Although Charlotte's friends are OCs, I gave them relationships to canon characters so they'll (hopefully) be easier to keep track of. Grace is the daughter of Oliver Wood, Paige is the daughter of Dennis Creevey, and Lauren Finch-Fletchley is the daughter of Justin Finch-Fletchley. (They will be fairly minor characters at any rate.)
I was nearly asleep by the time we finally reached Hogwarts, the rocking movement of the train lulling me into sleep. My friends' voices had faded into one indecipherable murmur, and I was pleasantly dreaming of my warm, comfortable bed in the Hufflepuff dormitory when I was rudely awoken by the ear-piercing screech of brakes as the train halted.
"Are we there already?" I slurred, still disoriented. The other girls all laughed and shuffled out of the compartment one by one, only pausing to shoot me sympathetic glances. Alice was the only one waiting for me.
"So how was your summer?" she asked as we filed out of the train and hopped down onto the leaf-strewn platform. An unseasonably cold autumn wind blew through Hogsmeade as we rushed toward the carriages, shivering.
I shrugged. "Fine. My parents ignored me as usual." I tried to sound nonchalant, but my acting wasn't superb—although I had dealt with it for the past six years, being shunned by my family was sometimes difficult to handle. "I did get a letter from Amelia, though. She's now living in Tanzania—or was it Tunisia? Somewhere like that."
Alice smiled. "If things get too rough, you can always stay at my place, you know."
I grinned back at her. "Thanks." I'd spent a week at her flat the summer before fourth year—she was an only child, so we had pretended we were sisters the entire visit. Her father, Neville Longbottom, was the Herbology professor, and her mother, Hannah, was the landlady of the Leaky Cauldron, a wizarding pub in London. Although their flat was small, I still considered it the best vacation I'd ever had.
The carriages were just beginning to pull away when Alice and I reached them. Apparently picking one randomly, she threw open the door and we climbed in, apologizing profusely to those already inside.
Alice suddenly froze in place, and I had to literally push her aside so I could get a better look at who had made her turn into a living statue. My mouth fell open when I met the bright hazel eyes of James Potter himself, who was grinning impishly as if he knew we had been gossiping about him on the train.
"Hello there," he said, surveying us with the self-assured superiority only a pampered Gryffindor could pull off. "I guess I didn't hear you knock."
For I second I wondered why he would care if we knocked, until it dawned on me that he was sitting with a pretty fifth-year Ravenclaw, who was clutching onto his arm and scowling at us. "No, I'm sorry, this was the closest carriage," I apologized, unable to look him in the eye. "We can leave if you want—"
"Nah, don't worry about it," he said, winking at Alice. "How are you, darling?"
"F—fine, James," she stammered. I elbowed her in the ribs, and she blurted out, "This is my friend, Charlotte Miller."
"Nice to meet you," he replied, extending a hand toward me. I swallowed hard as we shook hands—my palms were covered in nervous sweat—and quickly drew back, hoping he wouldn't wipe his hand on his robes.
The Ravenclaw with him didn't bother to introduce herself, and I coughed uncomfortably as she and James began to snog enthusiastically. I glanced over at Alice, but she was staring at the couple as if her dreams had just been cruelly crushed before her very eyes. In a way, I supposed they had.
The carriage ride was far too long, and when they stopped at last I was more than grateful to escape the awkward atmosphere. James bid us good-bye with another rogue smirk, and Alice barely squeaked out a "Bye!" back before looping my arm round hers and pulling me out of earshot. "I can't believe he has a girlfriend!" she hissed.
"I can," I muttered. Alice rolled her eyes.
"Out of all the girls at Hogwarts, he had to pick her…"
As she fumed, I alternated between shaking my head in disbelief and making vague noises of agreement as I always did when she went off on a rant. We entered the Great Hall and went over to the Hufflepuff table, where Grace had saved us seats. My stomach began to growl as soon as I saw the golden plates and empty goblets.
While Alice filled the other girls in on what had happened in the carriage, I surveyed the Hall. The teachers were sitting up at the staff table, looking relaxed and content. The new Headmistress, Professor Sinistra, who had taken over from McGonagall the year before I'd started Hogwarts, was talking happily with Alice's father, Neville, and the Hufflepuff head of House, Professor Sprout, was watching our table with a satisfied expression on her face. She smiled widely at me, and I gave a small wave back.
Turning back to my friends' conversation (I was used to zoning out when they really got chattering) I noticed with dismay that they were still on the topic of James Potter's interest in them (or lack thereof, as it were). "Listen, it's not the end of the world," I tried to say. "I fancied him in second year, but after a while I realized it would never work. He'd probably break up with you after a shag or two, anyway."
They all stared at me in astonishment. Too late, I realized that perhaps my objectivity about the Potter family wasn't working in my favour this time. They were all quite close to the Potters, so they weren't used to someone speaking about James so candidly.
"It's not that, Char," Alice said, sighing. "I know James is decent. It's just that he's a rebel and that's what girls want, right? They like the bad guys."
"Well, good luck reforming him," I muttered under my breath. I'd never been interested in the so-called "bad guys". Honestly, they just seemed like more trouble than they were worth. All I wanted was someone kind and loyal who I could trust with my life. Perhaps it was stereotypically Hufflepuff of me, but I couldn't help it. "What about another Potter or Weasley kid?" I continued. "There's no shortage of them."
It was true—I'd given up trying to keep track of the numerous Weasley children years ago. My eyes flickered over to the Gryffindor table, where I could easily pick out the trademark red hair among the scarlet robes.
Not every member of that family was in Gryffindor, though. There were a few scattered in Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, and one in Slytherin.
There were two other Potter children besides James, though they weren't nearly as well-known (or infamous, if you like) as he was. The youngest one, Lily, was a fourth-year Gryffindor. She had a head full of thick, dark red hair that was the envy of all the girls, and inquisitive brown eyes. She seemed to be popular within her circle of Gryffindor friends, and was one of the Beaters on the Quidditch team, along with her Chaser older brother. I'd dropped my books all over the Grand Staircase once and she'd helped me pick them up, so I'd always harbored a liking toward her.
The middle Potter, however, was a bit more of a mystery. Albus was in Slytherin—the lone member of the Weasley-Potter clan in the House—and the quietest. In fact, I'd only heard him speak a couple of times, and though I'd had a few classes with him through the years I still felt as if he was a complete stranger. He was short and had messy dark hair—I had to admit he wasn't as good-looking as his older brother. Even though he was on the Slytherin Quidditch team (Seeker) and being on the Quidditch team was usually an instant ticket to popularity, he seemed to be a loner. From what Alice told me, he spent most of his time in the library and was very introspective. He used to wear a pair of large, round black glasses, giving him the appearance of an oversized owl, but the summer before third year he appeared to have gotten his eyes fixed and had stopped wearing them. He was best friends with fellow Slytherin Scorpius Malfoy, which had been a huge shock to most people since, apparently, their fathers had been worst enemies when they went to Hogwarts.
On top of all that, Albus's cousin, Rose Weasley, was in Gryffindor and the third member of their trio. The three of them were inseparable, but as the years passed curiosity in the odd grouping had slowly dwindled until most people had gotten used to the idea. I turned my head to the Slytherin table, where Albus and Scorpius were sitting together. Scorpius was quite handsome, with white-blond hair and gray eyes. I noticed him grinning at Rose Weasley, who was scowling back at him while tucking her hair behind her ear. Albus seemed oblivious to this display of blatant flirting; instead he was looking around the room. I continued to watch him until, suddenly, our eyes locked.
I quickly looked down at my plate, hoping I wouldn't blush. When I chanced a glance back up at him, he was still staring at me, frowning slightly as if trying to figure out why I had been looking at him.
"Oh, Merlin!" Alice giggled. "Char, you did not just check out Albus Potter!"
"I wasn't!" I exclaimed, tearing my gaze from his. "I was just looking around the room and I saw him—"
"No wonder you didn't care about James," Lauren laughed.
"Guys, seriously, I didn't mean to—" I began, but they weren't listening to me anymore—if they ever had been in the first place. Cheeks flushing with embarrassment, I kept my eyes fixed on my plate and didn't look at Albus Potter for the rest of the evening.
UPDATE MARCH 2014: Sorry, guys, but this story is now abandoned. I'm sure you've already guessed, as it's been over a year, but I wanted to make it clear anyway. I never had a very detailed outline for this story, and my interest in continuing it just waned as the months passed. That being said, if you'd like to write a continuation yourself, please feel free! :)