Chapter Nine: Astronomy with James Potter
It was twelve o’clock at night and I was so cold that someone could probably have frozen water droplets on my arm.
To make matters worse I had maybe half of my star chart completed. Neither Clara nor Lily had decided to take the Astronomy NEWTs class. And quite frankly, I was not quite sure why I was either. It was not like I was planning on being a Seer and needed the ability to read skies and determine planet whereabouts.
It had taken me fifteen minutes of hunting with my telescope to locate Pluto. It did not help that I had to wipe falling snow off the lens every thirty seconds.
After doing this for maybe the thousandth time my elbow slipped and the brass scope clattered to the ground with a loud, ‘clunk.’
“If you were any smart, Rinelle,” came a voice behind me. “You would put an Impervious charm on the front to ward off the snow.
I scowled at James Potter, who was the only Gryffindor in this class with me. The only other students were those who were looking for an easy ‘O’ to graduate.
But they were all on the other side of the ledge. It was just me and Potter.
I was not even going to bother asking ‘why’ again. It was not doing any good to question everything. Cursing the heavens did little either.
I muttered a quick, “Impervius.” Whether I liked it or not, Potter was making sense.
“So,” he asked, leaning against the stone wall next to me. “How’s your knight in shining armour?”
I took my time to finish jotting down the next planet. “What’s it to you?”
Michael and I had claimed the title of boyfriend and girlfriend for three weeks now. No body approached me with date offers anymore. Not when I had Michael Rickol by my side. He came over from his own table to sit beside me during meals, walked me to class, studied with me over the weekend. Basically, he was everywhere. During the sparse times when I was able to speak with Lily alone, she claimed that he was smothering and just wanted me all to himself. But seeing as she was usually off with Will Stelle, Gryffindor Seeker, it was not very pressing at the moment.
Potter quirked an eyebrow. “Oh is that how it is? You’re doing the dirty and yet you don’t want to tell me?”
I tried not to look scandalized. Michael and I had most certainly not done the dirty. Mask or no mask, I did not have the nerve to even approach that subject. “I beg your pardon?”
He smirked. “You heard me.” He paused and then said more seriously, “I’m honestly curious. Can you blame me for that?”
“He’s fine,” I said shortly.
Potter put on a pouting face. “Is that all I get? Come on. Pretend I’m a squealing girl and am about to do a happy dance at everything you say.”
The image was quite ridiculous.
Talking about my boyfriend was…strange. I had spoken with Jane Raleigh, the girl I had become acquaintances with at the Quidditch match, a few times. People were actually curious and what I felt to be a very private matter. But then again, seeing as Michael was my first real significant other, and a tad bit better known than Lupin, I was not sure if I should have expected people to be interested.
Trying to veer the spotlight away from myself, I decided to redirect the conversation back to Potter. “Why do you care about me? What about your relationships?”
He laughed bitterly. “What? My nonexistent one with Lily?”
I really wanted him to give it a rest. Yes, the entire school knew the story between James and Lily, but honestly, did he really have to feed it this much? It was ridiculous.
“Okay,” I started slowly.
“Why is she going out with Will anyway?” he suddenly slashed out. “He doesn’t even know her. I mean, I work with her. I—,” He broke off suddenly and exhaled deeply, regaining self control. “Never mind.”
This was actually interesting. Potter was leaning against the four foot high stone wall with his chin propped up on his hands. He was staring out at the castle grounds, his eyes lingering on the smoke billowing out of Hagrid’s chimney. He continued inhaling the cold night air in long draughts.
Trying to ignore this, I repositioned my telescope and arched the cold metal towards the sky, trying to find where Neptune was located.
I racked my brain for a conversation topic that I could start, as the one residing currently was obviously not going in a pleasant direction. But how many things could I seriously start with the boy that meandered at the top of the social ladder?
“Why’d Dumbledore make you Head Boy?” I muttered, twisting the lens of my microscope to focus it.
Much to my displeasure, he scowled even deeper. “I dunno. Maybe because he enjoys the prospect of dangling Evans in front of me when I can’t have her.”
Oh for God’s sake…
“Grow up, Potter. You make it sound like your life is a sodding soap opera.”
“Everyone’s life is a soap opera one way or another, Rinelle.” He stretched his back as I contemplated this. “So what’s your story?”
Oh I don’t know, Potter. I’m just a girl you’ve known and gone to school with for six years who decided that if she made herself pretty then she could make a fool out of man kind.
Of course I did not say this. Instead, I raised one eyebrow and tried to look skeptical. “I don’t have a story.”
“Why’d you move to Britain?” he inquired.
“To live with my aunt and uncle.”
“Why’d you leave the United States?”
“Is that any of your business?” I retorted.
He blinked. “Just curious…as an acquaintance.”
I sucked in my cheeks and exhaled. “My parents…died,” I divulged, remembering the story my friends had come up with before term.
An awkward pause followed this. “I’m sorry,” he finally said.
“Don’t be.” I did not want him to get all “torn up” from a fake story. What was odd was the fact that my fake story happened to coincide with my real story. I really did have no parents. True, only my mother had died — but my father was as good as dead. My foster parents were very nice people who cared about me and provided for me, but it was not the same as having a real mum and dad. I was nine years old when I was adopted — that’s old enough to remember the life I had had before.
I could not help but wonder. If I had grown up the same as anyone else…would I have been so self-conscious? Or would their influence have made me a more poised and secure person? Would I have been happier with myself and my surroundings? Does one’s upbringing really relate to the kind of person one is?
Potter was still staring over the ledge in front of us, but his eyes were closed and he was still concentrated on his breathing, as if one misstep or uneven inhale would send him to pieces, not knowing how to pick them up again. The wind blew — one long gush that whistled through the night air and caused the hair on the back of my neck to prickle uneasily.
And that was when it hit me.
The mental picture of him was what did it. Him, leaning over the wall with his face tilted upward. He looked so miserable and sad — I could not believe that I had not seen it before. Everything was adding up. How could I have been so stupid? He was bloody crestfallen and none of us had believed any differently. We had overlooked his sadness and mistaken it for wounded pride. But I no longer thought it was.
“Oh my God.” I said it aloud.
He stopped staring and turned to look at me. “What?”
I did not know what to say. The concept was really quite simple, but my mind was having trouble holding onto the actual idea. My mouth opened and closed several times and finally I managed to get a sound to work its way out. “You…You really like her.”
His eyebrows knitted together as he surveyed me. “Who?”
For nearly seven years now I had believed him to be bluffing. Ever since the first year when he was still the obnoxious eleven-year-old that tormented all who were not like him I had thought him to be lying. But now he finally had me convinced. Potter was Head Boy. He got top marks in school and had a solution to every problem. He was of age and had absolutely no reason to continue something from when we were all young. It was ridiculous and there was no logic in the idea. He was not, by all means, stupid.
Potter was looking at me, his face conveying great amounts of incredulity. “No shit.”
My eyes widened even further. Having him actually say it to my face was mindblowing. “You do?”
“I don’t know where you got this idea that I was making it up, because I never was. Not ever.”
“So all those times—,”
“All what times?” he demanded. “I’ve hardly made a pass at her this year.”
“Oh,” I was flustered, “I’ve heard about previous years.”
Potter frowned. “No. I was not making it up. Yes, some of my methods weren’t age appropriate, but I’ve always liked her, despite what your friends say.”
“I see,” I said slowly, trying to not let the conversation lapse into silence.
I needn’t have worried for Potter spoke again quickly. “So…she really likes Will then?”
“I’m not very educated on their relationship,” I finally confessed. “I think it is fine. They seem to like each other.”
True, Lily did not put in the effort Will did, but Potter did not need to know that. It was her business to divulge, not mine.
“That’s…good,” the boy next to me finally said in a low voice.
“So,” I waited. “If you ever were to go out with her…you’d treat her right?”
He let out a hollow chuckle. “If I ever got a date with Evans I’d get down on my bloody knees and be her servant all day long.”
I gave him a wry grin and held his eye contact, something I had never been able to do before. “Well, in that case, I’ll put in a good word for you, James.”
The use of his first name startled him just as much as it did me. First name basis with a Marauder — I never thought I’d see it happen. The world really was losing it. Or, at least I was.
He put an arm around my shoulder. “You’re not so bad yourself, Viola.”
I unintentionally flinched at the contact. James did not seem to notice. “You’re really pushing it,” I hissed.
He retracted his arm. “You can copy my work.” He pushed his completed star chart towards me.
“If you were done, why’d you stay here?” I asked, taking the piece of parchment and moving it closer to where I was standing.
James smiled. “I felt like talking to you.”
I jotted down the last few locations of planets and packed up my stuff. “Thank you,” I said slowly. I re-collapsed my telescope and put it in my bag. “Do you think this is weird?”
“What? Us having a conversation?”
“Probably. Me talking to you is like me talking to the queen of the Royally Desperate.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Stella Anders. Peter came up with that nickname.”
“You — You don’t like her?” I was surprised.
“That slag? Of course not.”
“But she and…Black’s your best mate!” I may not like the Marauders, but talking about their partners behind their back must not be good.
“That doesn’t mean anything. You know that Sirius went out with your friend, Hagan, last year, right?”
“They mentioned something.” I was interested to hear their relationship scrutinized by someone apart from out inner circle.
“Well Evans and Lingdonburg, the girl that doesn't goes here anymore…they never stayed around to chat with Hagan when she was with Sirius.”
“It doesn’t surprise me,” I stated. “He’s a git.”
James sighed, not bothering to defend his friend. “I’m just using it as an example of how friends don’t have to support girlfriends. He knows I don't like Anders.”
We were back in the hallway now, both heading back to Gryffindor Tower.
Then we heard it.
It was about twenty metres away but since it was so still we heard it clearly all the same
“What was that?” I asked.
“Students out of bed,” was his calm reply.
How he could take this news so serenely was a mystery to me. “You’re the Head Boy. Shouldn’t you do something,” I asked.
James did nothing to break his stride. “I’m a very corrupt Head Boy who takes bribes and gives favours to his mates…and I happen to know that that giggle came from the Queen of the Royally Desperate.”
“Well what is she—,”
“She and Sirius are probably groping each other in a tangent off this corridor.”
I did not need that image in my head. The very thought nearly had me convulsing. Whatever happened to the days when showing too much of one’s wrist was considered the town’s scandal?
“I thought you didn’t like her.”
“I don’t. But Sirius is my friend, so that means I can’t turn them in. He promised me two galleons.”
“Wow,” I said dryly, “that is pathetic.”
James turned to me and flashed a devilish smile. “Though I think that I’m entitled to some fun, no?”
I shrugged. I did not want to know what James Potter’s idea of fun. I’d seen examples the last few years. Frogs loose in the dungeons, un-poppable bubbles in the Great Hall…
My opinion must have shown on my face, for he said, “Nothing big. Just a teaser prank. Be quiet and follow me.”
We continued to head down the hall and suddenly I saw an adjacent hallway jutting out towards the left.
James pressed himself up against the wall and propped his head around the corner, trying to be as stealthy as possible. I was not quite sure if some of it was for show or if he really was this cautious. He silently drew his wand.
There was a bang followed by a blinding flash of white light. The area where I was standing was as clear as if it were day for a split second. Portraits lining the walls suddenly jerked awake with a yelp at the disruption. I was standing on the other side of James so I could not see into the tangent, though the suddenly flash of the look on his face told me what he was seeing.
There was a very pregnant pause of absolute stillness…and then, “You’d better zip up your trousers, Mate,” James roared, his dulcet tones filled with gleeful triumph.
Then he was pulling me away from the scene at a dead run, but not before I saw the very faint outlines of both Black and Stella standing there in the dark gloom, their faces a blur of horror.
As we slowed to a walk a minute later I repressed a laugh. “What did you do to them?”
“Switched their clothes,” said James without stopping. “Currently Sirius Black is clad in a bra and thong and whatever else Anders had on.”
I was shocked. How had that thought come so easily to him? Did he even think of his actions?
“You surely woke up the entire castle when you yelled out like that.”
“True. That’s why we have to get back to the Common Room and live with only picturing the look on Filch’s face when he finds those two lovebirds in their new attire.”
A/N: Glad to finally get a chapter up. Sooner rather than later, right? Hope you all liked. I know this installment didn’t have too much Violet/Sirius action. I’ll promise you some, not in next chapter, but the one after that, and DEFINITELY the one after that. Have fun in the review (please review!)! Oh, and happy early single awareness day.
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