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Beauty Queen by explosion

Format: Novel
Chapters: 23
Word Count: 112,636
Status: COMPLETED

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

Genres: Drama, Fluff, Romance
Characters: Scorpius, Albus, James (II), Lily (II), Rose, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: James/OC, Other Pairing

First Published: 06/23/2011
Last Chapter: 07/23/2013
Last Updated: 07/23/2013

Summary:
Thanks to Camila @ TDA for the beautiful banner!





Being Miss Teen Witch really isn't all it's cracked up to be.

 

Completed. 


Chapter 1: And the Winner is...
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Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to JK Rowling.






 

 

I first performed magic, when I was eight.

I had been at the Little Miss Britain Beauty Pageant, and when I had not won the highest honor, Miss Supreme Miss, I lit the winner’s dress on fire. No one in the audience understood what happened. There Missy had been standing, in her glittery pink dress, as the crown I had coveted so much was being placed on her perfect blond head. The next thing the audience knew, her poofy pink dress was bursting into flames.

No one had suspected the runner up, Natasha Leigh Covington, capable of using her mind to cause the fire. But, I knew I had caused it, as the only thoughts that had flooded through my mind were of Missy burning to the ground. I guess you could say I was competitive when it came to beauty pageants.

But in all honesty, I had practiced my routines for months before this pageant. I deserved to be first place. I had never, ever become runner up before. Runner up was second best, and as my mum told me all the time, I was the best. How could I not win?

My mum, being a muggle, was unaware of the fact that I caused this commotion (she would not find out until I got my Hogwarts letter three years later), and once Missy was safely drenched from head to toe in order to put out the fire, my mother demanded the judges recalculate their votes.

“She has been Miss Supreme Miss every year,” My mum’s shouts could be heard throughout the room. The manager of the pageant who she had been speaking with looked scared. “I do not believe that my beautiful little Natasha is runner-up to a blonde haired, blue-eyed mistake.”

Ouch, that was harsh. All the other mums there knew that the winner, Missy, had been adopted, as her birth mum had been a pregnant teen. But, my mum was just as competitive as I was, if not more, and if there was anything she hated, it was losing.

“I’m sorry ma’am, but the judges have spoken,” the manager had responded in a shaky voice. There was nothing scarier than facing the wrath of Miranda Covington, and I think she knew it.

“The judges have spoken?” My mum snapped. “Let me meet these supposed judges. Just look at my beautiful daughter. She is unique, she is perfect, and she is Miss Supreme Miss material! The winner is flammable for Christ’s sake! She is a hazard!”

However, my mum’s yelling was unable to change the decision of the judges, and I went home in my glamorous blue Swarovski crystal dress with no crown, while Missy returned home with a charred pink dress and the Miss Supreme Miss title. Life had never seemed more unfair in my eight years of life.

So the next year, my mum had me enroll in every pageant available. She trained me nonstop for all of them and we kicked every other little girl’s arses, as I brought home all of the highest prizes. Little Missy, the girl who won Miss Supreme Miss, went unnoticed as I swept all of Britain with my beauty pageant wins.

That day was the only time I have ever lost a beauty pageant, and my mum made sure it was the last.

*

“And now,” the presenter said as he paused for a dramatic effect, inhaling slowly and causing a lull over the crowd, “the winner,” another pause and a deeper inhale, “of the,” another pause and an even deeper inhale. God, this guy took way to many pauses for my liking. Someone should tell him that if he did that in normal conversation people would think he had a brain disease. “Miss Teen Witch competition is….,” another pause, only this time even longer. There was a drum roll in the background and the audience remained silent. This guy really didn’t understand how much I hated pauses.

“Natasha Leigh Covington!” the presenter shouted. The whole audience erupted in applause as I gave a squeal of delight and a huge spotlight shone on me, feigning shock as I came down from my platform. But in truth, I wasn't surprised. I hadn't lost a beauty pageant since the ripe old age of eight.

I walked up the long runway to  where the previous Miss Teen Witch, Saundra O’Connor, was standing with a sour look on her face. Me and Saundra never got along, ever since I beat her out in the Little Miss Witchington competition when I was twelve, so I knew she was annoyed that she would have to give her crown up to me.

When I stood in front of her, she gave me a tight smile, and placed the glittering Teen Witch tiara onto my mahogany ringlets. She then handed me a bouquet of bewitched flowers (that changed from lilies to roses to orchids, etc.), and I grinned at the audience as they continued to applaud.

“Congratulations,” Saundra said, her voice sugary sweet and all types of insincere. Her cherry red lips were parted in a forced smile, and her eyes told me that she would rather be anywhere but handing over her former crown to me. We exchanged a quick hug (which neither of us were really happy about) and I walked to the front of the stage, the glaringly white spotlight following me.

“Natasha Leigh has been the winner of forty-nine out of fifty pageants she has entered in, and this includes thirty muggle pageants,” The presenter informed the audience as I continued to wave. I let out a couple of fake tears, just as my mum had instructed me too once I won, and continued to let my perfectly glossed lips remain in a grateful smile. “She will be winning the two-thousand galleon scholarship promised to the Miss Teen Witch, and will get to tour all of the world next year, to educate young witches such as herself the power of confidence.”

By now, the audience started to throw flowers at the stage, their claps raising to an earsplitting decibel. I stood there in my evening gown (made out of glittering threads that faded into different colors of the rainbow) as I relished the victory.

You see, I was as my mom liked to say, a “certified beauty queen.” In muggle and magic, I was known for my winning streaks at everything I entered.

My mum, whenever she was interviewed by the Daily Prophet or Witch Weekly, always said it was because of my love for being a role model, but it was because I was too damn competitive for my own good.

I hated losing, even when I was eight I knew that.

Before my mum had found out I was magical, I had been enrolled in almost every muggle beauty pageant since I was three, when my dad had walked out on us. I think she liked to believe that every time I won a pageant, it was proof that my father was really missing out. That I was this perfect daughter not worthy of being left behind. But, my dad did not come back begging to return to our family, as I think mum had expected. Instead he held no contact with us, and refused to acknowledge that he had a daughter.

When I was eleven and got my Hogwarts letter, my mum had thought it was a joke or something. How could her beautifully perfect daughter, be magical? But then she started to put together every incident that happened in my life that was seemingly unexplainable (like poor Missy catching on fire) and it all made sense.

So, when my mum entered the magical world with me, she discovered the concept of beauty pageants for witches. With all the magical costumes, and incredible prizes, my mum had instantly enrolled me in all of the pageants she could get her hands on, and that resulted in our crossover into the magical world.

I, however, was not able to attend Hogwarts, as it would interfere with all the competitions my mum had planned for me. So my mum hired a private tutor instead and had me homeschooled. In her words, winning pageants was more important than anything an education could give me. I wished a lot of the time that my mum had just let me attend Hogwarts, and lead a normal life if only for a little. But, normalcy was not on my mothers to-do list.

“That’s my baby,” I heard my mother shout from the front row, as she clapped and wooped louder than the rest of the crowd. I could see tears forming in the corner of her eyes as she watched me onstage, in all my crowned glory. “That’s my beautiful baby girl!”

I cringed inwardly at the embarrassing display my mother was putting on, but continued to wave to the audience as fifteen crestfallen girls stood behind me, all done up with nothing to show.

I really hated the idea of beauty pageants. No matter how hosts tried to twist them into being about self-confidence, pageants were all about looking the best, and being the perfect model of perfection. I hated the idea that you could lose just because your smile faltered a bit, or you happened to loose your footing as you walked across the stage.

I then looked back at my mum, who caught my eye and gave me the thumbs up and mouthed ‘I’m so proud of you’. This was the moment of pageants that I lived for. Having my mother standing there, beaming up at me, proud to have me as a daughter. It’s moments like this that I hold close to me, whenever I compete.

Because in all actuality, I did them for her.

*

“Oh darling, you were just a vision,” my mum exclaimed when I walked out of the dressing rooms. We were in the back of the auditorium that the event had been held in and there was a huge crowd of parents waiting for their daughters to emerge. I had changed into my favorite pair of worn Brew Religion jeans, and a thin white t-shirt, happy to get out of the restricting gown I had worn throughout the night. There was nothing better than the feeling of taking off a really uncomfortable gown, and slipping into your most comfortable outfit.

“Thanks mum,” I said as she took the gown I had once been wearing (which had now turned a bright shade of violet) out of my hands and folded it delicately over her arm. Her newest husband, Winston Mackenroe, was standing a couple feet behind her, looking lost.

“Yeah, Kiddo,” Winston said about to ruffle my hair, but thinking better of it and just letting his arm hang there awkwardly. “You did good.”

Winston was the fourth, and most definitely not the last, of my mother’s husbands. My mother always seemed to fall hopelessly in love with every new man that entered her life, and threw huge weddings after a couple months of dating, really believing that each guy was ‘the one’. Shockingly, they never ended up being the one. They ended up being ‘the right at this moment’ or 'the never again'. In the end, they always did something to disappoint my mum, shattering her idea of a perfect happy family, and she’d demand a divorce. Then with each split, we were able to claim a huge sum of money to live off of, seeing as my mother didn’t work (being my manager was her job apparently), and then she would meet another new man, restarting the vicious cycle. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I was guessing that Winston would only last until the end of the year, if that, before getting chucked. He tried too hard to be buddy-buddy with me and didn’t quite understand the concept of pageants, which annoyed mum to no end. I was shocked that she had even ended up marrying him in the first place. He was totally different than her normal 'rich man with a purpose' and he reminded me of a turkey sandwich: boring with not much to him. He worked for Gringotts as one of the managing bankers, and he always used weird lingo like 'Vault her up' and 'Galleons Galore' which embarassed me to no end. But somehow, he had stolen Miranda Covington's heart, and had wound up with me as a daughter, as unwilling as I was.

“Honey, she did not just do good,” mum started to say, wrinkling her nose at the word. “She did outstanding! She won the most coveted title in all of England, in all of the world!”

Winston seemed to notice his mistake, and immediately apologized to me. It was almost sad how wrapped he was around my mother’s well-manicured finger. “Of course,” he started to sputter, as I looked around the room, scanning the crowd for that familiar head of blonde hair “a huge deal!”

As soon as he said this, I spotted the glimmering hair I came to recognize so well. I gave Winston a quick thanks, told my mum I’d be right back, and charged to the middle of the crowd.

“Doooom!” I shouted at the petite blonde. She turned her head around looking for the owner of the voice, and once she spotted me rushed over, squealing.

“YOU WON!” Dom- short for Dominique- shouted giving me a hug.

Dominique was my best, and probably only, real friend. I had met her when I entered my first ever magical beauty pageant, as she had been a contestant as well. We had hated each other at first, because I was threatened by the fact that Dom was so naturally beautiful (being part veela really had it’s advantages), and she had hated me because I was in her words ‘the most perfect pratty princess in all of Prattville’.

It didn’t help when I had ended up beating her in the competition, which had shocked her to no end, because before I arrived on the scene, magical pageants had been her territory. After competing against her several times, and beating her each time, she had eventually accepted me as an equal, and somehow we managed to become friends.

She quit doing pageants once she hit thirteen, because she didn’t like them anymore, and she preferred to play Quidditch instead. She also told me that it was always a shoe in that I would win, and it wasn’t worth it anymore to try and compete. So instead, she came to all of my competitions and cheered me on.

I was jealous that she had been able to quit, and even more jealous that she was able to attend Hogwarts. But how could I possibly go to a school full time, when I had a full time duty as a pageant queen?

“Yes I did win,” I said with a laugh, as Dom unwound her arms from around me. She gave me a toothy grin and I cracked a smile back at her.

“I knew you would. When you started using those firework batons, it was obvious you had it in the bag,” Dom said referring to the talent competition, in which I had twirled batons that shot fireworks out of each end, instead of flames. They were an invention my mother and I had worked very hard on, in order to wow the judges.

And yes, I was the typical pageant girl who twirled batons as a talent, but honestly it looked pretty bloody awesome with all the lights hitting me and then fireworks flying all over the stage. It was one of my favorite performances I’ve ever given, completely exhilarating in every sense of the word, and I don’t know how I’d ever top it at another competition.

“Hello Dominique,” my mother said walking over to the two of us, Winston in tow. “How lovely it is to see you!”

Here's a secret: when my mum says it’s lovely to see someone, she really means 'I wish you would leave'.

My mum didn’t actually like Dominique very much. Mostly because Dom and her mother, Mrs. Delacour-Weasley, had showed much animosity towards each other when we would compete. Their rivalry still went on, even though Dom and I were friends, and my mother always got super polite and snarky whenever she talked to Dom.

“Hello Mrs. Mackenroe. I was just congratulating Tasha here on her win. She was simply outstanding,” Dom said politely back. She was forever trying to get onto my mother’s good side, to no avail.

“Yes, well Nata,” My mother said turning to me and giving me ‘the look’, “You have a big day ahead of you tomorrow with this huge win under your belt, so we really should be getting home.”

I sighed. I had hoped that maybe I could go out with Dom to Florean’s and get a bit of ice cream or something, but mum did not want to let me celebrate I guess.

“But muuuum,” I said dragging her name out. “Dom came here just to see me compete, and I wanted to hang out with her for a bit as celebration.”

My mother, being the dramatic that she is, heaved a greater sigh than me. “It’s just so late, honey. And Winston needs to get home soon too as he has a meeting with the Minister early tomorrow morning about making another Gringotts. Maybe you can celebrate some other time.”

I looked at Dom, who looked just as put out as I did. I knew trying to argue with my mum was a lost cause, so I closed my mouth tightly ready to agree with her and head home.

“Oh I don’t mind,” Winston said, cutting into the conversation before I had a chance to respond. “Just let her celebrate, Miranda. She deserves it.”

I gave Winston a grateful look. Maybe he wasn’t so bad after all. Dom seemed to get excited as well. “Oh mum, can I please? I won’t get back late, I promise. You won’t have to wait up for me!”

“Well,” my mother said, sensing that she had lost the argument. “I guess that would be okay, but I want you home in an hour. And no eating anything unhealthy, you hear? You need to stay in shape. You’re a winner now.”

“Of course mum,” I lied. I knew there was an ice cream sundae just waiting for me at Floreans. “Bye mum, bye Winston.”

“Bye Mr. and Mrs. Mackenroe,” Dom said eagerly. “I’ll make sure she’s not out late.”

“I’m sure you will,” my mum said with a fake smile plastered on her face. Yup, my mum was not happy.

*

“I don’t understand how you do it,” Dom said to me as we sat at Florean’s, each of us eating our own sundae. “Your mum never let’s you do anything for the fear of it interfering with your ‘precious pageanting’. I mean you won, and she’s making it sound like a job! Why can’t she just let you celebrate your victory?”

I looked around the inside of Florean’s and noticed it was completely empty except for a young couple sitting in a corner right by the windows. I guess no one came to get ice cream once eleven o’ clock rolled around. I adjusted my legs so that they rested across the booth I was sitting in, and looked back at Dom.

Dom was expressing the exact feelings I felt, but I was defensive anyway. “She’s just doing what she thinks is best. She wants me to stay serious about this so that I don’t lose my crown.”

Dom gave an annoyed huff. “But you don’t even like competing!” she exclaimed as if to prove a point. This was a common conversation that happened between me and Dom. Dom always tried to get me to tell my mum that I hated competing, and I always refused.

“So what? It makes my mum happy!” I responded.

“You can’t just do it for her benefit. You practically give up your life just to make her happy,” Dom said giving me a disbelieving look.

“Dom, come on, I still have a life.” As I said these words though, I knew Dom was right. My life revolved around what pageant I was competing in next. And then, when I won the pageant, it revolved around sticking to the directions the pageant program gave me, in order to keep my crown.

Normally these involved typical things like not being seen at any parties, no swearing in public, and under no circumstances could I be seen near any type of alcoholic drinks. I needed to maintain my good image for the sake of the program, and could in no way disappoint the thousands of little girls who looked up to me as Miss Teen Witch. However, I did have a more uncommon contract this year, and that was part of the ‘normalcy agreement’.

The whole idea of the normalcy agreement was for me to do something that made me seem normal to the public. It would make me more relatable, therefore making the Teen Witch Enterprise more relatable, and in the end would bring in a lot of retail. Or so they hoped.

“But you don’t have a life, Tash,” Dom said softly. “Why can’t you just tell your mum you want to quit, and attend Hogwarts with me? Its so much fun there, I swear, and I have amazing friends, who I know would love you!”

This had not been the first time Dom had tried to convince me to attend school, but I knew it was not an option. My mother would never agree to it. And besides, I had just won Miss Teen Witch. As soon as January rolled around, I would be touring the world. Not to mention all the press junkets I would have to attend beforehand.

“Dom, you know I can’t,” I said as I took another bite of my sundae, savoring the sweetness as it melted on my tongue. Mum would kill me if she knew that I was eating all of these calories, but the ice cream was too good to pass up.

“Just think about it, okay, Tash?” Dom said widening her eyes at me. “I’m just worried about you is all.”

My face softened as she spoke these words. Dom really was just trying to take care of me. “Okay, I’ll think about it,” I responded, even though I knew I wouldn’t.

This seemed to placate Dom for the time being, and she grew back to her bubbly self once again. “So tell me,” Dom said leaning in, “how did it feel to see the look on Saundra’s face when you won?”

I laughed as I thought back to the sour face Saundra had, as she placed the crown on my head. “Pretty dang good.”
 







A/N: Hello to any of my lovely readers reading this! I've had this story written for quite a while, but since I didn't want to have too many things going on at once during the school year, I postponed posting it until summer started. And voila! Summer's here, and this story of mine has made it's way into the queue (imagine that!).

Well, I would love to know what you all think of this story. It's the one story that I think of as my baby, because I really love the characters so far and am having a bunch of fun writing this (not to mention I know exactly what I want to happen).

So please tell me if you like it or not, because feedback means the world to me!

-Rebecca

 


Chapter 2: A Signature's Worth A Thousand Words
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Disclaimer: I'm not JKR, alright?







 

 

“Nata, time to wake up,” my mother sang as she opened the door to my room. I kept my head buried under the covers of my bed, and pretended I was still asleep.

“Nata,” mum said louder, opening the curtains to my room and flooding it with light. “Up, honey!” She walked over to the edge of my bed and leaned over me, continuing on with her chatter, “We have too much to do today for you to sleep in, sweetie. There’s that interview with Witch Weekly this morning, since you’re going to be on the cover, again. And then we need to meet with the head of Miss Teen Witch Enterprise and talk to them about their plans for you. And after that we have to get your outfits fitted for the next couple of press junkets you’ll be attending, as you must look your best. “

I sighed inwardly as I listened to the long list of things that I had to do today. I almost wished it wasn’t the summer; because at least then I would be able to take a break from my pageant life-style and have my home-schooling professor educate me.

I might sound like a nerd when I say this, but I actually love learning about magic.

“Nata,” my mum said through gritted teeth, finally losing her patience. “I said UP!”
With that she tore the 800-thread count, unicorn-haired sheets off of my bed, causing me to open my eyes.

“I’m up,” I said, my voice drowsy, as I picked my head off of the insanely comfortable pillow it was leaning against, and pulled my body upwards.

“Good girl,” mum said kissing my forehead. Her flowery perfume filled my senses and I was instantly brought back to those times when I was little, and I would come crying to my mum about something or other, just to have her hold me tight and tell me everything was going to be okay. Oh how long it's been since those days. “Now I have your clothes already set out for you, so just get changed into those, and maybe throw on that really cute gold chunky necklace. I’ll be in, in a few to do you hair and makeup. Okay, sweetie?”

I nodded my head, still too tired to say much. My mum took that as enough of an acknowledgement, and started to head out of the room before stopping and giving me another look, “And honey, don’t forget to floss extra good.”

“I know, mum,” I called after her annoyed as she disappeared out of the room. I rolled my eyes when I knew she couldn’t see me, and languidly pushed myself out of the bed.

I walked over to the armchair in the corner of my room, and picked the white sundress off of it, holding it out in front of me to inspect it. The dress looked as if the swishy skirt would fall just above my knees, and it had thick straps, that resulted in a square neckline. I sighed to myself, wishing I could just wear a pair of jeans and a simple top, but knew that mum would not find that at all presentable.

So I walked into my private bathroom, showered, washed my face, brushed my teeth (yes, I did floss), and changed into the white sundress my mum had picked out for me.  I found the chunky gold necklace my mum had been talking about, and put it on as well.

When I finished getting dressed, I walked over to the vanity table in my room, and sat down on the matching vanity chair, resting my palm on my hand waiting for my mother to come back in. I took in my mahogany curls and creamy complexion. My heart shape face was complimented by rosy pink lips, and I had long, thick eyelashes framing my forest green eyes. But as I continued to look in the mirror I managed to find my flaws. My lips weren’t as full as I wanted, seeing as the top lip was a bit thinner than the bottom. My nose, while straight, didn’t have a smooth slope like I wished. And I was sure I had a spot about to erupt right in the middle of my chin.

“Are you ready for me to do your makeup?” My mum said peeking her head into my room and breaking me out of my thoughts. She saw that I was sitting in front of the vanity, and took this as a yes, walking over to me.

My mum was actually quite the looker, even at her older age. She was tall (about 5’9) and candle slim, which is mostly thanks to her personal trainer. I had inherited her height, and also her mahogany hair, but whereas mine fell in perfectly coiled spirals, my mum’s was pin straight. My mum also had brown eyes, whereas I had inherited my green ones from my dad.

“So honey,” my mum said, as she pulled out my makeup and turned my chin from side to side, inspecting my face, “Do you remember the answers we practiced for the interview today?”

I sighed as she started to spread a thin layer of foundation over my face the makeup feeling cool and impossibly heavy against my skin. A painter creating the perfect mask. “Yes, mum.”

“Well then let’s here your platform,” My mum said clucking her tongue with impatience and then starting to put powder on my face. She always made me practice every possible answer to questions I could be asked when interviewed, as she never wanted me to have a moment of saying something without her having it planned out beforehand. Heaven forbid I give an answer that is not mum-approved.

I gave another sigh, but then recited the rehearsed lines I had practiced to death, “The cause that is always near to my heart is the Witches Without a Wand program. In this program, Witches Without a Wand help those less fortunate witches, who don’t have enough money, because of desolate situations they were left in, afford their own wand. A wand is a part of a witch, and its such a sad thought that almost fifteen percent of the world’s population doesn’t have enough money to afford one.”

While everything I was saying sounded overused and over-said, I really did believe in this cause. I had used it as my charity every time I won a pageant, and it really was an amazing program.

“Pretty good,” my mum said when I finished talking. She started to put a little mascara on my eyelashes as I held my breath waiting for her to finish her critique. “But say it with more feeling. Maybe start off with the fact that fifteen percent of wizards can’t afford wands, and then explain how Witches Without a Wand helps them, only be a little less wordy. And get a little choked up when you talk, interviewers love that.”

I just gave a grunt, and my mum finished off my makeup with a slick of gloss. Next, she pulled my hair into a low ponytail, and had me put on a white bow-headband to hold back any escaping curls. After this, she tilted my head from one side to the other, inspecting my face again for anything she had missed. I noticed her lips purse, which meant that she had found an imperfection. To fix it, she raised her hand and pulled out a clump that had formed from my mascara.

“Perfect,” my mum said giving a satisfied smile, moving her hands away from my face. I looked back in the mirror at my perfectly done makeup that brightened my eyes and made the spot on my chin look nonexistent. A camouflage of sorts.

I thought about my mum’s concept of perfection. The fact that it meant everything on the outside matching up and looking just as it was supposed to: my eyeliner straight and dark, my eyelashes long and separated, my hair smooth and glossy. Was this really what people thought of as perfect? Was I perfect? Hardly. Perfection was different than what my mother thought. It was about barreling through the put together outside, and making your way into the parts of you that nobody else saw.

As I thought this, I realized that my mother would never understand my idea of perfection. So instead, I gave her a weak smile back and remained silent.

*
“And for our last question,” the interviewer, Amy, started to say, “what do you think you’ll do after pageants?”

When I had first arrived at the Witch Weekly interview room, Amy had made it known she was there strictly for business. Her tight bun pulled at the top of her head and crisp navy suit showed she was a force to be reckoned with, and she had been shooting questions at me rapid fire throughout the entire interview, trying to get any juicy information she could out of me. She had gotten pretty pushy when asking about my family life, but I had expertly dodged those questions, and she had asked me multiple questions about my own person life, which I given short and sweet responses to. So, it was safe to say I was starting to really dislike Amy and her never-ending questions.

And now, here she was, asking me the one question that I hated the most. Because in all honesty, I had no clue what the answer was. What was I other than a pageant queen? What would I do once I got too old, and there was nothing left except my crowns and sashes?

“Well,” I said trying to buy some time as I looked at my mum who was sitting in the corner of the room. Amy had not been happy about my mum attending. She had tried to get me on my own, but my mother had insisted that since I was still a minor, I should be accompanied by an adult. So, after a lot of back and forth, Amy had reluctantly agreed, and forced my mother to sit as far away as possible. But now, my mum noticed I still hadn’t come up with a response and started to mouth something to me that either said ‘stay in the business’ or ‘work with rhinoceroses’. One could never be quite sure.

“I love competing so much, that there’s no way I could really imagine doing anything that doesn’t have to do with it,” I started. Merlin, I could taste the lie. “So, I’ll probably do something to stay in the business, maybe even start my own pageant scholarship program. It’s just such a great thing to pass on to young girls, that they can be beautiful and smart, and benefit from that.”

Amy seemed to give a disbelieving sniff, but she scribbled down my answer anyway in her dragon-hide notebook. I could tell she looked down on me for competing in pageants, as if I was nothing more than a silly girl that twirled batons and paraded around on stage like a prize. I wanted to tell her that I wasn’t that girl, and that I didn’t ever want to be her, but as usual I remained silent.

“That is such a great answer, no wonder you always win,” Amy said giving me a tight smile. I gave her my pageant smile in return and her mouth pulled itself even tighter. “That’s all the questions I have for you today. Thanks again for giving up so much of your time!”

Amy stood up and offered me her hand, and I gave it a quick shake. “The pleasure was all mine.”

Pageant Rule Number One: Even if you hate someone, you have to pretend to like them, because it can come back to you and bite you in the arse.  So, as Amy started to pack up all the things she had brought with her I continued to smile at her and be my pageant-y self.

My mum came over, from her spot in the corner of the room and gave me a huge smile, grabbing my arms. “Oh honey, you gave the perfect answers! This article is really going to make the public love you even more.”

Public? Love me even more? I highly doubted that. It’s not like I was a celebrity in the wizarding world, I was more like a celebrity in the pageant wizarding world. Which was significantly smaller and very much unheard of. But, my mum seemed to not care about this little fact, and pretended I was some shining star anyway, glittering and twinkling for all to see.

“Now let’s get to that Teen Witch meeting okay, Nata? We can’t be late, it’ll look bad!” I followed my mum as she hurried over to the only fireplace in the interview room, which was up and running, just for us. We had informed the Witch Weekly magazine of our tight schedule, and they had made sure we had access to the Floo network so as not to be late. Since mum wasn’t magical, and I wasn’t old enough to apparate, this was the only form of travel we could really do.

My mum grabbed a handful of Floo powder, shouting “Miss Teen Witch Enterprise” into the fireplace and went spinning away.

I waited a few moments and composed myself, watching as Amy gave me one more tight smile before leaving the room, her heels clacking in a staccato rhythm as she dissappeared around a corner. I then prepared myself, closing my eyes and pinching the bridge of my nose in comfort, for yet another meeting of fake smiles and unsaid words. Merlin, I was just so tired.

Finally, I grabbed my own handful of Floo powder, and repeated what my mother said. I went swirling through the fireplace watching as rooms upon rooms appeared in front of me, none of them the one I needed to get to. Each place I passed was like a roulette wheel, spinning and spinning until slowing down on the one place I supposedly belonged.

As I fluttered pass another person’s dining room, in which the mother was having trouble getting one of her children to eat dinner, I shut my eyes so that I wouldn’t get dizzy. When I opened them, I was standing in a long white hallway and I instantly thought that of every place I pictured I belonged, this was not even close to it.

“There you are,” my mother said as she stood outside the fireplace looking anxious. She grabbed my arm and started to pull me with her down the long white hallway. The sound of her footsteps was the only thing I heard before she began to speak, “I was beginning to worry that you got lost and wound up somewhere else.”

I had only taken a minute to compose myself before going into the fireplace. Trust my mum to worry the entire time.

We continued to walk down the hallway, and then took a left and walked down another longer hallway with a huge brass door at the end of it. It had a large knocker in the shape of a phoenix on it, and my mother knocked on the door, smoothing her hair as she did so.

“Now let me do all the talking unless I say so, okay?” My mum commanded me.

Okay, mum,” I responded, a bit annoyed. Before she could say anything else though, the large brass door began to open and reveal the office of the Miss Teen Witch CEO.

When I saw the room, I felt my stomach become a bit on the nauseous side, so I closed my eyes and opened them again, trying to make the vision that I saw change. When I opened them again I half expected to be in a different room or at least for the room to be a different color. But no, the room was still the same: brighteningly and glaringly pink.

It was everywhere I looked. The walls were hot pink, with huge windows framed in pink, and pink drapes hanging over them. The bookshelves were pink, the file cabinets were pink, even the desk was pink, not to mention all of the things covering the desk were also pink.

While I didn’t hate the color pink when I was suddenly overpowered with it, I found myself frantically searching and begging just to catch a glimpse of another color. As if maybe the color pink was the only thing I would see again for the rest of my life.  So, I looked at the walls searching for another color, any color, to save me from my pink-induced reverie. So I looked at the wall, on which hung various pictures of previous Miss Teen Witch winners, hoping the difference in color would bring me comfort. However, when I looked at the wall behind the large pink desk in the middle of the room, I saw a blown up picture of my winking face. It was a bit creepy and not at all calming.

However, a clearing of the throat instantly interrupted any more of my own color freak-out, and I looked behind the desk to see who had made the noise. Sitting in the plushy pink swivel chair was what I guessed to be Georgiana Spectre: CEO of Miss Teen Witch Enterprise. She had a mass of blonde curls clipped onto the top of her head, and was wearing a pair of black cat-eyed glasses and a crisp black suit. Her nails were painted a shocking shade of pink and her lips were painted a bright red.

All in all, she was pretty intimidating.

“Well hello to the both of you!” Georgiana said getting up and stretching her lips into a smile. It reminded me of a smile a cat would give to its prey. She then walked over to me and offered her hand, which I gingerly shook, before turning to my mother and shaking her hand as well.

“It’s so good to meet you,” my mother said giving a charming smile to Georgiana.

“Well now, take a seat, take a seat,” Georgiana commanded, gesturing to two (you guessed it) pink chairs and then making her way back to her own seat.

My mother and I both sat down. I slouched a bit as I watched Georgiana shuffle through her desk, and my mother immediately shot me a disapproving look. I quickly straightened my back as Georgiana finally found what she was looking for and dropped a thick stack of papers onto her desk with a thud.

“So,” Georgiana said as she kept her smile intact, looking at me, “how does it feel to be the newest Miss Teen Witch?”

My mother looked at me, silently telling me to make sure I said what I practiced, and I responded in my peppiest voice, “It’s fantastic! I’m so truly honored that I was chosen!”

“Good,” Georgiana said nodding her head not really listening much to my answer, except for the fact that I was complimenting her company. “We’ve never been more sure of our Teen Witch winner!”

I nodded my head, my fake smile still in place.

“So,” my mother said cutting into the conversation and getting down to business, “we’re here to discuss Natasha’s schedule?”

“Yes,” Georgiana said turning from me and focusing her catlike eyes onto my mother. “We have a couple of things you need to sign first as part of the contract. You know, the usual minor details.” With that, Georgiana handed the thick stack of papers to my mom.

A couple my arse.

“It’s going to be so exciting,” Georgiana continued to say, her eyes drilling holes into my own as my mother immediately hunched over the papers, scrupulously reading them to make sure she didn’t miss a detail. “You’re going to be traveling all around the world, come January and staying at the best of the best hotels. You’ll be living every girl’s fantasy.”

Every girl’s fantasy. I was reminded of my grammar school days when my teacher, Mrs. Hogendecker, stood in front of the room mercilessly pounding into our minds that writing in absolutes was forbidden. To her, it was always about the wiggle room, the spaces in between.

“Fantasy,” I echoed back to her thinking about all the pageant girls in their glorious ball gowns, floating around the stage and worrying about every single step, holding their breath so they didn’t mess up. Is that what my life was? A fantasy?

“Well, this all seems to be in order,” my mother said once she finished scanning the last page and let out a satisfied smile. “I’m sure Natasha will be able to keep to the contract restrictions with ease, and will represent Teen Witch Enterprise perfectly.”

My mother was probably the only person in the world that could turn any conversation into a sales pitch. The prize being sold? Me. Always me. Wrapped up and complete with a pretty pink bow. 

“Yes, well I didn’t think you’d find anything quite troublesome in the contract,” Georgiana responded easily as my mother signed her name with a flourish, dotting the i’s with extra vigor. “It’s just the usual precautions. No drinking, no smoking, no partying, no boys.”

“No boys?” I asked confused, not remembering hearing that as being part of the contract. I knew boyfriends wouldn’t really be an issue for me though, because I had absolutely no contact with guys… ever. My mother kept me on too tight a leash to let that happen. As she said, a girl as beautiful as me had to be protected from all the heartbreakers out there.

“Yes,” Georgiana responded her mouth tight. “We think it not to be safe to have our Miss Teen Witches in relationships or being seen with boys at all. They always add unnecessary trouble to the company, and the relationships never work out.”

“Well that will not be any trouble at all, right Nata?” My mother said looking at me, her smile so big that I wondered if her face could crack in half. I smiled back at her and nodded my head enthusiastically.

“Yes of course,” I responded, to my mother and Georgina’s pleasure.

“Good!” Georgiana said as my mother handed the contract over to me, gesturing for me to sign. “And also there’s that whole normalcy part of the contract that I’m sure you’ll figure something out for. We just want you to get involved in something that will make you more relatable to the public.”

“I’m sure we’ll figure something out,” my mother responded. I looked down at the contract, the words blurring together and swirling around in front of me. Georgiana seemed to notice that I had yet to sign the contract, and her smile pulled itself a bit tighter.

“Oh and Natasha, don’t forget about your photoshoot next week! You’ll be getting your first ever billboard in Diagon Alley!” Georgiana said, although I felt like she was saying it to me more as a bribe to get me to sign, as her eyes didn’t leave the fluffy pink quill in my hand.

The billboard was the one thing that excited my mum the most. It was probably the hugest prize I had ever gotten as a win, and my mother thought of this as a segway to get contracts with a bunch of different companies. What one company wants, they all want. Don’t they?

“Oh honey won’t that be so exciting?” My mother said clapping her hands together in happiness. She seemed to notice I hadn’t signed yet either, and gave me a look commanding me to do so.

I don’t know what was taking so long for me to sign the contract. I guess I was just so hesitant at the fact of signing all these rights away just with one scrawl of my name. It was like losing in exploding snap: Game over. Caput.

 With my mother and Georgiana’s eyes now on me, I finally pressed my quill to the contract page and signed my name in my usual chicken scrawl. I never had the neatest handwriting, to my mother’s dismay, and it looked so tiny and jagged compared to my mothers loopy signature.

As soon as I handed the contract back to Georgiana, her catlike smile reappeared and I suddenly felt like I had just signed a deal with a devil.

“Natasha Lee,” Georgiana said, her red lips curving around each word, “Welcome to Miss Teen Witch Enterprise.”
 







A/N: Dun dun duuuuuuuun. She signed it, she signed it! Oh how could Natasha be so stupid?

Well, anyways, my lovely lovely readers, what did you think of this chapter!? More importantly, what do you think of Nata's mum? What do you think about Nata herself? What do you think about Georgiana?

I'm sorry for this chapter taking so long to come out but with the queue being closed, and me being away for two weeks it was hard for me to get internet access for long periods of time so I barely was able to answer your lovely reviews, let alone post this chapter. But hopefully it did not disappoint!

I have big plans for this story, so if you'd love to stick it out with me that'd be amazing!

Thank you all for being amazing readers and reviewers, and making me so incredibly happy:)

-Rebecca


Chapter 3: Gotta Love that Romaine
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: I'd only be so lucky to be JK Rowling.





 

 

“So you just signed it?” Dom asked me her face disbelieving as she stopped looking in the mirror at the braid she was making, and looked at me instead. She then turned back to the mirror and made an unsatisfied face at the loose strands coming out of her braid, and immediately shook out her silver hair to start braiding again from scratch.

“Obviously,” I responded, causing Dom to turn back from the mirror and scowl at me. “I mean what was I supposed to do?”

“You were supposed to say you’d think about it,” Dom announced, walking straight towards the fireplace my head was currently talking to her from, and wagging her finger at me. “You were supposed to ask your mum to stop being a control freak. And you were supposed—”

“Dom,” I interrupted, immediately feeling my defensiveness kick in when it came to my mum being mentioned. “You knew I was going to sign it. I won Miss Teen Witch, it kind of comes with the package.”

Dom let out a sigh to calm herself, and then sunk down onto the carpet in front of the fireplace. “Sorry,” she said after a few seconds of silence. “I just hate seeing you do things that make you unhappy.”

“I’m not unhappy,” I responded automatically.

“Just like your not happy,” Dom pointed out.

“Dom,” I said not being able to stand the conversation anymore. “I’m happy. I’m living every girl’s fantasy.”

“And what load of shit told you that?” Dom asked. “Head of Teen Bitch: Georgiana?”

“Dom, come on. Can we just leave it?” I said, obviously annoyed.

I mean I know that Dom was trying to help and trying to make sure I was happy, but I could deal with this all myself. It’s not the first time I’ve ever won anything and had to sign a contract, I could deal with all of the restrictions just fine. Dom was just worried, and being overly protective of me as usual.

“Fine,” Dom said blowing a strand of hair out of her face as she stood back up again, her feet sinking into her starch white carpet as she did so.  I could tell she was still a bit annoyed at me, and I felt a stream of guilt wash over me. Dom was just trying to be a good friend.

“Nata?! Naaataaa?!” I heard my mother call just as I was about to apologize for my snappiness. I heard the sound of her footsteps clacking across the hardwood floor coming closer to the room I was in. My mum didn’t like me using the fireplace to talk to friends, especially Dom, because it distracted me from concentrating on my pageant duties. So, I knew if she saw me using the only fireplace in the house without her permission, she would not be happy.

“I have to go,” I said to Dom who only nodded her head stiffly in response. I pulled my head out of the fireplace just in time for my mother to open the door and see me sitting cross-legged on the floor, pretending to flip through a Witch Weekly magazine.

“Oh Nata there you are,” my mother said letting out a breath she’d been holding.

“Yup, here I am,” I said as I flipped to the hairstyle pages of the magazine, and pretended to look interested in a particularly bee-hive like style.

“Well,” my mother said, eyeing the hairstyle I was supposedly admiring and wrinkling her nose. “Winston is going to be a bit late for dinner, so I was thinking we could discuss what to do for your normalcy campaign.”

As my mother said this though, I felt all the tiredness of today wash over me again. I had been running around nonstop: faking smiles, signing life-changing contracts, getting uncomfortable clothes fitted. All I wanted to do was rest.

“Now? I was kind of hoping to relax for a little, I mean we just got back from getting my clothes fitted and all days kind of been this big blur so…” I trailed off as I noticed my mum’s face morphing into an understanding look that I knew well.

“Honey, I understand what you’re saying. But really, this won’t be tiresome at all. It’ll be something fun for us to do,” My mother said, her voice soothing and her hand reaching out and smoothing down the back of my hair. I felt my eyelids close a little at her touch, and wished I could stay like that forever.

“It’s just..” I said to my mum, looking at her expectant face, “I’m really tired mum. I was kind of looking forward to—”

“Well how about this,” My mother said, her expert-like convincing coming in handy as always. “How about you wash your face, change into some comfortable clothes, and I’ll fix you a little snack to eat before Winston comes home, and then we work on the normalcy contract.”

My mum always seemed to be able to figure out any negotiation that would make following her rules seem reasonable. There was always another alternative, that while she made it seem like it was completely different and understanding, it was really the same. So, disagreeing just made me seem difficult.

I sighed. I really was in no mood to spend even more time than I already had thinking about pageants. “Do you think we could do this tomorrow?” I asked desperately, wishing that my mum would let the subject drop.

“Oh well… if you really are tired honey of course we can. I just thought it’d be fun to plan it with you but if you don’t want to….” My mum said softly, disappointment evident in her tone.

I pinched the bridge of my nose and let out a sigh before looking back up at her, “No mum. Never mind. It’s fine. I’ll be right out so we can get to planning.”

“Honey it’s fine if you don’t want to,” my mother responded unsure, although she was already looking a bit more cheerful at my change of heart. “It’s really no big deal if you want to relax.”

“No mum,” I said forcing a smile onto my face. “I want to. It’ll be fun!”

“Well then I’ll be right outside. I called up Georgiana to kind of clarify with her the whole idea of this campaign and it’s all about connecting with the whole wizarding community…” But I wasn’t really listening to her. Instead I was preparing myself for what was going to be a very long and excruciating conversation of my mother and I trying to figure out what could possibly make me seem more normal. My mother continued to blab while I got up and followed her out of the room. “—make people able to see past the pageant you and into the you that we all know and love…”

While my mum continued her big spiel about the entire campaign, I nodded my head in agreement even though I wasn’t listening. Her eyes were flushed with excitement, her cheeks glowing happily at the thought of yet another project to work on, that would make it all about me… And her. Always her.

She looked at me as she opened the door to leave the room, and she paused midsentence at whatever she was saying, “I’m just so proud of you honey. The best daughter I could’ve asked for.”

And as she said those words, I felt the anger in me start to dissipate, and my heart tug a little. No matter how overbearing my mum could be, I still loved her, and I knew that deep down all of the things she did were, in her eyes, done for me.

*

I don’t really know much about my father. Most of the things I know are what I’ve heard from my mum in passing, or from friends of my mum’s that she had back in secondary school.  However, most of the things they told me were very watered down and not at all plausible, but there were a few things I did know for certain.

The first thing I knew was that my mother had been very wealthy. Her family had come from old money, passing down from hand to hand, child to child, and my mother had been promised the same trust fund. There were, of course, precautions that her parents had taken in order to ensure she didn’t get all the money without earning it, and these involved things like going to college, earning a degree, getting married to a wealthy man, and having children. In that order. No ifs, ands, or buts.

However, my mother met my dad in secondary school, and that whole order was thrown out the window. Apparently, my father had been quite the bad boy, loving and leaving every girl around, and being the lead singer of a heavy metal band just added to his allure. He had noticed my mum, with her beautiful looks, and glittering trust fund, and she had instantly captivated him.

So, he started to ask her out, pester her continually until, yes finally, she agreed to go out with him. It had taken quite a lot of convincing to do so, in fact, the only reason she had agreed was so that he would stop asking her. Apparently it had gotten quite annoying.

But, after their first date, everything changed. My mum fell for him, and as I remembered her saying to me when I was just a small child, with a smile playing at her lips, “I was a goner.” After that there was no separating them. They dated up until the end of secondary school, and then my dad had asked, no begged, her to join him in London while he and his band tried to make it big.

My mum’s side of the family didn’t like my dad. They thought of him as a useless young man, with ambitions that would never amount to anything. So, my mother was hesitant about joining my dad. She was supposed to go to college, get a degree, find that perfect wealthy man and have his children.

My mother didn’t listen to her parents though. She ran away with my father and she gave up her trust fund, trading it instead for an apartment above a pub, living off canned beans and warm beer that was so completely different than the lifestyle she had once had. My mum loved it at first, I think. The excitement of being on her own and not having her parents telling her what to do every second.

Eventually they got married. It wasn’t anything big, it was just a quick ceremony at some greasy bar that my dad’s band was always playing at. She didn’t wear a gown, only a simple white sheath that fell just above her knees, nothing special done to her hair or makeup. I knew this from the wedding photo I had seen of them, stashed away in one of the drawers in her room. She was beaming at the camera, my father’s arm snaked around her waist as he wore a leather jacket and stuck his tongue out at the camera. His band mates were in the background, making goofy faces and wearing jeans and a t-shirt, while my mother had had no one at the wedding to represent her.

I think my mum really expected my father to make it big. To become some famous rockstar that would prove to her family that they were wrong about him. However, that day never came. Instead, there were bills to pay, with my mom working some half-ass waitressing job, while my father refused to work unless it was doing gigs with his band, which, let’s face it, wasn’t much work.

My parents were exceedingly poor throughout there marriage, and the secondary school romance they had once had, started to deteriorate around them as they argued about everything from the bills to when my dad was going to find a real job. Then, my mum got pregnant with me. I think it was one of those last ditch attempts at making a failing marriage work.

It kind of worked, for a while. After I was born my parents did stick it out together, if only for my sake. But then, three years after my birth, my dad couldn’t take it anymore and he left. I don’t really remember much of him. It’s all just blurry edges around a face I’ve seen a couple of times in pictures. Nothing concrete.

It really hurt my mum when he left. They had been this totally in love couple that were supposed to be together forever. She gave up everything for him, her trust fund, her life, her parents. And all she got in return was me and a broken heart.

I think that’s why she loved the fact that I won pageants. It was proof that while my father had deemed me unworthy enough to stick around for, I was a perfect daughter. And after I started gaining more and more esteem in the pageanting world, my mother could hardly contain her excitement. She was this relentless force, entering me time and time again into every pageant she could, pushing me to win, to prove I was the best.

And I always was the best, no matter what she made sure of it. She was able to push and prod and make sure that, no matter what, I achieved everything I could hope for. My own personal fairytale, with the happy ending she never got.

*
Buzz. Buzz. I felt the pocket of my jeans continue to vibrate, as I ignored the noise and picked at the salad my mother had specifically chosen for me to eat for lunch. She had gone on and on about how it was made with this special Romaine lettuce that was imported from the winding mountains of Brazil. Whatever that means.

After taking another small bite of my salad, I pulled the cell phone out of my pocket to check what was making it buzz. The screen showed me that Dom had just sent me a text, which I quickly opened:

I just had the most brilliant idea on the face of the earth.

I found myself instantly rolling my eyes after reading the text. Dom always goes on about ideas she has, and they never turn out to be brilliant. Trust me. I deleted the text and shoved my phone back into my pocket, making sure my mother didn’t see.

The whole idea of getting a cell phone had been Dom’s idea. Since I was a muggleborn, I knew all about electronics and gadgets that never quite made its way into the magical world. When I had told Dom about cell phones once in passing, she had started looking into them, and decided that the both of us just had to have them. We’d be able to communicate whenever we wanted, which was something we were never able to do because of my mum.

My mother had been tentative when it came to getting me a cell phone. She saw it as a threat to my concentration, and did not want me to have one for fear of it becoming an interference in my life. However, after begging her for almost a year and making countless promises that it would be used only for contacting her (and Dom who had her uncle come up with a magical shield so that she could use hers at Hogwarts) she finally got me my own phone: pink and glittery and totally not my taste but it was a phone so I couldn’t complain. 

“So honey,” my mother began to say, leaning over the new birch wood table and looking directly at me. “How is it?”

“How is what?” I asked confused, as I wondered if she had seen me looking at my phone.

“The salad,” my mother responded back rolling her eyes at my forgetfulness and gesturing to my plate. “With the Romaine lettuce.”

The pocket of my jeans buzzed again and I hoped more than anything that my mother didn’t hear. She didn’t seem to notice anything suspicious, and continued to look at me for an answer.

“Oh,” I said looking back at the plate of salad and forcing a smile, “it’s great! I really think the Romaine adds an extra kick to my taste buds.”

“It really does, doesn’t it?” my mother asked rhetorically, nodding her head as she admired the leaves of Romaine. I took this as my chance to check my phone again, and it was yet another text from Dom:

TASHA CALL ME ASAP! This idea is something that will cause a REVOLUTION.

I felt myself growing mildly curious as to what exactly Dom wanted to tell me, but another text popped up before I could think too hard:

Tashy! I know you’re reading these and refusing to respond because your probably eating some stupid fancy salad, but this is IMPORTANT. Call. Me. NOW.

It was almost scary how well Dom could predict my life. I finally decided that Dom had waited long enough and opened the keypad up to reply when—

“Nata, put that away, now. You know I have no tolerance for electronics at the dinner table!” my mother said, finally noticing that I was not in fact, admiring the new Parisian carpets, but was instead reading Dom’s texts.

“Sorry, mum,” I responded automatically, closing the keypad as my phone buzzed again, signaling Dom was sending me yet another text.

“Who are you talking to?” my mother asked, noticing that my phone was still going off.

“Oh no one,” I said shoving the phone deep into my pocket as it buzzed another time. “It’s just some stupid application download that I don’t know how to turn off.”

I heard my mother mutter something about not understanding why I needed a phone, but before she could suggest anything about taking it away I immediately took a couple more bites of my salad. “Mmmm, gotta love that Romaine.”

*

“You know you almost got my phone taken away!”

“Be more careful next time when you check your texts, you’re always awful at trying to pretend you’re not,” Dom responded easily, her voice crackling a little over the phone.

“I am not,” I shot back.

“Au contraire, I think your mother would like to disagree.”

I let out a huff and flopped myself face up onto my bed, my hair fanning out around me in a wave of mahogany curls. I kicked my feet up in the air to give myself something to do, and held my phone tighter to my ear to hear Dom.

“So,” I said growing serious, “what is this brilliant idea you’ve come up with?”

“It is not an idea, more as an epidemic,” Dom stated dramatically. I could just see her now in my minds eye, sitting in her room, spreading her hands out wide in excitement.

“An epidemic,” I echoed back, not sounding the least bit excited.

“Yes!” Dom shouted into the phone, a bit louder than necessary causing me to pull it away from my ear. “Something that will change your whole life!”

I looked at the pale blue walls of my room, and rolled my eyes, sincerely doubting Dom’s credibility. Now this is the girl that convinced me last year, that buying a new pair of jeans was going to change my life, whatever she was suggesting could hardly be enticing.

“So what is this life changing epidemic?” I asked Dom, knowing that she was waiting for me to ask just that.

“Well,” Dom said, immediately slowing down her telling of the idea, just to get me to want to know what she was about to say even more. “It’s really quite simple.”

“Mhmm,” I said back, not acting the least bit interested.

“So simple, in fact, that I’m surprised you didn’t think of it first…” Dom said again, still dragging out her revealing of said ‘epidemic’.

“Dom just cut the crap and tell me,” I said, calling her out on her way too dramatic revealing of her ‘idea’.

“Okay, fine,” Dom said, seeming a bit put out. “You always have to suck the fun out of everything though.”

“Do you want me to listen to the idea or not?” I commanded, putting my finger over the ‘end’ button as a threat, even though she couldn’t see me.

“Okay, okay!” Dom said panicking a bit. “It’s just... Do you remember the normalcy agreement that you told me about?”

I rolled my eyes again, “Yes, Dom, of course I remember. My mum’s been hounding me for the past three days trying to get me to come up with something.”

This was true. Ever since the day of my meeting with Miss Teen Witch Enterprise, my mother had been continually asking me what I wanted to do to make myself more relatable to the public. She had left countless pamphlets of things for me to do: join the Gobstones Group, get a job at Madam Malkins Robes for all Occasions, she had even suggested that I join the traveling magical circus, even though that would hardly make me be able to relate to many.

“Well then I have your solution!” Dom announced.

I felt myself growing mildly curious now at what exactly Dom was suggesting and pulled the phone back closer to my ear. “And what would that be?” I asked.

“You could attend Hogwarts!” Dom stated, her voice floating over the line in a symphony of excitement.

“Um, Dom, you do realize that’s impossible right?” I told her, immediately popping whatever pretend bubble she had around her that this could work.

“No but Tashy, I’ve really thought it out,” Dom exclaimed. I wrinkled my nose at her determination. “It’s perfect. I mean you’ll totally be able to relate to all teens your age by going to school with them. It’ll make you seem much more normal by integrating with the rest of us unworthy souls.”

“Oh shut up, Dom,” I said rolling my eyes at her exaggerated explanation. “It’s not going to happen.”

“And why not?” Dom asked, an edge appearing in her voice.

“Well for one, Dom,” I started with a this-is-so-obvious voice, “my mother.”

My mother would never let me attend Hogwarts. She had kept me away from that school her whole life and there was no way she would suddenly have a change of heart and let me go. Education was not on the top of her to-do list, or mine for that matter. It was about the pageants, always.

Dom seemed to sigh a little over the line as I said this. “Your mother has to let you go sometime.” As she said this, we both knew she wasn’t talking about going to Hogwarts. “I mean it’s not like you’ll be able to do this forever anyways.”

I considered Dom’s words before I spoke again, “Yeah but I think she hopes that I will be able to do this forever.”

I thought about my mum with her powerful presence and manipulating eyes. I knew for certain that I would do this forever too, if that’s what my mum wanted of me. I was all she had in the end, while her string of husbands were only temporary, I was permanent. If I let her down what kind of daughter would I be?

“Natasha, come on,” Dom said, her voice taking a no-nonsense tone. “Suggest the idea to your mother, in fact, suggest it to Georgiana: Miss Teen Bitch Head Executive. They’ll totally go for it if you spin it as a part of the normalcy agreement, I swear.”

Dom was always saying things like ‘I swear’ as if that would guarantee a happy ending. Like she could wave a wand and suddenly everything would be as cookie-cutter as could be: all sharp edges and straight lines. These words were all too familiar, as she forever tried to convince me to do anything: from sneaking out to sneaking in Dom was always the puppeteer pulling the strings. If my mum wasn’t pulling me one way, Dom was pulling me the other.

“Fine, Dom,” I said to her if only to quiet her. “I’ll suggest it, but I highly doubt—”

“Yay! You’ll totally love me for this later,” Dom exclaimed.

I felt the words I was going to say leave my lips and float away to wherever unsaid words go. I would just suggest it to my mum, she’d shut me down, and then the stupid idea that Dom had come up with would be over and done with. I could then chalk it up on my long list of things that could’ve been, like waterskiing or skydiving. A leap that fell short.

“I’m sure I will, Dom. I’m sure I will,” I said as she continued to chatter about how amazing Hogwarts would be if I joined. Her words were all hurried and jumbled and so overly excited that I couldn't help but roll my eyes.

I immediately pictured a wind up toy: the ones that you turned a million times and then a toy shoulder would start marching forward, to whatever destination he’s pointed in. I wondered then if this was how it felt like to be a toy soldier: having everyone around you point you in the direction that you were supposed to go, with no choice but to follow.
 





A/N: So there ya go! Another chapter :)

And now the inevitable questions: What did you think? Do you like Nata? Do you like Dom? What do you think about Dom's suggestion? What do you think about Nata's whole parents issue?

Let me know what you think in a review below because I'm really curious as to what you all are thinking! I'm really coming to love this story a lot and I'm super excited as to where it's going.

I guess that's all I've got to say, except R&R if you'd like!

-Rebecca

 

 


Chapter 4: What Do You Want?
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Disclaimer: It's JK Rowlings, not mine.






 

My first impression of Dom was that she was too much. She was too pretty, too chatty, too skinny, too popular, too… too… perfect. It was overwhelming to just be faced with this wall of perfection, and expect, in any sense, that I could possibly beat her in a beauty pageant.

So there I had been, my first ever magical beauty pageant, sitting at the one vanity table backstage that was shoved in the corner, listening as all the other magical girls were huddled in a circle, Dom at the center, giving them pointers on their walk-and-pose. Her hair sat around her shoulders like a halo of light, and I remembered the feeling that I had had when Missy won the Miss Supreme Miss title, right from under my nose.

“It’s all about the swivel,” Dom had said, standing up from her ornately decorated vanity seat and starting to demonstrate. She walked up across the dressing room floor, moving her hips in a side to side motion, and once she reached the end she did what could only be described as just that: a swivel. “You see: it’s all in the hips.”

I had immediately doubted her words. While my experiences with magical pageants were nonexistent, I had never once seen anyone in the regular beauty pageants I had been in, swivel their hips in such an ostentatious manor. However, all the other girls in the dressing room just soaked up her knowledge, asking her to demonstrate it again and again, over and over, swivel by swivel.

I remained distant from all the other girls. I didn’t know them, they didn’t know me, there was no point in me trying to talk to any of them about how unfortunate doing the swivel made them look. So, I sat in front of my mirror reapplying my lipstick every so often, and making sure my eyeliner stayed in place, while behind me all the other girls were practicing and in their eyes ‘perfecting’ the swivel with Dom’s help.

It was only when the pageant had started, and all the other girls walked in their evening gowns on stage, doing the swivel like Dom had practiced, that I realized just how ridiculous they all looked. Girl after girl entered the stage, doing the now famous swivel, and you could tell by the judges faces that they were a bit confused as to what was going on.

Then, Dom entered the stage in her evening gown, which was made out of the most luxurious silvery blue silk I had ever seen, matching her eyes and highlighting her sheer beauty. She walked down the runway with the most poised grace I had ever seen. I was the last one that would go, so I watched from backstage, wearing my own lilac dress made from fairy dust and unicorn silk, holding my breath and waiting for her to mess her walk up with that stupid swivel she had taught to all the girls.

However, I waited in vain. She did not swivel, she glided and posed just as expected, keeping a beatific smile on her face, while the other girls that had gone before her watched her shocked as if they’d been slapped across the face. The judges seemed to smile, finally happy to not see the familiar shaking of the hips, and it was then that I realized she had tricked them all. Every last girl.

She had made it seem like she was helping them, giving them tips that would improve their chances, but in the end it had all been a game of sabotage, to make sure she would get the crown.

I remembered feeling this icy hot anger in my veins at the fact that she had done such a backhanded thing to all of those girls, so open and ready to trust her as their leader. So, when it was my turn to go, I made sure that I walked just as gracefully, if not better than Dom, my steps even and light, like a prance from one place to the next. I couldn’t let her win, for the sake of those girls, and that’s what kept me going the whole competition.

When I won the pageant, I remembered the shocked look on Dom’s face, how her mouth had formed a comic ‘o’ and her face just seemed to drop down to the floor in embarrassment. I felt satisfied.

It was only after the end of the pageant that my mindset began to change. When my mum had gone off to the loo to freshen up before we left, I waited alone in the dressing room, all the other girls having left and congratulated me for winning. I heard the sound of a woman speaking angrily out in the hallway, and opened the dressing room door a crack to see what was going on.

The woman yelling was Mrs. Delacour-Weasley, and she looked ready to blow. Her face was filled in anger, her posture stiff as could be, and all that anger was directed at Dominique.

“I cannot believe you let yourself lose,” Mrs. Delacour-Weasley had said, looking at Dom in disdain, as if she was the dirt on the bottom of her shoe. “I thought I had told you to win.”

She said win as if it was the key to life, like anything other than winning was not good enough. I was reminded of my mother, so hell-bent on me succeeding, that I felt myself in some strange way, feel like I could relate to Dom.

“I’m sorry, maman,” Dom had said softly, all former confidence she had once held, gone. Her eyes were red rimmed, a sure sign she had been crying, and her whole posture was slack.

“Why did she not do the swivel?” her mother had asked again, not caring that Dom was already upset enough. “I thought I told you to teach them all. Not whoever you wanted.”

“She was new,” Dom started to say her voice still sounding dejected, “I-I didn’t know that she would win.”

At this, Mrs. Delacour-Weasley had straightened up, picking an invisible piece of lint off her black v-neck sweater, and said in a clipped tone, “Well I expect you’ll think twice next time, now won’t you?”

Dom had nodded back instantly, reminding me of a robot, and I remember turning away from the door, not wanting to see anymore. It was hard to dislike someone so immensely, when you knew that you shared something so similar to them that shaped you into who you were. We both had controlling mothers and that was that.

After my fourth magical beauty pageant win, I remember bumping into Dom in the dressing room, just me and her in this huge room, no longer bustling with the sounds of a million different girls. She had been sitting in the corner of the room, her knees brought up to her chest, her makeup gone, and there was something about the scene that I just knew wasn’t right.

“Hey,” I had said to her slowly, not sure if I should really say anything at all.

“Oh,” Dom had said, looking up at me, and it was obvious yet again that she had been crying. “Hey.”

There was a long silence between us after that, with neither of us sure what to say. “You know,” I started, even though I didn’t know, “you did really good out there. No swivel and everything.”

I remember how weird it felt for her to just start laughing, her mouth seeming totally opposite of her eyes, a walking paradox of emotions.

“Thanks,” she had said, her voice a bit raspy from the crying, I suspected. “You too.”

And somehow, through that entire conversation we were able to convey to each other just how much things could change. The next couple of pageants, we managed to keep a friendship, and soon enough, we were inseparable. We had enough in common to make us surefire friends: we were pageant queens, our lives dictated by whatever our mothers told us to do.

Both our parents hated our friendship because, of course, we were always competing against each other, and it supposedly ‘got in the way of our priorities’, but neither of us stopped being friends. Our friendship grew, and we grew, and soon it wasn’t just pageants that held us together.

However while I was more silent with my hatred of pageanting, Dom became vocal, always being the bold one, and she was able to quit. Her mother wasn’t happy about it from what I could tell, although Dom never told me much, but her father supported her decision wholeheartedly, overriding Fleur. And with that, she was able to leave the pageant world. The fake smiles and glittery crowns were nothing to her anymore. Maybe they never had been anything to her in the first place.

But that was okay. She was strong, stronger than I could ever hope, and I remembered envying her but not for the reasons I once did. I mean yes, she was still too pretty, too bubbly, too skinny. But she wasn’t just that. She was able to take charge, dictate her own life, break away from the cage she’d been locked in. I watched her morph and grow and fly away, still stuck from mine.

*

“A little more happy,” the photographer said, as my mouth was pulled into probably the largest smile possible. I wondered how on earth he expected me to look even happier than I did, and felt my smile droop at the thought.

“No, happy! Happy, happy, happy!” The photographer commanded, as if by saying the words over and over I would suddenly become whatever he was expecting.

The Teen Witch billboard shoot had been going on for about an hour now, and I could feel myself visibly shrinking, wishing any second that this photo shoot could end. The red sequined gown the stylist had picked out for me, was becoming incredibly itchy along the shoulders, and the crown on my head was pinned down so tightly that it was starting to yank out bits of my hair.

In a last ditch attempt to give the photographer what he was looking for, I decided to stop my psychotic smiling and instead blow kisses to the camera, making the picture incredibly cheesy, but also—

“Brilliant!” The photographer exclaimed, the shudder clicking about twenty times as he continued to capture my face giving the camera coy yet cutsey looks. “Absolutely perfect!”

After taking a few more photos, and going on and on about the genius of each pose, he finally declared he had the right shot and put the camera down, walking up to me to shake my hand.


“Stunning photos, really,” He said to me, his voice sincere and his eyes filled with excitement. “If you ever want to do another photo shoot or something, here’s my card.”

He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a small index like piece of parchment, with Dennis Creevey: Photographer Extraordinaire written on the front. I nodded my head in a smile that didn’t quite reach my eyes, and put the card in my pocket as Dennis Creevey turned away.

My mother stood to the right of the shooting area, smiling at me and nodding her head as she talked to the photo shoot director, pointing at me occasionally. I knew she was probably talking to the director about me, making another sales pitch about just how perfect I was, and I felt myself grow frustrated.

I had been getting annoyed at my mum more than usual over the past week, and I knew that while there were specific instances I could point my annoyance at, there were much deeper, more underlying details, that were just starting to be shed into the light. It had all started a couple of days ago when I suggested Dom’s idea to mum.

We’d been eating dinner. Winston was sitting at the head of the table cutting the filet mignon my mother had ordered from take out, seeing as she wasn’t the best cook, while my mum and I ate an arugula salad. We’d been having the usual uncomfortable conversations, where Winston tried to act interested in my pageanting, when really knowing nothing about what he was asking.

“So,” Winston had stated, leaning forward and giving me a friendly smile, “have you come up with your normalcy-what’s-it for that pageant thing?”

My mother had cringed slightly, at the fact that Winston just didn’t seem to understand pageants. To her, it was so undermining of everything I did, to act like a pageant was just something forgettable.

“Um…” I said, buying time as I used my fork to push around the tomatoes on my plate, “Not quite yet.”

My mother tensed a bit as I said this, feeling the pressure of having only one more week before our next meeting with Georgiana, in which we had to have a suggestion. Her lips pursed as she grabbed her glass of wine, and took a small sip of it.

“Well then,” Winston said, looking excited, “I think I have a good suggestion for you!”

My mother’s face tensed even further, and she put the wine glass down with a bit more force than usual. However, Winston didn’t seem to notice, and continued to talk, “Because of the new Gringotts Bank opening up, we were thinking that to give it some more publicity, we wanted someone to work at the place that could kind of be a face of our company. You’d do secretarial work mostly, and then probably do some press work during the opening, to get girls more likely to open up accounts in our new place, but I thought I’d ask you if you were up for it.”

My mother’s face instantly changed from tense to relaxed and she looked at me with a smile, “Oh, honey! What a wonderful idea, don’t you think?”

Winston smiled and seemed pleased at his suggestion, while I sat there motionless. Working at a bank, more importantly, working at Winston’s bank, was not something I wanted to do. I would not only have my mum making quick stop-ins about every second just to make sure everything was going okay, but I’d have to deal with being another face of another company, most likely with another contract. I wasn’t sure if I had the energy for that.

“Well,” I started, not looking at my mother as I responded to Winston, “I’m not sure… it’d kind of conflict with Miss Teen Witch, don’t you think? Representing another place.”

My mother looked at me confused, not sure why I was turning down Winston’s offer. Winston however, cleared his throat, “Oh it’s fine if you don’t want to do it, it was just a suggest—”

“But Nata,” my mum interjected, not wanting me to give up this opportunity, “It’d be perfect! You already know how to be the face of companies, and being the face of more than one at a time would make you insanely well-known.”

Again, I highly doubted this. Being a pageant winner did not guarantee fame at all, no matter how much my mother wished.

“I don’t know…” I said trailing off.

“Oh honey,” my mother said again, instantly putting on her soothing voice. “It’ll be perfect. How about you just finish your dinner, sleep on it, and we’ll go to Winston’s work tomorrow and talk to them about the company, okay?”

I felt, like I so often did, that my mother was twisting the exact same suggestion into something else. Directing my life until there was nothing left for me to do but accept it and agree. But, for some reason everything just felt different. As forks scraped against plates, and the fan above us spun and spun, I felt myself become aggravated. Maybe it was because Dom was finally getting to me, or maybe it was just myself, but the feeling was there, something I couldn’t push away. So, I took a deep breath and thought of Dom’s suggestion, bracing myself for a conversation in which I didn’t play my usual role.

“I actually kind of had my own idea,” I said, my voice wavering a bit as I suggested it. I looked down at my plate, twirling my fork around my food, not wanting to see my mother’s reaction.

“That’s wonderful,” Winston said supportively, not sensing my mother’s quietness. I could tell he was trying as always, to get onto my good side, and I suddenly appreciated his support, however feeble it was.

“And what is this idea, Nata?” My mother asked, her voice tight and her eyes seeming to narrow a bit.

“It’s just… Dom and I—”

“Dominique helped you with this idea?” My mother asked, as I, too late, noticed my mistake. My mother didn’t trust Dom, and didn’t trust our friendship, even after all of these years.

“Not really,” I said quickly, even though the idea was in fact Dom’s idea. “She was just there when the idea happened.”

“Mhmm,” my mother responded, not at all convinced. “So what is this lovely idea?”

I felt my fingers dig into the back of my palms, as I took another breath, telling myself to go forward, “It’s to attend school. Hogwarts specifically. I thought it’d make me more relatable to girls my age, by actually going to school with them and learning.”

My mother’s face did not seem at all happy about my suggestion, and she wrinkled her nose instantly. “Oh no, no, no. You know that we can’t have that. You’re too busy as is to put school on your plate as well. How will you attend all your press junkets if you’re gone?”

This would normally be the point when I backed down, if I had even made it this far in the first place. But somehow, Dom’s voice repeated itself over and over in my head: Your mother has to let you go sometime.

“I’m sure we could work something out with the Headmistress,” I said again, “she did special exceptions for Dom when Dom competed.”

“I’m sure,” my mother said again, skeptically. “But didn’t Dominique quit pageanting after being at that school? Because of it being too much on her plate.”

“I don’t know if that’s why…” I said trailing off, as my mother’s look changed to one of complete annoyance. As if she was personally wondering to herself how she, out of everyone in the world, wound up with such a difficult daughter.

“I still don’t feel as if that’d be a suitable idea for you,” my mother said in return, making it known that her decision was final and would not change.

So, as my mum expected, I accepted her answer. I bowed my head, taking a bite of my food, and listened as my mum badgered Winston about when we could come in and visit his work. Winston had remained silent up until this point, not wanting to get involved, and I noticed him shooting me sympathetic looks as he planned with my mum about when we could meet with the Gringotts supervisor. I remained silent the whole rest of dinner, and when we had all finished eating my mum had smiled at me, told me I was beautiful, and kissed the top of my head.

It had annoyed me even more than usual. That she was only ever happy with me if I did exactly as I was told. That everything was either her way or… her way. There was never an in between or middle ground.

So while I stood there, relieved to finally have the photo shoot over with, Dennis Creevey packing up his camera, I saw my mother approach me and instantly cringed. I thought about all the times since our discussion that she had used her manipulative ways to get me to do something. How she would purse her lips if I grabbed unhealthy cereal for breakfast, or sigh heavily if I asked her why in fact we had to go to so many clothes fittings. As if by going against her at any small thing, I was attacking her and being oh so unreasonable.

“I was just talking to the photo shoot director,” my mum said, her face looking bright. “And she said that they’re talking about doing another billboard in Hogsmeade as well! Isn’t that wonderful, Nata?”

I found myself instantly irritated that my mother had made all of these plans without even consulting me. Another billboard meant another photo shoot, which meant that the relief I felt at finally being done was short-lived. But, instead of saying anything I just nodded at her and smiled, not daring to argue since I already knew the outcome.

“That’s great, mum,” I said feigning excitement, my lips forcing their way into a smile. “Really great.”

*

“I still can’t believe you’re going along with this all,” Dom said as we continued to walk along the streets of Diagon Alley.

“And I still can’t believe you keep bringing this up,” I responded easily, rolling my eyes at Dom.

“Stop turning this into a joke,” Dom said, stopping in the middle of the street, causing people bustling past to bump into us. “You went to that stupid meeting for Gringotts even though you don’t want to work there! What happened to telling your mum about Hogwarts?”

“I asked her,” I answered, as Dom’s angry expression changed to one of interest, “and she said that it wasn’t a good idea.”

“Well then you need to tell her that you’re going. Don’t let her butt in and manipulate you as usual,” Dom exclaimed indignantly.

“Why are you so annoyed?” I asked Dom, turning to her and giving her a steely glance. I was tired of having this same conversation over and over again. I just wanted her to be my friend, not my fairy godmother. “It’s not your life, it’s mine, and I’m fine with it. I wouldn’t even be here if I hadn’t gone to meeting, so you should be happy!”

Ever since I had gone with my mother to attend the meeting with the Gringott’s supervisor, Lila Peterson, my mum had been more than happy with me. With this newfound happiness, she had loosened up when it came to letting me see Dom. So even though the meeting with Gringotts had been painful and annoying, and even though we were having a follow-up meeting with the rest of the Gringotts committee to finalize the contract with them, which I was less than happy about, I was okay. My mother was outstandingly happy with me, after being colder to me all last week when I recommended the Hogwarts idea, so I just had to learn to deal with the things I didn’t like. I’d been doing it my whole life, so why should it change now?

“Don’t act like you’re doing this for me,” Dom stated, looking at me with annoyance, “you could hang out with me more if you went to Hogwarts, so the fact that your mum’s actually letting you out of the house because of the Gringotts thing means nothing. You’re doing it for her.”

“And so what if I am?”

“So,” Dom said, her silver eyes softening as she spoke, “I want you to do something for you. What do you want to do, Tash?”

“I…” I started to say but then I trailed off. “I don’t know.”

“Well then,” Dom said looking at me with complete certainty in her eye, “You need to figure that out, yeah?”

And I knew as she said this that we both knew what she meant. She meant going to school, getting my priorities together, figuring out what the hell I wanted to do with my life. She meant doing what I wanted to do, not what my mother wanted of me. She was unlocking the cage for me, and all I needed to do was open the door and fly away.

Dom’s eyes continued to train on me as people pushed past us, all scurrying to wherever it was they belonged. Everyone in this street had a purpose, a reason to be wandering these cobblestoned streets. Everyone that is, except for me.

“If you want me to handle Gringotts for you,” Dom said slowly, “I can do it.”

But I thought of my mum. I thought about everything she had worked so hard to do in order to make sure my life was better. My father had abandoned her and I knew it was my duty to fill the void he had left behind. I had failed at keeping them together and doing this for my mum was how I could make up for it. I couldn’t go to Hogwarts and abandon her too.

“I don’t know, Dom,” I said looking away from her probing gaze, “I just don’t know.”

*

“Straighten up, honey,” My mother commanded, smoothing her hands over her crisp black suit, as we stood outside the Gringotts bank.

My mum and I were preparing for our second meeting with Gringotts. In this one, we were going to finalize a couple things that being the face of the company would entail, and would also be signing a few contracts. My favorite. My mum had managed to convince me to go. Not that it was actually convincing. It was more my mum telling me what we were doing today and me following. As usual. She had picked out my clothes, done my hair up in a tight knot, and pushed me into stiletto heels smiling happily the whole way as if this was exactly what the both of us wanted. The thing is, she probably did think this was what I wanted. And really I had only myself to blame.

Dom had been anything but happy when I told her that I would be going to the next bank meeting. She had been nothing less than pissed at the fact that I wasn’t ‘taking her advice and standing up to my mother’ and was instead ‘applying to be the face of some stupid industry that I’d be totally bored out of my mind in’. She was right, but I didn’t tell her that. While she thought I was as strong as her, as willing and bold as she to defy my mother so gravely and make my own decisions, I knew I wasn’t strong enough. Maybe I never would be.

I straightened my back from its slouching position and adjusted my gray pencil skirt, before looking up at the bank. It was still in the process of finishing up construction and wizards were conducting spells all around the outside, creating a humming sound that reminded me of a drill. My mother and I had been told to meet here with the Gringotts Board of Trustees so that I could ‘get a feel’ for the bank environment I’d be working in, and the meeting was starting in five minutes at the newly furnished meeting room here.

“Remember,” My mother said, turning to me as her hand reached out to open the door, her eyes giving me a commanding look. Everything just felt so familiar and so comfortable about this scene. “Let me do the talking.” With that, she turned away from me and opened the door to the newly built Gringotts bank, while I walked behind her.

The inside of the bank was huge. The floors were tiled in marble, as were the walls, and there was a huge fountain with a large statue of a goblin in the middle. The place still was not fully furnished, and the air inside of it was fresh with paint, so the sound of my mother and I’s footsteps echoed around the entrance hall.

“Now, Winston told me that everyone we’re meeting with already loves you. So all you need to do is show them how happy you are, okay Nata?” My mother trilled, as her heels continued to clack, resounding around the large hallway like gunshots.

“Okay,” I responded, not even having the usual energy I did to act annoyed. I was too busy trying to figure out what my mother meant. Showing someone I was happy, would have to mean I was happy, wouldn’t it?

We walked for a while longer, until my mother came in front of a door that I assumed led into the meeting room. My mother stopped outside it, turned to me, and smiled.

“Oh this is going to be so perfect, honey!” my mum exclaimed, reaching forward to straighten the collar of my shirt. “They’re going to love you, don’t you worry.”

I knew my mum was right. As long as she had a say in it, they would love me. I just wasn’t sure whether or not this was a good thing. I forced a weak smile back at my mum instead of voicing my thoughts, to which she turned around and opened the door to the meeting room.

There were four people already in there, and I assumed they were on the board of trustee’s in charge of all things Gringotts related. I recognized Lila Peterson instantly as the lady I had met with previously, who was the head of the board. Along with Lila was one Goblin wearing black dress robes, a man in a pinstriped suit, who I couldn’t quite see because of the lighting, and a man with what resembled a rather fake looking toupee on his head. They were all sitting side by side at a long mahogany table, and there were two seats opposite them that were reserved for my mum and me. I felt myself gulp at how intimidating they all looked.

“Hello,” Lila said, standing up and reaching over the table to offer her hand to me. Her black hair was in a low chignon and she had a forced smile on her face. “It’s good to see you again, this is Michael Corrner,” she pointed at toupee man as she said this, who just nodded to me, “this is Nagnok,” she pointed to the goblin at this, who gave me a sly yet slightly creepy smile, “and this is Bill Weasley.”

I felt my eyes widen as she said this, looking away from her and instead training my gaze on my best friend’s father. It was him alright. While I had only met him a handful of times, I would recognize the scars on his face anywhere. He, however, didn’t seem to recognize me, and if he did, he didn’t show it.

Was this what Dom mean when she said she could handle it? Why hadn’t Dom mentioned to me her dad was on the Gringotts’ Board of Trustees?

“Now,” Lila said, sitting back down in her seat and gesturing for us to do the same, which we did, while she adjusted her glasses, “We’re here because you’re interested in being the face of our company.”

My mother instantly started to talk before I could say anything, already back in her element, while I sat next to her silently, “Yes, my daughter has just won the title Miss Teen Witch, and we think that this will really give your bank more publicity, to start getting younger girls to open accounts here. Since she’s their age, she’ll really be able to help your bank branch out to the younger generations.”

“Mhmm,” Lila said, looking at my mum disinterestedly while keeping her eyes locked on me. “So you’re sure you can help the company?”

“Of course she can. Witch Weekly’s best selling magazine had my Natasha on the cover,” my mum said, immediately answering for me. She was the road map, and all I had to do was follow. “If my daughter could do anything, it’s sell.”

“And you’d be able to guarantee that her being Miss Teen Witch wouldn’t interfere with her dedication to the company?” Lila fired back with an even voice.

“Definitely,” my mum responded, nodding her head and plastering a smile on her face. “The large part of her Miss Teen Witch title doesn’t start until January, so for now it’s just small amounts of press junkets that won’t interfere with your company at all.”

“Well,” Michael interjected, exchanging looks with the other three people sitting at the table and then turning back to me, “We do need a young face to make Gringotts bank look like the new ‘it’ thing. Teens these days aren’t really concerned with saving their money, so I’m sure you could make them change their minds.”

“And I swear Nata would do an amazing job of it,” my mother said, yet again selling me like her newest toy. The drill sound from outside was creeping into the meeting room, and I had half a mind to walk over and close all the windows. The sound was so goddamn distracting.

“So,” Nagnok began in his gravelly voice, looking down his nose at the two of us, “there would be some more stipulations with this contract. She’d have to give up eight hours a day to work for the company, she’d need to shoot a commercial for the Gringotts bank, and she’d have to be willing to travel to all of the other Gringotts banks with us during the month of November to promote the company.”

“That’d fit in perfectly with our schedule,” my mother said, immediately smiling. I, however, felt my stomach sink at Nagnok’s words. A whole month traveling around to different banks, and putting on my pageant face? I was unhappy enough as it was having to do a year long tour with Miss Teen Witch, I’d half to give up even more of my time? This hardly seemed fair to me.

“Perfect then,” Lila said, pulling out her wand and waving it, causing a thick contract to appear out of thin air. “Here’s the contract, just sign on the red line, and we should be good.”

My mother took the contract, and I was instantly reminded of the meeting with Georgiana, where I had no choice but to sign. I started to feel helpless, like I was drowning underwater, as I watched my mother excitedly scan over and then sign the contract.

While I had thought I was fine with doing this, I finally realized this wasn’t what I wanted. None of this was what I ever wanted, and now I was stuck in another situation, signing another contract, that would dictate my life. The drilling sound from outside started to rise to an earsplitting decibel, as my mother handed the contract over to me.

I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t sign this. I couldn’t give more of my life up to something I didn’t even care about.

“Nata, come on now, sign it,” my mother said, giving me a look as the rest of the room all stared at me, waiting for me to make another promise that I wasn’t sure I could keep.

I looked at Lila helplessly, who was looking at me impatiently and tapping her foot, waiting for me to sign. Nagnok seemed to be smirking at my hesitation, and Michael Corner was lazily toying with his wand. Bill Weasley however was staring at me with a steady gaze. The drill noise sounded again, only this time louder.

“Oh for the love of Merlin, can someone shut that blasted noise up?!” Lila exclaimed, walking over to the window and looking down at one of the workers. “You there! We have a silencio charm for a reason, half-wit!”

The drilling sound immediately cut out, and suddenly I felt like I was being choked with the silence, with all of my thoughts. Everything my mother had ever forced me to do in my life. Every pageant, every contract, every single sodding day. My whole life flashed past me in a whir of disbelief. Everything I’d ever done was controlled by her.

“Do you want to do this?” Bill Weasley asked, leaning forward and looking at me with sincerity in his eyes. I wondered then, how much Dom had told him about me.

All I’d ever wanted in my life was for somebody, anybody, to reach out at these moments, and let me know that I had a choice. And now, here it was, this opportunity glistening in front of me, waiting for me to take it. All I had to do was reach my hands out, catch it, and refuse to let go.

I took a deep breath, Dom’s face swimming in my field of vision as I realized that she was right. I had to do something I wanted for once, and this wasn’t it. This would never be it, no matter how much my mum wanted it to be. Talking to my mum about it alone wasn’t the way to get my point across, and maybe this was the only way I could. So, for the first time in my life, I uttered the words that no one expected to hear.

“No.”

 

 






A/N: Hello to my amazing readers! Here it is, the most crucial chapter in order to give this story an actual plot. What do you think? Was it what you expected? Was it worse than you expected? Was it better?

(I'm going to cross my fingers and hope it was better)

Well, I'm so happy to finally have this chapter done with. I had a lot of trouble writing the last scene of it (the most CRUCIAL scene) because I was so freaked out about messing everything up, so tell me: Did I mess it up?

Alright, anyways, I hope you all loved the chapter, let me know your thoughts in a review below if you'd like. I'll always respond so if you have any questions, I'll be sure to answer them :)

And now for the rest of my ramble of questions: What do you think about Dom and her pageant self? What do you think about Nata's mum's reaction to the Hogwarts idea? What do you think about Dom's dad being on the Gringotts Board of Trustees?

Alright I think that's the end to my speil of questions. I just want to thank you all again for being so lovely and amazing! You're support really means so so much :)

-Rebecca
 


Chapter 5: The Aftermath
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Dislaimer: JKR > me.






 

“What’s this?” I asked, picking up the brochure that had just been plopped in front of me and running my fingers over the shiny cover.

“It’s what you wanted. Isn’t it?” My mum responded in a clipped tone, her face an impassive mask as she walked to the kitchen counter and poured herself a cup of coffee. She picked up a sugar packet, and shook it a couple times, before tearing it open and emptying it into her cup. My mum loved coffee. She thought that because she drank it instead of tea, it made her appear more worldly.

“Uh,” I started, looking down at the pictures of the Hogwarts castle, glittering in the moonlit sky as the title emblazoned on it read ‘Hogwarts: The Chosen One’s Choice’. “I don’t know.”

“Well you better know,” my mother said again, blinking a couple of times as she looked down at her coffee cup and used a spoon to stir the contents, “you gave up the opportunity of a lifetime for it.”

This was the first actual conversation in which my mum had spoken to me directly since before the Gringotts meeting. After I refused to sign the contract and ran out of the meeting room, my mum had been furious and resorted to not speaking to me unless it was absolutely necessary. And now, here she was actually speaking to me while standing in the kitchen and avoiding all eye contact as if she didn’t even know me anymore. As if she didn’t even want to know me anymore.

I noticed that while she was trying to hold her composure, her eyes seemed to hold sadness, mixed with something else. Something I couldn’t quite figure out. And I found myself growing increasingly frustrated. I just wanted her to look at me and show me that everything was okay. I just wanted her to tell me that she still loved me despite my decision.

“Mum, I—” I started to say, but my mum turned away from me before I could get my words out.

“I told Georgiana about the change in plans, and she’s fine with it as long as you only stay until winter break. We’re going to meet with the Headmistress of Hogwarts to register you, get you sorted into a house, and discuss our schedule with her to make sure you’ll be able to attend all of your Teen Witch obligations.” While she spoke, she kept a clinical expression on her face, as if daring me to argue with her.

She began to walk across the kitchen with her coffee cup in hand, ready to leave. I opened my mouth again, wanting to say something to make my mum look at me, “I’m sorry, mum.”

My mum turned around on her heel, and she finally, finally looked at me. Only now I wish she hadn’t. Because I could finally figure out what else was held behind her eyes. Betrayal. I suddenly felt myself wanting to take everything back. Wanting to go back into the Gringotts meeting room and sign the contract, if only to take away the look in my mum’s eyes.

“I just don’t know what I did wrong,” my mum said, letting out a defeated sigh. “I thought you wanted it.”

“I did,” I responded, not sure whether or not I was lying. I had wanted it, for my mum’s sake. “I just think I might want this more.”

My mum sniffed at my words, before turning around and walking out of the room, while I was left alone in the kitchen. The silence left behind in her wake hung in a bloated mess above my head, a representation of the past week. I then sighed—if only to hear a noise— and picked up the brochure, opening it up to the page about transfer students. However, I couldn’t concentrate on it. The words could’ve been in another language, for all the good they did me. The only thing I could think about was how disappointed in me my mum had just been, how betrayed she’d looked.

I closed the brochure, scrunched it up into a ball, and threw it onto the ground.

I had finally done something for me, but why did I feel so awful?

*

“She’ll get over it,” Dom stated to me, nodding her head as if it was a sure thing. She then looked back down to her toenails, which she was painting a deep purple, keeping a focused expression on her face.

“I don’t know, Dom,” I responded, walking over to her brightly colored bed and sitting down next to her. “You didn’t see her face.”

Dom sighed as I said this, and put the nailbrush back into its bottle, screwing the cap on tight as she considered what she was about to say. “Natasha,” Dom started, turning towards me and putting her hands on both of my shoulders. “I’m speaking from experience when I say that while she may be mad and act like you’re the biggest disappointment since you’re older sister announced she was in love with ‘that hooligan with the blue hair’, she will eventually be okay with it… Okay?”

I decided not to mention the fact that I didn’t have any siblings, and instead considered Dom’s words. I thought about Fleur and the fact that, whenever I was over, she would sniff at Dom and tell her I obviously had my priorities in order. How she would mention that Dom ‘could’ve been great’ if she had just stuck with pageanting, instead of quitting when the going got tough. Was that what Dom meant by her mom being okay with it?

“Okay,” I said slowly, a large amount of doubt in my voice.

“Good,” Dom said taking her hands off of my shoulders excitedly and taking no notice of my trepidation. “Because this is something you should be happy about! We’re going to be at Hogwarts—together— and you’ll finally see what I’ve been telling you about these past years!”

“I guess you right,” I said tentatively, letting myself push the thoughts of my mother away.

“This year will be amazing,” Dom mused as she wiggled her toes in front of her, admiring the purple color. “So now all you have to do is quit pageanting, and then everything will be perfect!”

I felt myself instantly tense at her mention of quitting pageants. I already felt worse enough as it is refusing to become the face of Gringotts. If I quit pageanting, who knew how awful I’d feel. My mother would be so hurt… No. This was the only thing I was doing for myself. Pageants were something I could never quit. It would kill my mum.

“Mhmm,” I said back to Dom noncommittally, not wanting to burst whatever imaginative bubble she had about me quitting pageants.

I kept my eyes fixed on the wall as she started to talk again about everything we would be able to do once we got to Hogwarts. She started to mention something to me about sorting, but I tuned her out.

While she was happy enough for the both of us that I would be attending Hogwarts for the first half of my sixth year, I couldn’t help but feel a pit of guilt at the bottom of my stomach whenever it was mentioned. My mum had been significantly quieter after our conversation in the kitchen, only talking to me to remind me of events we had to attend or to let me know dinner was ready. She had thrown herself into her comfort zone: managing my schedule, and acted as if all of our Hogwarts plans were under her control.

Along with this new silent treatment/avoid all problems route my mum had now established between us, she had also become very lenient to when it came to me leaving the house. It used to be her always at my heels, asking me where I was going, who I’d be with, and for how long. Nowadays, I was lucky if she even gave me a second glance as I flooed away to Dom’s house.

While I had thought I wanted this, this type of freedom to come and go whenever I pleased, I felt totally disoriented. I felt myself wishing my mum would turn back into her usual self, telling me what to do, mapping everything out for me, if only because she would talk to me. I had wanted freedom, yes, but not this way.

“Hey, Dom?” I asked, interrupting her explanation on how the house points worked. She stopped midsentence and looked at me, seeming to sense the question in my eyes.

“Yeah?”

“Why didn’t you tell me your dad was on the Gringotts Board of Trustees?” I said, asking the question that I had been mulling over ever since the meeting. Dom was hardly the type to ever hold back information. In fact, she normally over-volunteered it. So, it completely baffled me that she wouldn’t have mentioned this detail.

“Because,” Dom said, giving me a serious look, “I knew if I told you, you would’ve signed the contract.”

“What?” I asked, suddenly very confused.

Dom seemed to sigh at my question, and readjusted herself onto the bed, so that her feet were propped up onto one of her brightly colored pillows. “Natasha,” she started locking her gaze with mine, “you didn’t want to be the face of Gringotts. I knew that, you knew that, your mum probably even knew that.”

I felt a voice in my head want to argue against her. My mum definitely didn’t know that, if the way she had been acting was any indication.

“So,” Dom continued, giving me a stern expression, “I knew all you needed was that small prod to get you to finally stand up to your mum and tell her what you wanted. My father simply asked a question, and you gave an answer.”

“Yeah,” I said, still not following. “But why couldn’t you tell me he would be there?”

“Because you would have made yourself prepare for facing him!” Dom explained. “You would have put all the fake walls you usually have around your self as high up as they would go, and you would have acted like it was all what you wanted!”

“No I wouldn’t have!” I shot back indignantly. Dom always acted as though she always knew my next move. Like she had all of my reactions mapped out. As if me standing up to my mum, had been her doing all along.

“Tash,” Dom said, her voice softening, “you would’ve. You would have instantly thought my father was trying to get you to not sign it, and you would’ve signed it because of that.”

“You don’t know that,” I said, even though in the back of my head I knew she was right. I was always defensive when it came to people asking about pageanting. If anyone, but myself told me I didn’t want it, I felt some strange need to prove them wrong. As if by doing so, it would make me like competing.

“If you say so,” Dom said holding up her hands in surrender. She obviously didn’t want to continue this conversation and I found myself becoming a bit annoyed. Dom never wanted to here what I had to say, unless it included me agreeing with her.

There was a long silence that floated between us as we thought over what the other had said. We were in a strange sort of limbo between an argument and peace, and neither of us knew how to react.

“So… when are you meeting with the Headmistress?” Dom asked after a long moment, breaking me out of my reverie and causing me to snap my eyes back to her. I knew she was saying this to avoid the subject, and I willingly welcomed it.

“Tomorrow,” I answered, a note of worry entering my voice. It would be the first time me and my mum had done a meeting since the Gringotts incident, and I wasn’t sure how my mum would act. “We’re going to talk to the Headmistress about seeing if I can get permission to floo out of school certain days throughout the week and on weekends so I can attend all of my Teen Witch events. And I need to get sorted.”

Dom rolled her eyes after I spoke, making it evident she wasn’t happy about me still having to do pageant duties, but she kept quiet, probably not wanting to start another argument.

“Well you’ll love the Headmistress,” Dom stated breezily. “She’s really cool. She like… understands us as students.”

“That’s good then,” I responded disinterestedly.

“You should come over after your meeting and let me know what house you’re sorted into,” Dom said, after a short pause. “I need my best friend to be in the same house as me, you know?”

I found my hostility sinking after Dom’s words. She was my best friend. I shouldn’t be holding a grudge at her for some stupid reason.

“Really?” I asked a playful tone entering my voice, arching an eyebrow. “Because I was hoping to be a Slytherin. The emerald green would really bring out my eyes and all that rot.”

Dom took this time to throw at me the bright red pillow she had been using to prop her feet up. “Take it back,” Dom announced dramatically her silver hair flying around her.

“You know what?” I said slowly, a smile playing at my lips. “I don’t think I will.”

“You better.”

“Slytherin has ambition—”

“And Gryffindor has courage!”

“Yes, but Slytherins think before they act—”

“They’re also conniving little b—”

 “And they all end up with well-paying jobs…” I interrupted, enjoying the disgusted reactions of Dom. “Maybe I’ll ask the hat to place me there.”

“You better not,” Dom announced, throwing her head up in the air. “I won’t be able to associate with you if you do.”

“Oh pish posh,” I replied, rolling my eyes. “Since when did you get all House-ist?”

“What the hell is house-ist?”

“It’s like racist… only for houses.”

“That’s the stupidest term I’ve ever heard.”

“Yes well,” I said, eyeing Dom, “I learn only from the best.”

“Were you trying to insult me?”

“What would give you that idea?” I asked innocently, widening my green eyes.

“You were!” Dom exclaimed, pointing a finger at me. “You were totally trying to insult me.”

“You said it not me,” I said to Dom, shrugging my shoulders as if I couldn’t help it.

“Oi! I’ll show you not to insult me,” Dom said, picking up another one of her brightly colored pillows, and throwing it at me.

I dodged it and continued to laugh, happy to have a conversation with Dom that didn’t revolve around pageants or my mum. Suddenly, I had a flash of what it would feel like to go to Hogwarts. Always having your friends there, not having to worry about parents or jobs or stupid pageant duties.

And then, I realized that I should actually be happy. I was going to Hogwarts: the school I’d wanted to go to ever since I can remember. I was going to be thrown into the magical world, with other people my age. People that wouldn’t be competing against me, and that I could actually get to know.

So, while Dom chased me around the room, pillow in hand, I let myself smile. Because maybe things won’t be that bad after all.

*

“So from what I understand, you’re going to need floo access twenty-four seven?” The headmistress of Hogwarts, Headmistress Chang, asked. Her hair was pulled neatly back into a French plait, and her face was bare of makeup as she looked down her tortoise-shelled glasses at me. As her eyes narrowed slightly at me, I couldn’t help but feel she was very intimidating. So far I couldn’t understand what Dom meant by her being ‘cool’.

“Yes,” my mother said, putting a large smile on her face as she looked at the headmistress. Even though she had still yet to have an actual conversation with me, she was in her element, so she acted as though this whole thing was her choice. “She has other obligations as the face of Miss Teen Witch, so she has to be able to access the floo network to attend these events whenever she needs, especially on the weekends.”

“I see,” Headmistress Chang said, not taking her eyes away from me. “And you don’t think this will interfere with your school work?”

“Natasha is more than capable of doing a bit of homework,” My mother said with a sniff, as if school was the easiest thing in the world. “I’m sure she’ll do fine.”

“Mhmm,” Headmistress Chang said, looking at my mother and seeming a bit offended at her statement. “And she’s only staying until January as well?”

“Yes,” my mother answered. “She’s going to be doing a year long tour for Miss Teen Witch once the new year starts, and so she’ll finish out her sixth year with a tutor. Nata just really wanted to be able to attend school for a bit.”

Headmistress Chang snapped her attention back to me. Her eyes softened and she looked at me as if she was a bit proud. I found it weird considering the fact that I didn’t know her, but I just shook it off.

“Well, this won’t be too much trouble. We used to have a student that attended pageants also, and we were always able to manage things around her schedule.” I knew as Headmistress Chang said this that she was referring to Dom. I wondered curiously if she knew I was friends with her. “You can use the fireplace in your common room in order to floo, so long as you have floo powder, and it should be fine.”

“Thank you Miss…” my mother trailed off as her eyes slid to the nametag on the Headmistress’s desk. I noticed Headmistress Chang’s eyes get tight at the corners. “Chang.”

“Yes, thank you,” I said, speaking for the first time since I had entered the meeting.

“It’s no problem,” Headmistress Chang said, looking moreso at me than my mum. “Now let me just get the sorting hat and I’ll get you sorted so you’ll know where to go on the first day.”

I nodded my head as the headmistress stood up and hurried to a bookshelf in her office in which an old, sordid hat was resting. My mother, upon seeing Headmistress Chang pick up the hat, immediately tensed and wrinkled her nose.

“Is this hat really necessary?” My mother asked, as Headmistress Chang pulled it off the shelf. “It looks a bit… dirty, don’t you think?”

Headmistress Chang looked at my mother, her annoyance now clear. “The sorting hat is something very sacred to the sorting ceremony. It decides what house you’re going to be in. There is no other way.”

My mother sighed and looked at me, as if blaming me for the fact that the hat was dirty, but I just shrugged it off. I was finding myself becoming excited at the prospect of figuring out which house at Hogwarts I belonged in. I had heard Dom chat about them all enough times to wonder what I would be considered as.

Headmistress Chang rested the hat on my head and almost immediately I heard a voice whispering in my ear.

Well isn’t this an odd time to do a sorting?
the hat whispered. I see this is the first time your going to attend an actual school this year… and what’s this I see? You’re excited about it? Definite Ravenclaw material if I do say so myself. But… something doesn’t sit quite right with me if I did that.

I found myself slightly relieved that the hat hadn’t mentioned a certain house that I didn’t want to be sorted into whatsoever (Slytherin).

Don’t want to be a Slytherin, I see? Sadly almost nobody wants to be one these days. It’s such a shame. The Slytherin house really does have some useful traits, although you don’t have many of them so you don’t have to worry about being sorted there… Wait! What is this I see? Definite courage...yes. Although you don’t really know how to use it now do you? You’ll need to learn how, kind of like you did to get here, eh? Well then better be….

“GRYFFINDOR!” The hat shouted, to which I found myself utterly shocked and at the same time, insanely please. Gryffindor was the house Dom was in! We’d be in the same house!

But at the same time, I found myself confused. I was most definitely not courageous. Not in the slightest. What had the hat meant by me having courage? I mean I know I pulled that stunt at Gringotts, but that was hardly bravery. It was more like desperation.

“So, Gryffindor will be your house,” Headmistress Chang said, taking the hat off of my head and offering me a smile. “I’m sure you’ll have fun there, and I’m sure you’re friend Dominique will be excited about it.”

I smiled back at her, not questioning how she knew I was friends with Dom. My mother gave me a tight smile as well, pretending she was happy about me attending school, but I could see worry lines appear in her forehead at the mention of Dominique.

“Yes well, we should be going Nata,” my mother said grabbing my hand and pulling me up off the seat. “We have a lot for you to do before school starts, I’m surprised if you’ll ever get all of your Teen Witch things done beforehand… But, this was your choice.”

She then turned back to the headmistress. “Thank you Miss Chang for letting Nata attend the school on such late notice, but we should really be going.”

Headmistress Chang nodded her head as if she understood, and then shot a sympathetic look at me. “Alright good luck. I’ll see you in a week, Natasha.”

I nodded my head and before I could say anything else— like a thank you for putting up with my mum or for even just being here— my mum pulled me out of the door to her office and shut it behind her. Once she did, she let go of my hand and continued to walk ahead of me, her mask of affection officially shot.

It had been nice, if only for a meeting, to have my mum act like I was her daughter again. To act like she was proud of me and my decisions. But I guess, just like so much else in my life, her happiness was just a façade. Something held together so delicately, that it could break at any moment.
 






A/N: Alright you amazingly wonderful readers, here's the next chapter. I'm not too fond of it, but I just decided to post it and get it over with, because the next chapter I like much better. (here's a hint: next chapter is her arriving at Hogwarts)

I'm sorry it took so long to get out. I've been dealing with some family issues so I've had a hard time writing lately.. but I'm getting back into the groove of things... I think.

Anyways, how did you like the chapter? What do you think about Nata's mum's reaction? What do you think about her talk with Dom? Did you like the sorting with Headmistress Chang?

Please review with your answers, and tell me what you think of the chapter. Or even just a one word response telling me if I should keep writing or not would be nice. If you'd like that is. 

Okay well that's all I have to say except for thank you guys for being amazing. You're reviews literally have been cheering me up throughout this hideous time I'm going through. <3

-Rebecca


Chapter 6: Arriving at Hogwarts
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Disclaimer: It's JKR's.






 

“Oh, honey, I’m really going to miss you,” my mother said, wrapping her arms around me for what had to be the millionth time, as we stood outside the barrier for platform 9 ¾.

My mother had managed to turn a complete 180 ever since going to school had become a reality. So instead of giving me the silent treatment, she had been coddling me like I was a child, making me feel sufficiently guilty for leaving her.  I wasn’t sure if this was her way of trying to get me to change my mind about leaving, but either way I had missed her fussing over me, even if it could get to be suffocating.

“I’ll miss you too, mum,” I said, and I meant it. While I wanted this, wanted to breakaway from my mother in this small way, I was nervous. I had always had everything planned out for me, and now I was deviating from the script.

“It’s just… I don’t know what I’m going to do without you,” my mum said, loosening her grip from around my shoulders and taking a step back, giving me a disparaging look.

“You’ll see me when I have press junkets during the weeks,” I offered weakly.

“I know,” my mum said, smoothing down my hair and giving me a sad smile, “It’s just not the same now is it?”

“It’ll be fine, mum.”

“Alright sweetie. I’m sorry I’m probably embarrassing you,” my mum said forcing a small laugh. “It’s just… you’re my baby.”

“I know, mum,” I said, adjusting the oversized lilac cardigan that I was wearing. I had spent a lot of time this past week thinking over what I was going to wear on my first day and I had decided on the cardigan over a thin white long sleeved shirt and a pair of dark-washed skinny jeans tucked into brown riding boots. Casual yet chic, as Dom would say.

“Okay… well I guess I’ll let you go,” my mother said slowly, dropping her arms back to her side,  “I’ll see you next weekend for the revealing of your billboard in Diagon Alley, okay sweetie?”

“Okay, mum,” I responded, and then I said because I’d mean it,  “I’ll miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too,” my mum responded, quickly leaning forward and kissing my forehead “I love you.”

“Love you too,” I told her, swallowing a lump that had formed in my throat. My eyes started to water causing me to blink a couple times before I grabbed my trunk. It was rather large compared to most trunks, and my mum had packed almost everything that was in there, checking and double checking to make sure I didn’t forget anything, but I didn’t mind much. It had made her happy to give herself something tangible to do, so I had let her do it all but willingly.

I turned away from my mum, giving her one last wave over my shoulder, before walking through the barrier to the platform. My mum had been unhappy when she heard that you had to be magical in order to get onto the platform, and I felt saddened as I left her standing there behind me.

When I entered the platform the first thing I noted, besides the loud noises of people bustling around the place, was that I came into contact with something, or rather someone.

“Oh I’m sorry,” I said looking down at the person I bumped into. She looked to be about thirteen, and she had an alarming shade of bright red hair with freckles completely covering her skin. But that wasn’t the thing about her I noticed first. The first thing I noticed was that she was dressed head to toe in pink: pink flip-flops, a pink dress, pink purse, and pink glittery hairclips.

When she looked at me, her brown eyes grew wide and she just stood there her mouth hanging open. I started to panic, wondering if I had hurt her, when a voice broke through my thoughts.

“Lily!” A guy, who looked to be about my age, if not a bit older, exclaimed breaking through the crowd. He had black hair that was a bit on the shaggy side and curled at the ends, and as he got closer, I noticed he had a strong jaw, sharp cheekbones, and startling eyes. They were brown around the iris, but then faded into a light blue, with a circle of dark blue around the outside. I found myself wondering who he was.

“Lily, I’ve been looking for you everywhere!” The guy said, walking up to Lily and grabbing her by her arm.

Lily, who I assumed was the name of the girl I bumped into, didn’t respond to the guy and instead continued to look at me her eyes as wide as saucers. The guy seemed to notice this and turned to face me, his gaze flicking over me disinterestedly before turning back to Lily.

“Is this a friend of yours?” he asked her.

Before I could open my mouth and exclaim that I had just happened to bump into her, the red head let out a loud squeal and started to jump up and down excitedly.

“Oh my god!” she shouted, a huge smile breaking over her face as she looked at me. “I can’t believe it’s you!”

I felt myself immediately get taken aback at her statement, and the guy looked at me seeming to be confused. “Uh…” I started to say but Lily cut me off.

“You’re Natasha Covington!” Lily exclaimed, clapping her hands together. She then opened her pink purse and pulled out a magazine. She held it up and I noticed it was the edition of Witch Weekly with me on the cover, my lips pulled into a pouty expression and my hair billowing around me loose curls. “You’re Miss Teen Witch! Ohmigod! I can’t believe I’m meeting you!”

“Er…” I said, not knowing what to say as Lily continued to squeal excitedly.

“Oh my god, can you sign this please?!” she asked giddily, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “Better yet, can I introduce you to my friends?! Are you attending school with us?! Oh my god, I need to tell everyone that you’re my friend!”

My head started to hurt with all of the questions Lily was shouting at me, and I felt like a deer caught in the headlights, not really knowing what to say. Lily started to scour through her purse, muttering how she needed to find a pen.

“Lily,” the guy said in a warning voice, shooting me what I assumed to be an apologetic look, “calm down.”

“One second!” Lily announced, holding a pointer finger up to what I now assumed was her brother as she continued rifling through her purse. “I know I have a pen in here somewhere! You just have to sign my copy of Witch Weekly!”

“Lily,” the guy said again, grabbing her freckly arm and starting to pull her away. “Mum and dad want to say goodbye to you before the train leaves.”

Lily stopped looking through her purse and instead looked at her brother, narrowing her eyes and letting out a huff. She then crossed her arms over her chest. “I can’t believe this! I’m meeting my idol, and you’re totally embarrassing me.”

“Well what are big brothers for?” the guy said flatly. “Now let’s go.”

They both began to have a staring match. The guy was looking at her sharply, while Lily was pouting back at him. After a long moment, Lily let out a heavy sigh.

“Fine,” Lily snapped, uncrossing her arms. She then turned to me. “I’ll see you after I say bye to my parents, right? What compartment are you going to be in? I’ll find you and we can sit together!”

“Lily, stop grilling her, you’ll bump into her some other time,” The guy said guiding her forward with his arm. Lily walked towards where he pointed, and he turned around about to follow her before turning back to me a bit hesitantly.

“Sorry about that,” he said shrugging his shoulders and running a hand through his hair. “She’s a handful sometimes.”

“Oh,” I said. “It’s fine. She’s cute.”

“Yup,” he said nodding his head and not really paying attention to me, seeming to be back in his own world. There was a long pause where neither of us knew what to say. “Well I’ll see you, I guess.”

“Okay…” I trailed off, watching as he walked away, shoving his hands into his pockets as he did so. I looked back down at the trunk in my hand, and then looked at the scarlet train that was sitting on the tracks. The engine on the train made a loud honking sound, signaling it was about to leave, and I began to push my way through the crowd of people. I heard mutters of “who’s that?” from some of the people I passed, but I took no notice as I reached the door of the train.

I lifted my trunk up the steps, and looked down the long hallway of compartments, wondering which one Dom would be in. There were so many, that I was beginning to feel overwhelmed. We really should’ve made a meeting place.

“Tashy!” I heard a voice—no doubt it was Dom’s— shout as I whipped my head around to see where it was coming from. I saw Dom, waving her hands and gesturing me towards her from a compartment. “In here!”

The other students that were milling around in the hallway instantly stopped their walking and looked around, wondering who Dom was gesturing to. I walked down the hallway, passing people in my wake and making a beeline towards Dom while my trunk bobbed along behind me.

“Ah, I’m so excited!” Dom said once I reached her, wrapping her arms tightly around me and overpowering me with the familiar scent of her perfume—honeysuckles. “I still can’t believe you’re actually going to be at Hogwarts with me.”

“Me either,” I responded, pulling away from the hug and grabbing hold of my trunk again. “I thought my mum would change her mind.”

“I’m glad she didn’t,” Dom said, turning back and entering the compartment, as I followed behind her. I noticed that she wasn’t the only one in the compartment and saw two other girls sitting next to each other, looking at me with varying expressions of interest.

The first girl had thick black hair, cut bluntly just below her chin. She had a very pointed face and high cheekbones complimented by light brown eyes. Her body was very bony and she looked to be very tall, even taller than me. She was wearing a horizontal striped black and white shirt, with black jeans, and black shoes.

The other girl seemed to be average height. She was looking down at a book with a faded cover, that looked as if it had been read and reread about a million times, and her dark red hair was tumbling over her shoulders in large curls. She was wearing faded jeans and an old jumper.

 I set my trunk on one of the luggage racks, before looking back at Dom.

“Natasha,” Dom said, gesturing to the two girls, “These are my cousins and best mates, Molly and Rose. Molly and Rose, this is Natasha, my other best mate.”

“Hi,” I stated shyly after a long pause.

Rose, the one with the dark red hair, nodded her head and offered me a weak smile, while Molly rolled off Dom’s introductions with disinterest. This caused Dom to narrow her eyes.

Molly, who could obviously sense Dom was not happy, sighed. “Hello.”

I stood there awkwardly. I wasn’t the best at making friends, seeing as the only time I met new people I competed against them, so I felt myself instantly start to get nervous.

“Wow, Molls,” Dom said, glaring at her. “You are just so welcoming.”

“I said hello,” Molly defended, giving Dom a defiant look back. “What else do you want me to say? Hi, I’m Molly. I love long walks on the beach and the smell of dewdrops against the grass. Dislikes include: people who chew with their mouth open, early birds, and oh yes meeting new people.”

My eyes widened a bit in shock at Molly’s caustic tone. “Don’t mind her,” Rose said to me, flipping to the next page in her book not seeming at all taken aback by Molly’s tone, “She’s cranky because she had to wake up early. This monster needs thirteen hours of sleep to function.”

“Oh,” I responded stupidly.

“I’m Rose, as Dominique said,” Rose stated. When she looked up, I noticed she had a small amount of freckles across the bridge of her nose, and piercing blue eyes. “I enjoy reading and activities that include people being quiet. I dislike cranky bitches who aren’t nice to new people.”

“Oh shut up, prefect,” Molly said, looking at Rose annoyed. “I am not cranky.”

“I’d beg to differ,” Rose shot back.

“You guys,” Dom stated, looking back and forth from the two of them, a displeased expression on her face, “can you please not act like total idiots in front of my friend?”

“Nope,” Molly responded instantly. Rose just shrugged as her response.

“Sorry, Tash,” Dom said looking at me. “Usually they at least try to act like they’re normal. But I guess it’ll be something you’ll get used to eventually since we’re all going to be friends.”

I heard Molly grunt at this, which caused Rose to elbow her in the side.

“It’s fine,” I responded as the train honked its horn a second time. I took this moment to go and sit next to Dom on the opposite side of Molly and Rose. I then felt the train lurch, and looked out the window to see it leaving the station.

“So,” Molly said, leaning towards me, seeming to actually be interested in starting a conversation with me. “You have the smother right?”

“Smother?” I asked confused, as I noticed Dom shooting warning eyes at Molly.

“Yeah, smother,” Molly said, seeming to ignore whatever Dom was trying to convey to her. “You know, a mother who smothers you.”

“Um…” I said trailing off and looking at Dom. How much had she told them about me? “I don’t know…”

“I never said that!” Dom interjected, looking at me apologetically. “I only said she was a bit controlling.”

“Whatevs,” Molly said, shrugging Dom off. “So then your mum’s fine with you being here?”

“Kind of,” I said, feeling myself growing uncomfortable.

“Molly,” Rose stated, just as Molly was about to open her mouth again, “lay off.”

Fine,” Molly snapped, leaning back into her seat. “I was just trying to make conversation.”

“Molly’s emotionally stunted,” Rose stated, looking at me. “She isn’t good at making friends. That’s why all she has is us.”

“Tashy’s bad at making friends too,” Dom interjected looking from me to Molly excitedly. Like we had something in common that would make us surefire buddies.

“No I’m not,” I defended while Molly and Rose stared at me curiously.

“Um... yeah you are,” Dom said, not seeming to catch on to the fact that I didn’t want to look like a complete loser. “I mean sure, you’re good at getting like… corporate people to like you. But when it comes to regular people, it’s like you don’t know how to talk… kind of like now!”

“Dom, I know how to talk,” I said, looking at Dom annoyed. “Just because some of us aren’t the energizer bunny and ramble on a mile a minute about things that don’t matter, doesn’t make me unsociable.”

“Well hot damn,” Molly said, looking at me with a smirk on her face, “You’re really not that bad.”

*

“Is it true?!” a guy with curly blonde hair asked, bursting his way into our compartment.

“Is what true?” Molly asked, looking down at her nails with disinterest.

“Is it true you have one of Witch Weekly’s hottest bachelorette’s hiding in your compartment?” another guy asked, who was standing behind the curly haired one. This guy had darker skin and dark brown hair cut close to his head.

“Well, Freddy,” Dominique said, putting her hands on her hips, “seeing as I was on that list for the past five years, yes it’s true.”

“We didn’t mean you,” the blonde one said, sweeping his eyes around the compartment and then resting them upon me. “Merlin, Lily wasn’t lying.”

“Lily?” Dom asked, looking confused.

“Yeah, Lily, our cousin,” the guy- Freddy- said, before turning and looking at me. “She showed us some magazine you were on the cover of and said she met you on the platform. I didn’t believe her… because I mean she’s Lily. She loves to tell outrageous stories. But then I heard a couple of people talking about it in the hallways, and they all said you were in here.”

I looked up at Freddy, with a very bewildered expression, not quite knowing what to say.

“You met Lily?” Dom asked me, looking confused. Suddenly something clicked inside my brain, and I finally remembered that Dom had a cousin named Lily. Which meant the guy I had met on the platform was her cousin too. Small world.

“I think so… she was wearing—”

“Pink,” Molly interrupted, looking disgusted as she said it. “God, I cannot stand her. I still wonder how I’m even remotely related to someone like that.”

“Oh Molls, ever the cloud of doom, eh?” Freddy said walking into the compartment and sitting down next to her, ruffling her hair as he went, to which she shot him a pissed off look.

“And you Frederick are ever the pain in my arse,” Molly shot back.

“So,” the blonde said, walking over to me and sitting himself in between Dom and I, putting an arm around my shoulder, “you single then?”

“Gryffin!” Rose chastised, while I sat completely still in my seat, mentally freaking out.

My experience with boys was very, very limited. In fact the closest experience I have with them is the brothers of the girls I competed against, who either a.) hit on me just because I won to which my mum would quickly pull me away or b.) complained about the fact that their sister was crying in a bathroom stall because I beat them.

“What?” Gryffin asked looking annoyed at her interrupting him.

“You’re scaring her!”

“No, I’m not!” Gryffin shot back, before looking at me. “I’m not scaring you, am I?”

“Uh….” I trailed off, feeling very uncomfortable and not knowing how to answer him.

“Yup, you’re scaring her,” Dominique stated.

“Hmm…” Gryffin said, taking his arm out from around me and scratching his chin confusedly. “I guess I should introduce myself then. I’m Gryffin, Hogwarts resident heartthrob, but people normally just call me Gryffin the Gryffindor.”

“You mean you call yourself that, while the rest of us ignore you?” Molly remarked flatly.

“Hey!” Gryffin exclaimed, looking at Molly with a pissed off expression. “My name is Gryffin and I was sorted into Gryffindor. The one perk I should get is to be addressed as that!”

“Since when is it fair to go by the name you want to go by?” Rose stated, looking at Gryffin in amusement. “I tell you guys all the time to stop calling me Red and do you ever listen?”

“Nope,” Freddy and Gryffin both said at the same time.

“Then you’re not going to be Gryffin the Gryffindor, so give up that dream,” Molly stated.

“Well then can you guys at least call me Fin or Gryffie or something?” Gryffin asked, looking at them all with hope. “I need a nickname like all of you. Gryffin is just so… boring.”

“Fin?” Dom asked, arching an eyebrow. “You seriously want us to call you Fin?”

“Maybe not Fin,” Gryffin said, seeming to rethink his suggestion, “But I do need a nickname. A good one.”

“Gryffin, your name is fine the way it is,” Rose said.

“Easy for you to say, you have Red as a nickname. You’re a whole goddamn color!” Gryffin said looking put out.

“Mate, our nicknames suck,” Fred stated. “I mean they’re so unoriginal: Red, Molls, Dom, Freddy? Be lucky you don’t have one.”

“Hey!” Dom interjected, crossing her arms. “I like my nickname thank you very much.”

“Whatever,” Freddy said, rolling off what Dom said. “It still sucks.”

“I hate my nickname too,” I stated, before I knew what I was doing. All the heads in the compartment snapped over to me, and I wished I had thought over this fact.

“You don’t like Tashy?” Dom asked, looking offended.

“No not your nickname for me,” I said quickly. “My mum. She’s always calling me Nata. She thinks I like it or something… but I hate it.”

“Nata, eh?” Gryffin said sweeping his eyes over me. “I like it!”

“Oh god,” Molly said smacking her forehead. “Now that’s all he’s going to call you. Same thing happened to me when I mentioned hating Molls.”

“Molls suits you,” Gryffin stated matter-of-factly. “It’s just the right amount of bitter, in my opinion. Goes with your personality, wouldn’t you say?”

“Oh shove it, Fin,” Molly shot back.

“Gladly, Molls.”

“Ugh you guys I swear,” Dom said, looking back and forth from Gryffin to Molly, “Why can’t you all just get along?”

“Getting along with him would be like getting along with my sister,” Molly stated. “Impossible.”

“Oh come on, Lucy’s not that bad,” Rose declared.

“She totally is and you know it!” Molly exclaimed. “Yesterday she asked me if she could give me a makeover.”

“And you didn’t take her up on her offer?” Gryffin asked with a smirk.

“Gryffin,” Rose warned while Molly looked like she was about to totally clobber him.

“Are you all in Gryffindor?” I asked, deciding I should stop whatever fight I assumed would escalate between Molly and Gryffin. I noticed Rose send me a thankful look while Molly just leaned back in her seat and silently fumed.

“Yeah,” Freddy answered, nodding his head. “Same year, too. Except for Gryffin and Molls. They’re seventh years. They’re older and more responsible, as you can obviously see.”

“Oh yeah,” I responded sarcastically. “I could totally tell.”

“You speak sarcasm? Dom, I like this girl,” Freddy said pointing at me with approval. I felt a small bit of satisfaction bubble up in the pit of my stomach.  

“I told you, you would,” Dom commented. “I’m not friends with just anyone you know.”

“Yeah, normally your just friends with these insanely cool people,” Rose said with a roll of her eyes, as she gestured to Freddy, Molly, and Gryffin. “They’re really the crème de la crème, aren’t they?”

“But seriously,” Freddy said, shrugging off Rose’s insult and looking at me. “You’re Miss Teen Witch, right?”

“Right,” I answered a bit reluctant.

“So you’re like... basically the winner of being the hottest girl ever.”

“Definitely not,” I stated as soon as he said this. “You don’t win based solely on looks. It’s about how you present yourself onstage.”

“Huh,” Freddy said, seeming confused at the concept. “But looks still factor, right?”

“They do some,” I said, feeling uncomfortable again. I hated discussing my looks with strangers, namely boys.

“I’m not surprised you won,” Gryffin interjected, giving me a suggestive look. “You’re definitely the hottest girl I’ve seen.”

“Oi!” Dom interjected, giving him an annoyed look. “And what are we? Hypogriffs?”

“You lot don’t count,” Gryffin said. “You’re basically my family.”

“Family my arse,” Molly muttered. “More like you wish.”

“Oh come on, Molls,” Rose said lightly. “Gryffin’s family.”

“No he’s not.”

“I’m really offended, Molls. I thought deep down, in that small black hole you call a heart, there was a soft spot just for me.”

“You thought wrong.”

“Oh the hurt,” Gryffin exclaimed clutching his chest. “I feel as though I’m dying the pain of a thousand fires.”

Molly muttered something else that sounded like a biting insult, which Gryffin responded to with vigor, and then a full out squabble started between them.

“So you guys,” Dom said, stopping the argument and looking from Freddy to Gryffin, “have any of you seen James?”

As Dom asked this, the entire compartment seemed to grow silently still. I noticed Molly looking at Rose worriedly, which I found a bit odd considering Molly didn’t seem the most caring, but Rose just looked back down at her book.

“No,” Gryffin stated bitterly, his happy-go-lucky expression seeming to fade. “He’s probably at a compartment alone like he always is these days.”

“Gryffin,” Dom said annoyed, “Don’t be like that. You know how hard it’s been for him.”

“It’s been hard for all of us,” Freddy stated, “But it’s been almost a year, you’d think he’d be over it.”

“Nate was his best friend,” Dom argued. I noticed out of the corner of my eyes, that Rose seemed to be gripping her book rather tightly, and I found myself very, very curious.

What exactly were they talking about?

“Can you guys shut up?” Molly asked, glancing at Rose as she said this. Everyone seemed to grow quiet at Molly’s suggestion, and for the first time since I’d gotten on the train, silence seemed to hang over the compartment.

“Well,” Rose said, closing her book and standing up, “I better get going. Prefects meeting and all that.”

“Alright,” Dom said, looking down at her feet a bit guiltily, “We’ll be here when the meeting ends, okay?”

“Okay,” Rose said before walking out of the compartment door, “see ya.”

When the compartment door closed behind her, Freddy let out a breath he seemed to be holding. Everyone in the compartment was avoiding eye contact with each other, and the atmosphere seemed so much different than it had before.

“How is she?” Dom asked with her eyes trained on Molly.

“She’s fine,” Molly snapped back. “You just had to bring it up.”

Dom bit her bottom lip after Molly said this, and looked out the compartment window. The lush, green scenery was flying past, but it looked abnormally still.

And suddenly a feeling came over me. One that was totally compulsive and I would normally ignore, but I felt myself embrace it, if only because of the fact that everything around me was so new. I could do anything I wanted, be anything I wanted, and I decided I’d rescue this situation from the morose tone it had taken.

I opened my mouth, about to speak, not even really thinking over what I was going to say, but then—

Ding.

I silently cursed myself for not putting my phone on vibrate as I normally did, and everyone looked over to me as I scrambled through my purse. After pushing aside various tubes of lip-gloss and eyeliner, I finally found my glittery pink phone, nestled in one of the pockets. I pulled it out and read the screen, which showed I had one new text message from my mum.

“What’s that?” Gryffin asked, leaning his head forward to inspect my phone.

“What does it look like dumbarse?” Molly interjected.

“Hey, Dom! That’s that telly phonie that you had my dad charm with those spells, right?” Freddy asked eagerly, peering at my phone.

“It’s a cell phone,” Dom said, rolling her eyes.

“That’s what he said,” Gryffin stated.

“No, it’s not,” Molly shot back, looking at Freddy annoyed.

“Yeah it is.”

“No, it’s not.”

While Molly and Gryffin continued to fight back and forth, with Freddy and Dom trying to be the buffer between them, I took this time to open my phone and check my text:

Honey, call me when you get the chance and tell me how your day went, okay? Love you, Mum.

As soon as I read the text, I felt something inside of me sink, and I was brought back down to reality. I had thought- however brief a moment- that being at this new school would give me a blank slate. I could be whoever it was I wanted. But that wasn’t true. I had my mum at an arms reach away, who would always be ready to remind me of who I really was.

So as Molly shot a scathing remark at Gryffin, to which Dom chastised her for, I found myself deleting my mother’s text message. She had taken far too much of my life, for me to give her more now.

*

“Hey,” Dom said softly, trying to get my attention as we stood outside of the school. “How are you feeling?”

I was studying the outside of Hogwarts, looking at it with a large amount of apprehension. Even though I had already seen the school when I visited Headmistress Chang’s office, I was now taking it in with fresh eyes.

This place was what was going to be my new home. It seemed so foreign to me. I was so used to my own house, with my own room, and now here I was, with a completely different environment that would soon be mine.

I tore my gaze away from the grey stone castle in front of me and looked back at Dom offering her a smile, “I’m good. It’s a lot to take in, you know?”

As I said this, my eyes trailed to the group of people in front of us. Molly was arguing with Gryffin about the fact that they had seemed to fall behind and were stuck with the sixth years, and Freddy was talking to Rose about something that they both seemed to find fascinating. I heard them mention Tolstoy a couples of times, and figured it had to be something intellectual.

“Yeah, I know,” Dom said, nodding her head at me, keeping her eyes trained on the group in front of us. “But you’ll get used to it, to them.”

“Yeah.” I kept my eyes fixed on Molly as she intentionally shoved a sixth year out of her way and started to mutter about seniority.

“I understand they can be a bit much,” Dom started again, “but they really are great once you get to know them. I think it’s just a bit weird because you guys don’t know each other.”

I nodded my head as if I understood. But I’m not sure if I did. I had thought that coming to Hogwarts would be easy. I mean, Dom was already here with all of her friends, ready made for me to slip in with them. I had forgotten, however, that I would actually have to put in some effort. I would have to somehow become friends with these people, without Dom’s help.

And while I was used to being thrown in with people, and charming my way into them liking me, I realized most of it was my mother’s charm. She was always the one doing the talking. I was much quieter when it came down to it, and only Dom knew my friendly side, and that was only because it would be just us. This large group of people kind of alarmed me.

We finally arrived in the entrance hallway, which was packed with students, all being ushered into the Great Hall, to where the feast would be held. I found myself under scrutiny of random girls I didn’t know, so I clung to Dom as she navigated the way through the crowd and into the Great Hall.

“What. The. Fuck,” I heard a pissed off voice, which I immediately assumed to be Molly’s, say as we walked towards the Gryffindor table.

“Molly, calm down,” Rose said putting a hand on Molly’s shoulder, which she immediately shrugged off.

“No she’s right,” Gryffin said, training his eyes at the middle of the Gryffindor table, where a group of girls that looked to be either second or third year students, were sitting. They were all one mass of bright pink, despite the fact that they were in school uniforms, and I found myself blinded just by looking at them. They were all adorned in pink accessories, from hair clips to purses, to jewelry, and I was suddenly brought back to Georgiana Spectre’s office. “What the fuck are second years, doing at our spot?”

Molly nodded her head in agreement, which caused them both to then look at each other in a sort of awkward stare-down, because they had actually agreed on something.

“Maybe they’re just misunderstood?” I suggested.

“Oh now,” Molly said, gritting her teeth, “They most certainly are not.”

As she said this, she marched up to the Gryffindor table, where the girls were now laughing and giggling, and I spotted a mass of red hair, to which I recognized that Lily was one of the girls sitting at the previously mentioned ‘middle table’.

“Oh, no,” Dom said worriedly, as we all followed Molly, albeit I followed a bit out of obligation than anything else.

Molly reached the table before the rest of us did, and once she was in front of the group of girls, she put her hands on her hips. I couldn’t see her face, but even from knowing her for such a short amount of time, I knew she was glaring at them.

“Lucy!” She scolded, looking at one of the girls in pink with a scathing expression. The aforementioned girl, who was wearing a thick pink headband in her light brown hair, along with a bunch of pink bracelets on her wrists, and a pink oxford peeking out of the Hogwart’s lumpy gray sweater, looked up at Molly perkily.

“Yeah, sis?” Lucy asked, and it was then that I noticed her brown eyes were the exact same shade as Molly’s, and that they both had an angular look about them. But, whereas Molly’s sharpness made her look intimidating, Lucy had more roundness around her chin that made her look more approachable. The fact that they were sisters though, I still found very, very confusing. I mean… they were nothing alike.

“What are you and your ‘Pink sodding Ladies’ group doing in our seat,” Molly asked, her expression one of pure malice. When she said ‘our’ she turned around and gestured to the rest of us, who were all standing behind her with various facial expressions.

Freddy was ignoring this exchange and was instead glancing around the room looking bored, Gryffin was crossing his arms and nodding along with Molly, Rose was rolling her eyes, and Dom was biting her bottom lip. I figured if anyone put an expression on me, it would be that I looked completely confused and out of my element. Well… at least that’s how I felt.

“This isn’t you’re seat,” Lucy responded nonchalantly, looking at the pink clad girls that surrounded her who all nodded their head in agreement. “We got here first, fair and square.”

“We always sit here though,” Molly exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air. “The middle table might as well be ours.”

“But, it’s not,” Lucy said, flipping her hair, which I noticed had an extra sheen that came with only proper grooming, I knew from experience seeing as my mother made sure I was always well kept. I also noted, that Lucy’s nails were painted a baby pink. “You’re welcome to sit with us if you want.”

It was then that Lily seemed to notice me, and she immediately interrupted Molly’s retort (which sounded a lot like ‘no way in bloody hell’) and squealed. Oh, god.

“Natasha! You have to sit by me,” Lily exclaimed, pushing a blonde haired girl over and patting the now open space next to her.

Molly turned to me, arching an eyebrow, while Dom looked at me with confusion.

“Er…” I said, trailing off not really knowing how to answer her.

“I was looking for you on the train but I couldn’t find you,” Lily chattered on, seeming completely oblivious. “But guys,” Lily looked at the pink clad girls as she said this, “This is my new friend, Natasha Lee Covington, Miss Teen Witch.”

I heard a couple of the girls in pink gasp, while Lucy looked at me with approval. I however, just stood there, feeling very, very uncomfortable.

“She’s sitting by me,” Dom stated, looking at Lily a bit snippily, although I bet only I could tell. An expression seemed to then come over her. “But,” Dom said, giving Lily a long look, “If you guys moved over just a little and let us have our regular seats, you could sit near Natasha as well.”

“Okay!” Lily replied happily, nodding her head excitedly as she and Lucy directed their pink group to move over to the side, leaving an empty space at the middle table.

Molly immediately sank down onto one of the benches, while Gryffin sat next to her and Rose sat next to Gryffin. I sat across from Rose, with Dom on my right and Freddy next to Dom. Luckily, the seating had made me the farthest away from Lily and Lucy that I could get, which I sent a thankful look to Dom for because I knew it was her doing.

“I’ve never seen them so happily give their seats up to someone before,” Freddy stated, studying me with a curious look.

“Yeah,” Gryffin echoed, looking at me with newfound respect, “you’re like… their god.”

“I’m not,” I stated quickly, looking to my right and catching the group of pink staring at me. “I think they just… like pageants.”

“Well I, for one, cannot understand why they would,” Molly stated brashly, looking a bit disgusted. “Pageants are stupid.”

“Molly,” Rose warned, “you do realize you have two people who have been in pageants, sitting at your table, right?”

“Oh it’s fine,” Dom said shrugging her shoulders. “I totally agree. Pageants are idiotic excuses of time.”

“Well,” Freddy said, looking at me, “We need to be thankful Natasha is here, because we would not have gotten our usual seat without her. I guess since Victoire graduated, they felt no need to respect our seating. But with Natasha here, we won’t have to worry about that.”

Gryffin nodded his head in agreement, while I felt my face heat up. They were acting like I had control.

“Ah, Victoire,” Molly stated with a dazed off expression. “What I wouldn’t give to have the head girl back at this school. She was able to scare all those little bints into their rightful places.”

I thought about Dom’s sister, Victoire, who had probably one of the most powerful presences out of anyone I’d meant. She was very take charge and knew what she wanted, when she wanted, and I remembered admiring her for it. I think that’s how Dom got to be the way she is.

“You make her sound like Voldemort,” Dom said flatly. “And anyways, I don’t know if I could’ve put up with her another year. I mean, I love her and everything, but having to deal with her constantly breaking up and getting back together with Teddy was hell.”

I vaguely remembered Dom always mentioning Victoire and Teddy’s various breakups, which always revolved around someone flirting with someone else, thus causing a huge argument that would end in tears. They’d always break up and then immediately get back together the next day; it was a vicious cycle.

“Don’t remind us,” Gryffin groaned. “Remember last year, when Victoire thought Teddy was flirting to much with Marisol Bell?”

“I think everyone does,” Freddy answered. “She called Marisol a home wrecker in front of the entire Great Hall, and then bat bogey hexed her.”

“Victoire was going through an emotional time,” Dom defended. “She thought she was pregnant, because she used a public restroom, remember?”

“But she wasn’t actually pregnant,” Rose reasoned, “which we told her time and time again. But she continued to act overly hormonal the whole week until she got her little visit from Auntie Flo.”

“Ugh,” Gryffin shuddered, while Freddy covered his ears. “Do not mention that ever again.”

“Well, we’ll never have to worry about another fight between them,” Dom stated, ignoring Freddy. “They had their final break over three months ago, and neither of them have talked to each other since.”

“I, for one, am not surprised,” Molly stated. “Their whole relationship was based around mistrust and arguments.”

“And since when did you become the relationship expert?” Gryffin asked with disbelief. “You think that the only reason old married couples exist is because they’re too tired and lazy to divorce each other.”

“It’s true!” Molly stated. “All relationships turn to crap eventually. Old married couples are just waiting for the other to kick the bucket.”

“That’s awful, Molls,” Rose said. Molly seemed to think over what she said, and decided to act is if she was very interested in the wooden table. “In my opinion, I think Teddy and Victoire belonged together. I mean, if they didn’t work out, what hope do the rest of us have?”

“None,” Molly stated simply. “Which is why I’m never getting married.”

“As if anyone would marry you,” Gryffin stated hiding a laugh. “You’re taller than almost every guy you meet, and you’re personality is an instant turn off.”

“Wow,” Molly said, putting her hand over her heart, “You flatter me.”

I took this time to look away and scan the Great Hall, in which people were still milling into, being the last of the scragglers. I saw the guy I had met on the platform amble into the Great Hall last, and I noticed the casual way in which he walked into the room. A couple of people seemed to whisper and point at him, but for the most part nobody took notice of him. He ended up walking to the end of the Gryffindor table, where nobody else was sitting, and propped his feet up on the bench across from the one he was sitting on, looking as if he didn’t care what the rest of the Great Hall thought.

Molly seemed to follow my gaze, and I noticed her eyes narrow a little at the guy.

“Unbelievable,” Molly muttered. “He’s ignoring us as if we don’t exist. As if we weren’t all mates!”

I noticed the rest of the table snap their attention to the guy, all of them studying him with different expressions.

“Molly,” Rose said, “calm down. James can do what he wants.”

It finally clicked into my head, that the guy who I had met on the platform was James. James who was Dom’s cousin, which was about all I had deduced. I decided it wasn’t my place to pry and ask what they were talking about, so I just stayed silent.

“I know,” Molly said, letting out a huff. “But he’s being stupid.”

“When isn’t he?” Gryffin asked, for comedic effect. This elicited a couple half smiles from the group, but for the most part, everything remained somber.

Before anyone else could say anything, there was a shout of “Attention, attention!” throughout the Great Hall, and everyone looked towards the front of the room, where Headmistress Chang was now standing up and looking at the entire hall with a serious expression. There was a group of what I assumed to be the first years entering the Great Hall following one Professor, and they all seemed to be frightened as they made their way forward. All of the idle conversations stopped instantly.

“Welcome all, to another year or in some cases your first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!” Headmistress Chang said, her eyes gleaming in excitement as she scanned the room. “I’ll keep this speech short, so we can get onto the sorting, and of course the feast. So I’ll just say that I hope we have another excellent school year!”

She sat down in her seat, and a couple of people whooped as she finished speaking, but most just kept their eyes transfixed on the Professor who was now setting up a stool with the hat that I recalled sorting me.

The hat opened its mouth and began to sing, while I kept my eyes on James, studying him. He sat staring straight ahead, his fingers drumming the table top in a staccato rhythm. I don’t know why I kept staring at him, I guess it was just the way he looked so careless… or carefree. And maybe a little of something else that I couldn’t quite figure out.

While my gaze remained trained on James, I noticed him turn his head and suddenly, he was staring right at me. He tilted his head up in just the slightest of nods as he noticed me looking. I found my cheeks heating up at the fact that I was caught staring at him, and I immediately looked away.

God, why did I have to stare at him? Now I looked like a right loony.

“Sortings are so boring,” Molly stated, as she rested her head on the wooden table. A students name was called, and he walked up to the stool, with the hat being placed on his head. “I don’t understand why the whole school has to watch them.”

“I don’t understand why we can’t eat and watch,” Gryffin stated, rubbing his stomach. “I’ve been waiting all day for this feast, and all these first years are making me wait.”

“I like watching the sorting,” Dom chimed, as she avidly watched the student that had just been sorted into Ravenclaw walk to his table.

“Yes well, you also like house elves and Herbology, so you’re weird,” Molly stated.

“Herbology is a lovely class,” Rose said, giving Molly a look.

“Yeah,” Freddy agreed, “The only reason you don’t like it is because that plant bit you that one time.”

“I wasn’t even near it!” Molly defended. “It attacked me!”

“You were poking it with your wand,” Gryffin stated. “You were provoking it.”

Molly and Gryffin continued to argue about whether or not she had provoked the plant, while the rest of us sighed and continued to watch the sorting with disinterest (except for Dom who acted like it was the most riveting thing she’d ever seen). Once the last person had been sorted, they finally stopped arguing, because Headmistress Chang had stood up again.

“Now, that concludes the sorting. I hope all of you are happy in your new houses, as they will be your family for the next seven years,” Headmistress Chang stated, sweeping her gaze around the room. “I also would like to inform you that we have a new student who will be entering her sixth year here, and has been sorted into Gryffindor, and that student I am please to announce is Natasha Lee Covington.”

I felt myself become very uncomfortable at the fact that there were now the eyes of the entire Great Hall on me. I just smiled awkwardly and gave a little wave, hearing Molly muffling laughs while I sunk down farther in my seat.

“I hope that you all welcome her to the school. She will be staying until the end of winter term and after that she is going to tour the world as the face of Miss Teen Witch, so let’s make a good impression on her, alright?” Even more whispers broke out as she said this. Headmistress Chang then looked at me with a welcoming smile before turning away. “Now, let’s tuck in and eat, yeah?”

As she said this, food suddenly appeared on the table, and I found myself shocked that food could appear. Just like that.

“You’re going to tour the world?” Rose asked, looking at me very interested after the speech ended. Everyone else looked at me as I formulated a response.

“Yeah. It’s going to be a year long tour to visit other girls in different countries and do a lot of publicity work and stuff,” I stated, picking up food from the middle of the table and putting it onto my plate.

“Damn,” Freddy said, “I wish I could’ve competed. I’ve always wanted to tour the world.”

“Too bad you’re a boy, dumbshit,” Molly stated, rolling her eyes. “Good luck winning that.”

“Molly,” Rose reprimanded, “you’re being mean.”

“Seriously though, Nata,” Gryffin said, as I cringed at his use of my nickname. He smirked once he noticed this, but then put a serious expression on his face. “You’re so lucky. I mean, that’s some serious street cred. And you get to tour the world? It doesn’t get much better.”

It was weird, how people could look at the same situation and come up with completely different thoughts on it. I was dreading my yearlong tour. I was not looking forward to the fact that I would have to just get up and leave, and go to a bunch of countries, faking smiles and acting like it was everything I wanted.

All I wanted was to go to school and make friends. And here was Gryffin, someone who went to school and had the normal life I longed for, and he was envious of me? It seemed warped and twisted. But, I guess that was the point. Nobody would ever be happy with what they were handed, and maybe that would always be the case. So I should just suck it up and be happy that I’m Miss Teen Witch, because as Georgiana said, I was living every girls’ fantasy.

“You’re right, Gryffin,” I said slowly, a small smile entering my face. “I guess I am lucky.”

“Wow, Fin, someone actually thinks your right!” Molly exclaimed with fake enthusiasm. “You should be so proud.”

The smile on my face was starting to tug at the corners, a reminder that it wasn’t real. That it was all forced, all an act. But I hadn’t had a real smile in so long, that it was almost a comfort.

Almost.
 






A/N: Alright my lovely, amazing readers! Here is chapter 6! Natasha arrives at Hogwarts! What do you all think?

There were a bunch of new characters thrown in, so I hope none of you got confused, but I loved them all so much that I had to include them. I hope you loved them too?

Normally I have a ramble of questions but I can't think of any specific ones to ask other than what you felt about the characters, and the chapter. So please review and let me know, because I'm very curious as to what you all think!

I really hope you liked this chapter, it was fun to write :)

Okay well that's about it... Read and review if you'd like, as that would make my day!

-Rebecca


Chapter 7: Quitting is Always an Option
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Disclaimer: I'm not JKR.


 




The problem with being so used to waking up insanely early, besides the obvious fact that you have to wake up, is that you’re still used to it even when you can sleep in a little later. I was used to having to get up at around six every morning, but at Hogwarts, classes didn’t start until nine. It took me about a half an hour to get ready, and this left me with an two and a half hours of absolutely nothing to do.

So, I sat on the edge of my four-poster bed, swinging my feet back and forth as they brushed across the cool wooden floor, dressed in my uniform debating whether or not I should find something to do. My uniform was already perfectly pressed with my tie loosened around my neck so I didn’t feel too stuffy, my nails were painted with a French manicure, and my mahogany hair was curled into loose ringlets. I had opted out of makeup, for what felt like the first time in years, because my mother wasn’t there to force it on me, and I felt a strange sense of freedom from looking in the mirror at my bare face.

I could do anything at this moment. I now had the control over what I’d do next.
I scanned around the room, to see all of my dorm mates peacefully sleeping. Rose was laying on her back, her hair fanned out around her while Dom was lying face down with her mouth open as she let out small snores. Our other dorm mate, Hattie Porter, who I had met briefly the night before and had seemed very—happy—to say the least, was sleeping perfectly poised, a smile etched onto her face. She was very small and very blond and vaguely resembled an elf. Not a house elf, because those are hideous creatures, but a mystical type of elf.  The ones with pointy ears and cherry red cheeks and sparkles coming out of their fingertips.

But elf creatures aside, I figured that since I had all of these hours stretched out ahead of me, I should at least go to breakfast. No one would be there, and I could take in the whole school atmosphere, without having to bump into anyone. Because let’s face it, I really wasn’t the best at socializing.

So, I stood up from my sitting position on my four-poster bed, grabbed a textbook to read while I ate, and tiptoed out of the Sixth Year Girl Dormitory, shutting the door quietly behind me. I padded down the stairs and then entered the Common room, which was completely empty, and headed out into the hallway.

While I was walking, I felt my phone buzz and I mentally cursed myself for bringing it with me. My mum had texted me what felt like a million times since yesterday, and I still had yet to text her back. I looked down at my phone, and without even reading the text message, I deleted it.

I felt bad, but I just didn’t know how to respond. I’d been at Hogwarts for less than a day, and she was already expecting me to devote my time to texting her and filling her in on everything, but I just didn’t want to. I wanted to keep this small part of my life, away from her, if I could help it.

After walking a while longer, I opened the doors to the Great Hall and was greeted with what I initially assumed to be an empty room. However, when I scanned the Great Hall again, I noticed that there was one other person there. It was James, and he was sitting in the same spot he had been sitting at during the feast. His hair seemed a bit mussed, and he wore a ratty robe with a bunch of mud along the bottom of it, which I knew if my mother saw, she’d wrinkle her nose in distaste. But, I was not my mother, so I didn’t really mind.

He looked up as the doors to the hall shut closed, and his eyes flicked over me briefly, before going back to writing on a particularly long piece of parchment, that he seemed to have already halfway filled with writing. I idly wondered what it was, but that was soon replaced with me wondering where I should sit at the table.

Finally, I decided on a spot a couple of seats over from him where we were far enough away to not be associated with each other, but close enough that we could still be classified as being on the same side of the table. I opened the textbook I had quickly grabbed on my way out of the dormitory, which turned out to be my Transfiguration one, and started to read over the pages.

Neither of us said anything to one another, not that I expected him to. Instead, I found myself shooting side-glances at him while I tried to read through the book. He seemed to be taking no notice of me at all, and was concentrating really hard on whatever it was he was writing, every word seeming to be written with a close precision.

I’m not sure how long we were sitting there for, but after a while, people slowly but surely started to trickle into the hall. The Gryffindors that entered sat on the opposite end of the table that James and I were sitting at, most of them seeming to want to keep their distance from him. I did, however, notice a couple of people shoot curious glances at me as they entered, to which I would look back down at my book and pretend I didn’t notice.

After a while, James suddenly stopped writing and got up, leaving the Great Hall without a backwards glance at me. Not that I cared or anything.  I didn’t even know why I was so aware of him. It was just…there was something so… different about him. Something different that made me curious.

I continued to sit at the table in solitude, until a while later when I felt a presence sit down across from me. When I looked up, I saw Gryffin, who was smiling hugely at me.

“Early riser?” Gryffin asked me, as he began to grab a piece of toast from off the table and take a large bite out of it.

“Um,” I began as he continued chewing, “Kind of… I’m just used to waking up early I guess.”

Gryffin swallowed and then nodded his head, as if he understood. “Good. It’ll really piss Molly off that you wake up early.”

“She’s not in the same dorm as me…” I started but Gryffin was already not paying attention as he, instead, cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted at someone across the room.

“Oi! Malfoy! Get your arse over here!”

I noticed as a dark blonde boy’s head immediately jerked around from a conversation he seemed to be having with a group of Ravenclaws. He scanned the room with a clinical expression, and after seeing Gryffin waving him over, he seemed to give a businesslike goodbye to the people he was talking to and headed towards us. I noticed, as he got closer, that he was wearing a red and gold tie, with a badge that looked awfully similar to Rose’s fastened onto his robes.

“What’s up?” Malfoy asked, once he reached us. He put both of his hands on the surface of the table as he said this and leaned forward.

“I think you know what’s up,” Gryffin declared, seeming a little less than his normally exuberant self.

“You know I never understand you when you try to be mysterious,” Malfoy said, letting out an annoyed sigh as he ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “Is this because I didn’t see any of you yesterday since I had prefect duties?”

“As if we’d get mad over something stupid like that,” Gryffin answered, looking insulted. “Although your prefect duties were utter bullshit to begin with. Rose didn’t need to do anything.”

“Rose is a slacker when it comes to prefect duties. She’s too focused on school to focus on anything else.”

“She’s just trying to get her grades up,” Gryffin defended. “She let them drop last year because of… you know.”

Malfoy seemed to brush off whatever Gryffin was saying, his face becoming increasingly disinterested, and he instead directed his attention to me. “Hello, I don’t think we’ve properly met,” he said formally, reaching his hand out for me to shake. I would’ve found it odd for anyone else to offer their hand, but for some reason it seemed to fit him. “I’m Scorpius Malfoy."

“Natasha,” I responded with a polite smile as I pulled my hand back.

“Yes, yes, he knows,” Gryffin said looking a bit annoyed. “Now answer my question, Malfoy.”

“Question?” Scorpius asked, although for some reason I had a feeling he knew exactly what Gryffin was referring to. “You didn’t ask me anything.”

“You know why I called you here.”

“I clearly don’t, so please enlighten me.”

“Fine,” Gryffin snapped, inhaling a breath as if preparing himself for battle, “You’re not actually having people try out for seeker, are you?”

Once the question left his mouth, an uncomfortable expression seemed to come across Scorpius’s face.

“Well, that answers that,” Gryffin said bitterly.

“Mate, come on. He’s not coming back on the team, and as Gryffindor captain I can’t just keep a spot open for whenever he feels like rejoining,” Scorpius explained, as if trying to get Gryffin to understand.

Despite the fact that I had very little knowledge about the sport, I was able to deduce they were discussing Quidditch.

“But he’s our captain!” Gryffin argued. “We can’t just replace him.”

Was our captain,” Scorpius corrected. “James appointed me captain when he resigned."

I felt my ears perk up at this mention.

“But I thought it was supposed to be temporary,” Gryffin argued. “He was supposed to return this year, it’s his last year to be captain before he graduates.”

“Mate, I know,” Scorpius responded, a sympathetic tone in his voice. “But he’s not returning.”

“It’s just…” Gryffin began, seeming at a loss for words. “I just thought that if we gave him time, things would return to normal.”

“I think this is our new normal,” Scorpius said philosophically. There was a long silence where neither of them looked at one another. Then, Scorpius cleared his throat, and his face returned to a businesslike expression. “So this Saturday is the Quidditch tryouts for a new seeker. As captain I expect you to be there and welcome the new member onto the team.”

“Fine,” Gryffin replied begrudgingly.

“Good,” Scorpius stated, nodding his head. “Well, I better be off. See you Gryffin, nice meeting you Natasha.”

“Yeah,” I responded as he turned and walked off, his Hogwarts robes trailing behind him elegantly.

There was a long silence at the table, where Gryffin sat wordlessly, using his fork to spear various pieces of food while he remained deep in thought. I didn’t want to look nosy and ask all of the questions running through my head, so I just remained quiet.

After a Professor came and dropped what I figured was my schedule for the year, I noticed that there was now a large amount of people in the Great Hall, which I took as my cue to leave.

“Well,” I said, standing up from my seat and brushing the skirt of my uniform down so that it sat flat against my legs, “I’m going to go.”

Gryffin nodded as he continued to stare straight ahead, and I began to back away slowly before finally turning around and walking out of the Great Hall. Once I opened to door to leave the Great Hall, I found myself face-to-face with Dom and Rose.

“Tashy!” Dom exclaimed seeming a bit surprised at bumping into me here.

“Hey,” I responded. Rose smiled and gave me a polite hello, before continuing into the Great Hall, leaving Dom and me alone.

“I was looking for you,” Dom stated. “You should’ve told me you were coming down for breakfast! I would’ve joined you.”

“Oh I didn’t want to wake any of you up,” I explained, shrugging my shoulders. “I woke up pretty early.”

“Nonsense,” Dom responded, waving me off. “I never let a friend go to breakfast alone.”

“I wasn’t alone…Gryffin was there,” I offered. Dom, however, did not seem comforted that I had Gryffin as company. “And I met someone named Scor—"

“Scorpius?” Dom asked, interrupting me. “I haven’t seen him yet! How did you meet him?”

“Gryffin was talking to Scorpius about Quidditch tryouts, I think.”

“Oh my god, tryouts!” Dom exclaimed, smacking her forehead. “I totally forgot about those pesky things! When are they?”

“Saturday,” I answered, feeling a bit odd that I was the one filling Dom in.

“Seriously?!” Dom exclaimed, annoyed. “Scorpius can’t let us settle in first?”

“I don’t know… He mentioned something about a seeker tryout, so maybe that’s why.”

“Seeker tryouts...” Dom said trailing off. I felt myself wanting to ask her about James, but for some reason I held back. “Okay.”

“Well I’m going to go back to the dorms. I need to get my books and everything,” I said, starting to edge away.

“You’re not going to join me?” Dom asked, a small pout entering her expression.

“I just finished eating,” I explained. “But tomorrow I will. Promise.”

I offered Dom a smile, which she returned, before I turned off and headed down the hallway. As I turned a corner and pulled back a tapestry that I remembered Dom pointing out as a shortcut to the Gryffindor Common Room, I found myself immediately trip over a body.

“Oh, sorry,” I said immediately, looking at the person I’d tripped over and recognizing the familiar jet-black hair immediately. “I didn’t know you were…”

I noticed that James seemed to not really be listening to me. Instead, he was holding a folded piece of parchment in his hands, staring at it curiously, as if it held the answers to everything. It was then that I realized it was the parchment he had been writing on in the Great Hall.

James slowly looked up at me as I trailed off. “You know the tapestry shortcut?” he asked with a confused expression. He snapped his attention away from the parchment he had been staring at, and instead met his gaze with mine. His eyes looked greener than they had the day I met him, and I noticed the ring of brown around the iris was now tinted more with blue.

“Yeah,” I responded, shocked that he had acknowledged me and also… nervous for some reason. “Dom told me.”

James nodded at this, as if that explained everything, while I continued to stand there. I don’t know why I didn’t just walk past him, but for some reason I found myself wanting to talk to him, despite the fact that he didn’t seem to want to talk to me.

“So,” I asked, after there was a long silence, “why are you here?”

James looked at me with a level stare before finally opening his mouth and responded, “Thinking.”

“Right…” I started, again examining the way he was sitting on the floor. “Thinking."

“Yup.”

“Sounds… fun,” I said, at a loss for words.

“It is.”

“Okay, well… have fun then,” I responded. James was obviously not interested in starting a conversation, so I began to walk away, deciding that I should actually go to the Common room like I had told myself I was going to. “See ya.”

James however, didn’t respond and instead just watched as I continued through the passageway, his eyes morphing to a darker blue.

It was weird. I wasn’t the type of person to start a conversation with someone, let alone try and make it last. In fact, I was the exact opposite. So why was I trying so hard to talk to James?

I shook my head, trying to clear it of the million and one questions that were fluttering around me. Ones that made me want to turn myself around, march up to James, and ask him about everything I’d heard and suspected.

But I didn’t.  Instead, I glanced back over my shoulder at James, as I retreated out of the shortcut. He had turned back to staring at the parchment, and his mouth was set in a thin line. His fists were clenched and his jaw was set. Just as I turned my head away from him, I noticed his hands begin to scrunch the paper up into a ball, before throwing it at the wall. 

*

“The secret with Professor Binns,” Rose began, as we collected our books to leave the History of Magic classroom, “is that you need to always know important dates. Most of the time, you don’t even need to know any of the details about what actually happened. You just need to know that there was a Goblin-Wizarding War in 1832 and you’re good to go.”

“I see,” I responded. History of Magic had just finished, and while being one of the most boring classes on the face of the Earth, it was also a class I did not have with Dom. Dom had warned me about how boring the class was when I told her I wanted to take it, but I had been so interested in learning all about wizarding history, that I had ignored her. Something I was seriously regretting now.

“And also,” Rose said, getting a bit excited (she loved History of Magic for some crazy reason), “if you read the chapter summaries in your textbook, he gets a lot of his quiz questions from there.”

“Great,” I responded with a forced smile. Rose smiled genuinely back at me, which made me feel bad. I really should’ve been more grateful at the fact that she was taking me under her wing, and letting me in on the secrets of each teacher. 

“Oh that reminds me,” Rose said, her eyes snapping onto mine as her walking slowed, “Do you have a planner?”

“A… planner?” I asked as Rose seemed to scrutinize my expression. Her face instantly morphed to shock.

“A homework planner,” Rose clarified. “You write down all of your homework for each subject into it and then you know all the homework you have and when it’s due. I can’t believe you don’t know what a planner is! That’s the–”

“Fundamental building blocks of an A plus,” a voice recited from behind us, officially stopping Rose in what I expected to be a very long and excited explanation. I immediately was thankful.

“So,” Freddy started, while I noticed that he was not alone. Gryffin (who had made the first remark) and Scorpius were also with him. “Rose is giving you the infamous planner lecture? Welcome to the family then.”

“What?” I asked confused.

“The planner lecture,” Freddy repeated. “It’s Rose’s way of initiating you into the family. We’ve all had to endure it at one point in our lives, even Scorp here has.” With that Freddy clapped Scorpius on the shoulder.

Scorpius seemed to notice my puzzled expression and he began to speak. “Basically, if Rose gives you the lecture, it means she cares. No matter how dull it may be.”

“You guys,” Rose complained, “the homework planner is not dull. It’s gotten me through the past five years here, and now it’s going to get me through my sixth.” 

“We’ve all made it through the years fine without your planner, so your justification is useless,” Scorpius stated, which caused Rose to glare at him.

“The planner is not useless. You’ve all only slid by these past few years, because I have used the planner to get my homework done so that you can all copy it.”

“It’s still useless,” Gryffin added, shrugging his shoulders. “I could get it all done if I wanted, I just figure since you’re always done, it’s easier to just copy.”

“For the last time, the planner is not useless,” Rose argued as her face flushed. She then turned to me. “Seriously, Natasha, you should use it. It’ll save you.” 

I couldn’t help but notice the slightly threatening way she said it, as if telling me to agree with her so she could prove the guys wrong. I know it wasn’t her intent to frighten me, but I felt myself fidget uncomfortably.

“I normally use a color coding system when it comes to homework,” I told Rose tentatively. “I like to give each subject a different color, and then I write down each assignment in the assigned colored folder, and write the colors that I need to take a look at into a notebook. Then I make a time schedule for each assignment to make sure I get everything done by the due date.”

After I said this, Freddy, Gryffin, and Scorpius stared at me in complete shock. I suddenly found myself becoming very self-conscious, so my eyes shifted to Rose. She was beaming at me.

“What?” I asked, after there was a long moment where nobody said anything. “I just like having things organized.”

“Just when I thought you were normal,” Gryffin started, “you have to go and say things like that.”

*

“Gryffin!” Rose chastised.

What?”

“I can’t believe you said that! I swear, sometimes you have about as much tact as Molly!”

“I am nothing like Molly,” Gryffin said looking completely insulted.

“What’s so bad about being me?” Molly asked at the same time.

“Sometimes I think you two are the exact same,” Rose stated, not seeming to care about how insulted both Molly and Gryffin now seemed.

“Take it back,” Gryffin commanded.

“Yeah, take it back,” Molly interjected looking offended. “He would only be so lucky to be like me.”

“No,” Rose responded with a sniff. “Not until you apologize to that poor little first year that you told ‘needed to learn her place in the school food chain’ and then apologize for making her cry.”

“She was sitting in our spot!” Gryffin argued, gesturing to the middle table that we were now all seated at. “She needed to learn about a little something called the real world. And in the real world, you can’t take people’s seats.”

“Couldn’t have said it better myself,” Molly commended, looking a bit impressed at Gryffin’s statement.

There was a moment of silence, and then—

“Oh no,” Gryffin said, putting his face in his hands. “I am just like Molly.”

“It’s okay, Gryffin,” Dom said, placing a comforting hand on his arm. “We put up with you anyways.”

“I still don’t understand what’s so bad about being like me,” Molly stated.

Everyone at the table, including Freddy and Scorpius, who had been conversing about something Qudditch related, turned to stare at her with varying shades of disbelief.

“Molly…” Dom started delicately. “You bully first years, pick fights with random passers-by, and laugh loudly every time a guy asks you to Hogsmeade, completing your answer with a snarky remark about how you ‘wouldn’t in a million years’.”

Molly continued to stare back at Dom for a long moment without blinking, as if thinking over Dom’s words. Then, she shrugged. “ So I know what I want. What’s so bad about that?” she asked.

Rose smacked her forehead, Gryffin continued to moan about being just like a ‘nutter’, Scorpius was holding back a laugh, and Freddy was staring at her as though she was a particularly tricky puzzle.

“You could be a little nicer though, don’t you think?” Dom asked hopefully.

“Nah, don’t want to ruin my reputation,” Molly responded nonchalantly. “I’ve built it up for too long to start being nice to people.”

“There’s no saving you,” Freddy stated, while Scorpius nodded. 

“Definitely, no saving you,” Scorpius agreed.

“Maybe Molly doesn’t want to be saved,” I stated, before I could comprehend what I was doing. “She could be happy the way she is, you know.”

Thank you,” Molly responded, looking at the rest of the table, as if proving that she did not in fact need to be saved. “At least someone here appreciates me.”

“She’s new,” Gryffin said shrugging his shoulders. “Give her a few days, she’ll change her mind.”

After Gyrffin finished speaking, Molly took this time to smack him across the back of the head.

“OW!”

*

Nata, You haven’t responded to any of my messages, so I’m assuming yesterday went well and you’re very busy? Text me back. Love, Mum

Honey, How is your first day of classes going? Please let me know. Love, Mum

Nata, you haven’t responded and I’m getting worried. Can you please text me back to let me know you’re alright? Love, Mum.

Sweetie, I’m assuming that you aren’t able to use your phone at Hogwarts, so I’m using the old-fashioned owl way to contact you and ask you how everything’s going? How are your classes? I miss you, Mum.

Natasha, I think I might’ve sent the first owl to the wrong place so I’m just sending a follow up owl to make sure. How are classes going? Remember next week we’re going to the revealing of your billboard, okay? Please respond. I love you, Mum.

Those weren’t all the letters I had. I had several more, all from my mum throughout the past couple of days, each letter written with the exact same premise. How was I doing? Was I having fun? Did I miss her? Have I made new friends? They were all she could ask about, and while it was a typical thing for a mother to ask, I knew she was asking me for different reasons. She just wanted to know to keep tabs on me, to make sure I was doing everything I was supposed to. Not because of an actual interest.

So now, I sat on my four-poster bed with my phone and the countless letters from my mum spread out in front of me. Her handwriting had turned from its normal careful calligraphy to a more hurried scrawl if you read the letters in order, and I felt strange. As if I, in some small way, had all the power.

I didn’t like it; I didn't know what to do with it.

So, as I read through (for the fifth time) all of the letters my mum had sent me, and deleted all of the texts that flooded my inbox, I decided that I needed to respond to her. I didn’t want my mum to worry any longer—I didn’t even know what had caused me to wait so long— but I knew I had to respond. And knowing my mum, it would have to be soon, or else she’d come to the school and demand me to come home… or something along those lines.

So, I grabbed a piece of personalized pink parchment (that my mother bought me) out of the drawer of my dresser and scrawled back a response, my messy handwriting look so much worse when compared to hers.

Mum, Just saw your letters. School’s fine, I’m doing well. Love you, Nata

I folded up the parchment and then looked around the room, which was completely empty despite it being late at night. Dom and Rose had gone with Molly, Gryffin, Freddy, and Scorpius to the kitchens in order to nick some food and hang out. I had opted out of it, feigning being tired from waking up so early, while I instead stared at my mum’s letters until my eyesight hurt. Our other dorm mate, Hattie, had mentioned something about seeing her boyfriend, so she wasn’t there either. 

I decided that I shouldn’t put off sending the letter, so I got up off my bed and decided to head to the Owlery. It had been the one place my mum had been intent on showing me when I visited the school with her, because she wanted me to be able to keep in contact with her and Georgiana with no excuses.

The hallways were silent and when I finally made it to the Owlery, I stood in there trying to beckon one of the school owls down for ten minutes before it finally perched itself on my shoulder. After tying the letter onto the owl’s foot, I directed the owl to deliver the letter to my mum. I watched the tawny owl spread its wings and fly out of the Owlery, and as I watched it, I caught sight of something else.

Out on the Quidditch pitch, there was a lone figure that I could barely. The figure was flying, a pinprick in the distance of the night sky. After staring for a long moment, I realized it was James.

While I didn’t know much about flying, I knew there was something special about the way he was doing it. There was just…  an elegance about it. Arc by arc, loop by loop, it was the most impressive flying I had ever seen. Like he’d been born to ride a broom, and the way his hair ruffled in the wind just made it seem all the more fitting. He was a natural.

I don’t know how long I stood there, watching the ends of his Quidditch robes flutter through the air as he continued his fluid flight, but I watched long enough for him to decide he was done, lower himself to the ground, and get off his broom. He seemed to look up from where he was standing, his face turned directly towards the window I was looking out of, so I felt myself shrink back into the shadows.

After waiting a long moment, I returned back to the windows to see James heading back to the castle, his broom being carried carelessly under one arm. As he walked, he looked up at the Owlery one last time before entering the castle.

I wasn’t sure if he had seen me or not, but I knew that he had definitely seen something, so I quickly left the Owlery to head back to the common room.

And that night, when I closed my eyes, the only thing that ran through my head was James. I could picture his fluid movements, the smoothness of his turns. The very faint (almost nonexistent) smile he had on his face as he flew. It seemed like he—for the most fleeting of moments—owned the night sky, owned everything that surrounded him. He seemed in control. Like he knew everything he was supposed to be doing.

I found myself unbelievably jealous of this for some reason. 

 





A/N: Hello my lovely, lovely readers! I first and foremost would like to apologize for submitting this later than I promised. I've had a lot of work the past couple of weeks what with school starting and teachers deciding that piling on tests would be fun. On top of that I have SATII's this saturday, which I should be studying for but I'm too lazy to, and I was away all last weekend with barely any internet access so I couldn't submit anything then.

But anyways, I hope you liked the chapter! There was quite a bit of James in it, so I hope you liked that :) It was mostly a filler, and not much happened, but it's going to be the basis for the next chapter, which (I think) is going to be a pretty exciting one. Assuming all goes well.

So let me know what you think: Do you like Scorpius? What do you think about him and Gryffin's conversation? What do you think about James quitting Quidditch? What about James and Nata's interaction? What was James writing? Or what about James flying at night? What's up with that?

P.S. Sorry for the spacing of this chapter. I tried to fix it all by backspacing everything between the paragraphs, but it's still all funnily spaced, which is getting on my nerves. I tried my best to fix it though, so please don't hate me!

Please review and let me know what you think. You guys have been super amazing so far, and the support you've given me is totally awesome<3 I'm so thankful to have you as readers! :)

-Rebecca





 


Chapter 8: Caught
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: It's all JKRS. And sorry for the fact that this formatting is yet again, terrible. I'm trying to figure out why it comes out weird but it's taking me a while.


 





“So, guess what I heard,” Dom stated, raising her eyebrow challengingly at Scorpius.

“What?” Scorpius responded flatly, not looking up from the large sheet of parchment set out in front of him. He’d been studying it for the past hour and scribbling Quidditch plays left and right, preparing for today’s tryouts.

I was sitting next to Scorpius, studying, as we had come to do a lot lately. He was the only one out of the group that could actually work silently. Gryffin and Molly hated studying, Dom and Freddy were naturally smart, and Rose always studied over my shoulder and would explain the chapters to me despite the fact that I didn’t ask. Scorpius was the only person I could tolerate studying by. Except for James that is. 

 

But then again, I didn’t really study with him. I just tended to somehow… be around him, despite the fact that he was in the year above me. I always went to breakfast super early, because I still hadn’t adjusted to waking up later, and we would always be the only two people in the Great Hall for those few hours before everyone started to trickle in. 

 

I also watched him fly. Over the past week, I had made a habit out of going to the Owlery just to see him. James would always come out around the same time, about a quarter to midnight, and I would sit there for the hour or two that he would fly. There was just something so… freeing about watching him fly, and I couldn’t keep myself from not watching him.

 

“I said guess,” Dom complained, pouting.

“No.”

 

“Why not?”


“Because I don’t like to guess.”

“Well then you’re not going to hear what I have to say!”

“Fine,” Scorpius stated, unfazed. He looked back down at the parchment, and continued writing as if he hadn’t been interrupted.

I looked at Dom, knowing she wouldn’t be pleased that Scorpius didn’t care what she had to say. True to my thoughts, she was staring at Scorpius with a miffed expression.



 

“Well,” Dom tried. “You’re going to wish I told you, because it’s some interesting news.”



 

“Sucks for me then.”



 

So interesting,” Dom responded as if Scorpius hadn’t spoken, “That you’ll regret me not telling you for the rest of your life.”



 

“The regret has already started—”



 

“And you want to know why, you’ll regret it?” Dom continued, narrowing her eyes at Scorpius.



 

“Not really.”



 

“Because it has to do with… Quidditch.”



 

Scorpius’ nonchalant expression immediately stiffened, and he snapped his head up to look at Dom. She smirked.



 

“What is it Dom?”



 

“So now you want to know—”



 

“Dom just cut the shit and tell him,” I interrupted, finally having enough of her dramatics.



 

“Well, someone sure has taken after Molly this morning, haven’t they?” Dom stated, turning to me and putting her hands on her hips.



 

I rolled my eyes and looked back down at the textbook I was currently studying. I’d been trying to do as much homework I could this morning, since I would be busy today. Even though it was Saturday and I should be getting a break, I was going to have to go to the Billboard revealing in Diagon Alley. It was supposed to last all day, so getting my homework done this weekend was going to be an issue.



 

“Dom, just tell me what you heard,” Scorpius said, diverting her attention away from me and back to him.



 

“Fine, but only because you asked so nicely,” Dom said, heaving a sigh as if it was taking her a great deal to speak. “I heard from Hattie who heard from Lisa who heard from Jason who heard from Al that James is going to seeker tryouts.”



 

Scorpius’ expression changed from mild interest to full attention as soon as Dom said this. I tried a bit harder to contain my curiosity, and instead kept my eyes on my textbook. “Really? Are you sure? Al himself said that?”



 

“Yup,” Dom said, nodding her head. “And if anyone knows the happenings of James Potter, it’s going to be Al.”



 

Scorpius’ eyes met Dom’s and they stared at each other for a long moment. Then Scorpius shrugged. “I don’t buy it,” he said shaking his head and breaking the staring match.



 

“Believe what you will,” Dom said, shrugging. “We’ll find out today anyway.”



 

“It’s been floating around that he’d to return to the team for the past six months,” Scorpius stated again more to himself then to Dom. “I’m not going to get my hopes up.”



 

“But this time we have a more reliable source,” Dom offered.



 

“Al is not reliable,” Scorpius said, an icy tone creeping into his voice. “He’s a Slytherin that loves to mess with our team. I don’t trust him.”



 

“You’re forgetting,” Dom said with a bit more power behind her voice, “that he’s also the only one James talks to besides Lily. Maybe he actually knows.”



 

“Or maybe he doesn’t,” Scorpius snapped. “We were better friends with James than Al ever was! Don’t you think he would tell us before Al?”



 

Dom let out a long breath after Scorpius said this, blowing some loose hair out of her face, “I don’t know, Scorp. I just don’t know.”



 

I wanted to ask so many questions; I wanted to know what they were talking about for once. And with this thought, I began to open my mouth, feeling a rush of confidence that maybe I could be in on the loop, when Dom snapped her head towards me. She opened her mouth and spoke instead.



 

“Hey, Tash, don’t you have that billboard thingy today?”



 

“Yeah,” I responded slowly, not sure where she was going with her question.



 

“Well don’t you need to get ready for it?” Dom asked again.



 

I looked at the magic clock that was hanging above the mantle of the fireplace, and saw that I had only a couple of hours to get ready. Which in the pageant world wasn’t that much time.



 

“Yeah I do,” I responded, swallowing down all the questions at the tip of my tongue. Instead I closed my textbook and got up from the couch I was sitting on. “Thanks for the reminder.”



 

“No problem,” Dom responded back lightly.



 

I began trudging up the staircase, my mind racing with everything I had heard. With everything I had wanted to know. With all the questions I had been about to fire at Dom.



 

I guess I could always ask her tomorrow.


 

 


 

*


 

 


 

“Oh honey,” My mother exclaimed as soon as I stepped out of the fireplace. “I missed you so much!”



 

Before I could respond, I felt my mum immediately wrap her arms around me, squeezing me tight.



 

“I missed you too, mum,” I responded with a forced smile, not quite sure if I meant it.



 

My mum smiled at me broadly, before pulling away from me and inspecting how I looked: baby pink dress, white blazer, bronze wedges, Miss Teen Witch sash and crown. I noticed my mum’s smile falter after inspecting me, and I found myself nervously smoothing down my hair, which I had spent two hours curling, and running my tongue over my teeth to make sure no lip gloss had wound up where it shouldn’t.



 

“I thought you were going to wear your green dress?” my mother asked.



 

I found myself hide a look of annoyance, and instead responded with, “I couldn’t find it,” which seemed to satisfy my mother for the time being.



 

I was lying if you couldn’t tell. The green dress was way too uncomfortable for me to be willing to wear, so I had opted out of it, hoping my mum wouldn’t notice. But of course she’d noticed. She’s my mum. What else did I expect?



 

“Well,” My mother said, smoothing down the pants of her navy blue suit, “Georgiana’s waiting for us to meet up with her before we reveal the billboard to Diagon Alley. After the revealing, you’ll have a quick interview with the Daily Profit, and you’ll head back to school. Sound okay?”



 

I sighed as I thought about the mountain of Transfiguration homework that I still had to finish. While I was happy to be at school, I had not expected there to be as much homework as there had been lately. Not that the homework was particularly hard, there was just a lot of it, which made things start to pile up.



 

“Sounds great, mum,” I lied, as she lightly grabbed my arm and guided me through the winding hallways of the building we were waiting in, before heading out to the cobblestoned streets of Diagon Alley.



 

My mother stopped in her tracks as we neared where my billboard would be revealed and I heard her inhale a breath. She placed a hand over her heart. “Oh Nata, look at that!”



 

I looked up at the large rectangle that was sitting on a platform in the heart of Diagon Alley with a white tarp draped over it. It was my billboard. Which would have… my face on it.



 

Fantastic.



 

I gave an absent smile to my mother and we continued forward to the area Georgiana had set aside for us.



 

“Natasha! Don’t you look beautiful,” a voice I recognized as Georgiana’s called as soon as my mother and I reached the roped off area up on the platform in front of the billboard. There was a large crowd of people, mostly younger girls, that were trying to get as close as they could to the platform I was now on. A couple of them shouted my name and took pictures, which I was almost sure were unflattering.



 

I turned around to see Georgiana, wearing a sleek black suit and her ever-present red lipstick with her blonde hair clipped to the top of her head.  She immediately walked over to me, her catlike smile perched on her lips as she grabbed me by the shoulders and air-kissed each of my cheeks.



 

“And Miranda, it’s great to see you again,” Georgiana said, turning to my mother and giving her the same greetings.



 

“Good to see you too,” My mum responded with a smile.



 

Georgiana then turned back to me. “So Natasha, tell me how school is going?”



 

My mum immediately snapped her head towards me, and narrowed her eyes the slightest bit.



 

“School’s great!” I forced out with a fake-enthusiastic tone. “I’m really learning a lot.”



 

“Good, good,” Georgiana said absentmindedly. “I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about the idea, but I already have a bunch of magazines asking me to do an interview with you on life at Hogwarts.”



 

“That’s great!” my mother said, her tight smile widening into a real one.



 

“It is,” Georgiana agreed. “So, have you made friends?”



 

I suddenly felt really uncomfortable under Georgiana’s gaze. “Uh,” I started, “I’ve made a couple…. My best friend Dom I knew beforehand so I stick with her and her mates.”



 

“Mhmm,” Georgiana said, “so that means no boys I hope?”


 

 


 

I suddenly thought about Griffin, Scorpius and Freddy. I spent as much time with them as I had with Rose, Dom, and Molly, since they were always together, but they probably didn’t consider me a friend. I mean, I was just a friend by association. They wouldn’t talk to me if I didn’t know Dom. I guess there was James…. But we haven’t actually even talked, so he didn’t count either.  He’d barely said more than a couple words to me.



 

“Nope,” I responded with a tight smile.



 

“Good girl,” Georgiana said nodding with her catlike smile back on her face. “I knew I could trust letting you go to the school.”



 

“Of course you could,” my mum interjected. “Natasha always does as she’s told.”



 

I noticed though that as she said this she was looking more at me. As if pointing out that in order to go to Hogwarts, I hadn’t done any of the things I was told. I felt a wave of guilt wash over me.



 

There was suddenly a buzzing noise coming from Georgiana and she pulled out a WizTalkie from her suit pocket and held it up to her ear, turning away from us in order to hear.


 

 


 

“Everything’s ready to go, Georgiana,” a muffled voice said from the WizTalkie; the crackle of the reception made him barely understandable.



 

“Got it, Rick,” Georgiana responded into the WizTalkie. She turned a couple of dials on the WizTalkie and then put it back into her pocket, turning around to face me and my mum again.



 

“Alright, we’re all set to start. I’m going to give my introduction speech and you’ll sit up here while I do,” Georgiana gestured to the line of chairs on the platform filled with ministry officials as she said this, “and then you’ll come up, thank everyone, yada yada, and pull down the tarp. Okay?”



 

“Okay,” I responded automatically, watching as Georgiana turned sharply on one pointy heel before walking to the podium that was set in the middle of the platform. It was the same shade of pink as Georgiana’s office walls.



 

I quickly said goodbye to my mother, who wasn’t able to go onstage, and took a seat at the line of chairs that were behind the podium. I crossed my legs in a very ladylike fashion and folded my hands neatly in my lap, placing a smile onto my face as I stared up at Georgiana who began to speak.




“Welcome everyone to an exciting addition to Diagon Alley! We are here to reveal the first ever billboard of our newest Miss Teen Witch: Natasha Lee Covington…”

My eyes were glued however to the area by the side of the audience my mum was standing in. She was staring at me, her expression one of pure bliss. Something I still wasn’t used to after the couple of weeks she had ignored me, up until I left for Hogwarts. She mouthed her usual ‘I’m so proud of you’ to me and I smiled back at her. But the thing was I wasn’t sure if I believed her. I think she was only proud of the fact that I was here, doing exactly as she wanted, for her perfect little world.

*



 

“Well aren’t you a sight to see?” Dom stated dramatically, putting a hand over her heart as I stepped out of the common room fireplace. Molly and Rose, who were both doing homework, looked up at me at Dom’s words. Rose nodded her approval, while Molly began to clap slowly.



 

“You look, if possible, even prissier than usual,” Molly responded. “Congrats.”



 

I felt myself feel very self-conscious, while Rose whacked Molly on the arm.



 

“OW!” Molly exclaimed, rubbing her arm as she glared at Rose.



 

“Molly, that was really rude,” Rose stated.



 

“What?” Molly asked, looking confused. “It’s true, no offense.” She looked at me after she said this.



 

“None taken….” I said unsure whether or not I should’ve taken offense.



 

In all honesty, I was incredibly tired and didn’t really have the energy to figure out what Molly meant. I had been spending all day talking to younger girls my age, and also dealing with Georgiana’s powerful presence while my mum continued to pretend I could do no wrong as a daughter. And now, it was nearing midnight and I still had a bunch of homework to finish.



 

“Molly, sometimes I wonder whether or not you have a filter,” Dom stated, looking down at her nails as she said this.



 

“Of course she doesn’t,” Rose said back automatically. “Why else would we be all she had?”



 

“I’m really offended,” Molly said, looking back and forth at Dom and Rose.



 

“But it’s true,” Dom chimed in. “I mean, tell me how many seventh year girls you’re friends with?”



 

“I hate them so I choose not to be friends with them,” Molly said, sticking her nose up in the air.



 

“Mhmm,” Rose said giving Molly a disbelieving look. “And how many friends do you have that aren’t your family?”



 

Molly started to fidget uncomfortably and then she looked away from Rose and towards me. “Natasha,” Molly stated, leaving no room for argument.



 

I felt myself become totally flabbergasted at her words. Molly… thought of me… as a friend? Was that even possible?



 

“You just insulted her,” Dom stated. “Friends don’t insult each other.”



 

“Oh shut up you self righteous bint. Natasha, we’re friends, aren’t we?” Molly said, looking to me with a hopeful look in her eyes.



 

“Um… yeah, sure,” I answered not sure if she meant it.



 

Molly turned back to face Dom and Rose, and stuck her tongue out at them. “See? I am sociable.”



 

“Tashy’s just too nice to disagree with you. You are a very intimidating person you know,” Dom said.



 

“No I’m not,” Molly argued and then turned to me, since I had somehow become her confidant in the past five minutes. “I’m approachable, right?”



 

“Er…” I trailed off, trying to think of what to say. Should I actually respond?



 

“Point proven,” Dom said whipping her hair over her shoulder and shooting Molly a winning look. “In Tashy language, that means no.”



 

“No it doesn’t,” I defended. “I just wasn’t sure if it was rhetorical.”



 

“Why would it be rhetorical?” Molly asked.



 

“Because why would you honestly ask that question!” Dom argued. “You’re the opposite of approachable!”



 

“That’s not what I meant…” I started to say, but Molly cut me off.



 

“But I am approachable!” Molly said, glaring at Dom. “People approach me all the time.”



 

“And you scare them away with threats!” Dom added. “Admit it Molly, you are as unapproachable as it gets.”



 

“Dom, can you just calm down and stop trying to make Molly feel bad?” Rose said, feeling it was her time to cut into the conversation. “What’s up with you?”



 

“Nothing,” Dom said, letting out a sigh.



 

“It’s not nothing,” Molly badgered, still a bit miffed. “I can tell when you’re lying you know. You always do that weird squinty eye thing.”



 

“I do not have a squinty eye!” Dom argued.



 

“Dom, stop avoiding the question and tell us what’s wrong,” Rose commanded. Her and Dom made eye contact for several minutes, before Dom looked away.



 

“Okay…. fine,” Dom said, throwing herself back even farther into the couch. “It’s just... me and the guys all thought James was going to come to try outs, and he didn’t show.”



 

I stood there awkwardly, not sure if I should join into the conversation. Rose placed a hand on Dom’s shoulder. “We need to let it go. Okay? James will come back in his own time.”



 

“I know,” Dom said, nodding her head. “But sometimes I feel like he won’t.”



 

It completely baffled me seeing this side of Dom. Whenever we hung out, she never discussed things like this to me. She was always strong and sure of herself. I found myself suddenly feel like maybe I didn’t know Dom at all. I didn’t know all of these secrets she kept discussing, I didn’t know about the James issue. Was I even her best friend? And if I wasn’t her best friend, than who was I? Miss Teen Witch? Was that all I was?



 

I suddenly didn’t want to know the answer to any of these questions.



 

“Well,” I said, taking my crown off of my head and shaking out my curls, “I’m going to go to the Owlery and to send my mum a letter to let her know I got back.”



 

Dom looked as though she was about to say something but Rose spoke before her, “Okay, Tash, be back soon, yeah?”



 

“’Course,” I responded easily.



 

I walked out of the common room, while searching through my purse for a piece of parchment to write a letter to my mum. I’d been keeping up with the charade of my cell phone not working in the school, so that my mum wouldn’t suspect I’d been avoiding her texts, which meant I now could only send her letters.



 

Once I reached the Owlery, I quickly put the parchment I had found up to the wall and scrawled a quick letter to my mum letting her I was safe and that I loved her and such. When I tied the letter to one of the school owls and watched as it flew out of the window, I looked outside to see James entering the pitch at his usual time, a broom slung over his shoulder.



 

And suddenly, I found myself not wanting to leave the Owlery so that I could watch him fly. There was something so peaceful about the way her arced around the sky. Like a bird without wings. And after the day I’d had, I deserved to feel at peace, if only for the small amount of time James flew.



 

So I leant against the Owlery walls, like I found myself doing a lot lately, and watched him. I almost had his moves memorized. He always started with a kick off, and then he’d do a couple of laps around the pitch, followed by three different dives, and then loops along with more un-choreographed flying maneuvers.



 

I watched as he kicked off the ground and do his laps, and right when I expected him to start his dives he started to hover instead. He slowly turned his broom right towards the Owlery and I noticed his head lean to the side as his eyes squinted. I stayed completely still as he looked, and he shook his head and turned back around. However, right when I let out the breath I’d been holding, he abruptly whipped his broom around and sped towards the open window I was currently peering out of. I found myself tense at his increasing proximity until suddenly he was through the window, hovering in front of me on his broom.



 

We looked at each other for a long moment. James stared at me with a serious expression while I began to internally panic about the fact that he probably thought I was psychotic. His hazel eyes were a dark blue-green color and his bottom lip jutted out just the tiniest bit. It was as though he were trying to figure me out.



 

Then, James spoke. “Get on.” 



 





 

A/N: So I'm terribly sorry about the long long long wait. I really hope I haven't lost all my readers for this story!  I've really been just so swamped with work and what not, that while I've been wanting to write, I've had to do college apps or homework or projects or studying or internship crap. 



 

I don't think I've seen my friends outside of school in what feels like ages... So you guys are a step up from them, eh?



Anyways, please let me know what you thought about the chapter! While it took a while to come out, I'm fairly pleased with it. And what do you think about the cliffie? Actually, what do you think about everything? I know a few of you have been asking me about Al, so I decided to give a little snippet of him into the chapter, to hopefully tide you over until he comes more into play.

Anyways, thank you all for being such amazing readers and please review to let me know what you think about the chapter!



 

-Rebecca


Chapter 9: Crazy is as Crazy Does
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer: It's all JKRS.






If anyone had told me that tonight, I’d be on the back of James Potter’s broom, flying towards the Quidditch pitch, I’d think they were crazy. As it happens though, I am on the back of James Potter’s broom, and we are flying towards the Quidditch pitch, so I guess I’m the crazy one. But when James had told me to get on his broom, I panicked. And, naturally, in my panicked state I ended up somehow… possibly… agreeing.

Crazy, right?

I gripped my hands tighter on either side of the broom to keep myself as steady as possible since I was sitting sideways. The ends of my dress fluttered in the wind as James flew faster in the air. And even though I felt like I was going to pass out and very uncomfortable riding the broom in a dress, I also felt… exhilarated. Slightly. Maybe. Definitely.

However, all too soon we had reached the Quidditch pitch, and James was lowering us down so that we could get off. I gingerly jumped off the broom about a foot from the ground and steadied myself.

James stayed on the broom and instead continued to stare at me, his expression unreadable.

“You don’t know how to fly,” he stated, leaving no room for argument.

“No. I don’t,” I responded.

He cocked his head to the side. “You want to learn. That’s why you watch me fly every night, isn’t it?”

I suddenly felt myself become extremely embarrassed. I had thought all these nights when I had gone to watch James fly that he hadn’t noticed. Apparently he had.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I responded looking down at my feet. “It’s pretty easy to learn how to fly, and I would if I wanted to.”

“Mhmm,” James said a little disbelievingly, “so if it’s so easy, then why don’t you show me?”

As he said this, he hoisted himself off his broom and gestured to it. It hovered in front of me, taunting me.

“I don’t fly by choice,” I stated, trying to get out of making a fool of myself. “It’s you know… dangerous… and improper.”

James mouth seemed to curve into a barely there smile as I said this; it was like he was laughing at me. I felt myself grow even more uncomfortable.

“I see,” he began. “Miss Teen Witch can’t be caught riding a broom?”

“It’s frowned upon,” I answered honestly. “Ruins the girly-girl image.”

James nodded his head. “So then why do you always watch me fly?”

“Um…” I trailed off trying to think of a response. I mean, it was embarrassing enough for him to know I basically stalked him, but actually having to explain it? “I guess you just seem… in control.”

James laughed at this, causing his eyes to crinkle around the corners as his mouth split into a small smile. He had a really nice smile in all honesty. It’s too bad he almost never did.

“I’m not in control,” James said, shaking his head. “Not even close.”

I shrugged my shoulders and looked back down at my feet, letting some loose curls fall in front of my face. I really had no idea what to say. Or any idea about how this conversation was even happening. This entire day was becoming one big blur of me—somehow— ending up here.

“I guess that makes two of us then,” I said after a long moment, finally looking up.

“Nah,” James responded, turning back to his broom and getting on. “It makes all of us.”

He then kicked off and began to fly around the pitch, leaving me standing there, bewildered. He seemed to realize this and turn back.

“You can watch me from here if you’d like,” James shouted to me, his hair whipping against his forehead as he flew. “It’s a lot easier and it doesn’t smell like owl shit.”

And so, I did what any normal girl would do. I sat down on the bleachers and watched.

*

“Now when it comes to the Agrippan method, things get a bit more tricky—”

“He’s just so annoying,” Dom complained, flipping her hair over her shoulder. “He keeps making us get up at basically the crack of dawn just to run laps. What kind of person does that?”

“Mmmm,” I said, keeping my eyes fixed on Professor Vector as she continued teaching.

“—you have to only calculate the consonants for the social number. And make sure that you use both vowels and consonants for the character number—“

“Not to mention that he treats our new seeker like crap. I mean, sure, our new seeker may kind of suck at flying, and sure he doesn’t pay attention to where the snitch is during practices, but he’s the only one who tried out! If Scorpius keeps being so mean to him, he’s going to drop out and then we’ll have no seeker.”

“Mhmm,” I responded, nodding my head as I scribbled down more notes, not really paying attention to Dom. While I happened to like Arithmancy as a subject, Dom thought of it as a period to gossip. She’d been complaining all period about Scorpius’s captain tendencies, and I’d been stuck having to listen to it.

“—but the trickiest thing about the Agrippan method,” Professor Vector started, “is deriving the character number. Each number has a suitable predictive meaning.”

“And you know what else?” Dom asked, not waiting for a response. “He always criticizes how I fly, despite the fact that I’m the best player on the team. You’d think considering I carry the chasers, I’d get a break.”

“Mmm,” I said, still not listening to her. I was beginning to regret not choosing to sit next to Rose, who was at the front of the room, frantically scribbling down notes. At least she was quiet.

“Alright that’s it!” Dom said, slamming her hands down on the desk we were sitting at, causing Professor Vector to stop her lesson and glare at Dom. Dom put on her best innocent face until Professor Vector turned away, and then she rounded on me.

“You haven’t been listening to a word I’ve been saying,” Dom complained.

“I totally have,” I insisted, putting down my quill and looking at Dom.

“Then repeat back to me one thing I just said,” Dom responded, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow.

I paused for a couple of seconds, trying to think back in my memory to what Dom had been ranting about, but came up with a blank. “It was about uh….Scorpius…and Quidditch,” I guessed, since Dom was always complaining about one or the other.

Dom stared at me for a long moment, her expression never faltering. “You just made a lucky guess.”

“Maybe. But at least I guessed right, eh?”

Dom rolled her eyes. “I don’t even know how I bother calling you my best friend if you don’t even listen to me. The number one rule of being a good friend is listening.”

I sighed. “I’m sorry Dom,” I said sincerely. “I’m just really tired.”

Dom’s annoyance quickly faded. “Tired, eh?” Dom asked the ghost of a smirk on her face. “Does this have anything to do with the fact that you haven’t made it back to the common room before 3 am for the past few days? What have you been doing, pray tell?”

I found myself growing more and more uncomfortable with Dom’s questions. I wasn’t really even sure how to answer them. What have I been doing? Well, the short answer is I’ve been watching James fly. But the long answer, is something that I myself wasn’t quite sure of. The closest I had gotten to figuring it out was the conversation James and I had had Monday morning at breakfast.

Our midnight fly had happened two nights ago, and I had entered the Great Hall at my usual early time, debating over where to sit for breakfast. Sure, I normally sat a couple of seats away from James, but since we had had that conversation/fly, I had been trying to decide whether I was now expected to sit by him.

After standing awkwardly a couple more seconds I had finally decided to sit in my usual spot, figuring I’d act as if Saturday night hadn’t happened unless James felt otherwise. So I casually walked over to my normal seat a couple of seats down from James, swinging my Transfiguration textbook in my hand as I went.

I took my seat and opened my book to the page I’d been last studying, debating in my head if I should at least make an acknowledgement to James. However, just when I had decided I should maybe give him a casual nod, he made the decision for me. He looked up from the letter he always seemed to be writing, tucked it into his pocket, and scooted over until he was sitting in front of me.

“You didn’t come,” he stated simply.

I looked up at him, confused. “Didn’t come where?”

“To the Quidditch Pitch. Yesterday night,” James explained, drumming his fingers onto the table. “I figured you would.”

“Oh,” I said, still a bit confused at the fact that he had maybe even wanted me to be there. “I didn’t know…”

“It’s fine,” James responded, brushing my words off. “You must’ve just finished your quest for control, right?”

“Quest?” I asked, tilting my head to one side.

“Yeah, you know,” James said as if I did, “your journey to become in control. That’s why you watch me fly, right?”

“I’m not sure…” I began. “What makes you think I want to be in control?”

“Everyone does, at some point,” James pointed out. “It would make things a lot easier.”

I watched out of the corner of my eye, two first year Ravenclaw girls enter the Great hall. They were both giggling with each other, then caught sight of James and me, and started to whisper.

“So, do you want to be in control?” I asked him curiously, focusing my gaze back onto him.

“Nope,” James replied, popping the ‘p’. “I learned long ago that trying to be is useless.”

I studied his face as he said this. His mouth was in a straight line and his eyes were darker, the brown around the irises taking over all the other colors. I wondered for what felt like the millionth time, what he was thinking about.

“Well,” I said, straightening up. “I don’t want to be in control.”

“That’s a lie,” James said immediately. “There must be something in your life you want more control over.”

As soon as he said this, my thoughts flashed to Georgiana’s catlike smile, and my mum’s pushy presence. James seemed to notice the change in my expression and he crossed his arms smugly.

“Maybe one thing,” I said, looking down at my hands and fiddling with the pages of the Transfiguration textbook.

James kept looking at me, as if waiting for something else.

“What?” I asked, after his gaze began to make me uncomfortable.

“Well, what is it?” James asked, as if he had been obvious the whole time.

“Um... nothing,” I said, brushing him off. “Just some stuff with my mum.”

“Stuff,” James repeated slowly. “Okay.”

“It’s just…” I started, suddenly feeling the need to explain myself, “my mum’s, like, obsessed with the pageanting world. She’s been pushing me into competition’s ever since I was little and…. I hate them.”

As I said these words, I felt unsettled. I had never expressed my hatred for pageants out loud before, let alone to someone like James. I mean, I barely knew him. Why had I felt the need to tell him such a personal detail?

“Wow,” James said, letting out a breath slowly. “Miss Teen Witch hates pageants. Who would’ve thought?”

“Yeah, well,” I said, shrugging it off. “It’s just I would like more control over what I get to do with my life. But that’s normal.”

“Not really,” James said, confusing me.

“But—” I began, shocked at James’ response. “You just said that trying to be in control is useless.”

“I meant it in the aspect of trying to control things out of your control. Like the weather, or things other people do,” James explained. “You can decide not listen to your mum and quit pageanting if you want.”

It had been weird, because James had made it all sound like a choice. As though everything my mother had asked of me, I did willingly. And maybe, I had.

“Tash?” Dom asked, suddenly bringing me back to the Arithmancy room. “Explain what you’ve been doing on your nightly escapades, un por favor?”

I opened my mouth, trying to come up with an explanation that made a shred of sense, but my mind drew a blank.

“Okay class, I’m going to be giving you back your last tests. And I have to say, I am a bit underwhelmed with how all of you performed on it,” Professor Vector stated, rescuing me from an answer.

Dom and I both snapped our head to the teacher, who was now fiddling around her desk and pulling out a stack of graded papers.

Once she held them in her hand, she started walking around the room, passing the papers to the students they belonged to. I watched as many students looked at their grade and either seemed very sad or folded the test into paper airplanes; I felt myself become nervous.

I mean, I may sound crazy, but I really wanted to do well at school.

“Now some of you, of course, preformed outstandingly,” Professor Vector said, as she walked down the aisle and slapped a test on my desk. I looked down at the grade to see a bright red O, written thick and deliberately on the paper. I held back a smile.

“Nerd,” Dom teased. However, Professor Vector overheard.

“Most, however,” Professor Vector began again, “obviously haven’t been paying attention to the subject matter. And it shows.”

Professor Vector took the moment to slap Dom’s test in front of her, face up. A large ‘T’ was written on it. As Professor Vector kept walking across the classroom, Dom rolled her eyes.

“She makes it sound like I care about this class,” Dom stated to me, tucking the test into her rucksack.

“Shouldn’t you?” I asked tentatively.

“No,” Dom answered, as though my question was preposterous. “I’m going to be an international Quidditch star. They hardly care if you’re good at Arithmancy.”

“I guess...” I said trailing off. It was at this moment that the bell rang, signaling the end of class. Dom and I got up and packed up our books, before walking out of the classroom.

“So, how’d you do on the test?!” Rose asked. She was waiting outside the classroom door, having left the room before us, wide-eyed. She looked from me to Dom expectantly. Molly, who had just come from Astronomy, was leaning against the wall outside the Arithmancy door, inspecting her nails and wearing a bored expression.

“Oh you know, the usual,” Dom shrugged, as if it were no big deal.

“You got a ‘T’ then?” Molly asked, ever the blunt one.

“Molly!” Rose chastised. “You’re being rude.”

“But she’s also being right,” Dom said, not at all affected by Molly’s words. “I did get a ‘T’.”

“Oh,” Rose said, making a sympathetic face at Dom. “I’m so sorry! Don’t worry though, we can still bring your grade up. Let’s have a study night tonight, okay?”

“Rose,” Dom said, sighing. “I honestly don’t care about my grades. Arithmancy is useless to me.”

“Grades are not useless!” Rose argued, causing Molly to sigh in annoyance.

“Here we go again,” Molly drawls.

“I understand you want to be an international Quidditch player, but what if that doesn’t work out? You need to have a back-up plan—”

“Oi! Rose, shut your gob. Dom doesn’t need a back up plan. She’s a brilliant flier,” Gryffin said, sliding in from whatever class had just ended for him and slinging one arm around Rose and the other around Molly. Molly made a disgusted face, and shoved him off of her, but he seemed unfazed.

“Thank you, Gryffin,” Dom said, shooting him a toothy grin, he saluted back to her.

“Besides,” Dom started, looking at Rose, “You haven’t told us what you got on your test.”

“I got an E,” Rose said simply, looking a little upset by the grade. “Professor Vector’s such a picky grader.”

“Not picky enough for Tash though,” Dom said, gesturing to me. “This little loser got an O.”

Rose, Molly, and Gryffin all snapped their heads towards me. I fidgeted. Thanks a lot, Dom.

“You beat Rose?” Gryffin asked, looking at me incredulously.

“Um…. I guess,” I said unsurely, not knowing how I was supposed to respond.

“Wow,” Molly said, looking at me as though I had just escaped the loony bin.

I bit my lip again, starting to feel extremely uncomfortable and looked at Rose. She was staring at me with a very calculating expression, and then she squealed.

“Oh my gosh! This is amazing! I have someone that can tutor me in Arithmancy!” Rose said excitedly, grabbing my hand and beginning to jump up and down. “You need to teach me your studying methods, pronto.”

“Er… okay,” I said, feeling very overwhelmed at Rose’s response.

“Beauty and brains…” Gryffin said, waggling his eyes at me and then winking. “I like it.”

Dom and Molly exchanged a look, and then they both brought up a hand and slapped Gryffin on the back of the head.

“OW!”

*

“You know,” I said, looking up from the textbook I was reading as Scorpius entered the library and walked over to me, “Dom’s very angry with you.”

This was true. While I had thought Dom’s ranting about Scorpius would end in Arithmancy, she had been going on and on in every class about how much she hated Scorpius. He was either an unreasonable captain, an undermining pig, or jealous that she was a better flyer. Either way, I was getting a bit tired of Dom’s complaining, and I figured that maybe talking to Scorpius would get things solved.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Scorpius responded, rolling his eyes as he pulled out the chair across from me. He dropped his textbooks loudly onto the table, causing Madame Pince to glare at us, before sitting down.

“She also says the new seeker is this close to quitting,” I stated, putting my thumb and index finger very closely together to show my point.

“So be it.” Scorpius shrugged. “There will always be more shitty seekers.”

“You’re terrible,” I said, shaking my head and then looking back down at my book.

“Not as terrible as our seeker,” Scorpius joked back, seeming proud of his witty response.

I sighed. “Why can’t you just be a nicer captain?”

“I am nice!” Scorpius defended, looking slightly outraged at my words. “Did Dom tell you I was a bad captain?”

“No,” I said, trying to think of a proper way to explain. “She just thinks you pick on her a bit.”

“Typical,” Scorpius said, his nostrils flaring. “I always have to be the bad guy in Dom’s eyes. It’s never that I lecture her because she’s always late to practice and acts like they’re are a big waste of time. Or the fact that she’s always pulling these risky moves that won’t at all benefit the team. Or—”

“Scorp,” I said, holding my hand up to interrupt him. “Forget I said anything, okay? I wasn’t trying to attack you.”

Scorpius leaned back in his chair and let out a long breath, running his hands through his hair. “Sorry, Natasha. I know you didn’t mean anything. Dom can just be so…”

“Dom?” I suggested after Scorpius had drawn a blank.

“Yeah,” he agreed, nodding his head. He then looked down at his textbook, as if remembering that he actually needed to study, and started to read it.

After a few minutes, we had both grown into the comfortable silence we normally did whenever we studied together. I was just starting to memorize Arithmancy equations when there was a tap on the windowsill in the library, and I looked over to see a school owl holding a letter for me. I walked over to the window, Scorpius still concentrating on his work, and let the owl in. It held it’s leg out for me and I took the letter, before it flew back out the still cracked window.

I looked down at the letter in my hand, and saw my mother’s loopy signature right across the front of it. I sighed and braced myself, before opening the letter.

Nata,

Great News! Remember when I mentioned how we might get the chance to do another billboard for Hogsmeade? Well, we got it! Next week there will be another shoot for the billboard and it will hang right in the middle of the town! How amazing is that? You’ll have to miss one school day next week, but that hardly matters compared to this amazing opportunity. I’ll write you back with all of the details soon. You should be so proud of yourself honey! This is an amazing achievement.

Love always, Mum


“Who’s it from?” Scorpius asked, looking up from his textbook.

“Oh,” I said surprised, putting the letter in my pocket and turning around to look at him. “It’s just my mum. She’s really happy about how my classes are going.”

Scorpius nodded and then looked back at my book and I suddenly felt confused. Why had I lied? They would all find out soon enough that I was doing another billboard shoot. I mean it was going to be in the middle of Hogsmeade, which is where we have monthly visits. Where everyone at school would see it. Where who I actually was would be inescapable.

Great.






A/N: Hello my lovely amazing readers! I'm very sorry about how long it took for me to get this chapter out, I just had so much to do when it came to college apps. And then once I finished college apps I had to update my other, even more neglected story which made this story neglected even further and it was just this vicious cycle.

Good news is I finished college apps and have done almost all of my college interviews now, so everything's become much much better. Not to mention the second half of the year is going to be a breeze compared to the first half, since on wednesdays and fridays I have three free periods in a row, and then one free period all of my other days.

So that means updates will be MUCH quicker than they have been. I've already gotten back into the swing of writing and I managed to pop out three chapters in less than a month. SO YAY ME!

Okay my explanation was definitely way to long but anyway, review below and please tell me what you think of the chapter! There was a lot of James in it, so I hope you all were happy :) I just want to say you guys are some of the best readers/reviewers in the world and idunno what I'd do without you guys!

-Rebecca


Chapter 10: Seekers, Seekers Everywhere
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Disclaimer: I'm not JKR.
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“So you haven’t responded?” James asked, slowing the speed he was flying at until he was hovering in front of me, a curious expression on his face.

“Nope.” I kept my eyes fixed on the ground, and dragged the front of my feet back and forth across the damp-ish soil. It had drizzled earlier today, and now everything was slightly wet. I could feel the water from the bleachers seeping in through my jeans, but I didn’t mind much. It was nice not to care.

For a little while that is.

“Well,” James started, looking down at my feet as well, “What do you think you’ll say?”

I pretended as though I was thinking particularly hard even though I already knew my answer. After a long enough time passed I looked up, “That I’ll do it?”

“Hmm,” James said, beginning to circle around me as he thought.

“Hmm, what?” I asked, knowing James had something more he wanted to say. That was the thing about him; he always held back what he was really thinking unless you specifically asked. It was almost annoying.

It was weird how much I was starting to know James, just from going to watch him fly. The first couple of nights I watched him we didn’t talk at all. But slowly conversation just started to happen, most of it revolving around my pageanting or my mother, and now it was just easy. It was as though after I mentioned hating pageanting, conversation just seemed to roll from there. I had already talked about the most difficult subject.

“It’s just, you don’t want to do it,” he explained. “So why would you agree?”

“Because I have to,” I stated, dragging my toe back and forth in the dirt again. “My mum would be so disappointed if I didn’t. She like… depends on me to do these things.”

“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do,” James said. He then sped up his flying and returned back to the middle of the pitch, where he began to do his usual laps and loops, as I watched.

I wasn’t sure why I had told James all of the things I had. I normally never discussed my mother with anyone, especially someone I barely knew. Even with Dom I would never be the one to bring my mum up. It was always Dom who did, and I would be on the defensive, refusing to say anything bad about my mum.

It’s just… I don’t know. James didn’t really judge… or seem to particularly care much for that matter. He was just an unbiased ear to talk to, and he would nod his head, say his thoughts and then leave it at that. There was no pushing or prodding. And I liked that.

“So,” I called after James, who was still within earshot, “What about you?”

“What about me?” James asked, looking confused, continuing to fly around the pitch.

“Well, according to Scorpius and Dom, the new seeker is particularly shitty,” I stated lightly.

James shrugged. “Everyone starts off shitty.”

“But this one is like… terrible,” I stated. “Last practice he fell off of his broom.”

“He’ll get better though,” James said, looking away from me and towards the sky. “They always do.”

I found myself, not for the first or even second time, wonder what he was referring to if anything at all. He was still a mystery even after all of this time I now spent with him, and it was getting more and more difficult to solve the puzzle. So instead of trying to figure him out, I watched him continue to fly, concentrating on nothing but his swift moves and smooth arcs. Lap by lap, loop by loop, dive by dive. Watching him calmed me, for some unnamable reason.

I watched as the sky grew to an inky black, with hundreds of scattered stars strewn across the smudgy horizon and a bloated moon framing the scene. And then there was James, in the middle of it all, riding his broom and looking as if he belonged nowhere else but that sky. I envied it.

*

“How’d it go?” Freddy asked. Gryffin’s face remained grim as though he had just gotten back from a beating, and he sat down next to me.

“Don’t ask,” Gryffin responded, slamming his head down on the table and then covering his face with his hands. “It was awful.”

“Well then, I can feel my mood improving,” Molly said, looking very happy at Gryffin’s upset state. “An unhappy you, always makes for a very happy me.”

After Molly said this, the door to the Great Hall slammed open to reveal a bickering Dom and Scorpius. Molly’s snarky expression immediately faded, and everyone at the table exchanged a glum look, me included. We all knew what this meant.

“I told you this would happen!” Dom huffed, giving Scorpius a steely glare as she plopped herself down across from me at the Gryffindor table. Her Quidditch robes were especially muddy and her silver hair was matted against her face. She also had a smudge of dirt on her chin. “You are a controlling, mean, halfwit who is so concerned about winning that they disregard other people’s feelings!”

Molly, Rose, Freddy, and I raised our eyebrows at Dom’s outburst, while Gryffin continued to try and disappear into the table. Scorpius, however, pinched the bridge of his nose, something he always did whenever he was talking to or about Dom to try and calm himself.

“Practice went well, I assume?” Molly asked sarcastically, buttering her biscuit with ease.

“Please Molly, don’t poke the dragon,” Gryffin complained, looking near hysterics. “I can’t listen to them argue anymore!”

“Oh yeah, it went fantastic!” Dom intoned, ignoring Gryffin’s statement and spreading out her arms wide. “It went so well that we don’t even have a seeker anymore!”

“Not this again,” Gryffin said, banging his head on the table a couple of times, causing the plates to rattle.

“Dom, I told you that we’re fine. He’ll beg to be back on the team by tomorrow,” Scorpius explained. “He only quit because he wants to prove that he has a hold over the team, even though he doesn’t.”

Dom was not placated by this explanation, and instead she crossed her arms. “I don’t think he’s going to beg to be back. You yelled at him and told him he was a useless seeker that made it on the team because he was the only one who tried out. He cried, for goodness sakes!”

“Well, it’s true!” Scorpius argued back. “And I only said that after he crashed into Gryffin when he wasn’t looking where he was going!”

“I didn’t mind that he crashed into me, honest!” Gryffin said in the hopes of getting them to stop arguing. “It was my fault for not moving around more!”

“But you didn’t have to say that,” Dom countered, yet again ignoring Gryffin. “He’s only a second year! He’s new to the whole Quidditch thing. You need to apologize.”

“Like hell I will,” Scorpius responded indignantly. “He’s lucky I didn’t say anything worse.”

“Can’t we all just get along?” Gryffin begged, but Scorpius and Dom continued to pretend he didn’t exist.

“Well then you’re going to need to find us a new seeker,” Dom sniffed. “Because nobody else in the house wants to try out with such a Nazi captain.”

“Or maybe nobody wants to try out because we have such a terrible chaser—”

“You know I’m the best chaser on the team! I—”

‘bend over backwards to get goals.’ Yeah, of course you do. But how many injuries have you gotten from that?”

“BUT I ALWAYS MAKE THE SHOT IN THE END!”

“BECAUSE YOU’RE LUCKY!”

“Please, Merlin! Please save me!” Gryffin moaned, sliding down in his seat and raising his hands in a prayer-like motion.

“You guys,” Rose said with a level voice, breaking into the conversation and placing a hand on both of their shoulders. Dom and Scorpius snapped their heads towards her, their faces varying shades of pissed off. “I thought we agreed no Quidditch talk during meal times. This arguing has got to stop. Look at what you’re doing to poor Gryffin.”

We all looked at Gryffin, who was now curled up under the table, his head tucked into his legs as he rocked back and forth. His hands were clamped down over his ears, hard.

“He started it!” Dom complained.

“I did no such thing!” Scorpius complained. “You’re the one ragging on—”

“And you’re the one—”

The flipping back and forth between Dom and Scorpius was getting to be so loud, and so confusing that I was drowning in their complaints. I couldn’t even make out what they were saying anymore and instead just followed their body language. Dom clenched her hands and shook her fists; Scorpius tore at his hair. Dom crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes; Scorpius gritted his teeth. It was all getting to be so much, not to mention my ears were flooded with the sounds of them yelling, and I just wanted them to stop.

“Enough!” I roared, slamming my hands on the table.

Everyone within earshot, including Gryffin who had popped his head out from under the table, fell to a hush and stared at me. Their faces expressed various stages of shock. However, I found myself feeling the most surprised. I never yelled like that.

I shifted a little in my seat, uncomfortable with all of the eyes focused on me, and began to talk again, calmly. “I just think that… you know… it’s rude to argue with each other. Scorpius tries hard to be a good captain, and Dom tries hard to be a good chaser, and insulting each other doesn’t help.”

Rose, looking very happy at what I said, smiled hugely at me and nodded her head. “Natasha’s right you know! This arguing isn’t helping anybody. I think you two should apologize to each other.”

Rose, being the mother hen of the group, looked from Dom to Scorpius seriously, and they both slumped over, looking defeated. Dom grumbled something that sounded like “sorry for saying the truth” under her breath, and Scorpius muttered back “sorry you suck” and then… it was over. They both sat down side by side at the table, and suddenly, everyone at the table was engaged in a new conversation about what were better: pygmy puffs or sugar quills. Gryffin had slid out from under the table and back into the seat next to me and was joining into the conversation enthusiastically, as though he hadn’t been praying to Merlin mere minutes before. Dom and Scorpius were even defending each other as they justified that sugar quills could at least save you while you were starving, whereas pygmy puffs were just something cute to look at.

It was just so…so…weird.

“Is this normal for them?” I asked Freddy, who was sitting on my other side and nodding along with the conversation, as though nothing out of the ordinary happened.

Freddy turned to look at me, before nodding his head and smiling slightly. “Yeah, they’re always like this. It’s like they have selective amnesia or something. You’ll get used to it.”

Used to it. As in there were still things about Dom I needed to get used to.

It was still getting to be so weird for me, how much I didn’t really know about Dom. I had though for so long, that I had known all I needed to about her. But I was wrong. And now I was beginning to think that maybe, what I knew about her didn’t even cover the tip of the iceberg. There was still so much underneath the surface that only emerged when we were here at Hogwarts, and it made me wonder how I could even call her my best friend. It kind of scared me.

“I hope so,” I responded to Freddy, as I started to mull over my thoughts. “I hope so.”

*

“But how do you know that the character number has the right prediction?” Rose asked me wide-eyed. “You didn’t even look at the chart.”

“You can use the Chaldean method,” I explained. “It’s not obvious since the question doesn’t specifically point it out, so you kind of have to...get a feel for it.”

Rose furrowed her brow as I said this and pulled the practice Arithmancy problems I was helping her with out of my hands. Her eyes flitted over the paper for about a minute, before she put it down.

“I don’t understand how you can do this,” Rose sighed, slumping over in her chair. “Every problem is totally relative. There’s, like, no set way to understand how to do this.”

I shrugged. I wasn’t the best at explaining things to people. In fact, I hadn’t even wanted to help Rose because of this, but she had somehow managed to get me to help her out anyway despite my exclamations of me being a terrible tutor. Not that she needed the help—she was still getting E’s on all of her assignments— but to her that wasn’t good enough. She needed an O, and she told me the only way she could get one was with my help. And, since she had helped me at the beginning of the year with understanding my classes, I owed her.

“I’m sorry I can’t really explain it more,” I said lamely. “I don’t really know how to express my thought process with these things...”

“It’s fine,” Rose said, brushing it off and giving me a small smile. “And sorry for badgering you. I guess I’m just… a little jealous. At how easy this comes to you.”

“But you’re really good at Arithmancy too,” I said, not quite understanding what she meant.

“Yeah but that’s because I’m always studying,” Rose said and as soon as she said it she looked worried. “Not that I’m saying you don’t work as hard, I mean, I know you and Scorpius always study together, but everything clicks more for you, I think. And not just in Arithmancy.”

I remained silent after Rose said this, weighing over what she had said. Over the past week we’d been getting a lot of grades back, and I had been doing exceedingly well. I hadn’t gotten less than an ‘O’ on anything, and Headmistress Chang had even pulled me aside one day to congratulate me on how well I was adjusting. It was something I had been very proud of because I had been studying really hard since school started, but now I was beginning to feel bad. Did me doing as well as Rose bother her?

“Just forget I said anything,” Rose said after I hadn’t responded. “I’m sorry for bringing this up. I guess I’m just so used to being the only one that gets really good grades at school so it’s weird for me. And you know, you also happen to be like super intimidating.”

I looked at Rose after she said this and she was now looking back down at her Arithmancy textbook, fiddling nervously with the pages.

“I’m intimidating?” I asked, surprised. If anything, I had thought I was the opposite. I was very bad at having normal conversations, kept quiet most of the time, and studied… a lot. How had that translated into intimidating?

Rose looked up at me, looking a bit nervous, and then bit her bottom lip.

“Well… yeah,” Rose answered, as though it were obvious. “You know, you’re Miss Teen Witch, and of course you’re mega gorgeous. Not to mention the stellar grades you get, and everyone at school seems to be fascinated with you. That’s pretty intimidating.”

“You’re intimidating too then,” I responded easily, causing Rose to look confused. “You have all those same qualities, minus Miss Teen Witch, and you also have lots of friends. I wish I could be as sociable as you. I’m not good in large groups.”

“Of course you’re sociable!” Rose said. “You’re Miss Teen Witch.”

“I know, but my mum was the sociable one out of us,” I explained. “She made all the arrangements, told me everything to say, and all I did was listen.”

“But you’ve made friends here,” Rose said. “That wasn’t your mother’s doing.”

“It was Dom’s doing though,” I stated. “If it weren’t for her you guys probably wouldn’t talk to me.”

“That’s not true,” Rose said immediately, leaning forward in her seat. “Gryffin and Freddy adore you, Scorpius studies with you and he hates studying with people, and Molly, the most emotionally stunted person in the world, considers you a friend. That’s pretty impressive, don’t you think?”

“I guess,” I said unsurely. I had always thought that they all only tolerated me because of Dom. It had never crossed my mind that they actually… accepted me. But according to Rose they did. Which is something I found a bit strange. I never expected I had a personality that would make me able to gain friends.

“And of course we’re friends,” Rose added in as an afterthought. “I don’t know what I’d do without you helping me placate all of the arguments that go on.”

I looked up at Rose, feeling a sudden wave of appreciation rushing through me. Here she was, extending a hand of friendship to me without expecting anything in return. I was so used to pageant friends, who only talked to you during the competition and then dropped you shortly thereafter. But here Rose was, offering me something that seemed… permanent. Something that only Dom had offered to me before. It was something I wasn’t used to, but I was grateful. For her, for everything.

“Ah yes, the arguments that never cease,” I said, feeling a smile forming on my face. “When will any of them ever learn to all get along?”

“They won’t,” Rose said jokingly. “It’d be too weird if they did.”

*

The news of Gryffindor having lost their seeker spread like wildfire throughout the school. Half of the Gryffindor house was outraged at the second year seeker for dropping out which made him the target of many wayward spells, and the other half was extremely worried that we now had no seeker, and even if we did get one there would hardly be enough time to train them for the upcoming Quidditch match. Not that anybody in the Gryffindor house was even volunteering to be the new seeker. Apparently, Scorpius’ captain-like tendencies had also spread like wildfire, and nobody was willing to step up to the plate.

This issue alone had led to about a million different fights between Dom and Scorpius, each of them claiming that they knew better about how to rule the team, which just made everything worse. Yesterday had gotten so bad that Dom had put Scorpius in the hospital wing after he told her that James hadn’t chosen her to be captain for a reason, and ‘hell if he’d let her boss him around’. It was safe to say that that hadn’t gone over quite well, and now they were giving each other the silent treatment. Which was obviously the only mature way to handle it. For them at least.

“…and so now they’re not talking to each other,” I finished, letting out a breath as James’ kaleidoscope gaze remained trained on mine. I’m pretty sure I’d been rambling for what felt like hours about the Dom/Scorpius subject, and now I was beginning to feel self-conscious. I don’t know why it was that I over volunteered information to James, but he never seemed to mind. I guess it was just… he was so silent that I felt the need overcompensate for the long pauses.

“Hmm,” James said. “Can’t say I’m surprised. They always fought during practices.”

“Oh, right,” I said, remembering that he had been captain last year. Then, I had another question. “What made you pick Scorpius to be captain over Dom or Gryffin?”

“I dunno,” James said, shrugging. “I figured he needed it more.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Oh you know,” James said, trailing off and looking back out at the sky. His eyebrows were drawn and his lower lip was jutted out just the tiniest bit. It was something he always did whenever he was trying to articulate his thoughts. “People at school didn’t like him much because of his father, and everyone always told him he didn’t belong in the Gryffindor house. I figured making him Gryffindor captain would prove otherwise.”

“Huh,” I said, beginning to see Scorpius in a different, sadder light. “I never noticed, I guess.”

“People can be really subtle when they want to be,” James said. “It’s not like he was beaten up or anything, at least not much. People were just a lot… colder to him. I became friends with him after I noticed a couple Gryffindors being particularly shitty to him during lunch by telling everyone not to sit next to him or else they’d catch pure blood fever. I sat by him as soon as they said that.”

I found myself surprised that James was sharing anything about his past with me. Our relationship was normally just him listening as I talked with me only earning the occasional glimpse into who he was or had been. With all this information he was throwing at me I was almost overwhelmed.

“That’s sad though,” I said. “He didn’t choose his family.”

“None of us do,” James told me. “That’s why we get to choose our friends.”

“Well spoken,” I said, nodding my head in affirmation and then becoming curious again. There were still so many questions flitting through my head. “But then why don’t you still spend time with them?”

There was a long silence that hung between us after that, as I held my breath waiting for an answer.

“Things just got… very different,” James answered clutching his broom a little tighter than usual. “We all changed.”

“Why?” I pressed.

“Well,” James said, squinting his eyes and looking at one of the goal hoops, as if wishing it would swallow him whole, “I lost control.”

“Oh,” I said, realizing he wasn’t going to say more. I guess he had exceeded his daily quota of sharing. But his answer still hung in the air, lingering in the perpetual haze of darkness. He lost control.

“It’s a shame you did,” I said, trying to lighten the atmosphere after James still didn’t say anything. “Because now Gryffindor is for sure going to lose the Quidditch cup.”

“We’ve lost every year since before I started going here,” James said like it was no big deal. His grip on his broom relaxed. “Ever since my dad left the Quidditch team, Gryffindor has kind of sucked at playing.”

“But I heard that you had such a good team last year,” I told him.

“We did,” James said slowly, looking as though he was thinking back to something. “But then we lost a lot of things.”

“Well maybe you should change that,” I said, swinging my feet back and forth off the side of the bleachers. “You know, win the cup this year or something.”

There was a long pause after this, my suggestion tentatively hanging in the air before—

“Okay,” James agreed, nodding his head. He then lowered himself to the ground and got off of his broom, an action that confused me. He then gestured to the broom, as if telling me to get on. I remained seated.

“What?” I asked James, as he gestured again for me to get on the broom.

“Well you want Gryffindor to win, don’t you?” I nodded.

“And Gryffindor needs a seeker,” James began as if it were obvious. He then gestured to the broom again and suddenly everything clicked. “That seeker is going to be you.”

__________________________________________________________________________________________
A/N: ALRIGHTY GUYS! Another chapter is out, and it contains quite a lot of James! What do you guys think?

Do you like James and his mysteriousness? Do you want Tash to become seeker? Do you like Rose? What About Scorpius and Dom? Molly? Gryffin? Freddy? LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK IN A REVIEW PLEASE!

Not to sound desperate or anything, I just really want to know what you guys think, even if you hate this story. I always respond to reviews and will take any and all criticism. Since my last chapter decresed pretty largely in reviews from the chapter before that, I'm wondering if I've taken a terrible turn in my story that I need to dig myself out of. So please let me know!

Okay I've rambled for far too long but I still have more to tell you guys: I GOT INTO MY FIRST CHOICE COLLEGE! I found out today at 3am and cried for a good hour because I was so happy. And I just have to thank all of you, because I wrote a lot of my college essays about harry potter fanfiction and the amazing support system it gave me as a writer.

SO THANK YOU GUYS SO MUCH! I owe you all the world and back, seriously
-Rebecca

Chapter 11: Peer Pressure
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Disclaimer: I'm not JKR. Never have been, and never will be.






“You want me to be seeker?” I asked James incredulously. He nodded, which caused my eyes to widen even more in disbelief. “You’re crazy.”

“So I’ve been told,” James said, however he didn’t get back on the broom. He looked at me expectantly.

“I don’t even know how to fly,” I said slowly, trying to convey to James the absurdity of his suggestion.

And it was absurd. How could he even suggest I join the team? I had no flying experience whatsoever, and I barely knew how to play. Not to mention my schedule would never allow it. So much of my time was still planned and centered around everything I had to do as Miss Teen Witch, so going to practices would be impossible. There’s also the fact that I’d be leaving the school come January, which would still leave Gryffindor without a seeker. And let’s not even get started on what my mother would think.

“Doesn’t matter,” James said, shrugging. “Gryffindor isn’t the pickiest. All you really need to do is ask and you’re on it. It’s not like they have a reputation to uphold.”

“No,” I declared, still questioning James’ sanity. “No, no, no, no, no.”

James furrowed his brow, his eyes darkening as he thought. “You said you wanted Gryffindor to win.”

“I do,” I admitted. “But I meant something along the lines of you rejoining the team. You know, something that would make winning a possibility.”

“You being seeker could lead to victory as well,” James stated, ignoring my suggestion. “I’ll teach you everything you need to know.”

“But I don’t want to be seeker,” I said to James, trying to get my point across.

“Why not?” James asked, quirking an eyebrow.

“Because I don’t,” I answered him shortly, not wanting to explain my reasoning.

James stared at me for a long moment, his eyebrows drawn and his jaw squared in concentration as he tried to figure something out. Then, he looked up.

Ohhhh,” James said, realization washing across his features. “This is something your mum would never allow, isn’t it?”

I fidgeted uncomfortably as James’ gaze remained trained on me. It was strange how James was able to know my exact reasoning, even without me telling him. He was a lot more perceptive than I had thought.

“Well… yes,” I answered reluctantly, “but that’s not the only reason. I mean, I have no time to be on the Quidditch team. And I’m leaving come January, so really me joining would just be counterproductive.”

“I see,” James said, although he looked as though he didn’t. “But that doesn’t mean you don’t want to be seeker. That just means you think you can’t be.”

“Is there a difference?” I asked him, not being able to see one.

“There’s always a difference.” He picked his broom up from its hovering position on the ground and slung it over his shoulder.

I remained silent after he said this, not sure what to say. I didn’t want to be seeker, because I knew it would be impossible. But was James right? If it were possible for me to be seeker, would I want to be?

“Just… consider it, okay?” James asked. I looked up to see his greenish-blue eyes drilling into my green ones, and I suddenly had the urge to agree with James and join, for no reason at all. However, as soon as I felt this, I shooed it away.

I would never join the Quidditch team.

“I won’t change my mind,” I said after a long moment.

“Just think about it then,” James tried, rewording his suggestion in a way eerily similar to how my mother did.

And I found myself— as I always did when my mother reworded a suggestion— want to agree. Because sometimes it just made things easier to nod your head and smile.

“Okay,” I responded, suddenly feeling in familiar territory. “I’ll think about it.”

But I knew, in the back of my mind that I wouldn’t.

*

“What’s this I see?” Dom asked, placing a hand over her heart dramatically. “Are you actually... joining us unworthy souls for breakfast?”

“Ha ha,” I responded sarcastically, taking a seat next to Dom. Scorpius and Freddy were inexplicably absent from the table.

I had slept in later than usual this morning, causing me to come down to breakfast around the same time as everyone else. I didn’t know if James had really noticed, or even cared, that I hadn’t been there earlier to sit with him, but I figured it was just as well.

He’d been badgering me for the past couple of days about joining the Quidditch team, and my resolve had been crumbling more and more lately with reasons not to join the team. Not that I suddenly had no reason to join the team. But, since James had been getting very persistent with trying to get me to join, I had found myself wanting to agree with him if only so he would stop. Which was ridiculous.

“Wait, but seriously,” Gryffin said, leaning in and looking at me quizzically. “What gives?”

“What do you mean?” I asked lightly, pretending I didn’t understand what Gryffin was asking.

“He means,” Molly started, never one to take the bullshit, “that you’re always up at the arse crack of dawn for breakfast, and then you leave before we come down to go study.”

“Not to mention,” Dom added, raising an eyebrow at me, “that you never come back to the dorms until extremely late at night. What’s up with that?”

“Um…” I began, suddenly feeling myself grow more and more uncomfortable. For some reason, I wanted to keep my acquaintance-ship with James private. “I don’t…”

“Just because she likes to study doesn’t make her a loser. And what she does at night is her business, okay?” Rose said, sensing my hesitancy. I gave her a thankful look.

There was a pause as everyone at the table soaked in what Rose said and then—

“Fine,” Molly conceded, looking annoyed. Rose nodded happily at her cooperation and then looked at Dom.

Dom sighed. “Yeah. Fine.”

“Good,” Rose said, nodding in approval at the both of them. “Now why don’t we—”

“Molly!” a shrill voice called, breaking into our conversation. I looked around to see Molly’s sister, Lucy I think, walking towards us, followed closely in tow by Lily. The both of them were clad in their signature pink, and I noticed Lily was carrying a purse that looked awfully similar to one that I had been using last week.

“What do you want?” Molly asked, as soon as they arrived at our table.

“Oh come on, Molly Wobbles,” Lucy said easily. “Don’t be so snappy.”

“Don’t call me that,” Molly retorted, glaring at Lucy. Lily stood behind Lucy and stared at me eagerly.

“But it was our Nana’s very own term of endearment,” Lucy said sweetly, while Lily’s gaze remained on me. “I thought you’d like it.”

“Yeah, well, you thought wrong.”

“Hey, Natasha!” Lily said eagerly, unable to hold herself back from addressing me.

“Um…Hey,” I responded. Lily continued to smile hugely at me as she bubbled over with excitement. “What’s up?”

“That bill board you have up in Diagon Alley is amazing!” Lily burst out enthusiastically. “When is your Hogsmeade one going to be up?!”

“You’re going to have a billboard in Hogsmeade?” Dom asked me, surprised.

“Er…yeah,” I responded. “My mum got it for me.”

I noticed Dom’s eyes narrow just the slightest bit in a way that said ‘why didn’t you tell me’ but I looked away before she could say any more. I knew what she was thinking anyway. It was always more than clear how she felt about my mum.

Lily seemed oblivious to Dom’s mood and continued to chatter while Lucy bobbed her head along with Lily. “I still can’t believe I know you! It’s like SO amazing! Do you think for your next interview you could mention we’re friends? How awesome would that be?! The Savior of the Wizarding World’s Daughter and Miss Teen Witch: Partners in Crime! I can see it now—”

“Lucy,” Molly said, interrupting Lily’s spiel and focusing on her sister. “Was there a reason you two moseyed on over here?”

“Oh, right,” Lucy said, looking at Molly like she was such a bother. “Mum sent us a letter. She also told me to tell you to wear more color.”

As Lucy said this, she tossed a pink envelope over to Molly, which Molly stared at in disdain.

“Is that all then?” Molly asked, not trying to hide her annoyance at her sister.

“For you it is, Wobbles,” Lucy said, flicking her hair and turning away from Molly. “But there are more important issues that we came over here for.”

“Oh, I feel so unwanted,” Molly said tonelessly. “Please tell me these ‘more important issues’.”

“You’re snarkiness is very unattractive, Molls,” Lucy said, narrowing her eyes at Molly. Molly rolled her eyes in return.

“But,” Lucy continued, turning to face me and throwing me off guard, “I do have a question to ask you, Natasha. This Friday, Lily and I are walking in the annual fashion show for the pep squad of the Quidditch team. So… do you think sometime this week you could teach me and Lils how to walk? And pose?”

“Pep squad?” I asked.

“Yeah, you know, we’re like cheerleaders,” Lily chimed putting a hand on her hip and grinning.

“Only you’re not,” Molly said. “You all just jump around and scream for whatever boy on the team you’re a particular fan of. It’s kind of embarrassing.”

“You would know about embarrassing wouldn’t you,” Lucy snapped. She turned back to me. “I swear it’s totally legit. Fiona founded it two years ago and we’ve been trying to be members since it first started and we’re finally on! So, do you think you can help us?”

“Uh….” I said, the information overload leaving me at a loss for words. “I can’t—”

“Great!” Lucy exclaimed, jumping in before I finished. “Me and Lily don’t have pep squad practice on Thursday, so you can teach us then!”

“Um… but I don’t think—”

“Well, we best be off,” Lucy said, linking her arm through Lily’s and starting to pull her away. “Just don’t forget: Thursday at seven.”

“But I didn’t—,”

“Thanks so much, Natasha. You’re a star.” And with that, Lucy flipped her extra shiny hair and walked away, a cheerful bounce in her step. Lily trailed happily behind her.

I began to feel the icy chill of dread wash it’s way down my body as I watched Lucy and Lily open the doors and leave the Great Hall. I looked back at the table, to see everyone staring at me. “Do you know what just happened?”

“Ahh, my sister,” Molly mused, tossing a grape into her mouth and then swallowing. “Her ability to manipulate everyone and everything astounds me.”

“I never even agreed to help her though,” I said. “I was going to tell her no.”

“Which just further proves my point,” Molly explained. “She gave you no choice to tell her no and now she’ll avoid you the rest of the week so that you have to come on Thursday to help her and Lily. It’s kind of genius. If I didn’t hate her so much, I’d almost be proud to call her my sister.”

“But I don’t want to help her,” I complained. “What is a Quidditch pep squad anyways?”

Molly and Dom groaned as I asked this and Gryffin grinned. Rose however, remained neutral as she put on what I had now dubbed her ‘explanation face’.

“It started two years ago when our cousin James was dating this girl—”

“Fiona Hartwig,” Molly cut in, saying the name with contempt. “I never liked her. She was always too… happy. In this sickly sweet stab-you-in-the-back type of way.”

“Anyways,” Rose said, ignoring Molly’s comment. “She was always coming to James’ games to support him and such, so she decided it’d be a good idea since there were so many other girls like her, to form a pep squad to support the whole team.”

“And by pep squad she means a group of rabid fan girls,” Molly told me.

“And by supporting the whole team, she means just the fit males,” Dom added.

“And by fit males, she means me,” Gryffin said, to which Molly gave him a shove.

“The point is,” Rose said, talking over their comments yet again. “That the pep squad has now kind of blown up here and become very selective. So the fact that Lily and Lucy got on is pretty impressive.”

“Please,” Molly commented. “The only reason those two got on is because Fiona’s still pining after James. She thinks this will make him want her back or something.”

“And every year,” Rose continued, ignoring Molly, “they hold a fashion show during breakfast in the Great Hall as a fundraiser so that they can get new uniforms personalized to support the specific boy their assigned. Which is what Lily and Lucy asked you to help them with.”

I remained silent as I soaked all of this information in. I was kind of surprised. Not that James had had a girlfriend, I mean, everyone dates people at some point. Just… the way the Fiona sounded kind of… shocked me. I never figured James to go for the rah rah type of girl. He seemed too smart for that, I guess. But really, who am I to judge? I hardly knew him in all honesty.

“I still can’t believe you’re going to help Lucy,” Molly moaned. “Might as well sell your soul to the devil while you’re at it.”

“Oh, come off it,” Gryffin said. “Lucy’s not that bad.”

“Are you kidding me?” Molly exclaimed, turning to Gryffin. “She’s a nightmare dressed in pink!”

“I like the pink,” Gryffin said, obviously just trying to annoy Molly. “Besides, she’s loads better than you, any day. At least she smiles and isn’t all full of gloom and doom.”

“I am not full of gloom and doom,” Molly argued.

“I hate to break it to you, Molls,” Dom said, putting a hand on Molly’s shoulder, “but Gryffin is right. You are a very gloomy person.”

“No I’m not,” Molly said, giving Dom a betrayed look. “I’m just… a realist.”

“You’re also a huge bitch,” Gryffin said easily. “Maybe you should work on being nicer. It’d do everyone a load of good.”

“I have no reason to be nicer,” Molly sniffed, crossing her arms. “People suck.”

“Yet another point proving that you’re full of gloom and doom,” Gryffin said, ruffling Molly’s hair. Molly glared at him.

“And you’re full of shit,” Molly fired back. “So I guess we’re even.”

“Harsh,” Gryffin said sarcastically, throwing a hand over his heart. “You really hit me right where it hurts, Molly Wobbles.”

“What did you just call me?” Molly growled, narrowing her eyes at Gryffin.

“I think you heard me,” Gryffin responded, unaffected at her tone.

“Say it again,” Molly threatened.

“Why?”

Say it.”

“Okay, I will, Molly Wob—umph!” Gryffin was interrupted by Molly elbowing him hard in the gut.

“What the fuck?!” Gryffin shouted, glaring at Molly. “You’re crazy!”

“I know,” Molly said, smiling sweetly and looking eerily like Lucy as she did so. “And you just learned a lesson. Never call me that again.”

*

“You ready?” Rose asked me, as I walked down the stairwell from our dormitory.

“Yeah,” I responded stuffing the book that was in my hand into my rucksack and meeting her at the landing. “Sorry. I just forgot to get my History of Magic textbook.”

“It’s fine,” Rose said easily, shrugging off my apology and shooting me a beatific smile. She didn’t seem the least bit bothered that I was ten minutes late to our study session. “We should get going though, before all the good seats in the library are taken. I hate having to sit near the door because people are always shout—”

“Natasha! Rose!” Molly exclaimed, her eyes widened in desperation as she fled towards us. Her breathing was coming out short and labored, as she hunched over trying to catch her breath. “Run!”

“What are you talking about, Molly?” Rose asked, looking at Molly seriously.

Molly took a couple more deep breaths, before her breathing became normal again and then she opened her mouth to respond.

“Dom has—”

“Molly! There you are!” Dom shouted, bouncing up to the three of us, looking unusually peppy. I noted that she was holding a thick stack of neon papers in her hand. “Oh good! You found Natasha and Rose.”

Molly gave us both a look as though saying we should’ve listened to her warnings, and then turned around to face Dom.

“Yup! I knew I’d find them here,” Molly said, nodding her head and faking a smile. Dom looked at Molly and frowned.

“Are you okay?” Dom asked, peering at Molly’s face closely. “You look… ill.”

“Yeah, ’course,” Molly answered, looking puzzled as she tried to keep her smile in tact. “Why?”

“It’s because she’s smiling,” Rose commented. “Molly never smiles.”

The smile on Molly’s face immediately formed into a scowl as she listened to Rose’s words. She crossed her arms. “I do too smile.”

We all looked at Molly with disbelief, to which she just frowned even further.

“You know, I’m not as gloomy as you all make me out to be!” Molly exclaimed indignantly.

There seemed to be a flicker of recognition behind Rose’s eyes as Molly said this, and she made a hum of realization. “This is about what Gryffin said, isn’t it?” Rose asked, looking at Molly imploringly.

“Psh, yeah, like I care what that blubbering idiot thinks,” Molly said scathingly.

“Seems like you do,” Dom commented. “I mean, you just smiled.”

“Why is it that me smiling has to be so shocking?”

“Because you never do it.”

“That’s not why I was smiling!” Molly said, and then she looked at me and Rose evilly. “I was smiling because I’m so happy we’re all going to get to hang up flyers. Together.”

“Oh yeah!” Dom said, her eyes widening as she remembered something. She held out the stack of neon papers in her hands to Rose and I. “I have to put up Quidditch flyers to try and get us new seeker. And since you guys are my besties you’re going to help me!”

“Dom,” Rose started, “Natasha and I were about to go study. Do you think this can wait?”

“Oh shoot!” Molly said, slapping her hand on her forehead. “I almost forgot I have to do this team project with Gryffin, today.” She sighed. “I hate Professor Sinistra and her ‘random pairings’ so much. This is like the fifth time she’s stuck us together for something.”

“But… who will hang up the flyers with me?” Dom asked, her excitement wilting. “I can’t do it all on my own.”

“Ask Scorpius,” I suggested. “I don’t think he’s doing anything, and he is captain, isn’t he?”

“I don’t want to hang up flyers with him,” Dom said, frowning. “He’s a git.”

“Oh stop saying that,” Rose said. “You guys got on great before all this Quidditch captaincy stuff got in the way.”

“But he’s so annoying now,” Dom complained.

“And so are you,” Rose countered. “You two need to get over your differences. It’s silly to lose a friendship over a sport.”

“Since when did you become my mum?” Dom asked petulantly. Rose gave her a level stare for a long moment and then Dom sighed. “Fine. I’ll ask him.”

“Good,” Rose said, nodding her head in approval. “I think it’ll do you two some good.”

“And look! There he is,” I said, pointing to Scorpius who was just walking down the stairs from the boys’ dormitory. I then began to wave at Scorpius. “Oi! Scorpius! Over here.”

Scorpius turned to where I was calling his name and looked at me quizzically. I assumed it was because of my overly chipper attitude, but I really just wanted him and Dom to sort out their differences. Maybe then they’d be able to hold down a seeker, which would in turn make me not feel guilty about turning down James’ suggestion.

“What’s up?” Scorpius asked as he walked over to us. He ran a hand through his bedraggled hair and blinked. It was obvious he had been taking an afternoon kip and had just woken up; especially by the way his clothes were all rumpled.

“You and Dom are going to hang up flyers together,” I said, pushing Dom towards him. Dom gave me an annoyed look, which I ignored. “You know, for the new seeker. And since you’re both important team members, you need to do it together.”

“You made flyers?” Scorpius said, turning to Dom. “Could you make us look any more desperate?”

Dom huffed. “If you haven’t noticed already, captain, we are desperate.”

“Which means you need to get going with those flyers,” Rose chimed in, deciding to take over the placating part of the conversation. “So off you go. Run along now.”

Scorpius let out a long breath as he stared at the stack of neon papers that Dom was holding, before he finally put his hands in his pockets. “Fine, let’s go.”

*

“So, I think we got a lot done today,” Rose said, nodding at me approvingly as we walked out of the library. “Thanks again for helping me with Arithmancy.”

“No problem,” I answered easily. “Thanks for the help with History of Magic.”

Studying with Rose today had actually been kind of fun. Since the last time we studied together we had told each other our insecurities, everything today had seemed to go on with ease. And with the cloud of uncertainty between us gone, I had actually gotten to know Rose more as a person. She was very patient, witty when she wanted, and had an unbreakable focus that made me envious. So all in all, she wasn’t the over-eager studier that I had pinned her as.

“Can I tell you a secret?” Rose asked as we walked down the hallway, leaning towards me conspiratorially. I nodded. “It’s fun to finally have someone else in the group that cares about school. The other’s love taking the mickey out of me for studying.”

What Rose had said was true. The guys definitely did poke fun at her for her overzealous love of studying. And I have to admit, when I first met Rose, I had found her obsession with school kind of overwhelming too. But as I was learning with a lot of people, there was so much more to Rose than her love of books.

“I think they just take it for granted. School, I mean,” I responded. Rose looked at me curiously so I proceeded. “With me, I never had the option to go to Hogwarts. My mum wouldn’t allow it. And now that I’m here I just… don’t want to mess up the only couple of months I’ll get to go here. You know?”

“That’s sad though,” Rose commented. “Your mum should’ve given you the choice when you got your letter.”

“She did what she thought was best for me,” I said, finding myself becoming unnecessarily defensive at Rose’s words. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.”

“Oh,” Rose said, looking surprised at my defensiveness, “I didn’t mean it like that, Tash! I wasn’t trying to pick at her. I just… oh well… I just meant—”

“No, I’m sorry,” I said, cutting Rose off. I knew Rose hadn’t meant anything by what she said. “I just get sensitive when it comes to my mum.”

“Yeah, Dom has mentioned that,” Rose admitted. “But still, I should’ve been more careful with my words.”

We fell into a silence after that, neither of us really knowing how to expand on the conversation. I felt bad for making Rose feel uncomfortable, but I had no idea how to fix it. Things were just… complicated whenever my mother was involved. And oddly enough, there was only one person who I could even begin to explain the complexity to. A person who I now spotted in the hallway, standing in front of a bulletin board, holding a neon flyer in his hand.

“Oh there’s James,” Rose said, catching sight of the mussed up head of hair at the bulletin board. “Natasha, you don’t mind if we say hi do you?”

“I guess not,” I answered albeit confused. I had thought none of the lot talked to James anymore.

“Great,” Rose said before cupping a hand over her mouth and calling out to James. She seemed to spot the flyer in his hand as she shouted, “Oi! James! Thinking of trying out?”

James looked up from the flyer he was holding in his hand and focused his eyes on Rose as she walked towards him. I followed behind tentatively.

“Nah,” James answered easily, shrugging his shoulders. “I had my run with Quidditch. I just wanted to see how the new search was going.”

“It’s going terrible,” Rose said matter-of-factly. “It especially doesn’t help that
Dom and Scorp are at each other’s throats.”

“So I’ve been told,” James said, smirking slightly as he his gaze rested on me. I noticed confusion flicker across Rose’s face. “But I do know someone who should join the team.”

I fidgeted.

“Who?” Rose asked. I tried to shake my head at James, to signal to him not to continue, but he ignored me.

“Natasha here has expressed great interest in helping the Gryffindor’s to victory,” James announced. Rose looked at me quizzically. “And as former captain, I think she’d be a great replacement seeker.”

“You want to be seeker?” Rose asked incredulously, although I could tell that wasn’t the only thing she was wondering. Her eyes kept moving from James to me, curious as to how we knew each other.

“No, I don’t,” I said to Rose. “I don’t even know how to fly.”

“I offered to teach you,” James cut in. “You just want an excuse not to try out.”

“James, I already told you that I can’t try out, even if I wanted to,” I responded a bit huffily. “I don’t have the time to be a seeker.”

“You could if you tried,” was James’s response.

“No, actually, I couldn’t.”

“Well before you say that maybe you should try.”

I didn’t respond and instead counted to ten, trying to remain calm. But it was getting to be difficult with his badgering. It was getting to be annoying. James was acting as though I was some meal ticket for Gryffindor Quidditch success, when in all honesty I was anything but. This left me with only one question: why was he pushing me to try out?

I noticed out of the corner of my eye, Rose staring at the two of us with a furrowed brow.

“Well,” I said, backing out of the conversation with James, “I’m not going to try out, end of.”

“You say that now,” James said, “but you’ll change your mind. Right, Rose?”

“Right…” Rose responded still a bit taken aback at the fact that James and I seemed to know each other. There was an awkward pause.

“Well…” Rose said, looking back and forth between James and me again. “We should get going. It’s getting pretty late.”

James nodded his head, unaffected. “Yeah, sure. I’ll see you guys.”

“Yeah, we’ll see you,” Rose added, as she began to back away. I didn’t say any goodbye’s to James, because I knew I’d be seeing him in a matter of hours anyway, but I did nod my head at him, to which he nodded back.

And then, I began to follow Rose silently as we headed back to the dormitories. When we rounded a corner, she spoke.

“I didn’t know you knew James,” Rose stated. I could tell as she said it that she had been holding this question in until James was no longer around.

I shrugged, a bit unsure how to respond. “I don’t. Not really. We just talk sometimes.”

Rose smiled broadly at me as I said this, which I found confusing. “That’s good.”

“I guess,” I responded, doubt hidden in my voice. I looked down at my feet as we continued walking. “I didn’t know you lot still talked to James.”

“Oh,” Rose said, looking taken aback at my statement before swiftly composing herself. “They don’t talk to him anymore. Or I guess it’s more of the other way around. None of them know how to act around each other anymore. But I still talk to James on occasion.”

“Why?” I asked.

Rose looked down at her hands, the shuffling of our feet the only thing filling the silence. Then, she exhaled a breath. “We can talk about things with each other that we can’t with other people, I guess. He’s a good person to go to for that.”

I nodded my head, instantly understanding what she was talking about. Whenever I talked to James, it was always about things I never felt comfortable telling anyone else about. I guess other people saw him as a good listener too.

“But anyways,” Rose said, changing the subject. “It’s good he has someone else to talk to. I worry that he isolates himself too much sometimes.”

“I see,” I said, not sure how to comment.

“It’s just, ever since—” Rose stopped and caught herself. “Well it’s just, that the only people he talks to anymore is me or Lily or his brother, Albus. And even then it’s only barely. It’s not good for him.”

I nodded.

“I’m just happy he’s finally talking to someone that’s not his family,” Rose said, looking at me sincerely. She was acting as though I was some sort of amazing person, saving James from whatever he had become. But, I wasn’t. And I hated that she thought I could. How could I help out James, when I couldn’t even help myself? I still had all of my own issues to deal with, and when it really came down to it James was the one who was helping me.

“Just… be careful with him, you know?” Rose continued, her face changing to a more serious expression. “It takes a lot for James to open up to someone, and he’s been through a lot.”

“We’re barely even friends,” I said after soaking in Rose’s words, my voice taking a guarded tone. “He doesn’t open up to me.”

“Maybe he doesn’t do what you consider opening up,” Rose said. “But the fact that he talks to you is a huge step for him. He rarely talks to anyone these days.”

“Rose,” I said, trying to get her to understand what I was saying. “It’s really nothing.”

“Just promise me you won’t mess him about,” Rose said, biting her bottom lip. She was awfully protective of James for being a cousin who only occasionally talked to him. I found myself wondering what it was that she was able to talk to him about. “He’s too good of a guy for that.”

I almost wanted to laugh at what Rose was alluding to. As though I was in any position to ‘mess James about’. Because she was wrong. The contract I had signed with Miss Teen Witch had made any possibility of a boy nonexistent. And even if there was no contract, Rose would still have nothing to worry about. James and mine’s relationship wasn’t anything like what she was insinuating.

“I would,” I said after a long moment. “But there’s nothing to promise.”

*

“So,” James said, looking up at the metallic black sky as he hovered in front of me. It was a scene I was all too familiar with nowadays and a scene that I took comfort in. There was something about the pitch black of the night that filled me with a strange sense of calm. “You thought anymore about joining the team?”

“Nope,” I responded, popping the ‘p’. “I’ve told you already that I’m not joining.”

James sighed as though he had been expecting this response and lowered himself to the ground so that we were eyelevel. His hazel eyes were dominated by the golden brown around his pupil, and I couldn’t help but focus on them as they continued to shift.

“But you’re saying no for the wrong reasons,” James said after a moment. “You haven’t given me one real reason for you not wanting to be on the team.”

“Because it’s impossible,” I said, and then, to prove my point, I pulled a letter out from the back pocket of my jeans that I had hastily shoved there a couple of hours ago. I unfolded it and held it up with a flourish. “Right here, is a letter from my mum, mapping out the whole next week of press junket’s I’m going to have to do for Miss Teen Witch. I won’t be back before 9 almost every night.”

“So what,” James said, and I noticed a glint in his eyes as he said this. “I can talk to Scorpius and tell him that I’ll do practices with you at night. I mean, you already come out here every night anyway.”

“I have a thing called homework,” I rebutted, still not convinced in the slightest. “As soon as my grades start to fall, my mum will see it as an excuse to pull me out of school.”

“You always do your homework loads ahead of time,” James said, looking at me knowingly. “During breakfast you’re always studying or writing essays.”

I wished that, for once, he wasn’t so perceptive.

“But I don’t like Quidditch,” I said, trying to get James to drop it. I still didn’t understand why he wanted me to join so badly.

I mean, how could me playing Quidditch possibly be helpful for anything? I didn’t like the sport, or want to play, or even have the time for it. James was making it into this big deal that is shouldn’t have been.

“That’s because you don’t know how to play,” James said, breaking into my thoughts. “If you did, you’d love it.”

“How do you know?” I asked.

“Because it’ll help you,” James answered. “You’ll get some control that you know what to do with. Isn’t that what you’ve been wanting?”

It was after he said this that something clicked.

Here I was, doing nothing but take as I constantly complained about my lack of control over my life. And then there was James, presenting me with an opportunity to gain said control that I so desperately sought. I still didn’t know why he was helping me so much, but I did know one thing: I owed him.


And while James had isolated himself from all of his friends –for some unfathomable reason—he hadn’t done the same to me. So maybe, I could do something. Something to help him in return.

Suddenly, I had an idea.

“Okay,” I found myself saying before I could convince myself not to. “I’ll join.”

“You’ll join?” James asked, quirking an eyebrow, seeming confused at my sudden agreement.

“Yeah,” I responded, nodding my head. I then pushed myself to say more. “But under one condition.”








A/N: Helloo my lovely, lovely readers! May I apologize for the cliffhanger, or does the fact that I had fun writing it make me not forgiven? And may I also say that you guys made my life with your response to the last chapter? I can't tell you how awesome/inspired I was after all of the positive/helpful reviews you gave me :))

Anyways, I'm sorry for how long it took me to update! This is the first weekend in three weeks that I've actually been home, because I've been traveling a bunch to go to college meetings & last weekend I went to a writing workshop for this contest I won in december so I hadn't actually had time to sit down and edit the chapter until this weekend.

Butttttt I do have a ramble of questions as I always do for my chapters: What did you think about Lucy? Lily? The Pep squad? Rose's conversation with Tash? Tash agreeing to join Quidditch? And the biggest question: WHAT IS NATASHA'S ONE CONDITION?

A review down below would mean the world to me because they really do help me make sure I'm not totally ruining the story. I read and respond to every review too!

Thank you all so much for being amazing readers/reviewers!
-Rebecca


Chapter 12: Good Luck
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Disclaimer: It's all Jo's.
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“So what you’re saying,” James began, examining me closely, “is that if I agree to be your replacement on the team once you leave school, you’ll join?”

“Yup.”

“Why?” He asked, his now dark blue eyes marred with confusion.

“I don’t know,” I responded, looking down at my feet. “I just think it’d make sense. It’d be rude of me to join without having a back up replacement, don’t you think?”

James considered my explanation as though he didn’t quite believe me, which he probably shouldn’t. I mean, my real goal behind getting him to agree to replace me was that, hopefully, he’d fall in with his friends again and would have people to talk to. This way, whatever I owed him for listening to me nonstop complain, would be repaid, and once I left school we’d be even. So basically, I was just trying to make myself feel better.

I continued staring at my feet as I waited for a response.

“Okay,” James said after a long moment, his eyes still fixated on me with a bit of confusion. “I’ll agree to be your replacement or whatever. But your training starts now.”

As soon as James said this, he swung himself off his broom and gestured to it.

“Um…are you sure we should start off so suddenly?” I asked James, looking at the broom with trepidation. “I mean, I only just agreed...”

“The first game is in a week and you’re now the most vital player on the team, so yeah, I think we should,” James responded flatly. “Now get on.”

I suddenly had a flash of regret for agreeing to join the Gryffindor Quidditch team. I mean, sure, James had agreed to my condition, but it seemed like little compensation for what I was about to endure.

“But… I’m going to fall,” I said, eyeing the broom worriedly.

“No, you’re not,” James said. “Flying’s really not that hard.”

I scoffed. “Sure it’s not.”

“It’s not,” James said. “People build flying up to be this big deal, this impossible feat, but in the end it’s really just all about balance.”

“Well maybe I have terrible balance,” I told him.

“Well then that’d be a lie,” James said easily. “Don’t you twirl batons?”

I raised my eyebrows in surprise. “How do you know that?”

“My sister has your interviews with Witch Weekly memorized and likes to recite them randomly,” James responded, shrugging as if it were no big deal.

“Oh,” I said, Lily’s bright eyes and bubbly personality poking it’s way through my thoughts. “Right.”

“Lily can get crazy about those girly sorts of things,” James said. “My mum calls it a character flaw.”

“Your mum doesn’t like girly things?” I asked.

James shrugged. “She just doesn’t like how obsessed Lily is with the superficial. She thinks there’s so much more than what you wear and how you look.”

An image of my mother flashed through my mind, so concerned about making me into her idea of perfection. It seemed that James and I had very different mothers.

“Your mum sounds nice,” I said.

“Yeah, she is,” James said nodding his head and staring off. Then he seemed to realize something turned back to me. “Anyway, get on the broom. You’ll never learn how to fly it from the ground.”

“Are you sure?” I asked, still trying to avoid getting on the broom. “You could try teaching me when I’m not on one.”

“Yes, I’m sure,” James said, not appreciating my humor. “Now come on. The more you prolong it the scarier it’ll seem.”

“I’m not scared of flying,” I said, giving James an annoyed look. “I just know it’ll be a terrible experience.”

“And how do you know?” James asked, arching an eyebrow at me. His strong jaw was set in a defiant line as he crossed his arms, waiting for an answer.

“Because I do,” I sniffed, tilting my chin up just the slightest bit as my inner Miss Teen Witch made an appearance.

James stared at me for a couple of seconds, my green eyes locked with his ever-changing ones before his mouth tilted up in the slightest of smirks. It was an expression I wasn’t used to, especially from him, but there was something about it that made it seem like this had once been a normal expression of his. “Okay, then. Prove it.”

*

“So,” Molly said as we headed to the library, which is where Lucy and Lily had told me to meet them so I could help them with their ‘pep squad strut’. “Scorpius told me that you’ve volunteered to be seeker.”

I looked at Molly, my expression instantly freezing to one of confusion. I most definitely had never approached Scorpius to tell him my plans of joining the team, which only meant one thing: James had told him. Which then led to an even more prolonged confusion. I had made it pretty clear yesterday night that I had quit.

As it turned out, I had sucked at Quidditch. And not just an it’s-my-first-time suck, but a real honest to goodness I-should-not-be-allowed-on-a-broomstick suck. There was just something about wobbling around on a broom in mid air that kind of freaked me out, which led to me spazzing out and falling. And while I had been kind of okay with it the first five times I ate dirt, after the tenth time I had started to hate Quidditch in all its entirety. Which you know, led to me quitting and running off the field, full of embarrassment and anger.

“And why does he think that?” I asked Molly, not giving anything away.

“That’s what I wondered, which is why I asked him,” Molly said, studying my face closely. “But then he told me some outlandish story that made it pretty clear he had to have been making it up, right?”

I bit my bottom lip and nervously twisted the bracelet I was wearing around my arm. “What was the story?”

“Well apparently, one of my cousin’s told him. And according to him, the cousin was—”

“Natasha!” I instantly cursed myself as I recognized the voice that was calling my name. I whirled slowly around to see the cousin in question strolling up to me, as though we talked in the hallway all the time.

Molly’s eyes widened as James approached me, her suspicions easily confirmed. I didn’t say anything as we both stood there, waiting for James to catch up.

“So I’ve been thinking,” James started, still acting as blasé as usual, “That maybe we’ve been going about the training all wrong. Clearly yesterday’s method hasn’t been working, so I’ve got another idea.”

“But James,” I started, looking nervously at Molly. “I told you I quit.”

“Yeah but I don’t care,” James said easily. “We already had made our agreement that you’d join, so you can’t just back out because you fell a couple of times.”

“I fell thirty seven times,” I responded flatly. “That hardly counts as ‘a couple’.”

“Anyway,” James said, evading my comment, “this new method I came up with is totally going to work. So just come to practice tomorrow night and we’ll be good, okay?”

I let out a long sigh, blowing a couple of strands of hair out of my face. “Fine.”

“Great.” James then turned and headed off, not interested in conversing any longer. I stared after him, regret washing through my body. Why had I agreed?

“So it is true,” Molly said, staring after where James had once stood in wonder. “I figured Scorp was lying. Dom and all the others didn’t believe it either.”

“You’re not going to tell them are you?” I asked, worry creeping into my tone. I could just imagine how betrayed Dom would be that I hadn’t told her.

Molly sighed. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell since it doesn’t really concern or interest me. But,” Molly paused as she seemed to think over her next words, “there’s a lot about James you don’t know…”

“I know,” I said quickly. “But it’s not like we’re good friends or anything. He’s just helping me fly.”

Molly looked at me in disbelief. “That’s the most I’ve seen him talk to anyone in like a year.” Her facial expression changed as she saw my face and she rolled her eyes. “But whatever, it’s obviously none of my business.”

I nodded my head, in agreement, which caused Molly to narrow her eyes.

“You should probably tell people that he’s helping you fly though,” Molly said. “I’m sure it’s something Dom would appreciate knowing.”

“Can we just stop talking about this?” I said, not wanting to think about the James issue (not that it was one) anymore.

“Okay, okay,” Molly said. “I can see you’re touchy about this subject.”

I didn’t say anything to Molly, and we walked in silence like this for a couple of minutes before she seemed to be unable to stand not talking.

“I still can’t believe you’re going through with this,” Molly stated, giving me a half disgusted and half pitying look. It took me a moment to realize she was now back to discussing the fact that I was going to help Lucy and Lily with their walks.

“Well what am I supposed to do?” I asked, shooting Molly a helpless look, slightly eager for the topic change. “Every time I tried to talk to her and cancel, she was always ‘in a hurry’ or ‘couldn’t talk right now’.”

“Of course she was,” Molly commented, rolling her eyes. “I’ve told you that’s her whole shtick. She knew you wanted to cancel, and now since she’s avoiding you, she thinks you’ll go.”

Molly shot me an accusatory glare as she finished this.

“Why are you looking at me like it’s my fault?” I asked.

“Because you’re going,” Molly complained. “You’re not required to show up, you know.”

“But…” I trailed off. I didn’t know how to explain it, but there was some pull deep in my gut telling me I couldn’t just not show up. It would be like disappointing Lucy and Lily. And even though I didn’t particularly know either of them much, I hated the idea of being a disappointment.

“But what?” Molly prodded.

“Well,” I started, composing my thoughts, “I don’t want to be rude.”

Molly scoffed as I said this. “You are the worst sometimes.”

“What? Why?” I asked.

“Because,” Molly said, “you’re like… a people pleaser. You do everything anyone asks of you, and you’re so easily manipulated it’s frustrating. Don’t you want to just, I dunno, tell everyone to sod off sometimes?”

While I would never put it in as blunt a terms as Molly, I couldn’t help but think that there were many moments in my life in which I’d wanted to tell people to lay off. And though I never felt like I could tell someone outright to leave me alone, I did long for the ability to do so. But the truth was, I wasn’t that type of person.

“I guess,” I answered, after a long moment. “But sometimes it’s just easier to not say anything. Then nobody winds up mad.”

Molly huffed as I said this, raising her hands up in the air as though I was the thickest person in the world. “Okay, let me make this simpler: do you want to help Lucy and Lily?”

“Not particularly but—”

“Then don’t go!” Molly exclaimed, cutting me off. “They’re second years. Are you really worried about how they’ll feel?”

“No but—”

“Don’t you want to just show Lucy that she can’t play you like a pawn?”

“Yes but—”

“So don’t go!” Molly interrupted yet again.

“Fine!” I said, wanting Molly to get off of my case. “I won’t go then. Are you happy?”

Molly looked at me through drawn eyebrows, as though I was clearly missing the point. Which maybe I was. Then, she smirked.

“You’ve got to not want to go all on your own,” Molly said patting my cheek flippantly. She then gestured to the library, which we had now arrived at. “Good luck, Tash. Merlin knows you’ll need it.”

And then, she turned on her heel and walked away, leaving me no less confused than I had been at the start of the conversation. It had seemed as though she’d been giving me luck on something a lot more important then helping out Lucy and Lily. I took a few moments to stare after her retreating form, before I looked up at the heavy wooden doors of the library.

I thought about what Molly had said for a nanosecond, but then blinked it away before I squared my shoulders and opened the door.

*

“Can we please do it once more?” Lily asked, looking up at me with wide, brown eyes. Her flaming red hair was held back with what seemed to be her favorite pair of pink sparkly clips, and her cheeks were flushed with excitement.

“Okay, you guys can do it one more time,” I said, looking at Lily’s eager face and feeling my heart tug a little. There was something so endearing about her open happiness that made me cave. “But I do have a lot of Transfiguration homework, so I have to go soon.”

“No problem!” Lily said eagerly, grabbing Lucy by the arm and pulling her back towards the end of the makeshift runway we had lined off with tape in the back of the library. We were near the archway by the restricted section, where almost nobody ever went.

“Okay, so Lucy you go first,” I said for what felt like the millionth time, “and then Lily you go right as she hits the red ex, okay?”

“Right,” Lily said, straightening her posture and tilting her head up so that it was perfectly parallel with the floor. Lucy began to walk first, her shoulders back and her expression impossibly pouty (which I had told her not to do but she had insisted everyone on the pep squad made such a fish face). Then as she hit the red ex, Lily followed her, an excited bounce in her step as she walked along the dotted lines I had conjured onto the floor for them to follow.

They were actually pretty decent in all honesty. They had listened almost exactly to the directions I had given, and their walks were perfectly balanced and timed with the music they would be walking to. There had only been a couple minor chinks, one including Lucy’s refusal to give up the pouty face and another when Lily had accidentally tripped over Lucy as they passed one another. But, other than that, they were fairly good.

As they both finished up their walks, I gave an even clap. “That was great!” I said, looking at the both of them sincerely. “You’ve really got a handle on the pivot at the end, and you’re not clomping which is a problem that many people hardly fix.”

Lily’s eyes crinkled in excitement at my words and even Lucy managed a smile.

“Thank you so much for helping us, Natasha,” Lily said, stepping forward and wrapping her freckly arms around my waist and squeezing tight. I hugged her back, although a bit awkwardly.

“No problem,” I said, patting Lily on the shoulder as she leaned away. Lucy, who was standing behind Lily, gave me a nod.

“Yeah thanks for helping,” Lucy said, which I could tell was something she wasn’t used to saying. She then turned to Lily. “Fiona will, like, totally love us! Maybe we can even convince her to make us mini-captains for all the newbies!”

“Ohmigosh, do you think she would?” Lily asked, looking excited.

“If I have anything to say about it, I know she will,” Lucy said, giving Lily a knowing look. “All you need to do is talk to James or something for her and she’ll be more than willing.”

Lily bit her lip. “I hate doing that though,” Lily said. “She gets so hopeful….”

“Look, this is the only way we could possibly get ourselves instated as captain once she leaves, so it’s necessary,” Lucy said, adjusting her pink headband and straightening her shoulders. She then turned to me as though just realizing I was still there and shot me a short smile. “Well, we better be going! Thanks again, Natasha. I hope to see you soon!”

And with a three-fingered wave she grabbed Lily and walked off, leaving me to clean up on my own. Not that I minded. It was only a few charms. I guess I just expected them to be a bit more thankful that I had given up most of my evening to help train them. But according to Molly, this was expected. Lucy got what she wanted and felt no reason to stay.

“Need help?” I heard someone ask. I turned around to see a person I didn’t quite recognize standing by one of the restricted bookcases. He had medium build, with sleek, dark hair and bright green eyes. I couldn’t quite pinpoint it, but there was something familiar about him.

“Oh that’s okay, I got it,” I answered, quickly waving my wand and causing the tape marks on the floor to disappear. The guy who had offered help didn’t listen to me however, and began to help me vanish the rest of the mess left over from helping Lily and Lucy.

“Well… thanks,” I said, once we had finished vanishing everything. “You didn’t have to do that you know.”

“No problem. You were helping out my sister and I saw her and my cousin leave you to clean up yourself, so I felt like I owed you.” After he said this, I realized why he seemed familiar. He was James’ brother, Al. They both had a similar look to them, although Al’s hair was shorter and straighter, and his face was more rounded.

I made a hum of realization. “You’re Al.”

“And you’re Natasha. Congratulations for stating the obvious,” Al responded lazily, catching me off guard. “You’re also going to be seeker for the Gryffindors, aren’t you?”

I stared at him in shock. Had the news really traveled that fast? “How do you know?”

“Well, I’m kind of the Slytherin captain,” Al said matter-of-factly. “And also, James told me.”

“He did?” I asked, shocked. And I wasn’t sure which part I was shocked about the most: the fact that James talked to Al or the fact that he talked to Al about me.

“Yeah,” Al said, rolling his eyes. “Despite what everyone else says, we do happen to tolerate each other.”

“What does everyone else say?” I asked, confused.

Al seemed surprised. “Wow, I guess I didn’t give them enough credit. I would’ve figured with the lot you hang out with, they would’ve converted you into hating me within the first five minutes.”

I still didn’t understand why Al would assume I hated him, but I figured it was best not to ask. There was something about his tone that told me he and the others didn’t get along. And now that I think about it, Scorpius did happen to mention on more than one occasion that he didn’t trust Al.

“So then why are you talking to me if you think I’d hate you?” I asked, still a bit confused as to what was going on.

“Oh right,” Al said, seeming to remember something. “James told me to tell you that he can’t practice with you tonight because he has to get something prepared beforehand so he’ll see you tomorrow night instead.”

Al raised an eyebrow at me as he said this, as though asking me to explain why his brother was practicing with me. I looked down at my feet.

“Well, thanks for telling me,” I said to him, and I couldn’t help but feel the tiniest bit disappointed about the cancel in practice. Not that I was looking forward to it. But I guess it just seemed weird to not have anything to do late tonight.

“No problem,” Al said, although he was still staring at me with an eyebrow raised.

“So… If that’s all, I should probably be going,” I said, starting to back away from Al. “Nice meeting you.”

“You too,” Al said although he didn’t seem to really mean it. There was something very cold and closed off about him. And while with James this had intrigued me, with Al I just felt very uncomfortable.

I nodded my head at Al one last time before I turned around and started to walk away. Right as I was about to reach the door something stopped me.

“Oh and Natasha?” Al called, causing me to turn around. My hand was still resting lightly on the library door handle as I scrutinized Al.

“Yeah?” I asked, not sure what he was going to say.

“Good luck.”

I felt my forehead furrow as Al laughed, before I pushed open the door and left the library. As I walked down the hallway, my footsteps echoing around me, all I could think was that this was the second time today that someone had wished me good luck. It was also the second time today I had no idea what I was being wished luck for.

*

“Are you sure you don’t want to go?” Dom asked me, putting her hands on her hips and leaning over me. “I mean, don’t you want to watch Lily and Lucy make you proud?”

“Psh, like they could make anyone proud,” Molly said, wrinkling her nose. Her extremely tall stature made her seem like she didn’t belong in the 6th year girl’s dormitory. Which she didn’t considering she was a 7th year, but still.

“Molly, you’re not helping,” Dom snapped, giving Molly a scathing look. As she turned to me, her expression softened. “Natasha, just come down to the Great Hall breakfast with us and watch the fashion show. It’ll be fun!”

But it wouldn’t be fun. Or at least, for me it wouldn’t. There was something about watching a fashion show that reminded me too much of pageants, and I knew I wouldn’t voluntarily subject myself to watching it.

“I don’t really want to go,” I said to Dom, as I painted my nails with a clear polish. “I have to finish my Potions essay and—”

“Oh boo hoo,” Dom said flatly, clearly not caring. “The pep squad fashion show only happens once a year! You can’t miss it.”

“She’s right you know,” Molly said, nodding her head in agreement. “Making fun of all of the pep squadders is the highlight of my year.”

I sighed. “You guys, I really don’t want to go.”

Dom stared at me for a long moment and then shrugged. “Fine. We’ll go without you then.”

I could tell by Dom’s clipped tone that she was a bit annoyed at me for not wanting to go with her, and I felt guilt creep it’s way at the pit of my stomach.

“If I finish my potions essay before the fashion show ends, I’ll come down,” I said, trying to placate Dom.

Dom nodded her head slowly as I said this. “Okay. But you’re sure you don’t want to just come now?”

“I’m sure,” I said, nodding my head in affirmation. Dom stared at me for a moment longer before shrugging, then walking out the door. Molly followed behind her, but she gave me a more knowing look as she walked out. I wasn’t sure what the look was for, so I just stared blankly back at her.

Once they had both left, I used a drying charm on my nails and then pulled out my Potions book to finish the essay that was due tomorrow. Classes didn’t start until ten today in honor of the fashion show, so I wanted to use the extra time to get ahead on my work.

When I walked into the common room to sit by the fireplace as I worked, I couldn’t help but notice the deafening silence clinging to every crevice of the room. It was normally never quiet in the common room since there were always lots of people bustling around the room, but today there was an overwhelming lull. It seemed as though everyone at Hogwarts watched the fashion show, something I couldn’t quite understand.

After about a half an hour of working on my Potions essay, I had grown tired of it, and had instead opted for staring at the fireplace as the flames danced in front of my eyes teasingly. There was something about the crimson and orange bursts that caused me to become mesmerized. I remember learning once from my old tutor that the reason people were fascinated with fire so much was because it was something that caused pain and pleasure. It brought us light, and it also had the ability to burn us all down.

After about ten minutes of the blank fire-staring, I figured there was no point in staying in the common room, and instead decided I’d explore the hallways since nobody else would be around. As I walked down the hallways, I realized that I still didn’t really know many places around the castle to go to, so I walked to the Great Hall, since it was the only place I knew how to get to for sure.

The heavy doors that led into the Great Hall were closed, and I could hear the faint thumping of a pop song playing on the other side. I recognized the annoyingly catchy tune from the music Lily and Lucy had played when I helped them practice, and I figured the fashion show was still going on.

“Not at the fashion show?” a voice I recognized asked, and I turned around to see James leaning against the wall near the front entrance, looking as casual as ever.

“Nah,” I responded, shrugging my shoulders and walking over to where he was. “They’re not really my thing.”

“Says the girl who’s a beauty queen.”

“Says the girl who hates being a beauty queen.”

“Well then,” James said, his eyes lit up playfully at our banter, “says the girl who is a masochist.”

“Touché.”

James nodded his head at my affirmation of his wit, but didn’t say anything else. This led me to feel the urge to fill the silence.

“So,” I said, looking at James expectantly, “why aren’t you at the fashion show?”

“They’re not really my thing either,” He responded, shaking some of his messy hair out of his face.

“But your sister’s performing in it,” I pointed out.

“Don’t remind me,” James said, seeming to internally shudder at this. “I can’t believe she stooped low enough to join the pep squad.”

I had a flashback to the conversation Lucy and Lily had been having about how Fiona let them onto the pep squad in the hopes of getting back together with James. Why had James even dated a girl like her if he hated the pep squad so much? Why had he even dated a girl like her period?

“Aw come on. It’s not that bad,” I defended. “Lucy and Lily are really happy about it.”

“It doesn’t really take them much to be happy though,” James said, shrugging. “I just wish that Lily wasn’t into such shallow things, you know?”

I inwardly inhaled a breath at James’ words. I don’t know if he had meant to make me feel embarrassed, but suddenly I was. Being Miss Teen Witch kind of made me the poster child for being shallow, didn’t it? I found myself wondering if James thought of me that way, too.

James seemed to notice my silence and focused his gaze on my face. “You okay?” James asked, not seeming to understand the lull in the conversation.

“Yeah, fine,” I said quickly, fiddling with a piece of hair and not looking at him. The muffled sounds of cheers emanated from the Great Hall but neither of us noticed. I then spoke before I had enough time to think it over. “I don’t think modeling stuff in a fashion show is what makes a person shallow though. I think it’s just down to the person.”

Understanding seemed to flicker in James’ eyes as I said this and I felt even more embarrassed as to what I’d said. There was another loud set of cheers from the Great Hall.

“You’re right,” James said, nodding his head, and I think that this was the first time in a long time that someone had said that to me. “I didn’t mean it how it sounded.”

“It’s fine if you did,” I said, deciding it was now time to start backing away and leave the awkward conversation we had buried ourselves in. “I was just sharing my own thoughts.”

“No, Natasha I didn’t mean to insult you,” James said and then he instinctively grabbed my arm to stop me from backing away. The physical contact between us startled me and I felt myself become frozen. He was acting like he cared way too much. “I guess I just… don’t actually see you as a beauty queen or whatever. Sometimes it doesn’t register and I forget.”

“Forget?” I asked, feeling as though his statement was absurd. It seemed odd that James could forget about something that was constantly on my mind.

James was about to open his mouth to explain, when our conversation was punctuated by the heavy sounds of the Great Hall doors opening. I found myself turning to the doors, and it was then that I realized James’ hand was still loosely holding my arm. I pulled it away as nonchalantly as I could but when I noticed who had been exiting the Great Hall, I realized I was too late.

Dom, Freddy, and Gryffin were wearing varying shades of shock as they stared at James and I, while Molly stood next to them inspecting her nails and remaining unsurprised. There were also a couple of pep squad members standing behind them (at least they were wearing cheerleading uniforms so I suspected they were members) watching us in shock too. I had a niggling question as to where Scorpius and Rose were, but then I remembered they were prefects and were monitoring the fashion show set up/clean up as part of their duties. I shot Dom a nervous smile, but she continued giving me a weird look.

James, for all he was worth, didn’t seem to take much notice. Not that I expected him too. He was always oblivious to other people.

“I’ve gotta go,” I said quietly to James, backing away from my conversation with him and walking towards Dom. He didn’t say anything back and didn’t even seem to care much as he shrugged his shoulders and watched me go, before walking away himself.

When I reached Dom, her expression had faded into a more tiring expression. She pinched the bridge of her nose, sighing as though she had the weight of the world on her back.

“Hey,” I started to say to Dom but I was quickly cut off by one of the cheerleaders giving me an acidic look and then putting a hand on her hip.

“Are you fucking joking me?” The blonde asked, sneering at me as she then turned to Dom. “Dominique, can you please tell me why your friend was talking to James?”

Dom looked at the blonde worriedly, but before she could respond Molly spoke. “Calm your shit, Fiona. She was just talking to the guy.”

I eyed the girl who was now revealed to be Fiona more closely as she continued to sneer. She was fairly tall (although I was still taller and Molly was still tallest), very pretty, and had legs up to her armpits. She also had a glare that could rival that of Voldemort’s. So… this was James’ ex.

“James never talks to anyone,” Fiona stated, her eyes narrowing at me.

Dom seemed to notice Fiona’s glare turning even more acrid because she cleared her throat. “Oh sorry, I just asked Natasha to tell James something for me. Don’t worry, it really was nothing.”

Fiona turned to look at Dom, her expression still angry. “Well, maybe you should tell him yourself next time. James is off limits, okay?” she had turned back to me as she said this, but then looked at Dom again. “Now take her out of my sight.”

Dom listened quickly as Fiona said this and she grabbed my arm, motioning for Molly to follow, and started yanking me down the hallway. I followed after he clumsily, still unsure what had just happened.

Had I just gotten bitched at by James’ ex?

“Where are we going?” I asked Dom, as she continued to weave us down hallways I didn’t recognize. The way she kept dragging me down the hallway made me feel like wherever she was trying to take me was of the utmost importance.

“We’re going to a place to talk,” Dom said, looking down at me with an inscrutable expression, her grip still tight on my arm.

“Why?” I asked, confused as to why Dom seemed to think this talk was so urgent.

She pressed her mouth into a thin line, as she seemed to think over her next words. “I think it’s time to tell you about James.”



__________________________________________________________________________________________

A/N: So at risk of sounding like a broken record, I'm so so sorry for how long this took. But hey, lots of stuff happened in this chapter and it seems like Natasha's going to find out about James! Which is a step in the right direction... right?

So please don't hate me for taking forever! Life has just been very stressful/busy lately, and also seeing as it's my senior year I've also been trying to hang out with my besties before we all head off to separate colleges (SOBS!).

But anyways, please let me know in the review box below what you think! Did you like Al? What did you think about Fiona? WHAT IS JAMES' BACKSTORY?

Just please please let me know your thoughts/criticism because I really do want to know what my readers think or else I can't improve my writing!

Thank you all so so much for being amazing readers :)
-Rebecca


Chapter 13: In the Know
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Disclaimer: It's all Jo's.






Dom had taken us to the Room of Requirement. It was a room I’d heard about in passing a couple of times from other students, but I had always brushed it off as being a myth. However, Dom and Molly were aware of its actual existence and had deemed this the only place worthy of sharing their knowledge about James. So now here we were, sitting in a triangle on the carpeted floor of the room, as Dom nervously wrung her hands.

“Well…” Dom started, her gaze flickering over to Molly as though asking for the okay. Molly nodded her head shortly, causing Dom to turn back to me as she inhaled another breath. “I guess to really understand, you’d need to know about Nate first.”

“Nate?” I asked, the name sounding vaguely familiar, as a picture in my head cropped up of the train ride to Hogwarts, when he had been mentioned and the compartment had grown stonily silent.

“Yeah, Nathan Wood,” Dom said, nodding her head with more vigor. “His dad is like, this big shot Quidditch player, so when him and James met each other on the train ride to Hogwarts during their first year, it was kind of love at first sight.”

“Love?” I asked, which just caused Molly to glare at me. Apparently I wasn’t supposed to be talking.

“They had a bromance,” Molly explained, her voice flat as she inspected her nails. “They were probably as close as best friends could be. Couldn’t find one without the other. They finished even finished each other’s sentences. It was kind of creepy.”

“Yeah, Fiona hated when they would do that,” Dom said, looking at me. “When her and James dated she hated Nate. Nate hated her too actually.”

“That’s because she was a total bitch to him,” Molly said. “She tried to get them to stop being friends, like, a million times. She felt threatened by Nate—”

“It was stupid anyway, because Nate was in love with Rose,” Dom said, turning to Molly and seeming to forget the point of the conversation, instead eagerly discussing Nate with Molly. “Oh god, do you remember how much Rose hated him too? She would never give him the time of day. It was actually kind of sad, because he really did like her.”

“He loved her,” Molly confirmed.

“Yeah, he did,” Dom echoed. She then turned back to me. “James was a bit annoyed at first when Nate took a fancy to Rose, because he didn’t like the idea of his best mate and cousin dating.”

“Yeah, he thought it would mess up the whole dynamic they had going. They were a fucking trio those three, despite the fact that one of them had a psycho girlfriend and the other two hated each other,” Molly explained.

“Rose and Nate were always at each other’s throats,” Dom said. “It’s a wonder she even agreed to go out with him in the first place.”

“He choreographed an entire flash dance routine in the Great Hall,” Molly stated. “She was kind of obligated to say yes at that point.”

“And then after the first date, she was a goner,” Dom said, sighing a bit. She looked at me again. “They were the perfect couple, Tash. I can’t even explain to you how perfect they were. And it wasn’t even an annoyingly perfect couple. They just… went together, you know?”

I nodded my head at Dom, even though I didn’t know.

“Well, anyways,” Dom continued, “Nate and James were inseparable. And since they both had like the hugest love for Quidditch, they tried out for the team. They both made it, and then, last year, James was made captain and they were going on and on about how they were finally going to bring Gryffindor back from its terrible losing streak.”

“And they did,” Molly cut in. “They were brilliant players, and we finally thought Gryffindor was going to get the Quidditch Cup because they were bloody unstoppable.”

“But,” Dom said, biting her bottom lip, “on New Years Eve, James and Nate decided to throw a party to celebrate the winning streak they were on and… well they both were really smashed. And then Nate suggested they play a round of Quidditch outside. Everyone else at the party was smashed as well so they all agreed…”

Dom stopped her story, deciding to look down at her hands instead, and I had a feeling I knew what she was about to say.

“He was so pissed that he fell off his broom,” Molly stated. “He landed on his head and his neck just sort of… snapped. Nobody noticed him fall until it was too late.”

“Rose was a wreck,” Dom said sadly. “She didn’t stop crying for months. And James was just kind of…gone. He stopped talking to people, ditched us all as mates, quit Quidditch, dumped Fiona, and… well became the way he is now.”

“It was really bloody annoying,” Molly said. “I mean, we were all friends with Nate. We all loved him. And James has to go and act like none of us understand.”

“Come on, Molly,” Dom said, and I could tell they’d had this conversation before. “James had it the hardest. Him and Nate were basically the same person.”

“Rose had it really hard too you know,” Molly said defensively. “He was like, the love of her life or whatever. And she didn’t ditch us.”

“People grieve in different ways,” Dom said softly.

“I know,” Molly said, “It just… sucks I guess. Nate didn’t deserve to die.”

“Nobody does,” I found myself saying.

Dom looked at me as I said this and sent me a sad smile. I noticed her eyes were a little shiny, but she quickly blinked.

“Anyways,” Dom said, trying to compose herself. “I never told you about it because I don’t like mentioning it. But I figured, now that you and James seem to be chummy, you should probably know.”

“We’re not chummy,” I said slowly, “he’s just helping me out.”

“I don’t know if you realize this,” Dom started. “But this is a huge step for James. He hasn’t voluntarily talked to anyone in ages. I just… I don’t want you to take it for granted, okay?”

“Okay,” I said, even though I still didn’t understand. She was acting as though I was going to hurt James. As though I had the ability to hurt him.

“Sorry to be such a downer on the rest of the day,” Dom said patting my leg comfortingly. “I just know I’d want to know if I was in your position.”

I nodded my head, my tongue feeling heavy. I didn’t know how to respond to Dom. It was like… there was so much information thrown at me so fast, that trying to comprehend it all was near impossible.

James had a best friend Nate. A dead best friend Nate. That had to be just about the saddest thing I had ever heard. And Rose… no wonder she always seemed a little weird whenever James’ situation came up. She had lost the love of her life. That just…

It sucked. And I wish I knew how to express just how much but I couldn’t. It sucked and that was that.

“Anyways, that’s why Fiona was being so weird,” Dom said. “She didn’t take the break up with James well, and I guess seeing you talking to him she got really territorial.”

“Right,” I said, not really caring much about Fiona after what I’d heard. It seemed so trivial compared to the rest of the story.

“Be careful though,” Molly said, giving me a warning look. “Fiona is really protective of her and James’ nonexistent relationship, so if she sees you as a threat, she won’t be afraid to play dirty.”

“But I’m not a threat,” I said.

“But you are,” Dom said, looking at me pointedly. “You’re a gorgeous girl who can get James to talk. That’s as threatening as it can get.”

I shook my head, looking down at my crossed legs. “There’s nothing going on though.”

“I know, Tash,” Dom said, looking patting my shoulder comfortingly. “I believe you. It’s other people that you’ve got to convince.”

With that, Dom got up from her sitting position, Molly following suit. They both looked down at me.

“We better get to first period soon,” Dom said. “You coming?”

“Yeah,” I said, nodding my head as I tried to figure out what Dom had meant about convincing other people. Did I need to actually try and prove that there wasn’t anything going on with James and I? How was I going to do that? “I’m coming.”

*

“Well, well, well,” Gryffin said, eyeing me up and down as I sat down next to him during lunch. None of the others were at the table yet, so it was just the two of us. “If it isn’t the new Gryffindor seeker.”

“Does everyone know I’m seeker, now?” I asked. “I haven’t even properly told anyone!”

“New travels fast here,” Gryffin said. “Everyone also is aware of the altercation you and a certain blonde pep squad captain had outside the Great Hall.”

“Don’t remind me,” I said, grabbing an apple off of the table and taking a bite.

“Oh come on, it couldn’t have been that bad,” Gryffin said.

“She told me James was off limits and asked Dom to take me out of her sight,” I responded.

“Sounds like the Fiona I know and hate,” Gryffin said shrugging. “But don’t worry, she can’t do any real damage. Especially since you’re now on the Quidditch team. No matter how much she hates you, she’ll have to be nice to you because you’re seeker.”

“About that,” I said, taking in a breath. “I’ve been thinking that maybe being seeker is a bad idea…I’m actually quite terrible—”

“Don’t care,” Gryffin said, not letting me explain further. “Our Quidditch match is in less than a week. We need you whether or not you suck.”

“Wow, Gryffin. That makes me feel so much better,” I intoned.

“I do have that gift,” Gryffin responded cheekily.

I was about to respond but was interrupted by my name being shouted across the Great Hall. I turned in the direction of the voice to see Scorpius Malfoy marching towards me, looking like a man on a mission.

Suddenly all the conversations I had with Dom where she complained about Scorpius being a tyrant flooded through my brain, and I felt myself yet again regret my decision to join the team. Now he’d be my captain.

“So,” Scorpius said once he arrived at the table, taking the seat next to me. “I understand that you’re going to be our new seeker?”

I nodded my head, biting my lip as Scorpius studied me.

“I’ve got to say I’m a bit surprised,” Scorpius said. “I never pegged you for a Quidditch player.”

“I’m not,” I said. “I just… somehow got roped into it.”

“I see,” Scorpius said, even though I could tell he couldn’t. “Well, James has informed me of your situation, so I guess I won’t expect you to practice with us, but I do think I should get to attend at least one of your training sessions with him so I know what to expect.”

“Um, that seems reasonable,” I said, taking another bite of my apple. I chewed it slowly, trying to avoid having to say anything else.

“When’s is your next practice?” Scorpius asked impatiently. “The match is coming up very soon so I kind of need to see you in action, like, yesterday.”

I felt myself internally begin to panic as Scorpius waited for me to answer. I couldn’t even stay on a broom for more than a couple minutes without falling. If Scorpius came to tonight’s practice, he would freak out.

“Well… I don’t know,” I said, not being able to come up with a good lie.

“You don’t know?” Scorpius asked, looking at me with disbelief.

“Yeah,” I responded with a shrug. “I haven’t talked to James yet. I’ll let you know when we figure it out though, okay?”

Scorpius looked as though he was going to protest, but before he could say anything else Dom and Rose arrived at the table, effectively cutting off the talk about Quidditch. Rose had still made it a firm rule that Quidditch talk was banned from meal times, especially when both Dom and Scorpius were around, because all that led to were fights.

Scorpius cleared his throat and gave me a look, which I took as meaning he wanted to finish this discussion later. I nodded my head, which seemed to satisfy him.

“Right well, I’ve got to go,” Scorpius said, standing up. “Prefect duties and what not. Rose you’ll still cover for me tonight, right?”

“Course,” Rose said, nodding easily. “Wouldn’t want to interrupt your night of writing Quidditch plays.”

“Nobody would want that,” Dom added, but Scorpius ignored her.

“I’ll see you then,” Scorpius said, and he gave me a pointed look before leaving to remind me we still had unfinished business. It was actually quite intimidating and left me feeling extremely nervous.

Almost as soon as Scorpius left, Gryffin stood up abruptly. “Oh shoot! I totally forgot I’m supposed to meet Molly in the library so we can finish up our project.”

“When were you supposed to be there?” Rose asked.

“Five minutes ago.”

“Shit, you better run,” Dom said. “She’s probably half way to a melt down.”

Gryffin needed no more prodding, and quickly stepped over the bench of the table. We all watched him hurry out of the Great Hall, before breaking into a sprint as he turned to the left, in the direction of the library.

Once Gryffin had effectively left our line of vision, we all turned back to look at each other.

“So,” Rose said, putting her elbows on the table and looking at me. “Dom told me about your run in with Fiona this morning.”

This was the first time since I’d heard about Nate that I was talking to Rose, and I couldn’t help but examine her closely as she spoke, wondering whether or not she knew that I knew. Her red hair was neatly French braided down the back of her head and her blue eyes gave nothing away, so I looked at Dom instead.

“She knows I told you,” Dom said, noticing my confused expression. “I wouldn’t have told you if she hadn’t been okay with you knowing in the first place.”

I nodded my head and Rose shot me a small smile. “I hope you don’t feel weird about me now. It sucks being labeled as the girl with the dead boyfriend.”

“Right,” I said, still feeling at a loss for words. It was weird how calm she was being about everything.

“I’m sure you understand too, you know, with the label as the girl who’s a beauty queen,” Rose continued. “That’s why I was okay with Dom telling you.”

I realized after Rose finished speaking that she expected me to say something. I felt more self-conscious than I ever had, as I debated over what to say.

“I’m glad I know,” I said finally. And I wasn’t lying either. I felt honored that Dom and Molly and Rose all trusted me enough to inform me of what had happened. It was like they actually saw me as a friend. I’d never had that with anyone but Dom before.

“Good,” Rose said, nodding her head, and the way she said it made it clear the discussion was over. Dom gave me an encouraging smile next to Rose. “So, tell me. How was meeting James’ ex?”

*

Nata, Attached is a schedule for the next week’s press appearances. It’s going to be pretty packed, but I’m sure you’ll be able to handle it, seeing as what I’ve heard from Headmistress Chang, you’ve been doing well in school. Owl me back when you get the chance. I love and miss you -Mum xx

“Aren’t you supposed to be practicing Quidditch with James?”

I looked up from the schedule of events my mum had just sent me to meet Molly’s questioning gaze. I quickly folded up the letter from my mum and put it in my purse.

“Uh… yeah, I am,” I said, standing up from my seat on the couch in the common room. “I guess I just lost track of time.”

I hadn’t. Lost track of time that is. And I think Molly knew this because she raised an eyebrow.

“You never lose track of time,” Molly said slowly.

I sighed, wishing that for once, Molly would just let my lame excuses slide. But she wouldn’t be Molly if she did that, would she?

“I know,” I responded. “I just… well I got a letter from my mum with my schedule for next week and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed.”

I didn’t explain to her why I felt overwhelmed, because I didn’t know how she would react, and I couldn’t risk her running to Dom or Scorpius and telling them. I’m pretty sure neither of them would react well to hearing that I had an interview scheduled the day of the first Quidditch match.

My luck really has been wearing thin lately. Out of all the days I could have an interview, it just so happened to fall upon the day of the Gryffindor vs. Hufflepuff Quidditch match. Where was the fairness in that?

“Are you sure you’re not feeling overwhelmed for some other reason?” Molly asked, breaking into my thoughts and peering down at me. It still got to me sometimes how tall she was. I mean, I know I shouldn’t think it’s weird, because I’m tall myself, but she was taller than me. She had to be 5’11 at the least. “Like, I dunno, the fact that you don’t want to see James after what we told you? Are you freaking out about it or something?”

I drew my thoughts away from trying to guess Molly’s height, and felt myself grow shocked at Molly’s words. “What?” I asked, my eyes widening. “No! Of course not.”

“Are you sure?” Molly asked.

“I’m sure,” I said confidently. “I really am just feeling overwhelmed.”

“Okay,” Molly said slowly, looking as though she didn’t know whether or not to believe me. “I’m just making sure you’re not going to be all weird around James now. We didn’t tell you so that you’d stop talking to him.”

“I wouldn’t do that,” I said.

“Good.” Molly nodded her head at me. “You should go out and meet him then.”

I nodded my head back at Molly, unsure of the entire conversation we just had. I then began to turn around, ready to leave the Common Room and head down to the pitch.

“Natasha?” Molly called. I turned back around instantly, wondering what she was going to say. “Don’t let… Well try not to let James know you know about Nate, okay? I don’t know if he would’ve wanted us to tell you.”

Letting James know could only lead to awkwardness for the both of us, and I didn’t want that. Which is why I thought about her question for a split second before nodding. “Okay.”

*

“You’re joking,” I said, looking from James down to the toy broom and then back to James again. James, however, didn’t look like he was doing anything of the sort.

“I don’t joke,” James responded, confirming my fears.

“But… it’s a toy broom,” I said, hoping my emphasis would snap James out of whatever illusion he was under.

“Exactly,” James responded. “Toy brooms never crash. This way you’ll get a feel for riding a broom without having to worry about falling over.”

I bit my lip. James did have a point, but… it was embarrassing. I mean, I was so bad at flying that James had downgraded my training to me riding on a toy broom. I wasn’t used to being bad at things.

“Not everyone is good at flying right away,” James said, seeming to notice my internal debate. “It’s okay to be bad at things.”

And as usual, James had managed to read my mind and make a prolific comment about my thoughts. I never knew how to respond when he said these things, because any response always felt so… inadequate.

“Scorpius wants to see me practice before the Hufflepuff match,” I told James, because I didn’t know what else to say.

“Okay.” James nodded his head.

“Okay?” I said, looking at James with an arched eyebrow. “You’re not worried at all about the fact that I can’t even fly?”

I couldn’t help but hope maybe I’d be bad enough that when Scorpius saw me practice, he’d kick me off the team and I wouldn’t have to play in the match. Then, I wouldn’t have to debate over what to do about the interview that was scheduled on the same day. My mum didn’t even know I was on the Quidditch team (I wanted to keep it that way) and she would flip if she knew I was even thinking about ditching a Miss Teen Witch interview.

“Nope,” James responded, breaking me from my thoughts. “You’ll be able to fly before the match. I’m sure of it. Now get on the broom and practice being in the air.”

I let out one more huff of disbelief, shaking my thoughts about the interview away, before straddling the toy broom. As it began to rise in the air, I felt myself grip the handle tightly. There was something in me that just wasn’t comfortable with having nothing beneath me. It was too unsettling for a person like me, who was used to everything being firmly placed on the ground.

“Okay,” James called once the toy broom had risen to the highest it could go (which was about three to four feet off the ground). James stood next to me as I sat on the broom, and placed his hand carefully on my shoulder. “Now, I want you to just lean forward a bit, yeah just like that, switch you grip back to the way I taught you last lesson though okay?” I did what James said, trying to ignore the fact that his hand was still resting on my shoulder. “Alright, now position your feet like we practiced, okay good, and take a lap around the field. Just one.”

I tried to keep in mind everything James was saying as I stared straight ahead of me and moved myself forward. The toy broom was much easier to control, seeing that it already had spells programmed into it to make sure the ride was smooth, and I felt myself move forward much better than I had last time. As I moved forward at my steady pace, James kept his hand on my upper back and walked along with me, sensing my worry about falling.

We didn’t talk as I made my lap. I was too frightened about falling and James was James. I liked the silence though. It was nice to not have to try and make forced conversation.

When I finished my lap, James dropped his hand and smiled at me. I couldn’t help but focus on his smile, since he rarely did so. And I guess now I knew why. “See? That wasn’t so bad.”

“That’s because I’m on a toy broom,” I responded, shrugging off his statement. “I’d suck on a regular broom.”

“You’re too hard on yourself,” James said, and I couldn’t help but look up at him as he said so. His gaze was focused on me, which I found unsettling.

“You’re too hard on yourself too.” The words were out of my mouth before I had even thought about it, and I regretted saying them instantly. James thick eyebrows soon drew themselves into a confused expression.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

Crap. I was pretty sure Molly had just given me strict instructions not to mention I knew about Nate, and now, here I was, indirectly referencing it. I really shouldn’t be allowed to know things.

“Nothing,” I said, brushing his question off. “Forget I said anything.”

“No,” James said, his eyes unyielding. “Explain.”

I sighed and bit my lip. I guess I could tell a half-truth. “It’s just… I dunno. You seem really isolated from other people, don’t you? And you quit Quidditch even though you clearly like flying still so…”

I trailed off as James’ expression changed to one of understanding. “Dom told you then?”

My eyes widened. “What do you mean?”

James sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose, before looking back at me. “I mean, that it’s pretty obvious someone told you about Nate.”







 

A/N: Helloo my lovely amazing readers! Sorry to leave this chapter on another semi-cliffie but for some reason with this story leaving chapters on cliff hangers is really addicting. But guess what? YOU ALL KNOW JAMES BACKGROUND! WOOHOO!

Are you satisfied that you know? Was it everything you wanted it to be? Did it surprise you? Did you expect it? What about Rose and Nate? Is that not the saddest thing ever? Or how Nata might not be able to attend her Quidditch match because of the interview?

On another note, can I just say how amazing you all are for the response to last chapter? Seriously, I was grinning like an idiot for days and you all left the sweetest reviews. 

Okay, well please leave a review down below letting me know your thoughts! 

Love you all so much; you inspire me,

-Rebecca

 


Chapter 14: Don't Go
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“You’re going to be all weird now, aren’t you?” James said, noticing my still shocked expression at his accusation. I couldn’t figure out a response so he continued, looking away from me as he spoke. “This is why I didn’t want you to know.”

I quickly composed myself after James’ words, feeling the urge to convince him that I wasn’t going to change. Molly would kill me if I did. “I’m weird around everyone. I’m not the biggest social butterfly if you haven’t noticed.”

James looked back at me as I said this, squinting his eyes. “Yeah, but now you’re going to act like everyone else.”

“And how does everyone else act?” I asked, genuinely wanting to know.

“As though I’m this big project that needs fixing,” James said, kicking one of his feet in the dirt and scuffing up his trainer. He then looked up at me to see my confused expression and continued. “I don’t like talking to Dom and them anymore because they’re always acting like I need help. And I’m tired of people trying to help me. I don’t need it.”

I drew my eyebrows together at James’ words. I never offered help to anyone willingly. My current predicament with being trapped in the pageant world showed that I couldn’t even deal with my own situations, let alone help people with theirs. So why did James think I was going to try and help him?

“Well don’t worry then,” I said easily. And then to change the topic I continued. “I’m not going to try and help you. I’ve got enough problems of my own in case you haven’t noticed. Like the fact that your ex girlfriend freaked out on me for speaking to you. What’s that about?”

James looked uncomfortable at my mention of Fiona and shrugged. “She can get a bit… attached.”

“A bit,” I responded back mockingly.

“Yeah,” James said. “I think she thought that it was only temporary when I broke up with her, but I’d been wanting to do it for a while. Nate’s death just kind of gave me the push I needed.”

“Right,” I responded. “Does she know that?”

“She should,” James said. “It’s been almost a year.”

“Some people have trouble letting go,” I said and then I trailed off, looking out at the expanse of the Quidditch pitch as the conversation came to a lull. The only sound that could be heard was the rustling of the trees as a light wind blew through the air.

I felt James looking at me out of the corner of my eye, but I didn’t look back until he cleared his throat. “So… you’re not going to be weird around me then?”

“Not any weirder than I normally am anyways,” I answered. I then gestured to the toy broom I was still sitting on, deciding to direct the conversation back to the task at hand: Quidditch. “Now come on, l have a match in less than a week, and I still can’t fly. Help me?”

James ran his eyes over me from the fake pout I was now wearing on my face to my green eyes which I had widened for comedic effect. After inspecting me, he did something I had never expected him to do. He smiled. And there was something about his smile that made me feel obliged to smile back. His smile morphed him. It made him look as though he didn’t have the weight of the world weighing him down. I felt like I was catching a glimpse of the old James. The James he was back when Nate was still alive.

“Alright,” James said, rolling his eyes and giving my broom a playful push, causing me to screech as I wobbled forward. “I’ll help you. But only because you begged.”

*

“So,” Dom began, leaning towards me with one eyebrow raised, as she folded her arms on the library table. “How did practice go last night?”

“It went,” I responded, keeping my eyes trained on the essay I was writing for Charms. It was due tomorrow and I hadn’t had time to do it earlier because of the packed schedule my mum had sent me this week. Added with the nonstop Quidditch practices I had been going to every night, and I was starting to fall behind.

The only good thing about having so many events to attend with my mum this week was that I had been able to ask her in person about trying to reschedule the interview that was the same day as the Quidditch match. It had taken a lot of finagling, but I had managed to convince my mum I had an important Charms presentation that day that I could not for the life of me miss. My mum had been a bit iffy about it at first, but she had eventually agreed to see what she could do. And with my mum’s powerful negotiating skills, I was confident she could get the interview pushed to a different day. Just so long as she didn’t find out that the real reason I wanted the interview moved was because I was on the Quidditch team. I knew that would definitely not go over well.

I heard Dom scoff across from me and knew that she was not pleased with my snarky answer. “You’re not funny.”

“Really?” I said, looking at Dom and quirking an eyebrow. “I’d beg to differ.”

“You’re also not good at getting me to switch topics,” Dom said, giving me a stern look. “You see, as the unofficial co-captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, I need to know how practice went.”

“Merlin, okay Dom. Practice went… well,” I said, and for once I wasn’t lying. James’ practice method of having me use the toy broom had been fairly successful. After using that to learn to keep my balance, James had had me try riding a regular broom, and I could now fly without falling. Which in all honesty, was a huge accomplishment for me.

“How well?” Dom asked, looking at me expectantly. “Like beat Hufflepuff to a pulp well or not lose by an embarrassing amount well? Because honestly either will do.”

“Probably the latter option,” I answered Dom honestly. “I can now fly a broom without falling, but I’m pretty awful at sharp turns. And we only practiced for. like, fifteen minutes yesterday with a snitch on the field. I caught it once in that time, but I think that’s because the snitch we used was pretty old so the magic was wearing off.”

Dom seemed to think over my words as I spoke, before nodding her head sharply. “That’ll be good enough.”

“How?” I asked incredulously. Had she even listened to a word I said? I basically admitted that I sucked.

“Look,” Dom said, letting out a sigh as her blue eyes drilled into mine, “you’ve only just started learning how to ride a broom… a week ago, is it?” I nodded and Dom continued. “So the fact that you even might be able to catch the snitch is impressive enough. In all honesty I’m just really grateful that you’re trying. We would’ve had to forfeit without you.”

I felt my insides warm up as Dom spoke. She really did always know what to say when I was feeling worried. That’s one of the things I loved most about her.

“So then you don’t think when Scorpius sees me practice tomorrow night he’ll demand I leave the team?” I asked.

“Not a chance,” Dom said, knocking her knee into mine. “He likes you too much to be an arse. He reserves that especially for me.”

I rolled my eyes as a small smile played on my lips. “You provoke him half the time, Dom. That’s the only reason he snaps back.”

“I do not provoke him,” Dom said, giving me a wide-eyed look. “If anything he provokes me.”

“You both provoke each other,” I amended. “But the point is, that if you don’t let what he says bother you and if you don’t fight back, then you guys will stop arguing.”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” Dom stated, raising a hand to emphasize her point.

“Ah yes, changing the topic when you know I’m right; I’ve trained you well in this art,” I mused, causing Dom to laugh.

“I miss this,” Dom said, after her laughter had subsided. She was now staring at me with uncertain eyes, and I could feel that the conversation had now shifted to a more serious note.

I tilted my head to the side, my confusion evident. “What do you mean?”

“This,” Dom said, using her hand to gesture to herself and then me respectively. “Us. Hanging out.”

“We see each other all the time,” I told Dom.

“I know,” Dom began, biting her bottom lip. “I guess I just feel like we haven’t really hung out with each other lately. I mean, I figured I’d be seeing a lot more of you since you go to Hogwarts now but you’re always studying with Rose or flying with James or leaving school early to go to press junkets with your mum. I just thought we would have more us time now that you went here.”

I weighed Dom’s words over in my head before letting out a sigh. She was right. We hadn’t really been spending much time together since I started going to Hogwarts, which was a pretty unexpected realization for me to come to. I mean, half the reason I had wanted to go here was so that I could see her. I was an awful friend.

“I’m sorry,” I said to Dom.

“Oh don’t be,” Dom said, waving a hand to brush my apology off. “I didn’t mean for it to sound like I was blaming you. I know you’ve been really busy juggling school and Quidditch and your pageant stuff.”

“But you’re right,” I said, feeling a rush of guilt at the thought. “We haven’t had a proper hang out in ages.”

“So then we’ll fix it,” Dom said easily. “We still have a couple months until you leave. So we’ll hang out as soon as you have free time. Alright?”

“Okay,” I responded, nodding my head.

“Good,” Dom said, breaking into a smile. “So now that that’s sorted, I’ve got another issue to bring up.”

“And what would that be?” I inquired, as I began to look back down at my essay.

“Fiona,” Dom stated, causing me to snap my head back up in confusion.

“What about her?”

“Well from what I’ve heard from Molly, she’s not particularly happy about you being on the Quidditch team,” Dom said.

“Oh?” I asked, suddenly not very interested in what Dom had to say about Fiona anymore. I’d been dealing with girls like her my entire life from my pageanting days, so I couldn’t say I was really surprised she hadn’t decided to just leave me alone. Girls like her liked to pick people until they were brought down to her level.

“Yeah,” Dom said. “She’s been going on to everyone about how you’re trying to steal James away from her and has turned the entire pep squad against you.”

“Even Lily and Lucy?” I asked, before I could stop myself.

“Dunno about them,” Dom responded, shrugging. “Fiona kind of lets them do whatever they want since they’re related to James. Just so long as they keep quiet and don’t contradict her, they’re fine.”

“Oh, okay,” I said, feeling the tiniest bit comforted. As much as I hated to admit it, I didn’t want Lucy and Lily to hate me… I had (kind of) grown fond of them and their pink.

“But my point,” Dom said, clearly trying to get our conversation back on track, “is that since Fiona controls the pep squad, and inadvertently the pep squad controls the school, they’re probably not going to be the nicest to you when you play during your match.”

“Oh,” I said, not knowing what else to say. “I guess I’ll watch out for that then.”

“Please do,” Dom said. “I don’t want those little bints knocking your confidence and ruining our game. Merlin, I still can’t believe James dated her.”

“People do a lot of stupid things,” I mused.

“They really do,” Dom said, looking off into the distance. Then she shook her head, as though clearing her thoughts. “Anyways, I’ve got to run. Scorpius is coming up with some last minute plays and I have to oversee to make sure they’re nothing too impossible. I’ll see you!”

And with that, Dom got up from the chair across from me, smoothed down the front of her shirt, and flounced out of the library, her silvery blonde ponytail bobbing along with her. It was almost funny how easily she could compose herself after basically telling me that I had an entire group of girls rooting against me.

I sighed as I felt the familiar wave of competitiveness course through my veins. I guess this meant I had to prove them wrong.

*

“You look nervous,” James stated simply, observing my fidgeting hands as I pulled my hair into a ponytail for the umpteenth time. After finally securing the hair band to my liking, I turned to James.

“I’m not nervous,” I lied.

“Yeah. You are,” James countered. “But you have no reason to be. Scorpius is just going to sit in while we practice. It’s not a big deal. Just pretend he’s not here.”

“Easy for you to say,” I said bitterly. “Scorpius is like… insane about making sure Gryffindor wins this year. And I kind of sort of suck, so he’s going to freak out when he realizes I have no talent whatsoever.”

“Give yourself some credit, Natasha,” James said seriously. “You’ve been working really hard for the past week and you’ve improved a lot. You’re better than the other kid that bailed, so really, you’re an improvement to the team if anything.”

“How do you know how good the other seeker was?” I asked, arching an eyebrow.

James looked caught off guard at my question, which was something I wasn’t used to seeing. James was never caught off guard. He then cleared his throat and shrugged. “I watch their practices from time to time. Just to see how they’re doing.”

“Hm,” I said, tapping my chin at James’ response. James watched me.

“What?”

“Nothing,” I said, shrugging my own shoulders. “It’s just… seems like you still want to be part of the team. Doesn’t it?”

James chose to ignore me, not that I was surprised, and instead his eyes sailed over my head before locking on something behind me. I turned around to see Scorpius was approaching us, and my nerves quickly returned.

“Hey Tash, James,” Scorpius said as he arrived in front of us, nodding at us respectively.

“Hey,” I said weakly, forcing a smile at Scorpius.

James didn’t speak but signaled a hello to Scorpius by nodding back. Scorpius then clapped his hands together in an authoritative manner. “So, you guys ready?”

I looked at James to answer and he nodded again. “Yeah, we’re going to just do our regular training routine. You can sit in the stands and watch, and then afterwards we’ll discuss it. Sound good?”

“Sure,” Scorpius said, he then pulled out a thick leather bound book that I remembered from all the times we studied together. It was his Quidditch plays book. In other words: his bible. “I’ll just take notes.”

Then Scorpius turned and took a seat front and center in the Quidditch stands, while I continued to fidget like a ball of nerves.

“You never told me he was going to take notes,” I said to James.

“He’s captain, and he’s Scorpius. Of course he’s going to take notes.”

“I don’t want to fly in front of him if he’s going to critique everything I do,” I said, suddenly feeling self-conscious. “I hate being judged.”

“You’re a pageant queen,” James stated. I gave him a blank stare back that seemed to say ‘so?’ and he sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. I noticed out of the corner of my eye, Scorpius watching us closely. “Look just… pretend he’s one of those faceless judges at your pageants okay? Or better yet, remember that he’s Scorpius, your friend.”

“Right. My friend,” I said, the words feeling odd on my tongue. I guess I had never really made the connection until now, but it was true. Scorpius was my friend.

“Now just do a couple laps around the field first to show you can fly,” James said to me, and I nodded my head as I picked up my broom. I quickly straddled it and gripped the handle like James had taught me, before looking back at James for the signal to kick off.

After James inspected my form, he nodded.

Okay, Nata. If you can parade around on stage with a bunch of batons, you can do this.

And with that thought flying through my head, I kicked off the ground and began soaring into the sky.

*

“So, how did it look?” I asked James as I dismounted the broom. We’d just finished up practice, and I bit my lip nervously, waiting for the verdict.

“You did great,” James said, his eyes twinkling which caused me to grin back. “I think Scorpius was impressed too. He was taking lots of notes, which is always a good sign.”

I nodded at this. It was kind of weird whenever James mentioned Scorpius’ mannerisms, because of the fact that they barely talked anymore. It was like a reminder that James had shut himself out from them all.

“So then you don’t think Scorpius noticed how I almost fell off my broom when I did that right turn?” I asked.

“Oh, I noticed,” a voice said from behind, and I turned to see Scorpius standing behind James and me, with his arms crossed. I gulped. However, just as I was about to melt in a puddle of embarrassment, Scorpius broke out into a grin and engulfed me in a hug. “But you were still brilliant. Better than I could’ve hoped! Who knew you could fly?”

“I wasn’t that good,” I said, suddenly feeling embarrassed at Scorpius’ excitement. He pulled away from the hug as I said this and gave me a weird look.

“Tash, you were good. The seeker we had that quit before you wobbled like crazy when he flew and always misjudged his distances,” Scorpius explained. “I’m just glad you stayed on your broom.”

“See?” James said, looking at me. “I told you, you’d be fine.” He then turned to Scorpius. “She thought you’d kick her off the team.”

“She did?” Scorpius asked incredulously before turning back to me. “Do you really think I’m that terrible? I mean I know Dom likes to complain about my captaining, but I’m not that harsh—”

“I didn’t think that because of Dom,” I said quickly, not wanting Scorpius to attack Dom the next time he saw her. “I was just worried. It was stupid.”

“Indeed it was,” James agreed, while Scorpius nodded along with him.

“Seriously, Tash,” Scorpius started. “I think we could really have a chance this year for once.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t mean it,” Scorpius said easily. He then turned to James. “Thanks for helping her out, mate.”

“It’s no problem,” James said, shrugging. “Just make sure during the match you have the beaters guard her left side; that’s her weakest.”

“Alright,” Scorpius said, pulling out his notebook and beginning to write what James said down. “Anything else I should take note of?”

“Well, she’s still fairly new at diving, so don’t let her go for anything too low. And she sometimes brakes too suddenly if she hesitates, which can lead to collisions out on the field.”

I felt myself become uncomfortable as James and Scorpius began discussing me further. “Can you guys talk about me without me having to listen to it?” I asked, once James started to discuss my right turns, which are always a sore subject with me.

“Oh, right,” Scorpius said, seeming to remember I was there, “sorry.”

“It’s fine,” I said. “I just don’t like listening to you guys discussing me. I feel like an exhibit or something.”

James seemed to think this over before speaking to Scorpius. “Well then, I guess I’ll mention that you need to make sure Gryffin doesn’t gain too much speed on the field. I watched him at practice a couple weeks ago and he’s a bit of a loose cannon once he gains momentum.”

Scorpius nodded at this and began to scribble furiously yet again, and it was as I watched this that I felt some small bit of satisfaction. James was now talking to one of his old friends. This was something that I’d hoped for, when I agreed to join the team.

James and Scorpius continued to discuss various plays as we continued to reach the castle. Once we were back inside the nearly empty Gryffindor Common Room, Scorpius turned to James.

“Thanks a lot man. You’re really saving me, you know that?” Scorpius said, looking at James seriously.

“No problem. But I’m sure you don’t even need my help. I made you captain for a reason,” James said, causing Scorpius to smile slightly.

“Still, it’s really ace of you to do this,” Scorpius responded. Then, an idea flashed behind his eyes. “Do you think maybe tomorrow before the game you could look over my plays really quick during breakfast? Just to give me your thoughts?”

James seemed to think this over for a bit before nodding. “Yeah, sure. I could do that.”

“Great!” Scorpius said, looking extremely happy at James’ words. He then cleared his throat to compose himself. “Right well, I’ll see you tomorrow, James. Tasha, I’ll see you at the game. Get lots of sleep before then and don’t be late, yeah?” And with that Scorpius backed away and walked up the staircase towards the dorms.

James turned to me. “I should probably turn in too. And so should you. It’s pretty late.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” I said, nodding at James and beginning to turn away.

“Tash?” James said, just as I was about to walk up the stairs.

“Yeah?” I asked, turning around.

“Just… thanks,” James said, suddenly looking nervous. I didn’t know what he was thanking me for, but for some reason, I had the feeling I didn’t need to know.

“You’re welcome,” I said, nodding my head at James simply before turning back around and walking up the stairs.

*

Nata, Unfortunately, I cannot reschedule your Miss Teen Witch Interview. I understand you have a presentation that day, but when I let you go to Hogwarts we agreed it would in no way interfere with your pageanting career. I’m sorry to have to tell you this but you’re going to have to miss it. On the plus side, you’re going to be at the front of the fashion page in the Daily Prophet instead! Love you and see you tomorrow, Mum XX

I felt my heart sink as I read my mum’s letter, which had been sitting on my bed as soon as I arrived in the dormitory. So… there really was no way to reschedule the interview. Which meant that I had to make a choice. Miss the Quidditch match and go to the interview, or miss the interview and attend the match. I knew what I wanted to do, but I also knew that there would be serious repercussions if I went through with my choice. My mum would have a conniption if I didn’t go to the interview.

I looked down at the envelope, studying the carefully written words of my mother, and out of nowhere I thought of Molly’s advice when she had walked me to the library.

You’ve got to not want to go all on your own.

I hadn’t known what she had meant at the time, but right now, looking at my mother’s letter, I suddenly understood. And it was then that I knew what I had to do.

 





A/N: So, let me just start of by saying how much I love you guys. You're awesome, seriously. The response I've been getting from the past few chapters has made me want to cry with happiness, and I've literally received some of the sweetest reviews ever.

Now that that's over with I'll apologize. Because yet again this chapter has ended with a cliffie. I don't know why, but for some reason the chapters for this story can only seem to end on cliffhangers. I'll try to not have it happen in the next chapter, but there are really no guarantees.

Anyways what did you all think? I tried to put lots of James interaction into this chapter since he was kind of lacking in the last one, so did you like it? Do you like Dom and Nata's talk? Are you worried about Fiona? Are you happy James and Scorp are starting to talk? WHAT DO YOU THINK TASH IS GUNNA GO?

Please please review and let me know your thoughts. I know it took me a bit longer than usual to respond to your reviews from the last chapter, but I've responded to all of them now so I hope you don't think I ignored you! I seriously read all of your reviews, and I show them to my friends too because sometimes they don't believe how awesome my reviewers really are.

KK WELL LOVE YOU GUYS SO MUCH. XX
-Rebecca


Chapter 15: Win, Win, Win
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Disclaimer: Its JKR's.






I was a dead person walking.

That was the first thought that went through my mind as I woke up the next morning. The thought continued running through my mind as washed my face, and it even continued as I got dressed. In fact, the thought had become so inescapable that I was wondering if I would ever have another thought again. Because it was true. I was dead person walking after today.

And it was because of this thought that, while everyone around me bustled in excitement for the Quidditch match that was happening in less than an hour, I was noticeably quiet.

My mum was going to kill me.

“Tash, you ready?” Dom asked me, quirking an eyebrow as I fixed my ponytail for the hundredth time. For some reason I kept missing a strand every time I tried to put my hair up, which just led to me having to re-do it all again.

Maybe this was a sign. You know. That I shouldn’t go to the match and should instead floo to the interview. I’m pretty sure my mum will go on a mad witch-hunt for me anyway as soon as she realizes I’m not showing up. I mean, this is my mum we’re talking about. I should, at the least, be decent enough to let her know I wasn’t going to the interview.

But… that would be a bad idea. Because then she’d for certain floo herself to the school, grab me by my uncooperative ponytail, and take me to the interview herself.

So, I guess I was just going to not tell her, keep my fingers crossed, and hope for the best.

“Tash?” Dom asked again. I blinked, realizing I hadn’t answered her, and then nodded.

“Yeah. I’m ready,” I said, adjusting my Quidditch robes.

“Don’t be nervous,” Dom said, mistaking my apprehension on ditching the interview for nervousness about the match. I had decided to tell nobody about the interview I was supposed to go to today. It was easier that way. “You’ll be fine.”

“Okay,” I echoed, knowing that it wouldn’t be. My mum would have a conniption. A freak out. She would probably yank me out of school.

Yes. This was a very, very bad idea.

“Right, so we should probably head down then,” Dom said, pulling me out of my internal monologue.

Dom began walking forward, her scarlet Quidditch robes trailing behind her. I followed her while remaining quiet. Lots of Gryffindors shouted good luck to us as we passed them in the common room, all of them donned in Gryffindor gear, and Dom smiled back at them gratefully while I remained unresponsive. As we walked down the hallway, towards the Great Hall, the only thing I concentrated on was the sound of my footsteps.

When we reached the Great Hall, I couldn’t help but scan the room and notice the Hufflepuffs, clad in their yellow and black gear and giving glares to Dom and I. I avoided the stares, knowing it wasn’t personal as they just wanted to make us nervous, and followed Dom to where the rest of the Gryffindor team was sitting. I noticed Gryffin sitting next to a burly guy, who I recognized as the other Gryffindor beater, and they were tossing grapes into each other’s mouths.

For some reason, they seemed to think it was impressive, if the fist thrusts they made every time they caught one was anything to go by.

“Ready to play?” Scorpius asked as Dom and I sat down across from him, shooting us a grin. His excitement just made the fact that I had to play real, and that's when I realized I was also nervous about playing.

“Course we are, captain,” Dom mocked, grabbing a piece of toast off the table and biting into it while giving him a salute. “Are you ready?”

“Yup,” Scorpius responded back popping the ‘p’. “James looked over my plays and now everything’s looking in tip top shape to win.”

“James looked over your plays?” Dom asked, arching an eyebrow.

“Yeah,” Scorpius said, he then gestured to me. “When I went and watched Natasha and James practice, he agreed to look over my strategy before the match.”

“Huh,” Dom said, looking at me curiously. My face remained impassive. “That’s weird. He hasn’t talked to any of us in ages.”

“Well maybe he’s starting to come round? He probably realizes it’s stupid that he doesn’t talk to us,” Scorpius said, clearly not as bothered as Dom seemed to be by this.

“Hmm,” Dom said, still looking at me. “Or maybe it’s someone helping him come round.”

Scorpius didn’t seem to be paying attention at that point, as he was now hunched over his Quidditch playbook, studying it like it was the bible. Dom’s gaze remained focused on me, and I shrugged before grabbing a muffin off the table and starting to eat it.

“Right well,” Scorpius began, looking up from his playbook to the two of us. “I’m going to head out to the pitch and make sure everything’s all ready to go with Fred since he’s the announcer. And Fiona’s also making the captains see her before the match to let us know how the cheering’s going to go or something stupid like that. You guys eat up and then head to the pitch, okay? Don’t be late.”

“Why must you look at me as you say that?” Dom asked, giving Scorpius an annoyed look.

“Because you’re always late,” Scorpius responded. Dom was about to make a retort, but Scorpius held up his hand to stop her. “Don’t argue. You know it’s true. And I really must be going.”

With that Scorpius turned around and headed out of the Great Hall, looking nothing short of dignified in his scarlet robes.

“Thinks he’s the bloody queen of England,” Dom muttered under her breath. “What a wanker.”

*

“They keep staring at me,” I muttered, eyeing up the group of girls in their pep squad uniforms, who were glaring at me like I had the plague. Well, except for Lucy and Lily. They were too busy giggling excitedly and shoving their pompoms in each other’s faces to notice the Mean Girl Glare going around the rest of the group. But still.

“It’s because Fiona keeps their brains in jars,” Gryffin joked, standing next to me and looking out at the group of them. “They’re like her robots or something.”

“Or something,” I muttered under my breath as Fiona’s ice blue eyes drilled into mine. She whispered to one of the girls standing next to her, and then put a hand on her hip, continuing to glare at me in the process.

“Welp!” Gryffin stated excitedly, clapping his hands on my shoulders. “Don’t let her get you down. Remember, we’ve got a game to play.”

“Yeah just ignore it,” Dom added helpfully. “She just likes to get under people’s skin.”

“In other words,” Molly began, rolling her eyes, “she loves to try and establish her mighty rule over us ‘unworthy peasants’.

“I know,” I said slowly. “It’s just a bit daunting, you know?”

“Course it is,” Gryffin said. “But you can’t let her get to you. If you do, we’ll lose. And if we lose, I’ll kill you.”

I felt the nervous pit in my stomach grow larger at Gryffin’s words. Being seeker meant that basically everyone on the team was counting on me to catch the snitch and win. If we lost, it would be my fault.

“Gryffin!” Rose chastised. “Look, you’ve made Tash all nervous now! Tell her you were joking.”

“Well clearly I wasn’t serious,” Gryffin said, looking annoyed at Rose’s orders. “Killing is illegal. I’m not trying to go to Azkaban.”

Molly rolled her eyes at Gryffin’s words and then clapped her hand against her forehead. “You are an idiot.”

“And you’re a miserable old wench,” Gryffin shot back. “I’d say I got the better end of the deal.”

“Really? Because I’d say that being a barbaric arsehole who scares friends into trying to do well isn’t the better end of the deal,” Molly argued back. “I mean, look at Natasha, she’s about to have a heart attack and you’re threatening her to do well!”

I didn’t know what part to be more overwhelmed about: the fact that Molly was going through great lengths to defend me (albeit she did get to yell at Gryffin in the process which was probably why she was even doing it) or the fact that now everyone had snapped there attention over to me. And you know, with everyone’s eyes studying me for the supposed nervousness Molly had mentioned, I felt my palms begin to sweat.

“I’m fine,” I said as everyone’s gaze remained trained on me. “Honestly, guys. It’s just pre-game jitters.”

“See?” Gryffin said, giving Molly an ‘I-told-you-so’ look. “She’s fine. You’re just overreacting, as usual.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Molly asked with a glare.

“Okay, I think it’s time to break this up,” Rose said, resting her hands on Molly’s arm. “Come on, Molly. Let’s go get some seats before all the good ones are taken.”

“But—”

“That wasn’t a question,” Rose said, beginning to tug Molly in the direction of the stands. She then gave us all one last smile. “Good luck you guys. I know you’ll do awesome.”

Molly grumbled her own good luck to us after that, before Rose guided her over to the Quidditch stands. Dom, Gryffin, and I watched them as they left, and then turned to face one another.

“We should probably head over to the rest of the team now,” Gryffin said. “They’re going to call us out pretty soon to play and you know how Scorpius gets about being punctual.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me,” Dom said, clearly still annoyed about Scorpius’ jab at her during breakfast.

I nodded my head and began to follow Dom and Gryffin towards the rest of the team. However, just as I began to follow them, out of the corner of my eye I spotted James.

He was standing alone on the outskirts of the Quidditch arena, leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets, and wearing his ever-present unreadable expression. Once I caught sight of him, he seemed to turn his head and lock eyes with mine. I found myself slowing down at this, and instead of following Dom and Gryffin, I walked over to him.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey.”

It was quiet. I kicked my foot at the ground a couple of times and we both watched. Then James cleared his throat, causing me to look back up at him.

“You ready for the game?” James asked.

I bit my lip, feeling the bottom of my stomach begin to twist in anticipation of the game. “I think so…”

“You’ll be fine,” James said, noticing my trepidation. His eyes stared straight into mine as he spoke. “You’ll be more than fine. You just need to be confident and remember what we practiced.”

I nodded. “Right.”

“Just…” James paused as he tried to formulate the right words, “keep your balance and don’t over think it. Let the broom carry you.”

“Got it,” I said again, feeling my nervousness ebb away the tiniest bit. Talking to him did that.

James nodded his head, reminding me of a parent or a teacher. “Good.” He then picked up a broom that had been leaning against the wall next to him, which I hadn’t noticed before. I instantly recognized it as his broom. He held it out to me. “Here. Take this.”

I looked at him questioningly. “Why?”

James sighed, as though his reasoning was obvious. “My broom's better than the school one you’ve been using. You should use it for the match.”

I looked at the broom, which he was still holding out to me, and then I looked back up at his face. His eyes were full of determination, all of the different colors swirling together to mirror the millions of thoughts flooding through my mind.

“Okay,” I said after a moment, taking the broom from him slowly. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” James responded.

I smiled. And as soon as I did so I found James’ face mirroring my expression. He really did have a nice smile.

“Tash!” A voice exclaimed, cutting into James and I’s conversation. I looked to where the voice was coming from to see Scorpius, standing with the rest of the Quidditch team, his arms crossed as he tapped his foot. “Come on! We’re heading out in five!”

I looked back at James. “I should go,” I said, clutching the handle of James’ broom tightly and offering James another small smile.

“You should,” James agreed. “Now go out there and do your best.”

“I will,” I said, before turning away from him and heading towards the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, who were huddled together in a mass of scarlet. As I headed over to the group, I couldn’t help but notice out of the corner of my eye, an unmistakable leggy blonde dressed in a pep squad uniform, arms crossed and eyes narrowed.

I sighed. Looked like Fiona still didn’t like me.

*

“Tash, watch out!” Gryffin shouted, before soaring over to me and whacking the bludger away.

“And a save by the Gryffindor beater, O’Ryan!” Freddy narrated in a level voice, his hands folded over one another neatly as he wore a poker face. According to Dom, he’d been the announcer for the past two years and took it very seriously.

I released a sharp breath as my hands gripped the broom tighter, and then looked at Gryffin, who was still hovering in front of me.

“Thanks.” My heart rate, which had risen dramatically, began to slow as I made eye contact with Gryffin. “You saved me there.”

Gryffin shrugged, turning his head to scan the Quidditch pitch, already back in game mode. Which I should’ve also been in. “Just be more careful. Can’t have you falling off your broom, eh?”

I nodded. Then Gryffin flew away, already back to circling the field to look for loose bludgers to whack, while I continued to mentally berate myself for almost getting knocked off my broom.

Hufflepuff was on their game today. Which isn’t much of a surprise, because according to Dom they’ve won the past ten Quidditch cups. But Gryffindor was also on their game today making the match fairly even, with Gryffindor only holding a eighty point lead.

This meant that all I needed to do was find the snitch, catch it, and end the game. Something that was proving to be difficult.

“Set it up!
Throw it in!
Set it up, throw it in!
Lets go Scorpius, fight, WIN!”


Reason number one why catching the snitch had been difficult: the distractions of the pep squad. They had been cheering for the various male members of the Quidditch team nonstop, shouting compliments at all of them, and even making cheers about how hot they were. I’d been trying to ignore it as I searched for the snitch, but their ostentatious dancing had made it quite difficult. I didn’t know hip thrusts like that were appropriate at school functions.

The only saving grace at the entire failure so far of my first Quidditch game was that the Hufflepuff seeker also hadn’t spotted the snitch. At least we both weren’t doing very well.

“And it seems as though the Hufflepuff seeker has spotted the snitch!”

Crap. Guess I had spoken too soon on that front.

I snapped my head to the direction that I remembered the Hufflepuff seeker was flying in and saw that Freddy was right. I recognized the glimmer of gold almost instantly, and I also recognized the fact that the Hufflepuff seeker was in a downward dive, heading towards the metallic ball.

Double crap.

I immediately launched my (read: James’) broom towards where the Hufflepuff seeker was flying, using as much speed as I could to make up for lost time. The entire time I raced my way over, I couldn’t help but mentally berate myself for not paying more attention.

Stupid. I was so, so stupid.

As I got closer and closer to the Hufflepuff seeker, the cheering got louder. In fact, it was so loud that my head was starting to thump and it took all I had to concentrate on getting the snitch instead of all the other distractions flying around.

Soon enough, I was neck and neck with the Hufflepuff seeker, something that shocked me almost as much as it shocked the crowd. I could hear the Gryffindor stands roaring with excitement, chanting my name as they shouted at me to catch the snitch.

As if I wasn’t already trying as hard as I possibly could to catch the snitch anyway.

The little gold ball was flying in front of me and the other seeker, it’s wings beating furiously as it flew left and right, making my head spin. Eventually though, me and the seeker got close enough to it and we both started to reach out at the same time.

“And it looks like Covington is about to catch it!”

Just as I was about to wrap my hand around the snitch, my eyes instinctively scanned over the audience, before locking with Fiona’s intense glare. The pure hate in her look made me freeze, for just a millisecond, but it was long enough to cause the snitch to fly out of my hands and into—

“And Swighton has caught the snitch! Hufflepuff wins 550 to 480.”

*

The last time I remember losing was when I lost to Missy in the Little Miss Britain beauty pageant. Since then, I made it a point to never lose again. I hated the feeling of knowing that I wasn’t good enough. I hated the disappointment it caused everyone around me.

And while I had kept up not losing for the past eight years, I was now faced with another loss. Only this one felt even worst than the last time. Because it wasn’t just me that had lost. There was a whole group of people who had been counting on me to catch the snitch. Hell, I had even wrapped my hand around it. I had been so, so close…

“Tash, are you really beating yourself up about this?” Dom asked, taking a seat next to me on the bench in the Quidditch changing rooms. We were the only ones in there. The rest of the team had shuffled out fairly quickly after our loss.

“Maybe,” I responded, putting my feet up on the bench and wrapping my arms around my legs. I then rested my chin on my knees and stared up at Dom.

“Well then you’re being stupid,” Dom said, knocking her shoulder into me as she spoke. “This was your first game, and you did pretty bloody amazing. I mean you caught up with Swighton when he had like a huge lead on you. Hell, you almost got the snitch yourself.”

“But I didn’t get it,” I responded. “I let it fly past me and now because of my stupid mistake we’ve lost.”

“Yeah, but we’ve lost against Hufflepuff,” Dom countered. “They’re like, the hardest team to beat, and we’re the worst of the teams, so the fact that we even got close to winning is an achievement in and of itself.”

I shook my head. “Dom, you don’t have to lie to me. I know I messed up.”

Dom sighed. “I’m not lying. Hell, there’s even a huge party being thrown by the Gryffindor’s for almost winning.”

I paused, looking at Dom’s expression to see if she was lying. Why would Gryffindor be throwing a huge party after losing? Dom seemed to sense my question, and she leaned forward to explain.

“Tash, this is the closest we’ve come in years to beating Hufflepuff. And we didn’t even lose by very much, which means we still have a chance of winning the cup. All we need to do now is beat Slytherin and Ravenclaw and then we can do a rematch against Hufflepuff and win. Okay?”

“Okay,” I said, even though I wasn’t.

“Good,” Dom said, standing up from sitting next to me and nodding her head. “Now you should get showered and changed, and then we can go to the Gryffindor party to celebrate our almost win.”

“Um, Dom?” I said arching an eyebrow. Dom turned to face me. “You do realize that part of my Miss Teen Witch contract is that I can’t be seen partying, right?”

Dom didn’t seem phased by this. Instead she smiled and gave me a look as though I was as clueless as ever. “Good thing no one will see you then.”

*

“And to Tasha!” Gryffin exclaimed, swaying slightly as he spoke, holding a bottle of firewhiskey up in the air. “For her valiant effort at almost catching the snitch! Wouldn’t have been an almost win without you!”

Gryffin took a huge swig of the firewhiskey after he said this and then bowed to me, while the entirety of the Gryffindor common room broke into cheers. Gryffin then offered me the bottle of firewhiskey. I politely declined, to which Gryffin shrugged and downed another couple of gulps.

This then escalated into a chugging contest to see how fast Gryffin could down the entire bottle without throwing up, and from there all the Gryffindors gathered around him, cheering him on as he swallowed as much alcohol as he could.

I wasn’t sure how the Gryffindor house could be so happy about just having lost, but for some reason, the entire demeanor of the common room was full of cheer. Everyone kept shouting “Happy Almost Win!” to each other and then follow it up by doing chest bumps and fist pounds, which is something I could not understand. We had lost. That couldn’t ever be means for celebration, could it?

“I can’t believe we know him,” Molly stated, wrinkling her upper lip as she stared at Gryffin with distaste. Molly was sitting next to me on one of the couches in the Gryffindor common room and Rose was sitting on my other side. Dom had left to see how Scorpius was doing after the loss, so she wasn’t here to stop Gryffin. “He is literally an embarrassment to the entire human race.”

Gryffin, who had finished chugging the bottle if the loud cheers were anything to go by, turned back around as Molly spoke. He then took this time to wrap an arm around her shoulder and sit on her lap, before leaning down to speak to her. “Aw babe, you know you don’t mean that. You really love me, deep down.”

“Get off of me,” Molly responded, narrowing her eyes at Gryffin.

“No need to play hard to get. I’m the only guy in the entire school taller than you that’s not your cousin; it’s understandable you’d like me,” Gryffin explained, most of his words slurring together.

Molly rolled her eyes at Gryffin’s words, and then pushed him off of her lap so that he was collapsed on the floor. “You disgust me.”

She then got up and walked away, leaving a drunk Gryffin laying on the floor, as he now attempted to make snow angels of sorts. Except, you know, there wasn’t any snow.

“I should go check on her,” Rose said, shooting me an apologetic look before getting up from her spot next to me. “You know how Molly gets when she’s angry.”

“No go ahead,” I said, gesturing to Rose that it was okay. Rose then offered me a smile before walking away to go find Molly.

“When you find Molls, tell her I know she wants me,” Gryffin called after Rose, still laying on the floor.

Fred, who had been watching the exchange as he sat in an armchair, took this moment to get up and grab Gryffin by the arm to pull him up. “Alright chap, I think you’ve embarrassed yourself enough for the night.”

“I’d like to disagree,” Gryffin responded lazily. “I haven’t done anything embarrassing.”

“Sure you haven’t mate,” Fred said, rolling his eyes. “But how about we go get you some water to ease you up.”

As Fred said this, Gryffin lost his balance and began to sway again, causing Fred to put a hand on his shoulder to steady him. “I guess I could do with some water…” Gryffin said a bit unsurely, before letting Freddy guide him away.

This left me, sitting alone on a couch, in the middle of a party. And seeing as I’d never been to a party with alcohol and people my age before, I was feeling a bit out of my element. The music playing was frighteningly loud and intermingled with everyone’s shouts, I was beginning to feel suffocated. So, I decided I’d take a breather and got up from my position on the couch and walked out of the common room.

Once I was out of the common room, I released a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. It was so much… quieter out here. It was nice.

As I began to walk down the hallway, I noticed a figure sitting against the wall. The closer I got, the more distinguishable the features became until I recognized it was James. And I don’t know why, but as soon as I knew it was James, I walked over and sat down next to him. James turned his head to the side as I situated myself next to him but didn’t say anything.

“Hey,” I said, because I couldn’t think of anything better. I spoke again. “What’re you doing out here?”

“I could ask you the same,” James answered. “Isn’t there a party dedicated to the Quidditch team going on right now?”

“I guess,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. “But parties aren’t really my thing.”

“They’re not my thing either,” James responded.

“Right.”

It was silent for a while. I couldn’t think of anything to say to keep the conversation going, and James didn’t seem like he wanted to talk much. So, we both sat there soaking in the stillness of the hallway compared to the madness of the common room, until I spoke.

“I’m sorry,” I blurted out, and I immediately felt really stupid once James gave me a questioning look. “For losing the game, I mean. I wasted your time with all those practices.”

James inspected me for a long moment as I looked down at my hands. “Just because you lost, doesn’t mean it was all for nothing.” I didn’t say anything so James continued. “You could barely fly when we first started training. Now you can fly really well.”

I sighed. I was sick of people telling me that. “But the whole point of me joining the team was so that we would win, and I went and let everyone down. You should’ve seen how gutted Scorpius was at the end of the match.”

“It’s just a game,” James said. “He’ll live.”

The way James spoke, made me think about Nate. During his last time playing Quidditch it had been just a game for him too, hadn’t it?

“I guess…” I responded to James unsurely. “It’s just… if I had just caught the snitch when I could…”

I trailed off when I felt James’ eyes drilling into me. “Natasha… it’s okay to lose sometimes.”

As James said this, I felt like my world was shifting. My entire life, I’d been raised in believing that winning was everything. That the only way for things to really mean something was by achieving that ultimate goal. But maybe James was right. Maybe winning wasn’t the goal. Maybe it was those stops along the way that really meant something.

After I made this realization, I finally noticed that James and I were sitting fairly close to one another. Our legs were both stretched out inches apart, and our shoulders just barely brushed each other as we spoke.

“Thank you,” I said to James, feeling that I owed him one. “For training with me and helping me out and stuff.”

“Course,” James said, brushing off my thanks like it was no big deal. “What are friends for?”

This statement caught me completely off guard. I guess, it had never really registered that James and I were friends. I mean, sure, we spent a lot of time together, but I always chalked it up to him wanting to help me practice. I never really realized that we had actually become friends through all of this. But, I guess we had.

I think it was with this new confirmation of James and I being friends— and maybe a little bit of the adrenaline from attending my first ever party— that caused me to sink myself down lower against the wall, and then lean my head against James’ shoulder. James stiffened at this change in contact, before relaxing and accommodating me. Which, you know, isn’t a big deal, but for some reason, I felt like it was.

“I was supposed to go to an interview today,” I said, staring at the wall as I spoke. “I was supposed to be on the front page of the fashion section in the Daily prophet.”

“What happened?”

“I ditched it,” I answered. “I didn’t even tell my mum I wasn’t going to go. I just… I wanted to play in the match instead.”

James didn’t say anything after this. Neither of us did. Instead we both just stared ahead at the wall in front of us, letting other thoughts consume our minds. I guess that was the thing about being with James. The silences didn’t need to be filled. I think he preferred them to be honest. I think I preferred them too.

“I’m proud of you, Tash,” James said, so softly it was barely a whisper. But I heard it. And there was something about the way he said it that made this whole day somehow… worth it. Even though we had lost.

I smiled to myself. Maybe winning really isn’t all that matters. Maybe losing can be just as important.





A/N: And here it is! The next chapter of Beauty Queen. And guess what? It didn't end on a cliffhanger! Are you proud of me or what?

Lots of things happening in this chapter. Natasha ditched the interview, Fiona glared, Gryffindor lost against Hufflepuff, Molly and Gryffin argued (as usual), and James and Natasha had a moment! What do you think about all of this? Did you like it/hate it/were indifferent to it? Let me know your thoughts in a review.

I've been having so much fun writing this story lately and I've actually outlined the entire plot! I'd really like to know if you guys like the story and where I'm going with it so please review if you can, they really make my day. :)

Thank you guys so much for being such amazing readers!
-Rebecca


Chapter 16: Ask Away
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Disclaimer: It's JKR's.


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When I opened my eyes the next morning, the first thing I saw was an owl. I blinked once, twice, and then sat up straight in my bed, startled. There was nothing that freaked me out more than having an owl staring at me with a wide, judging look.

Well… except for the fact that said owl was holding a letter written in my mother’s unmistakable calligraphy. Because that freaked me out even more.

I hesitantly reached forward and grabbed the letter out of the owl’s beak, and once I had done so the owl flew away. I felt a short amount of relief at the fact that one of my problems (the way smaller one) was solved. I then looked down at the letter, bracing myself.

We need to talk. Go to Headmistress Chang’s office, immediately.

I gulped.

Yep, my mum was mad. More than mad. She was fuming. And I knew that there was definitely nothing pleasant waiting for me in the Headmistress’s office.

I looked around the room. Everyone was still sleeping, clearly tired from having stayed up late the night before. I hadn't returned until late myself, with James and I spending almost the entire night talking about everything, so I knew how tired everyone must've felt. Rose was curled into a little ball, with Molly sleeping next to her (it felt like Molly lived in our dorm, seeing as she hated all of the girls she shared a room with), and Dom had her body buried under piles of blankets and pillows. Our other roommate, Hattie, wasn’t in her bed, which I assumed meant she was at her boyfriend’s room, as usual.

I should’ve been sleeping too. But instead, I was now putting on my crispest dress, curling my hair into precise spiral curls, and applying my makeup as deliberately as possible. I knew if my appearance was anything less than perfect, my mum would only add that to her list of reasons as to why I was a disappointment as a daughter.

When I finished getting ready, I tiptoed out of the dorm. I made sure to close the door quietly behind me. I didn’t want to wake up anyone else and have them ask me where I was going. That would just require me to give more explanations, and I wanted to keep this to myself.

“Phoenix Tears,” I stated, my voice level as I watched the gargoyle in front of Headmistress Chang’s office spring to life. The staircase appeared, leading up to her room, and I took a breath- calming myself- before entering what I knew would be a conversation I did not want to have.

“Good morning, Natasha,” Headmistress Chang said as soon as I walked in, straining a smile on her face as she walked over to me and gave me a short hug. I paid no attention to her and instead looked behind her to my mother.

“Please, take a seat,” Headmistress Chang said again, gesturing to a seat in front of her desk. I took my seat tentatively, my eyes not moving from the figure standing behind Headmistress Chang’s desk, her arms crossed and corners of her eyes pinched. It was an expression I knew all too well. I looked down at my hands, waiting for the inevitable.

I heard the sound of a large sigh, before my mother finally began to speak, her voice laced with annoyance. “Natasha, before I begin, would you like to explain to me what happened?”

My mouth was dry, so I took this time to swallow before I spoke. I looked up at my mum and tucked a stray curl behind my ear. “I just… I had a previous engagement that I couldn’t break.”

“I’ve heard,” my mother responded, her tone cool. “Headmistress Chang has informed me that you’ve joined the Quidditch team. Would you like to let me know why you decided to keep that from me?”

I looked at Headmistress Chang who seemed to be shooting me an apologetic look, before my gaze shifted back to my mother. “I didn’t know it was important.”

My mother scoffed. We both know better than that. “You didn’t think, something that directly affects your future as Miss Teen Witch is a big deal?”

“It doesn’t affect my future…” I said, trailing off at my mother’s look of disbelief.

“Of course it affects your future. You ditched an interview we had scheduled for months. Do you realize how bad this makes not only you but me look?” my mum asked, her eyes narrowing as she stepped closer to me. “Do you know how much talking I had to do to convince Georgiana you were still devoted as Miss Teen Witch? Do you understand what you could’ve thrown away?”

“I…” I inhaled another breath. “I just really wanted to play in the game. I made a promise to my team. If I hadn’t played, we would’ve had no seeker and then would be forced to forfeit.”

“I see,” my mother responded, forcing a fake smile. “So then if it was so important, then answer this: Did you win?”

I froze. This was my mother’s idea of proving to me that everything I had done wasn’t worth it. To her, winning was the most important ends to justify a means. Something I’d just realized wasn’t true. But of course she wouldn’t understand. She never would.

“No,” I said, looking back down at my hands. “I couldn’t catch the snitch in time.”

My mother’s smile tightened in triumph.

“I see,” she stated, nodding her head. “Well, maybe the team was mistaken in counting on you. Especially when you have other obligations. I expect you to tell them you can no longer be on the team anymore. Understood?”

“But—”

“But nothing,” My mum said, cutting me off. There was no room for argument. “Be lucky I’m not yanking you out of school for this.”

I bit my lip and let out a sigh. “I’m sorry.”

The tension in my mum’s shoulders seemed to release and her tense smile relaxed. “Well then, I hope you’ll understand me when I say another toe out of line will result in you resuming your homeschooling. Am I clear?”

I wanted to argue but I already knew I’d be fighting a losing battle. Anymore difficulty would just convince my mum that Hogwarts really wasn’t the best fit for me. And I knew that it was. So I had to swallow my pride and respond with—

“Yes, mum.”

My mum then clapped her hands together and turned to Headmistress Chang. “Good. Now that we’re done here, I really should be going. Thank you for letting me floo here under such short notice. I assure you that this shouldn’t have to happen again.”

“Oh it was no trouble,” Headmistress Chang responded, all the while still keeping her gaze trained on me. “Natasha really is a fantastic student.”

“I’m sure she is,” my mother responded not seeming at all impressed. She then turned back to me one more time. “Goodbye, Natasha. Remember what I’ve said, alright?”

“Okay.” And no sooner were the words out of my mouth than my mother had walked over to the fireplace in the Headmistress’s office and flooed away.

My mother’s exit left nothing but a staunch silence in her wake. Headmistress Chang kept giving me a look I could only describe as pity, and I continued staring at my feet. The clock behind the desk made a loud ticking sound. Counting. Waiting.

“I should head back to the dorm,” I said after a moment. “I’m sorry again for the inconvenience.”

Headmistress Chang nodded. I took this as my cue to get up and walk out of her office. Just as I was about to close the door behind me, she spoke.

“You don’t have to quit the team if you don’t want to.”

I whirled my head around, meeting Headmistress Chang’s eyes. She seemed like she had been waiting for a while to reach out to me, and only now had she had the opportunity. “I won’t tell your mum that you’re still on the team. I think… I think Quidditch is good for you, Natasha.”

I wondered how closely Headmistress Chang had actually been watching me, if she had the feeling that Quidditch was good for me. She would’ve hardly been able to tell from that one game, right?

And I didn’t know if I would stay on the team, but the fact that she was giving me a choice was something I hadn’t had in a long time. I offered her a small smile. And yes, it was forced, but it was all I had.

“Thanks,” I said, before turning around and leaving the office, with nothing short of a million thoughts jumping around in my brain.

Just because she had said Quidditch was good for me, didn’t mean that I was good for Quidditch.

*

“So, what are you going to do?” James asked.

Despite the fact that Scorpius had given us a two-week break after our first Quidditch match, James and I still couldn’t seem to break out of the habit of meeting with each other extremely late at night to practice. Although, since we didn’t quite have to practice, it was normally just me watching James fly for a bit, before eventually he would just sit down next to me on the Quidditch stands, and we’d talk. And now we had reached the part of the night where our talk started.

I sighed, tracing circles along the ground with my foot as I sat in the front row of Quidditch stands, my usual spot. “I don’t know. What do you think I should do?”

James shook his head. “It’s not my decision.”

I looked up from where my eyes had been trained on my feet and scrutinized James’ expression. I had hoped that after telling James the ultimatum my mum had all but forced upon me about Quidditch, he would’ve had some advice to give to me as to what I should do. I guess I’d been wrong.

“Right,” I responded. I then nodded my head, as though I understood even though there was a small part of me that didn’t. I didn’t have a decision. I had to listen to my mother. I had to quit the team. I could lose something much bigger than Quidditch if I didn’t listen to her.

James seemed to sense my unsureness. “Natasha, do you want to keep playing?”

I didn’t know. I never knew. That was the thing. I mean, sure I wanted to play. But I also wanted to please my mum and I wanted to be the daughter she loved. And sadly, that didn’t involve me playing Quidditch. I was kind of at a stand still as to how to make my decision.

“I want to be seeker,” I answered finally. “But my mum doesn’t.”

“Well then,” James said, letting out a grin as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. “It’s a good thing Headmistress Chang isn’t going to tell your mum that you've decided to stay on the team.”

And James said it like it was the easiest thing in the world, and because he did, I believed him. It was almost scary how quickly I agreed with James. As though nothing my mum had said mattered. But it was also freeing. Like I had the power to anything I wanted, not what my mum did.

“Okay,” I said simply.

I found myself come under the realization that having James in my life made everything seem a whole lot easier. Better. Happier.

“Okay,” James repeated, letting a smile come across his features. He really did have a nice smile.

And then… it was over. Problem solved.

Just. Like. That.

*

“I mean, the whole idea of it is really stupid to begin with,” Molly complained for the umpteenth time, pushing her eggs around her place furiously. Dom, Rose, and I all exchanged a look, clearly done with Molly’s complaints.

“Hogsmeade weekend is supposed to be a weekend full of spending time with your friends,” Molly continued, not sensing the fact that we were all tired of her spiel. “But it’s been forced into this idea where you can only go if you have a date, and Merlin forbid you decide to go alone. I’m sorry I don’t want to have to babysit some stupid guy the whole time when I could be doing what I want. But no, for some reason having a date is supposed to deem you as worthy, which is complete bullshit.”

Molly had been complaining for the past hour about Hogsmeade weekend, which just so happened to be in a matter of days. From what I had heard so far, Hogsmeade weekend consisted of couples going out together and meeting up at one of the many corny restaurants designed specifically for couples. Something, which I -of course -would never dream of doing. So, I couldn’t say I was really thinking about going.

“Hogsmeade doesn’t just have to be for couples,” Rose said, ever her soothing self. “My mum told me that back in her day, people would just go with their friends to shop and hang out.”

“That’s such a good idea, Rose!” Dom exclaimed looking around at the three of us. Rose’s eyes widened, clearly unsure what the idea that she had come up with was. “We should all go together as a group!”

“Have you been listening to me at all?” Molly asked, narrowing her eyes at Dom. “I hate Hogsmeade weekends. Why would I want to go to one?”

“Because it’d be fun!” Dom said, leaning forward with wide eyes. “We could all walk around together and shop and get good food at one of the millions of pubs down there. In fact, we should ask the guys if they want to come too! It’ll be like bonding time.”

“I think we do enough of that,” Molly said flatly. “I would much rather stay at the castle and watch paint dry.”

“Oh, Molly, you’re only saying that because you and Gryffin got into another one of your fights,” Rose said, giving Molly a look. “Don’t worry, you guys will make up by the weekend.”

“We never make up,” Molly responded, giving Rose a dirty look.

“What she means is you’ll be back to whatever you two usually are,” Dom intercepted.

“What did you guys even argue over?” I asked, my curiosity peaked.

Molly sighed. I would’ve taken offense to it if I hadn’t already been used to her by now. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

I raised my eyebrows. Complaining was one of Molly’s favorite things to do. They must’ve fought over something big. Rose and Dom seemed to sense this too, because they both exchanged a look before looking down at their plates.

“You sure?” I asked, still not believing that Molly was going to pass up an opportunity to complain.

Molly pressed her lips together and nodded. “Yup.”

“Good!” Dom said, clapping her hands together, clearly trying to switch the track of the conversation. “So it’s settled then. I’ll tell the group our Hogsmeade idea—”

Your Hogmeade idea,” Molly responded bitterly.

“—And we’ll all go together,” Dom continued, unfazed by Molly’s interruption. “Sound good?”

“Sure,” I responded, nodding my head. Rose mumbled an agreement as well.

“Whatever,” Molly responded, standing up abruptly and causing her fork to clatter loudly onto her plate. “I have to go anyway. Gryffin and I still need to finish our stupid project before class, because the idiot didn’t show up yesterday.”

“Sounds like the Gryffin we know and love,” Dom responded back. Molly gave her another dark look.

“Speak for yourself,” Molly said tersely, before turning and walking out of the Great Hall.

Rose, Dom, and I remained silent as we watched her go. That is, until I broke the silence.

“I don’t know if it’s possible, but she seems more angry than usual,” I stated.

Dom shrugged. So did Rose. “It’s Molly.”

I nodded. I guess it was.

*

It wasn’t more than a day later when Dom’s entire Hogsmeade plan for us began to fall apart.

“Bad news,” Rose stated, as soon as she sat down on the armchair across from Dom and I in the Gryffindor common room. Dom looked up from the Quidditch magazine she was reading, while I looked up from the essay I was writing, wondering what Rose was going to say next. “I can’t go to Hogsmeade this weekend.”

“What?” Dom asked, immediately looking concerned at Rose’s words. She crossed her legs and leaned forward, tucking some of her silvery hair behind her ears as she did so. “Why not?”

“Prefect duties,” Rose said with a sigh. “And since Malfoy’s been covering for me for the past couple of weeks when it comes to patrols so that I can study, I promised I’d let him have the weekend off.”

“That’s not fair!” Dom exclaimed. “We’re supposed to all hang out together. As a group. To bond.”

“We don’t need to bond, Dom,” Rose said in a soothing voice. “We’re friends already. You’ll all be fine without me.”

“But this is Natasha’s first Hogsmeade weekend!” Dom whined. “We owe it to her to all be together for her first visit!”

“Dom, it’s okay,” I began, but she cut me off before I could say more.

“It’s not okay!”

“Well it’s going to have to be,” Rose stated. “A promise is a promise. Anyway, it’s not like I’m the only one who can’t go. Fred has to do an Arithmancy project this weekend, so he’s not going either.”

“What?!” Dom asked, her eyes widening. “I can’t believe he’s choosing homework over us!”

“Dom, don’t worry about it,” I began again, placing a hand on her shoulder. “It’s fine. Not everyone needs to be there. It’ll be just as fun with us, Gryffin, Scorpius, and Molly.”

No sooner had I spoken, then the portrait hole to the Gryffindor common room had opened, and two of the people I had just mentioned marched their way through. Neither of them looked happy.

“I cannot bloody believe you!” Molly exclaimed, her face full of rage as she pointed at Gryffin. “You are such an arsehole!”

“Don’t you think that’s the pot calling the kettle black?” Gryffin shot back, a vindictive grin on his face. “I mean it’s not like you were going to say yes to him. You reject everyone.”

“I don’t give a shit!” Molly shot back, her voice scathing. “I’d rather do the rejecting on my own, thank you very much. It’s not your place to meddle.”

“Oh, please,” Gryffin said, clearly not taking Molly’s words seriously, and instead looking angered himself. “Don’t act all self righteous. I know you’re the one who told Collette to say no when I asked her.”

“I was saving you!” Molly said, giving him a dirty look. “She’s a crazy bitch.”

“Funny. She reminds me of someone else I know,” Gryffin shot back.

“Oh, shove it,” Molly said, stepping closer to Gryffin and giving him a defiant stare. “I don’t give a shit what you bloody think of me!”

“Sure you don’t,” Gryffin replied. “Which is why you got so mad at me after I—”

“Shut up!” Molly exclaimed, cutting Gryffin off by clamping a hand over his mouth. “Don’t you bloody say anything more!”

“You can’t tell me what to do,” Gryffin responded, once he had broken free from Molly.

“Actually I can,” Molly responded flippantly. “And here’s what I’m telling you to do now: Stay away from me. I don’t want to see you or speak to you ever again. Now that our project is over, we have no reason to keep up this charade of being friends.

“Fine!” Gryffin shouted. “I was going to suggest the same thing anyway!”

“Great,” Molly shot back, emphasizing the word sharply. “I’m glad we’re on the same page then.”

“Me too,” Gryffin responded, pulling himself up to his full height, so that he was just a couple of inches taller than Molly (which not many guys were). “Extremely glad.”

“Couldn’t be gladder,” Molly said narrowing her eyes so tight that they were almost slits.

“Good!” Gryffin said. There was a pause as him and Molly continued to stare at each other. It was almost like the entire room had pressed pause, as they continued to erupt in their anger. Then Gryffin spoke again, his words shocking the entire room as he did so. “I’ll see you tomorrow in Hogsmeade. You owe me a date since you lost mine!”

“Fine!” Molly shouted back, and before any of us could register the scene that had just taken place, Molly turned and walked up the staircase to her dormitory, her footsteps clomping loudly as she went. The entire room remained silent, as we let what had just happened sink in.

“Did Gryffin just ask Molly out on a Hogsmeade date?” I asked, still unsure of what I had witnessed.

“More importantly, did Molly just agree?” Rose asked in response.

Dom sighed, before turning to me. “Looks like it’ll just be me and you tomorrow.”

“Yup,” I said, watching Gryffin as he stared after Molly, with a look I couldn’t quite place on his face. I expected him to look angry after him and Molly had just fought, but he seemed almost relaxed. I turned back to Dom as I remembered something. “And Scorpius.”

Dom let out another sigh, louder than the last one. I guess she had forgotten she had invited Scorpius as well. “Yes, you’re right. And Scorpius.”

So far, this Hogsmeade visit was already shaping up to be a good one.

*

“Wait, so Gryffin asked Molly out?” James asked, tilting his head in questioning. His face looked confused, even after I had just recounted the tale to him, so I nodded in response.

We were, yet again, on the Quidditch pitch, only today James hadn’t even bothered to do laps before we sunk into conversation. It was almost as if practicing Quidditch was just an excuse for us to have a reason to talk. And I liked talking to James. It sounds stupid, but I felt like I was someone completely different when I was with him. Someone I liked a lot more than the person I was.

“Yeah,” I said with a shrug. “I mean, kind of anyway. It was more of a screaming match that somehow resulted into them agreeing, but the end result is still that they’re going to Hogsmeade together.”

James nodded in understanding after I spoke, before shaking his head back and forth as a laugh. “That sounds like them alright.”

“It does, doesn’t it?” I said, letting out a laugh of my own. “I just can’t believe it’s actually going to happen. They’re like a game of exploding snap together.”

“Yeah, but it was kind of inevitable,” James said after a moment. I looked at him with an arched eyebrow, prodding him to continue. “I mean, I’ve known them both since first year, and Gryffin has always carried a bit of a torch for her.”

“Really?” I asked, surprise evident in my tone. “But they always pick on each other.”

James laughed. “Ah, but didn’t you know? Guys love doing that to girls they like. It’s a right of passage to manhood.”

Seeing as my experience with guys had been very limited up until Hogwarts, I didn’t actually know. But since admitting my cluelessness would be embarrassing, I played along anyway.

“Oh really?” I asked. “So what girl did you pick on?”

“Sarah Chaimberland,” James said, faking a dreamy sigh. “She had the Crayola Colors 64 pack. With the sharpener. It was love at first sight.”

“Well aren’t you easy to please,” I teased.

James shook his head. “Was. Now I’ve broadened my horizons.”

“What? Does she need to have silly putty too?”

“Oh Merlin, do you remember that stuff?” James asked, looking at me with a half smile as he reminisced.

“Of course I do,” I said with a laugh. “I mean, I am muggleborn. That was like the thing to have to guarantee friends.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot you were muggleborn,” James mused.

“That’s because I never told you.”

“That might be why I forgot then,” James said, which made me crack a smile. “So then that brings up the age old question: what did you like better, play doh or silly putty?”

“How do you know about all these muggle things?” I asked raising an eyebrow at James. “Last I recalled your parents are like as famous as it comes in the wizarding world. What are you doing playing with muggle toys?”

“It’s because of my dad,” James explained. “He grew up muggle so he always gave us stuff like that to make sure we remained integrated into that world. And also my granddad is really big on those things, so he always gives us random muggle gifts, although they’re mostly useless things like screwdrivers and what not.”

“I see,” I said. “I didn’t know once people were in the magic world they cared much about the muggle one. I know when I was introduced to magic I kind of left everything muggle behind.”

“But the muggle toys were always the coolest!” James exclaimed, seeming put to disbelief at my statement. “In fact, there’s this store in Hogsmeade that’s made up of entirely muggle things. We should go this weekend.”

Everything seemed to stop. For me at least.

“Together?” I asked, immediately taken aback by this turn in conversation. Did this classify as James asking me out?

“Generally that’s what ‘we’ means,” James responded, seeming to be holding back a laugh. My face began to feel warm and I looked down at my hands, trying to clear the millions of thoughts that were now running rampant over whether or not this qualified as a date.

No. This couldn’t be a date. We were just friends. I wasn’t allowed to date anyway, so I’d have to say no if it was. But… If I looked at it as just two friends hanging out, then I could say yes. Because that’s what it was anyway.

“Well, I guess I could go,” I said, looking up at James. “But I don’t know how Dom will feel about being stuck with just Scorpius at Hogsmeade.”

James laughed. “For some reason, I have a feeling neither of them will mind.”

I knew what James was referring to, and I had to agree as well. As much as Dom and Scorpius argued over anything Quidditch related, they got along extremely well otherwise.

“Well then, I think I need to head back to the castle,” I said suddenly feeling extremely tired. We’d been outside for a while now, and it was finally starting to sink in. “This week has totally drained me.”

“Alright,” James said, nodding his head as I got up. “I’ll meet you outside the Great Hall tomorrow at eleven?”

“Sure,” I said, offering a smile. I began to walk away, but before I fully made it off the field, James called after me.

“You never told me what you liked better: play doh or silly putty?” James said, which just caused me to laugh. It seemed such an unimportant detail to want to know.

“I’ll let you know,” I responded, not wanting to give him an answer before turning back around and walking away.


__________________________________________________________________________________________

A/N: I am extremely sorry for how long this chapter took. Seriously, I am ashamed that it took me this long to update. It's just... with finishing my other story (which is completed! which is huge because I've never completed a story before) and starting college I've been putting updating this one off which I shouldn't have. Just please don't hate me and I hope I haven't lost any of you lovely readers, because you do mean the world to me.

And now with this chapter, lots of stuff has happened. Natasha's mum is angry, Molly and Gryffin are going to Hogsmeade together, and so are Dom and Scorpius (although not by their own doing) and James and Nata (!!!). What do you guys think of the developings? Do you like it? Should I stop?

Please review and let me know your thoughts, and thank you so much for sticking with me even with my terrible updates. The next chapter is done, so you won't have to wait long for it.

Thank you,
-Rebecca


Chapter 17: Not a Date
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Disclaimer: It's JKRs.

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“Well of course you’re all fine with today,” Dom began, putting a hand on her hips as she looked around our dorm room at me, Rose, and then Molly (who basically lived in our dorm even though she was a seventh year). Rose was wearing her prefects uniform, preparing to do her first set of rounds, and Molly was curled up on Rose’s bed, looking like she was about to fall asleep. I was currently checking the floor length mirror in our room, making sure I didn’t hadn’t missed any of the hair that I’d been curling. “Molly and Natasha have dates—”

“It’s not a date,” I flatlined, except Dom ignored me.

“And you, Rose, are not being forced to spend the entire day with one of your best mate-turned-enemy’s ever since he let the whole Quidditch captaincy get to his head,” Dom finished with a huff.

“But I am spending a Hosmeade weekend alone doing prefect rounds,” Rose responded. “While all of you get to go on dates. I feel like such a frump.”

“It’s not a date.” Me, and now Dom (I call it karma) responded in the same matter-of-fact tone.

“I’m sure that’s what you’re all telling yourselves,” Rose said, looking at Dom and I for equal lengths of time. “But the fact of the matter is that if a guy asks you to spend time with him in Hogsmeade, it qualifies as a date.”

“Well Scorpius didn’t ask me to go with him. We just happened to be the only ones left after all of you ditched. So it’s not a date,” Dom responded, looking proud of herself.

“You can be in denial all you want, Dom,” Rose began, “but we all know it’s a date.”

I made a hum of agreement, nodding my head to enforce Rose’s point. I had been sensing something between Dom and Scorpius for a while, so the fact that they were going to be spending Hogsmeade together, despite Dom’s excuse of them just planning Quidditch plays and shopping for more gear, didn’t hide the fact that there still seemed to be a romantic undertone.

“I don’t know why you’re acting all high and mighty,” Dom said, noticing how I’d agreed with Rose. “You’re still trying to deny the fact that you and James are going on a date.”

“That’s because we’re not,” I responded. “I’m even not allowed to date. And he only asked me to go so we could stop at this muggle store he knows about that he wants to show me.”

Dom rolled her eyes, looking at me seriously. “Tash, James doesn’t ask just anyone to go to Hogsmeade with him. The last girl he asked was Fiona and well… if you didn’t notice they kind of dated.”

“I’m not Fiona though,” I responded. “It’s different.”

“It’s not different,” Molly stated in her usual blunt tone, picking her face up from the pillow it had been buried in so that she could put in her two cents. “I mean, I think out of everyone it should be me trying to pretend that Gryffin and I aren’t going on a date, seeing as he’s a complete idiot and I pretty much hate him. But I’m not, because I know it’s a date no matter how much I pretend it isn’t.”

“I still don’t understand how you’re acting so blasé about this,” Dom said, seeming brought back to the fact that Gryffin and Molly were actually going on a date. And the fact that they were going on a date was pretty unbelievable. It was like the world was ending.

“Oh don’t worry, I’ll eventually have a moment where I freak the fuck out and question my life choices, but for now I won’t,” Molly responded with a shrug. “I mean, it was only a matter of time. He is the only guy at school not related to me that’s taller than me.”

Dom and I exchanged a look.

“Whatever you say, Molly,” I said, still studying her closely to see if there was any signs of her being under the Imperio curse. Molly just shrugged again and layed back against Rose’s bed, making herself comfortable.

“Not to be rude, but shouldn’t you guys get going?” Rose said. “It’s almost eleven so…”

“Shit,” Molly said, seeming angered at having to get out of the bed. The fact that she had had to get up before noon for her date had put her in an even grumpier mood than usual.

Dom and I also muttered our own exclamations as we realized that we were running late, and we all scrambled towards the door.

“Bye Rose!” We all shouted at her out of sync so that everything sounded a jarbled mess.

Rose was able to understand us though, so she nodded her head and smiled at us. “Bye, girls! Have fun on your dates.”

“It’s not a—” But before Dom and I could finished Molly had already spoken over us.

“Oh stuff it, the both of you. It’s a bloody date and you damn well know it.”

*

I shouldn’t be this nervous. Because no matter what Molly or Rose or Dom said, this was not a date. So, there was no reason for me to be taking extra notice over the silences that hung between James and I as we walked, for me to overanalyze every action he said or did, or for me to be running my hands through my hair every five minutes to make sure it didn’t settle funny.

This was just James and me being well… James and me. Nothing more.

“So, what do you say?”

My eyes widened as I snapped my head to James, trying to figure out what he was talking about. If I had been listening to him instead of overanalyzing everything, than I would’ve known what he was talking about. But alas, I had been distracted and instead had no response but to blink at him.

“It’s fine if you don’t want to…” James said, seeming confused by my blank stare. “Just a suggestion.”

“Wait, no, I’m sorry,” I said, feeling bad for James thinking I was turning down whatever he had said. “I wasn’t paying attention, so I didn’t hear what you said.”

“Ouch,” James said. “Didn’t know I was that boring.”

“Oh, no, you’re not!” I stammered, feeling my face growing hot. “I just…”

“Don’t worry, I was just kidding,” James said, seeming amused at my predicament. “Anyway, what I’d asked was if you wanted to go to the Three Broomsticks first. It’s kind of the right of passage for going to Hogsmeade, so I figured if you wanted to get the whole experience…”

“Oh yeah, that sounds good,” I said, feeling myself calm down at how composed James seemed. If he wasn’t freaking out, then there was no reason I should be. Right?

James began to lead us across the cobblestoned streets of Hogsmeade to what appeared to be a pub. I was immediately about to protest walking into it, because Miss Teen Witch can’t very well be seen walking into a pub— I mean, people went there to get drunk—but before I could say anything, James had already grabbed my hand and pulled me in.

The thing I noticed straight away about the Three Broomsticks, was how packed it was. There were people crammed into every possible space, practically on top of each other, as everyone queued over at the bar area or piled atop one another in booths. Not to mention how incredibly noisy it was, with the sounds of a million different voices interlacing over and under one another, punctuated by sporadic shouts.

“Woah,” I said, eyes wide as I took in the scene.

“Yeah, it gets a bit crowded,” James said, raising his voice to an almost shout so that I could hear him.

“Just a bit,” I shouted back jokingly.

“Come on, I think I see a seat open by one of the windows,” James said, giving my hand—which I now realized he was still holding— a squeeze and steering me around the mass of people swarmed throughout the place. I tried to not look too much into the hand squeezing, because this was not a date, but it was hard when it seemed like almost every person we passed gave us and our intertwined hands strange looks.

James didn’t seem to notice, or maybe he just didn’t care, and I ignored the looks too. They were just staring because they thought this was something that it wasn’t.

“Is this okay?” James asked, pointing to a booth that had just opened up by the window. I nodded, and James and I took a seat across from one another.

“So,” I said, surveying the clamor of the pub we were in from our seats and taking it all in. I can’t say I’d really been to a pub before. “This is like, the place to go?”

James nodded. “It’s not much. But it does have something no other pub has.”

“What’s that?” I asked, arching an eyebrow at James.

“The best butterbeer in the world. So I’m going to go get us some,” And then, James was getting up and walking over to the bar, leaving me to guard the table.

I wasn’t alone for long though. Almost as soon as James left, I heard two unmistakeable squeals, and then Lucy and Lily were scooting into the side of the booth that James had previously been sitting in. They were both in florally pink dresses, wearing their usual assortment of glittery accessories and looking at me excitedly.

“Ohmigosh!” Lily said, looking at me with a wide smile, flipping her glossy red hair over her shoulder. The sparkly eyeshadow she was wearing enhanced her large brown eyes, which were now widened at me in question. “Are you and my brother like… on a date?!”

“No we’re—”

“Oh my gosh you are!” Lucy chimed in, before I could get answer. She leaned in towards me, as though she was about to give me some advice. “Don’t worry. We totally won’t tell Fiona. To be honest I’d much rather the two of you together. I mean, I’d be cousins-in-law with Miss Teen Witch. How cool is that?”

“Well she’d be my sister in law,” Lily said, giving Lucy a triumphant look. Lily then looked back at me. “But yeah, Lucy’s right. We won’t tell Fiona.”

“There’s nothing to tell her,” I said honestly, feeling overwhelemed by their chatter. “We’re just friends.”

“Right,” Lucy said, rolling her eyes and twirling a lock of chestnut hair around her finger. “Not like I haven’t heard that one before. You don’t need to lie to us. We’re your friends.”

“I’m not lying,” I responded, although I was more taken aback by Lucy’s friends statement then anything. We barely spent time together, and when we did, it was just Lucy barking orders at me. Was that her qualification for friends?

“Well…” Lily said, biting her lip and widening her eyes at me again. “Does James know you’re just friends? Because I know my brother, and I know he doesn’t take just anyone to Hogsmeade.”

Lily’s words sounded scarily similar to what Dom had said to me this morning.

“He knows,” I stated, but I wasn’t sure if he knew. Mostly because I wasn’t sure if I knew myself.

“Okay,” Lily said, giving me a serious look. “But as his sister I’m going to let you know to be careful.”

“What do I have to be careful about?” I asked, confused. James was not a threat, and it surprised me that Lily was suddenly acting like he was.

Lucy rolled her eyes. “What Lily is trying to say, is that you need to be careful not to hurt her brother.”

Oh. Right. I was the threat. Not James. Although I still had to disagree. I didn’t have the power to hurt him. Not one bit.

“Okay,” I said, just to placate the two of them. “I’ll be careful.”

“Good,” Lily said excitedly, clapping her hands together. “Well, we should go! We have dates of our own to attend to, and we don’t want to intrude on yours anymore than we have!”

And before I could say for the millionth time that this wasn’t a date, Lucy and Lily had scooted out of the booth and skipped away.

“Why are you talking to my disgusting little sister?”

I looked up at Molly, who had her arms crossed, brown eyes narrowed at me in disdain.

“Where’s Gryffin?” I asked, as Molly took the seat across from me. She kicked her feet on top of the table and leaned back, getting comfortable before she spoke.

“Don’t know, don’t care,” Molly responded, shrugging her shoulders.

“But… isn’t he your date?” I asked slowly, trying to wrap my head around Molly’s thought process.

“Isn’t James?” Molly asked, looking around the pub. “Where is he?”

“He’s getting us butterbeer,” I said with a sigh. “But you can’t change the subject.”

“Alright, I’ll tell you,” Molly said, taking her feet off the table and leaning towards me. She cradled her chin in her hands. “But only because you finally didn’t deny that James is your date.”

“He’s not my—”

Molly held her finger up and gave me a look. “Do you want me to tell you or not?”

“Fine,” I conceded, but only because my curiosity had won out. “Tell me.”

“I stole his wand and locked him in the Shrieking Shack,” Molly stated. My eyes widened.

“Why did you do that?” I asked. I thought Molly had been almost happy about this date. This didn’t seem like appropriate date behavior. “Don’t you like him?”

“He was being an annoying git, so I had to get rid of him,” Molly said with a shrug. “And I never said I liked him. Just that it was inevitable.”

“Right,” I said, not understanding Molly at all.

“Anyway, I should probably let him out now. Or maybe head back to the school and let him find his own way,” Molly replied, getting up. “See ya.”

“Yeah,” I said, watching Molly as she left, “see you.”

A couple minutes later, filled with me drawing imaginary circles on the table top, James slid back into the seat that just about everyone had sat in.

“Sorry it took so long, the line to the bar was insane,” James said, putting two mugs of butterbeer on the table and sliding one to me. “But don’t worry, it’s worth the wait.”

I picked up the mug and took a sip. The drink tasted warm and buttery, and I found myself wondering how I had gone my whole life without it.

“You’re right,” I said, smiling at James before taking another sip. “Definitely worth it.”

*

“So,” James began, picking up a couple packages of silly putty and putting it into his shopping basket, “both of your parents are muggles. How did that go?”

“What do you mean?” I asked, inspecting a box of lego’s before putting it into my own basket.

“I mean, how did the whole finding out you’re magical thing go?”

“Um,” I began, feeling embarrassed at what I was about to tell James. I leant against the aisle and looked down at my feet. “Well I was eight and I had just lost my first beauty pageant, so I kind of… lit the winner’s dress on fire.”

James let out a low whistle. “A bit harsh, don’t you think?”

“I didn’t mean to do it!” I responded, trying to defend myself. “It just sort of happened. I don’t think my mum even knows it was me who did it. She didn’t figure out I was magical until years later.”

“What about your dad?” James asked, and I guess I should’ve expected this question eventually.

“He still doesn’t know,” I said, looking away and out across the muggle toy covered aisle. I never knew what to do when I talked about my dad. But then again, it’s probably because I never talked about him. “He left when I was three.”

There was a beat of silence.

“Wow, that must’ve sucked,” James said finally. And I found the way he said it way more refreshing than the shifty eyed ‘I’m sorry’s’ that I normally got when I mentioned my dad.

“It happens,” I said in response and then to change the subject, “so how did your first time performing magic go?”

“It went well,” James replied with a smirk, causing me to roll my eyes. He ran a hand through his hair. “But in all honesty, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I levitated a spoon. Nothing like lighting someone on fire.”

“It was an accident!” I exclaimed, crossing my arms.

“That’s what they all say,” James stated, causing me to roll my eyes. I then pushed myself off the aisle I’d been leaning against and walked over to where James was standing by the silly putty. I grabbed a couple packages and put them in my basket.

“So you are a silly putty fan,” James said, noticing that I’d passed over the play d’oh. “I knew it.”

“Well, I mean, you can press silly putty against newspaper and it’ll copy the print,” I explained. “That’s basically magic.”

“Aren’t you easy to please,” James joked.

“Oh be quiet,” I said, rolling my eyes again as we walked out of the aisle. We’d been walking around the store for what felt like forever, just talking and joking around. And it felt, I dunno, nice to be able to just hang out with James somewhere other than the Quidditch pitch and our occasional breakfasts.

As we headed over to the cash register to purchase our baskets full of useless muggle products, we came across a pair of green eyes and a face very similar to James’.

“Oh, hey, Albus,” I said first, because we had already locked eyes and I didn’t want to seem rude.

“Hey, Natasha,” Albus responded, nodding at me. He still seemed as cold and closed off as ever when he looked at me, but as he turned to James I noticed his hardened look fade just a bit. “James.”

“Hey, Al,” James said, nodding at him amiably. “You didn’t tell me your were going to Hogsmeade too.”

The way James said it made it clear that him and Al talked regularly. Which I know I shouldn’t find odd, considering they’re brothers. But with everything I heard from Scorpius and them… it still seemed odd that they were on such amiable terms.

Al shrugged. “Things change. Can’t say I ever expected you to walk into this store again.”

I couldn’t help but be overcome with that feeling of being out of the loop. But I kept quiet, because I didn’t want to seem too nosy.

“Yeah well, like you said, things change,” James said, not deterred at all by Al’s comment. “We’re heading out anyways, want us to wait for you?”

“Nah,” Al said, waving James off. “I’ll be a while. You two have fun on your… whatever.”

“Alright, I’ll see you,” James said, before ushering us to the check out counter, leaving me feeling slightly confused as I watched Al head to the opposite side of the store.

It wasn’t until we had left the muggle toy shop and were walking through the streets of Hogsmeade that I addressed the elephant in the room.

“So, what’s the deal with Al?” I asked, hoping that James wouldn’t think I was trying to pry too much. It’s just, I had heard lots of snippets about Al and I didn’t quite get him and James’ relationship.

James looked at me with eyebrows drawn in confusion. “He’s my brother…?”

“I know,” I said, rolling my eyes. I really needed to stop doing that. “But what I mean is, well Scorpius and them don’t like him and from what I’ve heard, they hate that you talk to him. Why is that?”

“Oh, it’s all really stupid,” James said, shrugging as he ran a hand through his hair. “They think he made me quit playing Quidditch.”

“Huh?” I asked, suddenly very confused. They were mad at him about… Quidditch?

“Well, after the whole thing with Nate,” James began, “I stopped really talking to the lot of them, and I started spending more time with Al. And then I quit Quidditch so… they figured he was the reason. Because you know, he’s Slytherin’s captain and apparently he ‘took advantage of me in my grieving state’ to benefit his own team.”

“Did he?” I asked.

“Course not,” James answered. “Al may be a Slytherin, but he’s not that bad. I mean, sure we have our differences, but at the end of the day he’s my brother. People are too hard on him, just because he was sorted into Slytherin.”

“That’s what I don’t get,” I said as we continued to walk. “The whole house thing. I mean, I guess I’m muggleborn so what do I know, but it just seems weird that people put so much strain on where you’re sorted.”

“Exactly,” James said, nodding his head in agreement. “After the war, people just kind of hated Slytherin for a while. It’s like everyone in it was suddenly evil. It’s mostly died down nowadays, but when Al was sorted there people treated him differently. And I treated him differently for a while too, which I’m not proud of. I mean, I basically replaced him with Scorpius. But eventually I realized I was an idiot and despite Al being such a ‘Slytherin’, he forgave me.”

I thought this over for a while a bit surprised. I had thought that James could do no wrong, but it turns out he had ignored his own brother just because of the house he was sorted into. It kind of explained why Al was so closed off and rough edged. It had to suck to have everyone look down on you, and it definitely had to suck even more to have Scorpius get sorted into Gyrffindor and basically become everything Al was expected to be.

“What made you realize you were an idiot?” I asked, looking up at James curiously.

James shrugged. “I just figured life’s too short to hold a grudge at someone just because of the house they’re sorted into.”

I could tell by this that James had probably made his realization after Nate died. Life was too short, indeed. Especially for some of us.

“Smart decision,” I commented. Then I thought of something that didn’t quite make sense. “But isn’t life also too short to ignore your friends?”

“I don’t ignore my friends,” James stated, causing me to give him a look. “I talk to you.”

I felt my stomach flutter as James said this, but I ignored it. “So I’m your only friend then?”

James sighed. I was beginning to feel like maybe I had overstepped. “Things with them are just… different.”

“Okay,” I said, because I felt like I had asked enough questions and didn’t want to make James regret spending time with me. I guess there was just something about spending time with him that made me want to ask him as many questions as I could. Try to figure him out and all that rot.

James didn’t seem to sense I was giving him an out to the conversation though, so he continued to explain.

“After Nate died,” James began, and I couldn’t help but feel weird about James addressing Nate’s death head on. Normally whenever death was involved, people kind of avoided the topic and smoothed it over with words like ‘passed away’ or ‘no longer with us’. The way James said it made everything seem more raw and honest and real. “Scorpius and Gryffin and them just got really weird around me. They stopped joking around with me and were constantly checking up on me like I was going to explode any second. They just… they stopped being the friends they were supposed to be.”

“They probably didn’t know what to say,” I reasoned.

“I know, but they still do it, even now. Rose told me they avoid talking about anything concerning Nate like the plague,” James said. And this was true. I’d heard Nate get mentioned only a handful of times, and when it happened everyone always shot Rose awkward glances that just made her more uncomfortable.

“Maybe they’re worried bringing him up will make everyone sad again,” I said, because I really felt that. I avoided topics I didn’t like all the time, because I was worried it would hurt certain people. It was easier to pretend the problem wasn’t there.

It was quiet for a moment after that, before James spoke, more serious this time. “It’s like… they don’t believe that I can be fine again.”

There was a silence as I let what James said sink in, and I suddenly understood. All James wanted, was for people to believe he had the ability to be okay. Maybe that’s all anyone wanted really.

“I believe it,” I said after a moment, and before I could overthink it I grabbed James’ hand and laced my fingers through his. James looked down at our hands before looking back up at me with a small smile. “You should just talk to them about it, tell them how you feel.”

“I could,” James said, nodding his head as we continued to hold hands and walk through Hogsmeade. Merlin, this was becoming very date-ish without me even realizing it. “But I’ve already got you to treat me normal, so I don’t really need them.”

I continued to walk forward, ignoring the warm feeling from James’ words, but stopped when the tugging on my hand signaled that James was no longer walking with me. I looked back at him, confused.

“What?” I asked, looking into James’ multifaceted eyes, unsure why we had stopped.

“Isn’t that you?” James asked, and I was confused for a moment, before I realized that we were standing in front of my Teen Witch billboard that contained a smiling and winking me, blowing kisses at random passersby. I felt my face turn red. This was embarrassing.

“It was one of my Miss Teen Witch obligations,” I tried to explain, as both of us continued to stare at my billboard. “It’s awful.”

“It’s not awful…” James said, seeming to be holding back a laugh as he noticed my embarrassment. “It’s just… not you.”

The funny thing about his statement, was that it was me. Or it had been. Ever since I can remember I’d always been like that girl on the billboard.

“Is that a good or bad thing?” I asked, because I honestly wasn’t sure.

“Good,” James responded, smiling at my unsureness and making my stomach flutter embarrassingly again. “Definitely good.”

I smiled back at James, because it felt good to know that it was okay for me to not be Miss Teen Witch. And then, because I had been wondering this all day and I suddenly couldn’t stop myself, I spoke.

“James… was this a date?”

There was a moment of unsureness as James released his hand from mine, and I immediately regretted asking the question. It was stupid of me to suddenly assume that all of this meant more than it did. But as soon as the unsureness came it went, because I noticed that James was still smiling at me.

And instead of giving me a proper answer, because James had apparently decided that that wasn’t good enough, he tucked a loose curl behind my ear before leaning in to kiss me. And despite the fact that we were standing in the middle of Hogsmeade where anybody could see us, in front of an embarrassing billboard of me that I’d rather pretend didn’t exist, it felt kind of sort of perfect.

So, I did what any girl would do and kissed him back.


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A/N: Well hello my lovely readers! Here it is, a very pivotal chapter in the relationship of Natasha and James. I mean... they kissed. Did you expect it? I figured it was a cliche, but an unexpected one? Maybe? Hopefully?

And what do you think about the snippet you've heard about Molly and Gryffin's date? Basically my favorite part to write of the chapter, in case you couldn't tell. And there was also more Al backstory for those of you who like Al!

Alright, so basically just let me know in a review what you think, so that I know to keep going with this story and all that. You guys are so inspiring and I'm so lucky to have you as readers/reviewers!

-Rebecca


Chapter 18: Unexpected
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Disclaimer: I am not JKR. Anything you recognize is not mine.

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James and I spent the rest of the day walking around Hogsmeade, as we continued to talk about anything and everything. I had been worried for the briefest moment after our kiss that suddenly everything would become awkward. But my fears were quickly eliminated when- as soon as James pulled away from me- he put his fingers back through mine. If anything, I think the kiss had just made things easier. It was like we’d already gotten it out of the way, so there was nothing else to overthink.

However, I couldn’t help but feel a small bubble of guilt form at the pit of my stomach as the day went on. Guilt for my mom, and guilt for James. It’s just, I knew I wasn’t supposed to feel what I felt. My feelings… they were all wrong. But since I didn’t know what else to do, I shoved the guilt down and pretended that everything was okay. And being with James made it feel like it really was.

But now that our date (and yes, I had finally come to terms with the fact that it was a date) was over and I was walking up the staircase to my dormitory, the guilt was flooding back. I barely paid attention to Molly, who I had bumped into on the way up to the dorm, as she continued to complain about Gryffin.

“Fuck no,” Molly said, as soon as she walked into our dorm room. This broke me out of my thoughts and I looked around the room. Dom was currently sitting cross-legged in the middle of the floor with pillows set out in a strategic circle. There were various bowls full of chocolates and popcorn set in the middle, and she had her entire nail polish collection sitting in color-coded rows next to her. Rose was sitting next to Dom, reading a book with a faded cover. “I’m leaving.”

“No, you’re not,” Rose responded flatly, closing her book and giving Molly a staredown. “If you’re always in our room taking over my bed, you have to participate in Dom’s lame excuse of a slumber party. Or else we’re going to start locking our door.”

Molly glared at Rose, who remained unfazed. After a moment, Molly sighed.

“Fine. But I call all of the cauldron cakes,” Molly muttered. She then plopped down on the pillow across from Dom and grabbed a cauldron cake, taking a large bite.

“What is this?” I asked, looking at the three of them before taking a seat onto a pillow myself.

“It’s Dom’s way to try and grill us on how our dates went,” Molly answered, rolling her eyes. “And Rose’s too I suppose. She’s the only one who can manipulate the house elves into giving us food, so she clearly had a hand in this bombardment.”

“House elves give everyone food, Molly,” Rose stated, placing her book on the ground. “They just don’t give any to you, because you punched one of them.”

“It was an accident,” Molly said with a shrug of her shoulders.

“You hit him over the head with a pot afterwards,” Dom said.

“That was an accident too.”

“What about when you started throwing spatulas at all of the other house elves?” Rose asked.

“Well they were out of chocolate! Who the hell runs out of chocolate?” Molly exclaimed.

Dom and I exchanged a look, as she mouthed to me that it had been Molly’s time of the month. Which made a lot of sense. Nobody wanted to be around Molly when she was on her period. She was a monster.

“Right well, good thing we have lots of chocolate now, yeah?” Dom said, gesturing to the food. She then leaned forward, grinning at Molly and I. “But what we really should be talking about is how your dates went.”

“Yeah, how did they go?” Rose asked, looking equally interested.

“Told you,” Molly said to me under her breath. “They always pull shit like this.”

“No, we don’t,” Dom argued, clearly having heard Molly’s words. “The last time you went on a date was in third year, and you didn’t even realize it was a date until it was too late. Then you ran out on the poor guy! So since this is your first honest-to-goodness date, I want to know how it went.”

“She locked Gryffin in the Shrieking Shack,” I stated, because I thought this was the most important detail.

“I let him out!” Molly exclaimed, glaring at me as though I’d betrayed her. I shrugged. “And it’s not like he wasn’t asking for it.”

“I’m sure,” Dom said, rolling her eyes.

“Molly, I feel like if you really like Gryffin, you shouldn’t be locking him in places,” Rose said, ever the reasonable one.

“Hey! Just because I went on a date with him, doesn’t mean I like him,” Molly said, looking offended by Rose’s words. We all rolled our eyes at that one. Molly, annoyed by this, then turned to what she did best: deflection. “And anyways, shouldn’t we be discussing you and James? From what a third year told me-” we all looked at Molly oddly as she said that. Third years were afraid of Molly. Most people were afraid of Molly. Molly noticed our looks and rolled her eyes. “Okay. What I forced a third year to tell me after threatening him with a leg locking curse, was that Tash and James were snogging in the middle of Hogsmeade.”

Dom and Rose’s gazes immediately drilled into me. I felt my face flush. “We were not snogging.”

“Did your lips make contact with his?” Dom asked.

“Yeah but—”

“That’s all I need to hear,” Dom said, letting out a sigh of contentment. “I’m so happy for you Tash. You two are perfect for each other.”

“No,” I said, immediately feeling suffocated by Dom’s words. “It’s not like that.”

“Then what is it like?” Rose asked, looking at me seriously.

“It’s… complicated,” I said softly, looking down at my hands. It was complicated. Too complicated to even begin to explain. So I took a leaf out of Molly’s book and deflected the conversation away from me. “What about you Dom? How did things with Scorpius go?”

“We hung out for a bit and then he bumped into some mates, so I decided to head back,” Dom said with a shrug. I felt myself become disappointed. I had hoped out of the three of us that Dom would’ve been able to figure things out with Scorpius. Merlin knew the team needed it. “No biggie. It’s not like we had planned to go together in the first place.”

“He ditched you for other mates?” I asked, because I was still thrown off. This didn’t seem like something Scorpius would do.

“I mean, I told him to join them. It wasn’t like a full-blown ditch. I just knew he’d have a better time with them,” Dom explained. She bit her bottom lip. “It was stupid to even still try and go to Hogsmeade after all of our group plans had fallen apart.”

Rose and I exchanged a look. I think we both knew Dom was in denial. Not that we would say it out loud. Instead of being like Molly who was open with her thoughts, we figured it was better to let Dom come to her own conclusions about her and Scorpius herself.

“I still can’t comprehend the fact that Tash got herself some action,” Molly said, staring at me with a fair amount of disbelief. My face reddened. Great. I had thought we were done discussing James and I. I didn’t like talking about us. Not that we were an us. Or could be. “I thought pageant people weren’t allowed to kiss. It could, like, make you seem like an actual human being or something.”

“You’re tact is astounding,” Rose said, rolling her eyes. Then because she was a good friend that knew I didn’t want the conversation back on me, she asked, “Does this mean you didn’t get any action, Molls?”

Molly shrugged. “We snogged. But I only did it so that I could bat bogey hex him without him figuring it out. It was hilarious. You should’ve seen how pissed he was. We also snogged later on but that’s because he’s pretty decent at it, so I figured it was beter than having to listen to him talk.”

“Ew, I really didn’t need those mental images in my brain,” Dom said, squinting her eyes shut tight and shaking her head back and forth when Molly was done.

“Does this mean you and Gryffin are serious?” Rose asked, exchanging a glance with Dom and I. None of us could have foreseen this outcome.

Molly shrugged again because she always did and said, “He’s taller than me.” Because that seemed to be the only reason she could come up with for explaining her and Gryffin. And in all honesty it seemed like the most logical one.

This led to a lot of back and forth between Dom and Molly, because Dom wanted to get a straight answer out of Molly, but Molly never did budge. Even after Dom had whacked her a couple of times with a pillow. This ended up causing Molly to throw some of the chocolate she had been eating at Dom, which accidentally hit Rose, and caused Rose to start throwing food and pillows as well. Then they had pulled me into the destruction by throwing popcorn at me, and I somehow participated in my first ever food/pillow fight.

Hours later, after we’d finally stopped throwing things at each other and talked ourselves silly, I was laying next to Dom on the floor. Molly and Rose were asleep, their heavy breathing filling the silence of the room, and Dom looked at me.

“So, have fun at your first real slumber party?” Dom asked, a smile pulling at her lips.

I smiled back and couldn’t help but feel that small bubble of guilt in my stomach, get replaced by complete giddiness. This whole day, it was like I hadn’t had to be anything I didn’t want to be. I just got to be a regular teenage girl. It was the reason I had wanted to go to Hogwarts in the first place.

“Yeah,” I whispered back to Dom, the dopey smile still on my face. “I mean, I know slumber parties are supposed to be for little kids, but I had a lot of fun.”

“Want to know a secret?” Dom asked, leaning towards me with wide eyes. I nodded my head. “Sometimes it’s fun to do childish things, even when you know you’re too old for it.”

Before I came to Hogwarts, I probably wouldn’t have understood. But now I knew what Dom meant. It was fun to be able to be carefree about things. To not have to worry about what would happen tomorrow.

I didn’t respond to Dom. Instead, I closed my eyes and rested a head on her shoulder, feeling perfectly content for what felt like one of the first times in my life. I drifted off listening to the sound of Dom’s methodic breathing, nothing but happy thoughts dancing in my wake.

*

I woke up the next morning tired and groggy. My hair was in a complete mass of disarray, my back was a bit out of sorts from sleeping on the floor, and it was actually late in the day. I hadn’t woken up early out of habit for once. In fact, I probably would’ve slept in more if it wasn’t for all of the arguing.

“Let her sleep!” the voice I recognized as Dom’s commanded. The way she said it made it sound like she’d been arguing this point for a while. “She’s peaceful now. If we wake her, it’ll just ruin it.”

“It’s already ruined, she just doesn’t know it yet,” Molly stated, her tone of voice as blunt as usual. I knew, even though my eyes were closed and I still was in that hazy state before you fully wake up, that she was probably inspecting her nails with nonchalance. “It’s better we tell her now, so she has more time to prepare for the oncoming shit show.”

Still feeling thick with sleep, I had to squeeze my eyes shut tighter a couple of times before I was able to make myself reach full consciousness. Molly’s words had begun to worry me.

“There will not be a shit show,” Dom said. I was finally able to open my eyes, and I watched Dom bite her bottom lip. That was never a good sign.

“Dom, as much as I hate to agree with Molly’s crass way of action, she’s right,” Rose said gently. None of them were aware that I had woken up yet. “There will definitely be some altercations, and we need to prepare Tash for them.”

I felt myself tense as I watched the three of them grow silent. They seemed to be at a loss. The worry I had felt now morphed into panic. What were they talking about? I squeezed my eyes shut tight again, hoping that when I opened them, I wouldn’t be facing what I was pretty sure might be a nightmare. However when I opened my eyes again, I still saw the same scene in front of me.

It didn’t seem fair. Nightmares weren’t supposed to happen in real life.

“What’s going on?” I asked, sitting myself upright and looking at the three of them. “What do we need to prepare me for?”

The three of them all snapped their heads towards me in varying shades of shock, except for Molly who was nonplussed. I guess even on the brink of something terrible, she couldn’t make herself look like she cared.

“The Daily Prophet came in the mail this morning,” Dom began slowly, looking as though she was thinking over her words very carefully. “There was an article about you.”

Oh.

“What did it say?” I asked, immediately feeling my stomach sink. I was suddenly very aware of the quick, methodic thumping of my heart. I looked at Dom with wide eyes. “How bad is it?”

“It’s pretty bad,” Molly said, because it was clear Dom and Rose didn’t want to say anything about it. “There were pictures.” Molly then grabbed a newspaper off of the night stand next to her and tossed it to me. “You should probably read it yourself. Good news is you don’t look like the robot you usually look like in these things.”

“Molly, do you have an ounce of sympathy in your body?” Dom asked, chastising Molly for her words.

“What? I gave her a compliment.”

“That’s what you call a compliment?”

However, I tuned out the rest of the conversation and instead looked down at the Daily Prophet, which had my face right on the front page. My face, which was caught mid-kiss with James. Right above it in big, block lettering, was the title of the article.

Miss Teen Witch: Out of Control or In Love?

Crap. This was bad. This was very, very bad. There was proof right on the front of the Daily Prophet that I had breached my contract with Miss Teen Witch Enterprise. I almost didn’t want continue reading, but I knew I had to figure out just how bad the article was. I skimmed it over, feeling my stomach sink further and further as I read.

The article described me as going through what they considered rebellious phase. They claimed that now that I was at Hogwarts, I had fallen into the lifestyle of partying and boys. There were pictures from the Gryffindor Quidditch party of me sitting between Gryffin and Freddy, while Gryffin held a large bottle of firewhiskey in each hand. And there were also more photos of James and I with the caption ‘Fling or More?’ written underneath.

“I don’t believe this,” I said, my hands shaking as I folded over the article. I put the newspaper on the ground next to me, stood up, and began pacing back and forth. “This is not real. None of this is happening right now. I am still asleep and I will wake up any second.”

“Ugh, even her freak outs are boring,” I heard Molly mutter to Rose, as the both of them plus Dom watched me while I paced.

“Shut up, Molly,” Rose responded. She then walked over to me and put a hand on my shoulder, effectively stopping my pacing. “Look, Natasha, I know that this is overwhelming for you-”

“That’s an understatement,” Molly muttered.

“Molly, do you think for once in your life you can actually care about something?” Dom snapped, having enough of Molly’s comments. “Do you not realize how big of a deal this is?!”

“Of course I do,” Molly said, giving Dom a dirty look. She then turned to me, as though I’d been the one to yell at her. “It’s not like I think this is all funny. It’s just… what’s the point in freaking out? If it’s out, it’s out. No trying to harness it back in.”

“But it’s a breach of my contract,” I responded. “I’m going to lose my crown.”

“So what?” Molly asked, shrugging. “You don’t even want it.”

“That’s not—”

My explanation was interrupted when the door to the dormitory opened and our other roommate, Hattie, entered the room. I think this was actually the fist time I’d ever seen her in our dorm room. Considering she was with her boyfriend 99.9% of the time, we all stared at her in surprise.

“What are you doing here?” Molly asked. Molly hated Hattie, because Hattie was very happy and very blonde. According to Molly “it was unnatural to be that excited all of the time”.

“Good morning to you too!” Hattie said, a wide smile on her lips. Molly narrowed her eyes, while Hattie remained unfazed. “But I do live here. That’s my bed.” With that, Hattie pointed to her bed, which was still perfectly made from when the house elves set up the room at the beginning of the year.

“Don’t you actually have to sleep in a bed for it to count as yours?” Molly asked, unimpressed by Hattie’s explanation.

“Seeing as you never sleep in yours, I thought you’d be more understanding,” Hattie said, her smile still perfectly in tact. Molly crossed her arms and scoffed, but I couldn’t help but feel Hattie had a point. Hattie then turned to me. “Anyway, the reason I’m herd is because Headmistress Chang sent me. She said to go to her office immediately.”

My stomach twisted. This could not be good.

“Did she say why?” I asked, even though I already knew. There was no way my mum hadn’t seen the artcle. She was probably in hysterics.

“No, she just said to get you,” Hattie responded, shrugging her shoulders. Then she walked over to her bed, grabbed the last pillow that was on there off of it, and walked out of the dorm. I guess the last three pillows she had brought to her boyfriend’s room hadn’t been enough.

“I really bloody hope they break up,” Molly stated simply, once Hattie was out of earshot.

“Me too,” I said even though I normally don’t condone Molly’s negative thinking. Then, I voiced the one thought that had been going through my mind all day. “I’m fucked.”

Molly, Rose, and Dom all looked at me in shock. Well not Molly. Molly had more of a look of pride.

“You’ve finally cursed!” Molly announced, clapping her hands together in excitement. “Never thought I’d see the day!”

“Oh, shove off,” I snapped, shocking even myself with my tone. But I just couldn’t deal with this right now. I couldn’t deal with Molly acting like this was all a game, and I couldn’t deal with Rose and Dom looking at me like I was off to the gallows. My life was spinning out of control, when all I wanted was for everything to slow down.

And so instead of apologizing for my tone like I normally would have done, I stomped out of the dorm, leaving everyone staring after me.

I guess this is what it felt like to throw a hissy fit.

*

Almost as quickly as I’d thrown my hissy fit, I’d ended it. I knew getting mad wasn’t going to do anyone any good, and instead I was filled with this eerie sense of calm. I knew nothing good was going to come out going to Headmistress Chang’s office, so all I could do was walk with a sense of determination. Before I could reach her office though, I was interrupted by someone calling my name.

It was James. He was walking towards me as casual as ever, looking like there hadn’t just been an article published about us that I was pretty sure the whole school was gossipping about. James took his time arriving in front of me, and once he did he grabbed my hand and pulled me off to a side hallway that I hadn’t noticed before.

I looked up at James inquisitively, not saying anything.

“Hi,” he said finally.

“Hi?” I responded, because I didn’t know why he had pulled me into this side hallway in the first place. I also was painfully aware of how close we were to one another, and I didn’t know what that meant. James and I were not a couple, despite what the newspapers said. Right?

However just as I was about to open my mouth again and ask James why he had pulled me into the corridor, he brought his forefinger underneath my chin and tilted my head up to kiss me.

And yes, I kissed him back. Despite the fact that it probably wasn’t a very good idea. But I figured I was already a dead person walking, so I might as well enjoy the feeling of James’ lips against mine while I could.

James pulled away and brought his hand down from my chin to my hand, interlacing his fingers through mine. I felt my heart flip in my chest. “This is all my fault.”

I tilted my head, confused. “What is?”

James didn’t say anything; he just looked at me. Suddenly, it dawned on me that he was talking about the article. So he had seen it. I bit my bottom lip.

“It’s not your fault,” I said after a moment. It wasn’t his fault. If anything it was mine. I had blatantly disobeyed my orders as Miss Teen Witch and then had it plastered all over a newspaper. This was all on me.

“It is though,” James continued. He looked unsure whether he wanted to explain something to me, but then decided to move forward with it anyway. “Lily told me that Fiona released the pictures to The Daily Prophet.”

I felt a lump form in the pit of my stomach. I guess I should have expected this. Fiona did warn me that if I didn’t back off of James, something like this would happen.

James was still looking at me, as though he was trying to figure out what I was thinking. He looked worried. I guess he was expecting me to be mad at him and blame him for everything. I didn’t. Instead, I shrugged.

“It’s still not your fault,” I responded to James and then, because I knew everything had already been shot to hell at this point, I leaned in and kissed him again. Quickly though. I was becoming aware that getting into this conversation had sidetracked me from where I was supposed to be. “But I have to go. I’ve been requested for a meeting in the Headmistress’s office. I think my mum’s here.”

James’ grip on my hand tightened as if he didn’t want to let me go, and my heart flipped again. It was a good thing he couldn’t see how I felt, because I’d be thoroughly embarrassed by now.

“Alright,” James said, nodding his head. A frown pinched his forehead, as though he wanted to say more. But instead of saying anything he leaned in again to give me another kiss. One that made my chest feel heavy and full and aching with something I couldn’t quite place. It was almost like James was telling me goodbye. When he pulled away he leaned his forehead against mine. “Just… do what you want to okay? Not what anybody else wants.”

I knew this was his last piece of advice for me. It was my decision where to go from there. So I nodded my head and forced a smile at him before letting go of his hand and turning away. As soon as he couldn’t see my face anymore my smile dropped, and I felt my stomach sink. There was a sick feeling threatening to erupt from the back of my throat that I swallowed down.

His advice was a lot easier said than done.


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A/N: Alright, so I kind of owe you guys a huge apology. I am very disgusted with myself for how long it took me to get this chapter out to you. My updates with this story have been terrible, and I have no excuse.

However, on to the good news: Not only am I done with my first year of college (yay!!), but I am also three chapters ahead. I actually had this chapter finished a couple weeks ago, but I held off on posting it until I was sure I wouldn't have to make you guys have another long wait. There are only 5-6 chapters left of this story, so I promise you that it will definitely be done before summer ends.

So, please, please review so that I know I do still have people reading this story. I am also almost completely caught up with my review responses, so I promise you I will respond to whatever review you decide to leave. Whether it be a good review or a critical one, I am always happy to hear what people think!

Also a fun fact! I was looking through my outline for this story and reading what I had written for all of my characters, and this is what I had written for Gryffin:

Gryffin the Gryffindor- One of James’s friends? Beater.

Literally. That's all I had. And somehow he ended up being my favorite character. Besides Molly. What do you think of the two of them by the way? And what do you think of the chapter?

Alright well this author's note is just embarrassingly long at this point. Basically, I just want to let you know you can trust me to finish the story, and I swear you'll never have to wait this long for another chapter again.

-Rebecca

Chapter 19: I'm Sorry
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As it turned out, I wasn’t facing my mother. I was facing something much worse. Georgiana Spectre was sitting behind Headmistress Chang’s desk, having shoved the headmistress off into the corner (I think it was safe to say I’d never actually seen Headmistress Chang behind her own desk, since I signed up to go to Hogwarts), and was staring at me with calculating eyes.

My mother, of course, was also there. And she was standing behind Georgiana, looking like a wingwoman, which I’m sure she was. Her arms were crossed and she was wearing her all black business suit. This, I knew, was not a good sign.

“So,” Georgiana stated, after I had sat down. I noticed that she was now flipping through the Daily Prophet, her cat-eyed glasses perched on her nose as her red nails clawed through the pages. “How would you like to explain… this?” With that she held the newspaper up, her nose wrinkled slightly.

I inspected the picture of James and I closely. His hands were wrapped around the small of my back, pulling me close to him as he kissed me, and you could just make out the ghost of a smile on both of our faces. It was hard to believe I’d been that happy not even twenty-four hours ago.

“It’s really not what it looks like,” I responded lamely.

“So then you didn’t attend a party,” Georgiana said, pointing to the picture in question, “and you didn’t kiss that boy?” She pointed to the other one.

“I…. Well yes I did but—”

Georgiana held her hand up, effectively stopping me. She then pursed her lips and clasped her hands together.

“There’s going to be a train going through Hogsmeade today at three. You have the next couple of hours to pack up your things and say goodbye. Headmistress Chang has already informed your teachers that you will no longer be a student here, and your old tutor is ready to resume her position.”

My stomach, which had already been in knots, suddenly twisted extra tight.

“But, I thought I wasn’t leaving until December,” I said, feeling myself panic. I couldn’t leave. Not yet.

“Yes, well, I thought you wouldn’t breach the contract,” Georgiana responded simply. “If you want to keep your crown, I suggest you cooperate. We’re going to have to do major damage control the rest of this month to improve your image. Boy crazy partiers are not the best role models for young girls.”

It seemed unfair to me that out of all the time at Hogwarts I spent working hard and making good grades, the only thing anybody would be able to take out of it was the article. An article that portrayed me in a light that was so far from who I am it was almost funny.

I finally looked at my mother, who was staring at me and nodding her head, silently conveying to me that I needed to agree with Georgiana. I didn’t want to agree with Georgiana though. I really, truly didn’t. And all I could think about were the words that James had said to me before I entered this office.

And for a split second, I wanted to argue. I wanted to tell Georgiana about all of the changes I had undergone while I went here that I thought were for the better. I wanted to tell her to shove it and find James and kiss him a million more times. But as soon as the thought came, it went. I knew that despite the fact that I had tricked myself into thinking I could be this newer version of myself, I would always fall back into who I really am.

“I understand,” I said slowly, my voice feeling empty as I spoke. “I’m sorry for making your company go through this. I will do whatever you need me to do to repair Miss Teen Witch’s image.”

Georgiana smiled. A smile I only saw when I felt like doing anything but.

“Well, we’re done here. I’ll see you at the train station, and then we’re going to head right to your first interview to start fixing your image. Your mother will fill you in as she helps you pack, right Miranda?”

“Of course,” my mother said, making my chest grow hollow. My mother helping me pack would make explaining to everyone that I was leaving that much more difficult. I don’t even think I fully grasped the fact that the place that had now become my home was being taken away from me.

I watched as Georgiana stood up from the desk, and walked over to the fireplace, not even thanking Headmistress Chang for letting her hijack her office. Without even so much as a goodbye she was already flooing away, leaving what felt like destruction in her wake.

Headmistress Chang cleared her throat.

“I think I’ll just wait outside,” she said after a moment, shooting me a look of sympathy. It seemed like those were the only looks she ever gave me. Neither my mother nor I said anything as she walked out of her office, letting the door click softly behind her.

It was silent.

“Well,” my mother said, not looking me in the eye as she walked towards the door to the office, “we should get to your dorm. We don’t have much time to pack.”

“Mum,” I began, reaching out to catch her elbow as she passed, but she shook me off. Instead she turned around, and I noticed then how… lost she looked. “I’m sorry, okay?”

My mother whirled back around, looking at me like she didn’t know who she was, let alone who I was anymore.

“You didn’t quit the Quidditch team like I asked,” was her response. As though this was the biggest betrayal yet. And to her it probably was. “You’ve never disobeyed me like that before.”

I felt the beginnings of a lump form in my throat. One that I knew I couldn’t swallow down, so instead I looked at the floor and blinked a couple of times.

“I know and I’m sorry. I just…” My voice cracked and I winced. This was a sign of weakness. “Please don’t make me leave here.”

I waited as my mother pinched the bridge of her nose before releasing and looking back at me.

“You have to, Natasha,” my mother said, and I realized it was the first time in a long time she’d called me by my full name. I didn’t like the sound of it one bit. “It’s either this, or everything we’ve worked for.”

The way she said it was as though leaving was the obvious choice. But to me it wasn’t. To me, it seemed even more obvious that I should stay.

“What if I want this?” I said to my mum, and it was after I said this that I immediately wanted to take it back. My mum immediately looked as though I’d slapped her across the face, hurt evident.

“What are you trying to say Nata?” My mum asked in a small voice, like her entire world was hanging by one fraying thread.

I’m trying to say I don’t want this. I’m trying to say that I never wanted this.

But I couldn’t say that. She already looked shattered enough as it was. And even though I had thought that everything I had done at school was something to be proud of, it was evident to my mother that it wasn’t.

“Nothing,” I said immediately, shaking my head. “I’m sorry, it’s just, I wasn’t prepared to leave so soon. But I’ll manage.”

My mom looked relieved after I spoke. “It’s understandable. But honey, we’re lucky that Georgiana is still giving us a chance.”

“Yeah,” I echoed, but the only thing I could focus on were the words James had said to me right before I came here. The explosion that he had caused in my chest from his last kiss had now morphed into lead. “Lucky.”

Then my mother opened the door to the office and left, me following quickly behind her. I ended up having to take the lead as I wordlessly showed her the way to my dormitory. I noticed a couple of people that were loitering in the hallway openly staring at me and my mother as we passed, and I figured this would just be more gossip for them to spread through the Howarts grapevine.

The dorm was surprisingly empty when I entered it. I figured it was for the best. I knew if I saw Dom or Molly or Rose I would probably start crying and that definitely wasn’t something I wanted to happen. I at least wanted to have some semblence of control, seeing as I’d now lost all of mine. It really was quite the shame.

My mum looked around the dorm, noticing all the pillows on the floor and the food that was scattered everywhere from our foodfight the night before. She wrinkled her nose.

“Oh, Tash, I can’t believe you’ve been living in conditions like this,” my mother said distastefully. “You should have told me how bad it’s been here. I’d have requested you to have a single.”

I didn’t bother responding to my mum. There was no way I was going to try and explain myself to her. I was already being taken away from the one place that had really felt like home. Having her bash everything about this place would just be torture.

So, I pulled out my wand and started packing my trunk. However, I didn’t pay much attention to packing. Instead, I thought about Dom. And Molly. And Rose. And Gryffin. And Scorpius. And Freddy.

Crap. They were going to hate me for leaving.

I also thought about James. But I always thought about James so it wasn’t really that much different than normal. It’s just instead of the very happy, warm feeling I usually got when I thought about James, I felt really sick and sad and like I had something very large lodged in my throat.

Halfway through my packing I had to stop thinking about him. It hurt too much.

“Natasha, what is all this?” my mum asked when I was almost done, holding up a paper bag siting on top of my dresser. The bag was full of all of the muggle toys I’d bought with James yesterday. She pulled out one of the packages of silly putty and wrinkled her nose again.

“Oh. That. It’s stupid,” I said, feeling really guilty even though I knew James couldn’t hear me. “Just some muggle toys I got with a friend.”

My mum still looked confused. “But this is for people much younger than you.”

“I know,” I said, nodding my head quickly. I waved my wand again and more clothes flew into my trunk. “But sometimes it’s fun to do childish things, even when you know you’re too old for it.”

My mum looked very worried by my explanation. I then realized I was repeating words Dom had said, and seeing as my mum disagreed with everything Dom stood for, this couldn’t be good. It was time for damage control.

“Not that I do that,” I said quickly.

My mum still looked at me skeptically. “Okay, well, then I’m sure you’ll have no problem with us throwing these things out…”

I panicked. Throwing them out would be like getting rid of the memories of what I was now thinking may have been the best day of my life.

“No!” Then I realized I sounded way too eager and I cleared my throat. “I mean, no that’s okay. We should keep them.”

“But Nata,” My mum began. “I hardly think you’ll have any free time to be using this stuff. It’ll just be a distraction. You do realize you have a reputation you need to redeem.”

I pressed my lips together. My mum began to walk towards the trashcan in the room, and before I could say anything more she had thrown away all of the muggle toys James and I had bought together. I stared at the silly putty that was in the trashcan and yet again had to hold back tears.

I turned around and waved my wand, collecting the last things of mine in the room. I now wanted to leave as fast as I could. I knew I wouldn’t make it much longer.

“Okay, I’m all packed,” I said, forcing a smile. My mum nodded her head, pleased.

“Well then, looks like we should get going,” my mum responded, and I began to trail behind her lugging my trunk with me as we made our way out of the room. Right when we were about to enter the stairwell, I looked back behind me at my now empty bed. I knew after I was officially out of the school, the houselves would evaporate it and the last proof that I had been here would be gone.

“Wait,” I said to my mum. My mum stopped in her tracks and arched an eyebrow at me. “I have to leave a note. So my roommates don’t wonder where I am.”

“Nata, I’m sure they won’t worry. You can just owl them later,” but I didn’t listen. Instead I walked into the room over to Dom’s nighstand, and opened the drawer where I knew she stashed her quills and parchment. I wrote quickly, while my mother tapped her foot.

I have to leave. I’ll miss you all. You’re the best friends I’ve ever had. I hope Scorpius doesn’t kill me. Also, give this to James.

And then, because I was feeling extra daring, I ran back to the garbage can and took out one of the things of silly putty. Luckily my mum wasn’t watching me anymore and was instead checking her watch and continuing to tap her foot.

I quickly took a separate piece of parchment, scrawled out what I wanted to say to James, and then took the silly putty out of it’s container and pressed it against the ink. The message came out backwards, because I’m an idiot and forgot that that happened with silly putty, so I had to pull out my wand and fix the message so that it was legible.

I then crumpled up the paper I had written James’ message on and stuffed it in my pockets, just leaving the silly putty message on top of Dom’s bed along with the note I’d written for her, Rose, and Molly.

“Okay, I’m ready,” I said to my mum, walking back to where she was waiting. She let out a sigh of relief.

“Finally. We really can’t miss this train, I don’t know what you’re thinking,” my mother babbled, but I didn’t listen. Instead, I thought over and over again about the message I had written for James.

I’m sorry.

*

Upon arrival at the train station in Hogsmeade, my mother and I were greeted by a smiling Georgiana.

Great.

“Natasha, right on time I see,” Georgiana stated with a smile. Although to me her smiles never seemed to convey happiness. More like pleasure at being able to control people (in this case, said person was me). “It’s a start.”

I didn’t say anything. My grip tightened on the handle of my trunk, and I continued to stare at the traintracks before us, waiting for the train that I never wanted to come.

Georgiana didn’t seem to sense the fact that I didn’t want to talk to her or anyone really, so she continued speaking. “Tomorrow morning I’ve scheduled an interview with the Daily Prophet to explain the pictures, so you’ll have to be up extra early then so that we can go over what you’re going to say.”

I nodded glumly. It was easier to interpret that Georgiana was now taking over my mother’s usual position. I guess she didn’t trust my mum to be in charge of me anymore, considering what happened. I looked at my mum and noticed she was staring absently across the traintracks.

“You also are going to be doing volunteer work at St. Mungo’s Magical Addictions Recovery and Rehabilitation Center three times a week. We need to make sure everyone understands that you have zero tolerance for drinking, despite the fact that you were pictured doing so.”

I decided not to bother arguing over the fact that I did not drink. I just attended the party, because I was on the Quidditch team. Which I shouldn’t have been on in the first place according to my mum. So I guess I still was to blame.

“And of course we’ll need to start getting you prepped for your world tour. You leave in a month and there’s so much to do.”

I frowned. I had almost forgotten about the tour. Which was stupid because that was going to be taking up a year of my life.

“Something wrong?” Georgiana asked, noticing my frown.

I blinked, looking up at her and shaking my head. “No. It’s nothing. I guess I just didn’t realize how close we were to the tour.”

Georgiana smiled. “Yes, it’s going to be so exciting, isn’t it?”

I bit my lip. I then realized that Georgiana was looking at me expectantly for an answer and nodded. “Yeah.”

There was silence after that. I’m not sure if Goergiana was able to pick up on the fact that I didn’t want to talk, or if she just had nothing more to say to me, but either way I was grateful.

Ten minutes later, the train arrived at Hogsmeade station, it’s scarlet laquer glittering in the sun. I was overcome with a feeling of nostaligia for when I’d first seen it. At that time, I’d been escaping. This time, I’d be getting on it to return to the life I’d wanted to get away from.

Georgiana got on the train, then my mother, leaving me the only one standing on the platform. As soon as I stepped on the train, I turned back around to look out over the station. It was then that an unmistakeable figure caught my eye.

And yes, it was James. He was leaning against one of the columns on the Hogsmeade platform, and I almost didn’t see him through the shadow the column cast. But since I was hyper aware of everything James did, I saw him clear as day.

He noticed me notice him, but made no gesture of acknowledgement. His mouth stayed in a straight line, his eyes as closed off as the first time I’d seen him, and his arms were crossed. He was watching me. Silently conveying I had to be the one to make the move.

I wasn’t going to. Make the move I mean. I wasn’t who he thought I was.

So, I slowly, so slowly it wouldn’t be noticed by anyone but James, shook my head from side to side. As soon as I did this, the train’s sliding doors came to a close, and there was now glass along with distance between us.

“Natasha,” my mum said, causing me to whip my eyes away from the door and look at her. “Come on, we have a compartment.”

She grabbed my hand and started to pull me away right as the train gave a lurch to signal it was about to leave the station. I followed my mum to the compartment, but not before looking back once more to see James, still standing and watching me, his eyes filled with a look I’d only ever associated with my mum.

Disappointment.



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A/N: THE END. No I'm totally joking this isn't the end. But I did actually finishing writing the story today, so I'm in that mindset. 4 chapters left! Unless I decide to split one of my super long chapters into ttwo. What do you think I should do?

But anyway, how did you like this chapter? I kind of didn't edit it so hopefully you couldn't tell. What do you think about Tash leaving? What do you think about the fact that James watched her go? Was it sad? I was sad when I wrote it.

Alright, next chapter should be up shortly after this one since it's all written and everything. Ask me some questions about it and maybe I'll give you some hints. Or maybe I won't. We'll see how I feel.

Basically review if you'd like, you guys mean everything to me so I'm always happy to hear your thoughts! XXX
-Rebecca


Chapter 20: Going Through the Motions
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“And lastly, I’m sure you’ve gotten this question a lot,” the interviewer continued, leaning forward. She shot me a conspiritorial look as though we were the best of friends. Which we weren’t. For some reason, all interviewers liked to pretend we were in the hopes I’d give them juicy information. Which I didn’t. “But I have to ask: What’s going on with you and James Potter, son of The Chosen One?”

I already knew she was going to ask this question. It was the question I’d been asked in every interview I’d given since I’d left Hogwarts. And since I’d been asked it so often, I was now able to ignore the lurch in my chest that happened whenever James’ name was mentioned.

I forced a smile. I felt like I was always forcing smiles these days. “He’s just a friend of mine,” I stated simply. I said it in a tone that made it clear I had nothing left to say about him.

The interviewer didn’t seem to pick up on my tone though, because she continued to push the topic. “You two were pictured in a liplock. Seems a little more than just friends, don’t you think?”

The funny thing was, I actually didn’t have an answer. I didn’t even know if James and I were more than friends, and I was one of the people involved in our… whatever it was. We had never really gotten the chance to define anything. And now, we never would.

So, I repeated what Georgiana had instructed me to say whenever the kiss was addressed in an interview, “Pictures aren’t always what they seem. Since you work for a magazine, you should know that.”

The interviewer nodded, as though she understood. Which I found a bit disconcerting because didn’t that mean she was confirming that magazines edited pictures in order to make a story? Wasn’t that illegal? I was tempted to say something but before I could the interviewer closed her notebook with a resounding thwack.

“Well then, those are all the questions I have for you today. Thanks so much for taking the time out of your schedule to talk to us at Bewitched Magazine,” with that the interviewer extended a hand out for me to shake. I complied. The interviewer gave me a toothy grin. “You really are a lovely girl. Great head on your shoulders. No wonder you won.”

I yet again, fake smiled at her, as though I cared what she thought. But in all honesty I didn’t. I didn’t really care about what anybody thought anymore.

It’d been a little over two weeks since I’d left Hogwarts, and ever since I’d felt nothing but empty. It was like I was waiting for a train that was never going to come. I was just going through the motions, and I wasn’t soaking anything in anymore. Every press junket, every interview, every photo shoot was just one big blur.

And the thing is, I was pretty sure this was the same way I’d felt before I’d attended Hogwarts. The mindnumbing nothingness of doing the same thing over and over again. The reliability in that.

But then I’d gone to Hogwarts. I’d actually experienced things and known what it was like to get a choice. It made me realize what I’d been missing all these years. And now, I almost would’ve rathered never going to Hogwarts in the first place. I had been perfectly content with this life—with my life— before then.

However, every time I began to regret attending Hogwarts, I thought of James. And for some reason, I hated the thought of me never getting to know him. It made the emptiness I felt now worth it, as strange as that sounded.

“You did such a wonderful interview, Nata,” my mother said from behind me, interrupting my thoughts and causing me to turn around and face her. She beamed at me with pride, but then quickly frowned as she realized a curl had escaped from my ponytail. She lifted her hand and tucked the curl behind my ear, before smiling again. “There, perfect.”

I cringed. I hated that word. I was not perfect. Not even close.

“Come on,” I said, before my mother could comment on my change of facial expression. “We should go back to the house. It’s been a long day and I want to get enough rest before tomorrow.”

Tomorrow was going to just be more of the same. Interviews, meetings, photo shoots, fake smiles. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

“Of course,” my mother said, glancing at me worriedly. She’d been doing that a lot lately. Looking worried by me. I ignored her looks most of the time. I didn’t like to see her worried. I forced a smile to placate her.

It must’ve worked, because my mum’s shoulders relaxed and she grabbed my hand to lead us over to the fireplace in the room. We both walked into the hearth together, and my mother threw down the floo powder directing us to go back to Winston’s, or as my mum called it: home.

And as we swirled away into a cloud of dust all I could think was that the one place I considered home was the one place I’d never return to again. I think that’s what people called irony.

*

A couple of days later, I was in my room, lying on my bed (I always felt tired nowadays), when I heard a very loud and punctuated crack echo around the house. I sat up quickly, feeling myself grow worried.

My mum was in the kitchen. She had seemed to catch on to the fact that I was not my usual self, and had decided to cook for the first time in her life as an effort to cheer me up. I immediately figured she must have blown something up, despite the fact that she was a muggle. My mum just did not belong in the kitchen.

“Mum?!” I asked, my voice laced with worry as I waited for a response. There wasn’t one.

I quickly pushed myself off my bed and hurried out of my room. I rushed down the stairs two at a time, panicking the whole way that I was going to walk in on my mother, lying in a heap on the kitchen floor.

However, as I reached the bottom floor, I heard voices. One of them, of course, belonged to my mother, and one of them belonged to someone who I was pretty sure could in no way be in my house. It would be impossible.

“Mum?” I asked, finally making it into the kitchen. It was then that I realized that I hadn’t actually imagined Molly’s voice echoing through the house, because I saw her standing in my kitchen, in the flesh, having a conversation with my mum.

This definitely had to be one of the oddest things I’d ever witnessed.

“Nata!” my mother exclaimed, looking excited that I had come downstairs. I guess it had been a while since I’d willingly left my room. Sure, I left the house to fulfill all my Miss Teen Witch duties, but as soon as I got home I headed straight to my room and slept. Or just layed there.

I ignored my mum’s exclamation and kept my gaze trained on Molly. “What are you doing here?”

Molly rolled her eyes. “Obviously I’m here to see you,” Molly answered, her voice caustic. “What else would I be doing here?”

My mother seemed very taken aback by Molly’s tone. I didn’t have the time to explain to my mum that this was just how Molly acted, and even if I did I didn’t think she would understand.

“Right, well, what I meant was why,” I responded. My mother was continuing to watch the two of us intently. Molly seemed to catch on to this. She turned to my mother.

“We’re going to go somewhere else to talk,” Molly stated, not asking for permission. I knew my mum definitely was not used to that.

“Okay,” my mum said, after seeming to think it over for a bit. I think she only agreed because she was happy that I had left my room. And she was probably still shocked that a random teenager who had to be at least six feet tall and full of blunt sarcasm had apparated into her kitchen. My mum then looked at me. “But dinner’s going to be ready in a half an hour Nata so she’ll have to leave then. You know you can’t have guests coming over unannounced.”

“I know,” I responded, not bothering to explain to her that I hadn’t invited Molly over. Molly seemed to wrinkle her nose at my robotic response but for once she didn’t say anything. Instead, she grabbed my arm and pulled me out of the kitchen, opening every door she passed, inspecting the room behind it and then closing the door without entering.

“What are you doing?” I asked and truthfully any answer would’ve satisfied me. Because I was now thoroughly confused. I was also aware of the fact that everything I had said to Molly thus far had come out as a question.

“I’m finding a room I can yell at you in that is properly sound proofed so that your psycho mum will not hear me,” Molly stated simply. She passed by another door, opened it, looked around, made a hum of approval, and then pulled me in after her. She had ended up pulling us into the downstairs loo. What a lovely place for confrontations.

“Molly, why aren’t you at Hogwarts?” I asked after she closed the door behind me, and this seemed like the most important question of all. Hogwarts’ winter break didn’t start until next week, so Molly was technically still supposed to be in school. How had she managed to apparate to my house?

“That really isn’t important right now,” Molly responded, shaking me off. I wanted to argue, because in all honesty it did seem pretty important. I was kind of worried that Molly had broken the law in order to come here, and I knew I couldn’t be caught harboring a criminal. That would effectively ruin what I had left of my Miss Teen Witch image. “What’s important,” Molly continued, “is that you are ruining your life.”

This was one of those moments I didn’t appreciate Molly’s bluntness.

“My life is fine,” I responded, crossing my arms in defense. Old habits die hard. “Great even. I’m living every girl’s fantasy.”

I hated myself as soon as I repeated the words Georgiana had said to me long ago. Molly noticed my change in facial expression, and used this as ammunition to pounce.

“Is that what you tell yourself every night before you fall asleep to feel better?” Molly asked sarcastically. “Because if so, you’re not doing it right. You didn’t even speak with conviction.”

“Molly,” I began, pinching the bridge of my nose as I spoke. She was just so difficult. And with the way Molly was speaking, I could tell she felt the same way about me. “What are you doing here? I’m kind of skating on thin ice with my mum and you’re not helping the situation.”

Molly narrowed her eyes at me. “You do realize, that you will always be skating on thin ice with your mum. And you want to know why?” She didn’t wait for me to respond before answering. “It’s because you and her are two different people, with two separate outlooks on life.”

I sighed. I was not in the mood for this. All I wanted was to go back up to my room, to my insanely comfy bed, and lay there until I had to come down for dinner.

“I don’t have time for this,” I said finally and I made the move to leave the bathroom but Molly was quicker than I was (and taller) so she blocked the doorway.

“I don’t care; you’re going to make time for this,” Molly snapped. “Because despite the fact that you were a major bitch by leaving us all without warning and thinking a stupid note would suffice, we all still care about you.”

I bit my lip. I knew I should’ve at the least said goodbye to them in person. But… it would’ve been too hard. I also noticed the emphasis Molly had put on the word all, and I asked the question I’d been thinking since I’d seen her.

“How is he?”

Molly rolled her eyes at this. I guess I was supposed to say something else, but I didn’t care. “He’s great. Fantastic even. Whatever you wrote to him on that gross chunk of silly putty must have been really inspirational. It kicked him right into gear.”

I was confused. I hadn’t written anything inspirational at all. I had basically admitted to him that I was a failure.

“What do you mean?” I asked, because I now needed Molly to explain.

“I mean,” Molly began with a huff. She really disliked where this conversation was going. I guess I wasn’t following her plan. “That James is back on the Quidditch team and he now speaks to us. So, I guess I should thank you for that small contribution to society.”

“That’s not because of me,” I said quickly.

Molly didn’t look like she believed me. “So you’re saying that it’s a coincidence that the day you left is the day he decided to sit with us at dinner and pretend like he hadn’t been avoiding us like the plague for the past year?”

“I… I don’t know,” I responded, suddenly feeling completely overwhelmed. Nothing was making sense. James was on the Quidditch team. He was talking to his old friends. And Molly thought it was because of me.

She was wrong.

“Look, you don’t have to believe me,” Molly said, noticing my facial expression. “Besides, I’m not here to talk about James. We’re supposed to be talking about you.”

“I don’t want to talk about me,” I responded.

“You never do,” Molly stated. “You always make every conversation about someone else. What about you?”

I didn’t like where this was headed.

“What about me?”

Molly let out a frustrated sigh, before running her hands through her chin length hair. “You can be selfish, Tash. You’re a teenager, not an adult. You’re supposed to be selfish.”

Her brown eyes were trained on me, and I noticed the sincerity in them. Something I rarely saw from Molly. It was like she was trying to get through to me. To get me to see something that I couldn’t.

“I don’t want to be selfish,” I stated finally, and it was the truth.

“Everybody wants to be selfish,” Molly countered. “Whether or not they’re willing to admit it is another story.”

“You’re wrong,” I said, shaking my head at Molly’s words.

“When will you realize that I’m never wrong?” Molly asked, raising her hands up in the air like I was the ridiculous one. “I am the voice of reason. I mean, I may be a huge bitch, but I’m still right.”

I didn’t say anything to this. I didn’t even know what to say. Besides, there was still the possibility that Molly was a criminal. Arguing with her wouldn’t bode well for me.

“Look,” Molly said, calming down since I didn’t respond. “It may not seem like it sometimes, but I really do care about you.” I held back a gasp by biting my lip. “We all care about you. And that is why I came here. I mean just take a look at yourself. You look miserable.”

With that Molly grabbed me by the shoulders and pushed me in front of the bathroom mirror. I had to look away from my reflection quickly because she was right. No wonder my mum had been handling me with child-proofed gloves. I looked like a walking zombie.

“I’m just tired,” I explained, turning away from Molly and walking over to sit on the edge of the tub. I rested my elbows on my knees, and cradled my chin in my hands. “I’ll be okay.”

Molly looked like she didn’t believe me. Which she probably shouldn’t. I didn’t even know if I believed myself. “You’re not even you anymore, Tash. It’s like you’ve collapsed in on yourself.”

If she was trying to make me feel better, this wasn’t the way to do it.

“This is who I am,” I stated, using both of my hands to gesture outwards.

“No it’s not,” Molly said, shaking her head from side to side. “It’s who you choose to be.”

“Is there a difference?”

“There’s always a difference.” Molly’s words reminded me of something James had said to me long ago. Before his disappointed face began to haunt my every thought about him. “You have a choice, Natasha.”

I didn’t know what to say after that, so I didn’t say anything. However, before the silence got to be too long, there was a knocking on the bathroom door.

“Nata?” my mum’s voice called, as she continued to knock on the door. She jiggled the handle to see that it was locked. “Nata, dinner’s ready.”

I looked at Molly. “You should go.”

“Whatever,” Molly said, shaking her head at me as if to signal that she’d given up. “I tried. It’s all up to you now. Just hurry up and realize it before it’s too late.”

Then, before I could say anything, Molly whirled around on the spot and apparated away. I watched the now empty space she had been standing in until my mother knocked on the door again, snapping me out of my daze.

“Nata? Are you in there?”

I stood up and walked over to the bathroom door, unlocking it and opening it so that I was face to face with my mother. Her facial expression was one of extreme worry.

“Yeah, I’m in here. Sorry.”

“Where’s your friend?” My mum asked, seeming confused. If I was her, I would’ve been more confused about the fact that my daughter and one of her friends had chosen to have an important discussion in a bathroom.

“She left,” I responded with a shrug.

My mum seemed satisfied with that answer. I guess she didn’t really care much for Molly. “Well, dinner’s ready,” she repeated. “Also, I’d appreciate it if you warned me next time you invite someone over.”

“I didn’t invite her,” I stated.

“Then why did she come over?” my mum asked.

I shrugged. “That’s just how Molly is.”

My mum clucked her tongue. “How unfortunate.”

“What is?”

“It’s just, she has such great bone structure. It’s a shame that her personality is so… unpleasant.”

I found myself feeling very defensive of Molly’s personality. I mean, yeah she was way too blunt and she never took people’s feelings into consideration before she did something. But if she acted any other way she wouldn’t be— well she wouldn’t be Molly. As much as I could hate how brash she could be, I wouldn’t feel right about her being any other way.

“I like her personality,” I said, making sure to sound noncommittal as I said this. I didn’t want my mum to have another reason to worry about me. “Sometimes she’s a bit too honest, but it’s refreshing.”

My mum seemed to straighten up as I said this, a sign she was dismissing the conversation. “Well, it’s not like it matters anymore,” she murmured, more to herself than to me. “But anyway, we should eat. I made steak for Winston and Insalata Caprese salad for us.”

Another thing I missed about Hogwarts: the food. I had forgotten what it was like to live off of nothing but fancy salads. It wasn’t fun.

“Alright,” I said, forcing a smile. My mother turned around, seeming pleased with herself, and began to walk down the hallway towards the dining room.

I took one more look at the space Molly had been standing in, before I turned around and followed my mum down the hallway.

Everything Molly had said… well it didn’t even matter. No matter what, I would be leaving for a world tour in a few weeks. Even if I went and did whatever it was she wanted me to do, my time would still run out.


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A/N: Hello my lovely readers! Here it is, another chapter! This one's kind of a filler but not really... because important things needed to be said. How did you feel about it being Molly who delivered them?

Also, I thought I'd mention that I found it really fun to put Tash back in interviews like she was in at the start of the story. I felt like I was writing a new person because all her reactions and inner thoughts seemed very different than they would have been without the Hogwarts experience. Hopefully you guys felt that way too?

Alright well please review, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter, and your predictions for the next one?

Oh and I've never actually mentioned this in an author's note before but I do have a meet the author's page if you want to shoot me some questions over there too.

Thanks so much for reading guys, you're rockstars
-Rebecca




Chapter 21: Honesty
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Disclaimer: Anything you recognize is not mine.



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It was Christmas day. The Hogwarts students had been dismissed for winter break two days ago, and nobody besides Molly had made a move to see me. Not that I expected them to. Or hoped.

Alright, maybe I’d hoped just a little. But it was an irrational hope. Because I had already had my one visitor, and I knew that there was nothing left for anyone to say to me anymore.

I guess I had just hoped that Dom would’ve stopped by. She was still my best friend, after all. But I knew she was most definitely cross with me. I had made her many promises, and I had broken them all.

“So, what do you think?” my mum asked, leaning in and looking at me expectantly. I blinked a couple of times, broken out of my reverie. I then looked down at the swishy green dress, which was the exact same color as my eyes, before looking back up at my mum and forcing a smile. Forced smiles were my default setting these days.

“It’s great,” I responded, feigning excitement. My mum seemed to sense my false tone, and I noticed her hopeful expression sink. This made me feel terrible.

“I thought it’d bring out your eyes,” my mum offered, her brown eyes unsure.

It was time for me to do damage control.

“Mum, I love it,” I said again, trying to sound as sincere as possible. “Really.”

My mum seemed appeased by that. I felt myself let out a relieved sigh. It took a lot more to get her to be satisfied lately. She was still very worried about my personality shift. I had caught her checking up on me on more than one occasion, a tiny frown pinched on her forehead every time she did so.

“And thank you, Winston,” I said, turning to Winston who was sitting on the armchair next to the one my mum was sitting on. “Your gift was very—erm— thoughtful.”

Winston had given me a savings bond. I wasn’t surprised, because he did work for Gringotts, but it had been a very odd gift. Still, I wasn’t going to be rude and point that out. Most of my mum’s husbands never even gave me a gift for Christmas. Most of them didn’t even last until then.

“I’m glad you like it, kiddo,” Winston responded, nodding his head appreciatively. “I had to do some finagling, but I got you some of the best interest rates this side of the Atlantic.”

I nodded. My mum beamed at Winston. For some reason, despite the fact that normally she would be tired of her new husband by now, she seemed as in love with him as ever. Who would’ve thought someone as boring as Winston would be the one to captivate her attention the longest?

“They’re talking about promoting Winston to supervisor,” My mum said to me, as though it was a big secret even though she’d already mentioned this about a million times. “So during New Years Eve we have to make sure to act our best so that his bosses don’t change their mind.”

Ah yes, the New Years Eve party. Winston’s bosses were throwing one for all of their employees and family. It was supposed to be a way to talk in a relaxed setting about bonuses and promotions. Winston had asked my mum and me if we wouldn’t mind going, and my mum had jumped at the chance. She was great at schmoozing people (it was in her DNA I’m pretty sure) and she still wanted to try and smooth things over with the people on the Gringott’s board who probably thought I was a flake. I wasn’t excited to attend the party, but I had nothing else to do and I knew it’d make my mum happier.

“Right well, thank you both again for your gifts,” I said, standing up from my position on the floor, right next to our tree. The tree was covered in all white ornaments, because my mum had considered it classier than having a tree covered with ‘a mish mosh of colors’. Secretly I found the all white tree a bit boring and impersonal.

“You’re leaving?” my mum asked, with a frown. “Don’t you want to stay and watch the yule log together?”

The yule log channel was my mum’s favorite thing about Christmas. I didn’t know why, and I didn’t ask. All I knew was that every Christmas for as long as I can remember, my mum would always grab a cup of eggnog and curl up on the couch to watch the yule log. I normally sat with her, despite the fact that I found watching a log burn boring, just to listen to her softly humming along to the music. There was something about how content and relaxed my mum was that made her seem oddly human to me in those moments.

“I will later,” I assured. “I’m just going to rest for a bit and then I’ll be back down. Promise.”

I walked over to my mum and gave her a quick kiss on the forehead. I then gave Winston a nod, and after wishing them another ‘Happy Christmas’ I walked upstairs to my room.

However as soon as I opened the door to my room, I had a feeling that something was wrong. Well… wrong in the sense that something was different or not the way it was supposed to be. I frowned and looked around the room, searching for the disturbance.

My eyes finally rested on the armchair in the corner of my room, which now had an oddly shaped package leaning against it. I walked towards it, my eyebrows knitted together in confusion.

There wasn’t a note. But as soon as I tore open the package, I didn’t need one. Once I opened it, I knew who it was from.

I inspected the broom carefully. The mahogany handle was extra shiny and the birch twigs at the end were trimmed into a neat line. In glittery gold lettering on the side of the broom was the word Firebolt.

I already knew that Firebolt’s were the fastest and the most expensive of brooms. So the fact that this had been given to me, even after I had done nothing to deserve this, made a lump form in my throat.

I just didn’t understand why. Why was he still trying to do things for me?

I bit my lip and blinked a couple of times. Then, I inhaled a breath and grabbed the broom, leaving my room and walking down the stairs. The sound of the yule log music danced its way into my ears. Frosty the Snowman was playing.

“Hey mum, I’m going to go out back for a little,” I called from the kitchen, loud enough so she could hear me over the music. I grabbed my jacket off of the hook by the sliding glass door that led into the backyard and put it on, not waiting for a response.

“What? Why?” My mum called back, alarm in her voice. “Nata it’s freezing out! There’s snow everywhere.”

I heard the sound of her getting up from the couch she was sitting on and quickly opened the sliding door.

“I know, it’s fine I have a jacket,” I responded, before shutting the door behind me as I hurried outside. I was immediately hit with a cold gust of air and shivered. I didn’t let this deter me though, and before my mum could try to stop me I was kicking off the ground and into the sky.

I had forgotten how good it felt to fly. The wind whipping through my air, the jarring sense of weightlessness, the feeling of control I had because only I could dictate where to go. Even though my mum was right and it was freezing out (my teeth were chattering and my fingers were already starting to feel numb), I felt amazing. Better than I’d felt in a long time.

And for the first time in a long time, I felt a genuine smile pulling at my lips.

*

Every free moment I had, I now spent in the backyard flying.

My mum hated it, at first. As soon as she’d caught me flying, she had demanded to know where I’d gotten the broom (I told her it was from Dom, because that answer was easier), told me flying outside in this weather was going to get me sick (It hadn’t… yet), and explained to me that it was very improper for a girl to spend all her time flying (sports were supposed to be for guys, in her opinion).

For once, I hadn’t listened to my mum. I figured this was the one thing I had left that I could call mine. And over the past week my mum actually seemed to be warming up to the idea. Secretly, I think she was just happy I no longer spent all of my time in my room.

“Nata, we’re leaving in a half hour!” my mum called, leaning her head out of the sliding glass dooe so that I could hear her. “You need to get dressed!”

I sighed, slowly descending from my position in the sky and landing softly on the ground. I made the slow trek inside, shaking my broom out before entering, and was soon eveloped by the warmth of the house. I leant my broom against the side of the wall by the door (another thing that bugged my mum, it ruined the aestetic appeal of the kitchen) and hung my jacket up. My nose and cheeks started tingling as they began to warm up.

“Hurry up and get ready, honey,” my mum said. She was standing in the kitchen with her arms crossed, already dressed to the nines. “I can’t believe you flew this long. It’s New Years Eve. Don’t you want a break?”

I didn’t say anything in response to my mum and instead brushed past her and up to my room. I got dressed quickly, pulling on the green dress that my mum had gotten me for Christmas in an effort to appease her. I had to admit that it really did bring out my eyes. After that, I cast some spells to put up my hair, and then I applied a light layer of makeup.

As I began to walk downstairs, I heard a knock on the front door. My mum and Winston were in the sitting room by the fireplace, which was a ways away from the front door, so my mum called out, “Nata can you get that?”

I obliged, curious to see who was knocking on our door on New Years Eve. We rarely had visitors. I guess I almost should’ve expected that when I opened the door, I’d come face to face with Dom, Rose, and Molly.

My eyes widened, and my mouth dropped open in surprise as I stared at the three of them. I tried to speak, but I couldn’t figure out anything to say. I didn’t need to either, because Molly was always the one to break the silences.

“You took too long,” Molly stated simply, as though this explained why they were here, “so I needed to bring reinforcements. Also, why do you look like you’re going to a wedding?”

Then, she pushed past me and into my house. I came to the realization that out of the two times Molly had come over, she hadn’t been invited either time. Dom entered the house right after Molly, and Rose brought up the rear, until finally the three of them were all standing around me in the foyer of the house.

This was going to be interesting to try and explain.

“What— why— I thought-” I began to sputter but I was cut off.

“We’re kidnapping you,” Dom stated simply, pushing her silvery hair over to one shoulder. “And nothing you say can change our minds.”

“Kidnapping me?” I asked, as though it was the most ludicrous idea I’d ever heard. And it was. It suddenly occurred to me that this must have been Dom’s idea. She always tended to lean towards the theatrical side of things. “You can’t kidnap me. I’m about to leave. Winston needs us to go to a New Years Eve party with him for his work.”

“Too bad, we’re kidnapping you anyway,” Molly stated, grabbing me by the arm. I tried to pull my arm away from her, but then Dom and Rose started to help Molly by grabbing my other arm. I tried to shake them off of me, but my struggles were futile considering I had three determined (and slightly crazy) girls making it their mission to not let me go. Just as Molly was about to spin around and probably sidelong apparate me to Merlin-knows-where, I was saved. Sort of.

“Nata, who’s at the door?” my mother’s voice called, carrying out over the hallway. I then heard the unmistakeable clacking of her shoes as she began to walk out of the sitting room, and soon enough she was standing in the foyer, Winston following close behind. She took one look at the scene in front of her, and her mouth dropped open in an ‘o’.

I felt like now was not the time to mention that that had been the same reaction I’d had when I’d seen these three at the door.

Molly quickly let go. So did Dom and Rose. I think they felt sufficiently awkward. I had warned them they couldn’t kidnap me.

“Hello, Mrs. Mackenroe,” Dom began, because she was the only one that had actually met my mum before (well Molly had, but I still didn’t think it counted). “We’re just here to pick up Natasha. She’s going to spend New Years Eve with us.”

With that, Dom linked her arm through mine. I glared at her and tried to shake her off.

My mum pursed her lips. Winston looked like he wanted to disappear from the situation. Maybe he was more intuitive than I’d thought. “Nata, I told you to tell me the next time you planned on having company over.”

“I’m sor—”

“It’s not her fault,” Rose said, coming to my defense. I could tell that, unlike the other two, she actually felt semi-bad about coming here unannounced. “We wanted to surprise Tash since she’s leaving next week. We thought it would be like a goodbye hang out.”

My mum did not seem placated by this. I knew I was definitely going to get repremanded as soon as they left.

“I’m sorry, but Natasha is otherwise engaged,” my mum responded in a clipped tone. She then gave me a knowing look. “Now come on, we need to be leaving.”

I made a move to walk over to my mother, right as Winston decided to speak.

“Miranda, it’s okay if Natasha wants to see her friends,” he said, putting a hand on my mum’s shoulder. “It’s not required that she go.”

“But she is going,” my mother responded. I would’ve found it odd that they were speaking about me as though I wasn’t there, if it weren’t for the fact that their conversation was basically determining how my night would go. “She made a commitment. She needs to honor it.”

“Oh, just let her have fun,” Winston tried again, giving her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “I’m sure she doesn’t want to hang out with a bunch of old bankers anyway.”

“Winston, she is coming!” my mother snapped. “Don’t tell me how to parent my child.”

I noticed Winston recoil at this. I guess she’d hit him with the ‘my child’ card to make it clear to him that he had no say in my parenting. I found myself feeling bad for him. Mostly because the reason he was getting yelled at was because of me.

“Now, Natasha,” my mum continued, reaching a hand out to urge me towards her. The foyer was now deadly silent, nobody daring to speak. “It’s time to leave.”

I looked back at Rose, Dom, and Molly and muttered an apology to them, before I stepped away and joined my mother. Just as we were about to leave the room to go to the fireplace, there was another outburst.

“But she can’t go!” Dom exclaimed, clearly deciding she needed to take control of the situation. This caused my mum and Winston to turn around in shock. I cringed. Dom really had a flare for the dramatics. “What if… What if we said this was in the name of love?”

Molly let out a gag at this. Rose elbowed her in the side. I felt my face heat up and found myself fascinated with the floor.

“Love?” My mother asked, tilting her head to the side. She seemed skeptical. I didn’t blame her.

“Yes,” Dom said, nodding her head like an overzealous chipmunk. “True love. The stuff they write about in story books.”

I cringed again. Dom was definitely overexaggerating things.

“What Dom means to say,” Rose began, deciding that Dom was not the best person to articulate their thoughts. “Is that we would really like it if you would let Natasha come with us. Please.”

My mum looked at me. I avoided eye contact. “Natasha, what are they talking about?”

“Nothing,” I responded quickly. I definitely didn’t want to explain any of this to her. “It’s not important.”

“Not important?” Molly asked, looking at me incredulously. I could tell by her tone that my words had offended her, and I knew that offending Molly could not lead to anything good. I braced myself. “So you’re trying to say that the one thing that’s made you happy throughout your shitshow of a life is not important?”

My mum was most definitely taken aback by Molly’s tone and language. Too taken aback to speak. I noticed Dom and Rose look at Molly as though she was not helping the situation, and they were right. She wasn’t.

“My life is fine,” I responded calmly, because nobody else was saying anything. Besides, Molly’s words had been directed at me. I looked at my mum who still seemed stunned. “We should go.”

“For the love of Merlin, Tash, you’re life is not fine!” Molly exclaimed, walking up to me with an expression of pure anger and frustration. She pointed at me threateningly, and I hated to admit it but I was slightly terrified. “You are miserable, and you know it!”

“Molly, maybe you should calm down,” Rose warned.

I tried to back away, but Molly wouldn’t have it. She grabbed me by the shoulders and started to shake me. “Wake UP Natasha! You hate your life! You hate pageanting! All you do is complain about how much it sucks and how you have no freedom to do what you want and how controlling your mum is! But you want to know something? This is all! Your! Fault!”

Molly stopped shaking me once she was done speaking, and I tried to regain my composure while the entire room remained eerily silent. Everyone was weighing over Molly’s words, silence veiling the place in a foggy blanket.

“Natasha… you don’t like pageanting?” My mum finally asked, her voice very small. I could tell she had wanted to ask me about the other thing Molly had mentioned, but she didn’t have the heart to.

I opened my mouth. Then I closed it. Then I opened it again.

“She hates it,” Dom said quietly. She sent me an apologetic look “She’s wanted to quit for ages.”

My mum looked at me again, and I finally met her eyes. By the hurt etched across my mother’s face, I knew the one thing I had been trying to prevent from happening, happened. I had tried for so long to keep this secret from her, but now here it was coming out. I guess all of my efforts had been for nothing.

“Mum, I—” I began to say, but my mother cut me off.

“You should go.” She didn’t say it in a mean way. She said it in a sad way. Like she had been holding onto me for so long, but she finally realized she had to let me go.

“But—”

“Go,” my mother said again, with more power behind it. Then she grabbed Winston’s hand and forced a smile at him. “Come on, we’re going to be late.”

I then watched as my mother and Winston left the foyer to head back to the sitting room, and soon enough I heard the wooshing of floo powder as they flooed to Winston’s work party.

There was a long silence as I let everything that had just happened seep in.

“I can’t believe you guys just did that,” I said finally, still watching the now empty space my mother and Winston had been standing in previously.

“I can,” Molly stated unabashedly. At least Dom and Rose had the decency to look guilty. “Someone had to say it, and you weren’t about to. Now come on, we have to go.”

“But I need to talk to my mum,” I began, suddenly feeling the panic set in. “Didn’t you see how hurt she was? I need to make sure everything’s okay!”

“You can do that later,” Molly said, grabbing my hand as she began to spin around on the spot. Rose also began to spin around to apparate, her arm linked with Dom’s. I guess Rose had finally gotten her apparation license while I was gone. It’s funny how much you could miss in a couple of months. “Right now, we have to find James.”

I didn’t have time to protest. I didn’t even know if I wanted to. The only thing I could think as we apparated away was that maybe Molly was right. Maybe this was all my fault.

*

If I had thought that the house my mum and Winston lived in was big, it was nothing compared to the house that we were now in front of. Because this house was massive. So massive in fact, that the idea of finding James inside of it seemed like one big joke.

“Fuck,” Molly said, once we were standing on the front steps. She was looking me up and down as she spoke. “I forgot how awful you look. You can’t talk to James looking like that.”

I crossed my arms defensively. I didn’t think I looked bad per se. I just happened to look like I was about to go to a New Years Eve party hosted by bankers. Which was what I was supposed to be doing.

“Molly, don’t be rude,” Rose chastised. “She looks fine.”

“She looks like she’s a forty year old office worker.”

“Maybe you should let your hair down, Tash,” Dom stated, tapping her chin as she inspected me, clearly trying to fix the problem Molly had pointed out. “You look too done up.”

“Well that’s because I’m supposed to be somewhere else,” I spat back at her. I instantly regretted being so childish, but I couldn’t help but feel bitter. They had basically just ruined my relationship with my mum, and now they expected me to listen to them?

“Natasha, don’t be difficult,” Rose said, giving me a serious look. I had to hide my shock. Rose never chastised me.

“I’m not being difficult,” I argued. “And even if I was I have a reason to be. You guys totally ambushed me!”

“Well that’s not our fault,” Molly commented. “If you had listened to what I’d said when I visited you last, we would not have had to ambush you.”

“I did listen!” I said, pinching the bridge of my nose in frustration.

“No, you didn’t,” Molly responded. “If you’d listened then we wouldn’t have had to be the ones to tell your mum you hate pageanting.”

“You should never have been the ones to tell her,” I shot back, and suddenly I was holding back a lump in my throat. “It should have been me.”

And as I said it, I knew it was true. My friends should not have been the ones to tell my mum how I felt. I should’ve let her know from the start.

“Tash,” Dom said, stepping towards me slowly. “Look I know it’s hard, okay? But your mum… she knows now. That’s the most important thing.”

I thought of Dom and her mum. I wondered how hard it must have been for her to tell Fleur she wanted to quit pageanting. I also wondered how my best friend always managed to be so strong.

“You’re right,” I said after a moment. I noticed Dom’s shoulders seem to relax at my words. Molly and Rose also seemed to visibly exhale. “But I still think this was a bad idea.”

“Are you saying that you don’t want to see James?” Rose asked, looking at me pointedly.

I was silent. I did want to see James. Of course I did. I’d wanted to see him since he’d disappeared from view at the Hogsmeade station over a month ago.

“It’s just… What’s the point?” was my response. “I’m leaving in less than a week to go on a year long tour. Whatever happens… it doesn’t matter.”

“It always matters,” Dom replied, putting a hand on my shoulder. “Besides, you probably won’t even have to do the yearlong tour anymore. Your mum already knows you hate pageanting, so breaking this news to her shouldn’t be a surprise.”

“But—”

“Look,” Molly said, putting her hands on her hips. I guess she was tired of all the talking. “Do you love James?”

That was a loaded question. I’d never even kissed anyone before I’d kissed James. So how was I supposed to know if I loved him? I didn’t know what love was.

But… well… wasn’t love about a feeling? And I knew whenever I was with James, I felt something. Something bigger than me. Something that made me able to tell him things I couldn’t tell anybody else. Something that made me feel safe and happy and—

“Yeah, I do,” I found myself saying before I could stop myself. And once I spoke I realized it was probably the most honest I’d been with myself in a while. “I love him.”

“Then you need to tell him,” Dom stated, beaming after I spoke. “He loves you too.”

“He said that?” I asked, suddenly feeling taken aback. I couldn’t imagine James telling someone how he felt. With him, you just have to understand. He doesn’t spell things out for you.

“No,” Rose answered. “But it’s obvious.”

“How?”

“It just is,” Molly snapped, tired of the conversation. “Now go in there and tell him. And take your hair down. I mean, you do want him to say it back, right?”

I glared at Molly, but I did listen to her. I unpinned my hair from its complicated hairstyle, until it was hanging in loose waves down my back.

“Good,” Dom nodded in approval. She put her hand on the doorknob to the house, but then paused. “By the way, try not to bump into Fiona.”

“She’s here?” I asked, feeling myself panic. Why was Fiona here?

“This is her house,” Molly stated. “She’s the only one who threw a New Years Eve party this year. I guess nobody else wanted to because of the last one…”

As she trailed off, I suddenly remembered that this was now the one year anniversary of Nate’s death. I looked at Rose. She offered me a weak smile.

“Why is James here then?” I asked. “Why would he go out and celebrate on the day that…” I didn’t finish my statement. It felt insensitive in front of Rose.

“Because it’s exactly what Nate would want,” Rose said, smiling sadly. “Nate would kill James if he knew he didn’t go to this party. He lived for parties.”

“Maybe I should tell him how I feel on another day though,” I began unsurely.

“No,” Molly snapped. “You’ve made him wait long enough.”

And then before I could argue any further, Dom flung open the door to as Molly pushed me inside.

The inside of Fiona’s house was even bigger than it looked from the outside. The foyer lead straight into what could only be described as a grand ballroom and the entire room was packed with people dancing and celebrating the New Year. There was a long table on the side of the room with punch and other beverages, and in the corner was a DJ booth, which was blasting the latest wizard pop music.

“Molly!” a voice slurred almost as soon as we entered. We all turned to where the voice came from to see an already drunk Gryffin stumbling out of the crowd. His curly blonde hair was mussed up, and his eyes were shiny. “There you are!”

Molly wrinkled her nose and crossed her arms. “How are you already drunk? The party started an hour ago!”

“An hour I spent missing you. I had to drink to numb the pain,” Gryffin stated, wrapping both his arms around her before giving her a sloppy kiss on the cheek. I looked at Dom and Rose with a mix of confusion and shock.

“A lot has changed since you left,” Dom stated, so that only I could hear.

“Ugh could you sound any more pathetic?” Molly responded, wiggling herself out of Gryffin’s hug as she glared at him and wiped her cheek. Maybe not much had changed. “Come on, let’s makeout. I can’t listen to you say anything that stupid ever again.”

And then Molly grabbed Gryffin by the hand and began dragging him out of the room, probably in search of a place where they could snog without anybody seeing. I noticed Gryffin groping her and giving her random kisses on the cheek their entire journey out of the room. It was almost… cute?

“So are they… dating?” I asked.

“I think so,” Dom said, albeit unsurely. “I’m too afraid to ask.”

“Someone should,” I stated.

“Their relationship isn’t of the importance right now,” Rose said calmly. She looked at me pointedly. Right. “You need to find James.”

I bit my lip.

“Any idea where he’d be?” I asked. There seemed to be about a million people here, so finding James was going to be tricky. At least that made my chances of bumping into Fiona slim.

“Probably somewhere quiet,” Dom said with a shrug. “He may have come to the party, but he’s still not much of a partier.”

I nodded my head.

“Alright, well, I’ll see you guys,” I said, giving the two of them a salute. The hallway that led to the rest of the house was on the other side of the room, so I was going to have to make my way through the large mass of people if I was going to find James. Dom and Rose both wished me luck as I stepped forward, quickly getting swallowed up by the crowd.

Okay. I could do this. Or—at the very least— I could try.

*

“Ohmigod!”

“Natasha? Is that you?!”

“Ohmigod it is!”

There were two loud squeals, and suddenly I was being enveloped in a four-armed hug. I looked down to see none other than Lucy and Lily, their brown and red hair mixing together as they squeezed the living daylights out of me. When the two of them let go of me and stepped away, I found myself reel in shock.

Neither of them were wearing pink.

“We missed you so much!” Lily began, smoothing down the front of her navy dress as she bounced on the balls of her feet. I continued to stare at her with wide eyes. It felt so weird to see Lily in a color other than pink. “I can’t believe you left! I’m so, so sorry about the article. If I had known Fiona was going to do what she did I totally would have stopped her!”

“Yeah,” Lucy said in agreement, nodding her head with vigor. Her dress was silver. “But don’t worry. We, like, totally overthrew her. We told all the girls on the pepsquad what she’d done, and we voted her off the squad!”

My eyes widened even more. Fiona not on the pepsquad… That was unimaginable.

“Everyone thought it was totally gross what she’d done,” Lucy continued, noticing my baffled expression. “And totally desperate. Not that she wasn’t before. But now everyone could see it. Like, we totally defended your honor.”

“Um,” I began, but then I realized I didn’t know what to say. This was a lot of information to take in. Especially while I was still trying to grasp the fact that they weren’t wearing pink. “Thanks?”

“It’s no problem!” Lily replied with a mega watt smile. “We even got promoted to co-captains!”

“Wow that’s…” I trailed of again. “That’s something.”

“I know!” Lily exclaimed, clapping her hands together. Then she frowned. “But wait, why are you here? Did Fiona invite you?”

“Er…. No,” I said, trying to figure out what to say. “I’m actually here to find—”

My explanation was cut off by another squeal. Then Lily flung herself at me again.

“Ohmigosh you’re totally going to profess you’re love to James!” Lily shouted as she kept me in her vicelike grip. She was surprisingly strong for such a tiny girl. She was also surprisingly perceptive. How did she know I came to see James? “This is amazing! Perfect!”

“Ohmigod! We’re going to be cousins-in-law!” Lucy added, looking just as excited. “This is like a dream come true!”

Lily finally unwrapped herself from around me and gave me another wide smile. She didn’t say anything else though, and instead continued to smile at me. I fidgeted uncomfortably.

“Right so… Do you know where he is?” I asked.

“Where who is?” Lily asked, her eyebrows knitted together in confusion.

“You’re brother,” I said slowly. Who else would I be talking about?

“Al?”

“James,” I said, wondering if Lily was serious. Why she thought I’d need to find Al was beyond me.

“Oh!” Lily exclaimed. Then she frowned. “No. I don’t know where he is.”

“Did you check the ballroom?” Lucy suggested. “That’s where most people are.”

“Yeah,” I said, feeling my patience wearing a bit thin. The ballroom was the first place I’d been in. “I checked.”

They both shrugged.

“I dunno what to tell you then,” Lucy said, rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet. She then grabbed Lily’s hand. “But we have to go. Our boyfriends are waiting for us.”

And before I could comment on the fact that two thirteen-year-old girls had a boyfriend before me, the two of them had disappeared. They had also not helped me find James in the least.

I sighed. I’d been searching for the past half hour for James and the only people I’d managed to bump into were Lucy and Lily. Luckily, I’d managed not to bump into Fiona despite the fact that I’d been in just about every room in the house. But I didn’t feel lucky because—well— where could he be?

As I began to retrace my steps, I heard voices in one of the rooms. I decided to peak my head inside to see if I had finally found James.

(Spoiler alert: I hadn’t.)

“Mollyyyyyy,” Gryffin whined. Gryffin had his arms wrapped tightly around Molly’s waist, and they were leaning against one of the walls in the room. Molly had her arms around his neck, although she quickly let them drop at Gryffin’s whines. “Pleeeease? You only have to say it once.”

“You’re such a fucking baby,” Molly stated, trying to pull away from him. Gryffin, however, would not let her go. “I will not say it to you when you are annoying the shit out of me.”

“But whyyyyyy?” Gryffin whined again. “I’ve said it to you twice now and you refuse to say it back. What’s that about?”

“You’re wasted,” Molly stated, rolling her eyes. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”

“I dooo,” Gryffin insisted, and then he began to sprinkle her face with kisses. “I.” He kissed her left cheek. “Love.” He kissed her right cheek. “You.” He went to kiss her on the mouth but she pushed him off.

“Ugh, get off of me,” Molly stated, finally pushing him enough so that he had no choice but to let go of her. She glared at him. “You are such a pansy. I thought guys were supposed to be the emotionally stunted ones in relationships.”

“Yeah, but you’re emotionally stunted enough for the two of us,” Gryffin said with a smirk. He then grabbed her hand and pulled her towards him. She let him. “Besides, it takes a lot of strength to declare your love for someone. It’s the people who don’t say it back who are weak.”

Despite the fact that Gryffin had no idea I was listening, I felt like his words were oddly fitting for my situation. If only I could just find the person I was trying to declare my love for…

Molly’s eyes seemed to narrow more after Gryffin’s words. “I am not weak.”

Gryffin’s smirk grew wider. “So then you’ll have no trouble saying it back.”

Molly let go of Gryffin’s hand and crossed her arms. “Well maybe I don’t feel the same.”

Gryffin laughed, pushing himself off the wall with his foot and closing the space between them as he let go of her hand and enveloped her in a hug. “But you do,” He singsonged.

“I don’t,” Molly responded, her voice muffled by his shoulder, which her face was now buried in.

“You do,” Gryffin stated confidently. Then to prove his point: “I’m taller than you.”

“Like it’s that hard,” Molly said, with a roll of her eyes.

“Must be, because I’m the only guy that is,” Gryffin mused. “But it doesn’t matter, because you’d love me anyway.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“No.”

“The more you deny it the more I’m going to annoy you about it. Don’t you wanna just get it over with? Rip it off like a band aid.”

“Merlin, I hate you,” Molly exclaimed with a huff. She pulled her head off of Gryffin’s shoulder and narrowed her eyes. He continued to look at her hopefully anyway. She then let out a sigh. “And maybe I… you know.”

“Actually, I don’t know,” Gryffin teased, clearly enjoying this. “Please explain.”

“Fine! Whatever,” Molly said, glaring at Gryffin. “I love you, alright? Happy?”

“Very,” Gryffin said, a huge smile stretching across his face. He leaned in and kissed her on the nose. “And I love you too.”

“I know,” Molly said flatly. “You’ve said it like five times. It’s embarrassing.”

Before I could hear Gryffin’s response, I decided I should stop intruding on their moment, so I left. Besides, I had my own declarations of love to attend to. And hopefully mine went as well as there’s did, which surprised me. I never thought I’d see the day where I aimed to be like Molly and Gryffin. But I guess I also never thought I’d see the day where any of this would be happening.

As I began to walk back down the hallway, I realized there was one door that I hadn’t opened. Probably because this one led to the back garden, and considering it was December, it wasn’t my top priority to wander around outside in such freezing weather. But for some reason, I had a feeling if James would be anywhere, it would be out there. Which is why I found myself opening the door to the backyard and stepping outside.

I realized almost as soon as I stepped outside that I’d made a mistake. The backyard wasn’t a garden; it was a maze. There were rows and rows of flowers and bushes arranged in intricate patterns, all of them as tall or taller than Molly. I sighed, bracing myself, and walked forward, wondering the whole time how I was going to navigate my way through this.

It took various wrong turns and a lot of backtracking before I found James. However when I found him, he wasn’t alone. He was with—of all people—Fiona.

Neither of them realized I had arrived, so I just stood there staring stupidly at them. They were sitting side by side on one of the outdoor benches and seemed to be talking about something. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but Fiona was smiling and James was… well he was James. My James. But well… He had been Fiona’s James first. I watched as Fiona made a move to put her hand over his, and when he didn’t shake it away. I suddenly had this overwhelming pins and needle feeling that wasn’t from the cold.

I was an idiot.

I also knew that I had to get out of there. Immediately. And even though it was totally illegal of me, and I’d have my head served to me on a silver platter by Georgiana if she found out, I turned on my heel and apparated away. Hopefully, the loud cracking sound I’d made would at least cause Fiona to jump and let go of James’ hand. If only for a second.

As soon as I arrived in front of my house, I pushed the doors open and ran up to my room. The lump that had been forming for months in my throat was suddenly the biggest it’d ever been, and I knew this would be something I couldn’t swallow down.

So I didn’t try. Instead, I fell into my bed and let it all out. By the time the grandfather clock from downstairs began to chime, signaling that it was midnight, my eyes were swollen shut and I was pretty sure I’d never cried that hard in my life.

To say the least, it was a lovely way to ring in the New Years.



__________________________________________________________________________________________


A/N: Hey guys! So this chapter took longer for me to post because it's the long one I was considering splitting, and seeing as a lot happens in it I didn't want to post it before I was sure everything happened correctly.

Still not sure if it did.

But yeah, Tash's mum knows she hates pageanting, Natasha realizes she loves James, Fiona and James are talking... what's that about? What do you think is going on?

Oh and I'm sure you guys can guess my favorite part of this chapter: MOLLY AND GRYFFIN LOVE EACH OTHER HOW CUTE AWWW! Definitely my favorite scene to write.

Okay well this author's note is long enough. Please review and let me know your thoughts on this chapter. Two more chapters! Well technically one. And then there's an epilogue. But you know, still two.

Love you all xxx
-Rebecca

Chapter 22: The Awakening
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Disclaimer: Anything you recognize is not mine.
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New Years Day, I made an effort to remain holed up in my room as long as possible. Unfortunately for me, my mum ended up knocking on the door midafternoon, worried that I hadn’t come out. Unexpectedly for the both of us, I told her to go away.

My mother didn’t listen though. Instead, she opened the door and— after taking one look at me— she walked over to my bed.

“Scoot over,” my mum said simply. I stared at her in confusion, but I obliged. My mother then took off her shoes and climbed into bed next to me, curling herself up so that we were lying face to face.

It was very odd. I don’t think my mum had done this since I was five.

“Things didn’t go well?” she asked me softly, after observing my bedraggled appearance. I sniffled and shook my head.

“Oh, Nata,” My mum said, and before I could register what was happening she wrapped me up in a big hug. My face was buried into her shoulder, and I smelt the familiar floral scent I always associated with her. “I’m so sorry, sweetie.”

“W-Why?” I asked her, feeling very confused. I had just given my mum leverage. Proof that she was right. She shouldn’t be the one apologizing. “What do you have to be sorry about?”

My mum pulled away from me so that she could look me in the eyes. It was then that I realized she was holding back tears of her own. “I haven’t been a very good mum to you,” she said, her voice a bit thicker than usual.

This was not what I’d been expecting to hear. And I didn’t like hearing it. My mum wasn’t supposed to feel this way. “Of course you have,” I responded, wanting to cry all over again. “You’re the best mum ever.”

My mother shook her head and smiled at me sadly, blinking a few times as she did so. She took this moment to bring a hand up and tuck a stray curl behind my ear. “I didn’t even realize that my own daughter hated the one thing I based her life around,” she continued. “I think that makes me an unfit mum, no?”

“That’s not true,” I said vehemenently. “I don’t hate it.”

“Nata, you don’t have to lie to me anymore,” My mum said. “I just… I wish you’d told me how you felt.”

I looked down at my hands, which were twisting and untwisting themselves in the corner of my sheets. “I didn’t know how to tell you,” I said, my voice small. “I didn’t want to disappoint you.”

My mum exhaled slowly. “I never meant for you to feel that way, Nata. I only… I only wanted what was best for you.”

“I know,” I said, nodding my head. “But… what about when I missed that interview? And when I said no to Gringotts?”

“That was because I thought you wanted all of this,” my mum explained, taking one arm and gesturing to the shelf in my room that carried my various crowns and sashes. “I thought you were just shirking your responsibilities. I didn’t know… I didn’t know you hated it. I didn’t know I was forcing you into this.”

“You didn’t force me,” I responded. And because I knew I needed to explain I continued. “I like how happy you get when I win. You’re always so proud.”

My mum didn’t look comforted by my words. Instead this just made her look sadder.

“You know you could never disappoint me, right Nata?” my mum said, looking at me with wide eyes. “No matter what, you’re always my daughter. Always.”

Hearing her say that felt like a huge weight was being lifted off of my shoulders. I guess there had always been a small part of me that was afraid when my mum knew the truth that would be it. I would no longer be her daughter.

But I’d been the one that was wrong the entire time. What I had needed to do all along was just tell her how I felt. I’d been concealing and hiding the truth in an effort to not hurt anyone, and in the end I’d hurt myself the most.

“I’m sorry for not telling you,” I said after a moment. Then, because I felt like I needed to, I wrapped my arms around my mum again, burying my face in her neck. My mum held me close, and it felt like for the first time in a long time we were finally on the same page.

“I’ll call Georgiana today and tell her that you’ve resigned,” my mum said into my hair. “They can find a new Miss Teen Witch.”

I bit my lip. “You don’t have to do that.”

My mum pulled away and looked down at me in surprise. I didn’t blame her. I would’ve been surprised myself had last night unfolded differently. “What? But Natasha, I thought we’d just discussed—”

“I want to do the tour,” I said adamantly. “I want to… get away from everything here for right now. It’ll be like my goodbye to the pageanting world.”

I heard my mum hum as she thought. She clearly wasn’t keen on the idea.

“Please?” I asked, looking up at my mum with wide eyes. “Maybe if I have something to distract me… it won’t hurt so much.”

I said the last part softly, like a whisper. Because it hurt to even think about last night too much. I had been ready to tell James something I’d told no guy before, and now I was convinced I had imagined it all.

After thinking it over a little more my mum nodded slowly. “Alright,” she said kissing my forehead. I felt myself relax at her agreement. “But this is it. No more pageants.”

“Yeah,” I said, holding back a smile. “No more pageants.”

It felt amazing to say.

*

My mum cancelled all of the press events I had for the rest of the week. I knew this was another small way of her letting me know she was serious about me quitting pageants, and I appreciated it. It was nice to be able to lay in bed for days on end, without having to worry about pleasing anybody.

I tried to avoid thinking about James, but it was hard. Mostly because he was the one person that I wanted to go to just to let him know everything that had happened. But it was too late to do that. I had messed things up between us so much so that he was talking to Fiona again. For all I knew they were back together.

The day before I was set to leave, visitors that I had actually invited came over and made their home in my room while I packed. The entire group (Dom, Molly, Rose, Fred, Gryffin, and Scorpius) minus James had shown up to spend my last day with me before the tour. It was also their last day before going back to Hogwarts. My mum let them up without question.

“So tell me again, why you’re still doing the tour?” Molly asked, flipping through a magazine in my room and wrinkling her nose at the pages. She was currently sitting in Gryffin’s lap, and he was tracing absent patterns across her leg. The two of them together made me smile.

“Because,” I responded, folding yet another skirt and putting it into my trunk, “I think it’ll be nice to escape.”

“But your escape is by doing something you’ve been trying to escape from,” Scorpius commented, looking confused. He, Freddy, and Rose were sitting crosslegged on the floor. “Isn’t that a little nonsensical?”

“No,” I replied with a shrug. Everyone in the room stared at me like I was crazy. I sighed. “Look, I’m not going to change my mind. So let’s drop it.”

“I think you’re just trying to avoid James,” Dom responded from her spot on my bed. I narrowed my eyes at her, and she shrugged. “What? It’s true.”

I didn’t respond. Mostly because Dom was right.

“I still don’t get it though,” Freddy said slowly. “You’re sure it was James out there with Fiona? Not an imposter?”

“I’m sure,” I answered, nodding my head. “Unless someone used polyjuice potion there is no mistaking it.”

“Well, I highly doubt they got back together,” Rose said. “I think you’re jumping to conclusions.”

I shrugged. “It doesn’t matter.”

Lies.

“But he took you to that muggle shop in Hogsmeade,” Dom said, trying to prove a point. “He never takes anyone there. Not even Fiona. He only ever went with Nate.”

This was information I hadn’t heard before, and I think Dom noticed my pause as I was in the midst of folding a sundress. However, I quickly shrugged it off and continued my packing, deciding to ignore Dom’s statement.

“I think you should’ve told him how you felt,” Gryffin chimed in. “Even if he didn’t say it back. It’s the strong people who declare their love for someone, you know.”

“So I’ve heard,” I said, biting my lip to hold back a smile. I noticed Molly was giving Gryffin an annoyed look. Gryffin smiled at her sheepishly before giving her a peck on the cheek. This caused her to elbow him. He elbowed her back. Their elbowing continued to escalate.

“What about us though?” Dom asked, pouting her bottom lip. “I don’t want you to leave.”

“Yeah,” Rose agreed, “Who’s going to help me deal with all the crazies?” With that she nodded her head towards Gryffin and Molly.

“Hey!” Molly exclaimed, distracted from the elbowing war her and Gryffin had gotten into. “I’m not crazy!”

“Neither am I!” Gryffin exclaimed.

“That one’s debatable,” Molly responded.

“You guys were fine without me before, so you’ll be fine without me now,” I stated simply, before Molly and Gryffin could start bickering again. “Besides, I’ll be back for the last half of seventh year. That’ll be something.”

“Not for us!” Gryffin added. “Me and Molls are graduating this year. And you’re going to miss it.”

“Something tells me I wouldn’t see much of either of you even if I did stay,” I responded, raising my eyes suggestively. Molly glared at me. Gryffin kept a lazy smile on his face.

“You are at least required to come to Hogwarts for the last Quidditch game,” Scorpius said. “We’re totally going to win this year. No offense Tash but now that we have James as seeker it’s like a given. You have to watch it.”

“We’ll see,” was all I said. I didn’t know how I’d feel about ever seeing James again. Even if it was just from the Quidditch stands.

“Right well, are you done packing yet?” Fred asked, standing up from his position on the ground. “Because speaking of Quidditch, I want to play.”

This had been one of the conditions they’d given me for letting me go off on the world tour. I had to play a game with the lot of them. I would’ve done it even without the blackmail.

“Yeah,” I said, finishing up my folding of the last few things I needed to pack. “We can play now. I’m done.”

“Good,” Dom said, jumping up excitedly. Everyone began to get up as well, following her as she hopped excitedly down the stairs. “I’ve got this new move that I’ve been practicing that I want to try—”

“You are not trying a new move,” Scorpius interrupted.

“Why not?” Dom asked with wide eyes.

“Because you’ll hurt yourself and we can’t risk not winning this years cup. You can do whatever life threatening things you want after the final match.”

“Wow, I’m flattered by how much you care,” Dom stated sarcastically.

“Hey! I do care!” Scorpius shot back. Dom rolled her eyes.

Rose and I exchanged a look. We both knew there was still one more pair that needed some work.

“Hey, Tash, you never told us,” Freddy began, interrupting Dom and Scorpius as we reached the kitchen. “How’d you get your mum to buy you a broom for Christmas?”

I hesitated. I hadn’t told any of them about James’ Christmas gift for me. It seemed like it was something that was just supposed to be between us.

“I dunno,” I shrugged. I noticed Dom give me a funny look. She knew me too well. “I guess it was my consolation prize for being kicked out of school.”

“Don’t make yourself sound more badass than you are,” Molly stated. “You were not kicked out. You were pulled out. There’s a difference.”

“Molls is just threatened because your reputation is becoming bigger than hers,” Gryffin explained. “Especially since she now has a super hot boyfriend that she can’t keep her hands off of, which of course shows that she’s not the bitter ice bitch everyone thinks she is.”

“Super hot boyfriend… Doesn’t ring a bell,” Molly stated.

“I think he rings many bells—” Gryffin began to say but he was cut off by a collective groan in the group.

“Stop it, mate, that’s my cousin,” Fred emphasized. “I don’t need to hear this.”

“Yes, can we please play?” I said, grabbing my broom from against the kitchen wall, which had six other brooms that belonged to the six other people waiting to be picked up.

Everyone grabbed their brooms and we all made our way to the sliding glass door, which I slid open so that we could step outside.

“I’m still going to try out my new move,” Dom stated, and before Scorpius could say anything she bounded outside and hopped on her broom.

I smiled as I watched everyone begin to follow suit, Scorpius muttering an ‘over my dead body’ as he soared straight for Dom.

It felt weird to say it, since I’d never had so many before, but I definitely had the best friends in the world.

*

“So,” Georgiana began, looking at me with a wide smile, “are you excited for the tour?”

My mum looked at me with a level stare as if to say ‘you can still back out of this’. I ignored her look however and smiled.

“Yeah, totally excited,” I responded, and it wasn’t a complete lie. I was excited to leave, but I wasn’t excited for everything I’d have to do on the tour.

We were currently at The Keyport. It was a take on muggle airports, except there were portkey’s instead of planes, and there wasn’t security or long lines. There were just areas labelled with different portkeys, and all you had to do was find one going to the destination you needed (in this case, it was Morocco) and you waited until the designated time for the portkey to activate.

We had about five minutes before ours would activate, so Georgiana had taken this time to make small talk with me.

“Morocco is definitely going to be your favorite place,” Georgiana chattered on. “We’re going to be staying in this hotel right by the Atlas Mountains, and you’ll get to tour just about everywhere for the publicity events.”

I knew this. And I knew touring things for publicity essentially meant standing in front of something and pretending you’d done it. But I wasn’t going to complain. I had an out if I wanted one. It was comforting to know.

Georgiana kept rambling on about all of the different sights I was going to see, gushing about this and that. I didn’t listen however and instead let my eyes roam around the Keyport, my boredom evident. Just as I was about to return my gaze back to Georgiana, I froze. My eyes rested on a lone figure standing across the Keyport. I blinked a couple of times.

No.

It couldn’t be.

I blinked again.

It was.

He saw me see him and just stared at me, not daring to make another move. I didn’t know what to do so I just stared back.

“Oh look, it’s about to activate,” Georgiana exclaimed, clapping her hands together and breaking me away from my staring contest with James. I looked down at the portkey, which was beginning to glow orange, and then I looked back at James. “Alight Natasha, you grab a hold first.”

I bit my lip. I hadn’t been expecting this. I hadn’t expected James to come and watch me yet again as I left. It was like when he’d showed up at the train station all over again. Only this time things were different. Very different. Yet they were still kind of the same.

And this brought me to wonder why he was even here. Wasn’t James supposed to be back at Hogwarts? How did he even know where I’d be? What did he think he was doing by showing up here?

“Natasha,” Georgiana said, noticing I hadn’t listened to her. Her smile was stretched extra thin. “You need to grab the portkey. It’s time to leave.”

My mum seemed to notice my hesitation and she looked at me. “Nata, is everything alright?”

“Um…” I trailed off. I looked at James again, who was still in the same spot. He looked like he hadn’t even moved an inch.

This led me to my last question: Why did he come if he was just going to stand there?

My mum seemed to follow my gaze and it landed on James. I noticed her eyes make a register of understanding. Georgiana also followed my mum’s gaze and her eyes narrowed just the tiniest bit.

“Come on, Tash, we have to go. Ten seconds,” Georgiana urged again. I was still staring at James in confusion. I could feel Georgiana’s eyes drilling holes into the side of my face.

I knew I should’ve listened to Georgiana and grabbed the portkey, but all I wanted to do at that moment was run up to James and ask him what the hell he was doing here. And as I was trying to quickly debate what I was going to do, I remembered what James had told me the last time we’d spoke.

Just… do what you want to okay? Not what anybody else wants.

Suddenly everything just made sense. I needed to do what I wanted. Who cared what Georgiana thought. In fact, who cared what anyone thought. All that mattered was what I thought. Because that was the only way I could be truly happy. It’d taken me long enough to figure out, but now that I knew it, I knew what I had to do.

And before I could even think over what I was doing, I was running away from Georgiana, from the Miss Teen Witch title I had never wanted, towards the one thing I’d wanted all along.

“Natasha, what do you think you’re doing?!” Georgiana called after me, but I didn’t listen. I only focused on James, who was standing in The Keyport, hair as mussed up and boyish as ever and eyes the color of a million different rainstorms.

“What,” I began, taking in a deep breath. Getting over to him had winded me. “Are you doing here?”

I noticed the corner of James’ mouth turn up just the tiniest bit before he answered with, “I don’t know.”

I sighed in frustration. He was way too hard to figure out sometimes. I ran my hand through my hair in agitation.

“Well,” I tried again, “what do you know?”

James stepped towards me now, a full-fledged smile pulled across his lips. He leaned his forehead against mine before whispering, “This.”

And then his lips were against mine, which caught me by surprise, but soon enough I was kissing him back. He wrapped his arms around my waist and I wrapped mine around his neck and it felt like our first kiss all over again only better. This kiss was like a breath of fresh air. It was like waking up. Or maybe it was like something I’d known my whole life but needed him in order to remember it. When we pulled apart, I’m pretty sure my dopey smile matched his.

“Lily told me you came to Fiona’s looking for me,” James mumbled. Our foreheads were still touching and our arms were still wrapped around each other. I had to fight the urge to kiss him again. But this was important. “I thought she was making it up, but then I remembered hearing an aparation crack when I’d been out by the garden and then I talked to Dom and….”

James was always too perceptive for his own good. He had managed to put two and two together without me even saying a word. I bit my lip.

“She was apologizing to me,” James explained further. “For what she did to you. That’s all. I would never…”

“Right,” I said, nodding my head. And I suddenly felt really stupid for thinking otherwise. But I was allowed to be stupid. I didn’t have to always be perfect. That was something else I’d learned. My hold around his neck tightened. “I believe you.”

And that was the thing about James. Above all else, I always, always believed him.

“Good,” James said with a smile. He really did look so much better when he smiled. “Because I have something I’d like to say.”

I could tell by his tone that he was shifting the topic to something more serious. Something that reminded me a lot of the seriousness I’d felt when I’d been looking for him on New Years Eve.

I knew exactly what he wanted to say.

“No,” I responded quickly. James quirked an eyebrow at me. “I had something to say first.”

He was not getting to be the braver one of the two of us. I needed to earn my Gryffindor placement some way, and maybe this was it.

“I love you,” I said finally. Just as I was beginning to feel nervous, James hold on my waist tightened and he smiled back at me.

“I love you too,” was his response, and it felt like my heart did a million and one somersaults upon hearing the words.

This lead to another kiss. And I had to say that I still couldn’t pick which kiss with James was the best one. He was just so good at them.

“That lady with the glasses looks very mad at you,” James pointed out, after we pulled apart again. His multicolored eyes were glancing over my shoulder. “She’s yelling at your mum. Your mum doesn’t look mad though; she’s smiling. Why is that?”

“Let’s just say lots of things changed when I left Hogwarts,” I answered. James smiled again. He looked proud of me. Then I remembered something. “By the way, thanks for the broom.”

James looked down at the ground, seeming embarrassed. I don’t think I’d ever seen this from him before.

“I figured you didn’t have one at home,” James responded. “And I thought you’d miss flying.”

I nodded. “I did.”

“I also thought you’d come visit me to thank me,” James continued. “Didn’t really work though.”

“Hey, I’m here now,” I responded.

“Only because I broke out of Hogwarts and came here,” James mused. “Luckily I know a secret passageway. And also luckily my sister stalks you and knew where you’d be.”

“Luckily,” I repeated.

“So,” James began, looking back over my shoulder. “Since you missed your portkey does this mean you’ll stay?”

I bit back another smile. James was so adorable when he was unsure. I shrugged.

“I guess so. I’m pretty sure Georgiana hates me. Going on the tour with her now is a recipe for disaster.”

“Good,” James nodded satisfied. He used one of his hands to interlace his fingers through mine. “We should go then. I don’t like the idea of you being around portkeys. I’m not trying to lose you again.”

I laughed as Jame began to pull me to the double doors that had the EXIT sign in front of them.

“And here I thought you wouldn’t want me back,” I joked. “I mean, Scorpius will definitely kick you off the team once I return. I’m just too good at seeking.”

James used our intertwined hands to pull me towards him, so that he could kiss the top of my head. “You’ll be seeker next year. It’s already been settled.”

“So you’re going to play the rest of the year?” I asked, excitedly.

“Yeah,” James said with a shrug. “A promise is a promise.”

“A promise is a promise,” I repeated after him as we walked out of The Keyport.

And looking down at my hand laced through James’, that felt like the biggest promise of all.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

A/N: OHMYGOSH! Lookie here! The stories over. Okay, not yet. There's still an epilogue. But wow lots happened in this chapter, didn't it?

Looks like Natasha finally learned something! Are we proud, or are we proud?

Okay, so please, please, PLEASE review and let me know how you liked this ending. Not that it's the official end. But you know, it's the end of the plot arc if that makes sense.

Let me know your guesses for where/when the epilogue takes place.

Okay so thank you SO MUCH for sticking with this story and taking this journey with me. I hope you're as proud of Natasha as I am. Or you at least think her and James are as adorable as I do. I'm not proud to admit it, but I got a really cheesy smile when I was proofreading this last scene.

Alright, this author's note is long enough. Please review, let me know what you think, and thank you for being the amazing readers you are. XXX
-Rebecca

Chapter 23: Epilogue: The Quidditch Cup
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Disclaimer: Anything you recognize is not mine. Sorry to disappoint.

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“And O’Ryan just barely misses getting hit by a bludger!” Fred announced over the loudspeaker, his voice reverberating around the stadium. I felt myself let out the breath I’d been holding as cheers of relief swept throughout all of the Gryffindors after this statement.

Well, almost all of them.

“Fuck!” Molly shouted angrily, narrowing her eyes at the bludger. She then watched as Gryffin managed to reposition himself on his broom and smack the bludger at an unsuspecting Hufflepuff. “Bloody hell!”

“Molly, don’t worry,” Rose said, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Gryffin’s not going to get hit. He’ll be fine.”

Molly shrugged Rose’s hand off and then gave her a look as though she was crazy. “I’m not worried about him getting hit. I’m worried about him not getting hit. That idiot needs some sense knocked into him.”

Rose and I exchanged a look. I tried not to laugh.

“Are you two fighting?” I asked in response. Molly then shifted her ‘are you crazy’ look from Rose to me.

“No. Why would we be?”

I shrugged. “No reason…”

“And another risky move by Weasley! But it pays off as she scores 10 points to Gryffindor!”

We all watched as Dominique gave a satisfied smirk to the crowd, clearly proud of herself for getting a goal. Scorpius however seemed less than pleased, and he began shouting at her. She ignored him.

“Oh no,” Rose said, as she watched their exchange. “I do not want to be there when Scorpius brings this up. There will be blood.”

“Yeah, there will be blood,” Molly stated, narrowing her eyes at something else. We followed her gaze to look at Gryffin, who was now showing off and doing fancy flying moves in front of the pepsquad. All the girls, minus Lucy and Lily who ignored Gryffin, let out girly squeals. “That sodding tosser! I am going to kill him.” With that Molly stood up in the stands and began to shout. “OI! O’RYAN! IF YOU STILL WANT A GIRLFRIEND BY THE END OF THIS YOU BETTER GET YOUR FUCKING ARSE INTO GEAR!”

Gryffin, who was close enough to hear Molly’s threat, immediately stopped his flying in front of the pepsquad. He looked at Molly, blew her a kiss, and then began to fly on the opposite side of the field.

“And O’Ryan proves yet again how whipped he is!” Fred announced. Gryffin’s response was to flip Fred off, before whacking a bludger at him. Fred, knowing this would happen, ducked.

Scorpius began to shout at Gryffin for goofing off, but Gryffin whacked another bludger in Scorpius’ direction. Scorpius then flew at Gryffin, taking Gryffin’s beaters bat away from him and hitting him over the head with it.

“Finally!” Molly exclaimed, a smile gracing her features as Gryffin rubbed the back of his head, clearly in pain. “This game has suddenly gotten loads better.”

Scorpius and Gryffin began to argue with each other, as Scorpius refused to give Gryffin his bat back. During this time, Dom and the other Gryffindor chaser had gotten a hold of the quaffle and seemed to be playing a game of monkey in the middle, with the Hufflepuff chasers playing the monkeys.

I sighed, feeling frustrated. “Why is nobody taking this game seriously? What if we lose?”

Molly rolled her eyes. Rose smiled at me in her ‘isn’t that cute’ way.

“I think James is being serious enough for the entire team,” Molly said, gesturing to the field. James had his brows knitted together in concentration while he flew sharply, almost robotically, around the field in search of the snitch. His hair was flat against his forehead from the wind and I noted that it was just about too long. He’d need to get it trimmed soon.

“He should be,” was my response, because I had this feeling that everyone was taking this game for granted. I blamed it on the fact that Gryffindor had been on a winning streak ever since James had reclaimed his seeker position. “This is the game for the Quidditch Cup!”

“Tash, as cute as it is that James’ competitiveness has rubbed off on you, you need to stop worrying. There is no way James will not catch the snitch,” Rose said.

“There’s no way you can guarantee that,” I responded, giving Rose a dirty look. “What if the Hufflepuff seeker spots it before he does?”

“And James Potter has spotted the snitch!”

Guess I had spoken too soon.

My eyes, which had slid onto Rose as I spoke, immediately snapped back to James. He was barreling down to the ground at an alarming speed, and his eyes were narrowed, a frown pinching his forehead.

“Ow! Tash! You’re going to kill me!” Molly shouted, yanking her arm out of my grip. I hadn’t realized it, but I’d grabbed Molly’s arm for support as I watched James. There were now red finger marks on her arm from where I’d been squeezing her. “Who woulda fucking thought a beauty queen could have such a grip?”

“Sorry,” I said, brushing her off without sincerity, as I kept my eyes on James. The Hufflepuff seeker, Brandon Swighton, was closing the gap quickly. I bit my lip.

Catch it. Catch it. Catch it.

The entire Quidditch stadium began to fill up with shouts, the Gryffindors roaring loudly while the Hufflepuffs shouted at Swighton to fly faster. The snitch was now withing James’ grasp, and the pepsquad began to cheer excitedly, high pitch squeals emanating from the group. My ears were ringing with the sounds, everything growing fuzzy, as I kept my eyes trained on James, who reached forward to catch the snith.

Catch it. Catch it. Catch it.

I held my breath. James’ hand brushed the wings of the snitch. The air pulsed with anticipation.

Catch it. Catch it. Please Merlin, let him catch it.

“And Potter has caught the snitch! Sodding hell! GRYFFINDOR WINS THE QUIDDITCH CUP!”

I couldn’t even explain to you how loud the Gryffindor stands erupted at this announcement. It was so loud it was silent. My ears couldn’t even comprehend the overwhelming exclamation of the fact that it had happened…. Gryffindor had won.

Embarrassingly enough, my eyes began to water, and I smiled so wide my cheeks hurt.

“Oh my god!” Rose exclaimed, grabbing Molly and me and jumping up and down. “Oh my god! We won!”

“Oh no,” Molly said, not looking the least bit excited. “Gryffin is going to be such a pain in the arse tonight.”

“Shut up, Molly,” I stated, rolling my eyes. “He’s allowed to be an arse. We just won!”

Molly stared at me in shock as I spoke. She still wasn’t used to me voicing my thoughts, but I’d been trying to do it more lately. I already knew the miscommunication that could occur if you didn’t tell people how you felt.

Molly was about to open her mouth to respond, but before she could Rose let out another “Oh my god!” and pointed to the field in shock.

I followed to where she pointed and my own mouth opened in a wide ‘o’. Out on the field, as soon as the Gryffindor quidditch team had landed on the pitch, Scorpius ran over to Dom and kissed her right on the mouth. Dom looked taken aback at first, but eventually she smiled and grabbed a fistful of Scorpius’ quidditch jersey, pulling him closer to her.

“Fucking finally!” Molly exclaimed, finally seeming happy about the win. “Their sexual tension has been through the roof.”

My eyes, which had been trained on Dom and Scorpius, shifted over to James who had just gotten off his broom. He wiped his forehead with the back of his hand and I watched his eyes flicker over the stands, until they finally rested upon me. Once they did he let out a large grin that made my heart swell. He then nodded his head to the side at Scorpius and Dom who were still kissing, and I knew by his look he meant ‘it’s about time’. I giggled, scrunching up my nose in the process.

“We should go down and congratulate the team,” I said turning away from James to look at Molly and Rose. I now wanted to get to the field more than anything. Sometimes, I was convinced there was an invisible tie always pulling me towards James. I guess that’s what love did to people.

“Oh congratulate the team, eh?” Molly said, noticing that I was now back to looking at James. “How do you plan on congratulating them?”

“Molly, let’s just go down. Don’t you want to see Gryffin?” Rose cut in. I shot Rose a thankful look, while Molly sighed and muttered a fine.

As soon as we made it to the field, before I could even try and push through the mass of bodies that had congregated to celebrate the win, James appeared in front of me. He still had a slight smile on his face as he looked at me and this caused me to smile back.

“You won,” I stated. James however did not seem to care about responding back because before I knew it he had lifted me up and kissed, spinning me around as he did so. I let out an embarrassingly girly giggle when he put me down.

“We won,” James responded finally, reaching to grab my hand. His fingers laced through mine and he gave my hand a squeeze. “Couldn’t have done it without you.”

I rolled my eyes and stood up on my tiptoes to give James a peck on the lips before responding with, “Of course you could have.”

James squeezed my hand tighter and gave me a serious look, the green in his eyes becoming prominent. “No, I couldn’t have.”

Even after four months of being my boyfriend, James never failed to make my heart feel like it was about to burst.

“OI! Lovebirds! Are you going to continue staring at each other all day or are you going to take a look at this amazing Quidditch Cup we just won?” Gryffin shouted. This caused me to blush while James remained unembarrassed because he was James and nothing embarrassed him.

James looked down at me. “You want to go over there?”

“We probably should,” I said reluctantly, and then we began to walk hand in hand over to the mass of scarlet that was the Gryffindor quidditch team and their supporters. The Quidditch Cup was in the middle of the mass, and Scorpius was holding onto it like it was the most important thing he’d ever held. Well, aside from Dom, if the way he had his other arm wound around her shoulder was anything to go by. I bit back a smile.

“Well you guys took your time,” Gryffin said, as soon as we walked up to the group. “James, I figured you’d be the most excited to see the cup. You’ve been practicing like crazy for this.”

James shrugged. “I didn’t practice to win.”

Gryffin rolled his eyes. So did Molly, who had Gryffin’s arms wrapped around her waist from behind, while he was hunched the slightest bit so his head could rest on her shoulder. I noticed her trying to elbow him off, but he just squeezed her tighter.

“So you’re saying you would’ve been fine if you lost?” Molly asked James, her voice full of skepticism.

“I’m saying it wasn’t the reason I played,” James responded. Molly and Gryffin exchanged a look with each other. They’d been doing that a lot since they’d started dating.

“Bullsh—”

“Are we celebrating the win?” I asked, talking over Molly before she could badger James more. I didn’t know if James was annoyed at the badgering, but just in case I figured I’d shift the conversation.

After I spoke everyone’s heads snapped to me. Even Dom, Scorpius, Fred, and Rose, who had been having a separate conversation.

“What?” I asked, looking at James for an explanation. “What did I say?”

“Did you just suggest a party?” Dom asked, widening her eyes at me. “Tash are you okay? Is this actually you?”

“I didn’t suggest—”

“Yes you did!” Gryffin interrupted. “You can’t take it back now.”

“But I wasn’t—”

“PARTY IN THE GRYFFINDOR COMMON ROOM!” Fred shouted, before I could try and say anything more. The crowd of Gryffindors let out loud ‘whoops’ at this, and then people began to amble off the Quidditch pitch, clearly wanting to get ready for the party Fred was shouting about.

“Natasha, who gave you the right to throw a party?” Scorpius asked, turning to me with his eyebrows raised. “The captain needs to approve before you go announcing these things.”

I opened my mouth in surprise. “This was not my doing.”

“Yes it was; you made me announce it,” Freddy said, nodding his head as he smirked. I noticed Molly and Gryffin snickering to each other, and Dom who was biting back a smile. Rose was the only one who wasn’t laughing at me, which I appreciated.

“I didn’t make you do anything,” I defended again but James squeezed my hand causing me to look at him.

“They’re just joking, Natasha,” James said so that only I could hear, bringing me forward to kiss my forehead. And then he said louder, “Besides, if you need captain’s approval than I give my permission.”

Scorpius scoffed. “Are you trying to say I’m not captain?!”

James smirked. “You said it not me.”

“Does this mean I get to be captain next year?” Dom asked hopefully. This caused Scorpius to glare at her. She just smiled back. “We all know I’d be way better.”

“Sure you would,” Scorpius stated sarcastically. “You’d manage to injure everyone on the team before the first game.”

“At least I’d have a team to injure. Nobody will show up to tryouts if you’re captain again!”

“I think,” James began, trying to stop the argument before it occurred. He was a good placater, I realized, as Dom and Scorpius both snapped their heads to hear what he had to say. Everyone really valued his opinion. “That you should both be captains next year. Balance each other out.”

Scorpius and Dom looked at each other as he said this. I also think it’s important to point out that Scorpius’ arm was still around her shoulder. This coupled with the kiss definitely meant they were on their way to being together. And if they were both captains… well, it would be even more inevitable than it’d already been. I think as they looked at each other, they both had come to the same conclusion I had.

“Fine,” they both said at the same time, pretending to look annoyed about it.

“Good, then it’s settled,” James said, nodding his head to close the situation. Everyone began to shift after this, standing up straighter and preparing to head off the field.

“Well, looks like we have a party to get to, thanks to Miss Teen Witch over here,” Gryffin stated.

“Hey! How many times do I have to tell you, I’m not Miss Teen Witch?” I argued back. And it was true. The runner up, Jennifer Corwin, had taken my place on the world tour the day I’d quit. I was half convinced Georgiana had had her on standby, knowing I wouldn’t go through with it.

“You’re right, we do have a party,” Molly began, ignoring my statement. “Tash better hope Georgiana doesn’t find out about this, because this is most definitely against her contract.”

“When are you going to let this go?” I asked.

“Never!” Molly and Gryffin chimed together. Molly, noticing how in sync they were, glared at Gryffin and shoved him away. “Ugh, you need to stop copying me.”

“Oh yes, I’m clearly the one copying you. It couldn’t possibly be the other way around.”

“You’re right. It couldn’t.”

“You guys!” Fred interrupted, before Gryffin could retort. “The party! Let’s go! They’ll definitely be wanting this to decorate.” And with that Fred pointed to the Quidditch cup, which Scorpius was still clutching in one of his hands.

“They will,” Dom agreed, nodding her head at Fred. “But seeing as I’m the best chaser this team has ever seen, I should carry it in.” And with that Dom snatched the cup out of Scorpius’ hand, and began to carry it over her head, bouncing as she walked.

“Oi! Give it back! You’re going to break it!” Scorpius shouted, chasing after her.

“Oh stop being such a ninny,” Dom called over her shoulder. “I’ll only give it back if you catch me.”

Dom then began to run up towards the castle, silver hair flying behind her. Scorpius pinched the bridge of his nose and swore, before running after her.

“Looks like this party’s going to get interesting,” Fred stated. “I bet anyone ten sickles that she breaks it.”

“I bet ten sickles Scorpius breaks it trying to take it from her,” Gryffin said.

“Well looks like we should go up to the party and see who’s right,” Molly commented.

Everyone mumbled in agreement at this, starting to make their way off of the field. I noticed James didn’t make a move to leave though, so I didn’t either.

“You two coming?” Rose asked, the last one on the field before us.

I looked at James for an answer. James shook his head. “Nah, we’re going to stay out here for a bit.”

Rose gave us a knowing look. “Alright then, you two have fun…” And then she walked away, catching up with the rest of the group, all of them rapidly becoming specks in the distance. I also noticed that the stands were completely empty, which I figured meant that everyone had decided to head to the party.

I arched an eyebrow at James. “What exactly are we staying here for a bit to do?”

James laughed. I loved his laugh. I also loved him. Oh god. That sounded really cheesy and embarrassing didn’t it?

Luckily, James couldn’t hear my thoughts, and his response was to wrap his arms tightly around me in a hug before he kissed me. It was slow and delicate and familiar. I had never kissed anyone before him, and I also knew that I’d never want to kiss anybody else. James began to pull away, but I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him towards me to stop him.

James still pulled away all too soon for me, and I frowned. James kissed my forehead before he laughed again.

“This isn’t the reason we’re staying behind, you know,” James said, hugging me extra tight. I buried my head in his shoulder.

“You sure?” I said into his Quidditch robes. “Because, I’m fine if it is.”

“So you’re saying you wouldn’t rather fly with me?” James asked, pulling away slightly so he could look down at me.

He had me there. We hadn’t been able to fly together for a solid month because of the preparation for the last game, and it was one of my favorite things for us to do together. I knew he knew how much I’d missed our flying sessions.

“I don’t have my broom with me though,” I trailed off, suddenly feeling a bit sad.

James looked at me like I wasn’t getting it. “We can share mine.”

I bit back a smile. “You know, I’m pretty sure the last time we did that was when you flew into the Owlry and demanded I get on.”

“I didn’t demand anything from you,” James said with a shrug. “It was a suggestion and you listened.”

“As if I’d have said no.”

“So then you don’t want to fly together?”

“Course I do,” I responded, leaning in to kiss James’ cheek.

“Good,” James said once I’d pulled away. He then walked over to where he had set his broom after the game and picked it up, before walking back to me. He let the broom hover over the ground, gesturing to me to get on first.

“Hold on,” I said, holding up a hand as I grabbed my cell phone out of my pocket. It had just vibrated with a new text from my mum. After we’d gotten everything sorted out, I had confessed to her that my cell phone wasn’t actually broken at school like she’d thought. “My mum’s just texted me.”

How’s the game going? I’m wearing the Gryffindor scarf you gave me and wishing Gryffindor lots of luck, Mum.

We won! Love you and thanks for your support, Nata.


Once I was done responding to my mum, I closed my phone and put it back into my pocket. When I looked up, I noticed James had been studying me.

“What?”

“Nothing,” James said, although I could make out a small smile on his face. “Just happy.”

“I like it when you’re happy,” I stated, smiling softly. And then because I knew he’d been thinking about it ever since he caught the snitch: “He’d be really proud of you, James.”

James didn’t need to ask me who I was talking about. He already knew.

“I know,” James said, putting an arm around my shoulder so he could kiss the top of my head. “I also know he would have loved you.”

I inhaled a breath. This was probably one of the nicest things James had ever said to me. I don’t even think he was aware how flattered I was by this. “I wish I got to meet him.”

“Sometimes I feel like you have,” James said. I looked at him in confusion so he continued. “I still write letters to him. Even though he can’t read them, it makes things easier. I write a lot about you.”

“Really?” I said, tilting my head to the side. I suddenly recounted various times I had seen James writing on pieces of parchment in the mornings and it all made sense. “What have you said?”

“Everything,” James said.

“Like?”

James leaned forward so his mouth was right next to my ear. “I think you know.”

And I did know. That was the thing about James and I. We didn’t have to say everything out loud.

“Right, well,” I said, feeling flustered. It was amazing how easily James could make me nervous. “We should get to flying shouldn’t we?”

Before James could respond I climbed onto the broom and gestured for him to do the same. He complied, wrapping his hands around my waist as he did so.

“You sure you’re okay with being the one in control?” James asked, pointing out the fact that I was at the front.

Long ago, this idea would’ve scared me. But things were different now. I was different now. So I responded with an answer I probably wouldn’t have given four months ago.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” I said, looking over my shoulder at James who was smiling at me. His eyes were bright with happiness. And pride. Like he understood just how far I’d come. Which he did. He knew more than anyone else.

I kicked off the ground, the broom rising steadily into the air, and then we began to fly. And flying was definitely becoming one of my favorite feelings in the world. The weightlessness. The way the wind rushed through my hair. It also didn’t hurt that I had James’ hands around my waist, prepared to keep me steady if I needed.

But my favorite part about flying, was knowing that there was this vast expanse of sky ahead of me, full of nothing but possibilities. I could do anything I wanted. Be anything I wanted.

And this type of freedom, well... to put it bluntly:

It was pretty fucking great.

(Molly would be so proud.)

__________________________________________________________________________________________

A/N: Thank you. Thank you all so so much for reading, reviewing, and taking a chance on this story. Without you guys, I would be nothing. Seriously.

I've been getting some questions about a possible sequel, and that's a definite no for this story. There is nothing left for me to tell about James and Tash, and I hope you like where I left things with them. I do have a potential novella/oneshot spin off about Molly and Gryffin that I've been toying with, but I'm not sure if I'll ever finish or post it.

I also couldn't figure out a way to fit this into the epilogue but I just thought it'd be cute to let you know that I imagine Lucy and Lily's boyfriends that they mentioned in the last chapter to be Lorcan and Lysander.

As for any other writing for hpff... I don't have anything in the works right now. I think I'm just going to enjoy the fact that I've managed to complete two novel length stories on here, because before that I'd never ever finished anything I'd started.

Anyways, I really really am so thankful for you guys and your amazing support. Please review if you'd like and let me know your thoughts on the end of this story. Or shoot me some questions at my Meet the Author's page, because I have one and it's pretty chill.

Love you guys so much XX
-Rebecca

http://www.harrypotterfanfiction.com