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Chapter 4 : Party time
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Two weeks had passed since that little scene on the balcony. James had not seen Grace since then. Lily, on the other hand always tried to avoid him, but never succeeded. Somehow, James would always catch up with her. However her conversation with James never lasted more than a minute longer. She would always come up with an excuse and be out of his sight within seconds. James was getting impatient. He had to talk to Lily.
He spotted Lily at the kitchen table having her breakfast alone. He didn’t know where Grace was, but he did know that his dad was already at work and so was his mom. It was therefore a perfect chance to talk to Lily and this time he was determined that he would not let Lily make any excuse.
“Hey, Lils, can I talk to you for a sec?”
“Um… I have to go talk to Grace, James. We can talk tonight, okay?” Lily said, quickly eating her breakfast.
“Lily, I wanna talk to you now. I see you’re done with your breakfast. Lets go over to the backyard.”
“James, Grace is going out with Alex in ten minutes. I have to talk to her before she goes.” She hurried towards the staircase, when James’ next sentence stopped her.
“Having a crush on someone is not something you should be scared to admit to me, Lils,” James said.
Lily whirled around. She looked furious. “Really, James? Why, you always made me feel like it was a sin. Why the change of the attitude all of a sudden?” Her voice rose as she spoke.
Grace suddenly appeared on the staircase. She was dressed up to go out with Alex. “Lily, what’s wrong?” She appeared concerned.
“Nothing, I just think it’s time that I talk to my older brother.”
James glanced at Grace and wondered where she was going but he didn’t have the time to think about that right now. Now was his chance to talk to Lily, and yes, offer her an apology. He turned towards Lily again. “Lily, I know I have been hard on you. I’m sorry that I didn’t realize that I had been holding you back. It’s just that it’s so hard for me to accept that you’re grown up now.” He looked at her miserably.
“It’s okay, James. Glad that you realized it now at least. But how did you come to notice that I am not a kid anymore?”
“I guess I just didn’t wanna accept that you are not a kid anymore because I would feel old then. You’re my little sister after all.” He gave a dry laugh. “But then I got the talk I deserved for being such a fool.” He looked at Grace and winked, who merely smiled in response.
“Well, don’t beat yourself over it now. I’ll see you later.”
“Hey, Lils, if you ever need to talk, remember, I’m here to listen okay.”
“Yeah, James, I know.” She hugged James and ran up the stairs.
“Hey, Lils,” James called again.
“What is it now?” Lily was exasperated.
“You know, how about we throw you a grand party for your seventeenth birthday? I would like to do that for you before I leave for my Quidditch game next month.”
“You’re leaving, James?” Grace asked, “I thought you said you weren’t playing any games this summer.”
“I wasn’t but they said they needed me for we’re playing one of the toughest teams this summer.”
“Really, who are you playing?” Lily asked.
“Germany, and you know our team can’t win a match without me!” he winked.
“Of course, James.” She laughed and finally reached the landing when James called again.
“Lils, I am gonna ask dad to especially invite Mr. Oliver Woods and his son to the party. After all, Mr. Woods was the proud captain of the Gryffindor team and dad has always admired him and well you’ve always admired his son. So it makes sense, doesn’t it?” He smiled.
Lily was flushed. She looked away and ran to her room. James silently laughed and looked at Grace who was observing the exchange.
“You don’t have to play the matchmaker, you know,” Grace said quietly. “It’s just enough that you have finally accepted the truth.”
“I know. But I realize that Lily might have missed some opportunities because of me. I wanna make up for it.” He inspected her from top to bottom and said, “You’re looking pretty. What are you all dressed up for?”
Grace looked away and blushed. In a quiet voice, she said, “I’m going out.” Right then she felt arms wrapping around her from behind and turned to find Alex grinning..
“It’s been too long since I last saw you,” he whispered, kissing her cheek.
Grace blushed furiously as she felt James’ eyes on them. She pulled away from Alex and then introduced him to James. “James, this is Alex, my boyfriend, and Alex, this is James, Lily’s brother.”
“It’s hard not to know who he is,” Alex said, “after all, he’s the most famous Quidditch player of Britain today and was the most famous captain of Hogwarts. It’s nice to meet you, sir.”
“Sir? Oh please, don’t make me feel ancient. Please call me James,” he said shaking Alex’s hand. “I gotta go right now, Grace. You guys have fun.” With this James went out of the house.
“So what do you have in mind?”
“Nothing too special. I just wanted to see you, Grace. I haven’t seen you in two weeks. I miss you. But I was thinking we could go watch a Muggle movie and do all things Muggle in London.”
“That sounds wonderful,” said Grace, “And I missed you too Alex.” She smiled. It was nice seeing him. He was a good friend and he always made her feel so loved and cherished. Whenever she was around him, she would be filled with warmth and she felt very protected. But she did not feel any passion. And she wasn’t sure she could keep the relationship going without the passion. Again, she felt a little twinge of guilt for not having any kind of romantic feelings for him. She was being pulled in two directions. She knew he would be crestfallen if she told him how she felt about him, but she also couldn’t bear the lying. She did not want to give him some false hope, only to have it dashed later. She would tell him before the summer was over.
Alex took her hand and they left for London. On their way out, they saw James who was servicing his broom and waved at them.
James kept looking after them long after they were some tiny dots on the horizon. It wasn’t only Lily who had grown up after all. Grace was also a young woman now, and she had a boyfriend as well. She was not little Gracie anymore. She was a gracious young lady, and he swore to himself he would start treating both Lily and Grace as the ladies they were.
It was only after dinner that James finally got to talk to his dad about throwing the party. Harry had seemed to be distracted all day. While James and Ginny were preparing dinner together, James had heard them talk in hushed tones. He couldn’t make out the words, but their voices carried tones of excitement and slight concern. He decided it was prudent to let them talk uninterrupted. If they were talking about something that concerned the family, he was sure they would tell him.
He liked watching his parents making dinner together. Even though there were house elves to do the chore for them, they enjoyed preparing dinner together. His parents had been through so much together at Hogwarts, and their experiences had forged a kind of love and mutual respect that was stronger than anything that would have formed under normal circumstances. He appreciated how his father never took anything in life for granted. Harry frequently said that he had been given a second chance at life, and that he wanted to enjoy every little gift that had come with this new life. But he never elaborated on that. He wondered if his dad would ever tell him about his endeavors. He had learned whatever he knew about his dad’s adventures and challenges at Hogwarts from other people and from the books that had been published on the matter. Whenever Harry talked about Hogwarts, he had always just told them about how it had been a home for him that he had never had before. Harry never said anything about his encounters with Lord Voldemort. He was not the one to brag.
After dinner, James decided the broach the subject of the party.
“Hey, dad! You know since Lily is turning seventeen in a couple of weeks, how about we throw her a big birthday party? That way, I could also get to see all of our friends and family before I go.”
“That’d be lovely, James. We did it for you as well as Albus. But this year, your mom and I are quite busy with our work. I don’t know if we could throw a party at that scale. You know how our schedules have been lately.”
“Come on, dad, you can use a little break from your work. And well, mom’s been over-stressing herself. If she keeps going like this, then I can see wrinkles forming on her face a month from now.” He laughed.
“Young man, you do realize that I’m right behind you?” Ginny said, indignantly.
“Hey, mom,” James walked up to his mom and kissed her on the cheek. “You know I was kidding. You’re evergreen. You can never grow old or have wrinkles. It’s a shame that no one in the world is as pretty as you these days.” He gave her his most charming smile.
“Ok, James. I know what you want. You don’t have to act all charming on me. Save that for your lady friends.”
“Mom, I don’t have to act charming. Your son is naturally charming!”
“If I may interrupt your praise of yourself for a second, I want you to know that if I let you throw this party, the entire responsibility of planning the party will be on you,’ Harry said, laughing and shaking his head at his son.
“Thanks, dad!” James gave a huge smile and went off, but then turned around and said, “And dad, don’t worry about anything. I will take care of everything.”
“Are you sure you can handle such a big responsibility?” Grace said as she met James on the landing.
“Oh, hey, Grace! I didn’t see you during dinner. I hope you had fun with Alex tonight.”
Grace blushed again, and said, “Yeah, I had dinner with him. I just got back.” She started to turn around and go.
“Hey, Grace, since you seem to think I can’t handle the responsibility on my own, would you like to help me with the preparations?” he asked hopefully and then hurriedly added, “Unless you’ve other things to do of course,” and gave a mischievous smile.
Grace blushed a shade darker. “James!” she punched him in the arm.
"So, do you?" James asked.
"Yeah sure, why not. Lily might wanna help too."
"Yeah, but I don't want her helping me. The party is for her. She shouldn't have to work for the party. You don't have to work either if you don't want to."
"No, just let me know what I can do to help."
"Ok, cool! I'll see you tomorrow then and we can start planning."
"Yeah. Good night."
James looked at Grace's receeding figure, and smiled to himself. If someone had popped up right then, he couldn't explain why he was smiling for the life of him. He was just very pleased and eager for tomorrow.
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