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“Autumn,” Dom said, poking her head round the bathroom door – apparently pretending that the other girls we shared our dorm with didn’t exist , a habit that she was actually really rather good at it– “is your wand soaking in the sink for a reason?”

Then again, given it was practically the middle of the night I was entirely sure that our friendly dorm sharers (mates seemed a little presumptuous) would be just fine with being ignored in such a way. In fact, I was rather wishing that I was being ignored in such a way.

“Yeah,” I muttered, turning over in bed and pulling the duvet around me, “I dropped it down the loo.”

“You dropped your wand down the toilet?”Dom asked, one hand on her hip as she grinned at me. I grabbed the curtain around my bed with one of my hands and tried to pull it across, only succeeding in giving the material a good yank in the wrong direction. I was too tired for this. All I wanted to do was burry my face in my pillow and resolutely go back to sleep.

“Yes,” I said, turning over again and burying my face in my pillow.

“What were you trying to do?”

“Summon my pyjamas,” I muttered, “my wand movement was a bit erratic, and I let go, and my wand went down the toilet. Now shut up and let me sleep.”

“Oh, right,” Dom said, “you went out with April last night, and now you’re hungover.”

“I don’t do hangovers,” I contradicted, “I’m just tired.”

“You have fun?” Dom said, closing the bathroom door and stepping back in the dorm – pulling back the curtains that had been previously blocking the sun from assaulting my eyes and looking far too cheerful.

“Suppose,” I said, “sod off, Dom, I didn’t get in till half three and its, Jesus Christ Dom, it’s seven in the morning! It’s a Sunday.”

“You going to skip church?”

“I have a couple of hours,” I said grumpily, “no one’s going to care if I’m wearing my pyjamas.”

“And you said the Lords name in vein.”

“Piss off,” I said, pulling my curtains back over my bed and ignoring her resolutely: just because I was a Christian didn’t mean I was always a good Christian.

“So, are you going to talk to her?” Dom continued, casually pulling back the curtain fully and perching on the end of my bed, “or are you going to let her fuck off back to Australia and not explain herself?”

“She said she’s coming back in a couple of weeks.” I said dully, pulling the duvet up to my face an trying to ignore her.

“She said that last time and she disappeared for two years.”

“I know.”

“Budge over, fatty,” Dom said, sliding under my bed covers and propping up one of my pillows. I grunted with dissatisfaction and pulled the other pillow around my face, away from her, “so what are you going to say?”

“Nothing, probably – I’m a doormat, it’s what I do.”

“I’m not letting her screw you over this time,” Dom said, bringing her knees up to her chest and pulling the duvet around her with a smile, “we’ll plan it out – I’ll tell you exactly what to say and you just say it.”

“Leave it, Dom.”

“No, I won’t,” Dom contradicted, “so how about you start with ‘hey, how come you left the country because our parents are great big shits then came back, after two years, and decided to visit them anyway?”

“No.”

“Or, you could ask how she could betray you?”

“Dom,” I said, “do I sound like a person who wants to talk about this right now?”

“With your face in that pillow you don’t sound anything much,” I removed the pillow from my face and tried to hit her with it, only succeeding in getting my face squashed up against the mattress, “thanks for the extra pillow,” and, evidentially, loosing possession of the pillow.

“Why are you even awake?”

“To bother you, mostly, come on Autumn –you’re my best friend and I don’t want you moping for the next week about how you’re a doormat.  You deserve better.”

“Well if people would stop walking all over me,” I said, although people was quite a broad definition; I hardly talked to anyone other than Dom, and it was a given that she’d take advantage on occasions, and then my siblings and now, I suppose, James. And if James was going to start walking all over me he probably wouldn’t start for another week or two, because that was how relationships worked.

“You’ve got ‘welcome’ printed on your forehead,” Dom said, prodding me in the former mentioned forehead for added emphasis. I swotted her hand away and turned over, dragging the duvet with me. Dom grabbed hold of it with her long manicured fingers. Bah.

“Doesn’t mean people have to wipe their dirty shoes on me too.”

“Now, come on, the metaphors going too far now.”

“Drop it then.”

“No, come on, let’s talk about it.”

“All I want to do is go back to sleep. Four hours sleep! Four! And you’ve woken me up at an obscene time in the morning for no reason.”

“I just got a letter from Mum,” Dom said, “that’s what woke me up.”

“Oh?”

“She’s making Victoire include me in the wedding,” I pulled my face out of the covers for a minute and looked up at my best friend. A sour expression twisted onto her features for a second before she wriggled down under my covers a little more and stared up at the ceiling, “Victoire knew she would – just wanted to make sure I looked like a right idiot.” and there was the usual-Dom violence between her words.

“So, are you going to do it?”

“No, I’m refusing,” Dom said firmly, “I can stand up for myself, unlike some people.”

“Well it doesn’t seem to be working very well for you,” I said, turning back over onto my side and staring at my trunk at the top of the bed, “she’s allowed to visit her parents if she wants to,” I said quietly, “I never asked her not to.”

“She volunteered too,” Dom said, “and she should at least explain why she’s changed her mind.”

“She doesn’t owe me anything.”

“She’s your sister.”

“And Victoire’s your sister.”

“How’s about I get us breakfast in bed?” Dom suggested, “As it very much appears everything is against us. Then we can plan out your magnificent confrontation.”

*

“So you’re not going to church today?” James asked; hand in mine as we walked up to the Gryffindor Common room where I was to be completing the rest of my extensive pile of homework in his company.

I’d told Dom that I was going to church and then having dinner with April and Oliver in Hogsmeade and, unless she decided to visit the Gryffindor Common Room for a family visit she was never going to know any better. Although James insisted that he wouldn’t be a participant in a ‘secret’ relationship he had agreed that it was for the best that we didn’t mention the whole thing to Dom until the bridesmaid situation had blown over. Mostly, I was all of never mentioning it to her ever. My terrible luck and inability to achieve anything successfully, however, probably meant that wasn’t feasible. Plus, James was so dead set against that idea.

So, we waited.

The only reason Dom hadn’t found out already was due to her conviction of not believing rumours. It was a given that she’d started so many that she didn’t really trust them, and so the continuous ‘James Potter and Autumn Pearce are a thing’ was mostly passing her by.  With the added, and surprising, help and support of Benson Flint.

“Don’t feel like it,” I admitted, “you don’t mind waiting for me for a sec, do you? Professor Vector gave me an extension for this essay, so I need to go hand it into to her on the way.”

“It’s fine,” James said with an easy smile, “I wouldn’t be much of a boyfriend if I wouldn’t wait for two minutes whilst you dropped off an essay.”

“And, erm, I told Hagrid that I’d be down at his hut for lunch – but you can come too,” I added hastily, “it’s just, he brought me a sort of present for helping out with the animals whilst he was in France.”

“Oh right, you said –the vole. Have you named it yet?”

“Erm, yeah,” I said, suddenly realising that perhaps I hadn’t picked the best name considering I was dating the bloke who’d nearly didn’t exist due to my new sort-of-pet’s namesake – I  didn’t understand how I was always so awkwardly bad at doing anything remotely amusing, “Vole-demort. You inspired it actually, with all that ‘the Vole who isn’t named’ crap, and erm... yeah.”

I was half expecting James to turn around and dump me immediately for being insensitive but instead his lips curved upwards into a smile.

“And you tried to convince me you weren’t hilarious,” James said, grinning for a second, “Vole-demort.”

“I suppose, there had to be some Ravenclaw wit in me.” I said reluctantly.

“Wait a second; did you just accept a compliment?” James asked.

“Shut up,” I muttered in response, putting one hand in my pocket, “or I’ll change my mind and reject it,” I paused slightly as we arrived outside Professor Vector’s office and glanced inside. “Right, I’ll just be two minutes with Professor Vector. Sorry for being crap,” I said, kissing him quickly before shrugging a goodbye and knocking on the door of Professor Vector’s classroom.

I felt bad leaving James outside waiting for me, but there was nothing else I could do – thanks to being caught up with mountains of homework, the drama with April and Dom’s ongoing mission to out-prank James (my secret boyfriend) I’d hardly had any time to actually see him. Now, on the day when we’d actually made plans I was flaking out on him and running off to have lunch with Hagrid.

No guy wants to hear that you’d rather spent time pretending to eat poor cooking with a greying half-giant than with them. I made a note to try a little harder.

“I’m here with my essay,” I said quietly, smiling at Professor Vector weakly, “sorry it was late.”

Professor Vector’s stern face twisted into concern as she took the length of the parchment, her critical eyes scanning over it. I was suddenly acutely aware of how rushed the last inch of the essay had been and the size my writing had managed to achieve by the end of the essay. I flushed slightly.

“Autumn, I have your last essay here,” Professor Vector said, pulling out a separate piece of parchment – equally as rushed with large sections that had been crossed out, “and then the essay before that. It’s fair to say there’s quite a big difference between the two.”

I felt much too tall to be stood whilst she sat behind a desk – my height suddenly felt obtrusive and embarrassing. I wanted to crouch.

“You’re usually an Outstanding level student, Autumn, but in your last essay you achieved an Acceptable, and this one... well, it’s late and, quite frankly, it doesn’t seem up to your usual standard. Is there something going on that you need to talk about?”

“No, “I said quickly.

“Your sisters staying in Hogsmeade at the moment?”

“Yeah, she’s... she’s visiting and well, I’ve just been a bit busy.”

“And you’re currently dating James Potter?” Professor Vector asked. My face flushed slightly but I nodded and looked down at the floor, “maybe you’re taking on too much.” she suggested lightly.

“Maybe.” I agreed, shoving my hands in my pockets and feeling my lip quiver slightly. Typical Ravenclaw – getting upset about a few marks on a couple of essays. James would laugh.

“Just think about it,” Professor Vector said, “and I won’t accept another late essay again.”

“Of course, Professor,” I muttered before exiting, balling my fists up in my pockets and blinking. Everything had been so hectic: with the pranking, the Quidditch parties and all these studies sessions – it wasn’t necessarily my fault that I’d slipped behind things.

“I’m failing,” I blurted to James as I stepped outside of Vector’s office and was subjected to his questioning gaze, “and Arithmancy is one of my best subjects.”

“But, Autumn, you do loads of subjects. You could always drop something?”

“But I enjoy them,” I muttered quietly, folding my arms over my chest, “you’re not a claw – you wouldn’t get it.”

“I probably could just about get it through the thick Gryffindor skull of mine.”

“Sorry,” I muttered, Merlin I was such a crap person, “sorry, I’m just stressed.”

“It’s fine,” James said, “I bet you didn’t fail anyway.”

“I got an A.”

“I’ll swap you an A for one of my Ps?” James said with a grin, “you’re such a Ravenclaw.”

“Shut up,” I said, managing to smile in return, “you knew that before we dated – don’t use it against me now.”

“Fair enough,” James said, “and we’ll get lots of studying done this afternoon and everything will be just fine.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, taking his hand again and smiling, “just fine.”

*

“Holy shit, Autumn – how much work do you have?” James asked as I finished writing my second essay and added it ceremoniously to the ‘finished’ pile, swapping my Defence books for Care of Magical Creatures books and scribbling down yet another ridiculously long title.

“Sorry,” I muttered, putting my quill down for a second and looking up at him, “you were probably expecting less of the study and more of the date part of ‘study date’ weren’t you?” James looked like he wanted to agree with this whole heartedly, but instead glanced down at the blank piece of parchment in front of him and made a face.

“No, it’s all fine,” he said decisively, “I just don’t normally do this much work. Do you want me to go get some food and stuff from the kitchens?” I guessed we were still at that part of the beginning relationship where he was scared of doing something wrong and messing up, whilst I was here ignoring him in favour of my essay and going to see a Vole Hagrid had brought me.  I was such a terrible girlfriend.

“Will it stop you from fidgeting continually?” I asked with a smile, “Sure. I like strawberry creams and chocolate digestives.”

“Yes, Madame.” James said with a salute, nudging me with his shoulder before getting to his feet and swinging his bag over his shoulder.

“Bye, James.”

As a Ravenclaw, I should have known better than to agree to his suggestion of studying together. I was very good at blocking everyone in the world out when I’m trying to do my homework, but the prospect of spending a whole afternoon in his company had sounded too appealing to give up for the sake of a couple of grades. Until Vector had messed the whole thing up and brought me crashing back down to reality.

Was this James thing even a good idea? Or was this another of my special ways at screwing things up? I paused for a second, with my quill hovering over the piece of parchment and tried to mentally draw up a pros and cons list about the whole thing. The cons were obvious: this was probably going to result in my death, either by failing school (which would kill me) or by Dom’s expertly manicured hands; I didn’t have enough time to be fair to James and, of course, every single person felt the need to talk about me whereas before I’d been just a less important part of a greater duo.

Then, the pros: I liked James. I mean, I liked him a lot – he was cute and kind and bizarrely seemed unaffected by the prospect of Dom’s wrath.  Thanks to James, I’d very nearly been able to produce a patronus. And, for once in my life I felt like I wasn’t just a sideshow to Dom’s stupid romantic trysts and April’s ongoing drama with our parents. Every since I’d accidentally stolen his invisibility cloak, everything had got exciting. I liked that.

“Autumn Pearce.” Freddie and Roxanne Weasley said, sitting down mere seconds after James had left the Gryffindor Common room and looking up at me expectantly. Case and point: Roxanne and Freddie Weasley were always exciting – mostly because they seemed to enjoy explosives and hexing people more than most criminals (although this was mainly assumed from what Dom had told me and it was fair to say that reliability wasn’t her strong point).

“We’ve come to question you about your intentions,” Roxanne Weasley said cheerfully, “concerning our least favourite cousin.”

“Okay.” I said.

“So, why exactly are you friends with Dom?” Freddie grinned, causing me to almost-laugh and bite my lip.

“I like Dom.”

“She’s lying,” Roxanne said, “she’s got to be lying.”

If this were James, I would have protested that Dom was lovely really but it was slightly more difficult with Roxanne and Freddie, who I was entirely sure I’d spoken too about three times in my entire life.

“Are you sure you’re not planning to systematically ruin her life and turn her into a laughing stock.”

“It’s funny,” I said, “that’s what Dom said you guys would do to me.”

“So that’s a no?” Freddie asked, narrowing his eyes slightly.

“That’s a no,” I agreed, noticing in a moment of horror that I’d been dripping ink onto my essay and distracting myself for the next minute or so trying to dap the ink away with my left sleeve, succeeding only in spreading more ink across my essay, “pants.”

“Here,” Roxanne said, pulling out her wand and fixing it for me, “so you’re just dating James, despite Dom’s instructions not to, because you like James?”

“That sounds about right.”

“You’ve obviously got something wrong with your head,” Roxanne concluded, “but good.”

“Good?”

“Family loyalty,” Freddie explained, “it extends all ways. No one messes with the Weasleys. We’re tough as nails.”

“Right,” I said, smiling slightly as I glanced between them. They were protecting Dom: maybe they didn’t like her and maybe sometimes they excluded her and made her feel crap, but they were still looking out for her. I wanted nothing more than to run back to Dom and tell her about this conversation, but that wasn’t possible. Well, it was potentially possible but there would be some unfortunate side effects. Like death.

“We’ve already had words with Victorie,” Roxanne continued, “well, Rose did. Freddie and I aren’t really people-people.”

“That means we make points with jinxes,” Freddie added, “so, that’s all, isn’t it Roxy?”

“I think so,” Roxanne said, “so we won’t be telling Dom that you’re secretly dating James, as you’re not messing with any of them or anything.”

“Oh, come on,” Lily Potter said, sitting herself down at our table and folding her arms, “I told you that James and Dom are more likely to mess with her than the other way round.”

“And we asked you on what authority you were making these claims,” Roxanne said, “and your answer wasn’t satisfactory.”

“I know her brother,” Lily said, “and they’re both harmless. Now, leave Autumn alone or James will get mad.”

“James isn’t here,” Freddie said, “first year mistake, leaving his girlfriend here unattended.”

“He’s here now,” Lily said pointedly, nodding towards the portrait hole with a smile, “so scatter, Johnson-Weasleys.”

“Laters, Autumn!” Roxanne said, waving cheerfully before both of them disappeared to the other side of the Common room and sat themselves down with the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team (minus my brother).

“Thanks, Lily,” I said with an awkward smile, turning to James’s little sister and being unsure exactly what I should say now. I was saved by James arriving back at our table with an armful of chocolate digestives.

“How come you’re here, anyway?” Lily asked curiously.

“Study date with a side order of chocolate biscuits,” James said, “stop badgering Autumn, she’s trying to study. With biscuits and me.”

“I’d have thought you’d be saying goodbye to April before she went to Australia,” Lily said, “Oliver disappeared to Hogsmeade straight after church. Said you both had permission from the Head and everything.”

“What?” James asked, turning his bright eyes on me looking confused.

“I’d have just thought... well,” Lily said, sending a worried glance in James’s direction, “that you’d be there.”

“Autumn, what’s going on?” James asked, depositing the impressive pile of biscuits onto the table and staring at me intently. I wash of guilt started building up in my stomach and Lily now appeared to have realised she’d well and truly put her foot in it. How many times can one person screw up in a day?

“My sister’s going to Australia today,” I muttered, pulling my arms in around me and trying not to catch his eye.

“For how long?”

“She said a couple of weeks, but last time she said that she... well, she didn’t come back for two years.”

James let out a deep breath and I wondered if, James had been scoring me by Dom’s stupid system, how many points I would have lost today. Looked like I was doing a very bad job at this whole dating thing. “Go say goodbye to your sister,” James said firmly, “we’ll talk later.”

*

“Hey, Autumn,” April said softly as I arrived at the Leaky Cauldron and found my siblings sat around one of the tables clutch butterbeers, “didn’t think you were coming.”

“Neither did I,” I said finally, collapsing into a seat next to my brother, “I’ve got a lot of work.”

“Right.” April said, but neither of them particularly believed that. None of us were particularly adept at communication: April had a tendency to disappear for years at a time and just send regular, or not so regular, letters about her exciting travels and every school year Oliver would be lost in a sea of Gryffindors and I wouldn’t hear from him for months of a time. Usually it was me who made the effort, but if no one else was going to bring up the elephant in the room then I wasn’t going to. I was fed up of all of it.

“How was church?” I asked eventually, because the silence was beginning to feel strained.

“Good,” Oliver said, “he humiliated April well and truly with a farewell speech.”

“And the talk was brilliant as always – lots of candles and buckets to demonstrate the light of the world concept.”

“Ah, it’s that time of year again.” I smiled, pulling my robes around me and glancing up at my siblings. At least we all had the familiarity of church to bring us together, even if there was always something else acting as a rift between us.

“I’m going to be back in two weeks,” April said carefully. “I mean it this time.”

“You said that last time,” Oliver said with an eye roll, “its okay, April; we don’t expect you to be back so soon.”

“No, I will; I’ve got a lot of stuff to come back for. I’m coming home for Christmas this year.”

“I’m not,” Oliver said, “we stay at Hogwarts.”

“Yeah, of course,” April said distractedly, her gaze flitting to me as she took in my appearance, “you look good, Autumn.”

“Thanks.”

“I think this James guy is good for you.”

“Okay.” I said stiffly, not quite able to shake the last traces of resentment out of my voice.

“You’ll write and tell me when it all blows up with Dom?”

“Yeah,” I nodded, “but if you’re back in two weeks you might even get the live version of events.”

“Here’s hoping.” April said, sending each of us one of her delicate smiles and ordering each of us another round of Butterbeers.

“Why did you visit them?” I asked her eventually, taking my butterbeer and looking at her, “I don’t mind. You can do what you want; I just want to know...why?”

“I needed to ask them a couple of things,” April said evenly, leaning forwards in her seat and looking at me carefully, “she asked me about you, and you too Oliver – I think she wants to sort things out. She misses you.”

“She misses you,” I said, leaning back and letting my hair fall into my face, “she’s never missed me in my life.”

“Can’t you..?”

“No,” I said, “I can’t. End of conversation.”

*

There are some things that you don’t really expect to happen in life, like James Potter saying ‘we’ll talk later’ and then finding out that his idea of talking later involved sitting in the Gryffindor dorms with a vole named Vole-demort.

And so, I sat with my long limbs folded up, my back resting against James Potter’s bed and the vole scurrying over my fingers waiting for the talking part of the rendezvous. With a certain degree of nervous trepidation.

I didn’t care what Dom had to say about how James Potter wasn’t cute, smuggling my new-pet-vole from Hagrid’s hut (although, he’d probably only had to say ‘Autumn’s upset – I think she’d like to play with the vole you brought her’ and Hagrid would have passed the thing over, but I suspected he’d achieved the result with a lot more bravado) and up to his dorm put him quite firmly in the adorable category.

Now as cute as the former mentioned vole, but still pretty damn cute.

“Sending me a letter to get me here was a bit cold, James.”

“You said goodbye to your sister, then?”

“Yeah,” I muttered, “thanks for bringing Vole-die up here, he’s so cute.” I muttered, bringing him up to my face and touching his soft nose with my own for a split second. I liked how uncomplicated animals were.

“It looks like an oversized rat.”

“So do you,” I returned, running my finger over the vole’s skin and smiling at it absent mindely, “non-magical ones are a bit smaller.”

“So it’s a magic-vole?”

“You really think Hagrid would give me a non-magical vole?” I asked touching its nose lightly and watching as it tried to sniff my hand, “it probably has fangs somewhere. Hopefully, we won’t find out.”

“So, are we going to talk about it?”

“Dunno,” I said, focusing my attention on the vole rather than my boyfriend. The vole was cuter and easier to understand. Plus, Volde-mort wasn’t expecting an explanation of things that I didn’t want to talk about, whereas James most definitely was, “it’s not a big deal, I just don’t talk about it much. It doesn’t matter.”

“We don’t have to talk about it, if you don’t want to.” James said, sitting down next to me and watching the Vole squirm in my hands before settling and lying still, “I’d just rather not find things out from Lily and then look like an idiot.”

“You do look like an idiot.” I said softly.

“Hey! Be nice, I’m your boyfriend.”

“You were nasty to Vole-demort!” I said, bringing him up to my chest and grinning at him, “don’t listen to the nasty James, Vole-die, – you don’t look anything like a smelly old rat.”

“Autumn,” James said seriously.

“Fine,” I conceded, “let’s talk.”

 




Is this a... is this an update I see? Why, I think it is an update! I have nothing much to say but sorry about the wait (although, you should bear in mind that I have ten WIPs to juggle) and that I’m up to date with answering all reviews for the past three months (other than like, yesterday’s reviews...) and I’d love to hear from you.

Oh, and sorry for the cliff hanger.

Couldn’t really resist.


Like I said, reviews are shiny ;)

 
 

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