He and Gina are half way through a game of Bertie Botts Roulette, where the aim is to eat the grossest looking bean with a completely straight face, and even though it is killing him Gina’s winning, possibly due to the fact that she seems to find nothing disgusting (she eats an earwax flavoured bean with little more than a ‘ooh, tangy’. Sometimes Jake wonders if she is a real person) when a small dark haired girl already dressed in her Hogwarts robes comes marching in to their carriage – “this is a private party,” Gina says drily – and demands to know if they had seen a toad.
“A boy called Charles has lost one.”
“No toads here!” Jake says cheerily, “Except chocolate ones – but they’re frogs, technically, so…”
“So no toads. Right. It’s probably – I mean, we’re on a train so it can’t have gone far-”
“Check the bathroom,” Gina says absently, checking her nail polish (it was a fluorescent green colour, to indicate the conviction she felt at her Sorting) “Toads like water, right?”
The girl blinks rapidly, as if surprised by Gina’s insightfulness. “Right. Yeah. Yeah, they do. Thanks – what was your name?”
“Linetti,” she flashed a grin at the girl, “Gina Linetti. Future Slytherin. This here is my boy Jake, and to be honest with you, I’m still not sure he won’t get sent home for being a Squib.”
“She thinks she’s being funny,” Jake says, and sticks out a hand like his mother had told him to when meeting new classmates (and for God’s sake, Jacob, don’t tell that joke about the banshee and the vicar) “Jake Peralta! Not a Squib!”
“Amy Santiago,” the girl – Amy – replies, and shakes his hand with a surprisingly firm handshake for someone so tiny.
“Are you the one with the brothers?” Gina, still admiring her nail polish, asks.
“Yes that would be me,” Amy replies, grimacing a little.
“Are they hot?” Gina wants to know.
“They’re my brothers, how would I – why would I - ?” She turns to Jake, “Is she always like this?”
“Yes,” Gina replies for him.
“Do you wanna play Bertie Botts Roulette? The aim is to eat the most disgusting looking bean with a totally straight face” Jake says, whilst simultaneously thinking that this girl, the girl with the brothers, has a massive stick up her butt. She wrinkles her nose in disgust, confirming his theory.
“Ew, no, that’s gross! And besides, I have a toad to find!”
And she turns, very abruptly on her heel and marches out of the compartment. Jake thinks that it would probably have been polite to offer to help, but he doesn’t know this Charles kid, and toads kinda wig him out. Gina looks up from her nails as the door slides shut.
“Well she’s kind of a loser – do you wanna split a pumpkin pasty? My mum made them, so they’ve got enough sugar in them to kill a diabetic.”
Jake watches the space where Amy had last been, and Gina, bored of his not paying attention to her but still lazy, leans across the compartment and waves a hand in his face.
“Pasties,” she waves the plastic bag, “You wanna split it?”
Wordlessly, he grabs the bag and shoves the whole pasty into his mouth.
“I said splitsies!” Gina protests.
Gina throws an Every Flavoured bean at his head.
It takes the Sorting fifteen minutes to Sort Gina, during which time the girl from the train – Amy – folds and unfolds her arms seven times, and tightens her pony tail twice. Not that Jake is looking at her, or anything. He isn’t. Her hair is just really shiny, and it catches the light. Is that a crime?
Eventually, the Hat yells SLYTHERIN and, triumphant, Gina slides off the stool and skips to the Slytherin table, where she sits right next to the seventh years like it’s no big deal, and it’s where she was meant to be. He switches off a bit after that, wonders what his mum’s doing (probably working, or maybe having Thank God Our Kids Have Left, It’s Party Time drinks with Darlene) and what House his dad was in, and whether Professor Holt’s facial expression ever changes. And then a calm, clipped voice says “Jacob Peralta” and everything begins.
The Hat is too big for his head, and nearly covers his whole face, but is stopped from this by the bridge of his nose. It mumbles in his ear about daring and courage and kindness, justice and loyalty. HUFFLEPUFF it yells, and the boy that Jake is pretty sure is Toadless Charles whoops from the Hufflepuff table. Grinning, he attempts a swagger (I say attempts, because he is eleven, and not entirely sure what a swagger looks like) and saunters down to the Hufflepuff table. Toadless Charles eagerly moves down the bench for him, and the Prefect – who introduces himself as Terry – clasps him on the shoulder. It seems, Jake thinks, McGonagall (scary, but in a kind of cool way) is right – your houses are going to be your family.
It takes the Hat thirty seconds to Sort Amy Santiago into Slytherin, and Gina audibly groans from the table. Amy smiles tightly as Gina refuses to move up for her, and perches on the edge of the bench next to a frankly terrifying looking blonde girl, who might be a Prefect, and looks like she constantly has a bad smell under nose.
“This is so cool!” Toadless Charles enthuses, bouncing up and down in his seat slightly, and it is then that Jake decides that Toadless Charles (whose toad is not lost forever, but is in fact hiding in his trunk, underneath his dress robes, and would be found on their second morning at school by Jake) (who totally did not scream so loudly it made Charles cry because my ears, oh God, my ears, that totally did not happen at all) is going to be his best friend. This is the first thing he learns at Hogwarts. (Other things he learns – you’re not the only person who doesn’t have a dad, how to Vanish vomit, how to stop your best friend’s hand from bleeding after it got bitten by a Niffler, what it means when Mercury is in retrograde).
The second, which he discovers whilst having breakfast with Gina their first morning (Gina does not care about House table etiquette, and at one point during their fourth year has lunch sat next to Professor Holt at the High Table) is that Amy Santiago has shiny hair and a competitive streak a mile wide. “She’s also,” Gina tells him conspiratorially, “like, freakishly neat.”
They have Transfiguration together second lesson, and something about the way Amy Santiago sits, with a perfectly straight back, almost glowing with determination, awakens the part of Jake Peralta that once ate sixteen Fizzing Whizzbees in a row, before sicking them all up in the bins behind Gina’s house, just because Gina said he couldn’t. He throws a rubber at Amy’s head, and it bounces satisfyingly off her ponytail. She turns, and glares at him.
“Yo Santiago,” he says, “Betcha can’t be the first in class to turn a twig into a pin.”
She narrows her eyes at him but she doesn’t say no.
“Bet what exactly?”
“Three Sickles and a chocolate frog, mostly because that’s all I have to my name in the world, but also because I will beat you and therefore do not have to worry about paying up.”
“We’ll see about that!” And then she leans back in her chair and shakes his hand, with the same freakish firmness she used when they met. This is a catastrophic, life changing event for both of them. Not that they know that.
Jake wins by five seconds. He victory-dances down the corridor to Potions, where she, in Gina’s words, whoops his ass at ‘brewing glory’ or whatever it was that they were supposed to be doing. Jake tells Charles its fine because Potions isn’t a real subject anyway, but swots up on it regardless and beats her the week after. This establishes the rhythm that they follow for nearly the entirety of their school careers.
In their third year, on a trip to Hogsmeade, Gina asks him to buy her a Butterbeer, because she spent all her money on popping candy nail polish (which is not practical at all Gina, you can’t eat it, so what is the point?) which he can’t.
“And why not? I’m dying, Jake, I’m dying of dehydration, and as my oldest and bestest friend-”
“You once said you were your oldest and bestest friend-”
“As my oldest and bestest friend, you should really care, Jake. It hurts you don’t care, it really does.”
“I can’t buy you a Butterbeer because I gave Amy all my money yesterday, because she beat my ass in Charms.”
Gina rolls her eyes. “Oh my God, Jacob,” she says dramatically, “when will you wake up?”
“What are you talking about?” He still wonders if she is a real person.
“If you don’t know now,” she says in a hushed, Divination-classroom-Trelawney tone, “then you’ll never know…”
Because he is thirteen, and Gina has been this way as long as he can remember – that is to say, forever, he shrugs it off as oddity, slings an arm over her shoulder, and goes to beg Madam Rosmerta to take pity and give them two day old bottles of Butterbeer.
The same year, Santiago gets onto the Quidditch team (which is not surprising, seeing as her whole family have done so, and her oldest brother is currently playing for the Montrose Magpies) (and Jake totally does not have a poster of him hanging up by his bed, no sir-ee) and Jake is oddly proud.
“More things to bet on, huh?” he says cheerily one morning, leaning against her table in Transfiguration (before McGonagall gets in, obviously. That woman does not tolerate leaning in any way, shape or form). Amy shakes her head fiercely.
“Quidditch is not something to bet on, Jake, it’s serious!”
“Okay first of all,” he says, “it is. You ever heard of a bookmaker? Despite popular belief, they don’t actually make books! And second of all, I thought you said school was and I am quoting not paraphrasing here ‘more serious than being alive’.”
“Listen,” she turns to him, “all seven of my brothers have been on this team. Five of them Captained it, and before them, my grandfather Captained a five year consecutive win, so I can’t screw this up.”
“How will a bet screw it up?” he asks. She never backs down from competition, ever, she thrives on it.
“Because if I know you want me to lose it’ll put me off my game.”
“That’s not the Amy Santiago I know and tolerate,” he says, suddenly concerned by the look of nervousness on her face (he’s never seen her nervous before, and it scares him) “C’mon – you love this stuff. Proving you’re the best, getting places, impressing Professor Holt even though he’s a loser who doesn’t allow flying in the corridors, what’s that about? You’ll be fine, bet or no bet.”
She looks up at him and blinks twice, slowly, like she did when they first met. The earnestness in her expression flusters him, and he tries to think of a joke he could tell that’s not the one about the banshee and the vicar.
“You really think so?”
He can’t think of anything funny to say, and her eyes are so big, so he clasps her shoulder and says “I know so.”
She wins the game, catches the Snitch in record time, and he screams himself hoarse cheering for her.
“You’re friends,” Gina says slyly as they wave goodbye to Amy at the gate to Platform Nine and Three Quarters at the end of the year, “You like her.”
“What? No, I don’t like Amy, shut up!”
“Charles,” Gina calls shrilly, and Charles appears behind them, like an evil backstabbing, supposed-to-back-me-up-not-agree-with-Gina jack-in-the-box, “Jake likes Amy, no?”
“Jake likes Amy a lot – possibly more than I like Rosa which is-”
“Hm, yeah, ‘kay, but the difference is Amy likes Jake back. Rosa will ne-ver love you.”
“Amy doesn’t like me back!” Jake protests, and Gina just looks at him.
“Yeah she does,” comes a harsh voice from behind them. Rosa Diaz (Gryffindor Keeper, scary as hell, laughs at all Jake’s jokes) appears. “You’re all she freaking talks about. Peralta this, Peralta that. The other day, when I knocked her off her broom, you know the first thing she said? She said, damn. Peralta’s gonna love this.”
“See,” Gina says, “she liiiiiiiiiiiiikes you. You liiiiiiike her.”
“I do not like Amy,” Jake repeats, and then thanks his lucky stars, and Mars and all the warlocks who have gone before him that this is when his mother decides to make her entrance.
“ByeeveryonehaveanicesummerI’llwrite,” he says in one breath, and makes to go toward the gate. Gina catches his arm.
“Darlene says Trudy is giving me a ride, so like, carry my case or whatever.”
He does so, and she glides toward his mother, smiling regally. “Trudy,” she says, “You’re looking radiant, although not as radiant as me. Smell my hair! It’s cinnamon!”
They spend the summer, long and hot, lying on Gina’s bedroom floor with all the windows open and the fan on, reading Witch Weekly aloud to each other. Jake thinks about Amy, sometimes.
And by sometimes, I mean a lot. All the time. It’s like she’s set up camp at the back of his mind, and she’s always there, snorting at his stupid jokes and getting mad when he beats on her on a test. He becomes accustomed to it, like it’s just part of who he is. His name is Jake Peralta, he’s a Hufflepuff, his dad left when he was eight and he thinks about Amy Santiago.
In their fifth year, two things of colossal significance happen.
The first, is that during Careers Advice, he discovers that like him, Amy Santiago wants to be an Auror. There’s one pamphlet on the table left, and they both go for it, hands colliding awkwardly. She pulls away first, blushing.
“Sorry, I – you have it. I already know about that stuff anyway, my dad and my grandpa are all…”
He picks the pamphlet up – it’s purple, deep purple, the type of purple Gina would call maroon, and quite serious looking.
“Nah,” he says, holding it out to her “you have it, honestly, it’s-”
She holds out one hand to take the leaflet when they are interrupted
“Jake?” Professor Sprout says cheerily from the door into her office, “Come in my dear! I’ve got biscuits! Professor Slughorn will be with you in a minute, Miss Santiago!”
Amy smiles at Professor Sprout and mumbles a thank you. She hasn’t let go of the leaflet, and their thumbs are touching. Professor Sprout clocks the pamphlet and beams.
“Plenty where that came from! Come on!”
Jake drops the leaflet suddenly, and clears his throat.
“So if we both end up Aurors…” he begins. Amy just laughs.
The second is that Amy starts seeing a tall muscular Hufflepuff in the year above named Teddy, and it makes Jake angry for reasons he doesn’t understand or quite frankly, want to understand.
“You know,” he says darkly to Charles one afternoon whilst they’re eating lunch and Amy is sat with Teddy further up the table, “It’s assholes like him that give us a bad name.”
“Give who a bad name?”
“Hufflepuffs, Charles, keep up! He’s so boring and muscular and….and….and fair, I hate him.”
“You talking shit about Teddy?” Rosa says from behind them, and Jake turns to face her slowly.
“Please don’t kill me.”
“I’m not going to kill you – move,” they budge up, and she sits between him and Charles, “He’s nice and all, but he’s boring. Amy shouldn’t be with someone boring.”
“Amy should be with-” Charles begins, but Rosa silences him with a dig in the ribs with her elbow.
“Shut up Boyle. Whatever. I just came to see if either of you losers wanted to play chess. I feel like destroying things.”
Amy gets the best OWLs in the year, and it doesn’t even bother Jake (he comes second, which he is weirdly okay with? He must be maturing). He likes seeing Amy do well. Gina throws a party to celebrate the beginning of sixth year, the second week back at school. She transforms the Room of Requirement into what is essentially a 1970s discotheque. There is karaoke, and Butterbeer, and all his friends. At half past eleven, he sees Amy sneaking out into the cool of the corridor, and he remembers he hasn’t congratulated her. So he follows her out into the night.
“Hey,” she says when she spots him, “What’re you doing out here? I thought, and I quote ‘discos are your jam’?”
He has an inexplicable urge to say wherever you are is my jam but that would be stupid, so he shrugs.
“Needed some air,” he lies, “You?”
“Same,” she smiles, “Also I heard Rosa say she wanted to blow something up, and like, I would prefer not to be blown up, y’know?”
“I’m surprised you heard Rosa say anything, she usually just drinks in silence.”
“Boyle spilt his drink over her.”
“Ah. Makes sense.”
She smiles at him, widely, and he returns the gesture.
“Congrats, by the way,” he says to her, “On the top score. Impressive. The Auror Department really go for that sort of stuff.”
“I hope so,” she exhales, and leans, slumps back against the thousand year old stone wall, “I don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t an Auror.”
She looks so incredibly vulnerable in the moonlight that he feels it behind his lungs.
“You wanna know a secret?” he says, leaning beside her. She nods. He leans toward her conspiratorially.
“Neither do I,” he whispers, and the smile returns to her face.
“You’d make a great Auror, Jake,” she says slowly, closing her eyes (he sort of wants to go back and tell his eleven year old self this, because eleven year old Amy Santiago would have rather died before admitting this) “You will make a great Auror.”
And then she sighs, and sinks to the ground, and he follows suit. They are sat on the cold, hard stone floor, leaning against walls that have been leant on by hundreds before them, and he bumps her elbow with his own.
“So will you, Amy. We’re going to be great Aurors.”
She opens her eyes. “You really think so?”
“I really know so.”
They fall into the warm comfortable silence that reminds Jake of Saturday mornings when he wakes up, wrapped in blankets, and realises he doesn’t have to be up for another five hours, and can just lie there, staring at the carvings on the ceiling of the dormitory. At some point, Amy lets her head fall onto his shoulder, her hair tickling his nose.
“You wanna go back into the party?” he asks, eventually.
“No,” she murmurs. So they don’t.
She breaks up with Teddy the summer between sixth and seventh year, and as he reads the letter she writes to him – oh, by the way, I broke up with Teddy. He’s nice, but things are hard now he’s at the Academy, and I have my NEWTs and stuff - that is when Jake knows. Everyone else is right, and he is wrong. He likes Amy. He liiiiiiiikes Amy. Amy and Jake, sitting in a tree, doing what they shouldn’t be, k-i-s-s-i-n-g, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Amy with a baby carriage.
“I know,” he tells Gina one morning, and Gina pauses mid nail polish, raises an eyebrow.
“Know what, my little canary cream?”
“I like Amy,” Jake hisses, and Gina cackles. She really does not do much to stop negative stereotypes of witches, Jake thinks.
“Finally! This is fantastic! Charles owes me so much money! Now, do my other hand whilst I owl him. And then you take my cute little ass to Diagon Alley to get ice cream and we can talk about what to do next.”
“You’re going to help me with this?”
“No, sweet boy, I am going to eat ice cream whilst you help yourself. Now come on, I can’t be seen in public with nails like these.”
It is just his luck, Jake thinks, that sat in the window of Florean Fortescue’s is Rosa Diaz, accompanied by none other than, you guessed it – Amy Santiago!
“Did you plan this?” he asks Gina the moment he spots her, but Gina just shrugs.
“Amy! Rosa! What a cowinkydink!” she says as she enters, and Jake has no choice but to follow her. Amy gives him a small smile, nods at him.
“Hey,” she says, and he doesn’t really know how to respond to that.
“You look like a sunflower,” he replies, and she laughs.
“Thanks, Jake. Did you hear about Rosa?”
“I made Captain,” Rosa says sharply, “Salted caramel?”
“What?” It is slightly overwhelming, standing in the thick heat of a summer’s day at Florean Fortescue’s, with Amy Santiago dressed in a yellow sundress that makes her look like flower, beaming up at him and licking lemon sorbet off a spoon.
“He’ll have chocolate. Lots of sprinkles,” Amy says to Rosa, “Right, Jake?”
“You know my ice cream order?” he asks, slightly surprised.
“Of course I do – remember that time you dared me to eat all the ice cream in the kitchens? And you’d only eat the chocolate stuff, and the house elves-”
“Brought us more until we threw up, yeah I remember.”
“God, what was that? Fourth year? Seems so long ago,” she keeps smiling at him. It’s making him slightly dizzy.
“Rosa,” Gina says sharply, “Come with me into the bathroom. There might be a six foot mountain troll in there, and I don’t want to die alone.”
Rosa pulls a face, but follows Gina regardless, and Amy gestures to the seat where Rosa once was. Jake slides into it, and she laughs.
“Nothing – it’s just – Rosa and I were literally just talking about you, and then you appeared.”
“Oh yeah, what were you saying? Were you fighting over who gets to make out with me?”
Amy snorts. “You wish, Peralta. No, we were talking about what everyone’s doing after next year, and I mentioned how we’re both going to be Aurors, and then suddenly there you were.”
“Like fate, or something,” he says, suddenly aware that he has been wanting to kiss her since he was fourteen.
“Yeah,” she replies, looking at him in a way that makes him think she knows something he wants to know, “Something like that.”
Their last year of school is a mess of all nighters, spilling potions and burning a hole straight through Charles’ hand, evenings in the Hogs Head, listening to talks from former Aurors (one of whom only has one eye – Jake thinks it’s the neatest thing he’s ever seen, Amy thinks it’s gross) and strange, half lit evenings under the beech tree by the Black Lake, throwing peanuts into each other’s mouths and whispering Terribly Big Secrets to each other as the sun sets. The realisation, once the shock wore off, makes total sense to Jake. What type of person wouldn’t like Amy Santiago? She’s pretty, she’s possibly the smartest person in the world, and she has this way of saying the funniest things with the straightest face, making him howl with laughter under the stars. Gina tells him, several times, to make a move, but he’s got no idea what she’d do, and he values her friendship – because that’s what they are now, they’re friends (one night he mumbles you’re my best friend into her hair, and she doesn’t do anything, she just smiles) - too much to freak her out by declaring his undying love for her.
“Listen, my tiny Hippogriff,” Gina says to him, “there’ll be tons of beautiful young men at Auror school-”
“Academy,” he interrupts, but she waves like she doesn’t care.
“Beautiful young men who will want to do Amy! You have to follow your dreams, girl!”
“You have got to stop calling me girl.”
Their first day at Auror training, she meets him for breakfast at a crappy Muggle greasy spoon just outside the Victoria tube station. She’s late, which pleases him no end.
“Oh-ho-ho,” he crows as she hurries in, “Look what the cat dragged in!”
“Shut up, I overslept!”
“You slept through all three alarms? All three?”
“And I didn’t know how to navigate the tube,” she mumbles, and he laughs.
“Oh the perks of being a pureblood – do you want the rest of my bacon roll?”
“Oh, Merlin, yes,” she grabs it from his plate in a most un-Amy like manner, and practically swallows it whole.
“So,” he says.
“I was born ready.”
“You wanna bet?”
She scrunches up her nose, like she’s thinking, and then nods.
They walk into the Entrance Hall holding hands. It’s kind of the best day of Jake’s life.