A week later I was lying on my sofa reading ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ for the third time when suddenly there was a loud ‘crack’ and Albus appeared in front of me.
“Witch Weekly? Seriously? You know that doesn’t count as employment?”
I rose from the couch and casually made my way to the kitchen for a glass of water, unphased by his condescending tone. We’ve all sold stories to the press – we were going to be in the papers anyways, why not make a profit off it?
“Did you really come here to chastise me, Al?”
He shook his head back and forth to refocus himself.
“You know how we all went out last week and you said Rose and I were only allowed to go if we swore to never tell anyone about it…”
Freddie apparated into the kitchen just behind Albus, making him jump. He collected himself again and continued, “Well, ya see, Mum and dad invited Sophia and I over for supper last night and…”
Luckily I hadn’t drunk my water yet; if I had it would have been a serious spit-take. My brother didn’t even have to finish his thought for me to understand what he was about to say. Albus was rubbish with secrets. He had such a low sense of guile that he’d just repeat information he was told without regard to repercussions. It didn’t help that he was such a smooth talker, I’m not sure he’d ever actually faced repercussions.
“You didn’t tell them did you?!” I asked in an immediate panic, but by the look on his face that’s exactly what he’d done. “Why would you do that?!”
“I’m sorry mate, there are just too many people asking me to keep too many secrets. One of them was bound to slip out eventually and it just happened to be yours…”
I let my head fall back and stared at the ceiling in annoyance. So now my parents knew about my indiscretion - that wasn’t going to go over well. Then, in the midst of my self-pity, a thought occurred to me and I whipped my head back to its upright position.
“Who else has secrets Al?”
Freddie caught up to my thinking and leaned on the countertop, watching the spectacle unfold. Albus bit his lip to try and keep his clandestine information, but it was useless now. All he needed was an interested party and he’d found two.
Finally he let it burst out, like he’d been holding his breath for days, “Scorp and Rose eloped!”
“They did what?!” Freddie shouted while I exclaimed, “Eloped?!”
“See! I endured an entire dinner with mum and dad yesterday ensuring that one stayed buried way down deep.”
Freddie just started laughing again, “Your family is my favorite thing.”
Of course, I could never stay angry with his stupid face so my sour expression broke into a smirk.
“Aunt ‘Mione is gonna crack Malfoy’s skull right in half for this one.”
Albus nodded with an agreeing smile. We all shared a laugh at our cousin’s expense when suddenly there was another ‘crack’ and our moment was interrupted.
“James Sirius Potter.”
My father’s voice thundered down the hallway. His voice wasn’t raised, but had a sharpness to his tone that we all knew meant business.
Albus instantly tensed up, “They’re having a reception at the end of the month to celebrate. Make sure you’re there.”
And then, ‘crack.’ And away he went.
“If I live to see tomorrow”
I let out a deep sigh to prepare me for the lecture that was about to come, while Freddie remained unmoved and unbothered by the impending doom heading my way.
“Hey dad. All right?”
He rounded the corner and I greeted him as if all was normal in the Potter world. Clearly, he knew better.
“Alfred.” He nodded to Freddie, using his full name as a way to assert his authority. “Why am I not surprised to see you involved in this?”
At long last the smile was wiped from his face and Freddie straightened his stance.
“Actually Mr. Potter, sir, I was against it from the start. Tried to stop them all I did, but I thought it only best to follow ‘em – as a precaution you see. Being muggle born myself and all.”
“Precaution you say? Well you did a fantastic job of that.”
Harry cut right through the attempts at flattery with a deadpan expression. Freddie just nodded in agreement with the judgment.
“Fair marks…” He started to back out of the kitchen slowly, “You know, I think I’m gonna head upstairs. So much work to be done…ministry never sleeps…” Once he hit the edge of the room he all but dashed up the stairs and out of the line of fire.
“Come James. Let’s chat you and I.”
My father ushered me into the den where we both took a seat. I tried my best to not be intimidated, “Look, dad, before you start just know-
“Stop, son. I don’t even want to hear it.”
At first, I thought he was going to launch into another ‘family disappointment’ speech, but then his tense demeanor relaxed. He didn’t have anger in his tone, it sounded more like concern.
“You’re prone to mischief James. Your mum and I have always understood that. And we’ve tried to be patient with you as you find your way in this world. I know it’s been challenging to find a vocation that excites you-”
His tone had me reeling. I don’t think he’d spoken to me like this since we were standing outside the Hogwarts Express. ‘Remember what we talked about. There’s going to be a lot of kids who think they know you. A lot of expectations will be placed on you, but you don’t have to answer to any of them. You make yourself proud. You make your mother and I proud. Stay out of trouble - and for Merlin’s sake, learn something.”
“Actually…I’ve find one.”
The words left my mouth before I could stop them or even process why I’d said them.
“Or I think I have…it’s with the Muggle Liaison Office,” I lied, “Yeah, Gemma set it up for me…that’s why we’ve been in that part of London so much. She’s trying to get me acclimated to the culture…”
“James, you never passed Muggle Studies.”
“Yeah, but to be fair it’s because I never went to class.” I shrugged in a rebuttal before realizing it wasn’t one that would sway my father.
“It’s with The British Museum. You can look into it; I’m on the payroll and everything.” Lying was always easier when it started with truths. “I’ve just been so impacted by Freddie and Gemma and what they’ve had to come up against. I thought it’d be a good experience for me to…you know…fully immerse myself in the muggle way of life.”
“Fully immerse yourself?”
“Yeah. Sure. No magic. No wand. You know. Muggle for the summer. See what it’s like.”
“Is that right?” His eyes narrowed trying to read my expression. Then he shouted towards the stairs, “Alfred!”
Freddie barreled into the room as my dad opened his palm to me. “Give us your wand, James.”
He was trying to call me on my bluff. I kept my suspicious expression as I slowly took my wand from my where I’d shoved it in the couch cushion.
“You realize I could just use non-verbal spells?”
I asked staring into the hand he thought I would relinquish my wand into. Making any attempt to find another way out of the mess I’d trapped myself in.
“We’re on the honor system, then. That’s what Freddie’s for.” He turned to address my oldest friend. “You’re going to hold our Jamey to his word. I’m holding you personally responsible for my son these next three months. No magic. No wand.” He shrugged again; his hand still extended waiting for my prized possession. “Come on James. It’s time you finally attended Muggle Studies.”
“You did this to yourself, you realize? He didn’t ask how you were making a living.”
Freddie propped his feet up on the coffee table, scrolling through something on his mobile (no doubt telling Gemma all about my current situation). Those devices infuriated me; the two of them were always talking with speaking a word.
“It was only a matter of time. One more month without formal employment and he would have me following Aunt ‘Mione around to see if politics was my future.” I kicked his feet off the furniture. “It just kills him that I didn’t want to be an Auror.”
I fell back into the couch, my enthusiasm eliminated.
“What’s your father do again?”
“He’s a software engineer. He works on computers.” He offered knowing full well I had no idea what he was talking about. He didn’t even bother to look up from his device. I felt my eyes narrow as I watched him laugh at the various photos and things that would appear and disappear on it. A new question came to my mind while I inspected him.
“How is it the two of you get on so well? With magic not being a part of his life and all.”
I must have rattled him, because he finally looked up from the scrolling photos.
“Magic is a part of his life...I’m a part of his life.”
He shrugged like I had asked a simple question and he’d given the only obvious answer.
“You know what I mean. He doesn’t get all the robes and the hippogriffs and the wand-lore - doesn’t that make it difficult to relate?”
“You don’t get cellphones or football or zoos, but we still get on just fine.” He was getting slightly heated as he spoke, “Like I said, magic is a part - it’s a piece of me - but there’s plenty more...” He must have realized how serious his tone and posture had gotten because he quickly relaxed back into the couch. Then he finished by joking, “I’m a very complex individual.”
While I was content to wallow in the ridiculous circumstance I’d put myself in, Freddie insisted that there was nothing to do but embrace it. So he suggested we go out and collect what he deemed muggle essentials. What ended up happening was we’d wonder around a store and I’d pick something out, but Freddie’d remind me that we’d gotten here on our motorcycles.
“How do you plan to get that back?”
He’d ask to everything I’d suggest. I started thinking this was his scheme all along just to annoy me until he stepped out of one of the shops having actually made a purchase. He held a mobile that looked similar to his out for me to take.
“You know I don’t like that thing. Yours is always buzzing all over the table and blinking repeatedly.”
Freddie cracked a smile.
“This is how muggles get in touch with one another. It’s instant communication.”
“What you and I are doing is instant communication. There’s nothing so pressing it can’t wait for an owl to deliver it.”
Freddie just scratched his forehead, disappointed by my continued resistance to one of his favorite technologies.
“Suit yourself.” He tucked the phone into his back pocket and pulled his own out of the other side. We made it two steps down the path when it buzzed and he got a triumphant grin on his face.
“Oh look, a text from Gemma. She wants to hang out tonight - and I can agree right now. How useful and efficient.”
I just shook my head at his incorrigible nature before responding.
“You two always hang out. That device didn’t need to tell you that. So unless you can find another use I’m still not carrying that thing arou-”
His phone started to buzz again, but it was the name on the screen that made me pause. LOGAN flashed in bold letters above a green and red button.
“Gemma warned me you were pretty smitten…”
Freddie’s eyes narrowed in on me before swiping at the green button and putting the phone to his ear.
“Hey Logan. Hmm? Yeah, no…not much. Yeah she mentioned you’d be in London for a bit.” I resented both his assertion and that he’d turned away from me so I could only hear his portion of the conversation. “Ta. Not a problem. Sure, sure. See ya then.”
The phone went back in his pocket and he continued down the street as if to goat me into asking what she’d said. But I wasn’t going to fall into his ploy.
“I’m not smitten. I simply don’t understand why the two of you felt the need to hide this woman from me all this time.”
“No one was hiding her – you just don’t pay attention.” He shrugged and put his hands in his pockets.
We didn’t say much else before climbing onto our bikes and heading back to the flat; mostly because I was stuck in my head again. Gemma had complained about a flatmate once I really thought about it. But the issue was resolved because she’d gone as quickly as she’d appeared. And on occasion there would be random luggage about Gemma’s flat even though she wasn’t planning a holiday. I just assumed she was as unkempt as Freddie and never thought much of it. I really was as self-involved as Eleanor made me out to be.
All this talk and it turns out I’m the drifter.
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