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Cheating the Bet by Ryebread
Chapter 16: Talk That Talk
Thanks to smarticl398 @ TDA for another beautiful chapter image.
The day after Christmas was especially unusual for me. Every single time on the day after Christmas, I would wear my new clothes, play with my new toys (when I was younger), eat my delicious holiday chocolates giving me another few pounds, and use every new thing in sight.
Normally, I couldn’t help myself. It was new and exciting and for the next two weeks, all of my presents would be my pride and joy until I got bored of them and never thought of them again. It got a little better with age, but still my new clothes got pushed to the back of the closet and my left over candy stood in a bowl in the pantry. It’s just how Christmas went for me. Does it sound spoiled? Maybe, but that was just me.
Right now, I didn’t bother with any of it. My candy sat unopened, the new clothes, with the exception of my winter gear, which was hung up on a hat stand, was in a pile on Rose’s floor. The only thing I wore was the charm bracelet, which I hid under the extra-long sleeves of my jumper. I didn’t want Al to see how much this was hurting me. If he could get over it, so could I.
Everyone knew something was wrong. I could see the way that they tip-toed around me, but I didn’t feel like talking about it. I just wanted to forget. That’s why I was glad when everyone left the house and I was all alone.
Rose and Scorpius went out together, while Rose’s parents went to meet Draco and Astoria Malfoy. The parents wanted to get all of the school rivalries and differences out of the way. Maybe they wouldn’t be friends, but at least they could be in the same room together.
Mum had to go back and man the Leaky Cauldron. Her vacation time was over and she said goodbye to me, hugged me, and gave me a concerned look that I pretended not to see before heading back to work. Dad had to do the same. He had to prepare his lesson plans and get everything ready for school to be back in session after the break.
Lastly, Hugo went over to the Potter’s house to plan a little prank with Lily. Though, after they had gotten in trouble over Christmas, I don’t know why they’re plotting right now. Apparently, while I was taking my walk in the cold, winter snow, the roasted turkey had jumped off the plate and started dancing the salsa on the long wooden table. Everyone knew it was Lily and Hugo and both severely scolded and sent straight to bed, which was a pretty light punishment, but I guess it was Christmas.
Now that I was finally alone, I curled up on the light green sofa in the living room and grabbed the newspaper on top of the coffee table. The front page news had changed dramatically since break started.
Instead of murder and torture, it was regular, everyday news. Today’s headline was “Chudley Cannons Break Streak”. The Chudley Cannons had tied against the Appleby Arrows, who were having a very bad year, so it seems. Ron was thrilled.
After reading through the first article, I got bored. I laid the Daily Prophet down and looked around the room for something else to do. As I surveyed the room, and the entire house for that matter, I realized that I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted to be with someone. I was tired of separating myself from everybody just because of mine and Al’s break up. I also didn’t want there to be a rift between us. So I made a choice; I was going to offer friendship to him. If we couldn’t be anything else, I wanted to be friends.
Eric, James, and I all lazed around James’s room. We were very unsuccessfully trying to figure out what to do. Fred, our usual master planner, had to go to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes to help Uncle George out. Even after Christmas was over, the shop was still booming. They were so popular that my uncle was going to have a second shop built in Diagon Alley and was considering finding a spot for another one. The shop in Hogsmeade was getting extremely crowded.
We also normally had Cole and Lysander with us as well, but they were both out on dates, even if Lysander thought he wasn’t on one. Even though they were away, James decided to grace us with his presence because Claire was invited to go shopping with Lucy, Molly, Roxy, and Aileen.
“We could… erm… play wizard’s chess,” suggested Eric. James propped himself up on his elbows.
“No, we already did that. Seven times. I’m done,” replied James.
“How about we get a game of Gobstones going?” I proposed, half-heartedly. Neither of them replied. Gobstones was out.
“Do you think Lils and Hu want help with their prank?” asked Eric. I shook my head and laughed.
“Nah, they don’t need our help. If they did, they would ask. Plus, after last night, I want to be surprised. Seeing that turkey dance made my day,” I said, still chuckling. The guys laughed in rememberance, but then we got back to business.
“We could…,” James started to say, but stopped talking. He stared at the door uncomfortably. I rolled over on James’s bed and saw Allie standing in the doorway.
“Erm… hi,” she greeted us, waving at us quickly. She looked specifically at me. “Can I talk to you?” I nodded and she shifted from foot to foot.
“Alone?” she asked. I hesitated. I still loved Allie and her rejection hurt me, especially because of the way she broke it off. Thinking of that note still felt like someone stabbed me with a knife in the chest and being alone with her wasn’t going to help me any.
“I don’t think so,” I said. Allie sighed and a blonde strand of hair fell onto her face. As she tucked her hair in behind her ear, I noticed a silver gleam on her wrist. It was the bracelet I gifted to her for Christmas. Truthfully, when I set it on her pile of presents, I never thought she’d even open it. To see it on her dainty wrist made me feel confused. I had only given it to her as a sign of forgiveness and peace. I just wanted her to know that there were no hard feelings.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered and strode out of James’s bedroom. All three of us blokes sat there in silence, until James decided to blurt out.
“Just go, Al.” I whipped around to look at him.
“Did I stutter, bro? Go. I know you want to.” Eric nodded in agreement with him.
“Go on, mate. Shoo,” Eric dismissed me. I rolled my eyes, but went after her. Though I couldn’t tell if I wanted to or not. I had mixed feelings about the whole situation, but then the advice that someone told me recently made up my mind. I wanted to go.
I caught Allie just as she strolled out of the house.
“Wait!” I yelled, but she didn’t appear to hear me. “Wait! Alice!” She stopped and turned around, looking a little astonished. She probably didn’t expect me to run after her.
“I’m ready to hear you out,” I said to her. “What did you want to say?” Allie didn’t say anything for a few minutes. She bit her lip and concentrated, trying to figure out what she was going to say.
“Well, I… erm… well, I figured that even though we, you know, we could still be friends,” she suggested. Then, she added very formally, “I value your friendship and I don’t want to lose you completely.”
“You don’t want to lose me?” I asked and laughed humorlessly. It made me sound crazed, but I didn’t care. “You don’t want to lose me?” I repeated.
“Well, yes—,” she said, but I ignored her and went on.
“How is it that you, the one who broke up with me, don’t want to lose me, the one who got broken up with? How is it that you just can’t leave me alone? I just want this to stop. Stop messing with my head, yeah? Either you love me or you don’t and since you seem to not, then just leave me be!”
“I don’t love you? I didn’t even want to do that. That letter meant nothing. You’re the one who wanted to break it off!” she yelled at me.
“What are you talking about? Since I last checked, it was still you that said we should break up!” I shouted back, getting angrier by the minute. Partly because of Allie, but half because I could see Mum, Eric, and James peeking at us through the windows with extendable ears for better clarity.
“Do you mind?” I growled at the window. The trio looked embarrassed and ashamed, even Mum, although I knew she would scold me later for my tone. They disappeared from the window and I saw Mum go back to the couch and James and Eric stomped upstairs.
Now we could continue our fight in peace. Well, as peaceful as a fight could be.
“Yes, but I wasn’t the one that wanted to! That was you! I heard you say it!” she continued as if nothing happened, not missing a beat.
“Say what? That I wanted to break up? When did I say that?” I asked her, feeling exceedingly puzzled by the second.
“You don’t remember? I heard you! You said that I didn’t deserve this and that you wanted to break it off!” She was crying now. The sight and sound of her crying broke me down. I felt my rage melt away.
“No, I don’t remember. I didn’t say it, Allie. I never wanted to break it off. Do you know how I’ve felt the whole time that we’ve been separated?”
So, I told her.
Flashback of the past several days:
The week following our break up was probably the worst I’ve had in a long time. My friends surrounded me like a protective cocoon, and, yet, it was almost as if they weren’t even there. For the first few days I didn’t talk to them at all. If they asked me a direct question that didn’t require a head nod or shake, then I would reply robotically, as if all the answers were programmed into my head.
James mostly stayed with me, which meant that Claire was also by my side. Surprisingly, she helped a lot. I found that I really liked her. Not only was she brilliant (obviously, as she’s a Ravenclaw) but she was a laugh riot and was able to get a smile out of me one time or another. Fred also tried to help, though he didn’t have much tact or sensitivity, so when I wanted to talk, I didn’t go to him.
My top choice when I had issues was to get advice from Rose, but she had been indisposed with all the drama involving her father and Scorpius. I hadn’t talked to her since the blow up at King’s Cross, but I really missed my cousin and friend.
Soon, I got tired of keeping everything bottled up, so I went out into the frigid winter cold to play a little game of “Catch the Snitch”. I let my own personal snitch into the air and waited one minute before going to search for it.
Whizzing through the air at top speed, the freezing air hit my face, sending a wave of chills through my body. I kept my eyes peeled through my goggles as I searched for the snitch.
A gleam of gold flashed to my right and I whirred to the side. It zoomed right in front of me and then sped forward. I increased my speed and thrust my hand forward; my finger-tips were less than an inch away from the flying golden ball. I slid forward on my broom and reached out as far as I can. I caught the snitch and then dove down to the ground.
When I hit the snow covered ground, I saw Claire waiting for me on the steps of my house. I dragged my broom through the snow and sat on the steps beside her.
“So,” she started. “You’re just going to sulk around the whole time, yeah?”
“No, I’m not sulking,” I denied. Claire didn’t believe me one bit.
“Yes, you are.”
“Okay, fine. I am,” I said, accepting defeat. As they say; acceptance is the first step.
“Well, stop it,” Claire ordered. I chuckled softly.
“You make it sound so easy, Claire. But do you really understand what it’s like? James has always loved you.”
“Yes, he has, but my parents haven’t. And at first, I was like you. I was bitter and pouty and felt that no one could understand what it was like because no one had gone through exactly what I had. I was wrong.” She paused and her face was hard. “My friend, Abigail Parker, was the one who set me straight. One day while I was brooding in my bed, she came up to me and told me to get over myself. That the whole world, the whole universe, didn’t revolve around me and that I needed to get my head out of my arse.” Claire chuckled.
“Needless to say, I was shocked speechless. I told her that I didn’t think that. I tried to explain to her that I just wanted my mum and dad to love me more than vacations or their money and leisure. And you know what she said to me? That I shouldn’t care about their love. If two people in my life didn’t love me, then why should I be upset? They weren’t worth my time.”
I sat there and pondered this.
“But, Claire, she is worth my time. You don’t give up on people you love,” I replied to her.
“I know. That’s what I told my friend. At that moment, I realized that maybe my parents didn’t love me and maybe they didn’t want to be a part of my life, but by lying in my bed and doing nothing, I wasn’t going to earn or deserve their love. I was just a couch potato that was sad and lonely. Now, just because I don’t have a relationship with my parents, doesn’t mean that you should give up on her. I’ve seen her, Al, and she is faring like you.” Claire stood up and brushed the snow off of her. With one last look, she walked into the warm house.
Back to the present:
It was that conversation that made me give Allie her present for Christmas and the one that made me run to her when she wanted to talk.
“I… I… Al, I just wanted to say that I—.” Mum’s scream cut her off. Both of us ran into the house and found her staring at the living room family clock.
Unlike most of the spoons, which were on the work section or the date section, Dad’s spoon was in the mortal peril section.