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Chapter 23: My Way
"So, remind me once more why you're going to your grandparents' house, even though you know they won't be there?"
I roll my eyes at my mother. She can't see that, I'm wearing my sunglasses, but I do it anyway. Wearing the glasses may actually be why I'm brave enough to roll my eyes at my mother, but that is a big maybe. We, Louis and I, told our parents what we wanted to do as soon as we met with them on the platform. Well, we told them the 'nice' version, about Louis telling the rest of his family about our relationship and crossing the Eiffel Tower off my list. Telling them about newly formed plans that coincide and allow more than one thing (at least) to be crossed off said list would only scare our mothers.
Not that that would stop us from going, being of legal age and all, but it wouldn't be as fun when you're thinking about your mum.
Louis' parents agreed with us being the one's to tell his family, because no one wants to hear these things from a stranger. My parents were happy to let me go, to have that independence they like to talk about now, and my dad likes to bring up the tower being on my list so he can laugh at me for caring so much about why hopeless romantics and movies use the tower as a romantic setting. He's such a nice man, I'm so lucky to have him.
Who cares if it makes me a sad, pathetic weirdo, I really wanna know!
Mum, even if she does agree with the whole independence thing, has her doubts about me and Louis spending a few days in a big house alone (and by alone, she means without 'proper' adult supervision). Hence the eye roll and the smirking behind her back. But just in case she's facing me, I won't do that second one now.
"We are staying at your family home because I don't want to stay at Louis' and risk his grandmother killing me in my sleep because your mother." I nod my head, feigning sympathy, and stretch my legs across the length of my bed, sitting up against the headboard. "You don't want anything to happen to me, do you, Maman?"
"You haven't called me that since you were small," she says, suspicious of me. I just sit there with my innocent smile and wait for her to answer the question. She knows what it's like, she's had to live through their pride war a lot longer than I have, so I know she'll answer. "Mrs. Delacour is not that bad."
I scoff; I've heard the stories. I won't deny that they might very well be exaggerated, but all stories are based on some form of truth and I will not take that chance. "No, I don't want anything to happen to you," Mum finally answers my question as my bag hits my legs. "You're all packed. Anything else?"
"Yes, did you send Hugo's card and present?" I ask, throwing the bag on the floor close to my bed. It's his birthday today, but I won't see him until we go back to school. I didn't want him to wait for it, though.
"I did. I still can't believe you wanted to get him a lock picking set. What does a sweet, little boy like him want with one of those?"
I can't help but laugh at that. "One day, Mother, that sweet, little boy will end up in a very sticky situation," I point out. To Mum, that would be vague and confusing, but my friends would get it. I climb off the bed, make my way to the door. "He may need it."
"Right," Mum mutters, slowly. "Darling, watch out for the door."
"I know where the door is -" Then I walk into it, smack my head right in the corner. Mum is by my side instantly, her hands on the now bruised part of my head. I bruise easy. "You could have told me the door was open."
"I tried," she defends. "There's a bruise," I told you, "but no blood; you'll be okay."
I contemplate moaning about how I'm not okay, that it bloody hurts, but I hold it in. Who knows just how long she can cope with this independent thing before her worrying breaks her and I'm stuck here until I graduate and move out. Because I will be moving out. So, nodding my now throbbing head and trying not to wince, I let her follow me down the stairs. I smell dinner at the stairs and the closer I get to the kitchen, the stronger the delicious smell is. I almost forget about my head, until...
"What the bloody hell happened to you?"
"Calm down," I growl. "It's not funny."
"I beg to differ," he says between laughs. "Ouch!"
"Grow up, Bartholomew!" Mum scolds. She probably hit him. She does that, Jay told me. I'd pay to see it.
I sit down at the table, feeling smug, and pull my tongue at him when I hear him coming. He ruffles my hair. I hate that and he knows it. They join me at the table. I'm not completely sure why we're sat at the table today when we usually sit in the living room and watch TV - I have one of those little, plastic fold-up tables - but we are, and it's kinda nice. Mum talks about work and how lovely it is that Dad hasn't needed to go away for business in a while. She likes having him at home. After I started Hogwarts, it got kind of lonely for her at night, with us both gone. That was the start of excessive letter-writing and more visits to see her parents when she wasn't working. The visits didn't last as long as the letter-writing did.
"Are you looking forward to tomorrow?" Dad asks, bringing the conversation my way.
I rub my head, wince when I touch the bruise, nod when Mum asks if I'm alright and shrug. "I guess," I answer and it's not a lie, more of an aim at nonchalance. If I sound excited, they'll wonder and Mum might go back to suggesting Louis stay with his family instead of with me. In that big house. All alone. "I mean, it's not like I've never been before," I continue. It won't do to imagine what might happen in France with my parents next to me.
"True. But because of irrational fears of you falling off, even with an entire family around you, we've never taken to the top of the Eiffel Tower." I get the feeling he's giving Mum a look. She may also have told him to stop looking at her like that, but I'm going to go with the feeling. It makes me feel a little cooler. "Do you think it'll be everything you imagined?" he jokes.
"And so much more," I play along, showing him my crossed fingers. I'm pretty sure we're talking about different things, though. "Louis said he'll be here around lunchtime. I assume he means his lunchtime, around noon -"
"So, normal lunchtime," Mum cuts in.
"So, I'm going to have to get up earlier," I finish, ignoring her completely. "I can do that."
"Sure," Dad chuckles.
I try to kick him. I miss. He laughs. Well, I did only say try.
"I don't know why I put with you two?" I complain.
"Because we're awesome parents," Dad scoffs at me.
"And you love us," Mum finishes.
Well, there is that. I chuckle softly, shake my head and finish my dinner with my crazy, but lovable, parents and think about tomorrow.
Mum wakes me up, checks my head even though she healed it last night, and leaves with the promise of a stack of chocolate chip pancakes and a bucket load of maple syrup to keep me awake. I head to the bathroom, pull off my clothes and jump in the shower. the water is not too hot, but enough to finish the wake up process, and I'm washed, out and back in my room getting dressed a few minutes later.
There are chocolate chip pancakes waiting for me at the breakfast bar, I can smell them. I try not to be disappointed by the fact there's not really a bucket load of maple syrup, though, just a small pot. Shame, I would have enjoyed the sugar rush.
We spend the morning in the living room, the TV is on but we're talking about the week and what they're thinking of doing. Time flies and the doorbell rings. I do not run to the door, despite what my dad says, that would be silly. I do, however, move a little faster than normal. I think I miss him. Interesting. To be expected really.
I know it's him the moment I open the door, the wind blows into the house bringing his aftershave with him, and I pull him in. Though, that is mostly because it's cold. He welcomes the hug, laughing into my ear, and pulls away slowly. "Hello," he murmurs, his hand on my cheek and his breath circling my lips. I anticipate his little non-kiss, but it doesn't happen. He moves back and clears his throat. "Hello, Mrs. James."
"Hello, Louis. How are you today?"
You can just hear the laughter in her tone. She's finding this so funny. "I'm alright," he stutters slightly, more hesitant than anything. What is she doing? "And you?"
"Never been better."
"Right," Louis says slowly, then turns his attention back to me. "I almost got lost here, not sure how when someone else was driving, but I did. I think he took a wrong turn. Sometimes I forget that you're an Essex boy -"
"Until you say that, of course."
"Who's the 'he' who drove you here?" I ask, turning the subject away from my accent.
"Oh, I apparated from Shell Cottage to Essex, then I got a taxi to the house with the money my dad gave me. I figured that since you decided to experience crossing the channel instead of flooing to Bordeaux, it'd be better to get a taxi than apparate to the train. I've never apparated there before and I don't want to be seen." I nod and say okay; his reasons do make sense. We can't have Muggles seeing us apparate, can we? "So, we'd better go because this is costing me, or my dad, quite a bit of money."
Mum moves past me, puts my bag in my hand; she must have brought it down with her this morning after waking me. "Have a nice time. Good luck with your family, Louis."
"And CJ." I turn to my mother. "Think about what I said."
I roll my eyes, say good bye to my parents and leave. The door to the taxi is opened for me. "It's an awkward experience, talking to a mother after been caught almost kissing her kid. She was kind of scary, trying to make me uncomfortable. I see where you get it from." That explains why he was hesitant. "What did she mean? What did she say to you?"
Leaning back against the seat, I roll my head to the right and smirk. "She wants you to stay at your grandparents at night, so we're not alone. Who knows what we might do..."
Louis squeezes my hand. "No can do. I have plans."
"I hoped you'd say that."
The ride doesn't take as long as I imagined it would, probably because we passed the time by deciding what we were going to do in France. We'll spend most of our time, Thursday and Friday, in Bordeaux at my grandparents house, but his grandmother will want him to stay at some point. We decided that'll be the last night, Saturday; we'll go in the morning, give her a big shock when she sees me with him, and tell them. They'll have the afternoon with us to get used to it and we'll apparate into Paris in the evening, have dinner and go to the tower, spend that night at his house. We leave Sunday afternoon, will be back with time to spare. I promised to tell Lucy about it on the train back to Hogwarts on Monday.
It's a good plan of where we'll spend our time. How we'll spend it, we don't seem to be talking about. We know that it'll happen, but we don't know when; it's more of an 'in the moment' plan. Just thinking about it makes my stomach do backflips and forward rolls. It's a circus in there.
Of course, thinking about your first kiss will do that.
The driver tells us we're here and I get out while Louis pays. Then he gets our bags out of the boot and he leads the way to where you get your tickets. "I got Hugo to book them on his computer thing, that his grandparents gave him" he tells me as we walk. "It was my dad's money, my dad has a Muggle bank account for when he needs that kind of money, so I just needed a computer. But Hugo was happy to do it for you."
He sounds slightly off when he says that. Speaking of the kid... "Did Hugo like his present?"
"He loved it, it was his favorite present," Louis answers in that same tone and I think the mystery is solved. "The grownups were confused as to why you'd get it him, even more so by his reaction. We all shut up. Why a lock pick set, CJ? You're just adding fuel to his fire."
"I thought he might need it one day." I tell him what I had told my mum and he laughs at that.
"That may be true," he mutters. "I have two tickets booked under the name Weasley." A woman asks for the receipt to prove he's who he says he is, and then hands them to him. "This can't be right. I didn't book these tickets."
"A young man called to book some for you. Once he realized you already had tickets booked, he upgraded for you," the woman explains. "He said his name is Jay Delaney and that you're welcome."
"Thank you," Louis says, sounding awed, and we walk to the train.
"What did Jay do?" I ask.
"I kind of love your cousin," he says instead.
"What did he do?" I repeat, a little louder and more forceful than the first time. I shouldn't, I did always used to tease him about liking his brother, but you could tell I was joking. He sounds shocked and a little honest. I don't like that. I need to remember that Jay is straight and married. I now know how Louis feels.
"He bumped us up to first class," he finally tells me. "How did he even know?"
"He called the other day, asking if I wanted to visit," I explain, wishing my cousin was here so I could hug him. "Mum must have told him."
"Exactly how much is his business worth?" Louis asks, his polite way of asking just how bloody rich Jay is.
"He was on a list last year, of the richest young people, and he was definitely in the top three." Louis whistles, low and soft. "He deserves all the money he makes; he worked non-stop just so he could get to this point. He slowed down a little when Ellie was born, but he still makes a helluva lot of money. My grandfather is too proud of him to notice that Jay now makes more money than he does."
We're at the train now and Louis stops us to show our tickets, then helps me inside. He whistles again, obviously appreciating what Jay has done for us; I envy him for that. I take a seat while he puts our bags away, then he hands me a drink after asking if I want one and joins me.
"Next stop: Paris. We're going to enjoy this trip."
The journey isn't very long and far from unpleasant, but I suppose that's first class for you. I'm glad I asked that we use this trip for me to take my first train ride, even if we'd be there by now if we had used the floo. Louis swings my hand back and forth like he doesn't even know he's doing it. I only know something is up when he stops suddenly. "What is it?"
"There is a man in jeans and a shirt holding a board with 'Master James' written on. It's all very strange for me, if it weren't for the outfit it'd be like being in a movie," he answers slowly.
I chuckle and push him forwards. "It's probably just Peter. He works for Jay." We get closer and I hear another set of footsteps, followed by a familiar voice saying hello. "And he knows I hate it when he calls me 'Master James'."
"I couldn't help myself," Peter says, with still a hint of his French accent coming through. He spends most of his time in the UK with Jay, as his driver, and now you can hardly tell he's not English. He's a few years older than Jay, early thirties, and still single according to my cousin. Carrie is both happy and disappointed by that; he's not dating anyone, but that includes her. He says it's because she's his boss' big sister, but Jay says he doesn't feel the same way. Jay is secretly glad about that, I don't think he really like the idea of Carrie wanting to date Peter. It's weird.
"You must be Louis," Peter continues to talk. "It's dangerous for you two to be together here in France. People will be holding their breath while they watch what happens between your families."
"Did Jay tell you?"
"I was here visiting family, he asked me if I'd pick up you and your boyfriend. He didn't say who, but I wouldn't have heard anyway; I heard 'boyfriend' and went into shock." I elbow him in the ribs. My bag slides down my arm and he grabs it. "I know your face, though. You have your Maman's eyes. She doesn't like me very much."
"I went out with her sister."
"Anyway," I interrupt quickly. I had no idea and I don't wish to continue this conversation; I'm gonna go with my gut and say no. "We'll only be here for a few days, we won't be at Louis' place for long and we've got my place all to ourselves. I think we'll be fine, Peter."
He's unnaturally quiet now, which I don't like. Maybe this is why I was having a bad feeling. "Sure," he eventually says as he takes my hand.
"You didn't bring your car?"
"Apparated," he answers. "Hold on."
I hate apparition. It makes me ill. I bend over as soon as I touch the ground, my head practically between my legs, and breathe deeply in and out. "Thanks for that," I mutter. "Bring the car next time."
Peter pats me on the back, tells me I'll be fine. "Welcome to the Delaney mansion, Louis Weasley. Enjoy your stay."
I'm sure he mutters 'you're gonna need it', and when Louis whispers that he's a little scared, I know that I'm right. Cautiously, I push the door open and step inside. "Hello?" I call, feeling stupid because I'm meant to be alone.
I let go of the breath I was holding when no one answers, not that I was expecting anyone to. But then Louis taps me on the shoulder. "CJ. Hello, sweetheart."
"Grandma? Mum said you were in Paris," I tell her.
"We were, but your grandfather's business trip finished early and Jay told us you were coming. And you brought a friend?" she asks, her voice suddenly changing from warm and friendly to suspicious.
I clear my throat and nod. "Yes. Grandma, this is Louis Weasley, my -" I stop. I don't want to tell her he's my boyfriend right here in the hallway, but I also don't want to call him my friend; it feels like a lie. "We go to school together," I say instead. "He decided to visit his family, too. We came together."
See, not lying.
"It's nice to finally meet you," Louis greets her. "I've heard a lot about you. From a lot of different people," he adds, almost unwillingly.
"It's nice to meet you as well, Louis. Welcome. Come on, we're all in the kitchen." Grandma leads us forwards and down the hall, closer to the voices. Quite a few voices. I hope Jay's one of them; screw the tickets, I'm gonna bloody kill him. "So, what are your plans, boys?"
I sit down wherever she leads me, Louis by my side, and she makes the introductions. Not only is she and Grandad back, but Carrie is here and Mel, Jay's wife, and Ellie. Jay is out back with Peter and Joel, Carrie's kid, so they're probably in the pool. The only people missing are Uncle Michel and Aunt Gwen. It's like a family reunion... Dammit.
"Well, Louis isn't planning on visiting his family for another couple of days, so we thought we'd stay here. If that's alright?" I ask quickly. Now that they're here, asking is the polite thing to do. Probably for the best if I don't want her kicking him out later.
"Both of you?" I nod. "Of course it's alright. Isn't is, Michel?"
"Yes," Michel Senior, otherwise known as Grandad, answers warmly in a thick French accent. Grandad has always lived here in Bordeaux, unlike Grandma, who is originally from Devon. She and Grandad met in Paris when they were eighteen and the rest, as they say, is history. She likes to talk about it. It'll probably come up tonight now that there's someone new to hear it. "We'll make up the guest bedroom after dinner tonight."
"CJ!" Joel yells, running into the room, then tells me in rapid French to come in the pool with him and Jay. "Friend, too."
"Sure, why not?" Louis says before I open my mouth to say no. Everyone knows I can't swim.
This is going to be embarrassing.
It's late in the afternoon when Carrie calls Joel inside, Peter and Jay leaving not long after. I still need my revenge for what he did. It's on my to-do-list.
I kick my legs in the water, wondering where Louis is. Joel kidnapped him as soon as we got in the pool, demanding he play with them. He's a very bossy seven year old, he definitely takes after his mum.
Hey, yourself," I smile. "How was playtime with Joel?"
Louis rests his arms on top of my thighs. "That kid just doesn't stop," he laughs tiredly. I agree with him. "I like your family. They're not so bad. Maybe they'll like me when we tell them," he murmurs between yawns.
"Maybe. I hope so," I amend.
"Aww, look at them. Such an adorable couple."
Louis pulls back a little, so it's just his hand on my knee. "What do you want, Jay?" I aim for nonchalance, boredom even. He should know I want revenge, but he can't see it coming. That's no fun.
"Grandma says to come in and get ready for dinner."
"Okay." I pull myself up, pretend to slip on the wet floor and fall back down. "Ouch," I mutter.
Jay is by my side, his hand over mine. "Come here." I thank him and stand up. As soon as he let's go, I push him into the pool. He falls with a loud splash and a not-very-manly screech. "CJ!"
"That's what you get, you ass!"
"Well played," he mutters. "Do you know how much this shirt cost?"
"Don't care. Coming, Louis?" I find the chairs and grab a towel, drying myself off before going inside; Grandma would kill us if we went inside dripping wet. "I'm going to pay for that. It's his next move in our ongoing war against each other."
"I'll build a shelter," Louis replies sarcastically. I choose not to tell him that nothing will protect a person from war with a Delaney; he should know that by now. And this war is between two Delaney family members.
The world is doomed.
"So, when did you two become friends?" Jay asks casually. I bite into my chicken with narrowed eyes. "It's got to be recent, CJ's never mentioned you before, Louis. Just your cousins, Lucy and Stalker."
"Roxy," I correct. "We met halfway through September. He was helping me around school while Jack was in hospital. We've been kind of inseparable ever since."
See, still not lying.
"I'm glad," Grandma says. "It's nice to see you around friends, sweetheart."
Hmm. Maybe Grandma will be okay with me dating Mrs. Delacour's grandson. It's just her she doesn't like. "Yeah, friends are great." Louis nudges me under the table. "About friends and other types of relationships between two people..."
I stop; I can feel their eyes on me, I have their complete attention now. I hate being the center of attention. The silence is deafening. "Well -" I clear my throat, I have a drink, I do it all over again. My throat continues to close up.
Louis groans at my side. "We're more than friends. CJ and I starting dating in January. I'm his boyfriend."
He sounds so confident, so sure of himself when he says it. And I know most of it is just pretend; he's bouncing his leg up and down, making the table rattle, it's his nervous habit. I grasp his knee with my hand, stopping him. "Thank you," I answer gratefully.
"Yeah, no problem," he mutters.
There's another long stretch of silence, and finally: "Damn. I thought it would last until at least the end of his trip."
"What?" I growl.
"Just because you don't tell us things, doesn't mean we don't notice," Grandad points out to me. "We've processed the news."
I turn to Jay. "Yeah, we may have had a bet going on how long it'll take for you to tell us. Technically, you haven't told us anything, so I'm not sure about giving all that money to Grandad."
"I'm gay and dating Louis." Well, I'm still mad at him for ruining what was supposed to be alone time.
"There you go," Grandad laughs.
I ignore them, instead talking to the only person who hasn't said a thing. I need her to talk, I can't guess her reaction. "Grandma, are you okay?"
She surprises me by chuckling softly. "Of course I am. I love you no matter who decide to be with, I'm just glad you've finally found someone." I roll my eyes. "I don't know why you'd thought I'd disapprove of Louis. My disagreements with your grandmother does not extend to the rest of your family. I'm curious as to how she'll take your news that your dating CJ, though."
"Lets not talk about it, please. The thought alone scares me. She takes this war much too seriously."
I find and take his hand, this time above the table, and squeeze gently. One down, one to go. It'll be okay.
"What made you start noticing?" I ask curiously.
"Your love of that Muggleborn singer, Sean something. You know how to deal with Louis's stalker cousin, because you are a stalker."
"I am not, I am merely a listener. And I happened to hear that his favorite color is blue, he loves to surf, he gives to charity and we're planning a June wedding." Louis subtly clears his throat. "That was a joke. Of course it's in July."
"Awesome. How long is this new game going to last?"
I squeeze his hand again. "Oh, for a while. But don't worry, it's not because of you, so unless you come with me next time I see my family, you won't ever hear it."
"We understand, CJ. But this is a lot of money -"
"Not helping," Louis tries to help them.
"And I planned on giving you half," Grandad finishes.
The sound Louis makes makes me think he's wincing; he knows that was the wrong thing to say. Bribing his own grandson? Seriously? "You're right; I shouldn't be talking about this. It's not like I'm ever going to meet Sean Craft, and even so, he is older than me. Also, I am happy in my relationship with Louis." I lean forward. "Let's talk about us."
"And by half, I meant all of it," Grandad mutters.
He must have held it out of Louis to take, because Louis puts the money in my hand. "You're doing the right thing. Dessert anyone?"
Grandma puts a hand on my shoulder as she walks past. "Well done," she whispers proudly. "Yes. Jay collect the plates while I get the dessert. As soon as you're done, I'll serve the cake."
Cake. Just what a guy needs after he's destroyed his grandfather and cousin the best way he can; my way.
No one does it better.
A/N: Finally got a new chapter posted. And look out and prepare yourself for the next chapter. It is the chapter, that I have been planning since day one. It's how I knew everything would go the way it has done so far. I can't wait for y'all to read it. :D
If my planning is correct: ten chapters left.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think. :)