You are viewing a story from

Human Nature by Flavia

Format: Novel
Chapters: 17
Word Count: 83,537
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Strong Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature

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

First Published: 03/27/2012
Last Chapter: 05/02/2013
Last Updated: 05/02/2013


Albus Potter has finally managed to grow into his own skin over the summer between his fourth and fifth years at Hogwarts.  He's planning on being more confident, getting more attention from the ladies, winning the Quidditch Cup and acing his O.W.L's.

He didn't expect to fall for a girl he's ignored for four years.

*The story of 'Animal Magnetism' told from Albus' perspective*

Banner by Contour @ TDA

Chapter 1: Fact of Nature #1: If you don’t pay attention you might miss something really important
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Disclaimer:  This is a companion story for 'Animal Magnetism' and if you haven't read that story, some parts of this story might not make sense.  I strongly recommend you read 'Animal Magnetism' (can be accessed on my author page) before reading this.  Enjoy!

“Oi Mate!  Wake up over there!”  Will threw a pillow in my direction and it smacked me in the face, pulling me out of my thoughts.

“What?” I asked, realising I sounded a bit dazed.

“You’re off with the fairies, what’s got you concentrating so hard?” Louis was standing on his bed, re-attaching his Gryffindor flag to the wall. 

“How well do you guys know Bell?” I asked.

“Lucy?” It was Justin who spoke this time as he placed a folded set of robes on top of a large pile.  Ever the organised prefect he looked like he had enough clean school robes to last him a month!  “Well she’s a Gryffindor and she’s a bit animal mad, but really we’d know her as well as you.”

“Animal mad?” I was surprised that he’d said that, how had I not noticed this before?  Earlier that day in Care of Magical Creatures she’d been amazing with that unicorn, like she was some sort of expert or something.  “How do you know that?”

“Might have something to do with the ‘Save the Dragons’ badge she’s got pinned to her school bag,” Louis laughed as he jumped down from his bed.  “Or the fact that she’s the only Gryffindor girl in our year that actually takes Care of Magical Creatures.  But you’re in that class, how did you not notice?  Have your new muscles made you a completely unobservant prat?”

Louis has been teasing me since he got back from visiting his grandparents in France about a week before the end of the summer holidays.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t pleased about the fact that my body decided to play catch up during the holidays, after all who wants to be a scrawny, lanky git for the rest of their life?  Mum reckons I look just like Dad did at my age, though Auntie Hermione said she thought Dad didn’t get good-looking until 6th year; Uncle Ron didn’t really seem to appreciate that comment.

Anyway, it was kind of weird to be suddenly getting attention from people, like Rachel Jorkins in Ravenclaw who turned me down when I asked her to Hogsmeade last year.  I saw her in Diagon Alley at the end of August and she wouldn’t leave me alone, just kept following me into shops!  I don’t mind it really (what guy would?), but it does take some getting used to.

“I’m not unobservant!  I definitely observed you checking out Hawthorn’s legs in Transfiguration yesterday,” I joked back to my cousin and to my delight he turned a little pink.

“Was not,” He muttered under his breath as he stuck his head into his trunk to look for his Chudley Canons poster. 

“Why are you suddenly so curious about Lucy Bell?” Will returned the conversation back to its original topic as he retrieved his pillow from where it fell on the floor.

“I don’t know,” I replied thoughtfully.  “I just haven’t noticed her before and I wondered if she’d changed much.  She’s got a pretty good sense of humour and something else, I’m not sure what you’d call it though…spunk, maybe?”

“Spunk?” Will laughed, ditching the pillow back in my direction.  “Who the hell says ‘spunk’?”

“Oh shut up,” I caught the pillow this time and tossed it back easily. 

“Sounds like our little Alby has a crush,” Louis pulled his head out of the trunk, obviously deciding he was brave enough to join the conversation again.

“A crush?  On Bell?  Don’t be a prat,” I rolled my eyes at him and lay back on my bed.  “I make one comment about a girl and you guys are marrying us off like that!”  I propped myself up on my elbows to give them all a look of disdain, but I actually caught the three of them sharing a meaningful smile.  What the hell are they thinking?  Lucy Bell…not likely.

Thanks to my stupid dorm mates, I didn’t sleep a wink that night, I kept running Louis’s words over and over again in my head.  Could he be right, do I fancy Lucy?  Surely not, I mean I’d know if I liked her more than a friend, right?  Problem was, I wasn’t so sure.  I’d thought that maybe she’d just changed a little bit, become more outgoing with her personality or something, but the guys hadn’t noticed any changes in her, and if anything it seemed like I’d been ignoring her for the last four years.  A guilty feeling spread through me as I realised I had probably been doing that very thing, and it was actually kind of mean.  After all, I didn’t ignore the other girls in our year.  Rose was my best friend, even more than any of the guys so I talked to her all the time and that meant that by association I talked to Gwen a lot too.  Hawthorn was on the Quidditch team so I spent a fair bit of time with her and that automatically gave us fodder for conversation; and Molly was my cousin, even if she was a bit of a black sheep so she automatically got the family level of attention.  I searched my memories back through my previous years at Hogwarts, through lessons and meals, Hogsmeade visits and even family functions where the Bells had been present, but the interactions with Lucy were few.  How had I missed that, was I really that self-centred?

I smiled to myself as I remembered the conversation we’d had outside Hagrid’s hut that afternoon, the look of slight offence on her face as she told me about her friendship with the groundskeeper.  I really had been an insensitive git and she’d caught me out on it, no holds barred, no pretence, no giggling and flirting, just hands on hips and a look of defiance.  Seriously, how did I miss that?  But I still wasn’t sure about what Louis had insinuated, maybe I did think she was alright after all.  I at least owed it to her and to myself to get to know her properly, didn’t I?  It seemed like the right thing to do after four years of treating her like furniture.

The next morning, I kept my eyes open for Lucy in the common room, but I didn’t see her.  Fortunately, when I entered the Great Hall, she was sitting with the other Gryffindor girls and there were a few empty seats opposite them.  Justin seemed happy to join me as I weaved my way towards the table, no doubt happy to drool over Purnell while she ate her porridge. 

“Good morning Rose-bud,” I teased as I sat down, giving my favourite cousin a playful smile. 

“Morning,” She replied cheerfully.  “I’ve got double Arithmancy this morning, how about you?”

“Er…” I replied, digging my timetable out of my bag and forcing myself not to look at Lucy.  Being the first week of term, I still hadn’t quite memorised my classes.  “Double Divination,” I replied, trying not to openly wince.  In all honesty, I took Divination on a whim, mostly a whim designed to piss Rose off.  Back at the end of second year, when we were all trying to pick our new classes, I’d suggested taking Divination, to which Rose had given me a self-satisfied lecture about how Divination was a load of rubbish and true seers were really rare, and on and on she went.  I was so annoyed by it that I put the subject down just to irritate her.  Unfortunately, she was right (she usually is) and I got stuck in the stupid North tower twice a week with a crazy old woman who looks like an overgrown dragonfly!

“Oh is that this morning?” My head snapped up at the new voice to the conversation.  Lucy, who had obviously heard my exchange with Rose, was looking at my timetable like it was covered in bubotuber puss.  Of course, she’s in that class! I thought to myself happily, it would be an excellent opportunity to get to know her better away from the prying eyes of Rose, Will and Louis.  Justin was in my Divination class, but I knew he’d be the least likely to tease me if he actually caught on to what I was doing.

“I specifically remember telling you not to take that class but did you listen to me?  No, of course not and now you have to go and sit through another year of the tripe,” Rose scolded to no-one in particular.  Lucy caught my eye so I smiled at her and rolled my eyes; she smiled back before looking back down at her toast.  It was a rather sweet smile and it had made my stomach do a little flip.  To cover up this sudden occurrence, I popped a piece of sausage in to my mouth and looked back at Rose, who was still ranting about classes.

“You know I stopped listening to you about two minutes ago, don’t you?” I asked in a blasé sort of tone.  Rose stopped mid-sentence and made a sort of clucking noise before turning her back on me dramatically to speak to Gwen; unfortunately for her, Gwen was busy making eyes at Justin across the table, and was completely oblivious to Rose.  Lips pursed, Rose looked back at me and I couldn’t help but smile.  “Hi there,” I laughed, earning myself a kick under the table. 

In Divination, I managed to grab a seat at the table behind Lucy so that I could keep an eye on her throughout the lesson.  Fortunately, it was a fairly easy class, beginning with a twenty minute spiel from Trelawney about dream interpretation and whatever else she wanted to prattle on about, and concluding with about an hour of trying to remember dreams and interpreting them.  I kept the book she’d given us open on the table and a quill in my hand should she decide to come by, but for the most part I was eavesdropping on the girls in front of me.

“Don’t you think she looks like a bat?” Jane was saying as they both watched Trelawney flap around the room.

“Well, maybe a bat that had a few too many fire whiskeys and fell into a ballerina’s dressing table!” Lucy replied dryly.  I smiled as my own eyes were drawn to the professor.  She was draped in glittery robes and layers of beads hung around her neck.  The giant round glasses she wore looked even more ridiculous than my Dad’s and made her eyes look about four times their normal size.  “Come on, we’d better interpret these stupid dreams,” Lucy continued, flipping through their copy of The Dream Oracle.  “Alright, so you said you dreamt you were eating steak and kidney pie at the ballet with your grandmother?  Ok, well eating means loneliness…oh but if it’s with other people it means joy.  Um, ballet means harmony and cooperation, and grandmother means…” Lucy flipped some pages and skimmed a page before finishing her sentence.  “Nurture and protection.  So you’re joyful that you’re cooperating and you’re feeling protected about it?”  I chuckled quietly to myself as Lucy cocked her head to one side, obviously trying to work out the dream interpretation.

“What’s so funny?” Asked Justin, looking up from his own piece of parchment.

“Nothing,” I replied quickly.  “Just remembering a silly dream I had the other night.”  Justin gave me an odd look before shrugging his shoulders and turning back to his work.  What did I tell you?  Justin isn’t nosy and rude like my other dorm-mates!  I turned my attention back to the table in front of me where Lucy was still trying to interpret the dream.

“Ooh, I think I’ve got it!” She suddenly exclaimed.  “Cooperation and teamwork, well that’s Quidditch, because you work as part of a really great team,” I smiled at the fact she thought our Quidditch team was ‘great’.  “And the protection thing means that your spot on the team is protected and James will select you to be keeper again and you’ll be really happy about it!”  I had to admit, whether or not she was correct, that was pretty clever.

“I hope you’re right,” Hawthorn said. “I like being on the Quidditch team.”

“Of course I’m right, after all I’m an expert dream interpreter who has been doing this for ten whole minutes now!  You’ve got nothing to worry about, and really, James is a great bloke, of course he’s going to pick you for the team.”  Lucy patted her friend on the hand kindly.  I’m not sure why, but hearing her describe my brother as ‘a great bloke’ annoyed me.  It definitely wasn’t because I dislike James, I mean he is a top bloke and despite his annoying tendencies, he’s the best brother I could have asked for.  But there was something about hearing her talk about another guy in such a nice way that made me want to go and punch James in the face.  Hmmm…might want to watch out for that, I thought to myself.

The rest of the class continued on in a similar fashion, and by the time we were finished I had only managed to get down one very poorly interpreted dream because I’d been too busy listening to Lucy for most of the time.  She was a lot funnier than I’d realised, but not in a nasty way that put others down (except maybe for Trelawney), just a quirky, off beat sort of funny.  Unfortunately, Trelawney wasn’t too impressed when I handed up my barely used parchment and insisted that I interpret five dreams to be delivered to her by our next lesson on Monday afternoon.  Groaning, I slipped down the silver ladder and caught up with Justin who, to my surprise and happiness, was walking with Jane and Lucy.

“So did you ladies have fun up there?” I asked, trying to pull off the cool confidence my new look seemed to inspire.  I found it a bit tricky though, when I was trying to watch Lucy but pretend I wasn’t.  “Wasn’t that just the single most interesting lesson of your life?”

“Oh definitely,” Jane laughed.  Lucy stared straight ahead, as though she were concentrating very hard on something.  I felt frustrated, I had hoped she would laugh at my joke too so I tried again.

“I mean I’ll be using that dream interpretation stuff almost as much as I use….ooh…say tea leaf reading.”  I don’t even drink tea.

“Ugh, I hated that,” Once again it was Jane who responded.  “I could never see anything in my tea leaves.”

“And the tea that Trelawney used didn’t taste right either,” Justin piped up.  I watched Lucy in my peripheral vision, she was still staring straight ahead and she looked a little tense now.  One more try Albus, come on, you can do this.

“Oh and with all those scented candles and incense burning it just creates the most unique atmosphere.  That room is just so…so…”

“Suffocating?” I couldn’t help but grin at the new voice joining in to the conversation.  Lucy looked over at me and smiled.  When she did, her whole face seemed to light up and the cheekiness of her grin spread right to her eyes.  My stomach did another little backflip and I almost lost my footing.  Ok there’s definitely something going on there.  I continued to watch Lucy surreptitiously as we made our way to the common room for the break.  When we got there, the girls wandered off to join Rose and Gwen in the corner, not even glancing back at us.  Justin and I claimed some chairs near the fireplace, though it was far too warm for a fire to be burning, and waited for Will and Louis to get back from Muggle Studies. 

I couldn’t stop my eyes wandering to the girls in the corner though, and to one girl in particular.  I’d never really paid attention to her before but Lucy was definitely attractive, one might even call her pretty.  Her long dark hair fell over her shoulders softly, shining in the sunlight that was streaming through a nearby window.  She had wide brown eyes that sort of sparkled when she smiled or laughed, like she was doing now as she told a story to the others.  Her teeth were white and perfectly straight, and even though her front teeth were a little larger than normal, it was sort of cute and added to her charm.  She wasn’t tall, though she managed to hold a couple of inches over Hawthorn, and she had a fairly nice body to boot, which she didn’t flaunt with super-short hemlines and unbuttoned collars like some of the girls in the older year levels did.  As I watched her, she played with the hemline of her robes, twisting them gracefully between her fingers, I’m not sure why, but the movement was positively adorable. 

By the time the bell chimed, indicating it was time for us all to head down to the dungeons for Potions, I had come to a startling realisation.  Louis was right, I was developing a rather severe crush on Lucy Bell.

AN: So here we are, the first chapter of my companion story/Al's POV for Animal Magnetism.  I had to change the title to Human Nature because my original working title of 'Man vs Wild' violated the HPFF TOS because it was the name of a TV show.  But I actually think 'Human Nature' works well too :)

Welcome to everyone, old friends and new!  I hope you enjoy seeing things from Al's perspective and I hope it will shine some light on what was going on in his head during Animal Magnetism.  I'm sorry this chapter is a little bit short but they do get longer a few chapters in.  You know I love hearing from you all, so please leave a review!

Next time on Human Nature...

“So?” Will asked as we headed back to the castle a little while later.  “How’d it go?” Louis and Justin were on my other side, all looking at me expectantly.

“Um, alright I think.” I said, too embarrassed to explain about the whole moving away when I got too close thing.  “As well as can be expected.”  The boys seemed disappointed that I didn’t have more to tell them, and they call me a girl; they’re such gossips, always wanting to know how it went when I talk to her, I wonder how the girls would react if they knew we carried on like this!

“Well we’ve got Quidditch try-outs on Saturday,” Will offered.  “Bell will probably come along to support Hawthorn and you can impress her with your flying skills.”  I nodded my head in agreement, though I really didn’t believe that winning over Lucy’s heart was going to be quite that easy.

I wasn’t nervous about making the team on Saturday, because:

 1. I knew that I was the best seeker in Gryffindor, not meaning to sound conceited, but I inherited my Dad’s mad skills and it seems to be the one thing I’m really good at; and

2. I was pretty sure if James didn’t pick me, Mum would send him a howler every day for a month at the very least.  

Chapter 2: Fact of Nature #2: Being on the Quidditch team does not automatically make you a smooth ladies’ man.
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Care of Magical Creatures was fast becoming my new favourite subject, and it had nothing to do with the subject matter or the teacher (not that Hagrid isn’t awesome); it did however, have everything to do with one rather pretty brunette.  Once I realised that I liked Lucy in more than just a platonic way, I couldn’t seem to get her out of my head.  When she was around I was completely distracted by her, watching her out of the corner of my eye and trying to find excuses to talk to her.  When she wasn’t around, I found myself thinking about her and wondering what she was doing.  I’d liked girls before, liked them enough to ask them on dates and even snog a few, but no girl had ever quite had the effect on me that Lucy Bell did. 

Thanks to my odd behaviour, it wasn’t long until the guys worked it out and confronted me about it; I didn’t even bother trying to deny it.

“Ha!  I told you so!” Louis had crowed gleefully.  “You fancy Bell, and it’s turning you into a great big girl!”  I took their teasing good naturedly, because they were my mates and quite frankly, this was how we dealt with things.

“So are you going to ask her out?” Will had asked and three heads had swivelled in my direction.

“I…well…I thought about it, but I can’t,” I lowered my head, dejected.  I’d considered that very thing, in fact it was probably the first thing I thought about once I realised my own feelings, but it seemed like such an unlikelihood that it would go well.  I tried to explain this but it didn’t seem to make much sense.

“Of course she’ll go out with you mate; I mean yes you’re an annoying git, but you’ve grown up these last few months and the girls are really into that!”  Will was right, I had definitely noticed an increase in female attention being directed my way, but Lucy certainly had never been one of those girls.  She barely seemed to acknowledge me, no doubt a by-product of my own stupidity in ignoring her for four years.

“She’s not like that though, she hardly ever talks to me or even looks at me,” I’d tried to explain.  “There’s a really good chance she’ll say ‘no’ and I’m not sure I can face that.”  I sounded like a complete pansy but I couldn’t help it, it was truly how I felt.

“Just seize the day, you’ll never know if you never ask her,” Justin said wisely.  Oh that’s rich, coming from you! I thought to myself cynically.

“What, you mean the way you’ve been seizing the day with Gwen for the last year?” I retorted.  That seemed to shut him up, though I felt a bit guilty about it.  I wondered vaguely if this is how Justin felt about Gwen, and pushed back the urge to ask him how he coped with it – I was already feeling far too girly.  “Look lads, I’m not going to ask her unless I am positive the answer is going to be ‘yes’ and until I’m absolutely, indisputably sure about that we need to keep this quiet, ok?”  They’d all nodded in agreement, and despite all the teasing, I knew I could trust them.

A few weeks after the beginning of term, Hagrid began teaching us about Porlocks.  I’d never really cared too much about the subject before, only really interested if the animals were cool and simply coming along because I liked Hagrid.  But now I wanted to do well, partially because I wanted to impress Lucy, but also because it gave me something to talk about with her.  Somehow or other, Hagrid had managed to secure one of the reclusive horse guardians, and on a Wednesday afternoon, we all found ourselves watching the elusive creature through pairs of old binoculars and drawing sketches; in my case, very badly drawn sketches.  I’ve never been much of a drawer, and it didn’t help that I couldn’t see the Porlock properly anyway.  Glancing around, I noticed Lucy sitting by herself on the grass, her blonde haired Hufflepuff friend that she always seemed to hang around with was standing about fifteen feet away, watching the herd of horses through the binoculars.  Taking the opportunity, I wandered over and sat down next to Lucy.  She looked up when I sat down, a smile on her face; though I obviously wasn’t who she’d been expecting, because the smile faltered when she saw me.

“Hey Bell, how’s your sketch going?” I asked, hoping I sounded confident.

“Fine, thanks,” she replied non-commitally.  I looked at her sketch and was amazed at the intricacies of her detailing.  Apparently the girl could draw as well, I was suitably impressed.

“You’re doing better than me,” I said, trying not to sound too eager and holding up my own parchment.

“It’s not too bad,” She offered kindly, though I could see her mouth twitching at the corners.  I forced myself to look away from her mouth because it made me want to kiss her.

“Yeah if you’re four years old,” I muttered, looking down at my pathetic excuse for a drawing.

Lucy gave me a slightly devilish grin, “Don’t be so hard on yourself.  I would have said it’s more the work of a five year old,” she said.  My heart started beating a little faster at that smile.  I noticed that she had some important detail marked around the feet and I asked to see hers better.  Bravely, I used it as an excuse to lean closer to her, catching the sweet scent of her shampoo as my face came dangerously close to her hair.  Unfortunately, the move was too obvious and she almost immediately shuffled away from me.  Damn it! I thought to myself, I’d been too forward and now I’ve made her uncomfortable.

“Hey, do your own work and stop copying off me!”  She exclaimed.  I started for a minute, shocked that she would think I was trying to use her like that, but then I saw the teasing in her eyes and I relaxed.  Playing off the mood she had set, I put on a ridiculous, exaggerated puppy dog face and pouted at her.

“Please Bell?  You have to help me.  Look at how awful my sketch is!” I pleaded, it was true, my drawing was atrocious, and I think that was what won her over in the end.

“Oh ok, fine,” She sighed, holding her picture out in my direction.

“Thanks Bell, you’re an absolute star,” I grinned at her, and she gave me a sort of unsure smile in return.  Absolute star?  Dear Merlin did I really just say that?  Oh how pathetic!

I didn’t waste the opportunity to share Lucy’s drawing, and by the time the class had finished, my sketch actually looked something like a Porlock.

“So?” Will asked as we headed back to the castle a little while later.  “How’d it go?” Louis and Justin were on my other side, all looking at me expectantly.

“Um, alright I think.” I said, too embarrassed to explain about the whole moving away when I got too close thing, “As well as can be expected.”  The boys seemed disappointed that I didn’t have more to tell them.  And they call me a girl; they’re such gossips, always wanting to know how it went when I talk to her, I wonder how the girls would react if they knew we carried on like this!

“Well we’ve got Quidditch try-outs on Saturday,” Will offered.  “Bell will probably come along to support Hawthorn and you can impress her with your flying skills.”  I nodded my head in agreement, though I really didn’t believe that winning over Lucy’s heart was going to be quite that easy.

I wasn’t nervous about making the team on Saturday, because:

 1. I knew that I was the best seeker in Gryffindor, not meaning to sound conceited, but I inherited my Dad’s mad skills and it seems to be the one thing I’m really good at; and

2. I was pretty sure if James didn’t pick me, Mum would send him a howler every day for a month at the very least. 

What did make me nervous was seeing Lucy slipping into the stands very early on Saturday morning as I walked out on to the pitch.  James was organising people into groups and I wandered over near to where Jane was standing in the hopes that if she was watching her friend, Lucy might also notice me a bit more.  At one point I noticed her waving and Jane waved back, but I forced myself not to pay any attention, I didn’t want to come off as a desperate loser.

The try-outs themselves weren’t difficult, but I found myself trying extra hard just in case Lucy was watching.  I flew as quickly as I could and made a few daring turns and dives, hoping she would be impressed by my one skill.  As the morning wore on, I noticed Rose and Gwen sitting down next to Lucy.  Relishing the excuse to look her way, I waved in their direction, using Rose as a ruse.  Rose gave me a thumbs up and I noticed Lucy smiling at me too, though she could have been smiling at Hawthorn who was only a few feet away.   Eventually James picked his team, which really only had one major change from the previous year and we all began to make our way back to the castle.  Jane ran ahead to greet the girls as they left the stands.  Lucy hugged her friend with a squeal, celebrating Jane’s reinstatement as team keeper.

“…you were superb!” I heard her say as the boys and I approached the group.  Finding courage, goodness knows where, I stepped forward and spoke.

“What about me, was I superb?”  I tried to direct the question to the whole group, even though it was in obvious reference to what Lucy had just said.  She turned and stared at me, looking a little stunned.  Probably wondering why I’m making such an idiot of myself.  Luckily, Rose didn’t miss a beat as she reached over to punch my shoulder.

“You’re always superb, but don’t let it go to your head.”  I slung an arm around her shoulders, perfectly aware that I was all sweaty and gross and probably annoying her.  Much to my chagrin, Lucy more or less ignored me for the remainder of the day, even when we managed to convince the girls to come down to the lake for a swim.  I’m not sure if I thought my new improved body would cause her to swoon (swoon…did I just say swoon? Oh brother!), but I had figured she might at least pay me some attention!  I went to bed that night feeling a bit dejected, Lucy obviously felt nothing for me.

The next morning wasn’t much better.  I couldn’t shake the dark cloud that seemed to be hanging over my head and I found myself wandering around the castle in a bit of a strop. 

“What is your problem Al?” Rose asked me over lunch as I glared into a bowl of pumpkin soup. 

“Nothing,” I snapped, refusing to look her in the eye.  I knew she’d never let up if she worked out something really was wrong, so it was easier to let her think I was just in a bad mood.

“That time of the month is it Potter?” Harvey Pucey, the stupid git of a Slytherin Quidditch team captain sneered as he passed.  I ignored him, knowing that with the mood I was in, if I reacted even in the slightest way I’d probably do something stupid enough to get me a detention.  I finished my lunch in silence before stalking down to the Quidditch pitch for a fly, hoping I would be able to blow off some steam.

Calm down mate, I told myself as I shot around the pitch on my fifteenth lap…or was it sixteenth?  Oh who really cared anyway.  She’s just a girl, you can’t let it get to you like this!  It was true, and I knew it was true, but I still didn’t feel 100 per cent better when I finally came down to land.  She was just a girl, Lucy Bell was just a girl and I had to get past whatever I thought I felt about her because pining after her like some soppy moron was not going to help the situation.  I still felt some lingering frustration as I locked my broom away in the broom shed and as my eyes fell on a bag full of practise quaffles, a brilliant idea came to mind.  There was nothing I could do about Lucy and I had to just accept that, but I could do something about Harvey Pucey, and as I left the Quidditch pitch with one of the battered red balls in my hand, I felt my bad mood begin to lift.


AN: Hello again!  Thank you to everyone for your support of this story, I'm so excited by how many people have already favourited it and left reviews...Have I told you guys lately how much I love you all?  Ok, so good news and bad news: I plan to post the third chapter in a couple of days time, because I always think it's good to get a new story off the ground running (and I know how much you guys love quick updates).  The bad news is that on Monday I'm going away for a week and I won't be able to do any writing or updating in that time, so there will be a slightly longer break between updating the third and fourth chapters. 

Now, what did you think of this chapter?  I know it was another short one but they will get longer - I promise!  Please leave a review, I'd love to know what you think. 

Next time on Human Nature...

After some good natured teasing, Lucy asked me why I was on detention.  I tried not to sound too proud as I explained about Pucey and the quaffle; I wasn’t sure if she would approve or not, but she seemed happy that the Slytherin git had been taken down a peg or two.  Then came her turn to explain her presence.

“Molly caught me out of the common room after curfew on Saturday night,” She said.  Mental note: I must buy Molly a huge box of chocolate frogs for this.

“What were you doing out so late anyway?” I asked curiously.  I was desperate to find out what made her tick, and why on earth she would have been sneaking around the castle so late at night.  Don’t get me wrong, the rule breaking stuff is incredibly hot, I just didn’t realise it was her thing.

“I had a rendezvous with Arthur Kennilworthy.  On top of the astronomy tower at midnight.”   She said in a blasé sort of voice.  My heart seemed to skip a beat, could she be serious?

“Really?” I asked, trying to keep a calm expression on my face.

“Really.  We’re having a steamy love affair but he doesn’t want his girlfriend to find out about it.” 

She’s into Kennilworthy?  The upstanding, responsible and completely boring head boy of our wonderful school was not the sort of person I’d imagined Lucy with; I started to wonder if I had seriously misjudged her character.  I glanced at her curiously, and noticed that the corners of her mouth were twitching.

“You’re joking,” I ventured, hoping I was right.

Chapter 3: Fact of Nature #3: Hesitation can be a real killer.
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“Al!  Hey, Al!” I turned around to see James jogging down the hallway towards me.

“What’s up?” I asked curiously when he caught up with me, I noticed he was holding a folded piece of parchment.

“Here, Neville asked me to give you this,” He said, holding out the parchment to me.  We weren’t supposed to call him Neville at school, but we always felt stupid calling him Professor when nobody else was around.  I opened the note, read it and shoved it in my pocket.  James watched me curiously, raising his eyebrows expectantly. 

“Detention,” I shrugged.  “I have to go down to the dungeons at six to clean cauldrons.”  It wasn’t the most enthralling way to spend an evening but I’d had worse before; anyway it had been worth it to watch Pucey trying to stop that Quaffle from following him around.

“That was a pretty stupid stunt Al,” James said and I raised my eyebrows cynically.

“Since when did you become so perfect?” I asked.  “You get just as many detentions as me, maybe even more!”

“Well maybe I’m changing,” He shrugged, a slightly defensive tone to his voice.  “I’m of age now, you know and after I sit my N.E.W.T’s I’ll be leaving Hogwarts for good.  You might even say I’m growing up.”

“I’ll believe that when I see it,” I laughed, turning around and continuing along the corridor towards the Common Room.

I made sure to get down to the Great Hall early to eat before my detention that night, not that I was in any hurry to get down there, but I wanted to make sure I could eat enough that I wasn’t going to go hungry.  At about ten minutes to six, I left the table and headed down to the Potions room.  The door was closed when I arrived, so I leaned against the wall and waited, already feeling a bit bored.  As I was staring at the bricks in the wall opposite me, I heard approaching footsteps.  I assumed it was Professor Alchers returning from the Great Hall, but when I glanced up I felt a slightly uncomfortable swooping sensation in my stomach.  Lucy was walking down the hall towards me, her shiny brown hair dancing around her face as she looked up and noticed me.  I couldn’t believe my luck at being given a detention with the one girl I desperately wanted one-on-one time with and I couldn’t stop myself from smiling at her. 

The first of many things I learnt about Lucy that night was this: she is apparently quite clumsy.

As I watched, Lucy’s foot got caught on a loose stone in the dungeon floor and she fell, face first, on to the hard ground below.  I felt a slight sense of panic as she fell,  but before I could even push off the wall to help her, she had jumped to her feet, brushed down her robes and continued walking towards the door as though nothing had happened.  Her attempt at nonchalance was so cute I couldn’t help but smile at her again.

“You ok?”

“Never better,” She leaned slightly on one leg and I noticed a small bruise forming on one of her knees, though she didn’t seem to be showing any indication of pain.  Man, this girl is tough, I thought to myself, forcing myself to tear my eyes away from Lucy’s legs, which I noticed were rather fetching.

She didn’t say anything else because Professor Alchers chose that moment to open the door, make one of his awkward-joking-but-not-quite-joking comments, confiscate our wands and point us in the direction of about a thousand dirty cauldrons.

“I’ll come back to check on you regularly so make sure you’re working hard.” He said before leaving the room.  I turned to Lucy and wracked my brain for something to say.

“He won’t, you know,” I started with.

“Won’t what?” She looked confused.

“Come in and check on us,” I began, realising how lucky I was to have a detention with her and for the one professor who didn’t ever supervise detentions.  After some good natured teasing, Lucy asked me why I was on detention.  I tried not to sound too proud as I explained about Pucey and the quaffle; I wasn’t sure if she would approve or not, but she seemed happy that the Slytherin git had been taken down a peg or two.  Then came her turn to explain her presence.

“Molly caught me out of the common room after curfew on Saturday night,” She said.  Mental note: I must buy Molly a huge box of chocolate frogs for this.

“What were you doing out so late anyway?” I asked curiously.  I was desperate to find out what made her tick, and why on earth she would have been sneaking around the castle so late at night.  Don’t get me wrong, the rule breaking stuff is incredibly hot, I just didn’t realise it was her thing.

“I had a rendezvous with Arthur Kennilworthy.  On top of the astronomy tower at midnight.”   She said in a blasé sort of voice.  My heart seemed to skip a beat, could she be serious?

“Really?” I asked, trying to keep a calm expression on my face.

“Really.  We’re having a steamy love affair but he doesn’t want his girlfriend to find out about it.” 

She’s into Kennilworthy?  The upstanding, responsible and completely boring head boy of our wonderful school was not the sort of person I’d imagined Lucy with; I started to wonder if I had seriously misjudged her character.  I glanced at her curiously, and noticed that the corners of her mouth were twitching.

“You’re joking,” I ventured, hoping I was right.

“Of course I’m joking!  I don’t even know Arthur Kennilworthy!” She laughed, and I joined in with her, ever so slightly relieved.  “I was just sneaking down to the kitchens for treacle tart.”

“Treacle tart, really?” How crazy that she was sneaking out for my favourite dessert.  “I love treacle tart,” I added, as though that would make more sense to her.  She seemed suitably unimpressed.  “I thought maybe you’d snuck out to rescue and injured baby dragon or something.” I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of Lucy sneaking out to save some dangerous monster, like an attractive Hagrid!

“That would be incredibly dangerous,” Lucy replied, but I could tell from the tone of her voice that the thought of looking after a baby dragon was exciting for her.  I felt my smile widen, I’d managed to get something right about her: this talk about animals seemed to spark her interest.

“Well you seem to be the animal girl of Hogwarts, so it seemed appropriate.” The moment the words left my lips, I wished I could take them back.  I hadn’t meant for it to sound so stupid, I had meant to compliment her, but she was obviously not taking it that way.

“Animal girl?” The tone of her voice made me cringe.

“I meant it as a compliment,” I offered.

“Oh well that’s alright then,” She muttered sarcastically and I stared stoically at my cauldron, berating myself silently for screwing things up just as they’d been getting off the ground.  She ignored me for a while and I continued to scrub in silence, trying to work up the nerve to apologise and make her smile again.  Minutes ticked by and still I couldn’t find the courage to speak, but eventually, Lucy broke the silence.

“I’m taking a break,” She said as she wiped her hands on her skirt and moved on to sit on a nearby desk.  Holding in my nerves, I followed suit.  Sitting next to her, close enough to touch, I took a deep breath and spoke.

“Sorry if I hurt your feelings with that animal girl comment before,” I said, feeling some encouragement at the way her eyes softened at my apology.  “I actually think it’s really cool how good you are with animals.  You’re like a female Hagrid.”  Once again, my stupid mouth moved too fast for my brain and I nearly jumped off the table so I could go drown myself in the nearest cauldron.  I slapped my hand to my forehead and let out a small, involuntary groan.  “Sorry!  That really didn’t come out right, that’s not what I meant!” I exclaimed, my heart sinking as I realised she probably thought I was the biggest moron at Hogwarts.  It was to my great delight then, when Lucy actually laughed; a genuine, sweet tinkling sound that filled the whole room.

“It’s ok, Hagrid’s pretty cool.  I’m thinking of growing a beard myself.”  She stroked her chin thoughtfully and I couldn’t help but laugh.  Despite the fact I’d made a complete arse of myself twice already, she seemed to accept my apology and the conversation soon moved to other things, like school and plans for the future.

I found myself opening up a little bit and admitting that I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.  James kept going on about how he was growing up and how he wanted to pass his N.E.W.T’s, but I really didn’t have a clue.  Lucy seemed to understand the pressure as she shared with me about the achievements of her siblings.  After we’d returned to work, once again scrubbing in silence, I thought about how easy Lucy was to talk to once I’d managed to get my foot out of my mouth.  It was like talking to Rose only without all the gloating and know-it-all speeches.  Plus, when Lucy laughed it gave me rather pleasant tingles in my stomach.  I found myself missing her laugh and bravely decided a playful splash of water might entice her sense of humour.  My first attempt yielded no rewards though, if she noticed the splash, she simply ignored it.  I tried again, watching her for a reaction.  This time she looked up and caught my eye before smiling and splashing me back. 

That smile had me stunned for a few minutes and I stared at the wall, trying to calm my nerves before directing another, larger splash in her direction.  Without hesitation, Lucy splashed me back, the sudden jet of water dousing my face and causing me to step back in shock.  She stared at me for a second before that adorable laugh escaped her lips.  Feeling braver than I had all night, I stepped forward and threw as much water at her as I could.  Next thing I knew, there was water flying everywhere and the sound of Lucy’s laughter mingled with my own for several minutes, until she slipped and crashed to the ground for the second time that night. 

“Oh crap, are you ok?” I asked, trying to get down to her but only falling in an unceremonious heap myself, causing more laugher to fill the room.  I was sitting very close to her now, my hand still full of the foamy suds I’d been scooping up to throw at her.  A sudden burst of courage filled me, and I reached forward to put some of the suds on her nose, my fingers tingling where they had touched her.  “You look ridiculous,” I smiled, hoping my nervous laugh masked everything I was feeling.  She was so close and so beautiful, all I had to do was lean forward and kiss her…

I’ll never know if I would have worked up the nerve to kiss her if Professor Alchers hadn’t interrupted at that very moment.  I made up a quick excuse about slipping on the wet floor and climbed to my feet, offering my hand to Lucy without thinking about the action.  Despite the fact we were both soaking wet, Lucy’s hand felt so small and soft in my own and I had to use all of my self-control to let go of it once she was safely on her feet again.  We joked all the way back to the common room, and I was once more surprised by her quick witted sense of humour and how easy it was to talk to her.  When we reached the common room, I noticed Rose sitting by the fire, watching me curiously so I turned towards Will and Justin who were tackling some piece of homework by the window.

“How was detention?” Justin asked, glancing up as I sat down.

“A lot more fun than I was expecting,” I answered.  “Lucy was there too,” I added in response to their confused stares.

“That was convenient,” Will said, sounding surprised.  “You sure you didn’t plan it that way?”

“Believe me, I’d love to take credit for it, but obviously I just got lucky.  I didn’t even know she was a rule breaker!”

“What was she in detention for?” Will seemed intrigued, although I wondered if he was just looking for an excuse to avoid studying.

“Well of all things, sneaking out of the dormitories after hours.  Molly apparently caught her on her way down to the kitchens.” I explained, trying to surreptitiously glance across the room to where Lucy was now chatting with the other girls by the fire.

“Oh, was that Lucy?” Justin asked, now also deserting his homework in favour of the conversation.  “I knew Molly had caught someone, I just didn’t know who it was.”

“So, did you ask her out?” Will asked, lowering his voice.  I glanced at Lucy again, she laughed at something Hawthorn said, the tinkling sound of her laugh seeming to drift across the room to me.  I let out a sigh as I turned back to my friends.

“Not yet.  Just give me time guys, give me time.”

I was beginning to wonder if I needed more than time: I needed courage. Just man up Al, go and ask her out already! I berated myself on a daily basis.  And I often believed I could, that is until I would see her and my pulse would speed up and I’d get tongue tied.  I always did stupid things like stare at her for too long and then have to look away quickly when her head moved or I’d make dumb jokes in class, causing her to look embarrassed that I was even talking to her.

I wanted to ask her out, and yet I couldn’t do it.  I was certain she would reject me, after all, why would she be interested in an idiot who’d ignored her all these years?  I mentally kicked myself for about the ten millionth time as I headed down to the Great Hall for dinner one evening.  To my delight, I spotted and empty seat next to Rose, just across from Lucy.  She seemed to be explaining something to the other girls, and whilst Rose looked positively delighted at what she was saying, Lucy’s face seemed to reveal a sense of confusion more than anything else.

“And all this time he was watching you from afar, secretly falling in love with you,” I heard Rose gasp as I came within earshot.  My stomach churned nervously at those words, could Lucy have found out my feelings?  Maybe one of the boys had let it slip, ooh I was going to hex them into eternity when I worked out who it was!

“Who’s secretly falling in love?” I heard myself say as I sat down, surprised at how nonchalant I’d managed to make my voice.

Rose explained about Lucy’s date with some kid named Michael, not knowing that each word cut at me like a knife.  You idiot! The voice screamed inside my head.  You left it too long and now she’s dating someone else! I fought for composure and tried to think of something to say.  There was a kid called Michael McMillan in Hufflepuff I thought, weedy looking guy with weird eyes.

“Hufflepuff?” I asked, forcing a blasé tone. Lucy nodded, probably wondering why I even cared about her date.  With every ounce of strength I turned to face Rose and said the first thing that came to my mind, something about Uncle George I think.

I said very little for the rest on the evening, heading up to bed early where I could be alone with my torturous thoughts.  Lucy Bell had been getting under my skin for weeks and I’d been carefully putting myself on her radar, hoping she would forgive me for years of ignoring her.  I hadn’t worked up the nerve to ask her out yet, but the fact that she didn’t have a boyfriend had always given me hope that I wouldn’t be rejected when I took the plunge.  But then she agreed to go out with some stupid Hufflepuff and I didn’t stand a chance.  I hadn’t believed it possible, but I wanted her even more than ever now.

“Mate, what is your problem?” Louis asked the next morning when I slammed my trunk shut for the third time.  My left shoe was missing and I was about ready to destroy the room in order to find it.

“Nothing,” I growled, looking under my bed again for the missing footwear.

“Bell’s got a date for Hogsmeade,” Justin explained and I glared at him angrily. 

“What?” He threw up his hands, not at all intimidated by me.  “That’s why you’re so grumpy isn’t it?”

“Oh Al, I’m sorry mate,” Louis said, retrieving my shoe from underneath a pile of dirty clothes and throwing it to me.  “Look, you can’t change her mind now, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to mope around.  There’s plenty of girls who would go with you to Hogsmeade, why don’t you ask one of them, at least then you could still have a good time.”

I refused to dignify that stupid idea with a response and stalked wordlessly out of the dormitory.  I let the black cloud hang over my head for the morning, not speaking to anyone and barely paying attention in classes.  The afternoon passed in a similar fashion until the end of the day, when I escaped to the solace of the library, where my friends wouldn’t look for me and I could just sit and pretend to study.  I’m not sure how long I sat staring at the blank piece of parchment in front of me before I noticed the blonde girl three desks away from me.  She was wearing a Gryffindor tie and looked vaguely familiar, I searched my memory for an idea of who she was.  I estimated she was a fourth year, but I still couldn’t place who she was.  I wondered if I should know, because she kept glancing up at me from her books and smiling before ducking her head again.  I was about to ignore her and sink back into my bad mood when Louis’s words came to me. There’s plenty of girls who would go with you to Hogsmeade, why don’t you ask one of them? 

The girl smiled at me again, and it suddenly hit me that maybe this was one of the girls Louis had been talking about.  Maybe I should ask her out, after all if Lucy agreeing to go out with Michael had only intensified my feelings for her, maybe I could make the same thing happen, but in reverse.  It was stupid, and not at all fair on anyone, but I was determined to do anything I could to get Lucy and this was the only thing I could think of.  Before I lost my nerve, I stood up and walked over to the blonde girl, who looked up at me shyly as I approached.

“Hi, um…” I faltered, realising I still didn’t know this girl’s name.

“Mary,” She offered, as though reading my mind.  “Mary Temple.”

“Hi Mary,” I gave her what I hoped was a winning smile.  “I’m Albus – ” I was cut off by her high pitched giggle.

“I know who you are,” She said, and giggled again.

“Right, well um Mary I was wondering if you were going to Hogsmeade with anyone this weekend, and if you’d maybe consider going with me?” I surprised myself with how easily the words had slipped out of my mouth.  Now why couldn’t I just do that with Lucy?  I asked myself.  I knew the answer straight away: because I didn’t actually care if Mary said no.

“I’d love to,” Mary giggled again. 

“Great,” I plastered on a fake smile.  “Well I’ll meet you in the common room at 10 on Saturday morning ok?” I said, which was met with another giggle.  “Well I’ll see you then,” I quickly scooped my things up and headed towards the common room.  I had thought that asking a girl out and having her agree so readily would make me feel better, but as I walked away I couldn’t ignore the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach.

AN: Chapter three...yay! :)  I hope you guys liked it, I know that detention scene is a favourite of many readers so I hope you liked it from Al's perspective.  As I said in the last chapter, There will be a little wait for the next chapter because I'm going away for Easter but I'll hopefully be able to update in less than two weeks.  I also thought I'd just tell you guys about two songs that are just resonating with me in regards to this story at the moment.  Say you Like Me by We The Kings and What makes you beautiful by One Direction.  Lately, everytime I here these songs on the radio, it makes me think of this story.  Just thought I'd share :)

As always, I love reading your reviews, so please leave one telling me what you think.  And have a lovely couple of weeks until I can update again!

Next Time on Human Nature...

“So what bands do you like?” Mary asked.

“Oh, you know, this and that,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.  To be honest I didn’t listen to a lot of the newer bands, there were so many singers that popped on to the scene for a song or two and then disappeared.  And so many of them were posers anyway, using a gimmick they probably bought at Uncle Fred’s shop to get attention.  “I’ve always been a fan of The Weird Sisters.”

“The Weird Sisters?” Mary looked surprised at my answer.  “They’re that really old band aren’t they?  I think my dad has some of their records somewhere.”

“Well they’ve been around a while, but they’re pretty classic,” I replied, not really in the mood to have a debate with some fourth year who thought ‘Johnny Glitter’ was the best singer in the last 500 years.  “What about Celestina Warbeck, have you heard of her?  My Grandma has a box full of her records!”  I laughed as I remembered the screeching sound of the singer my Grandma Weasley loved so much.  Auntie Fleur could do the funniest impersonation of her, I suppose that’s where Louis got his talent for impersonating people from.

“Oh I love her,” Mary gushed, obviously missing the humour in my voice.  “Now there is a classic performer!”

Oh brother, I groaned inwardly.  Remind me again why I thought this date was going to be a good idea?

“So Mary, do you like Quidditch?” I asked, hoping to find an easier topic of conversation.

“Well not really,” She said.  “Though I love watching you play, you’re an excellent snitcher!”

“Seeker,” I sighed.  “The position is called Seeker.”


Chapter 4: Fact of Nature #4: Fighting fire with fire is rarely a good idea…same goes for jealousy.
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“Albus!  What have I done ter receive this great honour?” Hagrid beamed as he opened the door to let me inside his hut.

“Oh, you know.  Just thought it was time for a cup of tea,” I smiled, scratching Fang behind the ears once he’d stopped jumping all over me.  There was still a little time before dinner, and I wasn’t quite sure how to tell the guys about my date with Mary, so I’d escaped down to Hagrid’s hut to see if it would help clear my head a bit.  Hagrid made us some tea and served up his infamous rock cakes, which I refused under the guise of not wanting to ruin my dinner.

“So is there any int’restin’ news I should know about?” Hagrid asked once we’d covered classes, Mum, Dad, James and Lily. 

“Not a lot.  Quidditch team is looking good, uh there’s a Hogsmeade weekend coming up so that will be good.  Lucy Bell’s going with some guy from Hufflepuff.”  Merlin’s beard! Why did I just say that?  Why on earth did I bring her up?

“Really?” Hagrid asked, eyes twinkling.  “An’ yeh’re upset about it?”

“Oh….no…well I’ve got my own date for Saturday,” I said, trying to pass it off as a casual revelation.

“Really?” Hagrid was still looking rather amused.

“Yeah, she’s a fourth year.  Her name’s Mary…Mary Temple.” And an hour ago I had absolutely no idea who she was!

“Well, I’m sure yeh’ll have a nice time,” Hagrid said, though his little black, beetle-like eyes hinted that he wanted to say more.

I held off telling the guys until Wednesday morning.  I figured I couldn’t keep it from them much longer than that.

“Mary who?” Will asked.

“Mary Temple,” I repeated.  “She’s a Gryffindor fourth year, blond hair, average height…”

“You have no idea who she is, do you?” Louis grinned.

“Not a clue,” I admitted.

“Al!” Justin groaned.  “Mate, what are you doing?”

“Well what was I supposed to do?  Go stag to Hogsmeade and follow Lucy and McMillan around like a lost puppy all day?”  I said, though I felt like I was trying to convince myself self as much as the others.

“Hey give him a break,” Louis said.  “There’s nothing wrong with it if the girl wants to go out with him.  And you never know, it might even make Bell jealous.”

“It’s your funeral,” Justin muttered shaking his head.

By Friday, my convictions were failing me again and I found myself in desperate need of advice.  Louis and Justin were both continuing to voice opposite sides of the argument while Will happily sat on the fence, not offering any opinion at all.  I’d told Rose about the date with Mary, but I wasn’t too keen on talking to her about Lucy; after all they were friends and dorm-mates and as much as Rose was my best friend, there was far too much risk of things getting back to Lucy through her.

Eventually, I decided to make another trip down to Hagrid’s.  He seemed to be suspicious already so I figured he was the least objectionable option.  It was just about dinner time, but I guessed that if I missed out on eating I could always sneak down to the kitchens later.  I made my way through the castle and across the Entrance Hall, heading for the front doors, which were still half open from the day’s comings and goings.  I walked out into the bright sunshine but before I could enjoy it, I heard a crashing sound, a distinct crack and someone making an ‘oomph!’ noise.  I looked down to see none other than Lucy Bell herself, sprawled in what looked like a rather painful position on the top step.  I remembered her clumsiness during our detention and realised she must have fallen.

“Merlins pants, are you ok?” I exclaimed, rushing over to help her.  Her face was bright red as she muttered something about being used to it, pulling away from me when I tried to help, despite the fact that she was clearly hurt.

Whoah, this girl is really protective of her independence!

I could tell her right arm was hurt from the way she was nursing it, so I took her left one (despite the protests) and gently lifted her to her feet.  For the briefest of seconds, I entertained a fantasy of her falling into my arms in gratitude, she my damsel in distress and I her white knight.  Of course, that was shattered when she pulled her arm away, hobbling several steps away from me and telling me to basically continue on with what I was doing.  She did not want help.

Except that there was the briefest hint of fear in her eyes, mixed with the physical pain she was obviously feeling.  And the way she was shaking, even though it wasn’t that cold, told me that she was probably going into shock.

“I’m fine?” She practically whimpered when I insisted, her defence failing, though she was going to fight for her independence to the last.  I had to give the girl credit – she was incredibly brave, definitely a Gryffindor.

“Lucy,” I said as gently and persuasively as I could manage, surprising myself at the way her name sounded on my lips.  It seemed to convince her to let me help and before I knew it, my arm was tucked around her waist, her slender arm over my shoulder for support. 

Focus Al…she’s hurt, she’s scared, you’re supposed to be thinking about getting her up to the hospital wing, not focussing on how good it feels to have your arm around her!  It took all of my energy not to let my hand slip any lower on her waist than it already was, as I tried not to think about the fact that she was extremely close to me, our sides pressed together.

We didn’t get too far before we were joined by Hawthorn, who insisted on coming to the hospital wing with us, though I was pleased when Lucy didn’t let go of me, allowing me to help her all the way upstairs.  I would have happily swung her up into my arms and carried her the whole way, but I doubted she’d be too happy about that.

Madam Bones didn’t seem all that surprised to see Lucy injured so badly and I wondered vaguely just how clumsy she was.  I forced myself to let her go once she was sitting on a bed, but as I watched her, I found myself worrying about her safety.  What if I hadn’t come along, how long would she have been lying out there?  Would McMillan be able to protect her or help her if someone went wrong on her date?  What if they went to the shrieking shack and she fell down a hill or something?

I must have looked incredibly concerned, because Lucy noticed it.

“Oh don’t look so worried,” She said to me in a playful tone, a smile dancing across her lips.  I was stunned that she could look so calm and happy when she was nursing what were probably several broken bones.  “Ol’ Suse here will fix me up in a jiffy!”  She smiled at me again, making my heart skip a beat, though when Madam Bones gave her a disapproving glare, she lowered her head and stopped talking. 

I supposed that with Hawthorn there, I probably didn’t need to hang around, but I wanted to make sure she was alright, that Madam Bones could heal her properly.  It wasn’t long before the healer sent us on our way, Lucy already joking with Hawthorn about how many times she’d been to the hospital wing and suggesting they put up a plaque in her honour.  She’d stopped shaking, but I was still worried about shock, and I realised it was important that she eat something so I sat myself next to her at the Gryffindor table, not caring that the guys were at the opposite end of the room.  However, when Lucy enlisted Rose’s help in convincing me that she was fine, I realised I was probably being slightly obvious and I backed off.

The next day, as I made my way down to Hogsmeade with Mary, I found my mind wandering.  I tried to listen to Mary, honestly I really did; it’s just that she was talking about some new pop singer called Johnny Glitter (I mean, seriously?) and I just couldn’t focus on what she was saying.  Instead, I found myself plagued by the memory of how it had felt to have my arm around Lucy’s waist, my mind was entranced by the way her soft hand had clamped on to my collar bone and the curve of her hip under my hand.  Merlin.  I’m getting a bit pervy aren’t I?  I scolded myself, though it wasn’t really like that.  Well ok it sort of was, I’m a 15 year old bloke for goodness sake, but it was so much more than the physical contact. 

“So what bands do you like?” Mary asked, forcing me to drag my thoughts away from Lucy and her far too appealing hips.

“Oh, you know, this and that,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.  To be honest I didn’t listen to a lot of the newer bands, there were so many singers that popped on to the scene for a song or two and then disappeared.  And so many of them were posers anyway, using a gimmick they probably bought at Uncle Fred’s shop to get attention.  “I’ve always been a fan of The Weird Sisters.”

“The Weird Sisters?” Mary looked surprised at my answer.  “They’re that really old band aren’t they?  I think my dad has some of their records somewhere.”

“Well they’ve been around a while, but they’re pretty classic,” I replied, not really in the mood to have a debate with some fourth year who thought ‘Johnny Glitter’ was the best singer in the last 500 years.  “What about Celestina Warbeck, have you heard of her?  My Grandma has a box full of her records!”  I laughed as I remembered the screeching sound of the singer my Grandma Weasley loved so much.  Auntie Fleur could do the funniest impersonation of her, I suppose that’s where Louis got his talent for impersonating people from.

“Oh I love her,” Mary gushed, obviously missing the humour in my voice.  “Now there is a classic performer!”

Oh brother, I groaned inwardly.  Remind me again why I thought this date was going to be a good idea?

“So Mary, do you like Quidditch?” I asked, hoping to find an easier topic of conversation.

“Well not really,” She said.  “Though I love watching you play, you’re an excellent snitcher!”

“Seeker,” I sighed.  “The position is called Seeker.”

The quality of conversation didn’t improve throughout the morning, so I decided the many distractions of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes might help things out.  It worked for a while, Mary spent half an hour just looking at the WonderWitch pimple removal potions, but eventually, I could see she was growing bored. 

“You hungry?”  I asked as she placed a daydream charm back on top of a display.  “We could head over to the Three Broomsticks.”  Mary’s face fell slightly as I mentioned the pub.

“Oh, The Three Broomsticks?  Well, um, sure.”  She said, though I couldn’t help but notice the disappointment on her face.  Why on earth would she be disappointed about going to the Three Broomsticks?  It was a brilliant pub.  That is unless she wanted me to take her to…Oh Merlin, she wants me to take her to Madam Puddifoots?  I’d never taken a girl (or a boy for that matter) to Madam Puddifoots and I had no intention of ever doing so.  The sickly pink decorations, china plates and lacy doilies everywhere; it sounded like a nightmare!  No girl was worth that.  Well ok, maybe one girl, but I doubt it’s her kind of place. 

I ignored the look on Mary’s face and began leading the way out of the shop, which had become very crowded in the time we had been there.  I’d been keeping an eye out for Lucy for most of the morning, but I hadn’t seen any trace of her or that git McMillan.  So you can imagine my surprise when I began inching my way around a display of Skiving Snackboxes only to come face to face with the very girl herself. 

“Bell!” I exclaimed, far too loudly for normal conversation.  I looked down as she replied, and my heart fell as I saw her hand intertwined with McMillan’s.  Almost immediately though, she dropped his hand and shoved it in the pocket of her jeans as though to indicate that she didn’t care whether she was holding his hand or not.  That’s a good sign Al, now try and act happy.  Remember you’re supposed to be showing her how much you don’t care that she’s dating McMillan and how much you’re enjoying being with Mary.

“You two having fun?” I asked, feeling the ridiculous grin on my face and wishing I could just sink into the floor.  She’s going to think I’m a crazy person at this rate!

“I guess so,” She replied indifferently, she seemed distracted by something and I couldn’t help but feel relieved that she wasn’t having the time of her life with McMillan.  McMillan didn’t look too impressed at her tone though, in fact he looked slightly insulted and I wasn’t the only one who noticed.  “I mean, yeah, we’re having a great time!” Lucy exclaimed with far too much enthusiasm, glancing guiltily at Michael.  It was all starting to get a bit weird and I realised from the looks on their faces that Mary and McMillan were both getting quite uncomfortable.

“We were about to head to the Three Broomsticks for lunch, we might see you there,” I said, stepping around them to make my way to the door.  Lucy looked as though she was going to respond, but McMillan cut her off, saying something about going somewhere else for lunch.  I stopped immediately, Mary bumping into my back.  Yeah, I wonder where that could be you smarmy git, I grumbled inwardly.  McMillan obviously wanted to take Lucy to Puddifoots where he’d no doubt try to snog her. 

“Oh,” Lucy looked embarrassed as she noticed Mary and myself watching.  “Well, yeah of course that’s ok.”  She said, though I was sure I detected a note of hesitation in her voice.  I glanced at Mary, who was giving me a pointed look and I realised I was being creepy again.

“Well, have a good day then,” I mumbled and hurried out the door before Lucy or McMillan could respond.

“Was that girl a friend of yours?” Mary asked as we made our way down the street.

“Who, Lucy? Oh, erm…well I guess so.  She’s in my year.”  I replied.  Was Lucy my friend?  She probably wouldn’t say so.

“Well it looks like she and that boy’s date was going well, I think he’s going to take her to Madam Puddifoots,” Mary gave me a pointed look as she said this; a look I chose to ignore as I made a beeline for the Three Broomsticks.  This date was going from bad to worse and if Mary dropped one more hint about that awful tea shop I might just have to run away from her like the wimpy girl I am.

“Al!” I peered through the crowded pub and spotted Will waving across the room to me.

“Oh, there are my friends,” I said to Mary, ducking past a group of elderly wizards to reach the table where Will was sitting with Justin, Rose, Gwen and Jane.  “Hey guys, having a good day?”  I asked

“Can’t complain,” Will replied, giving me a knowing look.  “You two want to join us?”

“Sure,” I replied.  “You don’t mind do you?” I said to Mary as I pulled up a chair.

“Uh, no, that’s fine.”  She said, though she looked a little disappointed.  Ok this date was the worst idea ever.  I introduced Mary to everyone before falling into silence.  I had nothing to talk to Mary about and everyone else seemed caught up in their own conversations.

“Who wants a drink?”  I offered.  “My shout.”  Everyone placed their orders and I took off to the bar, relieved to get away from Mary for a few minutes.  I wondered vaguely if she expected me to kiss her and exactly how hard it would be to get out of asking her out again.  I felt like a right git but the truth was, there was only one girl I wanted to be on a date with, and unfortunately she was probably in Puddifoot’s by now snogging McMillan.  I tried to fight off that image as I waited in the huge line of people at the bar, consoling myself with the fact that Lucy hadn’t looked like she was having too much fun with McMillan and therefore, maybe she wouldn’t want to kiss him either. 

“Six butterbeers and a pumpkin juice,” I told Madam Rosmerta, and turned to face the door while I waited, my hand tapping casually on the bar.  My hand stopped dead as I noticed a couple standing near the door.  Lucy and McMillan had just entered and were looking around for somewhere to sit.  As I watched, Lucy pointed out our table and made her way through the throng.  I wasn’t sure what had changed their minds, but I was certainly glad they had.

I paid the barmaid and carefully balanced the tray as I edged my way back through the crowd, taking a deep breath as I caught sight of the back of Lucy’s head, her brown hair falling over her shoulders like melted chocolate.  Ok Al, keep calm, play it cool.  I told myself as I approached the table. 

“Sorry I took so long, the line at the bar is massive,” I said to the table calmly.  Lucy spun around at that moment, nearly knocking the tray from my hands.  “Whoah, easy there Bell!”  I said, forcing myself to keep the casual tone in my voice.  “What are you guys doing here?  I thought you were going somewhere else for lunch.”

I swear that for the briefest of seconds, Lucy blushed.

“Um well…that didn’t work out,” She muttered, looking embarrassedly at McMillan.  “So can we join you?  I’d rather not eat my lunch standing in a corner.”

I was excited that Lucy was going to have lunch with us, but it became pretty obvious that she was interested in McMillan…at least enough to give him all of her attention for the remainder of the meal.  I did my best to focus on Mary but I swear she would not shut up about bloody Johnny Glitter and I found myself battling white noise every time she opened her mouth. 

Lucy and Michael disappeared after they’d eaten, McMillan saying something about the Shrieking Shack, leaving me with the uncontrollable urge to follow them and tackle him to the ground.  But, ever the polite young man my mother raised, I stayed with Mary for as long as could be deemed decent…which was until about 3 o’clock.

“Well I was going to go and get in some Quidditch practise,” I explained as we stood outside Honeydukes.  “I can walk you back to the castle if you like.”

“Oh no, that’s ok,” Mary said, not doing a very good job at hiding the surprise in her voice.  “I’ve got some friends around somewhere, I’ll just go find them.”

I felt a bit guilty as I dragged myself back up to the castle, deciding that I would go for a fly after all.  I changed into sweat pants and a t-shirt before heading down to the pitch, grateful for the peace and quiet granted by a Hogsmeade weekend.  After over an hour and goodness knows how many laps of the pitch, I finally descended, locked up my broom and headed back up to the castle.  I smelt like the back end of a troll (which incidentally smells like the front of a troll…and the middle of a troll) and decided a shower was in order.  I was just about to round the corner that led to the Gryffindor common room when I heard voices, once of which I recognised instantly.

“I had a great time today Michael,” Lucy was saying.  I stopped myself and peeked around the corner, spying like the little pervy creep that I am.  “Thanks for asking me.”

“Thanks for saying yes,” McMillan replied in a silky sort of voice that made me want to punch him.  He leaned in towards her for a kiss and I gripped the stone wall to hold myself in place.  Lucy looked like she was about to kiss him, but at the last second something came over her face and she turned her head so that McMillan’s lips collided with her cheek.  She looked embarrassed and muttered a hasty goodbye before disappearing through the portrait hole.  McMillan stood facing the portrait of the fat lady for about 30 seconds before turning and heading down the stairs in the opposite direction to where I was standing, however there was no missing the words he muttered to himself as he left.

“Bloody tease.” He grumbled, and it took all my self-control not to hex him there and then.


AN: Hello all!  How are you?  I had a lovely Easter holiday and I hope you all did too.  I hope you enjoyed chapter 4, let me knpow what you think in a review.  I'm a bit behind with my review responses at the moment, but know that I love your feedback.

And of course, here's your sneak peek at the next chapter...

I left my two cousins to their discussion of funny moments to do a lap of the room, looking for some of my other friends.  Ok so maybe I was looking for Lucy – what good is being the match winning seeker of an awesome Quidditch team if you can’t use it to impress the girl you fancy?  I’d finished my butterbeer and tossed out the bottle before I finally spotted her, curled up on a small two-seater sofa, her hands around a bottle of butterbeer and that beautiful smile on her face as she chatted with someone I couldn’t see. 

I was floored for a moment with just how pretty she really was.  It wasn’t an ‘in-your-face’ sort of beauty, the kind that other girls flaunted to get a boy’s attention, it was a sort of natural beauty that had as much to do with her personality as it did with her wide expressive eyes and the light smattering of freckles across her perfectly symmetrical nose.  She shifted slightly in her seat and laughed, the sound seemed to travel across all of the other noise in the room and made me smile as I watched her for a few more minutes. 

I was just convincing myself that I could amble over to her and be all charming and sexy and ‘hey-did-you-notice-how-I-pulled-off-that-awesome-catch-of-the-snitch-today’ when the crowd parted slightly and I realised who Lucy was talking to.  James Sirius Potter, my own freaking brother, was nestled in the seat next to Lucy, leaning forward and talking to her quite intensely.  How could he do this to me?  I mean I get that Lucy is gorgeous and all, but she’s two years younger than him and it is not ok! 

Chapter 5: Fact of Nature #5: You should never underestimate your pet’s ability to cramp your style.
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“Great job Potter!”

“Awesome match Albus!”

“Go Go Gryffindor!”

Such were the shouts and calls I heard as I entered the common room, freshly showered and ready for a good old fashioned Gryffindor victory party.  My muscles were pretty sore after the massive tumble I’d taken in order to beat that prat Malfoy to the snitch, but it was definitely worth it.  I spotted Fred and Louis handing out bottles of butterbeer and wandered over for a drink.

“Great work out there today mate!” Louis raised his bottle in a mock salute as I took a sip. 

“Well it was no thanks to this moron here,” I nodded towards Fred with a smirk.  Fred groaned and smacked himself in the forehead.

“I’m such an idiot!” He said.  “I just panicked; I’m a beater, my father was a beater and my namesake was a beater.  I have no idea whatsoever to do with a quaffle!”

“Wasn’t your mum a chaser?” I asked before taking another sip.  Louis snorted into his own butterbeer.

“Oh shut up!” Fred grumbled, though a small grin did cross his face.  “Got the whole student body laughing though didn’t it?  Can’t top Fred Weasley for a laugh!”

“Mate, it was the funniest thing I’ve seen in years,” Louis grinned, slapping him on the back.  “Maybe ever!”

I left my two cousins to their discussion of funny moments to do a lap of the room, looking for some of my other friends.  Ok so maybe I was looking for Lucy – what good is being the match winning seeker of an awesome Quidditch team if you can’t use it to impress the girl you fancy?  I’d finished my butterbeer and tossed out the bottle before I finally spotted her, curled up on a small two-seater sofa, her hands around a bottle of butterbeer and that beautiful smile on her face as she chatted with someone I couldn’t see. 

I was floored for a moment with just how pretty she really was.  It wasn’t an ‘in-your-face’ sort of beauty, the kind that other girls flaunted to get a boy’s attention, it was a sort of natural beauty that had as much to do with her personality as it did with her wide expressive eyes and the light smattering of freckles across her perfectly symmetrical nose.  She shifted slightly in her seat and laughed, the sound seemed to travel across all of the other noise in the room and made me smile as I watched her for a few more minutes. 

I was just convincing myself that I could amble over to her and be all charming and sexy and ‘hey-did-you-notice-how-I-pulled-off-that-awesome-catch-of-the-snitch-today’ when the crowd parted slightly and I realised who Lucy was talking to.  James Sirius Potter, my own freaking brother, was nestled in the seat next to Lucy, leaning forward and talking to her quite intensely.  How could he do this to me?  I mean I get that Lucy is gorgeous and all, but she’s two years younger than him and it is not ok!  I found myself quickly pushing through the crowd, determined to put an end to this immediately.  James was laughing at something Lucy had said as I approached, though they both noticed me and looked up when I stopped in front of them.

“Hey,” James said, glancing up at me with a smile.  Oh that’s right, smile as you steal the one girl I actually fancy away from me.  And you call yourself my brother!  Traitor is more likely.

“Hey,” was what I actually managed to say in response.

“Hey is for horses,” Lucy said, and I turned to her, my body reacting to her voice instinctively.  “And you know…cows and sheep and gnomes and stuff…”  She babbled quietly.  It was sort of adorable and if I had not been so mad at James right then, I probably would have laughed.  But I was mad, and I needed to sort things out with James straight away.  And by sort things out I mean tell him to keep his stupid, seventh year hands off Lucy.

“Can I talk to you for a minute?” I said to him, trying not to clench my fists as I did so.

“Um, I guess so.  Sorry Lucy, you don’t mind do you?” He said, turning to look at Lucy, who was wearing a rather curious expression on her face.  Dang it Al!  Why didn’t you ask her if it was ok?  Now James looks like the sweet considerate one and you just look like a moron.  Let’s just add it to that ‘I’m-a-git-who-ignored-you-for-four-years’ image, shall we?

Lucy was saying something and I chastised myself for not paying more attention, though I managed to gauge that she was giving her blessing for James to leave because he was standing and looking at me expectantly.  With the briefest of glances in Lucy’s direction (yep, I’m a totally rude git who doesn’t deserve her!) I stalked out of the common room, James hot on my heels.

“Great match today little brother!” James slapped me on the back as we walked down the corridor.  “I doubt Dad could have done much better in his day.”

I ignored the extremely kind compliment from my brother and headed around a corner, looking for an unlocked classroom.  I found one and indicated I wanted James to follow me inside.

“Everything ok?” He asked as I closed the door behind myself and turned to face him.  “You didn’t hurt yourself too bad out there today did you?  I know you said you were alright but if something doesn’t feel right we should get you to the hospital wing straight away.”

“I’m fine James,” I said tersely.

“Oh, ok,” He looked relieved.  “So what’s up?”

“What’s up?” I repeated.  “Well I was going to ask you same thing brother dearest.  Like maybe what’s up with you and Lucy Bell?”

“Huh?” James had the audacity to pretend to be confused.

“Don’t play dumb with me James, you obviously fancy her.  I think she’s a bit young for you, and you’re not really her type, I don’t think she’d be into the whole pretty boy, Quidditch captain thing.” I practically snarled.  The logical part of my brain was trying to tell me to calm down but the hormonal part of my brain, the part that wanted Lucy, the dominant part of my brain, was winning out.

“Al, hold up there mate, you’ve got the wrong idea,” James said in an almost-laugh.  “There’s nothing between me and Lucy, I promise you.”

“Yeah right James, so what did you call what you were doing in there then?”  I growled.  “I saw you all snuggled up with her on the sofa, putting on the James Potter charm, laughing at all her jokes and flirting like crazy!”

“Al you’re being ridiculous,” James shook his head condescendingly, the smirk still on his lips.

“I’m just saying what I saw, it didn’t look ridiculous to me,” I snapped.

“So you’re not going to believe me then, your own brother?” James asked, the smirk gone from his face now.  I’d clearly offended him but I didn’t care, I was still angry.

“Well that depends on whether or not you’re lying to me.  I don’t understand what you were doing,” I challenged him, daring him to explain his little ‘interaction’ with Lucy.  James rolled his eyes.

“I’m sorry brother, I wasn’t aware I had to ask your permission to live my life, but for the record it wasn’t what you think.  It was….” His voice drifted away for a second, like he was trying to find the right way to explain what he’d been doing.


“Well…well that’s not important.” James looked almost embarrassed as he shook his head.  “But why does it matter to you so much?  Why do you care?” James raised his eyes in that perceptive-big-brother way.  I opened my mouth to speak but couldn’t think of the right words that wouldn’t incriminate me.  Normally I wouldn’t have an issue with telling James about a girl I liked, but I still wasn’t entirely sure he was telling me the truth.

“It doesn’t matter, I just don’t think you’re right for her,” I finally said, feeling a bit defeated.

“I’ve already told you, I’m not interested in her Al!  She’s all yours!”  James cried.  My heart skipped a beat – he knows!  How can he know?  Am I really that obvious?

“What?  That’s not why I’m… all mine?  No…I…” I spluttered, trying to sound cool and calm.

“Al, seriously you’ve got nothing to worry about.  I’m getting a bit beyond schoolgirls personally,” James sighed.  “If you like her, just go for it mate.”  I gulped at his words…maybe he was telling the truth, maybe he wasn’t after Lucy after all.  Though that still didn’t explain what he was doing carrying on with her in the common room like that.  “And if you’re not going to admit it to yourself,” He continued, “I’d rather you get off my case, especially since I didn’t do anything wrong.” 

Before I could say anything else, James rolled his eyes at me again, turned and left the room, leaving me feeling slightly annoyed and ever so stupid.  I let out a sigh of frustration and followed James out into the hallway, though as I turned to pull the door closed behind me, I realised there was someone leaning against the wall outside the classroom.

Lucy was standing there, her eyes closed and her head back against the stone as she let out a breath.  Sweet Merlin, I do have it bad.  Now I’m hallucinating that I’m seeing her everywhere!  I blinked rapidly, but she was still there, so I thought I’d test the depth of my insanity.

“Bell?”  Her eyes opened in surprise.  If she was a hallucination surely she wouldn’t be responding to me, right?  “What are you doing here?” I asked.  She looked startled, panicked even.  Definitely not a hallucination.

“I was….well I um…I was just going up to the Owlery?” She said it like a question, as though she were unsure. 

“Is that a question?” I cocked my head curiously.

“No…it’s a statement…” She looked nervous and she bit her lip, which only dragged my attention to that part of her body, and thinking about her lips led to thinking about kissing those lips...No!  I forced myself to ignore the image of me kissing Lucy and focussed on more pressing matters such as How long had Lucy been standing there and exactly how much she had heard.

“So you were going up to the Owlery and just happened to stop here, outside this classroom?” I said, trying to sound normal.

“Well, I heard voices, you guys sounded really angry,” She said.  Crap, I really need to keep my voice down when I’m accusing people of trying to chat up Lucy!

“How much did you hear?”  I said, my voice cracking slightly and betraying me.  What if she heard the whole thing and worked out that I like her?  Oh sweet Merlin!

“Not much.  Just James telling you to get off his case; I get it, I fight with my brothers all the time,” She assured me.  I watched her curiously, to try and sense any indication she might not be telling me the truth.  Lucy had said she was an awful liar but the other day in Divination, she’d pulled one over on Trelawney pretty well.  Then again Trelawney was a few tea leaves short of a prediction…

“That’s all you heard?” I asked, just to be sure, though I was starting to wonder if my neurosis was making her suspicious.

“That’s all I heard,” She promised.  “Why?  What were you fighting about?  Has one of you killed someone and now you’re worried the other is going to turn you in to the ministry?” Her eyes twinkled as she gave me a teasing grin.  I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

“Not quite that dramatic Bell, just brothers arguing, you know how it is,” I was glad to hear my voice was back to normal.

“So you’re not a cold blooded killer?  You know if it was a particularly nasty Slytherin I wouldn’t blame you.”  She grinned at me again and I couldn’t help but grin back, her smile was kind of infectious.

“Don’t think I haven’t considered it,” I replied, though my mind was drifting more to a certain Hufflepuff prat as my future murder victim.

“Oh, we’ve all considered it; it’s just the rare few that act on it.  But don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.  If the department of Magical Law Enforcement finds out, it won’t be because I told them.” She said with mock seriousness, though her eyes continued to twinkle mischievously.  This girl is all kinds of awesome!  “I should probably get up to the Owlery,” She said suddenly, glancing down the hallway.

“Oh, yeah…ok,” I said, disappointed.  I’d just been enjoying the one-on-one time with her, away from the prying eyes of our friends and now she wanted to take off again.  Although, she had said she was on her way to the Owlery so maybe she really did need to go there.  Summoning some Gryffindor bravery I asked a very scary question.  “Fancy some company?”

“Oh…well…um…” She stammered and my heart fell.  Not exactly falling over herself to spend time with you, is she Mr Hot-Shot Quidditch player? My self-doubt taunted me.

“Oh, well I don’t have to,” I said, trying to keep my voice light.  “You meeting your secret lover up there or something?  Another rendezvous with Arthur Kennilworthy perhaps?”  It was a long shot but I thought that maybe if I reminded her of our detention together she’d remember how much fun I could be.

“Don’t say stuff like that too loudly.  Someone might hear you!  I have a reputation to uphold!” She whispered loudly, flapping her hands at me, though I could see from her smile that she was only joking.

“I’d feel that way if Kennilworthy was my secret lover too,” I teased.

“Alright, you can come along if you stop saying you-know-who is my secret lover,” She sighed over-dramatically and indicated for me to follow her down the hallway.  I didn’t need to be told twice.  We bantered back and forth for a while before falling into a comfortable silence, well as comfortable as a silence can be when you’re trying not to look at a pretty girl too often.  As we reached the stairs to the Owlery, I found myself wondering who was so important that Lucy had to send a letter to them in the middle of a party.  Maybe she’s got a boyfriend back home, some older muggle guy who works in a pub and rides one of those loud muggle thingies…what do they call them?  Motorbikes?

“So who are you writing to?” I said casually, hoping it wasn’t too personal a question.

“Oh just my sister,” She replied and relief flooded through me as the image of Lucy’s hypothetical muggle boyfriend, who had morphed into someone very large with enormous muscles (and oddly enough a handlebar moustache) disappeared from my mind.  She was patting her pockets, saying something about needing a quill to add something to her letter and glancing back down the stairs as though she were considering going back to the dormitories. 

“Oh, don’t worry about that, here I’ll show you something,” I said, climbing up the last few stairs and showing her the secret compartment Victoire had created in her seventh year.  In the back of my mind I realised I probably shouldn’t have been giving away family secrets without consulting my cousins, but I knew that once I explained that it was a secret, Lucy wouldn’t go around blabbing to everyone.  I handed her the quill and bottle of ink and then went to find Kenrick, my owl, so that she could have some privacy to write whatever it was that she needed to.

I patted my tawny owl as I watched her writing, her bottom lip once more between her teeth as she thought about what she was writing.  Kenrick nudged me gently when my hand stopped moving and I grinned at him as I scratched his head.  I loved Kenrick, he’d been a gift from my parents when I started at Hogwarts, and they’d done the same for James and Lily.  Dad said that Hagrid had given him his first owl as a birthday present just before he started at Hogwarts, the same day he’d found out about the wizarding world, and he thought it would make a nice family tradition.

“Hedwig was like a best friend,” He’d explained, tears in his eyes.  “When I was locked away from my friends and school and magic during the summer, she was my one living connection to everything I loved.  She was my reminder that it was all real, and she died protecting me.”

My Dad can be a bit intense like that sometimes, but I suppose when you’re born during a war, lose your parents as a baby, live through oppression throughout your entire childhood and then have to battle the world’s most powerful dark wizard at the age of 17, you kind of have a right to get all mushy and emotional about things like dead owls. 

Lucy refolded her parchment and climbed to her feet, placing the quill and ink pot neatly back in the secret compartment.

“Done?” I asked cheerily.  “Here, you can use Kenrick if you like,” I held out my arm towards her, feeling a bit stupid at the gesture.  I mean a girl as crazy about animals as Lucy, she probably had her own owl.

“Oh…really?  Are you sure?  What if you need him?”  Her eyes lit up as she looked at Kenrick, and I thanked whatever deity might be listening that I’d made the right move.

“Well I’m not planning on sending any letters today and unless your sister lives in Africa, I’m sure he’ll be back by the time I need him,” I joked.  It was all the encouragement Lucy needed.  She approached slowly and stroked Kenrick gently as though asking permission before attaching the letter to his leg.  Kenrick watched her curiously, though not in the wary, suspicious way he did when someone else tried to use him for sending mail (he once bit my mum so hard her finger started bleeding.  It was the only time she said a swear word in front of me…at least that she knows of!), it was more of an affectionate look, as though he were somehow, inexplicably drawn to her.

I know the feeling buddy, I told him telepathically.

Lucy continued to stroke his feathers and Kenrick nipped playfully at her fingers before nudging her hand.  There was no doubt about it, my owl was bloody flirting with her!  Lucy giggled, a completely adorable sound, and grinned at Kenrick as she finished tying the knot.  Her entire face seemed to light up as he batted his big, round owl eyes at her.  Al, get serious!  You’re jealous of a sodding bird!

“I think he likes you,” I whispered, talking more about myself than Kenrick.  Lucy looked up at me, her eyes meeting mine.  She was standing incredibly close, so close that I could smell her hair and count the freckles on her nose. 

“I like him too,” She said, still staring straight into my eyes, and for the briefest second, I let myself think she was talking about me and not my owl.  I felt a rather pleasant chill run through me as we stood there, our proximity to each other felt rather intimate, and we were all alone for once.  Well almost all alone.  Kenrick decided he wasn’t getting enough action so he flapped his wings irritably, breaking the spell between us.

Bloody bird.  Go after your own species why don’t you?

Lucy turned her attention to Kenrick, crooning to him as she held out her arm for him to hop over.  I watched her as she carried him over to the window, her cheeks were pink with an embarrassed blush – though I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.  For all I knew, she thought I’d been coming on to her and it had made her uncomfortable.

“We should probably get back to the party,” She said once Kenrick had flown away.  “People might start wondering where their star seeker is.”  I would have been happy to spend the rest of the afternoon with her in the Owlery, but I doubted she’d take that suggestion very well.  I followed her from the room, determined to make the most of the time we had left together before we reached the crowds of people in the common room where she’d no doubt find someone more interesting to talk to.  I remembered something my Uncle Ron had once said about complimenting girls.

“You know Bell, you really are amazing with animals.  Kenrick doesn’t normally like new people.” I said.

“Well we all have our talents I guess,” She said modestly.  “You’re an amazing Quidditch player and I can talk to birds.  Although nobody’s ever thrown me a party for getting an O in Care of Magical Creatures,” she laughed at the statement but I didn’t.  An uncomfortable knot formed in my stomach, it was the same feeling I’d experienced when I’d first realised I’d been ignoring Lucy for four years.

“It does seem a bit ridiculous I suppose.  We do put a lot of focus on Quidditch here, don’t we?”  I had never really thought about it before, but whilst Lucy and Jane were best friends, Jane was by far the more popular and well-known of the two, all because of Quidditch.  It didn’t seem at all fair, especially when Lucy was just as funny, clever and talented as Jane, not to mention extremely pretty.

“Of course we do,” She laughed.  “Because Quidditch is awesome and it gives us a way to execute high-exposure humiliation of Slytherin.  Plus, everyone can enjoy Quidditch, even if they’re not playing.  My essay on Porlocks isn’t exactly a group activity!” There was no malice in her expression, she simply accepted the fact that her particular talents, whilst extremely impressive, were in no way something to gain her any attention from the student body.

“Well I still think it’s impressive,” I said, hoping she would realise that I was genuine and that even if nobody else cared about her skills, I certainly admired her for it.  Lucy simply gave me an embarrassed smile so I let it drop.

Her point was proven when we reached the common room.  Despite the fact we’d entered the room together, I was seized upon by excited Quidditch fans immediately, who paid Lucy no attention.

“Albus, you were absolutely amazing out there!  You reckon we’re going to win the cup this year?” A sixth year whose name I couldn’t remember slung his arm over my shoulder and dragged me over to his group of friends.  I glanced over my shoulder, but Lucy had already disappeared into the throng, leaving me to the mercy of the nameless sixth year, his three mates and a group of giggling girls standing nearby.

“Al!” A familiar voice cut through the giggles as Rose pushed her way over to me and gave me a hug, rescuing me from the awkward conversation.  “Where have you been?  Oh never mind, fantastic game today, it was so exciting.  I just about squeezed poor Lucy’s hand off!”

“Lucy?” I asked, my curiosity sparked at her name.  “You were sitting with Lucy?”

“Well duh Al, who else would Gwen and I sit with?  Sheesh you’re a bit dense sometimes, aren’t you?”  Rose rolled her eyes at me.  “She was well into it, actually screamed when you fell off your broom!  Her brother’s really into Quidditch, must be where she gets it from.  Anyway, you were spectacular, Dad always said your dad was a great seeker so I bet he’ll be proud when he hears about this game!”

“Yeah,” I replied, though I was concerned less about my Dad’s reaction to the game and more about someone else’s entirely.


AN: So I know this is a super quick update but I'm having computer problems and I don't know how soon I'll be able to update again, so I thought I'd get chapter 5 up while I can.  I hope you guys liked it, I really enjoyed writing this chapter.  Thanks as always for your lovely reviews, I love hearing your thoughts about Al.  As always, here's a little sneak peek at the next chapter.  This preview is actually part of something I wrote a long time ago, back when I wrote the original chapter from Lucy's POV so I hope you enjoy it!

“Al, please just stop for a second,” Rose pleaded, but I was already ranting, my frustrations boiling over.  I pulled my wand out of my pocket and looked it, this was going to be my weapon against that arse McMillan.

“He is going to pay Rosie, he is going to suffer for what he did to her and I am going to be the one to do it…”

“Al you’re being ridiculous,” Rose begged.

 “Actually, I think I’ll use crucio, that way he can suffer for a nice, long time,”

“ALBUS SEVERUS POTTER!” Rose roared, her voice echoing through the corridor and startling me.  She whipped out her wand and pointed it at me.  “Expelliarmus,” She snapped and my wand flew from my fingers.  She reached out and caught it, tucking it into her back pocket while she kept her eyes on me.  “You need to take a deep breath and calm down,” She lowered the volume of her voice but the anger was still there, she sounded frighteningly like Grandma Weasley.  “I realise that you are angry, I am pretty mad myself, but would you actually listen to yourself?  Unforgivable curses Al?  I mean, really?  Number one you’d be expelled, Number two even your Dad couldn’t stop them chucking you in Azkaban and Number three…as if you’d actually be able to do it.”  She couldn’t resist the opportunity to roll her eyes at me.


Chapter 6: Fact of Nature #6: Sometimes a Hufflepuff is a snake is disguise
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

In the weeks that followed the first Hogsmeade trip for the year, I found myself facing two rather difficult and awkward situations. 

The first was Mary.  I’d figured after our pathetic excuse for a date that she’d not want anything else to do with me and would leave me alone, problem solved; but that girl was nothing if not persistent.  She seemed to find me wherever I was and then insisted on sitting with me and talking to me: at meals, in the library, in the common room.  I wasn’t really used to dealing with so much unwanted attention from girls, so I simply ignored her and hoped that with the lack of interest I showed, she would eventually get bored and leave me alone.  And yes I realise I am a massive prat who has no idea how to deal with girl so let’s just leave it at that shall we?

The second problem was McMillan, and the constant desire I felt to punch him in the face.  After I’d heard him calling Lucy a ‘bloody tease’ for only letting him kiss her on the cheek after one date (exactly what kind of girl did he think she was?) I developed a little burning ball of anger, deep down in my gut, which seemed to light up whenever I saw or thought about McMillan.  The only reason I hadn’t punched or hexed him yet was because I wasn’t sure about how much Lucy liked him, and I didn’t want to upset her or make myself look bad in her eyes.  Though I had to admit I hadn’t seen them together since the Hogsmeade trip, and I was beginning to hold out hope that nothing further had come from it.

After our little encounter in the Owlery, I decided that I needed to find a way to spend more one on one time with Lucy, so that we could get to know each other and she could see that I wasn’t the stupid git who had ignored her all these years, I was so much more than just the Gryffindor seeker.

“Maybe you could study together,” Justin suggested one night as we were getting ready to turn in.  I heard Louis’s snort of derision from the bathroom where he was brushing his teeth.

“Yeah, ‘cause your idea of asking another girl out was such a success!” I called through to him before turning back to Justin.  “That could work, but how do I get her alone to study?  I mean who would study with me when they’ve got Rose ‘the study machine’ Weasley at their disposal?”

“Hmmm…that’s true,” Justin looked thoughtful for a moment.

“What about the subjects Rose doesn’t take?” Will piped up from his bed. 

“Well there’s only two options,” I said, thinking out loud.  “Divination is useless, nobody studies for that class, plus she’s got Hawthorn.  The only other option is Care of Magical Creatures and I seriously doubt Bell needs to study for that subject.  I’m pretty sure she knows more about it than Hagrid!”  We sat in thoughtful silence for a minute while we considered the options.

“Why don’t you ask her to tutor you?” Justin said suddenly, snapping his fingers. 

“Tutor?”  I repeated, raising an eyebrow at him.

“Well yeah.  I mean think about it, she’s brilliant at the subject so it’s an excellent choice; I doubt she’s already got someone else that she studies with for it and you’ve got the perfect excuse of wanting to pass your O.W.L’s as your sudden motivation for wanting her help.” Justin shrugged as he finished his explanation.

“That actually might just work,” Will said, nodding his head.

“I hate to say it, but I think Justin actually has a good idea,” Louis admitted, coming out of the bathroom.  “It’s exactly the sort of plan I would expect from a prefect, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work.”

“Plus, it gives you an excuse to catch up with her on a regular basis until exam time,” Justin added, ignoring Louis’s ‘prefect’ comment.  “I reckon it’s your best chance.”

And so there I was during our next Care of Magical Creatures class, trying to work up the nerve to ask Lucy to tutor me, hoping desperately that she would say yes.  I found myself watching her throughout most of the class, distracted by the cute way she was so enthusiastic to answer all of Hagrid’s questions or her relaxed nature as she patted the kneazle that had curled up happily in her lap. 

“Here’s your chance, go and ask her now,” Justin whispered as Lucy’s blonde-haired Hufflepuff friend made her way towards the castle.  Taking a deep breath, I made my way over to Lucy, who was trying to take notes on the sleeping animal in her lap.

“I think you’ve got an admirer there Bell,” I said, sitting next to her on the grass.  She looked up at me and smiled briefly before looking back down at the cat.  “Our’s fell asleep too, but on my bag,” I added, indicating to where Justin was observing the sleeping animal.  Lucy looked over and grinned, I felt a swooping sensation in my stomach when she smiled, but I kept my nerve and continued.  Straight to the point Al, no waffling, just come out and ask her.

“Evidently I don’t quite have your touch with animals, which is why I wanted to ask for your help.” I said quickly.  Lucy looked up at me curiously this time.

“My help?” She asked.

“Yeah,” I rubbed the back of my neck, forcing myself to push on.  “Well I don’t really get this subject like you do and you’re kind of amazing at it so I thought maybe you could help me study, like a tutor or something.”  There!  I’d said it, the ball was now definitely in her court.  I noticed a pink colour spreading across Lucy’s cheeks and I wondered if I’d embarrassed her by asking.

“Well yeah, I guess I could do that.  When would you want to meet?”  She said, flashing me one of her adorable smiles, and I very nearly collapsed in the grass right there and then.  She said yes!  Oh sweet mother of Merlin she’d agreed to spending one-on-one time with me!  Granted it was as my tutor but still, she obviously didn’t find me completely repulsive.

“Really? Oh great…um how about we catch up in the Library on say Saturday afternoon?” I suggested, trying not to sound too enthusiastic.  Lucy’s smile disappeared suddenly.

“Oh, I actually can’t on Saturday, I’m…busy,” She said, and I suddenly felt very awkward.  I had assumed that once she said yes that would be it, we’d study, we’d fall in love and bada bing bada boom she’d be snogging me senseless in the library.  Ok so it’s not the best plan but it’s the only one I had!

“Well maybe some other time then.”  I said, wondering if I should just get up and leave before she changed her mind completely.  I mean I could understand her not wanting to give up her weekend to spend time with me, maybe it hadn’t been such a great idea after all.

“No really, I am busy on Saturday,” She said quickly.  “I’m er….well I have plans with…” She looked at me nervously “…Michael.”

“Oh,” a cold, uncomfortable feeling filled the pit of my stomach and seemed to spread out through my limbs.  “I didn’t realise you were still seeing him.”

“Well he just asked me this morning,” She rushed on, trying to explain as quickly as she could.  “It’s nothing official or anything, we’re just…hanging out.”

“Oh ok,” I said, fighting to hide the disappointment I felt.  “Well what about Sunday afternoon then, would that work for you?”  Surely she wouldn’t be on a date with McMillan then!

“Sunday’s fine,” She nodded and gave me a small smile. “Shall we say two o’clock in the library?”

“It’s a date,” The words were out of my mouth before I could think about them, and the second they escaped my lips I felt myself get hot, my cheeks felt like they were burning.  “I mean, I’ll see you then.” I said, stumbling to my feet in an attempt to get away before I said anything else stupid.

“See you then,” She replied.  I returned to a curious Justin, but I refused to talk about the conversation with the guys until we were safely in the privacy of our dormitory, where nobody could overhear us.

“I can’t believe she’s going out with that prat again, he’s just trying to get something out of her!” I grumbled as I tossed my dirty robes on the floor.  “And she’s not that kind of girl, how could he even think she is?” 

“Mate, she’s smart, it won’t be long before she works out what kind of guy he is and when she does she’s not going to stick around, she is  a Gryffindor after all,”  Louis said, his voice infuriatingly calm.

“But why should he get to go on a date with her?  Two dates! It’s so unfair!  He’s a git, a stupid, smarmy, slimy, git!” I stormed into the bathroom to have a shower, my anger levels through the roof.

On Saturday, the boys decided to use every means necessary to distract me from thinking about what may or may not be happening on Lucy’s date with McMillan.  Early Quidditch training worked well enough in the morning, though at one point my mind wandered off for a little while and I nearly crashed into Corrine Simpkins, one of our Chasers.  She gave me a dirty look as she swerved her broom out of my way while James screamed at me across the pitch to pay attention.

We snuck down to the kitchens for lunch, Louis suggesting that it might be nice since we hadn’t visited the house elves in a while.  I was pretty sure they were just trying to avoid us running into McMillan but I agreed anyway.  After we’d eaten as much cold chicken and roast beef sandwiches as we could and we’d fought off the house elves who were practically trying to force feed us chocolate cake and fruit salad, we trooped back up to the common room.  Since it was one of the last nice Saturdays of the year, the common room was pretty deserted with only a few small pockets of people sitting around chatting, reading books or playing games. 

After three rounds of exploding snap, I found myself getting bored and extremely irritable.

“Can’t we go for a walk?” I grumbled, thinking if Lucy and McMillan were outside, I might happen to ‘accidentally’ bump into them, or at the very least I could keep my eyes on the git.  My friends however, didn’t exactly trust me.

“I don’t think that’s such a great idea,” Justin said, sharing a nervous glance with the others.

“But it’s so nice out today!” I protested. 

“Al, you and I both know that your desire for the great outdoors has nothing to do with the weather,” Louis said smugly, folding his arms.  Stupid blonde prat, when did he get so clever?

“How about a game of Wizard’s Chess?” Will suggested.  “You still owe me for thrashing you that last time.”

“Fine,” I grumbled as Will darted upstairs to find our sets of chessmen. 

“Look, would it help you feel better if Louis and I went downstairs just to check things out?” Justin suggested.  “Just to ease your mind that she’s ok?”

“I don’t see why I can’t go!” I snapped, though the fact I sounded like a spoilt kid sobered me up a bit.

“You don’t?” Louis snorted.  “Mate, how do you think you’re going to react if you go down there and see them together?  You have a tendency to be a bit wand happy at the best of times.”

“Hey, I grew out of that stage!” I exclaimed.  “I kicked my jinxing habit.”

“No you just got better at hiding it by asking James to teach you how to do non-verbal spells,” Louis argued.  I glared at him but before I could say anything else, Will returned.

“Fine, you two go and check things out,” I conceded to Justin as Will started setting the board up. 

“It’ll be fine mate,” Louis assured me as they disappeared out of the portrait hole. 

I had to admit that Will’s idea of playing chess was a pretty good one, because I soon found myself focussed on my strategy – I had to be or Will would kick my butt again.  I barely even noticed that Justin and Louis hadn’t been back for a while.  I did notice however when the portrait hole was opened with such force that it made a loud ‘BANG’.  I looked up in surprise – I didn’t even know that you could slam the portrait hole, I’d always figured it was self-closing!  All thought of self-closing portraits were chased from my mind though, when I realised the person who had come crashing into the room was Lucy.  She was dressed quite nicely in jeans and a blue jumper, though her hair was coming out of her neat pontytail, wisps of it sticking out about her head.  Her cheeks were pink and she was breathing heavily as though she’d just been running, but the two things that made my stomach drop to my knees were her red, bloodshot, tear-rimmed eyes, and the look of absolute sorrow on her face.

“Merlins pink boxers, what happened?” I shouted, jumping to my feet.  I heard the chessboard clatter to the ground, but I didn’t care about the game anymore.  Lucy looked over at me in surprise and I practically ran to her, though by the time I was standing in front of her she’d lowered her gaze to the floor.  “Lucy, what’s wrong?” I gasped, wanting to hug her and stroke her hair and stop her tears.  Lucy refused to look at me, hurriedly wiping the tears from her eyes.

“Lucy?  What’s wrong?”  Lucy looked up at Hawthorn’s voice, and my team-mate appeared at my side, Rose with her.   Lucy threw herself into Jane’s arms, gripping her friend tightly.  “Shhh…hey, hey it’s ok,” Jane soothed like she was comforting a small child as she led Lucy to the nearest sofa.  Rose sat on Lucy’s other side, forming a sort of guard around her, but I wasn’t about to leave.  If this was McMillan’s fault I needed to know so I knew exactly how many curses I needed to throw at the toe-rag.  I dragged a chair over and sat opposite Lucy, leaning forward slightly and resting my elbows on my knees.

“Was it Michael?” Rose prompted gently.  Lucy simply nodded in reply and I forced myself to sit still.

“Did he say something?” It was Jane who spoke this time.  Lucy shook her head for a moment but stopped suddenly as though changing her mind; she nodded instead.

“That’s part of it,” She eventually said, her voice thick with tears.  She kept her eyes on her lap as she spoke.

“We were just walking along by the lake and talking,” She started.  “And then we sat on this log and he said all this stuff about really liking me and before I could say anything he was kissing me –”

Why that foul little git…I’ll kill him!  I gripped the arm of the chair to keep myself in one spot.

“And I didn’t really want him to but then he put his hand…” She hesitated for a second and I realised I was holding my breath.  “He tried to put his hand under my jumper,” Her voice shook as she whispered the words, her cheeks bright red now and her eyes focussed intensely on her knees.  “And when I stopped him he tried it a second time but over my jumper…”

For a brief second I thought I was going to pass out from the anger.  Little white sparks seemed to explode in front of my eyes and I felt my hands ball up tightly into fists. 

“So I pushed him off me and he fell in the mud,” Lucy continued.  Rose made a small noise of approval and I had to admit if I wasn’t so angry I’d be applauding Lucy for her Gryffie bravery in fighting back.

“And then he yelled at me and said all these horrible things about me leading him on so I slapped him and ran away.”  Lucy let out a big sigh, which seemed to indicate she’d finished her story. 

“I’ll kill him,” I hadn’t meant to say it out loud, but my anger seemed to seep through before I could stop it.  Lucy looked towards me, though she wouldn’t meet my eye.  Her eyes settled on my hands which were balled up so tightly the skin was white where it was pulled tight across my knuckles.  I felt something warm on my arm and realised Rose had placed her hand there.  I looked up at my cousin and closest friend to find her eyes were full of the anger I felt, yet they also warned me to keep my mouth shut.

“I…I didn’t…” Lucy gasped, trying to explain something, though she was struggling desperately with her words.  Hawthorn hushed her, assuring her that it wasn’t her fault and she didn’t need to explain anymore.  Lucy nodded and leaned against Jane, fresh tears rolling down her cheeks.  I watched her for a few minutes, the anger bubbling up inside me until I wanted to scream.  Not wanting to upset Lucy further, I jumped to my feet and raced out of the room, adrenaline filling my veins as I tried to concentrate on where McMillan might be.  Would he be back in the Hufflepuff common room by now?  Where was it again, near the kitchens?

“Al!” I spun around to see Rose, the anger was still evident in her eyes, although she looked partly like she wanted to cry and just a tiny bit scared.  “Al, calm down ok?”

“Calm down?” I snapped.  I knew it wasn’t her fault and she didn’t deserve me yelling at her but I couldn’t control the rage burning deep in my gut, I felt an uncontrollable desire to put my fist through the wall.  “How can I calm down Rosie?  I want to kill the guy, I actually want to go and Avada Kedavra the bastard,”

How am going to get into the Hufflepuff dormitories? I don’t know the password…it can’t be that difficult to work out, can it?

“Al, please just stop for a second,” Rose pleaded, but I was already ranting, my frustrations boiling over.  I pulled my wand out of my pocket and looked it, this was going to be my weapon against that arse McMillan.

“He is going to pay Rosie, he is going to suffer for what he did to her and I am going to be the one to do it…”

“Al you’re being ridiculous,” Rose begged.

 “Actually, I think I’ll use crucio, that way he can suffer for a nice, long time,”

“ALBUS SEVERUS POTTER!” Rose roared, her voice echoing through the corridor and startling me.  She whipped out her wand and pointed it at me.  “Expelliarmus,” She snapped and my wand flew from my fingers.  She reached out and caught it, tucking it into her back pocket while she kept her eyes on me.  “You need to take a deep breath and calm down,” She lowered the volume of her voice but the anger was still there, she sounded frighteningly like Grandma Weasley.  “I realise that you are angry, I am pretty mad myself, but would you actually listen to yourself?  Unforgivable curses Al?  I mean, really?  Number one you’d be expelled, Number two even your Dad couldn’t stop them chucking you in Azkaban and Number three…as if you’d actually be able to do it.”  She couldn’t resist the opportunity to roll her eyes at me.

“Well ok, maybe I’m not going to crucio him,” I grumbled, “but I still know plenty of decent spells to make him suffer.”

“And how do you think that’s going to make Lucy feel?” Rose asked.  “She’s absolutely devastated in there, she doesn’t need you to starting a war with another house to add to her dramas!”

“I’m not going to let him get away with this Rose!  You cannot seriously expect me to just let this go.” I folded my arms across my chest and raised my eyebrows expectantly.

“I’m not suggesting you let him get away with it,” Rose replied in a calm and rational voice.  “But I am not about let you go run around on a whim, hexing people because you’re angry; you’ll cause more damage to yourself than to him.  Just give it some time and the appropriate moment will present itself.”  My anger didn’t subside, but I had to admit that she had a point.

“When did you get so smart?” I grumbled.

“Does that mean you won’t go running off, trying to hex McMillan?” She said, though there was a small smile playing with her lips.

“Yes,” I said grudgingly.  “Now can I please have my wand back?”

“Pinkie Promise?” Rose said, holding out her right pinkie finger towards me.  I stared at it for a minute, Rose knew I would never dare break a Pinkie Promise with her, she may as well have been asking me to make an unbreakable vow.

“I Pinkie Promise,” I eventually agreed, hooking my pinkie with hers.

“Good, then you can have this back,” She smiled, pulling my wand out of her pocket and handing it back to me.  “But remember, wait for the appropriate moment to present itself.”

We headed back to the common room, but Lucy and Jane were gone when we got there.  Will explained that they’d gone upstairs not long after I’d walked out, so Rose went up to check.

“She sleeping,” She explained when she returned with Jane.  I threw myself down in an armchair in frustration, I was glad Lucy was getting some rest but I was angry because there was nothing I could do.  Justin turned up not long before dinner with Gwen, though he had the decency to look ashamed when I glared at him.  Rose filled them in on Lucy’s situation as we headed down to the Great Hall.

“Should you take Lucy some food?” I said to the girls as we ate.  “She might wake up and be hungry.”

“From the looks of it, she’ll probably sleep all night,” Jane shrugged.  She didn’t seem worried and I figured if she woke up after the meal had been cleared, I could always sneak down to the kitchens for her.  Maybe she could come with me and we could have a romantic chat in front of the fire…

Get it together man!  She’s recovering from being attacked by that git McMillan and you’re already planning to chat her up?

Jane was right, Lucy did sleep the whole night through (Well as far as I know, I mean it’s not like I snuck in to the girl’s dormitory to spy on her.  I might fancy her socks off but I’m not that creepy!) but I didn’t see her in the morning because I had an early breakfast and then proceeded to search the castle for McMillan.  I’d promised Rose that I would wait for the appropriate moment to present itself but there was nothing wrong with a little active waiting, was there?

It didn’t do me any good, the stupid git seemed to have disappeared, probably stewing in his own prat-ishness.  I didn’t even go up to the Great Hall for lunch, instead I snuck a sandwich from the kitchens and then hid out in the hallway that the Hufflepuff common room shared with the kitchens, hoping to spot McMillan again.

 By the time two o’clock rolled around I had achieved very little and I was beginning to wonder if Rose had a point.  I kicked myself mentally as I bolted up to my dormitory, having left myself all of about one minute to get ready.

“Mate would you calm down, it’s a study session, I hardly think she’s going to care what you’re wearing,” Will said as I stood in front of our large mirror, straightening my jumper and running my hand through my perpetually messy hair.  Curse my father and his messy hair genes.  I wasn’t about to admit it to my friends, but I was extremely nervous about this study session; after all the whole point behind it was so that Lucy and I could spend time together on our own and she could get to know the real me better – but what if she didn’t like the real me?

I tried not to focus on these thoughts as I made my way down to the library, and almost instantly they were replaced with another unsettling thought.  What if she doesn’t turn up?  I thought to myself in a panic.  I hadn’t seen Lucy all day, what if she was still so upset she’d forgotten about the study session or simply decided not to come?  I took a deep breath to calm my nerves as I entered the almost empty library, my eyes scanning the room for her dark hair and expressive eyes.  The relief I felt when I saw her was quickly replaced once more with nerves. 

Come on Al, when Dad was a year younger than you he fought a dragon, you can go and study with a girl!  I gave myself a quick pep talk as I approached the desk.  Lucy had her back to me, she was staring out the window at the forest and I realised I could still run away if I wanted to.  This is so much scarier than facing a dragon, I told myself.

The chair scraped a little as I sat down and Lucy turned to face me.  Her eyes weren’t red anymore and she wasn’t crying, but her eyes weren’t twinkling like they usually did, she looked downright sad; I gave her a small smile.

 “I wasn’t sure you were still coming,” I said.

“I wasn’t sure you were going to turn up either,” She replied.  What?  How did she know I was so nervous?

“Me?  Why would I not come?” I said, trying to play it cool.

“I just thought that maybe, well you know…” She stammered.  She bit her lip in that adorable way as she seemed to struggle with saying something difficult.  “You know I didn’t want him to…”  She tried, her voice fading away.  She frowned down at the table top.

Him?  She thought I wouldn’t come because I might not believe her?  Did she really think I was that much of a prat?

“I know,” I said, looking directly in her eyes.  “McMillan’s an arse and he took you for granted.  Anyone with half a brain knows you’re not that sort of girl.  McMillan’s obviously more of a moron than he lets on.”  A red blush spread over Lucy’s cheeks and she ducked her head, though when she glanced back up at me, there was a small smile on her lips and the hint of the old sparkle in her eyes.  My heart skipped a beat as I smiled back at her nervously.

“Thanks,” She whispered shyly and my breath caught in my throat a little.  “So, let’s start with the two feet on Kneazle characteristics Hagrid set for us,” She continued, opening a text book and pushing it across to me.  “So the main issue with Kneazles is that they look like regular cats, but there’s a few major differences.  How about you read that page there and list any distinguishing characteristics they mention.”  She leaned down and reached into her bag, pulling out a quill and some parchment before opening another book and starting to read.  She chewed on her lip and played with a loose piece of hair as she read, her brow furrowed ever so slightly.  I was mesmerised by her and would have been happy to sit there and watch her all afternoon, except she looked up after a few minutes and caught me staring.

“What?” She asked, her cheeks turning pink again.

“Nothing,” I said, giving her a stupid grin before quickly looking down at my book, deciding that I was lucky enough to have the cutest study partner in all of Hogwarts.


AN: Ok, I just cannot help myself...I'm a chapter updating junkie!  At least I am where this story is concerned.  But I'm sure you guys don't mind the rapid updates now, do you? :)  Unfortunately I do seem to be catching up with the chapters I've already written so I might need to pace myself with the next few updates but I'll do what I can.  Thanks so much for all your reviews guys, I love getting your feedback and I promise to respond to every review, even if it takes me a little while to get to them sometimes.  So please leave me a review and let me know what you thought of this chapter.

Here's a little romantic moment from the next chapter for you...

I realised my heart was beating a little bit faster than usual and found myself suddenly curious about just how many boys Lucy had kissed.  Obviously there was McMillan, but a girl as pretty as Lucy had to have been kissed by other boys, right?  I was dying to ask her, but I wasn’t sure I had the guts to do something like that.  Anyway, she’d probably get pretty suspicious about why I’d want to know about her kissing history so I kept my questions to myself. 

“So should we double check our homework with the information in the text book?” I asked casually.  Lucy looked up, her cheeks still a little pink but her expression relieved as she realised I wasn’t going to dwell on what she’d been talking about.

“That sounds like a good idea,” She said, reaching for the text book in front of her.  It just so happened that I’d had the same idea and was reaching for the same book at that moment.  My hand landed on top of Lucy’s and we both looked down in surprise as we touched.  I felt an unusual swooping in my stomach and the room suddenly felt a lot warmer as I stared at Lucy’s delicate hand underneath mine.  It felt so soft and small and not at all unpleasant, but I soon realised her hand was trapped under mine and she was going to wonder what was going on if I didn’t do something soon.

“Oh…um…sorry,” I mumbled, pulling my hand away.  “I thought it was my book,” I added stupidly, looking across the desk for my own copy of the text. 

“That’s ok,” Lucy mumbled, and for a second I thought she sounded as embarrassed as me.

Chapter 7: Fact of Nature #7: Sometimes you need to do the wrong thing for the right reason
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“I am never taking advice from you again…ever!” I snapped at Louis as I stomped into the dormitory.  I dumped my bag on the ground and turned to face my cousin where he was sprawled on his bed reading a letter.  Will looked up from his copy of Quidditch Quarterly to watch as I continued to rant.  “Even if I was considering jumping off the astronomy tower because I wanted to fly without a broom and you said ‘mate, I really think this is a bad idea because you’re just going to fall to your death,’ I still wouldn’t take your advice, because your advice stinks!”

“What the hell did I do?” Louis exclaimed, sitting up and looking from me to Will with a confused expression on his face. 

“There are plenty of girls that will go out with you, just ask one of them,” I mimicked.  “Well now Mary won’t leave me alone!  Our date was awful, I haven’t asked her out again since and yet she keeps following me around like she’s my girlfriend or something!  What if Lucy thinks she is my girlfriend?”

“Are you still going on about Mary?” Justin asked as he came through the dormitory door.  “Bloody hell Al, just tell her it’s over already.”

I glared at Justin, angry words bubbling up in my mind, however I couldn’t justify shouting at him because he had, after all, warned me against the whole ‘ask someone else out’ debacle.

“How do I even do that?” I groaned, flopping down on my bed and staring up at the red material draped there.  “I really don’t want to make her cry, I hate it when they cry.”

“Ugh, I know!” Louis agreed.  “You never know what you’re supposed to do!” 

“I’m still pissed at you,” I growled, propping myself up on my elbows to glare at my cousin.

“Well I hate to say it…” Justin continued.

“Then don’t,” I grumbled.  Justin ignored me and continued.

“But you got yourself into it so you’re going to have to get yourself out of it.  Be honest, just sit her down and say she’s very nice but you just want to be friends.”

“Nothing like a cliché,” Louis smirked.

“Oi, what did I say about not taking your advice?” I snapped.

“Make sure you don’t go jumping off the astronomy tower,” He responded, the smirk still on his face.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), Mary was not difficult to find.  She and her friends followed me out of the Great Hall after dinner that evening.  I’d spent most of the meal watching Lucy laughing with Hawthorn, but Mary was kind of hard to miss when she called out to me.

“Hi Albus,” She said, waving at me and causing her friends to giggle uncontrollably.

“Oh, Mary, erm hi,” I said, stopping where I was in the Entrance Hall.  “Uh, do you have a second?  I just want to talk to you about something.”  The friends giggled again and Mary beamed at me.

“Sure,” She said.  “I’ll see you guys later,” She added to her friends, who all quickly ran up the marble staircase, giggling as they looked over their shoulders at us.

“Look Mary,” I started, feeling like I was going to throw up.  This was the worst thing I had ever had to do, how could I just be so hurtful and cut her off like this?  I opened and closed my mouth a few times as I tried to remember what it was that Justin had suggested I say.  Can’t I just keep ignoring her? I thought desperately.

Just then, I heard a familiar laugh float through the doors to the Great Hall.  I glanced up and saw Lucy at the Gryffindor table.  She was laughing, he head slightly tilted down and to the side, her brown eyes twinkling and her long hair catching the candlelight from above as it draped over her shoulder. 

“Mary, look you seem really nice an all, but I don’t really feel the same way about you that you seem to feel about me,” I said, surprising myself with my sudden eloquence. 

“But you asked me out,” Mary said, her face falling.  “I thought we had a good time.”

“I know,” I replied, “And I’m really sorry about that, I probably shouldn’t have asked you out at all.”

“But…but…” Mary’s bottom lip quivered and her eyes looked abnormally glassy.  Please don’t cry, please don’t cry!  I thought to myself.  “Is there someone else?” She asked, startling me with how angry she sounded.

“Well, sort of,” I started.  Wait, this is none of her business, she doesn’t need to know about Lucy!  “But that’s not really it.  I just wanted to be honest with you.”

“Well maybe you should have thought about that before you asked me on a date!” Mary snapped, but before I could respond, she turned on her heel and stomped up the stairs.

“She doesn’t look too impressed,” James said from where he suddenly appeared at the doorway to the Great Hall.

“Girls are really complicated,” I said with a sigh.

“You’re preaching to the converted mate,” James laughed, walking over and slapping me on the back.  “If the snogging wasn’t so great I think I’d give them up altogether.”

“I’m so sorry!  My watch stopped working and I didn’t realise what time it was!” Lucy threw herself down into the chair opposite me in the library.  She was breathing heavily and her cheeks were pink from exertion.  “I just ran all the way from the Owlery, oh my goodness I’m so unfit,” She gasped.  I raised my eyebrows at her trying to hide my smile, she just looked so cute.  She looked up at me and giggled before reaching down for her bag where she’d dropped it on the floor.

We’d been meeting together to study a couple times a week and the plan to get to know Lucy better was working brilliantly.  When her friends weren’t around, Lucy seemed to warm up to me and was willing to talk more openly.   Sometimes the books even sat forgotten on the desk as we joked around and told each other stories from our lives.  I was amazed at how easy she was to talk to, I’d always been a bit awkward around girls that weren’t my relatives or on the Quidditch team, but with Lucy I found myself relaxing and telling her all sorts of things about myself.

“So how did you go with the table on common magical pests and methods of control?” Lucy asked as she arranged her things on the desk.  I smiled and handed her the piece of parchment I’d been looking over when she’d arrived.  Lucy took it and smiled down at the neat columns I’d drawn.  I found myself trying extremely hard on my Care of Magical Creatures homework, hoping that my diligence might somehow impress Lucy.  I watched her now as she compared my table with her own, making an occasional note or crossing out the odd word.

“So do I pass, professor?” I teased as she handed it back to me.

“It’s really good,” She said, “you’ve done a great job.”

“As good as yours?” I asked, to which Lucy immediately blushed and became very focussed on fiddling with her quill.  One thing I had learnt from studying with Lucy was just how humble she was.  She was an absolute genius at anything to do with animals, and yet if I tried to compliment her on it she would get all embarrassed and try to change the subject.  It was so sweet, and I wondered vaguely how she would react if I tried to tell her how beautiful she was. 

“Did I ever tell you about the time James and I found plimpies in the stream behind our house and decided to keep them as pets?” I said, hoping to coax Lucy back out of her self-consciousness.  It seemed to work, she looked up at me, curiosity in her eyes.

“No, what happened?” She asked, leaning forward to rest her elbow on the table top, her hand supporting her chin as she watched me.

“Well we couldn’t think of where to put them and they need to be kept in water so we filled up the bath tub and put them in there.”  I said, delighted to have her full attention.  “I was about six or seven I think, and we left them in there and then kind of forgot about them.  That is until mum went to give Lily her bath, she was so cross that she made us take them all back to the stream and then we had to clean the entire bathroom and do the dishes by hand every night for a month!  Lily thought they were great though and wanted to get in and play with them, I remember James saying ‘Oh c’mon Mum, they’re like bath toys that are alive!’  She really wasn’t impressed.”

Lucy laughed and shook her head.  “You guys are hilarious. Phil used to get into trouble all the time when we were younger.  Simon was the sensible one trying to stop him and Alice would back Simon up; but when I came along, Phil knew he had an ally.  Of course I was just joining in because I wanted to be part of whatever they were doing, so I would do just about anything Phil told me to!”

“You’re the youngest, right?” I asked.  Lucy nodded.

“Yep, Alice is three years older than me and the twins are five years older.  I cried so much the day Alice left for Hogwarts, I was convinced they’d all deserted me.” Lucy smiled sadly.  “The boys were already in sixth year by the time I started, so things had changed quite a bit by then.”

“Do you miss having them around?” I asked.  I’d worked out that Lucy’s older sister Alice had finished Hogwarts the previous year and Lucy was the only one left at school now.

“A little bit, but to be honest the independence is nice.  The boys in particular were so over protective, Phil would always start acting like Dad if I showed interest in a boy, I’m pretty sure he thinks I’ve never even kissed…” Lucy blushed bright red again and stopped talking.  She looked down at the table top as though it was the most interesting thing she’d ever seen.

I realised my heart was beating a little bit faster than usual and found myself suddenly curious about just how many boys Lucy had kissed.  Obviously there was McMillan, but a girl as pretty as Lucy had to have been kissed by other boys, right?  I was dying to ask her, but I wasn’t sure I had the guts to do something like that.  Anyway, she’d probably get pretty suspicious about why I’d want to know about her kissing history so I kept my questions to myself. 

“So should we double check our homework with the information in the text book?” I asked casually.  Lucy looked up, her cheeks still a little pink but her expression relieved as she realised I wasn’t going to dwell on what she’d been talking about.

“That sounds like a good idea,” She said, reaching for the text book in front of her.  It just so happened that I’d had the same idea and was reaching for the same book at that moment.  My hand landed on top of Lucy’s and we both looked down in surprise as we touched.  I felt an unusual swooping in my stomach and the room suddenly felt a lot warmer as I stared at Lucy’s delicate hand underneath mine.  It felt so soft and small and not at all unpleasant, but I soon realised her hand was trapped under mine and she was going to wonder what was going on if I didn’t do something soon.

“Oh…um…sorry,” I mumbled, pulling my hand away.  “I thought it was my book,” I added stupidly, looking across the desk for my own copy of the text. 

“That’s ok,” Lucy mumbled, and for a second I thought she sounded as embarrassed as me.

I kept my pinkie promise to Rose that I would wait for the right moment to get back at McMillan, despite the fact that every time I saw his stupid face I wanted to hex him to high heavens.  My appropriate moment came along about two weeks after Lucy had burst into the common room in tears.  It was a Thursday morning and we were just escaping from the North tower after Double Divination when Trelawney called Lucy back.  For a moment I considered waiting for her, but when she waved Hawthorn on, saying she’d catch up, I couldn’t see a way for me to hang around without looking a bit clingy and obsessive.  We were about three quarters of the way back to the common room when I got an idea.

“Oh, I’ve left my quill up in the North tower,” I said, stopping and pretending to check the pockets of my bag.  “It’s the one Lily gave me for my birthday last year, I’d better go back and get it.”  Before Jane and Louis could respond, I turned and slipped around the corner, back the way we’d come.  I was hoping to run into Lucy halfway, and then we would be able to enjoy a leisurely walk back to the common room, alone.

Al Potter you crafty devil you.  I was congratulating myself when I heard voices coming from the next corridor.  One voice in particular sounded very familiar and not at all happy.

“We don’t have anything to talk about Michael,” Lucy said, her voice tense.  Suddenly I was on alert as I approached the end of the corridor. 

“I know you’re angry at me, but can’t we discuss this?” Even though I couldn’t see them yet, I imagined McMillan’s slimy face to match his slimy voice.

“There’s nothing to discuss,” Lucy snapped back as I turned the corner.  She was standing about ten feet away, her back to me, and facing McMillan who was about another six feet away from her.

“Please, if you’d just let me explain – ”  McMillan tried again, but I wasn’t about to let him get his hands back on Lucy, not if I could help it.

“She said she doesn’t want to talk to you McMillan,” I said, walking over to stand next to Lucy, interrupting the stupid prat’s excuses.  His face showed surprise for a moment before rearranging into a sneer.  Lucy gave a small jump in reaction to my voice and her eyes flittered up to me very briefly before turning back to McMillan.  I may have imagined it, but she seemed to stand a little taller after that.

“This is none of your business Potter,” McMillan said, it what I could only assume was supposed to be a threatening tone.  I simply glared back at him before responding. 

“Oh but you’re wrong there McMillan.  You attack any friend of mine and it automatically becomes my business,” I said.  I wanted so much to hex him, to punch him, to throw him out the window even, but I remembered what Rose had said about upsetting Lucy.

“Attacked her?” McMillan gave a mocking sort of laugh as though it was all some sick joke.  I clenched my fists tighter, trying to remember why I shouldn’t pummel his face into a pulp.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw Lucy look my way again for a moment; it was enough to keep me rooted to the spot.  Unfortunately, McMillan wasn’t done yet.  “What sort of lies has she been telling you Potter?”  He said.  “She comes running in with some story about being attacked and you drink up every last word of it don’t you?  Like a good little lap dog!”

“Lucy’s not a liar,” I replied, almost laughing myself.  Did he really think he knew anything about her?  I had ignored her for four years and I still knew she had serious problems when not telling the truth.  “I know for a fact that she’s a hopeless liar and even if she wasn’t, I’d still believe her story completely.”  I wasn’t sure why I’d added that last bit, but when I looked out of the corner of my eye again and saw Lucy’s lips tilting upwards into the smallest of smiles, I felt a surge of courage and I felt myself give a little smile too.  I’m not sure if it was in response to this little exchange or if he simply realised Lucy wasn’t buying into his routine, but McMillan decided to drop all pretence of being the nice guy.

“I thought you were meant to be smart Potter, but I suppose even the son of the ‘chosen one’ can fall victim to the wiles of a teasing slag!” He snarled.  My anger reached boiling point and just like the day Lucy had sat in front of me, crying as she tried to explain what McMillan had done to her, flashes of white exploded behind my eyeballs.  I knew that this was the most appropriate moment I was ever going to come across to teach McMillan a lesson, and I whipped out my wand, pointing it straight at his face.

“Apologize to Lucy right now,” I was surprised at the growl that came from somewhere deep in my chest, it was so threatening and I was amazed that I could actually sound that menacing.  McMillan looked stunned for a moment, but I simply stared at him, daring him to run away because when he did I was going to send every jinx and hex I could think of his way.  There was a slight movement next to me and I saw Lucy slip her hand inside her robes, no doubt reaching for her own wand.  If I hadn’t been so furious I probably would have smiled; Lucy had told me enough about her upbringing that I realised she’d be thinking up a few hexes of her own right about now.  McMillan glared at me a moment longer and then decided he wasn’t going to back down.

“Why should I?” He snapped.  “It’s true, she was all over me and then suddenly she’s smacking me round the head and telling people I was attacking her?  Sounds like the definition of a slag to me!”

Stupefy!  The word flashed through my brain, the first spell I could think of, but before I could open my mouth to speak, a flash of red light flew from the tip of my wand and hit McMillan, causing him to turn stiff and fall to the floor.

Holy mother of Merlin, did I do that?

I stared at the collapsed form of McMillan, lying stone cold unconscious on the floor.  My mind reeled with what had just happened; I hadn’t spoken, I’d simply thought of stunning him and suddenly there he was, stunned and crashing to the ground.

Did I just do a non-verbal spell?  How the hell…

I felt something soft and warm pressing gently on my wand arm, which was still outstretched towards where McMillan had been standing.  I realised suddenly that it was Lucy and I forced my brain to focus on keeping calm.  She’d been through enough in the last five minutes; the last thing I wanted was to upset her further.  I lowered my arm and turned to face her, her eyes were wide and probably matching the look of shock in my own.

“Are you ok?” I asked.  I didn’t care two knuts if McMillan was half dead, Lucy was the one I was worried about.  She nodded but didn’t speak before we both turned to look at the unconscious boy lying in the hallway.

“Stunning spell?” Lucy asked, her voice sounding oddly calm, as though she were just asking me a question in class.

“Um…yeah,” I said.

“I can’t believe you can do non-verbal spells,” The fact that she sounded impressed was not lost on me, but I struggled with the smile tugging at my lips; I didn’t want her to think I was insensitive.

“Neither did I; I mean James has been trying to teach me but normally I struggle with it.  I guess I was just so angry…” I let my voice drift off, not really sure what else to say.  It was true, James had tried a few times to teach me non-verbal spells but the truth was that I was hopeless at it.  My anger was really the only explanation I could come up with.  I continued to stare at Lucy who, whilst looking shocked still seemed to hold an expression of hurt on her face, no doubt from the horrible things McMillan had said.  When I remembered them, I was sorely tempted to go and kick him as hard as I could, but I held on to my anger and focussed on Lucy instead.

“I’m sorry he said those things about you,” I said.  “He’s a complete git and he had no right to call you such disgusting name; and you need to know that nobody else thinks that about you.”  Surely she knew that right?  McMillan had to be seriously unhinged to call someone as sweet and caring as Lucy a… well he was wrong, that was for sure.

“Thanks,” She whispered, and I noticed her eyes had gone all glassy, the way Lily’s used to before she’d start crying for something.  I wanted to reach out and hug Lucy, to hold her in my arms and kiss her and tell her how I felt about her, that she was beautiful and she shouldn’t believe anything a moron like McMillan said, but I couldn’t seem to make the words come out.

And then suddenly, Trelawney was there, gaping at McMillan and shrieking to know what had happened.  When Trelawney turned away, I realised that Lucy was still holding her wand.  Acting on impulse, I snatched it from her hand and shoved it, with my own, into my pocket.  Lucy looked at me but didn’t ask what I was doing or try to get her wand back.

“I did it Professor,” I said before Trelawney could blame Lucy in any way.  “I stupefied him because he was calling Lucy nasty names.”

But Lucy wasn’t so on board with that plan.  “He was just trying to protect me Professor,” She said quickly.  “It’s my fault, I should have just walked away from McMillan because I knew he was angry at me and I shouldn’t have given him the opportunity to say what he did.” 

No Lucy, your mistake was going out with him the first place, but he still had no right to say those things, I thought to myself.

To her credit, Trelawney actually looked slightly sympathetic at our excuses, though she wasn’t about to let this one pass.

“Right, the two of you need to go straight to the Headmistresses office,” She said, her voice less of the breathy ‘mystical’ voice she uses in class and more strict, the way a teacher usually sounds. “You will both need to explain to her what happened.  I will revive this young man and join you shortly.”  There was no point in arguing, I was going to have to go to see the headmistress, but I didn’t like the fact Lucy might get punished too.

I took a few deep breaths as I walked, surprised to discover my anger had all but subsided.  My only concern now was that Professor Sprout realised this wasn’t Lucy’s fault.  It was a good thing I’d had the sense to hide her wand before Trelawney saw it.  Remembering that I still had her wand, I reached into my pocket and pulled it out, handing the small piece of wood to Lucy. 

“Here,” I said.  “Sorry I took it off you like that, I thought she might suspect you’d done it if she caught you holding your wand like that.”  Lucy took the wand from me and smiled.  Her fingers brushed against mine for a second, and my heart skipped a beat.  “And I figured it was easier to just shove it in my own pocket, I didn’t think you’d appreciate me shoving my hand inside your robes.”  I rambled, not really thinking about what I was saying. 

Oh sweet Merlin, did I just say that?  And after everything she’s been through with McMillan.  Potter you are a complete and utter git!  I scolded myself.  I shoved my hands in my pockets and stared at the floor, fighting off inappropriate images that seemed to pop to mind, images that involved me and Lucy pressed up close together, kissing her while one hand stroked her hair, the other inside her robes…

Albus!  Get it together!  Bloody hormones.

“Thank you.  For standing up for me back there with Michael; it was really nice of you to do that,” Lucy said, interrupting my internal argument.  I looked up at her in surprise.  Really nice?  I couldn’t believe she would think that it was even necessary to thank me, did she really think I was still the jerk who had ignored her?  Weren’t we friends?

“He was treating you like dirt, and that wasn’t right,” I said. “You’re my friend, and I believe in looking after my friends.”

Lucy nodded and we fell into silence as we continued towards the headmistresses office, though I couldn’t help but notice she still looked upset.  Probably mulling over McMillan’s insults.

“Do you know the password?” I asked Lucy when we got to the stone gargoyle that guarded Professor Sprout’s office.

“Not a clue,” Lucy shrugged.  We both stared at the gargoyle for a moment.  “I guess we just wait for Trelawney,” Lucy suggested, but before I could finish, the Gargoyle began to move, exposing the spiral staircase that led to the office above.  With a shrug, I stepped onto the nearest step and Lucy followed.  When we reached the door at the top, I knocked and we were greeted with a pleasant ‘come in’. 

“Mr Potter, Miss Bell, please take a seat,” Professor Sprout said once we were inside.  Lucy and I shared another look before sitting in two chairs opposite the large wooden desk.  “Katherine says you were sent by Professor Trelawney, would you care to elaborate?”

Lucy looked at me in confusion, obviously she had no idea who Katherine was either.

“Well Professor,” I began, “I, um, well I hit Michael McMillan with a stunning spell in the corridor, near the North Tower.”

“A stunning spell?” Professor Sprout looked surprised, but to her credit she didn’t let it faze her.  “You do realise Mr. Potter that using magic in the corridors is prohibited at Hogwarts?”

“Yes Professor,” I said.

“And stunning your classmates is generally frowned upon as well,”

“Yes Professor.”

“So Miss Bell,” Professor Sprout turned to look at Lucy.  “Where might you fit into this?”

“It was sort of my fault, Professor,” Lucy said, her voice shaking a little bit.  I wondered how many times she’d been sent to the Headmistresses office.  It was possible she’d never even been in here.  “Michael and I were arguing,”

“He was harassing her Professor, he called her…”  I looked at Lucy, whose eyes had widened in surprise again.  “Well he said some not nice things,” I finished lamely.

“And you took it upon yourself to punish him?” Professor Sprout raised her eyebrows.

“Yes Professor.”

At that moment, the door behind us opened and Trelawney walked in with McMillan, who was conscious once more, but looking a little wobbly on his legs.  I bit back a grin.  McMillan and Trelawney sat down and filled in their parts of the story.  Michael didn’t say much at first, but Professor Sprout didn’t look too pleased with him. 

“So Mr McMillan, did Miss Bell cast any spells or use magic in any way during your…altercation?” She asked, once the story had been regaled again. 

“No Professor,” Michael grumbled.

“Mr Potter, you agree that Miss Bell did not perform any magic?”

“Yes Professor.”

“Thank you.  Miss Bell, you are free to go,” Professor Sprout opened a drawer in her desk and pulled out a piece of parchment, which she wrote on rapidly.

“But Professor…” Lucy protested.

“You will take this note to Professor Binns, it excuses you for being absent from class.”

“But Professor,” Lucy said again.

“Thank you Miss Bell,” Professor Sprout handed the note to Lucy, a look of finality in her eyes.  Lucy took the note and stood up, giving me one last look before she left the room.

“Mr Potter,” Professor Sprout said once Lucy was gone.  “You claimed that Mr McMillan said some rather unsavoury things to Miss Bell.  The fact that you were not willing to repeat them in front of Miss Bell and that you believed they warranted such a strong act of magic suggests that it was not something we approve of students at our school saying.”  Out of the corner of my eye I noticed McMillan squirming, even though Professor Sprout had her eyes on me.  “I asked Miss Bell to leave in order to spare her any further embarrassment.  Could you please tell me exactly what happened?”

“Of course Professor,” I replied, biting back a smile as I gave my recount of what had happened, sparing no detail.  When I was finished, Professor Sprout’s eyes were dark.

“Thank you Mr Potter.  As you are aware, using magic in the corridors is strictly prohibited.  Therefore, you will serve detention on Saturday evening. And I do not want to hear of this happening again, is that understood?”

“Yes Professor,” I said.  Professor Sprout handed me a note like the one she had given Lucy and dismissed me from the office.  I stood up and wordlessly left the room, but once I was out in the corridor again I let myself smile, because I knew McMillan was going to get so much more than a stunning spell to the chest today.  And I knew this because when she handed me the note, Professor Sprout had winked at me.

AN: Ten points if you know who Katherine is! (hint: the clue is in the corresponding chapter of Aminal Magnetism)

Now I tried, really, really hard to hold back with my speedy updates because I'm worried I'm going to run out of chapters before I can write them all.  But I finished another chapter last night so I thought I'd reward myself by posting chapter 7...I hope you liked it.  Please leave a review if you have time, I'd really love to hear what you guys thought of this chapter, and your reviews really do motivate me when I'm writing.

And as's your preview for the next chapter, in which we're off to Hogsmeade once more!

I had to give Justin credit, he was exhibiting incredible self-control on his date – he hadn’t even tried to hold Gwen’s hand.  If I was even fortunate to go on a date with Lucy I probably wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off her.  Yes you would, because you would treat her better than McMillan, I reminded myself.  The whole spying plan became rather boring and soon, we were all bored to tears with what Justin and Gwen were doing…or rather not doing! 

“These two are like watching paint dry,” I grinned at Lucy after ten minutes of watching them look at the Scrivenshaft’s window display.  “I mean it’s just quills and ink, how interesting can it be?”

“You’re such a boy,” Lucy laughed quietly, shaking her head mockingly at me.

“Well that’s a nice change, you usually call me a girl,” I teased, giving her what I hoped was a flirtatious smile. 

“That’s because you act like a girl,” Lucy smiled back briefly, but quickly focussed on Justin and Gwen again.  For a moment I thought she was blushing, but as the cool winter air tickled my own cheeks I realised it was probably just the cold making her look a little pinker than usual.


Chapter 8: Fact of Nature #8: Two people in love can be exceptionally boring
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“Havin’ a hard time keepin’ out of trouble, are yeh?” Hagrid beamed at me as I approached his hut on Saturday evening.  It was twilight and the whole of Hogwarts had a slightly eerie feel to it.  Not that it bothered me, I was with Hagrid so I knew I’d be fine.

“This time it was definitely a necessity and not just for my own amusement,” I protested as Fang bounded over to greet me.  Though I did enjoy it a little bit, I added to myself.

“Well it was very noble of yeh,” Hagrid said, the slight tinge of sarcasm in his voice not lost on me.

“So what’s our job for tonight?” I asked, suddenly feeling a bit nervous about the knowing look Hagrid was giving me.

“We’re jus’ goin’ in ter the forest ter collect some fairies,” He replied, scooping up a large bag that was sitting on the steps of his hut.  “Need ‘em fer one of the Christmas Trees yeh see.”

“Right, fairies,” I nodded.  This really was turning out to be the easiest detention I had ever served, although it terms of enjoyment it would have to take second place behind that brilliant evening I got to spend with Lucy in the dungeons.  “So how do we hunt fairies?”

“Well once yeh’ve found ‘em it’s really quite simple,” Hagrid shrugged.  “I jus’ tell ‘em that they’re needed for decoration and they’re fallin’ over themselves ter volunteer.”

“Really?”  I laughed.  “Why’s that?”

“Very vain creatures they are,” Hagrid laughed.  “They just like ter be looked at.”

We made our way into the forest, following a path that looked vaguely familiar to me, although the darkness always cast the forest in a slightly different light.  We walked along for about ten minutes, chatting happily, until Hagrid stopped me and told me to be quiet.  I followed him silently, trying to work out what it was he was looking for; he kept stopping and looking at the leaves of various trees, turning them over gently and inspecting them before moving on.  This went on for another ten minutes or so, and just when I was getting bored and about to ask Hagrid what he was looking for, he waved me over to look at the leaf he was holding, a broad smile visible underneath his massive tangle of a beard.  I walked over to discover the leaves held a mass of tiny eggs, all brightly coloured.  Further inspection of a few surrounding leaves yielded the same results.  Hagrid stepped away from the tree slightly and put his bag down on the ground, opening it and pulling out several large glass jars.  He took the lid off one and handed both lid and jar to me; I noticed that tiny air holes had been punched into the lid.

“Jus’ follow my lead,” Hagrid whispered, but before I could ask him what he meant, he looked around and spoke in an overly loud voice. “Well I was hopin’ we could find summat beautiful in the fores’ ter use as decorations fer those Christmas trees,” He boomed.  I looked at him curiously but he simply continued.  “Yeh, we need summat really pretty!”  I continued to stare at Hagrid with my eyebrows raised until he began waving his hand at me in a circular motion, indicating I should say something.

“Oh yeah,” I stammered.  “We want something really beautiful that everyone will look at.”  Hagrid made a thumbs up sign and spoke again.

“I wonder if there’s anythin’ that beautiful here in the fores’ we could use?”

I opened my mouth to say something else, but before I could, I noticed a faint glowing from the trees nearby.  As I watched, several little glowing lights appeared, slowly moving closer to us.  Before long, I realised that the floating lights were actually tiny people with large insect-like wings, and they shimmered all over: Fairies.

“Why hello there,” Hagrid said gently to the fairies.  “You certainly are beautiful, wouldn’t you agree Albus?”

“Oh definitely,” I replied.  “Quite possibly the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.” Well not quite the most beautiful but these fairies don’t need to know about Lucy, do they?

As we watched, the fairies flittered closer to us, eventually following Hagrid’s instructions to hop into the jars if they would like to be used as decorations.  They seemed slightly hesitant at first, but as we continued to pour on the compliments, they became so excited they were practically falling over themselves to climb in the jars; and once a few had joined us, suddenly all the others wanted to as well, no doubt deciding they wanted the attention too.

After about twenty minutes of coaxing, we had a dozen or so jars full of glittering fairies, which we carefully loaded back into Hagrid’s bag. 

“I’ll jus’ make sure ter compliment them every day,” Hagrid chuckled as he slung the sack back over his shoulder.  “Now, how about a cup of tea?”

Lucy had seemed quite concerned about my punishment, but I assured her and the others that it hadn’t felt like a detention at all.  I thought it was quite odd until Rose came up with a theory about Sprout thinking I’d done something noble.  I supposed she could be right, since I was sure Sprouty had winked at me that day in her office and she’d given me a ridiculously easy punishment. 

The next Hogsmeade visit for the year approached and once again the boys began pestering me about asking Lucy out.

“Well she’s not going to go with McMillan,” Will commented one night.  “So you’ve got better chance this time.”

“But I think she’s still cut up about it all,” I argued.  Lucy had seemed a lot happier since I’d stunned McMillan in the corridor near the North Tower, but occasionally I caught her staring off into space, a slightly sad or confused expression on her face; I had a sneaking suspicion she wasn’t quite over him just yet.  “She’ll probably think I’m really insensitive if I ask her out.”

“I bet she’d say yes though,” Louis offered.  “I mean you hexed that Hufflepuff git for her, she’d probably be happy to repay the favour.”

“I don’t want her to go out with me out of a sense of obligation!” I exclaimed.  “You’re an idiot.  And what did I tell you about not giving me anymore of your stupid advice?”

“I hate to say it, but I think Louis is right,” Justin piped up from where he was reading a book on his bed.  “Whatever her reasons, I’m pretty sure if you asked her she’d say yes.  Maybe you should just give it a go.”

“How about you just give it a go?”  I snapped back, feeling guilty that I was taking my frustrations out on my friends.  “You ask Purnell out and I’ll consider asking Lucy out.”

“Fine, I was thinking about asking Gwen to Hogsmeade anyway,” Justin shrugged.  I rolled my eyes, doubting he would ever work up the nerve.

Saturday morning, I found myself grumpier than ever as I watched Justin get ready for his date.  I didn’t really begrudge him having a date, after all he’d actually had the guts to ask Gwen out, but I knew I was jealous that he had the girl of his dreams when mine seemed so elusive.

“Cheer up mate, it’s not all that bad,” Louis said as I stomped around the dormitory, looking for a clean pair of socks.  I glowered at him darkly but he simply chuckled.

“Look, we can still have a good time today,” He continued as Justin headed into the bathroom to brush his teeth.  Louis lowered his voice.  “The girls will probably be keeping a close eye on Justin and Purnell today, so we just do the same thing.  I’m sure they’d be happy to have us join them.”

I had to admit, it was a pretty good idea.  Lucy and I had discussed Justin and Gwen a couple of times and I got the impression that the girls were very enthusiastic about the new couple.  How hard would it be to say I was just spying on my mate? 

“This doesn’t mean you’re allowed to start giving me advice again,” I warned Louis, pointing a finger at him warningly, though I did feel my mood lighten significantly after that.

Louis was right about the girls following Justin and Gwen around, as we left the castle, we spotted them following the couple, keeping a small distance as they headed towards the village.

“You girls wouldn’t happen to be spying would you?” Louis said, sneaking up on the girls from behind.  

“Yes, we’ve been following them all the way since the castle.” Rose laughed, she was walking next to Lucy but there was a bit of a gap between them, I could easily slip in between them.

Come on Al, be brave.  Just act casual and cool and she’ll totally buy it.

Summoning courage from somewhere deep, I stepped between the two girls.  “Anything good happen yet?” On a sudden whim, I threw my arms over both their shoulders, a shiver running through me as I felt Lucy’s arm beneath my hand.  This wonderful moment only lasted a second though, because she seemed to buckle under the sudden assault of my arm, tripped and tumbled into the snow.  Her scream startled me and sent panic coursing through my veins, but almost immediately she rolled on to her back, giggling hysterically, and I knew she couldn’t be hurt too badly.

“Such a klutz,” Jane laughed, rolling her eyes.  Louis seemed to think this was the perfect moment to show off his impersonation skills and began stumbling around in the snow, comically pretending to fall over.

“Bloody hell Bell, way to give someone a heart attack!” I tried to hide the worry in my voice as I held a hand out to Lucy, wondering if she’d let me help her this time.

“You know me, can’t quite get the hang of gravity,” She smiled, reaching up almost instantly to take my hand.  I pulled her to her feet, though maybe a little too enthusiastically, because she tripped again slightly as she straightened up.  I reached out my free hand to steady her, watching her carefully to make sure she was as unharmed as she was acting.

“You alright?” I said seriously, looking her directly in the eye.  It was a bad idea, the little flecks of gold there seemed to trap me, and I found myself staring into her eyes, unable to look away.  It was obviously creepy because she suddenly pulled away from me, dancing through the snow with a giggle about how she was fine. 

I had to give Justin credit, he was exhibiting incredible self-control on his date – he hadn’t even tried to hold Gwen’s hand.  If I was even fortunate to go on a date with Lucy I probably wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off her.  Yes you would, because you would treat her better than McMillan, I reminded myself.  The whole spying plan became rather boring and soon, we were all bored to tears with what Justin and Gwen were doing…or rather not doing! 

“These two are like watching paint dry,” I grinned at Lucy after ten minutes of watching them look at the Scrivenshaft’s window display.  “I mean it’s just quills and ink, how interesting can it be?”

“You’re such a boy,” Lucy laughed quietly, shaking her head mockingly at me.

“Well that’s a nice change, you usually call me a girl,” I teased, giving her what I hoped was a flirtatious smile. 

“That’s because you act like a girl,” Lucy smiled back briefly, but quickly focussed on Justin and Gwen again.  For a moment I thought she was blushing, but as the cool winter air tickled my own cheeks I realised it was probably just the cold making her look a little pinker than usual.

“Well I’m over this, who’s up for Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes?” Louis interrupted.

“It’s so crowded in there,” Rose complained as she looked at the joke shop down the street.  “And it’s usually really loud.  I want to go to Honeydukes.”  A quick decision was made that saw we boys head into the joke shop while the girls took off to buy sweets.  I didn’t want to leave Lucy but I figured that if I followed her around all day she would realise how creepy I was.

“Boys!  How are we this fine day?” Uncle George called out to us as we entered the shop.  He was dangling from the ceiling from some kind of rope rigging, three boxes balanced under one arm. 

“Not too bad Uncle George,” I called up.  “What are you doing?”

“Just getting some more trick wands,” He explained, nodding towards the top of the impossibly high shelves where stacks of plan brown boxes housed extra stock.  As we watched, Uncle George used his spare hand to tap his wand on the rope, and immediately he began to descend…probably a little faster than was safe.  He landed with a thud in the middle of a group of startled looking second years who were trying on joke hats.  A boy sporting a marvellous pair of donkey ears stumbled backwards and let out a squeal as he fell into a display of muggle card tricks.

“Sorry there,” Uncle George exclaimed, helping the boy to his feet and fixing the display with a quick flourish of his wand.  He passed the boxes to a passing witch in magenta robes bearing the WWW logo before turning to beam at us.  “So what have you lot been up to?  I notice one missing body, Justin sick is he?”

“No,” Louis gave a snort of laugher.  “He’s on a date!”

“Well, well, good for him then,” Uncle George laughed.  “Though I would have expected the three of you to be following him around, giving him hell all day.”

“We tried, but they were really boring,” Will shrugged. 

“Yeah, even the girls thought they were boring,” I added.

“Oh, so we were spying with some ladies were we?   Nice plan, just the sort of brilliant idea I would have come up with when I was at school.  So where are these girls now?” Uncle George glanced around the crowd of students.

“Honeyduke’s,” Louis replied.  “Rose said it was too noisy and crowded in here.”

“Just like her mother that one,” Uncle George said wisely.  “Although I vaguely remember the great Hermione Granger once saying our products used rather impressive magic.  It was the nicest thing she ever said to me considering she spent most of her time at school trying to tell me off, and that was before she was a prefect!”  We all laughed at that, poor Auntie Hermione was always getting teased, although she did take it good naturedly, Uncle Ron was the one who would get annoyed at the teasing and shout at his brothers or sometimes Mum.

“Hey you lot, I thought you were spying on Justin today,” Fred appeared from a nearby aisle and invited himself into the conversation.  We quickly filled him in on the whole ‘they were boring so we came here’ story.

“Well I was thinking about heading over to The Three Broomsticks for lunch soon, you guys want to come?”  He asked.  We nodded in assent and started to say our goodbye’s the Uncle George.  “Hey Dad, I think I’ve left my wallet back up at the castle, do you think you could lend me some money?” Fred said slyly, giving his dad a far too innocent smile.

Accio Fred’s Wallet,” Uncle George said lazily in response, pointing his wand at his son.  Fred’s wallet flew out of his pocket and into Uncle George’s waiting hand.  “Left your wallet back in the castle did you?” He said, eyebrows raised.

“I said I thought I’d left it there.  Turns out I was wrong!”  Fred shrugged his shoulders as Uncle George gave the wallet back with a chuckle and waved us out of the shop.  “Have you seen James around?” Fred asked me as we crossed the street.  “I would have expected him to be out on a date with some good looking seventh year, but I haven’t spotted him yet.”

“No, school girls are a bit ‘beyond him’, he’s all mature and grown up now, didn’t you know?” I said, quoting my brother, who had been spending a lot of his time lately with his head inside a book. 

“Oh, is that what it is?  I wondered why I’d hardly seen him outside of Quidditch training.” Fred shrugged.  “Oh well, if he’s not dating anymore then that’s more lovely ladies for us, right boys?” I smiled at him, although in my head I made a mental note that cousin or not, if Fred tried to make Lucy one of his ‘Ladies’, I would personally turn him into a slug.

The pub was already starting to get crowded, but we found a table easily enough.  Fred managed to locate a couple of menus and I began looking over the list of dishes, not really sure what I felt like eating. 

“Oh dear,” Will said, and I looked up curiously.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Um, ok, Al don’t do anything stupid ok, but McMillan’s over there,” He said, pointing to the corner behind Louis.  The stupid git was sitting with Lydia March, a Ravenclaw sixth year, who developed fame (or maybe infamy) amongst the male populous of Hogwarts when she was in fourth year and certain parts of her body began developing rather quickly…well you know in the way that girl’s bodies develop!  She gets asked out a lot, although most of those guys are usually not dating her for her Ravenclaw brain!

I was seething as I watched McMillan brush a hair off of Lydia’s face while he laughed at something she said.  I wondered briefly if he’d tried that with Lucy when they were on their date.  I couldn’t believe that after everything that had happened, he could just take some other girl out and flirt so obviously like that with her.  I mean, I understand that the guy’s only human and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t noticed Lydia and even considered asking her out, but McMillan was being completely insensitive; what if Lucy saw them together? 

“Al?  Ease up mate, you’re going to break a piece of the table off!” Will interrupted my thoughts and I looked down to discover I was gripping the edge of the table with a vice-like grasp.  Louis and Fred, who were busy laughing about something on the menu, hadn’t noticed the conversation between Will and myself, or my reaction to McMillan.  I slowly let go of the table, flexing my fingers to relax them.  I nodded to Will to indicate I was ok and I wasn’t about to go running across the room to hex McMillan, though I sorely wanted to.

“Sorry git, look what a pretty girl does to your mental state,” Fred said suddenly, making me jump.

“What?” I said, had he been listening all along?  But when I looked at my cousin, he was waving his hand in front of Louis, who was staring across the room, completely unaware.

“He’s spotted Hawthorn,” Fred snickered, nodding in the direction that Louis was staring.  I glanced over my shoulder to see Rose, Jane and Lucy standing in the doorway of the pub.  Rose spotted us and waved before leading the girls through the crowd of patrons to our table.  Fred managed to shove his elbow into Louis’ ribs and startle him out of his creepy staring routine before anyone else noticed.

There’s another boy in our family who does the creepy, stalker stare at pretty girls.  I must ask Dad if it’s hereditary.

“Hello you lot,” Rose smiled at us.  “You all get hungry too?”

“Famished, we were about to order before you so rudely interrupted!” Fred teased.

“Oh shut up Freddie, no one cares what you think,” Rose retorted, leaving Fred with a grumpy look on his face.  “Now budge up so we can join you, it’s getting a bit mad in here!”

We all looked around for unclaimed chairs, Louis practically falling off on his to grab one for Jane.  I spotted a spare chair at the next table and quickly went to retrieve it.

“Here Lucy, you have my chair, I’ll find another one,” Fred was saying as I returned and I felt like kicking my stupid cousin.  

I was going to find her a chair!  Then she’d be all happy and smiley and look at me with those big brown eyes and…

And what Al?  Fall in love with you because you got her a chair in the pub?  Get a grip!

I realised that there was probably something dangerous about the fact that I was having an argument with myself, so I quickly offered the spare chair to Rose.

“Thanks Al,” She smiled at me.  “Luce, move around will you and I can fit in here.”

To my utter delight, Lucy pushed her chair further around the table until it was right beside the next chair: mine.  I sat down and smiled at her, grateful that the crowded pub had put us in this brilliant situation.  When Fred returned with a chair, there wasn’t much room left and Louis didn’t look willing to move from where he had pushed his chair up next to Jane’s.  Will shuffled around a bit so Fred could fit in next to him, but that meant I had to shuffle around to allow for Will, pushing me closer to Lucy.  Our legs were touching ever so slightly now, and Lucy smiled at me and blushed, before turning her eyes to the menu.

“Should we get some drinks?” Louis suggested. 

“I’ll come and help you,” Will said, and we all gave our drink orders to the boys.  I stared at the table for a second, trying to think of something funny or clever to say.  I’d just decided to ask about Honeydukes (not my best ice-breaker I’ll admit, but I was nervous!) and was looking up at Lucy when I stopped dead in my tracks.  She was facing straight ahead so I had a beautiful look at the profile of her face, but I knew almost immediately that something was wrong.  Lucy’s eyes were unblinking as they trained on something across the room, her lips turned downwards into a slight frown.  I realised in an instant that she’d spotted McMillan, and felt my hand grip the table once more.  I wanted to do or say something comforting, but all I could think about was hexing his stupid, smug head off as we watched him not-so-subtly put his arm around Lydia’s shoulder.

Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one who had noticed what was going on.  Rose made a noise of disgust and rolled her eyes at the pair. 

“Can’t half tell he’s got a one track mind, can you?  And he had the nerve to call you all those nasty names!  What a hypocrite!”  She said.  It seemed to work, Lucy looked at Rose and smiled, rolling her eyes as well.

“Well best of luck to her,” She grinned, though I noticed that her eyes seemed to hold a twinge of hurt.

“Alright you lot, pay up!” Louis broke into the conversation as he and Will returned with several glasses of butterbeer.  We all pulled out our money and pushed it to the middle of the table. 

“Ooh, and look who just came in!” Rose cried and six heads swivelled towards the door, where Justin and Gwen had appeared.  Justin helped Gwen remove her cloak before looking around for a table.  They didn’t even notice us all gawking at them as Justin led Gwen to a small table across the room.  When they sat down, my view was obscured by a large plant, but Rose and Jane could both see them.

“They’re sitting really close together!” Jane hissed.

“He’s tucking a piece of her hair behind her ear!” Rose added, and all the girls made soft ‘awww’ noises.  Fred pretended to gag as the girls continued to make comments about the date’s progress.

“They finally get interesting and I can’t see it!” I said to Lucy, ducking my head towards her conspiratorially. 

“Don’t worry, I can’t either,” She said.  “They could be dancing on top of the table and we wouldn’t know.”

“I live with Justin, believe me, if he were dancing on the table I wouldn’t want to know!” I said and the most wonderful thing happened: Lucy giggled.  An honest to goodness, genuine, that-was-really-funny, giggle.  I couldn’t stop the huge grin that spread across my face at the sound of her laughter, and my stomach flipped over nervously as her eyes sparkled.

Oh man, I have it bad if one giggle has this effect on me.

Rose and Jane continued their running report of Justin and Gwen while we all ordered our food and didn’t stop until our meals were delivered and the girls had to stop talking to eat.

“They’re getting pretty boring anyway,” Jane said at one point.  “They’re just talking.”

Being crowded around the table became even more noticeable once our meals arrived and we needed to reach our plates and glasses more frequently.  I was very much enjoying the constant feel of Lucy’s knee pressed against mine and the way her arm would brush against mine when she reached for another chip.  I definitely did not intentionally touch her forearm with my own several times just because I liked the sensation.  Definitely not…because that would be creepy.

“They seem to be enjoying themselves,” Rose said at one point, glancing over her shoulder to where Justin and Gwen were apparently still sitting. 

“Well he made a good decision by not taking her to Madam Puddifoot’s, that put him ahead right there” I said, to which some of the others murmured their agreement. 

“Have I told you guys about the time James dared me to go and have lunch at Puddifoot’s on my own?” Fred asked.  I’d heard the story but most of the others hadn’t, so Fred launched into the tale of his delightful meal at the sickeningly floral café. 

I was happy to be next to Lucy but I wished I could talk to her more without interrupting Fred’s story.  The second I said a word to her, even if I was quiet, the others would hear me and all turn to look.  The story was a good one, and the way Fred told it was amusing, but it was the fifth time I’d heard it and I soon found myself getting bored.  My mind wandered to other things like the way Lucy’s hair fell over her shoulder, the ends twisting into a loose, natural waves and the way her leg felt pressed against mine. Even though both of our legs were clad in the thick denim of our jeans, I could feel the heat radiating from our limbs and for a while I began to get lost in my own fantasies, imagining we were the ones on a date, and there would be nothing wrong with me resting my hand on her knee.

Right creepy man, stop it right there! I scolded myself, and I balled my hands up into fists on my own knees for good measure.  I tapped my shoe against the leg of my chair nervously, suddenly all too aware of Lucy’s proximity, the scent of her shampoo, the light that reflected off her hair, the curve of her neck…

Right, getting really creepy now!

I was beginning to realise just how much of a curse being a fifteen year old boy could be, and I swung my foot a little wider, until suddenly it met something else as it kicked away from my chair.  Lucy’s foot!  I tapped my foot against Lucy’s again, just gently to see if she would react badly, or even notice it.  When there was no reaction, I hit my foot against hers a little harder, and this time her foot moved away from mine.  Just as I felt the disappointment rise up, I suddenly felt Lucy’s foot move back, tapping against mine three times.  I tapped her again and noticed the faintest hint of a smile flutter across her lips.  Encouraged by her reaction, I continued the game of footsies for a while, but forced myself to stop eventually, deciding to quit while I was ahead. 

I was trying my hardest to ignore McMillan and Lydia in the corner, though my eyes kept flicking to Lucy to see if she was bothered by their presence.  For the most part, she seemed to be ignoring them too, although at one point I looked up and she was staring straight at the couple, her mouth a thin line.  I looked quickly to McMillan, and realised he was looking back at Lucy, a stupid smirk on his face.  As we watched, he turned and whispered something to Lydia, something that, judging by her reaction, was not at all appropriate.  It was also obviously designed to upset Lucy, to make her feel like she was just a disposable thing, and it made me mad.

“Smarmy git, I’ve got half a mind to go and hex him.” I muttered, just loud enough so that Lucy could hear me.  I wanted her to know that his stupid behaviour was not going unnoticed. She definitely heard, because suddenly, her hand was on mine, patting it gently.

“Ease up sunshine,” She said, smiling at me.  I stared at her, rendered speechless not only by the way she smiled, but also by her touch.  Her hand was so soft and I was overcome with the urge to grab it and never let go.  Obviously Lucy felt this intensity because she quickly pulled her hand away, looking a little embarrassed.  “I appreciate the help but don’t go picking any fights on my account, I can look after myself.”  She said.

Of course you can, I wanted to say.  Because that was fast becoming the theme of my relationship with Lucy, she didn’t want me to rescue her, even when I could see her suffering.  She was strong, and brave and a Gryffindor and she wasn’t about to be some helpless damsel in distress.

And it only made me like her more.

AN: Ok, I'm super tired and just stupidly deleted this as I was trying to post it so I shall try again! :)  And due to my tiredness I've been to lazy to do a last minute proof read, so I apologise if there are more errors than usua.  Feel free to get a red pen and cross them out...actually, don't do that - it'll ruin your computer screen!  See, what did I tell you?  Tired!

I hoped you ejoyed the chapter though, please leave me a review and tell me what you think :)

Thanks as always to you, my lovely readers!

And of course, here's your little treat, chapter 9 and many people's favourite scene from Animal Magnetism...

“Why are you running away from Filch?” Lucy asked through her deep breaths.  “I know he’s a pain but we weren’t doing anything wrong.”

“It’s not what I’m doing now, it’s what I did earlier today,” I started, and when Lucy still looked confused, I realised it was best to tell her the truth. “I stole one of Hagrid’s Nifflers and locked it up in Filch’s office with a few pieces of leprechaun gold.  I thought it would just be funny but it actually tore his office apart.” 

The look that Lucy gave me was one that I imagine you would give a small child when they’d done something naughty.  She let out a small groan of frustration and her expression clearly said, Albus Potter, you are an idiot.  There was a slight twitching at the corners of her mouth though and I wondered if somewhere, deep down, she was amused by my actions.

“Where on earth did you get leprechaun gold?” She asked, obviously deciding it was the easiest question to start with.

“It’s a long story,” I replied, not able to stop myself giving her a little smile which she returned.

“Come along Mrs. Norris, just down this way,” Filch’s voice broke through our private moment and once again I panicked.  Lucy and I looked at each other, her expression mirroring my own, and then we took off at a run.  We were just skidding around a corner when I saw a small doorway to my right: a cupboard.  I stopped suddenly, yanking Lucy to a halt with me. 

“Quick, in here!” I hissed, pulling open the door and dragging Lucy in with me. 

To say the cupboard was smaller than I had been anticipating would be an understatement of epic proportions.  I’m not exactly sure why Hogwarts would even have a broom closet that small, I mean surely with all the magical people around this place they could have managed something a little bigger.  The one good thing about the tiny-ness of the cupboard however was the fact that I was now standing closer to Lucy than I had ever been before.  It was dark in our little hiding spot so I could only just make out the shape of her face and body, her brown eyes still sparkling in the dim light.


Chapter 9: Fact of Nature #9: Stupid is as stupid does
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Sometimes I think I’m pretty cool.  I mean I’m not quite as popular as James or Fred but you know I’m kinda smart and supposedly good looking, I play Quidditch and have some awesome friends; in the grand scheme of things I’m really not doing too badly.  And then I’ll go and do something like this and I realise that I am the biggest moron on the face of the earth.

Make that the biggest moron in the universe! I decided as I bolted down a corridor, around a corner and up a flight of stairs.  My legs were burning but I needed to get myself away from the scene of the crime, fast!  I noticed a group of people making their way down to the Great Hall for dinner and slipped into the crowd, hoping nobody noticed that I looked like I’d been running.

Perhaps I should backtrack and explain today’s earlier events that have led to my sudden need to escape.   

You see I went down to visit Hagrid after Herbology this morning.  It was lunch time so I thought I pop in for a quick chat.

“Alrigh’ there Al?” He beamed at me as I plonked down in one of his giant chairs. 

“Can’t complain,” I replied.  It was then that I noticed the four gold coins sitting on the table top.  They were slightly bigger than galleons and had some sort of funny design on them.  They seemed shinier than usual coins as well.  “Hagrid, what are these?” I asked, picking one up to inspect it.

“Oh, that’s jest some leprechaun gold left over from my lessons with the fourth years.  We’re doing Nifflers,” He explained.  I briefly remembered a lesson from the year before, with Nifflers digging around in the vegetable patch for shiny things.  “Yeh can have it if yeh like, it’s only goin’ ter disappear in about four or five hours.”

“Cool, thanks,” I smiled as I pocketed the coins.  I’d figured I would give them to the boys as a prank or something, maybe I could ask Louis to watch my money and pretend to get angry when he couldn’t find it. 

Hagrid poured us some tea and we chatted for a while before he said he needed to go into the forest to visit Grawp, his giant half brother.  I had every intention of heading back up to the castle for something to eat after I watched Hagrid and Fang disappear into the trees, but a large wooden crate around the side of the hut caught my attention.  For some reason – maybe it was all the study sessions with Lucy –  I found my curiosity sparked and I quickly made my way over to have a look at what was inside the box. 

Nifflers.  As soon as I saw them, a plan formed in my head, and at the time it seemed like a brilliant plan.  Nifflers like shiny stuff so if I put one somewhere with the leprechaun gold, it would go crazy trying to find it.  It would be an awesome prank, maybe I could hide the gold in James’s bed, he’d been moping around a bit lately, maybe it would help him liven up a bit.

No, not James…Filch.

I had never liked Argus Filch, the school caretaker.  He was mean spirited and grumpy and always seemed to take such delight when he caught me out of bed after hours.  I could slip the Niffler and the gold into his office while everyone was downstairs having lunch, then I would sneak back up later to see his reaction.  I swear, at the time it seemed like such a brilliant plan; of course if I’d been paying attention in Care of Magical Creatures last year, I would have remembered that locking a niffler up in a confined space with gold was going to cause a lot more problems than I wanted to deal with.

Acting swiftly, I scooped up one of the Nifflers and slipped it into the back compartment of my bag, which was usually empty anyway.  I pocketed the leprechaun gold and took off towards the castle, sneaking past the doors of the Great hall where I could hear most of the school body chattering away.  I knew the way to Filch’s office, having been dragged there several times before, and found that a quick unlocking charm was all that was needed to get inside.  I slipped the four coins into various hiding spots around the room and then placed the Niffler on the floor, right in the centre of the office.  Stifling a laugh, I quickly slipped back into the hallway, locking the door behind me before running down to the kitchens to grab some leftovers.

All afternoon I was beside myself with anticipation, waiting to see what would happen when Filch went back to his office.  I was so excited and after lessons finished, I dropped my bag off in the dormitory and snuck back down to Filch’s office.  I hid behind a suit of armour that stands on this big stone plinth just down the corridor from his office, not far from the corner to another hallway.  I’d only been hiding there for five minutes when I heard him shuffling and wheezing his way down the corridor. 

Now I had expected him to shout, to scream to get angry when he opened the door and saw the mess and the Niffler.  What I didn’t expect was silence…bone chilling silence.  In hindsight, I should have run as soon as that silence fell on the hallway, but stupidly I waited for the explosion.  When it came, I thought the windows were going to smash and the roof was going to cave in.  The noise that Filch made was halfway between the growl of an angry troll and the shrieking of a banshee, and as soon as I heard it, I knew something was wrong. 

Once again, I should have taken this as a hint to run, to get out of there and save myself; but of course curiosity kicked in and I began tiptoeing towards the open office door.  What I saw when I peered around the corner was enough to make my heart stop.  I had thought the Niffler would eat a few papers, knock over a couple of boxes and maybe poop in the corner.  However, what it had actually done was pretty much destroy every single item in the tiny office.  Papers, boxes, furniture, picture frames, everything!  My mouth dropped open in surprise – how had one little Niffler managed to do so much damage?  Filch was standing in the middle of the room with his back to the door, his head in his hands.  Mrs. Norris was pacing around his feet and suddenly, she looked up and saw me.  She arched her back and hissed at me, causing Filch’s head to jerk upwards. 

Run! Sweet Merlin, run run run!

Finally my brain worked out what I should have done quite some time ago, and before Filch turned around I stepped away from the open doorway and took off down the corridor.  I could hear Filch shuffling his way out of the office, calling out.

“Who’s there, come back you ungrateful brat!  When I catch you, there won’t be anyone to save you!” 

I glanced over my shoulder as I reached the corner and darted around it.  Filch hadn’t reached the doorway yet, so he hadn’t seen me, but I needed to get as far away as I could.  Plus, Mrs. Norris had seen me and I wasn’t entirely convinced that she wasn’t telepathic.

So this is how I ended up racing through the corridors of Hogwarts, cursing myself for being an idiot and hiding in a crowd of what appeared to be sixth year Ravenclaws.  I stuck close to the edge of their group, trying not to look to suspicious, until I reached the Great Hall, and then I strolled casually along the Gryffindor table until I found my friends, who were sitting with the fifth year girls.

“Where did you rush off to this afternoon?” Louis asked, raising an eyebrow at me.

“Nowhere,” I replied, trying to keep my voice calm and casual.  “I just had to go and take care of something.”  The boys all looked at me with expressions that clearly did not accept such a stupid excuse, but I ignored them and turned to face Lucy, who was sitting across the table from me.  “We still on for studying tonight?” I asked her.

“Yep,” She smiled at me, although she did look a little distracted.  “We can head to the library straight after dinner if you like, we might get more done that way.”

“Sounds good to me,” I smiled back.  Sounds perfect actually, then I can avoid the boys and their questions.

Once we’d finished the meal (A choice of Steak and Kidney Pie or Lamb Chops), Lucy and I headed up to the dormitories to get our books before making our way back down to the library. 

“I think Hogwarts needs to invest in some lifts,” Lucy exclaimed when we finally sank back down into our regular spot by the window.

“It’s a bit insane isn’t it?” I agreed.  “Maybe they’re hoping that by tiring us out with all this stair climbing, we won’t get into so much trouble.”

“Well it doesn’t stop most people around here!” Lucy laughed, before opening her books and getting down to work.  It was an average evening for us in the Library, although my thoughts were confirmed that Lucy was definitely more distracted than usual.  Several times I’d look up from what I was reading or writing to find her staring out the window or just off in to space, her chin in her hand and her quill poised motionless above her parchment.

I began wondering if everything was ok, and I officially began to worry when I asked her the same question three times and she didn’t respond.

“Lucy?  Anyone home?” I waved my hand in front of her eyes.  It worked, she jumped as though startled.

“I wasn’t going to say anything!” She gasped.  Huh?  What was that about?

“You alright?” I asked, “You’ve been off with the fairies a fair bit lately.”

“I’m ok,” She yawned, rubbing her eyes in a truly adorable fashion.

“Yeah, it’s probably about time that the two of us went to bed anyway,” I said.

“Sorry, what?” Lucy looked stunned as I realised my stupidity; Awkward Albus strikes again!


I only have this problem around Lucy you know, usually I’m quite an eloquent speaker.


“Oh, no I meant…you know, go back to Gryffindor tower and go to sleep.  In our own beds.  In our own dormitories.  Separately.”  I stammered.  Smooth Al…real smooth.


Lucy blushed a bit as we packed up our books and I was pretty sure I had a distinctly red face as well.  I decided a change of topic was in order for the walk back up to Gryffindor Tower, something safe.


“So are you going home for Christmas?” I asked.


“Sure am, what about you?” Lucy replied; she seemed relieved at the normalcy of our new discussion.


“Yep, Weasley Christmases can be a bit crazy but they’re always a lot of fun,” I smiled.  “Grandma Weasley is an amazing cook and all of the cousins usually go out for a game of Qudditch while we’re waiting to eat.  Sometimes the adults even join in, there’s a few Quidditch players in our family.”

“I’ll bet,” Lucy grinned. 

“So are you doing anything special over the break?” I continued, reminding myself that I could have a normal conversation with Lucy most of the time.

“Yeah, you know how I told you Alice was moving out?  Well I’m going to spend a couple days with her at her flat in Diagon Alley after Christmas, it should be fun.”  Lucy’s face lit up and I realised this was something she was really excited about.

“That sounds awesome,” I grinned.  “No parents, no alarm clock, nobody telling you what to eat for breakfast!”

“Yeah, it’s going to be a lot of fun.  It seems like whenever I go to Diagon Alley these days it’s a trip to the bank or to buy school robes or books.  I just want to wander around and look at shops, eat ice cream and…” Lucy’s voice drifted away as we heard an all too familiar sound not too far away.  I touched her arm lightly as we reached the top of a flight of stairs and cocked my head to listen properly.

There was no mistaking that shuffling walk or the ragged breathing.

“Nasty little brats Mrs. Norris.  If I had my way I’d be stringing them up in the dungeons by their toenails!”   Filch’s voice echoed through the nearby hallways, and dread spread through me.

“Merlin’s pants, it’s Filch!” I whispered.  Oh no, he’s worked out it’s me and he’s coming to find me!  I am in so much trouble!

“But it’s not curfew yet, we’re allowed to be out,” Lucy said.  She looked confused, she didn’t understand my panic and there was no time to explain it, not when Filch could appear around that corner at any second.  Without giving it too much thought, I seized Lucy’s hand and ran back down the way we’d come, trying to find a different route back up to the common room.  Once we’d travelled through a few corridors, I stopped, allowing us to catch our breath for a moment.  Lucy didn’t pull away from the grasp I had on her hand and I was enjoying the sensation far too much to be the one to let go.

“Why are you running away from Filch?” Lucy asked through her deep breaths.  “I know he’s a pain but we weren’t doing anything wrong.”

“It’s not what I’m doing now, it’s what I did earlier today,” I started, and when Lucy still looked confused, I realised it was best to tell her the truth. “I stole one of Hagrid’s Nifflers and locked it up in Filch’s office with a few pieces of leprechaun gold.  I thought it would just be funny but it actually tore his office apart.” 

The look that Lucy gave me was one that I imagine you would give a small child when they’d done something naughty.  She let out a small groan of frustration and her expression clearly said, Albus Potter, you are an idiot.  There was a slight twitching at the corners of her mouth though and I wondered if somewhere, deep down, she was amused by my actions.

“Where on earth did you get leprechaun gold?” She asked, obviously deciding it was the easiest question to start with.

“It’s a long story,” I replied, not able to stop myself giving her a little smile which she returned.

“Come along Mrs. Norris, just down this way,” Filch’s voice broke through our private moment and once again I panicked.  Lucy and I looked at each other, her expression mirroring my own, and then we took off at a run.  We were just skidding around a corner when I saw a small doorway to my right: a cupboard.  I stopped suddenly, yanking Lucy to a halt with me. 

“Quick, in here!” I hissed, pulling open the door and dragging Lucy in with me. 

To say the cupboard was smaller than I had been anticipating would be an understatement of epic proportions.  I’m not exactly sure why Hogwarts would even have a broom closet that small, I mean surely with all the magical people around this place they could have managed something a little bigger.  The one good thing about the tiny-ness of the cupboard however was the fact that I was now standing closer to Lucy than I had ever been before.  It was dark in our little hiding spot so I could only just make out the shape of her face and body, her brown eyes still sparkling in the dim light.

It only took a few seconds before my imagination went into overdrive, thinking about what we could do in such a confined space, how easy it would be to kiss her in this private little sanctuary.  We were both standing with our backs against the stone walls, but there was less than a foot between us and it wouldn’t be difficult to just lean forward and…

“Albus?” Lucy’s voice shook me from my fantasy.

“What?” I replied, realising I’d already started leaning in towards her.  Did she feel the spark too?  Was she going to ask me to kiss her?  Merlin’s beard, it was finally going to happen, wasn’t it?

“I’m standing in a bucket.”




“My foot, it’s caught in a bucket and there’s something wet in there,”

It took me a second to realise Lucy wasn’t feeling romantic at all – I’d dragged her in here only to get her foot stuck in a sodding bucket.

“Oh, wow, I’m sorry.  Here, let me help you,” I gasped, trying to reach forward and help her.  The problem was, I couldn’t reach down very far, and when I grasped her leg, it was just above the knee, the start of a very soft, very warm, very attractive thigh.

Holy Hippogriffs, I’m touching her thigh!

I managed to fight the fog of arousal that was threatening to envelop me and pulled on Lucy’s leg, although it yielded no results.  Well it yielded one result: it made Lucy giggle.

“Don’t!  That tickles,” She laughed as I tried to yank her leg out of the bucket again.  Normally I love the sound of her laughter, but the volume level was making me panic, so I abandoned the ‘pull-the-leg-out-of-the-bucket’ plan  and threw my hand across Lucy’s mouth, frantically shushing her. 

I’m not really sure how it happened, because the movements were all so quick and natural, but within a matter of seconds, Lucy’s hands had reached up to my shoulders, gripping me tightly for support as she balanced on one leg.  My free hand snaked around her waist to hold her straight, my other hand still across her mouth and our bodies pressed extremely close to each other.  If I’d thought touching her leg was stimulating, it was nothing to how I was feeling now.  My breathing became shallow as I stared into her brown eyes, my heart thumping wildly and my face growing hot.

Bloody Hell, if this is how she makes me feel when we’re just friends, imagine what it would be like if she was my girlfriend and she actually let me –

Suddenly, the door was yanked open and Lucy squinted as light fell across her face.  Filch was standing there, staring at us in surprise for a moment before that nasty sneer made an appearance. 

“Oh ho Mrs. Norris, what have we here?  Two naughty little Gryffindor’s caught canoodling in my broom cupboard.”  He looked positively gleeful as he reached in to yank me out into the corridor.  Lucy managed to free her leg with some difficulty and followed me out, water dripping from her shoe onto the stone floor.  “Right, I’m taking the two of you to see your head of house.  Fraternising in broom cupboards is not acceptable.  Oh you are going to be in for a world of trouble,” Filch continued to gloat as we marched slowly in the direction of Professor Longbottom’s office.

As we walked, I found myself trying to decide which I was more upset about: The fact that nothing had happened in the broom cupboard, or the look of pure mortification on Lucy’s face at Filch’s accusation.  Is the thought of snogging me in a broom closet that repulsive? I wondered.  Though I supposed that maybe she was more upset about being caught, after all, the situation was pretty embarrassing, no matter how you felt about the other person.

The sudden appearance of Peeves did not help the state of affairs.  Filch has absolutely no control over him so the stupid poltergeist simply followed us down the hallway, cackling and making loud smooch noises, shouting out rude comments and catcalls. Lucy groaned and rubbed her hand over her face in embarrassment; disappointment mingled with guilt to form a tight ball in the pit of my stomach.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered, knowing it wasn’t nearly enough to make up for what I was putting her through.  Lucy didn’t look at me or acknowledge my apology, How am I ever going to get her to fall for me now? I thought despondently.

“No talking!” Filch barked as we pulled to a halt outside Neville’s office.  He knocked quickly on the door, Peeves still floating above our heads and mocking us.  Fortunately the first thing Neville did was threaten to call the Bloody Baron, which tends to work on Peeves (if he knows you can actually get your hands on the Bloody Baron) so that one little problem was solved.  The next thing he did, and this is something I really, truly appreciate about Neville, was to get rid of Filch.  Filch always has this sour look on his face when teachers send him away, like he was hoping they’d hand you over to him for a torture session, but Neville is always quick to make it known that Filch’s job is done and he needs to leave.

Unfortunately, it meant that I suddenly found myself sitting in a chair, facing Neville, with Lucy next to me, having to explain why Filch had found us in a broom closet.  I remembered the look of pure humiliation of Lucy’s face and decided that I needed to put that little fire out first.

“Professor, Filch got it all wrong, you have to believe me – ” I started, but Neville interrupted me.

“That’s Mr. Filch thank you,” He said, though he did look a little amused I think.

“Sorry,” I said quickly, “But he still got it wrong.”

“So he didn’t find the two of you in a cupboard?” Neville raised an eyebrow at me and gave me a look that was clearly challenging me to lie to him.  Neville is one of my parent’s oldest friends and trying to lie to him would be like trying to lie to Mum or Dad…well maybe more like Dad, I can occasionally get away with a white lie around Dad; not mum though, she can smell a lie from a hundred miles away.

“Well…ok, yes he did find us in the cupboard,” I conceded, but I was annoyed, he wasn’t letting me explain properly.

“But you weren’t touching each other?” Was I imagining things or did Neville seem to be enjoying this?

“Well…” I looked at Lucy out of the corner of my eye as I remembered how close we had been in that cupboard.  I felt my cheeks grow hot as I remembered how it had felt to have my arm around her, our faces an inch apart, the way my body had reacted to her of its own accord…  “Well it was a small cupboard you see Sir,” I mumbled…this was sounding worse by the second and I didn’t doubt that poor Lucy was dying of embarrassment right now.

“I’m sorry, then what exactly did Mr. Filch get wrong?” Ok, I am not imagining things…Neville is bloody loving this!  He’s having a grand old time making me squirm!  But this wasn’t just about me, I had to think about Lucy’s reputation too, so I pressed on.

“We weren’t…well you know…what he thinks we were doing,” I said, knowing I wouldn’t get the actual word ‘snogging’ out without dying of mortification. 

“And what exactly were you doing in a broom cupboard then Mr. Potter?” And then I realised what I had to do.  All I had to do was tell Neville the truth about why I’d run away from Filch and Lucy would be saved.  It did mean I was going to have to face the consequences though, and judging from the state of Filch’s office, I wasn’t going to get off lightly.

“We were hiding,” I said sadly. 

“Hiding?  What on earth from?” Neville sounded a little surprised.  Did he really think Lucy and I had been snogging?  I took a deep breath, ready to confess everything.

“It was my idea,” Lucy’s voice made me jump, I’d almost forgotten she was in the room.  Neville and I both looked at her in surprise. “We heard Mr. Filch coming so I suggested we hide in the cupboard and jump out to scare him.  I thought it would be a funny joke.”  Lucy’s inability to tell a decent lie shone through rather impressively in that moment.  If I didn’t know better, I would have thought she actually wanted Neville to know she was being dishonest.  What I didn’t understand though, was why on earth she’d done it.  Why would she be trying to take a bullet for me after I’d humiliated her?  Well I knew one thing for sure, I wasn’t getting her in any deeper, this was my mess and it was my fault she was involved; she wasn’t about to take the punishment for me.

“That’s not true Sir,” I said quickly, and Neville’s head shot back to me.  “Earlier today I stole a Niffler from Hagrid and locked it inside Filch’s office with some leprechaun gold,” To his credit, Neville didn’t reprimand me again for referring to the caretaker only by his surname.  “It kind of caused a lot more damage than I’d expected and I was trying to keep away from him because I didn’t want to get caught.  We were on our way back to the common room from the library when we heard Filch and I panicked, and I dragged Lucy into that cupboard with me to hide.  So you see, Lucy is completely innocent Sir.  It’s all my fault and I’ll accept whatever punishment you see fit to give me, but please don’t punish Lucy.”  Neville had listened silently while I’d been telling my story, his eyes watching me curiously.  Lucy however, kept her head down the whole time, her eyes focussed on her lap.

“Well, I must say I’m disappointed in you Albus,” Neville began his lecture with the worst possible sentence you want to hear from an adult you actually like and respect.  “Not so much in the sense that you played a silly prank like that – and it was very silly, that Niffler could have done some serious damage or been severely harmed – but because you seem to be leading poor Miss Bell here down the proverbial garden path.”  My heart sunk when he said that, I really was being selfish wasn’t I?  While I’d been holding on to Lucy, imagining my lips on hers, our bodies tangled together in passion, she’d been standing with one foot in a bucket, probably panicking that she’d end up with another detention.  I really hadn’t given her a choice before I’d shoved in that cupboard, had I? “It is one thing to make bad choices for yourself, but to drag another student into it is really quite unfair.”  Neville continued, almost as though he could read my thoughts.

“No,” Once again, Lucy seemed determined to direct the conversation her own way.  “It’s not his fault.  I didn’t have to get in that cupboard, I didn’t have to hide from Filch with him.  That was my choice, and Albus isn’t dragging me in to anything!”  I couldn’t help but stare at Lucy, who had glanced up from her knees to look intently at Neville.  I was dumbstruck, why did she seem so determined to take the blame for this?

“That’s very honourable of you to say so Miss Bell, but nonetheless I want to see much less of the two of you in my office from now on – is that understood?” Neville looked at both of us this time.

“Yes Professor,” I mumbled, and I heard Lucy’s voice give the same sentiment. 

“Well I’m going to give you both a detention for going into one of the service cupboards, which you both knew,” He looked pointedly at me because I’d opened my mouth to protest Lucy’s punishment, “was against the school rules.  And Albus, you will receive a second punishment for the Niffler incident and I have no doubt it will be along the lines of helping Mr. Filch to clean up the mess in his office.”  My heart sunk a little bit; that was certainly not going to be an enjoyable detention.  “Now, it is after hours, so I think the two of you need to get upstairs straight away.”  With a nod from our Head of House, we were dismissed and began the awkwardly quiet journey to the common room.  I wanted to say something, to apologise for my actions, to redeem myself in Lucy’s eyes, but I couldn’t focus on the right words.  It was Lucy who eventually broke the silence.

“I’m sorry, I seem to be getting you into a lot of trouble these days.” She said quietly.  I looked at her as we continued to walk, the confusion evident on my face.

“You are odd,” I said, hoping she realised it wasn’t meant as an insult.  “I get in trouble all the time and it’s definitely not your fault.”  When had she ever gotten me in trouble?  I quickly scanned my memories but came up with nothing.

“What about the thing with Michael?” She argued.  Michael? That git? But that doesn’t count!

“Well ok, maybe you were involved with that one, but he had it coming anyway.” I explained.  How could she possibly think that was her fault?  Neville was right, I was a bad influence on her, especially if she thought that my detentions were her fault.  I inhaled deeply and forced myself to voice a rather painful thought.  “Seriously, I’m the one who should feel bad.  It’s like Professor Longbottom said, I seem to be getting you in to an awful lot of trouble these days.  Maybe I’m not such a great friend to you.”  I held my breath as I waited for her response, my brain screaming, Please don’t agree with me, please!

“I think I can handle myself,” Lucy laughed as though my comment wasn’t even worth a second thought and I let out my breath slowly.  “Plus, how would you ever get through Care of Magical Creatures without me?”  She grinned mischievously at me, the humiliation and drama of the recent events melting away as our usual air of friendly banter returned.

“Ah, you have me there; you have been my lifesaver Bell,” I was so relieved that our friendship hadn’t been ruined that I didn’t even think about the fact that I was wrapping my arm around her shoulders until she gave me a startled look.  It had been such a natural movement, something I’d done a thousand times with Rose or Lily, but where they would grin at me and wrap an arm around my waist in return, Lucy’s body went rigid, her muscles tensing at the contact.

Albus Severus Potter, this is the third stupid thing you’ve done today; are you trying to set a record?

I dropped my arm immediately, letting it fall to my side as I fought to hide my disappointment.  “And anyway, you need me – after that terrible lie I can clearly see that you need my guidance; the Trelawney thing must have been just a once-off.”  I kept my voice light, hoping she wouldn’t feel uncomfortable that I’d mis-read our friendship.  I’d figured we were in that relaxed, joke-around sort of place, but the way she’d reacted when I’d touched her – it just didn’t seem right.  Unless…unless she suspected my feelings and she was worried I would mis-interpret her actions if she’d let me put my arm around her.  Maybe it had been Lucy’s subtle way of telling me I didn’t have a chance.

How depressing.

“Tinsel,” Lucy said, and I realised we were standing in front of the portrait of the fat lady.  She had this obsession with making up seasonal passwords and since the Christmas decorations had gone up she’d been right into it.  The portrait swung open obediently and we climbed through, only to be bombarded with questions from several Gryffindors, all wanting to know what had happened to us.  Rose was leading the pack and ran at us with such enthusiasm that Lucy stumbled backwards.  Acting instinctively, I put my hand on her back to steady her, I’d become rather familiar with her lack of balance and tendency to fall down.

“Peeves was zooming up and down corridors saying Filch found you two snogging in a broom cupboard!”  Rose announced and my heart sunk as Lucy’s shoulders dropped a little bit.  I realised my hand was still on her back and, remembering the way she’d reacted when I put my arm around her, I quickly withdrew it.  A small groan escaped my lips as I realised this would only further add to Lucy’s embarrassment.

The crowd seemed quite determined to get the gossip and whilst some of them, like Rose, were merely curious, others such as Mary Temple were eyeing Lucy suspiciously, as though she’d done something awful.  I was dumbfounded, why do they not get that this was all my fault?

Thankfully, Lucy had her wits about her, and actually distracted everyone by telling them the truth.  I will not lie, it was rather impressive; and after a few laughs and ‘oh aren’t we just so silly?’ moments, the crowd seemed to buy it, well all except Rose, who was giving me a rather knowing glare as everyone else dispersed.  Lucy wasn’t about to save me either, she simply gave me a smile, bid her goodnights and disappeared up the stairs to the girl’s dormitory.

“Well I think I might head up too,” I said, smiling briefly at Rose.

“Hold it,” She said firmly, sounding frighteningly like Auntie Hermione.  “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about Rosie,” I said lightly.  “Nothing’s going on.”

Rose narrowed her eyes suspiciously at me.  “Something is most definitely going on,” She said.  “And whilst you might not tell me tonight, you will tell me Albus Potter, because you always do.”

“Goodnight Rosie,” I sing-songed a little too brightly before taking off to the safety of the dormitories.  But Rose was right, I did always tell her what was going on, and now that she knew something was up it was only a matter of time before I cracked.

AN: So...what did we think?  I know that a lot of people loved the broom cupoard scene from Animal Magnetism so I hope this version did it justice.  Al's teenage boy side is really starting to come out now I think, which I'm excited about.  In my head he was always this person of contrasts: he's extremely girlish and sensitive yet at the same time he is completely hormonal and consumed by those things which consume teenage boys!  Or the way that he is a sweet little puppy dog most of the time but he has this hidden temper that causes him to want to hex or punch certain people (like McMillan).  Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it, please write a review letting me know your thoughts, I wouldn't greatly appreciate it. 

And don't worry, I haven't forgotten your preview!

Next time on Human Nature...

I watched the players carefully, my focus going toward the new Hufflepuff seeker, a third year girl named Amanda Jones.  She was a small girl with a long blonde plait and she balanced easily on her broom as the balls were released and she began her circuit around the pitch.  She seemed very much at home in the air and I found myself quite determined to watch her – she might well turn out to be a threat.

“I’ve lost track, who do we want to win?” Lucy asked suddenly, leaning towards me slightly.  I naturally ducked my head towards her as I responded.

“Well it would be good if Hufflepuff could win, because that would even out the points nicely,” I began, but at that moment a slight breeze blew past us, brushing a tendril of Lucy’s hair to flutter against my cheek.  A positively delicious smell that seemed to be sort of woodsy yet mixed with a sweet berry scent teased my nostrils, distracting me and causing me to forget what I’d been saying.   It took me a few seconds to regain my senses as the wind died down again, although the memory of that scent lingered. “Uh…but the best outcome would be if they won with less than three hundred points, because then Gryffindor would still be in the lead, well just behind Slytherin anyway since they’ve already played two matches.” I managed to finish explaining.

“Hufflepuff for less than three hundred it is then,” Lucy smiled at me before turning her eyes back to the pitch.

Chapter 10: Fact of Nature #10: Actions (aka hugs) speak louder than words
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“They are so annoying,” James said, his eyes flickering to the stands where a group of giggling girls were making their way out of the stands.  They didn’t turn up at every practise but occasionally they made the trip out to watch us and giggle.  “I can’t believe I didn’t notice before now.”

It was the end of another training session and I’d volunteered to help James pack up the equipment, although I might have had an ulterior motive for getting my brother alone.

“James, can I ask you something?” I said as he secured the straps that kept the bludgers imprisoned in their case.  I pulled the string tight on the bag of practice quaffles and waited for his response.

“Sure, shoot,” He said, not looking up at me as he heaved open the top of the Quidditch trunk.

“Do you have a crush on Alice Bell?”

The heavy wooden lid crashed shut as it slipped out of James’s fingers and he turned to me with wide eyes.  “What?”

You see, when I didn’t see James talking to Lucy again after the Quidditch victory party, I’d decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.  He’d been so adamant that he wasn’t hitting on her and from the way he’d spoken, he’d more or less worked out my feelings; after all if I didn’t have those sort of feelings my accusations would have been seen as a ridiculous overreaction.  So I had gone back to trusting my brother, convincing myself that he wasn’t a rival in my attempts to earn her affections.

Then, yesterday, I’d seen them together in the library.  I was late to meet her for a study session and I’d spotted her handing a book to James in the Herbology section.  While I was still trying to work out what they were doing, James had stunned me by hugging Lucy…for giving him a book!  I’ll admit that I very nearly stormed over there and punched him, but my own panic and the feeling of pure dread that was pouring into my veins had kept me rooted to the spot.  James had disappeared at that moment and I had tried to keep my mood light with Lucy when I met her a minute later, but inside I was dying, assuming my own brother had gone behind my back to pursue the girl he knew I cared about.

It seemed to go from bad to worse to downright excruciating when Lucy started asking me if James ever talked to me about the girls he liked.  I’d felt physically ill as I tried to answer her questions, my worst fears seemed to be coming true.  And then suddenly Lucy was talking about her sister, and how she suspected James fancied Alice because he’d been writing to her and as she spoke all of the pieces connected in my head like a puzzle.  Every comment James had made recently, his obsession with studying for his N.E.W.T’s, the focus on his future, even his interest in Lucy, all seemed to point to one thing: James had feelings for Alice Bell.

It made sense, actually it made A LOT of sense, but I still had to be sure.  My inner fears needed to be allayed and the only way to achieve that was to get the facts from James himself, hence the post-Quidditch training ambush.  As if I’d ever volunteer to help James put the equipment away…I can’t believe he didn’t see this coming!

“Do you fancy Alice Bell?” I repeated my question calmly.

“How…how did you…?” His voice petered away as he continued to stare at me.

“I’m friends with her sister and by the sounds of things you’ve been getting into the ol’ love letter business.  Alice told Lucy you’d been writing to her, Lucy asked me if you’d been acting weird and we eventually put two and two together.” I shrugged calmly, hiding the excitement I felt at the look of concern in James’s eyes.  There was no doubt about it, he had a crush on one of the Bell sisters, but not the same one as me.

“Lucy knows too?” James whispered.

“She’s pretty smart, she worked it out before I did,” I shrugged.  But I may have been blinded by my own passion so it’s not like I’m stupid or anything.  Well that’s my excuse anyway.

“Did she say anything else?  Like maybe if Alice has said anything about me?” James looked slightly hopeful and I realised I actually felt sorry for the poor, sorry soul.  He was going through the torture of fancying the pants off someone and having no idea how they felt.

“She didn’t say much, just that Alice had commented that you were writing to her.  Lucy didn’t think it was a bad thing though, to be perfectly honest Lucy seemed to be rather fond of the idea.” It was true, once I realised Lucy wasn’t interested in James for herself, it became obvious that she liked the idea of my brother pursuing Alice.

“But Alice didn’t say…?” James looked a little disappointed.

“Sorry, no.”  I replied.  “But I can ask Lucy.”

“Oh…well just, you know, if you hear of anything.  But don’t make a big deal out of it.” James shrugged in what he was obviously trying to pass off as casual, but I knew him a little better than that.

“Sure thing,” I replied as we stored the Quidditch equipment back in the broom shed.  After that I let the issue drop.  Sure, James hadn’t actually said the words ‘I fancy Alice’, but his reaction had been enough for me.  Anyway, guys don’t really like to get too into that sort of stuff; much better to focus on Quidditch I think.

Even though our next match wasn’t until after the Christmas holidays, James was ever the diligent captain, not letting us slack off and scheduling practises right up until the end of term.  He was determined to use the upcoming Ravenclaw/Hufflepuff match as an opportunity to study their technique and help him work out something of a game plan.

“Now the best scenario we’re hoping for is that Hufflepuff win Saturday’s match with less than three hundred points.” James explained at our last training session before the match.  “That way we will still be in the lead and in a strong position.  Keep your eyes open at the match, look for anything useful that we might need to know, and not just for your position, for everyone.  We’ll share at the next practice.”

However, as I climbed the stairs of the Quidditch stand on Saturday morning, my mind was nowhere near the strategies and techniques of the match.  I was thoroughly entranced by the dancing brown hair of the girl in front of me, and maybe slightly preoccupied with the way her jeans sat snugly on her hips…

Ahead of us, I saw some of the others filling a row and slipped into the next one, realising the first row would soon fill up.  I’d noticed Lucy looking in that direction and had expected her to sit on the end of the row, so I was pleasantly surprised when there was no room next to Rose and she had to slide in next to me.  I smiled at her, pleased that we would get to spend the whole game sitting together, but I was a bit confused when she blushed as she sat down.  Maybe I’m being a bit obvious? I wondered.

I tried to rearrange my smile into something friendly and non-threatening.  It seemed to work because Lucy smiled back at me, though it wasn’t her big, knee-knocking grin, just a small, tentative smile.  I realised that Jane and Louis were filling the seats beside Lucy and I wondered for a moment if Lucy would just spend the entire game talking to Jane and ignoring me, in which case I was about to be very bored, but just as I was trying to come to grips with this thought, Lucy pushed her hair behind her ear and turned to me.

“Does it feel weird?” She asked. 

Huh?  Did I miss something? 

“Sorry?” I could hear the confusion in my voice and from the way Lucy laughed, I realised she hadn’t worded her question properly.

“Sitting in the stands and not playing, does it ever feel weird?” She explained, and I realised what she’d meant. 

“Oh,” I laughed along with her.  “Yeah, I s’pose it does feel a bit odd.” I nodded my head as I smiled at her and she smiled too before we fell into silence once more.  The air was starting to get thick with awkwardness and I couldn’t think of anything else to say or ask Lucy.  She was obviously at a loss for conversation fodder, because she turned to talk to Jane on her other side, but Louis had captured her attention, the two of them laughing about something.  In fact, Hawthorn seemed to be finding Louis’s comments extremely funny, maybe he did have a chance with her after all.  I noticed that Lucy seemed a bit unsure about whether or not she should be interrupting the conversation, so I took the opportunity to try and draw her attention back to me.  I leant towards her slightly so I could talk in a low voice and still be heard.

“Looks like someone’s having fun,” I said, causing Lucy to jump.  She paused for a moment before turning to me.

“Yeah…same immature sense of humour,” She replied, her voice light.

“It’s nice for Louis that someone besides Fred thinks he’s funny.  Poor bloke, all those French women in his family, none of them quite get the subtlety of the Weasley humour.”  I joked back, playing on the irony of the fact that Louis and subtlety didn’t really go together when it came to humour.

“Subtle,” Laughed, snorting a little bit as she did so.  Is it weird that her snort made me want to snog her? 

“Are you implying that we Weasley men are not subtle in the fine art of humour?” I pretended to be insulted by her comment.

“Well technically you’re a Potter,” She said, “So maybe you’ve got a bit more subtlety than the others.”

“My mother was a Weasley,” I countered, enjoying the flow of conversation we had struck upon.

“Yeah but maybe it only passes down through the males of the family, you know like baldness passes down through the females.”  Lucy suggested, and although she nearly lost me there, her reasoning wasn’t entirely off the mark.  It also gave me an opportunity to tease her a little bit.

“So what are you saying, I’m not subtle and I’m balding?” I exclaimed theatrically to which Lucy rolled her eyes.

“Keep up genius, I was paying you a compliment.  Thanks to your bespectacled father, you have just a little more subtlety than your dear cousin over there.  And as for your hairline, well that was just a general example for the purposes of illustrating my point; your reaction however, indicates a deeper anxiety about the whole hair-loss situation.  I’d see a specialist about that, you obviously have issues.”

I was vaguely aware of the fact that my mouth was hanging open as I stared at Lucy.  I’d spent enough time with her to know she was funny and clever, but this was a new extreme.  I was stunned, I was amused and amazingly enough, I was even more attracted to her.

“Bell, you are completely mental!” I gasped, unable to stop the laugher escaping my lips.  Lucy smiled at me, but our conversation was cut short by the cheers from the crowd around us as the teams flew out on to the pitch.  I watched the players carefully, my focus going toward the new Hufflepuff seeker, a third year girl named Amanda Jones.  She was a small girl with a long blonde plait and she balanced easily on her broom as the balls were released and she began her circuit around the pitch.  She seemed very much at home in the air and I found myself quite determined to watch her – she might well turn out to be a threat.

“I’ve lost track, who do we want to win?” Lucy asked suddenly, leaning towards me slightly.  I naturally ducked my head towards her as I responded.

“Well it would be good if Hufflepuff could win, because that would even out the points nicely,” I began, but at that moment a slight breeze blew past us, brushing a tendril of Lucy’s hair to flutter against my cheek.  A positively delicious smell that seemed to be sort of woodsy yet mixed with a sweet berry scent teased my nostrils, distracting me and causing me to forget what I’d been saying.   It took me a few seconds to regain my senses as the wind died down again, although the memory of that scent lingered. “Uh…but the best outcome would be if they won with less than three hundred points, because then Gryffindor would still be in the lead, well just behind Slytherin anyway since they’ve already played two matches.” I managed to finish explaining.

“Hufflepuff for less than three hundred it is then,” Lucy smiled at me before turning her eyes back to the pitch.  The game was quite exciting, the two sides seemed to be well matched and I couldn’t help but analyse the various plays and strategies used, locking away a few tidbits of information, like the way that one of the Ravenclaw beaters tended to favour the right side of the pitch or how one of the Hufflepuff chasers was a much more accurate shooter than the other two.  I also found that I couldn’t help but talk to Lucy, using the excuse of explaining various parts of the game to her.   

“See that Ravenclaw chaser with the black hair?” I commented at one point, resting my arm on the wooden platform behind us so I could scoot a little closer to her.

“That one there?” Lucy asked, looking a little confused for a moment as she pointed to the pitch.

“Yep,” I replied.  “The one with the quaffle.  Watch him carefully, in the next minute, he’s going to do a reverse pass.”

“What’s that?” Lucy asked curiously, keeping her eyes on the boy.

“He’ll throw the quaffle over his shoulder to that other chaser behind him.” I explained.  We watched for about ten more seconds before he suddenly tossed the quaffle neatly over his shoulder without even looking, to the girl behind him who caught it deftly and zoomed towards the goals.

“How did you know he was going to do that?” Lucy beamed at me as the Ravenclaw crowd cheered the move.

“That’s the seventh time he’s done it this game,” I shrugged.  “It’s a pretty tricky move to do accurately but he’s overusing it.  Next time we play them it should be easy to predict and therefore easy to intercept.”

“You sound like my brother,” Lucy laughed.  “Phil’s always making comments like that, breaks down the game into moves and can predict the course of the match.  It’s pretty clever.”  I smiled at the compliment as we turned back to the game.

A little while later, I noticed Lucy was shifting slightly in her seat uncomfortably.

“You alright?” I asked.

“Yeah I’m ok, these benches just aren’t that comfortable,” She said, looking a little self-conscious.  My desire to be Lucy’s white knight took over again and I tried to think of a way I could help her.

“Oh, yeah they are a bit rough on the old backside,” I agreed.  “Here’ you can sit on my cloak if you like, it might help.” It was a little bit too chilly to be sitting outside without a cloak, but I was happy to make the sacrifice.  I reached up to undo the clasp so I could remove it.

“Oh no, really it’s fine!” Lucy said, a red blush suddenly creeping across her cheeks. “I don’t want you to get cold.”  I bit back a sigh, it was so typical of Lucy to not accept my help.  How on earth was I supposed to impress her with my gentlemanly ways when she flat out refused to let me act like a gentleman?  We turned back to the game and watched in silence for a while as I tried not to feel embarrassed.  Maybe the reason Lucy wouldn’t accept my offer of help was because she thought it might give me the wrong idea; was ‘here take my cloak’ some sort of code for ‘I really, really fancy you’?

“That Hufflepuff seeker is quite a good flyer,” Lucy commented, finally breaking the silence as we watched Amanda Jones zooming around above the other players.  Lucy grinned at me mischievously, “You getting nervous?”

“Me, nervous?  Never!” I said, pouring on the fake bravado.  “But you’re right, she is a really good flyer, although flying isn’t the only skill a seeker needs.”

“Of course, the ability to catch tiny, little, shiny, flying thingies is also of vital importance,” Lucy said in a grave voice.

“Vital indeed,” I nodded seriously and we both laughed.

“Well let’s hope she can do it,” Lucy replied.

By the time the snitch made its final appearance on the pitch, Lucy and I were past the awkwardness of the cloak incident and back to making light hearted banter again.  All of this was forgotten however as we watched the race for the snitch amidst the shouts and screams of our fellow students.  I was reminded of Lucy’s earlier question as I watched the proceedings, realising just how different it was to watch the nail biting battle for the snitch as opposed to actually being one of the two seekers involved.  As I watched the two brooms racing towards the glint of gold from opposite sides of the pitch, I found myself reliving my own experiences of speeding through the air; time would seem to stand still, the noise of the crowd would disappear and only the rushing of the wind in my ears would remain.  The snitch always seemed to expand and became my only focus, my key goal in that moment, until of course it was secured safely in my hand.

Watching it from the sidelines was so different, yes I was caught up in the excitement of it all, and I really hoped Amanda Jones could secure the win for Hufflepuff because that would be good for Gyrffindor; but my focus kept drifting to Lucy, the way her hair fluttered around her face or how she perched excitedly on the edge of the seat, caught up in the critical moment of the match.  And suddenly she was throwing her arms in the air with a cheer, and I realised that Amanda had indeed caught the snitch.  I jumped to my feet with the others, a loud cheer escaping my throat and joining in with the rabble of excitement from the Hufflepuff supporters and the Gryffindors who had done the maths.

Lucy turned to me, her eyes shining with excitement, a broad smile on her face, and suddenly I couldn’t contain myself.  Caught up in the moment, I reached out toward her, wrapping my arms around her in a hug.  Lucy responded immediately, her arms encircling my shoulders as my hands found their way instinctively to her waist, reaching around to her back and pulling her close to me.

That hug was a small piece of heaven, it was like the moment just before catching the snitch only better…much, much better.  The noise of the crowd around us seemed to disappear, only the sound of Lucy’s breathing in my ear remained.  My senses became hypersensitive to Lucy, the softness of her cheek against mine, the warmth of her back under my hands, the beating of her heart against my own chest, that intoxicating wood and berry scent…

I didn’t want to let go of her, but I knew that the embrace had already gone on much longer than a usual friendly hug so I eventually let my hands slip from her waist.  Lucy looked a little flushed as she pulled away and I wondered if my sudden intensity and demand for physical contact had embarrassed her.  Before either of us could say anything, the crowd began pouring down the stairs and we were obligated to join them.  I wanted to talk to Lucy, to make sure she was ok after that incredible yet slightly awkward hug, but it was impossible to have a private conversation when we were surrounded by our classmates.  The crowd thinned out a little when we reached the lawns, but before I could act, Rose jumped on me from behind.

“Piggy back time Alby!” She joked, and I was forced to grab hold of her legs so she wouldn’t fall.  During this exchange, Lucy slipped ahead to walk with Jane, the two of them linking arms and bowing their heads conspiratorially as they chatted.

“You ok Al?” Rose said quietly in my ear as we reached the castle.

“Yeah, of course,” I responded automatically.

“You’re just very quiet,” Rose muttered, but seemed to let the matter drop.  I kept my eyes on Lucy, figuring I could maybe get her alone to talk once we were back in the common room and people went off to do their own things.  About halfway through the castle however, Lucy announced she and Jane were heading off to the Library.  Rose gave me a cross look as I dropped her in surprise, but I tried to cover any interest I showed in their decision to leave the group.  I wondered if Lucy was planning to talk to Jane about our odd hug; more likely she was going to interrogate her about Louis judging from the way she dragged Jane down the hallway.

Back in the common room, Gwen and Rose wandered off up to their dormitory to do something, so it was just we four blokes who crashed out in front of the fireplace.

“So Louis,” Will said slyly.  “You seemed to be having a good time with Hawthorn today.  Anything to report?”

“What?” Louis turned pink.  “Oh…no we were just talking…”

“Looked like a bit more than just talking to me,” I snorted. 

“Like you can talk,” Louis shot back.  “I saw you with your arm up on the back of the seat, you were making googly eyes at Bell for practically the whole match!”

“Shut up,” I mumbled, my own face growing hot.

“Honestly, the two of you just need to ask them out,” Justin said in a bored sort of voice.  “Just put everyone out of their misery.”

“He gets a girlfriend and suddenly he thinks he’s an expert,” I grumbled, feeling a little put out.

“But he still has a girlfriend,” Will said, sounding amused.  And as annoyed and frustrated as I was, I couldn’t argue with that.


AN: So I realise it's been rather a long time but I have had not the time nor inclination to write as of late.  I hope you enjoyed this chapter, I'll try to get some more updates going soon.  I hope you all haven't got so sick of waiting that you gave up on me.  I'll try to tackle the review responses soon too.  Please know that I really do appreciate your feedback and support.

Here's a little snippet of the next chapter to keep you going:

Auntie Hermione is a bit of a genius on her worst day so the fact that the car looked like it might hold five small people and yet there happened to be seven of us, was not something that caused too much concern.  Rose opened the back door of the car and slipped into the back seat, which had been enlarged significantly and had the comfort and texture of the squashy sofas back in the Gryffindor common room.  I followed Rose in and we were joined by Hugo and Lily; although we could have fit another two or three people in with us, James chose to ride in the front seat with Mum and Aunt Hermione where he proceeded to pepper our rather intelligent Aunt with questions about N.E.W.T level exams and the best strategy he should be taking for studying.

“So, you’re into palm reading now, are you?” Rose asked me in a casual but low voice. 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I replied, surreptitiously glancing around to make sure nobody was listening.  Hugo and Lily were pointing at the various muggle shops out the windows as we drove through the city and James was consuming the attention of both adults in the front seat.

“Let me remind you, shall I?” Rose teased.  “Oh Lucy, here hold my hand and tell me about my love line.  You’re about as subtle as a sledgehammer Al.”

Chapter 11: Fact of Nature #11: You can always count on the kindness of strangers...or shop girls.
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“Blimey, you would think that since it’s only the Christmas holidays it would be easier to find a compartment!” Fred grumbled as we trundled down the train carriage.

“Well that one’s full of Ravenclaws,” Louis commented, peering through the window into another compartment.  “Where did the girls go?  Maybe we can sit with them,” His eyes lit up as he suggested it and I had to admit I didn’t think it was such a stupid idea.

“Any reason in particular you want to sit with the girls mate?” Fred teased.  “Like perhaps a blonde reason with nice legs?”

“Oi, why are you looking at Hawthorn’s legs?” Louis exclaimed, realising a few seconds too late that he’d made an admission of guilt concerning his feelings for Jane.

“Ah Louis my friend, you’ve got it bad,” Fred laughed, clapping our cousin on the back.  “C’mon, let’s go find the girls so you can flirt hopelessly for six hours, shall we?” And he wandered further down the corridor, peering into compartments as he went.  I followed along, relieved that Fred didn’t know about my feelings for Lucy and excited at the prospect of spending the rest of the trip in her company.  I had to admit that Fred’s comment about Louis flirting with Jane had given me an idea.  I had put a lot of time and effort into becoming friends with Lucy, but I hadn’t tried actively flirting with her.  Maybe if I tried it, I could gauge her reaction and get some idea about how she felt; maybe if she responded positively I could even take Justin’s advice and ask her out.  At least if she said no I wouldn’t have to see her for two weeks, and I’d have the Christmas break to get over my embarrassment. 

Let’s face facts here: it’s better than any plan Louis could ever come up with.

We were almost at the end of the carriage when we discovered the girl’s compartment.  “Found ‘em!” Fred announced as he pulled the compartment door open.  “So ladies, do you fancy the company of three dashing, intelligent and highly amusing gentlemen this fine day?” He asked cheerily as we entered the compartment.  I spotted Lucy straight away, sitting by the window, her feet pulled up on to the seat.  Perfect, I thought.  I can sit next to her and she’ll have no-one else to talk to.  I was about to make my way over to do just that when Rose jumped down off the seat where she’d been putting her bag away and took the empty spot next to Lucy. 

“If you must,” She said as she ruined my plan.  I made a quick adjustment to my plan and headed to the seat opposite Lucy, thought I couldn’t help but give Rose an annoyed look as I sat down; she just ignored me and opened her copy of The Daily Prophet.  I remembered the whole reason I’d come to sit over here and realised there was no point getting cross at Rose who was only going to ignore me, so I turned back to Lucy.

“So Bell,” I smiled at her.  “Looking forward to Christmas?”

She smiled back at me and I felt an odd twisting in my stomach. “Always,” She said.  “Presents, too much food and not having to get up early to go to Divination.  What’s not to love?”

“I’m with you on that one,” I laughed.  “Though I don’t think I cop it quite like you do, Trelawney’s developing a bit of a crush on you!”

Lucy groaned, “Don’t remind me.  It’s my eternal punishment for actually managing to successfully tell a lie, now she thinks I’m a gifted seer or something.”

Rose gave a snort of derision and I looked at her briefly, wondering if she was listening to our conversation; I hadn’t forgotten the comment she’d made a few weeks ago about me giving in and telling her what was going on with Lucy and me.  I was beginning to suspect she had worked a few things out herself but that didn’t mean I wanted her watching me attempt to flirt with Lucy.  Rose kept her head buried in the paper though, and as I looked back at Lucy, I was relieved that even if she was listening in, Rose had the decency to hide it.

I decided to be brave and follow through on my flirting plan, although I didn’t really know how to flirt exactly, it wasn’t like I engaged in a lot of flirting but I figured that joking around and getting Lucy to touch me were two things that might just work.  The Trelawney conversation gave me an idea and I leaned forward in my seat.

“Well, great and mighty diviner, maybe you could predict my future.  Here, read my palm.” I said, holding out my hand to her, palm upwards.  When she just stared at my hand in surprise I wiggled my fingers in what I hoped was a playful manner.

“But we haven’t studied palmistry yet,” She said, looking curiously at me now.  The fact that she didn’t immediately jump at the chance to hold my hand almost caused me to concede defeat, but I convinced myself to push on, I had to appear confident if this flirting plan was going to work.

“But a great and talented seer such as yourself should not have any trouble with something so simple,” I teased.  “Come on, tell me when I’m going to die!”  My hand sat between us, a half built bridge that I suddenly realised was the key to my plan.  She had to take my hand, she just had to or this wasn’t going to work.

I was just about to give up and retract my hand when she moved.  Lucy slid forward in her seat and took my hand with both of hers, her skin feeling like silk against my own.  Her left hand slipped beneath mine and held it there, the tips of her fingers resting gently on my wrist.  With her right hand, she began tracing patterns on my palm with the tips of her fingers, the light contact causing shivers to run up my spine.  When she looked up at me, I realised I was probably staring at her and I quickly smiled, keeping the whole mood light.

“So, what’s your prediction?”

“Well,” She said, running her finger along one of the creases in my palm, causing another shiver to shoot up my spine.  “This here is your life line, and it’s very long, so you’ll probably live to be about a hundred and seventy-five.”

“Good, good,” I said, glad she’d decided to play along.  “What else do you see?”

“Well this one’s your fame line,” She continued, running her index finger along another line.  “As you can see it’s quite long so you’ll be quite famous for most of your life, though this here,” she pointed to a much shorter crease near the base of my middle finger, “Is your money line so you’ll probably squander your fortune.  No doubt swindled by some dodgy broomstick salesman who takes you for everything you’ve got.”

“Hmmm, that is a worry; I shall watch out for dodgy broomstick salesmen.”  I said, nodding in mock seriousness.  The flirting seemed to be working quite well, not that I really had a lot to compare it to, but I decided it would be safe to take it up a notch. “And what about my love line, what does that tell you?” I asked, making sure to smile.

“I…well…” She stuttered, her cheeks turning pink as she seemed to be lost for words.  She looked down at our hands and for a moment I thought she might pull away and everything would be ruined, but she didn’t let go.  I felt a surge of confidence as I entertained the thought that maybe Lucy liked me too.  All I had to do was ask her out and I’d know.  She looked up from our hands, her eyes searching mine for something.

Do it now Al, just ask her before you lose your nerve!

“Look, Lucy…” I started, but before I could finish, Fred plonked down next to me, ruining the moment.  Lucy looked up at him in surprise and pulled her hands away from me, the pink blush returning to her cheeks.

“Well those two are completely boring, wish they’d get together already!” He sighed dramatically, nodding towards Louis and Jane.  “They just sit there making eyes at each other and joking around.”

“Well maybe they don’t like being watched,” I said pointedly, glaring at Fred, although he seemed to miss the meaning in my tone altogether.

“Pfft, watching Louis make a fool of himself is a spectator sport for me.  He knows that and he’d do the same if the roles were reversed,” He continued.  “Though of course I wouldn’t make a fool of myself when talking to a pretty girl.”

“Just when you’re playing Quidditch,” I grumbled under my breath.  Fred gave me a confused look and then chose to ignore me, turning his attention to Rose.

“Rose, hey Rose,” He said, lifting his foot to nudge her knee.  Rose ignored him so he continued to nudge her.  “Rose?  Whatcha reading?  Ro-ose!”

I turned away from where Rose was desperately trying to resist hitting Fred and found Lucy was now staring out the window at the snow covered trees rushing past.  When she turned to look at me, I gave her a small smile, although any confidence I’d felt moments before was completely gone now.  I wasn’t about to try and ask her out now, not with Fred sitting right there.  Anyway, the moment had passed and it didn’t feel right anymore.  I’d lost my chance.

Lucy and I didn’t say much else to each other for the remainder of the trip, I felt too embarrassed and she soon struck up a conversation with Rose about Christmas traditions and what gifts they hoped to receive.  When the train pulled in to platform 9¾, I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye properly because she yanked down her suitcase and headed for the corridor too quickly.  I watched her jump off the train and greet her mum, who happened to be standing near my own mother and Auntie Hermione.

“Hi Mum,” I said as she gave me a rather embarrassing hug. 

“Hello darling,” Mum beamed at me and then turned to Lily who had just appeared at my side with Hugo.

“Lucy!” I heard Rose shout from nearby and I couldn’t stop myself from getting one last look at her before she and her mum disappeared from the platform.

“Have you seen James?” Mum asked me, standing on her tiptoes to look around the crowd of people.

“He’ll turn up,” I shrugged as Auntie Hermione gave me a quick peck on the cheek.  “He always does.”  As if on cue, James appeared out of the crowd, suitcase in hand and looking a little weary.  After mum had greeted him, we all made our way out into the muggle train station and down a side road where Auntie Hermione and Uncle Ron’s car was parked.  Auntie Hermione is a great driver, which Uncle Ron always says is a bit odd because she’s a hopeless flyer.  I think he’s just jealous; Dad said Uncle Ron had to put a confundus charm on his driving instructor to get his license.

Auntie Hermione is a bit of a genius on her worst day so the fact that the car looked like it might hold five small people and yet there happened to be seven of us, was not something that caused too much concern.  Rose opened the back door of the car and slipped into the back seat, which had been enlarged significantly and had the comfort and texture of the squashy sofas back in the Gryffindor common room.  I followed Rose in and we were joined by Hugo and Lily; although we could have fit another two or three people in with us, James chose to ride in the front seat with Mum and Aunt Hermione where he proceeded to pepper our rather intelligent Aunt with questions about N.E.W.T level exams and the best strategy he should be taking for studying.

“So, you’re into palm reading now, are you?” Rose asked me in a casual but low voice. 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I replied, surreptitiously glancing around to make sure nobody was listening.  Hugo and Lily were pointing at the various muggle shops out the windows as we drove through the city and James was consuming the attention of both adults in the front seat.

“Let me remind you, shall I?” Rose teased.  “Oh Lucy, here hold my hand and tell me about my love line.  You’re about as subtle as a sledgehammer Al.”

“Damn it,” I muttered under my breath, accepting the fact that the jig was up.  “Do you think she realised?”

“I’m not sure, but you can’t always tell with Lucy, she’s a bit of an odd duck.” Rose shrugged, “Anyway, I just wanted to congratulate you on your impeccable taste.”

“Oh,,” I said, a bit stunned to be having this discussion at all.

“So, tell me all the details.  How long have you...” Rose started to ask but I shook my head frantically, looking quickly around the car again.

“Later,” I whispered.  “I will tell you about it later, ok?”

“You’d better,” Rose warned, before letting it drop.


“Morning sweetheart,” Mum greeted me the next morning as I made my way downstairs for breakfast.  Lily was sitting at the table joking about with Dad while Mum poured me a glass of pumpkin juice.  James was nowhere to be seen.

“Morning,” I yawned, taking my seat across from my sister.

“I’m going into London this morning and wondered if you wanted to come,” Dad said as I buttered a piece of toast.  “I just have to pop into the office for an hour or two and I need to do some last minute Christmas shopping.  I thought you guys might like to come along, I can drop you off at the Leaky Cauldron first so you can wander around Diagon Alley and then we can meet up for lunch.”

“Sounds good,” I replied.  “Is James coming?”

“He’s upstairs in the shower right now, but I think he said something about going into Flourish and Blotts,” Mum offered as an answer as she slid two eggs on to my plate.  I bet I know why he wants to go there, I thought to myself, but I simply nodded.

“You coming Lils?” I asked my little sister.

“Nope, Mum and I are going over to the Burrow to help Grandma Weasley finish the Christmas baking,” She grinned.  Lily loves baking with Grandma Weasley, I think she’ll probably open a bakery in Diagon Alley when she finishes school.

“It’s just the boys...I mean men,” Dad beamed at me over his cup of coffee.  “I can finally have some good, manly Quidditch talk.”

“Oi!” Mum slapped Dad on the back of the head.  “Who in this family has actually played professional Quidditch?  It’s not you Mr. Chosen One!”

“Sorry, sorry!” Dad pleaded through his chuckles.  “I beg your forgiveness oh great one.”

“Yeah, well just remember your place buddy,” Mum grumbled, but she leaned over and kissed Dad’s temple with a smile before she made her way out into the laundry.   “And Harry, it’s your turn to do the dishes!” Her voice wafted back through the open doorway, causing Lily and I to laugh at Dad’s annoyed expression.

Half an hour later, once I’d eaten and showered, I pulled my cloak around my shoulders and joined Dad and James in front of the kitchen fireplace.  James was wearing a clean pair of jeans and a navy blue jumper that looked rather new.  His hair had been combed back and I was pretty sure I smelt some sort of after-shave lotion coming from his general direction.  I wondered what he’d told Mum he needed to get at Flourish and Blotts, maybe a copy of 12 Fail-safe Ways to Charm Witches.  I couldn’t really laugh though, even in my head, because I’d seriously been considering asking Uncle Ron if I could borrow his copy.  Although maybe I wouldn’t have to now that I had Rose to ask for advice.  I didn’t get the chance to talk to her about Lucy, since we’d Flooed home from their place almost straight away the previous afternoon, but I would no doubt get a chance at our usual Christmas Eve dinner tonight at Grandma and Grandpa Weasley’s.

“I’ll meet you boys back here at twelve-thirty,” Dad said once we were safely out the back of the famous London pub, right next to the bins.  “Keep out of trouble,” He added, before giving us each a couple of galleons for good measure.  He gave a quick wink that clearly said don’t tell your mother, before apparating to the Ministry.  After he’d left, James pulled out his wand and tapped the appropriate brick, opening the gateway to Diagon Alley for us since I wasn’t supposed to use magic outside of school. 

The familiar cobblestoned street was packed with shoppers, all trying to buy a last minute gift or stock up on items they might need over the next few days while most of the shops would be closed.  Whilst several people looked harried or tired as they pushed through the crowds, most people had that cheerful flush in their cheeks that came with Christmas.  Garlands of red and green hung outside the buildings, bright red bows were attached to the wrought iron street lamps and Christmas carols crackled from the bronze speakers that hung every twenty feet or so.  Each shop window housed a special holiday themed display; the mannequins at Madam Malkin’s had been enchanted to change poses every ten seconds, showing the festive dress robes they wore, glittering snitches danced around the window at Quality Quidditch Supplies and the Apothecary had a giant Christmas tree with buckets of potion ingredients hanging from the branches, their price labels held in place with tiny holly shaped clips.

“Well I’m going to Flourish and Blotts,” James said.  “You know for my N.E.W.T’s.  I need to check out”

“Books?” I offered, trying not to smile too knowingly at him.

“Yeah, books,” He said, before hurrying into the crowd.  I chuckled to myself as I made my way down to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, where the windows were full of miniature fat Santas and elves with pointy hats that flew around on broomsticks or danced across the windowsill.  A large flashing sign announced that they came with ‘animation charms with five different options for only seven Galleons each – the perfect Christmas gift for the young or the young at heart.’  The store was full of customers – as always – but I managed to spot Uncle George behind the main counter, flipping through a large book full of columns of numbers.

“Al!” He beamed when I approached.  “How are you?  You here with your Mum or Dad?” He glanced around, looking for his sister or brother-in-law but I shook my head and explained the situation.

“Just thought I’d say hi; I won’t keep you though, you’re looking a little busy,” I nodded to the ledger book and the long line of customers being served by two witches and a wizard in the trademark magenta robes.

“Yeah, it’s always a bit mad in here on Christmas eve with people buying those last minute gifts,” He said.  “We’ve sold out of trick wands and there’s only pirate themed daydream charms left.  I’m looking forward to being closed for three days!”

“I’ll see you tonight at the Burrow,” I waved as I made my way out of the store.  I wandered further along Diagon Alley, peering in the odd window as I went.  I stopped outside the Magical Menagerie where there was a crate of fluffy kittens gambolling about.  I couldn’t help but smile as I watched two kittens fighting over a piece of twine, they kept falling on top of a small tabby who was trying to doze in the corner.  Lucy would love this, I thought to myself, and instantly I was hit with an idea: I needed to buy Lucy a Christmas present.  After all, we were friends now weren’t we?  Well I hoped we were, the way she acted around me most of the time seemed to indicate she’d forgiven me for ignoring her for four years.  I had thought that maybe she was responding to my flirting on the train; it was hard to be sure because she had a tendency to be very polite but I was holding out hope that maybe the right gift might help her to decide that she liked me as more than a friend.

I watched the kittens for another minute, wondering if I should go in and buy her some sort of animal but I quickly dismissed that idea.  How would I send it to her and really what could I buy that would be appropriate?  I didn’t have a whole lot of money since I’d already bought gifts for everyone else, but thanks to the money Dad had given me, I worked out I could probably spend about ten galleons on Lucy.  I made my way along the street, carefully looking at the signs hanging out the front of the shops, trying to think of an appropriate idea for a gift. I knew she would enjoy a book on animals, but it was such a boring present, something your grandmother would give you, not someone who’s hoping to be more than friends.  I had reached the part of Diagon Alley where the shops give way to various offices for wizarding organisations and turned around, wandering back along the street the way I had come.  I planned to stop in at Quality Quidditch Supplies, but the window display of the shop right next door caught my eye. 

The ornate wooden sign hanging above the shop read ‘Hollingsfield & Sons’ in bold, elegant script; below that were the words ‘Hand Crafted Jewellery, est. 1483’.  The window displayed many pieces of jewellery, from the ostentatious ruby pendant the size of my palm, to tiny gold earrings and sparkling rings.  But my eye had been caught by a glinting from the middle of the display, where a long silver chain was suspended between two small glass columns.  Hanging from the chain were about ten little crystal charms, each one painstakingly carved into a different shape.  One was shaped like the pointy hat Professor Sprout liked to wear, another like a cauldron and yet another in the shape of a heart.  But the one that drew my attention hung right in the middle of the chain, and was shaped into a perfect, miniature racing broom.  A racing broom charm would be perfect, because I played Quidditch, so every time she looked at it, she would think of me.  What was even better, was the folded card standing in front of the chain, that read ‘Hand crafted crystal charms, prices from 4 Galleons.’  Well I could certainly afford 4 Galleons!

I quickly slipped into the shop which, whilst not empty, came with a sort of hushed and refined feel; the bustling sounds of Christmas shoppers blocked out, whether by extra thick glass or some sort of muffling spell, I wasn’t quite sure.  The walls of the room were covered with huge glass cases that reached from the floor to the ceiling, whilst a long glass counter in the centre of the room stretched into an oval shape.  Beneath my feet was soft, mint-coloured carpet and a huge crystal chandelier, holding what looked to be about a hundred candles, dangled overhead.  I suddenly felt a bit out of place in my jeans and trainers, surrounded by all this finery.  The other customers and the shop assistants in their matching black and silver robes all looked quite mature and sensible and I was blindingly aware of how much I must have looked like some stupid kid.   A woman in the store’s uniform who looked about the age of my cousin Victoire, with cropped blonde hair, square rimmed glasses and a broad smile looked up at me from where she was standing behind the oval shaped counter. 

“Can I help you?” She asked politely, and I stepped forward nervously, trying to pretend this wasn’t the first time I’d set foot in a jewellery shop.

“,” I began feebly, though her kind smile didn’t falter.  “I’m interested in those charms you have in the window,” I indicated to the window, although it was the only one in the store so it was a rather pointless action.

“The crystal charms?” She asked.  “Oh, yes they’re lovely aren’t they?  We have the whole range just down here,” She indicated for me to follow her further down the counter and it was only then that I realised the glass counter was actually a long glass cabinet that housed various piece of jewellery and decorations.  As I watched, the shop girl, who wore a gold name tag with ‘Georgiana’ engraved on it, tapped the case with her wand in a complicated rhythm to open it, and removed a wooden tray.  The tray was separated into about thirty small compartments, each lined with black velvet and holding a different kind of charm.

“Is this for a gift?” Georgiana asked me, I nodded mutely, still feeling slightly intimidated.  “Is it for your mother?  Sister?  Girlfriend?”  She continued, and I faltered at her words.  It’s for the girl I wish was my girlfriend, is what I wanted to say and my heart starting beating a little bit faster as I felt the full weight of the words.  I’d never thought too much about it before, sure I had a massive crush on Lucy and I wanted to ask her out, but the truth was that I wanted more than that, I wanted Lucy to be my girlfriend.

“’” I stammered, trying hopelessly to find the right words to say.  Georgiana’s eyes crinkled kindly.

“Someone special?” She offered, a knowing look in her eye.  “A young lady perhaps?”

“Yeah,” I breathed a sigh of relief.  “Definitely someone special.”

“Did you have a particular charm in mind?” Georgiana continued, giving me a smile and nod of understanding.  “We have quite a few designs, the window display only holds some of them.”

“Well, I er, liked the broomstick,” I offered.

“Ok,” Georgiana nodded and scanned the tray before quickly picking out a charm, she conjured up a piece of black velvet to place it on so I could get a better look at it.

“Is the young lady a Quidditch player, or does she just enjoy flying?” Georgiana asked, and I looked up at her, slightly confused.

“Uh...neither,” I said.  “Well, I think she likes Quidditch but I’m not sure how much she likes flying.”

“Oh,” The smile dropped from Georgiana’s face for a moment.  “Did you have a particular reason for choosing the broomstick?  You see it’s just that traditionally the charms worn on a charm bracelet reflect the nature, character and passions of the wearer.”

“Oh...right,” I felt so stupid.  Why would I give Lucy a broomstick charm?  Flying was my thing, not hers!

“Does the young lady have any particular passions that you know of?” Georgiana asked hopefully.

“Yeah she does,” I said, suddenly feeling hopeful myself.  “She loves animals...all kinds.”

“Oh well I can help you there,” Georgiana grinned as she placed the broomstick charm back in the correct compartment and began lining up several new charms, each in the shape of an animal: a cat arching its back, a butterfly in flight, a content looking owl, a cute puppy dog, a fierce looking dragon and...

“That one,” I said, as Georgiana placed the tiny unicorn on the velvet.  An image popped into my head of our first Magical Creatures lesson for the year, the day I’d realised there was something about Lucy I’d been missing all along.  She’d touched my hand that day as she helped me pat the unicorn, and whilst I hadn’t felt the tingles I now felt when we made physical contact, the memory was still a vivid and special one.

“The unicorn?” Georgiana smiled.  “That certainly is a good choice, and perfect for an animal lover.  And that is in our four Galleon range, so a very affordable choice too.  Now were you looking to purchase a chain for the charm as well?”

“I hadn’t thought about it,” I replied.  After the charm I only had six Galleons left and I told Georgiana as much, my cheeks feeling a little pink.

“Well let’s see what we can do, shall we?” Georgiana said, locking away all of the charms except for the unicorn and leading me back along the counter near the door.  She pulled out another tray, this one with rows of silver chains, some delicate and fine, others thicker.  Georgiana ran her finger along the edge of the tray until she found what she was looking for.  She picked out a fine silver chain, only long enough to fit around a female wrist, and extremely delicate and fancy.  “What do you think?” She asked, holding the bracelet across her own hand gently.

“It’s perfect,” I said.  “But how much is it?”

Georgiana looked at the tiny price tag.  “Nine Galleons, Five Sickles,” She said and I felt my face fall.  “But, I’ll tell you what, it’s Christmas and this young lady is obviously very important so I think we can come to an arrangement.  The chain and charm for Ten Galleons even, how does that sound?”

I’d thanked Georgiana about fifty times before she’d finished removing the price tags, placing the charm on the bracelet and packaging it inside a small velvet bag.  I paid her the ten galleons and tucked the present securely in my pocket, thanked Georgiana once more and made my way back out into the busy street.  The noise of Diagon Alley startled me for a second after being in the quiet peacefulness of the jewellers so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when I walked straight into someone, nearly knocking them to the ground; fortunately it wasn’t some frail, little witch but James.

“Jamesy, how was your morning?” I asked jovially as I straightened up.  “Find what you were looking for at Flourish and Blotts?” I waggled my eyebrows at him mischievously.

“No,” He said despondently.  “She wasn’t...I mean the book I wanted...wasn’t there today.”

“Oh, bad luck mate,” I teased, slapping him on the shoulder.  He looked a bit embarrassed for a second, but then he looked up at the shop behind me, a confused look on his face.

“Why were you coming out of a Jewellers?” He asked.

“What?  No I wasn’t!” I spluttered, though I was pretty sure I had a guilty look on my face.

“Who are you buying jewellery for?” James screwed up his face in a baffled expression for a moment before it was replaced with a look of realisation.

“Ohhh,” He said slowly.  “Jewellery huh?  Pretty smooth Al, although generally you’re supposed to ask the girl out before you start showering her with gold and jewels.”

Despite the cold winter air, my face was growing hot from being under scrutiny; that is until I realised who was teasing me.

“Like you can talk,” I snorted as we wandered towards the Leaky Cauldron to meet Dad.  “What have you been doing all year?  Writing creepy letters like one of Dad’s crazed stalkers!”

“That’s a bit unfair,” James argued.  “I mean Mum has had a couple of stalkers too!”

“Remember the one who kept sending her horned slugs?” I snorted.

“I always thought it was mean they wouldn’t let us eat the chocolates.  I mean if a slightly mad Quidditch fan is going to stalk you, you could at least get some sweets out of it!” James added with a grin.

“Yeah, but remember the story Dad told us about Uncle Ron eating chocolates from an admirer in their sixth year?” I said.  “Dad said he went all batty for some bird he’d never met.  I mean what if you ate them and suddenly you’re writing love letters to some old bloke living in a shack on some deserted moor!”

We were both still laughing at this idea when we entered the bar and spotted Dad at a table near the fire chatting with Neville, who often came to stay in London during the holidays since his wife owns The Leaky Cauldron.  Yep, if Neville wasn’t cool enough already, his wife happens to own a pub!  Owning a pub would be ace.

“Hello you two,” Dad grinned up at us as we sat down, trying to control our chuckles.  “You’re looking happy.  What did you guys get up to this morning, anything interesting?”

James and I glanced at each other and shared a very quick but important look.  It was the look of understanding, the unspoken pact that, as brothers, as much as we would take the mickey out of each other, we would never rat each other out over something like this...not even to Dad.

“Nope,” James said, giving Dad and Neville an innocent smile.  “Nothing interesting at all.”


AN:  Sorry this has taken so long but I haven't been writing much lately.  I'll try to get some more done soon.

A quick little piece of trivia, the name Georgiana, which I gave to the shop girl, was 'borrowed' from the wonderful Jane Austen.  It is the name of Mr. Darcy's younger sister in 'Pride and Prejudice.'  I think it's a sweet name and I've always wanted to use it in a story, and it seemed appropriate for the kind shop girl.

And of course, here's your little sneak peek of the next chapter...or at least what I've written of it so far!

After dinner, when we were finally excused so the adults could have a long, boring catch-up, Rose seized my arm and dragged me upstairs, not letting go until she’d locked us inside Uncle Ron’s old bedroom at the top of the stairs.  It was a tiny room and you could see where the paint on the walls had faded around countless posters and hangings, all but one which had been removed. 

“Right, start talking,” Rose demanded, sitting on the bed and crossing her legs as if to indicate she meant business.  “How long have you had a crush on Lucy?”

“Pushy, aren’t you?” I replied sourly.

“That’s not an answer,” Rose smirked.  “Now quit stalling and spill.”

“Ok, well since a week or two after the start of term,” I admitted, knowing I couldn’t delay the inevitable much longer.

“Wow...that’s a while.”  Rose looked slightly surprised.  “Why didn’t you just ask her out Al?  Then she wouldn’t have had to go out with that McMillan prat.”

“Ask her out?  Oh wow Rose, that’s amazing.  You know the thought of asking her out never actually occurred to me!” I snapped sarcastically.

Chapter 12: Fact of Nature #12: Sometimes Ugly Orange Jumpers are Inevitable
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“Wow Grandma, this is really great.  Wow.  A broomstick.  Wow.”  I said through a false smile as I looked down at the horrid orange garment in my hands.

“That’s the third time you’ve said wow,” Rose said through a half snort/half cough as Grandma turned to see what James thought of his perfectly acceptable burgundy coloured jumper.

“Shut up,” I hissed.  “It’s easy enough for you; you got a nice blue one!” I nodded to the jumper in Rose’s lap, a delicate row of daisies along the bottom hem.

“Yeah but two years ago I got a pink jumper which clashed awfully with my hair and you teased me about it for three weeks!” Rose retorted, keeping her voice low as Lily opened her purple and blue striped cardigan.  “So I’d say we’re even now.”

“Fine,” I grumbled, rolling my eyes dramatically at her.

“So when are you going to tell me about Lu–  ow!  Al!, that hurt!”  Rose held an arm to her ribs where I’d just elbowed her and glared at me.  So did everyone else; Rose and I had unwittingly interrupted the ceremonial opening of Grandma Weasley’s jumpers. 

“Albus, stop beating up your cousin,” Mum scolded me across the room.

“Oh don’t worry Ginny, she probably deserved it,” Uncle Ron chuckled, a twinkle in his eye.  Auntie Hermione gave a groan of ‘Oh Ron’ before everyone turned to watch Dominique open her parcel.

“Can you stop asking me in front of other people please?” I growled at Rose when the focus of the group had left us again. 

“Fine, but you’re telling me tonight.” Rose grumbled, still rubbing her sore rib.

After dinner, when we were finally excused so the adults could have a long, boring catch-up, Rose seized my arm and dragged me upstairs, not letting go until she’d locked us inside Uncle Ron’s old bedroom at the top of the stairs.  It was a tiny room and you could see where the paint on the walls had faded around countless posters and hangings, all but one which had been removed. 

“Right, start talking,” Rose demanded, sitting on the bed and crossing her legs as if to indicate she meant business.  “How long have you had a crush on Lucy?”

“Pushy, aren’t you?” I replied sourly.

“That’s not an answer,” Rose smirked.  “Now quit stalling and spill.”

“Ok, well since a week or two after the start of term,” I admitted, knowing I couldn’t delay the inevitable much longer.

“Wow...that’s a while.”  Rose looked slightly surprised.  “Why didn’t you just ask her out Al?  Then she wouldn’t have had to go out with that McMillan prat.”

“Ask her out?  Oh wow Rose, that’s amazing.  You know the thought of asking her out never actually occurred to me!” I snapped sarcastically.

“Well why didn’t you do it then?” Rose was unfazed by my sarcasm, having encountered it in previous arguments and discussions in the past.

“It’s not that easy!” I moaned, walking over to the window to stare out at the inky sky.  “I wanted to but McMillan got in first and then when all that stuff happened, well it would have been insensitive to ask her out then and I didn’t know how much she cared about the git.  And the guys kept saying she’d say yes out of gratitude because I stunned McMillan, but I wanted her to say yes because she wanted to!”  I stopped and took a deep breath before turning back to look at Rose.  For the first time in the conversation, she’d lost the smug expression and looked slightly lost for words.

“Wow, you really do like her don’t you?” She eventually said. 

I rolled my eyes and sat next to her on the bed. “Caught up, have you?”

“Well I knew you were interested in her but I thought it was thought she was pretty and wanted to snog her,” Rose shrugged.

“Well I think that too,” I mumbled.

“, like, want her to be your girlfriend?” Rose asked, turning to face me.

“Yeah,” I almost whispered, feeling slightly self-conscious after my rant.

“Wow,” Rose breathed.

“Exactly,” I said.  “Now do you understand why I’m not so keen to jump in there and ask her out?  What if she says no?”

“Fair enough,” Rose nodded, looking thoughtful.  “Well, what if I do a bit of detective work, see what I can find out about her feelings?”

“You would do that?” I asked hopefully.

“Sure,” Rose smiled.  “What are cousins for?”

“I always thought that you were just put on this earth to frustrate me,” I shrugged, to which Rose responded with a punch in the arm.  “Just don’t tell her that I like her, ok?”  I added in a serious tone and Rose nodded.  We made our way back downstairs before our absence became conspicuous, and joined the others.  Rose made her way over to where Lily, Lucy and Roxanne were giggling about something while I joined Fred, Louis and Hugo, who were playing exploding snap.  Grandma came in at some point with hot chocolate and mince pies, which kept most of us going, although Lily was half asleep against Dad’s shoulder by the time we flooed home for the night.

“Straight up to bed you three,” Mum said, stifling a yawn herself as she kissed us all goodnight.  It was a sign of how tired we all were that even James didn’t put up a fight at being told to go to bed.  I trudged up to my bedroom, pulled on my pyjamas and was about to open the window to let Kenrick out for the night when I realised I had forgotten to do something important. 

“Sorry mate, you’re going to have to deliver something for me tonight, ok?” I said as I retrieved the small velvet bag from Hollingsfield & Sons Jewellers from my top desk drawer.  I also took out a piece of parchment and a quill and sat at my desk, thinking for a moment for the perfect words to write.  Kenrick looked at me with annoyed eyes, his head tilted disapprovingly at my sudden request for his services in the middle of the night.  “It’s for Lucy, ok?  You like her…remember Lucy?” I said, reaching out to gently stroke the feathers on his head in that affectionate way that Lucy did.  Kenrick seemed to understand and hopped forward, his large eyes flashing at me with anticipation, all annoyance gone.  “Yeah, I thought you’d like that,” I chuckled, trying not to feel jealous that it was Kenrick and not myself who was going to see Lucy on Christmas morning.  “Just let me write her a note.”

I tried to keep it light, writing something about my new jumper and hoping the whole present wouldn’t freak her out too much.  Should I say something to make it seem less stalker-ish and more of a friend thing? I thought to myself.  I pulled the bracelet out of its casing, hoping to get some inspiration as I held it up to the lamp light.  The little unicorn spun on the chain, reflecting multi-coloured light across my desk.  It really was an amazing creation; sure it was pretty to look at, but when it was shining its beauty like this, making everything else sparkle and shine, well that’s when you realised how unique and precious it was.  Suddenly, I knew the exact thing to write.

I saw this recently and it reminded me of you, you’ll understand why when you open it.

Would she understand my hidden message?  Probably not, Lucy didn’t seem to understand the influence she had over people; she wasn’t aware of her own beauty, but in any case, I was still hopeful that she would like the bracelet.  I was just signing off when Kenrick leaned over and impatiently nipped my finger.  “Alright, alright!  I’m nearly done!” I snapped as I scrawled a final sentence and wrapped the present in brown paper.  I wish I’d thought to buy something prettier , Mum probably had some Christmas paper left over somewhere but I wasn’t sure where she stored it and I wasn’t about to go blundering about the house in the dead of night on Christmas Eve and risk waking everyone up. Kenrick hopped from one foot to the other as I tied the parcel to his leg, giving him a few owl treats for good measure.  “And don’t flirt with her too much,” I warned, only half joking, as I opened the window to finally let Kenrick out for the night.  I watched as he was swallowed up by the night sky and then pulled the window closed, extinguished the lamp and crawled into bed, my thoughts with the tiny little package, now flying across the country.

“Al, would I be able to borrow Kenrick please?” Mum asked, sticking her head out the kitchen window.  James, Lily and I were practising Quidditch in the backyard, shooting an old quaffle at the fork in the plum tree in our garden.  I had to admit, Lily was getting awfully good and I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself playing alongside her in the near future.

“Yeah, I think he’s asleep in my room,” I called back.  “Do you want me to go get him?”

“If you would dear, that would be a big help.” Mum smiled at me before ducking her head back inside the house and closing the window again.  I didn’t blame her; the afternoon had become positively freezing, though the hour of Quidditch had certainly warmed me up a bit.

“How come you need Kenrick?” I asked Mum as I brushed the snow from my coat and hung it on the hook inside the kitchen door.

“I’m sending off New Year’s Party invitations and he’s the only owl not off delivering mail at the moment,” she replied, not looking up from the parchment she was writing on.  “I’ve left it a bit late this year but hopefully people can still make it.”

“Right, I’ll be back in a minute,” I said, jogging up the stairs to my bedroom.  Kenrick was sitting on top of my wardrobe, his head under his wing as he slept soundly.  “Kenrick, come on, Mum needs you to do a job,” I said, holding my arm up towards him.  Kenrick lifted his head and looked at me with his glassy eyes for a moment before burying it beneath his feathers again.  “Oi!  Don’t pretend to be asleep, I know you heard me!”  I snapped, standing on my tiptoes to try and reach him better.  My fingers were about an inch away from his wing when a loud tapping at the window startled me.  I spun around in surprise to see a fluffy and slightly wind-blown barn owl sitting on my windowsill.  Forgetting about Mum’s request, I rushed to open the window, a flurry of cold air flying in with the bird, which landed neatly on my desk and shook its feathers.

“Who’re you?” I asked the bird curiously; it responded by leaning over and using its beak to tap the small parcel it was carrying.  Curious, I untied the parcel before scooping a few owl nuts out of the bowl in Kenrick’s cage and giving them to the bird.  Kenrick, having given up all pretence of being a asleep was now watching the barn owl warily, though he didn’t move from his perch atop my wardrobe.  I sat down at my desk and detached the piece of parchment from the front of the parcel.   My heart gave a jolt as I recognised the handwriting inside the note, even before my eyes found the name at the bottom.

Hi Albus,

Hope your Christmas with your family ended well, and I don’t know what you’re talking about, an orange jumper sounds brilliant!  Thanks for my Christmas present, the unicorn is very cool.  Here’s your present, I’m sorry it’s so late but I’m hopeless so you’ll have to deal with it!

Hope you’re enjoying your holidays,


‘The unicorn is very cool’… what did that mean? I stared at the page for another minute, my mind trying to comprehend the words and analyse what their hidden meaning might be.  Of course it could just mean exactly what it says, a cynical voice in my head goaded me.  I turned my attention to the package, wrapped with gold paper featuring glittering Christmas trees.  It was a square shape, obviously whatever was hidden in the package was inside a box, so I had no idea what it could be.

“Al?” I heard Lily’s voice in the hallway and approaching footsteps.  In a panic, I shoved the package and letter inside my desk drawer; jumping to my feet, I realised the delivery owl was still hopping about on my chest of drawers, so I hastily pushed the window open and almost shoved the poor creature outside.  I’d only just got the window closed again when I heard the knock on my door.

“Yeah?” I said casually, and Lily’s head popped around the door jamb.

“Al, Mum said she sent you up here to get Kenrick ten minutes ago and she was wondering if you’d forgotten.” My sister said.

“Yeah, he’s just being a bit stubborn,” I said nonchalantly, pointing towards the wardrobe where Kenrick sat watching us both.  I scooped a few of the stray owl nuts left behind by the delivery owl and held them out to Kenrick.  “C’mon mate, it’s not even for me, do it for Mum, ok?”

He didn’t look too impressed, but at least this time, Kenrick flew down to me and took the owl nuts from my hand, though he did nip me a little harder than usual as he did so.  Lily simply shrugged her shoulders before disappearing down to her own bedroom, and I delivered my owl to Mum in the kitchen, giving the ‘he wouldn’t come down from the wardrobe’ excuse once more…after all, it wasn’t exactly a lie now, was it?

James stuck his head through the door at that moment, annoyed that Lily had decided to give up on Quidditch practise for the day and insisting I come back and re-join him.  Unable to resist a bit of one on one training with my brother, I pulled my coat back on and headed back out to the plum tree. 

It wasn’t until later that evening, when mum sent us upstairs to wash up for dinner, that I remembered the package hidden in my desk.  I washed my hands as quickly as possible, before slipping back into my room and retrieving the present.  I carefully pulled off the wrapping paper and placed the small cardboard box on the desktop.  The words Trenworth’s Take-anywhere Trainer were emblazoned across the front of the box and a smaller label, reading Seeker Model was indicated on the side.  I stared at the box in surprise, not exactly sure what it was, but curious to open it up and find out.  Before I had a chance to do that however, my bedroom door flew open and James barged in.

“Oi, you coming down or not?” He said, stopping short when he noticed the box on my desk.  ‘Hey, what’ve you got there?”

“It’s nothing,” I said, trying to shove the box back inside my desk, but my brother was too fast for me.

“Blimey, that’s a Trenworth’s Take-Anywhere Trainer.  They’re really new, how did you get your hands on one?” He exclaimed, picking up the box before I could stop him.

“You know what it is?” I asked, trying to snatch the box back from him.

“’Course I do, there was an article about Trenworth’s in last month’s edition of Spellbinding Sports.  They’re new on the market but have some pretty incredible ideas that are going to change the way we think about Quidditch training,” He said, not taking his eyes off the box the whole time he was speaking.  “The Take-Anywhere Trainer is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.”  He sounded like he'd swallowed that article he'd read.

“Yeah, well it’s mine,” I said, finally managing to regain possession of the box.

“Where did you get it?” James asked as I prised the seal open and began carefully removing the pieces inside.  “These are new…like really new.  When we went in to Diagon Alley just before Christmas, I asked about them at Quality Quidditch Supplies and they said they hadn’t come in yet.  How did you get your hands on one?”

“It was a present; a Christmas present,” I shrugged, hoping he’d let it drop.

“A present from who?” James prodded, obviously not willing to let it drop.

“From a friend,” I said, hoping I sounded casual.  James simply raised an eyebrow at me and folded his arms across his chest.  “Fine, it’s from Lucy.” I said, turning back to the brass tablet and two tiny Quidditch players now standing on my desk top.  “Now do you know how this thing works?”

“Lily darling, can you please go and find my peach blossom cake tray?  Thank you dear.  Rose, could you go and see if your mother is finished with the temperature charm outside yet.  Oh and Albus and James, your uncles need some help with the tables outside.” Grandma Weasley stood in the middle of her kitchen, tossing orders around.

“Yes Grandma,” we all chorused obediently, before heading off to our respective jobs.

“How am I supposed to help with the tables?  I’m not supposed to do magic!” I whispered to James as we made our way to where Uncle Bill and Uncle Charlie were using their wands to set up tables in the garden.

“Just use magic anyway,” James shrugged.  “There’s so many people here that nobody would notice if you cast a few spells."

I will notice,” Auntie Hermione’s voice caught us off guard, causing us both to jump in surprise.  “Albus you can go and help Rose get the tablecloths out of the laundry cupboard and then lay them out.”  With a shrug, I turned around and walked with Rose back the way we came.

“So have you heard from Lucy?” Rose asked as I climbed to reach the huge tablecloths shoved in the back of the top shelf of the narrow cupboard.

“Yeah,” I mumbled noncommittally, dropping the first sheet sized cloth down to her.  “You?”

“Of course,” Rose shrugged.  “She’s coming tonight you know.”

“I figured as much,” I replied, glad my head was hidden inside the cupboard where my cousin couldn’t see the bright red blush that was probably covering my cheeks.  “Mum mentioned the Bells were coming.”  I dropped two more tablecloths down and reached for the last one which was tucked behind some old beach towels.

“Well that all makes sense now.  I did think you were wearing a little too much cologne.” Rose drew the last word out teasingly.

“Shut up,” I snapped as I jumped down, final tablecloth in hand.  “Do you think it’s too much?” I added quickly though, smelling my shirt anxiously.

“You’ll be fine,” Rose laughed.  “You’re gorgeous, just act normal and you’ll be fine.  Now come on, we’d better get these outside before Grandma sends a search party off for us!”

It wasn’t long before guests began arriving, some apparating, though several families chose to floo in since it was slightly less hassle with underage witches and wizards.  I figured the Bell’s would be likely to do this, so I hung around the Burrow’s sitting room, trying to look inconspicuous and hoping Grandma didn’t spot me and dole out more tasks to do.  I wasn’t the only Potter inside though, besides Dad, who was busy greeting our guests and Mum, who occasionally popped her head in to say hello to people, James seemed to be lurking around just as much as I was, no doubt waiting for the arrival of the same family as me.  A few mates from school arrived with their families, but I managed to avoid getting dragged out in to the garden for a chat about Quidditch or studying.  Twice, Rose walked past, rolling her eyes at me.

“Tell me when she gets here would you?” She mumbled the second time.  “She is my friend too, you know.”

Eventually, just after the Smarts arrived (Ernest Smart works that ministry with Dad), a tall, vaguely familiar man climbed out of the fireplace.  As Dad greeted him, two younger men followed him in to the sitting room, two young men I instantly recognised as Lucy’s brothers.  My heart started to beat quicker as I edged my way towards the fireplace, reaching the edge of the mantelpiece just as the flames sparked green again.  A delicate hand reached out from the fireplace as its owner began to climb carefully out from the flames; a small, female wrist followed the hand, and hanging from it was a familiar silver bracelet and crystal unicorn charm.

Without thinking, I reached out and took Lucy’s hand, helping her step on to the hearth rug.  She ducked in to the room and straightened up, her eyes turning to meet mine.  Her face held a slightly surprised smile for about two seconds, before she tripped and plummeted towards the floor.  Instinctively, I reached out and caught her before she could injure herself, holding her shoulder until I was sure she was stable on her feet again.

“Whoah there Bell!” I laughed nervously.  “I see you haven’t reconciled that argument you seem to be having with gravity.”

“Yeah, well gravity started it,” she joked, and I couldn’t help the smile I felt forming on my lips.  Before I could say anything else to her though, I heard the all too familiar squeal of Rose behind me.  I stepped back as they hugged, not wanting to look too suspicious.  I glanced around the room and saw James talking to Alice, both of them looking suitably nervous.  My attention was soon pulled elsewhere again as I realised Dad was greeting the Bell family.  I wondered briefly what my parents thought of Lucy, if they liked her or not.  Of course they like her, who wouldn’t like Lucy?  I told myself as the girl herself left the room arm in arm with Rose.  Darn it, she’s gone already!  I slipped out of the room and walked silently through the kitchen, hoping I wouldn’t be noticed and assigned another job before I could find Lucy again.  Everyone seemed busy enough though, and I made it out to the garden safely.

Lucy and Rose were standing a few feet away, talking to Fred and Louis.  Dominique and Lily were just joining the group and I strolled over to them casually.

“Freddy, stop being such a git,” Dominique sighed.

“Fred’s being a git?  Wow, there’s something new!” I teased as I slipped in next to Lily, managing to seamlessly enter the conversation that continued to revolve around teasing Fred.  Louis eventually suggested we go toss some Gnomes, and instantly, Lucy’s interest was sparked.

“Gnomes?  As in garden gnomes?” She asked, and I didn’t hesitate to answer her before anyone else could.

“Yep, Grandma and Grandpa have a whole colony of them living in the garden,” I said, smiling at her enthusiasm.  “Gnome tossing is a Weasley tradition.”  A tradition I am more than willing to personally initiate you in to.

“Gnome tossing?” Rose reappeared.  “Oh come on, we’re in nice party clothes, we don’t want to go Gnome-tossing!”  Lucy looked down at her rather stunning blouse for a moment, biting her lip as she thought.  I watched her carefully, hoping she wasn’t going to be as prissy as Rose about this.

“I’m willing to risk it,” She shrugged.

“That’s the spirit!” Fred said as he and Louis headed for the side garden.  Rose, Lucy and I all turned to follow the others who were migrating to the gnome-infested patch of the yard.

“You’re a hopeless case Lucy Bell,” I heard Rose mumble.  I looked over and caught Lucy’s eye, sharing a knowing smile with her.

“Lucy…Lucy!  I need your help,” Alice Bell came running across the lawn to us.  I watched her curiously as she clutched Lucy’s hand, a slightly panicked expression on her face.  I wonder where James is?

“You guys go ahead, I’ll be there in a second,” Lucy said to us.

“Sure,” Rose replied, grabbing my arm and steering me away from the two sisters.

“I wonder what that was about,” I said, glancing back over my shoulder to where Lucy seemed to be calmly explaining something.

“I’d say it’s none of our business,” Rose said, still pulling me along as we made our way around the side of the house.  She sat down on an old tree stump and folded her arms.  “So have you decided what you’re going to do tonight?”

“Huh?” I said, craning my neck to try and spot Lucy coming to join us.

“Have you decided if you’re going to kiss her tonight?”

“What?” Rose had my full attention now.  “What makes you think…?”

“Well it is New Year’s Eve, Al.  Isn’t there some superstition about kissing the person you want to be with for the rest of the year or something?” Rose raised a very smug looking eyebrow at me; I simply glared in response as I plonked down on the stump next to her.

“Wouldn’t that be a bit strange though?” I asked.

“Actually it’s kind of the perfect excuse; if she asks why you’re kissing her, you just tell her it’s a New Year’s thing.”

“Would you stop saying the K-word so loudly!” I hissed, and just in time, because Lucy chose that moment to appear around the corner.

Rose had the decency to keep her mouth shut for the rest of the party, but she continued to shoot me rather significant looks all night, especially when I was talking to Lucy.  When she started making kissy faces though, I found myself resisting the temptation to jinx her.  I couldn’t do that of course, since she and Lucy seemed to be joined at the hip for most of the night anyway; if Rose thought I was going to attempt to kiss Lucy with her standing right there watching on, she was more delusional than I thought.

James spent the entire evening with Alice Bell, and I would have liked to have said something to Lucy about it, made a joke or some witty comment, but I wasn’t game enough to try being clever to Lucy in front of Rose.  Midnight eventually came, and my frustration was mounting, because I’d lost sight of Rose and Lucy; I’d been trying to keep close just in case an opportunity to catch some time with Lucy presented itself, but now they seemed to have disappeared.

Dad carried out Grandma and Grandpa’s old radio and tuned it in to a station that was broadcasting the countdown to the New Year.  Everyone gathered around as a cheerful male voice crackled out of the wooden box.

“…and we’re only moments away from the countdown now, so make sure you have your glass full, ready for that New Year’s toast…”

I craned my neck to scan the crowd, sure that Lucy and Rose must be somewhere in the throng.

“Now’s your chance if you want to take it,” A voice said in my ear and I jumped in surprise before turning around to face Rose. 

“What?” I said, confusion evident in my voice and probably on my face too.

“I’ve just left Lucy alone over there,” She pointed through the crowd where the familiar shine of Lucy’s hair could be seen, “So you can sneak in for a quick kiss now before Fred gets near her.”

“What?” I said again, panic now joining the confusion.  “Fred?”

“Just get over there!” Rose hissed with a cheeky grin as the man on the radio announced the beginning of the countdown.

“Ten…” Everyone chanted as Rose shoved me in Lucy’s direction.  I froze, suddenly unsure what I should do.


Deciding to take the opportunity I’d been presented, I began making my way through the crowd to where Lucy was standing on her own.  The countdown had reached ‘five’ by the time I slipped in next to her, and she looked around at me in surprise.  I smiled at her, hoping the nerves I suddenly felt weren’t showing.


My heart was racing as I watched Lucy counting down, her eyes on the old radio.


This is it Al, you can do this, just kiss her!

“One!  Happy New Year!” Everyone cheered as music blared through the old radio.  People turned to those around them, sharing hugs and kisses through their laugher.  Lucy turned to face me and smiled; it was enough to encourage me to reach in for a hug and I breathed a quick sigh of relief when she happily wrapped her arms around my neck.  My thoughts raced as the familiar woody-berry smell of her hair tickled my nose.

Ok Al, you can do this, all you have to do is lean down and kiss her.  But what if she pulls away?  She might slap me!  No, I don’t think she’d do that…although she did it to McMillan when he tried to have a go, didn’t she?  But our friendship is different, she’s knows I’m not like McMillan…doesn’t she?  Look – you just need to try it, just kiss her.  Just do something before she wonders why you haven’t stopped hugging her!

Realising the hug had been going on a little bit longer than was normal, I loosened my grip on Lucy’s waist.  She pulled back slightly, but didn’t step away from me, so I kept my arms around her.  She left her hands on my shoulders and looked up at me, the glimmer of a question in her wide, brown eyes. 

“Happy New Year Lucy,” I said, not able to tear my eyes away from her own.

“Happy New Year,” She whispered is response, biting her lip as she continued to stare at me.  I wanted in that moment, more than anything, to just lean in and kiss her.  It felt so right to hold her and I almost believed for a second that Lucy felt the same way.  Before I could bring myself to act on my desires though, Lucy’s attention was drawn elsewhere.  Standing nearby, slightly separated from the group, James was achieving with Alice what I hadn’t been able to with Lucy.

“Holy Merlin’s Knickers!” Lucy exclaimed, her hands flying to her face in shock.  My shoulders felt suddenly cold as her body heat left them.  I let my hands drop to my sides, conceding the fact that the moment we had shared had passed.  The funny thing was, even though I was disappointed in myself, I was still pretty proud of James.

“About bloody time,” I muttered, causing Lucy to smile at me knowingly.  Before she could speak though, Alice pulled away from James, and what had seemed like a moment of success for James only seconds before, now looked like a disaster.  Alice said something unintelligible and then took off, running towards the orchard.  Without so much as another glance at me, Lucy took off after her sister, disappearing into the darkness of the fruit trees, leaving me confused and without any hope of getting that kiss.

AN: Oh I am sooo sorry, both for not updating in forever and because this chapter really isn't my best work!  But I hope you enjoyed it all the same.  I've done a bit of work on the next chapter, so hopefully you won't have to wait anywhere near as long for the next chapter as you did for this one.

You know I love your reviews, so please leave one, and I'll try to reply to them all asap!

P.S. Sorry if there are lots of typos in this chapter, it's pretty late and my proof reading may have suffered!

Here's a little bit of what I've been working on for the next chapter:

“Good thing I’ve just eaten lunch,” I laughed, and she smiled back at me, whether from amusement or pity, I wasn’t 100% sure.  I wanted more than anything to stand there and chat with Lucy for the rest of the afternoon, but I didn’t want to look to eager and desperate.  Leave her wanting more…isn’t that what they say?  Plus, my conversation was pretty pathetic so I decided it was best to cut and run.

I gave her a little awkward wave and continued towards Hagrid’s hut, when I was overcome with the urge to look at her one last time.  I glanced over my shoulder, and surprisingly she was still standing on the top step, looking at me, looking completely adorable as a few stray snowflakes fell around her.  At that moment, I don’t know what came over me, but it was if just seeing her caused my brain to malfunction and the words seemed to slip out of my mouth of their own accord.  “Get inside Bell, it’s freezing out here and you don’t want that cute little nose of yours getting frostbite!”

In the split second after I heard myself say those words, Lucy’s cheeks flushed a bright shade of red and her eyes widened slightly in surprise, a small, stunned smile frozen on her face.  I spun back around and hurried across the lawn, my own cheeks burning with embarrassment at what I’d just said.

Cute?  CUTE!?!?  Oh bloody hell Al, way to play it cool! 


Chapter 13: Fact of Nature #13: Insecurity is a Part of Life…and Love.
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

The Gryffindor common room was buzzing with post-Christmas gossip as people shared stories from their holidays and described their gifts in great detail.  The fire crackled cheerfully in the fireplace and I watched the flames dancing brightly as I slouched in a cushy armchair in the corner, but I couldn’t seem to get comfortable.  The cushions were too soft, or the fire too hot, or the voices around me too loud or excitable.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on the reason for my irritable mood, but I suspected it was related to the way I looked up at the portrait hole every time I heard it open, and the way my heart sunk a little when the person climbing through wasn’t Lucy.

I’d barely had a chance to speak to Lucy since she’d run off after her sister at the New Year’s Eve party.  There had been a brief moment on the train where I got to see her smile and talk to her long enough to determine she wasn’t mad at me, but all we’d managed to really say was ‘thank you’ for our respective Christmas presents.  I had hoped that we might get some time together before classes started again, but I supposed that without our study sessions I didn’t have much of an excuse to pin Lucy down.  Even now, she was nowhere to be seen, even though I knew she wasn’t with the other girls in our year.  Of course, I could have just asked Rose where Lucy was, but I was a bit over my cousin’s knowing smirks whenever Lucy came up.

“Hey Al, you hungry?” Will called out across the common room.  He was with Justin, Louis was nowhere to be seen.  It was early for lunch, and I wasn’t particularly hungry but I figured doing anything would be better than moping about in the common room.

“Sure,” I shrugged in reply and pushed myself out of the armchair in order to follow them. 

“So why are you looking so mopey today?” Will asked bluntly as we headed down a fight of stairs.

“I’m not mopey,” I responded; unconvincingly I assumed, from the raised eyebrows my two friends exchanged.

“Alright then, you’re not mopey,” Will shrugged.  “Hey did you read about the new keeper that the cannons have just signed on?”

“No,” I replied, unable to resist the sporting news.  During the boxing day match between the Chudley Cannons and the Wimbourne Wasps, the Cannon’s keeper had been struck in the head with a bludger and fallen off his broom.  Unbelievably, at the exact same moment, he was hit by a stray confundus charm from a somewhat drunk spectator in the stands, who was mucking around with his mates.  The result was that the poor bloke’s brain was a bit addled and made him do strange things like think he was a chicken.  Since the healers at St. Mungo’s were having a bit of difficulty fixing him, the Cannons had no choice but to find a new keeper mid-season.

“His name is Bradley Muller, he’s 23 and only ever played on his local team, but decided to try out when he heard about the accident.  Apparently he’s got lots of raw talent, and the word is that he could be the turn-around that the Cannons are looking for!” Will looked pretty excited by this news, even though he wasn’t a Cannon’s fan, but then again, most people felt kind of sorry for the team that hadn’t won a game in goodness knows how many years.

“I bet Uncle Ron will be excited about that,” I grinned.  The quidditch talk was enough to distract me through eating lunch, and by the time I’d finished off my second roast beef and turkey sandwich, I was feeling almost cheerful. 

“Hello lads!” Louis practically bounced over to us and plonked himself on the bench opposite me.  “Fantastic day, isn’t it?”

“What sort of potion have you been drinking?” I asked with a chuckle.  Louis is always a bit crazy, but this was over the top, even for him.

“Oh nothing, I’ve just been enjoying the lovely winter weather with an even lovelier companion.”

“Hawthorn,” Will and Justin both said with a nod, laughing at their identical responses.

“I may have just been for a walk with a very attractive member of our quidditch team, yes.”  Lious replied with mock indignation, but the glee on his face an in his voice was impossible to miss, and it brought my grumpy mood back with it.  Here was Louis, flitting around the school with Hawthorn without any trouble at all, and I couldn’t even find the girl I’d almost kissed only a few days earlier!

“I’m going to see Hagrid,” I announced, standing up and moving away from the table before my friends could respond.  I stomped across the great hall, not even bothering to go back upstairs to find my cloak or a scarf.  I was wearing a fairly warm jumper and I figured I could make it across the lawn to Hagrid’s hut, which was always toasty and inviting on a cold day.  Anyway, I was so frustrated at the whole situation with Lucy that I didn’t care if I did get frostbite or a cold; maybe she would turn up to visit me if I ended up in the hospital wing.

Where is she?  I thought to myself as I pulled open the vast wooden doors that led out to the front of the castle.  I stepped out in to the icy air and suddenly, like a vision of perfection, there she was!  I halted on the stone landing for a moment, letting the huge door crash shut behind me as I watched Lucy approach.  She was wearing a deep purple cloak over muggle clothes.  A blue scarf was wrapped around her neck, some of her beautiful brown hair was caught in it and she tugged it free as she climbed the steps.  Her eyes met mine, and suddenly the sun seemed to come out of nowhere and shine on us both, lifting the dark cloud that had been following me around all day.

“Bell!” I exclaimed, cringing internally at how overly excited I sounded.  Calm down Al, play it cool or she’ll think you’re the biggest dork since Malfoy’s grandad!

“Visiting Hagrid or sneaking into the Forest?” I teased, pulling my voice in to a more casual register.

“Hagrid,” She replied, and then put of a look of mock annoyance before adding, “And I resent the implication that I would break school rules by sneaking into the forest!”

“Sure you do,” I laughed.  “I’m headed that way myself, how’s the tea today?”  Tea?  Al, seriously, you’re asking about tea?

“Strong, but otherwise, not too bad.”  Lucy replied.

“Rock cakes?” I asked, pretending to wince because Hagrid’s rock cakes could break a tooth!

“Scones,” She said with a little smile that made me feel like I might trip over.

“Good thing I’ve just eaten lunch,” I laughed, and she smiled back at me, whether from amusement or pity, I wasn’t 100% sure.  I wanted more than anything to stand there and chat with Lucy for the rest of the afternoon, but I didn’t want to look to eager and desperate.  Leave her wanting more…isn’t that what they say?  Plus, my conversation was pretty pathetic so I decided it was best to cut and run.

I gave her a little awkward wave and continued towards Hagrid’s hut, when I was overcome with the urge to look at her one last time.  I glanced over my shoulder, and surprisingly she was still standing on the top step, looking at me, looking completely adorable as a few stray snowflakes fell around her.  At that moment, I don’t know what came over me, but it was if just seeing her caused my brain to malfunction and the words seemed to slip out of my mouth of their own accord.  “Get inside Bell, it’s freezing out here and you don’t want that cute little nose of yours getting frostbite!”

In the split second after I heard myself say those words, Lucy’s cheeks flushed a bright shade of red and her eyes widened slightly in surprise, a small, stunned smile frozen on her face.  I spun back around and hurried across the lawn, my own cheeks burning with embarrassment at what I’d just said.

Cute?  CUTE!?!?  Oh bloody hell Al, way to play it cool! 

I couldn’t believe how stupid I’d been, and Lucy was obviously embarrassed by the comment; the way she’d blushed and that sort of frozen, polite smile on her face.  Ugh!  I am such an idiot!  I tried to take a few deep breaths as I approached the slightly wonky wooden hut, knowing that Hagrid could be far too perceptive for my liking, and I’d already embarrassed myself enough for one day and that was more than enough for me.

“Rose, you are being ridiculous!  Of course I know your O.W.L’s are important, I’m kind of in the middle of studying for some rather significant exams myself.  But you have to ease up a bit and let Jane come to practice!”  James pleaded with Rose across the small wooden table in the common room.  Jane had come to quidditch training the night before with an announcement that our darling cousin had drawn up a revision timetable that didn’t allow for any extra-curricular activities – quidditch included.  James may have been in a moody haze about Lucy’s sister running off on him on New Year’s Eve, but even that wasn’t going to stop him captaining a good, strong Gryffindor team; and that team includes our brilliant keeper.

“Rose, I think maybe you could let up a little bit here,” I added in a gentler voice than James’, because my brother was beginning to look like he’d taken too much pepper-up potion; there was practically steam coming out of his ears.  “I want to do well in my O.W.L’s just as much as anyone does, but non-stop studying without a break to do other things or just relax, isn’t the way to go about it.  We are all going to need a bit of down time this term if we want to survive the pressure!”

Rose raised an eyebrow at me, and I knew straight away that she saw through my calm, measured argument.  Of course Quidditch mattered to me, and I wanted us  to win the cup this year, and of course that meant we needed Jane at training sessions, but my motivations weren’t really sports related.  As with everything in my life at the moment, my argument had everything to do with Lucy.  After our awkward encounter on the castle steps, Lucy seemed less elusive, and once classes started up again, I saw her several times a day, including our study sessions.  Maybe I was imagining things, but she seemed almost eager to spend time with me, and I had found myself beginning to wonder if I actually could make her fall in love with me, if I could just spend a bit more time with her.  But that precious one on one time was going to be threatened if Rose’s insane timetable was put into effect.  And of course, my darling, clever, pain-in-the-neck, know-it-all, best friend of a cousin was perfectly aware of my pathetic little plan.

“Fine,” she said, turning her eyes back to James.  “I will change the timetable so that they have time for Quidditch training and…other important activities.” Rose gave me a slight smirk as she said this and I would have jinxed her if I hadn’t worried it might make her change her mind again.

“Well thank Merlin for that!” James exclaimed with a smile, getting up from the table, leaving me with Rose and her infuriating smirk.

“You’re welcome,” She said.

“Oh shut up,” I snapped, but her responding laugh told me she understood my silent gratitude.

Fortunately, Rose’s obsession with O.W.L’s meant she didn’t have much time to nag and tease me about Lucy, something I was thankful for – most of the time.  Occasionally, I would have liked her insight into what Lucy was thinking, because I just couldn’t work her out.  Sometimes, I could almost convince myself that Lucy flirting with me, she would catch my eye across a classroom or the common room and smile in a way she didn’t seem to smile at anyone else.  One day, during a practical Charms lesson, I decided to try something out, to see if I could confirm my theory.

We were working on charming small objects to grow legs, so the classroom was pretty noisy and slightly chaotic, particularly when the teacup or ink pot someone was working on decided to jump off the table and go racing across the room.  I was working next to Louis, who was getting slightly frustrated with his rosebud teacup, which wouldn’t grow legs. 

“Stupid cup,” he muttered, poking it aggressively with his wand.  He grumbled the incantation again and suddenly, four short but thick legs sprouted out of the bottom of the cup.  Louis watched, stunned, as the cup stumbled on to its feet and seemed to stagger a little bit.  Then suddenly, it ran towards Louis, and with one of its stumpy little legs, kicked his hand.  “Ow!” Louis exclaimed, snatching angrily at the cup, but he missed, and it ran across the table, dodging between classmates.  “Why you rotten little…” Louis grumbled, dashing around the desk to try and catch it. 

Laughing, I glanced across the room and caught Lucy watching.  She smiled at me when our eyes met and I smiled back.  Then, before I could give it a second thought, I raised my hand and gave her a small wave.  I held my breath to see how she would react, and almost instantly, Lucy lifted her hand and returned the wave.  I decided to take it a step further and mouthed the word ‘hi’.  This time I had to wait a few seconds before Lucy responded.  She looked unsure for a second, like she didn’t know if she should respond, and then she suddenly mouthed the words ‘having fun?’ Before I could answer, Louis threw himself back into the seat next to me, wrestling with his teacup.  I watched him for a second and then smiled back at Lucy, rolling my eyes.  She seemed to laugh for a second, then lowered her eyes back to her own teacup, biting her bottom lip.

It was moments like this that had me almost convinced I could ask Lucy out and she might just say yes, but then all of my doubts would creep in.  Doubts like the fact that I’d ignored her for four years or the idea that she still might be hurting over McMillan.  Plus, even though we often had long, funny, interesting conversations and joked around together a lot when we were studying, Lucy didn’t seem interested in spending any other time alone with me.  We were always in groups in our classes or in the common room or at meals, and I often found myself watching her, frustrated as she sat with the other girls.

I’d thought that maybe Rose could help me out, give me some insight in to what Lucy might be feeling, but she had recently become extremely difficult to get a hold of.  I knew she was consumed by O.W.L preparation, but she seemed to be off studying every spare minute she had!  Every time I saw her, she was in a group or dashing off to a class, so I couldn’t pull her aside for a chat.  I considered asking James for advice, but since he was still moping around about Alice, he was barely useful at Quidditch training, let alone helpful with girl problems.  I was frustrated, confused, and on top of it all, I still had the Quidditch cup and exams to worry about.

One Sunday afternoon, I was headed down to the library to find some Defence books before my study session with Lucy.  As I turned a corner on the third floor, I nearly ran smack into Rose who was coming from the other direction. 

“Al!” She exclaimed, her voice a little higher than usual.  Under normal circumstances, I would have been more suspicious, but I was so amazed to be alone with Rose that I was only focussed with not letting this opportunity pass.

“Hey Rosie,” I smiled.  “Long time, no see!”

“Huh?  Al, you see me every day,” Rose looked confused, and if I wasn’t mistaken, slightly guilty.

“I just meant I’ve only seen you in classes or at meals lately,” I explained.  “You’re really taking these exams seriously huh?”

“Oh…exams…yes!”  Rose stammered.  “Yep, study, study, study!  That’s me.”

“Right…” I said slowly, raising an eyebrow at her odd behaviour.  “Anyway Rosie, look I really need to talk to you about something, have you got a second?”

“I…I guess so,” Rose looked a bit nervous and I wondered why talking to me would inspire such a reaction.  She followed me into an empty classroom and I sat on the end of the teacher’s desk while she stood awkwardly near the door, like she was preparing to run away.  “What did you want to talk to me about?” She asked, that oddly high-pitched tone in her voice again.

“I wanted to ask you about Lucy,” I said.  The reaction was instantaneous, Rose’s body automatically relaxed and she gave me a genuine smile as she moved to sit on a desk opposite me.

“What about Lucy?” She asked, her voice back to normal once more, in fact, there was that sort of smugness to it that annoyed me so much.

“Rose, I’m going nuts,” I confessed.  “The more I am around her, the more I want to be around her.  It’s doing my head in!”

“Geez Al, you’ve know Lucy for pretty much your whole life and now you suddenly can’t live without her?  You sound like you’ve taken a love potion!”  Rose giggled, but I just frowned at her.

“I know!” I groaned, rubbing the heel of my hand against my forehead.  “I know, I’m such a prat, how can I have not seen how fantastic she is before this?  This is so messed up Rosie.”

“Al, I don’t see what the problem is, just ask her out already!” Rose’s voice was stern, but when I looked up at her, she had a caring smile on her face.  I let out a frustrated sigh before answering.

“I can’t Rose, believe me I’ve tried.  A couple of times I was so close and I thought ‘right I’m just going to say it,’ but then I just can’t make the words come out.  What if she rejects me Rosie?  I don’t think I could cope with that.  I haven’t known her for very long and I don’t want to do anything that’s going to cause her to leave my life.”  I was perfectly aware of how pathetic I sounded, but to Rose’s credit, she just continued to give me that understanding smile.  She looked thoughtful for a moment, and when she responded, the stern tone of her voice was still clear, though it was tinged with kindness.

“I understand what you’re saying Al, but why are you so sure she’s going to turn you down?”  She paused for a second as though she expected me to answer.  When I didn’t, she continued.  “You’re a great guy, I’m sure she sees that.  What girl wouldn’t want to be with you?”  Oddly, there wasn’t any irony in Rose’s voice, she was giving me a genuine compliment. 

“She’s doing my head in Rosie, whenever I see her my brain just turns to mush and I say the stupidest things.  I have to be so careful about how I act around her.” I moaned, feeling rather hopeless.

“Look Al, I think you need to just ask her; if she says no then you’ll know won’t you?”  Rose reasoned.  “You can’t keep torturing yourself like this, how are you going to make it through exams?  I think you should just march straight out of this room and go and ask her; do it now before you lose your nerve.”  She sounded oddly like James did when he gave one of his little pre-match inspirational speeches; there was a conviction in her voice that made her words incredibly convincing.  She was right after all, how was I going to get through my O.W.L’s and the Quidditch cup if something didn’t change?

“Just go and do it?  Like right now?”  I could hear the disbelief in my own voice, but even more disturbing, I was beginning to consider what Rose had suggested.  Rose could obviously hear it too, because her response was swift.

“Right now.  At least then you’ll know,” She said, looking incredibly serious.  She seemed so sure that her idea was right, that I should just go and ask Lucy out.  And as I stood there considering it, I felt a lightness in my stomach, like Christmas morning mixed with my birthday mixed with a herd of stampeding butterflies.  I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to focus my thoughts, I felt so confused!  Lucy’s face floated across my mind and for a brief moment, smiling at me sweetly.  I let myself fantasise about what it would be like if she was my girlfriend, if I could kiss her or hold her hand whenever I felt like it.  I felt my heart rate pick up at the mere thought, the hope rising up in me like a balloon. 

And then suddenly, the face in my mind disappeared and was replaced with another; it was still Lucy, but this time her expression was a mixture of embarrassment, irritation and pity.  It was the image of my fear – the face that Lucy could pull if I told her how I felt.  It would be the last face I saw on her before she stopped talking to me, studying with me and being my friend.

My eyes snapped open to Rose standing in front of me, arms folded across her chest as she watched me with curiosity in her eyes; and yet the image of Lucy didn’t disappear, at least not completely.  It seemed to dance on the edges of my mind, taunting me, torturing me.

“I can’t,” I sighed resignedly.  “Look I need to go study; I’m supposed to be in the library right now,” I added, because Rose looked like she was about to argue with me.  She pressed her lips together and stared at me for thirty seconds before unfolding her arms, crossing the space between us and hugging me tightly.

“It will all work out Al,” She said quietly.  “I’m sure of it.”

I wanted to respond, tell her I hoped she was right but I doubted that she was.  Instead, I found my voice had disappeared on me and I simply pulled away from her, forcing my lips in to what was supposed to be a smile, although I could tell from her expression that it wasn’t terribly convincing.  I nodded and patted her on the arm before picking up my bag and stepping back out in to the hallway.

I sauntered towards the library, knowing that I was now late but not really wanting to get there any faster.  Normally I couldn’t wait to get to these study sessions and see Lucy, but the face I’d conjured up in my mind was haunting me, following me along each corridor and down every step.  An irrational fear had bubbled up inside me that when I walked into the library, that face was going to become real, and Lucy would look at me with that pity-filled expression as though she could read my thoughts and know what I felt for her.  When I could see the wide open library doors ahead, I began dragging my feet, taking deep breaths and telling myself over and over to ‘get a grip’.  When I reached the table and she looked up at me with her usual smile, I felt a surge of relief and get a burst of annoyance at myself for my own cowardly behaviour.  Lucy was watching me intently as I sat, no doubt curious about the range of emotions I knew must be crossing my face.  I took a deep breath, looked up at her and said the first thing that came into my head.

“We need to do something about that brother of mine."

AN: Ok, confession time - I really don't love this chapter.  Seriously, I've been working on this chapter for about two months and I couldn't seem to get out more than a paragraph at a time, which is why it might feel a bit stiled of disjointed.  I apologise for that, I was trying to show what is going on in Al's brain, but it just wasn't translating properly!  So, I hope you still enjoy the chapter and it doesn't turn you off the story, but if it wasn't your favourite, I do apologise.

I haven't written much of the next chapter, but I think it should be fun because it involves some fun stuff.  Here's a little look at what I have so far:

“Come help me,” I said to Louis, yanking on his sleeve as I stepped towards the bar.  “Four butterbeers please,” I said to the harried looking barman, who nodded and then promptly disappeared into the back room.  I wondered curiously what he was doing, and leaned forward on the bar to see if I could spot him through the half-open door.

“Hey Al, you reckon you could help me with something?” Louis said suddenly.

“Hmmm?” I replied, still craning my neck.

“I want to see if I can get some time alone with Jane this afternoon,” He said, his voice wavering a bit.  I continued to lean on the bar but turned my head to look at him.  “I thought maybe I could ask if anyone wants to come to Uncle George’s shop and maybe you could keep Rose and Lucy occupied when we go over, so I can sneak in a bit of one-on-one with Jane.”  Louis spoke quickly, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d been rehearsing this speech in his head.

“Sure,” I said.  “I’ll do my best, I mean Jane and Lucy are best friends, but I’m sure I can distract her long enough for you to get Hawthorn into a quiet corner.” I winked at Louis and chuckled out loud when his ears turned pink, but before he could defend himself to me, the barman returned with our drinks.

“So we have a deal?” Louis asked as he picked up two of the frosty glasses.

“We have a deal,” I nodded.  And if I could just get rid of Rose, then I might even get my own alone time with Lucy, I thought to myself.  

Chapter 14: Fact of Nature #14: Everything can change in an instant.
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

The chill of the winter air ran through my wet hair and down my spine as I left the Gryffindor change rooms.  We’d just defeated (well, more like demolished) Hufflepuff and I was pumped for a victory party.  “Great job Potter!”  Someone shouted, and I waved to the few stragglers who were still making their way back to the castle. 

I’d jumped in the shower pretty quickly after the match and was now the first team member heading up to the common room.  That was exactly how I’d planned it, because I really didn’t want to be stuck helping James to pack up his stuff.  James was always last out of the change rooms because as captain he had to make sure everyone was finished, hadn’t forgotten their belongings and he then had to send anyone injured up to the hospital wing to be checked out.  On top of that, he also had to pack up the little blackboard he used in his pre-match strategy meeting and double check everyone’s brooms were locked away safely in the broom shed.  The last person usually stuck around to help James, it was just what we did as a team and I didn’t mind taking my turn, but today I was determined not to be that person, not because I’m lazy, but because James was becoming a great big pain in the neck!  If I had to hear one more of his mopey tirades about how bloody lovesick he was and how he couldn’t go on, I was going to scream.  Didn’t he realise he wasn’t the only person with girl problems?

I folded my arms to keep my un-gloved hands warm as I reached the castle and stomped up to Gryffindor tower.  Brilliant…just thinking about James has put me in a grump!  I thought to myself as I climbed the stairs.  To distract myself I started going over the day’s match in my head, running the plays, remembering how many goals had been scored and by whom. 

“Yeeeaaaahhhh!” The cheer of the common room seemed almost tangible as I climbed through the portrait hole to be greeted by gleeful house-mates.  A large group crowded around me, slapping me on the back and doling out words of congratulations.  I couldn’t help but smile as I chatted with people, answering their questions and accepting their praise as humbly as I could manage.  It was a good distraction and I was grateful for the distraction that Quidditch could be.

However, every time another member of the team came through the portrait hole, they were greeted with the same cheer and accompanying tirade of admirers.  This meant that, over time, the distractions became diluted, until there were no more questions, very few slaps on the back and just the odd murmur of ‘Great game,’ as someone passed by.  I could feel my grumpiness coming back as I watched James sulking in the corner, only talking or smiling when someone walked over to speak to him.  I am so annoyed, I could just walk over there and slap his stupid…

“You look exhausted,” The only voice that could yank me out of a mood like this tickled my ears, making me smile before I’d even turned to look at her.  Lucy was standing next to me with a sympathetic and incredibly sweet smile on her face.  She was dressed in jeans and a red checked button-down shirt; a glimmer of light around her neck caught my eye and I noted a sparkly necklace that spelt out our house name in red and gold gemstones.  Her shiny, chocolate-coloured hair was pulled up into a ponytail, allowing me an unobstructed view of her features.

“I thought you might like this,” She added, holding out a bottle of butterbeer to me.  Our fingers touched for a brief moment as I took the bottle from her, causing me to nearly drop it as my heart skipped a beat, but I managed to keep my grip on the cold glass.

“Thanks,” I said.  “You look nice,” I added, the words slipping out before I could stop them.  Lucy turned pink and looked down at her feet, embarrassed.

Well done Al…only took you twenty seconds to say something stupid this time!

“Thank you,” She said, looking up at me, and I was relieved to see she was smiling.  “The necklace was a gift from Jane, I thought it might bring you some luck.”

“Me?” I asked, surprised. 

“Well…you know, you guys…the team,” Lucy explained, and I felt rather stupid.

“Oh, yeah, of course,” I laughed, trying desperately to act cool.  “Well I guess it worked, so thanks!”

Lucy laughed, “I’m not sure you needed it against Hufflepuff, but you’re welcome.”

“I dunno, Hufflepuff are getting pretty good,” I admitted.  Truth was, even though we won by over two hundred points, if I hadn’t been lucky enough to spot the snitch when the Hufflepuff seeker was on the other side of the pitch, we could have lost the match.

“Oh, hey, there’s Jane.  I haven’t congratulated her yet,” Lucy said suddenly, waving across the room to her friend.  “Great match today though!”

“Thanks, and thanks for the drink too,” I said, although Lucy was already dancing across the room to hug Hawthorn as I uttered the end of my sentence.

I didn’t get to speak to her again until later on in the afternoon after most of the party-goers had dispersed and a group of us were lazing about near the fire.  Fred and Louis were making a stupid amount of noise, annoying some of the older Gryffindors and lamenting about the end of another party. 

It was Jane who started talking about birthday parties, suggesting we throw one for Lucy, who looked somewhat embarrassed at the sudden attention she was garnering.

“When’s your birthday?” I asked, feeling a bit embarrassed that, for all my delusions of romance and chivalry, I hadn’t ever thought to find out something so basic about her.

“Next Thursday, February 23rd,” She replied shyly.  Louis and Will burst into party planning mode, listing things we needed to do before Lucy’s birthday.”

“Guys, you really don’t need to do this, I mean it’s only my 16th, it’s not like I’m going to be of age or anything.” The girl in question protested modestly, interrupting Fred’s list. 

“Are you kidding?”  Fred exclaimed.  “This idea is brilliant!  You’ve given us a very legitimate reason to throw a party in just two weeks’ time, Lucy I could kiss you…in fact I think I will!”  And then, to my very great horror, Fred jumped up to the small space on the couch next to her.  It all seemed to unfold in slow motion, and yet I was powerless to stop it as Fred leaned over and kissed Lucy’s cheek.  I felt a surge of adrenaline and a bright reddish-coloured light seemed to flash in front of my eyes as she giggled at him and gave him a playful shove.  Was it my imagination or was she flirting with him?  Suddenly, as if to make up for lost time, everything shot into fast forward, as Fred came crashing off the couch and into the exploding snap cards with a bang, causing and argument to erupt between him and Dominique, who had already told him off for being noisy.

I caught Rose’s eye across the group and she looked positively alarmed at what had just occurred.  When our sights locked on each other, she narrowed her eyes at me, giving me the silent message to sit still and stay calm.  It was the same look she’d had in her eyes the day that McMillan had attacked Lucy.  I inclined my head in a tiny nod to let her know I understood, and it was at that moment, that I realised Lucy was looking at me.  Not wanting her to know that the kiss had upset me, I flashed her the warmest smile I could muster.  She looked confused for a second and then smiled back before we were both distracted by the assault of text books that the seventh years were now hurling at Fred with their wands.

Rose and I didn’t talk until dinner time; she sidled up to me as we were all heading down to the Great Hall and gently squeezed my arm.

“You know he didn’t mean anything by it,” She whispered. 

“I know,” I replied, nodding my head to let her know I knew she was right, although I wasn’t 100% convinced that she was.

Thanks to Louis and Fred, excitement about Lucy’s party began to build rapidly amongst the Gryffindors, who (let’s face facts) were all happy for an excuse for another celebration. 

“So are you excited?” I asked Lucy on our way down to Wednesday’s Care of Magical Creatures lesson.

“About?” she asked, con fused.

“About your birthday,” I smiled.  “Surely you’re a little excited, I mean 16 is a big deal.”  To be honest, I was a tad surprised that she wasn’t bouncing off the walls with anticipation like everyone else; Lucy could be such a mystery sometimes.

“Not as big at 17 though,” She countered.  I rolled my eyes sarcastically at her.

“So are you trying to tell me you’re not excited about your birthday?”

“I didn’t say that.  In fact I happen to be extremely excited, but I get excited about all my birthdays so this one isn’t really any different.”  I was surprised at the seriousness in Lucy’s voice.

“Yeah but you’re having a party this time, surely that should raise the excitement levels a bit,” I said, giving her a hopeful smile.  “Everyone’s really looking forward to it,” I added.  Instead of smiling back though, Lucy let out a quiet sigh.

“Look, I’m excited and I’m glad about the party and all, but I’m not about to go dancing through the castle because a couple of people decided the anniversary of my birth is a good excuse to have a get together.” She said, sounding almost annoyed.  “Especially when most of those people haven’t cared before this year and probably still wouldn’t care if it wasn’t for the party.”  She bit her lip and turned her head to look straight ahead, and I wondered if she was going to cry.  My heart felt like it was made of lead – how could I have been so insensitive?  I couldn’t believe I’d underestimated Lucy like that, of course she realised that so many of the Gryffindors fawning over her were just doing it because of the party. 

Sweet Merlin, does she think that about me too?

“I guess you’ve got a point, I’d never thought of it like that before.” I admitted.

“It’s ok,” She mumbled and my heart felt even heavier.  I’d upset her now, stupid, stupid Albus! 

“No it’s not really,” I felt overcome with the need for her to realise that I wasn’t a faker who just wanted to talk to her because she was having a birthday party.  “I mean we’re supposed to be friends and I didn’t even know when your birthday was until Jane brought it up the other day.”  The word friends hung in the air for a moment, the same way it always did when I said it to Lucy, but she didn’t seem to notice as she responded.

“Really, it’s no big deal,” She said, her voice softening a bit as we approached Hagrid’s hut.

“Well, I hope you’ll still enjoy yourself, and you know that your real friends are just happy to share the day with you.” I made sure to make eye contact with her as I said this, hoping she would see the sincerity there.  It seemed to work because her lips broke in to a smile.

“You sound like a sappy greeting card,” She said.

“Just working out what to write in yours,” I replied playfully.

The truth was, I knew exactly what I wanted to write in Lucy’s birthday card, but I doubted that I would find the nerve to pen the words and actually give them to her.  I also found myself plagued by the dilemma of a present.  Buying a Christmas gift was tricky enough, what could I get her for her birthday that was just as special, if not even more?

When the weekend rolled around, I still hadn’t come any closer to thinking up the perfect present.  I’d thought about asking Rose’s opinion, but she was so difficult to get hold of these days – her O.W.L prep obsession was getting a little bit worrying.  The few times I had seen her, it had been in a class or as part of a group in the study room, and I couldn’t find an inconspicuous way to pull her aside for a chat.

As we headed down towards Hogsmeade as a group, I wondered if I might just get lucky enough to find the perfect gift in a shop window in the village.  Almost automatically, my gaze turned to Lucy, who was walking only a few steps ahead of me, her eyes on Justin and Gwen, joined at the hands as they walked together.  I lengthened my strides until I drew even with Lucy.  “Are you getting deja vu?”  I asked, my heart skipping a beat when she smiled up at me.

“Reminds me of the time we followed them on their first date,” Lucy agreed.  “They were so boring weren’t they?”

“Unbelievably,” I laughed, enjoying the sound of her soft chuckle as it joined mine.  “That was a pretty good day though,” I added, as snippets of memories floated to the top of my mind.  Sitting close to Lucy in the pub, our knees touching; a brief but almost flirtatious game of footsies; the warmth of her hand over mine when I’d started getting worked up over McMillan.  But Lucy, oblivious to my reminiscing, was continuing the conversation.

“That was the day that…” Her voice trailed off at the end of the sentence, as though she couldn’t remember what she was going to say next, or perhaps didn’t want to.

“That was the day that what?” I asked gently, hoping I wasn’t coming across as pushy.

“That was the day we saw Michael in the Three Broomsticks,” She finished her sentence quietly.  More memories floated across my mind, not-so-pleasant ones to contract my earlier thoughts.

“Oh yeah, I remember that, he was all over some…” Now it was my turn to leave a sentence unfinished.  Albus Potter you insensitive git!  I berated myself as I realised what I had just implied.  I looked at Lucy out of the corner of my eye, wondering if she was cross at me, deciding that I wouldn’t be finishing that sentence, no matter what.  Instead I muttered to myself, “Well anyway, he’s a stupid git.” 

“Yes.  Yes he is,” Lucy replied with a smile, having obviously heard my murmurings. I returned her smile, pleased that she seemed to be moving past McMillan and his moronic ways.

After an epic trip to Honeydukes, where I learnt that Lucy’s favourite food is toast and her favourite sweet is chocolate frogs, we decided that lunch at the Three Broomsticks was well in order.  I was eyeing off the seat next to Lucy as she sat down, unfortunately I was obstructed by Rose, who beat me to it.  Except for a joke about an peculiarly long chip, Lucy and I barely spoke as we ate our lunch, her attentions captured by Rose on her right and Fred, who had somehow managed to weasel (no pun intended) his way into the seat on her right.  I glared at him periodically, sending him determined yet silent messages.  Back off Freddy.  Keep your hands to yourself mate.  You might be my cousin but you better watch yourself.

“I’m going to go visit Dad,” Fred announced quite suddenly after our plates had been cleared. I stared at him in surprise, Did he actually hear those things I was thinking?  “Anyone want to join me?”  He offered, looking around the table. 

“Sure,” Will said, standing up and pushing in his chair.

“Anyone else?” Fred repeated his offer as he, too, stood up.  His gaze stopped on Louis for a moment, obviously somewhat surprised that his cousin and mate hadn’t taken up the offer.

“I’m right,” Louis said casually, although I noticed his eyes flit to Jane for the briefest of moments.  Fred obviously saw it too, because he nodded in acceptance.

“Anyone want another butterbeer?” I asked after Fred and Will had thrown their cloaks back on and ducked back out into the chilly, winter air.

“Sure,” Louis replied.

“I won’t say no,” Jane added.

“No thanks, not for me Al,” Rose smiled, indicating the mouthful of golden liquid still in her glass.

“Lucy?” I asked, trying not to blush at the way her name rolled around on my tongue, as though the way I pronounced it might give me away.

“I’d love one,” she said, obviously not perturbed by the way I’d spoken her name.

“Come help me,” I said to Louis, yanking on his sleeve as I stepped towards the bar.  “Four butterbeers please,” I said to the harried looking barman, who nodded and then promptly disappeared into the back room.  I wondered curiously what he was doing, and leaned forward on the bar to see if I could spot him through the half-open door.

“Hey Al, you reckon you could help me with something?” Louis said suddenly.

“Hmmm?” I replied, still craning my neck.

“I want to see if I can get some time alone with Jane this afternoon,” He said, his voice wavering a bit.  I continued to lean on the bar but turned my head to look at him.  “I thought maybe I could ask if anyone wants to come to Uncle George’s shop and maybe you could keep Rose and Lucy occupied when we go over, so I can sneak in a bit of one-on-one with Jane.”  Louis spoke quickly, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d been rehearsing this speech in his head.

“Sure,” I said.  “I’ll do my best, I mean Jane and Lucy are best friends, but I’m sure I can distract her long enough for you to get Hawthorn into a quiet corner.” I winked at Louis and chuckled out loud when his ears turned pink, but before he could defend himself to me, the barman returned with our drinks.

“So we have a deal?” Louis asked as he picked up two of the frosty glasses.

“We have a deal,” I nodded.  And if I could just get rid of Rose, then I might even get my own alone time with Lucy, I thought to myself.  You can imagine my surprise and delight then, when we returned to the table to find that Rose was missing.  It was Jane who answered my question about the sudden disappearance.

“She just remembered that she promised Gwen she’d look in on her date,” She smiled.  “And I think she something about stopping in at Scrivenshaft’s.  You know what Rose can be like about having enough stationery around exam time.” 

“That sounds like our Rose,” Louis laughed.  For a brief moment I wondered if the excuse did seem a little flimsy, but I wasn’t about to question the gift I’d been given, an opportunity to get Lucy on her own.  Yep…not sounding creepy at all.

I took Rose’s seat, telling myself it was because spreading ourselves out around a table that could seat eight was silly.  Louis looked positively delighted as he sat next to Hawthorn, his eyes fixed on hers.  I turned my gaze to Lucy and noticed that her usual smile was missing, replaced by a sad, pensive expression.  As I watched her, she let out a small, sad sigh.

“Lucy?  Is something wrong?” I asked quietly, not wanting to draw the attention of the other two.  She looked up at me, obviously surprised that I’d noticed.  The surprise was swiftly replaced by her usual sunny expression.

“Nope, everything’s fine,” She said, almost convincingly.  “Tell me, how did you go with that Potion’s essay that Professor Alchers set for homework this week?”

The conversation turned to mundane things, exams, study, school stuff in general, but Lucy’s animated chatter and bright smile, which had returned in full force, kept me interested in the conversation about grades and essays and revision plans.  As I drained the last of my butterbeer, I noticed Louis shooting me a pointed stare across the table.  It’s showtime, I thought nervously.

“Fred mentioned that Uncle George was getting in a shipment of some new joke products.  I thought I might go over and have a look; anyone want to join me?”  I was amazed at how calm Louis sounded.  I was a nervous wreck inside, wondering, hoping, praying that the plan would work.

“I’ll come with you, I haven’t been to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes in ages,” Hawthorn’s response was immediate, and Louis beamed at her.  I turned my eyes to Lucy, who was staring rather intently at Jane.  I knew I had to keep up my part of the plan, I had to stop Lucy from going with them, but my mind was blank – what could I possibly say to make her stay that wouldn’t embarrass Louis or myself and reveal our scheme?  If Lucy knew what Louis was trying to achieve here, she’d be on board, I was certain of that, but how could I communicate the plan to her without Jane finding out.

I glanced down and noticed Lucy’s right hand, resting on her leg, only inches away from me.  Before I could second guess myself or chicken out, I placed my hand on top of hers, squeezing it lightly.  Lucy’s head immediately swivelled around, her eyes meeting mine with a look of surprise that matched the way I was feeling.  I looked at Louis and Jane as pointedly as I could, before turning my gaze back to her with a slight shake of my head.  Lucy’s eyes widened in understanding, and a small smile played with the corners of her mouth.  Fortunately, Louis and Jane we too absorbed with each other to notice our interaction, and both seemed to start in surprise at our presence when Lucy turned to them and spoke.

“You guys go ahead, I don’t like to buy things just before my birthday, you know presents and all,” She said calmly, impressing me with her increased ability to tell a convincing lie.

“I’ll keep you company,” I said, trying to make it sound casual and unplanned.  Jane looked at Lucy momentarily as she stood, Louis shooting me grateful stares at the same time.  A small giggle escaped from Lucy’s lips, but she turned it in to a cough, an indication of her imperfect lying skills.  I noticed her shoulders shaking slightly as Louis ushered Jane out the door, and as it slammed behind them with a jangle of the brass bells that hung above it, Lucy burst out in hysterical laughter.

I looked at her in shock for a moment, before the contagious giggles reached out to me, and suddenly I was laughing along with her, the whole situation seeming ridiculous and overly tense.  Several other tables and a few people at the bar looked over at us in surprise, no doubt wondering if the two giggling, underage wizards by the window were drunk.

“Maybe we should go.  Fancy a stroll through the village?”  I said as a group of elderly witches gave us dirty looks over their wire rimmed glasses.

“Ok, sounds like a good idea,” Lucy replied, trying to steady her breathing as the last few giggles escaped.  I stood and pulled her gently to her feet, the automatic action reminding me that I hadn’t let go of her hand.  Lucy seemed to have the same thought as she glanced down and turned bright red before pulling her hand away from mine.

Crap, now I’ve embarrassed her!  I thought to myself, although when I noticed Lucy shove her hands into her woollen gloves, I wondered if maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.  My heart was behaving in something of an erratic matter as it dawned on me that Lucy and I were now alone, together, in Hogsmeade.  We were practically on a date.

Except it’s not a date you knuckle-head, I reminded myself as I slipped my scarf around my neck.  Date or no date though, I was determined to be the perfect gentleman; maybe if Lucy saw how good a date with me could be, she might me more willing to say yes when I asked her on one.  IfIf you ask her on one.  If you ever work up the nerve, you mean.  I ignored my inner voice as I held Lucy’s cloak out to her and then opened the front door of the pub for her to walk through.  My hands tingled with the memory of her touch and I squeezed my fists together tightly to resist the urge to interlock my fingers with her own.  I buried them deep in my pockets for good measure and then turned to Lucy and smiled.

“Where would you like to go?” I asked, but before she could answer, Lucy slipped on the icy road and lost her balance.  Thankfully, years of developing seeker reflexes meant that my hands reached out and steadied her before she fell.  “You seriously have a problem with falling down don’t you?”  I joked as she righted herself.

“You’re just learning this now?” She muttered sarcastically, but her smile told me she wasn’t really angry.  I let go of her, about to put my hands back in their pockets, but I was suddenly struck with an idea.  A rather daring and potentially disastrous idea that could leave me feeling rejected while Lucy runs away screaming.  Oh what the hell!  I decided, throwing caution to the wind.

“Here, I’m thinking that with all this snow around, you might need some help to stay upright,” I said, extending my elbow towards her, indicating she should take it.

“Hey, I walked all the way here without falling over!” She argued, planting her delicate hands firmly on the perfect curve of her hips.  She thinks I’m joking?  I almost gave up at that moment, conceded defeat and let it go, but I decided that I’d come this far, I may as well stick with it.  I raised my eyebrows at her, giving her a look that I hoped indicated that my offer was a genuine one.  Lucy stared at me for a moment, frozen on the spot, hands on hips and a slightly puzzled expression on her face.  My breath caught in my throat as I began to doubt the gamble I’d taken, maybe I’d crossed the line, pushed the friendship too far.

Then suddenly, so quickly I almost fell over myself, purely from the shock of it all, Lucy linked her arm with mine.  “Fine.  But this doesn’t mean I need your help, I’ve managed alright by myself so far.”  Lucy pretended to look put out by my offer, but her eyes told me otherwise.  My heart felt like it was about to burst out through my chest and go flying across the countryside, but I simply smiled at her in what I hoped was a playful manner.

“Oh and who was it that I had to take up to the hospital wing a few months ago because she fell over and broke her leg?  Oh, that was you, wasn’t it?”  I teased as we began wandering down the street again.

“It was a broken ankle, thank you very much.  And like you can talk, I seem to recall a Quidditch match last year where you fell off your broom in front of a whole stadium of people!”  Lucy and I fell in to a comfortable banter as we walked, my heart regaining its steady rhythm.  It felt incredibly natural to be so close to each other, arms linked.  At one point we passed a large group of third years and I gently pulled her closer to let them pass, Lucy leaned into me, tightening her grip on my arm slightly, and a warmth filled my chest as I realised how natural it felt, how perfectly our shoulders seemed to press up against each other.

 I didn’t even care what our closeness must look like to other people, in fact I found myself hoping that people looked at us and thought we were a couple.  I liked the idea that a girl like Lucy could be my girl. 

The light sprinkle of snow began to fall faster and eventually I wondered if it was best to get out of the cold.  I couldn’t have Lucy getting sick on account of me.

“Do you want to head back to the castle?  It’ll be warmer there and we can play exploding snap or something while we wait for the others.”  I looked sideways at her, wondering if she understood the hidden message in my question.  The message that said I still want to spend time with you, so don’t go running off on me.

“Or we could go to the kitchens and see if the house elves will give us some treacle tart,” She replied.

“Ah, a girl after my own heart,” The words slipped out of my mouth with a laugh.  Crap. Did I really just say that out loud?  But Lucy was laughing too, so she obviously hadn’t construed it as a come-on.  Nonetheless, I thought it might be safest to change the subject to less inflammatory topics, and our focus turned back to our O.W.L’s, though this time it was a much more honest conversation than the one we’d shared with Louis and Jane in the pub.

When I eventually let her arm go so I could pull open the heavy wooden entrance doors to the castle, I felt disappointment run through me, and my whole left side felt cold as Lucy’s body heat was taken from me.  I tried not to gawk as she pulled off her hat and shook her hair out, the light from candles above us causing a thousand stars to glitter in the golden brown waves that tumbled over her shoulders.

I wanted to take her arm or hold her hand again, but since we were now in a safe, dry, snow-free castle, I couldn’t find an excuse and so I had to content myself with walking as close to her as I could without looking suspicious.  We didn’t talk as we climbed towards Gryffindor tower, but we didn’t need to.  The silence wasn’t awkward, it felt comfortable, natural.  I watched Lucy in my peripheral vision, wondering if she too felt how natural and easy it was for us to be together.

My thoughts were broken by the sound of a gasp escaping Lucy’s lips, and she stopped, dead on the stairs.  I followed her vision to where a couple were locked in a rather passionate embrace on the landing.  It was a moment before I understood the panicked look in Lucy’s eyes though, as my brain took in the bright red hair of the girl and white blonde of the boy.

Rose.  My Rose.  My cousin Rose with Scorpius. Bloody. Malfoy.

“What the hell!  Get off my cousin you slimy git!”  The anger bubbled up inside of me as I watched that slime ball put his hands all over my best friend.  They broke apart at my shout, both staring at me in shock.  Rose’s expression changed first, her eyes softened and a look of pleading crossed her face.

“Al, wait, stop…” She said, but the rage I was feeling was starting to consume me and I cut her off.

“What the hell are you thinking Rosie?  Not only are you snogging some guy in public, but he’s a bloody Slytherin!”  My words bounced off the stone walls of the stairwell, echoing around us.  Rose’s eyes flittered to Lucy, who was still standing next to me, no doubt as shocked as I was; when she returned her focus to me however, the pleading was gone, and anger flashed in its place.

“Who cares what house he’s in?  Just because he’s in Slytherin doesn’t make him a bad person!  I mean you’re in Gryffindor and clearly you’re a complete arse!”  Rose was mad…really mad.  We’d only had a few fights this intense in the past, and I could count on one hand the times she’d called me an arse.

“Could we just all maybe calm down for a second here?” This was a new voice to the discussion and my eyes immediately snapped to its owner.  Scorpius Malfoy had blonde hair and fair colouring, and in the flickering torch light, it made him look slightly sinister.

“Oh, you do not get to tell me to calm down,” I growled at him, hoping he was intimidated.  I pulled myself up to my full height which, whilst we were very similar builds, was about two inches taller than him.  “I walk in here and you have your slimy, Slytherin hands all over my cousin.  You’re just lucky I haven’t hexed you yet, in fact maybe I should do just that!”  I fumbled in my pockets for my wand.  Al, what the hell are you doing?  A soft voice of reason drifted through my mind, and I paused in my search for a brief second, long enough for Rose to pipe up again.

“Like hell you will.  Leave him alone, I’m allowed to kiss whoever I want.  You’re not my father!” She shouted, her eyes still flashing angrily at me.

A laugh escaped my lips, but it wasn’t my usual laugh, it sounded distorted, even slightly insane, and before I could think about them, the words slipped out.  “No I’m not, but I bet Daddy Dearest would love to hear about this.  His perfect daughter is having it off with his enemy’s son!  Oh you’ll make him so proud!”  There it was, a threat, the ultimate threat.  I knew I’d crossed a boundary when Rose’s eye suddenly looked like fireballs that were going to start shooting at me.

“Shut up Al!  We were not ‘having it off’; how could you say such a thing?”  There was an icy rage in her voice, but underlying it was a thinly veiled tremor, like she was fighting back tears.  Guilt sliced through me and I wondered if I should back off.  But as I considered this, Malfoy reached out his hand, taking Rose’s hand in it.  She turned to him and despite the tear that had escaped the corner of her eye and was now trickling down her cheek, Rose smiled at him softly.

I don’t know exactly what happened to me at that moment.  Maybe it was the fact that Rose wasn’t listening to me; maybe it was because Malfoy was my main Quidditch rival; maybe it was all those stories I’d heard about the horrible things Malfoy’s Dad did to my parents and Aunties and Uncles when they were younger.  It was probably a combination of these things, but I think what pushed me over the edge was the fact that the way Rose was smiling at Malfoy was exactly the way I imagined Lucy smiling at me when I had my little fantasies about her.  Whatever it was, I felt my hand bunch up in a fist, my arm pull back, ready to administer a well-aimed punch to Malfoy’s jaw…

“No!”  It took me a second to register where the cry had come from.  It was a female voice, and yet Rose hadn’t opened her mouth.  It wasn’t until I felt her grab my arm, pushing me to the side, that I realised the word had come from Lucy. 

My back hit the wall, not hard enough to hurt me though.  I felt pressure on my chest and heard a soft “oomph,” sound.  I looked down to see Lucy, her hand gripped around my forearm, pressed against my chest.  My mind flooded with emotion: Shock and confusion at what had just happened, raging hormones at being this close to Lucy, frustration at having not been able to deliver the punch, but somehow relief that I hadn’t gone through with it.  And anger, deep, fiery anger that seemed to come from somewhere I couldn’t quite control.  All of these emotions were jostling around in my brain, like hundreds of voices screaming to be heard over the top of each other.

I heard footsteps, and glanced over to notice Rose disappearing up the stairs, pulling Malfoy with her.  Suddenly, though the hubbub of voices, one seemed to amplify, shouting louder than the others and filling my mind with red-hot light.  I turned my eyes back to Lucy, not really seeing her; but the anger saw her, and it made her its target.

“What the hell did you do that for?”  The voice was not my own, the rage seemed to have manifested itself into some sort of monster; and somewhere in the back of my mind, in a brief corner that the anger hadn’t reached, I wondered if this is what it felt like to be under the imperius curse, to know that what you are doing and saying is wrong, is stupid, is dangerous, but being unable to stop it from happening.

“I…you…well…You were angry and about to do something stupid so I stopped you,” Lucy’s voice was quiet, pleading, and that small untouched corner of my mind ached to hear that tone.  The anger, however, seemed to strengthen at her words.  I felt myself straightening, pushing away from the wall and, taken by surprise, Lucy stumbled slightly as she was pushed backwards.

“Something stupid?” The anger snapped at her, menacingly.  “So you support her do you?”

“Of course I do, she’s my friend and she cares about him,” There was an edge to her voice this time, and warning bells began ringing in the untouched corner of my mind.  I wasn’t just frightening her now, I was making Lucy mad.  But the rage was still stronger, and it seemed to feed on the angry tone Lucy voice was taking. 

“So you knew about this? And you didn’t think to tell me?  I thought you were my friend Bell!”  The words hung in the air in front of me, dancing across the invisible line I had just crossed.

“I am!” Lucy defended herself, the anger now clearly evident in her voice.  “But I’m Rose’s friend too, have been since first year you know, and she asked me not to say anything!” 

For a second, the clear, sensible part of my brain seemed to overpower my brain, and I was flooded with guilt, with hurt and remorse.  Have been since first year… The words seemed to slam into me like an out of control broomstick, reminding me how badly I had treated Lucy before this year.  I looked down, too ashamed to look her in the eye, and I noticed that her hand was still clasped around my arm.  A warmth seemed to filter up from my arm, from her touch. 

Suddenly, roaring at the tender moment like it was wounded, the anger returned, and I pulled my arm from her, breaking to contact and leaving only and icy coldness where the warmth had been. 

“He’s a Slytherin!  He’s a slimy, smarmy, stupid snake and he’s going to break her heart.  How can you not have a problem with that?”  There was no missing the accusation in my voice, and Lucy responded in kind, her voice angrier than I’d ever heard it.

“Well he cares about Rose, and I thought maybe that makes him ok.  Anyway, I don’t know Malfoy from a bar of soap and I thought it would be best to give him the benefit of the doubt, rather than making assumptions about his personality like some arrogant berk!” I stood, listening to her in shock.  Even the anger had been forced into a sort of stunned silence.  “Your cousin actually cares about someone and you make her feel awful for it, then you yell at me because I protected my friend’s secret.  You know what?  Malfoy’s not the git Potter, you are!  A selfish, obnoxious, git!”

And then, just like that, she was gone, her footsteps echoing around me as she disappeared the same way Rose and Malfoy had only minutes ago.  Before I’d completely lost it.  Before I’d let the anger take over and I’d treated the most amazing girl in the world like a criminal.

And just like that, the anger disappeared, and I was left with only guilt and a sharp, stabbing pain somewhere in the region of my heart.  I sank down to the floor, realising that the most wonderful afternoon of my life had completely changed; all the kindness and gentleman-like behaviour and friendly banter and laughing and fuzzy feelings had been turned to ash.

And it was all my fault.

AN:  Whoah, this chapter turned out to be quite epic!  I'm sorry it's so long, I tried cutting it down and even breaking it up in to two chapters, but it wasn't working, so I've just left it long.  I hope you liked it.  I'll try to finish the next chapter and update quickly.  Please review, I love to hear your thoughts :)

Chapter 15 preview:

The next morning, I found a welcome distraction in a conversation between Hawthorn, Rose and Gwen over breakfast.  I’d joined them at the Gryffindor table where they sat with Justin and Louis – Lucy was nowhere to be seen.

“So Professor Longbottom said we have special permission to go down and get it from his office early in the morning on Lucy’s birthday, before she wakes up,” Jane was saying. 

“Just as long as she doesn’t wake up early and catch us at it,” Gwen piped in.

“If she does, we’ll just have to work around it, sneak out when she’s in the shower or something,” Rose reasoned.  “Oh, this is fantastic, she’s going to be so excited!”

“what are you guys talking about?” I asked tentatively.  Three heads swivelled towards me, and then Jane and Gwen both turned to look at Rose, as if waiting to see how she responded to me.

“Lucy’s parents are giving her an owl for her birthday,” Rose said. 


Chapter 15: Fact of Nature #15: Even Potters make Mistakes
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

I didn’t hear the footsteps or even notice the person sitting next to me on the step.  I wasn’t aware of anything until I felt a hand on my arm.  I jumped, looking up hopefully; Lucy, she came back, she’s going to forgive me!

But it wasn’t Lucy at all; it was Rose who sat next to me, worry and anger battling it out behind her eyes. 

“I am really mad at you,” her opening words didn’t surprise me.

“I’m sorry Rosie, I really am,” I said, turning my eyes back to stare at the stone step.  “I might not like Malfoy, but I shouldn’t have yelled at you like that.”

“Oh please,” She said.  “I was snogging a Malfoy for goodness sake, as if I wasn’t expecting that response.  Not to mention you must have got an awful shock; then again, so did we!”  She chuckled to herself.  “No Al, the reason I’m mad at you is because the girl you claim to be crazy about is currently in our dormitory, crying her eyes out because you can’t control your temper.”

“She’s crying?” I groaned, dropping my head into my hands.  “Mother of Merlin Rose, what have I done?”  To her credit, Rose didn’t respond, she just wrapped her hand around mine and gently put her head on my shoulder.  The pain I’d been feeling in my heart seemed to spread and fill my entire chest, making breathing difficult.

“I’ve seriously screwed everything up, haven’t I?” I choked out.

“More or less,” Rose said.  “But give her some time, apologise for being a complete moron and she might come around.  Lucy’s a pretty forgiving person.”

“She didn’t forgive McMillan,” I countered. 

“McMillan’s an arrogant berk who tried to sexually harass her.  You just yelled at her.” Rose lifted her head from my shoulder.

“Yeah, but I really yelled at her Rose.  I’m so embarrassed.”

“So you should be, but that’s a good thing.  You genuinely feel guilt over what you did, when Lucy sees that I’m sure she’ll forgive you.”

“Really?”  I looked up at Rose, hopeful for the first time since the whole debacle.

“Really,” Rose smiled at me.  “Just give her time to calm down, and then apologise.”

“Rosie, I’ll get down on my knees and beg if I need to,” I said, my voice a little more earnest than it probably needed to be.

“I don’t think it will come down to that,” Rose laughed.  And Al?”


“You’re not going to tell Dad about Scorpius are you?”

“No,” I sighed.  “I’m not thrilled, but if you want me to, I’ll keep your secret.”

Rose planted a kiss on my cheek, “I knew there was a reason I liked you so much.”


I followed Rose’s advice and gave Lucy some space, waiting until the next day before trying to talk to her.  I lay awake long into Saturday night, staring at the canopy above my bed, rehearsing my apology in my head.  The only problem was that the next day, Lucy was nowhere to be seen.  She wasn’t in the Great Hall when I went down for breakfast, and even though I sat there, nursing a cup of tea until the last person had left, she didn’t show.  I tried the library, the common room and even Hagrid’s, but I couldn’t find her.  Eventually, after my third check of the library, Rose let slip that Lucy was studying up in the girl’s dormitory. 

“I think she just needs a bit more time Al,” She said, looking sorry for me. 

I finally saw Lucy at dinner on Sunday night, but she sat at the opposite end of the Gryffindor table, flanked by Jane and Rose, the latter of whom gave me a little shake of the head when I stood up to walk over to them.  I sat back down, but spent the rest of the meal trying to catch Lucy’s eye, ignoring the conversation around me.  It was no use though, Lucy didn’t look up from her plate until she left the Great Hall, looking determinedly ahead as she passed me.

“Buy her some flowers, or chocolates mate,” Louis suggested after watching me mope around our dormitory as we got ready for bed.  “Girls love that sort of thing, don’t they?”  He looked to Justin for confirmation.

“I guess it might be worth a try,” Justin shrugged.  “Her birthday’s coming up, why don’t you buy her something really significant to show her how sorry you are?”

“I’ve been trying to think of something since I found out when her birthday was,” I groaned, flopping on my back on my bed.  “I can’t think of anything good enough that I can afford.  That’s it, I may as well give it up as a lost cause, she’s too good for me anyway.”

“Well, that might be the case, but I don’t think you should give up just yet.  Just give her some time,” Justin shrugged again and disappeared in to the bathroom to brush his teeth.

“Have you guys got any ideas?” I asked, pushing myself up on my elbows to look at Will and Louis.

“A signed picture of yourself?”  Will grinned and Louis snickered in to his pillow.

“Oh shut up you two,” I grumbled, flopping back down on to the mattress.  “Urgh!  This is hopeless!”

By Tuesday night, I still hadn’t spoken to Lucy, and as I headed down to Quidditch training, I found myself wondering if I was ever going to get an opportunity to apologise.  Add to that the fact that I still hadn’t found a birthday present for Lucy and her birthday was only two days away now!

I was in the broom shed, fighting with the pile of broomsticks that were preventing me from finding my own, when I bumped in to Jane.  “Hawthorn!” I exclaimed, suddenly hopeful as I realised I had a chance here to get Lucy’s best friend on side.

“Al, whatever it is you think I can do, I probably can’t,” She said, looking down awkwardly at her hands.

“But if she’d just listen to me, let me apologise…” I said desperately, as several of the broomsticks nearly crashed down on top of my head.  “She won’t even look at me, let alone talk to me.”  I added.  Jane sighed and began helping me pick up the brooms, a thoughtful look on her face.

“Look, I’m pretty sure she’s just hurt, and she does want to stay friends with you,” She began, and my heart swooped excitedly.  “But she still needs more time.  Sometimes it takes Lucy a little longer to come to these conclusions, but she will, I promise.”

Time, time, time.  That’s what everyone kept telling me Lucy needed, and they were probably right, but it didn’t stop me feeling like I was losing my mind.  During practice, I was hit with a runaway quaffle seven times and at one point, I flew straight into James while he was giving the beaters a few pointers.  I knew I had to give Lucy time, but I was starting to worry that I didn’t have much time left before I went completely crazy.

The next morning however, I found something of a solution in a conversation between Hawthorn, Rose and Gwen over breakfast.  I’d joined them at the Gryffindor table where they sat with Justin and Louis – Lucy was nowhere to be seen.

“So Professor Longbottom said we have special permission to go down and get it from his office early in the morning tomorrow, before Lucy wakes up,” Jane was saying. 

“Just as long as she doesn’t wake up early and catch us at it,” Gwen piped in.

“If she does, we’ll just have to work around it, sneak out when she’s in the shower or something,” Rose reasoned.  “Oh, this is fantastic, she’s going to be so excited!”

“what are you guys talking about?” I asked tentatively.  Three heads swivelled towards me, and then Jane and Gwen both turned to look at Rose, as if waiting to see how she responded to me.

“Lucy’s parents are giving her an owl for her birthday,” Rose said. 

“It’s been delivered to Professor Longbottom and we’re going to collect it to give to her tomorrow morning,” Gwen added.

“She’ll love that,” I said, unable to stop the small smile that crossed my lips.  “Man, she’s going to be so excited.”

I noticed a pointed look being shared between the three girls and I quickly busied myself with spreading jam on my toast.  I was a bit embarrassed about my sudden outburst, but as I started at my knife, I was struck with a sudden inspiration.  I knew exactly what to get Lucy for her birthday.

Choking down the last of my breakfast, I raced upstairs to my dormitory.  Throwing open my trunk, I dug through the mess of clothes, parchment and odd socks.  “Come on, come on.  Where are you?”  I murmured to myself, searching for something I wasn’t sure I even had anymore.

“Bingo!” I exclaimed, pulling out a crumpled piece of parchment bearing the name Hollingsfield & Sons, Hand Crafted Jewellery.  It was a brochure that the shop girl had slipped in to the bag with Lucy’s Christmas present, advertising the range of ‘exclusive, hand crafted crystal charms’ that could be purchased.  ‘Owl orders welcomed’ it announced cheerfully.  I’d thrown it in amongst my stuff, thinking it might be useful if Lucy liked her bracelet, and had then promptly forgotten about it; that is until today when the girls had mentioned Lucy’s new owl.  The brochure featured pictures of the charms, with a five digit number beneath it.  Scanning down the list I found the one I was looking for, one of the choices I’d been presented with on the day I chose the unicorn charm for Lucy.

Charm 35462 was a perfectly sculpted, crystal image of an owl looking rather contended, almost as if it was about to fall asleep.  It was the perfect gift for Lucy’s birthday, and if it drew her attention to the bracelet I’d bought her for Christmas, then she might remember how good our friendship had been before I royally messed it all up.  Glancing at my watch, I realised I was about two minutes away from being late to class, so I shoved the brochure in my pocket, threw my bag over my shoulder and headed out of the dormitory.

At break time, I made my way up to the owlerly.  I pulled the brochure out and, with a quill from my bag, I started filling out the little order form at the bottom of the page.  I triple checked that I had the order number right before tearing off the form, frowning when I noticed the words ‘please allow two (2) days for order to be received.  May be longer if desired item is out of stock.’   There was no way the gift would arrive by Lucy’s birthday tomorrow, but if I was lucky (and I was praying to Merlin, Dumbledore and Godric Gryffindor that I was), then it would arrive in time for her party.

“Al!” It was Rose who caught me at the end of Potions.  “Al, I need to talk to you about something,” Her voice was an urgent whisper.

“Sure, shoot,” I said as we left the corridor that led to the dungeons and entered the entrance hall.

“Um, not here, I don’t want to be overheard,” She hissed, glancing at Lucy, Gwen and Jane, who were walking only a few steps in front of us.

“Ok, how about we go take a stroll outside before dinner?” I suggested, leading my cousin out in to the crisp air.  “What’s up?” I asked once we were a hundred feet or so away from the castle.

“I’ve got a plan!”  She said exciteldly.

“A plan?”  I replied.  “A plan for what?”

“A plan to get Lucy to talk to you again,” Rose beamed at me and I stopped dead where I was.

“What?” I said, a sliver of hope running through me before I remembered the reality of my current situation .  “Rose she doesn’t even want to look at me anymore, why do you think she would want to talk to me?”

“That’s just it,” Rose responded, the smile not leaving her face.  “I think she does want to talk to you Al, she’s just upset, and is forcing herself to hide away.  But I think if you could get her alone for a minute, she might be persuaded to listen to you.”

My heart was thumping loudly in my chest now, and I stared at Rose’s excited face, hardly daring to hope she was right. 

“And you have a plan to make this happen?”  I asked.

“Yup,” Rose glanced around us, as though making sure nobody was listening, even though the closest group of students were well out of hearing distance.  “As we told you at breakfast, Lucy’s getting an owl for her birthday,” Rose explained.  I nodded to show that I remembered the conversation.  “Well, the plan is to sneak it up to the dormitory in the morning and give it to her before we go down from breakfast.”

“Ok…” I said slowly, still not sure where Rose was going with this.

“Well you know Lucy.  What do you think she’s going to want to do with her owl before she heads down to breakfast tomorrow?”

“The owlery,” I said, as Rose’s plan became a bit clearer.  “She’ll want to make sure the owl is settled in the owlery!”

“Exactly,” Rose grinned even wider.  “And guess who’s going to be there waiting for her?”


I glanced at my watch again, noting it was now 8:06, only two minutes since I’d last looked at the time.  I’d been waiting in the owlery since 7:30, even though Rose said she doubted Lucy would get up here until about 8am, but I was terrified I would miss her.  This was my only chance to get Lucy to listen to me, to allow me to apologise, and I didn’t want to waste it.

I wandered over to Kenrick, who’d been giving me odd looks for the last fifteen minutes, no doubt wondering why I was nervously pacing the floor.  I was exhausted, having been awake half the night re-memorising my apology.  This needed to be perfect, Lucy just had to understand how sorry I was.  I reached in to the bag of Owl treats I brought up with me and fed some to Kenrick, who gobbled them up hungrily. 

What if she doesn’t come?  I thought to myself hopelessly.  What if she decides not to bring the owl up here, or what if she’s not alone?  Rose had promised me she would convince Jane and Gwen not to accompany Lucy to the owlery, but what if she bumped in to someone on the way?

The creaking of the door caused my heart to speed up, and I watched with anticipation as Lucy stepped through, a small, fluffy brown and white barn owl on her shoulder.  Her face was flushed and she seemed a little out of breath, no doubt from the trek up the tall staircase, but she looked happy, and it seemed to light up her entire face, so that she looked like she was glowing from the inside.  Or maybe she just seemed that way because I hadn’t been able to get a proper look at her since Saturday.  Her eyes met mine and she stopped, surprised at my presence and no doubt about to run away.

“Lucy,” I said as gently and as kindly as I could.  “Please don’t go.”  She continued to stare at me, although I was unsure how to read the expression on her face.  “Happy Birthday,” I added, somewhat pathetically.

“Thanks,” Her voice was soft, but not angry and it sent a thrill through me to know she had just spoken to me.  Yes, it was only one word, but she had said it to me!

“Your parents gave you an owl?” I asked, more nervous than I thought I would be.  Lucy didn’t respond, but kept her eyes on me as she moved to the nearest row of perches.  The small owl pushed off from her shoulder and fluttered gently up to rest above her head.  She wasn’t saying anything, which was making me more nervous by the second, but I’d come here to apologise and I was going to see that plan through.

“Can we talk?”  I asked tentatively, willing her to speak again.  She nodded silently, her eyes still locked with mine.  It wasn’t quite the response I’d hoped for, but I was going to take it anyway.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, the words tumbling out of my mouth.

“So am I,” Three words!  She had spoken again and I sucked in a deep breath, encouraged by those three little words.

“You have no reason to be sorry.  I am so ashamed of the way I acted, I was angry and shocked but I should never have taken it out on you.” The words were coming out in a rush, not exactly the way I rehearsed them, but I couldn’t do anything about that now.  “You were trying to protect Rose and you were completely right, I was a complete git.  Can you forgive me?”  I finished suddenly, surprising myself and no doubt Lucy as well.  My question seemed to hang in the air between us; I’d managed to get out my apology and now it was up to Lucy to deal the blow.

“Of course I can,” Her words were soft, but as clear as the first birdsong at sunrise.  She forgives me! My heart seemed to be swelling in my chest, and I wondered if it was going to burst.  Suddenly, unable to contain myself any longer, I took the few short steps towards her and wrapped my arms around Lucy, my whole body tingling at the joy of touching her again.  Her arms slipped around my waist, and her cheek pressed firmly against my shoulder as I closed my eyes and inhaled her scent.

All too son, I felt Lucy pull away, but there was a smile on her face.  Her cheeks were pink, probably still from the climb up to the owlery.

“Breakfast?” I suggested.  “You can’t turn sixteen on an empty stomach,” I added as Lucy nodded.  The air felt positively electric as we walked downstairs, and I found it difficult to resist the urge to reach over and grab her hand.  We were on the fifth floor before I managed to speak again.

“So have you named your owl yet?” I asked.

“Yep,” Lucy smiled at me, and I couldn’t help but grin back, still mentally pinching myself that she wasn’t upset with me anymore.  “Actually I came up with the name back in second year, around the time I started begging my parents for my own owl.”

“Is it a secret name?”  I teased, and Lucy laughed.

“Flitch,” She replied.  “I know it’s a bit silly, but I always thought it was kind of cute; so it suits her, since she’s so adorable.”  Her eyes sparkled and I could see just how excited she was, how much this new pet meant to her.  I was pretty sure my owl charm was going to go down well too.

After not talking to Lucy for over three days, I found myself feeling the need to make up for lost time, sitting next to her at meals when I could wrangle it and constantly talking to her, whispering little jokes and sneaking notes to her during classes.

I knew I was probably being a bit obvious, but ever since Lucy had agreed to forgive me, I found myself beginning to hope that maybe, even if only in a very small way, Lucy might return my feelings.  I knew that I could just be telling myself things I wanted to hear, but every now and then I would catch a smile or a giggle or a look and wonder if maybe, just maybe, I made her as nervous and she made me.

Saturday morning, I sat down to breakfast at the Gryffindor table with Will, Gwen, Justin, Rose, Jane and Lucy.  The girls had obviously been there for a while, because they were only a few crumbs of the meal left on their plates.  There wasn’t any room to squeeze in next to Lucy, so I sat diagonally across from her, next to Justin.  Will was busy telling the story of the day his Hogwarts letter arrived.  Being muggle born, his parents knew nothing of the magical world until Prefessor Longbottom turned up on their doorstep one day to explain about Will’s abilities, Hogwarts and all the rest.

“So then my Dad takes a swig from his fourth glass of whisky and says ‘He’s not going to like, grow extra arms or a tail or something, is he?’”  The girls all laughed and Justin and I give a chuckle for good measure.  It’s a funny story, but we’ve both heard it several times.

“Well sorry to leave you guys, but we have a study session to get to,” Rose says as she stands up and climbs over the bench she has been sitting on.  The other girls stand and join her, although we boys must look a bit down cast because she adds, “Don’t worry, it’s just for the morning.  We’ll be back to help with the party set up this afternoon.”

I watch Lucy’s retreating back, and smile when she glances back over her shoulder at us.  She looked back, that’s a very good sign, the hopeful part of my brain whispers in my ear.  I start dishing bacon, sausages and eggs on to my plate, feeling happier than I have in a while.

“What’s with the grin?” Will asked as I buttered a piece of toast.

“Hmm?” I mumbled, my mouth still full of bacon.

“You’re looking very pleased with yourself,” Justin laughed as I swallowed my food.

“Well it’s a beautiful day,” I said, indicating the grey reflected in the enchanted ceiling above us.  “Well, it perfect day for a party anyway!”  I laughed.

“I’m glad to hear you say that, dear cousin, because we’ve just volunteered you to help us set up for the big event,” Fred and Louis plonked themselves down next to me with wide grins.  It was Fred who was doling out the orders.  “Straight after lunch, we’re going to set up the common room.  The girls are helping too.”

“Sure, no problem, count me in,” I replied.  Any excuse to spend time around Lucy.

“Since when does the post deliver on a weekend?” Justin said suddenly, pointing to the ceiling where a handsome looking owl was making its descent.  Justin was right, it was very rare to see owl post on a Saturday, although not completely unheard of.  To my surprise, the owl entered a slow and graceful glide, ending on the Gryffindor table right next to my plate.  I quickly reached out to untie the small parcel from the bird’s leg, giving the owl some of my toast for good measure.

“What is it?” Will asked as I looked down at the parcel wrapped in brown paper, bearing a card stamped with the Hollingsfield & Sons insignia.

“Lucy’s present,” I smiled, tucking the parcel into my pocket, leaving the others looking curious and ever-so-slightly annoyed.

I knew that with the afternoon and evening focussed on the party, I should try and get some study in after breakfast, but I found it hard to focus.  I lay on my bed, trying to read the next chapter in my Defence Against the Dark Arts book, but I found that I kept getting up to check on the little velvet bag, just to be sure the owl charm was absolutely perfect.

Eventually, lunchtime came and passed, and the party preparations began.  The girls bubbled with excitement as they hung decorations, trying out different festive charms they had looked up that morning during their ‘study’ session.  I liked seeing Lucy so happy as she perfected the incantation that caused bright, iridescent balloons to inflate from the tip of her wand.  Louis and Fred had everything planned out, showing me the stash of drinks they had procured somehow and were storing under our dormitory stairs.  Fred went down to the kitchens at one point and came back an hour later with a big grin on his face.

“Well we aren’t going hungry tonight,” He beamed.

The girls went down to dinner early, and then disappeared upstairs to get dressed, though why they needed over an hour when they were already pretty good-looking girls was beyond me.  I had gone to some effort, forgoing my usual Gryffindor party mantra of ‘whatever I’m wearing will do’, and wore my nicest jeans and a blue shirt that the house elves had pressed for me.  I even fussed with my hair…well just a little bit, I didn’t want Lucy thinking I wouldn’t make an effort for her!

The girls didn’t show up until the last minute, which meant the half an hour before their arrival was fraught with anticipation, as we moved furniture and organised music.  When they made their descent however, I knew it had been worth the wait.

The polite part of my brain acknowledged that all the girls looked lovely, but the majority of my attention was on Lucy.  I hadn’t thought it possible that I could find her more attractive, but she took my breath away in a red dress that seemed to be made for her.  It was modest, not too revealing or garish, and yet it showed just enough skin (graceful arms, perfect legs and the porcelain skin around her collarbone) to keep my attention and fire up my imagination.  I was glad to see she’d decided against high heeled shoes too, for some reason, I adored the way she looked up at me when we were standing close.

I wasn’t the only one distracted by the girl’s entrance.  Louis was practically gawking, two bottles of butterbeer in his hands as he stared at Hawthorn, a blue miniskirt and black tank top showing off her lean, Chaser’s physique.  I noticed Lucy watching Louis too, a cheeky grin on her face, so I made my way over to her quietly, leaned over her shoulder and whispered in her ear,

“I think he might be drooling.”

Lucy spun around, the smell of her perfume catching me by surprise as she did so.  She seemed to stare at me for a moment and I was able to appreciate the way Rose’s fairy lights reflected in her eyes.

“Can you blame him though?  She does look pretty gorgeous tonight,” she eventually said.

“You don’t look too bad yourself,” I said bravely.  It had to be said, she was positively stunning.  “You scrub up pretty well there Bell, and I love the colours.  Godric Gryffindor would be proud!”  She smiled, seemingly impressed that I’d noticed her gold accessories.  Uncle Ron once told me that girls like it when you compliment them on the little things. 

“That may be the worst pick up line I’ve ever heard!” She giggled, her cheeks turning pink.

“Oh c’mon, it wasn’t that bad,” I laughed.  “And I mean it, the birthday girl looks lovely tonight.”  I softened my voice slightly, impressed that my flirting attempt seemed to be working.

“Well it’s amazing what a bit of effort can do,” Lucy laughed, although it sounded slightly stilted and I wondered if I was making her a bit uncomfortable with all my complimenting.  She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, and the glittering of her bracelet caught my eye.  It was the silver bracelet and unicorn charm I’d given her for Christmas, and seeing it reminded me of something else I needed to do.  I reached in to my pocket and pulled out the velvet bag.

“I have a birthday present for you,” I said, holding the bag out to her. “It kind of goes with your Christmas present.” 

Lucy looked at me curiously as she picked up the bag, opening it at the top and tipping it upside down so that the charm fell in to her palm.

“It’s beautiful,” She whispered, and my heart gave an extra loud jolt.  “Thank you so much,” She added.  I took the charm from her, and pulled her hand closer to me, indicating that I wanted to attach the charm to her bracelet.

“I thought it was rather appropriate seeing as though you got an owl for your birthday and all,” I said, trying to keep my fingers steady as they brushed against the soft skin of her wrist.  I attached the owl at the opposite end to the unicorn to balance the bracelet out.  When I finished, Lucy held her wrist up to eye level and inspected the new charm, a smile on her face.

“Thank you so much,” She said again, suddenly looking a bit nervous.  Before I could interpret her expression though, she stepped forward and wrapped her arms around my neck.  I held her tight, trying to control my breathing.  It was my turn to let out a nervous laugh as I became very aware of her body pressed against mine.  When we pulled apart, Lucy’s cheeks were bright pink, and I wondered if mine matched them.  I certainly felt warmer than usual.  Lucy left then, ducking outside to wait for her Hufflepuff friend to arrive, and I walked back over to help the boys with the final aspects of setting up.

“Looking a bit flushed there mate,” Will teased as I began pulling bottles of butterbeer out of a crate and lining them up on the drinks table.  “Everything alright?”

“Just fine,” I smiled.  “Hey, Lucy told me that Hufflepuff friend of hers is coming tonight, you know the pretty one with the blonde hair…?”

“Pippa?” Will asked, trying to keep his voice casual but not doing a very good job.

“Yep, that’s the one,” I grinned.  “She’s not bad-looking is she?”

“I guess so,” Will dropped the pile of napkins he was holding and ducked down to retrieve them, but not before I noticed his bright red face.

I didn’t get a lot of opportunities to speak to Lucy for the rest of the party, she was so busy being the perfect hostess, greeting people, opening presents and smiling a lot.  I had plenty of people to talk to myself, although I found that my gaze was constantly being dragged across the room to the girl in the red dress.  More than once, I caught her looking at me too, and each time, I gave her a confident smile before looking away.  Maybe I’d had too much butterbeer, maybe it was the fact that she’d hugged me when I gave her the charm, and maybe it was the fact that she seemed to blush every single time I caught her looking at me; but the idea that Lucy liked me was becoming more and more plausible which each passing minute. 

As the evening drew to a close, I couldn’t help but notice the slight changes in Lucy’s appearance.  The fabric of her dress had become crinkled from constant standing and sitting, her shoes had been removed and were deserted near one of the sofas she had been sitting on earlier, and her hair had pulled out from her headband slightly, causing little tendrils to flutter around her face.  Despite all of this, or maybe because of it, I found her to be even prettier than normal.

Most people had moved up to bed when the discussion started about playing a game.  It was Will who suggested the muggle game he’d learnt from his brother.

“You basically sit in a circle and put an empty bottle in the middle,” He explained.  “Then you take it in turns spinning the bottle, and when it stops, whoever the bottle is pointing to, you have to…well…kiss them.”

I couldn’t stop my eyes turning to Lucy at this statement, and as Rose burst in to protestations about kissing her cousins, I noticed that Lucy was staring at each person who spoke quite intently.  It might have been my imagination, but I was pretty sure she was avoiding looking at me.  Even when we had organised ourselves into a circle on the floor, she still kept her eyes firmly on the bottle or the rug beneath her or the person spinning the bottle.

The game was an interesting one and seemed to create a sort of excited yet awkward mood in the room.  When Fred spun the bottle and it landed of Jane, I felt Louis tense up next to me, his eyes never leaving the pair as Jane quickly pecked Fred’s cheek with her lips.  When the bottle landed on me, I could have sworn that Jane shot a quick look towards Lucy but it was so fleeting I may have imagined it.  I was relieved when Jane kissed my cheek, both for the sake of Louis and Lucy; I was trying to keep on Lucy’s good side, I certainly didn’t want her to watch me kissing her friends.

And then, suddenly, it was my turn to spin the bottle.  As I gave it a strong flick of the wrist, I found myself repeating a mantra in my head.  Please land on her, please, please, please land on Lucy.  It felt like the bottle was spinning for hours instead of seconds, and as it finally began to slow down, I realised I was holding my breath.  The bottle wobbled slightly as it came to a complete stop, and I watched, unblinking, as it halted, pointing directly at Lucy, who seemed to be trying to bore a hole through the glass with her eyes. 

“Luce, it’s pointing at you,” Gwen whispered at her, and Lucy’s eyes suddenly flicked to her friend as though surprised that there was anyone else in the room before returning to the bottle sitting on the carpet in front of her.  Then, finally, she raised her head and her eyes met mine.  I tried desperately to read her expression, but I couldn’t pinpoint her exact feelings, it seemed to be a combination of panic, fear, embarrassment and excitement.

A small, nervous giggle escaped from her lips.  “Right, sorry, off with the fairies there for a second.” She joked as she began moving towards the middle of the circle.  Louis made a joke and everyone laughed, but my focus was on Lucy as I inched towards her, my heart thumping so loud I was sure it could be heard down in Hogsmeade.

Fred once told me about this theory he had that girls are a lot like paintings.  Some of them are weird abstract things that are interesting to look at but don’t make a lot of sense.  Others are beautiful from a distance, but once you get close up they aren’t all that pretty.  And some girls are like priceless masterpieces; they look incredible anywhere, and the closer you get to them, the more you come to appreciate the perfectly crafted brushstrokes and impeccable detail.

In that moment, as I kneeled on the floor in the middle of the Gryffindor common room with my friends watching on, I realised that Lucy is that third kind of painting.  Only inches from her face, I found myself studying Lucy’s features in awe; the deep brown of her eyes, the soft angel-hair of her eyelashes as she blinked, the plumpness and crimson red hue of her bottom lip, a small constellation of pale freckles scattered across her nose that were barely visible from a normal distance.  Lucy was an absolute masterpiece, and I was about to kiss her.

That sudden revelation sent my senses spinning into overdrive.  My pulse was speeding along, my stomach seemed to be filled with Billywigs and some sort of humming current was running through me, making me feel like I had enough energy to run all the way to London and back.  I kept my eyes locked on Lucy’s as I leaned in towards her.  I’d kissed girls before, plenty of them, but no kiss had ever seemed quite this important.  Was it my imagination, or did Lucy look as excited about this as I was?

Closer and closer, those perfect lips were only a breath away from mine now and in a second they would be locked together.  Half an inch away now, a quarter of an inch…

“Oh hurry it up you two, we’re getting old here!” I’d forgotten anyone else existed besides Lucy and me, so when Louis made his exclamation, the sound shot through me, making me jump in surprise.  Lucy had also been startled, whether by Louis’ comment or my reaction to it I wasn’t sure, and she too flinched, smashing her head against mine.

“Ow!” I couldn’t stop myself from exclaiming as pain shot through my head like a sudden bolt of lightning, causing little sparks to ignite behind my eyes.  I smashed my hands against my forehead and was relieved when I realised I wasn’t bleeding.  I blinked a few times as my senses kicked back in picking up the sound of Fred and Louis laughing and Lucy’s knees still lightly touching my own.  I moved my hands and forced myself to focus on Lucy, her outline slightly blurry at first, but sharpening as my sense of sight adjusted.  Her face was crumpled with pain as her finger pressed against her head.  My heart dropped in to the bottom of my stomach at the idea that she was hurt, and I reached out towards her, wanting to help.

Please don’t be bleeding.  Please, please don’t be bleeding!

“Are you alright?” I asked, touching her face as gently as I could.  Lucy eyes locked on mine as I carefully moved her fingers aside.  I let out a sigh of relief as I realised her skin was unbroken and clear of blood.  My sense of relief however, was short-lived as Lucy suddenly pulled away from me, a look of pain and panic in her eyes.

“I think I’d better go upstairs,” She mumbled, pushing herself on to her feet unsteadily.  I tried to reach up to help her, but she was already rushing towards the girl’s dormitories, her bare feet not making a sound on the stone floor.  She was already at the stairs by the time I’d pushed myself on to my feet, but I continued to follow her anyway.

“Lucy, wait!” I called as the bottom of her skirt disappeared around the curve in the stairs, and I felt my feet hit the staircase, forgetting the charm that was placed on them.  I’d made it to the fourth step and my foot was about to touch the fifth when the floor fell out from beneath me.  I let out an involuntary groan of pain as I hit the stone face first and slid down, crumpling at the bottom, sharp pains in my chin and my right knee.

“Al!” I heard Rose gasp.  “Oh sweet Merlin, are you ok?”  Her voice was close and I sat up slowly to see she was kneeling next to me.  The others were watching from their places on the rug, although I was vaguely aware that Louis and Fred weren’t laughing anymore.  “You’re bleeding,” Rose said again and I looked down at the curved gash on my knee where it had obviously hit the stairs.  Acting quickly, she closed the wound and siphoned off the blood before helping me get carefully back on to my feet.  With a loud creak, I heard the slide behind me return to its original stair form.

“I better go check on Lucy,” Jane said, getting up from the floor; Gwen followed suit.

“I should go to,” Rose said as they reached us.  “Will you be ok Al?” She had the kindness to lower her voice as she said this to save me from later teasing at the hands of our cousins.

“Go, go,” I waved her away.  “Make sure she’s ok.”  Rose nodded her understanding of my concerns and followed the other girls up the stairs. 

I sighed as I limped over to the guys, who were determinedly not looking me in the eye; I suddenly felt incredibly tired.  Earlier in the evening I had been so full of hope, so sure that Lucy was responding to my flirting and sneaking glances at me across the room.  But in the moment before she ran away I’d seen something else, something I couldn’t quite identify, something that make me think I’d been horribly, completely, embarrassingly mistaken.

AN: Hi all!  I hope you liked this chapter :)  I'm trying to redeem my long absense by writing and updating a bit quicker.  I love all your reviews, so please write one if you have the time, I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Here's your sneak peek at the next chapter, I'll try to get it written and updated asap!

I needed to say something to Lucy, although I wasn’t sure what.  An apology maybe?  If I was right and I’d been reading Lucy wrong since her birthday, then I’d probably embarrassed her last night.  During my sleepless hours during the night, I developed an objective picture in my head of my actions and I couldn’t deny that I’d been very intense.  Even that crystal owl charm, which seemed so perfect the day before, now felt almost embarrassingly over the top.  If Lucy thought I was coming on to her and the attention was unwanted, she’d back right off, maybe even stop talking to me.  After the four days of Lucy avoiding me that I’d suffered through earlier in the week, I wasn’t too keen on that happening, so I had to make things right.

Chapter 16: Fact of Nature #16: Lost Causes are not Necessarily Lost Forever
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

I hurried up the stairs and down a corridor on my right, hoping that Jane was correct when she said she thought Lucy was going to the Library.

I hadn’t spoken to her since the debacle at last night’s party; she didn’t come back downstairs after running off to her dormitory.  Rose and Gwen had returned after about ten minutes to help us pack up anything left from the party. 

“Is she ok?” I’d whispered to Rose as we pushed a sofa back into place.

“I’m not sure,” Rose shrugged.  “She looked upset but she claimed it was just a sore head.  She was going to bed.”

“Is that wise, what if her head is seriously hurt?”  I tried to keep the worry out of my voice.

“Jane’s going to stay with her, I’m sure she’ll be fine Al.”  Rose patted my arm before heading across the room to talk to Gwen.

I’d stayed awake well into the night, and I half expected to wake up in the morning to hear that Lucy had been taken to the hospital wing, but she was sitting with Jane at the far end of the Gryffindor table when I went down for breakfast.  There were no spare seats at that end of the table but I kept an eye on Lucy while I ate, waiting for an opportunity to talk to her when she got up.  Annoyingly, I was busy stirring sugar into my tea when Lucy left the table and I glanced up to notice she was gone.  Jane was still sitting at the table, talking to a couple of fourth years, so I abandoned my tea and half eaten bacon to get some answers.  Jane told me Lucy had said something about needing a book from the library, so here I was, making my way to the library on a Sunday morning, hoping to catch Lucy, but slightly unsure what to do if I did.

I needed to say something to Lucy, although I wasn’t sure what; an apology maybe?  If I was right and I’d been reading Lucy wrong since her birthday, then I’d probably embarrassed her last night.  In my sleepless hours during the night, I’d developed an objective picture in my head of my actions and I couldn’t deny that I’d been very intense.  Even that crystal owl charm, which seemed so perfect the day before, now felt almost embarrassingly over the top.  If Lucy thought I was coming on to her and the attention was unwanted, she’d back right off, maybe even stop talking to me.  After the four days of Lucy avoiding me that I’d suffered through earlier in the week, I wasn’t too keen on that happening, so I had to make things right.

I turned another corner and spotted her near one of the Ancient Runes classrooms.  I jogged up to her, falling in step easily.  She flinched a little when she noticed me, but didn’t say anything, leaving the opening line to my power.

“Hey Lucy, are you ok?  You ran off so quickly last night,” I said as calmly as I could.

“I’m fine, just a small bump this morning,” She didn’t stop, or even look at me when she spoke.  Her voice was flat and emotionless; was this her way of keeping me at arm’s length? 

“I’m really sorry about that,” I said, needing her to know that she didn’t have to be uncomfortable around me; I wasn’t going to do something stupid like try and jump her in Herbology.  “And look, I’m sorry about that game, the whole thing was really stupid.”

“Yeah it was,” Her voice was so calm, like she didn’t even care that we’d nearly kissed last night.

“I didn’t mean to ruin your birthday Lucy, I really wanted you to have a good time,” I sounded a bit pathetic, but she still hadn’t turned to look at me and I was beginning to lose hope that she would ever smile at me again.

“Seriously, it’s fine.” Lucy sounded so nonchalant, like she hadn’t given it a second thought since we’d smacked heads. “And I did have a good time, the party was fun. I’m not going to let a little bump on my head get me down.”

I knew I was being over dramatic, but Lucy’s words hurt; they hurt more than I thought they would because this reaction was so unexpected.  If she had flat out told me she couldn’t stand me I would have been hurt but not surprised.  If she had told me she couldn’t hang around with me because she didn’t want to lead me on, I probably would have gone up to my dormitory and cried like a girl, but once again, it would have been expected. 

But Lucy was treating this whole thing as a minor annoyance, not even that really.  Her apathy left me feeling like I’d been kicked right in the guts.  Maybe that’s why I said the following words, fighting to keep my voice calm as I struggled with the hurt I felt.

“Well it could have been worse, I suppose if you had to kiss me your night would have been completely destroyed.   So I suppose we can thank Louis for that one can’t we?”  If she didn’t feel anything about this, then I sure as hell wasn’t going to let her think that I felt anything.  We stopped outside the library and Lucy glanced at me briefly.

“Yeah, well like I said, there’s no problem.  Anyway, I need to go get this book, I’ll see you later ok?” She said, and I hadn’t even finished nodding before she was gone. 

With a dejected sigh, I made my way back up to Gryffindor Tower, but I went the long way, down the far end of the castle and up a little stairwell that almost never got used unless there was an astronomy class on.  Eventually, I climbed through the portrait hole, ignored whoever was sitting in the common room and stomped upstairs to my dormitory, where I pulled the hangings around my bed and lay in the semi-darkness, feeling sorry for myself.

Friday morning, I found myself in Professor Longbottom’s office, not because I was in trouble, but because I had an appointment.  It wasn’t anything special, just the careers advice that all O.W.L students had to go through with their head of house.

“How are things?” Neville asked as I sat down opposite him.  A plant I didn’t recognise with violently orange flowers sat on the shelf directly behind him and from my current angle it looked like they were growing straight out of his head.

“Not bad,” I nodded.  “Bit busy with Quidditch and exams and all, but that’s to be expected.”

“How’s James?  He seems very quiet these days,” Neville knows us far too well, trust him to pick up on my brother’s moodiness.

“He’s…alright,” I said, but my voice was a higher pitch than usual and Neville raised his eyebrows incredulously at me.

“N.E.W.T’s, Girls or Quidditch?”

“Girls,” I conceded.  “Well just one girl actually.  She won’t go out with him and I think it’s doing his head in a bit.”

“Really?  Who?” Neville looked a little too interested for a teacher.  He can be such a gossip when he wants to.

“Alice Bell,” I replied.  “But you didn’t hear it from me.  In fact you didn’t hear it at all.”  I wouldn’t normally talk like this to a teacher, but Neville is…well…Neville.

“Alice Bell?  She finished Hogwarts last year,” Neville looked confused.

“Apparently my brother like the ladies to be older than him,” I shrugged.

“Alice Bell,” Nevile looked at me for a moment, a sort of knowing smile on his lips.  “How ironic.”

“Ironic?  I mean I know she’s really smart and all and James loves Quidditch, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have anything in common.”  I felt suddenly protective of my brother.

“Oh no, that’s not what I meant.” Neville defended himself.  “Alice Bell is lovely, all the Bells are, really,” He looked at me for a moment, that knowing smile on his face again before he glanced away, shuffling some papers.  “But you’re here to talk about your future, not your brother’s love life.  So Al, any ideas about what you would like to do after Hogwarts?”

I left Neville’s office feeling better than I thought I would, and I mull over our discussion for the rest of the day.  I was still unsure what I want to do for my future career, but at least I had some options now.  Dad will be thrilled when I tell him I’m thinking of doing a ministry internship, the few times James, Lily and I have gone into the ministry with him, he was so excited to show us around, tell us stories about the first time he came here with Grandpa Weasley, regale us with the story of how he, Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione snuck into the ministry during the war, disguised as other people (ok, that particular story is pretty cool).  He also took great delight in introducing us to pretty much everyone in the Auror department; bit odd, my Dad is.

I’m still thinking over internship applications when I get to Quidditch training the next morning.  James was looking like his usual despondent self, and didn’t even bother to roll his eyes at the group of girls in the stands, giggling and waving at him; it’s like he hadn’t even noticed them.  Half his luck, I thought to myself as I fly overhead, trying to ignore their over the top ‘oooh’ sounds when I passed them.

Just as James had set me up with Fred and Will to practice hitting and deflecting bludgers, I noticed a solitary figure climbing up into the stand next to the one with the giggling girls.  I recognised the purple hat and realised, with a slight drop in my stomach, that it’s Lucy!  She didn’t look in my direction, but instead pulled a book from inside her cloak and sat there reading, I couldn’t help but assume she was waiting there for Jane.  I kept an eye on her, which was probably not the safest thing to do when you have two blokes pummelling bludgers at your head, but it was about fifteen minutes before she glanced up at me.  I wave and smile at her when she did look up, and to my delight she waved back, although the moment was lost when I realised Fred had just smashed a bludger in my direction.  Acting quickly, I tucked my legs under the broom firmly and rolled, hanging upside-down in the air for a brief moment as the bludger zoomed past before straightening up again.  Even I was impressed that I’d managed to pull off such a perfectly timed sloth grip roll.  I felt incredibly confident as I waved and smiled at Lucy again, before turning my focus back to my attackers.

Lucy kept her head buried in her book for the rest of the practice, which seemed to drag on forever.  When James finally let us go, I noticed Jane jogging towards the stands, so I headed straight to the change rooms, showering as quickly as I could.  Sure enough, as I sat down on one of the benches in the main room to tie my shoelaces, Jane was only just making her way through to the girl’s showers.  I yanked my old Gryffindor jumper over my head and headed back out to the pitch.  Lucy was still sitting up in the stands with her book so I ran up the stairs eagerly, taking them two at a time.  I was still a few steps below her row when Lucy glanced up, looking slightly surprised at my presence.

“Hey there Quidditch fan.  Having fun all by yourself?” I joked as I made my way down the row to where she was sitting.  Things had gone back to normal between us after our gut-wrenchingly apathetic conversation outside the library, and I was determined to keep things light, although her feeling anything other than friendship for me still seemed like a lost cause.

She held up her book.  “I’m not alone, I had a date with Emeric Switch.  New man in my life,”

“Lucky guy,” I said, meaning it.  I took the book from her and realised it was our Transfiguration textbook from first and second year, not what Lucy was usually seen reading. “Transfiguration huh?  Not your usual choice for leisure reading.” I sit down next to her, as close as I possibly can without looking suspicious or creepy.

“Think requirement rather than relaxation,” She explains.  “I need to get my Transfiguration grade up before O.W.L’s.”

“I take it your meeting with Professor Longbottom was helpful then?” I smile at her, forcing myself to focus on the conversation as we talk about career options.  The problem was that Lucy was looking particularly gorgeous this morning.  She had her cloak on the seat next to her, but the sun had obviously warmed her up enough to remove it.  She was wearing such a simple outfit of jeans and a grey jumper, but jeans always looked amazing on her and the jumper was close fitting enough that the shape of her body underneath was becoming a distraction.  It took all of my self-control to keep my eyes on her face, but even then, her brown eyes are full of expression as she describes dragon reserves and ministry jobs. 

“So, what about you?” She asks after a while.  “How did your meeting with Professor Longbottom go?  Any revelations about your future?”

I sigh, “Nothing life changing.  I mean Professor Longbottom said that grades wise I should be able to keep my options open, provided I make an effort with my O.W.L’s, but I still don’t actually know what I want to do.  I envy you Lucy.”

“Me?  Why?” Lucy looks confused.

“Well you know what you want, and when you know what it is that you want you can just go out there and get it.”

“Trust me, knowing what you want doesn’t necessarily mean you can go out and get it,” Lucy sounds almost annoyed when she says this and I look over at her, intrigued.

“What do you mean?  What do you want that’s so unattainable Miss Bell?” I ask teasingly.  For a moment Lucy looks like she doesn’t know how to answer and I wonder if I’ve somehow stumbled on something she doesn’t want me to know.  But then her face goes back to normal and she answers casually,

“Oh, well you know, my Mum’s a bit overprotective, even if I did want to be a dragon wrangler, she’d probably do everything in her power to stop me.  Anyway, did you at least get some ideas from Professor Longbottom?”  It was obvious that Lucy wasn’t being completely honest with me, and her sudden change of subject was less than subtle, but I didn’t want to push it.

“Uh, yeah sort of,” I answered her question, and at the same moment I noticed Jane near the change rooms, talking to Louis who had come down to the pitch for some reason (my guess would be either boredom or wanting to flirt with Hawthorn).  I smiled, silently thanking my cousin for inadvertently distracting Jane and therefore giving me more time with Lucy.

“They’re so perfect for each other,” I glanced at Lucy and noticed she, too, was watching the laughing couple.  “So anyway, you were saying you got some ‘sort of’ ideas?”  She turned back to look at me. 

“Well just the one really,” I said, before launching in to an explanation of the ministry internships.  I hadn’t meant to say it, but suddenly I found myself suggesting Lucy apply for an internship too. 

“Knowing my luck I’d probably get eaten by something weird in the department of mysteries!”  She laughed.

“I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t send interns down to the Department of Mysteries,” I remembered my parent’s story of their battle in the department of mysteries, and wondered for a moment what it would be like to work down there. “And you can apply for general internships or placements in particular departments,” I continued.  “You could just apply to work in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.”

“That’s actually not such a bad idea.  You’re pretty smart Potter, you know that?” Lucy smiled.

“Yeah, well you might not be saying that after you get stuck with me all summer,” I replied, and almost instantly regretted it.  The statement was for too similar to our conversation the day after Lucy’s birthday party, and I wondered if I was walking into dangerous territory.

“Oh I can think of worse people to be spending my time with,” she says, and gives me a smile that’s almost knocks the breath right out of me.  My palms a sweating and I can’t help but grin stupidly back at her.  There is no doubt in my mind that I am falling for Lucy Bell, hook, line and sinker.  You are a lost cause Albus Potter, my inner voice mocked me, and for once I had to agree with him completely.

The fact that my friendship with Lucy was back on track was a relief, and the fact that I still spotted the charm bracelet I gave her dangling from her wrist every now and then gave me hope that I hadn’t completely ruined my chances with her by coming on too strong.  With the ever-increasing approach of our O.W.L exams, studying became a huge priority and much to my delight, Lucy seemed quite determined to make sure I passed with flying colours.  I had thought that with the pressure of Rose’s revision timetable that I might find myself sacrificing my one-on-one library time with Lucy; yet to my delight we still spend many an evening pouring over books about magical creatures.

It was one such evening when my hope about Lucy’s feelings for me began to re-ignite.  It was pouring with rain and we were tucked away in our regular corner of the library, reviewing the defining features of Porlocks, because Lucy had convinced herself that she’d forgotten everything there was to know about the horse guardians. 

“Lucy, your ‘I’ve forgotten everything’ level of knowledge still beats my ‘ready for exams’ level,” I joke as she drops a pile of dusty books on the desk before dropping in the chair next to me.  I’m torn for a moment, because she usually sits opposite me and I’ve always liked the way I can just stare at her across the table, but then again her closer proximity has its benefits.

“I know there is a really good diagram in one of these,” She mutters, opening covers and running her fingers down two different index pages at the same time.  It’s so adorable it makes me want to laugh and kiss her at the same time.  “Here!”  She exclaims, flipping to an appropriate page and pushing the book between us.  “This is what I was looking for.”  To my surprise and delight, she scoots her chair closer to mine as we look down at the detailed drawing.

“That hair is incredible,” I mutter, and Lucy absently touches the page, her delicate fingers tracing the ink lines that make up the long, shaggy hair of the creature.  “Hey, don’t you reckon he looks a bit like Myron Wagtail?”

“The lead singer of the Weird Sisters?” She looks up at me in surprise and I pause for a moment, surprised at how close her face is to mine. 

“Yeah,” I say.  “You know, like he was back in the nineties when our parents were into them.”

“You’re so…” She says, shaking her head and smiling as she looks back down at the picture.  “Actually, you’re right.”  Voice incredulous, she ducks her head closer to the picture for a more in-depth inspection.  She sits up jerkily and looks at the picture like she’s not sure what to make of it.  “That’s really bizarre.”

“Maybe Myron’s really a Porlock in disguise?” I suggest and Lucy lets out such a sweet laugh that causes my whole chest to feel like it’s about to explode.

“You’re such a dork,” She says.  “Ok, see this here, the way the arms curves?  I reckon that’s important.” She suddenly interjects, pointing at the arm of the Porlock in the book.

“What do you mean?” I ask, reaching out to push her hand aside since it’s blocking my view of the picture.  The moment our fingers touch though, all thoughts of the magical animal are forgotten.  Instead of just pushing her hand away, my fingers seem to curl themselves around hers of their own accord.  I swear that I hear Lucy’s breath catch and we both look up at each other at the exact same moment.  Our faces are only inches apart, I can smell her hair and count the eyelashes framing her deep brown eyes, and there is a tingling sensation in my hand that seems to be quickly spreading to the rest of my body.

Then, suddenly and without warning, a loud crack of thunder echoes outside, startling us both and causing Lucy to look back down at the picture.

“See how it seems to curve out away from the body at a forty-five degree angle,” she says, although if I’m not mistaken her voice sounds shakier than usual and her cheeks seem a little pink.  “Al?” She asks, glancing up at me over her shoulder.

“Right,” I snap out of my thoughts and look back at the study material.  “Oh yeah, I see that.  Do you think that will really be on the exam though?”

“Extra points for accuracy,” She shrugs, before picking up her quill and making a note of it on her parchment.

“Extra points for accuracy,” I echo, picking up my own quill and following her lead, wondering if she’d felt the spark too.

AN: Sorry this has taken so long, I've been focussed on some other pieces lately, but I am trying with all my might to get this finished.  Thanks to those who have stuck with me and are stil reading and reviewing, I love your thoughts and encouragement.

I'm working on the next chapter at the moment so here's a little sneak peek...

Perhaps the decision to try and get Rose to listen to Scorpius was a stupid one, but he had just seemed so pathetic the other day when he came up to me in the library that not helping him would have felt like kicking a puppy.  And there was the Lucy factor too – I liked to pretend I was being all noble and open minded, but the truth was that hatching this scheme with Lucy was something I’d jumped at because it meant spending more time with her.

And the ridiculous idea I’d come up with that morning to try and get her away from the crowd of people at the party for some ‘quality time’ after we’d reunited the two lovebirds was definitely not the act of a gentleman.  The worst thing was, I could feel myself becoming this crazy, creepy stalker bloke, but I couldn’t seem to stop it.  I’d say to myself Right, self-control.  You’re not going to talk to Lucy today unless she speaks to you first, and then I’d walk into the common room, see her sitting on a sofa reading and two seconds later I’d be next to her asking about a Potions assignment or something else equally flimsy.

You are a poor excuse for a Gryffindor, Albus Potter.  The voice in my head mocked me, and I found myself wondering for a moment if I should have just given in to the sorting hat and let it put me in Slytherin.  I was being sneaky and underhanded enough to justify it.

Chapter 17: Fact of Nature #17: The best laid plans can turn to dung if you’re a moronic git.
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Playing in a Quidditch Cup final is never a relaxing, calming experience.  Doing it while worrying about the plan you’ve hatched with the girl you secretly fancy, to get your favourite cousin and her Slytherin boyfriend – whom you’re still not entirely sold on – back together and also trying to plan a sneaky secret moment with aforementioned object of your fancies is enough to make me want to throw up all over the pitch.

Perhaps the decision to try and get Rose to listen to Scorpius was a stupid one, but he had just seemed so pathetic the other day when he came up to me in the library that not helping him would have felt like kicking a puppy.  And there was the Lucy factor too – I liked to pretend I was being all noble and open minded, but the truth was that hatching this scheme with Lucy was something I’d jumped at because it meant spending more time with her.  And maybe, just maybe, she would see me as kind, sensitive and caring; In my own twisted logic, I believe that getting Rose and Scorpius back together would cancel out all memories of our fight just before her birthday.

And the ridiculous idea I’d come up with that morning to try and get her away from the crowd of people at the party for some ‘quality time’ after we’d reunited the two lovebirds?  Well that was definitely not the act of a gentleman.  The worst thing was, I could feel myself becoming this crazy, creepy stalker bloke, but I couldn’t seem to stop it.  I’d say to myself Right, self-control.  You’re not going to talk to Lucy today unless she speaks to you first, and then I’d walk into the common room, see her sitting on a sofa reading and two seconds later I’d be next to her asking about a Potions assignment or something else equally flimsy.

You are a poor excuse for a Gryffindor, Albus Potter.  The voice in my head mocked me, and I found myself wondering for a moment if I should have just given in to the sorting hat and let it put me in Slytherin.  I was being sneaky and underhanded enough to justify it.

Just then, my thoughts were broken by a flash of gold way over the other side of the pitch.  Cursing myself for being so far away, I turned my broom handle and began racing towards the snitch as quickly as I could.  It wasn’t fast enough though, and I could see Amanda Jones, the Hufflepuff seeker, ahead of me, her long blonde plait streaming behind her as she drew closer to the tiny golden ball.  She’s going to catch the snitch. Damn it! Damn it!  Damn it!

Just as I was about to give up all hope of catching the snitch and winning the match, not to mention the success of any other plans I’d laid out, an almighty ‘crack’ resonated around the pitch.  In my peripheral vision I saw Fred, beater’s bat raised as a bludger barrelled away from him towards the gap of empty sky between Amanda and the snitch.  She obviously saw the bludger too and realised where it was heading, because in an act of incredibly agile reflexes, Amanda swerved to her left to avoid being hit.  The bludger rocketed past her, missing her head by mere inches, and whilst she was safe and unharmed, the sudden change in direction had unbalanced her.  By the time she’d resumed course, I’d overtaken her and caught the surprisingly stationary snitch in my right hand with an unbelievable amount of ease.

It’s odd the way the mind works.  In that moment I should have felt elation, joy, excitement, a sense of victory and pride.  I should have been delighted that I had secured the success of my plans for the afternoon.  However, the first emotion that rippled through me was guilt; I caught sight of the disappointed look on Amanda Jones’ face and my heart dropped.  It was stupid, after all I knew I’d be feeling a lot worse if she’d caught the snitch before me, and yet I still felt bad for her.

Before I could dwell on this too much, the rest of the team appeared, engulfing me in a massive, mid-air, group hug, the sounds of the screaming Gryffindor fans filling my ears.  All other emotions disappeared as the euphoria of success overtook me, and I found myself zooming around the pitch in a victory lap, the golden snitch held tightly in my palm as I thrust my fist in the air. 

Fred led the pack, laughing and winking at people as he pointed finger-pistols in their direction; Jane, Lizzy and Corrine were in front of me, giggling and waving to the crowd.  James was next to Fred, and I was glad to see him looking so happy for once.  As we approached the area of the stands that was dominated by red and gold, I found myself scanning the crowd for familiar faces.  I spotted Rose first, a small smile on her face which gave me hope, and then my eyes fell on that familiar face.  Lucy grinned at me and gave me a small thumbs-up when our eyes met, and I winked at her in response.  Sweet Merlin, did I just wink at her?  How cheesy!  I flew past too quickly to see Lucy’s reaction, but since she was probably trying not to laugh at me, I was relieved.

After a few laps of the pitch and handshakes with the Hufflepuff team, we made our way to the teacher’s stand where Professor Sprout handed James the gleaming Quidditch Cup.  Photos were taken and shiny gold winner’s badges were handed out before we were finally allowed to head down to the change rooms.  Everyone was in high spirits as we all showered and dressed in fresh clothes, Fred and Will constantly bursting into some sort of Gryffindor victory song they seemed to be making up as they went.

When we climbed through the portrait hole, the cheer that greeted us was so loud I actually heard the Fat Lady groan in protest.  I automatically began scanning the room for a glimpse of Lucy, but there were too many people crowding around us, all wanting to congratulate the champions and ask us questions about the match.

“Albus, you were just incredible out there,” A blonde-haired sixth year gushed, grabbing on to my arm a little too tightly. 

“Really fantastic,” Her red-haired friend nodded enthusiastically.

“Uh…thanks,” I reply.  “But it was a team effort.”

“Oh but you were the one who caught the snitch,” The red-head beamed.  Oh brother, I thought, fighting the urge to roll my eyes.  I managed to extricate myself from the two sixth years, only to be cornered by bloody Mary Temple.

“Albus, congratulations!” She exclaimed, throwing her arms around my neck.

“Thanks, Mary,” I said, patting her awkwardly on the back.

“You know, I feel kind of bad about the way things ended between us,” She said, fluttering her eyelashes at me.  Seriously?  Girls actually do that?  “Maybe we could hang out again sometime soon?”

“Oh…well…” I stammered, trying to think of a tactful way to remind her that I was the one who ended things so it was less than likely that I would want to take up with her again.  Fortunately, I was saved from answering when I spotted Will.  “Uh, excuse me will you?” I said, slipping between a couple of third-years before she could respond.

“You alright, mate?” Will asked when I reached him.  “You look like you’ve just escaped a stampede of angry hippogriffs.”

“Oh believe me, I think I’d rather face the hippogriffs,” I said.  “You haven’t seen Lucy, have you?”

“Yeah, she’s right there,” Will said, nodding across the room where Lucy was standing next to Jane.  I smiled, glad to have finally found her in the crowd, but my relief was suddenly replaced with another emotion as I saw Fred walk up to them and wrap his arms around Lucy.

“Excuse me,” I muttered darkly, pushing through the crowd.  Jealousy tugged at my heart as I saw Fred step back from Lucy and throw an arm over her shoulders.  As I drew near, I could hear his boasting; normally it would make me laugh, but I was so annoyed with him that I just wanted to roll my eyes again.

“…just saved the entire match and Quidditch cup for Gryffindor, no problems whatsoever,” He was saying when I finally reached them.

“And of course I had nothing to do with it,” I tried to keep my voice light and joking, but I couldn’t stop myself from glaring at Fred; he raised a confused eyebrow at me.

“Well I think you guys made a good team,” Lucy’s voice cut through the tension and I turned to look at her, all of my anger dissolving into nothing when I met her eyes.

“Thank you Bell,” I said, and before I could think too much about it and change my mind, I stepped forward and hugged her.  I felt Lucy’s arms wrap tightly around my chest as her chin rested on my shoulder.  I felt the familiar swooping sensation in my stomach as the scent of her hair tempted me.  “Are we all good to go?” I whispered, hoping nobody else noticed.

“Ready when you are,” She whispered back, her breath tickling the sensitive skin beneath my ear.

“Ok, ten minutes then?” I murmured.

“Ten minutes,” Her voice was barely audible, and then she pulled back out of my arms and I felt suddenly cold.

“And you say I flirt with all the girls mate,” Fred teased, and I clenched my teeth together so I wouldn’t snap at him.  He didn’t know how I felt after all, he didn’t realise what he was doing to me when he flirted with Lucy.

“I’m going to get a drink,” Lucy said and before any of us could respond, she disappeared back into the crowd.

“That sounds like an excellent idea, I’m rather thirsty myself,” I said and moved towards the table where the drinks where the drinks were usually kept at Gryffindor parties.  There was a crate of butterbeer and I quickly slipped two into my pockets, thanking Auntie Hermione silently for teaching Mum how to cast undetectable extension charms.  Moving quickly and refusing to stop and talk, I made my way to the portrait hole and climbed out to the empty corridor beyond. 

Breathing a sigh of relief to be free of the crowd so easily, I hurried down a few corridors to the place where Scorpius and I had agreed to meet.  When I opened the door to the disused classroom, the blonde-haired Slytherin was already waiting.  He jumped up from where he was leaning on the teacher’s desk when I entered, looking as skittish as a scared puffeskein.

Scorpius Malfoy and I had never been friends, although to be honest we hadn’t exactly been enemies either.  I knew that Uncle Ron didn’t like Mr. Malfoy very much, but when I asked Mum about it, she told me that Mr. Malfoy had always picked on Uncle Ron at school and Uncle Ron had never quite been able to get past that.  I accepted this until the end of third year when, on platform 9¾, I overheard Uncle Ron mumble something rude about Mr. Malfoy under his breath.  Auntie Hermione noticed that Rose and I were nearby so she elbowed Uncle Ron in the ribs and gave him a cross look.  That was enough to inflame my curiosity so I asked Dad about it.

“Mr. Malfoy’s was involved in the war,” He had explained.  “His father was a death eater and his Aunt was one of Voldemort’s most devoted followers.  Mr. Malfoy joined the Death Eaters while we were still at school and played a big part in several significant events during the war.”

“Mr. Malfoy was a Death Eater?” I had gasped.  “But I thought they were all sent to Azkaban.”

“Draco Malfoy was…is…a very complicated person,” Dad had continued.  “There was a time when I hated him, and believed he deserved everything he got.”

“What changed?”

“I saw a lot during the war and the years leading up to it that nobody else saw,” Dad had looked thoughtful for a moment.  I knew some of his stories about the war but I also knew there was a lot he hadn’t told me or my siblings.  To this day, I think the only person he’s told everything to is Mum.  “I saw a side to Mr. Malfoy that made me realise that to an extent he didn’t have a lot of choice when it came to his association with Voldemort.  He still did a lot of things that he shouldn’t have, but I realised he was not inherently evil.  I testified as much after the war and fought very hard to keep Mr. Malfoy out of prison in the hope that he would take the second chance and turn his life around.  I believe he has, and he is a functioning and contributing member of magical society.  I don’t have any desire to be his friend, but I accept that he has worked very hard to become a better person.”

Despite knowing this, I’d never felt the need to become friends with Scorpius.  We were in different houses, had different friends and with the exception of Quidditch, we’d never had any cause for interaction until that fateful afternoon when Lucy and I had discovered him snogging Rose in the secret passageway.  I honestly didn’t even care that much that Rose was involved with Scorpius.  Sure, I’d reacted badly initially, but that was more of an ingrained, family-prejudice-towards-Slytherins response.  Childish and stupid, I know. Then again, I’ve never been known for my level head in stressful situations; look what I did to McMillan.

“Is she coming?” Scorpius asked nervously, looking over my shoulder to the open door.

“They’ll be here in a minute,” I replied.  “You alright?”  He looked a little green and I hoped he wasn’t going to throw up.  He really did look pathetic, just like he did when he’d first approached me in the library.  I’m still not sure why he chose me to come to for help, maybe because I’d known about them for weeks and hadn’t snitched or perhaps it was because Rose had mentioned to him how close we were so he thought she’d listen to me. 

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Scorpius mumbled, sounding anything but.  “I’m just a bit…I mean what if she doesn’t…you know?”

“Yeah, I know,” I shrugged, and I honestly did.  This was the reason I’d agreed to help him; because when he’d stood there in the aisle between the Transfiguration and Charms sections of the library, asking me if I’d spoken to Rose and if she was ok, I’d recognised the look in his eyes.  In fact I didn’t just recognise the emotion on his face, I remembered all too keenly how it felt, what it was like to be mad about a girl and have her avoid you, refuse to talk to you or even look at you. 

Nothing brings people together like heartbreak.

“I’ll wait for them out in the corridor,” I said and Scorpius just nodded in reply.  I closed the door behind me and leaned against the wall, feeling almost as nervous as Scorpius looked.  If this went badly, I was going to spend the rest of the evening consoling Rose, Scorpius or both.  However, if it went well and they reconciled, I might just be able to convince Lucy to take a stroll up to the Owlery.  The lie we’d decided Lucy should give Rose as an excuse to get out of the common room is what had inspired me, and it wasn’t a bad idea even if I do say so myself.  Being around animals always put Lucy in a good mood and as long as Kenrick didn’t flirt with her too much…

I didn’t get to finish that thought because Rose and Lucy appeared around the corner at that precise moment.  Rose stopped and stared at me before turning to Lucy in confusion.

“Al, what are you doing here?” She said.

“Rosie, we want to talk to you about something,” I gently took her arm with one hand and pushed the classroom door open with the other.

“What do you…?” She said, but the presence of Scorpius rendered her temporarily mute.

If I can say one thing about Scorpius Malfoy, it’s that he is a braver man than I am.  The somewhat rushed yet completely genuine and romantic speech he gave was amazingly courageous.  As Rose fell into his arms, I couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of how he had just told her how he felt.  I reached out and touched Lucy’s shoulder, wondering how she would react if I just blurted out my feelings.

“I fancy you Lucy, I fantasise about kissing you and touching you and…”  Yeah, that would go down well!

“I think this is our cue to leave,” is what I actually whispered into her ear.  With one last glance at the now snogging couple, she smiled and followed me out into the corridor.  We started to walk back in the direction of the common room and I knew that if I didn’t say something quickly, I lose my chance altogether.  My palms were starting to sweat and my mouth felt dry, but as we approached a narrow stairwell, I mustered my courage and spoke.

“Hey, I don’t really feel like going back in to the party and facing the crowds right now.  Would you fancy a stroll up to the Owlery after all?”  I stopped and gestured in the direction of the stairs, hoping I didn’t look or sound too eager.

“Sure,” she replied easily and I was so surprised by how easy it was that I spent most of the climb to the Owlery lost in my own thoughts.  I wondered if maybe I should take my chance and just tell Lucy how I felt.  After all, it had worked for Scorpius.

Yeah but look what happened when you nearly kissed her on her birthday, the cynical voice in my head returned. 

I don’t necessarily know that’s why she was acting weird the next day, I argued back with myself.  She might have been embarrassed that there were lots of people watching or maybe her head still hurt…

It was a common argument that had been going on in my head for weeks now.  Every time I convinced myself to work up the nerve to ask Lucy out or kiss her or tell her how I felt, my sense of self-doubt would creep back in and I would chicken out.

Some Gryffindor, I mocked myself as we reached the Owlery.  About as brave as a first year alone in the Forbidden Forest at midnight.

“Hey there little buddy,” Lucy crooned to her owl as he dived down to perch on her shoulder.  “You miss me?”  Kenrick made a slower descent and maybe I was imagining things, but I thought he looked kind of jealous of the younger bird.  I would have laughed if I hadn’t been afraid of Lucy asking me what was so funny.

“Here you go boys, I have a treat for you,” Lucy said, reaching into her pocket for a box of owl nuts.

“Do you always carrying them around with you?”  I laughed as Lucy approached me to feed some of the treats to Kenrick.  She was standing quite close and when she looked up and smiled at me, my heart began doing a sort of erratic tap dance.

Eventually, we found ourselves on the floor drinking the butterbeer I’d brought with me, and the topic soon turned to love, and the way in which most of our friends seemed to be getting involved with someone or other.  I may be guilty of nudging the conversation in that particular direction, just to see how Lucy would react. 

I get it, I get it, I’m a coward and I don’t deserve to be in Gryffindor, let’s move past the obvious, shall we?

After a bit of banter about where these sudden amorous feelings had come from, I decided to see how far I could take the conversation.

“I guess I can see the appeal,” I said.

“Sorry?” Lucy said.  She was watching the owls across the room and sounded more confused than anything else.

“Falling in love,” I clarified, wondering if I should keep going.  Come on Al, you big chicken…say it!  “I can see why people make such a big deal out of it.  Falling for someone can be pretty incredible.”

There!  Now that wasn’t so hard was it?

“I guess so,” Lucy replied and, feeling suddenly liberated by my ability to actually broach the subject, I kept going.

“Like the way that one person can make your whole day better just by smiling at you, and how when you touch them it feels like there’s a spark running between you,” I smiled to myself as a montage of those sort of moments with Lucy ran through my brain like some sort of speeding slide show.  I forced myself not to look at Lucy though, just in case my expression betrayed me.

“Yeah, that’s a pretty incredible feeling,” Lucy replied and a tingly sort of warmth spread through me.  She knew how I felt, she understood and maybe, just maybe she felt that way about me.  All I had to do was turn to her and say “Lucy I feel that way about –”

“Though it doesn’t always work out that way.  Love has the potential to be the worst thing in the world.” Lucy’s words felt like a bucket of icy water being dumped on my head and it washed away all the nice warm feelings I’d just been experiencing.  I turned my head to look at her.

“That’s a bit harsh,” I managed to say, hoping my eagerness to change her mind wasn’t too obvious in my voice.

“Try falling in love with someone who doesn’t love you back,” she replied and my heart seemed to stop working for a moment.  I opened my mouth to speak but I couldn’t think of the right words.  It didn’t matter though, because Lucy chose that moment to elaborate.

“You convince yourself that you’re happy just being friends with them and any time you get to spend with them is enough, but then every time you realise they don’t love you back it’s like a knife twisting in your heart.  Sometimes love just doesn’t seem worth it.”  Her voice was shaking a bit by the time she stopped talking and I was pretty sure I’d forgotten altogether how to breathe.

What was she saying?  Was she talking about McMillan?  No, that didn’t make any sense, I was pretty sure she hated that git as much as I did – well almost as much as I did.  Maybe some boy she fancied before this year?  Will had admitted to me that he’d kissed her in third year, and despite the fact that I’d wanted to hex the lights out of him, I knew it would be ridiculous considering that in third year I barely even knew Lucy existed.  This did however make me realise that there had probably been other boys in Lucy’s life and maybe one of them had really hurt her.

Or what if she’s not talking about her past?

The idea hit me like a ton of bricks and my whole body seemed to tense up and fall apart all at the same moment.  That had to be it: the sad look on her face, the shaking in her voice, the fact that she got all funny after the whole kissing incident.  Lucy was in love with some guy and he didn’t feel the same way.

The horror that had gripped me at this realisation suddenly turned to anger; how could any guy not be crazy about Lucy?  If she was in love with me it would be the best thing to ever happen to me, and I couldn’t bear the thought of breaking such a tender and kind heart as hers.  As soon as I knew who this guy was, he was getting the same fate as McMillan.  Actually, he was getting worse; much worse.

“Who is he?” I asked, trying not to sound too mad.

“Who is who?” she replied, continuing to stare at the opposite wall.

“The guy who broke your heart,” the words nearly killed me to say aloud, but I had to ask them, I had to know.

“Nothing…I mean no-one,” her words came out in an awkward sort of rush and in any other situation I would have found it completely adorable.  She still wouldn’t look at me but I noticed that her jaw had tensed up like she was trying to stop her lips from trembling the way Lily’s always did before she started crying about something.  I wanted to do something or say something to make her feel better.  It had only been minutes ago that she was giggling about love potions and fizzing whizzbees, and now I’d managed to pretty much reduce her to tears.  I took a breath and offered her the only thing I had to give – honesty.

“If it helps, I know how you feel,” One of her hands was resting on her propped up knee, so I reached out and wrapped my own around it, hoping she would take comfort in the action.  She obviously didn’t because next thing I knew she was on her feet, pulling her hand out of my grip. 

“We should probably get back to the party,” She said, but there was no denying the waver in her voice or the way her bottom lip quivered.  I jumped to my feet and reached out for her hand again, planning to pull her into a comforting hug.

“Lucy, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to upset you,” I said quietly.  As my fingers reached hers, Lucy pulled back from me, shoving her hands in the pockets of her jeans.  Rejection hit me like a bludger to the chest and it took all my self-control not to let the hurt show on my face.

“It’s fine.  Really…it’s fine,” She said, her voice nothing more than a whisper and her eyes glistening with what I thought might be tears.  And then she was gone, running out of the Owlery before I could stop her and leaving me feeling like a complete and utter git. 

“Damn it,” I muttered to myself banging my hand hard against the stone wall.  I couldn’t believe how stupid I’d been.  How could I have stuffed this up so badly?

I stared at the empty doorway, trying to ignore the nearly unbearable pain shooting from my hand and up my arm.  All I wanted was to be with Lucy, to make her laugh and smile and maybe get the occasional snog in.  Was that so much to ask? 

Apparently, it was.

AN: I am so close to the end, I only have another 3 or 4 chapters to write and then this story is done!  Unfortunately, those last few chapters are always the hardest to write, but I'm trying so hard for you guys.  I hope you liked this chapter, I'd love to hear your thoughts.  There's some Jane/Louis cuteness planned for the next chapter, so that's something to look forward to :)  And here's a little sneak peek for you:

In the midst of the tiring yet somewhat boring world of O.W.L preparations, the most surprising thing of all happened: Louis grew a bloody spine!

“I’m going to do it,” He announced to our dormitory at large one evening as we were all getting ready to turn in.  I glanced up at him and then turned back to buttoning up my pyjama top.  Justin, who was in the bathroom brushing his teeth, barely even acknowledged the declaration.  Will was the one to take the bait, although he sounded only vaguely interested when he asked,

“What’s that then?”

“I’m going to tell Jane that I fancy her,” Louis beamed like he’d just won a prize.  Will and I shared a glance and both rolled our eyes. 

“Is that so?” Will asked, sounding amused.

“I’ve had enough of this dithering around, and I can’t focus on my revision either,” Louis continued.  “So tomorrow, first chance I get, I’m going to ask her out.  If she says yes, brilliant.  If she says no, well, I’ll just have to deal with it, won’t I?  At least I’ll know where I stand.”