Llewellyn are pleased to announce the marriage of their daughter to Mr. James Sirius Potter, on the 31st of October, in the year two thousand twenty-three…

“An autumn wedding would be lovely,” I remarked, continuing with my writing.

Mr. and Mrs. James Sirius Potter are pleased to announce the birth of their first child, Daniel Llewellyn Potter, on the 31st of July, in the year two thousand twenty-five…

Mr. and Mrs. James Sirius Potter are pleased to announce the birth of their second child, Max Weasley Potter, on the 1st of March, in the year two thousand twenty-seven…

Mr. and Mrs. James Sirius Potter are pleased to announce the birth of their third child, Caroline Rhys Potter, on the 19th of September, in the year two thousand twenty-eight…

The Potters: James, Tegan, Dan, Max, Caroline, and their dog Snuffles

Dan Potter: prefect, Head Boy; earned 8 N.E.W.T.s, 7 Outstandings, 1 Exceeds Expectations (Potions); Quidditch Cap’n and Chaser

Max Potter: earned 397 detentions in seven short years at Hogwarts (for mischief, primarily); earned 6 N.E.W.T.s, 2 Outstandings, 3 Exceeds Expectations, 1 Troll (Potions); Quidditch Beater

Caroline Potter: prefect, Head Girl; earned 9 N.E.W.T.s, 8 Outstandings, 1 Exceeds Expectations (Potions); Quidditch Cap’n after Dan and Seeker

The blissfully happy Potter-Llewellyn family: James, the kind-hearted father, who heads the Auror Department, following Kingsley Shacklebolt and Harry Potter; Tegan, the stern but forgiving mother, who followed in her great-uncle’s footsteps and became the renowned Quidditch Seeker “Tenacious” Tegan Llewellyn on the Caerphilly Catapults before retiring from the professional leagues to devote more time to her children; Dan, the confident, bright, kind Head Boy and Gryffindor Quidditch Cap’n; Max, the mischievous, rebellious, clever Gryffindor Beater two years below Dan; Caroline, the diligent, intelligent, responsible Head Girl and Gryffindor Cap’n after Dan, who is four years above her; and their quirky black mutt, Snuffles, who is terrified of rats and loves to eat kumquats…

I heard someone enter the room and instinctively shielded my Imagination Journal. ‘Twas J.D., looking smugger than usual.

“Oi, J.S.,” he said, gravitating towards me and my Imagination Journal, “you writing in your pink diary?”

“How many times do I have to tell you guys that it’s an ‘Imagination Journal’…completely different,” I sighed.

“What’re you writing?” asked J.D., smirking.

I clutched my journal tighter. “Plays. For the match against Slytherin tomorrow. I’m not done yet.”

“Well,” said J.D. slyly, “as your favorite Beater and Assistant Cap’n—”

“Assistant to the Cap’n,” I corrected him.

“—I should get a sneak peek at the innovative plays I’m sure you’ve cooked up.”

We stared in defiance for a moment. I was prepared for a physical assault in attempt to gain access to my Imagination Journal, as had been the case with Tegan. But J.D. thought very differently from Tegan.

Accio J.S.’s diary!” proclaimed J.D. after he pulled out his wand. My precious pink journal (adorned with the unicorn) flew from my grip to J.D.’s hands.

“Nooo!” I cried. “Secret ponderings, secret ponderings!”

But J.D. was already whipping through the pages. I lunged at him but he quickly cast a Shield Charm, and ravenously read the most recent entry in my Imagination Journal.

“Fie!” I yelped, unable to get around his Shield Charm. “Villain, release my poor journal from your tainted hands!”

“Whoa,” was J.D.’s reply as his eyes scanned my handwriting.

I tried not to whimper as my very best mate violated my most private thoughts. Oh cruel fate, please reverse your sadistic ways and somehow make J. Dizzle avoid the bits about Tegan and our fictitious offspring!

“Holy frick,” mumbled J.D. “And you’ve dated all these fictitious events.”

“Fine!” I exclaimed. “I fancy Tegan Llewellyn, Seeker extraordinaire and fellow Gryffie! She’s tall and quite fit and has a pretty face and pretty olive eyes and pretty freckles on her nose and obvious and very nice mammary growth, whether she realizes it or not!”

J.D. took down the Shield Charm, his jaw dropped in shock. “You wanna marry her?”

I sighed. “Mostly I’d like to snog her, but we’d have to be dating for that to happen cos Tegan’s classy, and if the snogging and the dating go well then I’d probably be interested in shagging, but we’d have to be at least in talks about marriage for that to happen. And if the shagging’s good, and we get along well and are happy, then I wouldn’t be too freaked about marriage.”

“J.S.,” said J.D. slowly, “you’re nuts. You haven’t even told the Tegster that you fancy her, and you’ve set the wedding date.”

“And named our kids,” I added quietly.

“Interesting clan,” remarked J.D. “Troupe of Quidditch-playing children and a kumquat-eating dog.”

“I know I’m mental,” I said dramatically, “but my Imagination Journal is how I sort through my mad thoughts.”

J.D. clicked his tongue. “You gotta tell her, mate.”

“But she’s Tegan,” I said breathlessly. “She’s a Gryffie, ergo one of my closest friends. Telling her I fancy her would change our friendship forever.”

“Maybe she fancies you back.”

“I’m me, J.D. How could a girl as normal as Tegan fancy me?

J.D. groaned. “You can’t go on pining like this. It’s weird.

“I know, I know,” I mused. “But I have to go about this the right way. I have to devise a plan.

“Will this plan replace the crackpot one you devised to break up me and Rose?” asked J.D.

“I believe so,” I said. “Tegan is more important to me than whether or not you are shagging my cousin. By the way, are you shagging my cousin?”

J.D. chuckled. “Not at the moment. But will it make you freak out less if I promise not to pressure her into doing something she’s uncomfortable with?”

“Ya,” I sighed in defeat. “But know that if you hurt my baby fifteen-year-old cousin, our best mate contract is terminated and I will jinx and/or hex and/or curse you. And I will round up all the other Gryffies too, because they will side with me as I am their cap’n, and we will make you go ‘ow’.”

He nodded. “Fair enough. But you have to tell Tegan you fancy her.”

“But I’m not ready,” I whined.

“If you don’t tell her, then I will,” grinned J.D.

“Nooo!” I exclaimed.

“I’ll give you till…Halloween to sort this out,” said J.D. “A month and a half should be sufficient time to proclaim your true feelings to your lady love.”

I pouted. “A deadline? I don’t do well with deadlines!”

J.D. patted my shoulder. “It’s for your own good, mate. I don’t want to read a full-length novel about your fictional perfect life with Tegan, the kids, and Snuffles come graduation day. I want you to go out there and make that life, or some variation of it, happen.”

“You’re a good man, John Dorian Nott,” I conceded. “But you’re mean sometimes.”

“I do what I have to ensure that you, my best mate, James Sirius Potter, are happy. And happiness for most guys is a girl to snog.”

I smiled distantly and cocked my head to the right, imagining how wonderful it might be to one day kiss the lovely lips of Tegan Llewellyn. For realsies, not like the time I randomly snogged her in a futile attempt to break up Rose and J.D.

“J.S.!” exclaimed J.D., snapping his fingers. “You’re daydreaming!”

“I daydream a lot,” I said distantly.

“No more daydreaming, you’re wasting valuable time,” ordered J.D. “You have to woo Tegan eventually, but first priority is the Gryff v. Slyth match tomorrow. Right, Cap’n?”

I snapped back to reality, realizing the pressure and stress and significance of this first Quidditch match of the season, and how I really, really, really wanted to win.

“Right, Assistant to the Cap’n!” I replied enthusiastically.

“What team?” proclaimed J.D., though only he and I occupied the dormitory at the time.

“Gryffindor!” I shouted alone. “Whose house?”

“Godric!” was J.D.’s answer. “What team?”

“Gryffindor! Whose house?”

“Godric! What team?”


A/N: Ahh. 1:17 AM. Wrote this chapter all night. I admit that I had none of it planned out and just rolled with ideas as they came to me. Also wrote it while watching Scrubs and The Daily Show and The Colbert Report and I Love New York, so that’s why it probably isn’t fantastic. But I felt guilty about not updating, so…I hope you liked it okay. Please review! And I love it when you quote certain lines that you really liked. But if you have critical feedback, that’s welcome too. I just want you guys to like my story, and if there’s things I need to improve, by golly I’ll try to fix them.

Chapter 5: Don’t Bother Praying To The Quidditch Deity
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“Protein!” I screeched, a furious tornado in my stomach, as I roughly grabbed an innocent piece of toast. “Why didn’t you slowly load up on protein over the course of the week like I told you to? Cor, you had pasta last night! That’s all wrong! You’re supposed to eat protein all week and carbo-load the morning of the match! You don’t have to be an Unspeakable to grasp the concept!”

Arlie looked at me slyly and dared to snatch her piece of toast back. “Who’s older, me or you?” she asked lightly, clearly harbouring a strong sense of menace.

“You,” I conceded.

“So, if I’m the older one,” mused Arlie, “I probably have more experience with food and the culinary arts. Does this seem feasible?”

I grunted. “Sure, why not?”

The Minister’s daughter smirked at me. “So glad we’ve established that I am the nutrition expert. Now, before you interject with what could only be a weak and slightly effeminate retort,” upon these words, I shut my jaw, “I will graciously remind you that I rejected the nomination for cap’n of the Gryffies last year. I was the logical choice, I suppose, being the eldest of our ranks and being a damn good Chaser, but I seriously considered the matter and came to the conclusion that I did not want the responsibility required of a Quidditch cap’n. You have to, like, make up plays and book pitch times, and such menial tasks do not appeal to me.”

“Being Gryffie Cap’n is the realization of my hopes and dreams!” I declared. Bugger, I thought. There’s her weak and slightly effeminate retort!

“But what I mean to say, Arlie Shacklebolt,” I said as suavely as I could muster, “one of my responsibilities as cap’n is to ensure that my players eat with good nutrition. I apologize if my reaction to your toast and pasta dinner last night was in any way offensive. But I really need you to eat more protein, in the future.”

She laughed and sighed (she lighed). “Whatever, James. I’ll eat your precious protein in the week preceding our next match.”

I smiled diplomatically at the insurgent little scoundrel. “Thank you, Arlie. You hear that, Gryffies? We can work out our differences using our words, and we don’t have to always resort to our wands!”

We always ate together the morning of a match, huddled ‘round the end of the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall. All us Gryffies, shovelling various breakfast-variety foodstuffs down our gullets and gulping as much juice as possible, to ensure appropriate sugar levels for the match.

“You see, J.D., if you perhaps find yourself in an argument with Micah again, you don’t have to put a minor curse on his dangly bits,” I continued, as coolly as someone like me could.

J.D. snorted in his cereal. “I had to do it,” he said decisively. “Micah old boy, you are never allowed to do what you did last night. Ever.”

Micah shifted uncomfortably in his seat and grimaced. “But J.D., all I said was, ‘That’s what she—”

“Nuh no,” interrupted J.D. “As a matter of fact, you’re wrong. You are never going to make that pathetic and outdated joke again. Unless you want more alterations of your dangly bits.” He smirked at me as he emphasized my phrase.

“Come now, don’t mock my special vocabulary lexicon,” I said, defeated. “I’m not the only one who has funny words for things. Tegan?”

My foxy Seeker (belt UP, Jamesie!) took a break from stuffing bagels into her mouth to come to my defence. “Sure, James’s ‘dangly bits’ phrase is bizarre,” she said bluntly. “But you have to respect his right to use it. Hundreds, nay, thousands of happy, healthy, and successful witches and wizards cannot use certain words without having panic attacks and flashbacks to the time when you were six and your mom said she was going to fire the hot gardener man but when they went in the potting shed, they didn’t come out for hours. Funny noises came out of that shed all afternoon, as I sat by the pool and ate orange popsicles.”

“Fascinating,” said J.D., clearly disturbed.

Tegan sighed. “My mam gave me The Talk when I was 10. You know, the one where you’re told that making whoopee is a tool to snag the man you want and how to successfully fake a miscarriage? But during the little chat Mam referred to all the nasty anatomy parts as ‘bajingo’ and ‘hoo-hah’, and you get the drift. So you know what? It’s okay if I say ‘bajingo’! And it’s also okay if I tell you that you mustn’t speak to me while I’m on the toilet, cos I then I won’t be able to poo for a month. And you guys all mock James for saying ‘frick’ every other sentence! Well, maybe he’s emotionally scarred for life too!”

All the Gryffies’ attention turned from Tegan’s alarming rant to my humble face. “I saw my parents…you-know-whating…when I was really little. I was crawling around, a wee one-year-old, and though I don’t remember much from that simpler time, I do remember…frick!”

“And Albus popped out nine months later, yeah?” inquired Freddie.

I sighed. “I can’t look at my brother without shouting ‘frick!’”

We Gryffies were silent for several long moments, pondering big questions like the meaning of life and what the house elves would serve for dinner tonight, until Mattie Thomas bit his lip and spoke up.

“Um…how did this conversation end up here?” he asked meekly. “I thought it was about protein versus carbs.”

“I do not know, young Mattie,” I said distantly.

Tegan swallowed and looked embarrassed. “Well you all knew my mam was awful. And yet, I crave her approval, but at the same time, I pity her. And here I am, becoming her, discussing the validity of bajingoes and hoo-hahs.”

“You’re not your mum, Teg,” said Arlie compassionately, giving her only other female teammate a hug. “

“Yeah,” concurred Micah. “Your wobbly bits are nowhere near as incredible as your mum’s.”

Fred smacked him. “We love you, Tegster,” said Freddie cheerily. “We’ll get off your case about your funny made-up words.”

Tegan perked up a tiny bit. “Micah, if you can say ‘wobbly bits’, I can say whatever the bloody hell I want! But thanks, all of you. It’s just…I’m scared sometimes. Without realizing it, or having much control, I’m slowly becoming more and more like my mother.”

“Tegan, you’re a classy girl,” said Mattie supportively. “I’m fairly certain you’d never shagged a bloke in a broom cupboard. Or in a potting shed, for that matter.”

She let out a slight chuckle. “My mam would be so mad if she found out I hadn’t. I mean, I’ve snogged, of course. Usually as an icebreaker when I first meet a fit bloke. But there’ve been no cupboards or sheds involved, fortunately.”

I just smiled.

“Tegan,” said J.D. in a low, serious voice, “I’ve known you for six years, yeah? Sure we’ve had our share of quarrels and disagreements—usually on insignificant matters, I guess—and I know that you’re not a dirty tart. You’re kind and levelheaded and usually reserved, unless Micah’s being really obnoxious or J.S. is acting slightly camp, and your mum doesn’t have these fine qualities, yeah? Your good qualities, not Micah and J.S.’s dodgy ones.”

Tegan exhaled slowly. “I guess not. She’s not very nice and she ignored me for most of my childhood, and from an early age I deduced that she manipulates men to get what she wants. And that’s not really my cup of tea.”

I looked at her next fondly, not like I wanted to be the lucky bastard in the broom cupboard with her. Which I usually did. “Tegan,” I said slowly and as sincerely as a 16-year-old guy could, “you keep saying that you have no control over morphing into your mum. But Teg, you do. It is our choices, Tegan, far more than our natural disposition, that determine who we truly are. And if you somehow turn into a conniving tart inadvertently, I’m going to stop you. We’re all going to stop you, and that’s that.”

She gave a half smile and perked up. “Thank you, James. You do always know what to say, I’ll give you that.”

J.D. raised his eyebrow. “Part of that monologue seems really familiar,” he mused.

I slammed his foot with my heel and he yelped. Forget about plagiarism, don’t tell the girl I love I paraphrased from The Unabridged Book of Quotes of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore! I told him with my eyes.

Boo boo toe! J.D. replied in expression-speak, grabbing his foot and wincing.

Tegan wiped her eyes (they were only slightly teary) and swallowed. “Well, this has been an absolutely cheerful conversation, and I hate to end it, but we’ve got the match in an hour.”

I stuffed a muffin in my mouth and mumbled, “Wocker ‘ooms, go to duh wocker ‘ooms!”

We seven Gryffies grabbed our bags, grandly exited the Great Hall, and proudly marched down the path leading to the Quidditch pitch and “wocker ‘ooms”.

Tegan and Arlie separated from the men, heading to their locker room while we XY Gryffies filed into our own. We had to suit up and prepare for battle.

I had all seven Gryffies bow their heads, arranged in a circle in the boys’ locker room (where both sexes traditionally met for our pre-match meeting). Though reluctant at first, they all eventually agreed to participate in my quasi-religious ritual.

“Noble, valiant, and gracious Quidditch Deity,” I murmured slowly and reverently, feeling the silence of the locker room. “We are but guests in your temple, your extraordinary outdoor temple where dreams are fulfilled and prophecies disproved. We live in your temple, on your pitch, Quidditch Deity. And now we pray, as we prepare for our noble battle against the evil Slytherins, that you will give us strength, quickness in mind, and agility on the pitch.”

J.D. picked up his head. “What?

I shushed him and regained my composure. “Oh, wise and benevolent Quidditch Deity, please give us Gryffies the edge in this epic war. Please let us crush the Slytherins, break all their bones and drain their essential fluids.”

“Pardon?” said Tegan. “When did Quidditch become religiously enlightening? And that violent?”

“Teg,” I groaned, “don’t interrupt, He’ll be angry.”

“Are you trying to convert us to some heretical pagan religious?” barked Micah. “I don’t feel comfortable!”

“No!” I whined. “We need to invoke the almighty power of the Quidditch Deity to—”

“You keep getting more and more barmy, James,” said Freddie, shaking his head.

“My mum’s a Presbyterian, and I don’t feel comfortable either,” said Mattie hesitantly.

“Shut it, you lot,” said Arlie sternly. “James is our cap’n, remember? Follow whatever mental ceremony he’s got planned and then we can go play Quidditch.”

I smiled at her, pleasantly surprised at her defence of my cap’nship, but not daft enough to question it. “So, in conclusion, Quidditch Deity,” I wrapped it up quickly, “let us beat the heinous Slytherins. In your name, we pray.”

I tipped my head and nodded to my congregation, and they reluctantly let out an, “Amen.”

I grinned. “Well, with the help of the Quidditch Deity, there’s no way we can be vanquished! We’ve been practicing for weeks, Gryffies, and we’re in the best shape we’ve ever been! You’ve worked your asses off for this, and we deserve this victory! J.D.?”

My bestest mate smirked. “What team?”

“Gryffindor!” we chanted back.

“What team?”

“Gryffindor!” We grabbed our brooms.

“What team?”

“Gryffindor!” We lined up towards the entrance of the pitch.

“What team?”


Then I declared, “Gryffies…we fly!”

We hopped on our brooms and took off, flying with considerable speed and controlled direction onto the pitch.

Half an hour into the match, I ground my teeth and tried to steer my broom straight, my hands spasming with utter rage.

Why weren’t things turning out as I prayed, Quidditch Deity? Hmm?

You let that ogre, the Slytherin Beater Zabini, hit an illegal Bludger to Micah’s big nose! Now Micah’s rolling around on the grassy pitch, whining and screaming and being attended to by Madam Larkin. And I can’t go see if he’s alright cos we’re still in game play.

Another complaint, cruel, sadistic Quidditch Deity! The score is 120-70 to Slytherin! This is not acceptable! That fricking Malfoy wanker has stolen the Quaffle out of my hands twelve times already. And Mr. Bagman, the batty old referee who was apparently incarcerated for money laundering many moons ago, isn’t calling any fouls.

Frick! 130-70 Slytherin! C’mon, Mattie old boy! Block something!

But I can’t get mad at Mattie Thomas for his lacklustre Keeping. He’s normally an excellent Keeper. So I blame you, Quidditch Deity. You have let me down.

And now they’re escorting Micah off the field, which means I’m a Chaser down! C’mon Arlie, teamwork, it’s just you and me now, Little Miss Shacklebolt.

Ooh, you’ve got possession of the Quaffle, nice! I’ve got an opening, Arles, pass it to me…

Bloody fricking wanker ponce. Scorpius Malfoy nicked the Quaffle right before I caught it. Again.

Bugger off, you worthless Quidditch Deity. We’re gonna do this game all atheist-style.

Tegan! I proclaimed telepathically, hoping my one true love could hear me. It would be really great if you could catch the Snitch soon!

Surprisingly, Tegan immediately whipped her head ‘round and looked down at me with such a furious expression that could have only said, Sod off you arsehole! Whaddya think I’m doing up here, admirin’ the scenery?

My heart pitter-pattered. Only the death glares of Tegan Llewellyn could make me all squidgy inside.

I turned my attention back to Chasing, and was passed the Quaffle by Mattie after Malfoy scored another smarmy shot. My eyes searched the pitch for Arlie, but she was almost entirely blocked by two ugly Slytherin Chasers. Frick, this is why each team’s s’posed to have three Chasers! I need my Micah Horowitz, and I need him now!

As I thought furiously, determining whether proceeding up the well-guarded pitch alone or taking an enormous risk and tossing the Quaffle to Arlie would be the better option. But then, suddenly, the best part of the game of Quidditch happened.

Tegan Llewellyn, the dishy, fit, Gryffindor Seeker extraordinaire, had spotted the elusive Snitch. But Kate Nott, the aggressive younger sister to one John Dorian Nott, had spotted the shiny, gold, winged ball as well.

The two girls, one brunette, the other black-haired (blackette?), pointed their brooms directly towards the ground and began a swift nose-dive. This was not a Wronski Feint (though that move is my Tegan’s specialty): The Snitch they were aiming for was very, very real. It danced and spun inches above the grass, knowing full well the degree of its obnoxiousness. Meanwhile, Tegan and Kate pushed and shoved each other in an attempt to gain the lead in this race to the insufferable winged ball, but naturally Mr. Bagman, the old coot, didn’t call any fouls. He, like the rest of the players on the pitch and everyone in the stands, was too focused on the girls’ pursuit of that devilish Snitch.

Faster and faster they zoomed, shoving each other and grunting and never taking their eyes off the prize.

“You can do it Tegan!” I exclaimed aloud, though I only intended to do so in my mind. “You can do it, you wonderfully semi-suicidal woman! In regards to your dedication to catching the Snitch, that is!”

She didn’t acknowledge hearing me (either cos the roar of the crowd was too loud or cos she was a bit preoccupied, what with Kate Nott scratching at her face), but continued the chase, flying closer and closer towards the ground.

Thirty meters…twenty meters…ten meters…five—“Tegan, hold up there!” I bellowed as she was inches away from crashing into the pitch, her arm outstretched to grab the Snitch…

And then she did. Crash into the pitch, I mean. She fell face first into the grass before she could get the Snitch, and well after Kate Nott’s common sense kicked in and the girl turned the nose of her broom up.

“Tegan!” I shouted, flying full speed towards her motionless body. It didn’t occur to me that the match was still technically going on. I should have passed the Quaffle to Arlie, but instead I dropped it and let it fall to the ground.

Madam Larkin, who’d just returned from bringing Micah up to the hospital wing, rushed over to Tegan. I hopped of my broom and jumped to the ground, sprinting to where she lay.

“Tegan!” I called as Madam Larkin bent Tegan’s arm.

“Miss Llewellyn, thank Merlin you’re conscious, but can you tell me if bending your elbow this way hurts?”

“Frick!” she yelped. “Of course it hurts, it’s broken!”

Madam Larkin, a normally kind young witch with good bedside manner, pursed her lips. “My apologies, Miss Llewellyn,” she said curtly. “If that arm is indeed broken, you need to return to the hospital wing with me promptly.”

Tegan looked at me funny, her olive eyes a bit hazy. “James…Snitch…”

“You didn’t get it,” I said reluctantly. “Absolutely brill attempt, though.”

“But if I didn’t get the Snitch,” she mumbled, “the match is still on, yeah? GET YOUR BLOODY ARSE BACK ON THAT BROOMSTICK AND GO CHASE!”

I jumped back at her outburst, and though my instincts told me to follow Madam Larkin (who’d conjured a stretched and was now levitating Tegan onto it) to the hospital wing, I Accioed my Firebolt 360 and jumped on it.

But as I ascended, I heard a cold roar among the spectators. I whipped my head ‘round and saw the entirety of the Slytherin Quidditch team, hooting and hollering and smothering Kate Nott with big hugs, as she held the Snitch high in the air.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Freddie fly up next to me. “She doubled back after Tegan fell,” he said solemnly. “Caught the Snitch slowly and at her own pace, now that she had no competition. We were screwed anyways.”

I felt it hard to breath as J.D. joined us. “That’s my sister,” he mused. “Devious little bugger. Will kick you right in the bollocks.”

“I know. She kicked me in the bollocks third year, after I told her she looked like my dog Snuffles,” I said faintly.

J.D. patted me on the back. “Seeing the pain in your eyes affirmed to me that you are, in fact, a bloke. Albeit a bloke with a pink unicorn diary.”

Mattie and Arlie joined us as we hovered on the pitch, staring at the Slyths sadly.

Arlie cleared her throat. “You going to congratulate your sister, J.D.?”

He thought for a moment. “I need to give her a week to stop gloating. I can’t stand it when she gloats.”

“James,” said Mattie dejectedly, “I know that most of the score besides the plus 150 from the Snitch capture is my fault. I’m really sorry, but I honestly tried my best to stop the shots, but that fricking Scorpius Malfoy kept pulling these illegal manoeuvres and that blasted Bagman arse didn’t call any penalties!”

“I know, Mattie,” I said compassionately to the fifth year. “I didn’t play so well in this match either. I blame that Malfoy wanker.”

“You’re not going to kick me off the team?” asked Mattie hopefully.

I grinned at him. “’Course not. You’re an official Gryffie, and the only thing harder than getting into this club is getting out of it. But we’re going to have five-hour drills each day after classes to get you in tip top Keeping shape. And it’s mando.”

Mattie slightly perked up, though winced at the notion of his new training regimen.

I looked at my remaining teammates, then at the still-victory-flying Slyths, and said to my mates, “We’re going to check up on Micah and Tegan.” Everyone listened to me as we flew down to the ground and began the trek back up to the castle.

Micah was fine. Just a broken nose that Madam Larkin would heal overnight.

“And then, that troll What’s-His-First-Name Zabini came outta nowhere, and outright smacked the damn Bludger towards my beautiful, beautiful face,” whined Micah, laying dramatically in his hospital bed.

J.D. flicked his nose-cast. “You’re fine,” he grumbled as Micah screeched.

But I didn’t care about my Micah nearly as much as my Tegan. Mostly cos I’m not physically attracted to Micah.

“I’m fine,” she said dazedly, lying in bed with protective, Skele-Gro injected casts on both her arms and both her legs, and her face scraped and covered with numerous bandages.

“Tegan, you’ve broken twenty individual bones today, and Madam Larkin thinks you’ve suffered a very minor concussion,” I said gently as I sat on the edge of her bed. I took her bloodied hand too. It seemed an appropriate gesture.

She chuckled lightly. “Okay, I admit that my brain’s quite scrambled right now, but she also said that the double vision will be gone by tomorrow. And my bones’ll be healed in less than a week, so you better not replace me, James Potter!”

“I could never replace you!” I exclaimed, shocked and offended. “How many Tegan Llewellyns, Seeker Extraordinaire are there at this school?”

Tegan smirked. “Just the one in this hospital bed.”

“Precisely,” I said sternly. “And that is why I will never replace you. Unless you manage to kill yourself trying to catch the blasted Snitch, or something. I won’t want to, but if I don’t want someone usurping my title as cap’n in a coup, then I’ll have to.”

She squeezed my hand. “If I manage to kill myself,” joked Tegan, “then I order you to find a replacement for me lickety split.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Lickety split?

“Hey, I thought we weren’t going to mock each others’ eccentric vocabularies anymore,” she laughed. Clutching her stomach, she gasped, “Oh, you split my lickety!”

“Good one, Tegster,” I chuckled.

“But I’m seriously not dying,” she said decisively. “I wouldn’t kill myself to catch the Snitch. I’m the sensible Gryffie, yeah? My limit is twenty bones and a very minor concussion.”

“Glad to hear I don’t have to start posting 'Seeker Wanted' posters,” I grinned. Tegan squeezed my hand tighter, and I felt a herd of butterflies burst from their chrysalises and begin to flutter around my stomach.

A/N: Sooo? Ya like? Then review!

Ya hate? That’s fine too. Tell me why in a…review!

And I want to thank all of you for simply reading this far in my slightly deranged little fic about Harry Potter’s kid and his nutty adventures. THANK YOU!

Chapter 6: Pickin’ Fights With Slytherins
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Tegan squeezed my hand. It’s been two days since the most significant event of my young life, and I still relive the magic and wonder every five minutes. Sometimes I squeeze my own hand, just to feel that sensation again.

I’m probably obsessing, and if I don’t watch myself I’ll turn into a barking mad stalker. Tegan would never date a barking mad stalker. So I have to tone it down a little.

“Kate Portia Nott!” I bellowed, storming over to the Slytherin table, where J.D.’s little sister was sitting with her fifth year friends during breakfast. Including that smarmy git Scorpius Malfoy.

I tapped her angrily on the shoulder (if one’s taps can be described as angry) and she slowly turned her head ‘round to face me.

“How the hell do you know my middle name, James?” asked the dark-haired girl bluntly.

“That’s not important!” I exclaimed. Because me and J.D. accidentally, well, not so accidentally read your diary one summer and you refer to yourself as Kate Portia Nott every two sentences. But this book was not nearly as profound and well written as an Imagination Journal, and thus must be affixed with the lesser label of ‘diary’. “How the frick do you get off cheating in Quidditch like that?”

Kate rolled her eyes. “Why won’t you damn Gryffies give the ‘frick’ thing a rest? You have no idea how annoying it is to hear every last one of you exclaim ‘Frick!’ every ten seconds! Learn some big kid swear words, okay?”

“Stop avoiding the question!” I snapped. “I’d like to know who taught you such bad sportsmanship, because as evidenced by J.D.’s perennial sportsman-like conduct, it obviously wasn’t your parents!”

“Sod off, Potter,” snarled Scorpius Malfoy. Oh, how I wanted to charm that despicable cretin’s blond head fluorescent pink…not a bad idea, actually. I ought to add that to the General List of Pranking Ideas in my Imagination Journal.

“Who am I kidding, it was probably you, Malfoy!” I shouted dramatically. (I sure do love dramatics!)

“Tell me, James,” seethed Kate, “what is it exactly about catching the Snitch in a game of Quidditch that’s so unsportsmanlike? Wait, is it the fact that it led to your team’s humiliating defeat? Cos then you’re the bad sport, James.”

“I don’t know if you noticed, but the Seeker you were racing against crashed into the pitch and had to be hauled off to the hospital wing!” I retorted. “Did it ever occur to you to try something new and not be self-absorbed, and maybe stop for a second to see if she was okay, and actually care about the well-being of another witch or wizard, Katie?”

“What’d you call me?” whispered Kate in a low voice.

A dawn of realization hit me, and I grinned maniacally. “Katie.

She pursed her lips and her cheeks became a glorious hue of scarlet. “Don’t ever call me that again,” said Kate through gritted teeth.

“Why not, Katie?” I mocked.

Kate reached into her robes for something, but Malfoy stopped her. “Don’t hex the ponce in front of all the teachers,” he said sternly. “Though you know he knows that you despise being called ‘Katie’, don’t ensure yourself a month’s worth of detentions for that.

“Wait, did you actually give me an order?” asked Kate viciously.

“It’s just common sense,” insisted Malfoy.

“No,” said Kate decisively. “You ordered me to do something. Are we in the bloody nineteenth century, Scorpius? Yeah I’m your girlfriend, but you have no authority over me whatsoever, is that clear?”

Malfoy looked as if he wanted to shout back at his darling little girlfriend, but clenched his teeth and diverted his attention back to his sausage.

“How could you do that to Tegan?” I barked, rejoining the conversation. “She could have died!

Kate glared towards me once more. “I did nothing to hurt her, James. I violated none of the rules of the game, but I knew when to turn the nose of my broom up before Llewellyn did. I play smart. I’m not going to risk my neck for a victory when my team is already over a hundred points ahead.”

“Tegan plays smart too!” I snapped defensively. “She brilliantly outmanoeuvred you the second to last match of Spring 2021, catching the Snitch and letting us move on to the finals against Ravenclaw. In which she once again performed outstandingly.”

“Great,” said Kate with a prodigious amount of sarcasm. “Your Seeker is so accomplished and outstanding at this sport that she ran her broomstick into the ground. The Gryffindor team has such high standards.”

“Shut your gob!” I seethed. “You don’t insult my teammates to my face!”

Kate leered and raised one eyebrow. “So you’re shouting at me because I should have disregarded the blatant fact that the game had not paused to check up on my opposing Seeker, who was already being attended to by the qualified school nurse?”

“Yeah!” I agreed. “Have you no compassion? She could have been killed!”

Then, the most horrible, smug, distinctly Slytherin smirk appeared on Kate Nott’s otherwise lovely face. “You fancy the poor bint,” she said lightly.

My eyes popped and I felt my Adam’s apple bob. “No I don’t!” I shouted automatically. “And don’t call my Seeker that word!”

Kate crossed her arms and appeared to be very pleased with herself. “You fancy her quite a lot,” she stated as fact.

“Er, no!” I corrected her, attempting to laugh haughtily. “How the frick did this conversation villainizing you turn into the Let’s Make Up Heinous and Unfounded Lies About Who James Potter Fancies rumour mill?”

“I heard the tosser sodomized a unicorn. He really fancies the pathetic beasts,” added Malfoy maliciously, under his breath.

“Good one, love,” said Kate, smiling coyly at him. Apparently she’d forgiven him for talking down to her. I’d have to tell my J.Dizzle all about this.

“My point is that you should stop fabricating ridiculous lies about me fancying Tegan!” I added in despair. This is why I don’t like fraternizing with Slytherins. They have no qualms accusing you of being a unicorn sodomizer.

“My point is that you should lay off me for not abandoning the game and personally nursing Llewellyn back to health,” retorted Kate. “She made the conscious decision to risk running her broom into the grass, and that she did. I caught the Snitch and won the game fair and square.”

I felt (and probably looked) dejected. “But…you didn’t even seem to give it a second thought. Her well being, that is.”

Kate looked at me like I was barking mad. “How is Tegan Llewellyn’s well being any concern of mine, James? Though naturally it’s of great importance to you as her secret admirer.”

“Obviously—now wait just one moment,” I fumed. “I thought we’d established that I fancy neither Tegan nor unicorns!”

“Ooh, you’ve got him really worked up about this, Kate,” commented Scorpius, thoroughly entertained. “So worked up that he must fancy Llewellyn.”

“Stuff it!” I yelped. “Tegan is one of my very best mates and we get on remarkably well and have this weird level of understanding that I don’t think I share with anyone else on this planet, and yes, she’s extremely fit and the freckles on her nose drive me mad, but I do not fancy her! Not one bit!”

The couple glanced at each other, smirking defiantly. “Whatever you say, James,” said Kate with false sincerity.

“Clearly, you’re not in love with her,” said Scorpius smoothly and sardonically.

“Thank you,” I said promptly.

“We won’t tell, if that’s what you’re worried about,” added Kate.

“I thought we established that there wasn’t anything to tell,” I said weakly.

“We won’t tell her,” said Scorpius definitively. “I’d rather not talk to that mudblood anyway.”

“You shut up!” my voice rose again. “Don’t you dare call her that, plus it’s factually untrue as she’s a half-blood!”

“Calm down, James,” said Kate casually. “Right, you don’t fancy Llewellyn. Does my brother know this?”

“Yes,” I said sadly. “He’s the only one other than you guys. Who know that I don’t like Tegan.”

Kate nodded in understanding. “We Slytherins may be aggressive on the pitch, James,” she said, “but we’re not monsters. You’re my only brother’s best mate, and I wouldn’t spill your big secret.”

“And she’s my girlfriend and I’m pretty intimidated by her, so I won’t tell either,” said Scorpius.

Kate took his hand and looked at him affectionately. “That’s so sweet,” she said, leaning in for a kiss.

“And that’s my cue to exit,” I said under my breath and hurried away before I could witness any Slytherin on Slytherin snogging.

“J.D., J.D.!” I called as I rushed into the common room late that afternoon in search of my bestest mate. “Where are thou, my dear J.D.?”

In the crimson armchair facing away from me, a head turned ‘round to see what was the commotion. “J.S., you know the reason people think you’re a bender is cos you talk like that,” grumbled J.D. “How’re you gonna woo your lady love if she thinks you’re a nancy boy?”

“Sshh!” I screeched as I ran to sit on the chair next to his. “On the low down!”

“Down low,” he corrected.

“Damn straight,” I said coolly (though probably sounding like a fool, as ebonics isn’t my linguistic strong suit). “But you have to swear that you’ll label this classified in the files in your brain, cos the secret’s gradually becoming less and less of a secret.”

“Yeah? Who else knows?” asked J.D., his raised eyebrow revealed his piqued interest. The eyebrow thing was the same as his sister’s, actually.

“Atekay and Orpiusscay iguredfay itay outay,” I whispered rapidly.

“Owhay?” inquired J.D. We spent the entire first term of second year speaking exclusively in Pig Latin.

“Eythay ustjay uessedgay!” I said, exasperated. “Ouryay istersay isay ootay artsmay orfay erhay ownay oodgay.”

“On’tday Iay owknay itay,” said J.D. darkly. “Ey’llthay eepkay ethay ecretsay, eahyay?”

“Eahyay,” I confirmed. “Ortunatelyfay.”

“Ouyay ancay efinitelyday usttray ymay istersay,” said J.D., “utbay Iay on’tday owknay aboutay atthay Alfoymay oybay.”

“Oh, that reminds me,” I remembered. “They’re definitely dating. Your sister and Malfoy.”

J.D. clenched his jaw. “Yeah?” he growled.

“Yep,” I nodded. “Don’t freak out about it, she definitely wears the pants. I almost feel bad for Malfoy.”

J.D. cracked his knuckles. “I don’t fricking care. If that Malfoy touches Kate, then I’ll—”

“Hold up there, Colonel Hypocrite!” I interrupted. “I thought I was being overly protective of Rose.”

“That’s completely different!” insisted J.D.

“It’s worse, actually!”

“Rose is only your cousin!”

“You’re only my best mate!”

J.D. sat back in his chair. “Oh. Well…Kate is my only sibling, so forgive me for caring about her welfare!”

“I never said there was anything wrong with your instinct to bash Malfoy’s smarmy face in,” I clarified. “I just said you were a hypocrite.”

“Hell, I probably am,” laughed J.D. “So, made any progress on the Tegan front?”

“She’s been in the hospital wing for two days, J.D.,” said I. “I think I’m going to let her recover from her brush with death.”

He clicked his tongue. “With each passing day, your deadline of October the 31st approaches.”

“I thought you’d forgotten about that!”

“When have I ever forgotten anything, J.S.?”

“It’s like you’ve been transplanted with an elephant’s brain,” I mused dreamily.

“So?” asked J.D. eagerly. “When are you going to ask Tegan out?”

“Soon, okay?” I lied. “She gets out of the hospital wing this afternoon and I’m carrying her bag while she crutches herself back to Gryffindor Tower. But I will start laying on the charm tout de suite and ask her out by the end of the week. Do you approve?

J.D. smirked. “Sure, J.S. Just actually do it. Ask her out, I mean.”

“I thought I had a deadline,” I said sarcastically.

“Which you do,” said J.D. “Either you tell her that you fancy her, or I do. And I don’t think you want the latter option.”

“That I do not,” I affirmed.

We sat in a comfortable silence for a few minutes.

“I heard the house elves are making shepherd’s pie for dinner tonight?” said J.D. all of a sudden.

“Yeah?” I asked excitedly. “Wicked!”

“Go get your bonny lass and meet me in the Great Hall,” said J.D. We both stood up and headed toward the portrait hole and parted ways, to be reunited soon by the prospect of shepherd’s pie.

A/N: Sooo this is a bit shorter and not as funny (I don’t think so, at any rate), but it’s been nine long days since I’ve updated and I had to get something out. Thank you SO much to all my reviewers, I greatly appreciate all your comments and criticisms! And thanks just for reading this story. Each and every last one of you is pretty awesome.

Chapter 7: That’s So Albus!
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I’m gonna do it! I am going to ask Tegan to Hogsmeade (the next visit to which conveniently falls on Halloween—how do they manage to plan it that way every year?) and she is going to say yes and I am going to sweep her off her feet and be the very essence of masculinity and we are going to get married and Dan, Max, and Caro will be born!

I repeated these motivational words over and over again, mumbling to myself and most likely looking absolutely foolish, as I speed-walked to the hospital wing to bring Tegan to dinner with J.D. and the other Gryffies. The house elves were rumoured to be serving shepherd’s pie this excellent evening, which I considered the perfect food to nurse my dear Tegan back to health.

I jogged up the steps leading to the hospital wing, eager to greet my wounded Seeker. I hadn’t seen her in eight whole hours, which is the longest I’ve gone without seeing Tegan since the summer holiday.

I enthusiastically opened the doors to the hospital wing and trotted inside. Tegan, Tegan, where is my Tegan?

“Over here you moron,” I heard a disenchanted croak erupt from my right. I spun 90 degrees and spotted Tegan Llewellyn, who was frowning very determinedly.

“Hey,” I said coolly, waltzing over to her. I must be the essence of cool, or she will not fall in love with me. “How are you?”

“Itchy,” she promptly replied and poked the brace on her wrist. “I got all my other casts off this morning, but that fricking Madam Larkin is making me wear this damn confining contraption for another week. I’m gonna plotz.

I smiled fondly at her. Tegan hadn’t had a proper shower in two days, and her normally shiny brown hair was a tangled mess of sweat and grime, which really made sense since she hadn’t washed it since the match. Her face was red and blotchy and her expression agitated, but she still exuded that lovely, sexy Tegality: the essence of Tegan.

“Do you want to go to dinner?” I asked formally to show that I can be a fancy pants. “Word on the street is that they’re serving shepherd’s pie.”

Tegan yawned. “Yeah, whatever. I’m all discharged and shit, so let’s book it. I’m starving.”

I took her sport bag (containing her bloody Quidditch kit, goggles, gloves, etc.) and she ambled along beside me down the stairs and in the direction of the Great Hall.

“So,” I said casually, running my hands through my untameable black hair, “the Hogsmeade visit is in three short weeks.”

She grunted (even Tegan’s grunts were lovely!). “Yep.”

“And it’s on Halloween,” I said with too much interest.

“The October trip is on Halloween every year,” she said bluntly. “How do you reckon they manage that? Halloween shouldn’t fall on a Saturday every year.”

“Yeah!” I agreed hastily. “You’re so right, Tegan.”

She cocked her head to the side and peered at me. “Thank you?”

We walked for several more minutes of the most horrible, awkward silence I’ve ever been privy to. C’mon Tegan, say something! Preferably something about how you’ve always thought I’m a fit bloke and you too dream of one day marrying and procreating with me!

Frick. Why isn’t she declaring her undying love for and undeniable physical attraction towards me?

“What’s your opinion of shagging?” I blurted. Oops. Really didn’t mean to say that aloud.

Tegan shrugged. “All that hoopla better be about something. I’d be really disappointed to find out that all the fuss about shagging is a conspiracy by Gynaecological Healers to get more babies to pop out. But I wouldn’t do it with a guy unless I loved him. I’m certain of that.”

I nodded. Getting Tegan to fall in love with me might take a little time, but I will make it happen.

“So what about you, Courtney?” asked Tegan playfully.

I chuckled. I love Tegan’s teasing, even if it’s about my overtly feminine disposition. “I guess I’d have to be in love too,” I answered honestly. And I love you!

“What a coincidence,” said Tegan sarcastically. “We share the same views on intimate activities! Fan-tiddly-astic!”

I frowned. Tegan might have been a little loopy from all the Skele-Gro, but why couldn’t she take my admittedly obscure hint about my curiosity of her philosophy on shagging? She’s s’posed to be the clever Gryffie!

“Ooh look, the Great Hall!” I exclaimed.

“It hasn’t changed much,” remarked Tegan as we stepped inside (I held the door for her like a proper gentlewizard).

We took our usual seats at the end of the Gryffindor table, next to the other Gryffies. J.D., Freddie, and Micah were there, and Mattie and even Arlie.

“Tegan!” exclaimed Arlie, rushing ‘round the table to give her a hug. I guess most girls really like to shout each other’s names and hug.

Apparently not Tegan. “Hi Arlie,” she said, slightly overwhelmed. Tegan uncomfortably tried to hug Arlie back, but ended up awkwardly patting her on the back.

Arlie disentangled herself and cocked her head in confusion.

“I’m not very good at hugging,” answered Tegan. “I wasn’t hugged very often as a child.”

Oh Tegan, I can help you practice! My mummy hugged me all the time when I was little and I’m a hugging expert.

“That’s okay,” said Arlie, scrunching her nose. “You smell really bad, to be honest.”

“You good, Tegster? Relatively?” asked Fred.

She shrugged and began piling her plate with shepherd’s pie. “I guess. All the Skele-Gro Madam Larkin made me take has made me really cranky, and I still have to wear this damn brace on my wrist.”

“When can you fly again?” asked J.D.

“Not ‘til my fricking wrist heals,” replied Tegan. “I don’t get the brace off until Friday.”

“That blows,” said Micah dramatically.

“Yeah,” agreed Tegan. “Sure, I can’t write, which is all well and good because I have an extra week to make up the Transfiguration test, but I’m going to go mad not being able to fly or Seek. It’s cathartic for me.” She picked up a roll from her bread plate and her butter knife in the other hand.

“Ooh, Tegan, do you need help buttering your roll?” I piped up.

“That’s what—” began Micah.

Mattie smacked him upside the head.

“Ow!” exclaimed Micah.

“Thank you, Matthew,” grinned J.D.

Tegan held her roll in one hand and her knife in the other. “I’m fine, James,” she insisted, but grimaced when she tried to bend her wrist.

I grabbed her roll and began to butter it. “Tegan, you have to be careful of your wrist, okay? You can’t further injure yourself and put yourself out of Quidditch commission for another week!”

“Fine,” said the strong-headed, very independent girl reluctantly.

“No more exerting your wrist,” I said decisively. “I will take notes for you in class. My penmanship is better than yours anyways.”

“Okay!” barked Tegan.

“And I’m going to carry your book bag between classes.”

“I don’t carry my messenger bag on my wrist!”

“But if you throw out the tendons in your shoulder, then you’re no help on the pitch either.”

Tegan groaned. “Oh-kay Potter. You win. Dote upon me in my weakened state.”

I grinned widely. There was nothing else I’d rather do.

I took care of Tegan that entire week. It was fantastic. I took notes on all of the teachers’ lectures and got to carry her books and transcribe her homework for her and cut all her food for her and it was glorious. I’m a very nurturing young man.

But I wasn’t upset when she got her brace off that Friday. I’m not so selfish that I wasn’t relieved to see my ladylove healthy and well again. Plus now she could participate in Quidditch practice.

Er…I didn’t exactly get around to asking her out that week. Tegan was still traumatically injured, okay? I didn’t want to further fluster her! Don’t worry, I will ask her to Hogsmeade. Eventually. But it’s gonna happen. Pinkie swear.

Tegan flew pretty damn well in practice that afternoon, considering she’d gotten the wrist brace off only that morning. She kept zipping around and making sharp 180-degree turns and practicing her Wronski Feint (which is actually quite remarkable for a seventeen-year-old).

Oh, Tegan’s birthday was the first week of school. She’s the oldest kid in our year. Which is why she’s seventeen now, in the October of our sixth year. I suppose I tend to go for the older ladies. Older by six months.

But I thought I saw her wince once after executing the umpteenth perfect Wronski Feint, and this is not acceptable. Tegan is my soul mate. If my soul mate is wincing, then she’s probably in pain. That is the last thing that I could ever want.

So I took a lovely long shower after practice (the locker room shower stalls are actually much cleaner and more tastefully decorated than the dormitory ones), carefully washing my ebony locks with kiwi shampoo and slathering myself in lavender body wash. By the time I emerged from the steamy shower and waddled back into the locker room, all my Gryffie men had gone. Figures. Rumour was that steak and kidney pie was on the menu tonight. We Gryffies love pie of any and every variety.

I dressed quickly and towel dried my hair (which was now sticking out in seven different directions—thanks, Dad, for the crazy hair gene!). I wanted to check to see if Tegan was still in the girls’ locker room, on account of my concern for her wincing. I just wanted my little Seeker to be all right. Well, Tegan’s not so little. She’s almost as tall as me.

I gathered my things and knocked on the door to the girls’ locker room. I wasn’t going to barge in. Arlie and Tegan could have been stark naked! It would be entirely inappropriate for a guy cap’n to walk in on his nude female players. So I knocked.

“Yeah?” I heard Tegan’s voice call back.

“It’s James!” I said brightly. “Might I have a word?”

“Yeah, come in,” said Tegan’s voice crisply.

I turned the door handle and stepped inside. I briefly admired the fine detail of the carvings on the girls’ solid oak lockers before my eyes popped open and my jaw dropped.

Tegan wasn’t wearing a shirt or half her pants. She yanked a pair of crumby old jeans all the way up and turned to face me, apparently shameless that her wobbly bits were only covered by a bra.

Frick on a stick with a brick.

“What?” she said coolly. “You’ve changed in front of me loads of times. It’s not weird.”

“Yeah,” I croaked. Oh dear. I had a decent view of her wobbly bits and let me assure you, Tegan most certainly has slight mammary growth.

She grabbed her ratty old Weird Sisters t-shirt and slipped it on. Thank Merlin! But blast the old codger as well!

“There,” said Tegan, holding up her hands. “I’m not even close to naked anymore. Happy?”

Not really…

“Your wrist,” I said quickly. “How’s your wrist?”

Tegan held it with her other hand and glanced at it. “Fine. Tip top shape. I’m going to kick Davies’s ass in the next match ‘gainst Ravenclaw. Metaphorically, of course. I’ll be doing a great deal of flying and Snitch-catching and my foot technically won’t come into contact with the bloke’s hindquarters.”

I stepped towards her and tenderly took her right wrist in my hand. “You were wincing while Wronski Feinting,” I said seriously. “Don’t deny it.”

“I—” she began

“No,” I said sternly. “Your wrist is still acting up, isn’t it?”

Tegan bit her lip. “Madam Larkin says I really did a job on it. I mean, my right arm was outstretched when I crashed into the pitch, and my wrist got the worst blow. The pain starts at really random, sucky times, but it comes in short bursts. Madam Larkin said I could play if I was careful.”

I stared into her beautiful olive eyes. “Tegan, you have to be careful, then.”

Those olive eyes rolled. “I am careful!”

“You practiced two hundred consecutive Wronski Feints today,” I said. “On your own. I didn’t tell you to do that.”

“Doesn’t practice make perfect, cap’n?” she said, slightly immature.

“And completely broken wrists mean bad Seekers,” I replied. “Watch your wrist and yourself. Please, Tegan.”

Her eyes grew softer as she stared into my blue ones (please let her think my eyes are as pretty as I think her eyes are!). “Okay, then. I won’t overexert my pesky wrist, Cap’n.”

I smirked. “Oh, you can just call me James,” I drawled. “‘Cap’n’ is so impersonal.”

Tegan grinned back. “James, eh? What about Jamie?”

“No,” I said promptly. “Never.”


“Not if you don’t have a death wish.”

We grinned devilishly at each other, pleased with our level of wit. I was kinda sorta almost holding her hand, as my tricky fingers had gravitated south of her wrist. Definitely in the hand region.

“So, James,” said Tegan very dramatically. “What oh what shall we do now?”

I sniggered. “Well, it’s about that time of evening when the student body gravitates towards the Great Hall for that meal that we call dinner.”

Tegan gasped in sarcastic surprise. “Dumbledore’s beard, what oh what might they be serving at dinner this lovely night?”

I smiled widely. “Tegster, there is pie in our future. Of the steak and kidney variety.”

She began to walk to the door, but didn’t let go of my hand and dragged me along with her. “Why do we Gryffies love pie so much?” asked Tegan as we began on the path leading to the castle.

The twelve dozen butterflies that had been obnoxiously fluttering around my stomach exploded from my very close proximity to Tegan as we walked, and my hands’ much closer proximity to hers, actually touching.

“Because all pies are warm and have light, flaky crusts and delicious eatables within aforementioned crust,” I babbled.

Tegan smiled slyly. “I personally would never eat steak and kidney outside of a pie, but everything changes when gross eatables are suddenly prepared in pie form.”

“Like pumpkins,” I said. “Who eats straight pumpkins? But everyone goes mad when the pumpkin is baked as a pie.”

Thinking of pumpkin pie made me think of Halloween, which in turn made me thing of the Hogsmeade, trip and how I ought to ask Tegan so we can get a head start on the perfect lives we will live together, until we are old and succumb to either a horrible disease or maybe plain old old age.

I opened my mouth, but Tegan said, “Thanks for being really annoying and overbearing and shit. About making sure I don’t screw up my wrist any more.”

I pursed my lips in a faint smile. “I’m your cap’n. It’s part of the job description that I do my best to make sure my players are in the best possible shape. And a constantly-acting-up-from-overexertion wrist isn’t fit shape.”

Tegan glanced down at our hands. “You’re pretty darn protective of my little wrist, there. Except your hand’s kind of fallen to my hand.”

I retracted my left hand quickly. “Whoops, sorry—”

“No,” interrupted Tegan as she placed my hand back on her wrist. “It’s kind of cute. In a protective cap’ny way, I mean!”

I gulped, slightly befuddled. “Okay. If it makes you feel better.”

Tegan bit her lip, her green-brown eyes sincere. “It’s nice to know you’re looking out for me, Cap’n.”

I lightly shoved her. “I’m James, remember?”

She pushed me back considerably harder, though laughing. “Oi, James, you physically struck your invalid of a Seeker! Who’s a girl!”

I smirked. “Sorry. I’ll go back to protecting your wee wrist.” And I once again placed my fingers around her wrist.

We trotted to the castle as the sun was setting and the cool October breeze picked up, hand in wrist. It was close enough to hand in hand. Baby steps, Jamesie. You’ll win her over.

“You smell funny,” said Tegan bluntly as we entered the Great Hall.

“I smell wonderful!” I insisted. “I just had a lovely shower!”

Tegan scrunched her nose. “Lavender and kiwi don’t mix well together, James. And I’m not even going to ask about the scented bathing products you obviously use.”

“You just don’t understand beauty,” I joke-scoffed.

When we reached the Gryffies’ section we took our usual seats, and Tegan slipped her wrist out of my grasp.

Sad. But I guess she needed two hands to eat her steak and kidney pie.

“Oi, J.S.,” said J.D., his mouth full of pie. “I thought of sumthin’ frickin’ awesome, mate.”

I carefully began to cut my pie. “Yeah?”

“I’m gonna start a new fad,” he chewed.

I took a sip of pumpkin juice to cleanse the palate before I dug into my dinner. “Do elaborate, bestest mate.”

J.D. swallowed. “Mmkay, so say something fantastic has happened, like they cancelled Potions for the day or Slytherin surrendered in a Quidditch match. What would you say?”

I thought for a moment. “Yippee?”

He rolled his eyes. “No, not ‘yippee’. You would say: That’s so Albus!”

I cocked my head in confusion just like my dog Snuffles does. “Huh?”

“I’m starting a fad!” said J.D. loudly. “That’s so Albus!”

“So it’s a sort of proclamation of joy?” inquired Mattie.

“Somewhat,” replied J.D. “It’s more an affirmation of the validity of a person or event’s coolness.”

“So if I hit a Bludger to Scorpius Malfoy and gave him a concussion—” mused Freddie.

“That’s so Albus!” I piped cheerily. This fad could be fun.

“I just talked my way out of a detention,” said J.D.

“That’s so Albus!” declared Mattie.

“And if Drystan Davies asks me to Hogsmeade?” said Arlie.

The XY Gryffies looked at each other. Drystan Davies was the Ravenclaw Seeker and in his seventh year. An enemy of Gryffie Nation.

“That’s so Albus!” exclaimed Tegan.

I shot a most contemptuously look at her.

“I know, I know, he’s the enemy and all that. But he is gorgeous. You have good taste, Arles,” said Tegan.

All of a sudden Micah, who’d been in a strange quiet trance the whole time, lightened up and proclaimed, “I have a fad too!”

We all spun ‘round to look at him. “Well, what is it?” asked J.D.

“That’s so Voldy,” said Micah proudly. “For when things aren’t going your way.”

“That’s so not Albus!” said J.D. in disgust.

“I don’t think it’ll catch on, Horowitz,” said Freddie as tactfully as he could. “It just doesn’t have the sparkle of that’s so Albus.”

“You don’t get it!” said Micah defensively. “It’s basically the same thing! How can it not have the sparkle?”

“How ‘bout we just stick with that’s so Albus for now,” I said in an attempt to compromise. Comes with the territory of being cap’n of the Gryffies. “Well see if that catches on, then figure out whether or not we want to introduce that’s so Voldy to the ‘warts.”

“Fine,” snapped Micah contemptuously. “None of you ever take me seriously, so why start now?”

We all looked at each other. Was Micah, the light-hearted “that’s what she said” man of our group, actually irritated?

“Er, Micah,” said Freddie cautiously, since he was basically Micah’s best mate, “are you okay?”

Micah violently prodded his pie with his fork. “Obviously not. You lot don’t respect me, and I’m sick of being the scapegoat and belittled Gryffie. ‘Snot good for my self-esteem.”

“Micah, we didn’t—” began Tegan, concerned and sincere.

“But you did,” he said, his voice hollow. “I’m the joke Gryffie. The comic relief. Which is all well and good everyone once in a while—you know how I love a good laugh—but I can’t deal with it 24/7 anymore.”

J.D. looked to me, and I nodded. J.D. was, by far, the hardest on Micah. “I’m sorry, mate,” said J.D., weirdly solemn. “I didn’t mean to offend you in any way or hurt your feelings or whatever, but Horo, it’ll be much easier for me to act civilly towards you if you cut down on the ‘that’s what she said’ jokes. They drive me mental.”

Micah stared hard at J.D. “Okay. I will try to cut down on ‘that’s what she said’ jokes, but it’s really hard because I always think in terms of ‘that’s what she said’. But you have to hold up your end of the deal. All of you. Stop making me the jester of the Gryffies.”

We Gryffies all looked ‘round at each other and gave curt nods. We’re a team. We have to start acting like one, and in the representative democracy in which we operate, each Gryffie is equal and must not be denied his or her inalienable right to respect, Quidditch, and the pursuit of pie.

Wow, that would make an awesome speech!

“Gryffies,” I said, my tenor voice strong, “we’re a team. We have to start acting like one, and in the representative democracy in which we operate, each Gryffie is equal and must not be denied his or her inalienable right to respect, Quidditch, and the pursuit of pie.”

J.D. began to slowly clap. Arlie, Freddie, Mattie, and even Micah smiled broadly at me. But the renewed bloke love of my Micah Horowitz was nothing compared to the fantastic, enormous grin I received from Tegan. Damn, that girl can smile.

“Okay!” I proclaimed. “Peace has returned to Gryffie Nation?”

“If you lot stop acting like pricks, then yeah!” whooped Micah.

“I think it’s high time for a little chant,” I beamed.

J.D. jumped up and stood on the bench. “What team?”

“Gryffindor!” we Gryffies shouted back.

“What team?”

“Gryffindor!” the chant was slightly louder as more of our housemates chimed in.

“What team?”

“GRYFFINDOR!” boomed throughout the massive Great Hall, sound waves bouncin’ off the stone walls. The entirety of Gryffindor House joined in on this one, I reckon.

We Gryffies. United as one. With respect, Quidditch, and pie for all!

A/N: Ahh. AHH. It’s 5:47 AM. I haven’t slept since 10:00 AM yesterday. Gotta wake up at 8:00 AM today. But I like writing We Gryffies, so here I am. Yeah, so this was Chapter 7. Thoughts? Opinions? Criticisms? Musings? Ramblings? All are welcome in reviews. I wrote this on no sleep (which I think I’ve stated…don’t remember anymore) and little nutritional fuel so it’s probably crazzzy weird towards the end. Apologies. Will revise. Eventually.

Thanks for reading! You want to leave a review? That’s so Albus!

Chapter 8: Mano a Womano
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I lay on the good couch in the Gryffindor common room (the squishy scarlet one, not the grimy green one in the first years’ corner). But I lay on the squidgy couch, staring on the ceiling (which is really quite exquisite, with exposed wooden beams that I imagine were installed in the Hogwarts Renovation of 1905), confused and puzzled and in great need of guidance.

“So,” I heard Dobby Longbottom say from the armchair across from me, his quill in hand, “let’s begin at the beginning, shall we?”

Yes. I commissioned my thirteen-year-old sister’s thirteen-year-old boyfriend who is named after a martyred house elf to be my Psychological Healer. Don’t judge me. The mental health services at this school are lacking.

I sighed dramatically. “Something terrible happened at the beginning of this year. I thought it would go away, but alas, it did not.”

Dobby glanced at his sheet of parchment and made a few notes. “Hmm. And what catastrophe was this, specifically?”

“I noticed that my mate Tegan was a girl,” I whined. “Why did she have to get pretty all of a sudden? Why couldn’t she stay the sexually ambiguous Gryffie?”

“So you’re attracted to Tegan Llewellyn?” inquired Dobby calmly. He had just the right voice for a Psychological Healer, all calm and slow and methodical.


“Physically, emotionally, or both?”

I thought for a moment. “Well, I think she’s quite fit, of course. I shan’t go into detail, for fear of tainting your young, innocent soul. And we’ve been friends forever, since the very beginning of first year when I made fun of her name and she punched me. We’ve always gotten along really well; sometimes I think she understands me better than my J.D. And J.D. is my J.D.! But me and Tegan have always been friends and we’ve always gotten along and I’ve always liked her personality. Does that count as fancying her emotionally?”

Dobby moved his quill in what appeared to be long, swooping strokes along the parchment. “It can be difficult identifying true attraction, by which I mean emotional attraction, between two close friends. Naturally you’ve liked each other on that level for years, but does that mean you could fancy Tegan as something more now?”

“I do not know, Dobster,” I mused. “I’m so confuzzled.”

The thin, stringy kid nodded. “Good. We’ve identified one of your problems, and we can come back to it later in the session, or in a future session, if you want to work it out with my assistance and advice. But now I believe we should move on to the reason that you requested my services in the first place.”

I threw my hands into the air, then brought them down to cover my face. “Why can’t I ask her to Hogsmeade, Dobster? Why?

Dobby pushed his specs up his nose (the kid has perfect eyesight, yet insisted on wearing false glasses while psychiatrically analyzing me) and pursed his lips. “You’ve got a mighty psychological barrier to cross, James.”

“I do?” I inquired inquisitively.

“You’ve been mates with Tegan for well over five years,” explained Dobby. “You’d considered her a brother, a member of your fraternal Gryffie society, until you noticed that you were physically attracted to her. This is a major shock to your psychological system. A person who was once a chum and pseudo-brother has become an object of sexual attraction for you.”

“Dobster!” I exclaimed.

“My dad gave me The Talk, James,” said Dobby dryly “It was horribly awkward, but effective nonetheless. I’m thirteen, and I figure I have a broad idea of what’s going on in your sixteen-year-old mind, as well as in other places.”

I turned my head and stared at him. “You’re dating my baby sister?

“Look back to the ceiling, James,” said Dobby calmly. “We were making excellent progress. Let’s return to that.”

“Maybe I am sexually attracted to Tegan,” I thought aloud. She had gone to study in the library and usually didn’t emerge for hours (she studies obsessively, my Teg), so I figured I could talk freely without fear of her overhearing.

“Yes, you are,” affirmed Dobby. “And this huge revelation has been a shock on your cognitive functions. You’ve developed a barrier that is causing your reluctance to ask Tegan to Hogsmeade.”

“I have?”

“It isn’t an impenetrable barrier,” said Dobby oh so wisely. “But you need to hone in on your reluctance and defeat it before you have the psychological nerve to do what you must.”

I stared at the gorgeous, intricate, painstakingly crafted wooden beams of the ceiling and thought. Young Dobby raised a great number of issues that even I was not aware of.

“Dobby,” I said with utmost seriousness, “you have to become a Psychological Healer when you get out of school. Or else.”

The round-faced kid grinned. “That’s my plan. I mapped out the necessary curriculum I need to take here and my official Healer training at the end of first year. I’ve got it all covered.”

I sat up. “Um, am I supposed to pay you? Because I only have two Knuts and a Nosebleed Nougat in my pocket.”

“It’s on me,” said Dobby cordially. “No charge for family of Lily.”

I stood and walked over to him, my hand outstretched to shake. “You’re a good man, Dobby Longbottom. If I don’t get over this barrier thing within the week, can I take you up on the offer of a follow-up session?”

“Absolutely,” he said, most professionally, shaking my hand.

My little sister Lily looked up from her group of giggling friends sitting by the fire and walked over to me and Dobby.

“Hey,” she said sweetly, taking his hand.

“Hey,” grinned Dobby back.

“Well, now that the formalities are over,” I said wryly.

“Was the session helpful, James?” asked Lily.

“It really was,” I said enthusiastically, glancing at Dobby. I couldn’t be mad at the bloke, even if he was holding my baby sister’s hand. I should want to hex him, but I don’t.

“Great,” said Lily, smiling widely. “It’s wonderful that you two get along well.”

“I think we’ve reached a level of understanding,” said Dobby. “Yeah?”

“Definitely,” I affirmed. “You two run along now. And Dobster, don’t do anything you feel I would be compelled to do.”

“Sure James,” said the kid, most certainly to humour me. He and Lily walked towards the portrait hole.

I glanced ‘round the common room, looking for my mates. J.D. was off snogging Rose in a broom cupboard (At least I had the courtesy to tell you ahead of time, he told me), Micah was stalking my cousin Madeleine, Freddie was in the library with Tegan, Mattie was doing whatever it is that fifth years do, and Arlie was probably giving one of her friends a makeover, or summat. You know, girl stuff.

But then I saw my brother Albus reading in the corner. The book was ancient looking and Al’s nose was firmly pressed against it. He pushed up his half-moon spectacles as they fell down his face.

I galloped on over to him, deeming that this was an excellent day for family reunions. First Lily (albeit briefly), then Al.

“Alberino!” I proclaimed, sitting in the chair beside him.

“Please don’t call me that, James,” said Albus, monotone and without looking up from his book.

“Whatcha readin’?” I asked.

“It’s about the uses of dragon’s blood,” explained Al quickly.

“Ooh,” I said with all the enthusiasm I could muster. Dragon’s blood? Not my cup of tea. Ew, I just imagined Al drinking dragon’s blood out of a teacup.

“What do you want, James?” He finally looked up at me.

I reached over and ruffled his auburn hair. “I just wanted to chat with my favourite brother.”

“I’m your only brother,” replied Albus flatly. “Plus you haven’t spoken to me since the summer holiday.”

I scratched my head. “Really? It’s been that long?”

“We never talk when we’re at school,” said Al patronizingly.

I shrugged. “Well, let’s change that right here and now.”

We Potter men stared at each other for 713 seconds. I know. I counted.

“James!” I heard from behind me. It was Micah. “Guess what?”

“Chicken butt?” I grinned, knowing just how witty I am.

“No!” said Micah. “Madeleine’s going with me to Hogsmeade.”

“Madeleine Weasley?” piped up Albus.

“She’s the only Madeleine at Hogwarts, yeah?” asked Micah unsurely.

“Just checking,” said Al sceptically.

“Whoa, are you sure?” I asked.

“Yeah! I think!” replied Micah. “She and all her popular friends were sitting by the lake and I was watching them like I usually do and she came over and asked what my problem was and then I said I was in love with her, cos I am, then her jaw kind of dropped and then I asked if she’d go with me to Hogsmeade and she said no and then I asked why not and then she said because she didn’t fancy me and then I asked why not and then she told me to stop following her around and then I kissed her and then she slapped me!”

Albus looked at me in horror, as if I should be responsible for my mate’s actions.

“Horo,” I began slowly, “are you sure this means that Madeleine agreed to go to Hogsmeade with you? Perhaps you read the signals wrong.”

Micah chuckled. “Oh James, don’t be so naïve. She obviously fancies me. A passionate woman, your cousin is.”

“Please don’t describe any female relation of mine as passionate ever again,” I said through gritted teeth.

“Fine,” conceded Micah. “But the fact that I’d got a date with Madeleine Weasley is so Albus!”

“I thought you hated the phrase ‘that’s so Albus’,” said I.

“Oh, I got over that days ago,” said Micah. “I mean, ‘that’s so Albus’ is so Albus!”

“Shut your huge gob!” shouted Al, out of nowhere. “Shut it shut it SHUT IT!”

Me and Micah stared at the slightly shorter version of my uncle Ron in wide-eyed terror (Albus got the tall, redheaded Weasley gene through our mum). Albus Severus Potter was the quiet geek of the fifth year Gryffindors. He didn’t usually have fits like this.

“Al?” I asked hesitantly. “Is something wrong?”

“Yes!” he seethed. “‘That’s so Albus’ is wrong!”

“No it’s not,” said Micah decisively. “It’s so Albus. And that’s a good thing.” It was then that I realized just how opportunistic Micah was when it came to jumping on the bandwagon. ‘That’s so Albus’ is cool? He’d damn his principles and start chanting the phrase with the rest of us to feel the acceptance we all crave as social animals.

“Not for me!” exclaimed Albus. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Micah, but I’m named Albus! It’s bad enough that my blasted parents had to name me Albus Severus and knowingly condemned me to a life of teasing and ridicule, but then your damned friend John had to go and create a fad about my deceased namesake! Do you know how irritating it is to hear the half of Gryffindor House who’ve begun using the phrase in the five days since you pathetic Gryffies created it refer to the famous, brilliant, beloved Albus who you’ll never be able to live up to? Do you know what that’s like?

Micah quickly opened his mouth. “No, of course not. I’m not called Albus.”

Al began to grind his teeth audibly. “Stop using that stupid, insipid phrase.”

“You’re going to have to bring this matter up with J.D., Al,” I said diplomatically. “I do believe he’s submitted an application for copyright with the Ministry for Magic.”

Albus’s green eyes (he’s the only Potter kid who inherited our Dad’s eyes, and his poor eyesight) became livid, and I was rather frightened. He grabbed his dragon’s blood book and stomped off.

“Merlin’s beard, were we that sensitive when we were fifth years?” asked Micah.

“Maybe Al’s right,” I thought aloud. “I mean, cos everyone already compares him to Albus Dumbledore since he kinda looks like he did and they both were wicked smart and bookish and all that. He’s bound to be a little sensitive, right?”

“Mate, I think he just overreacted,” said Micah. “And I’m the emotionally deep Gryffie, after all.”

I laughed aloud and shoved him. “Horo, you’re the Gryffie who accosted my cousin and now delusionally thinks that you two have a date!”

Micah sighed dreamily. “We do have a date. Or we will by the time Halloween rolls ‘round. Merlin, your cousin is fit.”

I shoved him much harder this time, so much so that he fell to the ground. “Please don’t talk like that! You see how badly I’m dealing with Rose and J.D.!”

Micah looked up at me, hurt. “You’re fine with the Longbottom boy and Lily!”

“That’s cos I like Dobby better than you and J.D.!” I shouted back.

He stood up and brushed himself off. “You like Dobby Longbottom better than your best mates?”

“No, Micah, I—”

“You think I’m so delusional about Madeleine?” barked Micah. “Well, maybe you’re delusional about me and J.D. being your mates. Cos I’m gonna tell him about what you said.”

“Micah!” I called as he stormed off. Oi, what had Micah Horowitz’s wand in such a knot as of late? First the ‘that’s so Voldie’ fiasco, and now this?

I spun ‘round and saw my cousin Hugo out of the corner of my eye. He’s mates with Dobby Longbottom, and was sitting with the other third year Gryffindor boys by the fireplace.

“Hugo!” I shouted as I ambled over towards him. “How’s my favourite Granger-Weasley cousin?”

All his third year mates stared up at me in awe (believe it or not, I’m rather popular; it kind of automatically happens to you when you become Gryffindor Quidditch cap’n), and Hugo replied, “I thought you liked Rose better. You always poke fun at my name and call me fat even though I weigh 85 pounds.”

I chuckled. “Oh Huge-o, we athletes find that sort of taunting endearing. If you ever join the Gryffies you’ll harden up, on account of the hazing being so emotionally damaging.”

He looked at me as if I was mad. “Well then, why are you talking to me? We didn’t even talk when we stayed with Grandmum and Grandad Weasley at the Burrow this summer.”

I ruffled his curly brown hair, which stuck out in a ‘fro. “Oh Hugo, you’re so silly. We talked that one time when I asked you to pass the salt.”

He frowned at me in distaste, while his blond, long-faced friend stared.

“Hullo?” I said to the weird fair-haired kid.

Blondie gulped. “You’re—you’re James Potter!”

“That’s what it says on my certificate of birth,” I said unsurely.

“You’re cap’n of the Gryffies!” said Blondie nervously.

“It’s just my cousin, Finn,” grumbled Hugo.

“Finn, is it?” said I. “You a Quidditch fan?”

“Yes sir!” Finn nodded eagerly. “I’ve gone to all the matches since my first year and I always cheer for the Gryffies!”

I smiled smugly. “How would you like an autograph, Finn?”

He looked nervous. “Actually, I don’t really—”

“You don’t have to say it if it’s embarrassing,” I chuckled, grabbing a quill and dipping it in the inkwell on the table before me.

There wasn’t any parchment, though. “Hold out your arm, Finn,” I ordered, and the little kid obeyed. I began to write my name on his skin.

“Ow!” cried out Finn as I wrote the big, loopy letters of James Sirius Potter.

“There,” I said, proud of my handiwork.

Finn recoil his arm in terror and Hugo and his other mates examined it. “You drew blood, James!” shouted Hugo.

“I’m bleeding the name of James Potter,” moaned Finn.

I gulped. “Hugo, have Finn put some of our grandmum’s special salve on that. That should slow the bleeding.”

“I’m a lot more concerned about ink poisoning!” exclaimed Finn.

“Way to go, James!” seethed Hugo bitingly as the third year boys collected their Finn and headed towards the dormitory stairs.

I shrugged. No way I could have seen that coming.

“James,” I heard from behind me. I jumped; it sounded like Tegan!

I turned round and grinned; it was Tegan! She sat on the arm of my chair and my heart went pitter-patter.

“Where’s Freddie?” I squeaked.

“Probably talking to that girl in our year called Miranda or Matilda or Melinda who tried out for Gryffie Seeker at the beginning of the year. She so politely interrupted our study session and so subtly began to flirt with our Fred,” said Tegan casually.

“She’s your roommate, yeah?” asked I. “You don’t know her name?”

Tegan looked at me apologetically. “Don’t think I’m totally self-centred, because I haven’t actually talked to her since the first day of first year. She asked me if I thought J.D. was an ‘absolute cutie’ and I bolted as quickly as I could. So it really is feasible that I don’t remember her name.”

I grinned at her. “Well, if you haven’t spoken to your roommate in six years, then I guess it’s excusable that you have no idea that one of your roommates is called Miranda.”

“I knew that was it!” piped Tegan.

We sat in silence for 713 seconds.

“So, are you ready for the Transfiguration test?” I asked.

“No,” whined Tegan. “That’s what me and Freddie were studying for, and I guess I know the material well enough, but I’m so stressed and I always do badly under pressure on exams. Quidditch, I can deal with pressure. Academics, not so much.”

“Hmm,” I mumbled, not being able to relate. I only get stressed when there’s a very pretty girl sitting on the arm of my chair and I want to ask her to Hogsmeade but there’s a weird psychological barrier in the way. Like right now.

“Do you guys have the wrestling mat out, in your dormitory?” asked Tegan.

“Yeah, we had a tourney last night,” I said. “We probably didn’t put it away.”

Tegan hit my shoulder. “You had a wrestling tourney and didn’t invite me?”

I grimaced dramatically and rubbed my shoulder. “We assumed you were hanging out with your best friend Melinda.

“Will you come wrestle with me?” asked Tegan. “I have all this suppressed frustration and rage that I need to release in order to de-stress.”

“Sure,” I said, not realizing how bad of an idea this was.

I didn’t even realize how stupid I was when we got upstairs to the sixth year boys’ dormitory. Or when we were both crouching down across from each other and Tegan counted off to begin the match. It was only after we charged at and grabbed each other and I caught that Tegalicious scent that I realized how very, very stupid I am.

I was so caught off-guard by the wonderful aroma representing Tegality that Tegan was able to pin me down straight away. I was almost as surprised by her ability to pin me as she appeared to be, since I’m a decent wrestler. In fact, no Gryffie is better than me, excepting Fred. He’s a far stockier lad than I.

But I shrugged off the randy part of my brain’s eager suggestion to kiss her and got my mind back into the match. I quickly pushed her lightweight body off of me and was able to pin her to the mat with no problem.

Tegan squirmed and struggled as I hovered over her and held down her arms. I almost felt bad, but I couldn’t sully my rep as second-best Gryffie wrestler. She wouldn’t respect me for letting her win, anyways.

“You gonna countdown, or what?” snapped Tegan in defeat. Her olive eyes look pretty even when she’s disappointed.

But before I could count from ten and declare myself the winner, I let out, “Wannagotosmeadewime?”

“What?” Tegan breathed.

“Want to go to Hogsmeade with me?” I asked quietly, my face almost certainly beet red.

Tegan seemed surprised. “Don’t I always go to Hogsmeade with you?”

And she did. But J.D., Fred, and Micah always came along.

“I mean,” I said more surely, “do you want to go to Hogsmeade with only me?”

She just stared at me.

“Fine, never—”

“Yes,” said Tegan, looking up into my eyes. She had sort of smile of triumph beneath the sea of freckles dotting her nose.

I grinned broadly. “Okay. Great.”

We just kind of stayed there for a few minutes, me on top of her, smiling goofily at each other. I tried very, very hard from keeping my mind from wandering to activities that would not be appropriate for this stage of our courtship.

But then Tegan broke the silence. “James, er, your hands are kind of cutting off circulation in my arms—”

“Nimue’s lake, I’m sorry!” I shouted and jumped off of her.

She stood up as well, and then we awkwardly stared at anything in the room that wasn’t each other. I picked the window by J.D.’s bed, and I think Tegan picked Micah’s trunk.

“I have to—clean my—broomstick,” she muttered, and dashed out the door.

Very slowly and wobbly, I sat upon my bed. I tried to wrap my head ‘round the situation.

I had asked her out.

She had said yes.

And she had seemed very surprised and perhaps even mildly disturbed by the notion.

A/N: Guys, I’m so proud of myself. I worked so much on detailing my character notes, and I’ve given all these guys middle names and birthdays. I feel spesh.

Thank you SO MUCH to all of my wonderful reviewers! You guys are the heroes of Gryffie Nation! And yes, anyone who read this story is granted automatic citizenship to Gryffie Nation.

Be a hero! Be a reviewer!

Chapter 9: Like The Cry Of A Terminally Ill Cat
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All the Gryffies reacted differently to the frabjulous news that their Cap’n and Seeker were going on a date. With each other.

“Well done, J.S.!” J.D. had exclaimed, slapping me on the back. “Way to tap that Irish ass!”

“Tegan Llewellyn?” Freddie had clarified, squinting. “But—oh—hmm—you fancy her? Tegan Llewellyn? The Tegster?”

“I am still not talking to you,” Micah had muttered. “But if I were, I would have said ‘that’s so Albus’. Hmpf!” Cranky Micah-pants had indeed told J.Dizzle that I said that I liked Dobby Longbottom better than them, but J.D. just laughed at Dobby’s name and shrugged it off. He’s less dramatic than a certain Chaser of mine.

“Oh…wow,” Mattie had said. “Er—congratulations, cap’n! Wow, you ‘n Tegan—this’ll probably be a confidence booster for her, ‘specially after Fred’s ‘why don’t you change in the blokes’ locker room?’ comment last year.”

Arlie had jumped up and down and clapped. (Really—and I let someone like that onto my team?) “This is so wonderful, James! You two can meet up with me and Drystan at Madam Puddifoot’s for tea! Drystan asked me out, by the way. This day is so Albus!”

“I know, James,” Tegan had said, rolling her beautiful eyes. “I was kind of there when it happened, yeah?”

Oops. Got a bit carried away there, telling Tegan that I’d asked Tegan out and she said yes. But I’m having a bit of trouble remembering that she’s not my mate anymore. Well, she is, but a very special kind. The kind whose hand I’m allowed to hold. Not wrist, but hand.

But the fact that James and Tegan’s very special relationship has changed is a difficult adjustment for all of us Gryffies. Example:

Scene: Sixth year boys’ dormitory, ten days before much-anticipated Hogsmeade visit. Tegan and James are sitting several inches away from each other on James’s bed, working on their Transfiguration essays. The dormitory door opens.

Fred: Hey James, I—oh, hi Tegan. Er, sorry for interrupting you, I’ll be going.

James: You don’t have to leave, Freddie.

Tegan: We’re obviously not snogging. By the way, Fred, can you explain cross-species transformations to me again?

Speaking of snogging, I ought to inform you of the #1 news headline in the wizarding world:

James Potter Snogs Tegan Llewellyn. Details and Critical Analysis to Follow.

I did it I did it I did it I did it I KISSED Tegan! Well, I guess I kissed her way back in September during my failed attempt to break up J.D. and Rose. But that kiss doesn’t count as much as this one!

It was so fantastic I can hardly contain my glee! I re-enact the hallowed moment at least 713 times a day, so I might as well re-enact it for you now.

It was October the 26th, a bright, crisp autumn day with an ideal level of humidity in the atmosphere. We sixth-year Gryffies were walking back to the castle after N.E.W.T. Herbology (Dobby’s dad was the professor), but Tegan and I somehow fell behind as we leisurely strolled along, hand in hand.

“So,” began Tegan, “your brother gave you a referral to Longbottom?”

I sighed, wondering if this improved or hurt her impression of my masculinity. “Yeah, Al caught me and J.D. going to the kitchens after curfew. I don’t blame him though. Prefects are s’posed to keep us in line, and since they can’t give detention, they have to give a referral to your Head of House, who then doles out the detentions. I’m not mad at Al, or anything. It’s obvious he doesn’t like giving his only brother a referral.”

Tegan squeezed my hand and smiled. “Oh James, how noble of you!” I think she attempted a southern American accent.

I smirked back. “You think?”

“But seriously, you’re handling it in a cool way,” she laughed. Oh, that laugh! “And what’s another detention compared to the dozens you’ve accrued over the years?”

“‘Tis insignificant,” I stated.

We walked along for a little while more. Tegan was rather quiet, and I wasn’t sure how to get the conversation going again. It had to be exactly the right topic of conversation. One unsettling notion here, one poorly worded phrase there, and I could lose Tegan forever. Maybe.

“Why haven’t you kissed me yet, James?” blurted Tegan, almost coughing it out.

I looked fondly down at her puzzled little face. “I didn’t know that you wanted me to.”

We had stopped walking at that point and faced each other, hands no longer connected. “Well, I did,” said Tegan frankly. “Is there something wrong with me?”

“No!” I exclaimed, stepping towards her. “I think about kissing you almost all the time, but I thought if I kissed you too soon I’d drive you away. And I can’t drive you away! We haven’t even had our first date yet!”

Tegan stepped so close to me our bodies were almost touching, but just almost. And the almost was agonizing. She smelled like citrus again.

“Kiss me,” she requested lightly.

I took her head in my hands and promptly placed my lips upon hers. I very slowly and gently kissed her, aspiring to be the kind of man suitor Tegan wanted.

But she had other plans. She wrapped her arms around my torso and pulled herself against me, kissing back a good deal more forcefully.

We were a few minutes late to Potions.

I hopped up the stairs to my dormitory two at a time on the 30th. I’d spent the evening playing wizard’s chess with Mattie, and much to Tegan’s delight as spectator, Mattie had completely destroyed me. No, seriously. His pieces were so fricking violent that mine were reduced to dust whenever they were on the attack.

But no matter! If my humiliating defeat had brought a smile to fair Tegan’s face, then by Albus, I would embarrass myself even more when the next situation presented itself! As Miss Llewellyn’s gentleman caller, ‘tis my duty to appeal to her every whim. And appeal I shall.

Plus Tegan was kind enough to give me a goodnight kiss. Calloo, callay!

Upon reaching the door to the sixth years’ dormitory, I burst through it and proclaimed, “I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it!” before collapsing on my bed, smiling giddily.

J.D. was the only one in the room, sans moi, of course. He turned ‘round to face me and muttered, “Why don’t you shout it louder?”

I opened my mouth wide and filled my lungs with air, prepared to sing the merry tune I’d composed about Tegan’s deep olive eyes, when J.D. interrupted me. “Kidding!” he said, exasperated. “I was kidding. You’re loud enough, J.S. I’ve just received confirmation that Hagrid heard every last word uttered by your dulcet tones.”

I cocked my head to the side. “J.D., why don’t you like it when I proclaim my amorous love for our Seeker?”

“One,” J.D. held up a finger, “you only proclaim aforementioned love to me, not to whom it ought to be directed. Two: you haven’t even gone on a date yet. It’s weird. Three: I don’t bloody care!”

I jumped over to him and gave him a great big hug. “Aw, J.D. You’re the bestest mate a slightly effeminate boy in love could have.”

He patted me on the head nervously, then nudged me to a safe distance away. “Don’t tell her you love her, J.S.,” he said reluctantly. “Not tomorrow, at any rate. She has more of a grasp on reality than you do, and you’ll only frighten her away.”

“So I shouldn’t tell her that I love her?” I asked meekly.

“Wait a little while. Three months is ideal, but two would be cutting it close. Tomorrow is not an option if you ever want those fictional kids of yours to come into existence.”

I pranced over to my dresser and grabbed my Imagination Journal. “Lookee! I started to draw a picture of the house the Llewellyn-Potter Bunch will live in!”

“Actually, that’s not half bad,” mumbled J.D. as he regarded my illustration. “Granted, you’re crap at drawing, but the corners seem to meet at right angles. Well done.”

“Thanks J.Dizzle,” I said sappily.

Frick! I shouted in my head upon discovering that my right shoe had gone missing. This is not good. Today is the day of my date with Miss Tegan Llewellyn, and we will not be able to enter any establishments in the quaint hamlet of Hogsmeade if I am missing a shoe, as per the “no shirt, no shoes, no service” policy. One shoe is not shoes in the plural! I need the other or my date will fail.

I began to tear my fifth of the dormitory apart, making quite a mess as I went, desperate to find my nomadic right shoe. Why does this keep happening to me?!

Double frick! I silently bellowed. My right sock had wandered off as well!

I label my socks, okay? I have right socks and left socks. Honestly, if you’re still surprised by my quirkiness then you really need to meet some more interesting people.

Driven into an even more zealously maniacal state, I threw my trunk open and began throwing its contents about the room. Shoe, sock, shoe, sock, shoe, sock…

After my trunk was completely empty and J.D.’s side of the room was untidier than usual, I uttered a sigh of despair and took a seat on my bed. When something even more horrible happened.

Triple frick! I squealed in my head. My left shoe and left sock were gone.

“James?” called Freddie as he walked into the dormitory several minutes later. “James—oi, what’s wrong?”

I had curled myself into the fetal position and was sucking my thumb. “Mmphaough,” I whined.

Fred peered at me. “Tegan’s waiting for you downstairs. Um…are you okay? Mentally? And psychologically?”

I took my thumb out of my mouth and it made a popping noise. “My shoes and socks ran off,” I said numbly.

“Your right shoe is at it again?” asked Fred. “It is a strangely mobile piece of footwear, but I’ll help you look—”

“Both my shoes!” I yelped, still lying on my side with my knees tucked under my chin. “And socks! Probably walking around somewhere, laughing at me!”

“Your shoes and socks aren’t laughing at you, James,” said Freddie dryly. “Look, we have the same foot size, so you can borrow a pair of my shoes and socks.

I jumped up and threw my arms ‘round Freddie. “You’re my most favourite cousin, you know that Alfred?”

Fred patted me on the head, clearly uncomfortable with my affectionate nature. “Er, if you let go of me, I’ll get the shoes and socks.”

I obeyed and quickly slipped on the snazzy green trainers that Freddie handed me.

As we headed for the stairs, Fred asked, “Did you hear about Madeleine and Micah?”

“She finally got a restraining order?” I laughed as I galloped down the stairs.

“They’re going to Hogsmeade,” said Freddie dramatically.

“Well, yeah,” said I. “It’s Hogsmeade day. Everyone goes to Hogsmeade.”

“Together,” said Fred. “On a date.

I chuckled more nervously now. “No, you must be mistaken. Micah Horowitz and Madeleine Weasley?”

Freddie shook his head. “Apparently Madeleine was totally pissed last night. Horo found her passed out in the corridors after curfew and brought her back to Gryffindor Tower before any of the prefects caught her. Mattie swears that he saw them snogging in the common room ‘round midnight.”

I tried to wrap my head ‘round all this news. “Well, Mattie is one of my more reliable gossip sources,” I reasoned. More reliable than Witch Weekly, at any rate.

“I s’pose Mads isn’t revolted by Micah anymore,” said Freddie.

I burrowed my brow in confusion. “Well…as long as they’re happy?”

“You’re not all mental ‘bout this?” inquired Fred. “You’re going the Lobby route versus the Jose variety?”

“Lily/Dobby versus J.D./Rose? That’s quite clever, Freddie,” I grinned.

“Thank you,” he smiled in response.

I lightly sighed. “I just miss my Horo, you know? Ever since he stopped talking to me, I’ve felt all out of sorts. He’s one of my best mates. And if he fancies my cousin so fricking much, then I suppose I can be somewhat lenient. Plus I don’t like Madeleine much anyways. She’s quite full of herself.”

“Agreed,” said Fred as we reached the bottom of the staircase and entered the common room.

I looked ‘round the room for Tegan, whilst Fred also spun his head ‘round in search of a special someone.

“You got a date?” I asked.

“Yeah,” said Freddie distantly. “Wiv Miranda. Or Miranda Matilda Melinda Shitforbrains, as Tegan so affectionately refers to her.”

“My Teg’s a keeper, she is,” I beamed.

When I finally caught sight of Tegan sitting on the squidgy couch by the fire, alone and moving her head ‘round slowly, looking for someone (me!), it took my breath away. She looked so pretty, the specks of gold in her light brown hair reflecting in the firelight. She was wearing her fancy purple sweater, the one she never wears cos she’s afraid she’ll spill summat on it. Aforementioned sweater was most flattering in regards to her mammary growth.

What? You think blokes don’t notice their girl’s clothes? We notice everything that has to do with wobbly bits!

Fred had walked ‘cross the common room to meet Miranda Matilda Melinda Shitforbrains, and I strutted over to Tegan. Confidence, Jamesie! You are the embodiment of masculinity and chivalry! Frick, is my hair sticking up? Run your hand through it, run your hand through it. There! Somewhat flatter!

“Hi!” I exclaimed, sounding quite like Granddad Weasley when he’s in his spasmodic state of mind.

Tegan stood up and faced me. “Hi!” she said back with an equal amount of awkward enthusiasm, in an oh so slightly mocking tone.

My face contorted into a confident smile, while my insides turned into fondue cheese. Melting, melting…

“Shall we go to the village, then?” piped up Tegan, awkwardly crossing her arms.

“Excellent idea!” I proclaimed, and we headed towards the portrait hole.

After several minutes of a good deal of walking and not so much of talking, Tegan looked at me and said, “You can hold my hand, you know. You’ve done it before, which basically means you have permission until further notice, and hell, you’ve kissed me. ‘Snot a big deal.”

I grinned at her and firmly took her right hand with my left. “Happy now?”

“Why yes,” replied Tegan delicately as we strolled down the stairs and into the entrance hall, bound for the outdoor path leading to Hogsmeade.

When the chill October breeze hit us as we stepped outside the castle, Tegan pulled her pea coat more tightly around her small frame, and her hand once more returned to mine.

Holding hands with Tegan was rather fun. Sometimes I’d give her hand a light squeeze, and she’d squeeze mine back harder. Or, she’d start off squeezing mine, and I’d squeeze hers back. Ah, what bliss…

“Where d’you want to go in the village?” asked Tegan as we meandered through the small wood separating Hogwarts Castle from Hogsmeade.

“Euh,” I drawled, thinking rapidly. Where could I take her that would impress her and make her love me forever?

“Madam Puddifoot’s?” I suggested meekly. The original Puddifoot woman was long dead, as I understood, but the allegedly vile teahouse was run by a chain of allegedly vile teahouses now. I’d never set foot in there, ‘cept for the time we Gryffies decided it would be an excellent location for a dungbomb attack. We lost all Hogsmeade privileges for the remainder of fourth year. Sigh, good times.

“Oh,” coughed Tegan. “Er—okay?”

“Well, Arlie wanted us to meet her and Drystan Davies ‘round there at 1, and it could be…fun,” I mumbled. It could be romantic and make you fall in love with me!

“If you want to go—then fine by me,” said Tegan, sounding as upbeat as she could.

Ça alors! Blast, I’m already losing her! This date is going terribly!

“But we’ve got two hours ‘til then, d’you want to go to Honeydukes?” I said quickly.

“Yeah,” answered Tegan, her face brightening a bit. “And Freddie’s dad’s joke shop. Mr. Weasley always gives me Skiving Snackboxes for half off.”

When my mum and dad went to Hogwarts, there was a joke shop called Zonko’s in the village, or so I’m told. But Uncle George bought them out long ago and now he’s got a peripheral Weasley Wizard Wheezes to the headquarters in Diagon Alley.

“Definitely,” said I. “Remember the time Fred convinced me to get a Spell-Checking Quill fifth year?”

Tegan laughed. “I certainly do, Jones Plopper.

I squeezed her hand and she squeezed back, and we played the hand-squeezing game all the way down the hill and into the village.

We hit Honeydukes, as per our plan. I bought a quarter kilo of chocolate (my godbrother Teddy Lupin got me hooked on the stuff years ago), and Tegan got sugar quills, her favourite. I tried to buy them for her, but she flat out wouldn’t let me. Apparently we’re one of those couples who go halfsies on everything.

Weasley Wizard Wheezes was next upon the list, and I held the door open for Tegan as she stepped inside my uncle’s establishment. I think she appreciated it.

Uncle George always worked at his peripheral store on Hogsmeade weekends, and gave me and the Tegster a hearty welcome. “Scrawny one, aren’t you James?” grinned Uncle George as he ruffled my hair.

“Yes sir!” I replied giddily. Except for his occasional gloomy moments (on account of his identical twin being dead and all), Uncle George is fun to have around.

“Tegan Llewellyn,” said Uncle George enthusiastically as he shook her hand. “How’s the Seeking going?”

“Great,” replied Tegan, smiling broadly. She’d known Uncle George for years now, ever since she befriended Freddie and me.

“You’ve got a long line of Gryffindor Seekers to live up to,” said Uncle George playfully. “My brother Charlie was the best one Hogwarts had seen until James’s dad showed up.” He proceeded to ruffle my hair again, but I didn’t mind. Uncle George was cool.

“I think I can handle the pressure,” said Tegan slyly.

“Excellent,” said Uncle George crisply. “I’ll be at the pitch to watch Freddie and the rest of you Gryffies at your November match. Who’s it against?”

“Ravenclaw,” I automatically answered. As cap’n, I have to know things like that.

“Best of luck!” said Uncle George brightly. “Oi, you’re holding hands, there.”

Tegan and I look at each other and flushed.

Uncle George smirked. “Right, Freddie told me something about you two.”

“It’s our first date,” said Tegan with a bit of difficulty.

“It’s bound to be awkward. ‘Specially if I’m involved,” I added.

Uncle George just stood there smirking, as if he knew more about our situation than we did, and crossed his arms. “So, then, what’ll it be? Skiving Snackboxes and dungbombs, I expect.”

Uncle George was so happy that me and Tegan were now special friends that he gave us each a huge bag of classic wheezes and new prototypes for free. Tegan tried to pay for hers, but Uncle George wouldn’t let her. Aw, Uncle George!

We left the shop after I cast a Shrinking Spell on our parcels to lighten our loads (Tegan thanked me!) and we wandered down the high street.

“It’s half 12,” I said, glancing at my right wrist. My dad had given me some watch that used to belong to Grandmum Weasley’s dead brother. It’s actually really cool, still shiny after all these years, and it’s got lots of dings and scratches, which are great. My great-uncle (is that his relation to me?) and his twin brother died in the first war, and this watch has obviously seen lots of battles.

“We’re s’posed to meet Arlie and Drystan at Madam Puddifoot’s at 1?” asked Tegan.

“Yeah,” I replied.

We walked along in silence, both deep in thought for what we could do in the interim.

“D’you want to go there early, in case they’re already there?” suggested Tegan, her lovely oval face and brilliant olive eyes expectant.

“Okay. Yeah,” I said, convincing myself that this was a good idea.

And that’s what I thought, until I reached the establishment commonly referred to as Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop. From now on, I will refer to it as the eighth circle of hell.

I gagged when I opened the front door for Tegan at the aggressive stench of roses and lilacs emanating from inside. Against my better instincts, I followed Tegan in. To the eight circle of hell.

Frills. Everywhere. Walls, tablecloths, curtains. Floating cherubs. Tossing pink confetti about. Cramped space, possibly the size of my dormitory. And that horrible, nauseating flowery scent.

Tegan coughed. “Well, I think I see Arlie and Drystan in the corner over there. But it’s hard to see with all this ridiculous confetti.”

We walked towards their table as carefully as we could, avoiding collisions with the short, stout witches in pink frocks who waited upon the tables.

As I got closer, I saw that Arlie and Drystan were engaged in a fierce battle of the tongues. It was quite disgusting to watch them snog, but at the same time I couldn’t quite look away. Hopefully this sort of sexual tension would translate favourably on the Quidditch pitch during the Gryffindor/Ravenclaw match next month.

Tegan coughed again, possibly because of the lack of oxygen or just to get the couple’s attention. Drystan and Arlie broke away rather abruptly; she looked pleasantly embarrassed, and he rather smug.

“Hi guys!” greeted Arlie cheerily. “Sit, sit.”

We sat in our respective pink velvety seats and glanced warily at each other, me and Tegan.

“What’s on the menu?” asked Tegan reluctantly.

“Loads of things,” said Arlie enthusiastically. “Every type of tea you could think of: traditional English breakfast, green, chai, peppermint, cinnamon—”

“There’s food too,” interrupted Drystan with his sultry baritone register. “Tiny finger sandwiches that taste like parchment.”

Arlie punched him playfully and giggled. “Oh Drystan, you know you like Madam Puddifoot’s!”

“Well, I do like certain things about this particular establishment,” smirked Drystan as he leaned in for a kiss. Soon enough, those two were back to sucking face and tongue wrestling.

I looked to Tegan. Did she expect me to expertly flirt and insult things she likes so that she can flirt back all girly and then for me to say something cheeky and expect a kiss?

“Hey Tegan,” I said, my voice shaky.

“Yeah?” she replied, far-off as she stared curiously at the frilly pink menu.

“I hate sugar quills,” I said firmly.

“Okay?” Tegan squinted at me.

“They’re too sweet and they’re not chocolate, so I hate them,” I continued.

“Very well?” she said hesitantly.

There were a few moments of silence, until I asked, “May I kiss you now?”

“Only if you stop asking permission,” said Tegan in a low voice as she brought her face towards mine.

We kissed lightly and impersonally for a few minutes, not opening our mouths like Drarlie. Tegan is a classy girl and I will not impose French kissing on her. Meanwhile, I caught Drystan and Arlie swallowing each other’s faces out of the corner of my eye. Goodness, my fellow Gryffie Chaser is certainly willing to publicly display her affection.

Tegan lightly pushed me away (thank Albus!) and stared for a moment. “Can we leave?” she asked quietly.

“Quickly, before they notice,” I whispered, and we tiptoed out of the eighth circle of hell without Drarlie noticing.

Tegan exhaled once we were finally in the fresh air. “We are never going back there, okay?” she said desperately.

“As you wish,” I replied, sucking in as much oxygen as I could to replenish the low supply in my bloodstream.

“I’m starving,” said Tegan. “Can we please go to The Three Broomsticks?”

I nodded, and we walked side by side, carrying our shrunken candy and joke shop parcels, towards our beloved pub.

When we entered we were greeted by the elderly Madam Rosmerta (who’s quite foxy for an old bird), who knew us and all of the Gryffies well. We found a table by the fireplace as it was a tad nippy outside, and glanced at the menu.

“Butterbeer?” asked Tegan.

“Of course,” I smiled, relieved to be in a comfortable location.

“Hmm,” she pondered. “The fish & chips is a safe bet, but I’m in a bit of a curry mood, so perhaps the butter chicken—”

“Beef and stilton pot pie,” I said, certain of my order.

We walked up to the bar to place our orders with Madam Rosmerta, once Tegan had definitively eliminated the fish & chips.

“Madam Rosmerta, are Cornish pasties available today?” asked Tegan, all sweet and innocent. For some odd reason I wanted to grab her and snog her brains out.

“Sorry, dear,” said Madam Rosmerta genuinely. “Daveth is off today and I’m afraid I don’t know how to make those pasties. They’re quite delicious, though.”

“Yeah,” mused Tegan, thinking. “How’s the butter chicken?”

Madam Rosmerta grinned. “Up for something a bit spicy, then? I’m hardly objective, but I do think the butter chicken’s a real treat.”

“Okay,” said Tegan happily. “I’ll have the butter chicken and a pint of butterbeer.”

“Pint o’ butterbeer an’ beef and stilton pot pie,” I said quickly. “Please.”

“Of course, James,” smiled Madam Rosmerta. “I’ll bring you your orders when they’re ready, and here’s the butterbeer.”

She filled two pint glasses and handed them to us, and we returned to our table for six, sipping our beverages and smiling at each other.

“An interesting day we’ve had so far,” commented Tegan. “Nice, but very weird too.”

I took her hand and squeezed it. “It’s not over yet, Tegster. Who knows how this slightly bizarre day will continue to unfold?”

“J.S.!” I heard J.D. call my name. He rushed over to our table, Rosie following close behind.

“Hi,” I said awkwardly. “You two are on a date, then.”

J.D. took a seat and motioned for Rose to do the same. “Yeah,” grinned J.D., securing his arm around Rose, who looked rather flushed and delighted.

“Excellent,” my voice quivered.

Tegan lightly shoved me. “Get over it James. Your best mate’s dating your cousin. The world’s seen greater tragedies.”

They all chuckled at this except for me, of course, who spent the next few minutes staring at the wooden table.

“So Rose,” said Tegan brightly to a girl she’d probably never talked to before, “how’s fifth year treating you?”

“It’s all right,” said Rose, the epitome of an ingénue. “I’m a bit nervous for O.W.L.s, though.”

“Don’t worry,” smiled Tegan kindly. “From what I hear, you’re plenty bright and quite talented at Defence. And if J.D. passed all his O.W.L.s, you’ll certainly get a fair amount of Outstandings.”

“Hey!” protested J.D. “For the record, I did not revise for those exams!”

I looked up and saw Rose leaning into him, her lips in a wide smile. “It’s all right, John,” she said sweetly. “I don’t care what you got on your O.W.L.s.”

And then they kissed. J.D. and Rose. Right in front of me.

“Augherblert,” I mumbled, feeling a rise in my throat.

Tegan put her arm ‘round my shoulder and scooted closed to me. “You’re going to be okay, James,” she said calmly, almost sounding like Dobby Longbottom. “Breathe. It’s no big deal. You should be happy for them.”

I turned my head to look at her, clearly in pain.

“I know of a plan that didn’t work once, but we ought to try it now,” said Tegan, grinning devilishly. She placed her other hand on my leg and pressed her lips to mine.

If Dobby Longbottom is my shrink, then Tegan Llewellyn is my cure-all. In no time I had forgotten about Rose and J.D. and was completely focused on the girl in front of me. She planted quick, light kisses and my lips on cheek, and I pulled her as close to me as I could in our sitting positions, placing one hand on the side of her face and the other on her slender shoulder. It was peaceful and all my worries washed away, ‘til I heard a faint cackling.

Me and Tegan pulled apart to investigate the laughter, which was coming from Freddie (who was accompanied by Miranda Matilda Melinda Shitforbrains). J.D. and Rose had also disentangled themselves, and glared at Fred and MMMS.

“Oi, I didn’t know I’d stepped into Madam Puddifoot’s,” chuckled Fred, he and Miranda Matilda Melinda Shitforbrains taking the last two seats at our table.

“Thank you for interrupting an intimate and very special moment,” I said crisply, attempting sarcasm. I’m crap at sarcasm.

“You talk funny, James,” commented Miranda.

“So how’re you two enjoying the village?” inquired J.D., taking a sip of the butterbeer he’d picked up at the bar before he sat wit us.

“The foilage is lovely,” said Miranda dreamily. “I do love the trees in autumn.”

“Foliage,” said Tegan.

“That’s what I said,” said Miranda testily. “Foilage.”

I sent a look at Tegan that said: Let it alone. We all know she’s got shit for brains.

Her return look said: Foliage! How hard is that to say?

“We went to a lot of boutiques,” said Freddie dryly. “Miranda had a fashion show for me.”

The blonde girl grinned broadly. “It was so Albus! I got a brand new designer chiffon dress for ten galleons!”

Hmm. So the “that’s so Albus” fad has reached the shit for brains clique.

Luckily, at that moment Madam Rosmerta swooped in with mine and Tegan’s lunches. The others had ordered much later, ergo their food would come in due time, but they let me and Tegan dig in. We were all friends, after all (except for MMMS) and manners need not apply.

For the rest of the meal, me, Tegan, J.D., and Freddie discussed the Chudley Cannons’ recent upset over the Tutshill Tornados and how this would affect rankings in the rest of the league. Rose and Miranda nodded and smiled faintly.

After the others’ meals came and we all ate up and were bloatingly full, we three couples (as strange as that feels to phrase) bid our farewells until the Halloween Feast in the Great Hall that night. We all went our separate ways, and Tegan placed her hand in mine.

“What d’you want to do now?” she asked, and I felt a sense of déjà vu.

I saw a small, decrepit building in the distance, in a lonely, abandoned clearing in the wood surrounding the village. “C’mon,” I said quickly, pulling Tegan along.

“Where are we going?” she demanded, though not harshly.

“It’s a surprise,” I said playfully, but caught sight of a familiar blonde and brunet pair heading to our left. Merlin’s beard, it was Madeleine and Micah, strolling along High Street, him holding her bags and her laughing cheerfully at something he’d just said.

“Hold on,” I mumbled, then rushed over to my cousin and my fellow Chaser. “Micah!” I called. He had eye contact with me, but looked away.

I chased after them. “Micah, I’m sorry! I was a prick—the prickiest prick in the wizarding world!—and I need you to forgive me!”

Madeleine stopped (thus causing Micah, her little puppy, to halt as well) and peered at me. “You two are fighting?” she asked, taken aback.

“Your cousin said some inexcusable things,” said Micah haughtily.

“I’m sorry!” I proclaimed dramatically, noticing Tegan walking up behind me. “I was a prick, and I shouldn’t have said that Madeleine would never date you!”

“You’re rather judgmental, James,” said Madeleine disapprovingly. “You think I’m too conceited to go on a date with a perfectly acceptable bloke? Yes, it took me some time to see that Micah is a gentleman, but I’m not blind.”

I ignored her. “Micah, I’m so sorry. I missed you, you know, and I’m not afraid to admit it! I want my Horo back!”

Micah crossed his arms and glared at me, but his expression softened. “Fine,” he drawled. “But you guys really need to stop insulting me all the time. It’s like you don’t appreciate my many talents.”

“Such as finding vacant broom closets,” smirked Madeleine.

I sighed. “Okay, Micah. Please accept my apology?” I held out my hand to shake.

He stared at it, then took it in his own. “Apology accepted.”

I grinned, ecstatic to finally have my Horo back. He and Madeleine bid their goodbyes and continued along the high street, while I returned my attention to Tegan.

“You’re a good friend to our Micah, James,” she smiled kindly. Oh, that lovely Teganesque smile.

“Back to the surprise!” I burst, grabbing her hand and running along the path leading to the wood.

“I hate surprises!” exclaimed Tegan, taking deep breaths as we ran, clutching our parcels tightly.

We tread on sticks and fallen leaves, silent except for our huffing breaths. Closer and closer we got to the Shrieking Shack, eventually emerging in the deserted meadow in which it stood.

When we stopped, Tegan gasped for air and said, “This old haunted house? What are we doing here?”

I grinned broadly. “It’s not haunted. Trust me on this one.”

I took her hand again (I’m getting daring on the hand-holding!) and we approached the abandoned grey house.

“James, if we go in it’s going to fall down,” said Tegan nervously.

Her nervousness was adorable, and I smiled down at her. “It’s got charms on it, Teg. There’s magic in the support beams, so it won’t collapse.”

“But it’s haunted,” she said reluctantly. “Everyone says—”

“My dad’s been here,” I said coolly. “The haunted thing is a rumour, because this house was built for Teddy Lupin’s dad, who was a werewolf, so he could transform safely and without hurting anyone. They couldn’t have the swinish multitudes wandering up to have a look while he transformed, and so the rumours spread.”

Tegan nodded in slow comprehension, and I squeezed her hand. She squeezed back.

We began up the steps to the front door, and I Alohomoraed it open. Once inside, it was dark and very musty, clearly neglected for decades.

We found what might have been a sitting room, only there was no furniture. An empty, crumbling fireplace stood in the centre of the far wall, and I wondered if it had ever been beautiful.

“It’s kind of creepy, but I like it,” said Tegan, smiling, and looking up at me.

“Yeah,” I said, trying to get my voice to sound huskier. “A tad chilly, though.”

“I can fix that,” said Tegan cheekily, wrapping her arms around my neck and leaning against me.

I draped my own arms low around her waist, pulling her closer to me still. “Can you, then?”

She smirked and kissed me. Not like at The Three Broomsticks, and certainly not like at Madam Puddifoot’s, but a different sort of kiss. She could be freer here, now that we were alone, and she made that very apparent.

I cocked my head slightly to the side and kissed her more deeply and intently, gently rubbing her back. Am I doing this right?

Tegan began to run her fingers through my mad coiffure, feeling the smoothness of the strands of hair and rearranging the style. I brought my hands down to her waist and began to massage both sides. I felt her shiver.

Then, without thinking twice or asking her permission, I opened my mouth slightly and pushed my tongue against her lips, begging entrance into the exclusive Club Tegan’s Mouth.

I felt her smile against my face and she opened wide, her tongue headed towards me while mine headed towards hers. They met in the middle and started poking each other, feeling and realizing that the concept of French kissing is very, very strange.

But Tegan seemed to be up for it, since she pulled me closer to her and her tongue started to engage more with my tongue. It wasn’t quite really a violent wrestling match, like with Drarlie’s tongues, but more like a friendly match of “Who’s the Strongest?”. You know, like the match Tegan and I had when I asked her out whilst straddling and pinning her.

Since the French kissing was going rather well, I decided to take an even more daring move. This was something that I’d been desperate to do for months now, but before today it would have been entirely inappropriate. And it might be inappropriate for today, but there’s only one way to find out.

I let my hands slip and placed them firmly on her bum. Now, Tegan doesn’t have much of a bum to speak of compared to most other girls, but after examining the growth of her derrière over the years, I can say conclusively that there has been some growth in the gluteus maximus yielding a satisfactory rear end for a girl of Tegan’s body type. There’s a little junk inside her trunk.

And so my hands rested on her wee arse, and I was prepared for a vocal opposition to this move. Much to my surprise (and glee!), there seemed to be concurrence between us that this had been an excellent decision on my part.

Tegan gently pulled her tongue out of my mouth, tilted her head to the side, and delicately kissed my neck. I made a weird sort of grunting noise very much on accident, but I think it was a good thing.

Growing bored of my neck, Tegan returned to my mouth, gently slipping her tongue in and continuing to run her long, slender fingers through my untidy black hair. I kissed her back strongly and steadily, determined to show her that I am a Man. Men must be dominant and chivalrous and honourable, and though my façade normally shows a Girly Man, I must demonstrate to Tegan that I am a Manly Man.

Kissing, feeling, pushing our bodies together, I made the impulsive decision to squeeze her bum, which I’d been holding onto so devotedly. I’d been resisting this move for a while, but I could wait no longer. I grazed her tongue with my own and gave her a gentle squeeze on the derrière.

Our mouths and tongues broke the connection when Tegan arched her head back and made a slightly disconcerting noise, like a cat dying from a terminal illness. But the oddest part was that I liked the noise. Some might interpret it as a moan. Did I do that?

Since I didn’t hear any complaining, I dared to nibble on her earlobe. J.D. says that this move is classic and effective on 90% of women. But he didn’t give me the confidence interval or any solid data proving this statistic, so I’d take it with a grain of salt.

Tegan made another dying cat sound, so I continued the nibbles. Do I really hate cats that much, or do I like it because the sound is coming from Tegan?

My hands squeezed, my teeth nibbled, and Tegan was just there, the object of my affections. You’ve reached your goal, Jamesie! You are now a Man! You are now in control of this snogfest, of whatever the heck is going on now! Well done, Manly Man!

Hmm. Dying cat sounds seem to be a good signal to end this first date kiss…thing.

I slowly lifted my head from her ear and pecked her on the cheek, before returning to my normal upright position. My hands gravitated northwards from Tegan’s bum to her waist, no longer compulsively squeezing.

She shuddered but kept her arms around my neck, before finally composing herself and smiling dazedly at me. “James,” she breathed.

“Too fast,” I muttered. “Too much too fast. First date.”

Tegan nodded slowly. “I tend to be more—passionate—than sensible in certain situations.”

“Next time we have to set limits,” I said firmly. “It’ll be for the best.”

“Next time?” grinned Tegan. “You think there’ll be a next time, Cap’n?”

“I know there’ll be a next time,” I smirked. “And I’m James, not Cap’n, to you. Cap’n is so impersonal.”

“Very well then, James,” said Tegan in that prim and proper voice of hers. “Not so fast next time.”

We stood there in the dusty old Shrieking Shack, holding each other in silence for a few minutes. But it wasn’t a bad silence. Sometimes silence can be good.

I had the urge to utter a very important phrase, but I altered it slightly: “I really, really fancy you, Tegan Llewellyn.”

She smiled so hopefully up at me. “I really, really fancy you, James Potter.”

We disentangled ourselves somewhat, each still with an arm draped around the back of the other and carrying our candy and joke shop parcels with our free hand. The sun was beginning to set beyond the mountains surrounding Hogsmeade, and we made our way back in the direction of the castle.

But in the wood separating the village from the castle, we spotted our fellow Gryffindor sixth year Snorky Scamander running around the trees with some sort of silver contraption strapped to his face. After living with him for five years and two months, I can say with some certainty that Snorky is one weird bloke. His parents are the wizarding naturalists who discovered a colony of Crumple-Horned Snorkacks in Sweden a few decades ago (Snorkack being Snorky’s proper name). Snorky was quite clever and all, but always told these mad stories about how The Tales of Beedle the Bard was all true. Now, everyone knows that the Tale of the Three Brothers is based on a real story, but all those kids’ tales aren’t real. Snorky was quite obsessed with his quest for the Resurrection Stone, one of the Deathly Hallows, but my dad says it’s no use trying to find it. Snorky won’t listen to reason, though, and doesn’t quite get along with us Gryffies. I s’pose it’s difficult sharing a dormitory with four of us when you’re so barking mad.

“Snorky!” called Tegan, giving him a wave. No no no, bad idea!

He whipped his head ‘round and spotted us, slowly trotting over. “Hello Tegan, James,” said Snorky distantly, with the mask-like contraption still covering his face.

“Er—what’s that you got, there?” I piped up.

He extracted the device from his face and regarded it fondly. “It’s a snozwanger,” said Snorky matter-of-factly. “My mum invented it to help me find the Resurrection Stone.”

“Oh,” said me and Tegan simultaneous, clearly terrified.

“Are you heading up for the feast, Snorky?” asked Tegan politely. Don’t ask him that!

“Is it almost evening, then?” inquired Snorky.

Me and Tegan pointed at the setting sun.

“Oh,” said Snorky lightly. “Well I suppose I should.”

So me, Tegan, and Snorky Scamander walked up to the castle together. Not my ideal way to end my first date with my future wife.

“The Deathly Hallows interest you?” Tegan asked Snorky.

“Oh yes,” he said dreamily. “It would be so Albus to discover all three, of course, but I simply wouldn’t know where to look for the Cloak of Invisibility and the Elder Wand.”

Cough, my dad’s Gringotts vault and Albus Dumbledore’s tomb, cough!

“But my snozwanger says the Resurrection Stone is somewhere in the forest around Hogwarts,” continued Snorky.

Where did Dad drop that thing again?

“By the way, James, do you know where any of the Hallows are?” asked Snorky very seriously.

“Uh,” I mumbled. “No.” Oh, you mean the Deathly Hallows? Then yes.

“Best of luck in finding the Hallows,” said Tegan as composedly as she could.

We continued up the slope towards the castle in silence. I can’t speak for Tegan, but I was too scared to say anything else to this nut job.

The three of us stepped into the entrance hall and headed towards the loud revelry of the Great Hall. Once inside, Snorky parted ways with us to sit with his weird Ravenclaw friends, while Tegan and I walked towards the Gryffies.

J.D. wolf-whistled as we took our seats, side by side. “Oi J.S., you get any action today?”

Tegan glared at him and I giggled.

“My apologies, Teg,” said J.D. “Oi Tegan, did you get any action today?”

She couldn’t help but smirk and I put my arm around her. “J.D., to answer your original question: a gentleman never tells,” I said.

“You weren’t such a gentleman in the Shrieking Shack,” Tegan whispered to me, her breath tickling my ear.

“Oooooh,” said Freddie and Micah simultaneously, having overheard her. It’s moments like these that remind me why they’re best mates.

Surrounded by good friends, my belovèd, and copious amounts of food and drink, I deemed this to be one excellent Halloween.

A/N: If you are in the Christmas spirit, I wrote a one-shot about ten-year-old James, entitled A Particularly Boisterous Weasley Christmas, and it’s on my author’s page. It’s a quick read, and if you’re so inclined, it might help the wait between this chapter and the next =).

And the awkward Granddad Weasley “Hi!” and Tegan’s oh so slightly mocking response: based on the time I met JKR. I was the spastic one, of course ;).

Chapter 10: Flight of the Dawlish
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I cleared my throat, stood up straight, and contorted my beautiful face into the most solemn visage I could manage. “Attention Gryffindors, one and all!” I proclaimed to the common room one stormy Tuesday night. “This is your Cap’n of Quidditch speaking!”

Most of my loyal subjects turned ‘round to look at me, abandoning their studies or conversations. Some were even so happy for me to address them that they grinned. Grinned so wide they were frowning.

“I have a very important matter that I must bring to your attention!” I bellowed as deeply as my tenor voice could go.

“James, stop bothering everyone,” whispered Tegan shrilly. “The fifth years have an O.W.L. practice exam in Transfiguration tomorrow!”

“Kindly do not diminish my authority in front of the entire house, my fair lady,” I whispered right back.

“You’re an idiot, mate,” grumbled J.D.

“Thisisaveryimpor—! This is a very important question!” I hissed to the peanut gallery of sixth year Gryffies sitting at the table behind me, and cleared my throat once more.

“Students of Godric!” I continued. “Is there one amongst you who knows the plural form of ‘Patronus’?”

Groans of love erupted from my adoring populace, and they all proceeded to ignore me.

“Does anyone know Latin?” I projected my whimpering voice across the common room. But my people did not stir.

I spun ‘round, ever so slightly dejected, and reluctantly took my seat amongst my comrades.

“No one cares, James,” said Freddie, with pity. “It’s a minute grammar nuance.”

“Professor Dawlish always says ‘Patronuses’ during lecture,” said Micah matter-of-factly.

“Professor Dawlish is also a dumbass,” growled J.D., either in defence of me or because Dawlish held a personal vendetta against him. I hate so much about the things you choose to be, Dawlish had said to J.D. the first day of term, after my bestest mate asked to go to the hospital wing under pretences of internal blood haemorrhaging. (Apparently it really does run in the Nott family, but I don’t think that pretendonitis does. It’s the excuse J.D. used this morning to try to get out of Defence.)

“But the plural of ‘Animagus’ is ‘Animagi’, not ‘Animaguses’,” I said softly, bouncing back to reality. “Shouldn’t ‘Patronus’ follow the same rules?”

Tegan rubbed my arm and I got tiny little goosepimples. “Maybe it doesn’t matter what’s right,” she said. “For better or for worse, Dawlish is the one grading your Defence essays and this week’s practical exam, and it would be wisest to use his grammar.”

I opened my mouth to address my Gryffies, but was interrupted by a voice similar to mine in octave and diction, calling from across the room: “Sure, James, I know Latin.”

I spun ‘round, awkwardly twisting my neck, and spotted my brother Albus shrugging at me in the fifth years’ corner.

“Come, Gryffies!” I proclaimed, grabbing my Defence Against the Dark Arts textbook (coincidentally written by my dad and Uncle Ron, with a forward by Aunt Hermione) and galloping across the common room. With only a few grumbles, Tegan, J.D., Freddie, and Micah followed me. But I stopped short once I saw who was sitting beside Al.

I leaned down and whispered in my brother’s ear, “Albus, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Scorpius Malfoy is sitting right beside you.”

Malfoy gave me a great, horrible wave. “Hullo Potter. How’s the training for your match against Ravenclaw coming?”

“Absolutely fantastic!” I exclaimed.

“We have a practice O.W.L. for Transfiguration tomorrow,” said Albus coolly.

I pointed at Malfoy. “Slytherin! Here! Why?”

Tegan kicked my shin, and Malfoy opened his ruddy mouth to say, “Al are I are the top Transfiguration students in our year.”

“Plus we’ve become good mates from prefect meetings,” drawled Albus, sounding weary of the prejudice I held. Shocking!

I turned to J.D., still pointing at Malfoy’s smarmy little face. “Bad influence!”

“You didn’t know they were mates, mate?” asked J.D.

“No!” I screeched.

“You wanted to know the plural of ‘Patronus’, James?” asked Albus briskly.

“Oh yeah,” I said, doing my best to regain composure with a Malfoy in my midst. “You know Latin, Al?”

He pushed his specs up his pointy nose. “I know a lot of things, James.”

“What is it, then, Al?” asked Freddie of his cousin.

“Well, Professor Dawlish always says ‘Patronuses’,” began Albus.

“Which is what I said!” exclaimed Micah.

“That’s what he said!” burst J.D.

Micah blinked. “Er, that doesn’t make any sense.”

“Bite me,” snarled J.D.

“But,” continued Albus, “‘patronus’ is the medieval Latin term for a patron saint, and following the rules of grammatica, the plural ought to be ‘patroni’. That is, if you are talking about the Patronuses of two or more wizards, or two or more wizards and witches.”

“The form of ‘Patronus’ is dependent upon the caster’s sex?” asked Tegan.

“Oh yes,” said Al quickly. “Since a witch or wizard’s Patronus is of the same sex as they are, a witch’s Patronus should be referred to as a ‘Patrona’. For two or more witches, one should say ‘Patronae’.”

A wave of “ohhhhh”s erupted amongst we Gryffies.

“It’s like ‘alumnus’ and ‘alumni’!” said Tegan excitedly. “It irritates me to no end when people refer to themselves in the singular as ‘alumni’!”

“Yeah?” asked Albus, smiling crookedly at her. “It’s even worse when they completely ignore the ‘alumna’ and ‘alumnae’ forms—”

“I know!” said Tegan brightly.

Not liking the look my brother was giving my girlfriend of four days (if you’re counting from our first date), I put my arm ‘round Tegan’s shoulders and glared at Al. “Thank you, Albus Severus Potter,” I said crisply, my nose ever so slightly elevated.

Malfoy snorted. “Al, you are the only wizard in all of Britain whose name is worse than mine!”

“Shut your grotesquely large mouth, Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy,” snapped Albus.

“Well, at least my parents didn’t take a shit on me,” growled Malfoy. “Everyone else in your family’s got normal names except you.”

We Gryffies tiptoed away, not wanting to become involved in this squabble. (It’s not my fault that I was born before Albus and got the better name!) Upon reaching our table across the room, we all took out seats around it and returned to the issue at hand.

“You hear that, Horo?” I exclaimed giddily. “I was right regarding the grammatical structure of the word ‘Patronus’!”

“Your face,” grumbled Micah, burying his head in his textbook.

“Pardon?” I asked.

“Michers, that doesn’t make any sense,” said Freddie.

“‘Your face’ always makes sense,” insisted Micah. “It’s the all-purpose retort.”

“Er, no,” said Tegan delicately.

“Your face!” piped Micah. But then his smile faded, and he sighed and said, “I’m not allowed to make ‘that’s what she said’ jokes anymore, and I’ve got nothing. The Micah Horowitz Joke Arsenal is empty.”

We all nodded, not quite sure if this was as tragic as Micah’s tone insinuated.

“So,” said J.D., swiftly changing the subject, “Corporeal Patroni. Shall we practice for our practical exam with Dawlish the Ex-Auror, World-Class Educator, and Probable Cuckold?”

I gulped as we Gryffies pushed the round table out of the way to make room for our ethereal beastie protectors to move about. But my gulping was for a very good reason.

D’you want to know what that reason is?

Can you keep a secret?

Are you sure?

Okay, I trust you. But this is covert, comprende?

I’ve never conjured a Corporeal Patronus.

I know, right? I’m six-fricking-teen years old and all I’ve managed is the wispy silvery stuff! And what makes it worse is that everyone in the universe knows that my dad conjured a Corporeal Patronus at age thirteen. Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!

But my Gryffies don’t know about my Patronal deficiencies. I accidentally ingested several Nosebleed Nougats the day we first practiced Patroni third year (spending the day in the hospital wing and losing five quarts of blood), and I’ve been pretty behind in that particular branch of defensive magic ever since. But I am a prideful young man who isn’t terribly good at knowing when to ask for help, and prideful young men frequently dig themselves into very deep holes that appear to have no exit. And as long as Patroni are miraculously absent from my N.E.W.T. exam as they were from my O.W.L., I’ll get an Exceeds Expectations or an Acceptable. Please don’t laugh at the fact that Harry Potter’s firstborn son isn’t fantastic at Defence Against the Dark Arts. I’m rather talented at Charms, I’ll have you know.

Just not the Patronus Charm.

“Right,” I said as we assembled beside each other, wands at the ready. “Tegan, would you like to go first?”

My sweet damsel beamed at my chivalry and stepped forward. She closed her eyes, scrunched her face in thought (adorable!), and raised her wand.

Expecto Patronum!” exclaimed Tegan, a beam of silver light jetting from her wand. The light seemed to squish together as it spurted around our corner of the common room, moulding into something imperceptible. The Patrona flew faster and faster around in circles until it became a compact, indiscernible, and remarkably speedy lump of silvery smoke.

Tegan grinned and flicked her wand, and the Patrona slowed down and began to fly in loop-dee-loops, chirping excitedly. It was Tegan’s familiar sparrow Patrona, the same little bird she’d been able to conjure since third year.

“Well done Tegan!” bellowed Freddie as we applauded and gave a few wolf-whistles for our girl. Tegan blushed and made the sparrow disappear with a swish of her wand.

I gave her a great big hug when she returned to her spot beside me. “You’re amazing, Tegarino,” I whispered to her.

She glowed an even darker shade of scarlet. “It’s not that big of a deal,” she said ever so humbly.

It is to someone who’s as doomed against dementors as I am! I thought.

“Hey James,” continued Tegan, still speaking softly, “I just realized that I don’t know what your Patronus form is.”


I chuckled nervously. “You’ll see soon enough! J.D., why don’t you go?”

He stepped forward and held out his wand, turning back to say, “Be prepared to blown away by my incredible Patronus, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Expecto Patronum!” shouted J.D., a burst of light emitting from his wand. The Patronus quickly took its corporeal shape as a fox, trotting through the air with his short legs and waving his bushy tail about.

As we all clapped and cheered for J.D., my stomach lurched. Oh cruel world, why is my bestest mate so excellent at the subject I am genetically disposed to be excellent at? Dawlish might loathe J.D. with a passion, but he’s still an excellent defensive wizard. But I’m the one with grandparents who were in the Order of the Phoenix! (Both Orders of the Phoenix, I might add.) And lest we forget my dad, a.k.a. The Boy Who Lived, The Chosen One, and The Defender of the Magical World. J.D.’s granddad was a Death Eater, for Merlin’s sake! All young witches and wizards learn that we mustn’t judge a schoolmate based on his relatives’ allegiances, but still! Why do I have to be the one who’s painfully ordinary at Defence?

“I’m next!” announced Micah, stepping forward and holding his wand at the ready. He snapped his eyes shut and twisted his face into a defiant frown (his gorgeous hair gleaming in the firelight) for nearly two minutes before he shouted the incantation.

Upon his call, a wisp of silver erupted from Micah’s wand and transformed into a shiny-coated beagle. The barking dog was somewhere between small- and medium-sized and took great delight in chasing his tail in mid-air.

Micah disappeared his Patronus and we all gave our supportive applause and shouts of praise. Of course, my stomach was in the middle of a very difficult somersault routine. ‘Round and ‘round it went in flawless form, churning with no end in sight.

“Oi Weasley, why don’t you step up and show us what you’ve got?” laughed Micah to his best mate, prodding him in the ribs.

“I think I will, Horo,” smirked Fred haughtily, taking his wand and carefully concentrating. “Expecto Patronum!

That same sort of silver light shot from Freddie’s wand, except his bit of wispy smoke was much larger than Tegan’s, J.D.’s, or Micah’s. The primitive Patronus pressed forward somewhat slowly but with an obvious power at its epicentre, until it meshed together to form a towering, growling brown bear. The ethereal beast gallumped around the Gryffie corner, rather large for this small space.

After Freddie vanished his kick ass Patronus, I couldn’t congratulate him along with the others. My stomach had moved on from the somersaults to performing several floor exercises simultaneously. My gastric fluids skipped around and spun a ribbon to that old Celestina Warbeck song before moving on to a succession of cartwheels.

Why yes, I took gymnastics from ages five through nine. I think it’s originally a Muggle sport or summat, but it became very fashionable for young witches (and this boy wizard) during my childhood. I excelled at the vault, parallel bars, and exploding beam, and those years of training would contribute immensely to my dexterity, flexibility, and overall Quidditch ability.

“James?” Tegan poked me as I awoke from my reminiscing. “It’s your turn.”

“Right!” I exclaimed, my voice shaking. Don’t muck this up, Jamesie. For once, do not embarrass yourself in front of your girlfriend and best mates. Please.

I stepped forward, took a deep breath, and closed my eyes just as everyone else had done. All right, you’re supposed to think of happy things, yeah? Think lovely thoughts…think lovely thoughts…hmm, pie is lovely. Ooh, a nice slice of cherry pie, with a cool glass of milk…

Expecto Patronum!” I shouted, holding my wand up. A little burst of the silvery stuff came out, but it fizzled and made a resonating pop as it disappeared.

Time seemed to stand still for a moment, but then J.D., Fred, and Micah exploded into laughter. Disappointed, dejected, and face glowing as brightly as one of Dr. Filibuster, Jr.’s fireworks, I lowered my wand and blinked. I really shouldn’t have been surprised that my first actual attempt at conjuring a Corporeal Patronus failed so miserably. But I am a dreamer, and we tend to dream of the best-case scenarios.

My mates, who are considerably less sensitive than I, continued with their loud, horrible guffaws, in no apparent respect of my feelings. I was scared to turn back ‘round, for fear that they’d chortle even louder at my facial expression.

“Shut up, you prats!” snapped Tegan with such intensity that I was a bit frightened. I suppose J.D., Freddie, and Micah were too, because they stopped laughing.

I heard soft footsteps from behind me, and Tegan delicately took my hand. I suppose most blokes would feel emasculated if their girlfriend had to defend them to their own mates, but I didn’t.

“Is something wrong?” whispered Tegan with great concern, almost making me feel worse about myself.

“Er,” I mumbled, “I don’t exactly know how to conjure a Patronus. I mean, I’ve sort of never done it before.”

Tegan pursed her lips to the side. “Did you ever go see Professor Dawlish after the Nosebleed Nougat incident third year?”

I shook my head meekly.

“All right,” said Tegan, thinking. “You’re quite good at Charms, so with proper instruction you should pick it up quickly—”

“But the Patronus Charm isn’t like other charms!” I whined. “It’s complex and more of a defensive spell and I’m rubbish at it.”

“Lose the attitude, James,” said Tegan sternly. “I’m helping you whether you like it or not.”

I couldn’t help but grin at my wonderful and intimidating lady friend as she frowned and her olive eyes glowered. Tegan truly completes me, she does.

“Right,” she said. “You know the incantation, obviously, but you’ve got to look inside yourself and find the happiest memory you’ve got.”

“But I did that last time,” I told her, “and it still didn’t work.”

Tegan rolled her eyes pre-emptively. “What memory did you pick?”

“Er, it wasn’t a specific memory, I suppose. I thought of pie,” I said sheepishly.

She sighed. “I sorely hope that you’re not so emotionally deficient that your fondest memory is of pie.

“No!” I said defensively. “You know I’m overly sensitive for my gender.”

“James,” said Tegan, taking a deep breath, “this has to be the most joy you’ve felt in your entire life. It’s got to be an extraordinarily powerful memory. Can you manage that?”

I nodded and shut my eyes to think. Best memory ever…best memory ever…

Making the house team second year? No, that won’t do…

That Christmas I got my Imagination Journal? Well yes, that had me skipping about for a few hours, but receiving a book can’t be my best memory…

What about Tegan? When you first asked her out and she blinked at you and you wanted to cry but she finally said yes? That was a rather happy feeling, eh Jamesie?

I gripped my wand tightly, thought about straddling Tegan that day (minds out of the gutter, please!), and popped my eyes open.

Expecto Patronum!” I said a good deal more forcefully than last time, and a burst of silver light exploded from the tip of my wand. The light shot towards the ceiling, gaining speed and momentum, and I waited on baited breath. Higher and higher the nondescript Patronus soared, beginning to morph into a broad yet thin form…

“Eagle!” I exclaimed, watching my glorious, bird-of-prey Patronus hover in circles, grazing the ceiling of the common room. He gracefully glided and swooped, his beak pointed proudly and his large talons ready to attack any dementors in the vicinity. But as the nearest dementor was probably in Albania (I think they used to guard Azkaban Prison, which is much closer to Hogwarts than Albania, but Arlie’s dad banished them ages ago), I disappeared my Patronus.

“Whoa,” I heard J.D. mumble.

“Big,” said Micah.

“Bird,” said Freddie.

“Well done James!” said Tegan brightly, throwing her gangly arms around me and kissing me on the cheek. I smiled so widely my face ought to have broken.

My mates gathered ‘round as well, shuffling their feet and looking foolish. Oh, what’s that, best mates? You all have cavities from the just desserts I imposed on you?

“We’re sorry about heartlessly mocking you,” said Fred earnestly. “It truly was out of line.”

“‘Snot the right way to treat your friend and cap’n,” reckoned Micah, “and most unbecoming of strapping young men like ourselves.”

“An eagle?” clarified J.D., bewildered. “I’m really sorry, mate, but I must admit that I was expecting a mouse or flobberworm or summat.”

I regarded them with humility and grace, just like my noble protector would, if his Patroni friends had been mean to him but later felt remorse. “Perhaps there is more to me than meets the eye, Johnny Boy,” I said, feeling very insightful. “Perhaps there is more to me than meets the eye.”

“No no NO, Mattie!” I shouted, zooming towards the scoring area whilst riding on my broomstick. “You were flacking right there!”

Mattie Thomas sat back on his broom and frowned. “My arm did not go through the hoop, James!”

“You blocked Arlie’s shot after the Quaffle went in, and that’s illegal,” I maintained. “It’s almost the second match of the season, Mattie, and I can’t have you committing fouls!”

It was quite chilly at Quidditch practice that Thursday, almost chilly enough to snow. But there was no precipitation in the atmosphere, so my Gryffies and I had bundled up, sweaters under our kits and woolly hats upon our heads, and faced the dawn of what would surely be a frigid winter.

“Lay off him, James,” said Arlie, flying up behind me. “His hand was a tenth of a second too slow, and Bagman never calls flacking anyways.”

I swung my broom around to face her, exhaling and seeing my own breath. “I want a clean, fair fight against the Ravenclaws, Arlie, and if our ignorant referee doesn’t call a foul, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t committed.”

She rolled her eyes but said nothing more, and I deemed this a victory for Team James.

“Right, then,” I rose my voice slightly. “Micah and Arlie, practice reverse passing and the Hawkshead Attacking Formation without me, and Mattie, tune up your Sloth Grip Roll and Starfish and Stick, yeah? The Ravenclaws had a fantastic hold on these moves during their match against Hufflepuff, and we have to be on an even footing. Laters!”

I pointed my broom handle and raced down the pitch, the north wind stinging my face and drying my eyes. I almost didn’t see the Bludger heading straight for my left shoulder, but I let go of the broom with one hand and hung upside down in a Sloth Grip Roll just in time.

“Sorry mate!” I heard J.D. call in the distance as I flew towards him. “I’m not doing so well with the Bludger Backbeat, as you can see!”

When I reached him and Freddie, I took J.D.’s bat and made a backward swinging motion, bringing my right arm almost into contact with my torso. “It’s got to be quick upon contact, but smooth with the follow-through,” I said matter-of-factly to him. “With a traditional hit, you have to accelerate the speed of the bat, see, but with a Backbeat, it’s all about deceleration. That’s where the precision with the aiming comes from, you see?”

I Accioed the Bludger and set it beside J.D. (in midair, of course). The black ball started to sneak away, but J.D. gave it a clean, decelerated backwards smack. The Bludger shot straight down the pitch, heading for Mattie at the opposite scoring end, but missed him during his Double Eight Loop and sailed through the left hoop.

“Nicely done, Nott!” exclaimed Freddie, giving J.D. a slap on the back.

I nodded quickly, but got back to business. “Your Backbeat is good enough, Fred, but practice it until J.D. has the move down pat, and then I want you two to work on the Dopplebeater Defence. The Ravenclaw Chasers are thin and fragile, and I want you to absolutely destroy them. I’m talking bloodshed and dangling entrails.”

Freddie laughed and J.D. smirked. “We will leave no entrails unturned,” said Fred cheerfully.

I bid them quick adieux and flew a hundred feet above the pitch, to the only member of the Gryffindor side that I hadn’t coached today. Tegan shivered as her small, gloved hands gripped her broomstick.

“You all right?” I called as I flew level with her.

“Fantastic,” she said faintly. “Taking a bit of a breather, here.”

I looked below at my Beaters, Chasers, and Keeper practicing frantically, eager to avoid another embarrassing defeat. I turned back to Tegan, resisting the urge to give her a hug.

“You’ll be warmer if you keep moving,” I said, doing a loop-dee-loop to lighten the mood.

Tegan grinned and loop-dee-looped as well. “Sorry James,” she said.

I tilted my head slightly and sighed. “Er, I probably sound like a right prick, but d’you mind calling me ‘Cap’n’ on the pitch? And ‘James’ only when we’re off it?”

“All right, Cap’n,” said Tegan suspiciously. “Nebulous, are we today?”

I gulped. “If by ‘nebulous’, you mean absolutely spiffing!” I gave a smile so weak it was incontrovertibly pathetic. “Please, Teg. It’s weird enough for me to bark orders at you now that we’re…us…and when you call me James I get all confuddled and distracted and—do you understand where I’m coming from?”

She gave me one of her dozens of patented Teganesque looks, the You’re-Barkers-But-I’m-Not-Mad-At-You one. “You don’t have to look so scared,” said Tegan kindly. “I’m not mad at you. You’re barkers, but I’m not mad at you.”

Am I psychic? Memo to self: Stop falling asleep in Divination and figure out if you’ve been wasting the gift of the Seeing Eye for all these years.

“I mean, some people even go so far as to call me neurotic,” chortled Tegan, that silly notion causing her great delight. “I guess we all have our moments of madness, yeah?”

Oh, my dear, sweet, obliviously hypocritical Tegan. “Do you still rub your hands with Sycorax Scroop’s Sanitizing Serum every time you leave the loo or hospital wing, or whenever you borrow someone else’s quill, or whenever you see Snorky Scamander toting his beetle terrarium about—?”

“They’re in cahoots with Khepri!” exclaimed Tegan, twitching her head. “Snorky once told me that his bloody scarab beetles can communicate with Khepri, some ancient Egyptian deity. And beetles are filthy and germ-ridden and frolic in dung!”

“Dung?” I clarified in feigned idiocy.

“DUNG!” shrieked Tegan, waving her fist in the air. “Is fearing dung for its inherently unsanitary qualities so wrong?

I chuckled quietly, not approaching the realm of disrespectfulness, and regarded Tegan and her bulging olive eyes. She is indeed the nutter for me.

“But the quill, Tegers,” I said earnestly. “Your whole Foreign Quill Sanitizing Routine is a bit much, don’t you think?”

She bit her lip and kicked her foot around the air, gently rocking her broom side to side. “I thought we weren’t going to criticize one another’s eccentricities.”

I flew a bit closer to her, but still kept an appropriate amount of distance. “I don’t mean to criticize, but merely to point out your mysophobia in contrast to my sub-par compartmentalization skills.”

“Pardon?” asked Tegan.

I took a breath. “When I see you on your broomstick, I inadvertently blur the line between girlfriend and Seeker,” I explained delicately, just as Dobby Longbottom had explained my brain to me. “I want to treat you the way I would on land, and that is not conducive to a productive Quidditch practice.”

“Yeah?” Tegan smirked.

I resisted the urge to utter a cheeky retort. “So if you call me ‘Cap’n’ and not ‘James’,” I continued, “it’s easier for me to stay professional. We need to treat this situation as professionals.”

Professionals,” repeated Tegan, undoubtedly sarcastic.

“No lair from you, Llewellyn,” I couldn’t help but grin.

Oh, my sincerest apologies, Cap’n!” piped Tegan, playing along. “You’ll get no lip from me, from henceforth.”

After a moment of thought, I determined that I didn’t know how to turn that into a ‘that’s what she said’ joke. And anyways, that’s Micah’s turf. Even if he isn’t allowed to say it anymore, I feel wrong using his inappropriate jokes.

I let the smile dissolve from my face and felt a very different expression, including narrowed eyebrows and pursed lips, fall into place. “Your Jacques-Hammeurt Manoeuvre,” I said briskly. “It isn’t up to snuff.”

She looked at me curiously. “It isn’t?”

“To be frank, it’s all wrong,” I said sternly. “Enchant the Snitch to stay on this half of the pitch and do about fifty Jacques-Hammeurt Manoeuvres.”

“With pleasure, Cap’n,” said Tegan dryly, and promptly flew to the edge of the pitch, cast a spell on the Snitch, and let it loose. The golden ball sped away, twitting as it went, and Tegan sat back on her broom, gazing in my direction.

“When you’re ready,” I said coolly, though I was sweating out of terror. Cap’n Mode, James. You’re the cap’n. She’s the Seeker. Cap’ns tell Seekers what to do all the time. Why should it matter if they’re dating?

Tegan sped off across the pitch, leaning forward so that she was parallel to the broomstick, and kept it on an absolutely level course. Her sharp eyes peered down in search of that elusive Snitchy-Poo, but she, and I, caught sight of it buzzing around the base of the middle hoop. The Snitch was inches off the ground, and assuming it stayed in this general vicinity for more than ten seconds, Tegan would have a very challenging Jacques-Hammeurt to manoeuvre.

She brought the nose of her broom in the air and rose several feet very quickly, to befuddle her nonexistent Seeking opponent, then dramatically directed her Firebolt Zeus Series downwards. Tegan entered a very fast barrel roll towards the pitch, heading directly towards the base of the hoop where the Snitch was frolicking. She was quite a distance away form me at this point, but a strong sense of determination was apparent in her flying stance. Tegan hurried towards the Snitch, who mocked her with his defiant, merry jig around the pole. Closer and closer she came, ready to complete the manoeuvre, and then…

It was over. Tegan caught the ruddy thing, flew up towards me, and gave a sly smile. “How was that, Cap’n?” she asked, most proper.

I took the Snitch from her, nervously fidgeted with it for a few seconds, and then let it free. “Better than I expected, I must admit,” I said. “The Jacques Feint was very good in precision and direction, but I’m still concerned about the Hammeurt Dive.”

“Look, I know I’ve become infamous around school for diving straight into the pitch,” protested Tegan, “but I’m not a moron. The Hammeurt Dive is a really advanced move and is key to the whole Jacques-Hammeurt Manoeuvre. I know this.”

“So you’ll practice it?” I suggested, guiding her along the way a cap’n ought.

“Forty-nine more times,” she grinned smugly, and my stomach did a back handspring. There is something inexplicably sexy about Tegan’s behaviour when I am in Cap’n Mode, and I’m not sure whether it’s terror or curiosity on my part. On land, she almost always calls the shots, but in the air…the air is my domain.

Tegan continued with her forty-nine Jacques-Hammeurt Manoeuvres, smirking all the way. I watched about half of them before I had to return to my other Gryffies, and with that odd, repressed power, Tegan did at least twenty-five exceptional Manoeuvres. Since we are going to get married and spend the rest of our lives together, it will be very interesting to see how this sexual tension will affect our Quidditch matches. Of which there will be many, since Tegan and I both plan to play professionally after we leave the ‘warts.

All the Gryffies do, actually. Well, Arlie wants to be a Curse-Breaker or Healer or summat, but definitely not anything in the Ministry. But the point is she probably won’t join a professional Quidditch club. Mattie is just a child and does not have to tell Professor Longbottom what he wants to do for months. I will guide him to the right occupation: professional Quidditch player wiv James, Tegan, J.D., Freddie, and Micah.

Gryffies Take Action!

“Eeeeee,” whispered J.D. at the highest note of his falsetto register, casually sitting back in his chair and balancing his quill between his fingers. Micah, sitting beside him, suppressed his mad giggles with his Tutshill Tornados handkerchief.

Professor Dawlish quickly turned his head around, neglecting the notes he’d been writing on Patronus Messaging. He carefully listened for that familiar, pesky squeak, but it had disappeared with the closing of J.D.’s mouth.

Dawlish focused on the chalkboard once more and drawled, “The Corporeal Patronus has many functions, several of which are outlined in your textbook. We have a written exam in two weeks time, students, and I strongly suggest reading the footnotes. They are very interesting and important to any defensive wizard, and may or may not comprise most or all of the exam.”

“Eeeeee!” hummed J.D., ever so slightly louder. Micah was so full of glee that he could have wet himself and no one would be surprised.

Freddie sat with Miranda Matilda Melinda Shitforbrains in the row in front of J.D. and Micah. The Fredster was more tactful in keeping his laughter silent than Michers, but MMMS could not comprehend the distinctly Gryffie brand of humour.

“Is J.D. having a fit?” she asked in hushed whispers to Fred, very concerned for J.Dizzle’s mental health.

“It’s a prank,” Freddie whispered back. “You’ll see, Rand.”

“Eeeeee!” continued J.D., with the sort of perfectly straight face that every mischief-maker aspires to develop.

I allowed myself a few chuckles and Tegan accidentally gave a loud snort, but we were in the very back row, right behind J.D. and Micah and mostly out of Dawlish’s earshot.

“This is indubitably one of J.D.’s most futile and absolutely brilliant pranks,” snickered Tegan.

“The beauty is in its simplicity,” I replied quietly, taking her hand and lightly rubbing it. “Let’s hope he pulls this off.”

We all heard Dawlish cough loudly to clear his throat. “Now, students,” he began again, returning his attention to his beloved chalkboard, “we will discuss a very complicated bit of magic commonly referred to as Patronus Messaging. Please turn to page 42 of your textbooks and read the selection on Patronus Messaging silently. Look up when you are done.”

“EEEEEE!” chirped J.D., no longer inhibited. Micah nearly fell out of his chair, Tegan coughed up something that looked like a lung, and Little Miss Shitforbrains continued to give Freddie her hopelessly puzzled look.

Dawlish, jaw clenched, whipped ‘round and regarded his N.E.W.T.-level class of twenty-seven Gryffindors, Slytherins, Hufflepuffs, and Ravenclaws. “Whoever is so rudely disrupting my class may stop now.” growled Dawlish, putting on his Intimidating Face. Unfortunately for him, his Face wasn’t all that Intimidating.

J.D. gave our teacher a blank, empty smile, and carefully opened his lips and EEEEEE!’ed once more.

“What is that noise?” demanded Dawlish, his face becoming a royal shade of purple.

“What noise, Professor?” asked Freddie, right on cue. Fred is our go-to guy for oblivious, innocent bullshit.

Dawlish took a huge, dramatic breath. “One of you is disrupting my class!” he said sternly, looking right towards J.D.

“But Professor, none of us heard anything,” I chimed in. “Right?

Most of the allies and strangers surrounding me murmured in agreement, but Dawlish’s glare never deterred from J.D.’s direction.

“EEEEEE!” whispered J.D. bravely, barely opening his thin lips.

Dawlish looked ready to explode at J.D., but it was Tegan’s turn to speak. “Professor Dawlish,” she said in her sweet by crisp tone, “no one else can hear this sound. Have you met with a Neuro-Otological Healer recently?”

“No, Miss Llewellyn, I have not,” snapped Dawlish. “I have excellent hearing, and since such merits are required of Aurors, of which I was a celebrated one, I have no need to see a Neuro-…Whatever Healer!”

“EEEEEE!” said J.D. once more, internally revelling in the ruckus he’d caused.

“That noise!” exclaimed Dawlish. “You, Nott—”

“Yes sir!” chipped J.D., smiling broadly. “John Dorian Nott, at your service! Oi, your first name’s John too, yeah? It’s wicked, isn’t it, Professor? Y’know, we should have a party sometime, just a casual get-together, nothing fancy, and we can invite John Plantagenet, the fourth year in Hufflepuff. Ooh, we could form a club, Professor! The Johnny Boys of Hogwarts or summat! Cool, yeah? Naturally you think it’s quite brill, since you are the essence of cool, Johnny D.”

“EEEEEE!” that same humming floated around the classroom, but it could not have come from J.D. I turned my head rightwards and saw MMMS’s lips slightly pursed.

I award one flaky gold star to Miranda Matilda Melinda Shitforbrains! Well done, Rand! (As Freddie calls you.)

I think smoke started to come out of Dawlish’s ears at that point. “What is that incessant ringing?!” he shouted, retreating to the dais at the front of the room and dramatically covering his ears.

“Professor, are you sure you aren’t suffering from an ear condition?” asked Micah, feigning helpfulness.

“There is nothing wrong with my hearing!” exclaimed Dawlish.

“Oh dear, Professor, it could be neurological,” suggested Tegan morbidly. “Something in your brain—”

“I know the definition of neurological!” shouted Dawlish, hands firm upon his ears. At this point, all of the non-Gryffie students hummed the same, high-pitched note. Even the Slytherins joined in, demonstrating the unity of our houses in the face of a dreadful Defence teacher.

“If it’s troubling you so badly, Johnny D., then you really should let a Healing professional examine the extensive neuro-otological damage!” cried J.D. in desperate concern for his sworn enemy. But not for realsies, of course. We’re all just playing pretend!

“Madam Larkin is on duty, Professor,” I informed him. “But if it’s serious you may need the care that only St Mungo’s can provide!”

“EEEEEE!” the Hufflepuffs, Slytherins, Ravenclaws, and Snorky Scamander proclaimed, perfectly in sync without moving their lips.

“STOP THAT HUMMING!” shouted Dawlish desperately.

“Are you going mad, Professor?” I piped up. “Professor, are you—”

“Out of my way!” screeched Dawlish as he bolted out of the classroom, his shiny bald head gleaming in the candlelight and his dark robes swishing as he went. He abruptly opened the wooden door, dashed through it, and slammed it shut, and we twenty-seven sixth year N.E.W.T. Defence Against the Dark Arts students found ourselves without a teacher.

Professor Vindictus Viridian, a thin, grey-haired wizard of about my grandparents’ age, stared at us sixth-year Gryffies as we sat ‘round his office, staring with his dead, lifeless green eyes. He’d called us in during our free period that afternoon, and looked even less ecstatic to see us than he usually did. He’s not a huge fan of the Gryffies and the shenanigans we sometimes get into.

“Do you know why I called you into my office, Misters Nott, Potter, Horowitz, Weasley, and Miss Llewellyn?” asked Viridian after seven agonizing minutes of silence, leaning back in his leather-upholstered chair. He rubbed his eyes and let his unremarkable monotone voice sit in the air.

“No, Professor!” J.D. half-whispered, half-gasped, his hands grabbing his terrorized face. “Professor Dawlish—it was a flesh-eating bacteria, wasn’t it? Sweet Albus, the flesh-eating bacteria ate the workings of his inner ears, didn’t they? Is Professor Dawlish going to be okay, Professor Viridian? No, don’t say it! I don’t think I can bear to hear bad news! The damned bacteria wasn’t just in his ears, was it? Oh no, such sick, perverted microorganisms such as these wouldn’t be content with simply obliterating our poor teacher’s eardrums, would they? They got into his phalanges, didn’t they? You don’t have to protect us, Professor Viridian! Those fricking bacteria ate his phalanges, DID THEY NOT?

Freddie coughed, but the rest of us Gryffies just sort of stared at J.D. He’s really very creative and always reliable when it comes to improvisation.

“Phalanges are bones, Mr. Nott,” sighed Viridian, cracking his knuckles. “Your flesh-eating bacteria ate the bone structure of Professor Dawlish’s digits?”

“Oh,” said J.D. “We told ‘im to go to St Mungo’s, didn’t we, mates? You see, Professor, we knew there was some sort of mutant flesh- and phalange-eating bacteria inhabiting Professor Dawlish, since he was exhibiting all the regular symptoms—”

“Hearing humming that isn’t there!” I added helpfully.

“Exactly!” said J.D. “No one else in the room could hear a thing, and we knew something was not right with our beloved Dawlish.”

Viridian made a soft tutting sound. “Do you children know how long I have been the respected headmaster of this esteemed establishment?”

“Er, only since our first year, right?” said Micah unsurely.

“That’s really not very long, sir,” I said.

“And ‘respected’ is a rather subjective term,” snickered J.D.

Viridian cleared his throat. “Do you know what I did before my tenure here, children?”

“Were you a professional mime, Professor?” asked Fred, sounding very serious.

“Paranormal liaison?” chimed in Tegan.

No,” said Viridian through gritted teeth. “I taught at Beauxbatons.”

“In France? Nice,” commented J.D.

“As a matter of fact, it was not very nice, Mr. Nott,” continued Viridian. “I supported myself by teaching insufferable French brats rudimentary magic while I pursued my lifelong dream of founding the wizarding world’s most profitable publishing company.”

“Because what little kid doesn’t dream of becoming a profitable publisher?” I said under my breath.

“But after thirty long years, I gave up on my dream, after my lack of serious start-up capital became horribly apparent to my prospective investors and clients,” said Viridian, dejected and apparently ignorant of what I’d said. “I continued to teach at Beauxbatons until I was offered the post of Defence instructor at my alma mater, and enticed by the offer of automatic appointment as Head of Ravenclaw House, I returned to Britain a broken man.”

I glanced at my mates, all of us in uncertainty, until Tegan said kindly, “I’m sorry, Professor.”

Professor Viridian chuckled darkly. “Never fear, Miss Llewellyn, because Viridian & Son, Publishers of Fine Books was not a total failure.”

“I didn’t know you had a son, Professor,” said Fred.

“It’s an expression,” muttered Viridian. “My printing press indeed churned out one mildly successful reference volume. Bookshops in Britain and France preordered 10,000 copies of the first edition, which I personally translated into French and Provençal. There was no need to print a second edition.” His eyes went wide with sorrow.

“Pardon me, sir,” said Micah, hastily checking his wristwatch, “but could you please dole out our punishment relatively soon, cos we’re due in History of Magic in ten minutes.”

“I’m the headmaster of this school, Mr. Horowitz. Do you honestly think me incapable of writing you and your accomplices late passes? Oh, stop squirming, Mr. Horowitz, and pay close attention. I am teaching you a very important lesson,” said Viridian sternly, adjusting his emerald tweed homburg so it better hid his shiny bald noggin.

“My only contribution to the literary word has been Curses and Counter-curses
(Bewitch Your Friends and Befuddle Your Enemies with the Latest Revenges: Hair Loss, Jelly-Legs, Tongue-Tying, and Much, Much More)
,” growled Professor Viridian. “The Daily Prophet called it a ‘respectable foray into the literature of the pre-adolescent wizard demographic’.”

“So,” began J.D., “you’re trying to teach us to avoid the publishing industry?”

“No, Mr. Nott,” said Viridian, sounding tired. “My point is that you should never follow your dreams, because you will not succeed.”

Tegan shot me a look that said, He really shouldn’t be a motivational speaker.

Isn’t there theoretically a slight overlap between that occupation and Vindictus’s current one? I looked back. I mean, Albus Dumbledore must’ve been more inspirational than this sod, yeah?

“The world does not want you to succeed,” continued Viridian, his voice quickening in pace somewhat. “The system is designed to bring you nothing but heartbreak and failure. Do not shoot for the moon, children, because if you do, you will fall off the roof of the building you were standing on and break every bone in your body when you hit the ground. And even magic cannot save you then.”

I always assumed that Skele-Gro would do the trick, but Professor Viridian appeared very certain of his convictions. And really, who am I to disagree with him?

“Professor Dawlish, sir,” piped Tegan, snapping Viridian out of whatever depressed trance he’d been in. “How is Professor Dawlish?”

Viridian gave another great heaving sigh and shuffled the pieces of parchment on his desk. “You won, children,” he said faintly. “After all these years of torturing the poor man, you have won.”

“Is there some sort of prize, then?” asked J.D. in his usual crass idiom.

But Viridian ignored him. “Professor Dawlish informed me, after exiting your class this morning, that he will utilize his one-time, indefinite, paid vacation time effective immediately. He will not teach until the mood next strikes him.”
“Hold on,” I said. “Dawlish just decided to go on holiday?”

“Albus Dumbledore implemented a number of socialist policies at this school,” said Viridian matter-of-factly. “No teacher ever takes the holiday because they don’t want to waste it. The Impulsive, Indefinite Professor Holiday may be brought into effect once, and only once, during their tenure.”

“He’s gone?” asked J.D. “As in vacated the premises for an indefinite period of time?”

“That’s generally what a vacation entails,” said Viridian, smarmy as the day is long. “Vacating some sort of premises.”

J.D. turned to me, a wide grin on his face. “Fo’ shizz!” he exclaimed brightly, reaching over and slapping my back.

“Shizztacular!” I whimpered, the area where he struck me throbbing.

“We did it!” laughed Micah in glee, embracing Freddie.

I turned to Tegan, who was smiling nervously. “C’mon Teg, show us a grin, there!” I said enthusiastically. “The Wicked Wizard of the ‘Warts has been run out of town!”

“I just feel bad, you know?” She shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe we were too mean.”

I leaned over to grab her and hold her and comfort her and tell her it’s all right, but Viridian stopped me.

“I’m still here, you know,” he drawled, unimpressed with how we operate. “And because you appear capable of feeling remorse, Miss Llewellyn, your punishment will be less severe than that of your friends’. Oh, I can ensure you that it will be monotonous and unpleasant, of course, but it will be somewhat more brief.”

Viridian went into another one of his placid daydream episodes, and Freddie snapped to wake him up.

“What’s our punishment, then?” asked Fred bitterly. “This punishment that blatantly violates habeas corpus and a number of legal precedents in the field of criminal justice. There is absolutely no evidence for this crime. And we don’t even know what the crime we allegedly committed actually is.”

“I frankly don’t care,” said Viridian. “Your discipline is in the domain of your new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher now, and I have confidence that he will treat you appropriately And Mr. Weasley, stop throwing Latin phrases around and drop the innocent act. You are your friends harassed Professor Dawlish for more than five years, and such behaviour is unacceptable in my school.”

The headmaster took his quill and began scribbling on several scraps of parchment, and we Gryffies looked ‘round at each other for the umpteenth time, in total confusion.

“You’ve got a new teacher lined up already?” asked J.D.

“Obviously,” drawled Viridian.

“Who is he?” I asked.

“Reporting to the Entrance Hall at nine o’clock this evening would be an important step in solving your little mystery, yes, Mr. Potter?” said Viridian snidely. “And that goes for all of you. Entrance Hall at nine. Serve your detentions or forfeit your right to play in the match this Saturday. You understand?”

The headmaster handed us the late passes he’d quickly filled out and ushered us out of his office. We Gryffies descended the moving staircase and exited by the griffin, making our way to History of Magic as slowly as possible.

“Frick detention!” exclaimed J.D. “Frick this new Defence teacher! Frick my life!”

“‘Snot so bad,” said Micah. “We’re permitted to play in the Ravenclaw match.”

“Viridian’s compromises are never good,” muttered Fred. The three of them sped ahead as we meandered through the corridors, while Tegan and I walked at a flobberworm’s pace.

“You don’t feel bad for what we did to Dawlish?” she asked quietly as our teammates skipped down the hall, arms linked, and singing ‘Takin’ It To The Pitch’, which happens to be the theme from the musical We Are The Cannons!. Saw it over summer holiday with my mates and it totally changed my life, not just as a Cannons supporter, but as a red-blooded Englishman and supporter of performing arts.

“I’m not happy about it,” I said carefully, wondering if it would be out of line to take her by the hand.

“He’s a right git, of course,” Tegan thought out loud, “and the definition of smarmy, but we might have been a bit extreme, yeah?”

I nodded. “But what’s done is done, Tegs. Our actions were in no doubt childish, but all we can do is face the consequences for them now. And perhaps consider acting our age in the future.”

Tegan took my arm as we inched along the corridor, and I knew I wasn’t in trouble. “Wiser words were never spoken, James,” she said breathlessly as she lay her head on my shoulder. “Though there’s a slim chance that any of us’ll ever act our respective age.”

I snaked my arm around her waist and revealed in her Tegalicious scent. “You know, you look very cute when you’re concerned for the welfare of someone you don’t even like.”

She gave a small smile and tripped over my feet a little bit, but we quickly regained our balanced and moseyed along while holding each other tightly. Sure, Jegan is a bit clumsy, but we do all right.

I gulped and tried to compliment her again. “Your hair is very shiny today. And pretty. And a little red in hue, in this lighting.”

She halted and turned to face me, and I to her, still kind of awkwardly holding each other. “Your hair is exceptionally untidy today,” said Tegan with a smirk, brushing a strand of my hair out of my face. “And it flips out at the bottom, see, and it looks like you’ve got wings.”

Tegan gently ran her hand through my messy, messy locks, and I pulled her a bit closer to me. In the back of my mind I knew we were standing very much in the middle of the corridor leading to the History of Magic wing during the early afternoon. But I didn’t particularly care, because the vast majority of the student body avoids the History corridor like the bubonic, and those students unfortunate enough to be in this area of the castle at this time (e.g. sixth year N.E.W.T. students) were fast asleep in Professor Binns’ classroom. Who could possibly disturb us? And the sunlight beamed brightly through the stained glass windows and created such a cheerful ambiance. Plus it turned Tegan’s hair red. This isn’t as weird as it sounds, cos it’s normally brown by candlelight, but turns blonde under the winter clouds. But I like Tegan’s hair when it’s red.

“The secret to my fabulous hair care regimen,” I said cheekily, “is to go to bed with wet hair, awake in the morning with a coiffure so mad it borders the fourth dimension, and tussle it up some more.”

Tegan grinned and now ran both her hands through my hair. “I’ve got to try that some time.”

I cocked my head. “Hmm, I’m not sure you could pull it off.”

She dropped her hands and they landed on my shoulders, her face in mock surprise. “I’m not sure who should be more insulted—me or my hair!”

I sniggered and pulled her hips to mine. “Hair as luscious as mine is a gift, Tegs. You’ve got to be born with it.”

Tegan wrapped her arms around my neck and looked curiously like some sort of predatory cat. “Let’s snog.”

“Right, then,” I replied, perhaps too excitedly.

She brought her lips to mine, and they met. We softly and slowly kissed each other, absolutely aware of our location but in stubborn defiance of it. I mean really, who gives a bibble about the History corridor?

Tegan pulled me closer against her and I rubbed my hands up and down her back, kissing increasingly more hungrily. She smelled like oranges again and tasted like fish, which actually isn’t as bad of a combination as it sounds. J.D. says that all girls either taste like cheese or fish, and fish goes better with oranges than cheese does. And I like fish, especially dolphin-safe tuna and that salmon with all the antioxidants.

My Fish and Orange Lady seemed to be working out some sort of frustration as we snogged, but I didn’t mind. We all must collect our thoughts in different ways. I write in my Imagination Journal, and Tegan snogs me.

History of Magic must have been nearly over before Tegan and I broke ended our snogging, but this end did not come about without external intervention.

Tegan had stepped on my foot and slipped her tongue in my mouth when I heard a voice call from down the corridor.

“Ten points from Gryffindor,” the somewhat familiar young man’s voice announced, “for a very public display of affection.”

Me and Tegan stopped sucking each other’s face and turned to face this prickish fellow. But then my frown exploded into a beam of pure joy at the sight of the prickish fellow.

“Teddy Lupin!” I exclaimed, letting go of Tegan and running towards my godbrother. He was a seventh year when I was an ickle firstie, Head Boy and the essence of cool. He still has blue hair and dates my rather unpleasant cousin Victoire.

But Teddy Lupin put out his hand and stopped me in my tracks. “I’m not quite done yet,” said Teddy, a slight smile on his face and twinkle in his eye. “I award one point to Gryffindor for each of you, because it’s a relief that you’re both finally getting some.”

Tegan joined me and Teddy and smiled slyly. “Teddy,” she blushed slightly, possibly because Teddy Lupin was 23 and the sort of handsome that made people like me look like street urchins, “what are you doing back at school, and what’s this about docking points?”

Teddy stepped back and stood up very straight and tall. “Well, Tegan, as my heart truly lies in Hufflepuff, I can dock all the Gryffindor points I want. Oh, and I’m also your new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.”

A/N: I’ve seen the ITV documentary on JKR (AWESOME, by the way) and know that the only canon next gen fact I got right was James II’s middle name. But since we’re already ten chapters in, and I have enough plot for 30+ chapters, and aforementioned plot includes Luna’s offspring being in the Gryffies’ year and Percy having a son and, well, I just prefer the name Madeleine to Dominique. But really, isn’t this all canon minutia in the grand scheme of things? (Nervous chuckle.) So I’m going to continue along with my own imaginings of the next gen, because I’d rather press forward than do a heckuva lot of rewriting.

Please review! My internet’s been spotty but I reply to every single last one when my WiFi decides to work. Reviews bring me such joy =). And sorry the update has taken so long. But the chapter’s longish, yeah? I'm a bit worried that it got monotonous in places, and is the ending cohesive?

EDIT 1/27/08: I was so spazzy before and totally forgot to credit JL Hufflepuff for the idea of making Teddy Lupin a teacher! I think our respective interpretations of Teddy will be sufficiently different so that there isn't too much overlap between my story and her own. But as for my Teddy Lupin, you'll have to wait and see what he's like XD.

Chapter 11: V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T.
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“‘Lo Gryffies,” Teddy Lupin nodded his head and gave a quick wave. He understandably looked a bit out of place standing at the front of the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom and addressing us as we sat in our seats later that night. Teddy shifted uncomfortably in his scuffed-up dirty bucks, the same sort of classy vintage as his brown robes, but his customary blue hair looked a bit out of place in front of Dawlish’s beloved chalkboard.

“‘Lo Teddy Lupin,” we sixth-year Gryffies mumbled together.

“Now, I’m sorry that my first act as your teacher has to be supervising detention—” said Teddy, not looking very sorry at all.

But I raised my hand. “Teddy Lupin, why does Viridian let you keep your blue hair?”

“Yeah, he doesn’t seem like the sort to support unnatural hairstyles,” piped J.D.

Teddy Lupin crossed his arms. “Look, Viridian was appointed headmaster while I was Head Boy. I know how he operates and how to get leverage.”

“Do tell,” requested Freddie, putting his elbows on his desk and placing his chin in his palms.

Chuckling lightly, Teddy admitted, “It was one of the criteria for me to accept this job on such short notice. No interference with my Metamorphosing and an unlimited supply of orange breath mints.”

We all laughed in admiration. Teddy Lupin is cool.

“Weren’t you in Auror training, Teddy Lupin?” asked Tegan.

“Yes, actually,” he admitted, “but there was an—er—incident.”

“Tell us the tale!” exclaimed Micah.

Teddy gave a sly smile. “I may or may not have lit the department on fire. By accident, of course.”

I roared with laughter. “Oh Teddy Lupin, you’re such a card!”

“How’d you light the Auror department on fire?” asked Tegan, concerned.

“Let me put it this way: avoid mixing basilisk poison with veritaserum,” said Teddy. “Explosive results.”

And so we Gryffies all roared with laughter. Teddy Lupin is a card, whatever that means.

“All right, then, let’s get down to busin—”

“So how’s ol’ Victoire, Teddy Lupin?” inquired J.D., wiggling his eyebrows.

“Come on, I don’t think that’s appropriate conver—”

“Still whipped, are you?” asked Fred. “Take back the pants, mate! Take back the pants!”

Teddy Lupin clenched his jaw. “I’d really prefer it if you address me as Professor Lupin. And for your information, Freddie, Victoire and I share the pants.”

Micah groaned. “Look, Teddy Lupin, I’m dating a Delacour-Weasley woman as well, and take a tip from an expert: once you’ve given them the pants, you will not get them back. That’s why I don’t wear horizontal stripes anymore. Mads won’t let me.”

“You’re dating Madeleine?” asked Teddy, taken aback.

“Yeah,” said Micah in his Haughty Voice. “She fancied me forever and must’ve asked me out dozens of times. I finally did her the honour of rocking her world.”

Teddy Lupin smirked. “Sure you did.”

“What’d Dad say when you burned down the Auror department?” I asked eagerly.

Teddy clicked his tongue. “Not much, actually. It was only yesterday, which is why your parents haven’t had a chance to tell you about it, Jamesie, but your dad called me into his temporary office—in the Department of International Magical Cooperation, just while they get the fumes out—and gave me the option of resigning or getting a demerit. And demerits are hella serious, I’ll have you know. I would’ve had a hearing with Arlie’s dad and everything.”

“So how’d you get this job?” asked Fred. “Seems like awful quick turnaround, and I can’t see Viridian approving of a blue-haired pyro.”

“For your information, a pyromaniac burns things down on purpose,” said Teddy quickly. “It takes a very special type of individual to burn things down by accident.”

We nodded, eagerly drinking his every word of wisdom.

“I sent out my résumé to hella places this morning,” explained Teddy Lupin, “and Viridian was the first one to owl me back. Obviously. I suspect I got the job because I applied before the post was vacated.”

“Aren’t you a bit young to be teaching, Teddy Lupin?” asked Tegan. “No offence.”

He shrugged. “I s’pose so. But Viridian was in a bind, and apparently my dad was the Defence teacher as well. I just think it’s cool because I got the same job Voldy never could, you know? He first applied when he was around my age, but Albus Dumbledore never gave it to ‘im.”

“True that,” mused Micah. We agreed. Everybody knows all sorts of juicy details about Voldemort, the ones that he kept D.L. his whole life. Like how he was a half-blood, and that he played the oboe in the Hogwarts Symphony Orchestra. Nerd!

“Right, so on with the deten—” said Teddy.

“Can you Metamorph for us, Teddy Lupin?” I asked. “Please?”

“Yeah!” chimed in J.D.

“Do it, Teddy!” piped Fred.

“No, I really shouldn’t—” said Teddy humbly.

“You know you want to!” shouted Micah.

“Aw, come on,” said Tegan playfully.

No,” said Teddy reluctantly. “I’m supposed to be punishing you lot, yeah?”

“Teddy Lupin, who tortured Dawlish into near insanity?” asked J.D.

“You lot?” he answered apprehensively.

“And whose vacancy resulting in your hiring?” J.D. grinned and nodded his head.

“Dawlish’s,” grumbled Teddy.

“Cogito ergo sum,” said J.D. in his Epiphany Voice, motioning with his fingers.

“I don’t think that means what you think it means,” I whispered to him.

“Bugger off!” hissed J.D.

“Are you insinuating that I should thank you instead of punishing you?” asked Teddy Lupin.

“Capital idea!” proclaimed Micah.

Teddy shrugged. “Can’t argue with that logic.”

“Glad you see it our way, Teddy Lupin!” I jumped up and rushed over to shake his hand. “I’m terribly sorry to be so rude, but I really must be off. Quidditch plays to plan, you know. Big match on Saturday.”

“I’m sorry too, Teddy Lupin, but I really must be on my way as well,” said J.D. promptly. “I have to write 36 inches on bezoars before eight tomorrow morning, and I probably should get cracking, yeah?”

“Teddy Lupin, I promised Hugo I’d help him with Transfiguration,” said Freddie. “You know how it is, helping out little cousins and such. Well, you sort of know. You’re our godcousin.”

“I need to organize my laundry by colour, Teddy Lupin,” said Tegan far too seriously. “The house elves do it all wrong.”

“I need to—go,” stammered Micah. “Somewhere that is not here. See you later, Teddy Lupin!”

We all rushed out very quickly, and above the scuffling of our feet, I thought I heard Teddy yelp, “It’s Professor Lupin!”

“All right, Gryffies,” I began, lowering my voice from its normal pitch and standing up very straight, “I don’t want to overwhelm you, but we have a few things to prove during this match. Slytherin obliterated us last month, and I don’t think anyone wants to go through that again.”

All seven of us were huddled together in the blokes’ locker room that fateful Saturday, fifteen minutes before the match was scheduled to begin. I clutched my broom, determined not to reveal my insecurity. A team is only as strong as its cap’n, and I could not let my Gryffies know how close I was to wetting myself.

“Strike fast and hard,” I said, quivering slightly.

They all looked to Micah, who looked much too nonchalant for an opportunity such as this. He shrugged and gave a smug smile.

“That’swhatshesaid!” spat J.D., who looked very surprised after the fact. “Frick, where did that come from?”

“Aw, what’s that J.D.? You desperately miss my witty and poignant humour?” chuckled Micah in his Condescending Voice.

“Sod off,” grumbled J.D.

“Right, then,” I said, shaking it off. “Ravenclaw easily beat Hufflepuff, as we all saw two weeks ago. We’re the underdogs, mates, which is fricking terrible from a motivational standpoint, but is really quite fantastic from a literary standpoint.”

“What does it matter if being the underdog is good from a literary standpoint?” asked Freddie. “You still writing about us in your dodgy little diary?”

“To address your inquiries, Alfred, every great Quidditch story begins with a team in similar straits as ours,” I said crisply. “Take the Chudley Cannons fifteen years ago. And it’s none of your business what I write about you in my Imagination Journal.”

“Cap’n, isn’t it easier to motivate an underdog?” asked Tegan. “I mean, we’ve got nothing to lose.” She gave a quick smile. “You could start with something like that.”

I coughed and stood up straighter. I have two and one-quarter inches’ advantage over Tegarino height-wise, and most lads will tell you that an advantageous height is the cornerstone of proving one’s Manliness.

“Good call,” I acknowledged her quickly. “So, we have nothing to lose. Yeah, mates?”

“I reckon,” said Mattie.

“I suppose our dignity is still there for the taking,” snickered J.D.

I narrowed my gaze at my bestest mate in the world, over whom I have one half inch of height advantage. Be a Manly Man, James.

“Perhaps you are correct, sir,” I said cautiously, peering into his locker and spying the crisp sheet of parchment he’d been toting around all week. “Perhaps our dignity is still up for grabs.”

And then fast, like a quick bunny, I snatched J.D.’s scrap of parchment and bolted.

“OI!” bellowed J.D., taking after me. “You off your ROCKER?”

I laughed as I jumped on the creaky old chair in the corner and unfolded the piece parchment. “Dear John,” I recited. “Ooh, this ought to be good.”

Micah and Freddie chased after J.D. and chortled their little brains out, but J.D. tackled me and trapped me in his signature Nott Lock, which his Death Eater granddad invented apparently.

“Give it!” yelped J.D. as he shoved me against the wall, but I slipped out of his grip and rolled away, realizing that there might be slight bruises developing on my elbows.

Dear John, I am not afraid to admit my love for you—frick, this is from Rosie—but I cannot deny that your lack of reciprocation—OW MY BLOODY SPLEEN! YOU’RE HURTING MY SPLEEN!”

J.D. had me caught between the floor and the lower lockers and his left elbow was sticking in the place I always imagined my spleen to be. My right arm held the letter high and just out of J.D.’s reach, but he kept growling and swiping for it.

“For Dumbledore’s sake, we have a very important Quidditch match in SEVEN MINUTES!” shouted Tegan amid the din. “You’re physically fighting over a piece of PARCHMENT, and you are going to HURT yourselves, and we’ve already earned the nickname of the INVALIDS this year!”

I stopped struggling for a moment, but J.D. persisted. “You’ve got a very literal interpretation of stealing one’s dignity!”

He went for a grab but I jerked my parchment-clutching hand to the side. “Don’t mock me in front of my team!” I snapped. “It’s not conducive to ANYTHING! Except to your legendary reputation of being SMARMY!”

“FINE!” exclaimed J.D. dramatically, letting me out of the Nott Lock, standing up, and backing away. “That letter’s given me enough trouble anyway! You know what? Hand it off to Snorky right before the match, and that’ll make this day absolutely perfect!

I got up myself and brushed the dust off my kit, staring defiantly at my ever-so-slightly-shorter best mate. “No more prickishness,” I said solemnly, holding out my hand. “This is a tight ship to run, and I am its cap’n.”

J.D. gave me a strange look right then, one we Gryffies rarely saw. It definitely was a twinkle, but it was far from his usual Mischievous Twinkle. This was a Twinkle of Innocence. “Aye aye, Cap’n,” he said earnestly.

I grinned and exclaimed cheerfully, “Hug it out!” I stepped forward and threw my arms ‘round J.D., and he meekly patted me on the back.

I heard a cough coming from the peanut gallery. “If you’re about done,” said Arlie, “we have to go kick my boyfriend’s ass now. And while we’re at it, we might as well make the rest of the Ravenclaw side cry.”

Playing Quidditch for a Hogwarts house team is probably the best preparation there is for joining a professional club upon graduation. Well, there’s a very good reason why Bagman has fallen so far in the Quidditch world, but the quality of play amongst the squads is very competitive. For almost all of us players, Quidditch is right up there with oxygen, and our reverence for our sport rarely ever falters. We approach each match as a blessing, an opportunity to prove our worth to our legions of adoring fans. But sometimes it’s hard to concentrate on the game play when Snorky Scamander commentates.

“And there’s Horowitz with the pass to Shacklebolt, for the Gryffindor side,” said Snorky in his distinctive ethereal voice about twenty minutes into the match. “You know, Micah Horowitz isn’t nearly as insufferable as everyone says he is. He does talk quite a lot, especially when no one is listening, but as his dormitory-mate for well over five years, I can say with some degree of certainty that he has the usual number of toes—”

“Mr. Scamander!” I heard Professor Longbottom protest from beside Snorky. “Commentating is a privilege, and I won’t hesitate to take it away again! On topic, please.”

“Very well, Professor,” grumbled Snorky. “Right, then. Well, Shacklebolt scored, bringing the count to 40-30 Gryffindor. And none of them are injured yet, so it’s turning out to be a good match for the Invalids. Er, I mean the Gryffies.”

Tegan was hovering about twenty feet above and to the right of me, and I looked over to her. She merely grinned down at me and motioned towards Snorky. They had to drag him away from the microphone at last year’s Quidditch final, and while very little of what he has to say is relevant, the matches he commentates are certainly a great deal more colourful. Or that’s what Tegan always says.

“Fünke brings the Quaffle up the pitch,” commentated Snorky. “Coby is poised to take Drystan Davies’ Ravenclaw cap’nship after Davies graduates this spring. Professor Longbottom, I have a question: is it a conflict of interest for me to commentate about my own cousin? Even if he is in Ravenclaw—”

“Mr. Scamander, during the last ten seconds Mr. Nott of Gryffindor sent a Bludger to Mr. Fünke’s head,” sighed Professor Longbottom. “Just commentate.

I chuckled and zipped forward on my broom. Arlie had snatched the Quaffle during Coby Fünke’s Bludger-induced fumble, and we made our way up the pitch, accompanied by Micah as well.

They looked to me and I twitched my head left, then right, signalling the Hawkshead Formation. We swooped into place, Arlie and the Quaffle in the centre and me and Micah flanking the sides.

“With Shacklebolt in possession, it appears as if the Inva—Gryffies are attempting the Hawkshead Formation. I really don’t know what that is, and considering all the poverty and genocide and general malice in the world, does the Hawkshead Formation even matter?

“But back to game play,” Snorky recovered quickly. “The Ravenclaw Beater Vandroogenbroeck has sent a Bludger straight towards Shacklebolt—and she swiftly deflected it by grabbing the Quaffle in both hands and punching it away. Points for style, Professor Longbottom?”

“What do you think, Mr. Scamander?” asked Longbottom, growing impatient. Professor Longbottom used to be quieter when he was in school, or so my mum told me, but he turned badass during the Death Eaters’ occupation of Hogwarts and hasn’t looked back since. Except my mum didn’t specifically use the word ‘badass’.

Arlie wasted no time and deftly chucked the Quaffle towards the left ring, where the stringy Ravenclaw Keeper dove and absolutely missed the block. 50-30 Gryffies!

Micah and I high-fived our talented Chaser and mother hen, who looked upwards to Drystan Davies and smirked. He scowled and flew away, brilliant blond locks shining in the cold November sun.

After Bagman, our beloved (not so much!) referee, called a brief time out so Professor Longbottom and Snorky Scamander could sort out their differences amicably, I looked up and over to my own Seeker and flew towards her.

“Fantastic teamwork on the Chaser front,” Tegan grinned as I flew level with her. “Really doing a job on those Ravenclaws.”

“It’s not hard,” I said nonchalantly. “The only one with any discernable athletic talent is Drystan Davies, whose hair looks exceptionally golden today—”

“You noticed that too?” piped Tegan. “He must be using a new conditioner, or something.”

“But the rest of the Ravenclaw side looks, well, like they spend too much time inside reading,” I shrugged.

“Well, they were sorted there for a reason,” said Tegan, and she winked. I wasn’t sure if this was crossing the Line, but I decided to let it slide because the wink in question caused the chrysalis in my stomach to explode with the birth of a thousand glorious butterflies.

“I demand creative control!” I thought I heard Snorky shout from the stands.

“You’re not fulfilling your contractual obligations as commentator!” retorted Longbottom.

“Now gentlemen,” Ludo Bagman said, having flown up to meet the quarrelling parties so as to better moderate their negotiations, “I’m sure we can come to a settlement that is favourable to the both of you. Why, when I was arrested for embezzlement in the late 90’s…”

“Crimety, is this match ever going to end?” Tegan groaned.

“Not until this time out is over, I suppose,” I replied. “And then you’ve got to catch the Snitch.”

“Cos there’s no way in hell that ruddy shiny-haired Davies is going to catch it,” she beamed.

“That’s the right attitude!” I smiled.

“Oh frick it all,” said Tegan suddenly in a low voice, glancing down the pitch. “I’ve spotted the Snitch.”

“Huzzah?” I pumped my fist reluctantly. “Doesn’t this sort of thing usually make you happy?”

“It’s resting on the back of Coby Fünke’s Supernova,” she whispered. And there the Snitch was, appearing to be taking a quick kip on the bristles of the Ravenclaw Chaser’s broomstick as he hovered about twenty feet above the ground and spoke to Sam Vandroogenbroeck. Well, it had retracted its tiny wings and stopped moving, at any rate. The Snitch, not Sam Vandroogenbroeck.

“Well, that’s odd,” I commented.

“How am I supposed to snatch it without Coby or Sam noticing?” asked Tegan, frustrated. “Or more importantly, without Drystan Davies noticing?”

“You can’t legally catch it until this time out is over,” I shrugged my shoulders. “But I’d fly a bit closer, pull a Feint when you’re near Davies, then recover and Jacques-Hammeurt straight for Fünke.”

“Seems pretty risky,” she said.

“Winning by a wide margin would put us in a good position for the winter standings,” I said matter-of-factly. “If Hufflepuff loses to Slytherin, we’ll be in second place.”

Tegan looked at me and nodded curtly, understanding her noble duty. I wanted to give her a great big hug, but as I usually did while playing Quidditch, I decided against it. We saw Bagman take his place in the centre of the pitch grasping the Quaffle, as Teddy Lupin dragged Snorky away from his seat, the latter protesting very loudly.

“I apologize for the brief interruption!” bellowed Bagman. “Professor Lupin will commentate for the remainder of this match. Speaking of which, it re-starts…now!” He tossed the Quaffle in the air, Arlie grabbed it, and I sped from Tegan in her and Micah’s direction.

I was busy scoring a goal when Tegan Feinted, but I knew it must have been a good one judging from the spectators’ cheers. But Coby Fünke was the Chaser to bring the Quaffle back up the pitch and I followed him, but kept a good distance. Something as shiny as Drystan Davies’ incredible hair remained on the tail end of his Supernova, and I did not want to interfere in its capture.

Fünke didn’t notice Tegan diving straight towards him until very late in the Hammeurt, at which point he looked upwards and dropped the Quaffle in terror. There was no need for me to lunge for it: the Snitch had awoken from its slumber, popped its wings back out, and taken off from Fünke’s broomstick.

Game play stopped as it always did whenever anyone went for the Snitch, and if you think about it, very little of what the Chasers, Keepers, and Beaters do is actually significant in the final score. Even though the position of Seeker was the last to evolve (I sleep with a copy of Quidditch Through the Ages under my pillow and it keeps my Imagination Journal company), Quidditch is really just about the capture of the Snitch. All the other players just keep the crowd entertained until this happens.

But Tegan closed in on the Snitch about thirty feet from the ground, arm outstretch and feet obviously ready to put the brakes on if the pitch got a bit too close for comfort. Closer and closer and closer she got, until—

“Tegan!” I shouted as I raced towards her after she jumped five feet from her broomstick to the ground. Her knees buckled and she sat unceremoniously upon the ground, coughing and retching and pounding on her chest.

Madam Larkin made it there a millisecond before I did, but Tegan motioned for both of us to keep our distance. Her eyes bulged and she gave a great heave, and vomited the Snitch. It sailed through the air in a delicate arc, until she grabbed it with her long fingers.

And with that, all 250 some odd Gryffindors gave a tremendous roar.

There was a radibonzicallymonotripindicular victory party for us in the common room later that night, of course, but Tegan wasn’t there and I felt a bit claustrophobic with the suffocating merriment and lack of oxygen. So I went up to my dormitory, hoping to get to bed early, but discovered Snorky Scamander sitting at his desk and writing furiously with his left hand, a single candle illuminating the room.

“Y’know you’ll hurt your eyes, writing in this poor light,” was the first thing I could think of to say to him.

But Snorky just turned to me slowly, his light blue eyes absolutely haunting. “So I hear that Tegan Llewellyn almost swallowed the Snitch today.”

“Yeah,” I confirmed. “It’s strange, my dad did the exact same thing during his first Quidditch match.”

“Gripping anecdote, James, but I’m a bit busy here,” said Snorky, turning to the stack of parchment sitting upon his desk.

“What’re you doing?” I asked, confused as to why I was making conversation with this slight sociopath.

He gave a sigh and turned to me once more. “You know Dumbledore’s Army, how my mum and your mum and dad were willing to fight for their rights and take a stand against evil?”

“Yeppers,” I replied, sitting on my bed and picking the blisters on my palm.

“I too am a man of action,” said Snorky, placing one of the sheets of parchment in an envelope and sealing it shut.

“Action against what, pray tell?”

“And that’s what distinguishes you and me,” said Snorky distantly.

“Is this about the Quidditch match?” I asked cautiously.

“It’s more than the just Quidditch match!” burst Snorky. “I was treated unfairly by that odious Longbottom and his blue-haired henchman, and I demand justice!”

“Well, Snorky, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you’re just not the best commentat—”

But my revelation was cut short when Snorky held up a large piece of parchment that said:

Exploited, and
Ready to

Whaaa?” I gasped.

“I have formed a union for the oppressed public speakers of the wizarding world,” said Snorky matter-of-factly. “The purpose of the union is to protect its members from the unfair working conditions provided by the management.”

“I know what a union is,” I muttered.

“Then you’ll know why we have no choice but to band together,” said Snorky excitedly. “Professor Longbottom, and tyrants like him all over Britain, have pushed and pushed and pushed us workers to the brink!”

I took a breath. “All right, I have some questions for you. 1: Who is this ‘we’ you speak of, the people in your union? 2: You’re not actually paid for commentating, so you’re not actually a worker, so how can you start a workers’ union? 3: What are you on about, calling Longbottom a tyrant?”

“Very well, ye of little faith,” said Snorky flatly. “1: The ‘we’ of V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T.,” he pronounced the letters individually, “is currently comprised of me, the alternate Hogwarts Quidditch commentator Cicero Phillips, and seven commentators for the British and Irish Quidditch League. I’m still waiting to hear from the rest of the League’s commentators and Noam Tennyson, the voice of the Wizarding Wireless Network.

“2: You’re completely missing my point. This union isn’t about wages or uncompensated labour: it’s about creative license. We orators cannot operate under the oppressive conditions we face; that is to say we cannot create enjoyable commentaries without adding the personal touch that is sorely lacking in commentaries today.

“3: Longbottom knows what he did. Everyone thinks he’s some hero and wonderful Herbology teacher and housemaster, but they neglect to see the dark side of Neville Longbottom.”

Snorky stared hard at the stone floor and gritted his teeth, clearly in infuriated concentration. This lasted several awkward minutes, until I chimed in.

“What will your union do, exactly?” I inquired.

Snorky looked up at me, eyes wide and defiant. “We will bring our demands to the negotiating table for management to review. If they refuse and deny us the Blarneyan gift of free gab, then we have no choice but to strike.”

“Okay, then,” I said simply, standing to leave. “But one more thing, Snorkers.”

“Don’t call me Snorkers,” he grumbled.

“Rethink the name,” I grinned.

“Vee Oh El Dee Ee Em Oh Are Tea is a perfectly clever acronym,” said Snorky.

“Say it with me, Scamander: Vol—de—mort.” I coolly walked away, unable to appear anything but smug.

“Vol—de—mort,” he repeated, then his face fell. “Oh…frick…”

“Toodles, Snorky!” I said brightly, opening the door.

“And to think I’ve already sent the press release to the Daily Prophet,” I thought I heard him mutter.

But I skipped down the stairs and was on my merry way. I could not sleep in my dormitory with a nutter such as Snorky and his union for V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T., and when I reached the bottom of the stairs, I saw that the Gryffie victory party waged on. Out of options and in need of a good snuggle after a long day, I found Arlie, who was standing by the foot of the girls’ stair with a gaggle of her cool seventh-year friends.

“Arlie, is Tegan in her dormitory?” I asked, taking my fellow Chaser aside.

She looked at me slyly. “That she is, Cap’n. She’s doing her whole antisocial hermit thing. You know.”

I nodded, distracted by all the flashing lights and delightful cries of the partiers. “Arlie, could you maybe give me a lift—up?”

“Pardon, James?” she asked.

“Blokes can’t get into the girls’ dormitories just by walking in, but if you’re carried by a girl, the stair doesn’t turn into a slide, you see? I just need—a ride.”

She laughed loudly and cheerfully, then smirked at me. “You need me to carry you up cos I’ve got legs the size of tree trunks, yeah?”

I blushed. “For the record, they’re very nice tree trunk legs. I mean, not as nice as Tegan’s bird legs, but plenty of blokes prefer tree trunks. Like Drystan Davies.”

Arlie sighed. “He won’t talk to me, not after how the match ended. He’s being stubborn and he’s embarrassed that he fell for Tegan’s Wronski Feint.”

Men,” I said dramatically. “But can you give me a lift? Please?”

She shrugged. “You’re at most 1% body fat, James. Hop on.”

I climbed on her back carefully and held on tight, and Arlie made her way up the stairs remarkably speedily. She deposited me at landing for the sixth years’ dormitory and bid adieu, hurrying back to her friends in the common room. I quickly ran my hands through my hair in a vain attempt to flatten it, then briskly knocked on Tegan’s door.

I thought I heard something melodic that wasn’t the thumping beats of the Lewd Wig record emanating from downstairs (frankly, I don’t think anything that “gangsta” releases can be considered melodic), but then there came a shuffling of feet and Tegan opened the door.

“James,” she said, surprised.

I gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “Arlie gave me a lift.”

“I see,” grinned Tegan, stepping aside to let me in. I took a seat on her bed, and she followed suit.

“How’s the party?” she asked, swinging her legs and grazing her feet along the floor.

“I suppose it’s the same old post-victory shindig,” I shrugged. “J.D.’s leading a chorus to I’m a Wizard, Checkit and Micah’s choreographing an interpretive dance.”

“I’ll never understand the appeal of Lewd Wig,” mused Tegan.

I cracked my knuckles and thought, trying to keep the conversation going. “Oh, and Snorky Scamander has started a union for disgruntled orators.”

Tegan blinked. “Pardon?

“Yeah, there are actually some legitimate Quidditch commentators who have demonstrated interest so far in the,” I grabbed her wrist and checked her watch, “three or so hours since Snorky founded the union. Oh, and if Longbottom doesn’t apologize for something that he himself probably isn’t aware of, they’re going to strike.”

She chuckled. “Snorky and his little projects. I really hoped his quest for the Deathly Hallows would be the end of it.”

“And he calls the group V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T.,” I added.

Tegan’s eyes bulged. “No, he can’t be that stupid, right?”

“Apparently there’s going to be a press release in the Prophet tomorrow,” I explained. “Personally, I’m not offended by a good Voldemort joke now and then, but it’s a bit too soon to be forming an organization in his name.”

“Oh Snorky,” said Tegan, sounding far-off, “you barmy little megalomaniac.”

I let my eyes wander around the girls’ dormitory, because although me and my mates had figured out a loophole to get up here, visits had to be scarce so as to not arouse suspicion. Tegan’s fifth of the room was by far the most chaotic and cluttered, from her crooked lavender comforter to the uneven Caerphilly Catapults poster and map of Wales on her wall to the dozen socks sprinkled around the floor. A framed photo of the Gryffies after our triumphal victory in the Quidditch final last year, fists pumped and mouths open in a silent cheer, was the only thing on Tegan’s nightstand, save a box of tea leaves. (Every good Quidditch player knows that soaking one’s palms in warm tea yields relief to even the deepest blisters.)

“Oi, what’s that?” I said suddenly, pointing behind Tegan.

“This is my guitar, James,” she said, gingerly picking up the wooden instrument and placing it in her lap. “I was playing it before you came up.”

“You play the guitar?” I spat, though not harshly.

Tegan nodded and smirked. “I’m full of surprises, aren’t I? My cousin Huw—I’ve told you about him, the 35-year-old son of my dead Uncle Dai who lives off the residuals from all the ‘Dangerous’ Dai Llewellyn merchandise they still sell—taught me the basics the summer before fourth year, until he was sent to prison for Apparating with a suspended license so many times. I’ve sort of taught myself since then, though my technique is probably crap and my E string is always out of tune.”

“You can play music,” I said, still in shock. “My only talent outside of Quidditch is burping the alphabet.”

“Take this,” said Tegan, handing over the guitar. She got down on the ground, reached under her bed, and pulled out a second guitar case.

“You have two?” I asked as she unpacked this funny-shaped red one and sat back down next to me.

“Three actually—an acoustic, amplified, and bass. My dad only buys me guitar stuff nowadays, cos I remind him of his brother. Uncle Dai was lead guitarist for the Weird Sisters before they became famous, but he had to quit when he was signed to the Catapults.”

“That is so Albus,” I mumbled.

She nodded. “I’m turning the sound down on the amped one here, and you’ve got the acoustic.”

“I want the pretty red one,” I whined.

“Shut your gob and repeat after me,” said Tegan sternly, arranging her left fingers and strumming with her right.

I twisted my face and tried to copy her, but a really crude sound erupted from my guitar, the kind of unmusical note normally found only in Lewd Wig songs.

“And that was a decent attempt at a G major chord,” said Tegan kindly. “Move your pointer finger more towards the centre of the fret—that’s it.”

I gave it another go and was delighted to discover a much more pleasant sound. “I can play the guitar!” I exclaimed giddily.

“Not yet you can’t,” said Tegan matter-of-factly, moving her left hand again and playing another note. “Let’s give C major a try.”

I attempted to mimic her, but failed again.

“No, that was a D major chord,” said Tegan. “Look more closely at my hands.”

But I couldn’t help but grin madly at her cute little face.

A/N: Well, I wrote this chapter quickly. It’s shorter and definitely not groundbreaking, but the picture of John Krasinski with blue hair is cool, eh? I apologize for any typos or general weirdness in this chapter, but I was really impatient getting it out.

Review please! I’m still sort of in shock that more than two people like this story, but all your support has really helped me get through a sort of difficult time in my life =).

And I really hope I haven’t offended any oboists! My good friend plays the oboe, and I actually play the cello, so I understand that sometimes us classical instrumentalists are looked down upon in society.

Chapter 12: Ay, There’s The Rub
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“It’s really true,” said Tegan grimly, peeking over at the newspaper I held.

“How can the Daily Prophet even print that?” asked Freddie as his eyes skimmed the article. “It’s the antithesis of political correctness.”

“Perhaps they thought it would sell more newspapers,” mused Micah. “Everyone loves a struggle between the haves and the have nots.”

“It’s mental,” grumbled J.D. “Snorky is the most raving of any lunatic to ever start a labour union.”

I continued to stare at the headline, absolutely baffled as to what to make of it: Young Activist Preaches the Word of V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T.

“He doesn’t perform any labour,” I repeated for what felt like the umpteenth time that morning in the Great Hall. “Snorky Scamander is striking for a volunteer position. Isn’t compensation, of which Snorkers receives none, usually a factor in this sort of thing?”

“He’s not striking yet,” clarified Tegan. “Professor Longbottom has one week to meet his demands.”

“But legitimate professionals have signed up for his little union,” said J.D. “Every commentator in the British and Irish League, that ponce from the Wizarding Wireless Network—Lewd Wig has cancelled his Spoken Word Tour!”

“Wot are Snorky’s demands, then?” asked Micah. “And all these other V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T.ers’?”

Total creative control,” Tegan read from the article, “and the abolition of censorship.

“That shouldn’t be so hard to provide,” grumbled J.D. “Wouldn’t cost anyone a knut.”

“V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T.,” said Fred softly to himself. “Oi, James, your mum’s editor for the Prophet. How’d Aunt Ginny let them print this?”

“She’s the sport editor,” I explained, “and was only promoted from staff writer a few months ago, so I doubt she even sees the front page before it goes to print.”

Micah smushed more eggs in his mouth and Freddie shook his head. “I just—I don’t like that Snorky is calling it V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T.,” said Fred. “I never knew Fred the First, obviously, but he’s our uncle, sort of, and he died fighting the Dark wizard who happened to share a name with Snorky’s unlabour union. ‘Snot right, that’s all I’m saying.”

“I know,” I said earnestly. “It gives me this weird tingle in my spine, but the negotiations will end swiftly and favourably. All Snorky wants is to say whatever the frick he wants, yeah?”

Just then, a large black owl swooped in and deftly dropped an envelope in Tegan’s cereal.

“Oh piss,” uttered my ladylove, extracting the parchment from the ocean of skim milk, “it’s all soggy now. And I never get mail.”

I nearly whipped out my wand to perform a drying spell, so as to woo Tegan with my fantastic magical ability, but then something small and light smacked me in the head and fell into my own bowl of cereal. A compact, crumbled ball of parchment was my mysterious attacker’s weapon of choice, and I grabbed the paper and whipped my head ‘round in search of aforementioned attacker. Scorpius Malfoy…no, currently snogging Katie Nott…the Horowitz brothers…no, they’re doing something to Ben Murdoch’s hair whilst crouching and giggling behind him…the usual suspects are otherwise engaged. Who threw this ball of parchment at me?

I decided to read it, carefully opening the soggy edges. You have been summoned, the note said. The Association of Hogwarts Quidditch Cap’ns will assemble promptly at eight o’clock this evening, in the trophy room. Your attendance is mandatory and you must come alone.

“Whaaa?” I exclaimed. When did I join an Association of Hog—whatever! Frick, there are lots of societies creeping up around the ‘warts.

Well, I might as well do as this mystery note demands. Tegan’ll be in the library anyways, and the library is not conducive to affectionate snuggling, which is my preferred activity in the evening hours. Plus I’ve been banished from the library for two weeks. For writing love notes to Tegan in the library after Madam Featherbottom ordered me to stop affectionately snuggling her. Tegan, I mean, not Madam Featherbottom. I think part of the problem was that the affectionate snuggling wasn’t consensual. Tegan isn’t terribly touchy-feely when she’s reading about goblin wars.

“Oh piss,” whined my turtledove, crumpling up her own soggy letter as we sat in our Gryffie corner of the Great Hall.

I put my arm ‘round her shoulders and gave my best Concerned Pout. “Whatever is the matter?” I inquired.

“My mam’s coming to visit,” groaned Tegan. “This weekend. This Hogsmeade weekend.”

“Ooh, that sounds rather Albus!” I said, chipper as always. My own mum stopped her visits after my second year when she said that she had to do a proper job of “severing the cord”, whatever that means. We still correspond through letters, of course, but it’s not the same as being able to give my mummy a great big hug.

“Actually, James, this is a particularly Voldy situation,” said Tegan darkly.

“Yes!” cried Micah, spitting bacon across the table. “I told you ‘that’s so Voldy’ would catch on!”

J.D. leaned over and flicked Micah’s nose. “For the last time, no one gives a frick about your brilliant idioms.”

Micah glared at him. “That hurts, J.D. That hurts in here.” He tapped in the left side of his chest, right over his heart.

“Why don’t you want your mum to visit?” I asked Tegan.

She inhaled and exhaled. “Remember all the stories I’ve told you about my mam? How she’s a slag and a gold-digger and emotionally shallow and verbally abusive in her criticisms?”

I thought for a moment. “But she’s your mum. You have the same mitochondrial DNA.”

Tegan shrugged. “I guess. Well, she says that I’m to meet her at Café Paragon for tea.”

“Fancy pants,” I remarked. “Quite snazzy and expensive.”

She sighed. “I hate tea. And Eleni. Which is my mam’s name.”

I pulled her a bit tighter to me and rubbed her hand. “Oh Teggers, it’s just one teatime. And it’s for your mum. If she wants to talk to you, then she probably misses you. And loves you. Cos that’s what mums do.”

J.D. coughed something like “P.D.A.” and Micah followed suit, though his was more of an exclamation of “Public Display of Affection!” than a proper cough.

“Not my mam,” said Tegan under her breath. “She’s a bitch-coated bitch with a bitchy cream filling.”

I literally gasped. “Tegan!”

She grinned slyly at me. “I’ve got a marvellous idea: You come with me to mando teatime with Eleni, and get a first person perspective of her vileness. Plus we’ll get one-quarter of the ‘meet the parents’ thing over with.”

My eyes darted ‘round nervously. “I’m not invited, am I?”

“I’m inviting you,” said Tegan nonchalantly, cocking her head in that adorable way of hers. “Eleni thinks I’ve made you up anyways, and now I can prove to her that I have a boyfriend.”

I couldn’t help but smile widely, even though Tegan looked so strangely cunning. “I do like it when you refer to me as your boyfriend,” I said happily.

“You’re one wonderful, strange bloke, James,” said Tegan pointedly, leaning in for a kiss.

“Why thank you,” I mumbled nervously, pressing my lips to hers.

But as soon as Tegan and I entered into harmless kissy goo-goo, I heard the resounding sound of a grand upchuck, let go of Tegan, and turned to investigate. Freddie was hunched over his plate of breakfast foods, though the plate now contained mostly digested particles of breakfast foods. Fred had been sick, right at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall.

J.D. and Micah cheered. “Fine vomiting skills, mate!” exclaimed J.D.

“And on command, too!” added Micah.

“You made yourself sick on purpose?” asked Tegan, utterly repulsed.

Fred grinned, partially digested egg dripping off his chin. “You two made me sick,” he chortled. “It’s rather disgusting for breakfast time, don’t you think?”

“We’re hardly kissing, and you liken that to vomit?” growled Tegan. Oh, how my lady defends me! And us. And our kissing habits.

J.D. uttered a spell a cleaned Freddie up, and Micah continued to guffaw. “Go have kissy time in private!” he declared.

I jumped up and grabbed Tegan’s hand, though she remained seated. “Maybe we will!” said I.

She glanced up at me. “We’ve got Herbology in ten minutes.”

I sat back down. “Later, then?”

“I’ve got to study from seven ‘til nine,” she said matter-of-factly. “My mam hates academics and I work hard mostly to spite her.”

“And I’ve got a secret society meeting at eight,” I said a bit too seriously and loudly. “How ‘bout nine ‘til ten?”

Tegan nodded and grinned. “Sounds good. Kissy time from nine ‘til ten…your room?”

“Mates?” I asked permission of my mates.

J.D., Micah, and Freddie just chuckled and snickered and gave me thumbs-up signs.

“Right, then,” I said decisively. “Kissy time from nine ‘til ten in my room.”

“Hold on—secret society meeting?” piped Micah.

I gulped and quickly grabbed my book bag. “I didn’t—what?—oh Micah, daft as ever—I’ve got to run along—Professor Longbottom wanted to go over my essay on mimbulus mimbletonia—if I don’t show up he’ll tell my dad cos he’s mates with my dad—I’ll get in trouble and you see how this could get very messy, yeah? See you at the greenhouses!” And with that, I sprinted out of the Great Hall.

As I trotted along the third floor corridor in the direction of the trophy room that evening, I briefly halted and sniffed the air.

“My Biscuit Senses are tingling,” I mused subconsciously. Somebody somewhere had semi-sweet biscuity goodness, and I must have it.

The faint scent wafted along the corridor and I tiptoed in its pursuit. Past the statue of the humpbacked witch, past the entrance to the hospital wing, I forged my way along the empty and unobstructed hall, until (and I was most delighted to discover this) I stopped in front of the trophy room, where the burst of biscuity aroma was undeniably strongest.

“Bless you, sweet disc-shaped delicacies,” I said wistfully as I darted into the trophy room.

I stopped short and slowly rotated my head to the right. Drystan Davies, Tawny Faraday, and Jack Murdoch stood by the dark, stained-glass window, staring at me. Drystan’s and Jack’s mouths were agape, but Tawny (who stood at least half a foot taller than everyone at Hogwarts, excepting Hagrid) smiled distantly in my direction and held out a plate.

“Chocolate digestives, James?” she asked kindly.

I blushed and mumbled a small “Yes, thank you please” and took four biscuits.

“Tea?” the Hufflepuff cap’n inquired, levitating a kettle in anticipation.

“That would be lovely, yes,” I said politely, and she flicked her wand, tipping the kettle so that the tea fell in a small cup.

Xie xie,” I said crisply as she handed me the teacup.

Bu ke qi,” replied Tawny, smiling widely. Tawny was known for three things: being the Hufflepuff cap’n and Keeper, a gazillion feet tall, and the most Caucasian-looking Hogwarts student to be fluent in Mandarin. I think she’s Scottish or summat, but her dad worked in Beijing for seven years and moved the family out east.

“If we may begin the proceedings,” said Davies curtly, and if I may say so, somewhat passive-aggressively.

I stuck a biscuit in my tea and took a large, soggy bite. “Wot proceedings?”

Jack Murdoch snorted and shook his head. “You never cease to amaze, Potter.”

I stuffed a whole chocolate digestive in my mouth. “You neveh sheash to pwickify, Meuhdock,” I retorted most wittily.

“Prickify?” sneered Davies. “That’s not a word!”

“Nighveh iz wruddy-pompis—right, I’ve swallowed it all down—large-foreheaded-and-all-around-unpleasant-sore-loser,” I piped even more wittily.

“Colleagues, please,” lightly pleaded Tawny. “We must call this meeting of Aahqueuek to order.”

“Aahqueuk?” I repeated.

“A.H.Q.C.,” Murdoch enunciated impatiently. “The Association of Hogwarts Quidditch Cap’ns. Obviously.

I glared at the Slytherin cap’n of Quidditch in extreme distaste. Take that!

“First order of business,” Davies said, grasping a gavel and crouching to give it a whack upon the stone floor, “the recent formation of the labour union calling itself V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T. and its call to strike.”

“Who gave you a gavel?” snapped Murdoch.

“Jealous, are we?” chuckled Davies.

Tawny and I glanced at each other. Davies and Murdoch appeared to be rather irritable young men.

“So Snorky Scamander might strike,” I interjected. “I don’t quite see how that affects us.”

“It affects all of us, James,” said Tawny calmly. “It affects everyone in the Quidditch industry.”

“People don’t come to the games for the Quidditch, Potter,” said Murdoch dryly. “It’s about entertainment.”

“And Scamander is a significant factor in that entertainment,” explained Davies. “He’s got an 89% approval rating.”

“Merlin knows why,” said Murdoch under his breath.

“Right, then,” I said, absorbing the news. “People like Snorky’s commentaries.”

“Quidditch isn’t just about the Quidditch anymore, James,” said Tawny. “The public really thinks that Snorky has a point, and they want to support him.”

“There’s talks of a boycott,” said Davies darkly. “A boycott of the spectators.”

“No,” I said, aghast. “But it’s Quidditch.

“And we are determining what we ought to do, to retain favour with the swinish multitudes,” said Murdoch.

I felt a lump rise in my throat. “You…you don’t mean—”

“Scamander maintains that a strike is V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T.’s last resort,” said Davies, “but if the worst happens, we need to be decisive. Can we as Quidditch players survive without our spectators?”

“In all likelihood,” I mumbled.

“Drystan and I have been talking, and we think we should consider a strike as well,” said Tawny carefully.

“No Quidditch?” I whimpered. “For how long?”

“As long as it takes to break Longbottom down,” said Davies defiantly. “Sometimes you’ve got to take a stand, even if you’re not sure what for. It’s about principles.”

I turned to Murdoch. “You can’t agree with them!” I cried.

He clicked his tongue. “I actually was waiting to see what you thought, Potter. I mean, everyone knows that it’ll come down to a Slytherin v. Gryffindor final in the spring. No offence, Drystan and Tawny.”

I hadn’t felt this horribly torn since J.D. and Tegan got into that fight third year (it originated in a Chocolate Frogs v. Fizzing Whizzbees argument and escalated very quickly; they didn’t talk for five months). Quidditch was my life—had been for over five years. Who knows how long this silly strike could go on? Especially since no one seemed entirely sure what it was about.

“This is serious business,” I said hesitantly.

“It’s mental, that’s what it is,” said Murdoch. “But hardly anyone sees that.”

“We’re nothing without our spectators, Potter,” said Davies. “Quidditch players are the sort to require approval from absolute strangers.”

“Snorky is just fighting for what he believes in,” said Tawny. “I daresay it’s admirable.”

I sighed, looking around at my counterparts from the other houses. “You lot seem to think that we don’t have a choice.”

“I think we do,” clarified Murdoch. “But we’ve got to present a united front. Either we support that raving lunatic Scamander, or we play Quidditch. We need an alliance.

I gulped. What would Dumbledore do?

“All right,” I said earnestly. “I’m all in for the alliance. Snorky strikes, we strike.”

Davies and Tawny smiled at me, and Murdoch nodded. “Motion to amend our name from the Association of Hogwarts Quidditch Cap’ns to the Alliance of Hogwarts Quidditch Cap’ns?”

Tawny, Davies, and I agreed. The four of us formed a square, crossed our own wrists, and took the hands of the people beside us. We shook, and the Alliance was born.

“I can’t believe you, James,” growled Tegan as she stormed through the streets of Hogsmeade that Saturday, me trailing behind her.

“Are you still upset because I may have contributed to setting the wheels in motion so we might not be able to play Quidditch this year?” I asked meekly.

“Yes,” said Tegan curtly. “And to top it all off, I have to have tea with my mother. Oh, frick it all.

“Well, the second bit really isn’t my fault,” I said.

She turned ‘round and glared at me most ferociously, then continued to make her way towards the café.

“D’you not want me to come?” I asked.

Tegan chuckled darkly. “Oh no, you’re coming. Meeting Eleni will be punishment enough.”

I gulped. Suffice to say, the Gryffies had not been pleased when I told them of the Alliance. J.D. grabbed my Imagination Journal and tried to set it on fire (and became even more incensed when he discovered its Anti-Flame Charms), Freddie still won’t talk to me, Micah began crying, and Mattie has been giving me the stink-eye at every opportunity. Arlie was okay with it, though.

“They’ll come around,” she had said kindly. “You’re doing a wonderful thing for Snorky. I mean, he’s only got two friends and everyone’s rather terrified of him, so you’re really doing a selfless thing, James. Plus, if we don’t have Quidditch practice anymore, I’ll have more time to revise for my N.E.W.T.s.”

It was at that moment that I realized why Tawny and Davies had been so keen on forming our Alliance, while Murdoch (my fellow sixth year) had shown more apprehension. Frick, does everything that’s good and pure in this world have to be ruined by standardized testing?

“We’re here,” said Tegan passive-aggressively, stopping in her tracks and spinning ‘round to face me. “I’ll do most of the talking. You just sit there and try to irritate Eleni as much as possible.”

“Okey dokey,” I said nonchalantly, following her into Café Paragon.

It was kind of shiny inside, and the walls were the colour of a blood orange. It’s a nice enough restaurant, but it’s really expensive for icky food on weird-shaped plates. Most students only step foot in Café Paragon if they’ve got a wealthy maiden aunt who’s come to visit.

Tegan sort of stomped her feet as we wandered around the restaurant, and I followed her to a very shiny metallic table in the back corner, where a blonde, thin woman sat up very straight and talked to a silver box on the side of her face.

Mam,” said Tegan coolly, lifting her nose in the air and crossing her arms.

Mrs. Llewellyn covered the bottom of the silver talking box and pointedly looked to Tegan. “I’m speaking with your Auntie Danaë,” she said icily, thoroughly irritated. “The reception is absolute rubbish—these God-forsaken mountains are all in the way—and there’s something wrong with Huw.”

“He’s in prison…what else could be wrong?” asked Tegan, though not as harshly as her words might have insinuated. Huw was her—cousin?—and I think they liked each other well enough.

“Tegan’s here—I’ll call you back, Danaë. Ciao darling!” said Mrs. Llewellyn brightly, and folded her funny silver box. “If you must know, Huw’s gone missing.” I was sort of surprised to hear her speak in a haughty London accent, since Tegan’s was undeniably Welsh.

Tegan scrunched her face. “How do you go missing in Azkaban? Oh no…you mean he’s escaped?”

Mrs. Llewellyn took a sip of her fizzy pink drink. “Whatever you like to call it. The stupid boy just can’t do anything remarkable, now can he? Nearly one hundred people have escaped from Azkaban this year alone, and it’s a depressingly simple feat now that they’ve done away with the dementors.”

“Where is he?” piped Tegan, a hint of concern in her voice. “I mean, Huw.”

Mrs. Llewellyn gave a dramatic shrug. “How should I know—he’s probably run off with one of those whorish girls he’s so fond of. Hold on…what are you?” she asked, nodding in my direction.

I cleared my throat and tried to stand up very straight. “I’m James Potter, and I’m very pleased to make—”

Tegan grabbed my hand and waved it for her mum to see. “This is my boyfriend, Mam. James. See?

Mrs. Llewellyn peered at me. “The Potter boy? The one who plays Quidditch?”

I tried to smile, but sort of wanted to be sick. “Yes, ma’am. I’m the cap’n of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Which Tegan’s on.”

“Oh yes,” said Mrs. Llewellyn, sitting back in her seat and curling her lips. She was pretty, I guess, but something seemed…off. “He’s the poof, is he not?”

I dropped my jaw and Tegan stepped forward. “No, Mam, James isn’t gay. He’s my boyfriend, for Merlin’s sake!”

Tegan’s mum pursed her lips to the side and continued to regard me. “My mistake,” she said dryly. “I suppose I misinterpreted the stories of your affinity for musical theatre as homosexual.”

Tegan looked to me, and then to her mum. “Well, we’re having tea with you. Can we sit?”

Mrs. Llewellyn grinned widely. “By all means.”

I glanced to Tegan, my eyes wide with terror, but she just pulled me toward the table and made me sit. The glittery metal chair was most uncomfortable.

“Your name is Potter, yes?” inquired Tegan’s mum, sending me a crooked smile. “As in Harry Potter?”

I gulped and dropped my voice to the lowest octave it would reach. “Yes, Mrs. Llewellyn. He’s my dad.”

“Interesting…how very interesting,” she mused, sipping on her bubbly pink drink. “And my dear, I’m afraid that I am Mrs. Llewellyn no longer.”

“What?” burst Tegan, her face all scrunched up. “You didn’t actually go through with the divorce, did you? You’re always threatening Dad and—”

“Always with the dramatics, Tegan,” grumbled Not Mrs. Llewellyn. “Honestly, you still act like a child. And for your information, Rhys and I are still very happily married. But I’ve changed my surname to Richelieu-Llewellyn for legal purposes. It’s grown-up business that you’ll never be capable of understanding.”

Tegan pursed her lips and her cheeks glowed red (which I must say beautifully complimented her many freckles), but she didn’t say anything.

Tegan’s mum turned to me. “Richelieu is my maiden name, James. Kindly refer to me as Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn.”

“Quite a mouthful,” said Tegan under her breath.

“I am not hard of hearing, Tegan,” said Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn sweetly as she smiled at me. “Now James, let’s talk about you. If you fancy my little girl then I want to know absolutely everything about you.”

“Er, well,” I began, “I was born on an unseasonable warm and sunny afternoon on the fifteenth of March, two-thousand and—”

“That’s a lovely sweater,” interrupted Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn. “Argyle is very in right now. Did you select it yourself?”

“Um, no,” I answered truthfully. “My grandmother knitted it for me. She likes to knit.”

“Oh,” Tegan’s mum said, disappointed. “Well, I certainly hope you have a better sense of style than Tegan!”

“I’m sorry that Witch Weekly isn’t my personal bible,” retorted Tegan as she slouched in her seat.

“It would do you a bit of good to read some Muggle fashion magazines as well,” insisted Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn. “They’ve certainly got a more progressive sense of couture than Witch Weekly does. But they’ve got a better sense of most things, I suppose,” she said in a far-off voice. “Anyways, I just wish you wouldn’t look so homeless all the time, dear. I care about you and your happiness.”

“What’s next, the ‘I wish you’d turned out Muggle’ monologue?” snapped Tegan. “Maybe I am a homeless-looking, Quidditch-playing, homework-doing witch! You’ve got a fantastic list of my faults, Mam, and I’d love to hear them!”

Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn cringed. “Mam” she said softly. “You’re still speaking in that Welsh dialect, I see.”

“Maybe that’s what Welsh people do,” proclaimed Tegan defiantly.

I felt immensely uncomfortable, absolutely aware that I should not intrude on this mother-daughter sparring match, but leaving the table before we’d even placed our order would surely be rude. Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn (or whatever she wants to be called) is Tegan’s mum, whether either of them likes it or not, and I really ought to be impressing her. Or at least defending my heterosexuality. That’s what boyfriends need to do sometimes.

Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn took a long sip of her fizzy drink and sighed. “You are exactly like Rhys, Tegan,” she said dejectedly. “I don’t know how it happened, but you have become his daughter.”

“Well, you weren’t exactly around when I was little, so Dad had the fun job of raising me,” said Tegan sardonically. “Going off on shopping sprees, playing Muggle…”

“So much like your father,” said Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn very quietly, almost to the point of introspection. “And yet…he’s been nothing more than an environmental influence. Your inherited genes have to count for something.”

Tegan and I looked quickly at one another, and then back at her mum. “Pardon?” said Tegan urgently.

Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn leaned lazily back in her seat, continuing to drink her frilly beverage. “What, darling?” she asked innocently.

“You said something about Tegan’s father,” I cut in. “That only an ‘environmental’ influence?”

Tegan’s mum leaned forward and grinned very pointedly at me. “Oh my goodness, the wait staff at this horrible restaurant has not even taken your drink orders yet? Garçon!” She snapped her fingers very loudly. “Excuse me, but if you fail to offer us any service then I’ll have no choice but to report this sub par dining experience to my friends at Le Gourmet Magique, and I’m afraid they can destroy Café Paragon’s reputation with one scathing exposé. Service, please!”

A tan, slightly gaunt man hurried over to our corner, quill and parchment at the ready. “Have you decided, then?” he asked dryly.

“I’ll have the What The Hell Did You Say About My Dad, please,” said Tegan bitingly to her mother.

“Do you have tea?” I asked the waiter.

“We are in Britain, sir,” he replied lazily.

“Er, I’ll have tea, then,” I said, trying to maintain my composure.

“Very well, sir,” said the waiter. “I will be back promptly.” And he bolted.

“Goodness, why are people so intimidated when I’m assertive about my needs?” asked Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn rhetorically.

“Let’s talk about Rhys,” suggested Tegan. “What that about my inherited genes?”

“Oh Tegan,” said her mother affectionately, reaching for her arm. “I’m afraid that I just don’t know what you’re talking about. You so frequently confuse yourself, dear.”

“Stop lying!” exclaimed Tegan.

Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn regarded her with contempt. “So James,” she said, once again turning to me. “I imagine it’s great fun to grow up as the child of a celebrity. And the son of Harry Potter, no less. How has that been for you? Psychologically?”

“Er,” I mumbled, “it’s not as bad as you might think. I look quite a bit like my mum, what with my pointy nose and jaw line, and she’s not as well known as my dad, so ‘snot like I get recognized like that. Everyone at school already knows who I am, and now my brother and sister are at Hogwarts, so I’m really not special. In that way.”

“Fascinating,” said Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn breathlessly. “The psychological torment of Harry Potter’s firstborn son.”

“I wouldn’t call it torment, exactly,” I confessed. “I’ve got an excellent Psychological Healer who helps me through the confusing times, and he’s really helped a lot.”

“So it’s more about the search for identity, then,” decided Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn. “Determining the sort of boy you are and the man you hope to become, understanding the role of friendship and…love…in your life.”

“Okay,” I mumbled.

“You’re certain that you have that sorted out?” she asked more quickly. “You’re honest with yourself and your friends about…these issues?”

“I guess we haven’t had a Gryffie Heart-To-Heart session in a while,” I mused. “Or a Group Hug.”

“What’s with the inquisition, Mam?” interjected Tegan. “James has all his love priorities in order. He’s plenty honest about it.”

Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn looked taken aback. “I just want to make sure the boy is as genuine as you’ve described him,” she said earnestly. “He appears to be entirely truthful with himself, and you. And I care for you so dearly, Tegan.”

Tegan clenched her fists and jumped up. “He’s not a fricking poof, Mam! My boyfriend fancies girls!

“This girl, specifically,” I said, slowly standing up beside her.

Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn clutched her hand to her chest. “Darling, I believe you’ve misinterpreted—”

“You’re full of hippogriff excrement, Mam!” cried Tegan.

Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn and I gasped. That was not appropriate language for polite conversation.

“H…E…” spat Tegan. “You, Mam, are full of H.E.”

“Tegan,” said Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn sternly, all of a sudden, “I will not tolerate this erratic behaviour. Sit down and contain yourself, please.

Tegan grabbed my arm and I almost winced at her viper grip. “I don’t think I will, Mam,” said Tegan, stressing the ‘Mam’. “It’s a beautiful November day in Hogsmeade, and I don’t want you fricking it up. My boyfriend—who is straight—and I are off to Honeydukes.” And with that, Tegan roughly grabbed my shoulders and attacked my lips with hers. This was a very angry sort of kiss, and I wasn’t quite sure why we were engaging in it, but I did my best to kiss back and show everybody in the café that I was a Man.

Tegan stopped and pushed me away a little. “We are leaving, Mam,” she said, but curt and proud. “Hopefully won’t see you ‘til Christmas.”

She spun around and strode towards the exit, and I uttered a quick “goodbye and nice to meet you” to Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn and hurried after Tegan. I found her right outside the door of Café Paragon, arms crossed and eyes directed towards the ground.

“You all right?” I asked hesitantly, draping my arm around her shoulder.

She shrugged it off and stepped away. “She was horrible to you.”

“Er, I wouldn’t say horrible. She was quite…frank when it came to certain subjects, and…elusive with others.”

Tegan clenched her jaw and stared into my eyes. “But you just sat there and took it. You took all of her H.E. with a nervous smile and a slight twitch of the eye.”

“Tegan, I was meeting your mum for the first time,” I implored. “I wanted her to like me!”

“She doesn’t like anyone!” spat Tegan. “Eleni doesn’t even like herself! Clothes are quite grand, and parties are simply delightful, but the only thing she loves is money.

“Tegan,” I said calmly, attempting to reason with her, “what was I supposed to do?”

“Assure her you’re straight, for starters!” exclaimed Tegan. “It would have been nice to get that settled within the first five minutes!”

I looked around the bustling High Street, the busy shops and bare trees and throngs of students walking by and gaping at us, and nudged Tegan towards the alley between Café Paragon and the Cheshire Cat Boutique (which sells cat-themed gifts for any occasion!). We stepped into the shadows, which wasn’t that dark considering the sun was rather high in the sky, but we had a bit more privacy.

“Tegan, I know you’re mad at me because of the Alliance fiasco, and maybe because I didn’t stand up to your mum,” I said rationally, “but I think something else is bothering you.”

She pulled her arms more tightly around her and pouted. “What the frick was Eleni on about?” Tegan said, her olive eyes wide. “I don’t even know what the hell she said about my dad.”

“Let’s face it, your mum’s sort of full of H.E.,” I shrugged. “She’s probably making up a stupid lie to bother you. I mean, she seems like the sort.”

Tegan smirked. “Yeah, you’re probably right. What in the name of Merlin’s saggy left—oh wait, I should probably use lady language—earlobe is Eleni’s agenda, anyways?”

“I’d say world peace is a very high priority for her,” I smirked. “She’s probably pro-house elf liberation too. It’s very trendy these days.”

She laughed. “Eleni actually sold our old house elf when he didn’t iron her blouse right. Apparently there’s an auction Saturday afternoons in the dodgy section of Knockturn Alley.”

“Which section is the dodgy one?” I joked. Tegan laughed. Just the reaction I was looking for.

I looked down slightly at her; even though she was barely shorter than me, Tegan looked a bit smaller than usual. There were dark circles beneath her eyes and she looked thinner and tinier—more fragile. I instinctively stepped forward and put my arms around her, and she did the same.

And while Tegan certainly deserved a good, Weasley-brand bear hug, I couldn’t settle my thoughts. I couldn’t help but deduce that Eleni Richelieu-Llewellyn did not like me as her daughter’s suitor, and this made me sad. I don’t act that camp, do I? In the name of Albus, I’m not the kind of bloke to string a girl along when he thinks he might fancy blokes! And I don’t fancy blokes! I fancy Tegan! Take that, Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn!

And I don’t like this Angry Tegan, or at least this Mother-Induced Angry Tegan. I like Motherless Tegan, when she’s cheerful and witty and kind. This woman makes my Tegan transform into a horrific shrew, and that is not Albus. Not even in the slightest.

Tegan held me tighter and I stroked her hair, entirely unsettled about her terrifying maternal relationship. My mum would never be so forward as Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn, and she wouldn’t be mean to the restaurant staff. You catch more fairies with honey than with flesh-eating slug repellent, after all.

I gently nudged her away so that we could face each other, and took a deep breath. “Tegan,” I began reluctantly, “I don’t know if I’m okay with—”

But I stopped short when I realized that there was pain in her eyes. Tegan’s lovely eyes are normally bright and introspective, but these things in her eye sockets were a drab, melancholic shade of brown. Whatever uncertainty I felt towards Ms. Richelieu-Llewellyn was infinitely worse for Tegan. She was her mum, and she was stuck with her. You can’t choose your family, but as Dumbledore teaches us, you can choose your own path. By some miracle, Tegan is not a shrewish sociopath, but she didn’t get there by accident.

“I’m so sorry about my mother,” Tegan finally said. “And I’m sorry that I was upset with you about the stupid Quidditch thing. If we have to strike, we’ll strike. Maybe this is all about something more important than Quidditch: Snorky, his fellow orators, and whatever it is that they do. If we miss a few matches this season, it’s fine if we’re working towards a greater good, you know? And—” she nervously licked her lips “—I shouldn’t have brought you to meet Eleni. You probably want to run for the hills…that so inconveniently block her mobile phone’s reception.”

I looked into her sad eyes, still sort of holding her by the sides, and didn’t back away. “No,” I said decisively. “Your mum thinks I’m a poof. That’s all right. As long as you know, and I know, that I fancy girls, it’ll all work out. Who cares what she thinks?”

Tegan grinned and her eyes brightened slightly, turning almost back to their usual olive shade, but not all of their lustre was back.

My own words echoed through my head. Who cares what she thinks?

I care. I like my family, and family is important to me, but my definition of ‘family’ doesn’t seem to exist in the Richelieu-Llewellyn clan. And I’m not sure how that’s going to work out.

Tegan tried to pull me a bit closer, into a proper hug, and I conceded. But soon I heard a deep voice coming from my right, and I whipped my head ‘round to investigate.

A tall, dishevelled man stood twenty feet away from me and Tegan, smirking and pulling the black cape he wore tightly around his body. He couldn’t have been much more than thirty and he was slightly balding, but I couldn’t help but feel immensely threatened by this stranger in a dark alleyway. I suppose my instincts are in order.

“Riddle me this, homeskillets,” said the odd man with a twinkle in his eye. “How is a trick like an illusion?”

A/N: Wheee…and now we’re down with Chizzzapter 12. This is actually only half of what I had planned for this chapter, but I think this is a nice place to stop. I don’t often throw cliffhangers at you, yeah?

I need to cite Arrested Development, Scrubs, and The Office as influences for the direction this story will go in. Those shows are brilliant in both the storytelling and the humor.

I used UK English spell check for this chapter and changed the others as won't be perfect, but I might as well make this as authentic as I can.

So…I hope this chapter was enjoyable, and reviews would be delightful. Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you come back for Chapter 13!

Chapter 13: The Fraudulent Magician
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Previously on We Gryffies:

Tegan tried to pull me a bit closer, into a proper hug, and I conceded. But soon I heard a deep voice coming from my right, and I whipped my head ‘round to investigate.

A tall, dishevelled man stood twenty feet away from me and Tegan, smirking and pulling the black cape he wore tightly around his body. He couldn’t have been much more than thirty and he was slightly balding, but I couldn’t help but feel immensely threatened by this stranger in a dark alleyway. I suppose my instincts are in order.

‘Riddle me this, homeskillets,’ said the odd man with a twinkle in his eye. ‘How is a trick like an illusion?’

‘Cousin Huw?’ exclaimed Tegan, quickly letting go of me and running to give the man a small hug.

‘For the love of Suetonius, McTegan, keep the proclamations of my name on the low down!’ hissed Huw, his eyes darting around.

‘So you really escaped from Azkaban?’ asked Tegan brightly, though she lowered the volume of her voice.

‘Yeppers,’ said Huw, in a rather loud whisper. ‘I’m on the lam. And you haven’t answered my riddle!’

Tegan looked quickly to me, a bit unsure, and I stepped forward. ‘There is no difference between a trick and an illusion,’ I said carefully. ‘They are one in the same.’

‘What?’ spat Huw. ‘Oh no—dear, sweet Agrippa, no—McTegan, who the hell is this poseur?’

‘Don't yell at him,’ said Tegan sternly. ‘He’s my boyfriend.’

‘James Potter,’ I said, apprehensively sticking out my hand to shake.

But Huw slapped it, like a low five. ‘Sorry, mate. Oi, where've I heard your name before?’

I crossed my arms. ‘Well, it was my granddad's name, but—’

‘Shh!’ said Huw, holding up a finger. ‘I know this!

I glanced to Tegan, but she shrugged. Huw shut his eyes and scrunched his forehead in Deep Thought.

I counted 713 seconds before interrupting. ‘Er, it’s not really important how you know my name—’

‘You're that bloke, yeah?’ Huw suddenly burst. ‘The nutty fascist who’s hell-bent on exterminating the Muggle-borns? He has these…followers, right!...and this cold piercing voice…and he tried to kill that wee baby…yes, that nutterbutter’s called Potter and I’m ninety-nine per cent certain that he’s related to you!’

‘Okay?’ I mumbled, wanting to put a stop to Huw's Deep Thoughts before he hurt himself.

Huw tapped the side of his odd-shaped head. ‘Still got it, I do. But you have yet to correctly solve my riddle!’

‘You and your riddles!’ said Tegan playfully, but in her slightly condescending way. ‘If I may speak for James, I think you’ve stumped us.’

‘You may speak for me,’ I added. ‘Tell us the solution to this conundrum.’

Huw jumped up and screeched a little bit. ‘Do not utter my name!’ he cried. ‘The Snatchers are after me!’

I debated informing this insane Welshman that all Snatchers had been removed upon the defeat of the man he thought was called James Potter many years ago, but I decided against it.

Huw crossed his arms and smirked. ‘I’ve stumped you, then. Here’s the answer: a trick is something a dog does for liver treats.’

Tegan and I quickly looked to each other, squinting oddly in the idiom in which we nonverbally communicate, then faced Huw once more.

‘How clever, Huw,’ said Tegan, slightly detached. ‘You’ve outdone yourself once again.’

Huw smirked even wider. ‘I wasn’t in Ravenclaw for nothing.’

I shot Tegan one of my Adorable, Incredulous Looks. They’re a specialty of mine.

She coughed. ‘So Hu—you,’ Tegan recovered, ‘what brings you to this remote alley behind the second most vile eatery in Hogsmeade?’

I assumed she ranked Café Paragon above Madam Puddifoot’s, but below the Hog’s Head. The Three Broomsticks is #1, obvi.

‘Well, McTegan,’ said Huw haughtily, swishing his cape about, ‘I don’t know if you’ve read any newspapers recently, but I have succeeded in escaping from the formidable, impenetrable Azkaban Prison.’

‘It wasn’t in the Prophet, Huw,’ said Tegan matter-of-factly. ‘They’ve been focusing more on Celestina Warbeck’s divorce trial.’

Huw tried to recover. ‘To be honest, I hoped that I’d generate a bit of press, at least. “The Handsome But Wayward Son of the Late, Great ‘Dangerous’ Dai Llewellyn Makes Daring Escape from the Infamous, Historical, and Aesthetically-Unpleasing Prison Those of Weaker Constitutions Refer to as Azkaban.” You know, a headline along those lines.’

I stifled a laugh and nodded my head.

‘But now I find myself on the lam,’ continued Huw. ‘I don’t quite understand that expression: “on the lam.” I have yet to encounter any lambs during my traversal of the country in my quest for freedom. And you know what? I could really go for a leg of lamb right now!

‘Indeed, I made my way across this wonderful isle of ours, encountering no lambs, until I snuck into St Mungo’s via an abandoned chimney flue.’

Tegan regarded her barmy cousin and blinked. ‘May I ask why you snuck into St Mungo’s?’

‘Excellent question, McTegan,’ said Huw brightly. ‘I had heard news that my grandfather was on his deathbed—my mam’s father, not our Taid, Tegan, he’s already dead—and I wanted to pay my final respects before he bounced to the other side of the veil. To apologise for all the gold that I stole from him over the years, do you know what I mean? And so I snuck into Grandfather Wronski’s room, unseen by the foolish medi-witches, and after I confessed a number of my sins to my bedridden granddad, I noticed the certificate of death upon his night table. Hieronymus Ulrich Wronski was dead.

‘Acting quickly, I did what any bright young man stuck in my pickle would do: I snatched the certificate of death, ran to the clerical desk down the corridor, and created the most incredible illusion of my career! I let loose my store of Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, which my prison buddy gave me for my birthday, and while the helpless medi-witches were temporarily blinded, I filched all of Grandfather Wronski’s paperwork!’

Huw stood up very tall and smiled proudly. Understandably, I was clouded in confusion.

‘Why?’ I inquired.

‘We live in a bureaucracy, Lord Potter,’ said Huw darkly. ‘Huw Vercingetorix Llewellyn is a wanted man, doomed to be captured and dragged back to prison kicking and screaming! And I refuse to serve the punishment for a crime I am completely guilty of! But Huw Vercingetorix Llewellyn is no longer! I am now…Huw!’

There was a heavy silence for several seconds, until Tegan said, ‘Huw is exactly the same as your old name, Huw.’

‘Silence!’ shouted Huw. ‘For the love of all that is good and pure in this word, do not utter my true name! Let me reiterate: I am Huw! Haitch, You, Double-You. H.U.W.!’

‘Hieronymus Ulrich Wronski,’ I mumbled.

H.U.W. snapped his fingers at me gleefully. ‘It is true what they say about you, Lord Pottermort. You are as clever as the field of divination is hippogriff excrement. And so I have assumed the identity of my deceased grandfather, the 110-year-old Snitch-manufacturing magnate, and under my new alias of H.U.W., the Ministry will never find me!’

‘H.U.W.,’ began Tegan delicately, ‘I think there’s a flaw in your plan.’

‘They’re not different enough,’ I muttered.

‘Why don’t you go by Hieronymus?’ suggested Tegan.

H.U.W. scoffed. ‘McTegan, I’ve already thought of that. But the problem is that whenever anyone would call me Hieronymus, I forgot that’s my name. I mean, who’s called Hieronymus anymore? And loads of people go by their initials, so there is no chance of the Snatchers finding me if I go by H.U.W.’

I looked to Tegan for the billionth time in the last few minutes, bewildered, and she shrugged for the billionth time, unfazed. It appeared that H.U.W. was just this mental when he entered Azkaban.

‘What brings you to Hogsmeade, H.U.W.?’ piped Tegan. She kept asking her cousin questions and I kind of wanted to run away from him, but I stuck by my fair lady’s side.

‘Oh right,’ said H.U.W., as if just remembering where he was and why he was there. ‘I’ve got to pick up some supplies for my act. From that one-eared shopkeep.’

‘At Weasley Wizard Wheezes?’ I inquired. ‘What act?’

‘Didn’t I tell you?’ asked H.U.W. disbelievingly. ‘I work as a magician now. Birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, that sort of thing. I’ve even joined the guild, see?’

He dug a green card out of his pocket: The Magician’s Guild of Britain. Member: Hieronymus Ulrich Wronski. It had a photograph of his wry, smirking mug…hold on, what kind of photograph stays still like that?

‘A Muggle magician?’ asked Tegan. ‘H.U.W., you were arrested for illegally using magic and now you’re performing it in front of Muggles? You’re jeopardizing our whole world!’

‘Frick, McTegan,’ grumbled H.U.W. ‘All the good magicians are wizards. And I’m a great one.’

‘What’s a magician?’ I asked helplessly.

‘Sort of is what it sounds like, Lord Pottermort,’ explained H.U.W. ‘You perform illusions, the Muggle children think you’re doing real magic, their parents think you’re faking it, but you actually are doing magic. I find the authenticity really keeps me competitive in the magician industry. ‘Specially since I’m a newbie.’

‘If you’re caught, H.U.W., they’ll have your wand for this,’ said Tegan severely.

H.U.W. gave an earnest sort of smile. ‘I love it, McTeg,’ he sighed. ‘I am ninety-nine per cent certain that I have discovered my true calling: duping Muggles and pretending to saw them in half. You won’t turn me in, will you?’ he asked gravely. ‘I know that I’ve made mistakes in the past, but you shouldn’t punish a man for following his dream, yeah?’

Maybe you should if his dream includes identity theft and performing magic in front of Muggles, I pondered.

Tegan sighed, clearly unhappy with what she was about to say. ‘Fine. I won’t report you to the Ministry. But you owe me, H.U.W. I’m always doing things for you, but you’ve never done anything for me.’

‘You won’t regret this, McTegan!’ proclaimed H.U.W. gleefully, enveloping her in a bear hug. ‘I’ve truly turned a corner, I have! I’ve got a real job and I’m making almost legal money, and you can count on me now!’

He let go of her and turned to me, grinning madly. ‘And you, Lord Pottermort,’ H.U.W. grabbed me and squeezed me tight, ‘you won’t snitch either, right? Course not! You’re a stand-up chap, I can tell! I’m sure all those rumours about your nefarious ways are nonsense!’

‘No sir, not me,’ I mumbled as he crushed my lungs.

H.U.W. lessened his grip on me, but held onto my shoulders. ‘I like you. I really do.’

‘H.U.W.,’ said Tegan from off to the side, and her cousin finally let me loose, ‘do you remember when my mam was pregnant, perchance?’

He clicked his tongue and looked to be in Deep Thought once more. ‘Hmm, no, can’t say I do.’

‘You would have been at least twenty,’ said Tegan dryly.

H.U.W. crossed his arms and continued to Think. ‘Eleni pregnant…I simply can’t recall. Granted, that was before the second time I went to rehab, and most things from that time are foggy.’

‘You don’t remember any affairs she had?’ asked Tegan. ‘Any gardeners, heirs to sheikhs, that sort of thing?’

‘No,’ mused H.U.W. ‘What’re you implying, McTegan? Your mam would never have an affair!’

‘She’s had five that I know about,’ said Tegan. ‘You don’t have to protect me if you know the truth, H.U.W.’

‘I don’t know anything, McTegs,’ insisted H.U.W. ‘I was addicted to forget-me-nows until you seven. Three, if my counsellor asks—though she probably doesn’t know about the identity theft...I really hope she’s doing well… But you do look like Uncle Rhys, if this is bothering you. Hell, you look more like him than Eleni.’

Tegan weakly smiled. ‘Thanks, H.U.W. I’m not exactly certain whose word is more credible—yours or Eleni’s—but I can be sure that you’re telling the truth as best as you remember it.’

‘It’s so nice to hear that you’re starting to have faith in me,’ said H.U.W. brightly and without a trace of sarcasm. ‘I definitely do owe you—and you too, Lord Pottermort—so feel free to take me up on that at any time. Or whenever our paths cross again. But I’m afraid, children,’ he reached into his cloak, ‘that I must…be off!’

He threw a handful of dark powder into the air and a cloud of thick smoke exploded into the alleyway. Tegan coughed and I started to rub the soot out of my eyes as the smoke began to dissipate, and I noticed that H.U.W. was gone.

Tegan waved the remaining smoke away from her face as her coughing subsided. ‘He certainly knows how to make an exit, doesn’t he?’

‘Quite the wondrous illusion,’ I remarked.

She looked to the ground for a moment, like she was staring at something really hard, but also like she was staring really hard at nothing, and then looked back up. ‘So you’ve met my cousin as well as my mam!’ Tegan laughed nervously, but the kind of laughter that sort of sounds like crying.

While a more callous boy than I would run before he had to meet anymore of her clinically insane relatives, I smiled as kindly at my Tegan as I could manage. ‘And next I get to meet your dad.’ Stupid stupid stupid, get out while you still can! ‘Sounds like he really is your dad, after all.’

‘My parents used to tell me that H.U.W. was doing humanitarian aid work in Africa when he never came to Christmas at our house when I was little,’ said Tegan casually. ‘I always suspected they were lying.’

I nodded. ‘We should probably get out of this alley before we run into any more magicians.’

‘Yeah,’ she agreed.

I placed my hand in hers, vowing never to return again to this accursèd place, and we vacated the dodgy alleyway.

‘We’re going to try a new kind of therapy today, James,’ said Dobby Longbottom, Psychological Healer Extraordinaire. He sat in his usual examining chair in the common room during my appointment later that week, pushing his lens-less specs further up his short nose. He wears them whenever he analyses me, you see.

I clutched my pink, unicorned Imagination Journal tightly to my chest. ‘But these are my private thoughts,’ I said softly, feeling most vulnerable. ‘I write them down under the pretence that no one will ever see them.’

‘I do not wish to invade your privacy, James,’ said Dobby carefully. ‘Would you feel more comfortable selecting which portions you’d like to share with me and then reading them aloud?’

‘I don’t know,’ I mumbled, glancing down.

‘James, this is a safe space,’ he said, ever the epitome of reason. I looked over to the Gryffie section of the common room, where Freddie and Micah were blowing bogey bubbles out their noses and giggling madly.

‘I’m over here,’ said Dobby dryly, and I quickly snapped my attention back to the littlest Longbottom. ‘Something is not sitting well with you, and I believe this has been the case since last Saturday. I just want to know what the problem is so that I can help fix it.’

I nodded, impressed by how clever and perceptive this young man was. Well, I had been acting a bit more skittish since that fateful Hogsmeade visit, and most of the lustre was gone from my eyes. Only most, though.

‘Okay,’ came my concession, and I cast the incantation to undo the security spell I’d put on my Imagination Journal. ‘Will the entry from Saturday night do?’

Dobby smiled warmly. ‘Yes. Whatever you wish to share with me.’

I flipped to the correct page, took a deep breath, and began to read. ‘Dear Imagination Journal:

‘I had a really sucky day today, and it isn’t even because Snorky Scamander is probably going to strike and my mates will never be able to play Quidditch again and it’s all my fault. I met Tegan’s mum today. I thought it would be fun, like meeting a blonder version of my mum. But I was wrong.

‘Tegan’s mum thinks I’m a poof! That was the exact word she used! And then Tegan yelled at her, like: “Grr, you suck, Mam. My boyfriend’s as straight as a centaur is ornery.” But then her mum was like: “Blaaah, I’m Eleni Richelieu-Llewellyn, the most evil Mugglephile to ever walk the earth.” And she kept trying to trick me into admitting I swing the way that I don’t!

‘And Tegan just kept getting angrier and angrier with her, especially when she said something about Tegan’s dad not being her dad. But he is her dad, and I’ll get to that part of the story later.

‘And then Tegan was all: “Growl, I will not stand for this anymore. You are full of H.E.” Only she used the real words! Tegan, who used to Scourgify me and my mates’ mouths when we used profane language! I know, right?

‘But then she kissed me in front of everyone at Café Paragon, but it wasn’t a nice kiss at all. Then she stormed out and I followed her, cos what was I supposed to do? Make more small talk with Eleni? So then I found Tegan outside and she was all: “Ahh, I’m sorry you had to see me like that. My mam makes me a crazy person.” And I lied to her and said it was okay and it didn’t bother me. We went into an alleyway and talked more about our feelings, which is really hard for Tegan but never for me, except today when I couldn’t help but lie to her, and then this icky man who smelled like rotten eggs and goose down cornered us and asked us what the difference between a trick and an illusion is.

‘Turns out it was Tegan’s cousin Huw, who escaped from Azkaban a little while ago. I thought I was being clever and said they were the same thing, which I still think they are, but he was like: “Gah, you are incorrect, sir.” Only he called me a poseur instead of sir.

‘Then Tegan defended me to the second member of her family today and Huw thought either me or my granddad (on the Potter side) was Voldemort. Anyways, we learned what the real difference between a trick and an illusion allegedly is and Huw told of us his exploits whilst on the lam, encountering no lambs and apparently not showering and being a Muggle magician who uses real magic. Oh, and stealing his dead grandfather’s identity. So now he’s H.U.W., not Huw, which anyone who hasn’t gone mad from too many forget-me-nows (whatever those are) knows is not the best pseudonym. For someone already named Huw, you see.

‘So H.U.W. likes me much more than his auntie does, but he also thinks I attempted to murder my own dad when he was one year old. Perhaps he prefers to have criminals for company.

‘Is that mean to say? If it is, I’m sorry I said it. But I’m not sure if H.U.W. is as reformed as he insists he is. But at least he sort of confirmed that Tegan is her father’s daughter. The best sort of confirmation Hieronymus Ulrich Wronski can give. I consider myself fairly eccentric and open-minded, but H.U.W. is simply the battiest little maniac I’ve ever encountered.

‘A number of things concern me, and not just the worry that Tegan might pass on these psychotic genes to our children. Well, Eleni and H.U.W. aren’t actually blood relations, but if H.U.W. received his insanity from his dad (may “Dangerous” Dai rest in peace), then Tegan’s dad might have it too, and then our children will be doomed. Mine and Tegan’s, not mine and Tegan’s dad’s. I am not a poof! And I’m not sure how two blokes would go about having children anyways.

‘But it’s not just that Tegan’s mum has evil genes that might be hiding in Tegan, all recessive and menacing. I don’t like the way that she treats me, or how much Tegan looks like I imagine Grendel’s mother to look when she’s around Eleni. Tegan, I mean, not Grendel’s mother. Frick, I am not constructing clear, concise sentences right now!

‘I’m just so confused, IJ. Obviously I love Tegan and will love her forever, but I don’t love her family nearly as much as I assumed I would. Well, I suppose that isn’t fair to say yet, cos I haven’t met Mr Llewellyn. But anyone who could stay married to Eleni without being bribed or coerced CANNOT be a normal human being. I don’t care if his brother was the greatest Seeker since Josef Wronski. Something is not right with this family. Dare I say: something is quite wrong.

Yours truly,
James Sirius Potter

I gently shut my Imagination Journal and slowly looked up at Dobby (for dramatic effect, you see), but his eyes were narrowed and his jaw was hanging slightly.

‘I’ve got to admit, James, that I don’t know how you don’t explode with all those emotions galloping around in your head,’ admitted Dobby, pushing his specs up his nose. ‘You’ve always been a complicated case—no offence—but you’ve outdone yourself.’

‘What’s wrong with me?’ I moaned. ‘Fix it, Dobster!’

Dobby swallowed and jotted a few notes on the parchment before him. ‘Nothing,’ he said finally. ‘There’s nothing wrong with you. You just met two of the most disturbing people you’re ever likely to meet, and you want to run.’

‘That’s it?’ I said too quickly. ‘I already knew that, Dobby! Psychoanalyse me, tell me something insightful that I never realised about myself, and tell me how to fix this!’

Dobby looked shell-shocked and helpless. ‘I’m sorry, James. Granted, I met your parents years before I became Lily’s boyfriend, but I don’t think Harry and Ginny would ever act like Eleni. I doubt they even could act like she did. And that H.U.W. fellow—I probably know more about forget-me-nots than you do, and they can’t make someone that barmy.’

I sat up. ‘No, Dobby. Do not give up on me now! You can do this, mate! Make with the insight!

He gulped, looking terrified for the first time since he became my Psychological Healer. Now that Dobby knew all my deepest, darkest secrets, he usually exuded nothing but confidence and poise. But he decides that now is the perfect time to start being afraid of me, like any normal little sister’s boyfriend would?

‘W-w-well,’ said Dobby shakily, ‘it comes as a shock to you to discover that you don’t like Eleni and H.U.W. as much as you hoped you would.’

‘I knew that as well,’ I said, uncharacteristically rude. Frick, is Eleni rubbing off on me, too?

‘You’re disappointed!’ Dobby said a bit more forcefully. ‘You love your family and fit in well in your family structure, and you’re surprised and disappointed that you don’t like Tegan’s family!’

‘Okay,’ I grumbled.

‘You assumed that you’d fit seamlessly into her family!’ said Dobby more and more quickly, so much so that he might have been on the verge of an Epiphany. ‘You thought you’d get along perfectly with them, if Tegan was truly destined to be your soul mate! And given that the previously stated conditions are true, that family is essential to you and you are incompatible with Tegan’s family, you are currently fighting a life or death psychological battle within your subconscious over whether or not Tegan is your soul mate!’

He released his knuckles, which had been tightly gripping the arms of his chair, and sat back with a loud exhale. I mulled his hypothesis over for a minute, weighing its validity.

‘Interesting theory, Dobby,’ I said distantly.

‘Is it right?’ he cried, gnawing on his fingernails.

‘Maybe,’ I whispered, though loud enough for Dobby to hear. ‘No—I can’t be doubting—’

‘You have a very fragile psyche,’ Dobby interjected, regaining a bit of the colour in his face. ‘Someone more thick-skinned might simply be disturbed by these encounters and continue on his way, but you’re different.’

‘For the love of Ambrosius Aurelianus,’ I mumbled, my little mind racing.

‘It all comes down to love,’ added Dobby, more collected. ‘You haven’t met many loveless people, as far as I know. Your family has shown you nothing but love, even Al in his customary 15-year-old’s difficult phase. Your friends also feel nothing but love for you, even though they want to physically harm you at the moment for indirectly endorsing Snorky Scamander. And let’s face it, Snorky lacks the attention span to hold a grudge for any length of time, and no one knows what Neville did to him that’s so terrible…anyways, you’ve given nothing but love, James, and you’ve received it in return. But love doesn’t seem to be in Eleni’s emotional vocabulary, and naturally this shocks you. I’ve never met him myself, of course, but it sounds like H.U.W. loves you too, in his own way.’

‘Frick!’ I exclaimed. ‘I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone about Huw or H.U.W. or their escape from Azkaban!’

‘Relax, James,’ said Dobby, sounding more like his old self. ‘Everything you tell me is in confidence, remember?’

‘Right,’ I remembered. ‘The Hippopotamus Oath.’

‘It’s actually the Hippocratic Oath,’ Dobby said kindly. ‘When I took it, I sort of administered it to myself without any witnesses. Plus I think it’s intended for licensed Muggle physicians, and I’m an unlicensed Psychological Healer, so I’m not sure how legitimate the oath I took was. But James, I swear by Apollo, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea that I will not cut for stone, perform abortions, or reveal any secrets you may confide in me.’

I nodded. ‘I don’t understand much of what you just said, but I thank you. If we get this whole conundrum as to whether or not Tegan is my soul mate sorted out in the preferable way, I would be honoured to have you serve as a groomsman in our wedding. Mine and Tegan’s, I mean.’

‘Wow, you really…plan ahead,’ mused Dobby.

‘You can’t be best man, for political reasons,’ I explained, ‘but I hope that you accept the offer to be a regular old groomsman.’

Dobby gave a crooked sort of smile. ‘Okay, James,’ said he, scribbling something with his quill. ‘I’ll be a groomsman. But first, I propose that we get all this sorted out.’

I jumped up, ran over to Dobby Longbottom, picked him up by his scrawny shoulders, and wrapped my arms around his tiny body. ‘Thank you,’ I whispered, hoping I wasn’t crushing his ribs. ‘Thank you for being you.’

‘No problem!’ he managed to squeak. ‘Same time next week?’

I dropped him to the ground and he steadied himself. ‘Perfect,’ I said coolly, strutting away. Strutting with attitude and arrogance is one of my many talents. It isn’t so easy to pull off, you see. Your head has to slightly bob forwards and backwards and that puts strain on your neck and upper spine, and pursing your lips together just so requires concentration and discipline. To keep in top strutting form, I often practice in front of the full-length looking-glass in my dormitory.

And so I strutted, hopefully with perfect form, towards the Gryffie corner of the common room, where Micah and Freddie had been joined by J.D. and Tegan. Micah glared at me and Tegan flicked his nose.

‘Be nice,’ she warned, business-like. ‘James did the morally right thing, what Albus Dumbledore would’ve done, so don’t shun him for having a social conscience. And we all know that Snorky will never follow through with this ridiculous strike threat. He’s probably forgotten all about it by now and is planning his search for the lost city of Atlantis.’

Micah ‘s frown contorted into something that might resemble a smile, and he offered me a nod. J.D., however, looked rather peckish, as a witty and terribly clever American might remark.

‘You didn’t even consult with us,’ said J.D., arms crossed. ‘Thought we were a Quidocracy. Thought we made decisions as a group.’

I took a deep breath. ‘I don’t know if we are a Quidocracy, J.D. All I know is that I am the cap’n, and I made a quick decision on everyone’s behalf. Maybe it was the wrong decision, but I believe that it’s right.’

‘A Quidpublic,’ said J.D. passive-aggressively. ‘But how far is it from a Quidpublic to Quirany? Are visions of Quidtators dancing in your head alongside the sugar plums?’

I swallowed and licked my lips. ‘It’s hard—’

‘That’s what she said,’ said Tegan, giggling. ‘What? I’m only human.’

I began again, ‘It’s difficult to follow what you’re saying when you’re using made-up words, but I would never, ever betray your trust and let the power go to my head and become a Quidtator. It’s me! It’s little Jamesie S. Potter! I love the Gryffies and I love Quidditch, and I would not jeopardise what we have unless there was no real threat or unless it was for a noble cause. And in this instance, both are true.’

‘You’re certain that there is no real threat of a strike?’ Freddie asked sceptically.

‘Mates,’ I smiled slightly, ‘this is Snorky Scamander we’re talking about. Nothing is going to happen, except that we’ll play a full season of Quidditch and beat Slytherin for the Cup.’

‘Yeah?’ asked Tegan, teasing.

‘Let’s see…we’re the best team in school and everyone knows it, plus we have two and a half black players and a Jew. We can’t lose,’ I grinned.

Micah the Jew, Freddie the Half-Black Guy, and Tegan the Ordinary White Girl grinned along with me. J.D. didn’t.

‘This better work out, J.S.,’ muttered J.D. ‘We better not stop playing Quidditch cos a small number of orators are bitching and moaning about their fair working conditions.’

I patted him on the shoulder. ‘It’s all going to work out,’ I said, feeling confident for the first time since meeting Eleni Richelieu-Llewellyn. ‘Fate will be kind to us.’

Right at that moment, a horrible, deafening sound exploded throughout the common room. Everybody covered their ears, but it didn’t help to drown out the echoing, brash noise.

But then it stopped. The entirety of Gryffindor House spun their heads ‘round to investigate the source of this offensive and curious din. I was one of the first to spot Snorky Scamander, standing on the stairs that lead to the boys’ dormitories, clasping a cylindrical can in one hand and a long piece of parchment in the other.

‘WHAT THE FRICK, SNORKY?’ bellowed J.D., positively irate.

Snorky turned his head to read the label on the orange can. ‘World’s Loudest Air Horn, Guaranteed. Found it in the Muggle section of Weasley Wizard Wheezes.’

Groucho Horowitz, one of Micah’s brothers in Al and Rose’s year, jumped up from his seat. ‘You shmok!’ proclaimed Groucho, his huge black eyebrows wiggling in anger. ‘Go be sociopathic somewhere else!’

Snorky blew the air horn for one short burst, we all screamed, and he smiled smugly. ‘I have selected this forum to present my resolution to the world,’ said Snorky proudly, holding up the piece of parchment. ‘Kindly pass on this information to the rest of the school. My first exclusive interview will be with The Quibbler, and it goes to press tomorrow.’

Nooo! my conscience screamed. Don’t let him—

‘Resolution the First,’ read Snorky, all eyes on him, ‘the Voices Of Largely Disappointed, Exploited, and Maltreated Orators Ready to Talk, from henceforth referred to as V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T., has reached a unanimous decision regarding its determined action against Professors Neville Longbottom, Vindictus Viridian, and Ted Lupin, all of Hogwarts School, as well as every team manager in the British and Irish Quidditch League, in addition to the executive board of the Wizarding Wireless Network, and all aforementioned parties will henceforth be referred to as The Man.

‘Resolution the Second: All members of V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T. have agreed to uphold and honour the conditions presented in Resolution the Third, and will not violate the terms of agreement until The Man agrees to the presented conditions.

‘Resolution the Third: V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T. demands total creative control for its orator members. There will be no commentation and there will be total radio silence until The Man agrees to the aforementioned terms. And as the Alliance of Hogwarts Quidditch Cap’ns, or A.H.Q.C., and the Union of British and Irish Professional Quidditch Players, or U.B.I.P.Q.P., have agreed to honour V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T’s conditions until The Man accepts the terms of agreement, there will be no Quidditch played anywhere in the British Isles or any programming on the Wizarding Wireless Network, if V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T. resolves to strike.

‘Resolution the Fourth: V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T. is on strike until The Man concedes.’

A/N: Wow, another cliffhanger. How uncharacteristic of me.

My hard drive died, I lost half the chapter (as well as every document, photo, or music file I ever had), and this is what I scrambled together. It’s out by March 15th (James’s birthday), as promised.

Please review. I need love.

Chapter 14: His Story
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Previously on We Gryffies:

‘Resolution the Fourth: V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T. is on strike until The Man concedes.’

As soon as that miserable little sod rolled up his heinous declaration, all smug and content, I lost it. Considering the company I keep, and my genetic disposition towards rage, I usually do an excellent job of keeping my emotions in check. But this—this was going too far. I had lost my girlfriend, my dignity, and now my Quidditch, and there was only one person to blame.

‘I’m going to fricking murder you!’ I bellowed, lunging at J.S. His stupid, beady little eyes went wide when my hands grabbed his throat.

‘Get the frick off him!’ Tegan shrieked, pulling at my shoulder. I managed to pull one arm away and shoved her off of me, then focused both hands on minimising the flow of oxygen to J.S.’s lungs.

‘Why?’ J.S. choked faintly, becoming more and more limp. Piss, now I had to hold up all his body weight while I killed him? Eh, at least he’s scrawny. Got bird bones, he does.

‘I blame you,’ I hissed. ‘I blame you for the pile of hippogriff excrement that my life has become.’

Just then, I catapulted back and my body slammed against the common room wall. I managed to hit the tapestry of the blind dragon, but it didn’t do much to lessen the impact of the stone wall on my back. I fell to the ground and lay there, writhing and twitching.

‘Nice work, Freddie,’ I thought I heard Micah say in the distance.

‘Thanks,’ Fred said. ‘Dunno wot’s gotten into J.D., though. The entire house is watching. Tegs, is James all right?’

Cor, how stupid am I? I’m a goddamn wizard, after all!

I pushed myself up off the floor and grabbed my wand from my pocket. ‘Chiroptera Mucusa!’ I shouted, a yellow string of light bursting from my wand and hitting J.S. in the face.

All at once, a thousand bogey bats flew out of his nose and began attacking his face. ‘Gerroff gerroff GERROFF!’ J.S. screeched in that way he frequently does, running around in circles and swiping the bats away from his face. But it was to no avail, and most of the common room stared in awe of my fine hexing abilities.

But not Tegan. ‘J.D., where do you get off?’ she demanded hysterically, approaching me. ‘James didn’t start the strike! If anyone, you should be hexing Snorky!’

I turned my head and spotted Snorky Scamander, glued to the staircase and looking nothing short of terrified.

My eyes fell to J.S., who had managed to petrify the bogey bats in a lumpy mess stuck to his face. ‘Move over, Tegan,’ he said in his stupid dramatic manner. ‘This is my battle to fight.’

She obliged and shuffled to the corner with Freddie and Micah, grumbling something about the Stupid Potion J.S. and I must have taken this morning.

J.S. carefully pulled out his wand and pointed it at me. ‘This…is…Gryffindor!’ he yelled, running towards me.

Locomotor Mortis,’ I said lazily. J.S. stopped in his tracks, his legs slammed together, and he fell face first into the floor.

‘It’s best not to get involved,’ Micah said to Tegan, who looked furious. ‘Sometimes they just need to work things out on their own.’

But J.S. had pushed his upper body up off the floor and pointed his wand at me once again. ‘Expelliarmus!’ My wand flew out of my hand and sailed across the common room.

Damn! I thought. He knows that wandless magic is my weakness! I’ll never make it over to my wand—quick, something simple—perfect.

Langlock!’ I shouted. In a stroke of luck, J.S. opened his mouth but nothing came out. His legs and tongue were useless to him now—not ideal for a bloke who can’t perform nonverbal spells to save his life.

A number of Gryffindors began applauding me, so naturally I went to take a bow. For a moment I saw J.S., his face all red and scrunchy-like, and I felt the slightest pang of guilt. But it passed. Without his dazzling diplomatic skills we’d all have Quidditch and without his family of Catholic proportions Rose Weasley would not exist. And I would be so much happier.

But then my life got even worse. I got Levicorpused. Yes, I flipped upside down, flew towards the common room ceiling, and dangled by my ankle. The applause turned to laughter, and upon wheeling my head ‘round, I saw J.S. pointing his wand at me, looking sad and fully getting his pout on.

I’ve never had much that’s bad to say about Professor Longbottom. Sure, I’m crap at Herbology and I blame him for it, especially when he brings my work ethic into question. (I’d do my homework if he didn’t make it so boring. Fanged Geraniums? Who cares?) He’s also our head of house and J.S. is almost as in love with his kid Dobby as he is with Tegan. But there’s this one thing about Longbottom that I find unsettling, and almost no one has a good explanation for it.

He’s got an eye patch. Over his right eye. Presumably cos there’s no eye there.

No one knows how he lost it. Every kid at Hogwarts has his own hypothesis, which leads to approximately 1000 different theories. Even Dobby Longbottom doesn’t know. Or that’s what he insists.

Then there’s the issue of why Longbottom doesn’t use a magical replacement eye. In China, they give them away like free Sneakoscopes. Our neighbour has one and he can see all sorts of weird shit, like what’s going on in the next room and who lit his cat on fire.

I got in so much trouble for that. But Mr. Flowers is one odd bloke, and his cat’s possessed. Seriously. It’s evil and follows me around during the summer holidays and hisses and attacks me with his little claws. It isn’t wrong to hex animals when it’s in self-defence!

But back to Professor Longbottom. He has an eye patch and doesn’t care for me.

‘Messrs Potter and Nott,’ Longbottom addressed us in his office about ten minutes after Freddie and Micah got me down from the common room ceiling, ‘I was under the impression that the two of you were close friends.’

I stared at his eye patch while J.S. answered. ‘We were, Neville,’ he sniffed. ‘We were as thick as peas.’

When did I let something like that become my best mate?

Professor Patchy coughed. ‘Please, it’s Professor Longbottom during the school year.’

‘Sorry, Neville,’ J.S. moped. ‘I’m rather distraught!’

Honestly? Maybe he’s as thick as a pea, but does he have to be such a girl about it?

Patchbottom rolled his eye. ‘Mr Nott, eyewitness accounts say that you were the first to attack. The prefects also seem unsure as to what provocation on Mr Potter’s part may have warranted your actions.’

Piss. Well done, Freddie and Miranda Matilda Melinda Shitforbrains, sixth-year prefects extraordinaires! For complying with Longbottom, you are both guilty of treason against John Dorian Nott, Esquire.

Honestly, I’m not quite sure what ‘Esquire’ means. I think it’s a Muggle title or summat. But it sounds cool affixed to the end of my name, yeah?

I will inform them of their treason later, complete with a biting ‘How do you like them egg rolls?’ exclamation of passive-aggression. MMMS has never received the full shun from me, mostly cos she’s too busy being vapid and short a chromosome or two to ever do wrong by me, and Freddie has been shunned once before. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem too phased by it. But it is not okay to tell your mate that his mum is quite fit. So I told him that his mum looks like a Blast-Ended Skrewt and Freddie overreacted and started hexing me, so I started jinxing him, and soon enough we both found ourselves at St Mungo’s, me bald and him with both his little fingers gone. The Healers managed to fix us up well enough, but I refused to talk to him for the rest of that summer. I even declined my invitation to his birthday party, which is a shame because his mum really is quite fit.

Now J.S., I shunned him once just to see what reaction I’d get, and the poor sod burst into tears.

Right, J.S.!

‘Mr Potter knows what he did,’ I told Longbottom coldly, making certain to keep my gaze straight ahead so as to avoid eye contact with J.S. ‘I will not dignify his actions by repeating them here.’

Patchy might’ve clenched his jaw. He looked displeased, but as badass as any day. ‘You began a fight, Mr Nott,’ he said matter-of-factly. ‘This is obviously a violation of school rules, and the only chance you may have of exoneration is to provide an adequate explanation of what Mr Potter did to provoke you. Are you still unwilling to admit this?’

I sat back in my chair, folded my arms, and stared at Longpatch’s single, cold eye. ‘Yes, Professor,’ I said without emotion. ‘I won’t tell you my perfectly legitimate reason for attacking my best mate Muggle-style. Let’s have the punishment, then. Lines with Professor Lupin, or something a bit less enjoyable? Cleaning out cauldrons down in the dungeons? Giving Pointy Teeth, Hagrid’s wolfhound, a walk through the Forbidden Forest? Checking every reference book in the library for stray ink splotches?’

But Longbottom turned to J.S. ‘Mr Potter, are you aware of Mr Nott’s “perfectly legitimate reason” for attempting to strangle you?’

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted J.S. shaking his head. ‘No, Neville,’ he said quietly. ‘Well, it might have to do with the fact that V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T.’s gone on strike and he blames me for it. But don’t punish J.D. I’m sure that this was simply a crime of passion and that deep down, he’s very sorry. He’s a good-hearted fellow, he really is. Please don’t make him sort through books in the library. All those old, leather-bound books stir up his dust allergy. And he hates reading.’

Frick. What kind of bloke is all Kumbaya and shit towards his best mate who tried to kill him? ‘Snot healthy behaviour.

‘Mr Potter, I cannot avoid punishing Mr Nott,’ Professor Cyclops said incredulously. ‘He is the perpetrator in this situation and put you in danger, whether you recognise that or not.’

‘That’s it, Longbottom,’ I encouraged him cheerfully. ‘Let me have it!’

Our head of house rolled his eye. ‘Is it true, then? Mr Scamander has actually gone through with his “strike”?’

J.S. nodded vigorously. I sneered.

‘Yeah, that freak Snorky’s on strike,’ I taunted. ‘What’re you going to do about it?’

Longpatchbottom gave one of his Formidable Looks. ‘Nothing. The student body will pressure him to give up and count his losses soon enough. Few students are as unpopular as Mr Scamander, and if he doesn’t watch it, he will become the most hated young man in all of Wizarding Britain.’

‘Good plan, Longbottom!’ I said in encouragement. ‘Only problem is that this school, not to mention this country, is full of idiots who love supporting pointless causes. Now, onto my punishment!’

Polyphemus narrowed his one eye. It must be a difficult feat to achieve.

‘Very well then, Mr Nott,’ he said dryly. ‘As I am your head of house, you will serve your month-long detention with me. Germinating and tending to the mandrakes. Come to Greenhouse Number 3 at five o’clock this evening, and bring earmuffs.’

I jumped out and reached my hand toward Longbottom. He cautiously shook it.

‘Thank you, sir!’ I grinned, grabbing his hand vigorously. ‘Absolute pleasure doing business with you!’

‘Likewise,’ Longbottom replied, dry as a prohibitionist.

Without making eye contact with my former best mate, I spun on my heel and swanky-walked out of Jolly Roger’s office. My father always stresses the importance of a memorable exit, and the Heel-Spin and Swanky-Walk are two of the finest tools in his arsenal that he has passed on to me. Use the velocity you garner from the Heel-Spin to create a small breeze that will cause your cloak to billow. Then, sticking out your lower lip, strut to your desired location. It’s important to keep your speed at around a tempo of adagio, and if you don’t have much meat on your bones, you may have to swing your hips a bit. I always throw in a Shoulder-Sway to complement my Hip-Swinging to make a memorable impression.

Left, right, left, right, I marched out of the room, left, right, left, right, and that’s a Nott Brand Swanky-Walk.

I grabbed the door handle, gave it a twist, swanky-walked right through, and let it slam shut behind me. I minimised the Hip-Swinging as I made my way down the corridor, and I almost made it to the trick staircase before I heard his stupid voice.

‘J.D.!’ J.S. cried from behind me, and I sped the Swanky-Walking up to an allegro. ‘J.D. J.D. J.D.!’

‘Why don’t you find a nice hole in the ground to go die in?’ I called, keeping my gaze forward.

‘J.D.!’ I felt something tug at my shoulder.

‘Gerroff!’ I barked at my ex-best mate and pulled away.

‘Please!’ he whimpered, but I still wouldn’t look at him.

‘I have a message by owl post here for James Sirius Potter,’ I chirped. ‘It says, and I quote: “Piss…wait, let me finish…off.”’

‘Look at me,’ J.S. requested softly.

‘Now, why would I do that, Pig Whore?’ I laughed. ‘Pig Whore isn’t pretty to look at.’

‘Look at me!’ he screeched.

I stopped my Swanky-Walking, gave a 90-degree Heel-Spin, and looked at him.

‘It hurts my feelings when you call me Pig Whore,’ J.S. said, his normally beady eyes looking strangely wide. ‘I feel emasculated, too. But it doesn’t take much to emasculate me these days.’

‘I’m angry with you,’ I said matter-of-factly. ‘Are you not aware that people tend to say rude things when they’re angry with someone else? Or are you permanently stuck in that mythological kingdom of Potterweasleydonia, where it rains marshmallows and the government provides an Imagination Journal for every naturalised citizen?’

‘You say rude things to me a lot,’ he said, looking shorter. In height. Which is weird, cos he’s normally slightly taller than me. But only slightly. Don’t tell him I admitted it.

I exhaled and crossed my arms. ‘I’m a jerk most of the time,’ I said. ‘You should know that by now.’

‘But why are you a jerk now?’ J.S. asked desperately. ‘What did I do wrong? Well, I know the answer to that: I accidentally entered a pact with the Alliance of Hogwarts Quidditch Cap’ns and now we can’t play Quidditch anymore. But none of the other Gryffies tried to physically hurt me, J.D.’

‘It’s not even that, J.S.,’ I grumbled. ‘Although that was the straw that broke the thestrel’s back.’

‘What’s the matter, J.Dizzle?’ he whispered. ‘You know you can always share your feelings with me. I love talking about feelings.’

‘Well, I don’t,’ I snapped, but almost regretted the tone. ‘Everyone in my family keeps their feelings bottled up until they explode, and who am I to break tradition?’

‘Isn’t shouting “I’m going to fricking murder you!” approaching the point of exploding? Not to mention the fact that you incited a duel with me?’ he asked meekly.

I glanced down the corridor, to make sure that it was deserted. It was.

‘You have a point,’ I said wryly. ‘Sorry about that. The whole threatening-and-attacking-you thing, I mean. Bad form.’

J.S. gave a small smile. ‘I forgive you, because I know you must have a very good reason. And speaking of that reason, wouldn’t it be nice to share it with me? To share some of your feelings?’

I looked up and down the corridor again. ‘Okay, we’ll do it your way. Your little poncey way.’

I grabbed his arm and roughly pulled him towards the statue of Cúchulainn the Hound-Slayer.

Táin Bó Cúailnge,’ I whispered to it. A dark green wooden door appeared, and I opened it and stepped inside.

‘Where are we?’ mumbled J.S., whipping his head around around the prefects’ common room.

‘Prefects’ common room,’ I answered languidly. ‘Medb Feidlech is Head Girl, and she’s gone a bit mad with power.’

‘You’re not a prefect,’ J.S. stated dumbly. ‘How d’you know where the prefects’ common room is? And the password? Freddie didn’t tell you, did he? Why did he tell you and not me? We’re family! Doesn’t that mean anything to him? Why doesn’t Freddie like me?’

‘Relax, mate,’ I said as J.S. looked around the room, no doubt admiring its architecture and furnishings. I don’t have the patience for that sort of crap.

‘Freddie didn’t tell me anything,’ I continued. ‘I have, er, other connections.’

‘Rosie isn’t prefect,’ J.S. babbled. ‘Al and Niamh Finnegan are. But Kate’s prefect…have you unshunned her?’

‘Stop with the interrogation!’ I threw my arms in the air. ‘I sweet-talked Miranda Matilda Melinda Shitforbrains and she gave me the password! Who gives a frick? And aren’t we supposed to be talking about my feelings?’

Like clockwork, a grin returned to J.S.’s smug little face. ‘Yes, begin whenever you are ready.’

He plopped on the furry couch and I sat beside him. Not right beside him, cos I’m no poofter, but a safe distance away.

I exhaled and clenched my teeth. ‘Rose and I…Rose Weasley and I…have come to the decision that we should break up. Amicably. Amicably part ways. Which is what Rose and I did.’

J.S. cocked his head to the side. ‘Why?’

‘Aren’t you happy?’ I demanded. ‘You’ve been trying to sabotage our relationship from the start!’

He appeared to be in Deep Thought. ‘No,’ J.S. mumbled. ‘I’m not happy. I should be, but I’m not.’

I rolled my eyes. ‘We’re focusing on me now. A major part of my life has changed, and you know how well I deal with change.’

He giggled. There isn’t any other word for it. How I deplore the word “giggle”.

‘Remember that time Snorky called a strike,’ J.S. asked, ‘and you started to strangle and hex me? That was crazy!

‘That this afternoon,’ I murmured.

‘We’re not laughing about that yet?’

‘Yeah, half an hour isn’t enough time. Let it simmer a bit.’

‘Oh.’ He sounded disappointed. ‘Well, you and Rose aren’t together anymore, and you’re both amicable about it. You might need some time to heal, J.Dizzle, but you’ll be all right. Chin up, solider!’

I swallowed. Something about the vague and ambiguous declaration of why I was really upset wasn’t clicking with J.S.

‘I’m—I’m sad,’ I blurted. ‘I am currently dissatisfied with my life. I want the unhappiness to go away.’

He tried to pat my shoulder, but I hit his arm away.

‘Even with all this amicability, breakups are hard,’ said J.S. ‘I myself have never been in one, cos Tegan’s my first girlfriend, and I never will be, cos we’re going to get married and live happily ever after, but the latest issue of Witch Weekly has a really good article, with a bunch of suggestions to “help you forget him”. Or in your case, “help you forget her”. Oh wait, Rosie borrowed my copy. I could get it back, if you like.’

J.S. should really win some sort of award for saying exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time. They could call it The Spazzies...awards for the most inept and oblivious people in the Wizarding world.

‘Thanks, I’m fine,’ I croaked.

He stared at the floor for a moment. ‘May I hug you?’

I sighed.

‘I know we have a no touching policy, but I really think this will be for your own benefit,’ he said methodically, sort of sounding like Dobby Longbottom. Except more poncey.

I sighed once more. Frick. ‘Very well. You may hug me.’

J.S. jumped up and threw his scrawny, gangly arms around me. Have I mentioned that I shy away from affection and am somewhat homophobic?

‘Hug it out, J.Dizzle,’ J.S. whispered. ‘Hug the bad thoughts away.’

I patted him on the back morosely, desperate to find a way out of this hug tout de suite. ‘Erm, thank you.’

J.S. squeezed me tighter. ‘I love you. I know about your homophobia, but I don’t care. Tell me you love and appreciate me too.’

‘No,’ I said dryly.

‘Come on, just say it.’ He still wouldn’t let go.

‘No!’ I protested, my voice hoarse. I go into anaphylactic shock whenever a bloke touches me for too long.

‘We’re alone,’ said J.S. calmly. ‘No one will hear you.’

‘Euauogflab,’ I whined, the walls of my throat closing in on themselves. I need a shot of Epinephrine Potion, and I need it now!

‘Three little words,’ whispered J.S. ‘And I’ll stop hugging you.’

‘I love you!’ I finally burst, almost to the point of tears. J.S. gently let go of me and the anaphylactic shock thing went away immediately.

My stupid, smarmy, daft poofter of a best mate smiled. ‘That wasn’t so hard, was it? Didn’t kill you, right?’

I coughed. ‘Almost did!’

‘Three lovely words,’ J.S. sang to himself. ‘Why don’t we say them enough? Why can’t we say them more often to each other? We’re bestest best mates and that’s a very special bond.’

‘I hate those damn words,’ I grumbled. J.S. didn’t hear me.

‘Well, then!’ he said, chipper as always. ‘Let’s head back up to Gryffindor Tower, yeah? We only have a few hours before your detention to do our Potions homework. Or at least convince Tegan and Freddie to give us all the answers.’

I stood up and he did the same. ‘Fine. Come on.’ I motioned for him to follow me, and J.S. skipped all the way back to our common room. I let myself smile for a second, but then it was gone. How macabre.

No,’ Tegan said pointedly as she continued to scribble away. Me and J.S. were sitting with her, Micah, and Freddie about an hour before I had to leave for detention with Patchy, working (or not working) on our homework.

J.S. took her hand and batted his eyelashes, which are unusually long for a bloke’s. ‘Have I told you how pretty you are recently? Cos you look particularly lovely today.’

She narrowed her eyes at him and bit her lip. ‘Yeah, you did five minutes ago. And thank you, again. And I’m not giving you the answers on the Draught of Living Death. Open a book.’

‘So pretty and so assertive,’ mused J.S., dreamy. ‘You’re special.’

‘Like “stop eating the frog spawn” special?’ Micah snorted.

‘Good one! Up top!’ exclaimed Freddie. He and Micah slapped hands.

‘What has pointy hair and the esprit of a five-year-old?’ Tegan smirked. ‘Micah Horowitz!’

‘Ooh, even better! Up top!’ J.S. chortled. He and Tegan slapped hands.

I am alone. Why should I always have to play second fiddle? Always picked third for everything. I’m about as useful as a fourth Triwizard champion. The woes of being the fifth wheel.

There are six things I’m angry about. And I can’t take it anymore.

‘I’m going to take a walk!’ I shouted, jumping up from my seat. My mates seemed startled.

‘I’m going to take a walk to forget about you lot!’ I continued. ‘See you when my rage dies down!’

And so I stomped off. Admittedly this was not my finest hour, but my life had gotten itself wedged down a U-bend and Reductoing the toilet didn’t work. It backfired and now my face is covered in fecal matter and I am dying of all the noxious vapours that entered the bathroom when I exploded the toilet.

Admittedly that is not my best metaphor. My descriptive skills were better when I had a girlfriend.

I stormed down the corridor. This is an entirely different style of walking from the swanky variety, as there is no swinging or shaking of anything and the tempo is somewhere around a presto (or a viviacissimamente if I’m particularly irked). Also, when I storm around I tend to squint really hard. I almost never run into things, though. And then I collided with her.

No, not Rose! How predictable do you think my life is? What, you think they sell The Life and Lies of John Dorian Nott, Esq. at Flourish & Blott’s? Real life doesn’t consist of thoughtfully constructed story arcs!

After running into Niamh Finnegan, I found myself lying on my back while Albus Potter helped her up and held onto her hand.

‘Frickin’ eejit!’ she shouted. ‘You walked right into me!’

I debated lying on the floor of this corridor forever, but dragged myself up. ‘Sorry about that, Niamh,’ I mumbled. ‘Wasn’t looking where I was going.’

‘I know,’ she said, straightening her skirt. ‘I saw you stormin’ down the corridor and you were headin’ straight for me, so I stepped out of your way. But then you thought it’d be bleedin’ deadly to make a wide turn and run into me!’

‘Again, I apologise. I couldn’t see where I was going,’ I repeated, irritated. It wasn’t an ideal time for one of Rose Weasley’s friends to bother me.

‘Come on, Niamh. Let’s go,’ Albus said. I’ve always gotten the distinct impression that he disapproves of me and J.S.’s other mates.

That was a very poorly worded sentence. My descriptive skills were definitely better when I had a girlfriend.

‘Hold on,’ I said quickly. ‘Why’re you holding hands?’

Albus immediately let go of Niamh and took a step to his left. ‘No reason,’ he said coolly.

‘We’re friends,’ Niamh explained quickly. ‘And co-prefects.’

‘Al, you got yourself a girlfriend!’ I exclaimed and began to laugh.

‘No, he didn’t,’ said Niamh snidely. ‘We’re just comin’ back from the Divination Appreciation Society.’

I snorted and pointed at Albus. ‘You hate Divination! You once wrote a haiku about what bollocks it is!’

And he did. Mrs Potter is a fan of poetry and framed Al’s haiku to hang in their sitting room.

‘Is this true, Al?’ Niamh asked.

Albus Potter then sent me the most horrible, terrifying death glare, but turned back to his little girlfriend and smiled. ‘No. J.D. is a liar. It’s his niche in the world.’

‘Everybody lies,’ I grumbled.

‘You’re right, Al,’ Niamh said with more assurance. ‘I’d forgotten ‘bout what he did to Rosie.’

‘I didn’t do anything to her!’ I protested. And it was pretty fricking true.

‘Maybe that’s the problem,’ said Albus quietly, pushing his glasses up his nose.

‘What d’you know about it?’ I growled. Now Rose was blabbing our private business to everyone and her cousin?

J.S.’s wretched little brother gave a small smile. ‘We’ll keep your secret if you keep ours.’

I sighed. ‘Fine. I won’t tell anyone that you’re holding hands and divining together. Don’t know why you’re bothering with the secrecy, frankly. News travels fast when they cram a thousand students, a dozen teachers, and an assortment of ghosts, house elves, and poltergeists in one castle.’

Niamh shrugged. ‘It’s more fun this way. Keeps things spicy.’

I pointed at them. ‘And that’s your cue to go. Nice running into you.’

‘Remember to keep your eyes open when you walk!’ Albus called as they walked away.

I shook my head. Oh, to be a fifth year again. All the acne and self-consciousness and sexual frustration.

That would be an example of the rhetorical device commonly referred to as sarcasm. If you didn’t catch it.

I checked my wristwatch and realised that I might as well make my way to the greenhouses for my detention with Longbottom. I’d left my earmuffs in Gryffindor Tower, but Davy Jones would probably lend me a pair. Best case scenario would be if he didn’t, so I’d pass out and get to spend a few days lazing about the hospital wing. Bless those mandrakes.

I must have been thinking really hard, or else I’d very recently become a narcoleptic sleepwalker, because I’d collided with my second fifth-year Gryffindor girl in three minutes.

It wasn’t Rose! Stop speculating. It’s all for naught.

All right, maybe it’s not for naught. You win; I did run into Rose Weasley this time. It’s really irritating to the narrator when you interrupt him with your brilliant theories. Stay up in the gods and stop throwing peanuts at me.

‘By doze!’ she moaned, sitting up and grabbing her bloody nose. ‘You broke by doze!’

Once again, I found myself lying on my aching back while a fifteen-year-old girl shouted at me.

‘It’s not broken,’ I said sort of snidely. ‘Just bleeding. You’re overreacting.’

She wiggled her nose, as if to test it, and glowered at me. ‘What’s your problem, anyways?’

‘Well, isn’t this just Everybody Jump On J.D. Day?’ I grumbled, unwilling to move. ‘That’s what she said. Cor, did I just say that aloud? What is wrong with me today?’

‘You weren’t looking where you were going,’ Rose said bitingly. ‘Mumbling something about Davy Jones.’

‘Piss,’ I said under my breath.

‘You serving detention with Neville for attacking James?’ she asked. ‘Honestly, Davy Jones isn’t your best nickname for him. Pirates are so overdone. I’m particularly fond of Cyclops.’

I sat up. ‘Yeah?’

She shrugged. ‘Can’t go wrong with Greek mythos in this school.’

I almost smiled at her, but I remembered that we were on less than amicable terms. Crawling towards the stone wall, I did my best to pull myself to standing.

‘Albus Potter and Niamh Finnegan are holding hands and going to the Divination Appreciation Society together! Behind your back!’ I exclaimed.

Rose pushed herself up, mumbling something about chivalry. ‘I know, J.D.,’ she said pointedly. ‘Everyone knows. They’re both rather clever, Al more than Niamh, but they’re “smart, smart, stupid”, as my dad would say. They always sit in the common room and giggle together.’

Emasculated, and terribly angry about it, I crossed my arms. ‘You aren’t upset they’ve been lying to you?’

‘Even James isn’t angry!’ She gave a light laugh. ‘He thinks it’s adorable and precious. His words, not mine. We’re all pretending that we don’t know, to maintain the illusion that this is secret for them.’

‘Very well,’ I stammered. ‘Good day.’

‘Wait,’ Rose said. ‘You’re upset.’

‘Whatever gave you that idea?’ I retorted.

‘How can you be mad at me?’ Rose got louder. ‘I told you I love you and you ran away!’

I know similes are for fruity blokes like J.S., but her words stung like a knife. A big, pointy knife. Dipped in rubbing alcohol. Stabbed on the left side of my chest where my heart allegedly is.

‘I—I had to process it.’ Didn’t even convince myself with this one.

‘See, that’s not what you’re supposed to do,’ said Rose. ‘If you’re in love with someone, it’s considered polite to return their declarations of ardour.’

Maybe in Potterweasleydonia, I considered.

‘I’m not good with declaring ardour!’ I waved my hands around. ‘I’m cold and distant! My parents were never affectionate! And don’t you think fifteen’s a bit young to be in love?’

‘Lily and Dobby are in love, and they’re thirteen,’ she said matter-of-factly. ‘And don’t change the subject. We’re on you.’

I groaned. ‘Look, I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings, but you should have known going into this that I’m not your cousin.

‘Right, that came out completely wrong. I’m not touchy-feely and girly and sensitive. I’m a fun, jump-in-the-closet, devil-may-care sort of bloke. I’m not affectionate, I’m not nice, and you don’t bring me home to mum and dad.’

‘Mum and dad have met you on several Christmases at James’s house over the years.’ Rose rolled her eyes. ‘And I don’t believe you. You put up this my-middle-name-is-danger façade, but it’s crap. Your best mate is James, who, let’s face it, would make much more sense if he was gay! You get your first detention of the year in late November, after losing a duel to a kid who couldn’t produce a Patronus one month ago! And I don’t buy this my-parents-never-loved me angle. You’re afraid of commitment, which you blame on them despite the fact that they’ve been married for twenty years.’

‘How d’you—’

‘I used to keep up weekly correspondence with your mum,’ she continued without taking a breath. ‘She worries about you. You need to write her more often.

‘Point is: you’re not a bad boy. You’re not misunderstood. You’re just a poseur who’s afraid of change and afraid of affection,’ Rose said, her brown eyes determined. ‘And you’ve got to get this all sorted out before you explode, but I’m not going to wait around for that. I loved you, yes, but I know that I deserve a boyfriend who can tell me the same. So I wish you nothing but the best, but we’re done. Excuse me.’

She shoved me lightly, out of her way, and strode down the corridor. I watched her go, her bushy red hair shining in the candlelight.

‘I…love you, too,’ I whispered.

After my detention with Professor Cyclops, I raced back up to Gryffindor Tower and nearly collided with Dobby Longbottom. But luckily I kept my eyes open as I jumped through the portrait hole.

‘Just the man I wanted to see!’ I proclaimed giddily.

He narrowed his eyes. ‘You returning from detention with my dad?’

‘What? Er, yeah,’ I said. ‘I need to schedule an appointment!’

‘A what?’

‘You’re Gryffindor’s resident Psychological Healer, are you not?’

‘Well, yes,’ said Dobby, confused. Which is weird for him, cos he usually knows everything.

‘You’ve done wonders with J.S., and I need those wonders,’ I said very very quickly. ‘D’you have any openings this week?’

Dobby clicked his tongue and extracted his datebook from his bag. ‘What’re Wednesdays like for you?’

‘Free! I don’t have Quidditch anymore!’

‘Right,’ said Dobby. ‘Eight o’clock Wednesday evening works?’

‘Yes!’ I grinned, giving the little bugger a hug. ‘It works marvellously!’

‘Great, then,’ Dobby said, bewildered and extracting himself from me. ‘I’ll see you then.’

‘Fantastic!’ I called after him as he scurried off.

Brilliant! I am going to turn over a new leaf! If Dobby Longbottom can help J.S. he can certainly help me, as I’m much more normal already. I am going to turn over a new leaf and become a man for the better! I am going to become more loving and kind and self-actualised! Look out, Hogwarts, cos Fancy New J.D. is about to burst forth from the chrysalis of his old self!

Cor, did I just think that? I’m not nearly that poncey yet, but hopefully Dobby will get me there.

Not to mention if I become more affectionate and verbally amorous, Rose Weasley will see what a valuable commodity I am and come crawling back to be. And I will relish the moment.

I skipped (skipped?) up the spiral staircase leading to the boys’ dormitories, a smile on my face and a song in my heart.

As I burst through the door to the sixth-year boys’ dormitory, I shouted, ‘I’m on the road to self-actualisation and I don’t care who knows it!’

When I finally opened my eyes, I saw Tegan and James. With guitars.

‘What in the name of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore are you doing?’ I asked breathlessly.

‘I can explain!’ squeaked J.S.

‘We haven’t done anything wrong, J.D.!’ Tegan insisted. ‘I’m—I’m teaching James how to play the guitar!’

‘Why?’ I asked.

‘It’s fun,’ J.S. said sheepishly. ‘Erm, see? Cee cee cee cee cee cee, ay ay ay ay minor, ef ef ef ef ef ef, gee gee gee gee seven.’ He began to strum it…or pluck it…I’m not quite sure what the proper term is.

I stared for a moment. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’

‘You aren’t the most sensitive bloke,’ Tegan said dryly. ‘You’ve already incited a duel with James today, for something that isn’t his fault.’

‘So how do we know you’re not going to come after us for making beautiful music together?’ asked J.S.

‘No…you’ve got it all wrong!’ I protested. ‘That isn’t me anymore! Dobby’s going to fix me! I’m Fancy New J.D.!’

They looked at each other, eyebrows raised. If I wasn’t such a kind and loving bloke now, I would have been jealous that I didn’t have that sort of thing anymore. But I’ll get it back, and I’ll have Rosie begging for me to take her back.

‘Do you need a lie-down, J.Dizzle?’ J.S. asked. ‘You’re a bit red in the face.’

‘What? No!’ I said, chipper. ‘I’ve never felt so alive!’

Tegan bit her lip. ‘I daresay he’s gotten over the V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T. strike, wouldn’t you say, James?’

He nodded. ‘Caught me a bit off-guard. Even I’m a bit upset that I entered into A.H.Q.C. I mean, without our Quidditch, what’re we going to do all the time?’

It was as if some omniscient storyteller up in the heavens presented me with an Opportunity. Perhaps my life does follow a literary structure…has an introduction, rising action, climax, dénouement, and all that. Maybe there’s a Higher Purpose to it all.

‘We rock,’ I said solemnly.

‘What?’ Tegan and J.S. chorused.

‘Can you two teach us how to play instruments? The Gryffies, I mean,’ I said very quickly.

‘Er, I’m still fairly abominable,’ began J.S.

‘What’re you on about?’ demanded Tegan.

‘Do you have enough guitars? No, wait, we can’t all be guitarists,’ I thought aloud. ‘Where are we going to find drums in this castle?’

‘I don’t know how to play the drums, so I can’t very well teach you,’ Tegan said. ‘And what has come over you?’

J.S. rushed over and felt my forehead. ‘I think he’s running a fever! Get him to the hospital wing!’

‘I’m fine!’ I insisted. ‘I have never thought so clearly in my entire life! We…are going to start a rock ‘n roll band!’

J.S. looked concerned, while Tegan merely looked disillusioned.

‘A rock band?’ she clarified. ‘Pardon my Muggle idiom, but that would be jumping the shark.’

A/N: Neville’s probably very OOC, but I honestly think that the events of DH changed him. Plus it was high time I added a character with an eye patch.

I hope I didn’t offend any Catholics! I’m Catholic and I have a big family. I know it’s a stereotype and stereotypes don’t always ring true, but I like to have fun with stereotypes in this story.

Credit where credit is due: title inspired by Scrubs. And possibly on a subconscious level the idea of changing POV as well, but consciously I just wanted to play around with a fanfic cliché.

Reviewingness is next to Godliness =).

Chapter 15: On Ne Sait Jamais
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‘And that’s why you always hire a lawyer,’ said Dobby Longbottom, wisdom flowing out his ears. ‘In all honesty, James, I should have gone to Azkaban.’

‘What?’ I burst, utterly aghast. ‘No, you’ve done nothing wrong, Dobster! You help people and you don’t even charge for it!’

My most recent session with Dobby had quickly turned from focusing on me (I was relatively normal, for once) to him (he was under investigation by St Mungo’s).

‘Apparently the Licensing Board is really stringent about who gets to go around calling themselves Healer these days,’ Little Dobby mused. ‘Luckily, Arlie Shacklebolt’s dad stepped in and stopped them from pressing charges.’

‘You’re not shutting down your practice, are you?’ I cried. ‘What would I do without you, Dobby? You’re even helping J.D.! Course, something is still very wrong with J.D. and he is most definitely not my J.Dizzle, but I think you’re making progress!’

‘Calm yourself, James,’ said Dobby, so serene and glistening. ‘I’m not shutting down the practice…I’m just altering it a bit. I can’t call myself a Psychological Healer, or else someone might snitch on me and tell the Wizengamot.’

‘Who snitched on you in the first place?’ I demanded. ‘Who would betray you in such a way?’

My little godsend sighed. ‘I don’t know, James, but I’ve moved past it. I forgive whoever turned me in to the Licensing Board. I did break so many laws.’

I shook my head. ‘If breaking laws helps people, Dob-o, then what good are those laws? And back on subject: You can’t be my Psychological Healer anymore?’

Dobby shifted his eyes ‘round the room, then focused on me. ‘No, I am no longer your Psychological Healer in the formal sense,’ he said carefully. ‘Perhaps one day, when I graduate from Hogwarts and earn my Healer certification. But in the interim, I’ve discovered a flaw in the system.’

‘Yeah?’ I burst eagerly.

‘I am no longer Dobby Longbottom, Psychological Healer,’ said Dobby, sounding brave. ‘I am Dobby Longbottom, the Wizarding world’s first Analyst slash Therapist.’

‘Analyst/Therapist?’ I inquired. ‘What’s the difference between that and a Psychological Healer?’

‘For starters, I’m no longer a “medical professional”,’ said Dobby, making little quote signs with his fingers. ‘I am merely a counsellor, and my clients cannot bring a malpractice lawsuit before me. I’m no longer a fraudulent Healer. I am an Analyst/Therapist.’

I blinked. ‘Not much has changed?’

Dobby nodded carefully. ‘Counsellor. Not Healer. I am not licensed by anyone. I cannot write prescriptions for potions or give medical advice. This is what you tell people. You may not refer to me as a Psychological Healer, as the Wizengamot has written in their many letters of warning. Therefore, I have created a nearly identical practice under the guise of an Analyst/Therapist.’

‘Wish there was a quicker way of saying that,’ I mumbled.

‘No longer “Healer Longbottom”,’ said Dobby. ‘Not even “Medi-Wizard Longbottom”. I am simply Dobby Longbottom, a thirteen-year-old civilian who runs a non-profit Analyst/Therapist practice out of the Gryffindor common room.’

I patted his shoulder. ‘Not quite the visions of grandeur you were harbouring, yeah?’

He smiled faintly. ‘It will do. I will be a fully licensed Psychological Healer one day. For now, I must circumvent the bureaucracy.’

‘Fight the Man!’ I declared, sounding dangerously like Snorky Scamander.

‘All right, then,’ Dobby concurred. ‘You set with your appointment on—’

But before my sweet Analyst/Therapist could finish, J.D. walked by and very conspicuously tapped his nose. It was the Signal.

‘Sorry Dobs!’ I exclaimed, grabbing my book bag. ‘Urgent business to attend to! Sorry that the Ministry’s investigation didn’t go so well for you! Give Lily my love! Laters!’

I skipped towards the boys’ stair, a song in my heart and my head buzzing with excitement. It was finally December, one of my most favourite months, and V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T.’s strike was nearly at the two-week mark. Neville, our stalwart, eye-patched head of house, did not budge, and neither did Snorky or his fellow orators. Quidditch was off indefinitely, at Hogwarts and in the professional league as well.

But I was reinvigorated. We Gryffies are a fidgety lot, and our busy minds must be occupied with some sort of stimulus at all times. Quidditch used to be that stimulus. But we had a new Project in the works.

I burst through the door of my dormitory and sat next to Tegan on my bed. J.D., Freddie, and Micah were assembled as well.

‘Arlie and Mattie?’ I spoke up, acting the leader. Tegan took my hand and laced her fingers through mine.

‘Sceptical,’ replied Freddie, his brows furrowed. ‘They’ve got their own stuff. And frankly, we’re better off as a five-some anyways.’

I nodded. ‘That brings us to our first order of business: Operation Rock Band. Let’s have a vote! Raise hands for the Yeas?’

J.D.’s hand shot up, and his face looked like Christmas had come early when Freddie, Tegan, and Micah raised their hands as well.

I lifted my hand that wasn’t playing with Tegan’s fingers to bring the Yeas to a unanimous victory. ‘S’pose we don’t need to bother with a vote for the Nays,’ I mused. ‘Resolution One: Operation Rock Band has clearance to proceed!’

Tegan squeezed my hand. ‘Why are we doing this, exactly? Cos there’s no more Quidditch?’

‘If we can’t show the school that we’re tops in Quidditch, then we’ll do it in music!’ exclaimed J.D., his usual air of nonchalance completely evaporated. ‘Being in a band encourages camaraderie and will help us express ourselves in non-violent ways!’

‘Right, so this half of your split personality really wants to be in a band,’ said Micah in his way. ‘Very well, I’m up for it. Question: Do any of us have any discernable musical ability? At all?’

I looked around the room at my three best mates and Tegan. Dressed in our school uniforms, striped ties and cloaks, we did not look like the Weird Sisters. And they’re awful.

‘I play guitar,’ Tegan spoke up. ‘I’ve been teaching James, too. He’s halfway decent.’

I gave her a quick hug. ‘Thanks, Tegs.’

‘My dad taught me a bit of bass guitar last summer,’ she continued. ‘Since we’ve got two guitarists, and we need a bassist, I’ll do it. Bass is far more important than lead guitar anyways. If you have a crap bassist, you have a crap band. And no one listens to the lead guitarist, not really.

‘Right,’ I piped up, trying to demonstrate my leadership as Cap’n. ‘Tegan’s on bass, I’m lead.’

‘Anyone else play an instrument?’ J.D. asked hopefully.

Micah coughed. ‘I…erm…have experience with the shofar.’

‘What?’ Freddie and Tegan chorused.

‘My synagogue’s regular Tokea became a born-again Christian the week before Rosh Hashanah, the year before I got my Hogwarts letter and found out I was a wizard and all that. He saw a preacher on telly and it apparently changed his life. My rabbi went batty, searching madly for a bloke with good lung capacity to blow the shofar, and then he found me,’ Micah explained. ‘I am now the Tokea for my synagogue during summer holidays. And I’ve gotten quite good at the shofar, if I may say so myself.’

‘Micah,’ I said carefully, ‘may I ask what a shofar is?’

He laughed. ‘It’s a ram’s horn that you blow into. It’s symbolic of somefing, I don’t know what.’

There was silence for a few long moments.

‘How can we integrate it into a rock band?’ asked Tegan.

Micah shrugged. ‘It’s used in classical music sometimes. We can be one of those crazy alterna-rock bands that whips out weird instruments every so often.’

‘Right,’ said J.D., sounding sedated. ‘J.S.: lead guitar. Tegan: bass guitar. Micah: shofar.’

‘We need a drummer,’ Freddie added. ‘Every band has a drummer.’

‘Wanna do it?’ J.D. asked.

Freddie smiled. ‘Sure. Seems like fun.’

‘Okay,’ said Tegan, thinking aloud and still playing with my fingers, ‘we need to get James’s guitar skills up to scratch. Fredders, you’re going to have to teach yourself percussion. We don’t need perfect form, we just need a good beat.’

J.D. looked solemn, and regarded us all in turn. ‘I…I will be the singer.’

‘Can you sing?’ asked Micah.

J.Dizzle cleared his throat. ‘Yo, hey yo, hey yo, hey yo! Wazzup ma peeps, wot be hangin’? I’m a wizard, checkit! Hey yo! I’m a wizard, checkit! Hey yo! I’m supa fly, I’m a wizard—

‘Great,’ Tegan interrupted.

‘Gruff,’ I commented. ‘Manly. Good.’

‘Um, you’re good enough at rapping, and singing isn’t much different. It’s just yelling at different pitches. But no Lewd Wig covers,’ said Tegan firmly. ‘Agreed, mates?’

There was reluctance from J.D. and Micah, but they eventually conceded.

‘So we’ve each got our job,’ said Freddie. ‘But we need a name, yeah? For our band? All bands have names.’

And so, we Gryffies entered the zone of Deep Thought for nearly fifteen minutes, ferociously brainstorming hopelessly clever names for our inevitably spectacular band.

‘How about The Gryffies?’ Tegan finally spoke up.

The rest of the lads agreed. Simple, cool, and totally Albus.

‘We have a name,’ I thought aloud. ‘A lead vocalist, a lead guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, and a Tokea.’

‘We need instruments,’ said Fred. ‘I mean, I’ve got to teach myself the drums from scratch.’

‘And practice space,’ I added. ‘We can’t very well practice in the common room, and the acoustics in our dormitory are dreadful.’

‘Frick,’ muttered J.D. ‘And the idea was so perfect. But we’re a band without instruments or much ability.’

But Tegan, sitting up taller and smirking, simply said, ‘Dad.’

‘What?’ I asked.

‘And H.U.W.,’ she said quickly. ‘Gryffies, my dad’s loaded our attic with totally boss guitars and basses and drums. My mam hates music and the attic is the only room in our house where Dad’s allowed to do his own thing, so he’s filled it with music stuff. I think he bought himself a balalaika for his birthday, just to infuriate her.’

‘That’s great,’ said J.D., downtrodden but optimistic. ‘But we’re in school. In Scotland. How’re we supposed to get to Ireland for band practice?’

‘I’m from Wales! Not Ireland!’ Tegan snapped. ‘And if my dad gives us permission to use the attic, I happen to have a cousin who loves to solve problems by finding loopholes.’

‘H.U.W.?’ I clarified, being the only Gryffie to have met the nutterbutter. ‘D’you really want him smuggling us out of the castle?’

‘We’ll smuggle ourselves out,’ said Tegan, the voice of reason. ‘He’ll help us with the long-distance transportation. And it shouldn’t be an issue if we go once per week. Saturdays will provide us the most efficient use of time. I’ve got to write my dad. And H.U.W. too.’

She hopped over to my desk and grabbed a piece of parchment and quill.

‘Hedwig’ll be able to find an itinerant magician with the intelligence of a parsnip, yeah?’ Tegan called, referring to my owl.

‘I reckon so!’ I replied.

J.D. grinned madly and rubbed his hands together. ‘This is it. This is really happening.’

Micah poked him ‘Wot’s wrong with you, anyways? You’ve been so cheerful for the past few weeks.’

‘I’ve decided that I’m going to make my own luck from now on,’ said J.D. excitedly. ‘I can’t keep blaming everyone for my poor choices. Fancy New J.D. has achieved a higher level of self-actualisation that you’re ever likely to reach, Micah. No offence.’

‘I think he’s lost it!’ Micah whisper-shouted to Freddie.

‘But you love Hagrid and Teddy Lupin,’ said Tegan as we headed down to the former’s cabin. ‘Why don’t you want to have tea with them?’

It was Sunday afternoon and we were doing our best to find Hagrid’s cabin. I always seem to forget where it is, even though I visit Hagrid at least once a month. It’s like it moves ‘round on its own, or summat.

‘Of course I love Hagrid and Teddy Lupin,’ I insisted, stumbling over the uneven terrain of the Hogwarts grounds. ‘I just don’t love Hagrid’s cooking.’

‘Teddy Lupin said that you should pay more attention to Hagrid,’ said Tegan, lecturing. ‘He’s getting on in years and he won’t be around forever. Plus, we get to see Teddy Lupin outside of class, and Teddy Lupin’s no fun when he’s trying to teach us things. Besides, I showed you how to deftly hide icky foods in your napkin.’

We finally found Hagrid’s cabin, hiding behind the stands of the Quidditch pitch. Seeing the ol’ stands made me nostalgic for a time long past, a time just over two weeks ago before politics took away our Quidditch.

‘Hagrid’s house definitely wasn’t here a fortnight ago,’ remarked Tegan as she knocked on the door.

‘It was over by the tannenbaum grove, yeah?’ I asked.

She nodded, and for a brief moment I considered the consideration that Tegan coerced me into visiting Hagrid on this particular occasion. Don’t get me wrong, I love the old man like he’s my massive, woolly great uncle. Sometimes he comes ‘round our house for holidays and such, and he always gives fun, albeit hazardous, Christmas gifts. But I wracked my brain as I stood on the step that afternoon, unable to recall actually agreeing to this tea party. Is Tegan some sort of master manipulator, manipulating impressionable young men like myself without us even realising it?

‘I know that look,’ she said, peering my way. ‘You’re either suffering from indigestion or you’re paranoid about something.’

Sweet Livia’s knickers! It’s worse than I feared!

Then the thick door opened, and ol’ Hagrid beamed down at us. ‘Yer here! ‘Bout time too, yer tea was gettin’ cold.’

‘Sorry, Hagrid,’ said Tegan as she stepped inside and took off her scarf. ‘Your hut’s moved again.’

Hagrid furrowed his bushy eyebrows. ‘Don’ know what yer on about, Tegan. I never have any trouble findin’ the place.’

‘Hullo Hagrid,’ I piped up, stepping inside behind Tegan and shutting the door behind me, and with it the cold winter air.

The groundskeeper/Care of Magical Creatures teacher turned to me and gave a wide, toothy grin. ‘There y’are, James. Yeh look even skinnier than the las’ time yeh were down ‘ere! Let’s feed you up, then. I baked plenty of rock cakes fer all o’ yeh.’

I winced and Tegan elbowed me. Oh, she is good.

‘How are you, Professor Lupin?’ said Tegan as she strode towards the table in Hagrid’s tiny hut.

‘Very well, Tegan. Thank you for asking,’ replied Teddy Lupin.

Teddy Lupin! I’d nearly forgot!

‘Teddy Lupin!’ I exclaimed, bounding over to the Defence master and giving him a great big hug.

He patted me on the back cautiously. ‘Oh my, quite the vice grip you’ve got there, James.’

I let him loose and sat beside Tegan. It was tight, four chairs at a table built to accommodate two.

‘Hi Teddy Lupin,’ I said a bit more soberly. ‘How’s Auntie Dromeda?’

Teddy Lupin sighed and took a sip of his tea. ‘Professor Lupin, James. Not sure why I have to constantly go over this with you. And Gran is doing very well, healthy as a hippogriff. I’ll send her your love.’

I giggled. ‘Oh Teddy Lupin, we aren’t even in class right now, so I hardly see the harm in calling you Teddy Lupin. Considering that’s your name.

Tegan rolled her eyes and turned her attention to Hagrid, who was busying himself in his wee kitchenette. ‘How are lessons going for you this year, Hagrid?’ she inquired. ‘Er, since we had to drop Care of Magical Creatures this year. To make room for N.E.W.T. revision, you see. For next year. You have to start early, you see.’

‘It’s goin’ real well, Tegan. Thanks fer askin’,’ replied Hagrid passive-aggressively. I still feel dreadful for dropping his class, but I’m not very good with animals. Dad says I shouldn’t beat myself up about it, cos Care of Magical Creatures isn’t for everyone.

Teddy Lupin, an intuitive individual, deftly changed the subject. ‘So, how’s the Quidditch strike treating you Gryffies?’

‘Splendidly!’ I said.

‘What James means is that we’re forming a rock band,’ Tegan translated.

‘Right.’ I nodded with vigour. ‘I do like Quidditch, and I was rather upset until a few days ago, when J.D. got the brilliant idea of starting a band. I mean, he’s been all out of sorts since his amicable breakup with Rosie and I suspect he’s gotten a personality replacement, but it’s an excellent and completely original idea for a new way for us to spend our time.’

‘We’re called The Gryffies,’ added Tegan, ‘and please don’t ask where we’re going to practice so we don’t have to lie to you.’

Hagrid shuffled over and set a large platter of his infamous rock cakes upon the table. ‘Here y’are! Dig in while I tidy up the kitchen.’

As soon as he turned his back, Teddy Lupin took a rock cake and carefully folded it in his napkin. Tegan and I did the same.

‘You’re forming a rock band?’ Teddy Lupin clarified. ‘Say, have you spoken with Tawny Faraday in the past five days?’

‘No,’ said Tegan. ‘Why do you ask?’

Teddy Lupin tilted his head to the side and looked distant. ‘Oh, it probably isn’t in my place to say. Er, I’ll let you find out for yourself.’

‘Do you know if Neville has considered any of Snorky and V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T.’s demands?’ I asked him.

Teddy Lupin started to make chewing noises, and motioned for me and Tegan to do the same. ‘Oh, he’s a stubborn one, Professor Longbottom is,’ answered Teddy. ‘He intends to wait for public opinion to turn against Snorky.’

Hagrid turned back ‘round and we all started dramatically fake chewing. ‘Hogwarts sure has changed since my day,’ he remarked. ‘No one cared two knuts ‘bout politics!’

Teddy Lupin faked swallowed. ‘Hogwarts has changed since my day too, Hagrid.’

Tegan and I followed suit with the fake swallowing. ‘Don’t associate us with Snorky Scamander just because he’s in our year and our house,’ she said. ‘He’s insane and I’ll never understand him.’

‘Don’t be so quick to write off Snorky, Tegan,’ said Teddy Lupin oh so wisely. ‘Yes, he’s absolutely barmy, but you’ve got to watch out for the ones like him. The nutty ones are the most likely to crack one day. And speaking of nuts, do I taste walnut in these rock cakes, Hagrid?’

Hagrid smiled brightly. ‘Aye! I’m experimentin’ with the recipe—’

‘Mm,’ Teddy Lupin interrupted. ‘That, let me assure you, is a winning combination right there. Right, James and Tegan?’

Our responses were muffled, but I think I was the one to say ‘Indubitably!’ while Tegan went with ‘You know it!’

‘There’s plenty more!’ Hagrid insisted, gesturing to the mostly full platter of rock cakes.

I looked to Teddy Lupin, who looked to Tegan, who looked about to be sick. ‘I’m,’ she stuttered, more unsurely than compulsively, ‘allergic to nuts!’

And then she fell over in her chair.

‘I just about stopped breathing in there!’ I exclaimed as I accompanied Tegan from the hospital wing to Gryffindor Tower thirty minutes later. ‘No more fake allergic reactions!’

She just grinned. ‘I got us out of there, right?’

‘It was quick thinking,’ I agreed. ‘I’ll give you that.’

‘It would be bloody brilliant if we had the Cloak of Invisibility right about now,’ Micah grumbled, tripping slightly while climbing through the Fat Lady’s portrait hole. ‘I’m just saying, of all the Deathly Hallows, we would find it most useful at this particular moment.’

‘My dad locked it up in Gringotts,’ I murmured as I peered down the corridor, not really listening to Micah. ‘I did manage to nick the Marauder’s Map, if it’s any consolation. I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.

That very next Saturday, I found me and my Gryffies (my band Gryffies, which is the Quidditch Gryffies minus two) sneaking out of Gryffindor Tower at half seven (they have one of those in the morning!), all five of us dressed in black from our knitted caps to our trousers to our trainers. It was debatable just how inconspicuous we were in the corridor (Micah had certainly found enough to complain about), but there was the slimmest of chances that anyone in the castle would be up and about this early on a non-Quidditch Saturday.

I held up the Map and searched for any moving dots. ‘Viridian’s in his chambers,’ I said in a voice just above a whisper. ‘Neville isn’t even in the castle—hopefully he’s with Hannah at the Leaky Cauldron. Mr Bleck and Spiny Norman the Hedgehog seem to be patrolling by the Astronomy Tower. All the prefects appear to be safe in their beds, and Medb Feidlech too. Cousin Octo is in the library…figures.’

‘So we’ve got a clear route to the Entrance Hall?’ asked J.D. frantically. He’d had an appointment with Dobby Longbottom (the Analyst/Therapist) earlier in the week but he still was a bit…out of sorts.

‘H.U.W. promised he’d be waiting by the tannenbaum grove, by the edge of the grounds,’ Tegan said, uncharacteristically nervous.

‘All right, Gryffies,’ I said hesitantly. ‘Let’s go.’

We all ran at different paces, and you couldn’t qualify what most of us were doing as running. I was sort of bouncing…forgive me for always having a skip in my step! Tegan was galloping, J.D. was swanky-sprinting, and Freddie ambled along like a bear struck by some sort of tranquiliser spell. And Micah…well, Micah ran just fine. He’s the only Muggle-born among us and is probably the only Gryffie with much experience running. Wizards tend to avoid running whenever possible.

What with my bouncy running, I couldn’t keep an eye on the Marauder’s Map. This really ought not have been a concern…who were we going to run into at half seven on a Saturday morning?

We made it all the way to the Entrance Hall before we spotted the Slytherin Quidditch team, and they spotted us. Or, at least it was their five best players: Jack Murdoch, Nick Vanderberg, Scorpius Malfoy, Kate Nott, and Evander LeGrander. Most suspiciously, they were all dressed in black as well, and performing five different variations of running.

All ten of us skidded to a halt when it became clear that we could ignore each other no longer.

‘Oi Potter!’ Murdoch called softly. ‘Erm…where are you going?’

I thought carefully, determined to craft a clever retort.

‘None of your business, Murdoch!’ I said in a harsh whisper.

We sized the Slytherins up as they sized us up.

‘You forming a troupe of mimes?’ Kate Nott asked.

‘I should say the same for you lot!’ J.D. fired back, almost sounding like my J.Dizzle again.

‘Hold up, now,’ said Freddie calmly. ‘None of us are doing anything wrong, right? And if we find ourselves getting into any sort of mischief in the near future, we don’t need to turn each other in, yeah?

Evander LeGrander grunted. ‘But then wot satisfaction would we get?’

‘You wouldn’t get any satisfaction if you got detention too!’ said Tegan. ‘Er, if you were to get into any mischief. And if we were to get into any mischief. Hypothetically, of course.’

‘Murdoch, why don’t we just tell them?’ suggested Scorpius Malfoy, who looked quite tired. ‘It’s not like we’re doing anything criminal.

‘I call the shots, Malfoy!’ snapped Murdoch.

‘Give it a rest, Peisistratus,’ said Nick Vanderberg. ‘We’re forming a rock band.’

Simultaneously, we five Gryffies gasped.

‘Why do you always do this?’ asked Murdoch, riled up. ‘Why do you always have to ruin everything, Vanderberg?’

‘Shut your gob, Murdoch,’ said Vanderberg menacingly. ‘Gryffindors, we’re going off-site for the day to hold band practice. The acoustics in this castle are abominable, plus it’s too complicated to Summon instruments from hundreds of miles away.’

‘Are you serious?’ Micah spoke up. ‘We’re doing the exact same thing, almost!’

J.D. groaned and whacked Micah upside the head. ‘You’re worse than Vanderberg, Horo!’

Yay! It appears that my J.Dizzle is getting better and more and more like his old self by the minute!

‘Well…your band will probably be bollocks,’ said Kate Nott with a sneer.

‘If it is, then your band will only be half the bollocks ours is!’ Tegan fought back.

‘I bet your band name is rubbish!’ Malfoy laughed.

‘Fine, then! You first! What’s your band called?’ I asked.

‘Hardcore Buzzkill,’ said Murdoch, all smarmy-like.

Blast! That’s a fantastic band name!

‘Oi Murdoch, I bet they’re just called The Gryffies, or something equally rubbish!’ exclaimed Vanderberg.

‘Step off!’ exclaimed Micah. ‘The Gryffies is a brilliant name for a band!’

‘You wanna duel, Horowitz?’ challenged Evander LeGrander, stepping before Micah and standing a head taller.

‘No, come on!’ I said. ‘We’re gonna duel cos we’re both forming rock bands and we want to turn each other in for sneaking out of the castle? This is ridiculous! Why can’t we just forget about this little confrontation and go about our merry ways?’

Murdoch clicked his tongue. ‘Yes, Potter is right. Sure, Gryffies, we’ll go quietly. On one condition.’

‘Why’s it always about conditions with you, Murdoch?’ I asked, tired.

‘Cos that’s my thing,’ he snapped. ‘We’ll go quietly on the condition that you lot agree to a battle of the bands.’

‘What?’ asked Freddie.

‘A shred-off, of sorts,’ said Murdoch. ‘Our two bands compete in front of a body of unbiased peers, a vote is taken, and a winner is declared. So what say you, Cap’n Potter? Willing to stake you and your mates’ reputation for a bit of fun?’

I glanced ‘round to my Gryffies, then looked back to Murdoch. ‘Sure. We’ll do this battle of the bands thing.’

‘The night before the Christmas holiday,’ said Murdoch. ‘Gives you just less than three weeks.’

‘Perfect,’ I replied, momentarily forgetting that only two out of our five band members had any sort of musical talent. And I’d never even heard of the instrument Micah could play.

Murdoch held out his hand, and I took it. We shook, unknowingly sealing our respective destinies.

A/N: Hullo all! This chapter is the direct result of my expert procrastination of studying for exams. Let’s all hope I don’t flunk out of school and become a hobo!

I originally intended for this chapter to be band practice…I guess we didn’t get that far. We’ll save it for Chapter 16.

I’m doing my best to keep up with responding to all the reviews, and keep ‘em comin’! Thank you so much for even reading this far (it’s well over novel-length already), but you reviewers are a particularly super awesome variety of the fantastic people who read about the Gryffies’ shenanigans.

Chapter 16: Let The Sound Take You Away
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‘Brilliant, Cap’n,’ sneered Micah as we ran along the grounds not fifteen minutes after our rumble with the Slytherin Quidditch team, also known as Hardcore Buzzkill. ‘We haven’t even had our first practice yet and you go agreeing to challenges wiv Jackie Murdoch and Company? We don’t even know if we’re a crap band! We could be absolutely terrible, but we don’t know!’

For all his whining and stroppiness, I couldn’t deny that I loved watching Micah Horowitz run. Such long, graceful strides, down the slope towards the tannenbaum grove. And the trees had almost completely matured, which was convenient for Hagrid considering that Christmas was coming.

‘Oi Horo!’ called J.D. breathlessly, losing a bit of the swagger in his swanky-running as he grew fatigued. ‘If you don’t stop bitching at J.S. then I’m going to Fiendfyre your ass! And things’ll get really interesting when the flames get to your hair, considering all the product you stick in it!’

‘I don’t need you to fight my battles for me!’ I protested, feeling a cramp in my lower abdomen.

‘I love you, remember?’ Fancy New J.D. shouted. ‘Remember how we’re going to say that to each other more often? I fricking love you, mate!’

Tegan and Freddie shared a glance that was oversaturated with horror and befuddlement. While I’d always dreamed of my dear J.D. becoming more in tune with his emotions, I was not certain of how much I liked it. It’s like he’s got two personalities, or something: J.Dizzle and Fancy New J.D. Who is this kind, valiant Fancy New J.D., and what has he done with my cantankerous ol’ J.Dizzle?

At least both J.D.s hate Micah. There is hope for Fancy New J.D. yet!

‘Tegarino, H.U.W. promised he’d meet us at the edge of the tannenbaum grove, yeah?’ I confirmed, desperately hoping our run to asylum would be over soon. Why were we running, anyways? ‘Snot like anyone in school was awake yet. Except the Slytherin Quidditch team.

‘You know H.U.W.!’ she yelled back, not quite as out of breath as I was. ‘He’s about as reliable as a monkey at a frozen banana stand!’

I was not familiar with this colloquialism. Maybe it’s a Welsh thing. Probably not.

Speaking of Wales, I was very very excited to visit Scotland’s south-westerly neighbour this fine Saturday. I’d never been to fair Tegan’s home, despite our friendship of nearly five and one-half years. But, having recently made Eleni Richelieu-Llewellyn’s acquaintance, I was very aware of why Tegan had never invited me or the other Gryffies to her house.

Her mum is the mistress of darkness. And if she is not the mistress of darkness, then Eleni is definitely scarier. Like, she’s the mistress of darkness’s mistress of darkness.

‘Oh, one more thing,’ Tegan piped back up, looking around as we reached the tannenbaum grove. ‘H.U.W. is currently on the lam, so it’d be great if you don’t mention any of this to anyone. Ministry officials, bounty hunters…best steer clear of Arlie, too. Her dad probably wouldn’t find H.U.W.’s story as heart-warming as H.U.W. does.

‘Additionally,’ she added, ‘H.U.W. is an acronym to protect his true identity, but his true identity is Huw. He’s rather sensitive and very stupid, so it’s “Haitch, You, Double You”, yeah? Not Huw.’

Freddie ambled along, looking a bit like his Ursidian Patronus. ‘Pardon?’

‘Forget it,’ said Tegan, gesturing to no one in particular.

We ran through the trees, our pace slowing as we grew increasingly weary. I stumbled on a rock and Micah screamed when he got a pine needle wedged in his eye, but we made it to the boundary of the Hogwarts grounds without any major injuries. Which is an accomplishment for a Quidditch team that was known as The Invalids only a few months ago.

Tegan came to a stop and we men of Gryffindor did the same. She glanced at her wristwatch, then peered through the trees, looking prepared for disappointment.

‘Stop hiding, H.U.W.!’ she shouted, oh so slightly snarling. ‘We don’t have time for your tricks, we’ve got limited practise time and an impending showdown with our greatest rivals!’

Then a cloud of smoke erupted to our right, and a familiar tall, balding man appeared before us.

‘You don’t have time for my illusions, McTegan!’ yelped H.U.W., looking hurt. ‘You don’t have time for my illusions!

Tegan bit her lip, but looked relieved nonetheless. ‘Mates, this is my cousin, Hieronymus Ulrich Wronski,’ she said, nodding towards H.U.W. ‘He’s a magician, which is exactly what it sounds like. Cousin H.U.W., these are my Quidditch/band mates: J.D., Freddie, Micah, and you’ve already met James.’

‘Lord Pottermort!’ H.U.W. exclaimed gleefully, galloping over to me and giving me a great big hug. ‘It’s been ages! I want to keep in touch, mate. We’ve got to send each other owls. All the time.’

I patted him on the head and fortunately, he let go of me. ‘Absolutely,’ I lied.

Micah stared at Tegan’s big cousin as he swished his cape about and grinned. ‘You,’ Micah stuttered, ‘your dad was “Dangerous” Dai Llewellyn, yeah? Before the chimera got him, of course. “Dangerous” Dai Llewellyn?’

H.U.W. opened his mouth to say something, but thought for a moment. ‘No, silly little boy,’ he scoffed. ‘That is ridiculous. I am not Huw Llewellyn, the infamous and notorious Azkaban escapee. I am simply the humble Snitch-manufacturing magnate Hieronymus Ulrich Wronski, who miraculously woke up from his coma several weeks ago. My coma. Our coma.’

Freddie stared at him. ‘Hieronymus’s son was Josef, right? Josef Wronski, who invented the Wronski Feint sixty years ago?’

Tegan elbowed him. ‘Don’t push it!’

‘Why, yes, other silly little boy!’ said H.U.W. quickly. ‘How humbling, you must be a fan of my dear son’s! Oh yes, his mother and I are terribly proud of him. Quidditch is in his genes, though.’

You have an 80-year-old son?’ Fred asked, smirking.

H.U.W. chuckled nervously. ‘What is also humbling is how young people think I look! They say the coma took seventy, perhaps eighty years off my appearance! You silly, clever little boy…too clever for my liking.’

Micah, who often lost seventy, perhaps eighty points off his intelligence quotient when in the company of a possible celebrity, was puzzled. ‘Isn’t Josef dead?’ he asked. ‘And your wife, too? And didn’t the Ministry for Magic declare you a missing person?’

‘They’re just so excited to meet you, H.U.W.!’ Tegan interjected. ‘And they’re saying things…so many things.’

‘You ready to go, then, Mr Wronski?’ J.D. spoke up, looking cheerful. ‘Thank you so much for giving us a lift to Tegan’s house. By the way, how are we getting there?’

H.U.W. laughed. ‘Don’t call me Mr Wronski, you make me feel so old!’

Tegan shot us all a glare that said to keep our mouths shut. ‘You’re not taking us via Side-Along Apparition, are you, H.U.W.? There are too many of us.’

‘For the love of Mordred, McTegan!’ H.U.W. burst. ‘I think I’m in enough trouble with the law for Apparition! And what fun is Apparating when you can take a…magic carpet ride!’

He snapped his fingers and suddenly there was a large Oriental rug hovering before us at about knee-height. I gasped—I’d never seen a magic carpet before. No one uses them in England, cos they’re so expensive and impractical. And…pretty….

I stepped forward to touch the carpet. ‘H.U.W., this is gorgeous. The colours, the design, the craftsmanship…’

‘What?’ said H.U.W. absentmindedly. ‘Yeah, the weaving…er, stitching…crocheting? utterly…mediocre. All right, children, hop on and away we shall fly!’

Freddie and Micah scrambled on to ensure their spots in the front, but Tegan held me and J.D. back.

‘Is there some sort of cloaking device?’ she asked matter-of-factly. ‘Invisibility booster? H.U.W., how’re we going to fly over most of Scotland, the Irish Sea, and half of Wales without Muggles seeing us?’

H.U.W. clicked his tongue. ‘That, right there, is a very good question.’

‘Do you have a solution to it?’ Tegan asked.

H.U.W. swished his wand, and a bundle of shiny, furry coats appeared in his arms. ‘The solution is to create the illusion of invisibility!’

Micah turned ‘round. ‘It’s December, yeah, but we’ve already got warm coats.’

‘You truly are a silly little boy,’ H.U.W. mused. ‘These are illegal Demiguise coats! They make you transparent, and very nearly invisible! Essential for a great magician such as me!’

I looked to Tegan, who smiled weakly.

‘Are they like Invisibility Cloaks?’ I asked meekly.

‘Half the price and half the effectiveness!’ H.U.W. beamed. ‘Get your coats on, home skillets, and be sure to cover the entire carpet with the extra furs.’

I slipped on the Demiguise coat and pulled the hood over my head. I held my hand in front of my face…it was still very visible, but more transparent and shiny. I looked kind of liquid…ooh, Fancy New James is just a shinier version of Old Jamesie. I like shiny.

‘Hurry, Pottermort!’ H.U.W., shinier and slightly more transparent, shouted.

I boarded the now shiny and somewhat transparent magic carpet and squeezed myself in between Tegan and J.D.

‘We’re not invisible,’ Tegan whispered.

‘Obviously not,’ J.D. said back. ‘But right now, our best prospects of getting to Wales lie with your barmy cousin.’

‘You remembered the country where I’m from, for once,’ said Tegan, pleased.

J.D. grinned. ‘Fancy New J.D. is not only a better lover, he is a better friend. Oi H.U.W.! We’re prepared for departure!’

I turned around to see H.U.W. give a salute.

‘Carpet, I command you to proceed in the south-southwesterly direction!’ H.U.W. declared.

With a lurch, the shimmery carpet began to rise. Tegan gave a gasp and grabbed my arm, while I groped for the fibres of the carpet with my left hand.

We rose higher and higher and sailed past the tall trees of the Forbidden Forest, until we broke through the canopy and found ourselves in the grey sky. It was slightly colder at this elevation and I was almost relieved to have the extra layer of the Demiguise coat.

As we started to plateau, Micah called to H.U.W., ‘How about we go a little higher, to get the cloud cover?’

‘Don’t think you want to do that, silly little boy!’ H.U.W. shouted back. ‘We’d all be soaked through! Plus there isn’t enough oxygen up there to keep us alive!’

Micah frowned and faced forward again.

Something like twenty minutes passed. Nobody said anything.

‘I really hope we’re invisible enough!’ H.U.W. eventually piped up. ‘I really do not need to be in anymore trouble with the Ministry for Magic!’

No one was willing to give him the sad news that no, we weren’t invisible enough, and only someone with eyesight as poor as my dad and brother’s couldn’t see us, shimmering as we flew against the grey clouds.

A while later, I held Tegan’s wrist up to try to read her shiny and mostly transparent watch. Forty-five more minutes had passed.

Soon enough, we were flying over the sea, the mountains and valleys and farms of Scotland behind us. I had the horrible thought of falling hundreds of metres to the frigid, grey water. The impact alone would probably kill you. But I don’t know, cos I’ve only fallen off my broomstick about fifteen metres, and I hit the nice, hard grass of the pitch.

Ah, Quidditch. How I miss thee.

I think I’ll compose a limerick:

There once was a sport we called Quidditch
And Tegan frequently caught the Snitch
But Snorky was mad
He did something bad
And now a ride with H.U.W. we did hitch

Ooh, that’s a good one, Jamesie boy! Definitely writing this in the Imagination Journal later.

Some more time passed. No one said anything. I don’t know if it’s cos they were disgruntled, or terrified that we were actually revealing the magical world to Muggles and we would go to Azkaban.

Well, if we all did end up in Azkaban, H.U.W. could probably break us out, yeah?

H.U.W. said something to the carpet and we turned ever so slightly to the left. I could start to see a bit of land to the side, a coastline. We stayed over the sea, though. Probably a wise precaution.

‘That’s the Isle of Anglesey,’ Tegan told me. ‘You see Holyhead in the distance?’

‘That’s where my parents lived!’ I said. ‘Before I was born, when my mum played Quidditch!’

‘Ah, just a bit up the coast from Aber,’ said Tegan.

We continued our jaunt down the coast. Wales looked nice, really pretty. And less populated than I’d feared.

‘Here’s Cardigan Bay,’ said H.U.W., positively chipper. ‘Next stop: Aber!’

Cold. Wet. Antsy.

‘The Prom!’ Tegan suddenly shouted excitedly. ‘The Promenade!’

She pointed to a long row of seaside shops, and I reasoned that the sight might be prettier on a sunnier day. On a sunnier day that is not in December.

Cold. Wet. Antsy.

‘Carpet, let’s take it east,’ said H.U.W., and the magic carpet obeyed. We were now heading perpendicular to the beach, and beyond it, I saw green, hazy mountains.

‘Tanybwlch Beach!’ said Tegan, tugging at my arm and pointing to the deserted beach below us.

‘Ooh,’ I replied. ‘Yes, very sandy.’

‘And I give you…Tanybwlch House,’ H.U.W. announced.

I didn’t see anything.

‘In the trees, there,’ said Tegan. ‘At the base of that hill.’

And then I saw it. But I also didn’t see it.

Cos what H.U.W. called Tanybwlch House could not qualify as a house.

It was something between a manor house and a castle. Late 19th century, perhaps.

Micah laughed. ‘Swanky digs, Tegan!’

I knew Tegan was rich, but I never realised that she’d live in a rich person’s house. Don’t get me wrong, my family’s very well off and we have a terribly comfortable home in the countryside, but Tegan’s house looked to be one-quarter of the size of Hogwarts. And that’s large.

It was big, but Tanybwlch House looked sad, too. I dunno if it’s cos of the fog and gloomy mist thing, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a massive, homicidal black dog poke his head out of the surrounding wood.

Not that I have anything against massive black dogs. My Snuffles is blind and deaf and not homicidal in the least, and I love him to death.

‘Right, then,’ said H.U.W. after telling the carpet to begin the descent. ‘I’ll drop you lot off. I’m doing a funeral in Somerset in twenty minutes.’

‘Wait…you’re doing a magic show at a funeral?’ Tegan asked.

‘Yeah,’ replied H.U.W. ‘I’m really a very talented illusionist, McTeg, and my services are very much in demand. Oh, don’t worry, it’s going to be very dignified. I promised the family I wouldn’t do the Cosmic Fireball.’

We were three metres above the ground when H.U.W. pushed Freddie off the magic carpet.

‘Oi!’ I shouted. ‘What’re you—’

‘I’m dropping you off!’ said H.U.W. ‘I’ll never make it to Somerset in twenty minutes! Now jump!’

J.D. obeyed immediately, falling two metres and tumbling into the grass a ways away from Freddie. Micah shot Tegan a look, but jumped off of the moving magic carpet without a snide remark. Tegan took my hand.

‘Er, thanks, H.U.W.,’ she said hollowly. ‘You’ll pick us up at 5, please? Right, James, one, two, three…’

Luckily we only had to fall one point five metres. But it still was uncomfortable, and as I watched H.U.W. fly off, all shimmery and semi-transparent, I wondered how much later it would have made him if he’d “dropped us off” in a more ceremonial manner.

J.D. pulled off his Demiguise coat, and I’d half-forgotten I still had mine on.

Tegan shook out her hair after she took her coat off. She looked pretty. ‘Hold on to these…weird furry silver things,’ she said. ‘Until we find a means of transportation better than H.U.W. and his sodding magic carpet, we need them.’

Freddie frowned. ‘Teggers, am I remembering incorrectly, or did your cousin just push me off a magic carpet whilst in-flight?’

She opened her mouth, then closed it, then said, ‘Sorry, Freddie. I’m not sure what else I can say. He doesn’t like you very much.’

‘Everyone loves me,’ said Fred, mumbling. ‘I’m Freddie Weasley. Heeey!’

Following Tegan, we trekked up the sloping lawn towards Tanybwlch Mansion/Castle/Palace/Fortress. It was a dark, greyish brown in colour, with massive windows. There was not a hint of light coming from the inside.

‘Your parents know we’re coming, right Tegs?’ I asked.

‘Yeah, I wrote my dad,’ she answered. ‘He’s working today…well, he works almost every day…so you probably won’t have the chance to meet him. I haven’t spoken to my mam since the last Hogsmeade visit, but Dad said she was on holiday in France. Seemed rather cheery about it, he did.’

I just had the strangest image of Eleni Richelieu-Llewellyn, cackling and villainous, standing on the roof of Tanybwlch House and casting an evil spell on me. Which is odd, cos she pretends she can’t do magic.

We made our way up the sloping grounds towards the foggy, ominous, and creepy-looking Tanybwlch House. Tegan led us ‘round back where the façade was slightly less grand. We filed in through the back door, proceeded down a dingy corridor (I had to duck my head to avoid hitting the ceiling), and soon found ourselves in a large, dark kitchen.

‘Oi,’ said Micah, ‘this is a Muggle kitchen. You’ve got a blender!’

‘Yeah,’ replied Tegan. ‘This was a Muggle house when my dad bought it. It has electricity and everything.’

Micah looked much more cheerful; the only Muggle-born of our group, I’d never considered what a massive adjustment living at Hogwarts must be for him.

‘Luned!’ Tegan called. ‘Luned, it’s Tegan! Dad should’ve told you I was coming home!’

‘Is that your house elf, Tegan?’ asked J.D.

‘No,’ she replied. ‘My mam sold my dad’s family house elf years ago. Luned is a person.’

Just then, a haggard, stooped-over old woman shuffled into the kitchen. ‘Miss Tegan?’ she said, her voice hoarse.

‘Hi Luned!’ said Tegan, giving the woman a quick hug. ‘Miss me?’

‘Ah, but of course, my Tegan,’ said Luned, her squinty eyes somewhat bright.

‘James,’ Freddie whispered to me. ‘Is their house elf a person?

‘I dunno,’ I said. ‘Seems a bit barbaric.’

‘Everyone, this is Luned,’ said Tegan. ‘She’s our housekeeper and is probably more responsible for my upbringing than my parents are! Luned, these are my mates: Micah, James, J.D., and Freddie. We formed a band and Dad’s letting us practice in the attic.’

‘Oh, lovely to meet all of you,’ said Luned. I think she was smiling, but her face was so wrinkled that it was difficult to say.

‘Could we have lunch ‘round noon?’ Tegan asked politely.

‘Ah, yes, anything for you, dear,’ said Luned.

I gave her a small wave as we followed Tegan out of the kitchen, through dark, ornate room and dark, ornate room.

‘Luned’s not a witch, is she?’ I asked, whispering. Not quite sure why I was compelled to whisper; this house was abandoned except for Luned.

‘No,’ said Tegan. ‘She’s a Muggle and thinks my family’s Muggle. The only magical stuff in the house belongs to my dad, and Mam forces him to keep it in the attic. He brought home some work once, which was chaos. Luned used the Firebolt XL7 to do a bit of sweeping, and needless to say, we had to put a few memory charms on her.’

We reached a wide staircase of dark wood and began to climb it. I looked up and saw that there were several more storeys to Tanybwlch House, and I silently cursed Eleni for sticking all of her husband’s instruments in the attic.

Clomp clomp clomp our feet went, ascending the stairs. Clomp clomp clomp.

‘Tegan,’ said J.D., breathing heavily, ‘why the frick does your house have to have so many fricking stairs?’

‘Honestly,’ said Tegan, rolling her eyes. ‘You have to climb so many more stairs to get to Gryffindor Tower than to get to my attic.’

‘Tell your mum to install a lift,’ said Micah.

He then spent the next several minutes explaining what a lift was. I think Granddad Weasley talks about them sometimes. I don’t usually pay attention to Granddad Weasley.

After what seemed like hours, we reached the top of the final staircase and Tegan opened a door that was clearly constructed many years ago, when people were shorter. I ducked and followed her into the attic room.

Brilliant,’ Freddie, Micah, J.D., and I chorused once we were all inside. It was like an enormous, well-stocked music shop, only dustier.

‘You could have a string octet!’ I marvelled.

‘And a heavy metal rock band!’ chirped Freddie.

‘And Rosh Hashanah service!’ said Micah.

‘Several times over,’ said J.D.

‘Yeah, my dad’s accumulated many instruments over the years,’ remarked Tegan. ‘James, go pick out the Page Platinum series over there. It’s the red guitar. Fred, you see the Grohl series drum set in the centre of the room? We’ll gather ‘round you, cos it’s a pain to lug the Grohl around. Micah, my dad bought about a dozen shofars when my mam went through her anti-Semitic phase, so take your pick. You must know shofars better than I do. And J.D., go grab a mic from the closet.’

‘Who’s Mike?’ he asked.

‘Mic is a thing that amplifies your voice,’ said Tegan. ‘There’s a little compartment you stick your wand into that powers it. It’s like what Muggles have, only more energy-efficient. All these instruments are magic-powered, actually, so we’ll be able to use them for the battle of the bands.’

We all did as she said and assembled ‘round Freddie’s drum set. He clenched his drumsticks excitedly as Tegan carried her bass guitar over.

‘Right, then,’ she said. ‘Er, let’s start off with a G chord. James, you know that, and Micah, you good? Right. Freddie, give us a light tapping on the snare, and hold off for now, J.D. Let’s make sure the musicians are all on the same page.

‘All right, a one, two, three, four—’

And then came the worst, loudest, most ugly noise I’d ever heard.

‘Stop, stop!’ shouted Tegan. ‘Oh dear God, no. No offence, but that was rubbish. Freddie, that’s the bass, not the snare! James, a G chord, not G7! And what’s happened to your hand position? Micah, you were all right. A bit quieter, though.’

‘It’s only got one volume!’ Micah protested.

‘James and Freddie aren’t quite ready, Tegan,’ said J.D. lazily. ‘Why don’t we give them some one-on-one time?’

Tegan sighed. ‘Yeah, okay. I’ll take James—’

‘That’s what she said!’ gasped Micah, for the first time in months. ‘Sorry, it just slipped out—’

‘—and J.D. and Micah, collaborate with Freddie. Hopefully together you’ll be able to figure out which one’s the cymbal,’ Tegan finished.

But the door to the attic opened, and a well-dressed man stooped to get in.

‘Dad!’ Tegan shouted, taking off her bass and nearly dropping it. I caught it with my free hand and placed it tenderly on the ground.

‘Tegan!’ The man laughed as she raced over to him and gave him a hug.

‘I thought you were working!’ said Tegan. Getting a look at the two of them together, I had to agree with H.U.W.: Tegan looked a good deal like her father. Well, he had blond hair and blue eyes, and Tegan definitely didn’t, but their noses were the same.

‘How could I stay at the office when I knew my little girl was coming home?’ said Mr Llewellyn, grinning. ‘Albeit for a brief time.’

Tegan turned to the rest of us. ‘Mates, this is my dad, Rhys Llewellyn. Dad, this is J.D., Freddie, Micah, and James.’

Mr Llewellyn focused his attention on me. ‘Nice to meet you, lads. Now, this is James?’

Tegan blushed and I bit my lip. I had to meet Mr Llewellyn sometime, if me and Tegan are going to get married and have kids and stuff.

‘Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr Llewellyn,’ I said, holding out my hand to shake and letting my guitar hang on my shoulder.

He took my hand and gave it a very firm shake. ‘Likewise, James,’ he said warmly. ‘And feel free to call me Rhys. That goes for all of you lot. “Mister Llewellyn” is a mouthful.’

I thought I heard Micah whisper “that’s what she said”.

‘So this is your little band?’ Rhys asked, walking farther into the room. ‘Don’t know if I’ve told you this, Teg, but I was in a band when I was at Hogwarts.’

‘No you weren’t!’ said Tegan eagerly.

‘Yes, I was,’ said Rhys. ‘Spawn of Salazar, we were called. A terribly unoriginal name, but most of us were stupid, uncreative Quidditch players.’

Spawn of Salazar? I thought. Mr Nice-Pants was in Slytherin?

‘Hey Rhys,’ said J.D. ‘You were in Slytherin?’

Tegan’s dad gave a half-smile. ‘Don’t look so horrified. Slytherins are people too. Granted, we’re a tough lot, but we’re rather vulnerable on the inside.’

‘No worries,’ said J.D. ‘My parents were in Slytherin. My sister is, too. I’m some sort of anomaly, a Nott who wasn’t Sorted into Slytherin.’

‘Ah, so your father is Theodore?’ asked Rhys. ‘He’s a good man. Controversial family, but a good man.’

‘The Slytherin Quidditch team has formed a band, too,’ said Tegan. ‘Hardcore Buzzkill. We have a shred-off scheduled for the last day of term.’

Rhys gave a warm laugh. ‘Really, then? Glad you kids have found something productive to do during the strike. It’s absolutely killing my business. But let’s see, would you mind if I stuck around for your practice today? I could give you some pointers, if you like. And I promise that I’m no saboteur. I support whichever side my daughter’s on, regardless of my own allegiances.’

‘That would be great, Dad!’ said Tegan. ‘We’re rubbish at the moment. Freddie, d’you mind if my dad shows you the ropes?’

And so we began our introductory workshop with Mr Rhys “Spawn of Salazar” Llewellyn. He showed Freddie how to hold down a beat, showed me his signature power stance, and suggested that Micah pick up a few instruments in addition to the shofar, to give our sound more depth. By lunchtime, our dear Micah was nearly proficient on the pan flute, balalaika, castanets, conch shell, drejelire, frula, accordion, and bagpipes as well.

For lunch, Luned served leek and parsley soup at the small table in the kitchen. Despite the vow I made at age 8 to never eat leeks, I found the soup to be surprisingly delicious. The food we get at school is wonderful, of course, but it’s mass-produced. It was nice to have a meal that was made with a little bit more love. And Luned made it without magic, obviously, which blew my little mind.

Rhys ate with us, which was fun. He’s the funnest Slytherin I’ve ever met.

‘Horo,’ said J.D., ‘what’s with the “that’s what she said” jokes all of a sudden?’

‘Well, there’s obviously something wrong with your head, and I figured I’d take advantage of the opportunity,’ said Micah.

‘What’s a “that’s what she said” joke?’ asked Rhys.

J.D. looked at him. ‘Sir, you may have a lot to teach us about music, but we have even more to teach you about life.’

‘This could take a while,’ Tegan whispered in my ear. ‘Wanna see what my room looks like?’

I took one last sip of my soup (I did not slurp…my mum taught me better than that). ‘Yeah, sure.’

We excused ourselves and Tegan took my hand as we headed toward the big, fancy pants staircase. I was still a bit startled that this house was so dark…it wasn’t just because of the cloudy day. The wood panelling in every room was terribly deep in hue, and the impersonal, ornate furnishings didn’t help matters. Tanybwlch House was just so…different…from my house. Bigger, grander, but colder and far more formidable. Tegan and Rhys, truly wonderful people, weren’t responsible for this. It reeked of Eleni. Even in France, she cast a dark shadow over the Llewellyn family homestead. How metaphorical.

Tegan squeezed my hand and grinned at me. ‘So, what do you think? Do you like my dad?’

‘Absolutely!’ I automatically answered. And it was true. ‘He’s definitely a contrast to your mum.’

She laughed. ‘I must agree with you there, James. Without my dad and Luned, I don’t know how I’d be sane. But Eleni is usually gone, so she isn’t often an issue.’

We climbed the staircase, with Tegan sort of directing me where to go. Her bedroom was on the second floor, at the very end of the corridor.

Tegan opened the door and we went inside. At first, it seemed like the typical room in Tanybwlch House: dark floral curtains, wooden furnishings and panelling, lack of proper lighting. But there were a few hints of Tegality here and there. There was an old Holyhead Harpies poster above her dresser. Naturally, my Teg supported the Wales-based, women’s only club. I grinned when I saw a faded, younger version of my mum on the poster. She was smiling proudly and grasping an old Nimbus broomstick. I sort of missed her…but it was already December and I’d see her, Dad, and my entire extended family at Christmas. It would be a traditional Weasley extravaganza.

Above the large, bare desk there was a bright Gryffindor banner that was impossible to miss. The illustrated lion silently roared, looking so sure of himself. And beside the banner was a photograph of the Gryffies, after we won the Quidditch Cup last year. Tegan was in the centre, holding up our huge trophy and waving it about. She was the star player of the match, catching the Snitch at the most crucial of moments. And then I saw a slightly younger version of myself, cheering noiselessly, my arm around Tegan’s shoulders. It was so much less complicated then. Tegan was my mate, the best Seeker in school. I didn’t like her eyes or her slight mammary growth yet.

Tegan then let go of my hand and took a step back, searching expectantly for my reaction. ‘It’ll never be my home like my dormitory at school, or even your dormitory at school,’ she said, humble, ‘but it’s my sometimes-home.’

I smiled crookedly at her, but a nice crookedly. Not like: “Blaaah, I’m a serial killer and I’m gonna get you!” More like: “Hello, love of my life. Your room is a surprisingly accurate representation of your personality. I can’t help but love it, like I so dearly love you.”

‘It’s perfect,’ I finally said.

She beamed at me and scurried over to her bed. Tegan crouched on the ground and poked her head under the bed, looking for something. She finally emerged, holding a bright scarlet Quaffle.

‘My dad gave it to me for my tenth birthday,’ said Tegan. ‘He always dreamed that I’d be a Chaser, like him. But he isn’t angry that I like Seeking better. Think fast!’

And she whipped the Quaffle towards me. My Chaser skills went into effect immediately, and I caught the Quaffle, one-handed. I grinned.

‘Hold on,’ said Tegan, walking back over to me. ‘You caught that one-handed.’

‘Yeah,’ I said coolly. ‘Cos I’m the best Chaser ever. Obviously.’

‘You caught it with your left hand,’ said Tegan, grabbing my aforementioned hand.

I stood there stiff, not sure what to do. ‘Yes. My left hand is very good at catching things.’

‘Frick,’ said Tegan distantly. ‘And you write with your left hand too. Frickety frick, how stupid am I?’

She still held on to my left hand, and I gulped. ‘You’re not stupid. Not that many people are lefties. We’re an often ignored segment of society. There’s no love for lefties in the Wizarding world. Inkwells are made for righties, few wandmakers make left-handed wands…’

‘Shit,’ she said, finally letting my left hand free. ‘You’re left-handed. How did I not realise that? What kind of girlfriend/guitar instructor am I?’

‘You’re a brilliant girlfriend/guitar instructor,’ I reassured her. ‘I’m just rubbish at guitar.’

‘No,’ she said severely. ‘I’m teaching you to play guitar as a rightie. It should be upside down! You should be strumming with your left hand, with your right hand on the frets! You should be using a leftie guitar!’

I cocked my head to the side. ‘So…I might not be crap at guitar?’

‘Yeah,’ said Tegan, blushing. ‘I messed that up. Frick, I’m so ignorant and self-absorbed. Well, this afternoon I’ll be sure to fix everything. My dad bought me two guitars when I was born, in case I turned out to be right- or left-handed. He must still have the Cobain somewhere.’

‘You are not ignorant and self-absorbed. But if it helps, I forgive you,’ I said. ‘Even though you didn’t do anything wrong.’

Tegan stepped towards me and took my hands in hers. ‘Okay, Cap’n. I didn’t do anything wrong.’

I let go of her hands and put mine low on her waist, pulling her towards me. ‘How many times do I have to tell you that it’s James, not Cap’n?’ I said smugly. ‘Cap’n is for when we’re on the Quidditch pitch. And we’re currently in the middle of a pointless Quidditch strike, so I’m afraid Cap’n won’t be necessary for a long while.’

Tegan put her arms around my neck and smiled madly. ‘Whatever you say, James Sirius Potter.

I faked sighed. ‘Ah, I suppose you’re getting better. But it’s James. One syllable, very simple.’

‘Whatever you want, James,’ Tegan said in a low voice, and started to kiss me.

I was pleased, of course. At school, me and Tegs almost never get time alone. I suppose that’s a common problem when two close mates who are part of a larger group start dating. You can never get rid of the larger group. J.D. or Freddie or Micah is always there, and sometimes all three are. It’s even worse when Arlie and Mattie spend time with us instead of their regular friends. I love my Quidditch mates, but I love my Tegan more.

Sometimes we’ll escape to my dormitory, but a Gryffie or Snorky Scamander is usually there. Once Tegan carried me up to her dormitory (which was difficult as she is quite scrawny), but Miranda Matilda Melinda Shitforbrains is always there, chatting with her inane friends and admiring her boring blonde hair.

The Gryffindor common room always has one of my relatives, so it isn’t an option for kissy time either. We’ve tried broom closets several times, of course, but Mr Bleck’s hedgehog, Spiny Norman, found us once and we were almost caught by Bleckie out of bed after curfew. It was a close one.

In conclusion, I don’t get to snog Tegan nearly as often as I’d like. Which is why, as I gradually realised, she seduced me into following her to her bedroom.

Tegan pulled me tighter, kissing rather vigorously. I can’t say that I opposed this, and did my best to return the vigour by opening her mouth with my tongue.

Apparently this was a spectacular idea. Tegan ran her hands through my hair, my black, untidy Potter hair. I just held her close to me, intent on savouring this rare private moment we had.

And then Tegan lightly bit my lower lip. I don’t know what happened…my hands immediately found their way to her bum and my tongue slapped against hers, messy as hell. I think she liked it…she kissed back so messily too and dug her fingernails into my shoulder blades.

We were kissing and kissing and kissing. I lost track of where I was, why I was here…there was only Tegan, and she was right in front of me, and apparently she needed a good snog. We pushed and pulled and tried to breathe in between kisses. It was like how I’d always fantasised…except there was a good deal more spit and everything was terribly sloppy. But in the best way, if that makes sense.

Being the stupid sixteen-year-old boy that I am, I nudged her towards the bed. She jumped at it, very enthusiastic at the notion. Without thinking, I let her pull me on top of her as she lay on her back.

Oh. Frick.

We are horizontal.

This is uncharted territory.

Well done, Jamesie!

But you have no idea what to do.

All right, hovering over Tegan. Good! This is how it’s supposed to be! I think.

I was too scared to kiss her now. She looked up at me, smiling, goofy and beautiful. I don’t tell Tegan how beautiful she is often enough. Sure, she’s not the standard, voluptuous sort of beautiful. She has freckles and eyes that are somewhere between green and brown and decent mammary and gluteus growth. I think that is beautiful.

‘You’re pretty,’ I said in a low voice, just hovering, like an idiot, hands at either side of her shoulders.

‘C’mon, James,’ said Tegan slyly. ‘Don’t bitch out now.’

I gulped, very much wanting to bitch out, but unable to summon the courage. Sometimes you have to be very brave to run away from your fears.

But, being a very cowardly Gryffindor, I lowered by face towards Tegan’s and puckered my lips. You can do it you can do it you can do it you can—

‘Tegan?’ I heard a dangerously familiar voice call from the doorway.

Me and Tegan whipped our heads ‘round to get confirmation, and something weird snapped in my neck. Ow…

Frick. Rhys was standing right there, looking like he’d been kissed by a dementor. Not that I have first-hand experience with that (obviously…I’m full of life!), but Teddy Lupin tried to teach us one day and apparently it stuck.

Tegan pushed me off of her and I fell to the ground. She then came to standing and helped me up.

Rhys looked like he had so much to say, he could barely get anything out. ‘What? No.’

‘I’m sorry Dad, but we weren’t doing anything!’ Tegan insisted. She stomped on my foot.

I yelped. ‘No, sir! Nothing of any significance happened, was happening, or was going to happen! To be frank, it was almost a disappointment—that’s how much of nothing happened!’

Rhys, expressionless, stepped forward, pulled back his arm, and punched me in the face.

OWWW! I lost my footing and fell to the floor. Tegan grabbed the collar of my shirt and yanked me up.

‘What’s wrong with you?’ she shrieked at her dad.

But Rhys looked crushed. ‘I…I just didn’t realise how much you’d grown up. And so quickly.’

Rubbing the bruised side of my face, I had to agree here. Before this year, Tegan had really been nothing special to look at. She could’ve been Micah’s little brother, or something. But then—BAM, the Puberty Fairy paid her a visit, and he was very gracious to her. Very gracious indeed.

‘I’m not a child, Dad,’ said Tegan reluctantly. ‘I couldn’t be your little girl forever. I just—it just isn’t how it works. Baby hippogriffs have to fly the nest eventually.’

Ohh, that’s what Rhys meant! Tegan’s grown up psychologically, not physically! Well, physically too, but that isn’t important right now. I think I’m finally on the right page.

‘I’m just taken aback, is all,’ said Rhys, like a dementor had sucked his heart out along with his soul. ‘I never expected that you would turn out like your mother.’

Tegan’s face turned the same colour as a Quaffle. ‘First of all, I am nothing like Eleni! And secondly, don’t you dare call her my mother! She has never done anything motherly towards me and she never will!’

Rhys furrowed his brows. ‘Pardon? She told you? Oh, that c—’

‘Told me what?’ Tegan demanded.

At that moment, I did not think I could possibly feel any more uncomfortable.

‘So she didn’t tell you?’ Rhys asked.

‘Tell me what!’ yelled Tegan.

Ah, there it is. The most uncomfortable feeling I’ve ever experienced.

‘Nothing!’ Rhys shouted.

‘No, it’s not nothing!’ said Tegan. ‘Why are you and Eleni so fricking nebulous about everything?’

‘We’re arguing about nothing, so this argument is over,’ said Rhys coldly. ‘I’m ringing H.U.W. to come pick you and your friends and your…James…up.’

‘You’re ringing him what?’ Tegan yelled as she followed Rhys out the door.

‘He invested in a mobile phone for his business!’ Rhys answered. ‘It’s that thing your biological mother loves more than me!’

I sat back down on Tegan’s bed, alone in her room. Frick, I thought in wonder. Just…frick.

A/N: Tanybwlch Mansion is a real home in Aberystwyth. In the course of my research, I haven’t come across anyone who knows who the current owner is.

This chapter is so much longer than I intended it to be. Ça alors! But I hope it was to your liking. Why not offer a review to share your feelings with me? A brief comment will do. Thank you very much for staying with the Gryffies for 16 chapters, through thick and thin, originality and cliché. I hope you continue to read…you’ll want to see how the battle of the bands goes.

Chapter 17: Make Your Own Kind Of Music
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Only sick music makes money today.

-Friedrich Nietzsche

After Rhys Llewellyn punched me in the face, things started to look up. He actually came all the way to Hogwarts the very next day, to make some sort of truce with me.

That Sunday morning I found myself skipping along the Entrance Hall towards the Great Hall to break my fast. None of the other Gryffies were up yet, but my spirits were high and my stomach was growling. I also sported a very purple bruise ‘round my left eye, which increased my street cred by about twenty points. (On a one hundred point scale, you see.) So Rhys’s punch had really worked out well for me, Tegan fawning over me and my mates treating me like a bloke for once.

But as I crossed the Entrance Hall, a spring in my step, I spotted Tegan’s dad, looking quite dapper and very tall. He saw me as well and carefully approached me.

‘James,’ he said, uncomfortably polite. Rhys extended his hand for me to shake.

I shook it. ‘Er, hi Rhys. Mr Llewellyn. Mr Rhys Llewellyn, sir.’

He almost cringed when he saw my bruised eye. ‘James, I mean to…er…apologise for my behaviour yesterday. I acted rashly and inappropriately, and I truly regret hitting you.’

I shrugged. ‘No worries. There’s actually a rumour going ‘round school that I got in a fight with Evander LeGrander, who’s basically the Great Wall of China but he’s crap at duelling, so he punches people Muggle-style. Plus you caught me in a compromising position with your daughter, and I totally get why you were angry. I mean, if I were you, I probably would’ve hexed me. At the very least.’

Rhys gave the slightest smile. ‘Right, then. So…you aren’t going to press charges?’

‘Uh…I hadn’t really considered it, to be frank,’ I admitted. How could I sue the grandfather of my future children?

He looked very relieved. ‘Excellent! Well, I suppose I just wanted to apologise…and if it doesn’t make you too uncomfortable, you and your band are welcome to continue practising at Tanybwlch House. And if it’s any consolation, I can be gone most of the time.’

‘Sure,’ I said, knowing we didn’t have any better prospects. ‘And…er…Mr Llewellyn…Rhys…you don’t have to make yourself scarce if you don’t want to. I feel strangely cavalier about our…about our confrontation yesterday.’

Rhys nodded. ‘Very well then, James. We seem to be on the same page.’

And then he scrunched his eyebrows, looking both serene and troubled. ‘You’ll take care of her?’ asked Rhys. ‘As her father, I must tell you that you better not hurt Tegan. She’s a very special little girl and she’s my little girl, and if you do one thing to hurt her, James, I’m going to have to come after you. Sorry to be so brusque, but—’

‘I love her,’ I said matter-of-factly, not caring that two Ravenclaw fourth years walked by us. ‘I’m in love with Tegan.’

Rhys raised his eyebrow and stared at me. ‘What?’ he asked in a low voice.

‘I’m sorry, sir,’ I said, ‘but I love Tegan and I want to be with her forever and she’s special and she’s perfect and I can’t even wrap my pretty little head ‘round the concept of ever doing anything to hurt her, in any capacity.’

People’s jaws don’t really drop when you say they do—it’s a silly idiomatic expression. They usually just hang there. But at that moment, Rhys’s jaw came pretty close to dropping. As in almost hitting the floor.

‘I know it’s odd, sir,’ I continued, as he was speechless. ‘But I’m a very strange boy, and I’m just expressing my feelings.’

‘Sorry,’ said Rhys, ‘I suppose I didn’t know you two were…saying those sorts of things yet.’

‘Oh, we’re not,’ I replied. ‘Tegan doesn’t know. I’ve only told J.D. and my Imagination Journal.’

Rhys exhaled. ‘Is that some sort of innuendo? Never mind. So you’re in love with my daughter but she doesn’t know it yet…aren’t you a bit young to be in love?’

‘I certainly don’t think so,’ I said. ‘I’m nearly seventeen, and my sister is only thirteen and she loves my Psychological Healer. I mean, my Analyst/Therapist.’

‘Again, I’m not going to ask what that means,’ said Rhys, glancing at his wristwatch. ‘I have a meeting with Vindictus I must be getting to, so shall we bid our adieux?’

I waved. ‘Bye Rhys! Please don’t tell Tegan about my amorous affections yet!’

‘Wouldn’t dream of it,’ said Rhys, exiting the Entrance Hall in the general direction of Professor Viridian’s office.

In my cheerily nonchalant way, I skipped off to the Great Hall. Taking my usual seat at the Gryffindor table, I began to devour some sort of French pastry when the owl post arrived.

Hedwigeon, the Potter family owl, sailed over my head and dropped a swanky-looking envelope at my place. Oddly enough, Blodeuwedd, Zipporah, Archie, and Athena (Tegan’s, Micah’s, Freddie’s, and J.D.’s owls, respectively) dropped equally swanky-looking envelopes where my mates usually sat. Maybe we’re invited to a party, I thought. But the Great Hall was absolutely filled with owls, dropping similar-looking envelopes at every single seat.

I absentmindedly opened my envelope and extracted the contents within, but not without cutting both my thumbs by accident. (‘Tis the season for paper cuts, yeah?) On very nice-looking stationary was written this:

Congratulations! You are cordially invited to the first annual Hogwarts Battle of the Bands! (With special guest appearance by the one and only Lewd Wig!)

The Alliance of Hogwarts Quidditch Cap’ns will host the competition in the Great Hall on 23 December 2021 at 8 o’clock. Participating bands include:

Euterpe’s Addiction
Drystan Davies: lead vocals
Coby Fünke: lead guitar, backing vocals
Ziv Berger: drums, backing vocals
Huan Kwan: violin
Sam Vandroogenbroeck: cello
Sherwood Lambert: publicist
George DeJure III: legal counsel

Hardcore Buzzkill
Scorpius Malfoy: lead vocals, guitar
Jack Murdoch: lead guitar, backing vocals
Nick Vanderberg: bass guitar, backing vocals
Kate Nott: drums
Evander LeGrander: keyboard

Tawny Faraday Presents: Hilarius Goodman’s Olde Tyme Troubadour Friends, with Mia Dodgson and Ava Fairchild
Hilarius Goodman: lead vocals, tambourine
Mia Dodgson: flute
Ava Fairchild: triangle, woodblock, backing vocals
Tawny Faraday: lute, banjolele, backing vocals

The Gryffies
J.D. Nott: lead vocals
James Potter: lead guitar, backing vocals
Tegan Llewellyn: bass guitar, backing vocals
Fred Weasley: drums
Micah Horowitz: pan flute, balalaika, castanets, conch shell, drejelire, frula, accordion, bagpipes, shofar

Judging will be conducted by renowned string bassist Callum Lin-Wood and after each band has played one original song, a winner will be declared.

Admission is free to all Hogwarts students. Event sponsored by Llewellyn and Llewellyn, Broommakers.

I read the invitation three times before the other Gryffie sixth years joined me at our corner of the house table.

‘What’s wrong with your jaw, J.S.?’ J.D. asked. ‘It’s just hanging there.’

‘You look a bit green,’ said Tegan, taking her rightful place beside me. ‘Eat up, eat up.’

‘So the post has come already?’ asked Freddie, picking up his swanky envelope.

‘Are we all invited to a wedding?’ asked Micah, opening his envelope.

‘By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes,’ I muttered, allowing my comrades to discover the horrible news on their own.

Tegan was the fastest reader and spoke first. ‘Lewd Wig? Do they want me to kill myself?’

‘Lewd Wig!’ J.D. shouted. ‘It’s a Festivus miracle!’

‘James, why didn’t you tell us that Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff are in on it too?’ demanded Micah. ‘Or that they even had bands?’

Freddie said nothing, but simply took his glass of pumpkin juice and drank the entire thing in one sip.

‘To answer your question, Micah,’ I said, voice dropping an octave to match the utterly macabre nature of our situation, ‘I did not know the other Quidditch cap’ns were planning this.’

Tegan shook her letter. ‘Lewd Wig! What does a washed-up old rapper have to do with amateur rock bands!’

‘Do not besmirch the name of Lewd Wig in my presence!’ said J.D.

‘Nor mine!’ added Micah.

J.D. and Micah then argued about who loved Lewd Wig more, while Tegan continually poked her hand with her fork.

‘Who’s Callum Lin-Wood?’ I asked after several minutes of meditation.

Micah and J.D. shrugged and returned to their debate, while Freddie just sat there.

‘Honestly, how self-absorbed are you lot?’ said Tegan, venomous. ‘He was a seventh year when we were first years. He’s Teddy Lupin’s best mate.’

‘What house was he in?’ I asked. ‘Which band will he favour?’

She sighed. ‘Sometimes I can’t believe just how…never mind. To tell you the truth, I don’t really remember which house he was in. He was sort of a bland fellow…doesn’t really have a face. His sister Lorelai was Gryffindor Cap’n of Quidditch, so maybe he was in Gryffindor. Teddy Lupin was in Hufflepuff, though.’

‘Hmm,’ I said, looking up to the staff table out of the corner of my eye.

Fred seemed to wake up out of his trance. ‘How’d they secure the Great Hall, then? Viridian hates rock music and everything that is cool. Is this an underground operation?’

‘It’s sponsored by my dad,’ said Tegan, looking over the invitation. ‘Llewellyn and Llewellyn.’

‘I saw Rhys this morning,’ I said. ‘He came to have a word with Viridian.’

‘Did he apologise for being an absolute git?’ asked Tegan.

‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘and he still wants us to rehearse at your house.’

‘He paid Viridian off,’ said Fred.

‘What? But he only went to see him ten minutes before the owl post came,’ I said.

‘Doesn’t matter,’ said Freddie. ‘Rhys could’ve had these all ready to go when he bribed Viridian. Owl post is the fastest form of communication in our world.’

‘That doesn’t sound like Rhys,’ I said, apprehensive. ‘Why didn’t he tell us about Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff yesterday?’

‘And how does he know Lewd Wig?’ said Tegan through gritted teeth. ‘This sounds more like Eleni than my dad.’

‘Or H.U.W.,’ said Fred. ‘I’m sorry, but if he can hate me for no reason, I can hate him for no reason.’

‘Have you seen the way H.U.W. dresses?’ asked Tegan. ‘He can’t afford stationary as nice as this. I’m not even sure if he’s literate.’

I looked over and saw J.D. win an arm-wrestling match against Micah.

‘Victory!’ exclaimed J.D. ‘I am officially Lewd Wig’s number one fan!’

‘I need to go,’ said Tegan, covering her mouth and sprinting out of the Great Hall.

Leaving Freddie to sort out the impending brawl between Micah and J.D., I trotted over to the staff table, carrying my invitation to the Battle of the Bands.

‘Teddy Lupin!’ I called to my blue-haired godbrother.

He grimaced when he saw me (which, sadly, is not an uncommon reaction for people upon seeing my arrival) and glanced to the Muggle Studies witch beside him. ‘It’s Professor Lupin,’ said Teddy Lupin to me.

‘Right, right,’ I said, not listening. ‘You don’t happen to know a Callum Lin-Wood, do you?’

‘Of course I do,’ said Teddy Lupin. ‘Cal’s my best mate. He just got back from serving at the principal bassist in the Slovakian String Philharwhatsit.’

‘Oh…I presume that’s a good thing. Now, I understand that he’s serving as adjudicator for our little Battle of the Bands…and something about your expression indicates that you knew Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were in on it the whole time…but I was wondering if you could tell me what house Callum Lin-Wood was in. I’m just curious, is all.’

‘Always the essence of subtlety,’ said Teddy Lupin. ‘I’ll tell you, but it won’t do you any good to know, because Cal has more integrity and less bias than any wizard anywhere. He was in Ravenclaw.’

Bugger! I thought.

‘I promise you,’ Teddy Lupin continued, ‘it doesn’t matter what house Callum was in, because he’ll judge you all fairly. He’s a good lad.’

Well, that’s a load of rubbish, I thought. Of course he’ll pick Euterpe’s Addiction as the winners! They’ve got legal counsel and everything!

‘James, I’m supposed to meet with Professor Viridian tomorrow,’ he said. ‘Rumour has it that Dawlish wants to come back.’

‘Bye Teddy Lupin,’ I said, not listening at all. I needed to round up my Gryffies, and I needed to do it fast. We had quite a lot of rehearsing to do, if we were going to beat Euterpe’s Addiction. And Hardcore Buzzkill and Tawny Faraday Presents: Hilarius Goodman’s Olde Tyme Something-or-Other.

We snuck off to Tegan’s house every weekend (via H.U.W.’s magic carpet) as the Battle of the Bands approached. I was remarkably better at playing the guitar as a lefty, and Freddie made great strides as a drummer. (He has a finely tuned internal clock…he’s never late for anything. And promptness is important for percussion.) And with Micah’s shocking Jack-of-all-trades musical talent, Tegan’s bass skillz, and J.D.’s almost perfect pitch and rough, sexy singing voice, we were very nearly a tight band.

Does anyone say “tight” anymore? Anyways, we were almost good.

But then there was the issue of composing an original song.

Who signed up for that?? I don’t remember signing up for that!! Where is the legally binding contract??

Oh, right. George DeJure III has it.

Tegan worked on lyrics and Micah did the music. Micah Horowitz is actually a fair composer, I’ll have you know. I don’t know why he hides his sensitive interior behind an unsavoury exterior.

But as for Tegan…she has a lot of issues right now. She doesn’t know if her mother is her mother or her father is her father, and her internal strife sort of comes out in the lyrics. Well, you’ll see later.

23rd December. The night of the Battle of the Bands. Also the night that is ripe with Festivus miracles, as Fancy New J.D. says.

We Gryffie men got dressed in our dormitory, trying to look as cool and rock ‘n roll as possible. Sadly, J.D. is the only one with cool clothes, though Freddie is a moderately swanky dresser.

‘I’m gonna win Rosie back,’ said J.D., tightening his hot-pink striped tie. ‘We’re gonna win this fricking competition and she’s going to fall for me again. I’m Fancy New J.D.!’

I miss J.Dizzle.

‘Micah, take off your loafers,’ said Freddie. ‘You can borrow my green trainers.’

‘What’s wrong with my loafers?’ asked Micah.

‘Micahnator, I’m half-black,’ Fred replied. ‘I know what’s cool more than you do. Take the trainers, please.’

I myself was wearing a bright red t-shirt with a rhinestone skull a-blazoned upon it (courtesy of J.D.) and uncomfortably tight black jeans (courtesy of Teddy Lupin). J.D. had mussed up my hair and put loads of product in it, but I just wondered if Tegan would like it.

Tegan entered our dormitory, without knocking, some minutes later.

‘Hurry up, ladies, or we’re going to miss our debut.’ She smirked.

And then I turned to look at her: blue streaks in her hair, an orange Weird Sisters shirt, and baggy pants. I considered asking her to swap pants with me, but them decided against it.

‘Nice legs, James,’ said Tegan, grinning absurdly.

I strutted over, grabbing my guitar and pick. ‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it,’ I said, hoping to sound more self-assured than I felt.

‘Right then, Team Gryffies!’ J.D. exclaimed, jumping on Freddie’s trunk and waving his arms. ‘Check your hair one last time, grab your shit, and let’s go rock this castle!’

‘Woohoo!’ I cheered, but no one else did.

‘Tie your shoe, J.D., and let’s head down to the Great Hall,’ said Freddie.

And so we began the silent trek down to meet our destiny. Tegan and I toted guitars, naturally. Alfred’s drums were already onstage, as was Horo’s assortment of instruments. J.D. needed only his voice.

All the other bands were supposed to wait in the wings when a group was performing. We all stood there, huddled in our segregated groups.

‘Shit, why is Euterpe’s Addiction’s legal counsel and publicist there?’ Tegan whispered, biting her black-coloured nails.

‘Where’s Lewd Wig?’ asked J.D., frantic. ‘I need to meet him.’

‘As do I!’ said Micah.

‘Where’s that Callum bloke?’ piped Freddie. ‘He’s the adjudicator, after all.’

And then I saw a dark-haired, expressionless fellow approach the mic. I heard the audience; they were restless and very rowdy. Frickety frick, was the entire student population of the ‘warts here tonight?

‘Greetings, Hogwarts,’ the young man at the mic said quietly. ‘I am called Callum Lin-Wood, and I shall serve as adjudicator for this “Battle of the Bands”.’ He used air quotes.

‘Now,’ continued Callum in his monotone voice, ‘are you prepared to rock?’

The audience roared. Some people swore. How impolite!

‘Well then, I suppose you have come to the right place,’ said Callum Lin-Wood. ‘Each band will perform an original composition, and while I tally the scores, Mr Lewis Delano Wiggins will perform the single from his newest record, entitled “I Hain’t No Dinosore”.’

‘LEWD WIG!’ exclaimed the crowd. The Hogwarts student body had never been so united.

‘Lewd Wig can choke on his own ego for all I care,’ said Tegan.

‘I don’t know how you can tolerate this harpy,’ J.D. said to me, pouting.

‘She likes me for who I am,’ I replied.

‘Take a moment to identify the fire exit nearest to your location,’ said Callum Lin-Wood. ‘Additionally, Mr Bleck and Spiny Norman have kindly asked me to inform you that if you are caught littering, they will hunt you down, skin you alive, and use your carcass to craft a bodhrán.

‘Right, then. Now that such business is out of the way, let us begin the Battle of the Bands with Euterpe’s Addiction.’

Callum Lin-Wood hopped off of the makeshift stage and the curtain magically closed. Drystan Davies and the rest of the Ravenclaws took their places on stage.

‘This is the part of the film where they would have a montage,’ Micah whispered as the curtain opened and the audience cheered for Euterpe’s Addiction.

‘Pardon?’ I said.

‘You remember that time we all went to the cinema?’ asked Micah. ‘A montage is a sequence of scenes undercut by music. In The Bakery Chronicles, the montage was upbeat and hopeful. Our montage would be sort of suspenseful, you know?’

I do know. Cue montage!

(Due to copyright, please undercut this montage with your own musical score.)

La la la, montage music!

‘Between your audacity and my alacrity,’ sings Drystan Davies, ‘what chance in hell have we?’

La la la, more montage music. Euterpe’s Addiction is done, Hardcore Buzzkill is ready to go. I squeeze Tegan’s hand.

‘I hate that I love you!’ sings Scorpius Malfoy. ‘I love that I hate you!’

La la la, the montage music continues. Hardcore Buzzkill finishes up, Tawny Faraday Presents Blah Blah Blah takes the stage. Tegan squeezes my hand.

‘Thou art a mandrake e’er crying,’ sings Hilarius Goodman. ‘And thou art a hippogriff e’er flying.’

And then it was zero hour: the imaginary montage ended as the Hufflepuffs exited the stage.

I swallowed. ‘Let’s go, Gryffies.’

And, exactly like the post-montage scene in The Bakery Chronicles, everything seemed to slow down. My feet were heavy…all the other Gryffs took ages to take their positions: J.D. front and centre, me to his right, Tegan to his left, Micah behind J.D. and Tegan, and Freddie behind J.D. and me. The crowd’s screams seemed to gel together…I thought I saw Mattie’s and Arlie’s faces, and maybe even Rosie’s.

Please don’t throw vegetables at us, I thought.

J.D. turned ‘round to see if we were all ready. Freddie nodded and tapped his drumsticks for the count off.

Concentrate, I thought, beginning to play. C C C C C C, A A A A minor, F F F F F F, G G G G7…

The acoustics in the Great Hall were abominable. I could hardly hear Freddie pounding away on his drums, and he was right behind me. I couldn’t hear Tegan at all, and I had to look at Micah to tell if he came in for his shofar cue.

And then J.D. began to sing. It wasn’t really singing, I suppose…more like shouting at various pitches.

‘They say that family always comes first,’ J.D. sang, strutting around and winking at the crowd. ‘But sometimes you wish they’d all die! Your mum’s a slag, your dad’s a toe rag, you’re sick of all the lies!’

See? I told you Tegan’s lyrics are pointed.

‘But I will disown this dysfunctional lot, cos there’s something special that I’ve got,’ J.D. continued, prancing about.

‘Friends, oh yes my friends,’ sang J.D. Micah switched to his bagpipes.

‘Friends, yeah friends,’ me and Tegan sang in accompaniment.

‘My friends will never betray me,’ J.D. sang.

‘Never betray!’ I sang falsetto.

‘Oh yes my friends, my friends!’ J.D. belted. ‘My friends just ain’t psychotic.’

‘Ain’t psychotic!’

Tegan’s magnum opus, “My Parents are Bipolar”, played out like that for the next seven minutes. It concluded with Micah’s big balalaika solo.

Then we were done. We waited for applause, but it never came. Most of the faces in the audience that I could see looked…disturbed.

We Gryffies ran offstage. I thought I heard Callum Lin-Wood address the crowd and tell them that the winner would be announced in ten minutes, but it was sort of hard to hear over J.D. and Micah’s screaming over who they discovered backstage.

In my dazed state, it took a moment to register that H.U.W. was there, grinning and looking very pleased with himself. But it wasn’t H.U.W. that J.D. and Micah were screaming at. No, I doubt anyone has ever been excited to see H.U.W. in his entire life. Is that mean to say?

But H.U.W. was standing right beside a man wearing a doo rag and a bright yellow ensemble that was twenty sizes too large.

Micah and J.D. were jumping up and down in front of this odd man. ‘Lewd Wig Lewd Wig!’

Tegan hit her palm against her forehead.

‘Wotcher, McTegan!’ H.U.W. said cheerily. ‘Did you like the invitations I sent for this Battle of the Bands thing-a-rino?’

My lady love did not appear to be amused. ‘No, quite frankly. And how could you afford it? You have no money.’

‘Correction: I have a small fortune,’ said H.U.W. ‘How many times must I tell you that I’m a terribly gifted illusionist?’

‘Yo, H.U.W.-man,’ said Lewd Wig, pronouncing it like “who-man”. ‘I needs to go do me song, aight? Tell these l’il chiefs ‘ere to chill, yeah? Respeck.’

Then Lewd Wig strolled onto the stage and the audience went into an uproar.

‘Did you hear that, Michers?’ J.D. squeaked. ‘Lewd Wig called us “chiefs!”’

‘Isn’t that a bad thing?’ asked Micah.

‘Who cares?’ J.D. giggled.

That’s Lewd Wig?’ Tegan asked sceptically. ‘He looks a bit young to have been rapping for thirty years.’

‘No one knows how old Lewd is,’ said H.U.W. solemnly. ‘He’s looked that way since I met him seventeen years ago.’

‘You know Lewd Wig!’ J.D. and Micah shouted together.

‘Yeah, who doesn’t?’ said H.U.W., as the Wizarding world’s most powerful rapper began the first verse of his new song. ‘I’m the one who convinced him to perform here tonight.’

Tegan turned to me. ‘I’ve come to an important conclusion: I hate everyone.’

‘Aw, you’re just a bit knackered,’ I said. ‘This will all be over in less than ten minutes, and then the holidays start tomorrow.’

Me, Freddie, and Tegan sat on the floor while Micah and J.D. kept trying to sneak onstage with Lewd Wig, only to be stopped by his security detail. I was starting to nod off when Lewd Wig finished “I Hain’t No Dinosore.”

‘Big up, you’s been a wicked audience!’ shouted Lewd Wig. ‘Stay in school, youfs! Dere’s nofing more important than education, remember dat! I learned me magic at Warthogs, jus’ like you! Course, me teachers runned out of fings to teach me by second year, so I did most of me learnin’ on da streets. Me maths, me herbology, me entrepreneurship…and now, ‘ere’s Mister Calvin Linwood wiv the winner of da Battul of da Bands!’

The crowd cheered as Callum took the stage and Lewd Wig exited it. Upon seeing J.D. and Micah ready to accost him, Lewd Wig ran in the opposite direction.

‘My, that was certainly…illuminating,’ said Callum Lin-Wood, whose dull voice was in stark contrast to Lewd Wig’s animated one. ‘I have come to my decision. The winner of the first annual Hogwarts Battle of the Bands is…’

He was interrupted by Lewd Wig traversing the stage, followed in hot pursuit by Micah and J.D., who were in turn followed by Lewd Wig’s security detail.

‘As I was saying,’ continued Callum, ‘the winner of the Battle of the Bands, the prize for which is the honour of a job well done, is…’

Lewd Wig crossed the stage again, followed by J.D., Micah, and his bodyguards.

‘Ahem,’ said Callum Lin-Wood, showing the slightest sign of irritation. ‘The winner is…’

Lewd Wig ran onto the stage again, grabbed the slip of paper Callum was holding, and shouted, ‘Tawny Faraway Present: Hilary Goodmon’s Old Friends!’

Micah, who had grabbed Lewd Wig’s jacket, was promptly Stunned by a member of the security detail as Lewd Wig dropped the parchment and ran. J.D. tried to go after him, but was also Stunned. The entire school bore witness to this event.

‘The Hufflepuffs won?’ asked Freddie, who had sometime in the minutes before collapsed, arms spread wide, on the floor.

‘Don’t care anymore,’ mumbled Tegan, whose head was resting on my shoulder.

I saw Tawny Faraday and the rest of her Troubadour Friends hurry onstage to shake hands with Callum Lin-Wood and thank the audience, then promptly hurry offstage.

‘Well done,’ I said genially as they passed by. ‘You were really good. Really original.’

‘Thanks!’ said Tawny, beaming. ‘You were really good too!’

That’s the thing about Hufflepuffs: Even when they beat you, you can’t bring yourself to be upset cos they’re so nice all the time.

Plus, in the very beginning of this musical adventure, we set out to not be beat by the Slytherins. And we weren’t.

‘All right, mates,’ I said to Tegan and Freddie, who both might have been asleep. ‘The nice burly men are carting J.D. and Micah off the stage, probably for questioning or summat, so let’s head up to the tower.’

And that’s how first term ended for the Gryffies.

A/N: I am SO sorry for the wait! I do have a very good excuse, a number of them, in fact, but somebody famous once said that excuses are bad, so I shan’t go into detail.

If I haven’t lost all my readers in this criminally long wait…thanks for your patience! If you choose to leave a review…thank you for your comments and criticism! I’m currently behind in responding to them but I’ll get caught up as soon as I can.

Credit where credit is due: Make Your Own Kind Of Music is a song by Cass Elliot. “By the pricking of my thumbs” etc. is from Macbeth. Oh, and the quote’s by Nietzsche, if that wasn’t clear.

Chapter 18: The Phoenix and the Turtle
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‘If I could work my will,’ said Scrooge indignantly, ‘every idiot who goes about with “Merry Christmas” on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!’

-Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

‘Look faster,’ I said, tossing a morose-looking shrunken head over my shoulder. ‘I have to be home by five.’

‘When I said that I’d pay you back, I didn’t think it would be through hard labour!’ said J.D., examining a hooded black cloak.

What Fancy New J.D. meant to say is that when I paid his bail and collected him from the Ministry for Magic (after intense questioning by authorities about his alleged assault on Lewd Wig), he misinterpreted his enlistment as my shopping buddy for Christmas spirit.

J.D. threw the hooded cloak over his head and raised his arms in a semi-menacing manner. ‘Boo, I’m the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come! Repent, repent!’

I pulled the cloak off of him and tossed it back onto the pile. ‘Who’s the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?’

He shrugged. ‘Dunno. Every Christmas Eve my dad chases me and Kate ‘round the house and threatens to show us our grim futures.’

‘Oh,’ I said flatly.

‘Yeah. I s’pose it’s the reason me and Kate are so…unpleasant. Or at least one of the reasons.’

‘Get back to rummaging or I’ll bring you straight back to the Ministry,’ I threatened. ‘Fancy spending Christmas Eve in your cosy holding cell with Micah?’

My dad, who had arranged for J.D.’s release, had not been able to sway the authorities on the issue of Micah. (So technically, I didn’t pay J.D.’s bail, but it was the only thing in my blackmail arsenal. And I couldn’t go shopping all by myself…if you haven’t noticed already, for all intents and purposes I am a girl. We don’t go anywhere by ourselves.)

Even the legendary Harry Potter, who, I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, is my father, could not convince the Ministry’s top interrogators that Micah Horowitz is not a menace to society. You see, since Micah’s top running speed is far superior to J.D.’s, he managed to reach Lewd Wig first during their little game of Tag Bullrush during the Battle of the Bands. Who knew that groping at the jogging suit of the richest man in the Wizarding music industry was grounds for a full Wizengamot trial?

While Aunt Hermione spent Christmas Eve Day with her newest client, Micah Horowitz, J.D. and I scoured the mountains of knickknacks and miscellaneous junk offered for sale at Giraffe-Neck MacDougal’s Frugal Antiques.

‘Aren’t you not allowed in Knockturn Alley?’ asked J.D.

‘What my mum doesn’t know can’t hurt me,’ I replied. ‘Plus, this is sort of my last resort, as it’s the only shop in Wizarding Britain open on Christmas Eve Day.’

‘I’ll spare you the lengthy lecture on how stupid it is to wait until the last minute to buy your girlfriend a Christmas gift,’ said J.D., ‘and skip right to the one where I remind you that Tegan is the least materialistic girl in the entire world. You could give her a bag of toenail clippings and she’d feign almost convincing gratitude.’

‘But I’m a terribly materialistic boy,’ I said. ‘I care what I give her. And you’re wrong: If I gave her toenail clippings, Tegan would be sick and ask that next time, I forgo the toenails and get her disinfectant.’

J.D. grumbled something very rude and went back to sorting through the junk. When I picked up a bottle of Jacopo S. Tripe’s Powder of Dragon Scales (High in Potency and in Fibre!), I felt a cold, bony hand rest on my shoulder.

I turned ‘round and saw a very tall man staring down at me. Well, he wasn’t tall in the traditional sense, as his shoulders were a normal height from the ground but his neck was extraordinarily long and thick. Compared to that substantial neck, he was sort of a pinhead, with a set of beady eyes to match.

‘What’re you doing so deep in Knockturn Alley, lads?’ asked Giraffe-Neck MacDougal, his voice so hoarse that I wanted to offer him a throat lozenge. Sadly, I did not have any on me.

J.D. pointed at me. ‘He told me we were going out for ice cream!’

‘It was a fairly transparent ruse!’ I shot back. ‘Who eats ice cream in December?’

Smart people, that’s who!’ said J.D. ‘It’s already cold, so it doesn’t melt!’

‘He’s right, you know,’ Giraffe-Neck MacDougal said to me. ‘It’s cheaper too. Ice cream in the summer is one sticky, expensive mess.’

With a scowl, I said, ‘I’m looking an object that is so perfect that my girlfriend will fall irrevocably in love with me.’

‘What sort of “something” exactly?’ asked Giraffe-Neck.

‘Toenail clippings,’ said J.D.

I shot him a dirty look. ‘Something pretty, but not too flashy. It should mean something, have some sort of significance.’

Giraffe-Neck MacDougal thought for a moment or two. ‘I think I have the perfect gift.’

He hobbled past the rows of antiques (which were, on the whole, of less than excellent quality) and behind the wooden counter at the back of the shop. I skipped after him and J.D. followed, though not without a dramatic rolling of his eyes.

Giraffe-Neck pulled a cigar box from below the counter and carefully opened it. Inside, there was a single ring, set with a square emerald.

The shopkeeper motioned for me to pick up the ring to examine it, which I did. The ring itself was grey in colour, and there was next to no ornamentation on the band. The stone, which I’d thought to be a small emerald, was indeed green but from a sort of rock I could not identify. A roughly carved C (or was it simply a caret?) decorated the stone.

J.D. snatched the ring from my grasp. ‘Giraffe-Neck MacDougal, this is literally a piece of refuse!’

I grabbed it back. ‘I’m not done looking at it!’

That, boy, is an invaluable artefact!’ said Giraffe-Neck.

‘J.S., this “artefact” is made of iron!’ said J.D. ‘And that thing masquerading as a precious stone is a pebble! It’s painted green or something!’

‘The historical value of this ring is unparalleled with almost everything still in existence!’ said Giraffe-Neck. ‘This, lads, is the ring of Slytherin.’

‘I thought my uncle destroyed that,’ I said.

‘Slytherin’s locket,’ said J.D. ‘Mr Weasley destroyed Slytherin’s locket. And excuse me, Mr MacDougal, but if Slytherin had a ring to match his necklace, wouldn’t we have heard about it in History of Magic?’

‘Wrong Slytherin,’ said Giraffe-Neck, rasping. ‘Yes, Salazar’s locket turned out to be trouble, but this is the ring of Cody Slytherin.’

Cody Slytherin?’ J.D. snapped.

‘Of course,’ said Giraffe-Neck coolly. ‘He was Salazar’s younger brother and he crafted that heirloom himself. Look, I’ll tell you the story, since not everyone’s heard of Cody Slytherin.

‘Over one thousand years ago, in the vast landgraviate of Leuchtenberg, there lived a family of great nobility and prestige. Landgraf Slytherin was most pleased when his wife bore him a son, and the boy was called Salazar, and he would grow to be a bright, obedient son. But several years later the Landgräfin Slytherin bore another child, who was blond and stupid and probably a bastard. This son was called Cody.’

Intrigue! I thought, grinning at J.D.

‘Cody?’ J.D. asked aloud. ‘Salazar Slytherin had a younger brother called Cody?

‘Yes. Now shut up,’ said Giraffe-Neck.

‘The Slytherins held great favour with the emperor, but when Salazar and Cody were still children, tragedy befell their family. A terrible disease spread throughout the land and killed most of their peasants. With no one to till the soil and harvest the crops, Landgraf Slytherin’s many tracts of land were no longer lucrative, and the family was forced to either abandon their homeland or get real jobs.

‘And so, Landgraf Slytherin made a deal with the English king to exchange his old manor for a disease-free one in the east of England. The landgraf became a count and his wife a countess, and the children were quickly assimilated into their new culture. With their new legion of peasants to till the soil and harvest the crops, the Slytherin family quickly regained their former wealth.

‘While Muggles had been forced to the farthest regions of the continental emperor’s lands, the king of the unified England, himself a mudblood, allowed the magical and non-magical peoples of his kingdom to co-habitate and he bid his dukes, earls, and other noblemen to enforce this policy. (Hundreds of years before the witch hunts, wizards and Muggles lived alongside one another, you see.) However, in the empire in which Count Slytherin’s Leuchtenberg was located, it was thought that Muggles were the source of all the evil in this world. Famine, freedom of thought, hangnails—even the disease that had driven the Slytherins to rainy England was the fault of Muggles.’

‘How does that follow?’ said J.D. testily. ‘Wouldn’t a wizard have an easier job of controlling a famine or disease than a Muggle? We’re the ones who can do magic, yeah? And what’s so wrong with freedom of thought?’

‘You’re too young to understand,’ said Giraffe-Neck in his soft, fragile voice.

‘Unable to brainwash his new peasants with this rhetoric at the behest of the king, Count Slytherin made certain that his sons’ tutors, whom he imported from Leuchtenberg, taught them only the truth about Muggles. Salazar, the elder son, excelled in every subject: Logic, Grammar, Alchemy, Dark Arts, History of Muggle Corruption…the standard course of study for a noble wizard. According to the laws of primogeniture, Salazar was due to inherit his father’s entire estate and noble title, and there was no doubt that he would one day make a fine Count Slytherin.

‘Cody, however, proved to be a burden. He bit every tutor his father sent to educate him, and soon there was no learned man in all the land who would agree to teach Cody. When his younger son came of the appropriate age, Count Slytherin sought a knight to take Cody as his page. This was customary for the second son of a nobleman at the time, to train him for knighthood. However, word of Cody Slytherin’s sharp, pointy teeth had spread far and wide and no magical knight would agree to employ Cody. That is, except for Sir Godric Gryffindor.’

I gasped and tugged at J.D.’s sleeve. He frowned and shook me off.

‘Sir Godric, a tall and burly man with a personality to match, diagnosed Cody with Squibism early in his apprenticeship,’ said Giraffe-Neck MacDougal. ‘He shared the king’s view on Muggles and decided to allow Cody to remain in his service. Knowing that Count Slytherin would most likely kill his younger son if he realised he was a Squib, Sir Godric felt a moral obligation to protect Cody. And so, the young knight—who was almost the same age as Cody’s elder brother—attempted to train the younger Slytherin for combat.

‘During his horseback riding lessons, Cody bit the horse. During his sword-fighting lessons, Cody bit Sir Godric’s squire. There was nothing in the world that Cody loved more than biting, and after five years, Sir Godric wondered if his generosity towards Cody had been a mistake. Seeking an audience with the count, he discovered that the old man had died and Salazar had taken his place.

‘It was then that Count Salazar and Sir Godric first met and became friends. United by their common hobbies, lyric poetry and tribal warfare, they debated what they ought to do with Cody. Unaware of his brother’s Squibishness, as he would be until they day that he died, Salazar suggested that he join a monastery, a fate reserved for only the third sons of noblemen. Godric reluctantly agreed.’

‘What’s a monastery?’ I interrupted.

‘It’s something to do with Muggle religion,’ said J.D. ‘It’s in a book of my dad’s.’

‘But sorcerers were not yet excluded from western religion,’ said Giraffe-Neck, trying to get back on subject. ‘Did you know that the majority of the Popes Leo were wizards? Well, except for the one that was a witch, but that’s a story for another day.’

‘Y’know what I don’t understand?’ said J.D. ‘Muggles who blow each other up cos of religion. They don’t even realise that most of their religions preach love and kindness and all the same morals, and loads of the monotheistic ones believe in the same God! Fine, they call Him by different names, but is that really a justifiable reason to hate one another? In the north of Ireland they’ve got the same messiah, the same holidays, and the same holy book, albeit with minor syntactical inconsistencies, and they still hate each other! Why do Muggles focus on the stupid differences in religion instead of the overwhelming similarities? “Love thy neighbour” my ass.’

‘Yes, you’re very smart, now step down from your soapbox,’ said Giraffe-Neck. ‘So Cody was banished to a monastery—’

‘I still don’t understand what a monastery is,’ I said.

‘It’s a place where you’re expected to shut your gob,’ said J.D. ‘And I think we can deduce that it isn’t as much fun as being a landgraf or knight.’

Anyways,’ Giraffe-Neck said with a dramatic wheeze, ‘Cody spent his life in a tiny monastery on a tiny island off the coast of Scotland until the end of his days. They knocked out all his teeth to break his biting habit and he never saw Count Salazar or Sir Godric again. Those two, of course, went on to great things and remained the best of friends.’

‘What about the great schism?’ asked J.D. ‘When Salazar left his little friend Basil locked up in Hogwarts?’

‘What about the ring?’ I piped up. ‘Cody’s ring?’

‘Oh yes,’ said Giraffe-Neck. ‘Whilst at the monastery, Cody developed a love for carving and metalwork. This was after they took away his teeth, you see, so he couldn’t physically speak anymore or chew anything but gruel. And let’s remember that Cody remained illiterate, so he couldn’t help with the massive transcription project the other monks were so keen on finishing.

‘After developing fairly proficient metalworking skills, Cody recalled the beautiful locket his father, and eventually his brother, had worn all the time. It was crafted from the purest silver in the shape of an oval, and set with flawless emeralds arranged in the shape of the letter S. This locket was the most valuable heirloom of the Slytherin family and it would be passed down through the generations for a thousand years until…well, you know.

‘But Salazar was the first-born son and he therefore inherited the locket that Cody treasured so very much. The younger Slytherin scoured the island where he led his monastic life for silver as fine as that of the locket, and emeralds as flawless as those in the locket. He would make his own keepsake to remember the family that he’d been expelled so unceremoniously from!’

J.D. grabbed the ring from my hands once more. ‘Iron! Pebble! And it’s not even a locket!’

Giraffe-Neck MacDougal snatched the ring from J.D. ‘It just needs a bit of polishing! And if you’d stop interrupting me, I’d tell you that Cody couldn’t find enough silver or emeralds on that remote island for a locket, so he opted for a ring instead.’

‘So that’s why there’s a C carved in it?’ I asked. ‘For Cody?’

‘Yes,’ said Giraffe-Neck solemnly. ‘For Saint Cody Slytherin, who’s all but been lost to history. Do not forget him, lads.’

I bowed my head in respect for a moment, then looked up at J.D.

‘You can’t seriously consider buying this piece of crap?’ he demanded. ‘It’s a load of tosh! Giraffe-Neck MacDougal probably made the thing himself!’

‘I did no such thing!’ insisted Giraffe-Neck, who was beginning to cough vigorously. ‘I’m a respectable businessman, I am! Why, I’ll include a certificate of authenticity! Just let me go draw it up.’

‘It’s a ring, J.S.,’ J.D. continued. ‘The only times you ever give a woman a ring are for an engagement, wedding, and however many anniversaries it takes to placate her.’

That was the saddest thing I’d ever heard in my entire life. Or at least in the course of that day. So far.

Well, at least he was starting to sound like my old J.Dizzle again.

‘How about a pre-engagement?’ Giraffe-Neck suggested.

‘Pardon?’ I said.

‘You know, a pre-engagement,’ the slightly disfigured old man said. ‘To say that one day, you intend to want to marry the girl. You do love her, right?’

‘With all my heart!’ I exclaimed.

‘You’re the single most gullible person on the planet,’ said J.D.

‘So pre-propose to her!’ said Giraffe-Neck. ‘Why, I was pre-engaged once. Beautiful young girl—nose like an elephant’s, but beautiful otherwise. Eventually gave back my pre-engagement ring, though. “Ebenezer!” she said. “I can’t marry a man who’s already married to his work!”’

‘That’s so sad,’ I said.

Ebenezer?’ said J.D.

‘I’m old,’ said Ebenezer MacDougal flatly.

‘J.S.!’ J.D. turned to me. ‘You can’t seriously be thinking of buying Tegan a pre-engagement ring! First of all, there’s no such thing, and secondly, you haven’t even told her you love her yet!’

‘Why not multitask?’ suggested Giraffe-Neck.

‘Why not be reasonable?’ J.D. spat.

‘Don’t let love pass you by, lad!’ said Giraffe-Neck. ‘You’ve got to trap it while you still can! Look what’s happened to me!’

‘If you give Tegan that wretched thing, she will turn you down!’ said J.D. ‘You haven’t even been dating for three months!’

‘It’ll be three months next week!’ I shouted. ‘And what do you know about love, anyways? What have you got for all your brooding and aloofness? Nothing! Your stupid plan to win back Rosie isn’t working, if you haven’t noticed! And what’s the longest relationship you’ve ever been in, two seconds? Who are you to tell me about love, J.D.?’

The air in the antiques shop suddenly became very heavy, as if it’d changed from gaseous to solid form without warning. J.D., whose fists were clenched, did not move a muscle, but instead imposed a long, hateful stare on me. I wanted to look away cos his vengeful stares were always so horrible, and this was the worst by far, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t even open my mouth to apologise, even though I desperately wanted to…but I had meant those things, those awful things that I’d said. I didn’t mean to say them aloud, of course, but they’d been trapped in my subconscious for quite some time and had chosen this, of all moments, to make themselves known.

At the end of my internal soliloquy, as if on cue, J.D. spun ‘round and headed straight for the door. He exited the shop without a word, just a slam of the door, and I found myself alone with Giraffe-Neck MacDougal.

‘Will you be taking the ring, lad?’ he asked.

I didn’t answer him for an entire minute. ‘Yeah. I think I will.’

‘Excellent!’ said Giraffe-Neck, taking out a small velvet box and placing Cody’s ring inside. ‘That will be fifty galleons, please.’

I raised an eyebrow. ‘You can’t be serious. It’s a piece of twisted iron and a painted rock.’



He mulled it over. ‘Very well, then. Would you like it gift-wrapped?’


Giraffe-Neck gave a flick of his wand and the small black box was covered with faded green paper. A thin red ribbon tied itself around it all.

‘That will be ten galleons, sir,’ he said cheerfully.

‘I thought we agreed on two.’

‘Gift-wrapping charge.’

Reluctantly, I shelled the coins out of my pocket and handed them to Giraffe-Neck MacDougal. He, in turn, handed me the wrapped box.

‘Do you have a connection to the Floo Network, perchance?’ I asked. J.D. could find his own way home.

‘There’s a fireplace to your left, lad,’ said Giraffe-Neck. ‘Jar of powder’s on the mantle. And have a Happy Christmas.’

I smiled faintly as I walked towards the fireplace. Grabbing a handful of Floo Powder and holding tightly to my parcel, I shouted, ‘Orchard House!’ and disappeared in a quick billow of smoke.

Orchard House is where me and my family live, you see. It’s kind of an ordinary name, I suppose, but we’re kind of an ordinary family. I mean, my mum, my dad, my brother and my sister are all boring on their own, but everything is always much more exciting at Christmastime. That’s when all my other relatives come to our house and everyone is a bit psychotic. My Granny Weasley used to do all of the cooking when we had Christmas at her house, but my mum’s inherited her zeal now that she’s too old and grandmotherly for the cooking. The pies are always delicious, at any rate.

Did I not make that clear? We always celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. It’s so everyone can celebrate real Christmas with their other families: the Delacours, the Van der Voorts, the Johnsons, the Grangers. We don’t have another family, cos Dad’s parents are dead, but we don’t mind. Christmas Eve with the Weasleys is enough Christmas for anyone.

Anyways, Orchard House is our cosy little residence surrounded by apple trees. I had to share a bedroom with Albus until I was fourteen, when my parents let me move into the attic. Mum says that cohabitation builds character and strengthens brotherly bonds, but me and Al have as much in common as Dad and Uncle Dudley do.

I hope Uncle Dudley’s family isn’t coming to Christmas. They’ve only come to a Weasley holiday spectacular once, and Freddie and I did a thorough job of permanently scarring (emotionally and physically, though the latter was unintentional) my cousins, Belinda and Hubert.

Not to say that Dad and Uncle Dudley don’t get on well…they’re just very polite and cordial to one another. And that’s the rapport between me and Albus.

Floo travel always tickles my tummy, so I giggled as I materialised in the kitchen fireplace at Orchard House. I double-checked that Tegan’s gift was still in the pocket of my robes, and proceeded to wipe the thin layer of soot off of myself. We were meeting for lunch on Boxing Day and I figured that I’d give the ring to her then. I also had second thoughts about the pre-engagement business—it was a fairly stupid idea, considering that she’d probably say no and if she didn’t, her father would probably defenestrate me. But I could surely give her the ring as a proclamation of my love…once she heard of my true feelings and the tragic historical significance of Cody Slytherin’s ring, how could she not be swept up in the romanticism of it all and realise that she’s madly in love with me too?

When I stepped out of the fireplace and into the kitchen proper, the delicious scent of apples and cinnamon wafting up my nasal passages, who did I spy but Tegan Llewellyn, swishing her wand and peeling apples at my kitchen table?

She grinned at me as my mum scurried over from the oven to flatten my untidy hair, spitting into her palm and running it over my untameable locks.

‘Where’ve you been?’ Mum demanded, her deep brown eyes the exact same hue as mine. ‘What took you so long? And why is your jaw hanging open like that?’

‘Tegan!’ I said, voice squeaking.

‘Don’t dodge the question,’ said Mum. ‘You know your Uncle George? Imagine growing up with two of him. Don’t think you can outsmart me, James. And Tegan’s parents are out of the country so I couldn’t very well let her spend Christmas alone.’

‘Separate countries,’ said Tegan, giving a flick of her wand to begin chopping the skinned apples. ‘Eleni’s in Monaco but Rhys is in Japan on business. I’m sure he would have brought me with him, but he left before I arrived home from school and I suspect he forgot that I was coming.’

‘So when I received Tegan’s weekly letter this morning, I couldn’t not invite her to spend Christmas Eve with us,’ said Mum. ‘Now, where have you been, exactly?’

‘Weekly letters?’ I asked. ‘You two regularly correspond?’

‘Of course,’ said Mum, going over to stand by Tegan. ‘Do pay better attention, James; this has been going on for quite a few years now. And I’ll ask you this only once more, or you’ll forfeit your pie privileges for this evening: Where in the name of Albus Dumbledore have you been all afternoon?’

For a moment, I felt like there was something caught in my throat. Side by side, there was something eerily similar about Tegan and my mum. It wasn’t necessarily a physical similarity: Tegan was tall, Mum was short; Mum was stout, Tegan was thin; Tegan was somewhere between blonde and brunette, Mum had distinctly red hair. But beyond any shadow of a doubt, I saw a parallel between the two of them: the I-know-something-you-don’t-know smile of a woman who likes Quidditch and isn’t afraid to run ‘round with the boys.

It was a conspiracy. No other explanation.

‘I was with J.D.,’ I said quickly. ‘We went out for ice cream and lost track of time.’

Tegan returned her attention to the apples, and Mum narrowed her eyes at me. ‘Ice cream,’ she said sceptically. ‘On Christmas Eve?’

‘We went to a Muggle ice cream parlour,’ I answered. ‘It’s traditional for Muggles to have ice cream for Christmas Eve.’

Before Mum could continue with the interrogation, Dad meandered into the kitchen, his eyes tired behind his glasses and his hair slightly more untidy than mine.

‘Nice to see you again, Tegan,’ he said, smiling warmly. ‘There you are, James. Where’ve you been all afternoon?’

‘Having a Christmas Eve ice cream with J.D.,’ Mum answered. ‘It’s typical for Muggles.’

Dad squinted at me before speaking again. ‘Oh…things have certainly changed since my time as a Muggle.’

‘J.D. says thank you for putting in a good word for him at the Ministry,’ I piped up.

‘Of course,’ said Dad, taking at seat at the table while Tegan levitated the apple slices into a large bowl. ‘I know what it’s like to be caught up in the inevitable malfunctionings of a judicial system. Your aunt should have an update on Micah’s situation when she arrives with Ron, Rose, and Hugo at any moment.’

‘You’d better go and get dressed, James,’ said Mum, checking something on the hob. ‘I’ve tied both of your shoes to the bed so they won’t wander off again.’

I threw my arms around her on my way out the door. ‘I love you, Mummy!’

‘I know, dear,’ she replied. I could tell that she was smiling by the sound of her voice.

I dashed down the corridor and up two flights of stairs, quick like a fast bunny. Ohmigodohmigodohmigod Tegan’s here!

What had originally been a quiet Christmas Eve with the Weasley clan (as quiet as those ever are, that is) had quickly escalated into mine and Tegan’s first family function as a bona fide couple. Although we would surely have many family functions to attend in our long and blissful life together, this first Christmas was certainly the most important. It had to be the very best Christmas of Tegan’s life, or she might not love me. (Though Christmas with the Richelieu-Llewellyns was probably never a barrel of laughs.) But I couldn’t take any chances—Tegan would have to meet and love everyone in my eccentric family or else she would surely break up with me. If this Christmas Eve was not the funnest, most romantic evening of her life, I could compose a requiem for my future happiness.

I selected my outfit and dressed in a matter of minutes. I tied my shoes as I ran to the trapdoor (which is no easy task), and descended the ladder from the attic to the first floor. I slid down the banister from the first to the ground floor and nearly collided with Tegan, who was waiting at the foot of the staircase.

‘Wow,’ she said, looking me up and down. ‘Did they let you out of the ball early, Prince Swanky?’

I grinned, knowing that that was Tegan Language for “I am impressed by your attire. Let’s go make a baby.”

‘I’ll have you know that my father was married in this suit,’ I said, patting down my hair. ‘Well, the trousers and the shirt and the waistcoat and the bowtie. I bought the tailcoat and top hat when the Muggle down the street, Mr Marley, died. I don’t quite like my dad’s old dress robes; they’re so turn of the millennium. Plus, this hat is the shiznit.’

I took it off my head and showed her how the tall part popped in and out. Pop, pop!

‘Do I feel underdressed,’ said Tegan, glancing down at her red jumper.

‘You look beautiful,’ I said very seriously. Sure, I looked better, but I usually had the advantage over Tegan when it came to couture. It’s one reason why we complement each other so well.

I offered her my arm and she took it, and so we strolled back to the kitchen. The picture would’ve been complete if only I had a cane and monocle.

‘Where’s Snuffles?’ asked Tegan.

‘He’s in the library,’ I answered. ‘Uncle Percy is allergic to dogs, so we have to keep him locked up.’

She looked compassionate. ‘To be honest, I’m terrified of meeting your family.’

‘What d’you mean?’ I said. ‘You get on eerily well with my mum and dad, and you already know Lily and Al.’

‘I mean everyone else,’ she said. ‘You’ve got quite a large family, James, and I’ve only met a small percentage of them. Plus, considering the bad luck I seem to have with my own family, the entire institution is a source of some anxiety for me.’

I patted her arm. ‘Tegs, they’re going to love you. Worry not, m’dear.’

We headed into the kitchen (Albus and Lily had shown up some time before) and discovered Granny Weasley and Mum in an intense argument over the boiling of potatoes.

‘Mum, you may not waltz into my home and order me around!’ said my mum. ‘I am not a child!’

‘I was simply making a suggestion!’ Granny Weasley exclaimed. ‘I happen to know a thing or two about potatoes!’

‘Molly, look, it’s the children,’ Dad said, artfully changing the subject.

Granny’s expression immediately changed from one of fury to that of joy. ‘James, Al, Lily!’ she cried, opening her arms as if to demand a hug.

We all knew the drill and promptly ran into her arms. Granny Weasley has a surprisingly long wingspan for an old lady, and it can accommodate all three of us kids.

‘Granny!’ said Lily, ever the sycophant.

‘Hi Granny Weasley!’ I said. ‘Did you Apparate over without any problem?’

‘Hello Lily, James, and Albus,’ she said, winking at the middle Potter child as she released all three of us. ‘And I’m afraid that I’m in no shape to Apparate anymore—Granddad borrowed a car and I daresay it made his year.’

‘Say hello to your grandfather, kids,’ said Mum.

‘Hello Granddad Weasley,’ me, Lily, and Al said to the wrinkled, bespectacled old man sitting where Tegan had prepared the apples.

‘What?’ he croaked, hard of hearing.

‘The children are saying hello!’ Granny Weasley shouted. ‘Arthur, did you forget to take the essence of babel fish that Healer Fezziwig gave you?’

‘What?’ said Granddad Weasley, affirmatively answering the query.

‘The man is impossible,’ said Granny. ‘Only wants to use a hearing aid! But is it covered by the Wizarding Health Service? Why, of course not! It’s a bloody Muggle contraption!’

‘Mum, I think there’s someone here you’ll want to meet,’ said my mum, motioning to Tegan (who had shrunk back to the doorway).

I grabbed her hand and led her over to Granny Weasley. ‘Granny, this is my girlfriend, Tegan Llewellyn. Tegan, this is my grandmother, Molly Weasley.’

‘Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mrs Weasley,’ said Tegan, holding her hand out to shake.

Granny took one evaluative look at Tegan before she grabbed her in an enveloping hug. ‘It’s Molly, dear!’ she exclaimed. ‘My, what a pretty face you have! Too skinny, though—you’ll feed her up, won’t you Ginny? No one should be this thin at Christmastime!’

‘Of course, Mum,’ placated Mum. She glanced at me and nodded towards Granddad Weasley.

Prying Tegan from Granny’s grasp, I brought her over to my grandfather. ‘Granddad, this is my girlfriend, Tegan!’ I shouted.

‘What?’ he replied.

‘Tegan!’ I repeated. ‘This is Tegan!’

‘Tea? It’s nearly dinnertime!’ said Granddad.

Granny scurried over. ‘James got himself a girlfriend!’ she shrieked. ‘Say hello!’

‘Oh, hello,’ said Granddad Weasley. ‘I’m Arthur. My babel fish potion tastes like rotten fish wrapped in newspaper.’

‘Hold your nose while you swallow it!’ said Granny, aghast. ‘How complicated is that?’

It was a welcome interruption when Uncle Ron announced his arrival from the foyer.

‘We’re in the kitchen!’ yelled Granny. ‘They’ve given the house elf the night off, so you’ll have to show yourselves in!’

‘You have a house elf?’ Tegan whispered to me.

‘Nope,’ I said. ‘Granny is nearly always sarcastic with Uncle Ron. Plus Aunt Hermione would Avada Kedavra us or something. She’s an advocate for house elf rights.’

So then Uncle Ron, Aunt Hermione, Rose, and Hugo joined us in the kitchen, which was nearing full capacity.

‘James,’ said Aunt Hermione as Hugo stood next to Al and Rose stood beside Lily, ‘I’ve just come from where they’re holding your friend Micah. Lewd Wig, apparently, has another stalker—I mean, a real stalker—and they’re trying to blame Micah. He wasn’t even born when this man allegedly began stalking Lewd Wig! But, Micah has a large nose, which fits the profile. Don’t worry, I’ll have all charges dropped by the end of this week, but Micah told me to give you these.’

She handed me a stack of flyers that said:


Hi, I’m Micah Horowitz, and I’m being wrongfully detained by the Ministry for Magic. We’re organising a rally outside Vice-Chancellor DeJure’s house at midday on 31st December, and anyone who wants to fight the Man is invited. Also, I’d really appreciate it if you made a donation to my legal defence fund at the address below, by Muggle or owl post.

Micah’s home address in Durham was listed, followed by a caricature of him peeking between the iron bars of a jail cell.

‘Oh, would you like some too?’ Aunt Hermione asked Tegan, handing her the rest of Micah’s flyers.

‘Aunt Hermione, Uncle Ron, this is my girlfriend, Tegan,’ I said.

‘Oh, hello!’ said Aunt Hermione, pulling Tegan into a quick and awkward hug. ‘I should have realised, I’ve heard all about you from Rose and Hugo!’

‘Mum!’ Rose whined. ‘You’re so embarrassing.’

‘Chin up, Rosie,’ said Uncle Ron in that tone parents use to annoy their kids. ‘You’ve been irritable since you arrived home and since you won’t tell us why, at least make an effort to be pleasant tonight.

‘Nice to meet you,’ he said as he shook Tegan’s hand. ‘We’d more or less given up on James here.’

My face went red as Tegan grinned at me.

‘Why don’t you kids go to the sitting room?’ Mum suggested. ‘Finish trimming the tree. I can’t cook with all of you in here.’

‘Let me boil the potatoes!’ said Granny Weasley as Al, Hugo, Rose, Lily, Tegan, and I exited.

‘No!’ Mum’s voice resonated.

‘What?’ piped Granddad Weasley.

My cousins and siblings ran down the corridor, but Tegan and I slowed our pace. I entwined my hand with hers.

‘Aw, they love the ugly duckling of their family,’ she said, pinching my cheek.

I smiled as I swatted her arm away. ‘It’s interesting that none of my relatives have much faith in my courtship skills.’

‘I think the mere fact that you use words like “courtship” may indicate why,’ said Tegan.

I began to turn into the sitting room, but Tegan stopped short. I realised why when I saw who was standing at the front door.

‘Professor Longbottom!’ said Tegan, taken aback. ‘Er…Mrs Longbottom. Dobby.’

‘Can I take your coats?’ I said cordially.

Neville, whose grim eye patch matched his normally gruff expression, smiled widely. ‘Pleasure to see you again, James, Tegan.’

‘It’s so nice to meet you,’ said Hannah to Tegan. ‘James, you’re such a dear.’

The three Longbottoms took off their coats and handed them to me, and I proceeded to stash them in the coat closet.

‘Mum and Dad and everyone are in the kitchen,’ I said to Neville and Hannah. ‘Dobby, Lily and Hugo are in the sitting room there.’

‘Nice tailcoat,’ Dobby snickered as his parents headed to the kitchen.

‘Thank you,’ I said, haughty.

‘Are you…related…to the Weasleys, Dobby?’ Tegan inquired as the three of us meandered into the sitting room.

‘No, of course not,’ said Dobby. ‘We sometimes come to the Potters’ for Christmas Eve. Gran Augusta is gone now, and we visit my dad’s parents Christmas Day—they’re at St Mungo’s, not at all well—and we visit Mum’s parents Christmas Night. Oh, James, I don’t know if your mum got the message, but the Scamanders can’t make it this year. They’re on a safari or something.’

‘Yeah, Mum knows,’ I said, inwardly grateful that Snorky Scamander couldn’t ruin my Christmas Eve this year.

‘And Hagrid’s not coming, either,’ said Dobby. ‘He’s fallen ill or something, so he’s staying at school.’

In the sitting room, Rose, Lily, and Hugo watched Al levitate baubles onto the branches of the tree. Albus is usually the one to do most of the actual work in our family. It’s one reason why he’s such a bitter fifteen-year-old, but Dad reckons that he’ll get over this phase by his sixteenth birthday. It’s like clockwork with the men in our family: For three hundred and sixty-five days, I was as perky as Fancy New J.D., though markedly perkier than J.Dizzle.

I hope J.Dizzle comes back soon. His tantrum at Giraffe-Neck MacDougal’s was a good sign.

Tegan smiled faintly at my siblings and cousins. ‘Hi everyone! Happy Christmas!’

‘Oh yeah, Happy Christmas…the vile consumerism, destruction of millions of fir trees, the figgy pudding,’ Al grumbled. ‘My absolute favourite holiday. There’s absolutely nothing sickening about Christmas, no there is not.’

See! Isn’t that something J.Dizzle would have said? I dunno, maybe Insufferable Fifteen-Year-Old Syndrome runs in his family too. Only he had it ‘til he was seventeen. What’s it called, when someone’s stuck in a perpetual state of prickish adolescence? Arrested development or something?

Maybe J.D. grew out of it. Sigh.

‘You’re thinking about J.D., aren’t you?’ Rosie asked me. ‘I know that look anywhere. I used to get that look. Used to.’

‘What are you talking about? You still get it, Rose,’ said Albus. ‘Quit kidding yourself. You’re not over him.’

‘Al, it’s best to leave meddling with someone else’s psyche to a medical professional,’ said Dobby.

‘You’re not a bloody medical professional!’ Al cried. ‘You’re a thirteen-year-old boy with a clipboard!’

‘I’ve just turned fourteen, I’ll have you know!’ said Dobby.

‘Hi Tegan,’ Lily said with a big grin. ‘Enjoying Christmas so far?’

‘Er,’ said Tegan, ‘shouldn’t we do something? Albus is starting to pull Dobby’s hair.’

Lily swatted the air nonchalantly. ‘No, it’s best to let them work out their issues. Dobby’s a very brilliant analyst/therapist and before the night’s over, he’ll have Al all sorted out. Now you two are just the most adorable couple I’ve ever seen!’

‘Thank you,’ I said.

‘Simply precious. Something out of a romance novel,’ Lily continued.

‘We strive for…preciousness,’ said Tegan with a hint of distaste.

‘I wonder what your children will look like,’ mused Lily. ‘Tall and thin, great noses, but you both have rather murky eyes. Like mud or rust…well, Tegan’s are like that green sort of rust. Do you know what I mean? But tall, malnourished-looking children with great noses and rust-coloured eyes and I don’t even know what hair colour! You’ve got the genes for just about anything!’

During the course of Lily’s monologue, Dobby had grabbed Al’s glasses and put them on. He ran around the room in a most taunting fashion.

‘Your family’s kind of mental,’ Tegan whispered to me. ‘Of course my family’s mental too, but in a much more malicious way. Yours is a nice kind of mental.’

‘But very well-intentioned,’ I replied, smirking. ‘They do care, even if they’ve got odd ways of showing it.’

And then came the barrage of relatives, like a mass breakout from Azkaban: Uncle Percy and Aunt Audrey and Octo, Molly, and Lucy; Uncle Bill and Tante Fleur and Louis (who just graduated Hogwarts) and Madeleine; Teddy Lupin and Victoire (who haven’t eloped, as far as I can tell); Uncle George and Aunt Angelina and Freddie (yay!) and Roxanne; Teddy’s grandmother Andromeda (who needs to address her passive-aggressive tendencies, Dobby says); and Uncle Charlie (who’s not married and therefore vexes Granny Weasley).

And yes, I got a number of compliments on my attire.

‘Wow,’ said Tegan when the sitting room had filled with kids and the adults had migrated to the kitchen. ‘I didn’t know that half of those people existed…Molly and Lucy, they’re at Hogwarts? And Roxanne too?’

‘I haven’t mentioned them?’ I said. ‘Hmm…in my defence, you’d think Freddie would’ve mentioned his own sister at some point over the past six years. But she’s twelve, so who really cares, yeah? Molly and Lucy…I dunno how old they are. They’re short, though.’

‘And why are they just…nice…to me?’ she asked. ‘They don’t even know me. Hell, in my family, you distrust a newcomer first and ask questions later. Why does everyone already like me?’

I shrugged. ‘That’s de facto Weasley behaviour. Trust first and ask questions later.’

‘Oi, turtle doves!’ Freddie shouted. ‘Aunt Ginny says that dinner is ready!’

And ready it was! Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, parsnips, and roast potatoes for us and carrots and sherry and a mince pie for Father Christmas. Mum usually roasts a goose for Christmas Day, and if you don’t know, goose tastes really gross. No one likes to eat it (even Dad has trouble pretending that it’s delicious) so the five of us Potters usually eat leftover turkey on Christmas Day too.

I think you’re supposed to eat Christmas pudding on the 25th as well, but we never do on Christmas Eve. Dessert is quite obviously the highlight of any meal, and it’s silly to ruin it with stuff no one likes. I mean, maybe some people out there like Christmas pudding, but the Weasleys don’t. We prefer the crusted desserts.

There is one overwhelming reason I know Tegan is my soul mate, and I discovered it during the dessert course: She loves apple pie. I always knew that she loved pie, of course, but it’s especially significant that she loves apple pie. We Weasleys eat apple pie on every major holiday. Why should Americans have dibs on apple pie? I live in a fricking orchard!

Anyways, Tegan ate four slices of pie and impressed nearly everyone in my family, except Tante Fleur, who is anorexic and made a pfuit! noise. (We pushed together every table in the house and squeezed just about everyone into the dining room.) We had other varieties of pie at the table: mince pie, custard tart, rhubarb pie, treacle tart. But Tegan went straight for the apple, which is my very favourite type of pie.

If that isn’t true love, then I don’t know what is.

The pie thing got me thinking about Cody Slytherin’s ring. There was no longer any doubt in my mind that I should give it to Tegan and at least proclaim my love. I could do it during the traditional Weasley Christmas Eve Exchanging of the Gifts (not Father Christmas gifts, but the gifts we give each other). It would be so romantic with everyone watching!

The pre-engagement thing was a less brilliant plan, I thought. It’s the sort of thing I would normally discuss with my mum…but she’d either be mad at me or let it slip to Tegan. Dad’s not the romantic sort at all, plus it would take forever to explain the concept of a pre-engagement to him and he still wouldn’t understand. Freddie would think I was insane, I wasn’t speaking to J.D. and I couldn’t write to him in time.

All us kids went to the sitting room after dinner, while our dads washed dishes and our mums put the extra food in the icebox. I just about chewed all my nails off as I sat on the sofa, wedged between Tegan and Freddie. I barely heard the shouts of Dobby’s attempted psychoanalysis of Albus and Madeleine’s scream when she realised that her nail polish had chipped.

Tegan poked me. ‘You look like a zombie. A zombie with a taste for human fingernails.’

I laughed, but it sort of came out like a bark. ‘Ha! Ha!’

‘I wonder if zombies are real,’ said Tegan. ‘I mean, vampires are real and werewolves are real, so why not zombies? Freddie,’ she reached over and shoved him, ‘are zombies real?’

‘I dunno,’ said Freddie. ‘Not to sound rude, but how the hell would I know?’

‘Teddy Lupin!’ she called as our Defence teacher entered the sitting room. ‘Are there such things as zombies?’

Apparently he thought he was an adult now, cos he’d helped the men with the Scourgifying of the dishes. ‘They prefer the term “mortality-challenged,”’ said Teddy Lupin, grabbing Dobby by his collar and stopping Al from ripping Dobby’s throat out. ‘What we have in Britain are revenants, which are more like vampires than Haitian zombies. What’s particularly interesting is that—’

But I stopped listening, as I usually did when Teddy Lupin went all educational. Tegan smelled really, really good—not like citrus, as she usually did, but like cinnamon. So I just sat there and smelled her while Victoire wheeled Andromeda into the room and Uncle Ron assisted Granddad Weasley.

‘What?’ said Granddad.

‘We’re opening gifts soon!’ said Uncle Ron, helping him into a high-backed armchair. ‘Stay right there!’

When all the rest of the adults trickled into the room, Mum yelled at us kids to get off the ruddy furniture so that the people who cooked our dinner and washed our dishes could have someplace to sit. I gingerly crouched to the floor, afraid that I’d wrinkle my tailcoat.

‘Now you look like a zombie who’s about to be sick,’ said Tegan, feeling my forehead with the back of her hand. ‘Or a revenant. Whatever.’

Then the children rushed to the tree and their gifts beneath it, like an irate herd of bulls charging along a Spanish street. Since Tegan wouldn’t be receiving any gifts (that she knew of!), I chivalrously abstained from opening any of mine. (To be fair, no one knew that she was coming until that day, and Granny Weasley apologised a dozen times, citing that were this not the case, she would have brought something for Tegan. Then she chastised my mum for not having the decency to tell her about our very special guest and Mum shouted at her and Granddad Weasley said ‘What?’ a few more times.)

Generally speaking, most Weasleys are crap at gift-giving. There were six encyclopaedias, two bottles of ink, three toothbrushes and twelve pairs of socks exchanged that Christmas Eve, among other mediocre items. It’s not that we don’t put any thought into the gifts we select; we’re just terrible at knowing what sort of gift the other person would like to receive. Fortunately, Father Christmas always does damage control the next day and fixes everything. Of course he’s managed to make a career out of gift-giving, he’s ace! Some people subscribe to the ludicrous theory that the entire Father Christmas phenomenon is a conspiracy, but they’re just people who don’t have the magic inside them.

You know what is a conspiracy? When your mum and your girlfriend are in cahoots.

‘Hey James,’ said Tegan, running over to the Christmas tree, ‘you’ll at least open my gift, won’t you?’

It wasn’t exactly wrapped, but she held a small cage with a bow on it. Inside was a…

‘Pygmy puff!’ I exclaimed as she handed me the cage and sat back down beside me.

‘Yeah,’ said Tegan, grinning. ‘I know you miss Snuffles when you’re away at school, and your uncle George told me that you had a pygmy puff when you were younger—’

I let the pink little thing out of its cage and it flew up onto my shoulder. ‘Betsy!’ I cried. ‘And I’m going to call this little girl Betsy II!’

Betsy gurgled and nuzzled my ear, and everyone let out a group “Awww!”

Tegan looked so pleased that she found the absolute perfect gift that I went “Awww!” too, but it was only in my head.

I love you, I thought. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have found you.

‘I have something for you too, Tegan,’ I said, my mouth suddenly dry. I tried to pull Betsy off my shoulder but she’d somehow suctioned herself to my tailcoat, and I certainly couldn’t have taken it off then! So I reached into my pocket for the ring box and kneeled on one leg, and Betsy, gargling or cooing or whatever sound it is that pygmy puffs make, securely fastened to my shoulder.

‘What,’ said Tegan in a cold, flat voice.

‘What?’ chirped Granddad Weasley.

‘Could you please stand up?’ I requested of Tegan. ‘It works better when you stand up.’

She reluctantly got up off the floor and peered down at me, her arms crossed.

‘Are you shitting me?’ I thought I heard my brother say from across the room.

‘May I have your attention, everyone!’ I said.

The air in the sitting room suddenly became very heavy, as if waiting on what I said next. Or maybe it was the collective holding of breath by four Potters, twenty-one Weasleys, three Longbottoms, one Lupin, and one Tonks.

Betsy was breathing fine, by the way.

‘I love you, Tegan Llewellyn,’ I said very seriously, opening the box and revealing Cody Slytherin’s ring.

And then thirty people collectively sighed of relief.

‘Really?’ Tegan said, her voice strangely high. Her eyes were wide too.

Knowing that that was the best opening I was going to get, I said, ‘I have something I’d like to ask you.’

Thirty people held their breaths again. Maybe it was thirty-two, cos Tegan pursed her lips really tight and Betsy had stopped gurgling.

Does a pygmy puff qualify as a person? I think it should.

‘Tegan Llewellyn,’ I said, feeling more sure of myself than I ever had, ‘will you one day do me the honour of considering marrying me?’

A/N: Before anyone yells at me…I wrote the beginning of this story before JKR revealed the Weasley family tree and got very little right, but you all know that. And after much thought, I’ve sort of combined JKR’s family tree with my own…it’s almost better this way, since there’s more people and it’s more confusing, and it contributes to the tone. And yes, that’s the excuse I’m sticking with.

And cliffhangers are evil, but I don’t write them very often. I’ve had this chapter planned for a very long time, so I prefer the term “gamechanger” to “jumping the shark.”

And I can hardly verbalize how grateful I am to everyone who’s reviewed. “Thank you” seems way too callous, but thank you. =)

Chapter 19: Her Story
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« Le suprême bonheur de la vie, c’est la conviction qu’on est aimé. »

Life’s greatest happiness is to be convinced we are loved.

-Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Previously on We Gryffies:

‘Tegan Llewellyn,’ I said, feeling more sure of myself than I ever had, ‘will you one day do me the honour of considering marrying me?’


Yeah, I used the real word. Sue me.

Fuck fuck FUCK.

This is Tegan, by the way. I’m going to narrate this damn thing in my particular idiom, and I think you’ll agree that this moment in time warrants the use of the foulest language in one’s lexicon.

Peckerhead! Wanker! Douchebag!

I can go worse, oh yes I can. I know all seven words you’re not allowed to say on the Wizarding Wireless Network and I’m not afraid to use them. But I was raised as a lady, so I will abstain. For now.

I stared down at James, who was holding up that awful excuse for a ring. Really, it was exceptionally ugly. Considering that I’m the least materialistic girl in the entire world, that’s saying something.

Painfully aware that all of James’s relatives were staring at me, I said, ‘I didn’t quite catch that. What you said.’

He smiled broadly. ‘D’you want me to propose marriage to you at some point in the distant future?’

‘James!’ Ginny said, her voice shaking.

Piss. This was not good.

I gulped. ‘I heard you the first time. But I still don’t understand what you’re saying.’

His smile faded somewhat. ‘I’m asking if you want to get pre-engaged.’

I didn’t know whether to slap him or feel bad for him. Without a doubt, James Potter is an idiot.

‘What the hell does that mean?’ I said, my eyes wide.

‘Well, it’s kind of self-explanatory,’ he scrambled. ‘It’s the step before you get engaged. It’s, er…very in vogue?’

For this, I had no words. I looked around at all of James’s relatives and almost-relatives, as if to apologise for their bearing witness to such a heinous event. But how was this my fault?

‘I love you!’ James burst, as if that were a selling point.

‘You what?’ I muttered.

‘I love you with all my heart!’ he said. ‘D’you want to get pre-engaged now?’

‘Wait, are you sure?’ I asked. ‘You…love me, but how can you be sure?’

‘I’ve always loved you,’ James insisted. ‘I didn’t realise it until fairly recently, but I’ve loved you all along! All these years that we’ve known each other!’

I knew that in this situation, the proper response on my part would’ve been an “I love you too.” But it all felt wrong…it all was wrong…

In my entire life thus far, only one person had told me that they loved me. Not in a romantic way, oh no—that sort of affection was reserved for blonde girls with discernable mammary growth. In a paternal way, my dad (or Rhys…since I still don’t fucking know if he’s my dad or not) had told me he loved me dozens of times, but I never thought that he genuinely meant it. Not that he didn’t mean it…but it always seemed forced, like he meant to tell me something else but could never bring himself to do it. It was a baited sort of “I love you,” like there were strings attached that I couldn’t see. And Eleni (who simply could not be my mother) would never have wasted her breath like that. No, only once did I realise that someone truly loved me, and it was H.U.W.

I was five years old, and he was just Huw back then. He was in his early twenties at the time and he’d sometimes come to visit between stints in rehab. I remember being so delighted that he surprised us with a visit one ordinary day—it wasn’t Christmas or even my birthday, but he’d shown up at Tanybwlch House completely unannounced. Eleni wasn’t entirely happy to see him, but it was noontime, which meant she had quite a lot of vodka in her bloodstream and was therefore much more persuadable. ‘Rhys is at work,’ she said, ‘and I don’t give a care if you bring Meegan to the beach.’

I was “Meegan” a lot back then, but I didn’t care as my big cousin and I ran down the hill to the seashore. It was autumn and it was cloudy, but Huw and I ran up and down the beach, laughing our heads off. Huw even took off his shoes and stuck his feet in the water—there was a chill in the air and I was very impressed by this feat of bravery. I don’t know how many hours we played for, but eventually I grew weary and Huw carried me back up to my house, piggyback-style.

‘Mam sold our house elf,’ I told Huw, yawning. ‘Mam sold Malarky.’

‘That sounds like Aunt Eleni,’ Huw remarked.

‘But Malarky was Dad’s family’s house elf,’ I whined. ‘Your family’s house elf. Not hers.’

I think Huw smiled at me. ‘You’re a good kid, McTegan.’

I giggled at his new nickname for me.

He considered something, but didn’t say it until we reached the top of the hill. ‘You know that I love you, McTegan. Right?’

I tried to think, but my brain was tired. ‘Yeah. I love you too, Huw.’

There was something so pure and simple about the way he said it that I couldn’t help but reciprocate. My cousin was a mystery to me…I knew that his father died when he was very young and he didn’t have a real job and he spent most of his time in pubs and being addicted to whatever drug was fashionable at the time. As a small child, Huw was the only person I knew that wasn’t full of shit, at least not when it came to me. I knew he wasn’t a role model, not in the least…but he wasn’t afraid to say that he loved me, and there were no strings attached. He said it so matter-of-factly.

‘Glad we’ve got that settled, McTeg,’ said Huw. ‘I’m going away for a little while, but you’ll see me again soon enough.’

I didn’t see him again for three whole years.

In an instant, my mind departed from that memory of that day with Huw and I was back in the Potters’ sitting room. The Christmas tree shone brilliantly and garland lined the ceiling. Every pair of Weasley and Weasley-by-marriage eyes stared at me in anticipation (or was it dread?), and James was still on one knee. The pygmy puff (newly christened Betsy) cooed gently.

James coughed. ‘I love you, Tegs. I’m absolutely certain, and, er, I hope you love me too.’

I stared into his expectant brown eyes, searching for that thread of certainty. Obviously James would love me in a different way from Huw, but was this a simple, pure form of love or something as murky as Rhys’s?

‘I…I…’ I began, my voice cracking.

But like a magnificent bolt of lightening, with such timing and no tact, J.D. Nott burst through the front door and staggered into the sitting room.

‘Rose!’ he cried, looking haggard and dishevelled. ‘I need to speak with Rosie!’

Rose Weasley jumped up and stared at J.D. ‘What the bloody hell are you doing here?’

James’s Uncle Ron leapt towards J.D. ‘Who the bloody hell are you?’

J.D. looked past Ron and stared at James in contempt. ‘No you didn’t!’ J.D. said. ‘J.S., you did not buy that sodding ring!’

‘So that ugly old thing really is a ring?’ I asked.

‘Yeah,’ James said, standing up. ‘There’s actually a beautiful story behind it, one of tragedy and triumph.’

‘It looks like it’d give you tetanus if you stuck it on your finger,’ I whispered to myself.

‘I’m a very powerful Auror, so you’d better explain yourself, boy!’ Ron shouted at J.D.

‘It’s just James’s friend J.D.!’ Harry said, separating Ron and J.D. with his arms. ‘It’s Theodore Nott’s son!’

‘Just let me talk to Rose, please!’ J.D. said. ‘I was so stupid before, but I’ve got perspective now and I need to tell her something!’

‘It’s all about a boy, isn’t it, Rosie?’ Ron roared. ‘You’ve let yourself become this miserable all because of this boy?

‘Don’t you dare yell at Rose!’ James’s Aunt Hermione snapped.

‘Thanks, Mum!’ Rose said. ‘And maybe I don’t want to talk to you, J.D.!’

James nudged me to the corner of the sitting room, though the shouting match continued to escalate.

‘This is the ring of Slytherin,’ he said softly. ‘One of a kind. Priceless.’

Slytherin?’ I clarified. ‘You bought me Salazar Slytherin’s ring for a ruddy pre-proposal?’

‘No, it’s Cody Slytherin’s ring,’ James said quickly. ‘Salazar’s brother. He’s really the more admirable one anyway.’

Across the room, I saw Harry and Hermione physically restrain Ron, who looked like he wanted to hex J.D. into oblivion.

‘You hurt my daughter!’ Ron shouted. ‘I’m going to hurt you!

‘It’ll all get sorted out,’ James said, gesturing towards the struggle. ‘We’ve had far more violent Weasley Christmases in the past.’

‘James,’ I breathed, ‘I don’t think I can—’

Betsy the pygmy puff squealed as Ron almost wrenched free.

‘I’m trying to fix things!’ J.D. pleaded. ‘I have to make things right! I’m a man now!’

‘You’re just an awful little boy!’ Ron said, almost snarling. ‘You’ve got Death Eater blood, you do!’

‘Dad, that’s such a nineties thing to say!’ Rose shouted. ‘I’m not going to talk to J.D., but don’t fricking attack him!’

‘Rose, don’t use such language!’ her mother said. Why do adults think that “frick” is the bad word?

‘Please give me a chance, Rosie!’ J.D. yelped. ‘I don’t deserve it, but please!’

James pulled me closer to him and smiled kindly. ‘I love you, Tegan. I really, really do. Will you one day think about marrying me?’

‘I…I…’ I stammered.

‘You don’t deserve the time of day from my Rosie!’ Ron yelled at J.D.

‘You can’t tell her who she can and can’t give the time of day to!’ Hermione said.

‘Dad, you’re so…argh!’ Rose said. ‘Fine, J.D., I will talk to you! You have exactly sixty seconds!’

‘Can we go in the foyer or something?’ J.D. asked.

‘NO!’ Ron shouted, as if the sole purpose of the foyer was for fornication.

James nudged me and held out the ring. ‘So, what d’you say?’

I regarded him more seriously than I ever had before. James was, quite simply, sweet and undeniably cute. He was such a little boy…I don’t mean that in a pervy way, but his hair stuck out in all directions and he was still very lanky and he still had that childlike sense of optimism about the world.

I was aware that across the room, Ron had charged towards J.D. but Hermione had nicked his wand, so James’s uncle chased after James’s best mate out the door and down the corridor. Rose took after both of them, screaming, and I marvelled that James, a gentle little fawn, had risen from this chaotic family. Chaotic but loving…how would I fit into such a family?

But I couldn’t go down that road, at least not yet. I still had to figure out what precisely my feelings for James were.

I took the ring from him and grimaced at the horrid detail of it. It was nothing but hideous…but James was so cute, smiling daftly as he stood in the corner with me.

What the fuck does a pre-engagement even mean? I thought. Nothing. It’s stupid and James probably made it up. So maybe I could…oh piss, why does James have to be so darling and sweet and lovely? He’s absolutely barking, but do I deserve even that?

But his smile faltered. ‘You don’t have to say the L word—love—if you don’t want to,’ James said. ‘But it’d really be nice to have some sort of answer to my proposition before Uncle Ron catches J.D.’

Above our heads, I heard the rapid stomping of feet, which meant that the chase was still on.

‘James, I—’ I began, but was interrupted by a screech from Betsy the pygmy puff, who was still sitting on James’s shoulder.

‘I’d love to psychoanalyse Ron,’ I heard Dobby Longbottom say to Lily in the distance. ‘He’d be such a fascinating case, don’t you think?’

But I returned my attention to James. The poor boy deserved something more than indecision.

I made eye contact with him. He must’ve grown or something, because he was nearly an inch taller than me. But in those brown and bright eyes, I didn’t see that decisiveness. At that moment, I thought that James lacked Huw’s certainty—the Huw of twelve years ago, not the awful H.U.W. he’d become. Obviously, James didn’t love me in the same way as Huw did…but I didn’t see that shining spark that I sought. The spark that promised that there was no doubt in his soul.

Ew, this is getting way too corny. Sorry about that.

The rest of the family’s attention had transferred to the J.D. and Ron conflict ages ago, and now some of them had even left the sitting room to determine where they’d run off to and whether J.D. was still alive. For me, the pressure was gone.

‘James,’ I said, staring at the wretched ring of Cody Slytherin. (I couldn’t even deal with the concept of Cody Slytherin at the time.)

‘Yes?’ James said, touching my arm in a sweet yet intimate manner.

Fuck, I thought. Hey Universe! Why’d you have to give me a boyfriend who’s perfect yet completely delusional at the same time?

I was only half-aware that I was making the biggest mistake of my life. ‘I can’t do this pre-engagement thing,’ I said, regretfully returning the ring to James.

‘Oh. Okay,’ he said gloomily.

Betsy opened her eyes wide and kind of barked at me. I kid you not.

‘I’m so sorry, James,’ I said earnestly. ‘You have no idea…I care for you, I truly do, but a pre-engagement? It’s—it’s just too much.’

He stared at me desperately. ‘You don’t love me, do you?’

I bit my lip as he took a step back. James’s eyes might have been filling with tears…Betsy was downright hissing at me.

‘I care for you,’ I insisted. ‘I can’t deny that you’re my best friend, and I like you and I find you attractive, despite your quirks. Ug, it’s so awkward to say that. What I mean is that—well, love is a very big deal, right? Not many people have actually loved me in the course of my life, and I just…I just don’t know.’

James gulped. ‘That’s not how love works, Tegan. You’re overthinking it! It’s an instinct, and you either do or you don’t love someone! Tell me Tegan, and don’t think it over: Do you love me?’

Frightened by the intensity of his voice, I mumbled, ‘No.’

His face scrunched up in the oddest way, and I’d definitely never seen it like that before. Betsy was screaming shrilly at me, her beady little eyes venomous. But before I could change my mind and say something to fix everything, a single tear fell down James’s face.

It was followed by many more. He made a sort of “Waaahhh!” screech and sprinted out of the sitting room. Betsy held on tightly to his shoulder as James sobbed and headed up the stairs.

That did not end well.

I looked around the sitting room at James’s remaining relatives. Most of the men had already left…probably to stop Ron from committing a murder. I spotted Ginny, who seemed to be the only one who knew what had happened.

Damn. She had the same Nervous Pout that James did.

Not caring that my handbag and my coat were…somewhere…I grabbed my wand and Disapparated. Another thing I didn’t care about was my lack of an Apparition license. But considering that I was seventeen and I was going from one magical home to another, I doubted that the Ministry would notice or care.

On the worst Christmas Eve of my life, I materialised in the dark and empty Tanybwlch House (Luned had the week off), completely overwhelmed.

Rhys was very sorry that he forgot about me and he made sure I knew it, but he didn’t return home until the day before term began. I wasn’t angry with him; Eleni was still somewhere on the Mediterranean and it’s not like I expected Aunt Danaë or H.U.W. to show up for Christmas Day. Luned reported for work after her holiday and was suitable company for me.

It’s not like I wallowed in my misfortune or something as equally pathetic. After the New Year, I walked into town and decided that I should get a job. Not a serious job, or a long-term one, but just…something. I wanted my own money, something to call my own. Although the galleons to pounds exchange rate wasn’t favourable, I found employment with a shop that sold football merchandise. Aber is almost entirely populated by Muggles, and most stores are closed in the wintertime anyway. Since the concept of me working at a clothing retailer could only manifest as a dreadful misadventure, I opted for Figgy’s Footballs ‘n More.

As the heir apparent to a broommaking dynasty, I admittedly did not know the first thing about football. I learned the basics of the game quickly, but it took a while to memorise the names of the professional clubs. All in all, it took me about three hours to learn everything there is to know about football.

No offence if you like football. But honestly, Quidditch is five times more complicated. Sorry.

So overall, it was a halfway decent holiday. I pretended that I’d forgotten why I should have been more distraught until I boarded the Hogwarts Express and realised that I didn’t have anyone to sit with.

I walked up and down every car of the train until it lurched forward. The entire Quidditch team sat with James in a compartment at the rear of the train. Why didn’t I have any non-Gryffie friends? What was wrong with me? How could those lunatics have fulfilled all my friend-type needs for the past six years?

Dragging my trunk behind me as I huffed away, I spotted a familiar head of blonde hair in a compartment that wasn’t quite full yet. It was Miranda Matilda Melinda Shitforbrains, bless her soul!

I cautiously opened the door and stuck my head in. ‘Miranda! Hi! Might you possibly have room for one more?’

‘Tegan! Hi!’ MMMS shrieked, jumping up to give me a hug.

Get…off…of…me, I thought.

‘Ladies, look who it is!’ she said to her comrades as I wriggled free and levitated my trunk to the overhead luggage thing.

I sat next to Miranda and smiled at her friends. One had black hair and the other had red—it seemed almost cliché to me. Other than the colour of their hair, there wasn’t much else to distinguish them. They almost had the same face as MMMS…sort of boring-looking, yet potentially hostile.

‘Hi, I’m Tegan,’ I introduced myself.

‘We know,’ the redhead said.

‘We’ve lived in your dormitory for six years,’ the dark-haired one said.

MMMS looked at her friends, embarrassed. ‘Now, let’s give Tegan the benefit of the doubt, girls. She’s been through a very traumatic ordeal.’

‘I’m Nephele,’ the black-haired one said.

‘I’m Gemma,’ the redhead said.

‘What traumatic ordeal do you speak of?’ I asked Miranda.

‘Your breakup!’ She giggled. ‘The entire school knows about it!’

‘Great,’ I said.

There was a tapping on the door, and I looked over and spotted Fred through the window.

‘Freddie!’ I exclaimed, wrenching the door open.

‘Hello,’ Fred said, smiling faintly.

MMMS coughed none too discreetly. ‘Oh, hello Fred,’ she said haughtily.

‘Tegan, can I…er…talk to you for a moment? In the corridor?’ Freddie asked.

I nodded and stepped out after him.

‘What’s with the frosty reception from Little Miss Shitforbrains?’ I asked.

‘Um, nothing. I broke up with her,’ he said. ‘Actually, and I didn’t know this until a week ago, but it’s Shifford-Breinz, with a hyphen. Miranda Shifford-Breinz.’

‘You two broke up?’

‘Honestly, it was a long time coming,’ Freddie said. ‘She’s just so…dumb. Putting up with her for as long as I did was charitable enough. But here, I’ve got something for you.’

He held up the coat and handbag that I left at the Potters’ house.

‘Oh Fred, thank you!’ I said, almost hugging him as he handed them to me.

‘Sorry it took so long, I wasn’t quite sure when it would be safe to talk to you,’ Freddie said, looking from side to side.

‘Safe?’ I asked. ‘What, is the mafia going to whack you?’

‘No,’ he said, sounding pained. ‘It’s just…you really did a number on James. It’s not your fault and frankly, he brought this on himself, but he’s a mess. Not a pretty situation. But J.D. blames you and he’s convinced Arlie and Mattie that you’re not to be trusted. Micah’s not speaking with you cos you never showed up to his stupid “Free Micah” rally.’

‘Shit, I completely forgot about that,’ I said. ‘How did it go? Is he free?’

‘Oh yeah, all charges were dropped earlier that day,’ Fred said. ‘Aunt Hermione is an excellent lawyer. But Micah insisted that the rally go on as planned because of the principle of the matter.’

‘What principle?’ I asked.

‘I have no idea. Micah doesn’t usually make any sense.’

I stared at my feet for a minute. ‘What about you, Freddie? Do you hate me too?’

He sighed. ‘Not really. I mean, you were always capable of doing more damage to James than he could to you, so this situation was almost inevitable. I like you and normally I’m very glad that you’re my friend, Tegs, but James is family. The Weasleys take family very seriously and—I just have to side with James. I wish I didn’t, but I do. I know that this is really unfair to you, but I think it would be best if we avoided each other until James gets better.’

‘Oh,’ I said, sort of croaking.

‘It’s not for forever,’ Fred insisted. ‘And I’m definitely not upset with you. I just don’t want to set off one of James’s crying fits, cos they’re bad enough to deal with without knowing you’ve caused it.’

I glanced to the compartment. ‘Are you seriously abandoning me so I’m stuck with Miranda and my two roommates whose names I’ve already forgotten?’

‘I’m so sorry,’ Freddie said. ‘They’re called Gemma and Nephele, by the way.’

He turned around and headed down the corridor, leaving me, my coat, and my handbag to fend for ourselves with the dumbest of the sixth-year Gryffindors, a demographic not known for its intelligence.

I slid the door open and trudged inside the compartment. This, to turn of phrase, royally sucked.

‘Listen to this, girls,’ the one who I thought to be Gemma said, as if it were the most scandalous thing to ever hit Hogwarts. ‘Rose Weasley and J.D. Nott are back together.

Miranda and Nephele gasped.

‘Oh, she went through with it?’ I said, disinterested. ‘Giving him another chance, I mean.’

The three amigas turned their attention to me.

‘How do you know?’ Nephele asked.

‘I was there,’ I said. ‘It happened on Christmas Eve.’

‘Oh my God!’ Miranda said. ‘Tell us exactly what happened! Tell us everything!’

‘Erm,’ I said, ‘J.D. showed up and Rose’s dad threatened to kill him and he ended up chasing J.D. around the house. I don’t know anything else…I think I left around then.’

They were mildly impressed with my minor contribution.

‘Moving on,’ Nephele said, ‘there are three boys transferring to Hogwarts this term. They’re brothers, and my source indicates that they are three particularly fetching young men.’

‘Ooooooh,’ Gemma and Miranda chorused.

‘Ooh,’ I offered unconvincingly.

‘It’s just what we need, Tegan!’ MMMS said. ‘We’re both the victims of broken relationships, and what better to heal those wounds than rebound boys?’

I shuddered. ‘Is it normal to have transfer students? I mean, I don’t remember any in the past five years.’

‘Tut tut,’ Nephele said. ‘Perhaps you’re just too self-absorbed, Tegan.’

Damn, this is going to be one long train ride, I thought.

And long it was!

That’s what she said.

For the first time in my life, I missed Micah Horowitz.

I sat with the Brain Trust (I found it in a history book and think it’s fitting for Miranda, Nephele, and Gemma, yeah?) for the Welcome Back feast. We didn’t usually have them in January, but apparently it was imperative to hold one this term to Sort the new kids.

I loved them already.

The Brain Trust typically sat halfway down the Gryffindor table from the Gryffies, so I didn’t run into anyone who wouldn’t talk to me.

But MMMS, Gemma, and Nephele never ceased talking at me. I stopped paying attention some time before we reached Hogsmeade Station, and they just kept going and going with their inane blabbery all the way through supper. This proved to be no obstacle because none of them ever ate anything. Ever. If any member of the Brain Trust ever gained one pound, God forbid, boys might not like them anymore!

All the boys I ever met like a girl with a healthy appetite. They also like to hold belching contests with them as a form of courtship.

Luckily, the Brain Trust shut up when Professor Viridian addressed us students just before the dessert course.

‘Welcome to the Welcome Back feast,’ Viridian said, sounding as happy to be there as I was. ‘I think you’ll find that this is very much like our regular evening dinner, but today we have three new students to Sort. Will you please give a warm welcome to the Draculea brothers.’

The doors at the opposite end of the Great Hall from the staff table opened, and all of the previously matriculated students craned their necks to get a look at the new kids. Gemma was part of the minority that even stood on their seat, and thus she effectively blocked my view.

Not that I cared.

People didn’t even settle down when the Draculea brothers reached the dais. Oh no, the mature, refined students of Hogwarts had resorted to whispering and pointing at the newcomers none too subtly.

To simply satisfy my curiosity—I did not care—I peered towards the front of the Great Hall. Viridian had set the Sorting Hat on a stool, and the Draculeas looked at it in disinterest. To me, at least, they didn’t look even remotely related. Fine, they were all relatively tall and muscled and had disturbingly pale visages, but why did everyone care so much?

‘Call me crazy, but isn’t it suspicious the Draculea on the left looks Asian? And the other two don’t?’ I asked the Brain Trust.

‘You’re racist,’ Nephele told me. She was quickly becoming my favourite.

‘There’s a million reasons to explain that,’ Gemma said. ‘Adoption, infidelity…you know, on their mum’s part.’

‘I’d love to hear the other nine hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred ninety-eight,’ I said.

‘Tegan, who cares?’ Miranda whispered. ‘They’re hot!’

‘Decorum please!’ Viridan shouted, waving his arms around. ‘Silence! Thank you, children. As you can see, these are the Draculea brothers: Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior, fifth, sixth, and seventh years, respectively.’ He pointed to each one in turn.

‘Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior Draculea?’ I said. ‘Don’t you think those names are a bit strange, even for the Wizarding world?’

Nephele narrowed her eyes at me. ‘Why do you have to do the things you do and say the things you say?’

The Sorting began with Caspar, the Asian one who looked much older than fifteen. He picked up the Sorting Hat like a smallpox-infected blanket, sat on the stool, and reluctantly placed the Hat on his head. It took the Hat only a minute to shout out ‘Slytherin!’

The Slytherin table cheered, apparently delighted that they got one of the new kids.

Huzzah for them.

The brunet, whom Viridian had identified as Balthasar, was the next to step forward and try on the Hat.

He’s supposed to be in our year? I thought. No fucking way.

‘Hufflepuff!’ the Hat cried out after almost five minutes of deliberation, and all of Hufflepuff House cheered as their newest member joined them.

‘Oh my God, he was looking straight at you!’ Miranda screeched as she shook my shoulder.

‘I believe you are mistaken,’ I said, trying to claw her off.

‘No, he was,’ Nephele insisted.

‘Straight at you,’ Gemma added.

I would have bet all the gold in Gringotts that Melchior, who was blond and the last to be Sorted, was not seventeen years old. But there was no point in telling the Brain Trust this, because anyone as thick as they were only believes what they want to believe.

‘Ravenclaw!’ the Hat proclaimed after I don’t know how long. The Ravenclaw table loudly voiced their glee that they could lay claim to one of the Draculeas.

‘Oh poo, we didn’t get any of the new boys,’ Gemma said.

‘It will be fine,’ Nephele assured her. ‘Every girl in Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw is ugly. We’re the only pretty girls in the entire school, and they’ll realise it soon enough.’

‘You’re so profound,’ Miranda said to Nephele.

Funny, I didn’t think that any of the Brain Trust was actually pretty. Or smart, but that probably didn’t concern them very much.

I needed new friends. Most definitely.

The first lesson I had the next day was N.E.W.T.-preparatory Defence Against the Dark Arts. The Brain Trust, surprisingly, had done well enough on their O.W.L. to qualify for the N.E.W.T.-level class.

Unfortunately the sixth-year Gryffies had as well, and they made their presence very known.

‘Dawlish!’ J.D. exclaimed. ‘I’ve got a raised hand over here!’

‘Another outburst like that, Mr Nott, and I’ll send you to Professor Viridian for an elaborate and unpleasant punishment!’ Dawlish snapped. ‘This, students, is Balthasar Draculea, and if his marks from his Dark Arts course at Durmstrang are any indication, he’ll be a most valuable asset to our class.’

Balthasar’s cheeks went red, which looked like a sunburn on his pale skin. He took his seat beside a pretty Hufflepuff girl.

‘Whore,’ Miranda whispered to me while she pointed to her.

‘Dawlish, my hand is raised too!’ Micah called.

‘Just because you are newly exonerated, Mr Horowitz, does not mean that you have permission to speak out of turn in my classroom!’ Dawlish said.

‘We just want to know what happened to Teddy Lupin!’ Fred said.

‘Since I have returned from my leave of absence, Mr Weasley, his services are no longer needed at this school,’ Dawlish said, his ears turning purple. ‘What about you, Mr Potter? Surely you must have some idiotic observation to share!’

‘I’m fine, thank you,’ James said from several rows behind me, sounding miserable.

‘What about Teddy Lupin?’ J.D. asked.

‘How is he supposed to find another job in this economic recession?’ Micah asked.

‘How was your holiday, Professor?’ Freddie asked.

‘Splendid. I am newly divorced,’ Dawlish said sarcastically.

But this was exactly the wrong thing for Dawlish to say, because J.D., Micah, and Freddie spent the rest of the lesson inappropriately prying into our teacher’s personal life and trying to convince him to let Teddy Lupin have a share of the teaching responsibilities because really, weren’t we a lot to handle?

I snuck a few glances back at James, who rested his head on the desk and did not participate in the torture of Dawlish. This was a bad sign, because James loved both bothering Dawlish and defending Teddy Lupin’s honour, and the opportunity to kill those two snidgets with one stone didn’t come around every day.

So by the time the bell rang, I felt terrible about myself because James seemed to feel terrible about himself. I had half a mind to ask him for a chat, but he’d left the classroom before I chucked my textbook in my bag. We both had a bit of free time before our next lesson and he was probably hiding in his dormitory with J.D., Fred, and Micah.

Rather than risk a hexing by J.D., the self-proclaimed Scourge of Gryffindor Tower, I followed Miranda, Nephele, and Gemma into the corridor, shuffling my feet as I went.

Maybe that thing with James was a fluke. Maybe I was meant to die alone and forgotten. Before James, I always assumed that blokes found me repulsive. Even a hint of affection from a girl would have significantly raised my self-esteem. But then James had to waltz in and pin me to the ground and make me think that I might have the tiniest grain of sexual value.

I even suspected that J.D. and Micah were behind it initially, usually cruel in their pursuit of a laugh, but then I remembered that I had known James for longer than five minutes and he would never approve of the ridicule of his dear friend, i.e. me.

He might have the wardrobe of a poofter, but James Potter also had integrity.

In the course of my internal soliloquy, I didn’t notice that there was someone walking beside me. I was so engrossed by my newfound loathing of the unfairer sex that this person had to speak before I realised he was there.

‘Are you quite all right?’ he asked in a smooth, gentle sort of voice.

I turned to the side and was surprised to see the brunet Draculea in stride with me. ‘Absolutely spiffing. It’s Balthasar, right?’

‘You remember my name,’ he said cheerfully, flashing a positively ultraviolet smile.

I winced at his glowing teeth, snidely wondering what sort of toothpaste this kid used. ‘Well, no one will shut up about—I mean, you and your brothers are the talk of the school. Not all polling stations have reported their results, but I predict that you’ll be declared the fittest of the three by sunset.’

Balthasar chuckled—it was a refined sort of laugh, nothing like James’s signature saliva-spewing guffaw.

Purely to put an end to Balthasar’s unpleasant chuckling, I spoke next. ‘Draculea…that’s a colourful name. Where are you from, again?’

He seized up slightly. ‘Romania.’

‘Hmm,’ I said. ‘You speak excellent English for a Romanian who previously attended a school in Germany.’

‘My mother was English,’ he automatically answered. ‘My mother is English.’

‘Sure,’ I said, turning left. Balthasar followed me.

‘Why’d you leave Durmstrang?’ I asked, wondering if there was a way to ditch this guy.

‘There was…an accident,’ he said solemnly. ‘It was Caspar that did it, not me. I’m very well-behaved.’

‘Congratulations,’ I said dryly.

‘What is your name?’ he asked politely.

‘Tegan Llewellyn,’ I replied, not realising until too late that this creepy bloke could probably find where I lived and break into my house and murder Luned. (She spent more time at Tanybwlch House than Rhys and Eleni combined.)

‘Llewellyn,’ Balthasar said, ‘that’s a colourful name as well. Where are you from, Tegan Llewellyn?’

Possibly saving the life of my dear housekeeper, I replied, ‘Ireland. It’s across the Irish Sea. Once you reach Wales, keep going and you’ll find land again soon enough.’

He chuckled—ew. ‘You’re a strange girl, Tegan.’

‘Thank you,’ I said, feeling ill.

‘You smell delicious,’ he whispered.

‘Pardon?’ I said, my voice squeaking.

‘Nothing,’ Balthasar recovered.

‘Oh look, it’s the entrance to the Gryffindor common room!’ I exclaimed, pointing to a nearby door. ‘It’s a shame, but I must bid you adieu, Balthasar.’

‘Will I see you later?’ he asked desperately. ‘In class? At dinner?’

‘Yeah, I’ll see you when I see you,’ I said, standing in front of the wooden door. ‘Cuius regio eius religio! Hooray, I got the password correct cos the door’s unlocked, see? Goodbye!’

So, at least one male in this school liked something about me. Even if he was the oddest person I’d ever met, and at Hogwarts, you meet all sorts of crazy, so therefore Balthasar was especially strange.

I threw open the door and slammed it shut behind me. It was pitch black inside that broom cupboard, so I absentmindedly took out my wand and uttered a quick Lumos. I instantly regretted this decision, because I was not alone in this makeshift and/or pretend Gryffindor common room.

‘Albus!’ I shouted. ‘Niamh…or so I think your name is! What the hell are you two prefects doing half-naked in a broom cupboard at ten in the morning?

Albus scrambled into his clothes, but Niamh Finnegan proved to be more resolute. ‘Keep quiet!’ she scolded me. ‘Someone in the corridor could hear you!’

I stared her down, determined to deal with his situation as calmly as possible. ‘GET—THE—FUCK—OUT!!’

Then she hitched up her skirt, a far more cooperative girl.

‘Yeah, that’s right!’ I laughed maniacally as they both ran out the door, shirts untucked and ties untied. ‘I don’t know your mother, Niamh, but I sure as hell know Al’s!'

Though she’s probably furious with me and would never read my letter, I thought.

Damn. I lost my boyfriend as well as my pen pal.

After searching the entirety of the small closet and discovering naught but brooms, I locked the door, threw every broom in sight in front of it (in case anyone with the slightest bit of magical aptitude came by and Alohomora’ed the lock), and sat on the pile of brooms with my back to the door. I did not leave this spot until the next lesson was due to begin. The real world was dangerous, with a Gryffie or Balthasar potentially hiding around every corner.

Balthasar Draculea was in my next class, and the next one, and the next one. I always found someone else to sit with, but he was quickly becoming a pain in the ass. I even skipped meals to avoid seeing his stupid, handsome face.

The Brain Trust, though initially angry that I “stole” the “cutest” of the Draculeas, became far too supportive of the “proposed union.”

‘Balthasar is definitely the best-looking boy at this school!’ Miranda squealed that evening after supper, during the Conference of the Sisterhood in our dormitory.

I did not name this particular rite.

‘Perhaps,’ I said diplomatically, ‘but I’m not sure if he’s my type.’

‘Not your type?’ Nephele demanded. ‘And effortlessly beautiful sex god isn’t your type?’

‘He’s just too…muscled, and his jaw’s too…strong,’ I remarked. ‘And to be fair, do we actually know if he’s a sex god?’

‘I still think you should let him have his way with you,’ Gemma said in all seriousness. ‘What could make James Potter more jealous?’

I thought for a moment. ‘See, James is more likely to start hysterically sobbing if he heard of this news than to declare war between the Gryffies and the Draculeas. Or whatever our desired goal is.’

‘Oh, I understand it now,’ Miranda said, looking like she suffered from an epiphany. ‘You’re not over James!’

She winked at Gemma and Nephele and the three of them jumped up and commenced the most horrible dance ever performed. The girls of the Brain Trust leapt and pirouetted and flapped their arms and did the whole thing over again in a cyclical fashion. They were fairly well synchronised, yes, but all the practicing they’d done was overshadowed by the terrible, screeching cry of “Lovesick, lovesick!” that they repeated again and again.

The spectacle was like being mocked by three polio-stricken harpies who really, really didn’t like you.

After what seemed like hours, unable to bear the taunting for any longer, I threw up my hands in defeat. ‘Stop it, just stop it! Fine, I’ll go out with Balthasar once, provided he does the asking and he pays for everything!’

‘Glad you see it our way.’ Miranda smiled perversely as she and the other two sat down.

This could have no good implications.

I stayed in bed for the entirety of the next day. Classes meant that I’d probably see Balthasar, which meant that he’d probably continue talking to me, so sadly I could never attend lessons again. Well, not never, per se, because I’d change schools as soon as possible. Eleni knew a governor at Beauxbatons, and she’d certainly help me out. She’s a monster, but she’s not a monster.

After another Puking Pastille, I easily convinced the Brain Trust that I was in no state to go to dinner. I’m not sure why they went down to the Great Hall…they never ate anything, ever.

So I was safely tucked away in bed, eating stale biscuits and still wearing my pyjamas. But suddenly I heard a tapping on the window, and I was tempted to let whoever’s owl it was give up and spend the night in the owlery. Unfortunately, I had a conscience and sort of liked animals.

I opened the window without really processing who clung to the ledge, perfectly aware that overdosing on Puking Pastilles (I’d taken three times the recommended amount for a four hour period) probably wasn’t great for my brain cells.

I blinked and exclaimed, ‘Balthasar!’ in a most horrified manner.

‘I scaled the tower!’ he said, obviously pleased with himself.

‘But I didn’t let down my hair,’ I whined.

‘What?’ he said. ‘Tegan, could you possibly step aside so I can climb in?’

In yet another in a string of poor decisions on my part, I did as he asked and he tumbled over the windowsill and fell to the floor. Balthasar then leaped to standing without any detectable difficulty.

I shut the window and crossed my arms. ‘I see you found the real location of Gryffindor Tower.’

‘I’m not even upset about that,’ Balthasar said sincerely. ‘I was worried about you all day! Miranda said you had some sort of stomach illness…hang on, I think you dropped this. Puking Pastilles—’

I grabbed the wrapper from his hand. ‘Yes, thank you! Er…Madam Larkin gave it to me. So I’d stop puking.’

‘Oh, that makes sense,’ he said. ‘Listen, Tegan, Miranda told me everything you said about me last night.’

I grinned. ‘Heh heh, I’m going to kill her later. Strangle her while she sleeps.’

‘Is that slang for something?’ Balthasar asked. ‘Never mind. She said you wouldn’t stop talking about me and you wrote “Mrs Tegan Draculea” all over your homework.’

‘That’s an outright lie!’ I said. ‘First of all, I’m never getting married! Secondly, I would never adhere to the barbaric patriarchal tenets of our society and surrender my family name, my heritage!’

‘Oh,’ he said, perplexed. ‘I just thought it was cute.’

I made a weird growling noise. ‘It’s not true! Miranda has shit for brains!’

Balthasar furrowed his well-groomed eyebrows. ‘But you still fancy me, don’t you? You still find me…attractive.

I wrinkled my nose. ‘You kind of smell like blood.’

‘You smell delicious, too,’ he said in a low voice, taking a step towards me.

I shuffled away. ‘Personal bubble, okay? Let’s have an arms-length rule.’

Balthasar’s normally stoic expression sort of…cracked. Like he was going to cry or something.

‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry!’ he moaned, pulling at his hair. ‘I’ve got the self-restraint of a kitten or a tiny baby or something!’

‘No,’ I said, trying to sound soothing. ‘No, you’ve at least got the self-restraint of a big baby.’

He was breathing heavily now, and had managed to yank out a few sizable clumps of his well-conditioned brown hair. ‘I just can’t help it, Tegan! I’ve never felt this way about anyone before! I’ve never smelled anybody so…tangy and orange.’

‘Oh Balthasar, you certainly know how to compliment a girl,’ I said, honestly trying my best to not enjoy witnessing the emotional breakdown of this awful boy.

‘You’re beautiful, too!’ he exclaimed. ‘The most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid eyes on!’

‘Come on, you know that’s rubbish,’ I said. ‘I’m not this—erm—hot piece of ass with an overwhelmingly tangy aroma. I know I’m decent-looking and I’m content with that.’

Balthasar’s knees gave way and he gracefully fell to the floor, curling into the foetal position. ‘You’ve got it all wrong, Tegan! You’re far more than just a keen mind…you’re one of the beautiful people in this world! Like me!’

I inwardly groaned. ‘B Drac, if I may call you B Drac, there’s more to life than just—’

‘I knew that from the first time I laid eyes on you,’ Balthasar said, rocking back and forth, ‘we are meant to be together. It is destiny that brought me to this school, destiny that brought us together. We are supposed to mate for life, Tegan!’

‘Er, no,’ I said as delicately as I could manage. ‘I’m not looking for a lifelong mate at the moment. All I want is to play Quidditch professionally.’

He bit his lip. ‘As you wish, my one true love. Would you still like to accompany me to a casual dinner? I hear there’s a charming place not too far from here called Madam Puddifoot’s.’

‘B Drac,’ I said reluctantly, ‘I’m not so sure. This is a shot in the dark, but I think you care more about me than I care about you. And Madam Puddifoot’s is more demonic than charming.’

‘Wha—what?’ he sniffed. ‘What did I do wrong? Why don’t you love me? I simply cannot live without you, Tegan!’

‘Well, you’re not exactly living anyway, right?’ I said. ‘You’re a vampire.’

Balthasar gasped. ‘A what?

‘Come off it,’ I said. ‘No one’s buying the innocent act. You suck blood for sustenance.’

He thought for a moment. ‘We sip blood. Lap it up like a bowl of milk.’

‘Sorry, my fault,’ I said.

Balthasar pouted his lips. ‘However did you arrive at this conclusion?’

‘That you’re a vampire? Honestly, B, a tap-dancing orang-utan in the Underground during rush hour would be more transparent than you,’ I said compassionately. ‘Let’s examine the evidence.

‘One: Your surname is Draculea, which bears an uncanny similarity to the most famous vampire in the Wizarding and Muggle worlds, Count Dracula.

‘Two: You’re from Romania, where Transylvania, the ancestral home of Count Dracula, is located.

‘Three: You’re so pale you look like you’ve never seen daylight.

‘Four: You have unusually large canine teeth for a human.

‘Five: You appear to be preoccupied with blood.

‘Six: When you cry, you make this screeching sound like the one dolphins make when they use echolocation to see where stuff is. Bats also use echolocation. Balthasar, can you turn into a bat?’

‘Yes,’ he said, sighing. ‘I don’t like to, though. Bats aren’t handsome creatures, and I like being handsome.’

‘And seven,’ I continued, ‘although vain, you have a sense of gentility and chivalry that modern young men completely lack. How old are you, exactly?’

‘Honestly, I don’t know,’ Balthasar said, still on the floor. ‘The Church kept changing calendars in the Middle Ages, and it kept splitting and re-forming itself and merging and diverging calendars. I’m really old, though, and I was sixteen when I was bitten.’

‘Fair enough,’ I said, for he had resorted to whimpering.

‘What am I supposed to do now?’ Balthasar whined. ‘I have been rejected by my life’s mate.’

‘See, you’ve got it all wrong,’ I said compassionately. ‘I’m probably not your “life’s mate.” If this was destiny or some other rubbish, I would fancy you, wouldn’t I? I simply don’t, and I’m sorry if this is awkward, but you’ve got so much more to live for than just some girl.’

‘No,’ he said distantly. ‘The entire purpose of my existence is to find my one true love and engage in a gripping and passionate romance with her.’

I had officially found an even more sad version of James Potter.

‘And you’re her,’ Balthasar added. ‘You smell just right. I have to be with you.’

I sighed. ‘No I’m not and no you don’t. There’s so much more to life than romance, Balthasar! There’s friendship and laughter and Quidditch, and even pie!’

‘I don’t eat food,’ he said. ‘I sip blood.’

‘Right,’ I said. ‘But life is supposed to be fun! It’s about getting in trouble, staying up too late, going swimming in the winter, picking wildflowers and frolicking through meadows! Sweet Albus, I can’t believe that I just said that.’

Balthasar narrowed his deep, sultry eyes. ‘That doesn’t exactly sound like my style. I prefer candlelit dinners and destroying garlic crops.’

I clicked my tongue. ‘I don’t think it would have worked out between us, B. We have absolutely nothing in common.’

‘Are you going to report what I am—what I and my brothers truly are—to the headmaster?’ he asked, looking sincerely at me.

I bit my lip. ‘I kind of feel a responsibility to. If there was an “accident” at Durmstrang…I don’t want anyone getting hurt at Hogwarts, you know?’

Balthasar nodded and was still for a moment, but like a bolt of lightening, he leaped to the window and opened it wide.

‘Farewell Tegan!’ he said, looking back at me. ‘I love you, so I will never bother you again!’

I sighed. ‘B Drac, you don’t love me! You don’t even know me! And what the fuck are you doing, get away from the window!’

The frigid January air swept into the room. ‘I am going to set you free!’ Balthasar called. ‘And I shall always love you, my dearest!’

There was a popping sound and a puff of smoke, and Balthasar was no longer standing in front of the window. I jumped up and rushed over, the cold permeating through to my bones, and spotted the distinct figure of a bat flying towards the full moon. I looked down and saw nothing but darkness, and returned my attention to the furry, winged mammal who, with every second, flew farther and farther away.

There was a booming, piercing cry that echoed off the walls of the castle and temporarily ruptured my eardrums, and I saw two more bats (or were they ugly birds?) fly towards the first bat and the moon, one originating from Ravenclaw Tower and the other coming from far down below. The three bats, who were just dots at this point, were high above the Forbidden Forest and did not look like they would return to Hogwarts anytime soon.

I shut the window, locked it, and ran to hide in my bed. Thank Merlin, Circe, Morgana, Albus, and anyone else who might care that Balthasar Draculea was gone. Maybe he’d find his one true love out there somewhere, but for me, it was good riddance. I made a mental note to remember that his inflection in a declaration of love was all wrong. He said “I love you” so willingly and heroically that it was definitely not the kind of love I was interested in. It was just so…yuck.

I thought back to James’s nightmare before Christmas just a few weeks earlier. He’d done the pre-proposing first and the “I love you” second—how did it sound, again? What did his eyes look like, and why was I so averse to it all?

What the hell was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I have said yes to the love and no to the pre-proposal? Who had made it all-or-nothing…me or James?

Did I really not love him, or was I just afraid that I might?

I picked up my box of stale biscuits and bit one in half with some difficulty. Here lies Tegan Llewellyn, the witch with the heart of a lion.

A/N: I don’t hate Twilight. Seriously, I don’t. To satirize popular fiction is to celebrate it.

Dunno how you’ll all receive this chapter but for better or worse, this tangent is over. I’ve wanted to write Tegan’s POV for a long time but never fear, we’ll return to James’s chronicle in Ch. 20. =)

Chapter 20: The Jacobean Faction
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I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don't believe I deserved my friends.

-Walt Whitman

24 December, 2021
9.07 p.m.

WHY??? WHY?????????

24 December, 2021
9.21 p.m.

Had a good cry. Think the worst is behind me. I have a new pygmy puff by the way, and she is called Betsy.

24 December, 2021
9.24 p.m.

Remembered how Betsy came into my possession. Had another crying fit.

24 December, 2021
10.13 p.m.

Had a long talk with Mum. Really put things into perspective. Am definitely better now.

24 December, 2021
10.31 p.m.

Dad tried to talk to me. He said a certain person’s name so I started crying again. Mum is now yelling at him for upsetting me. Am going to sleep now. Hopefully Father Christmas will come and fix everything.

25 December, 2021
6.25 a.m.

Everything isn’t fixed. Everything is WRONG.

25 December, 2021
6.42 a.m.


I don’t even believe in Father Christmas anymore. This is a very simple fix. All he needs is a Time-Turner and the ability to perform a Memory Charm and that’s it. Everything would be perfect again. But if Father Christmas can’t make this very low-hassle Christmas wish come true, then he obviously DOESN’T EXIST!!!!

25 December, 2021
7.14 a.m.

Am experiencing existential crisis as a direct result of the epiphany that Father Christmas is imaginary. Also, started crying again because Mum said I could have a slice of pie for breakfast if I wanted.


Dobby Longbottom looked up from reading my Imagination Journal. We had to hold sessions in his dormitory because of the slim likelihood that a certain person would be there.

‘While I do think that reviewing your Imagination Journal will ultimately be beneficial,’ he said, ‘is there an entry where you begin to break through this melancholy?’

I thought and thought. ‘Er…I might have broken through something in yesterday’s entry. The second to last entry, I mean.’

Dobby flipped through the pages and read aloud this time.

Thursday, the 27th of January, 2022. 5.23 p.m.

‘Professor McGregor died. It’s kind of a big deal, but I forgot to write it down ‘til now. She died a few days after Christmas after putting a fork in a toaster before unplugging it. It was the last great lesson in Muggle studies she will ever teach us.

‘Teddy Lupin is our new Muggle Studies teacher. Dawlish took his DADA job back at the start of the new term but Viridian managed to track down Teddy Lupin when the new vacancy opened up. I’m just glad that I didn’t have to lose my Teddy Lupin, even though we lost McGregor.

‘Teddy Lupin doesn’t think he’s qualified to teach Muggle Studies, but apparently all of the Wizarding world’s foremost experts on Muggles think the job is cursed. Ha ha. Anyways, Teddy Lupin is trying very hard to do his best, even though Dawlish throws things at him during meals sometimes. But it is not Teddy Lupin’s fault that everyone likes him better than Dawlish, just as it is not Teddy Lupin’s fault that he never studied Muggle Studies or sat the O.W.L. or the N.E.W.T. or even met a Muggle until last year when Granddad Weasley brought one to Christmas Eve dinner.

He met him at bingo, Granddad did. The Muggle, not Teddy Lupin. Granddad met Teddy Lupin…hmm, probably before I was even born.

‘Ah, now we’re getting somewhere,’ said Dobby Longbottom, adjusting his lens-less glasses. ‘You didn’t mention Teg—a certain person in this entire entry, plus you made reference to Christmas Eve without upsetting yourself!’

‘I did?’ I said.

‘This is splendid progress,’ said Dobby. ‘It’s taken more than a month, James, but I’m certain that you’re moving in a positive direction. I should make a note for my book, though the publisher won’t like another last minute change.’

‘Book?’ I asked.

‘Of course,’ he said. ‘The self-help book I’m writing. I have a galley proof right here.’

Dobby handed me a medium-sized hardcover volume without much embellishment or decoration on the front. It said:

If It’s Not You, Then Can It Really Be Me?
Uncovering The Truth About Your Misadventures In Love
And Coming To Terms With The Fact That It Probably Is Your Fault

By D. Francis Longbottom, A/T

‘It is set for release on the fourteenth of February,’ said Dobby, ‘but who is Philip—he’s my publisher—kidding when he says that last week was too late to make any changes? It’s a magical printing press! How can there be deadlines? It’s magic!’

‘D. Francis Longbottom?’ I said.

‘Oh, yeah,’ said Dobby. ‘No one’s going to buy a self-help book written by an analyst/therapist named Dobby, and my real first name is Frank. But Frank doesn’t have quite the right connotation either, so for the purposes of this book I’m Francis. And I inverted my first and middle names to stop anyone from realising that I’m a kid, because then no one will really buy the book. Frank Dobby Longbottom, Dobby Frank Longbottom, D. Francis Longbottom…you see? No one will ever make the connection.’

‘You’re writing a book?’ I breathed.

‘Yes, but don’t tell anyone,’ he said. ‘Top secret penname, remember? And don’t worry, I’ll be sure to change all the parts where I mention you by name. Philip never complains when it’s about changing patients’ names and protecting the publishing company from legal ramifications!’

‘But…why are you writing a book?’

‘To help people,’ Dobby answered. ‘I’ve developed a program that I think will be of use to a lot of people. And there’s only so much I can do as a third-year Hogwarts student without any actual Ministry certification.’

If I hadn’t already been lying down, I would’ve needed to lie down. ‘And I’m in your book?’

‘Right now I have you as James P., but that can easily be changed,’ said Dobby. ‘How about…Baxter? Baxter van der Hoof?’

I shrugged. ‘Sounds good to me. But Dobby, or D. Francis, or whatever you want to be called: Whenever did you find the time to write an entire self-help book?’

‘I’ve had the idea in my head for nearly six months now,’ explained Dobby. ‘I’ve only done the actual writing since the new year…now that McGregor is dead, I have a lot of spare time when I used to have to pay attention in Muggle Studies. And I wrote the manuscript and found a publisher without any real difficulty…it’s not like publishing a book is hard, you know.’

My nose was still scrunched up in shock. ‘You wrote a book, Dobster! In January! What’ve I done in January? Lazed about, feeling sorry for myself—’

‘James,’ said Dobby matter-of-factly, ‘you’ve endured a tremendous amount of emotional stress. You’ve spent the past month healing and growing stronger. This is no small feat, especially considering the devastation you felt at Christmastime.’

‘But so what?’ I said, more testily than I intended. ‘What it comes down to is that you wrote a book while I accomplished nothing! Merlin, could I be more of a waste of space?’

‘James!’ he said. ‘Remember that positive state of mind you were in a few minutes ago? Let’s return to that—’

‘You’re barely fourteen!’ I continued. ‘And you’ve managed to maintain a longer-term relationship that I ever have! And you wrote a book!

‘Calm yourself!’ said Dobby. ‘Deep breaths, from the diaphragm!’

‘No!’ I said, sounding at least a decade younger than I actually was. ‘No, I will not breathe from the diaphragm! I’ve been wiling away the hours in self-pity and malaise while everyone else was running around and getting into shenanigans and publishing books! I am sorry Dobby, but I am angry and I need to leave!’

For the first time ever, I left a counselling session with D. Francis Longbottom (or was it Frank Dobby Longbottom?) in an irate and blinding huff. For all intents and purposes, I was in the middle of a tantrum as I trudged up the steps from the third-year boys’ dormitory to the sixth. But maturity had never been my forte, and as everybody knows, you cannot teach a geriatric Quidditch team new strategy.

In spectacularly childish form, I threw open the door to my dormitory and saw only Micah, who was sitting on his bed and reading one of those wizard’s magazines that only pretentious and upwardly-mobile blokes read.

But I read Witch Weekly, so I wasn’t one to talk.

‘What’s got your knickers in the proverbial twist?’ said Micah lazily as I collapsed on my bed with a dramatic flourish and started to scream into my pillow.

‘Oh, nothing, except for the fact that I’ve wasted the past month of my life!’ I exclaimed, taking a break from the into-pillow-screaming.

‘Jimmy, you’ve wasted the past sixteen years of your life,’ he remarked, turning the page of his glossy magazine.

‘Don’t fricking call me Jimmy!’ I said, exasperated. ‘What the bloody hell would compel you to call me Jimmy?’

‘Christ, let it go, Jimmy,’ said Micah, putting down his magazine. ‘I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but you’re not the only Gryffie to battle the vicious demons of heartbreak.’

‘She’s not a Gryffie!’ I snapped. ‘She’s out of the club! And so are you! So is everybody!’

He just rolled his eyes. ‘Typical Jimmy Potter-type activity. You don’t even recognise when your brother is just as wounded as you are.’

I raised an eyebrow. ‘Is Al okay? Is he bleeding from the head or something?’

‘You’re so literal today, Jim,’ said Micah. ‘As I was saying, it is so like you to be entirely ignorant of the misfortune of one of your closest and dearest friends, namely me.’

‘What’re you on about, Michers?’ I asked.

He gave a long sigh. ‘It pains me to inform you that Madeleine, your cousin, and I have parted ways.’

‘Like you broke up?’ I said.

‘Always the tactful one, yeah, Jimmy? But yes, you are correct. The love that Madeleine and I once shared has died.’

I felt something swell in my throat. ‘Oh…sorry.’

But Micah wasn’t really listening to me. ‘Yes, that ruthless she-devil of a cousin of yours—no offence—let our pure, beautiful love die.’

‘I genuinely am sorry,’ I told him. ‘I mean, I understand what you’re going through.’

‘Indeed, she let our love die,’ said Micah wistfully. ‘Erm…perhaps it would be more accurate to say that she let our lust die. Yes…that ruthless she-devil let our lust die.’

‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ I said hollowly.

Micah sighed. ‘Someday you’ll understand, Jimmy. Someday you’ll understand just how insensitive people can be when you have lost the lust of your life. It’s like…it’s like they don’t even give a care about your suffering, about the suffering of others.’

I clenched my teeth. ‘Don’t…call…me…Jimmy.’

He smiled dreamily. ‘You’re such a card, Jim—ames—y. Such a card.’

Just then, a burly cousin of mine burst through the doorway. ‘Has anyone got a copy of The Ostentatious Wizard’s Monthly?’ cried Freddie. ‘The most recent issue?’

Micah picked up his magazine. ‘Yes. Why?’

Fred bounded over and snatched the periodical from Micah. ‘He’s on the cover! Snorky Scamander is on the cover!’

He held up the magazine for me to see and, without a doubt, there was a moving photograph of the one and only Snorky Scamander, dressed in a very dapper suit and moving between an arms-crossed pose and one of those poses where you make a fist and place it under your chin, even though there’s nothing to rest your elbow on, like he couldn’t decide which looked better. Next to his photograph were the words: Snorkack X. Scamander: The Wizard Schoolboy Whose Orators’ Strike Is Singlehandedly Destroying The Economy of Wizarding Britain – And Why There May Be An End In Sight.

I glared at Micah. ‘Why the frick didn’t you mention that there’s an article on Snorky in your stupid magazine?’

Micah peered at the cover. ‘It’s not my fault for missing the resemblance…didn’t recognise Snorky with his hair combed. And naturally you’ve forgotten, Jim, but I was recently traumatised by the disintegration of my relationship with your cousin.’

‘Quiet, children, or I’ll make you use the conch shell,’ said Freddie. ‘I am now going to read the interview aloud.

‘The Ostentatious Wizard’s Monthly: Thank you again for allowing us a rare interview, Mr Scamander. If we may be so bold, what exactly prompted you to call for a strike of all speaking professionals across Britain?

‘Snorkack Scamander: Some call it pride, but more than anything, this strike is about a Quidditch commentator or radio personality’s inalienable right to say whatever he or she wants without fear of censorship, either by the Ministry or their employer. That’s why I founded my union, the Voices Of Largely Disappointed, Exploited, and Maltreated Orators Ready to Talk. The response from my orator comrades was immediate and encouraging; there was a definite need for this union. But more than anything, I’d say it was the needlessly cruel and oppressive policies of Professor Neville Longbottom that caused this strike.

‘TOWM: Fascinating, Mr Scamander. And how is Quidditch tied into all of this? All of the professional clubs as well as the Hogwarts house teams are striking as well, yes?

‘SS: Well, Quidditch and commentating go together like pumpkin juice and pumpkin pasties. When I first threatened the strike, the students of Hogwarts were very compassionate towards my plight, and the Quidditch captains made the wise decision to appeal to the masses and strike with me if necessary. As you know, it was necessary, and the professional Quidditch players followed the lead of their amateur compatriots and agreed to strike with their commentators.

‘TOWM: Mr Scamander, are you aware that without the revenue from ticket and merchandise sales, as well as the significant dip in tourism we have seen, losing the Quidditch industry has been a major blow to the British economy?

‘SS: Yes, I am aware. One must make sacrifices whilst fighting for justice and freedom.

‘TOWM: And are you also aware that since the Wizarding Wireless Network has been defunct for months now, the Ministry lacks the supplementary revenue gained from the WWN’s adverts to fund social welfare and infrastructure projects?

‘SS: One word: sacrifice.

‘TOWM: Tell us, Mr Scamander, is there any chance that the strike will end before the country tumbles into a devastating and possibly irreversible economic depression?

‘SS: [pauses] There is a chance, yes. I am currently in talks with the head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports as well as the headmaster of Hogwarts School. A new friend of mine—to whom Quidditch is nearly as important as her happiness is to me—has persuaded me to more proactively seek a conclusion to this strike. But I will not concede unless all of my demands are met, because for better or for worse, I have integrity and I am not afraid to use it.’

We were all catatonic for a few minutes.

‘Freddie, who told you that Snorky was in The Ostentatious Wizard’s Monthly?’ said Micah very quietly.

‘An anonymous tipster,’ Fred replied automatically.

I thought for a moment. ‘Boys, let’s shanghai Snorky when he comes back to our dormitory.’

‘I haven’t seen him in a while,’ said Micah. ‘In a week, or somefing.’

Freddie shook his head. ‘Snorky isn’t coming back here. I mean, he might, one day, but he’s moved all his things into Ravenclaw Tower with his smart friends. Or so I’ve been told.’

‘Are you allowed to do that?’ I asked. ‘Switch houses?’

‘I dunno,’ said Fred. ‘No one’s ever tried before.’

I reached under my bed and took out a large tin of Honeydukes chocolate. Then, I wrenched the top open and proceeded to stuff chocolates in my mouth.

After I swallowed nearly a dozen truffles and nougats whole, Micah asked, ‘What’re you doing?’

‘Eating my feelings!’ I shouted, bits of chocolate flying out of my mouth.

‘James, there’s no need to yell,’ said Fred stoically, though with a hint of scepticism.

‘I can yell if I want to! You can’t tell me what to do!’ I burst, grabbing more chocolates to ingest without chewing.

Freddie looked over at Micah. ‘What the bloody hell is his problem?’

Micah shrugged, high amounts of ennui emanating from his soul. ‘Dunno. He’s been irritable and quarrelsome all afternoon. It’s like he’s become his evil twin or somefing…oi, I know! He’s gotten over Tega—a certain person and he’s switched personalities, like J.D. did when he lost Rose! James isn’t James anymore…he’s Jimmy the Evil Twin!’

I threw the box of chocolates at Micah’s stupid head. ‘Shut the frick up, I’m sitting right here! And stop calling me Jimmy!

But Freddie ignored my tantrum. ‘You’ve got a point there, Micahnator. Instead of Fancy New J.D., we’ve got Jim Potter on our hands.’

Micah was rummaging through his bedside table drawer for his first aid kit, from which he extracted a bandage and affixed it to the bruise on his head that the Honeydukes tin had caused. ‘Why thank you, Fred. See, I’m as psychologically insightful as that ruddy little Longbottom boy.’

I jumped up off my bed. ‘Shut your gob! You’re only half the psychological genius that D. Francis Longbottom is! And that’s all you’ll ever be, you…you…mudblood.

The room went silent, and Freddie and Micah looked more shocked than anything. Rude words fade and evolve over the generations, but “mudblood” was still a potent and horrific insult. I’d never even said it before that moment, and I never would again.

‘Well,’ said Micah after several minutes of calculated thinking, ‘you’re just a sad little poofter who fails miserably at faking straight.’

I had never seen Fred’s eyes look wider. ‘The conch,’ he said, mumbling as he searched through the mountains of debris on the floor. ‘Gotta find the conch, maybe it’ll help us sort this out.’

Right then, always known for his impeccable timing, J.D. opened the door and swanky-walked into the dormitory. ‘Hullo, my fellow Gryffies,’ he said with a triumphant smirk. ‘How are we this afternoon. Terrible weather, just a terrible blizzard outside. I mean, I like snow, but not when there’s avalanche warnings for the mountains.’

Micah, who had been glaring daggers at me the whole time, gave a loud huff and quickly strode out of the room. Freddie stopped looking for our conch shell and glanced at me, more concerned than angry. J.D., standing casually with his hands in his pockets, probably didn’t realise that anything was out of the ordinary.

‘Fine,’ I said through gritted teeth. ‘We’re doing just fine. And if you don’t mind, don’t drop any innuendos about you and Rosie. I don’t have the energy to deal with your and her lust and Micah and Madeleine’s lack of lust today.’

I sat back on my bed, sort of regretting that I’d wasted the last of my chocolate by throwing the tin at Micah’s head, and took out the copy of Witch Weekly that I hid beneath my mattress. I flipped open to the Quizzes section (the best part of any magazine, of course; this week it was “Is Your Crush Crushing On You Back?”) and grabbed a quill in my left hand. Even though I was very certain that my crush was not crushing on me back, it was better to look busy and avoid conversation than to, well, deal with shit. I pretended not to notice J.D. and Freddie, but they began to whisper to each other and they eventually left the dormitory, whispering frantically.

A/N: I will do my best to keep this brief: THANK YOU!!! I’m stunned, but THANK YOU for voting for WG at the Dobbys! Even if you didn’t vote for James & co., I don’t care, so long as you participated in the democratic process! There are not enough exclamation points in the entire world (well, they’re intangible, so I guess they qualify as a renewable resource) to express how elated and honored I am.

Sorry about the long wait for a short chapter. Posting this now, with its natural conclusion, is better than posting something that’s unnecessarily lengthy later, right?

Chapter 21: Lupus in Fabula
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Amor, ch’a nullo amato amar perdona,

mi prese del costui piacer sì forte,

che, come vedi, ancor non m’abbandona.

Love, which absolves no beloved one from loving,
seized me so strongly with his charm that,
as thou seest, it does not leave me yet.

-Dante’s Inferno

‘I think I just had a blonde moment,’ I said, sitting forward in my chair. ‘You’re quitting what, exactly?’

‘Quidditch,’ said Arlie Shacklebolt, the Gryffies’ star Chaser and unofficial team mother.

I stuck a finger in my ear and started digging for earwax. ‘No, I misheard you again. You’re quitting what?

‘The Gryffindor Quidditch team,’ she said, sounding ever so slightly irritated.

‘WHAT?’ I said. ‘And you have the audacity to say something so heinous in the middle of the Gryffindor common room?’

Arlie blinked. ‘There’s hardly anyone here, James. Except for that second year who likes to burn things.’

‘Don’t you bring Pepe into this!’ I said.

Pepe the Pyromaniac looked over at us, shrugged, and went back to throwing more newspaper in the fireplace.

‘Look, I’m genuinely sorry, James,’ said Arlie, ‘but everyone is saying that Snorky will end the strike any day now and I wanted to let you know that I don’t intend to return to the team.’

‘So you’re quitting?’ I grumbled.

‘I have N.E.W.T.s coming up,’ she said. ‘Again, I’m sorry, but I really need to prioritise my time—’

‘No one quits the Gryffies!’ I exclaimed. ‘You’re fired!’

‘James, there’s no need to be childish—’

‘Redundancy for you!’

Arlie rolled her eyes. ‘I know you don’t respond well to change, but I need to focus on my ten-year life plan, and it unfortunately does not include Quidditch. I need to do well on my N.E.W.T.s so that I can get a lucrative job within the private sector, away from the auspices of my father, the Minister for Magic, and I need to be hired straight out of school so I can have a career before I get married in five years and have children in ten, in order to have a sense of self-fulfilment that my mother never had. Plus, considering all the problems Drystan and I had in our relationship before the strike, I want to—’

‘Drystan?’ I said. ‘Drystan Davies, Ravenclaw Quidditch cap’n?’

‘Yes,’ said Arlie, not skipping a beat. ‘Things worked out so much better for us during the strike that I’m willing to make the sacrifice and give up Quidditch. Now, I can cheer for Ravenclaw during matches, not the Gryffies.’

‘You’re marrying Drystan Davies?

‘If my ten-year life plan works out, then yes,’ she said. ‘We’re not engaged, or anything…he doesn’t even know that we’ll be married in four to six years’ time, but I think it’s kinder to let him live with the delusion that he has any choice in the matter.’

I sat back and watched Pepe throw some chess pieces into the fire. ‘Bloody hell, Arlie! You’re quitting my team halfway through the school year and secretly plotting to get the Ravenclaw Quidditch cap’n to marry you?’

‘You better thank whatever deity really exists that you weren’t born a woman, Potter,’ said Arlie. ‘This is what we must resort to doing to survive in a man’s world. And I know I’m a good Chaser, but is it really that big of a deal to tell the alternate that they actually have a purpose in life now?’

I buried my face in my hands. ‘We don’t have an alternate.’


‘We don’t have a sodding alternate!’ I said. ‘We never needed an alternate before! The squad was perfect!’

Arlie raised an eyebrow. ‘Isn’t it a bit irresponsible of you to go without an alternate, in case someone got really injured? And the squad was far from perfect, Potter…didn’t we lose a match, once?’

‘I don’t remember,’ I said. ‘Quidditch seems like it was so many chapters ago.’

‘Look, I’m sorry to leave you one player short,’ she said with some degree of sincerity, ‘but I can’t go back to Quidditch. I need to move on with my life. Hopefully you’ll be able to find another Chaser before Snorky settles the strike.’

I glared at her with my Angry Face. ‘You know what, Shacklebolt? Moo.

She blinked. ‘Pardon?’

‘You’re a cow!’

Arlie was quiet for a minute. ‘And you’re a sad little boy.’ Then she stalked off.

I sank into a depression (in the seat cushion…apparently without Quidditch, I had developed a fat arse) for who knows how long, until someone tapped me on the shoulder and I opened my eyes.

‘Hey,’ said Tegan Llewellyn. ‘Pepe just lit his trousers on fire and I had to extinguish it. You didn’t hear him shouting? He could have died.’

She was like a mirage…all tall and lanky and shiny-haired and awkward-looking.

‘Teeegun?’ I said, sort of swatting her arm with my hand.

‘Sorry, I wouldn’t have said anything to you, but it’s kind of irresponsible to ignore second-year pyros when they’ve accidentally lit themselves on fire,’ she said, pulling her arm away. ‘I know it’s still…erm, tense between us. And weird and uncomfortable. Er, I’ve got to go, see you around.’

‘No!’ I cried. ‘Don’t leave me! I mean, where are you going?’

She looked at me funny. ‘The library, I just stopped in to get my History of Magic textbook from my dormitory. Oh, I dumped Miranda Matilda Melinda and the Shitforbrainses for some Ravenclaw friends.’

‘So you’ve been on quite the dumping spree as of late,’ I muttered.



Even though she was staring at me in that same sceptical, overwhelmed way she used to, Tegan looked…different. Not a bad sort of different—oh no, quite the contrary. She looked, dare I say it, downright sexy…not that I didn’t find her attractive before, because I did, but she was cute more than anything else. You know, like a cockapoo puppy with disproportionately long legs, soulful eyes, and non-shedding fur. But then something changed.

I didn’t get a good look at them, because I’d already far exceeded my Misogyny Quota for the day, but I’m pretty sure it was because Tegan’s breasts were larger. Or more prominent, or something.

‘Sooo,’ said Tegan, biting her lip, ‘how are you? Doing all right?’

‘Not exactly,’ I said. ‘Arlie just quit the team.’

‘What team?’ asked Tegan.

‘The Quidditch team.’

‘Hold on, she’s quitting? The what?

‘I tried to fire her, but I was too slow,’ I said. ‘Arlie Shacklebolt is quitting the Gryffies so she can be with Drystan Davies forever and ever. I mean, this is a non-issue unless Snorky settles the strike.’

What?’ said Tegan.

‘That self-absorbed seventh-year girl quit your team,’ said Pepe, who had just returned from his dormitory wearing a new pair of trousers. ‘She wants to have Drystan’s babies, whoever he is, and she wants to have more time to revise for N.E.W.T.s so she can get a good job in the private sector, so she’s quitting the Gryffies.’

I glared maliciously at Pepe. ‘Get the hell out of here, Pepe! And get some counselling!’

Pepe leapt through the portrait hole, muttering some sort of threat, I’m sure.

Tegan looked kind of frozen. ‘Arlie’s just quitting? I mean, she won Most Likely to Abandon Us at the first annual Gryffie Awards last year, but I never thought she actually would. Snorky could make the announcement that Quidditch is back on at any time! Matches could recommence within the month! Dammit, we have to train the alternate—’

We don’t have an alternate,’ I said morosely.

She looked at me…not angry, just serious. ‘While I don’t think that going without an alternate was a good decision, I’m not surprised. Right, then—we need to take action! We need to hold trials to find our new Chaser! We’ll post a sign-up sheet in the common room and hold them tomorrow or the next day after lessons! It’s a bit cold outside but it’s also February, and we would normally begin practices next week anyway…’

‘The pitch is out of bounds until the strike is over,’ I said. ‘Viridian’s orders.’

‘The strike practically is over, Potter!’ said Tegan. ‘They’re simply drafting the final versions of Snorky and all the other commentators’ contracts! We’re at a disadvantage cos we’ll be a man down coming back from the strike, and if we don’t act quickly we won’t have a shot in hell at the Quidditch Cup!’

She sat on the floor and extracted a parchment and quill from her bag, and began to scribble furiously.

Wanted,’ Tegan said aloud as she wrote, ‘one spectacular Chaser for a full-time position on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Excellent flying skills a must, some degree of hand-eye coordination desired—

‘It has to be a girl,’ I interrupted. ‘No blokes. The oestrogen level of the team is dangerously low as it is.’

Tegan kept on writing. ‘I’m not entirely sure if that’s sexist, but it’s definitely bollocks so we’re not adding it. Second years and up are permitted to try out, but don’t waste our time if you’re rubbish. Bring own broomstick and meet on pitch Thursday at four o’clock. Contact James Potter, Sixth-Year Cap’n with any questions.

Then she drew up a list for prospective Gryffies to sign up, and handed me the parchment when she was done.

‘Will the strike be over by Thursday?’ I asked.

‘Doesn’t matter, but yes,’ said Tegan. ‘You’re good at Charms, so do something to make this look more colourful and eye-catching. Quickly, we want to post it on the wall before everyone comes back.’


‘You’re the artistic one! Make it sparkly!’

I took out my wand and charmed the ink red and added a glittery border. For your information, I briefly had a custom party invitation business when I was thirteen, for extra pocket money.

‘Perfect,’ said Tegan, grabbing the flyer and rushing it over to the notice board, ripping a piece of Spellotape with her teeth to secure it with.

‘Thanks,’ I said when she returned and sat on the chair across from me. ‘I mean, this seems a little premature since, y’know, we have no idea when the strike will be over, but I guess it’s good that you’re taking initiative.’

She sighed. ‘James, how can I make this clearer? The strike is ending and we’ll play a match against Hufflepuff in a fortnight.

I pouted. ‘I can’t believe it until it’s real, Tegan. I can’t handle any more disappointment. Also, I’d have to start speaking to Micah again, were Quidditch to re-enter our lives, and I really don’t want to.’

‘Yeah, I heard you two had a falling out,’ said Tegan. ‘What happened?’

‘Some things were said by both parties,’ I said brusquely, ‘and we’ll go on ignoring each other until we transcend our own egos and apologise. Considering the parties involved, that could take a while.’

Tegan was gnawing on her lip, and I knew that meant she was going to say something Important. ‘James—I’m sorry.’

Deflecting, I said, ‘What? Did you attend Micah’s Jimmy Potter Day festivities and burn me in effigy?’

‘I think what I did was a bit worse,’ she said dryly. ‘I’m sorry about Christmas Eve. And everything else, too. I handled everything wrong and—’

‘Don’t,’ I said. ‘Self-martyrdom does not become you, Tegan.’

‘Maybe it doesn’t, but I still fucked everything up,’ she said. ‘Sorry, I know you don’t like that word, but sometimes it’s the only appropriate one. So I apologise for the way everything transpired and I apologise for hurting your feelings. I care for you very much, you know.’

‘Honestly, it sort of feels like you stabbed me in the heart six weeks ago. And now it’s like you came back to push it in a little deeper, and twist it around to make sure that you nick all the little blood vessels and arteries and—’

‘I hate that I hurt you,’ said Tegan. ‘It sounds absolutely vile when I phrase it like that, but I really, really hate myself.’

‘Well, don’t,’ I said. ‘For Merlin’s sake, you didn’t wage a massive heist or kill a herd of Muggles for sport. You didn’t want to get pre-engaged because of your lack of faith in the institution of marriage, caused primarily by a lack of healthy marriages in your family, so here we are. Just two Gryffindors sitting in an abandoned common room, angry as hell with Arlie Shacklebolt for jumping ship.’

She smiled faintly. ‘I always secretly thought that Arlie was kind of a bitch, to be honest. But James, I truly am sorry, and I really care for you—I think I might l—’

‘Well, I’ve spent the last six weeks trying to stop caring so much about you, and I’m making splendid progress,’ I said. ‘No offence…it’s just that we want completely different things in life—I want marriage, and you’ll probably never get married—so I’m doing us both a favour by moving on, yeah?’

‘Right,’ Tegan squeaked. ‘Yes, good idea. Moving on, right.’

‘Indeed. It’s what people tend to do at the end of relationships—’

‘But we’re friends, right?’ she asked. ‘We can still be friends!’

I hesitated. ‘Sure. I have a rather short list of allies right now, so…sure. And I’ll tell J.D. and Freddie that they can talk to you again. Micah is outside my jurisdiction, however.’

‘Great,’ said Tegan apprehensively.

For a moment I considered whether excusing myself might be rude, but I really had to use the toilet. ‘Well, I should be going,’ I began, standing up.

‘No!’ she said, jumping to her feet. ‘I mean, how about a hug? A friendly hug? Between friends?’

I narrowed my eyes at her, trying to ignore her oh-so-slightly larger chestal region, and grimaced. ‘All right, let’s get friendly.’

Tegan shuffled over to me and threw her arms around my neck. She rested the side of her head on my shoulder, and I was a bit unsure of where to put my arms around her torso. How low was too low for a friendly embrace? I mean, I wanted to cop a feel and deduce precisely what developments had occurred in Tegan’s mammary area, but friends don’t do that. And Tegan was ever so concerned with our friendship.

So I just kind of stood there as she squeezed me tighter, which was weird—we never even really hugged all that much when we were dating. Another thing that was weird was that Tegan didn’t let go, not even after several minutes. It was oh so very awkward, and I am the Champion of Awkward Encounters: I was completely consumed by both the urge to run to the toilet and the urge to touch her tits, but Tegan just wouldn’t let go of me.

I wanted to yell, ‘If you’d accepted the sodding pre-proposal, you could’ve gotten this for free, dollface!’ But I didn’t.

In a way, though, she was still my little Tegster cockapoo puppy, but with a vice grip.

‘I really missed you, James,’ said Tegan, her voice muffled. ‘I forgot what you smelled like.’

‘What do I smell like?’ I asked, taking full notice of her own citrusy scent.

Tegan turned her head and literally sniffed my neck. (It was creepy.)

‘Kiwi,’ she said. ‘And pygmy puff. And…cedar?’

‘Lily bought me cologne for Christmas,’ I said. ‘Matraquage pour l’Homme. It’s got vanilla and cedar and blackcurrant or something, and it’s supposed to be very fashionable.’

Well, technically Lily bought it for me on Boxing Day to help me, as a newly single man, attract girls with my new metrosexual scent. It took a few weeks before I could wear it without feeling garish.

Tegan looked up at me. ‘Strange…but I like it.’

‘Thanks for your opinion…friend,’ I said, wondering if I could let go of her yet. She was so warm and soft and small…oh no.

No! I was moving on! Baaad road to go down, the road where you want to kiss her and touch her and—

But then Tegan pressed herself closer to me and kept on hugging.

Guhhhhhhhhhh, I thought.

It was almost ten more minutes before I finally excused myself to go to the loo.

Later that afternoon, after locating J.D. and Fred, I informed them that they were friends with Tegan again. Freddie admitted that the two had had clandestine chats on occasion, but I wasn’t as angry as he thought I’d be.

‘Oh,’ Fred said, ‘I actually felt really guilty, like I was betraying your cousinly trust.’

‘It’s really no problem,’ I said. It was almost dinnertime and we were in our dormitory, prettying ourselves up to go to the Great Hall.

J.D. was primping in front of his mirror. ‘So can we say that certain person’s name now?’

‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘We’re friends with Tegan. Just like before. Except she wants to eat dinner with her Ravenclaw friends tonight.’

‘How nice,’ J.D. murmured, picking at tufts of his hair so they fell in just the right way.

I finished tying my shoes. ‘Er…Freddie? J.Diz? I have a question. About girls.’

Fred shot J.D. a Look.

‘You’re not asking about…you-know-what, right?’ asked Freddie. ‘Cos I know your dad explained it to you a long time ago.’

‘Ew, no,’ I said. ‘I mean, sort of. It has to do with Tegan.’

‘Doesn’t it always?’ said J.D. wistfully.

‘Well, I don’t think I’m doing a very good job of getting over her,’ I said. ‘I actually think the problem is getting worse. Now that we’re just friends, I find her more…how do I say this tastefully?…more alluring.

‘You mean shagtastic?’ asked J.D. ‘Fuckable? Carnalagogo?’

‘Uh, sure,’ I said. ‘I don’t know if it’s a side effect of wanting what I can’t have, but she just seems…bigger, in certain areas.’

‘I think it’s a bit generous to imply that Tegan’s…er…chesticles are noteworthy, if you’ll pardon my candor,’ said Freddie. ‘But she might’ve had a growth spurt…of the outward, not upward, variety.’

J.D. was grooming his eyebrows. ‘It happens sometimes—girls get depressed, eat loads of chocolate and fattening foods, and the Puberty Fairy goes to work. Not that I’ve been looking at her—I’m taken, after all—but Tegan looks somewhat less like a pre-pubescent male now.’

‘I haven’t been looking, either,’ said Fred. ‘Teg’s definitely not my type. She’s tall like a sequoia.’

‘So I’m not imagining it?’ I asked.

‘Probably not,’ said J.D. sagely. ‘Some girls are still growing and it’s perfectly natural for you to take notice, J.S.’

‘Particularly since you’ve been infatuated with Tegan for so long,’ added Freddie.

‘But this is awful!’ I cried. ‘She doesn’t want me and I shouldn’t want her! She broke my fragile heart!’

‘Compartmentalise, J.S.,’ said J.D. ‘Put the physical attraction in one corner and the platonic attraction in the other. Separate your illusion of Sexy Tegan from the Bitchy Tegan who broke your fragile heart.

I crossed my arms. ‘Okay. I’ll try…after I consult with Dobby Longbottom, of course.’

‘You better get this sorted before Quidditch comes back,’ said Fred.

When J.D. was done primping, we three lads shuffled down to the Great Hall for supper. It was okay only having two friends, I guess…I sort of had Tegan back, but apparently on a part-time basis, and I didn’t want Micah back. He called me a ‘poofter,’ which is factually incorrect, considering my lingering feelings towards Tegan.

‘Oi, I’ve got more good news,’ I told Fred and J.D., who were arguing about plastic explosives or something.

‘What was the first piece of good news?’ J.D. asked, taking an entire bowl of mashed potatoes from the centre of the table and placing it beside his plate.

‘Tegan thinks my neck smells good,’ I said. ‘And we’re speaking again. I guess those are separate phenomena, so I have a third piece of good news.’

‘Pray tell,’ said Freddie after chugging all of his pumpkin juice in one sip.

‘Arlie Shacklebolt is quitting the team to follow her dream of marrying Drystan Davies!’ I said.

Fred blinked. ‘I think I just had a blonde moment. She’s quitting what, precisely?’

‘The Gryffindor Quidditch team,’ I said, irritated by my overwhelming sense of paramnesia. ‘The Gryffies. The only team any of us cares about. I mean, she’s quitting provided that Snorky Scamander is capable of transcending his own ego and ending this injunction, so it’s kind of up in the air.’

J.D. stopped eating that whole thing of mashed potatoes and blinked. ‘How is this good news?’

‘I think your sarcasm sensors are malfunctioning, J.Diz,’ I said, my voice dripping with you-know-what.

Arlie Shacklebolt?’ clarified Freddie. ‘Quitting the Gryffies? But she can’t! No one can! The only way out of the Gryffies is if you’re fired, and that is at the express discretion of the cap’n, provided there are unsavoury extenuating circumstances that would sully the Gryffie name, such as a drug trafficking scandal or involvement in an organised crime syndicate.’

I blinked. ‘It’s not like any of us signed a legally binding contract, Fred. Yes, you can quit, but usually bullying and manipulation are sufficient means to make everyone feel obligated to stay on the team.’

‘Oh,’ said Freddie flatly. ‘This must be one of those lies my dad tells to frighten me. You know how dads are!’

‘No, I don’t,’ said J.D., his voice dripping with mashed potatoes, clumps of which flew from his mouth and hit me in the face. ‘I mean, your dad has a dark sense of humour. My dad is clinically depressed.’

I wiped half-digested potato bits off my face and resisted the urge to be sick. ‘So, we’re holding tryouts on Thursday.’

‘Why?’ asked J.D.

‘To replace Arlie,’ I said.

‘What about the alternate?’ Fred inquired.

I was tempted to smack myself in the face with a thick, leather-bound book, but it probably wouldn’t have done anything about this fricking déjà vécu. Also, it was too much trouble to find someone who’d brought a thick, leather-bound book to dinner. The Ravenclaw table was almost twenty feet away.

‘Just be there, yeah?’ I said, close to tears.

Right then, I sensed someone walk behind me and whisper, ‘Bitch.

I turned ‘round and saw Micah walking away from me, so I shouted, ‘What, can’t think of anything cleverer, Whore? Oh-witz!’

But Micah kept on his merry way, and since he’d been very quiet while my volume had been somewhere around an 11, everyone within earshot (approximately 1000 students plus 20 teachers) went silent and focused their attention on little old me.

J.D. smirked. ‘Your and Micah’s catfight is certainly entertaining.’

‘I’m pretty sure he’s angry that I picked you over him, James,’ said Fred. ‘But he’s always fighting with someone and I always take his side, but you’re my cousin, you know? Blood is thicker than water, and Weasley blood is thicker than pudding.’

‘If Quidditch ever comes back,’ I said slowly, ‘which it probably never will, considering my luck, we’re going to have to deal with a hell of a lot of Horowitz hooey.’

What happened next was the biggest mindfrick that Hogwarts had ever seen.

Yes, I’m including the Chamber of Secrets Incidents, the Reign of Dolores Umbridge, and the Great Wassail Shortage of the Year Thirteen Hundred and Twain.

This was more mindfricking than all of those events combined.

The massive and heavy wooden doors of the Great Hall slowly and dramatically swung open, and a stringy young man by the name of Snorky Scamander emerged. His hair was patted down and his robes were soaked through—I don’t know why, it wasn’t raining outside (according to the ceiling). Anyways, Snorky the Dorky strode down the aisle in slow motion, shaking drops of water from his blond hair and holding up a piece of parchment in triumph. He had the attention of nearly everyone in the Great Hall, since the doors had creaked spectacularly when he opened them, and he did not stop until he reached the Ravenclaw sixth years. (Who, in addition to Beaters Ziv Berger and Hwan Kwan, apparently counted Tegan Llewellyn among their number, as that’s where she was sitting.)

Snorky jumped on the bench beside Tegan and stood up tall, ready to address his attentive populace. ‘Friends, Hogwartsians, fellow students, lend me your ears! I come bearing good tidings, for once!’

‘He’s got Ravenclaw robes on,’ said J.D. to no one in particular. ‘How’d he finagle that?’

‘Snorky Scamander has powers that we know not,’ replied Freddie.

All the other kids started whispering to each other too, until Snorky spoke again.

‘V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T.’s strike has been difficult on us all!’ He pronounced it like Voldemort, not each individual letter, but people didn’t really find it shocking anymore. ‘My fellow orators and I truly appreciate the support you have shown us over the past few months, both monetary and emotional! Through your sacrifices, you have honoured us and combated the oppressive and fascist policies of Hogwarts School and Wizarding Britain at large! You dared to fight for what I believe in, and if that is not the hallmark of a society based on freedom of thought, then I don’t know what is!

‘You gave up Quidditch, talk radio, and so much more in the interest of justice!’ Snorky continued. ‘I would not allow your sacrifices to be for nought, so I refused to accept Viridian and Shacklebolt’s shoddy deals—it was either all or nothing! I might never have conceded, due to my personal antagonism towards our Herbology master, but then a very special, compassionate young woman showed me the light.

‘Love is a very mysterious phenomenon,’ he said, smiling crookedly. ‘You can know a person for years and then without warning, like a bout of spattergroit, find yourself madly and ecstatically in love. I, for one, never thought myself to be capable of feeling such love…my father comes from a long line of German naturalists, and let me assure you, they are not the most romantic people. But without a doubt, I had fallen in love, and my beloved urged me to find a solution to the stalemate that I had engineered. Her passion is Quidditch, so I zealously sought a conclusion to my commentators’ strike, just to see her happy once again.’

‘Who’s he on about?’ J.D. whispered. ‘Hwan Kwan?’

‘No, can’t be,’ I said. ‘Her primary passion is illustrating pop-up books. Now Ziv Berger, her only passion is Quidditch.’

‘Who says she has to be in Ravenclaw?’ asked Fred.

‘Snorky would’ve switched to another house, then,’ said J.D. ‘Why switch houses if not for some girl?’

‘Maybe he moved out cos we’re a bunch of arrogant prats,’ I offered.

‘So now, I am pleased to announce an excellent bit of news!’ said Snorky. ‘From henceforth, I and all other commentators, announcers, and motivational speakers-for-hire within the jurisdiction of the British Ministry for Magic will receive pay raises of 20%, or a minimum of 10 knuts per word for previously uncompensated positions, and will no longer suffer from the oppressive censorship imposed by our employers, government, or international standards of decency!’

The crowd began to murmur, presumably because no one has ever given a care about the plight of the upper middle class orators of our fair nation.

Snorky frowned. ‘You get Quidditch back, plebs.’

There was a mighty roar, followed by much rejoicing. J.D. and Freddie were the first to leap from their seats and squeal with delight, quickly followed by representatives from the other three house Quidditch teams. There was hugging and jumping and tears shed by many an emotionally vapid young man. Soon, the more enthusiastic Quidditch fans joined in on the festivities, though more with cheers and catcalls than the shirt-ripping-off-and-swinging-around-gustily behaviour of Micah and the pouring-pumpkin-juice-over-head-and-sobbing-for-joy behaviour demonstrated by J.D.

Amid all the dancing and celebrating, I could still see Snorky Scamander, who was still standing on the bench and was grinning at the chaos he had caused. He looked down at Tegan, who was laughing at George DeJure III’s pitiful attempt at the moonwalk.

I couldn’t hear, but Snorky said something to Tegan and held out his hand. She looked confused and said something back, and Snorky might’ve repeated his original statement. Tegan said something else, and Snorky took her hand and pulled her up onto the bench beside him. Then, like something out of an irrational nightmare, or at least a contrived work of fiction, Snorky kissed her.

A/N: Sooo, who saw this coming? Before you storm the Bastille, remember that I don’t leave you with cliffhangers very often. =)

I would like to thank timeturner, Jay, and all the other admins who worked so hard to save HPFF from this little nuclear holocaust thing…it’s not like they read this silly little story, but I’m still eminently grateful for their efforts. It kind of stinks that we all lost our June thru September reviews (and the June 2 thru 14 review responses—I will try to find the time to re-respond to those, but I can’t promise anything), but it’s not so bad, because those dearly departed reviews live on in our hearts. ^_^ I’m not going to ask you to re-review for me, because what’s done is done, but if you read a story that lost ALL its reviews, please leave a review, particularly if they’re a newer author. Let’s all help each other out!

Thanks for reading, btdubs!

Chapter 22: The Epoch of Incredulity
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

To find yourself jilted is a blow to your pride.
Do your best to forget it and if you don’t succeed, at least pretend to.


This is what happened next:

Well, this is pure conjecture, because I wasn’t the one kissing Snorky Scamander, but this is what I observed:

Tegan didn’t seem totally engaged in the kissing thing…she was half-heartedly pushing Snorky away, as a reflex or something. Snorky kept right on kissing her, looking like a fish that had swallowed too many Weasley Wizard Wheezes’ Terribly Tart Toffees for Truly Trying Twits. (A sickle a dozen—no better value when it comes to poisoning your enemies with bitter sweets!)

So Snorky’s face was all puckered and wrong and Tegan was just standing there. The little fragments of my heart, which were all that remained after the first time she broke it, would have exploded into dust if, after several excruciating seconds, Tegan hadn’t smacked Snorky’s nose with her forehead and sprinted out of the Great Hall.

Let’s evaluate this with the method advocated by Mr Occam and his razor: Snorky kissed Tegan, Tegan headbutted Snorky, Snorky lost his balance and fell on Coby Fünke (who was dancing the Hippogriff), and Tegan did a runner.

Nothing happened the next day. Literally. Dawlish taunted me a bit during the Defence lesson, but that was simply business as usual.

Then it was Thursday, the day of the tryouts. It was slightly more eventful than Wednesday.

And by “slightly,” I mean that Thursday was exponentially more exciting than the day prior. Here is why:

Firstily, it was the first time any of us Gryffies had flown since November, or done anything requiring hand-eye coordination or imposing stress on our respective cardiovascular systems. This might have proven problematic, or at least hilarious, but…

Secondivly, the temperature of the Scottish Highlands in February generally reaches somewhere around absolute zero. It is very, very cold and windy and children should not be allowed to practise Quidditch in such conditions, but we were, so we did. I was dumbfounded that nearly two dozen Gryffindors showed up to vie for the vacant Chaser position, but not so dumbfounded when all but four had given up after only one hour and retreated to the castle, likely for something so nefarious as hot chocolate. The four prospective Gryffies that remained after the hour of intensive drills were dressed in layers and layers of woolly hats and socks and jumpers and coats, like any sensible warm-blooded person would, and none of them were truly terrible at Chasing. Picking one to complete the New and Improved Gryffies should not have been an overwhelming task, but…

Triunally, one of my Beaters was on the verge of synaptic breakdown. One guess, and it wasn’t Freddie!

I sort of understood why J.D. went so doolally on us, but mostly I didn’t.

‘Not Number 3!’ he said as we six Gryffies thawed in the lads’ changing room while deciding which prospect we would select as our new Arlie Shacklebolt.

‘I liked Number 3,’ said Mattie Thomas, the Keeper with a heart of gold. ‘Didn’t get a good look at his face, but he certainly has the strongest arm.’

‘Ideally, I’d like a girl,’ I said, shaking the excess snow from my mittens.

Micah snorted lazily. I know that sounds like a contradiction in terms, but he did.

‘That is sooooooooo like you, Cap’n Potty,’ said Micah Horowitz. ‘You’re always been sooooooooo cruel and derogatory towards women. I know I’m frequently referred to as the Misogynistic Gryffie, but that—’

‘Number 3 is a girl, but we’re not picking her,’ said J.D., pacing back and forth.

‘How can you even tell?’ asked Fred. ‘We all look like polar bears on broomsticks.’

‘Well, Number 3 is a lady polar bear,’ J.D. said quickly, ‘and I vote nay.’

Tegan had icicles hanging from her eyelashes. ‘Is this the part where I interject and call you a sexist pig, and you pretend there’s some other reason you hate Chaser Number 3?’

‘—and I was under the impression that your kind, Poncey Potter,’ continued Micah, not at all discouraged that no one was listening to him, ‘preferred gentlemen to the ladyfolk, but perhaps you’d like to minimise sexual tension—’

‘Thank you, Tegan. Right on cue,’ said J.D. dryly. ‘To address your concerns: Yes, I am a sexist pig, woman, and yes, there is some other reason why I feel that Chaser Number 3 should not join our team.’

‘Let’s look at the List and figure out who Chaser Number 3 actually is,’ I said, all cap’ny. ‘Llewellyn, if you will?’

I had barely spoken to Tegan since the…urgh, incident…despite her numerous attempts to confront me and offer an explanation or make penance or something. I simply did not want to hear it: She and Snorky Scamander could do as they wished, and any romantic trysts (ewwww!) were none of my business. But if Tegan admitted to the torrid affair, then how could I avoid acknowledging it?

‘Pardon?’ said Tegan, sitting on the floor by Freddie. ‘You have the List, James.’

I hesitated. ‘No, I believe you are mistaken.’

‘I believe you are a homosexual who commits hate crimes against Muggle-borns,’ said Micah.

‘I saw you put it in your pocket!’ said Tegan to me. ‘Right after you assigned numbers to all the Gryffie wannabes.’

‘Well, I’m 63 per cent certain that I don’t have the List,’ I said.

‘I’m 100 per cent certain that you don’t have a soul,’ said Micah.

‘Oi!’ said Freddie. ‘How counterproductive is this conversation? J.D., you must know who this mysterious Number 3 is, considering you hate her so much. Who is it, then?’

‘Come off it, James!’ said Tegan. ‘I hope you have temporary amnesia, cos the goddamn List is definitely in your pocket!’

Then she jumped up in a huff and sat beside me on the bench, and with a remarkable amount of audacity even for Tegan, stuck her hand in the pocket of my snowboarding trousers and began rummaging for the List.

I admittedly do not know what this “snowboarding” business is (I presume it’s similar to waterboarding), but my mummy bought these trousers for me so I wouldn’t die from hypothermia during February Quidditch. They are warm and water-resistant and puffy like a marshmallow and I love them, my snowboarding trousers. Snowboarding pantaloons, if you will.

Judging by Fred, J.D., Mattie, and Micah’s expressions, they were also unnerved when Tegan stuck her hand in my pocket.

‘Aha!’ exclaimed Tegan after a time, extracting a piece of folded parchment from my trousers and bouncing a few inches away from me. ‘You had it the whole time, did’nja Potter?’

‘I guess so?’ I said as she unfolded the List. ‘Not on purpose…I’m too tired right now, I honestly thought I’d given it to you…’

‘Too tired from your homosexual encounters?’ Micah interjected. ‘Exhausted from burning Muggle-born heroes like Colin Creevey in effigy as part of your campaign to resurrect blood prejudice in our society? Remembuary, remembuary the twelfth of February…I forget how the rest of it goes.’

‘Your homophobia is out of order, Michers,’ said J.D. ‘It’s harassment, plain and simple. But do keep up the militant Muggle-born rhetoric, cos it’s what J.S. deserves for calling you a you-know-what.’

‘Tegan,’ whinged Fred, his eyes barely open. ‘What does the frucking List say?’

Tegan peered at the parchment. ‘Shit, how did you even recognise her, J.D.? In her polar bear ensemble, I mean.’

J.D. sighed. ‘I could recognise her wearing twenty polar bear ensembles, unfortunately.’

‘WHO THE HELL IS CHASER NUMBER 3?’ me, Freddie, Mattie, and Micah shouted more or less in unison.

Rose,’ said Tegan and J.D. more or less in unison, though with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Then Fred asked the obvious question. ‘Rose who?’

‘Do you even have to ask?’ said Tegan.

‘I think he does, cos it’s a terribly common name,’ I said.

‘Rose Weasley,’ said J.D., utterly aghast.

Freddie and I just stared at each other for a while, communicating in our secret telepathic Weasley way. It’s something all blood Weasleys can do.

‘Hold on…Rose Weasley has been good at Quidditch for all this time?’ Mattie thought aloud.

‘Brilliant,’ said Micah with actual sincerity. ‘Having another Weasley couldn’t hurt, yeah? J.D., why so stroppy? Rosie’s your girlfriend! In theory, at least, you’re s’posed to like your girlfriend!’

J.D. rolled his eyes. ‘Course I like Rosie, it’s just…I dunno how to explain it, alright? She didn’t even tell me she was trying out for Quidditch or that she played at all, and then suddenly she’s there, on my pitch dressed like an arctic ursid, throttling Quaffles at Mattie and actually being good and ARGH! It’s just strange, comprende?’

‘No comprende, as a matter of fact,’ said Tegan. ‘You don’t want your girlfriend playing Quidditch, or just playing on your team?’

‘You’re twisting everything I said!’ said J.D. ‘I’m just surprised that Rosie didn’t tell me about her Quidditch aspirations. It’s something I’d obviously find relevant. She’s always going on about honesty and truth and not lying and I’d just like to know why she didn’t think that she could tell me that she was trying out for my Quiddith team!’

‘Great, then we can vote her on the team,’ said Mattie Thomas. ‘It’ll be nice to have another Gryffie my age.’

‘And Rose is a girl, which will meet James’s quota, or something,’ said Tegan.

‘Oi, Freddie and the Poofter!’ said Micah. ‘Stop the Weasley Telepathy so we can vote your cousin onto the team!’

Me and Fred nodded to each other and turned to face the others, when J.D. let out a resounding cry of ‘Nooooooo!’

‘Honestly, J.D., you’re acting more childish and incoherent than usual,’ said Tegan.

‘It has to be unanimous!’ J.D. quivered noticeably. ‘We can’t induct a new Gryffie without unanimously agreeing to it!’

‘Unless I’m mistaken, J.Diz, you’re the only one opposing the candidacy of Rose Weasley,’ I said. ‘Alfred and I just held a brief Weasley Family Conference, and we feel that adding another Weasley to the Gryffies is consistent with the national increase in Weasley population, informally known as “Weasley World Domination.”’

J.D. stared me down. ‘Obviously you haven’t considered the accusations of nepotism you’re sure to attract if you indeed allow Rosie onto the team.’

Freddie stared J.D. down. ‘There’s also the minor consideration of talent, which Rose has more of than any of the other monkeys we saw today.’

Micah stared me down. ‘Rose’s mum is a mudblood, yeah? Let’s discriminate against her cos of that. Innit the way sick bastards like you think, you sick bastard?’

‘Tegan, Number 2!’ said J.D., changing the subject as tactfully as a rhinoceros dancing the ballet. ‘Number 2 was half decent! Who are they, according to the List?’

There was a crinkling of the parchment as Tegan consulted it. ‘Azriel Williams, fourth year.’

‘Why are we even considering him?’ asked Mattie. ‘I saved every one of his shots.’

J.D. snorted. ‘I think it’s only fair to give fair consideration to each candidate, Matthew!’

‘He’s a slow flier,’ said Tegan.

‘I don’t like him,’ said Fred.

‘He’s not a girl,’ said I.

‘Fine, then,’ grumbled J.D. ‘We all vote nay for Number 2. Number 1?’

‘Emily Panache, seventh year,’ Tegan read from the List.

‘Ooh, sounds like a girl,’ I said.

‘Too old,’ said Freddie.

‘Friends with Madeleine,’ said Micah.

‘She’s left-handed, which is actually an advantage for a Chaser,’ said Mattie with all the wisdom in the world. ‘Confuses the Keeper, you see.’

‘You’re right, I s’pose,’ J.D. said, sighing. ‘There’s no point in training a Chaser who’ll only leave us in a few months. Tegan, Number 4, please.’

‘Joshua Toots, fourth year,’ Tegan read.

All five Gryffie men burst out laughing at exactly the same time.

‘Fine, that’s a unanimous nay for Number 4,’ said Tegan disapprovingly. ‘As it stands, Rose is the only candidate still in contention.’

Chortles subsiding, J.D. said, ‘Whaaa? No. There has to be someone else.’

‘Let’s put it to a vote,’ said Tegan, not skipping a beat.

‘Oh, is that my job?’ I asked. ‘As cap’n?’

‘I’m the assistant cap’n!’ said J.D. desperately. ‘I’ll conduct the vote!’

‘And disenfranchise everyone except for yourself?’ said Tegan. ‘No. James, I don’t care who calls for the vote, but I’m already talking so I’ll do it. Everyone in favour of selecting Rose Weasley for our new Chaser, please raise your hand!’

I did so, along with Mattie, Micah, Fred, and Tegan.

J.D. just pouted in the corner. ‘Allow me to remind you bitches about the Clause of Unanimity: No one can become a Gryffie if any one of us disagrees!’

‘Oh please!’ said Tegan, exasperated. ‘The act was cute for, well, never, but whatever threat to your masculinity a Quidditch-playing Rose might pose, it doesn’t change the fact that we need her! We have no chance of winning the Quidditch Cup without a good Chaser, and if we don’t win the Quidditch Cup we’ll just be a group of jackasses with broomsticks. I, for one, could not live with that.’

‘Transcend your sodding pride!’ said Micah. ‘Who gives a shizzle if your woman plays for the same Quidditch team that you do?’

‘This feels like coercion,’ said J.D.

‘Sorry mate, but I think you’re being a right knobber about this,’ said Fred.

‘Without Rose, we will lose our next match against Hufflepuff,’ Mattie said. ‘If Hufflepuff win, all the kittens in the world will die.’

‘Stop with the guilt!’ J.D. cried.

I stared intently at him, and very solemnly said, ‘Please, Johnny Nott. You’re our only hope.’

Then J.D. let out a bizarre screech, and we were all kind of scared that we’d broken his brain or something, but then he stopped and everything was okay again.

Fine,’ J.D. whimpered. ‘I vote yea. Rosie is on the squad.’

And that was how I solved my Chaser Deficiency Problem, but created my J.D.’s Insecurity About His Masculinity In Our Modern World Problem.

Neither of those was anywhere near as serious as my Naked Problem, but that was another issue entirely. This is how it came to be:

After lighting the figurative white smoke signals after our Secular Conclave of Fun, we decided that we’d start planning Rosie’s initiation on the morrow. I know that ragging, fagging, and most other aggings are “frowned upon” by the teachers and school governors, but public humiliation is a crucial camaraderie-building exercise for any association such as ours. Every Gryffie for the past ten years has suffered through the initiation process, and you don’t put an end to that kind of tradition just because it’s “cruel” or “emotionally abusive” or just “really, really mean.”

Anyways, we all decided that showering and restoring our core body temperatures would be more prudent than devising outrageous ways to induct Rose into our distinguished Gryffie brotherhood (or sisterhood…or cousinhood…), so that’s what we did. I took such a long time in the shower that my fingers were all wrinkled and the other lads had left for the castle and dinner, and so once again, I found myself to be very, very alone.

But I was fine with that. Back when I was Silly Ol’ Jamesie, before Tegan’s rejection destroyed my psyche, I hated being alone and avoided it whenever possible. If I needed to use the toilet, I’d do my best to trick my mates into coming with me. (Which is actually quite a challenge, considering the stereotype that only girls visit the loo in gaggles and how J.D. and the lot are constantly trying to prove their masculinity.) Somehow, I felt that by constantly surrounding myself with friends and conversation, I could drown out whatever sad thoughts might flitter about my conscience that day. We all have sad thoughts sometimes.

In contrast, Jimmy Potter (or whatever you’d like to call the post-Tegan me) didn’t mind a bit of quiet now and then. He could sit in the Quidditch changing room and rub coconut foot cream onto his dry, blistered feet in silence without feeling utterly insecure. Jimmy almost liked the independence: The universal and inherent triviality of teenage life is a bit much to bear sometimes, and everyone needs an escape now and then.

So I covered my feet in the organic coconut moisturiser and put on clean socks, before standing up and catching a glimpse of myself in the old and nearly floor-length (it stopped at my knees) mirror. The glass itself was a bit blurred around the edges but otherwise completely functional, showing a thin, tallish boy with dark, untidy hair. I was frowning at myself and dressed only in the towel wrapped ‘round my waist, a bit disappointed that my ribs stuck out the way they always did. Unfortunately, I had not developed rippling abdominal muscles overnight, and the “skeleton look” was starting to grow old.

No! I shouted in my head, still staring at my reflection. That’s not how we cultivate self-esteem, by insulting our body! You are a beautiful creature, James Potter: your bright, soulful Weasley eyes, your lean, graceful figure, your long, toned legs. You are a magnificent, gorgeous young man with the proportions of an ancient Greek statue and if any Welsh girls can’t see that, then they are defective and/or completely mad.

‘I am a statuesque beauty,’ I said aloud, flexing my arm muscles a bit. I wasn’t half bad, really…nowhere near as handsome as J.D. or even Freddie, but still moderately attractive.

I started making faces in the mirror and trying new poses, flexing my muscles and making grrrr sounds every so often. It was vain and a bit weird, but fun.

I kept right on going even as I heard the door to the boys’ changing room open and close. I was actually in the middle of a roundhouse kick when I spied a girl standing in the corner.

‘Ahhhhhh,’ I said as I stumbled a bit and almost fell to the floor, but recovered and faced Tegan. She stared at me, wide-eyed, and I shot her a this-is-absolutely-not-out-of-the-ordinary glance back.

A few seconds passed before Tegan said anything. ‘You lost your towel there, sensei.’

I looked down and discovered that my towel lay on the floor beside my feet. I was completely naked, except for my socks. Not that the socks were much help.

Tegan’s face had turned an embarrassed shade of purple. ‘Look, I’m going to leave and come back in, but this time I’m going to knock on the door. Then we pretend that this never happened.’

Then she popped out and I scrambled to dress. I could analyse this later…no time to worry that she didn’t seem all that impressed with, er, you know. Me.

I was tying my tie when I heard a knock at the door. ‘Who is it?’ I called, my voice shaking.

‘It’s Tegan!’ she said. ‘Are you decent? I wouldn’t want to create an awkward situation by bursting in and neglecting to knock first!’

‘Yes, I am fully clothed!’ I replied.

I heard the creaking of the door and saw Tegan tiptoe in, her face having subsided to a lovely shade of red. According to the mirror, my face was a similar colour (though less lovely).

Tegan stopped at the far end of the changing room and stood there. ‘So, you’re the only one still down here?’

‘I suppose,’ I said, concentrating on putting my shoes on. ‘I think all the others left for the Great Hall.’

‘Oh, yeah,’ she said. ‘I hear there’s supposed to be Cornish pasties tonight.’

‘Right, it’s Ethnic Night,’ I said. ‘Well, that’s what J.D. calls it. Cornwall is about as ethnic as the house elves get.’

Tegan folded her arms and nodded. ‘That’s enough chitchat, yeah? James, I actually need to talk to you about something.’

‘Sorry, but I’m a bit short on time right now,’ I said. ‘Need to find Rosie and tell her that she made the team…congratulate her, you know.’

‘I saw her not ten minutes ago,’ said Tegan. ‘She’s quite pleased, naturally. And don’t worry, I didn’t let slip anything about her initiation. Not that we have the details worked out yet.’

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Er, I’ve got to—’

‘I know you’ve been avoiding me,’ she interrupted. ‘Please, James. Just give me five minutes to explain everything.’

I gulped. ‘I haven’t the foggiest idea what you’re hinting at.’

‘You’re a terrible liar,’ she said dryly. ‘The Snorky fiasco? The day before yesterday?’

‘It was quite a nice day. We got Quidditch back.’

‘You’re also terrible at feigning daftness,’ said Tegan. ‘You know what the hell I’m talking about.’

I paused for a long moment. ‘Snorky Scamander proclaimed his affections for you. It was mildly endearing.’

‘The wanker outright kissed me!’

‘Yeah, I saw.’

She stared at me with her pretty, pretty eyes. ‘Considering our, erm, history, I thought you might be…conflicted about that.’

‘Tegan!’ I said, summoning joviality from out of nothing. ‘Are you trying to get me to talk about my feelings?’

‘Ostensibly, yes.’

‘Oh my giddy aunt!’ I marvelled. ‘It used to be me who always tried to convince you to talk about your feelings, but look at how the tide has turned!’

‘Shut it before I show you my own Muay Thai roundhouse kick,’ said Tegan. ‘I need to know if seeing Snorky Scamander kiss me bothered you in any way.’

To deflect, I said, ‘The real question is: Did being kissed by Snorky Scamander bother you in any way?’

‘No, I think the real question is about you.

I smiled sideways – not a real sort of smile, but when you pull your lips to the side in a very non-threatening way. ‘Come sit by me,’ I said gently. ‘You’re too far away for an Important Conversation, which apparently is what this is turning out to be.’

Tegan shrugged her shoulders and sideways-smiled back, before walking over and sitting on my bench. ‘I’m sorry for asking, if this is exceedingly awkward, but I need to…want to know.’

‘Fair enough,’ I said, buying myself a bit more time to think. What the hell was I supposed to say to that? If I lied and said that a Snorkegan relationship (ewwww!) was fine by me, then I’d be lying and I might actually have to see Tegan and…ugh, I can’t even say his name…together on a regular basis and even snogging occasionally. If I told the truth and said that I wanted to hex Snorky the Dorky all the way to New Zealand just for thinking about Tegan, then she might interpret this the wrong way and get a restraining order against me, or something.

What was I supposed to do??

‘I want you to be happy,’ I finally said. ‘We’re friends, yeah? It’ll take a lot more than a broken relationship to stop us from being friends. And friends want friends to be happy, or so the philosopher Beetle teaches all young witches and wizards. So, what I’m trying to say is…seeing Snorky Scamander kiss you didn’t bother me. Much.’

‘Oh,’ said Tegan. ‘Alright.’

Why? Why did I have to pretend that I didn’t want to send an Unforgivable Curse at Snorky?

‘So,’ I said, ‘you fancy our Mr Scamander, then?’

Tegan, who had been staring at her feet, gave a quick laugh. ‘Are you mental? Snorky looks like a fish crossed with an…I dunno, a platypus? Plus he’s shorter than me…I don’t mean to sound shallow, and if I liked the guy I could probably overlook his height, but I find his obsession with disestablishmentarianism off-putting.’

‘Well, that’s a relief!’ I said. ‘I mean, as long as you’re happy.’

She looked off in thought for a moment. ‘He did ask me to Hogsmeade, though, after he apologised for the stunt in the Great Hall. He said I could think it over for a while, too. That’s courteous, I suppose. And I don’t know, sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t hurt to go on one stupid date with the guy…let him pay for everything cos it’s not like I care about him thinking that I’m a strong and independent woman, and he is quite clever, albeit in the evil supervillain sort of way, but we always have interesting conversations. And this is going to sound pathetic, but it’s just nice to have someone care for you, you know? Ideally you fancy the bugger back, but unrequited love is certainly flattering when you’re on the receiving end. And things will be awkward between me and Snorky whether I turn him down now or after our hypothetical date, so I don’t exactly have anything to lose, yeah?’

Tegan smiled faintly at me and I wanted to cry. Of course, I didn’t cry, because Jimmy Potter never cries, even when it’s completely excusable.

‘Thanks for being such a great friend, James,’ said Tegan, patting my knee. ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re an even more remarkable person than people give you credit for. You’ve no shortage of moral fibre, kid.’

She stood up and started towards the door. ‘Coming?’

‘Go on without me,’ I croaked. ‘I’ll be along in a few minutes.’

Tegan shrugged and stepped out into the night, the frigid February wind shutting the door closed behind her. I sat completely still, either unable or unwilling to move.



Why did I have to have no shortage of moral fibre? I didn’t want any sodding moral fibre! I wanted to destroy Snorky Scamander’s face with a variety of blunt instruments, then decapitate him via guillotine, and then put a number of terrible curses on his corpse! I did not want my Tegan to go out with Snorkack Murgatroyd Scamander!

I don’t think that’s Snorky’s real middle name, but I believe I made my point clear.

But what was I supposed to do? I’d already proven myself to be this “great friend” with “moral fibre” up the wazoo! How was I supposed to right this heinous wrong that I indirectly and dishonestly approved of?

And then it all became clear, what I always did to break up couples who gallivanted around without my blessing: I had to devise a Plan.

A/N: Just to let all you hep cats know, I rushed to finish this chapter before November because I am attempting NaNoWriMo. To that end, I hope to revise this chapter eventually. Since I probably will not succeed at writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days and will possibly give up halfway through, you might get a new WG chapter before December. But there’s no way I can write Ch. 23 & NaNo at the same time, capiche?

Also, thank you for all your review-a-thon reviews! I am slowly but surely catching up on responding to them. And heck, if you’d like to leave a review right now, that would fall somewhere in the realm of awesome. =D

Chapter 23: Pineapple Wig
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« Après nous, le déluge. »

“After us, the flood.”

-Madame de Pompadour

7 February 2022

Dear Ms Eleni Richelieu-Llewellyn,

I know that our prior meeting did not end well, and I suppose I should take some of the blame for that. I ought to have been more compassionate to your plight as a mother concerned for the well being of her only daughter, who was introducing you to her dashing new boyfriend, who has admittedly flamboyant tendencies. For that, I apologise: I proclaim it my maximum mea culpa of a wrong that I did beseech upon thou with great haste and great remiss.

I do not know how much contact you have with Tegan, but if you didn't know, our romantic relationship ended rather abruptly at Christmas, and I take full responsibility for my ill-conceived and somewhat selfish grand romantic gesture of devotion. I shan’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say, our love has died and after a rough patch, Tegan and I are now on amicable and entirely platonic terms. However, Ms Eleni Richelieu-Llewellyn, sir, Tegan has found a new suitor whom I, not out of fickle jealousy but genuine concern as one of her oldest and dearest friends, find to be entirely unworthy of her.

Tegan has agreed to go on a date with Snorky Scamander in Hogsmeade Village next Saturday, Valentine’s Day. Who is this Snorky Scamander, I hear you ask? Well, Snorkack Iscariot Scamander is a sixth-year Gryffinclaw with high marks in most of his subjects. He is blond and short and has a crumple-horned nose. (I have enclosed a photograph for reference.) Snorky is also the single man responsible for V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T.’s rise to infamy, as well as the resulting national economic depression. Clearly, there is something wily and nefarious about Snorky Scamander. Do you really want your daughter to be involved with a rabble-rousing socialist with fascist and anarchical leanings such as Snorky?

Another reason why Snorky is awful is because of his inherited genes. His mother, Luna, is one of my mum’s most trusted friends, and I admit that she is a lovely woman the five minutes a year she actually talks sense. Luna Scamander, née Lovegood, is a naturalist who is so crazy that she named her child Snorkack. Snorkack. This requires no explanation.

Rolf Scamander, Snorky’s dad, is actually a stand-up chap. He’s a naturalist like his wife and they’re both a bit weird, though Luna more so than Rolf, but Rolf has a dark side, too. The Scamanders actually represent a long line of gentle, kind Wizarding ecologists – except for Günther Scamander! Christmas Eve seven years ago, Rolf drank a whole thing of firewhiskey all by himself and he started telling us all these strange things about himself, like how he was born with six toes on one foot because his great-grandmother was a Hapsburg and how his second cousin Günther joined the Totentanz Kindergarten, the youth division of Grindelwald’s followers, the notorious Totentanzen! Allow me to reiterate: At five years of age, Snorky Scamander’s third cousin did knowingly and willingly support the most evil wizard in history (until Voldemort came along), just like every other magical child and their parents were required to by legal decree. If the indisputable fact that little Günther Scamander was one of Grindelwald’s top advisers doesn’t convince you that the Scamanders are bad blood, Ms Eleni Richelieu-Llewellyn, then hopefully the Hapsburg six toes thing will.

Now that I have proven why Snorky Scamander is an entirely inappropriate consort for Tegan, I need to ask for your help. I sensed from our last meeting that you might not consider me to be a worthy companion for Tegan, but think about this: I am the first-born son of Harry Potter, who defeated a dark lord much, much scarier than Grindelwald, and Snorky is practically third cousins with the dark lord significantly less badass and successful than Voldemort.

If this does not sway you, madame, I have also enclosed a photograph of myself, with which you can compare the photograph I have enclosed of Snorky Scamander. Note my uncrumple-horned nose and generally pleasing bone structure, and remember that by permitting your daughter to date Snorky, you might end up with crumple-horned-nosed, six-toed grandchildren one day, Albus forbid.

I ask for your help for I am in a quandary about what I can do to sabotage Tegan and Snorky’s date this Saturday. I can’t think of any good ideas that won’t probably backfire. And so, I beg of you, Ms Richelieu-Llewellyn: Please help me sabotage Tegan and Snorky’s Valentine’s Day tête-à-tête. I would forever be indebted to you for any advice you could give me on how to destroy blossoming young love. And if you still think that I am not worthy of Tegan for myself, please consider the alternative: crazy, six-toed, crumple-horned-nosed, neo-Totentanzen grandchildren.

Yours sincerely,
James Sirius Potter

I received this in response:


Meet me on the 14th at your one-eared uncle’s practical-jokery at 11.


I did as the note requested and was delighted to discover on Saturday that Eleni Richelieu-Llewellyn had not changed one bit.

“Stop calling me Ms Richelieu-Llewellyn,” she said sternly, looking around Weasley Wizard Wheezes in distaste. “Rhys and I are getting divorced, and legally this time. You may call me Ms Richelieu now.”

Uncle George, who was standing behind the counter of his joke shop, grinned madly. “Eleni Richelieu?” he asked. “It’s you, isn’t it? It’s George Weasley, we were in the same year at school! I remember now, we used to call you the Wicked Bitch of the West! Can’t remember why we added the ‘west’ part, though.”

Eleni narrowed her eyes at him. “Still just as charming all these years later. If you don’t mind, Mr Weasley, I’d like to speak to your nephew in private.”

“Actually, I do mind,” said Uncle George.

“And I don’t care,” said Tegan’s mum. “Thank you, Mr Weasley, run along now.”

Uncle George rolled his eyes at her. “If you need me, I’ll be in the back, Jamesie boy,” he said.

When Uncle George was gone, I asked, “Why are you and Rhys getting divorced, Ms Richelieu-Llewellyn? I mean, Ms Riche—”

“If you’ll pardon my tone, James, I don’t see how my marital status is any concern of yours,” she said.

“Does Tegan know about the divorce?” I asked hesitantly.

“Not to my knowledge,” said Eleni Richelieu. “I don’t see how my marital status is any concern of hers, either.”

Electing to choose my battles, I said, “So, how’re we going to get rid of that villainous cad Snorky Scamander?”

“To be honest, James,” Eleni said, “I considered the fact that the boy is a Hapsburg to be a selling point until I saw the photograph you included. Dear God, I will not allow Tegan to associate with something so hideous and deformed, regardless of his good breeding, and to that end I have designed a Grand Master Plan in Three Phases that will effectively sabotage their rendezvous.”

“Ooh, do tell!” I said.

“The Plan is simple,” said Eleni Richelieu, no longer hyphen Llewellyn. “We must destroy Snorkack’s credibility in Tegan’s eyes while increasing yours, and we must accomplish this without letting Tegan know of my involvement. If she knew that I disapproved of her affair with this Snorkack monster, she would immediately desire him. This reverse psychology phenomenon occurred while Tegan was with you, James.”

I glared at her. “Our love was so much stronger than that, Ms Richelieu,” I muttered. “Tegan loved me. She did.”

But the Mistress of Darkness simply laughed. “You’ve also made a pitiful effort at making Tegan jealous, yes?”

“If by ‘pitiful’ you mean ‘no’ effort, then yes,” I replied.

“Mr Potter,” she said, “I almost pity your naïveté. You are so lucky to have contacted me when you did.”

It was then that I felt an overwhelming sense of dread, a specific type of foreboding that I would come to learn could only be caused by Eleni Richelieu. “What d’you have in mind?” I asked sheepishly.

Eleni smirked (such an evil smirk it was!) and clicked her fingers. “Pineapple!” she shouted, her voice shrill like the north wind. “Pineapple, darling!”

I stood idly for a moment whilst Eleni Richelieu continued to shout the name of a tropical fruit in my one-eared uncle’s “practical-jokery,” unsure of when I ought to intervene, or whether intervention was even a safe option.

“Pineapple!” Eleni snapped, growing irritated.

I wondered if this was some sort of spell gone wrong. “Ms Richelieu,” I said timidly, “I can go check and see if there’s a restaurant or greengrocer in the village somewhere that sells pineapples at this time of year, if it’s essential to your Plan.”

Then she stared at me like I was the crazy person. “Good God, Potter, how the hell are you going to find a pineapple in the Scottish Highlands in February!” Eleni exclaimed. “And how would a tropical fruit facilitate the breaking up of Tegan and that Snorkack abomination?”

“I don’t know cos you won’t tell me the plan cos you’re a weird lady who never tells the truth and sort of talks in riddles but never ever ever makes any sense!” I said very, very quickly.

Eleni rolled her eyes again. “Pineapple, I know you’re hiding, but this isn’t a game,” she said. “Don’t make me take your drugs away from you.”

Just then, a wide-eyed, blonde-haired woman jumped out from behind the Skiving Snackboxes display, looking like a giant, anorexic bird. Standing nearly a head taller than me, she was actually almost pretty, around age thirty or so, but her crazy brownish-green eyes and malnourished appearance detracted substantially from her potential prettiness. To her credit, however, she was dressed in a very chic paisley frock.

“Pineapple, darling,” said Eleni warmly, holding her arms outstretched. “Give me a hug and I’ll let you have a pill.”

The woman with large eyes and probably a case of scurvy hopped over to Eleni and awkwardly threw her arms around her.

“Very good, my dear,” said Eleni, pulling away and extracting a small satchel from her handbag. She pulled out a small white tablet and held it out for Pineapple to see, then tossed it at her face. Pineapple caught the pill in her mouth, like a gull at the seashore.

“Well done!” Eleni said cheerfully. “Now Piney, there’s a lovely man here I’d like you to meet. You see that dark-haired fellow in the corner? His name is James Potter. Would you say hello to James?”

Pineapple jerked her head and stared at me with her freakishly large eyes. “Hi James,” she said in a high, breathy voice.

“James,” said Eleni, “this is Pineapple Wig, the famed rapper Lewd Wig’s eldest child. Can you say hello?”

“Hullo…Pineapple,” I said, wondering if I’d woken up in Bizarro World this morning. “That’s a name you don’t hear every day.”

“Her father is one of the most famous celebrities in our world,” said Eleni snidely. “What, did you expect him to christen her Gertrude?

“Pineapple is a very successful model and socialite, James,” she continued. “She is a dear family friend. And Piney, James is a bi-curious schoolboy as well as the eldest child of Harry Potter. He is currently trying to woo my daughter.”

Pineapple Wig continued to stare at me with her huge, creepy eyes. It was strange how she never blinked.

“Tegan’s a good girl, yeah?” said Pineapple Wig to me, her voice shaky. “I like you, Potter. You’ll be good to Tegan, yes?”

“Of course,” I said, wondering if there was some way to Apparate out of this Bizarro World I was obviously trapped in.

“Oh, it’s so wonderful that you two are getting along,” said Eleni brightly. “You two are going to go to lunch at the same eating establishment as Tegan and that wretched Snorkack ogre, and you’re going to have a wonderful time together and show Tegan that James is perfectly all right, and I daresay better off, without her.”

What?” I exclaimed, while Pineapple Wig said, “Oh, cool,” at the exact same time.

“You have to rub it in Tegan’s face, James,” said Eleni sternly. “In your futile attempts to win her favour, you’ve ignored an essential character flaw of hers: She wants most that which she cannot have. Seeing you share an innocent lunch with a charismatic model/heiress to a rap empire will show Tegan that you don’t need her anymore, which will in turn convince her that she must win you back.”

I coughed, while Pineapple stared off into space with a dazed smile plastered to her face.

“Ms Richelieu, isn’t Pineapple a bit…older than me?” I asked cautiously.

“What are you insinuating?” asked Eleni. “You are going to lunch with this charming thirty-four-year-old woman. You’ll discuss such minutiae as the weather and your common fondness for 80’s glam rock.”

“Can I have ketchup?” Pineapple Wig asked, her voice high and fragile. “At the lunch place? Will there be ketchup? And bread? Oh, how I love ketchup sandwiches!”

Eleni fondly patted Pineapple’s bony shoulder. “Why of course, darling!” said Eleni. You may have all the ketchup sandwiches you wish! Just pretend that you find James to be a remotely interesting person. We all know how good you are at acting, dear.”

But Pineapple had reached the “over the moon excited” expression when Eleni confirmed that there would indeed be ketchup sandwiches.

“Ms Richelieu,” I said quickly, “are you sure that this is the best idea? Even if this makes Tegan jealous, is that enough to make her hate Snorky?”

“Oh, I will take care of the Snorkack child,” said Eleni, sounding like what I always imagined Voldemort to sound like. “I’ve enlisted your dim-witted friends for Phases Two and Three of my Grand Master Plan. All you have to worry about, James, is looking handsome and pretending that you enjoy conversing with darling, drug-addicted Pineapple.”

I looked over at Pineapple Wig, who was eyeing Eleni’s satchel of pills intently. Were I to go through with it, this afternoon would undoubtedly be one of the strangest in my life, and I’d led a particularly strange and unconventional life already. But who knew Tegan better than her evil mother, or so aforementioned evil mother insisted? Actually, probably most of Tegan’s friends and teachers and acquaintances knew her better than Eleni did, but to her credit, the Mistress of Darkness always knew how to strike a chord with her daughter. Perhaps invoking some jealousy, or something, on her part was the key. And if anything, I was certain that there was no wizard on Earth that Tegan despised more than Lewd Wig, and chances were that Tegan would dislike his daughter just as much.

“Okay,” I finally said to Eleni Richelieu. “I’ll do it. I’ll go to lunch with Pineapple to make Tegan love me again. But how do my dim-witted friends figure into Phases Two and Three of your Grand Master Plan, Ms Richelieu?”

She grinned at me diabolically. “Don’t worry your pretty little head about any of that, James,” said Eleni. “Could you be a dear and call in your one-eared uncle? There are some false moustaches that I need to buy.”

I went to the back room, where I discovered Uncle George listening at the door with his one good ear.

“Were you eavesdropping on us?” I whispered to him.

“Of course,” Uncle George whispered back, holding up his Extra-Extendable Ears. “Did the Wicked Bitch call my son one of your dim-witted friends?”

“I don’t know. Eleni won’t tell me the finer points of Phases Two and Three,” I said, holding my voice low enough so that Eleni and Pineapple couldn’t hear. “She wants to buy some false moustaches from you, though.”

Uncle George crossed his arms and tutted. “I don’t trust that woman, James,” he said. “You’ve heard stories of Bellatrix Lestrange, yeah? Well, this Eleni woman is like a cleverer, less violent version of dearly departed Bella. But with a better hairstyle.”

“That’s the lady Granny killed, right?” I said.

“And she did it with panache,” said Uncle George. “But I still don’t like Eleni. Be careful, Jamesie boy.”

“I will, Uncle George,” I whispered. “I really think she needs those moustaches, though.”

“Right,” said Uncle George, pushing open the door with a flourish and strutting out of the back room. “Why hello again! How may I help you, Mrs Llewellyn?”

“We are interested in purchasing some false moustaches, Mr Weasley,” said Eleni brusquely. “And I go by Ms Richelieu now.”

Pineapple pointed at Uncle George and loudly whispered to Eleni, “I think he forgot to put on one of his ears this morning.”

“Keen observation, young lady!” said Uncle George cheerfully from behind the counter. “Unfortunately, it was destroyed by Dark magic during a Death Eater attack many moons ago, but the wife says it adds to my charm!”

“Splendid,” said Eleni flatly. “Three false moustaches, please, Mr Weasley. Three plain, black, disenchanted moustaches that will hold up to a Sticking Charm.”

“Very well then, Mrs Llewellyn,” said Uncle George, pointing his wand across the shop. “Accio moustaches!

Three small boxes flew through the air and landed in a neat stack on the counter.

“We’re in a bit of a hurry, I’m afraid,” said Eleni snidely. “And I’d much prefer if you addressed me as Ms Richelieu.”

“And I’d much prefer to address you as Mrs Llewellyn,” said Uncle George, smirking mischievously. “Five Sickles apiece comes to a grand total of fifteen Sickles! Would you like your purchases gift-wrapped for Valentine’s Day?”

“No,” said Eleni curtly, handing Uncle George the coins. “It’s nearly noon and I have so much to do before James and Pineapple’s lunch appointment. Good day, Mr Weasley.”

“Ta-ta, Mrs Llewellyn!” Uncle George called as she stormed out of the shop with Pineapple Wig. “Jamesie boy, remember that when you play with Fiendfyre, you’ll only end up charred and in the burn ward at St Mungo’s.”

“I’ll remember, Uncle George,” I said as I scurried out of the shop after Eleni and Pineapple.

Eleni was already storming down the main thoroughfare of Hogsmeade, her long coat billowing in the February wind. Pineapple followed closely behind her, and in the bright winter sunshine, it became undeniably clear that Pineapple Wig was like a giant, gaunt, blonde bird person.

I caught up to Eleni as we passed the post office. “Oi, Ms Richelieu!” I said, catching my breath. “I know that I shouldn’t worry my pretty little head about Phases Two and Three of your Grand Master Plan, but I’m still not entirely sure about Phase One yet.”

“At noon, you and Pineapple will sit at the table right next to Tegan and the Snorkack’s at The Leaky Broomstick,” said Eleni as distant bells from Hogwarts tolled in the background. “You will each pretend that you are having the most wonderful time of your lives, and Tegan shall witness your every giggle, witticism, and profundity. Phases Two and Three will manifest themselves independently and you will recognise them as they happen.”

“Okay, I think I almost understand,” I said reluctantly. “But how do you know that Snorky and Tegan are at The Three Broomsticks right now? It’s bound to be crowded, so how are we supposed to get a table—”

“I have a man on the inside,” said Eleni slyly. “Everything has already been set in motion. All I need from you, James and my dearest Piney, is the finest acting performance of your lives.”

Pineapple perked up. “If I’m good,” she said to Eleni, “may I have another pill when this is over?”

Eleni smiled, nice and evil all at the same time. “If you do well, Pineapple, you may have all the pills and ketchup sandwiches you wish. Now look, we’ve arrived at the pub. Good luck and remember: Feign enthusiasm!”

She then ran off down the dark alley beside The Three Broomsticks, but I was too confused to care. I looked to Pineapple, who was well over six feet tall and had the nose of a sparrow, and I tried to smile at this certifiably mad lady.

“After you?” I said genially, holding open the door to The Three Broomsticks.

Pineapple smiled daftly and said, “Oh, cool, thanks,” as she fluttered into the pub.

It was busy and full of students, exactly as I’d predicted, and I searched for Tegan and Snorky in the crowd. Unsuccessful, I’d come to the conclusion that there were absolutely no empty tables in the pub, but before I could say something to Pineapple, a tuxedoed and moustachioed waiter swooped in from out of nowhere.

“Welcome to The Three Broomsticks!” said the waiter in an exaggerated American accent. “Two in your party?”

“Whoa, are you like a maître d’?” asked Pineapple, all breathy and naïve. “I didn’t know that they had maîtres d’ at The Three Broomsticks.”

“They don’t,” I said sternly, glaring at the odd tuxedo man. “They don’t have waiters either.”

“Well then, pardners, let’s getchu folks seated!” said the cowboy maître d’.

“You know,” I said slowly, “you look very much like my friend J.D., except with a moustache and a garish accent.”

The maître d’ grinned and whispered, “It’s me! It’s J.D.! Tegan’s mum hired me for Phase Two of the Plan!”

“You know what Phase Two is?” I whispered back.

“Yeah, but I’m not s’posed to tell you,” said J.D. “Don’t worry, I have it under control. Ms Wig, let me say that I am a huge fan of your father’s work.”

“Cool, thank you,” said Pineapple, completely disinterested.

“Question: Could you explain the outfit?” I asked him. “You’re like a cowboy and an international spy and racist vaudeville actor all at the same time.”

“What are you on about?” whispered J.D. “Eleni told me to wear this and to disguise my voice, so that’s what I’m doing.”

“Garçon?” said Pineapple Wig timidly. “Can we sit so we can eat soon?”

“Pardon me, ma’am!” said J.D. the Maître D’, jumping back into character(s). “If you’ll mosey on down, I’ll see ya to yer table!”

We did as he requested and followed him to the rear of the pub, where there was one small but vacant table adjacent to… Tegan and Snorky’s table!

“Since when does The Three Broomsticks have an al fresco happy hour?” I heard Tegan say as she read a menu. “Or menus?”

Actually seeing Snorky and Tegan together – sitting at the same table and everything – made me want to be sick. It was wrong on so many levels.

“Here y’are, pardners!” said J.D. the Maître D’ cheerfully. He pulled some menus from out of nowhere and gave them to me and Pineapple as we sat down.

“I’ll be back faster’n a jackrabbit dancin’ the jitterbug to take yer orders!” said J.D., and he disappeared behind the kitchen door.

“Is that fast?” Pineapple asked me.

“I’m not entirely sure,” I said. “I don’t speak Cowboy-Going-Undercover-As-A-Spy-Going-Undercover-As-A-Waiter.”

“James?” I heard Tegan say, finally noticing us. “And…Pineapple Wig?

“Oh, nice to see you again, Tegan,” said Pineapple coolly. “You look lovely. Ooh, is this your boyfriend?”

“No!” Tegan and I said at exactly the same time.

But Snorky reached across the gap between our tables to shake Pineapple’s hand. “Snorky Scamander,” he said suavely. “Very pleased to meet you. Pardon my gall but I must ask: Are you Tegan’s sister?”

“Oh no, Tegan doesn’t have a sister,” said Pineapple, politely tolerating Snorky. “I’m friendly with her mum.”

Snorky gasped. “You two look so alike that I could have sworn you were sisters!”

In my opinion, Tegan and Pineapple Wig could not look less alike. Also, I was no longer sceptical that Pineapple was a socialite, because she could turn on the charm and coherent speech at will.

Pineapple laughed. “You really are too much! I’m far too old to be Tegan’s sister – I’ve been close to her family for so long that I remember her running naked around the garden!”

I felt something tug at my ankle and I looked down to see Tegan, crouching on the floor and glaring at me.

“I hope you’re not referring to this past Bastille Day!” said Snorky, and he and Pineapple roared with laughter.

I slipped down beneath my table while Tegan kneeled beneath hers.

“What?” I whispered, hoping it was loud enough for her to hear me.

“What the hell are you doing here with the spawn of Lewd Wig?” Tegan seethed.

“Having a friendly and enjoyable lunch,” I answered automatically.

“How do you even know that odious woman?” she demanded.

“Uhhhhh,” I said. “My dad’s associate’s cousin’s stepfather’s goddaughter met Pineapple once on safari in Africa. Since I’m, er, considering being a socialite as a career possibility – you know, depending entirely on my father’s fame and largesse to support my wild and frivolous lifestyle – I wanted to learn more about socialiting from an expert. So this is a business lunch.”

Tegan stared at me. “D’you want the drugs and the anorexia and the scurvy too? Come on, Potter, you want to be a Quidditch player!”

“I’m keeping my options open!” I said, uncomfortable staying crouched under the table for so long. “I also would like to learn how to break into the modelling world.”

Modelling?” said Tegan.

“I’m a handsome, handsome man!” I whisper-shrieked. “Tante Fleur says I have the right jawline for modelling!”

“What does that even mean?” she snapped.

“It means I’m going to be a fast-living, professional-partying model under Pineapple’s tutelage,” I said. “I don’t even know why you’re angry, since you’re the one voluntarily spending time with Snorky Scamander!”

“I’m angry because I know that Pineapple is a good for nothing piece of shit and even worse, she’s Lewd Wig’s progeny!” Tegan whisper-shouted. “Besides, Potter, you told me that I might as well go out with Snorky!”

I couldn’t argue with that one, but fortunately I didn’t have to, since J.D. the Maître D’ popped his head below the tables at that very second.

“You two dude-wranglers ready to order?” he asked us.

“I know it’s you, J.D.,” whispered Tegan.

“What?” he said. “Sorry to disappoint you, l’il lady, but I’m Schlomo O’Tonto, the itinerant singing cowboy man of mystery.”

“I really hope you’re drunk right now,” said Tegan, climbing back into her chair.

I did the same, and heard Snorky say, “And then I told the Minister, I told him, ‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, me and my commentator colleagues will strike again so fast and hard, it’ll be faster than you can say V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T.!’”

“Wow, you have so many stories that sound exactly the same,” said Pineapple Wig.

“Alright then, you crazy kids,” said J.D. to Tegan and Snorky, “what’ll ya have?”

“I have a problem with this menu, Schlomo,” said Tegan. “Half the things listed here I know for a fact that The Three Broomsticks does not serve, and also, this menu says that the name of this establishment is The Leaky Broomstick.”

“I’ll handle it, babe,” said Snorky. “We’ll each have the tofurkey burger.”

“What? Ew,” said Tegan.

“I agree, that sounds disgusting,” said J.D.

“I’m not even a vegetarian!” Tegan told Snorky.

“Really?” said Snorky. “How can you live with yourself? Right, Schlomo, is it? Yes, Schlomo, bring us two tofurkey burgers. Tegs, I promise you’ll love tofurkey.”

“And this is why cattle ranches all across the U.S. and A. are failing,” said J.D. under his breath. “Okay, other table, what’ll it be?”

“I would like one ketchup sandwich, please,” said Pineapple very primly, “and a very large glass of whisky. Single malt.”

“If I may clarify,” said J.D. as he wrote it all down, “you want two slices of bread held together only by ketchup?”

“With the crusts cut off,” Pineapple said like it was the most normal thing in the world. “And whisky.”

“Oi Schlomo,” I said to J.D., “your moustache is falling off.”

He scrambled to hold up the false moustache. “Yer order, pardner?”

“I would like the lobster,” I said. “And a butterbeer.”

“We serve lobster?” asked J.D., leaning in to read my menu.

“Says so right here,” I said, smirking. “Mostly, I’m just curious what your ‘infamous Scottish lobster’ will look like.”

“Well, I’ll go inform the chef of your requests, reattach my moustache, and come back later with your drinks!” said J.D., practically sprinting off. “Pardners!”

Snorky Scamander looked at me with revulsion. “You eat shellfish?” he asked, disgusted. “An innocent crustacean life heads to the gallows just because of your greed, sir.”

“And the Wizarding British economy is hanged and twitching because of yours, Snorkarino,” I said.

“Snorky!” said Tegan, thwacking him with her handbag. “Why would you go ahead and order for me like that? Couldn’t you have asked me first if I wanted to eat tofu masquerading as turkey masquerading as a hamburger? Which, for the record, I don’t!”

“Tegan, babe,” said Snorky casually, “you’ll thank me. Eating meat is positively barbaric.”

“Is it?” she said. “Well then, send me back to the Stone Age because I’m a meatatarian! I love eating most everything that comes from animals and I avoid vegetables whenever possible!”

“So Pineapple,” I said, “let’s hear more about you! How does the Pineapple Wig story begin?”

She was sipping the whisky that J.D. must’ve dropped off discreetly, since I now had my butterbeer as well.

“Well, like most people, I suppose it started with birth,” said Pineapple. “My dad, Lewis, that’s his real name, had three best-selling records when he was only twenty years old, and my mum was a model and a cocaine addict called Astrid. A match made in heaven, right? Well, when Mum found out she was pregnant with me she made Dad marry her without a pre-nup so I’d be set for life, yeah? But Mum was found dead and defenestrated in Prague four years after I was born and she and Dad married, so I was raised by a series of Brazilian au pairs with the small army of half-siblings I acquired over the years cos my dad slagged around so much.”

“Wow,” I said. “If you wrote a memoir, it would sell very, very well.”

“I’m actually waiting for my dad to die before I write a book about my life,” said Pineapple. “He’d be furious if I told the world the truth about our family. Anyways, I went to Hogwarts when I was eleven, was sorted into Ravenclaw, and became best mates with Huw Llewellyn. It’s how I met Tegan’s family.”

“Ohhhh,” I said, loud enough for Tegan to hear. “That explains a bit.”

“How is Huw, by the way?” asked Pineapple.

“Er, at the moment, I believe he’s still on the run after escaping from Azkaban,” I said.

Pineapple beamed. “Glad to hear he’s doing well. Huw was always such great fun.”

I glanced to the side and saw that Tegan and Snorky had stopped arguing about the merits of vegetarianism and were now pointedly glaring at one another.

Point for Team James!

“So, back to your fascinating life story, Pineapple,” I said smoothly.

“Right,” she said, polishing off her whisky. “Got into a bit a mischief at school – let me tell you, they do not want you smoking anything fun at Hogwarts. Did my N.E.W.T.s and graduated eventually, started getting into some harder stuff… Oh, I forgot, I got pregnant a few times but nipped those in the bud, if you know what I mean, and I started modelling and dabbling in bulimia, then I went through a lesbian phase, then I recorded a Christmas duet with my dad and it was a commercial disaster, then I went to rehab, then I escaped from rehab, then I went back to rehab again, then I was sober for almost three months, then I got pregnant so I started drinking again, after the abortion, I mean, and that’s basically it. Now I’m sitting here with you.”

I stopped chugging my butterbeer and said, “Wow! You’ve been very very busy, Pineapple!”

“I know, right?” she said. “So what about you, Harry Potter, Jr.? How’s your life been so far? What are your hopes and dreams and aspirations?”

“Well, my dream is to live in the country with my wife, our five children, and possibly a border collie,” I said so that Tegan could hear me. “I also want to play Chaser for the Chudley Cannons, but if that doesn’t work out I’d very much like to follow in your footsteps, Pineapple, and become a socialite and/or model on the basis of my family name.”

“The first idea isn’t so bad, you know,” said Pineapple sagely. “The country and the children and the Quidditch. I mean, I’ve accidentally become pregnant and I’ve gone to rehab quite often in my line of work.”

“Eh, I’m not too worried about becoming pregnant,” I joked.

Pineapple and I both burst out laughing. Such uproarious laughter was the key to the success of Eleni’s Plan, as Tegan could not help but take notice.

Just then, J.D. the Maître D’ swooped in with his tray. “I’ve got yer tofurkey burgers right here, l’il man and l’il lady,” he said, carelessly dropping Tegan and Snorky’s plates on their table.

“Hey Schlomo, can I have a vodka tonic?” asked Tegan. “Light on the tonic. Oh wait, can you see if you have something stronger in the back, like moonshine? Pardner?”

“I’m gonna hafta see some identification to make sure yer old enough to buy alcohol, darlin’,” said J.D.

“Schlomo, I’d like to see your identification,” said Tegan. “You know, to make sure you’re old enough to sell liquor in the first place.”

J.D., who was still sixteen, just smiled at her. “One thing o’ moonshine, comin’ up.”

“Um, Mr Schlomo?” said Pineapple Wig. “You’re just standing there with my ketchup sandwich and I’d very much like to eat it.”

“Right, you folks,” said J.D., turning to our table. “Here’s yer ketchup sandwich, ma’am.”

“And I’ll need another whisky straight away,” said Pineapple.

“Fine,” said J.D., growing weary and looking to me. “I’m sorry, pardner, but there’s a mistake on the menu. The kitchen has informed me that there ain’t no such thing as The Leaky Broomstick’s Infamous Scottish Lobster.”

“Shucks, there ain’t no such thing?” I said mockingly. “I’ll just have another butterbeer then, Schlomo.”

“Phase Three of the Plan better show up soon,” J.D. whispered to me.

“Tell Tegan that you’re fresh out of moonshine and give her a vodka tonic, but light on the vodka,” I whispered back.

“Done,” said J.D. “I’ll squeeze a bit of lime into a glass of water. She won’t know the difference.”

J.D. the Maître D’ left, and I saw Pineapple begin to eat her crustless ketchup sandwich. I think she was trying to savour it or something, because she’d take a tiny bite and chew it for over a minute before swallowing. It was pretty disgusting.

“Pineapple has the right idea, Tegs,” said Snorky patronisingly. “She’s enjoying a nutritious, one hundred per cent vegetarian meal.”

“Shut up, Snorky,” growled Tegan.

“Babe, why’re you in such a strop?” asked Snorky. “Are you riding the crimson wave?”

“Pardon?” said Tegan. “Excu— Oh God, no! I swear, Snorky, if you call me ‘babe’ one more time I am going to castrate you.”

“I’m just trying to figure out what’s bothering you!” said Snorky. “You’re quite possibly the worst communicator in the world!”

“That may be true, but you’re so delusional it’s ridiculous!” said Tegan. “I don’t like you, Snorky, and now I know that I will never like you because you’re arrogant and controlling and disrespectful of me as both a woman and a carnivore. I’m sorry if this comes across as harsh, but after spending the past three hours with you, there’s almost nothing I find redeeming about your character!”

Snorky thought for a moment. “I don’t understand what you’re saying. You want to take things slow?”

Tegan looked as if she might pull out fist-fulls of her hair. “I want to destroy you,” she whispered.

Suddenly, two thunderous popping sounds echoed throughout the pub as two cloaked figures Apparated in. They were two men, as far as I could tell, and the stockier one landed gracefully on his two feet in the centre of The Three Broomsticks while the leaner one hovered in the air above the bar for a moment before falling directly on J.D., who was preparing drinks. The Apparator quickly recovered and ran with his partner to the rear of the pub, where we were sitting. The two men wore large badges that said AUROR on their blue cloaks and they both had their wands drawn and pointed at Snorky Scamander.

“You’re under arrest!” shouted the stocky one, who also happened to have a darker complexion.

“Hands in the air, Scamander!” exclaimed the thinner, fair-skinned Auror.

“What is the meaning of this?” asked Snorky.

“Stand up, Scamander, and put your hands where we can see them!” said the first Auror, who looked and sounded an awful lot like my cousin Freddie.

“Make us ask again and we’ll fricking Crucio your arse!” said the second, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Micah Horowitz.

As Snorky jumped up and raised his hands in mercy, I noticed the identical moustaches that the Aurors were wearing and realised that they were not Aurors at all, but dim-witted schoolboys with hearts of gold.

“Please, sirs, may I ask what I’m being arrested for?” asked Snorky, his voice shaking. He almost never let his guard down, which was why most people considered him to be a smarmy git, but facing arrest, Snorky looked as if he might wet himself.

“Treason!” said Fred.

“Racketeering!” said Micah.

“Pizzo!” said Fred.

“And barratry with the intent of illegal scuttling!” said Micah.

“Pardon?” said Snorky. “I don’t know what any of those mean, except for treason.”

“Aha, a confession!” said Fred.

“The Wizengamot will hear of this, ye felonious swine!” said Micah.

They each grabbed one of Snorky’s arms and as they began to Side-Along Disapparate away, Snorky called, “Tegan! I love you! Remember me always!”

But then the three of them were gone.

Tegan, who had watched this all unfold in horror, fell forward and rested her face on the table. Meanwhile, Pineapple continued to munch happily on her ketchup sandwich, seemingly unfazed by the fake arrest of Snorky Scamander.

J.D. the Maître D’ rushed over and sat in Snorky’s chair, his eye bruised from when Micah fell on him. “Was that Phase Three?” he whispered to me, although it was difficult to hear as Tegan had begun repeatedly smacking her forehead against the table.

“Yeah,” I replied. “Say what you will about El…a certain person we know’s mother, but she schemes big and is willing to cross all sorts of lines.”

“Mate, she can’t hear you,” said J.D., nodding towards Tegan, who would surely develop a concussion if she didn’t stop hitting her head against the table. “Personally, I think it was the moustaches that really made it work. Hell, I think I’m going to start wearing this thing on a regular basis.”

Glancing at off-her-rocker Tegan, I asked of J.D., “You were Phase Two, yeah?”

He was eating one of the chips from Snorky Scamander’s plate. “Darn tootin’.”

“Please don’t take this the wrong way,” I said carefully, “but what exactly did you contribute to the overall Grand Master Plan?”

J.D. thought to himself for a moment. “Nothing, I suppose. Eleni wanted a man on the inside and I was meant to gradually commence the sabotage of Tegan and Snorky’s date – spill things on them, like – but by the time they arrived I saw that Snorky had already done a proper job of mucking it up, poor little bastard. Also, it had to be cut for time.”

“Cut for time?” I repeated.

“Pardon?” said J.D. “What are you on about?”

“What are you on about?” I demanded.

“Sorry mate, I gotta go,” J.D. said, tapping the wristwatch he wasn’t wearing and running off. “Lunch rush.”

Pineapple Wig took a break from savouring the ketchup sandwich she still hadn’t finished eating to say, “D’you reckon we ought to bring Tegan to hospital before she breaks that table?”

I sighed. “Yeah. I’ll carry Tegan up to the school if you remember to tell J.D. to send the bill to Eleni.”

“J.D. is who, exactly?” asked Pineapple as I grabbed the now unconscious Tegan and threw her over my shoulder like a rag doll.

“Schlomo O’Tonto,” I clarified. “I apologise for leaving before you’ve finished eating, Pineapple, but it was very nice to meet you.”

“Likewise,” said Pineapple Wig, smiling distantly, “but go take care of Tegan, James. She’s had a bad day.”

A/N: I apologize profusely for the long wait for this chapter, but school can be pesky and time-consuming, eh? Your feedback and criticism is more than welcome, so leave a review if you’d like!

Happy Holidays!

Chapter 24: Boom Goes The Dynamite
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"It was on the moral side, and in my own person, that I learned to recognise the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both."

-Robert Louis Stevenson, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

"Around the third hour, the weird stuff started," said Fred, fidgeting in his seat. "Snorky stopped trying to bribe us and he became all cheery and submissive."

"And he stopped struggling," Micah added. "I kicked him a few times but he thanked me."

Dobby Longbottom, who had set up an office in the surprisingly roomy cupboard under the stairs in Gryffindor Tower, leaned back in the chair he had nicked from the adjacent common room and pushed his fake glasses up his nose.

"Were you otherwise violent towards Snorky?" asked Doctor Dobby as calmly and methodically as a professional. He practically was, I suppose: Within one week of its release, D. Francis Longbottom's self-help book topped The Daily Prophet's bestsellers list and became a bona fide sensation in Wizarding Britain. No one knew who D. Francis Longbottom was, of course, but perhaps the mystery added to the appeal.

"No, not really," Freddie said earnestly. "Yeah, we tied him to a chair and held him hostage in the Shrieking Shack for seven hours, but Micah only kicked him what, a dozen times?"

"A baker's dozen, max," said Micah. "Or kidnapper's dozen, if you will."

Dobby looked at me for the first time since this session began. "James, I'm sorry, but I'm beginning to feel obligated to tell my dad about this, or at least the Wizengamot."

"Please, Dobby," I said, sitting on the floor by the door. "I brought Freddie and Micah to talk to you cos you're the smartest person I know, and I'm sure you can sort out whatever is wrong with Snorky."

Ever since Eleni Richelieu had enlisted Micah and Fred to masquerade as Aurors and kidnap Snorky Scamander, my arch nemesis hadn't been quite right. For one thing, he moved back into our dormitory, with all the other sixth-year Gryffindor boys, and he was kind and friendly to everyone. We had to get Snorky back to his rightful angry and haughty state of mind before one of the teachers noticed, and time was of the essence, especially since he was scheduled to commentate the Gryffindor v. Hufflepuff Quidditch match in seven days. (It would be the first match after the strike and the entire school was sure to attend, plus the Ministry's Quidditch Commissioner and several news reporters.)

"And you two," I said to Fred and Micah, "why in the world did you hold Snorky hostage for seven hours?"

"Tegan's mum wanted him good and scared," said Micah nonchalantly. "Plus, in our defence, it took Snorky six hours to recognise us through our disguises."

"Through your false moustaches?" I asked. "And how does that help your defence?"

"He was in his happy place by then and he's demonstrated no contempt towards us in the days to follow," said Micah. "Quite the contrary, we can't rid ourselves of the little bugger. Also, for the record, I still hate you, Potter, and I only kidnapped Snorky cos Ms Richelieu paid us five Galleons and I only agreed to be psychoanalysed by this insuffrable child cos you promised us sweets, you racist piece of bigotry."

"You'll get your bloody Chocolate Cauldrons when Dobby has fixed Snorky," I said, tired. "We have a Quidditch match in one week and Dobby, if anyone can help Snorky, it's you."

"Yes, I suppose you're right," Dobby finally said, "but I still don't approve of the kidnapping and whatever other felonies you lot committed for a reason you won't tell me."

"It was a very good reason," I insisted.

Dobby sighed. "The ends don't always justify the means, children, but it seems like Tegan's mum needs this lecture more than you do."

"Yeah, but she isn't here right now and the most anticipated Quidditch match of the year is fast approaching," said Freddie. "You've diagnosed James and J.D. and Pepe the Pyro, so Snorky should be a walk in the park!"

"Yes, I have performed a few miracles," said Dobby smugly. "All right, lads, I believe I can identify the exact affliction plaguing Snorky's consciousness."

"Let's have it, then!" I said.

"Unfortunately," Dobby said as he leafed through a thick, leatherbound book that said Freudian Psychoanalysis for Wizards, "it will almost definitely take longer than a week to bring Snorky back to his unpleasant, contemptible self."

"OUT WITH IT!" said me, Freddie, and Micah together.

Coolly, Dobby said, "It is my professional opinion that Snorky is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome."

"Pardon?" I said.

"That sounds like the name of a Swedish pop group," said Fred.

"Stockholm syndrome is a psychological condition in which an abductee develops an emotional bond with his or her captors and feels a sense of loyalty to them. It's a defence mechanism of the ego, and it's usually invoked by a particularly traumatic kidnapping," explained Dobby.

"I only kicked him a little!" said Micah. "He took Quidditch away for a really long time and I hate him!"

"Emotional bond?" I said to Dobby. "Like, Snorky loves Freddie and Micah, even though they held him hostage for seven hours?"

"'Love' is a stretch, but it appears that Snorky certainly cares for them," said Dobby. "It might not make much sense to you or me, but it's quite amazing how the mind will rationalise even the most horrific of situations. Although as I understand it, Stockholm syndrome is a more common result of lengthier kidnappings."

"So why the hell does Snorky love us for tying him to a chair in the Shrieking Shack for seven hours?" asked Fred.

"I have long suspected that Snorky has no superego to regulate his warring id and ego, and his normal disposition as a selfish twat indicates that his id usually wins out," said Dobby. "Apparently being held hostage has triggered his ego to overcompensate, tricking his id into believing the delusions of Stockholm Syndrome. Such an imbalance between the id and the ego would be enough to make anyone love you and Micah after being tied up for seven hours, Fred. Or was it three hours before he became submissive?"

"Enough with trying to understand Snorky's psyche!" said Micah. "You have to fix his brain before Saturday!"

"We're sorry we kidnapped him but we want the old, wretched Snorky back," said Freddie. "The new, loveable Snorky is getting on my last nerve."

"But Fred, I like the new me," said Snorky Scamander, who sat on the settee Dobby had managed to squeeze in the small end of the cupboard, daftly smiling the entire time. "You and Micah are so great and I love being friends with you."

"WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT KEEPING YOUR GROTESQUE MOUTH SHUT DURING THIS GODDAMN PSYCHOANALYSIS THING?" Micah shouted at Snorky. "Don't you DARE speak again unless spoken to, Scamander! And I BELIEVE you were told to address us as Misters Horowitz and Weasley!"

"I'm so sorry, Mr Horowitz!" cried Snorky, burying his head in his hands.

"See, Dobby?" I said. "We can't let Snorky commentate the Quidditch match in this condition and risk getting in trouble for a kidnapping that wasn't our idea! What's the cure for Stockholm Syndrome?"

He consulted his fancy psychology book. "I'm not entirely sure," said Dobby reluctantly. "They recommend waiting it out, but this is also a Muggle book from 1979."

"Waiting it out? WAITING IT OUT?" Micah screeched as he jumped up from his chair. "That's not fricking good enough, Longbottom! What kind of charlatan Psychological Healer are you?"

"Don't shout at Dobby!" I said. "He is most certainly not a charlatan!"

"Will you please shut up, James?" Freddie started. "If it wasn't for you we wouldn't even be in this shiteous predicament!"

"For Merlin's sake!" exclaimed Dobby. "I sincerely hope that when I'm sixteen, I don't devolve into an immature jackass like you lot have!"

Me and Fred looked at our respective feets in shame, but Micah said, "I didn't devolve into nothin'. I've always been an immature jackass."

"Your mother must be so proud," said Dobby dryly. "Returning to more pressing matters, I can devise for Snorky a particularly rigourous counselling programme, to be held with me and to be implemented over the course of this week, which will hopefully expedite the 'waiting it out' process that Micah is so opposed to and cure Snorky's Stockholm Syndrome before the Quidditch match."

Micah glared at Dobby. "Was that a shot at me, Longbottom?"

"What would this counselling programme entail, exactly?" Freddie asked. "You're not going to hurt Snorky, are you?"

"Preferably not, Dobs," I added. "We don't want any of this to be traceable to us, remember."

"Of course I'm not going to hurt Snorky," said Dobby incredulously. "Not everyone solves their problems by kicking them, you know. And Micah, that actually was a shot at you."

"Fair enough," said Micah.

"As I was saying, my plan is to delicately but expediently rid Snorky of his Stockholm Syndrome through some very intense therapy sessions," Dobby continued. "It won't be easy to cram a month of counselling into one week, and I don't expect that Snorky or I will attend many lessons or meals, but I am willing to try my very hardest to get Snorky into top form if he is willing to work very hard as well. How does that sound, Snorky?"

Snorky sat trembling on the couch and looked to Micah, who nodded at him, and said to Dobby, "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."

Dobby shut the book he was holding and beamed. "All right, gentlemen, it seems we have a course of action! Clear out, clear out, except for Mr Scamander here. Oh, and James, might I have a quick word?"

Freddie and Micah exited the cupboard like the ghost of Voldemort was chasing them, while I hung back. Snorky sat obediently on his couch and Dobby Longbottom, at the opposite end of the room to Snorky, wore a pained expression.

"I'm pleased that you trust me as a confidant not just for yourself, but for J.D. and now Micah and Fred," Dobby said carefully, "but if I'm to invest so much time in counselling Snorky - and not even with all the time in the world could I guarantee a successful restoration of his self without a generous dollop of luck - I can't help but feel as if some sort of monetary compensation is in order."

"Oh," I said, feeling the traditional discomfort that accompanied this subject.

"Forgive my audacity," said Dobby, his cheeks reddening. "I'm happy to help you and your friends whenever you need someone to talk to - you all make for terribly interesting cases - but given the severity of Snorky's condition and the fact that I must neglect my homework and other obligations over the course of this week, I was hoping that I might be paid an appropriate and reasonable sum."

"Oh," I said. "I see where you're coming from... You're right, of course."

"Also, Snorky is a bit of an unpleasant fellow and his vendetta against my dad rubs me the wrong way," he added.

"Right," I said.

"So I hope my request doesn't make you uncomfortable," said Dobby. "Perhaps I just feel a tad overwhelmed after hearing all those felonies that Fred and Micah committed."

"No, Dobby," I said. "I've taken enough advantage of your generosity as it is. We'd love to pay you for any help you can give Snorky, but I'm afraid... I'm afraid that me and the lads have a slight cash flow problem. As in the cash flows more out than in, to the point that there's no more cash."

"Ah," said Dobby.

"Yes," I said.

Dobby Longbottom took off his fake psychoanalysing glasses and began to chew on one of the ends. "I'm sorry even to ask, because I do feel as if we've formed a friendship, James, but I wouldn't accept more than an extremely reasonable sum anyway--"

"It's the cash flow problem again," I interrupted. "We don't even have an extremely reasonable sum of money, if you put mine and J.D.'s and Freddie's and Micah's life savings together. I could ask Tegan but I hate asking her for money, or I could ask my mum and dad, but they'll certainly ask questions."

"I have money!" came a mousy voice from the opposite end of the cupboard. Snorky Scamander was sitting up straight and wearing a broad grin, like a child in the proverbial sweet shop.

"What was that, Snorky?" Dobby asked him.

"Please don't tell Micah or Fred that I spoke out of turn," Snorky said quickly, "because I promised I'd be a good boy, but I have loads of money hidden in a sock at the bottom of my trunk. I solicited quite a few bribes during the V.O.L.D.E.M.O.R.T. strike, at least several hundred Galleons worth. I don't trust the Gringotts goblins with it because I'm terribly prejudiced against half-breeds, but you're welcome to as much of it as you think appropriate, Dr Longbottom."

I looked at Dobby. "Well, that was easy."

He nodded. "I suppose it's logical for Snorky to pay for his own sessions," said Dobby. "Does everyone agree that five Galleons per hour is a reasonable fee? Excellent. Let's begin our first session, Snorky. If you'll please excuse us, James."

I tiptoed out of the cupboard and shut the door quietly behind me before heading up the stairs to the sixth-year boys' dormitory.

Upon opening the door to aforementioned dormitory, I discovered the sight of four lanky and disproportionate teenaged bodies lying upon my bed, each with their hands folded across their stomachs as if in prayer: Tegan was squeezed between J.D. and Micah with their heads on my pillows, and Freddie lay perpendicular at their six feet.

"Shenanigans!" I cried, out of confusion more than anything else.

But, as is typical for my Gryffies, they were not in the middle of some silent prayer: J.D. and Micah were shouting quite wildly at each other, in what was almost certainly one of their silliest arguments ever.

"Come off it!" said J.D.

"It's the truth, I'm telling you!" said Micah. "'Moot' means the opposite of what everyone thinks it means!"

"So you're saying that there's this worldwide conspiracy to prevent people from discovering the true definition of the word 'moot'?" J.D. scoffed.

"No, of course not," said Micah. "It's only developed in the past few decades because of the growing presence of America and their penchant for linguistic snafus."

"Can you even hear yourself right now?" said J.D.

"You used 'moot' incorrectly, meaning to no longer have any relevance," said Micah. "It actually means the opposite, to be worthy of argument or debate, but no one knows this because they hear everyone else use it the wrong way."

"Who cares?" said J.D. "If everyone on the planet uses 'moot' incorrectly, as you insist, then the definition of the word should change! Language should be fluid and reflect, I dunno, the way people actually use it!"

"That isn't the issue here!" said Micah. "You still used the wrong definition of 'moot' but you don't want to admit it."

"I'll decide this," said Tegan, extracting her wand from her pocket. "Accio dictionary!"

The room was absolutely still.

"Accio dictionary!" Tegan repeated.

Again, nothing happened.

"Merlin, do none of you even own a dictionary?" she asked.

"So it would seem," said Fred.

"Micah doesn't need a dictionary cos he already knows the definition of every bloody word known to wizardkind," said J.D. snidely.

"No, I only know the definition for 'moot' because I'm interested in the law," Micah said. "I'd like to become a lawyer, after I become a rich and famous Quidditch player, obviously."

"I can't believe you lot have four copies of Quidditch Through the Ages but not one dictionary!" said Tegan.

Before someone could incite another argument about the intricacies of the English language, I asked the twenty-four thousand Galleon question.

"What're you all doing on my bed?" I asked.

"It's closest to the stove," said Fred, "or the little door where most of the heat escapes, as it were. Anyway, it's the warmest."

"It also smells the least like a dead animal decaying in a pile of compost on a hot summer's day," said Tegan. "No offence to the rest of you swines."

"None taken," said J.D., Freddie, and Micah in unison.

"Lovely," said Tegan. "James, what did Dobby say about Snorky? Not that I care about his well being, because I don't, but since these stooges broke into verbal fisticuffs before the door swung shut behind them, we've not yet addressed anything of a relevant nature."

"That reminds me," I said, crossing over to Snorky's area of the room and rummaging through his trunk. Upon discovering a lumpy woollen sock, I held it aloft and continued, "Snorky's minted!"

Tegan regarded me sceptically. "Looks like a foul old sock to me."

"No, it's full of money," I said, shaking the coins satisfyingly and wedging a spot for myself between J.D. and Fred. "Remind me to give it to Dobby later. Oh, and Snorky has some personality disorder called the Helsinki Pestilence, but Dobby says he can sort him out before the Gryffinpuff match."

"Oh, that's good," said Tegan. "For you lot, I mean, not Snorky. Of course it's good for Snorky, but it's better to sweep this under the table before you're all arrested for kidnapping."

"Amen, sister," said Freddie serenely.

"I'm actually mildly impressed by your misguided efforts to save me from my pity date," said Tegan. "James's plans almost never come that close to success, so well done."

I felt a lump rise in my throat. "Thanks, but I really can't take credit for it. It was very much an, erm, a team effort."

"Aren't you usually the architect of all outrageous Gryffie plans?" she asked. "I mean, who else would give a care about my love life?"

"Not me," said J.D.

"Nor me," said Fred.

"I believe it's 'not I,'" said Micah.

"I don't care about your love life!" I said, my adolescent voice squeaking. "Maybe I was just a patsy! Why should I care? You're just my friend, with whom I share the most platonic of all bonds. I think, in a criminal investigation, the Wizengamot would discover that I was very much--"

"Does anyone have the time?" J.D. asked casually.

"Quarter to eight," replied Fred, glancing at his wristwatch.

"Bollocks," said J.D. "I have to be boyfriendly and meet Rosie at eight so that we can meet her inane friends for Ladies Night, which, I'm sorry to say, is when the four of them sit around the common room and drink non-alcoholic cocktails and pretend that their pathetic existences, minus Rosie's, are worth giving a damn about. Mind you, Rosie's the only one of them with a boyfriend so the entire discourse is comprised of how all men ought to have their good bits chopped off, which is exactly why I have to go, so Rosie can rub it in their sorry single faces that she has a fella and they don't, right. That and apparently we've been spending all our time with my friends and not hers cos of Quidditch training, like it wasn't even her idea that she should try out for Quidditch!"

It was then that Micah let out a very loud sigh, but we all decided to ignore him.

"I'm not going to rat you out, James," said Tegan. "Sure, you have reason to be distraught, considering that we were, uhhh, romantically involved for a time, and you always hatch ridiculous schemes when you're distraught, but I'd never want to get four of my closest friends in trouble for what could be interpreted as humanitarian work."

Micah gave another blatant sigh of ennui, but I was far more troubled by my guilt that Tegan appeared to have no idea that her mother was the true mastermind behind the unfortunate events that transpired this past Valentine's Day. I hadn't yet told her the truth, obviously, in part because she was sure to be furious with me but also because I wasn't sure that the truth needed to be told. She'd figured most of it out on her own anyway and really, the unabridged version of the truth would only hurt her. And possibly me, since Tegan was sure to hex me into next Tuesday for co-conspiring with her mother.

"Goddamn girlfriends with their goddamn friends and their goddamn fruit-flavoured virgin martinis," grumbled J.D.

It was Micah's third woeful sigh that garnered any sort of reaction from the rest of us, probably because it was closer to a spattergroitic coughing fit than either of his previous attempts.

Sounding tired and unamused, Fred inquired, "Micah, whatever is the matter?"

"Oh, nothing," he replied, his face forlorn and his tone full of exaggerated weltschmerz. "It's just that all this talk of J.D. and Rose's bliss reminds me of the special feelings I used to have for another Weasley cousin."

"Who you talking about, Mic?" asked Tegan.

"Madeleine!" said Micah. "Madeleine Weasley, daughter of Bill and some French bird, with whom I was amorously involved for an extended period of time?"

"Her?" said Fred.

"Nope, I haven't the foggiest recollection of that either, sorry," I said.

"Some friends you are," said Micah under his breath. "But I suppose it's just as well, because the flame that Madeleine ignited in my heart has gone cold and will probably never catch light again. Although sometimes," he turned his head towards Tegan, who was on his left, "I still yearn for the soft, gentle touch of a woman to ease the pain of knowing that I have forever lost the great love of my life."

Tegan grimaced and inched towards J.D. "I can't help you with that," she said hollowly.

"With what?" said Micah. "Oh, you mean... Oh God, no! Eughhh, why would you think that I... Ick, no thank you. God, if I'm ever that desperate... No, the very notion is too disgusting even on a hypothetical basis."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Tegan demanded.

"Uhhh," Micah said, "J.D., you're an eloquent man, perhaps you could assist with this."

"Sure," said J.D. "Tegan, the problem isn't that you're not beautiful, it's that you're plain. As a rule, men usually like attractive women."

"Teg, I love you like a brother," added Micah, "but an awkward, stringy little brother who everyone suspects is an adopted member of the family. Do you see the problem here?"

"For Merlin's sake!" said Tegan. "I doubt I'm half as ugly as you say I am, and even if I were, my so-called friends should stop objectifying me and all other women because everybody in our society objectifies women and that's why we have to starve ourselves to stay thin and get big fake boobs installed to remain sexually desirable and lose sight of our long-term goals to pop out half a dozen kids, who'll no doubt grow up to be conceited, misogynistic assholes like you two!"

Micah tutted. "Being opinionated makes you even less attractive, I'm afraid."

"Guys like their girls stupid," J.D. said. "Trust me - Rosie is the cleverest in her year and it's my least favourite thing about her."

Tegan scowled. "James, Freddie, a little help?"

"Ermmm," said Fred, "if it makes you feel any better, having you here makes the situation seem less gay - you know, four lads sharing a bed and all."

"Stop being mean to Tegan," I said. "She's gorgeous and if you can't see that, then...then maybe you need glasses!"

"Or maybe a peckerectomy, courtesy of one of Rose's stupid friends," Tegan added. "Thanks Potter - perhaps it's too little, too late, but I'll take it. And J.D. and Micah, suck it! James is proof that at least one male at one time found me to be at least somewhat attractive."

"You're so bloody defensive," said J.D. to himself.

"Honestly Teg, James isn't the best example of a red-blooded he-man," said Micah. "No offence, James. By the way, I have good news: I've completely forgiven you for a certain anti-Muggleborn slur you used in reference to me many moons ago. You bringing Snorky to Dobby Longbottom - although you essentially created the problem - might just save mine and Freddie's respective asses, and so I have realised that perhaps there is some good in you after all, provided you keep your hateful tongue in check. So in the spirit of taking the moral high road, I do formally and fully forgive you for any grievances committed against me, Micah J. Horowitz."

"Oh, good," I said, having forgotten that Micah was ever angry with me for calling him the M word.

"I'm not done!" said Tegan. "The objectification of women in magazines and in wizard rap and everywhere else in the media is absolute bullshit, and I happen to know that both of your mothers would kick your asses for perpetuating this poisonous mindset! And James and Freddie, your lack of any real support does not go unnoticed and moves each of you three places up on my Enemies List."

"Why am I on the list and J.D. and Micah aren't?" asked Fred.

"You need a list to keep track of your enemies?" I asked.

"Of course they're on my Enemies List, Weasley," said Tegan, "and they're currently ranked third and fourth, after Eleni and Lewd Wig. Yes, Potter, because how else am I supposed to remember why I hate the people I hate?"

"You do realise that your four best friends are on this list, yeah?" said J.D.

"Good grief, you're completely overreacting!" said Micah. "Look, I apologise if I hurt your feelings by saying that I'd never ever shag you, but you don't need to turn this into some hysterical feminist cause."

"Oh, now I'm hysterical?" Tegan demanded.

"Frankly, yes," said Micah.

Tegan scrambled off my bed and began to head for the door, but before exiting she whipped around in a great huff, pointed her wand at an unsuspecting Micah, and shouted, "Pantaloneus Tendo!"

With the most painful sort of cry any man can make, Micah screeched and he fell to the floor. The back band of his boxers had shot from out of his trousers and covered the majority of his head, indicating that Tegan's was an uncommonly severe Wedgie Jinx.

Freddie and I were frozen, but J.D. cackled wildly at Micah's misfortune. Micah, understandably, remained twitching and moaning on the floor.

"You think that's funny, dickhead?" Tegan demanded of J.D. "Eat pants!"

With another declaration of Pantaloneus Tendo, Tegan shot a burst of fluorescent green light at J.D. and, just like Micah, he fell to the floor, writhing and screaming in pain, with his skivvies pulled so high that they nearly covered his eyes.

Sighing contentedly, Tegan said, "That's more like it. I'm off to make the necessary adjustments to my Enemies List, ta!" and left the dormitory.

"Should we be grateful that she spared us?" Fred asked me as soon as Tegan slammed the door shut behind her.

"I s'pose," I said as J.D. and Micah each tried, umpteen times and always unsuccessfully, to take their undershorts from off of their heads.

"What kind of Wedgie Jinx is this?" Micah screamed.

"It's official," said J.D., still trying to unwedgie himself. "I hate women."

"That reminds me," said Freddie, looking at his watch. "You're five minutes late for Rosie's little soirée."

"Fuck it," said J.D. "I've more important things to do, such as getting the circulation back to my balls."

"You know, I have no bloody idea how you two can go from arguing the definition of 'moot' one minute to ganging up on Tegan the next!" I shouted, standing up on my bed to better see the whimpering lads whom I was addressing. "You're supposed to be her friends - even if she was really ugly, which she most certainly is not, you shouldn't tell her that, cos then you're being a really shitty friend! I know you're both shallow and self-absorbed, but it's like you try to provoke her and hurt her feelings to make yourselves feel more masculine, or whatever! That's crap and you both should know better than that, and I'm... I'm disappointed in the both of you."

There were a few moments of silence before J.D. said, "Mate, she's gone. You've come to her rescue five minutes too late for her to see it."

Scowling, I sat on my bed and folded my arms, feeling absolutely miserable on the inside - not just because of what J.D. said, but because I couldn't shake off the guilt that I hadn't yet told Tegan the truth about Eleni's involvement in the events of that past Valentine's Day. I was afraid to tell her the truth because I was afraid she'd hate me for it, but lo and behold, now she hated me anyway, for completely unrelated reasons.

With Micah and J.D. having given up trying to unwedgie themselves, Freddie chuckled and said, "At least Quidditch comes back in seven days."

A/N: I am SO sorry for this inexcusably long wait. (That is, if I still have any readers left.) Life has become extremely busy and I'm afraid there's nothing I can do to change that, but I promise that I'll do the best I can to minimize the wait between chapters. Thank you so much for your continued patience, and thanks for reading.

Chapter 25: Cuckoo Bananas
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"Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo."

-H.G. Wells, The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman

At breakfast the morning of the Gryffindor v. Hufflepuff Quidditch match, the Gryffies' great return to the noble sport of warlocks, something extraordinary happened, the likes of which we never thought we'd see again: Micah Horowitz got his mojo back.

"How can you even say that?" the Micahnator demanded as we sat at the Gryffindor table, once again dressed in our scarlet Quidditch robes.

"It's my opinion!" said J.D. "Why must you always attack my principles?"

"This is the most ridiculous argument I've ever had the misfortune to be privy to," said Tegan, sitting beside me. She had begrudgingly forgiven me and the lads for any prior misogynistic comments we'd made (mostly J.D. and Micah) for the sake of productive Quidditch training sessions and general Gryffie cohesiveness, but I could tell she wasn't thrilled about it.

"You shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition," Micah said to Tegan, spreading a generous amount of marmalade on a piece of toast.

She made an obscene gesture with her middle and forefinger, which caused Micah to roll his eyes.

"I don't even remember what you two were arguing about," Freddie said to J.D.

"Arguing about this morning or last week?" asked J.D.

"What you were arguing about five minutes ago, until the unpleasant business of prepositions came up," I said.

J.D. shrugged. "Who can remember?"

"We're almost always arguing about something," said Micah.

"I believe it was whether wizardkind would be wiped out in a zombie apocalypse by traditional voodoo zombies or an army of inferi," said Tegan bitterly. "Not if we would all be killed by a zombie apocalypse, but how we'll be wiped out in the forthcoming zombie apocalypse that will, I repeat, one day kill us all."

"Inferi," said Rosie, sitting next to J.D. and helping herself to some breakfast. "Obviously. How are traditional zombies a threat to anyone with magical training?"

At which point, a short girl with yellow hair tiptoed over to Micah and said, "Good luck with the match today, Micah," in a soft voice.

But Micah didn't hear. "Have you no sense of history, Weasley?" he shouted at Rose. "Have you never seen a zombie film? They eat brains. Inferi just wander around looking mildly ominous."

"A Muggle film?" asked Rosie. "I've read about them - they're called talkies, yeah? - but no, I've not seen a Muggle zombie film. My parents are wizards."

Micah sputtered something that sounded like "Talkies?" before recovering and asserting, "My house. Over the holidays. I'm holding an intervention in the form of a horror movie marathon and I expect all of you to show up. There needs to be a serious education here."

"Hmm, no," Rose said abruptly.

The round-faced girl who'd wished Micah good luck coughed but lingered. He still did not notice her, and it was awkward.

"You are most egregious, Rose Weasley!" declared Micah. "Most egregious!"

"Well, your face is egregious," said Rosie.

"Stop arguing!" said J.D. "The two of you are supposed to fight with me, remember? That's how it's meant to be, separate and with me!"

"We have a Quidditch match in less than an hour," I said calmly, "so maybe this isn't the best time for any intra-Gryffie squabbles."

"Can I help that I feel jealous when I see Micah arguing with my girlfriend, or my girlfriend arguing with my Micah?" said J.D. "It's unsettling!"

"Seems fairly dysfunctional to me," said Fred, downing a shot of pumpkin juice.

"May I help you with something?" Tegan shouted at the girl hovering behind Micah, who appeared too frightened to move when all eyes fell on her.

"I'm sorry to interrupt," the girl said, her voice shaking. "I'm so impolite, pardon me."

"So what do you think?" asked Micah, unfazed. "Zombies or inferi?"

"Errrr," said Odd Rando Girl. "Both are quite formidable, I suppose."

"How diplomatic of you," J.D. murmured.

"Bah!" said Micah in a frustrated manner. "Away with you!"

But the Rando did not flee, as would have been wisest for anyone not wanting to provoke Micah's wrath.

"Who are you?" I asked, because somebody had to.

"Rachel Cohen," said the Rando. "I'm in your year."

"Really?" said Tegan, regarding her like an alien life form. "What house are you in?"

"Gryffindor," said Rachel Cohen, taken aback. "We've lived in the same dormitory for six years."

Tegan now looked embarrassed as well as befuddled. "We have?"

"Yes," said Rachel Cohen, uncomfortable. "With that girl called Marinda and her two friends."

"Ohhh, Miranda Matilda Melinda Shitforbrains," said Tegan. "I've had a fifth roommate for all this time?"

Rachel Cohen blinked. "Yes."

"Well, I've never seen you before," said Micah with an air of authority.

"We've taken all of the same classes for six years," said Rachel Cohen after a moment's hesitation.

"Yeah?" said Micah, sceptical.

"Yes," she said, not so much insulted as bewildered. "And we were in the same Hebrew school class for five years before that, I think."

"Errrr," said Micah, "I never paid much attention in Hebrew school. You're sure you don't have me confused with someone else?"

"I don't think so," she said. "There aren't that many Jewish Muggle-borns from Durham in our year. Plus you sort of look like you did when you were younger, except taller and stringier."

Micah thought for a moment. "Oh."

"So you're some girl," said J.D. smugly, "who's lived with Tegan for six years and gone to school with Micah for eleven, and both of them are so self-centred that they never noticed?"

"To be fair, we've been in the same house as her for six years and haven't noticed, which speaks volumes for our cognisance," said Freddie.

"It's quite all right," said Rachel Cohen. "I'm very quiet."

To break the silence that followed, I said, "Excellent. Pleasure to meet you, Rachel, but I'm afraid we must be off. Quidditch duty calls, yeah?"

"Oh, g'bye!" said Rachel the Rando, scuttling down the Gryffindor table. "Good luck with the match, Micah."

The six of us abandoned our plates and grabbed Mattie Thomas on our way out of the Great Hall, heading down to the Quidditch pitch slightly early but to avoid any more bizarre showdowns.

"Well, that was horrible," said J.D. as we galloped past the greenhouses. "Why'd you have to be so bloody cordial to her, J.S.?"

"So bloody cordial to whom?" asked Mattie Thomas.

"Rachel Cohen," I answered. "And it's because my parents taught me to treat everyone, even randos, with dignity and respect, J.Diz."

"What the hell was her problem?" said Micah. "She's like, 'We've been in all the same classes together since we were born,' and I'm all, 'I've never seen you circus freak before in my life,' and then she says, 'Because I have the stealth of a particularly cunning zombie, duh.' She's mental, Whatsherface is."

"Perhaps, but she fancies you," said Rosie sagaciously.

Micah stopped so short that he kicked up a cloud of dust where his heels dug into the path. "Come again?"

"That girl Rachel fancies you," said Rose, skipping down the hill.

J.D. and I each took one of Micah's arms and towed him behind us, so as not to dawdle.

"Whaaaa?" said Micah.

"Most definitely," said Tegan, marching along. "She likes you, Mike. Why, I haven't the faintest idea. You've ignored the girl for over half your life and you're showing no sign of ever getting a clue."

"At least I know everyone I live with!" said Micah. "You never even noticed Whatsherface until today, and you still don't know Miranda Matilda Melinda Shitforbrains's real name!"

"Stop fighting," I said, irritated. "Let's agree that we're all self-centred pricks."

"I'm not," Rosie insisted. "I've seen Rachel around before. Her best friend is a Slytherin called Kalliope Morningside, she's a prefect, and she plays the cor anglais in the Hogwarts Symphony Orchestra."

"How d'you know all that?" asked J.D.

"Because I'm terribly clever, love," Rose replied.

"Hold on," said Micah. "Rachel Cohen fancies me?"

"She does," said Rosie. "Girls don't wish good luck to boys they've known since Hebrew school, unsolicited, unless there's an ulterior motive."

"Agreed," said Tegan.

"Ulterior motive?" said Micah. "Quick, James: Was she well fit?"

"Pardon?" I said.

"Don't poof out on me now, Potter!" cried Micah. "Fred, J.D.?"

"I only like redheads," J.D. automatically answered.

"She's cute, maybe," said Freddie. "I dunno. We just saw her, Micah - don't you remember what she looks like?"

"I've never noticed her before, Alfred, so I'm probably gonna have some trouble noticing her now," snapped Micah.

"What's it matter what she looks like, hmm?" said Tegan. "Looks fade over the years, so isn't it her personality, or lack thereof, that matters?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Tegan," said Micah. "With youthfulness potions and cosmetic surgery, looks never have to fade."

"She's not my type - blonde, short, hovering," I said, "but she's pretty enough, I s'pose."

"Hmmmm," said Micah, deliberating.

As we passed Hagrid's hut (which was now in a dell halfway between the Whomping Willow and the Quidditch pitch) I heard a familiar, pubescent boy's voice call my name. "James, James! I have some news that I think you'll find of great interest!"

I turned around and saw Dobby Longbottom charging down the hill, his clothes dishevelled and his Psychological Healer glasses askew. He looked as if he'd been sprinting for quite some time, but as he wasn't the most athletic of young men, it was difficult to determine how much physical toil caused his fatigue.

"What's the crack, Dobmeister?" I inquired when he caught up with us.

"There's been a breakthrough with," Dobby paused to wheeze heartily, "Snorky Scamander. He remembers - oh Merlin, my aching lungs! - who he is and he wants to - ach, need oxygen! - commentate the Quidditch match. I've just left my office for the first time in seven days and I think it's going to be all right!"

"You fixed Snorky's brain?" I said as we approached the pitch. "He's back to his old ways?"

"I reckon so," said Dobby. "I've only just let him go but he appears to have no memory of his abduction or incarceration, so you lot probably won't be arrested for that."

"That's a relief!" said Micah.

"Dobby, you've spent the entirety of this past week in the cupboard under the stairs with Snorky?" asked Tegan, stopping in front of the girls' changing room. "What about lessons, or bathing, for that matter?"

"The commitment of a Psychological Healer is second only to his dedication," said Dobby Longbottom. "I'm going to run back to the castle and find some less fetid clothing, but best of luck with the match!" And with that, he spun around and wheezed his way towards the exit of the Quidditch pitch.

Tegan and Rosie ducked into their changing room while the lads and I entered ours.

"What a strange, strange morning this has been," Freddie remarked. "Let's hope it doesn't get any worse."

It did. Granted, the match began well enough with Gryffindor leading Hufflepuff 70 points to 10, but everything was about to go horribly, horribly wrong.

Later, we would recognise that it was all Snorky Scamander's fault.

"Oh, look at that, Rose Weasley of the Gryffies scores another goal," he droned from his perch high in the stands. "Can you spell 'nepotism'? I sure can! W-E-A-S-L-E-Y."

"Pick one or the other, you hypocritical piece of shit!" Rosie shouted as she flew by Snorky. "Am I on the team cos I kick ass or cos I'm related to two of 'em?"

"Bad form!" Snorky retaliated. "Did you hear that, Mr Bagman? Throw her out of the match!"

Snorky Scamander, looking haggard and manic, had asked Ludo Bagman (the Hogwarts Quidditch referee) to disqualify each of us Gryffies for bad behaviour at least once during the match thus far. Fortunately for Hufflepuff, he wasn't paying much attention to their side, but chances were that he didn't know their names anyway. Contrary to what Dobby Longbottom had assured us, Snorky did have some idea of what had transpired over the past week.

"Micah Horowitz in possession of the Quaffle," announced Snorky. "It's strange, because I have this recurring dream where Mr Horowitz and his comrade Fred Weasley kidnap me and hold me hostage in the Shrieking Shack and try to brainwash me in a terrifying attempt to achieve their insidious ends. But it must be nothing more than a nightmare, or else the Gryffindor Chaser and Beater could be convicted of abduction with malicious intent and could be locked away in Azkaban for sixty or seventy years, I reckon."

"Mr Scamander," Neville said sternly from the row behind Snorky, "your reinstatement as Quidditch commentator is valid only if you actually commentate on the match."

"Back off, Longbottom!" cried Snorky as he poked at Neville's eye patch with what appeared to be a very pointy stick. "I'm the most powerful sixteen-year-old wizard in Western Europe and you do not want me to call another strike!"

As one might imagine, it was very difficult to concentrate on the match when most of the real action was centred around Snorky Scamander, and what with my short attention span I did not play the greatest game of my life. Most of Hufflepuff's Chasers were distracted as well, a fact that Rosie took full advantage of, scoring again and again on the Hufflepuff Keeper.

"He's gone mental, he has," said Tegan as she flew beside me. "None of the teachers seem terribly concerned that Snorky just accused Fred 'n Micah of kidnapping him."

"Snorky is like the boy who cried basilisk," I said as I floated on my broomstick. "He's always going on about something ridiculous that when he's actually telling the truth, no one cares."

"And how," Tegan agreed. "Well, I should continue with my quest for the infamously elusive Golden Snitch before that Hufflepuff bugger gets it. Pip-pip!"

"Cheerio," I said as she flew off.

"And Rose Weasley of Gryffindor scores yet another goal, surprise surprise," Snorky said into his voice amplification device. "I strongly advise Mr Bagman that she be tested for performance-enhancing potions, because we wouldn't want the fair sport of Quidditch to be tainted by a doping scandal, would we?"

It was at this point that J.D. whacked a Bludger at Snorky, which unfortunately only narrowly missed his head.

"Foul!" Snorky raved. "Foul on Nott for the attempted murder of the commentator!"

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Neville whisper animatedly to Professor Viridian, but the headmaster just shrugged.

"I'll allow it," came Viridian's faint voice over the voice amplification system, as he was sitting right behind Snorky as well. "I can't afford another national economic depression on my hands."

"And Tegan Llewellyn, Seeker for Gryffindor, is circling the pitch," Snorky announced languidly. "Where should I start with Tegan Llewellyn? Well, I can't prove that she was involved with her friends' abduction of me, and maybe she is just an innocent bystander."

"Oh shit," said Freddie, who had flown beside me and had also given up on the match, for all intents and purposes, in favour of listening to Snorky's rambling. "This cannot end well."

"Tegan Llewellyn," continued Snorky, "is a wretched, depraved harpy of a woman who preyed upon my tender heart and ripped it from my thoractic cavity with her cruel, terrible talons."

I looked around for Tegan and spotted her hovering about halfway down the pitch, her mouth agape and her search for the Snitch momentarily forgotten. Almost all of the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff players appeared to have forgotten about the match, actually.

"We went on a date for Valentine's Day in Hogsmeade," said Snorky, "and she could not have been more disinterested. You hear that, Tegan? I know that you bought D. Francis Longbottom's If It’s Not You, Then Can It Really Be Me?: Uncovering The Truth About Your Misadventures In Love And Coming To Terms With The Fact That It Probably Is Your Fault at the bookshop while we were on our date!"

"Dobby's self-help book?" I whispered under my breath.

"And then you spent the rest of the day, or at least what I can remember, agonising over James Potter and that Pineapple broad," said Snorky, his voice echoing in the Quidditch stadium. "I declared my affection for you and you agreed to accompany me to Hogsmeade, and yet you cannot help your hopeless transparency, Tegan! You are completely in love with James Potter and everyone knows it, except possibly Potter, depending on how thick he really is."

There were a little over one thousand people in the area of the Quidditch pitch and at that moment, almost all of them began to stare at me. My gaze, however, was on Tegan, and she in turn was glaring daggers at Snorky.

"This is grossly unorthodox, Mr Scamander!" declared Neville.

"Down with censorship!" squawked Snorky, waving his very pointy stick around like a madman. "Oi Tegan, there's something I bet you didn't know about Potter and his mates' kidnapping of me. I think you'll find it pretty interesting, especially because you're so vocal about the fact that you hate your mum. Yeah, that's right: Your mum was the master architect of the plot against me. James sought out her help despite knowing about your estranged relationship with her. The participation of Pineapple Wig makes much more sense now, yeah?"

The world around me seemed to freeze - the players, the spectators, the Bludgers - and the only thing in which I could take comfort was the fact that circumstances could not possibly get any worse. Tegan had never looked so intensely ireful.

But in his attempt to constantly prove me wrong, Snorky added, "Oh yeah, Tegan? Your parents are also getting divorced."

A/N: I'm not quite satisfied with how this chapter turned out but I've made y'all wait for far too long already, so here ya go. Thanks so much for reading and for all your thoughtful reviews.