Chapter 3 : Memories and the lack of Butterflies
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Are you still the same or did you change somehow?
What do you do at this very moment when I think of you?
And when I’m looking back how we were young and stupid
Do you remember that?
“What do you mean you can’t go? I thought you wanted to see this game,” Lance frowned. His head was floating in Helen’s fireplace and he could see her rummaging in her black shoulder bag, looking for something. He had called in to ask if she was ready to go to the match between the Wimbourne Wasps and the Appleby Arrows, the one she had been excited to see. While the games between those two teams were normally filled with violence, they always put a lot of effort to stop the other team for winning, hence making it a great game to watch. But instead of getting ready, she was cancelling their date.
“I do, but they needed me. Sally’s son suddenly fell ill, so she can’t come to work and nobody else could cover for her,” Helen explained.
“But I want to see you. I haven’t got a chance to talk to you in a while,” Lance protested.
It was true. After graduation, Helen had found a part-time job in Florean Fortescue’s ice cream parlour. She said that she didn’t want to rely too much on her parents’ money now that she was out of Hogwarts and wanted to start earning her own money. It hadn’t come between her and Lance until one of her neighbours asked her to baby-sit. The kid adored her, and suddenly people were asking for her to look after their children. She was delighted, but Lance wasn’t quite as happy as she was. He was happy for her, but every time he flooed or asked her out to dinner, she often declined, saying that she had to work. Sometimes she would ask him to come and baby-sit with her, but her attention was always on the children. Lance admired her for her hardworking attitude, but sometimes he wished she would forget about working and enjoy the summer. They wouldn’t see each other for a long time once summer was over, and he wanted to spend his remaining lazy days with her.
He knew one of the reasons Helen kept on taking the babysitting job was because of her career choice. Helen took it pretty hard when she found out that she couldn’t be a Healer and it took her a while to start considering other career options. She had been terribly worried that she would be bad with children when she chose to be a teacher, and she told Lance that baby-sitting taught her to take charge and get the attention of the children. She never had that experience before, seeing that she was an only child. However, he failed to see why she needed the job in Florean’s shop, but the one time he brought it up, it had resulted in a fight. He didn’t voice his opinion on it again, but he knew Helen could tell.
“I’m really sorry, but I can’t go with you today. Look, why don’t you ask Russell to go with you? My shift will be over at the same time with the game. We can still have our date then. Here, you can use my ticket.” She finally found what she was looking for and held it out for Lance. It was the ticket for the game he bought for her. He sighed and put his right hand through the fire to take it. “I’m really sorry,” Helen repeated, looking sincerely apologetic. Lance forced a smile. It wasn’t her fault that she had to work today.
“It’s okay. I’ll see you later.” Helen smiled and gave him a quick peck before standing up.
“Thank you. You’re the best.”
“So Lance, I read that article about you in Prophet today.” Lance snapped out of his thoughts and turned to Lucie, who was sitting down beside him on the sofa. They were sitting in the family room, where all the men and kids were. The women were already in the kitchen, but Lucie couldn’t move freely in the cramped room, so she joined the men. “Sounds like Walter is pretty impressed with you.” Lance grinned back.
“Thanks. I was a bit surprised to see that comment. He’s a difficult captain to please,” Lance replied.
“If I could ride a broom, I’d love to challenge you.” Lucie patted her swelling stomach affectionately. Her gaze then shifted to the kitchen before returning to Lance. “I don’t think she expected to see you here.”
“Neither did I,” Lance answered dryly, knowing exactly who she was talking about. “I bumped into the men in Diagon Alley and Michael invited me. I don’t think he remembered Helen was coming until he saw her.”
“Do you not want to see her?” Lucie inquired. Lance hesitated. He didn’t want his answers to reach Helen, but he didn’t see Lucie as the gossiping sort.
“I guess I do want to see her, but it’s more out of curiosity than anything else. There’s nothing between us and I know that, I’m not expecting anything to happen.” He paused. There was a lot more things he wanted to say, but he didn’t trust Lucie enough to pour out his soul. “It just feels strange to see her again, that’s all.”
There had been no butterflies when he saw Helen earlier, but waves of memories had flooded his mind. He had forgotten the way her eyes lit up when she looked at him, but seeing how they now held nothing but surprise and uneasiness at the sight of him made him feel oddly nostalgic.
After her shock had worn off, Helen had quickly covered her uneasiness and greeted him back, smiling. “How are you?” she had inquired. Lance ran a hand through his raven hair, trying to give her a broad grin.
“Fine. You?” He felt odd saying that. Back when they were still dating, the question ‘how are you’ had rarely been answered with a single word.
“Oh, just fine.” They had fell silent after that, both not knowing what to say. Colleen had then come to Helen’s aid, greeting Lance with a bear hug before ushering Helen to the kitchen. Arthur had pulled him to join the men in the living room, and there he stayed to chat with everyone.
There were many questions he wanted to ask her, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to talk to her again. It took a long time for him to put his feelings for her in the past and he didn’t wish to bring them back again. He and Helen had gone down that road and it didn’t work out for them.
Mariah poked her head into the living room. “Lunch’s ready, everyone! It’s in the garden,” she called. Lance and the others stood up from their seats and filed out of the room.
Two long tables were joined together in the middle of the garden, laden with delicious looking food. Last night snowfall had left its’ traces upon the trees and on the ground and the breeze was quite chilling, but the delicious smell of the food and the warmth they were emitting chased away the cold. Lance took a seat between Arthur and Michael, two seats away from Helen who sat at the opposite side of the table. Once everyone had filled up their plates, the conversation began.
“So, Lance, I take it you’ll be playing against Puddlemere soon,” Michael said. Lance nodded.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a tough game, but I think my team has a good chance of winning now that their best player is off this time.” He grinned at Lucie, who rolled her eyes good-naturedly.
“Thanks, but Puddlemere beats Magpies any day,” she replied with a smug look on her face. Lance raised an eyebrow.
“Really? Then why don’t you come to the game and see it for yourself?” he challenged teasingly. To his surprise, Lucie narrowed her eyes.
“Fine, I’ll be there,” she snapped, turning back to her meal with a huff. Lance crinkled his forehead at the sudden turn of mood, and Ronan, who sat right next to his wife, gave him an apologetic look.
“Hormones,” he mouthed. Lance nodded in understanding, and Colleen took the chance to chime in.
“When is the game exactly? After reading that article in Prophet, I’d like to see how good you really are,” she said.
“Twelve p.m., January fifth. If you really want to come, I can get some free tickets. Well, normally I can, but this is going to be a crowded game so you might have to pay,” Lance offered.
“I won’t mind paying, but I wouldn’t turn down free tickets,” Colleen grinned. Then she nudged Helen with her elbow. “Hey, why don’t you come along?”
Lance wondered why his stomach suddenly tensed up as Helen looked away from Ellie to Colleen.
“Come along to what?” she inquired, one of her eyebrows raised.
“To Lance’s Quidditch match. It wouldn’t be fun to go on my own, and you’re still here on January fifth, right?” Helen looked hesitant.
“I don’t know…”
“It’d be nice if you can come.”
Lance mentally slapped himself as he realized what he had said. He hadn’t planned to encourage her of coming, or even invite her, but his tongue seemed to have a mind on its’ own. His eyes met Helen’s, and he could see the uncertainty in them.
“Well, if you say so, why not?” Her lips curved into a smile, but it was gone as soon as she broke eye contact with Lance. Lance resumed his eating, still silently berating himself. The last thing he wanted to do was to make her feel uncomfortable around him, and he went and did just that. A small part of him knew Colleen was only asking for a company, but he was still annoyed with her for choosing Helen. He stole a glance to Helen’s direction and saw that she was already deep in conversation with Ronan, all traces of uneasiness had disappeared from her face. She was laughing at something Ronan said. He hadn’t seen her laugh for five years. Catching himself, Lance looked away hastily. Stop it, you’re not doing yourself any good. He shook his head and turned to Michael, who was talking to Max and Peter, to join in their conversation, determined to keep his mind on something other than his ex-girlfriend.
After everyone had taken at least three helpings of everything on the tables, the women charmed the dishes to fly to the kitchen and wash themselves, and then the adults made their way to the living room, while the five children played in the garden. Lance learnt that apart from Yvonne, Gwyneth, and Lucie, Peter and George were the ones who are married with kids. Yvonne’s first daughter was five years old, Peter’s sons were respectively three and two, George’s son was four, and his daughter was three. The five of them hardly knew each other, but they were playing like they had been pals for life.
“Don’t go too far away!” Yvonne called worriedly after the kids, who waved in response. “Someone should look out for them.”
“I’ll go,” Helen volunteered. “I want to get to know my nieces and nephews a little bit.” She summoned her coat, put it on, and went after the children. Lance headed to the living room, but a hand was placed on his arm, stopping his pace. He looked back and saw that the hand belonged to Molly, who was observing him with her motherly smile.
“I don’t mean to intrude, but I noticed that you and Helen had been avoiding each other all day,” she said. Lance gave her an awkward smile, not knowing how to reply. Had he been that obvious? First Lucie, now Molly. Who else was preparing to talk to him about Helen? Seeing that Lance wasn’t going to reply, Molly continued. “I understand that it maybe difficult, but I think you two should talk. It’d a shame if you throw away years of friendship just because the relationship didn’t work out.”
After Molly had left, Lance stood alone in the hallway, pondering Molly’s advice. It was much easier to walk into the living room and let his friendship with Helen go back to the way it had been when they were kids, pretending to not see each other and only spoke when it was required. But deep within him, he wanted to talk to her again, to know how much she had changed.
Inhaling a deep breath, he summoned his coat and turned on his heel, heading toward the direction Helen had gone to.
It wasn’t difficult to find her. She and the children were playing at the field where they often played Quidditch, throwing snowballs at one another. Laughter rang clearly through the air and Lance couldn’t help but grin as the children assaulted Helen with well-aimed snowballs. It was an unfair match, three against two with only Yvonne’s daughter, Belle, on Helen’s side, but Helen didn’t seem to mind. She wiped the snow off her face and swiftly sent a rather small snowball at one of the boys. The boy let out a yelp and covered his head, but the snowball still hit his chest. Helen whooped in victory and gave Belle a high five.
Lance recalled the last time he had a snowball fight with Helen. It was in their seventh year, the day before they had to leave for Christmas break. But what he remembered most about that day wasn’t the snowball fight, but the game that went on in the Gryffindor common room afterward.
“So, Helen, truth or dare?” Lee grinned at her. Helen was quiet for a while, weighing her options, before answering.
“Truth,” she said. Lance smiled inwardly and he waited for Lee to ask the question. Lee’s grin grew wider and he nodded.
“Okay, then. If you weren’t dating Lance, who would you like to go out with?”
Lance scowled at Lee, surprising himself with the fact that he was quite curious about the answer. Helen raised an eyebrow and looked around the room, as though judging the boys around her.
Almost all of the Gryffindor seventh year was there, dressed in their pyjamas, sitting closely together in a circle. The sofas and tables had been pushed aside so everyone could sit on the floor close to the fire. Some of them had brought pillows and blankets, and Helen, ignoring her Head Girl status for once, snuck down to the kitchen with Lance’s help and brought back some snacks.
It was Kellie’s idea to hold the slumber party. She said they should have some fun together before they have to deal with NEWTs and she came up with the slumber party. Everyone had liked the idea, and then Kellie talked Helen into asking McGonagall about it. They got a permission to hold the party in the common room, with the condition that it had to end at midnight and they mustn’t do anything that would break the rules.
Helen had turned her gaze back to Lee, a small smile playing on her lips. “I’d date Russell.” Lance’s jaw fell open and a couple of girls gasped. Russell looked taken aback at first, but he chuckled and shook his head.
“Why him?” Lee inquired again.
“I believe the rule is one question only,” Helen replied. Lee held up his hands in a surrendering fashion and didn’t pursue it again. Helen smirked and turned to the next victim. Her answer, however, was still ringing in her boyfriend’s head.
Helen and Russell had always been good friends, even back when Lance and Helen still hated each other, but Lance never thought Helen would consider dating Russell. Lance stole a glance at his best mate, who was watching Anna did her dare, and realized with a sinking feeling that Russell was more alike to Helen than he was. Russell caught his eyes and raised an inquiring eyebrow. Lance shook his head and turned his gaze to Anna.
“Hey, you alright?” Helen asked quietly, placing a hand on his arm. “You’re not thinking about that question, are you?”
“No, of course not. It’s just a game,” Lance answered, taking her hand and wrapping it with his own. Helen nodded, though she didn’t seem thoroughly convinced. None of them brought it up again.
When midnight came, they had done rounds of Truth or Dare, play a couple of wizard’s games, ate loads of cookies and potato chip, and gave the boys a temporary makeover with a simple spell. The girls had a good giggle over that, but not all the boys enjoyed it. Lance especially didn’t enjoy being a blonde, although the girls thought it suited his eyes. Lucky for him, the spell wears off after a while. As the old grandfather’s clock chimed twelve times to indicate midnight, the seventh years picked up their things and headed to their bedrooms. Helen, Kellie, Lance, and Russell stayed behind to rearrange the room and cleaned up. Kellie at first suggested letting the house-elves do it, but Helen glared at her and told her that since they were the ones who planned it, they were responsible to clean up the mess. After they were done, they bade each other goodnights and went up the stairs to their respective bedrooms.
Even after Lee started snoring, Lance’s eyes were still wide open. He didn’t understand why he was making such a big deal from it, but he kept on wondering why Helen had chosen Russell. Russell was his best mate, but they were different. Had Joaquin been less malicious, Russell would have a lot more in common with him than with Lance. Though Helen never said it, Lance knew he wasn’t the type of guy that Helen was normally attracted to, but she chose him, didn’t she?
Lance tossed around in his bed, trying to shake out the matter out of his head. It didn’t matter, he convinced himself. Helen probably picked someone out randomly, and she probably knew Russell wouldn’t think much of it. He finally fell asleep and all thoughts of the Truth or Dare question was pushed to the back of his mind, but several months later, he looked back to that day and finally understood why Helen had chosen Russell.
“Lance?” Lance jerked out of his thoughts and looked up at the source of the voice. Helen was standing in front of him, her brown eyes searching him. Lance smiled awkwardly.
“Hi, I thought, uh, you’d like some company.” Lance mentally scolded himself. He sounded like he was trying to flirt with her. “Uh, Grandma sent me to go with you.”
“Oh,” was the only thing Helen said. “Well, the kids are building a snowman, we sure can use some help.” He could tell she was still uncomfortable around him and he wasn’t sure if she wanted to be friends again after so long, but it wouldn’t hurt to try. Besides, he couldn’t back off now. So he pasted a smile and nodded.
A.N: This didn’t turn out exactly the way I planned it, but I quite like how this turn out. Next chapter should have more Helen-Lance interaction and a bit more flashbacks. The flashbacks will fill in the blanks from the end of ‘Crossing the Thin Line’ to their break-up. They might seem pointless for now, but they will make sense in the following chapters. Anyway, thanks for reading this, and also to everyone who had reviewed the last chapter. I really appreciate them. Let me know what you think of this one and feel free to share your ideas as well. ^_^ Happy reading Deathly Hallows!
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