Disclaimer: JKR owns what you recognise.
“Have you heard the news?” Fred Weasley bounded into the Gryffindor Common Room with the energy of a bunny rabbit, the tight curls on his head bouncing up and down slightly.
“You’re failing Transfiguration?” Rose guessed idly, not even bothering to look up from her game of chess with Scorpius.
Fred threw himself onto the couch next to Marley and Leta. “Well, yes - but no, Rosie, the news about James and Nellie!”
“I actually haven’t,” James commented, from where we were lounging across the room. “Who wants to go first?”
“I do!” Leta exclaimed immediately at which Marley scowled, her heart shape face somehow not allowing her expression to truly look put out.
“Oh, c’mon,” Marley complained. “She always gets to go first, and she always gets it right because she has nothing better to do but eavesdrop on gossiping students-”
“It’s not eavesdropping if I actually join the conversation,” Leta countered. “Besides, it’s also not my fault that Diana Jerkins thinks I’m ‘absolutely a hoot!’”
“Then you’re disqualified, Le,” Fred decided, flicking her on the temple, and she harrumphed a bit before settling back.
“Let me have a go at it, yeah?” Scorpius called, his eyes still trained on the chess board, across from which Rose was tapping her nails impatiently.
“Nellie’s pregnant with Al’s lovechild!” Rose yelled, before Scorpius or Fred could get a word out.
“Fred said Nellie and James, you absolute nitwit-”
“Oh, yeah? Then what was your guess, then? Something about matching piercings, because that happened like three weeks ago-”
“No,” Scorpius insisted. “I was going to say that they got secretly engaged and James proposed to Nellie with a ring made of Voldemort’s bones!”
“Honestly, spot on,” Fred was rather impressed. “Nellie and James actually got married in secret by Hagrid in the Forbidden Forest with a centaur as the ring bearer.”
“Good on us,” I shrugged unconcernedly, and James snorted from beside me.
“See! I was close!” Scorpius exclaimed triumphantly to Rose, who scoffed.
“You prat, you didn’t even get it right-"
“But I was close!” Scorpius yelled even louder than she had earlier, and Rose responded in kind, the two of them sparring back and forth in the most amusing way while Fred and Leta and Marley inserted their opinions every so often.
As we listened to them all for a few moments, James nudged my arm slightly. “Hey, can I ask you something?”
“I don’t know, can you?” I countered, and James shot me a look, sort of the kind that Flynn always did when he was mock annoyed at me.
“At the Quidditch disciplinary hearing in October, did you tell Sinistra I wasn’t responsible for targeting you because you wanted to help Al, or because you actually believed it?”
The question took me completely aback, and I had to think about it for a long moment to get my words right.
“I don’t know,” I replied truthfully. “I think...I think I told myself I was doing it for Albus or because I believed in innocent before proven guilty so that I could justify it to myself. But I think deep down I believed you. Or I at least wanted to believe you, even though everyone was telling me I shouldn’t.”
“Hm,” said James, but it wasn’t negative, more just like a thoughtful sound.
“Now may I ask you something?” I said quietly, over the sound of Fred and Marley recounting something that happened in Care of Magical Creatures.
James sighed, as if it would be a laborious task. “I suppose,” he told me in faux reluctance.
“Did you ever really hate me as much as you acted?”
“No,” James told me immediately. “I mean, you made me angry - furious, sometimes - but it was only because you were just so good at fighting, and half the time you were telling me things about myself that I didn’t want to hear. And I had more fun getting you riled up than actually feeling real contempt for you because...I don’t know, something always drew me towards you. Do you know what I mean?”
I nodded, because I did. I knew that that strange, almost magnetic pull between us hadn’t been a one-sided experience - it was much too powerful for that, and perhaps it always had been.
“Then when did you first realise you really fancied me?”
At that, James smiled almost reminiscently. “The broom cupboard. After you tumbled in and called me the weirdest insult I’d ever heard in my life-”
“It’s ridiculous,” James interrupted back. “But I was goading you a bit and Fred was goading me and you just looked so...impassioned, and you were being fiesty and witty-“
“Clever,” I corrected, and he pulled my waist tighter to him, the midday light illuminating the back of his head to make him look like an angel.
“You keep me on my toes, Burke,” James murmured, his lips close to my ear, and we smiled up at one another.
“All right, Corn,” Scorpius called, the chess game between he and Rose long abandoned. “Let’s hit it.”
“See you later?” James murmured, and I nodded at him before following Scorpius to lunch, leaving the chaos of Gryffindor behind.
Scorpius and I walked silence for awhile. I had something on my mind, something that had been weighing on me for weeks, but I had no idea how to broach the topic until a single sentence built up in my head, louder and louder and louder until I finally blurted out:
“I keep having dreams like the ones my father and Adam mentioned.”
I expected Scorpius to be intrigued, but he merely nodded as if he were somehow unsurprised by my declaration. “But nothing else?”
I sort of slowed my steps. “What? What do you mean?”
“Like, really awful headaches? Like, any pain in your back?”
I crossed my arms, an uneasy sensation creeping into my stomach. “How would you know about this?”
Scorpius’s teeth tugged on the side of his lip in a moment of indecision before his admission. “Adam owled me explaining everything a little bit ago. Have you read that book he sent you?”
I fidgeted with a loose string on my sleeve until I finally looked up at him. “No.”
“I can’t talk to you about it until you read it,” Scorpius snapped, abruptly angry, and his uncharacteristic response spurred my quick temper easily.
“Are you serious? You of all people are going to hide things from me now, too?”
Scorpius stopped walking, and turned to look at me long and hard. “You’re hiding from yourself, Nellie.” he said finally, and we didn’t say another word until we were arrived at the Slytherin table for lunch.
“Better luck next time, mate,” Albus was saying to a rather chagrined Milo as we sat down with our friends.
“What’s going on?”
“Evie got a full back tattoo of a lion eating a snake, so now my mum and dad want to charm my skin so that I can’t get anything like that, too.”
Evie was Milo’s wild older sister, and as a result of her increasingly rogue actions over the years Milo’s parents had become more and more protective over him, to the point of fault.
“That’s really not fair,” Flynn told Milo. “What if one day you decide that you want a diagram of one of your stupid plants inked onto your skin for the rest of eterni- actually, maybe your parents had it right.”
“Even so, it’s not your fault Evie is addicted to antagonising your parents.” Scorpius remarked as Milo shot Flynn a look.
“Eh, yeah. Oh well,” said Milo, and then he was back to his usual cheeriness, his future inability to get a tattoo forgotten. “Have any of you started that Trans-fig essay?”
“I’ve been putting it off,” Albus grimaced from next to me. “Seems like it’ll take forever.”
Scorpius shrugged. “Eh, I reckon it’ll take three, maybe four-”
“Flynn and I kissed!” Mia burst out, as if she couldn’t hold in the words any longer.
“What?” all of us exclaimed. My fork dropped out of my hand and hit my plate with a bang, splattering food that went unnoticed by the rest of my shell shocked friends.
“Mia,” Flynn groaned. “Jesus fuck, can you not keep one bloody secret for more than ten minutes-“
“It was thirty minutes ago, arsehole-“
“What happened?” I interrupted, a slow smile spreading across my face.
Mia scowled, her plump lips fully in a pout. “He was being an absolute prat-"
“She was whining on about something like usual-“
“And so I told him to grow up-“
“I told her to properly shut it-“
“-then he kissed me!”
“-and she kissed me!”
“What?” Flynn and Mia both exclaimed at the same time. “No! You kissed me!”
“Great,” Albus muttered sardonically as the two of them began to bicker across the table. “Another thing they can argue about.”
“Well, it was bound to happen at some point,” Scorpius sighed over their squabble, just as the bell rang.
“Go to hell,” Mia hissed at Flynn as she grabbed her things and stalked away from the Slytherin table, not bothering to wait for any of the others who had all gotten up for class as well.
“See you there!” Flynn called after her just as nastily, and as the table around us emptied I stared at Flynn open-mouthed, the look in my eyes saying all that it needed to.
“What?” Flynn eventually snapped at me. The two of us were the only ones with a free period, and although usually we enjoyed spending the time together I knew right now he was absolutely resenting the fact that I had an opportunity to grill him one-on-one.
“Remember when I asked you if you had feelings for Mia and you vehemently denied it?” I scooted closer to him on the bench, overtaking Al’s previous spot.
“Piss off,” Flynn muttered, spooning more macaroni onto his plate. “She’s just so fucking irritating I can hardly stand it.”
“Sure she is,” I told him, smirking. “She makes other things stand, too, though, doesn’t she?”
“Fuck off,” Flynn groaned, scowling, but then settled down, glancing towards me. “I need to talk to you about something, Nellie, so can we forget the Mia thing for a moment? Please?”
I was about to counter with something as equally annoying as my previous statement, but after I noticed how serious Flynn seemed I stopped. “Er, yeah. What’s up?”
Flynn scratched the back of his auburn hair, face unusually somber. “Yesterday, I overheard a conversation between James Potter and one of his friends, and I don’t think you’re going to like it.”
“What?” My eyebrows twitched down slightly, but the rest of me suddenly felt frozen with nerves. “With who? What did he say?”
Flynn set down his fork carefully. “Nellie, he was telling Axle Donnovan that dating you was the perfect way to get back at Scorpius for dating Rose.”
The shock of what he had just said hit me in a wave, and then disappeared with my denial.
“What? No. That doesn't make any sense,” I shook my head. “James and I kissed ages before everyone even found out about Scorpius and Rose.”
Flynn’s mouth quirked to the side, as if he were struggling with how next to phrase his words. “He knew they were dating,” Flynn finally came out with. “Since summer.”
My stomach dropped. “He what?” I whispered.
“Scorpius told me he walked in on them in, like, July. Promised not to say anything, but he knew. Never told Albus, either.”
We had been hooking up pretty consistently before I found out about Scorpius’s deception, and he never bothered to mention that tiny little detail to me, not even in an argument?
“What the fuck?” I murmured, mostly to myself, and as I looked away from Flynn my gaze settled on the Gryffindor table, where James Potter had just sat down.
Across him was Fred, and next to Fred was Leta. And to his left sat Marina Belliveau, his ex-lover or girlfriend or whatever, the same girl that had gotten James into bed with her just by telling him she was upset about something. I hadn’t seen her around him much, especially since I knew Leta and Marley and them weren’t particularly close with her, but suddenly seeing him joke around and talk and laugh with this girl made me a strange blend of insecure and furious. I was almost irrationally livid, and the whole thing made me think that if James had hooked up with Marina more times than he could count and didn’t care about her enough to date her, then why the hell was he dating me? There was no real rhyme or reason for it, and Flynn had given me the suddenly indisputable answer: because he was mad my relative was sleeping with his cousin. It was an eye for an eye - it always was with James Potter - and I felt sickened that I hadn’t seen this until now.
“Are you okay?” Flynn asked me quietly, and I took a deep breath, trying to calm down the blood that seemed to boil inside my very veins.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I told him, nodding slightly, and it seems like he bought it because he sent me one last grimace before digging into his lunch again.
But I wasn’t fine. Even though little bits of me would tell myself every so often that I was being crazy, that James could never do something like that, the rest of my brain chose not to believe them. So when I was walking to Quidditch practice and saw James going in the other direction, I stomped up to him with heavy steps, ready to battle.
“I know what your game is,” I fumed. “Using me to get back at Scorpius for fucking your cousin. I know you knew they were dating for months, and so you could get with me in some sick retribution. I honestly don’t know why I thought you cared about me, even a little bit, but - mrrph!”
James leaned in and kissed me, effectively cutting off any fighting words I was trying to get out.
“If I wanted to get back at Scorpius I would have put itching powder in his willies, not use another person for my own gain,” James told me, but then he narrowed his eyes, his expression suddenly rather hurt as if what I had said had wounded him in some way. “Is that what you really believe? That I would do something like that?”
I opened my mouth and then closed it, abruptly unsure of what to say. “No, I - I don’t know.”
“Good to know you think so highly of me.” James said coldly, taking a large step back from me, and I could tell that the distance he had just put between us was way more than physical.
“That isn’t what I meant,” I insisted, but his eyes merely hardened more, the strict lines of his jaw clenching tightly.
“Isn’t it, though?”
The golden flecks in his eyes were burning with a certain animosity, and I didn’t know how this had turned around so fast but suddenly I was the villain instead of the one who had been wronged, and I didn’t know what to do about it.
“Wait. James-“ I reached out for him, but he was already moving further away, going down the corridor in the direction I had just come from.
“Don’t bother.” he retorted over his shoulder, and he didn’t look back at me once before disappearing around the corner.
Quidditch dragged on and on, with Moose yelling himself hoarse and Beck losing her voice yelling right back at him. I stayed out of the way and did my job halfheartedly, which seemed to be my normal mode of play lately. But the rest of the team could tell that I was in one of my moods when I didn’t join in on the playful banter, instead trailing behind and glaring darkly at the ground.
Beck knew better than to try and talk to me when I was like this, as did Benjy and even Moose, who looked like he had lots to say to me but had decided to keep his words for another time. But Kato Millican was always bad at letting me be in a pissy mood, and although I expected him to bring it up earlier it wasn’t until nearly everyone had left the locker rooms that he finally came over to me, his arms crossed.
“Okay. Out with it.” Kato raised his eyebrows. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” I growled, shoving my jacket into my bag with the force of a punch. “Potter.”
Kato’s lip curled as it always did when James was mentioned. “Do you want to talk about it?”
I slammed my locker shut, cursing internally when the door richocheted off something hanging out and bounced back open. “No.”
“Okay,” said Kato, and then paused. “But, no. I do want to talk about it, Nels.”
“What?” I finally glanced towards him, and found that he had taken a step closer to me, his eyebrows knitted together in concern. “Why?”
“Last year, you were upset all the time because of Henry. This year it’s Potter. You always go for these guys that treat you like shit, and neither of them deserve you, Nellie.”
It took me a moment to process his rather harsh words, but once I did I started to shake my head, convinced of his intentions. “This is about you not getting along with Potter-”
“It’s not,” Kato insisted. “Look at how Henry was with you! He pushed you away so much only to pull you back in, just so that you would be entirely dependent on him or his mood or whatever. And he told me what he did, that one time after he saw you and Flynn hugging. That’s so fucked up, Nellie.”
I crossed my arms over my body, not in anger but in sort of a defense, as if it could protect me from him bringing up any more truths I didn’t want to hear. “I thought you were friends with Henry.”
“I am. But I care about you more than I care about him.”
I didn’t know what to say to that.
“Look,” Kato stepped forward. We were a little too close now, with my back against the lockers, and I licked my lips, suddenly rather confused. “You are one of the funniest, smartest, most beautiful people I’ve ever met. When are you going to be with someone who doesn’t make you question your worth?”
And then before I could process what was going on, Kato’s mouth was on mine, gently, and I all I was able to do was stand there in shock, like I didn’t believe it could really be happening in that very exact moment.
But then I woke up. I opened my eyes wide turned my head to the side, and as I did I spotted a flash of dark hair disappearing out the door of the locker room.
“Cicely!” I yelled, and then whipped around to face Kato, who was staring at me blankly as if he too had been in some kind of a trance. “Why the hell would you do that?”
“I’m-I’m so sorry,” Kato stammered, and he suddenly looked so fearful. “Nellie, I-”
“I have to fix this,” I snarled, grabbing my open bag from the bench beside me. “Don’t ever do that again, Millican.”
“Nellie!” Kato called, panicked, but I was already out the door, sprinting up the hill after Cicely Brown, the contents of my bag spilling out as I did.
“Cicely, wait!” I cried, and without warning she stopped in her tracks, whipping around to face me.
“I can’t believe I trusted you!” she screamed, loud and raw.
“It wasn’t what it looked like-”
“Just don’t.” she snarled, her eyes flashing with a hatred I never thought her capable of.
“Cicely!” I yelled, but she was running up the hill again, and my wand and everything else in my bag had fallen out everywhere so I had to go back down and pick up my various items from the ground, breathing hard the entire time.
I saw Kato leave the Locker Room and sprint up the path opposite, surely believing I had gone the other way, and so instead of making myself known I made fast time around to the other end of the castle, trying to avoid running into him, but by the time I was inside and by the moving staircases, my energy and adrenaline had completely run out, leaving me out of breath and weary.
“Nellie!” someone exclaimed, and there were Mia and Willow, right in front of me. “D’you want to-what’s wrong?”
“Kato kissed me,” I told her, my voice barely a whisper.
Willow gasped. “What?”
“Shut up!” Mia’s mouth dropped open with a shocked sort of excitement, but then her expression shifted as she appraised me. “Oh, no, babe. What exactly happened?”
“I was upset at Quidditch because James and I got into a fight which was my fault, and then Kato told me I always go for shit guys and then he kissed me, and Cicely Brown saw and she fancies Kato so she’s furious, oh my God I’ve fucked everything-”
“Whoa. Slow down. This isn’t your fault,” Mia said soothingly, in that sort of authoritative way she always did, and I took a deep breath, focusing on the intricate labyrinth of staircases above us to calm myself.
“Are you okay?” asked Willow, her concern apparent in the downwards curve of her lips.
“Yeah,” I nodded, even though I wasn’t sure if it was true. “I really just don’t know what to do now. He’s my friend and my teammate and I just don’t know what to say to him or to Cicely.”
Mia bit her lip. “Are you going to tell James?”
“I don’t know.” I shook my head, somehow even more stressed than before. “He’s already angry at me, and this would just be-”
“A lot,” Mia finished softly, as we reached the Common Room door.
“What is man’s greatest weakness?” the Eagle Knocker chirped in a voice much too cheery for my current disposition.
“Man,” Mia said darkly, and as the knocker complimented her astuteness we stepped inside of Ravenclaw.
“Nellie!” Immediately Benjy jumped up from the recliner by the door, and although Kato was nowhere in sight based on the expression on his face I knew he had been informed about the disaster that had occurred probably only fifteen minutes ago.
“Don’t, Benjy,” I muttered as I brushed past him with Mia and Willow in front of me, but he didn’t give up.
“Nellie, please just talk to him,” Benjy pled. “He feels awful; he’s upstairs going out of his mind-”
“He kissed me knowing full well that I have a boyfriend,” I stopped walking to face him, my arms crossed. “I have nothing to say to him right now.”
“Just let him apologise and then you can hate him for as long as you want. We’re a family, Nellie, you have to hear him out. For us.”
Even though I hated to admit it I knew he was right, but it wasn’t fair to myself or to my team to try and resolve something that I wasn’t ready to fully tackle. When it came down to it I didn’t owe anyone anything, and I think Benjy understood that, even though his allegiances were still to his best friend.
“Not tonight,” I told him finally. “I just need to breathe, okay?”
“Of course,” Benjy nodded, his dark hair flopping in his face a little. “Are you okay?”
I dodged his question. “Look, Cicely saw and I’m afraid she’s going to give people the wrong idea. Have you seen her?”
“No,” Benjy shook his head. “But I was upstairs when Kato came in so maybe she’s in her dormitory, too.”
“Okay.” I was suddenly bone tired as if I had just run a marathon, and I wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed and deal with this mess in the morning. “Thanks.”
“I’m really sorry,” Benjy said, in farewell, and so I disappeared up the girl’s dormitory steps behind Willow and Mia, ready to put the exhausting day behind me.
I awoke the next morning to the door slamming open with enough force for the doorknob to hit the side of the wall.
“Where the hell do you get off, Katria?” someone was yelling, and as I blearily pulled my curtains open I saw that Willow was standing in the doorway, fully dressed and looking absolutely furious.
“Good morning to you, too, Willow!” Katria chirped as she exited the bathroom.
“Don’t you dare act all innocent,” Willow hissed, and since I’d never seen her truly upset before the force of her anger was almost frightening. “Why the hell would you do something like that?”
“What is going on?” Mia interrupted, and Georgina Rivier poked her head out of her four poster just as Mia and I climbed out of ours.
“Ask her.” Willow pointed straight ahead, her hand shaking with what could only have been undiluted rage.
Three pairs of eyes swiveled to Katria Stevens, who shook her platinum hair down her back and blinked serenely at us.
“Well, I was in the Kitchens last night when Cicely Brown came in,” Katria began, and I felt all of the blood rush out of my face in a single second. “She was so distraught that she told me everything, how the boy she fancied and the one girl she trusted were snogging in the Quidditch lockers. But you knew that already, didn’t you, Nellie?”
Georgina Rivier glanced at me in interest, but I only had eyes for the girl standing smugly in front of me. “What did you do?”
“I really wasn’t going to tell anyone,” said Katria. “But then I happened to run into James Potter on my way back to the dormitories.”
It felt like all of the air was punched out of my lungs, and all I could manage was a singular, “What?”
“I don’t think he’ll want to be speaking to you for awhile, Nellie,” Katria frowned in this mock sympathetic sort of way that made Willow snarl from behind me. “But, don’t worry. I’m sure he’ll find comfort elsewhere. He did last night with me, anyways.”
“You bitch,” Mia spat as I stood there frozen, breathing fast and shallow, unable to believe that this was actually fucking happening.
“Maybe,” Katria shrugged. “But karma is even more so of one.”
And with that, she strode past all of us and slipped out the door, letting it fall shut behind her slowly.
There was complete silence. No one in the room moved, not even Georgina Rivier, whose head was still her only body part visible out of her four poster bed.
I was in shock. James knew what happened. James knew what happened from Katria Stevens, the girl who tried to bully me into betraying my friends so that she could eventually date him.
And James thought what Cicely had thought - that I had kissed Kato willingly and of my own accord. He thought I cheated on him, and he was finding comfort in Katria. He thought I cheated.
“Nellie…” Mia said softly, after what felt like minutes but could have been an eternity.
“I have to talk to James.” I said numbly, and then I didn’t speak again until we were in Charms, having been too behind in getting ready to go to breakfast.
“Well, don't we all look cheerful today,” Flynn remarked cattily as he sat down in the row directly behind us near the back of the classroom.
“Hey, Nellie-O,” Milo said from next to Flynn, dropping his wand on his desk at a far enough height that it bounced slightly and rolled off of the surface. “Why did I just hear a rumour that James and Katria are dating?”
“Fuck,” I whispered, and I buried my head in my arms because I couldn’t take any of it. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”
I barely heard Milo ask what was wrong and Willow and Mia’s explanation. I just kept my head down like that, but as I did a persistent pain began to grow in the front of my skull as if to remind me that my day could absolutely get worse.
But of course the day did. Even though I skipped breakfast and lunch, sharp eyes and hateful whispers followed me at every turn, so much so that it was almost a relief to arrive to Double Potions, where Mia uncharacteristically did all of our work and managed to scrape out an E on a relatively difficult serum.
But my migraine never went away. It was one of the worst headaches I’d ever had, and I couldn’t tell if it was from fatigue or stress or what, but all I knew was that I needed to find James and explain. I felt physically sick as the anxiety from the entire situation seemed to sit in my throat and on my lungs and everywhere, and as students bustled around the corridors with the usual excitement and activity I suddenly felt so ill that I burst into the bathroom and leaned over the sink, trying to control my breathing.
“How could you do that to him?”
The voice spoke from behind me, and I glanced up in the mirror only to see Gryffindor Queen Marina Belliveau standing with her arms crossed, manicured nails digging into her forearms as if she were trying to control some anger.
“What?” I croaked.
“Cheat on James. How could you do such a thing?”
“I-I didn’t - where is he, I just need to explain-”
“He doesn’t want to talk to you,” said Marina, and the way she was looking at me it was like I was the absolute scum of the earth. “Not now or ever. So stay away.”
And then she was gone, and I slumped back over the sink again, my legs shaking underneath my weight.
I didn’t know what to do. Every thought in my mind seemed to be magnified by anxiety and despair and this goddamn migraine, and I had never been more unsure about what to do in my life.
It took me twenty minutes to compose myself enough to leave that lavatory, and it must’ve been pure chance that the moment I walked out I spotted a mess of dark hair just up ahead, and so before I could think about what I was doing I was running down the corridor until I was right beside him.
“James,” I said, low and urgently, but he just kept walking like I wasn’t even there.
“James,” I tried again. “James. Potter!”
“What?” he snapped finally, whipping around to face me, and his eyes were so dark and livid that I nearly lost all of my nerve.
“If you don’t come with me, I’ll make a scene, right here in the corridor,” I said, and it was such a déjà vu moment that we both sort of froze, remembering the similar instance a few months ago where the roles had been reversed. But his pause gave me all the leverage I needed to pull him into the nearest empty classroom and shut the door.
For a moment, neither of us said anything. He was a statue, standing as far away from me as possible while I leaned on the wall next to the door, my hands pressed behind my back. The pain in my head was somehow still increasing every second, and with it came a strange sensation of tingling up my spine.
“I need to explain what happened,” I said finally, and without warning James snapped to life.
“How about I do it for you?” he hissed, and his gaze was so venomous and unflinching that I winced. “Let’s see. I ask you to be my girlfriend, and then not a month later you hook up with Kato fucking Millican, the guy I’ve repeatedly told you is obsessed with you.”
“No, that’s not true-”
“Then what is? Did you kiss?”
James laughed but the sound never met the cold glint in his eyes. “I’m so stupid. I’ve spent all year, what, fooling myself into thinking that you’d actually care about me in some capacity, but clearly I was barking.“
I took a tiny step forward, desperate to be heard. “James, I do, please-"
“It’s funny - you’ve always said I’m the one who only gives a damn about myself, but you’ve finally proven even yourself wrong. Congratulations.”
“No! Kato kissed me but I told him to-”
“Fucking save it, Burke - what, was this some kind of ploy to get back at me about the idiotic Rose and Scorpius thing? Or are you so insecure that you’re still on about the Marina thing from months ago?”
“No,” I tried to say, but suddenly the tingling unease up my spine erupted into my skull, sending my senses spiraling wildly. It was so painful and disarming that I gasped and stumbled back, my back hitting the wall, and I tried to refocus on the situation in front of me but it became nearly impossible.
“So, what is it, then? Were you trying to fuck me over as much as possible? Because, really, you’ve done a smashing job of it.”
With every additional throb of my head the pain grew worse. Bright spots of light began to cloud my vision, spinning the world around me into a disconcerting vortex, and I suddenly knew that something was terribly wrong. “James, I don’t feel too well-”
“I couldn’t honestly give a fuck what you’re feeling right now! Your feelings are always good and fine and mine are always fucking selfish or unworthy, so fuck that, Burke. I’m so sick of it.”
“Really, my head…” I said weakly, leaning heavily against the wall to support myself.
But his harsh words were lost as a buzzing erupted in my skull more ferociously than ever, drowning out any other noises and stimuli that could’ve possibly reached me. It began to mount, approaching a peak of pain and confusion and unthinkable agony, and in a distant region of my brain I felt myself lose the ability to stand and slide down the wall onto the floor. Briefly, I registered James - he was coming closer to me, mouthing my name, rolling his eyes, but before I could respond the classroom disappeared.
Flashes of colour and light were whirling around me at dizzying speeds, and as I slowed my breathing they began to slow as well, forming themselves into bright images that took shape so quickly that as soon as I registered one image, a new one appeared.
A forehead with a drop of sweat on it. Sun. Grass, down below. Spectators...A Quidditch pitch?
A bludger flying. A blue player dodging it. And then another person dressed in yellow, falling.
I blinked, and I was back in the muted light of Hogwarts, looking up at high vaulted ceilings through eyes that were suddenly strained and painful, like I was hungover and staring directly at the sun.
“Cornelia, Cornelia,” someone was saying, and I slowly registered James Potter’s face hovering over me as if in a panic. “Can you hear me? Fuck, please just say something, please-”
“Yeah, yeah,” I think I said a little wildly as I took in my surroundings again, the harsh light stunning my gaze.
“Thank God,” James breathed, closing his eyes for a moment as if relieved.
Slowly, pieces of my environment came back to me. I was in the classroom, and I was on the floor with my head was resting in James's lap, and his hands were stroking my hair almost manically. “What happened?”
“You passed out,” James placed his hands on my forehead and cheek. They were warm, and I hadn’t noticed how cold I was until I felt the difference of temperature.
“What?” I said weakly. The Quidditch scene I had just witnessed was playing over and over again as dark and bright spots clouded my vision like I had literally just been staring at the sun, and it was completely disorienting.
“You were leaning against the wall and I was yelling at you and then you just dropped and you just weren’t waking up for at least a full minute-”
“I’m okay,” I said, trying to pushing up onto my elbows, but James held me closer to him, preventing me from moving any further.
“Don’t sit up yet,” he warned. “I’m not sure if it’ll make you-”
“I didn’t kiss Kato,” I said, before he could stop me. “We were cleaning up after Quidditch and suddenly he was near me and was telling me that the guys I was with always made me so upset and how they didn’t deserve me and then he kissed me but I stopped it right away and told him not to do it again, but Cicely was watching and she likes Kato so she told Katria and you know how Katria is, plus she’s got it out for me ever since I didn’t set her up with Albus so that she could get with you originally, so please believe me. Please.”
James exhaled. Finally, he looked up, the dimple in his chin more pronounced than ever. “Okay,” he said. “I believe you.”
“I believe you,” he said, more firmly this time. “I think I knew deep down you didn’t encourage it but, I don’t know. I got carried away. Green-eyed monster, and all.”
“You know Shakespeare invented that phrase,” I spouted before I could stop myself, and then grew serious again. “I’m sorry for not listening to you when you told me he fancied me.”
“I’m sorry for evidently treating you like enough shit that Millican notices,” James muttered, and then glanced up at me again, putting the back of his hand against my forehead as if to check for fever. “How do you feel now?”
“I feel completely fine,” I lied, but James shook his head, stroking the side of my cheek with his palm.
“What exactly happened?” he pressed. His eyes were a new kind of worried, and I knew he saw right through my act of normality.
“I really don’t know. I’ve had a migraine all day, and then suddenly there was this pricking up my spine, and then pain just erupted in my brain, and then I was-”
“You were what?”
“Nothing,” I said after a moment. “That was when I passed out.”
James’s brow furrowed tightly. “Have-have you been eating properly? When was your last meal?”
“Lunch yesterday,” I managed to say, but my thoughts were barely on what he was asking me.
“What? Why?” James demanded, immediately the sort of worried that made him seem almost angry.
“I didn’t mean to skip,” I said a bit defensively. “Quidditch went past dinner and I was dealing with the Kato thing, and then today I found out what Katria was saying to everyone and I felt so sick thinking about you believing I would do something like that, and then I heard that you and Katria were together and since she’d hinted at that this morning I-”
“You heard what?” James was alarmed. “She told me what happened, yeah, but that was it, I swear.”
Even though I had known deep down that Katria had been exaggerating the nature of their conversation, it was still a relief to hear that it was a lie out loud.
“This is such a mess,” I moaned. James had let me sit up fully now, and so we were side by side against the wall, heads sort of leaned into each other.
“Are you okay from Millican kissing you?” asked James, and then, as if he’d only really realised what Kato had done, his face grew stony and set. “God, I’m going to kill him-”
“Please don’t retaliate,” I implored. “I’m upset at him but I have to get over it for the sake of Quidditch. And he’s still my friend, even though all of this happened.. It's just...”
"A really shitty situation," James finished.
I nodded. "Yeah."
James looked at me a moment before sighing.
“I’m sorry for the things I said earlier,” James murmured. “Completely uncalled for."
“No, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, James.”
I felt like I was going to cry strangely, and the second my eyes welled up I turned away from him, taking a shaky breath and opening them wide so that any liquid could not escape. But James pulled me back into him, kissing the top of my head and then my forehead and then my nose, ending softly on my mouth. It was forgiveness and it was acknowledgement that there never had to be anything to forgive in the first place, and his comfort seemed to permeate into my skin and calm me down. I think we needed each other more than either of us wanted to admit, but maybe right now that was okay. Maybe we were right for one another, just a little bit.
“Let’s go eat, then, yeah?” James stood and then pulled me up gently with him, his hand resting on the small of my back.
I managed a small smile at him, which automatically grew larger when he grabbed my hand. “Yeah.”
It was late when I was finally able to find Mia, holed up in the corner of the Common Room and scribbling in Mermish like her life depended on it.
“Mia-” I tapped her shoulder, but she looked up at me, eyes harried and hair all over the place.
“Nellie, I have an entire essay worth thirty percent of my grade due tomorrow, so if this isn’t the most important thing to ever happen to you ever, then-”
“I just passed out and I saw things.” I interrupted her.
Mia immediately turned towards me, her quill falling limply out of her grasp. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, I got an awful headache and then this tingling up my spine, and then the next thing I knew I was passed out and...seeing things.”
“Like what?” she demanded, voice low and purposeful.
“A Quidditch game, from the looks of it. And someone falling off of their broom.”
“Ohmigod. I knew it. I knew it, and you have a Quidditch game this Saturday,” said Mia excitedly. “I wonder if-”
“I don’t know,” I said, before she could voice the one thing that both of us now knew to be absolutely and irrevocably true.
Mia appraised me slightly. “I think you know what you need to do,” she said finally. “Use Claude, okay?”
“Okay,” I told her, and she nodded once at me before turning back to her work, now lost in thought on a subject completely unrelated to Mermish culture.
Adam, I wrote.
What the hell is going on? I need to see you.
Twenty minutes later, Mia’s owl was back.
I’m coming to Hogwarts now. There’s a lot you need to know.
Author’s Note: Mia and Flynn, Nellie and Kato, James and Nellie…there was a lot thrown into this chapter, but it was so much fun to write! Did everyone expect any of this? Let me know what you think!
EDIT: The website isn't letting me respond to reviews right now (some glitch) but I will still be reading them as they come in!!
Up next...A story of curses, impossibilities, and secrets revealed.
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