The weeks seemed to fly by. Three months passed in the blink of an eye. I had moved to London at the end of May, and the warmer months seemed to have come and gone without me even realizing it. Work got busier and busier as I took on more responsibilities. When not working, I filled my time with—get this—hanging out with friends (I know, it was shocking to me too).
After the party and lunch, Rose started acting like we were friends. I mean, I guess we were, but I was still hesitant to put my full trust in anyone. More than one person in my life had turned out way different than they were at the beginning. She would say hello in the mornings, and bring me coffee every once in a while. Gradually, I found myself reciprocating. I now knew her favourite latte and could recite her lunch order to the interns when they came around for them and she was in the washroom.
Over time, I learned that her family really was stupid famous and that I shouldn’t believe the gossip section of the Daily Prophet (apparently Albus wasn’t secretly dating his boss Sherry, a senior Auror, which was kind of disappointing because it was rumoured that she had a huge vendetta against Albus’ dad, who was Head Auror, and that would have made a good story). I learned, even though she never outright said it, Rose had a massive crush on Scorpius Malfoy and that she liked to unwind from work and drown her sorrows with firewhisky on the long and hard days, kind of like how I liked to drown my sorrows with tequila. I also learned that she was entirely too sweet and well mannered and optimistic to be friends with someone like me, but I wasn’t going to tell her that.
Her acceptance of me at work meant the interns stopped throwing dirty looks my way and the junior traders were careful not to whisper about me when I walked into the room. A girl could get used to that.
Because I hung out with Rose I also hung out with most of her family and their friends. I found that there were cliques within the cliques.
Dom, the pretty blond one, spent most of her time with people she went to school with and her equally beautiful older sister, Victorie who had married a boy with ever-changing hair colours.
Hugo, Rose’s brother, spent most of his time with the younger cousins, like Louis, Molly, Roxanne, and Lucy.
Then there was Rose’s clique, made up of Albus, Lily, James, and Fred. On top of them were friends they’d had since school, like Millie Longbottom and Ezra Wood, a guy Rose and I actually worked with (and who was, coincidentally, dating Lily, who was not, contrary to what Witch Weekly believes, carrying their first child).
It was a lot of people to keep track of, but I was slowly getting the hang of their family tree. As someone who really never had family, it could be overwhelming to deal with all of them (to say the least). Not to mention the fact that James Potter seemed to despise me, which made some interactions tricky.
Not that I knew why he despised me. Well… I mean, I guess I had heard that he was a professional Quidditch player. And that the girl I talked to the night of the party—the one who called me a jealous bitch the next day—had given James an ultimatum. He either had to end all his other hook-ups and finally make them “official”, or she would leave him.
How was I supposed to know that she was the daughter of some hot-shot Quidditch coach who was coaching the British National Team for the upcoming World Cup and that when she threatened to leave him she would also threaten to ruin any and all chances he had of making the team? I mean, really, it’s not my fault that she has the power to destroy his hopes and dreams.
I may have just… provoked the threat of using her powers. Whoops.
“Vi! Hey! Wait up!” A lot had changed in three months, so instead of internally groaning and plastering on a fake smile, I turned around and exaggerated an exasperated sigh, rolling my eyes.
“What do you want Weasley? Can’t a girl just go home in peace?” I said staring at Rose in mock annoyance as she grinned back at me.
“Fine, I guess I won’t invite you to the Quidditch match tonight then,” she said, holding out a ticket to me.
I took the ticket grudgingly, reading the teams playing. Puddlemere vs. Appleby Arrows. Even I, with my limited knowledge of any and all things Quidditch, knew this was going to be a good game.
Spending time with Rose’s family had been quite enlightening. While I knew about Quidditch, of course, I had never really followed along. Not very many people at Ilvermorny had been that hardcore about the sport—there were a few people who were fanatics, but nothing like here in Britain. Here, their love for Quidditch almost matched the level of love some people felt for American football.
Having been totally uncoordinated my entire life, I was never an athlete, and since none of my friends or family weren't incredibly into sports (of either the muggle or wizarding variety), I hadn’t ever gotten involved.
But oh. How the Weasley and Potter family loved Quidditch. I have never seen a group of people more passionate about anything than these people were about Quidditch. The only thing I was that passionate about was eating.
“Playoff game tonight,” Rose said, bouncing on her feet excitedly, “If Puddlemere wins, they move on to the finals."
Almost everyone in the Weasley/Potter clan rooted for Puddlemere United-- James was their star chaser. When I'd first heard that James was a professional Quidditch player, it had taken everything in me not to roll my eyes. Because of course, the son of a famous wizard was going to turn famous himself. I thought he was just the misfit child who craved attention on a grand scale, and being a hot-shot player would fill that craving. Being the first son of an ultra-revered family would certainly ensure you grew up with a lot of attention, after all.
Then I thought he was only in it because he couldn;t find a real career or wasn't smart enough for something else. Albus was an Auror and Lily a Healer, which suggested that James just hadn't tried enough in school because clearly his family had good, smart genes. Plus his mom had been a star professional Quidditch player in her day, and his dad an enthusiast and former Hogwarts player, so he could have easily scored a position on his name alone.
Never once had I considered that he might actually be good at Quidditch. But as Rose had taken me to more and more games as the season passed, I realized that's exactly what he was. He was good. No-- he was great. And he was incredibly passionate about the sport. He flew with grace and skill, and it was evident that he was well respected in the leauge. The moment I figured that out, I'd been flooded with shame. I knew a thing or two about judgement, what with my mom being in such a public position in our world, and I despised when other people assumed things about me based on my background.
I tuned back in to what Rose was saying, just catching the end of her sentace. "James scored us all box seats, and but then Millie had to bail because she’s going with her dad instead of us, so we had an extra ticket and I thought…” Rose trailed off as I felt my face heat up against my will. Right. Millie had bailed so now I was invited.
“Ah, no, Vi, I didn’t… I always seem to… I didn’t mean it like—”
I held up my hand, waving her comments off, “No, of course, I understand,” I said quickly. There was a beat of awkward silence, neither of us knowing how to proceed.
“I really didn’t—,” she said, looking at me with worried eyes, right as I said “It’s fine.”
And it was fine—It’s not like I didn’t get it. I was still the new girl. I was also the girl who kept her distance, never wanting to impose on their plans. It was amazing that they were still inviting me to stuff, the amount I refused.
Another awkward pause passed before I started talking again. “You know I was actually going to look over this months financials tonight, so I shouldn’t really be going—“
In the middle of my sentence, I was interrupted when Ezra jogged down the hall, holding a stack of papers and looking frantic. When he saw Rose and I, though, he slowed and called out “Hey! Weasley! Taylor! I’ll see you guys tonight right?”
Rose lifted her hand to wave as he went past, calling out “Yeah!” before he rounded the corner and disappeared.
She turned back to me. “Seriously, you should come. Financials be damned. You go over the numbers more than anyone in the building, and we’re doing fine.”
I stood fidgeting with the ticket in my hand, not knowing what to say or what excuse to use next.
Rose sighed and shook her head.
“Honestly, I don’t even know why I bother. Violet, we like you and want to hang out with you. For Merlin’s sake, we invite you… If you don’t want to be our friend that’s fine. But just… Make up your bloody mind. Everyone will be at my place at 6. I’ll see you there. Or… Or I won’t.” Then she turned on her heel and walked back down the hall, turning the corner out of sight, leaving me standing with my papers and brief case in one hand and the ticket in the other.
At 5:50 PM, I stood on the sidewalk across from Rose’s apartment. The same place I stood when I was trying to decide to go into that first party or not.
Rose was right. I needed to make a choice—either I was going to stop acting like a burden and start allowing myself to enjoy hanging out with everyone, or I was going to be left friendless and alone.Considering the Weasley’s and Potter’s made up almost half of all the wizards my age and we’re revered by basically everyone, there was really only one choice. I had to pull on my big-girl pants and stop being so afraid.
I marched determinedly across the street, trying to push away all the thoughts that told me to turn around and go home.
When I got upstairs, I took a deep breath before knocking on the door. I couldn't stop the second thoughts flooding my head, but it was too late to turn back now. A second later, Rose swung it open, laughing and shouting at someone in the kitchen. She had money in her hand, and looked surprised to see me.
“Please tell me that’s the pizza, I’m so hungry!” I heard Lily call out from inside.
Rose grinned and opened the door wider. “Not pizza,” she said as I stepped inside.
I couldn’t help but smile a little bit when people cheered as I entered.
“Violet, you made it!” Albus grinned at me from the couch, holding his drink up in salute.
“Yeah,” I said, loud enough for him to hear. He smiled before returning to his conversation with Scorpius. I took another deep breath before walking over into the kitchen to grab a drink.
Maybe... I was supposed to be here.
40 minutes later, we were at the stadium, and it was loud. Like, cover your ears and hope to retain your hearing loud. We were going up the stairs to the box seats, everyone laughing and shouting and complaining as we dutifully walked in a line through the maze that was the Quidditch stands. Scorpius was in front of me and Freddie behind and Albus behind him, bringing up the rear of our group. As I marched along silently, Freddie spent most of his time trying to trip me by grabbing my foot so I would topple forward into Scorpius. He’d already succeeded once.
I saw Freddie’s hand reach out to grab my ankle again, so I glanced back with fake annoyance only to see him grinning, retracting his offending arm and trying to look innocent. Behind his head, I could see Albus, who had a glint in his eye and was motioning wildly for me to follow his prank. I nodded, understanding exactly what he wanted to me to and I turned back around with a slight smile. Two minutes later, as we were reaching our box (finally, my legs were seriously burning. We must have gone up 100 flights by now) I saw Freddie’s hand reach out again. I was just about to step onto the landing, so my part was going to be easy. Instead of turning around to scold him, I let his fingers wrap around my ankle. Once he had a good grip, I kicked my foot forward with as much force as I could muster. I knew Albus would be grabbing both his feet at the same moment and pulling backwards. Sure enough, there was a crash two seconds later.
Twisting around I saw Albus holding his sides and gasping for air as he laughed. Freddie was sprawled out on the stairs, groaning. With his pants around his ankles. And pygmy puff decorated boxer shorts showing.
I guess when Albus pulled Freddie’s legs backward, he had first ripped his pants down. I covered my mouth with my hand, trying to control my laughing. Most of the people in our box had heard the crash and rushed back out to see what was going on. Luckily, the game was about to start, so the stairs were deserted and we weren’t holding anyone up. As people saw Freddie and his underwear, it set off a chorus of laughter and cat-calls. Albus was wiping away tears of joy as Freddie struggled to cover his boxers.
“Ha-ha, very funny guys,” Freddie said good-naturedly.
“That’s what you get,” I spoke through my laughter. “Nice boxers, by the way,” I called over my shoulder as I cackled my way into the box.
Sitting down next to Rose in the front row, I surveyed the stadium. She wasn’t kidding when she said James had scored some great seats. I'd been to games with everyone before, but never with such a good view. The players were wizzing around the pitch just below our seats, giving us a birds-eye view, but they weren't too far down that we couldn't tell what was going on.
Rose was apparently reading my mind, because she leaned over and yelled in my ear, “I know right!?”
“This is insane,” I just looked at her, impressed. She chuckled.
“The PR person for Puddlemere basically fawns all over James. She’ll do anything he asks, including reserving the best seats in the stadium. She’s pretty much in love with him,” Rose explained, rolling her eyes.
I nodded, not surprised, and looked around the pitch again. James seemed like the type of guy who would happily exploit a girls love to get the things he wanted.
The game was a minute away from starting, so the players were starting to line up in their respective positions. I located James on the far side of the pitch, playing right chaser. He had a hard expression on his face, exuding determination and strength. I nudged Rose, pointing to James and she smiled and nodded and turned to nudge Scorpius beside her. Just as whistle was blown I felt a person plop into the seat next to me, and I jumped, startled. I glanced over, surprised to find none other than Cassidy Craig (the crazy girl who James was dating) glaring at me. I smiled slightly in acknowledgement and turned back to the pitch where the Arrows had gotten the quaffle.
I jumped again when I heard Cassidy whisper in my ear, “You shouldn’t look at my boyfriend like that.”
I looked over at her, obviously shocked. What the hell? I thought to myself.
I shook my head, confused. Sure, I mean, she had technically caught me looking at her boyfriend. But I was here with his family. Who were all also looking for him.
She looked at me smugly, as if she felt she had rightfully put me in my place and turned to look at the teams flying around, calling out encouragement. I continued to stare at her.
Cassidy was exactly the kind of girl you would be expecting a hot, famous Quidditch player to date. She had strikingly beautiful features and her blond hair and blue eyes made her look like an ice queen. She was the type of girl who would be beautiful with or without makeup, or in a plastic garbage bag. She was tall, but not too tall, and naturally thin. Plus, every time I had seen her at any event the last few months, she was dressed to kill. In her high wasted, light wash ripped skinny jeans and her fitted but loose Puddlemere jersey, she looked like a model. A tasteful Puddlemere baseball gap sat on her head and she was wearing heels on her perfectly manicured feet, for godsakes. To a sporting event. I, on the other hand, was wearing flip flops and could see the nail polish I had applied two months ago chipping away.
Next to her, I looked frumpy and plain. I was wearing my oldest pair of leggings, a Puddlemere tank top I had borrowed from Rose and only a hint of mascara. I was not naturally thin and my hair did not fall in perfect waves like hers, but rather hung around my face, slightly frizzy from the heat of the summer. I didn’t understand why every time I saw her, she made a point of warning me away from her boyfriend. Her boyfriend, who I barely talked to and who everyone knew disliked me.
I stared at her for a beat more before slightly turning away. Puddlemere had stolen the quaffle back and scored a goal. Potter’s family was cheering loudly because their cousin/brother/friend had given the assist. I gave a cheer when I realized what had happened and tried to block out Cassidy beside me when I caught her giving me a death glare.
And a long game it was-- it was approximately an hour and a half before the Arrow's seeker finally caught the snitch. Luckily, Cassidy had disappeared halfway through, so I was much more relaxed. Even though the Arrows ended the game, Puddlemere’s seekers had been scoring goals all night—enough that it didn’t matter who caught the snitch, Puddlemere would have won either way. The Potter’s and Weasley’s were overjoyed to say the least (‘overjoyed’ is probably an understatement).
Rose yelled over the crowd that everyone was headed back to James’ house for the celebration. I nodded, pleased. At least I had an easy escape home.
Once back at our apartment building, everyone started piling into the elevators up to the 6th floor. Once there, Freddie used his key to grant us access to James’ apartment. I looked around the place. It was the mirror image of my apartment not 20 feet away, only his was more minimalistic and modern. Where I had lots of antiques and old, mismatched pieces of furniture (blame my love of thrift store and bargain shopping), James’ place was much more… Manly. Almost everything was grey, white or black in colour and the place was surprisingly clean. He had leather couches and a huge flat screen. Predictable guy.
James' entire family and many of his friends piled into his apartment, yelling and joking around. Freddie and Albus were in the kitchen, rummaging through cabinets for alcohol while Dom was in the corner finding music.
James’ walked in 30 minutes later with his arm slung around Cassidy, grinning from ear to ear. Everyone cheered as he stepped through the crowd. He’d played an incredible game tonight—he was a huge reason that Puddlemere was moving on to the finals. Lily stepped forward to hug him, yelling about how proud she was as people patted him on the back. I faded into the background, not wanting to intrude on their family moment. And also not wanting to be glared at by James when he realized I was there.
After the initial bluster, the party really got underway. More and more people started to show up—James’ teammates, more friends from school, work friends of family members. I sat in the corner nursing a firewhisky, watching it all unfold. I wasn’t in the mood to get stupid drunk or socialize. I had been talking to Roxanne a moment earlier, but then she was pulled away to dance. I checked my watch and looked longingly at the door, thinking about how wrong I was earlier. With the party being here, I wouldn’t have an easy escape home, because I would be up from all the noise anyways. And everyone knew where I would be.
Finishing my drink, I stood up and decided to go to the bathroom. I eyed the one on the main floor, trying to decide if I wanted to wait 20 minutes in that line. Then I looked at the door, thinking I’d just go to my own apartment but with the amount of people standing between me and hallway, it would take me 20 minutes just to wade through the crowd.
Sighing, I started heading for the line for the main floor bathroom when I remembered that this was James’ apartment. Which meant it was the exact same as mine, and there would be a bathroom in the loft.
Dodging my way through the crowd, I made it to the stairs in the far corner. Someone had placed a piece of caution tape at the base, with a note asking people to please stay downstairs. When I tried to lift the tape and walk up the stairs, I found a magical barrier preventing me from moving past the first step. I looked desperately at the line for the main floor washroom. It seemed to have gotten longer and I really, really had to pee. I pulled out my want and muttered the counter spell, relieved when the barrier disappeared. I thought they might have put in a more comprehensive spell, but I guess they were banking on people respecting privacy or not wanting to cross the Potter/Weasley clan. Whoops. I probably shouldn't do this but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Plus, it’s not like I was going to wreck the place, or, I don’t know, steal his toothbrush or something like a crazed fan girl. I quickly turned around as I bounded up the stairs, waving my wand and muttering the spell to put up the blockade again. I’d have to deactivate it on my way down but I didn’t want to raise any alarms in case someone wanted to come up and found that people were already using this part of the apartment.
When I stepped into the loft area, I was again amazed at how clean James kept his apartment. His bed was made and there was nothing on the floor. His office space was clear of clutter and there didn’t seem to be a speck of dust anywhere. His space was weirdly impersonal—it almost felt like no one lived here. Oddly enough, that made my being here seem even more intimate. It was like I knew one of his secrets or something. I shuddered and soldiered through to the back wall, where I knew the bathroom would be. I wasn’t going to dwell on James Potter and his weird, clean room.
Just as I was finishing up, I heard voices outside the bathroom.
Crap, crap, crap, crap… I thought, quickly shutting off the tap and going to the bathroom door. I was stuck.
Wait… I leaned in, pressing my ear to the door. I could hear two voices… I think it was Rose and… Crap. James.
“Don’t worry, I think it’s just Violet in there. I saw her running up the stairs a couple of minutes ago. It’s not a big deal,” I heard Rose say, her voice muffled. I heard James grunt in response, and the sound of cabinet doors being pulled in and out. It sounded like he was rummaging around for something.
“Violet,” James scoffed. “Why do you even like that girl anyways?” he said said quietly. Not quietly enough, apparently. I pressed my ear against the door harder, straining to hear what Rose’s response would be.
“Because she’s my friend.”
I could almost feel James’ eye roll. The rustling stopped outside.
Rose sounded annoyed when she spoke again. “Look, I know you have a problem when anyone becomes friends with someone you haven’t strictly approved to be part of our friend group, but suck it up and sod off. You don’t always have to be an asshat to her.”
“I’m not an asshat,” James replied, sounding amused and offended all at once.
“Yes you bloody are!” Rose burst out. She then lowered her voice, I guess remembering I might be behind the bathroom door. Which I was.
“You trust people too much, Rosie. Remember Lucy?” James said, then got louder as Rose started to protest. He started rattling off one or two other names I didn’t recognize. I didn’t know who any of them were, but he’d obviously made his point because Rose stopped speaking.
“I’m just saying. You have a knack for picking people who like to sell stories to the press. And this girl, Violet, just shows up, out of nowhere, with no friends, and it looks like no family, and wants to be your friend. You have to admit that’s a little…” I didn’t hear the rest of his speech because I stepped away from the door, shocked. I looked in the mirror and saw that I was blushing, embarrassed that that was what he thought of me. How many others thought that too? Was everyone waiting to see if I would sell out their stories?
But more than being embarrassed, I was angry. How dare he? How dare any of them? I knew my fair share of publicity. When I was a kid, any time I stepped out of line, it reflected on my mom and her job. I learned the hard way to not tell secrets to people because it would always get back to the wizarding newspapers.
It had been a long time since I’d had to think about the papers and the stories they wrote. Years.
When I'd chosen to leave the wizarding world and attend university, it had become a big deal. I wasn't just some dumb teenager trying to find their way. No. I was Gwen Taylor's daughter, and I was abandoning one of the most influential wizards in the American world. Why? They had all asked. When I hadn't given them a satisfactory answer, the press had created a story out of nothing. They had spun lies, writing about how my mom was a bad mother, how I was neglected, how I wanted to escape the pressure of being her daughter, how we'd had a huge fight and I was rebelling. People at school had whispered for months. While some people had given me sympethetic stares in the hall, no one wanted to associate themselves with a weird girl who wanted to renounce the wizarding part of herself.
Eventually, like all big stories do, it died down. But someone always managed to bring it up every now and then, especially during election season for Congress. My mother never talked about it but I could tell it was a sore subject. I had almost cost her the next election and her reputation had been damaged-- people like a strong family image in office and I had disrupted that image.
But of course, no one here knew that. They didn't know who my mom was. They didn't have any idea how insulting it was to suggest I would ever do that, sell their stories to the highest bidder.
A second later, I had opened the door. I wasn't going to hide in here and listen to them talk about me like they knew me-- they didn't know anything about me. James and Rose were at his office desk, watching a needle stich up what looked to be James’ pants, if him standing in his boxers were any indication. Rose had told me once she was the best at household spells.
James was just finishing his spiel. “… I’m just saying, be careful. She seems like the type of girl who would sell her story to Witch Weekly for the right price.”
When they heard the door open, the pair looked up, Rose blushing deep red when she realized she had been right, I was in the bathroom, and James’ at least having the decency to look a little mortified. He quickly covered it up by arranging his features in a neutral expression, but it had been there for a second.
I walked over calmly, keeping my head held high, and looked at the pants. “Actually, I’m more of the Daily Prophet, page 6 kind of girl. Bigger publication, more money, wider public reach, you know. All around better choice for me. Not that Rose has shared anything really juicy with me yet, unfortunately.” I mentioned casually. When I stopped talking, I looked at both of them in turn. Rose was looking at me imploringly, almost begging me not to be angry and to understand. Then I glanced at James, who was watching me with slightly narrowed eyes.
I smiled, and flicked my wand to finish up the sewing. “You’re going to want to get those professionally mended. Thread won’t hold that material for long.”
I then turned on my heel and left the room, swallowing my embarrassment and keeping my head high.
These people weren’t going to get the best of me. Not a damn chance.
A/N: The responses from you guys have been nothing sort of amazing! Thank you all so much for reading and reviewing this story. I really love writing it, and knowing you guys are waiting for the next chapter, just as eager as I am to see what happens next, makes it so much easier to keep writing and to not give up on it. You're all so incredible, thank you. I hope you like this chapter, and I promise to update soon! xoxo
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