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Perchance to Dream…

Neverland Piano Variation in Blue – Jan A.P. Kaczmarek,
Finding Neverland Soundtrack

 
‘Night brings our troubles to the light, rather than banishing them.’
- Seneca


 






It wasn’t the party that really concerned Stac that night; it was the aftermath, mostly because she knew that she would be the one dealing with it.

And she was right.

The night wore slowly yet relentlessly on. One by one, the other students began to take to their beds, both willingly and unconsciously.

Anastacia had made sure that none of the younger students had been able to get a hold of the harder drinks, but she’d had no such luck with the older students.

Sam and Jaya were curled up together on the sofa, like two puppies; all arms and legs. Sam was even snoring softly.

Josh was stretched out on the floor, straight as a board, his arms flat by his sides. Margie was sprawled on the chair behind him, her mouth hanging open.

Stac, as she wandered around laying blankets over people and picking up rubbish, was sorely tempted to drop something in her friend’s gaping maw, but she refrained from actually doing so.

She smiled tiredly across at James, who was half-sitting, half-reclining on a pile of cushions.

‘How are you still alive?’ she asked with a smile, crossing the room towards him, ‘You’ve been swigging from that bottle all evening.’

James waited until she was within reach and tugged on her arm. She chuckled and allowed herself to flop down beside him.

They’re still in isolation, she wheedled to the responsible part of her brain, the part that had been telling her to go back to her room for hours. Nothing bad is going to happen.

‘Here,’ James offered her the bottle.

Anastacia turned up her nose and pushed it away. She had no interest in drinking; she’d seen first-hand what an excess of alcohol could do to people and it was enough to turn her off for life.

But James offered it again.

‘Have a try.’

Grudgingly, Stac accepted the bottle. She held it under her nose and took a tentative sniff.

That’s funny… she couldn’t smell any alcohol.

Cursing peer pressure at the same time as reassuring herself that she wasn’t succumbing to it, she took a small sip.

Butterbeer fizzled on her tongue. She was so surprised that she nearly choked on the mouthful. As it was she spluttered just a little.

James clapped her gently on the back, his face lit up with a cheeky grin.

‘But…I don’t understand. This is a Firewhisky bottle. Why is it full of Butterbeer?’

James shrugged.

‘Something I came up with years ago. Sam’s the one that likes to drink, not me. If I tried to keep up with him, I’d be on the floor as soon as we started. So now I just look like I’m drinking. It’s enough to satisfy him, and it means I actually remember my nights out.’

‘That’s…really very…responsible of you.’

James shoved her and took the bottle back.

‘Don’t sound so surprised. I’m the oldest, you know, apart from Victoire and Teddy. I can occasionally be the responsible one.’

‘Speaking of responsible, where’s Owen? And Terry?’ Stac asked curiously, looking around the room at the inert forms of her friends.

‘Terry went sort of mental half an hour or so back,’ James replied vaguely, ‘Owen took him off to bed.’

Anastacia frowned

‘Mental how? Mental why?’

James shrugged.

‘No clue. He just attacked Clive for no reason. Leastways, I didn’t see any reason.’

‘Clive Jones?’

‘Yeah, you know; sixth year, brown hair, ‘bout so high–’

‘Was snogging Margie earlier on?’

James frowned too now.

‘I guess so. But what does–’

Conard! Terry fancies the skirt off Margie, he has for ages. What’s the bet this happened just after he saw them snogging.’

James began to understand. Everything was becoming clearer.

‘You know, it was. I remember, because it was just after you went to talk to the Montrose girl.’

‘Her name is Celeste.’

Anastacia tone was very firm and contained more than just a hint of disapproval. James stored the name away for future reference and hoped he’d remember.

‘Merlin’s pants, it’s like a bloody soap, this school.’

She did a bit of a double take and looked at him strangely, his brow furrowed in concentration.

‘Err…did I hear correctly? You said school is like soap? Savon?’

James laughed and hurriedly explained.

‘Nah, nah, not that kind of soap. A ‘soap’s a Muggle TV show. It’s…kind of like a play, but you watch it every day. Mostly they’re stupid; every week someone dies or gets sick or pregnant or something. And the characters are all involved with each other, you know, cheating and stuff.’

They both relaxed against the cushions again.

‘It doesn’t sound very nice,’ Stac said, wrinkling her nose, ‘but I can see the parallels.’

‘Yeah, if you think it’s bad now, you should have seen it when my parents were here. You know Alex Finnigan, that Ravenclaw third year?’

Stac nodded.

‘Well, his mum used to date my Uncle Ron. And Shanti Thomas’ dad used to date my mum, and her mum sort of dated my dad. It was only one night, at the Yule Ball, but still.’

They both laughed.

‘That’s so weird, to think of your parents having a life before you.’

‘Albus said once that that’s why he doesn’t have a girlfriend; he’s too worried she’d turn out to be his sister.’

He grinned evilly.

‘Mum smacked him round the head and gave him an absolute earful. She was furious.’

‘Well, at least you get to choose whether or not to date someone, however incestuously…’

Her voiced trailed off, the realization quickly hitting them both that she had said more than she’d meant to. James, desperate to make the moment last, held her gently in place when she tried to get up.’

‘Stac, what do you mean?’

‘Nothing, I...’ she sighed. Whether it was the late hour, the lack of sleep, or simply the present company, Anastacia found that she didn’t have the will to prevaricate.

‘My family is very…traditional. So when I finally date, it will be the man I’m going to marry, someone my father has chosen for me.’

‘Oh.’

James didn’t really know how to reply to that. His family was probably as untraditional as they came; first there was his Dad, which was self-explanatory, really. Then there was his Mum, who still occasionally got mobbed by over-enthusiastic Quidditch fans.

Even disregarding all that, his very upbringing seemed to have been the opposite of Stac’s. One of the backbones of their home life had been the firmly-held belief that everyone had a right to be themselves and choose their own paths.

‘Just look at your aunt Hermione,’ Dad was fond of saying, ‘she was a complete nutter at school. Found a club called SPEW and everything. But where would we be today if she’d caved in to those people who told her she was mental for caring about house elves and the like?’

James and Albus had figured out early on that smart answers to this rhetorical question were just asking for trouble, especially from Mum. But James had to agree with his Dad; what was the point in life if you didn’t get to make your own choices?

‘Sooo…does your dad choose anything else for you?’

Anastacia sighed and ran her hands over her face.

‘No offense, James, but I really don’t want to talk about it. My home life is best left at home.’

‘Yeah, sorry,’ James mumbled. It had been worth a try.

His unhappiness must have shown on his face, because Stac sighed and settled back down on the cushions.

‘What?’

‘What what?’

‘Don’t play dumb with me, James.’

He bit back the response that Rose would have given; who’s playing? Somehow, from the twinkle in her eye, he guessed that she’d had the same thought.

‘Something’s up, isn’t it?’

‘It’s just…’

He looked at his hands and fought the urge to fidget like an embarrassed child.

‘That’s what you do, you know? When you’re up late? You tell people stuff. You talk about your life and everything. You know, like truth or dare, only without the dare. It’s a game.’

It wasn’t asking that much, surely. If she couldn’t trust him now, after all they’d been through, then she never would.

Stac sighed again.

‘You’re not making this up, are you? This is some important, ‘friend’ rule that I don’t know about, not some strange and sudden idea of yours?’

But she was smiling, so he disregarded the words in favour of the tone behind them.

‘Stac, it’s practically a law. I think it might even be a criminal offence to flout it.’

She laughed shortly.

‘You would know, I suppose.’

‘Right,’ James continued, forging ahead while she still seemed content to answer. He had the niggling idea that this was all faintly ridiculous, but if this was what it took to get some answers and information out of Stac every once in awhile, who was he to complain?

‘I just have one condition,’ she interrupted, and his heart sank. Here came the moment when she told him she wasn’t actually going to answer any of his questions.

But to his surprise, she didn’t say anything of the sort.

‘Can we stick to purely hypothetical situations?’

James thought for a moment.

‘So…like what would you do after school if you could do anything at all?’

She nodded agreement.

‘Yes, those sorts of questions.’

Leaning over the side of the cushions, she pulled a blanket across the floor and draped it over her legs. James snagged a corner and tugged, pulling it over himself and leaving her legs exposed. For a moment they fought over possession of the blanket, eventually subsiding back onto the cushions and spreading the cover over them both.

‘If I could be anything,’ Anastacia started in a dreamy voice, and James realised with a shock that she was actually going to answer his question.

He was glad no one was listening in on this particular conversation. What would he sound like; going to such lengths to convince his best friend to tell him what she wanted to be when she finished school? It was all a bit absurd, really.

‘I think I’d be an Auror,’ Stac finished thoughtfully.

James gave a bit of a start, and she looked at him questioningly.

‘What?’

‘You…do know what Aurors…well, do, don’t you?’

‘I’m not an idiot, James, thank you. I do actually know what’s going on in the world at this present time. And I believe I’d make a rather good Auror, despite what you may think.’

He was gaping at her like a fish out of water, his mouth wide open. How to say that he wasn’t casting aspersions against her abilities, but that the idea of her running around after Dark Wizards scared him spitless?

‘Are you trying to catch something in your mouth?’ she asked with feigned interest.

James closed his jaw with a snap and tried to regain some semblance of dignity.

‘I didn’t…I just meant…well…I guess I could put in a good word with Dad for you.’

The sad smile and closing off of the expression in her eyes told him that this was not an open topic of conversation, and, accustomed to reading these subtle signs, he smoothly continued on to the next subject.

 ‘I reckon you’d be a good healer. Maybe one in the psych ward at St Mungo’s.’

‘A healer?’

Stac’s voice was incredulous, but James ignored it, warming to his theme.

‘Yeah, you’d be a great healer. If you didn’t want to do psych stuff, you could go into muscles and whatever and be the healer for our Quidditch team.’

‘Your team?’

‘The one Sam and me are going to play for once we finish. You could be the team healer and come everywhere with us.’

She gave voice to a very unladylike snort.

‘And sit in the background doing nothing. No thank you. I have enough of that as is. I’m not about to choose it for myself.’

She punched him in the arm, but only succeeded in giving herself sore knuckles.

‘So what about you? What would you do if you couldn’t play Quidditch?’

James tugged on his ear and sat back. He had to think about that one. He’d never really considered anything else.

‘Dunno,’ he answered finally, ‘I’d be at a bit of a loss, I guess. Dad’d like me to go to work for him, but Mum wouldn’t; she’s already scared Al’s going to end up becoming an Auror.’

‘Scared?’ Stac asked, confused, ‘But why would she be scared?’

‘She doesn’t like us knowing too much about Dad’s work. Aunt Hermione’s the same; they try to keep it from us as much as possible. Dad and Uncle Ron aren’t allowed to talk about work in the house, and they’re not really supposed to have friends from work over. Al mentioned once that he’d like to be an Auror someday and Mum went spare.’

He gave a wry smile.

‘They conveniently seem to forget that they were battling all sorts of dark stuff when they were much younger than us. Hell, Mum fought a duel with Bellatrix Lestrange when she was Al’s age, and she only stopped because Grandma Molly made her. What’s wrong with him wanting to do the same?’

‘So what do you think he’ll be?’ Anastacia asked, settling herself more comfortably on the cushions. She was finding this ‘talking’ thing to be surprisingly easy, and, more surprisingly, enjoyable.

‘I dunno what he’ll want to be, but I know what he’d be good at; I reckon he’d make a good Minister for Magic.’

Stac laughed, then caught herself when she realised he was serious.

‘Really? Albus? Our Albus?’

‘Yes, our Al,’ James replied, ‘he can be a bit of a fu–’

She shot him a look and he quickly changed what he was going to say.

‘A bit of an idiot on occasion, but by and large he’s a pretty good kid. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, at least. And you saw how he got hold of that Veritaserum. I tell you, that kid has skills.’

‘I was trying to forget about the Veritaserum,’ Stac told him firmly, ‘I think Marcus still hasn’t gotten over it.’

‘How sad. I’m so sorry for him,’ he commented, sounding anything but.

She hit him again, then again, and again. He held up his hands to protect his face and arms from her vicious, if slightly weak, attack.

‘Uncle! Uncle!’ he gasped when she resorted to poking, ‘Bloody hell, woman, Uncle means stop!’

This was followed by a lengthy debate on what James maintained were ‘necessary and vital figures of speech’ and Anastacia saw as ‘stupid English phrases’. This was followed by another poking war and a rather speedy full-body bind on Anastacia’s part.

James had to give her full credit for it as she’d managed to cast the spell non-verbally while he was tickling her. That, he knew from experience, took real skill.

From there they moved on to other topics, such as a full run-down of the game and a good complaining session (on James’ part) about all the work that they had to do in class.

Just normal talking…

 


 

The fire was burning low and the common room was becoming a little colder when they finally began to drift off to sleep. James, still intent on his game, was still asking questions. His theory was that Anastacia was more likely to answer him the tireder she became.

So far, it wasn’t working very well, but he lived in hope.

‘Okay, umm…’

He was finding it increasingly difficult to thin through the haze of sleep that was creeping up on him.

‘It’s a bit of a lame one, but s’all I can think of.’

Stac murmured for him to continue.

‘Okay; who do you trust most in the entire world? Doesn’t necessarily have to be a person.’

He added that last because he’d once asked Lily the same question and she’d answered with ‘Roger’, which was the name of her pink Pygmy Puff. When he’d challenged her, she defended her answer by declaring that she told Roger things that she never told anyone else, not even Tessie.

The room was silent except for the crackling of the fire, and James was drifting off, his head falling back on the cushions, when he heard it.

‘You.’

At first he thought he’d dreamt it, but when he looked down, Stac was looking up at him through her lashes, her eyes nearly shut with tiredness.

She smiled at him sleepily and her eyes closed. With a slight sigh, she snuggled down under the blanket, her breathing becoming soft and even.

James tried to stay awake, attempting to force his brain to process this new information, but it stubbornly refused to work. Everything in him was screaming for rest, exhausted by the match and the late hour.

Eventually, he had no choice but to give in. So he too hunkered down under the blanket and gave himself up to slumber.

 

 




Thud.

James was having the strangest dream. Sam kept hitting him over the head with a Muggle blow-up hammer. It didn’t hurt, but it was very noisy.

Thud. Thud-thud.

He rolled over and tried to make the dream go away, but the noise just got louder.

Thud-thud-thud-thud-THUD!

Groaning, James rubbed his eyes and looked around him. He went to get up – and froze.

Anastacia was nestled alongside him, her head resting on his shoulder. She was almost hugging him in her sleep.

James stayed very still, hardly daring to breath for fear of waking her. She looked completely at peace and totally relaxed. She was even smiling. He hoped, randomly and seemingly for no reason, that she was having a good dream.

Speaking of dreams…

The banging noise started up again. It seemed to be coming from outside the common room.

James sighed. As much as he wanted to stay on the cushions, he knew that he probably needed to go see what it was.

He carefully eased out from under Stac’s sleeping form, pausing to pull the blanket back up over her, and went to the portrait hole.

The moment he opened it, a dark-haired girl nearly fell through the hole. It was the Montro–Celeste, James reminded himself firmly.

‘Can I help you?’ he asked, still bemused and half-asleep.

‘Is her– Anastacia here?’ the girl demanded, climbing through the portrait hole to the indignant squawks of the Fat Lady.

She didn’t wait for an answer, but pushed James aside and hurried over to Stac’s sleeping form, kneeling down beside her.

‘Hey! You can’t just barge in here like that!’ James protested, but she wasn’t listening.

‘Grace! Grace, you have to wake up!’

Celeste shook the other girl’s shoulder urgently. Anastacia tried to swat away her hand and turned over, grumbling in her sleep.

‘Grace! C’est pressent!

Anastacia was instantly awake. French, here in the Gryffindor common room where it was not supposed to be, meant that something was wrong. She sat up quickly, throwing off the blanket.

‘Celeste? What is it?’

‘They’re being let out of isolation,’ Celeste told her in a low voice, despite the fact that no one else in the room would have been able to understand her language even if they were awake.

‘What? But Scorpius said it would last the whole weekend.’

‘That’s what we thought, but I just saw Longbottom and Danté heading for the Slytherin dorms. From what I heard, Danté’s cut some sort of a deal that will get them off early.’

‘When was this?’ Anastacia asked, getting to her feet.

‘A few minutes ago. I came here straight away. But that means they’ll be nearly there by now.’

She began to pull the older girl towards the portrait hole.

‘Grace, if you’re not in your room or at least in that area when they come looking for you…’

‘I know,’ Stac whispered, trying to maintain her composure while her insides felt like they were crumbling.

‘Would someone care to tell me what’s going on?’ a loud voice drawled from in front of the portrait hole.

James was leaning against the wall, his broad shoulders blocking the exit and his expression clearly saying that neither of the girls was leaving without an explanation.

‘James, please,’ Anastacia begged, in English now, ‘I have to go. I’m sorry.’

‘Why?’

‘It’s no business of yours,’ Celeste informed him haughtily, but Stac shot her a quelling look and returned to her pleading.

‘Please, I just have to. It doesn’t matter why; what matters is that I need to go.’

‘Stac, just tell me.’

James took a step forward, his hand reaching out, his expression softening, but Celeste took advantage of his distraction to squeeze her way past him to the hole in the wall, pulling Anastacia behind her.

Stac managed to clasp his hand briefly as she passed and gave him a sad smile.

‘I’m sorry, James. There are some things you just can’t fix.’

Then they were gone, pelting down the corridor towards the Head Girl’s room.

James watched them go, debating whether or not to follow them. He was interrupted by a drowsy voice coming from inside the room.

‘What was that all about?’

Sam and Jaya blinked sleepily up at him from the sofa. James inhaled deeply and ran his hand through his hair, distracted enough not to notice their unusually close proximity to each other.

‘Nothing. It was nothing. Go back to sleep.’

 












 

Gasping and panting, the two girls rounded the last corner to be met with the stony faces of Anastacia’s guard. Creeten in particular looked very grim.

Was dieses ist?

Anastacia drew herself up to her full height and looked the big boy coldly in the eye.

‘I was taking a walk.’

Creeten’s gaze narrowed suspiciously.

‘At this time of the morning? Why are you out of breath?’

‘I find it very refreshing to take early morning walks,’ Anastacia threw back superiorly, ‘and I am out of breath because Celeste and I decided to have a race back to my room. Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to go change.’

She tried to go through the boys to her room, but they stolidly blocked her path.

‘That story is ridiculous. Even if it is true, it is behaviour that hardly befits your station, but I do not doubt that it is a lie. Where have you really been?’

‘You dare to accuse me of lying?’ Anastacia raged, temper flaring, ‘You dare to say that I am acting inappropriately? May I remind you that I am not the one who was confined to my dormitory for the weekend for starting a fight? I’m sure my father would be very interested to hear that his daughter’s entire guard were unable to perform their duties due to punishment.’

Creeten’s face was mutinous.

‘It was nothing to do with us. We were caught up in it, that is all. And yes, I consider it inappropriate for your Grace to be out in the school without an escort.’

‘Celeste has been with me all weekend, including this morning, so I have not been without an escort at all,’ Anastacia declared triumphantly. Celeste nodded her agreement, her nose in the air.

Still the group did not move. Anastacia surveyed them with a gaze that could have frozen the Black Lake at fifty feet.

‘Out. Of. My. Way.’

Finally, they stepped aside. Creeten was the last to move. It was only after he had given a grudging bow that was followed by the rest that Anastacia and Celeste walked past them all and entered her room.

As soon as the door was closed they both collapsed on the floor.

‘That was too close,’ Anastacia breathed, conscious of the fact that they boys would still be outside. Even though the spells on the door should prevent them getting close enough to hear, she didn’t want to take any chances.

‘Much too close,’ Celeste agreed, fanning herself, ‘I’m all for you having fun, and I know this was all my idea, but, really your Grace…you were cutting it a bit fine, weren’t you?’

‘Believe me; I had no intention of things happening like this. I didn’t mean to stay in Gryffindor Tower last night, but it was late and I was tired, and…’

She trailed off, the memories of the night before rising to the surface. Cheeks colouring slightly, she made her way over to her dressing table and sat down before it, letting down her hair to somewhat hide the redness of her face.

‘Grace…’

‘Creeten seemed very upset,’ Anastacia cut in hurriedly, changing the subject, ‘I don’t know what you did, but you were careful, weren’t you? I don’t want him to be able to trace anything back to you.’

‘Don’t worry; I covered my tracks well enough that he’ll never even think to connect me. But I’m not worried about that.’

She perched on the edge of Anastacia’s bed, a searching look on her face.

‘What took place last night to make you stay so late? It’s not like you; losing track of time, not being prepared for any eventuality. Did something happen?’

‘No,’ Anastacia assured her lightly, only her hands showing a faint tremor as she reached for her hairbrush, ‘we talked, that’s all. We were talking and I stayed a bit later than I meant to.’

‘Talking? What did you tell him?’

‘Nothing about me, if that’s what you mean. I presume it is. At least, nothing too much about me.’

Celeste regarded her shrewdly in the mirror.

‘That’s not really an answer, you know.’

‘Well, it wasn’t really a question; not one I intended to answer, in any case.’

She paused, turning to face the other girl.

‘I thought getting to know James and having other friends and being normal like this was all your idea in the first place. Why are you so against it all of a sudden?’

‘I’m not. I…’

She sighed.

‘I…heard some things. Things that I’m probably not supposed to know, at least, not yet. Things regarding…your future.’

Stac’s blood ran cold. Her hands began to shake for real.

‘He wouldn’t,’ she whispered in a horrified voice, ‘not yet. Not so soon.’

‘They’re only rumours,’ Celeste reassured her worriedly, sliding her arms around the shaking form, ‘nothing concrete. It’s probably just idle talk.’

‘But what if it isn’t?’ Stac asked frantically. She pulled out of Celeste’s embrace and refused to be calmed.

‘What if the rumours are true?’

‘Grace,’ Celeste told her firmly, ‘you have to snap out of it. For a start, you don’t even know what I’ve heard. You could just be jumping to the wrong conclusion. What’s more, I don’t even know what I’ve heard, not really. As I said, it’s all rumour, conjecture, hearsay. I may have it all incorrect.’

Anastacia took a few deep breaths and clasped her hands on her knees.

‘Of course. You’re right, of course. I’m being silly. It might be nothing.’

Neither of them commented on the fact that her hands were clasped so tight that her knuckles were white. Just as neither of them voiced the unspoken thoughts screaming through their minds.

If Celeste was hearing rumours all the way out here, then there had to be at least a shred of truth to them. What’s more, there was only one part of Anastacia’s future that would cause rumours to spark.

And that one part was very bad news indeed.

 





Yes, I know it's a filler and I know there's a cliffhanger and I'm truly, terribly sorry, but it had to go in. I can, however, guarantee that the next chapter is much juicier, longer and more relevent! So please don' give up on me yet!
Ta!

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