My mother told me many things as a child: "Don't touch this Spencer," "Don't do that Spencer," "Don't put that in your mouth, Spencer," – the list went on and on. And it worked. I didn't touch anything without being previously permitted to do so; I didn't do anything without looking to her for permission; and I didn't eat anything that wasn't served to me for a meal. Because believe it or not, I wasn't always like this. I was actually an extremely well behaved, quiet kid, conditioned into tranquility and obedience until the age of seven when I finally mustered the nerve to defy my mother and taste Play-Doh for the first time. And that was it for me; I was a goner – a very wild, spastic goner. I mean, if you really think about it, Play-Doh ruined my life. I could have been normal. I could have been a Non Word Vomit Extraordinaire.
I call it bad genetics but my Grandmum likes to claim this major turning point in my life to be a result of my parents' divorce, and thus being completely my mother's fault. Since, you know, she was the one that filed the divorce in the first place. But then again, it's not like my mania wasn't entirely inevitable. I mean, have you met my parents?
But anywho, law, basic etiquette, rules, social conduct – I was taught all of those things. And then that year, when I was seven, I swiftly forgot it all in an average of 11.94 seconds with one taste of a non-toxic modeling compound. But sometimes, sometimes, these rules will randomly come back to me – usually, that is, when I'm breaking one of them. Which is most of the time – so not that randomly at all, actually.
For example, I was doing it right now, right in the middle of this dingy, no-name coffee shop. And I was in too much awe to even care.
You see, my mum always told me that it was rude to point.
And I suppose then that in that very moment I was, like, rude to the max because that was literally all that I could do.
With a wild look in my eye, I pointed my index finger accusingly at James, my mouth opening and closing as I spluttered complete and utter nonsense. I just couldn't believe it.
Wizard, he'd said. My boyfriend was a wizard. Wizard wizard wizard wizard wizard wizard wizard. I couldn't get it out of my head. And it was driving me positively mad.
And James. He was staring at me, eyes just as wide as my own and his lips slightly parted. Then he swallowed hard, as if there was something in his throat, but remained otherwise silent, his breathing a bit on the heavy side.
I wanted him to say something; I wanted to say something. But nothing seemed to come out – I knew I had to though. His eyes…they were practically pleading me to speak.
"James," I finally gasped out, half out of my seat and still pointing. "James, I – " I cut myself off, unsure of where I was even going with that statement. I tried again, "You," – My eyes widened further if that was even possible – "You – you…you."
I shut my mouth. For the first time in my entire career as a Word Vomit Extraordinaire, I, Spencer Olive Lockwood, could not speak. I just couldn't. Plain and simple. It was almost as if I was in shock – catatonic or something. So I continued doing the only thing that I seemed remotely capable of at the moment: pointing. Rudely and unabashedly, I might add.
If only my mum could see me now.
The following moment was unbearably quiet despite the low murmurings of chitchat from the other occupants of the shop and the hum of music from the speakerphones on the ceiling. I was debating whether or not I should take another stab at, you know, actually speaking. Cuz, you know, normally I'm so good at that and all. Except, I didn't really get that far because before I could open my mouth, James was grabbing me by the hand and pulling me to my feet.
I was still too dazed to even ask where we were going as he pulled me along, but it didn't seem like he really knew either; we initially started towards the door but then he stopped and changed course when he saw that a bunch of baked hipsters were blocking the exit.
Before I knew it, he was dragging me into the loo.
Yes. I know. The loo.
It was then as James was hastily locking the door that my vocal chords decided to finally work. "James!" I objected, utterly scandalized as my cheeks bloomed a rather embarrassing shade of red. He stooped down to my eye level, running a hand through his hair, but I avoided his gaze, my face getting redder and redder by the second. "W-we can't be in the loo together!"
"Look at me, Spencer, just look at me, will you? Listen, I –"
But once I had opened my mouth, I couldn't seem to close it.
"Are you bleeding mad, dragging me in here?" My eyes were wide, scanning the chipped and grimed tiles of the restroom that seemed to shrink as the seconds passed, my breathing borderline hysterical as the fear of small spaces that I didn't have washed over me.
I mean, James and I were in there. Together. And otherwise alone. In the loo. Together. Very, very alone and very, very together. Like, just think of the implications.
James rolled his eyes. "It's just the loo. Now c'mon, would you calm down and listen, I –"
"I mean, there were loads of people out there."
James grabbed ahold of my shoulders. "Spencer, listen to me –"
It didn't hurt or anything but his touch made me all tingly and all the more nervous and panicky, more aware of the fact that we were both, you know, alone and together in the loo. And of what couples that fancy each other something crazy usually do when they're alone and together in the loo. And just the mere thought of that made me blush. "And – and – and what if one of 'em old harpies knows my mum and says something to her –?"
"Spencer!" He clamped a hand over my mouth, his other hand still clasping my upper arm. "Would you forget about all that? Look at me. Please."
My gaze reluctantly left the off-white porcelain of the sink to look into James' intense brown eyes. I swallowed hard. Slowly, he removed his hand from my face and took a step back so that there was at least half a meter of space between us.
"Well?" he demanded. He reminded me a bit of an oversized little kid as he stood there waiting for me to say something, his hands shoved deep into his pockets and his posture less than perfect.
I cleared my throat. "Well what?"
"Well, what do you think?"
I stared at him motionless for a moment. I couldn't stall anymore. While I was legitimately self-conscious about our currently location, I knew it shouldn't have been the first thing on my mind. And now that it wasn't anymore, my thoughts were racing again – as they had been before we left our table. I felt almost lightheaded, as if the room were spinning. "You – you're a – a – you're a –" I stopped, almost unsure. I mean, what if I had heard him wrong? Misunderstood? This had to be a mistake – or at least a joke. I mean, seriously.
James nodded at me encouragingly. "I'm a –?" he prompted.
I took a deep breath. There was only one way to find out, I guess. "A w-wizard."
He nodded slowly. "Yeah."
"As in a person who can do…who can do magic."
"Yeah." He paused and then added, "Loads of it, actually."
If it weren't so unsanitary, I probably would have keeled over right there on the loo floor. I mean, were we really talking about this? I knew that James was a "Non-Muggle" or whatever after all the conversations we'd had; I mean, I had theorized over what that could mean for hours, coming up with the most absurd ideas. But to actually know? Well, it all just seemed so far out, so ridiculous. It just wasn't possible. All my life I had heard stories about this sort of thing from my dad, watched fantasy and science fiction shows on the telly with him, but that was all make believe. I knew that. I had watched my dad waste his whole life on the private hope that it was all within his reach, more than a far away dream.
But I knew better than that.
Biting my lip, I shook my head. "There's no such thing," I whispered.
James didn't actually speak, but his eyes said it all, 'I think you and I both know that isn't true.'
I tried to swallow but found that I couldn't; my tongue kind of felt like it was too big for my mouth. "So you've got a wand and everything?" It wasn't exactly a question.
He allowed himself a small smile. "Yeah. Yeah, I do."
I couldn't help it, I laughed. Throwing my hands up in the air, I let out the laugh of a mad woman who had finally escaped her confinements. "This is insane! You – you can't be a – a...that! This can't be real…"
James took a step forward, completely eliminated the space between us. He placed two hesitant hands on my waist. That felt nice. My own hands had somehow found his chest and decided to rest there for the time being. Which, you know, felt nice too. "It is. I know it sounds mad, but it is. I swear." He had leaned in so that his forehead was touching mine; butterflies had taken residence in my stomach from all the closeness that still felt very, very nice. "Are you alright with that?"
I murmured something that slightly resembled a yes and soon his eyes were closing and my eyes were closing and I could feel that his lips were getting closer and closer to mine –
Snapping out of it, I pushed him away.
And proceeded to kick him in the shins.
"Oi!" James jumped in surprise, holding me back at an arm's length so I couldn't kick him again. "What was that for?"
"You're such a liar, you know that?" I fumed, trying in vain to break free from my restraints. It was bizarre, even for me, this sudden shift in mood, but I was too furious to even care. I mean, how could he?
James looked at me as if I had three heads. "What? What are you on about?"
"A warlock!" I spat, finally ceasing all of my squirming and accepting defeat. "I asked you weeks ago if you were a warlock and you said no you prat!"
James stood there frozen for a moment with his jaw dropped before he spluttered, "I can honestly say that never in my life have I ever been called a bleeding warlock!"
Unbelievable. Scoffing, I cried out, "Oh so I get lied to because of a technicality? I guessed right and you know it!"
He rolled his eyes, which only seemed to infuriate me further. "Oh hush up, you know what I am now. Isn't that enough?"
"No, actually it isn't you arse – mmm."
My insult got lost in his lips. And I wasn't exactly complaining. Ever since the whole incident with Robyn, I was in a bit of a rut and hadn't really allowed myself to completely lose myself in James' kisses. But this was different. And I mean, we were in the loo of all places. But as his lips moved against mine, I couldn't possibly care less.
His teeth lightly scraped against my bottom lip, fingers danced along my cheek, tangled themselves in my hair; I tugged at the fabric of his shirt along the neckline, ran my fingers along the contours of his chest. Our breathing was equally heavy and there was an urgency to the kiss that had never been there before. I was soon backed into the door. And it was almost as if it had knocked some sense into me.
"Wait. Stop. Something's not right."
James pulled away, eyes furrowed and his hands still in my hair and resting on my shoulder blade. "What? What do you mean?"
I shook my head; I couldn't believe that I hadn't picked up on it before and yet it seemed so obvious now. "You're too calm; you're not panicking."
"What –? Why should I be panicking?"
"No, I know you. This isn't right. You'd be – you should be ripping your hair out, racing around, mumbling to yourself like a mad man. I mean, you just told me what a Non-Muggle is and you seem so okay with it…" I trailed off as it suddenly dawned on me. "Oh my God. Oh my – you – you told me on purpose…didn't you?"
The thought sounded even more absurd out loud than it did in my head, but I knew it had to be true – there was no other explanation. James looked absolutely appalled, his jaw dropped and eyes wide.
I had caught him.
But as soon as the shock was there, it was gone, leaving his expression nothing short of composed. He stood up taller, almost as if challenging me. "Yeah? So what if I did?"
My hands shot up to cover my mouth and I gasped, complete shock washing over me. I mean, I know I had just accused him and all of telling me on purpose – but to actually be right? It was a bit unsettling and unexpected, to be honest. I mean, after all he had done to cover his tracks, to keep his little secret from me, he had just thrown that all away and told me on purpose? More than a bit surprising if you asked me. "W-what? But why?"
To my complete and utter dismay, James' face turned a light shade of pink. I couldn't possibly imagine why he would suddenly be so uncomfortable around me, but it was a good change of pace, I thought. I couldn't always be the awkward, embarrassed one in this relationship.
That would be just plain cruel.
And I mean, I probably wouldn't have a boyfriend for very long if that were the case. I'd imagine that my little word vomit problem and tendency to humiliated myself would lose its already scathingly low level of Cute Factor in a few weeks time and thus be Not Cute and rather obnoxious instead.
With a sigh, James ran a hand through his hair, and when he spoke, his words were more addressed to his trainers than to me. "My, uh, my mum said that if you knew what we are in time for my dad's birthday party, you could come. You know, i-if you want to, that – that is."
Whatever I had thought he was going to say, it certainly was not that.
I was pretty sure that my heart had stopped beating all together. I swallowed hard, my throat feeling suddenly dry and itchy. I mean, I wasn't entirely sure how to even respond to that. James' dad…he was some sort of, like – what was it? – savior of his world, or something like that? Didn't James ramble on about something like that before he dragged me in here? So, like, a party for his dad – Holy Mr. Big Shot Savior Potter – would have loads of people at it, I'd imagine. And I mean loads, and loads, and loads, of people. That would be a lot of people to potentially embarrass myself in front of – too many, in fact. My cut off is at "loads" and unfortunately "loads, and loads, and loads" would be far too many loads for my taste. Just thinking about it, imagining all of the loads, made me want to throw up – and I mean actual vomit, not just of the word variety.
And that would not be a very pretty sight.
Especially in the loo. With my boyfriend. My boyfriend who I fancied very much and would rather that he wasn't covered in my puke. And covered in my puke…in the loo.
Why exactly were we in here again? Was there a specific reason why we couldn't politely ask the stoned hipsters to remove themselves from the path of the exit? Because I'm fairly certain that would have only taken us a few extra seconds. And we wouldn't currently be taking residence in this dodgy loo with only a few centimeters of space between us while discussing things that made me incredibly nervous and hazardous in the non-word vomit department. Things like his apparent wizardness and the prospect of being in the presence of the people that raised him along with their loads, and loads, and loads of guests.
And like, wow, did it suddenly get really hot in here or what?
I couldn't meet his eyes. I didn't know why, but I felt like he probably could smell my fear as it was so the mere act of eye contact would only make it worse. So I followed his fine example by staring at my own shoes. And unfortunately, I was not blessed with the universe's sympathy that allowed me to blush only a light pink. No, unlike James Potter, the universe did not particularly like me at all, and this was confirmed by the heat that was radiating off of my face. So, yeah, knowing my luck, I was probably the color of a tomato.
Oh, well, how lovely. I'm sure every bloke dreams of dating a fucking tomato.
But, again, I didn't know what to say. So I blurted out the first thing that came to mind; I mean, it's not like I haven't done that before. The results tended to be on a scale of Slightly Disastrous to Full-Blown Disaster and I don't know, I guess I was feeling like the odds were in my favor.
"You, um, want me to meet your family?" I finally exclaimed a bit too loudly.
…It seemed that the odds were in fact not. In my favor, that is.
I mean, it could have been worse – really, it could have. But the way that it was phrased and the way I kind of screamed it in his face made it seem like I didn't want to meet his family – which I totally didn't, but it wasn't because I didn't think his parents were quality people or something. I, like, totally did – think that they were quality people, that is. I mean, if these were the individuals that created James, then, well, they were most definitely the bee's knees. But, like, here's the problem: I wasn't. I was so not the bee's knees. I was, like, the polar opposite of the bee's knees. In fact, I was the back of the bee's knees. You know what I'm talking about. That part of the body that no one in the history of ever has had any idea what they're called. That one. Like it's so un-bee's kneesy that no even bothered to name it. Or even worse, I was the funny bone – because everyone knows that when you hit your funny bone, it is so not funny despite its very misleading and very fun sounding name.
And that was me. I sure as hell sounded fun. But I was not. I was just a mess. A mess that no one would ever be daft enough to let near their son.
James seemed to deflate at the sound of my words. Which made me sad. Because I liked it much better when he smiled. And when I was the cause of that smile. "Well, I mean, you already know Freddy and you sort of met my parents and my brother and sister on the platform, but, er, yeah. I want you to meet them."
He gave me a smile that looked like it was an even mix between nervous and hopeful. I don't think what I said next made him feel any less anxious.
"That – that's a horrible idea!"
"I kn – wait, what?"
I threw my hands into the air in exasperation. "I'll totally muck it up – I just know it! And don't give me that look, you know it too!" I pouted, letting out a groan. "You're laughing at me."
And he totally was. Resting his chin on the crown of my head, he snickered like the arsehole that he was – especially since I could practically feel the chin-on-head action making my hair frizz. Which, in addition to the laughter, was not appreciated.
I poked him in the chest. "Um, excuse me, a bit of sympathy here? I'm about to make the fuck up of the century and you're laughing at me and messing up my hair simultaneously."
"So that means you'll come?"
"I – well…yeah."
James hummed in appreciation, the sound of which vibrated through my entire being, and then planted a kiss on the top of my head, causing me to feel very, very tingly and very, very warm. "Thank you."
Sighing, I leaned forward to rest my forehead against his chest. "I'm not sure if you'll be thanking me when I throw up all over your dad's birthday cake. Or accidently sit on your cat and crush his little kitty skull – oh gosh, do you even have a cat? I have a cat. Have I mentioned that? His name is Chester and he didn't really appreciate it the last time I sat on him but I didn't mean to, he blends in with the couch so there was literally nothing I could have done about it."
"I don't have a cat."
"Well then, I guess that's one less thing to worry about."
We were still for a moment and it was nice. We were just leaning on one another and lost in our own thoughts. It suddenly occurred to me that someone could be standing outside the door at that very moment in despite need to use the loo. And yet here we were, occupying the loo but not exactly using it for its intended purposes. I was about to voice this, when suddenly James spoke up.
"If you didn't tell Robyn that I told you all this, it would be much appreciated, by the way."
"Mmm, told me what?"
James pulled back so that he could look at me directly; his eyebrow raised a little bit too judgingly for my taste. "Seriously? In the midst of all the 'meeting the family' and 'sitting on cats' crises, you forgot every bloody thing I told you? Have you gone mad?"
I think what I liked most about that sentence was the fact that he had acted as if I was ever sane to begin with.
But I stared at him for a few seconds, trying to remember what had been said. I mean, there had been a snog somewhere in all of this, and then –
"Oh!" My hands flew up to my face to cover my mouth as the memory and the shock came over me once again. And shit, it was overwhelming. "Oh my God, you're a – a wizard, fuck, like a real fucking wizard, and holy shit that means your family is comprised of a bunch of wizards so, like, this party is going to be filled with loads of them. And they're, like, people who can do magic and they can Abracadabra the shit out of me if I do something wrong, and I, uh, you can't make me go, you – you can't do that to me."
I stood there wide-eyed just shaking my head. This was too much, like, way too much. I mean it was cool and all that James was a wizard – I didn't have a problem with that – but he just couldn't drop something like this on me and then expect me to go to a party where I was supposed to act like everything was all hunky dory. Like this was all normal. Because it wasn't, it absolutely wasn't.
James looked torn between laughing and asking if I needed to have my head checked. He opened his mouth as if he were going to say something when I suddenly gasped. I shook my head. "Robyn goes to school with you. And you go to a school for wizards. So that means she's a…and she never told me…" I trailed off, suddenly feeling small – very, very small. And incredibly foolish. Like I wasn't good enough or something; like she didn't think I wasn't worthy enough to know her secret.
James rested a hand on my shoulder, rubbing comforting circles on my collarbone. My eyes followed his blazing touch, certain that I would never get used to such a feeling. "You just can't tell her that you know all this, okay? I kind of, maybe, sort of swore that I wasn't going to say anything."
I looked up to meet his gaze. "When did you speak to her?"
He shrugged. "Last time you did. Right before I went after you, she told me that it wasn't my place to say anything – which is bollocks, if you ask me. But I wasn't gonna bring this whole thing up until the end of summer anyway so I agreed. But then my mum said you could come to the party and, well, I know this is all new and kind of intimidating and whatnot, but I want you to be there. Do you?"
My heart pounded. I mean, as much as it scared me, I would be there; I was going to meet his family that just so happened to be wizards, and I was more likely than not going to say something stupid, and we would ultimately have a nice day together. And that was something I could do, something I could do for him. And something I could do for me, as well.
I stood on my tiptoes and leaned forward to place a kiss on the bit of skin that I could reach, which just so happened to be the side of his neck. "I want to be there," I hummed into his skin, which seemed to relax the moment the words left my lips. I hadn't even realized that he had been so tense.
His arms snaked around my waist to pull me close and he pressed his lips against my temple. "Good. I'm glad." He paused. "Do you wanna get out of here? Go someplace else?"
I sighed, my breath tickling against his neck. "You know as romantic as being in the loo is, I would very much appreciate it if we relocated."
He laughed into my hair and removed his hand from my waist to unlock the door.
My heart gave a jerk in my chest. "Wait!" I spluttered, grabbing onto his wrist to stop him. "We – we can't be seen leaving the loo together!"
James' eyebrows furrowed together. "Er, why not? We were both seen entering it."
"Alright, alright, I just don't what the big deal is."
I rolled my eyes. "Just think about it for a minute, will you? We walked into the loo together, like, what? Fifteen minutes ago? Twenty? And then we just leave together? I mean, what do you think that looks like?"
"It looks like I got really lucky."
And that is when I began to choke on my own spit.
I mean, that was exactly what it looked like, but I had intended for my question to be rhetorical. Because, you know, saying something like that would only lead to me blushing profusely like never before.
Which is exactly what I did.
"You get all cute and red when you're embarrassed, you know," James said rather casually, cheeky grin in place while tucking a loose hair behind my ear.
"It's not cute and you're being a jerk," I mumbled to the floor.
"How exactly am I being a jerk?"
"You're embarrassing me on purpose."
"Which brings me back to my original point about you being cute when you're embarrassed."
I felt my face heat up even more. "Erm, thanks, I guess. But, um, how exactly are we getting out of here?"
"I think I've got an idea."
I looked up in time to see James reach into his pocket and pull out a long and slender stick. It had a dark, almost reddish wood and looked polished and smooth.
"Is that your wand?" The question sounded so odd coming out of my lips, but I knew that must have been what it was. I vaguely remembered people carrying them around when I had fallen through the barrier at Platform Nine and Three Quarters several weeks ago; at the time I had thought they were just wooden sticks. Now I knew better, I guess.
James nodded in response to my question. "I have to warn you, since it's your first time, this is gonna feel really weird and uncomfortable, but it's totally safe, I swear. I have my license and everything."
"That sounds like a really bad opening line to a porno."
"You know you're absolutely right."
Letting out a nervous giggle, I said, "So what is this exactly?"
"Apparation. Kind of like teleportation. It's how wizards get from one place to another in only a matter of seconds, but like I said, it's a weird sensation that you definitely won't be prepared for since you've never done it. But don't worry, it'll be over before you know it and no one will see us leaving here together. Sound good?"
It took me a moment to pick my jaw up off the floor. "…I'm sorry, I'm still stuck at the whole teleportation bit."
James took a step back and offered me his hand. "Do you trust me?"
I stared at him for a moment but then nodded slowly. "Of course."
And while this was really scary and while I was incredibly and equally fascinated and uncertain about this whole teleportation thing, I knew I could do this. Because this was James and I trusted him. So before I could change my mind, I placed my hand in his, threading my fingers through his.
He smiled, then suddenly paused as if he was remembering something and then proceeded to disentangle his fingers from mine to move his grip from my hand to my bicep. "Ready?"
My returning smile was a bit more uncertain. "As ready as I'll ever be, I guess."
"Okay. Here we go."
Giving my arm a little squeeze, James took a step forward and then multiple things seemed to happen all at once. I felt James' arm twist away from me and his grip on my arm forced me to follow. It didn't seem so bad at first but then everything went black – and I don't mean the kind of black you see when your eyes are closed or the sun has gone down. It was literally pitch black, as if all color had been erased and this was all that was left. And I couldn't breathe; I didn't feel like I was suffocating or anything but I felt like all of the air had suddenly disappeared. Pressure was all around me – as if I were being compressed into a small space – and it made me feel like I was being pushed into many different directions at once. It was extremely unpleasant and it was all happening at once and yet it was happening so slowly.
And then just like that, it was over.
We landed in the grass of a little field just outside of a village I had never seen before. I didn't get much time to really take a look at it or to marvel over the fact that we were standing in grass rather than on bathroom tiles because I suddenly felt really nauseous. The sensation had hit me like a ton of bricks and I leaned over a bit, placing my hands on my knees.
"Alright there, Spencer?"
"I think I'm gonna hurl."
James didn't say anything, just placed a hand on my back as I collected myself.
Thankfully I didn't actually throw up; I had just needed to stand there and breathe for a bit. And after a few minutes, I felt a bit better, not quite as queasy as before and was able to stand up to my full height. I looked around, taking in my surroundings, my jaw shamelessly dropped.
"We're not in the loo anymore," I said breathlessly.
"That, we are not," James confirmed, giving my side a little poke and a smile on his lips.
This was just unbelievable. We had actually traveled from one place to another in only a matter of seconds – we went from being inside to outside. We went from being in a little coffee shop in London to – huh. I actually didn't know where we were. I turned to James, suddenly plagued with a fit of giggles. I just couldn't wrap my head around all of this; I was stunned, impressed, amazed. "Where are we exactly?"
James' grin widened as he sent me a wink.
"Welcome to Hogsmeade, Spencer."