Disclaimer: JKR owns what you recognise. High School Musical (Kenny Ortega) Disney Channel, 2006.
I must’ve been as young as five or six when my mother first told me the story of the Three Women.
Once upon a time there was a grandmother, a mother, and a daughter. The Grandmother was old and wise, but still as beautiful as a sunset. And she was unlike any other woman, for the Grandmother had a gift of knowledge which enabled her to understand the world in a way that could rival no others. And she lived in our world like this, seeing life and death and change as only she could, until one day she took her place amongst the stars, allowing her daughter the Mother to receive her special gifts in her place. And so the Mother began to see the world better than any other could, and was able to understand secrets of the universe. But as time went on, the mother grew weary and tired, and so finally she too took her place amongst the stars, leaving behind a young Daughter. The Daughter was beautiful and sweet and kind, and as she grew up she loved looking at the stars, but finally, once she was mature and adult, young and strong, her mother called out to her from the sky, granting her the same gift as the generations before her had inherited. And now the Daughter understood the world, and saw life and death and change, always change, and she still does. But one day, when the Daughter is ready, she will pass her gifts on to her own child, and once she has altered the world she will live happily forever with her Mother and Grandmother, forever immortalised by their sacrifice.
I was thinking about this just as Mia threw herself onto the floor by the fire next to Beck, Willow, and I with the kind of huff that predicted we were about to be distracted for a good amount of time.
“I just broke up with Will,” Mia began dramatically, and as she said it tears began to roll down her cheeks at an alarming rate.
“What?” I gasped, attention immediately averted. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine!” Mia sobbed, nodding up and down with a gusto that didn’t quite match her despair. “I’m absolutely fine!”
Immediately my mind went into Mia-Mode. I had dealt with her heartbreaks more times than I could count, and so I began to run over the standard protocol: cathartic crying, chocolate fudge ice cream, angry plate smashing, rebound hook up, atonement.
“What happened?” Willow demanded, handing her a tissue. “I thought he was perfect!”
“He was!” Mia wailed, not even bothering to dab her eyes or lower her voice, which was attracting lots of attention from around the Common Room. “That was the problem!”
Beck, Willow and I glanced at one another and then back to the girl streaming rivers out of her eyes in front of us. “I don’t follow-“
“It was too perfect! There was no excitement! I could never be angry or upset or anything because he made me so goddamn happy!”
“You broke up with the best guy in Hogwarts because he made you too happy?” Beck wrinkled her nose with confusion, but somehow I understood exactly what Mia meant, even if I hadn’t recognised it in myself ever before.
“You want passion,” I said softly, and when I did Mia sort of calmed down, her tears thankfully halting.
“Yes.” She nodded up and down exuberantly, her hair falling into her face. “I want passion and fire. I want intensity, I want - God, I don’t know. I just need to figure this out.”
“Well, if this is going to make you happier in the long run I think it was a good choice,” Willow said, and she smiled encouraging at Mia which made me grin at Willow. I loved how focused Willow was on her friends, and it still blew my mind that she had hung around with Katria Stevens for so long when she was the exact opposite of her: caring, compassionate, witty.
“A bit cruel that it was right before Valentine’s day, though,” Beck commented in her usual brusque manner, but luckily Mia was never phased by it anymore and didn’t take it as an accusation.
“Oh, I completely forgot about Valentine’s Day,” Mia lamented, leaning back into the base of the couch a bit dramatically. “At least we don’t get a Hogsmeade visit for it or else that could have been brutal.”
“You would’ve had another date by then, though,” Willow pointed out, Beck and I nodding beside her.
“No, I would not have!” Mia argued even though she totally knew we were right, and I rolled my eyes.
“Yeah, right. Phase four is the rebound, remember?”
“Usually, but not this time,” Mia pronounced, wiping away the last remains of her tears. “I’m seriously going to take time to think about what I want.”
“Well, I’m impressed,” I told her, and Beck shot me a look of mirth, her eyes clearly saying, I don’t believe Mia for a second, which I quite honestly related to a bit.
“What about you, Beck? Are you still getting with Carlos Topman?”
Beck was adamantly denying that that had ever happened (even though we all knew it so had) just as I spotted Milo walking in his long gait down the boy’s staircase and towards a chair in the corner of the room, his nose already buried in a book.
“Go,” Mia told me quietly with a subtle jerk of her head, so I rose, crossing the space in quite a few more steps than he had.
“Hey,” I said carefully, once I was stopped in front of him. “Can we talk?”
Milo glanced up at me and then nodded, gesturing for me to sit with him. Although he was by far the tallest student in Hogwarts he took up a surprisingly small amount of room on the armchair, and so I squeezed in next to him, folding my arm across my body to make sure that we both had enough room.
“I’m sorry,” I told him woefully, and Milo sighed, shutting his book on his finger to keep his place.
“I know,” he said softly. “But why didn’t you tell me about your mother? I could’ve been there for you.”
I leaned my head against his shoulder, and he leaned his head on top of mine. “I really don’t know. I guess I didn’t want you to look at me differently.”
“But you told Mia and Albus?”
I kept my eyes downcast to avoid witnessing his expression. “Mia found out in Third Year when Scorpius’s mum died and he kept saying how he wanted me to face what had happened to mine. And Scorpius told Al because - you know.”
He did. Albus and Scorpius were the ultimate best friends, just as Flynn and Milo were the closest with one another. It was just how we all worked, and it usually worked well until something like this happened where people were left out.
“Okay,” said Milo, carefully. “I think I understand.”
“You do?” I glanced at him, almost surprised. It took so much for Milo to get angry that I had assumed it would take loads of effort to earn forgiveness.
Milo shrugged. “You don’t talk about it.” he said simply, and he didn’t have to say anything else for me to know that he really did get that nothing about this was personal. That was the thing about Milo Cunningham: he was bumbling and missed social cues consistently, and yet somehow was one of the most intuitive people I had ever met.
“I really am sorry,” I told him, not because I felt like I had to but because I still wanted to.
“Me too,” he grimaced rather sympathetically at me, and before I could get uncomfortable smoothed his face back out into his usual eager blankness.
“Dinner?” I proposed, and he nodded and then stood, pulling me up from the chair with his grip firm and strong, something I could always count on.
“I’ve decided to take up knitting.” Mia announced.
We all stared at her. The bread roll Al had just put in his mouth fell out onto the table with a dull thump.
“I think it’s really what I need right now. Something to ground me. Something to do while I think.”
Flynn leaned forward. “Are you sick? Dying? Did you accidentally swallow one of those aging potions Slughorn has?”
“No,” Mia huffed, pulling away from him while he tried to feel if her forehead was warm. “I’m just making a pact with myself to stay away from men for awhile.”
Scorpius blinked once. “And you need knitting to do that?”
“I think it’ll help!” Mia argued. “I’m taking a hiatus from dating that I will break under no circumstances, and if I’m knitting it’ll remind me to stay celibate.”
Flynn snorted derisively. “Under no circumstances?”
“So, okay,” I spoke over Mia’s catty retort back. “What if that guy from that movie you showed me - the one with the school and bright shirts and the singing while playing that muggle game that’s like Quidditch but with only one hoop-”
“High School Musical - Zac Efron.” Mia inserted automatically.
“Right, what if Zac falls from the sky and lands directly in front of you with flowers and chocolate and a bottle of rosé - then would you break your pact?”
I thought for certain I had her, but Mia just picked her fork back up, twirling it into her pasta with gusto.
“Nope. No men.” she said firmly, and while Flynn’s eyebrows were raised so high I could barely see them under his auburn hair, he surprisingly didn’t reply with anything argumentative.
“Speaking of no men, what happened with you and James Potter?” Milo turned to me eagerly, and I resented his smooth transition.
“Nothing happened,” I shrugged, taking care to be the perfect picture of blasé. “We agreed to be just friends is all.”
“Friends?” Milo’s eyebrows disappeared into his hairline, making him resemble Flynn from a few moments ago. “Wouldn’t be able to tell that from the interactions you’re having.”
“Don’t you mean from the lack thereof?” said Mia slyly, and I shot her a dark look, to which she smiled innocently back.
“Well, it’s Rose’s birthday in a few hours,” Scorpius interjected. “So you can show everyone what fantastic mates you are there.”
Rose Weasley’s party. Scorpius and Al had been planning it for weeks, making frequent trips to Hogsmeade and stocking up on drinks, but somehow it had completely slipped my mind that it was tonight until now.
“‘Spect it’ll be a riot,” said Willow enthusiastically. “Didn’t you lot buy galleons worth of drinks?”
“Oh, yeah,” Scorpius grinned rather proudly. “Every alcohol known to man except tequila, ‘cause Rose absolutely hates it.”
Slowly, through Scorpius, I was beginning to learn small unexpected details about Rose Weasley: how she had never been to Wales, how she liked coffee but hated espresso, how one time she almost drowned because she convinced herself that she was a mermaid.
“You know, Scorpius,” remarked Flynn conversationally. “I’ve decided I’m really gutted about you and Rose.”
“Oh, yeah?” asked Scorpius with an air of mirth. “And why is that?”
Flynn shrugged, the movement sloping and full-bodied. “Ah, I dunno. I guess I always pictured you and Al growing old together. This sort of shatters the dream, you know?”
“And that truly is the dream,” Milo added.
“You know, I do see it,” Willow said thoughtfully, squinting across the table at the pair of them. “Really is quite a shame.”
“Are you sure you made the right choice, Scor?” I asked, my voice low and purposeful with feigned solemnity.
Scorpius nodded gravely, as if every movement pained him. “I’m afraid I am.”
“Well, I suppose I’ll have to get over you,” Al sighed, resting his head in his hands like a woeful schoolgirl.
“You two would have made a lovely child, you know,” commented Mia. “Imagine Scorpius’s jawline with Al’s eyes and nose. Amazing.”
“But then think of Scorpius’s hair colour with Al’s eyebrows and lips,” Flynn pretended to shudder. “Not so pretty.”
“Hey,” Al defended. “Scorpius and I would make a beautiful child-”
“It would be fitter than all of you combined,” Scorpius agreed, grasping Al’s hand on top of the table. “Way better than whatever monster Klein over here’ll create.”
“Oh, yeah? Just wait until Rose hears wind of your infidelity, Malfoy,” Flynn shot back. “She had went loony when you ate her last chocolate bar the other day, imagine what the monster within will look like when this hits.”
“She had gone loony,” I corrected immediately, and everyone shot me dirty looks, Scorpius and Al’s forbidden love forgotten as Milo flicked a pea at me, smiling triumphantly when it hit me right on the nose.
“Hey, Al - did you see what Hadley Stevenson was doing in Mermish?” Willow leaned forward. “Mia and Milo and I were dying-”
“Oh, he must’ve-” Mia began, but Albus interrupted her.
“No, I didn’t,” he replied, his face almost forcibly blank with just the right hint of interest, and I could immediately tell he was lying although I had no idea why. “Tell me.”
Willow leaned forward eagerly. When she was excited about something her light blue eyes lit up with every word she spoke, and Albus seemed to be captivated by everything that came out of her mouth, even as she was talking about an unfortunate circumstance in which Hadley had attempted to translate spells into Mermish and had set their professor on fire.
As the two of them kept talking I began thinking about the story of the Three Women again, and I wasn't able to push it from my mind until nearly an hour later when I was done getting ready for the party.
But it didn't help that Mia took forever doing the same. You’re not even trying to impress anyone anymore, I told her irritably after her fifth outfit change, but she had just raised her nose in the air and sauntered past. I don’t dress for men, I dress for myself, she told me, and while I quite agreed with her attitude it still irked me that it took thirty extra minutes for her to complete her look.
“What’s this going to be like?” Willow asked, tugging her sweater around her body as we neared the Gryffindor porthole. “I mean, it’s only eight o’clock.”
“Knowing Al and Scorpius, this is the pregame,” Mia remarked drily, and then stopped in front of the portrait of the Fat Lady.“Tarantula.”
“Unfortunately,” the Fat Lady shuddered as she opened, and we clambered inside.
“Oi!” Flynn roared the moment we walked into the large space of the Common Room. “We’re playing the Captain!”
“Now?” I gaped at him, but Scorpius was already handing me a half filled yard, and after a brief instance where I debated it spilling the entire thing onto the floor in forfeit, I accepted my fate and gripped it tighter.
“Same rules as always,” Albus called to all of us from atop a large table I assumed would be used for drinks later. Roxanne Weasley and Catherine McDonough and obviously Rose were all playing, as well as Milo and Flynn and Scorpius and a couple of other Gryffindors. “Rose is Captain first since it’s her birthday.”
“Let’s start, then!” Rose yelled, raising her glass into the air and we all mirrored her. “Where do we sail?”
“Due North!” everyone yelled, and all at once I was scrambling to find a place next to the bookcases all the way across the room while making sure not to spill my drink, Willow and Milo behind me.
“Let’s see it!” Rose called. “Point me!”
The wand sitting flat atop her palm slowly spun around and around until it finally was directed at the area in front of the fireplace, where Scorpius and Flynn had gone.
“Fuck,” Willow muttered, as more of ale appeared in our yards and Scorpius and Flynn took hearty sips of theirs. “I’m balls at this game.”
“You and me both,” I grimaced, looking woefully at the amount of alcohol left in our glass.
“Okay, hit the star deck for three sips!” shouted Rose, and all at once everyone was scrambling again to change locations, drinks spilling and people laughing already.
“Cheers to the Captain!” Albus yelled from where he stood on top of one of the armchairs.
“Cheers to the Captain!” we repeated, and finally I was able to down at least a little of my mountainous drink.
We continued on and on like this, with at least half of us getting to be the esteemed role of Captain. Flynn ended up being revealed as the White Whale and got another pint added into his drink, while Milo was forced to walk the plank and have his feet stuck together for a full twenty minutes, doing all of the challenges hopping around. No one truly knows when the Captain was created or how the rules came to be, but it was sort of a staple of Gryffindor, a nonsensically uproarious drinking game that got everyone pissed and happy and excited all at once.
We’d been playing for nearly an hour when Scorpius was the first to land on the deserted island, practically cementing his victory if he got to drink in the next turn.
“You cheated!” Rose yelled at him, stomping over to where he stood triumphantly on the little circle of pillows we had created.
“No, I didn’t!” Scorpius yelled back. “You just don’t think I could be better at you at this!”
For a moment I watched the pair of them, for this surely seemed like a fight - but slowly I noticed the playful light in Scorpius’s eyes that didn’t match his exaggerated scowl, and Rose’s presentation of an affronted attitude faltered with every involuntary twitch of a smile.
“And why don’t you think I could be better?”
“Because I won!” Rose screamed, and she produced her yard from behind her back which sure enough was absolutely empty down to the very last drop.
“Bloody hell,” Flynn groaned, banging his head against the wall behind him. “How the fuck did you do that?”
“I’m not even halfway done,” I complained, shaking the liquid in my yard for comparison, Mia and Al muttering dejectedly in the background.
"You're fucking mad, Weasley," Scorpius told Rose, but he was almost as proud as she was at the win, and by the little twitch of his hand I could tell he was itching to hug her.
“You lot know the rules,” Rose said smugly, and we all put our drinks to our mouths, waiting for her signal. “Drink by...Nellie!”
Fuck, she did that on purpose because she knew I was the worst at chugging and I had so much bloody ale left, so as everyone yelled, “Cheers to the Captain!” I put my drink to my mouth and tried my hardest to down it. Luckily, while it took me fifteen seconds to drink half of it that was enough for everyone else to finish theirs, so I was thankfully saved from a horrible fate.
It was around nine thirty, now, and more people were starting to arrive, trickling down from the staircase and in through the porthole, the Fat Lady’s irritated tones floating through the increasing party sounds every so often. With a flick of his wand Albus cleaned up the mess we had made, and I hadn’t even noticed that Scorpius had left but now he was back, levitating what did indeed look like a hundred galleons worth of alcohol out in front of him.
And suddenly, the event was in full blast, with music blaring and people dancing and layers of clothing coming off due to the increased temperature. As I was observing the rest of the room I saw Scorpius just watching Rose as she beamed while she was hugged by her guests, and he just looked so content, as if somehow her happiness made him fulfilled in some way that I could never understand.
“He must really love her,” I said quietly to Flynn, who was standing next to me by the bookcases.
“He does.” Flynn said back just as softly, and I glanced at him but he wasn’t looking at me. Instead, he seemed to be staring at where Mia was laughing and dancing with Milo and Albus, but before I could ask him what was wrong my eyes met a burning hazel gaze from across the room.
Instantly my heart stopped. The room stopped. The yelling, the music, the people - they were all gone, disappeared into nothing when I looked at James Potter, really looked. And he was looking back at me, looking looking looking, and I hadn’t realised I had taken a step towards him until I was aware that he had too. We never broke our gaze - I don’t think either of us could - and we closed the distance between us like this: two magnets, the force between them powerful and unbreakable, the only thing that seemed to matter.
And then we were right in front of each other, so close that his nose and my forehead were almost touching, almost almost almost.
We can’t just be friends, James Potter said softly, and as I could feel his hand pressing into mine, a pulse, a heart beating in my bare palm, I whispered, I know.
His grip tightened on my hand, other arm coming around to clutch my waist, and I grazed my fingers lightly up his chest over his tight-fitting shirt, tracing patterns on the shadows and ridges of his firm muscles. I could feel his breaths coming faster and shallower, and when I pressed my lips gently to the base of his neck, he groaned audibly.
“Christ, Cornelia,” he gasped and then roughly brought his lips to meet mine as if he had no control over the movements he was making, and I melted into him, because the way he was shaped with all his curves and inches and warmth fit my body’s form exactly, like we were two pieces of the same puzzle.
“I need you,” James said, and it came out as a growl. “Right now.”
“Now,” I said breathlessly in agreement, and without another word he pulled me up the stairs of the boy’s dormitory, the party still in full swing but suddenly rendered unimportant compared to the feeling of his skin against mine, warm and anticipatory.
We fell onto his bed, limbs tangled and mouths open and hair already messy. I had never wanted anyone like this before, ever, and we both clutched onto one another like our lives depended on it, lips not moving fast enough and always leaving us starving for more.
James grabbed my waist and pulled himself on top of me, grabbing wherever on my body that he could and holy bloody hell he was all I wanted, perhaps all that I had ever wanted, and I was just about to tell him this when he stopped, hovering above me with uncertainty, his face three inches too far from mine.
“Are you drunk?” he asked, and it was a sort of urgent that made me stop and understand the severity of the situation, understand why he would ask such a thing even if it would shatter the mood.
“Not really,” I admitted, and I bit my lip, because maybe this - whatever this was - was all due to James’s level of intoxication. “Are you?”
“Not really,” said James. And then he smirked down at me, his hair flopping in front of his eyes. “You know what this means, don’t you?”
I shifted underneath him but he tightened his grip on me, pulling my arms above my head and cementing them there. “What?”
“You fancy me.” he said, with all of the confidence and swagger in the world, and even though it was so annoying I couldn’t help but grin a little.
“Shut up,” I told him, and he leaned down and pecked my lips once, the kind of kiss that builds a little and then is snatched away before it can reach its full potential.
“Well,” James Potter murmured, pushing a wisp of my hair behind my ear in a way I could only describe as tender. “Cornelia you-won’t-tell-me-your-middle-name Burke, I definitely fancy you.”
“Annaliese,” I said after a moment, just as he leaned down to suck on the part of my neck that he knew always drove me crazy.
He paused his nuzzling. “What?”
“My middle name is Annaliese. I’m half French.”
James kissed the top of my head, and then my nose and cheek, trailing all the way down to the base of my neck. “It’s beautiful,” he told me. And then he repeated it again and again and again until I told him to fuck off and started calling him “Siriusly annoying,” and then he said that “Anna-liese he wasn’t a cheese eating surrender monkey,” and it was right and perfect. Like instead of just being matching pieces, we were the puzzle itself, finally fit and together and complete. Exactly how it should be.
The dreams came most nights, now.
I wasn’t stupid. I knew what they meant. Every night they got a little clearer - I could see faces, places, and instead of just feeling indiscernible familiarity, and every time what they mimicked in reality occured I felt a little more panic. But I tried not to think about it. I didn’t write to my father or Adam, I didn’t touch the old book from where I had shoved it underneath my bed, I didn’t do anything. I was having fun with James, and everything was fine again with my friends, and I was happy, and that was all I wanted to focus on. So I did just that.
“You know, I knew from the start that your whole ‘friends’ ruse wouldn’t last long,” Mia insisted at me from across the table, her homework stretched out in front of her but still an untouched canvas.
“Yeah, well.” I shrugged enigmatically, turning back to my Arithmancy because I knew it would drive her crazy.
“Okay. C'mon. It's been a few weeks of this hook-up whatever situation with James - tell me more!” Mia pled, grasping her hands out in front of her like a beggar. “I’ve taken an oath of abstinence here, I need something to tide me over!”
“Fine, fine,” I acquiesced, setting my quill down. “He's less of an arse than I thought he was. He even tutors the younger students for free."
"I don't care about his bloody charity work, give me the tea!" Mia demanded, and I couldn't help but lean forward a little.
"Okay, okay. I’ve never had a better snog than him. And he has amazing abs, like seriously picture perfect.”
“Ooh. Are you guys, you know…” Mia waggled her eyebrows up and down, and I chose that moment to shut my book and throw my belongings into my bag.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” I told her cheekily as I stood up, shouldering my things. “I’m off to Gryffindor, now, anyways.”
“Nellie, I need more!” Mia hissed, but I just gave her a little wave, a bit pleased that it was now my turn to dangle juicy tidbits rather than hers.
When I arrived in the Gryffindor Common Room, Fred, Leta, and James all had their Herbology books open but were ignoring them in favour of a loud debate.
“That’s just not even an argument,” James was saying as I sat down next to him, his arm immediately going over the back of the couch to rest easily over my shoulders.
“How is it not an argument?” Leta cried. “If McGonagall were eighty years younger she would surely still be a cougar!”
“She’s too classy for that!” James insisted. “She’s be too good for men her age much less a bloke younger than her-“
“She’s a dominant gal, mate!” Fred threw up his hands, and I couldn’t help but be amused at his intensity. “She needs to be in control! Her Animagus form is a cat for Merlin’s sake!”
James’s expression contoured into one of disgust. “What does that have to do with it?”
“Well cats are fierce, and since she’d be an absolute dagger in bed she’s definitely-“
“What do you think, Nellie?” Leta interrupted Fred, and I looked up from my Arithmancy book.
“I think I should stay out of it,” I grinned, and then paused. “But I can’t imagine Minnie ever with someone even a year older than her."
“HA!” Fred leaped up, pointing at James in such a J’accuse manner that his face looked a bit maniacal lit up with such fierce excitement.
“Et tu, Brute?” James groaned and leaned back on the couch as Fred and Leta began celebrating their victory by doing little dances in their seat.
“The truth has spoken,” I shrugged as if I had no control over the outcome, and although James leaned back dejectedly and Leta still kept dancing, I could tell he honestly agreed with our notion of McGonagall being a cougar but had just been too stubborn to admit it. Although I've always been able to read him quite well, it was a sudden change to not be doing it to win in competition or battle, and I sort of liked the difference.
I continued to study and read while the rest of them kept talking. This has become sort of a normal ritual of sorts, perhaps highlighting the differences between Ravenclaws and Gryffindors at four in the afternoon, but I didn’t mind it at all.
A short while later, Fred and Leta went silent, and after a moment James tapped my shoulder.
“James?” I said lazily, flipping a page in my book.
“Want to go snog in a few?”
“Aces,” I told him, and I could see him smirking in my peripherals but I ignored it.
I had just turned back to my book when he spoke again.
I glanced up again. “James?”
“Want to snog right now?”
“You clearly don’t understand the concept of delayed gratification,” I told him drily, but he grinned wickedly, and in one movement had scooped me off of the couch and slung me over his shoulder, Fred and Leta whooping with delight as he made his way up the boys' staircase.
“That was truly subtle,” I remarked as he deposited me on his bed and then climbed on, too, immediately wrapping an arm around my waist.
“That’s another first for me,” he commented, smirking slightly. “Public displays of affection.”
“What other firsts have I been?” I turned on my side so that I was facing him, using my hand to prop up my cheek. “Oh, don’t tell me I was the first-“
“Sod off,” he laughed, since we both knew there was no way in hell that I had been. “Let’s see. You’re the first girl who’s really hated me, first one I’ve ever taken on a nice date, first one to apologise to multiple times for being a tosser…”
“That is a lot of firsts,” I agreed as he shifted closer to me, and although I sounded casual inside I was suddenly elated.
“Wait,” James spoke after a moment, the little dimple in his chin denting slightly. “I’ve been meaning to ask - what happened with you and Mulligan?”
“That’s what you want to talk about right now?” I asked incredulously. “Me and Henry?”
James sat up, and I did, too. “Was he bad to you?”
“No,” I said defensively, but then I reconsidered. “I don’t know. He was really good at making me feel like I was at fault for everything that went wrong in his life.”
James frowned slightly; it wrinkled the space between his eyebrows in an almost adorable manner. “Did you tell Mulligan about your family?”
I shrugged. “Vague details, yeah.”
“You could tell him and not me?” he demanded, and his eyes narrowed in that sharply unforgiving way I had grown to resent.
“I told him after we’d been together for four months when he wanted to meet my parents! We’re not even dating, James!”
“So then let’s date!” He raised his voice to match mine. “Be my girlfriend!”
“Fine!” I shouted back, and then we both sort of froze as we realised what we had just agreed to.
“Really?” he asked dumbly, the anger stripped from his voice at once.
“Yes,” I said, and then again, with certainty. “Yes. Of course.”
James smiled triumphantly, but it wasn’t gloating; it was the kind of victory that I shared, and we grabbed one another at the same time, falling onto the bed and touching and feeling, feeling everything we could possibly feel all at once, together. We were skin on skin, a beautiful tornado of heat and fire and flame, finally the right kind of kindling. We touched and we breathed and we felt, and my name spilled from his lips, “Cornelia,” as merciful as a prayer and as smooth as an alibi, and when every muscle fiber in our body had contracted and our breaths were merely gasps we finally relaxed, collapsed on one another, dazed and happy.
“What you do to me…” James murmured softly, kissing trails from my earlobe to my collarbone, and it felt perfect, so right and natural and unforced, until a girl with long, dark hair and a low-cut top strode into the Seventh Year Gryffindor dormitory, not bothering to knock or declare herself in any way.
“Hi,” she said, while James scrambled to cover himself and I emitted a little scream. “Can I borrow Nellie for a moment?”
“Mia, what the hell are you doing?” I cried, throwing the nearest object I could find (which happened to be my pants) at her head.
“I needed to talk to you!” Mia ducked neatly, absolutely unfazed.
“And it couldn’t’ve waited?”
“Well - you know, I suppose it could’ve,” Mia frowned in concentration, and then added hastily, “but I didn’t want it to!”
I honestly don’t think I’ve hated someone more in my life than I did Mia right at that moment.
“How-how did you get past the portrait?” James stammered, which he tended to do when he was taken aback, and it was always so endearing and refreshing to see him not his usual cool façade that I had to fight back the urge to kiss him - God, I was going to seriously kill her.
“The password was Godric, it wasn’t exactly difficult to guess,” the Hated One said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
“Can you...come back later?” James suggested hesitantly. Mia’s eyes narrowed into slits.
“Listen,” she simpered, taking a step forward. James shrank back into me slightly, as if he wanted me to shelter him from the blow that was Mia’s wrath. “Since Nellie is my best friend, and you’re doing…things with her, it would probably be wise to get on my good side. Okay?”
We merely gaped at her.
“Well, hurry up! Here!” Mia threw my pants back to me, and I pulled them on quickly, hyper-aware that James was staring from me to Mia like a deer caught in headlights.
“I’ll see you tomorrow?” I said to James as Mia began physically dragging me from the room, and he nodded dumbly.
“Oh, and James,” Mia called, stopping with her hand on the doorknob. “Nellie was right - you do have great abs.”
And then, with a flash of her killer grin and a slam of the door, Mia Templeton had managed to render the great James Sirius Potter absolutely speechless.
“Was that really necessary?” I grumbled as soon as we had escaped the curious eyes of the Gryffindor Common Room.
“Yes,” Mia emphasised, and then snorted. “God, I knew you were shagging!”
“Well, we’re dating now,” I told her, and it sounded foreign in my mouth but so so strangely right. “Officially.”
“Nellie,” Mia breathed, and then she was pulling me into a bear hug, squeezing me so tightly I think I lost consciousness for a moment. “Ohmigod. Yes. This is so, so good.”
“Yeah?” I glanced at her, a slow smile spreading across my face.
“Of course - I won the bet!” Mia squealed, clapping her hands together with glee.
“You bet on whether or not James and I would date?” I asked incredulously, and Mia shook her head, that patented sly smile playing across her plump lips.
“No, we bet on when you would date,” she corrected. “Flynn said this summer - idiot - Milo said January, Scorpius said never - also an idiot - and Albus said April.”
I raised my eyebrows, and I was going to act affronted but I decided against it. “So Al was technically the closest.”
“Yes, but it’s also still March so I won!” Mia pumped her fist in the air as if an imaginary crowd were celebrating her victory
“I’m really just so happy for you,” I told her, and Mia beamed and laughed, slinging her arm around my shoulders. “Anyways, what was so urgent that you needed to sneak into the Gryffindor Common Room?”
“Oh. Right.” Leave it to Mia Templeton to entirely forget her urgent reasons for breaking and entering. “Albus needs to see you. He’s sort of freaking out.”
I frowned. “Al? Why?”
Mia turned to me, grinning like a jack-o-lantern. “He likes a girl!”
Author's Note: SORRY this chapter took so long, I'm back at school and Orgo is actually brutal (especially at the school I go to...hint it is part of a well known group of 8 schools!). But I figured we needed some story development that wasn't depressing, since a lot of the rest of the story will be rather dark. Let me know what you think - did you expect Nellie and James to get together? What about the way Rose and Scorpius interact? And who the hell does Albus like? Stay tuned and thank you SO MUCH for being so supportive and leaving such amazing reviews!
Up next...A story of nice guys, good friends, and hair stroking.
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