(thank you again milominderbinder!)
'How are you even going to get away with this?'
Marisa Rahimi dipped her head back, black corkscrew curls cascading over her shoulder, propped up on her elbows, basking in the sun. Ella, Dom, Marisa and I were spending time away from the boys of our houses and the girls we didn't like (i.e. Tessa Zhou, Flora and Holly). We were sitting in front of Marisa's house, having a little picnic and tanning and, as Newton exclaimed ecstatically when she stopped by, Inter-House bonding!
Barely. Marisa was the only Hufflepuff.
'Ollie's quite good at Muffilato,' she said presently. 'And there's Muffilato Maxima …'
'Yes, but,' I said. 'We're all sixteen. Or is he seventeen?'
'He's seventeen! Turned seventeen in November! Oh my god—we aren't stupid enough to get kicked out of here for using magic illegally.'
It was still odd to hear people having positive sentiments about being here.
'Stop worrying so much Jenny,' Ella said, popping a grape in her mouth. 'The Ministry's already cleared the place for magic use anyway. So it's not like anyone will catch us.'
'Yeah,' I said sarcastically, 'Who could miss a crowd of drunken teenagers partying in the middle of campsite made specifically for us? Thank god someone's thought of that.'
Ella shrugged and ate another grape.
'There are lots of spells to cloak noises and stuff,' Dom added excitedly. 'And plenty of Muggle repelling charms. Cheer up, Jenny—stop moaning! It's a party! Thank you, by the way—'
Marisa waved her off. 'Milo wanted to do something anyway. Love being here and missing a month of homework and everything but it was driving us half mad doing nothing all day. Honestly, we need a party.'
'Wonder what Newton would have to say about that Inter-House bonding,' I muttered, but only Ella heard me and grinned.
'And I knew it was your birthday today so it just had to be about you! I remember your sixteenth—'
'I don't,' Dom said darkly. 'Freddie made sure I was never empty handed.'
'That's a good friend right there,' Ella declared, flat on her back, her straw blonde hair a river of sunlight behind her. She was wearing a cute pink frilly bikini and I wanted to know where she bought it. 'That was such an amazing night. Like I still don't know how we all got into The Flitterby without IDs.'
Dom shrugged, but there was smug smirk on her face. 'I pulled some strings.'
'You were sleeping with the promoter.'
I snorted. 'Did you know he was half-faerie?'
'What?' Marisa shot up, ripping her sunglasses off, eyes and mouth a comical O. 'I did not know that!'
Dom laughed. 'The sex was crazy. At one point we hovered in the air for like a good ten minutes.'
'I don't think I've ever had sex that's lasted longer than five,' Ella muttered darkly. Dom and Marisa laughed.
I became only slightly uncomfortable—not because I've never had sex or couldn't add anything to the conversation, really, but because I had a sneaking suspicion both Marisa and Ella would secretly judge me for still being a virgin. Not that they would be obnoxious and rude about it. I just didn't want to explain myself to them, because, knowing them, I would have to explain.
'But who cares about half-faeries when Jenny's slept with James Potter,' Marisa said, her voice lowering suggestively. Pinpricks of discomfort peppered down my spine—speak of the devil, right?
'You know he's slept with Chloe Lovell too right?'
Dom kicked Marisa ('Ow—hey! I'm only saying!') but I just rolled my eyes.
'Lovell's slept around,' I mused.
'She's all right,' Ella said defensively.
'That's not what I meant—I just know that she's slept with Luke too.'
Dom groaned. 'Chloe has a kink for Gryffindors.'
'Who doesn't,' Marisa scoffed, successfully distracted. 'You guys have, like, the fittest guys in our year.' She slid her sunglasses back on and put her hands behind her head. 'Luke, James, Freddie and Patrick—like fucking hell, you couldn't've left some for us? Everyone in Hufflepuff's a fucking eyesore …'
Dom caught my grateful look and winked.
'Guys,' Ella said, rolling over onto her stomach, grabbing our attentions. 'Did I tell you that Patrick Raj and I hooked up before we left?'
This actually piqued my totally objective uninterested third-party interest.
'Oooh don't say that, Jenny'll have a fit.' Dom snickered. 'She's always had a raging crush on Patrick.'
'Urgh, no I haven't! I thought he tried to kiss me once when we all got drunk for the first time in fourth year—I was so pissed—but he was so mortified and pushed me off!'
My face burned just talking about it. That had been a very low point in a series of lows.
Ella laughed hysterically. 'Oh my god! I remember that! You didn't speak to him for a month! He's such a sweetheart though. He wants to take me to Hogsmeade when we get back …'
We all shrieked and smacked her to show her how happy we were for her.
Her face went bright tomato red. 'I honestly never thought I'd get a boyfriend at Hogwarts—not that he's my boyfriend—I just didn't think I'd fancy anyone enough to, like, properly catch feelings, you know?'
Dom and Marisa nodded sagely while I, once again, took myself out of the conversation, knowing I couldn't relate.
Ella turned abruptly to me, as if sensing my withdrawal. 'But you did. You were totally in love with James.'
Now it was my turn to flush beet red.
'Come on,' Ella urged, pale green eyes wide and intense. 'Tell us what it's like.'
I glanced at Dom for help again but even she was waiting, with baited breath, for me to go on.
I sighed and cast my gaze skywards. 'I don't know about in love but … It was … nice.'
Immediately there was an uproar of protests and demands for details.
'Fine … Merlin. All right. Well, it was nice. James and I just fit really well together. We made sense, not,' I added, catching Ella's wistful gaze. 'That it didn't have its absolute shit parts too. James was kind of jealous of every guy I came in contact with.'
'That's kind of hot,' Marisa said lightly.
'No it wasn't.' In another lifetime, I would've probably agreed with her. 'He'd get all aggressive and it was annoying. I kept having to reassure him and that was just kind of tiring.'
'Is that why you guys broke up?' Marisa asked seriously.
'No,' I said, and Dom looked as stunned as I felt for answering at all. 'Well, kind of. It wasn't me so much as it was him. Like, yeah I was annoyed but he had the real problem with it.'
A reverent, introspective hush fell on us. I began ripping grass from its roots, relishing in the crunch as the roots popped out of the earth, in the soft bundle of coolness in my hand.
'Is it true then?' Ella finally asked, daring to do what Dom and Marisa didn't. 'Did he cheat on you?'
'Honestly?' I shrugged. No fucking clue.'
Dom, Marisa and Ella stared at me. Then, abruptly, Dom shook out her rose-gold hair, artfully musing it up, lips pursed. Her gaze was steely as she appraised Ella and Marisa.
'How fucked up were your dreams? I was kidnapped by neo-Death Eaters and had to hand-to-hand combat my way out of there.'
'What?!' Ella cried, completely distracted. 'I was working at Witch Weekly, writing for the their teen sex-ed column! I had a lovely dream!'
'Yeah Dom,' Marisa said, giving her a strange look. 'Mine was tame. I worked for the Prophet …'
Dom and I caught each other's eye and, not for the first time, I thanked her telepathically.
She winked surreptitiously back.
'I don't think I've ever heard you talk about James that much in my entire life,' Dom said as we walked back to our house. The sun was setting and we were blanketed in the noiseless crush of twilight. Stars began to wink into the sky, mute white dots in a sea of smooth periwinkle blue.
'I thought for a second you were going to throttle Ella. Or Marisa.'
'I don't know,' I said truthfully. 'Actually felt kind of nice talking to them about it. I've been in my head too long.'
Dom nodded in understanding. 'I should've asked them their opinion on me and Luke.'
'Mm.' I decided not to tell her that Marisa had already commented on the whole Luke and Dom situation—when she'd popped into the loo—implying heavily that Luke had absolutely no interest in Dom whatsoever.
It was around the time Newton had stopped by and screamed in joy about Inter-House bonding.
'I'm excited for this party at least,' Dom went on. 'I don't know if any of them brought their own alcohol but thank literal Jesus in heaven we have ours. We're going to go back, shower, get ready and pregame—'
I let Dom ramble on as she always did as when started planning out the night ahead, having to discuss every minute detail at length. The next couple of hours would be filled with long and thoughtful deliberations on correct outfit choices and make up looks. I loved getting done up as much as the next girl—what with parading around in dirty Quidditch robes and no make up half the time—and fun as it was at certain times, Dom could get exhausting.
The house was empty of the boys when we entered, and I assumed they were still at the Puff's (boy do those kids love to get high on elite wizard's weed). Dom called the shower first so I ambled slowly over to the room after making myself a cup of tea.
I jumped on the bed and took out my journal, thinking maybe I'd take a second stab at writing.
Cracking it open, I began to write, and at first it was all lists. Easy stuff, like a mental check list to reorient myself in time. Being here was like stepping out of the known universe, tearing the fabric of the space-time continuum and replacing it with the smouldering, summer haze of losing track of the days and watching the hours slip by meaninglessly.
Then, I found myself writing about myself.
Our room is cosy, but almost all of it is Dom's doing. Not that I'm complaining—she really does have an eye for these kinds of things. I just wish I'd put in bit of effort with making it a little bit mine, too. There's almost nothing in here, save for my physical presence and property, that belongs to me.
But, like I said, I'm not really complaining. I have taken a back seat to this whole project, letting others take charge and decide things and, not to mention, I DID choose the paint colour … But it's made me kind of realise how MUCH I do that … even in all my other classes, I kind of just ask other people for their notes or their essays to see their ideas. I almost always put in no individual work if I can help it. I also usually let my partners in projects take control.
I wonder what Newton would have to say about my psychology if she knew that.
Probably that I'm not driven and have no ambition. But that's not it. I just don't really care about school or my NEWTs that much. None of that matters for me because I know I'm going to pursue Quidditch anyway. James always used to ask me how I couldn't at least care that I'd once gotten a T on a Potions practical but it had no effect on me whatsoever. What was I supposed to do? Cry?
Maybe. Dom moped for three days straight after getting an A on her Arithmancy assignment. I would KILL for an A on anything. She told anyone who'd listen that it was the first time she hadn't gotten AT LEAST an Exceeds Expectations in the subject.
My parents have never cared much about that kind of stuff. It's about the only thing they've done that makes logical sense to me.
Pixie's a Claw, though, through and through. And a Prefect too. Just like mum. Well, she's Head Girl now, and she makes sure absolutely everyone knows it—as if they already don't. She obsesses about marks to an almost maniacal degree. Her life revolves around her maximum of seven NEWTs and getting O's in all of them.
I don't even know if I'll sit my exams. We'll just have to see after Scout Season next year.
Jasper's always been an ambitious genius. But he was too kind hearted for Slytherin and not competitive enough for Ravenclaw and MUCH too smart to be a Gryffindor. He was always going to be Head Boy and become Minister of Magic or something.
Blaze, on the other hand, is destined for failure, just like me. But he's going to find some way to get paid ridiculous amounts of money for doing nothing.
If he can't manage that, I'll eat my pants.
I sat back on my bed and admired my effort. But as I reread my work, a small frown appeared.
I sipped my cooling tea, bending over my journal again, blinking hard a couple of times, as if that would wake me up.
It was Dom's candles.
She'd transformed our room into an airy fairy brothel-den. She had incense burning in one corner, stinging my nose with the thick scent of sandalwood, and a cluster of baby pink and white candles in the other, pillowing the room with the floral aroma of jasmine and rose.
Needless to say, the whole thing was very heady and strong and making me dull-witted and sleepy.
And speak of the devil—Dom burst in the room just then, wrapped in a towel.
'Jenny! What are you doing!' She sounded scandalised, as I should've jumped in the shower with her. 'Go go go!'
She ushered me quickly out of the room, not even letting me finish the rest of my tea. Grumbling, I told her I needed my towel. Two minutes later and I was standing underneath the shower, trying to drown myself.
Writing about my family made my heart ache for them. Specifically my brothers (I could go on the rest of my life avoiding Pixie). But part of me knew it was also the grain of sand in the pit of my stomach, kicking starting my defense mechanism and turning it into a pearl of social anxiety.
I knew after a few drinks this would all be forgotten but I just hated the build up to a party.
When I heard a sharp rap on the door, I sighed and turned the shower off. I studied myself for a second in the mirror—and grimaced. The sun had sparked a little more life into my face, giving my light brown skin a warm glow, but the shadows under my eyes were petrifying. And what was with all these freckles? Where had they come from?!
Shaking my head, I headed back to the bedroom. I caught a glimpse inside the boys' room—they were back and chatting loudly—and made brief eye contact with Luke, who flashed me a grin.
I shut the door behind me with a kick and sighed at Dom.
She was sitting on the bed in her robe, hair towelled up, reading glasses on, engrossed in Hermione's book.
'I'm not going to get a chance to relax, am I?'
'Nope!' She snapped the book shut and got to her feet, a grin spreading across her features. 'Time to get ready.'
'You make it sound like you're going to lobotomise me.'
'That actually might make things easier …'
'I can do my own make up you know.'
Dom looked affronted by this suggestion. 'Your idea of make up these days is mascara. Lipstick if it's a fucking funeral. No. Sorry. Out of the question entirely. But—a compromise. I'll tell you what to do and you do it because I know you've got it in you. I remember fifth year Jenny with those racoon eyes before she started getting too comfortable around James and forgetting about her appearance …'
'Stop speaking about me in the third person! It's weirding me out.'
'Your lack of enthusiasm is weirding me out but you don't hear me complaining …' She was tearing through the wardrobe, but I wasn't sure if she was tossing out axed outfits or potential choices.
'Wait,' I remembered suddenly. 'Your present! How did I forget! How did you forget?'
Dom whirled around with a gasp, hand over her heart. 'Oh my god! The party just completely took over!'
I rummaged through my duffle and produced a card and neatly wrapped box. Dom squealed and ripped the wrapping off.
She opened the jewellery box and her jaw fell open. She looked up at me, misty eyed. 'Oh Jenny, I love it!'
'Really?' I asked, a touch nervously. What did you get the girl who had everything she wanted?
'Yes you idiot! Oh thank you!' She flung her arms around me and hugged me tight. I laughed as she released me and read the card. Her face went through series of emotions, flickering so fast I only caught a few: joy, love, nostalgia. She hugged me again, promising me she definitely wasn't tearing up.
'I'm wearing this tonight,' she said, already clasping the hook. It was a gold necklace with a perfectly circular turquoise stone the size of my pinkie fingernail set in gold claws. 'This must've cost you a fortune …'
I shrugged. 'It's your seventeenth.'
Dom smiled; real, brilliant and incandescent. 'You really are my best friend ever.'
'Bitch, I better be.'
'Passion fruit firewhiskies!' I cried, looking at the boys in pure joy. 'I love you boys so much!'
'It was all James,' Freddie said, grinning. 'Give him your love.'
I was too happy to even be annoyed at that. I grabbed a firewhisky—Luke popped the top off—and started drinking it like a parched desert wanderer. It burnt and stung and made my eyes water, but the sweet fizzy taste of passion fruit softened the blow.
That and I was already a little tipsy.
Dom and I had stumbled out of our room, blinking rapidly, trying to clear our heads and not act suspicious. But there was literally nothing more suspicious than girls in a full face of make up, all dressed up with no where to go, clutching a brandless plastic bottle of mixed Muggle alcohol.
'Don't tell him,' Dom had whispered to me when she pulled it out of the wardrobe. 'But I stole this from James but who cares! It's my birthday!'
Luke watched me go now. 'Merlin, easy Jenny—'
'Oh shut up Luke,' I said, slamming the half empty bottle on the counter. 'I once saw Milo's cat eat your sick all over the Gryffindor common room after we won the Cup last year.'
James doubled over in laughter as Freddie guffawed. Dom cried 'ewwwww!' from the living room.
Luke, disgruntled, muttered 'whatever' before swiping his plain old firewhisky and joining Dom on the couch.
I felt a little bad. The poor guy had been forced by Dom to help us with our wet hair. All three of us knew that Dom could've done it perfectly well on her own now, being seventeen and all, but we just humoured her (privately, I knew she did just to flirt with him). She taught him a few beauty spells for straightening and styling and he'd been a sport about it. It'd actually been fun. I didn't even realise I was grinning, watching him carefully curl Dom's hair around his wand, lips pursed and eyes narrowed in concentration.
Presently, I stood on the opposite side of the counter as Freddie and James drank their—whatever it was—dark amber liquid.
'What did you lot get Dom? She didn't show me.'
'I forgot it at Hogwarts,' James said, leaning his elbows on the counter. 'I got her Witch Fashion Through The Ages.'
'I got her a coupon for advice from me,' Freddie said, knocking back the rest of his glass. 'She isn't speaking to me anymore.'
'You totally forgot to get her gift, didn't you?'
'Listen, I think handmade gifts from the heart—'
'Can go straight up your own bumhole if you give them to Dom.'
James snorted so unexpectedly he nearly spat out his drink. Freddie and I both looked at him with different degrees of surprise.
'Mate, it wasn't that funny.'
James looked at me from under his lashes, a slow grin burning his lips. 'It was. A little.'
'It was,' I acquiesced, cocking my head to the side, unable to help the quirk of my mouth. 'A little.'
Freddie made noise of disgust.
'Will you two stop flirting? This is—this is actually a little offensive? Like, for once, just think about the people out there in the world who don't have sexual tension with anyone?'
I glared at Freddie. James slowly looked up at him, expression mild and unbothered that Freddie had just accused him of flirting with his ex despite the fact he had a new girlfriend.
'Sure Freddie.' James drew up and sauntered over to Luke and Dom, but not before shooting me an incomprehensible look over his shoulder.
My eyes widened imperceptibly. I turned back to Freddie.
'This is mental,' I said breathlessly. 'That was mental—'
'All right, chill out, I was only joking—'
'Freddie shut your stupid gob. I need to tell you something. Fancy a smoke?'
'Okay my gob is completely shut but hang on—I'll get cigs from Luke.'
I waited for him by the door, ignoring Dom's look of impressed shock and her mouthing get in, and as Freddie and I went out to the porch, I felt James' white hot burning my back the entire time.
Freddie stuck the cigarette in his mouth and lit it with Luke's lighter, talking around it. 'Since when do you smoke? Isn't it going to like ruin your athlete's lung? Or is that athlete's foot? I never know. Oh! Is fifth year Jenny making a coming back? I loved her. She looked like a racoon and loved to party.'
I lit my cigarette, almost choking on the tobacco as it coated my lungs. That was the second time someone's called me a racoon.
'I really wish people would stop referring to me in the third person when I'm right in front of them.'
'Okay, so what is the tea?' Freddie demanded, leaning back on the banister. Smoke unfurled in white-grey spirals.
'The tea is that …' Guilt churned in my stomach for a moment before I squashed it down with force. 'I kissed James. Well, he kissed me. I don't know. We both kissed each other.'
Freddie's jaw dropped. 'What?!'
'Yes,' I said sombrely, taking a long drag of my cigarette. The nicotine buzzed in my veins, but instead of chilling me out as I'd been frequently told it did, it set me further on edge.
I didn't know what to expect from Freddie. He'd been the most unperturbed by my and James' relationship when we finally mucked up the courage to tell them all. Dom had been happy, almost in tears with joy, but at first shocked. Luke just shook his head, saying, we're like a Shakespearean tragedy waiting to happen. He'd come around eventually, after we proved how normal we were. Freddie had been the only one utterly unfazed and just deadpanned, I knew.
Freddie looked away now, absorbing this new information with a lot of shock.
'No,' he breathed.
'It was bad. I know it's bad,' I said, a touch nervously. 'We're like a cheating … triangle. After I snog Flora of course.'
His dark brown eyes were as wide as saucers. 'I just … when, bitch? We've all been with each other the whole time and no one in this house allows the two of you to be alone together except—the first trial—' he gasped suddenly. 'The first trial?! Is that why the door unlocked?!'
'No,' I said, blowing smoke out, thinking about when Freddie, Luke and Dom have ever endeavoured to make sure James and I were never alone together. Because they'd failed. Miserably. 'It was yesterday. When we picked out the paint.'
'Oh my god,' Freddie said, sounding utterly scandalised. 'The paint is covered in your pheromones! Those auras were so sexually frustrated—I thought it was just me but …'
'And that wasn't even the first time.'
Freddie was staring at me so intensely he had to take a moment and shut his eyes. He put his hand over his heart.
'Jenelle, I think I'm having a heart attack. This tea has bourbon in it. No—it's pure vodka. It's wrong and I need more.'
I grimaced. 'Listen, the night James broke up with me he got pissed at Edgar Zabini's birthday with you lot and found me on the Astronomy Tower with Ze. Being a promising Legilimens and all she warned me that James was here to ask me something. So I'm like what the fuck?' Freddie's eyes were round and rapt, hanging on to every word of my story. 'James was so fucked. Like you know how he goes so flushed and his eyes get all sleepy, so already I'm like ew get away from me. But then he's blabbering like we haven't broken up at all and the next thing you know we're snogging. Then two days later, after no interaction, he's with Flora fucking Morgan. Then just before we got on the train here, he tried to kiss me again. Then again the first night we were here! Except I stopped him, of course … Until yesterday.'
Freddie was silent for a moment. His cigarette was half ash.
'Okay ... tell me I'm stupid. Tell me I'm a bitch.'
'You're a stupid bitch!'
'Freddie,' I whinged, tossing the nauseating, half finished cigarette away.
'Jenny, I'm sorry, but that is the most dramatic and traumatising story I've ever heard and I remember when Dunkirk came out and you know who died.'
'You're the first person I've told any of that to. Please don't tell anyone.'
'What?' Freddie was astonished. 'Not even Dom?'
'You remember what you said? There's something going on between the three of them and Dom just—bless her, I love her but she—she can be a bit daft when it comes to her cousins. If I ever told her she'd just get carried away—I know she wants me to get back together with him and this would make her scheming mind run amok.'
'Fair enough.' Freddie shook his head. 'But shit mate … this is crazy. He's not over you.'
'Great but stay open minded and critical. I've prepared discussion questions. Couldn't he just be very sexually attracted to me?'
'James is sexually attracted to anything with tits and bum,' Freddie said dismissively. 'With you, it's different. Always has been.'
I stared at Freddie and he stared back, our expressions serious and sombre, hidden in a haze of smoke.
'I need another drink.'
'No way we're all going to fit under.'
Dom pursed her lips. 'It's my birthday so, obviously, I think I should be able to use it. I mean, if you lot don't get to the party then who fucking cares. But if I don't get to it? I might as well expel myself right now.'
I rolled my eyes and stumbled, almost landing on my ankle. Luke caught and steadied me; I shot him a grateful look.
I was soooo pissed.
I haven't been this drunk since Luke's birthday over a month ago. His birthday didn't technically exist this year—the leap year was last year and he was born on February 29th—so we all went a bit mad (madder then we did last year, if you can believe it, when we were actually able to celebrate his birthday for real for the first time) and ended up in Edinburgh the next day with no idea how to get back to Hogwarts. Granted, he did turn seventeen.
My head spun and I kind of felt a little sleepy, but Dom's voice was deliriously sharp and loud.
'Okay, listen,' James began a bit heatedly. 'This is still my Cloak so I am going to use it.'
Freddie rolled his eyes. 'For the love of—okay you and Dom take it and Luke, Jenny and I will walk.'
'Hey!' I protested. 'Two girls and boy can fit under the Cloak!'
'But, Jenny, we're not playing that game. We're playing who has earned the noble privilege and right to be under the Cloak.' Freddie shot a look of annoyance at James, who glared back defiantly.
'You guys are acting like anyone's even out here,' Luke muttered. 'When have Newton or Fig wandered about at this time of night?'
'I think Newton is a lot smarter than she looks,' I said significantly. Everyone turned to me expectantly. 'No … that's literally all I had to say.'
James rolled his eyes aggressively.
'How about none of us take the Cloak and we all just risk it?' Luke suggested.
'Then why did I bring this out!' James demanded, stuffing it back into his pocket.
Dom suddenly grinned at all of us. 'Guys, what if I just wear the Cloak and tear it off in the middle of the party and surprise everyone!'
Freddie looked thoughtful. 'Huh. A reverse surprise party. I dig it.'
James glanced at him, stunned. 'Really? Is this a serious request?'
'Oh shut up James, as if you've ever used the Cloak for anything serious,' Dom snapped, sounding abruptly sober. She dug into his pocket and threw the Cloak around her, her body disappearing.
It was always so strange to see someone vanish under the Cloak. It honestly was the most intense thing I'd experienced tonight and I'd smoked a cigarette. This was a big night for me.
'Happy birthday Dom,' Freddie said, bowing deeply as if this had been his plan all along.
'You guys are never careful with my things,' James grumbled.
'Fuck you all and see you at the party!' Dom's head said. She brought the hood up, disappearing entirely.
Luke and I fell into step together as made our way to Marisa's. They were almost the last house in the row, near the very edge of the woods. Kind of a perfect setting for a party.
'Jenny, you look really nice,' Luke said, giving me a thoughtful once over, as if he was surprised I could clean up so nicely.
My hair was in two french plaits, my make up done to smokey-eyed perfection, and I was wearing my black body suit with the straight neckline and spaghetti straps that James had worn for the dare, black jeans with a gold buckled belt, and white Nike trainers.
I smiled coquettishly. 'Thanks. You look a bit shit.'
He didn't. Luke was wearing white jeans (very impressed he pulled it off), a white t-shirt and a thin, vintage Japanese bomber jacket. It was pink-lilac silk with an intricately embroidered sea in turmoil on the back. Very fashionable.
Luke pretended to take great offence to this, staggering back and placing his hand over his heart, but, and I was sure I didn't imagine this, but he seemed genuinely affronted by my response.
'Wow … I was being serious but wow okay …'
'Oh my god!' I said at once, feeling terrible. 'Oh my god no! You actually look really good Luke—'
'Okay Jenny … whatever …'
'No Luke! I promise—oh my god!' I reached up and pushed his dark gold hair from his forehead and leaned back, examining him. 'Okay now you look fantastic.'
Luke grinned and studied me for moment. 'You would fuck me right?'
His tone was light and jokey, but the question was sudden and so unlike him and I was so drunk all I could do was say—
Luke started to laugh, and despite my bewilderment, it was so light and infectious, I shook my head and grinned.
'AH!' screamed Tessa Zhou excitedly when she opened the door. Her eyelids were drooping and her cheeks hectically flushed: she was already drunk. 'Come in! Come in! Welcome, welcome!' She turned to holler over her shoulder. 'GAMBLE! YOUR GIRLFRIEND IS HERE!'
Tessa's dark eyes glittered as they roved over me, her lips curling into a smirk.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw James snap his gaze at me in disbelief.
I didn't have a single clue why she called me Oliver Gamble's girlfriend.
I shrugged my ignorance at Freddie, who was also staring at me quizzically.
Oliver Gamble (or Ollie as I should call him) emerged from a group of six sweaty, gyrating people, all of whom I've seen in class being boring normal people, holding a bottle of Muggle beer and looking harassed. When he spotted me, relief washed over his face.
I grimaced. That wouldn't be helping anything.
'Jenny, hey—' Ollie threw Freddie, Luke and James The Nod to establish that they would be entering a Male Friendly Zone and looked around us. I detached myself from his one armed hug. 'Where's the birthday girl?'
'She's planning a grander entrance,' I said.
Invisible Dom jabbed me hard in the back and I tried not to make a spectacle of my pain.
'Oh okay. Move out of the way, Tess. Come in guys. Grab a drink—they're bloody everywhere.'
James and Luke branched off immediately and found their mates, Milo Bennett and Will Pine, the Hufflepuffs who had a consistent supply of wizard's weed and once made a list of fittest girls in our year. It was still in the girl's bathroom on the fifth floor. That had caused quite an uproar, particularly with Dom who had been appalled that she was only third on the list (I was 7th, but you didn't hear me complaining—though I did grumble a bit).
'Chloe fucking Lovell?' she'd snarled, rounding on me as if I'd been the one to scribble her name next to NUMBER ONE. 'This is the most outrageous thing I've seen today! And I literally just saw Louis grab Sinistra's tits.'
'To be fair,' I'd said mildly. 'He was trying to run away from Peeves.'
'All right, Clarke?' Milo Bennett said presently, grinning. A short, stocky guy with a mess of dirty blonde hair, brown eyes and permanent grin (or leer, depending on who you happened to be) on his face. 'Heard you were a Chaser for the Magpies in your dream? That's fucking sick.'
'Where did you hear that?' I demanded, ignoring the look of surprise James shot me.
Then I realised exactly who told him.
'Freddie,' Milo Bennett and I said simultaneously; Milo as an answer, me as an expletive.
Will Pine ignored me completely and searched around for Dom.
'Where's the birthday —' birfday '—girl?' he wanted to know, North London accent pronounced and heavy with drink. He had straight black hair and clear blue eyes that glinted insolently wherever they roamed. For a supposedly mild mannered Hufflepuff, he was a short-fused bigot who took almost everything anyone said or did as though it was a personal attack on his pride.
Hogwarts being a selective school and all—with only ten places in each House—I supposed the weary Sorting Hat was bound to make a few reluctant exceptions.
It was, perhaps, good for everyone Will Pine was not in Slytherin.
'Invisible,' I said to him.
James grabbed my arm rather roughly, shooting Will a sharp look, and pulled me to the side. He glared at me. 'Can we not mention the Cloak in front of Bennett and Pine? I don't fancy their thieves after it—the Quidditch Accords are in a week!'
I yanked my arm out of his grip, vexed. 'Shut up, I'm drunk. Not stupid.'
'Could've fooled me,' he muttered turning away.
Outrage! My mouth popped open, ready to verbally annihilate him, but Ollie piped up before I could.
'Jenny, want a drink?'
Ollie stood behind me and Freddie with an earnest smile. Freddie and I exchanged a look with each other, looked back over our shoulders at James, Luke and the future Dumbledore and Grindlewald, no doubt, and shrugged. I gestured for Ollie to lead us, still simmering with irritation.
Ollie grabbed a bottle of vodka and poured us three shots.
I didn't do shots.
He shoved them towards me and Freddie.
'I don't do shots,' I said out loud as Freddie took his.
Ollie didn't even bother with a response. His eyes were dead as he downed mine in one go, making a face like he just poured toilet cleaner down his throat, which he basically did.
I didn't know whether I was revolted or impressed.
He grabbed the shot meant for him.
'Cheers,' Ollie said sarcastically. 'To getting friend zoned!'
My eyebrows knitted together as Freddie cheers'ed back and took the shot. I hated the term friend zone. I'd been at the end of numerous conversations that resulted in me being accused of friend zoning people and it had earned my unyielding dislike for the concept. How about boys learned to not expect a girl to reciprocate their advances just because they were being nice and respectful. As if either of those things meant a girl owed them anything.
'Who friend zoned you?' Freddie inquired as I busied myself with making a mixed drink, like a normal human being with a delicate acid-to-stomach ratio that couldn't be upset.
'You know what? It literally does not even matter—' Ollie swiped the bottle of vodka from my hand and took a gulp (my mouth actually fell open in shock). He slammed it on the table and disappeared.
'Wonder what's got his wand in a knot.'
I sipped my vodka and Coke, which I despised, but knew would get me to the state of intoxicated bliss I needed right now.
I scanned the house, smiling and lifting my drink as my way of greeting everyone—I saved a scowl for Nathaniel Smith, however, because he deserved it, but he smiled simperingly back—and, realising that I couldn't see Ella, Marisa, Holly Winters or Flora Morgan (thank god) anywhere, frowned. Maybe they were in the bedrooms? As I surveyed the living room, my eyes fastened, as if by accident—but, really, when weren't we looking for each other?—with James.
Clearly in the middle of a joke, James' good humour didn't waver, but his eyes became more intense, espresso becoming a sultry amber, locking me in.
I jerked my chin up ever so slightly, to show him I wasn't backing down.
James smirked in response and tilted his bottle of Muggle beer up, a silent salute, a mock cheers.
I did it right back with my drink. 'Cause I was a fucking princess. No—make that an empress.
Was it bad I kind of wanted to get in a real fight with him tonight? Like, not just one in a dream. But a real, honest to Merlin, verbal spat.
'I think he fancies Ella,' Freddie said thoughtfully, ripping me out of my dangerous and erratic thoughts. 'Or Holly or Flora.'
'That's every girl in his house.'
'Never said I could deduce anything …'
'Then why did you just try to—'
Suddenly there was an eruption of screams and cheers which sounded like it came from a lot more than just eleven people. Freddie and I turned and saw Dom being crowded by everyone wishing her happy birthday and telling her she looked stunning and gorgeous and where could I get that skirt?
Dom did look stunning. Her rose gold hair was bronzer than ever and fell in soft curls around her bare shoulders. Her make up was minimal but made her skin glow, as though painted in peach starlight. She was wearing a faux leather skirt and a black off-the-shoulder top with designer ankle boots that had silver buckles and studs all over them. As she moved her head, beaming, silver hoops the size of my wrist caught the dim, ambient light of the Puff's house.
I saw James beeline towards her, no doubt to retrieve his Cloak. He was a regular little Gollum with that thing, stroking it in dark corners and muttering my precious.
From across the room, Dom caught my eye.
'Come dance with me Jenny!' she screamed at me.
I shot Freddie a significant look, to which he grinned. 'And thus the angels followed Lucifer into hell …'
I joined Dom at the dance floor. Which was really just Marisa Rahimi's living room. They'd magicked the lights a dim, amber glow and music reverberated through the bones of the house, a popular song everyone in the room knew the lyrics too but still shouted over in conversation.
Dom and I sang the words together, and even though we were both equally intoxicated and dancing wildly, she was beautiful, ethereal, and I was a sweaty mess. Milo Bennett, Will Pine and Nathaniel Smith glanced at her, no doubt hoping to be at the end of one of her long, intense gazes where she wordlessly chose and seduced boys to snog her.
It would be an honour, I'd heard Harry Foster (a weirdo Hufflepuff who, unfortunately, would never capture Dom's attention), to be Dominique's present tonight.
I told Dom he said that and her features crinkled delicately. 'Who?'
Then our favourite song came on and we descended madly into dancing again, screaming the lyrics in each other's faces. This wasn't anything like the parties we had Hogwarts and it didn't really invite people to dance. In fact, we were the only ones dancing. It was more of a chilled out, drunken evening to chat and smoke, but by god Dom would black out anyway and dance till her heart was satisfied and I would be with her every second.
Ten minutes later, we were in the bathroom and Dom was peeing.
All the aggressive dancing had loosened my plaits and there were too many flyaways to fix it, so I began drunkenly undoing them.
I looked at Dom on the toilet. For a second, she was a fuzzy blur. There was an almost pained expression on her face. Her hair had turned dark with the heat and humidity, making it violently coppery, sticking to her neck and forehead with a thin sheen of sweat. She still looked gorgeous, and this time I was unable to help the pang of jealousy that went through me.
'I love you Jenny,' she said with such wistfulness you'd think I just proposed.
'Oh my god, Dom!' I cried back. 'I love you so much! You are my best fucking friend ever.'
'I know, I knoooow.' Dom shook her head, face screwed up. 'Like oh my god like why weren't we friends before fourth year like oh my god what the hell. Like you were friends with Luke before you were friends with me? Like what the hell!'
'I know!' I moaned. 'I was just thinking the same thing! Like thank Merlin I met you!'
Dom stood up unsteadily and pulled her skirt back up. She teetered over to me and threw her arm around my shoulder, forcing us to both look at our reflections in the mirror. Dimly, I was aware how drunk we looked. I would've laughed if I wasn't so drunk, actually. My hair had sprung free of its prison and was now a cloud of dark brown corkscrew curls—bigger now because of the humidity. My eyes were smudged with dark makeup, making me think, wow, maybe I did look like a racoon in fifth year when I wore a lot of eyeliner.
Dom, however, still managed to look sultry and sexy. Even though her eyes were half lidded and bloodshot and all her make up had basically melted off.
She smiled goofily.
'Like we are the hottest girls in our year,' she slurred, which was easy for her to say—she was part Veela. 'Like can you see that.'
'I know! Okay let's go—someone's pounding on the door.'
Dom suddenly grabbed my shoulders and spun me around to face her, eyes eerily focused.
'Let's snog a boy. I want to snog a boy. Can I snog Oliver Gamble?'
'Yeah of course babe! Now lets go—OKAY WE'RE COMING, WE'RE COMING …' I threw open the door and ignored the glare Tessa Zhou shot me, making a beeline to the kitchen for another drink.
'Sorry Tessa called you my girlfriend, by the way!' Ollie shouted for the second time, taking a swig of his beer.
The party had gotten increasingly wilder, smoke from various different sources swirling ominously around the room, music blaring through hidden speakers, people shouting over the din, the boys searching for the girls, the girls huddled together, taking shots and screaming with laughter.
'What!' I know I said I didn't do shots, but everything could change when you were already wasted and had no inhibitions. I knocked back the fiery, oily liquid. I made a face, sticking my tongue out, searching around frantically. 'Urgh! I need a chase!'
Ollie shoved the beer in my face and I drank it gratefully.
'I've just been, er, talking about you so much!'
This caught my erratic attention span. 'What?'
I looked furtively over at the dance floor, where Dom had exhausted herself and was now sat on the couch, leaning in and whispering into Will Pine's ear, touching his arm and throwing her head back in laughter. Oh my god … I know she said she wanted to snog someone but did it have to be Will Pine? He was so sleazy and gross, urgh.
Ollie pressed the lip of the beer bottle to his own, smirking, hazel eyes never leaving mine.
'Do you want to go outside?' Ollie moved closer and put his hand on my waist and whispered in my ear: 'Might be easier to talk.'
My body lit up in a rosy pink blush. I drew back from Ollie slightly, unsure of what my answer was going to be, having seen that look in boys' eyes before and knowing what it meant. What he wanted. Before I could reply, I caught a movement out the corner of my eye.
Of course it was James and Flora Morgan. It couldn't be anyone else, because this was a party, everyone was drunk, I was in a Muggle Studies project with my ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend and everything was just such a joke. And because everything was so damn predictable anyway, I watched, in a numb trance, Flora yank James by the collar of his shirt to steal a kiss.
My face fell; an icy wind blasted into my heart.
I had an out of body experience.
James leaned in, hands flat on the wall on either side of her head, not touching her apart from his lips. I saw his sharp profile move gently as he kissed her. Saw her hands reach up around him, pulling him closer and deeper …
White hot, blistering rage rose up like a tempest inside me, Fiendfyre swirling, lashing out in electric gold flames, blackening my bones.
I had seen James kiss girls before—not that I'd stopped to watch or anything. It was just unavoidable sometimes. I'd seen him leave parties, pressing a drunk finger to his grinning lips, the universal sign for shh, a girl tugging insistently at his hand.
I'd seen that and then some.
Before, I'd always been filled with a nebulous, acidic bubble of something, something green and vicious, souring my mood, filling my head with white noise. A feeling I couldn't describe until our first kiss. Until I knew I would rather eat doxy eggs than see him kiss anyone besides me ever again. Until I realised I was totally, utterly and completely jealous.
Now, I was just vengeful.
I turned back to Ollie and we stared at each other wordlessly, having both seen.
I kissed him impulsively, catching him slightly by surprise. The first thing I registered was the foreignness of his lips. The moved differently, tasted different, and I wasn't sure if I liked it. Ollie suddenly gripped my upper arms, snogging me back, all tongue and teeth. I decided automatically I didn't like it—though maybe I was biased because I'd been kissing James Potter for the past year—but it didn't matter with the bitter taste of alcohol on our mouths.
Ollie pulled away first, eyes bright and electric. 'Wanna go outside?'
'Yeah,' I said breathlessly.
I didn't look back to see if James had seen.
We stumbled into the starry night and, making sure the coast was clear of both Newton and Fig, ran around the back, where I spotted Luke and Freddie playing Beer Pong with Marisa and Ella (Holly Winters was sulking in the corner, watching them sullenly). I knew at once that this was Luke's doing. He went to America every summer to visit family there and always came back with new sayings and strange artefacts—like Beer Pong, Flip Cup and bro.
'Luke!' I cried. 'Freddie!'
I ran up to them, completely forgetting about Ollie. Luke appraised me, eyebrows raised, eyes flashing above my head.
'Jenny, get your hands off the table.'
'Oops!' I drew back and folded my arms over my chest and watched, trying not to stumble over my own two feet.
'I'm tapping out!' Ella suddenly cried, bouncing over to me, grinning from ear to ear. 'It's all yours Maz!'
Marisa flipped her the finger and took aim with a ping pong ball, dark eyes laser focused and mouth pursed in concentration.
Ella grabbed my arm and drew me aside; Ollie was chatting away with Holly, who looked relieved anyone was talking to her at all.
'Why do you and Ollie look so cosy?' Ella demanded at once.
'Um we kind of kissed …' I smiled sheepishly at her look of shock.
Then, Ella's eyes widened in a laugh. 'Merlin and Morgana ... You know he is, like, completely infatuated with Flora, right?'
'What?' The astonishment quite literally sobered me up. 'Please tell me you're joking. Please tell me I didn't just put myself in a—a fucking love rhombus with James, Flora and Ollie!'
This was bad, even for me.
Ella giggled. She opened her mouth to reply, but I never got a chance to hear it.
Ella and I both turned—and I froze, blood turning to ice.
The smiles slid off both our faces.
It was Flora Morgan.
Guys I've written sooo much and I'm just in a mad rush to get it all out lol I really want to catch up to where this story last left off. I can't remember where I did though—I think I do but? Does anyone remember lol? I swear I'm on this site 24/7, my summer has been dead boring and writing this fic has kept me alive.
Anyways, I don't own Dunkirk (though I can't wait to see it), and I don't own Gollum or Lord of the Rings.
Let me know what you think of this chapter! Your reviews literally give me life guys!! Can't thank you enough for them xx
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