Chapter Image by the talented Icarus. @ TDA!



Seven.

Mentally tallying the numbers in my head, I resist the urge to bang my head on the wall as I am asked the same inquisitive statement. The words that continue to pass from everyone’s lips: “How was your summer?”

It’s not meant to be a loaded question and if we’re being quite honest here, no one really cares to hear about the answer. It’s an impulse, a false greeting to get the conversations going after being separated for two months. Stories are swapped, comparing one’s summer achievements and flings to the others. It’s almost a contest really; who had the most memorable summer? I bet if I answered their question honestly then I would beat them all, but it’s not information that I feel comfortable sharing. Luckily for me, everyone seems to follow this pattern of not fully caring. Well, everyone except Rose Weasley.

It didn’t take long for her to find me reading in an empty compartment. The others had all been full and I knew after her prefect meeting, she would have come to collect me anyways. It’s not that I’m unsocial, but I really wanted a second to stay with my own thoughts after saying goodbye to dad.

For a man that wrestles with dragons in the forest for a living, he sure spent a lot of time this morning checking out his appearance. I teased him mercilessly when I found him standing in front of the mirror, but it took a good half hour to help him dig out a decent pair of jeans that didn’t have holes or burn marks in them. The man really is quite awful when it comes to maintaining his clothes. Despite this, he still looked handsome and I was forced to stifle a laugh when a group of women passed by ogling at him.

“Thanks for taking the day off work to bring me,” I told him, shifting the bag on my shoulder.

“Your mum wouldn’t want you coming alone and I wanted to see you off anyways. It’s been ages since I watched you get on the train. I’m mostly used to seeing you disappear from my fireplace.”

The whistling of the train rang over our laughter, warning us that we only had five minutes left.

“Nali…” he started, looking down before sighing. “Just be careful, ok? And don’t forget to write to me. I enjoy reading your letters.”

“I can send you a howler to remind you of my beautiful voice.”

“I’ve received enough of those from your mother, I don’t think I can take another.”

Grinning, I threw my arms around his middle and he gave me a big bear hug. The swift force of it made me drop my bag on the floor with a soft thump, but we didn’t care. Inhaling his familiar woodsy scent, I committed this moment to memory. Christmas is normally spent with mum’s side of the family and dad always sends his gifts by post, so I probably wouldn’t see him until the following break. My eyes were beginning to water and dad ran his hand down the back of my head, kissing my temple. Slowly, he placed me back down on the floor and I wiped my eyes with the sleeve of my jumper.

“No crying on the platform! You know how I feel about that. Besides, your mum would butcher me if she knew I made you bust out the waterworks.”

I chuckled, “Mum’s one to talk. She’s always on the verge of tears whenever I leave.”

“Yeah, well, she just loves you is all.” He said with an easy grin. “Can’t really blame her though. I think I got a little too used to having you with me over the summer. Now who’s going to tend to my wounds and make sure I have toast before I go to work every morning?”

“You can always invite Alek over, you know how much he loves the sight of blood,” I snickered. Dad rolled his eyes and lifted my bag off the ground, hosting it back on my shoulder. We just stood there for a few moments without saying anything. It’s always been easy between us and I know he’s going to miss me, but dad’s not exactly great in expressing his feelings. If he were then maybe he and mum would have gotten back together already instead of him taking the bloody “high road”.

Dad picked up my other bag and handed it to the porter, helping me onto the first step of the train. Glancing down, I smiled at him and leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. “Love you, dad. Be careful.”

“You too, pumpkin.” He winked, stepping back into the large mass of families. I gave him one more smile before climbing the rest of the way into the Hogwarts Express, finding myself in the compartment that I’m currently sitting in.

“How was your summer?!” Rose asked, smiling widely at me from across the compartment. Rolling my eyes, I placed my book down into my bag since I wouldn’t be able to read it now.

“It was fine, Rose. How was yours?”

“Just ‘fine’? That’s what people say when they’re hiding something! Did you and cutie pie Krum Jr. finally hook up?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “You’re hilarious, Weasley. You should join the school’s comedy club.”

“We don’t have a comedy club.”

“Great! You can start it with Sir Headless Nick as our honorary mother.”

Rose rolled her eyes and playfully kicked me. “Ha-ha you’re so funny. Don’t think I’m not aware of you avoiding the question though! Did you have a summer romance with that hunkie fellow? Is that why you were hiding in Bulgaria all summer and avoiding my owls?”

“I didn’t avoid your owls! I was…busy.”

“Busy snogging him senseless?”

“No! Can we change the topic please?”

“You’re blushing! I better get a detailed report on this later but sure, I’ll put you out of your misery for now. Summer with the Wotter clan was eventful as always. Victoire and Teddy got engaged at the Burrow around July so she’s been bugging me senseless about wedding plans. They haven’t even discussed a date yet and she already named me a bridesmaid. I’m honored, surely, but the woman needs to calm down. Teddy would love her if she showed up in a garbage bag. Grandpa Arthur isn’t doing so great; his memory is kind of going. He kept talking about Fred (my Uncle that passed away in the war) as if he was still alive. It’s quite sad, actually. Uncle George always left to go take a walk after that.”

“And your love life? Anyone capture the great Rose Weasley’s eye since she’s so adamant in determining mine?” I said, narrowing my eyes at her making her blush.

“Well…do you remember Scorpius?”

I rolled my eyes. “Of course I remember Scorpius. He was my partner in DADA after all. You couldn’t keep your eyes off him.”

“Oi! That’s not true. You know what dad says, he’s only great at defense because of who his father is.”

“Shut it, Rose. That’s not true and you know it.”

Slumping against her seat, she sighed in defeat. “Yeah, I know. We…may have snogged at Kyle Longbottom’s party.”

“Kyle had a party?”

“Yes! You would have known that if you answered my bloody letter!”

“Sorry,” I mumble, before perking up. “So you guys snogged? It’s about time. The sexual tension was through the roof.”

Rose let out a soft laugh and bit her lip. “Yes, yes we snogged. We ran into each other in Diagon Alley the other day when I was picking up my robes, but he just said ‘Catch you later.’ What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well…do you like him?”

“I’m not sure if I like boys that say ‘Catch you later.’”

“Rose.” I warn, giving her the eye.

Settling back against her seat, she sighed. “I don’t know. We honestly know nothing about each other besides who our families are. Dad would go ballistic if he found out, but it would be funny watching his face fume up the way it always does when he’s upset about something.”

“You’re only saying that now because you’re at school and not at home facing his potential wrath,” I laughed, placing my feet up on the bench beside her.

“That’s true,” Rose giggled, smiling up at me. “Mum always knows how to put him back in his place though.”

The door to the compartment was open and we both looked up when Mrs. Hughes, the owner of Honeydukes came pushing her cart full of sweet candy. She hardly ever left her shop in Hogsmeade, but every year she never failed to ride the Hogwarts Express and advertise her goods to Hogwarts’ newest and returning students. She was a sweet old lady and I’m honestly kind of surprised that she can stand up for so long.

“Anything from the trolley, dears?”

“Just a chocolate frog, please.” I tell her, pulling out my wallet from bag.

“Jelly beans?” Rose pondered, inspecting the trolley for her favorite candy. She loved the black ones for some strange reason. Aleksander likes them too, but I find them utterly repulsive. It must be their black hearts—kidding.

After paying Mrs. Hughes and settling back into our seats, I put my feet back up again.

“How’s the rest of your family? I swear you’re all like a pack of rabbits. It’s hard to keep track of all of you.” I say, taking a large bite of my chocolate frog and inspecting the package to see a photo of her mum, Hermione Granger, on the card that comes inside. I wave it in front of her face to prove my point and she frowns.

“Mum’s always hated those cards.” She muttered, eating a handful of jellies. Her eyebrows were furrowed in thought and she stared through the bag in her hand. “Nali, there’s actually something that I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”

“What is it?”

“Well, it’s…I’ve been meaning to ask you if—“

There you are!” interrupted a voice at the door followed by a massive blur being hauled into my arms. I almost fly out of my seat while being pulled me in for a hug, but smile into my cousin’s shoulder. Anisha is a sixth year Hufflepuff and my aunt Pavarti’s daughter. Aunt Parvati married Seamus Finnigan a few years after graduating Hogwarts while the pair of them were residents at St. Mungo’s. I asked mum if she and her sister planned their pregnancies since we’re only one year apart but she rolled her eyes.

“Your Aunt hates being left out of things. The second I learned I was pregnant with you, she tried getting one of her own. I hate to break it to you, honey, but we weren’t exactly planning you. You were a wonderful surprise, but your aunts insists we did it intentionally.”

Anisha has a younger brother that will be starting Hogwarts within the next couple years. Since her beginning year at school, Anisha joined forces with Rose and I. It was supposed to be a temporary thing until she made friends of her own, but she fits quite nicely into our little group.

“I haven’t seen you all summer! Just because your mum crossed the pond doesn’t mean you had to ditch me too.” She rambled, launching herself at Rose next. The jellybeans in Rose’s lap scattered across the floor making her cry out.

“You’re going to buy me some more of those!”

“Those nasty things? Please. I did you a favor. Anyways, you can always ask a certain Malfoy to buy you some. I saw you snogging at the party.”

Rose blushed and I turned to my cousin with eyebrows raised, “You went too?”

“Yup,” she said popping the ‘p’. “Mum forced me to bring Jacob so he could get out more instead of studying in his room. He was just as excited about coming with me as I was about bringing him, but he left soon afterward anyways. He said he was going to go meet up some friends.”

Jacob is Uncle Seamus’ nephew and I honestly don’t know what the title will be for us if we’re related. Does that even count to being related? He’s a year older than me and a squib, currently studying at university. We don’t hang around much but he’s a decent guy I guess. Anisha could care less about him since they don’t have anything in common, yet Aunt Parvati insists that they try to hangout together more. Anisha refuses to spent time with people she doesn’t care for though and I watched as she picked up my Hermione Granger card that was lying abandoned on the seat.

“Rose, your mum’s quite fit.”

“She does Pilates,” Rose shrugged, putting her feet in my lap. I swipe them off.

“Anything exciting happen while I was gone?” I ask my cousin, knowing she’s the one to go to if you ever want to hear family gossip. I suppose she gets it after her mother who has a knack for hearing things that she probably shouldn’t, but it keeps me in the loop. I guess I feel kind of guilty for not writing to the family more over the summer, but they would have tried to convince me to stay with them and I prefer being with dad. I love my family, but sometimes it’s easier to take in small doses. Otherwise it’s a risk to one’s mental health.

“Well, Grandma Finnigan and I had been brewing a potion together since I need the help. It’s not my best subject and I need to do well on my exams, but dad insisted to let Jacob come over—I don’t know why. The idiot destroys everything he touches. Mum says it’s a family trait and that the healers at the hospital keep dad about a ten-foot radius from anything that could potentially blow up, but anyway, back to my story. The idiot came over and just when Gran and I were almost finished, he bumped into it and it went flying everywhere! Gran’s too nice to show how upset she was though so then I rounded on him….”

It’s going to be a long train ride.

*

At dinner Kyle Longbottom joined us: the myth, the man, the legend. There are a few words I would like to say about dear ol’ Kyle. Not only is he Professor Longbottom’s (our herbology teacher) son, but the boy is a riot. He literally gives no fucks. Ever. His fashion sense is questionable but what more can you expect from him? Something about his father helping in the Wizarding War has helped instill an unwavering confidence in him and oh does he wear it. He’s in Ravenclaw with us and is wicked smart. I’ve always liked to think that I’m moderately intelligent, but he can come up with facts from the back of his head at the oddest of times.

“You skipped out on my party,” he said, shoveling a handful of crisps in his mouth from across the table. I curled my lip in disgust as a piece hit me in the cheek but he just grinned lazily at me and all was forgiven. I told you, the kid has magical powers (ha, get it?)! It’s nearly impossible to dislike him. He’s just so easy going.

“Sorry, I was visiting my dad in Romania. I heard it was quite the gathering though.”

“If you wanted to see a dragon breathe fire then you should have saw my dad when he came home and caught a pair of fifth years making out in his bedroom.”

I laughed at the image of Professor Longbottom’s face. It’s hard to imagine him actually looking intimidating while angry, whereas just opening and closing his mouth like a fish repeatedly. Kyle’s mum owns the Leaky Cauldron and I’m not that surprised he decided to throw a party there. It’s the perfect place with rooms and everything, except the guests probably weren’t very happy to have a group of rowdy teenagers hanging around all hours of the night.

“So how was it running with the beasts?” Kyle asked, taking a rather large bite of his roast.

“Perfect,” I tell him, smiling. “I can’t wait to start training this summer.”

“You’re an adrenaline junkie,” Kyle chuckled, downing his meat with a large drink of pumpkin juice.

“Am not!”

“Sorry, love, but you kind of are.” He said. “Back in Fifth year you stood on top of the Astronomy Tower with your arms raised in the air like that Rose character in the muggle movie with the sinking ship.”

“Whatchya saying ‘bout me?” Rose asked, scooting in closer to join in on the conversation.

“We weren’t talking about you, dummy. We were just talking about the time Nali almost jumped off the Astronomy Tower.” Kyle answered easily.

“That was one time and I wasn’t going to jump off!”

“Looked like it,” Rose muttered eating a cupcake and avoiding my glare. Kyle shrugged and turned to talk to Jeremy Wood, a beater on our Quidditch team.

My eyes wandered the table to inspect the addition of First Years sitting in the corner near the professors. There’s about eight of them, which is a decent number for us. Apparently Hogwarts’ latest generation of students is the largest population that it’s had in years; the latest baby boomers. A couple years ago I asked mum why she didn’t uphold the booming tradition and pop me out a little brother or something. She didn’t take too kindly to that.

I hadn’t realized I had been staring at someone until I felt his blue eyes looking back at me. My breath caught in my throat and I hastily looked down at my plate, inspecting my garlic-mashed potatoes as if they were the most beautiful piece of artwork I’ve ever seen. Merlin, that was close. It hasn’t even been two hours yet and I was already caught staring at Louis Weasley. Bugger.

He was staring back though so maybe he was looking first? Or did he look up because I was already staring at him? Shaking my head to clear my thoughts, I turned to my right to catch up with Rose. I remembered that she was trying to tell me something earlier.

“Hey, what were you going to say on the train before my cousin barged in?”

“Oh, it’s not that important. I’m making a bigger deal out of it than it probably is actually.”

I waited, urging her to continue.

Rose took a slice of apple pie off the platter in front of us and put it on her plate, delicately cutting a bite sized portion off. She had my attention and now I was really curious. Mostly, I needed something to distract me from looking back at Louis so hopefully Rose’s news would do that. Reaching out for the pitcher of pumpkin juice, I refilled my glass and took a sip.

“My cousin thinks he fancies you.”

Spitting the pumpkin juice out of my mouth, it covered Kyle’s face and robes making him release a startled cry. I couldn’t bother looking at him though, instead staring at her wide-eyed with my heart racing. Did she know? Is it who I think it is; who I hope it is? Had I been wrong all this time about his feelings about me?

“W-which one?” I asked, trying to feign innocence as I absently hand Kyle my napkin to clean himself up. Rose scrunched her nose up in disgust, using her own napkin to clean a drop of pumpkin juice from my face.

“That really isn’t very ladylike,” she frowned, putting her napkin down and taking another bite of her pie. “Umph. This is delicious. I wonder if the house elves will give me a recipe if I—“

“Rose! Bring it on back to me, woman.” I demand, shaking her arm. “Which one of your cousins fancies me?”

She rolled her eyes, “Take a guess.”

“I’d rather not,” I mutter inaudibly, sneaking a glance back at Louis to see him chatting up with his friends.

“Ugh.” Rose groaned, “The idiot is staring again. I guess subtle doesn’t seem to fall under his forte.”

“Who’s staring?” I asked, looking around like a mad woman. This girl has way too many cousins! I almost feel like “he” (whomever he is) is going to pop out in front me. He might as well jump out of the bowl of potatoes and I wouldn’t even question it.

“Oh,” she said, waving her hand dismissively. I wanted to shake her. This is not the time for dilly-dallying! “It’s James. He wouldn’t stop asking questions about you all summer.”

James? James Potter? Fancies me?

Looking across the Great Hall to the Gryffindor Table, it didn’t take long to find the eldest Potter. He was laughing with his cousin Freddy about something that their friend said, and caught my eye. His laughter sobered up but there was still a wide grin on his face. I don’t know what to do with myself. We’ve never really talked before, which is surprising since I’m best friends with his cousin, but there’s never been a need too. Rose likes to keep a bit of distance from her family when she’s at school and I can’t blame her for that. I’d go absolutely bonkers if practically my entire family went to school with me. It’s tedious enough sometimes with just Anisha.

There’s no denying that James is attractive. He’s the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain and one of the most sought after guys at school with his father being the Chosen One. His younger brother is a sixth year in Slytherin. He’s quite cute too, but more in a boy-ish way. It just doesn’t make sense though. Why is he interested me? What the hell happened when I was gone?

He’s still smiling at me, his left dimple glowing under the candlelight. I can feel a blush starting to rise on my cheeks and awkwardly raise my hand in a bit of a wave. If possible, his grin widened even more and he tossed me a wink.

It seems Seventh Year is full of surprises.  




Author's Note: As always, all credits for the wonderful world of Harry Potter go to J.K. Rowling and the Titanic reference goes to James Cameron. :) Happy reading! 

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