again, a round of applause to milominderbinder @ TDA.
Blaze sat down opposite me at the Gryffindor table and glanced furtively up at the Great Hall doors. He leaned in conspiratorially, expression dark and grim. I couldn't help but resent his ability to look decent despite sporting a fading black eye and a healing split lip. Somehow, it actually accentuated his dark brown cherubic curls, deep dimples and gorgeous grey-green eyes …
Merlin, I thought abruptly with disgust, he really was the darling of the Clarke family.
'I don't want any part of it,' I said automatically. I continued eating my delicious oatmeal while flipping a page of Witch Weekly (What? They had great beauty tips and Tomas Rodriguez was rumored to be dating an American Muggle and I needed to see if that nonsense was true).
'Pixie's after me. I need your help.'
I snorted and looked over my shoulder at the Ravenclaw table, scanning its heads for a certain blonde one. It was early in the morning—around six thirty—but Ravenclaws were all huge nerds so there were quite a few of them studying or inhaling thesauruses or whatever. I wouldn't be surprised if Pixie was one of them.
Why was I up this early, you ask?
Avoiding Dom of course.
'We all went through it.' I cleaned my bowl, licking my spoon, and then made myself a cup of tea. I motioned Blaze to pass the tray of milk and sugar and he did so dutifully. 'Avoiding her is like trying to fight off a highly contagious airborne disease. Sooner or later she's going to get you and there's really nothing you can do about it. Fighting it will only make things worse.'
'What? And you're the Gryffindor?' he said with disgust. 'I mean when I sent Jasper a letter asking for help I expected nothing less than a suggestion to wave a white flag—but he's a Puff! A yellow-bellied badger through and through.' I raised my eyebrows. 'I thought you'd at least have an idea on how to fight her off!'
'She's not a bear.' I rolled my eyes. A dollop of milk, no sugar. 'You can't just whack her with a stick to make her go away. Anyway, it's not that bad.'
'Not that bad?!'
'She just lectures you for a bit and gives you a monogrammed dragonskin agenda at the end. The agenda's actually quite nice. I still have mine—'
Blaze spluttered, recoiling from me in horror. 'I can't believe this. I-I actually can't? My brain isn't processing any of this. Everything you said—was it even in English?'
I studied him for a moment. 'Why are you up so early?' Then I noticed something else, something which immediately sparked my suspicion. 'Your sweater's inside out.' Blaze glanced down at himself, puzzled, and pulled at the inside-out embroidery of the Slytherin crest.
'Well what do you expect? It's early. Not everyone can be perfect like you.'
It was almost convincing.
Too bad I knew better.
I narrowed my eyes. 'Tell me.'
Blaze looked up at me with wide, innocent eyes. 'I'm just up early, Jesus.'
'Tell me.' In a swift movement I stomped on his foot ('Ow, Jenelle!'), grabbed him by his collar and whipped my wand out, aiming it straight at his head. 'Tell me now or you'll be eating slugs for weeks!'
Blaze gritted his teeth, wincing and glaring at me at the same time. 'Get that wand out of my face!'
I yanked at his collar and he started to turn red. I crushed his toe for added measure.
'All right, all right!' Blaze knew well enough that my threats were never threats—they were promises. He'd eaten slugs too many times in his life to doubt me at this point. He bared his teeth, showing off the gap between the two front ones, seething. 'You're insane! My sweater is literally just inside out!'
'Just fucking tell me you stupid twat! Or I'll tell Pixie that you—'
'Tell me that he what?'
Blaze made a sound comparable only to a honking goose as I let him go.
'PHIL! Long time no see! Please, have a seat!' He patted beside him with a manic beam on his face.
Pixie sniffed haughtily and slid in next to him.
'I thought you couldn't speak to me.'
'What?' He stared at her blankly. 'Why?'
I kicked him swiftly in the shin.
'OW JEN! What the f—oh, yes! The Accords ban! Ah yes! Yes, well, I argued vehemently to the Council that it was ridiculous to ban Slytherins and Ravenclaws from talking just because we're playing Hufflepuff so—'
'Why do I have a feeling you're lying to me?'
'Anyway,' I said, rolling my eyes internally. 'What are you doing here?'
A flicker of a confusion flashed across her features.
'Oh … well … Jasper says he can meet us at the Three Broomsticks for my birthday dinner tonight …'
Every bodily function—including brain activity, thus subconscious breathing regulation—came to grinding halt.
Oh my fucking Merlin … I forgot her birthday was today.
'Oh god yeah! Happy birthday Pix! Didn't you get my card this morning?! So crazy if you didn't maybe the mail screening picked up something and it got confiscated! Oh yes, must've been the dungbombs—don't know why I thought you'd want them! Ha!' I ploughed on without an answer, forcing the words out of my mouth, wondering what the hell I was going to do, if maybe there was a sweater up in my room that I haven't worn before that I could gift her.
Her eyebrows met in confusion for a brief moment. 'Er thanks ... I think. You definitely can't send me dungbombs. I'd have to give you detention Jen. I mean it's likely you're going to get detention for trying to send them through the mail anyway ... God, it's so weird to be eighteen and still at Hogwarts but anyway—tell me what?'
'Er—you—that you—that I—' I stammered, glancing at Blaze and back. 'Well, that is that I was—'
Pixie rolled her eyes and made a noise of impatience, effectively cutting me off.
'Blaze, if the Accords allow it, can we speak?'
He blanched. 'Pix, I love you—well, if I love you it's in a small, unseeable, unknowable part of my soul but I can promise you it's there. Maybe. Don't hold your breath. In fact, that's a great segue into my next point—'
'I just want to know what classes you're thinking about pursing for your O.W.Ls next year. Jesus!' Pixie was the kind of person to say all the letters instead of calling them Owls like everyone else. 'God!' She gave me a look: what's his problem? 'You'd think I was asking him to jump off the Astronomy tower!'
'You might as well be,' I muttered under my breath.
'I said you're as right as can be!'
Pixie nodded in agreement. 'Come on Blue. It'll only take a couple of hours. We can map out your classes for next year … your projected trajectory from there—it'll be heaps of fun! I've got flow charts and tables ready ... We can think about what grades you might need to get to be an Auror or something equally as exciting!' She turned to me beaming as if I cared. 'I bought new inks from Flourish and Blott's and I'm just dying to try them out.'
'Jenelle, I think I would like to take you up on that offer to eat slugs.'
'Just one hour!'
I blocked out their shouting, calmly drinking the rest of my tea as I flipped through my magazine. I didn't believe an American Muggle was dating Tomas Rodriguez. Tomas Rodriguez was the world's hottest Quidditch player, he didn't have time to be flirting with Americans or Muggles. He had probably never even kissed a girl. Or had sex. Definitely not. He was obviously waiting for me.
'—just stop being difficult!'
'I can't! It's in my nature, remember?! You wrote it down in your weird little Family Psychology diary. I read the whole thing!'
I looked up, interested again.
Pixie gasped. 'What—you—that's—that's private!'
I was impressed: I didn't know Blaze was going to go there.
'When you put it in your bedside table with an enchanted gold lock for everyone to see it really isn't!'
I mean, I always thought I'd be the one to tell her that in retribution for something Blaze would inevitably do to piss me off but—
'YOU WENT IN MY ROOM!? WITHOUT MY PERMISSION? HOW DARE YOU!'
'Force me to colour code with you and I'm telling Jenny what you did last summer with George Freud—!'
Pixie lunged in a motion so quick, I was completely blindsided by it. I jumped in surprise (spilling some very, very hot tea all over myself) as she tackled Blaze and they both went crashing to the ground with muffled shouts and cries of pain. I got to my feet and wondered if I should do something. They rolled around, pulling at each other's hair and trying to aim kicks at each other's shins.
I watched them, aghast.
My sister was Head Girl.
'Wait!' I cried. 'Who's George Freud?'
Newton ran into class ten minutes late (everyone groaned as people angrily handed others sickles and unpacked their bags; there was a wildly false rumour that ran rampant around the school that if a Professor didn't show up after fifteen minutes it meant class was cancelled), loose papers flying and fluttering out of her arms leaving a trail behind her. She nearly tripped as she skidded to her desk, dumping her papers on her desk, turning to face us with a flustered expression.
'Hello class! Good to see you again! Figgy—er, I mean, Professor Fig and I had the chance to discuss our trajectory since we were … er, abruptly forced to leave our month long project. But that's okay. Kind of. Not really. It's fine. Sort of. Anyway.' She looked back at the pile of garbage on her desk, expression faltering. 'Erm. I need a minute. I mean—give me a minute. Talk amongst yourselves would you?'
The class instantly broke out into a chatter.
'So,' Freddie said abruptly, turning in his seat to face me, James and Luke.
Dom was sat with Marisa and Ella and all three of them shot me look as I'd taken my seat between Freddie and James. Suffice it to say my welcome had been colder than the ice age. A quiet hush had fallen and indistinguishable mutters broke out questioning my mental stability. Flora had stared resolutely at her parchment already laid out on her desk. Holly Winters glared daggers at me in her stead.
I supposed I should've expected hostility but it still stung nonetheless.
'Hm?' Luke was doodling on his parchment. With one hand in his pocket and slumped in his chair, lackadaisical and so tall his limbs sprawled, he took up entirely too much space.
'James has something to ask you.'
'Freddie, he already agreed—'
'I know! I want Jenny to know!'
'Know?' I glanced at James and Luke. 'Know what?'
'I've agreed to thieve for the Gryffindors again.'
'What!' I squawked, rounding on Freddie in disbelief. He grinned back. I looked at Luke; he didn't meet my gaze but smiled tightly. 'Why?!'
'Our bedroom was raided last night,' James explained, avoiding meeting my eye for too long. He seemed exasperated and cornered and as though he might strangle Freddie later. 'I wasn't going to say anything because I thought maybe it was isolated.'
'Raided?! Isolated?' I gaped at James, flabbergasted. 'Why didn't you tell me! None of my things are protected!'
'Answer Jenny's second question,' Freddie urged. Then frowned. 'Second word.'
'They didn't just look through my stuff—they went rummaging through Luke and Freddie's too.'
Non-Quidditch players were strictly forbidden targets as decreed by the Council and the Accords!
'I'm angry,' Luke added mildly. 'So I'm back in business.'
'Did they take anything?' I demanded.
James shrugged, sharing a look with Freddie and Luke. 'Not that we know of. All my stuff's still there. Broomstick, playbook. Map. Cloak … Well, the Cloak's always on me so …'
'I have nothing worth taking,' Luke shrugged.
'I have many things worth taking,' Freddie said significantly. 'Just nothing related to Quidditch, per se—'
'All right!' Newton cried, pushing her bushy blonde curls back, beaming at us. 'I think—after our last less than fortunate meeting—that it would do us all some good to get to know each other again! Because, and correct me if I'm wrong, the students I saw last week are not the students I see here today. All of you are good, honest and rule-abiding students and I feel as though we need a reintroduction! An ice-breaker of sorts! Starting with Holly, everyone introduce themselves—and put aside your doubts, I know you all have known each other for years—and tell the class one interesting thing about yourselves.'
Holly looked bewildered. 'Um … I'm Holly Winters? I … erm … I'm Swedish?'
I rolled my eyes.
Flora gaze stayed glued to her desk, twirling her quill between her fingers. 'I can draw Hogwarts from memory.'
I didn't know why but I shot James a furtive look.
His eyes were on his desk, arms folded across his chest, expression quite blank.
I wasn't sure what esle I was expecting.
We went around the room until it was Freddie's turn.
He got up, chair scraping back with a toe-curling shriek. I jumped, startled.
'What up, I'm Freddie, I'm sixteen, and I never learned how to reciprocate emotions or maintain healthy relationships.' He sat back down, looking pleased with himself at the laughs that earned.
'Oh … well, okay,' Newton said, a faint pink blush colouring her cheeks. She looked at me, eyes so bright and hopeful I knew it would probably kill her if I did anything like that.
Why did this woman insist on doing this—she was only damaging her own mental health.
'My dad thinks the Clarkes are descendants of Merlin—'
Nathaniel Smith snorted so hard he coughed for the next solid minute, eyes watering, face red.
I shot him a look so black he would've died had he been able to see behind his tears.
Newton jumped at this semi-acceptable answer. 'Really?' She was at least polite enough to pretend like she believed me. 'How fascinating. Fascinating … James?'
I looked at him and felt a shock spark through me; he was staring right back. Slowly, he tore his eyes away and addressed Professor Newton.
That was the most he'd looked at me since Monday.
'My name is James Potter. I'm sixteen. My mother is beloved, my father commands respect, and they left no instructions. Just a legacy to protect.'
Freddie quickly disguised a laugh into a hacking cough.
Newton flushed red.
'Hello, Luke here,' Luke interjected quickly as the sniggers died out. 'I come from a long line of Muggle Knowers. My ancestors hail back to the era of the Founders.'
'What the hell are Muggle Knowers?' Will Pine demanded (his interesting thing had been that he was from North London).
'Well, they were just Muggles before the Statute of Secrecy,' Freddie answered, sounding mildly annoyed Will had spoken at all. 'And then, because of their intense loyalty and bravery during the prosecution of witches and wizards—witches mostly—coming to our defence, fighting by our side using Muggle weapons, they were gifted with the knowledge of our world. Does that answer your question?'
'Yeah, whatever.' Will sank into his chair with a sour expression.
'That's so interesting Luke!' Newton said, awed. 'I didn't know you were a Muggle Knower! What's your full name?'
Luke went slightly pink, and that was equivalent of a tomato red blush to anyone else. 'Erm, Lucian Aristotle.'
'After the greatest Muggle Knower himself!' Newton beamed at Luke; he grimaced. 'I thought so! Very, very interesting! See, class? See what these kinds of questions can uncover? Now you know more about Lucian Aristotle Ashwood II! But—dear me, that would make you the first wizard in your family for generations, wouldn't it?'
'The first wizard at all actually,' Luke mumbled.
James clapped him on the shoulder bracingly.
The three of us already knew all of this about Luke and, specifically, how uncomfortable it made him. Whilst he didn't actively try to hide it from anyone, he didn't enjoy the attention much either. People tended to take notice if you were from an important bloodline and happened to be a first generation wizard. Even if you were Muggle-born, it had been proven to certainty that if you traced your family tree as far back as it could go, you'd find a few wizards and witches.
But Luke was the first of his line—ever.
'Wow! Incredible. That is very special. Thank you for sharing. Harry?'
Harry said his uninteresting piece, then Nathaniel Smith, then Ella and Marisa. Soon it was Dom's turn. Unexpectedly, she stood up—and faced me directly. I looked back, expression like marble.
Merlin, if she said anything stupid or embarrassing I'd Avada her.
'Everyone in this room,' she declared. 'Thinks that the party that got us kicked off the trip was a certain someone's fault.'
Newton paled. 'Er, Dom—'
'—But it wasn't.' Her sea-glass green eyes flicked to Newton. 'Professor, I planned it. I hated the project, your trials were unnecessarily upsetting and my dream bothered me for days after it was over. In fact, I still think about it, even now. I even dream about the Obscuruses I saw. I wanted it to be over so I planned the party and I told Flora to inform you of it, so we would all get caught and come back to Hogwarts. No one knew it was my idea because I wanted everyone to help so they'd all be involved. I thought the dreams would stop if we were back here. I don't care what punishment I get.'
Speech finished, Dom plonked back into her chair, expression haughty and defiant, arms folded across her chest.
I gaped at her in blank shock.
Then, Flora and I caught each other's gaze.
She looked as stunned as I felt.
'Dom …' Newton was aghast. 'You dreamt about an Obscurus? Oh Dom …' She looked at the class, suddenly nervous. 'Um. Okay. Dom, darling? Can you come with me please? Pack your things dear … Class, I'll be right back. Just busy yourselves with … with thinking about the first task whilst I … er, talk to Miss Weasley … Come on now dear …'
Dom shot me one last unreadable look, slinging her bag over her shoulder, before leaving the classroom with Professor Newton.
There was a second of slience. Then—
'What,' Freddie said in awe. 'The fuck was that.'
'Well, we all know it wasn't Dom,' Marisa said coolly from across the room. 'I mean, that's just obvious.'
I looked at her blankly.
'She literally just confessed …' Tessa said, sounding unsure.
'She just said that to save Jenny's skin!' Ella snapped. 'Merlin knows why! It's not like she deserves it! Jenny told me that she made Flora tell Newton and Fig about the party—which she planned entirely by herself and she told me—'
Freddie and I caught each other's gaze; he looked apologetic; I was slightly annoyed.
'And why the fuck would she do that?' Milo Bennett argued, leaning forward. 'Doesn't sound like Jenny to me. Seems like something Dom would do—'
'Are you really that stupid Milo?' Ella said witheringly. 'Why on earth would Dom want that? Just think for a second. With Flora and James, of course Jenny's the one who—'
'That's fucking ridiculous,' Nathaniel Smith drawled arrogantly. He looked at me and I was so shocked I stared back open mouthed. His blue eyes glittered. 'Sounds like Dom was struggling with her dream state. I mean, I didn't want to leave the project because of it—I was rather looking forward to the other two trials—but I don't blame her. If I saw an Obscurus I'd want out too. Her reason's more of a reason than whatever you've made up for Jenny—'
Yeah … I'm starting to realise I am very stupid.
'Dom was just lying to protect her,' Ella said angrily. 'Jenny told me—'
'I never believed all that shit about Jenny,' Milo said loudly over her. 'I didn't believe it was you, Jenny!'
'Me neither to be fair,' Will grunted. 'Jenny en't the type.'
I stared at all of them, unable to comprehend what was going on.
'Yes!' Freddie cried suddenly, startling me. I swivelled my gaze up at him (he was up on his feet again), alarmed. 'I can corroborate! I am a witness! I was with Dom when she had the idea—'
OH DEAR GOD.
'Freddie, no,' I said, horrified. I tried to grab his sleeve but he slipped out of my grasp.
'She told me she was sick of it and asked if a party would get us kicked out! I told her maybe but I warned her not to! Oh, I warned her!' Freddie wailed, a mournful peal of dismay, really getting into the theatrics of it. 'How she ignored me! Rebuffed my heeds! I thought she couldn't be serious and I wanted a party too, so I helped her! And I didn't know she asked Flora to tell the Professors and—right Flora? Remember how she threatened to break up you and—'
'Freddie!' James snarled suddenly. 'Sit down!'
'—you and James if you didn't? Right Flora?'
James was looking at Freddie, furious and incredulous.
My gaze darted to Flora, mortified at the horrific turn of events. Her doe eyes were as wide as saucers as she stared at Freddie, bewildered and slowly reddening.
Her lips parted.
This was total madness. Freddie couldn't seriously think this would work. That Flora would actually go along with it?
'Flora,' he urged. 'Just tell everyone the truth. We all know you only said it was Jenny because—and rightly—you didn't deserve the hate you were getting but didn't want to face Dom's wrath if you told everyone it was her fault. Which no one blames you for, not even Jenny.'
I buried my head in my hands.
'Hell hath no fury like a woman one eighteenth Veela!' Freddie continued in a wailing cry. 'We totally get it!'
'Merlin Freddie,' Holly Winters said furiously, eyes darting to Flora and back. 'Just shut up. Can't you see you're making her uncomfortable?'
'Uncomfortable? I put everyone at ease! Always! And I'm just trying to sort this out all out for—'
'—told me that it was Jenny and that's what I told Ella because I thought she ought to know—'
'—sticking your gigantic nose into everything and stirring shit up because you don't have any drama of your own—'
'—Dom was lying! She didn't plan the party or tell Flora to do anything! You and Jenny are exactly alike! Making everything everyone else's fault—'
'—unbelievable, slanderous—Dom said herself she wanted out—'
'What is happening,' I whispered. I glanced up at James because I felt his eyes on me; he was looking at me with an expression I'd never forget, not for as long as I lived. My stomach swooped, like I'd missed a step in the dark. 'What?'
'Was it you or was it Dom?'
My heart skipped a terrified beat.
It hadn't occurred to me that this was the first time James and Luke were hearing about my plan to get us kicked out.
'Just tell me.'
'It was me,' I admitted, trying to think manically how I could salvage the situation. 'But I didn't threaten Flora with anything, I swear—'
Unbidden, frustration and something else, something like panic and grief and fear of something I was about to lose, metallic and cold, steeled itself in my veins.
'Because of you! You and Dom! I didn't want to be around either of you anymore!'
James recoiled, a flicker of hurt flashing across his features so fast I could almost pretend I'd imagined it. But I couldn't, could I? I'd seen it.
A splinter drove itself into my heart.
I knew in that instant I'd never know the depth of how much I'd hurt him by telling him that.
Suddenly, I was desperate.
'How is that—that any worse than everything I've already told you—'
'I don't know.' His eyes flicked away, distant and unreadable. 'It just is.'
'—what love life!' Freddie cried so loudly I had no choice but tear my eyes away from James. He was distracted anyway. 'Harry's only just emerged from his mole people hole and discovered women! That boy has a long way to go before we can start saying he has a love life—'
'You're such a dick, Freddie!' Ella said, appalled.
'Someone,' I moaned. 'Stop this.'
'Why don't you?' Luke hissed. 'They're talking about you after all! I honestly can't fucking grasp why you did this! You told me it was to find out what Dom did! I helped you! Just for the record I wouldn't have done that if I knew what you were planning!'
'That's why I didn't tell you!' I hissed back. 'And I am sorry but there's a reason and I'll tell you all about it later! So don't you start on me, Luke!'
'I wasn't, you just—'
'Er … What's going on …'
'—if it was Dom's fault why did Jenny confess to Ella that she planned it—'
'Oh shut up everyone!' Gamble roared. His eyes were on Flora, who had buried her head in her hands. 'None of this even matters anymore! Who fucking cares!'
'Maybe Dom coerced her to be a part of her evil little scheme—'
'—Flora? Flora, speak up now or forever hold your peace because—'
'EVERYONE! BE QUIET THIS INSANT! I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS!'
Fifteen mouths clamped shut simultaneously.
Professor Newton stormed in, cheeks red, eyes livid. 'I cannot believe this! Is this what happens when a Professor leaves a classroom for just a second? Unbelievable! Really terrible! Five points off each of you and your houses! Freddie! Sit back down at once! You too Oliver! My goodness … I don't understand this behaviour at all—Mr Weasley, since you seem to be shouting the loudest—can you enlighten us on what the purpose of Task One was?'
Mr Weasley turned to Newton like a deer caught in headlights, face stupidly blank. 'Uh … maybe.'
'Maybe? And maybe, if you could enlighten us, you could also not incite a mob in my class? Or maybe you could spend the evening with Mr Filch and his uncleaned bedpans!'
Freddie recoiled in disgust. 'What was the question again?'
Newton's expression was glacial. 'The purpose of Task One. Explain it.'
'Oh!' He sounded pleasantly surprised. 'To fix the house, of course. To, er, bond.'
Newton nodded brusquely and sat down at her desk, looking, for the first time in her life, in complete command. With a wave of her wand, Task One's instructions appeared in her cursive, half-illegible chalk on the blackboard.
I tried to make eye contact with James, but he wouldn't look at me. Ignoring the pang in my chest, I began to take notes.
'Can you believe she mentioned the Imperius thing?' I muttered darkly as we left Muggle Studies. I couldn't comprehend how it was still morning. It felt like we'd been in that room for centuries. 'How is comparing what we did in a Muggle Studies project the same as preparing ourselves against Dark curses? What is everyone preparing us for anyway?'
'Who knows,' Luke said ominously. 'Can't you feel the darkness rising …' He flapped his robes like wings and started cawing. I laughed, momentarily forgetting the horror show that occurred not even twenty minutes ago.
He ran ahead of us, cawing and flapping at whoever had the misfortune to be in his path.
James' shoulder knocked into mine as he sped up, walking ahead of me and Freddie. We exchanged a look and my face twisted in distress. I didn't know what to do, I felt so pathetic.
'Explain it to him,' Freddie said in his best Sage voice. 'He's wounded. He doesn't think—despite everything—that you could actually be capable of hating him. Chalk it up to Potter arrogance.'
'How could he not think I'd hate him after he started dating Flora?' I hissed.
Freddie shrugged noncomittally. 'Potter arrogance. Google it. It's very real.'
'Still,' I groaned, picking up the pace. 'I can't stand it when he gets like this.'
'Like what? With feelings?'
I ignored Freddie. 'James! Wait! Please—can we please talk? I need to explain—' I raced ahead and blocked his path, forcing him to stop, but he didn't even acknowledge me.
He rounded on Freddie at once, lip curling in a sneer. 'You helped her.'
Freddie grimaced; it was one of the rare times I saw him genuinely affected by something. 'She's my mate too, Jamie. And you were being impossible. It's not like you were really talking to us ...'
'First of all, don't call me Jamie. Secondly, some brother you are.' I flinched at the poison in James' tone, but it was the look of real hurt that flashed across Freddie's face that twisted my heart. Then James shook his head, mouth turning down in a sneer. He lanced his expresso eyes up to mine and they glinted with anger and incomprehension. He was about to say something when his eyes slid over my head. He stiffened.
'Is that Moss?'
'What?' Freddie and I said at the same time in two entirely different tones.
I turned and saw Moss walking directly towards me. It was probably about Potions. Or maybe he wasn't coming for me at all.
'What does he want?' James asked, voice tinged with annoyance and something else, something defensive.
'I—I don't know—I mean, we're partners—'
Moss approached, raising his eyebrows at James and Freddie in greeting. 'Hey, Clarke—we still meeting tonight?'
James threw his arm over my shoulder and pulled me into his chest in a movement so abrupt and artificial I nearly died on the spot from sheer embarrassment. But I wound my arm around James' waist and dug my fingernails into his side.
'Yep! I'll see you tonight!'
'Okay,' he said, gaze flickering briefly to my arm around James' waist, gripping on for dear life. Then he looked at me, eyes ocean eyes grey and glittering with amusement, as if he could read our minds and found it to be the height of humour. 'Eight-thirty? The Library.'
'Yep! Got it! Potions! See you later Moss—' I smiled tightly and yanked James forward, away from Moss.
Luke reappeared from harassing students but at the thunderous expression on my face promptly skirted around us towards Freddie.
The second I could, I pushed James away from me.
'What was that you lunatic!'
'He fancies you,' was all he said.
'Is that what you think about every heterosexual male that looks at me?' I hissed.
'Oh for—' I cut myself off abruptly, my energy and anger combusting to nothing all at once. I looked up at him, searching his eyes. He looked back, expression unguarded and open. I have nothing to hide, he was basically saying.
'Moss isn't worth wasting my breath on,' I said witheringly. I paused, gauging his expression. But it was perfectly blank and impassive. So: 'I'm sorry you had to find out like that.'
James' features twisted in mock humour and disdain; an ugly look that spoke of an even uglier emotion. I'd never seen him more vindicitive before. It made me feel small. I wanted to shrink into the shadows and disappear. I wanted to cry and apologise. I felt so unlike myself.
'Yeah? I'm sorry you even had anything to tell me.'
'Oh come on, James,' I said desperately. 'Please don't be like this. It was stupid and impulsive and—'
'I know you were mad,' he interrupted, voice low and harsh, eyes shining with frustration, ignoring my defences. Students were filtering out of classes and I caught their intruding eyes with a flare of panic.
What was more interesting than James Potter looking upset and arguing with a girl in the corridor in the middle of the day?
'Maybe you still are. I mean, I think you are. I'm sure you are. Which is fine—and I'm not—I'm not—this whole party thing—I'm just fucking confused! If you were trying to get away from me then what was that last night about! I don't know what to do! I'm all yours, Jenelle! And I'm fucking terrified—'
I was alarmed. 'James.'
'Fuck—' He turned away abruptly and sank down on a bench by the corridor wall, buring his hands in his hair. I was torn; on the one hand I wanted to Disapparate the both of us into some selcuded cave in the Forbidden Forest to get all these eyes off of us, but on the other I was terrified by what James was saying. And the terror was winning.
'It's fine,' I whispered quickly. I rubbed soothing circles on his back, feeling utterly, utterly out of my depth. 'It's fine. Just breathe.'
'I can't believe—I mean—' James sucked in a huge breath of air and even managed a laugh, which sounded more like a wheeze. 'I think I'm having a panic attack.'
I was completely flabbergasted and horrified—with myself.
Freddie and Luke were a few feet away, watching us with wide eyes. I shook my head, telling them no, just go. It looked like they got the message; they exchanged a glance and left.
'People are staring,' I said under my breath.
'That isn't helping.'
'I'm sorry! I don't know what to do!' I leaned over him, my hair falling like a curtain in front of us so no one could see. James dragged his hands down his face and his eyes flicked up to mine. We locked gazes. 'I feel like we should get out of here.'
'Why is it like this?' James suddenly demanded, voice burning with an edge of disbelief and mild horror. 'This isn't fucking normal! Why do I feel like this! It's like the further I feel from you the crazier I get! This isn't normal. I feel like I'm going insane. Like actually insane.'
I wanted to tell him he was probably overwhelmed by everything and—and something else, surely, but the words withered away on my tongue. Because it sounded so eerily familiar. Just like the kind of crazy that would make someone feel the need to plan a party, get every one detention, and expel themselves from a project just so they didn't have to be around a boy?
Surely not everyone went this crazy after breaking up with a boyfriend?
Was there something wrong with us?
Dom may have Confunded me and started all of this, but we were mental even before finding that out. And I always knew—maybe not consciously—but deep down that James and I were a little different. I mean, what other relationship that started in fifth year was like ours? We weren't like the others—dramatic and over the top, or over in two weeks then back together again, we didn't tell each other we loved each other after four days of dating—we acted like we'd been married for centuries.
Even our parents thought we were odd.
And the pain of not being with each other ... it was physical and we both felt it.
'Why are you so quiet? You think I'm going crazy too, don't you? Maybe I should go to Pomfrey—'
'No, shut up, James. I'm thinking.'
'It isn't normal,' I said vehemently. 'But that's exactly how I felt when I came up with that party plan. And why we—well, I—was all over you that last night. I couldn't stay away from you. I didn't even want to and I was mad at you. For being such a dick to Flora and for hurting me ... maybe there was some weird magic in the Muggle Studies project. Maybe one of the trials is still affecting us. Maybe we're in a trial right now!'
Slowly, James sat up, studying me. 'That ... makes sense.'
'Urgh, no it doesn't.'
'I mean ... more sense than anything else. I'm willing to believe it. We should talk to Fig and Newton.'
'My dream state ...' I remembered suddenly. Newton told me to tell her if I was still troubled by it and I hadn't been but this had to count, right? If we were still affected by its magic when we were awake? The more I thought about it the more convinced I became. My dream had been about me and James. About how he was still with Flora, how I was so unhappy, how I couldn't stop thinking about him and think of myself for once—it must've bled into real life and heightened every emotion I felt when I woke up.
Everything in that project since that dream and up until had felt like a saturated, fever-pitch nightmare.
'Your dream state?'
'Those dreams,' I said, looking up at him. 'Remember? The last trial! Mine was about you!'
An emotion burned in James' eyes, something so intense and abrupt my breath caught in my throat, something I couldn't name but made my heart flutter erratically, uselessly in my chest.
'Your dream was about me?'
'Oh don't sound so surprised,' I said breathlessly, forcing my tone to be light, confused and disoriented. 'You were still dating Flora, I was a Chaser for the Montrose Magpies, but we were still kind of together and I was super unhappy—'
'No, listen. Nothing changed when I woke up! I was still super unhappy and my emotions were out of control. Everything was so intense and surreal ...'
'You were in my dream too,' James admitted, though it sounded like he was using every atom in his body to force the words out. I knew I wasn't going to get any more information than that so I didn't even try. 'We definitely have to talk to Newton and—oh fuck!'
He looked at me wildly and grabbed my hand, yanking me up. 'We're going to be late for Defence! We'll talk about this later, come on.'
'You've snogged someone,' Katie said the second I walked in our dorm.
Shutting the door with my boot, I frowned, tossing my broom on my bed and tracking dirt on our carpet as I took off my gear. James and I didn't get a chance to talk about our realisation or tell Freddie and Luke about it in class. Before I knew it Quidditch practise was over and we'd done nothing about any of it. We hadn't even spoken to Newton or Fig. But I could hardly care about that right now. I felt like shit.
Practise had been a dismal affair. Lots of shouting and even more mistakes on my part. And now I wanted nothing more than to drown myself in a hot shower.
Katie gasped suddenly. 'You snogged Finnegan Moss!'
I turned to her, incredulous.
She pursed her lips. 'Hmm … sorry, I heard Wallis Nott say that you asked Moss out. I thought maybe it was true.'
Oh my God! Was he just strutting around this castle telling everybody that I'd asked him out? Bastard!
'Well it isn't,' I snapped, more out of being unnerved than any real hostility. 'And I haven't snogged anyone. No one can just look at a person and tell they've been snogged. It is literally impossible.'
'Um. No it's not. It's a science of scent and physical marks. Like flushed cheeks for example. Or swollen lips. Or love bites.'
I stared at her. Then turned away, shaking my head in disbelief.
'So you really didn't snog Moss?' She actually sounded disappointed.
'No! I didn't snog anyone!'
'But you're all frazzled and you smell like cologne … although …'
'What?' I whirled around. 'I am not frazzled!'
I was a little frazzled—but only because Moss was apparently telling people I'd asked him out! What the fuck! And did I actually smell like cologne and not sweat? Or was Katie just crazier than I ever thought possible?
She looked up thoughtfully. 'It doesn't smell like Finnegan Moss … it smells more like .. like James Potter really but …'
First, I was horrified that she knew what James smelled like. Second, how the fuck did she know what Moss smelled like?!
Katie sighed and flopped down on her bed and I followed her example, disgruntled. We laid flat on our backs, staring at the scarlet red hangings. I loved my four poster bed—I never seemed to leave mine these days.
Katie had been the only one out of the girls in my dorm to find it in her heart to still be friends with me. After the news broke out that I was the most hated person in our year, Ze Devonshire all but excommunicated me. But she always liked Dom better anyway. Ella obviously thought I was a maniac so all the girls in my room pretended I didn't exist. Apart from Katie. And they spoke to Katie, politely as they always did—but I was invisible.
Katie was a fine substitute, though. She was even perfectly happy to indulge my anti-social I-hate-people-because-they-hate-me attitude.
And it wasn't like she was a stranger to me. It was just—none of us had ever really clicked with her, though we were all friendly and nice to each other. She'd been kind of a loner for as far back as I could remember. She hung out with us on certain occasions, but never went to parties with us, never really sat with us meal times. She kept to herself mostly. Besides, we all had our own individual friend groups to keep up with.
'Your love life is so exciting.'
'Okay what are you on about?'
Katie turned her stormy, grey-blue eyes on me. 'James Potter and Finnegan Moss? You're just lucky, that's all.'
'First of all, can I just nip this whole Moss thing in the bud? I hate him, he hates me, end of story. In fact, he told me I couldn't function as a human being, let alone a girl. He's a twat.'
Katie turned onto her side, expression solemn. 'That's how all the greatest love stories start. With hatred.'
'Romeo and Juliet, Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones' Diary—'
'I said one!' I got up, annoyed and suddenly wanting to drown myself in a shower. 'Also Romeo and Juliet didn't hate each other—their families did.'
'Same difference.' Katie rolled onto her back again and sighed heavily. 'The whole enemies to lovers thing is very … in.'
'In? In where? Your imagination? Come on, Katie—'
The door burst open and Ella and Ze walked in. They both stopped short, however, at the sight of me and Katie sitting like deer caught in headlights. Ella met my gaze; dread shot through me. I looked away quickly and grabbed my towel off my desk. If we happened to be in the same room together, it was the general rule to pretend like we all had the plague. What had happened today in class didn't change that.
'Shower,' I murmured to Katie who fervently nodded back. I slipped into the bathroom without noise—a magical ability I'd managed to acquire—making myself invisible and unnoticeable. This involved a lot of boring clothing choices and not wearing makeup.
It was quite an understatement to say that it was terrifically awkward with the four of us in the same room together. Since Dom and I had fallen into a strange routine of pretending like we didn't exist to each other, Ella, Ze and Katie worked double-time to keep the ruse up. I knew Dom wouldn't have told Ze or Ella about Confunding me so I assumed they thought Dom had been ignoring me for the same reason they hated me, only she knew a week earlier than everyone else.
I had no idea how Dom actually felt about me planning our expulsion from the Muggle Studies trip, but obviously she saw it as the perfect opportunity to make up for Confunding me and irrevocably damaging my relationship with James.
After the fastest shower of my life, I practically teleported out of the room and bounded up the boy's dormitory stairs, bursting into the sixth year room without knocking.
Freddie was the only one there thank god.
I glanced cursorily around their room. Messy and gross as always with Luke, James, Patrick Raj and Weird Milo nowhere in sight.
Freddie looked up from his bed, doing homework I guessed, tongue stuck out and a hair in an utter disarray.
'Jenny? To what do I owe this delightful pleasure—
'Come on,' I interrupted. 'Let's go.' I checked my watch. 'We're late!'
He groaned, making a miserable face. 'Fuck off Jenny, I'm actually trying to get something done here! I know I must put your life above mine every time but right now, I've actually got something important to think about—'
I was affronted. 'You're the one who said you wanted to come and I don't have to bring you. We don't have time! Jasper's going to be at The Three Broomsticks now!'
'All right, all right! Stop crucifying me at the damn cross! You try sketch out one measly plan—which you'll find out about soon, by the way,' he added as he grabbed a fashionable camel coat off his trunk. 'This school has been too wound up in Quidditch and the Muggle Studies nonsense and needs a release and so do you. I know you've grown out your leg hair and it's quite simply very disgusting. Maybe this will force you to deforest, though I can't imagine why you'd ever need a reason seeing as you're not a cavewoman whether you're getting any or not—'
'I have not grown out my leg hair!' I grabbed him by his wrist and shoved him out his room, irritated.
'Maybe not your leg hair but I have it under good authority that you haven't shaved down there in—'
He grinned at me over his shoulders, cheeks dimpling. 'It's okay to let yourself go for a while, yes, but it's the talk of the town that Finnegan Moss, brooding sexy Slytherin, has taken an interest in you. I mean, he's not my first choice—there are much tastier dishes in this castle you know—but I still approve. He's got that Nice Guy thing—' NICE GUY? WHERE? '—working for him which is all well and good, even if you are more of the Bad Boy type—'
'I am not!' Was I? 'Freddie, do you genuinely want me to hook up with Moss?'
He seemed to think about it. 'Not really. I mean, the fallout alone would be horrific—you know, in terms of James.'
'And,' I added angrily. 'I don't fucking fancy him. We are literally just Potions partners! This school is so fucked up sometimes—it's like we're living in a bubble of clichés just frothing at the mouth to happen!'
'Voldemort is dead, Jenelle. What else have we got to live for but the fight to protect our right to be clichés?'
'I honestly can't tell if you're being serious anymore.'
'When will you learn I'm never serious about anything?'
'So shut up about Moss already!'
'Oh, Jenelle,' Freddie sighed. He put his hands on my shoulders, his dark brown eyes glittering with mock solemnity. 'You're going to break his heart.'
I was positively red in the face when I burst into The Three Broomsticks with Freddie in tow. He was equally flustered and disheveled because I made him run all the way from the castle without stopping. Still, I wasn't the one who ignored my advice to take off that itchy coat and I wasn't the one who rudely informed me that I was an inept fashion fascist when I told him it was 27ºC outside and he would melt.
'I don't have the stamina, Jezebelle,' Freddie wheezed, tearing his coat off and flinging it at what he thought was the coat rack but was, in fact, a very tall hag wearing a balaclava. He retrieved it, grimacing apologetically. 'Sorry darling …'
As he put his coat away properly, I spotted my brother scrolling through his fancy new wizPhone 8 at a booth near the back. Jasper wasn't very technically savvy but as a pretty good International Relations consultant who was aspiring to be the youngest member of the elected Wizengamot, he had to keep up to date with news. Still, he looked severely annoyed at his screen. Either he didn't know what he was doing or something'd gone wrong.
Freddie followed me dutifully, perking up when he saw Jasper. For some reason, they had always been really good mates.
My brother looked up from his phone, eyes glazed before they focused on me and Freddie pushing our way through the busy pub. His expression brightened up at once and he jumped to his feet to bear hug me. I disappeared in his arms. There was honestly nothing better than a hug from Jasper.
When he finally let go, beaming, he began studying every inch of me, drinking me in like we hadn't seen each other in decades.
'Okay stranger,' I said, feeling awkward. 'You've been away in Germany for a month, not lost at sea.'
'Ah British humour! How I've missed it! The Germans only find pain and excessive vomiting after binge drinking funny. How you been Freddie? Things going well?' Jasper did that lad thing with Freddie where they clasped their hands together and gave each other a one armed hug, except he thumped Freddie's back so hard his knees buckled. 'Heard your dad was planning on opening a store in France? Business booming then?'
'Business is booming,' Freddie replied dutifully, sliding into the booth. 'I dunno about France though. Reckon dad's just looking for a way to get a laugh out of this Riots thing …'
Jem's expression immediately darkened as he took his seat opposite me and Freddie. 'I reckon we need it. The way the conversation is going now … it's like it's 1996 all over again. Wizards and witches choosing sides instead of coming together. And with the Truth and Reconciliation Conference only a few weeks away … The Ministry's on high alert for another attack. It's seeming very likely. Even Hogwarts could be a target.'
Freddie and I exchanged a look of alarm. My brother never joked about things like this but it genuinely sounded absurd. Of course I'm aware of tensions between purebloods and Muggleborns and whatever but those problems never really ran in our circle of friends so … I didn't really focus on it. I knew I was more in tune with all of that when I was closer to James, but even then we didn't think it could affect us personally. But an attack on Hogwarts ...
At our blank, astonished expressions, Jasper smiled wryly.
'You've been reading the Prophet haven't you?'
'I've just been so busy! Quidditch practise, homework—'
'Having sex, being social—'
'—I have a subscription, honest—'
'I haven't. I have a reputation.'
Jasper's unimpressed gaze flickered between us. 'You two are unbelievable.'
'I feel like,' I began, wanting to defend myself, sharing a bolstering look with Freddie. 'If it really was a big deal, more people would be talking about it. And I would know about it. I mean, an attack on Hogwarts? So ridiculous ...'
My brother sighed, smoothing down his straight brown hair, which was already lying perfectly flat on his head. He'd even gelled it and combed it to the side. He was a proper professional. For the first time, I took him in. A clean, crisp white button up shirt and a royal purple suit. It made his eyes especially dark and blue. His customary midnight blue Ministry robes were hung on a hook behind him.
'I was reading this before you came in, look.' He slid his huge wizPhone 8 that could only fit in his palm or a giant's to us.
On the extremely high res-screen was an article written by some political newspaper that only nerds like my brother and probably James read. The wizarding world had finally reared its head out of its own pompous arse and seen the glorious light of the real world. Most things had gone digital now. Just like … I squinted at the paper's title … The Cavil Politician.
'Read it out loud, Freddie.'
Freddie glared up half-heartedly at Jasper then sighed. '"15 years after the tragic events of the 7th Truth and Reconciliation Conference, nothing has changed. Purebloods are once again on one side of the argument and Muggbleborns on the other. The same questions circle today as the they did then: Why did purebloods receive amnesty and protection from the Ministry when the systematic slaughter of Muggleborns is not treated with the right respect and dignity at the Truth and Reconciliation Conferences? Should purebloods who did not fight for Voldemort or express anti-Muggbleborn sentiment be forced to apologise or enter into conversation with Muggleborns where they feel at their mercy—"'
Freddie looked up at Jasper with disgust.
'At their mercy? Surely conversation should be a good thing? Who cares if you weren't on Voldemort's side or held those views—pureblood privilege systematically exists because of its history of persecuting and degrading and killing Muggles and Muggleborns! They're involved either way!'
I stared at Freddie.
Sometimes I forgot that he was a Weasley and that he could never claim ignorance.
Or a side.
'Some purebloods think the Conference is simply an exercise of Ministerial power,' Jasper said calmly. 'Of the Potters and Weasleys influence. To control them and remind them of their place in the brave new world Harry Potter has made for us.'
'What the fuck,' Freddie huffed, leaning back, head hitting the booth. 'The Conference has always been about healing after the Wars.'
'But there's only been more bloodshed and fighting—' Jasper's wizPhone pinged. He pulled it out and frowned. 'Hang on. I've got to call a coworker. Be right back—' he darted out the pub.
'I had no idea,' I said blankly. 'I mean I'm, like, aware of things. But not how bad it all is. It all happened years ago—'
'Honestly me neither. Like this happened to our parents but if you think about it, there are kids at Hogwarts—'
'—whose parents were killed in the Riots,' I finished for him, realising it for the first time myself. 'Whose parents were sent to Azkaban for the murder of purebloods—'
Freddie's eyes were wide. 'Oh my god, Jen—the Lovelaces—'
It was no secret their parents were in Azkaban.
And had been for 15 years.
'Holy fuck. And Sophie Clarkson's dad—'
I turned in my seat, heart racing with the chilling realisations, and saw Pixie and Blaze making their way towards us. Blaze was wearing his usual extravagant style Muggle clothing that he thought passed for acceptable: black skinny jeans ripped at the knees, an outrageous boxy white button up shirt (which, incidentally, he'd only done up to the middle, exposing his entire chest) dotted with pink flamingos and boots covered in gold glitter. Pixie was like a nun beside him, wearing a modest tartan skirt, a long sleeved white t-shirt and the ugliest heeled clog shoes I'd ever seen in my entire life.
'Hey! Have you ordered yet?' Beaming, Pixie slid into the booth taking Jasper's old seat. Blaze sat beside her with grim expression. He had the air of man forced to walk the gallows. I wondered if Pixie finally managed to plan his life out for him and colour code.
'No,' Freddie replied. He considered her for a moment with a seemingly thoughtfully expression. 'Philippa, honey, firstly, many happy returns of the day, secondly how is anyone going to know you're having sex if you insist on wearing those Satanic shoes?'
Someone made a strangled, choking noise: 'What?'
Everyone was surprised, including me, to find that someone was me.
'Gross,' Blaze muttered.
Pixie was positively scarlet, but she betrayed nothing else. 'If you say anything like that in front of Jasper I will—oh hi Jem!'
Pixie grabbed Blaze and shoved him closer to her, making room for Jasper. He looked considerably more flustered since we last saw him—the call must not have gone well—but he still grinned. Blaze lifted a sardonic hand in acknowledgement to which Jasper ruffled his hair and slid in next to him—only to be yanked into the middle by Pixie.
'Sorry I couldn't say hi properly outside—'
'We saw Jem on the phone when we were coming down,' Pixie explained pointlessly.
'—yes. Thing is, there's some trouble at the office. I might have to go back to London tonight—'
'What!' Blaze and I shouted at once.
'You're still coming to the game in May right?!' Blaze asked, outraged, as if one could affect the other. There was a nine year difference between Blaze and Jasper but I knew that he hero-worshipped our older brother as much as I once did. It would seriously piss him off (and hurt his baby feelings) if Jasper didn't come to the match. 'And it's Pixie's birthday today!'
'I know that,' Jasper huffed, scrolling through his wizPhone with his thumb. 'I'm not for certain going to London and of course I'm going to try to come to your match—'
Pixie was unfazed. 'Don't be daft, if you have to work then forget about my birthday and the silly Quidditch match, there are loads more coming up I'm sure—'
'It's the last match before the final!' Blaze shouted angrily. 'Slytherin against Hufflepuff!'
'Oi Clarkes, inside voices, yeah?' Freddie rolled his eyes. 'You lot are worse than the Weasleys and we have hot tempered redheads.'
'Hufflepuff is playing?' Jasper asked mildly.
'Blaze, you're being childish. Jem has work. As in actual, real life adult work that he can't just take off for your benefit or mine. I'm not surprised you don't understand you're so full of yourself. But keep in mind that in the future, once we're all at work, we probably won't have much for each other and no one will bother with birthday celebrations—'
'Yes, and while birthdays go to their dusty graves the whole world will enter Fascist Pixieland and eat ground cockroach bars for sustenance. Can't wait for your bright future Pixie!'
They started to bicker over each other. I kept my usual silence, grinning at Freddie's aghast expression.
'I swear I heard myself say something about inside voices …'
Thankfully our waiter finally arrived to take our order. Jasper got a firewhisky—Blaze tried to as well but was swiftly stopped and had to settle for butterbeer, like me and Freddie—and Pixie, who didn't drink got gillywater.
Blaze and I ordered a plate of roast beef sandwiches and chips to share while everyone else got salads—honestly. We all tucked into our dinner, talking about Jasper's work and more meaningful things like school gossip and Jasper's love life (apparently one of Jasper's friends started seeing his ex-girlfriend—after which the four of us pestered him to see if he was dating someone new but he refused to say a word). Jasper rarely talked about his girlfriends and I'd only ever met one when he was in his 7th year. He barely even realised how many girls were staring openly at him now, waiting to make eye contract and establish their existence.
When dinner was finished Pixie thanked Jasper for coming and kissed him goodbye because she had study for her NEWT finals—which, I realised as she hugged him, was only a few months away. She trudged up Hogsmeade and back to the castle alone, looking oddly miniature, even though she was almost as tall as Jasper.
'So you're really playing Hufflepuff?'
Blaze grinned. 'Yeah, and we're going to set their dreams of winning ablaze.'
'For the first time in your life you actually sounded fifteen,' Freddie muttered and I snickered.
Blaze shot us both a nasty look.
'I think I've got my Hogwarts scarf somewhere at home you know …' Jasper said. 'Maybe I'll wear it to the match.'
'You will support Hufflepuff when I die of old age,' Blaze said curtly. 'Come on, lets get some green things for you to wear.' He dragged Jasper by the arm down the High Street.
'You guys coming?' Jasper called out.
Freddie looked at me questioningly.
'I can't!' I shouted back. 'I have to meet someone for a project!'
Stupid Moss and his stupid face. Although ...
'I'll write you if my plans change and I have—all right Blue, chill! I'll write if I have to go to London—' Jasper's voice was abruptly cut off by their disappearance down an alley.
My thought was left unfinished as Freddie and I ambled back to the castle talking about everything and nothing. When castle came into view, he began pestering me again about Moss. But he had either forgotten or purposefully ignored the fact that Moss was Moss. Of the Mosses. Whose parents had been killed in one of the last skirmishes of the Riots, years and years ago.
It hadn't even occurred to me that Moss could've been that Moss.
I didn't even know which side of the Riots he fell on.
Pureblood or Muggleborn?
'Where did he come from? Why is he so angry? You know he's never like that right? Like when have you ever seen him raise his voice? You think he actually fancies you?'
Honestly, what the hell was going on? You had one loud argument with a guy and suddenly you were in love? How about the actual person I loved? It was ridiculous! I wasn't sure if any of it was serious or Freddie was just taking the piss.
'You and Katie should discuss this together,' I muttered. 'I feel like you'd both have a lot to say.'
Freddie's brow furrowed. 'Katie Eyeliner you mean?'
'What?' Katie ringed her eyes with thick black kohl, making her sky blue eyes grey. 'Oh, yeah. Don't call her that.'
'Why do hang out with her? All she does is homework and … breathe.'
'No she doesn't,' I retorted. 'Besides, Katie's the only one talking to me remember? Everyone else hates me? You and I planned the party that ruined their year? And I took all the blame because I'm noble and heroic and—'
'Yeah, yeah, shut up, point driven firmly across.'
'I still can't believe Dom tried to take the fall for it.'
'But almost everyone believes her. Except for Ella, Marisa and Flora of course. They are your staunchest haters.'
I rolled my eyes, bounding up the Entrance Hall steps. Students were still walking down to the Great Hall for dinner and they all shot us looks as they passed by.
'What are they looking at?'
'It's me,' Freddie said, but his genial tone sounded forced. 'I'm really hot.'
A cold, uneasy feeling slithered into my stomach, coiling like a snake.
More eyes scraped past me; whispers became louder, gaining confidence and hissing with contempt.
'What was that?' I said loudly at two seventh year girls, starting forward. Seventh years! Talking about me!
Freddie grabbed my arm, stopping me effectively. They laughed and picked up their pace. I whirled around, face suddenly burning, eyes hot.
'What the hell?' I said breathlessly. 'She just called me a slag! What the fuck!'
'They're idiots. Who knows what they're talking about—'
'I bet they all know what they're talking about,' I said angrily. I pushed my hair back, hand on my hip. 'I fucking had a glitch and asked Moss out the other day—'
'Urgh, Freddie, please don't blow this out of proportion—'
'NO JENELLE CLARKE! I WILL BLOW THIS ACCORDING TO THE EXACT PROPORTIONS OF YOUR STUPID FACE! I ASK YOU WHAT'S UP WITH YOU AND MOSS AND YOU NEGLECTED TO MENTION YOU ASKED HIM OUT? WHAT THE FUCK!'
I uncovered my ears and glared at Freddie. 'Are you quite finished?'
'Darling, I'm just getting started—'
'Listen, it was after the argument over the pitch. It has since been, and mind you this is saying a lot, the biggest regret of my life—'
'Your words don't make sense to me.'
'Freddie! He's been yapping to anyone who'll listen that I asked him out and they all think I'm still dating James and for fuck's sake why do any of them think it's their business at all! This is school is filled with parasites! Why do they care so much about Potters and Weasleys! It's so fucking stupid! I wish I'd never met him sometimes!'
'Gossip is the life blood of this school!' Freddie shouted back. He still looked rather annoyed. 'I can't believe you didn't tell me that. I can't believe I haven't heard it from anyone. Am I losing touch with my little birds? And what is actually wrong with you? Is your brain just one giant self-destruct button?'
You know, I was really starting to wonder the same thing.
'I did it to piss James off, okay? I mean, not that he knows what I did. But it looks like he's going to find out if the whole school already knows.' I sighed. 'I just didn't want to think about him. I thought Moss … well, whatever. It didn't work.'
Going out with Flora to spite me or get back at me or whatever had monumentally fucked me up in ways I was only realising now. How was he right to punish me for what he thought I did while I was supposed to be perfectly peachy after he broke my heart and sold me out (verbally) to his best friend?
'But,' Freddie blustered. 'But you forgave him right? All of it is Dom's fault.'
A twinge of annoyance flashed through me.
'Yeah it was her fault, but he didn't have to believe her.'
'She made you admit that you cheated on him! How was he supposed to know that you'd been Confunded? It was very believable.'
This irritated me even more because there wasn't a gap in the logic to argue against, no matter what I felt.
'We have other problems besides that.'
'I know,' Freddie said earnestly. 'I get it. But you're not really giving him a chance, Jenny.'
'What?' I felt slightly betrayed. 'I am. We're still talking. We still hang out. I asked Moss out like the day after we got back or something—I was still angry and hurt and Dom had just told me that she Confunded me. I did it because—it was just an impulsive thing, okay?! It's not like I'm pushing him away!'
'Okay, okay—' Freddie threw his hands up in surrender. He shot me a sideways glance. 'And I honestly am just joking about Moss. I know you don't like him—it's just funny to wind you up. But seriously, you did the right thing breaking up with James. You do need space. Dom's not making it any easier either and this whole Muggle Studies thing … Listen, my advice is just to be frank with James. He's not that complicated—'
'I know that—'
'—and he loves you a lot.' Freddie widened his eyes. 'Like a lot. He'd probably kill his brother if you asked him to.'
'Freddie,' I said, appalled.
'I'm just kidding! But you get the point. If James has a weakness, Jenny, it's—'
'Please don't say it's me. I will murder you.'
Freddie glared at me. 'I was going to say it's that he craves happiness. It's like a drug to him. He's been happy his whole life—I genuinely don't know if I've ever seen him angry or bothered with anyone. He's always in a good mood.'
Except for now. Except for me.
I looked away, unable to meet his eye.
'When he was with you, though, that was like peak happiness. I think he thought his life was perfect. But he's a romantic and you're not. So when all of this happened … just think of it as a pixie dust junkie being locked in a cell for a month. He's not himself.'
'Freddie,' I said finally. 'What's your point?'
'I don't have a point,' he replied haughtily. 'Those are just my thoughts.'
'Just don't—don't go looking for flaws where there aren't any,' Freddie added abruptly, earnestly. I looked at him, startled. 'That's my point.'
'Okay,' I said. 'I won't.'
And I really meant it.
But Freddie was troubled and unconvinced.
Hi! Back with a quick update because I just really felt the need to churn it out lol. Just going to say that I'm not terribly happy with this chapter—it's INSANELY long (probably longer than the last one :O) and I'm not really sure what it does. I mean, it does it introduce some important plot points for later on but I just feel so meh about it. It's definitely a lot.
ANYWAYS: I don't own Romeo and Juliet, Bridget Jones' Diary, Pride and Prejudice. What James says, "My mother is beloved, my father commands respect, and they left no instructions. Just a legacy to protect" is paraphrased/inspired by the lyrics "My mother was a genius, genius, my father commanded respect, respect/When they died they left no instructions, just a legacy to protect" from the song Wait for It from the Hamilton Mixtape. Also, the cockroach sustenance bars are an idea from the movie Snowpiercer.
WHEW. Okay. Hope you guys enjoyed this chapter! Sorry much doesn't happen and it's so long! HAPPY NEW YEAR GUYS! Hope you guys are having an amazing start to the year!!
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