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Chapter 29: The Twenty-Ninth One
sorry it's taken a while.
mock exams went well.
this is for the amazing person who gave me a kick up the butt to actually upload this chapter - you know who you are ;)
hope you like it.
and don't get too mad at summer. not that i'm given anything away.
“I need to go,” I muttered, grabbing everything that I had left on the ground and clutched them to my chest, stumbling around and trying to pull my jacket further up my shoulder. My wet hair was slapping me in the neck and stinging like a bitch, but I wasn’t in the place of mind to whip my wand out and actually dry the fucker off.
“Summer, don’t be ridiculous, you can’t just leave. I mean, I’ve just told you – fuck, Summer!” James ran his hands through his damp hair and brushed it back off his face, squeezing his eyes shut and biting him bottom lip. “Summer, I just – jeez, can we pretend that this never happened? It was a joke, Summer, erm... yeah, a joke. Haha, you know. Like I would ever really tell you that I love you... like, pfft. Ha!”
I blinked back the sudden stinging in my eyes and took a deep breath, struggling to shove my feet back into my shoes as the toes were filled with water and all slippy and slimy and horrible.
“I’m sorry, James, I really am, but I need to – I need to go. I have to write a letter to my mum and tell her about the existence of condoms and about the morning after potion and various other... things. Yes. I am also going to tell her not to do what she did with me and buy stupidly expensive nappies and dummies and other baby... possessions.”
“Summer, please, will you just take a breath and slow down for a second? I just want to talk to you.”
“James, I – you can’t just... who the hell do you think you are, standing there and, and, thinking that you can just tell... tell people that you’re in love with them? I mean, you don’t see me walking down to breakfast telling Flint that I want to sodding marry him, do you? Hmm? No! Because people don’t do that! Not at seventeen, James! Maybe when we’re like, forty, maybe, but,”
“Summer, why the hell are you running away?” I ran my hands through my roots and began to stumble away from the lake and back up the stony path that led to the main street in Hogsmeade. Maybe I’d be able to find someone normal who did not make random proclamations of love whenever they goddamn feel like it.
“Because – because you’re a nutter! I mean, who just goes around and tells random people that they’re in love with them and want to have a relationship with them? I mean, really. What kind of person?” James shook his head and kicked a nearby tree, following me up the rocky path.
“Oh, I don’t know, Summer, how about someone that’s in love with someone else? What about that kind of person?!” I spun around and stuck my finger up at him, scoffing loudly and trying not to drop my lipgloss and glasses and pumpkin pasties.
“SHUT THE HELL UP JAMES YOU’RE JUST BEING STUPID AND I HATE YOU AND OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL IS WITH MY LIFE AND MY MUM IS HAVING A KID AND SO YOU CAN’T JUST COME OVER HERE AND SAY THAT WHEN MY MUM IS HAVING A KID AND MY EX-BOYFRIEND’S FATHER IS THE FATHER AND THE POOR KID IS GONNA HAVE A BROTHER AND SISTER THAT DAMN NEAR DID IT AND YOU CAN’T JUST MUSCLE IN AND YOU KNOW WHAT JAMES YOU ARE THE REASON I NEVER FUCKED JACK SO YOU CAN JUST SOD OFF AND LEAVE ME ALONE.” James gaped at me.
I’m pretty sure that I was gaping at me, to tell you the truth.
“Oh, I am so fucking sorry, you’re right, how goddamn terrible am I? I mean, clearly I put a gun at your head and said you weren’t allowed to sleep with your boyfriend. Summer, we weren’t even speaking at the time so don’t try and blame that on me!”
“Oh shut the hell up, Potter! Just shut up!” I was screaming by this point, weak tears stained black with mascara leaving streaks down my cheeks and my nails biting into my palms. The pumpkin pasty I had been holding was crushed like PlayDoh in my hand.
“Oh yeah, because here you go again! Yeah, I tell you that I’m in love with you, put everything on the line again for you, and get nothing back, of course, because you’re so goddamn selfish and self involved that you don’t notice the world going on around you. Not everyone is a robot like you, Summer, and maybe you need to open your eyes to the fact that yes, I love you!”
“NO YOU DON’T!” James slammed his hands onto his face and dragged them through the roots of his hair, kicking another tree like that was magically going to help the situation.
“What are you so terrified of, Summer? Why are you so scared of all of this? I don’t understand why this is panicking you so much, because there isn’t anything to be scared of!” I gape a little bit as we finally reach the main road, filled with people heading back up to the castle with their arms filled with stretched shopping bags stuffed with the things they bought with their leftover Christmas cash.
“I’M NOT SCARED OF ANYTHING! I don’t get scared, James! I just know you’re not in love with me and you’re messing up our friendship and you know what, that’s not okay with me!”
“Well if this is just friendship to you then why did you agree to go on a date with me in the first place? Why didn’t you just ask precious Goldstein to come and hold your hand and sing hymns with you? After all, the two of you are practically family at this point; due to your mother’s inability to sodding keep it in her pants. She’s thirty eight; tell her to find some pride.”
“Shut the bloody fuck up about my mother, you bastard,” I snarled, wheeling around and slapping him hard on the chest.
“Then you can shut the hell up about me not being in love with you.”
“You’re not in love with me!”
“Bloody hell, at times like this I really wish I wasn’t! Because there’s you, being your usual selfish self, and making me feel like a twat for just feeling an ordinary human emotion. Merlin, Summer, I pluck up the courage to tell you I love you and ask if you love me and you just go off on one – Merlin. Honestly Summer, there’s a reason that I love you and sodding hate you.”
“You... hate me?” I’d stopped moving completely now.
“No – just... just occasionally. But yes. At the same time, so it’s all very... confusing. It makes my head hurt, anyway.” James shook his head and smirked at me.
“I... shit. James, I’m sorry, but... I’m obviously no good for you. I mean, this is our first date and you’re already all like... yeah, and I’m not like... yeah, I’m just... yeah. I don’t think love is really the thing for me, James. I’m sorry. I just... I mean, can you ever imagine me getting married?”
James stared at me and leant against the tree next to him, shaking his head in what I’m guessing was exasperation.
“Yeah, I can see you getting married, actually. And hey, I’ve already made myself look like a right tosser today, so why not lay it on a little thicker? I can see you getting married to me. Someday. In the very, very distant future that you can barely see right now because it’s so distant. But it’s still sort of there, you know. I mean, who the hell am I gonna marry other than you?”
“I... I am not going to marry you, you... ARSE! And does that count as a proposal? Because if you are proposing to me then of course you can just go and... go away and do various other things while you are away and why the hell are you we arguing about sodding marriage?”
But James wasn’t listening to me lose my head and screech about not wanting to get married ever, because he was doubled over with laughter, clutching his stomach with his hands and shaking like a recovering alcoholic.
“Summer, I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Merlin, you’re easy to wind up.” I glared at him.
“You’re a wanker, do you know that?” I spat, stepping forwards and slapping him hard on the chest over and over again. James just laughed harder and grabbed me around the waist, spinning up around and pressing my back up against the tree.
“Aw, you don’t mean that, babe. Just think about it... you in a white, poufy dress made of layers and layers of expensive lace, you walking down an aisle with a giant bouquet of pink roses tied with a giant white ribbon...” James began to laugh as I started to gag. “Me in a black tux at the end of the aisle, two hundred people watching you proclaiming never ending love and promising to cherish and obey me forever and ever –”
“Shut up!” I laughed, jabbing him in the ribs as he cut himself off with laughter. “Mark my words, if I ever get married then I will not be wearing a white dress or carrying a bouquet and I most certainly will not be writing my owl vows. If I ever do get married, and Merlin help the bloke that ends up stuck with me, then I will be apparating to Vegas and getting hitched in one of their chapels with a bottle of cheap wine and a bathtub filled with complimentary smelly oils and rose petals.”
“Oh Summer Oriona Lancaster, you are a born romantic.” I roll my eyes at James stares sadly above my head, chewing on the inside of his cheek.
“Let’s just get back up to school,” I said eventually, taking his hand and pulling him up onto the main road with all the other couples, and the occasional group of screeching third years that are excited from their shopping trips where they filled their boots with slabs of chocolate from Honeydukes and necked back far too many bottles of Butterbeer. We passed a good few pairs of fourth years on their first dates, with the blokes staring at the girls’ chests and the girls staring at the toes of their shoes while panicking that they were going to be expected to put out tonight when they didn’t feel ‘ready’.
“You can tell that girl is panicking about being forced to lose her virginity tonight,” James commented, gesturing to the very girl that I had just been thinking about. She was plastered in so much foundation that I was surprised she could still force her face to make expressions.
“That’s exactly what I was thinking!” I laughed as James grinned.
“Well, great minds think alike,” James muttered, digging me in the rib and squeezing his hand around mine. I sighed and leant my head into the crook of his neck, wishing I’d work my shoes with the high soles so I might be a little more of a convenient height for snuggling into James’ side. Ew. Snuggling. That’s revolting. I’ll have to have a shower when I get back up to the castle.
“James, did you... did you mean what you said before? Or was it just a... heat of the moment thing that you didn’t really think about?” I spoke loudly, probably a little louder than was strictly necessary for the distance between us, but James didn’t comment on the volume.
“No, I meant it.” I nodded slowly but didn’t pull away. He’d asked me before if I loved him back. Did I love him? Of course I loved him. I’ve loved him for a very long time, he’s my best friend, my confidante, the one person that doesn’t turn to a ghost whenever I really need someone to hold my hand and listen to me screech about how shit life can be and how it keeps screwing me over.
But loving someone and being in love with someone – clearly there was a difference. But what was the difference? And was it a big enough difference to actually make any difference? Was it actually better to love someone rather than be in love with someone.
Being in love... I always had that pegged down as the brother of uncontrollable infatuation – something I certainly never wanted to be associated with. But loving someone was just... respecting that person and understanding who they were and what they were like but loving them anyway. Like my mother; she was stupid and irrational and made terrible decisions and hadn’t always been there for me like she should have, but still. She was my mother and through it all I loved her, even though I really could knock her into next week every now and again. Her and the bloody sprog.
Being in love with someone meant you wanted to be with them all the time, twenty four/seven, thought about them whenever they weren’t there, name dropped them until your friends wanted to cook your vocal chords for dinner, you loved them spiritually, physically, mentally, everything. The whole sodding shebang.
And loving someone... was that really much different? Did I love James with the same manner of love with which I love my mother? With which I’m not sure I love my father? And, for that matter, should James be telling the truth when he says he’s in love with me, does that mean that everything I’ve just described holds true for him?
My head began to hurt, and so I put the philosophical thoughts about the origins of the universe to the back of my mind and swam back to the present.
I was surprised to find that we were already walking the corridor that led to the Gryffindor portrait hole, still tucked into James’ side like some kind of jigsaw piece. I was not a jigsaw piece; I didn’t have bloody jagged edges. I was smooth. Smooth as a baby’s bum.
“So... was this as dreadful as I know you were envisioning it to be?” James asked slowly with a nervous laugh, fiddling with his belt loops with his free hand. I laughed and shook my head, and some of the tension visibly dropped out of his shoulders. He squeezed the hand he was holding. Something weird feeling shot up my arm and I resisted the urge to flick it to the side like a spastic.
And what the hell was with the colony of butterflies that had taken up residence in my stomach?
I don’t remember applying to be the home of the next Butterfly House for the Welsh Mountain Zoo. James was biting his lip. Fuck a duck, he looked hot.
I leant up on my tiptoes and kissed him quickly, brushing some of his dark hair out of his eyes since the lazy bugger hadn’t bothered to get it cut and it was flopping into his eyes all stupid and floppy. He winked at me like he had something to wink about. He better not have thought it was a romantic hair sweep. It was only because he’s too lazy to go and get his hair trimmed.
“Thank you for today,” I said formally. I wanted to snog him senseless like I normally would have but there was something niggling in my stomach with all the butterflies that just didn’t want to. James nodded and smiled, and then leant forwards to kiss me. A couple of fifth years walked around the corner as he was doing so and I used this as an excuse – I seized his shoulders with both hands and pushed him backwards, maybe a little too hard because he stumbled a bit.
“What the hell was that?” James hissed once the fifth years had smirked at us and climbed through the portrait hole to bonk in one of their dormitories. I stared at the toes of my shoes.
“I’m sorry, I just thought it wouldn’t be a very good idea to start swapping salvia with half the fucking school watching – I’d like to point out that we haven’t even told Dom we went on a date yet, and I really don’t feel like her finding out from a pair of gossiping fifth years.” James glared at me but nodded all the same.
The date mood was officially destroyed, but this seemed to have sated some of the raging butterflies in my stomach because they weren’t kicking quite as much as before. Or flapping, whatever.
“Fine, fine. Look, I... I think I better go back up to my dorm. I had a really good time today, so yeah, thank you for that one. Yeah. This is awkward. I’ll see you at dinner then.” I nodded and James woodenly leant forwards to peck me on the cheek. “And Summer, I really did have a good time. I hope I didn’t fuck it up so much that you’ll never wanna do it again.”
I smiled and shook my head, digging him in the side with my fingers. “Don’t be insane, James, I was enjoying myself before... ahem, I, erm, fell in the lake. Yeah. I think I might have a colony of tadpoles in my knickers right now so I’m gonna... go. Right. Thank you. Bye.” I kissed James quickly on the cheek and muttered the password to the fat lady, scarpering up to the dorm before either of us could change our minds.
It was a less than desirable end to the ‘date’, but what was really to be expected after the rampant awkwardness caused by James? A quick shag and then a snog goodnight? Wasn’t going to happen.
When I got back to the dorm it was empty, and I assumed that Dom and Penny were still at the spa swapping stories over a pitcher of margaritas while two Thai women rubbed their feet and painted their nails. Of course, this is all while a burly Swedish man rubs down their shoulders with oil that makes the insides of your nostrils burn.
I dropped down onto Sarah’s bed, wanting to ruckle up the sheets since I heard her muttering to Esme the other day about my father and the stories Lulu had told her about what he was like, and so I had decided that I officially didn’t like her or her snotty sister.
I hadn’t wanted to kiss James when the date was over. I couldn’t get that thought out of my head.
But all I could think about was the night before the date, when I’d finally, well, slept with James. And how at the time, I couldn’t think of anything that seemed like a better idea. Yes, I was delirious with hysteria about the fact my mother was an idiotic idiot, but I still thought that I knew what I was doing. And now I just felt like I knew nothing at all, like I had made the completely wrong decision. Because whereas before I would have seized James’ hand and dragged him to a classroom to snog, but I just couldn’t do it right then.
Because once you’ve slept with someone, is it possible to just snog them and not have them expect anything more? I mean, does it even work like that? Or once you’ve crossed the bridge or whatever, does snogging just become the precursor to sex?
Because I might have been comfortable with snogging James whenever either of us felt like it, but there was no way in hell that I was going to be his sodding fuck buddy. That was not going to happen. Ever.
I brought my knees up under my chin and hugged them to my chest, already regretting the way that I left things with James. I mean, the date was fantastic and all that jazz, but what... what did he thinking he was playing at, telling me that he was ‘in love’ with me? I mean, really? So what, James, I’m all you ever think about. Well ain’t that a wonderful quality to find in the sodding Quidditch captain of your house. I ran my hands through my hair in frustration.
“Summer!” Dom’s squeal was what broke me out of my thoughts, and stopped me banging my forehead against the tops of her knees. She jumped through the door brightly, her skin shiny and makeup-free and her hair tied back in a loose ponytail with a fluffy white hairband pushing her fringe back off her face. A strong smell of flowers followed her into the room.
Penny stepped in a moment later, grinning slightly in excitement at me as though she was expecting me to spill how ‘amazing’ my date was and we could gossip like real girly girls. Wasn’t gonna happen.
“Summer!” Dom squealed, skipping over to the bed and jumping onto it with some kind of contorted forward roll. “Oh my Merlin, Summer, this has been the best afternoon of my life. I mean, really, it’s such a shame that you couldn’t come with us. Homeworks a bitch, isn’t it? But I’m serious, all that stress on your shoulders... half an hour with Alopecia or whatever her name was and you just feel like all the bones have been taken out of your body – you’re like a big tube of rubber.”
Dom got up off the bed and started to shake her limbs around, her pony tail whipping around in a mad circle. Penny laughed and dropped down onto her own bed, slipping her black knitted cardigan off her pale shoulders. Dom continued with her mad spasm dance.
“And the oils that they use there, Summer – oh goodness, words cannot even begin to describe. They smell like heaven in an overpriced bottle, but hey... oh, it was delicious. And the fit bloke who painted my toenails... I would have paid extra just to do him on the massage table.” Penny pursed her lips and shook her hair out of its long pony.
“She’s not kidding – her attempts to flirt with the poor man, who obviously played for the other team, were so obvious that it was making the woman who was doing my feet, who didn’t speak any English, wince. It was really bad. I mean, Dom, I thought you could flirt better than that.” Dom stopped her spasm dancing to shoot Penny the finger and then carried on.
“Ah, I’m going every weekend. I mean, look at these puppies.” Dom splayed her hands in front of my face to reveal that both sets of her nails had been painted shocking pink with French tips made of silver glitter. A large diamond was set in the middle of each thumbnail.
“Wow... those things are... bright. Noticeable. Wouldn’t go missing in a dark alley.” I coughed loudly and blinked a few times. Dom kicked off the sheepskin boots she was wearing and bounced onto the bed, sticking her feet uncomfortably close to my face. If I wanted to get up close and personal with people’s sweaty feat then I’d just become a chiropodist.
“Do you like them? Nico, the fit bloke that was doing my nails, said that the colour brought out my aura. I mean, isn’t that sweet? I mean, he said I had a beautiful aura. I don’t know much about them, but I’m going to get a book and read up on auras... I may go and get mine cleaned out.” Had she gone completely batty? Maybe the break up with Connor was the last straw and she had finally just been pushed off the edge of the cliff and had fallen into Loonyville.
“Yeah, yeah, they’re delightful. Now please get your feet out of my face before I detach them from your ankles.” Dom sharply put her feet back on the ground.
“I’m going the loo. I’ll see you chicks when I get back. Try not to have too much fun without me...” Dom giggled like she was going on a four week holiday and skipped off to the loo, her pony tail flying around like she was sodding Xena the Princess Warrior. Penny climbed off her own bed and sat down next to me, peering at me a little smugly. I knew what was coming.
“So, how did it go?” she sang. I ignored her. What? I said I knew what was coming, not that I was going to help her get there. “Summer? Come on, how did your date go? Was it magical? Are you an item now? Holy crackers, I bet you’re getting married, aren’t you? Are you pregnant? Are you eloping to Mallorca?” Penny leapt off the bed and started clapping her hands together, bouncing around in a similar way to Dom. Maybe they put something in the water at that spa. Dom certainly seemed a little spottier than usual. In the nutty sense, not the pimple way.
“Sit down and shut it,” I muttered, thinking about James. His face when I was choking and couldn’t tell him what he wanted to hear. That I loved him too. I wasn’t going to lie to James. I respected him too much to do that. “It went fine. He was lovely, paid for my drinks – well, we argued over who was going to pay for the drinks, and then we went sweet shopping. Then we went to the Shrieking Shack and I fell in the lake there, which is why my hair looks like drying rat’s tails.”
Penny winced a little but laughed anyway, draping one of her skinny arms around my shoulders.
“Sounds like you had a good time, Summer. I mean, be it not my place to say, but I saw James when he was waiting for you to come down for your date and the poor bloke looked as nervous as hell. He – he really likes you. And I hate the idea of your friendship being ruined because of this. So just do everyone a favour, including yourself, and if you’re going to refuse to take anything any further... be nice about it. Don’t rip the poor bloke’s heart out and stomp on it.”
I sighed and stood up off the bed, pulling on a jacket that was hanging off the edge of the bed.
“I don’t think it could get more serious than it already is,” I muttered, and watching Penny’s jaw drop so it almost scraped the floor, I headed out of the door. I just wasn’t sure where I was going.
“Summer? What are you doing on the ground?” The voice was too concerned and it irritated me. There was no need to be concerned. What, where they afraid that I might get some dust on the arse of my trousers? There was no need to get concerned about the fact there was no chairs hanging around the place. They don’t just keep armchairs sitting in the middle of corridors.
I didn’t bother to elaborate. I pulled my knees up under my chin and rested it there. Someone was slumping down against the wall next to me, leaving a space between the two of us that was large enough to let me know that it was deliberately left there. A warm hand was placed on top of mine – the one that was resting on the ground. My nails pressed into the ground and it hurt.
“Summer, are you alright? You luck like you’re going to pass out. Or throw up. Or burst into tears. And I’m not really a fan of any of those options, so would you like me to carry you to the hospital wing?” Jack. Of course it was Jack. There was no one else I knew that would want to take someone to the hospital wing because they were sitting on their own on the ground.
“I’m fine. I just have a lot to think about and it’s getting to me.” I sighed and then snapped out of my trance a little – I remember the one thing that I probably should have spoken to Jack about the moment I had found out about it. “Have you spoken to your father recently?”
Jack laughed bitterly and squeezed the hand that he was holding.
“And by that, you basically mean ‘did your father tell you that he got my mother pregnant?’. And the answer to that question is yes, he did. He told me the other night over the floo system. I assume that’s the way your mother told you?” I nodded slowly. “Yeah, that was pretty rubbish of them. They would have been allowed to visit if they wanted to tell us in person that badly. To be perfectly honest, I assume they didn’t want to be in the same room as you when you found out. I’m fairly sure you would have thrown a chair or something.”
“I’ve been working quite hard on controlling my temper lately, Jack,” I laughed, nudging him weakly in the ribs. He leaned over and kissed me gently on the top of the head. I struggled not to push him away. “So what do you think about this whole thing – do you think they’re doing the right thing in deciding to keep the baby?” Jack sighed and sucked in his cheeks.
“I don’t know. I think if they think that they can raise a baby well together then they are doing the right thing. I think if your mother is going end up raising the baby on her own, which I hope she isn’t but she may, then I think that keeping the baby... might not be the best option. I know what you’ve gone through in the past. And I don’t want my little brother or sister having to go through life feeling like they raised themselves, like you did.” I nodded. “But at the same time, if they want to raise this baby without being together then... fine. I think they could do it. As long as they work together as friends for the rest of their lives then... then I think they might do an alright job.”
I sighed and banged my head against the wall a couple of times, but Jack started to worry after the first few hits and he quickly slammed his hand onto the wall behind my head so I was hitting his hand instead.
And that – that was why the pair of us would never work together. Because in the end, he would wrap me in cotton wool and bubble wrap until I could no longer breathe and I would suffocate. He wanted me to be safe and happy but that was never what I was going to be with him. He might have been a good guy, but he wasn’t the guy for me.
And who was? James? Maybe he’d have let me bang the back of my head against the wall all I wanted, or maybe he’d have just told me to stop being a twat and stop doing it. But if he didn’t care enough to actually do anything, like Jack did, then did that mean he didn’t care enough for me? He said he loved me. Maybe he does. But maybe he just needs to prove that he cares.
“I think she’s gonna suck,” I said bluntly. “I think she’s going to freak out about the smell and the crying and the waking up in the middle of the night and she’s going to ring your dad in hysterics and say that she can’t do it. And I think she’s going to go insane and she’s going to regret getting pregnant, and I think... I think she’ll carry on anyway. Your dad, on the other hand... I don’t know. I’ve never met the man. Do you think he’s going to stick with her and the kid?”
Jack shrugged shortly.
“I hope so. By Lord, I hope so. But I don’t know. I would like to say that I know my father and that he is going to stick with us, but he and my mother divorced three years ago and I barely heard from him since. But even if I did manage to convince him to get married, I don’t know if that would mean that he was going to stick around. He left my mother six times for different amounts of time when I was younger. From when I was three to when I was twelve.”
I was suddenly aware that my jaw had dropped open and was swinging around in the air. Jack and I were together for over two months, and he mentioned once in passing that his parents were divorced – I had no idea his father couldn’t seem to stick around. I suppose I didn’t know much at all.
“Ouch. My dad might not have been the best father on the planet, but at least he stuck around long enough to watch me go through school.”
“Yeah... yeah, I suppose. I wouldn’t call you lucky, Summer, but you’re luckier than me.” I nodded slowly. “I hope this baby is going to be okay. My dad told me that you freaked out at your mum when she told you, and that you said that you weren’t going to help her with the baby at all. And I just thought you should know, that I’ll help your mother if she wants it. But if you don’t want me around you, if you think that it would be awkward...” He trailed off uncomfortably.
“I’ve spent enough time being selfish, Jack,” I murmured. “And my mother needs you there more than I need you to not be there, you know.”
“It’s probably going to kill James Potter, you know,” Jack laughed. “If he’s round at your house in the summer and I’m there with your mother, helping look after our little brother or sister... he’s probably going to want to throttle me right where we’re standing.” I laughed and shook my head.
“He’ll be on his best behaviour if he’s there. And besides, I’m getting my own place after graduation – so he’ll probably be with him there rather than at my mother’s house. Well, my mother will be living with my grandparents as soon as the divorce is all done and dusted. Gotta hand it to my dad, he the bloke paid a fortune to have the divorce passed the system as fast as humanly possible.”
“So... you’re going to be seeing a lot of Potter – ahem, James, after you graduate?”
“Yes...” I said testily. “What are you trying to ask, Jack?”
“I just... are you two together now? Like, officially? Because I was sure I saw the pair of you holding hands around Hogsmeade on the visit this morning. Was it a date? I mean, I won’t get all jealous – well, much, but I would like to know. I lost you for that bloke.”
I sighed and banged my head against the wall again. Jack’s hand twitched on the floor, and I could tell that he wanted to press his hand to the wall again so I couldn’t bang anymore.
“No, not in the sense that you mean. I’m not his girlfriend.”
Jack laughed wryly and stood up, holding out his hand so he could haul me to my feet as well. I did as I was told and stood opposite him, taking my hand back quickly and feeling the need to rub it on the edge of my jacket. I wanted a shower. I felt unclean and strange and I wanted to hug James because James’s hugs were normal and hanging around with Jack was not normal. Not anymore.
“Do everyone a favour, Summer, and become the poor bloke’s girlfriend? I mean, I’m your ex and even I can see that he’s gaga for you. And you for him – don’t you think I could tell how much you wanted him when the pair of us were together?”
“Just leave it, Jack. This is nothing to do with you.”
“Of course you’re not going to confide in me. You never did.”
“This is not the time to be talking about this, Jack. I’m going to dinner or something. I’ll speak to you another time.” Jack scowled angrily.
“Fine. Bye, Summer.”
“What did the chicken casserole ever do to you, Summer?” Fred asked, wide-eyed. His own chicken casserole was sitting uneaten in his bowl since he was spending all his time watching me. “I mean, I know you’re in a bit of a bad mood right now but you’re stabbing the shit out of the poor thing. It’s just a bit of chicken and gravy, give it a break.” Dom snorted into her turkey pot pie. Bitch.
I mean, who goes for the turkey pot pie when there is a perfectly good bowl of chicken casserole? You’d have to have something seriously wrong with your taste buds to do that. Mind you, Dom has that whole French thing going on. Maybe they prefer turkey over chicken.
“I don’t know; maybe the chicken launched an unprovoked attack on me that came out of nowhere and slapped me right across the face, I don’t know. Maybe the chicken decided that it didn’t want to just be eaten, which is the best option for me, but it wanted to hang around and sit on the table looking tasty and tempting people when it should just be getting down my fucking gullet. I mean, when did chicken get such an attitude?” Fred raised both of his hands on either side of his head in the universal symbol for surrender and leant back a little from the table.
“Yikes, I’m sorry I asked.” I scowled at the entire table, ignoring the fact that James was glaring at the table and not eating anything. There was a pale red flush on his cheeks and he seemed to be chewing on his tongue so he didn’t snap anything at me.
“I mean, really, why do people – I mean chickens – have to suddenly decide that they want more than what they’ve got. It’s all been planned out. I mean, chickens are bred to be eaten. So why is this chicken suddenly allowed to decide that it doesn’t want to follow in the footsteps of every other chicken in the whole sodding world? I mean, why should I forget everything I believe in for that chicken?” My voice had grown slightly hysterical and I plunged my fork into the wooden table.
Maybe I wasn’t doing quite so fantastically when it came to getting a handle on my temper.
“Well, I don’t know – maybe the chicken in your chicken casserole knows that it deserves better than to be just eaten and then be dead because it’s been eaten and there is no life for it after being eaten. Maybe it knows that it deserves more than that and it is finally putting down its claw and is not letting itself be told when it’s going to be digested anymore.” James cocked an eyebrow at me.
“Look, James, nobody asked your opinion on the great chicken debate,” I snapped at him.
“The great chicken debate is about the chicken and the sodding egg, Summer,” James rolled his eyes and scoffed bitterly. “It’s nothing to do with whether or not chicken wants to be eaten.”
“You know what, James, if I’ve stumbled onto some overlooked part of philosophy or animal rights movement or something, then I’m not even going to give you a little hint of a mention in my peace prize acceptance speech or whatever. You wouldn’t even be a speck of dust on the edge of my cue cards. Oh yeah, I mean that.”
“Oh, Summer, try not to hurt me too much,” James droned sarcastically, slapping a hand to his chest and twisting his mouth downwards as though he was about to cry.
“Alright, what the sodding shit is up with the pair of you tonight? You’ve been at each other’s throats ever since you sat down. Did something happen on your date or something that pissed the pair of you off? Because let’s face it, Summer, if James tried to take things further and you protested, that’s your fault. I mean, I feel bad for the guy, it’s been a year and you still haven’t shagged him.” Fred grinned good naturedly at me, not realising his mistake.
James opened his mouth to protest against the no-shagging thing, but I kicked him hard in the ankle under the table. Dom’s spoon fell from her hand and clattered onto the table. Everyone went eerily silent.
Sure, now they choose to shut their fat gobs. Now everything’s already been said.
“What did he just say?” she spat at me, and I followed Fred’s lead and stuck both of my hands in the air. Dom’s eyes flashed at me under the light from the torch brackets hammered into the walls. They looked even more silvery and Veela than before. Does that mean she’s going to start tossing handfuls of fire at me? I opened and closed my mouth a couple of times. James’s face drained of blood until it was the colour of stale porridge.
“I – Dom, look, I can see why that sentence might sound misleading but really, all it means is...”
“Yes?” Dom asked testily when I trailed off. I struggled to come up with an excuse on the spot but got nothing – right from the beginning I’ve told you how terrible I am at coming up with lies. If I had one, I could convince anyone, but without an excuse, I was done for. Dom clearly understood this, as her expression grew colder and colder with each passing second that I said nothing.
“Well, James, do you have anything to say for yourself?” Dom muttered eventually. James seemed to be in the middle of a strange conundrum. Like he couldn’t decide between shitting himself or just throwing me to the dogs for not telling her a year ago, like I probably should have.
Clearly he was still pissed about the fact I didn’t return the sentiment when he told me he loved me.
But, I mean, can you really blame me? Have you ever heard anything so insanely ridiculous in your whole life? I mean, why would he even love me? It’s not like I’ve ever really given him a reason that would make him think ‘hell yeah, I’m gonna fall in love with this girl’. I mean, how thick can you get?
“I don’t have anything to say, Dom. I’ve never had anything to say. If I had something to say then I would have said something to you a year ago, wouldn’t I?” I winced. He was making things worse. I felt like swallowing everything that Gryffindor had ever pummelled into me and just running away. I mean, Dom might be a Quidditch player but she was never good at the seeking part of hide & seek.
“The – the pair of you... the pair of you have been – seeing each other? What? Dating – did Fred say that you went on a date? Is this – is this the reason that you were so funny about cancelled to spend the day with me since Connor gave me the boot? Because you were going on a date with James?”
“Dom, will you keep your voice down?” I hissed, but she just gaped at me in horror. Her pale face was turning steadily pinker as she got angrier. Her hands were shaking a little. Her spoon was still sitting next to her plate, having not been moved.
“What do you mean, since I gave you the boot? I didn’t give you the boot, Dom; I broke up with you because you were sucking the life out of me and our relationship. It was like dating my mother, or something. And if you don’t mind bringing up our relationship in front of our friends, then I would very much appreciate it.” Connor’s voice was bored and droning.
“Look, Connor,” Dom muttered, the edges of her ears turning bright red. “I did not act like your mother, and I did not suck the bloody life out of you. It was your fault that I got a little – funny. You changed too, and so I changed to try and fit in better with you and you didn’t like that. You knew what I was like before you asked me out. Or what, did you only date me for a shag?”
Fred spat some pumpkin juice back into his glass, looking disgusted. He shivered violently and Penny patted him gently on the arm as he jammed his fingers into his ears. Dom ignored him and stared coldly at Connor, who, for once, glared back at her.
“Oh, you know what –” Connor started, but I slammed my hands to the table loudly.
“Look, this is not the place for you to have this argument. The pair of you has as many issues as I do, but none of us need to hear them. You want to talk, go somewhere private and do it.” Dom glared at me, shoved her plate towards the middle of the table with a scowl and stomped to her feet.
“Fine. Fine. You know what, Summer, I will go. I – I – who the hell are you to tell me what to do?!”
“What do you mean by that?” I sighed, bored of Dom and her immature games. I pulled the carving fork out of the large pork joint and slid a couple of slices onto my plate, ignoring the fact that Dom was practically spitting feathers at me in anger. Still, when wasn’t Dom angry? It was like her permanent state nowadays, other than when she got back from that spa thing. Maybe we should pay for her to move in there so we don’t have to deal with her temper anymore.
“I mean, what – what the hell is going on between you and James?” My calmness seemed to piss Dom off even further. I wondered whether or not I should always stay this calm – it was so entertaining to watch the person you were arguing with squirm in annoyance.
“Hell if I know,” I shrugged. This seemed to piss off James as well as Dom. Honestly, you just can’t please some people.
“So what, you’re just going on dates with my cousin and not shagging him like that’s just allowed?” Dom shrieked, and I glanced around sneakily to see whether or not any nosy buggers that might spread gossip were listening to her idiotic yelling. Nobody was, so I relaxed a little and flicked my gaze back to my so called best friend. “I mean, Summer, what the fuck? How dare you?!”
“Actually, Dom, I am shagging him.” Wrong thing to say. Dom’s face drained of all colour and her hands balled into fists. James choked on nothing. Fred choked on his pumpkin juice. He should have probably stopped drinking during that conversation.
“You – you’re a bitch, do you know that? You’re a fucking bitch and I really and truly hate you. I’ve been your best friend for more time than I can count, and when I need you, you fucking ditch me – to go off with my cousin! James has liked you for fuck knows how long and you never gave him the sodding time of day, Summer – and now you want him!? I – I hate you! Stay away from me, Summer. I’m serious. I can’t even fucking look at your face right now.”
All the blood in Dom’s body seemed to have drained right up into her face. Her cheeks were stained red, her eyes were glistening and hot tears were beginning to slide down her pink cheeks. Her fists were shaking black smudges were beginning to appear underneath her bottom eyelashes.
“Then leave,” I whispered. I pointed to the door of the great hall slowly. Dom’s eyes slowly followed my arm and I could see that her bottom lip was beginning to shake. James was wincing and I could tell that he was wondering whether or not he wanted to stand up for Dom and keep quiet, considering things seemed to be deteriorating between the pair of us.
Why did things always have to go wrong from James and I, just when they seemed to be starting to go right? Maybe it was me. Maybe I was just hardwired to fuck things up from the beginning, since that was what my parents had always done.
“Fine. Fine, I will.” Dom stormed off out of the hall, leaving her tub of lipbalm and her face powder compact sitting on the table beside her plate. James was staring at his knees. Connor was chewing on the inside of his cheek, avoiding my gaze and looking absolutely furious. I’m assuming with me. Of course, as per, I’m the one that has abuse thrown at me and I’m the bad guy. Just because precious Dom lost the argument. You know what they say – if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, baby. Fred was running his hand over the stubble on his chin, and Penny was picking at the edge of her food.
“I’m going to go and find her,” Connor eventually muttered, pushing himself out of his seat and heading out the way his ex-girlfriend had. I stabbed some chicken with my fork and pushed my plate into the centre of the table, having officially lost my appetite.
“I’m sorry, guys,” Fred muttered eventually, watching Penny’s hands fiddle with her fork as he spoke. “It just never occurred to me to keep my mouth shut. I forgot that Dom didn’t know, considering we all did.” James nodded understandingly and I managed to twitch my head up and down in recognition of his apology. My muscles felt like they were seizing up.
I couldn’t move properly and I couldn’t think straight. I was angry again – more angry than I remembered being for a very long time. And I’d been working so hard to control my temper, and then – Dom. I couldn’t quite believe how angry I was. What right did she have to talk to me like that? My fingers began to shake and so I pressed them into my palms to make fists. Spasms spread up my arms and I clenched my eyes shut.
“I’m going for a walk,” I whispered. Dom spitting out that she hated me was playing on the back of my eyelids like some kind of sick movie. Six and a half years of best friendship, and that’s the way she speaks to me.
“Want me to come with you?” James murmured as I pushed myself off the bench, shaking out my legs to try and get a little bit of feeling back into them. I felt numb and shaky. Did everyone know about James and I now? Because it sure felt like it. Was I right to keep it from Dom this whole time?
“No. No, I’m fine,” I grumbled back. James’s expression fell and Penny began to focus very hard on her knees.
“Okay. Whatever.” I nodded to him and walked out of the hall. Maybe I was just built to fuck everything up. And then have absolutely no idea how to make everything better again.
You really messed up. Like, really messed up. To the point when it absolutely blows my head trying to figure out just why you would do something so astronomically stupid. I mean, getting pregnant? What’s your problem? If this was the other way around, and I was the one having a kid with someone that I wasn’t even with, how would you feel? I mean, how stupid are you? I just want to take this entire roll of parchment writing ‘stupid’ at you over and over again in capital letters.
But at the same time, you’re my mother. And I don’t feel bad for blowing up at you, because I reckon you deserved it, as crappy a daughter as that might make me. So if you want me to babysit this sprog every now and again, or go out and buy nappies when you forget to buy them – because you will forget, let’s face it – then, alright. But don’t expect me to do it all time, because my temper isn’t perfect just yet and you know that. But I’ll help you if you really need it. On one condition – you tell Jack’s father, Ant or whatever his name is, that he has to decide whether he wants to be a part or not. That he can’t string you along. If he doesn’t, ditch him. If he does – well, get some child support set up from him every month. It might not be the romance you want, mother, but it’s practical, and that’s what you need to be for once. Think of this kid rather than your imagination.
But yeah. If you want my help I’ll give it to you, though I probably won’t be any good with a kid.
Oh, and Jack said that he wants to be able to help you, too. He’s a good guy and he was always good to me. So you should let him, that’s all I’m trying to say. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, mother, and don’t bite the hand that feeds you’s son, either.
James told me he loved me. I guess that’s the main reason I decided to write to you. There’s sure as hell no one here that I can talk to about it. He told me that he loved me and that he was in love with me and it’s all just a little too much and frankly, mother, I’m terrified. How can he love me? I’m not the kind of person that people do or should fall in love with, mother. And I know that he’s waiting for me to tell him that I love him too, but I just can’t do it. I don’t know if I could even if I wanted to. Even if I did.
Do you think I love James? I can’t imagine my life without him, but I managed to spend two months without him before and I lived. I might not seem like it, but I want the kind of romance where you can’t stand to be apart from one another – do James and I have that? I don’t know. And I don’t want to think about it, because it makes my head hurt. And this letter is making my hand hurt. So I’m going to go right now. I’ll see you, mother.
Summer O. Lancaster.
“Can we talk?” James was standing behind me, kicking a clump of bark in front of his foot awkwardly. I pulled my sleeves down further over my hands and folded the crisp parchment up into quarters before sliding it into the breast pocket on the inside of my leather jacket. James carried on kicking at that goddamn clump of dirt on the ground.
“If you want. It’s a free country, I can’t stop you from opening your gob and using vibrations in your throat to make noises come out.” James grumbled and dropped down next to me, pulling a random book off a shelf and opening it in front of himself to try and make it less obvious that he just didn’t belong there. The librarian was peering at him through a gap in one of the shelves.
Honestly, does that woman have nothing else to live for? She still hates us from the snogging incident at the beginning of the year. Legs and memory of a sodding elephant.
“Are you going to apologise to Dom?” James started off gently.
“Why the hell should I?! She’s the one that blew up at me, not the other way around. And I’m sick of Dom just getting away with whatever the fuck she wants – yes, maybe we should have told her, but it was our business and not hers. I’m starting to think Connor’s been right all along – funny enough, he’s the only one out of all us with enough guts to tell her she was wrong.”
James sighed and dropped his head into the book, which was a breakdown of Albus Dumbledore’s analysis of the twelve uses of dragon blood.
“Yeah, but it would make my life much easier if you would just apologise to her and the two of you made up and went off and did whatever it is that the pair of you do. Go out and get your nails painted or your legs waxed or something like that.”
“I won’t apologise for doing nothing wrong, James. Gryffindor pride and all that shit. And I’m pissed off that you’re even asking me to.” James banged his head against the pages a couple of times, smudging some of the printing ink across his forehead. I sniggered under my breath.
“When aren’t you pissed off with me?” James grunted, wiping his forehead off on the back of his hand and scowling at the darkest knot on the oak wood table.
“What is your problem with me right now, James?” I spat suddenly, pissed off with his sullenness.
“Oh, I don’t know – I mean, it’s not like you stomped on my feelings or anything, you know.”
“Oh for hell’s sake – I didn’t sodding stomp on your feelings. Stop acting so whipped. You told me you loved me and I told you that you were insane – that’s not stomping on your feelings, that’s being honest.” James shot me the finger.
“Of course. Because it’s not in your best interests right now for me to be in love with you?”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” I asked angrily.
“Exactly what I said.”
“You think that I only ever do things that are in my best interests?”
“Not always, no – I think that even if something was in your best interests, you wouldn’t do it if you didn’t want to because you’re scared. You’re cowardly for a Gryffindor, Summer – you only got put into this house because you’ve got so much sodding pride that it almost overflows into arrogance.”
“If pride was the only reason then wouldn’t I have just been shoved into Slytherin with the rest of my family, where I should have been?”
“I don’t fucking know – what do I look like, the brain of the sorting hat? The thing’s a thousand years old, I’m a little young to fill that position, aren’t I?” I scowled at the rows and rows of books stacked on shelves full of books. There was one with faded red leather binding. I focused on that one.
“Leave me alone, James. I’m in a bad enough mood right now without you coming over here and making me feel worse about the fact that I’m feeling bad. I’m so fucking desperate to be told that I’m doing something right and selfless that I’ve just written to my mother to tell her that I’m going to be alright with her pregnancy and I’m going to help her, even though I don’t want to.”
“You – you did that?” James sighed and sagged down against the table, letting the book fall with a thunk to the table top. It banged loudly on the spine and the cover swung shut, puffing out a small cloud of dust that flew up my nostrils. I wrinkled my nose up like a pig’s snout.
“Yeah. I did. But no, I’m still the devil incarnate to everyone that I come into contact with, aren’t I?”
“Summer,” James sighed. “No one thinks that you’re the devil incarnate.”
“Don’t you? Even after the way that I reacted when you told me?” I glanced up under my eyelashes at the side of James’s face, which had flushed pink.
“No. I don’t. I’ve never thought that and I never will. You’re too beautiful for that, and when you want to, you’re too – you. I couldn’t do that to you, Summer.” James reached out and squeezed my leg under the table.
And that was when it hit me. Like a sodding house of bricks in the stomach.
I had put James through so much shit over the years that it was bordering on the unbelievable and the ridiculous. And yet he’d never left for too long, and he’d never gone too far. He’d been there whenever I needed him, like now, no matter how much shit I put him through for not leaving me. I was a terrible person when I wanted to be, and he still didn’t go anywhere. He knew how I was going to react when he told me he loved me and he told me anyway.
I suddenly felt the urge to laugh.
I’d been so goddamn stupid it was unbelievable – it was like I was blinding myself on purpose so that I didn’t have to see what I didn’t want to see.
James was right – because it wasn’t in my best interests. He knew everything about me. And I knew everything about him.
“Good,” I murmured.
“Good?” James asked.
“Yeah, good. Makes me glad that I didn’t fall in love with a douche that is going to leave me.” James began to choke on his own tonsils, clutching at the sides of his neck. I patted him gently on the back. “Oh, sorry, did I forget to tell you? I’m in love with you too, babe.”
And having revealed the realisation that had only come to me two seconds previously, I headed out of the library and up to my dorm, where James couldn’t find me. Just to see how insane it would drive him to sit around and not be able to interrogate me.
Maybe he was wrong. I could be the devil.
But in a good way.
disclaimer: nothing in this chapter belongs to me
love ya, chickadees,
ellie :) xx