Chapter Thirty Eight
"I think we should buy him an easel. A proper one. For painting and stuff."
I rolled my eyes, deliberately marching past the enchanted art shop Luka had his nose pressed against.
Hogsmede was, for lack of a better word, magical. With little regard for muggle fashion, the townsfolk and shoppers walked around in the oddest assortment of clothes. Robes covered lace trousers, four-armed cardigans and rainbow sashes. And that didn't even come close to the hats.
Shop displays had flying products that waved as you got close. The bookshop we had passed a few minutes ago had three books with arms and legs, sword fighting with each other. And it wouldn't be wizard if it didn't look like it was built in the middle-ages.
Happy as I was to be out of the school, I was not about to start throwing non-existent money at making some kid forgive me.
"Remember that time I told you I have no cash? What was it? Ten minutes ago? Besides, what has he done to deserve anything from me? Other than act like a tool."
Luka grimaced as he caught up with me.
"He's just not great with new people," he defended. "And he's been working on that book for months."
"I said I was sorry! A million times. There's literally nothing else I can do. I get that he was mad, but he was still totally out of order."
He couldn't argue with that.
It had started out as messing about. I said something about Luka, Luka threw a ball of socks at me, I batted the ball away and it hit Maison. Or should I say it hit his mug of hot chocolate which then spilled all over his open sketch book.
I felt guilty, of course I did. It was hard not to jump forward and turn the book intangible to stop the damage from spreading.
But then Maison exploded.
"You never mean to. You never think. You just do. It's always all about Jimmy. You don't want to turn up for meal times so you don't. You want to disappear for hours on end, you do. Screw anyone who might worry about you. Don't pretend you care about my book. Just keep thumping along like usual because no one here is as important as you."
Luka and Cedric had been on him in a second, telling him to calm down and stop being a douche. But he'd already said his piece. I now knew exactly what was going on in his head and while I didn't understand it, I also really didn't appreciate it. He didn't know anything about me. What gave him the right to suggest that I didn't care?
"Have you ever tried Butterbeer?"
I blinked, not expecting the sudden change of subject.
"Butterbeer?" I repeated, dumbly.
His expression lit up as he realised I'd taken the bait. He nodded and pointed across the street to a building that looked as though its roof had leaked so many times, it stained the brick.
Doubt must have shown on my face because Luka was quick to rush in.
"It's the speciality of the Three Broomsticks. There isn't a kid in Hogwarts who hasn't tried it. We'll go in, have a drink and then plan the rest of our trip. You haven't seen the sweet shop yet and that is something to die for."
My eyes narrowed. It was weird enough Luka had abandoned the rest of his mob for me. I hadn't seen Cedric since this morning and Maison was with some other, less 'self-absorbed' friends. Could it be that Luka was spending time with me because he wanted to and not just because he felt obliged?
The innocence in this face allowed me to form a smirk on mine.
"I guess we could do that. But only if you're paying."
He rolled his eyes, shoving his hands into his jeans' pockets. "I suppose I can manage that. C'mon." He pushed forwards.
It didn't take us long to reach the Three Broomsticks and when we did, it looked like half of the school was in there. Students crowded every table, pushing the townsfolk to the edges. If this were in Amity, the townsfolk would be shaking their fists at the 'youths' ambushing the place, but here, they couldn't have looked happier.
Luka marched straight to the bar.
"Rosmerta! You're looking dapper today," he greeted. The woman behind the bar glanced up at his approach only to give him a disapproving eyebrow twitch.
"You're not getting a firewhiskey."
Luka's hand flew to his chest in mock hurt as I joined him.
"Madame Rosmerta! Firewhiskey is an alcoholic beverage. I would never ask you to break the law. Especially not in front of a tourist."
It was only as I'd gotten closer that I realised Rosmerta was older than she looked at first sight. Her hair curled around her face with a youthful bounce - blonde but for the occasional streak of grey. The disinterest in her expression made her eyes look tired and there was an edge to her features which hinted at years of experience dealing with teenagers like Luka.
Her gaze twitched over to me as she realised the two of us were together. Her eyes searched me for a moment.
"All right, what can I get you?"
"Two butterbeers please," Luka all but drawled, leaning an elbow on the bar. I was getting used to him behaving like this around other students, but not so much around anyone adult.
While Luka was busy flirting, I turned to look out at the crowded tables. I recognised many of the students but there were a few that I couldn't identify. One thing I was still struggling to get over was how much students tended to spend very little time interacting with anyone outside of their house. Sure, it happened, but it seemed weirdly rare.
It was as I was trying to place some students in the far corner that my gaze caught on a familiar face.
"Hey, isn't that Cedric?" I asked without thinking. Luka's head whipped around and I had his attention instantly.
He followed my eyeline and found who I was looking at. Mischief sprang to life on his face as he grabbed two glass mugs from the bar, that I assumed were ours, and started gliding over to Cedric's table.
It was only as I followed behind him that I noticed the person Cedric was sitting next to.
The Ravenclaw girl he liked.
"Hey lovebirds," Luka sang, throwing himself down onto a stool at the table and sloshing our drinks as he went.
Cedric jolted. His eyes were wide as he swung around to look at us and his face was turning a very bright pink. The girl beside him wore a shy smile and ducked her head slightly.
There aren't words to describe how awkward I felt stood behind Luka, not knowing what exactly it was that we had interrupted.
"Wha- Luka. I didn't expect… What happened to everyone else?"
"They were spending too long getting ready so we ditched them."
That wasn't entirely true. The way Luka said it made it sound like it was a joint decision when in actual fact, I'd been overwhelmed with the number of people I didn't know and decided to make a break for it. Luka just followed me out.
"It's Jimmy, isn't it?" The girl asked, smiling up at me as though I wasn't responsible for crashing her date.
"Yeah," I replied dumbly. This was weird.
"It's nice to meet you, Cedric never stops talking about you."
This was really weird.
Cedric's face was still an unusual colour but he seemed to have recovered from the initial shock when he also smiled at me and nodded to the last remaining chair.
"You can sit down if you like."
I hadn't even realised I was still standing. I edged forward and took the chair. Luka nudged one of the mugs towards me and I cradled it. The sides were sticky from where he'd spilled the drink but I had other things to think about.
"I'm really sorry, I'm sure someone already told me it but… I don't know your name." Honestly. There were so many people in this school, remembering names was near impossible.
"Don't worry, I'm terrible with names. I'm Cho." Her smile was warm and without a hint of judgement or suspicion. I liked her.
Before I could say anything back, Luka's elbow collided with my side.
"Try the butterbeer."
Right. The reason we were here. I looked down at the glass sceptically. The brown liquid looked thick and foamy. There was that little part of me that was worried Luka was playing a prank. Was this sticky drink really the favourite of Hogwarts students?
It was only Luka's eyes on me that made me lift the glass to my lips. Even if it was a joke, I wasn't about to wimp out.
I don't know what I was expecting but the sweetness was almost overwhelming. It was like someone had taken a pot of honey, sprinkled sugar over it and then topped it off with maple syrup.
I placed the cup on the table and wiped the froth from my upper lip.
All three were waiting for my verdict.
"It's all right."
"All right?" Luka burst. "What does that mean? Do you like it or not?"
I frowned. While Cho looked just as bewildered by the eruption as I felt, Cedric had a glint of intrigue in his eye.
"It's fine," I muttered, "I don't love it but I don't hate it either." I had exotic tastes at times so I knew sweeter wasn't always better. Add some kiwi in there and it might have been a different story.
"Would you order it again if you had the choice?" Cedric asked, calmer than Luka but no less invested.
I shrugged. "Probably not."
Cedric's hand came down heavily on the table, causing the drinks to shudder.
Luka heaved a heavy sigh as he covered his face in defeat. I glanced between the both of them.
"What did you win?"
"Luka wanted to bet on whether you'd like butterbeer or not. I said it was too strong but Luka reckoned you'd have a sweet tooth."
"You two need to get a life. Seriously."
Cho nodded in agreement, though there was an amused smile dancing on her lips. Cedric gave her a playful nudge with his elbow and they shared a look. If Tucker were here, he'd be calling them out on it.
"You okay, Jimbo?" Luka murmured, low enough that the other two couldn't hear. I glanced across at him in questioning. His eyes flicked down to my wrist. It was only then that I realised I was rubbing my wristband. I pulled my hand away, shooting him a smile.
"So do you two have plans for the rest of the day?" Cho asked before taking a sip of her own sparkling orange drink.
"Showing this one the sights." Luka thrust his thumb at me like he hadn't been mothering me seconds before. "We were going to come up with a game plan if you two wanna help? Honeydukes is a must but outside of that." He shrugged.
"You could always check out the latest wizard fashion in Gladrags," Cedric suggested, though the mockery in his voice indicated he wasn't entirely serious.
"Oh yeah!" Luka pointed at his friend in approval before turning to me, "Gladrags has the worst clothing choices in all of Britain. You definitely need to take something back to show your fam."
Apparently he'd already forgotten my 'no money' issue, but it sounded like it could be fun so I let him off.
"We could join you, if you like?" Cho offered. All eyes turned to her. "I think it would be cute to see Jimmy experience Hogsmeade for the first time. It feels like forever since my first Honeydukes trip."
The use of the word 'cute' made my ears burn. I looked at Cedric to see how he'd take the intrusion on his date. Rather than look affronted, he was gazing at his not-girlfriend with admiration. After a few seconds he nodded and said, "sounds good to me. Jimmy?"
"Uh… sure. The more the merrier."
"Nice!" Luka cut in, grinning like an idiot. "Drinks first, then Jimbo's education begins."
AN: Hey guys. How crazy is the world right now? Scary stuff. Anywho, I thought I'd try and brighten things up with this short bundle of joy. (It's joyous for me in any case.) This was originally going to be a longer chapter with two sections but I recently messed around with the timeline and now it is just this chapter in its purest form. Anyway, I hope you're all doing well out there. I'm going to try writing more often now that I'm stuck in the house but I ain't making promises. I just hope I managed to put a smile on at least one face today!
Ps. I know it's not much of a big thing in HP but I like to imagine those in the wizarding world taking fashion to the very best of extremes. If anyone wants to draw any character in four armed cardigans and rainbow sashes, including a bemused Danny, you would have my full support.
Over and out!