Albus Potter and Josie Deetrin
"Pucker up, princess."
The point of contact between wand tip and skin feels searingly, blindingly hot.
My body moves of its own accord, the thought of Al's kiss still tingling on my lips even as a gasp catches in the back of my throat. And I'm spinning - whirling, twirling - around fast enough for the lights of the city to become streaks of glowing color, my hands and elbows groping and shoving blindly to push him - this thing - off of me.
The tinkling sound of a forgotten beer bottle clutched in my grip comes to me slowly, images and noises fragmented in their connection with my adrenaline-spiked, alcohol-soaked synapses. I can see it happening, I can watch the bottle smash against the glass barrier next to me as I turn around fast enough for my arm to go careening off course. And I can see - vaguely, peripherally - that all I'm left holding is the neck of the broken bottle as I stand, dripping, and staring at a boy clutching a Chinese-food-takeout chopstick and guffawing so hard his eyes are shut, his mouth stretching so wide it looks as if the fabric of his face might split in two.
I'm gaping like a goldfish, chest heaving with indignant huffs. I sway on my feet, fighting to free my thoughts from the sticky murk of alcohol and snuffed-out lust clouding my brain. It was a joke - just a prank.
My heart continues to pound like I'm being held at wandpoint.
And then Albus is moving, almost faster than my disoriented eyes can follow, and he's stepping in between me and this guy - who looks too familiar to be a stranger, and too strange to be familiar - broken glass crunching to dust beneath his feet.
"What is wrong with you, Kline?" Al wants to know, his arms crossed and his brow furrowed in confusion.
Kline. My mind simmers down enough to connect Kline to Charlie Kline, Sixth Year Hufflepuff. I can't remember a time where I've even exchanged words with him, except perhaps a possible excuse me as I passed by him in a busy corridor.
Charlie's struggling for breath, and his eyes dart to me - still regaining control over myself and covered in beer - before he's sent into another laughing fit. But he manages, "It - it's a chopstick, man, and she's about to cry over there like she thought I was going to curse her, my god -" and he dissolves into more giggles.
Al's face clears of confusion, but settles into harder, more irritated lines. "What kind of fucked up joke is trying to scare someone like her? And couldn't you see that we were-"
He stops, the word were hanging in the air between us.
Charlie lifts his hands up in surrender, but his face is still contorted in glee, "Hey, man, chill out. James wanted me to let you know the takeout's arrived…" His voice drifts off as he suddenly cocks his head to one side, his gaze unfocused, as though he's listening closely to something. A slow, cat-like smile stretches across his face as the silence continues - Al and I too baffled and too entranced by Charlie Kline to break it - and he closes his eyes, nodding a little, like there's something to be agreed with.
Charlie heaves a large sigh of contentment, blinking his eyes open slowly, like he's just taken the most satisfying nap. "You really need to get on my wavelength, Potter."
Concern pulls down at the corners of Al's mouth, and he steps closer to Charlie. He gets right up close to Charlie's face, and even has the nerve to tilt Charlie's chin back, so the light falls more evenly across his features.
"Kline," Al says slowly, clearly, "I need you to tell me what you took."
Charlie stares right into Al's eyes, just mere inches apart, and he speaks slowly - simply, happily - his chin bouncing in Al's hand, "Life." We just continue to stare at him, so he laughs a loud, cathartic laugh right into Al's face. When the laughter dies from his lips, his eyes lose their sated, sleepy look. He blinks back awake in Al's hands, his voice neutral, "I'm high on life, Potter. Let go of me."
Al lets go of Charlie's face, and steps back a little.
I step forward, "C'mon, Charlie. Let's get you some water."
Charlie looks at me like he's just noticed I'm here. The ghost of his deranged grin pulls at his cheeks, "Don't worry about me, Josie. I'll be fine. Why don't you take care of yourself, alright? Don't want to run into anymore wayward chopsticks."
I want to laugh. I want to laugh the kind of laugh that would segue into those huge, drunken sobs that wrack your body for no reason at all, other than the fact that the world no longer makes sense. Like the world is speaking a language you don't know now, but you did before - before the shots and the beers and the forearm-touching with the cute boy on the balcony. Like the world is going in for a handshake while you were raising your arms for a hug. Like a girl who's been reduced to a quivering jumble of similes and metaphors.
And suddenly I'm feeling so profoundly embarrassed that I've freaked out over nothing.
So I awkwardly look away from Al's frown and Charlie's otherworldly smile, and down at the broken bottle in my hand, and notice my palm is slick and dripping with blood.
Is that my blood? It doesn't even hurt. Carefully, I exchange the broken bottle neck from one hand to the other so I can more closely inspect my palm. How could I not have felt the glass cutting into my skin?
A small "Oh," escapes my lips, and Al turns to fully look at me, his gaze cutting down to my upraised palm.
His broad shoulders tense as he inhales sharply, and he makes a couple large strides to take my hand in his. He looks at my palm closely, and my fingers twitch nervously.
I blow out a slightly shaky breath as I stare down at him, "What do you think, Doctor? Will I make it?"
His eyes crinkle at the corners as he looks at me, and his lips twitch upward, "It's a close call, but I think you'll pull through."
I smile at him, and he smiles back as he leans back up, letting go of my hand. Movement behind Al's shoulder catches my eye, and I watch Charlie turn and run jubilantly back into the apartment, the back of his head so seemingly similar to everyone else's that I soon lose him in the crowd.
Alarm - soft, and quiet - settles into the back of my mind.
I look back at Al, and see that he's appraising my expression, ever-observant. He reaches up slowly to tuck a lock of hair behind my ear, murmuring, "Let's go get you cleaned up."
Nerves jittering in the wake of Charlie Kline, I shrug, "It's fine, Al. It doesn't even hurt."
Al looks at me dubiously before inclining his head towards the apartment, "C'mon. There's a first aid kit in the bathroom."
I hesitate and he watches me patiently, that look from before on the horizon of his eyes. So I nod and smile shyly - the kind of smile I might have given him the year before if we had caught eyes in passing, or honestly, just a couple hours before this moment - before fifteen minutes ago when his face was hovering above mine and I could count the freckles on the bridge of his nose and catch the tiniest gap between his front teeth.
I turn to look at the view one last time, and let it swell inside me, filling me up and chasing away any lurking demons.
"Can we go clean you up now, or would you rather do some fingerpainting with your spilt blood instead?" Impatience leaks from Al's tone, but the creases in his forehead and the frown pulling at his lips hint at his concern.
So I smile again to chase away his worries and take a few steps towards him, "I dunno, Al, I've always been a great fan of alternative art."
He rolls his eyes but can't hide his amused smirk as he places a hand on my lower back to steer me inside, "Let's go, Picasso. If we hurry we might get back in time."
"Back in time for what?"
Al doesn't say anything - just smiles a secret smile as we maneuver our way through the crowded living room. I glance around as we go, and I catch Dom throwing her head back in a laugh as she sits in Matthew Belkin's lap in a leather armchair. I smile slightly, before I'm distracted by Al's hand on my elbow as he guides me down the dark hallway that leads to the bedrooms. We squeeze past the line waiting for the guest bathroom, and walk a few doors down to one of the bedroom doors. He pulls out his wand and wordlessly unlocks the door, his hand reaching around the wall for the light switch. He lets go of me as he walks straight for the connected bathroom, and I look around the room absently while I wait.
Quidditch pennants on the walls, complex spell books on the desk. James' room.
I perch on the edge of the bed just as Al comes striding back into the room. He throws the first aid kit on the bed next to me and kneels down in front of me, a bottle of peroxide in one hand and a bandage in the other.
"This'll sting a bit," he says, looking up at me as he takes my hand in his.
I smile down at him cheekily, "Don't worry, Doc. This isn't my first time."
I watch his cheeks tinge pink as he looks back down at my hand, and I want to die and squeal at my audacity. He pours on the peroxide and it does sting a bit, but I'm too focused on watching Al's face as he concentrates to really care. The room is too quiet to ignore his nearness, and my heart is beginning to pick up its pace as I watch him work.
"There," he says quietly, bandage in place, "All better." He looks back up at me, and his gaze slowly darkens as he takes in my expression.
His gaze makes me feel bold, so I hold my hand back out to him, offering up my bandaged palm, "What, no kiss? What kind of doctor's office is this?"
His mouth curls into a smirk as he bends his head down to slowly brush his lips against my palm. Shivers tingle their way down my spine.
"Better?" He asks, amused, but his gaze is heated.
A pause follows as we watch each other. I want to say, Get up here, Doctor, my lips need some serious attending to, but I don't. And he doesn't make a move, either. He just stays kneeled in front of me, his eyes on mine and my hand in his.
"Al?" I say softly.
"Yeah?" He says, his voice gruff.
I swallow, "What's wrong with Charlie?"
He looks down at my hand in his for a long moment, before shaking his head and looking back up at me, "I'm not sure, Josie. I've never seen him like that. I used to tutor him in Potions last year, and he was a pretty normal guy. But I'm going to keep an eye on him when we get back to Hogwarts. Just in case." His hand reaches up to tuck my hair behind my ear again, "I'll make sure he's alright."
And I nod and smile a little because I know he means it. And the fact that I know he means anything is exhilarating and bizarre, for I've never known or felt anything definitive about him before. It's like he and I have always been skimming past each other, just half a degree of separation between us. If I hadn't caught his attention tonight, and if he hadn't handed me a beer as a way to bridge our differences, Al Potter would still be just Dom's cousin, just another cute boy with an enigmatic smile and the world at his feet.
A large bang comes from outside, and an orange glow fills the room.
"Fireworks," I say, my voice awed as I walk over to the bedroom window. Vivid colors crackle and sizzle, smoky contrails following their descent. The bang of each explosion sets the tempo of my heartbeat.
Al follows me, his shoulder brushing against mine as we watch firework after firework explode just beyond our reach. "James and Freddie are setting them off on the roof right now," he says.
I shake my head, but smile all the same, "They could get in so much trouble."
Al just nods, and we turn to look back at the firework show. He winds an arm around my waist, and I turn my head to look at him. Purples and blues and greens reflect upon his face, and light up his happy expression. I shift to stand in front of him, and he unquestioningly shifts with me, raising his other arm to wrap around my waist, holding me to him. My hands slide up his chest and the side of his neck to clasp at the nape of his neck.
He smiles down at me, his heart keeping time with mine, "You're missing the display."
I bite my lip and shake my head, whispering, "No I'm not."
Al smirks as he leans his head down, "Who knew Josie Deetrin could be so bold?"
I smirk back as I lift on my toes, "You did."
He brushes his lips against mine, and it sends hot, molten shockwaves through to my core. Suddenly I'm pressed up against him, my lips molded to his and my hands clutched in his hair. He pushes me against the window and I gasp as he leans against me, his hips pressed into mine with nothing but a pane of glass separating us from this heart-stopping, staggering view. A groan in the back of his throat sends me over the edge and I'm plummeting, and I'm not me and he's not him but we are us, and it's like I've never felt something so good as his touch or something so addictive as this.
The loud, insistent bang of the firework finale finally pulls us apart, and he leans his forehead against mine. We watch each other, and smile similarly bewildered smiles. The air between us crackles and pulses, and I'm left feeling even drunker than before. He leans back, his hands on my waist, and pulls me away from the window.
We keep smiling goofily at each other until he says, expression full of mischief, "Now I really hope we get partnered for Prefect rounds."
And I lean my head back and laugh because it was just the right thing to say, in just the right moment, with just the right person.
I look up at him from under my lashes, "Will I have to fight Sally Hanseth for you? Because I'm not sure you're worth a black eye."
Al laughs, eyes crinkling, before leaning forward to brush his lips against my forehead, "Don't worry, I'll teach you to throw a mean right hook."
I grin up at him and pull away so I can lie back on the bed. I don't want to leave this room just yet - I don't want to let the noise and the people and the realness of the party outside burst this bubble we've made. Al comes to lie down next to me, and we turn our heads to look at each other.
"I didn't expect this," he murmurs, his brow slightly creased, "I didn't expect you."
I smile slightly, "Neither did I."
We're still looking at each other when the door bursts open.
"Thank god," Dom's loud voice says as she strides into the room, "Josie, c'mon, we've got to go - oh, hello, Al."
Al leans back on his elbows and looks up at his cousin, "Hey, Dom."
Dom looks back and forth between us for a few moments, her face scrunched up as she seems to work something out. Then she just shrugs and holds out her hand for me to take, "Josie, darling, it's time to go. We were supposed to be back at my house, like, an hour and a half ago."
I look at Al and he just smiles, leaning towards me to press a brief kiss against my shoulder, "See you tomorrow."
I grin back, "Later, gator."
"In awhile, crocodile."
"Oh for the love of - Josie, this is my head on a spike if we're not home before my father wakes up."
I laugh a little, just because of how much I've loved this last summer's night, and I take Dom's hand, "Lead the way, love."
"Josie? You awake?" Dom whispers from her bed, her voice floating above the distant sound of waves tumbling into the shore.
I can hear her roll over to the edge of the bed to look down at me in the little blanket nest I've made on her floor, "Can I ask you something?"
I turn over on my side and look up at her, "Yeah."
In the dim light I can see a frown pulling down at her mouth as she thinks about something, "So, why didn't you tell me?"
A frown pulls at my own lips, "Tell you what?"
She props up her head in her hand, "About you and Al."
A whispered laugh escapes me, "What, you wanted me to say, 'Hold on for just one second, Al, I've got to go and keep Dom in the loop'?"
She blindly reaches behind her and whips a pillow at me, "No you loon, I meant earlier. Like, before tonight."
I add the thrown pillow to the one already beneath my head, "I don't get what you're saying, there really wasn't anything to tell. Literally, I think Al and I exchanged like five sentences in the entire time I've known him. Y'know, before tonight."
She's quiet for so long that I sit up, my heart beating just a little faster.
Dom blows out a long breath, "Well, then I guess I've got to tell you something."
She looks at me for a second before flopping back down on her bed, speaking to the glow-in-the-dark stars on her ceiling, "Al's been kind of seeing someone all summer. He's kept her pretty quiet, like, I have no idea who she is. And then I walk in on you two staring lovingly into each other's eyes, and I'm like holy shit it's Josie, what the actual fuck why doesn't anyone ever tell me anything? And then I was like, wait, so Josie's got a thing with Al and Jude? And that just didn't sound right, y'know? I mean, you can barely remember to eat breakfast in the morning, so, no offense, but you don't really seem like you've got it in you to string two guys along all summer. I guess I knew Al's mystery girl wasn't you. But I needed to make sure, right?"
I stare at the side of her face for a long moment, before falling back on my blanket nest, "Right."
She shifts so she's looking at me again, "What are you going to do?"
I shrug and try to dissipate the ache in my chest with rational thought, "Nothing. Al and I - tonight was great, okay? But it's not like we exchanged vows or anything. It was - it was just two like-minded people who naturally gravitated towards each other. And we'd been drinking so we got a little carried away. I mean, okay, right now I feel like I'm a little gone on him, but that's just because he's this new, exciting person who gets me, you know? I get excited when I meet anyone on the same page as me. Like Jude. Jude and I have the exact same sense of humor. And now he and I are kind of something, but also kind of nothing. It's the summer holiday, right?" I look over at her and she nods encouragingly, "Things always get a little mixed up in the summer. Oh god, what is happening?" I fling an arm over my eyes, suddenly feeling like I'm the sandy shore and the waves are pounding against me, trying to drag me out to sink me to the bottom.
Dom laughs a little, "Josie, your love life is suddenly so juicy." I groan and she grins, "It'll look clearer in the morning, love. Tomorrow's a new day with infinite possibilities. It is also the day where I avoid Matthew Belkin like he's the plague."
I laugh, "I saw that! But only for a second. What was going on there?"
She rolls her eyes, "I don't want to relive it right now. I'll tell you about it when we get up in - oh, lovely! Thirty minutes! Sleep tight, Deetrin." She pulls the covers over her head to block out the misty morning light creeping through her windows.
I sigh and crawl out of my nest. Quietly, I pad over to Dom's wardrobe and pull a thick, creamy sweater off it's hanger and over my head. I tiptoe past her bed and open the french doors that lead out to the deck that wraps around the oceanside of the cottage. The air is thick with morning fog, the ocean just a white-capped rumble in the distance.The deck is cold against my bare feet, and I walk on my toes to the edge of the deck, leaning my elbows on top of the wooden, salt-kissed bannister. Seabirds caw overhead. The light breeze sends tendrils of my hair spiraling into my face, and I reach to gather my hair into a messy bun. As my hands graze the back of my neck, I feel something different about the skin there. I drop my hair and carefully run my fingers across the back of my neck, and my breath catches and my arms erupt in goosebumps when I feel the raised, smooth scar tissue on the right side of the back of my neck. Shaking fingers trace the shape, feeling out the round edges of the circular scar that had never been there before.
Before last night.
Before Charlie Kline pretended to press a wand to my neck.
I can't seem to stop running my fingers over the little raised circle marring my skin. And it could just be the panic, my mind gathering its fear and coiling it into one place, but the scar seems to grow hot beneath my touch.
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