Everyone who had ever visited the Potter family at their home, 15 Godric’s Hollow, would agree that the house, along with its’ inhabitants, was one of the happiest in England. Harry Potter and his wife of twenty-three years, Ginny, along with their six children- Lily, James, Cameron, Rebecca, Sirius, and Katie- made the sprawling mansion feel less...imposing. Even when it was filled to the brim with all of the Potters, the Weasleys, Longbottoms, Lupins, and other assorted family friends, as it was at the Potter’s annual Christmas Eve Party, the house was welcoming.
Cameron Potter, who was the middle child at twenty years of age, was lounging in a chair watching his father chat up Aunt Hermione. His uncle, Ron, was busy teasing his mother, Ginny. And there was Cameron’s older sister, Lily, flirting with a young man who seemed enchanted by her long red hair and laughing green eyes. Cameron felt vaguely sorry for the guy; Lily might have looked like an angel, but she acted like the spawn of Satan at times. The poor guy was practically salivating all over her until Lily’s date swooped in and dragged her off to dance. With a lazy glance of his own emerald eyes, Cameron spotted his other older sibling, James, flirting shamelessly with Carrie, who, at seventeen, was the youngest of Ron and Hermione’s three children. Cameron just shook his head, which earned him a grin from his brother. Soon enough, he spotted Rebecca and Sirius, the eighteen-year old Potter twins, having a debate with their grandfather, Arthur. And Katie, his baby sister, predictably had her nose buried in a book. Leave it to her to completely ignore the two hundred or so people packed into their house, just so she could read just one more chapter. After teasing his baby sister a bit, Cameron laughed silently to himself and turned to greet his neighbor with his trademark irresistible grin.
"Having fun?" he asked, eying the young woman impishly. There was something vaguely familiar about her- long, pale blonde hair, eyes that were bluer than a summer sky. Something was tugging viciously at the edges of his memory.
"Yes, of course." The woman smiled soberly. Cameron’s eyes narrowed. He had seen that smile before, knew that voice from somewhere. He could hear it speaking to him in a memory, but he just couldn’t place her; there was something wrong with the image in front of him when compared to the image he held in his head.
"Do I know you? What’s your name?" he asked abruptly. The young woman merely leaned forward and brushed a stray lock of hair off of Cameron’s forehead.
"Guess." she breathed, her eyes dancing merrily. The two of them had known each other since birth, but she wasn’t counting on Cameron Potter, god of Hogwarts and the wizarding world in general, to remember her at first glance; she had been away for far too long.
Cameron’s lazy green eyes snapped open. Only one person other than his mother had ever messed with his hair and lived. He broke out into a grin and let out a whoop of joy, swinging the recently identified young woman around before enveloping her in a lung-crushing bear hug.
"Aaaaaaaaaah!!!!!!" she squealed. "Geroff me, Cam!" He held her at arm’s length, each of them inspecting the other, searching for any hint of change.
"Aisley Lupin!" Cam said gleefully to the girl who had been his best friend for twelve years, until she had suddenly disappeared two days after graduation. "Since when have you been a blonde?" It was a valid question- in all the years he had known her, Aisley had always been a brunette.
"It’s called hair potion, Cameron, dearest." Aisley replied dryly. She had decided in those few moments before she spoke that Cam hadn’t changed a bit since they had graduated. He still looked astonishingly like his father, Harry; he had Harry’s messy black hair and bright green eyes, and the same approximate height and build- both men were about 6'2". The only differences between father and son were that Cam’s hair was slightly longer, he didn’t wear glasses, he lacked a lightning-bolt on his forehead, and his eyes, though the same color as Harry’s, were most definitely shaped like Ginny’s. One other thing was also clear; Aisley was as much in love with Cameron as she had been when they were sixteen.
"Don't give me that tone, Aisley, honey." Cameron said. "Merlin, I've missed you, girl. Where did you run off to?"
"I traveled a lot. You know....went to new places, met some new people. The whole thing."
"Yeah, but why'd you go and leave me, darling?" Cameron asked her, hurt that wasn't completely faked flooding into his eyes. "We always said that once we graduated, we'd explore the world together, then start our Auror training together. But you left without a word. Why?"
"Because I had to." Aisley snapped. "I didn't plan to, it's just..." She searched desperately for a way to tell him the truth without revealing her secret.
"Aisley, we had plans! Hell, we even set a date to leave. Then you just took off!"
"Cam, do you remember Ellie MacMillan?" Aisley asked suddenly. "The cute blonde Hufflepuff you date for six months in 7th year?"
"Yeah, I remember her. She married....uh, Laurence Boot..about a year ago. What does she have to do with your leaving?"
"A couple of days before we were supposed to leave , she came to visit me at my flat."
"Ellie! What a surprise! I was just finishing up my packing..." Aisley said as she opened the door to her flat.
"May I come in?" Ellie asked quietly
."Oh, of course.""You're probably wondering why I'm here." Ellie said as she sat down.
"Well....yes, actually, I am." Aisley replied, looking flustered.
"I came here to ask you to stay away from Cameron."
"Uh...excuse me?" Aisley sputtered, unable to believe what she had just heard.
"He's my boyfriend." Ellie pointed out. "Not yours. And he never will be yours. Why would he want you? You're butt ugly and completely repulsive." Aisley looked shocked to hear this tirade, but Ellie hadn't finished yet. "Oh, don't play innocent with me, Lupin. You've been after Cameron since our first year and you've never bothered to hide it. Everyone knows that you're in love with him and he doesn't give two figs about you."
"Does he know?" Aisley asked, too horrified to deny the (slightly true) accusations.
"Of course." Ellie scoffed. "And that's one of the reasons I want you gone. Go on your stupid trip so that we can plan our wedding in peace. After all, there's no reason for you to humiliate yourself further, is there?"
For obvious reasons, Ellie neglected to clarify that 'we' wasn't referring to her and Cameron- she was referring to her sister. And the wedding being planned wasn't Cam and Ellie's; it was her sister's wedding to her fiancé. Meanwhile, Aisley was busy thinking to herself. If Cam couldn't be bothered to tell her he was getting married, then Ellie was obviously right- he didn't care about her at all.
"I'll be gone in an hour." she whispered, her tone lifeless.
"That's what I thought." Ellie said, smiling in satisfaction. "Oh, and I trust you understand why you won't be invited to the wedding?" Aisley nodded numbly as the other woman left. Once the door was shut, she collapsed against it, sobbing like her heart had just been ripped out. For all intents and purposes....it had been. Viciously, and without mercy. But she only had an hour in which to leave and start over. To forget Cameron. Find someone new. Learn to love someone new. Stand on her own two feet for once. For once, she was going to have to be just Aisley Lupin; not 'Aisley the girl who was best friends with Cam Potter,' and not 'Aisley the girl who was in love with her best friend.' Just Aisley. Merlin help her do it.
"She...well, she called me some rather uncomplimentary things. And.....well, she somehow convinced me that the two of you were engaged. I figured that if you were already planning your wedding, which she assured me you were, and hadn't seen fit to tell me, then obviously you could care less about where I went, what I did, or when I did it." Aisley said quietly when she had returned to the present.
" Cameron yelled. Several heads turned to stare at them. "You actually thought I was capable of doing something like that to you? I can't believe you!"
"I'm sorry." Aisley said, startled by Cam's outburst. "I thought I was helping. Doing the right thing. Doing what you wanted." As hard as she tried to stop it, a single tear rolled down her cheek. It was that lone droplet that deflated whatever anger Cam had been feeling.
"Aww, hell, honey." he said, pulling her into an embrace. He kissed her hair gently, trying to calm her. "Don't cry, Aisley. Please don't cry."
Across the room, Cameron's parents were having an interesting discussion.
"How long do you think it'll take them to figure out that they're in love with each other?" Harry Potter shot his wife an interested glance. She met his eyes with her own laughing brown ones, and a bemused smile.
"Aisley's known since they were sixteen, Harry." Ginny told her husband with a chuckle. "I'm fairly sure that's part of the reason she left."
Harry looked surprised for a moment, but then he just shook his head and sighed. "Dammit, they're growing up on us." It was true- Lily was an Auror, Cam was in his last year of training and dark-haired, blue-eyed James was the new Charms Professor at Hogwarts. Rebecca and Sirius, who looked so like Harry's godfather, with their black hair and grey eyes, that it was uncanny, had turned their sights on professional Quidditch- they had both signed on with the Falmouth Falcons immediately after graduating the year before. And Katie, who was a carbon copy of her mother with her beautiful red hair and brilliant brown eyes, planned on starting her training as a Healer as soon as she graduated in June.
Back on the other side of the room, Aisley had finally stopped crying.
"Sorry for blubbering." she muttered with a wobbly smile.
"No problem." Cameron said, right before he addressed everyone else in the room. "I'd like to point out to everyone that our beautiful wanderer, the lovely Miss Lupin, has finally returned to us!"
As the crowd laughed and cheered and several old friends came to greet her, Aisley thought that she had been right when she decided that Cam hadn't changed at all.