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Not Just a Bystander by AC_rules

Format: Novel
Chapters: 23
Word Count: 92,819
Status: COMPLETED

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

Genres: Humor, Romance, Young Adult
Characters: Albus, James (II), OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: James/OC, Rose/Scorpius

First Published: 12/14/2010
Last Chapter: 05/16/2013
Last Updated: 05/16/2013

Summary:
Banner everafter at TDA || Dobby Nominee 2011, Dobby finalist 2012 (best romance) || COMPLETED




After accidently stealing James Potter’s invisibility cloak, breaking Dom’s ‘don’t socialise with my cousins rule’ and inadvertently causing Professor Longbottom to believe that Potter has a paralysing fear of birds (and that he screams like a girl) I decided it was time for a little more fun. And to prove that I’m not just a bystander.


Chapter 1: And then I accidently became a thief...
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A/N - A new story.... yay! This ones for a challenge, that's my excuse... the title challenge and I got 'Not just a bystander' and this is how it turned out... theres a fair few chapters written.... read and review? ;)

The thing is no one was supposed to see me. I really don’t think that people should be judged for what they do on their own... don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like I was doing anything especially gross like picking my nose or walking around with my hand down my pants and I fully believe that anyone who does anything that gross fully deserves to have it used against them.

 I honestly don’t understand people who do that, anyway.  Why, in the name of Merlin, would you ever be possessed to walk around with your hand in your underpants? It actually baffles me. They don’t even try to be discrete either, they just have their hand there as if their underwear has a built in hand cradle or something equally weird like that...  Although, I actually wouldn’t put it past some of those males (because, let’s face it, you really do not see girls walking around with their hands in their pants) who are on rather high on the weirdness scale.

The only conclusion I have been able to come to, is that they think – if they walk around in such an annoying and weird manner – that us girls would be more interested in what exactly was in there pants. I thought this was quite clever and mentioned this to Dom in a way that made it sound as if I’d just thought of it, rather than been wondering it for several weeks. Dom snorted and told me that it was doubtful most of the blokes here had anything in their pants at all, and that they were probably just trying to allude to something actually being present. Or they were having growing pains due to only just making it out of a prepubescent stage of their life. 

She actually had thought of that on the spot, and it made me incredibly jealous.

See, I’m not funny.

I may be many things such as skinny, too tall, slightly studious and a Ravenclaw but I am not funny.

I once tried to tell a joke to my pet gerbil, Brian, and I’m pretty sure I bored him to death. Either that or by using him to practice my spell work on I inadvertently shortened his life, but by the time I’d remembered the punch line the poor thing had snuffed it. I cried for two hours.

 I told Dom about that and she pointed out that if you try and tell a joke, and someone ends up dead and another ends up in tears, you should probably never do so ever again. So I didn’t. I didn’t even attempt to be funny – it wasn’t worth the heart ache and stress that it would cause.

So... I was completely and utterly confused when I thought that I was alone in the corridor and someone started laughing.

Dom only laughs in a strictly-giggly fashion in front of whichever male she is currently processing through her complicated system; at stage two of the so called ‘process’ which most people call dating. Although, it is fair to say that Dom is not ‘most people.’

Dom is also the only Hogwartian person I have social interactions on a regular basis because like I’ve said, I’m not very funny or interesting and therefore no one else can really be bothered with me.

 Dom is my friend because no one else will listen to her talk about herself for hours on end. I find her funny. Others... don’t so much. Therefore we’re mostly an exclusive twosome, excluding all of Dom’s many relatives. I don’t really know any of them because, in Dom’s words, they’d rip me to pieces within a couple of minutes, I’d be pranked within an inch of my life and then have my heart systematically ripped to pieces by one/several of her male cousins.

The whole point of my long nonsensical ramble was that I wasn’t used to hearing people laughing. Especially when I had thought I was alone in the corridor, and no one was supposed to be in the corridor, because, well, it was deserted.

Deserted is an adjective meaning abandoned or forsaken.  Deserted does not mean a mysterious laughter coming from nowhere for no apparent reason.

Weirder things have happened at Hogwarts and normally such an occurrence wouldn’t have phased me – laughing from nowhere; paintings that talked; moving staircases and murderous ex-girlfriends were normal things here (especially with Dom ‘boyfriend stealing bitch’ Weasley around) but... I honestly hadn’t thought there was anyone around.

See... I was, I hate to admit it, dancing.

I am also not a very good dancer.

I blame Dom for the whole thing to be honest. If she hadn’t walked in when I was dancing yesterday in preparation for the big Quidditch bash and hadn’t commented on how I looked like an obese turkey on Christmas Eve then I wouldn’t have felt the need to... refine my skill, in the supposedly empty corridor... Now the sound of laughter resulted in me whirling around in shock, tripping over my robes and falling painfully on my arse.

The laughter increased.

It wasn’t like I’d never fallen over before... everyone’s fallen over before (bar Dom) but it wasn’t a regular occurrence and the shock of finding myself on the floor knocked the wind out of me and left me blinking in surprise. Those other few times I’d fallen over I’d just been glared at as if I was some kind of strange freak (which I suppose was a fairly accurate interpretation of me in general)  but never before had I been laughed at.

I couldn’t even fall over in an amusing way normally and yet this invisible creature was laughing at me. Knowing my luck this thing would be like... a Dementor or a Boggart and my scariest memories and whatnot were of people laughing of me.

I stood up clumsily and still this invisible thing was laughing demonically. I threw my arms around in the direction of the laughter and...made contact with something!

The laughing stopped suddenly.                        

I lunged. My fingers brushed against some kind of material. I tried to grab it. Footsteps moved further backwards away from me –unmistakeable. So whoever it was who was that laughed had... feet. I also assumed they had a mouth and lungs, because I’m sure it would be quite hard to laugh without such things.

So I’d narrowed it down to things that had feet, lungs and a mouth.

So that was helpful.

Whatever it was also had to be delusional – for laughing it me when clearly I am not funny – and also invisible....

I whirled around and lunged. A little to enthusiastically as it turned out because my momentum continued to carry me forwards and forwards...  I threw my hands out in an attempt to catch myself, but instead connected with something very solid and very invisible.

What the hell was going on?

I’ll tell you – I was still falling, but now whatever this invisible, delusional thing was with both feet and a mouth also seemed to be falling too: there was a stifled yell of protest, and that I had, you know, pushed whatever it was over in the first place, and now we were both tumbling backwards in the direction of the stone.

There were a few colourful swearwords, which I’m pretty sure I didn’t say. Then I was on the floor, except... I wasn’t on the floor.  I was lying directly on top of someone who was invisible.... levitating a little way off the floor and staring straight at it.

“Well this is weird even for Hogwarts,” I commented. The thing underneath me laughed, again.  I could feel the chest vibrating from under me and the sound. This was so unbelievably strange.

I needed to get up, that was for sure, because if anyone decided to join me and the invisible thing in the corridor they’d be even more confused than I was, but... at the same time I had to know what this thing was. I rearranged myself so I was straddling the invisible thing (with difficulty because I couldn’t see it...) and then waved my hands about to try and work out where it began.

“Oww.” It complained from underneath me as my watch made contact with his skin. I lowered my hands slowly until I made contact with it again. There was a weird round thing that was very solid.  I followed the line of it around and found my hand trailing upwards... and there was a chin and an ear and...

So it had a face. That was another thing to add to the list.

I went backwards and found a very muscled arm, then there was a chest...

And then I realised that I was feeling whatever it was up, and sat up suddenly.

“So,” I began. “You have feet, a face, a mouth, lungs, shoulders, arms, and a chest. You’re delusional and...You’re invisible. You’re solid and you swear.”

“A little detective, are we?” Then thing asked from underneath me. I jumped slightly.

“Ahha! You understand English. Don’t think I’m not onto you, because I am, I am so onto you.”

It laughed again. What a weirdo.

“I don’t know about onto me, but you’re certainly on me.”

“You’re male.” I concluded. “You have muscles...you’re probably human.”

“Probably?”

“Well,” I said. “I don’t know for sure, because I can’t see you. That could be what you want me to think.”

“Would you like to see me?” The voice asked.

“Aha!” I said triumphantly. “You’ve given away your secret now – you can become visible again, but tell me... how?” I waved my finger around close to what I’m pretty sure was his face and tried to look impressive.

Something moved – a leg? He must have legs if he had feet? – and suddenly I was face to face with James bloody Potter.

I screamed bloody murder.

“Shut up you crazy bitch!” James said, slamming a hand over my face and somehow completely reversing the situation so that now he was straddling me... and the only part of him that was visible was his head.

I think I genuinely had a heart attack. If James was any sort of Gentlemen he’d remove himself from me immediately and call the nurse so she could treat me for extreme shock. I’d just straddled James Potter, whilst he was invisible...

James Potter was the mysterious male, delusional, probably human invisible thing with feet, a face, a mouth, lungs, shoulders, arms, a chest, muscles and the ability to swear.

Well, if you thought about it, that did make sense.

“I’m sorry,” I said shoving his invisible hand away from me. “I wasn’t exactly expecting the thing I was straddling to be you, and really... you could have warned me.”

“But that wouldn’t have been any fun.” James said. “You’re Dom’s friend.” He commented pulling himself off me, straightening up and beginning to...

“Oh my God! Are you stripping?” I exclaimed shielding my eyes. “I don’t want to see!”

“How can you tell I’m stripping when I’m invisible?!” James asked, laughing.

“I can see your shoulders!” I said. “I don’t want to see! You’re not going to strip, suddenly become visible and then, then... erm...”

“I’m taking of the cloak.”

“Don’t!” I squealed. “It’s not necessary, keep your clothes on!”

“Look at me.” James instructed. I shook my head and squeezed my eyes shut. “I’m not naked!” He said loudly. I turned back to look at him. He wasn’t naked. He was visible.  He was holding a weird cloak thing over his arm.

“What the hell are you trying to do to me? Not only have you just given me a heart attack, now you’re trying to give me a brain damage! What have you got against my health, Potter? I didn’t mean to fall on you – it’s not my fault you were invisible!” James’s lips curved up into an amused smile.

Amused. Amused?!? What was James Potter even amused by? Maybe there was someone behind me pulling faces... I whirled around. There was no on there. James burst out laughing.

“Oh my God! Stop it!” I wailed.

“Stop what?”

“With the invisibleness and the laughing! What’s so funny?”

“You are!” James said. He was blatantly lying. I wasn’t funny. My jokes caused death and tears. The last time I tried to make a funny comment it had taken Dom twenty minutes to recover from its ‘incredulous state of complete un-hilarity’ and had made me promise to never talk about how ironic the Herbology teacher’s name was (because, he’s called Longbottom, when actually he has a small arse. Dom said this was disturbing both because I genuinely thought it was funny, and because I’d actually looked at his arse in the first place. Both, Dom said, were completely unforgivable). I was not funny.

I folded my arms and glared at him. “I am not funny.”

“It was a compliment,” James said.

“It was?” I asked, confused.

“Yes.”

“So it wasn’t like... Sarcastic or... like... erm, mocking?”

“Well, not much.” James shrugged. “What’s your name anyway?”

“I’m not disclosing any of my personal details at this stage.”  I told him.

“What?” James asked with that amused smile still on his features. “Don’t you think we’re there yet? I mean, you’ve already felt me up so...?”

“I was trying to work out what you were!” I said defensively.

“Muscled and probably human?”

“I stand by my statement.” I told him crossly.

Probably human?”

“Well! I still have no idea how you were invisible, so unless you can provide me with a valid and reasonable explanation I refuse to believe that you’re human.”

“Isn’t it obvious?”

“Well, no, otherwise I wouldn’t be wasting precious seconds of my life asking you, would I Potter?” James laughed. Again.

“It’s an invisibility cloak.”

“Oh wow!” I exclaimed pulling it out of his arms and running it through my fingers. I’d heard about invisibility cloaks before obviously, but to actually touch one...

“Try it on,” James said, rather generously if you asked me.

“Can I really?” I breathed rubbing my fingers over the fabric in awe. Then I realised I had my mouth wide open in shock and James could probably see right the way down to my stomach which was sure to be really attractive. Not that I cared. Much.

“Feel free, but...” James began. “You have to give me your name.”

“Well James,” I said throwing the cloak over my shoulders, “That’s something you’re going to have to work out for yourself.” Then I looked down at myself and... There was nothing there. I screamed for a second time. I couldn’t help it. It was so inexplicably weird.

Then there were footsteps and Professor Longbottom came running into the corridor looking panicked. “What’s going on?”He breathed.

“Oh,” James Potter said awkwardly. “Nothing.”

“Did you just scream, Potter?”

“Erm... Yes,” James said, nodding.

“Why?” He asked sharply.

“Well, you see Sir – it’s like this. I thought I saw er... erm...” He looked around for inspiration desperately. “A bird.”

“So you screamed...?”

“Well Sir, I’m really scared of birds.”

“You’re the Quidditch captain.”

“That’s why I keep it a secret.”

You are scared of birds?”

“Yes sir.”

“So what happened to the bird?”

“Well, there wasn’t actually a bird. I just thought I saw a bird.”

“How?”

“Well, I er... I turned around too fast and I saw a piece of my hair out of the corner of my eyes, and I thought it was a bird, so I screamed.”

“Then you realised it wasn’t a bird?”

“Yes.”

“If you don’t believe me, ask Dad, he’ll tell you – I had to have therapy for it once.”

“Right,” Longbottom said. “I... are you sure it was you Potter? I could have sworn that whoever yelled was, well... a girl...”

“It was me.” James said in a cool calm fashion I’d never have managed. “Birds really scare me.”

“Well... don’t let anyone know,” Longbottom said. “Or they might sabotage Quidditch by bringing, erm... birds into it.”

“Sure, Neville.” Potter said with a grin. “This will just be our little secret.”

Longbottom nodded a few times before disappearing off down the corridor. I let out a shaky breath and burst out laughing.

“All right Miss Hysterical,” James said turning around to face me (but facing in slightly the wrong direction because I was invisible). “Give me the cloak back, now.”

I took a tiny step backwards, just as he lunged forwards into thin air. “Come on,” James said. “It’s mine. I need it back; I’ll make it worth your while...” James said. I dug my hand into my pocket and pulled out a sickle. It was a shame to waste it, but I didn’t have anything else. Whilst James was attempting to coax the wall into giving him back his cloak, I drew back my hand and threw the sickle.

It bounced on the other side of the corridor. James whirled around and began blindly feeling his way in that direction.

With him distracted he didn’t hear my footsteps slowly back away down the corridor, and then I broke into a run.

I had an invisibility cloak. I had stolen from James Potter, who incidentally thought I was funny, and the icing on the top of this fabulously baked three tier double chocolate fudge cake with extra chocolate chips was...

He could be looking for me in that corridor for hours.

My how the tables had turned.

 

A/N - Whatcha think? I'll never know if you don't tell me ;)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Chapter 2: And then I became a pranking mastermind...
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A/N - Chapter dos, enjoy and review please :)


Previously: A series of different events lead towards the accidental acquiring of an invisibility cloak.



Along with being extraordinarily un-funny I have also never pulled a prank. Well, once when I was little I put a muggle whoopee cushion under my aunts seat, if that counts as a prank. Apparently it wasn’t funny because she has this bowel syndrome which means, in her words, ‘she has bad flatulence.’ So when she sat down on this seat with a whoopee cushion underneath all those years ago she took it as a personal insult to her character, burst into tears, ran out the house and didn’t come back until the following Christmas.

Neither of my parents saw the humour either, and lectured me for hours about how I was an ‘insolent brat’ ‘audacious’ and, my personal favourite – ‘a malicious and unpleasant creature’ until I started crying so hard that I threw up. The only relative who seemed to see the funny side of things was my grandfather who patted me on the back, winked, and slipped me a couple of galleons. I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t not approve of his daughter in-law and my aunt Flo (her name should be funny in itself considering her unfortunate bowel issues, but I decided it was best not to point this out to anyone as my jokes occasionally end in death) and was only appreciative of my poor attempt at humour because he enjoyed seeing Flo cry.

Thus, when I was safely back in the Ravenclaw dorm with my new loot – James Potter’s invisibility cloak – I was surprised that my first thoughts of how to use it were pull a prank.

I’d half expected myself to come up with something lame and bookish to put under the heading of ‘adventurous’ before dutifully handing James his cloak back. Like... sneaking into the restricted section (which I was totally going to do, anyway) or swapping some potions ingredients round in the dungeons so that cauldrons exploded on people I didn’t like. Instead I’d come up with something that was relatively mischievous – pull a prank.

On who?

James Potter. I was again surprised by the speed of my own brain. Not that I’m slow, or anything, because when it comes to knowledge and stuff I’m actually pretty fast – I can identify veritiserum easily and can tell you the exact incantation used to make heavy things float on water. I couldn’t tell you how to get a boy to fancy you though, or why your best friend is ignoring you. If I was to ever have a problem page – which I never would, but this is a hypothetical situation – I’d only be able to answer the questions about how to remove that nasty ink stain off your white skirt, or the exact definition of the word ‘fatuous’ and how to use it in a sentence. I’m also not known for my creative ideas.

My creativity stretches to drawing circles on the edges of my parchment when the teacher starts talking about things I already know, and the only brushes I’ve ever used are for applying makeup (not that I wear a lot of makeup, just some) and the last time Dom asked me whether I thought her beret was artistic she nearly ended up leaving for her date dressed in full French attire.

So, to have a genuine and original idea was quite... amazing.

Not that it was much of an idea yet...I could do it thought. I could.

Dom’s mantra was always positive thinking, preaching that the reason why I was so socially awkward was a lack of confidence in myself.  Positive mental attitude, she’d declare whilst applying her crimson lipstick and asking if it was possible if I could please, maybe, just go and grab my mascara for her from where she left it in the boy’s dormitory... Which I would, obviously. I was lucky that someone like Dom – who was popular, clever and beautiful – actually talked to me. Positive mental attitude, indeed.

“Birds,” I said sitting up suddenly and narrowly missing knocking myself out on my four poster (like I said – I’m really tall) and snapped my fingers because it felt situation-appropriate and then sat down again and resumed biting my nails. I needed to come up with something so fantastically wonderful that... well.... it wasn’t like I was trying to impress James Potter, because like Dom’s always said – I would never be able to deal with people like him, but, it was exciting.

Hogwarts, in theory, should be an exciting place, and it is... for some people. I’m more of the boring standing in the sidelines type person who’s never really involved with all the pranking, discovering and Quidditch stuff. I just do magic and study – not because I’m boring, although I suppose I am a bit, but because I just never around people who pull stunts like that. Dom’s primary interest is breaking her sister’s heartbreaking record, with a lot less class – naturally – and being Hogwarts most wanted. My only other contact to the world is my little brother who I hardly ever see because he was claimed and taken away from me by Gryffindor. It’s not like no one else knows who I am, they do, they just don’t, well... socialise with me.

This was the most exciting thing that had happened for ages and I was going to make the most of it.

“Birds,” I said again leaning back on my bed and kicking my shoes off in one fluid movement. I swung my legs over the side of my bed and thought about it for a few minutes. What could I possibly do with birds?

Then I had it – it was brilliant in its simplicity, and not much else, but that was okay, I hadn’t been expecting this to become the prank of the year or anything. It was just a bit of fun – to put James in an awkward situation.

I’m a bit of Care of Magical Creatures nut and a bit of a teacher’s pet, so Hagrid would most definitely not be phased if I asked him to borrow a couple of chickens – which was a lot less messy than going through the effort of stealing them – then sneak into the NEWT level Herbology class where James and Professor Longbottom would be residing... Then, let lose chickens. Longbottom will instantly turn to James in horror over fear about his precious Quidditch team being sabotaged and naturally Potter will either have to scream like a girl or come up with some other way of getting out of the situation.

Simple, yet brilliant.

I stood up, spun around and waved my arms about in the form of a victory dance before slipping on my discarded shoes and shooting forwards onto the hard wood of the floorboards.

“Oh pants,” I muttered, trying to peal my slightly frustrated body of the floor and return to my casual and more comfortable position on my bed.

“Autumn,” Dom said from the doorway. “Please don’t tell me you were practicing dancing again?” She said strutting into the room and fluffing her Veela hair in the mirror, whilst watching my progress from floor to feet.

“Erm, yeah.” I said. I’d already decided I was going to keep my little... incident with her cousin a secret. She’s expressly told me never to talk to them, interact with them, or acknowledge their existence in any way. If she knew I’d planned a prank against James Potter – head of her family’s little posse, she’d probably have a fit. Or she’d take over my mediocre plan and turn it into something spectacular and very un-me... I wanted to do something for myself for once. Was that so bad?

“Autumn Olivia Pearce.” She said with a perfectly plucked eyebrow raised in distaste. “What am I going to do with you?”

“Please, enough with the name,” I complained, glancing over at my trunk to make sure that the invisibility cloak was safely hidden from her hawk-like gaze. “It’s unnecessary to torture me so,”

“Totally necessary.” She countered. “Anyway, I came to remind you that it’s dinner just in case you were so engrossed in reading about theastrals or something equally depressing.”

“They’re not depressing Dom,” I countered. “They’re interesting, and you do realise that Harry Potter once used theastrals too -”

“Yes.” She said with that familiar tone of finality that made me shut up. “Can I borrow that necklace?” She asked “Jack’s joining us for dinner,”

“Sure,” I answered flicking through the magazine on the side of her bed.

“Thanks,” She said distractedly, holding her hair up and then letting it fall again. “What do you...?”

“Down.” I answered knowing that it was exactly what she wanted me to say – it was a regular occurrence for her to ask my advice and I knew from experience which the right answer was. Any deviation from the correct answer was not, as she often told me, very helpful.

She nodded, smiled at her reflection, and then reached for my trunk to retrieve the necklace.

My trunk, which also happened to be containing her cousin’s invisibility cloak....

 She’d undoubtedly recognise it. Even if she forbade me from talking to them, she definitely did. Every month they had a family gathering where they caused endless mischief by all working together. She always reported that it had been loud, busy and completely childish. Although she always seemed to be glowing and smiling afterwards.

The point was, she’d definitely recognise it, and I wouldn’t know how to explain to her how I had it. I didn’t want my whole planning session to be completely wasted just because of a stupid necklace...

“Wait!” I yelled. Dom looked over me with her eyes wide, clearly reading – what the hell? “Erm... that’s amazing!” I exclaimed. “This, er, charm actually makes your hair erm, wavy!” I said enthusiastically to cover up my spontaneous yelling.

“Okaaay.” Dom said, before turning back to my trunk and reaching to pull it open.

“No, look Dom!” I said thrusting the magazine in her face to give myself some thinking time. “Do you think it would work on my hair?” She looked back up me suspiciously.

“Who are you trying to impress?”

“No one.”

“Because you’ve never been interested in making your hair wavy before. I thought we decided you were more of a straight hair girl. ”

“I just think magic’s amazing, that’s all,” I said smiling overly brightly. “Anyway, speaking of impressing people, don’t you think that the necklace will make it look as if you’re making too much effort? Jacks only on stage one, after all...”

“Maybe,” Dom conceded. “Excellent,” She said glancing at her watch. “We’re five minutes late – he’ll be getting nervous.”

“We going?” I questioned.  She nodded. I pulled on my shoes, glanced at my reflection very briefly, before heading out of the dorm in Dom’s wake.

*************

“Autumn,” Dom hissed, kicking me under the table and taking a couple of seconds breather away from simpering and giggling in Jack Slater’s general direction, to glare at me. “What are you doing?” She breathed. “You’re making me look like an idiot.” She was probably right, but nevertheless I found myself feeling equally irritated back at her.

I was terrified that James Potter would approach me demanding the invisibility cloak back off me and revealing my deadly sin (fraternising with the family) to Dom, who would inevitably throw a full sized Dom-diva-fit which could only be bad for everyone. I was very good at not causing Dom to have reason to lose her rag with me, but that didn’t mean I was exempt from it happening.

I may have been ducking every time one of the male sixth year Gryffindor walked into the great hall, and had on occasioned dropped my cutlery so I could retrieve it whenever the said Gryffindor happened to have dark hair... No sighting of James Potter yet though. Maybe he was still looking for me...

“Sorry,” I hissed back, using my hair as a shield and instead fulfilling the desire to eat by filling up my plate for more food.

“Wow,” Jack Slater said glancing at my overfull plate. “For such a skinny girl, you don’t half eat a lot,” He commented in a nice, friendly way that made me feel a little uncomfortable.

“Thanks,” I said awkwardly. Dom raised her eyebrows, giggled as if what he said was funny, before turning back to face him and fluttering her mascara-lengthened-eyelashes like her life depended on it. “So, Jack,” She said. “What are your plans for after Hogwarts?”

Oh dear. Generic question for Jack Sloper – obviously he wasn’t doing well. Dom, naturally, has developed a point system over the years to decide how much interest/energy a guy is worth. First, in stage one, she chats, flirts, and invites them to eat dinner with us. Stage two begins the second Dom turns up at least five minutes late for their dinner. Once a guy wasn’t waiting for her at the specified time (he’d waited four minutes and then given up), he was never asked to return. During stage two you have to pick up at least twenty points.

You get so many points for looks. Jack Sloper was casually attractive but had obviously put in no extra effort today. I reckoned he scored about a four (out of seven).

Then there were points for how nervous the guy looked before he saw Dom approaching. Jack had been too casual and laid back – he’d probably seen Dom’s tried and tested routine before – and hadn’t even been glancing around in anguish. That’s a one (given he was still there).

He hadn’t questioned Dom on her lateness though, which brought him four points.

He’d addressed me in an almost friendly inclusive manner, which was another two points.

He didn’t appear to be responding to Dom’s ridiculous flirting too much, which was one point, and seemed to think that it was a social requirement for them to share out the conversation equally, which was minus one. He’d complimented her though, which was two points, and he’d asked a couple of unoriginal questions about herself – two points.

That meant, overall, he was averaging out as a fifteen.

I’d had high hopes for him as well; maybe he’d earn a couple of extra for his career aspirations.

“I want to be a writer,” He said with a smile. Zilch. (Four points for potential Healers, three for Quidditch players, two for anything interesting or original, one for musicians and minus four for any future ministry workers). If it were me I’d have given him at least three points for his smile, but alas my opinion of the matter didn’t matter.

“That’s nice,” Dom said, and although I recognised the pained note in her voice I doubted he would have noticed anything wrong. “Look,” she said. “I have to go to Charms now,”

“I’ve got Care of Magical Creatures,” Jack said, “Otherwise I would have walked you there.” Plus one for gentlemanly conduct, minus two for putting himself before Dom.

“Autumn has Care of Magical Creatures, too,” Dom said with a smile. “So I guess I’ll be seeing you later,” She said brightly. She glanced back at me and pulled a face after she’d left. I mouthed fourteen after her. She shuddered.

“Ready to go?” Jack asked.

“Sure,” I answered cursing him for not committing properly and carrying Dom’s bags all the way to her charms classroom, pulling out her seat for her, ensuring someone was sat next to her and becoming her personal house elf before heading down to Care of Magical Creatures. He was attractive, and now I was expected to socialise with him.

On the upside, James Potter was nowhere to be seen and now Dom was out of sight I was pretty much home and dry. Plus, only four people took Care of Magical Creatures to N.E.W.T. level, and James Potter sure as hell wasn’t one of them.

“Erm, what subjects do you take?”  Jack asked, desperately clinging at the straws of conversation by asking possible the most boring question of all. Minus four Autumn points.

“Care of Magical Creatures, obviously, then, Herbology, Potions, transfiguration, DADA and Arithmancy.”

“Bloody hell.” Jack said, “That’s a lot of subjects,” and him processing that there were a whole six subjects seemed to take up all of his brains capacity for the walk down to Hagrid’s hut for which I was only thankful.

Still, no wonder he hadn’t met Dom’s requirements. He’d probably only just meet mine.

***********

“I mean, come on – a fourteen pointer!” Dom complained throwing herself down on her bed and staring up at the ceiling. “I honestly thought he had potential,”

“I cannot believe,” I said half-listening half-reading. “That he genuinely asked you about your family.”

“Eurgh.” Dom agreed crossing her legs and looking in my direction. “It was a complete embarrassment. Absolute shambles.” She said pulling her hair up into a messy ponytail. She’d changed into her pyjamas but still looked as glamorous as ever in grey sweat pants and a plain white t-shirt. I couldn’t look that glamorous in a ball gown. “Who needs men, anyway?” Dom asked looking at me with her bright blue eyes.

“Precisely,” I said distractedly, reading the same line several times over to try and concentrate properly...

“So,” She said smiling. “How’s about we celebrate singledom with a girls night?”

“I’m reading.”

“Go on Autumn,” She said, “I’ll do your nails?” She suggested.

“Fine,” I agreed, flinging my book aside and throwing myself onto Dom’s bed with a smile.

“What colour?” Dom grinned, throwing her trunk open and pulling out her two dozen nail varnish bottles and lining them up in a row on the blue bed covers. “How’s about a lovely shade of brown to go with your name?” She suggested with a raised eyebrow.

“No,” I complained. “If we had things your way I’d spend my whole life wearing brown, red and orange.”

“And Gold,” Dom said approvingly.

“Crimson, please,” I said pointing out the red-pink colour that contrasted so beautifully with Dom’s skin, and looked quite nice with mine too. Although my nail varnish wouldn’t make it through the night without being chipped beyond recognition, and just look messy.  Dom’s nail varnish would also end up chipped by tomorrow, but hers would look like it was meant to be lithe that. It was sickeningly unfair. I stretched my fingers out in front of her ready to be painted and smiled absently. Right now it was so temping to blurt the whole plan out to her, but I would resist.

“Do you think I’ll be single forever?” Dom asked and she brushed the varnish over my nails, and looked up at me through her lashes.

“No,” I answered truthfully. “I’d give it about a week,”

“You’re so beautiful Autumn,” She said looking straight at me. I blushed awkwardly. “You’re all tall and leggy – with your reddish-brown hair and your huge eyes...”

“Erm,” I said, “Thanks?”

“Honestly, you’re over six freaking foot – you should become a model or something.”

“Alright, enough of the sucking up – what do you want, Dom?”

“Nothing,” Dom laughed in her sing song voice. “I just don’t feel like appreciate you enough.”

“Damn straight,” I said waving my hand complete with crimson finger nails around in attempt to dry it. Dom grinned in return and finished my little finger nail on my left hand with a flourish. “Thank you very much, Miss Dominique.” 

“Oh dear,” Dom said, “You sound like Richard.”

Dicky!” We chorused in unison before bursting into laughter. Richard had been a seven-pointer (for looks only) who’d Dom met one summer, who’d called her... Miss Dominique. It lost him twenty whole points but he’d been so attractive she’d given him twenty five out of seven for looks, and had granted him with a second date before she realised she actually couldn’t deal with it.

Dom looked surprisingly thoughtful for a few minutes. “I need to find a real guy,” She said, lying back on her bed. “A proper boyfriend.”

“I’ll be praying for the population of Hogwarts,” I replied, feeling quite pleased with my line – that had almost being funny, hadn’t it? Almost?

Maybe.

******************

“You won’t ‘arm them?” Hagrid asked, watching me attempt to catch one of his chickens (they were to feed some other animal).

“Of course not,” I said lunging wildly. I frowned realising that all my tactics were doing was making the chickens run around like, well, headless chickens...  I walked over to the side cornering them. I bent down so that they were nearly at my level. “Here chick...chick...chick...” I said softly before reaching out and slipping my hands around her stomach. She was surprisingly soft to the touch and warm. “I’ll bring them back to you very soon,” I said.

“Course ya will,” Hagrid said, leaning on his fence (which was bending dangerously) and watching my take another chicken up into my hands. “So it’s for a prank, you say?” Hagrid asked. In the end I’d just told him the flat out truth about why I wanted it, at that seemed to appease him. I nodded. “What kind of prank? You’ve never pulled a prank before...”

Dom introduced me to Hagrid in third year, and he instantly saw that I was a magical creature or just creatures in general, fanatic and took a liking to me. Now he’s always inviting me down to his hut to show me his new creatures and such, and sometimes I come down and talk to him about my day. He’s like a distant uncle, but much larger.

“Well, I came buy this...” I said pulling the cloak from out of my schoolbag and waving in front of his face.

“Harry’s cloak?” He asked. “Where did you get that?” He asked. I hadn’t really thought about it, but of course this was the cloak that had once belonged to Harry Potter, that had saved him from death.... I stared at the material and marvelled at its immense history.

“That’s for me to know, Hagrid,” I said cheerfully. “Anyway, I better be off or I’ll be late for Herbology,” I said throwing the cloak over me and clutching the two chickens to my chest.

“Make sure you bring them chickens back!” Hagrid said, talking in completely the wrong direction, before shaking his head and walking back to his hut.

“Shhsh chick, chick chick,” I said softly as the chicken started clucking loudly. “Oh sod it,” I muttered, pulling my wand out of my pocket and silencing the two chickens with a quick non verbal spell.

The walk across to the greenhouses felt much longer with two wriggling chickens held against my chest (the particularly fidgety one didn’t appreciate being silenced and was now pecking at my left breast). I pushed open the door and was thankful of two things – one that we weren’t doing mandrakes because I could have died under the cloak (which would not bode well for my amusingness rating) and no one would have known and, two – no one seemed to think a spontaneously opening door was anything to worry about.

Like I said, stranger things have happened at Hogwarts... one time this statue suddenly grabbed me and I screamed so loud that Dom swore I’d perforated her eardrum and she couldn’t hear properly for a week (which, let me tell you, was a source of complaint for much longer than the seven day span of over exaggerated and dramatised deafness). Although as it turned out it wasn’t a living statue, it was just Oliver – my little brother – and his pratty Gryffindor mates, who’d thought it would be quite funny to make me look more abnormal than normal. Although Dom was the only one to witness that incident, and she knows perfectly well how weird I am. Still, I reckon falling onto an invisible James Potter, feeling him up and stealing said cloak had to be the weirdest thing that had ever happened to me.... it was quite exciting actually.

Longbottom was at the front digging around in soil and talking about Puffapods. They were a pretty basic plant and wouldn’t kill anyone when they chaos started, so I decided that it was all go ahead (I’d had an awful reoccurring nightmare of me walking in with the two chickens, and discovering that we were doing Venomous Tentacula – which was vital for our NEWT course, and then in the dream I panicked and threw off the cloak and the chickens into the air, only to discover I was completely naked underneath. It had been a strange dream, which usually occurs at times of extreme stress... such was when I attempt to do something funny).

I crept forwards until I was standing right next to James Potter’s desk (carefully holding the two chickens so I didn’t accidently kill them or anything – I was hoping that no one would die this time). It was very hard to keep my breathing quite and it was still incredibly surreal to be, well... invisible. Every time I looked down at my feet I thought I was going crazy and had to resist the urge to embrace the crazy and start dancing again – at least no one would see me this time.

Focus, focus – prank. Put the Chickens on desk. Let hilarity ensue.

Except... it wasn’t that funny was it? The whole idea was stupid. I should have just given the cloak to my owl and told it to give it back to them, although that would have no doubt gone wrong – with someone intercepting it and the inevitable loss of the invisibility cloak. Sodding hell. How was I going to give it back to him? I couldn’t keep it, not when it was practically a historical artefact, but I could hardly go up and talk to him... I should have listened to Dom’s rules.

I might as well carry out the plan now though. I had the chickens after all...

Then I realised something that I should have realised way previously given I’m a Ravenclaw (admittedly a very stupid one – for taking Potter’s invisibility cloak!) and all – there was no way of removing the chickens from under the cloak without their being a couple of seconds of my floating midriff, or a few seconds of floating chicken. It was too much to hope that those phenomenons would also go unmissed by the (admittedly small) class of Herbology students.  I thought back to the only other time I’d been under the cloak; I’d used a distraction...

Impulsively (which is a rarity, let me tell you), I grabbed a handful of the Puffapods and threw them at the floor a few tables behind James’s desk. The seeds burst into red, gold and orange flowers, springing up out of the ground beautifully... Everyone’s eyes turned to the majestic display and I hurriedly placed both chickens on the desk and unsilenced them in one quick movement. James Potter turned to face his desk and saw the chickens.

For a second he froze. I stepped backwards hurriedly, just in time, as he lunged out to his left, presumably in an attempt to grab me before I disappeared. The chickens clucked loudly (I’d quickly un-silenced them for effect) and now all the attention was on James Potter and the chickens. Longbottom glanced over at James with a worried expression on his face. James, who had lunged in a desperate attempt to catch me, toppled sideways, off his chair and onto the floor.

“Potter?” Longbottom asked, apparently thinking that James had fainted. “Clear the way! He has a paralysing fear of birds!” Longbottom announced running over to James’s side. It seemed Longbottom cared much more about James’s health, rather than his Quidditch team... which was nice, I suppose. James seemed to consider this for a few seconds before slamming his eyes shut and lying completely still.

“James, James?” He said gently.  James seemed to revive himself in a spectacularly convincing way, and had somehow turned very, very pale. He was a similar colour to a piece of cream parchment, and his eyes seemed to be swimming with confusion. I was impressed. Dom was right. James Potter wasn’t a prankster – he was the master.

“Wha...what?” James muttered sitting up suddenly and putting a hand to his head. His gaze was unfocused and unsteady. He swallowed. He was a spectacular shade of green. Woah...

“Don’t worry,” Longbottom said, “It was just a chicken,”

“A chicken!?” James asked in horror. He turned even paler which, as a bystander, I found totally alarming. Longbottom seemed to share my views.

“Someone take him to the hospital wing!” Longbottom hissed. “Go on, quickly.” I scooped the chickens back up and bit my lip. I should probably help, but... what would they do to me? Detention? Expulsion? Azkaban!?

Well, obviously not, but James was probably likely to be more annoyed at me revealing his cloak than getting away with a stupid prank unpunished...

Except...

Was James Potter genuinely that good of an actor? Or had he not being lying when he said he was afraid of birds...? If he hadn’t been lying then I was most definitely the bitchiest person in the world... What if he’d actually been that close to passing out? What if now people were going to bring birds on the Quidditch pitch and ruin Quidditch – which Dom had repeatedly told me made up half of her cousin’s life (the other half was boobs and blondes, apparently) – for him forever? It was just supposed to be funny! A joke!

I’d practically killed him.

People were going to start calling him James the guy who’s so chicken he’s scared of chickens – or something a little more creative and a little less lame. It was all my fault! I should have told Dom, and she would have put me straight and made sure I used something that didn’t practically makes James freaking Potter faint.

“Hagrid! Hagrid!” I yelling pulling off the cloak and shoving it in my bags. I put the chickens back in the coop and knocked on his door frantically.

The door was wretched open and I threw myself into the cabin. “Is James Potter really afraid of birds?”

“Well,” Hagrid began. “To tell yeh the truth – yeh,” Then he paused for a few seconds.” I shouldntv’e told yeh that.”

I swore loudly and buried my face in the table. I was such a failure at life it wasn’t even funny. Then again, I wasn’t funny. I shouldn’t be allowed in public – I should be confined to my bed so I don’t cause harm and perpetual embarrassment to anyone other than myself.

James Potter was going to kill me.

Note to self: do not tell jokes, or pull pranks – disaster and chaos will ensue, along with a high chance of accidental death or murder.

A/N - Please review, I'm loving writing this story right now. It really cheers me up, and I'm pretty sure it's going to be longer than I expected. Never mind eh! Reviews would be glorious :)
 
 
 


Chapter 3: And then I deal with the fact I ruined James Potter’s life...
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

This is my attempting to be funny story. I'm not really sure if it works at being funny yet, but hey - we'll see. I generally think I'm not that funny when I write though, although - ahha, I was looking for writing inspiration, and my friends was like "write the diary of a vending machine," and thus, I did. I made it all innuendo-ey, like 'she pushes my buttons' and the like... before revealing it was all about the vending machine at the end. We printed it off and stuck it on the vending machine at my sixth form...Still, I find writing and being funny hard, and I'm rambling now. So I'll shut up.
 
Previously:  Another slight accident... James Potter may have fainted and I may have revealed his paralysing fear of birds to the entirety of Hogwarts...




I suppose it was funny in the sense that it was a complete and utter failure, but...  Who wants to be funny in that sense? Plus, it was hard to laugh at yourself on your own. It just resulted in you looking like a complete psycho – sitting on your own, rocking back and forth in peals of unyielding mirth for no visible reason (not that that had ever happened to me...) usually ended in a hasty admission to St Mungo’s insanity ward (which I’ve been told is actually a fairly nice place so it wouldn’t be too bad; the people are nice and you get free food), but it hardly seemed worth it for a little prank-gone-wrong.

Except it wasn’t a little prank; it was a prank on James Potter.

Then, there was the fact that I’d skipped herbology for it.  I’d never skipped a lesson in my life.

Oh God. They’d know it was me. I hadn’t been there... I was going to be sent down for ruining James Potter’s life. He’d know it was me, anyway; after all, I did have his cloak. It wasn’t like it would take much of a genius (even if he was a stupid Gryffindor) to put the pieces together. 

I had to go down and apologise to him. I’d caused him to nearly faint... or maybe he had fainted? Maybe I’d misinterpreted his actions completely? I was under the delusion that he’d made up this fear of birds at the time, so... maybe I'd willfully gotten that wrong too. I'd probably ruined his Quidditch career forever, which meant he was probably screwed given he was known for not spending too much time in the library, or studying, or working at all, and he’d probably end up unemployed and working as a muggle bin man to pay for the water meter in his council flat (although give he was a Potter he could probably just live off the cash flow that comes with destroying the greatest dark wizard to have ever lived, but that was beside the point).

Plus, I had absolutely humiliated him, I wasn’t even certain that he’d be able to face everyone again...  He might move schools or...

No, that was ridiculous. James Potter might be a drama queen, but there was no way he’d go that far. He’d probably just make bird-phobias fashionable, and have everyone screaming like Voldemort had just appeared in their front room completely naked, armed with a huge snake and a wand, every morning when the owls came to deliver.

Hagrid had explained that one to me back in his hut. James could deal with owls, and even had one himself, but any other bird was a strictly no go area and scared the shit out of him in the way some people reacted to spiders.

I had to go and apologise. I had to.

But I was no Gryffindor. I was not funny and I was not brave. I’d come back from Hagrid’s hut feeling dreadful thrown myself into bed and tried to force myself into sleep. I’d skipped another two lessons by this point, not that I cared– if I was going to go down, I might as well go way down – and told Jessica (dorm mate) I was feeling ill when she politely inquired if I as all right when she came in whilst I was in the middle of moaning melodramatically about how I’d ruined my life. And James Potter’s.

She left sharpish. Didn’t even blame her. She was quite a nice girl really, but Dom said that she was a geeky goody two shoes who was also as thick as hell (she dated Freddie Weasley – one of the forbidden cousins – last year and Dom had never quite forgiven the poor girl). She did stop to ask me if I’d like her to tell Professor Vector where I was though, which was very nice considering I’d been acting like a complete and utter weirdo.

What I needed to do, was calm down. It wasn’t that big a deal. Why was I making such a fuss about it? It was just, you know, a prank on James bloody Potter.

If Dom found out, I’d be on at least three (because they share many things – like hatred and anger) of the Weasley’s (extended family included) hit lists, and let me tell you that is not a comfortable place to be. I’ve watched it happen too many times. Next thing you know, you were being assassinated by some of the slightly less respectable people that all the Potter’s seemed to be in touch with... or being humiliated beyond recognition, or having your social status ripped beyond repair.

They done it to Melinda Marchbanks last year, when she’d agreed to date both James and Albus Potter simultaneously (apparently neither of them realised for a month which just shows how much the two of them talk). Neither had been particularly heart broken by this from what I could make out – considering the following week James had a new girlfriend – but this had still, apparently, been enough reason for a social suicide by humiliation (including spontaneously vanishing clothes). Now the poor girl was only known as Melinda No-pants.

Think of all the things they could do with my name!?

Thinking about it, they’d tried a similar thing when Scorpius Malfoy kissed Rose Wesley for a bet. Scorpius had somehow managed to backfire it on to the Potter/Weasleys themselves, which had somehow manifested into a friendship and a new found unity between the two houses. It was quite strange. I’m sure Dom could have explained it to me, but she preferred it if I never mentioned a name of one of her family members whilst in her presence.

I swallowed my anxiety, rolled over and decided I’d face the world at dinner. And apologise to James straight afterwards...

*

“I’m on a mission.” Dom said, crossing her legs and looking up at me. “I need a boyfriend.”

I should have known it was coming; she’d twisted her hair up into some fancy hair do that was a little beyond me, had her nails repainted this morning, and was wearing her favourite pair of skyscraper heels.

The heel thing was good though, because it made me seem less tall by comparison.

“Okay,” I said, sitting down opposite her and raising an eyebrow. “What’s the plan of action?” She smiled a smile that genuinely scared me a little bit and handed me over a piece of parchment with a list of names.

Jason Wood... Benson Flint... Harry Malone... Edward Bones...

“All of these guys are in long term relationships,” I said slowly. “Woods with Baker, Fint’s with Thornton...”

“Which means they’ve all proved their capable of being in a long term relationship.” Dom explained in the patronising tone one might use five year olds, or someone who has difficulty understand basic NEWT level transfiguration (well, I would).

“So what?” I asked wildly. “You’re just going to break up perfectly successful relationships because you want a boyfriend?” Dom looked slightly taken aback by the harshness of my tome. “Anyway Dom, some of these guys are right jerks – McLaggen? You’d date McLaggen? He’s so not in your league, and anyway – he’s a complete prat.”

“You went out with McLaggen.” Dom accused.

“One date,” I muttered defensively – did she really have to bring these things up on occasions like this?

“Still, that was before he was popular.”

“Thanks for that Dom,” I said, glaring at her and standing up. “But actually, no, I refuse to take part in this bullocks.” I waved the list at her. “And in any case!” I added, glancing down the list again. “How are you defining these relationships as successful? Everyone knows that Jones regularly sleeps with that other girl – the skinny one – and considering how many times Wood and Baker have split up -”

“Any relationship over three months,”

“And!” I began hotly. “Just because they’re good with one person, doesn’t mean they’ll be good with you. And if you manage to break them up then it obviously wasn’t a good relationship in the first place. Just because...”

“Autumn, will you let me finish?” Dom asked sweetly. “I wasn’t planning on breaking anyone up.”

I stopped mid sentence.

“Now, will you sit down?” I sat obligingly. “There are two parts of the plan – one, move in if any of these couples break up, two, list the characteristics of these guys and look for them in any single guys. I think I might be going about it all wrong, going for the wrong sort of guy – you know?”

“I don’t like the first one,” I said grudgingly.

“But will you help me with the characteristics bit?” She asked, smiling her eighth-Veela smile at me in her most persuasive manner. “Please Autumn,”

“Fine,” I agreed, removing the significantly more creased list from my hand and passing it back to her. “Don’t you think...?” I began as Dom began pulling out her quill and a big wad of parchment. “That you should just... let things happen?”

“No, Autumn,” She replied. “Because that’s hardly worked for me so far – has it. We’re Ravenclaws – this is what we do – over think things. So, Wood – why does Wood and Baker’s relationship work?”

“Because they both like sex?” I suggested, stretching out on the floor. Dom gave me an ‘I’m serious about this Autumn’ look. I rolled me eyes. “They’re both good looking,” I reasoned. “Wood is Quidditch obsessed, and Baker is supportive enough to go watch every game, even though she can’t stand it?”

“Good,” Dom said, nodding, as she scribbled it down. “Anything else?”

“Both complete drama queens,” I suggested, pulling out my Defence book and deciding that I almost definitely needed to write lots of notes about that particular subject. “Both approve of PDA. Same year, same house – get lots of time to spend with each other.”

“Time,” Dom said, writing that down. “Okay... what about... Harry Malone?”

“Both shy,” I said. “He’s surprisingly sweet – the perfect gentleman.”

“Now, Autumn, if you have a crush on Harry Malone then that’s really out of order – you can’t just break up a couple for your own gain,” She said with a wry smile in my direction, just as the other three occupants of our dorm walked in. They all looked at me with an expression that was a mix of surprise – due the idea that someone other than Harriet Belby could fancy Harry Malone – and disgust at the idea of me going out of my way to break them up.

A small satisfied smirk made its way onto Dom’s face, and for a second it looked as thought she’d planned the whole thing – for the others to come in just as she said that...

I shook my head. I was paranoid.

“No,” I said with a laugh. “I could never break anything as cute as that up – Harriet and Harry, it’s adorable. Anyway, and he’s not my type.”

“He’s not anyone’s type,” Dom said off-handly. “Well, except Belby.”

I rolled my eyes at her response. Dom was just like that – she just found so many negative things to say about people, and most of the time I just let her because it was easier than picking up on it every single time.

“What about... Edward Bones?” Dom continued, unabashed by our Dorm mates who were so blatantly listening in.

“Not now, Dom.” I said nodding towards them meaningfully. She rolled her eyes.

I carried on with my defence notes like the Ravenclaw I am.

*

Was it especially cowardly to leave an apology by a letter? Well, I’m sure James Potter wouldn’t have dreamed of apologising via letter – he probably just wouldn’t apologise, if you listened to what Dom was saying – but then again the bloke was terrified of birds, so I’d hardly call him brave...

Although, thankfully, my actions haven’t ruined his life. James had merely, somehow, managed to spread the rumour that it was all just a cover up from elaborate plan that went wrong right under Longbottom’s nose – which had been brave, daring and extremely dangerous. Shockingly, he’d managed to use the fact he’d fainted at the sight of a bird to boost his reputation.

Now, despite disapproving of this deception, that was pretty clever. And it made me feel better.

As I hadn’t been guilt tripped enough into apologising to him face to face, I was going for the sneak into the Gryffindor tower (under invisibility cloak) and leave invisibility cloak for James with apology note and a box of his favourite chocolates. Only, I’d talked to James Potter like twice in my life – he asked to borrow my quill once – and didn’t know what his favourite chocolates were, but who didn't like exploding strawberry creams?

Exploding stawberry creams were amazing. They exploded if someone ate one of your chocolates, or otherwise in your mouth in a completely controlled and delicious way. I loved exploding strawberry creams. If anyone ever reveal my deepest fear to the whole of Hogwarts and wished to apologise to me, exploding strawberry creams would do just nicely.

Anyway, the point was, now I was shimmying my way up the boy’s staircase in Gryffindor tower trying to find James Potter’s dormitory. Then, somehow, I was going to realise which was his bed and place the cloak on it with the note of the apology, exploding strawberry creams and cloak. Simple.

Except there wasn’t like a big sign reading ‘JAMES POTTER’S DORM, COME IN AUTUMN, MY FAVOURITE CHOCOLATES ARE EXPLODING STRAWBERRY CREAMS, THANK YOU VERY MUCH’ like I’d hoped. I’d known there wasn’t going to be... but it would have been nice.

Plus, people kept walking up and down the stairs and I kept having to throw myself against the wall like a ninja.

I was about level with the fourth floor when the door flew open (cue crazy ninja moves) and a guy I recognised came out. I knew him. I sat next to him in Potions last year. He’d tried to copy my essay once, and I’d ‘accidently’ knocked his cauldron over which unfortunately had resulted in three people having to go to the hospital wing, because he’d brewed it wrong. My bad.

Still, I’d found James Potter’s dormitory! Horray! I darted in through the door before it shut and glanced around... if I was James Potter, where would I sleep?

I wondered around the dorm aimlessly, hoping that a sign would appear if I waited long enough. Nothing happened for a very long five minutes, which wasn't a big surprise all things considered. I gave into temptation and took one of the exploding strawberry creams, and relished in the way its strawberry-goodness exploded into my mouth... pure pleasure...

Eventually, I succumbed to checking the name tags in the back of the robes, although I suspected James Potter would be far too cool to have his name written on his robes...

Oh no – Property of J.S.Potter – I could probably thank the Ginny Wesley for that. So, that would mean that... the bed on the far end – next to the window – was James Potter’s (unless the boys shared clothes or had some weird tradition about putting their stuff on the wrong side of the room, and actually – I wouldn’t put it past them)... I could imagine him playing the ‘my Dad saved all your lives’ card to get the best bed. Did I blame him? Probably not.

I placed the almost full box of chocolate on his pillow, complete with the note and was just about to pull off the cloak when...

“What do you mean you haven’t got the cloak back?” Albus snapped. “I said you could borrow it for one day!”

“This girl took it!” James complained, also sounding highly irritated. “It’s not my fault – it was taken from me!”

“What were you trying to do, chat her up?” Albus asked, bending down and beginning to rummage through James Potter’s trunk feverishly.

“N... what are you doing?” James demanded. I flattened myself against the wall and cursed my luck. “You’re not going to find it in there.”

“I wouldn’t put it past you,” Albus muttered. “What girl?”

“I don’t know, Dom’s friend.”

“Oh,” Albus said, seeming to have calmed down slightly now. He pushed his glasses further up his face and took to pacing around the room again. “The tall one?”

“Yeah,” James agreed. “But if you’d just give me the map back...”

“No way.” Albus returned. “A deals a deal, you said I could have the map as long as you had the cloak.”

“Yes, but I didn’t realise I was going to be robbed!” James complained. “You should be nicer to me, Al. had the crappiest day ever.”

“And if you don’t give me the cloak back soon I’ll make it even crapper. I’ll make sure that everyone knows you really are scared of -”

“I won’t refrain from hexing you because you’re my little brother, you know?” James said.                   

“Who let the cat out of the bag then, or should I say, who let the chicken out of the -?”

“Dom, I expect.” James said throwing himself down on his bed huffily. “She’ll have the cloak, she knows about the fear...”

“What’s with the chocolates?” Albus asked suddenly noticing the box of strawberry creams. “There’s a note too,”

“Probably just another girl obsessed with me,” James said off handly, thankfully he appeared to be joking. Albus rolled his eyes and picked up the note.

“James, I’m sorry. A.O.P xxx” Albus read out. I suddenly felt my face cringing with embarrassment – I’d added my initials and the kisses as an impulse. I could have just keeled over and died right then and there.... at least he didn’t know my name, hopefully he’d just think, sarcasm aside, that it was some girl that was in love with him. “Who’s A.O.P?” James just shrugged in response. “And she’s left you a box of exploding strawberry creams.”

“Oh, those are my favourites!” James said.

Yes! Yes! Finally one element of the plan that had gone right! Go exploding strawberry creams! Forget that I still hadn't actually returned the cloak, and that James had no idea who I am or what I was apologising for (and that for some reason James thinks Dom is the one that pranked him) – he liked the bloody chocolates! Horray! Yes! There is hope for my failure of a life after all!

Then, when James reached out to take an exploding strawberry cream I realised something awful. Whilst wondering around the dorm aimlessly, I’d taken one... that meant that the box would recognise me as the owner of the chocolates which meant, by the very nature of the exploding strawberry creams that....

The whole box exploded, leaving a huge hole bang in the middle of James Potter’s bed. James Potter threw himself backwards instinctively, but Albus Potter was not so lucky – his face was now covered in soot and had somehow lost his eyebrows.

Oops.
 



Chapter 4: And then I am reminded why people confuse me...
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 A/N - Please keep reviewing this story guys, I mean - I love it, but... it's good for me to know if you're enjoying it too... or not. Either is useful to know (and look! Fast update :D).

 

“Holy shit!” James exclaimed, standing up and leaning over the hole to take a better look into its extreme depths. “I’m guessing that apology was ironic...”

“That’s some pissed off chick,” Albus said putting his hands up to his face and feeling his distinct lack of eyebrows. He wiped some of the smoke off his face and looked at the remains of the packet of exploding strawberry creams which had, most definitely, exploded.

I slid down the wall and buried my face in my hands; I was stuck here until the two left with nothing to do. Why could nothing go right? Why had the simple matter of returning his invisibility cloak ended up this badly? I’d blown up James Potter’s bed! I’d stolen from him, revealed his fear of birds and blown up his bed!? What was wrong with me? I was a nice person, well... I attended to be a nice person; apparently it hadn’t been working properly...

When I looked up from my angst I noted that Albus Potter had left and now James Potter was... undressing.

MOTHER OF MERLIN!

Undressing? Why was he undressing! WHY?

Well...considering this was his own personal dormitory, it was probably acceptable for him be undressing, but still! Did this have to happen to me?!?

I jammed my eyes shut but could barely resist the urge peek, I mean, I wasn’t like a perv or anything... but James Potter, the James Potter, was standing in front of me topless. Who wouldn’t look? Someone with pride?

And the trousers were coming off...

If he went as far as underwear I was going to do the brave thing – close my eyes, throw something at him and run like the wind so he’d never know it was me. Or knock him out. Or something (I never claimed I was brave or had any Gryffindor tendencies at all).

Instead he pulled on Quidditch robes and a breathed a sigh of relief – that meant he was going to be leaving to go practice soon (unless he lazed around in his Quidditch gear regularly, which wouldn’t have surprised me). Then again, the Gryffindor/Slytherin match was next weekend, so he’d probably be trying to fit in as many practices as possible.

Obviously they’d win though; Slytherin was now such a pathetically small house that their Quidditch team was absolutely abysmal. Then Ravenclaw would win against Hufflepuff – hence the practicing of my dancing for the bigger-than-ever victory party. Next was the Ravenclaw/Slytherin match which again was a no brainer. It was doubtful that Gryffindor would lose to Hufflepuff, although it would be very useful – which meant it would all come down to the final game of the year...

Not that it made much difference to me. As Dom always said – we were above Quidditch.

Still, it was nice to have an interest, and I may have snuck into games whenever she had a date at the same time... I briefly considered keeping the cloak until the Gryffindor/Slytherin match before realising that James Potter would probably seek me out and demand for it back before next weekend, and then Dom would know I’d betrayed her, and she’s probably murder me. Then I’d be dead, so I couldn’t watch the match anyway – so it would be completely counter-productive.

It was a nice idea anyway. I’d rather like to actually watch a match properly for once...

The door swung shut behind James Potter, and I realised I was going to have to leave another apology note (this time anonymous) and that I had no paper.... I went for James Potter’s trunk – he must have parchment somewhere, and found myself holding a pair of his boxers.

Boxers with hearts on. And flowers. Bloody hell.

I sieved past his boxers, hoping they were clean, and avoided the socks desperately (because boy’s socks are always gross)... yes! Books! I pulled it upwards past the rest of the crap and found it was a... a diary.

James Potter had a diary, flowered boxers and a fear of birds.  Dear God, I had so much blackmail material it was physically painful not to blackmail him. Why did I want to steal this diary so badly? Already I found my stupid fingers flicking through the pages...

Al is still pissed off at me, I’ve told him I didn’t know about Melinda, and he’s says he thinks I’m a selfish bastard for pranking her...

I stopped and slammed it shut. I couldn’t do that, I was a nice person, even if all evidence was pointing to the contrary. I was good little Christian girl, I didn’t read other people’s diaries...

Why didn’t James Potter have any parchment? Did he just not work? Either I tore a page out of the diary or...

I flicked through it to the first blank page, retrieved a cheap muggle biro which was on the top of his trunk and began to write – knowing I’d regret it.

It’s at the bottom of your trunk, I wrote. Who knew if anyone else even knew about the cloak...? I’d make sure it wasn’t visible, leaving it on the bed had been a stupid idea. Sorry it took me so long to get it back to you.

I paused for a few seconds before acting on my stupid impulse again.

PS. Your flowered boxers are beautiful and this diary must be very precious to you – your masculinity astounds me.

Then I regretted it, but I couldn’t cross it out now, so I took off the cloak and shoved it down to the bottom of the trunk, then put the diary a little way down – hidden from view, but easy to find. I stepped back and took a look – it definitely looked like someone had been through it, which was perfect – James would ensure his diary was present immediately if he knew someone had been through his trunk and then he’d see the message and find the cloak... perfect.

I felt much more vulnerable now I was visible and hastened towards the door. I pushed it open, glancing around to make sure no one had seen me, but... someone had. I was now face to face with my ex-potions partner.

“Hi,” I squeaked nervously.

“What are you doing?” He asked, I noted that his voice had got much deeper and he’d grown about a foot – puberty seemed to be doing that to males at the minute – but he was still slightly shorter than me.

“Erm, I’m looking for my brother,” I said desperately. I thanked God for providing me with a quick mind. “But I think I’ve got the wrong dormitory.”

“Who’s your brother?” He asked, seeming to buy this excuse – I thanked God that Gryffindors were, in Dom’s words – ‘stupid idiots who used their brains only to piss other people off.’ (Hufflepuffs where ‘stupid idiots who only used their brains to act nice to piss other people off’ and Slytherins were ‘stupid idiots who didn’t use their brains – Dom is anti-people).

“Oliver Pearce,”

“That one,” He said pointing the dorm several floors down.

“Oh thanks, erm...”

“Daniel,” He said, rolling his eyes and stepping into the dorm. I decided it was probably best to go visit my brother, after all – at least then I had an alibi in case I bumped into anyone else, or if Dom suddenly got wind of my presence in the Gryffindor common room.

Well, that could have gone much worse.

 

 


The second I stepped into the dormitory I was grabbed by some thin fingers and pulled into the corner. “Benson Flint and Abigail Thornton have broken up!” Dom hissed her silver-blue eyes clearly full of excitement.

“Really?” I asked, genuinely interested. Flint and Thorton had been a thing for as long as I could remember, Abigail was famously jealous and Benson was infamous for being a complete arsehole. Still, I’d always assumed that they would just always be together... “But they’ve broken up before,”

“That was in forth year,” She said, rolling her eyes to demonstrate a point. “This is for real; she’s been seen walking around hand in hand with Russell Kirk.”

“The captain of the Ravenclaw Quidditch team?” I asked with my eyes wide.

“Yes,” Dom nodded eagerly. “And she’s said all this stuff, about how many times Flint has cheated her on stuff, I mean, obviously there were rumours – but apparently it was all true! That’s why she slapped Melinda Marchbanks last year, before the – well, you know.”

“Oh, wow.” I said, suddenly noticing that Dom had straightened her hair and applied her ‘killer’ red lipstick, and that her talons, sorry – finger nails – were painted in a bright red. She was on the pull.

“So what do you think?” She asked eagerly from behind her extra long eyelashes.

“What do I think about...?”

“Benson Flint!” She exclaimed, as if I was being slow, or like what I was saying didn’t make sense.

“What about Benson Flint?”

“Me and Benson Flint, honestly Autumn.”

“He’s just been dumped by a girl he’s been dating for at least three years because he cheated on her!” I exclaimed.

“Well,” She said, “He wouldn’t dare cheat on me.” She said offhandly. “Anyway, Abigail was probably just making it up, and Benson is a seventh year...”

“And a Slytherin!?” I exclaimed. “A mean Slytherin.”

“Well, Autumn, you might be satisfied with a fourteen freaking pointer – but I’m fed up off all these boys! I need a real man!”

“I do not approve!” I hissed. “Abigail is going to hate you.”

“She probably already does, and do I care what a stupid Hufflepuff thinks about me? No.” She snapped. “And if you’re going to be so unsupportive then I’ll go talk to someone who actually cares about me!” And with that she tossed her perfect hair, released her grip on my wrists – which had been held tightly in her grip throughout the whole conversation – turned on her sky-scraper heels and walked out.

I released a nervous breath and realised why I’d been pulled into a corner in the first place, we weren’t alone – two of the four girls that shared the dorm with us were here, and were now regarding me with blatant curiosity.

Jessica Hancock and Felicity Mars - I’d barely talked to either of them, but given Dom was my friend I knew all of their gossip. I knew that Felicity snogged James Potter whilst the other member of their trio (Danielle Samuels) was dating him, and that Jessica Hancock had slept with Freddie Weasley (hence why she was hated on) last year.

“That was a good thing to do,” Felicity said, she seemed slightly shocked by this revelation – that I could be nice, but I didn’t blame her considering most of the time I was thought of as an extension of Dom, but who went on fewer dates.

“Erm... thanks?” I said offering an awkward smile in their direction as I headed for my trunk. Dinner had just started, which meant Dom was sure to be hanging around in the common room waiting for five minutes before going down to meet Benson sodding Flint, and then she’d be there eating without me, and she wouldn’t even care.

Dom could keep up the ignoring routine for absolutely ages. She once ignored me for seven whole days because I told her that her dress was too short, thus apparently insinuating she was an easy slut and, according to Dom ‘considering the whole of Hogwarts thinks that, she isn’t asking much to have a friend who doesn’t listen to and believe idol gossip.’ Like I’d need idol gossip when Dom presents the truth to me so freely, as well as the idol gossip – naturally.

“Autumn?” Jessica said tentatively. I turned to look at her. “Erm, would you like to eat dinner with us?”

“Sure,” I said feeling a little out of place, “Can I just...?” I said gesturing lamely towards the mirror.

“Sure,” Felicity said with a smile.

I’d been too stressed about returning James Potter’s invisibility cloak to him to put on any make up this morning, but that didn’t mean I had to walk around looking like I was mostly dead for the rest of the day. So I slicked on my usual brown eye shadow, and reddish lipstick – it was a sad fact that autumn colours genuinely did look best on me, so most of the time I embraced the shades of brown and reds and just went with it. Then I was done, and turned to the others with another awkward smile.

Dom was still probably downstairs, timing her way towards the five minute rule, and if I walked past her in the company of other people she might drop the ignoring act which came with her tantrums, and beg for me to come back to her. Well... no, she has too much ‘pride’ to beg, but there was the slimmest tinniest chance that she might apologise.

Who am I kidding?

She wasn’t there, as it turned out, and I felt so tall and awkward with Felicity and Jessica, who were a perfectly normal average height and weren’t wearing five inch heals to try and compete with my six-footness.  Instead they were wearing the same sort of comfy flat shoes that I was, which meant I was a huge giant-ish figure towering above them. I hated being tall.

“Hey Danny,” Felicity said, as Danielle Samuels, who’d been busy cuddled up with her boyfriend (Jack Thornton) before ditching him and sending a challenging look in my direction. “Weasley is trying to get Benson, like you said she would.” She added darkly. “Autumn told her to leave off,”

“Oh, right,” Danny said, before offering me a half hearted attempt at a smile.

I was beginning to figure the whole thing out. Danielle’s boyfriend was Abigail’s sister, which meant that if Dom wasn’t careful she’d have our fellow dorm sharers after her blood again. I bit my lip but decided to keep quite.

“Well, shall we go?” Jessica said because we were standing in an odd circle awkwardly.

“Yeah,” Felicity said, linking her arm through Danielle’s arm, and then – to my great surprise, my arm. She could barely reach it as well. Felicity was ‘petite’ or, as Dom said – ‘vertically challenged’ which I liked, only she added ‘mentally challenged’ on the end too (Felicity too, had once gone on a date with one of her cousins – Albus maybe?). “Weasley’s really horrible to you, you know,” Felicity declared. “I mean, you don’t have to stand for it,”

“Yeah,” Jessica agreed, a little more shyly.

“Dominique Weasley is a bitch.” Danielle spat viciously. “I wouldn’t wish her company on anyone – not even Benson Flint.”

“He will cheat on her you know,” Felicity added. “You know she will, Danny.”

“Obviously, Abbie’s three times the person Dom Weasley is, and if Abbie can’t keep him... Wesley doesn’t stand a chance.”

“Oh she’s just awful,” Felicity said, her brow furrowing dangerously. “Isn’t she, Autumn?”

I was alarmed at being addressed, but I hardly had to think about what I was going to say – impulse, again. I detangled my arm from Felicity and took a step backwards. “Thank you for inviting me to eat dinner with you guys,” I said, “But Dom is my friend, and I don’t bitch about my friends.” I finished firmly.

Then I stalked off down the corridor and realised that this meant eating dinner alone... or eating dinner with Dom and Benson Flint.

Benson Flint, here I come.

***********

“Autumn!” Dom declared in falsely bright tones as I came to sit beside her, then she sent me a dark look that clearly told me to ‘piss off.’

“Autumn, that’s a nice name,” Benson Flint said in the creepiest most psychopathic sounding voice I have ever heard. Not only was he absolutely crazy for liking my name (seriously?!), he also sounded like a complete stalker.

“Thank you Benson,” I said with a smile, before I sat myself down and tried to show Dom that I was accepting Dom’s decision to chase after Benson-crazy-stalker-Flint by politely asking him how he was, and pretending I was interested in the pile of crap that was coming out of his mouth in response,”

“Because obviously we’ve had a bit of bad luck over the last couple of years,” Benson said in a very deep slimy voice that made me want to hide, or crawl into the foetal position and cry. I nodded. “But now I’m captain Slytherin should put up a decent fight in the game next Saturday...”

“Yeah,” I said. “Dom’s fascinated in Quidditch, aren’t you?” I said, partly because Dom had been strangely silent since I got here and had done nothing but poke me with her scarlet nails, and partly because Dom hated talking about Quidditch and I wondered what she’d do.

“Such a little joker,” Dom said with a fake amused smile. “I’m not into Quidditch myself, just the players...” She said tossing her hair and leaning forwards. I didn’t know why, so far he’d only scored five points (for decent looks, I’m not blind after all) but if this was my point scoring system, I’d definitely have taken four points off just because of his voice.

It was creepy. And weird.

I decided just to shut up and keep the points from now on.

 


“You’re such a cow, Autumn.” Dom said the minute we’d left the great hall. “Trying to hit on him when I’d already said that... I’ve had enough.” She spat. “Benson has invited me to go watch their Quidditch practice, have fun Pearce.”

Wow. Major Dom-strop. As if she’d think I...? And why was she watching Quidditch practice with sodding Benson, when he only scored seven points throughout the whole of dinner? And believe me, I was counting – there was nothing else to do, after all.

Sod it all, I decided in my head. Sod Dom for being melodramatic and stupid, and sod my luck for being so crap, and sod James Potter for making my luck even worse and increasing my levels of nervous energy because I was so terrified that any second he was about leap out and attack me for reading his diary, going through his trunk, blowing up his bed, stealing his invisibility cloak and accidently revealing the whole bird-fear to the world. I mean, damn, I couldn’t deal with anymore stress.

I needed to calm, and where do Ravenclaws go when they need to calm? The library. And there was no way in hell that either James Potter or Dom Wesley would ever venture into the foreign territory of, the library....

The library always smelt of books which reminded me a little of home, but not so much that I couldn’t stand it, just enough to give it a slightly homely feel – and books, books, books galore... Admittedly there was a slight lack of fiction, but some of the books on magic were so fascinating I could just about forgive that blunder.

So I pulled a book about human transfiguration off the shelf and turned to page 346, which was where I’d been last time Dom had a strop (that time about me not letting her copy some essay about something – apparently that meant I was a bad friend or something), when a piece of parchment fell from the pages between 347 and 348...

I picked it up from the floor and ran my gaze over it... it was yellowing and old, and there was a little sketch, quite skilfully done, in black ink... a stag with glasses and a broomstick, a large black dog, a wolf holding a book and, when I looked a little more carefully I saw a tiny shape underneath the stag’s foot... it looked about any second now the little thing – a mouse maybe? – was about to be squished under the stags foot, and then at the very bottom corner there were two letters – initials maybe? – PP.

PP...

“Hello there,” A familiar voice said, and then my heart stopped in my chest. I slipped the piece of parchment into my pocket to look at in more detail, and stared up at the smirking face of James Potter.

“Hi,” I said, my heart thudding a billion times a minute in my chest.

“James,” He said holding out his hand.

“I know,” I retorted, decidedly not extending my own hand.

“You’re supposed to tell me your name, or are we not there yet?”

“Nope,” I said quickly. “We’re not.”

“Right,” James said, lazing back in his chair. “Because you have seen my underwear after all...”

“If you do insist on leaving it around,” I countered, feeling strangely confident.

“So, you had my cloak.” I nodded. “Why did you give it back?”

“Common courtesy?” I suggested.

“Right...” He said, “And did you, by any chance, lend the cloak to anyone?” I shook my head. “So you’re the one who sent flying chickens to attack me?” He questioned.

“I didn’t realise you were actually scared of them!” I exclaimed desperately. “And the sweets weren’t supposed to explode!”

“The exploding strawberry creams were you too? My, we have been busy, haven’t we – A.O.P,” He said. Oh dear. I’d put my initials on the letter, dear god...

I blushed. “It was all a bit accidental, to be honest; I don’t think I’ve got the hang of this mischievous lark.”

“Really?” James Potter asked me, I was strangely calm – he didn’t seem to want to murder me, so that was a good sign, and I had one hand in my pocket with my fingers curled around my wand for extra protection. But if Dom saw me now... she’d never speak to me again. “I’m intrigued.” James Potter told me. “How’s about, you tell me all about in on Saturday?”

“Saturday?” I questioned, now feeling mildly hysterical.

“Hogsmede weekend.” He said with a winning grin.

“Erm...” I said articulately. My brain froze for a few seconds – was James Potter asking me out? “Sorry,” I said imagining Dom’s face if she found out about this. “I don’t go on dates with people who don’t know my name.”

He considered this for a second before taking a very old piece of parchment from his pocket and examining it carefully, then he placed it back in his pocket and looked straight at me. “I didn’t realise it was a date, Autumn.”

He knew my name!? Why did everyone have to find out my name? Why did it have to follow me around like some annoying, stupid ghost!? More to the point...How had he found out my name?

“What time am I meeting you on Saturday?”  James Potter asked, with a grin at my state of shock.

“Erm, Nine at the gates,” I answered without even thinking about it.

“Alright Autumn – it’s a date.” And then he stood up and left. I watched him go in an extreme state of shock.

Dom was going to kill me.

A/N - Review? Non?
 
 
 


Chapter 5: And then I actually enjoy myself...
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A/N - I wanted to get this up before the challange deadline.... but I suppose we'll see. Please review guys! I love reading them :D

 

So... I was going on a date. With James Potter.

I still wasn’t sure exactly how that happened, but I was freaking out a little. It was a good thing Dom was being ridiculous and had barely talked to me since the Benson Flint fiasco so I was now going solo (well, we still sat together and stuff – we just didn’t talk). For once I wasn’t bothering to suck up to her, because I definitely was not in the wrong this time. Still, it sucked that I couldn’t turn to Dom now and ask her what she thought of my outfit – although I couldn’t do that anyway because I was sufficiently screwed in Dom’s books forever, by agreeing to go on a date with James Potter (Undesirable number one, according to Dom Wesley) – but still.

I’d gone with the whole autumn colour theme, as per usual, and had on a just-above-the-knee-length casual type dress. The length made it a little awkward, but if it was any shorted my legs would look a couple of billion miles long, and yes, that is a good thing, but I saved that bombshell for very special occasions. I had on very thick red-brown tights and a red zip up jacket... hopefully it looked like I’d spent about two minutes deciding what to wear.

Which I had. Now I was just deciding whether I liked what I’d picked out. I did, I decided resolutely, and grabbed my coat before heading towards the door. I glanced back at Dom, who was fast asleep – hence why I’d picked such an early time, somehow in my panic I’d still managed to be logical – and decided she wouldn’t miss me. She had a date, with Benson Flint of all people, and as long as she didn’t run into me...

It would all be fine.

“Where are you off so early, Autumn?” Jessica’s voice asked, and I had a mini heart attack and snapped round to see their usual trio sat round the fire.

“Erm, meeting someone,” I said, purposefully not using the word ‘date’ this time. Even if it was sort of a date, but only sort of.

“Lucky for some!” Felicity exclaimed, and I was just about to scarper when she started talking again, “Look, Autumn, we’re sorry about what we said about Dom, I guess we kind of forget that you guys are so close,”

“It was good that you didn’t betray her,” Danielle conceded.

“You look good,” Jessica said, nodding at my outfit and offering me a shy smile. I returned it and shoved my hands into the pockets of my jacket.

“Thanks,” I said.

“Who are you meeting?” Felicity asked.

“Erm...” I began – should I tell them? It would probably be all round the school by lunch time anyway. Dom was going to kill me. “James Potter.” I mumbled very quietly.

“Who?” Danielle demanded.

“Erm, James Potter.” The shock on their faces was very clearly evident. “You won’t tell Dom will you? She erm... she wouldn’t approve.”

“Course not,” Jessica assured me quickly, as the others seemed to find this fact even more interesting. 

“I’m late,” I told them before shrugging at them by way of farewell and walking out again. Why were they being nice to me? People just weren’t nice to me.

“Have fun!” Felicity yelled after to me in a singsong voice, I shoved my hands deeper inside my pockets and started ascending the thousand or so steps with the vague realisation that I was going to be about five minutes late... Dom would be pleased. Well... sort of.

 

 

“Hey,” I said, slightly shocked to find that James Potter was there despite my seven and a half minute lateness, I smiled absent mindedly at him and closed my fingers around the tiny vile in my pocket – thinking about what Dom would do if she knew what I was doing...

This was serious friendship betrayal, I’m not even kidding.

“You’re not doing the Dom thing are you?” James asked, and I took his nonplussed expression to mean he was trying to hide how much this irritated him. Good reaction... Dom would say these showed he was quite nervous and had thought I wasn’t going to turn up – two points. Plus he looked good, really good actually, good enough to earn him the full seven points... and already he had nine, and he’d only said one thing.

Damn. I’d sworn long ago I’d never use the points system, but... I was so used to being the one counting the points that it was hard not to.

I sent him a questioning look.

“The arriving ten minutes late and rating my reaction,”

“No!” I said quickly. “Well, I didn’t mean to be late; the girls from my dorm were talking to me,”

“But you still rated my reaction?” He asked, his normal smirk growing on his features.

Unintentionally.”

“How am I doing?”

“Nine points.”

“Twenty-five means I’m worth your time right?”

“Worth Dom’s time.” I corrected him. “For me you’d probably only have to get fifteen.”

His expression froze for a second, and he tilted his head and examined my expression for a short period of time that felt like a lifetime. Then he broke the moment, “Personally, I’m aiming for thirty,” James grinned. “Anyway, shall we head off?”

“Sure,” I agreed, offering him a smile.

“How do I earn more points?” He asked after a few seconds of relatively comfortable silence.

“I’m not telling you that,” I said, “That’d defeat the point, anyway I’m not Dom, I don’t do the points thing.”

“Well, I wouldn’t be here if you were Dom,” James stated.

“Why?” I asked, quirking an eyebrow in his direction. I was so used to everyone loving Dom... the concept that he wouldn’t want to be here with Dom was baffling.

“Because she’s my cousin?” James suggested. I laughed. Four points. Crap – he was practically at my fifteen point marker already. Not that I was counting “Anyway, I want you to keep the points – see who ranks higher than me, so I can know who to take out.”

“Riighhtt.” I said. “Because you could take out Jack Sloper...?”

“Bloody hell, he’s ahead of me?”

“About level, right now.” I replied.

“I should really polish up my act a little,” James retorted.

“You’re doing pretty good,” I reassured him. “Jack Sloper only got fourteen points throughout the whole meal...”

“My score’s jumped up hasn’t it?” James said with a smirk. “How many points do I get for offering you my coat?”

“Well,” I said, “Considering I am a Ravenclaw, and thus smart enough to bring my own coat, you lose two points for stupidity.”

“Good job I didn’t offer then,” James said, and I laughed again. Two more points for Potter. “So where do you want to go?” He asked. One point for asking my opinion.

“Erm... Puddifoots?” I asked.

He raised his eyebrows. “It’s a good job I’m not rating you, didn’t have you down as that type.”

“I’m not,” I said quickly. “But erm... I need to make sure Dom doesn’t know about this, she’s already in a strop with me and... Dom Wesley swore never to step foot in Puddifoots again.”

“So did James Potter,” James muttered.

“You get like six points for agreeing?”

“Hey now, Dom would deduct points if I so much as thought of taking her in there, so you can’t give me points for that, but... can’t deny the damsel in distress can I? Puddifoots it is.”

Four points to Potter.

 

 

“I’m sorry, but I have to ask, why are you called Autumn? I had you more down as an Amy or something,”

“I’d probably suit Amy more than Autumn,” I replied with a grimace. “I hate my name, but I’d have thought why I’m called Autumn is obvious,”

“Your hair?” James suggested.

“This is why I don’t go for Gryffindors, my hair wasn’t this colour when I was a baby,” I said, “I’m born in autumn.”

“When?”

“October 28th”

“That’s practically winter,” James said, “And that’s practically tomorrow.”

“The day after next,” I corrected him.

“Should I get you a present?” He asked and I smiled and shook my head. “I like the name Autumn though – it’s pretty.”

“My sister’s called April,” I said, “I always mock her for getting a month, whilst I got a whole season.”

“Any more siblings?”

“Brother.”

“When’s he born?”

“June,”

“So what’s his name?”

“Oliver,” The confused looked on James look was priceless; I decided to give him another couple of points for it because it was adorable.

“Wait,” He said, “Oliver Pearce?” I nodded. “He’s on my Quidditch team!”

“Really?” I asked. “He didn’t tell me about that,”

“He’s a bit nervous I think, but you should definitely come along.” I made a face. “Not into Quidditch?”

“Erm... I’m ‘above Quidditch...’ As in Dom won’t let me go,”

“The only reason Dom doesn’t like Quidditch is because she’s balls at it.”  James said hotly. “And you shouldn’t just do what she wants you to do, didn’t you teach Oliver how to play? He said his sister had done, over the summer,”

“Yeah,” I admitted.                                                             

“And he’s a damn good flier – had to be to get on the team.”

“Reckon you’ve got a decent chance of winning this year?” I asked.

Chance? We’ve got it made, love.”

“You’ll be changing your tune when you see the Ravenclaw/Hufflepuff game,” I said confidently.

“Doubtful,” James said. “Anyway, you haven’t asked how I knew your name.”

“I’m a Ravenclaw, I don’t ask questions – I just work things out.”

“Run your theories by me then,” James said leaning back in his chair confidently.

“You have a map.” His jaw dropped open and he started at me in shock. “A map that most probably has everyone’s name on it, and where they are in Hogwarts. Can I look at it?” I asked. “I’m curious.”

“That’s a huge secret.”

“Right,” I said. “Colossal, now hand it over Potter,”

“No,”

“I can deduct points you know?” I said sweetly.

“You have to tell me how you worked it out first – can you do legilimency?”

“You don’t have to be able to read minds, Potter – its logic.”

“Logic?”

“All right, logic and a little bit of eavesdropping.” He raised an eyebrow at me. “I overhead you mentioning a map to your brother,” I admitted. “When I was trying to return the cloak... you wanted the map to try and find me or something, and then you looked at that piece of parchment and knew my name...”

“I’m impressed.” James said pulling out the parchment. And setting it down in front of me – it was blank.

“How do you unseal it?” I asked, James raised another eyebrow in recognition of my brilliance and tapped it once and said “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,”

“It’s old,” I stated as I racked my gaze over it. “The Marauders...” I read out. “Sounds a bit pretentious for it to have been made by your dad, grandparents?”

“Yeah,” He said. “James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and...”

“Peter Pettigrew.” I finished. “Was the cloak theirs too?”

“James Potter – my grandfather’s.”

“It’s the cloak your dad would have used right?” I asked eagerly. “The one that’s mentioned in ‘a recent history of modern magic’?”

“You read the history of magic text books?” James Potter asked me.

“I really like history,” I admitted.

“You doing it for NEWT?”

“No,”

“How come?”

“I don’t like being lied to.”

“Lied to?” James asked. “What do you mean?”

“Well... your probably wouldn’t like me mentioning it – I know Dom doesn’t, but, well, history’s version of WW2 doesn’t add up. They don’t tell us things.  I’ve read Rita Skeeters book about the Battle of Hogwarts, and I know she’s a complete bitch – just think about what she wrote about Dumbledore – but she’s the only person to cross reference over fifty eye witnesses to piece together what really happened. Your Dad came back to life! Started talking about wandlore – for some unknown reason – and managed to kill Lord Voldemort with an expelliarmus spell. It doesn’t make sense – what was he doing all those months when he vanished off the face of the earth?  What was the relevance of Draco Malfoy? It just doesn’t add up.”

“And yet you’re sat opposite someone who has all the answers, and you haven’t asked me,” James said.

What?” I asked eagerly. “You know!”

He nodded impressively.

“Wow,” I breathed, staring at him with an eager expression on his face. I could have answers... Except there was sure to be a good reason the truth wasn’t published in the history books, and I didn’t really want to start asking James such personal questions on this sort of date...

“Oh shit,” James muttered, looking towards the door. I craned my neck, expecting to see his brother or someone who’d make him embarrassed to be seen with me. Except... it was Dom Weasley.

Shit.

Benson Flint had his arm draped around her shoulder, and she was doing her normal giggles and smiles routine, and she was in Madame Puddifoots. Madame freaking Puddifoots.

“I’m so dead.” I muttered ducking and practically flattening myself to the table in an attempt not to be seen. “She’s going to kill me – shit, shit, shit.”

“What’s the big deal?” James asked trying to look natural; even though his date now had his face pressed against the table and was muttering swearwords and obscenities into the pink wood.

“This is serious friendship betrayal!” I declared into the table.

“What?”

“Serious friendship betrayal,” I muttered frantically. James was now craning over the table to hear me properly. “She made me promise never to talk to any of you,”

“What?” James asked, sounding incredulous. “Oh, so that’s why none of us have dated you yet,”

What?”

“I was wondering why none of us Weasley/Potters – and let’s be honest, there’s enough of them, haven’t dated you yet.”

“Oh come on,” I muttered picking my head of the desk and throwing my now messy hair out of my face. “There’s got to be loads of girls you haven’t dated between you,”

“Yeah, sure,” James said. “But we’re related to all of those.”

I laughed, and ducked my head down again because Dom and Flint were walking towards a table.

“Hi there,” A waitress said coming over and smiling at us. “Would you like any more drinks? Food?”

“Autumn?” James asked politely to the top of my head.

“No thanks,” I hissed backwards “And shush with the name!”

“I think we’re all right actually,” James said to the waitress politely.  “Just the bill then, James?” She asked sweetly.

“James?” Dom’s voice asked, I dived under the table as she appeared over the top of the booth, and stared at where he was sitting alone.

 “Hi.” James said stiffly in Dom’s direction.

“Who are you here with?” She demanded.

“Erm... Melissa something? Or Alesha... not really sure to be honest.”

“Where is she?” Benson Flint asked. “Couldn’t stand your presence either, eh Potter?”

“She just popped to the loo,” James said smoothly, just as something cool fell on my shoulder. “And actually, it’s not going to well if you must know – keeps throwing herself on me, so I’m going to be off, I think,” He said.

“If she asks, I wasn’t here,” He said with a wink.

Then he dropped a galleon or two on the table, and left.

Bastard! Bastard! What was I going to do now? I could hardly camp out here under the table until Dom and Benson left, and how would I even know? Minus forty points for James Potter! (Although that still left him with like, twenty five points which meant he was still technically worth my time). Wait, the cool thing that fell on my shoulder...

The blessed invisibility cloak! James Potter was a genius!

I slipped it on over my shoulders and snuck out from under the table, I paused... Dom and Benson were already lip locked. The waitress brought their drinks over and placed them on the table; they ignored this and carried on snogging. I paused for a second, and shoved a hand into my pocket, my fingers closing round a small vile that was my emergency ‘get out’ potion.

It made you feel really sick, and look really sick, and on every date I’d ever been on I’d had one with me, just in case the whole thing went wrong and I had to get out. If the date had been particularly awful, I’d spike his drink, and if it the guy had just been boring and I felt a bit sorry for him, I spiked my own drink...

I leant over their table and poured the entire contents of the vile into Benson Flint’s drink.

It was for Dom’s own good, I reasoned, he was using her.

James Potter was wondering around looking slightly nervous, with his hands buried deep in his pockets as he waited for me to appear. “I’m here Potter,” I muttered. He didn’t even jump, and instead just nodded.

“Let’s go,”

“Wait,” I said grabbing hold of his arm and nodding in Benson Flint’s direction. They’d paused with the snogging now, and Benson took a sip of his coffee... for a split second he looked mildly confused, then very very sick, then he projectile vomited all over Dom’s brand new, designer top.

“That’s nasty,” James muttered. “Did you do that?”

“Oh yes, Potter,” I said pushing him slightly so we could get out of view and I could take off the cloak. I darted between the space between the top shops and pulled it off, walking out to greet James again.

How?”

I pulled out the tiny vile, he unscrewed the top and took a sniff, before wrinkling his nose. “Extreme nausea potion?” He questioned. I nodded and gave him a suspicious look. “Logic,” He said with a smirk, then he took my arm.

“So you just carry that around do you? Poisoning anyone who pisses you off?”

“No,” I said innocently. “It’s defensive,”

“Against what?”

“Awful dates.”

 “I’m doing all right them am I?”

“Extraordinarily well,” I admitted.

“Well then,” He said with a smirk. “Where next?”

 

 

 “So, what do you want to do after Hogwarts?” James Potter asked, this time lazing back on one of the comfier seats in the corner of the three broom sticks – thankfully out of way, and near enough the toilets that I could scarper if Dom entered, although considering she’d just received a face full of vomit I doubted that would be a problem.

“Generic question, minus two points Potter,” I commented without thinking.

“What’s wrong with genericness?”

“Apart from the fact that word doesn’t exist, I’m not quite sure. I suppose if you go on as many dates as Dom you’d get bored of it quickly,”

“And you don’t?”

“Well, I doubt it would be possible to keep up with Dom.”

“Yeah, fair enough,” James said, and then he thought about it for a long period of time. “So how many dates have you been on?”

“Are you really asking me this?”

“Screw the point deduction,” James said.  “I’m curious. Forget how many, who have you been on dates with?”

“Mostly non-hogwartians.” I said. “Most others are off limits, either because their related to Dom, or her exes, plus... most people don’t really see me.”

“Didn’t realise blindness was such a problem in Hogwarts?”

“I mean next to Dom,” I said.

“I knew what you meant, Autumn” James said. “So who here hasn’t been a blind prat?”

“Sean,”

“Taylor?” James asked me. I nodded. “Seriously? You went out with Sean Taylor?”

“Sean Taylor’s nice,”

“Yeah, I suppose, but I’d be expecting him to ask out like... Harriet Summers or... Ursula Belby,”

“Both of who are nice people,”

“Sure,” James said. “They’re nice enough but, well, they’re more Sean Taylor’s league. You know attractiveness wise. And you’re... not.”

“I think that was almost a compliment?” I said, smiling slightly.

“Maybe on your looks, but not about your taste.”

“I’m here with you aren’t I?” I asked. “Or does that not count?”

“About that,” James began, “If Dom is likely to chop of all your hair or whatever for being here, why are you here?”

“Couldn’t think of an excuse quick enough? Anyway, considering I blew a hole in your bed – I figured you deserved it.”

“Your company you mean?” James asked with a smirk.

“Sure,” I agreed, leaning back and looking out at the other members of the pup. Now and then people would stop and do a double-take when they saw the two of us sat together, but considering we were just talking over butter beers none of them stared for too long. And it was nice. Really nice actually.

“Who else should be on my hit list then?” James asked after a few seconds of silence.

“Sorry?”

“Who else have you dated?”

“Oh, does it matter?” I asked. I rolled my eyes at his expression. “Well, apart from Sean Taylor, Robert Simpson, Martin Creevey and, gosh... third year – McLaggen, before he got popular.”

“All of whom are in the Summers and Belby league, especially McLaggen – popular or not.”  I shrugged. The conversation came to a momentary awkward stop. I cringed internally. “Didn’t I ask you what you wanted to do after Hogwarts?” James asked, and the conversation continued.

 

 

 It was half an hour later when I realised three things: 1) I still hadn’t told James Potter what I wanted to do after Hogwarts; 2) I’d talked about myself for nearly three hours and 3) this was probably the best date I’d ever been on, even though James Potter had been totally monk-like and hadn’t even appeared to think about making a move on me. Which made it sort of not a date. But it sort of was.

“You know James,” I said, “That prank I pulled on Benson is the first prank I’ve ever pulled that was nearly a hundred percent successful.”

I’d now told him all about my disastrous attempts at pranking and generally being unfunny, and given he was a bit of a genius in that department, he found the whole thing hilarious.

“Nearly a hundred percent successful?” He questioned.

“He was supposed to miss Dom, with the vomiting I mean.”

“It wasn’t bad for a novice; you’ll get there one day – with a little instruction.”

“From the master I suppose?”

“I prefer Captain, rather than master,”

“Right,” I laughed. “Do you want me to get down and kiss your feet too, O’ mighty captain?”

“Maybe another time,” He replied back instantaneously. I was shocking myself by really enjoying his company... this whole thing had been fun.

“So,” I said, finishing off my third butter beer, and facing James. “You’ve questioned me to death by now, and I understand your desire to get to the thirty points, but you’re well over now, and I’m sure you’re much more interesting than me. Tell me about yourself, Potter.”

“What’s there to know?”

“That’s what I’m asking you.”

“Okay, well... one thing you might like to know,” James said. “Is that I’m not exactly truthful.” I raised an eyebrow. “My brother wouldn’t give me the map back, because I said you had the cloak,”

“But you have the map and the cloak?”

“Al trusts a little too easily – always has,” James shrugged. “So I didn’t mention you’d returned the cloak – I needed it anyway, and he’d never lend it to me again, and I said that I’d get it back to him on Saturday,”

“Because you were going to take me out on a date to seduce it off me?” I questioned.

“I wouldn’t have had to,” James said. “But I’d already arranged to meet you, and he spends far too much time in the library, and he saw so...”

“So...?”

“Well, thing is, Autumn, my brother’s just walked into this very pub, and is now watching us very carefully.”

“Oh,” I said turning round casually to see Albus Potter’s green eyed stare directed straight at me. “Do you want me to act charmed or something?” I asked and James gave me a strange look.

“You’re okay with this?”

“Well, whatever,” I shrugged.

“I mean, I’m kind of using you?”

“It doesn’t matter,”

“Well it should,”

“Shouldn’t you be trying to seduce me or something? Or at least look as if you are?”  He tossed this comment aside but shifted a little closer and looked at me seriously. Another two points for James Potter for attractiveness. Pwoah.

“So you’ve got a sister and a brother?” James said, “Unless I just made that up,”

“You didn’t,”

“Tell me about them.” James implored. I raised my eyebrows slightly.

“Well, my sister – April, she’s twenty something, living abroad at the moment. She’s a historian, trying to fill in the gaps in wizarding history and digging up ancient artefacts and testing on them and stuff. Then there’s Oliver, and you probably know more about him than me,”

“You mean you don’t see them very much?” James asked seriously.

“Erm, not really, Oliver more, April came back the Christmas before last but I haven’t seen her since then.”

“That must be really hard for you,” James said, and I gave him a strange look before I realised at some point during this tiny portion of conversation he’d reached out and put his hand on my arm consolingly.

“Oh it’s simply awful!” I declared, knowing Albus was far away that he wouldn’t know I was taking the piss, “I mean,” I wailed, bringing a hand up to my face to wipe away an imaginary tear. “I miss them so much!”

“I understand!” James said back, holding my shoulder and nodding empathetically.

“You’re the only one who understands” I said, resting my head on his shoulder and taking in a deep breath for strength. “I am so sorry about this, James,” I said, putting a hand to my heart and sniffing gracefully. “Sometimes I just can’t control my feelings,”

“I know exactly how you feel,” James said.

“Is that why you have a diary?” I asked, and I could tell he was finding it very difficult to keep a straight face and Albus could see his face.

“Tom Riddle had a diary so...”

“You’re basing your masculinity of Voldemort?” I asked. “Every record of him highlights the fact he has a high pitched laugh.”

“Well, I doubt many people were thinking ‘jesh this guys feminine’ before he murdered them.”

There was a long second of awkwardness.

“I really feel like I can talk to you, James,” I said putting a hand to my heart, “And I just always feel like, like, like... I don’t fit in,” I declared before wiping away imaginary tears.

“I’m going to pretend I feel great empathy with you,” James returned nodding seriously. “But really I’m just trying to get into your pants,”

“Even though all evidence points to the fact that you don’t care about me, I’m convinced you’re in love with me.”

“I’m going to casually touch your leg,” James said, shifting a bit closer, his hand resting above my knee.

“I’m going to pretend not to notice and instead laugh at the really funny joke you just told.” I fake-laughed, leaning towards him and clutching his hand for support.

“I’m going to ask you if you want another drink,”

“I’m going to say that I wouldn’t mind another butterbeer, and offer to pay.”

“I’m going to refuse your money because this is a date,” James said, “And now I’m going to do this,” then he leaned forwards, and his face was so close to mine that to anyone else it would have looked like he’d kissed me, but instead he whispered “Thanks for this,” in my ear, and then he was gone and I felt strange.

I watched as he talked, with added mild flirting, to the waitress. James Potter had a nice arse, very nice actually. He had nice hair too. And a nice neck.

I looked away quickly.

I risked a glance at Albus Potter, who was resolutely staring in my direction as I watched James that was a good bonus of validity for the cause. The cause being letting James Potter get away with lying to his brother. Should I be consulting my moral compass as to whether I should be doing this? Probably. Did I want to? Not in the slightest.

“Here you go,” James said presenting me with another butterbeer. We’d had so many drinks by this point I’d probably have a bladder explosion, or actually start being effect by the alcoholic content of all this butter beer. “How am I doing?” I looked at him blankly, I still felt a bit funny about the whole whispering in my ear thing – my Claw brains had turned mushy, and were now much less substantial... I couldn’t deal with that. Unless I was calm and collected I acted like a complete dolt, and I’d been doing so well...  “Points wise.”

“Impressively well, you’ve surpassed my standards by a couple of light years.”

“That probably just means you should higher your standards,” James said, looking at me a little too intently. The whole thing now had more of date feel, which was why I was beginning to think/act slightly more psychopathic. I really could not deal with stressful situations.

“What?” I asked. “To Dom’s twenty five?”

“If you want your dating habits to be like Dom’s, I’m sure that’s fine.” James said, “But if you’re interested in being a little less slutty,”

“All right Potter,” I said, “Say I say fifty – you’ve still already got there.” Way over – sixty. Which was practically record breaking, but Dom continued point counting through the next phases. The record was a fantastic 63 until Dom got bored and he got ‘disposed.’ AKA – he was dumped.

“One hundred.” James said determinedly.

“Impossible and unnecessary.” I countered.

“Well, you’re a classy lady,”

“I’m no lady.”

“See, that’s frustrating,” James said his forehead crumpling slightly.

“What’s frustrating?” I asked. I should have known that this was going a little too well. I was Autumn Pearce for goodness sake; of course James Potter wouldn’t really have asked me out... I was pretty much a nobody. He probably had only asked me to appease his brother...

“I’ve only just met you,” James said, “And I’m already noticing how much you put yourself down. Seriously,” He said, “I think you’re the one who doesn’t see.”I kept my lips shut. “You’re not even defending yourself,” James said, sounding slightly irritated. My bad. I glanced around, unsure of what I was supposed to say about the whole thing, when I accidently locked gaze with Albus Potter.

He was now at the bar, leaning slightly to the left to eavesdrop on our conversation.

“All right Potter, no need to get your flowered boxers in a twist, you can have the cloak back. You put up a good show.” James caught on quickly enough, but didn’t say anything as I pulled the cloak out my bag where I’d stashed it after the puddifoots-incident. James grinned convincingly, and was just reaching out to grab it when...

“I’ll take that,” Albus Potter said, folding the cloak neatly and then shoving it into his own bag.

“Naturally,” I said offering him a smile. “I had fun Potter,” I said, standing up “But I should probably make sure Dom hasn’t developed a brain tumour or something,” I smiled. He looked slightly unsure. “And if I drink anything else I’m going to turn into a butterbeer, but...”

I stopped for a long second. To act on impulse, or not to act on impulse? To use my brain and do the sensible properly thing, or do something stupid...

“But we should do this again sometime,” I said defiantly. Then I smiled, turned and left.

And, just like that, I left James Potter alone in the three broomsticks.

A/N - Reviews please :)
 
 
 


Chapter 6: And then further complications arise...
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

A/N - this is quite a short nothing-happens chapter but I hope you enjoy it all the same! Also, this is a really quick update! Harrah! :)

 

“How was your date?” Felicity asked in a sing song voice as I re-entered the dormitory. I briefly wondered why the three of them were still here, but I guessed they could have gone to Hogsmeade and returned within the time I’d been out. I’d taken a long walk on the way back to sort out my thoughts, and wonder exactly why I’d given James an open invitation to ask me out on another date...

I hadn’t exactly come to a conclusion, and had instead got distracted by thoughts about when Dom’s diva-fit would end, and whether it would be before my seventeenth – in two days time. Doubtful.

“It was...nice,” I said, with a small smile. That was the word to describe it, even if the word ‘nice’ was empty and stupid... that’s what the date had been – nice. It was pleasant, and left me with good feelings – it was nice.

“That bad?” Danielle asked, with a laugh.

“No, it was really... no, it was good,” I said definitely, before I sat down on the side of my bed and considered this for a second...It had definitely been pretty wonderful as dates go, but had it really been a date? It was more a getting to know each other type thing, which wasn’t like what they’d probably think of dates but...

Oh sod it. I’d had fun.

Then the door flew open framing a truly terrifying figure. Dom was in the doorway, her hair wild and angry looking, her chest heaving and the remains of Benson Flint’s vomit after what looked to be some emergency cleaning, still on her T-shirt. For a split second, I was sure she knew I’d been on a date with her cousin... but her anger didn’t seem to be directed at me.

“I HATE my family!” She screeched, and this assault on my eardrums caused me to step back quickly. “I hate them all!” The girl was part Weasley and part Veela, so it was a given that her temper was truly terrifying.

It was rare that she got really angry, she instead existed in a permanent state of ‘pissed off’ which was scary enough, but angry Dom? Angry Dom was scarier than a herd of dementors, and I was pretty sure that my Boggart was Dom in this state, only my Boggart would have all this anger concentrated in my direction rather than at her family (this is a bit of a lie, but I’d rather tell people that Angry-Dom was my Boggart than think about it’s true form).

Dom made an incomprehensible shriek of rage. Then she pulled the ruined t-shirt over her head so violently that I’m almost certain it ripped, and threw it at that floor and kicked it under the bed. Then she was stood there in one of her prize red push-up bra and a pair of jeans, with steam coming from her ears. Well, okay, the steam was a figment of my overactive imagination.

Then she turned to me.

“Well!” Dom screeched. “Find me something else to wear Autumn!”

Despite being the pushover of the century, normally even I would not stand for being yelled at by my supposed best friend – I hated being yelled at more than anything else – but Dom was upset and wasn’t exactly in control of her emotions. Plus, I didn’t know what she’d do if I didn’t hand over one of my t-shirts sharpish. So I did.

She pulled it on over her head, and whilst she was distracted by the T-shirt I mouthed at the others to clear off. They stayed glued to their beds, grinning their faces off and watching as Dom’s family issues manifested themselves into a total mental breakdown. I suddenly felt highly irritated at them – why couldn’t they just leave? And my eyes narrowed in their direction.

Jessica, who’d looked least delighted when the scene unfolded, attempted to pull Felicity towards the door.

Dom noticed where my gaze was directed and whirled around. “Oh SOD OFF!” She yelled, pulling out her wand and brandishing it wildly in their direction. It almost seemed like Danielle was going to pull her own wand out and a full on duel was about to break out, but Felicity and Jessica dragged her out.

“Pathetic losers!” Dom yelled as the door closed after them.

“Dom?” I asked tentatively. Her anger seemed to have lost its edge somewhat, and now she looked like she was about to burst into hysterical tears. “W...what’s? What’s happened?”

“My sodding family!” She declared, then she slid down the side of her bed and the tears started. “I hate them! I hate them all! I don’t want to be associated with... with... bloody heroics, and with PRANKS, and QUIDDITCH, and stupid red hair!” She pulled at her ‘strawberry blonde’ locks and then buried her face in her knees. “And I don’t want to be associated with sodding, Louis with his stupid girlfriends, and and with VICTORIE, and her stupid PERFECTION!” I nodded, sitting down next to her. “I mean! Why can’t, I just be me?” I nodded again. Then she sniffed loudly and pulled her head up. “It was James,” She clarified. “He spiked Benson’s drink with this potion and he threw up all over me, he’s been really sick! I had to walk him all the way back to Hogwarts, and... I just wish they’d stop trying to ruin my life!”

Oh sod.

This was my fault.

I pulled out a bar of emergency chocolate from my trunk and thrust it into her hands. She stuffed several cubes into her surprisingly large gob, before letting the packet drop from her hands and burying her head again.

“Well,” She muttered. “I’m not going to put up with this time – I’m going to get him back.” She said, now with a frightening glint to her tear-leaking eyes. “I’m going to make him wish he’d never been born, and you’re going to help me.”

Sod.

 

 

 

Hey Autumn!

Hi, I’m your sister. Do you remember me? We shared a house for a couple of years? I then moved abroad to research material for my book? I’m a bit like you, only better in every way.

Nah, I’m kidding, I’m only better in most ways.

 You’re seventeen! Well, actually, I don’t know if you are seventeen yet – this might arrive a bit early, or a bit late. You never know with owls. Egypt is good fun, but I haven’t got much further with the book. Then again, I didn’t think I would. I just wanted to see the tombs, if I’m honest. You’d like it here. How’s Oliver? Still Gryffindoring it up? You probably haven’t seen much of him now the years started. If you see him, tell me I expect a response pronto – I need to hear from him!

How’s Dom? Still a drama queen? I expect so. Really, you should find some new friends or something, that girl is the limit.

Most importantly, how are you? I’ve missed you, I really have. I can see your expression of disbelief now, but September and October always make me think of you. I bet you love that. Anyway, I’ve enclosed your birthday present. It’s a watch, as is tradition.

If anyone upsets you on the big day, just go talk to Oliver. He’ll make time for you. That boy cares about you a lot, you know – well... you’ll see. I just realised you might get this after your birthday, in which this whole letter will be pointless... but, I’m sending it in good time so really, it should be fine.

Oh, I almost forgot. You should read ‘An Alternative History.’ I can’t remember the author’s name, but it’s got some really interesting ideas. There’s a particularly good theory about wand lore which I’ve been studying... well, I guess you’ll have to wait till my book is finished!

I’m going to try and come see you all soon, promise!

Lots of love,

April.

I shook my head at the letter, but it made me smile slightly. I fingered the edge of the parchment and wondered when April had sent it, if she was in Egypt then... I always found it strange reading letters from the past. In the past two weeks say, anything could have happened – she could have fallen in love and gotten engaged, or she could have finally finished the book to the delight of her publisher... anything could have happened.

Although the former were all doubtful.

April,

You’re three days early and your punctuation makes me tired. Everything’s been pretty hectic here, I’ll have to tell you when you come and visit (note this is meant sarcastically, I do not believe you will come and ‘see us all’ any time soon, based on past experience), or when I can be bothered to draft out a proper reply. I’ll write a proper letter to you on my birthday, and send it with Oliver’s owl.

I also think you should accept that Oliver will never write to you – he doesn’t do letters. Oliver does Gryffindor. He’s on the Quidditch team now, by the way (don’t be offended, he didn’t tell me either) so I think I might go and watch his first match next weekend.

Hopefully there won’t be anyone who decides to ruin Tuesday, but I doubt anyone would be so considerate as to leave me alone. So I’ll be waiting for their contribution, as per always.

I’ll get the book from the library at some point – thanks.

Please enclose some pictures of dismembered bodies from the tombs; I’ve been feeling particularly violent as of late. School is stressful, but definitely not due to academic reasons. Herbology is still easy, care of magical creatures remains my favourite, and Defence is the bane of my life.

Love,

Autumn (the superior sister)

“Dom, I’m just going to send a letter to my sister.”                                          

“Hmm.” She replied, bending over  her piece of parchment and scribbling menacing things down, that I would probably be forced to listened to very soon. She was scheming. It was terrifying, but apparently her anger at James, which was incidentally all my fault, had outweighed her anger at me for whatever it had been in the first place – so I was forgiven. As long as I silently helped her ‘destroy’ James Potter, who I’d just gone on a date with.

“Bye,” I said, slipping out the dorm and breathing more easily. Naturally I hadn’t got a clue what I was going to do – Help Dom? Warn James? Tell Dom the truth?

Definite no to the latter, I wasn’t suicidal just yet. Still, it was only the second month of term...

I wondered up to the owlery, running the piece of parchment through my hands and being vaguely aware that April would probably complain about it being so tatty...

“Autumn!” A voice called from right behind. My heart stopped beating in my chest; I made a high pitch yelping sound and immediately stopped walking.

Then there was laughter – laughter which I was beginning to recognise a little too well.

“Stalking me now, are we James?” I asked.

“That would have been a lot slicker if you hadn’t just had a heart attack.” He mocked, falling into step next to me. “Owlery?” I nodded.

“You?”

He waved his own letter in front of his face in response. “Who you writing to then?” James questioned.

“My sister,”

“Ah... the estranged... April was it?”

“Glad to know you were listening Potter,”

“It’s too be expected, surely? Or is Sean Taylor not a listener?”

“More of a talker.”

“Robert Simpson?”

“More of a starer.”

“Can’t blame him, and I’m not even going to ask about McLaggen.” I laughed at that. “So what’s your sister like?”

“Enthusiastic,” I replied, feeling tired even thinking about it. “She’s extremely bright, and most of the time she forgets people can’t keep up with here. More energy than I’ve ever had, I’ll tell you.”

“Writing to you for your birthday?”

“Goodness James, you were attentive,” I said appreciatively. “And that’s a clever deduction – bonus points.”

“What’s your brother like?”

“He’s sweet,” I answered. “Well, no he used to be.  I still think of him as sweet, but I guess he’s a bit more ladish now. With the odd sweet moment.”

“Is he protective? Should I be worried about him having words considering I’ve taken you out and all?”

“Well...” I said with a smile. “He has got a bit of a temper. What does he play, anyway? You didn’t say?”

“Oh, Beater,” James replied. “I forget you don’t follow Quidditch.”

“I do, I just have no idea who’s in what year, if I’m honest. I’m doing it again, talking about myself,” I said looking to James with a strange expression on my face. “I promise you I’m not like this with anyone else; usually I can’t get a word in edgeways.”

“There’s nothing wrong with talking about yourself,” James returned as we reached the owlery. “Anyway, I want you to talk about yourself.”

“Why?”

“You’re interesting,” He replied as a very dark owl landed on his shoulder. My own owl flew over towards us and nibbled on my ear affectionately.

“Interesting?” I questioned, feeling my forehead crease in confusion.

“You steal my invisibility cloak, set a rabid chicken on me, sneak into my room to apologise – accidently exploding my bed and finding my diary, where you then decided to leave me a message, commenting on a pair of my boxers.”

“Well, okay,” I admitted. “If you look at it that way, then I might appear quite interesting but -”

“You’re Dom’s best friend too, that’s pretty interesting – I don’t know how anyone can put up with her for long periods of time.”

“ – Dom is genuinely lovely,” I interrupted.

“You have some strange set of morals that everyone else seems to be lacking,”

“I’m a Christian,” I replied to that. “But honestly, James, that was all just a bit of a mistake – I’m not interesting. I’m a bookworm.”

“You poisoned Benson Flint.”

“About that,” I interrupted. “I...er... Dom blames you, and she’s on the war path.” My owl nipped my ear; I frowned at her and offered my arm out too her. “And, she’s roped me into ‘destroying you,’ so...”

James took in my worried expression and laughed.

“Autumn, you can’t prank for toffee, let alone ‘destroy someone’ and Dom, well... I’m more than capable of dealing with Dom. Merlin, you’re hilarious.”

“Sorry?” I questioned. He shook his head at that one and proceeded to tie his letter onto his dark owl’s leg. “Who’s the letter too?”

“Mum,” He sighed. “Lily ratted me out about ‘losing’ the cloak. Given it’s such a historical artefact and all...” arm for her to hop down onto. 

“You’ll be murdered?”

“Essentially, and no one wants to be responsible for tarnishing the Potter name with scandal and murder. My owl’s much faster, so hopefully it’ll get there before Mum has a chance to write a Howler.”

“Why aren’t you scared of owls?” I asked. James looked up, startled.

“Well,” He said slowly. “I couldn’t come to Hogwarts if I was scared of Owls – I’d look like a right prat, screaming or fainting every morning with the post.” I laughed at that. “So they made me get myself an owl – and I picked this fellow here, the biggest and darkest owl in the whole shop. Then I got used to the post, and well, there’s always been owls flying in and out of the house – letters from the ministry, invites to Weasley conventions and what not, I’m just used to them I guess.”

“To April,” I told Comet, stroking her feathery head. “As fast as you can, if you please. But don’t wear yourself out – it’s a long way.” She seemed to nod, before using my arm to take off, and then she was flying out across the sky. “They are beautiful though,” I said, watching as she soared through the sky, in what looked like the direction of Hogsmeade...

“Where is she, your sister I mean?”

“Egypt.” I replied, turning back around, away from the window – and instead watching all the owls looking at us with their wild eyes. “I should get back; Dom’s scheming might get out of hand without me.”

“All right,” James said, beginning to tie his own letter to the dark owl’s leg. “I guess I’ll see you in Herbology on Monday?”

“Yeah,” I answered, feeling rather strange as I walked down the owlery steps. I wrapped my arms around myself and frowned. I was... Interesting? And, apparently... Hilarious?

Dom was right. James Potter had definitely been dropped on his head as a baby.

 

 

 “Promise me you’ll be nice to him? He feels so embarrassed about the whole throwing up thing,” Dom said, holding me back from entering the great hall for breakfast. “And I just, I really like him Autumn – he’s different.”

I shrugged.

“Oh, I know you don’t approve but... your my best friend Autumn, you have to like him – you have to get on, you just have too.” I frowned. I was apparently, off the Dom hit list – at a price. I had to pretend that Benson Flint was actually a human being, rather than a very creepy cheating Slytherin. “It would mean so much to me!”

“Fine.” I agreed. She threw her arms around me.

“You’re actually the best,” She declared, linking her arm threw mine as we walked into the Great Hall. I caught Felicity’s eye, who’d been walking just behind me with the others. She raised an eyebrow in my direction as if to say you fell for that? You utter moron, I ignored it and instead took my placed next to Dom at the Ravenclaw table. I swallowed back my doubts.

“Benson,” Dom smiled, when he came over a few minutes later. “This is my best friend Autumn,” She said with a winning smile. Despite her break down yesterday, it seemed that Dom was genuinely in a good mood. In a good enough mood to forget how ‘unsupportive’ I’d previously been, and in a good enough mood, it seemed – to be actually smiling. This was big. “Autumn, this is Benson – my boyfriend.”

Well, holy shit.

The last time Dom had a boyfriend was...

“A pleasure to meet you Autumn,” He leered. I inwardly cringed, but outwardly smiled.

A horrible thought struck me. Benson Flint almost certainly had heard that I’d been on a date with James Potter... and would almost certainly put two and two together, and work out that I’d poisoned him...  

Dom didn’t talk to anyone, but Benson Flint had a whole Quidditch team as his mates, and all the Slytherin’s hero worshipped him, of course he’d know... Of course... I’d have to talk to him. Convince him to stay quite... apologise for poisoning him... and hope that he didn’t kill me.

I looked at him. He raised an eyebrow – he knew, he so knew. I silently begged him with my eyes to stay quiet. He nodded briefly, and then did the leering thing again. I’d have to talk to him, at some point – without Dom thinking I was trying to hit on him...

Why did everything keep getting more and more complicated?

A/N - Please tell me what you want updated next/what you thought of the chapter. Still hating on Dom? Wary about Flint? What about April and the other girls from the dorm? Basically.... Reviews please :D
 


Chapter 7: And then I am forced to socialise with a wider range of people (read: not Dom)...
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

A/N - Another filer-ish chapter that I enjoyed writing far too much. This story is definately my current favourite... so I really hope you guys like it too. Thanks for all the reviews so far :)

 

“Looking forwards to your birthday tomorrow?” James asked, sitting down beside me in Herbology and leaning back on his chair lazily. It was the norm for me to sit on my own in Herbology, simply because I really didn’t know anyone else – and in any case, everyone else was already sat next to someone. James usually sat with some Gryffindor on the other side of the classroom, but at a glance at his old partner it seemed as though that had been convenience rather than friendship; he’d already spread over both sides of the desks and looked unperturbed.

I shrugged then pulled out my parchment from my bag and placed it on my desk. “Theory lesson, I’m afraid,” I told him. “We need to read the text book and write down the fourteen properties of...” I paused and glanced at him again. “Why is your hair pink?”

“Dom,” James replied, ruffling a hand through his spectacularly pink hair.

“Oh yeah,” I said slowly, “I brewed the potion, but surely – you didn’t fall for that did you?”

“I’m lulling her into a false sense of security,” James nodded impressively. “Making her thing she has the upper hand, and then I’m going get her back.”

“Why don’t I like the sound of this?”

“Would you be willing to spike her drink for me?”

“Hell no.” I replied, shaking my head. “And your full of crap Potter – you ate the chocolates, admit it. You’d think you’d have learnt from last time, not to eat chocolates if you don’t know who their from. And I thought I was giving you a hint with the whole exploding strawberry creams thing,”

“Yeah, yeah,” James shrugged. “The point is, you never told me what you want to do after Hogwarts.”

“Right,” I laughed. “Because that makes sense in the context of the conversation.”

“Now,” James said wagging his finger in front of me. “That’s not an answer; I’ll think you’re avoiding the question if you don’t tell me soon.”

“Fine,” I said, glancing at the page in the Herbology book and neatly copying it out onto my own parchment. “I would like to be a... okay, well,”

“Avoidance tactics,”

“Pushy tactics, minus three points,” I interjected. “And minus another three for not letting me finish.” James grinned. “I want to work for the Ministry, in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. As a catcher – catching runaway hippogriffs, boggarts, dragons... Then, I’d want to go freelance, because I don’t agree with lots of the ministry’s decisions anyway, and be like, a contract worker. If you have a ghoul you’d like to get rid, vampire problems, ect... that sort of thing. Hopefully.” I added.

“Why only hopefully?”

“It’s hard to get into.”

“What subjects are you doing?”

“Herbology,” I said nodding at the classroom. “Care of magical creatures, which is a necessity. Potions, too – you have to have that or they won’t consider you.  Arithmancy, transfiguration, and unfortunately, Defence,”

“Why unfortunately?”

“I’m terrible at it.” I admitted. “I was all right with the dark animals, but most of it just goes over my head. I can’t duel. If anyone points a wand at me I just freeze. But I need it. I have to be able to produce a Patronus by the end of next year.” I grimaced.

James considered this for a moment. “What about transfiguration?”

“That’s fine,” I said. “It’s my back up.”

“Arithmancy?”

“I like Arithmancy.” I replied with a smile. “What about you? What subjects are you doing?”

“Defence, Herbology, Potions, charms, transfiguration and Quidditch.”

“Quidditch isn’t a subject,” I returned, writing down another property on my piece of parchment, glancing at the book every few seconds for reference.

“True, but I wanted to have as many as you did,” He returned with a grin. “Anyway, Quidditch is the one I’m best at.”

I glanced at his side of the desk. “You haven’t even got any parchment out yet!” I exclaimed. “Here,” I said presenting with a piece of my own parchment and a spare pen. “Get writing.”

“I’m shite at transfiguration,” James said, ignoring my piece of parchment and instead choosing to continue making conversation. I made a conversational noise of agreement, and concentrated on copying down the next line of Herbology nonsense down without inadvertently writing the wrong thing due to James’s continual attempts to make conversation with me. “And I’m brilliant at defence so...”

“So...?”

“I’ll teach you defence, you’ll have mastered the Patronus by next week and will be on track for an O in a fortnight, and you can teach me transfiguration!” He declared.

I looked up at him, feeling startled.

“That’s actually quite a good idea,” I admitted. He grinned in response. “Now get on with the Herbology, or I’ll have to help you with that too.”

 

 

 

 

Then, suddenly – I had my chance to talk to Benson Flint. 

On the way to potions on Monday and an opportunity opened up where neither me nor Benson were with Dom, and thus I could actually have a conversation with him. And then I realised that I really didn’t want to. The idea of having to talk to him was terrifying.

Alas, Dom was more terrifying.

“Benson?” I called in a voice that I half hoped he wouldn’t hear. That side won, and thus I frowned, sped up my walking pace and called after him again. “Benson!”  Again, ignored. Except a small girl who turned around and frowned at me as if I was a complete weirdo – possibly an accurate assumption.

I broke into a slight sprint. “Benson!” I said a bit louder, now attracting a fair bit of attention. “Flint!” I yelled, walking straight into a seventh year student who glared at me and muttered something obscene under her breath. I was right behind him now, and tapped his shoulder saying ‘Flint’ he finally turned around and grinned.

“Autumn.” He leered in my direction, his large lips twisting up into an attempt of a smile.

“You did that on purpose,” I said, staring at the expression on his face feeling quite irritated.

“Maybe a little,” he shrugged, continuing walking at a slow pace down the corridor. “So, you poisoned me.”

“Maybe a little,” I returned, falling into step with him. “Sorry,” I added as an afterthought.

“No you’re not.” He put in.

“Fine,” I agreed. “Don’t tell Dom about James?” I said hopefully.

“As persuasive as all that was...” He said with another classic leer that made me want to run away and shower until every inch of skin was wrinkly from too much water, and then get out and have another shower – it made my skin crawl.

“No, please, you can’t – she’d flip out.”

“Why did you poison me?” He asked, raising half of his monobrow in my direction and cocking his head to once side like a confused puppy.

“Because you’ll hurt Dom,” I said, for once standing my ground, “And Dom’s my best friend, and... it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“An impulse?”

“You could call it that. I didn’t plan it, if that’s what you mean, but I don’t regret it either – you’ll hurt her.”

“Why do you think that?” He asked, pausing outside the potions classroom that I was supposed to go in so that we could finish the conversation.

“You cheated on Thornton.” I answered definitely.

“Like she didn’t cheat on me,” He returned. “Anyway, most of that was just rumours. You shouldn’t judge people, Pearce,” I stopped. Didn’t I have my own personal vendetta against judgemental people (ignoring my best friend is the judge of the century)? Didn’t I hate the way that I was judged because I was friends with Dom?

Flint seemed to realised he’d got me on that one. “I won’t tell Dom about James,” He said. “And I definitely won’t tell her that it was you who essentially ruined our first date and her ‘favourite’ top-thing.” Then he walked away leaving me dumbstruck.

I stared, quite shocked, at the spot where he’d been, before I walked into the class and sat down next to Anthony Peters who was next in the register, and thus my potions partner. This alphabetical arrangement, which was the same in most classes where teachers were too lazy to come up with something slightly more creative, meant that James was sat behind me (not that I’d ever noticed this before today), and Dom was sat at the back of the room next to her least favourite cousin – Freddie Wesley.

As Dom often complained, our year was the year with the highest number of the Wesley extended family, which meant there was practically one in every single class. Not quite though. Still, to quote Dom ‘I can’t bleeding escape them – they’re fucking everywhere’.

“I’ve got the ingredients,” Peters stated, passing over my half of the ingredients. I smiled at him vaguely and began chopping as per instructed by my now open textbook. I was just stirring my potions for the third time (counter-clockwise, whilst simmering over a ‘light flame’) when something hit me in the back of the head.

I turned around and snatched the paper aeroplane out of the air, bending over my desk to unfold it as subtlety as possible.

Saw you talking to Benson. D x

I frowned and turned to glance at her in the corner of the room. She raised her eyebrows, but she was smiling – much more than I’d seen her smile in awhile. Was it possible, that Benson Flint – the creepiest Slytherin there was, could be good for Dom Wesley? She was hardly an angel herself, after all.

Checking he wasn’t a complete prat. A x

I returned, refolding the plane – glancing at the front to see the Professor obliviously reading a book entitled ‘Potions that require Patience’ and paying no attention, what so ever. I threw the plane, pulling out my wand and guiding it in the right direction. Dom reached out her hand, caught it out of the air – crushing the front of it between her long fingernails, and pursing her lips slightly.

I caught James’s eye by accident whilst turning back to my potion, and had to swallow back my smile –Dom was watching and smiling at a member of her family was a criminal offence – and turned back to my potion, which had now discoloured somewhat.

I screwed up my forehead and added in a few hopeful turns which... made the potion thicken dramatically. Pants.

The plane hit me in the back of the head again. I probably should be used to it now given we’d used this method of inter-classroom communication since second year, but by some twist of fate Dom was always the one behind me, throwing the plane so that they sharply collided with the back of my head. I guess the fates just favoured Dom like that.

Pass your test then? D x

The parchment was now heavily creased down the folds, and damaged from being snatched out of the air multiple times. I scribbled back – Surprisingly, yes. He’s not as bad as I first thought. A x – before re-folding it.

I glanced at my potion – which was still slightly wrong but not too bad, a state which I was happy for it to be in, then glanced at the Professor, before turning round and sending the plane souring in Dom’s direction.

James leant over and snatched it out the air, unfolded it – at which Dom’s face turned a fantastic shade of purple which rivalled the vibrancy of James’s current fuchsia hair do – then proceeded to scribble another note down on the piece of parchment.

I had turned around and openly stared at this, and by now the exchange seemed to have attraction most of the classes attention. I tried to telepathically warn James that this really wasn’t a good idea without making and facial movement whatsoever, but was interrupted from my efforts by a loud cough at the front of the room.

Half the class (Ravenclaws) simultaneously snapped their heads back to the front of the classroom to stare attentively at the Professor. He was still fully engaged in his book, but now I had bigger things to worry about – my potion was bubbling. Bubbling.

“Oh sod,” I muttered, trying desperately to calm the flames at the bottom of my cauldron. Then a piece of parchment hit me on the back of the head again.

Really? Benson Flint? Merlin Dom, are things really getting that desperate? I suppose no one else would touch the poor bloke after what he did with Thornton. Still... you’ve gotta feel sorry for the poor bugger. Kisses, James.

I frowned. James hadn’t bothered folding it into the plane shape, and had instead opted for the crushed ball of parchment option, which meant now it was incredibly difficult to fold. Still... I managed just about although without the help of magic it would never have landed on Dom’s desk.

I turned around, deciding that even if I choose to stare at the parchment’s progress it would still end up hitting me on the head, and my potion was looking in the need for some TLC.

Still... It was a full ten minutes before the piece of parchment (violently) hit me on the back of the head again.

Sod off James. Dom had written, the words practically making holes through the parchment. Even seeing the words written down like that scared me a little. James must have serious... guts (and a lack of brain cells) to read that directed at him without trembling a little.

 But I wanted to thank you and your little friend for my new hairdo. I really think it suits me. (I’m thanking your friend too because, obviously by the look of your potion – you’d never have been able to brew it). So thanks girls! Kisses, James.

Did it target all your hair? Or just that ugly mass on you head. Leave me alone Potter, and next time – don’t try and ruin my date. Dom.

Dommy, darling, your date was already ruined! You were on it remember? How’s Victorie? Kisses, James. PS. Tell your friend that I could demonstrate to her what a real date is.

Autumn is out of your league by several continents. You touch her and I’ll rip your hands off and write to Ginny. Dom.

Autumn eh? Well, it’s the season for it. The season for falling... for me. Tell her she’s hot. You never told me how Victorie is? Kisses, James.

Fuck off and get out of my life. Talk to Autumn and die. Dom.

She’s so possessive, so how about it Autumn? Next Saturday – you, me, an isolated booth in puddifoots? Enthusiastic kisses, James.

James was quite clearly asking to be castrated. I stared at the piece of parchment in shock before finally picking up a pen and a fresh piece of parchment. I’d never known anyone to stick up to Dom like that. I’d always just assumed that everyone in the world let Dom get her way. And bringing up Victorie? Low blow. It was no wonder that Dom was fuming over her cauldron – a confused looking Freddie trying to stay away from her (she had a knife and a boiling cauldron of potion, enough said) and yet, turning round to look at James, he was as cool as anything.

Ignore him, Dom, I wrote, shocking myself for not being angry at James myself. For surely, Dom had been just as bitchy back? And if she could get at him... then you can bet that she would have done. He’s just being a complete...

What was he being? Really, he wasn’t being all that bad. Fair almost, considering Dom had (okay, I had on Dom’s instruction) dyed his hair a fabulous shade of pink. Yet he didn’t seem to be taking any of it in bad humour...

I could hardly say that though.

I picked out a colourful insult with lots of swearwords which should be enough to take the edge of Dom’s temper, then sent it flying over in her direction. I pulled my wand out my pocket for that extra guidance when...

“- How about it then?” James hissed.

“You have a Quidditch match on Saturday you idiot,” I whispered back.

“Come to the victory party,” he insisted, his gaze so shockingly earnest that it made me loose enough concentration that the plane fell out of the air and dive-bombed straight into Freddie Wesley’s’ cauldron.

There was a loud fizzing noise as the piece of parchment seemed to dissolve... and then... of course, the whole thing exploded.

 

 

“So I’m really sorry,” I lamented, pacing around the hospital wing anxiously.

“It’s fine,” Freddie muttered from the bed, his eyes staring unfocusedly at a point over my left shoulder. I was almost a hundred and four percent sure he hadn’t got a bloody clue who I was, where he was, and worst of all, who he was.

James clapped a hand on Freddie’s shoulder, inducing a strangely automatic grin from Freddie. “He’ll be all right. Us Wesley’s – we’re tough as nails.”

“Tough as nails.” Freddie repeated blearily, nodding all the while.

“You’re a Potter.” Rose Wesley said, striding into the hospital wing with Albus in toe.

“Who are even tougher, right Al?” James said, nodding towards him. Albus shrugged.

“Who’s this?” Rose asked, nodding towards me in a matter-of-fact way that was devoid of any politeness. I opened my mouth to speak, but James cut across me.

“Autumn Pearce, Dom’s best friend – thrower of the parchment aeroplane.”  She looked at me in a way that was mildly terrifying. The scary female gene obviously runs in the Wesley family.

“It was an accident!” I declared, biting my lip furiously and glancing at disorientated Freddie in the bed. “I was trying to throw it to Dom, and then I got distracted so... so it landed in his caldron and then...”

“Crash, bang, wallop.” James put in cheerfully.

“Where is Dom?” Rose asked, sounding slightly disgruntled. I didn’t exactly blame her. She’d managed to escape unharmed from the potions explosion, and had insisted that he’d be fine and then she’d gone. I’d told her flat out that I’d wait in the hospital wing until Freddie was recovered enough that I could apologise properly.

“She’s er... busy.” I said, glancing at the floor and feeling myself blush slightly.

“Freddieee...” Roxanne Wesley, more informally known as Roxy (although I can’t call her that in my head – I don’t know her) said in a sing song voice as she walked into the hospital wing. “How are you?” She asked brightly.

“Yeah, yeah, tough as nails.” Freddie incoherently mumbled back.

“That’s the spirit,” She replied, pulling up a chair sitting down a resting her feet on top of his bed. Rose seemed to raise an eyebrow at her. “He’ll be fine,” She supplied, crossing her legs and lazing back. “He’s had much worse accidents trying to steal stuff from Dad,”

“Then why are you here?”

“I got to leave my lesson early,” She supplied, grinning innocently, and returning to staring at the ceiling.

“Is he going to be all right by Saturday?” A voice asked, and I snapped around to find Oliver walking in to the hospital wing. I found warmth spread over my chest and I grinned at him – I honest to Merlin loved my brother. To bits.

“Oh he’ll be fine,” Another voice said – Jason Wood. Sixth year Gryffindor.

“Well good, we have to win Saturday,” Oliver said – still not registering my presence in the hospital wing.

“Course we will, cause I’ve invited Autumn to our victory party, and it’ll be a pretty lame party if we’ve lost.” James grinned.

I stood up. “Look Freddie, I’m really sorry, honestly I am.” I began again. There were far too many people here that Dom would murder me for being in the same room as – let alone participating in the same conversation as. Plus I didn’t know them, and they all knew each other, and the whole thing was generally a stressful situation that involved me socialising with others. Which I was not very good at.

“It’s quite all right, er...”

He didn’t know my name.

“That’s just the erm... the potions,” Albus said quickly.

“No,” Roxanne said. “That’s just Freddie. No offence, but he doesn’t exactly have time to learn the names of all James’s girlfriends.”

“I’m... I’m not his girlfriend,” I said, feeling incredibly more awkward and like I was going to do something highly stupid any second.

“She’s my sister,” Oliver piped up.

“Oh, in that case – nice to meet you.”

“She put your brother in the hospital wing,”

“Well then, very nice to meet you,” She said with a grin. “Ah, that’s class over – so I’m technically not missing anymore lesson time now. You’ll be all right, won’t you Fred?” She asked, punching him on the arm playfully.

“Yeah,” He nodded, looking a little saner, and then “I’m a Potter – tough as nails,” He repeated. She turned, winked at me, and then sauntered back out the hospital wing. I felt incredibly...

Bemused.

“I should probably go tell Dom he’s all right,” I said, desperate for a reason to get away from here. I was already backing towards the exit. I said goodbye to Oliver with my eyes, and he returned the gesturing offering me a smile and the raising of a hand as farewell.

“I’ll see you later for our study session,” James said, grinning at me as I got a little bit closer to the door. Rose raised an eyebrow at this. Albus seemed non-plussed, if a little irritated. I avoided looking at Oliver and clocking his reaction (although I imagined it was surprised mixed with a tinsy bit of apprehension) and even Freddie, half mad on the hospital bed, seemed to be a little more interested.

I stopped for a second and looked at him. “You’re getting awfully clingy Potter, it’s almost like I can’t get rid of you.” Then I turned back around and was almost at the door when -

“Autumn Pearce, you are totally forgiven!” Freddie exclaimed from his position on the bed. Mission complete– apology accepted.

“I’ll see you at seven!” James called.

“Half past,” I said, calculating when Dom would probably run of the Slytherin dorm for some quality time with Benson. Then, under my breath – so that he definitely couldn’t hear, I said “I can hardly wait,” and I wasn’t all together sure if I was being sarcastic.

A/N - Excited about Autumn's birthday? Hmm? Anyone forgiven Dom yet? Still think Benson is creepy and weird? Opinions on James Potter? :)
 


Chapter 8: And then I turn seventeen...
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A/N - Hey there! I said it would be Autumn's birthday tommorow... and thus... HERE WE ARE. I've also been on a review-responding-streak and I've now answered all the reviews to this story (insert applause here) which is really exciting. I hate being behind. Anyway... I'll let you read now :)

 

“So,” Dom grinned, practically bouncing beside me. “Do you like it?”

“Of course I do,” I implored, smiling at her. And it was the complete truth – the top, well Dom claimed it was a dress, but I had my doubts, was beautiful, and I had to admit that the underwear set she’d brought me was beautiful, even though it was a slightly strange gift. Dom was like that though – she’d pick out something totally off the wall to give to you, but make it work perfectly.

Of course it was always clothes.

Still, I’d been slightly concerned when I was woken at five by Dom to open her gift, to find a lacy bra with matching knickers. Which I was now wearing.

I inadvertently found myself stretching to look over at the Gryffindor table...

“He’s fine, Autumn,” Dom said linking her arms through mine and dragging us towards her spot. “I don’t know why you get so worked up about these things, they happen often enough.” I decided not to inform her that my interest in the Gryffindor table didn’t lie with Freddie Weasley, who I knew full well had recovered completely and been physically chucked out of the hospital wing, but with one of her other cousins... “... You’re a walking disaster.” Dom finished.

I suddenly felt very irritated at her – waking disaster? I wasn’t that bad, and it wasn’t my fault that I had the tendency to be unlucky, always finding myself in awkward and increasingly more complicated situations (case and point: James Potter).  Anyway, it was my birthday, and given she was the only person who was likely to pay any attention to this fact at all, she could wait till tomorrow before she started with this ‘walking disaster’ talk.

If Dom noticed my irritation she made no acknowledgement of the fact, and carried on rambling on about something until Benson sat down at his usual spot and said “Happy Birthday Autumn,”

“Thank you,” I said loudly, making a point of smiling before grabbing the platter of pancakes. I’m not one for sugar-coated food so early in the morning – but it was my birthday. And at least I should celebrate it.

Then I looked down at my plate and swore loudly. My brother’s face had emerged out of the surface and was grinning at my psychotically. “HAPPY SEVENTEENTH!” The plate yelled, making several people around us jump and stare in our direction.  Then the plate began to sing happy birthday to me, very loudly, and very badly in my brother and his mate’s voices.

Then, once he’d finished singing, my brothers face exclaimed “Have some cake!” and then, the plate seemed to extend upwards and upwards until there was a normal sized cake on top of it, still with my brothers face talking out of it, “Candles!” He said next, and seventeen candles seemed to grow from under the icing – one out of his eye for goodness sake - and then he gnashed his teeth together and yelled “Eat!” and his face faded away into the cake, and my brother – who was now standing right behind me grinned and said “That’s quite something, isn’t it?”

The candles promptly lit themselves.

“It really is,” I agreed, hugging him round the waist and pulling him into the seat next to me (avoiding the huge parcel that was on the floor next to him – and was nearly his height). “Now, why don’t you have the first slice of cake?” I asked innocently.

“Really,” He said, “I think as it’s your birthday – you should have the first slice.”

“No really,” I said, “I insist.”

“No I insist.”

“Now, Oliver...” I said raising an eyebrow. “Why on earth would you reject a piece of cake...?”

“Fine,” Oliver said, “It’s not real cake – but how did you know?”

“I’m a Ravenclaw and you can’t magically produce cake.” I said. “But thank you,” Then I threw my arms around his neck and grinned. He smelt of Oliver, which was a smell quite close to home, but with a hint of extra boyishness that made it bearable.

“Embarrassing me,” Oliver muttered before finally getting rid of me. I laughed and pulled him into the seat beside me, suddenly forgiving Dom for all her wrongdoings and feeling rather special. “You’re present,” he said gesturing at the large, very tall, and very straight looking) wrapped present. I found the corner of the material and pulled it open, trying my best not to rip it, but giving up after the first tear.

What else, but a series of books? ‘The alternative history of magic’, ‘The complete works of Jane Austen’, ‘The squib’s guide to Quidditch’, ‘The magical muggle and other phenomena of the modern age’,  ‘The mystical beasts of South Asia’, ‘A day in the life of a dementor’ and, finally – ‘The purple Cauldron’ which claimed itself to be ‘an epic love story that stretched across four generations.

“Shit,” I laughed, turning over ‘The Purple Cauldron’ to read the blurb. “That’s a lot of reading material.”

“Well,” Oliver said with a grin, “It is your seventeenth, after all. Has April written to you?”

“I got a letter a couple of days ago,” I said, “She seems just the same as normal. She told me to tell you to write to her,”

“I wrote to her the other week,” Oliver said in an offhand way that meant I didn’t’ believe a word of it. He was notorious for not writing letters. That was his thing. We only communicated in the summer, when neither of us had anyone else to talk to. Then we acted as each other’s best friends... but not for the rest of the year.

Then we heard that familiar flurry of owls, and I felt my heart sink. There was an awkward pause as both Oliver and I tried not to look and see if that familiar owl was heading in our direction, but peaking out of the corners of our eyes all the same.  I coughed, and looked back down at the cake, which had now deflated into a strange mess of powdery green solid. I didn’t want to know what would have happened if I’d been stupid enough to eat it.

My appetite for pancakes had most definitely gone.

The owl landed on the centre of the table dropping off a fat envelope before immediately taking off and heading back out the hall. Oliver and Dom were watching me. Benson seemed to have picked on the strange vibe, because he was staring at the letter too.

A.O. Pearce it read. I frowned and snatched it up from the desk.

“I’m going to put these books upstairs before class,” I said quickly, re-pilling the up – placing the letter on top. “See you,” I said, before half-running out of the great hall. They just had to ruin it. Had to ruin what had started out being such a good day and –

“Shit, sorry James,” I muttered, slamming into him with my pile of books (which was so tall it practically covered my face – the complete works of Jane Austen is a huge book) and then having to step back comically to stop them all catapulting everywhere. Probably creasing and bending back the covers, which was something I could not abide by. Books should never be mauled. Never.

“Its fine,” He said, bending down and picking up the letter from the floor. He looked it for a split second before placing back on the top of my file. “Stealing books again, are we Autumn?” I smiled at that and shook my head.  “Birthday presents?”

“Your memory astounds me,” I said. “I’m just going to put these up in my dorm,”

“Need a hand?” James asked, taking three of the books out of my hands before I’d had a chance to answer. “Happy birthday, by the way,” He said with a grin. I temporarily forgot that I was mad that my birthday had been ruined by the letter, and smiled back at him. I gave him another three points for being so extremely beautiful.

And three, I suppose, for helping me carry my books.

“This all from your brother,” I nodded, grinning at the sheer fantasticness of my brother, and this present. I wasn’t going to be bored for days. Maybe even a few weeks. Whenever Dom was busy with Benson I could just burry myself in another book... “The squib’s guide to Quidditch?” James questioned, picking up the book that was on the top of his pile.

“I think he’s trying to be funny,” I said. “I can just about fly, and I can follow Quidditch but... playing it. Way beyond me.”

“I’m sure it’s not, you should have tried out this year,”

“I don’t have a broom,” I admitted. “And the school ones are crap.” He nodded, half leading the way up to the Ravenclaw common room. Of course he would know where it is.

“Anyway, what else have you got?”

“Dom got me a dress and some underwear.” James raised an eyebrow at this but said nothing. “And that’s it so far,”

“Parents?” He asked. I nodded towards the letter, just as we reached the entrance to the Ravenclaw common room.  “I can take them from here,” I said, reaching out to take the last few books.

“Don’t be silly,” James said, tightening his grip. “There’s a lot of books here – you don’t want to be carrying them up stairs.”

“I did before I bumped into you,”

“And you were definitely struggling.”

“Only if you can answer the riddle,” I said, “That’s the way it works James.”

He raised any eyebrow again, and turned to face the entrance.

“What is the root of all change?”

James considered this for a second. “Individuals,” he said defiantly. This was considered for a tense few seconds before the door swung open, and James marched in.

“You’ve never got one right before,” I accused, watching him glance around unsurely before locating the girl’s staircase and eyeing it warily. “It should let you up,” I said, “Because, technically, I do need your help up the stairs – and I am a damsel in distress but...”

“I’ll risk it,” James said, stepping onto the first step.

“Of course, “I said, rolling my eyes. “If it turns into a slide, just jump – it’s the first door here.” They didn’t change, but James must have slipped or something because he panicked mid step and made an awkward and misjudged leap at the door. His momentum carried him right through the door, sending my books scattering all over the floor.

“Careful!” I exclaimed, stepping over him and hastily straightening out the cover of ‘the complete works of Jane Austen’ which hadn’t appreciated being forcibly thrown to the floor. I placed my own stack lovingly on my bed before noticing that the other girls were still in the dorm and where staring curiously at James, who was still lying half in the dorm half out. “Erm...” I said awkwardly, before picking the rest of the books off the floor and placing them next to the others on my bed. “Birthday presents from my brother?”

James pulled himself to his feet.

“Oh, happy birthday,” Felicity said with a smile. Jessica nodded in agreement. Danielle just looked at me in a way that made me decidedly uncomfortable.  James coughed in the doorway.

“We’ll... just be going then,” Jessica said, grabbing Felicity’s arms and pulling her to the door – both exchanging raised eyebrows and poorly controlled giggles, looking between James and I all the while. Danielle took longer to leave her gaze still entirely focused on the back of my head.

“Thanks for that I guess...” I said, not entirely sure how James had managed to convey that there was something going on between us within one cough. Was there something going on between us? Hell if I knew.

“I suppose this is the dress?” James questioned, picking it up off the floor and holding it up against himself. “I’m not sure if it’s my colour,” Brown – with a tinge of red. One of the classic autumn colours that Dom insisted that I wore almost all of the time. “You can wear it to our victory party...and the underwear she brought, if you want.” He added as an afterthought.

“I’m wearing that now,” I laughed, suddenly becoming very aware of the letter on the floor. I frowned at it, and chucked it in the direction of my trunk, “Come on, I don’t want to be late.”

“Aren’t you going to open it?” James asked looking at envelope carefully.

“No.” I said making towards the door. “I left in a hurry, Dom might come after me – we should go.”

“Yeah,” James laughed. “Right.”

I frowned, folded my arms over my chest and walked slightly ahead of him so that he knew I didn’t appreciate the comment and I didn’t want to talk about the letter. He fell back into step with me as I crossed the threshold of the Ravenclaw common room and back into the harsh light of the corridor.

“Why are you so defensive about Dom, anyway?” I frowned at him and decided not to merit that with an answer. “Considering it’s your birthday, you seem awfully touchy today.”

“That’s why I’m touchy.” I countered. “Look, can we just go to Defence? And can you like... wait two minutes before walking in? Dom will hardly care it’s my birthday if she sees us talking.”

“What is her problem anyway?”

“James!” I exclaimed. “Drop. It.” He raised an eyebrow but kept his mouth shut, leaving it a full twenty seconds before entering the classroom after I did. I slumped on my seat next to Dom – one of the classes where we didn’t have a seating plan – and felt very much like crying into my desk, or hiding until this whole day was over. It was crap.

“Autumn,” Dom said, fiddling with a piece of her hair distractedly. “How long do you think you should be with someone before you have sex?”

And it gets worse.

 

                                                                                                                       

 

“I just don’t know what to do,” Dom declared after another fifteen minute rant about some crap I’d stop listening to after the third time she’d said ‘Benson said...’ and imagined how it would feel to pull my own fingernails off – because that was the better way to spend my birthday.

“Don’t do anything. It’s been less than a week,”

“I know,” Dom said defensively. “I’m not going to do anything yet – obviously. I hope he doesn’t think I’m some kind of slut...”

Because no one thinks that at all. I reprimanded myself. In my defence, I’d already been subjected to this torture multiple times during the course of the day. The entirety of Defence had been Dom detailing everything about her new relationship with Benson – which, don’t get me wrong, I was interested in, I really was – I was fully able to talk about boys for long periods of time... but then at lunch I’d had an hour long visual demonstration of how fabulous their new founded relationship was. After they’d had a free period together, and I’d been told all about that – via note – during Transfiguration. I’d had a well needed break from it all in Care of Magical Creatures, and Hagrid had even been kind enough to wish me a happy birthday and present me with a cake that I wasn’t going to eat. Ever.

Now, though, I was having a full recap of everything she’d droned on about so far. And a second lesson of Defence, which was the one subject I couldn’t do. And it was a theory lesson.

“I mean... everyone already thinks I’m a slut anyway so -”

“That doesn’t mean you have to act like one.” I returned sharply. “Anyway, Dom – don’t you want to hear about my love life?”

Dom turned to me and raised an eyebrow at that. I could almost imagine her face if I told her that I’d gone on a date with James Potter and was fully planning to wear the dress she’d brought me to the Gryffindor victory party. I didn’t, of course, because – as prior mentioned – I am appalling at Defence and am not yet suicidal (but we’re getting there).

“Go on then,” Dom said – looking taken a back. “Fill me in.”

“Well...” I said. “One of the guys at church invited me to coffee.” I said. It was true, but I wasn’t going to mention that it was after-church-coffee that everyone was invited too, and that I’d known him since he was twelve which instantly meant I’d have an extreme issue fancying him. Because he’d been a strange twelve year old.

“How old?” Dom questioned.

“Eighteen,”

“Looks?”

“Erm... dark eyes – not sure what colour, slight stubble, long-ish hair. Prominent chin. Dimples.” Dom nodded in approval – all of the above were acceptable features. Dom was especially in favour of the dimples and stubble aspects – hence why I’d included them.

“Height?”

“About an inch shorter than me,” I admitted – hating my tallness even more.

“We’ll find you someone yet,” Dom said, patting me on the arm.

“He could grow?”

“He’s eighteen; he’ll be a midget for life.”

“I’m pretty sure I’m still growing,” I sighed.

“You’re an anomaly,” Dom laughed. “You’ll probably grow forever and have to go live with the giants, now – who could we set you up with? Hey! What about one of Benson’s friends – we could double date!” She exclaimed. “Although, I’m not sure if I like Benson’s friends. Most of them are those big guys on the Quidditch team. Thick as anything, but big and brawny – and Benson’s been teaching these new moves and stuff. Quite complicated, I think. He’s always complaining after Quidditch practice but -”

“Yeah, right.” I said shoving my poor notes in my bag. “Look, Dom, I think I’m going to head to the library for a bit.” Her face fell slightly.

“But, Autumn, it’s your birthday. You can’t study.”

“I’m feeling pretty anti-people,” I said making towards the door. “Seriously, it’s fine. I’ll join you for lunch. I need to get this Defence theory stuff nailed anyway, as there’s no way I’ll be able to pass the practical exam.”

“Well... if you’re sure... but, I’ll be in the Common room if you want me,”

“Aren’t you going to be off spending some time with Benson?”

“No,” Dom shook her head. “It’s your birthday. I’ve got vodka and everything upstairs – I figured we could have a little party later.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” I smiled weakly – surprised by this sudden display of thoughtfulness from Dom Weasley – before disappearing and heading to the library. I felt better now that I was on my own. Like I could breathe properly. People could be so suffocating sometimes and I just felt... felt like I was going to get mad and really upset someone at any moment.

I slumped down on my regular seat at the library and rested my head on the wooden desk. I’d feel much better when the whole day was over... much much better. That was the annoying thing about birthdays. Despite knowing what they will be like, we all have the tendency to expect a little more from the day. We expect the world to centre around us because it’s our birthday when really... it’s just another one of those days. A particularly bland and frustrating day at that.

“Hey,” A voice said. I looked up, startled. James Potter. “You all right?”

I nodded and leant back on my chair, taking a deep breath.

“Not a birthday person?”

“No,” I admitted. “Not exactly.”

“So... I got you a present,” James said. “It’s not that great,” He passed it over. Poorly wrapped but there all the same. I forced myself to smile and unfolded the corners. Chocolate. Kind of perfect actually. I unwrapped it and stuffed two cubes in my mouth immediately. “I take it you’re not allergic then,” James laughed.

“No,” I confirmed once I’d stopped chewing. “Sorry about being a bit moody earlier,” James shrugged it off. “I just...” I didn’t finish the sentence and instead left it hanging. I definitely wasn’t going to explain the inner workings of my brain to James Potter – I didn’t exactly trust him (yet).

“Sorry for getting at Dom,” James returned. “I honestly don’t get it though – how someone as nice as you can be best friends with her...”

“Well you wouldn’t, because you don’t get Dom.”

“And you get her?” He sounded sceptical.

“Of course I do, she’s my best friend.” He raised an eyebrow. “Look, Dom’s a Weasley – and you know what that means? It means the minute she walked into Hogwarts everyone should have been falling over themselves in love with her, and they didn’t.”

“Well if she wasn’t such a – ”

“No, she wasn’t like that in the beginning. Anyway, even if she was a little... you know, it didn’t matter for anyone else. Everyone loves Rose even though she’s a bookworm, they love you even though you can be a bit of an idiot sometimes – they loved Victorie, loved Louis, loved Roxanne, loved Freddie – they all fell in love with every Weasley and every Potter that entered Hogwarts. Hell, even Lucy and Molly are pretty well liked, in their own way.”

“But Dom -”

“Dom had always expected to get to Hogwarts and be the golden girl like her sister, like you all expected. She’s always said they were too many of you in this year, maybe she’s right, but she ended up sitting alone on the Hogwarts express, being the first Weasley to be sorted into Ravenclaw and not having made any friends for the first week. The others had met on the train and weren’t interested, I was a bit of a loner – not quite in their group – and then she approached me halfway through the first week and that was that. But it shouldn’t have gone like that and ever since then Dom has known she’s the least favourite Weasley and there’s something about her that people don’t like – and that’s why Dom wants to avoid the lot of you like the plague, and that’s why she acts like a bitch sometimes.”

James stared at me for a long moment and didn’t say anything. “And she told you that did she?”

“Yes actually,” I said. “In second year. She hasn’t exactly mentioned it since, but that is the kind of thing that stays with people. Especially when Louis is dotted upon by everyone.”

He considered this for a very long time. “I don’t blame her for hating the world,” James said slowly. “It just pisses me off when she takes it out on you.”

“Friends always do that,” I shrugged it off. “And, maybe she’s a little self-centred, but she’s my best friend – and she’s lovely most of the time.” James looked as if he seriously doubted that.

“The library, on your birthday – only a Ravenclaw.” A voice said, and it was a very familiar voice, and then my head darted around trying to find the owner of the voice... And there she was, my sister, grinning at me – all tanned and brown form Egypt.

I squealed, stood up and had thrown my arms around her in about a millisecond. “Merlin!” I exclaimed, practically jumping on the spot and staring at her.

There are some occasions when it is acceptable to act hysterical. Your sister suddenly appearing after two years of prolonged absence is one of them.

“Now, Autumn, I know it’s been awhile, but it’s not Merlin... its April.” I hugged her again – then saw my brother standing behind her and grinning.

“Why are you here? How...?” I spluttered. “Oh my god!”

“I’m here for your Birthday, of course. It’s not every day your sisters turns seventeen.” I gaped at her. I couldn’t believe she was here. She was in Hogwarts. My sister was standing in front of me in all her glory. She was, perhaps, the only female person in the world who was taller than me. Except... it seemed like in the past two years I’d overtaken her. That saddened me a little bit. Still, I couldn’t remain too sad for long – because my sister was here.

She grinned. “I’ve been in Hogsmeade for ages. I sent the letter from there last week. It was all Oliver’s idea!” I beamed at him and threw my arms around his neck too – still making a pathetic squealing sound. “And, who is this?” April grinned, nodding towards James who was sat there observing the whole scene with a slight smile.

“James Potter,” I said in a casual offhand way (that made my sister’s eyebrows hit the roof). “I can’t believe you’re here!”

“Dom helped too,” She continued. “Sent the letter to Oliver saying where you’d be so I could surprise you,” I sent a triumphant grin in James’s direction. “Enough of all this hysteria, here’s your present,”

I was given another square parcel that looked very much like a book. I opened it carefully and turned it over in my hands. “This is great, April, but I’m not sure you’ve quite managed to beat Oliver’s stack...”

“Read the title.” April said slowly.

“An Alternative history of Magic,” I said. “This is the one you suggested to me in your letter?” I questioned, turning it over in my hands.

“Yep,” April grinned. “Now read the author’s name...”

“April Pearce, oh my god!” I exclaimed. “You finished the book!”

“Damn right I did,” She grinned. “And you’re wearing the watch I sent you,” She said reaching out for my hand to respect how it looked on my wrist. “I hope you haven’t been wearing it before today!”  I took my hand back and grinned at her.

“So... are you back in England for good?” I questioned hopefully.

“Not quite,” April said. “I’m staying for a few weeks. I’m going to come watch the Quidditch match on Saturday and then stay for the Hogsmeade weekend after that. Then I’m going to Australia.”

Australia? That’s even further away!” I exclaimed. How long would it take to send a letter to Australia? I wasn’t even sure if it was possible to send a letter to Australia, actually. Not by owl. There was a chance she wouldn’t have a fixed address anyway.

“Only for about a month,” April said. She’d said that about Egypt. “I mean it this time,” She added, sensing my thoughts. “Anyway, I’m taking you and Dom out for dinner – I have permission and everything, you’re welcome to join us James?” April suggested.

“No,” James said, shaking his head. “Erm... Dom isn’t so er... knowledgeable about the fact that we talk. Have a good meal, Autumn,” James smiled. I wanted to hug him, but decided against it, and instead picked up what was left of the chocolate bar and slipped it in my pocket. I grinned at him before reluctantly turning away.

“Now,” April hissed in my ear. “Was that the James Potter? Why didn’t you tell me!?”

I guess it wasn’t such a bad birthday after all.

 

A/N - Happy birthday Autumn! Reviews are greatly appreciated (and all responded to! Harrah!)
                                                                                                                           


Chapter 9: And then there is quidditch (and quidditch related activities)...
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“So Dom’s dating that guy?” April questioned, pointing vaguely in the direction of Benson flint.

“Yes,” I said watching as the members of the Slytherin team attempted to hit bludgers in the direction of my brother with concern. He was dodging them fine, and even whacking them back with a similar amount of strength... since when did he have muscles anyway?

“Oliver’s grown up a lot,” April said sadly.

“Of course he has, you’ve been gone two years.” She didn’t reply to that. “Ouch,” I said as Freddie Weasley – the other beater – took a hit to the back of the broom and went spinning off in one direction slightly. He recovered quickly and shot upwards... “I bet Dom’s cheering.” I commented, trying to search her out in the Slytherin end of the crowd – the very much thinner end. April and I were comfortably sat with the masses in the Gryffindor stand but... Slytherin were doing slightly better than expected.  Gryffindor was still winning.

“Another goal for Slytherin!” the commentator yelled. I winced slightly. James had been elbowed at some point during the game and had blood on his face, but was still shouting orders that I couldn’t hear with as much conviction as ever. Trust James.

“So you and James?” April commented lightly. I didn’t say anything to that. “Oliver’s been filling me in on all the juicy gossip – a Hogsmeade date, study sessions...” A raised an eyebrow at her. “Okay, I’ll admit it – neither of the above are that exciting, but... I have to work with what I’ve got. I want to know all the sordid details!”

“Sordid details?” I laughed, glancing back at the game to check that both Oliver and James were alive. Oliver was fine. James was doing some celebratory loops - I’d assumed he’d just scored another goal. “There have been no sordid details.”

“Don’t believe it,” April countered. “Not for a second.”

“Well,” I said with an eye roll. “Yesterday, in Herbology – our hands touched.” I said in a mock excited voice.

“I know you’re being sarcastic – but you still remembered the moment.”

“Oh go back to Egypt.”

“So you like him?” April laughed, following his progress as he flew very close to the Gryffindor stands – somehow finding my gaze and catching it for a brief seconds before intercepting the Quaffle at top speed.

“No. Yes, I mean... Maybe.” I finished. “Well, he is attractive – isn’t he? And he is nice. He listens to me, which is nice...”

“Your repeated use of the word nice tells a lot more than you mean it to,” April grinned, standing up and cheering. Everyone was cheering actually – and the reason why was quite clearly demonstrated when I glanced at the scoreboard to see Gryffindor two hundred points ahead and Lily Potter landing on the ground with her arm stretched up to the sky in the familiar seeker-victory stance.

I stood up too, but didn’t cheer – and instead just listened to everyone else feeling oddly part of things. Instead of separate, on the outside – but in the middle. The thick of it. And the feeling only increased when James flew right over the stands again as part of his victory lap and winked at me. Oliver waved and, although I was mildly concerned about him taking his hands off the broom whilst travelling that fast, it definitely made me feel, for once, that I was someone at Hogwarts.

I think I liked it.

 

 

“I have impeccable taste,” Dom said, examining my reflection in the mirror and nodding her approval. I was wearing the dress/top thing she’d brought me – although I had chosen the ‘top’ option and was wearing it with a pair of high-waisted shorts and extra extra length brown tights – stupid long legs. “Heals?”

“Not sure,” I said, cocking my head to one side and glancing at my reflection in the mirror. I had told Dom that April and me were going out for a swanky meal and a night out at some nightclub before she disappeared to Australia for an infinite amount of time (when actually this was our plan for the following weekend – so I didn’t really know what I was going to tell Dom then) and thus I had actually been able to get ready for this party.

The Gryffindor victory party that I was incredibly nervous about.

“I suppose I could wear heals – everyone else there probably will be,” Which was true.

“Not everyone else there will be six foot two.” Dom said. I frowned at her. Somehow an extra inch and crept onto my height without me noticing it. It wasn’t appreciated. I was giant enough already. “That saying, with heals – no one else could possibly have such impossibly long legs.”

Which was also true. I occasionally thought they should be people in their own right, my legs, because I was almost entirely certain that they were taller than a percentage of the human population. Especially first years – some of those only came up to my knees (well... that’s what it felt like). It was most disconcerting.

“Are you on the pull?” Dom asked.

Was I on the pull?

I shrugged at her. “Well... get your heals out and we’ll see what they look like.” I dragged out my three pairs of heals from my trunk and placed them on the floor next to my feet.  There was one pair, that seemed to go so exactly with the top/dress thing that it was almost painful. “New there was a reason why I’d brought that dress,” Dom declared happily. “Heals!” She demanded.

Couldn’t argue with that.

In any case, my legs were truly impossibly long – especially with the shorts and...

“Not too much?” I questioned warily. Oliver might have a fit. Should I have gone for the slightly longer skirt option?

“Never,” Dom grinned – which is exactly why one shouldn’t take advice from Dom Weasley, and then she pushed me in the direction of the door – which sent me stumbling uncomfortably and almost resulted in me catapulting down the one flight of stairs. Which would have been embarrassing.

“Are you going to the Gryffindor party?” Felicity demanded the second I’d tottered down the stairs.

“Erm, yeah,” I said. They were all wearing heals too – and taller heals than mine – but they were five foot nothing (well, not quite – I was sure they were perfectly average height wise  - actually Danielle was very tiny – but compared to me...). Basically I was at least a head taller than them and had to look down on them to talk. Urgh.

“Great, we can all go together then!” She declared. I smiled weakly. Why on why had they suddenly decided to befriend me? “Did James invite you?” Ah. That’s right.

“My brother did, actually,” I said – just to be contradictory, but fell into step with them all the same. They were wearing heals that were very similar to Dom’s skyscrapers, but were not quite as adept at walking in them as Dom (practice makes perfect!) so the walk seemed to take a very long time.

“Are you drinking?” Felicity asked.

“Not sure,” I answered. Now, that was something I hadn’t even given a thought to before this moment. It was true that Dom and I had occasionally had our own mini-party which involved her stealing some alcoholic beverage from her parents so that we could ‘sample it’ and... I had been invited to all the parties before, along with Dom (who wasn’t going to this one because it was the ‘home of excessive gingers’ - which meant there were lots of Weasleys around – and out of sympathy for Benson) but then I’d usually spent the time hanging around with Dom, getting very bored – occasionally flirting with anyone who went out of the way to chat me up – and making an excuse to leave as early as possible.

Was I going to drink?

“We brought some,” Felicity continued, pointing to her tiny clasp bag with a smile.

“Hmm.” I commented. What if, despite inviting me, James ignored me all evening or something horrible like that? I supposed I could hang around with these guys for awhile but... it wasn’t even like I was allowed to leave early and go back to the dorm – because there was no way in hell Dom would believe that April let me return early from a night clubbing.

“Are you nervous?” Jessica asked, snapping out of my thoughts with shock. Wow. Someone paying attention to me...

“A little,” I admitted. Then Felicity had pulled out a bottle from her tiny clasp bag – which was of course several times bigger on the insider – and offered it to me.

“Erm...” What to do? “What is it?” The bottle was an ominous pinkish-orangish colour that spelt hangover clearer than anything I’d seen.

“I’m not really sure, anymore – a mixture of stuff.” Definitely a hangover waiting to happen. I unscrewed the lid and sniffed it. I took a sip. Then a gulp. Then I screwed the top back on and handed it back to her, that familiar heat creeping over my chest.

I wouldn’t have any more.

“Anyone know the password?” Danielle asked when we got to the door.

“Yes,” Jessica giggled. “Trevor told me – Gryffindors are superior in every way and Slytherin are...” She mouthed the last bit to the fat lady, so I never found out exactly what Slytherin were... The fat lady didn’t look especially thrilled about letting us in, but did anyway. “I think she lost a bet to one of the seventh years – so they got to choose the password,” Jessica added. “Look, there’s Trevor,” And then she disappeared to go chat to one of the seventh year Gryffindors that I didn’t know very well.

“I’m going to go talk to Matt, for a minute,” Felicity said in an offhand would-be casual way which made my eyebrow rise. It also left me standing alone in the doorway with Danielle, who definitely did not like me. I glanced around half hoping that her boyfriend would turn up from somewhere, but he didn’t – so I started trying to locate my brother, or James actually, or anyone who I could disappear to go off and see.

“Autumn!” A voice called. Thank God. James Potter, now walking towards me grinning. He slipped an arm around my waist – which was definitely new (I suspected he might have already been drinking) and then attempted to lead me away. I politely pushed his hand off, which simply caused him to grab my hand and pull me in the direction of his Quidditch mates. I waved half heartedly to Danielle and let myself be pulled off.

“Congrats guys,” I said, untangling my finger from James Potter’s own and smiling at all of them. Lily looked slightly disgruntled despite her victory but my brother was practically glowing with pleasure.
“Dom brought the excuse then?” He questioned.

“Yes,” I said. “I don’t like lying to her though,” I commented. Then, “Oliver are you drinking?” He placed his bottle back on the table delicately. “You’re much too young!” I declared.

“Wounded mate,” Wood said, picking up the bottle and draining it. Which meant Oliver had already drank about half of the bottle.

“Everyone else is drinking!” Oliver complained.

“I’m not,” Lily retorted, folding her arms and glaring at James – who appeared indifferent if not used to this sort of treatment. I supposed that explained why Lily was looking so pissed off.

“Well now Oliver isn’t either,” I smiled sweetly.

“And currently, neither are you – what do you fancy?” Freddie asked. “Or do you not...?”

“It depends what you have,” I said. “I’m quite picky...” Ignoring the fact that I’d just had a mouthful of some strange indefinable alcoholic substance. Never a good idea. Silly Autumn. “I don’t really like the Wizarding world’s attempts at alcohol,”

“We have muggle stuff,”

“Vodka?” I questioned, feeling Oliver’s gaze on the side of my head. He’d never really seen me ‘let my hair down’ as Dom always put it. Freddie nodded. “With coke, if that’s all right.” I suspected that he’d take liberties in pouring it and I’d be presented with a drink that was ninety percent vodka and about ten percent coke.

Still.

“You look nice,” James commented after a few seconds of silence.

“Thanks,” I replied, that beginning-of-a-party feeling settling over all of us. Freddie returned with my drink and it was strong – just as I’d expected. I drank it quite quickly, never the less, just to break some of the awkward tension that seemed to have infested the whole conversation.

“I’m going to talk to Chris,” Lily declared after ten minutes, climbing over the back of the sofa and heading over to a group of Oliver’s pratty-mates.

“Chris?” James asked in alarm. “Is he one of your friends?” He asked Oliver, who nodded. “Well, go keep an eye on her!” He instructed. Oliver raised an eyebrow at that but left anyway. Which left me in the company of the four other remaining male members of the team (there was another girl, but I had no idea where she was).

“Don’t order my brother around now,” I laughed.

“I’m the captain, I’m allowed,” James retorted. “Another drink?” He questioned. I’d finished my glass.

“I’ll pour it myself this time,” I smiled, and we both wondered over to the drinks table – leaving the others too it. James took the glass out of my hand after I’d topped it up and took a sip. He made  a face.

“I never did understand why Muggles made things all bubbly,”

“That’s the coke,” I said, leaning back on the table and watching the party begin to unfold in front of me. Oliver had somehow gained another drink, not that I was too bothered, and he was letting Lily sneak sips when none of the Weasley/Potters were looking in his direction (which worried me slightly more – hopefully they just wouldn’t notice).

I recognised Albus Potter sitting in the window seat with Rose, both of them with glasses in their hands having what looked to be quite a serious conversation. Roxanne Weasley had now joined the other members of the Quidditch team and looked to be attempting to flirt with Wood. He was flirting back in a jokey way – I assumed they were just trying to piss Freddie off (they were succeeding too). Louis was hanging around a group of fifth year Hufflepuff girls, which made me want to laugh. They seemed to be humouring him though despite being two years their junior...

James poured himself another drink of a rich amber liquid. “You played really well,” I said lightly, not really sure what to say. It was strange – all my other encounters with James had been easy and fluid. I’d never stopped talking. Why was it awkward now?

“Slytherin were better than expected, weren’t they?”

“A bit, yeah,” I said.

There were another few seconds of mildly awkward silence. “You’re taller than me in those heels,”

“Knew I shouldn’t have worn them,” I laughed. “I’m tall enough anyway,”

“They make your legs look hot though,” James replied. I had a feeling he wouldn’t have said anything quite so forward if this had not been his second or third drink. I also found I didn’t really mind. I quite liked it actually. I’d always figured being called ‘hot’ would be slightly degrading but... no; I was more than happy with the compliment.

“Sorry,” He added as an afterthought. “You do look hot though, just... in general.” I looked at him for a few minutes.

People were dancing now, in the middle of the room – Lily was with the group of Oliver’s mates who were all swaying back and forth awkwardly to the music that had probably been playing since I entered the room. Jessica was dancing with Trevor. Danielle had located her boyfriend and was dancing with him. Rose Weasley was up there too. Lots of girls, actually. Roxanne was just pulling Wood towards the dance floor, both of them laughing at the disgruntled expression on Freddie’s face.

“Do you want to dance?” I asked, startling myself. James looked up. “I think we should.”

“Yeah, okay,” James agreed. I knocked back the rest of my drink and then followed the direction of the masses onto this newly erected dance floor, with James following close behind me.

 

 

The dancing only lasted a couple of minutes. It turned out neither of us were very good – and most of my other episodes of dancing had ended in serious injuries – and James seemed to realise the first time we’d ever really met I’d been ‘practicing dancing’ which had resulted in a long stream of escalating problems. Basically we were on the dance floor just long enough to take each other’s hands and do some weird shimmying thing before remembering that neither of us could actually dance.

Then I’d ended up trying to talk to him over the music to suggest maybe we gave up with my appalling suggestion and find something else to do, but the music was so loud that I had to step forward and yell in his ear for him to hear me. “Let’s go!” I yelled.

“What?” James yelled back. Our faces were pressed against each other as we attempted to have a conversation over the music.

“I said let’s go!”

James shook his head helplessly. He seemed to be having much more difficulty understanding me than I had understanding him... maybe I just had better hearing. “Why don’t we go?” James yelled back. I rolled my eyes at that but agreed easily. We were standing very close together at that point, and our hand remained intertwined – as if it was natural – as we left the make shift dance floor and wondered back in the direction of the drinks table.

“Can I get you another vodka and coke?” James asked – and I suddenly found being able to hear him slightly strange.

“One more,” I said.

“Better make it a double then,” James grinned, filling my glass up to three quarters full before adding the coke. That was okay, though, because that was about the amount of Vodka I was able to drink before I went to my head so much that I couldn’t walk properly in my heels – which was a level I would not exceed. I roughly counted it up in my head – four straight shots was my usual limit... and when it was with coke I could probably drink twice as much so... that was an acceptable level.

James poured himself some more of the amber liquid although considering one of his hands was still holding mine he sloshed a little over the side and awkwardly placed the bottle back down on the counter – he picked it up anyway and then we were walking over to one of the sofas (which had all been moved to the sides of the room) as if that was where we’d intended to go all along.

“It must be good to have your sister back,” James said as we sat – very close together with me leaning against him slightly.

“Yeah,” I agreed absentmindedly. Taking another sip of my drink. Maybe the amount of vodka in this drink would put me over my own personal limit?

“So what’s the weird deal with your family?” James asked me. “I mean... your sister brought you a watch – aren’t your parents supposed to do that?”

“I’m fed up of talking about me!” I declared, turning round to face him – and unfortunately breaking our hand-holding-ness. “I want to know all about you. What about your family?”

“I don’t want to talk about my family,” James contradicted loudly (we were both still yelling at each other despite now being able to hear each other).

“You’re a lot more like Dom than you think then,” I laughed.

“No I just... everyone always wants to know about my family.”

“That’s how Dom feels,”

“To hell with Dom,” James said loudly. “I’ll tell you all about my family, if you really want.” I nodded enthusiastically. “Dad eats muggle cereal for breakfast, Mum gets hideously giggly after two glasses of wine, Lily has a new crush every week – it’s hard to keep up – and Albus gets mad if you don’t close the door behind you. Anything else you wanted to know?”

“No, actually, I think you just about covered it all,”

“Good,” James said, grinning.

“Do you like having such a big family?” I asked, looking round and taking in all the various Weasleys that were scattered around the room.

“Kinda,” James said –also glancing around (although thankfully he didn’t see Lily who was now slow dancing with... unless I’m very much mistaken, my brother) and observing the various members of his family. “It’s good that I’ll never be alone, and if one family member isn’t talking to me – someone else always will be, so...arguments and stuff aren’t so bad, but then – there are a lot of them. Is your family quite small then?”

“Yeah, just the three of us and my parents really. We have cousins but we never see them – not sure I really want to see most of them.”

“They’re muggles then?”

“Erm, two squibs – on my mother’s side, then two witches – graduated Hogwarts before I came – and one cousin who goes to Beauxbatons.”

“Two squibs, wow.”

“Precisely.” I said, rolling my eyes and taking another gulp of my drink.

“Pureblood then? Not that it matters.”

“Dads a muggleborn, Mum’s pureblood. No one asks that anymore,”

“Guess it’s seen as rude.” James shrugged. “People don’t want to seem prejudice. I think it’s interesting. It is important too, not in terms of being better or worse but... in terms of how people are different. How they turn out. It’s interesting, I think.”

“For someone as drunk as you – that’s almost philosophical.”

“I’m not drunk,” James grinned. “Just a little more than tipsy, oh – shite, Al’s throwing up.” I considered the possibility that Albus had seen my brother molesting his sister but decided not to voice this comment. “Ah, shite,” James said again, pulling himself off the sofa and heading towards Al – I followed him, because what else was I supposed to do?

“All right,” James said, grabbing the back of Al’s robes and pulling him to his feet. “How you feeling?” He grinned. Al answered with a few impressive swearwords before staggering significantly to the left and bringing a hand up to his head.

“You know, Autumn, I think my brother here might have had a bit too much to drink,” in a loud voice that induced a scowl on his brother’s face. James poked him. “Alive? Good, let’s get you upstairs. You don’t mind, do you Autumn?” I shook my head at that, suddenly feeling terrified at being left alone, and turning to find someone in the crowd that I could talk too. I stepped over the vomit (trying my best not to look at it) and headed over to wear the rest of the Quidditch team had been before. Now there was no one. I couldn’t just turn around and walk back on myself without looking like an idiot, so I headed to the drinks table. I poured myself another vodka and coke, a weak one, I’d drink it slowly. My last drink. I hadn’t finished the last one, anyway. It was still at the foot of the sofa.

“Oliver!” I exclaimed wondering over and forcibly pushing myself into the conversation he was having with Lily Potter. Really, those two were spending a little bit too much time together – James/Albus any male Weasley would be on his tail in no time. “Al threw up so James took him upstairs,” I explained at his strange expression.

“So neither of them are here?” Lily asked eagerly. I nodded. “Great!” She exclaimed, rounding on Chris, wrapping an arm around his neck and snogging him like her life depended on it. I gaped a little bit. I guess my brother wasn’t the one with the problem.

“Secret boyfriend,” Oliver said, trying to not take in the obvious use of tongue that was beyond repulsive.

“Does she realise all her other cousins are here?”

“Yes.” Oliver nodded. “Anyway...” Then he subtlety left to go join his friends, leaving me on my own all over again. Bum.

“Jessica,” I said walking up to where she was stood with the guy, the seventh year one, couldn’t remember his name. She turned around and smiled at me shyly. She looked cute in her black dress. Out of the three of them Jessica was definitely the one I felt least intimidate by.

“Autumn, this is Trevor. Trevor this is Autumn – she’s one of my roommates.” Trevor looked slightly confused by this. “She’s Dom’s best friend,” Jessica continued. “But she’s nice though,” She added when Trevor frowned slightly. “The rumours aren’t true,”

“Good to meet you,” He nodded and I nodded back and took another gulp of my drink (which was quickly disappearing). Seriously though, I couldn’t drink anything else after this glass – I didn’t want to get drunk. Anything could happen. I had church in the morning!

“Autumn,” James voice said, and suddenly his hands were on my waist and he was right behind me. Thank Merlin. No, sod Merlin – thank God.

I turned round to face him and smiled. “How’s Al?”

“Let’s just say he is not going to enjoy tomorrow morning.” James laughed, his arms now wrapped around me to keep me from escaping.

“I didn’t have him down as the drinking type,” We were close to the music again now, or maybe it had been turned up – because I had to yell to make myself heard.

“I didn’t have you down as the drinking type, yet this is what? Your fifth vodka and coke, or whatever that stuff is.”

“It’s not,” A countered. Was it? I didn’t think it was. “Well you should finish it then!” I said attempting to push the glass into his other hand.

“I don’t like it,” He complained. I think he’d sobered up a little since escorting Al upstairs... he was still a little drunk though.

“Fine,” I said. The glass was half full. That was fine. I could deal with that. “But this is your fault then,” I said downing the rest of the glass in one go and setting the glass down on one of the coffee tables. It seemed to me that my head instantly felt a little bit fuzzier, although of course that was stupid, and I decided that – at some point – I might have stepped a toe over my line.

Well, in actual fact, my line of morality was hardly applicable in this sort of situation. I was lying to my best friend to go to a party that her cousin had invited me too – I was way past my line on that front. I was, apparently, even wrapping my arms around James Potter’s neck so that we were in a strange sort of stationary slow dance position. James yelled something I couldn’t hear. I stared at him blankly.

“Are you enjoying the party?” He yelled into my ear.

“Sort of!” I yelled back before increasing the gap a little. My line of morality still existed somewhere, it seemed. Just further back than I would have initially placed it.

“Let’s go find Freddie,” James said, wrapping an arm around my waist and causally leading me in his direction.

 

 

“So did you have fun?” James laughed as we walked back thought the empty and strangely silent corridors of Hogwarts. My head was still pleasantly woozy and incredibly sleepy. There was nothing I’d rather do then crawl into my bed right now and fall blissfully asleep.

“Yes,” I answered, my hands threaded though his own as he walked me back to the Ravenclaw corridor. “I can’t believe how late it is!” I sighed. It had completely blown my mind when someone had mentioned that it was two in the morning... and I was completely exhausted.

The others had disappeared back to the Ravenclaw common room hours ago... not that I minded, because now James was walking me back.

James chuckled.

“How was Al when you last checked?”

“Passed out,” James said, sounding incredibly amused. “I’m going to set off some fireworks in their dorm tomorrow morning as payback,”

“If I tried to do that I’d probably accidently set fire to his bed or something,”

James laughed. “You’re one of a kind, Autumn,”

“Either that or just a lunatic,” I returned.

James shook his head and frowned for a second. “Well I guess this is it,” James said, nodding towards the entrance to the Ravenclaw common room. He looked kind of sad.

“I guess so,” I agreed, turning to face him with a small smile. “Thank you,” Then he took hold of my other hand.

“How many points am I on?” He asked suddenly.

“Erm... ninety-nine!” I declared, picking out a random number from the air and smiling at him deliberately. In truth I’d stopped counting completely. The number had got ridiculously big and I hadn’t wanted him to get too arrogant... so I’d just stopped counting.

“So close,” James said thoughtfully. Then he leaned forward and did something so unexpected that it completely threw me for a long moment. James Potter leaned forwards and kissed my cheek. “Good night, Autumn,” He said – whilst I was still suffering from extreme shock – and then he dropped my hands and turned and...

Of course, he’d set himself a hundred point target...

“Wait!” I called out. “You just got another three points of gentlemanly conduct!”

James threw his head back and really laughed at that. “You’re drunk Autumn,” He said. It wasn’t true. Tipsy slightly, sure, but not drunk – not anymore. I watched for a moment as his back disappeared down the corridor, his hands shoved in his pockets.

I suddenly felt very wide awake.

Balls.

 

A/N - This is my last fully written chapter...and I'm so busy! This weekend I went up to london and I saw the royal wedding (and I had to stand up for like four hours or something ridiculous. Totally not worth it) but we also saw four west end shows - we never do things by halves - and all sorts of things, and now I'm back home behind on revision, work, and my exams are this month (When did THAT happen?) and thus... updates may become slower. Still, I reckon I've gotten these first chapters up pretty fast, so I'm sure you can forgive me.

On another note, check out my new (yes, another new one...) story. This is shameless advertising, I realise, but it's lonely and I like reviews. Speaking of reviews... ;)

All right, I'll stop rambling now. It's time to hit the books anyway. THANKS FOR READING (especially this long pointless authors note, which is still getting longer... damn).
 
 
 


Chapter 10: And then there are not-so lazy Sundays...
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“So what happened at the party?” April asked, nudging me halfway through the sermon and grinning. I nodded pointedly towards to the front of the church and towards Ben (the vicar) who was, today, talking about how being a Christian was like being a biscuit. It felt good to be out of the confines of the castle and at church (I couldn’t imagine how everyone else managed to survive without any chance of escape) but the novelty of April’s presence had worn off and she was becoming undeniably irritating. Especially when I did not want to talk about last night.

For starters, it reminded me of my slight hangover which seemed to be getting worse the longer I was awake. It had stated as a slight ache if I moved to fast and now felt as though I had a small knife lodged in the left part of my brain. I mean, it was fine – I’d had worse. It was just irritating.  

It wasn’t like I’d done anything relatively embarrassing, because I hadn’t. Not at all. The most exciting thing that had happened was that kiss on the cheek... but still, the idea of facing everyone who were no doubt talking about me extensively was not appealing. Because I was Autumn Pearce, the pretty much unknown half of the Ravenclaw Duo, and because I had spent the entire night in the company of James Potter. With his arm draped around me, or a hand wrapped round my waist, or talking to each other with our foreheads pressed together.

Plus, it was time to face up to it; I really did fancy James Potter.

How did this happen?!?

Just then there was a loud crunch as Ben got one of the younger teenagers to stamp on an entire packet of biscuits to demonstrate some point which I’d lost somewhere along the line (sometimes things happen to biscuits – sometimes it is peoples fault, sometimes it our fault, but the long and short of it is – we get broken. And God can fix us... or something like that). I shook my head of my thoughts and tried very hard to concentrate on the sermon.

It wasn’t like I didn’t enjoy the sermons, because I did, but today I just couldn’t bring myself to concentrate. I’d actually stopped singing during the worship and just stared at the front of the church in bewilderment.

“Oliver was drinking,” I said disapprovingly. He hadn’t made it this morning. I assumed he’d overslept. He did that quite a lot, these days...

“Oh well,” April said, “I was drinking at his age,” I rolled my eyes at that and glanced at Alex on the row in front. At least he seemed to be taking in the sermon, so it wasn’t going to waste. “What happened with James?” She demanded. This seemed to capture the attention of Jade, on my right, because then she leant over and raised a questioning eyebrow at me.

“James?”

“After the service,” I said pointedly, but just then Ben concluded yet another masterpiece of a sermon by offering us all biscuits. Excellent.

“So,” April demanded loudly, “Did he kiss you?” Everyone was just beginning to stand up, and a lot of the attention was being directed at us anyway – because how long had it been since April was here last? – and now all of the youth were gathering and listening with intrigue. They weren’t being nosy, per say, because we were all friends... but, still.

“On the cheek.”

“On the cheek?” April repeated.

“Maybe he’s gay,” Alex suggested with a grin.

“Maybe he’s just shy.” Jade suggested and then they were all providing me with steadily more outlandish reasons to explain the strange course my love live had taken (he has glandular fever, he had a shocking phobia of lips, he thought that kissing was against my religion before marriage).

Eventually everyone had approached April to say hello and ask her how she was enjoying travelling, everyone had invited me to yet another event that I wouldn’t be able to make, asked me how Oliver was doing and how my ‘boarding school’ was going. Then I’d been cornered by Ben who’d asked how my birthday was, thus spurring off a whole host of other questions from everyone who’d forgotten which carried on for about twenty minutes... then I was finally allowed to escape towards the exit.

April had sorted that out too. Confidently approaching Ben when we first started going to the church and informing him that we were magical. Considering she’d been eleven he hadn’t believed her until she turned his cup of tea into a dormouse (she was extraordinary at magic for eleven years old but hadn’t improved much since. Something I always teased her about). Thus he’d gotten in contact with the ministry, how I still don’t know, and had gotten our private floo network set up in one of the side rooms used for the Mothers union.

“April?” I asked, because she seemed to be heading towards the front door which completely threw me off. April paused and glanced at the floor for a moment.

“I... er,” April bit her lip and put her hands in her pocket awkwardly. “Don’t get mad,”

“What?” I asked sharply. My heart was beginning to thud stupidly in my chest. “You’re not..?”

“I haven’t seen them for two years.” April said tentatively.

“Fine,”

“Autumn, don’t be upset.”

“I’m not upset.” I was. That was a lie. In a church, no less. “I just thought you didn’t want anything to do with them. That’s what you said.”April had this expression on her face that made it clear she thought I was being very childish. I frowned. “I’ll see you back at Hogwarts. Unless you’re going to stay there now.” Sod. I was being childish. I shook myself out of it. “I don’t mind,” I said, dropping the hostility from my voice.

“I just... I need to talk to her.” April said slowly. I nodded, still finding it difficult to look at her. “She’s my Mum,” I nodded again. “You... you could come too?”

“I’ll see you back at Hogwarts.” I said dully, stepping forwards and into the mother’s union room. Ironic. The floo power was kept in an urn. I occasionally wondered how strange it would look to someone if they walked in when I had my hand in the urn, but it hadn’t happened yet. I tossed it in the fire, stepped into the flames, and the next moment – I was back in Clearwater’s office.

Instantly, that horrible fluttery nervous feeling returned to my chest. I blamed being at Hogwarts again. That annoying excitement and anxiousness that always follows the whole ‘could something happen?’ thing that I hated to so much. It was for this reason that I could never be like Dom, she seemed complete immune to that feeling, and for this reason that I generally did not date. Especially not at Hogwarts. And when I did it was simpler – there was no hidden relationship aspect, no tipsy embraces and no awkward moment when you practically ask to be kissed... only to be rejected.

I sighed, smiling at Clearwater before exiting her office. She was used to me exiting her office on Sunday mornings – the arrangement April had set up for us in our second year. She’d always been the one with enough confidence to make herself heard.

Dom would probably be in the Ravenclaw common room or somewhere obscure with Benson, but Hagrid had gone to the south of France this weekend (reasons unknown) and had asked me to feed and take care of various animals that needed taking care of. Then I’d do my homework . After that, I’d find James and talk to him. Maybe.

 




 

The Niffler pressed his snout against my fingers and seemed to be sniffing it; the wetness of his snout against my skin tickled slightly and I smiled at him fondly. He suddenly scrambled in the direction of my pocket, clawing at the material of my robes desperately. I slipped my hands out of my pocket and pulled out a single gold galleon. I threw it to the far end of the paddock and watched with amusement as he dove after the galleon in a rush.

“Hey,” A voice said and I looked up sharply. James was leaning on the newly erected fence watching me pay with the Niffler with a slight smile on his face. I smiled in return.

The Niffler dropped the galleon in my hand and I threw it again. James made to step over the fence.

“Wait,” I said, standing up to his level, then I slipped the gold watch of his wrist and pocketed it, “they like shiny things,” I explained looking downwards to find the Niffler excitedly running over my shoes and shoving its snout up the material of my trousers – the soft wetness tickled a lot now. I sat down again and let the Niffler run into my lap, his snout shaking with excitement.

I threw the galleon a third time and he ran off again like an over excited puppy.

“You got any money on you?” I asked. James pulled out several galleons out of his pocket. I dug a hole in the earth with my hands and shoved the galleon down into the earth, covering it up with a smile. I buried the others around the ground near by and watched as the Niffler, who had just realised what had happened, dove into the earth in a rush.

“Wow,” James said, sitting down next to me and watching in amazement as the Niffler retrieved all five coins within seconds.

“And he’s cute too,” I added with a grin. He returned to my lap again and I stroked him, tickling his tiny ears and smiling as his snout ran over my fingers again. He headed for my pocket, “no, no – you can’t have that, that watch belongs to James,”

This brought the Niffler’s attention to the new intruder to his temporary home and took an experimental sniff. James looked slightly uncomfortable. “Don’t worry, they’re really lovely, Nifflers.” I said, picking the Niffler up round the middle and placing him in James Potter’s hands with a smile. He sniffed him and appeared relatively satisfied. “What are you doing here, anyway?”

“Oh,” James said – his eyes still fixed on the Niffler, his gaze softening as it settled down in his hands and looked very much like it was about to fall asleep. “I was coming to find you. I tried looking after practice but...”

“Right little stalker,” I said, exploiting the Niffler’s little nap by digging a slightly deeper hole in the earth with my fingers and burying the coin once more.

“You weren’t in Hogwarts,” James said – I then remembered that James had that map... of course he’d been able to find me in an instant. I liked the fact that he tried to find me. My stomach turned over slightly nervously, “where were you?”

“Oh, church,” I said, James suddenly looked rather adorably confused, “yes, I’m a Christian but -”

“No,” James countered, “I was just wondering how you managed to actually go,”

“My sister made an arrangement with Professor Sprout in her first year, now I’m allowed to leave via Professor Clearwater’s fire every Sunday. They set up a floo network at my church, too.”

“Was it fun?” He asked, as I ran a finger down the Niffler’s spine and watched it sleepily shudder with pleasure.

“Well,” I began, “it was okay.”

“Good.” James said, slightly awkwardly. I was in a strange mood. I could quite despite what I was feeling: I defiantly wasn’t happy and I was pretty sure I wasn’t angry I was just... unsettled. “Where is April, anyway, considering she’s going back next week I thought you would have been with her?”

“She went to go visit our parents after church.” I answered stiffly.

“And you didn’t go too?”

“No.”

“Don’t your parents go to church with you?”

“Misconception number one: our parents are Christians at all, it’s just April, Oliver and me.”

“Oh,” James said again. The Niffler woke with a start and buried deep with the soil and dragged out the dirty galleons once more. They were returned to my hands. “Hey... is... Oliver should have told me he was supposed to be at church on a Sunday morning: we’ve had practice every Sunday for the past two months,”

“That make sense,” I said, picking up the Niffler and looking at him carefully – he was very very cute.

“Why didn’t he just say?”

“I guess he can be a little like me sometimes,”

“Did you call that thing a Niffler?” James asked, tentatively reaching out a hand and stroking him.

“Yeah, I forget you never did Care of Magical Creatures,”

“I thought there might be an excessive amount of birds involved,” I laughed at that, I couldn’t help it, and put the Niffler back on my lap: he crawled up my robes, desperately scrabbling to the top of my shoulder in a rush... He paused on my shoulder. “You’re good with animals,” James commented lightly – looking at me in a fond way which made me want to hug him. “You have any pets then?”

“Not allowed,” I said, catching the Niffler who had stepped a little too far over my shoulder and began slipping down my back.

“You have an owl though?”

“Sort of,” I returned, “She’s not allowed to stay at home in the Summer though – I have to leave her here at Hogwarts. She still comes to see me every other day but...”

“Seriously?” James asked, shaking his head, “Are your parents like-?”

“Why were you trying to find me, anyway?” I interrupted. The Niffler had now taken to running laps around the paddock excitedly.

“Transfiguration – you said you’d help me and I’ve got a rabbit that needs to be transfigured,”

“I always think that’s a bit a cruel,” I said sadly, “but sure – tonight? If you’re free? You’ll owe me a Defence tutoring session though,”

“Seven?” James said with a grin. I nodded and gave him his galleons and his watch back again. The Niffler jumped up excitedly and tried very hard to knock the shiny objects right out of James’s hands.

I pressed my hand against his snout and said, “No, no, playtimes over,” and picked up the Niffler round the stomach. His warm heavy weight in my hands made me smile and I placed him back in the enclosure Hagrid was using to house them for the time being. Four more Nifflers looked up at him jealously. I chucked my own galleon back amongst their midst and watched as a few more emerged, chasing after the gold. A skinny one found it first and carried it to the very edge of the cage... trying hard to return it to me. “So eager to please,” I laughed.

“A bit like you really,” James said with a grin. I frowned and felt that queasy nervousness flare up in my stomach again. I said nothing to his comment and shoved my hands in my pockets. “You’re not very good at taking compliments,” James said, stepping back out of the paddock again and leaning on the fence, “you should work on that,”

I laughed and rolled my eyes in his direction. “I need to wash my hands,”

“You’ve got the evasive thing down though,” James continued, following me as I headed for the tap just outside Hagrid’s cabin. I had dirt incrusted under my red painted nails and my hands looked like a fake tan accident.

“Thank you,” I said, washing away the dirt in the cold water.

“See, you’re getting better already,” James said and suddenly he was right behind me, so close that I wanted to shiver. Sure, James and I had spent the majority of last night acting very close and coupley, but now it was the morning – no doubt everyone was talking about things and I couldn’t help but want to hide away and never face the general public again. The peaceful easy feeling I’d felt in his presence had faded away a little, along with the effects of the alcohol.

I just hoped to Merlin that Dom didn’t find out about anything. I’d be dead in thirty seconds flat. I wanted to voice my concerns but knew that brining up Dom was not something James wanted me to do.

I turned around to face him, giving up on my nails – Dom would probably insist on a full manicure if she saw them in that state, anyway.

“Are you wearing a Weasley jumper?” James asked suddenly. I flushed and glanced down at the floor for a second. James reached out and felt the knitted material between his fingers. “You are – that’s a Weasley jumper.”

“It’s Dom’s,” I sighed in embarrassment, “She wouldn’t wear it and...well, I like it.” The jumper in question was a light blue that really would have suited Dom a lot more than it suited me: my colouring was all off for blue. Still, the fact that Molly Weasley had put in the effort to knit every single one of the extensive Wesley’s a jumper it seemed special to me somehow. Dom mostly threw them to the bottom of her suitcase and then refused to wear them thereafter...she might have worn them on Christmas Day, I wouldn’t know – because she went home for Christmas and I stayed, but after they were neglected and forgotten about.

Even I had to admit they weren’t the world’s most fashionable items. I’d taken to wearing it underneath my robes in winter, or to church on Sunday where no one cared what you were wearing (or at least, they weren’t supposed to) and given I’d just been planning to look on the Niffler’s after receiving Hagrid’s owl about the new lot... I hadn’t bothered to get changed.

“You’re wearing a Weasley jumper,” James said gleefully. His hand was still clutching the bottom of the material.

“I had to enlarge it,” I admitted, “I’m a little larger than Dom,”

“Taller, definitely,” James said, and then he seemed even closer again.

“Too tall,” I complained, my stomach exploding with that horrible giddy ‘I fancy James Potter feeling’ which seemed to have taken residence within me. There was no point denying it any longer: I, somehow, had started fancying him.

“Works for me,” James returned.

“I’m glad you’re taller,” I said and then we were so bleeding close that our noses were nearly touching. His hand dropped from the edge of my jumper and grinned again.

“See you at seven,” then he was walking back up the Castle. He turned round twice and grinned to me. I stared at him stupidly, feeling very much like I’d been hit by a baffling hex.

 






Fifteen minutes later I was lying on my bed staring in shock at my homework diary (my sisters had brought it me as some kind of mocking joke about Ravenclaws... but I’d actually found it really helpful and had ran my life by it since) and the numerous pieces of homework scribbled in my diary that I had completely forgotten about: five essays. Only Hagrid had been merciful enough not to set me one over the weekend, but that was mostly because he was going on some visit to France this week and I’d agreed to feed the various animals that couldn’t get food for themselves. I did have to complete some diagram labelling all the useful things Dragons could do: from all twelve uses of their blood to the fact that there hide could be used to make jackets.

It was true that this week had been ridiculously busy: since last weekend I’d managed to blow up James Potter’s bed, went on a date with him, turned seventeen, been reunited with my sister and turned into a big fat liar. I suppose it did make sense that I was now so drastically behind on my homework – I hadn’t even thought about it till I’d finished feeding (and playing) with the Nifflers, and then the Hippogriffs, a single Clabbert that was hiding underneath Hagrid’s bed (much to my surprise) and throwing a handful of Nettles for the Glumbumbles.

Then I’d trudged back up to the castle, pulled Dom’s jumper over my head and added it to the laundry pile – my gaze pausing on the material of the jumper for a long moment before I managed to drag my eyes away and stop thinking about James – then fell onto my bed and retrieved my homework diary. Now I was in a state of shock.

Apparently, I had till seven to write five essays, perfect four different spells and complete this ridiculous diagram before seven this evening. Why the hell had I agreed to help James Potter when there was not a chance in hell that was going to get this done?

Maybe... I could fit in one or more of the essays at lunch time tomorrow? Surely Hagrid would forgive my lack of homework given I’d personally ensure none of his pets died of starvation and what not? Professor Clearwater was my head of house... so maybe she’d be more forgiving? Or maybe she’d take my lack of homework as a personal insult.

It was nearly twelve and Dom was probably already waiting for me at lunch. I sighed irritably and decided that I’d have to skip it if I was going to have a chance of getting all this work done.

Dementors have an adverse effect on the human mind...

 




 

“Brought you some food,” Dom said, sitting down beside me in the Common Room and watching my hand fly across the parchment in a rush of words and ink. I really couldn’t care less about the use of dried Billywig strings in potions, let alone write an essay about it – I had gone off on a slight tangent and started talking about the origin of Billywig’s but I really didn’t care anymore.

I smiled at her appreciatively and took a large bite out of the apple she had provided. Dom really did have the capacity to be a very nice person when she set her mind to it.

“Are you nearly finished? I need your help,”

Or maybe not.

“What with?” I asked in frustration, “I’ve got another essay and a half... and then a diagram and, well, and then I’ve got to go to the library.”

“With pranking James,” Dom said, sitting down next to me and picking icing of the cupcake she’d brought me from dinner. “I need it to be something good,”

“Well, I really don’t see what that has to do with me,” I said distantly.

“Don’t you want to help me?” She demanded.

“Not really Dom,” I said snappily. I regretted the tone of my voice almost immediately. Dom was suddenly regarding me curiously.

“Are you hung over; is that what this is about?”

“A little,” I smiled sheepishly, “April brought me cocktails – I’m just stressed about getting all this work done,” I sighed, turning back to my parchment and scribbling another few lines about Billywigs that I was almost entirely sure did not make any sense.

 “I’ve barely seen you all week,” Dom complained, now picking up the cupcake and eating it without really realising it was food she’s brought up for me. I plucked the uneaten half out of her hands and finished it off with a slight mile.

“Sorry,” I said, “Just, with April back...”

“No, I understand,” Dom said distractedly, “I’ve been with Benson anyway and... well, it’s not your fault. Next Saturday why don’t we -”

“April wants to go out again,” I interrupted, suddenly feeling immensely guilty.  Why was it that I couldn’t seem to balance having James and Dom? Already Dom was being left on the sidelines and I’d already promised James I would help him this evening.

“Tomorrow night?” Dom suggested, “your nails are in dire need of re-painting – what have you been doing to them?”

“Other than writing four essays, you mean?” I asked, smiling now. “Tomorrow night. You can pick my nail colour.”

“Bonus,” Dom grinned, “dinner starts in twenty minutes, Autumn – and you’re not missing two meals in a day.”

“Fine,” I said, “I’ll just finish this now...” I muttered, continuing to scribble down extra notes for another twenty minutes before Dom nudged me again. I abandoned my homework mid essay and wondered why the hell I’d agreed to help James.

 




 

“You’re late,” I told James disapprovingly as he sat down opposite me in the library. “Fifteen minutes late,”

“Yes,” James said, “but I brought you a present.”

“You brought me a present.” I repeated, raising an eyebrow and finding myself smiling without really meaning too. About thirty seconds ago I had been very irritated and had been about two minutes away from walking out.

“Yes,” James said, “will that counter out my point deduction for being late?”

“Depends what the present is,”

James grinned cheerfully and pulled something lumpy out of his bag. In my previous experience I’d found that lumpy presents usually weren’t that exciting and I eyed it warily. I reached out for it, watching James carefully, and picked it up.

It was a jumper: lumpy, poorly knitted in places and a spectacular shade of pink. The same shade of pink as James’s hair had been after Dom’s (my) potion. A large ‘J’ had been knitted on the front messily in another shade of pink. James had given me a Weasley jumper. “Is this yours?” I asked, grinning as I ran my fingers over the wool.

“Yeah,” James said, mirroring my grin, “It wasn’t originally pink,” he added hastily, “Fred got to it. Still, I thought that my side of things should be represented too,”

“Your side of things?” I repeated with a slight smile. I dutifully pulled on the fuchsia jumper and found that bright pink didn’t suit me anymore than the pale blue one had: still, I couldn’t help but love it. Molly Weasley’s blatant love was oozing out of every stitch and wearing a Weasley jumper gave me the strong feeling of being part of something so loving. “What can the J stand for then?”

“James Potter was here,” James grinned. I looked down to the J across my chest and raised an eyebrow.

“Were you? Obviously I was drunker than I thought,” I said. James laughed. I found myself flushing slightly – was it possible that James genuinely thought I was funny? “Joke, maybe,” I suggested.

“A walking Joke?” James questioned. “Witty – I can see why you’re a Ravenclaw. Jewel?” James suggested, offering me a fake-charming grin which I rolled my eyes at.

“Jerk, after the person I got it from?”

“January, what we’ll call our first child,” I laughed at that.

“Shouldn’t we be doing Transfiguration?”

“Well, about that, err... I didn’t want you to think I was an idiot so I was practicing on the Rabbit earlier and...” James pulled out the rabbit from his bag and placed it on the table. It seemed to be stuck halfway between being a rabbit and being a footstall: his back was strangely flat and he’d somehow managed to produce white furry legs that held its body several inches of the ground. The poor rabbit looked very scared and was desperately trying to stand up on its elongated spindly legs. “Poor thing!” I exclaimed, trying hard not to laugh in his face.

“Help?” He suggested with an adorable expression across his features. And how could I refuse?

 




 

“So,” James said as we reached the Ravenclaw common room, reminding me very clearly of the events of last night. It was nearly curfew and somehow we’d been doing transfiguration for approximately two and a half hours. “I guess I owe you, Defence tomorrow night?” He suggested lightly.

“That sounds great,” I said honestly, turning round to face James with a smile. “Something simple though, it’s been a hell of a week,”

“Tell me about it,” James said with a slight eyebrow raise. “What with Quidditch...”

“You would think of Quidditch,” I interrupted, smiling. He grinned. I grinned. The whole encounter was like some huge grin-fest. I internally gave James an extra few points just because normally when I had this much homework I didn’t smile quite so much.

“A good week?” James asked (and did he just move closer? Or is that my imagination?). I think he did. I wondered whether it was because I was still wearing his ridiculous jumper – maybe there was some magnetism that pulled him towards Weasley jumpers?

The more I thought that through the more disturbing I realised the whole thing was.

“Definitely,” I smiled. Like a right silly fool. No doubt I’d have to charm the corner of my lips to stay downward at this rate, they’d get stuck in this permanent silly grin and I’d have to walk round sheepishly smiling for the whole world to see.

“Well, I’ll let you get to bed now,” James continued. He definitely moved closer this time. My stomach erupted like some misguided hurricane. I suddenly felt very hot and nervous. My brain kicked into the gear Dom had fondly christened ‘hysteria.’ “It’s later than I thought,”

“Well, you’re a tricky student,” I smiled, allowing him to inch ever closer. I had a sudden terrible thought: what if James was simply going to do what he’d done this morning? Stand so close to me that our chests were essentially passed together, our nose nearly touching – so close even that I could feel him breathing, and then disappear. What if, despite all the usual indications, James Potter was not going to kiss me? What if he never kissed me!? What would I do then?

Yes, it was unlikely that James was suffering from an inability to understand personal boundaries and simply stood this close to everyone he talked to... but it was impossible, was it?

Part of my brain was now telling me to step back – then at least when James turned around and disappeared leaving me standing in the corridor dazed and stupid-looking it wouldn’t look like I’d been expecting him to kiss me.  I’d be saving face and, if he really was going to kiss me – he’d just move forward again!

“I’d blame the teacher,” James grinned.

I wasn’t listening to what he was saying now and was instead working out how best to engineer this moment of stepping backwards without looking like I was stepping backwards. I took my right foot of the floor and intended to replace it almost immediately but...

Then James kissed me (at long bloody last!).

The shock of this, probably quite predictable, move sent me teetering off balance. I hastily tried to reunite my foot with the floor but instead caught the edge of my robes underfoot and fell over. James caught me round the waist before I hit the floor. I stared at him. He stared at me. No one was grinning now.

This was probably the most awkward moment of my life to date.

“Right,” James muttered after a long few moments of stony silence. He shoved his hands into the depths of his pocket. “Night then.”

Oh, sod.

Now James had got the wrong idea. Now James would think that I didn’t like him and it was quite obvious, to me at least, that I really really did. Moments like these were what made me shrink away from myself in embarrassment and convinced me that the right thing to do with my life was to attract the least amount of attention as possible.  That meant letting James believed that the highly awkward moment that had just transpired was due to him misinterpreting the fact that I fancied the pants off him: a nice sensible thing to do, all things Dom related considered.

And I didn’t want to.

 “Wait,” I said, the words blurting out of my mouth without me having time to think them over. My heart was thudding in my chest and yet again I was reunited with that sickly nervousness. James looked back up at me tensely. “Can... can we replay that scene?”

James grinned. Phew. Operation recovery: successful.  “Where from?”

“Erm... from, ‘A good week?’” I suggested.

“A good week?” James asked, stepping forward to how close he’d been before my ridiculous falling over my feet bonanza.

“It’s about to get better,” I said, letting him take hold of my hands and smiling.

“Well, I’ll let you get to bed. It’s late,”

“I blame the tricky student,” I said, taking my step forward so that we were chest-to-chest and both doing the grinning thing all over again. I didn't care anymore.

He grinned, his lips so close that they were almost touching mine and then, “I blame the student,” then, he kissed me properly.

And I didn’t fall over, which is always an unexpected bonus in these situations.

A/N - I feel like I haven't updated for awhile - so here's the next chapter! Lots of James/Autumn. Please review and tell me what you think :)
 


Chapter 11: And then I am in mortal danger (and so is James Potter)...
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There was a moment just after I’d woken up when I had a complete girl moment: internally fluttery and nervous for no good reason. Then it was gone and I suddenly felt very sick.

I sat bolt upright in bed (missing hitting my head by a mere centimetre) now feeling like I’d been dropped into a very bad drama. So James Potter had kissed me, okay, fine: it had been nice, great actually, and I’d practically danced my way to bed being so close to giggling that it was scary. It hadn’t been a full on make out session, or anything like that, but it had been a big enough moment to make me want to hold onto to something very tightly to prevent myself from letting out an excited squeal.

My knee-jerk reaction was to run and tell Dom. Thankfully, in my moment of hysteria I had managed to avoid doing that. I imagined I would very quickly have sobered up out of my euphoria at Dom’s reaction... but there posed the problem – what if Dom found out that I’d kissed James Potter, undesirable number one.

What would she do?

There was enough provocation for my murder what with the fact that I’d gone on a date with him, been to a party with him and that I really really fancied him. And this was the icing on top of the eventual court case. I’d kissed her cousin.

Serious friendship betrayal. Dom was probably going to be more annoyed about this than if I did something really crazy like sleep with her boyfriend – although, Benson Flint was probably the exception to this as for reasons unknown Dom seemed to have become quite fond of him. Something which I thought was, quite frankly, ridiculous – even if he had started growing on me, but in the way a fungus grows on you, rather than the way a plate of pasta grows on you to the point where you’re satisfied and full and yet there still seems to be the same amount of pasta in the bloody bowl.

I know I’m panicking when I start using nonsensical metaphors.

What were James’s intentions, anyway? I was fairly sure he did like me – what with the stalking me via map and the fact that he was really rather sweet towards me but... what if he was simply planning to rip me to pieces within a couple of minutes, prank me within an inch of my life and then have my heart systematically ripped to pieces like Dom always said? What if James was exactly how Dom had always said he was, and was using me in some sadistic revenge attempt on Dom?

Except I didn’t believe that. Half because I didn’t want to believe it and half because I knew Dom well enough to know when she was exaggerating, or lying, or delivering an unfair judgement on someone who’d really upset her. James Potter was harmless (well, he might still rip my heart to pieces – but I’m sure he wouldn’t do it intentionally).

“Autumn?” A voice asked, and then Dom had pulled back my bed hangings and was leering at me cheerfully. I couldn’t remember a time when Dom had looked so cheerful, it sent a shiver of nervousness down my spine and really added to the strange concoction of feelings and sensations that was stirring uncomfortably in my stomach.  “I thought we could start phase two of the pranking war against Potter today, I’ve got the rat poison ready!”

Bad timing. Serious bad timing.

***

I’d told Dom the rat poison was completely unnecessary when she had a cat. I had, of course, not reckoned in the fact that Dom’s cat – instead of lovingly bring back dead animals to Dom’s side devoured them instantly and proudly turned up with blood stains on its pure white fur. She reminded me of this, in detail, over breakfast.

“But you can’t feed him rats that have been poisoned, Dom! You might kill him!”

“So you don’t want to help?” Dom asked dangerously.

“I don’t want to be an accessory for murder,”

“And you call yourself a friend,” Dom said and it took me a few seconds to work out that she was joking (thank goodness). I breathed a genuine sigh of relief and returned to my breakfast, the complete works of Jane Austen lying open beside me as I continued devouring Emma.

“Benny, can you find a couple of rats for me?” Dom asked, batting her eyelashes ironically as Benson sat down opposite her.

“How many?” He asked, that creepy creepy voice pulling me away from my book again (and this is why it is impossible to read over breakfast) and reminding me that I should really try and be nicer to him (even in thought), especially as he was doing me an immense favour.

“One James-Potter sized portion worth?” Dom suggested with a grin. The owls screeched their arrival and I found myself glancing upwards just in case I did, by some strange miracle, have any mail. I didn’t.

“Talk to the house elves or something; they’re usually up for weird challenges like that. Tell them it’s his favourite delicacy or something,” Benson suggested, “and why are you trying to feed your cousin rats?”

“I can’t think of a single good reason not to,” Dom said with a grin in return, “but this is still my revenge for him ruining my date... and he practically violated Autumn!”

“What?” I asked suddenly, “I think I would remember being, er... violated?” I suggested my heart thudding uncomfortably quickly in my chest. What if Dom had seen the kiss, only somehow twisted it inside her head so that I’d pushed him away or being unwilling. Maybe she’d seen the pre-kiss moment! When James had almost-kissed me and I’d fallen over like a first class chump (even thinking about this made me want to throw up with embarrassment, I shouldn’t be allowed to walk the earth doing such horrifically awkward things). What if Dom had gone mad and was now just imagining things?

What if the person I’d kissed yesterday had turned my best friend mental?!?                                            

This was all my fault. I’d destroyed Dom.

 “With that bloody note,” Dom said, “before you blew up Fred,”

“You blew up Fred?” Benson asked with a smile.

“It was an accident,” I muttered, internally listing the accidents that had happened recently and somehow wondering when my life got so dramatic, “and he was fine,”

“He was really trying to lay it on thick,” Dom said with her eyes narrowed, “as if Autumn would ever be interested in such an egotistical git! Anyway, he’s not your type.” I laughed at this uneasily. I didn’t exactly know what my type was supposed to be.

“What’s Autumn’s type then?” Benson seemed to be enjoying this. I gave him a pleading look hoping he might take pity on me and steer the conversation away from James Potter and my supposed ‘type’ but he shook his head and grinned. Sod.

“Blondes.” Dom said decisively. I was entirely sure she’d picked the colour hair that hardly any of her family (except her brother, and considering he was younger I suppose she didn’t count him as potentially people who could violate-me) had.

“I’ve never fancied a blonde,” I pointed out.

“You never fancy anyone,” Dom corrected, “but when someone’s shows an interest you start liking them out of politeness,”

“I do not like blondes,” I said defensively, not even bothering to argue the other point (because the only evidence I had to prove otherwise was her cousin, and actually he did sort of show an interest before I started liking him – so even without the unfortunate side effect of murder it wouldn’t help my case).

“Fine,” Dom said, “you’re definitely not a ginger type though. It wouldn’t go with your colouring,”

“So dark hair?” Benson suggested. Next time I saw him alone in a corridor, I was going to stun him from behind and pretend that someone else did it.

“Yeah,” Dom nodded, “dark hair. You’re not the type to be bothered by eye colour.”

 Well, apparently I’m not the type to be bothered by eye colour.

“Personality?” Benson questioned.

“Someone funny,” Dom said, “clever – you wouldn’t be able to stand someone who couldn’t join you in intellectual conversations, hmmm... sweet, a little mischievous maybe?”

“So,” Benson said with a smirk in my direction, “James Potter is her type then,”

Dom turned to stare at him with her eyebrows so high up on her face that they probably had vertigo. “James Potter is not sweet, and that’s the key to it really. Autumn has got to be with someone sweet, right Autumn?”

I was slightly alarmed about my opinion suddenly being required when it had been so successfully ignored for such a large part of the conversation and I wasn’t quite sure whether I should agree with her or not. All this was new to me: apparently I had a type, and that type was James Potter (who definitely was sweet).

“Yeah,” I agreed in a non committal way.

“Someone who’ll buy you cute things,”

“Sure,”

“And who’ll say cute things,”

“Mhmm,”

“And who’ll take you to cute places,”

“Definitely,”

“But they’re all tossers around here so you’ll have to stay single,” Dom said and she sounded a little bit too happy about this for my liking, “and Potter is the worst of the lot, and the only place he’s ever taken a girl is to his bed, or the shower or something seedy like that. What did he say to you, anyway Autumn? After he gave that note to you?”

He’d asked me to go to the party with him.

“Erm... I don’t really remember, I mean... I think it was something about you,”

“What about me?” Dom asked fiercely.

“I... er, I don’t know,”

“Right,” Dom said standing up with a terrifying expression etched on to his features, “I’m going to go and sort out James Potter’s lunch.”

“So how is James Potter?” Benson asked after Dom had strode off muttering things under her breath and looking like she was about to become the next Voldemort.

“He’s fine,” I said definitely, “particularly after kicking your arse at Quidditch,”

“Enjoy the victory party?” He asked with another grin, “don’t worry, I’ll make sure Dom doesn’t find out about your sordid little affair,”

“There’s nothing sordid about it,” I returned folding my arms and finding my stomach feeling all jumpy and nervous again (I hated all the drama, it made me feel sick), “but thanks,” I added helplessly, “I really do appreciate it.”

“Any time, Autumn,” Benson said with a grin before standing up and leaving me sat alone at the Ravenclaw table. I was just about to return to my book when Felicity beckoned me over and then all of a sudden I was sat with them and they were treating me like I was one of their friends.

“So how did it go with James on Saturday?” Felicity asked eagerly, “sorry we all left, but you looked like you were enjoying yourself so...”

“Its fine,” I smiled, “did you all enjoy the party?”

“Not particularly,” Danielle said glaring at me. Obviously it hadn’t been her idea to invite me over in the first place. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat and silently prayed that Dom wouldn’t return to the Great Hall now and blow up in my face about an entirely separate issue all together.

“Felicity did,” Jessica said with a grin. Felicity flushed slightly and sent Jessica a look. There was something so easy and natural about their friendship that made my gut hurt.

“Not as much fun as Autumn had,” Felicity countered.

“He was all over you!” Jessica added and it was my turn to flush slightly.

“Did he kiss you?” Danielle asked sharply.

“Not at the party,”

“After the party?”

“No,”

“But he did kiss you?”

“Yeah, er... last night,”

“Really?” Felicity demanded, “like, how kissed you?”

“Time to go,” Jessica said, stowing her reading book in her bag before throwing it over her shoulder, “we’ll be late for Ancient Runes,” Everyone else in the hall seemed to have the same idea and all those still sat down were beginning to pack up their things and flood towards the doors.

“I’ve got Herbology,” I said standing up with them, “with James,” I added as an afterthought.

A barely controlled explosion of queasiness started in my stomach and I felt a little bit like my knees were going to give in and I’d end up lying lamely on the floor yelling ‘I’m fine! Really I’m fine!’ and I expected nobody would be very convinced.

“You can walk with him then, look – he’s waiting for you!” Felicity said, nodding to where James was hanging back from his friends and vaguely glancing in my direction. My mouth suddenly felt very dry and I half wanted to double back and drink another litre of pumpkin juice before facing him (and hopefully then he’d have given up waiting and left without me).

“We’ll see you later then,” Jessica said with a shy smile.

 

 

James fell into step with me just as we left the warmth of the castle and stepped outside into the October wind. James smiled at me slightly. I smiled back. For a moment it looked like he was about to speak and then he paused, looked at the floor, and then folded his arms.

The silence was beginning to become unbearable.

“So, erm, it’s pretty chilly today,” I commented lightly, feeling my stomach flutter to the point where I actually felt quite sick. The urge to speak was apparently stronger than my need to find anything worth saying and thus now... we were talking about the weather.

“Yeah, pretty cold for autumn,” James returned, then he smiled slightly as he caught the poor joke, “might rain later,”

“It usually does,” I returned, balling my hands into fists and cursing myself for being a brainless twit with no conversation skills. What sort of person snogs a person the night previously and then engages in a delightful conversations about the weather? Especially when someone makes a gimmicky comment about your name being related to the current season.

“Erm... So, are you still on for our study session later?”

“Oh sod! I promised Dom we’d have a girly night,” Why must I continue to give James the impression that I wasn’t interested by falling over when he kissed me and cancelling on him? Maybe I should have cancelled on Dom? No, I couldn’t do that. She’d be suspicious. Anyway, I needed my nails painted. Priorities.

“A girly night?”

“You know, pedicures and stuff,”

“Pedicures?”

“Well not really, feet creep me out.  Well not my feet, just... other people’s feet.”

Autumn – stop talking for the love of God!

“You get creeped out by other people’s feet?”

“Not if they’re wearing nail varnish, its toe nails mostly,”

“So if I got my feet out right now, that would creep you out?”

“Yes, although I think most of that would be because we’re walking to the greenhouses and it would be pretty weird if you took your shoes and socks off. Who wouldn’t be freaked out by such weird behaviour?”

“Autumn, you are hilarious,”

I flushed, “no I’m not,” I muttered.

“Yes you are, I think you’re one of the funniest girls I’ve ever met. Actually, I would say the funniest but then Roxy is hilarious and, well, Rose is pretty funny when she’s angry... and sometimes when Lily’s PMSs you can’t help but laugh at her but -”

“Erm,” I interrupted quietly, “it would probably have been okay if you’d stopped at ‘one of the funniest girls you’ve ever met.’”

James let out a breath of air and glanced at the floor. “Yeah, shit, I’m not very good at this,”

“You’re better than me; I started talking about my feet thing.”

“That’s so weird,” James grinned.

“Hey, you’re the one scared of birds!”

“Point taken,” James conceded with a smile, “I guess you’re standing me up then,”

“I’m pre warning you, so that’s cancelling on you, not standing you up – entirely different ball game,” James raised an eyebrow, “Dom’s very reliant on definitions,”

“Okay, so... if we’re talking definitions what are we currently doing?”

“Walking to the greenhouses?” I suggested lightly.

“You know what I mean,” James said with a small slightly nervous smile.

I think I just died inside. Eeee.

“Well,” I considered finding my face flushing and my stomach doing some strange fluttery thing that made me want to run very far away and throw up, “we’ve been on a date, and then you invited me to that party and then we studied together and you kissed me... so, it’s currently a thing.”

“Like your feet thing,”

“Right, only less weird. If... if we were to go on another date we would be seeing each other,”

“What does that mean?” James questioned with a smile.

“That’s the try before you buy bit before you ask me out properly, and then – if I said yes – we’d be dating and I’d be your girlfriend,” James smiled. We’d reached the greenhouses now and were taking our seat in the classroom, being a rather pathetic ten minutes early.

“So I’d have to formally ask you?”

“No, that’s always pretty awkward. You would... say something ambiguous but obvious, or... refer to me as your girlfriend and hope I didn’t object.”

“Ambiguous but obvious?” James questioned, “well I’m glad we cleared that up,” I laughed at that and pulled my books out of my bag with a smile, “How are the Nifflers?”

“Good,” I smiled with pleasure, “Hagrid’s back now, so I don’t have to look after them anymore,”

“Miss them?” James grinned, not bothering to pull out his own books and instead turning his chair right around so he could face me properly.

“Suppose,” I said with a grin, “they’re pretty cute,”

“Do you want to go to Hogsmeade the Saturday after next?”

“Sure,”  I said, glancing down at my book to stop myself from doing something stupid like cheering or doing a little victory dance (which we know, from experience, I am truly terrible at),“Just not pudifoots again,”

“Good God I hope not,” James added, “and maybe you could try and avoid poisoning someone on this date?” I flushed.

“Oh, yeah, speaking of poisoning, I’d er... avoid lunch if I were you,” James raised an eyebrow, “Dom’s next phase in her epic prank revenge is to swap your chicken curry to Rat meat curry... and I’m not sure I quite convinced her she couldn’t feed you the rats she’d killed with Rat poison,”

“So your best friend is going to kill me,”

“She’s also your cousin,” I added hopefully.

“Because you poisoned her boyfriend and she thinks I did it.”

“It sounds a lot worse when you say it like that,”

“And you’re helping her?”

“Well I don’t really have a choice,”

“At least it’s not a boring start to a relationship though, right?” James grinned just as the others began entering the classroom. James pulled his chair up to his desk and took out some parchment and his quill (although I noted he hadn’t even bothered bringing his text book to the lesson – bloody Gryffindors).

“Hey, Graham!” James called to his fellow Gryffindor. The poor bloke (poor because his name is Graham, I thought Autumn was pretty bad but at least Autumn reminded me of a season rather than some old cereal that I’d eaten when my dad had to feed me from a spoon) took the seat in front of my usual desk and began discussing the brilliant Quidditch victory from the weekend.

“Yeah,” James grinned, “third year in a row, I should hope – the others don’t have a chance. Anyway, Graham, this is my girlfriend Autumn and this is my dorm mate Graham,”

“Hi,” I said awkwardly. Graham nodded in response before busying himself arranging his parchment and quill.

“You skipped out a step,” I told James, raising my eyebrows at him and trying very hard to be unimpressed.

“Sorry, I think I must have gotten the wrong balance between ambiguous and obvious, anyway – I like to think I don’t follow Dom’s rules,”

“Of course you do,” I said with an eye roll.

“You haven’t objected yet,” James pointed out triumphantly, “does that mean I’m safe from your wrath, even though I did it wrong?”

“I do have an objection,” I countered, “if Dom finds out I’m toast,”

“What’s she going to do?”

“Feed me rat poison?” I suggested, “Jesh, being your girlfriend is an occupational hazard.”

“Ha! You just admitted you’re my girlfriend!”

“I know, I was demonstrating simultaneously being ambiguous and obvious, as you didn’t get the hang of it very well.”

“I thought you were a little too obvious, if I’m honest with you.”

“By all means be honest,” I returned, unable to stop myself from grinning like a first prize idiot, “but you were hardly oozing subtlety,”

“I’m a guy, I don’t do subtle,”

“Well can you please subtlety not tell everyone in the world and get me murdered by my only friend?”

“So you must like me a lot if you’re risking your life right?”

“Either that or I’m an adrenaline junkie,”

“That sounds exciting,” Everyone else was beginning to file into the greenhouses now and taking a seat in the classroom bit reserved for sixth years and I found myself beaming slightly at everyone who looked at me curiously.

“It gets old quickly,” I said with a false look of boredom.

“You’re badass Autumn,” James laughed, “you wouldn’t be offended if I say I can’t imagine you jumping of the astronomy tower in a harness?”

“No, I’d probably take it as a compliment. It means my brain is still fully functioning,”

“Well I do hope so, or you’ll never get the hang of the patronus in our study sessions tomorrow night, will you?”

“Now that was the right amount of ambiguity and obviousness,” I commented approvingly.

“It was until you pointed it out,” James grinned, “Half seven?”

“We can decide over lunch?” I suggested. Professor Longbottom was now beginning to try and capture everyone’s attention to begin the lesson so we both dropped our voices to hushed whispers and I dipped my quill in my inkwell so that I was completely and utterly ready to start scribbling down notes if necessary.

“In the kitchens so you’re still alive by tomorrow?”

“You can pick me up after Care of Magical creatures,” I said with a grin.

“Shush, Autumn, we’re in a lesson here you know. This isn’t the time for you to organise your love life,” James whispered with an utterly charming smile. Not sweet? Dom needed her head testing.

Oh dear Merlin I’m smitten.

***

“So they’re real sweethearts, yeh see?” Hagrid said, although I wasn’t really listening to him for once. As normal I’d ended up helping Hagrid tidy away after the lesson, which usually resulted in some sort of chaotic mess, “I mean, I wouldn’t want te meet one if it were really angry but... oh hullo James,”

“Hi Hagrid. What was it this time? Sphinxes?” James grinned.

“Nah, not allowed,” The slightly alarming thing was Hagrid sounded very disappointed: as if he genuinely thought that having a sphinx in his back yard would have been a wonderful idea.

“Oh really?” James asked sounding falsely disappointed for him. I shook my head at him from behind Hagrid’s back and rolled my eyes.

“S’a shame you couldn’t do me lessons,” Hagrid said thoughtfully, “I could’ve tried to avoid birds but...” then Hagrid paused and glanced at me, “course Autumn knows all about that. Autumn’s me best student, anyway – I’ll let you be getting on, less you want to stay for lunch?”

“Er... no thanks,” I said hastily, “I’ve got lots of homework,”

“And I’ve got a lunch date,” James said, I flushed slightly and decided I didn’t like James very much either. What was it about the males of Hogwarts that meant they thought it was an acceptable occupation to embarrass me so regularly? “Although apparently she’s got lots of homework,”

“Oh shush,” I muttered, waving a grinning Hagrid goodbye and beginning to walk across the grounds feeling half exasperated, half irritated and half flushed with pleasure about the fact that James had turned up (I’m aware that there are three halves there – but I was acutely aware that I was feeling a lot more than I regularly did at the current moment in time).

“Not fancy any of Hagrid’s stew?” James asked innocently.

“Not today thanks,” I smiled, “so you came to pick me up,”

“Of course,”

“You know, you don’t have to do that all the time... and you don’t have to carry my bags or anything, actually I’ll be pretty annoyed if you do insist on carrying my bags – it’s a bit patronising,”

“But what if it’s really heavy?” James questioned and I realised after a moment that he was mocking me. I sighed and elbowed him, “Domestic abuse,” James muttered under his breath.

“At least I’m not letting you get poisoned by rat poison,” I pointed out.

“True, still I need to think of a way to retaliate about that...” James said thoughtfully as we took the stairs down towards the kitchens, “maybe some sort of explosion? Permanent baldness?”

“Or,” I said, “You could not retaliate? Then she might like you more,”

James tickled the pear and we both filed into the kitchens.

“No,” James said, sitting down opposite me, “I thought you knew Dom well? The more I don’t react the more frustrated she’ll get. She’s aiming for war and if I just sit there taking it like a martyr – turning the other cheek if you will – she’ll get even more pissed off. Plus, she’ll be convinced that I’m planning something huge against her. She’ll just end up paranoid and angry.”

“Surely that’s retaliation enough?” I asked helplessly.

“Nah, I don’t want her to go mental. Plus, if you really don’t want Dom to find out then it’s best if she’s not watching my every move. Chip butty?”

“Yes please,” I agreed with a smile.

“Roxy likes you,” James said after he’d ordered two chip butty’s from the house elves, “She thinks you’re nice,”

“I am nice,” I said in return, “at least, I think I’m nice.”

“She says you’re not what she expected,”

“Talking about me with your family then?” I questioned.

“Well, not by choice. Rose started going on about you, she said she wanted to know my intentions. She thinks you’re too nice for me,”

“What did you say your intentions were?”

“Well, this was after the party – I was drunk at the time, but I said I intended to spent lots more time in your very nice company and be just as nice to you in return,”

“You sweetie,” I said with a smirk, “what did the others say then?”

“Al didn’t say very much,” James grinned, “considering he was passed out at the time. Freddie said... well, he didn’t comment much on your personality, but if I were to summarise I’d say he thought you were... pretty looking,” James said this in such a way that I highly doubted that Freddie’s words had been half as dignified as the ones he was choosing to relay back to me, but I find myself blushing slightly at the compliment, “actually, he said if I wasn’t going to try and get in there he probably would. At this point Roxy added that ‘she’d tap that’ and Rose said that they were both being obtuse,”

“Louis?” I questioned. A grinning house elf turned up with two chip butties and a bottle of ketchup. This was far superior to chicken curry or, in James’s case, rat curry.

“He just said that Dom was going to murder me for thinking about it,”

“Good job she can’t read your thoughts, right?” I said with a smile, taking a slightly undignified bite out of my chip butty.

“Lily said that you were very tall,”

“That is true. Everyone at church seemed to think you were a little too gentlemanly.”

“Why?”

“Because you took your time kissing me, didn’t you!” I exclaimed, “They’d half convinced me you were gay by the end of it... and I hadn’t even meant to talk about it. It was all April’s fault,”

“What does Oliver think?”

“No idea,” I admitted, “haven’t seen him since my birthday really,”

“Well, it doesn’t matter anyway,” James said, “and I can work on being less gentlemanly, if you like?” He smirked.

“I doubt I’ll get very far by trying not to be very tall,”

“No, probably not,”

My hand was lying on the table and half of me expected James to take hold of it and the other half was confused about whether he would or not and whether I should expect him too. The whole thing was a lot more awkward than it usually was – because actually I was usually quite good at not being too awkward with James which was an achievement of a lifetime when you really thought about it – but now everything was sort of pressurised and I suddenly felt like if we were going to be ‘a couple’ then we should definitely act more... like a couple.

Wasn’t James supposed to be some sort of womaniser? Shouldn’t he be able to pull the moves? He was a lot more monk-like than I could have possibly ever imagined.

“You’re an excellent height anyway,” James said waving a chip around to prove his point – which added a degree of eloquence to his statement that I wouldn’t have expected. I helped myself to ketchup.

“No, I’m gigantic,” I countered frowning, “too tall,”

“Don’t be so down on yourself,” James frowned in return, “your very determined not to take a compliment,”

“Sorry,”

“And that wasn’t an insult either,” James contradicted and then he did take my hand and then we looked at each other for a long moment. I smiled and he smiled back and then...

Benson Flint walked into the kitchens and raised his eyebrows slightly at our very romantic chip-butty eating. James retracted his hand very suddenly and looked slightly alarmed, nearly sending his chip butty down the front of his robes in the process.

“Dom’s coming,” Benson said simply, “I figured you both might be here, I reckon Dom will be down in about five minutes so...”

“Thanks,” I said hastily standing up and offering him a grateful glance (although I was still utterly confused about why the hell he was helping us quite so much given we were lying to his girlfriend in the process – he’d agreed to the whole thing a little too readily) and then he nodded at me and disappeared from the kitchens once again.

James frowned after Benson Flint and I wondered if he was thinking a similar thing.

“Does he know that you poisoned him then?” James asked. I nodded and found my embarrassment about that whole situation flaring up again. “Well... we don’t both have to go, you could stay here and get some of your homework done,”

“But if you go you’ve got to eat rat curry,” I said helplessly.

“Nah,” James said, “I’ll just swap plates with Al – he owes me anyway.”

I had no response to that whatsoever.


A/N - Was this a long update? I lose track sometimes... too many stories... speaking of which... I've started a couple more new ones if anyone feels like reading them. Plus thank you so much to the person who nominated this story for the dobbys (Autumn was embarassed but greatful about being nominated for 'best OC' - she's still confused about why anyone would pick her though :P) ! I'm in awe of how many nominations (seventeen!!!!!) I've received overall! All you readers are incredible and I love you all very very much.

- Ac 
 


Chapter 12: And then we were all prissy...
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Like every morning, I was sat at breakfast trying, and failing, to read as Dom and Benson flirted so loudly I was surprised that only our immediate six neighbours were being forced to listen. The post came, as always, and I looked up to note that for once I did have a letter which usually, quite frankly, never brought anything good with it. Instead there was just that uneasy dread that was only quenched when I realised that the handwriting on the letter was my brothers, and not from either of my parents in either a purposeful attempt to undermined me or a misguided attempt to express a regret at the way things had turned out (depending, of course, on which parents had penned the letter in the first place). Still, it seemed ridiculous that Oliver was writing to me when he was sat on the other side of the hall.

I glanced at Dom to express this incredibility but was prevented by the realisation that Dom, too, had a letter and like me Dom’s was from a sibling – although it was fair to say that Victorie’s cursive was written from slightly further away. It probably wasn’t a good idea to try the mighty wrath of Dom.

I looked away quickly and opened my own letter, which was predictably short but a lot more heartfelt than I would have expected from my normally placid baby brother.

Autumn,

April wrote to me and said that she was staying in Wiltshire for a few days. I’m not going to reply. I think she’s being unreasonable, particularly given the reasons she left in the first place. Don’t get annoyed at yourself. We’re always going to be on your side.

Everything about the letter was irritating: the way he’d chosen to write it down instead of just seeking me out and telling me, the way everything was being avoided and said through code and the assurances about ‘my side.’ I didn’t want anyone to be so resolutely on my side because that only made everything worse. April had only ever made things worse.

Staying in Wilshire. So, she was at mum and dad’s for the first time since her seventeenth birthday. She was staying there, despite going to bleeding Australia in a few days time and despite everything she’d always said.

I glanced over at the Gryffindor table to find that Oliver wasn’t even there (and neither was James, so they probably had Quidditch practice). Then I screwed up the letter and sent evils to the jug of pumpkin juice to vent my frustration. Benson, on the other side of the pumpkin juice, looked mildly concerned.

Dom was still reading her letter with an expression so filled with venom I probably would wind up needing an antidote for sitting too close. Then her face contorted so violently, her elbow slipped sideways with some unknown (but angry) emotion and I watched in slow motion as her elbow connected with her bowl of cornflakes slide of the table and then it tipped, tipped, spilling itself all the way down the front of my robes.

Despite this not being a surprise at all apparently my knee-jerk reaction was to squeak, very loudly and stand up. For all those in the hall who hadn’t looked up at the squeak the sound of the bowl being thrown to the floor and smashing just about ensured that most of the great hall was looking at me.

Of course, that was about the same moment the Gryffindor Quidditch team trooped in for breakfast.

Dom was the only person who hadn’t even looked up and the temptation to throw my breakfast over her was almost overwhelming, but mostly I just wanted to leave the hall very quickly because nearly everyone was laughing at me.

A single cornflake dropped mournfully onto the floor.

Then I picked up my bag, my books and left very quickly – passing both Oliver and James in the doorway.

It must have taken them about three seconds to register that it was me half running from the hall covered in cereal before I heard their footsteps coming back in my direction.

“Did you get my letter?” was said at approximately the same time as “did the breakfast monster get you?” as they fell into step with me – one on either side. This was actually the first time I’d had a conversation with both my brother and James at the same time, which wasn’t really helping with the obvious fact that I was in a bad mood.

Yes,” I said to Oliver, before turning to James and frowning, “Dom’s breakfast vomited on me,”

“Did she get mad at you for wearing the wrong coloured shoes and throw it at you?” James grinned, nudging me with his arm.

“No, Victoire wrote to her,” I muttered dangerously. The raised eyebrows and the expression on James’s face told me that he at least understood the true horror of this circumstance.

“Autumn, my letter,” Oliver said, his face screwed up as he tried to get my attention.

“Oh, I’m sorry Oliver. I was going to write to you in response, as you obviously don’t want to talk to me about it,”

There were a few moments of silence in which I stared resolutely ahead, only glancing down to watch another soggy cornflake fall off my jumper and onto the floor. Even after changing my entire uniform I was going to be plagued by a milky smell for the rest of the day (and of course, Dom probably wouldn’t notice until dinner time when she’d ask who was drinking milkshake).

Cold, Autumn,” James said quietly.

“She gets like this with stuff about our par -”

“- enough, Oliver,” I said firmly, “I’ll talk to you both later – all I want to do is get this bloody jumper off,” I could almost feel James wanting to say ‘I could help you with that’ but resisting due to the presence of my little brother. Oliver could probably feel it too. I flushed slightly and glanced upwards, “seriously – scatter,”

“Fine,” Oliver said, turning back towards the hall.

“I’ll take the hunger,” James said, taking one of hands.

“You can always take my jumper and eat off that,” I returned, “but people might think you’re a bit weird,”

“Too soon in the relationship, I think,” James nodded seriously, “what’s Victoire writing to Dom for?”

“I didn’t stick around,” I admitted, “Benson can deal with her today, because I’m really not in the mood for one of her tantrums,”

“Yeah, I haven’t seen you this prissy since your birthday,”

“Watch who you calling prissy, it’s not too early for me to dump your arse,”

“You wouldn’t have the heart,” James said with a grin, as we walked up the stairs together – passing a grinning Felicity – and walking the familiar route of to the Ravenclaw tower.

“How was Quidditch practice?”

“It would have been better if you were there to see how manly I am,”

“Was that in invitation?” I asked, looking up at him with a smile.

“Ambiguous yet obvious,” James nodded. I brushed a piece of hair behind my ear.

“Well, I’ll have to see. I mean... I don’t want to anger Dom, and I’m doing an awful lot of subjects and with my sister going to Australia in a couple of days and...”

“Okay, I get it – but we’re still on for studying later, yeah?”

“Course, I’m not used to factoring in boyfriend time – that’s all,”

“Hmm... if I was dating Sean Taylor I’d try and avoid him too,”

“Shush,” I said, “if he heard you he’d be upset,”

James turned to look at me for a second, “to be honest, I think he’d be pretty relieved,” I shook my head at him but smiled a little bit all the same. James was cute. Very cute actually.

“Right,” I said as we arrived at the Ravenclaw tower, “I’ll be two seconds,”

“I very much doubt that,” James said, “but it’s cool, I’ll just stand around – waiting for you...”

“You didn’t have to come,” I said with an eye roll, kissing him quickly before answering the riddle and disappearing into the depths of the Ravenclaw common room. Already I was feeling a little bit better, despite how this morning was spiralling downwards into my list of disasters (extensive) –but James seemed like an anecdote for when I was ‘prissy.’ That was nice.

I threw my cornflake-y jumper onto the pile of dirty washing in the bathroom before pulling on my spare set of uniform with a sigh. Partially because my second set of uniform wasn’t nearly as nice as the first –being the one I’d had since second year meaning it felt all scratchy and was a little too tight in some places – and because alone in my dormitory it was a lot easier to fall back into my ways of being prissy.

“Three and a half minutes, twenty two and a half seconds,” James said when I remerged.

“You made that up,” I countered, glancing at my watch and frowning, “and we’re going to be late,”

“I’ve got a free period,” James countered, “but you’re going to be late. Disadvantage of doing, what was it, five subjects? Six? Fifteen?”

“Stop chatting, get walking,” I said, taking his hand again (walking around Hogwarts holding hands with someone was weird), “if you see Dom pretend you’re part of the wall or something,”

“I’ll just stand horizontally and hope she things I’m a painting, right?” James asked with a snort, “although, best not piss her off today – if Victoire’s written to her. You can update me later, all right?”

“Yeah, so I should get to my lesson. See you later, James,” I said with a smile, reaching up to kiss him again (although there were totally people around that might be watching, but...).

“Oliver was about to say parents, wasn’t he?” James said, “With stuff about our parents?”

I frowned at him, remaining silent as he thought about this for a long moment. Then he reached forwards and kissed me for another long moment, and then “slaters,”

Pants.

***

“You got cornflakes all over me early,” I told Dom pointedly as I sat down next to her for class.

“She’s getting married,” Dom said, burning a hole in the desk with her withering glare and not looking up at me, “she’s getting married,”

“To Teddy?”

“No, Autumn, to fucking Voldemort – of course Teddy! Who else has she been dating for like half her life?!” She blew a piece of blonde hair out of her face and continued glaring at the wood of the desk. If I was that desk my wooden legs would probably have been wobbling so much that I’d have collapsed by now, but the table seemed to be remaining vigilant. Good on it. I was tempted to write it a song or knight it for bravery, or something.

“No need to get at me,” I muttered, “you don’t always have to be so... I don’t know, in Dom-land all the time. I’m here too, you know,”

“Guess whose bridesmaids?” Dom asked, interrupting the last few words of my terrible attempt at defending myself (not in Gryffindor for an extremely good reason), “Lily, Rose and Roxanne,”

“And you?”

“No,” Dom said, “not me,”

“Oh,”

Exactly,” Dom said, whirling round to face me with her blue eyes alive with pure undiluted anger, “Exactly, Autumn, whist you’re busy chattering on about bloody breakfast my sister is trying to make me look like an idiot in front of the whole wizarding world. You think there’s any way she’s going to get married and there won’t be pictures in the prophet? No, Autumn, there won’t – and thus everyone is going to know that she didn’t want me, even though I’m her sister and I’m a Weasley too,”

The guy sitting in front of our desk turned around and sent a weary glance at Dom, a sentiment that I shared exactly. I really couldn’t deal with her when she was like and anyway, I didn’t know what to say – it seemed like Victoire was actually giving her a legitimate reason to be bloody pissed and thus the usual mantra of ‘Dom, stop being a drama queen’ wasn’t applicable.

“Everyone knows,” she said, glaring at the back of Fred’s head as though she could set it on fire by will alone, “there all laughing at me,”

“Dom, there your family,” I said weakly, “they’re not laughing,”

“Oh right? Because you know full well what family means, don’t you Autumn? How being family means everyone has to love each other,”

“Shut up Dom!” I snapped loudly, my fingers balling into fists, “will you just shut your mouth and listen to me!” A deadly silence seemed to descend over the classroom all of a sudden (although that might have just been my imagination, but it sure felt like everything went impossibly quiet), “you’re not allowed to say things like that to me,” I said, folding my arms over my chest and leaning back on my chair, “just because you’re my best friend doesn’t give you free reign to be a bitch. So just, go complain to someone else. I’m not... I’m not interested,”

Dom turned her eyes to me for a moment, her entire face frozen looking a little too impassive for me not to be afraid for my health. That sort of look from Dom was terminal.

“Fine,” Dom said, pulling her bag off the floor and sending me a withering look, “that’s just fine,” then she moved over to a spare seat at the front of her class, spending the rest of the lesson examining her fingernails rather as if she was dreaming of using them to puncture my skin.

Occasionally people would turn around and look at me sat on the back at my own (particularly James, whose gaze was going so fast between Dom and I that it looked like there was actually something physical passing between us. He’d probably wind up with a neck injury too, and that would totally ruin our study date). Mostly I spent the lesson trying not to cry (I never was good with arguments) and drafting out a return letter to Oliver as most likely I wouldn’t survive long enough to talk to him again.

That probably didn’t help with my mood. Apparently I was feeling ‘prissy’ today.

*

“So, I think you annoyed Dom...” James said, appearing after the lesson had finally ended and Dom had disappeared somewhere – probably with Benson, but who knew? Knowing Dom she could just be angrily self-destructing in the dorm (and why did our crises have to coincide? It meant this sort of thing was just bound to happen), “does that mean I can insult her?”

“No, it doesn’t,” I said, shoving my hands into the pockets of my robes and pursing my lips, “if anything, you have to be extra nice about her to ease my guilt. Or just not mention her,”

“You’re too nice for your own good,” James said, “does this mean you’re free for lunch?”

“Looks like it, it’s not like I have any other friends,”

“What’s up?” James asked gently.

“Autumn!” A voice called, and then Benson Flint was hurrying down the corridor and appearing near my side, “look, Dom said that you were really mean and... that doesn’t really seem in character so I thought I’d just, sort of, check to see what’s going on?”

“Tell her that... this is childish,” I sighed, sending an apologetic glance at Benson, “tell her that April went to Wiltshire,” he looked decidedly confused, “that’s it. April went to Wiltshire. Done, Flint, now scatter before I do get mean,”

“Man, you are in a bad mood,” James said, brushing my hand with his fingertips, “are you sure you want to study later? We could do something less boring if you like?”

“I’m a Ravenclaw; it doesn’t get much better than study dates,”

“That’s so depressing,” James commented, “maybe you should take up pranking?” he added with a grin.

“Pranking dates?” I suggested, trying to smile and just about managing it. James tilted his head sympathetically.

“Many, many dates,”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” I said, leaning on his arm for a second before straightening up, “lets go get that lunch,”

*

By the time lessons had finished for the day Benson had apparently delivered the message and Dom had decided to pretend that nothing had happened, slipping onto the seat next to me at dinner and helping herself to potatoes without that distinctly murderous stare of before.

“I’m going to kill James,” Dom said, not happily, but certainly not with the same flare of deep rooted anger and resentment.

“Why?” I asked, deciding that if she was going to pretend we’d never argued then I could go along with that too.

“Since he sent you that note, people have actually been saying that you two are dating. Can you believe that?”

Benson Flint, who of course had accompanied Dom to our table like the little lapdog he was, raised his eyebrows at me – barely concealing a humungous grin.

“What?” I said, a little squeakily, “That’s absurd!”

(List of things Autumn cannot do: be funny, prank anybody, lie in any way. So I was dead set for a secret relationship with a hilarious prankster then, nice one Autumn you idiot).  

“I know,” Dom said, rolling her eyes, “everyone was talking about it when I was in the loo – they all seem to think that we had some sort of argument about it -”

Oh.

“-but we never argue, so – I’ve no idea where they got any of it from.” She said finally, eating more potatoes and not looking at me properly. I think this was the Dom Weasley version of an apology.

“True,” I agreed, glancing to the ceiling for strength before putting more food on my plate, “I don’t think we’ve ever argued,”

I think Sarcasm is a better more loyal friend to me than Dom, but...

“So let’s just prank James some more – I don’t think he even noticed his rat curry – and forget all about that stupid rumour,”

And thus, the argument was officially over. And it had barely lasted half a day.

*

“So you’re not even going to demand an apology?” James asked, flicking through pages in the Defence textbook with an incredulous expression written all over his superbly cute face.

“In fairness, James, she’d just found out about the whole bridesmaid thing – you could have warned me, by the way – and I think that she possibly had a right to be a little... prissy,”

“I guess I’ll never understand it,” James said, “but I guess this remains under wraps until she calms down? And so, patronus charms... “essentially you just think of something happy,” he continued, flicking his quill of the end of the table and snatching it out of the air with his fist. As much as the defiling of such a sacred place as the library was horrific to watch, James’s puppy-like inability to sit still was too amusing for me to stomp out.

“How happy?” I asked, staring at the blank piece of paper in front of me. James forbade me from writing notes, “I’m not sure I’m in the right mood. I don’t think feeling glum particularly helps,”

“The happiest memory you’ve got,”

“So someone who’s had a really rubbish life... would they just not be able to do it?”

“They’d always be one memory that was slightly better than the rest. Now, hit me with it,”

“What’s yours?”

“That’s a very personal question now Autumn,”

“Stop stalling,”

“Only if you stop first,” James grinned, “you just don’t want to fail. Fine, I’ll be the bigger person. I know it’s stupid, but...”

“I’m not going to laugh at you,” I said seriously.

James smiled. “Well, you know my mate Henry. Well, on the train we wound up in the same compartment and started chatting and such. Anyway, I assumed he knew who I was – everyone did, but we didn’t’ talk about it. Then about a week into school he approached me and asked me why I hadn’t mentioned it. He’s muggleborn – didn’t have a clue,”

“Sickeningly cute, Potter, but I’m not entirely sure I’m convinced it’s true,”

“Oh fine,” James said, “first time I got laid?”

“You’re ridiculous,” I laughed, shaking my head at him.

“You promised you wouldn’t laugh,” James pointed out.

“Couldn’t help it,” I shrugged in return.

“So what are you thinking for your happiest memory?”

“Erm... first day of Hogwarts?” James looked at me slightly strangely, “or when Dom befriended me,” He grimaced at that.

“Maybe I need to provide you with some really good memories,” James said thoughtfully.

“Too sleazy,”

“Speaking of which, I suppose Dom’s already ruined my room of requirement cards?”

“Yep,”

“Well, we’ll practice the spell there anyway,” James said, slamming his text book shut and throwing his quill from hand to hand a couple of times before pocketing it and offering me a grin, “shall we?”

“What? I’m not ready yet! All you’ve done is tell me to think happy. I’ll never be able to do it!”

“Course you will,” James grinned, “you’ve got an awesome teacher,”





 I doubt this will go down as my greatest update of all time (essentially just Autumn and James talking a great deal) but it's been four months and I've really been struggling with this chapter. You can thank MangaGirl and Heir for this update (they told me this one should be next). As of 2012 I'm responding to all reviews immediately so... I'd love to hear from you :)


Chapter 13: And then I’m a terrible girlfriend...
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“Autumn,” Dom said, poking her head round the bathroom door – apparently pretending that the other girls we shared our dorm with didn’t exist , a habit that she was actually really rather good at it– “is your wand soaking in the sink for a reason?”

Then again, given it was practically the middle of the night I was entirely sure that our friendly dorm sharers (mates seemed a little presumptuous) would be just fine with being ignored in such a way. In fact, I was rather wishing that I was being ignored in such a way.

“Yeah,” I muttered, turning over in bed and pulling the duvet around me, “I dropped it down the loo.”

“You dropped your wand down the toilet?”Dom asked, one hand on her hip as she grinned at me. I grabbed the curtain around my bed with one of my hands and tried to pull it across, only succeeding in giving the material a good yank in the wrong direction. I was too tired for this. All I wanted to do was burry my face in my pillow and resolutely go back to sleep.

“Yes,” I said, turning over again and burying my face in my pillow.

“What were you trying to do?”

“Summon my pyjamas,” I muttered, “my wand movement was a bit erratic, and I let go, and my wand went down the toilet. Now shut up and let me sleep.”

“Oh, right,” Dom said, “you went out with April last night, and now you’re hungover.”

“I don’t do hangovers,” I contradicted, “I’m just tired.”

“You have fun?” Dom said, closing the bathroom door and stepping back in the dorm – pulling back the curtains that had been previously blocking the sun from assaulting my eyes and looking far too cheerful.

“Suppose,” I said, “sod off, Dom, I didn’t get in till half three and its, Jesus Christ Dom, it’s seven in the morning! It’s a Sunday.”

“You going to skip church?”

“I have a couple of hours,” I said grumpily, “no one’s going to care if I’m wearing my pyjamas.”

“And you said the Lords name in vein.”

“Piss off,” I said, pulling my curtains back over my bed and ignoring her resolutely: just because I was a Christian didn’t mean I was always a good Christian.

“So, are you going to talk to her?” Dom continued, casually pulling back the curtain fully and perching on the end of my bed, “or are you going to let her fuck off back to Australia and not explain herself?”

“She said she’s coming back in a couple of weeks.” I said dully, pulling the duvet up to my face an trying to ignore her.

“She said that last time and she disappeared for two years.”

“I know.”

“Budge over, fatty,” Dom said, sliding under my bed covers and propping up one of my pillows. I grunted with dissatisfaction and pulled the other pillow around my face, away from her, “so what are you going to say?”

“Nothing, probably – I’m a doormat, it’s what I do.”

“I’m not letting her screw you over this time,” Dom said, bringing her knees up to her chest and pulling the duvet around her with a smile, “we’ll plan it out – I’ll tell you exactly what to say and you just say it.”

“Leave it, Dom.”

“No, I won’t,” Dom contradicted, “so how about you start with ‘hey, how come you left the country because our parents are great big shits then came back, after two years, and decided to visit them anyway?”

“No.”

“Or, you could ask how she could betray you?”

“Dom,” I said, “do I sound like a person who wants to talk about this right now?”

“With your face in that pillow you don’t sound anything much,” I removed the pillow from my face and tried to hit her with it, only succeeding in getting my face squashed up against the mattress, “thanks for the extra pillow,” and, evidentially, loosing possession of the pillow.

“Why are you even awake?”

“To bother you, mostly, come on Autumn –you’re my best friend and I don’t want you moping for the next week about how you’re a doormat.  You deserve better.”

“Well if people would stop walking all over me,” I said, although people was quite a broad definition; I hardly talked to anyone other than Dom, and it was a given that she’d take advantage on occasions, and then my siblings and now, I suppose, James. And if James was going to start walking all over me he probably wouldn’t start for another week or two, because that was how relationships worked.

“You’ve got ‘welcome’ printed on your forehead,” Dom said, prodding me in the former mentioned forehead for added emphasis. I swotted her hand away and turned over, dragging the duvet with me. Dom grabbed hold of it with her long manicured fingers. Bah.

“Doesn’t mean people have to wipe their dirty shoes on me too.”

“Now, come on, the metaphors going too far now.”

“Drop it then.”

“No, come on, let’s talk about it.”

“All I want to do is go back to sleep. Four hours sleep! Four! And you’ve woken me up at an obscene time in the morning for no reason.”

“I just got a letter from Mum,” Dom said, “that’s what woke me up.”

“Oh?”

“She’s making Victoire include me in the wedding,” I pulled my face out of the covers for a minute and looked up at my best friend. A sour expression twisted onto her features for a second before she wriggled down under my covers a little more and stared up at the ceiling, “Victoire knew she would – just wanted to make sure I looked like a right idiot.” and there was the usual-Dom violence between her words.

“So, are you going to do it?”

“No, I’m refusing,” Dom said firmly, “I can stand up for myself, unlike some people.”

“Well it doesn’t seem to be working very well for you,” I said, turning back over onto my side and staring at my trunk at the top of the bed, “she’s allowed to visit her parents if she wants to,” I said quietly, “I never asked her not to.”

“She volunteered too,” Dom said, “and she should at least explain why she’s changed her mind.”

“She doesn’t owe me anything.”

“She’s your sister.”

“And Victoire’s your sister.”

“How’s about I get us breakfast in bed?” Dom suggested, “As it very much appears everything is against us. Then we can plan out your magnificent confrontation.”

*

“So you’re not going to church today?” James asked; hand in mine as we walked up to the Gryffindor Common room where I was to be completing the rest of my extensive pile of homework in his company.

I’d told Dom that I was going to church and then having dinner with April and Oliver in Hogsmeade and, unless she decided to visit the Gryffindor Common Room for a family visit she was never going to know any better. Although James insisted that he wouldn’t be a participant in a ‘secret’ relationship he had agreed that it was for the best that we didn’t mention the whole thing to Dom until the bridesmaid situation had blown over. Mostly, I was all of never mentioning it to her ever. My terrible luck and inability to achieve anything successfully, however, probably meant that wasn’t feasible. Plus, James was so dead set against that idea.

So, we waited.

The only reason Dom hadn’t found out already was due to her conviction of not believing rumours. It was a given that she’d started so many that she didn’t really trust them, and so the continuous ‘James Potter and Autumn Pearce are a thing’ was mostly passing her by.  With the added, and surprising, help and support of Benson Flint.

“Don’t feel like it,” I admitted, “you don’t mind waiting for me for a sec, do you? Professor Vector gave me an extension for this essay, so I need to go hand it into to her on the way.”

“It’s fine,” James said with an easy smile, “I wouldn’t be much of a boyfriend if I wouldn’t wait for two minutes whilst you dropped off an essay.”

“And, erm, I told Hagrid that I’d be down at his hut for lunch – but you can come too,” I added hastily, “it’s just, he brought me a sort of present for helping out with the animals whilst he was in France.”

“Oh right, you said –the vole. Have you named it yet?”

“Erm, yeah,” I said, suddenly realising that perhaps I hadn’t picked the best name considering I was dating the bloke who’d nearly didn’t exist due to my new sort-of-pet’s namesake – I  didn’t understand how I was always so awkwardly bad at doing anything remotely amusing, “Vole-demort. You inspired it actually, with all that ‘the Vole who isn’t named’ crap, and erm... yeah.”

I was half expecting James to turn around and dump me immediately for being insensitive but instead his lips curved upwards into a smile.

“And you tried to convince me you weren’t hilarious,” James said, grinning for a second, “Vole-demort.”

“I suppose, there had to be some Ravenclaw wit in me.” I said reluctantly.

“Wait a second; did you just accept a compliment?” James asked.

“Shut up,” I muttered in response, putting one hand in my pocket, “or I’ll change my mind and reject it,” I paused slightly as we arrived outside Professor Vector’s office and glanced inside. “Right, I’ll just be two minutes with Professor Vector. Sorry for being crap,” I said, kissing him quickly before shrugging a goodbye and knocking on the door of Professor Vector’s classroom.

I felt bad leaving James outside waiting for me, but there was nothing else I could do – thanks to being caught up with mountains of homework, the drama with April and Dom’s ongoing mission to out-prank James (my secret boyfriend) I’d hardly had any time to actually see him. Now, on the day when we’d actually made plans I was flaking out on him and running off to have lunch with Hagrid.

No guy wants to hear that you’d rather spent time pretending to eat poor cooking with a greying half-giant than with them. I made a note to try a little harder.

“I’m here with my essay,” I said quietly, smiling at Professor Vector weakly, “sorry it was late.”

Professor Vector’s stern face twisted into concern as she took the length of the parchment, her critical eyes scanning over it. I was suddenly acutely aware of how rushed the last inch of the essay had been and the size my writing had managed to achieve by the end of the essay. I flushed slightly.

“Autumn, I have your last essay here,” Professor Vector said, pulling out a separate piece of parchment – equally as rushed with large sections that had been crossed out, “and then the essay before that. It’s fair to say there’s quite a big difference between the two.”

I felt much too tall to be stood whilst she sat behind a desk – my height suddenly felt obtrusive and embarrassing. I wanted to crouch.

“You’re usually an Outstanding level student, Autumn, but in your last essay you achieved an Acceptable, and this one... well, it’s late and, quite frankly, it doesn’t seem up to your usual standard. Is there something going on that you need to talk about?”

“No, “I said quickly.

“Your sisters staying in Hogsmeade at the moment?”

“Yeah, she’s... she’s visiting and well, I’ve just been a bit busy.”

“And you’re currently dating James Potter?” Professor Vector asked. My face flushed slightly but I nodded and looked down at the floor, “maybe you’re taking on too much.” she suggested lightly.

“Maybe.” I agreed, shoving my hands in my pockets and feeling my lip quiver slightly. Typical Ravenclaw – getting upset about a few marks on a couple of essays. James would laugh.

“Just think about it,” Professor Vector said, “and I won’t accept another late essay again.”

“Of course, Professor,” I muttered before exiting, balling my fists up in my pockets and blinking. Everything had been so hectic: with the pranking, the Quidditch parties and all these studies sessions – it wasn’t necessarily my fault that I’d slipped behind things.

“I’m failing,” I blurted to James as I stepped outside of Vector’s office and was subjected to his questioning gaze, “and Arithmancy is one of my best subjects.”

“But, Autumn, you do loads of subjects. You could always drop something?”

“But I enjoy them,” I muttered quietly, folding my arms over my chest, “you’re not a claw – you wouldn’t get it.”

“I probably could just about get it through the thick Gryffindor skull of mine.”

“Sorry,” I muttered, Merlin I was such a crap person, “sorry, I’m just stressed.”

“It’s fine,” James said, “I bet you didn’t fail anyway.”

“I got an A.”

“I’ll swap you an A for one of my Ps?” James said with a grin, “you’re such a Ravenclaw.”

“Shut up,” I said, managing to smile in return, “you knew that before we dated – don’t use it against me now.”

“Fair enough,” James said, “and we’ll get lots of studying done this afternoon and everything will be just fine.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, taking his hand again and smiling, “just fine.”

*

“Holy shit, Autumn – how much work do you have?” James asked as I finished writing my second essay and added it ceremoniously to the ‘finished’ pile, swapping my Defence books for Care of Magical Creatures books and scribbling down yet another ridiculously long title.

“Sorry,” I muttered, putting my quill down for a second and looking up at him, “you were probably expecting less of the study and more of the date part of ‘study date’ weren’t you?” James looked like he wanted to agree with this whole heartedly, but instead glanced down at the blank piece of parchment in front of him and made a face.

“No, it’s all fine,” he said decisively, “I just don’t normally do this much work. Do you want me to go get some food and stuff from the kitchens?” I guessed we were still at that part of the beginning relationship where he was scared of doing something wrong and messing up, whilst I was here ignoring him in favour of my essay and going to see a Vole Hagrid had brought me.  I was such a terrible girlfriend.

“Will it stop you from fidgeting continually?” I asked with a smile, “Sure. I like strawberry creams and chocolate digestives.”

“Yes, Madame.” James said with a salute, nudging me with his shoulder before getting to his feet and swinging his bag over his shoulder.

“Bye, James.”

As a Ravenclaw, I should have known better than to agree to his suggestion of studying together. I was very good at blocking everyone in the world out when I’m trying to do my homework, but the prospect of spending a whole afternoon in his company had sounded too appealing to give up for the sake of a couple of grades. Until Vector had messed the whole thing up and brought me crashing back down to reality.

Was this James thing even a good idea? Or was this another of my special ways at screwing things up? I paused for a second, with my quill hovering over the piece of parchment and tried to mentally draw up a pros and cons list about the whole thing. The cons were obvious: this was probably going to result in my death, either by failing school (which would kill me) or by Dom’s expertly manicured hands; I didn’t have enough time to be fair to James and, of course, every single person felt the need to talk about me whereas before I’d been just a less important part of a greater duo.

Then, the pros: I liked James. I mean, I liked him a lot – he was cute and kind and bizarrely seemed unaffected by the prospect of Dom’s wrath.  Thanks to James, I’d very nearly been able to produce a patronus. And, for once in my life I felt like I wasn’t just a sideshow to Dom’s stupid romantic trysts and April’s ongoing drama with our parents. Every since I’d accidentally stolen his invisibility cloak, everything had got exciting. I liked that.

“Autumn Pearce.” Freddie and Roxanne Weasley said, sitting down mere seconds after James had left the Gryffindor Common room and looking up at me expectantly. Case and point: Roxanne and Freddie Weasley were always exciting – mostly because they seemed to enjoy explosives and hexing people more than most criminals (although this was mainly assumed from what Dom had told me and it was fair to say that reliability wasn’t her strong point).

“We’ve come to question you about your intentions,” Roxanne Weasley said cheerfully, “concerning our least favourite cousin.”

“Okay.” I said.

“So, why exactly are you friends with Dom?” Freddie grinned, causing me to almost-laugh and bite my lip.

“I like Dom.”

“She’s lying,” Roxanne said, “she’s got to be lying.”

If this were James, I would have protested that Dom was lovely really but it was slightly more difficult with Roxanne and Freddie, who I was entirely sure I’d spoken too about three times in my entire life.

“Are you sure you’re not planning to systematically ruin her life and turn her into a laughing stock.”

“It’s funny,” I said, “that’s what Dom said you guys would do to me.”

“So that’s a no?” Freddie asked, narrowing his eyes slightly.

“That’s a no,” I agreed, noticing in a moment of horror that I’d been dripping ink onto my essay and distracting myself for the next minute or so trying to dap the ink away with my left sleeve, succeeding only in spreading more ink across my essay, “pants.”

“Here,” Roxanne said, pulling out her wand and fixing it for me, “so you’re just dating James, despite Dom’s instructions not to, because you like James?”

“That sounds about right.”

“You’ve obviously got something wrong with your head,” Roxanne concluded, “but good.”

“Good?”

“Family loyalty,” Freddie explained, “it extends all ways. No one messes with the Weasleys. We’re tough as nails.”

“Right,” I said, smiling slightly as I glanced between them. They were protecting Dom: maybe they didn’t like her and maybe sometimes they excluded her and made her feel crap, but they were still looking out for her. I wanted nothing more than to run back to Dom and tell her about this conversation, but that wasn’t possible. Well, it was potentially possible but there would be some unfortunate side effects. Like death.

“We’ve already had words with Victorie,” Roxanne continued, “well, Rose did. Freddie and I aren’t really people-people.”

“That means we make points with jinxes,” Freddie added, “so, that’s all, isn’t it Roxy?”

“I think so,” Roxanne said, “so we won’t be telling Dom that you’re secretly dating James, as you’re not messing with any of them or anything.”

“Oh, come on,” Lily Potter said, sitting herself down at our table and folding her arms, “I told you that James and Dom are more likely to mess with her than the other way round.”

“And we asked you on what authority you were making these claims,” Roxanne said, “and your answer wasn’t satisfactory.”

“I know her brother,” Lily said, “and they’re both harmless. Now, leave Autumn alone or James will get mad.”

“James isn’t here,” Freddie said, “first year mistake, leaving his girlfriend here unattended.”

“He’s here now,” Lily said pointedly, nodding towards the portrait hole with a smile, “so scatter, Johnson-Weasleys.”

“Laters, Autumn!” Roxanne said, waving cheerfully before both of them disappeared to the other side of the Common room and sat themselves down with the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team (minus my brother).

“Thanks, Lily,” I said with an awkward smile, turning to James’s little sister and being unsure exactly what I should say now. I was saved by James arriving back at our table with an armful of chocolate digestives.

“How come you’re here, anyway?” Lily asked curiously.

“Study date with a side order of chocolate biscuits,” James said, “stop badgering Autumn, she’s trying to study. With biscuits and me.”

“I’d have thought you’d be saying goodbye to April before she went to Australia,” Lily said, “Oliver disappeared to Hogsmeade straight after church. Said you both had permission from the Head and everything.”

“What?” James asked, turning his bright eyes on me looking confused.

“I’d have just thought... well,” Lily said, sending a worried glance in James’s direction, “that you’d be there.”

“Autumn, what’s going on?” James asked, depositing the impressive pile of biscuits onto the table and staring at me intently. I wash of guilt started building up in my stomach and Lily now appeared to have realised she’d well and truly put her foot in it. How many times can one person screw up in a day?

“My sister’s going to Australia today,” I muttered, pulling my arms in around me and trying not to catch his eye.

“For how long?”

“She said a couple of weeks, but last time she said that she... well, she didn’t come back for two years.”

James let out a deep breath and I wondered if, James had been scoring me by Dom’s stupid system, how many points I would have lost today. Looked like I was doing a very bad job at this whole dating thing. “Go say goodbye to your sister,” James said firmly, “we’ll talk later.”

*

“Hey, Autumn,” April said softly as I arrived at the Leaky Cauldron and found my siblings sat around one of the tables clutch butterbeers, “didn’t think you were coming.”

“Neither did I,” I said finally, collapsing into a seat next to my brother, “I’ve got a lot of work.”

“Right.” April said, but neither of them particularly believed that. None of us were particularly adept at communication: April had a tendency to disappear for years at a time and just send regular, or not so regular, letters about her exciting travels and every school year Oliver would be lost in a sea of Gryffindors and I wouldn’t hear from him for months of a time. Usually it was me who made the effort, but if no one else was going to bring up the elephant in the room then I wasn’t going to. I was fed up of all of it.

“How was church?” I asked eventually, because the silence was beginning to feel strained.

“Good,” Oliver said, “he humiliated April well and truly with a farewell speech.”

“And the talk was brilliant as always – lots of candles and buckets to demonstrate the light of the world concept.”

“Ah, it’s that time of year again.” I smiled, pulling my robes around me and glancing up at my siblings. At least we all had the familiarity of church to bring us together, even if there was always something else acting as a rift between us.

“I’m going to be back in two weeks,” April said carefully. “I mean it this time.”

“You said that last time,” Oliver said with an eye roll, “its okay, April; we don’t expect you to be back so soon.”

“No, I will; I’ve got a lot of stuff to come back for. I’m coming home for Christmas this year.”

“I’m not,” Oliver said, “we stay at Hogwarts.”

“Yeah, of course,” April said distractedly, her gaze flitting to me as she took in my appearance, “you look good, Autumn.”

“Thanks.”

“I think this James guy is good for you.”

“Okay.” I said stiffly, not quite able to shake the last traces of resentment out of my voice.

“You’ll write and tell me when it all blows up with Dom?”

“Yeah,” I nodded, “but if you’re back in two weeks you might even get the live version of events.”

“Here’s hoping.” April said, sending each of us one of her delicate smiles and ordering each of us another round of Butterbeers.

“Why did you visit them?” I asked her eventually, taking my butterbeer and looking at her, “I don’t mind. You can do what you want; I just want to know...why?”

“I needed to ask them a couple of things,” April said evenly, leaning forwards in her seat and looking at me carefully, “she asked me about you, and you too Oliver – I think she wants to sort things out. She misses you.”

“She misses you,” I said, leaning back and letting my hair fall into my face, “she’s never missed me in my life.”

“Can’t you..?”

“No,” I said, “I can’t. End of conversation.”

*

There are some things that you don’t really expect to happen in life, like James Potter saying ‘we’ll talk later’ and then finding out that his idea of talking later involved sitting in the Gryffindor dorms with a vole named Vole-demort.

And so, I sat with my long limbs folded up, my back resting against James Potter’s bed and the vole scurrying over my fingers waiting for the talking part of the rendezvous. With a certain degree of nervous trepidation.

I didn’t care what Dom had to say about how James Potter wasn’t cute, smuggling my new-pet-vole from Hagrid’s hut (although, he’d probably only had to say ‘Autumn’s upset – I think she’d like to play with the vole you brought her’ and Hagrid would have passed the thing over, but I suspected he’d achieved the result with a lot more bravado) and up to his dorm put him quite firmly in the adorable category.

Now as cute as the former mentioned vole, but still pretty damn cute.

“Sending me a letter to get me here was a bit cold, James.”

“You said goodbye to your sister, then?”

“Yeah,” I muttered, “thanks for bringing Vole-die up here, he’s so cute.” I muttered, bringing him up to my face and touching his soft nose with my own for a split second. I liked how uncomplicated animals were.

“It looks like an oversized rat.”

“So do you,” I returned, running my finger over the vole’s skin and smiling at it absent mindely, “non-magical ones are a bit smaller.”

“So it’s a magic-vole?”

“You really think Hagrid would give me a non-magical vole?” I asked touching its nose lightly and watching as it tried to sniff my hand, “it probably has fangs somewhere. Hopefully, we won’t find out.”

“So, are we going to talk about it?”

“Dunno,” I said, focusing my attention on the vole rather than my boyfriend. The vole was cuter and easier to understand. Plus, Volde-mort wasn’t expecting an explanation of things that I didn’t want to talk about, whereas James most definitely was, “it’s not a big deal, I just don’t talk about it much. It doesn’t matter.”

“We don’t have to talk about it, if you don’t want to.” James said, sitting down next to me and watching the Vole squirm in my hands before settling and lying still, “I’d just rather not find things out from Lily and then look like an idiot.”

“You do look like an idiot.” I said softly.

“Hey! Be nice, I’m your boyfriend.”

“You were nasty to Vole-demort!” I said, bringing him up to my chest and grinning at him, “don’t listen to the nasty James, Vole-die, – you don’t look anything like a smelly old rat.”

“Autumn,” James said seriously.

“Fine,” I conceded, “let’s talk.”

 




Is this a... is this an update I see? Why, I think it is an update! I have nothing much to say but sorry about the wait (although, you should bear in mind that I have ten WIPs to juggle) and that I’m up to date with answering all reviews for the past three months (other than like, yesterday’s reviews...) and I’d love to hear from you.

Oh, and sorry for the cliff hanger.

Couldn’t really resist.


Like I said, reviews are shiny ;)

 
 


Chapter 14: And then we talked...
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Vole-demort decided to break the tension by jumping out of my arms and diving head first into James Potter’s trunk, remerging several seconds later and depositing his diary into my hands, with a pair of James’s boxers on top of his head like some strange crown.

“I’ve got to ask,” I said, “are all your boxers this effeminate?”

“I’ve got to ask, did you train that vole to retrieve the most embarrassing things in my trunk?” James countered, plucking the pink boxers off the vole’s head and throwing them in the direction of the trunk. He kicked it shut and sat down next to me; both of us sat on the floor with our backs against the edge of James’s bed.

“You’d have to ask Hagrid,” I shrugged, absently opening James’s diary and flicking through to find my entry, “nothing to do with me, this time.”

“Right,” James said, grinning as he flicked the diary over to the correct page (scarily, there were quite a few entries added after my own - dear Merlin, James’s diary was a legitimate functioning article), “I’d almost forgotten about you breaking into my dorm.”

“Where do you want me to start?” I asked wearily. It was difficult: communications were not entirely my forte - hence my attempt at an apology resulting in blowing up by now-boyfriends bed (and that wasn’t even a euphemism).

“The middle.” James said.

“That would probably be April leaving. So, April was eighteen and, well, she’s pretty into history - one of her NEWT history essays was so well acclaimed that they asked her to write a book. You’ve met April - reading letters from my sister makes me tired, she seems so vivid even through ink and parchment. So they offered to fund her research into this book and, well, she decided she wanted to do some research in Egypt. And then, course, Egypt suited her and when she came back, four months after she’d left, it was a short home visit before she went back again. So, that’s where the estranged bit came from, I suppose, none of us a very good at communicating.”

“April was my defender,” I sighed, frowning slightly, “every time she comes back I half resent her for leaving and half just want to absorb her presence: siblings are like that though, aren’t they? You spend half the time resenting them and half the time loving them more than anyone else.”

“So, she’s off to Australia?” James asked, stroking Vole-die distractedly.

“Yeah,” I said, “and normally I’d have gladly turned up to see her off but, well, I was being a bit… childish. She went to visit my parents, see and it just… took me by surprise.”

“You live with your parents?”

“In the summer, we don’t go home during the other holidays. It’s… that’s the difficult bit. The opening. It’s not a big deal, James. It’s just the way things are.” I sighed; I hadn’t talked about this for a long time. It had come up once or twice in discussions after church, when people talked about how they found their way to God or what my parents were like, but other than that the last time it had been discussed I had been twelve and crying it out to Dom - ever since then it was eluded to, rather than mentioned outright and that was fine. It was a tact started by April that we’d all conformed to. This was breaking the rules. This was turning the whole system inside out.

“My Mum had postnatal depression after she had me and I think that’s when it started. It was pretty bad, she… well, she left me alone at the house once and didn’t come back for hours. This is what April has told me, anyway… and then Mum, well, there was an incident with a car; she got run over and the juries out about whether or not it was an accident. I don’t know how much you know about postnatal depression, James, but usually the mother has a sort of click moment when they start to love their baby.”

“And yours… didn’t?” James suggested.

“I don’t think she did,” I said, quietly, “April thinks that’s rubbish and that I just remind her of the worst part of her life but, either way, it’s like… it’s like she resents me on some level. She treats me different: she’d say I could have a friend over then change her mind at the last minute, make me look stupid, yell at me for silly accidents just… nothing major. Little things,” I sighed and took another deep breath, picking up Vole-die in my arms and looking into his wide, excited eyes. “So, I started Hogwarts as awkward, a bit nervous, no self-confidence - obviously - but then I made friends with Dom and without my Mum there I started to relax a bit more… that’s when April started to notice. She thought I was just growing up, except when we go back home I was back to falling over doormats and scurrying around the house hardly saying anything. April, well, she thought she could fix everything: went barrelling into things like a niffler in a jewellery shop, accused Mum of ruining my life and trying to demand that we talked through our issues.

“Just made everything more strained, as it were, because then everything was out in the open. Dad remained convinced that this was just a figment of our imagination, Oliver didn’t know what to think as neither of them had seen us at Hogwarts… well, anyway, I just gave up.”

“On your mother?”

“Yeah,” I said, shrugging my shoulders slightly, “it wasn’t awful. Don’t get me wrong James, she wasn’t exactly cruel. It’s just parents are supposed to build up their children’s confidence and she did the opposite. We’re polite to each other. I avoid going home in the holidays and she dutifully avoids writing me letters, for the most part. I don’t want to hear from her so she doesn’t try to talk to me. It’s not wonderful but… it’s just the way it is.”

“And what about Oliver?”

“We don’t talk about it,” I admitted, thinking of the warmth in my stomach at the mention of my brother’s name, “he stays here with me in the holidays; we never organise it, he just does. He’s my best friend in the holidays. He doesn’t talk to Mum much either - I try and encourage him too, because she’ll only resent me more if I’m the reason she’s lost all her children but… Oliver is sweet. He’d do anything for me.”

“And April?”

“She moved to Egypt and cut ties with our parents for years. And us, nearly… but now she’s back and she’s been visiting them. I… I don’t mind if she wants to visit them, I just want to know why now. It was stupid of me not to go today and… I’m sorry you had to find out she was leaving from Lily.”

“That’s okay,” James shrugged, nudging me with his shoulder, “some things are difficult to talk about.”

“Hmm.” I agreed, leaning on his shoulder slightly. “Mum wrote to me on my birthday; I haven’t opened the letter yet.”

“I think you should.” James said seriously and I turned to look at him for a few seconds: James was sweet, but it seemed my assessment of how he’d take this was just as I’d expected - James, with his life without blemishes - would think that I was some brave sufferer who’d conquered something difficult and incredible. But that wasn’t true in the slightest: it wasn’t like my convention that I wasn’t funny or interesting either, because everyone had something to deal with in life and everyone had things that they were hiding. It had moulded me in some ways but only as much as living life moulds anyone and it seemed it wouldn’t matter what I’d tell James, he’d still think everything had been much worse than it was. I closed my eyes slightly.

“That’s why you’re a Gryffindor. You’re brave, James. I’m a Ravenclaw. I just think too much.”

“What do you think about me?” James asked.

“I think you’re really quite nice,” I returned, “and that you should get a better girlfriend. I ditched you to hand in my essay, then was planning to ditch you for Hagrid before actually ditching you to visit my sister. After, of course, you find out that I’ve been keeping stuff from you.”

“Whatever,” James shrugged, “with the amount of homework you’ve got, I don’t know how you’re alive: let alone factoring in family drama. You’re superwoman, Autumn.”

“No,” I countered, “I’m just really tried.”

James grinned, pushed a lock of hair away from my eyes and smiled at me.

“You don’t look that tired.”

“Don’t lie,” I countered, “I’m as hungover as I look, but don’t tell Dom - hangovers are beneath us.”

“Dom can’t deal with alcohol at all.”

“No,” I agreed, “she spends most of the morning after vomiting spectacularly loudly much close to my ear drums, that’s just her standard line when anyone asks how her head is.”

“I often ask about Dom’s head,” James said, “it’s hardly ever in conjunction with the consumption of alcohol. How’s the prank war going?”

“Benson is distracting her,” Autumn shrugged, “hopefully she’ll have forgotten all about it.”

“Doubt it,” James said cheerily, “can’t wait for it to really kick up a gear.”

“This really isn’t going to help when Dom finds out.” I said pointedly, rolling my eyes and watching as Vole-die closed his eyes and looked to be contently sleeping against my stomach.

“Should we set a date for that.”

That was a scary thought in itself.

“Suppose,” I shrugged, feeling a great deal more unenthusiastic: I wasn’t quite sure why my two different lives - one as Dom’s best friend and the other as James’s girlfriend, couldn’t exist in entirely different spheres which never met in the middle. Dom could hate the James from a parallel world and, likewise, James could engage in prank battles with a Dom that I’d never met. Unrealistic, maybe, but it seemed like the only two they were ever going to get along. “It’s up to you.”

“Nope,” James said determinedly, stretching out his legs on the bedroom floor, “you, Autumn Pearce, are a push over. I have no intentions of pushing you over.”

“Good,” I said, “because that could be considered mildly abusive.”

“That was meant metaphorically.”

“And what I said was meant sarcastically.”

James grinned, shaking his head slightly, “I’m not making this decision,” James said finally, “because then you’d just agree. I’m encouraging you to be proactive. You put a date on it.”

“Well, if it’s up to me then I say we see how things go.”

“No,” James shook his head, “that’s girl talk for never. Actually, not even girl talk: Ravenclaw talk.”

“I’m a girl and a Ravenclaw and I don’t mean never. I mean, we don’t know what’s going to be happening next week.”

“I do,” James said, “we’re going to go on another date.”

“You’re being specific; James, I mean if this doesn’t work out then what would be the point of making my best friend hate me and you?” I asked uncomfortably, shrugging my shoulders slightly, “I mean, no offence James, but considering I’m already being crap and barely managing to fit you in between essays and family drama… well, I just don’t think it’s worth it.”

“Well, okay,” James said, “you pick a date for when we reassess the situation and work it out.”

“I don’t want to pick a date!”

“You don’t want to be assertive.” James countered.

“You do realise you’re pushing me to pick a date, so it doesn’t even make any different.”

“Nope, logic too complicated for a stupid Gryffindor like me,” James said happily. “This will be much easier for you to just pick a date.”

I sighed deliberately and pursed my lips slightly: if James was thinking about a really long period of time like four months and I was thinking of next Saturday, or worse - if James was thinking next Saturday and I was thinking in four months time (or, you know, never)  then I was going to look like a right idiot. Frankly, I looked like an idiot enough of the time for James pushing me towards decisions like this was unnecessary to add to the collection: although, as of late, James related things had been clogging up the collection to quite extreme levels.

“A clue?” I suggested hopefully.

“No.” James grinned.

“Please?” I asked, pouting at him slightly: one of Dom’s tricks I very much doubted had the same effect without tiny traces of veela blood, but it didn’t seem to have fallen too short of the target.

“Unlike you, I am capable of standing up for myself.”

“It’s like a mind trick! You’re testing me.”

“You’ve spent far too much time with my least favourite cousin.”

“You shouldn’t call her that,” I said, frowning, “you do realise little things like that are -”

“Autumn,” James said, his voice dropping slightly, “don’t change the subject. I’m not psychoanalysing you through your response. Although I’m not promising that when I tell Lily all about this, she won’t analyse it for me.”

I frowned. It seemed like, twenty minutes earlier, naming a length of time wouldn’t have been such a big issue but now all the words generally associated with times had turned to a dusty mess of silence.

“A month.” I said, eventually, after what felt like a month silence had passed by.

“Wasn’t so hard now, was it?”

“Don’t patronise me,” I said pointedly, “but I suppose not. Is that… okay with you.”

“Whatever you want,” James grinned, “it’s been determined: in this relationship , you wear the trousers. Where would you like to go for our date next Saturday?”

“Hogsmeade, I suppose.” I suggested dryly.

“Nice Autumn, witty and funny as always.” I shut my lips tight to stop myself from dismissing the comment: James probably found my continual contradicting of his compliments irritating. “I suppose that will do for Autumn being assertive today,” James grinned, reaching forwards and kissing me briefly, “tell me if I’m being annoying.”

“Will do.” I agreed, closing the gap between our lips again but before I could kiss him properly, James drew back ever so slightly.

“No you won’t.”

Then he kissed me again and I wrapped an arm around his neck and it was nice and lovely.

And he was probably right.

*

Running around meeting my sister in Hogsmeade had taken a large proportion out of my day, as had the long talk with James, then I’d ended up being drawn into Dom’s hilarious re-enactment of Benson Flint telling Dom that he loved her (Dom had declared this absolute tosh, but had said it with her cheeks glowing slightly and didn’t look as much like she could whirl around and pull out all your hair at a moment’s notice if you pissed her off)  which meant that when Dom was going to bed at around eleven I’d gotten through about a quarter of my homework.

Admittedly, it wasn’t all in for tomorrow… but when you factored in the fact that tomorrow I’d get more homework, the fact that I’d had an extension on several pieces and Professor Vectors warning about not accepting any more substandard work, I felt like I didn’t have much choice but to sit there and continue. Sitting with my back against the headboard of my four poster, books staked almost as high as me (and it wasn’t like I was remotely short), using my legs to prop up my books, my lit wand sandwiched under my arm so I could continue my essay. And considering I hadn’t gotten back to Hogwarts till about three and it was getting closer to three with every minute I was beginning to debate whether it was actually worth it when Dom scared me half to death by jerking back my curtain and looming towards me.

“How the hell have you got so much homework?” Dom demanded very loudly. “I swear you’ve been disappearing all week to go do it.”

“Dom,” I hissed, “you’ll wake everyone up.”

“I’m just asking you a question, Autumn, no need to get defensive,” Dom said loudly, pulling back my curtains even further and stumbling her way onto my bed, “you’re not secretly writing a novel or something?” She continued, taking my Potions essay and squinting at it. “Evidentially not.”

“For God’s sake, Dom! We share this bloody dormitory. Go back to bed and be quiet.”

“Don’t say the Lord’s name in vein,” Dom said lightly, finally lowering her voice, “commandment number three.”

“I wish you’d stopped picking that stuff up.” I complained, redipping my quill in my ink and squinting at the page.

“I read one of your bibles,” Dom said, “I was bored and your other books were boring. I thought you said you were going to do this essay on Wednesday?”

“I did my Arithmancy instead.”

“You don’t have some sort of secret boyfriend, do you?” Dom asked, her voice returning to its usually loud and abrasive tone. Somewhere in the dormitory, someone made a strange noise – as if stuffing a fist in their mouth to stop them from laughing. Dom looked up sharply. “If someone’s been fucking eavesdropping then I swear –“

“Hardy eavesdropping,” I countered, “considering we share a dormitory and you just decided to start yelling in the middle of the night.”

“Who was it?” Dom asked, standing up and giving me the alarming impression of some, graceful bird of prey about to pounce on someone and rip them to pieces through her steely break.

I panicked, purposefully knocked over my ink well and then swore because I really hadn’t thought it through and now there was ink all over my Potions essay and...

Would it be too Ravenclaw to cry over an ink-covered essay?

“Dom,” I complained, staring at my ink sodden essay and resisting the urge to cry, “Dom, fix it please look you can’t… you can’t even read it!”

“Just, Autumn, don’t panic,” Dom said, “considering how exhausted you are it was probably crap  anyway but…” she plucked my lit wand from where it was still propped up underneath my arm and mutter a quick cleaning spell, “now,” Dom said pointedly, “just go to bed.”

“I’m not done.”

“Yeah,” Dom said pointedly, pushing the stack of books off my bed very loudly onto a crumpled heap. I whimpered slightly at the thought of all my text books getting crumpled and lent over the side of the bed to stop the covers getting bent, “you are.”

I sighed, collapsed back onto my pillows and let myself fall asleep.

*

Benson Flint found me propped up on one elbow, fast asleep in the library during break time on Monday Morning. After a gruelling lesson of Arithmancy in which I’d handed in yet another essay, on time this time (honestly, how many essays did she believe I was capable of doing? It seemed that soon she was going to run out of numbers for me to write about the magical properties of soon), and a rather mundane potions lessons I’d crept away from the library, more to avoid Dom’s almost brutal cheerfulness this morning – which I expected was done purposefully because I was so damn tired. Or, as a fairer judgement, she thought April’s departure had been hard on me and was trying very hard to keep me cheerful. Or she’d somehow yet to get over Benson’s ludicrous declaration of love.

“Having trouble juggling your best friend and your secret boyfriend?” Benson suggested, eyebrows raised as he sat opposite me.

Call me prejudiced, but there was something about him that gave me the creeps. Dom was fractionally (very fractionally) veela – if Flint was the best she could do then what did that say for the rest of us?

“It would be more difficult without the surprising help of the best friend’s boyfriend,” I returned, closing the Transfiguration book I’d tried to use as a pillow for a little while before deciding to use my elbow instead, “why?”

He cracked a nasty smile, “doing a good deed.”

“Right,” I said, frowning, “look, Flint, I’m all for good deeds – but I don’t buy it.”

“Okay,” Benson said, fairly, “wouldn’t you say it’s in my best interest to have Dom in a good mood?”

“For what?” I asked, eyebrows raised to the max.

“Didn’t realise you had the ability to be crude, Autumn; no, for my sanity. Dom is, as you may have realised… high maintenance.” 

“Yes I have noticed that,” I said pointedly, frowning at him and wondering what the hell I should say next, “having been around for a bit longer than you.”

“Precisely,” Benson said, “I’d rather put off dealing with one of Dom’s catastrophe’s for as long as possible.”

“So you’re hoping James and I break up before we have a chance to tell her?” I asked primly, looking up and trying to access what the hell he was thinking: it was difficult and I wasn’t used to this sort of thing. Having known Dom for such a long time I could read her like a book, but widening my social relationships to include all these other people all of a sudden meant it was difficult to assess exactly what they were thinking. Particularly someone like Benson Flint as, to me, his actions made no sense at all: morally, he shouldn’t keep a secret from Dom.

Morally, neither should I.

“Isn’t that what you’re hoping?” Benson suggested, “Dom sent me to find you, by the way,” He added as an afterthought, “a letter arrived from your sister.”

“What about?” I asked, reaching forwards to take it from his hand.

“I didn’t actually read it.” Benson said, sounding a little too amused, before he handed me the envelope and left me to the company of my textbooks.

“Flint!” I called after him. “We’re telling her in a month.”

“Well,” Benson Flint said with another of his strangely unnerving smiles, “I’ll get my bomb shelter ready.”

I half smiled at that (who knew Benson Flint was funny. Was I the only person in the world born without a sense of humour?) before turning to my letter.  No doubt this was the letter from April saying she’d changed her mind, was dreadfully sorry, but wouldn’t’ be able to come back home for another decade. Except, logically, she’d have to have sent the letter at some point in her travels before Australia – owls were not that fast.

Autumn,

Hi, I’m your sister. Remember me? I left the country about four hours ago and I’m currently in transit somewhere in France waiting for my next transfer. Anyway, Autumn, I wanted to apologise properly for my leaving act – I’m not sure if I’ve ever given you a full apology in paper before, but knowing you if I have you’ll have got it filed away somewhere. But, well, it wasn’t exactly fair of me to go away for such a long period of time and I promise you I’ve had some very good reasons which I should have shared with you before this point – all will come clear soon though!

Actually, lots of things will be positively crystal soon. It’s just a matter of cleaning up some final details and then I’ll be home again (I promise) with news and with every intention of staying in England for at least sixth months. I won’t promise anything about after those sixth months because I don’t want to let you down, but there it is. Frame this apology and keep it under your bed. Treasure it forever because you know it will probably take until it’s long overdue before I issue you another one. It was really lovely visiting you for your birthday, Autumn, and I can’t believe I stayed away for so long – time just goes so fast.

See you soon,

April (the superior sister)

Well, I decided, folding the letter and placing it in my pocket: although I wasn’t holding out any hope for a speedy return, at least she’d provided all the necessary material to make her feel bad when the time came.




I can't even say sorry enough for how long this update took. Seriously, I had such trouble with this chapter but I finally managed to write it (yaayayay). So, thanks to Deceptiveserende and Cirque du freak for emotional support and mangagirl for forcing me to write this chapter. If anyones still reading, sorry and I hope this chapter was okay.

Thanks for reading :)

 


Chapter 15: And then there is a deviation into toilet humour...
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 “Dom,” I said slowly, “you… you’re joking, aren’t you?”

“Autumn,” Dom returned in a voice that mocked my tone, “still working on that sense of humour, are you? No, I’m not joking.”

I paused in the corridor, frowning as I pursed my lips together, “you can put permanent sticking potion on someone else’s toilet. That’s not... that’s not funny that’s cruel.”

“James shouldn’t have crossed me!” Dom snapped, her eyes flashing dangerously. “Look, Autumn, he spiked my boyfriend’s drink and now we’re in the middle of a prank war. Don’t waste your bleeding heart on someone like James.”

“But it might not even be James who gets permanently stuck to the bleeding toilet!” I exclaimed. “Dom, any of the guys in his dormitory could have stumbled into the prank -”

“– well ? They’re all idiots.”

“You dated two of them!”

“Precisely,” Dom said, “Benson’s meeting us for breakfast again. He’s so nice, isn’t he?”

“You’re insane!” I said wildly, feeling my legs trembling slightly under me. “You can’t do this, Dom.”

“It’s a moot point,” Dom said with an eye roll, “it’s too late to discuss ethics – I broke into their dorm last night and did it.” I stood there, frozen for a minute, before jerking into action. “Where the hell are you going, Autumn?” Dom called out after me, an edge of something deadly barely concealed by her tone. “I hardly think you’re much of a knight in shining armour!”

That was probably a fair point. Ravenclaw or not, there wasn’t much I could do to undo a permanent sticking potion but there was still a chance that none of the sixth year boys had sat down on the toilet yet. My Aunt Flo always said that prevention was the best cure (usually she said this to avoid eating any form of fibre, but that was a different story all together) and I had to agree with her here.

So, that was how I wound up running flat out towards the Gryffindor Common Room, yelled the password to a confused fat lady, legged it up the stairs (and, at last, there was a decent use for my stupidly long legs) and burst into James’s dormitory.

I burst through the door to the bathroom yelling a “THERE’S A PERMANENT STICKING POTION ON THE TOILET SEAT!” to find myself face to face with the entire content of the dormitory standing around the fringes of the room facing Freddie Weasley, who was sat on said toilet seat. It took a few seconds for it to permeate through my brain that he had his pants down and then turn around very quickly.

“Really?” One of the guys asked.

I had this sneaking suspicion he was being sarcastic.

“Dom?” James suggested, looking like he found the whole thing really quite funny.

“Yeah.” I breathed, glancing back at Freddie but nowhere below his chest very deliberately. It looked like, upon realising that he was stuck to the toilet seat, Fred had tried to use his hands to push himself off the toilet seat – now both his hands and his thighs were stuck fast to the seat.

“First you try and blow me up,” Freddie said, “now you stick me to the bog. Did I do something to offend you, Pearce?” Freddie suggested, feebly trying to wiggle his way free.

“Nah,” James said affectionately, “she’s just a walking disaster.”

It struck me as slightly alarming that it was the same term Dom had christened me with and that, from her lips, I’d found it highly irritating. I mean, it had been my birthday at that point which automatically meant I was in a foul mood but, at the same time, I’d found the term highly derogative and offensive and now James was using the same damn term.

Maybe it was a Potter/Weasley thing.

“Hi, by the way,” James added with a grin, quirking his eyebrows upwards, “wasn’t expecting this when I woke up this morning.”

“Neither was I,” I returned, “Dom sprung this on me on the way to breakfast.”

“Can you not move at all, Freddie?” Geoffrey Archer asked, a bit stupidly I thought – no one from Ravenclaw would ever say something quite so stupid.

“Archer,” Freddie said pointedly, “I’m stuck here with my pants down, in front of my cousin’s girlfriend, my hands stuck on the bog so I can’t even cover myself up, with you lot standing around like I’m a flaming zoo animal – if you don’t believe I’m stuck, you feel free to stick a finger on the spare bit of seat and see if you’ve got wriggle room.”

“Okay, ladies, let’s not argue,” Graham, the bloke in our Herbology class, said pointedly, “and no one else touch the toilet.”

“And someone cover him up.” James suggested, grabbing a towel off the side and throwing it in Freddie’s direction.

“You just don’t want your girl eyeing me up,” Freddie said, winking at me deliberately, “It’s not a great angle, Autumn, but honestly -”

“– Fred,” Tim interjected, “if James punches you now, you haven’t really got an opportunity to duck.”

“Word.” Fred agreed.

“Fact,” James grinned, “right, what exactly did Dom say?” James asked me, slipping his hand through mine and half pulling me towards him in a way that would almost have been subtle, if we weren’t all stood around in the toilet. Nothing seems subtle when there’s six people chilling in the bathroom, really, and all together this was quite an unusual situation.

I know, when I stole that bleeding invisibility cloak, that I’d vaguely been expecting something to happen – but honestly, it hadn’t been to end up in a communal discussion in a men’s toilet.

“She said that she was thinking about putting a permanent sticking charm on your toilet, I told her that was a tad unethical and then she said that she’d already done it and I ran off to come warn you.”

“Permanent?” Freddie asked, an almost distraught expression crossing his features. “Sod, guys, I’ve already been here for bloody hours.”

“Freddie got up in the middle of the night,” James grinned into my ear, “couldn’t get off the seat, thought he was just tired, fell asleep on the loo… woke up when Graham came in to brush his teeth. Then he realised he was stuck.”

“Yeah,” Freddie said, “it might be funny and all, but that’s not really the point right now, is it?”

“The point is,” James said, “we need a sodding camera.”

Freddie swore at him.

“Okay, let’s think logically about this,” I said, it was a little more comfortable to glance between them all now Freddie had a towel on his lap, “where would Dom have got a permanent sticking potion from?”

“She’s crap at potions.” Freddie added.

“I… I don’t think she brewed it. She’d have asked me.”

“Right, so, what about the boyfriend. Anyone know if Flint can brew?”

“Not a clue,” Graham shrugged, “permanent shit tends to be quite complicated.”

“I know, Graham, I’m stuck on a bloody toilet.”

I think that’s when I started giggling like an idiot. As much as Dom was a first class bitch who was probably going to kill me for interfering with her plans (oh pants, I’d just realised that I’d ran off to help the enemy – she was going to permanent stick me to something worse than a toilet and then let me die of starvation and no one would even noticed until they found a bag of bones and James started wonder whether I’d finished all my essays yet or something), it was a sign of someone who wasn’t comically deficient to stick to someone to a toilet.

I mean, if you ignored the fact that Freddie might actually be forever, it was quite funny.

I turned around and let most of my near-hysterical laughing be directed into James’s chest. He wrapped his arm around me and appeared to be silently laughing, too, so at least I wasn’t the only horrible person around.

“It’s fine,” Freddie said dejectedly, “you guys go to breakfast, bring me up some bacon or something… I’ll just live here for the rest of my life.”

“Yeah?” Tim said. “What happens when we need to crap in the middle of the night?”

“There’s probably room for two on the seat.”

“Not with Potter’s fat arse,” Graham put in, “anyway, that’s a bit grim, isn’t it?”

“Go crap in someone else’s toilet, then,” Freddie said, “here I am being nice and offering you half my seat, and you just got shove it in my face.”

“Al’s toilet is nicer,” James said, “it’s not like any of his mates could stop us using his toilets.”

“I’m not walking down the stairs every time I need to pee.”

“Fact.” Tim agreed, nodding slowly, “guess we’ll have to remove you in some way.”

“Guys,” Freddie said, “my towel’s slipping. Could someone just -?”

“No.” James said, quickly.

“I’m not going anywhere near there,” Tim grinned, “you’ll have to get it yourself.”

“How?” Freddie demanded. “My hands are stuck too! And if I could get it with my teeth then, frankly –“

“Let’s keep it clean,” James said, “There’s a lady present.”

“Point. Autumn, can you just get my towel for me?” Freddie suggested with another grin, raising his eyebrows challengingly at James. “It’s for your benefit, really, you’re the one who doesn’t want to see –“

“No one wants to see.” Tim added.

“No one complained before she got here!”

“I complained a long time ago,” Graham said in a slightly bored tone, “you attempted to wiggle your hips in response and ripped some of the skin off your arse.”

“I’m sodding bleeding down there!”                          

“Don’t move then.” Graham said. “Okay, thinking logically – Autumn, your expertise is it not?”

“She’s dating James,” Freddie said, “doubt it.”

James counteracted that by pulling me round to face him and kissing me roughly on the lips. Well. There was a fair bit of jeering from the others in the toilet and Freddie was muttering ‘can’t even cover my damn eyes up’ and then James seemed to have considered his point, whatever it was, well made and I was released again.

“Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes,” I said, turning round to face the others again as James’s arms folded around my waist, “she could have got it from there.”

“Excellent!”

“Yeah, actually,” Freddie said, frowning slightly, “we sell some permanent sticking gel, stuff, but it’s not permanent. It wears off after twenty four hours.”

“Right,” James said bracingly, “see you tomorrow then, mate.”

“I’ll bribe a House Elf to bring you up a bread roll!” Graham added, kicking open the door and heading towards the exit.

“WAIT!” Freddie yelled at the sort of volume that made my ears ring slightly after he’d finished making it. “There’s an antidote that stops it sticking immediately.”

“Yeah,” Tim said, “but we don’t have any of that. I’ll bring you a book.”

“Guys,” Freddie said, “please. You can’t leave me stuck on the toilet all bloody day. It’s inhumane. It’s cruel. This is your fault James! Actually, sod that, it’s all Autumn’s fault! She bloody drugged her best friends boyfriend and then got you into this damn prank war. Now I’m an innocent civilian stuck on the toilet for twenty four hours when it should have been you, Potter!”

“All’s fair in love and war.”

“I’M AN INNOCENT BYSTANDER.”

“How would we get the anecdote?” I asked.

“My Dad,” Freddie said, urgently, “come on, Autumn, you know I’ve always loved you. Favourite of all of James’s girlfriends, really, and even though you blew a cauldron up in my face I’ve always thought you were –“

And that’s when Freddie’s towel slipped to the floor.

Tim and Graham were still pretty intent on exiting the scenes, it seemed, and I glance at the watch April had brought me sent a stab of anxiousness through my gut – I was already fifteen minutes late to class, Fred Weasley was currently accidentally exposing himself to me (and was now attempting to reach for the towel with his teeth) and Dom was sure to be dreaming of ways to punish me for mutiny by now.

But this was my fault and I could hardly leave Freddie stuck on the loo. I had a slight suspicion that the only way James was going to do anything to help him was if I insisted up on it, and I could hardly insist upon it then run off to stop myself being any later to Herbology.

All in all, this was a bad day for my studies.

“Stuff it, Freddie,” James said wearily, “my Owl’s half way to my parents.”

“Mine’s with Hagrid,” Fred said, “I tried to use it to test this spell on and now it can only fly backwards.”

“Autumn,” James said with a heavy sigh, “we’re going to need your owl.”

*

“I can’t believe I’m skipping class,” I muttered as I sat nervously on the edge of James’s bed, “I’m probably going to be chucked out of Ravenclaw and then die.

“Have you never skipped before?” Roxanne asked. She was sat cross legged on the floor of her brothers dorm, penning out a letter to George Weasley to politely request an anti-sticking potion to be sent as soon as possible. It was decided that Roxanne was the woman for a job, as apparently George was a sucker for anything his daughter asked of him, but then had followed the forty minute debate as they tried to decide whether it would be beneficial to the cause or not to tell George that his son was stuck to a toilet.

At first, Fred had been all for informing his dad of his predicament and Roxanne wasn’t. Then James had pointed out that his Dad would find the whole thing really funny, would send Dom a bouquet of flowers and bribe Roxy for a photograph. After that Freddie was against it and Roxanne was all for it. I was given the deciding vote, had voted no, and now Roxanne was making up some elaborate story which involved a small child getting stuck to Hugo’s foot and how they were under threat of expulsion unless they could release him in the next two hours, or something.

“Yeah,” I said, “I have but… not when I was this behind.”

“Autumn is doing a billion NEWTS.” James substituted, exiting the bathroom, kicking the door shut behind him (in doing so muffling Freddie’s loud, expletive filled call of protest) and coming to sit next to me on his bed.

And that was a bit odd.

When I’d been in his room for our little chat, I’d purposefully not sat on his bed and had instead opted for sitting on the floor – there’d been that slightly awkward moment when I’d come up to his room and had to make the decision about where to sit, and James had been stood there with his eyes slightly raised waiting for to decide. I’d been glad about opting for the floor, too, because with the kissing that had followed our talk I’d have felt pretty bloody uncomfortable if I’d been sat on his bed.

Now though, I hadn’t been given a choice and I felt a bit weird about the whole thing. Not that sitting on your boyfriends bed with your boyfriend meant anything in any way, it was more just… the whole sentiment around it.

Ack.

There was a chance I was overthinking things.

“Not so bad getting more time to spend with me, is it?” James asked, squeezing my hand slightly. “Don’t judge her, Roxy, it’s the Ravenclaw disease.”

“What? Being sensible.”

“Don’t pull that card on me,” James grinned, “you lost the right to claim ‘sensible’ quite a while a go – didn’t you poison Benson Flint?”

“Technicalities.”

“Right,” James said, then he brushed a piece of hair out of my face and then kissed me. I was getting quite used to this whole James kissing me, lark, and it was quite nice – but I did feel a tad awkward about kissing James, on his bed, with Roxanne sat on the floor and Freddie glued to the toilet.

And that was something I never thought I’d think.

“Why is Dom such a bloody stick in the mud?” Freddie asked, really quite loudly, from the bathroom.

“Is that supposed to be a pun, dearest brother?” Roxy asked without looking up.

James was still kissing me. Ack.

“I’m bored,” Freddie added, “James, come back and entertain me.”

“He’s busy.” Roxy said, pausing in her scribbling for a second to glance up at us. I pushed James away slightly feeling a tad embarrassed. “Nearly finished, Freddie. And then all you have to count on is the speed of Autumn’s owl and Dad’s compassion.”

“I’m screwed.”

“True, that,” Roxanne sad with a final flourish, “right, where do I find this Owl?”

*

The payment for a tube of anti-sticking-goo was, apparently, a photo of whatever was really going on. Roxanne was positively gleeful about taking a photo of Freddie still stuck on the toilet, before handing him over the tube of anti-sticking-goo and telling him to ungloo it himself. She took a photo of that, too, before sending them off with a letter of thanks to her dad.

Eventually, it was left to Roxanne and James combined to unstick Freddie’s hands and then leave him to sort his arse out himself.

James emerged from the bathroom looking utterly disguised and swearing off touching a toilet seat ever again, which then led to Fred rubbing his goo covered hands all over James’s hair – once he was finally out of the bathroom, at any rate.

“It’s possible,” Freddie had said with a mock-thoughtful expression, “that some of my but-skin is still stuck to the toilet seat.”

“Note to self,” Roxanne had returned, “never share a bathroom with Fred Weasley again.”

Now, I was wondering back to the Ravenclaw Tower wondering how, exactly, I was going to get away with skipping a hole day of studies for absolutely no reason what so ever. Given Professor Vector was already on my back, I didn’t much rate my chances  at surviving the week without adding a detention to the things designed to drain my time.

Of course, James was walking with me.

“Look,” James said, pausing in the corridor, “if we’re going to continue this whole… secret relationship thing for a little while, we should probably be a bit more careful about the whole Dom issue.”

“Oh?”

James pulled out the invisibility cloak and the map from his bag, “I nagged Al for the cloak, and he’s agreed to a month long lend in your name. He quite likes you, I think.”

“You’re giving me the cloak?” I asked, my face scrunching up slightly in surprise – it really was very practical and logical and nice of James to give me an implement of deceit, especially considering he was dead set against keeping our relationship a secret in the first place.

“And the map,” James said, “just for a little while.”

“A month?”

“A month less four days,” James said, pointedly, “and, for now…” James dug something out of his pocket and handed it to me –  some sort of sweet in a shiny purple wrapping, by the looks of it.

“Erm, thanks?” I suggested, taking it from him, “but you know I prefer Exploding Strawberry Creams.”

“Yeah, I found that out the hard way. No, Autumn, trust a Ravenclaw to not recognise a skiving snackbox. It’s a fainting fancy – you take it, then I’ll take you to the hospital wing and say I found you passed out in the corridor. I know you don’t want a detention for skipping class. Plus, they might let up with some of your essay deadlines if you’ve been in the hospital wing.”

“What?” I asked, stupidly. “James, I can’t -”

“They’re not going to catch you, Autumn. It is technically against the rules, but no one’s going to suspect you -”

“No,” I said, frowning, “not that. You guys are all going to get into trouble. I can’t… I can’t not get into trouble when it was my fault, anyway.”

“Yeah, you can,” James shrugged, “Freddie deserves a detention for whining so damn much, Roxy only skipped a double period of Muggle Studies – I doubt anyone will notice – and, well, another detention won’t hurt me.”

“But, James – ”

“Anyway,” James interrupted with one of his nice grins, “Dom will freak out if you’ve skipped class for no good reason. Really, I’m saving my ass. Now, be a good girl and eat your sweet.”

I frowned, reached forwards and kissed him. Dom was obviously full of crap because, really, James was one of the sweetest blokes I’d me – it was really cute, giving me a backup plan to get me out of trouble when the whole thing had been a bizarre escalation of something I’d done on a whim.

“Don’t worry,” James said as I unwrapped the sweet and considered it, “I’ll catch you.”

I could well believe that.

So, I took a bite. It took a couple of seconds for my vision to go cloudy, my head to start spinning and my vision to start to switch to black. And then I could hear the conversation I’d had with Flint all over again, spinning around my brain.

“I’d rather put off dealing with one of Dom’s catastrophe’s for as long as possible.”

“So you’re hoping James and I break up before we have a chance to tell her?”


“Isn’t that what you’re hoping?” 

And there was a chance that Benson was partially correct.  That I was half expecting Dom to be right, and for James to systematically break my heart and tear me to pieces just like she’d always said and given all the data I’d collected… that seemed unlikely.

So Dom was actually going to find out. In less than a month.

Sod. 




So, this didn't entirely turn out according to my plan. As in, the plan has no mention of a toilet at all which... well, turned out to be quite the plot point (who knew?) but, well, I haven't had inspiration for this for a little time. Well, I hope you guys enjoyed it :)



Chapter 16: And then there is a brief calm...
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 “So,” Benson Flint said, raising his eyebrows as we sat in the library going over our notes and doing homework (and odd sense of domesticity I’d yet to experience with one of the many individuals who’d claimed the title of Dom’s boyfriend), “two weeks till the end of the world.”

“Something like that,” I agreed, frowning at the date I’d scribbled at the top of the parchment feeling more than slightly alarmed about the prospect, but the fact remained that I liked James enough that I very much wanted to keep him in my life and, if Dom didn’t murder me on sight (a very real possibility, I think it’s fair to say), it might actually be time saving and easier to be able to see my boyfriend without sneaking around the castle and pretending we weren’t properly together in front of other people to nip some of the rumours in the bud.

Admittedly, the rumours were still circling overhead like a pack of vultures, but Benson Flint was doing a top job as acting as a sieve to what Dom believed and what Dom didn’t believe. Really, it was all very helpful and over the past fortnight I’d come to be not only grateful but also sort of like Benson Flint.

“Get your hard hat ready,” I muttered, flicking over a page of parchment and rereading my essay on some complicated potion that healed paper cuts (my main problem with this was that it seemed utterly, utterly pointless – with my bad luck and clumsiness, I usually ended up cutting myself several times each potion class when crushing or slicing some or other disgusting pickled body part or fowl smelling plant, so to go through such a trial to cure a paper cut seemed utterly backwards).

It then struck me that I’d just said a joke type comment out loud to Benson Flint. I had to admit that it would be pushing the truth a lot to describe it as funny in any way, but I said it – whereas normally I reserved those sorts of comments for the inside of my head, or maybe in front of Dom or, these days, in front of James.

“I’ve got thick skin me, Autumn, I should be all right.”

“Doubt it,” I frowned, “you’ll be getting the worst of it.”

“What do you think will actually happen?”

It didn’t really bare thinking about. I let the pages of the textbook fall closed and thought about it for a few moments. “If I tell her… she won’t talk to me straight away, but she’ll go and scream at James until the whole castle knows about it. Then… I don’t know, Flint, but it’s not going to be pleasant sharing a dormitory with it. I might have to start sleeping in the library or else I could wake up with my bed on fire. You’ll just get the continual bitching and… er, she might be quite needy for a bit.”

“Dom, needy?” Benson asked, raising an eyebrow.

I laughed at that before stopping myself, feeling slightly bad at laughing at my best friend behind her back.

People just didn’t understand Dom. Even Benson Flint, to whom Dom was probably closer to than all the rest of her boyfriends combined, didn’t really get the whole underlying psychology behind it. So although I was tolerating him and occasionally found he wasn’t such a bastard as I’d originally thought he was (so the poisoning had probably been unnecessary, particularly as the prank war was still on going and escalating to a point of extremity), I still couldn’t quite forgive him – he was dating Dom because Dom was pretty and… not popular, because that implied people liked her, but more well-known, and she would most likely put out – and probably soon, too.

He was not dating Dom Weasley because he could see past her borderline psycho-tendencies and see that she was just really insecure and had been really hurt. He just didn’t get that she felt like she was inhabiting the outskirts of her family and that, being clever and funny and pretty, she should have been popular and yet she wasn’t had turned her into a tough diva who was very controlling.

I thought in normal relationships it might be acceptable to laugh at something like that. Oh look Autumn’s a walking disaster. Oh look Dom’s having one of her tantrums. Dom, Needy? Whatever next? But the fact remained that our insecurities were so deeply engraved into our beings that we took those things as insults and as assaults on our characters rather than just throw away harmless comments.

“Where is she, anyway?” Benson asked.

“Detention,” I sighed, running a hand through my hair, “for turning James’s desk into a pig in the middle of a charms test.”

“Actually,” James said, sitting down next to us and grinning, “I turned my own desk into a pig and got Freddie to swear blind her saw Dom do it. So really, she’s in detention for nothing.”

“Lovely,” I said, shaking my head at him, “what a nice boyfriend you are.”

“Don’t I know it,” James grinned, pulling the piece of parchment with my list of work on it towards him and raising his eyebrows at the number of essays, “so, looks like you two have been having fun.”

“I’m going to head off,” Benson said, shoving his books into his bag.

“Probably for the best,” James said, narrowing his eyes at him.

“You don’t have to,” I said helplessly, giving James a look. Considering how much Benson was helping us out with the secret relationship lark – which, although James wasn’t thrilled about, he’d definitely agreed on – I did think he should try being a little nicer to the bloke, but apparently James just could not get on with a Slytherin.

“Well,” Benson said, standing up, “If Dom showed up now, she’d have nowhere to address the angsty bitching. I don’t think anyone should have to cope with double betrayal at the same time.”

I shook my head at his retreating back feeling irritated all over again. He wasn’t too bad, Benson, and I’d been following Dom’s wishes and I had been doing my best to be friendly towards him (not that this gesture on my behalf could ever outweigh Dom’s view on my current dating choices).

“That’s the third time you’ve got Dom into detention,” I said, folding my arms, “I’m beginning to think it’s a get-Dom-out-of-the-way thing rather than a prank war thing.”

“Bit of both, maybe,” James grinned, leaning forwards to kiss me properly.

I allowed him a few moments.

“Right,” I said, gathering my books, “you promised you’d go through the theory of patroni today.”

“Patroni?”

“You know,” I said, “the plural of patronus.”

“Surely,” James said, raising his eyebrows, “its patronuses.”

“It’s like Cactus,” I said, “Cactus, Cacti. It’s a grammatical rule, James.”

“Yeah but,” James countered, grinning as he brushed his fingers over my hand which was still on the table, “its buses rather than bi.”

“I know you hate theory,” I said, smiling, “but do you really want me to tell your brother that me and you discuss plural rules during our study dates?”

“Fine,” James said, holding up his hands in mock surrender, “you are by far the most studious girlfriend I have ever had. Seriously, Autumn, my marks must have gone up at least two grades in the past two weeks. Even watching you do all that work makes me tired.”

“Ravenclaw,” I said, tapping my nose with my quill, accidentally inhaling it and tipping an ink well over James’s Gryffindor tie.

Wonderful.

*

Spending more time in the Gryffindor Common Room meant I’d seen much more of my brother than I normally did in school time. Our relationship was slightly odd and difficult to explain to people – as much as I had attempted to do to James – but the fact was that we were actually really close, some of the time.

Given our whole family situation was strained at best, it was nice to have someone on my side at home, and because we spent our summers in either a corner of the house as far away from our parents as possible, out and about at the park or with some of the others that went to church, the excess time in each other’s company meant we talked about everything – we talked about April, we talked about Dom, we talked about Hogwarts and God and the people at church.

Then during term time we saw very little of each other. My time was usually full up with studying and Dom (even before I started the NEWT courses this year I’d done an excessive number of OWLs for no real reason, meaning my timetable was significantly fuller than anyone else’s for several years on the trot now) and Oliver was a normal kid with normal friends and the occasional girlfriend. Of course now there was also Quidditch and, well, I assumed he must do some studying at some point.

Then we communicated via the occasional letter – stupid considering we cohabited the same building – which were flat and lacked the depth of our summer conversations.

So, they were too usual spheres to our relationships and currently we seemed to exist in neither, instead oscillating between the two. Although occasionally frustrating when we were on different levels to each other, with me expecting a few words on a letter and him wanting to sit down and talk about our feelings, it was nice to actually know what was going on in my brother’s life a bit more.

“Autumn!” Oliver called as I entered the Gryffindor Common Room whilst untangling myself from under James’s arm (the height of subtlety, James Potter was not). James shrugged and went off to sit with Freddie and Roxanne, who seemed to be in the midst of an arm wrestling competition with an ominous looking vat of gloop as the fate for whoever lost. “Did you get a letter from April?”

“No,” I said, shaking my head, “she wouldn’t have had time to write a letter yet, Oliver, and flying from Australia is a long way -”

“- the owl must have taken yours to the Ravenclaw Common Room then. She’s back, Autumn, she’s back and she’s bought a flat in Hogsmeade!”

“What?” I asked, frowning, “she’s… she’s back?”

I pulled the letter out of his hand and scanned it, feeling my jaw slacken slightly as it took in her semi-familiar handwriting with a jolt of some emotion that I wasn’t going to think about right now. But she hadn’t let us down, not this time, and she was back in England and she’d bought a flat!

“We need to go see her,” I said, frowning, “ask her what’s going on.”

“Well,” Oliver said, uncomfortably, “I was thinking… well, Autumn, you’re seventeen.”

“Yeah?”

“You… you don’t have live with Mum and Dad anymore.”

That had barely crossed my mind. I’d had some vague notions of moving out after sixth year for a while, thinking I might try and get a job and live elsewhere in the summer but knowing the likelihood of it happening was very slim, but if April had bought a flat..

“I’m going to go write to her now,” I said finally, nodding slowly and squeezing my brother’s shoulder for a second, “but I won’t leave you on your own, Oliver, just because Aprils back from her little adventure doesn’t mean I don’t trust her to sell up and move to Timbuktu next Sunday.”

Oliver smiled.

“Tell James I’ve gone to write to April if he asks.”

*

I waited in the Owlery for the response, staring out the huge windows and trying to ignore the smell of Owl droppings assaulting my nostrils – maybe it was because of my affection towards almost all animals (much simpler than humans, and no animal would go any further than a bit of healthy jealous if I paid attention to one of their family members), but I always found the owlery unquestionably relaxing.

James’s comment about his grades improving was circling round my mind.

I wasn’t entirely sure if most girls would be glad that they’d increased their boyfriends marks or not: it did suggest a lack of fun to the relationship, when most of the time we had together was snatched between different essays and assignments and since our first date we’d never really had the chance to go somewhere (maybe, Next Hogsmeade weekend, James would somehow cripple Dom to give us shot – but I imagined that I’d be on bedside duty and too irritated at James to attend a date after that anyway)… but even so James had changed me slightly.

Well, not changed. Encouraged.

I hadn’t sat there forcing James to do his homework, it was just a given that if I was doing a piece of homework than he might as well do it at the same time. It hadn’t been intentional, more just a side effect.

And the main side effect between mine and James’s relationship was that, after all his comments about how I couldn’t take a compliment and should have a better opinion of myself, I was beginning to listen. And I was beginning to see, like I did in Dom, how things had shaped me to become this version of myself – where I let people walk over me and my social interactions were fairly limited to a select few (although these days that had increased to included Roxanne and Freddie, and occasionally the others in my dorm)… but that was good, self-awareness.

Self-awareness was definitely a good thing.

There was a small chance (a very very very small chance) that when Dom found out about my relationship with undesirable number one, in two weeks’ time, that I might be able to stand up for myself and fight back against the onslaught of the consequences.

Although that was no doubt optimistic.

The return letter arrived within thirty minutes.

I smiled and accepted it, letting Comet perch on my shoulder as I unfolded the parchment.

My Dearest Darling Sister,

I am here resisting a told you so moment only because I am the mature elder sibling who should know better (but alas, does not). I’ve got to admit that I wasn’t thinking about your coming of age when purchasing a flat (although, I really should have thought about that Autumn and I’m really sorry I didn’t – but you’ll understand soon enough, honestly you will) and it would be more than slightly impractical for you to stay here for any length of time.

But, revenue for the books is higher than expected and I will make sure that you have an alternative place to stay should you so wish – although, I would have thought you’d have stayed with Oliver at least until graduating Hogwarts, which is only one more Summer.

I have a lot to talk to you about really soon which should explain some of my behaviour lately. I’ve wanted to explain it for a while, but I needed to get everything settled and sorted beforehand. Things are getting into the closing stages now, Autumn, so don’t be too mad at me!

I’m attaching my address and a picture of my flat to the other piece of apartment and we should definitely all get together at your next Hogsmeade weekend (unless you have a hot date with James, or are beginning to feel like you’ve seen too much of me).

Lots of English-Hogsmeade love,

April.

*

“Autumn,” Felicity said when I entered the dorm, “Benson Flint was downstairs looking for you earlier, he said he accidentally picked up one of your essays for Arithmancy with all his stuff.”

“Oh,” I said, frowning as I did the maths in my head – the essay for first period tomorrow morning for the teacher to whom I’d been told that any more late essays would result in immediate detention and lots of trouble, “shit.” I muttered.

“Is he still downstairs?” I said, feeling slightly desperate and therefore forgoing the fact that I’d just walked up from the Ravenclaw Common Room and there was most definitely no Benson Flint downstairs waiting for me.

“No,” Danielle spat, “told him where to stick it.”

“Oh,” I said again, blinking rapidly. Professor Vector was not going to take my excuse as valid, not at all, she was going to put me in detention and report me to my other teachers and…  I was Autumn Pearce and I was not the sort of person to get put in detention for not handing in my homework. And it was only by special consideration that I’d been allowed to stuff my timetable so through of subjects, and if I was in trouble then…

“Autumn, what’s wrong?” Felicity asked.

“I need to get my essay,” I said, frowning, “why didn’t one of you..?”

“I guess he sort of thought, because we hate Dom, we’d hate you too…”

“Which we don’t,” Jessica said quickly, “we don’t hate you at all, Autumn, but he wouldn’t give us the essay.”

“It doesn’t matter though, right,” Felicity said, “it just an essay.”

“It’s in tomorrow.”

“Just explain,”

“Well,” I frowned, trying to hide the fact that I was actually beginning to feel a little upset (and it wasn’t just the essay, either, it was the slightly embarrassing rejection from my sister and the fact that I was still behind on work and the growing realisation that Dom was absolutely going to slaughter me and the prank war was escalating to levels beyond normal and I just…), “she said that if I handed in an essay late again she’d… I’ll go find him.” I decided, frowning as I picked up my school bag which contained both the Map and the Invisibility cloak.

“We’ll wait up.”

“He’s not going to murder me.” I said, pushing open the dormitory door and pulling the cloak out of my bag and over my shoulders.

*

The Marauder Map navigated me towards the Slytherin Common Room and it was safe to say that it was a very long way away from the Ravenclaw Common Room and much colder than the other parts of the castle. It was getting late. If I was caught outside after curfew now I was going to be in even more trouble.

It wasn’t very pleasant pulling off the invisibility cloak whilst tracking the dot exiting the Slytherin Common room and approaching me.

“Hi,” I said, slightly breathless as I reached forward to grab hold of the guy’s wrist, “I… Benson Flint, he’s got my essay and I need it. Could you…?”

“Sure,” he said, narrowing his eyes and wondering away muttering about bloody Ravenclaws (which was fair enough, because I was currently really living up to the traditional stereotype), but it looked like he was still going to get him which meant he wasn’t living up to the stereotype. Really, the Slytherins were growing on me.

It took five minutes for Benson Flint to appear outside the portrait hole, clutching my essay.

“Knew you’d be worried,” He said, smiling slightly.

“Thank you,” I said, taking the essay out of his hands and holding onto it tightly, “Professor Vector said that -”

“- don’t worry,” Benson said, reaching out and putting his hand on my arm to stop the somewhat erratic hand gestures that accompanied my nervous ranting.

I let out a shaky breath and nodded at him.

“What the hell is going on here?”

My blood froze. I dropped my essay. Benson’s eyes widened.

It took me a few seconds to track out exactly how this would look to my best friend: as far as she knew I had absolutely no reason to be near the Slytherin Common Room, and even less reason to be with her boyfriend. His hand on my arm – which had been quite obviously a perfectly innocent gesture – now seemed practically sordid.

Pants.

“Dom…” Benson said, slowly, “don’t freak out… it’s not – ”

“I know I told you to be friendlier with him,” Dom spat at me, “but I didn’t mean -”

“-no no no no, my essay – ”

“ – Dom, why would I –?”

But Dom Weasley, tough girl extraordinaire, had turned round on her heals and was stalking away.

“I’ll go talk to her,” I muttered, bending down to pick up my essay, “I’ll… I’ll explain about the essay and…”

“I’ll go,” Benson said, “you’re not exactly the person to have around in a crisis, Pearce.”  I glanced down at my slightly crumpled essay and had to concede the point – considering how stressed out I’d just gotten about a missing essay, the fact that Dom (who, it seemed, wasn’t planning on going back to the Ravenclaw Dorms tonight) now seemed to the think that there was something going on between me and her boyfriend was several levels above a ‘late essay’ in terms of crisis point.

After all this time committing a serious friendship betrayal, it seemed now Dom was convinced I was committing an even worse one. Although, I wasn’t entirely sure whether Dom would rate it as worse or not… Oh God.

“What are you going to tell her?” I squeaked.

“The truth,” Benson said, his eyes hardening slightly as he turned round and looked at me.

“About the essay?”

“All of it.”

“What?”

Oh my God. Benson Flint was going to let me take the fall for this. He was going to tell Dom who I was really dating. He was going to tell her everything to divert the crisis away from him. Oh my God. I’d said she’d need someone to whine at. He was saving himself, that… that Slytherin bastard!

“I’m going to tell Dom that you’re dating her cousin.”

I sent Flint – the prat – one last look before my brain seemed to kick into action and I headed for the stairs, legging it towards the Gryffindor Common Room to warn James about the oncoming eardrum implosion (and likely real implosion).

Shit. 




So, an update at last! In the name of NJAB being a Dobby finalist (and loosing out to one of my other stories) and, on that note, there are only four chapters left of this story and hopefully they'll all be posted before the end of 2012! Celebrations all round guys and thank you so much for the noms and the voting. You're wonderful!



Chapter 17: And then the proverbial excrement hits the metaphorical fan...
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Running full pelt towards the Gryffindor Common room for the second time in so many weeks is certainly something I wouldn’t have anticipated at the beginning of the year, but there was hardly time to think about that when any second now Benson Flint was explaining to Dom that I was dating James bloody Potter.

It was just after midnight by the time I’d gotten to the Gryffindor Common Room, having given up sprinting after the third flight of stairs and trying not to obsess about the fact that the Founders really hadn’t designed Hogwarts for quick access between the various Common Rooms. I had no idea whether James would be asleep or not. I didn’t have much clue about anything really.

Not in the Common Room. Bugger.

I took the stairs two at a time, bursting into the dorm and causing all the Sixth Year Gryffindor Boys to look at me like a had an extra head.

I mean, they did have a point, because after my speedy journey from the Ravenclaw Tower to the dungeons and subsequently to the Gryffindor I wasn’t at my most attractive. Plus the fact that I was sure, whilst sprinting at full pelt, I’d been crying as well as sweating (although now the shock-tears had given over to a state of utter panic) and that it was not quite the middle of the night but definitely after curfew, and I was usually the type of Ravenclaw who was adverse to being caught breaking rules, I was sure I looked utterly deranged.

“Missed James that much?” Freddie asked.

“Dom,” I said, trying to remember how to breathe, “Dom…”

“If it’s about her flooding our dormitory with soapy water, don’t worry. I found the detonator and –” Graham began.

“– she knows.”

“Ah.”

“How?” James asked, grabbing his dressing gown and pulling it on. I got a flash of James’s naked torso before it disappeared under the dressing gown. I very much wanted to cry.

“I…” It was about now that the enormity of everything was beginning to hit me. I mean, even if Dom was a normal secure person, the fact that I’d lied to her for such a significant amount of time was enough to cause more than a fair bit of turbulence in a friendship. Dom had her whole set of reasons why she didn’t like associating with her family, reasons that I could understand more than I liked to admit on a day to day basis.

I’d gotten irritated about April visiting my mother and that was despite the fact that April really had every right to, given it was her mother. If Dom even thought about getting chummy with my mother I couldn’t even imagine how I’d feel about it, so the very fact that after all that I’d gone against the fact that I understood and…

I was the worst person on the planet.

“Autumn,” James said, raising his eyebrows.

“I had this essay -”

“- Christ,” Fred said, raising his eyebrows, “with all your Ravenclaws there’s always a bloody essay.”

“Benson… picked it up by accident so I was with Benson,” I said, “no, no, not like that but Dom sort of walked in… and then she thought… so now…” I could feel tears prickling at the back of my eyes. Oh my gosh. “Benson’s telling Dom about everything right now.”

Dom was going to feel completely betrayed. Even if, for a moment, we pretended that sometimes her tendencies weren’t a tad… psychotic and controlling she probably still wouldn’t have wanted me to date a member of her family, and yes all her talk about James simultaneously ripping out my heart and stamping on it might have been a bit much, but it was only because I was her one friend and she didn’t want to share me with a family who barely had time for her.

I was horrible. Horrible on levels that I’d apparently been trying not to think about, because all these insights seemed to be flying at me all at once and I was blinking rapidly to compensate.

“That bastard,” James said, biting his lip as he walked forwards to give me a hug. I couldn’t decide whether James was scared or not. The fear hadn’t hit me yet – although lord knows I was terrified of Dom – but instead I was so overwhelmed by what a horrible friend I’d been for anything else to process. I really genuinely thought I was a nice person…

“Maybe if you’d been nicer to him,” I said, balling my hands in his dressing gown so I didn’t feel quite so alone, “he wouldn’t have…”

“Oh come on,” James said, properly looking at me (which I felt awkward about with the other members of his dormitory milling about), “if you can’t accept that he was only holding off the information until it was useful for him then I can’t help you.”

“It’s all my fault,” I said, weekly, “I shouldn’t have… shouldn’t have stolen your invisibility cloak and -”

“– Autumn,” James said gently, brushing a lock of hair out of my face, “I say this with the greatest respect, but get a grip. This isn’t a death sentence.”

“It’s Dom!”

“Exactly,” James said, “so they’ll probably be a high pitched tantrum and -”

“- she’s my best friend.”

“- aware of that.”

“Oh, shit,” I muttered, burying my face in James’s chest for a few seconds. I felt so horrible. I didn’t think I’d ever felt this guilty about anything before, and yet James… James was so lovely.

“Angry Dom is not that scary,” James said.

“She’s part veela!”

“Yeah,” Freddie interjected, “so minimally it’s barely a fraction. Honestly, the way she talks about it…”

“Shut up about Dom,” I said, blinking again. And there was the first tear. “She’s insecure and she’s going to be really really upset.”

“Because,” James said, rolling his eyes slightly as he started pacing up and down the room, “for once something isn’t going her way.”

“No!” I said, crossing my arms over my chest. “She’ll be upset because her whole life she’s had to deal with everyone liking the rest of her family more than her, and I’m the only person that she’s got all to herself, and now I’ve…” my voice trailed off. My throat constricted slightly, “serious friendship betrayal.”

“Bloody hell, Autumn,” James said irritably, “if you’re going to get that upset about it then why do it.”

Why indeed.

I wasn’t entirely sure I had an answer about that.

“No, look, Autumn, I didn’t mean that,” James said, waving it off and threading his fingers through mine, “you’re just… this is…”

“She’s going to come here and shout the tower down,” Freddie supplied, sitting up in bed and reaching for his T-shirt. I’d seen an underdressed Freddie more than I’d seen my boyfriend underdressed, there was definitely something wrong with that, “and I, for one, am going to watch.”

“Oh, sod off Freddie,” James said, “you’re helping me out.”

“Like hell I am,” Freddie said, “this is not in the bro code.”

“I unstuck your arse of a toilet, you shit!”

“Only because of Autumn.”

“Exactly!” James said, gesturing towards me, “who’s having a breakdown here, if you hadn’t noticed.”

“I’m…” I was going to say fine, but then the words died before I had a chance to say them. Graham sent me a look. I suspected this was one of the first times they’d had a crying Ravenclaw inside their dormitory with the prospect of a livid other woman on the way – although, actually, it wasn’t a given.

“Oh, fine,” Freddie said, “Autumn – you, me, and the men’s toilets. In.”

“What?” I asked, but Freddie was already ushering me into the bathroom and sending James a wink.

“I’m assuming you don’t want Dom to find you here?” Freddie said. “Now, see, I’m in here having a shower,” he continued, turning the shower on with a mock bow, “and, naturally, James wouldn’t let his girlfriend watch his cousin get showered so… you’re not here.”

I took the previous comment back. They had most definitely done this before.

Freddie turned off the shower and leant against the door.

“How long have we got?” James asked, still pacing. “The map, Autumn, where the hell is she?”

“Oh, right,” I said, pulling it out of my pocket and searching desperately for her dot, “erm, she’s got two more flights to climb.”

“Wearing those stupid heals?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, that buys us time,” James said, hovering at the edge of the bathroom door, “what do you want me to say, Autumn?”

“The truth,” I said weakly, “I’m sorry for dragging you into all of this, I mean I didn’t… I -”

“ – worth it,” James grinned, reaching forward and kissing me for a second, “anyway, you know I couldn’t give a crap about what Dom says or does. I just don’t want you to have a major freak out and dump my ass.”

“You don’t?”

“No, I don’t, you daft bint,” James grinned, “Just remember that Dom’s been brain washing you. Nothing she said about me is true,”

“Suspected that.”

“Don’t go breaking my heart, Autumn,” James grinned with a mock wave, before he closed the door behind me and Freddie started up the shower again. I sank down and sat next to the door, closing my eyes shut and feeling my heart hammering inside my chest.

I couldn’t believe this was happening. It was like something out of another world.

Not least because I wasn’t the type of girl to get caught up in drama. I mean, it had always just been me and Dom and the most drama that we ever had was Dom throwing a tantrum and me sitting it out until she wasn’t mad at me anymore. Dom was the queen of drama and had absolutely no qualms stealing boyfriends, pissing off ex-girlfriends and bitching in public. Dom spread rumours for fun and made saw they all traced back to her. Dom was the one with the drama, whilst I just sat and waited for her to be finished with it all, getting stressed out about getting all my homework done.

And that was why I’d done it.

Because, gradually, I’d been beginning to think that I was worth something. So when that moment arrived – an opportunity – something within me that I hadn’t even recognised at the time was crying out for something to happen. I hadn’t even realised that I was frustrated about being Dom’s pet puppet, but I had been, I’d been feeling swallowed up by her all year – disagreeing with her about her boyfriend, being annoyed at those comments on my birthday, directly going against what she wanted just because I didn’t want to be her companion anymore.

I’d taken the invisibility cloak in a moment of irrationality, but the reasoning behind it wasn’t as impulsive as I thought it had been – I was done with having one friend and stupid parents and an absentee sister and I wanted more.

So I’d set off this chain of events which led to this very moment, when I’d quite possibly broken my best friends heart and might very possibly break a boy’s heart (and who even knew I had that in me?) but I’d most definitely proven that I was not just a bystander watching Dom’s drama and the Weasley-Potter’s pranks and my dormates girly sessions before going back to my excessive amounts of studying.

I was worth more than that.

“All right?” Freddie mouthed, sat with his back against the bath and raising his eyebrows at me. I nodded. He bum-shuffled closer, until he was practically sat next to me. “For the record,” he whispered, “I don’t think you’re a bad person.”

“I feel like such an idiot,” I said, biting my lip. Now, this whole thing seemed like it had stemmed out of some weird form of teenager rebellion – against my best friend. And James, lovely James, I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do.

“First,” Freddie said, “you should know that James actually doesn’t date that much. Oh, probably more than you no doubt,” he continued, offering me an apologetic look, “but, it’s especially a no go area if It’s remotely messy. And believe me, Autumn, you are messy.”

“I didn’t –”

“And,” Freddie continued, dropping his voice even more, “he likes you a lot.”

“It’s not like I don’t like him!” I hissed back, opening my eyes and staring at him. Freddie shrugged his shoulders slightly.

He thought that I was going to meekly apologise to Dom and fall back into line. I bit back the sob waiting at the back of my throat and gritted my teeth. He would be on James’s side, though. He didn’t understand Dom.

James made me nervous and fluttery and I liked spending time with him. He reminded me that I was worth something and he made me believe that I could be funny and interesting and impulsive, if I wanted to be. Dom, on the other hand, made me believe the exact opposite.

If only I’d mastered the art of being self-sufficient.

“I hear footsteps.” Freddie said, then he was silent.

Holy crap. This was it. This was the moment.

“Where is she, Potter?” Dom demanded.

“My least favourite cousin, to what do I – ?” James began.

“Where’s Autumn?”

“The season?” James suggested. “It’s all around us, Dom love.”

I bit my lip and tried not to start laughing hysterically because James really really shouldn’t be winding her up anymore. I suspected, with the pair of them, that it was like a compulsion that neither had any control over.

“My best friend.”  Dom, on the other side of the door, said and suddenly the door knob was rattling. Evidentially, Freddie must have locked it.

“Oi!” Freddie yelled, sticking his head under the shower for the extra effect. “If that’s Graham trying to perv on me again – “

“- fuck off!” Graham yelled back.

“Freddie’s in the shower,” James supplied, “so I really can’t help you.”

“You can’t fucking help anything, can you, Potter?” Dom said, her voice low and dangerous and building up to something supersonic. “You can’t just stay out of my business,” Dom hissed, “you could date any sodding bimbo in this place and you have to pick my best friend.”

“Autumn isn’t a bimbo.” James said, levelly.

I shut my eyes.

“Oh,” Dom said, “so you’re not dating her just to piss me off?” Dom questioned.

I hadn’t even thought about that before now.

“How self-centred are you, exactly?” James asked. “Last time I checked, it was a free country and I can date whoever the hell I want.”

“Except,” one of the dormates interjected, “anyone you’re related to, because that’s illegal.”

“You think this is funny?”  Dom demanded. “Get the fuck out of here!”

“Dom,” James said, his voice heating up slightly, “you can’t chuck out my dorm mates in the middle of the night.”

“Watch me,” Dom hissed, “get the hell out of here!”

“Dom?” Freddie called, pressing his ear against the door and grinning, “do you want me to leave too? Only I’ve still got bits I need to watch -”

There was a strangled scream and the sound of something sharp hitting the other side of the bathroom door. I suspected it was one of her stupid heals.

I was no longer crying. Instead a weird sense of calm had settled over me and I was just taking deep breaths and trying to work out what was going on next door. There were no voices floating through the bathroom door, but there were the sounds of movements, which suggested Dom was following through on her quest to kick out all the other Gryffindors.

Bloody hell. Even if I lived till tomorrow everyone was going to be talking about this for years. I wouldn’t be able to walk down the corridor without people talking about me and the more I thought about it the more I realised that this would all reflect badly on Dom and practically give James a halo. I’d made things even worse.

“Fine!” James said. “I’m dating Autumn. What you going to do? Tear off her face so she can’t ever snog anyone ever. You know, Dom, your best friends is scared of you. Do you realised how fucked up that is?”

“Get your ugly nose out of business.” Dom spat.

 “You’re the one invading in my business,” James returned, “if Autumn wants to date me than she can bloody well date me.”

“You’re no good for her!” Dom all but shrieked.

“And Dom knows best?” James asked, the sarcasm so thick in the air that I could practically taste all the way through the other door, “do you know what you’ve done to your supposed best friend? You’ve stopped her having any life of her own. You’re controlling and weird and fucked up.”

Well, that’s rich,” Dom spat back, “she’s been here for six years, Potter, why the sudden interest.”

“She stole my invisibility cloak,” James said with a laugh, “you know, no one’s ever done that before.”

“I have one thing,” Dom said, her voice dropping to ice levels, “one thing in my life which is halfway decent and you have to take it away from me.”

“I haven’t taken bloody anything,” James said, “I’m not stopping her being your friend, you are.”

“Really?” Dom said, her voice building up again. In the bathroom, Freddie was towel drying the bit of his hair that got wet and examining his fingernails with a slightly critical eye (with a second look, I realised his fingernails were painted a bright green so that probably explained it) and I was hugging my too long limbs to my chest and biting my lip. “Because I don’t remember Autumn ever lying to me before you came into the picture.”

“Because she was scared you were going to go psycho!” James said, his own voice rising. “And worse than that, despite the fact that you’ve purposefully insuring she has no friends for years, she feels sorry for you.”

“Back off.” Dom hissed, in the sort of voice that would have made me fall over and die in fright. My heart was beating continually in my chest. I guess that explained why James was a Gryffindor.

“I know what you were doing, Dom.”

“You -”

“Making her feel like shit for years, reinforcing what her Mum did, just so she’d stay your friend and wouldn’t abandon you. That’s fucked up, Dom. Making up rumours about your own best friend to make sure no one else tries to be nice her.”

“Rumours that you believed.”

My heart stopped.

Freddie stopped towel drying his hair to send me this horrible, pitying look. I blinked repeatedly and stared at my hands. Freddie’s gaze seemed to say ‘I told you so’ and I wasn’t sure I could handle that.

Rumours?

“One conversation and I saw through your bullshit.”

“And did you tell her about that?” Dom asked. No, he didn’t. Dom knew he hadn’t. I could feel the brutally victorious look plastered across her face, her withering look, her whole stature screaming I’ve beaten you. You’re just the same as me. You’re a bitch too.

I should have seen it coming. Because James and Dom fought without considering the consequences, were at each other’s throats continually, and neither of them wanted to lose this battle: Dom was upset and angry, but James was pissed off too now he was losing an argument he never thought he’d lose.

So he needed a trump card.

The footsteps should have given it away, but my brain was still stuck on rumours and making you feel bad on purpose so it didn’t click until the second the James muttered ‘alohomora’ and threw open the door.

“Autumn,” James said, breathing heavily. Dom’s eyes were flashing dangerously. “I’ve had enough of this bullshit,” James said, “apparently; you can’t date me whilst being her best friend. So choose.”

I stared at him.

Freddie’s eyebrows had disappeared in his hairline. James still had that oddly competitive look written all over his face. Dom… I couldn’t even decide whether Dom wanted me or not, because she was looking at me like I was giving off a foul odour – but then that wasn’t necessarily uncommon. Sometimes if she didn’t like my hair or I’d said something particularly unfunny she’d give me that look and I’d always feel this uneasy edge of embarrassment creeping up my toes. Now though, I just felt dread.

“It’s her or me.”

Dom folded her arms, glancing at James with a self-satisfied smile.

She thought I was going to pick her.

James looked at me in that way that made my stomach turn over.

He thought I was going to pick him.

My body seemed to be catching up with what was happening all at once. I stood up, my long limbs folding out shakily, my heart beginning to beat so loudly in my chest that it was almost deafening, the knee-jerk tears burning at the corners of my eyes.

I had no idea who I thought I’d pick.

I looked at Freddie and that opportunity of a third option seemed to swallow me whole. No. I thought. I’m not going to do this.



Then I pushed past the pair of them, wrapped my arms around myself, and headed for the door.




So this is pretty intense guys. Thanks for all your reviews on the last chapters and please forgive the lack of response (I'm behind at the moment thanks to NaNo prep and university) but updates should be FAST until the end now guys. 


Chapter 18: And then I run into another wall...
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I couldn’t run anymore, not after the excessive sprinting around the castle, but that was okay because I didn’t need to run when I could hide. As soon as I was out of the Gryffindor Common Room I pulled the cloak over my shoulders, stuffed the map into my pocket and waited to see if they’d follow.

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted them too or not. I wanted to be away from them and I wanted to disappear, but there was no point walking off now and risking them hearing my footsteps.

Dom came spilling out of the door first, her normally pretty features screwed up in anger and her face flushed pink. James was a second behind her, an odd shade of shocked white that I’d never seen him wear before.  I think what struck me most was the fact that they were together.

“Great,” Dom spat, turning around to glare at him, “no sign of her.”

“Where would she be?” James asked, a deliberate note of calm in his voice.

“Shouldn’t you know?” Dom demanded, “as her loving boyfriend?”

“Of less than two months,” James said pointedly, “stop fucking around, Dominique, this isn’t about us.”

“No,” Dom said, “it’s about the fact that you just –”

Dom wasn’t wearing her heals. She looked too short and slightly odd. Vulnerable. A lot less imposing.

“- yeah, well, I can hardly claim all the credit.”

“She was fine before you stuck her nose in.”

“Bloody hell, Dom! It’s not like I sodding corrupted her.  She stole my fucking invisibility cloak, scared the crap out of me with a borrowed chicken and then accidentally exploded my bed when she was trying to apologise. This wasn’t my design.”

“Oh,” Dom said, still glancing around “so it just happened did it?”

“Not all relationships are plotted.” James said, sending a look in her direction.

Dom took in a deep breath but looked away,

“Oi,” Dom said, turning around to face the Fat Lady with a hand on her hip “where did my friend go? Tall, very pretty, probably looked upset thanks to this fuckwit.”

James, showing a fair amount of self-restraint considering how he normally would have acted, kept his mouth shut and instead turning his gaze on the Fat Lady too.

“Disappeared,” She said, sniffing disdainfully at the pair of them, “one of those cloaks you lot seem so keen on.”

Dom turned on James with her eyes flashing “were you going to mention she had the invisibility cloak at any point, Potter?” James raised his eyebrows at her. “Has Albus got the map? Oh, don’t tell me you’re sodding serious – she’s got the map too? To facilitate all your sneaking around?”

“It’s not like that,” James said impatiently, “where would she go?”

“I don’t know,” Dom said, breathing in sharply and looking around the corridor. His gaze paused in my section of the corridor. I tried very hard to continue looking transparent.

I’d like to say it felt weird to have everyone looking straight through me, but I wasn’t entirely sure if it was different to normal. It did, however, feel weird to have them looking for me.

“So that’s what all this stalling is for?” James asked triumphantly. “You don’t know where your own best friend goes when she’s upset?”

“She goes to me!” Dom said. “Or she goes to the dorm. To bed. As the situation stands, neither of those are looking like likely suspects.”

“The Owlery?” James said. “Hagrid’s? To see Oliver?”

I felt my heart speed up slightly. It was definitely wrong to be listening in on their conversation right after I’d run away from them, but - 

“It’s late,” Dom said, “and Autumn doesn’t like getting into trouble.”

“Well she’s got an invisibility cloak and a magical map, trouble is unlikely.”

“And she doesn’t want us to find her,” Dom said pointedly, “so this is a waste of time.”

“Fine,” James said, shoving his hands in the pockets of his dressing gown, “you go get your beauty sleep, I’ll go look for Autumn.”

“Christ, you Gryffindors,” Dom said, rolling her eyes, “you think if you stumble down the right corridor you’re going to walk straight into her? She doesn’t want to see us, Potter. Frankly, I don’t blame her after you -”

“- oh right,” James said, “you keep blaming me.”

“Why the hell shouldn’t I?” Dom said, turning round to face him with her eyes narrowing again, “you insolent moron! Autumn hates having to be assertive, okay –”

“- no, she doesn’t,” James interjected, “you hate her being assertive.”

“And you’re trying to make her into someone she’s not!”

“And you’re repressing her!”

“Repressing? Stop being so dramatic.”

“That’s your job, I suppose,” James said, glancing around the corridor as if looking for some sort of clue. He looked completely miserable.  Dom still looked livid, but at least it was something that she was willing to try and find me – or at least, she would be if she hadn’t deemed it illogical. “So you’re giving up?” James said.

His tone was accusatory again.

“Oh,” Dom said, raising an arched eyebrow and folding her arms over her chest, “you think going off one some futile quest to locate our mutual interest makes you the most interested party? Well, fine, Potter. You play up your bleeding heart and search all night. I’m having a crisis of my own.”

“Broken a nail?”

“My best friend and my boyfriend have been lying to me for months,” Dom said curtly, “so she can fuck off if she wants. She’ll be in back in the dorm by the end of the night. Just remember, Potter, she didn’t pick you.”

“She didn’t pick you either.”

“Good,” Dom said, “I don’t want her.”

“Bullocks.” James said, clapping a hand on her shoulder. Dom pushed the hand off her shoulder and muttered a few choice swearwords before stalking off in the direction of the stairs. Which was, incidentally, not the quickest route to the Ravenclaw Tower. “I’m going to the owlery!” James called after her.

She ignored him.

James watched her go for a few seconds, his expression collapsing into one of irritation. He clenched his fists, squared his shoulders and set off.

*

She’ll be back in the dorm by the end of the night.

My heart was thudding erratically in my chest. I didn’t want to be the same old predictable Autumn. I didn’t want to be in Hogwarts. I wanted to get away from everything.

It’s her or me.

I pulled the cloak around me and headed down a corridor on the left, in a direction neither of them had gone in. I was going to get well and truly lost in Hogwarts and it was going to be wonderful. What did it matter that I’d lost my best friend and my boyfriend in the same utterance? What did it matter that the whole castle was going to be talking about that for months? That I no longer felt like the person I was?

At least Hogwarts had enough corridors and walls to get utterly, utterly lost. And maybe when I hadn’t got a clue where I was or what floor I was on or spent half an hour trying to find my own tiny dot on the map it would at least be a metaphor of how I felt.

 I shoved my hands in my pocket and withdrew it quickly, startling myself with a paper cut – my sister’s letter was still shoved into the pocket of my robes, half screwed up from my irritation at her dismissal, even though that had been muted by the pleasure at thinking my sister might root herself here, with us, after all this time.

This was definitely too much for one day.

Dom had been spreading rumours about me and, according to James, reinforcing the bullshit of my mother. You’re not funny, Autumn. Find me something else to wear. Don’t do that, do this, don’t attempt humour. I could see it, if I really squinted and concentrated, these little comments that felt like paper cuts, but they were outnumbered by the nice things Dom said, surely. Nice thing about how I had long legs and nice hair, about how I was kind and too caring and not judgemental enough.

And James demanding me to choose between them felt like more than a paper cut, it felt like a wound.

Part of me was refuting the cases against the both of them. James had made it more than clear on many occasions that he didn’t see the problem with me being friends with Dom and dating him at the same time, he’d just been so sure that after mentioning the rumours I’d pick him rather than Dom and he couldn’t resist the pull towards winning the argument. Dom had merely been acting out of insecurities and hadn’t meant any of this in a malicious way, it was just that she needed me, was terrified of losing me and wasn’t quite in control of her own sense of self enough to not act like a crazy person.

But for once I didn’t feel about thinking about their problems or thinking about their point of view, I wanted to think about how it felt to stand there and have the two people I’d chosen to care about most in the world demanding something of me that I absolutely refused to give. It was irrelevant that Dom hated herself and that James hadn’t really meant it, because I’d been placed in a position where neither of them should have dreamed of placing me – especially James – and been asked to go against everything that made myself just to give one of them the satisfaction of winning.

Dom hadn’t voiced the question, but she hadn’t told James to shut up and, when talking to James after, she still seemed to completely miss the point about why this made me so mad. And James, for all his talk, had demanded a choice from me.

The problem was that by asking that question James had made it quite clear that he thought I was a pushover just as much as Dom did. That he seemed to think he could do something as awful as that and walk away as the victor had really pulled the carpet from under my feet, because one of the reasons why I valued James so highly was because he gave off this impression of respecting me. When in actual fact, he thought I was a doormat just as much as Dom did.

And I wasn’t a doormat and I didn’t have welcome printed on my forehead and I was not just some slightly geeky, studious Ravenclaw who was stupidly tall and the least popular Weasley’s best friend. I was a person and the people I cared about had a duty to pay me some respect.

Including my sister.

So, I pulled out the scrap of paper with her address scrawled on it and took a deep breath. Dom had said I hated getting into trouble and would be back in my bed by the end of the night, but I was going to act on impulse and walk to Hogsmeade with my boyfriend’s – ex-boyfriend? – magical map and demand to know why my sister didn’t feel like she owed me an explanation about the last few years of her life.

*

I glanced at my watch and immediately wished that I hadn’t. In terms of being assertive and rebellious, I may have been outdoing myself tonight, but that didn’t change the fact that it was well past two in the morning and I was wondering around the backstreets of Hogsmeade on my own.

On a school night, in a stolen invisibility cloak, and feeling decidedly shaken up.

I scrabbled to get out of the invisibility cloak and shoved it into the depths of my bag.

I pulled out the scrap of paper again and continued to squint at it, double checking that I was stood in front of the right house before reaching out and knocking on the door – the ridiculous time of the morning also didn’t help with the prospect of just showing up without warning, but given she was my sister I felt she might have some duties in my time of need. It should be acceptable and yet I couldn’t help slouching to minimise my height, a habit Dom had reliably (or not so much) informed me that I fell back on when I was nervous and trying to make myself seem insignificant.

Ten seconds past before someone came to the door – I could hear the footsteps – and I braced myself for having to explain this all to my sister and then the fact that I was about to demand an explanation in return and then…

The man at the door was not my sister. He seemed to be about the same age, tanned skin, a mop of blonde hair and a confused expression. It was only his pyjamas that jogged my memory and reminded me it was nearly half past two in the morning and that I’d apparently just knocked on some random guys door.

“Oh shit,” I muttered, staring up at him, “I’m so sorry, I… I must have the wrong flat.”

“Autumn?” The guy asked, tilting his head at me slightly, “It’s Autumn, right?”

His Australian accent was almost comical.

“Erm,”

Before I could have any further reaction to an Australian, mildly attractive, bloke somehow knowing my name and not cursing me into next week for disturbing his sleep at a stupid time in the morning, there was a loud bark and then there was a golden retriever licking my legs.

“Neb,” then man said, grabbing hold of his collar and pulling him away from the door, “Neb.”

“What’s going on?” Another voice asked, and then my sister appeared in my line of sight and stopped abruptly.

Ohmygod.

“I think Autumn’s probably wondering the same thing,” Australian Guy said, “come on in.”

“What are you…?” April said, still faltering, “Autumn, what’s - ?”

“Who?” I asked, stepping over the threshold with my eyes fixed on Australian Guy.

“Why are you…?”

“I’m Ethan,” Australian Guy said, “I’m your sister’s fiancé.”

Holy crap. 





This chapter is short and therefore also shakes the plan up slightly. There will now be 21 chapters, but I couldn't resist having three cliff hangers in a row (and also the fact that I'm a bit stuck on the next chapter and I promised you guys fast updates). More coming soon :)


Chapter 19: And then there are decisions to make...
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 Before I turned fourteen, I was actually quite short.  At least I wasn’t tall at any rate, but then suddenly I had this growth spurt and I kept growing up and up. I got thinner disproportionally – stretched – and I felt betrayed by these long limbs and bones fighting with my hips to have more space. Skin stretching over bones and clothes that wouldn’t fit… but the worst part was watching as the markers past: suddenly, I was much taller than Dom, my shoulders were meters above my mothers, the top of my head inching past my fathers, but the worst thing of all was overtaking April.

That was back before April left to go write a book, back when she was my protector at home. Feisty April who used too many punctuation marks in letters and reeked of determined personality. And one day, I was looking down on her instead of up, and I remembered wanting to snap myself in half to be smaller so that I could look up to her again.

Because she was supposed to be bigger than me and my problems.

April left for Egypt and I thought I might grow for ever and that by the time she got back I’d have been reclassified as a giant rather than a human (a repetitive nightmare that Dom had laughed at, not that I could really blame her for that).

I stopped suddenly an inch and a half after the six foot march (which I attributed to copious amounts of prayer). Then a little while later the guys had their growth spurts too and I was caught up and overtaken by some of the people I’d been squinting down at months previously. I felt better when I wasn’t the tallest person in the room. Felt less like everyone was looking at me and judging me.

But I could still remember how it had first felt, when April – who to me was the tallest person in the whole world, the biggest, and the most stagnant point – was dwarfed by this insane growth spurt. And I felt it again in that moment as April shrank through the doorway and tried to explain away a fiancé with a golden retriever licking my ankles and an Australian – Ethan –witnessing the whole messy scene. Except because it was us, she hadn’t said a word, and simply sent a few long glances in certain directions of the room and started chewing on her bottom lip.

“Autumn,” April said, breathing in a deep sigh, “what are you doing here?”

“It blew up,” I said, quietly, feeling too big for her new flat and her new life that she hadn’t even mentioned to me or Oliver (at least, I was presuming so).

“With James and Dom?”

I nodded.

“You’ve got to go back to Hogwarts, Autumn,” April said, reaching out and taping the kettle with her wand – still looking at me – “you can’t be here, it’s… it’s really late.”

“I can’t.”

“It’s just… teenage drama.”

“No,” I said, feeling my eyes fill up with tears slightly and looking away again, “it’s not teenage drama, April, because everyone has been lying to me. Dom’s been… and then James, and you – you’re engaged!”

“Look, Autumn,” April said, glancing at Ethan for a second and her expression slipping slightly, “Ethan will take you back to school now, and I’ll write to you in the morning.”

“No!” I said, “I’m fed up of sodding letters, you could have put all of this in a letter if you’d wanted to.”

“You -”

“You’re my sister,” I said, looking up at her and feeling my hands shaking slightly, “you’re supposed to be there for me if I need you and you just… you ran away to Egypt for years when I needed you and Oliver needed you and I don’t even count Mum and Dad as family, and Oliver’s just a kid so all I have is James and Dom and now they…” My throat tightened again.

“What happened?”

“I’ll write to you about it,” I said, staring straight at her at clamping my jaw shut.

April’s eyelids fluttered close for a minute. She touched her forehead with her fingers and looked at the ceiling for a few long seconds.

“Ethan’s been travelling with me for the past year,” April said, her tone back to refined and solid, with the Golden Retriever’s head now in her lap and her fingers caressing his forehead, “that’s sort of why I’ve been taking my time with the book, and why I… well, why I stopped writing so often, Autumn, and I’m so sorry. But I knew I had responsibilities here and as soon as the book was finished I had to go home and I wasn’t planning on coming back.”

“Course,” Ethan said, “I wasn’t about to let her say g’day and sod off back to England.”

Ethan placed a cup of tea down in front of me.

“No,” April said, smiling slightly before meeting my eye and flushing with something a little like guilt, “so, well, we went for dinner and then things just escalated and… well, when I said I was going to go back to England Ethan, well, proposed.”

My jaw still felt slightly slack. The thought of my flighty sister, who could barely keep a relationship with her siblings going, felt she had the capacity to commit to something as serious as a marriage was utterly mad.

“And you said yes,” I said, my mouth feeling dry despite the tea, “you’re getting married to a guy that you’ve never even… you’ve never even mentioned him.”

“I thought it might be complicated,” April said, her lips twisting into a downward curve – an expression that looked oddly jarring on my sister’s face – “it didn’t know how it was going to work out. I thought… I thought it might fall apart. But then, see, Ethan brought Neb – ”

“- Neb?”

“Nebuchadnezzar,” Ethan said. And unless you’ve ever heard someone with quite a strong Australian accent say Nebuchadnezzar, whilst looking fondly at a golden retriever than you probably haven’t lived – and if I wasn’t in a situation where I was fully intending on writing off my best friend and my boyfriend and had now discovered that my sister had an elicit engagement that she hadn’t told us about, I probably would have laughed.

“I think I’m lost,” I said, “what’s Neb got anything to do with anything?”

At hearing my name Neb came wondering over to my side of the table and set about trying to sniff my ankles.

“My dad used to say,” Ethan said, “the only way to make sure a relationship is concrete, is to have shared assets that neither of you want to lose.”

“That sounds…”

“Like bullshit,” April interrupted, “his dad was a bit like Mum, Autumn. Always full of shit like that. Treated fatherhood like a social experiment and his marriage like a business contract.”

“But, I thought that your sister couldn’t possibly run off and leave me if I had Neb.”

I glanced down at the dog, who’s doleful eyes stared right back at mine, and I had to admit that he was both cute and beautiful, but he hardly seemed like the basis of a very stable relationship: maybe I just didn’t like the idea of my sister’s change of plan – of coming home and buying a flat here – had nothing to do with me and everything to do with this Australian with a matching messed up childhood and a lot of faith in the canine race.

“Autumn,” April said, leaning forwards. I was struck by how little we talked about the serious issues we had and the fact that this conversation had probably been insanely hard for her, but that didn’t change the fact that my sister had been lying and I just didn’t understand why, “that’s the only reason I went to see Mum and Dad. I thought it might be nice to let them… well, to let them know I’m getting married.”

“Are they… invited to the wedding?”

“That’s up to you,” April said, “I only didn’t tell you because… well, I wanted things to be settled first. I was going to introduce this weekend, but you’ve had Dom and James and school going on, and I didn’t want you to be worrying about me eloping in Timbuktu or something.”

“That’s a rubbish reason,” I said, staring at my cup of tea and wishing very much to be smaller, “that’s crap. You didn’t tell me because you didn’t think it would work out.”

“Autumn,” April said, glancing back at the table, “please don’t.”

I wanted to ask why I shouldn’t, but even at this point I didn’t have it in me. I wanted to tell Ethan that my sister was no good at relationships; that she was no good at keeping up contact or being there when I honestly thought she would be, but I didn’t have that much family left to juggle with.

“I’m not…” I thought of Dom, “I’m not going back to Hogwarts tonight.”

“I’ll clear everything off the sofa.” Ethan said, tactfully side stepping out of the room and leaving us to our complete stretch of silence. Conversations with April were euphemistic at best, and existing in a state of denial most of the time, but we did usually manage some form of conversation. Not this silence.

“I didn’t think he’d follow me to England,” April said, fingers pressed against her forehead and a haunted expression flitting across her face, “I didn’t…realise.”

April was haunted too.

That had never stuck me before, that my sister wasn’t just flighty and absent, but running away from the fact that she’d chosen me over her parents and was still unable to make a real difference because she was simply too young. She thought she could neglect to answer a few letters and she’d be forgotten and free from any ties to anyone, thought that love had an expiry date and clauses attached, that it was something to escape from; my sister was just as emotionally messed up as I was, and she’d ran all the way to Egypt to prevent me from noticing.

“Are you okay?” I asked, feeling my height stretch upwards the renewed urge to cry prickling at the back of my eyelids.

“Yes,” April said, her voice turning crisp again as she looked up at her glass at tea. “Now, please tell me exactly what Dom did after she found out?”

*

Dom was right about me.

After one of the worst days of my life – and there’d been quite a few – the reason that I was unable to sleep was the fact that, in transit, my Arithmancy essay had gotten crumpled beyond acceptable levels. I had been sure that after running around the castle, being emotionally abused by everyone I considered important in the world (other than Oliver, of course) and making a late night trek to Hogsmeade I’d have been tired enough to sleep… but insomnia and alertness started creeping up on the minute April and Ethan had gone back to bed and I’d been left alone in her sitting room with Neb and too many conflicting thoughts to count.

It was the Arithmancy essay that cracked me.

I was rummaging through my bag as though some sleeping cure was about to appear in the depths of my school bag, but all that did appear was a piece of parchment that had been folded and scrunched up and all but destroyed by the nights events.  And I couldn’t hand in such a scruffy essay tomorrow… even if my sister was a screwed up liar and Dom was sure to have set fire to my bed and James was, well, not my boyfriend anymore (although I’d have to clarify that with him at some point, preferably through a gesture that involved me never having to look at him again), it was still well within my ability to write a decent essay.

I relit the gas lamps, feeling much better with Neb sitting next to me on the couch and occasionally licking my face, pulled out my quill and parchment and began transferring the creased essay onto the next piece of parchment.

Irritatingly – and it really did irritate me, to the point where I nearly started crying all over again although I suspected that was more to do with the extraneous emotional exploitation from the evening rather than the actual piece of parchment – the piece of parchment was a couple of inches too short to accommodate my whole essay.  Too short. Everything was too sodding short and I reached into the bottom of my bag to find another spare bit of parchment and –

The letter still said A.O. Pearce even though it had been weeks since I’d even looked at it. I’d barely thought about it, either. My mother’s handwriting didn’t usually invoke cheerful feelings and I’d had enough on my plate with April and James and Dom without worrying about whatever false birthday wishes she’d sent, but suddenly it seemed like the perfect distraction.

There was nothing that my mother could do to make the current evening any worse than it was already.  There’d been so much drama and shell shock that one measly letter couldn’t make me feel any worse… if anything, the letter only had the scope to make me feel… well, not better, but whenever I thought about how little my mother cared about me there was a certain sense of self-satisfaction about being right all this time. When she signed off her letters with her full name and no kisses or love it jerked up some self-righteous feeling in my gut – because it could be her fault that I was awkward and unwanted and too tall and lonely. I didn’t have to blame Dom or James, who I hadn’t stopped caring about yet, because I could blame her.

I needed that right about now.

I closed my eyes for a second before beginning to open it. I hadn’t realise that this was, technically, the last I ever had to do with my parents. I was seventeen. I was legally an adult. Maybe the letter was just a page of gloating poorly veiled insults or something of that calibre.

Money.

I didn’t know how the weight of the envelope hadn’t struck me before, but there were dozens of notes spilling out over my hands. Muggle ten pounds. My Mother had given me muggle money – easier to transport, I supposed, and the least amount of effort she could physically put in without giving me nothing (which I’d have preferred). The quantity was unexpected, though. One, two three… fifteen. A hundred and fifty pounds of muggle money.

There were two more pieces of paper in the envelope. I pulled the letter out, taking in my mother’s cursive before absorbing the actual words she’d written.

Autumn,

I knew I wouldn’t be able to get you what you want and deserve. Treat yourself. Happy Birthday. Hope to see you soon.

Hope was new. We rarely signed our letters due to the concentrated awkwardness of the thing: neither of us would ever write ‘love’ in relation to each other, sincerely was too cold, mother was laughable, she’d used her full name once or twice but that usually sparked up a whole host of awkward feelings and, after I’d called her up on it once, she’d stopped signing her letters off all together. Hope was foreign. Hope not something I was expecting to see in a letter from my mother.

Neither was the sudden acknowledgement that things weren’t okay between us, or the fact that apparently now I deserved things from her, so it seemed… that my mother was just as aware as I was that I could leave. Just as sure that I would go. And now, for reasons that I’d probably never know, she didn’t want me to. It might be because she didn’t want to be that failed mother whose children all left the second they could, or maybe somewhere in her empty heart she knew she was supposed to love me, or maybe that she did. She just resented me more.

It was selfish. Hope to see you soon. What you want and deserve. Treat yourself. Empty, stupid words that I could have expected. And it did make me feel stronger, somehow, to know that there was someone and something to blame and it wasn’t just teenager drama.

The last piece of paper was a cheque. An empty cheque. My mother’s named signed. And a post-it note: whatever you need.

Oh god.

And there, permission to leave. The opportunity to walk out and get my own flat in Hogsmeade or London or France or anywhere I wanted to go. The only thing that could possibly have made me feel worse, because wrapped up in those three words was the nicest thing my Mother had ever done for me – she’d given me a choice.

I stopped staring only when Neb tried to take a bite out of my Arithmancy essay, only because I was Autumn Olivia Pearce and when faced with a life crisis I transferred a lot of these issues onto being hyper aware about the state of my essay, and after everything else that had happened this term I really didn’t want to have to fall back on the excuse a dog ate my homework.

I thought, considering everything, that would be one humiliation too far.

*

An early morning letter to the headmistress about an imminent life crisis meant I wasn’t liable for multiple detentions (which I no doubt deserved, because leaving school premises in the middle of the night and sneaking to Hogsmeade was definitely worth of at least a week of cleaning toilets – then again, April was good at writing letters) and an excusal of classes the next day.

So April let me sleep until Neb licked my face awake well after noon (I had eventually fallen asleep at about five in the morning, so I still hadn’t gotten a reasonable amount of sleep), when we had an awkward breakfast involving my new favourite Australian and an unnecessary number of eggs considering the last thing I wanted to do was eat. Or think. Or be conscious. Or go back to Hogwarts ever again.

Apparently it wasn’t optional, though, but it turned out Ethan had been onto something about the addition of a dog to any social situation making it less awkward and more concrete, because the walk back to Hogwarts hadn’t seemed so bad when we could take it in turns to throw things for Neb or keeping hold of him straining against his lead respectively. In the end, apart from trying to eat my homework and giving me an unwanted and slightly animalistic facial in the morning, he’d been a nice companion for the worst night of my life and I was more than happy to let him continue sniffing my ankles and circle me until I was dizzy.

And then I was back in Hogwarts and it was absolutely and completely terrifying, and I had every intention of disappearing into the library and not meeting anyone’s eye for at least a week.

After I’d handed in my essay.

 I knocked on the door of Professor Vector’s office and let myself in, trying to offer my best apologetic smile and not slouching too much (I hadn’t stood up straight since the ultimatum was issued, and with every blow to my perspective on life I my posture was taking another hit).

“I’ve got my essay,” I said, digging out the piece of parchment from my bag, “sorry it’s a bit late.”

“I hear it went to Hogsmeade and back?”

“Yeah,” I nodded, shifting on my feet and forcing myself to stand up a little straighter.

“And that you’ve fallen out with James Potter and Dom Weasley.”

“I was offered an ultimatum,” I said, just because I didn’t much like the idea of her believing I’d cheated on James, or something like that, as apparently the whole of Hogwarts had been believing things about me that weren’t true for a very long time thanks to some rumours that no one had told me about. And still hadn’t, really, because I still didn’t know what the content of these rumours had been.

“And what did you chose?”

“Arithmancy,” I said, holding out the essay with a grim smile.

Professor Vector cracked a smile.

I forced another smile before turning round on my heel and planning to snuggle in the invisibility cloak till it was acceptable to go back to bed.

“Autumn,” she said, before I’d left the room. I paused and turned around to face her. “As much as I appreciate your rediscovered dedication to my classes, I think… I think this time you should chose yourself.”

And that didn’t seem like bad advice at all. 




This update was marginally longer than last time, but still not to bad given NaNo and everything! Two more chapters after this one. Oh, and thanks you guys for getting this story to 400 reviews! My original big goal for this story was 450, but that was back when I was planning more chapters so that's likely not gonna happen now, but after being so awful with updates I never thought I'd get to the 400! So thanks guys, you're wonderful! And I promise they'll be no more bombshells from now on ;)

Reviews are lovely as always, but I'm beyond glad just for you actually reading :)


Chapter 20: And then I think about the world...
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 The problem with avoiding the two people I wanted to avoid was that we lived in the same castle. Admittedly, you couldn’t accuse Hogwarts of being small by any means, but the spaces that I was supposed to inhabit often overlapped with those that they were supposed to inhabit, and short of spending my whole life wearing an invisibility cloak there wasn’t much I could do to avoid them forever.

Besides, the more I thought about it the more I decided that isn’t what I wanted. I wanted Dom and James to see that I was just fine and I didn’t need them trying to interfere in my life: I was bigger than ultimatums and rumour spreading and near psychopathic controlling behaviour, and I was strong enough to deal with the teenage drama without hiding.

So, after exiting Professor Vector’s office I left the invisibility cloak in my bag and stalked back up to the Ravenclaw Tower. The chances were that Dom would be in class, anyway, and given she seemed to be heading back in the direction of the Sytherin Common room last night I doubted she’d noticed I wasn’t in my bed last night.

Or so I thought until I pushed open the door and ended up practically face to face with Dom Weasley.

She was crying.

Not in the usual diva way that Dom cried, but in the ugly puffy eyes, mascara running, genuine upset tears. My throat constricted slightly.

“Autumn,” Dom said, my name coming out tight and relieved, “I didn’t… I didn’t know where you were.”

Oh. Oh. She was scared because I hadn’t come back to the dorm. She’d flounced back to the Ravenclaw Tower this morning ( I wasn’t dumb, I knew where she was heading last night which wasn’t the Ravenclaw Tower) expecting to get out her talons and turn them on me before breakfast, only to discover that my bed was unslept in and no one had seen me. Maybe that was ungenerous, but I wasn’t feeling particularly generous to anyone this morning.  Mostly, I was tired.

“I’m fine.” I said, crossing the dormitory to pull out my school books. I bent low over my trunk and silently stowed the invisibility cloak at the bottom. I’d have to get it back to James at some point, but he’d have to live without it for a few days. The whole thing should be blamed on the bloody thing anyway and I didn’t fancy carrying the extra weight around when it reminded me so acutely of the whole thing. “Don’t worry.”

I was trying my best not to run over to Dom’s side of the dormitory and give her a hug, but that was mixed in with the desire to break something of hers and yell it her. It was probably best that I did nothing.

My acting on impulse had a tendency to leave me suffering from the whiplash for several days afterwards, and that was discounting the spiralling into mania that had come with it all.

“I wasn’t.” Dom spat out, her eyes flashing as she looked at me.

“Okay,” I muttered, “right. Fine.”

And here was the terrifying psycho Dom being reborn out of her tears like some spine chilling phoenix. Except maybe James was right – what the hell could she actually do? The reason I was scared of her was because she knew me and she knew me well enough to really hurt me, and to take away her friendship which I depended on. I was scared of her because she was unpredictable and emotional and messed up.

I shouldn’t be scared of my best friend. Not to the level of which I had become scared of Dom, which meant that James must be right about the state of our friendship to a higher degree than I wanted to think about. He’d said it was fucked up.

Dom, with her usual grace, had stood up and crossed the dormitory.

I swallowed. Something a little like fear but a bit more diluted was stirring up in my stomach. From where I was crouching over my trunk, I had a view of her stupidly impractical heals. She only wore them so our height was comparable, but there was something about the patent black of her stiletto that genuinely scared me.

 You’re not supposed to be scared of the people you love.

I looked up at her.

“I hope he was worth it.” Dom spat, hand on hip, looking absurd and a lot less intimidating with her tears still dried on her face.

“No,” I said, fishing out the book I wanted and standing up. I was still taller than her. I was always going to be taller than her. “As it turned out,” I said, my lip wobbling despite my resolve, “neither of you were.”

Dom stood on the edge of my cloak so I couldn’t leave.

“Go on then,” I said, folding my arms, “threaten me with something. Only I’m not sure you can actually do anything, Dom. Because you are my only friend, you can’t exactly steal my boyfriend and, apparently, you already ruined my reputation.”

“He’s gotten to you,” Dom said, stepping backwards and retreating to her bed, “fine.”

“What the hell do you mean?”

“I’m not a villain, Autumn,” Dom said, folding her arms and staring straight at me, “you used to know that.”

“I used to believe that,” I said, “I think I probably still do, but given current evidence I have I’m waiting to pass judgement.”

“I’m not explaining myself to you,” Dom spat, not sitting down. Her back was rigid, her expression terse, her eyes still watery. It was hard to know what to feel: I was still somewhat guilty about the blatant friendship betrayal involved in dating James behind her back, still livid about these alleged rumours and the total lack of respect and still horribly worried about her.

I knew Dom. I knew that, after Benson had informed her that we were dating, and she’d stood witness to my ultimatum, and after she’d stalked away from James outside the Gryffindor Common Room she had headed down the stairs and in the direction of the Slytherin dorms.

And because Dom felt crap and unwanted and betrayed she’d gone to the singular person left. When she had boyfriend troubles, I was the one who had to watch her stuff her face with chocolate  and tell her that she was actually a good person…. And with me crossed off her list, she’d gone to the person who I fully blamed in the first place. Benson.

I wanted to help her, but I didn’t think I was quite ready to forgive her.

“Well,” I said, shaking, “I don’t think I can talk to you until you do.”

*

“Pearce,” Flint said, his shoulder colliding with mine as I tried to walk through the corridor. I very much doubted that he’d intended to jostle me, but my previously unheard of temper was on a short lease and I was already irritated at him.

“Please don’t touch me,” I muttered, pulling away from his side of the corridor.

“What?” Flint asked, raising his eyebrows. Clearly, he was asking me if I was honestly holding him responsible for everything that had happened.

“No.” I said, before realising I was reading too much into his expression and answering questions he hadn’t actually asked.

“As much as transference suits you, I’m not the person you should be blaming.” He was back to being creepy and the very personification of a Slytherin. My faith was all about not hating people, but there were a select few that really made it difficult.

I stopped suddenly in the corridor to face him.

“You took advantage of my best friend.” I said, glaring straight at him. The worst thing about it, was that Benson Flint wasn’t even that attractive; he wasn’t unattractive, but Dom normally cherry picked the best of what was admittedly a bad bunch, and yet he was the one who’d managed to get under her skin by being in the right place at the right time, and generally being a sly bastard – no redeeming qualities, almost no charm and he wasn’t even nice to look at. He’d seized the moment and picked that I be the one with the crisis, not him, driving Dom straight into his bloody bed. And leaving me with another thing to blame myself for and another thing I couldn’t really have prevented.

“I’m just an innocent catalyst here.” Benson said. He wasn’t smiling, but he might as well have been.

“It’s not about innocence,” I said irritably, “it’s about intent. Dom… James, neither of them had bad intentions whereas you are just a horrible person.”

“No intent?”

“Look, Flint,” I said, narrowing my eyes at him, hands on hip, “Dominique Weasley was damaged goods long before you got your slimy hands on her. She is messed up and hurting. James has a winning complex and didn’t mean to upset me. You have no excuse but for the fact that you’re mean. I could forgive every damaged, broken person in the world and there’d still be tossers like you making Christianity difficult. So no, it’s not your fault, nor is it my fault but I’m holding you accountable for being shit and selfish and only caring about yourself.”

“Easy, Pearce,” Flint said, holding up a hand – unaffected – “don’t stress yourself out about this.”

“You bastard.” I said, pulling myself up to my full height – a little taller than him – and doing my best impression of Dom’s murder glare.  Then I wrapped my robes around me, pushed past him and set off down the corridor.

James was stood a couple of feet away waiting outside a classroom. For a brief second our gaze met. He smiled slightly and lifted up his right hand into a thumbs up. I flushed slightly as I walked past, the message of it ringing round in my head – you did good Autumn, you did good.

*

“It started in third year.” Dom said abruptly, seconds after Felicity and Danielle had left the dormitory and we were alone there together. I’d been spending more time with them and they’d almost adopted me into their little group, but it felt wrong to be sat at the other end of the Ravenclaw table whilst Dom ate with Flint on the Slytherin table.

“The rumours?” I asked, stepping backwards and biting my lip.

“Freddie started it,” Dom said, “he spread a rumour around that we were lesbians. Rumours were the weapons of choice when we were thirteen and I’d snapped at Roxanne. It was revenge. You just got wrapped up in it.”

“Okay,” I said, folding my arms and watching her struggle with the conversation. “What next?”

“I thought if you found out about the rumour you wouldn’t want to be my friend,” Dom said, taking another deep breath, “so I made sure you didn’t find out about the rumour, and I made up this story about you… about you having a boyfriend who’d already graduated to squash the lesbian rumour.”

“Already graduated?” I asked, my throat tightening slightly as I did the maths. I’d been thirteen with an imaginary eighteen year old boyfriend.

“I did the maths wrong,” Dom said, “I panicked when someone asked me whether he went to Hogwarts. I didn’t think about the implications at the time, Autumn. I didn’t mean to make everyone think you were some young slut. I just wanted them to stop saying you were a lesbian.”

“So everyone believed it?” I asked, hands shaking slightly. “My brother? Our dorm mates?”

“It was an accident,” Dom said, “but then it stopped people from trying to be nice and friendly to you. I thought you were going to never talk to me again because I’d been such a bitch. I needed to stop you finding out, so then I needed everyone to continue being mean to you, because otherwise someone might ask you and you’d realise.”

“So you made more shit up?”

“Stop judging me,” Dom said, standing up with a fierce expression in her eyes, “you think you’re so high and mighty, Autumn, with your precious boyfriend and your bloody morals. I hated myself for it but I was scared and I didn’t know what to do. I always knew I’d push you too far because I’m a horrid person,” Dom’s voice was thick and tense and heart breaking, “and I was right, too, because the minute I stopped Felicity and Danielle and James and Freddie and Roxy suddenly care so much about you, regardless of the fact that they believed every word. James is no saint.”

“I know that.” I interjected, staring.

“And I was right,” Dom said, tersely, “because now you don’t want anything to do with me either.”

“Not true,” I said.

“I just didn’t expect you to betray me to boot.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, without really meaning for the words to come out of my mouth, “I didn’t mean to lie to you. I didn’t plan it and it just happened, but that’s nothing compared to… Dom,” my lip was quivering, “people hated me for no reason and you… you never told me that it wasn’t my fault. My Mum. And then April ran away. And you… you let me think I was a repulsive person.”

“Only,” Dom said, standing up and kicking her trunk shut in true diva style, “because I am a repulsive person.”

“You’re not,” I said, “just desperate.”

“Sorry.” Dom said, before she stalked towards the door and disappeared before I had a chance to realise that she’d actually apologise, or that I’d apologised first, or to really process the implications of what had just been said.

*

The flat was four doors down from April’s flat was up for rent. And it was cheap.

It was smaller than April’s, but April had published a book and had two incomes (and a dog), whereas I had a blank cheque and a few years of saving Christmas and birthday money (which was minimal, as Mum had once or twice forgotten my birthday entirely – or at least, hadn’t made any effort to commemorate it) and that was it. There was a chance of getting a job in the summer, and I was sure April would support me, but it was going to be difficult.

“It’s nice,” Oliver said. He stepped into the bit of the bathroom you could actually step into, which wasn’t much, before taking another step back and glancing around the kitchen area.

It looked empty without any furniture or any memorabilia on the wall, but with a few posters and a few photographs then it might not be too bad. It would be okay. I could survive here.

“Minimalistic.” I said, biting my lip. I’d have my own kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. The table might be able to fit three if I conjured up another chair. Realistically, I didn’t really want to live in Hogsmeade or this near April, but I didn’t think the Professors would have allowed me out of the grounds further than Hogsmeade to look round flats.

“Imagine you’re drinking a cup of tea,” Oliver said, nodding towards the seat. I smiled at him, sat down and tried to envision myself living here. One summer. That was all it would be until I’d be earning and could move out and live somewhere else.

“I don’t have to do this,” I said abruptly. Impulse. “Oliver,” I said, glancing turning towards him – looking up – “I don’t want to leave you to live with them on your own.”

“I don’t mind.”

“I do,” I said, staring at the wood of the desk. I knew how it had felt when April had left, and it was horrific. Circumstances were slightly different, but I still couldn’t leave Oliver like April had left us. I wasn’t ready to start worrying about washing up and cooking and cleaning and paying the rent all by myself. I wanted a little bit more time at working out who I was before I shook my life up again. I didn’t want to have to tell people, in ten years time, that I moved out when I was seventeen years old. I wanted to complete my education properly. “Oliver,” I said, shaking slightly as I looked straight at him, “I won’t be driven out of my childhood early. She’s done enough.”

“So?” Oliver asked, and I suddenly realised that he’d grown. He seemed to have lengthened and expanded upwards since the last time I saw him, which probably meant that he was going to keep growing until he overtook me. My little baby brother would be at least a few inches taller, and he was going to be good looking and a perfectly suitable candidate for an equally tall girlfriend.

“We’re going home for Christmas.” I said, still shaking.

She’d said she hoped to see me soon. Maybe, on the brink of losing me forever she’d upturned some levels of affection. But if I moved out that was something neither of us would be able to forgive or forget; I’d have the weight of the figure written on the blank cheque  pressing on me, Mum would hold me responsible when Oliver followed my lead and that would be the end of everything. There was no chance after that.

I wasn’t April. I wasn’t ready to run away from my problems.

“Sure?” Oliver asked, “Because that is a great bathroom. You’d be able to shower and throw up into the toilet at the same time.”

“Handy,” I said, smiling slightly, “but… no. I mean, maybe. We’ll see. If it’s bad at Christmas, I guess I’ll have to rethink but… I have to see, Oliver. I don’t know whether she’s trying to push me out or get me to stay but… I have to see.”

“Okay,” Oliver said, smiling, “back to Hogwarts then?”

“Definitely.” I said. The estate agent had waited outside, deeming we’d get a better ‘feel’ of the place alone, and he seemed slightly surprised when I walked out and happily declared that we weren’t interested.

“So, James was asking after you,” Oliver said, shoving his hands in his pockets.

“Have you grown Oliver?” I interjected.

“You should… talk to him.” Oliver said, looking slightly awkward, but I was stuck by the fact that at least he’d spoken.  We did not talk about things. We avoided issues and we pretended there wasn’t a whole host of issues swimming in the subtext of conversation. When talking we referred to our parents as a slightly emphasised them.

It was bloody annoying though. I didn’t need Oliver nagging me about doing the right thing when the voice at the back of my head was doing a sufficient job all by itself.

“One step at a time, Oliver. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but my life got a bit dramatic lately.”

*

“So,” James said, falling into the seat next to me in Herbology and turning to face me, “you’re not talking to me.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Eh!” James declared. “You just spoke!” I swallowed. “Okay,” James continued, “that was lame and stupid, actually… I’m lame and stupid and a prat and I’m really sorry.”

I stared at my notes and tried very hard not to look at him. I wasn’t all that experienced at relationships and particularly not having to be around the person after it had all gone wrong, but I knew full well that I wasn’t ready to deal with this when there were so many other things going on that I had to think about. Fixing things with James was not my current priority.

“Autumn,” James said, his voice a low whisper, “Autumn, you know I don’t care if your friends with Dom or not. I can’t say I like the fact that she’s your friend, but that’s only because… because I know that she’s not exactly been a good friend to you and I just think that you deserve so much better than what you get. I know that fucking up like that probably wasn’t the best way to show that in action but I am a relationship fucker-upper particularly when I really like someone and – ”

James stopped abruptly as our names were called on the register.

“- and,” James continued, “I heard you say to Flint that you know I didn’t mean… didn’t mean to upset you, I just… I just messed up, okay?”

“James,” I said, turning to face him and trying very hard not to blink, “I need to take notes.”

“Okay,” James said, seeming to lean away slightly, “and is that just you being a Ravenclaw, or is that also a rebuff?”

“Not now.” I said, letting my hair fall between us, pulling out my pen and resolutely deciding not to think about when.

*

“Winter,” Freddie said, grabbing hold of my elbow as I was back down the stairs from visiting the Gryffindor Common Room (having given my brother the cloak and the map and strict instructions to place them on James’s bed – better to not do it myself this time, given what happened last time) , “haven’t seen you around much for about eight days, not that anyone’s been counting.”

“It’s Autumn,” Roxy said, appearing on my other side, “it doesn’t change vis a vis the season. Please excuse my brother, Autumn, I think he lost a large number of his brain cells after being stuck to the toilet.”

“That would only make sense if my brain cells were in my arse.”

“You said it,” Roxy said, “look, I hate to subject you to another intervention, but –“

“- if this is about James,” I said, blinking fast, “then I…”

“Regrettably,” Roxy said, “it’s not. The other one.”

“Dom?” I asked, feeling my legs begin to shake slightly.

“Although it has to be said that James is being an arse to live with,” Freddie said, “I know you were a real hazard, Autumn, but it’s almost a shame not to have the fear of being stuck to the loo if it meant he wasn’t being so mopey.

“Mopey?” I think at some point between James offering me an ultimatum and the present I’d reverted back to my old way of thinking that James was only ever going to rip me to pieces and butcher my heart with a pair of oversized and blunt scissors, replacing the somewhat sweet version of James in my memory to someone manipulative and cruel. It hadn’t been intentional, but… Benson had said, weeks ago, that no one should have to deal with a double betrayal at the same time… seeing Dom so regularly meant I couldn’t turn her into the hateable villain that my brain wanted me to, but it was much easier with James who I knew less about and had known for a shorted period of time.

I’d almost forgotten about the lovely James who’d been so nice on our date and didn’t mind that I’d blown up his bed and was, as Freddie said, a hazard.

And so I’d done the meanest most cowardly think to date, by having a highly impressed Oliver leave the cloak and the map on his bed without note, or word, or any indication that I had any intention of ever talking to him again.

Oh balls.

“Yes, yes,” Roxy said, “the problem is, mopey James is all too concerned about Dom being alone but for her psycho boyfriend, and has thus brought to the whole families attention that we’ve made Dom unhappy.”

“So now,” Freddie said, grinning, “she’s locked in a broom cupboard!”

“I don’t see how that’s going to help.” I said, glancing up at them.

“Well, you were never going to understand the plan just yet,” Roxy said, with one of her winning smiles, “but I’d estimate understanding in about thirty seconds time.”

“What -?” I began, but by the time I’d finished my sentence the two had unhooked their elbows through my own, twisted me round in the corridor and pushed me… into a broom cupboard. 

Probably should have seen that coming. 




I promise you this was not supposed to be another cliff hanger. Also, this story keeps growing when I'm not looking. I PROMISE you we are very near the end, but I give up putting a number to it. Two or three chapters to go, I should think. Love you guys! 


Chapter 21: And then there are shifts...
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 Everyone always found it strange when I said that I was a Christian and that my parents weren’t, as if it was somehow impossible to form these beliefs without having it shoved down my throat by my parents but, in my experiences, beliefs never worked like that.

Dom didn’t believe that no one liked her because someone told her to believe that, she’d formed that belief all by herself with her own pieces of evidence. I didn’t believe that I wasn’t funny because Dom had told me I wasn’t; I didn’t believe I was funny because I had a twisted perception of myself after years of being treated as though I was boring and unimportant sank through my skin and made me believe it. We believed those things because we didn’t love ourselves.

I believed a lot of things and sometimes it was easy to forget what I believed.

I believed in forgiveness and treating people more than fairly.

And, as I was plunged into darkness and left in the cupboard with Dom, I remembered that I didn’t believe in taking out my problems on other people. I’d been angry at James for issuing an ultimatum, but also for forcing me to face up to these rumours and the lack of belief I had in myself – and that maybe hadn’t been very fair. Benson Flint too, as much as I didn’t like him, probably hadn’t really deserved the rant I’d thrown at him in the middle of a corridor.

It was one thing wanting to prove that I was capable of standing up for myself but it was another to cross over my own personal boundary and go against what I believed in and what I wanted to stand for.

I wanted James and Dom to know that I didn’t need them and I definitely didn’t need them to force me into a choice, but I never wanted to be cruel.  And I wanted them. I really did want them.

The problem is, mopey James is all too concerned about Dom being alone but for her psycho boyfriend, and has thus brought to the whole family’s attention that we’ve made Dom unhappy.

And what had I done? Sent Oliver to dump his invisibility cloak with no regard to how that might make him feel, with no note and no thought given to the fact that it was not fair.

Now I was locked in a broom cupboard and unable to do anything to stop it.

Everyone was right, I was a hazardous natural disaster and I most definitely should never be allowed to do anything impulsive – it really was not my strong point and inevitably always led to some form of disaster or other.

“Dom?” I asked warily, groping around in the dark as my eyes began to adjust to the gloom. “Dom, are you in here?”

“Yeah,” Dom said, from somewhere to my left.

“Okay,” I said, feeling for the door handle and trying briefly to open it. I knew it was no good, as clearly Freddie and Roxy hadn’t shut me in the cupboard for the sake of a few minutes amusement, but I figured I’d feel like a bit of an idiot of they had left the door closed.

“This is your fault,” Dom said, pulling out her wand and lighting it so I could see. I screwed my face up in annoyance – obviously, Autumn, obviously. “I don’t need my family interfering in my life.”

James had said enough to Freddie and Roxy about Dom being alone to warrant the pair of them start an intervention. Dom’s family were not bad people and particularly not James who, right this moment, might be walking up the stairs to his bedroom to find the cloak and the map and no note.

It was cold. I knew had been cold when I was giving Oliver the instructions, but I’d been so angry and maybe that was justifiable, but acting like Dom was not justifiable. It was just mean and I didn’t think he’d deserved that.

“Your family are lovely people, Dom.” I said, my voice coming out slightly choked through my panic. If I could just get a message to Oliver…

“Not to me.”

“Fine,” I said, sinking down the wall and sitting down, “don’t take responsibility.”

“What does that mean?” Dom demanded, glaring up at me. It was still dark, but all the light in the room was concentrated around Dom’s face making her look more intimidating than ever.  Dom could conduct light. I barely glowed in the background.

“It means that you’re just as mean to them,” I said into my hands, “it means that whilst your sister is mean and horrible, it’s sibling rivalry. And the others don’t always include you because you purposefully isolate yourself. You came to Hogwarts and no one warmed to you, because you are cold Dom and, at eleven, you were too pretty and too clever and too perfect for anyone to like you. That’s the only reason no one liked you, Dom, and for all the reasons to be unliked that’s not the worst reason. So then you became bitchy and controlling so you had an excuse as to why people didn’t like you. You’re insecure and you’re desperate and you’re lonely but that does not mean your family are mean and it does not mean that you have a right to make me miserable too.”

Dom seemed to be panting slightly, as if she’d the one who’d just said all those things in a rush of words and impulse. It would make more sense to me if she’d been the one who said it, because I felt disconnected from myself. Unable to work out if I felt light or heavy.

“It means,” I said, and  at some point I’d started to cry again, “that you should sort out your issues, so I don’t have to continually forgive myself and hate myself for not having enough backbone to stand up to you.”

“I never meant to hurt you.”

“Well,” I said, and Dom was reaching for me through the dark, grabbing hold of my arm and trying to inch closer, “you did. And it wasn’t just once but over and over. But you also made me happy and… and when I was eleven and mixed up and upset you were the only person who cared.”

“I didn’t let anyone else care,” Dom said, her arm suddenly around my shoulders, “but you, Autumn, you -”

“- I want to forgive you,” I said abruptly, “and it’s not because I need you, but because I want you to be my friend.”

“I need you,” Dom said into my hair, her voice dropping to that low tone of amusement it took on when she talked about herself – all the self-deprecation and loathing so apparent within the fact that she was just laughing at herself, “you’re the only person in the world who doesn’t think I’m horrible, even when I am. The rumours, Autumn,” Dom muttered, “it got out of hand. It just… I couldn’t stop it, I didn’t know what I was supposed to do so I just, I guess I just…”

“You wanted to make yourself the villain and for me to still not think you were.” I said, thinking of all these years and issues and being so tall that Dom couldn’t rest her head on my shoulder. And I thought of the first time I was kissed and telling Dom about it, and she’d scoffed at me, but then we’d laughed together for fifteen minutes solid about my description of the blokes tongue (not a very good experience, all in all – but I had a feeling first kisses were like that for everyone). We had a lot of memories. A lot of trust, too, which meant it shattered all the more when it finally broke.

“Why are you upset?” Dom asked. If I detached myself from the situation then it might have seemed like a stupid question, but Dom always knew me better than anyone: I wasn’t upset because Dom had spread some stupid rumours and James had issued an ultimatum, I was upset because for years I’d let myself become this victim just like Dom had let herself become a villain.

I’d allowed myself to become small and unimportant, answered my questions as to why by pointing at my reflection and never, not for a moment, considered the fact that I was selling myself short. I’d lost track of who I was and the good things about myself. I believed all this stuff about everyone having a worth and never applied it to myself. I’d watched Dom digging herself into a hole and never thought about my grave. I hadn’t taken control. I’d just let the world happen and blamed it on myself.

“I’m a disaster,” I muttered, pressing my finger into my forehead, “I have welcome printed on my forehead and I let people wipe their feet on me and I convince myself that I should be pleased they’re given me the time of day.”

“Autumn,” Dom said, her voice cracking slightly, “that’s not true.” I didn’t want to look at her and see her face all bathed in life and still twisted into misery. “You’re still not seeing yourself properly.”

“I just mess everything up.”

“There’s a reason we’re fighting over you,” Dom said, levelly this time, “and it’s not to laugh at you, either.”

Dom.”

“For fucks sake, Autumn,” Dom hissed, “you’re biggest fault isn’t the fact that you’re accommodating and nice and a bit too absorbent about what other people say, or the fact that you do have a tendency to not think things through entirely and somehow wind up in frankly ridiculous situations involving stolen invisibility cloaks, okay? You don’t need to break your back trying to prove you have a backbone, because I know full well that you’re strong and for all your forgiveness you won’t put up with my shit beyond a point. The problem with you, Autumn, is that you don’t like yourself and then that pushes everything off balance; you forgive more than you’re naturally inclined to because you don’t think you deserve better, and then you’re more tolerant because you think of yourself as worse, you believe what people say because of course they must be right and… the bad luck, well, I’m not sure that is related. And then bam two people who should have known better push you into an impossible situation and you suddenly have to dig out yourself respect to get through it, leading to this excessive crisis about who you are.”

“I’m making things worse.”

“Honestly,” Dom said, “I’ve been… proud of you.” Dom took a deep breath. “We’re best friends, right?”

“Yeah,” I breathed into the darkness, eyes slammed shut as I looked at my knees.

Dom’s hand slipped through mine.

“I’m mad at you,” Dom said, “in fact I’m bloody furious and I’m upset and I’m hurt and all the rest of it, but that’s temporary. Don’t interpret that as a character flaw on your behalf, either, because it’s not. I think… I think that you’ve been doing well.”

“Pushed me too far.” I muttered, thinking about Dom lying, James omitting the truth and my sister keeping me in the dark. Dom was right. If none of them were able to love me then I had to do it myself, and that was something that I’d been running from for years: Mum couldn’t manage it so no one did, April was bad at it but Dom was controlling and possessive and needed me. And then there was James.

I hadn’t realised that I’d hated myself though, with my height and my stupid impulsive tendencies and the fact that I wasn’t funny. Confronting that was the difficult bit that far surpassed teenage drama. That was what had driven me out of the castle to visit my sister, and then that hadn’t worked either.

This time I chose me.

Except picking Arithmancy was easier. And the me who I thought I could almost be proud of was lost between a gutless bystander and someone cold and unforgiving, and I didn’t know what I really wanted to do and what I felt I had to do to prove that I was choosing myself.

I didn’t think writing Dom and James off was the right thing to do for me because I cared about them and I didn’t think I could forgive myself for not forgiving them. Maybe there was nothing wrong with that. Maybe it was okay for them to be sorry and me to accept that.

“I’ve messed things up with James.” I said quietly.

Getting Oliver to leave his invisibility cloak on his bed wasn’t doing myself justice; it just made me a pernickety coward who couldn’t accept the fact that people did make mistakes.

“I think he messed it up first.” Dom commented. She wasn’t comfortable with me caring about my relationship with James and I wondered whether what I’d done would make her more proud of me or if she’d see it for what it was – a desperate attempt to spring back the other way. Her voice was terse.

“I’ve been a bitch,” I said, finally turning to face her and the light from her wand full on, “he’s going to hate me.”

“Really,” Dom said, folding her arms over her chest and sending the light spinning around the room, “you’re going to sit and talk to me about your relationship problems with my cousin?”

“I listened to you talk about Benson,” I said, straightening up slightly, “even when you’d been horrible, if you had an issue you with any of your shitty boyfriends I listened to you.”

“You lied to me.”

“You never had a right to dictate who I could date.”

“You purposefully kept a secret from me for months.”

“Grow up, Dom,” I said, glaring at her, “I knew exactly how you were going to react and I didn’t want to deal with one of your tantrums.”  Dom remained looking at the wall. “This argument is transitory, Dom, but the primary basis of our friendship is that we’re there for each other when it’s necessary. If your sister turned up right now and insisted you were her maid of honour I’d pretend none of this was happening until I knew you were okay.”

“Okay,” Dom said, her red lipstick twisted into an expression of distaste, “I don’t like it. It makes me uncomfortable. I think its crap but, fine. What have you done that’s so sodding terrible?”

So then I told her.

*

“They’re not going to leave us here forever,” Dom said impatiently, “they were off to Quidditch practice. As you presumably know, James is the Quidditch Captain. They will come and release us after Quidditch. James will still be down at the pitch doing captainy things. You will run up to his dorm, take back the cloak and the map, get out of there and then talk to him in a calm and rational manner tomorrow.”

“It won’t work,” I said, wringing my hands as I looked at the door, “my plans never work. I’ll blow up his bed or accidentally kill someone.

“Autumn,” Dom said, “you only did that once. And it was a gerbil. I think you need to forgive yourself.”

“I’ll fall over.”

“Then get back up.”

“I’m talking about metaphorically falling over,” I said anxiously, “falling at the first metaphorical hurdle.”

“Then metaphorically get back up.”

“Dom,” I said, pulling my knees into my chest and looking at her.

“Autumn Olivia Pearce,” Dom said, glaring at me, “get a grip.”

We both looked at each other for a few long moments before we were grinning. I wasn’t even sure where the moment of euphoria had come from, but it was rising up from somewhere in my gut and god was it a relief. I’d missed Dom. I’d missed this.

There were muffled voices from just outside our broom cupboard.

“I don’t hear them arguing,” Freddie Weasley said from beyond the stone walls and the wooden door. “That’s good.”

“Or it means someone’s dead,” Roxanne said, wrapping on the door for a few seconds, “yell if you’re both dead, please. I don’t want to be convicted for an accessory to murder.”

“Both alive.” Dom called irritably.

“I’m going to need proof of that,” Freddie declared, much too loudly, “are you okay in there Winter?”

“Fine.” I said.

“The Autumn/Winter thing still isn’t funny,” Roxy said dryly. I could almost visualise her expression just outside the broom cupboard. “Okay, we need some proof that you don’t need extra time. Are you or are you not the best of friends?”

“Yes!” Dom said, heel making contact with the door. “We’ve made an unbreakable bond of friendship and made sodding promise rings now open the sodding door before I knock it down and flatten you both.”

“I want a hug.” Freddie declared.

“Desperate, even for you.” Roxy commented.

“Noooo… them. A friendly hug as proof of their continued friendship,” Freddie clarified, “promise?”

“Okay,” I said, my stomach beginning to feel nervous about the amount of time this was taking, “okay, we’ll hug. Just let us out Freddie. Please.”

“Can’t resist a girl who begs.”

“Lovely,” Dom said, pulling herself up to her feet and offering me a hand up. I hadn’t even thought about standing.

The light of Dom’s wand blinked out just before the door opened and we were faced with Roxy and Freddie. Something a little bit like dread stirred up in my stomach, churning; they both had wet hair. They’d had showers and… what if James had decided to shower back in his dormitory? That might mean he’d already seen the cloak? Would he be prepared to listen to me?

“Fuck your hug,” Dom said. Her wand had still been in her hand from its stint as our primary light source, now stretched out and pointed somewhat ominously towards her cousin’s throats. Oh God. It wasn’t like I was surprised, given how much Dom detested them interfering in life and how much the idea that they were trying to help (and actually had helped) would make her blood boil.

I knew she was so fractionally veela that it was barely worth mentioning, but I still fancied that when Dom was angry that she turned into an imposing terrifying creature with high heels and a tendency to throw a tantrum.

“Autumn, piss off and sort it out.” Dom ordered. For a second I was frozen in place, vaguely aware that this particular family argument was all my fault. It was probably going to turn into an out and out duel. Fred Weasley was the sort of bloke to have cauldrons exploded in his face and get stuck to toilets, but I really wasn’t sure whether he had any legitimate duelling skill. Roxanne probably did. I wasn’t sure whether that made me feel better or worse.

Then the whole James thing came crashing back down around me and I snapped into action.

I didn’t know what I wanted to happen with James, but I did know that I didn’t want him to find the cloak. I knew that much. That was a good start.

Why was the Gryffindor Common room always so far away? It seemed I’d an eternity running from one dormitory for another. It was like the founders were purposefully trying to test out my long legs with an excessive number of stairs.

James would have had more flights of stairs to climb than I would have done, so there was still a chance that I was going to beat him there. Then I could throw the cloak over my shoulders and hide in his dorm until the opportunity to leave came around.

Ironically, the map would have been really useful right now.

The Fat Lady again. Before this year I’d almost never ventured to this part of the castle and now I was sure she was beginning to recognise me again.

James wasn’t in the Common Room. Oliver was, though, which meant he was back for Quidditch practice too which was very bad but maybe… maybe luck would actually be on my side for once and I’d be able to fix something instead of slowly but surely screwing it up a little more with each impulsive action?

I burst into James’ dormitory.

James Potter was sat on his bed, one hand balled up in the material of the cloak and the other running through his hair, his expression a flat, steely line.  Obviously, the sound of the door banging open had been enough to drag his gaze away from the cloak and back up to me.

“Autumn,” James said, glancing back at the cloak with a grimace, “really wasn’t expecting you.” 




Okay I'm sorry. Honestly was not expecting there to be another cliff hanger. I am a bad person. Feel free to throw things at me. All thought I can now say with all certainty that there will be two more chapters, and no more cliff hangers ever. I wasn’t expecting this chapter to take so long, either, but I’ve ran into my first bout of writers block (it’s been horrible) and although I’m mostly over it now it still seems to be hanging around my HPFF fanfiction.

Oh, and I’m sorry about this chapter. Really I am. Most of this was written at an inappropriate AM (I’m talking between four and nine, stupid insomnia) and although I’ve read it over four times, I also haven’t slept for… thirty something hours. So I might have accidentally started writing about dancing elephants and not noticed.

OH. And, guys, you’re the best! I’m nearly at number nine on the best of HPFF! It’s been less than a month since I made number 10, so I’m like…crazy thrilled about that and the fact that, madly, I seem to be moving up!  You guys are the best people ever and I adore you.


Chapter 22: And then I start to fix things...
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“Hi,” I said, feeling the word choke out into the silence rather than meaning to say it. James’ expression softened slightly and his grip on the material of the invisibility cloak seem to slacken.

“Hi,” James said in return.

Of course, that’s when all inspiration for conversation or movement seemed to leave me all at once. There was only so much a girl could deal with in the one day before it started to have an adverse effect on their ability to function; despite recent events, I really wasn’t much of a runner, and the run up to the Gryffindor Dorms had worn me out. And it was futile, and confusing, and my head was stuck not knowing which issue I was supposed to be dealing with right now.

How was I supposed to know what was the right thing to do?

“Did you forget to leave an explanation with the cloak, or something?”

“That… that was a mistake,” I said, my throat tightening, “I… I wanted to fix it. I was locked in a cupboard. I didn’t… stupid,” I finished, finally, glancing at the floor, “I was stupid.”

“Roxy and Freddie only just went to let you out.” James said. He looked back down at the invisibility cloak and twisted his fingers through it. It was dumb that the whole thing had started with an invisibility cloak and I’d thought, even for a minute, that it might be possible to dump that on his bed and move on from the whole thing.

“Ran.” I muttered.

“Regular RomCom,” James commented, only slightly sarcastically, “do you want them back then? If it was such a mistake?”

“No,” I said, “I don’t… It just seemed…” I stopped and took a breath. “It wasn’t fair. I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay,” James said, not looking at me, “everyone messes up, after all.”

“James, I am sorry,” I said, “this is all wrong. I’ve been having a bit of a crisis. This isn’t me.”

“Okay,” James said, “so, if we pretend this cloak didn’t appear on my bed, how should this have gone?”

I took another step into his dormitory and let the door shut properly behind me. James’s dormitory was a mess and, if his slightly wet hair was anything to go by, he’d definitely just gotten out of the shower. It was hard to convince myself that some stupid act that I’d done could be the cause of the slightly resolute expression fixed across his features. It was all wrong.

“Tomorrow morning I’d have come and talk to you after breakfast, we’d have met in the kitchens for lunch and had a proper conversation.”

“That sounds good,” James said, “why didn’t we do that?”

“I thought you were on my side,” I blurted out, loud enough for James to drag his gaze away from the invisibility cloak and actually look at me, “I thought you were on my side, then suddenly you weren’t and I panicked.”

“Autumn, I messed up,” James said, “it was just a slip of the tongue.”

“I know, James, I do know that. But I thought maybe I’d just made up the version of you that was on my side, and was sweet and funny and nice. It wasn’t very Ravenclaw of me…” I admitted, stepping further into his dormitory and sitting down on Freddie’s bed – facing him – “but I don’t… I don’t really date much. This is…this is mostly new.”

“Right.”

“And then… because for years Dom’s been telling me you’re a heartbreaker and I just… I had a lot to deal with all at once and I was freaking out and I didn’t think I could trust anyone because you’ve all been lying to me, and it just… I’m sorry about leaving the cloak on your bed, James.”

“That’s rubbish,” James said, looking at me again, “the heartbreaker crap.”

“I know Dom’s biased,” I said, fairly, “and possessive and not your biggest fan, but you can’t… you can’t really claim to not have dated quite… quite a few people?”

James’ eyes narrowed.

“I guess we never talked about that.”

“I,” I stopped, and took a breath, “I didn’t realise I was even insecure about it, but apparently I’m insecure about just about everything.” My eyes were welling up with tears again. I hated the fact that I was apparently unable to maintain a degree of composure for more than ten minutes at a time.

“You’re not writing me off?”

“I don’t know,” I said, shaking my head and blinking. I didn’t know. Because on the one hand, I was refuting the idea of putting up with emotional blackmail like the ultimatum and on the other hand I knew it was just a simple mistake, and half of me wanted to say I’m worth more than that, half of me wanted to say I’m not worth anything. There were parts of me that thought James would only hurt me and other that thought he could make me happy, and amongst it all was the underlying fact that I hated the idea of having boy troubles because I wasn’t one of those boyfriend obsessed idealistic girls who walked into getting their heart broken. “I’m trying to do the right thing.”

“For who?”

“Me, hopefully,” I said, brushing a not-quite-fallen tear off my face feeling frustrated, “I just don’t know what to do with all of this.”

“Double sucker punch?”

“Triple,” I said, “quadruple. My sister’s got a fiancé and my Mother hopes to see me soon.

“Autumn,” James said, leaning forwards so we were closer together, “I’m sorry.”

“I really didn’t expect everything to get so complicated.”

I was crying again. I half hid my face in my hands as I tried to dredge up some basic self-respect from my reserves.

“The girlfriend thing,” James said, “that really is a non-issue, Autumn. I’m not… well, the thing is that I usually avoid complicated.”

“And this isn’t complicated?”

“Well, that’s my point. It’s just like… go on a couple of a dates and that’s fine, but then as soon as things get more serious then I just tend to back out, let people down and get left alone. I’d never date Dom’s best friend in theory – not really – because that’s like major complications and yet here we are.”

“Mostly, I think my family is messy enough without pulling in extras,” James continued, shoulders shrugging, “I’m not going to throw you some epic sob story, I just think – unless someone’s really special – then I’d rather not deal with the drama. We’re teenagers. It’s not like… it’s not like I’m bothered by being alone.”

“And this is supposed to make me feel better?” I questioned, grasping for my knees and squeezing my eyes shut.

“Yes, you Ravenclaw. I suppose it doesn’t make much difference if you’re giving me the boot… but, I like you a lot Autumn.”

I swallowed. There was a sharp feeling at the back of my throat that I didn’t want to think about it. See Autumn, James can be sweet and lovely. James isn’t about to rip you to shreds.

“I like you too,” I said, lip trembling as I looked up at him, “I just don’t…”

“I like that you’re a total Claw stereotype getting upset about an A and half living in a library. And I like that you like animals and are friends with Hagrid and unassuming and barely even realise that you’re hilarious. I’m not going… I’m not going to say that I love you, Autumn, because it really hasn’t been very long… but I think that I love all those thing about you and I think that I could. Love you, I mean. And I’d be pretty gutted if I had fucked this up beyond recovery.”

“I just,” I glanced up at him, “I just don’t know if it’s going to work. I’m… I’m really busy all the time and I’ve been a rubbish girlfriend and I… I really just don’t know…what the right thing to do is.”

“What do you want, Autumn?” James asked, leaning forwards even further.

“I want to be with you and have Dom as my best friend, and for Mum to try and make things better and for April to be open and honest with me and for Oliver to talk to more during term time and for all of us to go to bloody church together and to take the dog and then go to the pub and just sit and talk, and not to be worried that whatever I do is going to upset someone or not going to be good for me, but just for everything not to be a battle of tensions for once, James. And I don’t want to have to struggle with school anymore, I just want to drop a subject and spend more time reading fiction and… and, I don’t know. But I know that’s all impossible and idealistic.

“Permission to kiss you?” James asked, eyebrows quirked up and expression serious.

“Granted,” I said, closing the distance between us myself.

This was new. I had a vague memory of kissing James whilst we were both sat on his bed before, but Freddie had been stuck to a toilet and Roxy had been in the room so it barely counted. James’s dorm mates, it seemed, had all abandoned ship shortly after James had found the invisibility cloak. And James had been sat on the bed when I leaned forwards to kiss him, which meant the only way this whole thing was ever going to go was more onto his bed which was sort of scary and made my head spin even more than it had been doing. It was nice, though, and I’d missed that breathless fluttery feeling that came with James kissing me.

“Mhgm,” I muttered, pulling away, “this…um. Are we…?”

“I’m sure,” James said, smiling properly, “you remember that I am merely a Gryffindor, so can’t actually read your mind.”

“Back together?” I asked, feeling my face flushing slightly. “Is that… erm.  Is that the conclusion to this conversation?”

“I’m not making that decision,” James said, grinning, “You’re making that decision.”

“James,” I said, “this isn’t like putting a time limit on being a secret, this is… we need to talk about that.”

“It’s actually a lot like the time limit thing,” James said, grinning. “Are we back together Autumn?”

“What do you want?” I asked, frustration pulling the corners of my lips downward.

“Autumn…”

“No,” I said, frowning, “I’m serious. What do you want from me?”

“Whatever I can get.”

“I’m asserting my position here,” I said, frowning, “and I want to know what you want so I can work out if that’s something I can do. I’m not… I’m messy, James and…well. I think, maybe, that we sort of were surprised by liking each other as much as we did so made it… made it messy. Because it probably didn’t need to be this messy. And if I’m going to be in a relationship with you, James, then I want it to be a sensible morally good decision that I can live with.”

“You weren’t expecting it to work out before?” James asked shrewdly.

“It was doomed.”

“Are we no longer doomed? Has Dom had a personality transplant?”

“She’s dating Benson,” I said, frowning, “she can’t really talk.”

“And yet she does.”

“Incessantly.”

“You try being locked in a broom cupboard with her.”

“Hmm.”

“Thank you,” I said, “for that. It’s… proof that you’re on my side. Thank you for doing that for Dom.”

I reached forwards and kissed him again. I’d missed James. Admittedly, none of this was actually helping anything given I still wasn’t sure what I wanted in real terms (in imaginary idealistic terms, I could have everything with no effort and at little cost, but that wasn’t going to happen), but… but well, I was only a teenager, I thought I had the right to be a bit of an idiot once in a while.

“I’d like to have a none secret version of this relationship,” James said, “I’d like you to come visit me over the Christmas holidays and introduce you to my mum and I… I’d like to see more of you and go on more dates that aren’t… aren’t all study dates. And I’d like you to be honest with me about things, like with your sister, although I understand if you’re not ready to talk about things.”

“Okay,” I said, nodding, “that’s… that’s doable. I want you to be nice to Dom. Not… not like nice nice, but amiable in a way that she knows you care about her. I’d rather not have the two of you arguing all the time. Can you do that?”

“I’ve been trying,” James said, “to do that anyway. Will Dom be civil to me?”

“I’m not sure,” I admitted, closing my eyes, “I still need to talk to her about that… but I’m going to be pissed at her if she makes thing difficult.”

“I spent half my life thinking Dominique is French for difficult.”

“It’s not,” I said, smiling slightly, “it’s very much not.”

“Are you sure I can trust you to rein Dom in?” James asked, smiling slightly. “You are scared of her after all.”

“You’re scared of birds,” I said, pointedly, “birds.”

“You’re about a foot taller than Dom –”

“- cute little chirping chicks – ”

“– when Dom was five, she asked teddy to marry her.

“And I bet she didn’t take well to rejection, either,” I said, pointedly, “look, Dom’s an exploding Strawberry cream – she might not appear dangerous to you, James, but she’s one push away from blowing up.”

“You’re the strawberry cream,” James said, grinning, “come across as all normal and cute, then you steal my belongings, blow up my bed, ensnare me in a secret relationship then have an exploding life crisis.”

“Why do you like me again?” I asked weakly. “Are you sure you even want to… forgive me and stuff?”

“Pretty sure,” James said, “you’re a hazard, Autumn Pearce.”

“Only when I try and act impulsively.”

“Continue to do so,” James said, grinning, “Freddie loves the drama.”

“Oh shit,” I said, standing up suddenly and blinking, “oh shit, I think Dom’s murdered your best friend. Oh my god, we need to go to the hospital wing.”

“Sorry?”

“After Roxy let us out of the broom cupboard, Dom pulled her wand out on them!”  I said frantically. “Who knows what’s happened to them!”

“We can probably take a guess,” James said, rolling his eyes slightly, “a bat bogey hex, Roxy’s nose jinxed to look like a turnip and Freddie not quite recovered from a hysterical giggling spell – probably one he gave himself after feeling left out of the duelling process. No one is going to be hurt, Autumn.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I don’t know that Gryffindor is going to win the Quidditch cup this year, but chances are… it’s going to happen.”

“Will you just…”

“Yes,” James said, pulling out the map and unlocking it with his wand, “right, as I thought. Roxy and Freddie are heading towards the Gryffindor tower and Dom is… oh, coming too. Well this is going to be enjoyable for all involved.”

“Dom’s coming here?”

“So it seems,” James said, “but that’s fine, isn’t it Autumn? Because you’re not scared of Dom and he’s grudgingly accepted that you can date whomever you please?”

“Not scared,” I said, wringing my hands, “still a little weary though.”

“And whys that then?”

“Because,” I said, taking a breath, “if you keep fighting then obviously I can’t have either of you. That’s my answer to your previous ultimatum, James; if you can’t… if you both can’t support what I need and want then… then I need to start advertising a few vacancies in my life to the wider public. I won’t… I won’t be forced to choose.”

“I have no intention of forcing you,” James said, “I never did before.”

“I know,” I said, forehead creasing, “God, when did everything get so complicated?”

“We should go down and see Dom,” James said, “just… are we sorted?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted, shoving my hands in my pockets and looking at the floor, “I need to think still. I’m… I’m sorry.”

“And are you sorted with Dom?” James asked. It was that slightly edge of competition that made me worry slightly: they were never going to get on, not ever, and… they were both at fault and I didn’t think I could dish out the line of blame like I had this time. It was all or nothing and I wasn’t entirely sure I could have all.

“No,” I said, “we’re working on it.”

“And we’re working on it?”

“Yes,” I said, “one great big work in progress.”

“As long as you don’t blow anything else up,” James said, smiling slightly, “then I guess we should go make sure that they are all alive and kicking downstairs.”

“Okay,” I said, smiling, “okay.”

*

Autumn,

I feel like all I’m ever doing is apologising to you these days. Whilst I’m your sister and that should give me a bit of room to screw up in, for years I’ve felt like I should be doing more for you (given certain people have let you down so thoroughly). So, yet again, I want to say sorry for being useless and sorry for not being there and sorry for not telling you about Ethan.

I don’t think we’re going to get married soon. I think we’re going to try and set down some ties here (which I know is where I need to be) before we rush into anything further. That sounds stupid, because we’re engaged, but I guess that’s just a label to make sure I knew that things were serious (instead of running off and leaving Ethan in Egypt, which you know as well as anyone I would have done).

I solemnly swear that through this process I intend to get to know you and Oliver again. It was stupid and naive of me to think that I could disappear for years with the occasional letter and still know you like the back of my hand. You’re more beautiful and grown up (and tall) than you were when I left and I’m really proud of you, Autumn, for growing in confidence and backbone and forcing me to face up to some of our issues. You’ve been so good to Oliver (who is growing at an alarming rate – why did you two get all the tall genes? Where did they come from?) and anyone in the world can see that you guys are really close.

Basically, I’m sorry again. I never told you to look at the dedication in my book before (don’t worry; I’m not mad at you for not reading it yet. You’ve had a LOT to deal with and are definitely doing too many NEWTS to still be classified as sane!), but I’d like you to read that.

It’s a shame that we’re so useless at communication that it comes down to this, but thank you for demanding that we did.

Lots of love,

The superior sister.



“You’re dropping a subject?” April asked, looking up from my letter and tilting her head at me.

We were sitting in Hagrid’s hut, clutching great flagons of tea and pretending to eat some of his questionable baking. Hagrid himself had, somewhat unsubtly, excused himself to allow us to chat. We’d swapped our letters and read in silence, occasionally taking awkward sips of tea and glancing at each other.

“I don’t have enough time,” I said, shrugging my shoulders slightly, “and… it’s not worth it.”

April used both hands to pick up the great flagon of tea and take a sip, placing it back down on the huge table with a clunk and glancing back up at me.

“I never thought that you liked visiting Hagrid because it made you feel small,” April said, glancing back down at my letter, “I never knew your height bothered me so much.”

“Not… small,” I said, shrugging slightly as I glanced around the Hagrid’s hut, “just not… too tall. Like I could sit up straight without dwarfing everyone. It’s nice to feel minuscule sometimes. It’s comforting.”

“I feel like that most of the time,” April grinned, “especially sitting across from you in a giant’s hut. This makes me feel very small.” I smiled at her, taking another sip of tea with difficulty, and reaching for another of Hagrid’s biscuits. “You’re going home for Christmas?”

“I’ve got to see how it works out,” I said, “one last chance.”

“Appropriately forgiving,” April said, “do you think they’d be room for me for a few nights?”

“You?”

“And Ethan,” April said, slowly, “if you can go back, then I can too. I should never have left you to deal with it by yourself – ”

“- I didn’t want you to put your life on hold, April, I’m glad you went.”

“But I should have communicated. Look at us, Autumn, a pair of sisters who only know how to tell each other how they feel via letter.”

“We’re talking now.” I said, smiling slightly.

“Yes,” April said, wrapping her fingers around the flagon of tea as she caught my eye, “I suppose we are.”

Nothing was perfect.

Everything was still messy and complicated and far too much for me to deal with all at once. I still had too many essays to do and I still didn’t know whether Dom and James would be capable of getting on for my sake, or whether I’d only pushed back the choice for a little longer (I wasn’t sure whether I genuinely believed that I’d pick neither of them, if it came to it… I didn’t trust myself to do that and leave myself alone).

There was no use worrying about it all at once. There was fuel enough there to worry for at least another few years without cramming it all into a few days. It was the small victories that counted.

Neb, under Hagrid’s table, pressed his nose against my leg. April smiled. Dom and James were locked in the middle of a conversation (which was sure to be more like a negotiation than anything else). I was going home for Christmas. Life was happening all around me and I was involved. I was making things happen. I was a participant. I was doing thing I’d never thought I’d do

Maybe I could believe that I was funny, too.




No more cliff hangers! One more chapter! And then, the end is nigh. Thank you to all of you who’ve reviewed lately. I’m amazed by the lot of you :)


Chapter 23: And then I have a merry Christmas...
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 One of the things I’m often hesitant to admit to is the fact that the dancing-in-the-corridor incident (the one which James bore witness too, which led to me nicking his invisibility cloak, which led to the whole messy business in the first place) was not a single incident.

In actual fact, I fully abuse my non-ability to dance on a semi-regular basis. One of my favourite feelings in the world is that feeling you get when you’re dancing around in your underwear: you’re not worrying about how your elbows are too pointy, or your boobs are lopsided, or your hips stick out at a weird angle, and how the skin on your legs looks horrid after you’ve shaved... it’s like an acceptance that you know you look ridiculous, but you’re going to dance in your underwear anyway. You know if you were to see yourself, you wouldn’t think that you were too fat or too skinny, you’d think that girl knows who she is and she knows what she looks like and she’s dancing anyway. To me, that’s always been the ultimate feeling of self security. Even though I only ever danced around in my underwear in the dorm bathroom, when Felicity or Dom were playing their music much too loudly in the next room, it always felt a little like contentment.

I’d been feeling like that all the time for the past few days. It wasn’t going to last forever, I knew that, because there was still a whole host of things that I was insecure about... and, anyway, I felt seventeen was a little too young to know everything about myself. I wanted to keep discovering and learning who I was and what I was capable of, but – temporarily – I seem to have fallen into a giddy, blissful period of contentment.

I wanted to freeze it and live in it forever. I felt solid and permanent and so blindingly real. I felt like, no matter what life had in store, and no matter whom the people I loved grew to be, I would always be able to look back on these few moments and know with all certainty that I was happy in the here and now. These were the sort of moments that would last forever. When I had children, which I definitely planned to do, this is what I’d want from my kids – some blissful, iridescent, infinite moments of feeling secure in who you are.

I was so, honestly and truly blessed. I’d never felt so touched by God.

“Three twos,” April said, placing the two cards down on the top of the pack.

“Cheat,” Oliver interjected, flipping over the two cards and grimacing when they were, in fact, both twos.

“You never trust me,” April grinned, pushing the pack over in his direction with a flip of her hair, “Ethan, why don’t they ever believe me?”

“It’s because you’re a dirty cheat,” Ethan said, his Australian accent still sounding slightly odd in our tiny dining room. I glanced over to the kitchen, where Mum was tight lipped and making cups of tea for everyone, silent.

“That’s the name of the game,” April said.

“I only cheat when I have to,” I smiled, distractedly stroking Neb’s head. He pressed his wet nose into my arms and sniffed contentedly.

April had said she’d only return home if Neb was welcome. I’d had to remind her to rally for her fiancé’s invite too. Mum had been so excited about the prospect of her prodigal daughter even thinking about spending Christmas Eve with us that neither of the events had really been battles. We’d settled on an ongoing war largely taking place in subtext, but it was better... things were better. They were bearable.

They say one of the things you’re supposed to do before you’re twenty five is to make peace with your parents and except that they’re human too: I’m not sure I’m quite ready to forgive my Mum for not being the presence to build me up when I needed her, but I might be able to accept that it happened and there’s nothing that can be done to change that.

Families screw each other up in the most remarkable ways. I think that’s what makes each family unique.

“That’s the problem with playing with you bloody Christians,” Dad said, trying a little too hard but trying all the same, “so moral.”

“Milk, no sugar,” Mum said, placing down the cup of tea in front of me. She seemed to be going to extreme lengths as not to brush my shoulder as she did so, as if neither of us were quite ready for any sort of physical contact. She knew my tea preference though. She tried to smile at me.

We hadn’t talked. Given it was my family and we barely communicated as it was, let alone the fact that they only time I’d really talked to my Mum since leaving for Hogwarts were tense, loaded conversations which both of us resented... I wasn’t surprised that we weren’t in a position to sit down and have a conversation about what had happened and what we wanted to happen.

We’d been watching each other. I’d been trying to work her out. There was a lot of my Mum in April; I half wondered whether my Mother was too convinced that love was a fleeting concept too, or whether there was something innate within her that made talking about her feelings difficult. I thought a lot about post-natal depression. I thought maybe she did love me, but the residue of her failure to love me in those first few months still clung to the corners of her brain. I thought that maybe she didn’t realise she treated me different until I left for Hogwarts. I thought, perhaps, that summer when I came home with a little more confidence and a little more sense of worth that she realised what she’d done and then had to face it, continually, until she could barely look at me anymore.

I decided that even if she didn’t love me, she should. And I had every right to demand that love from her.

She said that she ‘hoped to see me soon’ and that was most definitely enough. For now.

“Thanks,” I said, catching her eye for a split second.

Eye contact was new.

“No one’s called April moral for years,” Oliver said, “look, she’s drinking.”

“It’s Christmas Eve.”

“We’re going to church in a few hours,” Oliver grinned, “four twos.”

“Two fives,” I said, “and I’m sure it won’t make much difference. Most people think April’s drunk most of the time.”

“Cheat,” Ethan interjected, turning over the top two cards, grinning and passing the deck over to me.

“You dirty cheat, Oliver,” I said, inspecting my new hand, “three twos.”

“I can’t handle any more number twos. I’m losing track,” April grinned, “who’s idea was this game anyway?”

“Yours,” Oliver said, dropping his sizable pack of cards onto the table, “but I’m definitely bored.”

“Don’t, Oliver! I can see your cards!”

“And I’ve been looking over your shoulder for half the game, Autumn, and you’re not going to win any time soon.”

“So much for morality,” April grinned, setting down her cards, “I vote we play another game of MagiCluedo.”

“It was Merlin with a draft of Everlasting death in Hogwarts,” Oliver said, “dull.”

“And your preoccupation of death is worrying.”

“I’m a historian,” April said, “it’s not interesting unless the participants are dead. Did you read my book, Dad?”

“I’ve started it,” Dad said, glancing at Mum for a second before frowning slightly.

“Yeah? What did you think of the first page then?” April asked, a touch of frostiness about her voice. I glanced down at my own hand of cards before, too, setting them down on the table with the others. These uncomfortable silences hadn’t been too far away from the past two weeks, but there were more gaping holes in conversation now April was home too – April expected more and still harboured the tendency to push others away.

Me and Oliver had been more used to putting up with this over the years.

“When are your friends getting here?” Mum asked, one hand curled around her cup of tea as she held it to her chest, as if to protect herself.

“Just after eleven,” I said, “they’re apparating here then we’re walking to church.”

“And you’re staying with Dom after Christmas?”

I nodded.

I wasn’t going to tell her that I was spending a night or two staying at James’s house, because I wasn’t yet ready to allow her access to those parts of my life: Dom was safe ground as she’d been mentioned in sparse letters and tense conversations over the years, but James was a whole different kettle of fish. Mum did not need to know about James Potter.

Oliver winked at me.

“Her sister’s getting married,” I said, “she needs sanctuary from the mad wedding planning.”

I need sanctuary from the mad wedding planning,” April said.

“All you’ve decided on is autumn colours,” Oliver said, rolling his eyes and flicking the ace of spades in her direction.

“Inspired by my lovely sister,” April drawled, “an autumn wedding too.”

“April,” I said, “I know you like me, but your whole wedding doesn’t need to be an Autumn-shrine.”

“It’s just cheaper to book out the church,” April said, sticking out her tongue (which, really, she was much too old to do), “although I need to talk to our favourite vicar about that.”

“Not tonight,” I said, “he has enough on his plate with midnight mass.”

*

“So it’s not exactly at midnight, is it? Because it’s only 11:30.”

“The Eucharist is at midnight,” April said, wrapping her green coat around her tightly.

“It’s still a misnomer,”

“Using big words isn’t going to sound your more intelligent, James.” Dom said crisply, shoving her hands into the pockets of her thick grey trench coat with a prim expression. I closed my eyes briefly and tried to remember that I cared deeply about both parties involved in the exchange, and that the fact that they were voluntarily spending time together was great progress.

“Don’t listen to these Ravencalws, James, you’re a genius.” Oliver grinned, his own hand stuffed into thick woolly mittens that I’d brought for him a couple of years ago – with the amount he’d grown and beefed out I was amazed they still fit him. Perhaps he’d enlarged them. The thought made me smile.

“You bet I am,” James said, wrapping an arm around my waist, the material of his leather jacket brushing against my own arm. James look strangely good dressed muggle. I’d expected that odd wizardingly look of wearing clothes that didn’t quite match, but he seemed to have put together an outfit fairly expertly. I was going to have to ask him about that some point.

He grinned at me. I wondered if James felt that strange sense of infinity inside his chest. Everything felt so utterly glorious. There was nowhere else I’d rather be and no one else I’d rather be sharing these moments with – just me, my siblings, my boyfriend and my best friend walking to midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

“Stop deluding yourself,” I said, taking hold of his hand tucked away in his pocket. Inside the leather was warmer than I expected it to be.

“I’m clever for a Gryffindor.”

“For a Gryffindor, yes,” I agreed.

“That isn’t saying much,” Dom said, but there was the tiniest trace of humour in her voice – a definite step in the right direction. I smiled at the pavement – watching as the five of us walked through the darkness together.

“Hey,” Oliver said. “There’s just as many Gryffindor’s as Claws here, so you might want to watch what you say,”

“It depends how you count.” Dom muttered darkly.

“By brain cells,” I added.

“Or by muscles,” James said, making a point of clenching his muscles obviously. I poked his arm, laughing and rested my head against his shoulder. He kissed my forehead. He was too cute.

Thankfully, Dom was walking slightly ahead so she didn’t see. I suspected that was why she’d opted to walk there.

“You’re forgetting the representative of the third house,” April grinned.

“I tried telling her Hufflepuffs were boring, but she didn’t listen.”

“Well,” Oliver smirked, “She is a published historian. That’s hardly exciting.”

“But her work is filled with stimulating new theories,” Dom added, sharing a shy smile with April – who seemed taken aback but smiled anyway. “You are getting married though.”

“Married,” April laughed. “God, isn’t it crazy how much things can change in a year!” She declared – her voice filling up the space in the empty street. Dom glanced at me at that point, a solemn expression in her eyes – as if I’d forgotten her somehow.

“Or even in a couple of months,” James said into my ear, his voice tickling my skin softly. I smiled at him but pulled backwards.

“Hmm,” I returned, pulling my hand out of his and falling into step with Dom for a second. Her face lit up into her normal smile – highlighted and made all the more beautiful by the gold light of the street lamp.

I was quickly becoming a near professional juggler. Given my clumsiness and inherent tendency towards back luck, I suspected the whole business was liable to end up quite messy... but, for now, things were okay, and as long as they both knew I was trying I had a feeling it would be all right.

“Where is your fabled fiancé?” James asked.

“He had to take Neb back to our flat,” April said, “dogs apparently aren’t allowed in churches.”

“I’m actually quite excited,” Dom said, hooking her elbow through mine – not in a possessive way (or maybe just a little bit), but in a nice friendly way – and smiling in that nervous real way of Dom’s which I rarely saw. “I’ve never been to church before.”

“Never?” April questioned from just behind us. Dom shook her head.

“Me neither,” James added. “Well, once – for a funeral, but I don’t think that counts.”

“It doesn’t,” April said. “We probably should have eased you in – started with a Sunday morning service, rather than the deep end with midnight mass.”

“What do you mean?” James asked.

“Well,” I said – exchanging a backward glance with April – “Our vicar, Ben, is great – really he is – but he’s not so brilliant with midnight mass services.” Dom raised an enquiring eyebrow. “Loads of people turn up for Christmas services, you see, and he always feels the pressure of getting people to come back.”

“So he alternates,” April grinned, “From yayJesusisborn to -”

“You’re all condemned to hell,” Oliver finished. “Personally I find the burning lake of sulphur talks pretty funny.”

“I know,” I said. “You wouldn’t stop laughing last time. It was very embarrassing.”

“But that was last year... so hopefully we’re in for another beautiful celebratory talk this time,” April said.

“Are you allowed to laugh in a church?” James asked.

“No,” Oliver said seriously. “You’ll get hit by God’s lightening if you so much as smile.”

“Unless Ben’s trying to be funny – then you’re obliged to laugh at his joke or snap, you’re eternally condemned.”

“They’re not serious,” I told Dom and James hastily, who seemed to be beginning to look apprehensive. “They’ll be no eternal condemning.”

“Unless you’re possessed by the devil,”

“Cut it out, April,” I laughed. “The service will be fine,” I told the other two. “We’ll sing a couple of songs, carols probably, they’ll be a bible reading, a talk – then there’s communion, another song and we’re good to go.”

“Does it finish at midnight then?” James asked. Dom rolled her eyes. Oliver laughed.

“If only Ben’s talks would be that short.” April laughed.

“No James,” I said, squeezing his fingers.

“Then why the bloody hell is it called midnight mass?”

“No swearing either,” Oliver said cheerily. “Or they’ll chuck you onto the pavement. If you’re lucky.”

“Sometimes they make a human sacrifice at Christmas.”

“Even I know they’re joking this time.” James grinned.

“Oh good, it does learn.” I said.

“Shouldn’t your mum be here?” Dom asked, looking up at me expectantly.

“Oh, well,” I said. “If ever someone was going to burst into flames due to stepping in a church then it would be my mother.”

“Now Autumn, that does sound like behaviour in accordance to the contract.”

“There’s no contract,” I said, shaking my head, “you can’t have contracts for relationships. Or point scoring systems. Forgive and forget guys, it’s Christmas.”

“Save the preaching for Ben,” April grinned, nudging me, “although I’ve got to say it’s nice to be home for Christmas for once. And by that I didn’t mean that awkward affair back at Mum and Dad’s, but you know... with you two.”

“No one stopped you from coming home the past two years,” Oliver said, but he was smiling too. Everyone was smiling.

I guessed that wasn’t overly surprising, considering those utterly depressed by the concept of Christmas usually didn’t drag themselves out for midnight mass, but it seemed like everyone was truly content.

Vicar Ben often used to say that happy was temporary but joy was deep contentment rooted in your soul. He said that you could be sad but still no joy, because it wasn’t fleeting or dependent on circumstance, but an undercurrent... a state of mind. I never really believed that it was possible, and it certainly wasn’t probably, but maybe... maybe there was something like that out there.

More likely, it was Christmas and all the people I loved most were making an actual contrived effort to get along and love each other. Still, it never hurt to be optimistic.

*

James glanced at his watch just after twelve and whispered “It’s Christmas.”

Of course, being James his whisper was loud enough that it sent a ripple around the pew in front and behind.  Dom pointedly rolled her eyes, gripped my wrist for a second and mouthed “happy Christmas.” James sent me a dazzling grin. Oliver caught my eye and gave me the thumbs up. April had her hands clasped together, eyes upturned and mouth set in an unconscious smile.

I closed my eyes.

Happy Christmas, I thought. God, thank you for this. Thank you that people can forgive each other and love each other even though we’re damn near unlovable most of the time.

And bring them Joy.

And many Christmases like this one.

And thank you for making me just the way I am, and for the first time, that I’m glad and don’t think I’m too tall or not funny enough and too awkward and not special enough to be loved or listened to. Thank you for that.

Amen.

(Which means, so be it. Or, as Father Ben used to say I really mean it). 




 OKAY HAI GUYS. I can’t believe that I’ve just finished this story. Can you believe I’ve just finished this story? I’m on like a novel finishing ROLL at the minute... but, honestly, this story has been written on sudden bursts of inspiration and long dry spells in-between. I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time apologising to you guys for taking an age to update and then... well, I swear last time I looked this story was on about three hundred reviews. WHERE DID THOSE LAST TWO HUNDRED COME FROM? So just, thank you very much for sticking with this story to the end, hello to the new readers who have appeared very recently (your reviews have made my day), and it’s been a pleasure sharing this with you. BUT DON’T BE AGHAST at this story ending! I am a perpetual-WIP-addict. This is one of ten WIPS (now nine, I guess... wow) and maybe you’ll find something else of mine you might like? And you can always come talk to me on my MTA and what not. And, Wisty has requested an alternative ending in which... well, it’s very different to this one that’s for sure. So that’s going to happen too.

You guys are awesome and I hope you liked the ending :)

Thank you

AC


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