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Chapter 28: The One That's Taken a Long Time
~author's note to follow, chicas. love you lots~
“I hate the world,” I grumbled to no one in particular, and James smirked from opposite me. He, unlike the others, knew what had caused my sudden change in mood. The events of the night before had not exactly inspired me to be peachy pleased, especially not after the two hours of sleep I got. Chewing James’ ear off takes a surprisingly long time. You’d be shocked at exactly how long I can rant about one thing for.
“You hate everything, Summer, let’s face it,” Fred laughed, helping himself to another slice of toast and four more poached eggs. Dropping the eggs onto his plate, he started jamming the corner of his toast into the yolk of every single egg.
“Charming, Fred. Thanks very much for that. And I’ll have you know that I like plenty of things... I like lunchtimes, and break times, when the house elves serve profiteroles, when McGonagall forgets to collect homework, when... erm... when it’s nice and sunny. And when you don’t eat off my plate. You know...” I trail off and start picking at the edge of my food.
Would my new little brother or sister like profiteroles, or when it’s sunny? Or will she just lie there and whine because that’s what all fucking babies do?
Did I ever mention that I really dislike young children? And now one is going to be related to me and I’m most likely going to be expected to hold it and like it and other shit like that.
Which, I would like to point out, is never going to happen. I’m not going to stand there and coo over some little brat that’s the product of my parent’s failing marriage and my mother’s evident lack of morals. Oh, and ability to lie to me.
I was so furious with her that I had half a mind to write to my dad and tell him that I was staying with him and Lulu over the Easter break so I didn’t have to go home and act like a slave for my soon to be very pregnant mother. But then I remembered that I can just stay in school, and that plan got scuppered.
“Summer, are you feeling alright?” Penny asked, feeding Fred a few small pieces of bacon off the end of her fork. I glared at the fork because forks are stupid and just sit there, all pointy and stupid, stabbing food like they’ve got some kind of license to kill, being jabbed into people’s mouths like they’re all fucking that. Stupid forks.
“I’m fine. Why are you assuming that I’m not fine? Do I look ugly today or something? I am exactly the same as I was yesterday, I’ll have you know!” Penny blinked a few times, exchanged startled glances with Dom and then went back to feeding Fred.
I don’t know why Fred couldn’t feed himself a bit of bacon.
Maybe because he’s a tosser whose mother had his little sister with his father, as opposed to with the father of his ex girlfriend? Yeah, because shit like that only ever happens to me.
“No, no, you look fine...” Penny muttered, pouting a little bit like she had something to pout about, and James began to snicker so hard that he had to press his hand against his mouth to muffle the sound. Connor was watching him suspiciously.
“Well, thank you. Exactly the same as yesterday, remember. Nothing has changed.” I started pointedly at James but he determinedly avoided my gaze, smirking arrogantly, and dare I say it – a little proudly, at the wall behind the Slytherin table. I could see Scorpius’ shiny head sitting next to Rose’s beacon bright red hair. Aww, cute. Ish. Maybe.
“Summer, are you on drugs?” Dom asked good naturedly, staring down at the table in front of her as so not to look at Connor, who was making a pattern out of strips cut from his kippers. Like all the other cool kids.
Connor had looked pretty surprised this morning when I stalked into the great hall, feeling slightly murderous and not in the best of moods despite all of the cheering up that James had managed to do, but did not smack his stupid blondey-brown head off his shoulders.
But I was considering it, seeing as how Dom was sitting there on her best behaviour, picking at her food but not staring at him with massive, glassy eyes.
But despite all of that, Connor was sitting there with his eyes either trained suspiciously on James and I, or staring down at the table like the bacon might just dance its way onto his plate so he didn’t have to lift it off the platter. Needless to say, it wasn’t happening.
“No, I’m not.” I sighed and grabbed another strawberry out of the bowl in the middle, rolled it around in the sugar dish and shoved it into my mouth whole. “I think my mother might have been, but I’m not.” Dom peered up at me.
“What do you mean?” she asked curiously, and I was a little surprised at the concern in her eyes. Since she fell out with Connor, a whole twenty four hours ago, she seemed to have made it her life’s mission to be as good a best friend as she possibly could be. And it was a little annoying, to be honest – I didn’t need a bodyguard.
I had James for that, and he was stronger than Dom was, either way.
But I took comfort in the fact that the second ConDom got back on track I’d be dropped like a hot potato and left alone again. But I had a feeling that neither Dom nor Penny would ignore me quite as much as they had been before – maybe we’d find some awesome kind of middle ground to dance around on.
Perhaps we could learn some kind of special mating dance with war cries and feather headdresses to wear when we dance around on this special middle ground.
“I,” I started dramatically, taking comfort from James as he slid his hand onto my thigh from next to me and squeezed lightly, “am going to have a sibling.” Dom’s jaw slackened slightly and Fred blinked up from the sausage that Penny was feeding him. Connor spat a mouthful of orange juice back into his glass and stared at me.
“What?” Dom hissed, scrutinizing my face to see if I was just taking the piss out of her. I subconsciously shuffled a little closer to James as he ran his hand up and down my leg, from the bottom of my skirt to my knee.
“My mum is pregnant. I don’t know what flavour the baby’s going to be. It’s not my father’s.”
All four of them stared at me, expecting me to elaborate – perhaps present the information with some kind of song and dance shebang – but I had nothing more to say. I took a big spoonful of Wiz Crispies and jammed the spoon into my gob to prove I really had nothing left to talk about.
“Whose is it?” Dom asked quietly, and I took time in chewing my mouthful of cereal, swallowing it down and swilling my mouth around with a sip of James’ pumpkin juice. I crossed my legs, uncrossed them again and began to spread a thin layer of Huckleberry jam over the bread before I finally got around to answering the question.
“A man called Antony Goldstein. He was in Hogwarts with your parents, most likely. He’s the dad, but he’s not with my mum. She thinks he’s some kind of angel in white because he hasn’t left her high and dry and says that he’s going to help.”
Penny sighed and dropped her arm back to the table, letting the feeble piece of sausage in her hand bounce back onto the plate.
“Goldstein?” she asked quietly. “Goldstein, as in... Jack Goldstein? Your ex-boyfriend? It’s not his brother, is it, because that would be really unfortunate considering who your father is marrying... I mean, but I’m sure it will all be fine, your mother is a strong woman and-”
“No, she isn’t,” I said quietly, taking a large bite out of the corner of my toast before passing it to James, so he could take a bite. His bite was at least four times larger than mine. He practically inhaled the whole thing.
“But... is it? A relation to Jack? Because that would just be... harsh.”
“Yeah, well, at the risk of sounding like a melodramatic teenager – when has anything ever gone very smoothly in my life? It’s like everything around me was invented to one day be fucked up.” Penny smiled sadly and tucked back into her breakfast, thankfully not feeding Freddie anymore, and James leaned across to squeeze my knee again. Subtly tucking a stand of hair behind my ear, he leaned close and murmured;
“Not everything around you is going to get fucked up, you know. Some things will stay the same, and some things will get better.” James accompanied his words with another squeeze to the knee, running his nose along the top of my ear.
Penny smirked and looked down at her plate when she saw us staring at her staring at us, and despite my want to have my expression stay flat and annoyed; the corners of my lips began to twitch up into a smile, curling the corners of my mouth up into a reluctant grin. James leant back into his own space and started to chow back down on his Quidditch Players Breakfast of about nine thousands rashers of bacon, twelve hundred sausage, thirteen pieces of toast, a whole pot of jam and a house-elf sized mountain of scrambled eggs.
When he drops dead at thirty because of the levels of fat in his blood, he better not come crying to me.
“Does Jack know that your mum is having his dad’s baby? Do you know if you’re going to have a brother or a sister yet?” I shook my head and shrugged at Dom, who had asked the question. James slowly put down his fork.
“I don’t know if Jack knows. I assume not, because his father seems like a spineless git from the very little that I currently know about him, and he hasn’t tried to come and talk to me, which I assume that he would had he found out when I did. And no, she’s only about four months pregnant – they haven’t done a gender scan yet.”
Dom paused before she asked her next question, but her thirst for information as evident in her expression alone.
“Do you have a preference? Would you prefer a brother or a sister?” The question asked required very little thought into the answer – I had known the answer to it since virtually the moment I was born. I was not a people person, and nor had I ever claimed to be.
“Neither. I would prefer to be an only child. The amount of only children, like Penny, for example, that sit there and say that they feel like they’re lonely without a sibling... I can never empathise with them. Never. Because I adored being an only child, and I still do. I don’t want a brother or a sister, I never have wanted a brother or a sister and I don’t want her to have one. Maybe it’s selfish of me, but I just wish that she hadn’t been so stupid as to get herself knocked up... I just hope she looks after this kid better than she looked after me.”
Penny frowned and passed the sugar bowl to Connor, to stop him straining his eyes trying to telepathically levitate it over to himself so that he didn’t have to leave over Dom and risk rubbing up against her like the randy uncle at the wedding.
“I’m sure she will,” Dom said, but it was all empty words. Dom had no way of knowing how my mother was going to raise another baby on her own, or how much help this man was, a man that hadn’t even began to date my mother after he got her fucking up the duff.
“She might not. Neither her nor my father were ready for children – they weren’t at the point in their lives when they should have had a kid. And now my mother’s situation means she’s not ready to have another kid. And if she thinks I’m sacrificing my future to help babysit some sprog that is nothing to do with me, then she’s got another thing coming.”
“Well, you’ll have to help her! She’s your mother and this little baby is going to be either your little brother or your little sister... I’m sure you’ll feel differently once he or she is born.” Penny looked horrified at my complete dismissal of this child.
“No, I don’t have to help her. If she couldn’t handle the heat of a baby, then she should have... I don’t know. Stayed with my dad – there was no way he would have touched her again with a bargepole.” Dom snorted behind her hand and Penny kicked her hard under the table.
“Right... well. But if you had to choose, would you rather have a brother or a sister?” I took a second to think, and then chose the first option that came into my head.
“A little brother, I suppose. Because it’s bad enough that I’m going to have to share my life with a sibling – I’d rather not have another girl brought into the equation.” I caught sight of Penny’s expression out of the corner of my eye and couldn’t resist smirking a little. “Yeah, I know I’m being selfish Penny, but hey – you’re the one always asking why I wasn’t put into Slytherin with the rest of my goddamn family. I don’t want a brother or a sister. I never have. And that’s that.”
“I really hope you change your mind, Summer. I know you say that you can’t empathise with me when I say I would have loved a brother or a sister, but I really would have. And I really hope you don’t reject this baby straight away when it’s done nothing wrong, just because you don’t agree with the terms on which is has been born.” I nodded, but I wasn’t really listening to her.
James’ hand had slid – slided? Slidden? Something like that – back over to my leg and started to fiddle with the hem of my skirt. I smirked slightly and carried on eating my toast until his hand slid slightly too far and I smacked him away, and the resulting jostling movement meant I nearly speared Dom in the neck with my elbow.
“Sorry,” I grunted as she stared at me suspiciously, watching James flex his wrist around and rub the back of his hand. Subtle never was his middle name.
“’S alright,” Dom muttered vaguely, glancing between James and I with a crease between her eyebrows. I stared down at my knees as James smirked. Fucking tosser. All he’d done all sodding morning was smirk.
“Summer, calm down!” James yelped, his tone embarrassingly squeaky, but he shoved himself off his chair and dropped down to his knees regardless, shuffling towards me and wrapping his big arms around my shoulders, pulling my into his pyjama-clad chest. It was only then that I realised James had been in his pyjamas the whole time. “Summer, please, calm down. It’s alright. It’s going to be alright. I’m here.”
I sobbed harder and fisted the cotton of his nightshirt in my hands, pressing the cool material against my lips as hacking great big sobs wracked my chest. I was mortified to be breaking down like this, in front of James of all people, but I couldn’t stop. I just felt betrayed.
“I’m – sorry –” I spat out between breaths, and James’ hands began to rub rhythmic circles into my back as I continued to stain his shirt with my tears. My blurry eyes could barely make out the blue check pattern of his flannel trousers.
“Please, Summer, I can’t stand to see you cry. Please stop crying. Calm down. It’s all going to be alright. If the worst comes to the worst, then the pair of us will just hop on a plane to Saudi Arabia together and you’ll never have to see that kid.” I laughed through my tears, though more saltwater stung my eyes at the mention of the baby.
“Why – Saudi – Arabia?” I choked out, pulling a tissue out of the box on the table in front of the fire and dabbing at the streaky black remains of my mascara on my flushed cheeks.
“Why not?” James grinned. “I imagine we’d fit in pretty well in Saudi Arabia. You know, with all the... camels. There are camels in Saudi Arabia, right?” I shrugged, having no idea. “Now, stop crying, pull your knickers up and wipe your face off – I’m not gonna wanna snog you if you’ve got black gunk smudged down to your boobs, am I?” I laughed in spite of myself and rubbed the back of my hand across my cheeks, resting my head on James’ chest.
“I can’t believe she’s doing this,” I muttered as I scrubbed at one particularly persistent fleck of black.
“At the end of the day, it’s done, love. And you can sit there and moan your arse off about it, or you can stick your head in the air and let her know that you can deal with it. Yes, she was stupid and immature and should have acted her age, but she didn’t. And now we’re all gonna have to deal with the fallout.” I blinked at him.
“Does your mother know you’re this wise?”
“Shut it, you. I’m trying to be nice. I won’t make an effort in future.”
“I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” I muttered quickly, holding my palms up flat to him and backing away slightly as a sign of surrender.
“I know,” James grins, pulling me into his chest and running one of his hands down the back of my hair. “Now, what would make you feel better?” I stared up at him. His eyes were dancing in the light from the smoking coals behind me, his bottom lip caught between his teeth, his hair mussed up and fuzzy from the back of the sofa, his pyjamas wrinkled and revealing a slice of his tan abdomen.
I slid my arms up his chest and wrapped them around the back of his neck, bringing my nose to rest against the tip of his, closing my eyes so my eyelashes gently rested on his cheeks.
James’ lips were soft – almost too soft – when they came down to meet mine. His hands were wrapped around my waist in what was essentially a hug. His chest was pressed flush against mine. I could feel all of his muscles through his shirt. His hands moved to the back of my neck. My eyes opened slightly as he kissed my neck. The room was dark. My arms were wrapped around his chest. Everything was slow.
“Summer, please,” he whispered, and I tipped my head back so my hair spilled onto the chair behind me. He kissed the front of my neck, beneath my jaw, behind my earlobes, on the tip of my nose... everywhere. He kissed my collarbone, then on the other side, then on the dip in the middle, and then the tip of my chin.
The rest of the night went too fast. James’ dorm. The creaking of the curtains as James dragged them across with one arm still pressing me to his chest. James casting a silencing charm. The sheets tangling around my bare legs. James throwing my shirt onto the ground. Lying in James’ bed with his arms wrapped around my waist, his touch burning against my hot skin. Waking up in the morning to see him sleeping with his head on my stomach. Our fingers twisting in each other’s.
And, of course, endless teasing.
“Do you know the plan, Agent Banana?” Penny hissed at me, waggling her eyebrows crazily like those creepy kids off that advert from forever ago and performing a series of intricate hand gestures that mostly just looked like poorly-executed waves. She bobbed her head up and down twice and saluted me, then pressed her ear against the bathroom door, presumably to listen for Dom. A second later she wrinkled her nose and pulled away again.
“Agent Banana?” I asked incredulously, cocking an eyebrow at her. She grinned guiltily but her face did not lose its excited expression.
“We need codenames, or SHE might understand what we are talking about.” Penny winked four times in quick sucession and spelled something out on her fingers; in what I’m guessing was supposed to look like sign language. Never having come into contact with anyone deaf for long enough to have to learn sign language, I had no idea whether or not the shit she was doing was the real thing.
It didn’t look it, though.
“Well, if you’re going to yell out SHE then I’m pretty sure that SHE might cop on. She might be blonde but she’s not thick, you know.” I ran my hand through my hair. “Anyway, if I’m Agent Banana then what are you?” Penny thought for a moment and then smirked.
“I don’t know, why don’t you tell me? Or maybe you could ask your precious Jamesie...” She glanced towards the bathroom door quickly to make sure that Dom wasn’t standing in the doorway looking ready to flay me alive, and then carried on despite my protesting stammers. That’s right Summer, show them who’s boss. “What, did you think that I didn’t notice you sneaking back in here at six this morning with hair that would give a bird’s nest a run for its money?” She smirked again at my obvious mortification.
“I – I just spent the night in the common room with him. We fell asleep at the table after my mum flooed me and I... the books messed up my...” Penny was outright laughing now, her face spread wide in a smile that I hadn’t seen on her face in a very long time.
She looked younger, almost. More carefree, anyway. Her eyes seemed warmer, her cheeks were flushed with colour... for the first time in a long time, she looked healthy.
“Please, Summer, they offered to let me sit my NEWTs at the end of last year. Do you really think I’m going to believe that you and James spent the night in the common room together and you came back to the door with your hair a state and your pyjamas looking like you’d just dragged them over your head without looking in a mirror?”
“Oh, shut it, Agent Apple. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Penny giggled gleefully as I glared down my toes and kicked at the scuffed bedpost of Dom’s bed. The ballet pumps I was wearing suddenly seemed a lot pinker to me than they were before – were they too pink for my first proper date with James?
“You nervous, Summer?” Penny asked gently, obviously sensing my discomfort when I started to kick the bottom of Dom’s bed over and over again, trying to rub some of the newly acquired pinkness off my shoes.
“Fuck no,” I said confidently, smoothing down the back of my hair and checking my shirt in the mirror. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn black and white – maybe he’s going to think that I’ve turned goth overnight and then he’ll just cry and dump me when I say that I won’t grow red dreadlocks and... oh god, my life is over. “No, I am as confident as Confident Colin.”
“Who is Confident Colin?” Penny asked curiously, and I swallowed against the slightly sick feeling that was rising in my throat. The sound of the chain flushing – TMI? – came floating in from the bathroom and I was spared having to answer by Dom entering the room.
See, I don’t think of it as too much information when I inform you of Dom flushing the loo – when you live with someone for near enough seven years, you become immune to things like that. Loos flush, often in the middle of the night – life goes on and rocks and rolls. You don’t wrinkle your nose because no one’s bothered to invent a silent loo yet.
“What are you two whispering about?” she asked suspiciously, dragging her hair back into a ponytail and checking her shiny cheeks in the mirror. With the whole going to the spa scenario going on, neither of them had bothered to put much slap on – I looked like a caked troll in comparison. But hey-ho, life goes on, dwarves keep whistling, all that jazz.
“Nothing,” we chimed together, but Dom just rolled her eyes. Maybe the breakup with Connor had done her good after all – she didn’t seem to be on the edge of a nervous breakdown all the time now.
“Right... well, let’s get a-cracka-lacking. We’ve got places to go, people to meet, hot French men to lie in front of while they pour oil on my tense muscles. Hmm... I do wonder what scent Jean-Jacques will use... I hope it’s ylang-ylang, I need its sensual overtones at the minute... perhaps a spot of lavender for relaxation...”
And with Dom spouting a fountain of useless knowledge on the so called properties of certain smelly bath products, we headed out of the dorm and down the staircase to where my certain doom was waiting for me. Or maybe not my doom, but... well, who knows? I was about to. And I was pissing myself about it.
I don’t get it.
That was what I truly realised when I found myself walking down the icy hill of Hogwarts towards the main gates, about thirty centimetres away from a nervous looking James, who was chewing his bottom lip. We weren’t holding hands – I wasn’t sure whether that was because we wanted to remain incognito and inconspicuous and all the other in- words, or whether James was just too nervous to reach across and grab my hand, but either way, I wasn’t making the first move.
I’m the girl – it’s not my job. My dad always wanted me to be more ladylike.
But anyway, back to what I don’t get. James and I have been friends for six and a half years – that’s a fuck of a long time, however you spin it. And after six and a half years, you’d expect someone to become settled in a certain box, you know. Like Dom is in the ‘nutty best friend’ box, and Penny is in the ‘very, very smart’ box, and Fred is... well, in the ‘buys underwear adorned with his uncle’s face’ box. And you don’t really prepare for someone switching boxes, you know.
I mean, you’d be shocked if you woke up one day and found your knickers chilling in your sock box, because they had jumped and moved without you knowing and without your permission. So why isn’t it the same with people?
They say there is an exception to every rule, but I have a feeling that someone that stays in the same box forever and never moves is actually the exception. Let’s face it – James has been hopping boxes for a while now. Friend, best friend, snog buddy, person-who-hates-you, and now... date?
I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it, but as we strolled down to Hogsmeade two things hit me – one, that James might finally choose his box after today, and I would have to question whether or not I would be comfortable with him sitting in that box for what would most likely be a very long time, and two – that this was no different to anything we had done before.
I mean, do you see what I mean? Going down to Hogsmeade together – done that more times than I can count. Kissing – lost track of the numbers. Holding hands – plenty of times. James paying for things – he’s a chivalrous twat and always has been. And now, even sleeping together – we’d done that too. So... what changes? Nothing, by the sounds of things.
And that kind of upset me, in a way. Yes, I am not the biggest fan in the world of change, and I do like things to stay the same because I grow comfortable with the way things are, but the idea that nothing was going to change and this was going to be my life was... harrowing.
Slapping a giant, neon-yellow sticker on something and proclaiming it to be a ‘DATE’ did not make it different to anything else. I could go down to Hogsmeade with Dom and call it a date – doesn’t mean that Dom and my relationship changes.
“Oi, what are you thinking about so loudly? I can practically hear your thoughts bouncing around your skull. I always worry when you look like you’re really deep in thought.” James smirked at me and dug me lightly in the ribs with his elbow. He normally dug me harder. There’s one change.
“Why?” I asked, peering at him. His head was silhouetted against the watery white sky of a January morning, and so it was almost painful to look at him. I ended up having to squint attractively like a blind warthog to try and make out his features.
“Well, for one, you always seem to get angry after you’ve over-thought things. And two, I’m worried that you’re putting too much strain on your last two brain cells and they’re just going to die out because the added strain will ruin their relationship.” I gaped at him and punched him in the side, only lightly, before leaping onto his back and tightening my arms around his neck.
“Don’t be mean!” I laughed, my breath solid and foggy in front of me. I wished I’d worn my boots instead of my ballet pumps – I could almost feel the tops of my feet turning blue. That’s not a good luck, unless you’re a smurf or a circus freak.
“I’m not being mean!” James laughed back, sounding slightly choked by my arms. It was only then I became aware that James’ warm breath was panting right onto my hands, his palms pressing against my ankles to stop me from falling. I leapt off his back at once and staggered to my feet, trying to stop myself from blushing a delightful shade of tomato.
Change number two, then.
“So what do you want to do today?” James asked, and my lips pursed out automatically at the realisation that James had not actually planned anything out for us to do. That’s not what they do in the movies, or in the songs that Celestina Warbeck belts out all the time. Honestly, the amount of achy-breaky heart songs that she writes, you’d think she’d had more boyfriends than the rest of the population of England put together.
Wouldn’t mind, she’s about seventy, too – I think she even gets her perm rinse washed blue.
“I don’t know. What do you want to do today?”
“I don’t mind. What do you feel like doing today?”
“I don’t mind either. Why don’t you choose something for us to do?”
“Because I’m not too bothered. I think it’s your turn to choose something for us to do. Like... the shrieking shack? I don’t know.” I pounced on that one.
“Do you want to go to the shrieking shack? Because if you want to go to the shrieking shack then we’ll go to the shrieking shack.” I said quickly, glancing at the rickety building over my shoulder. James huffed his solidified breath at the tips of his shoes.
“Erm... yeah, let’s go to the shrieking shack. But first, how about we go and get some Butterbeer to go from The Three Broomsticks so we don’t freeze to death, and some sweets from Honeydukes so we can have a sort of picnic on our usual spot on the roof?” I nodded and scuffed the soles of my shoes along the gravel path around the gate.
Butterbeer, Honeydukes confectionary (otherwise known as Diabetes in a Packet) and sitting on a roof in icy cold conditions. For some mad reason, I was actually looking forward to it. Yes, even though my knockers might have frozen off from the cold.
The walk to The Three Broomsticks took forever. My shoes seemed to make unnaturally loud scuffing noises along the ice-smattered gravel and James’ arms suddenly seemed too long for his body. They swung next to his sides, lollopy and graceless, like some kind of gorilla that was skipped out a chromosome.
“Summer?” James said nervously, reaching out and tapping me on the wrist. It wasn’t just the newly acquired awkwardness between us that we had to be careful with – there was a hell of a lot of nosy whatsits that would be hanging around like a bad smell, desperate for a new piece of gossip to claw at. I wasn’t forgetting The Great Dom Pregnancy Drama of Fifth Year. But that’s a story for another monsoon.
“Hmm?” I asked, trying to sound alluring. And let me tell you – it’s not easy to sound alluring when you’re making a sound like you’ve exploded a tube of superglue between your lips.
“We’re here... do you want to go in? Not being funny, but a certain area of my body that I kinda like being attached feels like it’s going to drop off from frostbite right now.” I smirked and James rolled his eyes, pushing my through the door and jamming his kneecap into the back of my leg.
“Well, we can’t have that, can we?” I rolled my eyes as James swung one of his massive arms around my waist and lifted me off the ground for a moment.
“Stop being mean, or I’m going to go all Modern Day Tosser on you and make you pay for your own drink.” I rolled my eyes again and dug my hand into my pocket, pulled out a galleon and tucked it into the breast pocket of his shirt.
“You’re not paying for my drinks, darling. I can buy them myself. Besides, I have more money than you.” James scowled and me and crossed his arms over his chest.
He pulled the galleon out of his shirt and tried to shove it into the back pocket of my jeans, but I leapt around like a deformed ballerina so he missed, staggered forwards and nearly rammed his finger up the nostril of some burly fifth year that looked like he’d been snacking on nothing other than suet and fish proteins for a good two and a half years. He also had a shaved head and was wearing a grey flannel hoodie – what does that tell you?
“Watch where you’re fucking going,” he snarled at James, and I instantly hopped on the defensive horse.
“Watch your fucking mouth then, knobhead,” I snapped back, clenching my fist behind my back. The bloke snapped his gaze up to meet mine and smirked arrogantly, but stepped back all the same and sloped off with his lardy mates in matching flannel hoodies from the Chav Man range.
“Are you trying to completely emasculate me?” James asked, but I was almost sure that he was joking. Almost. The lardy blokes were smirking at him and making whipping motions at him because they thought that I couldn’t see. I could.
“Yep. After all, you need the training now for when you’re barefoot and pregnant in my kitchen, making me sandwiches and preparing my supper for when I get home from work.” James stuck his finger up at me and for one tense second I thought he was actually going to stick it up my nostril.
But he didn’t, because that would have just been the height of immaturity.
“Shut it you, or I’m going to get you pregnant just so you have to waddle around like a whale and buy clothes adorned with love hearts and teddy bears and pictures of smiley faces.” I nearly gagged, and James quickly ordered two Butterbeers from Madame Whatsherface.
“You wouldn’t dare get me pregnant – you’re the one that would have to get up nine times a night with it, feed it and... you know... erm... clean nappies out and all that other shite.” James laughed and handed me one of the bottles, wrapping one of his arms around my waist as we walked past the Lardy Lads on the way back to the door. They called something over and wolf whistled, but I worked very hard to block out what they were saying.
It was kind of like when your ears pop on an aeroplane and you can’t hear anything for about nine years afterwards.
“Hey, I could always do the manly thing and knock you up just so I can ditch you and run away with someone dramatic that I really shouldn’t be running away with... like – oh, your mum. Yeah, I’ve got to run away with your mum. Who’s already pregnant – and then it turns out the kid is mine and it all gets really dramatic... ah, I should write a soap opera.”
I dipped my finger in the neck of my Butterbeer and flicked it at him.
“Babe, if you got me pregnant and then left me, I’d kill you before had the chance to step out of my front door, let alone have time to run away with my mother. They’d be picking up your limbs from various ditches and railways for three years after the fact.” James rolled his eyes and took my hand on top of the table, looking a little nervous while doing so.
“I can practically smell the blood...” James sneered, brushing his hair out of his eyes.
It wasn’t even in his eyes to begin with, the weirdo. He just likes to think that he has the whole ‘windswept’ thing going for him, and that he emulates the whole male model situation with his hair brushing techniques. It just makes him look like a posing twat, in my humble opinion, but we wrestled for half an hour the last time I mentioned it and I ended up with a black eye. James has a scarily pointy elbow.
“So, when are we going to go to the shrieking shack?” I asked eventually, after James spent five minutes dilly-dallying over whether or not he was going to take my hand and hold it. Honestly, you’d think that I was going to electrocute him or something.
My hands aren’t filled with live wires. You’re not going to burst into flames by touching my bare skin, pet. And even then, I’m still wearing fingerless mittens. If I can curse you with the tips of my fingers then I think we have bigger problems than whether someone will see us holding hands. Sorry, I’m rambling.
So yes. James and I ended up sitting down at a table, opposite each other all fancy-like, with our hands held between us. It was all very romantic and movie-ish and soppy enough to give me a rash. I might be allergic to blatantly repulsive fluff.
“Whenever you want, doll,” James said cheerfully, drumming his fingers on the tabletop. His fingernails were filed down a lot shorter than they normally were – they looked like a girl’s fingernails. All I had to do what paint them pink and you’d be catching him on the runway of the next episode of Toddlers and Tiaras.
“Doll? Are we trying out a new nickname or something? Gotta say, I reckon we should just stick with ‘Summer’. Given that it is my name and all.” James pursed his lips.
“Well, I reckon you’re wrong. I could totally see us being one of those couples that have adorably sickening nicknames that they coo to each other over porridge in the mornings. I mean, if ‘doll’ isn’t the one for you then we can try something else... pookie? Sweets? Babette? I mean, I have a whole list right up in my ol’ noggin.” I laughed slowly.
“Erm, few issues with that. First off, couple? Really? James, we’re half an hour into our first date that doesn’t even feel like a date because we’ve essentially done this eight thousand times before, and you already want to call us a couple? Erm, lets walk before we can run, yeah? So, no couple-ing. We are single-ing. And second, call me ‘babette’ and I will rip your bollocks off.” James laughed awkwardly and a little red trickled into his cheeks.
“So, you, erm,” James stammered awkwardly, “you don’t think of us as a couple?” I blinked a few times and shrugged.
“Nah, I don’t. So, are we going the shrieking shack then, Romeo?” James glanced over his shoulder, scanned either side of us and then leant across the table, planting a quick kiss on my lips and then sitting back down with a smirk.
“Whenever you want, Julie.” James laughed at his own wit as I groaned and rolled my eyes. The guy might think that he is the human face of the word ‘funny’, but I wasn’t amused. James swigged down the last of his Butterbeer and tossed the empty bottle back onto the table, dragging me to my feet.
As we stood, all the eyes that had been resting on us while we paid them no attention flashed back in front of them, trying to make it look like they hadn’t been perving on the pair of us like we were a new breed of animal in a zoo. Honestly, it’s like being on the television, going to a school as gossip-ridden as Hogwarts. Honestly, they should make a new reality television show about our school.
What about... The Real Schoolkids of Hogwarts Castle? Or we could always go with Gossip Teen. Or maybe just a good ol’ How to Catch Herpes in Ten Days. Mind you, you don’t have to watch a television show about that, you can just chat to any Slytherin aged thirteen and up.
“What you looking’ at, you bastards?” I yelled as James towed me out of the door, and the speed with which the third years managed to snap to face the opposite direction was shocking.
“Right, what should we get?” James asked, as he began to toss several different packets of stupidly named sweets into the wicker basket he was holding. I mean, really, Cheese and Onion lollipops and Pumpkin Latte bonbons? Where do they get these ideas? Isn’t it bad enough that onions are out there in real life, regardless?
“I dunno, but let’s get some pumpkin pasties. We can warm them up when we get to the shrieking shack and eat them, because it’s gonna be freezing in there. Oh, and let’s get some chocolate, too, because we can melt it down into hot chocolate.” James chuckled at my girlish excitement. All the Butterbeer must have gone to my head.
“Do you want cockroach clusters?”
“Do you want to be socked in the nose?”
“Fine, touchy. Do you want some of these fizzing whizbees?”
“Yeah, sure. But get the pumpkin flavoured ones, because the cherry ones make me feel like I’m taking medicine.”
“My mum used to dip fizzing whizbees into my medicine when I was younger because I wouldn’t take it otherwise – I used to scream until they gave up. But if she dipped sweets in it then I’d take it. Eventually I stopped, and now I can’t eat cherry fizzing whizbees.”
“Merlin, they really did fuck you up. Honestly, not eating cherry fizzing whizbees? You might as well be banging a steel cup against the bars of Azkaban. Do you want every flavour beans?”
“Nah, thanks. If you want some then I’ll have a few, but I’m not fussed. The last one I got was sardine, and it was revolting.”
“Acid pops? Cauldron cakes? Jelly slugs? Pixie puffs?” I nodded to them all.
“Sure. Seriously, mate, are you trying to make me really fat or something? Honestly, we’re only going to go and sit in the shrieking shack. Just grab some scram and let’s get cracka-a-lacking.”
James rolled his eyes. “Pepper imps? Sugar quills? Fudge flies? Ice mice? Best flowing gum? Crystallised pineapple?” I rolled my eyes and just nodded, even though the smell of pepper imps made me want to toss myself off the nearest building. “Do you want to get some chocolate cauld-”
“Just pick some bloody sweets, already! I would have been happy with just some pumpkin pasties and a ham sandwich from Philosophy and Destiny down in the kitchens. Such philosophical little house elves.”
“Fine, fine. But if you don’t like what we end up eating, then you’re gonna snog me behind the Quidditch pitch when we get back up to the school.”
“Keep dreaming, pet. Keep dreaming.”
“This isn’t as fun as it used to be,” I commented mildly. Perched on the dusty mattress and duvet of the one rickety bed in the entire of the shrieking shack with James opposite me, I stretched back and sent several puffs of smoke up into the air. James grinned and massaged my legs a little harder, digging his fingers into my sore thighs.
They’d started to hurt when he gave me a leg up onto the top floor of the shrieking shack, and so when he’d offered me a leg massage, I wasn’t going to say no. I didn’t complain when he took his hoodie off and I had to stare at the muscles under his t-shirt, either.
“What, sitting on a bed together? We can make it as fun as it was last night,” James grinned at me and leant forwards, pressing me against the duvet and propping himself up on his elbows. I kneed him sharply in the stomach and he rolled off me with a groan, snuggling his nose into the side of my neck. And while some people might think this was cute and adorable, all I could focus on was the fact I was lying on how many colonies of bacteria.
I’ll probably wake up tomorrow with an extra leg sprouting out of the back of my neck. I’ll cut the leg off and leave it in James’ bed as a little present for him – just like in that creepy movie when the bloke find’s that thing’s head in his bed.
“Shut up, you. Now get back to sorting out my legs, it was feeling good. I can practically feel the tension pooling out of me... aaah. Yep, that’s the spot. God, did you ever think about becoming a masseuse. I’ll pay you. You just have to live in my loft and only come down when I want you to massage my feet.” James cocked an eyebrow at me.
“Summer, I am not going to live in your loft so I can rub your feet when you’re feeling like a pain in the arse. Besides, you don’t even live anywhere right now, so you don’t even have a loft. And I’m not going to charm a loft to float around over your head.” I punched him in the stomach again so he ran the edges of his nails over the bottom of my foot.
Needless to say I shrieked and spazzed like a mad woman, limbs flying everywhere. But I swear, I didn’t mean to sock him in the nose. I mean, it was his fault. Besides, he should have apologised to me, really. His nose really hurt my foot.
“I’m sorry!” I squeaked for the fourth time, feeling the need to apologise for some strange reason. James just laughed through the fountain of blood that was drizzling down his upper lip. The bridge of his nose was pinched between his forefinger and thumb, his eyes pointed upwards as he tried not to stare at the blood dripping down onto his shirt.
“Yeah, I know – it’s fine, love, don’t worry about it. I’ve had worse. I mean, you remember the time that Fred through a Beater’s bat at my nose to try and get me to stop humming happy Christmas. I was in the hospital wing for a week. This isn’t even in the same league of injuries.” I dipped some old piece of cloth that I found in the shrieking shack (ignoring the fact that I was probably going to be dabbing James’ face off with nine thousand different strains of staphylococcus) into the lake next to the shack and soaking it through with icy water.
Wringing it out I pushed myself to my feet and gently pressed the cloth against my nose, which already seemed to be turning slightly blue around the edges. James winced but let me do it anyway. I used one of the edges to dab up the steady flow of blood.
“How’s that feeling?” I asked quietly, as James’ hands balled a handful of my shirt up into his fists. He shrugged slightly and I stepped back towards the lake, washing off the worst of the blood and wringing it out again.
“Oh hell no,” James said loudly, stepping away from the freezing cloth. “No! I let you do it once, but Summer, that thing is freezing! My nose is going to turn blue and just sodding drop off, the way this is going.” I rolled my eyes at his dramatics, wondering when he managed to acquire an extra X chromosome.
“James, don’t be stupid, your nose might be broken,” I said, stepping forwards and trying to dab his nose with the cloth. He leapt away like I was going to burn him. Honestly, anyone would have thought that I was hissing electricity, the way he’s been acting all day. “James, really, stop acting like a child!” James continued to back away, still pinching his nose and waving his free hand at me to try and keep me away.
“No! Keep away from me, woman!” I launched myself forwards quickly and tried to press the cold compress against his nose, but he spazzed out, much like I had, and whacked me in the stomach. Stumbling backwards on the still-slightly-icy mud, I began to slide back towards the lake, tottering like a drunk bimbo on a Saturday. I shrieked as the cloth flew into the air, me still tottering closer and closer to the lake.
With a splash, the cloth landed in the water and I could hear James laughing behind me. Trying to peer through the blood dribbling down his face, James held out a hand to catch me but somehow managed to miss. Miss. Yes, that is the boy that is trusted to toss heavy balls through the air at breakneck speeds can’t even catch something the size of a human that is only half a metre away.
“James!” I screamed, as I slid for the last time and collapsed over backwards, sitting the water heavily like a sack of bricks. Water leapt out of the lake and splashed all over the banks, drenching a spluttering James. His wiped the water out of his eyes and gaped at me as I panted and struggled to keep my head above water. I mean, I can swim, but I would never call myself a water baby.
“Summer, you alright?” he asked as I spat out mouthfuls of freezing water back out into the lake.
“Yeah,” I hissed, dragging myself out of the lake with James’ aid and trying to brush off the worst of the water. My fingers were shaking and I could barely hold my chin still long enough to formulate a word. James pulled off his jacket, which was drenched itself, and offered it out to me.
“Sorry, love,” James laughed, realising how pathetic his offering was.
“Oh Merlin,” I laughed, wringing my hair out over my shoulder and giggling as James shook his shaggy hair out over the lake, throwing millions of droplets of water out into the air like a million and one diamonds bouncing off the surface of the lake. He pulled his sopping wet t-shirt over his head and wrung it out into the water.
I could see the gooseflesh on his chest – he must have been freezing. But at the same time, his expression didn’t falter and his strong hands focused on crinkling the water out of the material.
“Here, you’re doing it wrong,” I laughed again, tugging the shirt out of his hands and wringing it out myself. If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, as Nana Greengrass always used to say.
“Oh, I do apologise,” James rolled his eyes and jabbed the base of my spine with his pointer finger, pulling me closer to him and wrapping his arms around my waist. His chin was resting on my shoulder, his hands pressed flat against my stomach... it was all oddly... peaceful. James’ eyelashes were brushing my cheek. I became very aware of the feel of his jeans against the back of my tights.
“This has been the most amazing day,” I whispered into the stillness, leaning my head sideways and pressing a kiss onto the hollow point under his jaw. “Thank you so much.” James grinned and pressed a kiss onto the top of my head.
“It’s been my pleasure,” he laughed, and took one both of my hands in one of his, tossing his shirt onto the ground without a second glance. My breath caught in my throat again. “Merlin almighty, what are you doing to me, Summer?” His voice was the quietest it had been all day, and it scared me a little. I turned around, and he took my face in between both of his hands.
I wondered vaguely if my face was all squished up like a gorilla’s, or whether I had managed to retain some semblance of looking like a human.
“What do you mean?” I whispered. He thought that I was doing crazy things to him – I’ve been feeling happy all day – I think that’s pretty solid evidence that James fucks around with all things in my brain.
James slowly brought his fingers to rest against my lips, and pressed his forehead against mine with his eyes screwed shut.
“I need to tell you something,” he whispered, but I could hear the doubt in his voice, the hint of reservation, like he wasn’t quite sure whether he needed to at all.
“What?” I whispered again. I didn’t know why we were both whispering, but we were. It was just like one big whisper-fest, like the quiet atmosphere around the lake might shatter if either of us spoke at a normal decibel. James looked pained, his jaw tight and his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down as he swallowed hard, and then again.
“I – I realised the other week, and I really should have told you. Just... just promise me that you’re not going to freak out on me. Promise me that you’re not going to freak out. Just stay calm... well, as calm as you can be, anyway.” I nodded slowly in agreement and took both of his hands, pressing them against my chest.
“James, please. I want you to trust me. I... I was trying to prove you could trust me... last night.” I flushed a fuming scarlet – that was the first time that I had brought up what had unexpectedly happened last night.
“Okay...” He pressed his lips against mine quickly, took a deep breath and looked like he was preparing himself for something very important, when a very, very stupid thing happened. My foot slipped on some algae lining the rocks around the side of the lake and I suddenly found my arms flailing out as I struggled to stay upright, one of my feet plunging into the icy cold lake before it was followed by the rest of my body. I hit the water with an enormous splash, but thankfully managed to keep my head above water.
“FUCKING HELL!” I screeched at the top of my lungs, and James nearly tipped back in himself as he clutched his stomach, choking over his own laughter.
“Oh Merlin, Summer, I love you.” I laughed loudly at him.
“Love you too, Jamesie, now get your lazy arse over here and help me out of this fucking ice pool – how is it legal to have this next to a school for children? I’m pretty sure I could d-d-die from frostbite!” James’ eyes were suddenly a lot... sadder?
“Oh, fuck it. I don’t just fucking love you, Summer – I’m in love with you. Have been for a while now. I want to be in a... a relationship. With you. Is that... something you could consider? Are you in...? Is there any chance that you think you could be in...” James cut off and stared down at his shoes. He still didn’t have a shirt on.
The only sound being made was my heavy breathing as the icy water pressed in on my chest. The rest of the world seemed to be silent. James waited for my reply.
It never came.
disclaimer: nothing in this chapter belongs to me.
heh. hi. hello. it's been a vair long time, i know. i mean. i'm fairly sure that this is the longest i have ever gone without updating any story, let alone this one. i used to update this all the time, haha. bit since i've gone back to school after the summer i've had no time. i have my mock gcses in three weeks or so, a little less by the time this comes out, and i've been revising my backside off day in and day out. i've also been quite sick, and i mean sleeping twelve hour nights sick, so i've had very little time on top of all that. so i am sorry, i really am. but on the plus side, over the last couple of days i've managed to go from 164 unanswered reviews to 40 :D probably less by the time this comes out :D so yeah, if your review hasn't been answered yet, it will be very shortly.
so anyway, i hope you enjoyed this chapter, and i'd love a review :)
ellie :) xx