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Modern Romance

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Episode VII: The All-Star Who Doesn't Handle Rejection Gracefully (Or At All)

Witch Weekly's 'Modern Romance' series asks anonymous witches and wizards to record a week in their sex lives—with comic, tragic, provocative, and patently revealing results. This week, a rising quidditch star gives chase, leading to unexpected consequences: 20, female, tastefully bi-curious, fantastically single.


DAY ONE

5:45 a.m.: I wake up to get a warm-up in on the pitch before our final practice of the regular season. It's my usual workout; I do a few laps on the field and then head up to the stands to run stairs. I work twice as hard as anyone else on the team, but gratifyingly, that's not for nothing; it's my face that hangs on the banner outside the field, and I'm the one featured on the season tickets.

6:30 a.m.: Nothing like breaking a sweat this early in the morning, right? I should be clear that it's not like I'm obsessed with quidditch; it's really that I'm the kind of person who appreciates things more when I have to work for them, and I had to work very hard to get where I am now. I had to steal my brothers' brooms just to learn to fly, so there's still some element of thrill in knowing I've earned the right to play professionally.

6:45 a.m.: For the record, the same basic concept is true for my romantic life; I like the chase, and I'm good at it. I am a chaser, after all.

7:00 a.m.: "Hey," my teammate says, yawning as she pulls her long black hair into the world's most perfect ponytail. There's something about exercise ("endorphins," one of my female friends would very pertly correct me) that makes my attention wander directly to the sliver of midriff I can see as my teammate stretches her arms up. "Good morning," I say, fairly relieved I've worn a somewhat attractive sports bra.

7:05 a.m.: We engage a bit of small talk as I stretch out my quads. "Congratulations on being named to the World Cup team, by the way. Have I said that yet?" she asks vacantly, stretching out her shoulders. She tells me she owes me a proper celebration, and not for the first time, I'm not totally sure if there's something else being implied—but hey, what's the point of life without a little risk? "You certainly do," I reply slyly.

7:10 a.m.: She gives me an alluring smirk. Have I mentioned I love the chase?

7:36 a.m.: My father is a bit of a muggle enthusiast, and while I don't necessarily share all of this curiosities, he did secretly bring home some things from time to time that caught my interest. I used to love going through the things he called "comical books," which were essentially these peculiarly stiff drawings of heroes and villains that he and I found equally fascinating. My teammate reminds me a bit of one of them—a woman called Natasha, a Black Widow and a total femme fatale, so that's what I'll call her. My Natasha and I were quidditch rivals while we were at Hogwarts, though she was two years above me. She was the only girl on her house's team and even though our team is all female now, she's still got this amazingly unerring take-no-shit attitude that I find highly irresistible. I suppose it comes from having her boyfriend die while she was in school and then having to suffer through all the same shit I did, except surrounded by people who gave her no credit for it. Natasha seems to have come a long way since then. Though, of course, I wouldn't be me if I didn't mention that I won twice going head-to-head with her while we were in school.

7:47 a.m.: "Hey," says one of our other team members, nodding to me as she enters the locker room, "congrats on the national team." "We should take her out after the game, don't you think?" Natasha says, and based on the way she's leaning towards me, if this game were being played out on the pitch I'd be closing in on the snitch right now. "You'd better," I say, giving her the kind of smile that's always worked before—on men, true (boys, really), but what can I say? If anyone's going to convince her to switch teams, it's me. Likewise, if anyone's going to lure me, it's her. I feel a decent match coming on.

12:15 p.m.: Practice goes well enough. I've been playing with these girls for a couple of years now, and we've got a rhythm down. It's going to be strange playing with the men who've been selected for the English national team (all of whom have played in the World Cup tournament before) but not any stranger than any other group of athletes. New team, new chemistry. I've always been able to play the field.

3:34 p.m.: During our skills drills I get a second to let my mind wander, and above us, Natasha's doing some accuracy tests with the special teams coach. She's a seeker, so she isn't normally involved in the same sets of tasks as we are. What is it with me and seekers? My ex was one, too, though he's an Auror now. I'll call him Steve, like Captain America, because he's best friends with my brother, whom I'll call Bucky. Steve and I broke up shortly after I started playing professionally; he's good enough to have played professionally and I know he got several offers from teams, but it's more of a hobby for him. I get that.

4:05 p.m.: "Oi," one of the other chasers calls, and I catch the quaffle just as it's about to fly by. "I've got it," I assure her. She rolls her eyes. "Lucky catch," she says. It's not lucky; I've practiced hard enough to catch anything that comes my way and she knows it. "Suck my dick," I tell her lovingly. From above, I see Natasha chuckle.

4:58 p.m.: It's been a long time since being naked in front of people was a problem for me, so I strip down for a shower without much fuss. Natasha does the same, and once again I feel that little itch of curiosity; that little nudge of want that locates stiffly in my throat. I'm slightly shorter, a bit more sharply cut, but she's lithe and willowy and if I didn't find her so unnervingly attractive, I might hate her, honestly. I'm not normally attracted to women, but her tits are so perfect and my feelings on her arse are somewhere between crippling envy and excruciating interest, so I'm not above giving it a try. She was actually Steve's first girlfriend before me, and frankly, I don't blame him for being interested.

6:15 p.m.: I finally get back to the flat I share with my roommate, a friend from Hogwarts who works as a journalist and editor after inheriting her father's publication. Neither of us are home much so the flat is sort of cramped (and filled with oddities), but it's infinitely better than a hotel. "Hey," I say, surprised to see her; she's conjuring a small sofa for what looks like a terrarium. "What is that?" I ask, catching movement behind the glass, and she shrugs. "A dragon," she replies casually.

6:18 p.m.: I'll call her Wanda, as in the Scarlet Witch, whose powers are mostly chaos. She tells me she found the dragon and plans to do a comprehensive study on parenting across species. "No offense, but that's actual madness. They breathe fire," I remind her pointedly, and she shrugs. "Plenty of human people are toxic," she says. "Yes," I agree, "but, you know. Perception. And insurance. And this is a very small flat."

6:24 p.m.: Wanda's pouring the dragon a bowl of cereal when I finally take a closer look. "Nevermind, this isn't a dragon," I tell her, "it's just a lizard." She looks up, tilting her head. "Don't discourage him," she says, "he can breathe fire if he wants to." I sigh. At least the curtains aren't in immediate danger. "What's his name?" I ask her, and she considers it, tilting her head. "I was thinking something like Marcus Aurelius," she says solemnly, "but you know how I have a tendency to aim for excess formality." I bow to the lizard. "Your imperial majesty," I say with reverence.

6:54 p.m.: We're convening with the Emperor lizard when Wanda remembers the mail. "Here," she says, handing me the first of the official propaganda for the World Cup team. At first I'm excited, flipping through the images; the beaters are shown with looks of fury as they slam away the bludgers, the seeker is shown catching the snitch as he shoves the rival seeker's face away, the chaser epically swats a quaffle from the air, and the two other chasers are shown scoring as lights flash behind them. I get to my picture, though, and abruptly, my mood sours. They've shown me in my sports bra, water slicked down my torso as I pour it over my head; it's an image I don't even recognize, and it definitely wasn't taken during a game.

6:57 p.m.: "What the fuck is this?" I demand, and Wanda glances over. "Is there a sexual component to the World Cup?" she asks, and adds, "I've never really understood organized sports." I'd glare at her, but she wouldn't understand why. "No," I grumble, "there isn't." At least, I'd hoped there wouldn't be, but maybe I was wrong.

7:15 p.m.: 'What's this about?' I write to my publicist, who is conveniently a good friend I have highly satisfying, no-strings-attached sex with. I'll call him Tony, as in Iron Man—he's got that insufferable playboy quality, plus somewhat of a business magnate thing going on. He sells sex for a living, sure (he's definitely not any sort of science-robot genius), but he manipulates perception better than anyone I've ever met. He'll know right away how this makes me look compared to the men on the team.

8:03 p.m.: While I wait for an answer from Tony, Wanda and I catch up—or something like that. "What do you think you'll be in your next life?" Wanda asks me, and I shrug. "A fruit bat," I say. "Aw," she says, "I think you can do better." "Doubtful," I say, but then I'm curious, so I ask her what she thinks. "Something carnivorous at least," she says. "Like a moth?" I ask. She laughs vacantly.

8:35 p.m.: I tell Wanda I should get to bed before the season closer tomorrow; she nods, tickling the Emperor under the chin. "You know, for pleasant dreams," she advises me, "you should be sure there are no wrackspurts around your bed before you drift off." I tell her I'm probably going to masturbate first, and she gives me a solemn nod. "That will help," she says seriously.

8:55 p.m.: I indulge my usual fantasy: Natasha in the locker room after a winning game; in the showers, ideally. I know it's strange for me to think about a woman seeing as I've never been with one before, but it might just be that I'm surrounded by tits all the time, or that Tony's so wildly bisexual—he's a terrible influence, really. In any case, I'm looking forward to getting it out of my system now that the season is over.

9:04 p.m.: I come twice and sigh, sated. For now.


DAY TWO

5:45 a.m.: I'm on the pitch bright and early, ready to go.

6:15 a.m.: Natasha gets here early, sipping from a charmed thermos before slowly starting to stretch as I wrap up some sprints along the stairs. "Saw the World Cup promo shots in the Daily Prophet," she comments, and I roll my eyes. "Fucking ridiculous," I say, prepared to start another rant, but she shrugs. "Hey, at least you look hot," she says. Interesting.

6:35 a.m.: "You should come out tonight," she says, and tells me she's meeting up with a couple of her friends in Diagon to celebrate the end of the season. "I'll see if I can make it," I casually reply—though in reality the words fuck yesare floating around in my mind. I jot a quick note to my brother Bucky, who's supposed to be here for the game—'put on your big boy pants,' I write, 'we're going out later.'

7:05 a.m.: 'Blech,' he replies. That's a yes.

7:30 a.m.: The rest of the team makes their way to the pitch and we run a few lazy pre-game drills. As much as I enjoy playing with my current teammates, I'm looking forward to playing with the World Cup team—after all, they are the best of the best. Ah, correction: we are the best of the best. The rest of the girls on my team are talking about what they're going to do in the off-season, but for me, prep for the World Cup tournament starts this week. As they chatter about vacationing in the Turks and Caicos, I slip into my lifelong daydream of lofting the World Cup into the air.

3:00 p.m.: We win the toss and it's game on. Let's go, girls.

4:05 p.m.: The difference between me and other chasers? I don't waste my time counting on my seeker to win the game for me. She's hot, but irrelevant; I'm here to score. By the first half I've scored nearly as much as the snitch is worth.

6:30 p.m.: During a celebratory lap I look up to catch Steve, Bucky, and the friend I'll call Jane (after Dr Jane Foster) cheering in the stands with Wanda, and I feel sufficiently adored. My own face winks down at me from a banner in the stands. It's good to be queen.

7:15 p.m.: Natasha grabs the snitch right from under the other seeker's nose and we win it 620 to 130. It's a record, I think, and I hear the commentator say something about how I've just become the first female quidditch player to score 300 consecutive points in a single game, but I don't like to linger in any given moment. Ever forward, I always say, and my night is just beginning. I throw my arms around Natasha and she leans back with a grin. "See you tonight?" she asks. Oh, hell yes.

8:30 p.m.: "We're so proud of you," Jane coos, ever the doting sisterly-type, and my brother Bucky grins as Steve throws his arm around my shoulders. "Yeah, you're not so bad," Steve jokes. "So are you guys coming out tonight?" I ask them, and they groan like the old boring people that they are, but they agree. "I can't," Wanda tells me, batting her eyes in her usual owlish way, "I have to service the Emperor." "What?" Bucky asks, indignantly alarmed, but I shrug. "She has a lizard," I explain. "A dragon," she corrects me. "Oh, that's not good," Jane says fretfully, but Steve looks delighted. "AMAZING," he pronounces.

10:15 p.m.: We have dinner together before heading out to the new club in Diagon; I guess it's not really new anymore, but it's newer than everything else. I suddenly recall that this is Jane and Bucky's first time out since breaking up, and if I weren't still on such a high from winning (and from the strangers recognizing us and congratulating me on being named to the World Cup team), I'd find it a bit awkward. They make extremely polite conversation, which is annoying, but I'm on a mission, so rather than let them have a dainty discussion about how to split the bill, I throw down a few galleons and place my hands firmly on their shoulders. "Ready?" I demand. Only Steve looks amused. "Sure," he says, grinning.

10:25 p.m.: Upon arrival, we run directly into some Slytherins we went to school with; one is Steve and Bucky's nemesis, one is a girl Jane loathes, and the other is … I never know what to make of him. He's friends with the other two, I guess. "Oh, for fuck's sake," says the blond one, who I suppose should be Hitler within the Captain America theme, but that seems overly harsh. I'll call him Max, for Magneto. He seems to be looking at Jane suspiciously closely, and she herself is bright red. "Well," mutters the girl, whom I'll call Raven, for Mystique. She, I note, is avoiding my brother's eye, and Steve's—in fact, she doesn't seem to be able to find a safe place to look, and opts to stare haughtily at the ceiling. Finally, the last one (whom I'll call Xavier, simply because it suits him) bursts out laughing. "So are we all going to fight," Xavier says, "or are we all going to fuck?" "I'm busy," I say, shoving past him, though I tuck Max away as a possible option for later.

10:45 p.m.: Natasha isn't here yet, but all of a sudden my brother Bucky is drinking heavily, and Jane and Steve have disappeared. "What's going on with those two?" I ask, looking around, and Bucky downs a shot of Ogden's, shuddering, before wiping his mouth on the back of his sleeve. "You've been gone a long time," he mumbles morosely.

11:05 p.m.: I'm definitely buzzed, but Bucky is positively trashed. "What is your deal?" I demand. "I'm trying to fill my stupid heart with firewhisky," he replies, his words thoroughly slurred. I'm about to ask him if this is about Jane but then Natasha walks in, and I promptly forget what we were talking about.

11:10 p.m.: Natasha brings some of our teammates and two other friends; twins, one of which was a Ravenclaw with Natasha and one that was a Gryffindor with me. I'll call the Gryffindor Amora, for the Enchantress, and the other can be her sister Lorelei. Amora's either dyed or charmed her black hair a vibrant, platinum blonde that's tinted slightly purple at the ends, and for the first time that I can remember, I have no trouble at all telling them apart without checking for their house colors. "What's wrong with your brother?" asks Lorelei, gesturing to where he's slumped in a booth behind me. "He's fine," I say, and offer to get us drinks.

11:25 p.m.: Natasha lifts a glass, toasting me, and I'm feeling good about this. I let the shot drip slightly onto my hand and carefully lick it away, smiling at her as my fingers brush my lips. "She's killing me," Bucky wails incoherently beside me, and Lorelei looks alarmed. "Are you having a stroke?" she asks bluntly. He groans. I ignore them both in favor of offering to buy Natasha another drink, and she smiles. "I've got this one," she says, and gets up to order another round.

11:30 p.m.: I adjust my cleavage, glancing down, and Amora chuckles. "Good luck with that," she pronounces skeptically, and I turn, glaring at her. "What?" I ask, and she gestures to where Natasha was sitting. "Believe me, I've tried," she says, shaking her head. I force a dubious scoff and tell her she doesn't know what she's talking about. "She's just like that," Amora says, "you know, flirtatious. But she's not actually a lesbian, and I don't think she's bi, either." "Neither am I," I persist stubbornly, and Amora laughs. "I know," she says, "it shows."

11:35 p.m.: I've lost track of whether I should be insulted. I frown. "Are you—" "Yes," Amora confirms, and arches a brow. "Didn't you know?" she asks me, and I remember that she was suspiciously close to another of our Gryffindor housemates who died during the war. I tell her I guess I did know, or could have guessed; I hadn't thought about it. "Anyway, good luck," Amora tells me, shifting away as Natasha returns.

11:55 p.m.: "Let's dance," Natasha announces, throwing out her hand for Lorelei, but the other woman is distracted by my brother. "I think he needs to be taken home," Lorelei says, clearly worried, and Amora laughs. "It wouldn't be the first time he ruined a night of dancing for you," she teases her sister, and Lorelei rolls her eyes. "Seriously, he might be dead," she says. "Well, have fun," I tell her, grabbing Natasha's hand and pulling her onto the dance floor.

12:34 a.m.: It's hot and disgusting and difficult to see, but I think I spot Jane and Max grinding furiously in the corner, and I laugh. "I knew she didn't hate him," I say, feeling immensely proud of her. "That little whore!" I add, and Natasha leans closer. "What?" she yells, and I shake my head. "Nothing," I say, and pull her towards me, my hands on her waist as we dance. She slithers her hips effortlessly beneath my fingers and fuck, I could not be more into this. I reach up and take hold of her face, pulling her lips to mine. She tastes like whisky and sour cherries and she pulls away with a laugh.

12:39 a.m.: I'm about to try again when Natasha announces that she has to go to the bathroom, so after she leaves I step away from the dance floor, getting some space. "How's it going?" Amora asks, materializing beside me. "Great," I say, feeling smug. "I still don't think it's going anywhere," she warns, and I shrug. "You're not me," I say. She turns, facing me, and ironically (given what I've just said) I'm struck by how pretty she is; her wide eyes are lined with kohl and the lavender tips of her hair glow enticingly against the bare skin of her shoulders. "Nope, I'm not," she agrees drily, and I think she's teasing me. I change the subject, asking what she does now. "I write for the Daily Prophet," she says, "mostly fluff pieces and horoscopes." "Do you enjoy fluff?" I ask, dubious, and she makes a face. "No," she says, "but that's all my editor will give me. He assigns the pieces to his favorites first."

1:05 a.m.: It feels like ages before I finally spot Natasha again. "I have to go," I tell Amora, and she shrugs. "Bye," she says, still looking skeptical, and I head through the crowd towards Natasha.

1:10 a.m.: When I finally reach Natasha, she's making out with some guy against the wall. I feel a little sick; it's either alcohol or rejection, but either way, I need some air. Part of me withers; that's about a dozen masturbatory fantasies wasted. I like the chase, but I'm not totally shameless—I know when to give up.

1:25 a.m.: Outside, Steve is standing with Xavier. "What's up?" Steve asks when he spots me, and I sigh. "You don't want to have sex with me, do you?" I ask him, and Xavier lets out a loud snort of laughter. "Oh, fuck off," I tell him, but he doesn't leave. "I politely decline," Steve tells me, nudging Xavier in the ribs, "but I can take you home if you want." I make a face. "Bye," I say, heading for my flat.

1:27 a.m.: "Can you not?" I hear Steve say to Xavier behind me, and I try to pretend I'm not listening, but I walk a little slower. "Apology blow job?" Xavier drawls in response, and I stumble to a halt. "BYE," Steve calls to me, apparating away. I note that Xavier goes with him, and I'd think about that more, but I'm too upset about Natasha.

2:01 a.m.: Wanda's asleep, but she's left a letter from Tony out on the table. I open it up, barely skimming its contents as I sit beside the Emperor's terrarium. I write him back (Tony, not the Emperor, who is scuttling around noisily) asking to Floo.

2:35 a.m.: "Seriously?" Tony calls, appearing in my fireplace, and I crawl towards him. "You know it's even later here, right?" he demands. "I'm upset," I tell him, pouting, and he sighs. "Look, I'm not sure how much longer I'm going to be your publicist," he tells me, "and to be honest, I don't know what I can do about this." "About what?" I ask, bewildered, and then remember that I initially owled him about the World Cup promo images. "They're probably just trying to sell tickets," he continues, "but I can talk to them if you want." I tell him to do it. "I need an orgasm," I add, and he sighs. "Can we do this quickly?" he asks. "You're the best," I assure him, settling back against the couch leg.

2:45 a.m.: Tony describes in great detail the way he licks my pussy, adding some fun new material about how I taste, and I come with a sigh of relief. "You done?" he asks. "Yes," I tell him, "thank you." He nods curtly. "I'll talk to the company handling it tomorrow," he promises, "but for the love of god, no more late night Floo calls, okay?" "You're great," I tell him, and decide to sleep on the sofa.

3:01 a.m.: Wait. Is Steve fucking Xavier?

3:05 a.m.: Ugh, whatever. I don't care.

3:11 a.m.: I now hold an all-time quidditch record, and I still went home alone. How is this possible?

3:15 a.m.: I hope my brother's alive. Note to self: owl him in the morning.


DAY THREE

8:01 a.m.: I completely miss my workout and wake up to Wanda standing over me. "Oh good," she says, "you're awake." I bolt upright, suddenly remembering I have a World Cup promo shoot and meet-and-greet today, which was conveniently scheduled for after my final game. "MOVE," I shout, shoving past her, and she smiles after me. "You and the Emperor are certainly in high spirits today," she muses, offering him a series of egg selections. "I think he prefers poached," she calls to me as I hurry to make myself presentable. "Make mine scrambled," I yell, downing some hangover potion.

9:07 a.m.: I arrive seven minutes late (as Tony always suggests) and I'm the last to arrive. "You're late," one of the beaters says, and one of the other chasers laughs. "Fixing her hair, probably—you know how girls are," he says, and I catch undertones of mockery but ignore them. "I'm worth the wait, gents," I assure them coolly.

11:15 a.m.: The other two chasers are considerably older than I am, and they've played in the last two World Cup tournaments. They try to lord this over me, but I'm having none of it. "England's missed out on the last two World Cup finals," I remind them, "so I'd say the team needed some fresh blood." They scowl, and the mockery stops. Serves them right.

12:35 a.m.: "Let's take some pictures now," the photographer suggests, arranging us. He places the beaters, the keeper, and the seeker first, arranging all four of them in ridiculous uber-male power poses, and then turns to us chasers. "You two," he says to the other two, "how about holding her up?" He suggests an outrageous pose in which they carry me between them. "Um, no," I say, and the photographer frowns. "Okay, fine," he says, and puts us in a triangle formation, stepping back to look. "Okay, we've almost got it," he says, and then he tells me to "make a sexy face," which makes my teammates snicker. "You know," the photographer coaxes me, "just play a little coy." "I'm a professional quidditch player," I remind him, "and 'coy' is not in my job description." "Jesus," one of the chasers sighs, "you don't have to be such a bitch." I bristle. "Don't be such a cunt," I snap, and the photographer looks mortified. "There's no need for that kind of language," he tells me, and I grimace, but hold my tongue.

2:35 p.m.: When we're finally dismissed, I feel confident this is going to be a problem. One of the chasers, the beaters, the keeper, and the seeker all head out the door without looking back. The other chaser lingers. "Thanks for waiting," I say, and he gives me a sharp sidelong glance. "You realize they'd all prefer to have last Cup's team back in full," he tells me, and I pause. "Do you mean you'd prefer it?" I ask, not very kindly. He doesn't flinch. Instead, he turns nasty. "You're here to appease some ridiculous diversity standard," he says, "and don't think for a second you deserve it. They're using you to sell tickets and to look like they're making an effort at equality, that's all." I decide I hate him, or at least wish him some very severe ill-will. "I'm here to win a World Cup," I tell him, "and we can do that together, or I can carry this team on my back. It wouldn't be the first time." He smirks. "We'll see," he says.

3:37 p.m.: I'm furious when I come home and I'm desperate to vent, but it's always hard to explain myself to Wanda when I'm in a temper; besides, she's currently feeding the Emperor with a baby bottle. "Well, it doesn't matter what one player thinks, does it?" she asks me, and I groan. "It doesn't," I permit, "but still, I want to break his legs." She nods. "You should talk to your brother," she suggests, "since he is particularly adept at pettiness." "SO TRUE," I agree, and owl him, since I did actually want to make sure he was alive.

5:35 p.m.: I meet Bucky in Diagon. "I'm alive," he confirms, and sighs, apologizing about being a mess. I ask him if he's upset about Jane, and he hesitates. "Actually," he begins, somewhat sheepishly, and tells me he has feelings for someone else; he doesn't say who, but considering my observations that evening, I determine it must be Raven, the Slytherin. Figures. Bucky loves domineering women who are fully unable to reciprocate.

5:55 p.m.: He tells me he doesn't see himself getting over this girl (cough, Raven) anytime soon, and I scoff. "Get under someone else," I tell him, and he blanches. "What about Lorelei?" I ask him, and he shrugs. "I probably don't have a chance with her after how pissed I was," he laments, "not to mention the Yule Ball." I disagree, given how much attention she paid him, but I don't push the issue. "What about you?" he asks me, and I tell him I should probably give up on the person I was chasing; it's time to follow my own advice, I tell him, and find someone else. "Ugh, gross," he says, making a face, "you're my sister, I don't want to hear about you having sex." "Oh, shove it," I say, "I've fucked your best friend, you know." "Blech, stop," he gags.

6:37 p.m.: "Have you tried Wandr?" Bucky asks me over an early dinner, and I say no; our older brother told me about it after he developed it, but I haven't tried it. "Let's go get one," I say, dragging him to our brother's store.

7:05 p.m.: "Use this responsibly," our brother warns, grudgingly handing over the small rectangle that says WANDR across the top. "I refuse," I say, and leave. "Bye," I call over my shoulder, and Bucky throws his hands in the air. "What about me?" he demands, and I shrug. "Call Lorelei," I suggest at a yell, and wave my wand to turn on Wandr.

7:30 p.m.: I agree to drinks in Diagon in an hour with someone who shares my interest in quidditch. Boring, really, but I'm not interested in a long game. I'm interested in one night, just to get back the unshakable confidence that Natasha so rudely rattled. To be honest, I just hope he's hot.

8:35 p.m.: Ooh. He is. I show up five minutes late in a tight black dress and he's already there. I'm surprisingly thrilled to find it's actually someone I know—he played keeper briefly on the Gryffindor quidditch team when my brother Bucky was injured and I happen to already know he's a giant twat, so no chance of developing feelings. He's perfectly fit, though, and he looks like he'll be sufficient entertainment. I'll call him Hawkeye—no actual superpowers, but hey, hopefully he can wield an arrow, right?

8:47 p.m.: "Oh, sorry," Hawkeye says, as someone takes a picture from somewhere across the bar. "We can go somewhere more private, if you want," he suggests, and I am deeply pleased by the fortunate proposition. "I'd say my place, but the Emperor takes up the whole living room," I say. He blinks, bemused, but offers up his place. I down my drink and slip my arm through his. "Let's go," I say.

9:04 p.m.: We're making out against the wall and he's sort of rough and artless, but in a great way. I unapologetically yank at his belt and he looks down at me, surprised. "I should warn you, I'm not looking for anything serious," he tells me. "Neither am I," I say, switching places with him and pulling his trousers down to his ankles, dropping to my knees. "Fuck," he exhales, running his hands through my hair as I give his cock a deliberate, steady suck. "I'm bisexual," he adds, babbling, "I've been seeing someone, but he's married, and—" I pause, looking up at him. "Do you want to talk, or do you want your dick sucked?" I ask. "Oh, my dick sucked, please," he assures me. "Good choice," I say, reaching up to pat his stomach.

9:15 p.m.: He comes with a groan and I swallow it, letting him yank me to my feet. He kisses me, which is sort of hot (mostly in that not kissing me would be not hot) and picks me up, carrying me to his bedroom. "A gentleman would return the favor," I inform him as he deposits me back on the bed, and he shrugs, pulling his shirt over his head. "I'm not a gentleman, but I can make allowances," he permits as I wriggle out of my knickers. "Cool," I say, shoving his head between my legs.

9:26 p.m.: Hawkeye's no Tony, but he's not bad. Maybe he's just used to dicks. Rather than wait for what might be an underwhelming orgasm, I wriggle away and pull my dress over my head, yanking him on top of me once I'm naked. "Damn," he says, looking me over, "you're hot." "I know," I tell him, and he slides into me with a groan. "Modesty, much?" he asks. "Unnecessary tool of the patriarchy," I gasp, which is something I've definitely heard Wanda or Jane (or both) say before, and he chuckles as he pounds into me, taking one of my legs and aiming it towards my head. "And flexible," he remarks, licking his lips. "Stop being impressed with me and fuck me," I tell him. He obliges, and I moan.

9:57 p.m.: I'm on top, vigorously rubbing my clit. "Yeah, grind on me, baby, just like that," he urges, gritting his teeth and tightening his hands on my hips, and I'm actually having a very, very lovely time. His married lover must be very satisfied. "Thank you," he says when I impart that particular compliment, lifting his hips to pick up speed as I pin his arms over his head. He watches my breasts bounce, admiring them, and takes one in his mouth. "God, I miss tits," he says, flicking his tongue over my nipple. My mind unwillingly flashes to Natasha, and I come with a near-instant shout of pleasure. Maybe my episode of curiosity's not fully satisfied.

10:15 p.m.: "Pull my hair," I tell Hawkeye as he fucks me from behind, and he grabs a handful, adding a wonderfully satisfying growl. "Fuck," he exhales tightly, throwing his head back with a groan.

10:48 p.m.: "Go again?" he asks, breathing hard, and I grab my wand, summoning two glasses of water and handing one to him. "Sure," I say, taking a long sip, and he grins. "You're sure you're good with casual?" he asks, and I laugh. "Casual? Sweetheart, this is a one time thing," I tell him, and he looks relieved. "Not that I don't like you," he assures me, and I shrug. "You're fine," I say, "but why ruin good sex with longevity?" "I couldn't agree more," he says, and then tells me he tends to avoid women, only because they want more than he can offer. "That's ridiculous," I say, "and a total stereotype." He shrugs.

11:39 p.m.: After we fuck again on his living room sofa, he tells me I can stay over if I want. "Good," I say, because I'm exhausted and there's a lizard taking up half my flat. Plus, morning sex.

12:15 a.m.: We're in his bed trying to sleep, and he rolls onto his back with a sigh. "Go again?" he asks hopefully. "Shh," I tell him. "I'm sleeping."


DAY FOUR

5:01 a.m.: I tap Hawkeye's chest when I wake up. "Go again?" I ask, and he rubs his eyes. "I'm sleeping," he admonishes me, groaning as he looks at the clock, and I shrug, getting out of bed. "Well, I'm either fucking you or going for a run," I say, "but either way, sleep is over." He sighs. "Alright, but you're on top," he grumbles, and I grin before wrapping my hand around his cock.

5:27 a.m.: He's got a great cock. I come about three times just riding him, and then he flips me onto my back. "Too hard?" he asks, smacking his hips against the backs of my legs, and I shake my head. "I'm a morning person," I assure him, just before I come again.

6:05 a.m.: "Well, that was fun," I tell him, offering him a salute as I pull my shoes on and head for the door. "Bye," he says, already half asleep again, and I leave with a smile. That was just what I needed.

6:10 a.m.: I decide to walk home, since it's still early. I always enjoy a quiet morning stroll before the rest of Diagon opens for business, but today, that decision turns out to be a mistake. I hear a camera click and groan, remembering I'm still wearing my dress from last night. I did all of this wrong, I know—but oh well. I look great in this dress, and I'll just have my dad be sure to steal my mum's copy of whatever gossip rag this ends up in.

6:30 a.m.: "Oh good, you're home," says Wanda, holding up a series of albums. "Which of these should I play to stimulate the Emperor's mental development?" she asks, and I point to a recording of Tony's mother's first opera, which is one of his favorites. "That was my leaning," she agrees, obligingly letting me sit down and help myself to her breakfast. She asks me if I have to leave anytime soon, and I shake my head, my mouth full of eggs. "No," I attempt, "just a scrimmage tomorrow," which ends up sounding like garbled nonsense. Luckily, Wanda is fluent in nonsense. "That's fun," she says, and tells the Emperor to sit. "He's a lizard," I tell her, "he can't sit." "Stop discouraging him," she says.

8:37 a.m.: Wanda and I are still chatting at the kitchen table when the Floo comes to life, revealing Tony in the flames. "HEY," he barks, and I wander over to the fireplace. "Is that my mother singing?" he asks me, but before I can answer, he shakes his head. "Nevermind—we have a problem," he says grimly. "Is it that ascot you're wearing?" I ask. He grimaces. "Shush," he says.

9:00 a.m.: Apparently he did intercede with the PR rep for the national team, opposing their choice of advertising, and they responded with a copy of this morning's Daily Prophet, which he holds up for me now. "Oh, for fuck's sake," I growl, looking at the spread that shows pictures of me last night and this morning. "Did they really call me a floozy?" I demand, and Tony shrugs.

9:15 a.m.: "Look, perception matters," he tells me, and I am more than a little irritated. "You're saying that they won't use a different picture of me just because I had sex last night?" I demand. "I'm still the best chaser they've got!" "I know," Tony says, "but their job is to sell what people like, and that's sex and misbehaving celebrities. If you want to be taken seriously—" "I should be taken seriously based on my talent," I cut in sharply, and add that neither of the other chasers have to worry about this, despite having well-documented indiscretions of their own. Tony sighs. "This isn't something I can fix for you," he tells me. "I'd like to, but—" "Fine," I mutter, and he grimaces. "Sorry," he says.

9:45 a.m.: For a long time after he ends the call, Wanda silently watches me pace the kitchen. "You do always say perception is important," she reminds me, and I'm very annoyed that this is the time she chooses to listen to me. "I get it," I growl, "but I shouldn't have to fight this hard to be recognized for what I do on the pitch." Wanda tilts her head, thinking about it. "Well," she begins slowly, "what if you could convince people to see you the way you wanted them to?" I pause, considering it. "That's an idea," I say slowly, and formulate a plan.

12:25 p.m.: I actually aim to arrive right at noon, but it takes me twenty minutes to find Amora's desk inside the Daily Prophet offices. Actually, calling it an office isn't quite right; she's in the corner of what's essentially a bullpen, and the whole place is an utter zoo. My first thought upon arrival (well, second, after the whole zoo thing) is that she looks incredibly different; her hair is tied up, the purple ends concealed in a work-appropriate bun, and she's wearing a blazer and glasses. "Holy shit," I say in greeting, and she looks up, frowning. "What do you want? I'm only on Gemini," she mutters, and adds something that sounds like "never trust a blueberry," under her breath, scribbling it down.

12:30 p.m.: "I wanted to talk to you about something," I say, clearing a stack of newspapers from the chair across from her and sitting in it, narrowly ducking a charmed paper airplane that aims itself at Amora. She picks it up, unfolding it, and scowls. "Sorry," she mutters to me, "just more idiocy." "You look frustrated," I say. She glances up. "Like you wouldn't believe," she confirms flatly.

12:35 p.m.: "Listen," I press, "I want to pitch you an article idea." I tell her I'm willing to give her exclusive behind-the-scenes coverage for the English national team throughout the entire World Cup tournament if she agrees to do one piece in particular. She looks skeptical, per usual. "We have sports writers for that," she says, and I shake my head. "Don't write about sports," I say, "write about me." She lifts a brow, and I hurry to correct what she's clearly assumed is my raging hubris. "I mean, write about women in sports," I say quickly, "and the perception of female athletes." She leans back, considering it.

12:40 p.m.: "They did run a fairly sexist promo spread with you," she comments, and I nod. "You said you were tired of fluff," I remind her, and she drums her fingers on the desk. "Hm," she says, glancing around the room, which I notice is dominated by men. "Quidditch is still not my preferred topic," she says, hedging, "but—" "You can choose the lens of the article," I assure her. "I'm just tired of being treated like an object and yet being dragged through the mud when I act precisely how they want me to be perceived."

12:47 p.m.: She gets hit with another paper airplane, which is apparently how they communicate here, and sighs, crumpling it into a ball and throwing it in the bin beneath her desk. "Fine, I'm in," she says, "but I can't talk about it right now. How about tonight?" she suggests, and asks if I want to do dinner. I agree, and take my leave.

1:37 p.m.: I find I have a lot of excess energy, so I head to the pitch to work out.

4:28 p.m.: When I get home, I still have a lot of excess energy, despite being covered in sweat and exhausted. "Try masturbating," Wanda suggests. She's sitting at a makeshift easel, apparently trying to teach the Emperor how to read. "You know, most human babies can't read," I remind her. "Well, I'm not going to determine the ceiling for him," she says. "You're right, by the way," I add, and she turns. "About reading?" she asks. "No," I say, "about masturbating." She nods solemnly. "I find it clears my head," she says. "In fact," she adds, brightening, "I have my best ideas while masturbating." "Did you have this idea while masturbating?" I ask, gesturing to the easel. "No," she says, "this was just one of my afternoon whims."

4:45 p.m.: I figure I have about twenty minutes, so I strip down and lay back on my bed before hopping in the shower. This is a perfunctory sort of rub-down, so I just close my eyes and let my mind wander as I slide my fingers in and out of my cunt. Before long, my thoughts progress; first to Hawkeye's dick, then to Tony's tongue, and then, oddly, to Amora, to the way she looks when she's thinking, and that dry tone in her voice. "Oof," I say, opening my eyes with a start. "How's it going?" Wanda yells from outside of my door. "Stop doing that," I yell back, "it's disruptive." "Sorry," she calls back.

5:02 p.m.: I decide to entertain the fantasy, imagining how Amora might look naked. It's different than how I've always imagined sex with Natasha; there's something physical about Natasha, something very overtly sexual that leads my brain to concrete things like where I'd want to bite or lick, but my imaginings of Amora are different—more sensual, somehow. I'm picturing her eyes, the poised motions of her fingers, the parting of her lips.

5:03 p.m.: I come so hard it startles me. "How was it?" Wanda yells. "Problematic," I shout back. "Oh, that's fun," she says.

5:34 p.m.: I get to the restaurant and Amora's waiting for me, her hair down and the blazer off. "Okay," she says, immediately getting down to business, "so let's start with some background information. How did you learn to play quidditch?" "When I was six years old, I started breaking into my family's broom shed and taking each of my brother's brooms," I reply. She frowns. "Didn't you have your own?" she asks, and I shake my head. "Nope," I say, "my mum said no, and my brothers didn't think I could play with them." "Oh man," Amora says with a laugh, "this is going to be feminist as fuck."

6:45 p.m.: We talk about my life and career quite a bit, but eventually, I start asking questions about her. "When did you decide to be a journalist?" I say, and she shrugs. "I didn't," she says, and explains that she started writing after her girlfriend was killed during the war. "I didn't know what else to do, so when they wanted someone with divination experience for the horoscopes, I just agreed," she explains. "Now I want to write something that matters, though," she adds, somewhat optimistically. I open my mouth, hesitating, and she chuckles a little. "You want to ask me about her, right?" she prompts, referencing her girlfriend, and I grimace. "Let me tell you something," she says quietly, "you don't know what it's like being intimate with a woman until you're actually with one. Everything feels different. Your body feels different, and you look at yourself in a completely different way."

7:01 p.m.: I ask her what she means, and she pauses, considering it. "Like, okay, consider tits," she suggests, gesturing to her own. "Men see your tits, they think tits in some vaguely generic way. When a woman is touching you, though, it's not just any set of tits—she has her own, you know? She learns you for the sake of learning you, not because she just wants to watch something bounce." I swallow, forcing a nod. "I see," I say, taking a sip of my firewhisky. Amora pauses for a second, steepling her fingers, and watches me. "How did it go with Natasha?" she asks, and I grimace. "You were right," I say, and she smirks. "Good," she says.

7:05 p.m.: "Good?" I echo, and she nods, leaning forward. "You don't want your first time to be with someone who's having some kind of experiment," she tells me, her voice low as the words seem to melt in the distance between her lips and mine. "You want your first time with a woman to be with someone who's going to touch you like they've been longing for it—who's going to let you be in that moment, and nowhere else," she says softly, "so that when you're dying for friction and you don't know yet how to get it, it's someone who wants you just as badly, who's just as desperate to feel every inch of you against her skin."

7:15 p.m.: I don't realize I've been holding my breath until after she leans away, pulling out her purse. "So," she says, clearing her throat, "split the bill?" It takes me a few seconds, but eventually I manage a nod. "Great," she says. "Oh, and by the way, my sister is going on a date with your brother," she tells me, but I have not yet recovered from her most recent speech, and the rush of firewhisky in my veins is not helping my concentration. "I have a lizard," I offer anecdotally in exchange, "or a dragon. To be determined." "Huh," she says, "weird."

8:05 p.m.: "How was it?" Wanda asks when I get home. "I'm honestly not sure," I reply, and after considering it for a moment, I ask her if she's ever been with a woman. "Oh, yes, several," Wanda replies effortlessly. "The clitoris and I are very well-acquainted," she adds. "That's nice," I tell her, but I really need to get to bed, because if this day goes on any longer, I may lose track of it altogether. I need to put Amora out of my head.

8:15 p.m.: "Please tell the Emperor I must retire for the evening," I say, and Wanda blinks at me. "He's right here," she informs me, "and his language processes seem to be developing just fine." "Goodnight, then, Your Imperial Highness," I say, bowing to our pet lizard.

8:17 p.m.: "He won't answer," Wanda tells me, sighing. "I hate to set cognitive limits, but unfortunately, I think expecting speech is aiming a bit too high."

8:30 p.m.: I was worried for a bit about whether I could get to sleep, but I'm exhausted. I drift off easily, my mind pleasantly thoughtless.

8:45 p.m.: Unfortunately, I wake up with a start, remembering that I gave Amora tickets to tomorrow's scrimmage so that she could see the team in action in preparation for the article. "Shit," I say, "shit, shit, shit—"

8:46 p.m.: "Nargles?" Wanda calls. "Wrackspurts," I yell back. "Oh, sad," she sighs.


DAY FIVE

5:30 a.m.: I head to the pitch where we're playing today, deciding to get my usual warm-up in there rather than at my team's stadium. I'm struck by how much larger it is, and then I realize my all-female team doesn't exactly sell out every game. "Damn patriarchy," I mutter, realizing I'll have to do twice as many sprints.

8:32 a.m.: I'm stretching when the others arrive, piling into the locker room. They don't seem concerned that I'm there; they strip down without much concern for me, and one of the chasers—the one that waited for me after our last meeting—gives me a smug look as he drops his trousers. "Oh, come on," he says as I furiously avert my eyes, "I know how you like your quidditch dick." I gape at him, too angry to speak, and he shrugs, referencing my relationship with Steve and then my little stint with Hawkeye. "Is that how you got your spot on the team?" he asks neutrally, and I promptly pull out my wand.

8:45 a.m.: Out of everyone who's ever been on the receiving end of my bat-bogey hex, he takes it with the least panache, and I'd laugh at the sound of his inhuman shrieking if I weren't too busy storming out. I wait on the field for the rest of the team, certain I will receive some sort of discipline for it but determining that I don't care. In the stands, I can see sports journalists and commentators filling in for the nine o'clock start, and I catch a little flutter of purple that tells me that Amora is here.

9:00 a.m.: This event is mostly for press coverage and to garner some publicity, so it isn't all that serious—at least, not unless you're me, and you therefore have something to prove for all of womankind.

9:15 a.m.: Right off the bat, the chasers refuse to pass to me. It's going to be a long, long day.

10:17 a.m.: I happen to wrest the quaffle away and score on our keeper, and while there is some polite applause, I can see the other chasers gritting their teeth in displeasure. I've never played on a team like this before. On the Gryffindor team, nobody was a star; we worked together to get the House Cup. On my own team, too, competition is set aside in favor of winning games. But these chasers would clearly rather lose than deflate their egos, and that could mean trouble for me—if the coaches identify me as the problem, they could replace me with a male alternate. It could derail my career.

11:34 a.m.: One of the beaters aims a bludger that I pull up just in time to miss. "Sorry," he calls insincerely. This could be worse than I thought.

12:27 p.m.: By the time the scrimmage is over, I've worked twice as hard as everyone else on the pitch and scored less than half as much. I'd be willing the bet the keeper let in some of the other chasers' shots, but clearly that doesn't matter to anyone watching. The media reps in the stands are mostly men, and I hear them as they pass—"I expected more from her," one says, tutting, and another adds, "Ireland has three returning chasers, and they work together much more smoothly." I want to shout my opposition, but I know being emotional on the field will only be used against me. "Good game," one of the chasers sneers, grinning wickedly.

12:36 p.m.: In the moment, I want to cry—and then even I hate me for being a girl.

1:14 p.m.: "Hey," Amora says, waiting for me outside the pitch. I shake my head. "I can't talk right now," I tell her, and she nods. "I just wanted to let you know I'm pitching the article to my editor today," she says, "and personally, I think it can't come soon enough. People need to know what the other players are doing out there," she says urgently, pointing to the pitch, and I pause. "Right?!" I demand, and she gives me a solemn nod. "They were clearly edging you out," she says, and I let out a sigh.

1:20 p.m.: "Let's get drinks tonight after my meeting," Amora suggests, and I nod. "Sounds good," I say, and I don't really know if it sounds good, exactly, but at least I'll have the opportunity to vent—and drink.

1:30 p.m.: I head to the Leaky for a late lunch and run into Jane, who seems alarmed to see me. "Hey," I say, heading for her table, "what are you—" "WHAT? NOTHING," she exclaims at the top of her lungs, and then I catch the motion of someone with pale blond hair ducking out of sight. "Oh, come on," I sigh, shaking my head, "I know you two are fucking." "Oh," Jane says, smoothing her hair back. "Well, I wouldn't call it that," she sniffs, and I roll my eyes. "I know you wouldn't," I remark, and she shrugs. "Want to join me?" she prompts, gesturing to the food that Max has just vacated, and I sit down across from her. "Where'd he go?" I ask, and she glances over her shoulder. "Oh, I don't know. He'll come back eventually," she says.

1:45 p.m.: She asks me what's new while I dig into Max's salad, and I tell her about the scrimmage. "Oh, that's got to be breaking so many DMSG equality statutes!" she protests. "That's blatant discrimination," she adds, waving her fork around, "and I'm certain I could find grounds for a lawsuit—" "I don't really want to go that route," I tell her, since I still have to play with them; after all, playing in the World Cup tournament is my dream, and I'm much easier to replace than they are. I tell her about Amora's article, though, and she tilts her head thoughtfully, nodding. "You know, her sister works in magical law," Jane says, "and she's quite good at it."

1:53 p.m.: "Oh," I say, recalling what I've just learned about Lorelei, "I think I should probably warn you that she's dating Bucky." Jane pauses, considering this information. "Well, she's very smart," she permits slowly. I wait, grinning. "Is that all?" I ask, and Jane shrugs. "I mean, we are broken up," she says, and I point to Max's salad. "Obviously," I agree.

2:01 p.m.: "You could have told me you liked him," I tell her, referring to Max, and she groans. "I don't like him at all," she says, "I just seem to be slightly enamored with him against my will." "Slightly?" I ask, arching a brow, and she sighs. "Fine," Jane says flatly, "he's—it's casual." "Oh my god, you love him," I tell her, and then eagerly ask her what he looks like naked. She turns bright red. "He's very aesthetically pleasing," she says carefully. "You fucking slut," I say cheerfully, "I've never been more proud of you." She smiles. "You're sweet," she tells me.

2:15 p.m.: "Well, good luck with the team," Jane says as I prepare to leave, "and let me know if you need my help." "I will," I say, opening the door and ducking out of sight just as Max reappears behind me. "Excuse me, you monster," he says to Jane, "but I've been waiting for forty-five minutes!" "Well, that's on you," she tells him pertly, and he groans. "DID SHE EAT MY SALAD?" he demands, and Jane gives him an adoring, goonish smile. "I'll get you another one," she says, and he relents, letting her kiss his scowl away.

2:20 p.m.: Is anyone I know not in some sort of secret relationship? Not Tony, I'm sure. He's allergic to relationships.

7:30 p.m.: I bum around for the rest of the day accomplishing nothing, and then I leave to meet Amora for drinks. My attitude has turned around a bit and I'm looking forward to seeing her now, but my stomach drops a bit when she storms in, furious. "My editor killed the story," she announces, and my jaw drops. "What?" I demand, and she shakes her head. "He says it's too niche for the Daily Prophet's audience," she says flatly, and grabs my firewhisky from my hand, downing it in one go. "Come on," she announces, "we're drinking."

8:39 p.m.: "Apparently," she slurs, "pieces on 'human interest' do not include women's interests, so—" "Fuck him," I say. "Fuck all of them!" she announces, and my god, we are spectacularly drunk. Transcendently, even. She is transcendent, I think, all glowing and beautiful and glittering with an opalescent rage.

9:05 p.m.: "You're so pretty," I blurt out, and Amora turns to me slowly, blinking. "You," she says, "are probably the most confident, determined, beautiful woman I've ever seen, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a bloody fool." I stare at her, she stares back, and I'm not totally sure what's happening, but I'm so fucking into this I could cry.

9:10 p.m.: "Come home with me," I say, and she slams her glass down. "I thought you'd never ask," she says, and we head to my flat.

9:36 p.m.: "Oh, hi," says Wanda, holding up the Emperor. "Are you two—" "I can't talk right now," I tell her, dragging Amora to my bedroom. "Ooh, okay, fun!" Wanda calls after us.

9:40 p.m.: When the door closes, I have absolutely no idea what to do. I'm used to being the dominant one, and I'm usually the one who makes the first move, but all of a sudden I feel hugely out of my element. Amora drops her purse on the ground and takes her shoes off slowly, one at a time, before stepping towards me. She takes my shoulders, shifting me back and sitting me on my bed, and then she slowly, slowly begins unzipping her dress, letting it fall to her feet.

9:45 p.m.: She steps towards me in her bra and knickers and takes my hands, placing them on her waist. I can see her skin pebbling beneath my fingers and I'm speechless, letting her guide my touch. She slides my hands up to her breasts, running them over the lace, and then down to her hips, brushing the thin cotton fabric of her thong. She straddles my lap, shifting my hands again until they brush the bare skin of her arse, and her hips are moving so smoothly and elegantly that it's almost like she's dancing, and I am captivated as I brush my lips against the tops of her breasts.

9:51 p.m.: She leans away, taking my face in her hands, and kisses me slowly. Her lips are softer than I expect, the kiss itself much more delicate, and then her tongue flicks between my lips, parting them. I shift my hands, drawing my fingers experimentally between her legs, and I shiver gloriously at how wet she is. "What do you want to touch?" she asks, and reaches behind her, unclasping her bra and letting it fall to the floor. "Shit," I whisper, letting her push me back on the bed.

9:56 p.m.: I regain my senses, rolling over her and standing to slip out of my skirt and top, kicking my own shoes off. All in all I feel foolish but I resolve to make up for it with aggression, which I can see is effective when she hurries to help me remove her underwear, lifting her bum for me to pull it down her legs. I climb over her, half-holding my breath, and lower my lips to her nipples, sliding my tongue over them one by one. I see now what she means about tits. I have my own, sure, but there's something far more enticing about the shape of hers; about the way they feel under my hands, and the way I can feel her ribs expand as she holds her breath before letting it out in a tiny, desperate sigh.

10:05 p.m.: I'm dying for more of her and she obliges me, slipping one of her legs between mine. I grind against her with absolutely no shame, and I'm rewarded for my attention with the way her breath quickens, the way she bites her lip and moans.

10:11 p.m.: She gets me on my back and slides her way down my abdomen, ending with her lips against my clit. She sucks it lightly, gently, and then slides her fingers into me, and I reach down to gather her long hair in my hands, locking eyes with her. My pussy fucking glistens from how bad I want her, and her eyes are heavy-lidded as she drags her tongue against me. "Do you like this?" she asks, moving faster with her fingers, and I barely stammer out a yes. Within minutes, I'm coming so hard my vision swims.

10:35 p.m.: We kiss some more, my hands traveling greedily up her waist, and then I'm just furiously thrusting against her and I'm coming again, and then I shove her onto her back, dropping between her legs. "Tell me if I do it wrong," I say, and she stares down at me, shuddering violently the moment my tongue slides against the slit of her pussy. "Fuck," she hisses, tightening her fingers in my hair, "you're doing it exactly right."

11:15 p.m.: For so long I've treated sex like any bodily function—no different than drinking water when I'm thirsty, or sleeping when I'm tired—but with Amora, it regains a little bit of its lore. It feels, again, a little bit like worship, like magic; like something vibrant that sparks between two people and doesn't fade when we pull away. She is stunning and entrancing and beneath her touch I feel—I don't know. It doesn't matter, really. I just feel, and for the first time in a long time, that means something to me.

11:46 p.m.: We whisper to each other at night about little things, about silly things, about nothing. I kiss her slowly and she kisses me back with care.

12:37 a.m.: "I want to see the dragon," she says, as we're both drifting off to sleep. "I'll show you in the morning," I whisper back.


DAY SIX

5:30 a.m.: I'm not one to break a habit and Amora looks restful as she sleeps, so I head out for my morning workout, leaving a note for her on my pillow. 'Out for a run,' I say, 'I'll be back in a couple hours with breakfast.'

6:45 a.m.: I find I'm in a hurry to come back, so I skip the stairs altogether and stick with a reasonable 10k, returning with pastries and coffee from the Leaky. As I enter, though, I hear Amora chatting with Wanda, and I pause briefly to pray to any available deity that Wanda has not asked any questions about my (or Amora's) clitoris.

6:50 a.m.: "You know, I could publish the article," Wanda is saying when I enter. "I do own a magazine," she says, "though I've been working on cross-species parenting, presently." "Actually, that's not a bad idea," I say, disregarding my concerns as both women look up at my entrance. "The article, not the cross-parenting. Wanda always publishes the important things," I clarifies, and Amora smiles. "True," she says, "but I was thinking that maybe this should be about more than just one article."

7:01 a.m.: "My sister always complains that magical law is male dominated," Amora says, "and I know the Daily Prophet's decision-makers are all men. It's starting to feel like we're just outsiders, and it doesn't make any sense." "That's true," I say, "but what would 'more than one article' look like?" Amora shrugs. "A female-run publication," she says. "It wouldn't necessarily contain feminist rants, but just something where the people who decide what's important to print are women," she declares emphatically, and Wanda and I pause, glancing at each other. "You know who would love this," I suggest, and Wanda nods. "The Emperor," she announces, at the same time that I say, "Jane." "Oh," Wanda says, "her, too."

7:30 a.m.: "Why don't you owl her," Amora says slowly, "and I'll get in touch with my sister, and we can meet up later today?" I wither a little, realizing she's leaving; I thought she'd want to stay, but evidently not. "Sure," I say, hoping I don't look as disappointed as I feel.

7:47 a.m.: I walk Amora to the Floo and she pauses, looking like she might say something. "So," she says, and I wait. "Pretty sure that's just a lizard," she exhales, and I let out something of an awkward laugh. "Yeah," I say, "I know." Then she gives me a wave, and she's gone.

7:56 a.m.: "I like her," Wanda says, unhelpfully. "I have to lie down," I sigh.

11:45 a.m.: I spend most of the day sulking after I send Jane an owl, asking her to meet us for dinner. I can't figure out what went wrong with Amora, but I'm also not sure what would have happened to make it go right. More sex, obviously, as sex is something I understand; but what would I have wanted after that? Did I expect her to kiss me goodbye? That seems like too much, but at the same time, her just leaving like that seems like far too little. I don't know what to make of it.

5:36 p.m.: I put together a relatively sad pot of carbonara (my mother's an excellent cook, but I really don't have the time or patience for it) and wait for the others to arrive. Jane arrives perfectly on time, of course, and Amora and Lorelei follow soon after; Lorelei and Jane are somewhat formal with each other, but that's nothing new, really. Jane's always fairly formal. "So," Amora begins, "the idea is—"

5:47 p.m.: She's cut off as Wanda arrives. With her—in an unpredictable move, even for Wanda—is Raven, the Slytherin that I know for a fact not one person in this flat gets along with, and that I still suspect of being involved with my brother (who, much to my sudden delight, I realize would very much not enjoy being in this room. I fight the urge to invite him, though, because we're busy, so my pleasure at his discomfort will have to wait). "Um," Jane says, "why—" "I ran into her in Diagon," Wanda supplies cheerfully, "and I thought she'd be perfect to help us bring down the patriarchy." Raven shrugs. "I don't have a lot going on," she says in explanation, pulling up a chair and glancing at Amora. "Go on," Raven prompts, expectant.

6:10 p.m.: Surprisingly, there is little tension once Amora pitches her idea: it's a news source run by women, without having to appeal to male-dominated publishers but also without catering solely to stereotypically female-dominated areas of interest, like fashion and gossip. "It might not make a lot of money," Amora admits, "but the industry is lacking a female voice, and I think with all of us involved—" she trails off, and everyone at the table glances at Raven. "What?" Raven demands. "Well," Jane says hesitantly, "it's just that traditionally we don't, er." She pauses, tilting her head. "Get along?" she finishes weakly, and Raven rolls her eyes. "I'm a woman, too, you know," she says, "and anyway, all of this"—she waves a hand around the table at Lorelei and Jane, who mentioned the bias they receive at the Ministry, at me, and at Amora—"makes me feel like the more of us there are involved, the better off we'll all be." Strangely, we all nod in agreement, finding ourselves on the same side for possibly the first time ever.

9:15 p.m.: We decide we'll rebrand Wanda's magazine, using her printing resources. I get Tony on a Floo call, and he promises his mother's company's support in distributing it to their clients. "What the fuck are you doing there?" he asks Raven, who makes a face. "Why is everyone so surprised that I have interests?" she counters, and he pauses, thoughtful. "Huh," he says, "I guess you do generally glory in your superiority." "There you go," she sniffs.

9:20 p.m.: Jane assures us that she's willing to use her clout at the Ministry, and Raven adds that she has the money to help it along; "for a while, anyway," she mutters, but we don't ask what that means. Lorelei promises to draw up contracts for all of us, and before I realize what's happening, we've created something on my kitchen table. We decide to call it The Human Interest, or The Interest, for short.

9:35 p.m.: "Well," I tell Wanda in the kitchen, "I suppose this will help with everything except those arseholes I'm on the World Cup team with." "Why?" Raven asks, catching the conversation and frowning as she carries her plate to the sink. "What are they doing?" she asks, and I tell her they're refusing to play with me; they'd rather lose, I say, than treat me like a member of the team. "Oh, well, that's easy," she says briskly, "you just have to put something on the line that they care about." "Like what?" I scoff, "their dicks?" "Those, yes," she permits haughtily, "but I'd be willing to bet men like that also have fortunes they don't want to lose."

9:46 p.m.: "What are you saying?" I ask, and Raven smirks. "I might be able to help you with this," she says, looking maniacally pleased with herself. "I knew you'd enjoy this," Wanda tells Raven dreamily, but I'm not quite buying it. "Why would you help me?" I ask, and Raven shrugs. "Maybe I think it's cool that you can get people together like this," she says, "or maybe I find a strange, twisted pleasure in destroying a man. Who knows. It's a mystery."

10:15 p.m.: I want to talk to Amora before she goes, but with her sister here, that doesn't seem likely. "Have a good night," I say as she leaves, and she smiles, but nothing more.

11:00 p.m.: By the time I get to bed, I can smell Amora's perfume in my sheets and my heart feels heavy in my chest. I guess I should write her off like I did with Natasha, but that seems strange, somehow. Difficult. Different, certainly. I don't know what Natasha cared about, really. I never really knew what mattered to her; she was a warm body I had curiosities about, but Amora is different.

11:15 p.m.: When, exactly, did I let Amora start to matter to me?

12:45 a.m.: I drift to sleep and then wake up to an owl, and for a second I think it might be from Amora, but there's a family crest at the top of the parchment that tells me it's Raven. 'Meet me outside Gringotts tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. sharp,' she says, 'and wear something that says 'don't fuck with me,' if possible.'

12:49 a.m.: I snicker a little to myself, feeling like she and I are going to be great friends. 'Always,' I reply, wondering what stroke of lunacy possessed Wanda to invite her and hoping it continues.


DAY SEVEN

5:45 a.m.: Usual workout. Usual day. If only being someone who worked hard was enough to get ahead, right? It isn't, unfortunately, and seeing the World Cup promo material that flashes my half-naked torso on its enchanted banners reminds me of that—but then I remember that changing it is our entire goal, and we've already taken the first step. I feel better, bigger and stronger, and I finish my run on a high.

9:30 a.m.: I put on my favorite black trousers and the leather jacket that was my first big purchase when I signed the contract to go pro, and I meet Raven outside Gringotts, as she requested. She turns, smirking at me as she removes a pair of oversized sunglasses. "I pulled a few strings," she says, handing me a couple of slips of parchment. I stare at them, disbelieving. "Is this—" "You just need to give them a reason to win," she tells me, winking, "and you and I both know they need you to do that." "But how will I—" "They're on their way," she says, "I already had them summoned."

9:45 a.m.: "How did you pull this off?" I ask her, and she shakes her head, coolly replacing her sunglasses on her head. "I may not be a good person," she says, turning to head down the street, "but I'm a useful one to have around."

9:56 a.m.: Can I just say one thing? If my brother really is in love with her, I totally get it.

10:00 a.m.: Both chasers arrive outside of Gringotts right when Raven says they will, and they look supremely disgruntled at the sight of me. "What are you doing here?" one asks gruffly, and I give them both my coyest smile. "You need to rethink your priorities," I tell them, "because winning the World Cup with my help has now become quite important."

10:05 a.m.: "These," I explain, handing them each a slip of parchment, "belong to you. In case you neanderthals struggle with reading," I clarify with delight, "these are receipts for the bets you've just placed on the results of the tournament. The value of your combined fortunes is now on the line, and you know as well as I do that you can't win the tournament with only two functioning chasers." They gape at me. "We can get you replaced," one says, and I shake my head. "See this?" I say, tapping it. "This bet was placed on the team as the roster is now," I say, "and you know how particular goblins are about details. You lose if the terms aren't met."

10:15 a.m.: They're stunned, staring at the parchments. "This is illegal," one tries to protest, and I laugh. "So is keeping your money in secret accounts," I say, "and I'm sure the Ministry would love to hear that." "We could turn you in," the other counters, and I shrug. "I had nothing to do with it," I remind them, "seeing as these are signatures from both your accounts, and my name's nowhere on it." (Privately, I remind myself not to get an accountant that can be swayed by a pretty pureblooded heiress; a female accountant, preferably.)

10:20 a.m.: "Also, it would be easier just to play with me, because I'm a fucking great chaser," I tell them, "and I promise you, I can win you this World Cup, because I earned my spot on the team. Nobody helped me, and nobody favored me. I earned it." They stare at me, and then, slowly, they both nod. "Team England?" I prompt, and they nod again. "Team England," they echo.

11:45 a.m.: I'm riding a pretty considerable high right now, so I owl Amora. 'Meet me at the Leaky?' I ask, and she agrees.

12:30 p.m.: When Amora walks in, I notice her hair is a different color; the platinum blonde remains, but the ends of the strands are no longer lavender. Instead, there's now a brilliant crimson at the bottom layer of her hair. "What's this?" I ask, gesturing, and she smiles. "For England," she says, and I don't know what this means yet, so I wait. "I had some things I needed to get out of my system," she explains, and I realize that maybe that color meant something to her, and I also realize that maybe I should have stopped to ask if she was ready for what I wanted.

12:45 p.m.: "I quit my job," she says, and tells me she's willing to pursue The Interest full-time, because she wants it to matter. She wants to do something that matters, she says, and I find myself nodding. "You inspire me, you know," she says, and I note that she uses the present tense. "I might never have gotten out of there if I hadn't seen you fight so fiercely for what you deserve," she tells me, and adds that she wants other women to see that side of me; to fight for what they want. "Like you do," she says again, and though it's flattery, I am imminently humbled. "Thank you," I say, with genuine appreciation, and she gives me a lovely, radiant smile. "Thank you," she says.

1:05 p.m.: "When you say for England," I begin, reaching out to touch her hair, and she clears her throat. "I hear the World Cup team has a great new chaser," she says, and I laugh. "You know, I think they do," I tell her, and when she smiles again, my entire body fills with warmth.

2:35 p.m.: We go back to my flat and I kiss her without hesitation this time, and she kisses me back. And when she's got the palm of her hand in my trousers, cupping my cunt and stroking the slickness there as I grind against her, I know I'm going to do this again with her; in fact, I'm going to do things with her I haven't done with anyone for a long time. I'm going to care, for once, and I'm going to make sure that her admiration is something I have well and truly earned.

3:45 p.m.: I've just finished a successful, highly satisfying round of sucking on her clit when I hear a strange sound and Amora sits up, sniffing the air. "Is something burning?" she asks, and I frown, throwing a robe at her and pulling on the t-shirt I keep next to the bed before opening the door to my living room.

3:51 p.m.: "Look," Wanda says gleefully, clapping her hands in delight as half of our living room is fully set ablaze. "I told you the Emperor can accomplish anything he sets his mind to," she tells me, cooing at him as he belches another burst of flame that shrivels our drapes to ash. "OH MY GOD," I shout, as Amora conjures an Aguamenti, probably saving our lives and, thankfully, one of the books I borrowed from Jane two months ago (she would never forgive me).

4:30 p.m.: Eventually the fire's gone and while most of our things smell like smoke, the Emperor is sitting contentedly on Wanda's shoulder, blowing smoke rings and making a loud, screeching sound of triumph. "I have to call my brother about this," I say, and then—out of nowhere—Amora is laughing, and then Wanda laughs, and then I am laughing so hard that I can't breathe, and then we're all falling over each other on the floor.

4:39 p.m.: "No, but seriously," I manage, "you really should take the Emperor to Romania." "But who will stay here with you to take care of the wrackspurts?" Wanda asks, and I turn to Amora, who smiles. "Oh, I have an idea," I say, taking a crimson strand of hair and twirling it around my finger.

4:40 p.m.: "Ooh, fun," says Wanda, tickling the Emperor's chin. He coughs, lighting a horrible throw pillow from my mother on fire.

4:45 p.m.: And just like that, the world is as it should be.