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Enchanted by TheHeirOfSlytherin

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Format: Novel
Chapters: 34
Word Count: 119,754
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Contains Slash (Same-Sex Pairing), Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, Humor, Romance
Characters: Teddy, Scorpius, Albus, James (II), Lily (II), Hugo, Rose, Victoire, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Other Pairing, Rose/Scorpius, Teddy/Victoire, OC/OC

First Published: 04/27/2012
Last Chapter: 02/04/2013
Last Updated: 06/28/2013

Summary:
Louis/Ciaran

Banner by enchantedx @ TDA. For AC_rules' I'm a Believer challenge: 3rd place.

Being blind, my life is hardly a walk in the park.
But add in two crazy best friends, who I think are secretly in love, a stalker crush, who just won't quit, and Louis Weasley, who really doesn't know when to say no, and I might as well be climbing Everest.


Chapter 1: Patience is a Virtue
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enchantedx @ TDA.

***


I consider myself to be a very patient man. Though not by choice; I kind of have to be. Actually, I really have to be. Not being patient can cause all sorts of accidents. I remember when I was six, I was so excited to go and get an ice-cream by myself that I just ran out into the middle of the road. My dad reached me first and picked me up, taking me to the other side, and the woman in the car did stop to apologize and ask if I was okay. 

What happened after that? Let's just say I couldn't get my own ice-creams for a while

What's that got to do with patience, I hear you say. You've got to have patience if you have parents as over-protective as I do, other people have told me. But it's bigger than that, which sort of makes it worse for me than just being a six year old who couldn't get ice-cream because he didn't look where he was going when crossing the street. 

Mostly because I couldn't see the street; not the road or the cars or even the ice-cream van I was running to. 

I was three when I lost my sight. Yeah. But I won't get into that. So, patience is something I've had to learn and come to value from a young age. I had to learn because, being as young as I was, it wasn't easy waiting for people to do things for you or to have to listen to kids your age play carelessly and free in the park while you just sat there. I value it for two reasons; one, it allows me to appreciate everything people do for me, especially when it's six am, because that's not pretty; people say I'm evil. It's not true; I'm just not a morning person. And two; people can be a little overbearing, even if they think they're only trying to help. I understand when I remember being a child; kids need help when they're young anyway, I just needed a little extra. But I'm seventeen now, an adult legally; surely that counts for a little bit of trust in people. I can do some things myself. 

Like make breakfast. After six years of sitting in the same place, eating the same food, I think I can remember where the toast is and where the bacon is. But still she does it. The ‘she’ in question is my best friend, Lucy Weasley. Well, she's one of my best friends. My other best friend is Jackson Ryder, or Jack. He's not here yet, he's... Somewhere else. He was on holiday; he was actually supposed to be back a couple of days ago, in time for school, but his parents told me he had a bit of an accident and I'll find out more today. Knowing Jack, 'a bit' is probably just putting it nicely. 

Anyway, Jack is the one who helps me around school; you just can't trust a magical school, especially one with moving staircases, and he likes to make jokes. A lot of jokes. Like moving the breakfast dishes around or telling me it's somewhere else, so I end up putting my hand in the juice or missing it completely and hitting the table. Lucy got tired of it in fourth year and would move my hand to where the toast actually was. Which really got on Jack's nerves. That is the 'it' she's still doing. Lucy seems to have forgotten the fact that Jack is not here. I'm surprised by this; she would have commented on how quiet it was. 

"Lucy, I'm fine," I say slowly and clearly. I hope I get my point across with my tone and the raised eye-brow. The raised eye-brow is key; my dad listens every time when Mum does it. At least, that's what she tells me. 

I can't tell what her expression is, but it seems to have worked; she let's go of my hand. "Oh, sorry." A pause. She's thinking. This is not good. "Where's Jackson?" 

I shrug, trying to imagine her face by her tone. She sounds a little confused, probably wondering why he isn't here causing trouble, but she's also hopeful because, like I said, it's quiet. "I don't know. He hurt himself on holiday. His parents said they'd let me know." 

She replies with a little 'oh' sound and I bet she's just nodded her head. She does that all the time, Jack says. Now that gets on his nerves. Apparently, she should be more considerate of my inability to see. I don't care. I busy myself with eating my breakfast, Lucy does whatever it is she's doing, and neither of us speak until I hear the sounds of flapping wings and screeching. I have excellent hearing. 

"Mail's here." 

I ignore the birds and carry on with my breakfast, until a letter (I hope it's a letter) drops into my lap. I push my last bit of toast between my lips and pick it up. It feels like a letter. "You've got a letter," Lucy tells me. 

Not only is my hearing more than adequate, but I have also mastered the infamous eye-roll. I make it look good. Seriously. I just hand it to her. If she expects a reason for it, I am not giving it to her. 

She opens it; I pick up another piece of toast. She's quiet, reading it; I take a bite of said toast. "It's from Jackson's parents. He won't be in school for a while." 

Good bye, toast. I cough it back up, ignore people's complaints. "What?" 

"The idiot fell while rock-climbing; he's broke a few bones in his legs, yes, legs. He can't walk. He's in a Muggle hospital, and he'll be transferred to St Mungo's this afternoon." 

I don't like Lucy's tone. She sounds like she's... Annoyed. What the hell has she got to be annoyed about? She doesn't apparently need help going up and down the death stairs! I ask her that very question. Almost. "Who's going to help me around school? He's the only one in all of my classes. He has to go to the library, too." 

Okay, so it wasn't anything like the question. I'm not going to take my irrational anger for Jack out on Lucy. She's not afraid to hit me. I could do without her swift slaps to the back of the head while she tells me I'm being irrational... She says it enough already. 

"I will," she answers. "I'll talk to Professor Digby and we'll arrange it so I can leave my classes a little early and meet you outside yours." Lucy squeezes my shoulder affectionately and I smile a little. "See? It'll be fine, Key. I promise." 

I think she ignores my grimace. I don't like being called Key. In fact, I hate it. My name is Ciaran. With a C. I do not accept there being anything remotely like 'Key' in my name. And worst of all; she knows this. She only does it to annoy me. And it's working. 

So, I do the same to her. "Come on, Luce." I say, tapping her on the shoulder. "I've got to get to class."

"B-but," she stutters. "Breakfast isn't over yet." 

I try to hide my smirk. It's so funny how she complains that all her family seem to do is complain about food and how she's glad she's not like that. Then she complains about missing breakfast. Does anyone else hear the word 'hypocrite'?

I sigh instead. "But I have to leave early, remember?" I don't really. Jack just likes us to so we can escape the crowds. He didn't tell the Headmaster that when we talked about it in first year; now we get to leave classes early. It's only five extra minutes. That may not seem like a lot to you, but to anyone else who has to sit through Professor Binn's class, it's a miracle others wish they had. Ha. 

She groans and I hear her get up. "Well, come on then." She grabs my plastic stick or cane or blind person's helpy thingy as Jack called it the day we met – today I call it a stick - and then holds out her hand to help me up. I thank her. Not so much for helping me up, I was fine with that myself, but for picking up my stick; last time I tried to reach it, I fell on my arse and hit my head. Everyone laughed. It was not cool. So, I'm grateful when others get it for me. 

See? Value. Don't you just love it? 

The walk from the Great Hall to Transfiguration is relatively quiet. I find I rather like the idea of the sound of my stick beating against the cold, hard floor and letting it fill my head until it drives me insane, because the thought of Jack not being around is more than a little terrifying. I know it sounds rather selfish, but he and my tutor are the only reasons my parents allow me to come to Hogwarts each year; I honestly don’t know what I would do without Jack in my life. He’s my best friend, more than that, really; he’s the closest thing to a brother I have.

I mean, I love Lucy and all, but scepticism doesn’t even begin to cover it when it comes her decision to help me. She can be the easiest person in the world to get along with, but she closes up completely when it comes to her studies. You really can’t get a word out of her; she forgets everyone and everything when she’s focused on something. I fear for my life just thinking about it. Okay, I fear I’ll miss my classes because I don’t get up in the morning. But it’s basically the same thing.

“Are you okay, CJ?” I smile a little; CJ I like. It’s a nickname I’ll allow, the only one really. It’s my initials; Ciaran James. Yeah, that’s me. Nice to meet you.

Lucy nudges my arm. I assume she wants an answer. “I’m fine,” I tell her quietly. She sighs, but I don’t know what she’s thinking. I don’t know what her expression is. Hell, I don’t know anything. A feeling of dread fills the pit of my stomach and I swear it’s beginning to rise. It’s like bile. I hate it. I begin to realise just how much I seem to depend on my best friend.

Dammit.

I don’t want this; I don’t want any of this. None of this would have happened if I could still see. It’s not fair!

Lucy rubs my shoulder and we stop outside of my classroom. “Stop thinking like that. Don’t think I don’t know; I know you well enough to know that this frown and the little wobble of your bottom lip and your eyes closed over, like you look right now, is fear.” I feel her hand on my cheek. “You are either thinking about how dependent or low you feel. Considering Jack isn’t here -“ She called him ‘Jack’. It’s rare. Shocking. Well, not really. But she only says it when she’s being sympathetic. I don’t like that; when Lucy feels sympathetic, I feel plain pathetic. “I’m guessing you’re thinking the first one. Well, stop it.”

Ouch. I sense a lecture.

“You say you can look after yourself, but then something like this happens and you don’t know what to do. But these things are always going to happen.” She takes my hand. “Next time, it might just be that Jack has other things he needs to do and he won’t be there, so you have to realise you don’t need Jack like you think you do, because we know you don’t. You can do this, Ciaran. You can do anything. Accept it. Embrace it. Besides, you hate needing people. I see you grimace when you want to ask for help.”

Oh, so she ignores my hate for the nickname ‘Key’, but that she sees. That’s just evil.

“Okay, Ciaran?”

Like what she says is that simple. “Okay,” I nod. What? My logic may be lost on everyone else, butunderstand. That’s what matters.

Lucy squeezes my hand. “Good. Now, I’m going to make a detour to Digby’s office before Arithmancy; I agree the stairs are tricky.” I scoff; she deserves it. “I’ll see you later.”

I watch my second best friend walk away. Scratch that, I listen to her walk away. My eyes are just in that general direction, which is obviously why I got confused… I hear a faint “Hello Lou,” before I enter the classroom, make my way to my usual desk (the right chair on the end desk, closest to the door) and drop into my seat with a heavy sigh. I pull out my parchment and my enchanted quill, fold my arms over the wooden desk and rest my chin on top, just waiting for the lesson to start.

I take back my previous comments; I don’t rely on Jack to help me around school. Without him, life is boring. Damn him. Of all the days to fall off a cliff.

When someone else enters the classroom, I’m hit with the oh-so-familiar fruity fragrant aftershave only one man in the entire school wears. I refuse to admit it smells good. He can’t have been that far away when Lucy said hello to him. I briefly wonder what took him so long before I realise I don’t care. What can I say? Not everyone thinks the world revolves around Louis Weasley. Not that I don’t like him or anything; I just don’t talk to him, or any of his family, except Lucy. I rarely ever saw Lucy’s sister. I only ever spoke to Fred when Jack wanted something from the shop. I mentioned his love of making jokes.

The teacher begins the lesson and I know I’m in for a long, dull day. I focus my attention on the scratching of my quill. Yeah, my quill literally takes my notes for me. Awesome. And I’m the only one who is allowed to do this.

Be jealous.

***

I thank Lucy as she turns to leave and make my way into the library. Some people protest and moan when I hit them with my stick. Well, after six years, you’d think they would learn to move out of the way when they see me. It’s not like I can see them or anything.

I hear my name and navigate my way to the sound. I know where I’m going; we’ve been sitting at the same table every day since we started Hogwarts. “Hey, Abby.”

Abby is my tutor. She teaches kids with disabilities and she’s been my teacher since I was five and started school. She takes my notes and turns it into braille and helps me with my wandwork so I can learn. That way I’m not left behind and struggling with my studies.

“Hey, Ciaran. Where’s Jack today?”

Oh, yeah. She also teaches Jack. He’s dyslexic, but he’s gotten a lot better since Abby agreed to be his teacher in first year. She’s the reason we both get to stay in school. I don’t think we would have made it past those first exams if it weren’t for her. Now, we’re passing NEWTs. Well, sort of. Potions require exact measurements and other things I can’t read.

“Jack won’t be with us for a while; he’s in St Mungo’s after an accident. Teachers are sending him is homework.” I hate the annoyed tone in my voice; I know Abby doesn’t deserve it, but I’ve been asked the same question over and over. I sit down slowly and pull out my notes to hand to her.

“I’ll go see him while you’re in lessons and be back by four. We can’t have him missing out, can we?” she laughs. “Does that sound fair, Ciaran?”

I nod. “I bet he can’t wait to spend his time in a hospital bed, studying,” I smirk. He deserves it.

“Is Lucy helping you instead?”

I pull a face. “Yeah.”

“And how’s that going?”

I’m still terrified she’s going to forget and I’m going to die. Too dramatic? “I can’t say; it’s only been one day.”

She laughs again. I don’t think she’s meant to laugh. She’s meant to give me an alternate solution or at least offer her condolences. “Let’s get started, shall we?”

And the real work begins. Can’t I sleep instead?



A/N: For the I'm a Believer and What the Hell is a Hufflepuff challenges. Belief: I can do anything. I'm having so much fun writing this story and a first person OC centric novel, as well as writing about blindness, is a very new thing, so I hope it goes well. LOL.

Hope you enjoyed. 

Sam.


Chapter 2: A Trace of Fruity Aftershave
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onlyInevitability @ TDA.

***




Do you ever think that if you daydream long enough, the most random of thoughts will just pop into your head and you won't notice until you've already thought them? 

Like right now, I'm wondering if the phrase 'keep doing that then the wind will change and your face will stick that way' turns out to be true and I continue to roll my eyes, will it matter to me if my irises disappear and all anyone sees is white? 

I bet that would freak everyone out. 

I let out a soft chuckle; it's not often I find myself funny enough to laugh at. I kind of doubt others would find it funny, except Jack of course. This must be the weird sense of humor Lucy keeps informing me of. Oh, who cares? I like it. 

"Are you even listening to me?"

Right. Crap. Lucy's speaking, telling me about... Something she thinks is important. And I have no idea what that is. Double crap. I turn my head from side to side a couple of times, trying to pinpoint the general direction she could be standing, but I give up after a few seconds and just stare out in front of me. Not being able to find my friend; a consequence of not paying attention, unfortunately. 

"Er," I stall and she sighs, dropping down onto the couch on my left. "Rewind; I want to make sure I got everything."

Nice save. Ciaran: 1. Universe: 0. 

"You're an idiot if you think I'm stupid enough to believe that." Universe, Lucy beats us both. How do you feel being beaten by a girl? It sucks, doesn't it? "As I was saying, I think we're going to have to come up with another way to help you around school. I'm sorry, CJ, but I'm really not the best person to help you." 

Yes! Oh, wait, she's apologizing; this is a sad time. I wrap my arms around my chest, more to stop myself from punching the air than anything else. "I understand, Luce, really. It's all good."

I really do understand. I don't want her focusing on me when she has her final year of Hogwarts to worry about. I'm actually surprised she lasted two and a half weeks without forgetting me. Maybe she really does love me more than school... 

"You can breathe and finally be free of worrying," Lucy laughs. Of course she knows, do you really think I'd keep my worries from her, my best friend? 

Okay, Jack told her when we went to visit on Saturday. Don't judge; I didn't want to hurt her feelings. I didn't except her to laugh, though, or tell me she'd be worried, too, if she were in my position. I may have already known that, but, as it turned out, it's still not something you actually want to hear. I refused to talk to her for the rest of the day. Well, until she gave me cookies. Damn sweet tooth. 

"In every other way, I love this; we've been best friends since first year, yet this was the most time we've ever spent together," Lucy said, taking my hand. Yeah, people are surprised when they realize we're actually friends. They think we just sit next to each other in the Great Hall every day. "But I forget, you know that, I can't do things like go into the boys bathroom." We both laugh; yeah, she can't do that... Not that I need her to. I'd make everyone wait outside. "And I refuse to go into that dorm room. I don't know how you can sleep in there; you're the only normal guy in that room." 

"Practice," I tell her, smirking slightly. It really did take practice; Hufflepuff lets in the strangest people. We're an awesome group of people, but strange nonetheless. Jack's obsessed with extreme sports, because he doesn't need to think about it; Simon loves collecting things; Declan believes in aliens; I want something I can't have. 

Which of us is stranger? 

"Why don't you get a seeing-eye dog?" Lucy sounds way to excited about that. 

"My mum's allergic to them," I remind her. "And I can't walk a dog around school." 

I don't know what she does, but she makes this little 'hmm' sound and tells me I might be right. She never tells me I'm right. This is a huge moment for me. I am savoring this moment. "We could find someone else in school who can help." 

"Like who?" I ask curiously. "Do you know of anyone in all of my classes, who is willing to leave early and take me to the library and help me with my homework? Because I don't." 

I can't think of a single person. But I know Lucy is trying to; she's really quiet. I'm scared. She starts mumbling, then she gets a little louder and she's going through a list of names. I don't know these names, I don't know these people. Does she know these people? I didn't know she knew so many people. 

"Louis?" 

"Huh?" Mr Fruity Aftershave. No. No, no, no, no, no. No. 

"No?" Did I say that out loud? "Why no?" 

"Because I said so." She swats me on the arm. Ow. "Look, Lucy, I know he's your cousin, but I don't even know the guy." Just his aftershave. "It would be awkward and weird and what makes you think he'd even say yes?" 

"He's a good person who will gladly help you." She snorts before I even have a chance to say anything to that. "He may be a little bit of a pushover, because he just doesn't know how to say no. If you were trapped on an island and starving, he'd give you the last of his supplies if you asked. It's like he'd rather please you before himself now, because he never used to be like that. Now, if I asked, he'd say yes." 

I think about it. "No." 

"Why not?" Lucy is actually protesting; she is producing an argument. She just cannot let it go. And I never win an argument against Lucy Weasley, so I doubt today is any different. "He's in all of your classes, he'd be willing to leave early, he's a tutor so he'll have no problem going to the library and helping you with your homework. He's perfect. And it'll be good for you to finally get to know more of my family; I intend to keep you in my life, so you'll have to eventually. Lou is the best one to know first." 

I sigh. "I don't know. You and Jack are my friends; it's easy. I don't know about a stranger." 

"He's not a stranger." I raise an eye-brow; she knows exactly what I mean. "He's my cousin and I trust him. And you trust me, so everything's fine." She swats me on the arm again, only lighter this time. "It'll be okay."

The swatting continues, until it becomes more like a persistent tapping on my arm until I feel the need to give in; nod, talk, something, just to make her stop. I stick to nodding, who knows what I might say. "Good." Thank God, the tapping has stopped. "Do you want me to ask him?" 

"No, I'll do it." I will? Really? Mouth, I think your acting before Brain starts thinking. This is never a good thing. I must have a reason for this. 

"Really?" Is that scepticism I hear?

"Yes. If you're going to let his inability to say no to anyone bring him into my life, I might as well ask him myself. You'll say great things about it, at least I'll warn him of what he'll be getting himself into." That'll give him reason to say no. Ah! I found my reason. 

She's laughing at me. Is this a good or a bad thing? "You're not that bad, Key."

I'm just going to ignore that. "You can say that; you've never seen me at six am." She still hasn't, not even in these last two weeks; I've missed so many breakfasts because I've overslept. I'd probably look like a clown, too, except she had the courtesy of coming back after she'd gone for her breakfast and made sure I was up. Despite what the rumors say, no thanks to Daniel Scott, who is evil, I can get myself ready. It's just that I'm always half asleep and Jack got tired of it, which is why he lays my uniform on the lid of my trunk in the mornings. 

Did she do that? No! She left me for food, which I missed! Damn Weasley. 

"Are you really that bad?" More scepticism, only I like it this time; she doesn't believe those rumors, or any rumors, but the denial of these rumors are my favorite. It'll come as a shock to her one day. Is it wrong to look forward to that? 

"Maybe one day you'll find out," I tell her instead. I hope she doesn't notice the tiny curve of my lips. 

She doesn't. That's easy to deduce from what comes out of her mouth next, all cheery. "Come on, it's time for dinner." 

Luce grabs my hand and pulls me up, pushing my cane into my hands. I call it a cane today; I want to be different. "What's the deal with that thing?" she asks. "I mean, you know your way around here well enough that you hardly use it and you're never alone around school or outside. So, why do you keep it with you?" 

I step back a few paces, tapping my cane against the hard floor, and stretch it out just a little. Everyone is going to dinner and it's not long before he trips over it. I know it's him, I could hear his arrogant little voice from across the room. Lucy gasps, asking if he's alright. He says he's okay and I know it's true; I would have heard him if he had hit the floor. I know he's glaring at me, he always glares. "You should really be more careful, Tyler. Next time you might land on your face, and we wouldn't want that now, would we?" 

"Whatever, James."

I lift the cane up, hugging it to my chest, and turn in Lucy's general direction. "That's what it's for." I grin. Then I frown. Then I smirk. "You are shaking your head."

"I am shaking my head," she admits. She crosses the room, takes my hand and leads me out of the common room, to the Great Hall. "I don't understand what is going on between you two." 

I laugh, swinging are joined hands back and forth just for the hell of it. Long story short, Tyler stole my football player collectable cards because people wanted to play with me and not him, so I hid his very expensive watch which was given to him by his grandfather. It didn't matter that we both got them back, it was war. I shrug. "We just never got along, you know that. He thought I was a freak after attention, I thought he was a spoiled brat wanting the attention. So, we annoy each other. It's all fun."

"No, it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt," Lucy scolds me. 

"Are you afraid I'll get hurt?" I laugh softly. 

She scoffs. "No. I'm afraid he'll get hurt." 

I squeeze her hand in my own. "I consider that a compliment from the great Lucy Weasley."

***

Dinner is a relatively quiet affair, between the two of us anyway. Everyone else is at their normally loud volume; people are laughing, joking, enjoying dinner. I like surrounding myself in the noise, feeling like I'm a part of the school without becoming involved. I'm more of the wallflower type, an outsider, and I like it. It's peaceful, it's easy. 

Which is why I'm really not looking forward to talking to Louis Weasley. But I have to. Lucy will find out if I don't and just go to him herself and I don't want that. Oh, but what to say... I have absolutely no idea. 

Damn. 

"Hey, Rox, what's up?" I turn my head slightly to the left; Lucy is talking to her cousin, Roxanne. It's all hushed and quiet. Considering the fact that it's Roxanne Weasley, who hangs out with James Potter and whose brother is Fred Weasley, she's planning something prank-related and the less I know the better. I go back to my dinner. 

"Thanks, Lucy," she says, and then she grazes her hand along my back as she leaves. "Bye, Ciaran." 

I wave a hand, but say nothing. I don't even know the girl. We didn't say a single word to each other for years, then last year I get all this; light touching and flirtatious words. Truthfully, it does make me wonder exactly what my seventeen year old body looks like. That's all she can go on, really. She's really not my type and I kind of doubt I'm anyone else's. I stuff a bit of beef into my mouth. "I thought you said you'd talk to her," I mutter after I swallow. 

"I did," Lucy exclaims. "I told her you weren't interested and to back off before she got hurt. It's not my fault Roxy decided not to listen."

"I don't think you told her the most important part that ultimately makes up the reason I am not, nor will I ever be, interested."

"Oh, so you do want people to know that you're gay," she whispers the last word. I drop my head; I give up. "See, I didn't know if you did, you never said anything, so I assumed it was personal and something you'd wanna wait until you were ready to tell. So, I didn't tell her that. But if you do, I will tell her tomorrow," she adds quickly.

I hold up a hand. "It's fine. Just leave it." I push my plate away and stand up, cane in hand. "I'm tired, I'm gonna go to bed."

"Do -"

"No," I shake my head, smiling. "I know the way, I'll listen out for the stairs and I'll be careful, I promise. Good night."

I hear her shout good night as I walk away and I wave to her. I'm barely out of the door when someone knocks into me from behind and I have to grasp the wall for support. They call out a rushed sorry as they continue to run and I very much doubt they even turned around. 

"No problem," I call out to no one. "Thanks for that."

Then I get a whiff of whatever left a trace on my shirt. 

Oh, great. Now I smell of fruity aftershave.



A/N: I hope you are enjoying Ciaran and his slightly crazy thoughts, which make him fun to write. :D We get to see Louis in the next chapter, which is already written and who I think is awesome. :P

I would love to know what you think in a review. :)

Sam.


Chapter 3: What Scares Me Most
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Saranghae @ TDA.

***


Homework is boring. 

That is the only way to explain it. Well, it isn't; it's depressing, tedious, dull to the point of madness, just plain crap... I could go on for a while. But the point still stands - I'm bored. 

I push back against my seat, moving my hands away from my Braille notes, and pick up my quill. I'm twirling it in my hands, imagining how many times I can get it to write 'Jack Ass Ryder' when I feel it. You know that tingly feeling you get down your back when you know someone's watching you? Yeah, well, I feel it and I don't like it. 

I feel like they're glaring at me, like I'm in trouble and about to be scolded. I freeze, hand hovering over the table, quill falling from beneath my fingers; there's only one person here who could be even remotely mad at me. Damn. She figured it out. Well, it was inevitable. I straighten up. I just can't help myself. "Lucy, I've been expecting you." 

...Well, I have. 

She's leaning against the back of my chair now, I can feel her hands at my sides and her breath tickle my left ear. "Three days ago, you told me you'd talk to Louis about school. Today I find out you've been lying to me." 

Okay, that is not technically true; I avoided her so I wouldn't have to lie. Big difference. But I am so not going to tell her that! 

I say nothing, it's safer. 

"You've been getting up early, much to your dorm mates' complete and utter shock, and leaving before me, letting me believe that you've talked to Louis." I wonder how long it took for her to figure this all out. 

"I told you I could take care of myself." That is probably the stupidest thing I have ever said. Lucy's hand plus Ciaran's head equals serious head injury. Ow. I grimace and rub the spot where she whacked me. What the hell happened to her 'Ciaran, you can do anything' speech? "I'm sorry, but it's true." Why the hell am I still speaking? Shut up, Ciaran. Shut up! "For three days I got up, dressed myself and made my way around school accident-free, staircases and all. I'm fine and you know it, so please stop babying me." 

Silence. Lucy moves and sits next to me. "I know." She's calm; I like it. This is good... I think. "I'm not enforcing this because I don't trust you or think you're incapable. I'd rather you do it yourself, you know that, you have to sooner or later. I do this because your mother worries too much and will want to pull you out of school if she finds out and I don't want you to leave. So, I'm being selfish; why didn't you talk to Louis?" 

"I couldn't find him and you were busy." Technically, I just didn't look but even if I did, I don't think it's ever wise to interrupt Lucy when she's busy, Jack understands that best. I don't bother to hide my smile, thinking of that memory. I wonder if Lucy knows I use that against him when he tries to speak against her. That might get me back on her good side. Just. 

"What are you smiling about?" I shake my head. "Good. Now if you won't talk to my cousin, I will. I want you to stay in school and I know you want that, too." 

I do want that. I have more freedom here, I can do what I want, take care of myself... Despite what this conversation sounds like. I do everything myself, just with a friend constantly at my side. At home, my mum is always worrying. I think the memory of the car still freaks her out. 

"But..." Please don't guilt trip me. Please don't guilt trip me. Please don't guilt trip me. "That won't stop me from telling her." 

Worse. Blackmail. How evil. What's worse than that is that I know she'll do it and I don't want to deal with my mother. I shudder still thinking about the letter she sent after she heard about Jack's accident. Her promise to come to school and talk about my 'situation' wasn't needed when Lucy told her she was there for me in the reply. Lucy thought it best not to tell her that she was passing that 'responsibility' on to her cousin. My mum knows Lucy not Louis; she'd wanna check him out. 

Have I mentioned how much I actually do love this girl by my side? Despite this horrible situation she's putting me in, which I won't let her get away with so easily. It doesn't mean that I don't love her. 

I hope my glare shows how much I am not liking what she just threatened me with, but I nod. "I'll talk to him tomorrow." That'll give me tonight to come up with something to say. She kicks my leg under the table and throws something into my arms; my cane. "Or now, I can go now." I stand up. "I'll go find him." 

"Good. I left him in the library, he should just be leaving. You can catch him going to Ravenclaw tower." I don't like that smug tone she's got going on. Oh, no. She did not do what I think she did. Did she? 

I swallow down nausea. "Aren't you coming with me?" 

"No," she scoffs. "You can take care of yourself." 

I want to scream. I really do. Seriously, isn't that the exact same thing I've been saying for the past two and a half weeks going on seven years? I think back to my first year. I officially met Lucy after about a month here and we were all sat together at dinner, Lucy, Jack and I, and the freedom got to my head; I loved it and I wanted more. So I told them that if we got to Abby first then my mum would never know I wasn't being escorted around. Jack reminded me that we were in the same classes and now seeing the same tutor so to suck it up because we were stuck together. Lucy scoffed and said "fat chance, it's either you or Molly."

She chose me. 

I wonder what she'd say if I re-requested that. "Go, Ciaran." 

On second thoughts, it's best not to chance it. Besides, it wouldn't work anyway; Mum became good friends with Digby and he'd tell her everything. She's smart, my mother, all Ravenclaw. I leave quickly and climb the few stairs to the Ravenclaw common room. I'm not exactly sure where it is. It's kind of a guessing game from here on out; which way to turn, if there is a turn, where to stop. I could be here for hours.

I should have made Lucy come with me; she knows this place better than I do... It doesn't take me long to figure out that this is my punishment. Using my right hand as a guide, my cane swinging lightly in my left, I feel around the wall while I walk until it turns and I know to turn with it, crashing right into someone. 

"I am so sorry," I call out, hands in the air.

"It's fine," she tells me. I don't recognize the voice, I don't actually know many people here, not really. She takes my hands, though, and brings them to my side. I'm glad for that and I thank her; knowing me I'd have stood like that for a while. Oh, the awkward memories. "Can I help you?" 

"Maybe, did you just come from the Ravenclaw common room?"

"Yeah," she replies. 

I nod. That's good. Or bad, depending on how you look at it. "Is Louis Weasley in there?"

"Oh." She sounds unhappy about that. "No, sorry." She takes hold of my arm, ready to lead me somewhere. "Would you like to wait for him inside?"

"No," I tell her quickly. I really don't need an audience for this. I lean back against the wall, her hand falling from my arm. "I'm happy to wait here." 

"Are you sure?" I just nod again. I don't know what to think of this girl; she sounds so... Pitying. I hate it. She has to leave. "Okay, then. I'll see you around." 

I call out a good bye and I wait. Lucy said he would be leaving the library now, it wouldn't take that long. I really hope it does, though. I have no idea how to do this, I have no idea what to say. I have all of these different scenarios running through my head and not one of them seems appealing. No, this is all going to go horribly wrong, something always does around me. And -

I turn my head to the left; light whistling, the jingle of something metal being moved around, fruity aftershave. I let out a deep breath, preparing myself for whatever nightmare this will turn into, and hold my cane to my chest. Then I look down at it - you understand - and let it go, lifting it up so it's sticking out in a horizontal line. 

He walks into it, I know he does; I feel it hit something hard, I assume it's his chest. "Can I help you?"

I lower the cane slowly, managing a small smile; I do have manners after all. "Louis Weasley?"

I don't want him to think I already know it's him, then I'd have to explain why. He really cannot know why. "Yeah," he says slowly, elongating the word, like he's being cautious. Why he thinks he needs to be cautious, I have no idea and doubt I will ever understand; I have more reason to be cautious than he does. "Can I help you?"

I hold up a finger; partly to start my little list of reasons why I'm here, mostly to keep him quiet. It's my speaking time. "First of all, I'm only here because Lucy is mean and selfish and if this is what it takes to make her happy, so be it." 

I don't say what it is exactly that will make Lucy happy, nor do I mention my benifit. If my suspicions about what she did is true, he already knows. 

He makes an 'oh' sound. "You're Key, aren't you?" 

And there it is... 

"No," I snap quietly. Harsh yet quiet. I actually rarely ever shout; people think that's weird. "That is not my name! Do I look like something you stick in a door?" 

"Hey, calm down," he says softly. I fear I upset him a little; he actually does seem to have a constant need to please people, he obviously doesn't take people snapping at him very well. I imagine his bottom lip is wobbling and everything. Oh, God, I hope not! "I only know what my cousin calls you." 

Ah, defensive. The guy's stronger than he... Sounds. You get what I mean. "Sorry, I just don't like it very much. So, I'm here for Lucy." 

"Then I know why you're here." I try to continue, but he really likes to interrupt me, it seems. "She found me in the library and asked how everything was going. Once she saw my confusion, it didn't take her long to figure out I knew nothing about it and you were lying to her."

Again with the lying; it's not lying if they don't know. Not that that's the right way to go though life. Truth will out and all, as you can tell. My mum like to say honesty is always the best policy; judging from what I did, I tend to listen to my dad. He has the right idea; women can by scary. Maybe that's why I'm gay... 

Right. There's a point to why I'm here. And he's still talking. 

"What?"

"I said Lucy must really love you if she'll do anything to get you to stay," he repeats everything for me and I have to agree; some wouldn't bother. "Though, I didn't think she'd ask me to help her boyfriend; even with her 'schedule' she'd never trust a family member with her personal life. Though, I suppose I could be an exception, considering second year..."

Whoa, whoa, hold everything. I hold up my hands, bringing his ramble to a complete stop. This must be fixed before the thought brings the world to an end. "I am not Lucy's boyfriend!" 

"No?" I shake my head quickly, I hope the disgust I feel is as evident on my face as it is in my gut. I mean, there's nothing bad about Lucy, any guy would be lucky to be able to say they're dating her, but, not even talking about my own... preferences, she's like a sister to me; it's just too weird. "Oh, I just assumed because you spend all your spare time together, or as much spare time as Luce can," he laughs softly. I don't, I'm still freaked out. "I know there's another boy in your group, but they don't seem the type." 

That's such a nice way of saying they hate each other, isn't it? Not that I really believe any of it. It's love, I swear! I will prove that eventually!

"Actually, every time I hear about Lucy it's 'her and her blind boyfriend, Key'." The name has spread. No! Must stop that. But at least people are now accepting the fact that we don't just sit next to each other, even if they did get the completely wrong idea. I should add 'they thought I was straight and dating Lucy' to my list of reasons as to why no guy will date me. 

Is he still talking? 

"Right, so I'm here because Lucy asked me to be, so my mum wouldn't find out and pull me out of school, because we both want me to stay. Since my tutor can't do it, she's with Jack during the day," I actually don't think I thought of Abby, but now that I mention it, she really can't, "Lucy thought you were the only logical choice. So, will you do it?" 

"You really want me to walk with you from one class to another, then to the library every day until your friend gets back?" 

I hate it when people sound patronizing. It makes liking them so much harder. I shrug. "You know what, don't bother. I was only here for Lucy." 

I turn to walk away, I just want to go to bed, but I don't get far. Louis grips my shoulder with his hand, forcing me to stop. I feel his hand turn around on my shirt, so I think that he's turning to face me. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you or make you feel bad in any way; I just meant that we don't know each other, you're trusting my cousin's word that a stranger is a good idea. Are you sure?"

"I trust Lucy, Lucy trusts you." I consider that my best reason. 

He let's go of my shoulder. "She told me your mum would be too worried to want you to stay, she sounds like a very protective mother." I shrug; she is. "Lucy would be very upset if I said no and you left." Oh, God. Does that mean...? "So, yes, I will help you." 

"Really?" 

"Yes," he says, chuckling softly again. "I understand Lucy's reasoning; we're in all the same classes and I go to the library every day anyway. Walking with you is no problem. She also added 'come to Hufflepuff and make sure he's awake' to this; since I get up early, how hard can that be?" 

I hold back a scoff. He'll see just how hard that can be. "So, since 'Key' is not allowed, what is your name?" 

Ha. "Oh, no, I can't tell you that," I smirk. 

"What? Why? You know mine, I can't go around not knowing yours," he whines. He really whines, like a little girl, it's so funny. 

Revenge is the reason I won't tell him; he deserves it for what he did the other day. My shoulder really hurt afterwards; I just can't allow that. "You knocked me into the wall, called out a halfhearted sorry and continued running. I could have been really hurt for all you know, but you didn't stop."

He's quiet for a while. I honestly believed he had no idea who it had been he'd run into, that he'd been too wrapped up in whatever he was doing to stop, which kind of makes him like Lucy in that respect. This silence so proves my belief. He starts stuttering; it's quite funny to hear, I can only imagine what his face looks like; all red from embarrassment and his mouth hanging open. "It may have been a little rushed, but I truly meant it and I am so, so sorry. I was late; I had to rush dinner to get to the -" he falters at the end. "I had to go," he finishes lamely. 

I hold up my cane, waving it in the air until I get it to point at his chest. I push a little to hard and he groans in pain. "Sorry. I don't need to know why it happened, just take your punishment; figure out my name."

"That's it?"

"Yep." I roll my eyes. Honestly, I'm a little confused; I may not know everyone in the school, but everyone knows me, or my name at least. They usually associate it with pity, but don't actually care, though, so I ignore them all. I don't need that. But Louis not knowing me at all? Being able to introduce myself and know he had no judgements or assumptions about me? It's like Christmas for a four year old child; I feel all giddy inside. 

I may actually be liking the guy. He's still being punished, but I'm liking him... No, not like that!

"Can I at least have a clue?" 

"No, that would defeat the purpose; punishment."

"And my punishment is for not stopping to see if you were okay?" 

I shake my head. "You knocked me into the wall, I hurt my shoulder." I hear an 'ah' sound; he finally gets it. "If you really are going to listen to Lucy, I'll see you tomorrow. If not, hopefully you'll look where you're going next time we meet in the halls," I smirk softly, but you can't blame me for my scepticism; this has never happened before. 

I don't need to wait for the staircases to change, I'm glad for that; the quicker I get back to Hufflepuff, the quicker I can go to bed. 

I have no idea how tomorrow is going to go. I think that's what scares me the most.



A/N: And the story begins. :P I hope you enjoyed this chapter and will love Louis and the others and as much as I do, and Ciaran may or may not end up loving... ;)

I feel now is an appropiate time to say that since this story is completely Ciaran's POV that I will be posting a story collection to go with this, missing moments and other POVs and such, which I hope you will read and love. :)

Sam.


Chapter 4: Common Ground
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Hallows&Horcruxes @ TDA.

***


Do you know what's really annoying? When, as much as you wish you were in such a deep sleep that you can't feel or hear a thing, you're actually waking up. 

I usually get over this relatively quickly, hearing my roommates getting ready for lessons while I stay in bed, waiting for the inevitable silence to lure me back to bliss, or sleep - it always does if I wait long enough. After six school years of sharing a dorm with the same people, it's safe to say I've gotten used to their noisy routines, just as they've gotten used to my inability to get up willingly (I seriously cannot explain how I managed to actually do that for the last three days! I actually think they're grateful that the world has been set right). 

So, what's annoying this morning is the constant stab of something being pushed into my side. Whoever you are; cut it out! 

I'd tell them this, but I'm sleeping... Mostly. 

"Do you have a death wish?" 

Wise words, what's-your-name. Drill them into him of you have to... Yes, I do hear everything. 

"Lucy said to do whatever means necessary or he won't wake up." 

I take back what I said yesterday. I don't love her, I hate her. I hate all Weasleys. There is no place for them in my life, they need to go away. Or, as there's only one by my bed, he needs to go away. Now. I groan and bury my head under my blanket. 

"Come on, K -" He stops before he can finish that horrible non-name, therefore he lives another day. "Hey, what's his name?"

Wait for it. "We can't tell you that; he swore us to secrecy. He says you have to figure it out." 

"And you are listening to him?"

We're getting there. "Yes." 

"Why?"

"We don't have a death wish." There it is. It's so good to know I have my dorm mates on my side, life threatening not included (not from me; they just still remember what Jack did to Tyler in second year. Which is a story for another day). I swear if you moved my blanket out of the way you'd see a smile on my mostly sleeping face. 

"Well, what am I meant to call him then?"

"The point of his game is for you to focus on figuring out his name, not figuring out what to call him now," what's-his-face laughs. I think it's Declan, go Declan. "This is his thing; his games. If you don't play, he'll only make it harder." I hear a pat. "Good luck, Weasley." 

"Fine," he mutters. "I'll play." I don't hear anything more; everyone else must have left already. I know he's still in the room, though; I can smell him. He throws something in the air, it bounces in his hand when he catches it, and I'm being poked in the side again. Only this time it's getting higher; my side, one rib, another, another, my arm... He pulls back, removes my blanket from my face and upper back. I feel a chill. "Lucy said whatever means necessary, so believe me when I say I can do this for a while." Another prod, on my back this time, from something plastic. Hold on, he is using my own cane against me. What an ass! 

He pulls back, I count, and I hear him move... I reach out and grab it, yanking it from his grasp and dropping it to the ground. It rolls under the bed. "Amazing reflexes," he says, awed apparently. "How'd you do that?" 

Seriously, did he really think he was the first to poke me with my cane? I got used to it. More importantly, I learned from it. I turn my head from his direction to the windows. Come back, sleep. Quickly! 

"Oh, no, you don't!" The whole blanket is gone and it's so cold, I jump up from my bed. I sit on my knees, my arms around my bare chest. I glare in his general direction. "Good morning," he calls out enthusiastically, and then he whistles. Why is he whistling like that? 

I shiver involuntarily, saying nothing; I should have known Lucy would have got to him. This is what I get for choosing to sleep in just my underwear. 

Oh, crap! He can see me in my underwear! 

I am at such a disadvantage, not being able to see to find my blanket again. I uncross my legs and jump off my bed quickly. Though potentially hazardous, I'm jumping anyway. I push past him, or try to - he must have moved out of the way - glaring the whole time while on my way to the bathroom. I've already got my toothbrush in hand and to my lips when I curse the fact that I left my uniform on the top of my trunk and have to go back out there like this. For his sake, he had better be gone. 

I brush my teeth and wash my face at a slightly slower pace than I normally do; I'm obviously not as late as usual. Besides, I can tell from what Lucy's told me that he won't come banging on the door demanding I hurry up like Jack. But he also won't leave me like Lucy. I hope he's a bit of both and is waiting in the common room, I can handle that. 

But something tells me he's still there when I open the door; that 'I'm being watched' feeling is back. I manage to ignore it the whole way to my bed; I get my uniform from the lid of my trunk and pull out clean underwear before I stop everything. There are many things I will do and many things won't do in front of people - taking off my underwear is definitely one of the things I will not do. 

"Are you seriously going to watch me get dressed?" I ask, not bothering to turn around. 

"No," he says quietly. I hear him getting off Jack's bed; the one on my left, closest to the door. He moves to stand right behind me, his chest pressed to my back - I really hope he didn't just hear that deep intake of breath - and he drops something on my bed. My cane. "I was just making sure you weren't going to fall back asleep. I'll be waiting in the common room." 

The moment he's gone, I fall forward on top of my uniform and groan into my shirt. Why me?

I dress relatively quickly, pick up my cane and head down to the common room. I'm not exactly looking forward to this, so I want it over and done with as quickly as possible. Since I can't use magic to make time go faster, I hope speeding through the day myself will help instead. But he stops me at the portrait door. Yeah, he's not helping. 

His hands go to my shirt. "What are you doing?" I ask quickly, about to move away. 

"Relax," he laughs. "You unbuttoned the top buttons wrong." 

I stay completely still while he's touching me, trying not to hold my breath and keep it even instead, and the moment he moves back I run my hand over my shirt; it's smooth, bump-free and buttoned right with the top still open. The way I like it. "Thanks," I mutter. I’m not used to other people touching me. "We can go now." 

The door opens and I step out first. "Right," he says quietly. "After you."

Considering I already did that, I assume it's sarcasm he didn't want me to hear. So, I just ignore him and walk away, my cane at the back of my neck and my arms over it so it doesn't fall. "Do you actually use that?" 

"...Yes." I do, just not in the way you're normally meant to. Except for when I need to at home of course. "You don't have to fill the silences with random small talk, you know." 

"I want to talk to you," he tells me, sounding slightly disappointed. Is it because of what I said? Does he think I don't want to talk to him? I was only putting out there just in case, not that I really know what to say to him; he's only here because of Lucy after all. "I can't believe that you've been friends with Lucy for so long and we haven't spoken, because I talk to Lucy all the time."

"Well, me and Jack have to go to the library to our tutor after classes and we're there for a while. Lucy has her own work to do and all, so we don't see each other again until dinner, then the common room. Hence why people didn't think we were friends for a while. Which begs the question; why do they think we are dating?" 

I have to know. 

"I don't know." Louis Weasley, he's just so helpful. Not. 

I remove my cane from my neck to swing it lightly in my hands; my arms are starting to hurt. Louis guides me into the Great Hall to Hufflepuff's table and the first thing I grab is a piece of toast. I don't want to stay here; I want to get to class. 

"Morning, boys."

"Morning, Lucy," he replies. 

"Bye, Lucy." I glare and walk away. 

"Any trouble?" I hear her ask. 

Do you know what he replies with? "Nothing I couldn't handle."

Dick. 

Yeah, I went there. Nothing he couldn't handle? Ha. If he could've handled the 'wake me up' situation, he wouldn't have stooped so low as to actually take my blanket away. I must add to his punishment, something suitable for his crime. I'll come up with something in Charms while my quill takes my notes and he has to write. Yeah…

I'm almost out of the door, wishing I'd picked up another piece of toast because I'm almost finished and still hungry, when the devil catches up to me. I can't believe Lucy thinks he's nice and helpful, well maybe I could if he weren't related to her; she corrupted him from a young age. "Here," he says softly, placing a napkin in my hands. A napkin filled with... Toast! 

You know, I might just be able to forgive him for this morning, pin it all on Lucy's influence and punish her instead. "Lucy told me to give it to you." 

Or maybe not. And here I thought he'd taken initiative, but no, he listened to her. He's digging himself a hole he can't escape from, he really is. "Thank you," I reply, taking a huge bite. I'm so hungry and I'm a growing boy. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, don't judge me.

Jack thinks I eat too much toast, that it's an addiction. He's one to talk; his need to throw himself off things for leisure is an addiction. One I'd rather not live with, I'll stick to toast thank you very much. 

"Are you always thinking?"

"My brain never shuts up," I tell him, slightly thrown by his question. 

"What are you thinking about?"

I'm mostly honest with my answer, which I give him just before I enter the classroom, breakfast finished. "Toast." 

I make my way to my seat, always at the back so I can leave quickly with little interruption, and he sits in Jack's usual seat. I hold back a sigh; I miss Jack. It's just not the same without him, to not hear his jokes in my ear and comments about people which my quill picks up and writes down. I've lost track of the comments Abby has given us about reading his words in my notes. We shouldn't make up stories about other people apparently. Personally, I think What's Their Story is a cool game. I wonder if Louis has ever played that game, or is he too nice? 

This could get boring... 

I pull everything I need out of my bag and hear Louis do the same. Once everything is sorted, I resume my usual position; arms folded over the desk, chin rested on top, eyes closed. 

Eyes open. I turn to the left, to the devil who just elbowed me in the arm. "Do you always sleep in lesson?" 

"I don't sleep, I focus on the teacher's voice so I understand the lesson and can fill in any blanks my quill might have missed," I tell him. It's only a half-lie; I never intend on falling asleep, sometimes it just happens. 

"Your quill?" As if on cue, the lesson starts and the teacher is speaking; the quill moves across the parchment, taking the notes which Abby will turn to Braille. 

"That is so not fair," he whispers. He continues to mutter about that and I hope that it’s quiet enough for my quill to not pick it up. I don't mind my quill picking up any conversations, but it's at least got to be interesting. 

"Why do you not know who I am?" I ask quietly. I've been wondering this since last night, but I ask mostly to change the subject and distract him from whatever he's saying. 

"My family say I live in my own little bubble," he replies, a small laugh escaping his lips. "Maybe they're right; I'm not the most sociable of people. I'm usually in my common room or the library or with Lucy, who only calls you Key, or the -" he stops suddenly before continuing. "Around."

Around? Ha. I believe that, probably not the way he meant it, but still... Remember when I said I hear everything? It's so true... I raise an eye-brow, I'm curious as to what he actually means now and that doesn't often happen. But he carries on speaking before I can ask anything. "I don't let people gossip when I'm tutoring them, so they don't talk about others, and when I do hear about you they call you Key. Lucy's influence, I assume considering you hate it and it's really only Lucy they can talk to. From what she said, you and Jackson rarely leave the other's side. This is a first. You must miss him." 

Correctly deduced. A Ravenclaw through and through. "I do, he's like my brother." 

"I miss my brother," Louis whispers. Ah, the boy with the girl’s name. Not my words. Okay, not just my words. "He was in Ravenclaw, too. He's like my best friend and I don't know what to do now he's graduated. It feels lonely now, like I have no one, even though I have cousins here. But they're not Dom, you know." 

The professor came our way then and we shut up quickly, silent for the rest of the lesson. But I walked out of the classroom feeling like I had more in common with the man by my side than I previously thought. 

That's a good thing, right?



A/N: Enchanted updates is on Sundays, so look out for next week. :)

Sam.

...And, yeah, male!Dom. :P


Chapter 5: Awkward Moments
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!TheInbetweener @ TDA

***


It's all so quiet.

Well, not really. I can hear people speaking in hushed tones around me and the scratching of quills on parchment, but between me and Louis there is silence. Shame, I thought he really wanted to talk to me after this morning.

I think a lot of things, though, sometimes all at once. I also think he might be sulking. In every lesson we had today, he watched me take out my quill, muttered about it being unfair then shut up for the rest of the lesson, only speaking when I asked a lesson-based question. During our free, which was right after lunch, we stayed in the Great Hall so Louis could finish marking an essay for his tutoring lesson this afternoon and I was so bored I almost wanted to do some homework. That's up there on the 'what the hell, Ciaran' scale with getting up early.

I feel like I'm being punished more than he is. Damn.

...For the record, the 'what the hell, Ciaran' scale is real; Jack, Simon and Declan made it up and use it whenever I do something they consider 'out of character'. Personally, I think they're insane.

"What are you thinking about?"

I glance up from the desk to his voice, we're at my desk in the library and he's sitting across from me. I'm surprised he's able to give me the time of day; he hasn't stopped writing since we got here an hour ago. I, unfortunately, have nothing to do while I wait for Abby to get here.

"I've been watching you for ten minutes and you haven't noticed, so you're thinking about something."

Did I say something out loud again? Or does he know how to read minds? Oh, that would be awesome... And slightly terrifying. I wonder what it would be like to know what others are thinking about you. Would you even want to know that? Deep down.

I've confused myself!

...And I haven't answered his question. Why do I even want to answer his question? The git's being punished. Oh, yes, it's because I have manners. "The scale my dorm mates came up with."

"Scale?"

I laugh quietly. "The 'what the hell -" I stop; I almost told him my name. "The 'what the hell' scale, when they think I do something I normally wouldn't they go 'what the hell' and they give it a sort of scale of one to ten on how crazy they think I am. Which is not fair because they don't have one for Jack or Lucy."

"Oh," he says. "What's a sort of scale?"

"Instead of numbers, it goes from 'oh' to 'oh, my God' and 'what the hell'. Hence the name of the scale," I explain. 

"Interesting. I have one for Lucy." I raise an eye-brow, this is brand new information. "It's called 'you're crazy'." 

Oh, it's not new. I've heard that before...

I think this is the longest conversation we've had all day. 

"So, what were you thinking about so hard that it was actually the reason you didn't notice I was watching?"

"What makes you think I know when you're watching? I can't see you," I remind him. 

"You tense up when you notice, like you know when you're being watched. I found this out this morning when you came out of the bathroom."

"Oh." I never noticed that I tense when that happens. Interesting... No, I don't care. I fold my arms onto the desk and lean forward, but then decide not to rest my chin on top. Instead I spread them apart and thread my fingers together. "I didn't know you were talking to me. This is the first actual conversation we've had since you told me about your brother in our first lesson." 

"Is it?" he asks, sounding genuinely surprised. When I nod, his tone turns teasing. "I had no idea you cared so much." 

I glare and move back. "I don't. I'm just not good with boredom, I get agitated." 

If patience is a virtue, then I guess I'm still undeserving. 

"Sorry," he says softly. "I guess I'm just not used to spending all day with someone. I focused too much on class again." 

I did it again, didn't I? I forgot about his need to help others and I've upset him because he thinks he's done a bad job. Crap. "It's okay; it's a new situation that's all. Hey, we may not even have to get used to it. Jack won't be gone for very long. The only reason it's been this long is because of some nerve damage. He's a bloody idiot." 

"So I hear," Louis replies, laughing again. There I made it better. Apparently I can do that. Awesome. "We're waiting for your tutor, right?" 

"Right," I nod. "Her name is Abby; she turns my notes from class into Braille for me to study and helps me with wandwork. Jack helps me with potions. Are you good with potions?" 

"Good enough," he answers. "Tomorrow will be fine." 

I give an appreciative nod, though I kind of hope he inwardly knows he'll just be making any potion himself while I watch because that's the only way nothing will be ruined. I am just terrible at potions, and I think I would be whether I could see or not. I change the subject, turning when I can hear footsteps. "Is this Abby?"

"No," Louis tells me.

"How longs it been?"

"One hour and twenty-three minutes."

"Then where is Abby?"

"She's not coming."

I jump out of my skin. Literally. Seriously, what the hell? I ignore her evil laughter and Louis asking me if I'm okay, while he tries to hide his laugh, and just focus on stopping my heart from jumping right out of my chest. I really don't think I mean that figuratively; my heart rate is faster than I've ever felt it.

"God, Lucy, are you trying to kill me?" She answers with more laughter. I turn to glare at Louis when he slips and lets out a chuckle. "Warn a guy next time. Don't just say no when I ask if someone's there, tell me who the bloody hell it is, or my death will be on your conscious."

"Well, I wouldn't want that," he says and I just know from his tone that he's still smiling.

"Ignore him, Lewis, he's just being melodramatic."

That gets to him. "Stop it! My name is Louis!"

She ignores him. "Abby sent a note saying she was unwell and apologizing for not coming today. I'm going back to the common room." Lucy squeezes my shoulder gently. "I'll see you later. Sorry for scaring you." 

Neither of us speak for a while; I don't know about him, but I don't want to talk to him. Not now, not ever. He really is a dick, I don't care what anyone else says about him, and I am definitely adding to his punishment. 

I hear him move and the next thing I know he's sitting next to me. "I'm sorry, I wasn't expecting that to happen or see your expression, and I shouldn't have laughed. I promise that if it's ever to happen again, I will tell you exactly who it is and I won't laugh." 

He pushes my hair back and I lean away from him automatically. I feel this is something I should really get used to, but I'm just not used to someone else touching me. "Sorry," I find myself saying. "I'm just not used to it." 

"It's fine." 

I smile softly, and then I bite my bottom lip. Damn him. It's the aftershave, I swear. It's everywhere. It's getting to me. It's evil. 

"Are you okay? You went from smiling to frowning in, like, a second."

I probably did. I won't disagree with him. But I'm not telling him why; I'm not ready to embarrass myself completely. "I'm okay, I was just thinking about something."

"Thought as much."

I swing my arm out to swat him, but he grabs me easily and drops my arm to my side. "So, what was it your tutor was going to do today? I can't write in Braille, but maybe I can help with something else."

I'm grateful for the change in topic; we're going back to business, so to speak. I clear my throat. "She was going to help me with the wandwork for Charms." My eyes widen slightly when I remember how Abby helps me. "But you don't have to do that," I add quickly. 

But he stands up and takes my hand. When I pull away, Louis just takes it again, holding on tighter the second time. "Come on, stand up." He pulls slightly when I don't move. "I will lift you up."

I think about not moving, wondering if he actually could, but I'd rather not chance it. I stand up slowly and he turns me around so my back is to him. Louis let's go of me and I hear him turn the pages of my book to get this morning's lesson. I had it open when we first got to the library, but flicked through the pages before I closed it out of boredom. Now I'm glad I did; his distraction might give me time to run. 

"Here we go."

Crap. 

He picks something up from the desk and places it into my hand; my wand. Louis covers his right hand over my own while his left grips my hip. I stop breathing for what feels like forever, and then it comes out kind of ragged. This is so strange for me.

I really hope he doesn't notice. If he does, he doesn't say anything; he just talks me through it, moving my hand as he does so I can copy. The first time I try, he still holds my hand. The second time, his hand moves to my hip. I get it wrong the second time, but it's not my fault I can't concentrate with him holding on to me. 

"It's okay," he whispers, gripping my hand again, and he talks me through it once more. He moves closer, pressing my back to his chest like in my room this morning, and his scent seems to completely take over. 

I have no idea what's going on in my head or his, but there's one think I do know; if he was sulking before, he's definitely not now. 

*** 

After the library incident on Thursday, I kept my distance. I sat in the corner and practiced my wandwork while Louis tutored someone I don't know. Then we met Lucy at Hufflepuff on our way to dinner and I made sure she was between the two of us the entire time. I'm pretty sure my actions confused them because I heard them talking about me in the Great Hall. I just ignored everyone until Roxanne came over and suddenly Declan’s alien conversation became interesting. 

Lucy and I left Louis in the hall and went back to our common room. She tried to ask me what was going on with me, but I shook my head and didn't answer, going to straight to my room. 

On Friday, I actually got up first time, but that was mostly because I hadn't slept much the night before. It was quiet all through our classes, breaks and lunch. We barely talked in the library when I went through my Braille notes; Abby was still ill. Dinner was pretty much the same was Thursday. 

And I'm not entirely sure why. 

I narrow it down to awkwardness. I'm new to this entire situation and I guess that, like Louis, I'm still unsure how to handle having someone new in my life, however brief. But I think he's handling it better than me. 

What happened in the library really freaked me out, I felt things for another that I'd never felt before, that I'd never been able to; it's not like I've ever been able to stare at a guy and talk about what I find attractive, like my cousin does. 

Not that I could ever see myself doing something as girly as gossiping about boys; that would be weird. 

I don't think I like Louis, I've never really liked anyone. I think it's because he's only the second guy to ever be so close to me in any way (although the first one doesn't really count; it was basically light flirting and touching and me realizing why I'm not interesting in girls). It was new and different and a little scary, but I'll get used to him being around me and the feeling will pass. 

Thank God I already know I'm gay, otherwise that would have come as a big surprise. That definitely would have freaked me out; he probably wouldn't be standing next to me right now. 

"Are you okay?" He asks me that a lot. "You've been ignoring me since Thursday afternoon and I'm not sure why." 

"I just had something on my mind, but it's fine now, I think." I don't say anything more and wait for Lucy to come back. We're at St. Mungo's to see Jack again. Digby is always nice enough to let us use his office fireplace to floo to the hospital. My mother's influence, er, friendship, I'm sure. Jack's talking to his healer first and Lucy's gone to see how much longer we have to sit in the waiting room and, well, wait. 

The door opens. "Come on, then." 

Louis and I follow Lucy to Jack's room. "So you're not ignoring me anymore?" he asks hesitantly. 

I don't turn to face him. "No."

"Oh, good." He sounds relieved. "Here." 

Louis holds open the door for me and I make my way to my chair; the one closest to Jack's bed. Then I lift my feet up and rest it on the edge. "Hey, trouble." 

"Key." I glare. "Hey, stud." 

"Is he talking to me?" Louis asks from my left. I nod. "Why?"

"They like to make up stories about people," Lucy reminds him. "This is what I believe to be the most ridiculous." 

"Why? What is it?"

What is it? It's the reason I know he's been 'around'. Oh, I still don't know whether I want to laugh or throw up now that I remember it. Part of me hopes Jack doesn't mention it, that he makes something up and changes the subject. But the universe is not that kind to me; Jack laughs and he's cocky and smug. 

"Rumor has it you were with Tyler Davies in an empty classroom not far from Hufflepuff." 

"What?"

"Told you it was ridiculous," Lucy says. 

But Jack's not done yet. "Hey, Key, wasn't it you who told me that?"

Louis' in my face, I can feel his breath tickle me. "How the hell did you know that?"

"It's true?!"

Ciaran: 1. Universe: 1. Well done. 

"Next time you wanna do something like that, make sure you're alone first," is all I say. 

"Oh, my God," he groans. Lucy repeats her question, her voice louder than the first time. "Yes, Lucy, it's true," he sighs, sounding slightly scared. Maybe he should be; she always thought he was the innocent one, a good boy through and through. He's not; it's the only social setting he's good at apparently. 

Uh oh... "Jack, am I really bitchy in private?"

"Yes and in your head." 

"Oh..." Okay, world, Ciaran's secretly a bitch. Get used to it. 

I don't hear what Lucy is muttering about, but Louis groans into my lap and I'm getting awkward again. So, so awkward. I want him to move. Universe, I'll give you an extra point if you move him. 

...The universe cannot be bribed. 

He lifts up his head. "What else do you know?" Louis whispers. I raise an eye-brow and rest my cheek into my open palm, my elbow propped on the arm rest. It's all I can do not to push him away. 

I really don't deal with awkward situations very well. 

"I need to know what I'm getting myself into by helping you," he continues. "Are there any more surprises I should know? What do you know about my personal life?"

"Only what I was there to hear... And what I heard about you and Meyer."

He groans again. Seriously? No bloody way.

"That's true?" Jack asks and it's the first time I've heard him so genuinely confused and unhappy. "You went out with Justin Meyer, too! Do you get a kick out of sleeping with all of our enemies?"

"He's not our enemy," I remind him. 

"He's friends with Daniel Scott; we hate him. Leave."

"Stop being melodramatic, Jackson," Lucy says angrily. They're always angry with each other. Love can do that... I take it Jack was telling Louis to leave.

"I don't deal with traitors. He should not be a part of our group."

"I now understand why you don't know why he doesn't have his own 'what the hell' scale," Louis mutters. He stands up. "And for the record, both of those relationships were so brief, they might as well have been purely physical, sorry Lucy. I went out with each of them for a couple of weeks at most and dumped both primarily because of their bad words against you... Well, against Lucy. Also, because I didn't want a relationship, but that's not the point." 

And I thought this would be awkward. I tap Jack with my foot and I hear him yelp. Oops. "What did the doctor say?" 

"Oh, I can walk again, well, a little, and it's just my left leg that is still healing, but Healer Jones said I can go soon. I'll probably be using crutches, though. You can help me around school, right?" 

"Is he smirking?" I ask Louis, who says yes, and I give him a smirk of my own. "That's what Louis' for." 

"Well, I think the traitor can handle two jobs." 

It's silent for at least a couple of minutes and I'm a little scared about what I can't see. I hate silent conversations. 

"Lucy said no," Louis speaks at last. "I'm only helping the sneak in the chair who knows more about my life than he should." 

"But you said it yourself that we rarely leave each other's side," I remind him. "Would you really ignore someone in need right be your side?"

I'm not so sure I should have said that; Jack can't stop laughing, his smug tone filling the room; Lucy is snapping at him (again); Louis' either been stunned into silence or is choosing to watch rather than comment. The second option makes him relatively smart. 

"Well, I'm going to the restroom," I announce, getting to my feet. That shuts them up. 

 "You remember where it is?"

 "Lucy, thanks to Jack I practically live here; I can find the restroom." 

"I'll go with him." I groan and open my mouth to tell him I'm fine when he presses his lips to my ear. "Please don't make me stay with them." 

And that shuts me up, not just because of his proximity; my crazy best friends are a handful when together. It's best not to spend too much time with them at the same time. I nod and we leave their room and whatever their new argument is about. 

Welcome to the group, Louis. Gonna run away yet?



A/N: Ciaran should not know about other people's business, especially when he tells Jack, who you've finally met. And who is now here to stay. :D

Next chapter: Louis talks about his relationships... See you next Sunday. :)

Sam.


Chapter 6: Clearing the Air
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!TheInbetweener @ TDA

***


I love Sundays. There's no school, no one making do homework and, most importantly, absolutely no getting out of bed. I refuse to get up until dinner this evening and no one is going to stop me. Although I'm not so lazy that I'll go down to dinner in my pyjamas again (it's how the rumor that I can't get myself dressed spread). Admittedly, I was twelve and wearing dragons. Now I'm seventeen and wearing a plain, dark green top with black cotton pants (I know because Delcan pointed it out when he got them out for me. Weird, right?); I could actually get away with that.

If this is heaven, I died a happy man.

And the door opens. I'm getting the feeling that the saying 'all good things come to an end' is very much true when it comes to me because even the little things that make me happy have a habit of disappearing. 

I groan into my pillow. 

"You actually are still in bed," he says quietly, yet disbelievingly. I don't know why, you'd think he'd get me by now. "You really do love your sleep, don't you?" 

"Not one of my better traits," I mutter honestly. "It's too early."

"It's one in the afternoon." 

I don't even resist the urge to not roll my eyes. "Like I said; early." 

Go away. Go away... Louis makes his way over to the bed. He kneels down in front of me, I can feel his breath on my face and my fingers brush his arm when he folds them on my bed. 

Oh. There's no sleeping for Ciaran just yet. I say just yet because he can't stay here forever... Can he? 

"I just want to talk to you about yesterday," he tells me softly. If he wants to keep me awake, he should really talk louder. 

"What about yesterday?" 

"What you heard. What you think," he mutters. Ah, now I understand what he means. I don't understand why he wants to tell me. "I'm not like that. I've only ever been with three guys in less than two years." 

If he wants to defend his actions, shouldn't he be telling Lucy this? I'm so confused and being half asleep is not helping that. But he still continues. "Yes, I was with Tyler in that classroom, but I should have clarified in the hospital; I did not sleep with him, we were just kissing. We were seeing each other and we were on our way to Hufflepuff and he saw Lucy, he took me to the classroom instead because I'd already said no to Ravenclaw. They're the biggest bunch of gossips I've ever met and I wanted the relationship private. Kissing was as far as it got. Despite what Lucy tells you, I can say no."

I should hope so...

"As for Justin, it was a couple of weeks and a... A date," he continues, hesitating slightly at date. I understand what he means, I don't know why he hesitated... Unless Meyer's bad in bed. Please universe, let him be bad in bed.

...Was that jealousy? Uh oh. 

"Neither lasted very long," he says, still keeping that soft, quiet voice, but I'm now wide awake. "Tyler was talking about Lucy and her 'idiot friends' as he put it, I didn't like it. And Justin started talking about something Daniel was going to do to you all and how great it was going to be and I just got up and left. I dumped them for who they were, but it would have happened anyway."

"Why?" I find myself saying. Why? Why do I want to know? 

"We spent all day together on Wednesday and I still forgot and ignored you, can you see me in a relationship?"

"That was one time, you were getting used being in a new situation. You got better," I defend him. I'm absolutely defending him as someone who can be trusted to help me, so he doesn't feel bad at all because I don't want to deal with an upset Louis. It has nothing to do with him being in any relationships with anyone, specific or otherwise, because I don't care about that. At all. Nope. 

"Yeah," Louis says and he sounds a little happier than when he came in. "Well, I just wanted you to know that I'm not like how it might have looked. I don't do that." 

"Why did you want me to know?" 

"I -" He stops himself and seems to really think before answering. "I don't know really. I guess it's because we spend all day together; I'd rather tell you the truth now than wonder if you're jumping to conclusions and giving me weird looks." 

I have to laugh a little; if it had bothered me, I'd have given him weird looks from the beginning. I tell him just that and then he has to laugh while he agrees. "Who was the third guy?"

Oh, Ciaran. Why can't you just let it go? But he answers me. "My first. He lives in France, near my grandparents. He was just a summer romance, you could say. I didn't see it going anywhere; he was a few years older than me. I came back to England and he met someone new. Anyway, I'll leave you to sleep now. I just wanted you to know."

He gets up and walks away. He's probably almost to the door when I lift myself up from my stomach and call him back. "I'm not a gossip, people talk about me and I hate it, I would never do that to someone else. I heard you and I told Lucy, Jack was there, too, and he heard. They didn't believe me, though, for different reasons I'm sure. It was rarely spoken of after that, only when Jack wanted to get a reaction out of Lucy. No one else knows, we never told anyone. And it was Davies who told me about you and Meyer, he probably thought the same as Jack, being 'enemies' and all. He thought he'd get a reaction, but it didn't work and I don't think he told anyone else either. I just wanted you to know that." 

"Thank you." I smile, nod and lie back down. I feel better, maybe I can sleep again. But then he's back at my side, in the same position as before. "Can I ask you a question?" 

I nod slowly, if it means I get to sleep afterwards I welcome his question. But when I feel his hand trace the side of my face, near my eye, I wish I could take it back. I don't want his question. "What's it like?" he whispers. 

I shrug in reply, then sigh. "It's like someone turned the lights out and I can't find the switch. It's been so long that I don't remember where the switch is." 

"How -"

"That's two questions." I interrupt him, burying my head in my pillow. "And we've run out of time. Join us next week for another episode of Awkward Talks." 

Laughing softly, Louis gets up. "I'll see you later." 

My lip curves up a fraction. "See you." 

As soon as the door closes, I lift myself up to turn my head and drop back down like dead weight, thinking of Louis.

Man, that's bad timing. 

***

"It's five thirty, Earthling." 

I really hate the alarm clock Declan got me last Christmas. It wakes me up by talking to me. It's not just a beep or some music, it talks to me. And it calls me 'Earthling'.

When you can't see what it is, you have a habit of forgetting you have it and hearing that weird, whiny voice and 'Earthling' can really scare you. 

No? Just me? It terrifies me. 

It takes me a few minutes to turn off the damn thing and I literally crawl out of bed, getting off my hands and knees once I feel for the door. 

I don't have my stick (it's a stick today), I left it in my room, so once I find the wall at the top of the stairs I lower myself down. When I was little, even before I lost my sight, my parents would tell me to sit on my bum on my way down the stairs because then I wouldn't fall. I admit, I still do that when I'm lazy or tired. Today is a bit of both. 

Sliding down marble is just not that same as carpet, it can hurt, but I'm careful, even though a little cold. I wish I had put socks on before coming down, but I don't wanna go back up the stairs, so I ignore the chills and continue to the couch. I get a little grouchy when I hear voices, they know I like my corner on a Sunday. But then I recognize the voices, particularly the male voice on the right. 

"Jack?"

"Hey, CJ. Told ya I'd be out soon." 

"I didn't think you meant the next day." I move to sit in my corner (on my left) and put my feet up on the table. They're nudged slightly when someone steps over and Lucy sits in the space between the arm rest and my leg, her legs over mine and stretched out across the couch. "Who said?"

"Shush, you took my seat," she says, getting comfy. 

"I look at you two and it amazes my why people think you're together despite the fact that one of you is gay." Jack is heavy on the sarcasm. Although, now that I know about that rumor I'm starting to see it more. I don't care and this probably won't change, but I get it now. 

I change the subject. Quickly (the thought still makes me a little ill). "Why did they let you out today?"

"I told you, I can walk. I just need crutches because of my left leg," he explains, chuckling. "They put on a stronger cast because I wouldn't wait until the end of the week. If I spent another moment in there, they'd have to move me to the psych ward. I refused."

Lucy tuts. "Personally, I think you'd fit in that ward very well, Jackson. It literally screams home." He mutters something I don't hear and she cuts him off. "So, what did Lou want?" 

I don't know what to say; Louis wanted me to know, but did he trust me to keep it quiet? Was I to keep it a secret from Lucy? He trusts his cousin and I'm not entirely sure why he's so secretive, but it's his life. I decide to play it safe; if she wants to know more than I tell her, she can go to Louis herself. "He told me what happened that day; they were only making out, no sex." 

"So, you were wrong?" 

I hope my shock looks genuine. "No, I was right; I said he was with Davies in the classroom, I never said anything about sex." 

Truthfully, I didn't care. I do now, it seems, but I didn't then. I'm still not exactly happy about that, it's odd, but I think once I cleared my head I started to understand. 

"Luce, you can like someone after a few days, can't you?" 

I hear them both gasp. Jack gasps? 

"Oh, no."

"Really?" 

I roll my eyes. "No, not like that. I don't have those feelings for him. God, it's only been four days."

"Never heard of love at first sight?" she asks with a smug tone and she runs her finger down the side of my face again. I surpress a shiver, remember Louis and his question. "Well, kinda." 

"You're evil," I tell her, glaring, and Jack agrees with me. "But I do like him and I think that -"

"Oh, no."

"Really?"

"Please say no."

I hold out my hand and, as always, they shut up. I love that; it's the only thing I've got. "Yes, Jack."

"But he's a traitor!" 

"I don't care," I innunciate each word slowly. "I think Louis should stay. We can add another member to our group." 

"I don't even like that she's in our group, at least she hasn't dated people we hate."

He lets out a small yell in pain. "I hate them, Lewis is impartial; he doesn't count." 

"Two things. Did you kick him? And why Lewis?" 

"What makes you think I kicked him?"

"Your legs are by his and your hands are on my chest."

"Oh. Brilliantly deduced. Well done," Lucy approves. "I'll explain Lewis later, I'm hungry. Go get dressed."

"No. Just be thankful I'm wearing underwear this time." 

Yeah, I decided to just leave it. Screw Scott, his bullies and everyone else. I'm too lazy and tired to want to get dressed. They both scoff (yet they think they have nothing in common. Yeah, right...) and stand up. I hear clanging metal on the floor. Jack's crutches, I bet.

You know, I think I'll leave my stick upstairs. Jack's got enough for the both of us. Let's see how he likes it...



A/N: Okay, so I've decided  to update this whenever I have a chapter done because I wanna get enough in for the challenge. I'm thinking every couple of days, though no more than a week for each. Maybe after the challenge, I'll go back to Sundays, but probably not. :)

Next chapter: Ciaran plays one of his games on Roxanne...

Sam.


Chapter 7: The Perk to being Me
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!TheInbetweener @ TDA

***


"I'll see you both tomorrow, yeah?" Abby messes up my hair just because she knows I hate it, then moves away. "And you stop sulking," she scolds, obviously to Jack. "I'm glad you're finally out of hospital, it's not been the same without you two together. See you, Louis."

"Bye, Abby." 

I wave and listen to her leave. Abby came back Monday, saying she felt much better, and thanked us both for the card we didn't even know we'd gotten for her, let alone signed. I appreciated what Louis did so much, I almost sold my soul in return. Almost. I'm not that stupid. I'm not even sure why he did it, I just know that he talked to Lucy. 

But, like any guy faking doing something they didn't actually do, I accepted her gratitude with a smile, told her it was no problem and returned the hug. It was in everyone's best interests. I introduced her to Louis that day, he chose to stay with us to finish his homework. Well, he offered to move first, but Abby said it was fine, that he had to stay so she could finally meet the only other person able to put up with me in the mornings. I was outraged; of course he could put up with me, he was only helping less than a week!

...I mean, I'm not that bad!

You know, it's not even worth lying to myself. My name is Ciaran and I like my sleep, thank you very much. 

Louis and Abby get on very well, it turns out. After two days, you'd think they'd known each other forever. I think he'll fit in just fine in our little group. 

Oh, right, I still need to tell him that...

Jack groans and stretches before I can even open my mouth and his crutches echo on the floor. "Alright, I'm off. My healer says I still need to do my walking excerises for my leg, so I'm going back to the common room. You coming, Key?" 

I grimace, but bite back my many comments; it's the only name, hated or otherwise, that Louis knows, as he still doesn't know my actual name, so it's the only thing others can call me around him. They're loving it, Jack and Lucy, I can tell. 

I almost want to tell him my name. But not quite. He keeps trying to get people to tell him, but my people work quickly, and by people I mean Declan and Simon, and no one will tell him. Personally, I think it's more because they just don't care than wanting to help with his punishment/my amusement.

Not that it matters; I still get what I want. I always get what I want. I guess that's just the one perk to being me. And by me I mean well off parents and rich grandparents who like to spoil their favorite grandson. 

It's a... Hard... Life. 

There was something I wanted to say... Oh. "So, what did you think? Hanging out with a couple of nutters and me?" 

He chuckles quietly, we are in a library after all, and I hear the thud of a book being shut along with the sound of rustling papers. "Not bad," Louis finally answers. 

"Just not bad?" I ask, trying to sound casual. "So, you wouldn't want to hang out with us more often?"

It's quiet for a moment and the next time he speaks, I almost jump out of my skin and I stand up because he's right next to me. "Why? Want me to?" 

"Don't do that again!" He laughs at me, so I shake my head. "No, not anymore I don't. I change my mind; you are not allowed in our group." 

"I'm sorry I scared you," is all he says and I bet the devil can make a sarcastc comment sound sincere. 

"You're lucky I like you," I glare. "Or I wouldn't still be stood here." 

"I am lucky you like me. And for the record, you're not so bad yourself." I know that tone, when your voice is low and quiet and flirtatious. Only two other people in the world have spoken to me that way; the guy who made me realise I was in fact gay (that his name escapes me really shows just how much he mattered) and - 

"Here you are." Oh no. Roxanne Weasley. "Hey, Louis."

"Roxy," he replies. 

"How come you're still here, your lesson's already over and Jack's gone?" 

How the hell does she know that? Not just that, how the hell does she know anything? Well, almost. "He's hanging out with me, Rox. Would you like to join us?"

"Y-"

"No."

"No?" 

I shake my head a little to quickly; I feel woozy. "No. Roxanne, here, is very busy. She has to go."

"I'm completely free, I promise," she tells me, running a finger down my chest and giggling. I hear Louis hide a snigger by coughing. Whether he's laughing at the situation or whatever expression I'm probably not hiding very well, I don't know. Not that Roxanne notices any expression, she never seems to. Ever. 

I remove her hand from me hesitantly and let go. "But you will be busy because I want you to do something for me."

"Really?" she asks, her voice raising with obvious excitement. 

I feign the same excitement and can only hope I pull it off correctly. "Really. Do you like games?"

"I love games."

"Me too!"

"We have so much in common," she whispers. I swear she moves just that little bit closer to me, invading my beloved, personal, Roxanne-free space. Please make her move. 

"You have no idea," I finally answer her, trying not to smirk at that. "I have a game for you, Roxanne, a very new game called What D'ya Mean? Wanna play?"

"She just nodded," Louis says from behind. "She's very enthusiastic about this game." 

I ignore him; though I'm grateful, I'm just a little busy. "So, I'm gonna give you a clue about my life and you have to figure it out. Sound good?"

"Yes."

I give her my most convincing grin; it just screams 'excitement' with 'leave me alone' hidden underneath. You'd be a fool not to believe it. "Here it is: It's not the female population of Hogwarts that you have to worry about."

Silence. For about a minute. It's the longest it's ever been. "What do you mean?"

"That's the fun of the game, you have to figure it out." I push her backwards gently and lead her away. "The moment you figure it out, you let me know." 

"And you'll be right here?"

"I'll be right here."

"What if you have to leave?"

"You'll find me," I promise her. "You always do." 

I swear I'm holding back tears, more so when she tells me that's true. I concentrate on her, until I can no longer hear her muttering or her footsteps. In the few seconds it takes for her to disappear from my hearing range, Louis has figured out exactly what I meant. 

"You're gay," he says, sounding quite shocked by that. 

"You're quick," I reply. 

"It took me a little longer than it should." I scoff. "I was thinking maybe it was due to the fact that you don't talk to people, that you were saying you won't be seeing anyone. But it was your tone that convinced me; I got a 'there's a reason you can't have me' vibe."

Yeah, she's my stalker and she's insane; it wouldn't happen if I were straight either. I roll my eyes and hold out my hand. "Right. Come here please." Louis takes my hand immediately and I pull him in front of me; he hits the bookshelf. "Sorry." 

"Call us even."

I smirk. "I'm still not telling you my name." He says damn, I laugh. "You're gonna play lookout for me, Louis. Where's you're cousin?"

"By the librarian's desk," he says. "You know, she not bad once you get to know her. She must really like you if she's like this; she's usually -"

"Normal?" 

"I was going to say not as forceful or direct." He's being nice, of course he is; it's who he is and it's his cousin we're talking about. But I can so tell he wanted to say yes. I felt him tense; Lucy does that when she doesn't say something she wants to. Must be a family trait. 

"I'm sorry, Louis, but this is the only Roxanne I've had the pleasure of meeting. She didn't talk to me at all until last year," I remind him. I lift my hand to his face, run my finger down until I feel his ear, then move closer. Let's see how he like it. "When she's gone and shes far enough away that she won't see us, we run." 

"A little mean, don't you think?" 

"She scares me. Help me." 

"Okay," Louis murmurs. "But I have two things I wanna say first." I raise an eye-brow, even though he's in front and can't see me. "One, your breath is tickling my ear, and two, you smell like caramel. I love caramel." 

And it's time to move back. Damn those desserts at lunch, which are always so good that I take more and eat them in lesson. They're just so delicious. I try to forget about the cakes and focus on his words. "You know for someone who proclaims himself to be an anti-social workaholic who can't handle a relationship, you sure do like to flirt." 

"You called it flirting, I was just stating facts." 

I glare. Damn him. He could have been, they were all true, but I know he wasn't. I could tell. "Stop watching me and be look out." 

He laughs. "You did again. It's like your own little radar, you just know. So, you're really gay."

I feel for the desk and lower myself down, glad that I don't feel like I'm being watched anymore. "Yeah, so?" 

"I'm just glad I know," he replies. I frown; I don't understand. I ask him what he means, feeling oddly cautious. "It's good to know you're in my league, is all."

Now I have to laugh. "In your dreams, Weasley." 

"Whatever you say," Louis says in that quiet, flirty tone again. I hate that tone. "But fair warning, I've already told you that I'm the dreamer in the family, the one who spends most of his time in his own little world, and I have a vivid imagination." 

The universe hates me and has an ally in Louis Weasley. 

Ciaran: 1. Universe: 2. 

That score will not last. 

"I can't see her anymore," he says at last. Finally! I can get out of here and to Hufflepuff, where it's normal and sane (for me) and there are no Ravenclaws. 

He passes me my bag and stick and takes my hand. "Explain," I demand, holding up are still joined hands. Why are they still joined? I'll find out. 

"If I see her, do you want me to know exactly where you are so I can hide you quickly or do you just want to wander and hope she doesn't see you?" 

I admit, I hold on a little tighter. He better not be smug about it, though I think he's not going to tell me that. "I'll accept this time. Go." 

Chuckling (I hate it more than the tone), he leads the way, holding my hand behind his back so I'm right behind him. He stops every few seconds before he continues, which I can only guess is him checking she's nowhere near, but we make it out of the library without her seeing us. It doesn't take us long before we're at Hufflepuff and I open my mouth to say the password, but it's already opening. 

"Hey, guys. I was just coming to find you," Lucy says. "Extra work in the library, Lewis?"

Louis makes a weird noise. I imagine smoke is coming out of his ears; it's a funny picture. "No, we were talking," he finally tells her. 

"About what?" 

"So nosey," I pretend to complain. I change the subject before he can tell her; she'll only use it to her advantage. Lucy has been hinting about things that should not be hinted about ever since she got the wrong idea about me liking Louis. Now she won't let it go. Apparently we're perfect for each other.

I don't see it... And I don't just mean that literally. 

I can only imagine the horror I'd go through if she knew he was flirting with me. Oh, wait, 'stating facts'. 

"So, Louis has to go now, I bet he's got homework to do."

"No, I'm mostly up-to-date, I can do the rest later," he says.

"Cool," Lucy replies way too enthusiastically. "Since Key has probably already told you he made you a part of our group, you should come in and hang out with us until dinner. You can even sit with us."

"You made me part of your group?" he asks. Damn, I did. He wasn't meant to know that. It sounded like it had been a group decision in the library. I hate you, Lucy. "I would love to."

He pulls me in and sits me down on the couch and he's on my left. I pretty much ignore any and all conversation until I hear my name, then my head snaps up. 

"Are they -?" Jack's voice. 

"Shush." Lucy's voice. 

"But why?"

"Jackson!" 

I'm not liking this. I only know that it's about Louis and me, so I focus on Louis and me. Then I know. 

Ciaran: 1. Universe: 2. 

Louis: 1. 

Because he's sitting there outright laughing... And he's still holding my hand.



A/N: I hope you enjoyed this chapters. I admit, Ciaran's games are fun to write, especially this one with Roxanne. :)

Sam.


Chapter 8: He Knows Me
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MagicalInk @ TDA

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I ignored Louis after the hand-holding incident, actually I ignored them all. Childish? Maybe. But I've learnt that they always seem to be amused by my reactions, and I refused to give them one. So I didn't speak at dinner, no matter how many times they tried to get me to say something.

People say I'm too stubborn for my own good. They're right, I know this. When I was a kid, I would sulk for ages if I didn't get something I wanted. I didn't scream (at all) or cry (much), I just sat there with my arms folded tightly across my chest and did nothing, I wouldn't talk or eat or let them touch me. I could do that for hours. Still can. 

This is what they are all calling this, all three of them; sulking. And it didn't just last that night. I didn't utter a word when Louis woke me up or at breakfast, Jack said Louis can keep that job permanently, but he'd given up talking to me. By the time we got to class, I had figured out what he was doing; nothing. Just letting me do things my own way. I wouldn't be surprised if he had understood why I was ignoring them, though he may not know the exaact reason as to what caused it; it's to get to Lucy. 

When Louis' around, she is more subtle about what she thinks. But once he's gone, it's full on talking about me and Louis and him holding my hand. It's more because it doesn't get to her cousin than just not wanting him to know, I think. He knows a lot more about what she thinks than he's letting on, because I know he understands what her subtle words mean, but he doesn't say anything. So, he knows and he must just ignore it. He has to know. 

If we had known each other longer, I'd have accepted his silence; I'd have done the same. But we haven't known each other that long. That's the only thing that gets to me. So, Lucy is being ignored, the others only to prove I won't pull a face they can laugh at, and Louis let me. 

It continued well into Friday afternoon; I spoke to Declan and Simon, to teachers, to Abby, but not to them. Not until the afternoon. 

Our second to last lesson can technically be called our last, because what's a last lesson for others is our free period, the only one Lucy shares with us, and Abby let's Jack and I have this Friday off. So we spend it outside, while it's still September, still warm. We're by the lake. I lie on my back in the sun, can feel it warm my skin; my face, arms and chest (I opened up a few buttons a while ago). It's not too hot, but warm enough that the light breeze can keep me cool. 

Lucy and Jack are in the middle of a heated duscussion, about what I have no idea, it's something new everyday, and Louis is quiet. But I know he's still here; the wind carries the scent of his aftershave my way, and he's close, too; I can hear him breathing. 

I don't turn my head when I hear the crunching of grass on my right. "Mind if I lie here?" he asks quietly. 

"No." My first word in front of them and neither of the other two hear, just Louis. He lies close to my side, his hand brushes over my arm when he moves it, but he's not too close as to cause Lucy to notice. She notices everything when she's looking for it. "What are they doing?" 

"Arguing about Jack using his crutches," says Louis. We keep our voices quiet. It's peaceful out here and I don't want to disrupt that; does he thinks so, too? Or is he just copying me? "He thinks he should be able to walk without them when he's not in a crowd, so he can heal. She thinks he should listen to his healer and use them for the two weeks. He's only got a week and two days to go."

"He gets bored easily." 

"You don't."

I finally turn my head. "What makes you say that?" 

"I've never met someone who can ignore people for as long as you have," he admits. "Not even my brother, and he is good." 

I smile, but make no sound; I don't want the others to notice yet. The longer I can put off Lucy saying something, the better. We're having a nice moment and I want to enjoy it before it's ruined. "Can I ask you a question?" 

"Anything you want," he whispers. He sounds like he could fall asleep at any minute. It's completely understandable; the sun, the breeze, the calm and the quiet, it's like nature's very own lullaby. I've fallen asleep many times while here. 

"Do you flirt with everyone?" 

He laughs softly and I hold my breath as I wait, but they still don't hear. "No." For some reason, I'm glad to hear that. "I mostly focus on school and family, but I do still date and I flirt. I don't think much of it, though." 

"What do you mean?" 

"Flirting feels more like a casual thing to me, than a way of showing someone you actually like them. So, I'll flirt with a guy if they're cute but I have no interest in taking it further. Or if we've just met and we're having fun and know that it won't end in much more." As he explains this all to me, I feel more and more inclined to like him. I don't have to push him away for thinking he might like me, I don't have to worry that it's too fast because it's not been very long. Everything's fine, Louis and I are fine, Lucy can stop with her comments and Jack can stop saying I'm leaving for the dark side. "Why do you ask?" 

Feeling so much better about everything, I simply shrug and relax on the grass. "I just wondered. I can be nosy like that." 

This time, when we both laugh, it's louder and they finally realise I'm talking. They use that as a way to get my opinion on their little debate. Well, I say opinion... 

"Tell Jackson he's being stupid and should listen his healer!"

"Tell Lucy she's not my sitter and I can do as I please!"

I don't hesitate with my answer. "I think that if Jack wants to be an idiot and ignore the healer, why stop him?" 

They both take offense to that, Jack for practically calling him an idiot and Lucy for kinda agreeing with him, but it's only Lucy who says anything. "CJ!" 

I pull myself up quickly, Louis follows just as fast because his shoulder knocks into mine almost immediately, and I give her the mother of all glares. Damn her! 

"CJ?" Louis asks. "That's your name? Well, I assume they're your initials, but I can work with it. CJ, I like it."

I only just hear what he says. "I hate you, Lucy." 

"Sorry," she says, though she doesn't sound as if she is at all. It was probably her revenge for not siding with her; she's always ruining my games when she's mad at me. I suppose I should be glad she called me 'CJ' and not 'Ciaran'; he still has to figure out my name, he just has a smaller list to work with now. "Free period is long over now, I'll be in the library, I have homework to finish before Hogsmeade tomorrow. Good bye, Jackson; Lewis; CJ." 

Only Louis answers her, I bet he's only being polite. "I'm gonna go, too. My leg's starting to cramp. I'll see you guys later." His crutches crush the grass as he leaves; I knew he'd still use them. 

"So, what now, CJ?" I narrow my eyes, more so at what Lucy did than at him. But he misinterprets that. "I can go back to Key if you want?"

I dread the thought of that name sticking any longer than it has to. Since it doesn't have to... "CJ is fine, you deserve a clue after all."

"I will figure it out," Louis promises. "What now?" 

"I just want to sit here and enjoy the sun," I answer. To leave would mean moving and I don't want to do that. Besides, it's not like I have anything better to do. "What do you want to do?" 

"Get to know you better." 

"Besides my name, haven't we all told you enough?" I grin. But it drops quickly when he runs his hand down the side of my face, just like he did in my room. He doesn't ask what I think he does, though. 

"How do you know when I'm coming?" I tap the side of my nose. "That's what my siblings do when they want me to keep my nose out of their business."

I like his siblings. But that's not what I meant. "My sense of smell." I guess it's time I finally told him. "You're the only one in this school with that aftershave." 

I hear him sniff. "Oh. It's French. My grandparents got it me one year. I'd never had it before and wasn't sure, but they talked about how expensive it was and I felt bad about not wanting to use it. So I used it everyday, so I could use it all and have something else. But they decided to get me a bottle every Summer when I visited and again at Christmas. It's not bad actually, but I very much look forward to something new."

I swear to God, if he gets rid of his aftershave, I'll kill him... I did not just think that! 

"Interesting," I force out. Of all the things to say... 

"Not really. Can you really tell what a person's like just by by touching them?" 

"You watch way too many movies," I laugh. 

"I only watched them when I used to stay at Uncle Harry's or Ted's," he tells me. "Can you?"

My laughter dies down a little when I realize he genuinely wants to know, but I don't lose my smile. "I don't know, I've never done it before." 

"That would be weird, do you think? Knowing things about a person just by touching them, it sounds more like a super power," Louis says. 

I agree; imagine that actually working. I admit, I'm intrigued. I wonder how much I can figure out about Louis with just my hands. I stand up before I have a chance to change my mind. When am I ever gonna get this close to him again? This is a good excuse... Er, experiment.

"What are you doing?"

"Stand up."

"Are we leaving?" 

I shake my head and hold out my hand. He takes it and I pull him forward. "I wanna try it. Lucy says you have blond hair and blue eyes; that's all I know about you physically." I raise my hand to my hair and move it across; it stops at his forehead, just below a small fringe. "About an inch or so taller than me."

Both my hands go to his face and run down his cheeks gently. "Slightly round face."

My hand goes back up to his forehead and down. "Straight nose, kind of small. Girly." He snorts and his nose crease; he obviously disagrees with my joke. "Thin lips, they're chapped; you bite your lip." That was just a guess, but he nods. I continue my path down, until I reach his neck. I hesitate, but Louis urges me to continue. Swallowing my nerves, I start at his shoulders. "Strong upper body, stronger than me anyway. Toned, but not overly so; you excerise, but not all that often. You're still in shape, so you try. You can't really tell unless you're this close, you have more of a runner's build. Do you run?"

"Every morning, for about an hour, before I wake you up."

"You wake me up at six thirty!" I counter. Seriously? I just can't imagine me getting up that early! 

"I'd wake you up later than that if I thought you'd actually get up on time," he says. "But you don't. So I'm not." 

I ignore that and carry on. I stop at his hips. "And that's as far as I go in that direction," I mutter, but he hears me; he pretends to be disappointed. I go back to his arms, go down to his hands and hold them in my own. "You use your hands a lot, but not enough for them to be so rough. It's something else. You write; more than just homework?" He says no. "Something else, something that requires your hands." 

It's all quiet for a moment, while I think. I'm thinking purely innocent things, by the way. He does it often, I can tell, so it's gotta be something he loves. I've never been around him for whatever it is, so it's private, somewhere he can be alone. Lucy's never said anything about a hobby, so she either doesn't know or he's made her promise to keep it quiet. I don't think it's anything bad or he wouldn't love it. What would I do that would require space and time alone if I were him? I know what I do as me, though I can't here as there isn't one. But he doesn't do what I do, he's not a -

Artist? 

"What?"

I spoke out loud again, but I'm glad this time. "Art. Do you paint?"

He snatches his hands away. "How did you know that?"

My eyes widen. "I'm right? You do art."

"Yeah, but how did you know that?"

"I thought about what I would do if I were you from what I had to go on; you use your hands; no one knows so it's private. I thought about what I do; I'm a very different type of artist, but it made the most sense."

"You're right; piano playing is a very different type of artist." I raise an eye-brow; I didn't know he knew that. But I don't actually call myself an artist; I think of performing arts as more drama and dance. I prefer musician; it makes me sound cooler. "You have long fingers, suitable for playing the piano. My grandmother tried to get me to go to lessons, but I never got the hang of it. Plus, when you're bored or nervous, you move your fingers and it looks like your playing. You don't even realize."

...I still do that? I shrug. "Yeah, I play. My primary school teacher taught for an hour me every day after school from the age of five. I practiced at home and at my grandparents and I fell in love with music. It's my thing, you could say. See, it's not just me who notices things, I just use my hands rather than my eyes. Does that answer your question?"

"Yeah and I was right; it's like a weird super power, I don't think I'd have thought of artist."

I smirk and lie back down. I want to enjoy the afternoon in the sun. "Yeah, well, you're not as brilliant as me." 

Lying with me, Louis agrees in amusement. "Probably not, no." 

"Questions for you," I start. "Is your brother as good looking as people claim him to be?"

"Better," he says. "But he's straight."

"Don't ruin it," I moan, but I get the feeling he sees right through it. It's like he understands me, he knows me. 

Almost...



A/N: Yay for another new chapter. I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit more about the boys. :)

Sam.


Chapter 9: Below the Belt
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MagicalInk @ TDA

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I barely noticed September leave us, but I did notice the change in weather, the September taking the Summer sun away and giving us all Autumn breeze and false hope. Seriously, you go out thinking it's warm and it's actually freezing. Although, I should have learned by now that Jack lies and should not be listened to. 


I focused more on what was actually going on around me. Louis really became a part of our group. It seemed as natural as breathing to include him, like he'd been with us forever. By the time October rolled around, I genuinely started to forget that he'd only been with us since halfway through September. Man, does time fly. 


Jack's warming up to the idea of Louis hanging out with us. Well, he's stopped telling me I'm joining the dark side. Almost. He says it to Lucy to get a reaction. There's something going on with Jack, it's really strange. His fights with Lucy seem to be getting worse. They can't even go five minutes without some sort of argument and then they ignore each other for ages afterwards. I hear other people whisper how they are really starting to hate each other, that it's a miracle they can still manage to be in the same for as long as they have for me. Louis wondered if it was because they don't want me to choose between them if they stopped hanging out. I think different; Jack's defense mechanism is to argue, but he really only ever has to put up that defense if he really doesn't want someone to know something. It's how he hides from them; if they get too close or something he thinks or feels starts to show and he doesn't want it to, he'll push them away by arguing. That way he thinks they're less likely to try and get closer. It's only because of me that Lucy won't be leaving any time soon. Which begs the question; what doesn't he want Lucy to know? 

I said this to Louis and he asked me that question. He was amused by my answer; that he likes her. He said that it was probably because of his injury (he knows all about Jack's adrenaline obsession) and that he was most likely bored and restless, so he was taking it all out on him and Lucy. Well, I'll show him, even if that may partly be right. 

But Jack's not trying to persuade me that Louis should go anymore, which I'm glad for. He told me he can't handle the multitude of Weasleys in our life, which made me laugh and say that there were only two, but that Louis was not so bad once you got to know him and could stay. 

I learned a lot about Louis over the month and a bit we'd been friends, particularly about why he was so eager to leave the Great Hall the night he ran into me. That 'something' he had to do was a painting he'd been working on; it was almost done. He still won't tell me what it is of, but apparently he really wanted it finished. I also learnt that he uses the Room of Requirement, a hidden room on the seventh floor, which makes sense, considering he likes his privacy; no one could know what type of room he thinks about to get to his work. So no one would ever be able to open the door, not even accidentally. He won't let anyone go there, Lucy doesn't even know about it, all she knows is that he's always liked to draw. 

I've learnt more about the Weasley family this year than I ever had before, more so about Louis' siblings; he's close with both of them, tells them everything, but Dom is closer in age and they'll always have a bond that will be stronger than with his sister. Victoire is following in her dad's footsteps and is already making a name for herself as a Cursebreaker for Gringotts, despite her young age, due to her willingness to prove herself; hard work pays off. Dom, however, has an internship with Witch Weekly. Yeah, he's a journalist. Louis and Lucy both say it's definitely his calling in life. 

"Don't get too close to Dom. He really knows how to read people, it's like a weird, psychic power; you only have to spend a couple of minutes with the guy and he can tell you your biggest secrets." That's what Louis said and Lucy agreed completely. 

Maybe he can read minds. 

He works on the fashion side of journalism mostly, though; he says that what he loves and he's good. Although, as an intern, he is asked to write different things. He's done a few celebrity pieces and a crime story about a case of his uncle Harry's, which had interested him enough to really have to think about which field of journalism he'd want to go into in the future. Lucy thinks they'll let him write for both if they need him, because his crime piece was so good. 

I found during the month and a bit that I was actually interested in the stories Louis told me about his family, maybe because Louis himself is actually interested and not just casually passing on information before quickly going back to something else, as Lucy does. Although, when he talks about his brother, I do use it to tease him by showing a bit more interest than I should. His flirting no longer makes me uncomfortable, but it still feels good to get to him. I don't think it'll last; he'll figure out why I'm doing it eventually, I'm sure, and he'll stop feeling so uncomfortable about me pretending to like his brother. It is funny how much he stresses that Dom is straight, though. 

"Hey, are you even listening to me?" 

I jump, not expecting his voice to be so close, and come back to earth, as they say. "What?"

Louis laughs. "I said fair warning, Jack has been planning on doing something for Halloween." 

Oh. I roll my eyes. Jack loves Halloween, so I figured that was what he was doing. His planning for tomorrow has kept him relatively quiet for the past few days and he and Lucy haven't had one argument. I even heard him ask for her opinion yesterday, for what I don't know; it freaked me out a little bit, having rarely heard that happening. I can only imagine how Lucy took it. I think she asked him if he was sick at some point. 

"Do you know what it is this year?" I ask him. He thinks of something new every year; first year we trick or treated the teachers, second year we were ghost hunters, we pranked everyone we could in third year. It's good fun, but I'm not particularly in the Halloween mood this year, at least not in the trick or treat and pranking sense. Maybe I'm growing up.

...Not that I was any good at pranking. I mostly just followed Jack around for that. 

"He's been planning a way of getting a party going," Louis tells me. "I don't think he's going to be able to achieve that here in school." 

"You'll be surprised by what I can achieve." I jump again. Damn, I did not know Jack was still here with us. He was just too bloody quiet. "But it won't be in school, it'll be in the Three Broomsticks. Digby is only allowing Seventh Years to go, being of legal age and all that, and I cleared it with Rosmerta and her kid ages ago. I already got it around school, it's fancy dress and there'll be carriages to take us back by one. We're only allowed to do this because Halloween happens to fall on a Saturday."

"That explains all the talk of costumes I've heard so much about," I say, not in the least bit surprised that Jack managed to organize all of this. 

"Probably. Your costume should be here by morning, by the way."

"What is it?"

"Wait and see. Well." He changes the subject. "You'll be there to make sure he's ready and everything, won't you Louis?"

"Yes."

"Great. I'll see you both later, I've got a party to plan." 

I wait until I can't hear him anymore, I forgot how hard it is to do that when he's not banging crutches on the floor, and can assume he's left the library before I turn back to the front. Another thing I learnt about Louis is that Lucy was kinda right. Unless it's something really bad or something he's really uncomfortable with, Louis will pretty much say yes to anything you ask of him. Saying yes to Jack just now is only one example of many. Every time he talks about doing something, someone comes, asks him something and he does that instead. If I were him, I'd get sick and tired of quickly. Hell, I'm not him and I'm sick and tired of it. So, while everyone focused on Jack's plans, I made one of my own, mine a bit less Halloween related and more life related. Okay, it's nothing to do with Halloween and everything to do with life, or Louis' life specifically. 

"I would like you to do something for me." Better to just get to it, I think. 

"Sure." I try not to roll my eyes. Of course he'd say yes; he doesn't even know what it is. "What?"

"See, that's just it. You said yes before you even knew what it was. That's what you do, do you notice? You always say yes to what people want you to do. Do you even want to do half the things you do?" 

"Sometimes it's better to just not cause a fuss, depending on who you talk to," Louis laughs quietly. "Why should I say no to someone when I can do what they ask, when I can help them? I just think it's... Easier. What does this have to do with what you want me to do?"

His answers, or his questions rather, make sense when he says them, it helps in understanding why he is the way he is; he is a nice guy, genuinely so. Not everyone would do that for someone. It makes me like him just that little bit more. But it's not exactly what I feel deep down; it's like every time the subject of himself comes up he closes up and talks about something else, like he has to help others rather than himself because he doesn't want to help himself. Why do you think it took me a month to learn about his paintings in the Room of Requirement? And why I still don't know what that painting he finished that day is? 

I shake my head. I like who Louis is as a person and if I didn't feel something deep down that told me he was like this for a reason, I'd never have come up with this plan of mine. Because Lucy told me a few weeks ago, when her and Louis were laughing about Dom being stubborn, that Louis was the same. He was always helpful as a kid, wanting to do things, but never as much as when he was older and he was always saying no. 

He rarely says that anymore. I've never heard it. 

"I don't want you to do anything. If you choose not to, don't do it." I shrug. "I just think it'll be good."

"What is it?"

"I want you to write a list."

"A list?" he asks.

I can tell he's confused. "Yeah, a list. You write down every thing you want to do, things you don't have time for when you're helping others, and you make sure you do them, even if that means saying no to others every once in a while." 

"Oh, like a bucket list," he finally says, sounding amused by my plan. I think it's a good plan. I nod. "Okay." 

"Are you saying that because you say yes to everyone or is it just to humor me?" I groan. 

"I'm saying I'll write a list, I haven't said anything about actually completing the list or even going through with it at all," he elaborates. "I guess we'll see what happens. But thank you for the choice." 

"You're welcome." I smile. We don't say any more about his list; he's not tutoring anyone today so I wait for him to finish his homework and we go to Hufflepuff to get Lucy and go to dinner. Everyone is talking about the party tomorrow and now I actually know what they mean, I can join in when they ask. Except when they ask what I'm wearing, as I don't know. Apparently only Jack knows and he hasn't told anyone. I'm kinda scared. 

Me and Louis are trying to guess what my costume could be when someone taps me on the shoulder. "Hey, Rosie. What's up?" Louis asks her. 

"CJ, right? That's what Lucy told me to call you."

"Yeah," I nod, my head turning slightly to the right, only because I know that's around where she's standing. "Rose?"

"Yeah. I just wanted to ask you what Roxanne is doing. I asked her and she said you'd given her something she had to figure out." I tell her that that's true and ask her if her cousin has figured it out yet; it's been about a month, so either she hasn't or she has and can't cope. "No, she hasn't. Now I'm wondering just what it is because she won't tell me or James or anyone." 

"I told her she doesn't need to worry about the female population coming after me." She's quiet for a while, thinking I bet. Maybe she wants to figure it out to understand. I don't think she'll get it like Louis did; I was really hoping I stressed what I meant, trying to get Roxanne to figure it out then. I'm calmer now, casual. Could mean anything. 

Rose laughs suddenly and I can only assume she's laughing at something Louis has done, so I turn my head in his direction. There's a slight breeze by my ear when something moves past me really fast. His hand, I guess. Wait a minute, is he giving her signals? "Stop it," I warn. 

"Oh. Really?" She knows? "I bet Lou's just thrilled to know you're in his league, because the female population will be sad." 

She knows. And I doubt it. I scoff. 

"Don't believe me, eh?" I shrug. "Well, that's up to you. I'll see you guys later and I won't tell Roxy. It was nice to finally meet you, CJ." 

I wave, say good bye and turn back to Louis properly. "So far, only one member of your family I've met is crazy. This is a good sign." 

"You're so skeptical."

"You're a pushover," I counter. 

"You're a controlling, manipulative ass." 

I place my hand on my heart and hope my faked, wounded expression looks genuine. "Below the belt, Weasley." 

"Not even close," he whispers in my ear. 

So maybe I'm quite as used to his flirting as I originally thought...



A/N: Yay for a new chapter. This one is more of a filler, information that will come back up during the story, but I hope you enjoyed and leave a review to tell me what you think. This is still a new thing for me to write. :P 

Next chapter: Halloween. 

Sam.


Chapter 10: Halloween
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MagicalInk @ TDA

***
 

I am so close to changing my mind. 

It's Halloween, the party is in an hour (told to me by my scary alarm clock, which someone switched back on) and I'm still sat on my bed, my costume hanging up on the end, waiting for Louis. I suppose I could guess what it is if I put it on now, but if I hate it I want the chance to say no. If I wear it then I hate it, I can't take it off; he wouldn't let me. So, Louis needs to hurry up so he can tell me what it is and if I do end up hating it, I'm either going as myself or not at all. There's no discussion involved in this. I have made up my mind. And, if I have to, Louis will be bribed into helping me get revenge on Declan, Simon and everyone else here in Hufflepuff, who know exactly what the bloody costume is and refused to tell me. Simon even lied and said he had no idea and I know he lied because he's a terrible liar. It's like in fifth year when my quill mysteriously disappeared; Simon ended up giggling half way through. 

You'd think it would be easier to lie to me. It's not. It's really not. 

"You're not dressed yet." 

I don't acknowledge his presence until I speak, I'm too depressed to even wave... Too overdramatic? "What's my costume? I refuse to wear it until I know." 

Louis pulls me to my feet, a little too closely to him, and places a hat on my head. "Howdy." 

"Oh." I run my hands over the sides of the hat. Okay, now I'm excited. "I'm a cowboy!" 

He starts laughing at me, but I don't care; I'm a cowboy... Who's seventeen? Me? Really? Well, I'm a child at heart. "All that worrying for nothing. You could have easily figured it out all on your own if you had put it on." He bats the hat down; I can feel it hovering just above my eyes. "Now get dressed. I'm gonna use the bathroom." 

I'm just putting on my shirt when he comes back, pants and boots done first, and am fastening the buttons. It's all quiet until I'm done; he's probably waiting for me to finish so we can go. We promised we'd be there earlier because it's Jack's party and we're Jack's friends. Yes, we; like I would leave Louis out. I'm not that nice. 

Anyway...

I run my hands down my shirt and across the band of my pants, making sure my shirt's tucked in and I am presentable. My hat is back on my head. "What d'ya think?" 

He doesn't answer. He wraps something around my waist, letting hang loosely at my hips; the belt, I feel it, were a cowboy's gun would go. "I've never had inappropriate thoughts about a cowboy before." 

"And you never will," I smirk, too used to him flirting for him to actually get to me now. Is that good or bad? I push him backwards. "Lead the way or do I have to lasso you?" 

"Promises, promises," he whispers and I groan and walk away, leaving him to follow me instead. 

Ciaran: 1. Louis: 2. 

He's never going to stop! 

We talk about little things as we walk to the carriage and again on our way to the party, random things like homework and how we think the party will be because he keeps steering the conversation away from himself every time I find a way to ask about his art. It is very annoying. 

When we get to the pub, a few people are already there, music is already playing and people are talking and laughing. Maybe we're later than I thought. 

"Ah, there's Jack." 

Louis places his hand on my back and leads me in my friend's direction, weaving me in and out of what I presume are small crowds, until we stop and Jack's arm is around my shoulder. "Howdy, partner." I tip my hat. "Cas." 

"Ness." 

"Cas?" Okay, I understand The Untouchables reference, but who the hell is Louis?

"Casanova."

Ah, never mind. "Imagine that," Jack whispers in my ear, sniggering. 

"Yeah, big coincidence."

"I didn't even have to give him a nudge the right direction," Jack admits and he sounds way too smug. "Such a clever boy, he came up with it all on his own." 

I glare, Louis asks what we're whispering about, Jack laughs again, makes a poor excuse about mingling with his guests and leaves. I preferred it when he thought Louis was no good and wasn't using his flirting to annoy me. The moment he leaves I'm turned back around and lead in the direction we had originally intended to go, until I'm stopped. I put my hands out in front of me, press them against the wood I feel and lean forward. Are we at the bar? 

"Drink?" 

"Just a butterbeer," I answer. "I don't drink." 

"Somehow that surprises me," Louis admits. He sounds hesitant, careful, like it might offend me. Should it? Should I be surprised by how little I'm bothered? They're just words. "Two butterbeers, please." 

Hearing him order pulls me away from my thoughts. Right. Drinks. That's why we're here. 

"Here you go, Louis. Anything else?" 

This girl sounds a little too flirty. It's wrong for me to not like it. I shouldn't care. I don't care. "I'm with someone," he tells her and raises my hand. I'm not smug. Shh. 

She makes a strange 'that's not fair' kind of noise, like a high pitched 'oh', which I associate with pouting and reminds me of my cousin. My cousin does that a lot. "Who was that?" I ask. I don't know whether or not she's still there, but I feel I have to ask anyway. 

"That was Haley, her mum owns this pub. She still has a bit of a thing for me, hasn't quite let it go." 

I nod, then I remember exactly what he told her. Whoa, it took me longer than it should have for his words to register in my head. "You're with someone?"

"I promised Lucy I'd be a gentlemanly date."

Oh, really? I need to talk to her soon. Right now, I'm gonna change the subject. It's for the best. "I take it she knows you're gay." 

"It doesn't stop her from hoping." He gives me my drink and takes my free hand, leading me away again. "We'll find a table before everyone else comes, unless you want to stay at the bar and listen to Haley flirt some more."

Did he notice my dislike? Oh, that cannot be good. "Time to find a table." 

Sometimes, I miss the days when people didn't notice me. But then he threads his fingers through mine and rubs his thumb in small circles on my skin; it's comforting and I forget my awkward feelings. And I don't miss those days. 

*** 

He moved on from butterbeer to fire whiskey relatively quickly and a tipsy Louis is a funny Louis. Very much so. He talks nonstop about anything and everything and he speaks so fast and he slurs; I'm not even drunk and I feel like my head is spinning. I can't keep up with the conversation, I can't even remember what we were talking about. 

"Do you still believe that Jack likes Lucy and vice v- the other way around?" he asks suddenly.

I laugh; who knew 'versa' was such a hard word to say when drunk? "Yes, I do. Why?"

"B-because they're a-fighting again, over there." I roll my eyes. "Oh, they t-took their fight into the other room." 

"You're drunk," I state, not really caring what my friends get up to right at this moment.

"Probably. Just a little. Dance with me?"

I spit out the mouthful of butterbeer I was about to swallow. I wasn't expecting that, especially so randomly. "What?" 

"Will you dance with me?" 

"I don't think that's a very good idea," I tell him honestly. "Not exactly safe, is it, Louis?" 

"Because I'm drunk?" he asks slowly. Drinking damages his brain cells. As funny as he is, he really shouldn't drink, not if he would rather live without embarrassing moments. I imagine bets gone wrong, revealing secrets, being tied naked to a post. 

Or was that just my dad? To clarify, my dad did all those things... My mum did two... Apparently. 

I realize he thinks I've been quiet for too long when he nudges me. Because I'm blind, I can't dance I almost say, but I hold back and nod. "You're a catastrophe waiting to happen, Louis Weasley. I'd fear for the people around us if we were to dance." 

"Then we'll sit and talk. About you," he adds. 

"Or we can talk about you," I suggest.

"S'nothing about me worth telling," he mutters. He's so quiet, I can't tell if he's angry or sad or even indifferent, but I don't push either way; it's not my place and there are stuff I haven't told him.

I stand up; I'll give him a couple of minutes to himself, he'll probably have another drink, and then he'll go back to being funny Louis. "Where is the restroom?" 

"Er... That way." Seriously, brain cell damage. Which way? "You know, the restroom sounds like a good idea. I should go there." 

The table wobbles when he gets up. Drunk Casanova is not light on his feet. I worry. "Do you need to be sick?" 

"Nooo, I need to pee." I hope the direction he's taking me is actually the way to the restroom. 

I'm starting to wish Jack had been around so he could show me the way instead. Is he still arguing with Lucy? He wouldn't spend that long away from his own party. "Hey, has anyone seen Jack?" I call to the people surrounding me. 

There's a collection of no's around me, which, despite being an answer to my question, is not helpful at all. "I'm sure he'll turn up." We stop. "And, for the record, I'm not so bad while drunk. If you ever see Lucy or, God forbid, Vic, you will understand. After you."

"You are funny when you're drunk," I tell him as I enter. "Lucy is... Interesting." 

Lucy is so interesting when drunk that once she didn't talk to me for a week. "You're allowed to say flirty or... N-No, I'll leave it at that; I should be nice. Here... Didn't she try to kiss you one time?"

And just when I thought it was quiet. You see what I mean about drunk Louis never shutting up. This is supposed to be non-talking time. "Yes, she did. She was very embarrassed, she hid, and then I told her I was gay and it was fine. She got over it pretty quickly."

"She does that. We're all different after a drink; Al gets overly emotional and cries."

"Isn't he underage?"

"Shhh." And listen to that; nothing. Silence. He stopped talking. Did he die? No. I can... Hear him. He finishes before I do. "You stand like you're ready for a showdown." The sound of running water. "One day you'll be a real cowboy. The stubble actually helps." I finish. "Follow the sound of my voice."

I do; it'll be so inconvenient if he suddenly tells me he's a ventriloquist and that I'm on my way out the door. But I feel him and then the sink, so all is good. I gesture to my face. "Would you trust me with a razor?" 

"Well, let's see." I was joking; he's not supposed to bloody think about it! "The day we met, you hit me with your stick, something you continued to do. You've slammed me into a bookshelf and you constantly walk into me. I'm beginning to think you do that on purpose. So, no, I wouldn't even trust you with a pencil. Around others, yes, just not around me; you'll hurt me with it." 

I just shake my head. "Not that I want you to get rid of it. Unless it gets bushier, then it's gotta go." 

"Thank you for sharing what you find attractive in a man." I love sarcasm. I hate being genuine. And part of me actually is. "We can leave now."

I refuse to tell him that this is about as much as he's gonna get because stubble is all I can get to, as I have this inability to grow a beard; the consequences could be severe for me, considering what we just talked about. We stop outside the restroom doors, just out of the way of everyone else, and he asks me if I want another drink. I decline. 

"What time is it?"

"Just after midnight, just less than an hour left." 

"And Jack is missing it," I mock sigh. 

"Maybe he's with a girl," Louis says and it sounds like he's joking. But that could actually be true, knowing Jack. Louis' hand cups my right cheek and I can suddenly feel his breath against my lips. How long was I quiet for? This is why thinking is a bad thing. He moves closer, pressing himself to me, and I forget to breath. 

Uh oh. 

"There's something about you," he whispers. It's not the same as when he flirts, it's different, it's... Real. And it causes me to feel funny inside and throw all attempts of denial out of the window. I was fine before when I could easily ignore it, but now... He's way too close. His forehead touches mine and...

I turn away. 

"Sorry," he mutters, I know he's stepped back. "I think I've had too much to drink tonight. I shouldn't have tried to do that."

"It's fine," I tell him. "I just want to go back to school now."

"That sounds like a good idea. I'll take you back to school."

My subconscious is screaming at me and I want to kick myself because he doesn't know why I did it. He thinks I just rejected him; I can hear it in his tone. "Louis."

"It's fine." He takes my hand. "Come on."

The walk to the carriage and the ride back is quiet and awkward. I try talking to him, but he doesn't answer, and by the time we get to Hufflepuff, the tension is horrible. I will try again tomorrow. He needs to know. "Good night, Louis."

"Good night."

Nothing else is said, not an 'I'll see you tomorrow', and I hate it. 

I have got to fix this.



A/N: Ness, Jack's costume, is a reference to Eliot Ness, who is played by Kevin Costner in the 1987 film The Untouchables, which belongs to Paramount Pictures. Casanova, Louis' costume, is an 18th Century Italian, best known for his womanizing. And Ciaran... Is a cowboy. Because they are cool. :P

Sam. 


Chapter 11: The Lists
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Drowned @ TDA.

***


I wake myself up. Well, it's kind of easy to do when you've barely slept at all!

I don't know what to do. I mean, I know what to do, what I have to say, but I don't know how. Really. The different scenarios in my head scared me. They kept me awake and that's a hard thing to do.

I stay in bed until the silence and my thoughts compete for the winning title in the 'Drive Ciaran Crazy' tournament and I have to get up preserve any hope of keeping what's left of my rational mind. Because the irrational side of me is freaking out; Louis didn't come up to see if I was awake, he always does that. Is he mad at me? Is he upset? Does he feel guilty for trying to kiss me? Will he avoid me forever?

I don't want that to happen.

But rational me understands that maybe it's because it's still early and I'm usually asleep. He might be up later and my worry about what happened last night is just making the fact that he's not here yet seem worse than it actually is and everything is fine.

I like rational me. Too bad he never stays for very long.

I dress in the jeans I wore yesterday that I threw on top of my trunk and find a t-shirt in the pile, search for my sneakers and grab my stick. I don't hear anyone around me as I walk through the common room and out into the hallway, which leads me to assume that it's breakfast or they're sleeping or they're studying. I'm going to go with breakfast or sleep, which means quiet, which means I know where I need to look for Louis.

It doesn't take me very long to get to the second floor, considering it's a Sunday and if you're sane you're not up and around school so early unless you have to be, and I make my way to our section of the library. The closer I get, the harder it seems to put one foot in front of the other. I'm so nervous and also slightly scared; I don't want this to end badly and have him ignore me or hear his emotion in his tone when I get there. If he's even there, that is.

I stop, lean against the bookshelf and just listen. I don't smell anything, no aftershave. But I hear; the light scratching of a pencil and soft breathing. "Hey."

"Hey." He sounds indifferent, but he's too quiet for me to tell for sure, and he goes back to whatever it is he's doing. "How did you find me?"

"We come here every day; it seemed the most obvious choice," I admit. "But it was just a guess, I didn't know if it was you here and if you'd kept quiet I'd have left." I don't know why I'm telling him this, I don't want him to want me to leave. I'm glad he spoke. "You doing homework?"

"No," he says softly. "Drawing."

"What of?"

"Stuff." I don't know what to say to that. Usually I just roll my eyes and tell him he's being mean because I know he doesn't want to talk about his art, but this feels different. Probably because of the tension and last night; Louis sounds... Off, distant. I hear him drop his pencil. "I'm sorry about last night. I had no right to -" He stops, pauses for a second, then continues. "I shouldn't have tried to kiss you."

"It's fine, honest."

He let's out a deep breath, like he's relieved, and I open my mouth to continue, to tell him my reasons, but he speaks again before I get the chance. "I finished the list."

I lean my stick up against the books, fold my arms over my chest and move forward slightly. "Oh?"

"Yeah, and it's quite long. I didn't realize there was so much I wanted to do. I don't think I'd have ever known if you hadn't asked me to write it, I suppose I should thank you for that."

His tone is a little teasing, more like the Louis I know, and I smile. "You're welcome. Can I hear some of it?"

"No." I frown, confused as to why I can't. And I think it shows more than my surprise over the fact that he just said no. I've finally heard him say no! "I would like you to do something for me first."

"Okay," I answer hesitantly. Now I'm scared for a different reason.

"I want you to make your own list and I want us to do them together. You think I hold myself back, but you do it, too. The only difference is I know why I do it."

"What makes you think I hold myself back?"

He scoffs at me. Maybe he even rolled his eyes; it's something I would do. "You sat in the corner at your own friend's Halloween party and drank butterbeer while I got drunk. You could have been up and talking and dancing, but you didn't because you hold back. So, will you tell me your list so I can write it down?"

I start to shake my head, but stop. Should I? I did want him to do it and he did it for me, so I should do the same. It's only a list, right? It's just words on paper that may or not be completed. Is there even anything I want to do? What is there I can do? What I want, I can never get. I nod before I can give myself the chance to back out.

"What makes you so sure I can complete this list?"

"Because, CJ, you can do anything. Just don't think about what might stop you and don't hold back."

"I can do anything," I repeat. It's exactly what Lucy and Jack are always saying. "Okay." Now's the time to tell him, to explain. "The first thing on the list will explain last night." I take a deep breath and shut my eyes; I don't know why really, I just want it to help, or he'll never know. "I want, er, I don't know how to say this without sounding like a girl. I want it to be special. Even if it doesn't work out with the guy I'm with, I want to be able to look back with good memories. It has to be special and no offense, but you being drunk is not special."

"So, you moved away." He finishes for me and I nod. "Oh, everything makes so much more sense now. You've never kissed anyone."

"Well, not everyone is like that, okay! Especially not me. I mean, look at me, I'm -"

"Hot."

"What?" I'm pretty sure I heard him correctly, though.

He coughs. "Nothing," Louis answers quickly. Oh, so now he's shy. "Let's continue, eh? Why didn't you ever tell me this?"

I shrug. "Because it's embarrassing. Other guys have gone all the way and here I am, seventeen, and have never been kissed. My decision is my own and I stand by it, but that doesn't mean I want to tell people." He's quiet for a long time, feels like forever. I have no idea what could be going on inside his head. I hate that. "What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking if I had known sooner, I wouldn't have drank so much."

"So sure I'd kiss you," I tease.

"Yes." I stop smiling once I realize just how serious he sounds. "I know you like me. I was so sure you did last night, but then you turned away and I got confused, wondering if I had misread you. I was thinking about it all night. But now I know, I'm not confused and I wish I hadn't drank as much as I did. Or at all. Well, maybe one."

"I wouldn't have denied you one drink, maybe even two."

"So, you admit you like me."

I smirk; this is gonna be fun. "I didn't say that. The second thing on my list ties in with the first." I change the subject back to the list; it was his idea for me to have one after all. "I want that to be special, too."

"You're a hopeless romantic at heart," he laughs.

"As are you, Lucy says. I've noticed."

Louis sighs. "key word being hopeless. What's the next thing on your list?"

I know he'll like the next one; it's something I always think about, every time I go and visit my grandparents. But I've never had the chance before. "I want to stand at the top of the Eiffel Tower, just so I can know what the big deal is. People say standing at the top is so romantic; I wanna know why. The same with the Empire State building."

I am right. But, then again, I'm always right. Shh. "Let's just start small and stick to Paris, yeah?" he replies between chuckles. I just shrug and agree; he did say we would do the lists together, he's the one who has to take me. "What else, CJ?"

It seems to go on and on for ages. I understand what he meant before; I had no idea there was so much I wanted to do, stuff I usually don't think I can. I don't stop until I really cannot think of anything else. Does he really think I can do all that?

"You really believe I can do anything?" I ask him quietly.

"I do," he says after a minute of silence. He's right in front of me, his hands pulling the bottom of my t-shirt. "Say it."

"I can do anything." Louis pulls my t-shirt forward, which pulls me towards him, and he whispers in my ear to close me eyes and say it again. To feel it and believe it. "I can do anything."

"Yes, you can." He wraps his arms around me properly then and I'm just stood there for a second before my own arms find their way around his neck; he's never hugged me before, like a real hug. Like this. It's surprisingly nice.

"I'm sorry about last night, I didn't want to upset you," I blurt out.

Louis responds by squeezing a little tighter. "You didn't upset me, you confused me." I swat the back of his head, my fingers flicking his hair out; he is such a liar. "Okay, maybe just a little, I was rejected. But I was also drunk and I shouldn't have done it, so it doesn't matter. I wasn't going to ignore you for it."

My breath catches in my throat. It's like he really can read minds. "You didn't come to Hufflepuff today." It's like word vomit.

I feel his lips curve against my neck. "You're usually asleep. I don't see if you're awake until later."

See, I was right again. Rational me really should stay for longer.

"but if you really want to apologize -"

"You still have to guess," I interrupt. "Give up with the hints, I'm not gonna tell you. You can let go now."

"I'll let go. If -" No, I'm not telling him my name. "You admit you like me."

Oh. "Blackmail, Mr. Weasley? As if I would stoop so low."

"Wasn't it just last night when you said you'd blackmail me into helping with your revenge?" he counters. And it's very successful.

"But! That is so -" What's the point? "I like you."

"Like you like Jack?"

I shake my head. "More than how I like Jack."

He let's go. "Was that so hard?" I hear amusement in his voice and I wanna say yes, but I mutter a no instead. I hate word vomit. I muffle a yawn while he's picking up his things from the table, but I think he catches it. "Wanna go back to the common room and take a nap?"

I hug him again. "Yes, please." I pull away when he starts to laugh. "What?"

"Nothing," he assures me, I think. "It's just, stubble tickles."

I don't care what he thinks, I really need a shave.

***

"Did you know that Simon has a girlfriend?"

Seriously, Louis just has a habit of catching me off-guard. Food and drink currently have a habit of being on me rather than in me. He pulls back from whispering in my ear, so others wouldn't know, and I frown. Good for Simon and all, but he's stranger than I am.

"If Simon can date someone before me, I am screwed."

"Your words hurt me."

I try not to smirk; I know he's talking about him. But even if we do like each other, I have my reasons for not wanting to date him. Reason one: we've only known each other a month and a half. I don't consider that a reasonable amount of time to go out with a friend; I wanna get to know him more first.

"All I have is a stalker and a guy with a fear of commitment."

And that is reason number two. He doesn't have relationships, he said so himself. He needs to work on that first.

"You're making it worse. Now you're just being mean."

Then I smirk. "You're fine."

"I don't get your jokes."

I look up. "Hey, Jack. Where have you been all day? And where's Lucy?"

"No where and I don't know, in that order."

"Here's Lucy," Louis says.

I wait for her to say hi before I talk. "So how was your night? You both disappeared."

"No, we didn't," they both say.

I'm confused. "Louis said you were arguing and went into another room."

"Oh," Jack mumbles. "That we did."

Yeah, because I mentioned them doing anything else? What is going on with them? "What happened last night?"

"Nothing," they simultaneously say again.

You know what? I just don't believe them. But I ignore it for now; they obviously aren't going to tell me. I think back to last night; we did joke about Jack being with a girl. And we know what Lucy's like when she's drunk. And they were both missing for a while...

No, I don't wanna imagine that. If they want to (finally) get together, good for them, but I don't want mental images. I go back to my dinner, it's safer.

"We can go through our lists and see what we can do first tomorrow," Louis says, starting conversation.

I nod. "Sounds good," I answer, all the while keeping those four words in my head. And for once, I think it's starting to stick.

I can do anything.


A/N:
Two updates in two days, I'm so happy. And now you know Ciaran's reasons for not kissing Louis at the party and for not dating him. He's so cute and innocent, I just want to hug him. :P

Now that I've got this chapter up for AC's 'I'm a Believer' challenge, the next update might be a little longer, though probably not by much. I just want to update my Albus/OC, Silver Linings, first. :)

Until then,

Sam.


Chapter 12: Honest Words
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Drowned @ TDA.

***


Louis was not happy when he came to wake me up on Monday morning and found a freshly shaved Ciaran sleeping peacefully in bed. He complained about how unfair it was and asked if it was his punishment for Halloween; it was actually quite funny. But I told him no, he wasn't being punished, that it just had to go, and by the time breakfast was over he had grudgingly accepted it.

I don't get it, personally. I can't even imagine what he finds so attractive about it. Just like I have no idea what his cousin sees in me. I still have Louis' words running through my head, his slip of the tongue that he obviously had not wanted me to know; that I'm hot. I'm not hot, nowhere near... Am I?

I don't think I'll ever truly know; Louis hasn't said anything about it since and I don't know how to bring it up. Nor do I think I really want to. And this is what I have chosen to think about in History of Magic instead of listening to Binns go on and on about something I don't care about and will get from Abby later. I let my quill do the work while I lean forward with my elbow propped up and my face resting in my palm, my eyes covered so I can keep them closed undetected.

This is my favorite lesson.

"CJ?" I say nothing, but I do acknowledge him; I turn my head slightly so he knows I heard and that I'm listening. "What's with the sunglasses inside? It's finally time to ask."

My next acknowledgement is a smile. He finally asked; I was wondering when this day would come. I know it's not what he technically asked nor what he wants to hear, but I give him my medical reason, the 'science' behind it. "Sensitivity to light. It still hurts your eyes, you know."

"Yes, but you spend most of the year in dimly lit classrooms and a library in a creepy, Scottish castle. So, what's with the sunglasses inside?" I lift up my glasses a fraction, show him my closed eyes. He scoffs, amused, I imagine he's holding back a laugh. It probably doesn't even surprise him. "You sleep."

"It's perfect," I whisper, sighing dramatically, happily. Then I feel the glasses disappear and my eyes snap open before people notice. "Hey!"

"They are really good for a lesson like this," he murmurs.

"You're wearing them, aren't you." It's definitely not a question.

"I was. Now they're on my head."

I roll my eyes, tell him he can keep them and search for a spare pair from inside my bag. I put them on and resume my previous position; elbow propped, face cupped, eyes closed. I whisper that Jack takes them, too, well it came out as an unintentional whisper, and my friend agrees from behind me.

Next thing I know my elbow gives way and I almost hit the table, just managing to jump up before my face falls flat against the desk. "What happened?"

"Lessons over." I recognize Jack's voice at my side, but he sounds further away than that. It feels like I've just woken up. Did Louis really let me sleep? In class? Interesting. No one ever let's me do that. This could also be a bad thing. "You wouldn't wake up, so he knocked you."

"Tattletale."

That he'll have to pay for...

I lift up my glasses enough to rub my eyes and someone hands me my bag as they're dropped back down. I point in the direction to walk in, only to be turned the other way (I must still be half asleep; I usually know the way at least) and I get out of there; walking will do me good, wake me up. Maybe. So will talking.

"I can't believe you let me sleep."

"Yeah, we don't do that for a reason," Jack scolds, speaking slowly as though to a child. Knowing Louis as well as I do, I wouldn't be surprised if he took offense to that, just a little bit, not that he'll say anything. I'd take offense to that.

"But he looked so adorable," he protests, giving it that whiny, baby tone which I'm definitely going to take offense to. Maybe he wasn't protesting, maybe they planned it to annoy me. That is something they'd do. They shouldn't be friends, it's too dangerous.

"I'm standing right here, you know!" I call back. And they say I'm bad. "I'm so glad Lucy isn't here right now; it'd only get worse."

I was talking to myself, but they're not far back that they can't hear me and Louis comments anyway. "Where is Lucy? I haven't seen her all day."

"No idea," Jack says way too quickly, trying to be casual about it though it's clearly not working.

I know from Louis' next words. "I'm not even gonna go there. It's not worth the headache."

He means listening to me and my theory later; every time I finish he tell me it wasn't worth the headache. Says we could be doing better things like the lists we finished the other day (among other examples). We told Jack about the lists on Monday in class and Lucy yesterday. They doubt either of us actually completing them; well, we'll show them. "What's first on your list, Louis?"

"We did that on Sunday," he answers, now at my side. I raise an eye-brow; did we? "You told me that you liked me."

Oh. Figures that'd be on there. "Well, what's number two?"

He's quiet for a moment. When I ask him why, he says he's trying to remember. He doesn't tell me until we're in Hufflepuff. I can't believe it took him that long to remember something on his own list. "I started with little things first; number two is relaxing on a school day, no library no tutoring, no homework."

I think; when does he not have a tutoring lesson? Today. And Abby had a family emergency; she has to help her brother. I know we don't have homework for tomorrow, as we're in the same classes. It's a school day and neither of us are in the library. I take off my glasses, put my feet up and grin. "Done."

"Now?" I nod, tell him today is a rare and perfect day. We should not waste it by working. He laughs at that, but agrees. "Okay."

"You two are crazy. You could do that whenever."

"I think he's mocking my list," Louis murmurs.

"Hmm." I cross my arms over my chest, trying to look serious, and agree with him. "He just doesn't understand the simple pleasures in life."

"Ah, the poor boy."

Our words were funny. Jack's? Not so much. At least not to us. I bet he found it hilarious.

"Of course, Louis knows all about life's pleasures. Could have done better, though," he says as an afterthought.

The first thing I do is press the back of my hand against Louis' shoulder; his love life is a sore subject and he shouldn't say anything because Jack will tear him to pieces. Not literally... Maybe literally. The second thing I do is throw a cushion in Jack's general direction because he's a git who deserves a cushion being thrown at him.

Louis takes my hand, squeezes gently before letting it fall to my side. "Don't worry, he just hasn't gotten any in a while. Probably why he's angry all the time."

"Just like you focus on flirting."

They've moved from potential arguments to friendly banter. And Jack says we're confusing; I just don't get them. "I thought we were relaxing," I argue.

"This is relaxing," Jack tells me, chuckling. "You said you wanted us to be friends."

I roll my eyes. In August his version of relaxing was jumping off a cliff; look where that got him. I'm not so sure I want them to be friends after all. They scare me when they're together. "I changed my mind."

"He's lying, he loves that we're friends," Jack mock whispers. It's gets quiet after that, but it's comfortable, actually relaxing. Then his tone turns more from playful to serious. "I kinda hope nothing changes."

"I don't follow," Louis says slowly. He nudges me. What? Does he think I have an answer? I shrug.

"I have no idea, but I do know that I need to go to the bathroom, so I'm gonna go do that." I get up.

"You gonna be okay?" Louis asks, taking hold of my arm.

"Yes, I am a big boy and if I can do anything it's pee properly." I smirk. "Most of the time; I might forget exactly where the toilet is sometimes."

Jack scoffs. I wink. Louis groans. "That is more information than I needed to know." He let's go of me. Who knew that would be a fun game to play?

I point in the direction I started walking in, leaving the common room, but I stop a few steps up because that's when Louis starts speaking and I'm curious to know my friend's answer.

"What did you mean before, about not wanting things to change?" he asks.

"Exactly that." A pause. "Look, you're great. You've made a couple of mistakes, not naming them, but I like you and CJ likes you. He's never been in the type of situation where he's really liked someone, he's never let himself, so this is all new for him and, if you give him time, he'll get to that point where you become more. After he's gone through every possible reason as to why and why not."

I grit my teeth, but hold back; best friend my ass!

"If that happens and you do get together, but then break up -" Jack stops, then continues, changing his words. "If it happens and it's natural, it couldn't be helped, you won't loose CJ in the long run; you'll pretty much be stuck with him for life, even if you are just friends. But if it happens because of what you said, you can't handle the relationship and end up doing the same as with the others, it'll only get awkward and it'll get worse until you lose him and I go with my best friend. It would kind of suck if that were to happen, that's all."

I hold my breath, I can't seem to move; Jack has just gone and inadvertently told Louis my reason number two for not doing anything about liking him. Why'd he have to choose now to be honest?

"He's just not very good with new situations and I don't want him to get hurt. That is the only reason I'm telling you this." He may have also inadvertently answered my question.

"I don't want to hurt him," Louis says quietly. He sounds distant, like he's thinking about something else.

I feel slightly better hearing Louis' intentions, until I realize he never said he wouldn't, just that he didn't want to. Now I'm nervous as to what he's thinking about that has obviously made him this way, terrified about his words and more determined than ever to go slow with whatever it is we have. I'd rather be his friend than get dumped and lose him later.

Jack either doesn't pick up on his word choice like I do or doesn't want to point it out. "Good."

"I never thought I'd see a day where Jackson Ryder is honest and serious." It's something he'd normally say to tease him, but he sounds a little too serious, something he's trying to cover up.

And Jack follows suit. "Tell anybody and I'll hunt you down and kick your ass."

"You'll have to find me first."

I leave then, continue my way to the bathroom. When I sit back on the couch, the first thing I'm asked is what took me so long. I tell them I didn't want to miss, which gets a laugh. We're back to relaxing and chatting until Lucy says hi and Jack closes up. They confuse me too much lately and I'm agreeing with Louis today; I don't need the headache. Especially not after before.

Lucy doesn't stay for very long; she wants to put her stuff away and get changed before dinner. Jack says he'll meet us in the Great Hall, that he has to go talk to Burns, the Transfiguration teacher. The moment we're alone, Louis threads his fingers through mine. He does that a lot when his cousin's not around; he says it's because he knows I don't like it when she talks about us and because he hopes it'll change my opinion about us and go out with him sooner rather the later.

Okay, he didn't say that second one, but I swear it's true! Ever since I admitted I liked him, he's gone crazy with the flirting and the touching. I'm still trying to process this!

"You know, I think we can at least work up to being able to cross off the first thing on your list."

See, I told you!

"I'll think about it."

I hear Lucy come back down and he leans closer to whisper in my ear. "I'll be thinking about it, too."

He let's go of my hand and I use them to cover my face to try and control myself. Even with me still thinking about before, he manages to make me laugh. He keeps being able to make situations better.

I like that about him.  



A/N: I said to people that this would be up on Tuesday, but I didn't get to finish it, then I wasn't well yesterday, but I didn manage to finish it for today. Hopefully the next chapter will be up faster. :)

Feel free to shake your head at Louis for unknowingly pushing Ciaran even further away from him. ;)

The medical reason for the sunglasses is a brief version of what I found while researching. 

Sam.


Chapter 13: Handstands v Rollerblades
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Drowned @ TDA.

***


There are times in my life when listening to Jack, scratch that, when going through with one of his insane dares is a very bad idea. The rational part of my mind reminds me that right now is one of those time in my life. However, silly me does not agree. In fact, it's the most simple, easiest dare I've ever been asked to do. Well, told. Jack never asks.

"I can't believe you're doing this."

I laugh; of course Lucy doesn't approve. Much. She thinks it's rather funny, she just doesn't believe I'm actually doing it. I push myself up with my arms, stretching as much as I can in an effort to get rid of the cramp. It only helps a little, but it's enough to relax back into my original position. "How long do I have to be like this for?"

"Until I say otherwise," Jack replies.

Translation: indefinitely. He finds it way too funny. It's gonna be a long day. My arms will cramp up again soon, I see myself stretching in an effort to release said cramp often. I nod. "Okie dokie."

"Your actions and your words both prove that you are a child at heart."

"Took you this long to figure that out, Luce?"

"Don't be a smart-ass, Mr. James." She throws something at me; it hits me in the chest and I almost fall. My arms are starting to hurt again. I have little upper body strength. I'm starting to forget why I accepted this dare. And then I wobble.

The common room door opens. "Are you actually doing a handstand?"

Louis? Oh, yeah. Lucy sneakily gave him the password, says he's allowed it because he's a prefect. But not Head Boy. I wonder why. Given everything he does for the school and the students, I'd have thought he'd have been given Head Boy and not the other Ravenclaw boy. His name also begins with an L. I ask him.

He chuckles weirdly, his confusion is evident. "I didn't want it, I shouldn't be allowed to be put in charge of others; it's not safe for them. You know what I'm like. Luka is a great Head Boy. Why are you suddenly asking me this?"

"It just popped into my head," I shrug. "I think the blood is rushing straight to my head. I'm not thinking straight."

You'd think that would be my incentive to get down, besides the sore arms and the cramps. Ouch, it's really starting to hurt. Why did I take this insane dare and agree to handstand until Jack told me to get down? Because I'm an idiot, that's why. Ah, but sometimes you have to be an idiot. At least it's nothing embarrassingly stupid. Just the normal kind of stupid.

"So, tell me, CJ." I hear footsteps come my way. At least I think they're coming my way. I can't tell; everything sounds fuzzy.

"What?" I choke out. This is getting harder. He's right in front of me now; he runs his hand down my chest. Or up; his fingers start at my belly button and stop at my chin. He tells me to lower my head to the ground. There's a cushion on the floor; yes. I rest my head on top and make sure I'm balanced and it's safe before I move my arms and cross them over my chest. I have no doubt Louis would catch me if I were to fall, purely because he's right there. Jack calls it cheating, but I don't care. "Much better."

"For now," Louis agrees. "So, how come you'll willingly balance yourself on your hands and risk falling on your face, but we can't rollerblade in the halls?"

Jack let's out an over dramatic gasp. "Hey, you're rollerblading in the halls? Digby said I couldn't do that anymore."

"I'm not rollerblading in the halls," I protest, rolling my eyes at Jack's words. "That is far from unsafe, it's deadly. You've seen the stairs. And I'm getting woozy."

They ignore that last comment, which is probably the most important thing I've said. "It's on your list, Key."

He did that on purpose. "Rollerblading is on my list, like in a park. Not in the halls. I'm not that stupid."

"You do know what you're doing, right?" Louis counters. I assume it's a rhetorical question; I don't answer him. "You're going to hurt yourself or pass out if you don't stop soon."

"Neither is going to happen." My head wobbles, the cushion slides a little and Louis' hands grab my waist. I start again. "Neither is going to happen because you are here."

Now my legs start to shake. I move forwards and Louis doesn't wait for me to say anything; he holds on tighter, lowers me down and then pulls me to my feet. Or, to be more specific, or maybe I'm just being my usual awkwardly perceptive self when it comes to the guy, he pulls me closer to his chest. He smells fruity, as usual. See, I'm not so bad that I forget the little details about him. I recall them. Vividly. Personally I think it's him that is making my head cloudy. "Better?"

I don't answer him until I'm no longer all wobbly and can let go of him without the fear of falling on my face. And his aftershave is not distracting me. "Yes. Thank you."

"So, who's stupid idea was that?" I only point past him, but I know he understands exactly who I'm pointing at. "Oh, I should've known."

"Hey," Jack calls out. "It was either handstand indefinitely or make a pass on Davies. He decided to leave the latter to you."

"You're hilarious," Louis replies sarcastically. "Next time you play Ryder's Comedy Show, leave my personal life out of it."

"I'd listen to him, Jack, he doesn't like people talking about him."

Lucy gives him the best, most sincere bit of advice she can give and do you know what he picks up on. "Did you just call me Jack?"

Yeah, that.

She mumbles incoherently, to me anyway, probably about his question; it's most likely for Jack's ears only. I don't care what she says. They continue to talk amongst themselves; from what I can pick up, Jack is teasing her about using his nickname rather than his full name. At least they're not arguing anymore. Something seems to be fixing that. You know what I hear is helpful...

"Stop it," Louis whispers in my ear, pushing me backwards until I hit the wall. I sit on the floor, Louis sat besides me. "You have no proof, so stop. You don't know that they're together."

"If they're not, they should be," is all I say on that matter. I go back to the other week instead, to when I overheard Louis and Jack's serious conversation. Between class, the library and turoring, this is the first time since that night that we've been able to spend any time alone. I look up when I hear Jack laugh; well, almost alone. It seemed almost planned, like Louis was dodging me (I did try to talk to him), but that can't be right. Louis doesn't know anything about me listening. Does he? But that's not what I want to talk about anyway, not even close. I just don't want to go there; my fear is my own. That Jack and now Louis knows about it... I don't like it. "The other week when we were relaxing in here, why did you want to come with me to the bathroom when you're usually on Team 'You Can Do Anything'?"

He laughs at me. "I didn't want you to leave me with Jack."

"Why? I thought you were friends."

"We are," he agrees. "But I can only take Jack's friendship in small doses as he talks about awkward things that I'd rather not discuss and he likes to do it when you are not around because you can't save me from him."

"Of course," I grin, shaking my head. "Jack in small doses is probably best until you've known him for at least a couple of years."

"I can hear you, asshole," Jack growls.

I smirk. "You were meant to." Ow. Okay, people have got to stop throwing things at me; it's hazardous. At least this one was just a cushion, admittedly it was probably aimed at, and successfully hit, my face, but it's soft and cushion-like. I'm not sure that's actually a word, but I like it. I love Hufflepuff's soft, cushion-like cushions, perfect for nap time. Unfortunately, I don't get to have one often.

"Don't start anything with him; he was being quiet and they weren't fighting," Louis moans quietly. He can bitch and moan about anybody when he wants to, just as long as they don't hear him. And they never seem to. Sneaky.

"I won't if you explain why you always come to Hufflepuff and we never go to Ravenclaw," I say, a cocky smile on my face. At least I hope it looks cocky; one can never tell. I already know his answer; he tells me often, thinks I don't listen. But I just like to annoy him by making him repeat himself.

Listen to that sigh; I'd say he's sick of repeating himself, but maybe he knows. He's quick when it comes to me and my games. Sometimes he plays along. Depends who the game is focused on.

Like Roxanne, for example. He doesn't like to play that game. I'm not even sure there's still a game to play; I don't know her answer, she hasn't talked to me in a while. At first I thought she just hadn't figured it out yet, but she'd come to me wanting to know more if that were the case. Now I think she does know and just isn't handling it very well. Who will she go to now that she knows she can't have me?

I don't say any of this to Louis. Ever. He tells me to be nice. It's best to keep quiet.

I am actually nice around people, it's just in my head or to him that I say something and I am then told I have to be nice. It's not like anyone else'll ever hear me.

"I come here because it's peaceful and quiet and because you like it here; it's familiar to you, you know your surroundings and the people here know you," he answers. Which is all very true. "You'd never go to Ravenclaw." I snort; also true. "And I don't want to; they're all nosy and annoying. Not here, I like it here."

I nod, trying not to laugh at his tone. "Do you want me to stop asking that?"

"Yes," Louis says, exasperated. "Please stop, I'll do anything."

I raise an eye-brow, loving the pleading tone. I am just evil to him, aren't I? "Anything?" I wink, nudging him with my elbow.

Louis' hand wraps around my upper arm, leaning closer to me, and his lips are on my temple, lingering slightly before moving to my ear. I guess my friends don't notice, because they'd have definitely commented on it. Wouldn't they?

He whispers in my ear, "Just say the word."

I don't even try to suppress my body's reaction; he knows how I feel about him. At least, he knows enough. I lean my head back against the wall, pull my legs up to my chest and he let's out a husky chuckle. Damn him is all I can think while he kisses the shell of my ear. And then it's not all I can think about.

"That's not fair, Lucy!"

Jack's shout jerks me from my thoughts and the movement is enough for Louis to remove his mouth from my skin (I can't believe I already miss the contact), but he doesn't let go of my arm. "I'm just waiting for you."

He eventually does let go of my arm, but only to take my hand instead. "I want to say that you make it really easy to tease you after you mess with me, but it kind of gets to me, too."

"Kind of?" I ask, pretending I'm insulted. Okay, maybe I'm just a little insulted. It should get to him way more than 'kind of'; at least as much as he gets to me. And, yeah, he gets to me a lot, I'm way past the point of caring or denying.

"Maybe more than 'kind of'," he says quietly. "But I'm not saying how much more."

"Why not?"

"Because I have to go; I have a tutoring session. I only came here to see you." Louis kisses my cheek and leaves, calling out a good bye as the door shuts behind him.

"What was he saying to you?" Lucy asks, curious.

"Tutoring."

"Yeah, before that."

I shake my head, I'm not telling her mine and Louis' business. "What's not fair, Jack?"

"You remember I brought my pack of cards down this morning? The one's my dad gave me when I was stuck in St Mungo's?" I nod. "Yeah, well, I regret teaching her how to play poker."

"Don't worry, Jack, it's not like you're alone in that; she'd probably beat me, too." I try to look serious, but my lip twitches. Lucy laughs first, followed by me, and then Jack. And this is just one of the reasons why the three of us are still friends, despite their fighting. We can laugh and joke and make light fun of each other and it means nothing.

I must be in a really good mood to say this, but I love my friends. Even the one who could be more.

Yeah, I must be in a really good mood.



A/N: Look! Chapter 13! What is this madness that's taken so long? It has a good reason; who knew that college would be time consuming in the days before Summer? :P But as of today, college is over. Even so, I'm working on my original fiction, which means updates might still be a little slow (compared to the usual...).

Hope you enjoy this chapter. Because we're starting to get somewhere... ;)

See you soon,

Sam.


Chapter 14: Gifts: Wanted and Otherwise
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Lady Asphdel  @ TDA.

***


"No. No! Louis, if your messing causes an accident, I'm blaming you."

I say the same thing over and over, laughing in-between, but the idiot still continues to mess about, tickling my sides and pulling me closer to him whenever I move away. Now, if we were in the library or the common room or even the Great Hall I wouldn't mind. But we're not, we are in Potions class and Professor Gibbon just gave us instructions to make Amortentia. Making a love potion while Louis is in a playfully good mood; how is this going to be a good thing?

Answer: it's not.

I grab his hands as soon as I feel them hold onto my hips, threading our fingers together, and stop him from moving further. "We have a potion to make."

His hair tickles my left ear, moving from side to side. "No, Baby, I have a potion to make; you are going to stand there and make sarcastic comments while telling me to hurry up, despite the fact that you try to distract me."

His teeth grazes the top of my ear. My eyes narrow, though I'm sure only Lucy and Jack can see me, considering they are laughing. I bend my arm so my elbow is digging into his stomach. "I dare you to call me to 'Baby' again. Go on, I know where your crotch is."

"Tell me your real name," he challenges.

I drop his hands and move to the side, giving him a smile of my own. Lucy tells me he's pouting. Louis says he's not, but I don't believe him. "Just make the potion and shush."

"I'll find out, Baby." I roll my eyes at his mutterings, refuse to acknowledge the pet name. "Well, you hate 'Key' and you won't tell me your real one; I need a new name."

"It's not allowed," I say. "Make the potion."

"He's still pouting."

"I am not. Much," he amends. He sounds like he's joking.

I reach out and find his arm. I run my hand upwards, to his shoulder, and hold on. "The quicker you make the potion, the quicker we can finish for the day and I can give you your surprises."

He gasps mockingly. Or is he actually genuine this time? It's hard to tell with Louis sometimes. It's his next words that point more towards genuine, and then excitement. "I love surprises."

"I know you do, so hurry. And considering it's a special day, I'll help. With what I can, anyway."

"Help; it's got to be the nicest present I've ever received."

While Jack and I laugh, Lucy protests; she's obviously pretending she's not happy about what Louis just said because she doesn't sound upset. She does tell him that he's wrong and her present for him is better than my 'help'. I don't pay attention, I listen to the instructions Louis gives me when he not calling Lucy on the fact that he hasn't even seen the present.

I still find it hard to believe that we've gotten to this point; Louis has officially been a part of group for three months now. I didn't think we'd ever have another, content with it being the three of us forever. But, no, Louis came and... It's not still strange. It's normal, like he's been here forever. Sometimes I start to think he has been.

I pull my cloak closer to me. It's always been cold down in the dungeons, but it's winter, we leave for our Christmas holidays in a couple of days, and it seems to be just that little bit colder, reminding us of the season. I focus on stirring the cauldron, clockwise until he says otherwise he told me, and think about his presents upstairs in the Hufflepuff common room, wrapped and ready for him.

Yes, presents. Because not only is it almost Christmas, it is December eighteenth; Louis is eighteen today. Jack helped me get his presents, more than that, Jack actually got him a present, and wrapped them for me. We know eighteen is a big age in the Muggle world and, while we can't do anything big here in school, we're making Louis celebrate it in some way anyway. Besides, I didn't know him to celebrate his seventeenth, so this can make up for it. I just really hope he likes the presents.

"Here." Louis brings me back to earth. Damn I'm starting to pick up his habits. He's stood behind me, his hand over mine while he stirs. "Almost done. What were you thinking about?"

"Your birthday, your gifts."

"You know, you didn't have to get me anything," he says. I can tell he's curious, though; he loves presents.

"Of course I did, friends get friends presents. What kind of friend would I be if I got you nothing?"

"It would depend on the reason why, but, generally, a bad one," he says playfully.

"And I'm not a bad friend," I state with a nod. I lean back against him and he let's go of the cauldron, bringing my hand with him. He starts to tickle me again, personally I think it's just his excuse to touch me. "No, Louis, we're busy."

His hand reaches my skin just under my rib and I lose it, I start giggling like it's uncontrollable. I hate being ticklish.

"Mr. James."

Well, that shuts me up. Mostly; there's still a few giggles. But still, I'm not happy about that. "Professor Gibbon."

"Is there anything you'd like to share with the class?"

I shake my head, trying to stifle any more involuntary laughter. He's still got a finger on my side. "No, Professor."

"Good. Mr. Weasley." His hand drops quickly. Ha ha. Is she still here? It's very quiet. "As soon as you have finished, you hand me the vial and you may go. I trust you not to take any."

She says it to the class, but she's still at our table, right by me; her voice rings in my ear and I jump. Louis' hands are back at my waist. "She's gone now," he says quietly.

"So very loud," I mutter, rubbing my ear.

"You okay, Mr. James?"

Oh, smug little dick that he is. Yeah, I went there. Again. I can't believe this; all my time and energy spent on this game, all my planning, and I was so good at making sure no one talked. It's half gone, ruined. Louis knows my last name. Sure it's not my first name, but how many people in this place have the last name 'James'?

Answer: Me.

The student population of Hogwarts is not that big, you know!

There may be a couple with the first name 'James', one being his own cousin, but not a last name. It won't take him long to figure it out now. He won't even have to figure it out, he should know it now. It should be obvious. So why isn't he saying anything?

"He doesn't look very happy," Louis says instead.

"Of course he's not," Jack scoffs. "His game is ruined because you heard his name before you figured it out. Honestly, it's not gonna take you long to find out his first name now. If you don't remember it already."

He still doesn't say. And then it clicks. All his pestering, trying to get me to tell him. He's been playing his own game all this time.

Something must have happened between the other three, maybe Louis gave something away with a facial expression or body language, because both Lucy and Jack's 'ah' tells me they've come to the same conclusion.

"Sneaky," Lucy says, sounding almost appreciative.

"You two are just perfect for each other," Jack says next and he sounds bitter about that. "How long do we have before the sky falls and the world ends? Because this cannot be good."

Oh. I shake my head, letting out a soft chuckle, and turn around to lean against the table, my hands in my pockets. It's not hazardous if I don't move. "Finished with the potion yet?"

"Almost, Monsier James." No, my body does not react when I hear that French accent that he picked up as a child and can hide but never lost, same as me. That would be outrageous and stupid and... Oh, what's the point. "We can go soon."

"Sure." My voice definitely does not come out all husky. Shut up, Jackson. "Call my last name a gift. Hurry up or you won't get the others."

And, no, I do not hear a sexy laugh. Nor did I consider it sexy, not even a little. Okay, maybe a little.

"CJ's lived in the UK for so long that you never know he's French until he's with his mother's family," Jack states, surprised. "His accent has never come out here in school."

"And he's never made it sound hot before," Lucy says quietly. I hope she's only pretending to be interested in me; Lucy is sounding a lot like my cousin when she thinks she's in love. Awkward.

Wait, accent? As in my French accent? "Shit, did I do that?"

They gasp, like really this time. "Did you just swear, CJ?"

"I think I did. Oops." Because I don't swear in general; rarely in my head, even less so out loud. So when I do, it's a big deal.

I don't care; Louis' still laughing at me. "I still love learning new things about you."

There's something in his tone that tells me he wants to ask me something, to say more, but he doesn't. He seems to change the subject completely while the other two get over the fact that I spoke with my accent and swore. "It's done. I'll give this to the professor, then we can go."

"Cool." Damn, now that I've started it's hard going back to an English accent. I repeat the word 'cool' over and over until I get it. Okay I say it three times, same thing. "Better."

It doesn't take Louis long to hand the vial of love potion to the professor, pack up our things and lead the way out of the dungeon. I hear a couple of whispers when people notice that he's taken my hand again, but mostly they just don't care. The most they talk about is that I've 'gone from one Weasley to another'. I admit it's not exactly what I want to hear, considering they were all wrong about both rumors and I haven't been with Lucy or Louis, but it's kind of hard to care what they think when I do like him and my body reacts to him physically; I want to be with him. So it doesn't matter to me that they think we're already together... Except for the fact that it's me who's stopping that from happening. I still don't know why. But I will.

Maybe I just like the whole casual flirting part that happens in the beginning. I've never done it before.

"You think way too much," Louis laughs.

"Shush. This is very important stuff, stuff you may one day benefit from. Not telling you any more than that," I smirk.

"Aww, why not." We both freeze at the new voice. I was too busy focusing on Louis; I don't know where the voice came from. "Tell us what the benefit is."

If anything I stiffen more; my back straight and my eyes narrowed. I'm not scared of the guy, but I'm definitely more cautious. "What do you want, Daniel?"

He sounds amused. "I want to hear the benefit."

"I want you to leave."

He doesn't, he moves closer; I start to smell his breath. "He said leave, Daniel."

"Shut your mouth, Weasley. Justin says hi, by the way."

That does it, I think. Louis might as well have hit me, I wince when I hear him hit Daniel. Daniel let's out a pained scream, then I'm pushed out of the way as Louis groans. I wish I knew what was actually happening so I could stop it. But, for some reason, I try anyway. I can hear Louis gasping for breath on my right, which means it's Daniel who is right in front of me, coming closer. I hold out my hand, find his arm and grab hold.

"Let go of me, James."

"Leave, Scott."

He snatches his arm away forcefully, which knocks me backwards a little, but I try again. "No," I hear Louis shout, but I have no idea why and that starts to scare me. "CJ!"

Something hard, I can only assume it's his fist, connects with my nose and fall back against the wall. I slide to the floor, almost in slow motion, and clutch my face. I'm in so much pain. Then a new voice comes; Jack's.

"I've got him, Louis. Help CJ, stop the bleeding. You have to stop the bleeding."

I feel it running down my hand when Louis pulls it away. "Let me see."

"Don't make me go to the infirmary, they'll call my mum," I whisper.

"He's gone," Jack calls out. I hear him make his way back to us. "I'll sort it out." I know he means Daniel Scott. "Stop the bleeding than take him to the common room; he has blood replenishing potions from his healer in a cooled box in his trunk, I'll get it."

Louis takes hold of my face and quickly the blood stops and he fixes my nose. He pulls me up. "Let's get you cleaned up, yeah."

I don't talk at all on the way to Hufflepuff, he just whispers encouraging words in my ear as we walk. When we get there he sits me down on the floor, him sitting behind me and lying my head on his chest. Louis tucks his finger under my chin and makes me look up so he can wipe the blood of my face.

"Why didn't you ever tell me you where a haemophiliac?" he says finally.

He figured out. Admittedly, I don't think it would take a genius. "You never asked. There's nothing to talk about." He scoffs, saying it's a big deal. "It's not severe, in the three months you've known me and the seven years I've been at this school nothing has happened. The potion is there if I need it; my mum made me."

"Good. Here's Jack."

Jack comes in the common room, runs up the stairs. He's back in a couple of minutes and puts a potion vial in my hand. "Drink it."

I do and I feel the potion run through me; I don't feel as dizzy any more; I must have lost more blood from the nose bleed than I thought, although evidently not enough to have to go to the nurse, thank God. Louis was right; it was a good thing my mum made me keep the potions with me. "Thank you."

"I bumped into Lucy while I was looking for Scott, told her," Jack says, sounding guilty.

"And?" I prompt, but I get the feeling I already know the answer and I dread hearing it.

"She went to Digby."

I groan into my hands. Louis pulls them away from my face and I lean back into his chest. Only then do I remember that it's his birthday and I refuse to let it be ruined because of this. "Your presents." I lean across, grab the bag I had hidden at the side of the couch and feel inside for the medium-sized present. I put it in front of me; not only do I get the feeling he won't let me move, I also don't want to. It's got to be a step forward in this relationship. "Open it."

"Okay." He's cautious, slow, like he's insure about changing the subject. But he does and he opens the first gift. "It's a book."

"It's to learn Braille," I explain, trying to be enthusiastic, I don't want there to be any tension on his birthday. "I figured if you're going to be stuck with me, it'd be helpful."

"It will be. Would I be weird to love it?"

"That is the emotion I wanted," I laugh. I grab the next present. "Open it."

He tears this one faster than before; see, excitement. It's a good thing. "Ah, I love this chocolate. Anything else in that bag?" I pull it further so it's at our sides and he looks through it. "I'm trying to get rid of this aftershave."

"Well, I like it so it's staying."

He looks in again, obviously ignoring what I said. "Thank you," he whispers in my ear, not wanting Jack to hear. He's noticed the paints and Brushes. Louis doesn't know that it was Jack who helped me. He'll probably figure it out eventually, but Jack gave me his word he wouldn't say anything. It's not like he knows anything anyway, just that Louis paints. I don't even know anything.

I whisper back anyway, "You're welcome."

The door to the common room opens again. "Did you tell him?"

"Yeah, I told him you went to Digby," Jack tells Lucy.

"I figured you would, I was talking to Lewis," she replies sounding smug. Does she not remember my hatred of getting my mother involved?

"Oh, then I'm confused as to what's going on."

"She's talking about New Year," Louis explains. Oh, he's irritated. He must hate that name about as much as I hate my nicknames. I wonder why. More to the point, I should remember that next time he calls me 'Key' or, I suppress a shudder, 'Baby'.

"What about New Year?"

"We have a party every year." I nod. I know, Lucy keeps trying to invite me. "It's at our grandparents house and the outside. We want you both to come and now that I'm here, you can't say no." He wraps his arms around my waist. "Come to the party?"

"Is it just your family?" Jack asks. I roll my eyes.

"No, friends, too," Lucy says.

"Damn." Wait, I'd thought he'd be happy about that; he won't have to just speak to them. I think it's still only Fred he'll talk to willingly. I laugh as soon as I remember that Harry Potter knows Jack's family; they'd probably be there. No wonder he never wants to go.

I shake my head when Louis asks what; he'll know soon enough. "We'll be there."

"What?"

I smirk in Jack's direction. "I said we'll be there."

This is going to be fun. Today didn't turn out so bad after all. Happy birthday, Louis.




A/N: Remember Ciaran's disorder, it's not 'just there', I promise. It's kind of important and will come up again soon enough. 

Has Louis spent too much time with Ciaran; what is his game? ;)

Sam.

Chapter 15: Surprises at Christmas
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Lady Asphodel @ TDA.

***


I love Christmas in my house; my dad's home for the holiday, there's Christmas music on all afternoon and my mum bakes while I get to be the official tester. It's normal, it's nice. I wish today was like that. Unfortunately not. And it's all because of what happened six days ago.

Not long after Louis got all of his presents, Digby had us called into his office. My parents were already there, as were Louis' and Scott's. They wanted to hear what we had to say, but they were talking amongst themselves and it took my dad yelling to get them all to shut up. Sometimes parents are worse than the kids, I swear. My mum blamed Scott, his parents blamed Louis and Louis' parents went on about how he had the right to defend himself and his friends. Basically they agreed with my mum.

Only it was Jack who defended me and Louis who threw the first punch. Even if what Scott said did provoke him somehow, it didn't really look all that good for him. I was worried as to what he was going to say.

Did they have to be so loud?

"Let the kids speak," Dad had said calmly once everyone had settled down. "Jazmine," he warned my mum. She must have tried to speak. My dad's always been good at controlling a crowd, it's what makes him so good at his job in International Magical Cooperation.

"We were on our way to Hufflepuff after Potions and he was waiting for us. We told him to leave, he said no and then he started talking about my ex." Louis stopped then, hesitated. "I hit him and then he came at me, his punch to my stomach winded me. CJ tried to stop him and Daniel hit him, caused his nose to bleed. I found it hard to breathe after he hit me, I wasn't fast enough to stop him, but Jack got there before anything else happened. He told me what to do and about the potions he has, so I fixed CJ's nose in the corridor, took him to his common room and cleaned his face. Jack came and got him the potion, then told us Lucy had come to you. That's it."

Louis had taken a deep breath after that, I heard him let it out. "I know that what he said was just to get a reaction out of me and it worked, but I also know I shouldn't have hit him, I apologize for that, and I'll take whatever punishment I get. But CJ was only trying to help, he didn't do anything wrong."

It had been quiet for a long while, we were just waiting for Digby to tell us what was going to happen. "Since it's Christmas soon, I've decided to be lenient; Mr. Weasley and Mr. Scott will both receive detentions each night for the duration of term and for the week they come back. The first will be tonight after dinner; you'll come here. Consider this your warning. You may go."

Duration of term, including that night, had only been three, so it didn't sound so bad, even with the other week. That was probably what he meant by 'lenient'. After a word with their respective kids, both Scott's and Louis' parents gave their good byes and left, then Jack and Lucy, until it was just my parents, Louis and I. What a great way to meet Mum and Dad. I felt so sorry for him already. And me. This meeting wasn't meant to be for... A long time, let's put it that way.

My mum started to fuss, hugging me tightly. "Are you okay, honey?"

"I'm fine, Mum. I'm a big boy," I reminded.

"Don't baby him, Jaz, he's seventeen now." I can always count on Dad.

"But he's still my baby," she countered.

"Who you happen to be squishing."

Eventually she let go, but it didn't lighten the mood. "I hope you realize how lucky you both are here," Dad said to us. "If your condition had gotten any worse, CJ, it could have led to suspension for him. Who knows what could have happened to you. But I'm proud of you for wanting to help, even if it wasn't the best idea in the world. I'm just glad you're okay. Now I'd hug you, but I promised not in front of an audience, so I'll see you at home."

He ran his hand through my hair instead, ruffling it up. But at least he didn't hug me. It was bad enough my mum did, if my dad did, too, in front of Louis, I'd have died... A little too melodramatic?

"It was nice to finally meet you, Louis. Believe it or not, they have actually mentioned you."

Dad said good bye to us both, followed by mum, who snuck in another hug, and they left. Louis and I went to dinner, while he told me what he thought of my parents, he went to his detentions, packed and we got the train home three days ago. And now Mum is being strange and not her version of normal while my version of strange either; it's unnerving. Dad says she's thinking something through. If that's the case, she may be quiet for a while.

She's in the kitchen with Dad while I'm sat alone in the living room, listening to Christmas songs. I thought it best not to get in the way. The door's wide open, so there's no creak, but I do hear his footsteps. And I feel the couch sink a little further in due to his weight. The smell of freshly baked treats are wafted under my nose. "Cookie?" I shake my head. "My God, you're sick."

"I'm fine. What's Mum thinking about?" I crack. I can't help it, I need to know... It's not like I'm ever going to be a world class spy.

"She's thinking about things she should have thought about a long time ago," he says quietly.

Oh. "She's thinking about me."

"It's nothing bad, kiddo. It's just something she needs to do," Dad assures me. "Now -" He's cut off when the phone rings. The phone is mainly for Dad's Muggle friends that he's kept in touch with since childhood and one's he'd made later, but occasionally his Muggleborn friends from Hogwarts and work call. Sometimes Jack does. Lucy's more likely to use the Floo network. There aren't all that many wizards with a phone. So I can't imagine any of them calling now, on Christmas Eve.

"Mum still doesn't know how to use that," I tell him as he goes to get it.

"That's because she's a Halfblood with a Pureblood family, she never had one growing up, not like me, the Muggleborn. Hello." He sinks back into the couch and there's a really long pause. "How the hell did you get this number? Oh, really. It's for you." Dad hands me the phone. "Louis says his brother is very good at his job."

I laugh and take it. "Louis' brother is a journalist." Dad mutters about how much sense that makes on his way out. I put the phone to my ear. "Hi."

"Your dad was not happy about me getting this number."

"He was just surprised. How did Dom get it?"

"I just asked for your number. Personally, I'd rather not know. I think I heard something about getting Hugo's help and, if that's the case, I really don't want to know. I tried to get ahold of Lucy first, if that's any consolation. She wasn't answering, so she couldn't give me yours or Jack's."

"Because you like talking to Jack or because he was your second choice for finding me?" He laughs down the phone and says the second one. I frown, although then I remember that he can't see to elaborate like he normally would. I don't talk to people on the phone much. It's Dad's really. "You don't talk about Hugo much."

"For good reason," he warns me. "I'll fill you in at the party."

"Okay. Where are you?" I'm trying to figure out where he is by the background noise. I think I can hear water, which makes sense because he said he lives on a beach, but I didn't know he had a phone.

"When you leave the beach, there's this little village. The village has a payphone and my dad, who works in a bank, has Muggle money. I just needed your number."

"Well, you do know that you could have just waited for Lucy, gotten my address from her and floo called, right?" I ask with a confused smile. I mean, why go through all that trouble of finding the phone number?

"I know, but that would have meant pretending my mum wasn't listening to me while she pretended she wasn't listening at all. I need my privacy. Anyway, there's a reason I called."

I fake gasp. "You mean to say you it's not because you miss me? This is what it feels like to die inside. It hurts."

"Actually, I think that's the reason," he cuts in and I suddenly stop talking and listen. I knew it, but it's nice to hear it. "I told myself it was to see how you are after what happened in school, but I kinda forgot that when you started talking." He pauses. "I can't remember the last time I missed someone. It's strange."

What's strange is hearing him taking whatever feelings he has seriously instead of flirting all the time. Is that another step up in the 'I don't want to be with a commitment phobe' part of why we're not together when Lucy asks? I'm gonna say yes. I change the subject, though; I don't want him freaking out over it. "Well, I'm okay. My mum is acting weird, though."

"How so?"

"Dad said she's thinking about things she should have thought about a long time ago?"

"What does that mean?"

"It means she's thinking about me and I'll find out when she's ready to tell me," I translate quietly. I don't want them knowing I'm telling Louis about this, do I? Maybe I'm a little nervous to hear her thoughts, too.

"I'm sure it's nothing to worry about," Louis assures me. How does he do that? He's not even here, he can't see me. But I do feel better. A little.

"If I find out before the party, I'll let you know. Speaking of which, I need to tell them about that."

"You better be coming. I will come to wherever you live and bring you myself. Where do you live?"

"Essex. If you want specifics, you're gonna have to ask someone else; I'm just brought here. And I'll be at the party, I promise."

"Good. I have to go, my money is running out in this phone. Next time, I'll either endure my mum's snooping or flirt with the waiter in the café into using that one."

"Endure your mum's snooping," I tell him. Even to my ears it doesn't sound very nice. It's almost... Possessive and jealous. It's like Halloween all over again. I clear my throat, but Louis doesn't seem to mind. In fact, he sounds pleased. Like it's the reaction he wanted.

Ciaran: 1. Louis: 3.

I'll get him back for that.

"I'll see you soon, CJ. Merry Christmas."

"Merry Chrismas," I manage to say before the line goes dead. I drop the phone at my side and lean back into the couch.

"What party?"

I jump out of my skin. "Dad! How long where you listening?"

"Long enough," he says with his mouth full. Ew. "These cookies are delicious, by the way. So, what party?"

"Lucy's New Year party, the one she invites me to every year."

"You're actually going this year?" He sounds surprised. Am I that boring?

"Yes."

"Is this so you can spend time with Louis?"

"Yes." Lying is just a hassle.

"I like him." Good. "He seems like a good guy." He is. Mostly. Shh. "Does he know about your rule that it has to be special?"

"Yes."

Dad scoffs. "Then he's a really good guy."

He groans. If he didn't want an elbow in the gut, he shouldn't have chosen to sit so close. "So, I can go?"

"From what I hear, you've already decided."

"I'm being polite. Where's Mum?"

"Here." Mum sits on my other side. I remember now why I have a corner in the Hufflepuff common room and why I hate sitting in the middle; I feel trapped. I can't get out!. "We want to talk to you."

I nod, hope that gulp wasn't too loud. Uh oh. "Okay."

"Don't look so worried. It's not bad." I wish saying that automatically made me feel better. It doesn't. "You know, I've been a worrier my whole life. Even though I begged my parents to go to Hogwarts, I was scared I'd be alone. It was a new country, I had to speak in my second language all the time. But I went and I don't regret it. Of course when I met your dad, he only made it worse at first," Dad doesn't like that, "but the end result is what matters. When I got the job here and we moved officially, I knew that I'd worry about you while your dad travelled and I would be looking after you alone for the first time, letting you go to daycare and not being with you. After what happened, I guess it just became more of a worry and I don't think I've ever taken it very well. To the point where you don't take it very well. You say you're fine, but you look for guidance. When something goes wrong, you panic. You say you've accepted it, but you haven't."

"Don't."

"No," she interrupts. She's stern, determined. This is what Dad meant. "We need to fix this, Ciaran. You're seventeen now, an independent adult, and I'm not going to stop you living your life, no matter how much I worry. I trust you and I know you'll be okay because you can do anything. We've always known that really. It'll take time, and I'm sorry it's taken so long for me to say this, but once you've fully accepted that being blind won't change anything, you'll see it, too."

That's good to know," I mutter, standing up. "If you'll excuse me, I have a party to get ready for."

"Ciaran."

"No." It's my turn to interrupt. "You're not me, you don't know what it's like. Last week when Scott punched me was Louis' birthday. That night Jack told me he couldn't stop smiling when we were in the common room. I would never have known if he hadn't told me. So I hate what happened to me. I barely even remember it, but I hate it. And I won't talk about it anymore. Not now, not ever, because there's no point; it'll always be the same. I appreciate it, though. Thank you. I'll be down for dinner."

I linger out the door, by the stairs, long enough to hear whatever they have to say to each other. "Should we bring him back in? Sit him down? He needs to understand."

"No," Dad says softly. "That kind of goes against the space you said you'd give him. Just let him keep that space. He's only seventeen and Louis is the first person he's ever been close to. Knowing Ciaran, he's probably confused and nervous enough as it is without wanting to think about what being blind brings with it. He just needs time to adjust."

"You're probably right," she agrees with Dad. "We'll leave him."

I continue up the stairs, hoping he's right.

***

Not even Christmas has me waking up early. Honestly, it's just not me. I asked once and I've never wanted to get up early. I've been woken up my whole life. My parents were so pleased to have such a quiet baby (my uncle's words, not mine). It's always Mum who wakes me up on the special occasions like Christmas, because, whatever this is, I get it from Dad.

I feel her hand on my back, shaking me. "Come on, Ciaran. I waited until your friends floo called your presents and I sent theirs back, so now you have to get up."

"Fine," I groan. That's kind of the deal, you see. Mum let's me sleep in instead of going straight to my grandparents and waiting around for Christmas dinner, but she always wakes me up after all my presents have come and she's delivered my friends from me, so that I have time to open them. If I don't get up after all my presents come, she'll start waking me up early. And what sane person wants that?

I roll to the edge and swing my feet out, stand up and find the bathroom. I have to brush my teeth first, even if I don't get washed and ready. I hate morning breath. Then I go downstairs. I can hear my dad snoring on the couch. He won't be the moment he smells eggs and toast.

I sit on the floor against the couch, near the arm. It's my spot, it's where I go at Christmas, and my presents are already there. They go in an order; parents, rest of family, friends. New books (ever the Ravenclaw, Mum), a watch that tells me the time when I press a button (only this one doesn't say 'earthling' just the time), a talking remembrall (this might actually come in handy), new clothes (probably something I'll wear today). The one Mum says is from Lucy is a new quill, among other things, and Jack's is a voice activated journal, password protected and only my voice opens it. That is... Quite cool actually. Especially since I like to fill my journals with music that is written as I play by my magic quill and I don't like people to see.

"How sweet of them to coordinate their gifts," Mum gushes. "Are they together yet?"

I cross my two fingers together. "Almost."

Dad wakes just as I get to the last gift, from Louis I guess. I find the gift tag and I'm about to show it to Mum so she can read it out to me when my fingers brush the over the top and I stop. It's in Braille. How did he manage that?

"What does it say?" Dad asks as he yawns.

I read it, sure my smile is getting bigger each second. He's actually learning. You can tell it's inexperienced, but it's still understandable. "It says 'thinking of you' and 'merry Christmas' and his name."

I tear open the wrapping paper and lift up the lid of the small box before feeling inside. "It looks like some kind of iPod," Dad says.

I frown. "The music thing?"

"Yeah." He takes it out of my hands. Buttons click and I can faintly hear sound, but it's not music. Dad puts something in my ear. "Books."

"I remember I told him in passing that there were a few books I missed. You used to read them because they weren't in Braille. This is so cool. How do you pause it?" Dad presses a button and it goes, then he navigates my finger to which button do what so I can find my own way. "Dad, can I have an iPod? For the music."

He laughs. "You should have asked for one or Christmas."

Mum leaves to make breakfast, laughing as well, and we get ready for my grandparents straight after. I put my books in my pocket and wait in the living room. None of us mention what was said by me yesterday, a very good thing, and I think about my present for Louis instead. I hope he likes that one as much as his birthday presents. I guess I can ask him at the party.

New Year; that's pretty special.

Right? 




A/N: That ending... Is that a hint? ;)

Sam.

Chapter 16: Have I Told You Lately
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Lady Asphodel @ TDA.

***


Like always, Lucy is in the call, giving her regular little speech about how my parents are more than welcome to come to the party. Every other year, they said no because I didn't go. This year they're saying no to give me that space they talked about. From what I heard, they've actually planned something now that they've got the house to themselves until 'whenever I come home tomorrow'

...And that's as far as I go with those thoughts.

For the first time since she started asking me in first year, I step though the floo and into her grandparents' house. Not just for this party, but ever. It's unfamiliar, was always too new for me, but I knew my home and Lucy accepted that. Tonight I cross 'Come to The Burrow' off my list (I still can't believe Louis laughed at me for that one).

Speaking of Louis, he's not there to catch me when I come through. Just in case. Or to see me. Lucy is. "Hey," she says excitedly, hugging me. "I'm so glad you came. Where's your cane?"

"I didn't want it," I shrug nonchalantly, hoping my 'looking around' is just as casual. I'm trying to pinpoint different voices, but I only want one specifically.

"Oh, Lou is outside, mingling," she answers my unspoken question, her voice sounding sorry for him as she says it. "He wanted to wait for you when you came, but Grandma found him before I did and told him to ask if anyone would like anything." She takes my hand and leads me elsewhere, outside probably. "I'll take you to him. Jack's already here, been here about five minutes and he's already hiding."

I laugh. "You know his family."

"You're right, I'd hide, too. Even with a family as big as mine, they're not that bad. Louis!"

The moment Lucy let's go of my hand, Louis crushes me with his own hug. "Thank God," he whispers.

I return it quickly, rubbing his upper back with my hand in soothing circles. It's works for me. He squeezes a little tighter. "Stop it," I mouth to my right when Lucy starts to laugh. "Did you think I wouldn't come?"

I feel his head shake against my neck. "I need you to keep me from going crazy." Oh. Louis let's go, but still keeps an arm around my waist. "I think I'm being punished for something."

"You're not being punished," Lucy scolds. Then she explains to me. "Every year Grandma picks someone new to be the 'official mingler'; walk around, chat with guests, be friendly, other them refreshments and always have a smile. I had to do it last year." That explains her sympathy before. "It feels like punishment, but it's not. As Grandma says 'we're her loving grandchildren, helping family; we want to do this'."

"I want to cry," Louis corrects.

"Louis!"

"I'm mingling!" he yells to the voice. I rub my ear. "Sorry. Would you like a drink?"

"Please."

"Refreshments are this way." We make our way to wherever said refreshments are. We go backwards, towards the house, so we must have gone past them. But we don't go back inside the house. Interesting. "We've got water, an assortment of juices, beers, wines, whiskey, everything really. My family really go all out to make sure everyone is happy. Take your pick."

"I'll have a beer."

"Bottle or plastic cup?"

"Bottle."

"Excellent choice, sir," he praises me in a posh accent. I imagine a maitre d' in a five star restaurant. I get my drink and take a healthy sip as he turns me around and gives me what they both consider most valuable information. "Got any valuables on you?" I tap my right pocket; an emergency mobile phone that has my dad on speed-dial. I didn't feel the need to bring any money since it's a house party and I wasn't going to use my player to listen to any books, so there was really no point bringing that either. "Check that pocket regularly; Hugo has light fingers, he's nosy and if he gets it he'll just shrug his shoulders and talk about how it's not his fault you're weren't quick enough and that you're not a worthy opponent. We've all got a pool going as to when he'll end up arrested or even in Azkaban."

"When do you think?" I ask, genuinely interested. It's one thing to hear rumors of the kid's extracurricular activities, but another altogether to have confirmation. No one ever believed the rumors, though. The Weasley poster boy can do no wrong.

"My bet's on never; Hugo's too smart and too quick for that to ever happen. Unfortunately, it's only us cousins who really know any of this. The parents refuse to believe it; Hugo's an angel. Devil in disguise more like."

"I sense the slightest bit of admiration," I tell them, taking another drink.

"He's useful," Lucy answers. "Apparently, you learnt that on Christmas Eve." Yeah, I remember; Dom and my number. I nod. "We've already got plans in place in case he is arrested one day; Dom's friend is a lawyer." I raise an eye-brow. "We never said we didn't love the future criminal mastermind."

"Just keep a listen out for him," Louis makes me promise as he takes my hand and leads me away. We're just walking while he talks, going no where in particular. "It's better to use your ears than your eyes with Hugo; he's fast, so if you don't listen, you'll lose him and that's a very bad thing."

"My hearing is perfect." I hold onto my earlobe and wiggle it between my thumb and forefinger. "Had a lot of practice."

"Louis!"

He stops mid-laugh and sounds as though he's about to cry. My arm instinctively goes around his shoulders. "I'm coming," he calls, then he kisses the top of my head. "Look after him for me, Luce. If I'm not back soon, bring the lawyer."

"Will do."

Louis leaves us and Lucy loops her arm around mine as we continue to walk and drink. Well, I'm drinking. I know Lucy's not; she's got one hand held onto my arm and one holding my own hand. She can't hold a drink. "Who's the lawyer friend?"

"Kieron Nott." I turn to her. This is interesting news and not just because I know the name. "I like to call him Kieron with a K. You'd think that with that information Louis would figure out I know someone with the same name spelt with a C," I raise my free hand to point out a useful fact, "Yeah, I know. Similar name then. Anyway, you'd think that he'd know I know someone called Ciaran and remember that you are the only friend I have with a name beginning with a C that he doesn't know and realize it's your name."

That reminds me; I need to talk to him about his game. I hope he comes back soon and without the need for the lawyer. I play along. "You'd think."

***

Lucy left me. Okay, she's gone to the bathroom, but I'm still alone, sitting on top of a table, and it's making me feel like the loner in the corner. But it's not all bad; I have chocolates on a plate by my side and they are yummy. Lucy's mum, Audrey, gave them to me about ten minutes ago, stopping for a few minutes to say hello and asking how I was before looking for her husband, and after she left Lucy followed.

I stuff another chocolate into my mouth and wait; she'll be back soon. Until then... Where is Jack?

Never mind that, I'm being watched. I swear it, there are eyes to my right and they are watching me. It is unnerving. The unnerving eyes become a heartbeat, slow and even and very close. Then there's a hand on my pocket. I reach out. "Nice try, kid." He laughs as I push his hand back. "You must be Hugo."

"I know you're Ciaran. Hi." He climbs up onto the table besides me. "It's nice to meet you. I take it Lou and Lucy have talked about me."

"A little bit."

"Don't listen to them; I don't intend on being a criminal mastermind. I like to snoop and I like to find things. But I don't want to use it for that or to write about people like Lily; she wants to be an investigative journalist. Maybe I'll go into the business world." He taps me on the arm, excited. "Or I could be a spy."

"Part of being a spy is to not let people know you're a spy. You've failed." I grin and offer him a chocolate. "So, why were you going in my pocket?"

"I wanted to know if I could. Well done, by the way; you are second person to be able to stop me." I ask who the first person was, intrigued. "Uncle Harry. I figured he would; if he can stop a dark wizard at seventeen, he can stop me from pickpocketing him. But I had to know."

"Yeah, because that makes sense," I say slowly.

"I also find that since I like to know people, pockets can useful sources of information. Like your phone, for example." I put my hand in my now empty pocket. That sneaky, quick bastard. "You shouldn't let me talk. Do you want to know what your phone tells me?"

"No."

He continues to tell me anyway. It's like I didn't say anything at all. I hate being ignored. "There's no happy, smiling pictures of family or friends as a wallpaper and only one contact, which is your dad. It tells me you only use this for emergencies."

"Yeah, so?"

"Nothing." He hands it back. "I was just interested. I like you. I want to say Louis is very lucky, but you're still not together from what I hear. Why is that?"

I jump down, only to turn to lean against the table, a little closer to him. "If I let you in on a little secret, will you leave?"

"Yes."

"We might get together tonight if I manage to see him for more than five minutes," I whisper, then in a big dramatic gesture I put my finger to my lips and shush him.

"Oh, you need Nana to stop watching and calling him, so he can get away and be with you instead of mingling." I nod. Sorry, Mrs. Weasley, who I haven't had the pleasure of meeting yet, but that is exactly what I need. "On it."

"Huh?" He's already disappearing when I turn around. Why is he like that? What the hell makes him think he can help me and that it'll be so easy? Help. Ah, phone number. "Oi! How did you get my house number?"

"It was an emergency contact in his Ministry file. And before you ask, no. I didn't snoop. I batted my eyes, gave a nice, big smile and asked the woman in charge very nicely. I told her it was important that I got in touch and she wrote it down. See you later."

Right. If were to get in on that bet, I'd be joining Louis with the 'never' vote. That kid is smart and quick and useful. If he manages to get Louis here I will be very impressed. Hugo Weasley might just be my new favourite person.

"Now I thought Louis would have warned you away from Hugo," a new voice calls out, amused.

"He did. And you are?"

"Dom, brother. Hello."

"Ciaran." I hold out a hand, which he takes. Then he swaps his hand for a new bottle, tells me he saw me with one before. I take it gratefully and have a drink.

"I know. Why are you all alone?"

"Lucy went to the bathroom, hasn't come back yet."

"I saw her on my way here, she was stopped by your friend, er, Jackson. It is Jackson, right? Jackson Ryder?"

"That's him. Have you seen the rest of his family?"

"His family are here, too?" When I tell Dom who they are, he can't seem to stop laughing. It's fun to hear. He has a nice laugh, similar to Louis' only a little deeper. I end up joining him. "Yes, I saw them," he finally gets out.

"So, Louis tells me you're interning at Witch Weekly, you want to be a journalist."

"Yeah. I've been writing forever, thought I'd make a living out of it," he jokes. "Do you know what you want to do?" I shake my head. I don't have a freaking clue, never have. I've never actually thought about it to be honest. "You'll figure it out. Louis says he doesn't know either, but I hope he'll go to school, continue his art."

"You know about his art? Have you seen any?"

"No, I haven't seen any of his pictures since he was a kid coloring at the table. He doesn't like to show and tell. It's just me and Vic and now you who really knows anything," Dom sounds kind of down about that. Not about me knowing, about Louis not showing. You can tell they're close, all three of them, so Louis not telling him about something must be rare.

"He's probably just shy," I reassure him. "I love playing the piano, but I stop once I know someone's watching, even if it's family."

"Maybe. You play piano?" I nod. "Our grandmother, on Mum's side, got us a tutor to learn. I can play; Vic and Louis are rubbish," he chuckles. "I have to go, I'm being summoned. You don't have to sit here alone, you know. You're welcome here, talk to people."

"I didn't think I'd be alone for so long," I admit, shrugging. "Lucy said she'd only be a couple of minutes. Besides, I'm hoping to find Louis."

"He's around, he'll find you. I hope," Dom pauses, like he's trying to find the right words. Is he about to say something he shouldn't? Or is he just a big brother uncomfortable talking about his little brother's potential relationships? "I hope he sorts himself out and doesn't screw up what he could have with you. And I hope you don't either."

What? "Is this about his first boyfriend?"

"You know about Ellis?"

I shake my head slowly. "Just that they were together for a summer then they moved one. I think he said it was a fling. But he told me he was never any good with relationships. The guy's name is Ellis?"

"Yeah," Dom replies very slowly. I think now I've come to an uncomfortable topic. Which is bad because now I really want to know what happened with the Ellis guy. "I'm not talking about Ellis. You have to ask Louis, but I wouldn't expect an answer if I were you." It's like he really can read my mind. "But I will say that, and if you tell Louis I said this I'll hurt you, Ellis was very bad for Lou, you are very good for him, and he tries to make sure what he has with you doesn't end as badly as the last two because he really likes you. So, help him."

"How?"

"By not running away when you get scared." My eyes widen at his response. "He ran away from his relationships, you've never let yourself be in one. You're gonna fill your head with doubts when he acts funny and you're going to blame yourself and the fact that you're blind. Don't do that. Don't leave him."

"How do you know any of that?" I demand.

"You got too close."

Louis' words jump straight to the front of my mind: Don't get too close to Dom... It's true; I've only been near him for a few minutes and it's like he knows every fear I've got.

"Also, I talk to Lucy," he finishes before he leaves.

I frown, I didn't know Lucy ever talked about me so much, not about things she's obviously picked up on because I've never told her. She knows me more than I thought and to actually talk to someone about it means she worried about me. I've worried my best friend. No wonder she's been so excited about me and Louis; we haven't done anything to screw it up yet. She's hopeful.

"Hey, sorry I took so long; Jackson is paranoid. He'll find you soon, he says. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," I whisper, then I clear my throat and take a drink. "I spoke to Dom, he's nice."

"Yeah. His weird litte ability can be scary, but he's awesome. Dom's one of my favorite people in the world. You can just talk to him about anything and he knows exactly how to help."

I nod and agree; his ability to read people is scary and he does give good advice.

But I didn't want to get too close.

***

Whatever Hugo does, it doesn't take long and by the time Louis is by my side, I have mostly sorted myself out; my head is riddled with questions, about Louis, about his relationship, what Dom meant. But on the outside, I think look relatively normal and for now that will do. I don't want to ruin tonight, I meant what I said to Hugo.

We're talking and laughing, Louis stood behind me with his arms around my waist and swaying a little to the music when Jack finally finds us.

"I've finally escaped the devil incarnate," he whispers, panting slightly. "If you see the her lapdog, warn me so I may run. Hey, CJ."

"Who?"

I snicker. "He's finally escaped Hollie. If you see Jake, warn him so he may run," I translate. "Hey, Jack."

"Hollie and Jake? Louis mutters to himself. "Hollie and Jake Wood? Oliver Wood's kids?" I nod. "You know Hollie and Jake Wood?"

"They're his cousins," Lucy sounds very happy.

"Oh. Oh, Jack, I'm so sorry," Louis tries to be sincere, but even I can tell he's trying not to laugh. "I mean, they're crazy."

"It's like they eat nothing but sugar, just because they know it annoys people," Jack moans. "I can't believe Aunt Kat and Uncle Oliver actually admit to having those two."

"Kat?" Louis asks. "Katherine Wood, formally Katherine Ryder, the Harpies keeper? She's your aunt?"

"The one and only," Jack admits. "Her youngest brother, Bobby Ryder, is my dad."

"The footballer who married the Muggle actress?"

I crane my neck up, my head resting in Louis' shoulder. "You like football?"

I feel his shoulder move up and down against my neck. "Guys in shorts."

"Oh. I love how casually you say that," I mutter. I don't care if he notices or how he takes my sarcasm, it calms me.

"So, that makes you famous, Jack."

"No, it really doesn't. My parents are just well known. I went to a couple of my mum's premiers with them when they thought I was old enough to stay up so late, but stopped when I started Hogwarts. I have a crazy and well known family, can we change the subject now?" Jack pleads.

"Sure," Lucy says assuringly. "I can see Jake, how long before he sees you?"

"Show me where the bathroom is, Lucy," Jack says quickly, his voice getting further and further away. "I haven't been there yet, I might get lost."

"Why should I?"

"Jake wants to know if you're single," he shouts.

An arm pats my shoulder. "I gotta go."

I call out a good bye, but I don't think they hear me. Louis turns me around, his arms still around my waist. "I am very sober and I'm being very good and I have Hugo distracting my nan; now will you dance with me?"

I pull a face and step back. He starts to let go of me, but I grab his hands and stop him. I don't want him to leave, to misunderstand again. "I can't dance."

He relaxes into me, then takes my hand and pulls me away. Louis stops me and let's go, leaving me in what I now think is the middle of the garden or field or wherever this party is, guests' eyes on me. I think about calling out his name, but that would mean people hearing me and having more eyes on me. I don't want that. So, I just stand there, hopefully not like an idiot, and wait for him to come back.

The music changes and Louis has my hand again, pulling me closer to him, and swaying. Dancing. No, slow dancing. He's wrapped my arms around his neck and his around my waist and everything. "See, you're dancing."

"I noticed," I mutter, hoping people are no longer watching.

"They've gone back to dancing, CJ," he promises and I believe him.

"I know this song," I whisper. "I can play it. It's old."

"I know, it's one of your favorites." I agree, surprised. "I do listen to you, you know."

"I found that out when you got me my favorite books on audio for Christmas. Thank you, by the way. I loved it."

"And I loved mine. Those canvases and paints and the books, everything you've gotten me that week must have cost a helluva lot of money. You didn't have to," he says.

"Enjoy it. It's not often I spoil people," I wink. "Besides, you could always tell me about your art."

He spins me around, pulls me back and laughs. "Nice try, Mr. James."

"What is with your endless supply of names for me?" My arm rises with his shoulder. "I know that you're so set on me giving you my name, I know that you know what it is, but I don't know why."

"I have my own games to play. Only difference is I'll win mine."

"What makes you so sure I'll tell you before you tell me? I already know my name, I don't need to say it."

"I already know your name, I don't need to call it you, Baby," he counters. Must not make him pay just yet... "I'll make you want to tell me, after I've made everything so very special."

"Everything?" I repeat quietly. I know what that means.

"Everything."

"How?"

"I haven't figured that last bit out yet. Give me time." I feel his lips curve against my cheek when he leans in.

"How long have you known?" I ask.

"That would be telling," he says then he whispers a line of the song in my ear. He's so quiet, I can't even tell if he's a good singer or not. "Fill my life with gladness, take away my sadness. Ease my troubles that's what you do."

"You just had to be cheesy at the end, didn't you?" I joke one the song ends. Well, I sound jokey, but he was.

"The moment called for it and I will not apologize." I move my arms from his neck to take a hand, shaking my head. "It may have taken me two whole months, but I've had my dance. We can go hide in a corner again." I dig my heels and wait for him to correct himself. He knows exactly what I want, it's not the first time this has happened. "You can go back to keeping me company while I hide in a corner."

Atta boy. The corner turns out to be an empty bit of field, he says. The music is not so loud here, so we can talk normally, and it's still within the wards and charms, so it's warm and dry. We sit on the grass and just enjoy the peace and quiet. Considering I've spent most of it hanging around in the corners with my friends, this party hasn't been so bad and I tell Louis that. Apparently it's far from over; the parents usually send the kids into the house soon after the fireworks and put them to bed, but they come back out and their party continues until they're ready to leave, then they floo home with their sleeping children. Louis, the other grandkids and maybe a few of their friends usually stay here for the night, while the parents go home. That was his not so subtle way of saying I can stay. And I not so subtly tell him I don't plan on going anywhere, then I tell him about my parents night alone. He understands.

"What time is it?"

I roll up my sleeve and press the button on my watch. "Eleven forty."

"Cool watch."

"It's handy. Where's Jack and Lucy?"

"They're probably wondering around somewhere, waiting for the fireworks." I raise an eye-brow; he's planned something. "I may have told them at the beginning of the party to clear off for the fireworks. There's a tradition I'd like to honor, if you'd let me."

I smirk. "I'll think about it."

Midnight tonight comes quicker than any I can ever remember. And with every minute that passes, my heart seems to beat that much faster. It's so fast, I swear Louis can hear it. If he does, he doesn't comment. On the last minute he taps my arm and we stand up. We can hear the others at the party count down, but we don't. Louis stands in front of me and leans his forehead against mine. "Nervous?"

"A little bit. I might suck," I whisper.

"So?"

I barely acknowledge the fireworks when they start, everyone's cheers and shouts for a happy New Year all sound faint, even to my ears. Louis's hand finds its way to the back of my neck, his fingers in my hair, and, as soon as the fireworks die down, he leans in until his lips just touch my own...

"Louis?"

We both turn to the voice and I know that he's just as disappointed as I am. And we both know who that voice belongs to: Roxanne.

"I'm gonna -"

"Hey," I interrupt, my hands cupping his face and turning his head so he's facing me again. My eyes are shut, but I can feel his breath against my mouth and I know he's watching me. "It'll be okay."

"Louis?"

Her voice is distant this time and goes further away. She didn't see us, didn't know or stop it. Their grandmother is probably looking for Louis. "I should go see what they want."

He steps away, but I grab his arm on instinct and pull him back, but we both know the moment has passed and when he gets back to me I kiss his cheek instead, lingering for a few seconds longer. "Happy New Year."

I listen as he leaves to find his cousins, his footsteps seem to echo against the grass. Or is that still my heartbeat? Then I follow.

Hello again, universe. Believe it or not, I didn't miss you.

So, what's the score against me this time?




A/N: Fill my life with gladness, take away my sadness. Ease my troubles that's what you do and the title belong to the song Have I told you lately by Van Morrison.

To anyone who reads Silver Linings, you'll recognize Kieron Nott, only he and Dom are not together in this.

Now, because I know, well, everything that happens in this and knew the outcome of the hint, I'm going to follow Louis' example and hide in a corner... I'll make it up to you, I promise. :)

Sam.

Chapter 17: Don't Let Me Go
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The first thing I notice is that I am definitely dreaming.

How do I know that I'm dreaming? Because I'm pretty sure that big, burning, blurry ball above me that I can more or less see is the sun. Yeah, I'm definitely sure, more or less, that it's the sun. It's what I used to call it when I could see it; the big, burning, blurry ball, because it was big and hot and Mum said that I would squint to see it. But now I think it's blurry because of my memories. I can't remember the last time I actually saw something in a dream, doctors said my dreams wouldn't retain visual imagery as I lost my sight so young, but I tried so hard to not forget things I'd seen and sometimes something would come through. It's only the things I remember that I see, though. I'm not magic.

...Pretend I didn't just say that.

So, I know I'm dreaming because I can see what I remember of the sun. And I must know this field from somewhere. I think it's a field; I can smell freshly cut grass, feel it beneath my fingers.

Everything's blurry and I don't know if it's my memories or my eyes, but I can kind of see and this is a very strange dream. Am I using magic in my head? Is that even possible?

I make even less sense in my dreams, but at least I know I'm dreaming.

But I don't feel confused, I feel... Content. I relax on the grass, staring up at the blurry, yet very blue, sky, and embrace the silence. It's not long before I drift off, my eyes grow heavy until they close. I don't think I'm all that tired, the calm just has that effect on me; I could lie here forever. I turn my head when the sound of footsteps, soft and close, find their way to me. I'm not surprised by the fact that someone is coming, it's like I already know, and he lies by my right side, so we're shoulder-to-shoulder, much like that day by the lake at school. I know it's him straight away; I'd recognize his scent anywhere, could pick him out in a crowd with ease.

Louis.

He runs a finger down the side of my face, stopping at my pulse. I feel my heart quicken at his touch and now he can feel it. "Thinking happy thoughts?" he whispers. I can tell he's smirking. "Thinking of me?"

"You'll never know," I answer in a similarly quiet tone, my smile small, but playful. With that one look from me and his responding laugh, it's clear he knows he was right. I think about saying something to get to him, to make him squirm slightly, but the atmosphere is sweet and kind of romantic, too peaceful to even think of ruining it.

So, I know I'm dreaming, I know the effect it's having and I know that I sound like such a girl. Good to know.

Louis moves, his arm brushing mine as he does so. "Open your eyes, Ciaran." I do to find that he's moved to lie on his side, holding himself up by his elbow with his cheek resting in his hand, and he's watching me with curious blue eyes. His lips are pink and chapped and smiling at me, while his finger moves from my pulse to behind my ear, his hand cupping the side of my face and his thumb drawing circles on my cheek. This is how I see Louis. When I try really hard, this what my imagination comes up with. He's clearer than everything else in this dream, maybe because he's my imagination and not a memory. But I don't care. I can see him.

I'm aware of the lack of surprise I have for this. How can I be surprised to see him if I know I'm dreaming?

"Isn't that better?" he asks.

I copy him, propping myself up on my elbow and balancing my fist against my cheek, so we're face-to-face. I shrug. "Depends on what you're referring to."

"Seeing me."

"Definitely better," I whisper. "I'll miss it when it goes again." I know I will, when I wake up and I can't see again. I can't sleep and stay here forever and it takes so much effort to imagine the world around me all day, to see images of things I've never truly seen in my head. Already the world we're in is getting darker, disappearing on me, even Louis is starting to lose focus. I'm waking up.

There's a tickling sensation on my stomach.

"You'll see me again soon," he murmurs, his voice is filled with confidence and his eyes are full of promise. Nothing comes to mind that can confirm that for me; no sudden epiphany that brings a cure with it and I rarely ever dream like this. I don't want this dream to end.

"Don't let me go," I blurt out.

Louis narrows his eyes, frowns at me; he's confused. "Why would I ever let you go?"

Everything I've ever thought fills my head, and I really mean every little thing, reminding me of my fears, my insecurities. But I don't say a single one to him. As usual. "I don't know," I shrug instead.

"Don't think so much and trust me," he whispers before placing his lips against mine. There's no one to come between us here, no reason for me to stop, and I open my mouth to accept his kiss as my eyes close. I move one hand to his shoulder and the other, the hand connected to the arm that I had been balancing on, goes to his hair. It's harder to stay up this way and he uses the moment to roll me onto my back, so he's on top of me. His hand fall down to rest on my stomach and the tickling sensation starts again.

The next time I open my eyes, everything is black.

***

I lift my head up slowly, my neck is stiff from the position on the hard surface I lay my head on when I fell asleep. But where the rest of my body is is soft underneath. I run my hand along the edge, then the side where my head was, and then along the top; oh, I think I'm on the couch. I drop my arm down, only it lands on the side of another body rather than the cushions. I'm not alone, lying along the back of the couch like I had thought. It only takes me a moment to register who it is; the faint traces of his aftershave still linger. I'm not surprised that it's Louis. It could never be anyone but Louis.

I run my hand over his side to his hip and the movement causes him to sigh and pull me in so we're closer together. Then I know I'm not imagining his shirt is open and I'm running his fingers over his skin; my hand is now on Louis' stomach, above his belly button.

There's that tickling sensation on my stomach again.

I find out why, removing my hand from its awkward position behind my back, and there is Louis' hand resting on top. My shirt must have risen slightly while I moved in my sleep and his fingers tickle me when he moves. That's what I felt; him. My head back in its original position on the couch's arm, I shut my eyes again. Louis is still fast asleep, he snores a little, so it must still be early. Unless he's always like this after a party. He was up kinda early after Halloween, though. Who knows what time he'd been in the library when I came in at breakfast?

We're closer together now, my back pressed slightly against his front, and his head ends up buried in my neck. It mutes his snoring, but I can feel his breath warm my skin and his lips at my pulse. He's so close. And I can feel all of him, every muscle, every movement. His heartbeat is slow and steady unlike mine.

He moves again, turning his body to me; he's pressed fully against me now. It's like when I was little and tried to finish a jigsaw puzzle; the piece was turned and tried until it finally fit perfectly. Comparing us to a jigsaw, that's... Strange. When Louis moves, his hand falls a little further down. I put my hand over his, threading my fingers between his, and pull our hands back up to my stomach as I get comfortable. He sighs again and he smiles in his sleep; his lips curve against my neck.

I'm all ready to go back to sleep when he whispers my name. Not either nickname, not a little pet-name, but my real name. The one he said he wouldn't say to me first. Technically he still hasn't said it to me, but he still said it and I want more than anything for him to say it again...

But he doesn't. I don't catch the other words he's muttering. He's dreaming. Is he dreaming about me?

A door opens. Someone swears quietly when it bangs. Dom, I know. I recognize his voice. Things rattle, I think he's carrying something, then it stops and he's back inside. Dom still moves around, I know the sounds he's making well; he's making a drink. I smell coffee. I'm not allowed coffee, not that he knows that, and Louis told me that Dom doesn't drink it, plus Louis' not awake and he can't know that I am, so who is it for?

Then I remember all of their cousins are here, plus me and Jack, Dom's lawyer friend and the lawyer friend's sister, who is Albus Potter's girlfriend, and finally the lawyer friend's cousin, who is also Albus' friend (the kid knows a lot of people), Scorpius Malfoy. I haven't had the pleasure of speaking to Albus yet, but his girlfriend and Scorpius are alright. That drink could be for any of them. I can't believe I forgot there were so many people here.

Louis groans again, this time sounding frustrated more than content, and he lifts his head up so that his lips are now by my ear. He's awake. "Morning," he whispers.

I'm instantly reminded of my dream, the way he sounded before he kissed me. I hate that it wasn't real. He leaves a chaste kiss between my neck and shoulder. I really, really hate that it wasn't real. "Morning. Sleep well."

"Hmm," he gets out, like he could go back to sleep at any moment, and he runs his fingers up and down my stomach, it's likes he's not even aware he's doing so. "Very good dream."

"Was I in it?"

"Hmm."

I grin. "Really?"

"Hmm."

"Are just saying that because you're still half asleep and can't manage an actual response or are you teasing me?"

"Hmm."

I feel him smile and, with my free hand, I stretch behind me and pinch him at his side. He cries out, more out of surprise than pain. I smirk, his brother laughs. Dom knows we're awake now. And he's closer than I thought.

"Here you go, you wuss," he says, his arm brushing over my hair when he leans over to Louis and he's pushed back a little. Oh, it is for Louis; does Louis wake around this time for Dom to make that for him or was his brother just going to wake him up? He pokes me with his finger and it's hard enough for me to fall backwards into Louis' chest. Maybe that was what he did to Louis. "Coffee, sleepyhead?"

"No, thanks."

"None for sleepyhead," Louis tells him. Where the hell did this new nickname come from? He pulls me up with him, keeping an arm wrapped around my waist as we sit back against the couch. It feels nice, it feels relationship-y, I'm not sure that is even word but I'm using it anyway. Not that I'd tell Louis this; he already knows I like him and, after our almost kiss, he should know I want more, so why tell him what he already knows? Or maybe this is what my therapist said when he called me a closed book... Well, the last one, when I was eleven. I didn't handle things very well after what happened to me. Apparently, I still don't. Who'd have guessed?

"Sleepyhead here gets all jittery, starts bouncing," Louis finishes.

I want to deny it, but it's true. "Caffeine is not my friend," I admit. "Neither is sugar, but if anyone makes me get rid of that I'll cry, then hurt them with my stick."

"You mean the white, plastic thing I used you see you trip people over with?" Dom asks, laughing.

"The very same. And I only trip Tyler Davies over intentionally. Anyone else should learn to get out of the way," I defend myself. I can't trip them up on purpose if I don't know they're even there, can I?

...Maybe I can hear them. A little.

With the hand that's wrapped around my waist, Louis taps my thigh. He slurps his coffee. "Hot," he mutters. I roll my eyes, I hope Dom rolled his eyes, too. It was an eye rolling moment. "Where is your cane? I hardly see it now."

"Why would I need it? I've got you holding my hand twenty-four seven." As if to prove my point, he takes my hand, squeezing gently. Movement comes from above us; people are getting up, starting a new day. Or maybe they're ready to go home and continue sleeping through it; I remember people having quite a bit to drink during that party. I wince and rub my free hand against the side of my head, the slight pain coming from my temple reminds me that I'm one of those people. "And people wonder why I rarely drink. I have to learn to say no to alcohol. Does me no good."

"I noticed you drank a helluva lot more after midnight. Why is that?" Dom asks me. Once a journalist, always a journalist.

"I missed a moment," I mutter, hearing the footsteps now come down the stairs, people moving about, there are more voices around me. But, thankfully, they're kinda quiet. They must be used to this. Dom asks me what I mean and I shrug, pretending that it's nothing. "I was supposed to cross two things off my list last night, only managed one of them. I wasn't exactly happy about it. I was really looking forward to that second one."

Louis squeezes my hand again; he understands. Of course he does. "Ah, Lou told me you made lists. He didn't tell me what was on them. I swear, I don't know," Dom adds rather quickly.

I have to laugh. Is he referring to the fact that he's nosy or to his strange ability to read people?

"Can we know?"

"Don't be nosy, Lily," Hugo scolds. I cover up a laugh effectively enough with a cough. Hugo Weasley telling Lily Potter not to be nosy? That's like me getting out of bed in the afternoon and then telling Jack to stop being lazy. I cough out 'hypocrite' and there's more than one voice trying to hide a laugh. I get a cushion thrown in my face. I assume it was Hugo. Well, it just brushes against my face; Louis must have caught it. "I've decided I don't like you anymore, James," he mutters.

"Are you talking to me or Mr. James?" his cousin calls from the kitchen.

"The other one. When have I ever liked you?" Hugo shouts back.

I change the subject before their shouting causes my head to explode. This is feels natural, teasing is obviously something they do often and they'll forget about it soon enough. I imagine it'll be the same for me. But I don't want their teasing right now; it's too early. "Where's Jack and Lucy?"

"Upstairs," Fred Weasley snickers. Fred, I know him from visiting the shop with Jack. "Hopefully they're putting their clothes back on."

"What?" Ha! Told you, Louis!

"Lou, you should have seen them last night," Dom says and he sounds conflicted, like he's still deciding whether what he saw should leave him disgusted or make him laugh. God, what were they doing? "I came into the house last night and there they were making out in the kitchen. Their clothes already looked half-off; I had to run away. They never even noticed I was there."

Ah, he's gone for disgusted.

"Was this before or after midnight?" Louis asks urgently. I laugh. He nudges me in the side.

"Before," Dom says immediately.

"You're sure?"

"Of course I'm sure. I went in to get the fireworks and came out traumatized," he practically shrieks. This just gets better.

"It carried on for pretty much the whole night," Fred tells us. "And I'm pretty sure I heard two voices in that shower before."

"Oh no."

"Oh yes. I want my money."

"You'll get your money," Louis mutters. But I don't care; now I've won, he has to believe me. We'd made a bet the other day. Louis called me again, the night before New Years, asking if I was definitely coming. After telling him that I was and going on about what my parents had said to me, the topic had somehow shifted to our friends. I ended up betting him they'd be together for the fireworks. He'd said if they got together, it would be after, but that he didn't believe they'd get together at all. So my 'time' for them was anytime between the party starting and midnight. I was right. Ha!

"So, how long have they been together?" Fred asks. I frown. "Come on, they've obviously been together for a while."

And I'm not the only one who has noticed.

"We don't know, they haven't told us anything," I admit. Why is that? You'd think they'd at least tell me. Are they embarrassed of being together? Or are they still in the purely physical stages of whatever relationship they have (it was obvious why they were disappearing), in which case I'm glad I don't know. Now I hope it's the latter. "But I'd guess at around Halloween; that was when they started disappearing and being all weird in front of us."

"Shush," Louis whispers. "If they're not telling, they don't want us to know yet, so keep quiet because I think this is them coming."

And it is. As soon as he comes down stairs, Jack falls onto the couch next to me. "Good morning." He doesn't sound like he's in the best of moods. I wonder why that is. "So, CJ, breakfast here or breakfast at your house?"

He wants to leave. Now. I can tell. He's just trying to be polite. What the hell happened upstairs? "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," he says softly, but it's not enough to not hear the waver in his voice. Something's wrong, Jack is really upset. I want to wrap my arm around him and pull him close, tell him it's okay, but he's not like me; he won't appreciate it in public. So, I nudge him with my elbow gently instead and nod.

"We'll go soon, as soon as I say good bye to Lucy." I don't say 'we'. According to Fred, he was with Lucy, so whatever has upset him, Lucy might very well be involved. I don't want to make it worse. I hate when Jack is upset, he's the strongest out of all three of us. Jack being upset is like watching him fall; you don't know what to do afterwards.

"Okay," he murmurs.

I'm grateful Louis stays quiet through all this, that he doesn't try to get me to stay. He must see something I can't, maybe on Jack's face, and is understanding. It's scary how perceptive Louis can be; he doesn't even have a special ability.

Then Dom speaks and the awkward tension in the room just seems to get worse. At least for me. "Hey, Roxy. Bye, Roxy." He seems to speak slowly, pausing between each word. "Thanks for just walking away. That's your fault."

Jack nudges me and tells me Dom was referring to me. "Why?"

"You and your little riddle," he explains. "She got it by the way. From the beginning, in case you were wondering how long it took. This is Roxy in denial. She refuses to be beaten by the fact that you're gay. But she doesn't want to talk to you yet, so she's ignoring us all."

"Dom, we know you're psychic, but do you have to use it for everything?" a girl sighs. Molly, I remember now. I wondered where she was.

"I didn't. I talked to her last night," he snaps. Then he calms down and it's like he said nothing to her at all. "She'll get over it, CJ, and she'll get over you just as fast. Ignore it."

"I think you did right giving her a clue instead of just telling her; Roxanne needed to think it through," Fred continues. "She'll need to think it through to get used to the idea of seeing you with Lou. Speaking of which, she needs to see that or she'll fight harder. Knowing our dad, she won't play by the rules."

"That's true. She can be fierce when denial is involved." I feel Jack stiffen at my side; it's definitely something to do with Lucy. "Good luck, CJ."

"I'm sure I'll be fine," I mutter, trying me best to sound like nothing's wrong. There is something wrong, though, between my two best friends and I don't know what to do. I'm angry that she's obviously done something to upset him, but I don't know the full story and I'm not going to choose between them. I have to be neutral in this. "Enjoy the party?"

"It was alright." Lucy sounds off, too. "Did you?"

I know exactly what she means; the fireworks, the kiss. She'd obviously understood why Louis had told them to clear off. "It got interrupted," I say honestly, my disappointment showing. "It'll be alright, though."

"Of course it will. Not giving up is a family trait," Louis laughs, and he breaks the tension that's been brewing. Even Jack starts to relax. "I just need a new plan and patience and someone worth the self control. Thank you." He whispers that last part and makes everyone laugh. Maybe that's the point, but I don't get it.

"Who are you thanking?" I ask, not caring if I sound stupid.

"He's thanking God," Dom says once he's calmed down.

I frown. I've never known Louis to be religious. "Why?"

"For the miracle that is you, apparently."

Oh, new voice. On my left, by Louis and Hugo. I go through all the voices I know; it's a guy, so I can rule out the female cousins, and apart from Teddy Lupin, I think I've met most of the others. It can't be Teddy, this voice sounds too young to be a grown man, which means... "Hello, Albus."

"Is he psychic, too?" Albus asks.

"No, I'm just amazing," I nod, acting serious. "My hearing is like a superpower. And as for the miracle that is me bit," I turn to Louis, "I approve."

"I thought you would."

I tap Louis' leg twice, then Jack on the shoulder. "We should go now." Jack stands up quickly, grabbing my hand and pulling me up. "It was great meeting you all."

I'm pulled to the fireplace, stopped only so Lucy could hug me. Then Louis does the same, leaving a kiss on my cheek. "I'll see you at school. See ya, Jack."

As Jack calls out my house address and steps through, I wave to Lucy. "Bye Luce."

Just as I'm stepping through, I hear the last words I will hear Louis say until school. And it's not to me, but to Lucy. "What the hell happened upstairs?"

***

School came quickly, which I was glad for for once, but it's very different than before Christmas. Most things are the same; classes, going the library, sitting with Louis. But things between the four of us are different; Jack and Lucy are not talking, even though Lucy tries. I'm scared to know what she did that upset him so much. And Louis is not being his normal, flirty self. I have no idea what happened between New Year's day and now for him to act differently, but I don't like it. And as soon as Abby leaves and our things are packed, I set in motion my plan to talk to him. Jack and Lucy's problem I can't help, but this I can deal with.

"Coming back to Hufflepuff until dinner?" I ask nonchalantly.

"No, I can't. I've got tutoring session here now," Louis answers and my hope of talking to him evaporates. He curls his finger under my chin. "But I can meet you there for dinner or you are more than welcome to stay here."

My eyes close almost automatically at his touch; it's the first since New Year. I feel like I need to savor it. I nod. "I've got my audiobooks to keep my company."

Maybe I can talk to him before the person he's tutoring comes. "Hey, Kyle."

Okay, maybe after.

"Louis."

"Kyle, this is my friend, CJ. CJ, this is Kyle Raven."

"Like the bird," I point out without really listening. Friend, he said. We might as well be just friends, nothing has happened between us yet, but it hurts more than it should to hear him say it. I hate the thoughts that run through my head; does Louis not like me anymore?

That can't be right; you don't just stop liking someone. Something is going on, I know it. I just don't know what. What makes this worse is that although I don't know much about Kyle Raven, I know enough; he's a Gryffindor, he's popular with a bit of a reputation, he's bisexual and last year he admitted it was true when those girls who think they have to know everything asked if he liked Louis. And Louis is flirty again.

I don't want to be here anymore. I grab my bag and stand up. "Have a good lesson. I'll see you later, Louis," I say, loudly enough to interrupt whatever it is they're talking about.

And the moment my heart shatters? When he doesn't even call after me.

***

Fuck him!

I don't care what he does or who he's with. He's not my boyfriend, he's not anyone's. If he wants to be with Kyle Raven, then I'm not going to bloody stop him. The dick can go.

I knock the things on my beside table over, breaking my alarm clock. I calm myself down, my head in my hands while I hope Jack can fix it before Declan finds out. It's not true, I know it. I don't want him to go and I do care about what he does and who he's with. I don't want him to be with anyone else. He should be with me.

"He should be with me," I say it over and over.

I don't know why this is happening. I don't know what happened after New Year. It was going so well, he even talked about not giving up. So, what the hell happened?

I need to stop this. I need to take control. It's the only way to get him back before I lose him, not just to Kyle but to anyone. I can't let that happen.

I barely pay attention to the knock on the door but I know it's him. And I'm not sure I really want to see him now. It hurts right now and I need to figure out what to do anyway. I don't move from the bed.

"What happened here?"

He must be referring to the table. I shrug. "I knocked into it," I half lie. He doesn't need to know why.

"Are you okay?"

I nod. "How was your session with Kyle?"

"Alright. He doesn't really need me for Transfiguration anymore, we just use the time to hang out," Louis admits and I want to scream and throw something. "You could have stayed."

I push myself backwards and lean back on my arms. "Didn't really feel like being a third wheel," I mutter.

"You sound jealous." Louis points it out like it was exactly what he was looking for, want he wanted.

I glare. "Why should I be jealous? It's not like we're together."

"No," he says in a tone that I'd say is similar to feeling smug. He didn't? That was his plan? That bastard. "Are you ready for dinner?"

"I'll be down in a minute." I move to the table and pick up my clock; I'll hide it until I can get Jack here tonight. I can't believe him, but somehow I can. Louis would easily do something like this, but why? He always has a reason. he wouldn't just do it. What would making me jealous prove? That I like him? We already knew that. That I want to be with him? I thought that was obvious. Then it hits me; my plan to do something about it. That's what he wants, it's got to be. I'm the one who would stop things, delay it, want to wait. I'm the one who wants to make it special. I'm the one who's scared. And he's the one who waits for me.

He's waiting for me to make a move.

He may be a bastard, but he is good. Should I hate that or love it?

"I'll wait downstairs," Louis says gently, but he's still smug and he knows I understand now. Most of it anyway; I will be asking for an explanation soon.

Even so, it doesn't stop my doubts. I sink to the floor, leaning against the table and lean my head back against one of the drawers. The handle digs into the back of my head, but I don't care. I doubt and I have to stop because I know, after everything he's ever said, that Louis isn't leaving. But what if he changes his mind?

"Please don't be in love with someone else," I whisper. My dream comes back to me and my words make more sense now. "Don't let me go."

And then the door closes.

Damn.



A/N: "Please don't be in love with someone else" is a line from Enchanted by Taylor Swift, which, if you noticed the title, has played a big part in my inspiration for this. 

"Don't let me go" is a line from Never Say Never by The Fray, which is also a song in my "Enchanted Soundtrack."

I highly recommend you listen to both songs. They are amazing. 

And Louis, the sneaky little so-and-so. Maybe you'll get to read about his reasons in the Missing Moments collection. It's called Charmed and chapter one is up. I hope you take a look and enjoy. :)

Sam.


Chapter 18: Foolproof
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I have a plan. A foolproof plan in theory. But being around Louis was making it hard for me to follow through with said foolproof plan and keep my mouth shut until I have to. I couldn't just ignore him until then, though. I'd have probably just hurt him, make him think the worst, and he'd stop talking to me. What would that achieve? Nothing.

Keeping my mouth shut for the rest of the week, pretending like nothing happened between us and that I have nothing important to say to him is the hardest thing I have ever had to do so far, but I managed it. Well, I managed to keep my mouth shut. But Louis knew I had something to say, I could tell. He was careful with his words, hesitant at some points, but he never actually asked what was up. Does he think the worst anyway? I sincerely hope not. How can he after what he heard me say in my room. I all but said 'I love you' that night. I'm not sure I do, not now anyway, but I know I could do eventually. It's not hard to love Louis.

If he does think the worst, I wonder what he'll say once he knows my big speech is really a date. During all my practices (I am that sad) and my freaking out (of course I'm nervous, I've never asked a person out before), it didn't take me long to realize that as long as there is a 'yes' in there, I don't really care what he says to me. Anything else I can take, just not a 'no'. I don't think I could handle a 'no'.

Although that's a scary 'what if?', I'm actually not worried he'll say that to me. After everything we've ever said, everything's he's done, I know he won't say no. I'm worried I'll mess it up and embarrass myself. Who knew that would be the scariest part?

"Stop it, Ciaran, it'll be fine," I whisper to myself.

"Are you okay?"

I jump up and move to my right, sitting on top of the arm rest instead. "Simon, hello. I didn't know anyone else was in here."

"I got here just in time to hear you whispering to yourself," he answers me, his voice laced with concern. There's no humor hidden away at all, like there would be with Jack. I must look as scared as I feel. "Are you okay?" he repeats.

"I'm fine," I answer, my own tone a clear dismissal. But then, in a moment of what I can only say is insanity, I call him back. I really hope I don't regret this. "Simon, you have a girlfriend." I try so hard not to roll my eyes at my own words. Of course he has a girlfriend, idiot. "How did you ask her out?"

"She asked me," he says immediately.

Of course she did. Well, at least he's not ashamed of it. Some guys like when a girl makes the first move, showing they can be confident. My cousin is not one of them. He's old fashioned, likes to ask not he asked. good for Simon. Stop rambling. "So, how did she ask you?"

"She pulled me aside, asked if we could talk somewhere private, and just asked me."

I think about it. It's quick, simple, straight to the point. It makes asking someone out seem so easy. I bite my bottom lip, trying to see myself do the same thing. "Yeah, I could do that," I mutter.

"You're finally asking Louis out then." Is he smirking at me? He sounds way too smug. "It took you long enough."

I glare. "You can leave now."

"I just came to get my wallet for Hogsmeade, then I'll be gone," he laughs and I hear him run up the stairs. He's back a few minutes later and at the door. "Good luck. Oh, and I see Louis turning the corner. Should I wait for him and hold the door open? Or do you want the distraction of giving the password to give you a few extra minutes?"

"The second one," I call out on my way up the stairs. I hear a muttered 'I thought so' and the common room door shuts just as I get to my dorm. I try not to pace the room and lean against my bedside table, fully aware that it's the exact same place I was standing the other day when I assumed I was alone and whispered my fear. I go through what I want to say in my head and I continue to look ahead when the door opens. "Hey, Louis."

"CJ. You didn't stay after your lesson with Abby yesterday."

I shake my head. "No, I had things to do here."

"What kind of things?"

Figuring out how to ask you on a date. "Nothing important, just something I had to go through with Simon." I shrug. "All sorted now."

"Oh. Okay." He seems to buy it, he most likely did see Simon walk past him after all and, unless Simon had been with him in the library, he wouldn't know when we talked. We could easily have spoke yesterday and solved the problem today. "I'm glad you've sorted it out. Is it something you've been wanting to sort out for a while? You've been acting kind of weird since we, er, talked in here the other day."

There it is. I knew he'd bring it up eventually. "Kind of. How's Kyle?"

"Good," he replies slowly, suspiciously. I almost laugh, but manage just to smile. "What?"

"Why are you so suspicious?"

"Not once have you mentioned Kyle since I did what I did. Why now?" I shrug again. I just need to know he's nothing but a friend, that it's mutual. Louis may not feel anything, but Kyle did admit that he liked him last year. He'll figure it out eventually. "Kyle is -" he hesitates. "Shit, I promised. You can't say anything."

"Scouts honor." I even raise my three fingers in salute.

"Kyle is very happy with his boyfriend," he says at last.

My eyes widen and I stand up straighter. Well, this is news. "Who?" I sound a little too excited. Strange, I don't usually care for information about others.

"So that is what you wanted to hear," he scoffs.

"I do now. I promise not to say a word. You know I won't."

"Luka Davenport."

"Your friend, the Head Boy."

"The very same. No one knows about Luka's sexuality, his parents are old fashioned to put it nicely. They're waiting until after graduation." He explains it all to me. They've been together since Christmas in Sixth Year. Kyle had no desire to be a part of the 'Pureblood social club', but had finally said yes to accompanying his parents to one of their parties. A party which Luka's mother hosted. They were both hiding upstairs, stayed together the whole night talking. Then they continued to see each other. Luka considers Louis a close friend and it goes both ways apparently; he told him everything.

Well, at least now I know Kyle won't ever be getting involved with Louis. I feel so much better now. Asking him out actually feels a little easier.

...No, it doesn't. I still think I'm gonna mess it up.

"I am sorry for making you jealous, but I needed to know and Kyle was the only person I was sure could get a reaction. Because of what he said last year," he says softly. "And that isn't what he meant either. He does like me, but like a friend or a brother. But no one asked him to specify, they just assumed. I've been friends with both of them since first year, it'd be weird if he liked me that way. Luka would not handle it well," he laughs softly. "Are we okay now?"

"We were always okay," I say honestly, smiling in what I hope is reassurance.

"Then why are you being so weird?" he whines. I hear him move closer, but he's still not close enough to touch me. Or if he is, he's not. "It's so hard trying to figure you out."

"Yeah, that's what my therapist said," I mutter.

"You're in therapy?"

"Was," I correct. "Before I started here. We're not talking about that." I put my finger on my lips as soon as I've spoken, so he knows not to talk. Lowering my hand slowly, I take a deep breath. "So, your detentions are over now and it's Saturday and whether you go to Hogsmeade or stay in school, Seventh Years have a midnight curfew."

"We do," he murmurs. "We don't usually do anything, though."

Ha! He said usually. Is he figuring it out? "Right. Well, there's that newish restaurant in the village that was a cafe and we could go... Tonight. To, you know, eat and talk and stuff."

"Are you asking me out, Mr. James?" he asks, chuckling. He sounds pleasantly surprised, so I'm going to allow the laughter.

"Not well," I admit, frowning. But then I join in with the laughter.

"So, all this time you've been acting weird, it's because you've been planning to ask me out."

I nod. "Obviously I'm nervous."

"I wouldn't know. I've only seen you nervous once before and you weren't so bad. I didn't recognize the signs," he tells me.

I know what he's talking about; the almost kiss on New Years. I didn't seem as nervous then compared to now. "That was different. That was a 'This is special, get it right' kind of nervous. This is the 'Idiot, why didn't you do this in September, now really get it right' kind."

"Why didn't you ask me out in September?" Louis asks curiously.

"I didn't like you enough."

"What about October?"

"You have issues with commitment, you said so yourself. I needed to know I wouldn't get hurt in the end," I say honestly, quietly. I continue down the honesty path. Maybe he should know what he'll be getting himself into with me. "Truth is I'm still not sure. But I'm willing to try. I really like you. And you know that; I know you heard me."

"I did. It made me hate what I did even more. And I feel the same." I raise my head quickly and he's right in front of me, his finger curled under my chin so we're face-to-face. "I don't want you falling in love with someone else either. I decided I won't give you the chance. I want that chance." He kisses the corner of my mouth, his hand in my hair. "I'm going to go get ready for tonight. You'd think that after waiting so long for you to ask me, I'd be more organized. I'll be here at seven," he finishes once he's at the door.

Then he's gone.

I move to my bed and collapse on top. I bury my face into my sheets for a moment, then turn onto my back "That wasn't so bad."

***

I finish the homework Abby set for me yesterday, working slowly because there isn't much this time, and I'm back to lying on top of my bed when Jack gets to the dorm just after six. "Hey," he says quietly when he comes in and I hear him jump onto his bed. "I saw Simon on his way out this afternoon. Did you ask Louis out?"

"Yeah, he'll be here at seven, so I'm getting ready soon," I tell him. "We're going to Ellie's."

"I hope you can get in, it's gotten very popular since it was refurbished two years ago. People from all over the country actually travel to eat there. You have to make reservations."

"We'll get in," I smirk. "What are you doing tonight?"

"Hide in the kitchen, hide in my room. You know, the usual," Jack murmurs sadly. I shake my head and narrow my eyes when I sit up. One moment he's in his bed, the next he's leaning against mine. "Don't look at me like that. You don't know."

"What happened at the house at New Year?" I ask hesitantly, getting up and balancing myself on my knees. This could go either way. Question is, will he tell me?

Yes, he will.

"Lucy and I were kind of in a relationship," he starts. "It started at Halloween. We -"

"You had sex, you can say it," I grin. "It's not a crime." He stammers, doesn't know what to say. "Oh, come on, Jack. Where did he go? Oh, where did she go? Disappearing together, what on earth could they be doing?" I say dramatically.

"Okay, I get it," Jack laughs and it sounds real for the first time in days. He pushes my shoulder, knocks me down onto the bed. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you we were sort of seeing each other. I wanted to."

"That's not important, it's your private life. Why do you keep speaking in the past tense?"

He sighs and he sounds sad again. This is so unusual for Jack, it's a little scary. No girl has ever made him sad before. "I think whatever we had is over now. At the house that morning, I actually initiated 'The Talk'. I asked her what we were doing and where it was going. I told her that just sex wasn't enough anymore and that I thought about giving a real relationship a go. You know what she said to me?" I shake my head slowly, not liking where this is going. Damn them, I'm going to have to step in and fix it. They just have to be difficult, don't they? "She said that no one could ever believe we were friends, they'd never see us in a relationship, and that we'd never get past the fighting. We'd break up quickly. She laughed when she said that, but it was a kind of weird laugh. I asked her out, Ciaran, and she said no. I know by not talking to her, I'm kind of giving a perfect example of how right she might be, but I'm just not handling the rejection very well."

I answer him the only way I know how; with blunt humor. My hands wrapped around my bedpost, I pretend to bang my head against it, muttering about how I really do have to fix it, until he does start to laugh and asks me what the hell I'm doing. I get off the bed to stand by him. "It's like I have to spell it out for you, either that or bang your heads together. We know Lucy better than anyone, we could answer questions about her that even her sister would be surprised by. So think about everything you know about her and compare it to what she said to you."

"Okay," he answers slowly and it's quiet while he thinks. I hope he's really thinking because it's the only way he's going to get past this. He needs to hurry up, though; I've got a date to get ready for. "Lucy closes herself off to people, she could sit in a crowded room and hear nothing. But that's not always true; she does listen. And if people say something, she'll do the opposite because she doesn't want them to be right. She controls what's right." He grabs my sleeve tightly. "She said people won't see us together, we'd break up. Only nstead of doing the opposite and letting us try to prove they're not right, she's not even going try so that they never see if they're right."

"Why? You know why, you know her better than anyone."

He let's me go slowly, I think he's processing it. "Because she's scared of that being true. She's scared of breaking up. And I've been proving her right by not talking to her."

I clap my hands. "Well done, you're a big boy now. What are you going to do?"

"I'm not going to take no for answer," he calls, already leaving the room.

"Hey!" I yell. I beckon him back over with my finger, curling it in my direction three times. "You have all night to talk to Lucy. I have less than an hour to get ready. So, now I've helped you, you can help me." I point to the end of my bed, where my trunk is. "I don't know where my smart clothes are. Thank God I brought them, I never thought I'd ever need them."

"We're going lightening fast," he growls. "Armani?"

I scoff. "No, he's not that special tonight."

"I thought you were doing all this to prove he was that special to you?" he asks, very confused.

"He is, but not tonight. He tried to make me jealous, I'm punishing him," I explain. "Not that he knows this."

"Ralph Lauren it is," he mutters, going through my trunk quickly. "I'd thought Armani would have helped with the punishment, though. I was there when all the girls and a fair few guys saw you and said you looked sexy as hell. I actually didn't recognize you and had to agree," he admits, chuckling.

"Good to know. And no, I want to punish him, I don't want to hurt him. You're making showing off sound like bringing him to his knees and then kicking him while he's done. He's apologized enough, I'm not cruel. Have you found it?"

He drops what must be my clothes on the bed. "Yes, all folded and neat and clean and ready to be worn. Although I still think you should wear the Armani; it makes your ass look good. Which I happen to know because it was what your admirers were commenting on all night. I still hate you for that by the way," he says, walking away again. This time I don't stop him. I don't need to. "My butt is my asset, no one compared to me until you wore that. Your asset is your eyes, you're not supposed to have two."

"I thought it was always my butt," I smirk. "Who comments on my eyes?"

"Everyone. Louis. I won't tell you what he actually said. I could taste the cheese, I almost wondered if I was lactose intolerant," Jack jokes, back to his old self. See, because I helped.

I agree with his words about Louis, still a little shocked that my eyes are an asset. I've never thought about what other people could see when they saw me. I never thought people would comment on my eyes. Now I really want to know what they say. It's got to be good or Jack wouldn't tell me. "He's a sneaky bastard, your boyfriend, or your soon-to-be boyfriend, he knows it makes people uncomfortable and he uses it. He is perfect for you when you think about it. I fear what would happen if someone ever crossed both of you. Or you managed to rule the world. No one would be safe."

I choose to ignore the second part of his ramblings. I'd be an awesome ruler. "I know what he does and why when he's cheesy, I practically spend every waking moment with the guy. But sometimes he genuinely means it."

"Every waking moment?" Jack asks.

I shrug. "I know, right? I think he likes me. Who'd have thought," I laugh. "Go talk to Lucy."

"Yes, boss. Thank you."

"Anytime. Now go, before I make you get the Armani out, just to keep you here."

The door slams shut behind him. I thought so. My watch says it's half past six. With enough time to get a quick shower, I find my towel and make use of my time in the bathroom while my roommates aren't here.

Okay, never mind asking someone out being scary. We're not even out yet and my hands are shaking.

I really am going to embarrass myself, aren't I?



A/N: It must be nice having rich grandparents who like to spoil their youngest grandson. I don't actually know if anyone would prefer Armani to Ralph Lauren clothes, but Ciaran does. :P I guess that's just his preference.

I said Ciaran and Louis would get better and you'd know what happened between Jack and Lucy. Now they'll get better, too. :D

Next chapter: Date. Let me know what you think. I can't believe we're almost at 100 reviews... :O THANK YOU!

Sam.


Chapter 19: Dinner, Stories and Titles
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I'm smoothing down my outfit when my alarm clock tells me it's seven and there is a knock on the door to the dorm. I feel for each button of my waistcoat one more time and check the cufflinks Declan fastened for me before he went to meet his other friends for dinner. He'd wished me luck on my date and said to say hello to Simon if I saw him. He's still out, with just his girlfriend now apparently. I can't believe I still don't know her name. I must remember to ask Louis. He'll probably know. As soon as I know I can't do anything more to stall, and I know I'm stalling because I'm nervous, I pull on my sleeves. "Yeah," I call so he knows to come in. The door opens and I can smell him before I can hear him. "Right on time."

Louis let's out a soft whistle. His shoes squeak against the hard floor as he walks closer to me. "You look amazing. Is this designer?"

I nod slowly, my fingers still curled around the edges of my sleeves. I stretch my fingers, putting hands in the pockets of my pants to try to look natural not nervous, and smile. "You like?"

"I love," he murmurs.

He sounds surprised. Maybe he didn't think I actually owned smart clothes, which I wouldn't blame him for considering he's only ever seen me in jeans and t-shirts, one shirt I wore for New Year, a cowboy costume and my underwear (still so glad I had actually decided to wear underwear that night). My uniform doesn't count. So, wearing this suit, which is very fancy and I bet smart-looking, even with my jacket open to show my waistcoat and without the matching tie, would be a bit of a surprise. "Thank you. We should go if we want to eat." I take a hand out of my pocket to point to the door, then I hold out the same hand for him to take. After a heartbeat, he does. Maybe I shocked him. I'm just full of surprises today. "Lead the way."

He does, smiling I bet, and I follow him down the stairs to the common room. Jack and lucy are here, finally talking again. I really hope they weren't waiting for us. "Wow," she gasps and I have to act a little smug. I can put effort into my appearance if I want to. "CJ, you look... And Louis, too, of course, but... Wow."

Jack clears his throat, something a jealous boyfriend would do if they caught their girlfriend staring at his best friend. Aww. Wait. Boyfriend. Did they make up? I should ask them later. Right now... "Well, we're going to enjoy Seventh Year privileges and have dinner. Form your words into coherent sentences and you can tell me when I get back. Carry on, Louis."

"See ya," he says and carries on walking to the door.

"I hope you're not disappointed," Jack calls out in that annoying singsong-type voice. I know what he means; he doesn't believe I can get us into Ellie's without a reservation. I'll show him.

"I know things you don't. Enjoy your night," I reply, copying the stupid voice. You'd think that, as someone who spends most of his time at home singing and writing songs at his piano, I'd not hate the singsong voice. I do.

Maybe it's because I spend most of my time at home singing and writing songs at my piano. I need to not sing at some point.

"Yeah, right," he scoffs. But he's not as loud as he was before. He wants me to hear, but he's not talking to me. So I don't answer and leave the common room. "About enjoying our night; I'm locking the door. They can sleep in here for all I care."

I just manage to hear that and Lucy's responding 'no' and I walk that little bit faster, so I can't hear any more. He can't make me sleep in the common room. That's not fair. The others will get there before me and I won't get my couch. I'd tell them to move, but I'd prefer my bed.

"He won't keep you out, Lucy's already said no," Louis assures me and squeezes my hand gently as we make our way out of the castle.

How did he know?

I believe him, though. Jack can't not take no for an answer all the time with Lucy. No one can. We're quiet as we walk, he's swinging our hands backwards and forwards lightly. I can feel his eyes on me every so often; I wonder why he's watching me. But I also feel the eyes of other people on me. I finally ask him why once we're outside and I'm sure there is no one around. Louis guides me to the step and into the carriage taking us into the village.

"They're staring at the miracle that is you," he answers me as we move, echoing Albus' words at New Year. "You turn heads, CJ. And it's not because you can't see, so don't think that. You're incredibly smart, even though most of the time you use it against people with riddles, you're funny when you're relaxed and you can be so confident and carefree when you're not thinking about all the things that stop you." His thumb grazes my lips. "You're special, baby. Why do you think I tried so hard, despite everything I said about my crappy relationships?"

"I did wonder," I murmur. "Why you tried so hard," I elaborate slowly, even though he didn't ask. "I mean, I already know how amazing I am."

"You're so full of yourself," Louis laughs. "Sometimes I wonder why I tried so hard, too."

"Ouch," I pout, sticking out my lower lip as much as I can. He bats my lip with his finger and then kisses the corner of my mouth, over the stubble. I should shave again. "I must be really special if you can get past what is essentially me."

"You are. What did Jack mean when he said that he hoped we won't be disappointed?" he asks suddenly, but he sounds curious enough for me to think that he's been thinking of asking that question for a while.

"You'll see," I wink. And the rest of the conversation is about how I can't believe I can put up with him.

***

"You seem confident about us getting in here."

I laugh at Louis' lack of confidence in me, same as Jack. Is it because I've never been on a date? Do they think I don't know what to do? I'm pretty sure I can get into a restaurant like anyone else. And I don't even need to worry about getting into this restaurant. He'll see that soon. The cold air wraps around me like a blanket and I can't warm myself with only one arm wrapped around me since Louis has hold of my other hand. He's guiding me to the restaurant.

"Don't laugh," he whines, amused. I shake my head. "I'm serious. Did you plan ahead before you asked me out? Did you make a reservation? Because I know this place has a reputation. It's supposed to be amazing and fancy and romantic and they're all reasons why I've never been. I've never had a reason."

I laugh again. "I planned to ask you out the day you made me jealous. I planned to bring you to Ellie's the day you made me jealous. I did not make a reservation that day or any day after. You are about to see why. Are we there yet?"

"We're here," he answers. I hear the door open and I'm led inside. I instantly feel warmer. That is much better. I rub my hands together while Louis rubs his hands up and down my arms. I had no idea I'd even started shaking. "Better?" he whispers and I nod and ask where the maitre d' is.

We don't even have to open our mouths.

"Good evening, Mr. James."

"Good evening, Jennifer," I smile, recognizing her voice instantly. She's a good friend of my cousin and manages this restaurant. "A table for two please."

"Of course." She speaks to another quietly. "We didn't know you were coming tonight, they're just getting your table ready." I thank her. By 'your table' she means a private booth near the end of the restaurant where any members of my family and my friends can go. Though only my cousin really uses it. Jack has twice. "Jay is here if you want to say hello, I can let him know."

"You can tell him, I'm sure he'd love to see me on a date finally." We both laugh at that. Jennifer knows all about my lack of a relationship. She and Jay talk about everything. She's lucky I like her. "But don't let him come out and say hi."

"You think he'll embarrass you?"

"I know he'll embarrass me," I smirk. "This is Louis Weasley, by the way." I point to my left. He finally opens his mouth, although I can tell that the shock of me being friendly with other people has not worn off when he says hello.

"Hello, I know who you are, Louis." Just as I think she's going to talk about knowing his family, she narrows the field down to just one person. "I know your sister, Vic. Oh, your table is ready, boys. This way."

I take Louis' hand again and nod in front of me. He starts to walk and he finds his voice again along the way. "Jay? As in your cousin, Jay Delaney? The Jay Delaney, the young entrepreneur."

"The very same."

"Oh, my God. That's how you can get in so easily; your cousin owns this restaurant."

And the lightbulb flashes. He's finally got it. "Food is his most recent and favorite business venture." He guides me to my seat and I sit down, hearing the seat across from me slide. Jennifer hopes we enjoy our night before she disappears and a waiter tells me he's given Louis a menu, then asks about drinks. We both order a Muggle beer. "He bought this place around two years ago, fixed it up and renamed it. His daughter had just been born, he named it after her."

"Wow. Do the others know this?"

I shake my head. "No. Jack's been here a couple of times, made reservations, and they've given him this table because Jen knows we're friends. She's the manager, has been Jay's friend since school. This is Jay's place and it's his passion, it's not for work. He didn't buy it to expand his businesses. So he hasn't told many people and neither have I."

"Then I'm honored to know," he murmurs as the waiter brings our drink. He asks if we're ready to order. "Any recommendations?" he asks me.

"I am having the lamb," I answer, a little loudly for the waiter to hear. Though I wouldn't be surprised if he already knew; it's my favorite dish, Jay makes it at home, and he probably would have told them if he knew I was here. He has his own recipe. I've never been here, though, so I don't know what it's like when it's not being made by Jay. I assume the chef is good or Jay wouldn't have hired him or put our favorite dish on the menu for him to make. I know it's on the menu because he told me he was putting it on. "The chicken's good, too," I add. That's Jack's favorite.

"Chicken it is." Louis gives his order and the waiter leaves us alone. I drink a small mouthful of beer, fully aware that this is it. There are no distractions, no games. We're really here, on a date. I'm both excited and terrified all over again. I have another mouthful, a bigger one this time. "Are you okay?"

I shrug, playing with the rim of the bottle. "I'm a little nervous, I guess," I tell him honestly. "I keep thinking I'm going to do something stupid and embarrass myself or ruin things."

"I don't believe you'll ruin anything," Louis tells me gently and I can't help but want to believe him. I want to, I can't quite manage it. "As for embarrassing yourself? I've seen you in your underwear, watched you walk into walls and doors and just shake it of like it was nothing and let's not forget my favorite," I raise an eye-brow, "you talking in your sleep in History of Magic."

I feel my face heat up and put my head in my hands. My grandmother would kill me if she knew I had my elbows on the table, but I don't care. What's worse is that people laughed when they saw me for the rest of the week, asked when Carrie was coming to get me. Carrie is my other cousin, the pouty and flirty one, Jay's big sister. She likes to shop, as some girls love to do, and she tries to make me her personal doll. Tries. I refuse to try the stuff on. I don't want to help her shop anymore. As soon as I get word saying she's in town, I hide at Jay's. "I hate you," I mutter.

"But nothing can be as embarrassing as that, so I'm sure you'll be fine tonight," he assures me. "Question; what's it like being rich?"

"I'm not rich, I'm just well off," I counter him. "My grandparents are rich and they like to buy me things. Jay is rich. I am not rich. Having money in my family, however, is alright."

"Answer accepted," he chuckles. "Why are you such a cheater?"

I roll my eyes. Again with the 'cheater' thing. I thought we'd dropped this. He's referring to the night before we left Hogwarts for Christmas, before his detention, we'd been playing a 'Who Am I?' game. Every time it was Jack's turn to give someone a name, he'd give me hints so I'd guess it right. "I didn't cheat," I deny anyway. "With help, I manipulated the situation to suit my needs."

"Yeah, that's just rich boy talk for 'I'm a cheat'."

My lips twitch while I try to hold it in, but in the end I can't help it, and the laugh that practically erupts from my mouth is so loud I wouldn't be surprised if people were watching. And, for once, I don't care. It doesn't take long for Louis to join in, though he manages to ask why I'm laughing so much. Why am I laughing? He just called me a cheater... Well, I did. "I thought we established that I'm not rich?" I ask instead.

"I changed my mind; you're wearing Ralph Lauren." I raise an eye-brow. How does he know I have Ralph Lauren? "Am I not special enough for the lovely Armani suit you've got locked away?"

Okay... "How do you know about that?"

"A couple of months ago, you made me go upstairs and find a school book because you'd just come down and you were so tired," he said sadly, faking like I did that day.

"Yeah, I did that. I was really tired," I assure him.

"You'd just gotten up, lazy ass," he scoffs. Calling me what I already know I can be just makes me want to shrug and go 'so' in that bored tone that makes the person you talk to want to hurt you. So I do. Only because I know Louis is too nice to hurt me. And he's used to me, knows what I'm like, so he'd just laugh at me.

Oh, listen to that...

"I can't believe I let you go through my trunk." I shake my head, faking disappointment in myself.

"Never mind that; am I not special enough for Armani?"

I can tell he's amused, he's finding this funny, but there is also that hint of genuine curiosity coming through. And suddenly I don't want to tell him what I said to Jack before, that I chose something else to punish him for what he did. I definitely don't want to tell him what I didn't tell Jack, that I'm punishing him because what he did still hurt a little. We're here and everything is as it should be, I want to forget everything else that happened. I don't want to even think about that anymore. So I lie. And I hope he never finds out what I actually said. I'll talk to Jack tomorrow.

"It's nothing to do with you not being special. Apparently I've been getting comments about being sexy as hell in that suit. It just wouldn't be fair on you if I put you through that on our first date. Making you want what's underneath and knowing you can't have it seems too cruel."

I try to look disappointed. It's not that hard to do. Maybe I am a little bit disappointed. This would be so much easier if I didn't have my want to make it special. Wanting it to be special was so much easier when didn't want anyone.

"Oh, so you're being understanding about my needs and doing what you think is best, I see." He sounds serious, playing along I bet. "I don't believe it, though. You've never been very nice around other people."

"People, no," I concede to his point with a quick nod. "You on the other hand? I spent money for you because I liked to, I wrote a list because you asked me to. I listen to you, which is hard for me to do, so it surprises people. I'm nice to you, I like you. Believe me now?"

"I believe you a little more if that's any consolation."

The waiter comes with our food before I can say anything to counter that, so I just smirk like I imagine he's doing and I take a drink. He hopes we enjoy our meal and leaves us alone. For the first couple of minutes we're eating we fall into a comfortable silence, then he asks me more about Jay and his businesses. I tell him about the different businesses my cousin owns, how he's always loved to cook and how he plans to expand the restaurant idea and buy more. He asks about Jay's family and I tell him about how he met his wife, married young and had Ellie. I tell him about Carrie and how annoying she can be. By the time he's done asking questions, it dawns on me that it's only really my parents I've told him anything about. He doesn't even know everything about me.

I push my plate away a fraction when I'm done and finish my drink. "That was delicious. We should come here again."

"So I didn't bore you with family talk?" I ask with a smile.

"If it had bored me I wouldn't have asked so many questions." Well, that is a fair point. I tell him so. "I like that you're talking to me. I ask so many because I'm not sure when it'll happen again. I've figured out what my limit is, obviously."

Limit? I frown, try to remember what questions he could have possibly asked that I haven't answered. Then it hits me. He's tried to ask about me and I've interrupted him. I've stopped him. I'm the limit. I take a deep breath. I know what he'll ask me. I have to do this if we want this relationship, I know that, too. "Ask me anything. No limits. I'll answer you."

"How did you lose your sight?"

I really wish I hadn't finished that drink. The waiter is back to take our plates. I ask for another beer and he leaves, comes back with my drink and a dessert menu and leaves again. Louis waits patiently the whole time. I don't answer him until I've had a drink. I think he realized that.

"I was three," I start quietly. "My dad already worked in the Ministry, he travelled. Just before my third birthday, my mum got offered her job. She said yes and they started packing and looking for a new home in England. They found it and they got it sorted. They enrolled me into daycare. They had a party for me at my grandparents, where I'd lived my whole life until that point, and we moved in the next day. Mum said she was nervous about me starting at school because I'd be with kids my own age for the first time and I was only really speaking French. I'd learnt English at the same time, but I wasn't as good because my whole family were speaking French. That was my first language. She was also worried about my cold, I'd been sick since before my birthday and it hadn't gone. But I was so excited, she said. She took me, hoping I'd be okay."

I took another drink, longer this time, and leaned forward against the table. I keep my head down, where I know the bottle is, my fingers playing with the label. "I was in England for two weeks, my cold getting worse, until my mum took me to St. Mungo's. It turned out to be Meningitis. I was lucky, they said, I'd been brought in in time. But Dad said something was wrong, I'd fallen asleep and not woken up. I was unconscious. I'm not sure about the details, I don't know why. They'd managed to save my life, they couldn't save my sight. I woke up to nothing. It was so dark, like -"

"Like the lights had gone out," Louis whispers, remembering what I'd told him months ago. "That must have been terrifying at three years old."

"Dad said I freaked out, cried for days. Then I'd just sit there. I didn't move or speak, he told me. That's when the therapy started," I mutter. "Fat lot of good it did. They tried to help me move past it, but I kept clinging on to what I wanted, I always got what I wanted, and I wanted my sight back. I remember thinking so hard, not wanting to forget what I'd seen."

"But there was nothing they could do?"

I shake my head. "They tried. Healers take their name literally. They'd been working on magic and potions for the blind, still are I assume. They gave me all different kinds as a kid, but they never worked for me. They just made me ill. So dad stopped it. I asked about Muggle doctors once, depending on how your sight is lost they can restore it with surgery. I wasn't expecting a miracle, I knew there was a chance I couldn't have that, but because I have Haemophilia, Mum refused surgery as an option. Too many risks even if it could work, she says."

"I'm sorry," he replies softly. "But I'd rather have you as you are than risk not having you at all. I'm sure your mum feels the same."

"I understand my mum's reasons, I don't hate her for not letting me, she just doesn't know what it's like." I pull the label between my fingers and it falls to pieces out of my hand. I hope Jay doesn't mind if I've made a mess. "I hate it, Louis. Reason number two why they sent me to a number of therapists. I never let myself accept it, I didn't want to. I went to a special school and not even being around kids like me made me want to. I started to play music and I loved it, but it didn't change anything. I dreamt about you at New Year, we were lying on the grass in a field, and I could see you, or what I'd imagined. Then I woke up and it was dark again. I hate the dark. I don't want this."

I bite my lower lip, I refuse to cry over this any more. I bite so hard, I have to stop before I taste blood, then I control my breathing. Not a single tear falls. Good. I expect him to be like the others, tp tell me about how I can't change anything and that I should accept things and move on. But he doesn't. I'm grateful for that.

"What made you start talking again?" he asks. "I wanted to say the piano, but you didn't learn to play until you five. Unless you were silent for two years?"

"No," I answer and I actually laugh a little. I can be stubborn, but the thought of me being quiet for that long is just impossible. Even if I'm not talking to one person, I'm talking to another. "I'm not that dramatic, Lou. It was Jay. A couple of weeks after I got better, after my first therapy session, we were at my grandparents. I was sat on the couch on my own and Jay was in the kitchen baking cookies. He came in with a fresh batch and asked if I wanted one. I nodded, but he wouldn't let me until I'd asked nicely. He started making up stories about what the cookies where doing, the adventures they were having in his tummy and not mine. He made me laugh and I asked nicely."

"You and your need for sugar," Louis chuckles. I roll my eyes, but smile. "I think I like Jay more than I did before. You remember that?"

"Yeah," I nod. "It's my earliest memory, happy memory anyway. After that, the next memory I have was when I was four. Everything I told you, though, about what happened to me, my dad told me. He was willing to tell me. Mum never wanted to. She found it hard to accept, too. She's okay now, though. It's just me who isn't. Any more questions?" I ask hesitantly.

"Just one. Dessert, yes or no?"

***

"I can't believe she wouldn't let me pay."

I squeeze Louis' hand and we walk back to the carriage at the end of Hogsmeade. It's almost eleven thirty, so we have time, and we walk at a leisurely pace. It's peaceful tonight and I'm not as cold as I was walking to the restaurant. Maybe it's the alcohol I drank. I'd rather Louis didn't moan about Jennifer telling us Jay wouldn't let us pay, though. "Jay never let's family pay. Or friends," I add, even though Jack did pay since he didn't know Jay owned it. It would have been weird if a stranger had said he didn't have to pay. Jack would have been thrilled, though. Ellie's is kind of expensive. "Just enjoy the fact that we had a good time. You did have a good time, right?"

"I did," he reassures me. "It's been an amazing first date and I'm grateful you let me get to know you more."

"Jack and Lucy don't even know that, you know. Just how old I was," I point out quietly.

"Then I'll respect your decision and I won't tell them. If you want to, that's up to you. But they won't hear it from me."

"Thank you," I whisper.

He helps me into the carriage and I feel a lot better. Like a weight has been lifted or something. Maybe it's not quite as big that it needs the 'weight off my shoulders' simile, but I am glad I told him. Now we can only go forward in this relationship.

***

"Cutting it kind of close, guys. I'd suggest you hurry up, Louis. Your House isn't even on this floor."

I follow the cocky voice to my left, listening to him get quieter as he walks away.

"I'll remember that next time I find you on the seventh floor. We both know what's on the seventh floor," Louis answers the cocky voice.

"I didn't see you. Good night."

"Who was that?" I ask, leaning against the wall by the Hufflepuff entrance.

"That was Luka. He's spent way to much time around Kyle, he sounds like a dick."

"From what I deduced, he spends a lot of time with Kyle in the Room of Requirement," I smirk.

"You know about the Room of Requirement? Did Lucy tell you?"

"No." I shake my head, grinning wider. "Did you think it was only your family who knew about that room? My dad told me."

"I didn't think it was only my family who knew, I just guessed how you could have known. Now, I will see you tomorrow." He brushes his thumb over my lips and his forehead touches mine. "Good night, CJ," he whispers and then...

...His lips touch mine for the briefest moment before he kisses the corner. I glare. "That is not nearly enough to count," I growl when I feel him move back.

"Oh, I know. I have a plan." This time I frown. There's a plan now? "You said you wanted it to be special," he says likes I need reminding. I bite back a retort because I'm curious as to what's going on. But I know what I said and right now I'm not liking it. He starts to walk away, his echoing footsteps are getting softer. "I promise I'll make it all special. But I'll still be holding your hand and kissing every available bit of skin I can find and gloating to everyone that you are indeed my boyfriend and, you know, generally making Jack uncomfortable in every way I can."

"Oh really? And who said anything about me being your boyfriend?" I call out, even though I can't help the huge smile.

"I decided while we were walking. After four months of whatever this was, you just are, okay."

"But boyfriends get to kiss their partners," I point out.

"We're old fashioned."

Then he's gone and I'm inside the common room. I can't hear anyone else, so I assume Jack did not get his own way and the other guys are asleep in their own beds. I lean against the entrance and process everything that happened tonight. Boyfriend? It sounds weird to say, even to myself. But the good kind. It's definitely a title I can get used to.



A/N: So close to twenty chapters. That will be a huge moment for me. Also, I can't believe we've passed 100 reviews. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

And... Ciaran has been nominated for Best OC in the Dobby awards, while Enchanted has been nominated for Most Original. Very excited about that. Thank you!

Sam.


Chapter 20: More
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Still smiling, I climb up the stairs to my common room and make my way to my bed. I just put my suit jacket on top of my trunk, followed by my waistcoat, and I untuck my shirt and kick my shoes off. I grab hold of the nearest bedpost, turning myself around so I'm facing the door.

"How was your night, Ciaran?"

I jump and land awkwardly on top of my bed. "God, Declan. You scared the crap out of me," I whisper just as Declan had been, in case people are sleeping. I don't want to wake them. I sit up slowly and pull off my shirt, throwing it to my right. I don't try to pinpoint his voice anymore; I can hear him easily enough, he sounds close. The bed shakes slightly; he's leaning up against it. "My night was fine," I murmur. Then I find myself smiling again, wider this time. "It was better than fine."

"I'm, er, I'm really glad you're with Louis, you look good together," he says quietly. But I sense he's trying to say something more, or something else entirely. So I prompt him to continue and wait patiently. "How long has Jack and Lucy been together?" he finally asks, still quiet. "I came in after dinner and they were lying on Jack's bed talking. I came back about an hour later and they had fallen asleep." He pauses. "They're still asleep... Together. They look very couple-y, with Jack's arms wrapped around her," he laughs awkwardly. "Is 'couple-y' even a word?"

"It is now," I answer with a chuckle, wishing I could see how 'couple-y' they really looked. "They've been together since Halloween. It was kind of a secret until now; I think they wanted to be sure."

Well, it is mostly the truth. I realize now he knows exactly what he wanted to know, his curiosity has been sated.

"They look good together, too. I'm glad. Good night."

I want to laugh, but people are sleeping. I don't want to wake them, especially my friends. If they wake, Lucy would probably leave and I think this is good for them, being seen by others and looking 'couple-y' together. People will accept it quickly enough and Lucy's doubts will disappear, slowly but surely. Declan is proof of that; he even thinks they look good together. He goes about it strangely, though. He could have just asked. And then the moment he had what he wants, he just drops the conversation. He's very odd. But I don't laugh. "Good night, Dec," I say instead.

I wait for him to leave, then pull off my pants and get into bed. Sleep starts to come quickly and more things can I remember enter my dreams.

Louis is still clearer than them all.

***

I can sleep through a lot of things, but today my alarm clock telling me that it's eleven in the morning is not one of them. Oddly enough, I don't care. I find myself more awake than I've ever been in a morning. Sadly, though, I still don't feel very refreshed. No, for that to work, I still require a shower and a nice cup of tea, with plenty of sugar. And maybe food... With dessert.

Yeah, that would definitely help.

I pull myself up, taking the silence to mean the dorm room is empty. Until I hear someone snore. I wonder who it is. How could I possibly be awake before another person? I can't remember this ever happening before. Wow.

My pajama pants are where they are usually left, on the end of my bed. I grab them along with my towel, pull them on from under my sheets and stand up, finding the bathroom and turning on the shower. I feel the water's temperature change using my hand and as soon as it feels just right, I pull off my pants and jump in.

That feels so much better. My body starts to wake up, as does my mind. I shake my head rapidly underneath the shower head, the water blasting from above and down my face and body. I push my hair back, away from my eyes, and wash at a reasonably slow pace. I think about last night and everything that happened; I told him about my family, I told him about me and what happened, I even told him about my fears. I talked to Louis and I was honest, open; no therapist had ever been able to achieve that.

It seemed so much easier to talk to him than anyone else; no one was probing me with questions I wasn't old enough to understand and grew to hate them for. Louis was genuinely interested in me, but wasn't trying to help or change me when I didn't want it. Besides, I didn't like the therapists, especially the first one; he was weird and had bad breath.

I hate bad breath.

I'm just thinking how peaceful this morning is when it's all ruined by somebody calling my name. Why does the opposite always seem to happen to me after I think something? I think it's peaceful and I'm being called for. I think Louis' going to kiss me and he tells me he has a plan.

Whoever it is, stop it!

The door slams against the wall when it's opened. "Here you are. Why aren't you still sleeping?"

"Maybe deep down I knew you'd come wanting to wake me up at some point and decided to do it for you," I answer him. "Get out, Jack. I'm in the shower."

"I need your help, it's very important."

"Wait five more minutes."

"So, Luce and I have kind of gone backwards, you know." I repeatedly fake banging my head against the wall, while he continues to talk as though I haven't told him to get lost. I've never been more thankful for shower curtains. Whoever invented them were geniuses. "And now that I've accepted that I like her and have stopped trying to keep her away and got her to listen to me and go out, I'm going to make sure that she doesn't have any doubts about us being together. I need our first proper date to be romantic, you know. My question for you is how do I do that?"

"And my question for you is why are you still in here when I've told you to get out?"

"Because I need your help and it can't wait." He acts like he's pointing out something I should already know. "Just don't give me a Louis-style answer."

I poke my head out from behind the curtain. I'm trying not to forget where we are and that I need him to leave so I can get out, but my interest is piqued now. "What the hell is 'Louis-style'?"

"Cheesy," he explains. "It's cool that you like it, or you wouldn't be dating him, but it's not my thing and Lucy knows me well enough that she probably wouldn't like me pretending."

I completely ignore that what he's said about Lucy not liking him pretending is probably true and go straight to what he said about Louis. I feel the almost overprotective need to defend my boyfriend. Ah, boyfriend. It's still strange. "Most of the time, he only does that in front of you because he knows it annoys you."

"I know, I named it after him anyway." Jack let's out a throaty chuckle. "He hates it."

"I can't image why," I mutter sarcastically, wishing he'd leave. There's no point trying to tell him though; he doesn't listen. So I try to answer his question instead. "Take her to Ellie's, call your dad and use your suspicions that Digby can be bribed to take her to London one night, put food from the kitchens in a basket and have a picnic by the lake. I don't know, Jack. I've not long woken up, you can't expect me to miraculously be awake enough to answer."

"You did, though. The picnic thing might be perfect." Jack sounds very excited now. Yay, I helped. Now will he leave? "I mean, it's peaceful and we'd be alone. It's on school grounds, so we could have it any night and she wouldn't have to worry about it interrupting her NEWTs studies. It's romantic, but I wouldn't call it overly so; it's not 'Louis-style'. Thank you, Ciaran."

"Get out."

"Jeez, I'm going."

He shuts the door behind him on his way out and I embrace the silence again. Why are my friends so weird that even my shower time is no longer private? I turn off the water, shaking my head, and step out. I dry myself quickly and wrap my towel over my waist. I scratch my chin as I grab my toothbrush with my other, reminding myself to shave soon. Then the door opens again.

"One more thing." I roll my eyes. "This morning, your boyfriend, yes, he did emphasise that, said to tell you he can't come to lunch because Kyle is a dick." I laugh a little and find the toothpaste. "Yeah, he said you'd probably guess why and find it funny and that he'll see you later."

"Thank you. Get out."

Finally, he's actually gone this time. Now... I wonder when 'later' will be.

***

Popping another biscuit into my mouth, I chew carefully, since I'm lying on my back, and shut my eyes. It's rather warm for January. I mean, it's not summer weather by any standards, but I'm not freezing cold. I feel quite fine in my leather jacket, I'm not wearing my thick coat like yesterday. British weather can be strange sometimes.

Just like in my dream, and every other time I've lay here, I almost find myself dosing off. I'm so lost in my own little world that I barely notice another person sit besides me. But I do feel the fingers 'walking' up my chest. I reach out as they reach my heart, grabbing them, and he laughs softly. "I thought you were asleep," he murmurs. I only shake my head. "I'm sorry I missed lunch."

"S'okay," I answer, opening my eyes. "Kyle being a dick can't be helped. What did he do this time?"

"You didn't guess?" he asks, a little surprised.

I shake my head again. "He can be one for many reasons. Was I meant to know?"

He quiet for a little while. I don't interrupt whatever he is thinking, I just stay quiet and still and wait. He always talks to me if I wait. "Kyle and Luka had a fight. Kyle wants me On his side. I've spent all morning trying to get them both to calm down and look at it from both sides. Separately, of course. But I was going to see Kyle when I bumped into Jack."

"Why are they fighting?" I ask quietly, though I get the feeling I already know the answer to that. Louis talked about them a little bit over dinner and there is only one part of their relationship that gets to them so much that they fight, despite their promise.

"NEWTs are getting closer, then graduation, and Kyle is worried Luka won't tell his parents about them like he promised. Luka doesn't ever talk about it, he acts like it's not going to happen, and their fights are getting bigger."

"Because Kyle's scared of being a secret forever," I finish. "Just another thing Luka keeps from the world. But Luka can't keep them a secret forever, nothing does."

"Right," Louis whispers, his voice thick. I don't know what's wrong. Is he worried about his friends? Is it more than that? Is it him? Does he have a secret?

...Is it about Ellis?

I push that thought away quickly; I'm not going to even think about Louis' ex. He's in the past. Louis said it was just a fling and, unless he tells me otherwise, I'm going to believe that. This is all Dom's fault.

"I'm glad you opened up," he says suddenly. "Talked to me about what happened to you."

"Me too."

"I've decided I want to do the same," Louis continues. My eyes widen a little, this is a topic of conversation I never thought we get to so soon. My thoughts of his ex come and go quickly once more; I don't want that to be the thing he opens up about. At least not yet. But I cannot think of anything else he hasn't told me... Except...

"Come with me to the Room of Requirement." His art! He takes me hand and pulls me up, which I allow willingly. I think my smile is a big enough giveaway of how excited I am because he chuckles softly. "Let's go."

The walk to the seventh floor is quiet, first because I'm still excited about knowing of his art and then because I become more and more aware of people watching us. I hate when people are watching me. I let go of Louis' hand quickly.

And he doesn't pretend not to notice.

"What's the matter?" he asks. I circle my finger, motioning to the room. "So?"

"I don't like it," I mutter.

Louis' hands move to my face, each hand cupping a side, and I swear my face is growing redder. People can see us! "Don't think about what everyone else thinks about us. Isn't that what you think about Lucy's relationship with Jack?" I scowl; he's using my words against me. I should stop telling him things. And I should stop telling Jack things because he tells Louis, too, it seems. "Now I know you want to know about my art, so are you going to hold my hand again or am I going to have to carry you? Because I'm stronger than you, I can do it. Over the threshold like a blushing bride."

"You wouldn't dare," I glare.

"No, you're right; you're definitely more of an 'over the shoulder' kind of guy."

I open my mouth to retort, but he doesnt give me the chance. I don't even get the chance to move and he grabs me, throws me over his shoulder and starts to move. "Put me down, Weasley!" I yell, no longer caring about the passing students or their snickering. I smack my hand against his back, dig my elbow into him and even try to kick him while yelling. "You've proved your point, I'm sorry! I just freaked out for a minute. This is all very new to me still. But I'm okay now, I'll hold your hand again, just like a good boy."

"Good boys can be trusted not to need to hold hands," he points out, amused.

I huff. "Then I'll hold your hand like a bad boy." Then I realize exactly what I just said and my eyes widen so much it hurts a little. And he can't stop laughing. "I didn't mean that!"

He drops me onto my feet and takes my hand again. "Too late. Can we continue now?"

I nod, sulking. Yes, my bottom lip is stuck out and everything. But I don't let go of his hand this time. I should listen to my own advice. Who cares that people are watching? I should stop making myself paranoid by wondering what they're thinking and saying, wondering what they see. It's not worth it. But he didn't have to prove a point by carrying me! "I hate you," I mutter.

"That would hurt a lot more if I thought for a second that it was true. But I don't," he tells me.

"More?"

"Whether I know it's a lie or not, hearing it will always hurt a little," he defends. "No one wants to hear their partner tell them they hate them."

"I hate everybody," I point out with a smile. "What makes you so different?"

"You're not dating the rest of them," Louis argues.

I try for an innocent look, cock my head to the side in thought. "You mean you have to like the person you're dating?" He says yes like it's the obvious answer. Well, I'd be surprised if he said no. "But what if that person tells you that he has a plan instead of kissing you?"

He briefly presses his lips against mine, same as last night. It's barely even for a second. I wonder how many people saw that... "That better?" he asks me nicely.

"Nope. Still doesn't count."

"It's not supposed to count. It's supposed to satisfy you for a while," he explains.

"It doesn't do that either," I go back to muttering.

Louis pulls me closer to him, wraps his arm around my shoulders, so he's holding my right hand instead of my left. "Maybe my new game will."

I'm intrigued. "Are we still playing the name game?" He tells me we are and that he'll win that one. I chose not to tell him he'd already said my name in his sleep. When the game ends, I want to hear him say my name again and I want him to remember, so that first one does not count for this. "Will I like this new game?"

"I honestly don't know, but I will love it." I'm suddenly not so sure I want to play this one. "Here we are."

I wait patiently for him to reveal the door, so we can get through, and he pulls me inside quickly. The first thing I notice is the room's silence; there is absolutely no noise at all. No students, no outside noise. It's so peaceful. The second thing I notice is Louis' silence; I can barely hear his usually soft breathing. Is he holding his breath?

"Are you okay?" I ask quietly.

"A little nervous, I guess," he replies, copying my words from dinner. "No one else has ever been in here before, they don't know anything. But I want you to be here. You can ask me anything."

The first thing I ask is: "What do you paint?"

He leads me around the room slowly. "Landscapes mostly, on the canvases, a few portraits. My sketches are mostly portraits, with a few landscapes."

He starts to tell me about the things he's painted and drawn; his home on the beach, Hogwarts, a Quidditch game, his family. He takes them home every summer and adds them to his 'collection' at the back his wardrobe. He has half a dozen in here now, he says, all finished. And he has no plans of painting any more, since we have NEWTs, but he'll still draw in-between homework and revision. His supplies are packed away, but they'll stay in here until June.

"No one else uses this room, so they're all safe," he finishes.

We stop in front of his last one, he tells me. "What is it?"

"It is my boyfriend enjoying one of his favorite pastimes," he chuckles.

Oh... "You painted a picture of me sleeping?" I ask in amused disbelief.

"You are adorable when you sleep," he seems to be assuring me. "But no, this is you deciding what to do about someone who obviously pissed you off enough to deserve one of your games. I drew it that day, then made it bigger."

"When was that day?" I ask curiously.

"Near the end of November," he answers after a moments pause.

I smirk. "Oh, you mean the day you left me asleep in History of Magic and I started talking."

Another pause. "The next day, you made me sit through Jack's horribly awkward questions and talk to those girls about what they were saying about you talking in your sleep. Damn, you were punishing me!"

"Well, it took you long enough," I snicker. I gesture to the painting. "And now you'll never forget it."

Laughing softly, he pulls me closer, so his chin is resting on my shoulder, my back pressed to his front. "Never. I'm glad I brought you here."

"I wish I could actually see them." I try to sound indifferent, I don't want to ruin our good mood, but it doesn't work and every negative feeling I have threatens to pour out once more. Maybe I'm never meant to accept this life, just live with it.

"Close your eyes and imagine them, CJ. You can see whatever you want in your mind and I've told you all about them."

So I do. And there's his art in my mind. It's hard to concentrate and I bet they aren't quite what they should look like, but they're there. For a brief moment, I could see what he'd shown me.

...And I want to see more.



A/N: Chapter 20. A huge writing milestone for me. I hope you enjoy. Let me know what you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 21: Getting to Me
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I drop the notes Abby turned to Braille for me onto the floor and stand up. My behind is numb, my back is killing me and I just want to lie down and do nothing for the rest of the night. Maybe if I ask nicely, one of my friends would bring me food back, so I wouldn't have to go to dinner. Hell, they'd probably think I was sick because I asked nicely, but if it means getting food brought to me, then sick I will be.

I hate exams. And revision. And exams. Did I already mention those evil, life-sucking, apparently important pieces of paper that should not exist?

Then one more time; I hate exams.

I fall backwards onto the couch, completely forgetting that Louis is sitting there until I throw my head back to rest over the top and I end up whacking his arm. He groans loudly and flexes his arm from under my head, but doesn't move it or ask me to move. I hear the dull thud of another book dropping to the floor and Jack's snort and we sit in silence until I lean into his side, turning my body so I'm at an angle.

"We're already into February, not long now and then we'll fly through the exams," he murmurs into my ear, and then he kisses behind it, his lips moving further and further down until he's close to my neck. Even with my head turned to allow him better access, I imagine he's in kind of an awkward position. His arms find their way around my waist and his lips end up back at my ear. I feel him smile. "I love this new game."

I roll my eyes, my head tipped to lean against his shoulder; I want him to see me roll my eyes. The game he started in January when we started dating is exactly what he said he'd do to make Jack uncomfortable; he kisses every available surface of my skin that he can without removing clothes. I knew I was right to be unsure of his game back then, I still am now. But at the same time, I'm rather fond of it. It can be a fun game to play, although when it gets to me I don't call it a game. It becomes 'Stop Teasing, Louis, or I'll dump you. My lips are up here'.

He doesn't seem to understand that.

And every time, he completely bypasses my lips. He says it's a hard thing to do, but he manages it.

(I tried to use that to get him to stop once... He didn't. The art of seduction is obviously not my forte.)

He prides himself on making 'such a difficult game' because, and these are Louis' words exactly, after the exposed and easily accessible face and neck, it gets rather tricky.

(He says he doesn't cheat when he moves my collar to gain access to my shoulders, but the rule is to not remove clothing and moving my collar removes said clothing from my shoulders. I refuse to accept that that is not cheating.)

The only times his lips are allowed to touch mine are for those brief brushes that last for less than a second when he says hello or good bye. They still don't count.

Today the game is getting to me. I want to relax; his game is not relaxing. "You're going to be the death of me," I mutter.

"Wouldn't you die a happy guy?" he asks innocently.

"He'd die an unsatisfied virgin," Jack snickers. Then he yelps. "Ow, Lucy! Pinching really hurts with nails."

"Then don't be an ass!"

"So pinching with nails hurts, but not without nails?" I ask as innocently as I can. Screw Weasley; I pinch his arm. He moans. "Nope, that's not true."

He pinches right back, in my side between my ribs and my hip and his hand is under my t-shirt so he is getting actual skin. At least when I did it, it was over whatever long-sleeved thing he's wearing. Maybe I should make it a rule to not physically hurt Louis because he'll easily do it back. I rub my side and move forwards to sit up. "Skin contact is not cool. I didn't move the sleeve. What the hell are you wearing anyway?"

"You know you’re really comfortable grey jacket that you love so much because it's nice and soft and keeps you warm?" he asks.

"Yeah," I nod slowly.

"Well, I couldn't find it, so I'm wearing your other one, which is exactly the same only in blue."

"Seriously, not cool," I growl. "Going through my trunk is worse than the pinching of skin."

"It's a good job it was on top of it then." He moves before my arm swings back, I hit the back of the couch instead. "I'm going to use the bathroom."

"Put my jacket back!" I yell as he walks away.

"No! It's comfy! How much do you regret wanting me to use that word now?" is the last thing he says before he disappears up the stairs. I should have known my appealing personality would turn him into a dick. As someone who has pretty much mastered the art of being a dick, others are easy to spot.

"You've destroyed my cousin," Lucy states quietly, probably too absorbed in her revision. "He says no to me now, blows me off to be with you. Do you know how long it took me to get him to do whatever I asked?"

"Probably about as long as it took for Jack to ask you out," I smirk, taking Louis' previous spot on the couch and leaning back into the corner.

Lucy snickers. "It didn't take that long."

"Hey, you could have asked me out, except you were too scared of what everyone else would think," he defends himself. He's loud enough for others around the common room and probably upstairs to hear, too. "Why does it seem like you're being punished?" he asks me, completely ignoring Lucy's muttered 'was not'.

I shrug. "It's me we're talking about; it could be a number of things. I think it's because of what I said to him this morning," I murmur, really speaking to myself and not them.

"What did you say to him?"

What part of 'speaking to myself' did Jack not pick up on when I murmured?

"Oh, don't you look at me like that. I noticed; I'm ignoring the fact that you don't want to tell me."

I raise an eye-brow, my finger pointed at my heart and my lips curved in an unwanted smile. "Did you just scold me?"

"Like you were a little boy," he confirms.

Hearing that brings back memories of Louis and handholding and a very poor choice of words on my part. Damn him. Not that he knows. I clear my throat, feeling my face grow hot.

"What are you thinking about?" Lucy asks.

"Don't smirk at me; I don't have to see you to know when you're smirking at me. And I'm not saying." I turn my head when I hear nearby footsteps and I groan loud enough for Louis to hear me once I know it's him. "Are you still here?"

He pushes my head to the side with his hand and takes my previous position on the couch, so he's now leaning against my side. He even makes sure to move my arm out of the way, so it's now resting on his shoulders. "Shush you. Your words still hurt me; you have no right to send me away like I was the bad guy today."

"What did he say to you?"

"Oh, don't worry about that," I reassure him and ignore Jack. I'll probably tell him later anyway. "I could never consider you a bad guy. A bit of a dick on occasion, I'll admit, but Carrie gave me the bad guy title when I was eight and broke her tea set. She was very fond of that set."

"Then why did you break it on her?" Louis asks, puzzled.

I shrug lightly. "She hurt my feelings, said I was acting like a girl. In her defence, I was playing with the dolls and the tea set. It was a rainy day."

"And why were you playing with those things?"

"We were having a history lesson; divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. The surviving wife was celebrating." Despite all of our jokes about him needing to leave, well, my jokes, my hand still finds his way down his arm and to his own. I think it's hormones, mixed with his games. It's not a very healthy combination. Things were way more fun when it was just me who annoyed people like this; at least I only did this when they deserved it. How can I deserve this? 

...It's a rhetorical question.

"And in my defence, it was a complete accident," I continue. "I knocked the table when I was trying to leave; the tea set fell and smashed. She got a new one, but I was still the bad guy."

"She's punished him with shopping ever since," Jack finishes, a guess on his part because I never told him.

I nod anyway, it is actually true. Partly anyway. Lucy's question to Jack about his Charms revision leads them to having their own conversion and we lapse into a comfortable silence. I doubt it'll last; Louis likes to talk while sober as well as drunk, he's just not as fast. Or he likes to talk to me. "Where are Kyle and Luka?"

"Do you really want to get rid of me today?" he asks quietly.

I squeeze his hand again. "No," I promise. "You just haven't talked about them in a while, that's all. Are they still -"

"Fighting?" he interrupts quietly. "No. They are being scarily polite to each other. I believe all hell will break loose if they don't sort things out properly soon. Maybe you should talk to them; people seem to listen to you."

"Who the hell listens to me?" I ask surprised. No, I think surprise is an understatement. It's the full on 'what the hell?' kind of shock. It's on a whole other scale to the one Jack made about me.

"Jack went to you for advice twice and them bring together has not brought the world to an end. You must have said something right." I shrug awkwardly. I can help my friends because I know my friends. Kyle and Luka are Louis' friends; I have no idea what they're like or how I'd even start. I'd probably make things worse.

"I'd better not," I mutter. I sit up, making Louis move forwards, and stretch my legs. “If our life was a book, would it be a best-seller or would people think ‘what the hell?’” I say randomly.

Maybe my change of subject should have been about getting ready for dinner instead. I have no idea where that came from. It’s odd, even for me. Then again, I’m not all that surprised. Are they?

“Who wrote the book?” Louis sounds too casual to be faking, so he’s not surprised either. Note to self: be less predictable.

“I did. It’s the autobiography I’ll write when I’m famous,” I answer. “You know I’m going to be famous for something. Or infamous, I haven’t decided yet.”

“We’re all thinking ‘what the hell?’ then. You have a habit of exaggerating things.” My hand collides with his chest, though not painfully. “Did you want me to lie?”

“I do not lie; I manipulate the truth to suit me.” I falter at the end, just enough for them to know that even I’m not so sure I really believe my own words. I’m not going to admit to that, though. That’d be like admitting defeat. Only cowards do that and I’m not a coward. I merely pick my battles.

“Just like manipulating the situation is not the same as cheating,” Louis continues sarcastically.

“Exactly. See, you do understand. The elbow in the stomach was not necessary,” I groan. “Pain and games, no wonder no one is allowed to be my friend; I corrupt easily.”

“I wouldn’t put that in your book,” Lucy tells me. I agree. “Right, I’m going to get ready for dinner, and then we can go. That’s enough studying for today, don’t you think?” I gape at that. Seriously. Jack asks if she’s sick, he sounds genuinely worried. "As soon as Hogwarts is over, I'm getting a new name for myself because you act all weird when I stop studying." I open my mouth to give a suggestion. "I'm not opening a chocolate shop just so you can be the official taster!"

Damn. "Yeah, we'll see!"

I nudge Louis. "Do you want me to ban chocolate?" I shake my head. "Then no. Open your own chocolate shop."

"Maybe Jay will." I consider that. My birthday is a few months away; I could have a chocolate shop by then. Or a chocolate factory!

...I have lost my mind. The universe has caused my brain to melt. It was only a matter of time.

"Ignore his obsession with sugar; he gets anxious around exam period and he tries to eat a lot." Oh, Jackson, shut up. "He also does it when he's really upset or really angry with someone."

"Jackson!" I throw a cushion in his direction. "He already knows this, don't scare him into running away."

"I'm not going anywhere," Louis whispers in my ear. "He love you too much to want to scare me away from you. Plus I think he's a little afraid of you."

Jack throws the cushion back at me, while we laugh, and says adamantly that he is not afraid of me. I'm just crazy. Maybe he's afraid of me because I'm crazy. That would be hilarious if it were true, though I'm too tired to figure out why. It's probably something really simple. "So, tell me about the book you'll write when your infamous."

"Why?"

"Because it's about you and you should know by now that now that I like knowing things about you," he answers like it's as simple as Jack being scared of me being hilarious. "Do the readers like me?"

"Are you going to kiss me any time soon?" He says no. "Then no, the readers don't like you. You're being mean, teasing me. They want you to kiss me and you're hurting them."

"I bet they secretly like that I respect your decision to make it special," Louis states. "Because all of this self-control is really hard, even after almost a year of practice."

I scoff. "I'm just so irresistible. I'll have to take your word for it, if you're about to agree. And my readers also don't like when I'm reminded of your relationships with Justin and Tyler. It puts me in a state of depression that only a jar of chocolate spread and a spoon can pull me out of. Not because you're reminding your current boyfriend of your previous boyfriends, but because your previous boyfriends are awful people."

"Noted." Louis pulls me closer to him, wrapping me into a hug. "I'll definitely fix that so your readers like me for something."

"They like your choice in men," I smirk. Then it turns into a smaller, but more genuine smile, and my arms find their way around his waist. I don't care that Jackson is making fake gag noises or that there are people around us; this is a nice moment. "They like that you say crazy things to make me smile and you care. There, that's three reasons already. Even though they have to like you for those reasons because it's my book, so that's obviously what they have to read."

"I can't wait to read this book," he says just before Lucy comes back down and tells us to get off our asses and go to dinner.

She doesn't let me lie here and have dinner brought up for me. Such a shame.

***

"What's got you looking so serious all of a sudden?"

I find Louis' hand, so we're side-by-side and he can lead the way back to my common room, and I ask him a question of my own. "Do you go home for the Easter holidays?"

"Yes. Do you? Why are we talking about this?"

"I do and I need a new excuse as to why I can't see my grandparents until the summer. Are my NEWTs are good excuse?"

Louis stops me and we wait until the stairs come back before moving again. "Why don't you want to see your grandparents?"

"Because they're crazy." He nudges me. "Because they ask me really awkward questions about myself. I'd rather not talk about my love life, especially now that I have a potential love life to talk about."

"Maybe instead of avoiding them, you should go into as much detail as possible and make them so uncomfortable that they stop asking," he offers. I shake my head; no way is that happening. I can't do that. "That is what I did. They were already feeling awkward because I'd just told them I was gay, so it didn't really take much."

"Thank you for the suggestion, but I do actually like my family," I answer him. "I just don't want to talk to them about my private life. Private being the key word and all."

"You don't tell anyone about anything, Key."

I stop and step back until I'm against the wall, hurt by the bitterness in his tone. "I tell you," I whisper. "You know everything."

Louis pulls me closer, doesn't allow me to let go of his hand. "I know and I'm glad, but I shouldn't be the only one you talk to. You don't even tell your best friends everything. You have every right to keep your secrets, but please don't shut people out of your whole life. Or at least think about not doing so."

"You've been thinking about this for a while," I realize.

"Yeah. You're usually distracting me, especially when you talk to me about your life."

I huff, pouting a little, but shrug. "I hate when you try to give me life lessons and make me a better, more open person."

"Changing you is impossible. I'd never be able to do it and I don't want to, so don't worry about that. Just call it advice," he says after a pause. "Take it from someone who understands this well; if you don't have people you can be close to and talk to, you'll start to feel alone and that really sucks."

"You forget I've been in the dark for almost fifteen years, I know exactly how that feels." I move close enough to him that he knows what I want. It's still the same few seconds, though. You'd think now would be the perfect opportunity. "I'll see you tomorrow, sweetheart," I say softly, then walk away to the common toon door. I say the password and step inside. "And I meant what I said this morning; you are an inconsiderate asshole for jumping on me and will you stay the fuck out of my room. Swearing; that's how serious I am."

But I know he'll be in my room to wake me in the morning, probably earlier than usual.

"Sweetheart?"

I also knew that would be the only thing he'd pick up on. "You started it with all of this 'baby' nonsense," I point out. "You made it worse with your little game. But you know what you need to do if want it to stop."

Note to self number two: never underestimate Louis Weasley.

"I've never had a pet name before; I like it."

Oh, come on!



A/N: One: I said this would be finished and posted on Saturday, but I was writing on my iPod and it died and my brother had my charger, so I didn't get to finish and post it like I wanted.

Two: This is filler-y, I know, but it has hints and stuff in for next chapters. Chapters I hope you'll like. :)

Three: The book? lol. I bet Ciaran having a book about him would be both fun and scary, especially if he wrote it himself. :P

Four: Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded,survived - the order of Henry the VIII's wives.

I hope you like this chapter and I'm so sorry for the long wait. Also, thank you everyone who has voted for Ciaran for Best OC. :D

Sam.


Chapter 22: Plans of My Own
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It's a sad day when spring is here, the sun is shining and not lying about being warm, and we're spending our Saturday inside. Unless you're in first or second year, I imagine a fair few students are out at Hogsmeade. If they're not, they're around the school grounds. All are enjoying the sunshine in some way. But we, as a group - Lucy, Jack, Declan, Simon, Miranda (I finally found out his girlfriend's name), Louis and myself - are sitting at the Gryffindor table (because it's in the middle), eating lunch and basically just being lazy. Louis tried to get Kyle and Luka to join us, but they went from being polite to Kyle outright ignoring him since I asked last month. Louis is worried about them. He's hoping this day off from our revision schedule (damn you, Lucy Weasley) will give us all time to hang out, so he can use said time to get them together without being able to cause a scene, although the hall is pretty quiet, so there aren't many people who'd see the scene anyway.

Neither of them have shown up so far, but we have the whole day and nothing better to do. We can wait.

Miranda is doing a rather brilliant job of keeping him distracted. I'm not so surprised; she is a Ravenclaw, too, she knows both Louis and Luka well. I'm glad she's here and that she's with Simon. They bonded over their Wizard card collection when she was supposed to be tutoring him in Transfiguration. Her favorite card is Hermione Weasley née Granger, Louis' and Lucy's aunt. According to her 'Harry Potter is great and all, but where would he have gotten without Hermione at his side? He said that in an interview once, you know.'

...I never said she was my favorite person in the whole world.

She's Lucy's, though. I think. They've become kind of inseparable since she heard someone else was a fan of her favorite aunt. It may also be because her revision schedule is now appreciated.

Miranda's best friend is actually the girl who I met the night I officially met Louis, when I asked for directions to Ravenclaw tower. Her name escapes me now, but she's not dating on of my friends, so I'm not all that bothered. I'll never tell Miranda that, though.

I acknowledge the presence of another at my side, instantly recognize the smell of his shampoo, but jump slightly when he wraps his arms around my waist. I hear Miranda's 'aww, how adorable' and Lucy's scoffed 'he wants something'.

"There's nothing in my pockets, Hugo," I tell him bluntly. Hugo replies by tapping his fingers against my ribs; I'm not interesting in whatever is or isn't in your pockets, he's saying. I frown, a little worried now, and hug him back hesitantly. I've grown closer to Louis' family since New Year, Hugo and Lily are always coming over to talk to us, sometimes Rose, Scorpius, Lexi and Al come over. Roxanne still isn't talking to me as much as she used to, but when she does she still flirts with me. It's a little off, though. Apparently James has been dissuading her from playing dirty because 'Louis is happy'. I knew I liked James for a reason.

They've come to be nosy and to ask about homework and just to sit and talk because they're bored, and I'm always been hugged by Rose and Lily, but Hugo usually only does this when he tries to distract me and take something. This does not feel like one of those times. "Are you okay?"

"My life sucks," he moans quietly.

"You've almost finished third year and you're already the most popular guy in school. Everybody loves you," I counter. He's the youngest in the immediate Weasley family and one of the most famous; he would help with his mum's campaigns for new laws. I wasn't lying when I said he was the Weasley's poster child. He is literally the poster child for all that is good in the world, everything his mum has done. She is who he is most compared to, they all think he'll contribute to society one day, too. Yet he's the best pickpocket I've ever met and, although he only started it to help his mum, being around rich donors with big pockets probably helped.

Gotta love the irony.

But he knows how to not be seen, so no body knows how he spends his free time and they all love him. Once again, Louis was right; the kid's too smart for jail. And he's one of my favorite people in the whole world, so when he's sad I kind of feel sad, too.

"Not everybody," he replies sadly.

Oh. It's a crush-type situation. Hugo moves away slowly to sit beside me properly, his head on my shoulder. I rub his back awkwardly. "Is she a friend you've grown closer to recently?"

I feel his head shake. "He doesn't even seem to notice me."

And that's when Louis coughs up his drink. I hope someone took a picture of that moment. "He?"

"Yes, he," Hugo snaps. "Got a problem with that?"

"Well, I'd be a little hypocritical if I said yes," Louis mutters. "I just had no idea. Who is he?"

"Doesn't matter, he doesn't feel the same," he says, sad once more. I'm still rubbing his back. Suddenly he moves up. "Hey, we go home for Easter a couple of days before my birthday; if I had a party, do you think he'd come?"

"I think it's a little too short notice, Hu," Lucy tells him sympathetically. There are murmurs of agreement around us.

"What should I do, CJ?"

Okay, what is going on? Hugo is the latest in a long line of people asking me for some sort of advice. Well, maybe not a long line. At least I actually know Hugo. And I may not be the best person to talk to when it comes to liking another person, but at least it's a crush on a boy. I'd be completely useless if he liked a girl, just ask the others who wanted advice. But even if he was crushing on a girl, I think I'd still say the same thing right at this moment. "It wouldn't hurt to talk to him. Say hi, be noticed; you'll get your foot in the door at least."

Personally, I think I've given good advice on this matter. Not that I want to give any advice.

"You make it sound so easy."

"Well, you're a week from turning fourteen, Hugo. Fourteen. You've got your whole life ahead of you, years to be with that special someone. How do you know it's this boy? No one even knew you liked boys."

"There was nothing to say before, he is the first one I've liked and you know now. I can say hi," he muses. "How did you introduce yourself to Louis?"

"I got him right in the gut with my cane."

"It hurt a little," Louis finishes.

"I'm going to put that on the list of things to not do," Hugo says. He sounds like such a patronizing little git; he's like the little brother I wished I had before I realized that I liked being an only child.

Basically, he's me. Only smaller. And only one of me is allowed in my house. Any more and I'm not sure my family could cope. Maybe my dad could.

...I had to get it from someone!

"You do that, kid."

"Kyle?" Louis exclaims at my side, completely surprised, that despite his little plan, one of his friends actually showed up.

"I'm here because I'm hungry and you're sitting at my table, that's all, Louis." There's a moment of silence, and then a muttered, "And Luke is outside, going through Head duties with the Head Girl."

"How do you know that?"

I almost shake my head at Jack. But I really want to know.

"I am an evil genius with minions," is his almost bored reply. I can't decide whether or not the guy is trying to be sincere or funny. About the evil genius part, I mean. Obviously he got someone to tell him where Luka was.

Are evil geniuses still out there?

An elbow in the ribs from my left bring me away from that thought. I repeat the action to Hugo, only lighter because he's a little smaller than me.

"Why are they all here, Louis?"

"We're hungry, too," I answer. "Hence the Great Hall."

Kyle's next comment is muffled, by Louis' hand I guess. I get the gist of what he is trying to say. He's not being as nice as he was when I first met him. "Help Hugo," Louis tells me.

Oh, no! No one tells me what to do, not even can-be-romantic, can-be-a-tease, admittedly lovable boyfriends. Screw that. "I've helped Hugo. Is it your turn for relationship advice, Kyle?"

I admit, that did sound a little too snappy, even for me. Yeah, I'm gonna go with snappy. Even so, Kyle doesn't react to it badly. Honestly, he doesn't seem to care. "You have to be in a relationship to want that kind of advice, James."

That's the second time Louis has coughed up his drink. For his next birthday I'll buy him a straw, at least then he can only choke on his juice... On second thought, maybe not.

"You what?"

"I broke up with him," Kyle elaborates slowly, as though speaking to a small child. "Don't look at me like that, I couldn't do it anymore."

Louis clears his throat, maybe stopping himself from saying whatever he really wants to say. We all know it's between Kyle and Luka, not us and certainly not Louis. We're here for friendly encouragement and advice, but that only works if there's a couple to give it to. Kyle made his choice. Louis can't fix this one. "It just explains why he was sat in the common room, unmoving until I had to force him to at least lie down at three am. He looked broken."

Everything that happens next, don't know for sure. Kyle comes out with random sentences about Louis taking Luka's side, which he denies completely, and how he's just saying that to get him to go to Luka, which he only denies just saying it because what he said was true. I'm not sure of the rest, it's like Kyle's has this whole other language when he's angry and only Louis can understand it, which makes me think he's been this angry before. I wonder why. It takes Miranda's yelling and Jack's high-pitched whistle to get them to shut up. I'm glad, I've never heard Louis really shout before.

"Kyle, you know how you always carry that thing you call a guitar around? Well, CJ plays the piano and writes his own music. Isn't that cool?"

Thank you, Miranda, for focusing the topic on me. Wait, he plays music? I'm suddenly pushed to the left, Louis complains when he's obviously pushed over, too, and Kyle is sitting next to me. "That is cool actually, considering... You know... How?"

I shrug awkwardly, partly because I feel squished until Hugo finally decides to move over. But mostly it's the question. "I play and I sing and I have one of those quills that write things for you -"

"Like the one I've seen you use in class," he interrupts, sounding more enthusiastic about something than I've heard him since he got here.

I nod. "Right. That quill writes down the notes I'm saying or the lyrics I'm singing."

"Cool. I should have thought of that, it's so annoying having to stop partway through a song so you can write it down." He chuckles softly, it's quiet and doesn't last, but it's definitely there. "Who'd have thought we'd have something to talk about. Maybe I can like you," he muses.

"Yeah, great," I mutter.

"Sorry, that sounded bad," he says for the first time. "It's just because you'd been alone or with those two for so long, that when you started hanging out and then dating Louis, I wasn't sure if we'd be friends. But we can. This can be fun, I need a distraction. Well, something to take my mind off my life," he tries to explain. He's not doing a good job, but it would be rude of me to comment.

"And there's this bar that let's you sing. We go during the holidays." I know he's referring only to himself and Louis. "It's Easter soon, wanna come with us?"

"That sounds like fun," I answer him. Now I can tell my mother I have plans with friends when she asks why I can't go to see my grandparents and play twenty questions during the holidays. I smile and nod, it does sound like fun. Although, anything is more fun than being grilled about my love life with grandparents.

One point for Ciaran: I've successfully managed to evade telling my grandmother that I'm dating the youngest grandson to the Delacours.

"I thought you had to visit your grandparents during the holidays?" Lucy asks, sounding too polite to be genuine.

I shake my head.

"It's okay," Kyle says. "Louis only comes for me, so you're not missing anything. You can come during the summer."

"It's fine. I'm not going to my grandparents." I try not to grit my teeth. Sometimes I wonder why I'm friends with Lucy.

"Well, I distinctly remember reading you a letter from them, saying they wanted to see you," she insists. Why is she doing this to me? "Oh, that's right. You said -"

"Lucy, have some cake," Jack interrupts, cutting her off. Her words are muffled. Did he actually put cake in her mouth? Thank you, Jack.

I almost voice that thank you, and then tell Kyle that I can go, when I hear something overhead that makes me stop. "Is that an owl?"

"It's your mum's owl," Lucy manages to say, her teasing forgotten for now. There's silence while she accepts whatever it is. "She says you don't have to go to see your grandparents after all. Your grandfather has business to attend to in Paris, they won't be there."

"Yes!" Finally, universe. A lucky break. Then I stop and think; no grandparents means an empty mansion. An empty mansion in France. An empty mansion in France with Louis. "Maybe I should go."

"But they won't be there," a single Declan points out, confused.

"Exactly," I smirk and I think that's when they get it.

"We'll definitely save the bar until summer," Kyle says.

"I think that's my cue to leave," says Hugo.

"France, Louis?" I ask.

"Well, I did promise my grandparents a visit, too," he answers. "It'll definitely get my mother off my back. And we can cross the Eiffel Tower off your list, which was obviously why you thought of this."

"Obviously."

"We'll stay at yours, visit mine and get a train into Paris one night. I like this idea," Louis says.

"It's an almost perfect idea," I agree. He asks about the 'almost'. "Well, I'm thankful my grandmother won't be there to kick you out of the house and I don't think it would be wise for me to see yours. The Delaney vs Delacour war has not ended, remember?"

"Crap, I totally forgot your grandmother is Madeline Delaney. Wait, the reason you don't want to visit them is because you don't want to tell her your dating me, isn't it?"

I shrug and hope I don't look too guilty. "Partly, and I'm only thinking of you when I choose not to tell her. I fear blood would be shed. But it's mostly because telling them I'm dating you would mean telling them I'm gay and I haven't done that yet."

Kyle sighs, mutters something along the lines of 'I've heard that before.'

"One step at a time, I think."

"And why haven't you told them?" Kyle asks. I think he's comparing me to Luka, which is fair, I guess. We both have our reasons.

"Because I'm avoiding them and their questions and that awkward conversation, as Louis knows."

"He said private life. I thought him being gay would have been important enough to make an exception," Louis defends himself quickly. Traitor.

"It is. I had it all planned. Lucy was going to write me a letter for them -"

"I was?"

"That way I didn't have to actually be there when they found out," I finish. I'm met with hushed murmurs of dissaproval from some and complete silence from other. Damn. "I'm hoping Louis can help me figure out what to say in France. Maybe it'll help when he -" a cough, " - we tell his family about us first,only because mine won't be there," I amend.

In a way I'm glad. I really should tell them. My grandparents are the only one's who don't know now, and I would have told them earlier if they hasn't started going on about how exciting it'll be when I meet someone and how I'll love settling down with a girl and having kids of my own one day. That is a lot of pressure on a seventeen year old boy.

"But if your grandmother tells mine before me, it's not my fault!" I tell him. "And you can't blame me for suddenly deciding that Mexico sounds like a lovely place to visit."

"Deal," Louis laughs. "But as lovely as Mexico sounds, I think I'm looking forward to France."

Of course you are.

***

"Thank you," Louis murmurs sleepily into my ear.

I turn my head slightly and ask what I did to warrant a thank you from him. I run through the afternoon in my head and nothing comes to mind. We spent most of the afternoon in the Great Hall, our numbers falling little by little until it was just me, Louis and Kyle left. We continued to talk about France and music until Kyle suddenly said good bye and took off. Louis said Luka had come in. We tried not to talk about him all afternoon, but they were both Louis' best friends and they had done almost everything together, which made it so much harder. Every time something about him came up, you could tell by Kyle's tone that he trying not to regret dumping him. I imagine for a second that I decided not to tell my grandparents about being gay and keeping Louis a secret; I wouldn't be surprised if he dumped me for it and I hate the feelings that came with it. And that's only imagining what they're both going through.

I tighten my grip on Louis' hands and he notices, tightening his own grip around my waist.

"For talking to Kyle about your music," he elaborates, resting his chin on my shoulder. "You made him smile a little. And for wanting to tell your family about us, even though they kind of hate each other; I don't want us to go through anything like that."

"I know," I whisper.

I shiver a little when the wind starts to pick up. Luka watched Kyle leave, waited and then took off, Louis said. As soon as they were both gone, we left to sit outside by the lake, against the tree. We've missed dinner, I think, but I don't care. If Louis is hungry, we'll go to the kitchen before we go to our common rooms. I don't care about the wind either, but I don't mind that Louis wraps his arms around me further. Who knew that would be nice?

"Do you think they really hate each other? Our grandmothers? I don't even know how it started," I tell him honestly.

"Something to do with social status, I think," he chuckles. "One of them had the better party and everything became a competition ever since. But, no, I don't think they really hate each other. It's a pride thing. It'll be okay."

I nod slowly and believe him. Well, I want to believe him. I really hope he's right. Because him being wrong might seriously affect the rest of this trip and I have newly formed plans. Louis is not the only one who's allowed them. Although, since he agreed so readily, our plans might be coinciding. Or is that just wishful thinking on my part?

"What are you thinking about? You look lost in thought, which isn't always a good thing," Louis jokes. I think.

"Paris," I tell him. "I look forward to crossing things off my list."

I really do.



A/N: Oh, hello new update. Tell college to be nicer to me, so you can be here more often.

People are sad and Ciaran has plans; not a good combination in one chapter. I hope you enoyed this slightly angsty chapter, because it wouldn't be teenage life without a little angsty boy-drama. Let me know what you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 23: My Way
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"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."

Oh no.

"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 -"

"Shut up."

"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."

"Thank you."

"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."

"Why?"

"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, you."

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. :)

Sam.


Chapter 24: Key
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I'm woken by rising voices and a little boy's laughter. Rolling over, from my stomach to my back, I push myself out of bed and feel for the bedpost. Hanging up is an outfit, a soft-feeling t-shirt, a non-sleeved shirt-like jacket with a hood and what I know are my favorite jeans, because they're one of the only pairs I had packed; someone must have come in this morning and left it out for me, I don't remember them being there last night. I dress quickly and follow the voices into my grandmother's dining area.

"Hey, you," Louis is the first to say. I can hear his smile.

"Hey, yourself," I yawn.

He takes my hand, leading me to the seat beside him, and sits me down. "We're just having breakfast. I'm surprised to see you, we weren't expecting you down till noon."

"What time is it now?"

"Almost ten," Grandma answers me.

Almost ten? Almost? As in not yet ten? As in still in the 9am area? I start to stand. "I'm going back to bed."

"No, stay with me," Louis pleads, not letting go of my hand. "I was hoping we could go out, we can have a longer day out together now."

"Sure, why not?" I mumble, which he can't hold against me because I'm still half asleep, and grab my breakfast as soon as it's put in front of me. "I even have money now. Sleep well in the guest room, Louis?" I ask, rubbing sleep from my eyes between bites.

"It was alright," he says. "You know, maybe we should give you a little bit of coffee today."

"Why? You know I'm not allowed to have coffee; it makes me jumpy."

"Just enough to wake you up, CJ." His finger tickles my neck when he runs over the base. He flicks something up. "You've got your shirt jacket on inside out."

I grab a bit of the back of my jacket; he's right, I can feel the label. Which means my hood is tucked inside. No wonder it felt weird. I shrug it off and try again. "Coffee sounds good, and then we can pretend that never happened."

The coffee is barely half a cup, but I feel more awake now than I did before. It may only be because I've been up for a while now, though. I do not put my faith in a bit of coffee. I find it hard to believe that there's enough caffeine in this to have any type of effect as last time. Which, of course, is why they only gave me this much. Not that I have a coffee addiction or anything. I drank some once when I was about seven, took what I thought was my hot chocolate off the table, and didn't sleep all night. Even if my mum hadn't said I couldn't have any more, I wouldn't drink it. I kinda wish I hadn't drank it now. I really don't like the taste.

Grimacing, I push the cup away and continue with my breakfast. "Where's everyone else?"

"Jay has gone with your grandfather for business reasons. Mel and Carrie have taken the children out for the day, I said I'd join them after you had gotten up," Grandma replies. "Enjoy your day, boys."

I frown at the odd sound of her voice, but nod and say good bye. "Have fun," I call. As soon as she's gone, I tap Louis. "What did I miss?"

There's a brief pause and the sound of ice rattling around in a glass. "Your mum floo called this morning, not long before you came down. She was pleasantly surprised to see your grandmother answer and said something along the lines of 'good, now nothing can happen'. Your mum is the really paranoid, over-protective type, isn't she? No offense."

"None taken. Does it affect your plans in any way?"

"No," he says simply. "None of my plans will come into motion until after Paris. Why? Does it affect yours?"

"Little bit," I mumble honestly, making an attempt at kicking him when he laughs. "Don't be a dick, it ruins the moment."

"I didn't realize we were having a moment," Louis chuckles. I re-attempt to kick him, but he continues speaking before I can open my mouth. "Finished your breakfast? Ready to go?"

I nod twice, one for each question, and stand up, my hand out for him to take. There's a good chance I may need him to lean on when my caffeine buzz fades and I start to fall asleep again. "Lead the way."

***

Louis says Bordeaux is beautiful, I tell him I'll take his word for it because I don't remember. Louis asks me if I'm okay, I say yes and pretend that I didn't notice the bitter edge in my tone a few seconds earlier. It's not fair on Louis and I won't be responsible for ruining our trip. Not just me; nothing will ruin our trip. There's been a slight change in my plans, since my family are here, but we will still have our trip and I'll still get to cross things off my list.

He doesn't buy it, though. He knows I'm pretending. "I wish I could help you, find a way to give you your sight back safely," he says softly, his finger rubbing circles across my skin while he unconsciously swings our joined hands again.

"I know, so do I. It's okay, though. I'm used to it," I promise.

"But I know that you can't accept it. How can you live like that?" he asks me. He's trying to understand.

"Because I have to," I tell him simply. "Why are we talking about this? Let's talk about nice things, like Paris. I like Paris. Have you been to the top of the tower before?"

"No. I'm not a worthy enough romantic, I've never been with someone who's given me a reason to go. It is a romantic setting, you know," he laughs, following my example willingly for me.

"Well, that is news to me," I grin.

We continue to walk, stopping occasionally so he can look through the shop windows. We have lunch and dessert at some café. It feels nice, like a date. No, it feels like more than that. We're enjoying each other's company, as you do on a date, but we're past that stage now, I think. It's like we've been together forever. I know who he is as a person, not everything - who does? - but enough. Which wasn't a hard thing to do really, since I can't see him to make first assumptions. Getting to know who he is was all I really had.

I wonder what he's first impressions of me was? What did he notice when he saw me?

I'm not very good at first impressions.

I don't ask him, though. Maybe that's a question for another time. Until then, I'll enjoy this trip and my company and hopefully not mess Paris up.

Embarrassment may be likely.

***

The sun is warm on my skin. We're sat outside, just me and Louis, while we wait for dinner. Grandma and Grandad have gone out for the evening, my cousins, their families and Peter have all gone home, so it's just the two of us, alone here. Like I planned. Unlike Mum, Grandma trusts us, because we're adults now and we can do what we like.

Okay, she may not have actually said it like that. It was something to do with being responsible and making the right decisions. She's talking to the guy who did a handstand until he went dizzy and the guy who wanted to rollerblade in the school halls; we are rarely responsible and we rarely make right decisions.

But she doesn't need to know that.

I jump up when my ice cream drips from my cone, the melted dessert landing on my stomach. Yes, we're eating ice cream before dinner. Home alone at its best. Louis asks what's wrong from behind me, breaking the silence, but I'm sure he can guess. "Ice cream's melting," is all I say, settling back down in my sun lounger. Mine was turned around and was no longer in the direction of the pool, like it usually was, and Louis turned his around, too, so now we're back-to-back; his hair tickles my neck.

"It's so nice here, peaceful," he says. "I can't believe you used to live here, you're so lucky. I mean, it's huge!"

I pull myself up into a sitting position, careful not to drop my ice cream, and tilt my head back, so I'm resting on his bare shoulder. Another thing we're taking advantage of is not looking smart for dinner, which I swear Grandma made a rule in this house. We're only wearing our swim shorts. "Louis," I say slowly. "Of course it's huge, it's a mansion."

"Yeah, well, I've lived in a cottage on a beach all my life and, sure, I've stayed at my grandparents a few times, but that's not as big as this and I've never actually lived there. Compared to that, even compared to the house you live in in Essex, this place is massive. What was it like moving into a smaller place?"

I shrug. "I've forgotten what this place looks like and I've never seen my house in Essex. I go from my bedroom to the living room to the kitchen and back; it's all the same to me. What's it like living in a cottage on a beach?"

"Summers were fun, when we were kids and the family came over; we'd play on the beach, swimming and sandcastles and stuff. But during the winter and when it rained, or during the week when Harry's and Ginny's and Ron's and Hermione's kids went to school, it was kind of lonely and boring; they were closest in age, so I hung out with them the most. I had my brother, though, and Vic until she started Hogwarts and started hanging out with Ted more. There's not much to do in the village and only a few kids my own age." Louis pauses, probably to eat his ice cream. "Now it's boring because we think we're too old for sandcastles and playing in the sea. It's kind of sad."

"My dad and Jay used to help me build sandcastles, but I got frustrated because I couldn't do it myself and stopped," I admit. "I was a stubborn child."

"Was?"

"Hey!" I start to defend myself, even though he's right and I am still just as stubborn. "I was only allowed to paddle in the sea, never alone. I didn't mind that, though. Jay had scared me with shark stories and I was very glad I couldn't swim and couldn't go in even if I wanted to."

"How nice of him," Louis says sarcastically. "He's definitely a contender for Cousin of the Year."

I laugh softly and bite into my cone, finishing it quickly. "Looking forward to tomorrow?"

"I don't know what to think of tomorrow." He bites into his cone, too. "Telling them will be easy. I'm worried about what she'll do to you afterwards."

"You're not funny, besides I'm just going to stay here and you can meet me here before you make me ill by apparating to Paris," I tell him.

"You're coming with me, CJ. She has to see it to believe it, to know it's not a practical joke and that I really am in a relationship with her rival's nephew." Louis' lounger scratches against the floor when he turns, his chin now resting on my shoulder. "She really will say rival. Oh, and enemy, that will come up, too."

"Stop trying to freak me out," I glare. "It's working."

Louis leaves a kiss over my hair at my temple, but if he's about to say anything, he's interrupted by the timer in the kitchen that he spelled to echo; dinner's ready. He takes my hand and leads me into the house, letting me go as soon as I'm by the table. I find a seat while he prepares dinner and think about all the things that could go wrong with tomorrow. I just can't imagine why he'd want everyone to know about us now. Couldn't we have waited till graduation, at least?

Louis puts my fork into my hand, I must have been too preoccupied to hear the plate being put in front of me. "You still look scared." I roll my eyes in a halfhearted attempt at nonchalance. I'm not scared, but I can be a little worried. "My grandmother has never said anything about our decisions, she always supports us and, unlike you, she already knows I'm gay. No offense."

"You know, saying that doesn't take away the fact that I'm offended," I argue between mouthfuls of potatoes. Damn, I should have known the git could cook. "But I might be able to forgive you -"

"I'm not admitting that I know your name." I open my mouth to say something else. "I'm not kissing you either."

"Then I don't forgive you," I lie.

"Sure. Anyway, my grandmother will get over the fact that your Madeline Delaney's grandson. I've already told you that it's just a stupid pride war." He rubs his hand up and down my back. "I won't freak you out anymore, I promise. Now eat. We've got a big day tomorrow. It's gonna be b-" I swing my arm, hitting Louis in the chest. "Sorry."

I can imagine it now: Grandma, I went out with Ciaran James... Then he dumped me for being a dick.

Okay, that's not true... He's too nice to his grandmother to swear in front of her.

***

I really did not like Grandad's 'good luck' before we left this morning, I could tell he was trying to fight a snicker. Its hard to imagine he and my dad not being overly fond of each other, they're so alike. Especially when it comes to my misfortune; they have so much to talk about. I think it's because of something Dad did when he was younger and first going out with Mum. Or maybe it was when they were just friends and his outlook on life worried her because he wasn't worried.

I stand in front of Louis' grandparents' house and we wait for the door to open. He's knocked three times, but no one's answering and they've put up new wards, so he can't get in. He marvels at the differences between the two homes; Madame Delacour has a nice, fairly large house with a drive, Grandma has big gates that open up and a long drive that leads to a mansion. It's fun to listen to him; he thinks he's dating someone with money. He's really not, he's dating someone whose family is old money. None of it's mine, if anything were to happen to my grandparents, it would all go to Mum and uncle Michel. I just get to spend it sometimes.

Basically, he's just dating a kid from an old Pureblood family.

"They know I'm coming, they wanted to see me," Louis says, knocking again. "Grandma! It's Louis!" he yells.

That's when I hear it; the faint sounds of raised voices. I tap Louis' shoulder and point behind us just as they get louder. "Louis?" the softer voice calls. "We thought you'd be here a little later."

"Yeah, we left earlier. Sorry," he says. "I told you I was staying with a guy from school first, so we could talk to his family. Anyway, this is CJ, Mrs. Delaney's grandson."

Even now, he just can't seem to admit to knowing my actual name. He must really hate to lose.

"Hello, CJ," Monsieur Delacour says kindly.

"He's holding out his hand," Louis whispers in my ear.

"Oh." I hold out my hand, too, and Louis guides me. "I'm sorry. It's nice to meet you, sir."

"You went to the Delaney mansion," is the first thing his grandmother says. She's probably shocked, thinking I'm spying because of their rivalry.

"Yes. Let's go inside, I have to talk to you." There's a moment of suddenly awkward silence while we wait for the wards to be let down, so we can get in.

Mrs. Delacour leads us into the lounge and we sit down slowly. "Can I use your bathroom?" I ask suddenly. I don't wait for an answer, but Louis pulls me back down before I can really go anywhere.

"Coward," he mutters.

"I was for my family, what made you think I wouldn't be for yours?"

"Misplaced faith," he answers. I almost say 'shame on you', but he's already got his hand covering my mouth to shut me up. "The reason I was at the Delaney's is because we were telling them that CJ and I are going out. She took it very well," he adds deliberately, lowering his hand. Now she has to take it better.

Sneaky. He's good.

"We're very happy for you both. You know we've always respected your choices," his grandfather says. I like him.

"Of course we are," Mrs. Delacour replies straight after. "Why would we not be?"

Hmm. Maybe my worries were all for nothing and I just take after my mum.

She speaks to him in French next, either forgetting or not knowing that I was born here and French is my first language. She says, I hope you're making the right choice, Louis.

Hmm. Maybe not?

***

"What did your grandmother mean when she said she hoped you made the right choice?"

Louis' footsteps echo when he walks across the room, stopping in front of me. His aftershave is the first giveaway. I know he's mostly wearing it because his grandparents paid quite a bit of money for it, but he knows I like it, so I kinda hope it's for me, too. He fixes the back of my collar slowly. "My dating history, I bet," he answers, but he sounds unsure. "Strangely enough, my track record when it comes to dating is not that good."

"It is strange, considering you do so well in almost everything else," I smirk.

"What do you mean by almost?"

"Your academic achievements are admirable and I have no doubt about your skills as an artist," I say honestly. "But I beat you when it comes to music, you said yourself that you suck at the piano and, well, I can sing."

"Oh, I'm a terrible singer," he agrees, not effected by my words. "That's what makes drunk karaoke so much fun."

"I'll keep that in mind," I laugh, but turn serious a little too quickly for my liking. "They're okay with this? With us?"

"Yes, and even if they weren't, who cares? It's our life." I want to comment on that fact that he would care, and he should, it's his family, but he's in a good mood and I don't want to ruin that by being serious and negative. "Now, we have a city to get to, dinner to eat and a tower to climb. I say we go now."

I stick out my arm in response, really hoping he accepts it. Not that I consider him 'the girl' in this relationship, but I've never done it before. I can't help the grin on my face when he does accept... Well, he accepts it until we get to the stairs, then he slides his hand down my arm to take my hand instead. He says good bye to his grandparents, telling them not to wait up, and we step outside. We can't apparate inside or around the house because of the wards, so he waits till were some distance away before he does so.

The moment we touch ground, Louis is standing behind me, holding onto my upper arms while I wait for the nausea to pass. I nod my head when it's over and he takes my hand again. "Don't hate me if you don't like the food; your grandmother recommended the place, then booked a table before I could ask you. I'd have felt bad if we didn't use it."

I know exactly what restaurant he's talking about; it's Grandma's favorite. "I like French food," I promise. "I've been before. We take her there for her birthday."

"Good." He sounds so relieved.

The table is waiting for us when we arrive, my Grandma's influence this time. No meddlesome cousins who own it or staff I know and can talk to, just a woman who happens to be their best customer. We order quickly and talk about our families while we wait; Louis reassures me that I worried for nothing. During our meal, we talk about the tower and if I am looking forward to getting my answer and crossing it off my list. I tell him that I am, knowing that as soon as he got to 'crossing it off' he wasn't talking about the tower. I think I know what his plan is now.

I suppose I should have guessed. He did say he was going to show me exactly why people use it as a romantic setting.

We don't order dessert, I don't think my stomach could take anymore, and he asks for the bill. He sounds a little nervous now, which only makes me more so. What if I'm really bad?

"Are you ready to go?" he asks, bringing me back to the real world.

"Yeah," I say, nodding to prove to him that I am, as well as reassure myself after my thoughts. "Let's go."

We walk in comfortable silence, my hands tracing the outlines of his dinner jacket sleeve. There's music playing in the restaurants around us, people talking and laughing. I know it's dark now, I'd be able to feel the sun on my skin if it were still out and I'd be wearing my sunglasses. It feels romantic, like what Carrie talks about. I know Louis can be a romantic, but with school and NEWTs with never really done anything more than our dinner at Ellie's and a few dates in Hogsmeade. I realize that even after three months, I'm still new to all of this. I have no idea what to do.

"Dinner was nice," I blurt out.

"It was," Louis agrees. "Ready to climb that tower?"

"Yep."

We're careful climbing the steps; it would be a shame if we were to get this far, then I break something falling down because I was careless and mess up tonight.

"Almost there," Louis says, sounding a little out of breath. I don't even try to say anything. He exercises, I don't.

Finally, we get to the top and Louis leads me to the edge. "It's beautiful up here," he says softly. "I love Paris."

My heart sinks, hitting my stomach with a thud when I realize something I hadn't ever thought about before; how am I meant to know what people see in this place when I can't see it?

"Sounds nice," I mumble. I want to go now, I shouldn't have come up here.

"Stop that," Louis scolds me as though I'm a child. Using the hand he's still got ahold off, he pulls me in front of him. "Close your eyes. Now imagine it; in front of you is the park and the pavements, people are walking through, couples are enjoying their night. All around them is the city, and it's so bright, full of life and romance and you know why this is a romantic spot. What do you see, CJ?" he whispers.

"Paris." It's my own, very distorted view of Paris, but it's there. In my mind. I open my eyes. "I saw Paris. Thank you," I say sincerely, turning my head slightly to the right.

"No problem," he replies, turning me around so that we're face-to-face.

We're so close to each other, our foreheads touching, and unlike New Year, there's no one here to get in the way. Its just us and Paris and a list with items that deserve to be crossed off tonight. Louis cups the back of my neck, his fingers in my hair, and without warning, leans forward. His lips are soft and warm against mine and when he opens his mouth, I can taste the sweet wine we'd drank with our meals. He's slow and tender, almost caressing my tongue with his own. It makes me want more and I pull against his jacket, hoping he gets the message.

He doesn't give me what I want, he slowly pulls away. My groan of protest makes him chuckle. I take in what just happened. My first real kiss. It was better than I imagined, and I imagined it and more a lot. "Wow," I murmur.

"Yeah. Definitely worth the wait." I have to agree. "I'm glad we waited, Key."

I sigh. "Don't ruin the moment."

"I love the name, it suits you." I tell him that I can't think how. He puts my hand over his heart, I feel each quick beat against his chest. "Because it's exactly who you are; my key to my heart. I will never stop loving that name."

I shake my head. "You are such a -"

I don't get to finish that sentence, he knows what I'm about to say and that it's true anyway, so I don't mind that he interrupted me to kiss me again. This time he does give me what I want, and I have to hold onto him as I'm pushed against the railings. He's lucky I trust him. We only break apart to breathe and he whispers 'Key' again.

Damn, I'm really starting to like that stupid name.



A/N: I was told within a week and a week it has been. The chapter, I've been planning that tower scene since March. It feels good to share it with you now. I hope you're not disappointed. :)

Sam.


Chapter 25: Revelations, Good and Bad
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We treat apparating like swimming and give it an hour in Paris before Louis takes us back to his grandparents' house. He holds me up by my arms again and waits for it to pass, then he walks us up the small drive and into the house. It's late and the house is silent; his grandparents must be in bed. Louis leads me to the stairs and up to the room I'm staying in. There, Louis kisses me again, long and slow and soft. I kiss him back, moving my hands from his hips just long enough to shrug off my jacket and let it fall to the floor. His hands work their way down my chest to my sides, his skin warm against mine. It takes me a moment to realize he's removed my tie and unbuttoned my shirt, leaving it wide open and my bare chest for him to see. He moves his lips away from mine to leave a light trail of kisses along my jaw and down my neck, while I pull him closer by his shirt and clumsily undo the first button.

Then he moves back.

"Not tonight," he whispers.

I let him go. "Well, that was just mean."

"I know what you want, you've wanted it for weeks." I roll my eyes; understatement. "But you're only reacting to what your body is telling you you want. What your body wants and what you're ready for are two completely different things. Soon."

"I hate you when you're rational," I stick out my bottom lip. I learned from the best (Carrie) and I can sulk for a long time.

"You'd hate me even more if I weren't," he promises me. I shrug; we'll never know.

...I'm okay with that.

Our next kiss is short, but undeniably hot. I'm left breathless and leaning against the bedpost Louis pushed me to. Somehow my shirt ends up on the floor anyway. "I'll see you in the morning, Key. Good night."

"Yeah, night." The door closes shut behind him and I shake my head in rapid movements, as if that'll make the current feelings I have go away. "Okay."

It's gonna be a long night.

***

I toss and turn, I count sheep, I even sing myself a lullaby my mum used to sing to me when I was little, but nothing works. I just can't sleep. My body is wired, I feel like it's still day and I should be up and doing something instead of lying in bed, which is extremely odd, considering how lazy I can be and I usually love staying in bed.

Sighing, I push the covers away and get up. I remember the way to the kitchen well enough that I don't need to wake Louis and I take slow, almost cautious steps down the stairs so not to make any noise. I keep my hand against the wall to guide my way and I find the sink easily enough. Next the glasses; that's the tricky part. I check the side first and it seems luck is with me tonight. I turn the tap and let it run, and then fill my glass. I take a sip and pour the water out and try again; luck doesn't like me that much. Yeah, I want cold water, not hot.

My second try is a lot better and I drink slowly, in no rush to go back up stairs. When I finish, I put the glass into the sink and my walk back to the stairs is even slower than before, this time for a very different reason; I know I won't be able to sleep when I get back into bed. What will I do besides lie there?

I get to the stairs and lean against what I think is a wall, but is actually a door, catching myself before I fall flat on my ass when it opens on me. I remember stopping at this door after Louis had shown me to my room; it's the music room, with the piano. I turn to where the stairs are when I think I hear faint movements coming from above, but decide to chance it. Playing has helped me to sleep a few times, it calms me.

I shut the door behind me and find the piano. I miss playing when I'm at Hogwarts, the school doesn't have a piano and I can't bring my keyboard. I wonder briefly if the Room of Requirement would conjure one if I asked it to, I've never tried. I practise with my fingers, as Louis pointed out once, but it's just not the same. I realize this every time I run my hands over the keys.

I play.

It's a moderately fast song, an old song. I love it and it definitely fits my mood sometimes, especially tonight. I play two verses and a chorus, barely noticing someone's come in until a pair of arms wrap themselves around my waist. I jump slightly, calm down quickly, but stop playing.

"How come you're up?" Louis murmurs sleepily, his head resting on my shoulder and his legs either side of me as he squeezes onto the seat to sit behind me.

"Couldn't sleep. You?"

"I went to the bathroom, heard the music. It could only have been you playing," he says.

"Did I wake you?" I ask, worried.

"No," he reassures me with a squeeze. "Every room has a Silencing charm around it, you can't hear anything until you leave the room. Keep playing, I've never heard you play before."

I hesitate for a second, not used to having an audience, then I remember when he showed me his art. That was hard for him; I kind of owe him for that. So, I play the song again, picking up where I left off.

"I don't know the song," Louis says into my ear. "What is it?"

I open my mouth to tell him the name of the song, and then close it again. I have a better idea; I can kill two birds with one stone if I let him hear me now.

"You know I'd walk a thousand miles if I could just see you tonight," I sing softly. I continue to sing the rest of the song while he listens, silent apart from his light breathing. I can feel the rise and fall of his chest against my back. I get to the end of the song and remove my hands from the keys slowly. "You like?" I'm nervous about his reaction, considering the lyrics in the song I chose to sing.

"Hmm," is all he says, his tone suggesting he's not entirely happy about it, but is willing to let it go tonight. "Play another?"

I nod and start another favorite of mine. This one is slower the first and I let him know that it doesn't have words to it, so I can't sing it. I just want him to listen. I get through the first couple of minutes without any trouble, focusing on the music, it's after that when I start to lose focus. Louis runs his hands slowly up my back, which is bare as I decided to only wear my pyjama bottoms, while his lips and teeth graze my neck and right ear lobe. It's very distracting, I should really tell him to stop.

He keeps going, his hands stopping at my shoulders and then moving down my arms. He leaves open mouthed kisses along my neck, biting and sucking at the bit of skin that connects my neck to my shoulder, and I know he's intentionally left a mark there. "This song might be my favorite," he whispers.

I don't answer him. His hands stop at my wrists, his mouth moves to my jaw. I finally get to the end of the song and Louis curls his hands over my own, bringing them to rest across my stomach. I turn my head to the right and kisses me.

I could get used to this.

"That's never happened before," I say when he pulls back.

"I should hope not. Coming back to bed?"

Shivers of excitement run down my spine when I hear those words, like we're together, home, and sharing a bed. He makes it sound like it's our bed we can go back to. That's what I want. "Yes."

Louis doesn't let go of my hand after he helps me up and he comes into the room with me. A good sign.

"Will you be staying put this time?" he asks with a chuckle.

"Maybe," I answer.

"I'll see you when you wake, Key."

I grab his hand before he can turn and leave. He starts to speak and I stop him quickly, pressing my thumb over his lips. I know what he's going to say and that's not what I'm about to tell him. I can't believe I'm going to do this, I was so sure I'd win, but it's one of the last hurdles we have until we're at that point where we know everything. I know he already knows, but I was never the one to tell him; I need to do this. I know that now. "Ciaran. My name is Ciaran."

"Key-ah-ran," he sounds it out slowly. Most people do when they hear it, making sure they've heard right.

"Yes. My mother still had a French accent back then, apparently my name came out like that and she liked it, so she kept the pronunciation," I explain. "Most people just pronounce it 'Keer-an'. Not Lucy, though, hence the admittedly growing on me nickname, Key."

"I love your names. Good night, Ciaran."

I hold back my surprise at how odd my name sounds now that I've heard him say it, but I love hearing it at the same time. Weird.

I don't let go of his arm. "Stay with me."

"Not to -"

"Not for that," I promise. "Just stay with me. Please."

"Okay."

I lower myself onto the bed and move across, lying on my left side like always. Louis is behind me moments later, his arm wrapped around me tightly. He whispers good night one last time and I do the same, my eyes closing. This is what I want.

I fall asleep almost instantly.

***

The alarm clock rings right by my ear, waking me up from what little sleep I had. I stretch my hand upwards and find the button to switch it off. Then I turn to lie on my back. Louis must have moved in his sleep; his arm is still around my waist, but it's stretched. There's a gap between me and him. When I turn, he falls forward, his chin hitting my shoulder with a thud. I wince, he groans and he moves upwards, so his head is closer to mine and I can feel his warm breath around my mouth, but he doesn't wake up.

I've never been awake before Louis, being near him while he slept. I have to wonder what he's like when he's asleep. Does he sleep with his mouth open? Does he snore? I fell asleep too quickly to know that one. I always fall asleep on my left side, does he have a sleeping position as well?

I move my hand along his arm gently, so not to wake him, and continue up, threading my fingers through his hair. Maybe the action tickles him because his next sound is more like a chuckle, and he moves closer to me, his arm wrapped tighter around me. I find his lips and give him a small, barely even real, kiss, much like the one's he'd give me.

"Nice wake-up call," he whispers. "It's only seven am, Ciaran, you can go back to sleep."

I turn to lie on my right side, my forehead touching Louis'. "There are so many better things we could be doing."

"When I said 'not tonight' I didn't mean you could try again the next morning," he says, laughing. He sounds very surprised by my sudden want to stay awake. Does he not realize how long I've wanted this? Waited for this? I complained about it to him often enough.

"I wasn't talking about sex, it's not all I think about, you know? Do you have something you need to share?"

"Ciaran, I haven't had sex in almost a year; it is all I think about."

"Then your self-restraint is something to be admired." Louis hmmm's in agreement. "Until you believe me when I say I'm ready, I'm going to test that self-restraint."

"You're so mean to me," he murmurs huskily. He sounds so sexy when his voice is low like that; it definitely wakes up every part of my body.

"Yes, but you'll let me anyway," I state with a smile.

With my hand still pulling his hair, I bring him closer, deciding to ignore my usual hatred for morning breath. I just miss his mouth, but I don't care. Despite my enthusiasm, as he would call it, and the fact that I initiated it, Louis quickly and, admittedly, quite easily shows off his experience and takes control, rolling me onto my back to lie on top. "You're getting better at this," he says, pulling back ever so slightly.

"Well, I have been told numerous times by numerous people that practice makes perfect, I've decided that it's time I take their advice." I don't say any more about that; going into detail would just ruin the mood.

"Ciaran James taking advice from another human being, I never thought I'd see the day," Louis gasps, feigning shock.

I pull him to me.

The door opens. "Have you seen - Louis!"

Louis jumps up and I join him; he's still sitting on top of me and I balance on my elbows with my head close to his heart. "Grandma!"

"I'll be downstairs," she mumbles. Well, I say mumbles; she manages to make her voice abnormally high-pitched while still keeping it low. I have never heard a sound like that from another person before.

"I should go talk to her," he says after a few moments, moving away from me. I'm honored with a quick, soft kiss. Then long, hard, very thorough snog.

Ha. That sounds like such a British word. It's very funny, actually saying it makes me want to laugh.

"Stay," he makes me promise. "I'll be back. Stay."

"I am a human being, not a dog," I remind him. "But since you asked so nicely..."

He follows after her, leaving me alone. I find it oddly discomforting, like the room is suddenly unfamiliar, almost wrong. I've started to get used to staying with Louis at night and waking up with him in the morning; he should be here.

I lift myself up further, balancing on my hands rather than my elbows, and stretch across the bed. That's when I hear the voices; they're close enough for me to hear their voices, but not enough to hear exactly what they're saying. I try to do as Louis wanted, but curiosity gets the best of me completely; I crawl off the bed without making a sound and tip toe to the door. Louis left the door open, I understand now why I can hear them when Louis said they have Silencing charms, and I sneak out. I hear them clearly now, they're by the bottom of the stairs, yelling in French.

About me.

"Stop it! You do not get to dictate my life!" Louis suddenly yells in English. "Ciaran is my boyfriend! If I want to be with him, I will! You have no say!"

"It's not about Ciaran's family. I'm sure he's a good boy, but can you see yourself and him together? You have different lives, Louis, can you put yours on hold to help him because of his... Condition?"

My knees almost buckle when I realize exactly what it is she is trying to say to him. Recently my biggest fear has become being resented by Louis because I've held him back. He's helped me to believe in myself and I know that there are plenty of things I can do, but he's wrong when he says I can do anything. I'm a realist; there are plenty of things I can't do. I need help, I need Louis.

What if I can't have him?

What if I shouldn't have him?

"Do you hear yourself?" Louis' voice sounds incredibly quiet, almost far away, even though I know he's yelling. He's absolutely pissed. "I don't care that he can't see, I don't care that you obviously think he's not good enough. If he needs me, I will be there, no questions asked, and I will do it gladly because I will do anything for him. Because you will do anything for the person you fall in love with."

That does it. I fall to the floor and grasp the banister so tightly my palms hurt. He loves me. His voice softens, even though he's still angry; he seems to just be realizing that he loves me.

"I'm not letting him go just because you think he can't manage and will bring me down with him," Louis says, no longer yelling. Maybe he just doesn't have the energy. "He knows how to look after himself, even when he doesn't believe it himself. He's more than capable and I believe in him, so does his friends and his family. We always will, until the day comes when I can give him everything he wants. I have to go upstairs, we leave soon. We have to go. I'll be -"

"Louis."

"No. I haven't felt this way about another person in a long time. I won't make the same mistakes again."

The creak of the bottom step forces me to get up and I get back into the bedroom before Louis can notice I left. I drop myself onto the bed automatically, feeling completely empty. It's still a while before Louis comes back inside, a small part of me wonders how long it will for him to compose himself. There's a soft click of the door finally.

"I love the whole 'just got out of bed' look, with the messed up hair, the casual pose and the very low pants. It's extremely sexy."

He sounds exactly like his old self. I'd be worried if he weren't; it did take him two hundred and forty-eight seconds between him coming up stairs and coming inside to pretend everything was. I ended up counting.

It's not really his voice I pay attention to, it's the words.

Love.

Louis stands over me, his lips just touching mine. I move my head to look down. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing," I lie. "I was thinking about school tomorrow; Abby will kill me if I haven't got my wand work perfect when she sees me. NEWTs are soon, you know. I just want to go home now."

I'm aware my voice is shaky, but I pretend that I don't notice anything. It's crucial at this point that I control myself quickly; if I take as long as he did, he won't just have suspicions, he'll lock me in a room and make me tell.

"We'll leave soon. I'll set your clothes on the bed, we'll get dressed and have breakfast," he promises, sounding confused and worried.

I don't want him to set out the clothes for me... Even though I need him to. "I'm not hungry," I mutter. "I just want to go."

"You have to eat, Key. Besides, the train doesn't leave for another four and a half hours. We'll go out for breakfast, I know how much you love the croissants from the café in town."

"I do love those," I admit.

I don't move when he kisses me again and he doesn't try to push it. "I'll get your clothes." There's absolute silence between us while he goes through my bag. When he's done, he places his lips on the top of my head. "Please tell me what's wrong."

I don't say anything, I don't know what to say. Too much has happened in such a small amount of time. He loves me, yet he shouldn't be with me.

I hear the door open and close and I sit frozen. I have no idea what will happen after today.

I mean, how do you tell the one guy you might just be in love with that it's over?



A/N: Dun... Dun... Dunnnnn... *hides*

*From magic corner where you can't find her...* So... This was more or less a make out, drama-y chapter, all completely needed for the end (*sobs*) and the next chapter. Because Ciaran knows Louis' feelings! And things are going badly, they're in for a bit of a bumby, rollercoaster ride...

Song one and the lyrics you know I'd walk a thousand miles if I could just see you tonight is A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton. Sone two is The Portrait by James Horner from the Titanic soundtrack. I love that song, definitely recommended if you haven't heard it.

I hope you, er, enjoyed.

Sam.


Chapter 26: Broken
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"He's barely said a word since he got back."

"He's barely said a word since the morning we were leaving. I left him alone for less than ten minutes."

"Weird."

"I'm sitting right here," I mutter, curling my fingers around my hair at the back of my head and pulling tightly in an effort to stop myself from saying anything more. I'm sick and tired of them talking about me.

"Then talk to us," Lucy snaps worriedly, as though she'd read my mind.

I sink further in my seat and continue to ignore them. I shouldn't, they're my friends and they're worrying about me, but I have bigger things to worry about right now. How do I tell Louis that it's over? How do I tell him why? What's it going to be like for Lucy when she has to revert back to going back and forth between us, only this time it's not something that just happened but was forced to happen? Because I can't be around him all the time, that will just make the whole breaking up ordeal completely pointless. Louis using it to try to get us back together is already a possibility I've acknowledged. I can't let it happen; I won't have the strength to leave him a second time.

"Don't be like that, Ciaran. We're just trying to help," Kyle scolds me.

"I neither need nor want your help. And who said he could officially join this group?" I say childishly. He calls me an immature brat for the third time since we boarded the Hogwarts Express; I don't give a damn.

"We did, when we hung out with him over the holiday," Jack states, his tone telling me I have no say. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

I don't answer that. I grab my stick and get up, pushing past their arms when they try to grab me, until Louis tells them to let me go. His voice is so sad. I almost turn around, kiss him and apologize, letting things go back to how they were. But I don't. I keep walking and turn left, remembering which way we turned to get here, and make me way to the end of the train. My stick is up, a little way off the ground and pointing outwards, and I don't listen to other students' protests when they're walked into and prodded. It's their own bloody fault; they should look where they're going.

I keep walking until my stick hits a wall and I know I'm at the end of the train. I use my hand to find it next, then turn and lean against it. I hate this. I hate every obstacle that has ever gotten in my way and ruined my life. I hate me; part of me is wondering exactly why I'm doing this, when a great guy who loves me doesn't see my inability to see as an obstacle and wants to be with me.

But nothing good in my life ever lasts. What if Louis' love doesn't last and he leaves me later?

I don't think I could cope with that.

I shouldn't have left the bedroom, I should have done as Louis said and stayed in the room. If I had, we wouldn't be here right now; he wouldn't be so upset, knowing there's something wrong, and I wouldn't be planning on breaking up with him. But I won't make him choose between me and his family, that's not fair, and I won't let him put his life on hold to help me. We'd end up hating each other in the end.

And the end would be inevitable. I know that now.

"Hey."

I'm too focused on my own thoughts, too exhausted because my thoughts have been keeping me up at night, to even flinch at the sudden, yet familiar, voice which comes and ruins my silence. A voice that was once cocky and easy going and is now lacking any emotion. I only turn my head to the right. "Hello, Luka."

"You sound about as cheerful as I do."

"I'm a barrel of laughs," I mutter. "Why are you out here?"

"I saw you through the window. Do you want the other side of the carriage, I promise I won't talk to you unless I absolutely have to."

I believe him. I don't thank him, I just walk in and take the seat on my left, not even caring if that was his original seat. His lack of protest tells me it wasn't, so all is good in his little, solitary bubble world he created after Kyle dumped him. Maybe even before that.

Will Louis do the same? He rarely tells his family anything, only his brother who doesn't go to Hogwarts anymore. Even Hugo and Lily know not to snoop into Louis' life. Ever. He had his own little bubble world before we met, it's not hard to imagine he'll go back.

I hope I've popped it, that it's so far gone he can't ever get it back; he needs his family, no matter what they say to him or what he thinks.

I lie across the seat, wanting sleep to catch up with me, to take over my body quickly and so deeply I can't dream at all. Luka keeps his promise and doesn't speak to me, but I can feel his eyes on me. I'm too broken for it to be uncomfortable. Yes, broken. Jack tells me to man up all the time, to 'be a man' and take action when I usually turn and run. To be honest when I'd rather lie than admit to weakness. It's not something either of us do easily, look how long it took for him to tell Lucy how he felt, but it's what his mother taught him, growing up with Dyslexia. Well, I'm man enough to admit when broken, even if it's only to myself.

Mrs. Ryder said admitting it to yourself is the first step. I used to think that she sounding like the shrinks when they wanted me to talk about my feelings or a counsellor talking to addicts. Now I think I understand what they're all talking about. By admitting it, you are beginning to accept it and I accept that I was even before Louis, I still am and will always be broken.

I close my eyes, pushing the acceptance to the back of my mind for now, and fall asleep, Luka's breathing acting as a distorted lullaby, like a CD that's been scratched; it works, but it jumps and the song never really sounds the same anymore.

He's broken, too.

***

I'm roused from sleep by the voices; two soft, very distinct voices, whispering about me again. Only this time I don't understand what's being said. I focus on the hand that's running through my hair in soothing circles and hope it lulls me back to sleep before anyone notices I've woken. But it's not going to happen, maybe I make a move he catches, maybe my eyelids flutter, all I know is that he knows.

"Ciaran?" Louis murmurs. "Baby?"

I don't remind him that I still don't like that name. I turn onto my back, my only acknowledgment of his present being one muttered word. "Traitor."

The one the word is for understands straight away; that's why he's Head Boy. "I said I wouldn't speak to you, I never said I wouldn't tell him you are here. That's not fair."

"What's the matter, CJ?" Louis asks softly.

"Just. So. Tired," I whisper back, only half lying. "Alone time is good."

"Why are you so tired?" he pleads with me. "Something is very wrong."

I'm falling back asleep, I can feel myself fall. His soothing circles is working. "Heard," I manage to hear. I think it's from me. I'm not sure until Louis tells me he doesn't understand. My voice is never above a whisper. "Lo -" I don't finish that sentence, though I'm more aware than before that I said it, it's cut off by a yawn. "Broke."

"Sleep, baby." He's still confused, I can just about tell. "You can tell me later. I'm not going anywhere."

I knew he wouldn't. Despite everything, I don't won't him to. I should be cutting ties, starting the painful process of not being with him everyday and hoping one day it'll fade into a dull ache that will never quite go away. Just to remind me that he was real and here. But I can't, not tonight. I'll start tomorrow. Just before I fall completely, I hear just one more whisper, one I'm not so sure I was even supposed to hear, and I think maybe he's starting to understand.

"I hoped we'd be unbreakable."

***

For five days I am mostly able to avoid Louis, or not talk to him at least, since he's still in all of my classes. I focus on my NEWTs, my practices and revision with Abby in the library and for five days I manage to hide the painful process of the break-up. I should have done it already, but I need to plan ahead, to know what I'm going to say, so I can just go to him and say it. If I don't have to pause and think about what I want to say, Louis can't use the time to try and stop it. That way I can get out quickly.

Okay, I'm a coward. I've never done this before and I never plan to again. I was better off when I was a single loner.

No, that's not true. But part of me wishes it was, that would definitely make it easier to deal with. The other part of me, the bigger part, hates me for even thinking of wishing that was true, making it sound as though I regret ever being with Louis. I don't. I never will.

I'll only regret not being with him long enough.

I hope he doesn't ever regret being with me. Dom told me not to leave him, hurt him, I remember his words on New Years Eve. But this is not me leaving because Louis is going through he issues and I'm just not being supportive, this is me wanting him to keep his family and his life. I hope they understand that, I don't won't him to have regrets.

I turn discreetly when I hear Jack's voice in the dorm, speaking to Simon. I'm still asleep in their eyes, I want it to stay that way. Jack won't talk to me, the last time we spoke we were on the train about to get off a few nights ago. He told me to get my shit together and make the first move, to talk to him willingly, because he's given up trying to force me. He told me to be a man. Then he walked away.

He didn't listen to Louis yell about that being too harsh, he didn't wait for Lucy who was conflicted about who to turn to until I told her to follow him and make sure he calmed down. Already, there's a divide between us. I feel so sorry for Lucy, she'll be stuck in the middle of my problems no matter what, it seems.

I wait for Jack and Simon to leave the room, listen for the door to click shut and count how long it takes for them to leave the common room for breakfast. I've been counting steps for as long as I can remember, I know by heart that unless you're stopped for some reason, it takes a person barely even thirty seconds to get from the dorm to the common room and about another five to get out. At average walking speed, that is.

Once I'm sure they're gone, I kick the covers off and pull back the curtains and step out, already dressed. I reluctantly asked Declan if he would set some clothes onto the top of my trunk for me, but after a long, wasted effort trying to find sleep that wouldn't come, I pressed the button on my watch telling me it was almost four am, got dressed and paced the common room before throwing myself onto the couch. Despite it being a Saturday, I made sure I was back in my bed by six, not wanting Lucy to know I was up. I know she gets up early to revise before breakfast. No one knows I'm even up, they'll think I'm in bed for a few more hours, which means no one will come looking for me. Not that I expect them to, given no one will speak to me at all.

There's only one. And he'll give me till noon.

I quietly open the door and listen out for any noise at all downstairs. I'm met with silence, so they must all be at breakfast by now. All the one's who are up anyway. I still walk down without a sound all the way to the door, just in case, my stick hugged to my chest so it doesn't beat against the hard floor.

It's a case of ducking every time I hear a voice, whether it be student, teacher or ghost, until I get outside and onto the school grounds. The sun is bright for an early morning, hot against my skin, a huge contrast to my thoughts recently. I wish it was raining. I bang my stick against the ground, counting the number of times I do so in order to block all other things from my mind, and that's when it hits me; I'm right back to where I started at the beginning of the year. I'm alone, my original wallflower self, distracting myself from something. There's always something.

"Well, well. All by yourself, James?"

I groan at the voice and stop. I can't tell where his voice came from. "As soon as you piss off, yeah."

"So rude," he fakes a sigh, his tone mocking.

"How has Digby not kicked you out yet, Scott?"

"My charming personality," he says, clearly smirking. I don't need my sight to know that.

"Is it a repelling charm?"

He is right in front of me now. I try to push past him, but he puts his hand on my chest and forces me back. I whack his hand away, but don't move.

"Trying to be brave now that Weasley isn't here to do your dirty work?"

"Leave him out of this," I growl, really. After putting myself through days of crap, because I'm man enough to admit that my choices have caused this, I don't need him to make it worse. And he is; my temper feels almost uncontrollable. I'll snap soon enough. "I don't need Louis."

He laughs like he knows I'm lying. It's the first time he's ever directed a genuine laugh at me. It's his next words that tell me why. "So, it is true. I hear you and the boyfriend are having problems. Could you no longer take his God awful people pleasing nature? Or did he just have enough of you? He's like that." It's obvious now why he hates Louis so much; he's defending Justin. "But rumor is that one of you is about to dump the other, and given who the two of you are, they honestly can't say who." I glare even more if that's possible; I don't care why he does this, they're as bad as each other and I hate them. I always will.

"But Louis looked heartbroken when I saw him at breakfast this morning and he heard for the first time," he continues. All I hear is the implied message; I told him, he's saying, and he's proud of it. "And you've been avoiding him, you won't talk to him yet. You're dumping him. He heard that, too. Don't worry."

"Fuck off, Scott." I lift up my stick as discreetly as I can.

"Oh, no. The world is ending, little Ciaran swore. Or is he finally growing up?"

"Leave, Daniel." It's not me this time; we both sound shocked by the new voice, by Justin helping me. "Leave him alone, it's not worth it."

"I haven't done anything," Scott defends himself. "Yet."

The added 'yet' is what motivates me; I don't give him the chance and ram the end of my stick into his stomach, winding him. Breathless, he falls forwards. "I can take care of myself, asshole. Leave me alone."

I let him fall to the floor and accidentally - or not, depending on how you look at it - kick Scott in the groin when I step over him. "I tried to warn you," Justin's mocking tone reaches my ear as I walk away.

He must have seen me; I should have known he was helping his friend, not me.

The rest of my walk is hassle-free and angry. I find the tree by the lake, our spot, mine and my friends, drop my stick onto the ground and lean back against the tree's trunk. I sink to my feet, the rough bark digs into my skin. On the floor, I pull my legs up and wrap my arms around them, hugging myself. Given how I was told, it's right to assume that Scott was telling the truth and it's enough for Louis to suspect that's what's wrong. He'll look for me much earlier now, if he's not leaving my dorm already. Scott probably had time between telling Louis and finding me, Louis would have left for my dorm straight after.

He'll be looking for me right now.

There's only two places he'll look before coming here; the library, where I work with Abby and Jack, and the kitchens, where I like to sit and talk to the house elves. They give me desserts. If the math in my head is right, I only have about five more minutes of alone time before he -

"Hey."

Or not.

"I was on my way to the kitchen and Justin told me you were on the grounds, then I came out and Luka told me you were walking this way." He pauses, hesitates. Then he's forceful, angry. "Is it true? What Daniel said about you breaking up with me, is it true?" I say or do nothing to confirm or deny his question, but he knows. "Why?"

"I -" I falter after barely one word. It's so hard to tell him.

"Do you even have a reason?" he asks harshly. I almost flinch. Louis grabs me by my hands and pulls me to my feet, turning my head in his direction. He's looking me in the eye, even though I can't do the same. "I want to know why. What did I do? We were having fun, everything was good, but I leave for ten minutes and you decide to dump me. I deserve the truth."

The anger disappears as he talks, he's too upset to even try to sound strong about this. I should have known breaking myself would break him, too. That's what we all seem to be, fragile creatures kidding themselves into thinking they're stronger than they really are. We were made to be broken. We're only human.

I don't have it in me to create a story, a way to lead into it. I don't want one. I tell him straight out, letting the tears fall. "I heard you. I heard your voices and I left the room and I heard everything that was said in English."

"She doesn't know what she's saying," is the first thing Louis says. "She doesn't mean it."

"I got what she meant perfectly," I say bitterly. "And she's right. I need someone around, not to do everything, but there are things I'll never get to do, even little things. Louis, I don't even pick out my own clothes! I don't want you putting everything on hold for me. I made you write the lists so you could stop doing that!"

"So, you're leaving me to make my life easier," he sums it up sarcastically. "Not interested. You have no right to decide my life for me, saying I can't be with you because things will be hard sometimes. I don't care. If I did, I wouldn't have asked you out in the first place. I would never put you through that. You're stuck with me whether you like it or not, you know why if you heard everything."

"You love me," I whisper.

"Yes. I love you." He laughs, it's small and unsure. "You can be such an idiot and sometimes I wonder what I'm going to do with you, but I love you. You know I would never say that lightly." I nod my head; I know that. "We all have our issues, Ciaran. There are things that you'll have to be patient for, but it'll be okay. And as long as you keep things organized and remember what is where, you could probably pick out your own clothes."

I hope I'm meant to laugh at that last part because I do. It's cut short when he kisses me, his right hand in my hair and his left at the base of my back to keep me in place, not that I can go anywhere when I'm between Louis and the tree. It's soft and quick and over before I get a chance to return it. "I love you," he murmurs.

It not like when I heard it the first time, he was telling his grandmother about me, or like the other two times here, he was confirming what I'd said, like stating a fact. Now he's finally telling me. I hesitate; I'm more than sure I feel the same, but I've never been in love before. Louis has, with Ellis, I figured out that part of his secret. His secret is the last barrier we have.

"I don't expect you to say it back. Don't say it until your ready," he pleads with me. It's important to him, like my first times are important to me. I nod.

Louis pulls me to him then, gives me something I think I've needed since I overheard his conversation with his grandmother, something we've both needed; a hug. Simple, yet effective. He buries his head in my neck, the same side where my hickey has yet to fade. It's been commented on a lot. "Please don't scare me like that again."

"I just didn't know what to do," I answer honestly. I squeeze him tighter. "I'm so sorry."

"Don't apologize, she should never have said those things. Our relationship is not something she has the right to dictate." He pulls away slowly. "But you'll talk to me next time, right? And we can get past this now."

"And you'll talk to me, too?" I ask.

"About what?" He's partly confused, partly defensive.

"What did you mean when you said you won't make the same mistakes again?" I'm soft, hesitant. I don't want to upset him anymore than I already have. "This mistake and your relationships and Ellis; it's all connected, I'm not stupid. You haven't let it go. You'll talk to me about it, right? What if I can't compete against that, against him?"

Louis sucks in his breath, creating a whistle-like sound, and is silent for a few moments. "It's a story for another day, but yes, I will tell you. And you can't compete against it, there's no point." I feel like I've literally deflated when he says that; it's not what I wanted to here. He curls his finger under the chin to get me to look up. "You are so far past it, it'll never beat you. He'll never beat you. I promise you that."

"Really?"

"Really." He kisses me again, making it feel like he's sealing his promise. I approve. "If you're hungry, we can go to the Great Hall; Lucy might have saved you breakfast. Plus, Jack is worried about you."

"Lead the way," I say, finding his hand. He picks up my stick and put it in my free hand. I almost don't know what to do with it; when I'm alone, having the stick is normal, like it's a part of me, it's weird having it when I'm with Louis. He's there to show me the way, so I don't need it. I tuck it underneath my arm and swallow my whole new reason for being afraid. "To the Great Hall."

***

"So, he's normal again now?" Kyle asks skeptically.

"What happened in the first place?" Lucy demands.

"Well, now that everything's sorted I can tell you. Yes?" he asks me. I nod, I have no idea what to say. "I had an argument with my grandmother about our relationship and about knowing it'll be hard sometimes and Ciaran overheard. He kept thinking about it and it upset him. But we've talked now and it'll be okay."

He squeezes my hand, I'm grateful he left out my plan, Lucy may have killed me now that I think about it, and my other thoughts. I told him about them on the way to the hall. To say he wasn't upset would be a lie. "Yes. I'm okay now." He squeezes again. "And I'm very sorry," I add. I lean in. "I didn't forget that part."

"Just making sure."

"You're still an ass," Jack states quietly. "But what happened in France was mean and I understand, so I forgive you." He puts his hand on my shoulder and I think I'm going to get one his manly, slightly painful, pats on the back. He surprises me completely by hugging me tightly. "You really need to listen to the honesty lectures."

"I try; I zone out when I hear the word 'lecture'. Or is it when I hear 'honesty'? I forget. Probably because I don't listen."

Jack pushes me away playfully. "Smart ass."

"I try."

Lucy hugs me next, short and quick.

Kyle does nothing. "I don't hug very much, you have to really earn it, and you fucked off to sit with Luka, so you don't get one. How -" he coughs. "How is he?"

I almost tell him to go find out for himself, but I stop myself quickly. I was in a similar situation to Luka, only instead of letting me keep quiet Louis told. Kyle can't do that, I understand, Luka's family aren't like mine; they most likely haven't had a bet and a laugh about it. They'll take it seriously, especially his mother. Add that to the train journey, to how I felt and how I knew Luka was feeling, and I definitely understand some of what he's going through, even if the reasons for it aren't the same.

But I also know what's it's like to be thought of as not good enough for another, I almost did what Kyle did do, and I think he regrets it even though he's sticking to it. And he's sticking to it until Luka does something. Because he loves him. I understand what Kyle is going through as well.

So, a push should help them along, give them that motivation to do something about their relationship, with each other and with Louis, and I'll start with Kyle because, well, because he's the one right here, right now, in front of me. Plus, the fact that he was the one trying to get Luka to talk tells me he's the less stubborn of the two. I could break him down and get him to go to Luka; they need to fix things or there'll be no point in Luka talking to his parents. They'll just be stuck in the same place.

I only say one word. The same word that has been running through my head and telling me that's what I am, what Luka and Kyle are, what we all can become.

"Broken."

The biggest pushes always were the most painful.



A/N: You know it's serious when Ciaran swears. And is deep and meaningful. My baby is growing up (is this what it feels like when you're coming to the end of a story?)

Good news, though. Because I'd never break them up, it took me long enough to get them together in the first place... But the ride is still a little bumpy... 

I hope you enjoyed. Please let me know what you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 27: Accept, Adapt and Move On
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I try, I really do, but wand work is not as easy as you might think and I have no idea which way my wrist needs to flick for whatever we're doing now. They've tried to cram so much into my brain that I'm not even sure which spell we're doing anymore. I never thought I'd say this, because I actually quite enjoy the lesson, but I can't wait for NEWTs to be over, so I never have to have Charms revision again. That day cannot come any quicker, my tired brain yells at me as I throw my wand onto the table.

"I give up."

"Come on, Ciaran," Abby tries to cheer me on, but she's so tired of trying to cheer me on that it sounds more like a whine than anything. "You almost had it."

"You said that an hour ago," Jack adds in from behind us. "And I still need help with History."

"Right, Jack. I'm sorry, I'm coming." My wand is forced back into my hand. "You keep practicing. You're not leaving until you've got it right."

"You can't make me stay."

"Watch me," she dares. "And since you're not too busy to watch and laugh, you can help him, Louis."

"I have revision of my own to do and prefect duties in half an hour, so I should really finish," Louis says. It's the closest he'll ever get to telling her no, Abby can be scary. You don't want to say no to a scary Abby. "I can tell by your look that you're not going to let me study. Fine, I'll just have to lose sleep catching up tonight. But I'm not doing it for you." He wraps his hand over my own and pushes his front against my back. "You, on the other hand..."

"Don't let her hear you say that, she'll ask you to help Jack instead if she see's you distracting me" I whisper back, flexing my hand under his and turning my wrist in circles.

"What's the bloody spell?" he asks, still quiet.

"No idea, I forgot ages ago. We'll just keep our backs to her, make movements with my wrist and keep quiet. That way she can't stop us from slacking off until we can leave."

It's a great plan. Louis agrees wholeheartedly. Of course he does, it means he doesn't have to work.

"You thought about what I said?" His lips being so close to my ear and his voice all husky and rough sends shivers down my spine that I know he feels.

Despite the way my body is reacting, screaming at me to say yes to what he said, I nod my head tentatively and prepare myself for his reaction when I say no. Being rational is crap, it's such hard work. I hate it, how can anyone stand it?

"And?" he prompts. I can hear his excitement in his voice, feel it through the contracting muscles in his body. Dammit, he's going to be so disappointed.

"Not yet." He freezes behind me, and then exhales, his excitement gone. I start to tell him why, until I hear Abby come back. "Later. I promise."

"Are you two working?" she asks suspiciously.

Louis clears his throat, not quite unable to hide his disappointment or his confusion as to why I'm saying no. "Er, yeah, Ciaran's really not getting it. We'll try again tonight."

"Yeah, he's talking about something else.

***

I wait until he gets back from his prefect duties, that way we have the rest of the night. At least until the midnight curfew, then he'll have to leave. Louis begged Luka at dinner to cover for him, so he could leave patrolling early; he was given permission to leave at half ten. An hour and a half is not bad. It won't take me that long to tell him.

He may need that long in the resulting argument.

I asked Jack to make sure everyone had left the common room by the time Louis came, so I'm all alone now. It's odd how every time I wait to talk to Louis, I end up sat on the arm of the couch, bouncing my knee - Louis' nervous habit.

"Okay, I'm here and I'm all yours." Louis' voice makes me jump and before I know it he's stood in front of me, his hands on my thighs. His hands move up as he moves forward and his kiss is urgent, needed. Distracting. Oh, Louis...

"So much better when we don't have to pretend to be revising," he says against my lips.

"You're distracting me," I tell him, my hands on his chest in order to push him away. "We need -"

"Later," he interrupts, pressing himself against me in a way that has me agreeing with his every word, even though I know deep down that, if it goes his way, a later won't come.

I'm pushed lower and lower until I end up on my back on the couch with Louis on top. Hands are everywhere, his mouth never pauses, is always looking for skin. Too sensitive skin; he makes me feel every moment, every deliberate move, until I cry out. Then I pull him back up to kiss him roughly, almost forgetting why he's here in the first place until I hear footsteps.

I push him back. "Did you hear something?"

The noise stops when I speak. "No," Louis says after a pause.

I wonder if it was really footsteps, or if the noise had come from us somehow, but when he starts to kiss me again and the noise quickens, like someone is trying to get away, I know I hadn't misheard anything. "Liar," I accuse, pushing him away, oddly awed by the lengths he would actually go to to keep me distracted.

Just when you think you know a person...

Scratch that, I know he can do that; I remember second year. And I've heard the story of 'The Incident' when he was seven. I still need him to clarify that.

"You can't blame a guy for trying," he mutters to himself. I think.

I roll off the couch because it moves his legs enough for me to get away from him and walk around to the back of the couch, fumbling with the buttons he'd opened until most of them are closed again. I give up on the top two.

"We need to talk."

"About what?" he inquires. Too innocently.

"About you." He starts to laugh it off, make a joke, but as soon as he knows I'm serious, he shuts up. Then he asks why. "We need to, Louis. Keeping quiet will not do anyone any good, especially not you."

"I told you, it's a story for another day and I will tell it when I'm ready. I promised, didn't I?"

So, he does now what I'm referring to. "Yeah, but you're lying. You'll never tell, not willingly."

He scoffs at me, defensive. "You can't make me. I can just walk out of here right now."

"Yes, you can," I agree, keeping my tone as casual as I can make it, and lean against the back of the couch. I know he's on my left, closer to the door than me, because his voice is further away than before. If I could see, I'd have to turn to look at him. I turn my head just enough for him to see maybe half of my face. If he isn't that far away. "I'd give it five minutes before you came back in, ten at a push. You'll come back in angry, of course. Not at me, just in general, because you're stubborn. You always have been and you always will be. You also hate to be beaten, so you won't walk away from this talk and you'll hate the world for it, but it's going to happen anyway. This mistake hurt you enough for you to start doing as people said instead of saying no, but that was just to get them to leave you alone and stop asking so many damn questions about your life that you really don't want to give answers to. It didn't completely change you, you just adapted. You're still just as stubborn."

"You've come to know me well," he says softly, mildly surprised. I bet he's wondering just how much Lucy has told me over the years, and wondering if she's picked up on what I've said, too.

"Better than you think," I answer. "Because I've been there, I am there. The only reason I don't talk to shrinks anymore is because Dad stopped my grandparents from paying as soon as I told them about Jack and Lucy. He thought talking to friends might be a better alternative. But it wasn't and they gave up. I hate talking about my life and my personal problems, because they're mine to know, not there's."

"Then why are you making me?" Louis demands, pleading.

"Because it's eating away at you and I can't bring myself to ignore it anymore," I admit. Then I give him the one thing I know he'll listen to; the ultimatum. It's pretty much the only chance I've got, and after last week, it's also the riskiest. "You called me an idiot because I didn't talk to you about what I heard. I didn't talk to you because I was afraid and upset and her words put ideas in my head, ideas that I can't help but still believe. I'm trying, but you're not doing the same. I couldn't leave you then, but if you don't follow your own advice and talk to me then what choice do we have?"

"You won't do it," Louis tells me quietly, but with so much confidence in his words that I know he won't believe anything else. "Because you love me, you're just not ready to admit it yet."

"And did you ever stop to think why?"

He didn't. He does now. Neither of us speak, I just wait for him, my heart beating madly. Louis has to understand now. "He means nothing to me," he finally says.

"I know that, I do. But he hurt you, I know that as well. And it's all you seem to think about. It is, isn't it?" He doesn't answer me, I knew he wouldn't.

Knowing him like I do, listening to and gathering every single detail I have about Louis from anyone who'll tell me, he's trying to put his Ravenclaw thinking cap on and figure out exactly how I could have known that. He keeps himself sounding so normal when he's near me, I'm actually a little surprised when my sources provide me with this information. Aparrently I'm the only one left he might talk to.

Well, we'll see, won't we?

"Fuck, Kyle," he says to himself.

"Partly right," I concede. "Kyle and Luka, Lucy and Jack, your family, the seventh year Ravenclaws, some of the kids you tutor and, God, even Tyler has asked me. Well, actually he was being mean, saying I'd be lucky if I got you to talk about this. You've left quite an impression at this school; the one who flipped a switch and changed overnight. No, adapted."

When he doesn't answer to that, I continue, making this up as I go along really. Helping people is just not my forte. I won't be making a living out of it.

"You think about that and him and you try so hard not to let it happen again that you can't let it go. And if you can't let it go, you're just going to compare me to him, you can't help it and now I can't help it. How am I meant to tell you how I feel if I'm constantly worried that you're going to leave because you're constantly worried that I'll end up like him?"

I take a deep breath and finish my end of this talk, the reason I decided this all had to be laid out and talked about whether he liked it or not. "So, in answer to your question the other day and to the one in the library this afternoon, no. I'm not ready to have sex with you. Now you know why."

It's all up to Louis now and I can only hope that he finally talks because if he hates the thought of telling me so much that he walks out and doesn't come back, I won't know what to do. I can't find him, and I don't try to, there's only so much space you can give a person when you're having a talk like this. This can be his.

His touch on my cheek is too soft to startle me, just one cautious finger, which then becomes his palm. "Why did you do this?"

"Because you'd do the same," I shrug. "You'd sit me down and make me tell you everything. Especially after last week. I learned from the best."

"I thought it seemed familiar," he jokes. "I'm a hypocrite." I bring my thumb and forefinger together, leaving a small gap between them; just a little, I'm saying. Louis rests his forehead on mine and for a moment I think he's going to kiss me and try to distract me again, but instead he moves momentarily to leave the kiss on my head, then resumes his previous position. "I lied."

At last!

"Specify," I gently prompt. "You lie quite a bit, you know? But it all seems connected to this, so I'll forgive you."

"His name is Ellis Molyneux and I loved him." Louis pushes back, moves around, but stays in front of me. "At least I thought I did. It wasn't a fling for me, I told him that I loved him and he said it back. But he dumped me when summer was over. I was going back to Hogwarts for sixth year and he'd just turned eighteen, had graduated from Beauxbatons Academy. He didn't want a relationship, he didn't want me. I wasn't... Good enough."

Louis spits out that last part like it's some sort of disease. It explains so much; how he reacted to his grandmother's argument, why he still won't talk to her, why he was so angry when he found out my plan and upset when I told him what I'd been thinking. It must have brought those feelings back.

"I was sixteen years old, too hurt to let it go and too stubborn to accept that he was just a dick," he continues softly, painfully. "People kept asking what was wrong, but I just couldn't deal with them. One day, my aunt asked me to do something for her thinking I'd argue about it, because I'd just picked up my book, but I did it without question. I realized helping with other people's problems distracted me from my own, and I needed a distraction, so I didn't stop. I got involved in school, tutored, took my prefect duties seriously, anything to not have to think about him."

Louis pauses and is back to standing right in front of me, the soft jerk of my tie tells me he's fiddling with the end. "During the summer, Vicki had me follow her to her old room, saying she wanted my help with something. It turned out to be an intervention, much like this, with her and Dom. They demanded to know what happened the year before and it all came back. I couldn't control my emotions even then and I actually started crying, I hadn't cried since he left me, and I told them everything, made them promise not to say a word and leave me alone. That didn't like that, but they promised and they got ice cream and they dragged me out to sit on the beach, talked about everything."

"They sound like pretty amazing siblings."

"The best, most of the time," Louis replies, the second part a joke, I think. "I hate him now, it's the only feeling I have for him, I swear. I felt like he ruined me at the time, he seemed to have destroyed me to the point where everything I touched became ruined. He left me - how did you describe it last week? Broken."

"It's the worst feeling in the world." He agrees. Whispers that now I know everything. I hope that's true. "Feel better now that you've actually talked about it?"

"No," he says slowly. I assume his hesitation is because he doesn't want to hurt my feelings. "Last week has just brought it all back and talking about it has made me relive it." I apologize for that, but not for him telling me. "Maybe you knowing will help eventualy," he says, his tone far from hopeful.

Well, I'll just have to make sure it does.

"It will," I promise.

"Since when did you become the rational one?"

"When you went all weird. Now I know why," I reply, grabbing his own tie to pull him closer and find his mouth.

He's happy to return it, to take his mind off of what he told me, until my hand slips under his shirt. Then he pulls away slightly. "I shouldn't have tried to distract you that way, I apologize."

"I was perfectly okay with it until you lied about someone being in the room."

"Jack was just getting a textbook, he was in and out," Louis defends himself quickly. So, it was Jack. I should thank him; he got my mind back on task. "I'm sorry for that, too."

I forgive him and try to kiss him again. Just to kiss him, he deserves at least that distraction. He still pulls back, further this time. "I'm exhausted and you've shot me down twice today, so I'm going to take a shower and go to bed. I'm very glad we didn't do anything tonight, on the couch anyway what with your dorm mates all upstairs. I'll make it up to you, I promise."

"How?" I ask, intrigued.

"Get changed on Friday, something smart, and I'll come for you at seven. It's a surprise," he says when I ask where.

"Okay."

"Good."

Louis' gone before I know it and I'm all alone. I lie along the couch; I know now. He finally told me. I never thought I'd hate someone as much as I hate this guy. Ellis Molyneux.

Ellis Molyneux.

How the hell do I know that name?

***

Friday doesn't come fast enough. I used to have so much patience, now I can't stand not knowing something when Louis says it's a surprise. I used to not care, because I couldn't see them anyway. Now, surprises suck.

The only times I was able to not think about this surprise was when I was thinking about Louis, more specifically how he was after our talk. He made it hard to do by always being around, I didn't want to upset him more by talking about it to him. So, I talked to Lucy. She and Jack promised they didn't overhear, nor did they let anyone else, but she says that she sees the tiniest of improvements in him; he's not acting as weird as he was all week and there's something about him in general, she just can't put her finger on it, but talking helped and now she thinks she can have the old Louis again. The one who was laid-back and always fun and was always saying no. Except to her, of course. But they're the same age, grew up together, he'll always do a- most things of Lucy. Let's stick to most things.

Old Louis sounds like a bratty teenager who needs to be taught a lesson. I don't like how adapted Louis came to be, but he is quite nice and he's the Louis I know, so I hope some of adapted Louis stays.

He's still unsure that talking about it will help, but he's trying. I hope whatever this is tonight helps him, too.

"I can't take much more of this," I say suddenly.

"He said to look smart," Jack starts slowly. I nod. "So, you're going out, like Hogsmeade?"

"No idea."

"To the lake?"

"No idea."

"Do you know anything?"

"Not a freaking clue."

"Maybe you should ask Luka," Kyle mutters from my right. "Since you're doing so well at getting him to talk."

"Careful, Raven. Sarcasm will earn you a punch in the face," I state. I will get them talking; Luka is harder to make come around than I realized. In his own words; Kyle dumped him, not the other way around, so Kyle should do the talking.

Given why Kyle did the dumping, I'm not going to tell him this; thoughts of what he might do where not good.

I pull on my jacket sleeve and make my way back to the common room door. I swear I hear footsteps, my watch says it's one minute past seven. Please be Louis.

The door opens and I smell his aftershave. Thank God.

"I'm not late," Louis laughs. Did say it out loud? Oops. "Ready to go?"

"Depends on where we're going?"

"It's here in school," is all he says, taking my hand. "Come on."

I say good bye to my friends and follow, wondering where he could possibly be taking me that's here. We go up staircases and along corridors and we seem to walk forever, although I know it's not really that long, until he stops and it finally hits me. There's only one place in this school which could be private, used for a date or, say, painting.

The Room of Requirement.

I hear the wall move and Louis open a door and he leads me inside. I smell food, that's the very first thing I notice, and there is music playing, background noise. Louis let's go of my hand and leaves me to walk across the room. I take careful steps and keep my hands out, staying lose by. I don't know where he put everything.

"I asked the house elves very nicely if they'd make something."

Explains the food and the fact that he told me we weren't having dinner in the Great Hall tonight. But I thought he was just going to take some from the hall and bring it out. Not this. Wow.

My hand touches something hard, metal, round and long. I follow it down and find something soft and familiar. Sheets. "Is this a bed?"

I sit down and jump. Yeah, definitely a bed.

"Don't jump to conclusions, I asked for a room for two people to be alone and the bed came with it," he explains quickly. "I tried again and it only added the table to eat. I think I said something wrong, but I won't try again; the food is here and I don't want anything to happen to it."

I spread my hands over the sheets; they really are so soft. I lean back a little. "Play your cards right and we might get to use it."

I swear, he thanks the room.

"Yeah, I could definitely fall asleep in this bed."

"Don't take my unscheduled hope away from me." He pulls me up. "Let's eat."

The food is my second favorite meal in the world and number one here at Hogwarts; roast beef with roast potatoes and peas, covered in gravy. It's like a Sunday dinner, only on a weekday. Louis must be really trying to make up for wanting to distract me the other day if he's asked the house elves to make this for me; he usually complains about me eating too much. You can never have too much roast beef. "This is delicious. Drink?"

I cup my hand, holding it out for Louis to push my drink into it. "Just water this time, since you don't drink pumpkin juice. And I thought you'd like it." He refers to the food. After a few moments of silence, during which I feel his eyes watching me, he speaks again. "Thank you."

I make sure I swallow the piece of beef before I speak; this feels like an important moment and shouldn't be ruined by me spitting pieces of food everywhere. I mean, eww. "For what?"

"For the intervention. You were right; I probably wouldn't have told you at all, told myself that current boyfriends never want to hear about old boyfriends -"

"Usually true. Sorry," I say straight away, once I realize I've interrupted him.

"If anything were to happen that would break us up, it would have been that." He takes my hand, squeezes and let's go again. "Nothing else, I promise you that."

"Have you spoken to your grandmother yet?"

"Nope," Louis answers without a moments hesitation. He's being stubborn again, despite the waver I heard in his voice. But he's done this before, refused to speak to a family member; he didn't speak to Fred for a month once. I'm not entirely sure why.

"Are you going to any time soon?"

"Nope."

"You can't be mad at her forever," I try to reason.

"I don't forgive her for what she said yet. I understand why you want me to, but this is just something that I have to deal with."

"So, you're going to be stubborn?"

"Yep. Don't think about it, enjoy your night."

I nod and agree and I don't think about his problems. Louis's right, he knows how I feel about it, but this one is his problem. It's his family; he'll come around in his own time. I only hope it's soon because I know how he feels about his family. I don't know how he does it, I don't think I could ever not talk to my family. They'd have to do something really bad... Maybe this is what's Louis' thinking for this.

Crap. I'm thinking about it.

Louis laughs at me and I throw a pea at him, wondering what expressions I could have pulled. We go back to dinner, talking about random things and normal things and feeling better than we have in a while.

Feels good.



A/N: Because it is now officially my birthday here in the UK, I wanted to post this to celebrate with y'all. :D

I'll let you guess what's going to happen in the next chapter... ;)

I hope you enjoy and wans to hug Louis for finally telling Ciaran the truth. Now he knows everything. Feel free to hate Ellis... And wonder how Ciaran knows his name. Please let me know what you think. :)

Sam,


Chapter 28: Feeling Rather Than Seeing
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When dinner is over, we move away from the table. Weirdly enough, the only other place to sit is the bed. I'm starting to think Louis might have planned this. Just in case. Maybe he didn't, not if he's making up for distracting me because knowing the bed was here was another distraction. Maybe he did, I can't bring myself to care. Not now, not ever.

Fact.

"Whoa, this is soft," he says, surprised. "This room is good."

"You mean, you didn't test it out before you brought me here?" I joke.

"No," Louis gasps, sounding as though he's offended by my fake accusation. "I made the room, gave instructions to the house elves and helped sort the food. Because unlike you, Ciaran James, I am a good boy. Most of the time," he adds cheekily, bumping my shoulder.

I laugh, loud and hard, until I feel like my chest might burst, and fall back into the wonderfully soft sheets. I lift up my arms and fold them underneath my head, my darkened gaze on the ceiling. "It's no fun being good all of the time, Louis. It gets dull."

He snickers. "That's why I said most of the time." His second one is softer, quieter. I ask him what he finds funny. "I have many nicknames for you, but apart from the odd times you've called me 'darling' because you hoped you'd get a reaction, you only call me 'Louis'. No nicknames, not even 'Lou', just 'Louis'. It's kind of strange, that's all."

"I like 'Louis', 'Lou' just doesn't sound right when I try to say it," I admit quietly. "I'd rather call you 'Lewis'."

"Please don't," he groans.

"Why do you hate it so much? It's the English version of your name with the same spelling, even though Lucy told me she spells it differently."

I feel the bed dip and Louis' voice is now very close to my ear. Literally. He's lying on his side, that's the only way I can imagine him. His fingers flick the stray strands of hair that cover the tip of my ear, then move along to graze the growing stubble along my cheek. I've been meaning to shave it off for a few days now, but haven't gotten around to it

...There may be an ulterior motive involved, but I won't dwell on that.

"We went to daycare, my cousins and I." I raise an eyebrow, both in surprise and to show interest. I didn't know there'd be an actual story behind it. Louis chuckles, probably at the look on my face, and continues. "It was just a couple of days a week to give my grandparents some space; my Dad said they insisted they were okay to have us all the time, even though there's so many of us. Anyway, it was a daycare in Diagon Alley, privately funded and for children of all ages up until they went to Hogwarts. Some families, with two working parents for example, sent their kids there while they were still babies, but my family let us go when we were three."

I nod along, and then make the mistake of asking how the story has anything to do with the name. He hits me, more like a light tap on my arm really, and tells me he doesn't have to tell me. I shut up. "I didn't go until I was four, I was always ill; chest infections," he elaborates. "On my first day, a new teacher did the register, she didn't know my name and pronounced it wrong. I'd never met many others except my family and a few neighbors and no one had said it wrong before, so I corrected her and I was a little loud about it. Lucy found that hilarious in itself, but my overall reaction even more so. I didn't like it and, being stubborn, I sulked about it. I ran out into the play area and hid in the tunnel, refused to come out. Lucy's teased me about it ever since."

"Ohh," I murmur, finally getting why he hates it so much, but is so willing to give others, especially me, so many nicknames himself. "So, really you don't care about the name, it's just the principle."

"Pretty much," he agrees. "I admit, there's some blame on myself because of my reaction, but she kept it going and now I have to hate it. She needs to stop."

"Are you going to stop calling me 'baby'?" I ask.

He pauses for, like, half a second, then answers. He doesn't understand the sudden subject change. "No, probably not."

"Then she is never going to stop." I nod my head seriously; it's true. I won't let it.

He hits me again, even lighter this time, and the bed dips on both sides when he rolls on top of me, his legs pushed against mine gently. There's a gap between our fronts; Louis is hovering over me, not touching me apart from the light pressure against my thighs. Despite the intimate position, I sense another serious moment. "I'm sorry," he apologizes again. "Not for not telling you until now, because I just wasn't ready, but for the way everything happened; I could have handled it better. It was another bad reaction."

"You can never know what you may have done, so if you apologize again I'll have to hurt you."

Louis' hands go to my wrists, long enough to pull them from beneath my head, and moves up to thread his fingers through mine. He doesn't move any further. He still keeps that annoyingly safe distance from me - is he trying to be safe? I have absolutely no idea - and doesn't speak for a long while. I'd count the minutes, but I'm more focused on the feeling I have; he's watching me, not intently, I don't feel uncomfortable under his gaze. Cautious, maybe, because I don't know what's about to happen. I didn't notice he'd tensed up until he flexes his fingers, relaxing, and his breath closer to my face.

"Problem is I have the overwhelming need to keep people happy so they don't ask me questions, and you've been asking an awful lot of questions lately," he tells me, sounding somewhat serious, but I imagine he's grinning.

"Apologizing won't make me happy," I point out.

"What will?" he asks, genuine curiosity mixing with his teasing tone.

Louis is so close now, it'll only take one small movement upwards to kiss him, even with my hands pinned under his own. So I do. I catch him by surprise, but it only lasts about a second before he moves his mouth to my own - I missed - and a few moments before his kisses are so demanding, rough, that I'm left more than a little breathless. But it doesn't slow us down or even stop us. Not even a little. Louis' hands move from mine to my face, allowing me to sit up and him to sort of slide down my stomach, so he's straddling my legs and not waist, where he'd ended up when he'd moved closer. Moving my hands up his jeans spurs him on, his kisses harder and longer, but getting to his hips, touching skin, makes him pause.

"We don't have to do anything," Louis says, just as breathless as I am. Good.

He means what he says, he'll stop if I say so, but he won't exactly be happy about it. He wants this... I can tell. His body is betraying him and he can't hide that, he's not even trying to. And he knows I want it, too... He can tell.

"Stop and I'll hurt you," I growl, making a similar threat to the one I made when he apologized again.

Louis doesn't answer back, his bruising kiss is answer enough. Shirts come off first and I move my hand up his lightly muscled chest, feeling them tighten beneath my fingers. I break the kiss to trail downwards, leaving them all over. His responding moan is enough for me to continue.

"I love you," he says softly, barely heard. I probably wouldn't have if my hearing weren't so damn good.

I think about saying it back, but it's hard somehow. Nothing is stopping me and he knows I feel the same, otherwise this wouldn't be happening. Maybe I'm just not ready to say it because I'm still new to all of this. Until that day comes, I show him physically. "I wish I could see you," I tell him when we break apart.

Louis puts his hand over my eyes and closes them. I wonder why, contemplating asking him what the difference is. But he answers my unspoken question anyway. "I don't want you to see, I want you to feel."

With great effort, I keep my eyes closed, trying to stay natural rather than look forced, even when he pushes me upwards on the bed. I fall into the silk sheets and soft pillows; they're cold against my skin, but I don't care. There's a pause and movement, and then hesitantly, Louis' hands move over my body and the rest of my clothes are removed. He's back on top of me in an instant and I know he'd moved to undress first. Next he trails kisses down my chest and stomach before coming back up to kiss me properly, his hips pressed against my own. I pull up my legs to keep him in place.

Louis wants me to feel, so I feel. I lose myself in it.

***

The first thing I notice when I wake is that I'm lying on my back. Of course I would, I never sleep on my back. The second thing I notice is the reason why and I suddenly don't care that my normal habit changed during the night; much like in Paris, Louis is fast asleep, only instead of me moving first, his head is already resting on me. He's on my chest this time, his hair tickles my chin and his hand is over my heart. I wonder if that's a coincidence.

I lift my arm up; it's a little stiff because Louis is sleeping on most of it, but I can move and bend it enough to wrap around his waist. Then I slowly trail my fingers upwards, using the pace to get my arm out from under him without waking him, until I reach the back of his neck. My fingers find their way into his soft, thick hair and I pull him closer without meaning to, not consciously. I think. Louis responds after a few moments, waking up. I almost regret waking him, even if it was unintentional and therefore not my fault, but I love that he returns my hug and that removes any trace of regret from my mind. I leave a chaste kiss on the top of his head, practically in his hair.

"Morning," he says, sounding more awake than he really should. He can't have been awake all this time, his breathing had been too light. Maybe he's just a lot better than me and doesn't need all that long to wake up.

"Morning," I copy, choosing not to think about it. "I enjoyed last night, it was a very nice surprise. Thank you."

"I really wasn't expecting the end, but it was the perfect touch. This room really does know everything," Louis chuckles. One half of my mind, I'm not sure which half yet, my whole brain usually works together in its quest to try to confuse and embarrass me, thinks he's at least partly joking about that.

The room could not have known we'd need the bed...

No. Now he's just making me paranoid... And as crazy as I sound.

"Sure," is all I say, still keeping the laid-back tone of voice I've got going on, which is an extremely unusual tone for me to have first thing in the morning. I'm way too happy to care about time and all-knowing rooms.

I'm also a little sore. I try not to think about that either.

"How are you feeling?"

Damn you, Louis Weasley.

"I'm good, I promise. A little sore, but it's nothing I can't handle. I'll live." I only tell him the truth because we've got that honesty thing still going on. Not because he sounds a little concerned and I have this overwhelming need to make it go away, no matter how small, so he's not sad in any way. Definitely not because... Because I don't. So there.

Okay, so I hate it when he's sad. It makes me sad and I don't like that. A sad Ciaran is an unhelpful Ciaran. Unhelpful Ciaran annoys people, sometimes to the point where they want to hurt him.

True story.

"It'll pass," Louis says, no longer sounding as concerned. Because I sent it away with my words and now he's a happy Louis.

I think there's something seriously wrong with me this morning... I sound as cheesy as, well, Louis does when he's messing with Jack's head while occasionally being serious. It's unnatural.

"What are you thinking?" Louis asks, humor clear in his tone. He moves slowly upwards until I know he's hovering over me. I can feel his breath. I turn my head to the right; he knows exactly why and turns it back. "Seriously?"

"I have to be feeling really good to get past morning breath, you know. We're talking epic." I nod seriously, because he knows I'm not fond of that word. "And I was thinking random morning things. We shouldn't take my mind seriously."

"Okay," he tells me in a way that makes me think he's implying he'll get it out of me at some point. Hypocrite.

But I don't tell him that.

There's no conversation between us, only comfortable silence, which is a little odd for me as I know he's still hovering over me, watching me. Feeling a person's eyes on me usually freaks me out, to the point where I can literally run away and embrace solitude in fear of why they might be watching me, but after what everything that's happened between us, including losing my virginity to him last night, I don't think I could ever feel that level of discomfort around him again. Actually, I can't remember ever feeling that way around him before. I'd feel it and have a physical reaction to it, he's noticed that, but I always seemed to ignore it or make a joke when I've realized he was staring at me. The first time he held my hand in public, I only let go when I noticed everyone else staring. Logically, after knowing that, I think that not being uncomfortable with him watching me now shouldn't be odd to me. Maybe it isn't, maybe the fact that I'm just now realizing it's never been odd is what's odd right now.

Interesting.

"I can practically see the wheels in your head turning. What are you thinking?"

This time I do tell him what's on my mind. "Usually when people watch me, I get uncomfortable. But never do with you. That's a good thing, right?"

"I would think so, it would be kind of awkward if you were uncomfortable around me of all people, considering I'm your boyfriend. Especially after last night. I'm glad you listened to me," he says that last part softly, changing the subject.

"About what?"

"Feeling rather than seeing," Louis explains, leaning closer into me. He's on top of my side now, half on me and half on the bed, and he's got one arm on my chest. His other is folded up by my head, I guess; I know that's his elbow at my ear.

"It wasn't that hard to do," I reply, fingers 'playing' on his hand like a piano; I alternate between the two songs I played for him in Bordeaux.

Louis knows exactly what I'm refering to. He leaves a kiss right next to my ear. "Have. A little. Faith." Between each pause, he moves downwards, until he's buried his head into my neck and is holding onto me just as tight.

"What do you mean?" I ask, suspicious and just plain curious altogether; I know that tone. He's planning something, or he's been planning something. I've noticed it every so often for the last few months, but always forgotten about it, because this is the very first time he's said something that's practically confirmed that he's planning something. It's proof in itself. I need to know now. "Don't hold out on me, Weasley."

I feel his lips curve upwards when I call him by his surname; I only call it him when he's been absolutely annoying or I want something from him. This, right now, is both.

"Wait and see," Louis answers, obviously enjoying himself.

I hate this. This isn't fair. He should still be making things up to me, doing everything he can to not irritate me, and he's keeping something from me. Another bloody surprise, at least that's what this feels like.

And I hate surprises.

"Don't ruin what could follow a great night," I warn. I know it's an empty threat, this morning has hardly been ruined, but I hope it'll make him crumble and give up his surprise.

He doesn't budge.

"I'm not ruining anything." Louis catches me off guard and kisses my lips quickly, completely ignoring my rule. "You'll love it, I promise." He then moves away from me, the bed squeaks and dips. "Come on, you must be starving. We'll stop at our dorms to change, then we'll get breakfast."

My stomach rumbles, indicating that what he said is true and I'm definitely hungry. But I know he's only trying to stop me from asking questions and I just sit up, balancing on my arms. "You told me to have faith after talking about my sight; you can't expect me to not have questions."

"I expected it, I'm just not answering them," Louis points out knowingly. Well, he does know me better than most, so I knew he knew I'd ask. But still...

He pulls back that the covers and I still don't move, even though I have no clothes on. See what I mean about not feeling uncomfortable under his gaze? "Very nice," he says approvingly, then throws something at me; my pants. "Get dressed."

"I'll find out what you're hiding from me," I promise, finally doing as he wants and getting dressed.

"I know, because I'm going to tell you all about my crazy ideas," Louis replies, sounding smug. I won't be finding it out for myself, I realize. So that means he'll be telling me soon, right?

I fasten my pants as quickly as I can and pull on my shirt. "Is it a magic cane that tells me where to go and what's going on around me, providing me with the latest schoolyard gossip. Especially on people I don't like, because that would admittedly be awesome."

"Oh, way cooler than that," Louis boasts. "And you don't like most people."

I ignore the jab about my poor social skills. "What's cooler than a magic, talking cane?"

Louis doesn't answer me; he leads me out and to our dorms to get changed and we go to Great Hall. He knows my mind is full of questions. He knows I'm going to think about until it drives me crazy or I snap and demand to know. So, either he'll tell me before that happens, meaning it is soon, or he's willing to take the chance by just giving me this hint.

Why did he want me to know? Why give a hint now?

Screw finding out what it is, I'm going to go crazy just trying to figure the why out.

This had better be the best surprise ever.



A/N: I can only guess what Louis is planning... ;)

I hope you enjoyed. Please let me know what you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 29: Experiences
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This surprise still sucks.

I stab into my sausage grudgingly, miss and hit my plate, then try again and take a bite. A number of people chuckle around me, I could probably guess who, and try not to frown. My friends think that my constant nagging and, admittedly, a bit of begging is hilarious. Personally, I don't see the funny side, but what do I know?

Louis really knows how to keep quiet about things when he wants to. I hate to compare this to him ignoring members of his family, but I now understand that he can do it, he can be tightlipped when he wants to be. I'm thankful that his reasons for keeping quiet to me are ones he finds as a good thing, even I can acknowledge that; I don't know what I'd do if he didn't speak to me for negative reasons.

For a moment I wonder if this new revelation should make me thankful for his surprise and stop nagging, but I don't. I need to know. Accepting that Louis' surprise is good and allowing myself to change because of it are two completely different things; I won't be flipping a switch and becoming a different person. I'll keep nagging and, admittedly, begging.

I will know!

I forcefully pull off another bit of sausage with my teeth.

"Hey." Louis removes my fork from my hand. "You'll hurt yourself if you keep doing that. And if you don't, you'll hurt me instead. Neither of those sound very appealing. Until I stopped you, were you enjoying your breakfast? Had you actually been able to taste what you were eating, or did you just swallow it?"

I find my fork again and finish the last bit of food still there, chewing slowly. As soon as I'm done, I smile. "It's delicious, thanks for asking."

"Smartass."

I roll my eyes and repeat a few points in his seemingly never-ending list of questions about our relationship. Empty words and things I'll never consider real, even after the Paris incident. Probably because I hear them too often. I'll worry when he comes up with new things to say. "I know, I know. Why do you put up with me? Why do you put up with the headache? What the hell do you see in me? I get it."

You know what else I get? I smack on the back of the head.

"Ow." I rub the spot gently. "Thank you, Lucy. I really deserved that," I mutter sarcastically.

"You're welcome. There's an owl coming this way."

I don't point out that I heard the annoying animals' squawks or that it's probably another one of my mum's embarrassing letters. She likes to ask about me and Louis now, ever since she tried to stop anything she thought might happen in Paris; once an overprotective control freak, always an overprotective control freak.

An overprotective control freak who will never know of our date the other day.

Never.

Which is why Lucy will know nothing no matter how much she begs for information - apparently the fact that I'm the one with relationship gossip allows her to forget that I'm in said relationship with her cousin. Not by much, thank God. I have to keep it twelve plus.

But she's evil and she'll use it against me if she ever needs to - she'll tell my mother.

I repeat; never going to know!

Whatever the bird drops does not fall in my lap, but I do hear Louis open something on my left. No embarrassing letters for Ciaran: awesome.

"Would you like to come with me to Hogsmeade this afternoon, Key?"

I almost don't answer him, because of the nickname. I haven't told the others that he has permission to call me that - the reasons why are too corny - and I don't want them hearing him call it me because I don't want them to think they can without consequences anymore - Lucy's the only one who ignores the consequences. But he sounds so excited about something that I have to.

"It's Tuesday," I remind him. "Hogsmeade is for the weekends."

"What if I told you I have special permission to leave today?"

"I'd ask about the occasion."

"It's for you."

"My birthday isn't for two more weeks." He's silent. Then it clicks. "Oh. I can miss revision with Abby. Sure."

I try to act casual, but it's not working very well. My excitement rivals Louis' and I think it's clear for everyone to see.

My surprise is coming.

***

We don't make a stop at Hufflepuff to drop off our school bags like I thought we would. No, Louis takes mine from me hands and gives both mine and his to Jack, I can tell by his mumbled protests. We're not even getting changed; Louis takes my hand, says good bye to Jack and prompts me to the same, then leads me away.

He's chatty on the way to the school gates, asking me about my birthday; what I want, if I'm looking forward to it. I answer him as best as I can (I have no idea what I want, I am looking forward to being eighteen). Digby himself is by the gates, ready to open then and to be back by dinner; our curfew may be midnight, but that doesn't mean we can spend all night in town, not a school night anyway. I shouldn't be surprised by the fact that it's Digby telling me this, he is Mum's contact - er, friend - but I though it would be Professor Burns, our Transfiguration teacher; being a real family friend and all he thinks he's allowed to tell me what to do and he always tries.

Key word being tries.

"Come on, Louis, at least give me a clue before we get there," I plead, pulling on his hand like a child begging for sweets or a new toy might.

"I gave you one the other day."

I shake my head. "No. You hinted about a surprise. Telling me that it's cooler than a magic, talking cane is not a clue."

"Do you really think I'm going to yell you anything more after you called me 'Lewis' all day yesterday?"

I admit, that wasn't the best thing to do. Damn, I should really learn to think through any and all potential consequences before I open my mouth. "I'm sorry," I tell him, both sincere and hopeful.

"I forgive you. I'm still not telling you." That hope disappears as just as his sudden stop. Why are we stopping? "Are you ready?"

"For what?"

I know the answer as soon as he turns me around to press my back to his front, his hands wrapped tightly around my arms. The horrible pull of apparition causes my stomach to twist horribly and I try not to throw up my lunch when we touch ground again. It's a horrible way to travel.

I think about yelling him for warning about us apparating, asking me if I'm ready just before doesn't count, then I think of something else, something that pushes any thoughts of apparaton out my mind. The yelling, however, might just be staying.

"Where are we?" I ask as soon as Louis knows that I'm okay and let's me go.

"This way," he answers vaguely.

Louis leads me down a street and into some building. The smell of alcohol screams 'pub'. Louis continues to the lead the way, not even pausing when he returns someone's greeting, and then we stop again. After a few moments, I hear a very familiar sound - the moving of bricks from a wall.

"We're in Diagon Alley, aren't we?" I phrase it as a question, but I'm not an idiot. I know the truth. And he knows I know. "Do we have permission to be here?"

"Digby said to be back by dinner, so we'll be back by dinner," Louis says like it's the simplest thing in the world and leads me through the alley.

"Digby thinks we're in Hogsmeade," I yell. I said the yelling might be staying. I let it go, though, the yelling anyway. I don't want to attract unwanted attention and cause a scene in public. "We shouldn't be here."

"What Digby doesn't know won't hurt him," Louis scoffs.

"So, lying and cheating and everything else that comes with being a future criminal mastermind runs in the family. This is something Hugo would do."

"I needed permission to go to Hogsmeade to apparate here, so I got permission to go to Hogsmeade. We went. No lying was involved in any way," he defends, sounding a lot like his youngest cousin.

"Yeah," I nod. "Definitely something Hugo would do."

Louis doesn't take offense to that, in fact he laughs, despite his actions to defend himself. "Live a little and break the rules, Ciaran. If you don't, you won't get your present. And I really want you to have it," he adds quietly, running his thumb in circles over my hand.

"Keep walking," I grumble. "But if Digby finds out and tells my mum, I'm telling them you kidnapped me. If she keeps you away from me, it's all your fault."

"I won't let the happen," he promises and his voice is so strong, confident, I really don't think my mother could keep him away. "Besides, she might forgive me."

Louis pulls me inside and I'm grateful to be somewhere warmer; it's not as cold as it was during winter, but even May can have its moments and I'm only wearing my school jumper, having threw my cloak into my bag at some point during lessons.

"Hello, it's my second favorite nephew and my daughter's wannabe boyfriend, so glad you could make it."

"Hugo isn't here, Uncle George, you can tell me the truth."

"I did."

I barely listen to their banter, my mind is connecting some dots. Nephew, daughter, boyfriend, Roxanne, Uncle George, George Weasley... Weasley Wizard Wheezes. Oh no. "We're in the joke shop."

"You catch on quick," George Weasley laughs at me. "I have what you want, I'll be back in a minute."

"Your uncle has my surprise?" I ask.

"My uncle made it for me," Louis admits. "I didn't have the time or the magical ability to do it, but George did and he was only too happy to help me. He hasn't had any new ideas for the shop recently and he was itching for a new project. I trust his work... When it's not exploding," he chuckles.

"When did you start planning all of this?"

"New Years, after the fireworks. You were asleep on the couch already and I was quite drunk. All kinds of random things come out of my mouth when I'm drunk, but this idea stuck when I was sober and George liked the idea."

"It took me a few months, but I finally got it to work perfectly," George calls out, coming back over. "So, I really hope you like it. I'll be in the back."

"What is it?" I ask one more time. I'm excited and nervous at the same time. I don't know what to do.

Louis keeps quiet, something snaps and he puts something on my face. It's something I know well, I have a few; a pair of glasses. He keeps hold of them on my forehead, just above my eyes. "You need to understand that it's not real, it's an illusion, okay?" I nod. "You need to really understand that, you can't think it's real, that it's a solution. Promise me?"

"I promise."

Seemingly accepting of my words, Louis fixes the glasses on properly. Nothing happens. At first, anyway. Then slowly, I see colors, which become distorted shapes forming before my eyes. And the a figure who's not quite all there, but still able to make out, a figure with blond hair and blue eyes and a school uniform. I pull off the glasses and everything's gone. I put the glasses back on and the figure starts to come back, clearer and clearer until I know who it is. You can tell the image isn't real, it's like the edges are a little blurry. But it's clear enough to know your surroundings, to be able to move around without bumping into things and to do things for yourself.

Even knowing this, I can't actually believe this is happening.

"Oh, my God," I whisper, my hand in front of me. My hands. How is this -"

"Possible?" I barely nod. "It's an illusion, very powerful magic that I could never do. Basically, the glasses put images of the world around you into your head."

"Why?"

The figure frowns, until he understands what I mean: why did toy do this? "You always hope that you being blind is an illusion or a dream, that you'll find that switch and everything will be as it was, that you'll wake up. So, I decided to do the opposite and make seeing the illusion. For you. I love you as you are, but I want you to be happy."

I finally tear my eyes from my hands to look at the figure properly, my hands out to touch him. He closes his eyes and let's me trace his face with my fingers; his eyes, his lips. I stop with my hands pressed at each cheek. "Louis. I see you."

Louis opens his mouth to speak and I'm able to stop him before he does so. "I know it's not real, I'm still blind and this is all in my head, but I'll take that over the dark. I see you, it's what I wanted." I look down to take one long look at him, my smile growing wider. "My imagination does not do you justice."

I don't miss when I kiss him this time. I start soft and slow, but Louis pulls me to him so our bodies are pressed together and our kiss deepens till we're breathless. I fix the glasses when we pull back, so they're no longer askew, and my smile never drops. "I see you."

"You see me." He turns me around, to the window. "Now see you."

My reflection. I understand instantly and move closer. My hair is black, messy, but in a good way I think. I'm too skinny, just like people have said, but I don't care about that. What I care about is my eyes, Louis' favorite feature. They look kind of cloudy, blurred like the illusion itself, but even so they're still very blue, as bright as people have said. The one part of my body I hadn't used in almost fifteen years just had to be my best feature.

"I remember when I was kid, people used to talk about my eyes," I tell Louis softly. "They're very blue, it was unusual. Pretty, they'd say."

"More than that, Bright Eyes," Louis says from behind me, his arms wrapped around my waist and his chin on my shoulder.

"Approved. How long have you kept that nickname quiet?"

"Since first year," he admits, he looks guilty even though he's grinning. I can see that now. Technically. "I couldn't remember your name and I didn't know what else to call you. Do you like your surprise?" he asks, changing the subject before I can comment on the fact that he couldn't remember me. He know I was about to, I can tell by the look on his face. At least, I assume that's what the look is.

"I love it."

I hesitantly reach my hands up to touch the frames. They look like normal glasses, from a vague memory I have of my grandfather's pair, only these are a little darker. But I still wouldn't call them sunglasses. The frames are thin, black. They don't make me look like a freak, which has got to be a good thing. Now I know actually suit my sunglasses; I also suit my magic glasses.

"They're tinted, so they're a little darker than regular glasses. UV protection, you can wear them outside in the sun," Louis explains to me. I take it all in, just about. I'm still trying to get over the fact that I have magic glasses, magic glasses that were thought of by my drunk eighteen year old boyfriend and created by his joke shop owning uncle.

"Definitely cooler than a magic, talking cane," I mutter. Louis hears me, though; his slightly off reflection smirks and nods. "I can't believe you did this for me."

"Why? I've already told you I'd do anything for you. You heard me tell my grandmother."

I agree; I did here that. "I just never thought of this."

"Good. Now I keep the idea as my own," Louis laughs. He grasps my shoulders. "We could make a fortune. Get Jay to invest."

"I'll think about it," I say. I turn around; whether it's fake or not, I want to see his face rather than his reflection. "Thank you."

Louis does what I did a few moments before; he cups my face in his hands, his eyes level with mine. "You're welcome," he murmurs. "I thought about saving them for your birthday, George was willing to come up to Hogwarts and drop them off for me, but I wanted you to have them now, so you could see everything you wanted on your birthday."

"You didn't have to do this for me."

"I wanted to." He sounds so sincere. He must look it, too. "I love you."

"I know," I reply, hating myself a little for not being able to say it back. Hating myself even more for not knowing why.

"Do you love me?" he asks.

I frown, wondering how he could even ask that, and answer without hesitating. "Yes."

Then I realize why he did it. Louis smiles. "You may not feel ready to actually say the words, but answering my question is good enough. For now, at least."

He kisses me again, for a few moments.

"Hey, if I'm not going to let Freddie snog his 'friends' in here, I'm not letting you. My customers don't want to see it." George Weasley comes back, coming straight for us. I see him. He's taller than Louis, with red hair, a slightly pale face and freckles. Not like Louis, who's blond, tanned (well, compared to his uncle) with no trace of freckles. He has a huge smile on his face, probably admiring his work. He reaches out to straighten them. "The more you wear them, the stronger the illusion should become. Which means the image you see won't be blurry around the edges - I tested them. I don't recommend that you wear them in bed or in water. Treat them like a regular pair of glasses, alight?" I nod and promise. "It may take a while to get used to, but you will. Just don't think of them as a cure."

"Louis already gave me the speech. I won't, I promise."

"Good," George says. "I hope you're happy with them. They took a lot of work to get right, a lot of magic."

"Thank you." I feel like I've said that so much since I got these, but I just don't know what else to say. This is a huge deal. I mean, I can see things. Technically. I must never forget the 'technically'.

"Not a problem, considering you're practically family," George smiles.

"I am?"

He nods like I should know this already. "You're Lucy's best friend and she's made it clear a few times that you're staying. Hugo wants to keep you, especially after he got your gift. Roxy, well, let's not go there. And here you are, in a serious relationship with Louis. You went to the slightly crazy - evil genius, in Hugo's case - side of the family, but family nonetheless. Welcome." He holds his arms up like an actual welcome, as though we're about to have a group hug any moment. None of us move and he drops his arms, to point to the door. "Now get back to school before we all get in trouble."

I watch him walk away, just because I can - technically - then turn to Louis, who was already watching me. "I thought you said only the cousins knew Hugo was an evil genius."

"George and Harry don't count, they know everything when it comes to our family. George thinks it's hilarious and Harry makes sure he doesn't get into too much trouble, so he doesn't have to arrest his own nephew one day," Louis tells me. "Harry tried to tell Hermione and Ron once, at one of our family dinners, but they don't believe their angel would be bad in anyway. They're blinded by their love for that boy. It's kind of funny and also a good thing; Hugo's pretty sure he could get an alibi out of them, should he ever need one. We should get back to school."

I let him lead the way and go back to the wall in the pub. I just about manage to continue the conversation, but walking around is so different now that I can see things. It's kind of blurry, I don't think the magic can keep up yet, that's the only explanation I have. But I can see enough to get from one place to the other without tripping over anything or bumping into someone, so I don't really care all that much. it's better than before.

"So, Hugo has cousins ready to help him, a lawyer ready to defend him, an uncle there to keep him out of jail and parents he can use," I sum up.

"Pretty much."

I shake my head. "Lucky bastard."

Louis laughs at my words, or was it my tone of voice? Shock and awe don't even begin to cover it.

"Come on, we have to go back. We can have dinner and surprise everyone."

I can't wait to see the looks on everyone's faces. Because I can do that now.

Technically.

***

People give me strange looks as we walk past them to the Great Hall. Is it because of the new glasses or because I have an odd expression on my face or do they watch me as I walk past all the time?

It's an odd feeling.

Louis doesn't let go of my hand until we've sat down, him in my right and two others on my left. A girl, the furthest away, with long, wavy black hair and a pretty face. She's talking to the boy right next to me; the one with short, light brown hair, green eyes and a goofy looking grin. I may not know their faces, but know their voices; Jack and Lucy. My friends. I've seen my friends' faces.

I look across the table to who they're talking to and I know his voice, too. I see now why Kyle Raven is the one with the reputation; he's gorgeous. His smirk is lazy, his hair makes me think he's just got out of bed, but instead of looking scruffy it makes him look sexy. He doesn't have his school cloak, jumper or tie on and his top few buttons are undone, exposing a tanned, probably smooth chest. He's the completely opposite of me.

His eyes are sad, though. I have this overwhelming urge to fix it, because someone who looks this good doesn't deserve to be sad. He needs to smile.

"How was Hogsmeade? Got what you needed?" Lucy asks, turning the conversation our way.

"Yep," Louis answers, helping himself to some food.

Kyle finally turns to look at me. "Nice glasses. New?"

"Louis got them for me," I reply. "Cool, huh?"

He shrugs. "They're just glasses."

But they're not just glasses, I want to say. They're magic and they're awesome. But I don't. I hold it in. It'll be funnier when it's completely unexpected. Instead I smile and turn to the food. It's chicken today, I reach out to grab a leg.

"That's the sprouts," Jack says. "You don't want that."

He's trying to trick me like he always does. I glance his way and he's trying not to laugh, but he sounds so sincere. I wonder how he does that. Then again, his mum is a very famous actress. I smirk and grab a leg. "Liar."

"He's sees right through your tricks," Kyle laughs out loud, not understanding just how true his words are.

"Yes, I do." I fill my plate up with food, calling Jack out every time he tries to confuse me.

"How are you doing that?" he exclaims. "You never do that!"

"It's the glasses." We look up and Kyle's smile drops. Skinny, black hair messier than mine - seriously, Louis is pretty much the only blond in our group - a not-even-there smile and a voice void of emotion. Luka Davenport. He sits down at the table, right in front of me, leaving a noticeable gap between him and Kyle. "It's the only thing that's different."

Jack throws his hand in front of my face. He's so fast, it's blurry at first. It clears up gradually. "How many fingers am I holding up?"

"Two," answer. He does it again. "Four." One more time. "Hey - don't give me the finger!"

Jack drops his hand, Louis laughs so hard he's shaking and Luka's smile grows the tiniest bit wider. Because Jack is freaked and so is Lucy. Even Kyle is a little. Only for a second. Then they smile. "You see us."

It's not a question, it's a statement. Of course it is, they've had their proof.

"How?" Kyle asks.

"Louis had an idea and went to George Weasley. They were made for me. It's an illusion, I can't really see." I lift them up, even though they don't know that everything's gone dark. Not for long; I put them back on quickly. "It's cool, takes a while to get used to, though. I still haven't. I'm not so sure how it works exactly."

They all turn to Louis. Even I do; I didn't ask in the shop. "Don't look at me, I was drunk when I came up with the idea. All I know is that it's magic I can't do. You have to be strong, put power into the illusion or it won't work. Uncle George has been creating things like this since he and his twin brother were kids; he was the obvious choice."

"Makes sense," Lucy agrees. "I can't believe you can see us. Technically."

There it is, that word again. I can't forget that word.

"Think of all the things you can do now," Jack says excitedly.

I shake my head, to tell him no, I won't he joining him on his extreme sports adventures. Then I think about the things I can do now, or can learn to do, things I was too young to do last time I could see. "I didn't learn to read or write," I admit. "I wasn't at that stage when I lost my sight; I had just turned three. I could do that now."

They look shocked for a few moments, obviously just realizing that now. Well, everyone but Luka and Louis. Louis doesn't count, though; I'd already told him.

"I'll teach you," Kyle says. "Louis has prefect duties after your lessons with Abby, she can't teach you all the time and Lucy studies too much anyway. I, on the other hand, am free. If you want to, that is." I nod. "Awesome. Soon you'll be writing your own music."

"What else didn't you learn?" Luka asks curiously.

I shrug. "I can't swim. I can't ride a bike with two wheels, but I did have one with training wheels once. I don't know, I've never really thought about it."

Louis takes my hand and squeezes. "We'll find out."

***

We study in Hufflepuff for a while after dinner, since we still have a few hours until curfew. Even Luka comes, but he and Kyle keep their distance. Kyle and I both go through history and he tries to teach me some of the words in the textbook. I ignore the fact that I feel like a small child because I want to learn. I only stop when Louis tells me the sun is going down.

I go to the window, aware that curious eyes have followed me.

"What's he doing?" Lucy asks, not quite managing a whisper.

It only takes a moment for Jack to get it. "He's watching the sun set. He's never seen it before."

"I know it sounds stupid, but this is a new Experience for me," I call back.

"It's not stupid," Luka says. "I promise."

I smile at his words, even though my back is to him. I don't turn, don't talk, until the sky has darkened. "I never thought I'd say this but watching the sun set is a beautiful moment."

"Yeah, it is," Kyle agrees. Only he isn't looking at the window. I need to work harder at getting them two to talk.

Add things to my list, cross things off my list, pass exams, learn to say 'I love you' and get my friends back together.

Oh, and get used to being able to see. Technically. Without forgetting the technically.

I can so do this. 



A/N: Louis' surprise: magic glasses that give the illusion of sight. Magic can do wonderdul things. :D

I hope you enjoyed. Please et me know what you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 30: The Future
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Ravenclaw's passwords are too easy.

Sure, I doubt they'd be too difficult; the staff want the students in their dorms to sleep and stuff, they aren't cruel. But still, knowledge? Come on!

I sneak into the common room and up the stairs, keeping my footsteps as silent as I can. No one can know I'm here, not at this time of the day. People, like Louis sometimes, are up by this time for many reasons - Louis runs, Kyle plays his guitar - but going into other Houses, or, even worse, getting caught leaving, can lead to all sorts of rumors. People talk, teachers take action. Nasty business.

So, don't get caught.

When I get to the door, I pause, my hand out and hovering just over the handle. I can't wake the others. Holding my breath, I grab hold and push down on the handle slowly, opening the door as quietly as when I walked. The door creaks; I don't open it any further, instead I squeeze through the gap and into the seventh year boy's dorm.

It's not hard to find where Louis sleeps; while the layout is a little different - Ravenclaw Tower is round, while Hufflepuff is more square - the placement of the beds isn't much different. Louis' is in a similar place to mine; the first one by the door, in front.

Convenient.

I move across the room, stopping in front of his bed, and crouch down.

"Louis," I whisper, shaking him. He groans and moves as though to face me, but he doesn't wake. I shake him harder and call his name a little louder.

His eyes flutter and slowly open fully. "CJ?"

I nod. "Get up."

Louis turns his head away from me, then back to me. He's frowning. "It's dark outside," he murmurs simply, like that's a reason why he can't get up. I point out that he gets up when it's dark all the time to go for his morning runs. "Why are you up when it's still dark?"

"I need you to come with me," I say instead.

"What time is it?" Louis asks, starting to sit up.

"Four am."

And he falls right back down. His slightly blurred figure is already hidden by the dark, but I can tell he's frowning again. He mutters about it being too early and I have to remind him once more that he's been up this early numerous times before. If he can get up to run, he can bloody well get up for me. I shake him again.

"Please go back to bed."

"I need you to get up, Louis." There must have been something about my tone, maybe it's the sincerity or maybe it's because he's curious about why I want this, but Louis sits up again. He's too slow for my liking, but at least he's moving. "Come with me. I went to the kitchens first; I have breakfast," I add and his resolve crumbles.

Louis pushes back the covers and I move back and stand as soon as I notice he's going to swing his legs forward. "You went to get breakfast first?"

"Yep. It's in a basket downstairs," I reply.

I start to tell him to get ready, that we have to go, but the look on his face stops me. Even in the dark and blurred through the illusion, it's not hard to tell that he's trying to understand something that's clearly bothering him, trying to connect whatever dots have formed in his head. He doesn't seem confused, not that I can say for sure, I don't really know what confused looks like, but it looks more like disbelief. That's what my gut tells me it is.

Whatever he's thinking, he can't bring himself to believe it.

"How long have you been up for?"

"Since three am," I answer, finally getting it. Of course he's not going to believe I'd be up so early; I hate it. I've never done this before. "I had to take a really long, hot shower to wake myself up. Then I got dressed really quick and left for the kitchen before I had the chance to crawl back into bed and decide that this was all a load of crap and not worth it. It took a lot of self-restraint, so don't waste it and get dressed please."

"Can I at least take a shower?" Louis asks, standing up as the shock starts to leave his face.

"It's Sunday, take one later," I tell him.

"But you got one!"

I shush him, hearing his dorm mates' move around. "Well, I was up on time. Get dressed!"

I move to leave the room before he can say anything else to me. When he tries to call me back, sounding angry for some unknown reason, I run.

Okay, so maybe the reason is not exactly unknown.

Louis doesn't drag out getting ready or act petty and go so far as to go back to bed, like I might. He's downstairs in minutes, not looking very happy, but still here. Maybe some part of him understands that I must be serious about this, maybe he's just too curious. It's probably a bit of both. But I don't care about why he's here, just that he is here. Because he can be a better person than I am.

Not that I'll tell him that.

"This had better be good," he mutters, walking right out of the common room and leaving me alone.

Well, I said better person, not perfect.

I have to jog to catch up to him, my hand wrapped tightly over the handles of the breakfast basket, and when I get to him, I lead the way. Louis follows me down stairs and along corridors until we're out of the school and walking across the grounds. We stop at the tree by the lake and Louis just stares when I sit down. I smile pleasantly and watch him, opening the basket.

"Seriously?" he groans. "You dragged me out here at four am just to sit in the cold?"

He's exaggerating; I didn't drag him, just woke him and told him what to do, and it's not all that cold. It's windy, sure, but actually not that bad for early morning. I tell him so; he rolls his eyes. Then Louis finally sits down, right in front of me, so his head is on my chest.

"Must you?"

"Pillows don't talk," Louis answers back.

I decide to ignore that, knowing he'll probably forgive me in a couple of hours anyway, and eat the breakfast the house elf made me - bacon and sausage on toasted sandwiches, scrambled egg on toast for Louis. I hope I got the heating charm on the basket right, so Louis' doesn't go cold, and I wait.

It's silent except for Louis's light snoring until I see the first signs of light. I shake Louis awake again.

"Nothing's happening," he says, only half awake like before.

"Watch," I reply, shaking my head. I don't care that he can't see me.

"All I see is the sun - oh." I clap my hands; he's finally got it. "You woke me up to watch the sun rise."

"I wanted you to share the moment with me," I tell him. Then add, "Because I'm never bloody doing this again. It's way too early."

"Yes, it is," Louis says with a small laugh. "But I forgive you."

"I knew you would."

I move the basket closer to Louis and he thanks me as he takes out his breakfast. We talk about random things while the sun comes up and I can't help but smile when I think about how I'm making such a big deal about something so small and normal.

But at least when I say that I doubt I'll see something like this again, I know it'll probably be because I just can't be assed.

***

I give Louis a quick kiss and push him in the direction of the Great Hall on my way to the kitchens. After the sun came up, we ended up walking around the grounds. Louis started to joke about me joining him for a jog when we walked along his 'route', but I quickly stopped that when I punched him in the arm.

I open the portrait into the kitchen, drop the basket on the floor, thank the house elf who helped me again and leave. I can't be gone more than ten minutes, including walking to the kitchen and the Great Hall, so I'm a little confused as to how Louis could have disappeared in that time.

I scan the hall twice, slowly to make sure I miss nothing, but I can't find him anywhere. So, I go to the Gryfindor table, where we sit when we're with Kyle, and ask.

"Hey, have you seen Louis?"

The older looking boy looks up and smiles. "Hey, CJ. The glasses really work, I take it?"

It takes me a moment to recognize the kid's voice. Well, I say kid; he's only in the year below. "James Potter." He nods, amused. "Yes, they work. My question?"

"He was here for, like, a minute," the other boy, who I now realize is Albus Potter, answers me. "I gave him his mail and he just took off."

"His mail?"

Albus nods. "He got a bunch of letters this morning. All I saw, though, was the note on the top that said 'good luck and you're welcome'. Dom signed it."

"Did Louis say anything about where he was going?" I ask, frowning. What the hell has Dom been planning now?

James shrugs. "He just said that he had to go."

"He's in the RoR." I jump when Luka's voice comes up from behind me, then what he said sinks in and I run in the other direction. "You're welcome!" he calls out to me.

I just wave a hand in thanks, not even looking back.

My body is not equipped to run up seven flights of normal stairs, let alone moving stairs. I stop and start walking - quickly, I like to think - halfway up and I'm still out of breath by the time I get to the top. I get to the wall where I was shown the door and curse; crap, I have absolutely no clue what he thought of to get in. I know it won't be the room we were in that night, even though he obviously wants to be alone; that room is romantic, not for whatever mood he's now in. I rack my brain for anything it could be, until I remember what he said to me once, about the room he uses for his paintings. He uses it to think, too, he said. He also told me how he gets in.

I need a place to work. I think it over and over until the wall moves and the door appears. I open it.

The room looks bare; it would. He said he was packing his things ready for Graduation. There are boxes piled up in one corner; his work, I guess. Smaller boxes are placed on top; that would be his paints and his brushes and his pencils. Right?

And there in front, sitting in a lone chair, is Louis. He's holding something in his hand, I see it's paper when I move closer, and there's more on the floor by his side.

"Is everything okay, Louis?" He doesn't look up or answer, he doesn't even move except to nod. "Are you sure?"

"Yes," he says softly. Then he glares, first at the floor and then at me. But he's not actually glaring at me, just in general. He's not happy about something. "I am going to kill my brother. It's going to be slow and painful and he's going to wish he stayed out of my business. Yeah," he says with a nod. "I'll make him pay. You can help; you make people pay all the time."

"When they deserve it," I point out.

"He deserves it."

"And it doesn't end in death," I finish.

"We'll make an exception."

"What did he do?" I demand to know, soft yet stern. Or Louis just won't talk.

He hands me the piece of paper in his hand, saying no more. I take it hesitantly and look over it, but I've never seen the picture at the top to make out what it is and I have no idea what it says. "I didn't learn to read, remember? I can't read this."

"It's an acceptance letter to L'école de Geroux pour L'art," he mutters in a perfect French accent.

I don't need a translation, nor do I need an explanation about it, and he doesn't give me either. My eyes widen to the point of pain and my mouth practically hangs open. "The Geroux School for Art," I whisper in awe.

The school is the best in Paris; it was built by an amazing wizard artist named Adrien Geroux, who started out by doing portraits in the streets of Paris for both wizards and Muggles when he was a our age in the seventeen hundreds. He became known in the city and his fame only grew. People came to talk to him about art and when he had enough money, he rented a place and started teaching. Soon after he died, the school was built and was open for people of both worlds. Still is. Louis told me most of the story, mainly about Adrien Geroux himself, but I already knew enough about the school to know you have to be amazingly talented to get in. Hundreds apply every year, barely any get in. And Louis is one of them.

So, why is he sad?

"Isn't this a good thing?" I ask, holding up the letter.

The look on Louis' face makes it clear I've said the wrong thing. He only stands up to take the letter back. Staring at it, but not really looking, I think, he talks to me. "Dom had no right to send this out, he knew I hadn't decided what I wanted to do after Hogwarts. He sent out a few, I got accepted to them as well," he nudges the pile with his foot, " but this school? I have dreamed of going to this school."

"Then it is a good thing."

"What about us, though?" he asks, his eyes serious and his voice still sad. "It's in Paris, Ciaran. A whole other country to where you'd be. If I went to Geroux, to Paris, who knows when I'd see you. What if -?" Louis doesn't finish that thought. He shakes his head. "I'm not even sure I want to go."

"Yes, you do. And if you think you can base your future on a relationship, you're an idiot."

I don't try to be nice about it and I gladly watch him flinch. Maybe it'll knock some sense into his screwed up head. But it's all the anger I have for him; he's still learning to feel okay about being in love again, or for real this time, and to not run away like he sometimes still wants to. His screwed up head is telling him we'll fail if he leaves. If I want to get through to him, I have to be calm and considerate and supportive and all that crap Lucy says I lack. Slowly, I walk in front of him and sit down on the floor. Getting the hint, he joins me, so we're sat cross-legged in front of each other.

"It's okay to go to Paris, Louis." I pause in case he tries to fight me in that, but he says nothing, looking at me expectantly and I think that maybe he's decided to humor me and let me talk before fighting me. My argument needs to be convincing now. "Do you know how easy it is to get to and from Paris for us? I can go to my grandparents and suffer someone apparating me there, because I will never pass that damn test, you can floo from school to the house. We'd have weekends and holidays."

"We won't be able to see each other as much and you know it," Louis points out quietly. "Things will be different.'

"Of course it will. We were never going to do the same thing and be in the same classes forever; it's university, Louis. We won't be in school anymore. And even if you stayed, Kyle is trying to get me into that music school with him, so we'd still pretty much only have weekends."

"But we'd be in the same country. Even if you were busy and we couldn't see each other much during the week, we could still see each other at other times for definite. Things can change too easily when you leave."

"I'm not going to cheat, if that's what you're worried about." It's Louis' turn to widen his eyes; he wasn't worried about that. He is now. "Sorry."

Louis shakes his head twice, quickly, and when he stops, his worry about that seems to have disappeared. He knows it's crazy to even think about. Then he takes my hands in his and just holds them, his eyes never leaving me. He's no longer fighting, he's listening to me. "I'm just not ready to loose you."

"Believe me, I'm not going anywhere. You put a lot of work into getting me, I respect that."

"Thank you?" Louis says, so unsure it sounds more like a question.

"You're stuck with me, Louis," I promise him. "We'll talk all the time and we'll see each other when we can and I'll be here when you get back. I love you."

I say it so normally and so naturally that at first I'm not even sure I actually said it. But Louis' stunned look has me going over everything I said in my head and I seem to go numb for a second. Then I snap out of it just as Louis starts to smile, which is rather fast, and I find it hard to believe it took me so long to say it in the first place. We already knew it to be true; I still don't understand my hesitation.

"Finally," Louis says.

At first I think he means me actually saying the words and I frown, thinking about how he said he'd wait to hear it, but it's more than that. If my glasses were off, I think my gut would still tell me that he means something else. I'm going on his voice, not his look. "What do you mean?"

"Lucy told me the reason you don't drink much is because last time you did, before you met me, you told her things you'd never say sober; that you didn't think any guy could see past your blindness - although you didn't use those words." I mutter about her tattling. "In her defence, she was also drunk. This was after you fell asleep, but before my big idea. Anyway, I figured you wouldn't tell me you loved me until you were really sure, deep down, that I meant it about loving you. As you are," Louis adds softly. "I was willing to wait for that; I have a lot of patience around you."

"Likewise," I mutter, trying to take in forgiving Lucy for telling him that story, saying I love you and accepting Louis' reason for why I'm so late in doing so all at the same time.

My head hurts.

Louis messes with the frame of my glasses, tapping the end so that the front comes up a little, and I lift up my hands as though to fix them. Except I don't. I take them off. It's barely been a week since I got them, but I've worn them the whole time and I take a few seconds to get used to everything being dark. And it does only takes a few seconds. It's been dark for me for almost fifteen years, I know the dark. I accept the dark. A little. Enough to believe Louis when he tells me he loves me. That's all I need to repeat the words.

"I love you."

"I love you, too," Louis replies, leaning over to kiss me.

"Go to Geroux, Louis," I say when he moves back. "You love that school. Why are you so against it anyway? You had to have known I'd tell you to go."

Louis is hesitant again. "I did. It's where I met Ellis; I was... admiring the building, wishing I could go someday, and he was laughing at me. He showed me his pictures. He's always drawing places; he was drawing the school."

I put my glasses back on as fast I as I can to see Louis' reaction when I voice a sudden, horrible thought. "He doesn't go there, does he?"

Louis laughs and it's happy and genuine. "No. He goes to a different school, studying architecture. The school is just a small memory of when I liked him. But it's not enough to really hate the thought of going, as he doesn't go there."

I let out a relieved breath. "Good. Then you should accept, go to Geroux."

Louis takes a minute to go through the letter and make a decision, Except I know he's already decided. He decided when he was a kid. "I'm going to Geroux," he says with an assuring nod. Then he says it again with my excitement. "I can't believe I'm going to Geroux."

"You're going to be amazing. And now that your future is sorted, you can help me with mine."

That makes Louis pause. "You don't want to go to school with Kyle?"

I shrug, feeling awkward and unsure. "What would I do there? Kyle is the singer."

"You'll write your music, your songs. You're an amazing songwriter, CJ, and it's a great school. It has to be; Kyle applied. He'll only have the best, remember," Louis reminds me. I nod. "This is your thing and you love it. So, I'll go to art school of you'll go to music school."

"Don't try and bribe me; I already said yes to applying. Besides, bribery and blackmail are my things."

"Yes, they are," Louis agrees. "Along with making people pay. Which we're still doing. He deserves it for going beind my back."

I don't have the strength to disagree with Louis when he's this stubborn, or the ability to get a word in to say that without Dom, he wouldn't even be going, so I nod and play along and make sure that none of the plans end badly.

I will not be responsible if Dom mysteriously disappears.

No way.



A/N: Forgive my French if it's not completely right; I studied German and Spanish. 

Also, fun fact: having a full backstory about Adrien Geroux makes me really want to write that story.

Finally, my new sig on the forums is a coming soon promotional type for Enchanted's sequel, Don't Let Me Go, which will continue Louis and Ciaran's story. If you haven't seen the sig or aren't on the forums, you now know that more is coming. :D

I hope you enjoued this chapter and you have a merry Christmas or a happy holiday if you don't celebrate it. :)

Sam.


Chapter 31: Wallflower
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I'm glad the teachers really aren't evil to us students and I was able to take my NEWT exams the way I did with OWLs; in a room by myself, telling my quill what to write after being read the questions. It's horribly slow and tedious, but the professors understand that magical glasses do not grant a person with the sudden ability to read and write. The students of Hogwarts, however, seem unable to get that. I swear if I hear one more "so, are you going to do your exams like the rest of us" type question, I will not give an explanation as to why I cannot, I will not answer with a simple no, I will punch them in the face, laugh as they bleed and because I lack the upper body strength to pull that off without putting myself in a tremendous amount of pain, I will pretend I'm fine, then find Rose. She's good at healing charms.

I nod to the professor who was assigned to help me today - the Arithmancy professor, because she's completely impartial as I'm not in her class and she's not teaching this... Obviously - and drop my quill. She picks up my paper and she only manages to get out "you can" and I'm on my way out of the door.

I feel like I can breath again once I'm out in the corridor, I almost collapse onto the floor. That is not an over-exaggeration; my legs feel like lead and my back is stiff as a board because I've been sat in that old classroom, alone apart from the teacher, all day. I let myself fall slowly instead. My exam timetable is a little different to everyone else's; everyone's exams are spread out, giving them time for a little extra revision and free time to, well, relax, and they're timed. Mine are timed, too, they don't give me that much leeway, but I get a little longer because my exams are all spoken. And because I have longer for the actual exams, my free - well, extra revision - time is cut short, so I can finish when everyone else does. A crammed revision timetable, a lonely classroom, a bad back - exams suck!

And we've only just started. I still have a week of this crap.

But at least Charms and Transfiguration and done and out of the way. No more wandwork revision, no more hours of practise and moaning and giving up.

At least, I'm not completely alone in this. Jackson's a slow writer. I'm not sure how he managed it back in fifth year, something about a fair chance at being able to finish, but he's also able to use a magical quill and take his exams like I do. Which means he should also be coming out of his classroom with a bad back, but he won't moan like I do; he's had worse injuries. Personally, I don't think that's very fair - Jack's a slow writer because he's always been lazy with his Dyslexia.

I won't tell him this, though. He's been trying really hard these last couple of years. If I had to bet money on why, I'd say it started when he started crushing on Lucy. So, he doesn't have my complete acceptance for doing his exams my way, but, hey, trying is trying.

And he's not allowed to use the quill in class, so he can't get his own way completely (God knows he tried - then again, so did everyone else). All is good.

"Ciaran! How did they go?"

It's Lucy who asks, but when I look up, it's not just her I see; Jack, Louis, Kyle, Simon, Miranda and Declan are here, too. I get up off the floor and stretch, wince when my back cracks, and move to stand with them. "They were alright. Long, but I have a good feeling. I definitely did not fail, I know that," I say honestly and, if I do say so myself, a little modestly.

If it turns out I didn't do so well in Charms and Transfiguration, I have no hope for the others. Despite my moaning about wandwork, these are actually my best and favorite subjects. I'll miss these lessons when I graduate.

"No way will you have done bad," Simon says, Miranda nodding in complete agreement it seems. Not that she knows me all that well.

"Yeah, isn't Burns family or something?" Declan asks.

"Godfather," I remind him.

"Right, so he'd never let you fail Transfiguration," my friend finishes.

"I don't know," I admit. "He was the one teacher telling me I should take my exams like everyone else."

"He was joking," Lucy says, rolling her eyes. Then she frowns and turns to the rest of the 'group'. "At least, I think he was. It's really hard to tell with him."

"He'll take that as a compliment," I laugh. "He doesn't like people understanding him. I still don't know why he chose to be a teacher."

"He needed money," the Arithmancy professor butts in in her way past. She doesn't sound very happy about that. But Lucy's said that one of the things she loves about Arithmancy is the professors's enthusiasm about teaching, so I guess I can understand why.

I nod in her direction. "There you go. So, common room?"

"Or you could follow me?"

We all turn to the new voice, James', and they seem just as stunned as I am. I don't know about them, but I'm wondering where the hell he came from. It only lasts for the second James is there; when he moves away, I move forwards.

And I follow.

***

He takes us to the fourth floor, around corridors I don't think I've ever been down, and we stop in front of what I assume is an old classroom.

"No way," I mutter. "This is real? You really did this?"

James nods, trying to be cool about it, but his eyes are wide and bright with enthusiasm. So, I know I'm right. Back when Fred Weasley was in school, when he was in his first year and there was so few Weasleys in this school - him and Victoire, along with Ted Lupin, my cousin Jay and Jay's friend Jennifer - there was a rumor that he had a room in the castle that was, like, the VIP room of Hogwarts. It's not a club, exactly, more like a common room. If you knew about the room, it was a place to hang out and be around friends. It's not the best thing in the world, when you say it like that, but when it can't be found, it's huge news. And no one could find it unless you got an invite from Freddie Weasley. When he left, he must have passed it on to James.

They have a few rules, nothing big - the biggest one was no homework, so obviously Lucy wasn't invited before. I wasn't sociable enough. But the looks on Louis', Jack's and Kyle's faces tell me they knew about it. Jack's never gone though, that I know. I knew when he was disappearing to leave with Lucy, I'd have been able to tell if he'd been disappearing to come here. That's rule two, you see; don't tell anyone. It adds an air of mystery to the place. Or something like that.

"We decided that we like you, even if you're kind of weird," I roll my eyes, "and since Lucy and your three friends here are graduating, and they're your friends, they should get to see what the big fuss was all about before they left." James pushes the door open and steps aside. "After you."

I step to my right and let everyone else in first, including James, because I want to shake my head and think he's weird without him smirking at me. Then I go in. The door shuts behind me, I barely hear it, because I'm focused on the room - I was right, or the rumors were right; they've just turned an old classroom into some kind of common room to hang out. I understand the appeal, there's no teachers to monitor them, though I'm sure that's just in terms of studying. People are sitting around, talking and laughing, playing games like chess and exploding snap. It's laid back and relaxed. There's no pressure for exams and finishing school for the year, or, in my case, forever. It's sort of cool, for a common room.

I don't recognize a lot of people, but that's okay because there are still people I can talk to. I find my way to my friends, who have found a circle of chairs in a corner. I laugh at Louis when I see he's sitting a huge circular chair, spinning it slightly from side to side with his feet.

"It's the best," he answers, raising an eye-brow as though daring me to disagree. I don't. I sit beside him. Since its big enough for two, he can share the best chair.

We all stay for about an hour, then one by one my friends leave, until its just me and Kyle. It would have been me, Kyle and Louis, but he has prefect duties. Kyle leaves me a few minutes after Louis, being called away by one of his other friends.

"Come over with me," he says.

I start to shake my head, but his look tells me that's unacceptable, so I amend my previous answer. "Maybe when I get back, I have to find a bathroom."

"Alright," Kyle nods after a moment and moves away.

I take one step forward, barely even that it seems, and I find I'm no longer alone. Rose comes out of no where, her eyes are a little red, but she's not crying and she looks fierce and determined. I jump back. "Where the hell did you come from?"

"I want to talk to you about boys," Rose spits out the word 'boys' like its poison and I automatically feel sorry for the poor bastard she's directing her anger at. Rose pushes me down onto the chair and sits beside me. "Why are boys such immature brats?"

"I speak for every boy when I say we're sorry. Bye." She pushes me back down. Yeah, I'm not going anywhere for a while. "Look, Rose, I'm very bad at relationship advice. Go and ask Hugo; he's still no where with his friend."

"I agree with you. I think Hugo was just trying to get rid of me because he was the one who told me to go to you. I thought I'd try anyway." I narrow my eyes; that kid will pay. I open my mouth; Rose holds up a finger and am sure her glare is scarier then mine. No talking from Ciaran; understood. I can listen. "You try so hard to get him to notice you and nothing. I'm not even close. I've hinted and I've prompted, I've practically told him. What else do I have to do?"

I sit, nod and "umm" until Rose smacks my arm and I realize that now she wants an answer. "Why don't you actually tell him? No hints, no prompts. Just go up to him and say 'Scorpius, I like you. Lets go out'."

"What makes you think I'm talking about Scorpius Malfoy?" she asks suspiciously.

Probably because I'm not an idiot. I don't say that, though. "People talk to me. Well, Hugo and Lily talk to me. Plus, since I got these glasses, I've been able to see the way you look at him."

"But what if the reason he hasn't gotten the hints is because he doesn't feel the same?" Rose asks, sounding sad now.

I want to tell her that I think he does, but I don't want to give her too much hope now because that would spoil the surprise if she asks him. "You'll never know until you try." I'm really starting to feel uncomfortable now and I remember that I still need to use the bathroom. "Now, Rose, I promise I'll come right back and talk to you about this, whatever you want to discuss, but when you've gotta go, you've gotta go, and right now I really have to go."

She gets what I'm implying. "You'll really come back?"

"Really."

"Then go!"

I run.

***

I come out of the bathroom feeling so much better and walk back to the Hogwarts VIP room - I don't know what they actually call it - at a slower pace than before. I don't really want to go back, I want to go to Hufflepuff and change out of my uniform before dinner, but I made a promise to Rose and I don't dislike her enough to break it, nor has she done anything that warrants breaking it.

It takes me a while to find my way back, there are too many turns, but I soon recognize the way and I'm almost there when I see a familiar face. "Luka!"

Luka, my newest friend and probably the one most like me, turns his head and walks over. "You're finally in the 'club', eh?"

"Nah, not really my type of place," I admit. "Too many people. You know I hate people."

That gets a chuckle. "Then why are you down here?"

I stick to honesty and say with a grimace, "I promised Rose I'd talk to her about her and Scorpius Malfoy."

"You're giving relationship advice again? But we both know you're crap," Luka mocks me.

"Well, it's not like I asked for the job. People keep sending them my way and they make it really hard to leave," I defend. "And then there are rare moments when you become friends with a person and want to do something."

"Don't," he says, sort yet fierce.

"I'm not afraid of you, you can't make me shut up," I scoff. Then I turn serious. "Just talk to him. I get that you think he needs to be the first, he dumped you and all, but can you blame him for doing what he did? Can you look me in the eye and honestly tell me that you wouldn't have done the same if the roles were reversed? Would you have been happy being somebody's secret?"

Luka says nothing, as I suspected would happen. He looks uncomfortable and sad again and this time I did it. Which makes me uncomfortable and sad. Clearing my throat, I finish whatever words are forcing themselves out of my mouth, so I can leave. "You can fix this; he just wants to know that you're serious about your relationship, that you won't hide forever. Beside, you need to talk eventually. What you're doing now, avoiding each other, is not good for you or anyone. One of you will snap. Just think about it. If you don't want to be the bigger man, then hope I can get Kyle to be."

I add that last part to get a reaction, something that'll make him think, and I think it works; his eyes narrow and I get the finger before he turns away. But he didn't look like he hated me, he didn't look like he'd ignore me. He looked... Thoughtful.

I can handle thoughtful. If people are going to send others to me for advice, maybe brutal honesty will help. If it doesn't help them so they don't have to come back, it'll anger them into not wanting to coming back. I know who can be test number two, since I'll consider what happened with Luka test one. "Hey, Scorpius."

"CJ," he smiles nervously. "You're talking to me?"

"Yeah, I do that occasionally." I wave a hand nonchalantly, like it means nothing to me. Which it doesn't. "Listen, Rose likes you. Go ask her out."

Then I walk away.

"How do you know that?" he calls out.

"Just do it!"

I walk over to Kyle when I go back. Rose looks confused and disappointed, but it quickly turns to awkwardness when Malfoy walks in. I watch him go to her, I watch their lips move even though I have no idea what's being said. I can probably guess thanks to the shy smile on her face, though. Then she nods her head happily and he leaves. But not before he doubles back to kiss her cheek.

Ha. Now she can leave me alone.

Or not.

"Thank you!" she squeals, yes, squeals, down my ear. She hugs me, which I'm usually used to, but right now she's really freaking me out. Rose let's go just as quick, but she either doesn't notice my distress or is too happy to care. "What did you do?"

"I told him the truth, then I told him to do what I told you to do."

"You told him that I like him?"

I nod and step a little further back, pressing myself against the table in an effort to keep away from her, and whack Kyle because he can't stop laughing. "Then I told him to ask you out."

"What if he only did it out of pity?' she asks, sounding scared.

Seriously, someone needs to knock some sense into this girl. "Then you obviously don't pay attention!" I shout. While in front of her, but not at her, obviously. Rose gets that... Why is she smirking at me?

"He likes you, you like him. Go out, break up, do what you want. I don't care. You wanted him, you got him. My work is done. Why are you still smiling?"

"It's just funny watching you crack. Sorry."

I should have broken my damn promise.

"That look in his face," Kyle points at me, prodding my cheek until I knock his hand away, "is Ciaran's nice way of saying fuck off."

I hit him again. "So rude."

"You're welcome."

Rose rolls her eyes. "Boys," she mutters. "Kyle, still an asshole, I see."

"Always, Rosie. But only for you. I'm a dick to everyone else, but you're special." He drops his annoyingly charming smile. "Leave."

"You're a lot nicer to people after you've -" Rose doesn't finish that sentence, but we both know what she was about to say and it doesn't help. Probably because it's true, only despite the rumors that have been spread, Kyle hasn't even had a date since Luka, let alone... That.

"Bye, Ciaran. Thank you."

She runs away. Shaking my head and pretending none of that happened seems to be the only thing that makes sense to me, so I do so and it helps. A little. Enough to ask what Kyle wants before I run away. "Why did you want to talk to me?" He pulls a letter out of his pocket and hands it to me. I don't take it, I barely even look at it. "What is it?"

"Right, yeah. We're going to have another reading lesson tomorrow. Anyway, this is your acceptance letter to the music school," Kyle singsongs - seriously? - and makes it dance in his hands until I have to take it from him. "I told you can could get you in."

"I don't want to know how; your methods scare me. But thank you."

Kyle rolls his eyes. "I have a family friend who works there. He taught me how to play, got me my first guitar, and he knows I'd never lie about talent. There were still places available, so he was willing to listen to the CD I had made from the music you gave me. That's how you got in; your music. I just... helped a bit."

I put the letter carefully into my pocket. "Thank you," I repeat, meaning it. "I suppose I'll have to get used to going to another school with you in September."

"Gee, thanks," he says sarcastically.

"I'm leaving now. I'll see you later."

And like I promised myself, I run away. I think I'll always run from that room.

***

I'd woken up this morning feeling refreshed and reedy for the day, but now, after two more exams - Potions and Defence Against the Dark Arts; yeah, I almost cried - the library is not where I want to be right now. I want to go back to bed. But no, Kyle said if I was serious about learning, I had to come. So, just to prove that I'm serious, here I am. Maybe he'll accept that I'm serious and give me the benefit of the doubt, let me go.

No, he doesn't. Kyle doesn't even seem to see me, he's writing something, and he pats the bench next to him. "Sit."

I don't particularly like that it sounds like an order, but I tell myself I'm too tired to argue and sit. I even take out a pencil - I don't own a normal quill, but my old notebook came with a pencil and for some reason I kept it in my trunk. Lucky me - and wait for further instructions. After a moment of silence and I loud thud as I hit the table, Kyle turns back to me, handing me two pieces of paper.

"The first one is the alphabet, the second is a few short sentences. We'll learn the words, read, copy out. Get you used to writing."

"That's it?"

"You look exhausted," Kyle answers sympathetically. Well, at least he's noticed. "An hour tops, I promise."

"Alright," I nod. "Let's get started."

Kyle takes me through the alphabet. I pick it up quickly enough, I'm learning with an almost eighteen year old brain, not a four year old one. That's gotta count for something, right? He has me copy it twice and he doesn't laugh at my messy handwriting, then he has me do it without looking. The sentences are mostly simple; one's my name, another is about a cat. The longest sentence is 'Louis Weasley is a git, Kyle doesn't know why Ciaran puts up with him. He must be good in bed'.

"Wouldn't you like to know?" I smirk, copying the sentence. Kyle just winks, so I change the subject. "I thought we were having a reading lesson. Writing is easy, I'm pretty sure my handwriting will always be messy, but it's legible and I can do it. Mostly. It's reading I need to learn."

"We're writing instead of reading because you're finding it easy to pick up. You're tired, so this is it. I don't want you falling asleep on top of the book. Now finish the sentence, without looking since its so easy."

I roll my eyes, turn the page over and write the Louis sentence again. I remember the sentence easily. It's just actually writing it down. But I manage it. "I talked to Luka yesterday," I tell him casually.

"Yeah, when?"

Another easy thing to do is being able to talk to Kyle about his relationship stuff. With Luka, I'm secretly wondering if the next time will be when he snaps and yells at me or punches me, but Kyle is always calm, he likes to humor me and he makes a joke about my suggestions. Then, just as calmly, he informs me that Luka is an idiot and can be the one to talk first. He's equally as annoying as Luka, but definitely easier to talk to.

"One my back to the 'club'. I told him he can't blame you for breaking up with him when he'd have done the same if he were the secret, then I told him if he couldn't be the bigger man I hoped you'd be because I knew it would piss him off and hurt his pride."

I feel Kyle's eyes on me for a full minute, I count, then he finally mutters, "Good."

"Because I pissed him off and hurt his pride?" I ask, turning to face him.

"Because you said he'd have done the same," Kyle answers without hesitation. He looks relieved, like he needed to hear that. Maybe that's all he needed to hear. "Do you think it was the right thing to do?"

"I have no idea, but what do I know?" I shrug. "Louis makes me talk about it, so I make him do the same. That helps, being honest, no matter how brutal. People need to hear it. You both need to hear it, but from each other, not from me and not from anyone else. You need to sit down and talk."

"We do."

"Yeah, you do," I nod, glad he's agreeing with me. Hang on. Rewind. "What did you just say?"

"I said we do. I need to talk to Luke, or all of this will drive me crazy. I'll talk to him when he gets back," Kyle promises.

He's obviously forgotten that I've been stuck alone in a room all day. "Back? Where'd he go?"

"Literally a few minutes after his exam, Digby came over saying there was a family emergency and his mother needed him," Kyle explains. "His dad's been sick, so Luke went. So, I'll talk to him when he gets back."

"Or you could talk to him now."

Like with James, we both jump and turn to the new voice, Luka's voice now. "How long have you been stood there?" I ask.

"I got here just as you asked where I went. Louis said you were here, so I came here," he replies quietly, his eyes never leaving Kyle.

It feels like a personal, couple-type moment, so I pick up my bag to stand. "I'll leave you to it."

"No, stay," Luka says, this time turning to me. "After all of your meddling, you should be here for the finale." I don't move until Kyle pulls me down, back to my seat. "So, I went home. The big emergency Mum needed me for? It's wasn't about Dad. Well, not completely. No, because Dad is sick, she had no help setting up the garden for her stupid party and I needed to come and help. Yeah, some emergency."

His voice cracks near the end and I think both me and Kyle notice his red eyes and still falling tears at the same time. "Luke, what happened?" Kyle half asks, half demands to know.

"I did exactly what CJ said I'd do; I snapped." Luka wipes the tears away forcefully. "I screamed at her, told her I had more important things going on. When she asked for an example, I told her everything. I told her about you; how we started, how long we've been together, how I ruined things."

He laughs and its empty. "I'd never seen my mother speechless before. I barely heard her when she told me to get out. Dad heard everything, said it would be better if I stayed away for a while and let Mum calm down. So, I came back here. I am homeless and I am alone and I thought you should know. What do you want to talk to me about?"

This is definitely my cue to leave, only Kyle forces me back down again. I think I've turned into moral support. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

"I want to talk to you about making things work."

"Why?" Luka asks, clearly shocked, on the verge of laughing again, like he thinks Kyle's joking. Maybe he just doesn't want to believe it.

But Kyle isn't joking. If I thought he were, I'd hit him. "Because I love you and I miss you and I don't care about your mother. I'm sorry, but I don't. You know I can't stand her." Now I know what I'm here for; making Kyle go back to the original point. I nudge him. "But that doesn't matter," he says, standing up. "I hate that I broke up with you, every moment was horrible, but I can't regret it because now we know where we stand. I won't be a secret, but I won't let you go again. Well, say something."

"Just when you were being romantic," Luka says with a teary smile.

"I'm better at it than you are," Kyle defends.

"I'm not even going to try," Luka counters, pulling him forwards to kiss him.

Yeah. Third time's a charm. "Now I'm really going and nothing you can say will stop me. I have my own boyfriend to get back to." I push past them, when they move apart enough to breath. "Oh, and you're welcome.

I do not appreciate being told to get lost.

But at least I no longer have to help them. No more meddling for me. You hear that, universe? I am a wallflower. Always have been, always will be.

And I'll bloody well keep it that way. 





A/N: I hope you enjoy this chapter. Please let me know what you think. :)

I cut this short, so there'll no be 34 chapters, rather than 33. 

Sam.


Chapter 32: Birthday Celebrations
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There's nothing like being woken up with your partner's mouth trailing down your neck and their arm wrapped tightly around your waist. You can be the laziest person in the world in the mornings and yet like it enough to allow your partner to continue.

If you were a nice person.

I, on the other hand, swat my partner on the head and tell him to quit it because I'll punch him the second time. I feel his grip loosen and his kisses stop, but his mouth only moves to my ear. He's silent for a second, then - very loudly and extremely off key - starts to sing.

"Happy birthday to you!"

That's as far as he gets. As soon as I turn to lie on my back, I reach my hand up to find and cover his mouth. I use my other hand to put my finger to my lips. My glasses can wait. "I'm up, so shush."

"Shushing," Louis mumbles. The movement of his lips tickle my palm and I let him go. In a normal, quieter voice, he says, "Happy birthday, Key. How does it feel to finally be eighteen?"

"About the same as I felt yesterday when I was seventeen," I answer. "I admit, I was expecting to feel different, too. Older, wiser, a better person in general. But no, I'm still me."

Louis chuckles and I feel him move to hover over me. "You're weird."

"Maybe," I shrug, rolling my eyes. "But I can sing."

"I can draw," he counters, sounding smug. I'll just have to fix that.

"I can use my imagination to see you in this position, looking at me with the love and adoration I rightly deserve, when you're actually lying to my right, curled up in a ball and in pain."

"Okay, now you're weird and sound way too full of yourself," Louis scoffs. "Why am I in pain?" I bring up my knee and hit him where it hurts. And he moves away, groaning in pain. "I had to ask."

I turn to face his direction, my hand finding his, and I squeeze. He stops moving, stops making a noise - because if I was going to actually hurt him, it'd be because he's being a dick and I'd smack him on the back of the head, just like Lucy does to me - and draws circles on my hand. "I love you really, but you needed to move so I could get up."

Now he groans in frustration. "Why? We have all day to see other people."

"I'm hungry, I want my presents and I have to go and see Logan." Still holding his hand, I sit up. I try to pull him up with me, but considering he's stronger than me, I let go of him before he's able to pull me back down. "Come on, Louis. It's my birthday."

Louis comes up from behind me, his fingers tickling my back and his breath on my ear. "Exactly. We could stay here. All day," he adds softly.

Must resist. Must say no. Must think of other things to distract self. "If it were any other day, believe me when I say I'd still be fast asleep right now and we would be here all day, but I have to get up and have breakfast and have my mandatory visit to see Logan."

That makes Louis pause, then move away. Then I feel my glasses being put on, he turns my head to look at him when the illusion works and I can see. "Who's Logan?"

The barely hidden jealous tone in his voice almost makes me smile, but I think that would tip him over the edge right now and his insecurities are already dangerously unstable, close to tipping him over the edge. I'm actually still surprised he's even agreed to leave for Paris in September. I imagine there'll be regular calls.

I'm kinda glad. Shh.

"Professor Burns," I correct.

Louis' whole body immediately loosens up, his sudden grin practically glowing. "His name is Logan?" I nod. "Oh, I'm calling him by his first name from now on. Wait, how do you know?"

"Because he's my dad's best friend, my godfather, remember," I tell him. "I told you when we first starting going out that I was surprised he wasn't making comments."

Louis shrugs. "Yeah, but you called him Burns. I wasn't surprised when you said it, he's always making comments. He's a dick."

"True." I stand up and look for the little bag that has clean clothes in. I'm determined to actually get out of bed and do what I told him was happening. Besides, I want my birthday presents and my breakfast. I side-step Louis' arm when he reaches out and grab my pants first. I ignore his comment about the fact that I'm going commando; it was never an issue before I met him. "He's still my godfather and I promise Dad I'd talk to him at least once every school year. What's the deal with you two anyway?"

Louis finally gives up and throws his own clothes on as well. His smirk is small, but smug and he shrugs as he fastens his pants. "You mean, he hasn't told you?"

I shake my head. "We talk about family and friends, not school and students. When he did, it was just to moan and he didn't mention names. It's unprofessional for a teacher, you know. I didn't now you then, so if he did moan about you, I can't say. Are you gonna tell me or not?"

So, he does. Ignoring my laughing, he finishes getting dressed and dumps everything else into the bag. "You want presents and breakfast, right? So, lets go; we'll go to our dorms, meet in the Great Hall, have breakfast and open presents. Then we will go to see him." He gives me a kiss quick, barely keeping to my morning breath rule. "Happy birthday."

"Thank you," I reply, starting to follow. Then I stop and frown, going over exactly what he said in my head. "When the hell did I say you were coming with me to see him?"

He laughs. Jerk.

***

I half expect the Great Hall to be full, for breakfast not because it's my birthday, but maybe the entire thought is secretly coming from the arrogant part of my subconscious. Come on, we're all a little arrogant, a lot when referring to Kyle, at least we should be allowed to be on our birthdays. But I really mean for breakfast. It takes me a moment to remember that my birthday has fallen on a Sunday and there are no exams - the lucky bastards are probably still in bed. Even if they still have exams next week, they won't be up to revise until at least noon.

They're still better than me. Even I can admit that sleeping till five pm is probably not a good idea, but in my defense that usually only happens when I haven't slept all that well during the night. If I do sleep well, I'm up around two.

Not that bad, I think.

Louis pushes me towards the middle of the Hufflepuff table when Jack calls us over and I sit across from him and Lucy, with Kyle and Luka on my right. My mouth drops when Louis slides over the table to sit next to Lucy.

"Traitor!"

Looking grim, as he rightly should, Louis holds up a piece of paper. "This was stuffed in my pocket as we were walking in. My instructions were clear: leave a space next to you or I lose precious parts of my anatomy. He can do it."

"He's half right," a familiar voice on my left makes me jump. Hugo jumps up to sit on the table, his feet on the bench, and smiles at me. "I can do it, but I won't. I have people to do that for me."

Another boy, similar in size to Hugo, so I'm guessing the same age, jumps up next to him. He waves. "I'm people."

"This is Skander," Hugo says, nodding to him. "He's my best friend, but he likes to pretend I'm dispensable and can easily walk away from me. He can't, he's tried."

"It's true," he mutters. He doesn't sound too happy about it.

I point at the kid, frowning. "Skander. Your name is familiar. Skander what?"

"Dolohov," everyone choruses. Hmm.

"They don't like me," Skander is happy to give me my answers. Even has a little smirk on his face. "My name does not have a good reputation, apparently it includes my entire family. Even though I didn't do anything."

"We don't hate you, we just question your judgement and your actions," Louis says, glancing at Hugo. "And I still want my money back."

I choke out a strangled noise that sounds half like a laugh and half like a cry of what I can only describe as one of utter disbelief. "Hugo, do you attract thieves or actually turn people into thieves?"

He winks at me. "I guess we'll see. Happy birthday, by the way." Hugo turns away for a second and when he looks back, he has a brown bag in his hands. "Here."

"Thank you," I take it from him and tip the bag up, letting what seems to be a notebook fall into my hands. I flick through the pages, recognizing that the lines are for writing music.

"Why use a regular notebook and have music and lyrics all over the place when you can have an actual music notebook?"

"I'll be sure to use it as soon as I've finished my lessons with Kyle," I smile and hold it up. "Thanks."

"Here," Kyle says next, pushing a really big, wrapped box in front of me. The size of the birthday present is more than enough to distract my stomach from the fact that it is yet to be fed. "Enjoy."

I open the box, very excited when I rip off the wrapping and pull off the lid. Then I see what's inside. I remember one like his. "I can't play the guitar, Kyle."

Kyle takes it out, uses his wand to shrink the box and puts it into his pocket. Then, moving to straddle the bench, he starts to play. "I'll teach you."

"Whether I can play or not, you're using my present before me." I click my fingers. "Gimme," I whine.

He hands it back and I check it over. I don't know much about guitars, not even companies, but whoever made this guitar must be good if Kyle has got me one. He only has the best and he only gives the best, to his friends anyway. It's brand new, I'm guessing, given how shiny it looks - yeah, I did just describe something as shiny - and when Kyle turns it over in my hands and points at the neck, I see my initials: C.B.J.

Wow.

I thank him and the passing of presents continues; Luka gives me a guitar bag, new strings, picks and music books to go with my new guitar. I start to sincerely thank him, grateful, until he casually informs me that Kyle made him, he just bought them.

I sincerely thank him anyway; at least he's honest.

Lucy finishes the music theme with a music player; it's small, about the same size as my audio book player, and easy to use. She shows me how. Jack does not get me anything to do with music - not completely, he contributed to the music player. Instead he gives me chocolate.

It's why he's my best friend.

But none of it is suitable for breakfast according to Louis; he moves it all onto the space on his right and pushes a plate in front of me. That's when I realize how hungry I still am and pile my plate with scrambled egg, bacon and sausage. I eat enough to make Louis happy, I'm a good boyfriend, then I watch him expectantly.

"What?"

"It's your turn."

"Where's his present, Louis?" Hugo asks for me.

Louis taps his pocket, then shakes his head. "Later, after we've seen Logan."

"Who?" Kyle asks.

He's the only one who looks utterly confused, it's so strange to see that look on his too-good-looking-to-be-normal face. Lucy and Jack have been coming to visit Logan with me since he started teaching in our second year, I told Louis, Hugo knows everything and it would only be natural for him to tell his best friend, so Luka is the only who knows and I don't why. I understand why Kyle would be confused.

"Logan is Professor Burns, Kyle," Luka answers for him. "I found out not long after I became a prefect; I was doing my patrol and heard him talking to the Arithmancy teacher. Didn't I tell you?"

"Nope. Why are you going to see him?"

"He's my godfather," I repeat. Again. Do they never listen? "He's my dad's best friend. I promised my dad I'd talk to him at least once a year; I picked my birthday, he usually gives me a present," I explain. Speaking of presents, I change the subject back to Louis. First he doesn't sit by me, now he's refusing to give me my present - I'm liking the git less and less today. And we're still at breakfast. "Why can't I have it now?"

"Because," is all he says.

"He's so mean, isn't he?" Hugo sighs and hands me a card. "This is the last thing from me. I was the only other family member to get you a present, but when Rose saw the card, she signed it and passed it on. I even got Skander to put his name down."

I open the evelope and look at the card. It takes me a while, but when I remember the alphabet, I'm able to sound out the words and recognize the names - in my head, obviously. I hand the card to Louis, who puts it with the guitar and the chocolate. I thank Hugo and, because I have manners, Skander Dolohov.

"You're welcome," Hugo replies. "Can we go with you to see Professor Burns? He fascinates me."

For a minute I wonder why, Fascinating is not the word I'd use to describe Logan, then it hits me. Well, I did say he knows everything. "Sure, why not? Everyone else is?"

"Awesome," Hugo grins. Then it drops and he slides off the table, suddenly looking a little nervous. "Hey, Mickey."

The boy in question looks up and gives a polite but otherwise uninterested smile. Oh, the poor kid. "Hey, Hugo," he answers before leaving.

"That's your crush, I take it," I murmur as soon as I think he's out of earshot.

"Yeah," he says sadly.

"You like Michael Finnigan," Lucy says in disbelief. "Your dad's friend's son. A son who is a year older than you."

"Yeah, so?"

Lucy shakes her head. "Nothing, just clearing that up."

"I don't think he's interested," Jack states the obvious. It earns him a dead arm from his girlfriend. "Sorry."

Skander keeps his eyes on me, not even daring to look at his best friend when he talks. Hugo must have heard whatever he's about to say before. "He's not interested and neither is Hugo, not really. He just has a weakness for Irish accents."

"Shut up, Sky," he growls.

I have to wonder if anyone else sees what I see - anger, spite... jealously. It's easy to develop feelings for a friend when that friend is the only person you really talk to. And Skander Dolohov doesn't strike me as a kid with a lot of friends. I'd say it's because of his last name, but personally I think he just doesn't like people, or at least doesn't have the patience to get to know people.

Hugo must have been something special. Or he decided he liked Skander and glued himself to the kid. That's definitely an option.

Something tells me that I shouldn't point any of this out. Changing the subject again is best.

"No fighting on my birthday," I scold. "It's a happy day. That's why people say 'happy birthday' when they see you."

They share a look, anger forgotten, and laugh at what I said. "You're strange, no wonder Hugo likes you."

"Why does he like you?"

"Because no one else does. I'm bad; Hugo likes that," he smirks.

I scoff. Obviously.

"Villains in the making," Kyle mutters, snickering. Probably because he actually called them 'villains'.

"You're one to talk," Luka points out. Falsely, I feel I must tell them. The scoff I give Luka is so much louder. Kyle? A villain? Yeah, right. He may act cool and superior and like a bit of a bad boy, but he's really too nice to be a villain. It's just that only a few people get to see it. "Though not according to some people, apparently. But they're the one's who haven't known you since first year."

"You're only saying that because he stole your homework in first year and put his own name on it," Louis says. He turns to me. "He still won't let it go. Kyle is not a villain, not even a little one. He's much too slow."

It takes him a moment to realize and it's still a moment too late. When Kyle, hell, when we all finally notice, Hugo is already walking back to his seat. He chooses to sit closer to me this time. Kyle pats his pocket anyway, maybe just to check it's not a trick, and then gets up. "Give me back my book."

Hugo lifts it up, smiling innocently. "You mean this?" He pretends to think, then goes to slide it into his pocket. Only he doesn't, he let's it fall into my hand and I put it in my pocket. Kyle is so focused on Hugo's face, he doesn't notice. "Nope."

"Bastard. I hate kids," Kyle cries, trying to grab his book. He can't reach because Hugo pulls his legs up and wraps his arms around them tightly. Finally, he gives in and sits back in his place. "Be a good boy, Ciaran, and get my book off the git."

I sit back a bit and make sure he can see me reach into my pocket. "You mean this?" I ask, opening it up.

"How? You can't even read it."

I bite my lip, because that is technically true, I can't read his lyrics, but if I'm patient enough, I could probably go through the alphabet and sound out the words like I did with the birthday card. Not that I'll tell him so, what will be the fun in that?

"Roses are red, violets are blue. Ciaran, I love you, say you love me, too." I shrug and turn to him. "No."

Kyle glares. "It doesn't say that, stop it."

I hand it back to him, laughing when he snatches it from my hands and stuffs it back in his pocket, pouting. I almost miss Luka stretch out a hand as though to wrap around him, but he lifts his hand up to squeeze his shoulder instead. They're not the type to resort to public displays of affection like Louis is, especially when it come to this place and the Gryffindor Gossip Girls. They're always waiting around.

I tap Kyle's shoulder, too, though more patronizing than loving. In a nice way, of course. "Don't worry, one day you'll be a real villain."

That shuts him up completely. But not everyone else.

***

Every other year on my birthday when I walked to Logan's office, the only noise I could hear clearly was Lucy and Jack arguing. Today I hear Lucy and Jack arguing, Luka and Kyle discussing their plans for after school, Hugo and Skander planning something I have no desire to know and Louis is saying... something. It's all just noise, I can hardly think.

It's weird having more friends this year than last year. A good thing, I guess, considering it's my birthday and I have a group to celebrate it with, but it's still very new. I miss things being quiet, but I don't miss the days when I would wish there was noise to drown out my thoughts. My thoughts were usually not very positive.

Yeah, it's odd.

I push in front of them when we get to Transfiguration and just open the door, even though Logan absolutely hates when you don't knock. The classroom is empty, and by empty I mean no Logan not no students. I can tell he's around, his desk is an absolute mess - there's papers everywhere and books stacked in corners and on the floor. He's sorting through everything ready for the end of the year.

"Oi! Logan!"

"Oi! Leave!" he yells back, coming in through the door behind the desk. Logan throws another book onto his desk and walks our way. "Happy birthday, CJ."

"From 'leave' to 'happy birthday', I don't know what to make of it," I joke.

"I was talking to the people behind you," Logan mutters, sniffing like there's a bad smell in the room. He scans the room and stops at Louis. "Hey, Pup."

"So mean," I sigh, taking his arm and leading him away. Logan pulls away when I get to the front desk and I wait for Louis to sit on top, so I can lean against him. He's comfier than the wall. "Leave him alone, Logan. He's already in trouble because he won't give me my present. Be better than him."

He throws me a package, which Louis catches because I duck. I don't like things being thrown at me. Louis drops it on my knee and I open up the package, letting whatever it is fall into my hand. I don't recognize it at first, until I bring it closer to my glasses. "You got me my favorite cologne. See, Louis, now I will smell like a guy while you smell of strawberries."

"I give up, I am pouring this aftershave down the sink."

"Not if you want to keep me. You may smell kind of girly, but I like it, that's all that matters," I assure him, ignoring his whispered 'I'm not so sure' comment for his own safety.

"Oh, God," Logan groans, watching us. "Pup's gonna be with us forever, isn't he?"

"Please stop calling me that," he snaps, his voice sounds more pleading than angry. He's moved past anger, I remember.

"You started it," Luka grins.

I focus on Logan while the two idiots bicker about who started what and why their own reasons are right. He jumps up onto his desk, not even bothering to move the masses of parchment and books out of the way, and continues to watch them fight it out. He's amused by it and oddly curious, too, though that's because he doesn't get students in his classroom when it's not during school time. Unless it's a detention.

He knows Jackson and a good few members of the Weasley family very well.

He knows Louis for funnier reasons.

"Hold on, just shut up a minute," Skander yells over them. "Explain the name to me."

Hugo nudges Skander's leg with his own, grinning. "Louis is a werewolf, remember?"

"I am not!" he cries. "Yeah, my dad has traits from when he was attacked by Greyback and they were passed onto me, but that's it. I can't believe it skipped Vic and Dom."

"I take it you told Little Weasley about me and he told Skander, since Little Weasley didn't seem surprised by the name," he gestures to the two youngest. "Blondie has known forever, he would have told Head Boy and the Devil and you told Mr. and Mrs. Will-They-Won't-They."

"Such creative names," Skander says appreciatively. "I love that I don't get one."

"Favoritism," I whisper, putting a finger to my lips. "No, I didn't, Logan. Hugo just knows everything. And be nice, this is the last time Dad says I have to say hi, you can manage another day. If you don't, I'll tell Dad that you have to apologize to Louis, making sure Mum hears it."

"And she still isn't fond of me," he murmurs. "I hate it when you involve your mother. Fine."

"Hey, I still don't know why you call him Pup," Skander points out.

Logan puts his hand on his heart, "I am an adult wolf, tell no one. Aidan Douglas, Stalker Weasley's friend -"

"Roxy," Lucy corrects.

"Is an adolescent wolf, very hormonal, be wary of them," he continues as though Lucy had said nothing. "Louis just has the traits, mild even compared to Ted Lupin, he is a pup. And it's his fault that's what he's being called, he was the one who complained about the last name and said himself that his traits were only little. I did call him Sexually Frustrated Boy, because of the traits."

Both noticing that Skander is opening his mouth, Louis butts in before Hugo can, "Before and during the full moon, I get all of this pent up energy that I can't seem to get rid of, and being part Veela doesn't help, and I get rather emotional, angry. After the full moon, I get really tired and I am slightly less emotional. Basically, I snap at people and I don't get much sleep for three days, then I go to bed early and crash. That's it." He points at Logan. "At least when you gave me the first name, that was real and true!"

I nudge him hard and what he said seems to dawn on him, and everyone else, quickly. Logan looks a little pale."Was? He said was? Ciaran, why is he saying was?"

"I have no idea what he's talking about, I swear," I, well, lie.

Not that he buys it.

"Oh, why would you say that to me?" he groans. "You can go now."

I hold up my hands, feigning complete innocence. "But my visit is an hour, it's barely been half that."

"Fine," Logan says. "If you want to stay, you can help me pack away my things."

I drop my hands, swing my legs off the table and get up. "I gotta go. Bye, Logan. Come on, Louis," I tell him, grabbing his hand.

One by one, I hear the others follow us out and into the hall. I wave when Logan calls out an 'I thought so' and make sure to close the door.

"Thanks a lot," I sigh at Louis. "He is going to tell Mum, who will probably kill you. Good luck."

"I bet he's glad he's moving to Paris now," Jack says with a laugh. "That was such a bad slip of the tongue, mate."

"I meant when he called it me. I used the past tense because he doesn't anymore," Louis defends. "I didn't think he'd jump to that conclusion."

"Why?" Hugo asks. "Everyone else did."

"I give up. I'm going to get my History of Magic book, I'll meet you in Hufflepuff." Louis kisses me quickly, then again for longer when we're told to get a room. "Later."

I hope by that, he means my present.

I watch him leave, telling him I'm fine walking with everyone else when he asks me to go with him, and fall back with Skander.

"You and Hugo, eh?"

The kid scoffs and shakes his head. "No. And I'm not like the rest of the idiots in this place, I don't want your advice."

"That's why I like you," I tell him. "I'm not giving you any. I just asked a question. Do you like him or do you just not want to lose him to someone else?"

I can tell by his stare that he thinks I ask too many questions. "The second one," he whispers. "He's my best friend, one of my only friends, and Michael Finnigan would only break him, but not before he tried to change him. Even if he did like Hugo that way, which he doesn't; he has a girlfriend. Hugo has a temper you should never miss with; he won't handle being rejected well. I don't want him to go through that."

"You're a good friend, now I really like you." I glance at Hugo, who's using Lucy's hand as a table to play a card trick with Jack while Kyle and Luka watch. "From my observations, I don't think Hugo's going anywhere. If you're the 'people' he'd turn to in his schemes, I bet he'd go to you just before his temper exploded. Do what you want with that observation."

He pretends he doesn't appreciate it, but he's lying. Well, he'd better be lying. I spent so much time pretending to care.

Okay, so maybe I care a little.

***

It takes so long to get back to Hufflepuff, because Hugo is having too much fun conning Jack, that I'm told Louis is already upstairs when we get there. That becomes Hugo and Skander's cue to leave and Lucy and Jack stay downstairs - Lucy stays willingly, she makes Jack.

I leave them to it and go to my dorm room, finding Louis sitting on my bed. There are two presents by his feet and something else in his hand, his book is open on his knee.

"Hey," I greet him, pointing to the presents.

"From Simon and Declan," he answers, moving to sit on the edge of my bed. "Come here. I don't bite."

Chuckling at the wolf joke, I do as he says and stop in front of him. Louis turns me around and stands behind me, then he puts something around my neck.

"It's a chain," I realize, looking down. I trace it with my hand; it's a thin chain, white gold. It's not too long, stopping just above my heart, and on the end is a - oh. "It's a key, Louis. Thank you."

"You're welcome," he replies as I turn back around to face him. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

I much prefer the second present he gives me.



A/N: This update is later than others have been, I'm sorry. It was Logan's fault. New characters; they're so awkward. :P (I have exams, I've been revising.)

Thank you, Jenny (starryskies55), for being so awesome and helping me with Ciaran's present from Louis. And for you, StormPixie, you wanted to know more about Hugo's crush. :)

Finally, I hope you like Logan and Skander, they're staying. Also, I have a new story planned, a prequel of sorts, about Logan and Bart - a kind of dark, revenge-type, werewolf story. Not slash, obviously; Bart ends up with Jazmine (who will be in the new story, too) and has Ciaran and Logan is, well, Logan. :P

I hope you will like it and that you enjoyed this. Please let me know what you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 33: Change
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Throughout my exams, I wished they were over. Now that they are over, I wish I was waiting to sit more. Just because it would mean staying a little longer. I'm not usually so sentimental; I accepted in first year that I would eventually leave, just like I left primary school and daycare and my life in France for one in England. But that was before I met Lucy, Jack, Simon and Declan and made real friends in school - I had one friend in Essex and he moved to California when we were ten. Then I met Louis and the rest of the family, I met Luka and Kyle...

Tomorrow is our graduation. Tomorrow we'll leave Hogwarts for good, spend a summer together and move on to other things, to other countries in Louis' case.

Who knows how much time will pass between days when we see each other after that.

I run my fingers over my outfit for tomorrow, just a plain white shirt and my good jeans, and move to the side of my bed, letting myself fall down backwards. Tomorrow is a big, exciting day, I know that, but it's change. Change is not always a good thing.

But I know I'll cope. I still have university with Kyle and Lucy keeps going on about how she worked too hard to get us all together to let us walk away now. I like her optimism.

And then there's Louis; I know he's here to stay. He's too stubborn to leave now that he's with me. Besides, Paris is not that far away when you think of our different means of transportation and if Dad could handle a long distance relationship, I definitely can.

"Whatcha thinking about?" Lucy's voice suddenly enters the room. She taps my leg and I move over, closer to my pillow. The bed dips and her hand brushes over mine when she lies next to me. It dips a little again and I know it's Jack lying by her other side because of the kiss I hear them share. "My boys," she murmurs.

I chuckle. "This time last year, it was 'my boy... and Jackson'."

"It was time for a change," Lucy replies. "So, whatcha thinking about?"

"Tomorrow," I answer her softly. I wave my hand to my right, gesturing to my outfit. "This is it."

Lucy takes my hand and holds on across her stomach, then I quickly find my hand in Jack's with Lucy's covering both. I'll just pretend I don't find it a little weird. "It's the end of school, not the end of the world. Aren't you excited to write music?"

"I am," I say honestly.

"At least you, Kyle and Louis are definitely going; Jack and Luka have to wait for acceptance letters and stuff, though Luka is absolutely positive he will be," she adds, sounding like she believes him. I do. "He will definitely be a Healer, just like Jack here will definitely be an Auror."

Jack woos.

"And you'll get your internship," I finish. "Though why you want to work with your dad, I'll never know. Your dad and politics, for that matter."

"It's interesting and I like it," she defends.

"Lucy Weasley, working for the Minister for Magic," Jack announces with faked deep voice. "Soon she'll be running the country. Can you imagine?"

"Better me than Key," she points out smugly.

Ouch. Okay, maybe that's true, I'd be terrible, but still, that's not very nice. I knock my elbow into her side, she just does it back. It becomes a game, more like a war, until she gives up and just tickles me until I finally crack and have to laugh, which I haven't done all day.

"How come you're not wearing your glasses?" Jack asks once we start to calm down.

Still smiling, I point to my outfit again and shake my head. "I didn't want to see my outfit, whether it'd be an illusion or not. Silly, I know, but I just didn't want to think about tomorrow."

"It must be weird to have that choice now," Jack muses.

I shrug my shoulders. I don't really think of it as a choice; the illusion was created because being unable to accept my life as it was made me pretty miserable, but now that my talk with Louis in the RoR has started to help me to accept my life, it's not my scapegoat anymore. I don't put on my glasses to pretend I can see, I put them on to learn - whether that's to read or to be able to go to school and write music or something as small as riding a bike, which I haven't yet done.

The only things I want to see are my family, my friends and Louis, but if I didn't, I'd still know everything I need to know about them.

And I have a pretty awesome imagination.

"Not really," is all I say to answer him. To change the subject, I open my hand a little, enough for Lucy's fingers to fall through the gap, and I squeeze gently. "You know I love you guys, right?"

"We know," Jack starts.

"We love you, too," Lucy finishes.

I believe them.

***

Graduation day is a blur of people and colors and general craziness. I squeeze past some, trying not to get in their way, and just push past others when they completely ignore my 'excuse me'. Ignorance, that's what's wrong with the world. I mean, how can they not see me?!

I eventually make my way to the front of the Great Hall, though, finding Jack easily enough now that the crowds are a little thinner. He's alone, which is a little weird because I distinctly remember him move to this place with Simon, Declan and Lucy when my parents found me, and he's messing with his special Hogwarts cloak. Personally, I wouldn't have minded graduating in my normal Hogwarts cloak or no cloak at all, just the clothes I picked out, but each student gets a cloak in their House colors. Like we don't already know where we slept for seven years.

I stop next to him and pick his piece of paper up off the floor before it gets stood on. I scold him for almost ruining it before his mum has even seen it, but he just shrugs in response and goes back to trying to stop his cloak from strangling him. I leave him be until he's ready to accept that he's stuck with an uncomfortable cloak until he can take it off, looking at his paper instead. Well, I call them pieces of paper; they're more like certificates, they still just tell you that you've graduated. Which you already know. But it's nice to have physical proof, considering that I thought neither of us would graduate. I probably wouldn't have if I didn't have people to make my potions for me.

Though, they probably wouldn't have counted Potions.

Or they shouldn't, at least.

What? It's not like I need it.

Finally, I hear Jack groan and he officially gives up, proclaims it to everyone close enough to hear him.

"Where's Lucy?" I ask.

"Talking to my parents," he answers. "I decided to stay out of the way."

"Oh, okay - wait, your parents?" I backtrack. He nods. "Why?"

"She said she was introducing herself, like they don't know her already," Jack frowns. Then he shrugs. "I suppose it's a little different to tell them that she's my girlfriend than it is being a friend, but I still don't really get why she wants to. What did your parents want? Where they surprised?"

"For your information, they congratulated me on graduating, said they never doubted it," I defend. But when he looks at me, clearly thinking I'm lying, I change my words slightly. "Mum said that, Dad may have said he was surprised. But he was laughing until Mum hit him, so he could have been joking. You don't know!"

"Of course he was joking; you're blind, you're not dumb," Jack laughs, patting my shoulder in what I hope is reassurance.

Of course, Dad was joking.

"Hey, isn't that your grandparents' neighbor?" Jack asks suddenly, pointing to the only guy I've seen who is completely casual. His light brown hair his spiked up, he looks out of place in his leather jacket and he seems to be looking for someone. But wouldn't I be the only one my grandparents' neighbor would know? And it can't be me; he teased me too much to like me, except when I was visiting just after I turned sixteen and he started flirting with me - he's the guy who unknowingly helped me realize I was both gay and uninterested in him. "Yeah, that's definitely him. I'd remember that egotistical git anywhere. It's definitely Ellis. Molyneux, isn't it, Key? Ellis Molyneux."

I barely nod my head, eyes wide. I knew I recognized the name. I'm both incredibly angry, more than I think I've ever been, and fearful. I'd give anything to beat the crap out of him for coming here, except I'm not strong enough, and I cannot have anyone else see him. Because he knows one other person here and he's looking for him.

He's looking for Louis.

"Key, are you okay?"

I break away from my shock, enough to focus on Jack a little. "Where's Louis?"

Jack points behind us, "He's with his parents, Percy and Audrey. What's wrong?"

"Nothing," I lie, not sure if I should tell him about Ellis. It's Louis' business and I promised; he may have told me, but he doesn't want anyone else knowing and interfering with his personal life. It still brings bad memories. "I just need you to go to him, get Lucy, and don't leave him alone, not until I get there."

"Where are you going?" he asks suspiciously. He knows that I'm not telling him something.

"To see what Ellis wants," I tell him honestly. He is my old neighbor, after all, and Jack doesn't know that he knows Louis; he won't assume that Ellis is here for anyone else. I ask for one more favor, "Would you not tell Louis that I'm talking to him? Don't even mention his name, Jack. Louis knows how I feel about Ellis; I don't want this day to be spoiled because Louis hit him or for Louis to feel insecure and jealous. I mean, you've seen how he is."

I wait for Jack to answer, mentally crossing my fingers that he takes my word for it, even if he doesn't fully believe it. I've never lied to him before or even given him a reason to think I would, so I hate that I'm not telling him the truth. But it's not his business to know. Besides, he'd probably punch Ellis, too. I can't let that happen. I won't let him get into any trouble.

"Okay," Jack says at last. He just walks away.

I watch him go to Lucy, wait for them to get to Louis, then move towards Ellis. He's been watching, I notice. He smiles and winks at me, then his eyes move to Louis. For a horrifying second, I think he's going to walk over, but he doesn't and I let out the breath I wasn't even aware I was holding. Instead, Ellis walks backwards, towards the doors. I follow quickly, finding him waiting by the stairs.

"I had the most interesting morning, Ciaran," he starts, his accent barely noticeable for someone who's rarely left France. But I remember that he's been practicing since he was three and learning English in school. My grandma would talk about him sometimes, pass on information she got from Ellis' mum. "I was just leaving the house when I noticed your grandmother needed a hand with her packages. Your grandfather's robes had just come."

I open my mouth, demanding to know what he wants, but he just shushes me and continues his story.

"Being a gentleman, I immediately went to help her -" I roll my eyes; yeah, right. "- and she invites me inside, telling all about how her youngest grandson is graduating with his friends and his lovely boyfriend. 'You remember, Ciaran, don't you, Ellis?' 'Oh, yes, I do, Mrs. Delaney. So, who is his lovely boyfriend?' Oh, that's right; it's Louis Weasley!

"And that's when I finally realized that you are the problem again. You are getting in my way. Again," he snaps. "You're the reason Louis isn't returning my calls or answering my letters."

I step back like I've been punched in the face, then punch him in the face so he knows how it feels. I don't think it really hurts him, he doesn't even bleed, but it's enough for him to stagger back a bit.

"How dare you blame me for Louis not talking to you when you are the one who cheated on him and dumped him once summer was over," I yell. "You used him! It's not my fault he doesn't want to speak to you, it's yours! And what the fuck are you trying to contact him for, what could you possibly want from him?"

"Him," he says simply, straightening up. "I had a feeling he'd told you, given how quickly you got Jackson to keep him away. I assume they're keeping him away. And it is you who is keeping him from speaking to me. Louis loves me, he never would have stayed away for so long if he wasn't with someone else. He'd have spoken to me and we'd have gotten back together a long time ago."

"He thought that he loved you. Past tense," I remind him forcefully. "And he ignored you without help for over a year, I'll have you know. We didn't meet until half way through September and we didn't start going out until January of this year. Face it, Ellis. It's not me; he just hates you. He doesn't want you back, he's happy now."

"I want to talk to Louis," he spits.

"No. Leave him alone. I won't let you ruin everything now, when it's been almost two years since you last spoke. Why did you even bother coming here now?"

"Because he wouldn't talk to me. It's taken me two years to get to this point," Ellis says, glaring. "I have your grandmother to thank for being here today; she invited me. She obviously doesn't know about Louis and I. Or you and I," he adds with a smirk.

"There never was a 'you and I'," I'm happy to remind him. "You made me sick even then, especially now that I know that you were with Louis when you were at my party, flirting with me. Where was Louis that day, Ellis?" He looks away from me and I scoff. "Now that I see you, I thank God I made the right choice."

"Ah, yes, the glasses," he mutters. "She's so glad you met Louis; he gave her little boy a gift, made him so happy. She just knows you'll be happy for a long time, that you can make your relationship work even while Louis is in Paris. Because you won't be there... but I will. I'll be able to see him every day, console him when he misses you, make him see that he should be back with me. Louis is strong and stubborn, so I accept that it'll take me awhile, but I'll get there."

"You're such an asshole," I whisper, venom in my voice and a strong desire to punch him again.

"Maybe," he shrugs. "I consider myself a fighter; I won't stop till I get what I want." Ellis turns to the Great Hall. "I imagine he's still angry with me now, I don't want to ruin his graduation. I suppose I can wait for him for one more summer. Tell him that I said hello and that he looked amazing."

Ellis leaves then, smirking at me. "Maybe one day I'll tell him about us," he calls back just before he disappears.

I don't hold back the shudder that runs violently over my body. "There was never an us," I mutter.

I walk back through the masses of people, who have no idea what happened just outside, and find Louis in pretty much the same place I left him, with the people I left him with. This time my parents and grandparents have joined them as well, though. Louis doesn't seem to know anything, so I know my grandmother hasn't mentioned Ellis either. Maybe she thinks he just hasn't shown up.

"Hey, you," Louis says smiling. He wraps his arms around my waist from behind and allows me to lean into him. "Where did you go?"

"I went out for some fresh air," I mutter. "Too many people in here."

"Is that why you're shaking?" he asks concerned, rubbing his hands up and down my arms.

I nod, whisper, "Yeah."

"Don't worry, sweetheart," Mum says comfortingly. "The crowds will leave soon enough, then you'll be back in your dorm, preparing to come home tomorrow. You'll have all of summer to relax."

I agree with her, smiling softly so she thinks I'm okay, and I don't look Jack in the eye.

It seems it's not summer I have to worry about.

***

The rest of graduation day went by rather quickly. Soon enough, everyone left and we were in our common rooms, finishing our packing for when we left. We were all up at the same time for once, even me, early enough to make sure I actually got on the train, Lucy joked. I didn't appreciate it.

The train ride passed by, easily unnoticed with everyone talking and laughing and going on about the things they'll be doing during and after summer. I zoned everyone out when Kyle dragged Luka off - I didn't ask why - and I had no one to talk to about music school. I eventually fell asleep, my mind constantly pushing Elli's words to the back of my mind.

I didn't wake up until the train stopped and I was woken up. We got off the train, said good bye and went our separate ways; a normal first day home.

After a couple of days away from my friends and my mum's deliciously home-cooked meals again, I find my way back to my room to get changed. Mum made a light lunch because Lucy has invited me to her grandparents' house for dinner, it's sort of a graduation party for us, she said, and my parents are coming, too. After me, my mum is waiting for a call from my grandmother and my dad is too nosy to leave her alone.

I only change my t-shirt to a black shirt and head back downstairs; I love the Burrow and Molly works herself to the bone to make everyone welcome and happy, but they're a nice, casual family, not a five star hotel.

Mum and Dad are sitting in the living room, joining me with the casual look, talking about Ministry stuff that I don't care to know. I go straight to the fireplace, activating the floo to let whoever answers it - Lily, it turns out - know that I'm coming, then step through.

Lily is waiting for me on the other side, an apologetic look on her face, and turns to her grandmother.

"I was told not to leave you alone," she whispers.

"Hello, Ciaran, sweetheart," Mrs. Weasley says, hugging me. Given that I barely know her, this is unnerving. She pulls me back, looking at me disapprovingly. "Hungry?"

"I just ate," I promise. "I have a high metabolism."

"He eats nothing but cakes and beef and bacon, Grandma. It's not fair," Lily whines.

I chuckle and tap Lily's shoulder, leaving them to discuss the fact that I'm too skinny, and go and find Louis or Lucy or anyone who doesn't want to talk about me. In which case, I should go find James; Louis and Lucy always talk about me.

I don't find any of them, though. Not even Dom.

I find Roxy.

I turn around, try to get out of the kitchen as soon as possible, but she sees me and comes up behind me. "Hey, Ciaran."

"Roxy," I answer in greeting, turning around slowly. She's staring at me in a way that would make me uncomfortable whether I was straight or gay, though I bet other guys would love it. Instead, I take a step back. "How are you doing?"

"I'm okay," she murmurs, moving in closer to run her finger down my shirt. "Could be better."

I grab her hand before she gets anywhere near my waist. "Roxanne, please stop. I'm with -"

"With Louis, I've heard," she interrupts, still giving me that same look. It feels slightly predatory, that's the only way to describe it; it's like I'm hers, in her head. "You can't blame a girl for trying."

"We'll see," a slightly familiar voice says from behind me. Maybe I met her at the New Years party after midnight. I was pretty drunk after then, I could have met anyone and I wouldn't know. "You should go before Louis sees you."

I don't turn around to see the voice, I focus on Roxanne's scowl, but she eventually does as she's told and leaves. The voice quickly becomes a person, with long, blond and the same blue eyes as Louis.

"Victoire," I realize. "Hello."

"Hey," she says with a smile, sitting on top of the kitchen table. "Don't mind Roxy. She hates to lose, especially to family, but she'd never go further than what she did just now. She'd never do that to Louis."

"I don't doubt that," I promise. "She just scares me a little."

"She's very forward, it's a little intimidating," Victoire laughs. "She really didn't expect you to be gay."

"Lucy was supposed to tell her everything during the summer, but missed out that detail because she didn't know if I wanted people to know," I admit, remembering what we talked about right at the beginning of school. God, it seems like forever now. "She forced me to do it myself and everyone knows I don't play fair."

"The riddle," Victoire says. "James told me."

"James told you what?" said another strangely familiar voice.

"About the riddle Ciaran gave Roxy to tell her he was gay," she answers him. "Ciaran, you remember Teddy Lupin? My fiancé."

"Hey," I say, holding out a hand, which he takes with a grin.

"So, how did you get Louis to open up and be his old self again?" he asks.

I shrug. "The usual; scream, hurt, threaten. It's a regular day for me," I joke.

Ted and Victoire share a look. "I like him, even if he is Logan Burns' godson," he says. "How can you stand him?"

"I threaten him, too."

Ted laughs out loud, I don't think he realizes that his hair has turned a dark shade of blue as he does. "Now I really like him. I'm going to see when Harry's coming, I'll see you in a bit."

He kisses her on the cheek, says good bye to me and walks off. His hair is still blue. I turn to Victoire, who's shaking her head, and gesture to my own hair. "Do he know -"

"I have no idea," she chuckles. "It changes each time he sneezes, too. Once his hair was like a rainbow. Every time he knows someone is lying, he makes his nose grow."

"That sounds awesome," I murmur.

"Yeah, it's pretty cool," Victoire agrees. "He has a friend who's a metamorph, too. They're, like, the only two I've ever known. It's pretty rare meeting two at once, I think. Anyway, they're always making jokes like that."

"They sound close," I assume.

Victoire's eyes narrow a little, I barely notice. "Yeah, you could say that," she mutters. As quickly as her mood darkened, she's happy and smiling again. "I came here ahead of everyone else, but Louis should be here any minute. Have fun and happy graduation."

"Thanks," I smile, still a little confused.

As soon as she leaves, I find my way to the couch. I'm there less than a minute and I'm jumped on by Jack and prodded by Lucy, who went to get him before coming to see me. She spends almost ten minutes moaning about how long Jack took to get ready, which he counters with an explanation about how long his parents took talking to him about the Auror program. His explanation is overheard by Harry Potter, who must have just come, because I never saw him before.

"Nervous, Jack?" he asks.

"Can you tell me now?"

Harry shakes his head, grinning, and turns to me. "You're dad tells me you're studying music, Ciaran."

I nod. "You know my dad?"

"He's well known, not just in his department, but in the whole Ministry. He has a lot of friends, your dad, I'd like to think I'm one of them," Mr. Potter says. "Pain in the ass, though. He keeps taking my money."

I laugh suddenly, remembering the only reason Dad will ever do something like that. It's something he's been doing his whole life and he only got better when he snuck off to Vegas to help Logan with something. I have no idea about that part of the story, though.

"You shouldn't play poker with my dad, sir."

"I'm getting that," he agrees.

"You're playing poker?" a woman, with dark red hair and what I think might be a temper you shouldn't mess with. Ginny Potter, I gather.

"No," Mr. Potter shakes his head adamantly. "I'm losing at poker, which I've only played a handful of times when he's bored because not thinking about a case tends to help things come to me. It's the only reason I play."

"It's the only reason he hasn't quit yet," my dad corrects, suddenly leaning over the couch.

"Where's Mum?" I ask, tipping my head back to rest on the back of the couch.

"After a really long, boring talk, her mother dragged her away. I have no idea what for," he adds before I can ask. "I zoned out. I was only there so I knew what to say when I got here. I hear you invited Logan here yesterday, Harry," he says, changing the subject.

"What? Why would you do that?" George Weasley's voice cries.

"To see the look on your face," Harry calls back. It's common knowledge that they still kind of hate each other after an incident in the joke shop when Logan and Dad were teenagers. I think he made things explode or there was a lot of damage of some sort, at least. But he's adamant it wasn't his fault. "He said he was busy."

Busy. Yeah. It's a full moon tonight.

I wonder how Louis is doing.

"Hmm," is all Dad says.

Louis walks in just as his grandmother calls everyone out for dinner. Since there's so many people and too small a house, we're all eating outside. I suppose that with a family this big, they do this all of the time. I pull him back a little, asking if he's okay; he nods and he smiles and he looks sort of okay, but also a little wired. He won't be able to sleep tonight.

I come up with ways I can get to stay with him tonight.

It's not like he can turn.

Dinner is chatty, everyone is having their own conversations at once. Each separate conversion would probably be quiet, but together it's all very loud. If I concentrate really hard, I can hear the people closest to me. I know Roxanne and Molly are talking about me in general, Dad is telling Bill Weasley about what Louis said to Logan in his classroom and they both look at us every so often.

I don't like being the topic of peoples' conversations. It's weird.

***

After dinner, when the sun starts to set and people start to leave, Louis pulls me up and leads me outside into the garden. I'm allowed to stay, so Dad goes home without me. It's quiet outside, more peaceful than the house is. Louis takes me far away from the house, where we can't be seen or heard, and we lie down on the grass.

"This is where I brought you on New Years," he says softly. "We almost kissed here."

I lean forward and kiss him once. "Not almost anymore."

Louis rolls onto his side to kiss me again, allowing it to become more urgent, needed. It's his wolf traits, I know, but I don't care. I use the fact that he's too focused on kissing me as an advantage and move him onto his back, pinning him underneath me. I pull off his shirt, let him take off mine and reach for his pants. That's when he stops me.

Who knew he could learn self-control during a full moon?

Damn.

"I love you," is all he says before continuing where we left off.

I trail a path of kisses down his chest, letting him fall back into the grass.

Everything else fades away. 



A/N: Teddy making his nose grow when people lie is a reference to Pinocchio, a children's novel by Carlo Collodi. 

Enchanted has a sort of bad guy... Look out for Ellis...

I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think.

One. Chapter. Left. ;(

Sam.


Chapter 34: Epilogue: Wait For You
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Summer passes by way too quickly.

Everyone took the 'fun' part of the phrase 'time flies when you're having fun' a little bit too seriously. We were always out of the house for this or that. And we did have fun, I won't deny it, it's been an amazing summer, but I still spent my evenings wishing it was the beginning and I was back in the garden with Louis. Every time we shared a look, I could tell he felt the same. Every time he'd say good night, I knew he was thinking about it as well.

I think good night became his most used word. That night, in the garden, when I finally started to drift off, I swear he almost said good bye, then he corrected himself. The day after, when I eventually went home, he chose to say 'I'll see you later' instead.

Good bye is not a word Louis likes very much.

It's not a word I like at all.

The whole way to the train station, I dreaded the moment he'd finally have to say it. Now we're here, the feeling is so much worse. I don't want to hear it.

Louis keeps hold of my hand the whole time, his dad is willing to carry his stuff for him, and he keeps me talking about when he gets back and things we should do, places we should go. Always in England, never in Paris.

The time seems to go faster than it did during the summer and the announcement that people should start boarding Louis' train rings in my ears, almost deafeningly. It's really happening. He's leaving.

Louis stands up and moves to say good bye to his family, hesitantly letting go of my hand for the first time all morning. I linger behind him, knowing I'll get mine soon enough, and I can't help but smile at their words of encouragement and advice; Dom's promise that Louis will thank him when he's famous; Vic and Ted saying he'll love it and to bring back presents, which I know means his art; his parents hoping he'll stay safe; Hugo's promise not to touch his stuff, which is huge given who Hugo is a person.

His grandmother is the most tearful, I can barely hear a word she's saying, but Louis nods along like he does understand. Lucy is last, she's standing in the middle, between their family and our friends, and she gets the longest hug of them all. She wouldn't have it any other way; they grew up together, will always be close, she'd be devastated if he hadn't. Jack's good bye is a handshake and a pat on the shoulder, because he'll consider Louis a traitor for being with Justin and Tyler even if they become best friends, but he smiles, so it's good enough. Luka surprises us all by hugging him first, he never hugs, then he pulls Kyle in as well. A group hug between best friends. They're like me and my friends; I don't think they'll have been apart for as long as Louis going away will force them to be - that just makes today worse.

When the female voice announces that the train will be leaving in a few minutes, Louis finally pulls away and walks back to me. His dad follows a few steps behind, ready to give him his bags. He takes my hands, threading his fingers between mine, and pulls me a little closer.

"I'm going to miss you," he says softly.

"I'll miss you, too," I swear to him. "But I'll see you soon. I can easily get to Paris, then there's Christmas. Time will fly."

"I know," he whispers, leaning in to kiss me. It's awkward at first, only because I feel like people are watching us, strangers being nosy, but I force it out of my mind and focus on Louis, just Louis, letting myself enjoy what will be the last time I kiss him for a while, until he moves back. "I love you."

"I love you."

"And I'm so glad you whacked me in the stomach with your stick that day," he laughs a little. "I'm pretty sure you used magic to make it hurt so much."

"Oh, magic was definitely involved somehow," I agree. "Given how... enchanting it was to meet you. You had to have done something to make me want to stick with you for as long as I have. Not many people can do that."

"More stubborn curiosity than magic, I think."

Louis lifts up his hands, using his thumb to take away the tear I feel falling. It doesn't help and a few more come, but at least they're not horribly uncontrollable sobs. I couldn't handle that.

"I won't stop loving you," he says quietly, just for me to hear. "Things happen, I won't pretend that everything will stay the same, but we'll wait and see. I'll come back and if we still love each other, then we'll know that this is it. That we can get through anything and we'll be together for the rest of our lives."

I only nod, not wanting to tell him that I refuse to believe things will change in case it results in an argument about it. An argument neither of us would apologize for quickly and will just make things harder, because he's stubborn and I'm constantly in denial. An argument I won't allow because he's right, things can change and things can come between us. One is already trying, whether Louis knows it or not.

"Louis," his dad calls him.

"You'll miss your train if you don't leave now," I warn. "I'm not going anywhere."

Louis nods, kisses me quickly and walks away. I watch him get on the platform and put his bags on the train. He still has a couple of minutes, but he disappears into the crowd, probably looking for a seat, and I turn around, ready to have the life squeezed out of me by one of Lucy's hugs, one I feel like I desperately need right now.

But Lucy stays exactly where she is, pointing towards the train. I manage to turn just as Louis is back at my side. This time his kiss is longer, more desperate than my need for a hug and more telling than any 'I love you'.

"I've changed my mind," he whispers breathlessly and for a slightly disapproving, slightly hopeful, moment I think he means going to Paris. "Screw wait and see, just wait for me."

"I was already going to," I promise.

Louis shakes his head. "Wait and see is just hoping things go back to normal afterwards. We won't be the same after this; we'll be older, we may even learn a few things. We'll be ready for more. Wait for me to come back, to marry me." My eyes widen and I'm sure I've misheard him, but he's smiling and continuing to speak like he hasn't even noticed my reaction. "It's you and me, Key. It always will be. We waited so long to get here, things were always getting in the way and stopping us, sometimes it was even because of us, but not anymore. Wait for school to be over, all of it, so I'm back for good. If things change between us three years from now, we'll know we have to move on. If things don't, we'll know that it's right and that we should be together. Wait and marry me, Ciaran."

Too shocked to speak, I just move my head. I think I nod, he definitely takes it as a nod, and kisses me one more time. I feel like I should be even more terrified now, for a completely different reason this time - I mean, who proposes after five months together? - but I'll admit that hearing the if's and the waits calm me and he seems too sincere for me to do anything but nod.

"I love you," he says again.

"Yeah," I manage to get out. "Love you."

"I'll see you soon. Good bye," he finally says to me.

He runs back to the train and the doors shut just as he steps inside. I move to stand close enough to see him go to the nearest empty window seat and he places his hand onto the window as a wave. I copy, still numb.

I don't move until the train pulls away and I've got my two best friends standing on either side of me.

"You've shocked my family," Lucy whispers in my ear.

"I think he's joined them," I hear Jack. "Did you really just get engaged?"

That one word, engaged, wakes me up a little, enough for me to speak at least. "I think so. Almost. Mum is going to kill me."

"You can hide in school," Lucy says, smiling. She wraps her arm around my waist and pulls me away from the station. "Congratulations, Ciaran. You're almost officially part of the Potter/Weasley family. Good luck to you."

"Sure," is all I say. My head keeps turning towards the now empty platform, keeps thinking of Louis' words, his promises... his impromptu almost proposal. There is only one thought that comforts me enough to let myself walk away with my friends and Louis' just-as-shocked-as-I-am family...

The good bye is not forever. 



A/N: And that's it. Enchanted 1 is over. And Louis kinda left you with a bombshell of an ending. Now the question is: will they last in this long distance relationship? Enchanted 2, Don't Let Me Go, is coming soon.

Until then, I hope you'll enjoy my new Louis/OC, starring Frankie Pierce, which will be up before Don't Let Me Go.

I hope you've enjoyed reading Enchanted. Thank you so much for every review, the OC Dobby nominations and for following this story. Please let me know what you think. :)

Sam.


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