AUTHOR'S NOTE: Uh... just so you know, this is the chapter that kicked off Camp JulNo for me at, like, midnight. Which means word vomit and so much ridiculousness. Like. EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING IS RIDICULOUS OKAY

That's basically the case for the entire story.

You have been warned :P


Today was a day for tears.

Tears of frustration. Tears of anger. Tears of grief. Tears born from that gaping hollow in someone’s chest when their heart had been broken and then ripped out in the blink of an eye. Tears upon tears upon tears.

Dahlia felt like breaking down into tears too.

Because sometimes customers were just so fucking stupid.

"So can I get the Louispalooza, only without the enchantment that turns your hair into different colours?" the girl at the counter asked, waving her eyebrow pencil at her ash blonde locks. "Please," she added a second later.

Her manners, no matter how sincere or late, weren't enough. "I'm sorry, it's not possible to serve the Louispalooza without the enchantment included. Would you like a different drink instead? Maybe the Potter Punch?"

"No, I want the Louispalooza." She frowned disapprovingly at her. "Everyone talks about how amazing it is."

"It is," agreed Dahlia. "But the recipe requires the enchantment to be added in.”

"Why can't you just take the spell out?"

"Because it changes the flavour of the drink and is potentially dangerous.  If you're looking for something fruity but light, you might like Victoire's Twist: it's a blend of strawberries, raspberries - "

"I don't want a Victoire's Twist, I want a Louispalooza!"

"I can make you a Louispalooza but it'll have to include the enchantment, I'm afraid," Dahlia said through gritted teeth. She plastered on a smile. "Is that what you'd like?"

"I don't want my hair to turn green," the girl said snottily. "Do you know how many Galleons this dye job cost? 3 Galleons and 5 sickles. The hairdresser specifically said to stay away from any hair-related charms for the next twenty-four hours so I want that Louispalooza sans enchantment, okay? Capisce?"

Dahlia was going to throw the drink at her fucking face if she didn't shut up. Capisce?

"Everything alright, ladies?" came a sudden voice.

Teddy Lupin exited the kitchen, unashamedly donning a black apron that had PROPERTY OF VICTOIRE W. scrawled over the logo for The Harpy's Lounge, hands in the pockets of his jeans. The quirk of his mouth was knowing, the planes of his face deliberately blank. He came to stand beside Dahlia, half a foot taller than her.

The customer flushed a little, either because he was Teddy Lupin or because she knew she was behaving like a plonker. Nevertheless, she schooled her features and said rather haughtily, "I would like to order a Louispalooza, only without the enchantment that changes hair colour, and your employee is refusing to make it.”

Teddy's eyebrows, dark brown despite his mauve curls, lifted. "I'm afraid it's not possible to make the Louispalooza without the enchantment, darling." Somehow, he managed to avoid sounding like a condescending twat. "Would you like the Victoire Twist instead? It's just as fruity, only much more refreshing, and it works out cheaper."

The girl blew a strand of fake ash blonde hair out of her face. She blinked. "Okay."

Dahlia was going to kill someone.

Somehow, she managed to keep the murderous expression off her face as she accepted the money off the straw-haired, entitled cow with no capability of blending in her blusher standing at the counter ("That'll be 2 sickles and 19 knuts!") and waited for Teddy to whip up the drink. She hoped he poisoned it. Her eyes narrowed in on the girl as she took a cautious sip, sent Teddy a sunny smile and swanned off to one of the leather sofas on the other end of the café - alas, it seemed he had not.

"Gosh darn it, Dahlia," Teddy sighed exaggeratedly. "Couldn't you have just told her that the enchantment needs to be in the drink?"

The painfully fake smile on her lips twisted into a scowl. "I hate you," she informed her boss.

"But you hate Louis more, right?"


"Ouch." He winced, hair rippling sunset orange. "Such venom! I'm not the idiot who tried to order a Louispalooza without the enchantment."

"I don't care."

In an ordinary job, Dahlia's ire might have earned her a swift removal from the premises and a termination of her contract but thankfully, being a waitress at The Harpy's Lounge meant otherwise. So long as she was polite to the customers and did her job well, she was at perfect liberty to drop the façade with her bosses. For example, by informing Louis that his most recent dip-dye made him look like a tosspot.

Which she did.


"Ah, I have to go and help out in the back," Teddy said, clapping a hand on her shoulder. "Have fun. Keep smiling. Prepare to hex any reporter sniffing about."

With that, he slouched back through the kitchen door and lost himself in the clatter of sizzling oil, cauldrons and steam. Dahlia watched him go, briefly wondering how she managed to more or less get along with Teddy considering he was related to Potter (her number one enemy as of The Break Up) and an annoyingly confident member of the male species. What usually irritated her to no end still irritated her... but to less of an end.

"Give me a Palace of Jem's, sweetheart," drifted in a voice from the left. She turned to see the very namesake of that particular dessert slumped on the stool closest to her, despondently staring at his wallet.

James Sirius Potter had changed a lot since he had left Hogwarts.

Back then, he'd sauntered through the corridors of the school as if he had been the king of it (which he had been) with a messy man bun he had believed to be attractive (which it had been) and rumours that he held the record for snogging the most girls at a single party (which he did hold). All one had to do to sum up James Potter was to picture Gryffindor's poster child and sauciest wet dream.

Naturally, he had made Dahlia want to wear a hazmat suit.

Nowadays, however, his hair just about fell into his eyes, having been the victim of a drunk night out that had been plastered all over Witch Weekly. He had most recently been attached to a blonde waif of a girl with a waist the size of a penny ever since he had abandoned his aim of shagging more people than Charles II. And he also apparently slouched on stools and tearfully bought the biggest, most sugar-filled ice cream dish in the café.

He still made her want to wear a hazmat suit.


Who the fuck did he think he was?

"Sure," she said evenly and turned to the ice cream section.

A Palace of Jem's consisted of two hearty scoops of each ice cream flavour on offer, a bit of fancy wandwork and some toppings. She usually tried to hand the job off to other employees – Emma Belby, for example, managed to make hers in exactly the same way every single time – but the other worker, Jade, was cleaning down tables at the far end of the café.

Sighing, she piled liberal spheres of each flavour – chocolate, bubblegum, strawberry, caramel, vanilla, nebula, the whole lot – onto a plate and waved her wand in the way she'd been taught. The ice cream twisted into a small, lopsided castle. She grimaced. Paused and studied it. Decided there was nothing she could do and added the melted chocolate moat and a handful of chocolate droplets.

She placed it directly in front of him. "That'll be four sickles and fifteen knuts, please."

James didn't move. The only thing that changed about him was that his eyes were trained on the ice cream instead. And then...

"The palace is lopsided."

What. A. Wanker.

"I'm sorry," she said, forcing her voice to stay calm. She just about managed although it took her considerable energy - usually, she was better at this, good enough to fight back the scream of frustration building up in her, but today had just been awful. "This is the dish I find the hardest."

For a moment, James looked as if he was going to argue against this. But then his shoulders sagged even further and he all but flung the coins at her, crying, "I guess it doesn't matter, does it? At the end of the day, I'm still going to eat it. I'm still going to be sat here by myself eating an ice cream big enough for two people, but there won't be two people eating it, there'll only be me. No one else to give a shit! I'll be the only one getting diabetes here!"

She stared.

James pinched the bridge of his nose. "Long week," he said, looking almost as if he was going to cry.

"Er..." Dahlia said, slowly reaching to collect the money. Like islands, they sat oceans apart from each other; when she dragged them across the polished wooden countertop, they protested loudly. "Are you... okay?"

She really didn't know what the protocol for such a situation was. Sure, she'd had many customers in the past who had ranted to her about their day just to let someone else ease the weight off their chest; sure, she'd even given them some solid advice. But James Potter was, well, James Potter and he seemed upset, not angry. Shaking not with rage but a dwindling self-control.

As if her words had been all he needed, he blurted, "You know Constance Evermore, right? Of course, you do, she's my girlfriend - or, well, she was my girlfriend until earlier on last week. I just found out she's moving to the freaking Czech Republic and Prague or whatever the fuck the capital is called and I just - "

"You're going to miss her?" she offered.

"I was going to propose," he all but exclaims. "And it was going to be all romantic with fucking violins and roses and the fucking moon out - "

"Hold on, what?" Dahlia spluttered.

She couldn't help herself, her tongue another creature entirely with a will of its own. She had always been the sort of girl who said exactly what she was thinking, the sentences arranged with clumsy conjunctions and ill-chosen words and entirely too much drama. This job forced it back, had her trap her thoughts behind her teeth, transforming them into metal bars - but she had been worn thin by stupid customers like the Louispalooza ash blonde idiot and another year-long conversation with The fucking K –

So without a second thought, she exclaimed, "You wanted to propose to a girl you've been dating for two and a half months? Are you mad?"

James blinked. "Love knows nothing about time."

Dahlia blinked too. Then, she snorted. "You're actually fucking mad. Oh my God." She paused. "I've seen flies live longer than that."

"Does it matter? I didn't come here for judgement," he said stiffly. He pulled his dessert towards him and shoved a glum spoonful into his mouth. "I came here to drown my sorrows in ice cream."

"Of course, it matters, you daft - I mean. If you met her just two and a half months ago, you probably don't know her well enough to know if you want to be with her for life. Like - God, you're still in the honeymoon period two months in - how - wow."

"I know her," he said defensively. "I'm in love with her."

"If you insist."

"I do!"

"Well, then, you’re in love with her,” she said, unable to help her eyes from rolling towards the back of her head.

She couldn’t believe she was even in this position – two years ago, if someone had asked her how she felt about giving relationship advice to James freaking Potter, she would have dumped orange juice on them as a response. First of all: James Potter was the walking embodiment of chlamydia and would probably have a nervous breakdown if asked to spell the word love. Secondly: she would rather drive her wand into her eye than give relationship advice unless it was demanded of her by her friends. But then again, two years ago, James Potter had a manbun and Dahlia had no obligation to behave to earn money, so a lot could change in that time.

“You don’t believe me,” he stated.

“What gave you that idea?” Try as she might, she could not keep the amused smirk off her face. At his stony expression, she rolled her eyes for the second time in as many minutes and sighed, “Look. If you’re so sure you’re in love with this girl, then fine, you’re in love with her. It literally makes no difference to me. I’m just a waitress who can’t make a Palace of Jem’s to save her bloody life.”

“I’m sensing a but here.”

She raised an unimpressed eyebrow. Did he really think she was that predictable? Jesus, she didn’t care that much about his relationship, or lack of one. “No buts. I don’t care. If you’re so confident that you love her, do whatever the bloody hell you want. I’m not asking you to give me a damn dissertation on why you’re in love with her and how you know.”

James thought this over, eyebrows knitted together in dissatisfaction. It was clear that he wanted her to care, wanted someone he could argue with to validate his feelings, confirm that this transgression was indeed a transgression, that he wasn’t an idiot for feeling like his heart had broken. In truth, Dahlia wasn’t in a position to decide so. She was Dahlia Darzi – she put little stock in relationships at this age, dismissed most of them as either shows of possession and ownership (which an alarming amount were) or pointless endeavours that resulted in nothing but insecurity and tears. She was astonishingly critical and cynical about these things. If he wanted validation, he was looking in the wrong place.

For perhaps the millionth time in their conversation, he repeated, “I do love her. And I can tell you why as well!”

“It’s alright,” she said because she really didn’t need someone to pour their heart out on a Thursday evening when she was already at her wit’s end from all these bloody customers. Honestly, if James started crying, she might too.

“I love her because she’s kind,” he ploughed on loudly, “and thoughtful. Like every time we had a night out, she always made plenty of hangover cure beforehand for the entire group twice over. She was great at Potions which I always admired because it was my worst subject. She didn’t judge me for not having a job and every time my family got on my case about one, she always cheered me up by taking me out. She was good at that. Having a good time.”

He paused, as if waiting for Dahlia to interrupt with a “SAY IT ISN’T SO!” or something as equally dramatic. She did not.

“And she’s really pretty,” he added. “Very beautiful. And she’s aware of it too which I have always found attractive in a girl – you know, it’s ridiculous to expect girls to always be demure and shy and unaware of their beauty. I never understood why people made a big deal about girls being ‘vain’ when all they are is aware of their own beauty? So uh, yeah. Constance is beautiful and she embraces it. Which I like.” He stopped again.

Realising that he wanted a response, Dahlia shrugged. “Fair enough. I can get behind that.”

Part of the reason Dahlia despised relationships at this age was because it often devolved into a mess of feeling validated by it or by the number of guys who found you good looking. It didn’t matter if you found a spot in the Top Ten Girls of Seventh Year – it was actually pretty fucking sexist and degrading; Dahlia had been only one of many girls who had hexed Campbell Thomas eight months beforehand when he had created the damn thing – because beauty didn’t need the opinion of horny eighteen year old boys to define it. People who embraced their looks with confidence, like her friend Cassidy, had always earned some unofficial respect from Dahlia. So yes, she could understand why James admired that Constance embraced her beauty.

That didn’t mean she thought they were in love.

“Exactly! So, you see why I’m in love with her, right?”

“I see why you were in a relationship,” she said evenly, though, truth be told, she didn’t. All she could see were the minutes ticking away on the clock above the door, counting away the seconds until she could finally clean up and leave.

“So then there you have it,” he declared, somewhat smug. He even sent her a victorious smirk. A fucking smirk. Why was he so bloody annoying? “I am in love with Constance.”

If he was so in love with Constance, why the fuck did he need her to validate it? Jesus freaking Christ.

Another customer appeared then, shaking the snow off their gloves as they ordered a hot chocolate with marshmallows, shivering in their boots. The conversation was cut short, Dahlia launching back in Harpy Mode and pasting a smile on her face. Even after a couple of months’ practice, it was still somewhat painful to break out and to behold so when the customer hurried into a seat a few metres away, James snorted.

At Dahlia’s sharp look, he grinned. “That looked like it hurt,” he remarked.

Not sure why she couldn’t treat him like a normal customer, she shot back, “So’s your damn face but you don’t see me complaining.” A brief heartbeat of fear stilled her as she recalled just what his relationship to her bosses were and how he could easily get her fired. She even prepared a reluctant apology – but he let loose a surprised bark of laughter.

“Damn, Darzi, you’re such a shit waitress,” he said, though there was an admiring note to it. “Entirely the wrong temperament for it.”

She shrugged guardedly. “Teddy and Louis liked me well enough.”

“That’s because Teddy and Louis are nutters,” he confided.

He dug into his ice cream with much more gusto than before. Dahlia watched him, searching for traces of that glum boy from before but he seemed to have disappeared. Mostly out of curiosity, she said casually, “So. Why did your girlfriend move to Prague?”

He froze, fingers curled around his spoon. It was buried halfway through a bubblegum turret, slicing into the window like a giant’s spade, ready to level it to the ground. He glanced down and then let it go.

“Apparently,” he said mildly, “my ex-girlfriend is currently chasing a modelling contract. I didn’t even know she wanted to be a model in the first place but there you have it.”

It seemed that, for some wild reason, James shot all of Dahlia’s self-control to the ground. She blurted, “Wait, so the girl you’re supposedly in love with has wanted to be a model all this time and you didn’t know that?”

“It never came up,” he said defensively. “She seemed exactly like me. Directionless, you know? She hated talking about jobs and stuff. It was too serious for her.”

“Did you talk about anything serious?” There was an undeniably condescending note to her voice now, one they were both well-aware of. “Other than the whole partying, hangover cure, all that nonsense?”

“No,” he said viciously. He picked up the spoon and shoved another mountain of ice cream into his mouth. “Not everyone needs to talk about politics or whatever bullshit you’re thinking of with their partner. What happened to getting with someone who makes you happy?”

“Look, genius.” She wasn’t vicious. She wasn’t even yelling like she did at least 65% of the time (Alice frequently said she was the definition of a foghorn). She was simply matter-of-fact and it was probably this that prevented James from growing even angrier and even more defensive. “I’m not an expert on love or whatever but here’s what I do know: the person you marry is ideally with you for life. They need to know the good parts about you, yeah, and they need to be able to make you happy. But they’re not just there when it’s all sunny outside and everything is happy and filled with sparkles. They’re there through the tough parts, the ugly parts, the serious parts. That includes stuff like jobs. The struggles of reaching your goals. When you fail at whatever you’re trying to do.

“If they’re there during the hard times, the fact that they’re present during the good times makes it all the more fucking worth it. So if you don’t know basic things like the fact that your ex-girlfriend wants to be a model, why did you think the two of you were ready to get married?”

By the time they were finished locking up The Harpy’s Lounge, there was only an hour left until Flourish and Blotts followed suit so Dahlia hurried along the cobblestones with a quick farewell to the others, her face buried in her scarf, her hands curled protectively around her wand (just in case). After a late shift, she usually hurried home to scarf some food down before she withered away into nothing – but after harrowing shifts where she had to deal with snotty customers, wankers like The K and even bigger wankers like James Potter and his girlfriend troubles – she needed something to calm her before she apparated home. It wouldn’t do well to accidentally annihilate Khayri just for breathing in her direction, after all. She had learnt her lesson from last time.

She entered the bookstore, eyes drifting shut at the sensation of warm air swooping in to caress her face. Inhaling deeply, she ventured further into the shop, letting the scent of fresh books and ink stains replace the haze of crabby exhaustion.

Abruptly, the words of a student counsellor she had been forced to see in her early years at Hogwarts for anger management lessons drifted into her head:

Inhale and feel great; exhale and release the hate!

She wanted to throw a fucking book at someone.

 Thankfully, no books were thrown. Dahlia managed to call upon her self-control – it seemed she had a lot more of it than she had once thought – and snatched up a murder mystery novel she had been thumbing through for the past two weeks or so in stolen moments here and there. She had never been a fan of romances or young adult books, bored with the unoriginal drivel that too often rose to popularity. It seemed every book nowadays starred female characters with quirky names who had to save the world but were easily distracted by two boys with equally quirky names who were vying for her eternal love. If the genders had been swapped, she knew for a fact that love interests would have been dismissed as petty, immature and worthless.

When really, it was the other way around.

All those fucking Rykers, Hunters and Shades could suck on it.

“Dahlia, I didn’t know you could read,” a voice interrupted her thoughts as she sank down in a beanbag and opened up the book. She looked up to see the cheery face of her best friend. “Are you possessed? Is this really you? Do I need to call a Healer?”

“You will in a minute,” she said casually, “because I’m about to shove your book so far up your fucking arse, you won’t ever be able to sit down again.”

“Ooh, kinky. Is that a promise?”

Alice Longbottom was a beautiful person. This was not a fact that centred around her looks, though it could not be denied that she had been graced with some damn well cute ones. Her hair was light, wavy and chopped short to her shoulders, her smile balancing between cheeky and kind. Her eyebrows were dark blonde and expressive, her cherub cheeks permanently painted with a faint pink that made her look all the cheerier, and she had doll-like hands that were always clean, her nails trimmed and currently painted a deep burgundy. She wore pastel pink dresses and cream robes. Because she was just that sort of person.

But she was not beautiful because she liked to present herself in an aesthetically appealing way. It was because she was bubbly and loud and a die-hard optimist. Because she found humour in most situations and love in her heart for most people. It was not simply her smile that was kind but the girl herself – she nursed birds with broken wings, helped her father garden his plants despite her disgust with dirt, saw past the aggression and anger of girls with gentle names but not so gentle temperaments. She was a loyal friend.

She was also fucking annoying sometimes.

“You knock me sick,” Dahlia informed her.

Alice threw her legs over Dahlia’s. Picking up her book, she said, “Why do you lie to yourself so much, Dahlia? I’m, like, the reason for your existence.”

“The reason I want to end my existence, maybe.”

In response, she leaned over and licked her face.

“Aw, you fucking tramp!” Dahlia all but squawked. She pretended to retch, wiping her cheek vigorously. “What the fuck happened to your supposed fear of unhygienic shit?”

“I decided to trust that you’re a clean person,” Alice said, though there was a grimace hovering at the corners of her mouth as if she was tasting regret.

“I’m not.”


Ew yourself! I’m not the one licking someone’s damn face.”

Alice waggled her eyebrows. “You know you want to.” At her disgust, she laughed. “Just hit me up any time and we can have at it.”

“I would rather lick a cactus.”

“That sounds like it’d hurt,” she said mildly.

Knowing that she could never win this one, Dahlia settled for flipping her off and pointedly began to read. Alice’s barely suppressed laugh was the last sound she was properly conscious of before she managed to lose herself in the grimy, gas-lit streets of Victorian London. Her latest read was a three hundred-and-something paged novel about a Miss Hattie Mayfair and her companion, Rose Smith, two witches who were investigating a string of mysterious deaths around the city after Rose’s sister had been revealed to be one of the victims. It was positively gripping and she knew that, once she was paid at the end of this week, she was probably buying it.

For now, however, she had to deal with devouring it in whatever snatches of free time she could manage to grab.

She read, savouring each word on each page, and outside this world of horse-drawn carriages, quaint language and witches who concealed their wands in parasols, time ticked away. Before she knew it, there was a polite cough and one of the workers – worn face, toothy smile, stocky build – was informing them that the shop was closing up and it was time to leave, please, thank you.

Dahlia returned her book to whence it came from while Alice drifted over to the counter to buy hers. She let her fingers trail over the spines of countless more as she walked slowly towards the door. A bell tinkled to notify Alice that she had let herself out and she rested against the window, waiting for her to follow suit.

The January night sky was a pitch-black blanket studded with endless stars that did nothing to warm her. There was still an unforgivable bite to the air, ice made gas to chill her to the bone despite her many layers. She scowled at it, mostly because she was Dahlia Darzi and she frequently scowled at many things, and huffed, her breath misting out as a quick white puff. A part of her noted this in amusement; the rest of her was much more concerned with ducking her face down into her scarf in search of some warmth.

“Hey,” Alice said a little breathlessly when she emerged from Flourish and Blotts a minute and a half later. She winced at the cold, pulling on her leather gloves with pink fingers. “I’m about to head to Nala’s to get St Barney. You want to come with?”

“You mean Fat Ginger?” Dahlia smirked.

“His name is St Barnable Lawrence!” she hissed. “And you know it.”

Ever since she had bought the cat the summer before second year, Alice’s very fat, very ginger cat had been called St Barnable Lawrence about as many times as Harry Potter had survived the Killing Curse. Multiple times but not frequently enough. Alice had recently taken it upon herself to bring back his “true” name – but even Fat Ginger thought his name was Fat Ginger. It was a hopeless quest. Futile.

Alice hadn’t been a Hufflepuff for no reason, however.

Dahlia snorted. “You’re never going to get us to call him St Barnabus Lorenzo or whatever the fuck it is – “

“St Barnable Lawrence!”

“ – so you might as well give up now,” she continued as if she hadn’t been interrupted.

“I refuse,” Alice declared, turning her nose up in disdain. The tip of it was rubbed raw by the cold, almost as luminous as Rudolph’s. “Are you coming or not?”

Dahlia’s stomach answered for her. Not even embarrassed, she patted it proudly and grinned. “Nah, I’m fucking starving.”

“Nala’s house has food.”

“Yeah, but is it my mum’s? Yeah, didn’t freaking think so.”

The two girls pulled each other into a quick hug before they parted ways. A tremendous CRACK! split open the air behind her as Alice apparated off to the Soyinka household over in West Bromwich, leaving Dahlia and a few stragglers to make their way home by themselves. Hand clasped around her wand once again, she slowly made her way down the winding street, breathing in the sights in all their glory.

This was another thing Dahlia was fond of. Though the closing shift of the day was often taxing, it meant that she could later walk down Diagon Alley at night when the stars were bright and the lamps danced with floating orbs of calming yellow light and the entire street falling asleep on either side of her. There weren’t many shops that stayed open in the main street after daylight hours so the ancient buildings were dark and silent, though they remained unthreatening. Without the hustle and bustle of activity, it was easier to see what was so blatant about this place: it breathed magic.

The magic that made up each nerve and tendon and fibre of her body like starlight. She was a network of arteries and muscles and organs that flowed with blood and magic; the energy crackled at her fingertips, sparking the air with so much potential. A miracle made flesh, wrapped up in tangled black hair and glorious, deep brown skin – walking, breathing, belonging to this wonderful, magical world that centred around a cobblestone street tucked away in the middle of London. When it felt like it was just her walking through Diagon Alley, it almost felt as if the magic was whispering to her.

Witch, it said.

She was a witch.

“Agh! – fuck – gosh fucking damn it.” A crash cut short the beauty of the moment. Dahlia whipped around on instinct, her head snapping towards the direction of the sound. “Ow.”

Of course.

Who else would it be but James fucking Potter?

“What the fuck are you doing?” Dahlia asked, her voice incredulous and tired and not even the slightest bit surprised. She realised her wand was out, that it was lit and illuminating the bedraggled face of the infamous boy himself.

He blinked.


And then: “Darzi! It’s Darzi, right? The girl from – the girl from The Harpy. Who makes really shit palaces?”

She quirked an unamused eyebrow. Honestly, did boys come with an instruction manual on how to be the most annoying things on this fucking planet or was it just wired into them? “You’re drunk, aren’t you.” She phrased it as a statement because there really wasn’t anything else he could be.

Glassy eyes, red cheeks, clumsy words. Not to mention the fact that he stank like an open bar. And was collapsed against a stack of crates for God knew what reason.

“Pretty much,” he agreed. “I’m bleeding too.”

She glanced at where he was pointing. He was, in fact, bleeding. He must’ve fallen over before – hence the all too eloquent shout that had startled the living daylights out of her – and scraped his knees because his jeans were torn and there were little gashes and scratches crisscrossing the pale, pink skin.

“So you are,” she said.

“Inside and out,” he continued. Her eyebrows drew together in a frown of confusion – which quickly turned into a startled jump when he nearly bawled, “I’M NOT IN LOVE WITH CONSTANCE. YOU WERE RIGHT!”

She stared in shock. “Er…”

“I was thinking about it while I was drinking in one of the bars,” he said. His shoulders were shaking from the revelation. Or the cold. “Thinking about why I thought I wanted to marry her. And I realised… I didn’t. I was so caught up in thinking that everyone falls in love with the right person at a young age that I just…”

“That’s…” Dahlia put out the light in her wand and shoved her hands back into her pockets awkwardly. What did one even say to something like that? Why the fuck was she even here? “Unfortunate.”

“She never supported me!” he burst out and he was both angry and hurt. “She thought my writing was stupid and that I would get over it. She didn’t like it when I just wanted to stay in and write instead of going out. She didn’t like it when I wanted to do anything that wasn’t what she wanted. She always kicked up a fuss. But I thought it was okay because what she wanted to do was still fun at the end of the day.”

“That’s shit,” Dahlia agreed. She took a step back. “I’d stick around and listen – “ No, she wouldn’t. “ – but I need to get home.”

“The only time she was okay with staying in was when she wanted a shag – wait, what?” He blinked dazedly at her. “Don’t you want to stay and chat?”

“About your ex-girlfriend?” she said flatly.

“It doesn’t have to be about her,” he said. He stumbled to his feet. “It can be about anything you want. You know what, we don’t even have to talk.”

Her mouth fell open in shock. Was this – Oh God, she had to be in a nightmare. There was no way that she was standing in Diagon Alley with James fucking Potter after he’d spent the evening convincing her that he was in love with his ex-girlfriend and then had discovered that no, actually, he wasn’t and that he wouldn’t mind snogging her. Because even Merlin himself wouldn’t make this boy that stupid.

“Are you – are you hitting on me?” she hissed. “After going on about fucking Constance Evermore for God knows how many hours today?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know,” he whined. He ran his hands over his face blearily. “I’m drunk, man. I don’t know anymore.”

“Being drunk doesn’t excuse you for being a twat,” she shot back.

Am I being a twat?”


“Oh. Sorry. I didn’t mean to be.”

“You don’t thinking suggesting we hook up after you went on about your ex-girlfriend – who you wanted to fucking propose to, by the way – is a dick move? Jesus fucking Christ, are you for real?”

James bit his lip anxiously. “I honestly didn’t mean to offend you. I just… I don’t know, I figured it’d be good to get my mind off it. I’m not going to lie to you, it wouldn’t mean anything for the two of us. It’d be just a bit of fun, you know? I won’t lie and make out like it’ll be something more if it won’t be.”

Of course, he didn’t. That had been James Potter’s motto back in Hogwarts. Snog girls, shag girls, whatever the fuck he did – all of it had been very clearly under the understanding that none of it meant anything. James Potter had simply been looking for fun and anyone who had come to him had been after the same thing.

It wasn’t an idea Dahlia found particularly pleasing but she couldn’t say much – after all, she was best friends with Cassidy Greengrass, a girl who had done the very same. It was better to open about one’s lack of commitment than to string someone along like she had known some people to do, after all.

Still, that didn’t mean she appreciated the honesty right now.

“I’m not fucking interested in doing anything with you,” she spat. “For a whole list of reasons, actually. I’d rather jump off a cliff.”

He blinked again. “Oh. Okay. What’s the list?” He didn’t sound offended, only curious, and it merely served to irritate Dahlia even more. She hated boys. She honestly hated them.

“You’re James Potter!”


She threw her hands in the air. “You’re a fucking walking STD, that’s what! Who can be weirdly committed to a relationship when he wants!”

“What on…” He screwed up his face in confusion. “That’s kinda mean, you know.”

“I’m a mean person,” she shot back. “And besides. Even if you weren’t a walking STD, your specky-four-eyed git of a brother broke up with one of my best friends! I’m not going near a Potter for the next five centuries because of that!”

“What?” he spluttered. “What does Al have to do with – oh shit, you’re one of Hale’s friends, aren’t you? The psycho one that kept telling Al to crawl in a hole and die?” Realisation dawned on him.

“The fuck did you just call me?”

“I called you psycho. Do you have a problem with that now?”

“You’d best shut up before I hex you to fucking Africa,” she threatened, whipping out her wand. “Although you’d probably just ask some other poor, unsuspecting girl to fucking shag you on a crate if I did.”

“I would not!” he cried indignantly. “And besides what is it to you if I did?”

“Nothing! In fact, I’d love to see them all fucking reject you!”

“They would not!” he said. Then, he added, “And even if they did, they’d sure as hell give me better reasons than you.”

“What’s so bad about my reasons?” she demanded, stepping forward until she was almost face to face with him – or face to shoulder. Whatever it was. “You are a walking STD and your specky-four-eyed git of a brother did break up with my best friend.”

“Well, your best friend broke up with my specky-four-eyed git of a brother too! It was a mutual break up!”

“And it was his fault!” she exclaimed.

The two of them had pressed forward until there was little room between them. It swelled with the heat of her anger and his harsh breaths, their volley of insults and ridiculous argument, until they both noticed the pocket of space, one that would be so easy to reach across. James swallowed.

And then in an entirely too dramatic shout, he cried, “DO YOU WANT TO KISS ME AS MUCH AS I WANT TO KISS YOU?”

“Not in the slightest,” Dahlia hissed.

She apparated away.

DISCLAIMER: The line "Do you want to kiss me as much as I want to kiss you?" has been in half a hundred movies/shows and I'm not sure where it originally came from, but it's inspired by all of them.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Ahem. Overdramatic, much?

Dahlia's such a strange character to write because she's so forceful and rude, but at the same time, I love her and want you to love her too. And James is... a lot better than he seems in this introductory chapter, I promise.

As always, lemme know what you thought in the review box below. Do you like James? How do you feel about Dahlia's not-so-secret cynicism? How many times does she swear in this chapter? Favourite line?


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