Chapter 1 : I
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He wasn’t looking at me. “Who?” He asked. “Tell me.”
“Not you…” I whispered.
My name is Renee Cook. And I am happy.
If asked to describe themselves in one word, not many would choose the word ‘happy’. It’s a big shout, I suppose, isn’t it? To describe yourself as completely and utterly happy?
But that’s how it was for me. I guess, in a completely cliché way, you could say I had it all. I wasn’t perfect. Far from it. I got good grades, but never the best. I had a lot of people care about me, but I wasn’t the most popular. I wasn’t butt ugly, but I wasn’t a beauty queen.
That’s the thing, really. You don’t need perfection to be happy. I was happy with my lot. I was happy with my average-to-decent grades, my close circle of friends, my floppy hair that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be blonde or brown, my butt that would deceive me by looking reasonably shapely on some days but just plain wobbly on others. Most of all, I was happy with my boyfriend. My Mr Perfect.
“What’re you smirking at?” Christian (read: Mr Perfect himself) asked, suspiciously.
“I’m not smirking,” I informed him, cheerily, “I’m smiling,”
“Any particular reason?”
“Other than it being my birthday?”
“Uh-huh. Day of birth doesn’t allow excessive smiling. What’s the reason?”
“Do I need one?”
“Unless you want Vector to send you for a calming draught, probably. He looks concerned.”
I toned down the smiling a little and focused on the translation we were supposed to be doing, “Maybe I just really like Ancient Runes,”
“Maybe that’s why he’s concerned for your health,” Chris suggested idly, reaching for my hand absently across the table while he jotted down some notes.
I watched him concentrate for a moment, a bit of a crease forming between his eyebrows as he focused on whatever the hell he was writing.
Ordinarily I wasn’t one of the those girls that stares dreamily at her boyfriend, pondering just how lucky she really is etc, etc. I mean, I loved him and everything but it had been three years. We’d gotten over all that sappy stuff aged fourteen so now… well, I guess we took each other for granted.
It sounds a bad thing, but it’s not. Of course we took each other for granted. Because we knew we always could count on each other to be there. Chris was my constant. He had been long before we were together, even. My best friend, turned boyfriend. Two of the most important roles in my life played by one person.
So of course, we were passed the vomit-inducing stage of staring dreamily into one another’s eyes and overly abundant public displays of affection (to the relief of our friends).
But still. That didn’t mean that sometimes I didn’t look at him and just… really look. Not just seeing my Chris. Seeing the intense blue of his eyes; the straight line of his nose; his mouth, so ready to break into his cheeky, boyish grin; seeing his lean, confident strength…
Of course, he felt me looking.
“What’re you looking at?” He asked, without looking up.
“Nothing,” I replied, innocently, averting my eyes back to my work.
“You’re weird today. More than usual.” He informed me.
“Oh thanks, you charmer, you,”
“Ren.” He squeezed my hand, “What’s up?”
Oh holy hell. See what I mean by ‘we’re not usually the sort of couple that stare at each other’? Or even look at all, apparently.
“I was just looking around,” I said, “And my eyes happened to fall onto you, my boyfriend, for a couple more seconds more than usual. Is this an issue?”
“Why are you smiling?” Bloody hell, he was not going to let this go.
“Because it’s my birthday! Because I’m happy,” I said, half mocking but half irritated. “Aren’t you happy, dear?”
He grinned at my bared teeth. “You make me happy. Dear.” He mocked me right back, but held my gaze for a second longer than necessary, conveying the truth behind the petty banter.
Smiling, I lowered my eyes, “That’s alright then,”
“Hey,” He tugged on my hand.
I looked up.
It was my turn to stare suspiciously at him now. His smile was too secretive. He had something planned. He always did. He loved birthdays – well, anytime to spoil anyone – but was completely useless at keeping secrets. Usually he’d be bursting to tell me for weeks before, so Rob and Luc would have to physically restrain him. It was a full-time job.
I don’t know why he was bothering with the pretend-I’ve-done-nothing act. He knew I knew there was something going on. Last year it’d been a huge surprise party in the evening, so that was a possibility. Although it wasn’t very Chris-like to do the same thing two years running. And the year before it’d been one of every single item sold in Honeydukes because of my ‘indecisive nature’, as he’d called it. Before that it had been a string of surprises including Quidditch tickets, an agreement to take me shopping (despite his hate for the activity – probably a little to do with my indecision) and smaller things from the earlier days of our friendship.
Always a big gesture. Always horrifically difficult to match up to when it came to his birthday. Sometimes it was a bit of a drag having such a wonderfully original and imaginative boyfriend. Like last year, when I’d been completely stumped for what to get him so ended up inviting him skiing with my family. Not such a treat, really, when you consider it a week spent with my Dad pointing out enthralling things like interesting birds, my older sister Harriet complaining day and night about the cold, and my younger sister Chelsea as usual showing no social boundaries and asking him five hundred and twenty questions about his life story. Not to mention, being a pure-blood, he’d had difficulty even grasping the concept of throwing yourself down a mountain on two planks of wood.
It surprised me, sometimes, that he did actually love me.
Point was, it was nearing the end of the day and he’d still not told me what it was.
Perhaps he actually hadn’t got me anything. Perhaps he thought that, after three years, we were past such grand gestures of love. To be honest, it’d be a bit of a relief. It was beyond my mental capacity to keep up with him.
But nope. We were on the way to our next class when he stopped me. He’d always walk me halfway to Divination before turning and heading outside for Herbology. This time he pulled me to a stop besides the tapestry on the fifth floor.
“Ok,” He pulled it aside and backed into the passageway behind it, “I can’t wait any longer.”
I narrowed my eyes at him in the dim light. It was lit only by a mounted lantern, casting a warm, orangey glow. “I knew you were the one acting weird.” I said, adding, “Weirder than usual. And then you go and accuse me of acting strange -”
He shrugged, sheepishly, “I thought you might guess,”
I smiled, “I promised you I wouldn’t look. Back in third year.”
“I know. And I trust you.” He assured me with a grin, before chewing on his lip, agitatedly.
I stared, “What?”
“Ok,” He said, “I just… I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. I don’t want to scare you or anything. I just…”
“You’re scaring me now,” I said, a little anxiously. Chris didn’t do nervous.
“Sorry. It’s not scary. I promise. Just… here,” He pulled out a small, gold box from his pocket, “Happy Birthday.”
Well, this was a lot smaller than previous presents. I suppose, after the skiing shenanigans, he was making more of an attempt to even the scores.
“Chris, what…” I took the delicate little box, suddenly even more apprehensive. Little packages didn’t always mean little present…
“Don’t worry, it’s not an engagement ring or anything,” He said, hurriedly, as I opened the box, “I just saw it and… thought of you. I just thought it was pretty…”
A ring. Not an engagement ring, I was fully assured. But a ring. A beautiful ring. A thin gold band with a cluster of small pearls set in glittering –
“Christian!” I said, sternly, “This is ridiculous, I -”
“You don’t like it?”
“No, I love it. It’s beautiful but -”
“Exactly. Beautiful ring for a beautiful girl,” His cheeky grin told me that he was fully aware of the cheesiness of that statement.
“But it must have been so expensive…”
Chris always worried me with how far he’d go with presents. With his father being fairly high up at the ministry, he had access to far more money than he ought to and his father would never deny his only son anything he wanted. It was a wonder that he’d turned out the selfless, generous prat that he was rather than a spoilt little brat with the upbringing he’d had.
Only problem was, there was no way I could match up to a present like this…
“Not an issue, Ren,” He gently took the box from me and eased the ring from the groove in the cushion where it sat, “I know you worry about that sort of thing, but just humour me, will you? Here,”
He took my hand and went to put the ring on my finger, seemingly oblivious to the obvious parallels.
“No, Chris,” I took my left hand away, “That’s my wedding finger,” I gave him my right hand, trying not to let it shake.
“Oh. Right.” He didn’t seem to give one about the connotations and slid the ring onto the fourth finger of my ring hand, instead. He grinned and kissed the finger, “There. Beautiful.”
I couldn’t help but smile back. His face just did that to me, “You shouldn’t have.” I told him, seriously. But I couldn’t help my eyes keep darting back to it. He was right. It was so beautiful.
“But I did,” He said, reaching for my other hand and pulling me close to him, “And you can never refuse a ring from someone you love. That’s just cruel,”
“I’m not refusing it,” I lifted my arms to put them around his shoulders, “I’m just informing you how silly and irresponsible it was.”
“I wanted you to have it,” His arms slid around my waist, “That’s all that matters.”
I rested my head on his chest. I wasn’t going to bring up the fact that I could in no way whatsoever afford something like that for him. It was a tired old argument that he just couldn’t comprehend, and even now to me it just sounded petty, overdone and ungrateful.
“You spoil me,” I said, listening idly to his steady, strong heart beat.
He smiled into my hair, “Maybe a bit,”
“I’ll turn into a bratty little princess, if you’re not careful,”
“No you won’t,” He cupped my chin and lifted my face, “You’ve got Harrie and Chelsea to put you in your place,”
“So unfortunately true,”
He laughed and tilted my face up to lightly kiss me, “I love you,”
“I love you too. A lot. And thank you. A lot,”
“Not a problem, Princess,” He grinned as I pinched him in mock anger. “We should probably get to class,”
I followed him out from the passageway into the main corridor, which was now rather empty. “Chris. Thank you,” I traced the smooth shape of the pearls.
“Don’t mention it,” He insisted, and with one more kiss made his way outside. “Happy Birthday!” He called behind him, leaving me to make my way up to the North tower with a sappy smile on my face.
“Miss Cook, you are late,” Professor Trelawney announced as I made a crappy attempt to sneak to the back of the room.
“Sorry!” I called with a bright smile.
“Do settle down,” She replied, with a swish of her shawl.
“How do you manage to get away with that?” My best friend, Roxy muttered as I sat beside her.
“Ah,” I replied, mystically, “We with the inner eye have an innate understanding…”
“Bollocks to that,” Roxy retorted, and shoved the crystal ball in my direction. “Here. You can give me some sort of answers other than the stupid fog I see,”
See, I wasn’t exactly lying about the inner eye thing. Alright, I’m not exactly cut out to be some sort of a famous seer. I’ve never had any independent visions, anyway. Roxy reckons it’s because I’m at least half-sane, and Chris reckons it’s because with a best mate like Roxy who’s so down-to-earth she’s half-buried, I don’t have the freedom. To be honest, after an hour with Trelawney, I’m sort of more in agreement with Roxy.
But anyway. What I can do is be kind of freakishly accurate with a crystal ball, tea leaves, reading the planets, whatever. Most mediums I’m presented with, I can use. It does Roxy’s head in. But she’s a good friend (and a good bull-shitter) so she’s stuck to Divination with me for the past four years.
Chris, however, dropped it as soon as he received his ‘P’ at OWL level. He said it freaked him out, seeing me making these predictions that would later come true. He was right. It bloody freaked me out. Especially at the beginning, when I had no sort of control over it at all and would end up prediction very personal things. I saw Chris asking me out before he worked up the guts. I saw our first kiss, our first row. I saw him break his ankle falling from his broom.
And the worst part is that there seems to be nothing I can do about it.
I did try. Alright, I wasn’t going to stop the good things. But the row I saw Chris and I having – I tried to avoid the topic. It came about anyway. And I warned him about the Quidditch injury. He promised to be careful in the match – it happened in training.
So, like I said, it could be pretty freaky. I didn’t like it. I, like Chris, was ready to drop the subject after receiving my ‘O’ at OWL level. But Professor Trelawney stopped me. I was adamant, at first, that I was sick of seeing things happen to the people I loved and having no control whatsoever over it. But she helped me develop the ability to kind of control what I saw. At least a little bit.
See, I’d generally see things vaguely to do with what was on my mind. When I saw Chris asking me out, it was because I was impatient with wondering when it was going to happen – it seemed obvious enough to everyone else, as Roxy many a time informed me. When I saw our first kiss, I was anticipating it. When I saw the row, it was because that particular issue was on my mind. When I saw him fall from his broom it was because I always worried about him when he had a match.
Professor Trelawney encouraged me to keep my personal life far from my mind when I was ‘delving into the future’. If I focused more on trivial things, and never my friends, my family, Chris… then it was more likely that I wouldn’t see them.
Well, I’ll admit that I’d been tempted to cheat when it came to birthdays. But Chris had come to the same conclusion back when I’d first discovered my talent and made me promise not to look. And the same went for his birthday. I couldn’t even take a quick peak into the future to see what pathetic idea I’d come up with. It was only fair.
But, anyway, it worked. For the last two years I’d seen nothing more interesting than the weather for the upcoming Hogsmeade weekend. Boring – yes. But stressful – no.
I wiped my mind blank, as was my usual preparation for using a crystal ball, and focused on dinner. What was going to be served for dinner, that was a safe one. And also vaguely interesting. It was going to be my birthday dinner, after all…
“Oh my God!” Roxy’s voice broke through my consciousness, “Ren! What is that ring?!”
It was too late. Her words registered just as I delved through the fog in the crystal ball. There was no time to wipe my thoughts, no time to block it out before…
It was a sunny day. I could see that because the sun was reflecting blindingly from the dewy grass and my white, floor length dress.
My father was beside me, mouthing words I couldn’t hear and smiling indulgently.
Roxy was there. Roxy, Harrie, Chelsea; gathered around me. And behind them, another two girls. I couldn’t quite see them behind my sisters, just the sun glinting from two red heads…
The ‘me’ in the ball was ushered around and the girls around me ordered into a line in front of me, ready to…
An aisle. An aisle between rows and rows of wooden chairs all facing the front. All facing…
A wedding. My wedding.
It must have been because Roxy had shrieked about my ring, she’d interrupted me! Now I’d connected ring with wedding and…
Oh my God. My wedding. I was seeing my wedding.
I looked forwards, around the girls lined up in front of me. Roxy, Harrie, Chelsea… the red heads, whose faces I still hadn’t seen. I craned my neck to see Chris. My boyfriend. My fiancé. My husband…
Two men were stood at the opposite end of the aisle, facing away from me. Chris and his best man. Who would it be, I wondered, Rob or Luc…
The backs in front of me weren’t Rob or Luc. In fact neither of the men before me had Rob’s cropped brown hair style, Luc’s shaven head or…
The two heads in front of me were dark.
Where was Chris? Where was the brown-gold head I was looking for?
It wasn’t Chris. This was my wedding. It wasn’t Chris.
I was being ushered forwards, down the aisle.
It wasn’t Chris.
I could see the band begin to play and heads turned towards me. All head began to turn including…
In one instant I threw the table away from me, stood up and backed up into the table behind.
“Ren!” Roxy exclaimed in a hushed voice into the silence that followed my outburst.
“Miss Cook!” Professor Trelawney flitted over to me quickly, “What did you see? Something unsettling? Tell me about it, dear -”
“No,” I shook my head frantically, “No, I didn’t. I didn’t see anything. I didn’t… I’m sorry I just -”
“She saw a spider,” Roxy announced, putting an arm around me, “On the desk. She’s terrified of them. Don’t worry Ren,” She assured me theatrically, “You’re ok. It’s gone,”
“Ah,” Professor Trelawney seemed utterly disappointed that I hadn’t seen something tragic, “Never mind, dear. Just try again in your own time…”
When the rest of the class had resumed their own conversations, a few furtive looks thrown in my direction, Roxy demanded an explanation.
I realised I was still breathing heavily, “Thanks for the save.”
“Whatever,” She dismissed with a wave of her hand, “What did you see?”
“Who the hell is even scared of spiders? Everyone’s going to think I’m completely pathetic -”
“My Uncle Ron. Cries like a girl if he sees one. Hilarious. Stop changing the subject. What did you see?”
When I tried to breathe in it sounded dangerously like I was going to cry.
“Ren,” For once Roxy’s voice became gentle, which meant she was genuinely concerned, “Was it awful? Do you want me to get Chris -”
“No,” I shook my head, quickly, “Don’t get Chris,”
“I know he hates it when you see bad stuff, but he won’t be angry that you made a mistake this once. If you’re upset he’ll want to know -”
“I saw my wedding,” I said, quietly.
That stumped her, “You saw… BLOODY HELL!” She yelped.
“Rox, ssh!” I hissed, as her exclamation caught the attention of a few people.
“Sorry,” She lowered her voice to match my own, but her eyes were flitting between me, the crystal ball and my hand. “Fuck! Christian proposed?”
“No! Oh God, no,” I said, hastily, waving my ring-bound hand, “This… this was a birthday present. We’re not… it’s not -”
“Oh, but he will,” Roxy seemed, now, unruffled. She gestured to the crystal ball, “He must do. And besides, everyone knows you two are meant to be. I just didn’t think he had it in him to ask you this soon. You know Mr Sensible, I thought he’d have his million pound salary sorted before he offers his life to you -”
“Stop saying it like he’s already asked me! He hasn’t -”
“Yeah, but he will! You’ve seen it -”
“And why are you so shocked by something you surely expected all along… wait. What?”
I swallowed, “I didn’t see… mine and Chris’ wedding,”
Roxy blinked, “But you said -”
I widened my eyes, willing her to understand. I wasn’t sure I could say it aloud.
“- Oh God. It wasn’t… It wasn’t Chris?” She lowered her voice even more, as if he was going to hear her all the way from the greenhouses. “But Ren, you… You two are perfect, you… It wasn’t Chris?” She repeated.
I mutely shook my head, biting my lip.
“Fuck. Then who?”
“I don’t know,” I whispered, “I couldn’t see… just the back. The hair. The dark hair.”
“Dark hair.” Roxy echoed, looking around the room as if my future husband were about to step out from the shadows and announce himself. “But Chris…”
I shrugged, helplessly.
“Fuck, Ren. You and Chris are meant to be together forever.”
I shrugged again.
“You just always… It’s always been you two.”
“What – or who – the hell is going to be big enough to break you two up?”
That was precisely what I wanted to know.
Hi! So this just popped into my head and I thought I'd get it down while I'm having this painful block on my other stories (don't worry, I'm fighting through it).
What did you think of Renee and Christian? And Roxy? And the mysterious groom...? Any ideas? Basically, is it worth carrying on with?
Thanks for reading, please leave a review!