When I got home, everything was quiet. I shut the door with a slam, just because I knew that Henrietta didn’t like it, and turned on the radio to full volume and opened a pot of leftover curry. I started dancing.
So what if Amelie had rejected me again? I was a famous Quidditch player, my dad was Harry Potter, and I had a cool flat and a relatively good-looking girlfriend. I didn’t need Amelie.
I just wanted her. Severely.
A lot. I wanted her a lot more than I wanted Henrietta or my career.
I poured a splash of firewhiskey into a glass and continued to dance to Celestina Warbeck. I didn’t know what my family were thinking when they openly mocked my grandmother for being a fan. The woman could sing. I sauntered – hips swinging and lip syncing – into my bedroom, ready to change out of the stupid dress robes that were meant to impress Amelie.
I dropped my glass and almost jumped out of my skin. Henrietta was sitting on my bed, wearing one of my Chudley Cannons t-shirts and jeans and looking remarkably underdressed. Lately, whenever I had seen her, she had been dolled up to the nines; wearing make-up and sporting curled hair and a pretty dress. At night, she had worn fancy lingerie and silk nighties. She looked different, perhaps even nicer.
“What are you doing here?”
“We had a lunch date,” she replied, getting up and walking towards me, “you failed to show up. I waited for you.”
“I was meeting Albus,” I said quickly, struggling with the back fastening of my robes, “he got a promotion.”
“Interns don’t get promotions.”
So apparently everybody knew this apart from me? Henrietta stepped forward, and I felt her cool hands on the back of my neck. She was undoing the buttons slowly, one by one, and we stood in awkward silence as she did so. Her hands slid underneath the heavy material, and massaged my shoulders gently. It was weird.
“You’ve been with her, haven’t you?”
“No.” I could feel my face on fire. I was such a good liar.
“Don’t be stupid, James,” she said quietly, “I know you’re lying.”
I looked at myself in the mirror, but nothing looked any different. How did she know? My hair wasn’t being its usual luscious self and my skin looked paler, but that was because Henrietta clearly had spies everywhere, or was secretly a very accomplished Seer.
“How did you know?”
Doubting whether it really existed, my eyes met hers in the mirror and we stared at our reflection. She looked different, without make-up, and in casual clothes. She looked pretty. I remembered watching her, one morning in Scotland, as she woke up half an hour early to curl her hair and apply her make-up, to choose the right outfit. I had told her she didn’t need it, but she just ignored me.
I remembered being genuinely upset she had broken up with me three weeks ago. I also remembered getting all emotional and trying to talk to Amelie about love and the past at Platform 9 and ¾.
“Listen, Henrietta. I was thinking that we should…”
“You’re not going to break up with me,” she said quietly, and for a second, I thought she was practicing one of her kooky mind tricks that usually had me reeling. She had wrapped her arms around my waist and pressed her face into my back. It was so strange. I was still thrown by the lack of make-up, not because she looked horrible, but because she looked nicer.
“I’m sorry about the Quidditch party,” she continued, “I’m sorry about how I acted.”
I just stood there.
“I had heard about Amelie,” she said, and she went back to sitting on the bed, “before the party, I mean – apparently you were the world’s most wonderful couple and it was all very beautiful and glorious and you had lovely banter and the family approved and she was clever and funny and beautiful.”
“You make her sound perfect.”
“She was though, wasn’t she?” Henrietta replied, her voice cold and smooth. She looked at me for some sort of response. I knew she would wait, her eyebrows knitted together in concentration, in worry - she would wait and listen whole-heartedly to my response, and not make a joke, not try and twist the situation into some hilarious private joke that eventually we would look back and laugh at. “Remember when you did this and this and this? Remember when I didn’t take you seriously?”
Henrietta’s eyes were on mine. Unlike Amelie - who was always partly somewhere else, thinking about her job or her Mum or something; who loathed serious talk; who would search for some comic relief, some light-hearted comment to make the moment less intense - she was listening to me, and waiting for my response.
“And I was jealous, you know,” she continued cautiously, worried that she might break some sort of spell with her words, “because she was cool and effortless and I was not.”
“Yes, you were acting strange.”
“And I’m sorry!” Henrietta said. “I felt jealous! I was intimidated.”
And then she started crying into my shoulder and the tears were ruining my shirt. I tried and tried to pull her arms off of me, a little frightened by her, wishing that I could just be with Amelie who only cried once a year and when I had done something particularly awful.
“When we broke up for the first time,” Henrietta continued, “you were so upset. I thought you didn’t appreciate me, I thought you didn’t love me, but you were so upset that I knew that couldn’t be true!”
Two weeks ago she was crying and weeping on the balcony of my flat, in a torrential downpour. She had a bottle of champagne in one hand and my favourite t-shirt in the other. I was upset, and told people that I was. Lily had stalked her across London, waiting to pounce, before she returned to school. Henrietta’s hair had been blue for three days. I had talked to Amelie about it on the train platform.
“Remember what I was like in Scotland? When we met?”
She had blushed prettily when I told her she was pretty. She had been wearing a pretty dress. She had been pretty.
“You were different,” I croaked. “You didn’t need to change.”
“I felt the need to. You were clearly getting bored with me. There were times when I thought you might just throw me away for lack of nothing better to do. I wanted you to feel like you could take me places, like nobody was judging you for having a boring, plain girlfriend.”
“You didn’t have to.”
“Then you should have told me that. I needed to know that I was enough.”
I stared at her.
“I’m sorry,” she said. She sounded genuine. Her nose was red, her eyes were puffy and tears streamed down her slightly acne-marked cheeks and she looked better, fresher, and more real. I thought of Amelie, and her frowning face as she refused me yet again, and I realised that whatever I tried to do to get her back would never work.
Amelie had a boyfriend. He probably had more brains than I ever would and would realise what he had before he lost it – he would never cheat on her, like I did. He would never lose her, like I had done. He would be better and more wonderful and loving than I ever was and she would be happy forever whereas I would die alone with cats and Celestina Warbeck.
It was Henrietta, or nothing.
“I’m so very sorry.”
She titled her head to gaze at me, and I lowered myself down onto the bed beside her. I took her face between my hands and kissed her lightly on the lips. She smiled.
“I’ve thrown out all my old clothes,” she continued brightly, “and cancelled all my beauty appointments. I even applied for that new job at Flourish and Blotts. And I sent a letter to Lily, asking whether we could go out for lunch or something when she was on one of her Hogsmeade weekends…”
“Henrietta, calm down.”
“I want it to work this time, James. I’ll do anything.”
She pressed her lips to mine again, her hand gripping impatiently at my shoulders as she pushed me back onto the bed. I ran my hands over her back. I murmured some generic flirtatious comment and I felt her fingers tugging at the edge of my shirt and her lips on my skin.
I wanted this.
“The thing is,” she said coyly as she ran her fingers through my hair, “now I’ve thrown out all my old clothes… I simply have nothing to wear.”
I stumbled over when I arrived at the locker rooms, my head still spinning from the apparition and from the firewhiskey I had drunk with Henrietta and my cousins last night. Vomit was threatening to go everywhere.
Pushing open the door and staggering along the corridor, I wondered why it was so quiet. Admittedly, the day after the opening game (which we usually lost) was always quiet and sad, intermittent with bursts of anger from our coach and wailing sobs from Oscar – but today it was eerily so. My footsteps echoed around the orange hallways.
Who invented light? And why was it so bright?
I nursed my head in my hands, wiping at my sleep-ridden eyes. Why did I let Henrietta does this to me? Probably because she preferred me in my weakened state when I couldn’t retort and instead just stared at how shiny her hair was. I was easier to manipulate that way.
Up one flight of stairs and through to more doors and I was there. I may have spent at least two minutes pushing at a door that clearly said pull, but at least I got there. The locker room was stinking of sweat but it mingled with the sweet scent of victory of the previous match. I swerved around the lockers and showers.
And an explosion of confetti landed in my face. Several fireworks were let off. A cork was let out of a champagne bottle so fast that it hit me on the head. Cheers from every direction that made my head split and spin. Rhiannon, the coach’s assistant with pale skin and dark hair, was standing sullenly in the corner with a vast cake in her hands, but her movements are blurred. Slaps on the back from people I didn’t know.
The urge to vomit was really quite persistent.
“Potter, my boy! We have some news for you!”
Jack Goddard had his muscular arm around my shoulders and a glass of champagne in his hand. His red face was beaming, his smile larger than life, and he was wearing a t-shirt with my face on it. I stared at it for a while, wondering whether it was a mirror, but it was just the hung-over sections of my brain trying to trick me. The still-slightly-tipsy sections of my brain were just lolling about with intoxicated happiness.
“James?” Goddard asked as I stared at his chest area. My head was pounding and my ears were ringing. The bright colours of the balloons and banners were confusing me, the orange blinding me.
“Looks like our favourite chaser has been having a party of his own!” Goddard continued, slapping me on the back and glancing around at all the expectant faces. “Come on, James, let’s get you some water.”
People were grumbling and moaning and the fireworks fizzled out. Jack all but carried me towards the coach’s office, flinging open the door and setting me down in one of the swivel chairs in front of the desk. The stench of sweat was less pungent in here, and there were no bright colours. I felt better already.
“Oi! James! Come on.” My head lolled dangerously from side to side, and Jack slapped me on the cheek.
“I think I’m going to die,” I moaned, my tongue feeling uncommonly furry.
“Don’t be stupid, you’ve been hung-over before.”
“I’m never drinking again.”
“They all say that,” Goddard replied, filling an entire jug with water from his wand.
“But really,” I continued, massaging my temples, “this is a whole new level of pain. This is being-beaten-by-Caerphilly-Catapults sort of pain. This is being-kicked-in-the-privates-by-an-enraged-hippogriff sort of pain. This is like having Hagrid sit on your…”
“Yes, thank you, James. I think I get the picture.”
“I could sign it for you,” I slurred.
“I’ve already got enough of them plastered on my walls, but thank you.”
Jack Goddard had only been coach of the Cannons for a couple of months. It was thanks to him that the team was anywhere near League-quality. He had completely scrapped the old team – still there and still losing as a result of bribes and nepotism – and pulled members from other teams and players fresh out of Hogwarts. We had started practicing at nine in the morning rather than at five. He had put us all on special diets – lots of protein and carbohydrates, very little dairy – and had us running around the pitch fifteen times before practice started.
My uncle Ron had recommended him to the managers of the Cannons. He had been round my house for dinners and barbeques. He had appreciated my wonderfully banterous nature and charming personality as we both sat on the bench during games.
He also had a very pretty sister but nobody liked to mention that. Nobody would like to mention that in front of Jack Goddard and his bone crushing biceps.
But then I forget that my alcohol-soaked brain was out to get me.
“You’ve got a very pretty sister.”
Jack almost dropped the glass of water he was holding. His jaw was tight; his eyes bright and breathed in and out before setting the glass down carefully on his desk.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing, really. I was just… I said nothing. You must be going a little mad or crazy or deaf or something because I didn’t say anything. Your mind must be playing tricks on you because I haven’t even opened my mouth to say anything and it’s all quiet here, no noise here, no siree.”
Jack ignored my rambling, and instead passed me the glass of water. I gulped it down. I could feel it sloshing around my insides.
“We’ve got some news for you, James.”
“We?” I looked around, searching the room for another person before my gaze landed back on Jack. My neck felt like it was made of rubber, so I leant my head on my shoulder.
“I’ve got some news for you.”
“Bad news first, please.”
“It’s good news.”
“Then good news first, please.”
I ignored the rolling of his eyes and the exasperated sigh. I took another swig of the water and Jack moved around the desk to lean against it, his arms folded.
“Well, firstly, I’m not going to scold you for coming in drunk or hung-over or whatever you seem to be.”
“Completely sober, thank you.”
He made a derisive snort. He opened the door and called Rhiannon into his office. The young girl’s movements and the opening and shutting of a door threw me off and the world began to spin dangerously. He asked her to go find some hangover remedies and a slice of the cake they were passing around.
“Basically, James, you’re on the team. Permanently.”
“What about Mansfield? What about his arm?”
“What about it?”
“Has it healed yet?”
“James, why are you asking all these questions?”
“I’m on the team?”
Jack started laughing and slapped me brotherly on the shoulder. Rhiannon came in and placed two vials of hangover remedy and a pot of tea on the table. I noticed she failed to bring any cake. I also noticed there was a sliver of icing on her top lip.
“Yes, well done, James. You’re on the team.”
I did a very over-enthusiastic fist pump into the air and jumped around for a little, ignoring the sloshing of my stomach and the spinning of my head, making inarticulate sounds of happiness and victory. Rhiannon scoffed as she picked up some papers and left the office. Cake-stealing bitch. She was just jealous of my dancing skills.
I even hugged Jack. He was king of all the men.
“I thought you would’ve known already,” he said, removing himself from my obviously manly embrace, “Henrietta was very excited when I told her yesterday.”
I stopped mid-prance. I stopped flouncing with victory and happiness. I started staring at Jack. Henrietta knew about this.
“I saw her lurking outside some restaurant. She was waiting for you and I thought I’d break the news. I guessed that was why you’re hung-over - that you two had done a little bit of celebrating yourself.”
“Really? Strange of her to keep it quiet. I would have thought that she would have gossiped about it to everyone and their dog.”
“What did you tell her?”
“That we were throwing a surprise party for you, that you should come into work. She asked about Mansfield and his arm as well, and about my sister and general life. She was very polite and well mannered. It was quite surprisingly really. I thought she would have gone off on one of those crazy tangents and tell me one of those depressing stories about how her pony died when she was only small…”
“Yeah, well. Apparently she’s changed.”
“We had a massive heart-to-heart about it yesterday.”
“Apparently we’re serious,” I said, downing the hung-over remedy in one and already feeling much better, “or exclusive or going steady or something like that.”
“And are you happy about it?”
“I mean, she’s changed: thrown out all her old clothes, got a new job. Promises that she’ll work harder at being my girlfriend.”
“Are you sure she’s the one that needs to do the work?” Jack suggested, sending me a pointed look. “She’s never really done anything wrong, you know... you just don’t like the colour pink, that’s all.”
I ignored him. “I’ll see how it goes and report back to you.”
Jack sighed heavily, walking around to sit in his desk swivel chair. He put his feet up on the desk. “I don’t know what to say. She’s a little over-protective, yes, and she wears a bit too much make-up, but that doesn’t make her a bad person, does it?”
My head lolled onto my shoulder, and I didn’t understand what was going on.
He threw a folder at me, but I missed and it hit me square in the face. “Anyway, these are some details of the job, working hours, travel, that sort of thing. I would take a look at the salary…”
I didn’t even feel the glorious whoop pleasure of finally being able to afford Celestina tickets and to travel to Peru. I didn’t even feel happy about being able to get a new home or new clothes. The pain in my head was throbbing and Jack was talking too quickly.
“Are you all right, James? You’re very pale.”
“I would offer you some cake but Rhiannon ate it all.”
Hidey-hi, everyone. Sorry for the shortness and the lateness of this update. Starting school has been horrendous, work has been horrible, and my inspiration has been severely lacking. Soz, m8z.
24/12/14: General improvements
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