You are viewing a story from harrypotterfanfiction.com


Survival Instinct by jailbird

Format: Novella
Chapters: 30
Word Count: 109,038
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Mild violence, Scenes of a mild sexual nature, Substance abuse, Spoilers

Genres: Humor, Mystery, Romance
Characters: Harry, Albus, James (II), Rose, Scorpius, Teddy, OC
Pairings: James/OC, Harry/Ginny, OC/OC, Other Pairing

First Published: 02/03/2014
Last Chapter: 12/01/2016
Last Updated: 12/01/2016

Summary:


I didn't have one.

"Did I just speak to Dominique Weasley in Dothraki?"
  Neither did Fitz.

Banner by aconite@TDA


Chapter 1: How to sign your own death warrant (in style)
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]


  CI by Ande@TDA





A train? I mean, come on, really?

The least they could do was attempt to add a little pizzazz; make it fly or sing Christmas carols or… anything. It was supposed to be a school for magic for Merlin’s sake. In actuality it was just a big hunk of shiny black metal with the words ‘Hogwarts Express’ painted across it. I stared gloomily at it and wondered if it was too late to take a club to my father’s head in the hope that he would come back to his senses.

On analysis of the situation, I decided that the most feasible option would be to turn to my last resort; emotional blackmail.

“I’m going to be a reject, Charles,” I said with a dramatic sigh. I even went so far as to sit heavily on that God-awful trunk that was mandatory for some reason. My father rolled his eyes.

“It isn’t going to work, Marley.”

“But it could mentally scar me for life,” I said with wide eyes. “For life, Charles. I don’t think you quite understand the gravity of the situation.”

“I think I understand perfectly,” Charles smirked.

“Good!” I exclaimed. “Then we can put an end to this little experiment of yours. I’ll write Madame Bordeaux and tell her I’ll be attending-“

“What I understand-” Charles cut me off. “- is that you want to be near that delinquent boyfriend of yours and I will have none of that.”

Just to clarify, Charles thought every boy that I was friends with was a ‘delinquent’.

Besides, my boyfriend Henri was a perfectly respectable young man who was on his way to having a promising career in wandlore.

I also knew for a fact that this whole thing had absolutely nothing to do with Henri. It was Charles’ work that brought him to England and for some unfathomable reason, he insisted I tag along and go to his beloved alma mater (that’s right, you guessed it); Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Let’s be honest for a moment here; what the hell kind of name is Hogwarts anyway? It sounds like some sort of disease and from the stories I’d heard from Charles (a chamber in the lavatories!) I would probably catch one from being holed up there for so long.

“I still don’t understand why I have to go here,” I whined. “Beauxbatons would have worked just fine. At least I know people there.”

Charles sighed and massaged his temples. The poor man looked worse for wear ever since we’d gotten to London. He spent more than half the day at the Ministry of Magic working on something ‘that was better left undiscussed’ (his words, not mine). I knew it had to be something important if he was willing to uproot his family (read: me and our pet gerbil Latifah) and move to a completely different country.

You see, Charles was a Hit Wizard and had retired to a desk job after he had been promoted to head the department in France. Coming here and going back to doing field work couldn’t have been an easy decision to make.

Not that that was going to keep me from guilt-tripping his arse from here to Timbuktu and back.

“But Charles-“ I started to whine again.

“Marley, I know some very dangerous spells,” he warned. I, being the wonderful daughter that I am, gasped loudly and held my hand to my heart.

“Are you threatening me, Father?” I asked loudly with wide eyes. Several people near us edged away.

“Oh, what have I even done to anger you so?” I wiped a fake tear from my cheek this time.

Charles was beginning to get flustered. His face was turning red and he was tripping over his own words in an attempt to explain himself to a woman whose hand was twitching towards her pocket as she gave him the stink eye.

“Okay, that’s enough out of you,” he hissed, dragging my trunk and me away from the woman (who was beginning to get crazy eyes). We stopped near a door and I looked forlornly at the train.

“It’ll be fine, Marley,” Charles said after a moment of silence.

“You said that after that time I accidently set Uncle Theodore’s hair on fire.”

“And I was right, wasn’t I?”

“He doesn’t speak to me anymore.”

Charles sighed and we stood there; me plotting my escape and Charles probably thinking about his top secret job.

“Well, you should probably get going. You don’t want to miss it.”

“Don’t I?” I said sardonically.

“I’m sorry, kiddo.” And he really did sound sorry. I looked up at my father who had somehow managed to age five years in the span of a month. I knew he was doing his best and I decided to stop being bitchy for just a moment. So, I stepped forward and hugged him.

“I know,” I said with a small smile. “I can take care of myself. Remember that time that girl from the playground stole my favorite hairpin?”

With one last smile I jumped onto the train and heaved my trunk up after me. I was halfway down the corridor when Charles remembered exactly what had happened to the girl on the playground.

“For the love of Merlin, Marley, don’t punch anyone in the face,” he yelled after me.

***

Bonsoir ma chérie!

Comment ça va? We miss you terribly! Do try to convince that gorgeous father of yours to let you come back.

Term started off with Philippe in detention, as always. He tried to transfigure the croissants into frogs again, the poor fool. It wasn’t the same without you. The first night back was positively unbearable. There’s a new Charms teacher who is simply yummy and I had no one to stay up with me all night to talk about it. Nothing much has changed. Henri misses you immensely.

Do write back when you get this and tell me all about the hot boys (or teachers) over there. Tell Charles that I won’t let this keep us apart. Thank Merlin for owl post.

I can’t wait to see you at Christmas.

Lots of love,

Bridgette.

I reread the letter from my best friend over for probably the tenth time. Things hadn’t changed on the Charles front seeing as I was currently sitting alone in a compartment on the annoyingly ordinary train. I had anticipated this, of course; the aloneness I mean. So I’d brought along a book and lots of sweets.

I was sat there with my legs propped up on the seat opposite me, book open on my lap and liquorice wand poking out of my mouth when the compartment door opened. A boy with a mass of curly raven hair was struggling to haul a mangy looking trunk identical to my own into the compartment. His back was to me and the trunk didn’t seem to want to budge.

“C’mon, Jeff. C’mon buddy, just cooperate this one time,” he said to the trunk. I watched curiously as he continued to grunt and sweat in his attempt to move it. Finally, I decided to intervene.

“Do you need some help?”

He froze in mid-haul, his back still to me and said nothing.

“Uh... are you okay?” I asked after a moment. Slowly, the boy turned around. He was kind of adorable with his innocent face. His dark eyes widened when he saw me.

“Y-You’re a girl,” he said in wonder.

“Yes, that would be accurate.”

“A-A female.”

“Yup.”

“Oh.”

...

“I’m Marley,” I said brightly. Might as well make a friend. He stared at me.

“It’s nice to meet you...” I trailed off, trying to prompt him.

“Oh! Right, you want to know my name. Yeah, of course. That’s a bit of a funny story really. My mum completely freaked out when I was born and went a little loony with the naming. She said my big head threw her off. Don’t know why Dad let her do it though, but she’s a bit scary when she has one of her episodes. This one time...”

He trailed off when he noticed me trying to contain my laughter in vain.

“I-I’m sorry... Erm, Fitz. Call me Fitz.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” I managed to choke out without laughing. I then extended my arm and Fitz stared at it as though it was infected by some kind of lethal fungus.

“You shake it, Fitz,” I prompted. Something seemed to click and he took my hand, shaking it whilst looking immensely proud of himself for doing so.

“Now, do you need help with that?” I asked gesturing towards the trunk.

“Who? Jeff? Nah. He just likes to be a pain in my arse. Gives him kicks,” he shrugged, plopping down on the seat opposite me, just leaving his trunk to chill between our compartment and the passage outside.

Somehow it didn’t surprise me that Fitz had named his trunk.

“Liquorice wand, Fitz?” I offered. He picked the red liquorice.

It was the start of a beautiful friendship.

***

If it ever gets around to Charles that I admitted this, I will deny it with a passion, but Hogwarts was an odd kind of beautiful. As I stood there staring at its twinkling windows I could almost see what the fuss was about. The place had a sort of charm.

It was all going great, really, until some big hairy giant came up and asked me my name.

“Uh... Marley,” I said nervously. People passing by were looking at me curiously. I turned to Fitz for an answer.

“You have to get in a boat with the midgets,” he said simply, gesturing to a group of nervous looking children clustered around Hairy.

“But... but I don’t want to get in a boat with the midgets,” I told Fitz. He shrugged.

“It’s not bad really. Just don’t fall in the water. The Giant Squid is particularly nasty at night...oh, that wasn’t the right thing to say was it? Sorry, I meant... erm, its part of the experience, Nesta. It’ll be fun!”

The smile on his face looked painful. I bet he’d fallen in the lake.

Hairy was nodding in agreement with Fitz. I wasn’t buying it.

“Okay, I’ll go if Fitz goes.”

“Oh, Fitz isn’t getting anywhere near the lake,” Fitz said, backing away.

“That’s really too bad, Fitz. I had this huge bag of liquorice wands just waiting to be opened...” I trailed off.

Fitz’s face was twitching like he was having some sort of internal struggle. Then finally he sighed and turned to Hairy.

“What d’ya say, Professor? Give the lady what she wants?”

Hold up; Hairy was a teacher?

Professor Hairy looked like he was doing a deliberation of his own before his shoulders slumped in defeat. Fitz did a mean puppy dog look.

“Fine. But not a word ter Headmaster Hobbs,” he rumbled.

Fitz grinned and nodded, I sighed in relief. This way if I did fall out the stupid boat I could take Fitz down with me.

The first years looked a little worried. Well, more worried than before, as we all walked towards the lake. I realised that people were staring at us. I had been expecting this, seeing as I was new and all. Or maybe they were just staring because Fitz was muttering to himself about the Giant Squid.

There were boats, each with a lantern hovering about it. Finally; some magic.

“So, what’s with this whole sorting thing? The Headmaster said I’d have to be sorted,” I asked Fitz once we were in the boat and rowing towards the castle.

“You’re being sorted in front of the whole school?” Fitz’s eyes were wide as he stared at me. I got the feeling that this happened often.

“Uh... yes, I suppose so.”

“It’s the worst thing ever,” he whispered ominously.

The two first years we were sharing the boat with squeaked in fright. I rolled my eyes.

“Really? Worse than me pushing you in the lake right now?”

Fitz scooted away from me.

“No, but the hat is insane. It put me in Gryffindor so I know for a fact that it cannot be trusted and-“

“Did you say hat, Fitz?”

“-I’m obviously not Gryffin-yeah. The Sorting Hat.”

A Sorting Hat? There was a hat that put people in houses. I repeat; a hat.

“What am I doing here?” I whispered to myself. Obviously Fitz didn’t get that this was rhetorical.

“Well, since you didn’t tell me on the train, I actually have no idea. My theory is you got kicked out of France.”

I wait for him to realise what he’d said.

“Oh!” he was turning red. “Uh.. no. I didn’t mean kicked out so much as asked to leave. Politely..?.”

“Why would I be asked to leave a country, Fitz?”

He mumbled something.

“What was that?”

“Because you’re propagating addiction to delicious confectionaries,” he said grudgingly.

I laughed for the remainder of the ride.

***

I didn’t get to see the castle on first entering it. Fitz and I trailed behind the first years as Professor Hairy let us though some kind of back entrance up flights of stone stairs. The place was huge, obviously. It was a castle after all.

When we reached a landing, Fitz bid me goodbye and walked off before I could even ask him about this hat situation he had told me about. I was taken to some sort of back chamber with the rest of the first years (it was slightly embarrassing). Then, thankfully, the other first years were told to wait and a teacher with turquoise hair (he was actually quite fit to be honest) led me out of the chamber, informing me that I was going to be sorted.

“Is it really a hat?” I asked him.

“Yup,” he grinned.

“This doesn’t sound even remotely legitimate.”

“This is Hogwarts, Miss Belgarde.”

“I thought Fitz was lying.”

“I don’t think honesty is Mister Fitzroy’s problem. Too much of it maybe though…” he trailed off.

“So he’s always like that?” I asked in wonder. The professor ginned at me.

“Yes he even. Even when he isn’t around pretty girls.”

My eyes widened a little. Did he just…

He seemed to realize what he’d said and clapped his hand over his mouth. We stopped; me staring at the floor, him staring at me with his hand still over his mouth. You could’ve heard a pin drop.

“Erm… T-that wasn’t harassment. I swear. Honestly, I wasn’t trying to-“

I shook my head vigorously.

“No. No, it’s fine. A-actually no it’s not. I mean, forget it. Let’s go get me sorted.”

“I didn’t mean it,” he said, shaking his head. “I mean, no. You are very pretty. It’s just- Oh Merlin.”

He was sweating at this point and the tips of his hair were turning a shade of deep purple. He was a metamorphmagus; that explains the hair I guess. He slumped back against the wall and took deep breaths.

“I’m sorry. I’m new at this. It’s only my second year teaching,” he said finally. He didn’t look older than twenty five and I felt for him. I would he just as flustered as he was if I was in his position.

“It’s okay, Professor,” I said, adding the formality to make his stop beating himself up.

“Oh, please, call me Ted-“

He stopped when he saw me slowly shaking my head.

“No? Oh, right. Of course. This way, Miss Belgarde...?” it came out sounding like a question and I nodded to assure him that he was on the right track. He grinned and continued walking through the corridors.

I didn’t dare say anything else, and neither did he. He then came to a halt near a door and opened it, waiting for me to walk though. It was a circular room with only a stool in the centre. On the stool was a hat even mangier looking than my trunk, if that was even possible. I realised that I was to be sorted here, not in front of the whole school with the rest of the first year and I let out a sigh of relief.

“You have me to thank for this, by the way.” I turned to the professor. His hair was fully purple now.

“Headmaster Hobbs was planning on having you sorted with the rest of the firsties. Thought I’d save a poor innocent soul the humiliation,” he said sheepishly. He was rubbing the back of his neck and was still acting a little shifty. The reality of the situation was that he was going to be my professor and this probably wasn’t the best circumstance to be in from an academic point of view.

“Okay, so we’re even then,” I said slowly. He blinked at me for a moment and then he grinned when he realised what I was suggesting.

“Sounds great. This way, Miss Belgarde.”

He led me to the stool and lifted the hat off of it, gesturing for me to sit down. I did, eyeing the scruffy looking hat sceptically.

“Just relax. I promise it doesn’t bite,” he said before placing the hat on my head and taking a step back. I sat there for a good sixty seconds, feeling like an idiot.

“Well, interesting one we have here.”

 I let out a scream and looked around frantically. Professor Purple Hair was laughing in front of me. I would have glared at him if I wasn’t as terrified as I was about this voice in my head.

“Intelligence I see... and kindness. Hmm..”

“It’s in your head,” I whispered to myself. “It isn’t real.”

The voice chuckled.

“Humour as well. Bravery... yes. Now I see it.”

It was at this point I realised that it wasn’t in my head; it was the hat and it was talking to me.

“Is this actually happening?” I asked out loud.

“Yes.”

“I wasn’t talking to you,” I said out loud again. The ‘professor’ (I would ask to see his credentials later. This wasn’t professor-like behaviour) was in stitches.

“Gryffindor,” the hat said out loud. I jumped a little at the sound of its voice. It sounded slightly cunning to be honest. I ripped it off my head and held it with my thumb and forefinger towards the now annoying professor, who was still laughing at me in case you were wondering.

“Right,” he gasped. “Gryffindor. That’s great. I was in Gryffindor.”

“Somehow I don’t find that very comforting,” I said grudgingly as he took the hat from me. I knew my father had been in Ravenclaw and my mother had been a Slytherin. Fitz said he was in Gryffindor and that was enough for me. At least I wouldn’t be all alone.

“Hey, I can give you detention for talking back to me.”

I snorted in response. Something about this professor guy made him approachable. Plus, he was kind of hot. I mean, I would never go there, but I had a feeling we’d get on really well.

“Fair enough. I’m Professor Lupin, by the way,” he said as we walked out into the corridor. The name rang some bells and I looked at him curiously for a moment. This seemed to make him a bit uncomfortable and he cleared his throat.

“Right, this way.”

We continued walking down the corridor as I tried to place the name. I knew I’d heard it somewhere. Maybe his family had some kind of giant business or something and he was really rich.

Finally we came to a door and when we walked through it I stopped and my jaw actually dropped. Maybe it was because I had been expecting another corridor or because it was just that I’d never been in a castle before, but the place massive. There were suits of armour lining the walls and torches lit to illuminate the giant room.

“This would be the Entrance Hall,” Professor Lupin said from behind me. All I could do was stare in wonder. It was much larger than anything I’d ever seen; bigger than anything in Beauxbatons.

“Erm.. Miss Belgarde?”

“Right, sorry. It’s just really beautiful. I haven’t seen anything like it before,” I said. Hogwarts was staring to have a new appeal.

“I know. First year is always the best,” he said. I nodded, still looking around at everything as I followed him. Suddenly, there was cheering that seemed to be coming from behind the giant oak door we were in front of.

“Through there is the Great Hall. That’s where all the meals are held. By the sound of it, the first years are being sorted,” Professor Lupin said. “Ready?”

I took a deep breath and nodded.

He pushed the doors open and the first thing I saw were the floating candles that cast a glow over the whole room. The walls had tall windows next to each other all along their length. Four long tables were placed parallel to each other; one for each house. At the very end of the large hall was what could only be the teachers table. The stool I was previously seated on was in front of it and a terrified looked first year was sitting on it with the Sorting Hat on her head.

There was general chatter throughout the room, but no one took notice of Professor Lupin and I when we entered. He guided me to the table on the far left. Heads started turning when we walked between the tables. I didn’t even have to look for Fitz because the minute he spotted me, he jumped up and began waving like a lunatic yelling, “NESTA! Ness, over here!”

If no one had noticed me come in before, they did now.

“Good luck, Miss Belgarde,” Professor Lupin said, giving me a small smile before leaving me to sit next to Fitz and walking up to the teachers table.

“You’re in Gryffindor,” Fitz said loudly. People around us were already staring at me so this didn’t get us any attention we already didn’t have.

“Yes,” I grinned. “Did you know it would talk to me, Fitz? The hat, I mean.”

“Oh, yeah. It does that.”

“I thought I was going crazy for a mom-“

“Excuse me?” a girl beside me said. When I turned to look at her she was smiling brightly at me. I noticed everyone as far as five seats next to her was looking at me curiously.

“Yes?” I said politely.

“Are you French? My cousin lives there, you know. You have a slight accent,” the girl said.

“Yeah,” I said, smiling. “I am.”

Then I turned back to Fitz to tell him about the hat and the hall. It was all overwhelming and I needed to talk to someone about it. As I started going off about everything, I noticed that Fitz was giving me the look with the big eyes again.

“What?” I asked bluntly. His eyes went from me to the girl next to me. It repeated this action about ten times and I was starting to worry he was having some sort of seizure.

“So,” the girl next to me spoke. “What’s your name?”

“Marley,” I said. This was getting weird. Everyone was staring at me and Fitz was being twitchier than ever, drumming on the table and blinking excessively. On top of that, no one had the shame to even pretend that they weren’t listening in on our conversation.

“I’m Jillian Pennington,” she said, tucking her brown hair behind her ear.

“It’s nice to meet you,” I said. “What year are you in?”

Fitz was doing weird shoulder rolls at this point and I was really beginning to worry about him.

“Seventh,” she smiled.

“Oh! Me too,” I said.

“That’s great,” she said. Then she looked around and lowered her voice, leaning in. “Listen, there’s a back to school party tonight. Invite only. You in?”

A party could be fun, and Jillian seemed nice enough.  I looked at Fitz, eyebrows raised.

“You going?” I asked.

“I think you missed the ‘invites only’ part,” Fitz snorted.

He looked at Jillian with a pointed expression. She just rolled her eyes.

“Can I bring someone?” I asked Jillian finally. She smirked at Fitz and turned to me.

“Sure,” she smiled.

“Great!” I said, turning and grinning at Fitz. “I hope you have something nice to wear.”

Those in earshot gasped. I would have turned to see the look on Jillian’s face if it wouldn’t have ruined the effect. I knew her type and I wasn’t having any of it.

“Badass,” Fitz mouthed as I heard Jillian huff.

I winked back.

***

“Are we certain this is a good idea?” Fitz whispered as he led the way to this Room of Requirement place. Well, we were actually skulking around the castle in the dead of night.

“No,” I whispered back. “But we can’t let Jillian win.”

“I like the way you think, young one,” he said. Then he proceeded to dive around the corner and do a full body roll. He ended up crashing into a suit of armour and lay groaning on the floor. I walked around the corner casually and looked down at him.

“You’re a spaz,” I told him. He opened his mouth to protest, but then seemed to realise that I was right and ended up nodding in agreement. Getting up, he brushed his plaid shirt off and continued down the hallway. I shook my head and jogged after him.

I hadn’t been sure what to wear for this thing. Jillian wasn’t in the dorm when I got there and the other two beds were empty as well. When she had finally showed up, I was already in black jeans and a white sequined top. She was in a dress that looked like it belonged on a street corner. Suffice it to say that I was glad I had not followed her lead.

“We’re here,” Fitz announced dramatically, spreading his hands out and whipping around to face me... and smacking me right in the eyeball.

“Oh,” he said quietly as I groaned in pain. “Uh... Sorry?”

“Why does that sound like a question, Fitz?” I asked, rubbing my face.

“Because I’m socially awkward and generally afraid of confrontation.”

“We’re going to a party,” I reminded him. “It consists only of people and confrontational situations.”

“Oh, I have a tactic for that.”

“What?”

Fitz started doing the Macarena.

“Oh mon Dieu,” I whispered to myself. “Let’s just go.”

It was then that I notice that there was nothing even resembling a door in the entire corridor. Fitz didn’t seem to be bothered by this. He simply began pacing in front of me. I was starting to get a little worried for him (again), when a door started to materialize.

“What the-“

Fitz had already pushed it open and was waiting for me. I hurried to his side and, together, we stepped into a small room.

No, really, it was tiny.

There was one person in it. He was sitting on a stool by a door opposite to the one we’d come in through. He had a pad with a sheet of parchment attached to it in one hand.

“This doesn’t look like a party,” Fitz said finally.

“That’s because it isn’t,” I rolled my eyes, walking up to the poor guy who was playing bouncer for the night.

“Hi,” I said. “I’m Marley.”

He glanced at the list with a bored expressed and then jerked his head to the door. I grabbed Fitz and pulled him with me. We walked right into the middle of what appeared to be a rave.

There was loud pounding music and there were people everywhere.

“Oh, eew. Gross,” Fitz yelled from next to me. There was a couple very close to copulating right there in public against the wall next to him. I grabbed Fitz’s hand and pulled him away from them. No good could come from leaving a boy as strange as him alone in a place like this. I stopped when we were sufficiently far away from to them and surveyed the party, coming to the conclusion that I was possibly the most clothed female in the vicinity.

“This place isn’t sanitary,” Fitz complained, kicking a cup of some glowing liquid away from him.

“Hey,” someone breathed in my ear. I screamed and jumped away, bashing into Fitz. No one heard my scream over the music and Fitz let out of ‘oomf’ sound as the heel of my shoe jammed into his foot.

We stood there, Fitz holding me up by my armpits, and faced a group of three boys. If you can really call them that.

The one in the middle with the sandy looking hair appeared to be the one who’s assaulted my ear because he was smirking at me.

“I can make you scream in other ways too, love,” he was advancing on us.

“Oh, wow,” Fitz muttered sarcastically behind me. I could picture him rolling his eyes.

“I highly doubt that,” I said, pushing myself off of Fitz and moving to stand next to him.

“How about you let me show you?”

This was getting boring. There was something about the guy with his blonde hair and stupid smirk that made me want to run far, far away from him. Call it female intuition if you like, but the guy was giving off bad vibes.

“Fitz?” I said loudly.

“Yes, Nesta?”

“Do you want to go see to that rash of yours?”

“That would be lovely, thanks.”

Together, we turned around to walk away. Who needs bitches when you have a Fitz? The boy may be weird as hell and kind of worrying, but we seemed to always be on the same page. And I’d only met him about seven hours ago.

“Aww, don’t leave yet, love,” Blondie called.

“Is it really worth it, mate? She obviously isn’t even any fun,” someone else said. This made me stop. Yes, I wanted to get the hell away from Blondie and yes, I would be more than happy if he decided to leave me alone, but just because I wasn’t dressed like I wanted money in exchange for sexual favors didn’t make me some sort of prude. Fitz realized I’d stopped and he’d obviously heard too because he started freaking out.

“No, Ness,” he whispered frantically. “Bad idea. Bad, bad idea. Leave it-“

It was too late. I had spun around and stalked around Blondie. I came face to face with the other two buffoons.

One, again, was blonde, and he looked slightly nervous about the expression on my face. The other one had raven hair almost up to his shoulders and hazel eyes that looked bored. He was looking over my head at something with acute disinterest.

“Excuse me, do you even know me?” I asked, glaring at him.

“No. Don’t really care to either,” he didn’t even bother looking at me. He appeared to be surveying the crowd.

“Oh, I’m sorry, are you busy searching for a girl to club over the head and drag away to your cave? We can have this conversation about how you’re a prick later if you like.”

“I believe she insinuated that you’re a troll, mate,” the blonde one next to him said. He seemed to find this humorous. I decided I liked him.

The brunette one was looking at me now with his eyes slightly narrowed. He didn’t say anything and I took it that he wasn’t going to.

“I would remove that stick that has somehow managed to lodge itself up your arse if I were you,” I smirked, turning around to stalk away.

“Hey, Princess,” he called after me. I stopped but didn’t turn around.

“I would watch it if I were you.”

My hand was moving towards my wand. Fitz grabbed my wrist and pulled me away before I could do anything else.

“Fitz, calm down,” I said, when he didn’t stop when we were out of their line of sight. He didn’t listen and just continued dragging me until we were safely in the tiny room with the bouncer.

“Fitz, really. This isn’t necess-“

“But it is, Ness!” he said wildly. “It is because you just basically signed your own death warrant and people were there to see it and oh shit. This is like the time I stole my neighbor’s cat and she totally flipped on me-“

“As much as I’d love to hear that story, you’re going off topic,” I cut him off.

“You don’t know who that is, do you?” he aside with wide eyes.

“I do. He’s an arsehole,” I scoffed.

“Yeah. An arsehole whose father saved the wizarding world.”

“What?”

“Marley,” Fitz said cautiously, like he was contemplating something in his head. “I’m not the most intuitive of people, obviously. I sometimes like the pretend I’m an owl for fun so I’m not exactly acquainted with social etiquette. I also am not the best at reading into things because I usually just think about kneazles when people try to communicate with me-“

“Fitz.”


“I think you just got yourself into a pissing contest with James Potter.”


A/N: I know, I know! The last thing I should be doing right now is starting a new story. I am aware that I only have WIPs and that I don't exactly have a good updating history but this story just won't leave me alone and I literally sat down and wrote like five chapters in one night. So let's just pretend that I don't have two other stories that need my attention for a minute, okay? Okay!

So anyway, what do you think? Who got the Marley-Nesta referance (you'll get a cookie for figuring it out! Is that a bribe to leave a review? What? Psssh no)? Who wants a Fitz? Is Marley's gutsy-ness awesone... or not? :(

I also think I'm supposed to translate anything that isn't in english so:
Bonsoir ma chérie!- Hello my dear!
Comment ça va?- How are you?

Oh mon Dieu- On my God.

I don't own anything you recognise. It all belongs to Jo ^.^

EDIT: I fixed all the annoying spelling/grammar problems (I hope!). They were really annoying me :/


Chapter 2: How to react to public humiliation
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]



I got up nice and early the next morning and had a little crisis about where I was. It probably wasn’t the most ideal way to start the day, but at least I wasn’t sprawled across my bed with my goods threatening to hang out like Jillian was; real lady, that one.

Pushing myself out of bed, I trudged to the bathroom, hoping that no one in the room would be awake when I got out. I had a quick shower and washed my hair out. I had gotten my mother’s red hair according to Charles. He said she’d once attempted to dye it black like his own and had failed miserably and ended up looking like an aging phoenix. I wasn’t sure if that was a complement or not; I could never be sure when Charles talked about my mother.

There was a single towel in the bathroom and I’d somehow forgotten my wand back in the room. The day just didn’t seem to want to go in my favor. So, I dried my hair as best as I could and wrapped the towel tightly around myself, tiptoeing back into the room.

I knew something was wrong the moment I saw that it wasn’t placed on my nightstand. Now, I know misplacing wands is a common thing and I could have just left it in my jeans or something; but Charles was a Hit Wizard and naturally he taught me the ins and outs of basic self defense. This included learning wand safety even before I actually even owned a wand. My wand was always on my nightstand; somewhere reachable.

Maybe it had somehow fallen on the ground. I knelt down, one hand clutching the towel.

“Well, I really didn’t expect my morning to start off this well.”

I almost screamed and jumped to my feet, stumbling back until my calves touched the bed. There, standing next to the bathroom door was James Sirius Potter.

And he was casually twirling my wand in his hand.

“Merde,” I whispered to myself, trying to stop my heart from jumping out of my chest.

“Oh, I love when you talk dirty to me, baby,” he smirked, casually pushing himself off the wall and sauntering towards me. I narrowed my eyes at him. Something felt off about this. Or maybe he just always gave off a weird vibe. Yeah, I’m going for the latter.

“What are you doing here?” I snapped.

“Aww, no more French? It was kinda hot actually,” he said, pouting slightly.

“I will ask you one more time; why the hell are you skulking around the girls’ dorms? Do you pride yourself on being a pervert or something?” I hissed. His eyes left my face and travelled with painful slowness down the length of my body. I felt heat rising in my cheeks.

“Don’t flatter yourself, Princess,” he said finally, eyes snapping back to my face. “Jillian and I were… how do I put this so it won’t hurt your poor sentimentalities? We were having a little adult sleepover.”

“Charming,” I deadpanned.

He smirked once more as he stepped around me and sat down on my bed, making himself right at home. Great. Now I’d have to burn the sheets.

“Please get off my bed before you infect it with whatever disease you gave poor Jillian over there.”

James looked at me with a disappointed expression and tutted.

“So much hate,” he sighed dramatically, gesturing in my general direction.

“So much ugly,” I copied his actions.

“I happen to be Witch Weekly’s Most Eligible Bachelor.”

“That’s a euphemism, Potter; for son of most famous father.”

“I guarantee you that your lovely roommate will say otherwise,” he smirked.

“It was dark. I don’t blame her for the indiscretion,” I smirked back. James raised an eyebrow at me as he stood up, not breaking eye contact. If I stepped back it would mean I had admitted defeat, which I never would; not to this egotistical jerk anyway. Instead, I glared up at him and his stupid smirk.

I only began to doubt whether I’d put myself in a smart situation when he started to lean down. His hair was almost down till his shoulders and it came dangerously close to touching my cheek.

“The sun isn’t fully up yet, Princess. What d’ya say?” his breath tickled my face and all I could do was stand there for a moment and try to process the situation.

What and/or who was this boy and how did he come to have no boundaries?

Unfortunately for me, James Potter seemed to be done with the conversation before I could think of a witty insult. I felt my wand slide into my hand and he had turned away before I could look back up at him.

“I think you should come to breakfast like that; spread the love you’ve so kindly shown me,” he smirked at the door, before walking out and closing it softly. I just stood there and wondered what the hell type of school I was in and if there was a quick way to get out.

Jillian seemed to have awoken at the sound of the door closing and rolled over, groaning from what could only be a massive hangover (I mean, she did sleep with the arsehole that had just completely molested my personal space; must’ve taken a lot of alcohol to endure that). She raised her hand above her head to stretch, revealing her dishevelled dress and a few other things I could’ve gone a lifetime without seeing.

“Eew,” she groaned when she saw me standing there in my towel. “Put some clothes on.”

And then she started snoring.

***

“... and then he was right there. Just standing there as though he did that every other day,” I told Fitz for the billionth time that day. We were at lunch and I had managed to go the whole morning without running into James Potter.

Fitz wasn’t listening to me. He was engrossed in The Daily Prophet. He said he liked to read it during lunch because the smell of bacon didn’t go well with reading the news in the morning. And Fitz had to have his bacon.

I haven’t entirely ruled out notifying St.Mungo’s about the boy.

“Fitz,” I said, trying to get his attention. “FITZ!”

“What?! I didn’t do it!” he said, jumping up from his seat looking like a deer caught in headlights. Slowly, he surveyed the scene and realised there was nothing to be alarmed about. He sat back down, completely ignoring the looks everyone was giving him. Honestly, I’d know the boy a day and I was no longer surprised by anything he did. Seeing as these people had known him six whole years, you’d think they’d be used to this by now.

“Okay, like I was saying-“

“Just jump his bones or whatever you want to do, honestly. I don’t want to hear about it. It won’t be that hard anyway. James will sleep with anything even remotely warm blooded... although I did catch him in a shifty situation with a piece of parchment that one time...” Fitz seemed to be on the verge of zoning out again.

“Excuse me, sleep with him? Is that what you took away from all the ranting I’ve been doing?”

“Yeah, he was in your dorm. He does that all the time, Ness. It’s like his play. I know these things; we live together. He probably wants to get in your pants too. Just get it over with already,” he rolled his eyes and went back to his newspaper. I stared in disbelief at the front of the newspaper that was blocking Fitz’s face from view. Then I reached out and seized it angrily from his grasp.

“Did you miss the part where he was bumping uglies with my roommate?” I demanded. Fitz shook his head.

“He thinks Jillian’s weird. Which is true if you think about it. She does smell like venomous tentacula sometimes,” he seemed to be pondering this fact.

“How do you even know that?” I asked, shaking my head in disbelief. “You know what, never mind.”

“Good, because it’s a long story and I don’t think she’ll appreciate that I flushed her tweezers down the toilet if she ever found out.”

I couldn’t think of anything to say to that.

“Anyway,” Fitz continued. “He was probably there to hit on you, because there’s absolutely no way he’d even go near Jillian, let alone boink her.”

I would have made fun of Fitz for saying the word ‘boink’, but there was something that was bothering me about this whole situation all morning. With Fitz’s revelation, all the pieces began falling into place.

“Jillian was wearing clothes this morning,” I said suddenly.

“That is quite commendable,” Fitz nodded. “The fire’s lit, but the cauldron’s definitely empty with that one.”

“And Potter was already in his uniform.”

I looked down the table and saw James sitting with the sandy-haired guy from yesterday (the nice one who didn’t hit on me) and another boy with caramel skin and black hair. James said something and the other two burst out laughing. Then, as though he knew I was watching, he turned and winked at me.

And just like that, I was seething.

I slammed my fork down and pushed myself off my seat, glaring daggers at the stupid git.

“What’re you... Oh, no Ness. This is a bad idea. Don’t-“

I was already stalking towards James, not bothering that people were turning to stare at me. I stopped opposite him, behind the two boys who had been laughing.

“Why, Princess, so nice of you to bless us with your presence,” James said coolly. The other two turned around to look at me.

“What did you take?” I snapped. His eyes shifted from me to his friends and back all in a split second, and I knew I was right. The git had the gall to actually steal something.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he shrugged, taking a bite of chicken and chewing it casually. I took a deep breath to calm myself. Getting detention on the first day wasn’t the most ideal way to begin the year. There was also the fact that the hall had gone deadly quiet. Even the teachers had stopped talking; probably getting ready to start giving out detentions if things got violent.

“Potter,” I leaned forward and whispered. “When I was six, I accidently knocked my own father out with a pestle. Accidently. If I wanted to do something on purpose, believe me when I tell you that it will be excruciatingly painful.”

The black haired friend let out a low whistle and the sandy haired one gulped. James, to my irritation, didn’t even flinch.

“I repeat; I didn’t take anything of yours,” he said calmly. “What really concerns me is that your father allowed you to run around yielding a pestle when you were six.”

“Yes, Charles is a few marbles short. Much like you, actually. He lost some memory from that incident. Couldn’t remember how to get home for a week or two.”

James narrowed his eyes and got up from his seat. It seemed as though the whole hall was holding its breath.

“I don’t respond well to threats, Princess,” he said quietly.

“And I don’t respond well to stupidity, Potter,” I said, my voice holding enough venom to match his own. Someone audibly gasped from one of the tables behind me. Something twitched in James’s face; I could have been wrong but it looked like he was trying not to smile.

Suddenly, I felt my stomach drop. This had been orchestrated; he knew I would confront him and he had been waiting. Sure enough, he reached into the pocket of his robes and pulled out a red envelope. Slowly, tentatively, I took it from him and scrutinised it. It had my name written on it and it had never been opened.

“This isn’t mine,” I rolled my eyes.

“It is now,” James smirked, looking at the letter.

“Were you born this stupid, or did you knock that thick head of yours one too many-“I stopped short when I realised that the envelope was beginning to heat up in my hand.

I would have been more disappointed in the realisation that it was I who was the idiot and not James Potter if I wasn’t so worried about the Howler I now held in my hands. I had wasted too much time already, there was no point in trying to run out of the hall at this point; it would only be worse when the thing began shrieking at me mid-way. I only had time to look at James’s triumphant expression before the envelope burst open and a shrill voice filled the silent hall.

“MY LOVE,” it screamed in my face. “HOW I MISS YOU SO. IT TAKES ALL THE STRENGTH I HAVE NOT TO COME TO YOU. I COUNT THE DAYS UNTIL WE ARE UNITED AGAIN. I DREAM OF YOUR BEAUTIFUL HAIR AND YOUR LAUGH THAT REMINDS ME OF SUMMER.”

My face was so red by this point I would have been worried it would explode if I wasn’t being publically humiliated in front of the entire school as James Potter wheezed laughter five feet away from me. I don’t know how he’d even found the letter from Henri. It had been buried deep in my trunk where no one would accidently stumble upon it (not even me). Don’t get me wrong, I loved Henri and he was great, but the boy didn’t exactly have a way with words. And thanks to James the whole school could now testify to that.

“I MISS YOU EVERYDAY. I YEARN FOR YOUR TOUCH.”

Maybe if I shut my eyes it would go away.

“-I LONG FOR YOUR EMBRACE-“

“No,” I whispered to myself.”Ce n'est pas le cas.“

How the hell does one stop a Howler? I knew what was coming next and trust me when I say the part about dreaming about my hair and summer (whatever that was supposed to mean) was by far the best bit of the letter.

“-AT NIGHTS, ALL I THINK ABOUT-“

“Incendio!”

I heard the letter catch fire and I felt the heat on my face, but I didn’t dare open my eyes. The silence rang in my ears. I knew everyone was looking at me, save for James who I could hear gasping for breath.

 Slowly I opened one eye. The first person I saw was Fitz with his wand in his hand (bless him), standing opposite me. We stared at each other through the silence and James’s guffawing. Somehow Fitz seemed to guess what I was going to do next, because his eyes got wide and he began to vigorously shake his head.

“Ness, DON’T!” he screamed. Then he jumped to tackle me just as I pounced on James. I wasn’t too certain of what happened next. I’m pretty sure I knocked all the food near me onto the floor as I lunged across the table. When my fist came in contact with James’s face I heard Fitz crash into someone behind me. I honestly don’t know how food started flying everywhere though.

“FOOD FIGHT!” James’s blonde friend yelled. I didn’t pay attention. I was too busy sitting on James and hitting every part of him I could reach.

“You- crazy. Stop hitting- STOP!” he yelled over the war cries that were going around the hall as students chucked their lunch at one another. He pushed me off of him, trapping my hands and knees under his own with the signature smirk on him face as he leaned closer to me. I wanted to chop his stupid hair off when it touched my face.

“You’re such a prick,” I yelled in his face. He smirked and tipped a plate on mashed potatoes onto my head.

So I kicked him in his prized family jewels. He grunted and rolled off of me in pain and I took the opportunity to empty a boat of gravy over him.

“ENOUGH!” someone yelled and then there was a resounding blast across the Great Hall. Everyone froze and turned to stare at Headmaster Hobbs. The man had gravy stains down his robes and some peas stuck in his hair. I couldn’t make up my mind whether to laugh or be afraid when he turned his furious gaze on us.

“You, you and you,” he said as he pointed to Fitz, James (who was still writhing on the floor in pain) and me. “With me, now.”

“But I didn’t even do anything!” Fitz protested.

“Magic in the Great Hall is forbidden,” Hobbs looked like he was going to burst an artery.

“But if I hadn’t set the thing on fire, we’d all have known about Nesta’s sex life by now. I’m sure it’s great and all,” he added to me. “-but we really don’t need to know about-“

“DO I LOOK LIKE I CARE, MISTER FITZROY?” Hobbs yelled.

Fitz considered it for a moment.

“Well, no. Not really. But it‘s hardly fair-“

“That’s enough, Fitz,” Professor Lupin had walked right into the scene of the fray. “Let me take them to my office, Headmaster. They are in my house after all.”

Hobbs was still glaring at us. He looked close to blowing stream out of his ears. Finally he sighed and turned his back on us. Professor Lupin quickly went to collect James from the ground and motioned for Fitz and I follow him.

“Did you really have to kick him in the nuts?” Fitz asked, looking at James in pity.

“Yes,” I said matter-of-factly. I was deriving more happiness than I should have from the painful groans James was emitting as Professor Lupin hauled him up the staircase.

No one said anything. To my disdain, James looked like he was recovering from my physical assault. He still looked a little pink in the face though. We reached a classroom that I hadn’t been in that morning and Professor Lupin turned to glare at us when we reached his desk.

“What happened?” he demanded.

We all began speaking at once.

“He stole my letter-“

“-crazy bint kicked me in the-“

“-just reading my paper-“

“-and then put it in a Howler-“

“-not like everyone didn’t see what she did-“

“-completely innocent here-“

“-don’t know how that’s acceptable in this country-“

“-and threw gravy at me-“

“-decided I’d be a nice person and set it on fire-“

“-I didn’t even do anything to him-“

“-because she’s insane-“

“-should be giving me an Order of Merlin-“

“-has some sort of God complex-“

“-I’m so underappreciated like Peeves-“

“SHUT UP!” Professor Lupin screamed. He looked much like Hobbs had in the Great Hall. He took deep breaths to calm himself and then turned to me for an explanation.

“Potter came into my dormitory and stole my letter,” I said calmly.

“James,” Professor Lupin sighed. “Is this true?”

“Well, yes, but-“ James began.

“When I told you how to go in there, I didn’t think you’d use it for things like this,” Professor Lupin all but yelled.

“Excuse me?” I shrieked. “What the hell kind of teacher are you?”

“Miss Belgarde-“

“NO! Don’t you dare. This school is a joke,” I yelled at him. “You are a joke. What kind of teacher tells a student how to get into the girls’ dormitories? Hell, what kind of teacher has violet hair?”

“That’s really more about personal choice and expression of individuality-“

“FITZ!” I screeched to make him shut up.

“Calm yourself, Princess,” James rolled his eyes. “Don’t want to get frown lines, now do you?”

I lunged for him again. I would have beaten the crap out of him too if Professor Lupin hadn’t placed himself between us.

“Detention for a week. All three of you. Report to my office tonight at eight,” he said. “You can go.”

James, with a completely blank expression as always, walked towards the door and Professor Lupin stepped out of my way.

I took the opportunity to stick my leg out and make him crash face first into the cold stone floor.






A/N: Translation time:
Merde- Shit (I know, charming)
Ce n'est pas le cas- This isn't happening.
Also note my French is beyond rusty. Please excuse any errors!

Anyhoo, do leave a reaview! It makes me happy and I love knowing which bits you liked/didn't like. Is anyone really for Fitz at this point? I love him so much and I didnt anticipate it. I feel like he should get his own sit-scom :P


Chapter 3: How to plan revenge
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




“I think people are afraid of me,” I whispered to Fitz in Defense Against the Dark Arts the next morning. The girl sitting in front of us had been edging her way forward as though she expected me to jump out of my seat and attack her with my quill.

“That might have something to do with the fact that you probably caused James Potter’s impotency,” Fitz whispered back.

“Everyone needs to get over that.”

“It was like two days ago, Ness,” Fitz reminded me. That’s right; in less than a week I had somehow managed to bring the entire school to believe that I was some type of ninja assassin.

“But it wasn’t even my-“

“Miss Belgarde, Mister Fitzroy, is there something you’d like to share with the class?” Professor Lupin cut me off. I glared at him. I can’t believe I’d thought he was even remotely okay. His stupid hair was teal today and I wanted to set it on fire.

“No Professor. We were just discussing how fun it was to shine those trophies yesterday,” Fitz said brightly.

“You know, since you gave us detention and all,” I seconded.

“Because James stole Ness’s stuff,” Fitz said matter-of-factly.

“Hmm… come to think of it, how did he learn to get up to the girl’s dormitories?”

“Curious, don’t you think, Ness?” Fitz said loudly, turning to me.

“Definitely,” I nodded in agreement. “Someone with lots of knowledge about advanced magic must have told him.”

“You mean like a Profess-“

“Okay, that’s enough out of you two,” Professor Lupin said quickly. “Everyone, please turn to page thirty six.”

I grinned at Professor Lupin, Fitz forgot what was happening and began humming a Celestina Warbeck song, and James Potter looked like he wanted to rip my head off. I smirked at him, letting him stew in his anger. It would be easier to get to him that way.

I knew he’d been expecting me to retaliate. He’d been edgy. He’d even taken to walking in a large circle around me when we passed in the corridors. His friends (Quinton Wood; the blond one and Fred Weasley; the dark haired one, also cousin) had found this hilarious. I was really beginning to like them.

It turned out James had a very large family. As far as I knew, there were at least five cousins and two siblings spread out in various houses and years. A particularly striking redhead with brown eyes and a shock of freckles had grinned and shot me a thumbs up during lunch as James sat and watched me suspiciously. According to Fitz that was Rose Weasley and she was in some kind of secret affair-type situation with Scorpius Malfoy.

“Do you think he’ll realize if I try to shave his head in his sleep?” I asked Fitz after the bell sounded and we were walking out of Defense.

“No, but I’m pretty sure Quinn will wake up. He’s a light sleeper,” Fitz said. As happy as I was about his willingness to help me out, Fitz had outright refused to take an active part in my Plan To Take James Potter Down; also called PTTJPD. Yes, it was all capitalized and had its own abbreviation because it was that important.

“Okay, what if I got him to help me?” I asked hopefully.

“You can’t. Those three are like bowtruckles on doxy eggs,” Fitz shook his head.

“Erm, excuse me?” someone said behind us. We both turned around to see a petite girl with silvery blond hair and big blue eyes smiling at us. She was, in simple terms, gorgeous.

“Hi,” she smiled.

Fitz made some noise between a squeak and a grunt. The girl looked at him weirdly.

“Ignore him,” I said, mostly to take her attention off of him. “He ate some bad eggs at breakfast.”

“Oh, right,” she said uncertainly. I elbowed Fitz discreetly to remind him to breathe. He got the message and gulped in air whilst sounding like a dying hippo.

“Uh, James wanted me to tell you that Ted- erm, Professor Lupin said to go to the Great Hall for detention at seven thirty today,” she said to me.

“And why couldn’t James grow a pair to come tell us himself?” I raised an eyebrow.

“Probably because he’s still nursing his bruised… ego,” she smirked. I decided I liked this girl.

“I’m Marley,” I said, extending my hand to her.

“Dominique. But call me Dom,” she smiled. Then, unfortunately, she turned to Fitz. He began gasping again.

“He’s Fitz,” I put in for him.

“Right,” she said, looking a little scared.

“Yeah, those eggs… they were really bad.”

“Oh… okay. Anyway, I should go before I’m late for Charms.”

“It was nice to meet you, Dom,” I waved. She nodded, glanced at Fitz again and walked away.

When she was out of sight, Fitz collapsed against the wall and began hyperventilating. I stood there for a moment, wondering if I should tease him about his little crush or drag him to the Hospital Wing.

I settled on the former.

“So… Dominique, huh?” I grinned, wiggling my eyebrows suggestively.

“She’s perfect,” Fitz sighed and sat on the ground. I took a seat next to him.

“Who is she?”

“James’s cousin.”

“Great,” I groaned. “Why is everyone related to him?”

Fitz shook his head.

“She’s different. She isn’t like the rest of them,” he said dreamily.

“What exactly is that supposed to mean?” I asked. First rule of battle; know thy enemy. By the looks of it my enemy had a primary army that consisted solely of family and everyone knows there’s no tie stronger than blood.

“They’re always fighting or arguing about something. Dom isn’t like that. She’s polite and sweet and she always helps people; even the first years.”

“So, how long?”

“What?” Fitz asked.

“How long have you been in love with the girl?” I asked like it was the most obvious thing in the world, which it kind of was.

“Since second year,” he said; the goofy smile back on his face. “When I saw her at the sorting. She’s a year below us and a Ravenclaw. She’s really smart.”

“Really?” I asked, smiling at him. It was adorable.

“Yeah, and I’ve never seen her get mad. I bet it would be scary though. She’s like one sixth Veela or something.”

Well, that explains a lot.

“So why haven’t you ever talked to her? Or, I don’t know, asked her out?” 

Fitz’s face dropped as though he’d just found out that someone stole all his cookies.

“She has a boyfriend,” he said sadly. “Plus, why would she go out with me?”

I wondered what to say for a moment. The mere fact that Fitz and I got on as well as we did was enough to certify his insanity. That could possibly work against him in the dating department.

“Any girl who goes out with you would be lucky, Fitz,” I told him. And it was the truth.

“Not really,” he shrugged.

“Are you kidding me?” I said, lightly punching him in the shoulder. “You’re quite possibly the most interesting person I know. Plus, you like liquorice wands.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” he wanted to know.

“Would you date someone with bad taste in confectionaries?”

“Good point,” Fitz said, nodding in agreement.

And we just sat there talking for the rest of the hour, somehow silently agreeing that Portions wasn’t worth attending.

**

By seven thirty that evening my plan was fully formed. I had the spells and the timeline all figured out. James Potter wouldn’t know what hit him.

“What’s wrong with you?” James asked as I skipped into the Great Hall. Fitz heaved a sigh behind me.

“Oh, nothing Potter. It’s just a beautiful night,” I said with a creepy smile on my face.

“You did something, didn’t you? She did something, Ted,” he said, turning to Professor Lupin. He just rolled his eyes at all of us.

“Wands,” he said, extending his hands. I grudgingly handed mine over, as did Fitz and James. Professor Lupin then stepped aside to reveal three buckets of water and dirty looking rags.

“Thought I’d give the house elves the night off. Happy cleaning,” he said happily before turning and striding out of the Hall. I was too excited for what was coming for James to even grumble. I walked forward, took my bucket and rag and went for the end of the Gryffindor table. Fitz followed and went for the Ravenclaw one.

“Are you sure about this?” he said quietly. “If he catches you, you’ll have hell to pay.”

“What’s the worst he can do?” I rolled my eyes.

There was a loud ‘plunk’ noise as James set his bucket down beside me.

“What you guys talking about?” he asked with pseudo-enthusiasm as he obnoxiously dipped his rag in the bucket and began wiping the Gryffindor table.

“Just wondering why someone hasn’t drowned you in the lake yet,” I said with fake levity that matched his. James raised an eyebrow at Fitz who shook his head.

“I’m not getting involved in this,” he said, going back to scrubbing the Ravenclaw table.

“I’m onto you, Princess,” James said, turning back to me. “Just know, you’ll regret it. Whatever ‘it’ is.”

“Why do you think you’re the ruler of the free world?” I asked politely.

“Oh, not the free world, love,” James smirked. “Just Hogwarts.”

“How do you manage to go places with that massive head of yours?”

“It takes strength.”

“And delusion.”

“Guys, seriously, I’m only here because of you two. Please just drop it,” Fitz sighed.

It was the worst two hours of my life. I don’t know how I managed to stop myself from taking the bucket to James’s head. Fitz eventually got tired of our bickering and went all the way to the other side of the Hall to scrub the Slytherin table.

Professor Lupin came back at nine thirty to give us our wands back. Fitz seized his and stalked out of the Great Hall in frustration.

“I think you guys may have given him an aneurysm,” Professor Lupin said.

“Oh don’t worry, you can just tell him how to get into the girl’s dorms too and he’ll be fine,” I snapped and stalked out after Fitz.

“I’d be careful around that one,” I heard him say to James.

Oh, he had no idea.

When I reached the Common Room poor Fitz was nowhere in sight. So I retreated to my dorm. Jillian was there with my other two roommates, Tracey Shannon and Rebecca Gale.

“How was detention?” Tracey asked. She was the only one who wasn’t fully terrified of me.

“James Potter is a prick and someone needs to set a troll on him already,” I grumbled and fell onto my bed.

“You should really drop whatever it is that you’re planning to do,” Tracey advised. Rebecca nodded in agreement.

“I’m sorry, did you forget what happened at lunch the other day?” I asked in disbelief.

“Like anyone could,” Jillian snorted. I rolled my eyes at her. She was still a little pissed about the party and that I’d chosen Fitz over her little clique.

“Anyway, I just spent two hours scrubbing the house tables. I’m going to call it a night,” I said, faking a big yawn. I grabbed my clothes from my trunk and went to change.

Tracey went to bed soon after me and Rebecca and Jillian stayed up talking for about an hour more. It didn’t matter. I was going to wait till after midnight; if any of them were awake when I set my plan in motion, I’d be completely screwed.

Time seemed to not want to cooperate. It was moving so slowly I was certain I’d end up ripping my hair out. Finally, my clock struck two and I slowly pushed the covers off. Tracey and Rebecca had the curtains drawn around their beds and Jillian was sprawled across her with her mouth open. I slipped into my sneakers and grabbed a coat to wear over my tank top. Then, as quietly possible, I tiptoed out of the room.

The Common Room was deserted and the stairwell that led to the boys’ dorms was so quiet I could hear my own heartbeat. When I reached the top most door that read ‘7th Year’ on the plaque, I stopped and took a deep breath, reassuring myself that I could do this; I’d snuck around before and I was actually very good at it. I pulled out my wand and tapped the door.

Silencio,” I whispered, before tapping it once more to open it.

The door swung open noiselessly and I stared into the room. It would have been dark if not for the moonlight that streamed in through the large windows. There were four beds, just like in the girl’s dorms.

The beds on the left were occupied by Fred and Quinton. They were both snoring loudly as though it was some contest to see who could wake the most people in Gryffindor Tower.

When I saw Fitz I must’ve stared for a full minute wondering whether he was awake or just that weird. The boy was asleep with his arse in the air and hand by his sides, which put his entire body weight on his knees and face. I was seriously considering waking him so that he wouldn’t have a painful cramp in the morning when Fred let out a particularly loud snore and I was reminded of my mission.

My eyes left Fitz and landed on the last bed. James was on his stomach and facing away from me. Of course, he wasn’t wearing a shirt. Somehow this didn’t surprise me. I tiptoed into the room, watching where I stepped. I didn’t put booby trapping the place past James. I reached the bathroom, opened it a crack and eased myself into it before shutting the door behind me.

Finally, I breathed a sigh of relief and got to work. The bathroom was surprisingly clean for one that belonged to a group of teenage boys. It didn’t take me long to find their stuff. In maybe twenty minutes I was finished with my work and had everything in its proper place.

Now came the tough part. Taking another deep breath, I pushed the door open again and squeezed out. Quinton murmured something in his sleep and I froze for a moment, my heart beating so loudly I was worried one of them would hear it. My eyes snapped to James, praying for him to continue sleeping. From this side the moonlight fell across part of his back, illuminating a bit of what appeared to be a tattoo. His face looked so peaceful that if I hadn’t know any better I’d have actually thought he was a nice, innocent, decent human being.

Oh, what I would give to see the look on his face when he figured out what I’d done in the morning.

When I was sufficiently certain that no one was going to wake up, I slowly moved to James’s trunk and opened it. I had to be quick with this since it was out in the open. I won’t be exaggerating if I say it was the most nerve-racking fifteen minutes of my life. But it was worth it; this was the part that woud no doubt land him detention for a long time. And possibly make all the teachers think he was some kind of creep.

When it was done, I all but ran to the open door and shut it softly behind me. I didn’t breathe easily until I was back in my own bed and under my covers.

A smile crept onto my face; James Potter would rue the moment he decided to mess with me.






A/N: Yaaay, chapter three! What d'ya think guys? Also thanks so much for all the lavely reviews! They really do make me all warm and happy inside and I love them :')


Chapter 4: How to dig yourself into a hole
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




Fitz came running into the Great Hall like a plucked chicken the next morning. He sat down opposite me and stared meaningfully. I decided to ignore his look just to annoy him.

“NESS!” he yelled finally. A poor first year squeaked and ran away.

“Good morning, Fitzroy,” I said pleasantly, taking a sip of my coffee. He narrowed his eyes at me and clenched his jaw, leaning in.

“Well?” he whispered. “He’s been in the bathroom for like half an hour.”

“Any moment now,” I said, smirking.

“I can’t believe you actually did it,” he said in mild awe. It was quite flattering actually. He sat back and tucked away The Daily Prophet to read during lunch. “This isn’t going to end well.”

“I never intended for it to,” I shrugged. “Besides, if he honestly thinks dyeing his hair is what I took so long coming up with, he’s in for it. Not the he can even prove it was me anyway.”

“Who else would have done it? None of the teachers are going to buy it, Ness, “he actually sounded worried, bless his soul.

“I once got permission to go to an all night rave from my Hit Wizard father, Fitz. I got this,” I smirked back.

“I’m not so-“

“WHERE IS SHE?”

It was time. I rearranged my face to form an expression of complete innocence and turned to face James Potter. It took all my restraint not to burst out laughing when I caught sight of him.

His hair was the brightest of pinks. I don’t know how long it had taken him to figure it out, but by the looks of it he’d left the dye in long enough to ensure that that whole thing now looked like cotton candy; especially since his hair usually looked like it had never seen a comb to begin with.

His eyes were scanning the Gryffindor table. When they landed on me I swear they actually went a shade darker. I think I would have been a little scared if his hair wasn’t the color of Bridgette’s room. Even Fitz was trying not to laugh as James walked over.

He stopped in from of me and ignored the silence around us. He was surveying me as though trying to figure out something. Finally, he spoke.

“You think you’re hilarious, don’t you?” his voice was calm. He even looked calm. It was starting to freak me out a bit. I mean, I was the reason for his pink hair for Merlin’s sake.

“What’re you talking about?” I asked innocently.

“Cute,” he said dryly. I shrugged.

“Nice hair, by the way. I don’t really think it’s your color though.”

He had a rueful smile on his face and was nodding because he knew exactly what was going on. He also knew that I was going to get away with it because there was no way he could prove it was me who had done this to him. I smiled sweetly back.

“How do I get it off? None of the charms I tried are working,” he said in the same calm voice.

“How should I know? I didn’t ask you to use some shady hair dye. That was possibly purchased from Knockturn Alley. And may or may not contain doxy droppings.”

He was clenching his jaw by this point and I knew I’d gotten to him.

“Mister Potter.”

It was Hobbs and he looked slightly annoyed.

“This isn’t my fault,” James was glaring at me. When Hobbs looked at me, eyebrows raised and slightly annoyed, I took it as my cue.

I looked at James and made sure I looked a little scared.

“Y-yes, Professor. This is my fault,” I stammered.

“She’s lying, she- what?” James said in genuine surprise. I visibly gulped and looked nervously at Hobbs.  He had a frown on his face and I could see that he was trying to figure the situation out.

“I-I’m sorry, Professor,” I said sadly. James was looking at me like I’d grown an extra head.

“I think I know what’s going on here.” Hobbs didn’t sound pleased at all. Then he turned to look at James furiously.

“You want me to believe Miss Belgarde is responsible for your attire, don’t you?” he demanded.

“Yes, she- my attire?”

James looked confused for a moment before comprehension dawned on his face. He ripped off his sweater and turned it over to find the, erm… artful sketches I had taken the time to Charm onto his uniform. I gasped and looked away as though I was thoroughly scandalized. A few people had begun to snicker at this point. Fred and Quin were openly snorting with laughter. Hobbs, however, didn’t look even slightly impressed.

“While I can’t punish you for that atrocious hair colour, I can give you detention for that,” he said, looking at the sweater in disgust.

“Are you serious right now? Do you honestly think I did this myself?” James almost yelled, wildly gesturing to his hair and waving his lewdly graffiti-ed sweater around. That was the worst possible thing he could have picked to say, because Hobbs lost it.

“This kind of behavior is unacceptable, Mr. Potter!” he yelled. “I will not tolerate bullying in this school! I don’t know what happened between you two and I don’t care. But going out of your way to get someone else in trouble is crossing a limit!”

I sighed loudly and they both turned to look at me.

“Thank you, Headmaster,” I said, making sure to look relieved beyond measure. Then, just to make sure he wouldn’t suddenly change his mind, I ducked my head and sniffed. “It’s just so nice to have someone on my side.”

“Miss Belgarde,” Hobbs said kindly. “There isn’t anything to be thankful for. Be assured that Potter will be punished for this.”

I looked at Hobbs with wide eyes and he gave me a reassuring smile. He also looked a little apprehensive. I wanted to roll my eyes; as macho as they pretended to be, when it came to tears anyone even remotely male became a terrified mess. James’s mouth was hanging open in disbelief. I made a show of sighing loudly and getting up, gathering my things in the process.

“Look James, what you did to me with that letter was terrible and it really hurt my feelings,” I said sadly. “I honestly don’t know why you had to be so horrid to me. The truth is… the truth is all I wanted was to make friends.”

Hobbs took one look at my face and then turned angrily to James.

“You’ve taken this too far, Mister Potter. Trying to frame an innocent student for… this,” he said, waving wildly at James with a disdainful look on his face. I stuck my bottom lip out a little bit so that it would look like I was about to cry.

“Oh, it’s alright, Headmaster,” I said sadly. “I-I don’t want anyone to get in trouble. I guess I’ll just go if it’s okay.”

And then I hung my head and sniffed loudly.

“No, Miss Belgarde. I won’t have such nasty behavior in this school,” he said kindly to me. Then he turned to James and his expression changed to one of outrage. “We show new students courteousness here, Mister Potter. We don’t bully them. This is absolutely unacceptable! Three extra weeks of detention. And I will be writing to your parents about this. Now, apologize to Miss Belgarde.”

James was still standing there with his mouth open.

“Potter!” Hobbs snapped. James shut his mouth and turned to me with a sickly sweet smile on his face. The change was so quick I almost jumped back.

“I’m sorry,” he said with so much sarcasm I would have actually mistaken it for sincerity if I hadn’t known any better.

“Good,” Hobbs snapped. “And enough of this childishness, Potter. Go and see to your uniform… and that.” He was gesturing to James’s hair with a disgusted look on his face. Then he turned to me.

“My dear, you are excused from detention. I apologize. I wasn’t aware of the entire situation,” he said kindly.

“What the actual fu-“

“Potter!”

“Oh, thank you for understanding, Headmaster!” I said with mock relief.

“It isn’t a problem, my dear. If you need anything at all, please feel free to approach me.”

Fitz made a hacking noise.

“A-and Headmaster?”  I added timidly. Hobbs smiled kindly at me.

“Fitz here… he got detention as well. It wasn’t his fault. He was only trying to save me from James. I feel so guilty that he got into trouble,” I said, looking down again.

“This is ridiculous,” James said.

“Potter! Do you want another week of detention?” Hobbs snapped. Then he turned to look at Fitz, who flashed him a bright smile and nodded in agreement to my statement. Hobbs looked uncertain for a moment. I added another loud sniff. That was all it took. Men are so predictable.

“Yes, yes I suppose that’s alright. You don’t have to report to detention either Mister Fitzroy,” Hobbs said, still looking at me kindly. When I smiled brightly at him, he looked relieved. Then he turned around to yell at everyone for staring at the scene. The moment his back as turned, I dropped the pathetic look and winked at James. The whole Gryffindor table was sniggering and someone even patted me on the back.

James was seething, that much was obvious. His was grasping his sweater so tightly that his knuckles were turning white. It dawned on me that I’d not only gotten myself and Fitz out of detention, but I’d also somehow managed to get James three more weeks. My smirk grew.

“Bring it on,” James mouthed, before he turned on his heel and stalked out of the hall.

“Ness,” Fitz said when I sat down again.

“Hmm?”

“Remind me never to mess with you.”

***

It took less than twelve hours for karma to bite me in the arse.

The day had been okay, I guess. I wasn’t expecting it to go over well with the students of the school. I came in and dyed Golden Boy’s hair pink. When it came down to it, I was an outsider and I was okay with that. I had expected them to be a little pissed off.

Surprisingly the older students seemed to think it was a little funny. Even if they didn’t, they didn’t give me the stink eye like the younger ones did. James’s cousins seemed to think it was especially hilarious though. I was even getting used to being stared at all the time.

“This is stupid,” I complained to Fitz that evening in the Common Room. I was trying to finish an essay for Professor Lupin and he was happily chomping down a bag of liquorice wands. You know, because he’s Fitz and somehow never seemed to have homework piled up.

“You’re just still angry that third year tried to trip you,” Fitz said with a full mouth. It was true. It was irritating that most of the females under fourteen seemed to think I was Undesirable No.1. I knew it wasn’t their fault; they were impressionable and seemed to think everything James Potter was so unarguably cool. No one seemed to want to tell them otherwise and he, as far as I could tell, did nothing other than ignore the very existence of his little fan club.

“It’s sad, Fitz. The least he could do was say, ‘hey, I’m actually a loser. You can stop snogging pictures of me’.”

“And now you’re trying to blame him,” Fitz said, shoving more candy in his face.

“Because it’s his fault!” I almost screamed. “Those poor girls… they’re wasting their lives. All they’ll remember about Hogwarts is James Potter. As much as I love Beauxbatons, this place is actually really great and it’s going to suck for them that they’re missing out. Of course I’m blaming him.”

Fitz looked at me for a long time. It was weird because I hadn’t seen him concentrate on one thing for more than about half a minute.

“You’re freaking me out.”

He stared at me for a bit longer and then sighed, placing the bag of sweets on the table we’d commandeered.

“Give me your wand,” he said, extending his hand.

“No” I said flatly.

“I don’t want to get hexed.”

“Then don’t do anything that would make me hex you.”

“But I’m going to say something nice about James and I wouldn’t fancy being stuck in the Hospital Wing for a week.”

I narrowed my eyes at him.

“Potter is a shallow git with his head shoved so far up his arse I’m not even sure how he-“

“Ness,” Fitz cut me off while giving me a look. I sighed and sat back, placing my hands on the table.

“I won’t hex you. Go ahead.”

“Okay,” he still sounded uncertain. “Look, I’ve lived with him for six years. Sure, he’s vain sometimes and he generally doesn’t take much into regard when making decisions and sometimes people get caught in the crossfire of his stupidity. And yeah, he’s a little full of himself. He has a stash of Cockroach Clusters which I think is a little shady. He also sometimes says things about hippogriffs in his sleep. He’s a weird guy-”

“See? He’s annoying and crazy. I feel like Mungo’s should know about him-”

 “You,” Fitz cut me off. “-aren’t any better.”

“I’ve never been anywhere near Cockroach Clusters in my life and hippogriffs creep the shit out of me. I find it personally offensive that-“

“You’re an idiot sometimes, Ness. You don’t notice when people try to make friends with you-“

“You’re my friend!”

“You’re obsessed with this pranking James thing-“

“C’mon, Fitz. He started it-“

“-and you don’t pay attention to half the things I tell you not to do-“

“-because they would end up benefiting Potter-“

“Ness,” he sighed, rubbing his eyes. “You essentially steamrolled in here and screwed with the balance and now people are annoyed.”

“The balance sucked, okay? Potter shouldn’t be something anyone, let alone what three quarters of the school, revolves around. I didn’t even do anything to him. The thing with the letter was unnecessary and he knew it.”

“Yeah, he did. And now you got him back. A truce seems to be in order.”

“I’m not going anywhere near him with a ten foot pole,” I huffed. “So you can forget about shaking hands.”

“White flag?”

I gave him a look.

“Okay, then just drop this.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. It wasn’t something I was willing to commit to.

“When it comes down to it, he’s a good guy.”

We stared at each other for a long moment.

“Are you high?” I asked seriously. Fitz sighed in defeat and sat back.

“I tried,” he muttered to himself and stuck his hand in the bag of candy again.

I was beginning to consider what he was saying. I wouldn’t admit it in a million years, but Fitz had a point. James had started it and I’d gotten back at him now and maybe that should’ve been the end of it.

Unless he tried something again.

Then I’d screw his shit up so bad he’d be attempting to fix it for the rest of his life.

I was just about to grudgingly admit that Fitz was right when someone painfully jabbed me in the shoulder. I wasn’t sure if what I saw when I turned around was some kind of joke.

Two girls, both of equal height with matching shiny black hair were glaring at me. Despite all three layers of makeup on their faces, they didn’t look like they could be older than fourteen. I wanted to ignore them because I knew why they were annoyed. But I couldn’t and I was a little afraid that I would end up yelling at them.

“Yes?” I asked politely.

“You’re a bitch.”

“Wow, you don’t beat around the bush, do you?”

“What are you talking about?”

I sighed and got up to face them. Even with heels they were still short so I leaned on the table so I could really talk to them.

“You don’t have to be these people,” I told them matter-of-factly.

“What?”

“James Potter doesn’t have to be your life,” I said bluntly.

“He’s hot and funny and you’re going to pay for what you did to him,” the one on the right said. She had her wand in her hand and I eyed it. I wasn’t going to duel a third year, but I also didn’t want to get hit by a Stinging Charm or whatever level of magic she had managed to accomplish thus far. I looked around the room in search of James. He was obviously the only one they would listen to.

“Look,” I said, still not looking at them. “I understand that you think he’s Merlin or whatever, but this can’t be the way you want to spend your time.”

“I want to spend my time hexing you,” one of them snapped. I looked back at both of them. For some reason I found myself wondering if my classmates at home would confront Potter if the situation was reversed. Somehow, I doubted they would’ve.

And it annoyed me more than it should have.

“You’re just some girl that he doesn’t even care about. Stop trying to get his attention!” the other one said. I felt my eye start to twitch.

“I didn’t exactly give him my personal letters for him to turn them into Howlers,” I said quietly. I really was trying not to let shit hit the fan here, but neither of them was making it very easy.

“We figured out what you did,” one said with such spite I was a little surprised. I took a deep breath and rubbed my hand over my face.

“I give up. What did I do?”

“You gave him a love potion!” she shrieked and pointed an accusing finger at me. People were going quite by now and it was getting embarrassed.

“Sure. Because these would totally be the effects of it,” I said sarcastically.

I was going to walk away. It had been too long a day and I was wasn’t sure I could stop myself from trying to shake some common sense into these two girls. I had just pushed myself off the table when the fire in the Common Room when out and the curtains around the windows fell. I went to reach for my wand in panic when something lit up on the wall opposite me and I felt my blood run cold.

It was a picture of me when I was about two. Charles was holding me and my mum was kissing my forehead.

The scene changed and the words ‘Marley Belgarde is a skank’ were in its place.

I heard Fitz swear under his breath and get up from his seat. The Common Room was too dark to see anything properly. The only light was coming from the words that lit up the wall. If this was the Muggle world, it would have been easy to find projector and smash the crap out of it. Unfortunately, whoever was doing this had a wand and for the first time in my life I hated magic.

It changed again and there was a picture of me in the Great Hall in the middle of shoving chicken in my face. It wasn’t the most flattering picture, even I’ll admit, but it wasn’t so bad either.

‘She eats like a pig’ flashed across the bottom.

I wanted to clarify how that made me a skank, but my tongue felt like lead and I was afraid I might throw up if I opened my mouth because of the way my stomach was twisting uncomfortably. I could hear Fitz swearing as he knocked into several different items of furniture (and people) around the room. I would’ve been touched that he was trying to find whoever was responsible for this in the dark but I didn’t seem to be able to process anything quickly.

‘She dresses like a slut’ came next. It was followed by a picture of me, clearly drunk, in a shiny black dress with Brigitte and Philippe. Again, it wasn’t even that bad, but someone wolf-whistled and it was followed by a round of chuckles. I wanted to yell that they’re all hypocrites and didn’t know what they looked like at their stupid Room of Requirement parties.

I was beginning to realize that I needed to figure out who was doing this before it got any worse. I began to follow Fitz’s curses around the room. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t James since I’d searched the room for him earlier and he wasn’t there. I really wanted a reason to curse him.

The photo switched again and a weird hush fell over the room. The few people who were muttering to each other stopped. I abandoned my aimless wandering and slowly turned around.

‘Like mother, like daughter’

Then her face filled the wall. It was weird. I hadn’t opened the photo album in so long, and I hadn’t seen her in even longer. And now her face was plastered on the wall of the Gryffindor Common Room.

My mother was beautiful. Her hair was like mine; red and long. But she was taller and had a pointier nose and thinner lips. It was her icy blue eyes, so different from my brown ones that really set us apart. She was smiling in the picture and all I could do was stare.

I knew the picture was supposed to be about the fact that she was clearly in a club with a drink in her hand. I knew whoever was doing this was trying to insinuate that my mother was lewd or whatever. But I couldn’t look away from her face and I found myself wondering at how long it had been since I’d last seen her; in a photo or otherwise.

Fitz’s shuffling had stopped and there was suddenly a lot of cursing.

“Expelliarmus!” someone yelled from somewhere behind me, just as someone else said, “Incendio!”

The fire roared back to life and everyone just blinked to adjust to it for a moment. I took in the scene around me. Some people were gaping at me. I saw Fitz standing in front of the fire, his wand still pointed at it. But he was looking at something at the back of the room near the dorms. I did a one-eighty and the first person I saw as James. He was standing with two wands in his hand and he had an odd look on his face. I felt a little stupid for not figuring it out sooner when I saw the person next to him.

Her face was red, and when Jillian’s eye’s made contact with mine something snapped.

“You uncivilized people need to stop going through my trunk,” I said calmly.

Then all hell broke loose. The first spell I missed because I was shaking. It hit the wall behind her and people screamed. Some who were standing near her jumped away.

I don’t know what I was thinking. It started with Jelly-legs and Itching Charms. Jillian was yelling things like, “Stop it you crazy bint!” and “Do something, James!” while trying to jump out of the line of fire.

Just as I was about to hurl another Enlargement Charm at her nose, I was tackled from the side.

“Get off of me, Fitz!” I shrieked and attempted to push him away. He used the opportunity to pull my wand out of my hand. I rounded on him and when he flinched and took a step back I think I finally came to my senses. I blinked a couple of times and then whipped around towards Jillian.

Various parts of her face were enlarged and it was obvious her legs were rubbery from the way they were splayed out in front of her. Her normally pristine hair was a rat’s nest and nasty boils covered her from head to toe.

“You’re insane!” she shrieked at me, pointing an accusing finger. The effect would have been better if a particularly nasty boil on her forehead hadn’t chosen that moment to erupt and spew puss everywhere.

“You… actually look better than you usually do.”

That earned a shriek from her and I smiled sarcastically. At this point she started yelling every curse word known to man at me. It was a little surprising, actually. She was normally so put together. I didn’t even recognize half the nasty words she was using.

“Classy,” I smirked after she’d finished screaming obscenities.

“You’re just a stupid wannabe. Leave James alone!”

It was funny how she sounded just like the two girls from earlier and it suddenly struck me that maybe she was part of their little club. My eyes left her and travelled to James. He was still holding her wand in his hand. I raised an eyebrow at him and he just shrugged.

“This is your fault,” I informed him. He scoffed at this.

“I have nothing to do with this.”

“Poor Jillian over here seems to think she’s displaying vigilante-type behavior. Clearly you’re part of the problem,” I said, folding my hand across my chest.

“I didn’t ask anyone to nick your stuff, Princess. If I wanted something, I’d just come take it. As you are well aware,” he smirked.

“Oh yes, because you’re James Potter and you always get what you want right?”

That seemed to hit a nerve because he didn’t say anything to this and I wanted to scream in frustration. He knew it was his fault. He knew he’d started this thing with me, that his little fan club would want to see me lynched and that he was the only one who could stop it.

And yet he stood there, dead set against acknowledging the fact that this was his fault; he’d instigated everything. 

“You are an entitled arse, Potter!” I shrieked at him. “Grow the Hell up and take responsibility for something. I know this might be new for you since everyone loves you for being born and all, but you’re a loser. The only thing I can see that you’ve accomplished is being an annoying brat.”

I saw something flash in his eyes.

“Deal with your insane fan club or I swear I’ll put you in the Hospital Wing.”

I spun around and I was about to stalk out in indignation when his voice stopped me.

“Hold on, Princess, I feel like I should return the favor.”

I heard him moving towards me but I didn’t turn around. The Common Room was deadly quiet.

You came in here with your nose held so high, thinking you’re so much better than the rest of us. I just didn’t see any problem showing you that you aren’t. There is exactly one person in this place who doesn’t think you’re batshit, and that’s probably because you bribe him with candy to stick around.”

I was going to yell at him about how he sucks and I was even contemplating hitting him in his stupid face when Fitz spoke.

“She actually only ever bribed me with sweets the one time,” he said.”-and it was because she had to go on the boat.”

No one knew what Fitz was saying because someone snorted ‘weirdo’. A fuzzy warm feeling erupted in my stomach and I grinned at him because I knew what he was saying; he was my friend, candy or not.

“Actually, Potter,” I said, throwing my arm around Fitz’s shoulders. “He does think I’m batshit.”

Fitz nodded vigorously.

“At least I have a real friend who wouldn’t drop me if it ever turns out that I’m adopted,” I smirked. “Last time I checked it was your father who saved all our arses, Potter, not you. Maybe you should stop using him as a default excuse for your asininity.”

That was the day I learnt that James Potter had some type of convoluted daddy issue.

The change that came over his face was a little frightening. It made it look like he was only mildly annoyed before. Fitz even jammed my wand back in my hand and grasped his own tightly when James took another step towards me, closing the space between us.

I honestly thought I was going to get punched in the face. It would’ve been fair too, seeing as I’d severely injured his chances of siring children earlier in the week.

“You don’t know anything about me.”

He said it quietly and I was sure Fitz and I were the only two people who’d heard it. It made my stomach turn and a weird queasy feeling came over me. I knew I had struck a nerve. I was actually glad when he shoved himself between me and Fitz and stalked out of the Common Room because I wasn’t even close to being ready to admit that he was right.


Chapter 5: How to troll
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

I went from being the new girl to ninja assassin to master prankster to loose cannon. People were justifiably weary of me now. As for the debacle with James; no one seemed ready to broach the subject. No one normal that is.

“It was unfair,” Fitz said for the hundredth time that week. We were sitting in the stands in the Quidditch pitch despite the cold. It was the only place people would stop trying to listen in on our conversations, glare at me, attempt to hex me… or claw at me with their scary manicured nails, but I considered that to be in the same category as being hexed. It was starting to get to me but I wasn’t about to admit that.

“He started it.”

“That would’ve been justifiable before you went and accused him of, well, everything.”

“But he is a stupid, entitled-“

“If you start one more time, I’m going to sell you to a troll.”

Somehow the other houses had heard about it by the next morning. I hadn’t expected it and had to deal with everyone whispering through breakfast. You’d think it would have blown over a week later, but here we were; sitting out in the cold trying to avoid everyone. Fitz was the only person who seemed to know that I wasn’t going to freak out at him and I felt horrible that he’d been dragged into this. The most surprising thing was that no one went to a teacher. This made me feel even guiltier because it proved just how bad what I’d done to Jillian was. Sure, she was a right bint, but her boils had taken three days to fully heal.

“I didn’t mean to,” I groaned and let my head fall into my hands.

“She looked like she got attacked by The Hulk,” he said knowledgeably.

“Thanks.”

“No problem.”

“Tracey and Rebecca won’t look at me. They charmed their curtains to stick together.”

“That’s stupid. You could just burn them down before you murdered them-“

I groaned and he shut up.

“It’s not like they didn’t do anything to me. I mean, Potter started the whole ‘let’s steal Marley’s stuff’ trend and Jillian followed. How am I the bad guy here?”

“You dyed his hair pink and insulted him-“

“But it’s true,” I almost yelled. “All the stuff I said-“

“Ahh, but this is Hogwarts and no one actually gives a kneazle’s arse.”

 “I want to go home,” I said miserably, leaning back and looking up at the cast over sky. Even the weather seemed to not want to cooperate with me. It was gross and cold.

“I would too if I were you,” Fitz said, leaning back at well.

“But if I did, you’d be left alone to fend for yourself.”

“I wouldn’t be that insane bird who hexes people into next week. So it wouldn’t be that bad.”

“Good point.”

“I try.”

I would’ve rather been in the warm Common Room with its roaring fire and cozy red sofas. But every time I walked into a room with actual people, everyone would stop talking and stare at me. And if either Jillian or, Merlin forbid, James was in the room the stares would be death glares. So I’d been spending most of my days on the grounds in the cold and for whatever reason Fitz decided to join me. He was really a better person than anyone gave him credit for.

Jillian was constantly surrounded by a group of girls who would glare daggers at me every time I walked by her; like I  was the one who’d gone through someone’s personal stuff and called their mother a tramp. But I assumed that her minions were all a part of James’s stupid fan club, so I didn’t take them seriously seeing as they probably had a collective IQ less than the length of my wand in inches. In our dorm, she always had something mean to say and thus far I’d managed to ignore her because I felt bad about the scratches the boils had left on her face.

James himself hadn’t looked at me in a week and was pretending like I had some highly dangerous, easily contractible disease. The one time he communicated with me was during Potions when I was blocking the supply closet. He’d cleared his throat loudly and stood there with his arms cross, looking away while he waited for me to move.

“Do you want to go do that essay about Inferi?” I asked. Talking about something else might do both of us some good.

“Already did it.”

“When? Professor Lupin assigned it to us just before lunch.”

“Did it between Arithmancy and Charms,” he shrugged. He didn’t realize I was gaping at him.

“Are you some kind of genius?” I demanded.

“Maybe. Although Mum said I’m crazy. But that could be because I’d just blown up the backyard and she didn’t take kindly to her gnome collection going up in smoke-“

“What are you doing here?”

I wanted to groan out loud but I no longer had the energy to deal with Jillian and her stupidity. Instead I looked at Fitz and he nodded, reading my mind and getting up. We both ignored the group of girls (who all looked weirdly similar with their dark shiny hair and long nails) and walked towards the exit.

“I asked you a question,” Jillian said huffily.

“Congratulations,” I rolled my eyes.

“Ugh. Stop being so stupid,” another one of the girls said.

“When you stop being a hypocrite,” I couldn’t stop myself from retorting. They all blinked at me.

“Come one,” Fitz muttered, pulling at my sleeve.

“Yeah,” Jillian put in. “Listen to the freak. For once he’s making some sense.”

She’d never said anything about Fitz before. As long as her comments were directed at me, I could deal, but Fitz was only in this because of me and Merlin be damned if I let her walk all over him.

I turned around and made a show of pulling my wand out of my pocket. I didn’t actually intend to hex them; just scare them a bit so maybe they’d shut up for a few days. Fitz seemed to realize this and he sighed.

“I’m going to the library,” he said tiredly. “You can find me later.”

And then he turned and walked away. I didn’t blame him; I was starting to get tired of my crap too.

“Don’t bring Fitz into this,” I said directly to Jillian. All of them were eyeing my wand wearily as I took a step towards them. Jillian seemed to make a decision because she pulled out her own wand and stepped forward. I had to fight a smirk from forming on my lips.

“Looks like your little boyfriend is too much of a loser to stand up for himself,” she spat at me.

“No, he’s just been in this place long enough to be impervious to git-like behavior,” I shrugged.

“You’re a stupid slut,” she snapped.

“Do you even know what that word means, Jillian?” I sighed.

“Yeah. And I also know you want James. You can’t have him!”

I stared at her in wonder.

“And you think I’m crazy,” I snorted. I was going to turn to leave when she raised her wand.

It was a reflex, honest to Merlin. I didn’t intend to get into a duel with her, really. But I sprung away from her hex just as my Body-Binding Curse hit her and all her minions started screaming like I’d Avada’d her or something.

“Oh my God, Jill!”

“Are you okay?”

“You killed her!”

“Ooooh, you’re going to Azkaban.”

“Talk to me! Say something!”

I groaned and sat heavily down on one of the chairs. A dull hammering pain was beginning to pound at my temples. I’d just gotten myself into a deeper pit than I was in about ten minutes ago. No doubt people would be hearing how I was Voldemort reincarnated before the day was out. The stupid minions (whose shrieks were ringing across the pitch, in case you were wondering) would no doubt make this out to be something that it wasn’t.

I stared up at the sky, wondering if I should jump from the stands just so I wouldn’t have to hear those stupid twits screeching anymore.

I let my head fall into my hands in a vain attempt to stop the throbbing.

“You’re such a freak! Stop stalking James,” one of the idiots said. I grunted.

We always come to watch practice. You have no right to be here.”

“James doesn’t need you to be here. Stop trying to get his attention!”

“Merlin, just Avada me. I promise I won’t bother you in the afterlife,” I muttered to myself.

“Oh my God, you’re so weird.”

“I knew she was crazy.”

My head felt like it was going to explode. I got up and out of the corner of my eye I saw all the minions quickly step back.

“Stay away from practices,” one of the brave ones said. That wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately the stands were the only place where I thought they’d leave me alone. Obviously I’d been terribly wrong but I wasn’t in any mindset to explain that to them.

“Yeah, James doesn’t need you hanging around.”

“You’ll jinx the team.”

“Don’t come to the matches either.”

“Just stay away-“

I wanted to say that that wouldn’t be a problem; that I had no interest in James or his matches. What actually happened was that I yelled, “I FREAKING HATE QUIDDITCH” at them. They all took another step back and I would’ve felt a little bad if I wasn’t shaking so bad.

“Shut up,” I sighed finally. “Please, just shut up.”

They all burst out shrieking at me again and I thought I would maybe combust.

“What is going on here?!”

All the minions whipped around. Fred was standing there in his Quidditch robes with his Beater’s bat in one hand. He was panting and it looked like he’d run all the way up to the stands. He took in the scene; Jillian lying motionless on the floor and me standing there, probably looking ready to murder someone. Somehow this seemed to relieve him.

Stupid git.

“We thought someone had died with all the screaming,” he chuckled. I wanted to wrestle the bat from him and club him over the head with it.

“She cursed Jill!” one of the girls shrieked, pointing an accusing finger at me. “We don’t know what’s wrong with her!”

Fred looked at me and I think he realized that I was five seconds away from going demented troll on everyone.

“She’ll be fine. Just let me go get my wand,” he said calmly, eyeing me cautiously.

“She’s crazy!”

“She attacked us!”

“Where’s James?

“Someone should do something about her.”

I jammed my wand in my pocket, turned around and began stalking towards the exit on the other side of the stands.

“Marley!” I heard Fred call, but I ignored him. I heard him running after me. He finally reached me when I reached the stairs and grabbed my wrist to stop me. When I turned around I saw the minions over his shoulder looking at me with nothing short of hatred.

“Don’t listen to them,” he said. His voice was deep and soothing and I looked at him. His eyes were kind and brown and the corners crinkled a little when he smiled. The gesture was nice and I knew he meant well, but he felt bad for me. His pity was not something I was willing to accept.

So, I pulled my hand out of his grasp and stepped back.

“It feels like I’m in the loony ward at Mungo’s,” I told him.

“It’s a bit like that, yeah,” he chuckled.

“Right,” I didn’t know what else to say. Fred was going to say something when there was suddenly a lot of twittering at the other end of the stands. We both turned to see that everyone had forgotten about Jillian’s unmoving body and were clustered around James Potter. Quin was behind him with another guy I’d seen around the Common Room and all three of them were in Quidditch robes like Fred. I caught words like ‘crazy’, ‘unstable’ and ‘attack’.  Someone decided to use a counter curse on Jillian and she immediately sprang up and latched herself onto James, panting like a complete twit and behaving as though she’d just been attacked by a Death Eater.

When I finally looked at him, he was already watching me with that annoying blank look on his face. He seemed oblivious to the fact that at least three people were trying to grope him and the others were twittering about saying things to him. I decided that he was probably deliberating whether to come yell at me or not and I certainly didn’t need everyone to think I attacked both Jillian and James in the same day. So, I turned to Fred.

“I’m going to go,” I said to him. He looked at me for a long moment before he spoke.

“Hang on, I’ll walk you. I’ll just tell James that-“

“It’s fine. I was going to meet Fitz in the library anyway,” I shrugged, shooting him a smile. “Maybe attempt to save him before he suffocates…?”

I jabbed my thumb in James’s direction and Fred snorted.

“I’ll see you later. Sorry about ruining your practice,” I said. Then I turned around and walked away.




Fitz and I spent the majority of the weekend in the library. This worked well for us both, seeing as it was warm inside and the few people who actually went to the library were more or less sane and seemed to realize that I wasn’t going to bludgeon them and their immediate family.

“Is everyone going to just be like this forever?” I asked him over lunch. We’d taken to eating in there as well; sneaking food from the kitchens and setting up camp in the back aisles worked the best since the ancient librarian didn’t venture past the first two rows of books.

“Nah,” came his reply from behind The Daily Prophet. “It’ll blow over. Like that time Reggie Hopkins came running into the Great Hall stark naked on a dare. Everyone forgot the next week when Fanny Hays and Dalton West hooked up.”

“Good,” I sighed.

“But then again, you’re the new girl and I’m fairly sure the Ravenclaw Captain wants to get with you so maybe not.”

I stared at him, wondering if I should ask him how he knew these things. In the end I decided to just ignore him and moodily take a bite of my liquorice wand. Fitz was frowning at his paper with so much concentration you’d think it was educating him about the reason Voldemort didn’t have a nose. I rolled my eyes; leave it to Fitz to be fascinated by tax hikes or whatever.

“Hey!”

I had to turn around to see who it was, but I saw Fitz freeze at the sound of the voice. I don’t know if it was cute or a little sad that he could place Dom’s voice.

“Hey Dom!” I said brightly as she took a seat next to me.

“Hey, Marley, Fitz,” she nodded. Fitz choked on his own saliva. Dom looked at him a little worriedly.

“Oh, don’t worry about him… bad ham,” I said lightly.

“Right. Erm… well, anyway, I just came to say hi,” she smiled.

“Aren’t you fraternizing with the enemy?” I asked, eyebrow raised. Dom only rolled her eyes.

“You sound just like James and it’s a little unnerving,” she said, shaking her head. “And erm… well, I actually came to see if erm… if you could maybe do me a favor…”

She trailed off, biting her lip and staring at the table uncomfortably. Fitz was being suspiciously quite next to me and I looked at him just to make sure he hadn’t forgotten to breathe. He was staring at her with his mouth open, so I had to smack him upside the head. Dom heard and turned to stare at us.

“Oh uh… that bacon. It makes his brain a bit foggy sometimes,” I chuckled.

“I thought it was ham.”

“Yeah, that too. It was ham… and bacon. He likes to eat them with erm… cereal. Anyway, what were you going to say?’ I switched topics. This seemed to do the trick because Dom’s face turned slightly red and she began chewing her lip again. Fitz let out a sigh.

“Well, uh… there’s this party coming up soon and I wanted to see if you guys wanted to go,” she said, fidgeting a little with her bag.

Fitz was making raspy noises now, and I would have done something if it hadn’t been for the blatant fact that Dom felt sorry for me.

Today was turning out to be extra sucky.

“I don’t think that’s the best idea,” I said, looking away from her. She must have caught on to what I was thinking because she was quick to explain herself.

“It’s just… my boyfriend’s best friend just broke up with his girlfriend and, um… I mean, it’ll be great if he had someone to hang out with him,” she said hastily.

Oh, so that’s what she wanted.

“You mean someone to hang out with him while you and your boyfriend go off and do… well, I don’t want to think about that,” I pondered. I knew I was right when Dom’s face turned a lovely shade of red.

“I mean… you’re really funny and all… Roger thinks so too. He thought it was really funny when you dyed James’s hair pink,” she tried to divert conversation.

“So… why’re you asking me, then?”

“You know, just… thought it would be fun,” she said vaguely. I patiently stared at her as she turned even more red than she already was.

“Oh, fine! It’s just that Roger thinks all my friends are weird and I can’t ask my cousins go because it’ll get back to James, Al and Fred and then they’ll go batshit that I’m dating someone.”

Then she adorably hid her head in her hands.

I looked at Fitz and he looked like someone had punched him in the gut. I found his hand under the table and squeezed it comfortingly.

“Sure,” I shrugged.  Dom peeked at my through her fingers.

“Yeah?” she said hopefully.

“Yeah,” I shrugged. “Right, Fitz?”

Fitz gaped at me, and I prayed that some stroke of brilliance would strike him and he’s said something.

 “Anha fichat shafka,” he said directly at Dom.

Oh, dear Merlin.

“What?” Dom looked scandalized. Fitz opened and closed his mouth like a fish, and Dom just looked highly offended. He then turned to me with a pleading expression on his face.

“The sausage really did-“

“Ham,” Fitz grunted.

“Ham. The ham really messed with his noggin. He’s been saying weird stuff all day,” I said reassuringly. “Don’t mind him.”

Dom just stared at us with her mouth hanging open. I had a big fake smile on my face and Fitz, poor Fitz; he began to choke again.

“He’ll come too,” I put in for him. “It’ll be fun!”

“I uh… I’ll tell Leroy to put both your names on the list,” Dom finally said. “And thanks, Marley. Really, it’ll be nice to go somewhere with Roger finally. We’re sneaking about most of the time.”

Her thankful smile was worth it. I nodded as she got up (not risking saying bye to Fitz) and hurried away. I liked Dom. Fitz was right; she really was sweet. That, and I’d do anything that involved hoodwinking James.

Fitz began gasping for air once Dom was out of sight.

“Are you having a panic attack?” I asked uncertainly. Fitz responded by trying to gulp air down like water. I freaked out and started shaking him violently by the shoulder.

“Ness,” he choked. “Ness, stop.”

I did and sat back, looking at him uncertainly. He did seem calmer though. We sat in silence for a bit until Fitz finally broke it.

“Did I just speak to Dominique Weasley in Dothraki?”

“I don’t know what that is, but yes; I think you did.”

Fitz groaned and slumped in his seat, covering his face with the newspaper he had been reading.

“Why did you do that?” he whined.

“Uh… so that you can actually talk to her and she’ll see you’re awesome. You’re welcome, by the way.”

“How am I supposed to talk to her if all I can manage to do around her is impersonate a troll?” he mumbled.

“We’ll figure it out,” I said reassuringly, patting the newspaper. That’s when I caught sight of the picture on the page.

Charles?”

“No, I’m Fitz,” he said into the paper. But I wasn’t listening. I seized it off his face and began reading.

It only mentioned ‘an attack on the house of a Ministry official’. For a sick moment I thought someone had attacked my father. I read through it again and found the name ‘Terence Higgs’ at the bottom of the article.

What was Charles playing at?

I mean, sure, I didn’t know exactly what he was doing with the Ministry. I never asked because at home he was always just buried in paperwork, and I just always assumed that his job was boring and consisted of filling out forms.

Okay ,that isn’t true. I knew he used to be a Hit Wizard. But he’s retired to a desk job ages ago and now… this.

I won’t lie; I started panicking a bit.

“Ness, you okay?” Fitz was looking at me curiously.

For the first time, I really thought about how tired he’d started looking once we’d moved. He was spending late nights out and I guess I always just thought that he was at the Ministry.

Obviously I was wrong, and I felt like a complete idiot for not bothering to ask him about his job.

You know, since he now seemed to think he was some kind of James Bond equivalent and all.

My eyes scanned the picture again. The focus was on a house in the foreground. There were people standing in groups everywhere. I watched as the Charles in the picture talked to a group of younger looking men. All of them had their wands out.

 “Yeah,” I said finally, looking back at the newspaper and deliberating. Maybe this Terence Higgs person was someone important.

“I’ve to go write a letter,” I said to Fitz, getting up and tossing the paper back at him.

“Okay,” I heard him call as I walked away. “I’ll just be… here.”

Under normal circumstance, I really wouldn’t have cared; Charles’s job never did interest me all that much. But if he was running around and getting himself involved in attacks and such, and being secretive about it, I needed to know that he was okay. After all, this was the man who allowed a six year old to run around yielding a pestle.

He also happened to be the only person I had left, and Merlin help me if I let anything change that.




A/N: The Hulk is from the amazing Marvel Comics and created by Stan Lee.

I am SO sorry it's been so long! I have end semster exams and I've basically been zombie-like for the past couple of weeks and I had absolutely NO time to edit this. But I've done it somehow ... And it probably isn't very good editing either so I'm just going to go ahead a say sorry for that.

Anyway, what d'ya think? Fav part? Is Fitz adorable or what? What's up with Charles? Who wants to sock James/Jillian/The Minions upside the head?

Leave a comment and I'll be a happy unicorn! :)


Chapter 6: How to be a paranoid freak
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]





Can you die from overexposure to the library?

Because I was fairly sure that was what was happening to me.

It had been two days since I’d written to Charles and there had been no reply. I had taken to pouring over old copies of The Daily Prophet in the library trying to see if there was anything that I’d missed in the past few months. There wasn’t even a single mention of terror attacks. The worst thing that had happened was the Minister’s three year old son had been bitten by a bowtruckle.

Sighing, I pushed aside the paper dated five months ago. Apart from the fact that I felt like a complete imbecile for even trying to figure this out in my own, it was wearing me out, and, to make matters worse, I was still effectively the pariah of the castle.

I put my head in my hands on the table. It was only six in the evening, but I was readying myself to leave the library. Once the sun went down people seemed to think it was their duty to use the back aisles as a place to see to their raging hormones. Unfortunately, I had leant this the hard way.

Stupid frisky fifth years.

Someone loudly cleared their throat, breaking through the calm I’d created around myself and I groaned.

I reluctantly lifted my head up to see the one person I’d been trying my best to avoid every day. James Potter stood there with a blank expression on his face. I noticed that he was in his Quidditch robes. His sweaty almost-shoulder length hair was pulled back away from his face and I vaguely wondered what would happen to any other guy who tried to pull that off in this school.

My money was on him being pelted with dungbombs.

What was more interesting to me, however, was the person who stood beside James. They were almost the same height and build, but Albus Potter had shorter (but still wild-looking) darker hair and the most strikingly clear emerald green eyes.

Albus was smiling politely at me. James was looking at the papers spread out across the table. My heart leapt as I scrambled to gather them up. I don’t know why I was trying to hide it; there was no way he’d figure out what I was trying to do anyway.

Not that I knew what I was actually looking for either, but that’s not the point.

“What?” I said without looking at them once I’d gotten all the papers in a stack.

“I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Albus,” Albus said, extending his hand for me to shake. I was about to take it when it occurred to me that this might be some trap. Instead, I settled for looking at it suspiciously. Albus laughed.

“He’s the delinquent child. I promise I won’t pull anything on you,” he said. James glanced at his brother for a brief moment as though he was going to say something. His bored expression didn’t change in the end and he just went back to looking around to library.

“Anyway, we’re here because James would like to say something to you,” Albus broke through the silence. James, however, didn’t look like he wanted to be near me any more than I wanted him to be. He casually tucked a strand of hair behind his ear and folded his arms across his chest.

“You look like owl shit,” I told him sweetly. I’ll admit, it wasn’t the closest I’d ever gotten to the truth, but it would suffice.

“Likewise,” he nodded.

“James,” Albus said in a warning tone.

“Albus,” James deadpanned back. The two of them stood there locked in some sort of silent war. I had better things to do.

Also, this was getting uncomfortable and I wanted some sweets.

“This has been enlightening, guys. Have a good evening, Albus,” I said politely. “Potter, go jump off the Astronomy Tower.”

I made sure I said it with equal politeness as when I addressed Albus. Because I’m just that fair. Plus, the git would probably go back to ignoring me again, so might as well use the opportunity to insult him. You know, before I go back to my life of having angry and/or terrified looks being chucked my way because of him.

I gathered the stack of newspapers and went to deposit them in the shelves in the back. This was quite risky, considering the sun was well under the horizon by this point. My chances of running into some snogging couple had just increased ten-fold. So you can see how desperate I was to get away from the freak twins.

Unfortunately for me, they decided to follow. Well, Albus did, and he dragged his brother along with him. Then he pushed James towards me with surprising violence.

“I’ll be writing Mum, James,” Albus said in a threatening voice.

“You’re still pissed I told Crenshaw about your dolls. It’s not my fault she went and told everyone she knows,” James said. He hadn’t moved away from me, effectively blocking my way out. He’d chosen to just stand there with his arms folded and look out the window behind me.

They aren’t dolls- you know what,” Albus sighed. “You’ll just always be thick, James.”

“Seriously, Al, you need to quit this whole brooding act. It’s getting on my nerves.”

“Oh, you’re one to talk,” Albus snapped.

James was still looking out the window, but his eyes were dark. Albus didn’t say anything for a long time and I just stood there like a git because the fact that they had some issue with each other was becoming increasingly obvious.

I cleared my throat in a failed attempt to be subtle. Too bad we were in the library and it ended up sounding louder than I intended for it to. James didn’t even look at me.

“Erm… can you move?” I said. He simply continued to look out the window.

Why do I associate with freaks of nature?

“Do whatever you want,” Albus said after a long, awkward silence. “I’ll be in my Common Room if you need me. Writing a letter. To Mum. Then I’ll be in the Owlery, mailing said letter-“

“I’m sorry,” James said flatly, cutting off his brother. “Please forgive me.”

It took me a moment to realize that his forced apology was directed at me.

He was still staring out the window behind me. I stood there, acutely aware that this situation had a lot more to do with something between the two brothers than me. I leaned a little to my left to see around James. What I saw was his brother glaring daggers at his back. When I looked back up, James’s eyes were finally on me.

I blinked at him for a few moments and wondered if I should be afraid of being pelted with rotten eggs or something. I mean, I was sort of cornered and way too close to James Potter for my liking. Logically, it was the easiest place to have me to get back at me.

But then there was the fact that he hadn’t spoken to me for almost two weeks after I’d said that thing about his father. It was clear that I’d crossed some line and he wasn’t willing to forgive me for it any time soon. There was also the little business of everyone thinking I was insane because of him and his little fan club.

Suffice it to say that whatever relationship we had was well beyond complicated.

Which is why it’s difficult to justify what I did next; I owed the stupid git absolutely nothing (besides a good kick in the nuts, of course). I didn’t have siblings so I couldn’t begin to understand what was happening between these two. I didn’t even have anyone my age I was particularly close to in a sibling-type manner either. But in that moment I felt sorry for James Potter because even if Albus didn’t see it, it was so blatantly clear to me how difficult he was trying not to care.

“No problem, Potter,” I said with as much sincerity as I could muster. Honestly, it wasn’t much but it was all he was getting.

The shock was there for a split second before he managed to cover it up. Then, without so much as a nod as thanks, he turned and walked away leaving Albus to stare at me with his jaw hanging on its hinge.

“Did you- What?” he spluttered. I shrugged.

“Not good at holding grudges,” I said lightly. “What was that about anyway?”

Albus looked at me weirdly for a moment.

“Uh… Hobbs wrote my Mum about the Howler thing. She flipped out on him and told him to apologize like a week ago or something. Then he stopped answering her letters… so she owled me.”

We stood there in silence as I watched him. He seemed to be contemplating something with an almost pained look on his face.

“Erm… are you okay?” I said uncertainly. Albus snapped out of his daze and looked at me, nodding vaguely. He then turned around and walked away after offering me a polite smile.

And me; I stood there wondering what in the world was wrong with all things Potter.

***

 “Fitz-y,” I said in a singsong voice as I skipped towards him. He was in the Great Hall with some Ravenclaw friend of his. They were pouring over a Potions text book.

“My name is bad enough. You don’t have to butcher the only remotely alright nickname I have as well,” Fitz said moodily.

“What is your real name?” I asked, realizing that I actually didn’t know.

“The best guarded secret after the location of the Chamber of Secrets,” Fitz said proudly.

“It’s in the girls’ lavatories,” I rolled my eyes.

“Yeah, well, it used to be the best guarded secret ever.”

“That makes your argument invalid. I think it’s weird that I don’t know your name.”

“Too bad,” Fitz said. “This is Angus by the way.”

I smiled and said hi to Angus. He looked highly uncomfortable and mumbled back. He looked like he hadn’t seen the sunlight in years and his thick glasses gave away how much time he spent in the library.

“Did an owl come for me?” I asked Fitz.

“Nope. Haven’t been to the Common Room in forever,” Fitz said. “You’re being awfully suspicious and I normally wouldn’t say anything but it’s getting a little scary.”

“Says the boy who sets things on fire for fun.”

“I was distracted and everyone was excited Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup. I repeat; it wasn’t my fault”

“Which is why they should just ban the stupid sport. It’s dangerous. And pointless.”

“You could get chucked in the lake for saying that,” Fitz informed me.

“No one’s going to chuck me in the lake,” I rolled my eyes.

“You just don’t get how this school works.”

You don’t get how life works,” I countered.

I’m not the one who clubbed my boyfriend because I thought he was a troll.”

“It was one time and I told you that in confidence-“

“It still counts.”

“Yeah, well you were the one who filled your living room with oats.”

“I couldn’t control my magic back then!”

“You make it sound like you can control your magic now.”

Angus looked a little scared by this point.

“So… Angus, Ravenclaw huh? My dad was-“ I began.

“Well, hello gorgeous. Long time, no see.”

I squinted at the sandy haired boy who’d interrupted me and tried really hard to place him. It took me a moment to realize that I’d seen him at the party. He was the blonde with James and Quin who’d tried to hit on me.

“You,” I said tiredly. His grin widened and he winked. I cringed; he still gave off bad vibes.

“So, how about you ditch these two gits and we go down to the kitchens,” he smirked. I wasn’t sure if that was euphemism for something, but I had to stop myself from shuddering at how easily he made my skin crawl.

“Who are you?” I managed to say.

“Aaron Wheeler, Ravenclaw Quidditch Captain,” he said proudly.

“Well, Aaron Wheeler, thanks for the offer but I think I’d rather sit here with these ‘gits’,” I air quoted, “than get assaulted by you in some dark passageway.”

He looked like I’d smacked him in the face. Fitz snorted in an attempt to cover up his laughter. Aaron Wheeler, however, seemed to get over my comment fairly quickly and the smirk was back on his face.

“I like a challenge, gorgeous.”

“Really? Do you also like brooms shoved up your-“

“Wow there, Belgarde,” Fred cut me off. He and Quin had appeared behind Aaron Wheeler. They were both smirking. They were actually nice people and I wondered how they were friends with Aaron.

“Kindly keep it on a leash,” I said, gesturing to Aaron before getting up and grabbing Fitz by the collar. He didn’t protest. He’d gotten used to me having to make swift getaways and inadvertently dragging him along as well. He just calmly waved at poor Angus, who looked so out of place surrounded by Aaron, Fred and Quin.

“Fitz, is everyone in this school insane?”

“Pretty much,” he shrugged. “Where were you all day?”

“Library.”

“You haven’t left that place for the last two days. Will you just tell me what you’re so jumpy about?”

“Oh, you know, homework and such,” I waved it away.

“I’m not an idiot- don’t look at me like that- I’m not. But it’s okay if you don’t want to tell me. I know why people go to the library.”

“That’s really gross.”

“But if you’re snogging Aaron Wheeler I’m going to have to disown you.”

“Did it look like I have any type of contact with Aaron Wheeler five minutes ago?”

“I don’t know. These secret type relationship situations are tricky. Have you seen Rose and Scorpius?”

“No.”

Fitz sighed in a way that implied that I was hopeless which I totally resent seeing as knowledge of Rose and Scorpius and their secret relationship had nothing whatsoever to do with my future success rate.

It had been almost two weeks since the whole yelling-at-James situation that happened in the Common Room. I had been a little weary of that fact that no one seemed to have heard anything about the incident at the Quidditch pitch, but I wasn’t about to question it. The stares had reduced ten-fold and Rebecca and Tracey had actually said more than three words to me. Things would be unarguably looking up if I could just figure out this situation with Charles.

We reached the Common Room and I said good night to Fitz. I had taken to skipping dinner in the Great Hall. It was simply easier that way. My dorm was empty as usual and I took the opportunity to take a long shower and put on my warmest pajamas and fluffy socks. I was curled up in my bed, shoving chocolate in my face when Rebecca and Jillian got back from dinner.

“Where’s Tracey?” I asked Rebecca, ignoring Jillian’s disdainful look.

“Haven’t you heard?” Rebecca sounded a little surprised. We both ignored whatever comment Jillian made.

“Nope. What happened?”

“She’s at Mungo’s. Something happened to her Mum.”

I felt as though someone had doused me with freezing cold water.

“What? When?!” I demanded. I abandoned the book I was reading and jumped up off my bed. Rebecca looked a little alarmed.

“This morning. She got a letter. She didn’t say much; just that her Mum’s in the hospital. Then she went to the Headmaster’s office.”

“S-so you don’t know what happened?” I asked, trying to calm myself down. She could’ve fallen and hurt something. Just because she was in the hospital doesn’t mean someone-

“Trace said she was coming home from work and something happened. She didn’t say what. She just ran to find someone.”

To her credit Rebecca looked worried. Jillian just rolled her eyes.

“She probably just saw a Muggle and lost it. We all know her Mum was a Slytherin.”

“Stop it, Jill!” Rebecca rounded on her. “Her mum isn’t like that.”

“They all just pretend that they don’t care about that stuff anymore,” Jillian insisted.

“Her Mum wasn’t even a… you know, his follower,” Rebecca said, her voice dropping. I watched the conversation in wonder. Decades after the war, people still couldn’t say Voldemort’s name. I guess I just didn’t understand since I’d grown up in a different country, but even I knew the things that had happened during the war.

“According to Tracey she wasn’t. But how do we know for sure?” Jillian asked, turning her nose up.

“Oh, you’re horrible, Jill!” Rebecca huffed. She grabbed her pajamas and stalked into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. Jillian and I were left in silence. She went back to ignoring me and rummaging through her stuff as I stood there, trying to keep myself from shaking.

“Um…Where does Tracey’s Mum work?” I asked finally, looking at Jillian. She stopped whatever she was doing and looked at me critically, arms folded.

“Why do you care?”

“No reason,” I said, trying to sound nonchalant. She didn’t buy it.

“You’re such a freak,” she scoffed, shaking her head.

“Well?” I prompted, not even bothering to acknowledge her insult.

“She’s an Auror. But if you ask me, she probably only became one so that she wouldn’t get chucked in Azkaban during the trials.”

That’s when I went into a full blown panic. I didn’t know what to do, or even where to go. For a wild moment I contemplated breaking out of school and Apparating to London to find Charles. I stood there for a good five minutes and every course of action I could come up with involved a common denominator.

“Fitz,” I muttered.

“What?” Jillian said with a look of disdain on her face. I ignored her and ran for the door. There were still people in the Common Room hanging around after dinner. They looked at me weirdly when I unceremoniously burst in with my Pygmy Puff pajamas, holding a bar of chocolate in my hand. When I took in their looks, I managed to take a few deep breaths and calm down a bit. I think I managed to look mildly dignified when I walked opened the door to the boys’ dorms and walked in calmly.

Then, of course, I ran all the way till the top-most door and pushed that open.

The rather impressive card house Quin was building came tumbling down because of the draft, Fred, who appeared to be in the middle of putting on a shirt, screeched and held it up to cover his chest, and James grabbed his wand a stood up.

We all stared at each other for a long moment.

“Marley?” Fred said finally.

“Where’s Fitz?”

None of them answered but I heard the water running in the bathroom. So, I smiled politely and tiptoed over all their crap that was strewed on the floor, sitting on Fitz’s bed calmly.  

“I’ll just wait here,” I smiled. I didn’t need them to ask questions. I wasn’t going to answer even if they did; I didn’t need to be that pathetic school reject who went crazy because nobody liked her. They already thought I was insane enough; no need to add delusional to that list.

“What’s going on?” Fred said, taking a step towards me. 

“I just need Fitz for a second,” I shrugged nonchalantly.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” he said worriedly.

“Well, I did see Sir Nicholas down in the Common Room now that you mention it,” I chuckled. None of them said anything to that.

I was getting uncomfortable under their scrutiny.

“I’m fine, really. Everything’s fine,” I said lightly.

“You’re a really bad liar.”

My head snapped to James. He was still holding his wand, but he looked directly at me in that way that always made me uncomfortable.

“Yeah, well, I don’t have to tell you anything. So you can shut it,” I snapped.

“This has something to do with why you’re always in the library.” He didn’t even bother to make it a question.

“Actually, Potter, the reason I’m always in the library is because everyone seems to want to claw my eyes out whenever they see me. Now, whose fault is that?”

I honestly didn’t mean to say it out loud. I didn’t want to admit that it got to me that no one was on my side here; even though he was more in the wrong than I was.

“Because, you know, I was the one who stole your crap and started it,” I continued, my voice rising. “I let my stupid fangirls run amok and call your mum a skank. This is all absolutely my fault, Potter.”

I half expected him to say something mean back. Instead he looked at Fred who, for some reason, was giving him the dirtiest look I had ever seen.

Thankfully, Fitz chose that moment to emerge for the bathroom, hair dripping and all. I sprung forward, seized him by the arm and dragged him out of the room.

I wasn’t in the mood to worry about Fred and James. I guess I could have been if my father wasn’t a borderline masochist, and I wasn’t a paranoid freak.

Merlin, I missed when the only thing I had to worry about was where I’d get my next liquorice wand fix.




A/N: Ugh. My computer is acting up :/ It's been giving me loads of trouble. I would've had this up ages ago otherwise!

Anyway, thanks for reading this, you guys. I still can't believe that that happens sometimes. You guys are so wonderful; leaving me reviews and stuff. It really does make me smile! Thanks a bunch:')

So tell me what you thought of this chapter! YAY THERE'S A LOT OF JAMES IN IT! 

 


Chapter 7: How to: nicknames
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

 Marley,

I get worried when you call me ‘Dad’. I have come to the conclusion that there are two possible scenarios here; the first being that something awful happened. If this is the case, I’m sure you’ve already assaulted whoever is responsible and since I haven’t gotten a letter about it from the Headmaster, congrats. I’m proud of you.

The second possible situation is that you want something. Judging by the overtly nonchalant questions about my work, I have come to the conclusion that you need to know something about what I’m doing with the Ministry and this worries me. So, I am going to tell you this once and you will listen; stay out of it, Mar. I promise nothing is going to happen to me or you. I know what I’m doing. Everything is fine. Please don’t make this something I have to worry about.

On another note; how is school? Gryffindor always was the best house to be in (you might not want to tell anyone from the other houses that, though). Did you join any clubs? Have you found any secret passageways? Please tell me you didn’t go to any shady parties in the Room of Requirement.

Anyway, since you probably won’t write me back for a couple of months because I didn’t answer any of your questions; I love you, I miss you and I can’t wait to see you at Christmas.

Please remember what I said about staying out of it.

Charles.

I had dragged Fitz to the Gryffindor Common Room and sat him in a dark corner and was about to tell him everything when the owl began tapping on the glass window. Someone let it in and Charles’s reply was exactly what I expected it to be.

“Erm… Ness?” Fitz said uncertainly. I realized that I was glaring at the parchment in an attempt to burn a hole in it.

“Right,” I said, clearing my throat. “I have to tell you something.”

“Yes, I gathered as much.”

“It’s um… I’m not entirely sure where to start.”

Fitz pointed at the letter and I handed it to him. He read it twice just to make sure that he wasn’t missing anything.

“Is your father congratulating you on kicking James’s arse?”

“Yes, but that isn’t the point.”

Fitz gave me a blank look that rivaled James’s.

“He won’t tell me what he’s doing with the Ministry.”

“Why do you care what- that day!” he exclaimed suddenly. His face lit up like a light bulb when he caught on. “In the library. You saw his picture and- oh.”

I couldn’t help but grin at him. The knot that had been steadily forming in my chest loosened just a little bit.

“What was the article about again?” he asked, leaning forward and frowning. I reached for my bag and pull out all the cuttings I’d found in the library that could have any connection with each other.

“Here’s the one I took from your newspaper,” I said, pushing a cutting towards him. “That’s that one about Terence Higgs. I tried to find out other stuff about him; turns out he’s the Head of Magical Law Enforcement.

“These are from four months before Charles moved us here; Miranda Pucey two months later. I couldn’t find where she worked. Then a week before term there was a break in at Miles Bletchley’s house, but I don’t know if that has anything to do with the rest; the article doesn’t say if anyone was attacked. Then two weeks ago Terence Higgs was attacked and I know Charles was there. And now,” I dropped my voice and leaned forward. “-now Rebecca said Tracey’s at Mungo’s because something happened to her mother. She’s an Auror.”

I stopped and waited for Fitz to say something. He was reading each article, his eyes flying across the pages and I could almost see the cogs turning in his head.

“They really don’t seem like a big deal, Ness,” he said finally and I felt my heart drop. He had to believe me. If Fitz thought I was being paranoid, what hope did I have left?

“Well, obviously someone’s trying to cover it up!” I whisper-shouted. “Something has to be up. Otherwise why would Charles insist I stay out of it? ‘Don’t make this something I have to worry about’. He clearly doesn’t want me anywhere near this thing with a ten foot pole. Why would he hide it if it wasn’t anything?”

Fitz didn’t have an answer to that.

“Look, I don’t know if all these are connected, but something was definitely up with the Terence Higgs thing and he won’t tell me. When was the last time they tried to cover up attacks?”

He looked at me now and he looked a little worried.

“Before the war,” I answered my own question. “I couldn’t find papers from then, but I searched through the newer books in the History of Magic section. It said that when the Ministry was taken over they screened everything that got published-“

“Are you trying to tell me someone’s taken over the Ministry?” Fitz cut me off.

“Well, no. Because I’m sure Harry Potter would’ve noticed if that had happened. I don’t know what’s going on. But I know that something is. There’s only so much you can find out in the library.”

“Okay,” Fitz said slowly, sitting forward in his chair. “If all these attacks are connected and your dad moved you here so that he could help investigate them, there has to be something about them that’s the same right? I mean, some reason that these people were targeted.”

I wanted to hug him. He didn’t think I was paranoid or crazy or just bored.

“You believe me,” I said in wonder. Fitz shrugged.

“You’ve been weird and twitchy for days and I think you’re becoming pasty like Angus from being in the library for too long. You obviously seem convinced, which is enough for me. Plus, if this is something I’d like to know before crap hits the roof.”

I looked at him for a long moment as he read through the articles again and I couldn’t stop the smile that spread across my face.

“Stop staring at me,” he said, not even looking up from the article.

“You’re a great friend, Fitz.”

“I do have one request though,” he said, looking up. I raised an eyebrow.

“Please burn those,” he said, pointing at my pajamas.

I guess he had a point.

No respectable person had pajamas with Pygmy Puffs on them.






“He’s staring again,” I whispered.

“I already told you; they want to know what we’re doing,” Fitz whispered back.

It was the middle of lunch and I’d finally decided to leave the library since Fitz had agreed to help. I was feeling considerably lighter too. I’d woken up and written a particularly cheery letter to Charles telling him that he was a troll if he thought he could hide this from me and that if he ended up in Mungo’s I’d wait for him to get better and then kill him with my bare hands.

“We’re eating chicken.”

“They probably think there’s something shady about that too. They’re weird blokes.”

I glanced back down the table and saw James looking at us both with narrowed eyes. I kind of understood where he was coming from. After I’d unceremoniously dragged Fitz out of his dorm and we’d sat in the Common Room till about two in the morning, James seemed to have made it his purpose in life to figure out what it was all about. I had absolutely no problem with this, seeing as I knew nothing myself; he was wasting his time and it was quite funny to watch him wearing himself out.

“Maybe we could plant something and make it look like we’re, I don’t know, illegally breeding hippogriffs or something. Then he’ll go to Hobbs and it’ll be hilarious-“

“Will you stop with the P.T.T.J.P.D?” Fitz snapped.

“You remembered!” I squealed. “Although, to be fair, the P.T.T.J.P.D has been put on hold recently. But now that you’re on board, we can fully start it up. I suggest putting itching powder in his-“

“Hello!” someone said from behind us. I recognized the deep voice and winked at Fitz discreetly before turning around.

“Hello Freddy-bear!” I said brightly.

“Freddy-bear?” he said, raising an eyebrow.

“Well, yes; has a nice ring to it. You know, like teddy bear.”

Fred rolled his eyes and sat down.

“Okay, here’s the deal. James over there is being a right pain in my bum and I need you to pretend to tell me something important so that I can feed him some crap to make him shut up for a bit, and we can go five minutes without hearing a sentence that starts with ‘I saw Fitz and Red go to the library’.”

“Red?” I demanded.

“That’s what you got out of that?” Fred sighed.

“Fine, then tell him… tell him I call him Stinky.”

“You guys suck,” Fitz said loudly. “Both of you. And James. I’m leaving Quin out of this because he isn’t on any kind of ego trip or-“

“Hey!” Fred protested. “I’m not on an ego trip-“

“-or trying to play negotiator-“

“But it’s better than them yelling at each other-“

“Ahh, but Freddy-bear,” Fitz said wisely. “That will happen regardless. It’s a fool’s errand, trying to stop it-”

“Why are you guys calling me Freddy-bear?” Fred demanded.

“That’s what you got out of that?” I echoed his words.

“That’s not fair. This is important; do you call me that when I’m not around?”

“No offence, but we don’t actually talk about you,” Fitz said. Fred gasped in indignation.

“What you guys talking about?” James’s voice sounded from behind me. It was too cheery for James.

“Oh, look you guys, it’s Stinky!” I said loudly, turning around and grinning.

“Alright Stinky? Wait, no. I’m not getting involved in this,” Fitz said. James looked from Fitz o Fred to me and then repeated his question.

“Oh nothing!” I said cheerily, slinging my arm around Fred’s shoulders. “Just telling Freddy-bear over here how much we appreciate his, erm, Freddy-ness. Isn’t that right, Freddy-bear?”

“Sure, Red,” he shot back sportingly. James’s irritation was evident on his face. He just wanted to know what Fitz and I were up to and it gave me no greater satisfaction than to not tell him.

“Mind you, Freddy-bear doesn’t look like he’s been told that enough. Looks a bit lacking in the TLC department where he’s concerned,” I said, patting him on the head like I would a puppy. “There; all better.”

“Gee thanks, Red,” Fred grinned. “I’ll come to you next time I need to be petted.”

Fitz snorted into his pumpkin juice and I rolled my eyes. Fred seemed to realize what he’s said grinned sheepishly at me.

“What’s going on?” James was still standing there and he was now looking directly at me.

“But I just told you, Potter; we were telling Freddy how much we appreciate his-“

“I’ll figure it out,” he cut me off, folding his arms over his chest.

“You don’t need to do that because I’m telling you; Freddy-bear’s Freddy-ness is off the charts. It’s just so-“

“What’s in the library?”

“Books,” I deadpanned.

“But you aren’t looking at books are you? You’re looking at newspapers.”

He had me there, but I wasn’t about to admit it. So I grabbed an apple off the table in one hand, my bag in the other and got up to face him. The hall was a little quieter than it had been a few minutes ago. Even the teachers seemed to be waiting for hexes to start flying.

I would have loved to call him a git and maybe take a shot or two at his vanity, but people had just about stopped trying to murder me with the stink eye, and I was actually enjoying having meals outside the library again. So, I stepped closer to him and leaned in.

“I liked it when you weren’t talking to me,” I informed him. I thought I saw him wince, but it was gone in a millisecond.

“It was quite difficult to be honest,” James shrugged. “Had to stop myself from telling you not to act like a troll more than once.”

“Oh, the hypocrisy.”

“Oh, please Princess. You missed me,” he grinned.

“Actually, my days were considerably brighter.”

“You’re trying to change the subject.”

“You’re trying to act like you’re intelligent.”

Our voices had risen considerably and I glanced around the hall.

“Stop stalking me,” I hissed at him. Then I turned to walk out of the hall before he could answer. Of course, this was James Potter and he wouldn’t just let me leave like that.

“Don’t you wish,” he yelled across the hall.

“No, I don’t actually,” I called without stopping.

“I’ll figure it out, Princess,” his voice followed me to the door.

“Nothing to figure out,” I hollered back.

I spent most of the day in the library because I noticed that Jillian and her twits had started to actively follow me again, rather than just call me various things when I happened to cross paths with them. Fitz dug up something about Miranda Pucey in a small section of The Quibbler, but it said that the attack was because of Cornish Pixies and something about crop circles.

“So, this Dom situation…” I began that evening as the both of us were heading back to the Common Room. I had been meaning to broach to subject with Fitz, seeing as he had to actually manage to talk to her for this party thing.

“Yeah?”

“Erm… you do realize that you actually have to talk to her right?”

“Yes.”

“You’re calm, Fitz, and it’s scaring me.”

“Oh, I’m calm now,” he said cheerily. “But I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat sometimes.”

I stared at his bright face.

“A-and you’re okay with this?”

“Oh, no. But on the bright side; there aren’t any robots with plungers threatening to exterminate me.”

“Robots with plungers?” I asked. I was long past being worried for Fitz’s eccentricity. I had actually become curious about the things he said sometimes.

“Well, it’s actually a sort of arm and can manipulate- why have you stopped?”

It was pretty late and the corridors were more or less empty. We were somewhere on the sixth floor and had just turned a corner. At the other end of the hall there were two people and, even though his back was to me, I wouldn’t miss James’s hair anywhere. However, I didn’t know the poor girl whose face he was snogging off.

“Retreat,” Fitz hissed, and grabbed my hand, yanking me around the corner. “Retreat!”

“That was revolting,” I groaned, as I collapsed against the stone wall.

“That’s what I have to see if I walk into my own dorm without knocking,” Fitz sighed. I patted him sympathetically on the back.

“Who was that anyway?” I asked as we began our trek to the Common Room via the long route.

“James,” Fitz said, looking at me like I was crazy.

“How have you survived life this long?” I sighed.

“What do you- oh, you’re asking about the girl. Right. Andrea. Andrea Crenshaw.”

“Poor girl,” I said sadly. I’d heard her name somewhere, but I couldn’t place it. I decided that Fitz had probably said something about her at some point when I wasn’t fully listening.

“Right, whatever,” I shrugged as we began trekking up to the Common Room the long way. “You were telling me about robots with plungers..?”

I gathered some information about salt-shaker shaped evil aliens and something about a doctor, but a major part of my conscious brain was (and I will never, ever admit this again) on the scene we’d just witnessed in the corridor.

 I was also feeling a kind of odd stirring in the depths of my stomach.

Huh.


Must be some bad liquorice wands.






A/N: Okay, so for anyone who cares I GOT MY LAPTOP BACK AND IT STILL HAS ALL THE DATA ON IT AND I LITERALLY JUMPED UP AND DOWN BECAUSE I THOUGHT I LOST LIKE FIVE CHAPTERS.




On another note, I’ve been absolutely horrible and have begun writing something else that just won’t leave me alone. But since I’m now in Uni and all I felt like I should be responsible and stuff like that and concentrate on this one. (If you really think about it though, I’m just finding excuses to sit on the internet rather than do actual work and face the idea of the horrible repercussions I’ll face if I don’t complete it but I’m no Psych major so whatever).

And on another ANOTHER note, A BATCH OF FRESHLY BAKED BROWNIES FOR ANYONE WHO GOT THE SALT SHAKER EVIL ALIENS TRYING TO KILL ‘SOME’ DOCTOR.

(Side note though, I have to mention that the Daleks and The Doctor are from Dr. Who and I do not own it but C.E Webber created it and so much love. Also CAN’T WAIT FOR PETER CAPALDI).

I apologize for the excessive use of caps lock. It’s just that I miss updating so much (since, you know, my computer died and all) and I’m currently just having a really bad case of verbal diarrhea and I can’t physically talk to anyone because it is laaattteee as f and I just miss you guys and omg I’m going to cry so I’ll stop now.

Okay, but seriously though I bet no one even read all that but if you did thanks and I love you.

Now, bye.

Oh wait. Leave a comment?

Okay. Now really bye.


Chapter 8: How to: drama
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Dom was the type of girl who didn’t do anything short of perfect. I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was by this, but when I walked into the 6th year girls dorms that evening I actually had to stop short and gather my jaw up off the ground.

I mean, I know the girl is some part Veela and all, but come on. It was unfair, plain and simple. There was an actual chance that Fitz would pass out when he saw her.

“Wow, Dom,” I said, walking towards her. She looked up at me and her face brightened.

“Oh, hey! Do I look okay?” she asked, jumping up and smoothening out her baby blue dress. If I ever tried to wear something like that, I’d just look like a cosplay attempt that went wrong. Dom looked like a fairy princess.

“Dom, you look more than okay,” I assured her. She scanned my outfit and bit her lip.

“Maybe I should wear jeans too. I don’t want to seem like I’m trying too hard,” she said, fidgeting with the silky material of her dress. My own outfit was much the same as the one I’d worn to the other party; jeans, a shiny top, and heels.

“I think you’re fine, honestly. Plus, I doubt your boyfriend will care,” I said reassuringly.

“I don’t know…” Dom said uncertainly. I wanted to roll my eyes. If a goddamned Veela was insecure, what hope did the rest of us have? I walked up to her and put a hand on her shoulder.

“Seriously Dom, the guy seems really sweet. I mean, he cares enough about his best friend to not want to leave him all alone. He sounds great,” I said, giving her a reassuring squeeze.

“Yeah… he was keen on this. He really wanted to go too. This was all his idea to begin with; going to the party and all. I mean, we usually meet up in deserted corridors and stuff. I just wish there was some way to make sure none of my cousins were going though,” she sighed.

It all sounded a little shady to me, but I didn’t tell her that.

“It’ll be fine. Just… I don’t know, stay in the shadows and lay low. I’ll be there if you need me,” I said with a smile.

“Maybe I should call it off,” she said hesitantly.

“That’s it. We’re going,” I said with finality, grabbing Dom by the hand and tugging her out of the room. I knew that if I played along with her, we’d be in that dorm for another hour at the minimum. It didn’t seem like it since Fitz was pretty much the only person I communicated with at Hogwarts, but I was actually quite the girl’s girl, and I knew these things.    

My own roommates, Jillian, Tracey and Rebecca, had left for the party a while ago. Dom and I had agreed that we’d go a little later just so that there were already people there and there was a little chance that James would spot Dom at all.

Fitz was sitting by the fire and fidgeting with the blazer he’d put on. Even though he was visibly nervous, probably sweating, and there was a ninety five plus percent chance that this would go so far south it would reach the borders of Hell, it was adorable and I had to bite back a smile.

I cleared my throat and Fitz jumped up. I had guessed that he would freeze up so I started talking.

“Oh no, you guys. I forgot my, erm, wand! You two should go. I don’t want to keep you. I’ll see you there!” I said hastily.

Wow, that sounded so much more plausible in my head.

“Oh, we could just wait if you want-“

“NO! I mean… no. It’s fine. I’ll just see you guys there. It’ll take me a while to find it anyway. Go ahead.”

 Then I pushed Dom towards Fitz and shot him a thumbs up.

“Uh… hi,” Dom said awkwardly. I stood rooted to the spot and prayed that Fitz would come through. I’d given him a full pep top about how he just needed to say something to her and then the seal would be broken and he would stop acting like he belonged in the mental health ward at Mungo’s around her. And I still don’t know how to this day, but Fitz came through.

“Hey. You look great.”

Yes, he sounded like he’d recently swallowed a bowl full of razors; and yes, there was sweat pouring out of his face by the liter, but he’d done it. I would have jumped up and down in glee if it wouldn’t have ruined anything.

“Well, I’ll see you two in a bit,” I said, the pride in my voice evident. Dom looked a little suspiciously at me when she nodded. Okay, so I was beaming like an idiot, but anyone would have been. They were so adorably awkward. Yeah, Dom had a boyfriend who was probably really buff and looked like a male underwear model or something, but I didn’t care. Dom and Fitz (Ditz?); I shipped it.

I happily watched them walk away. I even faked going up to the girls’ dorms when Dom glanced back at me. Then I collapsed on a sofa in front of the fire, grinning like an idiot. I seriously considered knocking out Roger’s friend and leaving him in a broom closet. Then I could tell Roger he was missing so that he’d have to go look. Then Ditz could happen. But then I wouldn’t have the satisfaction of knowing that something James didn’t approve of was going on right under his nose and I had helped it along. I also didn’t want Dom to lose her trust in me because I really liked her. And Fitz would probably have a meltdown from being around Dom too long.

So, scrapping the idea, I pushed myself up and began my slow trek to the Room of Requirement. I didn’t want to leave Fitz alone with Dom too long either. I felt like that would be better in dozes.

I walked slowly through the silent castle. I was so busy thinking about what Dom and Fitz would name their kids, that I almost didn’t notice the lone figure leaning against the wall. When he spotted me, he pushed himself off the wall and began walking towards me.

I stopped short when I recognized the sandy hair.

“What’re you doing here?” I snapped, eyes narrowing.

Aaron Wheeler grinned at me.

“Dom set up a ‘casual’ hang out, if I remember correctly,” he smirked. And yes, he actually air quoted.

In retrospect, I should have been quick enough to put two and two together. What with Fitz saying those things about the Ravenclaw Captain and Dom saying Roger’s friend was on the team. I would’ve figured it out too, if I hadn’t been preoccupied all week. And now, standing opposite him in a deserted corridor, I just felt stupid.

“I’m glad your little friend isn’t with you,” he said in what I assumed to be a suggestive tone. It just made me want to vomit.

“Broken up about a girlfriend, have you?” I asked, folding my hands over my chest and narrowing my eyes at him.

He was looking at me in a way I wasn’t comfortable with. I put my right hand behind me just to make sure that my wand was in my back pocket.

“You know how these things are,” he grinned. That’s right; the git didn’t even look ashamed.

“Is this what you do when a girl rejects you? Use your best friend to get her alone?”

“No,” he said, stepping forward. “This is just for you.”

For the sake of bravado I wanted to stand my ground, but I wasn’t an idiot, so I stepped back out of his reach. I had known he was a creep from the moment I’d met him.

“Am I supposed to be flattered?” I asked in a bored voice. Underneath, however, my heart was beating a mile a minute. I wanted to get out of here and away from him. Somehow I had the feeling that running would make him think that this was some kind of game. Plus, he was the Quidditch captain and would probably catch up with me in a heartbeat.

However, I wasn’t exactly terrified out of my wits either. I had my wand. If Charles had done one thing as a parent, it was to teach me how to take care of myself. No way in Hell was I going to be some sorry damsel in distress.

“C’mon, babe. We both know you can rock my world. And I promise to return the favor,” he was still smirking and advancing on me. My hand curled around my wand still in my pocket.

“Stay away from me, Wheeler. I’m warning you.”

“Don’t be like that,” he said, pouting slightly. I think it was supposed to be playful. I felt sick.

“As opposed to what? You? Because I’d rather be this way than some dimwitted pig with a difficulty in understanding what the word ‘no’ means.”

The glint was gone from his eye and he looked annoyed now.

“Don’t be pricey. We all know what you’re like.”

“Tell me, Wheeler, what exactly am I like?”

He sneered at me and, thankfully, took a step back.

“You’re just some French slut. We all heard that letter your lovely boyfriend wrote. You’re a few laughs and a good time.” There was so much venom in his voice I actually flinched. What had I actually ever done to him?

There was a loud blast and it took me a moment to realize that it had come from my own wand. Aaron was lying motionless on the ground with nasty hives breaking out all over his skin. I didn’t know he would be fully blasted off his feet, but I was glad that he’d smacked his head against the wall and passed out. I didn’t want him to see the tears that had welled up in my eyes.

I knew it was stupid to let what he said get to me; he was just an idiot with a bruised ego. But he had done enough to plant the nagging thought in my mind. What if that actually was what everyone thought? Mostly what people thought didn’t bother me, but I’d always been relatively well liked back home. What if what everyone was thinking when I walked into the Great Hall that first night was that I was some brainless bint? What if they thought all I was after with dyeing James’s hair was attention?

Because all of that would certainly explain Jillian’s behavior.

I leaned back against the wall and stared at Aaron’s still from. He was breathing so I knew he was alive. But the hives were spreading rapidly and turning a nasty red and that made me smile. Angrily, I wiped the tears away.

“What the hell?!”

I jumped a little. Albus Potter was looking from me to Aaron’s motionless body. Under normal circumstance I would have been surprised to see Andrea Crenshaw with him. Now, however, I was just concerned that I couldn’t blink away the tears from my eyes quickly enough.

“Are you okay?” she asked me, stepping forward. There was genuine concern in her eyes. She didn’t even look at Aaron. I nodded and pushed myself off the wall.

“What did he do?” Albus’s voice had an edge to it, and I saw that he was glaring at Aaron. “Did he try to do something to you?”

“Yes. But as you can see, that clearly didn’t end well,” I said, trying to make light of it.

“Are you hurt?” he asked, looking at me now.

“Do I look hurt?” I said blandly, crossing my arms.

“No, but-“

“I can take care of myself, Albus. And I’ll be damned if I let some halfwit Quidditch bampot so much as touch me.”

“Marley-“ Albus began again.

“I’ll be going now. Do me a favor and just leave him there.”

Then, with a nod and wave, I turned and walked towards the Room of Requirement. What I wanted was to go back to my dorm, curl up in bed and feel bad for myself. But that would mean that Aaron would have won and got his revenge on me for rejecting him. He was an arse and I was going to this party and having fun.

When I got the doors to materialize and walked into the party, it was much like the other one. Only this had banners with ‘Happy Birthday Leroy!’ strung everywhere. It still had the loud, dark-except-for-flashing-lights and mass-of-drunken-people theme as the previous one though.

 “NESS!” Fitz yelled in my ear. He was standing awkwardly with Dom and some dark haired boy behind him. Said boy was looking around curiously. I watched him coldly and waited for him to speak.

“Where’s Aaron?” Roger said finally, looking at me. I didn’t answer.

“Well, he most definitely isn’t in any condition to try and scam someone else.”

I raised an eyebrow and continued to stare at him. From the moment he began to get uncomfortable, it was clear to me that he knew what Aaron’s intentions were.

“Erm… Marley?” Dom said when it started getting awkward. It was then that I thought about her in all this for the first time. Was it really safe for her to be alone with this guy?

“Can I speak to you?” I said. It was a question, but I grabbed her hand and pulled her away from him before she could answer.

“Well, where is he?” she asked when I came to a stop. “Roger’s worried about him-”

“Did he tell you to ask me to come?” I cut her off.

“Yeah, he wanted Aaron to have someone fun to hang out with and-“

“I mean specifically me?”

“Well, he asked me if I knew anyone and he knew I talk to you so he suggested it,” Dom shrugged. I took a deep breath and looked across the room. Fitz was saying something whilst wildly gesturing with his hands. Roger didn’t seem to be listening. He was casting looks in our direction.

“You need to stay away from him, Dom,” I said finally. She just blinked at me.

“Why?” she asked slowly.

“Aaron’s a creep and your boyfriend seems to be egging it on.”

Dom didn’t say anything for a bit.

“Aaron’s a sweetheart, Marley. I don’t know what happened… but I’m sure he didn’t mean it. He’s just been a mess since Jess broke up with him. Honestly, he went looking for you because he thought you’d gotten lost or something.”

I understood why she chose to believe her boyfriend’s best friend over some girl she’d only just met, but I was actually worried for her.

“Dom, please just listen to me. Aaron isn’t a good guy and if Roger is friends with him, he must know-“

“Don’t bring Roger into this.” Something in Dom’s eyes flashed and I knew I was fighting a losing battle. How was I supposed to convince this girl who was clearly in love that her boyfriend just set up someone innocent for the yuck-fest that would have happened if Charles hadn’t been an overprotective father?

There was only one thing left to do and Dom would hate me for it.

“I’m telling James.”

Her face went from surprised to betrayed to pissed off. And it was slightly terrifying given the Veela ancestors she had.

“How about you just stop messing in everybody’s business,” she said. The hatred in her tone didn’t match her beautiful face. She turned on her heel and marched away. I wanted to yell that she was the one who’d asked me to come, that I was only trying to help her. But I kept my mouth shut and reminded myself that it wasn’t her fault.

I saw Dom reach Roger and Fitz and roughly yank the former away, leaving Fitz hanging midsentence. He stood there, hands frozen in mid-gesture and I took the opportunity to slip away. I really didn’t want to have to explain anything to anyone right now. I felt a little guilty because I was the one who’d done the engineering necessary for him to come with Dom and I shouldn’t be leaving him all alone. But too many bad things had happened in too short a time, and I was sure he’d understand.

I just wanted somewhere to sit for a minute. The few spots to do that were filled with coupled snogging and I wasn’t in any mood to put up with that. So, I moved towards the bar and leaned over it.

“What can I get you?” the boy who was playing bartender for the evening asked, flashing me a friendly smile. I decided he seemed nice enough.

“Can I hide behind the bar for a bit?”

He looked at me like I was insane.

“I promise I won’t steal anything,” I said, smiling broadly.

“See, I never thought about that until you said it,” he said uncertainly.

“Okay, here’s a proposition; let me hide behind your bar or I’ll hex you into next year.”

He gulped and jerked his head. I glanced around. There were still people who looked at me weirdly since the thing with James’s hair. Others just looked because Hogwarts didn’t get many seventh year transfers. But now that Aaron had said what he had, I was having my doubts about why I was actually being treated like I was an animal at a zoo.

I ducked behind the bar and sat in a corner with my back against a shelf of bottles. The bartender guy kept looking at me apprehensively and I wanted to scream. The loud music was doing nothing to drown out the thoughts in my head, but I knew it would be worse if I was alone in my dorm with all its silence. Honestly, I wished I had thicker skin. I wished Aaron hadn’t gotten to me. I wished Dom would just listen.

“Did my cousin really scare you that much?”

I almost shrieked when the voice came from above me. I looked up to see James leaning over the counter. Bartender guy had frozen. He, like everybody else, probably thought we were going to start hexing each other.

“Stop stalking me.”

James didn’t listen. Instead, he placed his hand on the bar and hoisted himself over, not bothering to ask permission (or threaten anyone). Well, at least I had more manners than him.

He sat down next to me and folded his legs, resting his hands on them. I wasn’t in any mood to argue with him. I didn’t even feel like insulting him, really.

“Go away, Potter,” I said flatly.

“And here I was; about to apologize,” he said, throwing in a fake sob.

“Apologies only count when you’ve realized, and are willing to alter, the error in your ways. Unfortunately you’re going to be a prat for life, so I repeat; go away.”

He didn’t. Instead we just sat there in silence for a bit.

“So,” he said finally. “You going to tell me what that thing with Dom was about?” he said finally, looking straight ahead.

“You going to stop stalking me?”

“Probably not.”

“Then no.”

He turned to look at me, one eyebrow quirked.

“What’s going on with you?”

“My imaginary unicorn Ben died this morning.”

“I’m serious.”

“Okay.”

“No, really. It’s my middle name.”

I wanted to grab the nearest bottle and smash it over my own head.

“I’m not in the mood for your bad jokes, Potter.”

“Okay,” he said, turning slightly to face me. “Let’s make a deal.”

“No.”

He ignored me, of course.

“I’ll stop with the jokes and you tell me what’s going on. How does that sound?”

“Stop asking me questions,” I groaned.

“When you go back to being you, maybe I’ll consider it.”

I turned to look at him after the words had left his mouth, fully ready to lay into him.

Except…

The flecks of color in his eyes were noticeable in the glow-y bar lights. In my defense, they really did look quite fascinating. I was just starting to wonder how many different shades there were when the rational part of my brain kicked in.

I was thinking about James Potter’s eyes.

Oh sweet holy wonderful Merlin; why? What have I ever done to you?

James, I managed to register, was frowning back at me slightly. Oh no, he was probably wondering why I was thinking about his eyes.

Wait, no. He can’t read minds. That’s not possible. I reminded myself to breathe like a normal person, and I tore my eyes away from his.

“I’m going to go,” I said, pushing myself off the ground. James was looking at me in that way of his; like he was trying to figure something out… or maybe he already had figured it out and he was judging me. I shook off the unnerving feeling it always gave me and walked away to find Fitz.

It took me longer than I thought it would and I was starting to get a little worried when I spotted his head of dark hair sitting on one of the couches in the corner. His back was ramrod straight and he looked highly uncomfortable about the two couples snogging in either side of him.

When he spotted me, he jumped up and rushed towards me.

“I feel violated,” he said with wide eyes.

“I just feel weird,” I muttered back, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t hear me over the music.

One of the girls from the couch behind him made a noise that made my face turn slightly pink. Fitz looked far more uncomfortable than me.

Without a word, we both spun around and all but ran for the exit. 








A/N: So I just wanted to say thanks so much for all the wonderful reviews last chapter! I had lots of fun writing this one and I hope you like it :) Leave a review? They make me happy and I promise Fitz will appreciate it ;)


Chapter 9: How to make friends
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




My first class Monday morning was free. So I skipped breakfast to go to the library. There wasn’t anything left to check that would help me with figuring out what was going on with Charles; I had been through all the Daily Prophet issues from as far back as four months ago. So I started on essays due for the next week. If I was being honest with myself, I just wasn’t up for facing anyone yet. Aaron was on top of that list (but probably still in the hospital wing). Albus Potter might try to find out what had happened. Dom would glare or ignore me and I wasn’t sure which would be worse.

And James… Well, I didn’t want to think about James.

So, like the good student that I am, I decided to go research the effects of Wormwood on the Draught of the Living Dead.

It wasn’t particularly difficult; I was always good at Potions. I was done with it just as the bell sounded for the first class to begin. I sat back and stared at my finished essay. It made me wonder what in the name of Merlin was wrong with me.

I’d been in this school almost two months and there were already parts of me that I didn’t recognize. Thinking constantly about Charles and his work was the biggest change, but that could be attributed to the fact that back home all he did was sit behind a desk and sign stuff (or at least that’s what I thought he did). It was also a little off that I only had one friend. Don’t get me wrong, I love Fitz, but in Beauxbatons there wasn’t a moment when I was alone; not even when I was sitting in the library writing an essay.

It felt like that was so long ago. Maybe it was because neither Bridgette nor Henri had written me back for almost a three week. I understood why. I mean, I hadn’t exactly been sitting and twiddling my thumbs either; they were busy, so was I. But something was off. If not Henri, I at least expected to hear from Bridgette. Pushing the sense of unease to the back of my mine, I turned and looked out the window. The Hogwarts grounds were beautiful and stretched out as far as the eye could see. The castle was exciting, with its secret passages and suits of armor that sometimes spouted words when you walked by them. It all could have been a hundred times worse. I liked Hogwarts, I really did. It’s just… I missed home. I missed my friends and my school. I missed the uniform and the teachers. Hell, I even missed the language.

Charles had never really taken to it. His own parents had been French, but he had been raised in England and had gone to Hogwarts. He’d met my mother and married her after the war. They’d moved to France during the aftermath of it and Charles had decided to stay after she bailed out on us.

And now he’d moved us back, it seemed, to pick up where he’d left off; working with other Hit Wizards to fight something. It scared me more than anything ever had. It wasn’t a shock of fear; it was a sense of something creeping up on me slowly and I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it. No amount of pouring over newspapers, freaking out at Fitz or writing letters to Charles could put a lid on the dread that was slowly reaching every part of me. I was stuck in this castle while Charles did whatever he wanted outside of it.

I took another deep breath and closed my eyes, willing the uneasy feeling in my stomach to go away.

“Hey.”

My eyes flew open at the soft voice. I blinked in surprise at Andrea Crenshaw.

“Hi?” I don’t know what it came out as a question.

“That seat taken?” she asked, gesturing to the chair opposite me. I shook my head and motioned for her to sit down. Neither of us said anything for a long time.

“Where’s Fitz?” she asked finally. I just shrugged. I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. Plus, she reminded me of James and Albus, and that really wasn’t helping her case.

“Looks like we both had the same idea, then,” she took another shot at conversation. I just blinked at her.

“Hiding out in the library,” she explained.

“That obvious?”

“Marley, who in their right mind goes to the library instead of breakfast?”

I snorted at that. She was right. I looked at her for a long minute. Andrea was definitely pretty. Actually, she had the bombshell thing going for her; sexily tousled dark hair, clouded blue eyes and puckered lips.

“Will I find out why you’re here by nightfall on my own?”I said lightly. Andrea smiled bitterly.

“Probably.”

“Oh, the joys of the rumor mill.”

“I’m so done with it,” she rolled her eyes.

“Can’t be worse than having to avoid about four people at the same time,” I tried to sound encouraging and she sighed almost wishfully.

“I wish it was only four people. I have the whole student body and probably half the teachers to hide from.”

“Did you murder someone or something?” I narrowed my eyes playfully. She rested her face in her hand and blew a strand of hair out of her eye.

“Far worse than that; I’m the school slut.”

That confused me because I’d seen her snogging James’s face off a few days ago.

“Aren’t you with Potter?”

“Which one?”

We just looked at each other for a moment and then burst out laughing. I knew she didn’t mean for it to come out that way, but I liked her sense of humor; it was dry and she used it to laugh at things that sucked.

I could roll with that.




“But it’s supposed to be Halloween,” I complained to Fitz.

“I didn’t make the rules.”

“But I wanted to be the Giant Squid.”

“Wear a grey dress then.”

“But it won’t be the same.”

“Then go as the Giant Squid.”

“Everyone will stare at me.”

“Everyone will stare at you anyway.”

“BELGARDE, FITZROY, I SWEAR TO MERLIN IF I HAVE TO TELL YOU TWO TO SHUT IT ONE MORE TIME I WILL HEX YOU,” Professor Lupin yelled. He hadn’t grown a pair yet, so he was still afraid to give us detention from fear that we’d tell a teacher he told James how to get into the girls’ dorms. He was an idiot, but it worked in our favor.

“Are you threatening us with violence, Professor?” I asked with wide eyes. He turned red.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, Ness, but isn’t that illegal?” Fitz asked with mock curiosity. Merlin, I love this boy.

“Yes, Fitzroy, I believe it is,” I nodded vigorously.

“It is as illegal as telling a student how to get into-“

“ENOUGH!”

He looked like his head might explode. I felt a little bad for him and considered laying off of him for a bit. Then I remembered that I had to find a way around my Giant Squid costume problem and started annoying Fitz again.

It was Halloween come Monday, and the Head Boy and Girl had somehow convinced the Headmaster to allow them to throw a formal Halloween party. I thought the idea was pretty stupid seeing as there’d probably be an illicit one in the Room of Requirement anyway. But then again, considering the fact that they were the Head Boy and Girl, they probably didn’t even know that there were such parties and thought that they were doing the student body some good. In that case, bless them and all their good intentions.

There would be teachers there of course, and some band that I’d ever heard of. But for whatever reason everyone was excited about it. All the girls were squealing and the guys were being all gentlemanly and formally asking for a date. It was hilarious, seeing as these were the same people who snogged in dark corners and danced uncomfortably close to each other at Leroy’s birthday party. I guess I understood though; this was out in the open and all classy so everyone wanted to clean up and be posh.

I, on the other hand, just wanted to be the Giant Squid.

“Maybe if I staged a protest they’ll let us wear costumes,” I said brightly. We were walking to lunch and Fitz was rummaging his bag for his newspaper. I’d already read because I wasn’t weird and the smell of bacon and newspapers together wasn’t a problem for me.

“If they let us wear costumes Professor Slughorn would have a heart attack from regarding the female form for the first time in his life.”

“That’s a really messed up was of putting it, Fitz,” I told him knowledgably. He rolled his eyes at me as we entered the Great Hall. No one turned to look because they’d gotten used to the idea that neither James nor I were inclined to prank each other anymore; James because his mother would flip her shit, and me because Charles is a worrying fool and I needed as much sleep as I could get.

We sat down and he started reading while I piled food on my plate. I wasn’t sure when I noticed that everyone had gone quiet, but when I did my heart involuntarily lunged and I assumed it had something to do with me. However, when I looked up all heads were turned to one of three place; towards the Slytherin table towards Albus, the Gryffindor one towards James or to the door of the Great Hall through which Andrea had just walked in.

I saw a blush start to make its way to her cheeks as she wrapped her arms around herself. Her eyes scanned the hall and they landed on me. Then, in a flash of dark hair, she had turned around and walked out the way she came. Almost immediately, the Hall broke into whispers.

“-such a slag-“

“-does she think she is?”

“You don’t mess with the Potter boys.”

“Just because she’s pretty-“

I looked at Fitz and wasn’t even a little surprised that he was still reading his newspaper through all of this. I reached out and grabbed it out of his hands.

“What’s happening?” I asked, gesturing to everyone whispering around us.

“How should I know? Gimme my paper.”

I held it out of his reach.

“What did Andrea do?” I demanded.

“Nothing really,” he shrugged. “Albus likes her; she snogged James. The people are appalled.”

While I was processing this Fitz grabbed his paper back.

“But she didn’t even do anything wrong,” I pointed out. Fitz sighed and put his paper down.

“Stop being a troll, Ness. This is Hogwarts. You don’t mess with the kids of war heroes. Especially the Potters. You of all people should know that.”

My gaze swept along the still whispering student and met hazel eyes. He was pushing his long, dark hair out of his face and looking at me with an expression I couldn’t quite read. Subtly, he inclined his head towards the door Andrea had just run out of, and somehow I knew what he was asking.

It wasn’t her fault; it was his and he knew it. But he couldn’t go after her since it would only get worse for her.

Just stay out of everybody’s business, Dom’s words rung in my head.

James was getting fidgety by now; he must have seen the hesitation on my face. This had nothing to do with me. This was James’s problem to fix, but Andrea was caught in the middle of it and I knew that if I didn’t go after her, no one would. I was also sure as Hell that if it was me in her shoes, it would be nice to know that someone cared. There was also the fact that a few weeks ago I’d been in her place and I knew I would’ve had a mental breakdown or something if it wasn’t for Fitz.

Without another moment of hesitation, I got up and grabbed my bag.

“Steal me some chicken, yeah?”I said to Fitz.

“Where you going?” he asked with only half interest as his eyes scanned the paper.

“Library.”




I heard her before I saw her. The sobs were so soft that I almost missed them. If it hadn’t been lunch time and the library I was certain I would have.

She was at the very end, near the Restricted Section. Her back was against the wall and she was sitting on the floor, bag carelessly tossed aside. I sat down cross-legged next to her and said nothing. We probably sat like that; me looking at the chair in front of me, her sobbing quietly next to me, for about ten minutes until she finally spoke.

“You didn’t have to,” she said hoarsely.

“I know.”

She sighed and wiped her cheeks.

“This is so stupid.”

“You’re telling me. They thought I was a ninja assassin. And insane,” I said lightly.

“What you did was pretty ninja assassin-like,” she said and there was a small smile on her face.

“I just snuck into a dorm. Plus, a Potter was involved. Therefore it had to be exaggerated,” I said, a little annoyed. When she didn’t say anything back I continued.

“It really isn’t that bad. Just because they think something doesn’t make it true. And honestly, you shouldn’t care what a bunch of people you don’t know think; especially when they are so far gone with worshipping the ground the Potters walk on.”

“They all think I’m a tramp, Marley. They hate me.”

“They’re just angry you got some of that fine piece of arse.” It was true… even though I’d never say it to James’s face. But it did the trick and Andrea smiled a little.

“It isn’t your fault Albus has a thing for you.”

“I didn’t even know. Plus, James would never think of me as anything other than a quick snog anyway. It didn’t mean anything,” she said. I heard something in her voice that made my heart hurt.

I wanted to get those two boys in a room and beat them bloody. They were so immature and had their heads stuck so far up their arses, and Andrea was suffering for it.

“You know what? Screw them,” I said defiantly. I wasn’t done dealing with them but she didn’t need to sit there and keep thinking about it. I grabbed my bag and dug through it until I found my stash of liquorice wands. I grinned triumphantly and popped the wrapper.

“What’re you doing?” she sniffed.

We are going to eat candy for lunch and talk about what we’re going to wear to this Halloween farce.”

The smile she gave me was so filled with relief and gratitude I wanted to hug her. As of that moment I decided to be Andrea Crenshaw’s friend. It was therefore my duty to sit and stuff my face with sweets on the floor of the library with her.

This was also good for the Potters concerned. It gave them time to live with all their limbs until they found out exactly what it meant to piss off a redhead.






A/N: Hiiii! *waves*

I know, I know. It's been two weeks. I also don't have any excuses becasue I feel like y'all get that I'm useless at this updating thing. If you don't, I woud like to say sorry and I swear that I feel horribly about it since you take the time to read this. It makes me happy inside becasue I feel like we're friends.

So... leave a review? They make my day! :)


Chapter 10: How to be a jerk
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




I was on a mission and Dominique Weasley was my target.

She hadn’t looked my way in two days save to glare angrily and then walk off in a huff. It was a bit scary with all her Veela blood and all. I’d kept my eye out and as far as I could tell, she and Roger hadn’t snuck off anywhere. But then again; this was Hogwarts, it was a castle and I wasn’t Merlin.

I hadn’t said anything to James. Mostly because I wasn’t sure I could actually have a conversation with him without punching him in the face for what he and Albus did to Andrea. She’d somehow gotten me to promise not to do anything to them. Silent treatment came under nothing in my book and I had therefore not said a word to either of them in two days.

I found Dom in the Common Room by the fire. She was with a group of sixth years and immediately turned pointedly away when she saw me approaching.

“Dom.”

She ignored me and continued glaring at the fire.

“Seriously, I’m just going to stand here and wait till you talk to me.”

Her friends were getting a bit edgy.

“I just want to talk to you. I didn’t say anything to Potter, promise.”

Something flickered in her eyes and I knew I’d won this battle. Dom was too sweet to actually stay angry at me. Or at least that’s what I’d hoped for before going to talk to her.

Finally, she sighed and got up, walking out of the Common Room. She stopped outside the portrait of the Fat Lady and turned to me, eyebrows raised.

“I take it you and Roger are still together then.”

“Why wouldn’t we be?”

“Because I figured you’d have asked Aaron why he was in the Hospital Wing for a day and you’d know by now what he did.”

Dom sighed and leaned back against the wall.

“He said you’d say something like that,” she said. My hands clenched into fists.

“Did he now?”

“He wants to talk to you about it.”

“What did he tell you, Dom?”

“Marley, Aaron’s a nice guy. You just mistook that for him flirting with you. You really shouldn’t have hexed him for it. He knows you have a boyfriend.”

“Oh, so that was him being nice, was it?”

“Yes. He wasn’t coming on to you,” Dom explained.

“Right. And you believe him,” I said dryly.

“Yes I do; him and Roger.”

“Roger backed him up, did he?”

Dom said nothing because she knew where I was going with that. Instead she pushed herself off the wall and looked at me condescendingly.

“We trust each other,” she said, folding her arms across her chest. “That’s how it works for us.”

“Dom, please. Just listen to-“

“I shouldn’t have asked you to do me a favor. It was my fault.”

“Dom-“

“Have a good evening, Marley.”

“DOM-“

But she had already started to walk away. I gaped at her retreating back until it was out of sight. Then I collapsed against the wall and just sat there for a long time. Obviously she wasn’t going to listen to me. I wasn’t exactly her best friend forever or anything.  I could leave it alone, but I knew Roger was taking advantage of how nice she was. How he’d even gotten her to like him was way beyond me.

In all honesty, I didn’t want to tell James; not because I was too stubborn to go back on my cold shoulder resolve, but because I knew he’d overreact and Dom would hate me forever.

“Red! What’re you doing out here all by your lonesome?”

I grinned up at Fred.

“Freddy-bear, so nice to see you without your usual attachment,” I said as he took a seat against the wall next to be.

“You going to tell me why I just saw my cousin storm into the Common Room looking pissed off at the world?”

“Why do you think that has something to do with me?”

“Because we once threw Dom’s favorite designer shoes in the pool and she didn’t bat an eyelid.”

“So?”

“If there’s anyone capable of pissing off Dominique Weasley, it’s you, love.”

“I don’t know whether to take that as an insult or a compliment.”

“Both?”

“Works for me.”

“But seriously though. What’s going on?” his tone changed and he did sound serious. I would have told him if he wasn’t related to her. According to Dom, James and Albus would hex Roger for even dating her and I’m sure Fred would actively take part in it. Telling him that I thought her boyfriend was a creep who was using her wasn’t going to help the situation.

“Nothing.”

“She’s my cousin, Red,” Fred said.

“I know. Honestly though. It’s nothing.”

“You did something, didn’t you?”

I turned to look at him.

“Why do you think I did something?”

“Are you telling me you didn’t?” he said, eyebrow raised.

“Yes. That’s exactly what I’m telling you.”

“Right,” Fred snorted.

“I’m sorry… Is this funny to you?”

For the first time Fred actually looked at me. He must’ve seen something in my face because the playful expression on his face dropped. I wasn’t in any mood to fight. I was already not talking to three members of his family and for all I knew he thought I was some kind of meddling idiot.

“I honestly didn’t do anything, Fred,” I said, trying to smile. No one was going to believe that Aaron was a creep and I certainly wasn’t going to lay my case out for Fred Weasley.

“I didn’t mean anything by it, Marley. Honestly.”

“Yeah, I know,” I said lightly. “It’s just been a long day.”

“Are you okay?”

The long answer would be that I hadn’t thought about if I was okay or not at all. My father was possibly in danger, Dom wouldn’t believe that her boyfriend’s best friend had tried to attack me and that said boyfriend had set it up, a majority of the school still thought I was an attention whore, I had no idea how I was going to pass Transfiguration, my friends from home hadn’t written me in too long and it wasn’t normal behavior for them, and I still wanted to be the Giant Squid for Halloween.

The short answer was no, I wasn’t okay.

“Yup. Fine. Peachy,” I said brightly.

“James was right; you really are the worst liar-“

“What are you guys doing?”

I almost groaned at the sound of James’s voice but then I remembered that I was no longer acknowledging his presence so I just stared at the wall opposite me and Fred.

“Nothing,” Fred shrugged. “She just looked like she needed some company.”

I wanted to tell Potter to go away, but then I saw his appearance as a way to get out of explaining myself to Fred.

“Anyway, I should go. It was nice talking to you. We should do this more often,” I said to Fred, getting up and dusting my pants off.

“Sure thing, love,” Fred said, but he rolled his eyes because he probably caught on that I was trying to avoid answering him.

I stared to walk past James and refused to look at him even though I felt his eyes on me.

“I need to talk to you,” he said. Since I was a boss at giving people the cold shoulder, this wasn’t a problem for me. I just walked calmly past him on my way back into the Common Room.

Unfortunately for me, James seemed to know that I was going to do this and reached out, grabbed my arm, and pulled me somewhere that Fred couldn’t hear.

When you’re giving someone the cold shoulder, is it okay to attack them? Or does that injure the whole ‘I’m ignoring you and your stupid face, get away from me you prat’ agenda? I considered ‘accidently’ moving my leg at a tangent that would equal me kicking him in the shins and then walking away calmly like nothing had happened.

Before I could act on this, however, James let me go and stepped out of my reach. I was going to take full advantage of this and walk away when he spoke.

“I talked to Albus,” he said quickly, as thought he knew I was going to walk away. This made me stop. Maybe they’d both decided to stop being gits.

“He said something about Wheeler.”

And there went my hopes that James Potter had decided to reform and stop with the git behavior.

I sighed and looked down at my nails.

“Did he do anything to you?”

I yawned and his hands clenched into fits. I’ll admit I derived more satisfaction from that than I should have; let the stupid git stew in his irritation.

“Now is not the time to be a pain in my arse.“

I had to bite back about seven retorts to that.

“I’ll ask you again; did he do anyth-“

“Oh shut up,” I cut him off and stalked past him.

“Come back-“

But I turned the corner and didn’t bother listening to whatever he had to say. I didn’t know what he was playing at, but if he continued to be a git about Andrea, I was going to have to break the promise I’d made about not hurting either of them.

I could hear him following me as I walked into the Common Room. I honestly wasn’t in the mood to fight with him and so, instead of walking over to where Fitz was sitting by the windows, I headed straight for the girls’ dorms.

“I’m serious, Marley,” he almost yelled from behind me.

Oh, screw this.

“Is that the only pun you know?” I asked sweetly as I turned to face him. Of course, everyone was listening at this point. I spotted Jillian and some sixth year girl in the corner looking like they’d swallowed something nasty.

In that moment I was just tired; of the school, of being blamed for fighting with James, for trying to help Dom, for being friends with Andrea. I just wanted to go home, but by the looks of it, my friends in Beauxbatons weren’t even wondering how I was doing.

James, for the first time I’d known him, actually seemed less put together than me. He cast what could only be described as a dirty look around the room. And then he did something that surprised me.

“When will you lot start minding your own business?” he snapped at no one in particular. The silence turned from excited (because they were all waiting for hexes to start flying), to tense.

I don’t think I remember James giving two craps about their interest in our ongoing ‘feud’ before, let alone what they thought.

No one moved, but I could see people start to whisper to each other behind their hands. This was all going to come back and bite me in the arse; I just knew it. I decided to turn around and walk away instead of giving them anything else to talk about.

I knew James wouldn’t let this go. He would probably storm into my dorm room, guns ablaze. But that was way better than saying two words to him in front of the entire Common Room.

And here I thought everything was finally going to be normal.

I angrily stormed into the 7th years girls dorms. Tracey and Rebecca were seated on the floor, flipping through magazines and laughing about something. When they saw me, they stopped.

“Uh oh,” Rebecca said.

“Why do you look like someone stole your liquorice wands?” Tracey asked, setting her magazine aside.

“Because James Potter is alive.”

“Is it weird that I already knew you were going to say that?” Rebecca said lightly. I sighed and sat down on my bed. There was silence for a moment and I enjoyed it while it lasted.

And then, of course, James came bursting in about forty seconds later.

Rebecca let out a little squeak, and Tracey’s mouth dropped open. Neither of them knew that he knew how to get into the girls dorms. I probably should’ve told them.

“Rebecca can give you detention,” I said flatly, looking out the window. There was a long silence. I could feel James glaring at me. I was pretty sure Rebecca and Tracy wanted nothing more than to bolt. But I refused to cave. Ignoring James just made my life a lot easier.

Finally, I heard him sigh.

“What do you want from me, Marley?” the poor boy sounded tired. “If you want me to apologize to her, I will. Even though it had absolutely nothing to do with me.”

“Oh, don’t do me any favors,” I snapped, rounding on him. We were now standing on opposite ends of the room; I was seething, he just stared back and that made me want to scream.

“But you’re the one treating me like I’m a hairy mole on Fred’s arse,” he said coolly. Rebecca snorted and Tracey looked away to hide her smile.

Traitors.

“Because you’re a prick, Potter!” I almost yelled.

“How does the state of my brother’s love life make me a prick?” he asked, leaning against the door frame.

“Because whatever bitch fight you guys are having is hurting my friend.”

He didn’t say anything because he already knew that.

“Did you ever think for a moment that maybe you should, I don’t know, remove your head from up your arse and-“

“Don’t start,” he snapped, pushing himself off the wall and advancing on me.

“If you don’t like what I have to say then you can leave-“

“You can’t blame me for everything,” he said, still walking forward, his voice steadily rising.

“I can when it’s your fault,“ I said as loudly as him.

“And you just can’t accept it when it isn’t,” he was almost in my face now.

“But it is-“

“HOW?” he legitimately screamed this time. “How was I supposed to know what was going on in his life when he won’t even look at me?”

I stopped, my next insult lodged in my throat.

“You… you didn’t know that… You didn’t know he…?” I trailed off weakly.

Something changed in James’ face. There was a flash of something before it went fully blank.

“You assumed I knew.”

It wasn’t a question.

“You thought I was trying to upset him.”

Oh Merlin, I’m an idiot.

“You think I’d use someone like that.”

And then I just felt like absolute shit. Why? Because that’s exactly what I’d thought. I’d taken it for granted that James would use Andrea to mess with Albus. I’d thought he’d done it on purpose because James was right; it was simply easier to blame him for everything.

And for the first time I saw what Fitz had tried to tell me all those weeks ago; James Potter was not a bad person.

Which was a lot more than I could say for myself.

“Potter, I-“

“Did Wheeler do anything to you?” he cut me off. He was staring at me like he saw through me, and I felt my stomach drop. I knew that look; it was the look he’d given me the first time I’d actually fought with him, when I’d said that thing about his father.

But it was different because this time I actually deserved it.

“No,” I said quietly, staring at the floor… since, you know, I was too much of a coward to actually look him in the eye and all.

“So… Albus was lying?” James asked testily. I just blinked at him for a moment like an idiot.

“I... What? No. I mean, I hexed him. And then Albus showed up and… Yeah,” I said lamely.

The side of his mouth twitched as though he was fighting a smile.

The brief silence was broken with a tapping on the window. I looked around the room and realized that Tracey and Rebecca had left at some point, and I hadn’t even noticed.

James walked up to the window and opened it, allowing the owl to flutter into the room. It perched on my bed, ramrod straight.

I lunged at Henri’s poor owl like a stupid clingy girlfriend before I could fully consider my actions.

“Are you trying to kill it?” James asked as he watched me trying to untie the letter from its leg. I chanced a look at him and was relieved to see that he was smirking.

Hey, it was better than nothing.

“Shut up, Potter,” I rolled my eyes.

James didn’t move as I opened the letter and began reading it. He did move, however, when the smile dropped from my face and I stared with disbelief at the piece of parchment in my hand.

“What is it? Is everything okay?” he asked, taking a step forward.

I turned around and fled to the only available place; the bathroom, before tears started welling up in my eyes.

I guess I should have seen it coming. I mean, if something like this was to happen, of course it would happen to me.

Merlin hated me; that much had always been clear.

And just to prove it, he’d made sure that James Potter was the only person in the room when my boyfriend broke up with me.

A week before our two year anniversary.

Via owl post.

My life is such a farce.




A/N: Hello! *waves happily*. This was a fun chapter to write. I really hope you like it because I took a long time to actually decide whether I wan to post it or not. Please leave a review. It will be much appreciated; especially now. Thanks, my lovlies! :)


Chapter 11: How to prioritise
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

I stared at myself in the mirror.

There was no nice way of saying it; I looked like a troll.

Maybe staying in bed was a good idea.

Hogmeade couldn’t be as great as Fitz made it out to be.

I sighed and leaned against the sink. I was feeling a lot of things, but stupid was at the top of that list. All because of a boy.

No.

Forcing myself to look in the mirror, I reached of my wand and makeup bag and got to work. It didn’t matter if Henri was across the English Channel; I would not let him win. It took about half an hour and almost caving more times than I’d like to admit, but when I was done I looked like I did every other day.

Which, if you were wondering, was a far cry from the banshee-inferi hybrid I woke up looking like.

Someone should give me a prize.

I walked into the dorm and pulled on suitable clothes for late October. Jillian was putting makeup on, and she glared pointedly at me. It didn’t even bother me today. Rebecca was nowhere in sight, and Tracey was writing a letter on her bed. I sort of weirdly wandered to the door without actually realizing what I was doing. I didn’t want to think about why I had been chucked via owl post. I wished I could do something about the heavy feeling in my stomach. I wished there was something more in the letter.

I mean, what kind of explanation was ‘It just isn’t working. I’m sorry’? What had I even done to him? He was the one ignoring me. Three weeks. Three weeks I hadn’t heard from anyone. Maybe it wasn’t working because, I don’t know, the stupid git wouldn’t write me back?

I wanted to strangle someone, and go upstairs and continue to cry my eyes out at the same time. All those things he’d said… that we’d make it work, that this was the two of us and we’d find a way. He was the first person I’d gone to when Charles had dropped the bomb about moving. I’d been angry and sad and he’d been so reassuring. We’d written each other every day in the summer. What had I done to set this off?

I didn’t wait for Fitz. Instead, I decided I would get a little more time to wallow in self pity without being questioned about it in the Great Hall. My feet carried me through the corridors, leaving my mind to think about how much of a loser I was. Every time I consciously told myself to get it together seemed half-arsed.

Thankfully, there was no one I was on talking terms with at the Gryffindor table. I sat in the middle and proceeded to stare blankly at my cup of coffee. There was the normal chatter that took place at breakfast. I had no inclination to take part in it.

I wasn’t sure how long I sat there before something started prodding my shin under the table.

I ignored James simply because I wasn’t in the mood for arguing with him. He didn’t seem to want to relent though. Instead, he just continued to sit opposite me, resting his elbows on the table so he could lean forward and peer at me. Grudgingly I met his gaze.

“What do you want?” I sighed. He just continued to blink at me.

“This is great,” I said absently, mirroring his posture and resting my face in my hands. “I like when you’re mute. Saves me so much trouble.”

“What happened?”

“I accidently married a troll last summer, and now it’s refusing to sign the divorce papers.”

“Haha,” he deadpanned.

“Alright. What actually happened is that Charles sold my pony, Laquisha, and I’m not sure how I’m going to deal with this.”

James sighed and rubbed his hands over his face.

Oh look, my sad attempt at evasiveness bothered him.

Shame.

“You looked like someone killed your cat,” he said finally.

“It was Laquisha. That’s why Charles had to sell her-“

“Marley.”

“Potter.”

We sat there and stared at each other. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought he looked a little sad. But, more realistically, he was probably just annoyed that I wasn’t divulging information that he could hold over me the next time we argued.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jillian walking our way. James didn’t. I couldn’t stop myself from grinning in pure glee when she stopped behind him, giving me the dirtiest look she could muster.

“James-y!” she said, all giggle-y like, still giving me a dirty look. It was a little terrifying.

James’ eyes went wide in what could be described as minor panic. Then he shut his eyes, took and deep breath, and turned half way to look at Jillian.

 “Yes?” he asked. Jillian grinned broadly at him, batting her eyelashes as she extended a box towards him.

“I got assigned to you,” she said happily. James looked a little sick by this point.

“Again?” he asked weakly.

“Yup!” Jillian chirped. I was lost by this point, but James was going paler by the second, and I decided that it was too good to interrupt. 

“Listen, this really isn’t necessary. I don’t need you to-“

“Oh, stop it James!” Jillian said, placing the box in front of him. “It’s my pleasure. Anything to help Gryffindor win the cup!”

“I don’t-“

“And I’ll see you at Madame Puddifoot’s at around noon. I made a reservation for us.”

“What are you-“

“They have the best muffins there. My treat.”

“This isn’t-“

“Alright, then. Have a nice day. I’ll see you soon!” she said that last bit while smirking at me. Then she turned around and began to skip away. James just sat there, his mouth hanging slightly open.  Then suddenly something seemed to click for him.

“I ALREADY ASKED MARLEY,” he suddenly yelled after her.

People near enough to hear him stopped talking, Jillian froze in her tracks, and I blinked at James stupidly.

Slowly, scarily, Jillian turned on the spot.

And she was glaring murder at me.

“What?” she hissed. She might as well have been breathing fire.

“I, um…” I trailed off, looking at James. He was looking at me with pleading eyes. I wasn’t even sure what was going on, but I was still kind of guilty about blaming him for the whole Andrea thing the night before.

“Yeah,” I said finally, turning back to Jillian. “He asked me.”

Jillian didn’t say anything else. She simply turned on her heel and stalked out. I was pretty sure I’d gotten myself in one giant mess.

I turned back to James who was surveying me cautiously. I raised an eyebrow and he sighed, running a hand through his hair.

“Am I going to get hexed in my sleep or something?” I asked pleasantly.

“Probably.”

“Thanks,” I rolled my eyes. “But really, what is it that you ‘already asked me’?”

“They um… There’s this thing… They like to give us presents and stuff. Before games.”

“That makes so much sense,” I deadpanned. Then I reached for the box Jillian had placed in front of James. It turned out to be a dozen cupcakes meticulously decorated as Quaffles. My mouth dropped open and I glared at James.

“I am not going to be your rally girl or whatever,” I whisper-shouted at him. James quickly held his hands up in surrender.

“You don’t have to do anything! I just don’t need her on my arse all the time.”

“Why do I associate myself with you?” I groaned, placing my head in my hands.

“Because you love me,” James grinned. I rolled my eyes.

“Is there something we should know?” Fred asked from behind me. I turned to see him, Fitz and Quin all looking at James and I weirdly.

“Red is my rally girl,” James grinned. Fred and Quin bought it. Fitz rolled his eyes.

“No, really. What’s going on?” he asked. James looked at him, frowning slightly.

“What’s happening,” I said, getting up, “Is we’re going to Hogsmeade. Have a wonderful day, boys.”


Then I grabbed a couple of cupcakes and walked out of the Great Hall, dragging Fitz with me.



Andrea was angry with me, I could tell.

I would be angry at me too if I were her.

I mean, if she somehow found herself being Henri’s… whatever Jillian was assigned to James to do, I would be pissed too.

Henri.

My mood immediately plummeted. Even the fact that I’d managed to find a dress that didn’t clash with my hair didn’t make it any better.

“Are you seriously not going to talk to me?” I demanded as we sat opposite each other in The Three Broomsticks. We were waiting for Fitz, who had downright refused to go dress shopping with us and had stalked angrily away muttering about how he’d rather be locked in the Shrieking Shack for a month.

Andrea and I had spent the day with me trying to start conversation and her making snide remarks about baked goods and Quidditch.

“I’m not angry with you,” she said unconvincingly.

“Okay, what do you want me do? I mean, it’s not like I’m going to bake him cookies every day. He just wanted Jillian off his butt.”

“And you just happened to be the one he asked,” she countered, glaring at me.

“Because I was the only one there!” I said in exasperation.

“Why? I thought you were ignoring him,” she said, sitting back and folding her arms.

“Yes, but I did accuse him of using you to get back at Albus which, for your information, wasn’t the case, so I felt bad and-“

“Wait, what?” Andrea was suddenly interested.

“I yelled at him, turns out he had no idea Albus is in love with you or whatever, I don’t know. Look ,the point is-“

“So… he wanted to snog me?” Andrea asked.

“Well, I can hardly see why he would if he wouldn’t want to.” I was not sure where this was going. I didn’t like it either.

“I thought he just wanted to annoy Al,” Andrea said quietly, sitting back.

Wait, what?

“You… you thought he was using you and you snogged him anyway?”

Andrea suddenly seemed to be aware of what she had said, and she looked at me a little guiltily, as though waiting for me to yell at her or something.

“Why?” I asked finally.

“Why what?”

“Why are you doing this to yourself? Why would you let him use you like that, Andrea?” I said softly.

“But he wasn’t using me,” she pointed out.

“You thought he was and you let him anyway!”

She didn’t have an argument for that. But she did grin hugely at me, placing her arms on the table top and leaning forward. She was looking at me excitedly.

“But he wasn’t using me, Mar. Which means maybe he likes me back.”

I didn’t have anything to say to that. I honestly had no response. Yeah, maybe she was right, but chances were that she wasn’t. James hadn’t said a single word about her to me, and seeing as I was pretty much her only friend, I would be the one to go to to ask about her.

“I’m going to ask him to the dance,” she said with finality, sitting back and looking pleased with herself.

“What happened to us going together?” I asked lightly. She’d just stopped being frosty and I wasn’t prepared to tell her that it was a bad idea.

“Sorry,” she said, looking at me cautiously. To her credit, she really did look sorry.

“Great. I’m being dropped for James Potter.”

Everyone seemed to be ditching me these days.

Before Andrea could say anything, someone’s hand came down on my shoulder. I was fully ready to go all ninja on whoever it was. Looking up, I saw Fitz, and I swear I’d never seen him look so panicked before. His eyes were as round as saucers, his mass of dark hair was disheveled, and he was panting as thought he’d been running.

In his hand he clutched The Daily Prophet. I hadn’t gotten the chance to read it that morning. I’d actually been skipping doing that most days. I’m ashamed to admit that I actually thought maybe I had overreacted, and maybe there was nothing for me to worry about. Nothing had come up in a good month and a half, and I guess all my worries had sort of been put on the back burner.

But the headlines were there, big and bold, as clear as day;

Attack on Malfoy Manor, Dark Mark sighted.

Somehow the fact that I no longer had a boyfriend didn’t seem that important anymore.





A/N: I wasn't so sure about posting this. But then I just did becasue it's been two weeks and there weren't very many solutions. I hope you like it. Reviews will be greatly appreciated. I would bribe you nonchalantly with baked goods at this point, but I recently almost blew up my kitchen so I'm not feeling so confident.


 


Chapter 12: How to be a drunk
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

The library was no help at all.

Someone should’ve fired whoever was in charge of it.

Every article we could find about the attack said the same thing; unknown assailants had entered Malfoy Manor in the early hours of the day and attacked Draco and Astoria Malfoy, both of whom were being treated at St. Mungo’s.

It had been a disaster trying to explain why we had to go back to the castle to Andrea. Doing that while trying to make her see light about this whole James situation just ended badly. Finally we’d just run out after saying something about a rash Fitz had to take care of. We’d eventually decided that sitting in a deserted library was only making both of us antsy. So, we’d begun strolling around the castle, each of us in our own worlds.

The castle was empty. Everyone was at Hogsmeade. The younger student who weren’t allowed to go yet seemed to all be in their Common Rooms.

“But why them?” I asked Fitz as we wandered the halls like the weirdoes we were.

“Well… the Malfoys do have a history,” was his answer.

“I thought Mr. Malfoy liked to donate family money to charities and stuff. I can swear I read that somewhere…” I trailed off.

“What exactly have you been doing in the library all these days?” Fitz asked incredulously.

“Oh, I’m sorry I don’t know Scorpius’ family history,” I rolled my eyes. “I didn’t exactly grow up in this country in case you’ve forgotten.”

Fitz glanced up and down the deserted corridor before he spoke in a whisper.

“The Malfoys… they were big supporters of… his.”

“But… but I’ve only ever read good things about Mr. Malfoy. And believe me, I’ve been through newspapers dating further back than a year ago,” I said, frowning.

“You might want to read up about his father. The Malfoys, the Blacks and the LeStranges were his biggest supporters during the first war.”

Something struck me then.

“So to Malfoys turned over a new leaf. What about the other two… the Blacks and LeStranges?”

“Well,” Fitz said as we neared the castle doors. “The LeStranges died out during the second war, and the Blacks did too. Regulus Black was killed in the first war, and his brother Sirius died in the second.”

Sirius?

“Isn’t that Potter’s middle name?” I asked in disbelief. Fitz gave me a weird look.

“How do you know that?”

“Is that really important?” I said impatiently.

“Yes.”

“The point,” I said with emphasis. “-is why would the saviour of the wizarding world name his first son after a Death Eater? It doesn’t make any sense.”

“What? No, Sirius Black was Harry Potter’s Godfather.”

What?”

Was everyone in the country insane?

Fitz sighed at me.

Like I was hopeless or something.

“We’re going to have to give you a major history lesson.”

“Right,” I glared at him. “Why don’t I just go ask Potter all about his family problems?”

“Well, it would come in handy now, don’t you think.”

“Oh, shut it.”

We walked towards the Quidditch Pitch in some sort of silent agreement. We always went there. Even though it was a chilly day in October, the pitch was familiar. We’d spent so much time there trying to avoid Jillian and her minions that it had become a sort of home inside a home…

Because, I realized, that’s what Hogwarts had come to be. In the short span of time that I’d been at the castle, I’d grown to love it. It was so different from clean cut, pristine Beauxbatons, but it seemed to fit better than anywhere in France ever did.

I looked at Fitz as we both sat down in the Gryffindor stands and wondered where we’d both be this time next year; if this thing; these attacks, would be a bigger part of our lives than we could ever fathom behind the safe walls of the castle. Looking out at the endless grounds I knew that if things were to go south, this would be the day I’d remember as the start of it all.

“I’m scared,” I told him.

“I’m worried,” he said.

“About what?”

“Same thing you’re scared about. I’m just more of a glass half full sort of person, so I like to take the fear slowly.”

“That makes sense, Fitz. I’m impressed.”

“Last time someone told me I made sense was when I used the dishwasher to cook turkey.”

“Why didn’t you just use the oven?”

“Sylvia Plath,” Fitz said in explanation.

“You’re a strange child."

I don’t know how long we sat there for. At some point, maybe around five, the Hufflepuff team came out to practice. They looked at us suspiciously, seeing as everyone else was at Hogsmeade, but proceeded to practice anyway.

They did use code words for plays though, Fitz informed me.

This school took Quidditch too seriously in my opinion.

It was as they were winding up practice as dusk fell that James, Fred and Quin joined us in the stands.

“Spying on the competition?” I asked as James sat down next to me.

“Tired of Rose bawling her eyes out,” Fred answered. It took me a moment to put the pieces together. Scorpius and Rose and their not so secret anymore love affair. I glanced at James. Maybe if he wasn’t pissed about it, I could tell him about Dom and it would no longer be my problem. Unfortunately for me, his jaw was clenched and he was glaring at the back of the seat his feet were resting on.

Dammit.

“So, what brings you here?” Fitz asked. Quin answered by holding up bottles of Firewhiskey, from which he’d already taken a few swings.

“I don’t get it,” I finally admitted.

“We went to ask Ted about Malfoy,” Fred said. “He got twitchy and pale, and then he told us if we meddled he’d give us detention.”

“And this ties back to getting drunk… how exactly?” Fitz wanted to know. I thought it was a good question.

“If everything’s going to shit, Fitz-y, I think we ought to drink to our last year here,” Quin said lightly, taking a swing from the bottle.

“Andrea told us how you guys said something about a rash and ran away,” Fred grinned, grabbing the bottle from Quin. “There’s something up when you guys use Fitz and rashes as an excuse.”

No one said anything for a bit after that. I did briefly consider staying sober. That didn’t last long. James was the only one who had any resolve out of all of us. That or maybe he was the only one smart enough to realize that getting drunk about a hundred feet in the air isn’t a good idea without someone sober around. I don’t know since he hadn’t said a word since they’d gotten here.

“The Slytherins are freaking out,” Quin’s speech had started to slur. “They think their families are in danger.”

“Gits,” Fred snorted. “Most of them aren’t even, like… original Slytherin anyway.”

“What?” I asked. Did Fred know something we didn’t?

“Think about it,” Fred said, leaning towards me conspiringly. “Tracey’s mum got attacked too right?”

“But that was an accident,” Quin pointed out.

“But what if it wasn’t?” Fred said. “I mean, how can we really know?”

“I just know no Dark Marks were involved then,” Quin shrugs. His words come out slurred and I’m pretty sure he didn’t know what he was saying.

 I briefly caught Fitz’ eyes and I knew he was thinking what I was; Fred was catching on. Maybe everyone else was too, now that it had become front page news.

Now that there were Dark Marks.

“Her mum was from a line of Slytherins right? So are the Malfoys; Slytherins from the start,” Fred finished, looking proud of himself.

Fitz said nothing, I took a large swing from the bottle.

Things became hazy after that. We didn’t go back in for dinner. None of us remembered. At some point we decided to stumble down from the stands, giggling about leprechauns. Fitz and Quin decided that they wanted to race around the pitch. Fitz collapsed in the middle, and I briefly thought he’d died in my drunkenness.

After a minor freak out where I seriously questioned all present (including Fitz) if they knew CPR, I ended up lying next to him on the grass and looking at the twinkling night sky. Quin sat heavily in the middle of the pitch, blinking blankly at the goalposts.

“Fitz,” I whispered loudly.

“Hmm?”

“I’m not scared anymore.”

“It’s a-coz you’re drunk.”

“You’re… a-coz a… drunk?”

Fitz began giggling. I followed suit.

Fred whooped loudly from the opposite end of the pitch, and I sat up to look at him. He seemed to be doing some convoluted version of the Macarena that involved the running man. It looked like fun.

I wobbled towards him and thought it was a good idea to spin around.

It wasn’t.

Fred snort-laughed at me as he attempted to keep me from falling. He was surprisingly good at it for a drunk person. It was in the middle of doing a mean robot with Fred that I spotted James standing off to a side, watching all of us in turn. He didn’t look like he was having as much fun as Fred and I. I felt bad.

“James,” I grinned, attempting to walk towards him. I made it a couple of steps before falling on my arse. It made me want to cry. Everything made me want to cry. I want to cry for Scorpius and Rose, for Tracey and her mother, for Charles and my bruised butt. I didn’t want the night to end.

And then I was being lifted and placed on my feet again, face to face with the word Potter across the chest of James’ jersey.

“James,” I said again. He didn’t say anything. I don’t think he’d said anything at all the whole evening. Nothing I could remember anyway. I leaned back a little to look up at him face. He was watching me, his face serious.

“Sirius,” I said, pointing at his face. I finished ever so elegantly with, “Potter,” while jabbing the name printed across his jersey with my forefinger.

And then I giggled.

I looked at Fred, who had ceased trying to dance, and was lying next to Fitz on the grass. It wasn’t right, no one dancing.

“Dance with me,” I told James. He didn’t have a choice because I flung myself at him and began busting out moves. His soft chuckle met my ears. I stopped doing the running man and folded my arms, glaring up at him.

“What?” I demanded.

“Come here.”

He took my right hand in his left one, placed his other hand on the small of my back, pulling me against his chest. And then he started swaying to music that wasn’t playing. I liked the way James smelt; of cologne and… James. I placed my head on his chest and shut my eyes. Despite the October temperature, I felt warm.

 “What’s happening, James?” I whispered into his shirt. His hand on my back moved up to my head. Somehow he knew what I was talking about.

“I wrote my father,” he said into my hair. I liked how that felt.

“I wrote mine ages ago. Then I called him a troll. ”

James laughed softly. A cold, sharp gust of air whipped past us. I let go of James’ hand and buried myself into his warm chest. As though it happened every day, he held me tightly as though sensing that I was cold, resting his chin on top of my head.

“You’re warm,” I told him. He didn’t say anything, but his thumb started tracing circles on my shoulder.

“Oh my Merlin, eew!” Quin’s voice cut through the air. “James and Marley are making babies!”

“Oooo, I want to see!” Fred yelled from across the pitch. There were running footsteps. Then Fred said something, and Quin was giggling and I was in the middle of a Potter-Weasley sandwich.

From then on the night was filled with running around the pitch, Fred telling everyone he loves them, and bottles of alcohol. When Quin passed out while proposing marriage to one of the goalposts, James decided that it was time to call it a night. To this day, I will never know how he managed to get us all back to the Common Room without getting caught.

The portraits shushed us as we giggled through the torch-lit corridors. I remember all of us being shoved into a broom cupboard by James at one point. Fred had to stop and rest against a wall because he was laughing so hard at a suit of armour. When we did finally get to the Common Room, it was empty. I had no idea what time it was, but the fire was out. The dying embers were glowing brightly, maybe more so just because I was as drunk as I was.

I stumbled to the squishy couch in front of collapsed on it. I could hear James in the background, dragging the others up to the boys’ dorms. Eventually, he came for me. He said something. I didn’t pay attention because the glow-y embers were fascinating.

Then James was kneeling in front of me. I looked at him in the semi-darkness from my curled up position on the sofa.

“Bed?” he proposed, a small smile on his face. This close up, I noticed his nose crinkled a little when he smiled. I reached out and poked it.

“Okay, seriously,” he said, but he was smiling wider. “You need to be in bed tomorrow morning.”

 “Here’s fine,” I muttered, curling up into a tighter ball. James’ deep chuckle filled my ears before I felt the sofa dip next to me.

“Fine. Come here.”

And then I was being hauled towards him. I didn’t bother protesting; James was comfy. My head was at the crook of his neck, and I let my arms circle around his waist and hug him to me. If my mind wasn’t heavy with sleep (and if I wasn’t, you know, shit faced), I would be safely in the own bed, far, far away from James Potter.

“You’re like Bernard,” I said sleepily. Were the embers in the fireplace actually getting brighter? Maybe I was going crazy.

“Thanks?” James said uncertainly.

“He was my bear. But he was stuffed with… stuff”

“You say that in past tense,” James muttered. His fingers were playing with the ends of my hair. It was oddly soothing. My eyes closed.

“I set fire to him. He’s dead now.”

“Should I be worried?” James chuckled. The rumbling came from deep in his chest.

“Nah.”

“Good,” he whispered.

“Only did it coz I was angry Mum left.”

And then I slept as though it was the most normal thing to have James Potter by my side.


Chapter 13: How to get a date
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




“Everyone just calm down.”

 “Oh my Merlin, I knew it!”

“Shut up, Lily!”

“There’s got to be a perfectly logical explanation for this.”

 “Holy shit, this is brilliant.”

“Guys, seriously, shut up.”

“I’m never going to let him hear the end of this.”

“It’s so adorable!”

Then there was a lot of giggling. In a very weird moment, I had to logically reach the conclusion that I had been asleep and that there were a group of people talking very loudly in the vicinity. Also, I think someone set off dynamite in my head. The giggling from all around me seemed to have triggered it. I actually thought my head was about to explode.

“Should we poke them?”

“Oooo, can I do it?”

“Guys, leave them alone.”

Maybe if I didn’t move everyone would just go away. I couldn’t remember what I was dreaming about, but I know that I hadn’t slept this well in a long time. I would take dreamless sleep over the pounding in my head any day. Obviously.

“Hang on you guys, I’m going to take a picture.”

“I’m hungry.”

“Ugh, you are seriously embarrassing to be related to.”

The sleepy haze that had been looming over me had been descending when the snap of a magical camera went off. I groaned in annoyance and buried my head deeper in my pillow. It was warm and comfy and maybe they would take the hint and just go away.

A round of very loud, high pitched ‘awww’s followed.

Then something scary happened.

My pillow groaned too.

Since I was after all in a school for magic, it took me a moment to remember that pillows don’t groan. Ever. My eyes shot open, and I found myself staring at the words ‘POTTER’ across the shirt of the person I was sleeping on.

Albus Potter was in Slytherin.

Lily Potter wasn’t on the Quidditch team.

Which meant…

“AAARRGGHHH!” I full on screamed in James’ chest. He freaked out and, in his semi-awake state, half jumped, half rolled off the sofa.

Which would have been totally fine had his arm not been locked around my waist.

So, naturally, we both went tumbling to the ground. James fell on top of me. The good news was that I could hide my flaming face in his shoulder. The bad news was that he weighed more than a house. This was absolutely no help what with the whole explosive in my head situation.

“Potter,” I choked. “I can’t… Air.”

“Shit,” he muttered, lifting himself off of me. I lay there sputtering for a moment, with James hovering over me.

“Okay?” he asked. I nodded.

Then it got weird because I was aware of how many feet were surrounding us.

I think he realized too, because he got up, giving me my space. I was fine with this.

The events of the previous evening came flooding back. They explained the migraine and why my mouth felt like lead. Almost on cue, my stomach started to churn. This wasn’t good. It was enough to wake up in the middle of the Common Room with James as my pillow, but hurling my guts out in front of everyone too was simply not an option.

“Sooooo…” Rebecca said in a sing song voice. I hadn’t actually plucked up the courage to see who our audience consisted of. I decided it wouldn’t do any harm to peek.

Clearly, I’m stupid.

Every member of James’ family who belonged to Gryffindor house was there (save Dom, which I was kind of glad about), along with Rebecca and Tracey. There were also various members of the Quidditch team, whose names I did not know.

“So, Captain, maybe you’ll cut down on practices then. You obviously have something more enticing thing to do,” one of them said, winking at James.

My mouth dropped open.

Quidditch Douche just called me an enticing thing.

That he apparently expected Potter to ‘do’.

If not for my current physical and mental state, I would have absolutely done… something. All I knew in that moment was that my head hurt and that at some point last night, I was fairly certain Fitz had snogged the Quidditch Pitch.

James rolled his eyes and pushed his way between Quidditch Git #1 and Tracey.

“You guys need lives. I’m going to bed.”

And then he walked away, muttering something to himself.

That left me sitting on my arse in the middle of about a dozen people ready to full on Spanish Inquisition me.

“I uh… I have to, um…” I muttered, getting to my feet. I noticed Rebecca choking with laughter to my right. Great friends I choose.

“So, did you decide what to name your first child?” Lily wanted to know.

“Okay, bye,” I said shrilly.

Then I ran away.




“-and is known to be one of the most complicated pieces of magic known to wizard-kind. It is difficult to conjure in a normal environment alone, let alone under the conditions brought about due to the presence of Dementors or in the face of a Lethifold-“

“Brilliant,” Quin grumbled loudly. Some people sniggered loudly and Professor Lupin turned shocking violet eyes on Quin.

“Problem, Mr. Wood?” he asked testily.

“No, sir,” Quin said sarcastically. He looked like death. Not only that, the poor boy was sitting next to some girl from Ravenclaw who had deemed it appropriate to plaster herself to his side. I would have felt sorry for him, had I not been trying to fight my own nausea off.

“Good, then why don’t you repeat what I was just saying?” Professor Lupin said coolly. Quin made a sort of choking noise and then buried his head in his arms on the desk.

“Exactly what I thought. Five points from Gryffindor.”

No one even bothered to protest. Probably because all our fellow Gryffindors had seen the state we’d woken up in this morning and just felt bad for Quin.

“Right, now it interesting to note that the Patronus Charm was not a part of Hogwarts curriculum before the Second War-“

“Fascinating,” Fred said loudly.

“Absolutely riveting,” Quin chimed in.

Idiots.

“Right. Fred; another five points from Gryffindor. Quin; detention. Anyone have anything else to say?” Professor Lupin snapped. Fitz made a wheezing sound next to me and took great pains to raise his hand in the air.

“Yes, Mr. Fitzroy?”

“May I be excused?” Fitz wanted to know.

“Why?”

“Lavatories.”

“You just got back from the lavatories, Mr. Fitzroy; for the second time in twenty minutes,” Professor Lupin sighed.

“So?”

“So no, you may not be excused,” Professor Lupin snapped.

“But I have explosive diarrhoea,” Fitz managed to say with a straight face. Then he made a dangerous belching sound, and I lunged away from him just to make sure I wasn’t in the line of fire when he vomited everywhere.

Poor Professor Lupin looked like he was both lost and exasperated at the same time.

Fitz was subsequently excused (and told not to come back), Professor Lupin decided that he was no longer in the mood to tell us the fascinating story of how the Patronus Charm had found its way into the Hogwarts syllabus, and we found ourselves standing in the now cleared classroom with the desks and chairs pushed up against the walls.

“Now,” Professor Lupin said, rolling up his sleeves. Rebecca sighed loudly at the sight of his muscles. I had to admit, Professor Lupin was a good looking bloke. I wondered idly if he was married. Maybe he had a girlfriend.

Maybe he had a boyfriend.

Maybe he had both.

Maybe-

“Miss Belgarde, generally, when I ask a question I expect an answer,” his voice cut through me though.

“Huh,” I grunted involuntarily, before getting a hold of myself. “Right, yeah…Um…?”

“For Merlin’s sake, what is going on here?” Professor Lupin demanded, looking from me to Quin to Fred. “I don’t recall hearing of any party last night. What is wrong with you?”

People audibly gasped at his words.

I wondered if Professor Lupin’s significant other was bothered by his constant change in appearance. It seemed to help calm my headache.

“Don’t look at me like that; I went to school here too,” Professor Lupin rolled his eyes. Tracey sighed this time, along with Jillian and a couple of Ravenclaw girls.

Because, you know, Professor Lupin was just so cool.

I bet he owned vintage Weird Sisters shirts and had secret tattoos.

Stupid git.

Of course, it was no fault of his own that I was angry at him. He was simply doing his job by conducting class first thing in the morning. Nonetheless, I found myself glaring daggers at him as he told us to think about happy stuff and say the incantation Expecto Patronum.

I thought of stabbing him in the jugular with my wand and said the charm.

It didn’t work.

I am proud to report that both Fred and Quin gave up before me. Rebecca, James, and two Ravenclaws managed to produce pearly wisps. As you can probably tell, we’re all such overachievers.

Fred slunk over to me at some point, and we both stood there, leaning against the piled desks in a sort of daze.

“I have no happy memories,” Fred said finally. His voice seemed lazy and far away.

“Liar.”

“What’s your excuse?”

“Traumatic childhood.”

“So?”

“I’m incapable of feeling joy, Freddie.”

“Would you like me to book you a ward at Mungo’s?” he asked, nudging me. I snorted.

“What are you two doing?” Professor Lupin demanded, making his way towards us. He didn’t seem to realise that Quin had fallen asleep under one of the chairs behind him.

“Marley was telling me about her traumatic childhood,” Fred said vaguely. Professor Lupin took a moment to digest this information. He was about to say something when there was a lot of squealing behind him. There was also lots of light, and warmth filled the room. This was particularly pleasant given that it was late October and the temperature was absolutely miserable.

Everyone turned to look.

I have to admit, it was quite a sight. Professor Lupin hadn’t shown us his own Patronus (probably because it was a salmon or something equally humiliating), and I was too spaced out and miserable to seriously think about what it would be like.

The large, magnificent silver lion that stood in the middle of the room looked almost unreal. It was possible this was because I was hung over, but it just seemed so, I’m not sure what the right word is… majestic, perhaps.

I looked around, and Fred was gaping at it too. This made me feel a little better about my awe. At least I wasn’t the only one acting like a complete fool.

“Wonderful!” Professor Lupin said, clapping his hands together and beaming. The general chatter grew excited when the lion raised its head bared large, kind of scary looking fangs. Then it began walking…

Right towards Fred and me.

We both freaked out. Fred more than myself. Obviously.

I backed away, Fred stumbled to the right.

“And that, class, is a corporeal Patrons,” Professor Lupin was saying in the background, completely oblivious to the fact that Fred and I were scrambling to get away from the now terrifying silver lion.

“As I said before, the corporeal form of a Patronus varies from wizard to wizard-“

Fred squeaked and tripped on a desk leg when the lion turned its great head in his direction. A few people sniggered, others were approaching it to observe.

“-can also take the form of a magical creature-“

The lion turned to face me. I blinked at it.

I think it blinked back.

Okay, probably not.

But then it slowly sat down and looked up at me, and I was able to see who was standing behind it.

Now Merlin was just messing with me.

Of course, as my luck would have it, James was grinning at a sulking Fred with his wand directed at the lion.

Then I just felt stupid for being afraid of a Patronus.

James’s Patronus, no less.

He finally turned away from Fred to look at me.

I narrowed my eyes at him because he’s a git.

“Hilarious,” I deadpanned.

“Oh, no question,“ he snorted.

I felt a hint of resentment that James had a cool Patronus. Why couldn’t it have been a Bowtruckle? I bet mine was a Bowtruckle. It was still looking up at me from where it was sitting, and I stared rather glumly back. I wondered briefly if James was making it do that. Before I could think the action through, my hand was moving towards it. I was centimetres from touching its slivery mane when I realised that I didn’t know what would happen if I touched it.

So I just stood there like weirdo, hand half stretched out, as I attempted to compile a pro and con in my head. Not that I listened during class to know the first thing about Patronuses, and successfully complete the task, but hey, at least the lion seemed to be alleviating my headache. 

“Go on, Red, pet my Patronus.”

James ‘Pervert’ Potter, ladies and gentlemen.

I jerked my hand away as the class burst into giggled. James winked, and I felt my face heating up.

Because, you know, I have this little thing called shame and don’t tell people to do things like ‘pet my Patronus’.

“You- that’s… what? Professor!” I spluttered.

Professor Lupin was failing in his attempt to keep a serious face.

Like I said; gits, the lot of them.




I stared hopelessly at my lunch.

“I’m going to die,” Fitz wailed opposite me. I knew where he was coming from. I don’t think I’d ever had a hangover this bad before. I was pretty sure I still looked like death, and I hadn’t managed to move an inch from the spot on the Gryffindor table I’d somehow achieved in dragging my arse to. Fitz looked worse off than me. He seemed to have fallen into some sort of stupor, and was staring open-mouthed at Dom who was seated down the table.

“No one asked you to get wasted,” Andrea rolled her eyes. She was trying to finish some essay while Fitz and I reached various levels of regret.

“Thanks,” I muttered, letting my head fall to the table.

Rebecca and Tracey were seated with Quin and Fred down the table, taking the piss out of them. James was watching with amusement, casually eating potatoes without a care in the world.

What a wanker.

Tracey looked up and caught my eye. She then proceeded to shoot me a large grin while looking between me and James.

I was not sure if this was about the waking up on the sofa with James incident, or the Patronus incident. What had my life become?

“I hate you,” I mouthed anyway. She got the message because her grin became larger.

“You and James,” Fitz giggled, catching the whole exchange. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think he was still a little drunk.

“I liked you better when you were comatose,” I told him, placing a cup of steaming coffee to my temple.

“Ugh, will you leave her alone already? She said it wasn’t like that,” Andrea snapped, scratching something off on her essay angrily.

Fitz shot me a look.

“She’s right,” I informed Fitz. He rolled his eyes.

“Whatever. In other news, Scorpius isn’t back at school yet,” he said to me. Andrea looked up from her essay.

“Is there anything about it in the papers?” she asked. Fitz shook his head. Then he winced and decided to opt out of the conversation.

“Nope,” I said. My throat felt scratchy.

“Everyone’s freaking out, you know,” Andrea said, placing her quill down and leaning forward. “You should have seen my Common Room last night. You’d have thought someone died.”

“Why?” Fitz asked.

“You know Lorcan and Lysander Scamander?”

“No,” Fitz blinked.

“Well, their mum runs The Quibbler. They’re telling everyone that it’s more than just an attack. That something’s going on and the Ministry doesn’t want everyone to know.”

The Quibbler?” Fitz snorted. “I make more sense that The Quibbler.”

“Your self-awareness is impressive, Fitzroy,” I told him.

“Well,” Andrea shrugged, going back to her essay. “It has enough credibility to have people worried.”

A loud burst of giggles followed by rushed whispers erupted from the Ravenclaw table. I had to fight the urge to roll my eyes. There was apparently some sort of committee that had been set up to ‘oversee’ the whole Halloween dance thing. It all seemed legit until one actually met the committee in question. All those girls seemed to be doing was talking about their dates and trying to figure out how to sneak Firewhiskey in.

“Do we really have to go to that dance?” I muttered to the other two. It seemed pretty stupid what with everything else going on.

I didn’t expect the reaction I got. Fitz cleared his throat uncomfortably, and Andrea’s quill screeched to a stop. Neither of them said anything for a bit, but they both avoided my eye.

“Right. Just tell me. Whatever it is, I can handle it. I’m a big girl.”

“I uh…” Andrea started. “Um… I’m going with Al.”

“You like Potter.”

“Oh, yeah. I know. Al and I are just going as friends.”

“But I thought you were going to ask Potter.”

Andrea turned pink.

“Yeah, well…” she trailed off vaguely. I decided to let her off the hook.

“And you?” I turned to Fitz, “You’ve got a date too, then?”

“Uh… No?”

“Holy shit, you do!” I said loudly. Then I winced at the sound of my own voice because it sent a wave of pain through my head. Fitz groaned and held his head in his hands.

“Well, who is it then?” Andrea grinned, nudging him playfully.

“Jenny Wilson,” he muttered.

“Wait… sixth year Jenny Wilson? With the knockers?” Andrea asked. Fitz decided not to grace that with a response.

Andrea was staring at him in admiration.

“Yeah, well, I had to go with her. Meredith Taylor wouldn’t get off my back,” he shrugged. My mouth dropped open.

“Geez. Shall I get you a fly swatter for Christmas? So you can fend off all those admirers you have buzzing around,” Andrea smirked.

“Shut up,” he mumbled, turning red.

“When did this happen exactly?” I demanded of him.

“I think it’s because I hang around you guys,” Fitz said matter-of-factly. “Girls think I’m hip now.”

“I’m sorry, girls think you’re… hip?”   

“Yes. Hip. You know, the bees knees,” Fitz said knowledgably. Andrea just continued to look at him in wonder. I took a big gulp of my coffee and slowly got up from my seat.

“Where are you going?” Fitz wanted to know.

“Where do you think, dumbass?” I hissed. Movement wasn’t helping with my urge to puke again.

“To the lavatories?” he enquired out of pure curiosity.

“To get a date,” Andrea rolled her eyes, going back to her essay. “Don’t disappoint, Red. I’m going to live vicariously through your love life seeing as mine is non-existent.”

“Says the girl who’s smack dab in the middle of the Potter boys,” I muttered, standing still for a bit to get a feel of what it was like to be on my feet.

“To be fair, you were the one on top of one of them this morning,” Fitz supplied. I heard Andrea smack him over the head as I walked away from them.

I managed to reach Fred & Co. without spewing my insides everywhere. I felt like this was an accomplishment.

“Oh, hi Marley!” Rebecca said. Very loudly. Quin and Fred groaned together. I winced, refusing to cave. I was on a mission. Fred had his back to me so I poked him in the back of the head. He ignored me.

“Are you okay?” James asked. He was looking at me a little worriedly. I ignored him because I could almost feel Andrea’s stare.

Also, I didn’t want to think about Patronuses.

“Fred,” I grunted, nudging him in the shoulder. I just wanted to get this over with already. He ignored me again.

“Fredrick.” This time I grabbed his shoulders and full on shook him. He began to groan. It was a sad sound.

“What?” he moaned.

“Go to the Halloween thing with me,” I told him.

“Okay,” he grunted.

“Fine.”

And then I turned around and staggered back to Fitz and Andrea.

And that, ladies, is how you get dates with fit Quidditch players.






A/N: Well? Fast update no?  Okay, sort of fast update. I simply had to re-do chapter two and put up a Fitz chapter image. I felt like he was being seriously underappreciated, even with all the love you guys are showing him in the reviews.

Anyway, what do you think? This was sort of a filler chapter, as you may have guessed. But the last chapter was quite serious, and I re-wrote this one to make it quite light. Leave me a review and tell me what you thought! :)


Chapter 14: How to be in the loop
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




In light of the attack on Malfoy Manor, and the subsequent appearance of The Dark Mark, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, under acute public pressure, has released the following statement:

‘An ongoing investigation in being conducted into the occurrence at the home of senior Ministry official, Draco Malfoy. While there is nothing of consequence to report, we urge the public not to panic. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement has recently put together a team of experts in the field to look into the matter. There are no immediate threats. We continue to work to ensure safety to all; wizard and Muggle kind.’

 “It’s a load of bollocks, I tell you,” Matilda Earnest, neighbour of Draco and Astoria Malfoy tells The Daily Prophet exclusively. “The Dark Mark hasn’t been seen since You-Know-Who’s time. How’re we to feel safe when affluent families are being attacked?”

“What’s Harry Potter have to say about all this, then?” questions Doris Little, resident of Ottery St. Catchpole and magical history enthusiast. “It’s his area of expertise, innit? All this Dark Mark business. Makes you think if he lied about You-Know-Who really being gone that first time.”

This reporter’s attempts to reach the Auror Office to enquire about the ‘team of experts’ that has been assembled to ‘look into the matter’ were repeatedly rebuffed.

Harry Potter could not be reached for comment.

I folded The Daily Prophet and handed it back to Fitz.

I felt oddly calm now that I finally knew what Charles was doing.

“Ness?” he said quietly. I stared down at my breakfast, my appetite gone. There was a moment’s silence before I felt Fitz take my hand.


We sat there like that till the bell rang to indicate the start of our first class.


“This is bollocks,” Rebecca complained as she sat with a piece of her hair wrapped around her wand. Tracey grunted as she attempted to shimmy into her dress, as though to prove Rebecca’s point.

“I bet the guys are playing Exploding Snap in the Common Room right now,” Tracey rolled her eyes as I dug through my bag in search of mascara.

“It’s fun, you guys!” Jillian insisted. The buzz about this dance seemed to have made her forget that she hated me.

“Yeah, but what takes us three hours takes them ten minutes. It’s unfair,” Tracey said a little glumly. She was right. We’d been up in the dorm since five. It was almost eight, and we were still attempting to put ourselves together.

I curled the last strand of my hair and walked over to the mirror Rebecca was using, hoping I was done. Knowing me, I’d probably forgotten to put makeup on half my face or something. I blinked at myself above her head.

Okay, not bad; both eyes mascara-ed, full head of hair curled. I’d call it a success.

Rebecca whistled as I did a little spin to make sure my dress was in place.

“Nice work, Red,” she winked.

“Thanks,” I muttered absently.

My dress was an off-white mixture of lace and satin. Basically, it was one of the few ones that didn’t clash with my hair. That in itself was a win.

Jillian looked me over once and rolled her eyes. Then she pouted at the mirror and fluffed up her hair. She had decided to go full Barbie; pink everything. I wish I could say she looked tacky, but she didn’t. Unfortunately, Jillian had good fashion sense.

I know, it sucks.

I went to my bed and collected my shoes. They had pointy heels, and had come in handy more than once when it came to warding off unwanted attention.

The clock said it was five past eight, and I could bet my wand that the guys had only recently realized that there was a dance they had to get ready for. I, on the other hand, had spent close to three hours putting paint on my face and was starving.

“Okay… so I’ll see you guys there?” I asked. Jillian ignored me, Rebecca nodded, but Tracey looked at me a little weirdly.

“Marley,” she said hesitantly. “Uh… are you okay?”

I smiled largely at her.

“Yeah, why?”

“You just seem a bit… you know what, never mind. See you there.”

The Common Room was filled with people waiting for their dates. The sofa by the fire was jammed with the fifth year guys. I found what seemed to be the last available seat at the very back of the room. I was actually thankful for the shadows that surrounded it.

The merry chatter was lost on me. The dead weight at the bottom of my stomach wasn’t going anywhere. I knew I was pretending. Hell, even Tracey knew I was pretending. Clearly, I wasn’t doing a good job. But what was the alternative? Sit in my dorm and drive myself crazy? Write letter after letter to Charles, who, by the looks of it, was being kept a secret by the Ministry of Magic?

I’d gone through every emotion I was capable of feeling since I’d read the paper that morning; from shock to anger to dread. Now I just felt numb. There was literally nothing I could do about this. Charles knew who was behind the attacks. He’d known before we moved, which seemed to be the reason he’d chosen to come in the first place. What I could not grasp was why, as selfish as it was. Why would he bring us here, put himself in danger, and leave me in the dark?

Fitz took a seat on the arm of my chair, but said nothing. Together, we stared out at the excited students. It was like there was some sort of invisible wall separating us from them.

“Where’s Jenny?” I asked, still not looking at him.

“Told her I couldn’t go with her.”

This made me turn to look at him. I would have been a little more impressed with the fact that Fitz cleaned up as well as he did if it wasn’t for the bright red handprint on his cheek.

“Fitz-“ I started.

“Not up for discussion, Ness.”

I blinked stupidly at him. Fitz had never been one to take anything seriously. Not even when I’d told him about the whole Dom and Wheeler situation had he said something remotely serious. Sure, he’d expressed joking indignation and said the things that slipped past his faulty brain to mouth filter. But there was no joking glint in his eyes tonight. In fact, I’m pretty sure there hadn’t been one since he read the article in The Daily Prophet.

Guilt washed over me.

“Look, you’re supposed to have fun tonight. I promise I’m fine. You don’t have to keep an eye on me,” I said reassuringly.

“You haven’t eaten anything today, you almost blew up our potion, and you said ‘great’ when Andrea told you someone locked her in the girls’ lavatories.”

“Oh.”

And now I know you didn’t know you actually did any of this.”

“It does explain why I’m starving though,” I said, smiling weakly. Fitz looked at me in a way I recognized; it was how he looked at text books when he was trying to understand something particularly tricky. Finally, he sighed and sat back. I followed suit and rested my head against his side, suddenly tired.

“Do you think Fred’ll be offended if we ditch him? I really am starving,” I said.

“We could just go to the kitchens. It isn’t like either of us knows how to dance,” he suggested.

“How do you know I can’t dance?” I wanted to know.

“I remember bits from the Quidditch Pitch. I now feel like it’s my duty as your friend to stop you from dancing.”

“You snogged the Pitch,” was the best retort I could come up with.

Fitz snorted in response, just as Fred appeared in from of us.

“Are you trying to steal my date, Fitz?” Fred demand in mock indignation, taking in my head resting against Fitz.

“That would be so easy, it’s unfair,” Fitz said. I nodded in agreement. I don’t think either of us were fully paying attention to the conversation. Fitz’s tone was sort of far-off and I myself was mentally counting the days till Christmas holidays started.

Fifty two and three quarters.

I bet I could get Charles to talk in person.

“Erm… you guys?”

“Hmm?”

“You two are being weird again.”

It was Quin’s voice that answered. I snapped out of it, and turned to see both Quin and Potter standing on either side of Fred. I came to the realization that both Fitz and I hadn’t even noticed their arrival.

“Thank Merlin,” I said quickly, when I saw Potter open his mouth to say something. “Can we go now? I’m starving.”

No one said anything when I got up from my seat and smoothed my dress out. Not even Fitz, who I could always count on to have my back when I spazzed slightly. So, naturally, I rounded on Fred.

“Come, date,” I said to him, holding out my hand. He looked at it sceptically.

“Are you going to be weird all night? Because if you are, I’m taking Fitz instead,” he informed me. I looked at him aghast.

“Am I to understand that you’re chucking me… for Fitz?” I asked dramatically.

“Seeing as you’re my best ginger friend who isn’t a part of my family, I have to be truthful,” Fred shrugged.

“Fine,” I sniffed at him, turning to Quin.

“Do you want to be my date, then?” I asked. Quin surveyed me.

“Do I have to pay attention to you?” he wanted to know.

“None at all,” I told him cheerily. He grinned and threw him arm around my shoulder.

“Mate!” Fred gasped, putting his hand to his heart. “You stole my bird.”

“I find that offensive,” I informed him.

“Don’t do this,” Fred said, wiping a fake tear from his cheek. “Don’t leave me, Red.”

“I’m sorry, Fredrick. The wedding date has been set,” I said loftily. Fred snorted, Quin rolled his eyes.

“Are you gits done?” Quin asked. “Because I’m hungry and I don’t have time for-“

“MARLEY!”

It was Dom.

She looked bloody terrifying.

And she was stalking towards me.

“Shit, Red, what did you do?” Fred muttered. I think, on any other day, I would have tried to cover for Dom. But honestly, I was sick of her attitude towards me. All I’d done was try to look out for her, and her sniffing at me every time I looked her way was what I got in return.

She stopped in front of me and just stood there, as though she was waiting for me to say something. I looked coolly back.

“Yes?” I said finally. Her eyes narrowed dangerously.

I saw the bit of Veela in her. But livid or not, Dom was still beautiful. My eyes travelled to Fitz because I noticed absence of any choking/wheezing noise from his general direction.

Fitz was looking between to two of us. I saw his hand near his pocket, ready to reach for him wand. I fought the urge to roll my eyes. Why everyone was so dramatic, I would never understand.

“May I speak with you?” Dom said through gritted teeth. I shrugged and stepped out from under Quin’s arm.

“Whoa, wait. What’s going on here?” Fred interjected. No one said anything. Dom simply walked towards the portrait hole, and I followed her.

I was oddly indifferent… or maybe I just didn’t really care about what Dom had to say. I knew I wasn’t myself; Fitz was right. Maybe this was a good thing, I thought. Maybe, after Dom had yelled at me for whatever, I could fully keep out of everyone’s way… Just mind my own business. Things would definitely be easier for me then.

Dom came to a sudden stop and whirled around to face me.

“I suppose you’re happy now, aren’t you?” Dom spat.

“Sure.”

“What’s your problem?” she snapped, taking a step towards me.

“Oh, I have loads of problems… I suppose the most pressing is that I have no idea how to produce a Patronus, and seeing as it’ll probably be a part of N.E.W.Ts isn’t really helping-“

“Roger broke up with me.”

At first I looked at her in shock. Then I just got really confused.

“Why’re you telling me?” I was genuinely curious. Dom was about to say something. I was pretty sure it was going to be really mean, seeing as she was looking at me as though I was Voldemort. However, the sound of approaching footsteps stopped her, and she seemed to get even angrier.

The boys were here, Fred in the lead.

“I want to know,” he demanded of Dom all aggressive-like, “what in the name of Merlin is going on with you.”

“Oh, shut it, Fred,” she snapped. He looked taken aback since Dom was always really nice.

Except to me, obviously.

“It’s all your fault,” she said, rounding on me. She pushed Fred out of the way, and pointed accusingly at me. “You just can’t mind your own business!”

I didn’t believe for a second that Dom truly blamed me for her lack of boyfriend. Hell, I even got that she had to find someone to blame it on. I guess I would have been my first choice too if I were her. As unfair as it was, I didn’t blame her. I would have found someone to blame Henri breaking up with me on if I could. I would still be angry about it if I wasn’t so worried about everything else, and I thanked Merlin that I had the sense to understand that about myself.

“You started this,” Dom continued, advancing on me. “Everything was fine before you came along!”

And then her wand was out, pointed directly at me.

I think Potter and Fitz both moved at the same time. Potter’s wand was out and Fitz was standing next to me.

“Dom,” Potter said in a calm voice from behind me. It occurred to me then that he hadn’t said a single word to me all night. Fitz started to talk when he realised I wasn’t going to say anything to Dom.

“Look,” he said, looking directly at Dom. “You’re angry, I get it.”

I looked at Fitz in wonder.

Turns out the boy could be tactful if he really set his mind to it.

Resolve, people, as taught by Whatever-His-First-Name-Is Fitzroy.

“But it isn’t her fault-“

“Of course it is!” Dom spat at Fitz.

“Stop and think about this just for a second-“

“-has nothing to do with you-“

“-calm down for a minute and just-“

“MERLIN, SHUT UP!” she shrieked at him.

“This isn’t you, Dom-“

“NO ONE EVEN ASKED YOU, YOU FREAK!”

Dom’s wand was out of her hand and in mine so fast she took a step back in confusion.

I was so done with the day. Why was it that everything sucky happened all at one go? Possibly some kind of Murphy’s Law shit going on there. I didn’t think about it, because it was like I could feel Dom’s words cut through Fitz like knives.

“You want to say something, Dom, you say it to me,” I said quietly. She said nothing, just continued silently seething.

“Well?”

Crickets.

“Fine then, you want a duel? Here.”

I chucked her wand back at her, raising my own.

Potter fully came to stand between me and Dom this time. I couldn’t really blame him, I did have a shady history with hexing people.

I rolled my eyes, refusing to look at him, and shoved him out of the way.

“Easy to yell at someone who won’t yell back, isn’t it? I was worried about you, Dom, that’s it. You can refuse to believe me and blame me all you want, I don’t care. But in the end it has nothing to do with me. Maybe next time you should just tell everyone the truth and save yourself the trouble because I’m done keeping your secrets.”

Then I turned to deal with Fitz.

I was pretty sure he was in some type of shock.

Behind me, Fred was demanding answers of Dom, who was shrieking back at him in return. I ignored them, and I ignored Potter’s now imposing presence.

“Come on,” I said, grabbing Fitz’s arm and tugging it. In relief, I walked away from the Potter-Weasley clan and the shit-storm that was their lives.

*

A/N: I have a very VERY good exucse for being MIA for a month and a half- UNI IS RUINING MY LIFE.

Okay, not really. It'll all pay off in the long run, I'm certain. But as of now, I wish I could close my eyes and magically transport myself into J.K's world and learn about giants and charms. It's really been hectic and I'm truly sorry for the late update. Living across the country does take it toll! Alright my lovlies, I hope you enjoyed this chappie. It was immensly fun to write and was a great break from Econ. I'll try my best to post atleast once in a week or two. Toodles! :)

 


Chapter 15: How to party
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]





“C’mon, Fitz-y. Give me something.”

Fitz stared at his pie.

“You’re starting to scare me a bit.”

He picked up his fork.

“I’m going to have to write Mungo’s.”

There was a loud clink as he stabbed the pie and the fork met the glass plate it was on.

“You killed it,” I said jokingly.

We had been sat in the kitchens for a good half an hour. Fitz hadn’t said a word. He simply ate whatever food I asked the house elves to place in front of him.

So far he’d been through three chocolate éclairs, scrambled eggs and bacon, some lasagna and a cup of coffee.

I was starting to feel a bit sick just watching him.

“She thinks I’m a freak.”

Okay Marely, calmly have this conversation. Don’t want him to clam up… or stab you with his fork.

“She was just angry, Fitz. You know Dom. You said yourself she’d the nicest-“

“Yeah, she’s the nicest person ever and she still thinks I’m a freak.”

I sighed.

“Well, you aren’t,” I shrugged. “She was angry with me, not you.”

Still, she was angry with you and she thinks I’m a freak.”

“Fitz, come on,” I said imploringly. “She didn’t mean it.”

“But I am a freak.”

There was defeat in his voice.

“I take offense to that,” I said, nodding vigorously. Fitz actually looked up at me this time.

“Well, you are slightly loopy. I hardly expect you to make sense all the time,” he shrugged. Then he went back to his pie as I scoffed.

“’Slightly loopy’… What I was trying to say was if you’re a freak, then, by extension, so am I, seeing as I’m your friend and all-“

“That’s unsound logic,” Fitz grumbled, chewing aggressively.

“Your face is unsound logic,” I shot back.

“Eloquent,” Fitz deadpanned. I folded my arms and sat back in a huff.

“You made fun of my logic,” I muttered darkly. I saw Fitz’s lips twitch upwards slightly, and I knew I wasn’t fighting a totally lost battle. I sat up, resolve newly renewed, and pulled the plate away from him. He protested loudly.

“Lets go,” I said.

“No.”

“Brilliant.”

I then got up, walked around the table, and began pulling Fitz by the arm.

“Let go of me!”

“Get up-“

“I don’t want to go-“

“This is stupid-“

“Ugh, Ness, get off-“

“Who cares what Dom says-“

“-YOU CRAZY-“

“Come on-“

“What’s you prob- AARGH!”

Fitz’s chair tilted back on its legs due to a particularly strong pull from his side, and he went crashing to the ground.

I took a bite of his pie.

“Never a dull moment with you two, is there.”

I shrieked.

Fitz said “Ow” from the floor.

Fred and Potter stood there, looking more than a little out of place. Fred was looking at me in a way that suggested Dom hadn’t spilt the beans. Potter was looking at Fitz (who was still lying on the floor) with a slightly worried expression.

“What do you want?” I asked Fred suspiciously.

“Well, Red, seeing as you are my date… I thought I’d come and collect you.”

“Thought you’d come and… Merlin, Freddie, did you miss the part where I ditched you for Quin?”

“You mean the guy who’s snogging Alexis Zabini in the dungeons as we speak?” Fred snorted.

“Hmm,” I said absently, looking at the motionless Fitz.

“Fitz,” I sighed, kneeling next to him and grasping the front of his jacket. “I understand you’re upset about the Starwars prequels, but you simply can’t go on like this.”

Then I hauled him into a sitting position.

He blinked at me. I was proud of my tact. Although, I was curious about what would happen if Potter and Fred knew Fitz was in love with their cousin.

Possible apocalyptic scenario waiting to happen there.

“But… but Anakin was such a nice boy,” Fitz whined. I grinned.

“I know… but he was kind of a git too, you know? He didn’t have to go over to the Dark Side,” I said soothingly. I was good at Mother Hen-ing people, Bridgette always said.

“But Padme was so… perfect.”

“Maybe, but becoming a Sith is never an option,” I said knowledgably. “Princess or not.”

“Do you have any idea what’s going on?” Fred whispered loudly to Potter. My head snapped to them, and I snorted at the confused looks on their faces. I looked back to Fitz, who gave me a small smile, before getting up and hauling him with me.

“So, Fredrick, shall we?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. Fred did a stupid air whoop and held out an arm for me to take.

“I love how I always get the hot girls,” he smirked proudly.

“Whatever you think it is you’re getting, Freddie, you aren’t,” I told him, patting him on the shoulder.

“I can expect a kiss goodnight at least, can’t I?” he said, mock-hopefully. I rolled by eyes as we walked out into the Entrance Hall. Potter and Fitz were behind us, neither of them saying anything.

He was being weird tonight; Potter, I mean. He hadn’t said much. Maybe he ran out of his favourite shampoo or something.

I glanced back at him. He was staring at the floor and following us with his hands shoved in his pockets. I turned back to Fred and poked him discreetly in the shoulder.

“What’s wrong with Potter?” I whispered. Fred glanced back as well, before looking at me.

“You noticed too, huh?”

We came to a stop in front of the doors to the Great Hall before I could answer. It didn’t look anything like the place we ate meals at every day.

The Heads had outdone themselves. Without the four long tables spread out across the Hall, it looked a lot bigger. Smaller tables were scattered around the makeshift dance floor. Two longer tables lined the walls, looking out onto the grounds. To replace the floating candles that usually provided light were large jack-o-lanterns. To finish off the effect was a band, one of whom was blowing into what looked like a hairy bagpipe.

Since we were more than a little late, the embarrassing dancing had already commenced. I spotted Andrea doing some sort of weird chicken move with a boy I’d never seen before at the edge of the dance floor and couldn’t help but grin at the sight.

“There you are!” Rebecca was suddenly in front of us, looking a little flush from dancing. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”

“Hey, we were-“

“Yeah, yeah, come on. Calix Barnabas is completely flirting with Trace. You just have to see this.”

“Who’s Calvin-“

It didn’t matter. I was being dragged off into the sea of people before I could complete my sentence. I glanced back, and all three boys were watching as Rebecca pulled me away. Well, Fitz had a sort of hazy, far-off look in his eyes and I really didn’t want to leave him alone right then.

Not that I really had any choice in the matter, of course. But still.

Calix Barnabas turned out to be the lead singer of the band. He was a tall, skinny guy with a head full of dreadlocks and clothes that looked like they hadn’t been washed since the middle ages.

He was also looking at Tracey in a way that made me slightly uncomfortable as he sang some shockingly explicit things into the microphone.

At first it felt forced when Rebecca took my hands and started jumping, screaming and twirling to the music. But then, somehow before I knew it, I was dancing with her. I didn’t forget about Charles, Fitz or Henri. I didn’t forget that my father, maybe even the families of my friends, could be in danger. I didn’t forget that I hadn’t heard from my best friend of five years in two months.

But, for the first time in a long time, I didn’t let it bother me.

Everyone around us that night knew. Everyone had read the papers. In fact, it was hard to go anywhere without hearing the words ‘Malfoy’ or ‘Dark Mark’. But they were all in there, dancing, just like me. Knowing, but still dancing.

If not now, I figured, then when else?

Three songs in, both Rebecca and I were unattractively wheezing and giggling at Tracey and the hobo lead singer.

“I need water,” I yelled in Rebecca’s ear.

“Me too,” she said. “Let’s just leave her here.”

We located a huge pitcher of cold pumpkin juice on one of the long tables and stood there, watching our classmates embarrass themselves.

“Some party,” Rebecca said.

“I hope someone takes pictures,” I snorted.

“You do realised we looked like wankers out there, don’t you?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Good point.”

I looked around the room, searching for Fitz. For a moment I was afraid he’d gone back to his dorm to feel bad for himself, and I was fully ready to go and drag him back; if I could move my arse and be here, so could he.

Then I spotted all the guys sitting at one of the tables in the corner. They all looked so bored out of their minds, I giggled out loud. Rebecca followed my gaze and smirked.

“Think we should save them?” she asked.

“Might as well,” I shrugged. “I’m kind of the reason Fred doesn’t have a proper date.”

So, after picking up the trays with the most food on them (although I’m sure the house elves will refill the nearly empty ones), we headed over to the table.

“Boys,” Rebecca said, setting down a plate full of assorted grilled foods.

“Food!” Quin said happily, lunging at the pastries I’d just set down.

“Pretty girls bringing me food… would either of you be interested in marriage?” Fred enquired.

“To you?” Rebecca asked sceptically, raising an eyebrow.

“No, to Roxanne,” Fred rolled his eyes. I looked over at Fitz, who was staring at something opposite him, looking a little alarmed. Following his gaze, my eyes landed on a group of girls, all glaring towards poor Fitz and, undoubtedly, bitching.

“Did you tell them you hate unicorns or something?” I asked uncertainly.

“Jenny,” Fitz said in explanation. I figured that the girl in the very middle of the congregation was Jenny Wilson since she was being repeatedly patted on the back by the others. I looked back at the still distressed Fitz, and something struck me.

“Fitz, I have a proposition for you,” I said loudly enough to draw his attention away. Everyone looked at me. Fitz surveyed me suspiciously. Then something dawned on him and he sighed.

“What do I need to do for the liquorice wands?” he asked, defeated. I grinned.

“Go over there, apologise to Jenny Wilson, blame me if you must, and… I don’t know. Snog her or whatever.”

“Why would he blame you?”

I ignored Potter.

“Well?” I prompted. Fitz was looking from Jenny to me to Dom, who was sat at a nearby table with all her friends, looking absolutely miserable. I saw it, the resolve he was gaining from whatever he was thinking. For all I knew, he was pondering about the most ideal size for a garden gnome, but it didn’t matter.

“Good idea, Ness,” he said, getting up from the table. He was looking directly at Jenny Wilson and her gang, except now he didn’t look even remotely panicked. Actually, you’ll never believe what he did.

Fitz, get this… he winked.

And it wasn’t even a spazzy ‘there’s-something-in-my-eye’ wink.

It was a full on ‘hello-there’ wink.

My Fitz-y was growing up.

He then walked around the table and right up to Jenny Wilson. I shit you not when I say he didn’t trip over or, you know, set something on fire.

Jenny looked up at him as he approached, caught between nervousness and indignation. Everyone at our table was watching in wonder as the scene unfolded.

“What d’you reckon he’s saying?” Fred asked in hushed tones.

“Aw, she’s blushing,” Rebecca said excitedly.

“Why’re they all looking at him like he’s Merlin?” Quin wanted to know.

“Uh oh, the blond friend looks pissed,” I said nervously.

“I think he’s asking her to dance,” Potter said.

“Five Chocolate Frogs she says no,” Fred snorted.

“You’re on,” Quin said.

“Your loss, mate. She looks too pissed off to… wait, what? NO!” Fred said loudly as Jenny nodded shyly and took the hand Fitz was holding out to her. We all watched in wonder as they walked onto the dance floor full of couples swaying to a slow song.

“Where did that come from?” Potter said after a moment’s silence.

“Fitz has game, you guys,” Quin said in wonder.

“Can I at least keep the Chocolate Frog cards?” Fred asked Quin moodily. Bickering commenced. Rebecca sat down on the chair Fitz had vacated, leaving me to stand and watch Fitz and Jenny proudly. It was totally creepy and all, but I couldn’t help it. Fitz didn’t need any more crap thrown his way from people at Hogwarts. They’d made his life hard enough thus far. If hanging out with the new girl and the school slut had somehow upped his cool quotient, good for him.

“Here,” Potter said from behind me. He was getting up from his chair and pushing it towards me.

“Oh, it’s fine-“

Potter rolled his eyes, reached back and stole a chair from the nearest table for himself.

Right.

I sat down next to him just as Rebecca made the mistake of trying to be the mediator in Fred and Quin’s argument.

“He gets to keep the chocolate part! Tell him, Becks,” Fred whined.

“But a deal’s a deal,” Quin said to Rebecca. “I want my five Chocolate Frogs; cards and all.”

“Think we should do something?” I said jokingly to Potter. When he didn’t respond, I looked his way.

He was spaced out, a la Fitz.

So, naturally, I reached out and poked him hard in the shoulder.

“Huh? Yeah. You’re right,” he said quickly.

“I’m right that you fancy Professor Gellar?” I asked, appalled.

“No! What? I… you’re being cute, aren’t you? Hilarious.”

I grinned. Potter rolled his eyes.

“But seriously,” I said after a moment. “What’s up with you? You haven’t said more than two words all night.”

Potter looked at me for so long that it started to get a little uncomfortable. I was beginning to think he was annoyed that I’d asked and was about to apologise when he answered.

“My brother hates me.”

I stared at him.

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“I… Well, I’m sorry, Potter.”

Potter surveyed me with a wry smile on his face.

“You didn’t say he doesn’t,” he said finally. I shrugged.

“For all I know, you might’ve murdered his owl or something.”

For some reason, Potter smiled.

“You don’t beat around the bush a lot, do you?”

“Not when it doesn’t help my cause, no.”

Potter looked out onto the dance floor.

“Andrea asked me to be her date.”

I’d guessed as much, but I didn’t want to get conned into being some kind of informant or something if Potter found out.

“And Albus found out,” I said.

I took his silence for affirmation. I sat there, half tuned in to the bickering that was taking place at the opposite side of the table when he spoke again.

“And Dom… It’s about a boy isn’t it? Whatever secret of hers you’re keeping.”

I turned to look at him quickly, slightly alarmed. Of course, Potter didn’t miss the reaction. He nodded once and looked away, clearly troubled.

“I said nothing, Potter. You can’t just assume-“

“It’s over?”

“Look, this has nothing to do with me and-“

“But you were looking out for her when it was still going on.”

I stared at him and I’m pretty sure I looked distressed. It was Potter as a person who made me uneasy; especially when he was like this. I could take the Potter that yelled mean things at me any day, but this Potter was a whole other story.

I suppose it bothered me because I had to actively work at being tactful. But for him, it was second nature. And what’s more, he genuinely cared. He didn’t let on, of course, and at first I’d just thought it was simply part of the dark and mysterious thing he had going on. It dawned on me then that maybe, maybe, Potter never said much because he just got things… kind of like in the way Fitz and I understood each other.

The mere possibility of me being right made me so uncomfortable that I found myself unceremoniously grabbing Fred and dragging him out onto the dance floor, without explanation, simply to get away from James Potter.




 

A/N: I feel like this update wasn't as bad as last time. Anyway, what do you guys think? Like it? Don't like it? Are you lot still shipping Dom/Fitz. What do you think about the end bit with Mar and James? Leave me a reviews, they


Chapter 16: How to lose friends
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




With November came snow.

Snow and I, we didn’t get on so well. Soppy mess, that’s what it was. As though living in a castle, P.O Box; Middle Of Nowhere, Scotland, wasn’t enough. Might as well throw in frozen water falling from the sky. Who was going to care, right? It was miserable anyway. Why not just chuck all of us in Azkaban? There wouldn’t really be that much of a difference.

“Bloody snow,” Fitz muttered angrily as we trudged across the grounds back from the greenhouses.

See? This is why I loved the boy.

“It’s like Merlin wants to see how many of us he can drive to suicide,” I said darkly.

“Sadist, that Merlin,” Fitz said.

“Bet he kicks puppies too.”

“And wastes cake.”

“And steals from little old ladies.”

“And doesn’t like Quidditch.”

I don’t like Quidditch, Fitz.”

“I rest my case.”

“I’m appalled,” I informed him. “And offended. And-“

“Hi you guys. I would ask what you were talking about, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to weep in a foetal position.”

Potter was losing it, I think.

“I need a word, Marley,” he said when he realised that both Fitz and I had respected his wishes.

“You’re being nuttier than usual, Potter,” I said, slightly suspicious.

“Yes, well, I need you to give me this,” he said. Then he shoved a white box wrapped in gold ribbon at me. I took it, briefly considered not messing with him, and then laughed lightly at my vain attempt at basic human decency.

“Alright then. Potter, here you go,” I said, holding the box out to him.

He looked so beyond hassled.

Totally worth it.

“Not here,” he said in exasperation.

“Alright… How about there?” I asked, pointing to a random spot in the Great Hall. Potter groaned in frustration. I really crack myself up sometime.

“At lunch, Marley. When you see Jillian come anywhere near me.”

“Potter, this is insane-“

“Yes, just like you. It’s destiny.”

I didn’t even waste my time glaring frostily at him. I knew Potter too well by this point. Almost hacking my lungs out from the smell of pink hair dye and the universal pariah-like treatment I’d received, all by his hand (directly or not) had equipped me for situations like this one. So, it was with the airs of a total baws (note the wrong spelling to emphasise boss-ness) with which I looked over his shoulder and grinned hugely.

“Oh hi, Jillian!” I said loudly. Potter squeaked and spun around.

What a dork.

He came face to face with Rebecca. His shoulders slumped in relief while I cackled manically in the back.

“Potter and Jillian sitting in a tree,” I started in a singsong voice.

“Crazy bint,” Potter muttered, turning around and walking away.

“K-I-S-S-I-N-G,” I hollered, skipping after him. Rebecca was giggling because she’s a good friend like that.

“First comes loooove-”

“Leave me alone.”

“-then comes marriage-“

“Honestly, what is wrong with you?”

“-then comes a baby in a baby carriage!”

Potter completely ignored me of course, and just continued on his merry way to wherever he was going. None of us seemed to have thought about the fact that it was third period and we were all, more or less, in different classes.

“Stop following me,” Potter groaned when Fitz predicted that Jillian would paint their future living room peach.

“I’m going to class, mate,” Fitz shrugged. “Terrorising you is just a perk.”

I stopped and realised that we were in some random fifth floor corridor, and I had Care of Magical Creatures in the grounds.

“Crap,” I said loudly, turning on my heels and sprinting away.

“Told you Care of Magical Creatures was going to bite you in the arse someday,” Fitz shouted after me.

“It’s better than Muggle Studies!” I yelled back before turning the corner.

Yeah, so Professor Hagrid gave me detention shorty after.

Don’t tell Fitz.

*

Chere,

I am so sorry. I have been terribly busy with school work, and I haven’t had time to write to you. We are hearing stories about attacks and I must hear back from you. Please write me back as soon as you get this.

Love,

Henri.

I stared at the four sentences Henri had written for a good five minutes before the indignation started to set in.

‘Haven’t had time to write to you’? To what? See if someone had offed me? What did my death have to do with the stupid git anyway? He probably just didn’t want to have to deal with the guilt of me dying with a broken heart or whatever other romanticised idea he had concocted in that thick head of his. Plus, if he honestly cared about my death, Charms homework wouldn’t have kept him. It isn’t even like it was a proper letter or anything.

And ‘Love, Henri’. Hell no. He chucked me. Via owl post, no less. And now he was asking me to ‘please write back’. He was reaching almost troll levels of stupidity here.

I scrunched up the letter and, pretending it had lungs, drowned it in my coffee mug.

“Um?” Fitz said uncertainly.

“Henri,” I grunted angrily.

“Ahh.”

“Why are you communicating with me in sound?” I snapped at him. He rolled his eyes and chewed his chicken like an obnoxious git.

“Hello, peers,” Fred said happily, plopping down next to me. Fitz grunted, I continued to glare at my coffee mug.

“There’s parchment in your coffee, Red,” Fred said good-naturedly.

“There’s stupid in your brain, Fred,” I shot at him. He held his hands up in a sign of surrender and mouthed ‘wow’ to Fitz.

“Hell hath no fury,” Fitz said in explanation. Fred gasped dramatically.

“Has someone scorned you, Red? Who is it? I haven’t been in a good fight in ages.”

He then cracked his knuckles and looked around the room as though he expected someone to raise their hand and cop to it. I suppose I should have been flattered that Fred was jumping to defend my honour the way he was, but seeing as I had just received correspondence from my swine of an ex who, reasonably, had absolutely no right to any sort of information regarding my whereabouts, I thought it was quite mature of me to settle for sitting and glowering at my coffee as though it had personally offended me.

“Erm… Ness?” Fitz said hesitantly.

I ignored him.

Fine,” Fitz huffed. “Be that way. I was only trying to tell you that James is coming this way, and seeing as we ate all those cupcakes he wanted you to give him-“

“Cupcakes?” Fred perked up. “James is giving out cupcakes? Why didn’t I get any-”

“Marley, hi.”

Potter was actually smiling at me. It felt odd because I was mostly used to scowls. I wasn’t fooled though; I had to make a conscious effort to ignore Jillian as she glared at me over Potter’s shoulder.

“Potter… right,” I said, getting up and smoothing down my robes.

“So… erm, how are you?” he asked, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. Probably because Jillian was so close she was breathing on him or something equally creepy. I shrugged, grabbing the strap of my bag in one hand, and an apple in the other.

“Do you… uh, where are you going?” Potter sounded a little panicked as Jillian looked on with glee. The crazy bint had probably been expecting me to slack off on my gift giving duties. Personally, I thought the whole set-up was more than a bit stupid, but hey, if someone offered to be my personal slave for forever, I knew I wouldn’t have said no.

“Quidditch Pitch,” I said, raising an eyebrow at him. “You do remember you promised me flying lessons, don’t you?”

What?” Jillian hissed. Fred was looking between Potter and me, trying to figure out what in Merlin’s name was going on, as Potter grinned broadly at me.

“You’re an idiot,” Fitz volunteered before going back to his chicken. Told you he was a git.

“Right,” Potter beamed. “’Course I didn’t forget. Always happy to pass on the skills.”

“What- but… no,” Jillian spluttered. “That’s not how this works… It’s not- you’re not-“

“But teaching me to fly without, you know, dying, will be just like practice, Jill,” I said. “You do want Gryffindor to win the game, don’t you?”

Then I blinked all innocent like.

Jillian would have murdered me with her bare hands if she could, I was sure of it. I don’t think I’d ever seen anyone that livid before.

“I mean, that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?”

In retrospect, I suppose I didn’t have to rub it in her face that much. But my mind was on the letter I’d drowned in my coffee, and although that wasn’t much of an excuse, I was far from feeling too bad for the girl who’d made it her mission to make my life horrible at Hogwarts.

“I suppose I should thank you,” Potter said happily. He was practically skipping next to me as we headed out into the freezing cold. I glanced back, just to be certain that there was no way I could change course to the warm library instead. No surprise, Jillian was still watching us. So it was with a small sigh that I steeled myself and followed him grudgingly into the cold.

“I’d say you’re welcome, Potter, but I’m afraid I’ll have to do your laundry next,” I grumbled.

“Hey, I’m the one giving you a flying lesson here,” he shot back good-naturedly. I glanced sideways at him.

“No. I’m going to freeze my arse off out here until I’m sure Jillian’s left the Great Hall and then go back inside and talk myself out of homicide. You can talk to your imaginary friends or whatever it is you do for fun.”

“You clearly aren’t in a good mood,” Potter noted.

“It may have escaped your notice, Potter, but it’s snowing. And I’m out here. Voluntarily.”

“Aww, is Princess not used to the cold?” he said in a mocking baby voice. I turned to glare at him. By the self-satisfied smirk on his face, he knew fully well I’d rise to the bait.

“At least I’m not a coward,” I shot back.

“Oh please,” Potter snorted.

“What? That’s exactly what you are, Potter. It honestly isn’t that hard to tell Jillian to leave you alone. Or do you enjoy the attention? Is that it?”

Potter raised an eyebrow and actually looked amused.

“You’re trying to fight with me,” he said.

“What’re you talking ab-“

“Well, I’m sorry that you’re pissed about something, but it isn’t my problem,” he shrugged. Then he skipped, skipped¸ off towards the pitch. I stood there, seething. Somehow, of all the insolent little pricks I’d known in my life, James Potter had managed to reach the top of the list. He wasn’t a horrid person or anything, but there was just something, some air about him that set me on edge.

And before I knew it, I was bending down, scooping up a palm full of fresh, white snow, and hurling it at Potter’s stupid head.

It hit the git in the back of the neck with a loud smack.

Potter froze. I smirked.

Then painfully slowly, he turned around to reveal the evil smile that had found itself onto his face. The very sight of it made my stomach plummet. I was feeling shit enough at this point; I did not need to get myself involved in a snowball fight. Potter didn’t seem to care one bit as he bent down slowly and plunged his hand fully into the snow.

“Potter, don’t you dare-“

“All’s fair in love and war, Princess.”

And then I was running back towards the castle. A snowball caught me in the left shoulder, and another one narrowly missed my hair.

“You complete wanker. STOP!“ I shrieked, ducking and spinning around, pulling out my wand in the process.

“You started this, Red,” Potter screamed back, pulling out his own wand, evil grin still in place.

It was battle from then on. Although Potter’s snow barricade was sturdier, mine had more style (it was shaped like turrets at the top and had snowmen guards on either side). I had a pile of perfectly round snowballs that I’d charmed to hurl themselves at Potter every time he emerged from behind his barricade. My tactic was far more effective than the continuous string of snowballs he had flinging themselves at me.

“Surrender, Potter, there’s no way you can win this,” I screamed from behind my snow-wall.

“Delusion, Princess; it’s a legitimate illness,” he yelled back.

“I have snowmen! You’ll never win,” I smirked as I shouted. I pointed my wand to the far side of my wall and fashioned a giant snowball roughly the size of my stash of liquorice wands. I briefly wondered if Potter would die from the sheer weight of it, but then when I realised that the closest people were by the lake and wouldn’t actually witness the murder, I resolved to just run for it if I actually did end up killing him.

The giant snowball was just about done (I was perfecting its roundness- if I was going to kill James Potter, might as well do it properly), when I realised that the sound of snow hitting my barricade had stopped. My heart skipped a beat just as snow crunched behind me.

“Gotcha,” Potter said quietly, right before he smashed a handful of snow onto my head. I stood there, both cold and in slight shock, as Potter cackled like the evil git that he was.

My hair.

It was wet.

No, not the nice kind of wet. It was the half wet, half soggy kind of wet.

Potter was going to pay.

I stuck my boot behind his shoe and pulled it back hard. Potter, still laughing to himself in glee at catching me unawares, went tumbling to the floor. Wand forgotten, I bend down and began dumping as much snow as I could hold on him. He was wriggling, half laughing, half spluttering, as he attempted to get himself off the ground.

Never go for the hair, Potter,” I panted, dumping another armful of snow onto him. “No wonder you’re single.”

Potter, still occupied in snoring uncontrolled laughter, managed to make some vague noise in response. I spun around and lunged towards my snowman. I then proceeded to behead him and hurl the snow at Potter. Unfortunately for me, Potter, accustomed to years of Quidditch drills, had managed to get himself up off the ground during the brief respite. Unfortunately for him, the head of my sacrificed snowman hit him hard in the gut. He let out a painful wheeze, doubled over, and took a step back.

“Score!” I yelled, throwing my hands in the air. I then bent quickly to gather more snow. I got up, hand pulled back to lob the snow at Potter, but he was ready.

Still crouched slightly, Potter lunged towards me. What I was expecting was a face full of snow. What I got was Potter’s arms wrapping around my waist as he attempted to throw me on the ground. I caught his shoulder half way, which resulted in me trying to squirm my way out of his grasp, legs kicking.

“Let go of me, Potter!”

“Not until you surrender!”

“This is against the rules-“

“-there aren’t any rules-“

“I’ll bite you, Potter, I swear-“

“-going to sue if I get rabies-“

“-are you calling me mad?”

“-open an asylum in your name-“

“-you’re going to regret this- AARGH!”

I wasn’t sure if I was screaming or laughing hysterically as Potter full on threw me on the ground. My entire back was soaking within seconds. I was in half shock as I lay there, looking up at Potter clutching his stomach and laughing so hard it looked painful. It occurred to me that I’d never seen him laugh, actually laugh, before. Not like this, anyway.

So, naturally, I sat up, grabbed his shin, and yanked hard.

Potter ended up sprawled on the snow covered ground, still laughing helplessly. We stayed like that for a long time, me sitting cross legged and Potter laying on his back, laughing, with the remnants of our snowball fight, I’m sorry, war, behind us. My arse was getting numb, and I was pretty sure Potter was chilled to the bone too. I spoke when he finally stopped laughing.

“We should go inside,” I said, suddenly exhausted. Potter, whose forearm was laying lazily across his eyes, lifted it slightly at peeked at me.

“When we agree that I won.”

“In your dreams- NO!”

Potter had reached to his side and grabbed a fistful of snow. I lunged at him and grabbed his wrist with both my hands.

“Oh, I can’t wait to see how you two try and explain this.”

Potter and I both froze.

We stared at each other, and I realised for the first time that I was actually in physical contact with Potter.

Whilst sober.

His annoyingly pretty hazel eyes were a little larger than usual. I recognised alarm in them. I was pretty sure I was mirroring his expression as I slowly turned to my left.

Fred, Quin, Fitz and (as mine and Potter’s combined shit luck would have it) Andrea.

I was lying in the snow, practically straddling Potter.

And Andrea had seen.

“No,” I said quietly, scrambling to get away from Potter. “No, Andrea. It isn’t-“

But she had turned, and in a flash of brown hair, she was gone.

And then I just stood there, freezing and tired. Potter scrambled to his feet too and stood a good five feet away from me.

“Well, well,” Fred said with a glint in his eye I didn’t particularly appreciate.

“Shut up, Fred,” Potter muttered, eyes narrowed.

“I’m being best man,” Quin said loudly. “I called it!”

“You guys are hopeless-“ I tried to say.

“You aren’t going to make me wear a dress to the ceremony, are you?” Fitz demanded of me.

“This is stupid-“ Potter interjected.

“No way, I’m family. I get to be best man-“

“I’M NOT MARRYING POTTER!” I yelled over all of them.

“Yeah, she’s insane,” he agreed wholeheartedly.

“Yeah I’m- what?” I snapped. Potter was looking at me innocently, hands held up in surrender.

“Well, you’re nice and all, but the sheer amount of crazy you exhibit…” he trailed off, shaking his head.

“You,” I said, “are a git, Potter. And I’ll be surprised if you even manage to get a date, let alone married.”

“Oh, I can get a date if I wanted one-“

“-never heard such bullshit in my life-“

“Aww, lover’s spat,” Fred said fondly.

Potter’s well aimed snowball hit him square in the face.




A/N: I feel like this was a pretty fast update. This chapter was really fun to write as well. Hope you guys enjoy reading it as mcuh as I did writing it!



Chapter 17: How to save the day
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

November crawled by with painful sluggishness. The atmosphere in the castle never moved far from overwrought. Every day there were new stories, not of attacks, but of what seemed like forced pacifying on the Ministry’s part. We were all ‘not to worry’, and there was no need to ‘take up arms’. I was antsy, and I could tell most of the senior class was too. We were stuck, obstructed from the outside world by the wrought iron gates of the castle. The dismal weather did nothing to help either. Snow fell with no respite for what seemed like the entire month. It was as though it was trying to stay in sync with the students of Hogwarts.


Charles was, for the first time ever, the biggest problem in my life. His letters made no sense or references to the angry demands for answers I made in block letters biweekly. He would simply tell me that it was great I was getting on so well, and that he couldn’t wait to see me at Christmas. Fitz too tried to wheedle answers from his own parents (who owned an Apothecary in Diagon Alley), but with no luck. However, we both received a fresh set of Potions supplies the very next day.

Potter and his misfits, being the complete trolls that they were, seemed to have taken it upon themselves to organize the next big bash in the Room of Requirement the evening of the upcoming Hogsmeade trip, neither of which I was planning to attend.

Fitz, bless his soul, had a much bigger problem on his hands. And no, it had absolutely nothing to do with nasty rashes.

“At least go talk to her,” I urged one surprisingly warm (for November) Sunday afternoon.

“And what do you propose I say, Sherlock? ‘Hi, I’m sorry Jenny, but I have this Gollum-like obsession with a part-Veela who thinks I’m a freak’. Yeah, brilliant plan, Ness. Wonder why they haven’t given you an Order of Merlin yet.”

Then he huffed and viciously chewed his liquorice wand.

“Or you could, you know, be normal about it,” I suggested lightly. Fitz seemed to be having the exact opposite of what one would describe as a good time with his newly found fame amongst the ladies. He had not been joking earlier about Meredith Taylor and a couple of other sixth years (most of whom were, weirdly enough, friends of Jenny Wilson). While I thought it was a horrible violation of every single friendship code there was, to each their own, right?

“Either way, it’s the same thing,” Fitz grumbled. “Jen’s a nice person.”

“Which is why you’re ignoring her. Got it.”

“Stop being a troll.”

“Oh, the hypocrisy.”

Unlike poor Fitz, I had absolutely zero love life problems. I’d written Henri back and informed him that if he ever contacted me again, I’d have his house set on fire (through my friends in the Transylvanian biker gang I played bridge with, of course). I was sure that Andrea, who was now refusing to look my way, had noticed the acute lack of any contact, verbal or otherwise, between James Potter and myself. I had stayed as far away from him as possible (since he was clearly a harbinger of bad luck and needed to be checked out for the same by a team of highly trained Healers) and he seemed to have the same idea about me. I was fine with this.

“You guys. You guys!” Fred was screaming as he ran down the hall. We both stopped and watched with interest as he frantically shoved a group of fifth years out of his way. He came to a stop in front of us, hair all over the place, eyes wild.

“Good morning,” I said cheerily, just to annoy him. Fred gasped for breath.

“We have a problem,” Fred gasped through the deep breaths he was trying to take.

“Shame,” Fitz said moodily.

“That’s precisely what it is,” Fred said, nodding with wide eyes. He then looked from Fitz to me with the most serious expression.

“We’re going to lose the match,” he then declared dramatically.

Tick tock.

“I repeat; shame,” Fitz said flatly.

Geez, the boy really was feeling lousy, wasn’t he?

Fred gasped in indignation at Fitz’s disinterest in the prospects of the Gryffindor Quidditch team.

“You- I… You- What?” poor Fred spluttered. Fitz popped the last piece of liquorice wand in his mouth and chewed it with such sass that I briefly considered dropping out of Hogwarts to be his pageant mom so we could take over the world with Fitz and his taffeta dresses.

Then I realised that I should maybe alleviate the situation since Fred look so appalled that there was a vein twitching at his temple.

“It’s alright, Freddie,” I said calmly. Taking his hand, I walked him over to a nearby bench in the courtyard and sat him down. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

“Ravenclaw,” Fred spat with surprising malice.

“You’re playing Hufflepuff though…”

Fred shot me a dirty look.

“Right?” I squeaked.

No,” he said slowly. “We’re playing Ravenclaw.”

“Oh, yeah. Ha ha. Almost had you there didn’t I,” I laughed awkwardly. “Anyway, what’s the problem?”

“They’ve booked the Pitch every evening until the match,” Fred said miserably.

“Well, then book it right after classes,” I shrugged. Fred looked like he was going to cry.

“Hugo and William landed themselves in detention for a week for nicking hedgehogs from the Transfiguration classroom.”

“What in the world did they need hedgehogs for?”

“Something about replicating cockfights… Look, I don’t know. The point is we can’t have practice without two of our Chasers.”

“Well, Potter’s captain, isn’t he? Since he fancies himself so intelligent, I’m sure he’ll come up with something.”

Fred (I’m not joking here) wailed. I’m pretty sure it was in agony.

“He hasn’t left our dorm all day. Our own captain’s given up, Red. We’re going to lose. To the Claws, no less.”

I rolled my eyes.

“So clearly losing this match is going to set in motion the apocalypse then,” I muttered. Fred reached out and flicked my nose.

“This is serious, Red,” he said over my protests.

“You… you flicked me.”

“We’ll never live this down. Vic will have a field day. Poor Teddy’ll never hear the end of it,” Fred said forlornly. “We’ve let him down.”

I didn’t bother to ask what he was talking about.

I glanced back at Fitz. He was still standing in the middle of the courtyard where we’d left him, but had opened a fresh bag of liquorice wands and was glaring pointedly at a couple huddled under a cloak in the corner. I genuinely worry about him sometimes.

“Listen, Freddie, as much as I feel your pain- no, really, I do- I just don’t see how I could help you. I mean, I barely know the rules of the game to begin with.”

“But you were so excited with me when Hufflepuff beat Slytherin.”

“Yeah, well, I’m sorry. I don’t care. I mean, I care about your team and all, but Quidditch, in general is...”

 I trailed off because Fred looked like I’d kicked him in the nuts.

“Freddie,” I said after a long pause. “Look, I’m really sorry. But I have to go. I have detention. If there’s anything I can do to help…”

Fred sighed forlornly and stared across the courtyard.

“Alright, well… bye. I guess.”

I cut Fitz off just as he was stalking towards the couple with the blanket with a particularly pointy quill clutched in his fist.

“No,” I told him. “Come on. I’m dropping you of in the Common Room and you’re not to leave until I get back from detention.”

I can truthfully say that was the first time I’d even been hissed at.

After leaving Fitz in the care of Tracey and Rebecca, I started moodily trudging my way towards the Staff Room. I wasn’t even sure how Professor Hagrid managed to fit himself through the doorframe. On the bright side, I thought to myself, I wouldn’t have to take part in the Quidditch related discussion Rebecca and Tracey were having back in the Common Room.

Then I actually reached the Staff Room and would have turned and bolted had Professor Hagrid not spotted me.

Leaning against the wall as though he owned the place was Aaron Wheeler.

“There yeh are!” Professor Hagrid said. “Though’ I’d have ter come get yeh myself.”

Wheeler looked up from the spot on the floor he was staring at. His jaw actually dropped open.

“You’ve got to be joking,” he said loudly.

“If anyone has the right to have a problem with this arrangement, it’s me,” I snapped.

“Last time I checked, you hexed me,” he shot back, eyes narrowed. I grinned broadly.

“Yeah… yeah, I did do that.”

Professor Hagrid was looking from Wheeler to me and back. If I wasn’t mistaken, he had a mildly amused look on his face.

“Well, if anythin’ you two might end up friends after tonigh’,” he said cheerily. He then reached for the floor behind him and held up two wooden buckets and rags. “You two’ll be cleanin’ the portraits in the Charms corridor.”

After having our wands taken, we were both trudging up to the Charms corridor, resentment thick in the air.

“Hey, at least you can’t hex me this time,” Wheeler said sarcastically.

“Don’t talk to me,” I snapped.

“Gladly,” he snorted.

I set my bucket heavily down, dunked my rag in, and started polishing the frame of the nearest portrait. Wheeler went to the opposite wall and began doing the same. Neither of us said anything.  Although, if one were to look at it objectively, Wheeler had no right to be pissed at me seeing as during our last exchange he’d called me a slut and them gotten angry with me for not wanting to bump uglies with him.

“Careful, boy!” the portrait of a plump man who snapped at Wheeler as he harshly scrubbed its frame. “I was painted by Desmond Mimpy III during the-“

“Oh, shut it,” Wheeler snapped, chucking his rag at the painting.

“Who do you think you’re talking to?” the portrait asked, clearly appalled.

“A painting,” Wheeler said flatly.

“The value of which you will never know, boy! Not with that arrogant attitude!”

“He has a point,” I smirked, my own frame forgotten.

“No one asked you,” Wheeler snapped.

“I’m sure he appreciates my opinion, don’t you sir?” I asked the portrait kindly. He beam.

“Now, there’s a youth with proper etiquette,” he said almost proudly.

“Youth?” Wheeler snorted.

“Hey, you’re a youth too,” I informed him. “And a jackass, but that goes without saying.”

Wheeler narrowed his eyes at me. I batted my eyelashes with the fakest smile I could muster, before turning back and resuming my scrubbing. Almost immediately there was a clatter behind me and lots of swearing on Wheeler’s part.

I would have laughed at the fact that Wheeler had somehow managed to trip over his own bucket if he hadn’t been laying suspiciously still.

“Shit,” I muttered, chucking my rag in my bucket. “Are you okay?”

I stood over him, unsure of what to do without a wand. Then, thankfully, he groaned and clutched his head in his hands.

“Erm… Wheeler? Look, just, uh, say something,” I said nervously. Wheeler peeked at me through his fingers.

“Why do I always get hurt around you?” he asked, half resentful and half (if I wasn’t mistaken) amused. I wasn’t sure what to do with this reaction.

“Come on,” I sighed finally, making up my mind. I bent down, grabbed his arm, and heaved him towards the wall where I propped him up in a sitting position. “How many fingers am I holding up?”

“Three.”

“Alright. You’ll live.”

“How do you know I don’t have a concussion?”

“I don’t. I just won’t be around when you go to sleep later so it won’t be my problem,” I said, turning away from him and going back to my wall.

“I could just fall asleep here,” he said thoughtfully.

“Enjoy the coma.”

Wheeler was silent for a long time. I wasn’t actually expecting him to say anything when he sighed loudly.

“Listen, Marley-”

“Whatever it is, Wheeler, I don’t give a centaur’s arse.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Are you deaf- what?”

I spun around to see Wheeler looking awkwardly at the floor. His face had a slight pinkish tinge that informed me clearly that he didn’t apologise to people a lot.

“How hard did you hit your head?” I asked incredulously. When he finally looked at me, his blue eyes were wide and clear; no sign of the usually mischievous glint in them.

“About before… I’m sorry,” he said with a completely straight face. I stared at him for the longest time. I stared even after it got awkward and he looked away, rubbing the back of his neck.

“You’re, erm, supposed to say something,” he said.

“I’m just waiting for the catch,” I shrugged, folding my arms across my chest and staring down at him.

“Look,” Wheeler sighed. “I can tell you I’d had a drink too many that night. Or that it really did bug me about Emily chucking me, but do you honestly want an excuse?”

“You called me a slut, Wheeler,” I said flatly.

“I said I’m sorry,” he mumbled, actually looking ashamed.

“And let’s not forget the general creepiness you exhibited before that lovely incident.”

“I just… I didn’t-“

“Think someone would say no to you?” I offered, raising an eyebrow. “After all, you’re the impressive Quidditch captain. Who would pass up that opportunity?”

“It’s why she chucked me,” Wheeler informed me. “Emily, I mean. Said my ego was unsustainable.”

“Smart girl, this Emily.”

Wheeler shrugged again and looked away. He didn’t say anything after that, and when he rested his head back against the wall and stared out the nearby window, I realised he wasn’t expecting me to say I forgave him. Maybe he was genuinely trying to deflate his head, maybe he actually did have a concussion, either way one thing still didn’t add up.

“Why’re you apologising now?” I wanted to know. “I mean, I’ve been here, what? Three months?”

“Right,” Wheeler snorted. “Just walk up to you in the corridor and risk being bedridden for the rest of my life.”

We stared at each other; him sardonically, me blankly. Slowly his wry smile dropped and something clicked behind his eyes. While this was great for him, I was still in the dark; not something I greatly appreciated.

“You weren’t the one who told them, were you?”

“Them? What’re you even about? If you’re trying to be funny, Wheeler-”

“James and Fred,” he said as though this was supposed to mean something to me. “And I’m pretty sure Quin was the one who changed the labels on my Potions ingredients.”

“Wheeler, I’m really not in the mood for-”

“They made it pretty clear what would happen if I went within spitting distance of you,” Wheeler cut me off again. “Plus, I really didn’t have any need for you to hex me a second time.”

A warm feeling was spreading through me all of a sudden, and I couldn’t stop the small smile that fought its way onto my face. While I would never openly condone violence (it was a different story inside my head, but that’s another battle), it was the thought that counted. Don’t get me wrong, those three were still gits but, as it dawned on me then, they were gits who cared about me and my wellbeing.

“I thought you were friends with them,” I said.

“Well, not really,” Wheeler said, attempting to get to his feet. “We know each other, of course, but that’s about it.”

With one last look at me, Wheeler picked up his rag from the floor and started at the portrait again. I was about to go back to work too when something struck me.

“Wheeler?”

“Yeah?”

“Captains are in charge of booking the Quidditch Pitch, right?”

Wheeler looked at me suspiciously before nodding slowly.

“Perfect.”




“I miss being a Firstie,” Fitz sighed sadly. “Mum never sends me sweets anymore.”

“You’ve taken my entire stock of liquorice wands,” I reminded him as a barn owl I’d never seen before dropped a letter in front of me.

“Yeah, but it’s different when Mum sends me stuff. It’s like a reinforcement of her love.”

“She grew you for nine months. I’m sure she loves you plenty.”

I didn’t recognise the handwriting on the envelope. The emerald green ink read Marley Corrina Belgarde in slanted, stylish script. No one I knew used my middle name. I was pretty sure only a handful of people actually knew my middle name in the first place. I turned it over and examined the wax seal. It was emerald green again, embossed with a coat of arms I wasn’t familiar with. Again, people who write to me didn’t even own seals or have family crests.

“But now she’s gotten used to me being away for most of the year,” Fitz was saying. “She’s probably replaced me with Bobby by now- he’s my nine year old neighbour. Snot nosed git. That’s what he is- what? Why’re you looking at me like that?”

“My grandfather wants to have lunch with me.”

I’m pretty sure I sounded dazed. I know that’s how I felt at least. I stared at the letter in my hand, feeling a little overwhelmed.

“So?” Fitz asked after a long silence.

“I’ve only ever seen him once before. Before my mother… well, I was four. I don’t even remember him,” I said, frowning and rereading the letter.

“So he’s your Mum’s father then,” Fitz said carefully. I nodded absently, catching (and ignoring) the change in his tone.

“You know, you don’t ever talk about her,” he said, pushing his breakfast around his plate.

“Who?” I asked, looking up at him.

“Your mother.”

I surveyed him. He was holding his fork a little too tightly and his eyes were darting all over the place. Finally, I placed the letter aside and folded my hands neatly on the table in front of me.

“There isn’t anything to tell,” I said calmly. “She decided motherhood wasn’t for her, and left when I was six. I don’t really remember her.”

“And… that’s it?”

“Yup.”

“No letters?”

“Nope.”

“Postcards?”

“No.”

Fitz was quiet for a long moment before her looked up at me.

“She’s stupid,” he said simply before going back to his breakfast. I sat there, smiling like a complete idiot at the boy.

“Fitz, I-“

“What did you do?” Fred was stalking up to stand behind Fitz, glaring daggers at me. Quin and Potter were at his heel, but they looked every bit as confused as I felt.

“Will you stop being a prat?” Quin snapped at Fred. I looked at Potter for an explanation.

“Ravenclaw changed their practice time,” he said.

“Did they?” I asked lightly, taking a sip of coffee. “That’s great.”

“What did you do?”

I’d never actually seen Fred pissed off before. Mildly annoyed, sure. But angry… I didn’t like it one bit.

“Why’s he angry with me?” I asked Potter and Quin. I wasn’t sure I was ready to directly address an angry Fred Weasley yet.

“See? She has no idea what you’re talking about,” Quin rolled his eyes. “Can you stop being thick and just tell us-“

“I told her Ravenclaw booked the Pitch in the evenings,” Fred cut him off, still glaring at me. “And that that was the only time we could practice. Now they’ve suddenly rescheduled.”

“Happy coincidence,” I shrugged, shooting Fitz a quick look before getting up. “I left my Transfiguration notes in-“

“You talked to him, didn’t you?” Fred snapped.

I shouldn’t have frozen like I did for that brief moment, because now Quin and Potter fully understood what was happening. Honestly, I counted on no one finding out I’d asked Wheeler to hold practices earlier. He’d been surprisingly nice about it too. I didn’t even stop to think if Fred, Potter and Quin would be pissed, seeing as they went to such lengths to stop him from coming anywhere near me. It wasn’t like I sought him out or anything; it was just detention. Completely beyond my control. So, naturally, I played dumb.

“What’re you talking about, Fred?” I sighed. Rather convincingly, I thought.

“Nice try.”

It was Quin who spoke. I never really did take him for the serious sort, and that was why what he’d done meant that much more.

“Look, it’s too early in the morning for whatever this is,” I rolled my eyes. Then I turned and walked away, because as I’ve proven time and time again, I’m particularly good at being a coward when it comes to confrontation. I’d actually made it to the staircase in the Entrance Hall when Potter caught up with me.

“There’s a perfectly logical explanation right?” he asked casually, standing right in front of me with his arms crossed.

“Yes,” I said truthfully.

“I’d like to hear it.”

Potter and I stared at each other for a long moment. My first instinct was to say something sarcastic and walk away. That always seemed to be what I did around him. But the situation was different this time; it would be like throwing their concern for me in their faces.

“I had detention,” I said.

“I know.”

“Wheeler did too.”

Potter’s eyes narrowed, and for the first time it wasn’t at me. He moved to walk back into the Great Hall (I didn’t even want to think what it is he intended to do), but I caught his forearm to hold him in place.

“Wouldn’t you like to hear how all this adds up?” I asked, smiling a little in an effort to alleviate the tense air Potter was giving off. He seemed to be considering it, before his shoulder slumped and he nodded once.

“He apologised-”

“Well, isn’t that just wonderful for him?” Potter said sarcastically.

“Will you let me finish-”

“He’s a prick, Marley,” Potter cut me off again. “He always has been.”

“I know, but-”

“He pulled the same thing on Emily. Stalked her for a month before she caved,” Potter was ranting.

“Look, that has nothing to do with-”

“And he’s had it in his head ever since the Welcome Feast that the same thing would happen with you. Wouldn’t shut up about how you’d be his girlfriend by Christmas. Kept going on about how he’d… Look, the point is I know Wheeler. Unfortunately. And he’s the worst type of creep that there is.”

“Done?”

Potter was fuming. His face had become slightly pink, and he was running his hands though his hair every ten seconds. It was adorable in the way that made me want to reach out, pinch his cheeks and offer him sweets.

“Fred was just short of traumatised at the idea of losing the cup, I’m pretty sure Quin was losing his appetite, which has to be a sign of the apocalypse, and you were holed up in your dorm like someone had just murdered your immediate family.”

“You didn’t have to make deals with Wheeler-“

“He told me what you guys did,” I cut him off this time.

Potter kind of froze, almost guiltily.

“I know he’s a git, Potter. I knew that the first night I got here. Who cares if he thinks doing this is going to change that? You get to practice, and I can go back to ignoring his existence.”

“You didn’t have to,” Potter said, looking at the floor.

“I know,” I shrugged. “But let’s be honest, manipulating Wheeler is more than a little satisfying.”

Potter finally looked up at me and smiled. It wasn’t sarcastic, I’m happy to report. We were making progress, Potter and I.

“Anyway,” I said, stepping around him. “I really did forget my Transfiguration notes. And… thanks Potter. For, um… looking out for me.”

Potter looked like he didn’t know what to say. I decided to spare the both of us. With one nod, I began walking up the staircase. I was halfway up when Potter spoke.

“We’re going to kick their arses,” he called after me.

I chuckled to myself, continuing on my way to Gryffindor Tower.






A/N: Yes, I know how many months its been. I sincerely apologise. You guys have no idea how hard it is to not write every time I open my computer to do something productive. Honestly though, uni is seriously messing with me. I literally talk in economics. That being said; seeing as I'm a rational consumer and the utility of going on HPFF is far greater than reviewing Statistics II for finals, here I am.
Ahem. excuse the lameness.
But I missed Marlz and Fitz-y. Review if you did too!


Chapter 18: How to manage disaster
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“You look like a librarian.”

I groaned in frustration and shrugged out of the blazer I’d found at the bottom of my trunk.

“That isn’t a bad thing… not really.”

I looked hopelessly at Tracey in the mirror. I was a fail. At what, you may ask? Life in general. I was afraid to think about the amount of time I’d spent trying to find something appropriate to wear.

To lunch.

With my grandfather.

Who does that?

“I don’t know why you’re freaking out,” Tracey said, tossing her magazine aside and going to rummage through my trunk. “It’s just your grandfather.”

“Whom I haven’t seen in over a decade,” I said almost hysterically. “I don’t want to show up looking like a hobo.”

“Here,” Tracey said, rolling her eyes. “This should do.”

Jeans, boots, white sweater, grey coat. Okay, far cry from both street walker and librarian.

“You’re a genius,” I said in wonder.

“You wouldn’t picked that out if you weren’t on the verge of a mental breakdown. Is he rich?”

“Huh?” I said stupidly.

“Your grandfather. Because if he is, you need to remind him that you’re his little granddaughter.”

“Why?” I asked, slightly afraid of the answer as Tracey began rummaging through a box on her bedside table.

“Money,” she said as though it was the most obvious thing ever.

“I don’t want his money,” I said, a little appalled. Tracey found what she as looking for and turned to face me.

“You just said he hasn’t talked to you in a decade,” she said, eyebrow raised.

“Yes but-“

“So clearly he isn’t the most ideal human specimen.”

“So that doesn’t mean-“

“Might as well get something out of this.”

And then my hair was being tied back in a ponytail with a black bow.

The people I associate with.

Tracey and I eventually headed down to the Common Room (she wasn’t wearing any bows, mind you). We found the other seventh years sitting around the fire, completely monopolising the good sofa. I’m pretty sure they conned it away from some Firsties since Firsties were always up so early and had first pick of seating. I bet Potter was involved.

Fitz and Quin were engaged in an intense game of chess. There was some sweating involved on Quin’s part. Rebecca was trying to explain to Fred the logic behind rock, paper, scissors (a brave feat on her part, I have to say), and Potter was looking extremely uncomfortable about the fact that Jillian was seated as close to him as she was.

“Move it,” Quin snapped at his rook, prodding it in the butt.

“I never agreed to sacrifice myself for you,” the rook said loftily, refusing to move.

“Where were you guys?” Fred demanded, noticing me and Tracey. Rebecca looked relieved that their conversation had ended.

“Marely couldn’t decide what to wear on her date,” Tracey smirked. I was beginning to regret the day already, and it was barely past breakfast. Potter, Fred and Jillian all turned to look at me at the same time. It was a little intimidating.

“Date?” Fred said finally. “Why have I not heard about this?”

“Because it’s actually lunch with my grandfather,” I rolled my eyes. “Which is why I’ll be leaving now.”

“Wait,” Fitz said as I began walking around the sofas. “Knight to E5. Checkmate.”

He left Quin looking dejected by the fire and pulled me over the far end of the Common Room so we were out of earshot.

“Scorpius is back,” he said quietly. Instantly, I forgot about my nervousness.

“About time.”

“Yeah, Rose went rushing to see him this morning.”

“Are his parents okay?”

“I guess,” Fitz said a little too uncertainly for my liking. “There’d have been something about it in the papers if they weren’t.”

“Right,” I said half-heartedly.

“Ness-”

“I’m fine,” I said before he could ask. “Anyway, I should get going. I’m meeting him at eleven thirty.”

“I’ll see you at the Three Broomsticks at one?” Fitz asked as we began walking towards the portrait hole.

“Yeah. Don’t eat too many sweets. Hogsmeade isn’t ready for that yet,” I said as he walked back to the group.

“Funny,” I heard him yell just before I climbed out of the Common Room.

I was jittery the whole way to Hogsmeade. I realised that I knew nothing about this man I was about the see. Briefly, I let myself wonder what it would have been like if my mother hadn’t unceremoniously up and left the way she had. Would my life have been in England? Would I have liked having a large family?

All I’d ever known was life with Charles. I’d never really had any reason to ponder about the other possibilities. He had done a brilliant job in the father (and occasionally mother) department. I hated to admit it, but it made me a little sad when I thought about the whole Potter-Weasley clan and how they sometimes threw impromptu family gatherings in the Great Hall. How they all congregated at one of the house tables and were boisterous and loud. Sure, it seemed hectic, dramatic, and a little unnerving… but it was also lively and just looked, well, fun.

I pushed the thoughts aside as I walked into the village. It was still relatively early and I only spotted a few students. The place would be crowded in another hour. I was glad I didn’t recognise anyone. If this meeting went badly, I would be safe. I really didn’t feel like being the gossip of the month again.

Nervously, I walked towards The Three Broomsticks. I spotted him from far off. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. I was so nervous about the whole situation that I hadn’t stopped to consider what my grandfather would be like. He looked, for the lack of a better word, royal. He was dressed from head to toe in black. His cloak was made out of some fine, heavy material. His hair was curly and all grey to match his beard. He held a cane in his right hand with a gold handle, and was examining an equally shiny gold pocket watch as I approached.

I was slightly relieved to see him tense visibly when he looked up and spotted me. I came to a stop in front of him and smiled nervously, fidgeting with the sleeve of my coat.

“Erm.. hi… Grandpa?”

I cringed when I realised that it came out as a question. When he didn’t say anything and just looked back at me, I began to wonder if I’d just approached a stranger in to street. I looked around, but there were no other old people in sight.

“Marley,” he said finally. His voice was quiet and soft. It didn’t exactly match his face. I smiled in relief.

“Hi,” I said again. He smiled a little sadly.

“Forgive me, it’s just… you look so much like your mother.”

“So I’ve been told,” I said, laughing nervously. He didn’t say anything to that, and I stood there awkwardly, not entirely certain what to do.

“Well, shall we?” he said finally.

“Yes, I’m starving,” I said in what I hoped was a good natured way.

“Perfect. You’ll love this place,” he smiled. It wasn’t sad this time.

He led the way into the village, past the place I’d been to last time. We walked in silence, and I was beginning to think up ways to get myself out of what could possibly turn out to be the most awkward lunch of my life, when he came to a stop outside a small restaurant and held the door open for me.

It looked... posh. It was tiled with marble flooring that matched the cream walls. Tables were evenly placed around the room and topped with very soft looking tablecloths. Everyone was eating from fine china and wearing clothes I’d only consider wearing to tea with my Great Aunt Matilda who lives in a mansion in Ireland and owns hats with stuffed birds on them. I was just starting to panic when I spotted two other kids who looked like they went to Hogwarts, and were dressed more or less like I was.

Grandpa nodded at the hostess and she immediately snapped into action, greeting us with a too large, frozen smile, and leading us to a table in the corner.

“I’m somewhat of a regular customer,” he explained, taking a seat. The table was, I realised, in an ideal place; not in the centre of the room where everyone can see you, but not in a remote corner obscured by plants either.

“You’ve definitely claimed the best table,” I smiled. A waitress (‘Hello! My name is Esmeralda, and I’ll be assisting you today’) took our order, and we both lapsed into silence for what seemed like a painfully long time.

“So,” Grandpa said finally. “Marley… I never did ask where the name comes from.”

And, just like that, I was faced with the task of explaining to my grandfather, a man who had lived through two wars, that my then borderline hippie parents (one of whom was his absent daughter neither of us had seen in years) that I had been named after a Muggle Jamaican man who wrote songs about recreational drugs for a living.

“I was named after a singer,” I said, after a taking a very long sip of water.

“Oh. I’ve never heard of her.”

“Her. Right. Uh… so, where do you live?” I asked, probably a little too quickly because Grandpa shot me a bemused look.

“My family’s estate in Caerphilly.”

“Oh, where is that?”

“South Wales,” he said, reaching for the bread basket.

“Wow, that’s… out of the way,” I said lightly.

“Yes, well, it’s peaceful. No better place for a man my age if you ask me.”

The hard lines around his mouth and eyes seemed deeper in the light of the restaurant. Even his hair seemed more silver than it did outside.

“Must be nice… quiet.”

“It is,” he said, as our waitress returned with plates of food. “You can come visit me if you want.”

I froze, my hand halfway to my fork. He was looking at me with rapt attention, fidgeting with his napkin as he did so. I knew he could tell he’d thrown me off course with his invitation.

“Thank you,” I said absently to the waitress as she placed food in front of me.

“Now that I think about it, there really isn’t much to do there for someone your age,” Grandpa said quickly, fussing with his cutlery. Then he started eating his food as though nothing had happened. I sat there staring at him, considering which of the many questions I had that I should ask first.

“Why did you ask me to lunch?” I said finally, my food still untouched. There was a long pause before Grandpa finally, but in slow motion, set down his spoon. Then he looked me right in the eye while he spoke.

“I heard you were at Hogwarts,” he said simply.

“So?”

He sighed in a way that seemed sad somehow before leaning forward.

“I have no excuses… no valid ones anyway. I’m sorry if that’s what you’re looking for.”

There was something desperate in both his eyes and his tone.

“I was never good at any of it,” he rushed forward. “Being a father wasn’t something I understood. I was afraid, more than anything else, when it came to you.”

“Afraid of what, exactly?”

“That I would be the reason that you’d turn out like your mother… my daughter. That I’d fail again.”

We looked at each other, and I was pretty sure he was trying to analyse my expression like I was doing to him. His eyes were scanning my face for a sign of anything. He looked almost defeated. I waited for anger, hurt… something. But all I felt when I looked at him was empathy; I felt sorry for him. I didn’t want to think what his daily life was like; alone in a mansion in South Wales.

“You don’t have to justify anything to me,” I said in a way that I hoped was reassuring. “I have a great life. My father… well, he’s Charles, isn’t he? Odd, but I love life with him.”

“Oh,” was all he said.

“Listen, Grandpa, I just don’t want you to feel like you owe me anything.”

If I thought he looked sad before, I was wrong. He looked quickly down at his napkin, and I had a sneaking suspicion that he didn’t want me to see the hurt in his eyes.

“I suppose you’re right,” he said quietly. Then he looked up with a sad smile. “We’ve had our differences, Charles and I, but he’s proven himself to be the better man. You’re proof of that, Marley.”

I was touched, even though it was a compliment for Charles.

“So,” Grandpa said, shaking his head and smiling properly this time. “Where are you two living now? Or is Charles still in France?”

“Oh, no,” I said, talking a bite of food, relieved that the subject had been changed. “We live in London.”

“In the city?” Grandpa asked, eyebrows raised. “I’d imagine that’s quite lively, no?”

“You could say that,” I grinned.

And from then on we both made it a pointed effort to avoid all dicey conversation subjects. I learnt that Grandpa used to work at the Ministry too, before he retired. He moved to Caerphilly after the war, and has been there ever since. He had been in Slytherin, just like my mum, and had a good laugh when he learnt that the new great Quidditch rivalry was between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor.

As lunch went on, I was surprised that I didn’t even feel the need to ask about my mother. By the way he talked, I gathered he hadn’t heard from her either. But none of that mattered. I was glad I’d accepted his offer. Over the years, I’d sort of built up this notion in my head that my mother’s side of the family were these horrid, mean people. I was surprisingly relieved to find that that wasn’t the case.

“So,” Grandpa said, once we were finished. “I suppose you have plans.”

I glanced at the clock on the wall. One fifteen.

When I looked back at him, he was smiling.

“Go on, then,” he said.

“I… I don’t have to-”

“I’ve taken up enough of your time as it is,” he said, getting up. I followed suit. He stood there, a few inches taller than me, still smiling.

“I’m glad we got to do this,” I said finally.

“As am I. Thank you for coming. May I... may I write to you?” he asked a little hesitantly.

“Of course, Grandpa,” I said. I was a little taken aback by how nervous he was. He didn’t have a place in my life yet, the same way I didn’t have one in his. But I was actually looking forward to getting there. You could even say I was excited. I didn’t know anyone from Mum’s side of the family. We usually spent holidays with Charles’s relatives (who were as mental as him) when we couldn’t get out of it.

“Alright, then, I’ll see you. Take care,” he said. He reached out unsurely, and I accepted his hug.

“Bye Grandpa,” I smiled. Then I grabbed my bag, and with one last wave, I walked to the door. I turned around at the last moment to see him standing where I’d left him, grinning to himself.

I found that I couldn’t fight off the smile on my own face as I walked towards The Three Broomsticks.





They had commandeered the large table right by the bar. I’d expect nothing less of them. Tracey, Rebecca and Jillian were talking in their own little group while Quin and Potter seemed to be yelling at Fred. Fitz was, bless his soul, chugging Butterbeer and watching the proceedings with acute interest.

“-can’t believe you’d betray our team like that!” Potter was saying. I tried to quietly take a seat next to Fitz. Unfortunately, this didn’t go unnoticed.

“Red!” Fred said in relief. “Tell them they’re overreacting!”

“Sure,” I said absently, tugging on Fitz’s Butterbeer tankard.

“R-ed!” Fred whined. I sighed and turned to them. The boys were looking at me as though I was a referee at one of their stupid Quidditch matches. Jillian was glaring at me as though my presence was a personal offence to her.

“What happened?” I asked, immediately regretting it.

“He snogged the Ravenclaw Keeper!”

“They’re acting like I gave her the playbook!’

“We’re going to lose now!”

“-bad Karma-“

“-this is ridiculous!”

“-can’t believe you’d do this to us!”

“RENEGADE!” I said loudly (and accusingly). Fred gasped, Quin pointed at Fred with a ‘Ha!’ look on his face.

“See?” Potter said, turning to Fred with a smirk. “She agrees.”

“No one asked you anyway,” Fred huffed.

“You did,” I rolled my eyes.

“You’re such a loser,” Jillian said to me.

“How relevant,” I muttered.

“Anyway,” she continued loudly. “Since we’re all finally here, can we start?”

“Start what?” I asked.

I was ignored.

“Right,” Fred said, standing up. “As everyone but Red knows, the seventeenth of December is approaching-“

“Oh mon dieu, how ever could I have forgotten?” I said, holding my hand to my heart.

“-which means it is time to invite you all, my lovely fellow seventh years, to the ultimate party of the year-“

“You mean better than all those other ones?” I asked innocently.

“-the birthday bash of one James Sirius Potter!” Fred finished by whipping out a rhinestone tiara and placing it on Potter’s head. Everyone at the table cheered loudly as I looked on in awe.

“Fred,” Rebecca said with what appeared to be impatience. “Come on!”

“Don’t let those panties get in a twist there, Becks… or do, because I’d be more than happy to help you untangle them- OW. Okay, sorry. Right, after much deliberation on our part, me and my colleague here, Quinton Wood, have decided that this year’s theme is…”

Fred paused, looking at everyone with a large grin on his face. I was slightly disturbed to see that everyone (save for Fitz and Potter himself) were looking back eagerly.

“Blackout!”

The girls broke out into excited squeals and huddled together, Fred and Quin looked beyond pleased with themselves, and Potter and Fitz continued to exhibit general disinterest.

“What the hell does that even mean?” I demanded loudly over Rebecca and Jillian’s debate about dresses.

“Oh, Red,” Quin said condescendingly. “Sweet, innocent, little Red.”

Then I was being patted reassuringly on the arm. Potter, meanwhile, was trying to discreetly place his tiara on my head so that he could get rid of it.

“I’m wearing a bow, Potter. It’s as cutesy as I get,” I said, swatting his hand away. “Now will someone please tell me what a blackout party is?”

“No light,” Potter said.

“But people will step on each other,” I said. Potter shrugged as though he didn’t care.

“It’s your party,” I reminded him. “You don’t care if your guests get trampled?”

“Everyone knows they chose the theme,” he shrugged, pointing to Fred and Quin. “It’s been that way since fourth year.”

“And you’re letting them do this because…”I trailed off.

“We know how to throw good parties,” Fred cut in.

I looked at Fitz, who just shrugged.

“How was the lunch?” he asked conversationally. Potter turned to look at me, waiting for an answer. Since I wasn’t entirely comfortable talking about the convoluted specifics of my family’s history in from of him, I shrugged at Fitz.

“It was good,” I said vaguely. “Anyway, this party, is it going to be a big deal? I mean, I don’t have to go shopping, do I-“

“Miss Belgarde.”

Professor Lupin looked odd standing in the middle of The Three Broomsticks with his violet hair. The fact that our whole table was staring at him seemed to back up my point.

“Yes?” I said slowly. Professor Lupin was looking at me in a way I didn’t entirely like. His whole demeanour was cautious. Potter seemed to notice too, because he got up and turned to face Professor Lupin, completely alert.

“What happened, Ted?” he demanded. Professor Lupin ignored him.

“Marley,” he spoke directly to me. “I need you to come with me.”

It’s hard to describe the feeling that came over me. It was like all the months of worrying about everything suddenly consolidated at the pit of my stomach and transformed into full blown dread. I could hear blood pounding in my ears. I didn’t need anyone to tell me what had happened. Images that I was surprised my brain could even create so suddenly flitted through my head.

They were all of Charles; pale and lifeless.

“Is he okay?” I asked in a voice that didn’t sound like my own. It was three octaves higher and shaking uncontrollably. Not that anyone had given me any reason to freak out. I wasn’t even sure if this was about Charles, I tried to tell myself. I might have been able to convince myself of this if I hadn’t had to gulp in air in a vain attempt to stop the suffocating feeling that was coming over me.

“What’s going on?” Potter demanded of me this time.

“Marely, please, if you could just come with me-“

I stopped listening to Professor Lupin then because I didn’t need to hear anything else to know that my father wasn’t okay. I tried to stand up and my vision became a little fuzzy. I couldn’t tell if I was dizzy, or if there were tears in my eyes.

I knew the hands that were suddenly around me were Potter’s because as much as it would bother me later, I recognised his cologne. However, it was Fitz who spoke.

“I’m coming with you,” he was saying. “It’ll be fine.”

I wasn’t sure what to do, but I was aware that Potter’s demands for information in the background were now being echoed by the others. I think I said something because Fitz’s voice, the only calm one, was by my ear and he was telling me that he didn’t understand French.

“Get me out of here,” I managed through tears I wasn’t aware were there. I don’t know how Fitz, being the odd mess that he was in daily life, managed to get me out of Potter’s firm hold and steer me out of the suffocating pub. The cool, fresh air did little to help though, because Professor Lupin was next to us in seconds.

I tried to will myself to breathe as they both began talking at once.

“Marley, I need you to come with me-“

“Breathe, Ness, just breathe-“

“-a matter of some urgency-“

“-going to be okay-“

“-kill you if you die on me-“

“For Merlin’s sake, shut up, both of you!” Potter’s voice broke through the weird fog that seemed to have settled over all my senses. I smelt him again as he moved the stand next to Fitz, blocking a slightly harassed looking Professor Lupin from view.

And then his hands were cupping my face, forcing me to look up at him.

“You can’t do this now, Princess.”

He and I both knew he had no idea what was going on. I was also sure neither of us cared.

“Whatever it is, you need to go with Ted.”

I only blinked stupidly at him because nothing he, or anyone, could say would stop my lungs from feeling like they were being compressed. But what Potter’s words did do was somehow make me understand that I needed to not be totally redundant in the current situation.

I gulped painfully and turned to look at Fitz, and Potter’s hands fell from my face.

Fitz raised an eyebrow and I took a deep breath and nodded. Then, together, we both turned to look at Professor Lupin. I was fairly sure I looked like I’d just witnessed a murder.

“I’m coming too,” Fitz announced.

“Mr Fitzroy, this is hardly the time to-“

“Or I’ll Apparate her to Mungo’s myself,” Fitz shrugged. I felt Potter tense beside me at the mention of Mungo’s. The sound of Fitz and Professor Lupin arguing faded into the background when I looked at him. I only intended to tell him that he needn’t freak out. But then I saw the look on his face and the words somehow lodged themselves in my throat.

In the short time I’d known James Potter, his mood seemed to swing between annoyed (usually at me) and thoroughly bored.

But there, standing in the road outside the Three Broomsticks, he looked so completely helpless. His hands were limp by his sides and he was staring down at me, his eyes wide and full of everything I realised he always hid. I was so used to Potter being nonchalant about everything. This Potter, the one that was looking at me with all these things that I didn’t understand, couldn’t possibly be the same one I knew.

Then, suddenly, he moved and I was being pulled into his chest. Potter’s smell engulfed me and I swear, for the briefest moment, I could breathe again.

“You’ll be okay.”

His voice was low and quiet. If I hadn’t been crushed against him, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have heard it.

“Marley? Do you understand?”

I pulled away and looked up at him. Everything felt weird. Maybe I was in shock, but I knew that there wasn’t any time for that. Perhaps it wasn’t shock then. It didn’t matter. All I knew was that I didn’t want to think about what would happen when someone finally decided to tell me what had happened to Charles. I didn’t want to entertain any of the possibilities; I couldn’t.

So I settled for staring at Potter as he stared back.

“Ness, come one,” Fitz said from what sounded like really far away.

Then I was being led down the cobblestone pathway by Fitz as Professor Lupin led the way. I followed silently, too afraid that if I said anything I would get the answers I wanted.

I took a deep breath and clutched Fitz’s hand tighter, refusing to analyse the urge I had to turn around and run back to James Potter.


Chapter 19: How to: violence
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

If there is anything I have to say about hospitals, it’s that they have a tendency to bring priorities into clear focus.

I spent the first day feeling woozy. I stopped registering what they were saying to me when I saw Charles lying in a bed, eyes closed, but visibly breathing. On day two, somehow fresh from what could only be a lack of sleep, I cornered the first Healer who came into the room and Spanish Inquisition-ed his arse into the next week.

Phrases like ‘injured on the job’ and ‘professional risk’ were thrown around.

That was when I had the first of three outbursts that week.

The poor Healer left with scratches on his face as I was being held back by three nurses.

Everyone seemed to avoid the room after that. Day three was spent with me restlessly asleep on a sofa opposite Charles’ bed, waking every time an antsy looking Healer or nurse came in the check on him. I pretended not to notice the nervous looks they kept casting me.

On day four some stony-face Aurors came to see him. Apparently he’d been found at home. It was a curse none of them had ever seen before.

I think it was the fact that they didn’t seem to have any emotion about the comatose state my father was in that brought on outburst number two.

That’s right, I attacked two fully trained Aurors in broad daylight.

They were surprisingly nice about it. Didn’t chuck me in Azkaban or anything.

Fitz had clearly had no luck convincing Hobbs to let him come with me. The day of the Hogsmeade trip was a blur. By the time we got to the Headmaster’s office, I was way beyond dizzy. I felt like I was floating. It didn’t feel like any of it was actually happening. That was where I last saw Fitz, who got into the biggest row with Hobbs about coming with me to Mungo’s. In the end Professor Lupin, seeing that I was barely registering any of it, grabbed me and we Floo’d to the hospital together. For what it was worth, he was a lot of help. I don’t think I could have found my way around without him. I’d probably just have ended up sat in a random corridor somewhere and mistakenly been admitted into the loony ward.

The clinical white walls, the heavy smell of medicine, and the general air of disease and tragedy became too much to take by the end of the week. That, and the fact that I hadn’t showered or changed in almost seven days finally made me leave Charles’ bedside and Floo to our apartment in London.

I know it wasn’t the smartest thing to do, given that whoever wanted Charles dead knew where we lived. But I was pretty sure I wasn’t on anyone’s hit-list. The goal was to get out of there as soon as I could though. Even if I knew I wasn’t going to die or anything, I realised I hated the place. I was in the middle of chucking random clothes into a bag when the noise of Muggle London drifting in from the open window was drowned out by about half a dozen loud pops.

I spun around to find myself surrounded by about eight men, all with their wand pointing directly at me. For the briefest moment I thought I was going to die. But I didn’t even have time to scream or attempt to explain myself before the one standing directly behind me screamed ‘STOP!’

As though at once, all the wands lowered, and I was left standing there with a particularly lacy blue bra clutched in my hand.

It took me a moment, but then I saw the crossed golden wands sewn onto the front of the maroon robes they were all we wearing. They were Aurors. I couldn’t resist the urge to roll my eyes.

“Nice job, you guys. Brilliant criminal catching, really,” I deadpanned, chucking the bra into the bag. A couple of them snorted in laughter.

“Why’re you back here?” the same one who’d commanded everyone not to kill me asked. I didn’t even bother to turn around to look at him as I continued packing.

“Committing larceny. Look at all the underwear I’m stealing.”

There was another a dry laugh again as the ring around me broke and the Aurors began heading off in different directions. Normally, it would bother me that random people were checking out my house. Right then I didn’t care.

“Marley.”

The fact that this person knew my name made me stop. When I looked up, I swear my heart skipped a beat.

He looked like an older version of Albus, with lines marring his face and the thin lightning shaped scar on his forehead.

Harry Potter was dressed in casual Muggle clothes. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows and he was wearing trainers. It was odd. He looked so… ordinary.

And so different from James.

I suddenly had the need to know why they didn’t get on. But I bit back all the questions I had and turned away. I heard him approaching me as all the other men scattered around my house. I ignored him and continued to rummage through my cupboard.

“My name is Harry Potter-“

“Really now?” I muttered.

He stopped talking for a bit as I continued my half arsed packing.

“Don’t you have any questions?” he said finally. I spun around to glare at him.

“Do you know what happened to Charles?”

“Well, no, but-“

“Then no. I have no questions for the people who brought him here in the first place,” I snapped. I didn’t care that this was the man who’d defeated the most dangerous dark wizard ever. I didn’t care that he was related to some of my friends. I didn’t care that all he was trying to do as his job. I hated him, I realised, just as I seemed to hate everything lately.

Harry Potter was silent for a few moments.

“We put a tracking charm on the house,” he said.

“Because people always come back to the scene of the crime,” I rolled my eyes.

“They do some times, actually.”

“Not when it was about proving a point,” I rounded on him. “No one’s died yet. Miranda Pucey, Terrence Higgs, the Malfoys. They’re all alive. So clearly the point isn’t to kill them, is it? Unless Miles Bletchley’s dead. I don’t know since you lot are censoring The Daily Prophet.”

Harry Potter was staring at me in awe.

“Don’t look at me like that. I’m not stupid.”

“Well, James certainly has his work cut out for him.”

I could swear there was a slight smile on his face.

“And what exactly is that supposed to mean?” I demanded.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but you are the same Marely Belgarde who dyed his hair pink and got him detention all in one day, aren’t you?”

I felt my face heat up as I turned away.

“Look,” he said, stepping closer to me. “Whatever you think you know, you probably don’t. My top priority right now is getting you out of here before anyone sees you. How did you manage to slip away from the hospital anyway?”

“Oh, so now I’m under surveillance, am I?” I asked bitterly.

“Yes, but its more covert now. Since you attacked Phelps and Johnson quite fruitfully if I heard right.”

“Fine,” I said, zipping up the bag and slinging it over my shoulder. “I’m going.”

“Let me Apparate you.”

I stared at him for a long minute and briefly considered ignoring the hand he held out to me. This close up, he looked even less like Potter than I’d thought before. If I hadn’t known, I wouldn’t have drawn the connection. I stared at his face, analysing it, and the kindness in his eyes struck a chord.

Sighing, I picked up my bag pack in one hand and took his hand in the other. Before I had a chance to breathe, I had the feeling of being suck into a tube. My feet hit the hard white ground of Mungo’s, and the very atmosphere made my stomach plummet.

“You okay?” Mr. Potter asked.

“Hate Apparition,” I muttered. He chuckled next to me. I looked at him awkwardly before nodding curtly and beginning to walk towards Charles’ room.

“Hold on a second,” he said. I really didn’t want to, but I stopped and turned to face him. In two quick strides he was in front of me and speaking in a low voice.

“Whatever you know about this, you can’t talk about it,” he said so quietly that the silence that followed made me begin to doubt if he’d actually said it.

“So I’m right then?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“Then how does it matter?”

Harry Potter sighed tiredly and stepped back.

“Stubborn one, aren’t you?”

“I was raised by Charles. Let’s just be thankful that I don’t talk in troll.”

I was surprised by the bark of laughter that followed. Mr. Potter grinned at me.

“I’m glad James met you,” he said finally.

“Why do you keep insinuating that Potter- erm, James and I have some sort of… thing?”

Harry Potter smirked at me and leaned against the wall.

“Because we don’t. Have any sort of thing. At all.”

“Hey, I’m not even arguing with you,” he said, putting his hands up in surrender. I huffed, a little petulantly, and folded my arms across my chest.

He opened his mouth to say something else when a nurse I recognised come hurrying towards us.

“Miss Belgadre!” she panted. “Oh, I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”

I swear my blood turned to ice. An involuntary strangled sound came out of my mouth as I stared at her.

“What’s happened?”

Harry Potter to the rescue.

I would have laughed if I wasn’t so terrified.

“He’s awake,” the nurse said. “We don’t know how, but-“

I wasn’t listening to her. Abandoning my bag in the middle of the corridor, I turned and sprinted to Charles’ room. I could hear Mr. Potter’s footsteps behind me.

Bursting into his room, the first thing I saw was the backs of the two Aurors who came by the other day. There was a nurse bustling about by the bed. The bigger Auror moved slightly and I saw my father.

I cannot fully describe the feeling that came over me when I saw his brow eyes, so much like mine, open and with a slight glint in them as he smiled up at one of the Aurors. It was sort of in slow motion that his eyes moved from them to me, stood in the doorway probably with an odd look on my face.

“What’re you doing here?”

The smile was gone. So was the glint.

Whatever odd mix of emotions I had been feeling for the past week disappeared.

And they were all replaced by an almost rage.

Excuse me?” I demanded loudly. Charles was look behind me at Harry Potter now. I turned to see an apologetic look on his face.

“The hospital notified Headmaster Hobbs before we could intervene,” Mr. Potter said. Charles shut his eyes and took a deep breath. I started at him, wanting to laugh, shout, cry and just sleep all at the same time. Anger and hurt won out.

Surprise, surprise.

“You’re right,” I said loudly. Charles opened his eyes and one look at me was enough to tell him where I was going with this.

“Marely, I didn’t mean it like that-“

“It’s fine. Next time you get hexed by a spell unknown to wizard-kind I’ll just sit at Hogwarts and twiddle my thumbs,” I said, staring at him, unable to keep tears from welling up in my eyes.

“This has nothing to do with you-“

“YOU THICK GIT,” I snarled.

“Mar-“

“How dare you?”

“Can you please-“

“I HAVEN’T SLEPT IN A WEEK,” I screamed. “I thought you were going to die. And the first think you can think to ask is why I’m here?”

Charles sat up in his bed and was looking at me. He looked apologetic. I didn’t care. He hadn’t wanted me here. What’s more, he’d actually expected to end up here and had made arrangements for me not to find out.

He’d lied to me.

If there was one thing I had been certain of throughout everything Charles and I had been through, it was that I could trust him. Whether it was about going to a party or his relationship with the pretty Muggle lady who owned the organic food store near our house. It was the way we had always functioned; maybe it was even the reason that we’d survived so far.

And he’d just broken that.

“You said nothing was going to happen to you,” I said quietly. The tears had unleashed themselves at this point, and were rolling down my cheeks. I hadn’t cried in front of Charles since I was twelve. I was trying hurriedly to wipe them away. I didn’t want him to get alarmed or anything. Especially since he’d just gotten up and all that. Honestly, I was crying not just from anger and indignation, but from relief too.

But then, then, my troll of a father did the one stupidest thing he could have done under the circumstances.

He shrugged.

Shrugged.

Outburst number three had me aiming to claw Charles’ face off.

I nearly got close enough as well. Unfortunately, both the Aurors stepped in front of him, and Harry Potter grabbed me from behind.

That’s right; it took two professional killers and the saviour of the wizarding world to stop me from murdering my father.

I shook them off, angry and more than slightly embarrassed. The poor nurse (who I was hoping hadn’t been witness to me attacking the Healer earlier in the week) was freaking out and protesting as Charles attempted to get out of bed. For once I had the advantage.

I spun around on my heel and stalked towards the door.

“Marely, listen to me-“

“Have fun saving the world, Charles.”





No one was in Hobbs’ office when I Floo’d back. I didn’t even bother to go searching for him. Honestly, I was a bit relieved that he wasn’t there to see me in the state I was in. As I walked through the corridors, I realised that his absence was due to the fact that it was dinner time. That explained the deserted corridors as well. I was aware that the tears were silently running down my cheeks. It was for this reason that I stopped short of the Gryffindor Common Room, wondering if going in there was really a good idea.

How would I explain everything if someone was in there?

What would I say to Tracey and Rebecca if I went to the dorms?

Fitz. What would I say to Fitz?

Taking a deep breath, I turned right and began walking, not really knowing where I was going. I managed to keep my mind blank. I knew that if I let myself think, even for a moment, there would be hell to pay. The prospect of that wasn’t very inviting. I concentrated in the patterns on the long narrow carpets that occupied a narrow band in the centre of all the corridors. Some of the portraits called out to me, asking why I wasn’t at dinner. The bright flames from the torches that lined to corridors were invasive. I wanted to get away.

I think that’s how I found myself in the Astronomy Tower.

Yes, it was cold. I would have usually considered it miserable, but the clean air was more than welcome. It wasn’t snowing, thankfully. Wrapping my arms around myself, I walked to the very corner and sat down, resting my head against the wall.

And then I cried.

I’d never cried like that before. I wasn’t sure what I was even crying about. Sure there was Charles going back to doing whatever he was doing, the feeling of homesickness at the pit of my stomach, the physically painful worry. It wasn’t that I didn’t have things to cry about, because Merlin knows I had a whole arsenal full of problems. It was odd because I wasn’t thinking of any of that. My mind was still blissfully blank as the tears paved tracks down my cheeks.

That’s how James Potter found me maybe an hours later; a blubbering mess in the corner of the Astronomy Tower. I didn’t hear him over my quiet sobs, but I smelt him when he sat down next to me. I tried to stop. I honestly did. Nothing seemed to want to cooperate with me. So I settled for staring at him helplessly, tears streaming down my face, wanting to ask what he was doing here, how he’d found me, what in the world was happening to my life.

He reached out and touched my wet cheek. He didn’t move his hand to wipe it. Instead, my unending tears just ran over his fingers. I tried to say something, anything.

“I’m sorry,” is what I ended up choking out hoarsely. Something flashed in Potter’s eyes.

“Don’t you ever apologise to me for crying.”

Then I was being dragged into his lap. Sat there with his arms wrapped around me, I was considerably warmer. The odd things was though, I had less open air but I was somehow breathing evenly in the next five minutes.

It took longer for the tears to stop, but even when they eventually did neither of us moved. It was quiet and peaceful and comfortable. His grip on me loosened at some point, as though he was sure I wouldn’t break. One of his hands fell to my thigh, his finger tracing circles lightly on my jeans. My head was on his chest, and I was hugging his torso to keep myself from freezing. I thought idly how James Potter seemed to have unending warmth.

I don’t think either of us would have ever moved if the door hadn’t burst open to allow the giggling couple onto the tower. They didn’t spot us for a moment. I knew that if this was any other circumstance and I hadn’t been as hopelessly tired as I was, I would have jumped up and began spluttering explanations. I didn’t care then, though. I just sighed tiredly and tightened my grip on Potter.

Then I realised that he hadn’t moved a single muscle either.

The girl saw us first, seemed to recognise who we were, and began a chain of awkward apologies. Neither Potter nor I said anything. They did eventually leave, but it was all suddenly different.

We were alone in the Astronomy Tower. I was sat in his lap. Heck, we were breathing to same air.

I pushed myself off of him. Not in the weird Marely-esque way I would have at any other time. No, I just sat up and look at him. He stared back at me for a moment before tipping his head back and resting it against the wall behind him, never looking away from me.

“Thank you,” I said, so quietly I wondered if he heard it over the wind. The right corner of his lips hitched up and he reached for my face, wiping away the residual dampness. I contemplated saying something cheeky, but then I realised that there wasn’t a need to.

“How did you find me?” I settled on asking. Potter’s was busy twisting the ends of my hair around his finger. He looked so preoccupied with it that I actually doubted he would answer me.

“I have a map.”

That was quite possibly the lousiest explanation ever.

It didn’t even bother me.

What was happening?

“Why were you looking for me?”

He looked up from my hair that seemed to be so fascinating to him. There was some sort of guard up in his eyes. Suddenly weary, I moved to get up off of him. His arm was around my waist in an instant, stopping me from moving.

“My father asked Hobbs to ask me to make sure you were in the castle.”

I clenched my jaw and looked away. Some vindictive part of me wanted Charles to sit in his stupid hospital bed and worry about where I was.

I came because I wanted to see if you were okay.”

This made me look back at him. He was staring at me. His eyes seemed to be more hazel than I’d ever seen them before. I caught the stray strand of hair that was blowing across his face and tucked it behind his ear.

Then I realised that I’d done this unconsciously.

Then, almost like a shock of current, I seemed to actually register exactly whose lap I was sitting on.

I don’t know how he knew what I was thinking but, for some reason, he sighed and looked away, letting his arm drop from around my waist, almost as if to make it easier for me to jump out of his lap.

“I-I didn’t. That wasn’t. I mean… this- erm…” I trailed off helplessly, looking everywhere but at him, trying to ignore the tired, heavy feeling in my bones. When he didn’t say anything, I glanced back at him. He was still sitting on the ground, elbows on his bent knees.

And he was flat out glaring at me.

“What?” I demanded.

It looked as though he was going to say something, but then he just clenched his jaw and looked away.

“I’m not going to start crying again, if that’s what you think,” I huffed, crossing my arms over my chest. Potter blinked, his lip twitched, and then he bit it in what appeared to be an effort to stop himself from smiling.

“I know,” he said.

“Are you laughing at me?” I demanded indignantly. Potter sighed deeply and got up. I realised that I felt much more confident when he was sitting and not, you know, towering over me and all that. He just looked at me for so long that I was beginning to wonder if he intended to say anything at all.

“You don’t always have to protect yourself,” he said finally. I scoffed.

“Look Potter, I don’t know what you’re on about-“

“Stop it,” he snapped. My jaw snapped shut on its own accord. “Everything isn’t a joke. Everything isn’t simple. It’s okay to be complicated. It’s okay to care about things, Marley.”

“I care about things,” I challenged.

“Your pet pony Laquisha doesn’t count.”

He didn’t say it in a tone that implied that he wanted an argument. He said it quietly, almost as if he was sorry.

I suppose I could’ve gotten angry at him. Every instinct I had was urging me to go on the defensive and make Potter out to be the bad guy. Merlin knows it would’ve been a simple enough task. But I understood what he meant to say, I realised what I was doing. Not just to him, but probably to everyone I ever met.

I had a tendency to shut people out. Not in a cold way, no. I made jokes, I rolled my eyes, I used copious amounts of sarcasm. I just never wanted my problems to affect the lives of those around me. The only way to ensure that was to keep everyone at arm’s distance.

Now James Potter was telling me to cut the crap with him.

And by not fighting him on it, I suppose that’s exactly what I did.







A/N: Alright, so first off I really want to say thank you guys SO much for all the encouraging reviews! It really does make my day :)
Now, the bit that really makes me sad. Finals month is coming up. May is going to be late nights and LOTS of coffee. I don't know if I'll get time to update this. So I guess I'm saying don't expect speedy updates like the past few chapters. My last final is on the 20th, so see you after that!
Thanks again! :)



Chapter 20: How to survive the aftermath
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




“Maybe whatever hexed him gave him a weird tick,” Fitz reasoned, taking a bite of his liquorice wand and chewing it thoughtfully.

“I swear to you. He shrugged.”

“Maybe he was trying to say something in sign language.”

I sighed and contemplated flinging Fitz from the Quidditch stands. I would’ve too, if we both hadn’t woken up at five that morning and talked till the lunch. It wasn’t exactly smart, sitting out at the pitch at eight in the morning in December. But it definitely beat having to face the whole Common Room once Gryffindor Tower woke up.

“You’re being surprisingly nonviolent,” Fitz observed.

“I’m tired, Fitz-y,” I yawned, sitting lower in my seat and resting my head on his shoulder.

“From canoodling with James Potter?”

“Please promise me you’ll never say the word ‘canoodling’ again.”

Fitz thought it was brilliant that Potter and I had gone an entire encounter without hexing one another or being ‘weird’. Of course I had no clue what he was talking about. But I was afraid to argue with him because I could see the sugar rush coming on. The boy had been through two packets of liquorice wands in the past three hours.

“See?” he said loudly, sitting up and pointing almost accusingly at me. “Why aren’t you attacking me? I just said you and James were canoodling!”

“Because there was no canoodling- I cannot believe I just said that.”

Fitz was staring at me wide-eyed. Then he reached out and smacked me. With candy.

“Fitz, what-“

“You’ve been Imperiused, haven’t you?” he said loudly. I groaned and curled up into a ball on the seat as Fitz began his bout of sugar induced verbal diarrhoea. To be honest it was quite helpful in keeping thoughts of Charles from my head.

“Alright,” I said loudly after listening to how Marx should’ve Imperiused everyone to start his revolution for ten minutes. “Lunch.”

“But it’s so easy to incite bloody revolution!”

“No doubt.”

“Karl was a bit thick, wasn’t he?”

“You’re a troll.”

“Exactly! He didn’t even think to- what?”

“What?” I asked innocently as I let the way down from the stands.

“You said I was a-“

Fitz stopped talking at the sound of raised voices drifting across the pitch as we exited the stands. The scene wasn’t pretty.

Rose Weasley was stood, arms crossed, as Scorpius Malfoy appeared to be screaming like there was no tomorrow.

“WHY CAN’T YOU JUST BLOODY DROP IT?” he roared. I flinched at the anger in his voice.

“Scorpius, can you please just listen-“

“Oh, for Merlin’s sake. Get off my case, will you?” he snarled.

“How do we get out of here?” I whispered to Fitz.

“Run?” he suggested.

“-DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY YOU WON’T JUST TALK TO ME!” Rose was also screaming now. Perfect.

“They’ll see us,” I hissed.

“Crawl?”

“-BECAUSE YOU’RE A MORON, SCORPIUS!”

“OH, THAT’S RICH COMING FROM YOU!”

“I’m never getting a girlfriend,” Fitz swore.

“Telling that to Jenny Wilson and Meredith Grey,” I snorted.

“I CAN’T ANYMORE,” Rose screamed. “I’m done.”

Fitz and I both turned to them, scandalised. Everyone knew Rose Weasley and Scorpius Malfoy were going to be the love story of the decade. Like Potter’s grandparents, according to Fitz. And I was pretty sure we’d just witnessed the end of that. Okay, in all fairness this was probably just a minor roadblock, but the dramatic effect was still there.

“Are they breaking up?” I asked shamelessly, not even concerned that we were intruding on a private moment.

“I think this means the apocalypse is coming,” Fitz whispered back.

“Go on then, Rose,” Scorpius Malfoy’s voice was like ice. And then the two of them just stood there, glaring bloody murder at each other.

“Come on,” I hissed at Fitz, tugging his sleeve. In some kind of silent agreement, we both attempted to tiptoe across the pitch. Pretty redundant seeing as we were in full view of the both of them, the rest of the grounds, and the whole eastern side of the castle. I was actually beginning to think that the odds were with us when Rose’s voice cut through the chilly morning air.

“Oh, look, your little fan club’s here. They can have the pleasure of telling everyone we’re done,” Rose snapped. Fitz and I froze. My resisted urge to run was reflected on Fitz’s face when we looked at each other. Then he sighed, and I shut my eyes in defeat, both of us dreading the awkward and cringe-worthy encounter we’d found ourselves in. Slowly, we both turned to see them staring at us. It took a moment, but when they recognised us, Scorpius turned away and Rose’s face fell.

“Erm. Hi,” Fitz said unhelpfully.

“We were just trying to leave,” I tried to explain.

“Very quietly,” Fitz seconded, nodding vigorously.

“So we’ll just do that-“

“No,” Scorpius cut my off, glaring at me as though he’d just uncovered my extended plan to murder his family.

Okay, that probably wasn’t the best comparison given that that was exactly what had almost happened. Never mind.

“Erm?” was the noise that came out of Fitz’s mouth was a question.

“I’ll leave,” Scorpius smiled a little scarily. “Haven’t you heard? I don’t have anyone all in my business anymore.”

“You’re such a git,” Rose snarled. I flinched at the venom in her voice. Scorpius, however, winked at her and looked pleased at how much it pissed her off. Then he turned around and sauntered away.

Yes, he sauntered.

The three of us stood there in awkward silence until Rose cleared her throat and look at me.

“He isn’t always like that-“

“Oh, yeah. Of course. You don’t have to explain-“

“-with what happened to his parents-“

“-totally understand-“

“Oh Merlin, how thick of me,” Rose said loudly. “How’s your father?”

And then I got weirdly awkward again.

“He’s erm… yeah, he’s, you know-“

“-great,” Fitz finished for me. “They’re keeping him at Mungo’s for a bit though. But he’ll be fine.”

“Oh good,” Rose said, sounding genuinely relieved. “All these attacks…”

She trailed off, looking at us thoughtfully.

“What?” I asked. “What is it?”

“Nothing… it’s just… It’s a little odd, isn’t it? That only Slytherins are being attacked?”

I was starting to see Rose Weasley in a new light. Of course, I’d heard of how smart she was. I guess I should’ve expected her to be concerned about it all especially after her boyfriend’s parents got put in Mungo’s.

“Yeah,” Fitz said surprisingly normally. “Odd.”

That’s when I realised Rose looking at me almost expectantly. She wanted me to say something about Charles. She wanted information. Rose Weasley seemed to be conducting her own investigation into this thing. In an odd reaction, I felt somehow comforted that Fitz and I weren’t the only ones doing this. It made it all seem less insane. I was about to ask her what she’s found out when Fitz cut me off.

“Well, we should be going. I’m starving,” he said in a rush.

“Yeah, see you Rose,” I seconded without missing a beat.

“Oh, yeah. Of course. Take care,” she said, disappointed. I wanted until we were safely in the Entrance Hall to question Fitz.

“What was that? She might know something we don’t!” I whispered.

“She doesn’t,” Fitz assured me.

“How do you-“

“She fell asleep in the library one night when you were at Mungo’s. I may have… glanced at what she was reading-“

Fitz,” I chastised.

“Look,” he rolled his eyes. “She’s still trying to piece together how far back this goes.”

I sighed and looked around the hall. It was later than I’d thought. Lunch would be over in half an hour. The Saturday was going to be long and I was actually regretting it. What with the pile of homework I had left to do and with all things Charles always at the back of my mind, I’d be lucky to make it to Christmas without losing it.

“She must be so worried,” I said finally, looking back at Fitz.

“Yes, she probably is. But do you really want anyone knowing who your father is working for?” Fitz countered. I did a double take at the seriousness in his voice. For the first time since I’d seen him this morning, I really looked at him. There were dark circles under his tired eyes, with faint stubble along his jaw and his dark wild curls framing his weary face.

“Fitz,” I sighed, looking at him almost sadly.

“Whatever you’re going to say-“

“You don’t have to protect me,” I cut him off.

“That isn’t how friendship works, Ness,” he rolled his eyes.

“You look like you haven’t slept in days and-”

“You too.”

“That’s because I haven’t.”

“Neither have I.”

We both stood there in silence for a bit, Fitz looking as lost as I felt.

“What’re we going to do?” he asked finally.

I had no clue, of course. And out of the both of us I was the one who was more closely involved in this. But that didn’t seem to even be a fact in Fitz’s mind. He hadn’t been sleeping while I was at Mungo’s. He’d spend his nights at the library, as completely helpless as I was.

It was then that it finally struck me; I was not alone in all of this, and I never truly ever would be from now on. Not in anything. Fitz and I would always have each other, and that realisation made me almost want to cry in relief.

“We’re going to figure this out, Fitz-y,” I said, linking my arm with his. “And if it’s too bad, we grab our parents and move to New Zealand.”

“Huh. That isn’t even half bad for one of your plans,” Fitz said in approval, following my lead into the Great Hall.




Andrea found me in the library (surprise) trying to make some sense of Fitz’s Potions essay that I was copying.

“Erm,” she said awkwardly, playing with the sleeve of her shirt. Maybe it was because I hadn’t seen her for an arguably long time, but it struck me again how pretty she was.

“I’m not going to murder you,” I told her matter-of-factly, placing the essay on the table.

“I’m so sorry, Marley,” she said in a rush, sitting down opposite me, eyes wide. “I realised how stupid I was being and then your dad… Merlin, how is he? Is he okay? I’m such a-“

“Can you please calm down, Andrea.” I said, placing my hand on her fist. She looked at be for a long time before sighing and rubbing his face almost violently. It was like she was trying to scrub it clean of something.

“Why don’t you hate me?” she mumbled into her hand.

“Why should I?” I genuinely wanted to know.

“Because I’m… Well, I’m a bit insane, aren’t I? I got angry with you for having a snowball fight with James. I mean, what does that?”

“Yes, well-“

“And it isn’t like I didn’t know it was stupid. I did. But I was too proud to apologise. And then… your father. I didn’t know what to do. What if something had happened?”

“Can I ask you something?” I said tentatively. She nodded slowly.

“Why Potter?”

“I know it isn’t an excuse, but I don’t exactly have the best life at home, you know? Mum’s batshit. And just… James was always nice to me even if it was only because I was sort of friends with Al. I just thought…”

“And what about Albus?”

“Al is... complicated. Sometimes I don’t even know who he is and I’ve known him for almost six years.”

“You know you don’t need either of them, right?”

“Don’t you understand?” she said in sudden exasperation. I actually flinched away from her. “It’s easy for you. You don’t care what they think. You don’t care what any of them think.”

“I don’t understand,” I admitted almost apologetically.

“You just came in here and blew him away. I didn’t like you at first, but then we became friends and I understood what he saw in you. And you didn’t even try,” she sounded hysterical at this point.

“Potter doesn’t like me like that, Andrea. Will you just please calm down-“

“Are you thick?” she fully snapped this time. “Did you see him at lunch today?”

“No,” I admitted. “But this isn’t about-“

She made a scary noise and just covered her face with her hands. I sat opposite her, my mouth hanging open slightly, unsure of exactly what was happening here.

“I’m sorry,” she said in a small voice, finally looking up. There were unshed tears in her eyes and I got the feeling the Andrea Crenshaw didn’t cry a lot.

“I didn’t mean to yell, or get angry at you before. I just don’t have a lot of people who… who am I kidding? I don’t have friends. I sort of had one, but now Al isn’t speaking to me. If I’m honest, he wasn’t ever my friend to begin with. I don’t think Albus Potter knows how to have friends.”

I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from expressing how surprised I was that Potter was the normal one.

“I’m your friend, Andrea,” I said, trying to smile reassuringly at her. Honestly though, I was a little scared she’s have an outburst again. “It’s okay.”

She let out a breath that she seemed to have been holding, and smiled. But the sadness in her eyes was still there. I went back to Fitz’s essay, but there was another thing on my mind now.

I suppose I never fully understood Andrea. I never knew enough about her to. I didn’t really think of what it would be like to be an outcast for no fault of her own. It must’ve been hard, Potter and Albus and the whole student body finding out what was going on all at the same time. And I didn’t once stop to consider what her life at home was like. All the hours I’d spent worrying about Charles, I could’ve spent with her. At least we’d both have been distracted that way.

As for what Andrea had said about Potter, I told myself it wasn’t important. The implications of the fact that I even had to do this weren’t lost on me. But as far as I was concerned, I had too much homework and too many Charles issues to deal with James Sirius Potter and whatever he had been doing at lunch that afternoon.






A/N: Okay, I'm going to be completely honest here; I wrote this chapter a LONG time ago and as I was going through it to post, the original just didn't seem to fit somehow. There was a lot of critical stuff that just didn't seem to fit with the light-ness (if you could call it that) of the chapter.
So I decided I would leave it for after I got back from my vacation. I honestly thought I'd have it all figued out, but when I got back I had absolutely nothing. And that, my dear, loyal, wonderful readers, is how I ended up posting a filler chapter (although to say that nothing in this chapter is of any consequence would not be fair). But with respect to all the other chapters, this one is def a filler.
I think it's quite charming now when I re-read it though. What say you? Leave me reviews, dearies!
Sorry for the wait. I was a bit stuck as you may have gathered. The next chapter will be a cracker. Promise! :)



Chapter 21: How to: Quidditch
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

I’ll freely admit that not once in my arguably short time as an almost-fully trained witch had I ever attended a Quidditch match in its entirety. Before the judging commences, I would like to disclose that I had attempted to as an innocent second year. I had never taken to flying, much to Charles’s dismay, but I hadn’t always loathed Quidditch as I do now. But, since the person in question is me, of course I almost died when a Bludger flew straight at me out of nowhere. Needless to say I had resolved to stay as far away from Quidditch pitches as possible after that.

But there was something about Quidditch at Hogwarts that was somehow different. I walked into the Great Hall one morning in the first week of December to be met with a burst of colour. Half the Hall was a display of scarlet and gold, the other blue and silver. There were giant banners all around saying things like ‘GO GRYFFINDOR!’ and ‘CLAWS FOR THE CUP’. The students of Slytherin and Hufflepuff were a mix of blue and red. There was a nervous buzz underlying the excited chatter.

I had almost forgotten that today was the day Gryffindor played Ravenclaw. I was aware of it, of course. One couldn’t have an entire conversation without it coming up. Fred had been a pale green colour when I’d stumbled upon him in the Common Room on my way to the library last afternoon. He didn’t look up as I’d apologised, and didn’t even notice that I had stared worriedly at him for a good minute as he examined Quidditch plays. I hadn’t seen much of either Potter or Quin apart from classes, and I remembered William, one of the Chasers, had to be taken to the Hospital Wing to be given a Calming Potion a few days ago.

The truth was I had been so wrapped up in trying to catch up with all my schoolwork that the Quidditch semi-finals had fully skipped my mind. I am, however, proud to report that the last two essays that I’d received back had both gotten high marks, and my Care of Magical Creatures essay had received an Outstanding. As far as I was concerned, academically, I was practically Fitz level.

I spotted the Gryffindor team, all looking sick with worry, sitting together at the Gryffindor table, not touching a thing on their plates. Being in the good mood that I was in, I had just decided to wish them good luck when I was intercepted by Aaron Wheeler.

“Aren’t you going to wish me luck?” he asked, smirking in a way I assumed he thought was attractive.

“Nope,” I said cheerily. “Last I checked, I was in Gryffindor.”

“Aww, c’mon. You don’t care much for Quidditch anyway. Your luck is all I need to win.”

His grin made me exceptionally uncomfortable.

There was a clatter behind him as the Gryffindor team stood up to make their way to the pitch. I caught Potter’s eye and smiled at him.

“Good luck, you guys,” I said, making sure to enunciate very clearly. I caught Potter’s smirk as I breezed past Wheeler and joined Fitz and Rebecca.

“What’re you going to be doing today?” Fitz asked. I looked up at the door to the Great Hall just as the Gryffindor team disappeared out of it.

“Don’t know,” I shrugged, pouring myself a cup of coffee. “Thought I’d come watch the match.”

Rebecca looked up from The Daily Prophet. Fitz cocked his head at me.

“You hate Quidditch,” they said together. I shrugged.

“I just want to see what the commotion is all about.”

“You mean you want to watch James,” Rebecca grinned.

“No, Rebecca, that isn’t what I mean,” I rolled my eyes. “I do, however, have to send a letter to my grandfather. Could I borrow your owl?”

Fitz nodded, his interest moving from the conversation to some Ravenclaws trying to charm an eagle on their poster to flap its wings.

“Hurry back,” Rebecca smirked. “You don’t want to miss James in action.”

I flicked a piece of bacon at her and it satisfyingly smacked her in the face.

The trudge up to the Owlery was made bearable by the toast I’d nicked on my way out of breakfast. The weather was exceptionally terrible today. I had always marvelled at people’s keenness to be bludgeoned to death by flying balls. Not even horrid weather could deter this particular death wish.

I spotted Fitz’s owl Pelican immediately. He had a wonky eye and a tuft of feathers that refused to stay flat on its head. He had taken a particular liking to me for some reason. I was greeted by a happy hoot when he spotted me.

“Hey, Pelican,” I grinned, reaching out to stroke his feathers. There was a sudden shuffling sound behind me. I spun around, heart in my mouth, to see Albus Potter moving out from the shadows. His eyes had a hard look about them, and he looked like he hadn’t shaved in days. He didn’t say anything at all, and it didn’t look he planned on it anytime soon either.

“Hi,” I said slowly, uncertainly. I could detect no emotion in that way he was staring at me. For some reason, an uneasy feeling began to spread at the pit of my stomach. I felt silly, of course. Albus would never do anything to hurt me. But I couldn’t deny that something about him was a little off. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about what Andrea had said about him.

Then he blinked and looked away from me, shaking his head. He looked a lot more like Potter- James- from the side and I pushed all the questions I had to the back of my mind.

“Albus… Are you okay?” I asked, taking a step towards him.

“Your father- is he okay?” Albus asked, looking back at me. He has a lightness in his voice this time, but something about it seemed put on.

“Yeah. Yes, he’s- erm- he’s fine. They’re going to be letting him out soon,” I said, trying to smile.

“That’s great to hear. Really,” he smiled.

“Yes, it is,” I agreed, turning to tie my letter to Pelican’s outstretched foot. I took him over to the giant window and, after one last pet on the head, he took off into the cold December sky. I turned back to Albus who was still looking at me.

“It’s odd, isn’t it?” he said suddenly.

“Pelican? Yeah, he’s Fitz’s-“

“Not the bird.”

We stared at each other. I genuinely had no idea what he was on about until, with a skip of a heartbeat, I recognised the way he was looking at me. Rose had looked at me in that same way down on the pitch. Albus had caught on, and for some reason it made me nervous that he knew something.

“What’re you talking about?” I asked casually, leaning back against the stone window and crossing my arms.

“You see, Tracey’s mother was a Slytherin. So were Scorpius’s parents. It’s almost as though someone’s decided to go around attacking Slytherins. Reformed Slytherins.”

“Okay…” I said in a way that egged him on. I wasn’t about to let him in on the fact that this bit hadn’t occurred to me. Hell, I didn’t even know there were unreformed Slytherins out there. Of course the rivalry between Gryffindor and Slytherin was the stuff of legends, but it wasn’t like that anymore. Even my grandfather had had a laugh when he heard Gryffindor and Ravenclaw were now Quidditch rivals.

“But then there’s your father,” Albus said, leaning back against the wall behind him as well. If anyone would have walked in right then, it would’ve looked like we were having a casual conversation about garden gnomes.

“He was a Ravenclaw,” Albus said casually. Then he looked at me, as though waiting for a response. I just stared at him blankly, not really wanting to know how he’d found out what house Charles had been in.

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” I said finally.

“What does your father do for the Ministry?”

It wasn’t that I thought Albus was some double agent Death Eater in disguise. But what Fitz had said to me when Rose had been digging rung in my head. Also I just didn’t want to talk about it. Every time I so much as thought of what had happened to Charles I felt sick in the stomach. Just ignoring that it had even happened, and the letters I was receiving from him (and was now actually replying to) had eased my nerves considerably.

“What do you want, Albus?” I sad finally, pretending to drop all pretences. Really though, my heart was beating a mile a minute. I hated this subject.

“I was just thinking about why it was your father who got attacked,” Albus said with a forced nonchalance. From where I stood, there was only one way out of this. I pushed myself off the wall and looked directly at him as I spoke.

“All I know is that I spent a week in St. Mungo’s hoping my father wasn’t going to die,” I said with indignation. “If you want answers, Albus, asking your father would be a better bet. Now if you’ll excuse, I have a very crucial Quidditch match to get to. And just in case you weren’t already aware, skulking around in the shadows is a really strange thing to do.”

He didn’t even attempt to stop me as I walked past him. I kept my pace brisk until I was sure there was no way he could see me, and then I broke into a full blown sprint. I honestly don’t know why the encounter had shaken me so badly. It was as though now that my worst fear that Charles would be attacked had come true, it was only a matter of time until my new fear would too. What if they found him dead next? Sure, he’d moved all our stuff out of the old flat to a new place. He wouldn’t even tell me where it was in case his letter was intercepted. But… He was going to go back to work soon. Whoever had attacked him would know this. There were a number of ways he could be attacked again.

The cheers from the Quidditch pitch meant the match had started. I really didn’t want to go watch it. I felt sick as I stood in the snow to catch my breath. The hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach that I had been ignoring seemed like my own body mocking me. “You’re a coward” it seemed to be implying.

There was another loud cheer, and I glanced back at the pitch. I could see the tiny figures of players zooming about so quickly that they were blurs. The stands were an eruption of colour. It was exactly what I needed to take my mind off of everything.

I don’t know how I did it, but I willed my feet to move towards the pitch. I reached the Gryffindor stands and made the trek up as quickly as I could. The deafening screams and loud commentary did wonders for drowning out the noise of my thoughts. I immediately spotted Fitz, Rebecca, Tracey and Jillian at the very top of the stands. There was space on the bench empty next to Fitz, and he seemed to be the only one not fixated on the players zooming around. When he spotted me trying to fight my way through the crowd towards them, he raised his eyebrows questioningly.

“Later,” I mumbled as I reached them, smiling at Rebecca and Tracey as they screamed hellos.

“-Ravenclaw in possession. Young with the Quaffle, he might just score- ooh, nice Bludger by Fred Weasley- AND POTTER’S CAUGHT IT! He passes to Weasley-Thomas- back to Potter-“

The Gryffindors collectively screamed as a Bludger zoomed towards Potter. I actually thought it was going to smash his skull in when he did some kind of fancy roll in mid-air, dropping the Quaffle to William Thomas who was flying below him. What happened next was so quick, the poor Hufflepuff trying to provide the match’s commentary was just saying ‘Thomas-Potter-Weasley’ in succession as the three of them passed the Quaffle between them so quickly that I couldn’t really keep track of what was happening.

“-AND WEASLEY SCORES! Gryffindor lead ninety-ten.”

Hugo was whooping in the air when a whistle sounded through the stadium, and both the teams huddled together on opposite sides of the pitch.

“Wheeler has called for timeout, and Merlin knows they need a new strategy. This Gryffindor offense is flattening Ravenclaw’s defence. It seems like nothing can stop Gryffindor’s Chasers today-“

“Emr- Ness?” Fitz said as the crowd screamed around us.

“What?” I said breathlessly, turning to him wide-eyed. He looked pointedly at my fingers clawing into his forearm. I let go immediately and cleared my throat. Fitz smirked in a self-satisfied way that made me want to punch him.

“Don’t tell me you’re actually enjoying this, Ness,” he said casually, picking non-existent lint from his coat.

“No idea what you’re talking about. I just don’t want anyone to die is all,” I said, sniffing. “Dangerous, pointless game, this.”

A few people around us glared.

Fitz just snorted and turned back as the match resumed. Ravenclaw’s new strategy was evidently to try and injure Gryffindor’s Chasers as much as possible. William Thomas got kicked in the head by one of the Ravenclaw Beaters, which resulted in Hugo Weasley scoring on a penalty. Quin saved a goal, and Wheeler was so pissed off that he threw his Beater’s bat at Potter. Fred and Cassie Martin had decided that circling the Chasers as they zoomed across the pitch was the only way to keep them from serious injury. This led to Fred taking a Bludger to the stomach, and Cassie nearly falling off her broom when one of the Ravenclaw Chasers grabbed it from behind. When the Ravenclaw Keeper took a full swing at Potter, the whistle went off again, and Madame Hooch called both the teams to give them an earful.

“What is happening?” I asked, appalled.

“Oh, not all match are like this,” Tracey said, as though that was supposed to be a consolation. “Gryffindor-Ravenclaw ones are just particularly bloody.”

“Good to know,” I said weakly as I watched Quin roughly wipe his bloody nose on the sleeve of his robes, looking pissed off beyond belief.

The match resumed, and it only got dirtier. Fred and Cassie seemed to have had enough of Ravenclaw’s antics and were simply hitting Bludgers at whichever opposing team player happened to be the closest. Quin abandoned hovering by the posts, and began actively flying at the Ravenclaw Chasers as they neared him, side kicking them in the face. The score was one twenty-eighty to Gryffindor when both the Seekers suddenly dived towards the Gryffindor posts. The crowd was collectively holding its breath.

“-THEY’VE SEEN THE SNITCH! Booth and McLaggen are head to head- looks like Booth is in the lead-OH!

Fred had hit an impeccably aimed Bludger at Booth, the Ravenclaw Seeker. He went flying off to the left with the Bludger. The Gryffindor stands erupted with deafening screams even before Isobel McLaggen had caught the snitch.

I didn’t even bother anymore. I was screaming and hugging Fitz. Then I was hugging everyone. It didn’t even occur to any of us that this was only the semi-finals. The most important thing seemed to be the fact that Ravenclaw had lost. The stands were like waves in an ocean, and I found myself moving towards the exits and onto the pitch with the throngs of people. There was screaming, crying, and laughing; some people were managing to do all of these things at the same time. The crowd poured onto the pitch. The seven members of the team were running towards us as we charged towards them. A few feet in front of me, Rebecca had hurled herself at Fred. Both of them seemed to be cry-laughing. Quin, who was being mobbed by four girls, had settled for lying spread-eagled on the ground, laughing in elation.

My eyes found Potter dodging some fourth years. He was grinning at me, sweating, bleeding, and pink in the face with strands of hair fallen out of his pointail, and I didn’t think twice. It took me about six seconds to get to him. I just gave up running in the end and fully pounced on him. He caught me, Merlin knows how, and spun me around. We were both laughing uncontrollably.

“You won. You were brilliant!” I was screaming. “Oh my God, did you see Wheeler’s face?”

People were screaming things at Potter. Eventually he put me down, still grinning, when Fred found us. He made some kind of troll noise and attacked me in a bear hug.

“You,” he screamed over everyone. “You came! We won! Wheeler looked like he’d swallowed a lemon!”

“PARTY!” Quin screamed, popping between Fred and Potter. Six girls were now clinging to him. “James, mate, you’re on Hogsmeade duty.”

“What’s Hogsmeade duty?” I asked.

“Well, someone has to get the Firewhisky,” Potter grinned. “Want to come?”

“Sure,” I shrugged. I knew enough about these boys by now not to ask how we were going to get to Hogsmeade.

“We’ll meet you on the seventh floor,” Fred said as the team headed to the changing rooms. He was still grinning at Rebecca as he said this.

“So,” Tracey said conversationally as we all walked back towards the castle. “Fred, huh?”

“No idea what you’re on about,” Rebecca mumbled, rummaging through her bag and pulling out a hand mirror.

“I need to talk to you,” I whispered to Fitz. Though the excitement of the Quidditch match stull hung around us, my encounter with Albus was still clear in my mind.

“Hey, we’re going to meet some people. We’ll see you guys later,” Fitz said easily. Jillian rolled her eyes and Tracey nodded. We separated from them on the first floor and I recounted what had happened as we walked through the corridors. It was nearly lunchtime, but the sunlight barely managed to get past the thick clouds.

“I suppose Rose must’ve said something to him,” I said once I’d finished telling him what had happened. Fitz shook his head.

“Albus isn’t exactly on the best terms with his family.”

“Well then I guess that means that more people would’ve caught on by now,” I said, looking away. The uneasy feeling was returning. It made me a little sad when I realised that over the past few months I had become accustomed to it.

“Ness,” Fitz began. I waited but he didn’t seem to have anything to say. It only made everything so much worse.

“What did he mean by reformed Slytherin anyway? All that blood status stuff… there isn’t any of it. Heck, Rose Weasley is dating Scorpius Malfoy.”

“Lots of families left the country and changed their names when it was all over,” Fitz said thoughtfully. “The trials from the years Voldemort was in power lasted over a decade.”

“So what you’re saying is that all this time there have been people out there who still believe in the old ways,” I said quietly.

“And, if Albus is right, there’s going to be a reckoning for everyone who abandoned them,” Fitz finished. “Although I’m not quite sure if that’s anything. There was always something off about him.”

I wasn’t listening at this point. It was as though someone had dumped a bucket of ice water on my head. I stopped walking and one look at my face was all Fitz needed.

“What?” he demanded, staring at me with wide eyes. “Ness, what is it?”

“I know why Charles is doing this,” I said, trying to stop my hands from shaking. We stared at each other for the longest time. I couldn’t bring myself to say it, so I just watched as the wheels in Fitz’s head began turning at breakneck speed. It took a moment, but when he’d gone far enough back in his memory it was as though a switch flipped. He looked up at me, pale as a sheet. He remembered.

“Your mother was a Slytherin.”

We both stood there and stared at each other. There simply wasn’t anything to be said. Fitz leaned back weakly against the wall, weighted down with the sudden fatigue that I was feeling too. I probably looked worse than him, but I couldn’t even get past the sound of my heart beating in my ears. I didn’t know how to begin to feel about any of this. I didn’t even know if I wanted to know how I felt about this.

“There you guys are- what’s happened?”

Tracey, Quin, Jillian and Potter had rounded the corner. It took a beat for Fitz and me to look away from each other.

“Are you alright?” Tracey asked me.

“I actually have to go write a letter really quickly,” I said, sounding distracted even to my own ears.

“Fitz?” Quin asked tentatively. Fitz was staring at the floor with a frown on his face. I could almost hear his brain whirring.

“No,” he said quietly, looking annoyed at something that had popped up in his brain. Then he seemed to realise that he wasn’t alone and looked up at up.

“I have to go,” he said to no one in particular. Then he turned around and walked away. I went to go after him. He had thought of something, and since this was Fitz, it must’ve been something of substance if it had distracted him the way it had. Potter, however, was having none of it.

“Nope,” he said, securely holding my elbow and steering me away from the direction Fitz had gone in. “I have to talk to you.”

“James,” Jillian chimed in, smiling widely as she stepped towards us. “What about Hogsmeade? We were going to get drinks for the party remember?”

Potter and Quin had some kind of silent conversation with their eyes.

“I’ll do it after I talk to the House Elves,” Quin said casually.

“But it’ll be fun!” Jillian said perkily. Then she turned to look at me, “He asked me to come with him.”

“Great,” I mumbled, no fully registering what she was saying. I began attempting to squirm my way out of Potter’s grasp. “Look, I really need to go write that letter.”

Potter seemed to have had enough of it all. He began dragging me towards the Common Room, ignoring Jillian’s ‘but James!’ as we passed them. I wasn’t in the mood to fight with Potter, so I had resigned to following him absently by the time we reached the portrait of the Fat Lady.

Inside, Potter dragged me directly to the door to the boy’s dorms, ignoring the congratulations and pats on the back he was receiving. I didn’t want to think about what it must’ve looked like to all of them. I would probably get a load of crap for it later.

The seventh year boy’s dorm was as messy and unhygienic as it had been the last time I’d been there. Potter pushed me in and shut the door with a loud bang. Then he turned to me, arms crossed.

“Whatever has been going on, I want to know. From start to finish,” he said, looking me straight in the eye.

“You really don’t,” I said weakly, sitting down on the nearest bed. I think he had been expecting a fight. My resignation seemed to throw him off for a long moment. Then, he walked towards me and leaned against the bedpost, arms still crossed, examining me. I could almost feel his worry.

“It has to do with the attacks, doesn’t it?” he asked. My silence was affirmation enough. Potter sighed and came to sit on the bed opposite me. He rested his elbows on his knees and stared at his clasped hands for a long time. I just watched him because I didn’t know what else to do.

“Do you want to tell me?” was what he decided to say in the end. I stared at him, a little shocked. Usually we just yelled things at each other. This was quite different from that. His hair hung damply just above his shoulders. I could smell the shampoo he’s recently used. His face no longer glistened with sweat, but a bruise had formed on his right cheekbone, and there was a cut along his left eyebrow from where Wheeler’s Beater’s bat had hit him.

It was striking how different he was from Albus, regardless of how similar they looked. There was no unease involved with being around this Potter, and it was that that led me to realise that I trusted him.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said finally, attempting a smile, “Which has nothing to do with you.”

“When you do,” Potter smiled back, spreading his arms out in an ‘I’ll be here’ gesture.

“Thanks,” I said quietly. He tilted his head in acknowledgement and watched me as I scooted back on the bed I was sitting on, crossing my legs.

On close examination of the bedside table, I concluded that I was sat on Potter’s bed. There were parchments full of Quidditch plays and at least three loose hair elastics scattered on it. What caught my eye was a record below all the mess.

Pushing aside the sheets, I picked up the vinyl and grinned.

Broderick Croaker and The Wild Hippogriffs?” I said, almost in disbelief.

“Yes,” Potter said a little defensively.

“They’re playing in Hogsmeade on Christmas Eve,” I said, putting the record down and looking at him. “Although you probably already know that seeing as you’re a fanboy.”

I was looking at the multiple posters of the band that hung around his bed.

“Alright, enough of that,” Potter smirked, grabbing my shoulder and hauling me off the bed.

“Aww, don’t be embarrassed Potter,” I teased as he led me to the door.

“That’s what I get for being a nice person,” Potter sighed heavily.

“Ah, so you do it for the recognition. Got it,” I winked at him like we were in cahoots.  

Potter rolled his eyes and ruffled my hair as we made our way down to the Common Room. I stopped at the door, attempting to blend in. I watched as Potter walked towards Fred and grinned at something he said, a small smile on my face. He wasn’t half bad, I decided. Not by a long shot.





A/N: You guys, THIS CHAPTER WAS SO FUN TO WRITE. Also the update speed is getting better. It would've been up fater but I was doing some tweaking. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it. Leave a review! :)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Chapter 22: birthday pt.1
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

I was dreaming of the Riviera and liquorice wands when it happened.

Tolerant as I was, I didn’t take kindly to being awoken before the sun was up. The whole thing was quite unnecessary to be honest. We’d all been down in the Common Room just hours before. Why Fred decided we needed to be roused to Celestina Warbeck’s ‘My Wand Will Go On’ was beyond me.

“Mornin’ ladies,” he said chirpily. And loudly. Jillian, who had screamed and fallen out of bed, was letting fly an impressive arsenal of curse words. Quin, who was standing behind Fred, let out a low whistle.

“Now, now. No need for that,” Fred said nervously.

“What do you want?” I asked bluntly.

“It’s James’s birthday,” Quin said.

“Yes. We all wished him at midnight if you recall… four hours ago,” Tracey said, glancing at her clock. Rebecca was sat upright with her eyes closed in the bed next to Tracey. On closer inspection I concluded that she was asleep.

“But see, Quin and I have decided that-“

“Go away,” I cut him off, roughly smashing my head into my pillow and pulling my covers over my head. I heard one of the boys sigh heavily.

“I didn’t want to have to do this,” Fred said. The next thing I knew my covers were being ripped off, and I was being pushed out of bed. I gathered the same was happening to Jillian by her shrill screams from across the room. My protest was a silent one. I just lay on the floor, staring up at Quin and refusing to move.

“Come on,” Quin said in a whiny voice, “We’ve decorated and everything. It took us three hours to get everything together, and we almost woke him like five times.”

“Tough,” I mumbled, trying to slyly crawl back onto bed.

“Nope,” Quin said, reaching out and grabbing me around the waist. Then I was being carelessly flung over his shoulder. I was so tired I just wanted to cry.

“Quin,” I half-heartedly groaned, refusing to let go of my blanket. Quin didn’t seem to care. He simply grabbed Rebecca by the arm and yanked her out of bed, dragging her out of the room as well, with my blanket trailing behind us. I was actually half asleep slung over Quin’s shoulder by the time we reached the Common Room.

Quin set me down and I sort of slowly curled into a ball on the floor, wrapping my blanket around myself. Rebecca simply stood where Quin had left her, eyes still closed. I was fairly sure she hadn’t woken up at all. Fitz was sat cross-legged on the sofa, his curls a mass of black. He didn’t look sleepy at all, and was chomping on liquorice wands a little too happily for four in the morning. Fred came in a moment later with a very pissed off Tracey. Jillian was nowhere in sight. No one said anything about this.

The room was lit by the warm glow of the fire. It was warm and cosy. A huge banner reading ‘Happy Birthday James!’ hung from wall to wall over our heads. It kept flashing different colours. I realised what the agenda was when I saw an assortment of alcohols in various sized bottles gathered in front of the fire.

The odd thing about this whole setup was that Potter himself was asleep with his head on one of the tables by the windows. He was still wearing his uniform. Judging by the almost empty bottle of Firewhisky next to his hand, the boys had started the party early.

“We have classes tomorrow,” Tracey said. She was eyeing the bottles, still looking angry. I didn’t blame her.

“He’ll only ever turn eighteen once,” Fitz said.

“That logic applies to all birthdays,” I said sleepily. I had scooted towards the nearest armchair and was leaning comfily against it.

“You all suck so much,” Quin rolled his eyes.

“Ready?” Fred asked. Only Quin and Fitz nodded. I was starting to get worried about Rebecca, who was still stood in the middle of the room with her eyes closed.

The three boys, armed with the same tape recorder with which they had woken us, crept up to Potter, placed the tape recorder next to his ear, and began blaring a song in what sounded like Mermish.

Potter screamed, Fred yelled “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”, and Rebecca’s eyes shot open as she toppled over right onto me.

I hate my life.

I groaned from the floor, lost in a tangle of limbs, and pushed her over. The boys and Tracey all staring at us.

“What’s happening?” Potter groaned, rubbing his face.

“It’s your birthday!” Quin said excitedly.

“Yes,” Potter agreed.

“We’re all going to get drunk!” Fred said a little too happily.

“You’re idiots,” Potter sighed.

“I agree. Good night,” Tracey said, moving to storm out.

“Oh no. No way,” Fred said. Awake as can be, he moved to stop Tracey. Potter’s eyes slid from the two of them to me, sat on the floor in a ball. His lips twitched into a smile. I blinked back.

As if on cue, the door to the girls’ dorms burst open and Jillian stood there. I can testify to the fact that she absolutely had not gone to sleep in that tiny black satin romper. Trimmed with lace. Without a bra.

Everyone was staring at her. One glance at Potter told me he’d forgotten all about how sleepy he was. I felt something heavy at the bottom of my stomach and looked away from him.

“Oh, for Merlin’s sake,” I heard Rebecca mutter next to me. I was overwhelmed with sudden gratitude towards her.

“Right,” Tracey said loudly. Either the dim light from the fire was playing tricks on me, or her gaze flickered to me for a moment before she moved towards the bottles of booze. “How’re we going to do this?”

“Oh, this is going to be just great!” Jillian exclaimed, sashaying into the room. As she got closer I realised that she had on a face full of makeup. I wanted to claw her eyes out. I attribute this sudden violent urge to sleep deprivation.

I had no choice after this. As everyone started to gather in a circle around the bottles, being a spoil sport just didn’t seem very appealing to me. On the bright side, at least I wasn’t wearing my Pygmy Puff pyjamas.

By the end of the first drinking game, which Fred called ‘Shots’, and wasn’t really a game at all because everyone was just supposed to do shots, Rebecca was giggly and Quin was trying to chat up Jillian.

I was warm and had shed my blanket, concentrating on talking to Fitz, who had sat himself next to me. It was the best I could do to ignore Jillian’s giggles as she draped herself over Potter (who, having had a head start, was grinning at everything in sight).

“How’s it coming?” I whispered to Fitz.

After the day of the Quidditch match just under a week ago, Fitz had taken it upon himself to devote every last second he had to try to figure out what in the name of Merlin was happening. He had written to the Ministry and acquired the files of the trials from Voldemort’s reign of power in their entirety. He’d spun some very convincing story about needing it for further research stemming from his deep interest in History of Magic, which he wasn’t even taking. He’d also gotten permission to get into the Restricted Section to research the scary kinds of magic to find out what had happened to Charles. If anyone could figure it out, it was Fitz.

I had tried to help of course, but he would hear none of it. Fitz, contrary to my earlier assumption, was fully aware that he was a genius. He was also aware that I was not. And with N.E.W.Ts fast approaching, I suppose he had a point. It had taken every last brain cell I had to stay on top of things recently. Apart from Care of Magical Creatures, I couldn’t exactly slack off and expect to get full marks like Fitz. So I had resigned to checking in with him at least twice a day even though I knew I’d be the first (and only) person to know if he found anything.

“How’s what coming?” Potter said loudly from opposite me. Fred, Quin and Jillian all turned to look at Fitz and me.

“Jenny,” Fitz said without even thinking. “And Meredith. Such a mess.”

The dejected tone of his voice sold it. I had to stop myself from staring at him in wonder. I hadn’t come around to telling Potter any of it. He hadn’t said a word about it either after the day of the match. If at all anything, he had tact. I’ll give him that.

“They’re both hot. I don’t get it, mate,” Fred said, shaking his head.

“You’re right,” Fitz said. I turned to stare at him.

What?” I said incredulously. Fitz looked at me and shrugged.

“But… but, um… you know,” I stuttered. You’re in love with Potter’s cousin, I wanted to yell.

“Yeah, well,” Fitz shrugged. Jillian scoffed.

“Don’t be jealous,” she said nastily.

“Yeah, Ness,” Fitz smirked. “Don’t be jealous.”

“But what am I going to tell our baby?” I asked with wide eyes. Fitz snorted and took a swing of the suspect green thing he was drinking.

Unfortunately for us, Rebecca was a little too drunk, and Quin was too busy ogling Jillian to understand that it was sarcasm. Chaos ensued. Even over the really shit music (probably Fred’s choice), and Rebecca and Quin lecturing Fitz and me about birth control, it was hard to ignore the other three who were having some conversation of their own.

“But of course Daddy would have none of that,” Jillian was telling Potter.

My gaze lingered on him a moment too long, and before I could do anything, he had seen me looking. In the orange glow of the room, Potter’s eyes weren’t as hazel as they usually were. I remembered that night we’d both spent crouched behind the bar, his eyes reflecting the glow from the flashing lights. For the briefest moment, I wondered what he saw when he looked at me then. Was he remembering it too? It was suddenly very important.

As Rebecca giggled next to me again, I pushed myself off the ground. I looked down as the room spun for a moment, with me as its axis. I wanted to shut everything off. I wished I could flip some switch and not hear Jillian giggling at something she had said, not see the way Rebecca and Fred were lost in the secret conversation they were having with their eyes, not feel Potter’s unwavering eyes on me.

They played another round of Shots. I sat on the edge of the sofa, sipping my drink. It felt like I was watching a movie, and Potter- James- kept breaking the fourth wall. It was terrible, invasive even. Because he knew. He knew the heavy feeling at the pit of my stomach. I wished he didn’t, or at least that he would pretend that he didn’t.

‘Single Witches’ came on, and Jillian stopped clawing James’s shoulder to grind with Tracey.

I watched as he got up and swayed a little on his feet. I knew he was the one off balance, but it looked like he was the only stationary thing as the whole room spun. I looked down at my hands as he walked towards me.

He plopped down on the sofa next to me happily.

“Hey, hey Mar,” he said, poking me in the shoulder. “Mar, guess what.”

“You moonlight as an exotic dancer in the summers?”

“Yes. Also, it’s my birthday.”

“Very sharp, Potter. I’m impressed,” I grinned, reaching out and ruffling his hair. He decided that this was an invitation to slouch down and nestle his head into the crook of my neck.

“Hey, Mar?” he said again.

“Yes, Potter?”

“Do you want to go snog on the Astronomy Tower?”

If he wasn’t drunk I would’ve been embarrassed.

“No, Potter. But thanks anyway,” I tried not to laugh. He sat up, suddenly very serious.

“Like, never?” he asked with wide eyes. I surveyed him, wondering if he had had enough to make him forget this in the morning. I wasn’t quite sure, but he didn’t seem to be slowing down at all.

“What would change in the future?” I asked slowly, hoping he was drunk enough to be thrown off. An adorable frown appeared on his face as he thought about it.

“Hey James-y,” Jillian, also very drunk, squished herself between Potter and myself. This resulted in me having a mouthful of her hair. I spat it out and got up. Potter was looking at me, still frowning as Jillian clawed at his chest.

“Hey, Ness! Come play with us!” Fitz called. I gladly joined my friends on the floor.

“Alright; one person asks a question, picks whoever has the best answer, everyone else drinks,” Quin explained. “If you don’t have an answer, you take two shots of-“

He was cut off by Potter squeezing between Rebecca and me. Jillian was still sat on the sofa, looking a bit sour.

“You sure, mate?” Fred asked, still grinning. “You’ve had a head start.”

Potter half-shrugged.

“Okay, I’m starting!” Tracey said excitedly. “Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever shagged?”

“The Forbidden Forest.”

“Madam Malkin’s.”

“My parent’s bathroom.”

“Chastity is a virtue.”

“Swimming pool.”

They all turned to stare at me. Being the least drunk, I felt my cheeks turn red as I stared at me cup.

“Oh, come on, Marely,” Rebecca said eagerly. I was a little too aware that one, Potter had shagged someone in a swimming pool, and two; he was right there next to me.

“Not answering that,” I mumbled, letting my hair cover my flaming face.

“What was that?” Fred said.

Oh, sod it.

“Shots. I choose the shots,” I said, looking him straight in the eye.

“Come on,” Quin whined.

“No one wins. Everyone drink,” Tracey declared. I smirked at Quin as he downed his drink. I took a sip too, solely because Potter’s eyes were boring holes into the side of my face. If I wasn’t almost drunk, I would’ve found an excuse to leave. Probably one that involved Fitz and rashes.

“Your turn,” Fred said, looking at me.

“Uh… I don’t know. What’s your favourite colour?”

“Seriously?” Rebecca deadpanned.

“Well, excuse moi, but I have no interest in your nasty sex lives.”

“Purple.”

“Silver.”

“Blue.”

“Magenta.”

“Green.”

“Red.”

I looked at Potter, he looked at my hair.

I grinned, he winked.

I was drunkenly flirting with James Potter and the world had not combusted.

I would save asking how for later.

“But seriously,” Potter slurred, raising his cup so his drink sloshed onto the floor. “Astronomy Tower, guys.”

“Oh my god, yes,” Rebecca said, placing her palm on Fred’s head and trying to hoist herself to her feet.

See,” Potter said, looking at me and pointing at Rebecca. “It’s a good idea.”

I scanned as circle as everyone gets up, whooping with delight. I caught Quin’s eye, and by the slightly worried look on his face, I decided that he was the only other relatively sober person in the room.

“This is bad,” I said conversationally. I got up none the less, as Fred gathered all the bottles.

“What’re we going to do?” Quin asked as the others headed towards the portrait hole happily.

“I don’t know. You’re the one who sneaks around the castle all the time.”

“Oh, right. Map.”

Quin walked up to Potter and, without hesitation, reached into his robes. Potter giggled and squirmed as Quin pulled out an old sheet of parchment.

“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,” he said clearly, placing the tip of his wand on the parchment.

“You don’t need to tell me that,” Tracey snorted. I watched in awe as ink flooded the parchment like water from Quin’s wand. Gaping, I approached him.

Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs
Purveyors of Aids to Magical Mischief-Makers
are proud to present
THE MARAUDER'S MAP


Who?” I asked, staring at the parchment.

“My grandfather, my godfather, Ted’s dad, and the reason they’re all dead,” Potter said helpfully. I didn’t know what to say to that because I was side tracked by a cluster of dots with our names attached to them.

“It shows people,” I said loudly.

“Here,” Quin said, shoving it at me. “You lead the way, I’ll deal with them.”

And then we were in the corridors. It was scary, mostly because Fred was having a problem keeping his giggling at bay. My eyes were trained on the map, hoping, praying, that it wasn’t faulty. There was no one roaming the corridors at five in the morning, although breakfast would start in two hours. They would all be even more drunk by then. We’d probably have a couple of unconscious bodies on our hands. I could almost taste the weeks of detention.

It was freezing on the Astronomy Tower, and I was regretting not bringing my blanket along. Although I probably shouldn’t complain, because Jillian was positively shivering even though she was fully plastered.

“Potter, give me you sweater,” I said, poking him in the arm. He didn’t question me. He simply shed it before skipping to the edge of the tower and peering down.

“Here,” I said, handing he sweater to Jillian. She didn’t even bother to scowl at me as she pulled it over her head.

“Guys, guys!” Fred said suddenly, raising the bottle in his hand and waving it to get our attention. Everyone turned to him.

“We’ve had a good run, right?” he asked, eyes wide and glassy.

There were various shout from his audience.

“We’ll never be like this, over here, right now, ever again. In light of that, I want to say thank you to all of you. You don’t know how much I love you guys.”

It was impressive that he could even string sentences together after how much he’d had.

“Becks,” he said loudly, turning to Rebecca. “Becky, Rebecca. Charming, wonderful, beautiful, brilliant Rebecca.”

“Oh no,” Rebecca mumbled, trying to hide behind me. “Someone do something.”

“I know why you don’t want to go out with me. I understand. I wouldn’t go out with me either. I’ll stop badgering you, promise. When we graduate and you become a famous reporter, I can tell everyone how I used to love you.”

“Make it stop,” Rebecca hissed at Tracey.

“-but I probably still will love you even then. I don’t think I’ve ever said it,” Fred said, suddenly walking determinedly towards us. Rebecca clutched the back of my shirt as I struggled to move out of Fred’s way. I was too late; he seized me by the shoulders and shoved me to the right. Rebecca squeaked and followed behind me. This didn’t deter Fred.

“Becks,” he said, over my head. I was squirming to get out of Rebecca’s grasp. “I love you. Like… like the trees love the sun, like Muggles love the Underground, like James loves Cockroach Cluster.”

Rebecca, apparently floored by the fact that Fred was comparing his love to the one Potter had for chocolate covered insects, loosened her grip on my shirt. I took the opportunity and bolted right into Fitz.

“Don’t worry Ness,” he said loudly, “I’ll save you!”

Then he grabbed me and hauled me far away from Fred and Rebecca. Fred’s confession was still going strong five minutes later. Thus far, it involved various bad similes, lots of incorrectly recounted events, and a poem about Flobberworms.

“Ness,” Fitz whispered as Fred began talking about Rebecca’s eyes, “Something’s wrong with James.”

Potter was stood on the opposite side of the Tower, cup in hand, looking out at the grounds.

“Should I go check?” I asked uncertainly. I wasn’t confident, seeing as we were both drunk, him more than me. Although it was difficult to admit even in my inebriated state, Potter was usually the more level-headed out of the two of us. I could not count on that now.

“Yes,” Fitz said a little too quickly. I turned my narrowed gaze on him.

“What’re you hiding?” I said, accusingly pointing a finger at him.

“Nothing-“

“Fitz, tell me or-“

“-you don’t believe me-“

“-don’t have time for your bull-“

Just go.”

Then he shoved me.

I had choices. I could just distract Fitz so he forgets about Potter. I could join Quin and Tracey having bets about how long Fred’s speech would last. I couldn’t attempt to talk to a sour looking Jillian. Sighing, I walked towards Potter. I mean, it was his birthday. No one should be sad on their birthday.

“Potter,” I said formally, coming to stand next to him. He looked a little distracted when he turned to me. But then his eyes lit up.

“Hi,” he grinned. Potter had a nice smile, I won’t even deny it. What was the point? Everyone will agree that his dimples are adorable.

“It’s your birthday, Potter. Morose doesn’t suit anyone on their birthday. Not even you,” I teased, leaning on the stone bannister next to him.   

“He’s right,” Potter said, jabbing his thumb in Fred’s direction. “Last year and all.”

For a moment I wondered why that brought on so many emotions for me. I hadn’t been at Hogwarts for six years. I hadn’t even been there six months. As I stood there and surveyed all of them (even Jillian), I realised something; I was happy. Amidst everything that was going on, with the fact of my undecided future looming on the horizon, in that moment I was happy. No, I wasn’t counting on us being friends forever, certainly not after my friends of six years had all ditched me the moment term had started. But I wouldn’t regret any of it because I had changed because of these people. I had become more tolerant, laid back, friendly. Hogwarts was changing me, and I liked it.

“I think we’ll all be fine. Even Fitz,” I grinned. “Especially Fitz.”

“What’re you going to do after we graduate?” Potter asked, turning around and leaning on his elbows.

“If you tell Charles, I’ll deny it,” I said warningly. Potter held his hand to his heart.

“I swear on my broom.”

“I’ve got an apprenticeship,” I said tentatively, realising that I hadn’t told anyone in the world this before.

“For…” Potter said encouragingly.

I looked at him, his eyes wide and so, so hazel. The cold had made his cheeks red, visible under the slight stubble he always seemed to have. I was examining the way his hair moved in the breeze when it happened.

My heart skipped a beat.

In the I-almost-missed-a-step, I’m-about-to-fall, I-narrowly-escaped-injury kind of way.

Staring at the innocent glint his eyes never seemed to have when he was sober, and ignoring the weight of all the possibilities James Potter offered just by standing so dangerously close to me on the Astronomy Tower that night, I took a deep breath.

“What was that?” he asked, leaning down so he could hear me better. Ocean green mixed with sky blue and a dash of gold were what went into making his eyes. His hands abandoned his cup and reached for mine. He entwined the fingers of his left hand with my right and dragged me closer.

“Don’t you trust me, Marely?”

He wasn’t talking about my future anymore.

“I do.”

So sure I wasn’t either.

It was as though the hazes of alcohol that enveloped us both suddenly merged into one, separating us from the other. I could see James clearly in that moment of intoxicated clarity. Under the open sky, between the swirling snow, the smell of the clear air, the raven of his hair, the warmth of his hands became him. We were all we ever could be in that instant; it was beautiful.

“Ja-ames.”

Jillian popped the bubble. I stared at him as he slowly looked over my head at her. There was talk of frost bite. There was a lot of shuffling. There was Fred pleading with Rebecca. And so we were suddenly herding ourselves through the castle as the morning sky brightened through the windows.

He never let go of my hand.




Marauder's Map from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, owned by the brilliant J.K Rowling. Who isn't me.


A/N: Hi!
I'm not sure about this chapter but I love it and I don't know what to do and aaargh JAMES AND MARLEY.  I had just the best time writing this! I haven't written a good drunken scene in a bit and I'm pretty happy with the way things turned out. Jillian is so beyond infuritaing but... confession time. She is just SO fun to write! I don
't get it. But I love her. And I know you guys love to hate her. She should have her own TV show if you ask me.

22/10/15: So turns out this chapter was sitting unvalidated when I thought it was and I just read through all the reviews and I'M SO SORRY. I thought it was up and aarghh. All my apologies. I love all of you so, so much and now I feel like a complete idiot.

Please leave me a review (even though I didn't think to check if this had been updated). They're the best and make me smile like a total loon :)


Chapter 23: birthday pt.2
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




My feet were aching, the flashing lights were giving me a headache, and my gag reflex wasn’t reacting well to the musk of body odour.

“-the instrumentalists themselves are brilliant, but their whole vibe is too early Weird Sisters for me,” a man named Osbourne was saying to me in a lazy drawl. I nodded as though I was as engaged in the conversation as he was. Honestly though, the fact that he was wearing a peacock feather headdress and orange galoshes made it hard to take him seriously.

“I have to disagree,” Jocelyn with the bedazzled eyepatch said, taking a sip of her neon purple drink, “Especially after the Sisters released their Greatest Hits album. I happened to catch Crying Leviosa in Scotland last month. Great stuff, very early 80s new wave.”

I was resisting the urge to roll my eyes. Don’t get me wrong. It was great that these people had based a friendship around their need to argue about obscure music no one cared about. I won’t even deny that I kind of agreed with Osbourne. I would’ve maybe even tried to participate in this conversation if it hadn’t been for the fact that I had spent every moment I was at this party being a part of conversations like this one. James Potter’s friends, who seemed to mostly consist of starving artists and the occasional Hogwarts student, were making me question my stance on the legality of homicide.

If it hadn’t been his birthday I would’ve told him where to take his cooler-than-thou friends and shove it.

Actually I would tell him that right now if he’d ever deign it appropriate to grace us all with his holy presence.

Yes, I was in a catty mood.

No, it had nothing to do with the fact that I hadn’t seen Jillian all night either.

“Marley?”

I quickly turned back to Jocelyn and Osbourne.

“I’m sorry, what were you saying?”

“I was asking if you’d ever considered modelling,” Osbourne said. “I’m shooting the international campaign for Gladrags’s Spring Collection. You have exactly the look I had in mind.”

“The…look?” I said uncertainly. I wasn’t sure if it was flattering that a man in a green mesh top thought I had ‘the look’.

“The theme is Goblin rock,” Jocelyn volunteered.

Okay, so not a compliment then.

“Rebel chic,” Osbourne said emphatically. “Knockturn Alley meets Hogsmeade Fashion Week.”

I had no idea what they were trying to convey.

“Think Tila Queen circa 1970. You would be absolutely perfect!’ Jocelyn said excitedly. “There’s this black owl feather number that would looking simply gorgeous on you.”

Great, now I was thinking about dead owls.

Unless they were still alive and featherless. Oh, Merlin.

“Did someone say gorgeous?” Quin had popped up behind me and slung his arm around my shoulders.

“Quin, darling!” Jocelyn exclaimed, proceeding the kiss Quin on the mouth. He wasn’t fazed by this at all.

“Lynn, always great to see you,” Quin smiled.

“Oh, this is my boyfriend, Osbourne,” Jocelyn said happily. Osbourne shook Quin’s hand, not in the least bit bothered by what had just happened.

What was this world I was in, and how do I leave it?

“So I see you’ve met Marley,” Quin said, giving me a slight squeeze.

“We were just trying to get her on board the Gladrags spring campaign,” Osbourne said. Quin looked at me with raised eyebrows, I shot him a wide-eyes, pleading, ‘I’m-a-hostage-help-me’ look.

“Unfortunately, I’m going to have to steal her,” Quin said. “There’s some people who’re asking about her.”

“Come find us before you leave, darling,” Osbourne said, placing his palm on the hand.

“Only because that headdress is magnificent,” I said, smiling. Jocelyn clapped her hands together excitedly.

“Well, aren’t you the charmer,” Quin smirked when we were far away from their table. “That headdress is hideous.”

“They’re nice enough,” I shrugged. “How does Potter even know all these people?”

“He spends his time in the shadier parts of Knockturn Alley,” Quin shrugged.

“Why am I not surprised?” I muttered.

“Anyway,” Quin said, leading me off to the side of the bar. “I actually do need you.”

I raised an eyebrow as Quin led the way to a door behind the bar. It was a sort of back store room lined with alcohol for the bar. Tracey, Potter and Jillian were gathered around Fitz, who was sat on a crate of vodka, looking absolutely miserable.

He looked up at me like a lost puppy. Or like he was about to cry. I knew he was drunk because he had a sort of glazed over look about him. I stepped towards him, not entirely sure how he would react.

“Where were you?” Potter asked.

“Being propositioned by Lynn and her boyfriend,” Quin laughed.

What?” Potter sounded appalled.

“Fitz?” I said tentatively.

“He’s being dramatic and not telling us why,” Jillian rolled her eyes. I clenched my jaw and slowly turned to face her, blocking Fitz from her view.

“Did I ask for your unnecessary opinion?” I said calmly, staring right at her.

“Whatever,” Jillian said, rolling her eyes again and looking generally put off. Normally I would just ignore her. I tried to, I really did. But there was something about her stupid silver dress and sky-high heels that annoyed the daylights out of me.

“Why are you even here?”

Jillian didn’t answer, but her eyes flickered in Potter’s direction.

“Oh, for Merlin’s sake,” I said a little too vindictively. “Will you two just shag already? This is getting ridiculous.” Then I turned back to Fitz, tentatively kneeling next to Tracey in front of him.

“Is this about… erm, you know?” I said quietly, fully aware that Potter would go crazy if he knew Fitz had a crush on Dom. Fitz nodded, Tracey looked at me questioningly. She understood my discrete headshake and backed away.

“Do you want to leave?” I asked. He nodded more vigorously this time. I got up and turned to the others.

“Well, Fitz and I are going to go,” I said formally, not looking any of them in the eye. Tracey glanced at Potter worriedly.

“Erm, Happy Birthday Potter.”

Then I reached into my purse and handed him an envelope. He looked at it, then at me. He was pissed off at something.

Probably me.

Creature of pattern, that Potter.

“Thanks,” he snapped, seizing the envelope from my hand and then stalking out of the room. Jillian hurried after him.

“Well, that wasn’t dramatic at all,” Quin said, rolling his eyes. “Don’t worry about it. He’s been especially crabby today. Do you need help getting him back?”

“I’ll manage,” I said, holding my hand out for Fitz to take.

“Right. The back door to the Hog’s Head is unlocked,” Quin reminded me. “Don’t wake Abe.”

I would’ve informed him that the last thing I planned to do was wake the kind of terrifying owner of the Hog’s Head, but Fitz was pulling me out the door. Hand-in-hand, we fought our way through the crowd. Fitz’s stumbling actually helped us cover ground.

I ducked into the room where we’d all left our coats as I spotted Jocelyn and Osbourne talking to a woman with silver face paint. Fitz said nothing as I shrugged on my coat, and then helped him into his. I wasn’t sure what to say to him because I’d never dealt with drunk Fitz before. He didn’t seem violent, so I supposed getting hit in the face wasn’t something I should expect.

Out in the snow, I was glad I’d worn pants. The footpath had been cleared of snow, but I could feel the biting cold through my layers of clothing. We walked in silence for a bit as I contemplated bringing up the subject of Dom.

“Fitz-“ I began, fully prepared with a speech.

“She likes me.”

And then we lapsed into silence again. Me, because I was shocked. Fitz… well, I don’t know why.

“We’re talking about Dom here, right?” I asked hesitantly. Fitz jerkily nodded.

“Okay,” I said finally. “And you’re sad because…”

When Fitz turned to look at me, he looked so sad that I felt it too. He sat down heavily on the ground so suddenly that I thought he’d fallen. Instead, he sighed and leaned against a closed shop and stared up at the sky.

“I’ve been helping her with Potions,” he said finally, looking up at me.

“Since when?” I demanded.

“Right after Halloween,” Fitz admitted, sounding guilty. “She… she apologized about, you know, what she’d said and then one day she mentioned she was having trouble with Potions… so I offered.”

All I could do was gape at him.

“But now I’ve been spending all my time trying to get through the stuff the Ministry sent me, and on school work, so I told her I can’t help her anymore. She got angry… so angry.”

I was still gaping at this point. Fitz… and Dom? But Dom was so terrible to him. And Fitz hid all of this, Merlin knows how, and didn’t combust. I didn’t have a single clue. Just… how?

“So she hasn’t spoken to me in a week, and now she’s just told me she likes me.”

I didn’t say anything for a good five minutes. Everything I could think to say was either selfish or a little mean. So what if I thought Dom was a brat? Fitz obviously didn’t and that was the important thing.

“Well, do you like her back?” I settled on asking.

“That’s the thing,” Fitz slurred forlornly. “I just always assumed that I do. And that I always will. But Ness, I’ve just realised that I don’t.”

He was staring at me with wide eyes as though this realization of his meant something dire.

“Fitz,” I said kindly, kneeling in front of him. “You aren’t making any sense. Why don’t you like Dom anymore?”

“Well, she’s a bit terrible, isn’t she?” he said, and somehow it didn’t sound like he was trashing her at all. He said it like it was just a fact that he’d come to realise.

“I don’t blame her,” he added quickly, as though he suddenly realised what he’d said. “Everyone’s always fawned over her. She’s so nice… and pretty.”

Then he zoned out.

“Fitz,” I rolled my eyes, snapping my fingers in front of him.

“But she isn’t so nice when she doesn’t get what she wants. Now that I’ve actually properly talked to her, she’s sort of mostly annoyed at people and things,” Fitz said. “And she was horrid to you-“

“That doesn’t matter,” I cut him off, suddenly feeling very guilty. Fitz frowned at me in the way he usually did when he was thinking about something.

“Yes it does. You’re my best friend, Ness. I know you have a bunch of other friends too, but you’re my best friend and when someone’s terrible to you, it means something to me-“

Fitz momentarily had to stop talking because I tackled him in a hug.

“-and now I’ve got to tell Dom I don’t like her back and I just don’t want to,” he continued as I squeezed the life out of him.

“She’ll get over it,” I assured him, patting him on the head and standing up. Fitz may’ve been drunk enough to sit on the pavement, but I was freezing.

“I actually did love her,” he said as though trying to justify himself.

“Well, you just said you didn’t really even know her,” I pointed out.

“You’re right. I mean, I also love Bowtruckles.”

“That’s a very valid point,” I nodded, fighting my urge to laugh.

It was absolutely freezing. My breath was coming out foggy, and even the layers of clothes I was wearing didn’t help.

“Let’s go back to the castle,” I said to Fitz, holding a hand out for him to take. He was surprisingly alright about it as well. We walked till the Hog’s Head in a comfortable silence. The silence this late was only broken by other party-goers. It was actually quite pleasant, but I was thankful for the warmth of the Hog’s Head.

Abe the owner was apparently always gracious about letting the boys go in and out of his pub when they wanted to sneak out of the castle. Apparently he was a big supporter of Potter’s father or something. He’d laid out warm food on a table in front of the huge painting of the girl that masked the secret tunnel to the Room of Requirement.

Fitz grabbed a muffin before I helped him into the tunnel.

The castle was quiet, the Common Room empty. By the time I finally managed to get Fitz to bed and back to my own dormitory, the clock on my bedside showed that it was three-thirty in the morning. I was so tired that the moment my head hit the pillow, I fell into a peaceful dreamless sleep.

*

I woke up the next morning to find my roommates passed out in various stages of undress. Jillian had managed to make it to her bed, but still had her shoes on. Tracy was on the floor, curled up in a ball. Rebecca was by the door with her pants half off as though she’d given up trying to remove them. She didn’t wake up when I pulled her pants off, and then dragged her to bed. Tracy sighed happily when I covered her with my blanket, and Jillian rolled over when I removed her shoes.

So clearly I was the only one who was going to make it to classes today.

I showered and dressed in silence, in an oddly cheerful mood. Maybe it was because I’d slept so well last night. I even took time to do my hair.

There were only a scatter of people at breakfast. It wasn’t terribly early either. I suppose more people went to Potter’s birthday party than I’d though. I spotted Rose smiling at me from the Gryffindor table, and headed over to her.

“Good morning,” I said chirpily, pouring myself a cup of coffee.

“Someone’s upbeat this morning,” Rose smirked.

“Just glad I’m not going to be hungover like the rest of them. Speaking of, why aren’t you?” I realised.

“Didn’t stay very long,” Rose mumbled, looking away in a would-be casual way. I didn’t miss her eyes flick towards the Slytherin table. I would’ve said how stupid it was that those two weren’t back together, but I wouldn’t have wanted someone I really didn’t know commenting about my personal life.

“Are all his friends that… odd?” I asked, trying to put it nicely. Rose looked beyond relieved at the subject change.

“Pretty much. You don’t find a lot of normal folk at the places James goes to,” Rose snorted as she untied The Daily Prophet from the owl that had landed in front of her. I recognised my grandfather’s handsome barn owl flying towards me and, I don’t know how it was possible, but my mood got even better.

But, of course, it was all too good to last.

“Oh, you’ve got to be joking,” Rose said suddenly, angrily slamming the paper down on the table. My mind immediately went to Charles.

“What?” I asked, panicked. “What is it?”

Rose looked indignant as she passed me the paper. My heart stopped beating erratically when I realised that she’d given me the last page. It was a gossip column that one of the Witch Weekly reports wrote, because people couldn’t live without gossip for six days. Obviously.

But then I saw the title in bold.

Oldest Potter Off The Market?

And below it was a picture of me hurling myself at Potter after the Quidditch match. I stared at it in disbelief.

This was not happening.

Not to me.

Not now.

I couldn’t even bring myself to read the article. All I could do was stare at the picture of me as the scene repeated over and over again.

Jump, twirl. Rewind, repeat.

I groaned and rested my head in my hands over the paper.

“This has got to be a joke,” I moaned.

“Welcome to the spotlight,” Rose said a little sadly, patting my hand. “Where fact is incidental and humanity is a myth.” With a jolt, I realised that Charles would read this.

“I have to write my father,” I said hurriedly, downing my cup of coffee. I was just about to get up and leave when, as my luck would have it, Potter walked into the Great Hall. He looked pissed off. I wondered if he’d been this angry from yesterday. That couldn’t be good.

He all but stalked towards Rose and me.

“How did you get these?” he demanded, slamming the envelope I’d given him yesterday as a present. I inspected it. It was worse for wear; crumpled a bit, with a tear on the side.

“Why does it look so sad?” I asked, genuinely curious as I looked at it.

“I can’t take these,” Potter insisted, staring at me as though he was willing me to understand why. I didn’t.

“They’re a present, Potter,” I sighed. “You know what normal people do when they get presents? They say thanks and leave it at that.”

“But…but,” Potter stuttered. Then he just settled for reaching into the envelope and pulling out the two concert tickets inside.

“The show was sold out in half an hour, Marley,” Potter said a little hysterically. “Where did you get these?”

“Potter,” I said kindly. “They’re just concert tickets. Calm down-“

“Just- oh Merlin,” Potter began to breathe shallowly as he stared at the tickets in awe. “They aren’t just anything. Broderick Croaker and The Flying Hippogriffs aren’t just… I’m going to die.”

He had gone paler and paler the longer he held the tickets in his hands.

“James,” Rose said hesitantly. “Here, sit down. Let me take those from you-“

NO,” Potter said, using his entire body to protect the two concert tickets. I contemplated telling him that even if he burnt the tickets right then I could get him new ones.

But then this was more fun.

Also kind of adorable.

“I thought you couldn’t take them,” I said, crossing my arms and smirking at him. Potter looked at me sideways like a guilty ten year old.

“It’s… I don’t know- how?” he said weakly.

“If I tell you, you have to promise to concentrate on breathing,” I said sternly.

Potter nodded eager.

“I know Kenneth Carlisle.”

Potter shrieked.

I don’t even think that calls for a joke to be made about it.

“James, James,” Rose said, shaking him.

“You have to inhale for breathing to work, Potter,” I said, a little worried.

Potter looked like he was going to cry. Or pass out. I couldn’t tell, maybe both.

“How,” he wailed, beginning to rock back and forth, clutching the tickets like they were a lifeline.

“Who?” Rose whispered. Potter turned on her, looking ready for murder.

“He’s only the biggest musical genius on the face of the planet,” he said with a kind of vicious admiration.

Rose looked at me for the real answer.

“He plays bagpipes,” I explained. Potter gasped, pointing and glaring accusingly at me.

“Plays bagpipes? Plays bagpipes? He’s one of the founding members of Death By Thestrals. He played the Charmed World Tour with the Sisters. He singlehandedly wrote the lyrics and music to ‘Puffskein Rhapsody’. He’s a genius. He’s doing The Wild Hippogriffs a goddamned favour playing for them after that debacle with Ralph Murphy. He even played the Asian leg of the tour as a-“

Potter, I know,” I said loudly.

Potter was staring at me, red in the face, waiting for an explanation.

“He’s my godfather.”

This time Potter wailed.

Then he slammed his head hard into the table and just stayed there.

Rose and I exchanged a meaningful look, after which she slowly reached out, folded the Prophet, and hid it in her book bag.

I slowly got out of my seat to leave the hall as Rose sat back down next to Potter, soothingly patting his head as he dry heaved into the Gryffindor table.




A/N: The Weird Sisters from Harry Potter by the wonderful JK. I own only the pretentious conversation and strange OCs.

Anyway, HAPPY NEW YEAR YOU GUYS! I hope you had a good one (and this update maybe makes the back to school/uni blues a bit better). Leave a review and tell me what you think. I had an absolute BLAST writing James' hipster friends. I really hope you guys enjoyed it. :)


Chapter 24: How to ruin the holidays
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

I suppose it wasn’t much seeing as the last time I’d seen him he had been hexed unconscious, but Charles looked well. He was bundled up in all black as he usually was (he never really got over the ‘I’m an emo 90s kid, no one understands me’ thing), his cheeks tinged red from the cold. He didn’t look as tired as he had the last time we’d both been on this platform either. In fact, he looked well rested, no pale skin or dark circles. I was on the fence about the new beard situation he had going on though. If it got any longer, I was sure it would break the barrier into ‘lonely and middle-aged’ territory.

Neither of us had said a word to each other. We’d just been standing opposite one another as the rest of the platform was abuzz with activity around us. Charles was looking at me cautiously, probably afraid that I’d go off at him in the middle of the platform. The fact that he was expecting it was a good sign; he knew he’d been a complete tosser about the whole thing. I could use this to my advantage when I picked my moment to confront him about everything.

“Why do you have a depression beard?” I asked stuffily, scowling at him. Charles’s hand absently went to his chin. Okay, it did look kind of soft. And alright, Charles was a teeny tiny bit cool-looking.

Of course, that didn’t mean he was cool.

“You don’t like it?” he asked, a little surprised. I spotted a woman completely ignoring her child and shooting appreciative side glances at Charles.

“It’s hideous,” I informed him. Charles sighed and his shoulders slumped. He knew there was no way to win with me when I was in a mood like this.

“How was term?” he asked weakly. I could see on his face that he was already regretting asking.

“Brilliant,” I said brightly. “I got drunk at all the parties, and snogged eight people.”

“Right. And Henri was completely fine with this,” Charles rolled his eyes, crossing his arms. The lady in the back moved on from side glances to checking Charles’s left hand for a wedding ring. Her face lit up like a Christmas tree when she didn’t see one.

“Oh, we broke up ages ago,” I said breezily. Charles’s face lost all colour and his arms fell to his sides.

“What’re you talking about… broke up ages ago?” he asked, deadly quiet. Poor Charles. He thought he was so smart, exaggerating his disapproval of Henri. He thought that would encourage me to stay with Henri by some convoluted Romeo and Juliet logic. As far as Charles was concerned, me being away from Henri would prevent anything from happening with the boys at Hogwarts. But now that we’d broken up, he could have a grandchild on the way for all he knew.

“Yeah, did I forget to tell you?” I asked pleasantly. “Anyway, it’s so much better now. I’m free to do whatever I want. I am quite relieved, really.”

“Whatever you… come back here right now!”

I had abandoned my trunk and was strolling towards the barrier. I casually leaned into it and slipped onto King’s Cross station, thoroughly enjoying Charles’s panic. As far as I was concerned, this was payback for the four months of turmoil he’d put me through by being an annoying prat.

I happily walked out into Muggle London, ignoring Charles behind me. I was searching for an alley somewhere close by so that we could Apparate home when I spotted a crowd of Muggle men clustered around something on the pavement. They were all whispering excitedly to each other, taking pictures on their phones of whatever they were crowded around. Charles had raised me mostly Muggle. For all I knew it was a street fight about to go viral. Curiously, I approached them. I was about five feet away from them when one of them, dressed in a business suit, spotted me. He surveyed me for a moment and then seemed to reach some conclusion.

“Is it yours?” he asked in awe.

“Um…”

Charles caught up with me, panting from dragging my trunk at full speed across the station. He took a deep breath, getting ready to lecture my ear off, when he spotted the crowd. They had all heard the man in the business suit, and had turned to look at me.

I saw what they were blocking and had to stop my jaw from dropping.

“It’s yours then?” the man said to Charles, gesturing to the jet black car parked by the curb. Now, I know absolutely nothing about cars except that you have to fill them with petrol for them to work. But this one, by the look of it, was one of those classic numbers. The ones they sold at auctions to raise money for charities. I turned to Charles, who was grinning at the group of Muggles.

“You bought a car,” I deadpanned.

“Not just any car, missy,” one of the Muggles with a beer belly and comb over said. “An Aston Martin DB5.”

He then proceeded to stare lovingly at it.

“Right. You bought a car,” I repeated, raising an eyebrow.

“James Bond’s car,” the man in the suit said. I stared at Charles.

“You bought James Bond’s car,” I said, a hint of panic in my voice this time. Charles didn’t seem to have heard me. He left my trunk next to me to go converse with the Muggles. All I could do was stare at him.

Was he going through some sort of midlife crisis? First the beard, now the car. What if our new house was in Dalston, and Charles had bought a Shih Tzu to match the lawn? Merlin, what if he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt under his coat.

No. My father could not be turning into a hipster.

I waited patiently by my trunk until all the Muggle men had left (not before they all got a turn stroking the car affectionately). Confronting him outright might scare him, I decided.  I would ease into it. That was the smart thing to do.

“Are you have a midlife crisis?” I demanded the moment Charles turned to me. He looked taken aback.

“Marley, what’re you talking about-“

“Just be honest with me. If you’re planning on joining a nudist colony or something, I have the right to know,” I said indignantly.

“It’s just a car,” he said soothingly, catching the dirty looks I was shooting at it. I narrowed my eyes, taking a few tentative steps towards it. For some reason I thought it would combust if I got anywhere near it.

“Why do we need a new car, Charles?” I asked, not convinced. “Why do we need a car at all? We can do magic.”

“It matches the house,” he grinned.

“It matches… are you alright?” I demanded. “Did they not fix you properly at St. Mungo’s?”

I reached up and poked Charles hard in the forehead.

But I was set at ease. Charles had always had no qualms about being extravagant. The man, for all he was worth, did not understand the concept for frugal living. I blame his parents. They had spoilt him rotten. Even now Grandma Ethel makes him his favourite homemade strawberry ice-cream. Last time we visited them, Grandpa Arnold had casually handed me a diamond necklace without looking away from his newspaper. I was still going to be keeping an eye out though. If I saw even a single sign that he was planning to give up shoes for clogs, he was going straight back to Mungo’s.

“Fine,” I said grudgingly. “You can keep the James Bond car. For now.”

“Why, thank you,” Charles rolled his eyes.

“Don’t roll your eyes at me! If you so much as glance at organic tofu, I swear to Merlin-“

“Charles!” someone called from behind me.

“Hello, Harry,” Charles smiled. “Ginny.”

They were the biggest family I had ever seen. I couldn’t even count them all. It took me a moment to realise that Quin was with them as well, along with two blond people who couldn’t be part of the Potter or Weasley family. The grownups seemed to know each other suspiciously well, though. Charles was dragged into a conversation about some new Ministry Decree before I could actually look at everyone properly. The group was very loud, and was doing nothing to help the attention Charles’s car was already drawing.

“Fancy seeing you here,” Potter was next to me. Fred and Hugo were inspecting the car.

“My father is insane,” I said dejectedly.

Potter and I had, very maturely, come to the nonverbal agreement that that night on the Astronomy Tower had never happened. Personally, I was very proud of us.

“I think he’s cool,” Rose said. My head snapped towards her when I detected the slight singsong tone in her voice. One of Potter’s other cousins was staring at Charles with a dazed look on her face.

“You have got to be joking,” I hissed at no one in particular. I looked at Potter, hoping to find an ally. He was grinning at me.

“The beard, the car… Can you blame them?” he shrugged.

“He’s old,” I whispered in horror.

“Hey, let him live,” Potter chuckled, patting me on the back. “I’m pretty sure I heard Alisha Vane’s mother talking about him on the platform.”

“I need to get him out of here,” I said, panicked. “It isn’t safe for him.”

Potter gave me a look that said, “Really?”

“What? If I don’t protect him from all the desperate single women, who will?”

“Trust me, Marley, no straight, sane man wants to be kept away from interested women.”

“Well, tough, because I don’t want a sibling.”

“What are you two whispering about?” someone asked loudly.

And that did it.

The whole group went quiet. Even the adults. I suppose it did look quite suspicious, Potter and I stood away from the group, hissing at each other the way we were. But now everyone was staring at us. I noticed Potter’s mother smirking in glee and shooting glances at Harry Potter. I didn’t even want to know what that was about. Even Rose was smiling a little too broadly.

I could almost feel Potter’s embarrassment as my cheeks flushed.

“Bowtruckles,” I said at the same time as Potter said, “Divination.”

“But Marley,” Fred said loudly in case anyone in the group was hard of hearing, “You don’t take Divination.”

Charles was looking suspiciously between Potter and me. I bet he was wondering if I’d snogged Potter. I hope he thought that I had. Then I could be shady about it all through the holidays until he divulged the information I wanted.

“We should go,” Charles said finally, still looking very suspicious. “We’re having dinner with my friends.”

“Rafe and Selene?” I asked excitedly. Charles nodded jerkily, still not okay.

“Great!” I said happily. Rafe was one of Charles’s close friends from work, and his girlfriend was my absolute favourite person in the entire world.

‘Merry Christmas’s went all around as Quin and his parents decided to leave too. I saw Charles still eyeing me shiftily. I had my opportunity.

“Potter, will you do me a favour?” I whispered. He looked at me worriedly before nodding hesitantly.

“Just stand still,” I said quietly. The Woods had left and the Weasleys were trickling away as well. Charles was saying something about seeing Mr. Potter at work on Monday.

“Now, you have yourself a great Christmas, James,” I said loudly. Certain that Charles was looking, I grabbed Potter, stood on my toes, and planted a kiss on his cheek. Then I turned around and skipped to the car, holding back my hysterical laughter like a pro at the sight of Charles’s face.

If I was certain of one thing, it was that Charles could never beat me at my own game.

*

I don’t know how it made sense, but the car did match the house.

It was a semi-detached, three storey house of red brick. Like every other house we’d ever lived in, Charles had decorated it with memorabilia from his younger, band-stalking, devil-may-care days. The motorcycle he’d built with Kenneth and Rafe fit right in with the car. Charles had left my room empty, save for the bed. It had an attached balcony and a walk-in cupboard that smelt of jasmine.

“Kristen used to scent it with these,” Charles said, holding up a small satin sachet of jasmine beads. “She left them behind because she thought you’d like them.”

Kristen, huh?” I turned to him.

“Yes, our landlady,” Charles shrugged. “She’s coming over for lunch next week.”

“You’re so thick,” I sighed, shaking my head.

“What have I done?” Charles asked, genuinely clueless.

We fell easily into the old pattern. Everything Fitz and I had decided I was to ask him about was forgotten. I had missed him so much. We made fun of each other and laughed about Professor Lupin. He told me stories about his Hogwarts days that I hadn’t wanted to hear before because I’d been angry that he was forcing me to leave Beauxbatons. Now they were even more hilarious because I knew the Astronomy Tower was where people went to snog, and that the Giant Squid was temperamental. We spent the rest of the evening preparing dinner for Rafe and Selene. Charles had known Rafe since they trained together to become Hit Wizards. Rafe was a lot like Charles, although I was hoping minus the beard.

You never know with these middle aged men.

Rafe and Selene showed up at around six in all their glory. They always looked like they’d just done something terribly fabulous. Selene was an Art Director for Gladrags Italy. She was tall and slender, and had cut her dirty blonde hair in a short bob. Rafe was barely half an inch taller than her, but his presence was imposing. He had never retired to a desk job as Charles had after I was born, and he had some pretty terrifying scars to show it.

Greetings went all around, and Charles wasted no time bringing up Potter.

“I don’t know what else you want me to say,” I sighed at Charles across the table. Rafe (sans beard, thank Merlin) was absolutely elated that Charles was so pissed off. Selene rolled her eyes.

“Let her live, Charlie,” she sighed, taking a dainty sip of wine. “Merlin knows you did.”

“That is different,” Charles said through gritted teeth.

“What did he do?” I asked eagerly.

“Oh, the stories I could tell,” Rafe said mischievously. Charles shot him a dirty look.

“I for one am glad you aren’t with Henri anymore,” Selene said, patting my hand. “He was such a bore.”

“Henri was a respectable young man,” Charles said sourly.

“Since when?” I wanted to know.

“Since James Potter came into the picture,” Selene grinned.

“He looks like trouble,” Charles said severely.

“And you don’t, Mr. I-built-a-motorcycle-and-fight-bad-guys?” Selene raised her eyebrows.

“He used to go swimming in the lake just so all the girls would see his tattoos,” Rafe sniggered.

“James has a tattoo,” I volunteered nonchalantly, popping a piece of carrot in my mouth. Charles choked on his chicken. I hid my glee.

“No,” he spluttered, eyes watering. “No way in bloody hell-“

“What’re you going to do, Charlie? Murder Harry Potter’s first born child?” Rafe snorted.

“What I could do is have you home-schooled,” Charles said, and I actually think he was contemplating it. Rafe was looking at me with a huge grin.

“Then I’ll just have to use your James Bond car to drive to Scotland,” I said, sticking my tongue out at him. Rafe laughed loudly, looking at me with admiration.

“You’re so much like Cora it’s hilarious.”

There was a clink as Selene’s fork hit her plate. Rafe’s eyes went wide as though he couldn’t believe what he’d just said. Charles immediately forgot about Potter and was now looking at me in concern. I felt heat rising in my cheeks as I looked around at all the adults.

No one mentioned my mother, especially not around Selene.

I didn’t know the story because Charles didn’t like talking about her. I’d always wondered why it was Kenneth who was my godfather and not Rafe, seeing as I saw Rafe at almost every holiday there was. Kenneth, with his heavy schedules, barely got to see us twice a year. I’d made the mistake of asking this in front of them all when I was a child. This had resulted in what I now referred to as the Christmas Debacle of 2014.

It had not been pleasant.

Rafe had been in love with my mother at a time, Charles had explained as best as he could to a child. I didn’t know when this was, what had happened, or how Charles and Rafe were friends now. All I knew was that Selene could not stand the mention of my mother.

So,” I said quickly, turning to Selene. “I met this man named Osbourne. He said he’s shooting Gladrags’s Spring Campaign.”

Rafe shot me a grateful look as Selene took a deep breath and turned to me. Everyone avoided any topic that could bring up the past after that. I watched Charles though, and something had switched off in him after Rafe had mentioned her.

I was still thinking about it when Rafe and Selene left, promising to return on Christmas day to open presents with us. I knew Charles wasn’t okay when he decided to stack the dishwasher instead of just magicking the plates clean.

I watched him from the door for a long time. He was scrubbing the dishes so aggressively it was a wonder they didn’t break. It took me a long time to build up the courage to step into the kitchen and clear my throat.

“I want to know what happened,” I said calmly. Charles stopped his scrubbing. Slowly, he put down a plate and turned around.

“Does it matter now?” he said with equal calm. I considered this.

“Yes. I think I have a right to know. And I’m old enough too. It won’t make me think less of anyone.”

I had always felt that Charles never talked about my mother because he felt it was a failing on his part somehow. That he was the reason she’d left. As I grew up though, I’d started to wonder if he never talked about her because he hadn’t wanted me to feel like it was my fault somehow. The facts were all there. My parents had been together years before I was born, so clearly it wasn’t Charles she had left.

Charles didn’t say anything for a long time. I thought he was just going to tell me to go to bed when he spoke.

“Your mother and I didn’t have the most ideal relationship,” he said quietly, watching me closely. My heart was beating fast for some reason, but I made sure my face was blank.

“Rafe has always been like he is now. Friendly and…. And understanding.”

“So they had an affair?” I asked, because Charles didn’t look like he could say it. He shook his head.

“He um… he fell in love with her,” he sighed. “Your mother wasn’t disloyal.”

So that was why he never talked about her.

He didn’t want me to think badly of her.

This revelation made me feel odd for some reason. As though somehow a part of my life had changed in that moment.

“And so what happened?” I prompted.

“I found out. Overheard him telling her. I don’t think she ever planned to tell me,” Charles sighed and looked away. “I shouldn’t have told Selene. The two of them didn’t speak until Cora… until she was gone.”

“And you and Rafe?”

“Everything sort of fell back into place after she was gone,” Charles said. His voice was fine, but his eyes were glassy.

“What did you mean when you said you didn’t have an ideal relationship?”

Charles frowned a little when he looked at me.

“She isn’t a bad person, Mar,” he said quietly.

“I didn’t say that she was,” I shrugged. Charles studied me for a long moment.

“I think you should go figure out how you want to decorate your room,” he said turning away and picking up a plate. I did my best to contain my frustration.

“Why are you defending her?” I asked a little irritably. “It seems like all she did was cause trouble.”

The plate shattered when Charles slammed it into the sink. I flinched when he turned on me. I’d never seen him like this. Sure, I’d done stupid things in the past and gotten in trouble for them. But all those things had been my fault. This, whatever this was, definitely wasn’t.

“Go to your room,” he said, fists clenches.

“Why are you angry with me?” I asked, my voice shaking. I furiously tried to blink away the stupid tears that had welled up in my eyes. When he didn’t answer, I only got angrier.

“That’s why we’re here, isn’t it?” I spat. “Because of her. She was a Slytherin. Whatever’s happening, she has something to do with-“

ENOUGH,” Charles screamed, and I swear to Merlin, the house shook. We glared at each other across the kitchen island. Tears were streaming down my face now. I wasn’t even so much angry as I was hurt, and I think Charles saw it, because he blinked and took a step back, shaking his head.

“I’m the one who’s here. Not her. She left us, Charles. She left us, but you’ll always take her side. Do you even care what it’s like sitting in that castle hoping you aren’t dead somewhere?”

“Mar-“

No. You’re selfish. Just like her. Only she quit while she was ahead.”

Then I turned around and stormed away, slamming the door behind me.

This was going to be a long Christmas.






A/N: James Bond and all his epicness from the films and books, created and owned by Ian Fleming.

Charles is a cutie and deserves your reviews.


Chapter 25: christmas pt.1
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




If being a bad child had some sort of spectrum, I’m sure I would fall on the dodgy end. It wasn’t so much the fact that the situation was what it was, rather that I knew exactly how to fix it and had thus far refused to. Pride was not the only thing in play here. People were being attacked for Merlin’s sake. If Charles chose to be a prick about it, it was not my fault.

Well, that was what I had been trying to believe in order to live with myself.

I hadn’t seen Charles in a good week. It wasn’t that difficult, really. He left the house at an ungodly hour and I just pretended to be asleep when he came home. He’d taken to making my favourite breakfasts and leaving cheery notes around the house. I had been around Charles enough (my whole life to be specific) to know that that meant he was sorry for unfairly yelling at me, but was under no circumstances going to cave and tell me what I wanted to know.

This had all been well and good. Until today that is. Christmas Eve was our day. Everyone knew that. All of Charles’ misfit friends would gather in our house for the best dinner of the year (if there was one thing Charles knew how to do right, it was cook). I had half expected him to come bounding into my room the minute the sun crossed the horizon this morning. What I’d found instead was a stack of blueberry pancakes accompanied with a note promising that he’d be back by noon to start with the dinner prep.

So naturally I’d charged upstairs, had the quickest shower of my life, located the most concert-appropriate outfit in my closet, and made a run for it.

Ballsy, I know.

As was the case with all large scale magical gatherings, a stadium had been erected halfway to Scotland where no one would find it. You could almost feel the Muggle-repelling charms in the air. I had gotten so comfy in the tiny coffee shop I’d set up shop in that I almost hadn’t come. But as I stood at the entrance, I could feel a familiar warmth spreading through my body. This was familiar. I knew this. The hum of thousands of voices, the palpable buzz in the air, the feeling of oneness… I needed this more than I knew. Shows of all kinds had been a large part of my childhood thanks to Charles and his strange collection of friends. I had learnt very early on the art of feeding off of the energy, the high. I couldn’t erase the tiny smile from my lips as I walked through the backstage entrance.

It was crowded as usual. You could always tell the staff from the fans. Hassled looking witches and wizards rushed by with clipboards clutched to their chests. Groups of friends stood in clusters, taking swings from bottles, hoping to catch a glimpse of the band before the show. I didn’t expect to see Kenneth; not at a show this huge. Plus, he had no idea I was even coming. Neither had I but that was a different story. Nope, I was just here because I liked the music. And the atmosphere. And um… the architecture was pretty great too. Nice and sturdy. Which was good given the miserable weather and all that. Yup.

 “Looking for someone, hon?” a kind faced witch with a clipboard asked helpfully.

Naturally, I turned a bright pink colour and started to ramble.

“Looking for someone? What? Pssh.. No way. Just erm… admiring the architecture. Very, erm, solid. Robust. That’s good.”

And then I knocked on the wall twice to prove my point.

“That was almost painful, Marley.”

The witch’s eyes travelled over my shoulder. She shot me one last concerned look before walking away. I was frozen for some reason. Perhaps it was the fact that I hadn’t interacted with another human in a week. Maybe it was that I wasn’t even supposed to be here in the first place. But most likely, and I’m not even going to lie, it was because it was James Potter. And we all know how uncomfortably astute James Potter can be in the most inconvenient of times.

It took a moment, but he walked around me when he realised that I wasn’t going to be the one moving. I stared at the wall for a couple of seconds, a bit too long perhaps, before I looked at him.

He was frowning in the way he did when he knew I was hiding something.

It was almost too easy, nearly comforting, to fall back into the pattern I knew so well. Easily, I smiled and cocked my head, innocent as ever.

“Potter,” I nodded amiably. He was dressed in black from head to toe. It suited him, I noted.

“So I shouldn’t ask then?” he raised an eyebrow.

“Ask what?” I said, big eyes and everything. Potter sighed and walked towards me. In a swift motion he lightly took my hand and guided me along the corridor.

“Where are we going?” I asked, craning my neck to see if I could spot Kenneth’s silver head of hair.

“Oh, didn’t I tell you? Osbourne and Jocelyn are here.”

And then he shot me the most mischievous smile.

“Potter don’t you dare leave me with- Jocelyn! How lovely to see you again!”

Osborne, hair violently orange this time, took no longer than five second to launch into a description of his new campaign. Potter had managed to melt away again. Within ten minutes I was so close to murder that it wasn’t even funny anymore.

“-mauve is very in this season,” Jocelyn was saying. She had dreadlocked her hair at some point between Potter’s birthday and now. It suited her in an odd way. I found myself distracted by the sort of halo it forms around her head against the light.

“Sorry guys! The bathroom took forever to find.”

That was a voice I’d never heard before. Jumping at the opportunity, I spun around as fast as I possibly could, huge smile in place. Anything was better than this.

“Hi!” I said brightly, not fully considering that this person was probably as crazy as both Jocelyn and Osbourne.

What I saw I was certainly not prepared for. Yes, I’d given Potter two tickets. That was the protocol wasn’t it? I had just assumed he’s bring Quin or Fred. What I wasn’t expecting was the almost sinfully adorable brunette I was now faced with. She was tiny and had a cute black bob. She was dressed casually in jeans and a band tee, kind dark eyes smiling up at me.

Most importantly, her hand was in Potter’s.

“Hi,” she smiled with equal enthusiasm.

It felt like something heavy had settled at the pit of my stomach.

“Mar, this is Olivia. Olivia, meet crazy,” Potter joked. I smiled painfully as Olivia rolled her eyes.

“Isn’t she the one who got you the tickets?” Olivia teased, folding her hands across her chest and raising one perfect black eyebrow. I felt sick.

“Whatever,” Potter rolled his eyes. And then playful banter ensued. Jocelyn and Osbourne joined in, and I stood there watching Potter amongst them. It was a strange feeling, like I was somehow floating above them all, watching. I’d never seen him this… happy. I tried to remember the last time I’d seen him smile with such ease. When Gryffindor had won the Quidditch match perhaps. I couldn’t even be certain. It was there, in that cramped, hot corridor that smelt of body odour and smoke that I realised it; Potter wasn’t at all brooding and angry all the time. He was just like that around me.

I made James Potter miserable.

I almost laughed when it hit me that nothing would have made me happier in September.

“Marley?” Osbourne’s voice cut through the noise of my thoughts.

“I uh… sorry. What?”

I knew Potter was staring at me with that frown. I refused to look at him.

“We should get going. They’re introducing the opening act,” Jocelyn said.

“You guys go ahead. There are a few people I need to say hi to first,” I lied easily. I didn’t even wait for any of them to respond. Turning on my heel, I walked in the opposite direction of the stage, trying to seem as casual as possible.

The corridor slowly emptied as music began drifting from the main stage. There was nowhere to go. I needed to think, or maybe I needed to not think. I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that I didn’t need this right now. Not with everything that was going on. In a sudden wave, my stomach turned and an odd hollow feeling came over me. The band would come out any moment to go on stage. I couldn’t let Kenneth see me like this.

It was as though something had possessed me. I dashed to the nearest door, found that it was some kind of viewing room, and moved onto the next one. I did this maybe six time, drawing a roomful of startled looks each time. Finally, out of breath, I opened a door into a dim closet stacked with buckets and mops.

Perfect.

I shut the door, plunging the room into almost complete darkness. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust. Slowly, back against the wall, I slid down and sat on the floor. My mind was blissfully blank for a moment as I stared up at the tiny row of windows by the ceiling that let a panel of moonlight cut through the darkness. There was a heaviness in my bones. I was so tired; I just wanted to sit on that freezing floor forever.

I wasn’t an idiot. I knew why this was happening to me. I just couldn’t bring myself to face it. It isn’t that I hadn’t realised it earlier. In all honestly, I think I’d known for a long time now. I just no longer had the energy to fight it.

Gaze fixed on a ratty old mop, with the vibrations from the main stage pounding through the walls, I admitted it to myself with some degree of defeat.

I liked James Potter.

In a more than friendship type way.

And I was already exhausted.

I continued to stare at the mop, waiting for the heaviness to fade. Wasn’t this supposed to be happy? Butterflies and giggles and all that. With Henri it was always easy. I could read him like an open book. It was light, joyful. This was as far opposite of that as it could get.

This was deeper. This was scary.

The constricted throat, the hot tears; I couldn’t stop any of it. Potter was here with some girl who had kind eyes and made him smile. All I had ever done was make him unhappy and annoyed.

I counted three rounds of roaring cheers from the crowd. I was prepared to sit in the closet till everyone left. No one knew I was here except Potter and his friends. Charles had probably already driven himself halfway mad with worry. No father wants to come home to a note from his daughter that simply said ‘gone out.’ Thinking about Charles just made everything worse. I took a deep, shaky breath. Pulling my knees to my chest, I rested my head on my hands. It was like a cocoon. Nothing could get to me.

The door burst open.

Naturally.

I almost laughed at the tragedy of it all. I mean, what else had I been expecting? Nothing really ever went my way, did it?

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Potter demanded. Then he proceeded to step into the closet and slam the door behind him.

He was angry. I could’ve felt it even if he hadn’t yelled. His eyes weren’t adjusted to the dark yet, but I could see his hands curled into fists, chest rising rapidly in short breaths. Slowly, cautiously, I got up from the floor. I stayed as close to the wall as possible; as far away from Potter as I could get. I had to will myself to look at him. I was irrationally afraid that now I’d come to admit it, Potter would see it on my face.

He was glaring at me in a way I’d come to know too well.

“Why are you here?” my voice didn’t sound like my own. It was scratchy and hollow from the tears I was trying to hold back. Potter stared at me for a long moment. In slow motion, his face relaxed and his lips parted slightly.

 “Mar, what happened?”

And suddenly I wanted grab a bucket and hurl it at his head. He was concerned. It didn’t matter what he had been angry about. No, what matter was that something was wrong with me. Couldn’t he just make it easy for us both and yell abuses at me? Maybe throw in a jinx or two? I didn’t need this. I hated that he understood everything without me having to say anything. It was invasive. I didn’t do vulnerable.

“What do you want, Potter?” I said bluntly. His jaw clenched.

“Really? This is how you’re going to play it?” his voice was quiet, but the soft tone was gone.

“Might I remind you that you’re the one who barged in here?”

Potter took a deep breath and exhaled through his mouth. It was commendable, really. I would’ve lost my shit long before now if I were him.

“You disappeared for half an hour.”

“So?”

“You disappeared to sit in a store room.”

“You didn’t know that when you came looking for me.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake-“

“Don’t you start,” I cut him off. “I have every right to go wherever I want-“

“I never said that you didn’t-“

“Why do you even care? It isn’t like you don’t have people to hang out with.”

I regretted it the moment the words left my mouth. Potter froze, argument half way out his mouth. I stared at him wide eyed, lost for the first time in my life as to what to say next. I’m not sure how long we stood there, but then Potter inhaled sharply and my brain somehow unfroze.

“It’s your favourite band,” I said in a rush.

“Mar,” Potter said, taking a step towards me. “It’s okay.”

“And your friends are here. And you should go. And… they really are a great band.”

 Potter came to a stop so close to me that we were almost touching. He looked down and took my hand in his lightly. All I could do was stare at him, heart beating a mile a minute. My stomach was doing so many backflips there was a viable possibility that I would throw up.

“You don’t have to be afraid,” was what Potter finally chose to say after the longest silence.

“I’m not.”

My voice was shaking.

I’d make the worst spy.

Potter closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath again.

“Okay,” he said, looking at me with a half-smile.

“Okay?” I repeated uncertainly.

“Yeah,” he shrugged, cocking his head to the right. Then he tugged my hand lightly, eyebrow raised. Everything sort of melted when he wrapped his arms around me. A steady calm washed over me as his fingers began to familiarly twist themselves through my hair. I closed my eyes into his neck and pulled him closer. If one extreme was wanting to hurl something at his head, the other was this.

And then there was a loud bang from the direction of the stage.

It was louder than any of the ones before. The windows shook with its force. Then there was screaming as the sound of the instruments died down. Running footsteps pounded through the corridor outside, and with them came more screaming and another deafening bang.

Potter reached the door before I did and yanked it open. We were greeted with people running from the VIP box to the exit, screaming, wands out.

“What the-“

Potter didn’t complete that sentence because he saw what I did.

At the end of the corridor stood two figured cloaked in black, black masks pulled over their faces. A chill ran down my spine. This couldn’t be happening. Potter seemed unable to move as the Death Eaters raised their wands in unison.

“Potter get down,” I screamed, throwing my arm around his shoulder and forcing him towards the ground. Just as we hit the floor, a curse flew past us and exploded against the wall at the end. There was a loud bang followed by chunks of debris flying everywhere. The screaming got louder.

“We need to get to the exit,” Potter screamed in my ear. When I saw his wand in his hand, I realised I had mine out too. I didn’t even remember reaching for my pocket. I glanced over Potter’s shoulder. The two Death Eaters were moving down the corridor, fending off hexes. It was like they were somehow floating.

“Run,” I whispered. And together we were on our feet. The crowd more or less guided us towards the exit. Once we were out in the open, it became clear just how bad the situation really was. There were cloaked figures everywhere. Groups of duels had broken out. There were people lying on the ground.

Suddenly, Potter shoved me to the right, and I watched numbly as a hex flew right past my eyes. I blinked at Potter, who seemed to be in a similar state of numb shock. I didn’t will my hand to raise and shoot a curse at the cloaked figure over his shoulder. It did it all on its own. And then his hand was in mine and we were running, now aware of what to expect. Duck, hex, run.

We reached the exit and I turned to Potter

“Go,” he said before I could said anything.

What?”

“They might still be in there,” Potter said hurriedly, trying to yank his hand out of mine.

“And if they’re not?” I all but screamed, clutching his hand so hard I was afraid I’d draw blood.

“I can’t just leave-“

“HAVE YOU ABSOLUTELY LOST IT, POTTER?”

He paused to stare at me, and that heartbeat was enough for me to link my arm with his and turn on the spot.

We landed on the grass in front of my house. I could see the dinner guests turn to look at us through the windows. It took about five seconds till the door burst open. Charles, clearly livid, stormed out, Rafe and Selene in tow. Potter and I had barely caught our breath.

“WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?” was what Charles decided to lead with.

“Charles,” Rafe said quietly, placing a hand on his shoulder. The house had gone absolutely quiet. I recognised all the people who were standing tentatively by the front door, unsure of what to do. I supposed they’d never seen Charles this angry. Neither had I.

“Why’re you here?” I asked when it finally hit me. Wasn’t it his job to be where the attacks were? Why hadn’t he been notified? Loads of people had managed to escape. Someone must have notified the ministry by now.

“Are you trying to be funny?” Charles demanded. He was taking it all in as he neared us. His eyes travelled over my jeans and cropped top, Potter’s hand still in mine. I let go of it as though it was on fire.

“Charles,” I said warningly, stepping forward. It made no difference. Charles’s eyes were locked on Potter behind me, and he looked close to homicidal.

“You are going to regret this-“

“Charles, please listen to me,” I sounded hysterical to my own ears.

“-regret the day you were born-“

“-STOP IT!”

“-if you don’t stay the hell away from my daughter-“

“-FOR GOD’S SAKE, CHARLES-“

“-so much as see you near her-“

“-YOU ARE SO STUPID-

He was reaching for his wand, still glaring at Potter over my head.

“Enough, Charles.”

As if today hadn’t been a big enough rollercoaster.    

I felt Charles tense as my eyes slid over his shoulder to the front door behind him. It was like looking in a mirror. She was the same height as me. Her hair was the same colour and length. It was only the eyes- ice blue instead of brown.

My mother didn’t so much as look at me as she stepped out of the house and walked towards us. She walked with that dancer’s grace I remembered and, in my prepubescent years, had tried to emulate. I had wanted to be her so badly once I had realised that she was never coming back. I would have given anything for another one of her postcards that had stopped coming by the time I’d turned twelve.

But now… she was right there in front of me and all I could feel was loathing and, I realised, disgust. She came to a stop in front of me, placing a hand on Charles’s shoulder as though the last twelve years hadn’t happened.

“Come inside,” she said. “All of you.”

She still had the accent I remembered. It was from good breeding I now realised. She was, after all, from a pureblood Slytherin family. I hadn’t realised it, but over the years the illusion had gone, the spell broken. I was no longer held captive by the idea of my mother.

I turned to Charles.

“There’s been an attack,” I said quietly.

“How… how do you know?” his tone was slightly dazed.

“How don’t you?” I asked, frowning.

“It’s freezing out. Why don’t we all go inside and-“

“Kenneth’s show,” I cut her off, not looking away from Charles.

“And you two were there…” Charles trailed off, looking from Potter to me. I didn’t answer. I just turned around walked towards Potter. His eyes slid from my mother to me and I heard him mutter ‘holy shit’.

“Marley, you aren’t going anywhere,” Charles said from behind me. I heard his footsteps hurrying towards me.

“Think fast,” I told Potter as he reached for me. The moment my hand was in his, I felt the familiar tugging in my navel, off to some place in James Potter’s head.

 

 


Chapter 26: christmas pt.2
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




I stared blankly at the white marble walls of Teddy Lupin’s bathroom.

Yes, you read that right.

No, I hadn’t known what I was getting myself into.

Potter, probably terrified of being murdered by Charles, possibly questioning my sanity, had Apparated us to the very middle of Diagon Alley on a crowded Christmas Eve. I’d thought he was simply frazzled and Quality Quidditch Supplies was the first thing that came to mind.

Because, well, this is Potter we’re talking about.

As it turns out, Potter had known exactly what he was doing. He’d dragged me through the crowded streets, politely ignoring the general morose air I was giving off. I’d let him lead the way into Muggle London, absently wondering if I could ever go home again. The idea of even thinking about what had just happened made my stomach flip.

“Where are we going?” I’d asked suddenly, hoping to close the floodgate on the thoughts forcing their way into my head. We were in a quiet residential street at this point, and I saw Potter jump slightly at the sound of my voice. It was high pitched and sounded odd even to me. I swallowed nervously and looked at him.

“Ah, it speaks,” he’d said, looking straight ahead, smirking.

“Git,” I’d muttered as a warm feeling spread through my stomach at the familiarity of this.

“Please, I totally saved your arse back there, Belgarde. You owe me so many liquorice wands,” he’d said, nudging me slightly.

“Take it up with Fitz. He now keeps account of all my stock.”

I knew what he was doing; expected it even. I wasn’t off the hook by a long shot. But I’d decided in that moment that when he finally picked a time to start asking questions, I wouldn’t do the whole ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about’ bit. He deserved a lot more than that, of course, and I intended to make it up to him. This would be a good start.

He’d led the way into a building, greeted Walter to doorman, and proceeded to the elevators like he’d been here a thousand time.

“Seriously Potter, where are we?”

Potter muttered something.

“Sorry, did you say dead space?”

Potter cleared his throat and avoided eye contact.

“Ted’s place.”

If anyone could tell me how this whole thing wasn’t a giant farce, I’m all ears.

I guess the bright side would be that it wasn’t awkward because he wasn’t home. But that would be too easy, wouldn’t it?

What actually happened was we stepped out of the elevator smack dab into what turned out to be a rager in full swing.

“What the-“

“Shit,” I heard Potter mutter, before he unceremoniously grabbed my hand and pushed through the crowd that had spilt out into the corridor. The music was even louder inside. I noticed with some sense of detachment that everything was Muggle. The stereo, the LED mirror disco ball that hung from the ceiling of the living room. Dark wood floors set off the leather furniture that was pushed up against the walls. A large painting of a wolf howling at the moon covered one wall, drunk people I’d never seen before faced the other, playing Guitar Hero in front of a giant TV. Flashes from cameras from people taking pictures with cell phones went off every few seconds.

I turned to Potter, ready to demand that he give me some answers, when something caught my eye. I saw a face that I recognised.

I wouldn’t have missed Karina Duval’s sheet of flawless blonde hair anywhere. One, because she was the global face of Sleekeazy’s.

Two, because I went to Beauxbatons with her for six year.

A second survey of the room turned up more familiar faces, only these I’d seen on covers of magazines or in the tabloids right next to Potter’s. I suddenly felt suffocated.

What the hell was I doing here?

“I need to go to the bathroom.”

I wasn’t sure if he’d even heard me, but I was certain that the last thing I wanted to do was have to hide the fact that I felt more out of place than I did on my first day at Hogwarts.  

And that brings us full circle to Teddy Lupin’s bathroom.

The walls were throbbing with the music. I could hear the voices and laughter through the door. I took a deep breath, trying to come to terms with how I felt about all of this. As ashamed as I am to admit it, ever since The Prophet had printed that article about Potter and me, I may or may not have kept tabs on what was happening in the Wizarding World rumour-wise. I know they had no control over any of it, but Potter and everyone in his life seemed to be, well, everywhere. It was as though they couldn’t walk down the street without being followed by photographers. Just two days ago I’d read a particularly riveting article about Potter buying coffee and being ‘engaged’ to the barista.

As I stood in Ted Lupin’s bathroom, my palms pressed into the cool countertop, I realised how completely thick I was. I had actually thought, for what is arguably a short amount of time, that I knew these people. I finally understood what Fitz had meant at the beginning of the school year. It seemed so far in the past now. These people, at this party, Jocelyn, Osbourne, Potter… they were all someone. They were on the inside.

And I had been too naïve to realise that I’d clumsily stumbled into the closed off section; the part of the party behind the red rope.

I didn’t know where I belonged, but it most definitely wasn’t here.

I suppose I should have been grateful for any distraction from the previous events of the night, but all my current realisation had done was glaringly cast a light upon the fact that I had to go back home eventually. I wasn’t a part of this. I wasn’t on the inside.

In that moment I felt like a lost little girl, torturously aware of how far away from home I was.

And, believe it or not, that was the good part.

What followed was the painfully slow recognition of the fact that home, with just Charles and me, didn’t exist anymore. She, my mother, the one person who was never supposed to abandon me, would be there no matter how long I stayed away. I wanted to laugh at the iron of that. I could ignore Henri’s letters, I could ignore headlines of attacks, I could even ignore Potter and all his question. But this… this was one thing I could not run away from.

And as much as I loathed to admit it, it was because of Charles. He had picked her today, as he always had throughout his life; when he’d broken off his friendship with Rafe, when he’d refused to answer questions about her, when he’d yelled at me.

Where did I have left to go?

As though just to spite myself, I looked up into the mirror, knowing fully well that it was her face I’d see looking back at me.

There was a soft click before the door to the bathroom burst open. I couldn’t look away from the mirror, and I think Albus decided to pretend that that wasn’t weirding him out.

“Well, at least you haven’t drowned yourself,” he said conversationally after a moment’s silence. I finally tore my eyes away from the mirror and looked at him. His clear emerald eyes struck me as they always did.

“My brother seems to be under the impression that you’re, how do I put this delicately… unstable at the moment,” he said in explanation.

“He’s one to talk,” I muttered, almost as a reflex, before turning back to stare at myself. I heard Albus snort.

“Do you… want me to tell him I’ve found you?” he asked slowly. That surprised me enough to look at him. I had always gotten the impression that Albus never liked me very much. I didn’t think there was much room for doubt after that little incident at the Owlery. And yet here he was, offering to save me from Potter and his grand inquisition.

I shook my head. Albus shrugged, stepped into the bathroom, and shut the door behind him.

And then we just sort of stared at each other.

“So… great party,” I said bluntly. Albus plopped down on the floor of the shower.

“You’ve gate-crashed my biannual Christmas Eve party,” he informed me.

“Biannual?”

“Yes.”

“Like, twice a year?”

“Yes.”

“Because there are two Christmas Eves, of course.”

“What is up with you and James?”

So I guess the need to ask invasive questions runs in the Potter family. I leaned back against the counter and surveyed Albus. I think the thing that gave me an uneasy feeling around him was the fact that I never really got him the way I did other people. There was something guarded about him. While I was sure Albus Potter couldn’t possibly be hiding some bombshell of a secret (the extraordinarily gifted reporters from Witch Weekly would have gotten to the bottom of that by now), I knew that even if I tried I would never really know him unless he wanted me to.

Basically, Albus Potter was me.

I think I deserve to be applauded for my degree self-awareness.

“Nothing,” I said honestly.

“I don’t believe you,” Albus said, cocking his head.

“Why not?”

The mellowness of this conversation was oddly comforting.

“He’s different,” Albus said after a moment’s pause. “And this has never happened before. Not with Olivia or… Andrea.”

I saw the flash of something heavy in his eyes and pretended that I hadn’t.

“Different how?” I genuinely wanted to know.

“Less of a douchebag,” Albus said without the slightest hesitation. I couldn’t help the unattractive snort that escaped my mouth.

“I highly doubt that has anything to do with me.”

“Really?”

There was something testing in his tone. I couldn’t tell you what the nature of the conversation was to save my life. It was light enough, but I was one hundred percent certain that Albus Potter did not trust me. He was trying to pry something out of me. Honestly, I would have just told him whatever he wanted to know in that moment if he’d just asked. I was so done with the whole day. I just wanted to go to sleep and forget the worst Christmas Eve of my life.

“Probably realised Cockroach Clusters are a disgusting concept. Must be humbling given how much he loves those things.”

Albus actually cracked a half smile before the door burst open for a second time and Potter stood there; out of breath, crazy eyes, the whole shtick.

“I’ve been searching- Albus?”

Jay,” Albus said in a mockingly conversational tone, getting up off the floor. I saw Potter’s jaw set as his brother smiled hugely at us both, casually putting his hands in his pocket.

“I asked you to help me find her,” Potter said, eyes narrowed.

“And I did,” Albus smiled, gesturing to me. “There she is. You’re welcome.”

“Potter, I just needed a few-” I started, feeling the tension building.

“I suppose your instructions were clear enough,” Albus shrugged. Then he stepped past us both and calmly walked away. Potter slammed the door behind him.

“Was that really necessary?” I asked, eyebrows raised.

“He’s a git,” Potter said through gritted teeth. I stared at him for a long moment as he glared at the floor.

“Can I say something?”

Potter looked so surprised that I wanted to share something with him that I felt terrible. To his credit, his blinked the shock away quite quickly and nodded.

“You have a big, wonderful family. Don’t take them for granted.”

If he wanted to argue with me, he didn’t show it.

“Are you tired?”

I yawned in response. Potter laughed.

He opened the bathroom door into the bedroom and pointed his wand at the small fireplace. In a burst, warm flames illuminated the room. I sat cross-legged in front of the grate as Potter opened the closet door behind me.

“Here.”

I looked up in time to catch the t-shirt he threw at me.

“I’m not wearing Professor Lupin’s clothes,” I deadpanned.

“This is my room,” he rolled his eyes.

“Why… why do you have a room in Professor Lupin’s house?”

Potter awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck.

“I erm… it’s closer to Diagon Alley.”

I stared at him. Then I looked at the bed. Then back at his flaming face.

Oh Merlin, eew.

“You bring girls here, don’t you?” I said, half appalled, half amused. Kind of annoyed, but that isn’t the point here.

“What? I… no. It isn’t that- I… oh shut up.”

I was laughing uncontrollably at this point.

“I’ll have you know,” Potter said loudly, “-that my parents think it’s hilarious to be really loud when anyone’s hungover.”

“Yes I’m sure it’s that,” I said.

“I’m leaving now,” Potter said loudly, making a show of stomping to the door. I smiled for a long moment before making my way to the bathroom, very aware that the longer I waited, the more I’d have to face when it came to James Potter.

*

I woke up the next morning, seriously contemplating just Apparating before anyone saw me. If I was certain of one thing, it was that I wasn’t ready to confront the shit storm that was currently ripping my life to shreds.

And then I heard raised voices coming from the living room.

And everyone knows I can’t pass up the opportunity to eavesdrop.

As quickly as I could, I changed back into my cloths, made sure I looked at least mildly presentable in the bathroom mirror (because enjoying eavesdropping was an entirely different thing from actually being good at it), and raced to the door, quietly tiptoeing down the corridor outside.

“-calm down, Mum” Albus’ voice drifted around the corner. There was a loud sigh and the scraping of a chair against the floor.

“I can’t decide if it’s cute or disappointing that you though we didn’t know about these little parties of yours,” a woman’s voice said. Judging by the context, it was probably Ginny Potter.

“Yeah, we taught you better about sneaking around,” Harry Potter seconded. There was as snort of laughter and someone mumbled something I couldn’t make out.

“But we won’t tolerate kidnap,” Mrs. Potter’s voice became stern. I could feel the tension in the air, and chills ran down my spine when I realised this was probably about me.

I was going to murder Charles.

“No one kidnapped anyone, Mum,” Potter’s voice said, sounding bored.

“That, coming from the person who did the kidnapping…” Harry Potter trailed off testily.

“I didn’t kidnap her,” there was an edge in Potter’s voice. “Her dad was being a git and-”

James,” Mrs. Potter cut him off.

“Oh no, go on; this is gold,” Albus said after a moment’s silence. He sounded positively gleeful. I took a beat to marvel at how, even if they looked perfect on paper, the Potter family was, well, sort of a mess.

“Can you refrain from being an incorrigible arsehole for about five minutes, Al?” Potter snapped.

“I’m not the one who feels the need to fix everything,” Albus shot back. “I’m sure your girlfriend is perfectly capable of solving her own problems.”

“Is that why you saw the need to have a long talk with her about it last night?”

Oh, Merlin.

“Does it bother you, James?” Albus’ tone was taunting. I knew that this was about Andrea, and I knew how it would end. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the backbone to step around the corner into possibly the most embarrassing situation of my life.

“Don’t bloody start, Al,” Potter spat. There was a scraping of wood again as he got up from his chair.

“Boys, that’s quite enough,” Harry Potter said as footsteps moved across the room.

“I’ll admit, she’s quite… interesting,” Albus said conversationally. I wanted to both roll my eyes and smack them both upside the head for being such pricks.

Honestly, was this how boys fought?

Taking a deep breath, I stepped around the corner and made a show of walking into the room. All four of them looked up at me. Albus was smirking, Potter looked livid, Mr. Potter was standing cautiously close to them, and Mrs. Potter, I shit you not, was watching the scene with keen interest. Like it was a TV show or something. I couldn’t keep the smirk from creeping onto my face as I surveyed her.

“Oh thank Merlin,” Mr. Potter said, letting out a deep breath. Mrs. Potter rolled her eyes and got up from her seat. She had flaming red hair pulled away from her unblemished face. She approached me with a warm smile on her face, and I was struck by the kindness in her eyes.

“It’s nice to finally officially meet you, Marley,” she said, going in for a hug. Just as she drew me towards her, I caught the small wink she sent my way.

“I’m so sorry, have I walked in on something?” I said loudly, catching on quick. Mrs. Potter let go of me and looked at her sons, eyebrows raised.

 “Well, has she, boys?” Mrs. Potter asked sternly.

“I-uh- no… don’t know what.. um…” Potter muttered. Albus had turned slightly pink and was staring at the floor.

“Great. Who wants pancakes?” she said, clapping her hands together and moving into the kitchen.

“I should… I’m going to go,” I said, hoping that I didn’t sound rude. I just didn’t want to ruin their Christmas any more than I already had.

“Are you sure?” Mrs. Potter asked, frowning a little. I nodded vigorously.

“Charles can be a real piece of work, but it is Christmas after all,” I said breezily. I pointedly ignored to look Potter was giving me from the far end of the room. He was there the night before and knew it was more than that.

“If you’re sure,” Mrs. Potter said hesitantly. “I’ll see you on the platform then.”

“I’ll Apparate with you,” Mr. Potter jumped in quickly. I didn’t miss the brief look that he exchanged with his wife.

Merlin, were all adults as annoying as Charles?

Ignoring the sudden wave of irritation, I turned to face Albus and Potter.

“Well, merry Christmas,” I said. Albus nodded curtly, but Potter was looking between his parents. Clearly he’s caught that exchange as well.

“Well, come on then,” Mr. Potter said, before all but hustling me out of the house. He hadn’t even reached the elevators before he began his questioning.

“Marley, I need to ask you something, and I need you to answer me truthfully,” he said so slowly it was borderline condescending.

I raised an eyebrow.

“Have you said anything to either James or Albus about… any of this?” he asked, his attention fixed on me.

“That wouldn’t be ideal, would it; considering how right I am?” I said coolly. The elevator dinged and opened.

“Marley, I need to know-”

“Do you know my mother’s in town? She was a Slytherin,” I said conversationally. “Left her family to marry my father.”

Mr. Potter said nothing.

“Do you suppose she knows? That’s the only reason I can see for her to come back. She needs someone to protect her, doesn’t she, since she’s from a pure bloodline?”

I watched as Mr. Potter made it a point to keep his face blank.

We walked out into the freezing street, and Mr. Potter turned to me. He seemed to have decided that asking me questions wasn’t helping his agenda of keeping me in the dark about any of it. He was right; I had way more questions than he did.

He offered me his hand to take, pulling out his wand. I surveyed him for a moment before sighing and caving in. It wasn’t his fault I was angry in the first place. He was just probably trying to figure out how to deal with his difficult sons.

“No,” I said, and he looked surprised. “I haven’t said anything to anyone. But Albus knows something for sure… or he thinks I know something. Cornered me in the Owlery one time. And Potter- erm, James- he’s probably catching on. He isn’t as thick as he looks.”

Mr. Potter’s lip twitched in the same way James’ did when he was trying to hide a smile.

“Oh, and Rose knows something too,” I added. Mr. Potter sighed and looked over my shoulder for a long moment. He looked so tired.

“Thanks,” he said finally after another heavy sigh. I nodded and offered him a sad smile.

Then I took his hand, bracing myself for all that was to follow.






A/N: I'M DONE WITH FINALS!
I'm super excited! This chapter was SO fun to write. Especially Albus + the Potter family dynamic. And cheers all around for Ginny and her continued basass-ness into middle age!
Anyway, I'm currently editing the next chapter and it should be up in about a week's time. Leave me a review and let me know what you think!



Chapter 27: How to reconcile
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




I peeked over the top of the magazine I was holding. There was no way in hell I was getting out of this. It was the last day of the year, and I was smackdab in the middle of a giant mess that would probably carry on into tomorrow.

Great start to the year, I know.

From my corner in the small café I had thought no one would find, I couldn’t count the number of people running up and down the street, cameras at the ready, screaming to one another as they searched for me. It was a bad choice to meet Bridgette at Diagon Alley, no matter how secluded; that much had become clear to me about two minutes in, when people had started pointing and whispering the moment I’d set foot into Diagon Alley. I ducked quickly behind the magazine as the door to the café opened suddenly.

I suppose I should backtrack a bit here.

The past five days had been, if it was possible, the worst, most painful experience of my entire life. Harry Potter had walked me to my front door that morning, probably afraid I’d Apprate away the moment I got the chance (I don’t really blame him). He’d taken one look at Charles’ face and bolted. Smart man.

There was screaming, all from Charles’ end. The walls shook, and I was sure the neighbours were contemplating calling the police. I had stared blankly at him through all of it, wondering how in the name of Merlin he thought that this was all my fault. I was beginning to think it would never end when my mother had appeared on the stairs, dressed in pyjamas as though this was completely normal. I’m fairly certain no one said anything for a good minute after that. Charles stared at me as I sized my mother up. Then there was an excited bark followed by a fluffy brown ball of fur darting through the new dog door I hadn’t noticed.

That’s right; my mother had not only moved in, but she’d brought her dog with her.

Charles is terrified of animals by the way. But he seemed totally peachy about this.

Anyway, that was the last I’d said to either of them. I busied myself during the day, taking my holiday homework to a Muggle coffee shop in London to finish it with Fitz. I timed coming home with the window between after my mother went to bed and before Charles came home. Every night he would check on me, and every night I would pretend I was asleep, hiding under the covers so he wouldn’t see that I’d been crying.   

And then two days before New Year’s Eve I’d gotten a letter from Bridgette. I’d stared at it long and hard, contemplating chucking it in the bin. Three months. It had taken my oldest friend three months to remember that I exist. I’d opened it in the end and now here I was; hiding from the paparazzi and wishing I wasn’t such an idiot.

Which brings us to the third shitstorm that had managed to form in five days’ time.

Turns out Witch Weekly had decided that Potter and I were now an item after someone had gotten a picture of him dragging me through the streets of Diagon Alley on Christmas Eve. Two days later, someone at Albus’ party had sold The Daily Prophet another blurry photo of us in Professor Lupin’s house. The news spread like wildfire after that. Thankfully they hadn’t figured out where I lived yet, but going anywhere near wizarding London was out of the question. Fitz and I had discovered this the hard way when he’d had the throw his bacon ice cream (don’t ask because I don’t know) at a camera yielding witch outside Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour. Clearly I was new class of fool for agreeing to come anywhere near here.

I peeked over my magazine again as the bell above the door dinged.

Bridgette whipped her shades off as she walked in and turned to stare incredulously at the flashing cameras outside the shop. I took a moment to survey her. I couldn’t blame the paps for thinking she belonged on the runway.

One, she was tall, had a gorgeous face and flowing blonde hair, and carried herself with confidence.

Two, only famous people wore shades in the winter.

Her jade eyes scanned the shop, overlooking all the curious stares that she was getting as though she hadn’t noticed, and landed on me. She hurried towards me and sat down as though the last three months hadn’t happened.

“Are they for real?” she demanded.

I sat back and crossed my arms slowly, raising an eyebrow. Bridgette took one at me and bit her lip. She looked down at the table, taking deep breaths.

“Explain,” I said finally, surprised at how easily I slipped back into French.

“I’m an idiot, Lee,” she said quietly.

“That’s a good start.”

“I… I don’t know how to- there’s no way I could possible explain how foolish…” she trailed off.

“You know where a good starting point would be? The beginning,” I said flatly. Bridgette looked at me, and I could swear I saw fear in her eyes.

“After the… I read that there was an attack at Ken’s concert on Christmas Eve- that news made it everywhere by the way. I started reading… The Daily Prophet, I think it’s called. The Death Eaters and everything… Charles leaving his job- oh, Lee. I’m so sorry!”

She looked up at me, and I could see how close to tears she was. Bridgette didn’t usually cry. She’d been through so much with her insane family and everything at school that there was hardly anything that got to her anymore. I watched as she bit her lip again, her green eyes swimming with a myriad of emotions. This was the girl I remembered; intense, caring. She wasn’t the type to just forget her best friend.

“What happened, Bridge?” I said finally, quietly.

“It’s stupid.”

I raised my eyebrows as if to say, “Well?”

“In light of everything… It’s so-“

“Bridge.”

“Rhett and Henri… they sort of got together after you left.”

I blinked at her and waited to feel something. It was common knowledge that Margaret, Bridgette’s younger sister, had always had a thing for Henri. The history there was a long one to trace. Long story short: their families were close friends and Bridge, Rhett, and Henri had basically grown up together. He’d been there for them both through all their father’s crap parenting episodes, through their mother’s feigned ignorance. Rhett had never resented me for being with Henri as such. She’d always just watched from afar, never really saying anything. And now… this.

“Then why has he been writing to me?” I asked after a pause. Bridge shrugged.

“She won’t talk to me about it. They were fine for about two months and then… I don’t know. I think he decided it wasn’t working out. She won’t say anything to anyone. She’s worse than ever.”

She looked so torn that I wanted to go around the table and give her a huge hug. Rhett had a bad track record with alcohol and drugs. Their parents were big league magical artefacts dealers and hardly had enough time to raise their daughters. When they were all together it never ended well either. Bridge had turned out okay, mostly because she’d spent most of the summers with Charles and me. I knew how she regretted leaving Rhett behind.

“What does that have to do with-”

“What was I supposed to say?” Bridgette said loudly, desperately. “I wasn’t about to tell you that the reason he’d left you- over owl post, the imbecile- was because of my own sister. After everything you’ve done for me… I felt like I’d let you down, Lee. I know what he means to you.”

It was my turn to stare guiltily at the table. She didn’t know the half of it. And how was I supposed to explain it to her? Yes, I’d spent the summer before term holed up in my room and sulking at Charles, writing letter after letter to Henri and Bridgette, whinging and venting. What was I supposed to say to her now? That everything with Charles had distracted me from their absence in my life? That was only partly true. The whole truth was that I hadn’t expected Hogwarts to be what it was. I hadn’t anticipated the people I would meet, the friends I would make. I had written Fitz and Fred and Potter off even before I’d met them.

How was I supposed to explain that without it sounding like I’d replaced her?

“It’s okay,” I said finally.

“It’s… okay?”

The sadness in her voice told me that it sounded exactly like that. What other way is there to explain why I was okay with all this?

“So it’s true then? About you and… James? It’s all over the papers.”

“No. Not like that. Bridge, it’s been the longest four months.”

She jumped at the opportunity.

“That’s why I’m here. Give me a chance, Lee,” she said quickly.

And so I told her. From the very beginning; Fitz, Professor Lupin, Potter. I told her about the first time I’d realised something was wrong, how Charles refused to tell me anything. I told her about Dom, about Fred and Rebecca, about St. Mungo’s and Harry Potter. She listened, silent the whole time. I knew she was trying to put herself in my shoes and understand what it had been like. She did that with everyone she met because she never wanted to do to anyone what had been done to her. She knew she had the wealth and beauty and cleverness, she’d told me. People often wrote her off, assuming that her life was nothing more than that. That she was nothing more than her parents’ daughter. Because why would the heiress to an empire have anything to worry about? How could there possibly be screaming and crying and damage inside the gates of the white marble mansion she lived in?

“So she’s back for good?” Bridge asked, eyes wide.

I felt such immense relief at her words that I wanted to cry. Distance and a lack of contact had made me forget what Bridge was like; what we were like. We knew each other fully. The good, the bad, and the ugly. She had been there when the postcards had stopped coming, when Charles refused to talk about it, when I had hated the world. She’d been there for me as I had for her. Whenever there was a crisis, it would always be us against the world. If anyone could understand what my mother coming back meant, it was her.

“I’ve missed you,” I said, unable to stop the tears from welling up in my eyes.

“I’m sorry, Lee. I really am,” she said quietly. The she looked at me hesitantly.

“What is it?”

“He… Henri. He knows I’m here.”

My heart skipped a beat at that.

So maybe I hadn’t fully changed.

And?”

“I don’t know,” she said quickly. “I really don’t. I’m staying at my Auntie Belle’s and I told him he couldn’t come with me. Have you been opening his letters?”

“What do you think?”

Bridgette smirked.

“You know what? It’s the last day of the year. We need to celebrate… if you don’t have anything to do of course. It’s alright if you do. Auntie Belle always hosts a dinner party and I said I’d go anyway-”

“Have you made a list?” I cut her off. Bridgette grinned and reached into her bag, pulling out a piece of parchment. I grabbed it, unable to contain my excitement. Every New Year’s Eve Bridge made a list of places we had to do shots at. It was a tradition I thought was over.

“The Leaky Cauldron?” I asked.

“It has symbolic value. I read that it’s the only magical pub in Muggle London. I’m not a native like some of us,” she sniffed. I couldn’t help the giggle that escaped my lips.

“Anyway, who else are we inviting?” Bridgette grinned.

“I know a few idiots. The biggest one is called Fitz. You’ll love him.”

*

“So your excuse is that your sister- what sort of Godawful name is Rhett anyway-“

“Guys, seriously-” I said loudly from the bed.

“This Rhett was having some sort of tumultuous affair-”

“It wasn’t that dramatic-” Bridgette tried to interject.

“-with Henri and you’re a complete wuss.”

“A wuss-“

“Coward-“

“-know what it means, you arse hat-”

“Nice,” I jumped in.

“Thanks, Auntie Belle’s friend’s nephew- positively adorable­- told me it means-”

“Hey, we aren’t done here-”

A loud knock on the door saved my sanity. I could tell that Fitz was nowhere near done.

“Oh thank Merlin,” I said loudly, jumping up and dashing towards the door. I yanked it open to reveal Bridge’s Auntie Belle fanning herself vigorously with a pink folding fan.

“Why Bridgie, you didn’t tell me you knew the Potters!” she said, walking into the room, bringing the pungent smell of jasmine with her. Potter and Albus walked in, both looking slightly pained. They were followed by Quin and Fred, both of whom were so red from holding their laughter I was afraid they’d combust.

“Auntie-”

“I was just telling them how I knew their father,” Auntie Belle said, cutting her off. “Well, I was a seventh year when he was a first year, but we were great friends.”

I caught Potter’s excruciating smile and couldn’t hold back an unattractive snort.

“Marley Belgarde! Have I taught you nothing?” Auntie Belle said, turning on me. Bridge saved me by asking her aunt very pointedly for fashion advice. She shot me a wink before being dragged away into the walk-in.

“I call dibs on her!” Quin said the moment they were out of earshot. I casually picked up a bright orange heel from the floor and threw it at his head.

“She hasn’t been properly vetted,” Fitz said darkly.

“I’ve known her forever, Fitz. I doubt she’s going to kill us,” I said lightly, secretly elated that he cared so much.

“I have a few more questions for her,” Fitz declared. Then he spun around and stalked into the closet. I watched him go fondly.

So,” Albus said pointedly. “Why am I here?”

I glanced at Potter. He looked curious as well.

“Well, I did gate crash your party. It was… cute.”

Albus saw what I was doing and a small smirk found its way onto his face.

“Cute, was it?”

“Yes. But it’s almost a new year. This calls for a real party.”

“You’re a proper piece of work, Marley.”

“Have you been speaking to my grandmother?” I demanded jokingly. Still grinning, I glanced at Potter. He was shooting his brother a look so dark that I wondered if there would be a murder before the night was over. Honestly, I’d told Potter to bring Albus along because I had decided that whatever had happened between them needed to be fixed. Yes, I had no information about their history as brothers, and maybe it ran a lot deeper than I was willing at acknowledge. But that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t going to try. I mean, if Charles could forgive my mother for every last shitty thing she’d ever done to him, I was sure Potter and Albus could stop being pricks to each other.

I was going to ask Potter what his problem was when there was a loud shriek from the closet and Fitz came charging out, followed by a livid, fan brandishing Auntie Belle.

“-looking at a lady’s unmentionables! The gall of this generation!”

Bridgette casually walked into view, twirling a lacy white thong around her forefinger.

“What that really necessary?” I said tiredly.

“He bugs me,” she said in explanation.

“Just to clarify; does he bug you because he gets you, or because you think he’s cute?” I smirked.

“He does not get me,” Bridge said, appalled.

“Oh, right. Got it-”

No, that doesn’t mean- you are so annoying. Hi, I’m Bridgette,” she said, turning her glare on Quin and sticking her hand out. He looked at it worriedly for a moment before shaking it. Fitz ran into the room and slammed the door behind him, breathing hard. He was livid. Honestly, I’d never seen Fitz angry before. And judging from how immaculate I knew his wand work was, I didn’t want to find out what an angry Fitz does. Especially when that anger was directed at Bridgette.

“Right, where to?” I said loudly, trying to diffuse the tension. Bridge surveyed Fitz for another moment before grabbing the list.

“You made a list?” Fred asked.

“You’ll get the idea in a bit,” I grinned.

“The Twisted Wand,” Bridge said, looking up at me for an explanation. I pointed at Potter.

“Don’t look at me. Knockturn Alley is his area.”

Potter rolled his eyes and held out his hand for Bridgette.

“See you guys there,” he said, turning on his heel. They were both gone in a crack.

“Boys,” I said, clapping my hands together. “This may very well be the best night of your lives. If you can remember it, that is.”

Then I grabbed Fitz’s hand and we were gone.

*

“To all of you,” Bridgette half-screamed over the music.

The seven of us were standing in a circle, shot glasses containing something called the Chinese Fireball raised to toast.

“Cheers!” Fred said before we all lifted the glasses into our mouths. The bright yellow liquid burnt my throat. It was an oddly welcome feeling. Bridge immediately turned back to the bartender; an attractive man with a goatee. He took in the view appreciatively as she bent over the bar to order another round. I would have been annoyed if hadn’t known that she was aware of exactly what she was doing. But that was Bridgette for you; no apologies.

I turned away from the bar and looked out at the dance floor. It was like a sea of hands, the waves rising as everyone jumped in unison. My head was buzzing from the alcohol. The rest of me was radiating heat from all the dancing. Bridgette’s plan was slowly coming to light. We were slowly working our way out of Knockturn Alley as midnight approached. Diagon Alley, where the real party was, was maybe two stops away. I shut my eyes against the flashing lights, feeling the music pound its way through my bones. Behind me Potter nudged my shoulder slightly.

“You alright?” he said in my ear.

“Oi! You two!”

Someone dragged Potter away as Quin shoved a shot glass full of some bluish liquid in my hands. Everyone screamed different things- I’m certain I heard Fitz toast to potatoes. I vaguely saw Bridge grab Quin and Fitz by the arms and drag them onto the dance floor. I could really feel it now, and the night was still young. I had forgotten what it was like partying with Bridgette. I turned around just in time to see Fred clap his hands over his mouth and run away from us. Something silent passed between Potter and Albus. They shot glances at me and glared at each other in alternation. Finally, Albus caved.

I watched as we pushed through the crowd, till I could no longer see his silhouette against the floor light. Then I turned to the other Potter.

He was leaning casually against the railing separating the bar from the dance floor. He was looking at me with a half smile.

“POTTER,” I screamed.

“I’m right here, Mar. No need to shout.”

“DO YOU WANT TO GO OUTSIDE?”

Potter laughed out loud, shaking his head at me as he took my hand. Between us we managed to fight through the crowd. One of the bouncers nodded at Potter and I watched, suspiciously, as he held open a door off to the side for us to walk out of.

The chill hit me the moment be stepped out into the back alley.

“Alright Potter,” I said, ignoring the cold and turning to him. “’Fess us.”

I could hear the slurring in my speech. I could see Potter fighting hard to hide his smile. Naturally, I ignored all of this.

“I have absolutely no idea what you’re on about,” Potter shrugged.

“You know the bouncer, don’t you?”

“Nope,” he said, wrapping his arms around himself.

“You,” I said emphatically. “-are the worst liar.”

And then I reached out and poked his nose. Through the haze of alcohol and whatever other suspicious substances Bridgette had decided was to be on the agenda today, I watched, as though in slow motion, as Potter grinned, dimples and all, and shut his eyes as my forefinger landed on his nose. He let out a bark of laughter, his breath fogging the air between us.

And suddenly it was like we were on the Astronomy Tower again.

I held my breath as I waited for him to open his eyes. He peeked through the lashes of his left eye first, still joking around. Then he took one look at my face and I felt his whole body tense. Slowly, I let my hand drop to my side. I stared at him, aware that he would remember this, that this was him letting me hide behind the screen of alcohol every time. My mind was racing as I watched him. I wondered what he saw when he looked at me, if his heart was beating as fast as me. I wanted to ask about Olivia and Andrea. I wanted to know if he could see us, like this, years from now like I did back at the Astronomy Tower.

And then he let out a long breath and something clicked in the back of my head. Charles, my mother, Bridgette, right now- all of it- came crashing down on me with a force too strong to be something that I just made up in my head. I stared at him as I took a deep breath, taking a small step away. Honestly, I think that’s what did it. I watched helplessly as his jaw clenched and something flashed in his eyes.

“What do you want from me, Marely?” he asked, an edge in his voice. He sounded tired, annoyed, and somehow accusatory.

“Nothing,” I said in a voice so small it couldn’t possibly be my own. I didn’t expect the humourless laugh that escaped his lips.

“Do you enjoy this? Is that it?” he demanded, advancing on me. I stepped back not because I was afraid of him, but because a bitter smile had found a place on his face and I hated it.

“What are you talking about-“

“Don’t you dare pull that shit right now,” he snarled, grabbing my shoulders so I couldn’t walk backwards anymore.

“Do you want me to say it? Is that what you want?” he said hysterically.

“Potter, please stop-“

“You’re driving me mad, Marley, and sometimes I think this is fun for you-“

“Please-“

“It’s all just a game to you.”

And then something seemed to click for him. His next accusation was halfway out his mouth when his eyes widened a little and he faltered. Then he let go of me like I was on fire and weakly stepped back.

“What? What?” I demanded, desperate tears singing my eyes. I hated the way he was looking at me. It was like he finally really saw me for who I was.

The girl that no one wanted.

The smoke screens were gone.

He knew now.

“James,” I managed to say quietly, stepping towards him. Maybe it was the fact that I’d never called him that, but it worked. He shook his head slightly and swallowed.

“It’s always been a game, hasn’t it? A contest to get the last word in. It’s been that way from the moment we met. Merlin, I’m such a sodding moron.”

No, no, no.

“You’re wrong. Just wait for a second-”

“Hey, I’m not angry,” he said. His cheeks were red from the cold and his eyes were shining. He was doing nothing to hide everything the he was feeling. This was it. This was what it all came down to- me and him; in some shady alley in a moment that felt like it could be the end of something that never had a fair chance to begin with.

“Just… just listen to me for a second. It’s not… please-“ I stuttered. I wasn’t ready for this- for him. I wanted to both cry and club myself over the head with a Beater’s bat. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think.

“No. No, don’t do that. I’m done with that,” he said dryly. “Is this the part where I concede?”

I didn’t even bother begging him to stop anymore. His mind was made up. I could see it. I watched numbly as the terrible, painful smile found its way back onto his face. He spread his arms out and looked at me in a way that made me feel hollow.

“I fell for it. I would do anything for you; even now. After everything. Are you happy? Is this what you thought winning would be like?”

He was walking closer to me as he said it, his tone becoming quieter, taunting. I wanted to shut him out, close my eyes, pretend this wasn’t happening. But it was and I couldn’t. I stood there and watched helplessly as everything blew up in my face.

Merlin, I hated alcohol.

He came to a stop so close to me and touched my cheek with his hand so softly I barely felt it.

“I could see myself being in love with you. Merlin knows I’ve though an awful lot about it. Congrats. You win, Princess.”

I thought the bang of the door against the stone wall was the sound of my heart breaking.

“FOUND THEM!” Fitz hollered. Potter seemed unable to look away from me as I stared at him, equally helpless.

“What have you done?”

Bridgette yanked Potter away from me and rounded on him. My eyes found Fitz through the swirls of snow. I don’t know what pulled me towards him, but I somehow managed to reach his outstretched hand as Bridgette interrogated Potter in the background. I wanted to tell her that none of it mattered. Not now, at least. Not when everything was spinning and the world was celebrating.

Fitz pulled me into the warmth of the small back room and we stood there staring at each other, listening to Bridgette’s screams on the other side of the door.

“So that’s it? You have nothing to say?”

Silence.

“I don’t care who you think you are. I don’t care what she did to you, or whatever it is you think she did. You don’t understand, and you haven’t seemed to take the time to try.”

But he had. He’d tried. And all I’d ever done was push him away.

The continued silence seemed to make Bridgette change her tone.

“Look, I get it, okay? I see the... light that she has. I feel her energy. People usually do; it’s really hard to miss. Makes you want to be around her, doesn’t it? But the thing about people is that they let her down; they always have. They always leave in the end… I left. And I’ll never forgive myself for it.”

I found myself watching Fitz now. His mass of curly hair was dampening from the melting. He wasn’t looking at me like I was some mental case yet. He was simply listening, just like I was.

“Listen to me, James. She grew up thinking she got left behind. We were always supposed to be there for each other, and she kept up her end of the deal. Don’t do what I did.”

Fitz and I stared at each other, holding our breath. It was almost as if we’d forgotten that this was my life, not some T.V show we were watching.

Finally, Potter spoke.

“You fucked up, sweetheart. Don’t put that on me.”

I knew that tone. It was the way he used to talk to me when we first met. Taunting, condescending. There was no way he would listen to anyone in this state.

“Do you want to go get ice cream?” I asked Fitz, ignoring both my tears and Bridgette’s voice as she launched into her next argument. She was fighting a lost battle, and I didn’t have the energy to tell her that it wasn’t her place to do that.

“I hope they have bacon flavour left.”

We were gone in a flick of Fitz’s wand.






A/N: GUYS I'M REALLY EXCITED ABOUT THIS ONE!
This would have been up a lot sooner, but I was a tad worried about the amount of backstory it has. I've edited out a lot (yes there was more). I just don't think it has much place in this story (*coughhintcough*).
Anyway, what did you guys think about Bridgette? I wanted her introduction to be a surprise... so, are you surprised? I LOVED writing the James/Marley bit. Well, maybe now she'll to stop mixing her alcohol with her Potter. 
I am so excited for the next chapter, but as with this one there's a lot of editing left to do. It should be up in a week, max. Leave me a review and tell me what you think. I really hope you enjoyed it! ^.^




Chapter 28: How to compromise
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




The three of us stood awkwardly on the platform. All around us families were bidding one other loving farewells, parents were warning children not to get in too much trouble. I was pointedly blocking out one particularly large family on the opposite side of the platform. There would be a time for that, and now was not it.

“May I go now?” I asked finally. Charles and my mother exchanged a look. Of course I knew this was part of some plan to get me to bond with her or whatever. It wasn’t like I could do anything about it though. I’d stumbled home right before the sun rose on New Year’s Day to find that neither of them had slept. That was when I’d remembered that I’d forgotten to tell them that I would be out. Charles, bless his heart, had promptly grounded me (like he even knew what that meant), not realising that I would be going back to school in two days.

“I’ll put your trunk on the train,” Charles said in a tense voice. I rolled my eyes as my mother watched me. I couldn’t feel any of his tension from her. Honestly, all I could make out from her expression was that she was thinking really hard about something. This always seemed to be what she was doing. But then seeing as I hadn’t said even a single word to her in the span of two weeks, I suppose I wasn’t the right person to judge.

“Look, I know you’re angry at me.”

I scoffed, she looked confused.

“What?” she asked a little hesitantly. I looked at her, a little surprised that she’d already started showing cracks in this façade she’d put on. I had long since accepted that I wasn’t going to be told why she was back, and that I was supposed to accept it. As far as I was concerned, that didn’t mean I couldn’t resent it.

“Do you really think I care enough to be angry at you?” I half laughed. I know; harsh. But out of the corner of my eye I saw the Potter-Weasley clan moving towards the train doors, and that just ticked me off even more. I didn’t have time for her half-arsed apology. If that’s even what this was supposed to be.

“Then why haven’t you said a word to me?”

“Because, believe it or not, I actually have a life and you haven’t ever been a part of it.”

She visibly faltered at this. Honestly though, what had she been expecting? That I’d grown up pining for her presence? That isn’t to say that I had never felt her absence. I had, but I’d coped with it. And I was fine without her.

“Okay, here’s what’s going to happen based on the historical trajectory,” I said quickly, taking note that Fred and Albus were hauling trunks onto the train. “You’re going to be around until you get whatever it is you need from Charles. I’m fine with that as long as he is. I’m not sure why you think that has anything to do with me, though.”

“I came back because… because I’ve missed you. The both of you,” she said. I wondered if it sounded as half-hearted to her as it did to me.

“That’s convenient timing, isn’t it? You miss your Hit Wizard husband right when you have a bullseye on your forehead.”

To my surprise she smiled a little.

“He told me you knew something about this.”

“Did he also tell you that he’s refusing to say anything? Mind you, it’s only gotten worse since you’ve arrived on the scene.”

“You can’t blame him Marley,” she sighed. “He’s only trying to protect you.”

I think she realised she’d said something she shouldn’t have when my face went completely blank. Her eyes widened a bit and darted over my shoulder to see if Charles had heard.

“I just mean that he doesn’t want you in the middle-“

“Because I’ve been known to get in the middle of Ministry affairs?”

She didn’t have anything to say to that.

“You want to make it up to me?” I said slowly, stepping closer to her. “You can start by telling me.”

She shut her eyes and shook her head, probably wondering how in Merlin’s name she could be this stupid.

“What has this got to do with me?” I whispered harshly. I’d always assumed I wasn’t in on it because it was some top secret Ministry thing. Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would be directly involved. What had I ever done? Alright, I’d done a handful of suspect things in my life, but I highly doubted that any of that would amount to this. It seemed somehow ingenuous and self-important to even entertain the idea.

“Listen to me. You can’t tell him I said anything. I didn’t mean for it to-“

“Oh, Charles!” I said in a sing-song tone, truncating whatever speech she had planned.  That was all I’d be getting from her. Of course, as my luck would have it, he was discussing dinner plans with Ginny Potter as I approached.

“Oh, hello Marley!” she said, enveloping me in a hug.

“Mrs. Potter,” I said a little too brightly. Charles caught my tone and shot my mother a questioning look.

“I was just apologising to your father for James kidnapping you,” Ginny said jokingly.

“Oh, it’s alright. Charles is just a little sensitive about my safety. All he wants to do is protect me after all,” I grinned, slinging an arm around Charles’ shoulder. “Isn’t that right, Charles?”

Charles had gone deadly pale. My mother was whispering that she was sorry. Ginny looked worried. I wanted to roll my eyes. For adults they were all really stupid.

“Marley,” Charles began weakly.

“Oh, don’t worry Charles. I’ll figure it out sooner or later. I’m counting on sooner now that I have a better idea of where to look. Thanks for that, Mum.”

I saw Ginny shooting furtive looks at her husband.

“I want you to listen to me-“

“Oh, don’t you start, you monumental troll-” I cut him off.

“Nice.”

I spun around to see Potter leaning against the door of the train behind me, arms crossed and eyes narrowed at me. I’d only seen him three days ago, but it felt like a lifetime.

“See you around, Mum,” he said, and I watched as he leaned down and kissed his mother on the cheek. Then he turned back to me, dead eyes and everything. I tell you, the drama this boy came with should qualify him to have a soap opera based entirely on the things he made up in his head.

“Fitz is looking for you. Don’t know why though. Must have some sort of death wish to want to associate with you.”

Wow.

So much for hoping he’d see reason on his own.

“James Sirius Potter!” Ginny snapped. “Apologise this instant.

“I would, Mum, but she’s a crazy bint.”

Then he turned around and sauntered away. Ginny immediately began hurling apologies at me.

“Its fine,” I winced. “I could possibly have deserved that.”

That was met with silence.

“What’s going on with you two?” Charles demanded after a beat. The paleness was gone. Instead his cheeks were flushed and he looked like he was about to bust a vain. It was brilliant.

“Oh we accidentally got married on New Year’s and I won’t let him have an annulment. Because I’m pregnant with his twins. Congrats, Grandpa!”

Charles made a weak noise. Even for a joke it was too much for him.

“Whatever it is, it certainly explains why he’s been acting so strange,” Ginny said, her eyes shining mischievously at me.

“Oh, are we talking about James’ moping?” Harry Potter asked, appearing beside Ginny.

“They’ve had a fight,” my mother filled him in.

“Ah,” Harry said, as though that made any sense.

“I’m leaving now,” I said loudly. “To go find Fitz. And figure this all out. Bye.”

I watched with some pleasure as all four of their faces dropped before I turned around and walked into the train. My first order of business, however, was to find Potter and set this all straight. It took a moment, but I found Fred and Quin in a compartment. Potter was missing, but I saw his trunk stowed in the overhead rack.

“Hi,” I said.

“We can’t,” Quin blurted as though he’d been programmed to say as much.

“Erm, what?”

“We can’t tell you where James is.”

“And in the spirit of bro code, we can no longer associate with you either,” Fred said, keeping his eyes trained on the wall opposite him. I wanted to roll my eyes.

“That’s… understandable,” I said, trying my best to sound mollifying. “But you wouldn’t have a problem if I just sat here, now would you?”

Fred and Quin exchanged a look.

“That won’t be necessary.”

Potter was standing behind me, glaring icily at me when I turned around.

“We had nothing to do with this!” Quin said loudly.

“Yeah mate, we respect the code,” Fred seconded.

“We’re on your side now that you two have broken up,” Quin said. “There, I said it. It’s out in the open!”

“Really?” I said dryly, raising an eyebrow at Potter.

“What do you want?” Potter snapped. Alright, this might be a little harder than I thought.

“Are you really going to hold me accountable for something that you made up in your own head when your brain was addled with alcohol?”

“Yes,” he didn’t even stop to consider it. “Would you like to know why?”

“Please,” I said with equal sarcasm.

“Because I was right.”

“Actually Potter, I don’t think you’ve ever been further from the truth,” I argued, placing my hands on my hips. To my surprise he let out a dry laugh.

“Come find me, armed with an apology, when you realise how bloody thick you are,” he said with finality. Then he stepped aside and gestured towards the door.

“Wait!” Fred said quickly. We all turned to look at him.

“Erm… what exactly happened?” he asked, pointedly looking only at me. Potter muttered something particularly nasty under his breath as he glared at Fred.

“He won’t tell us,” Quin said almost pleadingly. “And we all have bets on it, so just to clarify… what have you done exactly?”

Potter pointedly avoided the amused look I shot him.

“Marley,” Fred whined.

“Sorry Freddy, bro code remember? You aren’t allowed to speak to me.”

“This is ridiculous,” Potter muttered, grabbing my arm tighter than necessary and dragging my out of the compartment. Although I wanted to agree with him, I was slightly afraid that it would set him off again. Quin’s protests followed us all the way down the corridor. Curious students watched us as Potter dragged me unceremoniously through the train until he found an empty compartment.

“Was that really necessary?” I sighed, straightening my sweater. Potter slid the door shut and turned to face me.

“If you want to say something, now would be the time,” Potter said curtly.

“Oh, it’s going to be like that, is it?” I shot back. “Despite the fact that you’re the one who’s angry for no reason.”

“For once in your life, Marley- stop lying to me,” Potter hissed. My next words caught in my throat but I recovered quickly enough.

“Will you just tell me what’s got your wand in a knot so that we can go back to…”

I didn’t know how to finish that sentence. Go back to what exactly?

“Go back to you pretending not to like me?” Potter suggested.

Okay so clearly he’d come to terms with the situation over the weekend. How positively wonderful for him.

“This has to be the first time you’ve had nothing to say,” Potter smirked. “Why can’t you just admit it? It can’t be worse than having that unstable cow as a best friend.”

Hey-”

“She tried to punch me in the face, Marley.”

“Oh.”

And in what must’ve been the most anticlimactic moment ever, we both just sort of stared at each other, unsure of what to do next.

He looked so… tired.

Probably of me. I didn’t blame him.

“Now what?” I asked finally. When he didn’t say anything I sighed and sat down heavily. He was figuring something out, I could tell by the look on his face. And nothing good ever came of Potter and his tendencies to overanalyse me. I mean, look where that had gotten us.

“Alright,” Potter said finally. I looked at him hesitantly.

“Oh no,” I muttered. He ignored me.

“I may have overreacted,” he said, a little grudgingly.

“Thank you. Yes, you did completely­-“

“You,” he cut me off, “Need to decide what you want from me.”

It was my turn to stay quiet.

What did I want? I could scarcely admit that I had… feelings for the dork to myself. I knew why I’d acted the way I had when it came to him. I didn’t trust him. It wasn’t his fault, of course. Nothing that was happening between us was his fault.

I watched him watch me as the train jerked to a start. I wanted him not to be angry with me. I could push away the knot in my stomach, but only when I didn’t have to see him every day. I wouldn’t be able to stand him not speaking to me when I saw him in the Common Room or during meals; when I had most of my classes with him.

Potter sat down opposite me and I was jerked back into the moment.

“My life is a mess,” I blurted, staring at him with wide eyes. Potter’s eyes softened a little.

“Everything that’s happening is just… wrong,” I tried to explain quickly. “I used to think about how nothing ever happened to me. I never had to worry about much more than homework and whether Bridgette had stolen my eyeliner again.”

I tried to smile here, but it felt forced. Potter was listening in a way that made me feel like I was the most important thing in world. As warmth spread through me I realised that I’d never said all of this out loud to anyone before. It felt so normal that the person I would tell was Potter.

“Sometimes I wish I could go back. But then I never would have met any of you.”

Potter’s lip hitched up at this.

“It’s true, I am the best,” he said, nodding sagely. I just smiled at him, too relieved to say anything.

“Alright, real talk,” he said, sitting forward.

“Well, shit.”

“I didn’t mean to go off at you,” he said seriously. “It was partially my fault. I should have just told you how I feel.”

“You did though,” I point it out. “Screamed it at me, if I recall correctly.”

“You can tell me anything, Mar. You know that, right?” he said, willing me to believe him.

I did.

Anything? Biting off a bit more than you can chew, don’t you think?”

“Are we talking murder?” Potter asked conspiringly.

“Murder? That’s cute,” I said, patting him on the head. Potter grinned, resting his elbows on his knees and leaning in as I was. He took both my hands in his and we both sort of sat there looking down at our intertwined fingers.

“I like you too,” I said after a long moment. Potter quietly blew breath out of his mouth and looked up. The smile on his face was different somehow. It was more open, easy. The whole compartment felt different too. For the first time in a long time, everything was alright in that moment.

“Aww, do you have a crush on me, Marley?” Potter teased, pushing my arm lightly. I flicked him in the forehead in retaliation. Potter’s mouth fell open in fake indignation. We started at each other for a beat. I think I already know what he was going to do when he launched towards me, his arms finding my sides.

“Potter, no- stop! POTTER-“

Potter’s tickle-attack lasted till I managed to stomp on his toe. He let out something that sounded like both a laugh and a grunt. I took the opportunity to lunge for the compartment door. Potter, quick on his feet, grabbed my waist and held me against him with one hand, the other resuming the tickling.

“Stop. P-Potter- aargh. You win. You win!” I gasped. His hands stopped for a moment.

Noob.

Immediately, I buried my elbow in his stomach and he let out a whoosh of breath. I pushed him back, using his as a launching pad like a pro, reaching out for the compartment door. I was almost there when his hand caught my wrist mid-fall. We ended up a tangle of limbs on the floor, laughing and too out of breath to say anything.

“You said it,” he gasped by my shoulder. “I win.”

“This may shock you, but people lie,” I said, poking him with the toe of my boot. He nudged me and rolled his eyes.

“Hey Potter?”

“Hmm?”

“I have something important to ask you.”

“If it’s about how my hair is this fabulous; no you can’t borrow my shampoo.”

“I already know what shampoo you use,” I said triumphantly.

“I forget you dyed my hair pink sometimes,” Potter said darkly.

“We tend to black out traumatic memories,” I said soothingly, petting his head again. He was right, his hair was fabulous.

“Right, what were you-”

The compartment door opened suddenly and we both froze, my hand still on his head.

“Oh, I’d love to watch you two talk yourselves out of this one,” Albus smirked. He was standing by the door with Fitz, Fred, and Quin.

“Wait, so you aren’t fighting anymore?” Quin asked worriedly.

“You owe me three Sickles!” Fred said triumphantly. “Knew they’d make up before we got back to school.”

He looked far too proud of himself.

“Um, Ness?” Fitz said.

“Yes, Fitzroy?”

“Why are you stroking James’s head?”

I moved my hand from his head slowly. Then I sat up. Potter didn’t bother to move. He just put his hands under his head and smirked at nothing in particular.

“I was trying to choke him out,” I said, watching Fred keenly. The triumphant smirk left his face and Quin whooped.

“Cough it up, Fred.”

“You two are trolls,” Potter said, finally sitting up. My wand, which had fallen out of my pocket during our war, was lying under one of the seats. Potter reached out and handed it to me.

“Thank you, Potter.”

“You’re welcome, Marley.”

And then we both turned to see Fred and Quin lose it again.

“You’re going to make them overheat,” Albus pointed out after about a good minute of the four of us watching them argue. Fitz seemed to lose interest.

“I’ve been searching for you for fifteen minutes,” he said accusatorily, frowning at me.

“Right. What’s going on?” I asked, getting up off the floor and dusting myself off.

Fifteen minutes. All the while you’ve been lying on a compartment floor for no apparent reason,” he said sulkily, folding his arms over his chest.

“Oh, I’m sure there was plenty of reason,” Albus smirked.

“SEE? They were totally snogging,” Fred said a little too loudly.

“Oh, snogging reminds me,” Potter cut in. “Didn’t you want to ask me something?”

“Snogging reminds you?”

Potter didn’t even have the grace to look sheepish.

“Such a troll,” I muttered. Then I leaned in and whispered in his ear, relishing at the sound of Quin and Fred screaming at us in the background. I stepped away from Potter and he looked like Christmas had come early. He grinned at me for so long that I thought he might have forgotten what I’d said.

“Well?” I prompted.

“As if you don’t already know the answer,” Potter said, still grinning.

“Confirmation would be nice,” I shrugged. Fred let out a particularly tragic wail next to Albus.

“It’s like asking if the Arrows the best Quidditch team ever,” Potter rolled his eyes.

“I honestly have no idea if they are, Potter.”

Yes, oh my God. Why do I associate with you?”

“Shall I tell them why?” I raised an eyebrow, jerking my head towards Fred and Quin.

“You wouldn’t. This is entirely too entertaining,” Potter said confidently. I rolled my eyes just as Fitz delivered a painful punch to my arm.

Ow, Fitz.”

“I. Want. Liquorice. Wands.”

That’s why you’ve been searching for her?” Albus asked, a little appalled.

“You have much to learn, brother mine,” Potter grinned. He didn’t even catch the strange look Albus gave him.

“Right, come along,” I said, leading Fitz away from the group. I knew better than the let Fitz run amok without sugar in him. It often ended in nasty cauldron accidents and distraught professors. I wasn’t eager to find out what would happen on a train full of equally volatile students.

“What did you ask James?” Fitz asked grudgingly, his curiosity getting the better of him. It must’ve been quite something to trump his annoyance at me for being absent when he needed candy.

“Just if he’d like to go out with me.”

“On a date?”

“Yes.”

“I thought you asked if he wanted Doxy droppings.”

“Wanted Doxy… why?”

“Well, he looked like he’d just won the lottery. Doxy dropping are vital to potion making, you know. I’d be over the moon if someone offered me some.”

I hustled him faster down the train.

*

I didn’t even open Henri’s letter as I crumpled it up and dunked it in my coffee. When would he learn? I’d been back a grand total of two days and we were back to this already.

“He hasn’t gotten the message yet then?” Fitz asked, sitting down next to me. I huffed in response and went back to the timeline I was working on. Fitz had me retracing everything that had happened before Charles had uprooted us and moved here.

“Right,” he said, leaning forward and looking at a piece of parchment in his own hand. “I’ve cross-checked everything you’ve told me so far. Bridgette’s account is more or less the same-“

“Hold on- you’ve been talking to Bridgette?”

“Well, she did spend the summer with you, didn’t she?”

“Yes… but how did you know that?”

“I may have talked to her after the um… thing on New Year’s,” he said shiftily. I placed my quill down as calmly as possible.

“Could you describe for me what exactly you mean by ‘talked’?”

“We said words to one another.”

“I’m not appreciating this latest sarcastic tangent you’ve gone off on. Have you gone back to eating cupcakes for lunch, Fitz? Remember, lying is only going to take us a step back-“

A loud gasp from the Hufflepuff table cut me off. It was followed closely by the clatter of utensils hitting the floor. Fitz and I both turned to see a dark haired slender girl, probably a fifth or sixth year, get up off her seat and stagger back. Her hand came to cover her mouth as her eyes scanned a letter she was holding in her shaking hands.

I watched numbly as the scene unfolded. A boy of about her height with the same dark hair jumped up from down the Hufflepuff table and ran to her. He yanked the parchment from her hands and read it quickly. His reaction was very different from hers. His face went blank and he slowly looked up at her. They both stood opposite one another; reflections of shock and disbelief. I watched their faces with a passive curiosity as a seismic shift tore their world apart.

And in the next moment they were surrounded. There was hurried talking, prefects got involved; the letter was passed around as the two of them stood stock still, refusing to look away from each other.

Fitz slowly turned to face me, face as white as a sheet.

“What?” I whispered. “What is it?”

I had never seen Fitz like this before. He looked like he was about to be sick. He brought a shaky hand to his face and touched is cheek absently.

Fitz?” I pleaded desperately, grabbing his hand by the wrist. Slowly he looked up at me. I saw several things; worry, tension, confusion.

“I may not be right,” he tried to reason, and I knew he was talking more to himself than to me. I waited patiently, heart racing.

“But if I am… I think we’ve been in over our heads all along.” 

 


Chapter 29: Before
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




A/N: Hello my lovelies! I’m putting an Author’s Note at the beginning because of the material in this chapter. If you haven’t already, you should visit Pottermore and read up on the Sacred Twenty-Eight. Although I’ve put in some stuff here, it’s quite an interesting read and I’d highly recommend it (JK is quite the genius, isn’t she?)





The Pure-Blood Directory, published in the 1930s, was a definitive list of families who had remained truly ‘pure of blood’ through the years (according to its anonymous author, at least). Once seen as a testament to pedigree, all its weight was lost after the second war and the systematic abolition of antiquated pureblood laws. While most of the families, like the rest of the wizarding world, simply sought closure and anonymity after the war, one family did exactly the opposite.

The Fawleys had, through the years, played their cards just right; choosing diplomacy over either side. With the fall of Voldemort’s regime, the Fawleys, led by Sullivan Fawley, had assisted the Ministry in slowly rebuilding the war torn society. Believed to be the descendants of the Hapsburgs, they were fondly referred to as the royal family by the general public.

“Their money is what restored Hogwarts after the war,” Fitz explained. “They rebuilt the Ministry from the ground up, funded departments, opened charities. Old money, centuries’ worth.”

“And who were those two?” I asked nervously, biting my lip. I was referring the raven-haired girl and boy who’d received that devastating letter in The Great Hall not half an hour ago.

“Aurora and Remington Fawley. They have another brother, Roland. He graduated before I started here. He’s the official head of the family.”

“What about the father? Sullivan?”

“He died two years ago. Broomstick accident. But if whoever’s doing this has the resources and access to get close enough to the Fawleys…”

He didn’t need to finish that sentence. We both knew it.

I sighed and looked over the Quidditch pitch.

“I don’t understand any of this,” I said. Then I looked at him hesitantly, wondering if he’s approve of the plan that had been slowly forming over the past week.

“What is it?” he asked, reading my expression.

“I was thinking… I could ask my grandfather about this. I know he hasn’t had contact with my mother for probably as long as me, and he might not even know she’s back. I’m sure he’d appreciate knowing. Plus, he’s been through two wars. He has to know something we don’t.”

“It’s worth a shot,” Fitz nodded. “What about your dad’s parents?”

I fought to urge to roll my eyes.

“They can hardly be concerned with anything unrelated to the upkeep of their estate,” I scoffed. “But I suppose there’s no harm in asking.”

“Anything else?”

“I’ve asked Bridgette to send me copies of old newspapers so we could go back and see if something happened back home before we moved,” I volunteered.

“You think he moved you away from something?” Fitz asked, interested. I shrugged as he considered it.

“We’ve been assuming that he moved here for something. Maybe he was trying to get us away from it.”

“Good. I’ve asked my cousin at The Prophet to keep me updated about anything. I’m expecting an owl about the Fawleys before the news breaks tomorrow,” Fitz said tiredly, sitting back and looking out at the stands. I followed his lead. I hoped taking deep breaths of the clear air would somehow clear my head, but it was no use. All I could see were the faces of the two Hufflepuffs. I wondered if that would be me some day. At the rate Charles was going, it would be remiss not to consider it.

“Oi!” someone screamed from the pitch below. I looked down to see the Gryffindor team gathered there, all of them staring up at us. I could already tell that this wasn’t going to end well.

“You can’t be here!” Fred said, casting a sideways look at Potter hesitantly. I saw Potter roll his eyes. Then he said something to Quin and hopped on his broom. My heartbeat pleasantly accelerated as he approached. His hair was tied back as it always was when he played. Crooked smile in place, he came to a stop in front of us and hovered in mid-air.

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you both to leave. Politely, of course,” he said casually.

“Why?” Fitz asked as I shrugged and began to gather my things.

“It has transpired that we have a mole in our midst,” Potter explained. Fitz gasped. Potter nodded solemnly. I had to fight the urge to roll my eyes.

“Wheeler seems to have somehow acquired our plays for the finals. We only found out thanks to Quin’s… persuasiveness when it comes to Ravenclaw women.”

“I would like to interject here. Let the records show that I said ‘ew’.”

They both ignored me.

“We spent weeks on those,” Fitz exclaimed.

“We?” I raised an eyebrow.

“I know,” Potter sighed, leaning forward. “We were livid until we realised that-“

“That we know their plays will counter our old ones,” Fitz perked up. Potter grinned and sat back again, looking at the both of us.

“Right, remember how I said you should leave? That was merely a suggestion-“

“Which I intend to heed,” I cut in, swinging my bag over my shoulder. “See you guys at dinner.”

“I’m going to go have a word with the team,” Fitz said, moving around me. “You two should talk.”

“Why?” Potter and I both asked. Fitz rolled his eyes.

Well,” he said with unnecessary exasperation. “Seeing as James agreed to go out with you almost a week ago, I think it’s time you two made plans for that to actually happen.”

Then he crossed his arms, almost daring us to argue. When neither of us said anything, he sighed.

“You two can’t put off telling Andrea forever, you know?”

Potter and I exchanged looks. He appeared as uncomfortable as I felt.

“Absolutely horrid weather we’re having, wouldn’t you agree Marley?” he said loudly. Fitz made an impatient noise.

“You’re going to drive Quin and Fred mad at this rate,” he added accusingly. “Just go on a date so you can both stop being thick and fully accept what we all knew from the beginning.”

“I’m afraid to ask,” Potter whispered to me.

“That you’re probably going to end up married with little Quidditch playing babies,” Fitz snapped, clearly irate. “I swear to Merlin, if I have to watch the two of you make goo-goo eyes at each other one more time…”

“Hey, I do not make goo-goo eyes at anyone!” I protested.

“Except pudding,” Potter pointed out.

“Except pudding,” I conceded after a beat.

“Don’t test me,” Fitz warned, pointing at us threateningly. Then he turned around and all but stormed away. Potter got off his broom as we watched his retreating back.

“Someone has some unresolved anger,” he joked.

“He probably realised that he doesn’t have any homework left,” I rolled my eyes.

“He does have a point, though.”

“I suppose he does.”

“So… what do you want to do?” Potter asked, leaning against the back of one of the seats.

“I would say Hogsmeade, but I seem to remember a very long tunnel from your birthday.”

“That may have had something to do with the heels. And the dress. Completely unsuitable for snow, might I add.”

“Oh, is that why you stared at my arse all night?” I asked casually. Potter was so graceless that he grinned and winked.

“I have about four essays to write,” he said, still smirking.

“That’s actually perfect. So do I.”

And it was as simple as that. I was willing to ignore the topic of Andrea for as long as he was. Besides, she seemed preoccupied with something Albus-related when I’d seen her the day before. I convinced myself that time is what she needed.

I spent the rest of the day in a brilliant mood. I hadn’t felt this light in a long time. A good chunk of the afternoon saw me in a cosy corner of the library, getting an appreciable amount of homework done. I spent lunch in the dorms with Tracey, Jillian, and Rebecca; the latter of whose parents had sent her a box full of goodies from the bakery they owned. I even managed to have a cordial conversation with Jillian about Gladrags’ spring collection preview.

I would go so far as to say that I even forgot about the Fawleys for a bit there. For the first time since I’d been here, I got a taste of what it was really like to be at Hogwarts. Homework, lazy afternoons, and spending time with friends. It was as the four of us got up from the plush sofas as the Common Room right before dinner that an odd felling came over me. I found, as I walked with the girls through the fire lit corridors, that I missed this. I could picture sitting with Rebecca by the lake on weekends and reading books. I could see myself sneaking out of the dorms late at night with Fred for a snack. Heck, I even considered the possibility of allowing Potter to teach me to fly on the pitch. It was as though I already knew everything I’d missed. I was nostalgic for something I’d never experienced.

The boys were walking in from the grounds as we were descending the staircase. I tried to push away the inexplicable sense of melancholy that had suddenly overcome me.

“You alright?” Potter asked quietly as all of us walked into the Great Hall together. His hair was damp from a shower and I could smell his familiar shampoo. I was surprised when I had to gulp down a small lump in my throat.

“Mar?” he said, a little more loudly this time. His hand found mine and pulled me back gently. We fell behind the others at the entrance of the Great Hall.

“Yeah. I had a great day, actually,” I said, watching Fred smack Quin upside the head for something. When I looked back at Potter, he was looking at me intently.

“Forget homework,” he said quietly, “What do you think about cake for dinner?”

He took my grin as affirmation. Turning casually, he led the way as we slipped out of the Great Hall, both of us trying to avoid detection.

“You know, we’ll have to tell them at some point, right?”

“Tell them what?” Potter asked, leading the way towards the door next to the Great Hall.

“That we’re… erm… dating?” I said uncertainly.

“Now, don’t get ahead of yourself there, Red. I agreed to one date,” Potter smirked, holding the door open for me.

“Oh, I’m thanking my lucky stars,” I rolled my eyes. Potter grinned and slung his arm around my shoulders.

“See, Mar, I’m very in right now. Not enough James to go around,” he explained. “I’m spread quite thin, as you can imagine.”

“Oh, I completely understand,” I nodded keenly. “I’ll just have to make do with Henri, then. I could get over his lack of literary prowess in time.”

Potter ruffled my hair before reaching up to tickle the pear on a large portrait of a fruit bowl.

The house elves, always in top form, had an assortment of cakes on a table in front of us in a matter of minutes.

“So,” Potter began.

“So?” I asked, taking a bite of blueberry cheese cake.

“We’re on a date,” Potter said conversationally.

“Hmm,” I was only half listening, too interested in the chocolate truffle. When Potter didn’t say anything for a moment, I looked away from all the cake. He hadn’t touched his spoon. Instead, he was watching me intently.

“You have something to say.”

“Yes.”

Well?” I asked, placing my spoon down and lacing my fingers together on the table.

“Andrea.”

And just like that, I wasn’t hungry anymore.

“I should tell her,” I said finally.

“I could. I’ve known her longer,” Potter offered.

“But you two aren’t exactly… friends,” I said awkwardly.

“We aren’t anything,” Potter said quickly.

“You don’t have to explain,” I shrugged. “You did only agree to one date, after all.”

Potter rolled his eyes as I fought off a grin.

“That was a joke,” he said.

“No, its fine, Potter,” I said, fighting to keep from breaking out into giggles at his serious face. “I’m not going to take rejection badly and start stalking you when you go on dates.”

“Mar-“

“I’m a big girl; I’ll be fine. Although I was talking to Jill today, and your fan club does have quite an efficient system for keeping track of you-“

“-you’re being ridiculous-“

“-won’t harass your girlfriends-“

“-not going to date anyone else-“

“-I’ll be fine-“

“Marley-”

“I mean,” I cut him off loudly, “It isn’t like we’re going to be together or anything-“

Marley.”

“This was cool and all, but I see what you’re saying-“

“MAR-“

“This could never possibly work-“

“GO TO HOGSMEADE WITH ME.”

He was so loud that the house elves stopped bustling around and turned to look at us. Potter was red in the face from sheer annoyance. He was scowling at me as I calmly blinked back.

“Ok,” I shrugged nonchalantly, popping a piece of cake into my mouth. I watched as Potter slowly figured out that I was only joking. Finally, when it was all straight in his head, he looked slightly afraid.

“What have I gotten myself into?” he whispered to no one in particular.

“There, there,” I said, reaching out and petting his head. “I promise to notify Mungo’s when the time comes.”

“Oh, so you’re perfectly aware that you’re driving me mad?” he asked, finally picking up his spoon.

“Quite aware, yes.”

And so Potter and I had our date. We didn’t talk about anything serious; neither of us wanted to. The whole wizarding world was hanging in the balance, but that didn’t matter for now. Potter told me about the time he left Albus up in a tree for a whole day, about the first time he played Quidditch, about Lily and all her boyfriends he was going to murder in cold blood. I learnt that Cockroach Clusters were, in fact, his second favourite chocolate (after Fizzing Whizzbees), that he only grew out his hair because it pissed off his Great Aunt Muriel, and that he had had a Celestina Warbeck phase.

I watched him as he talked and laughed, butterflies in my stomach the entire time. It was so… easy. I marvelled at how his smile was slightly lopsided, at how he ran a hand through his hair when he was thinking. Most of all, I was shocked at how simple it was for me to look at him this way. I saw what Jillian and the other girls did, and I didn’t want to fling myself from a cliff.

I knew that we probably looked nauseating, sitting there and grinning at each other like complete fools. Somewhere in the middle of it all, I realised that I could no longer feel the weight of all that had happened today at the pit of my stomach. All that was important was that we were here, together, happy. In retrospect, it was three hours of blissful ignorance. Why I’d been hiding everything from him this entire time was beyond me. So what if he understood me? How could that possibly be a bad thing?

James Potter was, admittedly, quiet brilliant.

By the time we left the kitchens, dinner was done. There was no one in sight. Our footsteps echoed through the deserted corridors. Potter had gone oddly silent, and somewhere in the fourth floor the atmosphere changed. I could almost feel tension emanating from him. My own heart was beating fast and loud as a result. Potter was keeping a good two-feet distance between us. I couldn’t think of a time I had been this nervous. I chanced a quick sideways look at him. His hands were stuffed into his pockets, and he was staring intently at the floor as he walked. I kept telling myself that this was ridiculous, but I couldn’t bring myself to say anything.

Finally, we reached the seventh floor. Potter began walking towards the portrait of the Fat Lady. It took him a moment to realise that I wasn’t behind him. He stopped, back still towards me. For an agonising moment I thought he was just going to keep walking. But then he turned around.

I could almost see all the thoughts racing through his head. He seemed to decide that there was no harm in approaching me. Why he had to do it so slowly was beyond me. I was almost positive that my heart would leap out of my chest at the rate it was going. I could scarcely hear anything apart from its beating in my ears.

He came to a stop in front of me and said nothing.

“Hi,” was what came out of my mouth. I wanted to take a club to my own head.

Merlin, just strike me down.

Potter’s gaze flickered down to my lips for the briefest moment. I could have sworn that I’d imagined it. Still, he said nothing.

“So, erm… yeah” I stammered, staring at him unblinking like a complete creep. I bit down hard on the inside of my lip to keep myself from saying anything else. Potter stepped forwards and finally removed his hands from his pockets. I don’t know if I was imagining it, or if it was all actually in slow motion. I watched, almost in awe, as his hands reached for me. This was happening, really happening. My brain went on the fritz. I realised I was holding my breath. Potter’s fingertips touched my face, sending something akin to a shock through my entire body. I thought the distant bang in the background was in my head until I heard someone calling Potter’s name.  

He didn’t move, eyes still on my lips, as I stumbled back. Behind him, Fred, Quin, and Fitz were rushing towards us. Quin had the Marauders’ Map clutched in his hand. It took me a moment to look away from Potter.

“Where have you two been?” Fred demanded loudly. The girls were now running towards us from the portrait hole.

“What?” I said to Fitz. We were all standing in a circle now. I took a moment to look at tall their faces. I knew it was terrible, whatever it was. It struck me then how much this all mattered. The eight of us would graduate in a matter of months. We would leave Hogwarts and enter a world that had never seen this much upheaval in decades, since before any of us were born.

Tracey broke the silence.

“Rowland Fawley is dead.”

I felt Potter go rigid next to me.

“And the Minister for Magic has been attacked,” Rebecca continued. “Hobbs told us at dinner.”

And just like that, the last three hours seemed like a distant memory. 



Chapter 30: After
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t fall asleep. Rebecca was fitfully muttering in her sleep from the bed on my right. Across the room, I could hear the creaking of Jill’s bed as she tossed restlessly. Tracey gave up trying at some point during the night, and tiptoed out of the room. All I could do was stare up at the top of my four-poster bed. We had all sat in front of the fire for the longest time, shocked, worried, and afraid with everyone else. I don’t think I had ever seen the Common Room that still before. Fred was the first of our group to get up and leave. He was soon followed by the other, leaving only Fitz and myself.


He hadn’t said anything; what could he? What could I? All those hours spent in the library pouring over all those newspapers had been for nothing. None of that had prepared us for this. Fitz had been right; we had been in over our heads all along. As I lay awake, my mind wandered back to the Fawley twins. I would have done anything to do away with the look of pure horror I’d seen in Aurora Fawley’s eyes. Fifteen with a dead brother. They would both have to carry that around with them forever. I didn’t want to think of tomorrow; the vapid tabloids, the whispers in the halls, the unyielding heaviness at the pit of my stomach. To think Potter and I had been… happy just a few hours prior.

But of course, the sun rose eventually, and light streamed through the curtains around my bed as though the world hadn’t changed overnight. Suddenly I found myself wishing for the darkness again. I don’t know where I found the willpower to get up and haul myself off the bed. Tracey’s bed was still empty, and I could head Rebecca in the shower. My eyes fell on Jill. Her beautiful, clear face marred with a frown as she slept. Her sheets were scrambled haphazardly around her as remnants of the restless night she’d had, and her right hand was clutched into a tight fist on her pillow. As quietly as I could, I tiptoed over and pulled the sheets over her. She sighed softly as I pushed a river of blond hair out of her face. Her form relaxed, and she snuggled into her pillow.

Well, at least one of us was going to get some sleep.

Rebecca and I didn’t speak, and she left before me. It was early. The light outside still had a bluish tint to it. I found Rebecca seated at the foot of the sofa by the fire. Tracey was asleep on it, a blanket draped over her. To my surprise, Potter was seated on one of the couches. Even if his broom hadn’t been propped up next to him, his windswept hair would have betrayed that he’d been out flying. He got up when he saw me. I could feel Rebecca watching as we exited the Common Room.

“Are you okay?” I asked. My voice didn’t sound like my own.

“Yeah. I wrote to Dad. He probably won’t say much, but I thought it was worth a shot.”

“The Prophet is going to have a field day,” I said quietly, looking down at my hands. I felt Potter stop next to me. He was frowning slightly when I turned to look at him. I took a moment to marvel at how, well, stunning he was. The bay window behind him allowed the light to pick up the red and brown tints in his dark hair. Stubble highlighted his clenched jaw. He’d left his broom in Gryffindor Tower, I suddenly realized. He loved that thing and he hadn’t even noticed.

“What?” I asked finally, moving closer to him. I had found that this helped with the weight at the pit of my stomach. He sighed and looked down at me.

“Nothing,” he muttered, placing a cold palm against my cheek.

“You’re freezing, Potter,” I said, a little alarmed. “For how long were you out on the pitch?”

“Most of the night,” he shrugged. I took his hands in mine and began rubbing them to keep them warm.

“You’re going to catch something,” I blabbed absently. “Pneumonia, probably. It’s January. What were you thinking?”

Potter ignored my reaction that suggested that he was running a sub-zero temperature.

“Your father will be fine,” he said quietly. I stopped what I was doing. I marvelled at how I could look him in the eye so easily now and say what I wanted to out loud.

“And what about everyone else?” I asked. “What about your father? What about Fitz’s? What about everyone’s families?”

Potter just sighed and placed both his palms on my cheeks this time. It only resulted in tears forming in my eyes.

“What if you never get to play for the Arrows? And Fred and Rebecca don’t get to be cheesy and repulsive at their wedding? Fitz hasn’t even decided what he wants to be when we graduate. He might never get the chance to. And I haven’t even told you about my home, let alone shown you. And I don’t know about yours, your family, what your childhood was like. What if we’re too late, James?”

His eyes were glossed over too now.

“Don’t say that,” he said in a voice that wasn’t nearly strong enough to convince either of us.

“The Minister for Magic. Someone attacked the Minister,” I whispered harshly, imploring him to understand as though he already didn’t.

All we could do was stare at each other helplessly like the lost kids that we were. We both knew there was nothing that could be done. In a quick motion, Potter pulled me to his chest and wrapped his arms tightly around me. I shut my eyes in the hope that it would drown everything out. I concentrated on his scent and his beating heart.

That’s how a couple of fifth year Ravenclaws found us. I didn’t even care, neither did he. They stopped and openly gawked at us. Potter sighed and let go of me, gesturing for me to lead the way to breakfast. My mind jumped back to that night on the Astronomy Tower when Potter had found me bawling my eyes out. If I hadn’t been such an idiot, we could have had Christmas together. I would’ve bought him a leather jacket and The Weird Sisters Greatest Hits compilation.

Without a second thought, I reached down and laced my fingers through his. It felt so natural that I was shocked that it hadn’t happened sooner. Potter tightened his grip on my hand and bent down.

“You sure about this?” he asked quietly, just as another group of students walked by us.

“What’s the worst that could happen?” I shrugged.

“I honestly wouldn’t know. I’ve never really had a girlfriend before. Not in the real sense of the term,” Potter said.

“Girlfriend?” I raised an eyebrow. “To think I was tricking you into a second date only yesterday.”

“Well, I wouldn’t call these circumstances normal. Would you?” he said. Now he had his signature smirk on his lips and my heart rose.

“I suppose if there’s going to be hell to pay, we might as well get some snogging in. You know, officially,” I said with mock-tiredness.

Now you’ve got my attention-“

“Hey guys, could you not do that right now? Look at this.”

With Potter’s hands still on my waist, mine on his chest, we turned to see Fitz holding up a copy of that morning’s Prophet. We both pounced for it. The front page was occupied with a picture of a large skull over a part of a white marble mansion. I recognised the Dark Mark from when the attack on Malfoy Manor had been front page news.

“And the Minister?” I asked as Potter’s eyes scanned the article.

“It just says here he’s at Mungo’s.”

“No mark?” I asked, frowning at Fitz. He shook his head.

“Any hunches?” he asked, his voice immediately quietening.

“They only used the Mark in the war when they killed,” Potter volunteered. “The Death Eaters, I mean.”

“You’re saying they didn’t want the Minister dead?” Fitz asked, turning slowly to Potter.

“No,” Potter said after a moment. “It doesn’t make sense, does it? They left the Mark when the Malfoys were attacked, but no one died.”

“So… what? They’re using the Mark for what? Mass hysteria?”

“Or to let the others know they’re active again,” I said, not really thinking about it. When my words were met with silence, I turned to see Potter and Fitz looking more worried than ever. Then I realised what I’d just implied.

It was as though someone had squeezed the breath out of me.

If I was right, there were more of them.

*

It turns out that the days go by slowly when you’re waiting for something; even if it’s something bad. I lived in a state of constant anxiety about what I would read in The Prophet the next morning. I barely listened in classes or touched my food during meals. It had gotten to the point where Potter had taken to carrying around a box of fruits that he would force me to eat from between classes.

Fitz seemed to be in the same boat as me. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days, which matched what I heard from his roommates. I wasn’t sure what he was doing in his spare time, but it did not involve the library. He was probably pouring over all the records the Ministry had sent him months ago when he’d lied about being keen on History of Magic.

Sometime during the last week of January, it was reported that the Minister had been discharged from Mungo’s. The very next day he gave a speech about vigilance and fighting terrorism. Everyone was encouraged to report suspicious activities to the Ministry directly. It was a positive sign; at least they weren’t trying to cover it all up.

Charles wrote to me every week. I had given up trying to get anything out of him. I was still unsure of how I felt about the return of my mother, or the fact that she was in on this all. I was betrayed, of course, but I also felt an odd sense of relief. There was someone at home to look out for him. I had no idea what her agendas were, but if she had come back so that he could keep her safe, I was sure that she’d have his safety in mind as well. So, for the first time in a long time, Charles wasn’t causing me any high blood pressure.

Until the second week of February.

I came down to breakfast in a mood no better than usual. I had had a fitful night’s sleep and I was looking forward to a huge cup of coffee. The post had already arrived, and the buzzing chatter meant that The Prophet hadn’t brought with it any bad news.

I sat down next to Potter and he bumped me playfully as he scanned a letter from his mother. We were doing well. Actually, we were doing really well. Things were easy with him; there was no pressure to be… well, a couple. We went about our weeks as usual. Seeing as we were in mostly different classes, we didn’t really spend all that much time together. With NEWTs steadily approaching, the only large chunks of time we did spend together were weekends in the library hurriedly finishing essays.

That isn’t to say that we were an old married couple. Although, admittedly, the whole first kiss thing… well, it hadn’t happened yet. I was more than sure that that was some kind of record for him. We’d basically been a thing for a whole month. However, I had caught Potter looking at me in ways that made my stomach do somersaults more than once. During a particularly slow Potions class, this had resulted in me tipping over an entire jar of armadillo bile into the cauldron, causing it to emit rancid-smelling green smoke. Even Fitz couldn’t salvage it, and we both received a Troll on the assignment. Naturally, I’d received a long lecture about how if Fitz ended up not graduating, it would be my fault for not snogging Potter already.

“When you two have nauseatingly attractive children, I’m in charge of their dating lives,” Fitz had proclaimed dramatically, before sweeping out of the dungeon.

I supposed he had a point; a month was a long time. But the thing with me and Potter was that it wasn’t a thing. Neither of us had said it, but we were together; we both knew it. It’s just that the library was hardly somewhere to make a move. Especially when there was a massive Transfiguration essay due the next day. Even as I lay awake at night replaying all the conversations and encounters I’d had with Potter during the day like a complete girl, I was struck by how, in the face of everything, my thoughts could still be consumed by a boy.

“You get anything good in the mail?” Fred asked from opposite me as I sifted through my mail. He then proceeded to shove a large piece of bacon in his mouth.

“A letter from Aunt Angie when I tell her that you eat like Uncle George,” Potter chimed in.

“You two writing joint letters now?” Quin asked, eyes narrowed.

See, ever since the two Ravenclaws had seen Potter and me in January, the whole school seemed to be collectively speculating. It was probably quite ambiguous from the outside. We just sometimes walked to classes and finished essays together. However, they seemed to have picked up on the whole vibe of the thing. We had resolved not to say anything to anyone until we knew for sure what was going on ourselves; especially since the topic of Andrea didn’t come up after the night in the kitchens. I wasn’t going to bring it up until I knew for sure what I was going to say to her. Potter seemed to have the same idea.

However, we basically lived to set Fred and Quin on edge.

“Of course we are. What kind of couple doesn’t?” I rolled my eyes, opening up The Prophet.

“Not falling for that again,” Fred muttered darkly. He was referring to the week he’d spent following either me or Potter around trying to prove that we were secretly snogging when Potter had off-handedly mentioned that we were a couple.

“Oh my Merlin.”

Fred choked on his bacon and Potter dropped his glass of orange juice with a loud crash. They both rounded on me as I stared, open mouthed, at the issue of Witch Weekly in my lap.

The cover proudly proclaimed ‘Valentine’s Day Edition’ in sparkling gold script. There was a blown up image of Potter laughing at something I’d said in the Charms corridor. More worrying, however, were the flashing pink headlines.

Witch Weekly’s Most Eligible Bachelor Off the Market?

The Girl Who Stole James’ Heart.

Sirius-ly in Love!

Jarley: A Hogwarts Romance.

“Who took that picture?” Potter demanded, grabbing the magazine from me as I let my head fall into my hands.

“Charles is going to have an aneurism,” I muttered to no one in particular. I could feel the stares and hear the whispers as the other students opened up their mail.

“No wonder they’ve been quiet about it for this long,” Quin said, a hint of admiration in his voice. “This is going to be flying off the shelves.”

“Whose side are you on?” Potter snapped, flipping through the pages.

“I’m just saying that waiting till Valentine’s week was smart,” Quin said all innocent-like.

“He’s going to have your head. And then I’ll have a father in Azkaban.”

“It says we’re getting married,” Potter said weakly.

“Torture then. He’s going to torture you and get the Dementor’s Kiss for it,” I wailed.

Potter let Quin seize the article and ignored Fred’s demands for an explanation, turning to me instead. He had a ‘what now?’ expression on his face.

“You could move to Finland and join a death metal band,” I suggested. “No one would recognize you under the David’s Cross painted on your face, and we could both go on living life normally.”

“Not a bad plan,” Potter pretended to consider it, “Except for the fact that being in a death metal band isn’t exactly what I’d call living life normally.”

“That narrow world view isn’t going to get you anywhere, Potter,” I tutted. Potter rolled his eyes, but looked relieved that I was joking about it.

After a quick breakfast, I left the boys to find Fitz. He’d taken to waking up late these days, and my bringing breakfast for him up to his room became a routine. He was sitting on the floor by his bed pouring over parchment that looked older than Dumbledore had been when he died.

“Bacon and toast,” I announced, taking a seat opposite him. “They didn’t have any grapefruit today.”

Fitz looked up, slightly dazed.

“Oh, thanks,” he said as though he hadn’t been expecting me.

“Fitz,” I said tentatively as he put the parchment down and reached for a piece of toast.

“Hmm?”

“Don’t you think that- well, maybe- you should slow down a bit? You barely eat, and only leave this room for the library and classes,” I said a little hesitantly. The last time I’d brought this up, he’s simply given me a withering look and proceeded to walk out of the room. I’d thought he was maybe going for a walk to prove a point, but I found him in the library an hour later trying to finish a Charms essay that was due the next day.

“Look at these,” he said, completely ignoring my concerns and handing me a worn book. I took it slowly, still expecting him to explode. On the leather cover was what looked like a serpents head, but it was too faded to tell for sure. Printed on the top in worn but intelligible gold lettering were the words ‘The Pure-Blood Directory’.

“The Sacred Twenty-Eight,” I said, scanning the index. “The Weasleys are listed here.”

“It was written in the 1930s,” Fitz explained, munching on his toast. “The Potter’s were only left off because of the common Muggle surname, and James’ great-great grandfather being outspokenly pro-Muggle during his time on the Wizengamot.”

My finger ran over the name Fawley.

“Explain,” I said simply, looking up at Fitz. He understood.

“Miles Bletchley is the last remaining Flint on his mother’s side,” Fitz explained. “So that makes the Malfoys, the Greengrasses- Scorpius’ mother- the Flints, and the Fawleys.”

“So we were right? About Slytherins being attacked?” I asked, unable to conceal the awe in my voice.

“That’s where it doesn’t add up,” Fitz said, frowning at the book. “The Fawleys have no history of being Death Eaters. Not one in the family.”

“So?”

“And they weren’t Slytherins, not all of them.”

“Yes but, they’re an old family, and purebloods at that-“

“But they never supported Voldemort,” Fitz cut me off. “Not the way the Malfoys and Flints did.”

“What you’re saying is that we’re back to square one,” I said after a beat. Fitz’s answer was a sigh. I watched him as he sat there forlornly, the remnants of all his fruitless labour scattered around him in the form of ancient books, scraps of paper, and official looking documents.

“Come on,” I said with a finality in my voice, getting up and grabbing his hand.

“Where?”

“Away from here,” I said, dragging him out of the room.

Fitz and I stood at the foot of the looked over the Common Room for a moment. Hogsmeade weekend had been allowed. Despite everything, the Head Boy and Girl had managed to convince Hobbs to let everyone out this close to Valentine’s Day. The fire was roaring in the grate, and the room was filled with cheery students, excited about the trip.

I spotted our people by the fire (because they were bullies and had no moral qualms about terrifying the first years). We made our way to the group, and sat heavily on the rug. Fred patted my head from the sofa.

“There, there, don’t be sad. I’m sure you’ll acquire a heart some day.”

“Have you asked Rebecca to Hogsmeade yet?” I asked flatly. Fred began sputtering. Tracey was overcome by a fit of giggles as Rebecca rolled her eyes at us all.

“Has James asked you?” Fred managed to say.

“Of course,” I rolled my eyes. Everyone stopped what they were doing to stare at me. Potter, who was lounging on the floor opposite me engrossed in his Charms essay, didn’t even look up at me.

“We’re actually going ring shopping,” I said absently, digging through my bag for liquorice wands. Everyone groaned collectively.

“Shouldn’t you be more worried about Ted? His hair was turquoise again today,” Potter said lazily. Rebecca turned red. He was referring to the news- known schoolwide at this point- that Rebecca thought Ted looked, and I quote, ‘drool-worthy’ when his hair was turquoise.

“I said that one time,” she argued. “And whichever one of you gits told him; thanks. He won’t look me in the eye in class.”

“Would you like some ice cream to soothe the heartbreak?” Quin smirked. He caught the pillow Rebecca flung at him.

“You’re trolls, all of you,” Rebecca declared before dramatically getting up and sweeping away to the dorms.

“She’s right,” Fred said.

“Oh, shut up, mate,” Quin yawned, sprawling on the now empty sofa.

I watched them all; Tracey as she read a book, Quin and Fred as they started a game of chess, and Potter’s face as the light from the fire made his face glow. Even Fitz had actively involved himself in the chess game. It made me oddly calm, sitting there with them that day. I had missed this, I realised; missed being among a group of people with whom I could just be. I stopped worrying for a moment and allowed myself to relax. There was nothing I could do, but I was here with them.

I was lucky and I wouldn’t forget it.



http://www.harrypotterfanfiction.com