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Chapter 18: Chapter eighteen - Euphoria
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or anything else that you might recognize.
Chapter eighteen – Euphoria
Things did get better from that point on. Sort of.
During the past week there had been no fighting between Kat and James. Things still weren’t normal for them – I could tell it from James’s awkward stiffness whenever she was too close to him – but at least they were getting along.
Kat and I had also held onto our newfound truce, and acted peacefully around each other. Meaning if we were left alone in the same room, no spell could’ve cut through the thick silence that was lingering over us, which was only removed when someone else was present. But at least she wasn’t exploding anymore, so it was a vast improvement.
I should’ve been feeling happy about the fact that things were easier for him now, but I just couldn’t shake my restless feelings. I guess my jealousy was still too strong to accept the fact that there might soon be a day when I could see James looking at Kat with a loving expression. Even the thought made me want to shudder.
Shoving those thoughts away, I hurried towards the big mahogany doors before me, ignoring the flashing lights behind me. Some members of the press were still lingering around the Potter premises, anxious to get a glimpse of my best friend.
He had not given any interviews, or showed up in any public places. The magazines were still rotating the same news that Dylan had revealed to them a week ago and they were starting to get desperate. And when they have the benefits of magic on their side, it’s never good. One reporter had actually been arrested for breaking the Statute of Wizarding Secrecy by flying a broom near our apartment building, trying to break through the protective wards by air.
That was quite funny until the moment I realised what it meant – more security.
I wasn’t supposed to be apparating anywhere, but when Harry had offered to drop off a Portkey so I could avoid every confrontation with the paparazzi on my way to the Potter house, I had politely declined. I’d rather break a few cameras and deal with the consequences than use that form of transportation twice in a week.
“Gwenny dear, so lovely to see you,” James’s aunt Hermione greeted me as I finally made it into the house.
“Yeah, you too,” I beamed back and pulled the door close behind me. The delicious scent of food filled my nose immediately and made my stomach roar. It had been too long since the last Potter-Weasley family dinner. “Is James here already?” I questioned, glancing at my watch after Hermione released me from a quick hug.
Only a minute late. I was starting to be good at this.
“No, I don’t think they’ve arrived yet,” the curly-haired woman told me.
Before I could thank her, a familiar voice called from the next room. “Gwenny, if that’s you then drag your arse in here now!”
I rolled my eyes. “Excuse me, I need to go teach Freddy some manners.” I smiled at Hermione before disappearing into the living room.
Freddy had thrown himself on the couch, much like he always did at my place, and had his head on Jenny’s lap. That boy really knew how to make himself comfortable.
Vic and Rose were both there too with their ‘other halves’, occupying the armchairs. They all gave me a warm welcome when I reached them.
“Hmph, I thought I’d finally meet that hunky Healer of yours,” Freddy groaned disappointedly.
“I’m hiding him from you.” I grinned at my best mate, signalling him to move his legs so I could have a seat too.
He didn’t budge. “Why would you do that? I can behave, I promise!”
“Liar! You could never do that. Now scootch over,” I ordered him, making room for myself.
After I’d sat down, I glanced around the room and smiled at the family members of my two best friends who were waving and nodding their greetings to me. Most of them seemed to have arrived already, but that wasn’t surprising considering how I was always late.
“Urgh, I wish Jimmy would hurry already. I’m starving.” Victoire groaned, tapping her leg impatiently, while tying her gorgeous hair up to a ponytail.
“Oh yeah, I’ve decided to call him that today,” she added after I’d furrowed my brow at her choice of nickname. “Teddy and I were memorizing all these embarrassing things he’s done when he was a kid. Can’t make him look too good in front of his first serious girlfriend, can we? She needs to know what she’s getting herself into.”
Ignoring the comment about a serious girlfriend, I shook my head at her amusedly. It wouldn’t make a difference; Kat wouldn’t let go of James, no matter what he had done when he was a kid.
“We have to wait for Harry too,” Teddy seemed to be reminding everyone. “He had to drop by the Ministry. Something urgent apparently.”
The loud babbling that suddenly arose in the hallway informed us that at least one more person had arrived. I suspected it was James, since many delighted sighs could be heard. I hadn’t heard the sound of the door, but that didn’t surprise me – they had been invited for lunch at Kat’s parents’ place, so they would probably be arriving through the Floo.
We didn’t have to wait for long to find out; the voices came closer and soon James entered the living room, Kat hanging tightly from his hand with a pleased and proud smile on her face.
He looked so good in his black button-up shirt and dark jeans; I had to turn my eyes away to distract my thoughts and I felt angry with myself for not being able to do it otherwise. This should’ve gotten easier already. I was falling for Joshua more and more each day, why weren’t my feelings towards my best friend diminishing faster?
I tried to concentrate on my handsome boyfriend while all the Weasleys went to congratulate James and Kat, but his absence was making me gloomy. Joshua had not been able to make it since he couldn’t get out of work. I wasn’t sure if that was true; he might have just felt uncomfortable about coming – I knew I would’ve considered it weird if I had been invited to come along to his best friend’s family gathering.
“Gwen,” said a voice from behind me, startling me and making me do a little jump on my seat.
“Yeah?” I questioned with a smile as I turned to look at the dark-haired Auror.
“Can I have a word with you?” Harry asked, glancing quickly in the direction of his relatives. “In private.”
“I – oh, sure…” I replied, my expression turning into a puzzled one.
“Come on, my study should be empty,” he said, beckoning me to follow him.
I got up from the couch and followed James’s father out of the living room. My mind was buzzing throughout the whole walk across their beautiful home. What on earth was this about?
“How have you been?” Harry asked after closing the door and urging me to sit down.
“Fine. What’s this about?” I blurted out immediately, not even glancing in the direction of the chair.
“You should sit down.” He pointed towards the seat again and I reluctantly followed his request.
He chuckled a bit at my nervousness, but his expression quickly straightened. “I received a letter from the Ministry earlier today concerning the prisoners who are being released on the 15th of April.”
I could actually feel all of the colour draining from my face, as my hands tightened around the arms of the chair. I had been working so hard to push all the thoughts about my dad into the back of my head, to forget him completely. But now, hearing Harry say that, they were all flooding back.
April 15th. So there was a date now. In less than two months my father could be strolling along the streets of London, completely free to do whatever he wanted.
“I flooed straight to the Ministry to find out what they had decided,” Harry started to explain, interrupting my thoughts for only a second. “He’s not getting out.”
That’s right, he was getting out, of course he was. I had known that from the start, there was no way he…
My eyes found Harry’s in a nanosecond. There was a huge smile on his face as he was staring back at me, probably feeling quite amused by my reaction. “Your dad’s not getting out, Gwen,” he repeated.
“He’s – not – ?” My mouth was slowly forming the words, not even able to complete the sentence as I was too dumbfounded by what I had just heard.
Harry shook his head. “No. Not until his punishment is up. You have five more years.”
I couldn’t even describe the weird sound that left my mouth at that. It was an odd mixture of happiness, relief and disbelief, because I just couldn’t believe it. This couldn’t be happening, not to me at least – I had the worst luck in the whole world.
“I’ll let you have a moment.” Harry beamed to me. “Do you want me to get James?”
“Yes, please,” I said quickly, feeling quite breathless.
Harry nodded and took a few steps towards the door. His hand had already reached the handle when I realised how much work he must have done to make this happen. “Thank you,” I hurried to say.
He glanced at me curiously. “For what?”
“For all you’ve done. I’m sure your opinion meant a lot when they were choosing whom to let out,” I clarified.
Harry let out an awkward chuckle and let his hand drop from the handle. “No, there’s no need for that. My word really didn’t matter at all.”
“Oh?” I commented, frowning slightly.
“Your dad didn’t want to be released.”
“What?” I gasped.
That couldn’t be true.
“Yeah. He told the Ministry interviewers that he had five more years left and that he deserved every single one of them for what he’d done.”
I bit the insides of my cheek. I didn’t know what to say to that, or even what to think.
Why? Why would he say that? It was true, but he shouldn’t be thinking that way. He shouldn’t, because it made me feel bad for him and I didn’t want that. I wanted to hate him more than anything else and now he was ruining it for me.
“I’ll get James,” Harry said, sensing the change in my mood.
He disappeared from the room and I was left alone with my disturbing thoughts.
Happy, I should be happy, I kept telling myself. It didn’t matter if he was feeling some sort of remorse. I still had every right to hate him. Hate him and forget every little thing about him for the next five years.
He was guilty, even if he had been subjected to the Imperius Curse. None of this would’ve happened if he hadn’t been gambling all those years ago and gotten himself into trouble.
I let out a relived sigh as I managed to convince myself with that. I had still time to get used to the idea of his freedom, but today wouldn’t be that day.
The study door burst open as James barged in. “What? What is it?” he asked immediately, his expression turned into a worrying frown. “Dad wouldn’t say a thing.”
I jumped up from my seat and rushed to hug him, happy tears blurring my vision. “He’s not getting out,” I breathed against his shoulder and squeezed him as tight as I could.
“Who?” he questioned, sounding perplexed.
“My dad. He’s not getting out.”
“What?” he gasped, pushing me away from him so he could examine my expression. I nodded eagerly, a huge grin plastered all over my face.
“He’s not getting out – no, he doesn’t want to get out! Says he doesn’t deserve the freedom,” I explained after he had let out a happy roar and pulled me back into a warm embrace.
He chuckled. “Well he got that right.”
The confusion was still prickling inside of me. Why didn’t he want to get out?
“He deserves to rot in there for the rest of his life. Don’t you let his martyrdom fool you one bit,” James said immediately, hearing the hesitation from my tone.
I smiled at how well he knew me and let happiness fill me again. James was right, maybe my father was just trying to make me feel bad for him so he could weasel his way back into my life once he got out.
“We need to celebrate this,” James stated, lifting me up from my feet and twirling me around a few times. I actually giggled at his actions and was feeling more and more overwhelmed by each second.
He was laughing as he let go of me and his eyes were twinkling joyfully. That, combined with how good he was looking today, had my thoughts wandering down the wrong track again – I don’t think there had ever been a moment when I had wanted to kiss him more. But luckily there was a cough coming from the doorway, interrupting us. My euphoria was so strong at that moment, who knows what I would’ve done.
We both turned around to see Kat staring at us with an observing look in her eyes. “What’s gotten you two in such a good mood?” she questioned us.
“Gwenny just received brilliant news.” James gave her a vague explanation, knowing that I wouldn’t want her to know any details.
“Well, congratulations, I guess.” She nodded to me. “I just came to tell you that the dinner is ready.”
“Oh, thanks, Kat,” James said, then turned to look at me again. “We’ll do something awesome tomorrow,” he promised, and wrapped his arm around my shoulder while he started to guide me out of the study.
The dining room was packed with people when we arrived as all the members of the Potter and Weasley families had squashed themselves around the extended table. I quickly slipped into an empty seat between Rose and Louis, letting Kat have my normal spot.
The meal was delicious, but that was no surprise. Nothing could top Nana Weasley’s cooking’s, she succeeded in whipping up the most excellent courses that were known to mankind.
I was in such a good mood; it didn’t even bother me at all when I had to listen to all the inquiries James and Kat received about the baby and future happenings. Even the weird glances Molly, James’s cousin, kept sending me from the other side of the table couldn’t make a dent in my mood.
That was a small miracle actually. Molly usually managed to aggravate me quite easily, she always knew exactly how to push my buttons and boy did she enjoy that. I had never liked her or her sister Lucy as much as I liked the other members of James’s extended family.
The only thing that did disturb me slightly was Ginny.
The red-haired mother of my best friend was unusually quiet, eating her food in silence and keeping her gaze down on her plate. When I saw her disappear out into the patio after the dinner, I couldn’t help but to follow her.
“Ginny?” I called, not able to see her anywhere.
“I’m here, Gwenny,” she replied from behind the corner.
I shivered a bit in the cold air and wrapped my arms around myself as I followed the sound of her voice. I found her sitting on a porch swing, staring out into her garden, but she lifted her gaze and beamed at me when I appeared from around the corner.
“Everything alright?” I asked, sitting down next to her
“Of course, darling. I’m just a bit tired, that’s all. How about you?”
“I’m fine.” I nodded.
“Harry told me the news. I’m so happy for you.”
I let out a chuckle. “Yeah, that was unexpected.”
“Well you deserve to get good news for once,” she said, patting my hand. “Particularly after everything that has happened lately.”
I remembered what Vic had told me on Christmas Eve about everyone always hoping that James and I would end up together. I wondered if recent events meant just that or whether she was talking about my accident.
“Do you think he’s happy with her?” she suddenly questioned, surprising me completely.
“I – err…” I mumbled, not able to answer anything rational.
“That’s what I thought, too,” she said with a knowing, sad smile. “But he thinks he’s doing the right thing by sticking by her because of the baby?”
“Yeah,” I admitted.
“Since when has he been so noble?”
I shrugged. “Anything for family.”
“Aah, yes. That he would do,” Ginny agreed.
We sat in silence for a moment, before Lily’s voice called from inside, begging Ginny to come and help her. She had wanted to make a cake as a surprise for her brother, but apparently things weren’t going as smoothly as she had thought.
I stayed outside for a while longer after Ginny left, thinking about James and his situation until the point when it was starting to get a little too chilly for my liking. I got up from the porch swing only to see Molly leaning against the wall and staring me with an unreadable expression.
I wasn’t in the mood for her sneers; I just decided to brush past her, but apparently she wasn’t letting me go so easily. “A word with you, Gwen?” she questioned.
“Maybe another time, I’m freezing,” I muttered, trying to walk past her.
“I’m sure you can manage one more minute. This is important,” she said firmly, walking to the vacant porch swing and sitting down.
I pondered my options for a moment, trying to figure out what I should do. My curiosity got the best of me and I followed her – after summoning my winter cloak first.
I sat down next to her and waited for her to start talking, but she was just staring towards the darkening sky. I drummed my fingers anxiously against my knees, waiting her to say something, but soon my impatient side won and I opened my mouth to comment. She beat me to it.
“That’s all an act, isn’t it? She’s quite a bitch really, I can tell,” Molly said, breaking the silence.
I closed my mouth, feeling a bit baffled, not expecting that to be where this conversation was going.
When I didn’t reply, she continued: “You don't have to play dumb with me, Gwen. It’s quite obvious that you don’t like her at all.”
I sighed dully. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Sure, deny it all you want, I still know the truth. You’re not as good of an actress as you think you are,” she said with a smug smile on her lips. “I’m a bit surprised though…”
I hated that suggestive tone of hers.
“Don’t you want to know why?” she asked, looking amused as she could see the growing annoyance in me.
“Not really,” I grunted.
“Well I’m going to tell you anyway. I’m surprised that you can control your emotions. Usually everything that makes James unhappy irritates you,” she said, glancing at me with a cocked eyebrow.
“Why would she make him unhappy? They’re going to have a baby together, that’s a beautiful thing,” I lied smoothly.
“Oh, please! Do you honestly think that anyone buys that? You’re in love with him; it’s so obvious, but I’m not surprised that my dear cousin doesn’t see it. He’s not the brightest guy out there.” Molly laughed, calling my bluff.
“No I’m not!” I protested like that was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard, praying that my voice didn’t reveal me.
Molly just chuckled. “Sure thing. You can continue playing that stupid game of yours and ruin all your chances.”
I opened my mouth to retort, but couldn’t think of anything to say to her.
What the hell was she talking about anyways? My chances were long gone, if they even were there to start with.
“Because I might have some information that would interest you…”
The suggestive tone was back.
Oh Merlin, she was infuriating!
“But I guess you aren’t interested since you’re so happily supporting James and Kat.”
I let out a long, frustrated groan. I couldn’t believe I was falling for her mind tricks again. “Fine, I’m game. I absolutely adore your cousin, happy now?” I said in a snappy tone.
“Lose the sarcasm, love, and then we’ll talk.” She smirked and inspected her nails with interest.
I wondered if James would be angry with me if I punched his cousin.
Deciding that it was not worth it, I let out a sigh. “Even if it was true that you had some information that would magically split James and Kat up, why would you want to help me? You don’t like me.”
Molly furrowed at me. “Is that what you think?” she questioned. “When have I ever said that? I like to annoy you, because it’s so easy, but I’ve never said that I don’t like you.”
“I happen to love all my cousins and want them to be happy. I might not show it the same way as they do, but that still doesn’t mean that it’s not true. And you’re already almost family, you belong to that lot,” she said, pointing back inside.
“Okay, I’ll buy that. But why haven’t you said it before then? If you think James and I should be together… Why stay silent? That’s not like you,” I inquired, glancing at her suspiciously.
She laughed. “Nana and Aunt Ginny are always telling us not to meddle; that you have to find it out yourselves. But I’m not just going to sit by and let you two blind fools ruin everything because of that conniving slut in there!”
As much as I would’ve wanted to believe her, I knew she wasn’t right. And even if she was, it was too late for that. “What difference does it make? She’s pregnant and there’s no way James would ever desert his own child, not even if he was madly in love with me or whatever.”
“Maybe. You can’t tell if you don’t ask him. It’s you after all; he’d do anything for you.” Molly shrugged and I rolled my eyes at her. “Okay, yeah, he probably wouldn’t, but see, the thing is… she might not even be pregnant. At least not yet…”
“What?” I breathed, spinning my head in her direction at her words.
The red-haired young woman was sporting a smug grin on her lips when she saw she had my inexorable attention. “Well, I’m not sure of course, but it just seems weird…”
“Explain!” I demanded, cutting off her procrastination.
“You need to promise me one thing first,” she stated.
“Anything. Now explain,” I promised, urging her to continue.
“Let me finish! I mean it, nobody can hear about this.”
She was staring at me firmly, waiting for my confirmation. “Why? Don’t you want people to know you’re helping?” I asked.
“It’s not that. I did something that’s not necessarily… legal and there is a high chance I might get fired if the word got out,” she explained, looking a bit embarrassed about her actions.
I raised my brows in surprise. I hadn’t expected that. “Oh? Well sure, I won’t reveal your secret. But aren’t you afraid that someone might be listening right now?”
She shook her head. “No. Muffliato is quite a useful charm.”
“Well, what are you waiting for then? Explain,” I prompted her.
Molly nodded and shifted on her seat to take a better position. “Okay. So, this happened the day after the press found out. I was doing a work related project near the maternity ward when a few Healers passed me. They didn’t notice me there and I heard them muttering in hushed tones about how bummed they were that they weren’t in charge of ‘The Potter Case’, and how they didn’t know who had gotten it as apparently no one had said anything – and I can tell you now, if someone at work had gotten that case, they would have been rubbing it in faces for months, so the fact that no one knew who was in charge was more than a little strange…”
I nodded. Molly worked in St. Mungo’s as an assistant for the hospital leader.
“Anyways, I got curious. I snuck into the archives and looked up James’ file. There wasn’t anything about a baby there, but that didn’t surprise me. Famous cases are usually hidden behind some protective charms. I knew I shouldn’t have, but I wanted to know. Mum hadn’t told me any gossip, just said that I needed to wait for James to tell us himself. So I might have misused my authority and had a glance at the secret files,” she continued, coughing uncomfortably.
Her nervousness made sense; she would get into trouble if the word got out, even though it was just her cousins file.
“There was nothing there, so I did the same with Kat’s file. Again I found nothing. A bit weird, don’t you think?”
I shrugged at her words. “She could’ve used a Muggle practice,” I suggested, pondering if my best friend had actually mentioned something about a Healer. I might have just assumed that.
“Why though?” Molly pondered out loud. “They’re crappy compared to St. Mungo’s, where she knows she’d be getting the royal treatment because of her baby’s daddy.”
I nodded begrudgingly, knowing that she was right. St. Mungo’s had a maternity care program that was much more developed than its Muggle counterpart. But still, this whole thing felt quite farfetched.
Got my final confirmation at the Healer’s appointment this week.
That’s what James had told his father the day the press found out! He had clearly stated that they’d seen a Healer. And he wouldn’t have gone to any of those unlicensed ones working outside the wizarding hospital; I was certain of that!
Urgh, why hadn’t I made him talk about these things more?
I turned to look at Molly again who was patiently waiting for my next comment. “Okay, let’s say that’s true and she’s just lying. What do you expect me to do? I can’t just force her to see a Healer for a pregnancy charm! And besides, James seems so certain that there is a baby and that it’s his – ”
“As I already mentioned, my dear cousin is the blindest person on this planet, so you really shouldn’t trust him to notice the itty bitty details, especially since Kat seems to be quite the manipulator.”
“But still, what do you expect me to do about it? Shove Veritaserum down her throat?”
She shook her head. “You can’t do that without hurting the baby, if she happens to really be pregnant. And I doubt you want to take that chance. No, I was thinking more along the lines of a potion pregnancy test.”
“There’s one of those too?”
“Of course there is.” Molly chuckled like it should’ve been obvious. “It’s pretty uncommon nowadays though, it’s a bit tricky to prepare and quite inaccurate about how far along the pregnancy is. And since you only need one flick of a wand to cast the charm and you get the exact date from it, the potion is quite pointless.”
“How do you think I’ll manage to get her to take it then? She doesn’t trust me that much.”
“You don’t take it, you spit in it,” the redhead explained. “And you’re clever, I’m sure you can think of something. I can whip you one up right now; I’m sure Aunt Ginny has everything we need in her ingredients cabinet.”
I let the idea sink in for a few minutes before jumping up from the porch swing. “Come on then, let’s go.”
“Go where?” Molly questioned.
“To make that potion,” I replied and started making my way inside again. Molly rushed after me.
“Wait, what’s the plan?”
“I’ll figure that out as I go.”
“But… urgh!” She groaned in frustration, not able to continue anymore as we stepped out from the Muffliato Charm’s reach.
We found Ginny in the kitchen and asked her permission to use her potions cabinet. I told her that Molly had dared me to make a potion, but I couldn’t be sure if she believed me. Her expression seemed to be suspicious, but it also could’ve been because she knew my reputation as a potions brewer.
Luckily, they had already finished making the cake, so they left the kitchen when Molly asked them to give us some privacy in order to help me concentrate. We had to agree to clear the dishes though, but that was a small trouble if our plan would work.
“How will the potion act if she is – pregnant?” I questioned, whispering the last word, as Molly was gathering the right ingredients from Ginny’s cabinet.
“It’ll change colour. That will tell you how far along she is,” she responded, placing an assortment of different little bottles and jars on the table.
“Three months,” I replied automatically.
“Then it should be green,” Molly revealed.
“Right.” I nodded.
Kat should pray that it turned that way; there was no guarantee of what I’d do if it didn’t.
“So explain to me why you’ll be trying this, too, if you’re so bad at Potions?” she asked after taking out a piece of parchment and starting to scribble out the instructions for me.
I opened my mouth to respond, but didn’t have a chance as the kitchen door slammed open and James walked in, followed by Kat and Freddy.
“So Mum wasn’t lying, you’re really making a potion?” he stated, amused at the sight of me.
“Molly dared me,” I muttered, trying to sound reluctant.
“Oh, this I’ll have to see!” My other best friend laughed and I send a nasty glare in his direction.
“I think you should go back to the living room, Kat. There’s a huge possibility that something will explode very soon.” James grinned.
“And you’ll follow in her footsteps, dear cousin!” Molly informed, placing her hands on her hips and giving James a firm stare.
“No I won’t. I want to witness this!” James said immediately. “You’re aware that she hasn’t completed one single potion without my help?”
“Oi! That’s not true!” I protested. “There was that one time, back in fourth year…” I started but James cut me off.
“Nope, you just think you did that by yourself. I corrected your mistakes when you went to pick up more ingredients,” he revealed.
“And that is the reason why you have to go away now. She needs to work in peace, you can’t be here distracting her,” Molly stated, trying to shove James out of the kitchen.
I felt my cheeks burning hot as I picked the double meaning of her sentence.
“Make me, cousin,” James smirked, not budging an inch.
Molly stared at him, eyes flashing from irritation. But suddenly her whole expression softened into a sly smile. “Gwen?” Molly turned to me. “Make James leave.”
James laughed. “Good luck with that, Mol, she’d never –”
“Go away, James.” I sighed, interrupting him.
“What?” he asked, looking a bit taken back as he turned to stare at me.
I gave him a hopeful smile. “You get to be the judge, okay?”
He pouted his lips, giving me a pleading expression, but I just rolled my eyes at him. “Hmph, fine,” he muttered eventually. “But I’ll be an unbiased one, since you were mean to me.”
I chuckled. “Fair enough.”
He turned around to leave with Kat and Freddy, but gave me a quick grin before stepping out of the room, a sign that he could never get offended by anything and would most definitely let me win.
Well, if everything went according to plan, he would be the winner here.
“So, is he the reason you suck at potions too?” Molly questioned once they had gone.
“We’ll see soon, won’t we?” she said amusedly.
We started working with the two potions in silence after she had instructed me through her scribbled note. It was an odd moment; I didn’t think I’d ever heard her being that quiet. The young woman was concentrating so hard on preparing the potion correctly.
It felt disturbing; out of James’s cousins, I had always liked Molly the least. She had always seemed to be selfish and simply irritating but here she was, willingly helping me. Had I really been that wrong about her?
“Gwen, what are you doing?” she gasped suddenly.
“What?” I asked with a puzzled tone.
“How in the hell did you manage to make your potion purple? That’s not supposed to happen, especially not after three ingredients!” she pointed out.
“Huh?” I commented as I turned to look at my potion, which had in fact, turned a lovely shade plum, instead of the carrot coloured liquid that was in Molly’s cauldron. “Oh, wow, I have no idea how that happened. I did everything the instructions said.”
“Well clearly not! Oh Merlin, you really are hopeless, aren’t you?”
I nodded. “Yep.”
“Did you even pass your O.W.L.s?”
“Yes, with an A! Although that was because I nailed the written part of the exam. James forced me to study, so I could join him on the N.E.W.T. class. Still, didn’t help the fact that I covered the judges with something extremely slimy and impossible to vanish.”
“Oh Merlin, why on earth did you even try to make this one then?”
“I needed a decoy!” I explained. “James would’ve never believed that I’d just let you teach me something – the dare was a perfect excuse. He knows I’d never back down from one. But I knew he’d come and check, so I needed to have something here, didn’t I?”
“Okay, I take it back. Maybe you can act – to him. Maybe that’s why he’s so blind about your feelings. You know exactly what to say to him so he won’t be suspicious. You know him too well and you’re using that to cover up things. Maybe he’s doing the same thing to you then…”
I wished she’d drop it already. “Honestly, stop that. It isn’t true, on either of our cases, we’re just friends.”
Molly just smirked knowingly and continued her potion brewing. I abandoned mine and watched her work effortlessly with hers. It reminded me of James, and the fact that I could never manage to do that.
Not that it mattered. I had never needed potion-making skills to do anything.
It took her fifteen more minutes to finish the potion, and her cauldron was now filled with a clear liquid. Apparently, it wasn’t that difficult to people who were talented; easy ingredients and fast to prepare, but there were some tricky things you had to do in order to make it correctly and your timing had to be extremely accurate. I never even had a chance.
“So, how are you planning on making her spit in the potion?” Molly questioned.
“I’m not, you are. I will ask James to spit in my ‘perfect potion’ first, and then you’ll ask her to demonstrate how it really should work.”
“Sure, but they’re going to know you failed as soon as you show them that mess of yours. Look, it’s turned into goo! How on earth did you do that?” she said, examining the inside of my cauldron, which was now coated with some gummy, solid substance.
“I’m talented. And of course I’m not showing them that! The potion is clear, isn’t it? Do you really think they’ll notice if I fill my goblet with water?”
“Aah, clever.” Molly laughed as she watched me fill the golden cup with Aguamenti.
She poured the contents of her cauldron into hers and we examined the two identical looking chalices. “See, perfect, nobody will know the difference.”
“Good thinking,” she admitted.
“Shall we go then?” I suggested and she nodded.
We took our goblets and headed towards the sitting room where I suspected James and Kat had gone once they’d left us. That turned out to be the correct assumption and we spotted them standing with Fred and Jenny by the family photos.
“Ooh, is it judging time?” James questioned excitedly once he saw us approaching.
“Yeah.” I smiled.
“Look at that, they actually look the same! Do you think she really succeeded?” Fred said with a bewildered tone, examining our two goblets.
I glared at him for doubting my talents. Even if he had every right to do so. I was a shitty potioneer.
“I’m still not convinced,” James said smugly, giving me an amused grin. “There’s no way she’d managed to get it right.”
“You’ll have to spit in the potion to find out,” I smiled sweetly.
“Sure thing,” he said and leaned his head closer to the cup. “Are you sure it’s safe? What should it do, attack me? Or maybe explode?” he added, eyes twinkling mischievously.
I tried to kick his shin while balancing my goblet, careful not to let it spill, but James easily avoided my assault.
I frowned at him. “It shows your favourite colour. Just spit in it and it’ll change to red.”
He let out a hem, but did as he was told. His spit hit the surface of the water, and, as he suspected, nothing happened.
“Interesting. It seems that my favourite colour has changed from red to transparent. Way to go, Gwenny darling, a perfect potion! I knew you could do it,” he commented with a smirk and earned himself a smack on the back of his head.
“I hate you,” I muttered.
“No you don’t.” He laughed, then turning towards Molly. “Yours next, cousin? Let’s see if you did any better than the potions master here.”
“Don’t be greedy, you had your go already! I’m going to be polite; Gwen seems to favours her friends, so I’ll ask our guest to do it,” Molly said, smiling innocently at Kat.
“Oh, okay…” she replied, sounding a bit suspicious.
“Don’t worry, I’m excellent at potions, it’s not going to explode. What’s your favourite colour?” Molly hurried to convince her.
“Red,” Kat responded, batting her eyelashes at James.
I tried hard not to puke and kept my eyes nailed to the goblet in Molly’s hands.
“Aww, aren’t you two cute. Same favourite colour and all,” the red-haired girl smiled.
“It’s destiny,” Kat smiled and spat in the chalice.
“It appears so,” Molly commented, turning to look at me with a self-righteous smile on her face when nothing happened to the liquid. “It seems I failed my potion too, or maybe your favourite colour is transparent as well?”
The goblet in my hands hadn’t even hit the floor before I punched Kat and made her fall down.
“You bitch!” I was screaming to the bleeding girl on the floor. “How could you do this to him?”
“Gwen?!” James shouted somewhere on my right, sounding completely shocked. The others in the room had fallen silent and were just staring at me, but I wasn’t seeing or hearing any of them. My eyes were fixed on Kat.
The anger was running through my veins, powered more by the tears that were pouring from her eyes as she was sobbing and whining on the carpet, dripping blood everywhere and holding her stomach like there was something there.
“James, I told you she doesn’t like me! Are you going to let her treat me like this?” she cried.
“Oh shut up, you whore! Don’t you dare talk to him! In fact, don’t even look at him!” I hissed back at her.
My whole body was shaking from rage, I could barely even think straight let alone move. All I wanted to do was cause her pain, make her feel everything she had forced my best friend to go through, but nothing seemed adequate enough.
“Gwen!” James repeated.
“I want her out, I don’t want to be near her! I – I – I think something’s wrong…” she gasped, wincing a bit as she clutched her stomach like she was in pain.
I almost started laughing. Was that how she was planning to play it all? Fake a miscarriage after James had married her? Did she see an opportunity to get rid of me, so she tried to play that card now?
The speculating thoughts were too much for me to handle and I just launched myself at her. Kat screamed and tried to block my fists, but it was no use. It wasn’t the first time I was throwing punches and many of them hit their target before I felt two sets of arms pulling me away from the shrieking slut.
“Gwen! You can’t do that, you’ll hurt the baby!” Fred commented on my right.
“What baby? The imaginary one she claims she’s carrying?” I spat in Kat’s direction.
Even through her blood-covered face, I could see her go all pale at my words.
“What?!” James gasped, loosening his grip on my left arm.
I took my chances immediately, slithering away from Freddy’s grasp too and attacking Kat again.
“I’m going to kill you!” I screamed to her as I managed to kick her before Freddy pulled me away again.
“James, mate, help me!” my other best friend pleaded as he was having hard time keeping me in control.
But James was just standing on his spot, staring me bewilderedly.
“What do you mean imaginary?” he asked, sounding confused.
“You can’t believe her, James!” Kat cried. “You know what the truth is!”
“Come on, mate, I can’t hold her!” Fred repeated at the same time.
“What in the name of Merlin is going on here?” Ginny shouted as she entered the room, followed by the rest of the family who weren’t already present.
I could feel another pair of arms grabbing me as Teddy rushed to aid Fred. Everyone else was shouting as they were trying to figure out what was happening, but their words didn’t make any sense to me; all I could do was glare at Kat, while I tried to fight the two guys who were holding me back.
“Would everyone just please shut up?!” James roared when he didn’t get his response from me.
That worked. Everybody fell silent and turned to look at him; even I managed to do that. I could see the questions swirling behind his eyes and I realised that maybe I hadn’t handled this situation the best way I could’ve.
“Thank you! Gwen, what do you mean imaginary?” he repeated.
“She’s not pregnant,” I snapped angrily in Kat’s direction.
“Yes, I am!” she protested, faking another wince.
“Stop lying, you bloody trollop! That was a pregnancy test you spat in, it would’ve changed colour if you were!” I hissed, trying to squirm away again, but Fred and Teddy were too strong for me.
“Then you obviously screwed it up!” Kat retorted.
“It was Molly’s potion, so I highly doubt that!”
“Then how do you explain my Healer’s appointment?” she asked in a ridiculed voice.
“Memory charm, I don’t know, all I know is that you’re a liar and that I’ll beat you so badly once I get my hands on you!”
“That’s absurd! Do you think anybody would believe that?” Kat was laughing hysterically.
“Oh, I’m pretty sure they will!” I shot back.
I knew the Weasley’s and Potter’s would back me up, they’d know I wouldn’t just claim something this big without a proof. At least that’s what I hoped…
I really should’ve thought this through first. Why hadn’t I?
“James?” Kat whined.
“Is it true?” he questioned.
Kat let out a gasp. “Are you taking her side?” she cried.
“Answer my question!” James demanded.
The blonde girl’s eyes turned into slits. “Of course you are! Dear lovely Gwenny, she couldn’t possibly be wrong. Can’t you see how she’s using you?”
“ANSWER MY QUESTION!” James exploded, patience disappearing from his tone completely.
“Of course she is lying!” Kat screamed back.
“Gwen?” James asked.
“You think I’m lying?” I raised a brow.
“No. I know you wouldn’t…” he muttered to himself as he tried to make some sense into this whole situation. He then turned to glance at Molly. “What’s your stand in this?”
“She has nothing to do with it, I just asked her if there was any other way to find out if someone is pregnant than the Healer’s appointment and she told me about the potion.” I hurried to defend her, not wanting to turn anyone’s attention to her.
“So that’s what that all was… Why didn’t you tell me you were suspicious?”
“I’ve asked you if you’re certain that she isn’t just lying!” I pointed out.
Silence filled the room for a few moments as James let the thoughts sink in. Nobody dared to say anything or interfere; they were just anxiously waiting for him to speak again.
Kat was still weeping on the floor, blood covering her whole face. I had managed to break at least her nose and give her a black eye, both of which satisfied me greatly, but still weren’t enough. She needed to suffer so much more.
How could she act that way? Didn’t she care how many lives she would have ruined?
“Why, Kat?” James said then, voice filled with utter confusion.
“You believe her just like that? I’ve showed you all the evidence but all she had to do is bring out a potion which you can’t even be sure was accurate?”
“She wouldn’t lie to me.” James shrugged.
“Oh, wake up already, she’s constantly lying to you! You’re just too blind to see it. She’s just using you for all the fame, why can’t you see that?” Kat yelled.
I heard quite a few chuckles from around the room when those words left her mouth. Every single person there knew that if I didn’t love playing Quidditch so much, I would’ve quit it a long time ago, just because of the popularity that came with it.
“You obviously don’t know her at all then. Me, I’ve known her for almost fifteen years, and I know perfectly well that she has nothing but my well being in mind. You? Well, three months don’t really say the same…” James responded.
“What do you want me to do then? Take you to my Healer? I can do all that!” Kat sobbed.
“Whatever, I just want you to prove it or tell me why you did it. And preferably now.”
“Let’s go see my Healer then!” Kat said, holding out her hand so James could help her from the floor. He didn’t.
“You don’t have to go anywhere, I can do the pregnancy charm,” the quiet voice of Roxanne, Fred’s little sister, offered from the background.
“No thank you, I’d rather nobody else did it than my Healer,” Kat rejected.
“Why? Is there something you’re hiding?” I sneered at her.
“Oh, shut up! I’m not talking to you unless there’s a court in presence! You’ll hear about this!” she snapped in my direction while she struggled up from the floor, faking the difficulties of a pregnant woman. “Are we going?” she turned to look at James.
“No, let Roxy do it. She’s studying to be a Healer,” he said, his expression numb.
“My state is so delicate, I’d rather not let a trainee-Healer do it!” Kat commented.
“No, Roxy’s doing it, with your approval or without it!” James hissed. The coldness was evident from his tone; I didn’t think I had ever heard him be so stern or serious before.
“No!” Kat tried to protest.
“Rox?” James commented to his cousin.
“No!” Kat repeated.
“You don’t have a say in this now!” James’s voice rose again. “Either you tell me what the hell is going on or you let her do it! And believe me, you’re not leaving this room before you give me the answer! I don’t care if they throw me to Azkaban later, I’m getting my response!”
Kat fell silent, obviously a bit scared by James’s demand. Or maybe it was because of the thirty other people in the room who also were staring at her angrily.
“I – I –,” she started but her sobs took over so she couldn’t continue, she just kneeled back down.
I rolled my eyes at her. “Oh, stop faking it!”
“Roxy, do it,” James requested.
The weeping girl on the floor didn’t do anything to protest this time. Everybody took a deep breath as they watched the young witch take a step closer and flick her wand in a complex way. The yellow light shot from her wand, circling Kat’s stomach area and a few seconds later, the image of her empty womb was projected in front of us.
“Right,” James commented and stormed out of the room, pushing aside his mother’s arms as she tried to pull him into a hug. As the back door slammed shut after him, all hell broke loose.
I couldn’t tell whose voice was the loudest as the majority of James’s cousins were shouting threats and profanities to Kat. She looked scared, panic visible in her teary eyes as she was trying to search the quickest way to escape the wrath of the redheaded and blonde women.
Fred and Teddy were still holding on to me, but I could feel their doubts as they scanned the room, trying to figure out if it was me that they should be holding down or one of their kin. Particularly when Ginny seemed to be out for blood.
“Enough!” Harry yelled over everyone else. His voice was filled with the Auror authority he used every day at work, as he grabbed his wife’s shoulders and stopped her from getting any closer to Kat.
Everybody fell silent again and Kat went even paler than before – it looked like she was minutes away from passing out. I didn’t really blame her. Harry had defeated the dark lord at seventeen and escaped death twice. I wouldn’t want him that angry with me either.
“I want you out of my house now and don’t ever let me hear a word about you again.”
Kat whimpered as she quickly rushed towards the door that led to the hall. She did shoot a nasty glare towards my direction first though. “I’ll make you pay for this!” she hissed.
“No you won’t! Because if you do, I’ll make you sorry that you ever met James in the first place! Be grateful I’m letting you off this easy, after all you’ve done to our family. I could have you arrested immediately! Now leave!” Harry’s words were quiet, yet you could have heard them from any corner of the large room. If wasn’t often you saw Mr Potter this angry; he valued family above everything else and generally went by the principle of ‘forgive and forget’. But as he spoke to Kat, I could see why everyone had surged behind him during the war. He was a powerful wizard. And bloody scary.
Kat left from the room as fast as she could.
“Al, please make sure that she leaves,” Harry asked his other son, a lot calmer now that the woman was out of sight.
“Sure thing!” The black-haired young man nodded and disappeared after Kat.
“Are you okay?” Harry asked me.
“Me? Of course! I – I’m just sorry I handled the situation so badly,” I muttered, feeling a bit ashamed now that the scene had resolved and certain facts were starting to hit my consciousness.
If I hadn’t assaulted her, Harry could’ve possibly arrested her right on the spot, but now he just let her go to protect me from getting into trouble.
“Don’t be silly, you handled it fine, considering the circumstances. Without you, we might have never found out. Thank you, Gwen,” he said earnestly, pulling me into a hug. I felt my cheeks burning, unsure how to respond to this man that, minutes ago, had been the angriest I’d seen him in my life.
All I could think of was how James was doing.
“Go,” Harry said as he released me, knowing exactly what was going through my head.
I gave him a smile before I rushed towards the back door and into the back yard. James’s footprints were visible on the snow-covered lawn, but I didn’t need them to follow him to his whereabouts. I already knew where he had gone. There was only one place in the area of the Potter house where James went when he wanted some privacy.
Hastening my pace, I rushed after him, stepping into his footsteps so I could get to him faster through the thick snow. They went straight towards the edge of the forest and circled around the trees in search for our own secret spot in the woods.
And that’s where I found him. Sitting on top of the pile of boards that once were part of the most awesome tree house in the world. It was only a memory now, having been broken for several years.
“I knew you’d come after me,” he hemmed, no trace of amusement evident on his face.
“Of course,” I replied, examining his expression and waiting for permission to come closer. He granted me that immediately, tapping the spot right next to him. I closed the few feet that were separating us and sat next to him on top of the pile.
“Quite a twist, eh?” he said after a moment.
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“I was so convinced – I still am which I can’t understand. I have a perfect memory of seeing a Healer do that same spell just a week ago, but there was a baby.” James let out a long sigh. “But I guess that’s a false memory then?” he added, rubbing his temples as he tried to get rid of the reminiscence.
“She was even more manipulative than I imagined. I should’ve punched her harder.”
He hemmed again, keeping his eyes on the snow and not looking at me. “Thanks,” he mumbled.
“Any time,” I chuckled.
“Oh, Godric, the press will go mental when they hear about this. I don’t think I can deal with them too…”
“Luckily, you didn’t confirm the rumours to any of them. You can always say that that’s exactly what they were, just a crazy fan girl spreading shit.” I pointed out.
“Yeah,” he commented, burying his head in his hands.
“Hey, come on. Everything turned out great, didn’t it?” I said, brushing my hand through his back.
James didn’t say anything, but grabbed a hold of my hand and pulled me closer so he could draw me into a hug. I wrapped my arms around him and squeezed him as hard as I could, trying to tell him everything with that single embrace. I could feel his body shivering against mine as he let the relief take over.
After what felt like a lifetime, he pulled away a bit. I wanted to protest, to hug him even more as the previous one had been way too short, but the thought vanished quite quickly as I noticed how close he still was and how close his face was to mine.
I felt my heart rate quicken immediately, making me unable to do anything else but stare into his beautiful hazel eyes. They were pulling me in again and with my last sense of sanity, I tried to hang on the image of Joshua in my mind.
I couldn’t let those feelings take over again. It was just an accident that he was so close.
“I love you,” he whispered softly, making my heart feel like it would break through my chest.
Knowing he didn’t mean it like I wanted him to, I forced myself to calm down. He was just grateful that everything had resolved before it was too late.
“I love you too… bro,” I replied, obliging myself to add the last part.
He shook his head, closing his eyes as he let out a small sigh. “I’ve been so stupid,” he muttered.
“No you haven’t!” I protested, pulling him back into a firm hug. But James released himself after few seconds.
“I need to go,” he said, taking a few more steps away from me.
“What? Why?” I questioned immediately, furrowing my brows at his weird behaviour.
What just happened there?
“I just need to go and clear my head. I can’t go to my flat, it’s all flooded with her stuff and I can’t deal with that right now,” he started to explain.
“I can take care of that,” I hurried to say, even though he should’ve known that. “I’ll destroy them, vanish them, throw them out of the window, you name it. You can stay at my place in the meantime.”
James chuckled a bit. “Thanks, but I really need to figure this on my own.”
“Why?” I repeated again, the furrow only deepening on my face. “You don’t want me to come with you?”
This was making no sense. He always needed me, why not now?
“Of course I do. But it’s not a good idea. I need to be able to do this alone. I can’t always count on you being there to solve my problems.”
“What?” I didn’t understand any of this. Had I done something wrong? “Where would I possibly go without you?”
“You never know. Try to understand, love,” he said with an apologetic frown.
“But I don’t,” I replied moodily.
A small smile brightened his face for a brief moment and he brushed some hair behind my ear. “I’ll come back soon… ish. Don’t worry about me at all, I’ll see you soon, okay?”
“Not okay,” I pouted and he shook his head amusedly.
“Trying to make me feel bad so I won’t go?” he asked, messing my hair. “Normally it would work, but not this time. I really need to be able to work this out on my own.”
I didn’t reply, just frowned at him. I knew he was right, even if I didn’t want to admit it. We were too dependent on each other in difficult situations.
“Please don’t make me leave you here like this,” he begged, kissing my forehead softly. “I don’t want to do that.”
“When is soon-ish?”
“Hopefully in a couple of days.”
I wanted to groan. When had there been a day when I hadn’t seen him? I couldn’t even remember. We saw each other every single day.
Oh come on, Gwen, what does it matter? You’re a big girl; surely you can manage a few days without your best friend. No wonder you can’t get over him if you can’t even be apart from him for twenty-four hours!
“Okay,” I agreed eventually. “Go, do what you need to do. It’s fine.”
“Thanks,” he said, pulling me into one more hug. “I’ll miss you.”
“Liar,” I muttered into his shoulder, but I couldn’t resist smiling.
“I’ll come back as soon as I can,” he promised as he let me go again, taking some steps away from me.
I nodded absentmindedly. “Sure.”
James beamed at me once more, before turning around and walking away from me towards the little clearing in the forest where one could disapparate. I stared after him, suppressing the smile that wanted to form when I saw him turn around a few times, making a funny face or signalling something that was supposed to make me laugh.
I couldn’t resist it forever and eventually let out a small chuckle. He noticed it and punched the air victoriously, knowing that he was always able to make me smile.
After he had disappeared from the view, I sat back down on top of the pile of boards and tried to go through the happenings of the last few hours. I remembered when I had arrived and Harry had told me the news about my dad. The happiness of that moment felt so distant, like it had already been days ago.
Why was I feeling this sad? It had been a happy day after all. Dad wasn’t getting out, Kat was finally gone for good and James was free from that awful destiny. There was no reason why I shouldn’t be feeling like it was the best day of my life, but there I was, sulking all by myself in the middle of the forest because my best friend had wanted some alone time.
I was pathetic.
And James was right. We needed to learn how to deal with difficult things by ourselves. We couldn’t always go crying into each other’s shoulder when life sent curses and hexes on our way.
This little break would be a good thing.
If only I could stop feeling like I had just lost something important.
A/N: Wow! What a chapter! So many things happened!
We heard news about Gwen's dad, Kat turned out to be nothing more than a liar and then there was the ending (what happened there?)
I know many of you for hoping that Kat wasn't pregnant, so I'm expecting a lot of thank you reviews after this one (; Kidding of course, but I would love to hear what you thought about it!
Once again CambAngst and atellam, thank you for all your amazing help and support! You're awesome and I can never thank you enough!
And thank you to all my lovely readers, especially the ones who have reviewed. You guys have helped me so much! I'll try to get the next chapter done as soon as possible!