Disclaimer: The characters are the property of the amazingly talented J.K Rowling. I'm only borrowing the characters and world that she has so brilliantly created.
Chapter 24: Amazing
Thanks for the advice. On a completely unrelated note, I'm going out with James Potter. I have strong reason to believe that Gareth and Richard have already written and told you, but I thought that perhaps you would want to hear about it from me. When I was younger, I was all wrong about James. But he was wrong about me in a lot of ways too, so I suppose that we're even. We haven't been together very long, and I didn't realize that I fancied him for a very long time, but it just kind of feels, I dunno…right. That sounds weird to say. I'm sharing far too much.
Tell Dad that I'm not letting having a boyfriend interfere with Quidditch. As much as it sometimes pains me to admit, James is just as dedicated as I am and wouldn't let me interfere with Quidditch either. Especially since I'll only ever play in one more match at Hogwarts, I need to be focusing my energy on making sure that Gryffindor wins and that the scouts are impressed. I'm sure he won't, but don't let Dad put in a good word for me with the Puddlemere scouts – I want to be selected on my own merit rather than Dad's legacy and influence.
I'll keep you informed about Quidditch. And maybe James. Also, I feel I should tell you that Richard fancies Lily Potter. Why don't you bother him about that or impart some wisdom or something.
"She's the luckiest witch ever," one girl lamented.
"I know," another girl commiserated. "He's so hot. I reckon he's amazing at snogging."
"He just seems like he'd be quite passionate, you know?"
"I'm so jealous."
"She is quite pretty, I suppose."
Well, this was incredibly awkward. I was standing behind the door of a stall in a loo on the seventh floor waiting to exit until the gaggle of girls standing at the sink discussing James's snogging abilities finally left.
The fact that James and I were dating didn't really come as a shocking newsflash to the students of Hogwarts considering the majority of the castle had already thought that we were dating. However, the subject of James and I was certainly still a popular topic of conversation as evidenced by the conversation I was currently overhearing. James's immediate family being who they were, news about any of the Potter or Weasley kids was always widely circulated and discussed.
"I have such a crush on him," one girl lamented. I felt my eyes widen and then narrow. Sorry? She was interested in my boyfriend?
"Sometimes, in lessons, I daydream about him walking up to me in the corridors and just pushing me against a wall and snogging me senseless."
The girls collectively burst into a loud fit of giggles.
All right, there was no way that I was going to stand here and continue to listen to this drivel. I was a Gryffindor for goodness sake, and I was going to leave this cubicle and not care a wit about what was being said about James or me.
Pushing open the cubicle door, I strode out and moved forward to wash my hands at one of the sinks. As the girls (fifth year Gryffindors, as it turned out) realized who I was, they stopped talking at once and their faces quickly drained of color. Pretending that nothing was in any way unusual, I dried my hands in complete silence. They watched me curiously out of the corners of their widened and cautious eyes.
Just before I walked out the door, I was struck by an idea. I turned around and said cheekily, "Just for the record…he is amazing."
As the door swung closed behind me, I could hear the girls break out into loud giggles and excited chatter. I didn't know what had come over me, saying that to them. Call it my bold Gryffindor spirit coming through.
"What are you looking so smug about?" James asked as I slid into the seat next to him in Arithmancy.
This comment only served to make my smirk grow. "Just heard something interesting in the loo, that's all."
"What is it with girls and the loo?" Fred wondered out loud.
Christopher shrugged. "Savitri tells me it's a place to chat and gossip while fixing hair. Sounds wonky to me. I mean… it's a toilet."
Fred and James both wrinkled their noses simultaneously.
"Who wants to chat and gossip while they're trying to pee?" Fred asked.
"Blokes don't hold conversations in the loo," James agreed.
"Well, I don't either," I said, feeling the need to defend myself as a non-loo gossiping girl. "I just overhear what's being said in there."
"Oh, yeah?" James tilted his head to the side. "So, what did you overhear?"
I felt my face grow a bit warm as the memory of a few minutes flashed through my mind. "Nothing that you need to know about."
But of course, considering that the girls in the loo were Gryffindors and considering the very nature of gossip, he did hear about it.
The next morning at breakfast, he slipped into the open seat next to me, leaned over, and whispered in my ear, "Just for the record…I think you're amazing too."
Down the table, I saw Gemma watching us with a sour expression on her face. She hadn't spoken to me for several days now. I wasn't terribly broken up about it.
Then James pecked me on the cheek, straightened up, and pulled his plate towards him as though nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. I think that the red color of my face gave the Weasley family hair a run for its money.
"I heard you and James Potter are officially together," Jonathan commented as we worked on our Herbology project of the day. Our class was in Greenhouse Three, where students had to have their wits about them. Having a serious conversation while also ensuring that flesh-eating pus didn't get onto my hands wasn't exactly what I had in mind.
"Er…yes," I answered. "We are." It was distinctly awkward to be talking my ex-boyfriend about my new boyfriend. Did this sort of thing actually happen in real life?
"You don't have to feel awkward about it," he assured me as he worked, his gardening gloves were exceptionally dirty, probably because he was doing most of the work. "I knew it was coming."
Oh, bugger. I knew Jonathan hadn't meant to make me feel guilty; he was too nice for that. But I felt guilty all the same.
"Look," I told him. "I'm really sorry for how things ended between us. You're a great bloke, you really are. You didn't deserve me leading you on, even if I didn't mean to."
It was entirely true. I shouldn't have been so oblivious. Jonathan should never have had to be the one to break up with me. I should have ended things between us long before then. I had unnecessarily hurt him, and that bothered me.
He shrugged at this. "Eva…it's all right. We're better off having gone our separate ways. After you came to dinner at my house over the holiday, I started thinking and I realized that once we left Hogwarts, we weren't going to have anything in common. Now I don't have to feel badly anymore that I don't know what a wronky fit is."
"Sorry?" I asked. "A what?"
His face colored faintly as he carefully plucked a few leaves from our plant. I had forgotten how easily he blushed. "It's some Quidditch thing that involves one of the players doing something on their broom."
Oh, well, that narrowed it down. Sweet, Merlin.
He thought for a moment, then said, "You know…I couldn't care less what it is. And it's okay that you know that."
Yeah, it was okay that he didn't know. He didn't remotely care about Quidditch at all and that was fine for him. Just not for me. A wronky fit…honestly…
Jonathan seemed quite taken aback as I began laughing hysterically. "What's so funny?"
"The idea… of James doing a –a wronky fit," I told him through peals of laughter. "It's a Wronski Feint – and he's particularly good at them."
"Miss Wood, if you don't pay attention to your plant you're going to end up in the Hospital Wing having Madam Pomfrey regrow the skin on your arm," Professor Longbottom admonished me as he walked among the students and checking on our progress.
I quickly stopped laughing and focused my attention on the sickly green colored plant resting in its pot in front of me. Bloody plant.
"Excellent work, Mr. Grant," he added to Jonathan just before he moved on to Christopher and Savitri's plant.
I had never considered it before, but didn't Christopher find it awkward that he was paired with his girlfriend in the class taught by his father? Glancing over at the pair next to me, I saw that Savitri looked a bit nervous, although Christopher seemed completely at ease.
"I'm glad that you know what you're doing," I told Jonathan sincerely. "I don't fancy a trip to the Hospital Wing."
"I would have thought you were used to the Hospital wing, what with all of the injuries you've had."
I shrugged. "Doesn't mean I like the place. Madam Pomfrey is always waffling on about the dangers of Quidditch as though I don't already know about them."
"She's just concerned."
And that right there was why Jonathan and I would never have worked out despite our differing views on Quidditch. He was just too nice for me. He was always so concerned with what was proper or safe. It was bloody annoying.
I rolled my eyes towards the ceiling. "She can mend bones in a heartbeat. I know from personal experience."
He seemed confused by this. "Don't you ever become tired of injuring yourself?"
"Well, it's not as though I do it on purpose. Exactly."
All right, I suppose that sometimes I invited it – like when I practiced ducking and rolling by jumping out of the tree, or when I practiced learning how not to fall off of my broom. But those were controlled circumstances and the entire goal was to learn how not to injure myself.
Jonathan shook his head wearily. "I worry about you."
I wasn't certain if he meant my physical or mental well-being. It could very well have been either.
"You really shouldn't," I said firmly. I could take care of myself, thank you very much.
"I know, that's James's job now."
Indignation sharply flared up within me. "Sorry? Do you know what year it is? It's no one's job to worry about me. Except my parents because that's just what parents do," I added as an afterthought.
"I didn't…" Jonathan began, but then stopped. "I just meant that he's naturally going to worry about you playing Quidditch because you're his girlfriend and he cares about you."
"No, he won't," I scoffed, but Jonathan didn't appear to be taking the mickey. "James knows I can take care of myself during a match. He's seen me do it for years."
"He'll worry," Jonathan told me lightly. "And you'll worry about him too."
"Psh," I waved my hand dismissively.
Why would I worry about James playing Quidditch? I mean, of course, professional matches were faster paced and could be more violent and there was always Bludgers to contend with. But other than that, there was really nothing to be worried about.
"Someday in the future you'll be admitting how wrong you were," he joked.
I smiled back at him. "That's never going to happen."
Jonathan had been right. We didn't make a good couple – in fact, we had made a rather awful couple - but we made decent friends. As long as we had schoolwork to chat about.
"You're early again."
I looked up to see James staring at me with nothing less than complete and utter shock etched across his face. I may or may not have purposefully woken up extra early solely for the purpose of beating him to the pitch before practice.
"I like seeing the look on your face when you see I'm already here," I told him with a smirk.
"Cheeky – turning my own words on me." He looked at me as I sat on the floor performing a hamstring stretch. "I've always wondered - doesn't that hurt to touch your forehead to your knee like that?"
"No," I shook my head, as I sat up and began stretching the other leg. "I didn't start out being able to do it, I had to work at it. Keeping limber helps me on the pitch."
He did some stretching of his own and I finished up my regime as we chatted about Quidditch.
"I've been thinking," I told James, "we need to combine all of our resources. We need an ace strategy to defeat Ravenclaw by enough to win the Cup."
"Between our playbooks we should be able to come up with something," he said thoughtfully. "Mine is practically perfection and then there's yours."
I threw one of my arm guards at him. He grabbed it as it sailed through the air in a straight line towards him.
"Maybe I'll just hold on to this if you're going to be violent."
I grinned. "I have punched someone in the face, you know."
He tossed the armguard back to me.
I laughed as I caught it easily and placed the armguard back in my locker. "You know I'd never punch you in the face."
"I know. You wouldn't want to injure me in any way that might impair my amazing, passionate snogging skills," James smirked, brown eyes gleaming.
Against my will, I felt my cheeks flush with warmth.
He quirked his head to the side. "Are you still embarrassed about that?"
Er…why wouldn't I be? For the next few days afterwards, it seemed that the girls of Hogwarts had talked of little else. I couldn't go anywhere without hearing about what I had said in my momentary lapse of judgment.
"I regret ever saying that."
Even though it was true. Very, very true. But everyone else didn't need to know that. That was between the two of us. No one else (especially other girls) needed to know about us snogging.
"I'm glad you did," James told me, suddenly serious.
It was my turn to be confused. He was glad that I had told a bunch of gossipy fifth girls in the loo that he was good at snogging? Perhaps it was just another strange bloke thing I didn't understand. It wouldn't be the first time. Or the last if the past was any indication.
"It's nice to be reminded that my feelings aren't one sided anymore." His earns turned a bright pink at the admission.
I quickly crossed the expanse of floor between us and threw my arms around him. I didn't know what it was about James Potter, but I felt so incredibly free around him. What I had written my mum had been true – it felt natural being in a relationship with James. How had I denied it for so long?
He captured my lips with his own and a delicious warmth spread through me. I really hadn't been lying when I said that he was amazing. I hummed in contentment as he pulled away and pressed a hot kiss to my neck, just below my right ear. Running my hand over his shoulder, I remembered that underneath the fabric of his t-shirt was a tattoo of a Golden Snitch. The thought made me a bit lightheaded.
"Hullo," Zara said as she walked in to the locker rooms. Apparently the sight of James and me wrapped around each other didn't even faze her. I wasn't sure how I should feel about that.
"Er, hi," I greeted her, removing my arms from around James. He reluctantly let his arms drop from my waist and shot Zara a look that clearly said he was greatly annoyed by the interruption.
I was too, for that matter. Zara had absolutely terrible timing.
"You two are adorable. Just thought I'd let you know," Zara told us as she walked by on her way to her locker.
"Where's Bree?" I asked her, looking around for Zara's best mate that was usually not far away.
Zara shrugged. "With Nico, I expect."
It hadn't occurred to me before, but if Nico and Bree actually began going out, we would have two couples on our team. And then if Lily or Richard ever worked up the courage to ask the other to Hogsmeade, we'd have three couples. Holy hippogriffs! That could be problematic. I didn't want anyone (myself included) to be bringing their relationship – good or bad - onto the pitch. Time on the pitch was time in which the Gryffindor team was supposed to be focused on training, learning new plays, and improving our skills.
I decided then and there that the issue needed to be taken care of immediately. There was a time and place for relationships, but Gryffindor team practice wasn't one of them and everyone needed to be aware of that.
"All right, all right," I told everyone as they arrived and settled down on the benches in front of me. "First order of business - I just want to remind everyone that now that…well, we have people on the team dating each other, and I want to make certain that we all remember that on the pitch, Quidditch comes first. I don't want relationship arguments or snogging or something to get in the way of us winning the Cup. Er, understood?"
Yikes, that was one awkward speech to give. I never wanted to have to make an announcement like that to my team again. I hoped that I wasn't blushing. I raised a hand to feel my face on the pretense of pushing back an errant strand of hair. My face was cool to the touch – what a relief!
"That goes for you too?" Nico asked me slyly.
"Yes. It does," I answered shortly. I looked at James as I said it, and he nodded firmly, agreeing with me. Of course he understood - we both wanted to beat Ravenclaw and win the Cup more than anything.
"Second order of business - next practice is a strategy meeting. Come prepared with any insight into the Ravenclaw team that you've noticed from their previous games this year. Finally, go stretch because we're going to run around the Great Lake."
There were a few moans of protest from everyone but James, who looked pleased by the news. Running meant trying to lap me. It didn't happen often, but when it did he took particular glee in my downfall. I wasn't delusional enough to think that just because we were going out meant that everything between us would change. I didn't want it to anyway. We challenged each other to be better Quidditch players.
As we all shuffled out of the locker rooms, James pulled me aside and kissed me. I stood there, my mind suddenly floating somewhere a million miles away, enjoying the feel of his warm mouth against mine. Then his lips curved into a smile as he pulled away abruptly and took off running in the direction of the lake.
I stared after him for a moment before my mind was able to process what had just happened. Oh, holy hippogriffs!
"You dirty cheat!" I yelled after him as I broke into a run. "You… you rule breaker!"
I mean, honestly! I had just given the team an incredibly awkward speech about relationships between team members and not letting those relationships affect the teams' performance, and this was how he reacted. Leave it James Potter to mess with my mind. I knew that he had understood what I had been trying to say, but he just couldn't help himself when it came to finding ways to get under my skin.
He looked over his shoulder at me as he ran. Even from a distance I could tell that he was smirking. It was probably his I want to row with you smirk too. The knowledge made my stomach turn over, though whether it was from annoyance or butterflies it was difficult to say.
He and I both kept up a steady pace as we ran. It didn't take us long to overtake everyone else on the team. They jogged at practice, but James and I had loads more endurance because we not only ran at practice, but ran most mornings in our free time. Somewhere after the halfway mark I caught up with him and we ran neck and neck, the beech tree that marked our stopping point looming up ahead in the distance.
He shot me a look that I interpreted to mean Just because you're my girlfriend doesn't mean I'm going to let you win.
I returned his challenging look with one of my own. There was no way that I was going to let him win. We had always competed like this and I didn't intend to stop now. This was who we were.
My lungs screamed for air as I pumped my arms and stretched my legs as we both ran full out. We were drawing closer and closer to the beech tree. Somewhere behind us, I could hear our teammates cheering us on.
"Go Eva!" Richard called out.
"C'mon, James! Don't go down like the Canons!" That was from Nico.
"Beat him, Eva!" Zara yelled. "Girl power!"
The hard earth pushed back against the bottoms of my trainers as my feet pounded against the ground. I willed myself to run just a tiny bit faster. I pulled ahead for a moment, but then James put on a burst of speed as well and then we were even again.
James and I passed the beech tree in a dead sprint. We both slowed to a walk, gasping for air. I held my arms up and clasped my hands behind my head, taking deep breaths in and out, making certain that I was taking in as much air as I let out.
"I…win," I told him.
"Did…not," he panted, looking at me, brown eyes bright.
"You…cheated…" I replied. "That was…a dirty trick."
His mouth curved into a smirk. "I play to win."
I felt as though I finally had my breath back. Sweet Merlin that had been some run.
"That's not very Gryffindor of you." I crossed my arms in front of me. "Aren't we supposed to be chivalrous and noble and such?"
He leaned close and pecked me on the cheek. "Doesn't mean I can't be cheeky and mischievous."
"What was that about not mixing Quidditch and relationships?" Nico yelled from across the lake.
I looked behind us to see that everyone else had stopped jogging to watch our race. Prats. What did they think this was, a show?
Er…well, it rather had been, hadn't it?
"Full sprint to the end!" I bellowed to my team in my best Quidditch captain voice. "Now!"
"You're mad," Zara wheezed as everyone stood around attempting to catch their breath after their forced sprint to the tree. "This had better win us the Cup."
I grinned widely. "That's the plan."
That weekend, Christine, Kieran, and I were in the library studying for our upcoming Charms exam when suddenly James approached our table. We were hidden away, nearly at the back, so it was quite the miracle that he had found us at all.
I thought that he had come to join us, but instead he said, "Eva, I need to talk to you."
He seemed very solemn and insistent, so I excused myself and let James lead me out of the library. Christine and Kieran could obviously tell that something was amiss because they didn't even nudge me or send me a wink as I left with James.
"It's about Tristan," James told me, taking an envelope from the rucksack that was slung over his shoulder in a carefree manner.
My heart clenched painfully at the mention of Tristan. I thought about him on a daily basis – how could I not? He was my older brother and of course I loved him even though he had acted like a massive git. Even after everything that had happened between us over Christmas holiday, he was still family.
"Why?" I asked. Should I have been worried? "Has something happened?"
"He's not hurt," was all James would say. He held the letter out to me. "Since she's the Quidditch editor, Mum was at the Tornados' match today. She didn't want you to find out from the Prophet tomorrow morning. Richard and Gareth will want to know too."
I snatched the letter from his hand and quickly unfolded it.
I want you to pass along some news to Eva. I was reporting on the Tornado's match this afternoon – it was a rather publicized affair because it was Tristan Wood's first match as the main team Keeper for Tutshill.
I know that you said that Eva was upset with Tristan, but I know that she would rather hear about the outcome of the match from you or me than to read about it the Daily Prophet tomorrow morning. The match didn't go well at all. Tristan played extremely poorly. He seemed incredibly nervous and out of synch with his team members. Anyone can see that he's not ready to play in a professional match yet. He's too inexperienced and hasn't been given enough time to train with his team.
I'll let you know of anything else I hear that Eva should be aware of.
P.S. Al tells me that you and Eva are finally going out. About time!
I internally smiled at the postscript, but my mind was truly on Tristan. I thought of what he had said to me that December day at his flat, "Before I wasn't able to play, but now I can. I did this because I want to play."
He had wanted the chance to play, to show everyone in the magical world just how talented and wonderful he was. He had wanted the chance and now he had had it. And he had failed.
I felt torn between being feeling sorry for Tristan and feeling vindicated. He hadn't been ready to play on a main team just yet. Dad had known that. I had told him that his choice was a mistake and that he was being rash wanting things for which he hadn't worked. I had been right, but I was almost sorry that I was. I could only imagine how Tristan must feel, having played so poorly in his first professional match. But at the same time, he needed to be knocked down off of his high horse and stop thinking that the world should reward him for his own poor decisions.
"Are you going to write to him?" James asked me, his voice a bit strange sounding.
I folded the letter and handed it back to him. He stowed in his rucksack.
"Would you, if it was Lily?"
"No," James answered truthfully. "I wouldn't be able to. Not right away at least."
"Neither can I."
He reached out and put his arms around me, holding me close as I put my own arms around him. I rested my head against his shoulder, feeling his steady heartbeat. His body was warm next to my own, which suddenly seemed quite cold. It was comfortable, and I felt protected there in James's arms.
"Thanks," I told him, my voice a bit muffled against his robes.
"You would have done the same."
I pulled away from him, but took his hand firmly in my own. "I should get back to Christine and Kieran. They'll be worried about me. You could join us, you know. We're studying for the Charms exam."
James shrugged, and said, "All right. I could use some practice before the exam."
Right before we re-entered the library, he tugged gently on my hand, forcing me closer to him. He pressed a soft, lingering kiss to my lips that made me feel warm down to my toes.
"Thanks," I told him again.
He raised an eyebrow quizzically. "For the kiss?" His mouth twitched as he smirked. "It was rather amazing, wasn't it?"
I laughed and poked him in the shoulder. He was never going to let me live down my comment to those fifth year girls. "No, you plank. Thanks for…just being you."
James regarded me steadily with his brown eyes. "Anytime."
I smiled to myself as we walked into the library hand in hand. My older brother may have been a source of worry and frustration, but I didn't have to deal with this alone. I had Richard, Gareth, Mum, Dad, and Christine. And I had James, who was amazing for a variety of reasons, the least important of which was snogging.
Perhaps I should keep him around.
Thank you for all of the lovely reviews, favorites, and story alerts! I appreciate everyone who reads my story and everyone who has let me know how much they enjoy it! And thanks to my fantastic best friend for her editing skills.
Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Favorite quotes? I'd love to hear what you thought!
A/N: I started a formspring page so that people without an account here can ask questions about Game On (characters, plot, whatever) and future stories and such. It's just meant to be fun, and I'll still definitely communicate by private message. See my profile for my username.
Next chapter: James has a birthday, Slytherin plays Hufflepuff, an important secret is revealed, and James and Eva have an argument.