Chapter 1 : Chapter 1: A Mixed Reception
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Chapter 1: A Mixed Reception
The train rattled ahead faster than he might have liked. The wheels screeched, the steam billowed and outside was nothing but hazy fog. He was used to that; things not adding up and memories different to that of three, four, five, six years ago. Who said that two plus two equals four? As far as he was concerned, two plus two wasn’t even a number. It was a way of life. It was step by step and leaping and backtracking and seventeen thousand, five hundred and sixty-three hours since he last remembered adding two and two to make four.
It was a bit odd though. Going home. Family. Hugs and kisses that might mean something. Tears over his presence in the morning not his absence. And oh, would there be tears. Strops and tantrums and screaming and fighting and brawling – all over one boy, one man who had never and would never grow up.
The train picked up speed again and in a flash of sunlight behind a rising hillside, he saw one moment of a bird swooping down on a rippling lake. A monstrous thing, it dipped into the water with more grace than he could ever dream of and in a second, re-emerged with a beak full of a struggling fish, before it lifted out of sight again.
And the train continued to race.
It jostled him in his seat and the leather covering slid him up and down. The gentleman opposite him – complete with a bizarre magenta bowler hat and monocle without glass – glanced over and shot him an offended looking scowl. He shot back an arrogant smirk that only he had perfected of a lip twisting upwards and narrowed eyes and quizzical brow. His sister had tried too many times to copy its nonchalance but to no effect. Oh, he would love to see her try it when she saw him. Disdain was key to the lip twist, and disdain was certainly what she must have had for him by now.
“Twenty-four minutes to Temple Meads. Twenty-four minutes.”
The sound of the voice projecting down the racing train jolted the pair of them out of the staring contest and the younger man smirked. Grabbing his bag, he pulled out a scrap of parchment and a Muggle pen he’d found on his travels. Without much thought, he scrawled his message in his laziest handwriting and stood up on the seat to grab the owl cage which was rattling above his head. Pulling it down, he freed the tiny owl – nothing more than a ball of fur, really – from its container and quickly tied the letter to its leg.
“You know where it’s going,” he murmured, pulling open the window and squeezing the tiny bird through the gap. It hovered for a second before zooming out of sight and he collapsed back in his chair, relaxed. “Listen, mate, you got some sort of problem with me?” he added as the hat clad gentleman stared him down again. His jaw set, the elderly man shook his head slowly. “Good man. Glad to hear it.” Then, tucking his hands behind his head and his feet up on the opposite seat, he leant back. “Glad to hear it.”
“No, no. Louis, get down. How old are you? Oh, Lily, no, don’t be stupid, go inside and help your grandmother.”
Ginny Potter’s voice had lost the majority of its usual vitality, sounding far into the realms of apathetic exhaustion. Weddings were many things but stressful was top of that list, especially with a guest list the size it was. Relatives and step-relatives and relatives neighbours and friends and friends’ families – the lists went on and on, then on a little bit more. The sound of almost screeching laughter inside gave her a fairly strong inkling that the work she’d assigned the supposedly now mature children to was not going quite to plan and she groaned.
All of them twenty plus, or nearly there, and yet they still managed to make a hash of everything they did. Straightening chairs and chair covers and rearranging ribbons around the place was the least she had expected, in all honesty, from having Louis, Al and Lily put in charge of laying things out. Dominique’s wedding would be the second in a year, and yet they still hadn’t learnt the art of charming the ribbons to flutter calmly and feeding the plants three times a day to keep them fresh. How she’d even managed to get herself to be the Mess Remover of the afternoon shift was beyond her, though was aware it was probably down to her mother.
Finishing the decoration inside the marquee, Ginny stepped into the June sunlight and waited a moment. Silence. It should have been golden but no. It was stunned, broken and peaceful though it might have been, there was an underlying reverberation of ‘not right’ and ‘too quiet’ racing through her. Her stomach pressed against her skin and her breathing was a little off. As she got closer to the house, the silence became hushed whispers to loud protests to a scream of petulant “NO!” and then she was there.
Harry turned to face her, chewing his lip and glancing down at the letter clasped in his hand. She moved to take it off him but the click of a beak distracted her first. Sat on Al’s shoulder, pecking at some treat that the youngest Potter boy was feeding it was a tiny ball of fur. An owl. His owl. Beryl, the owl. She snatched the letter without a second thought:
Get the champagne out. James is coming home.
Every face was the same. Each read plainly the same message as the cry that Ginny now realised had come from her daughter.
A/N: Very short chapter, I am aware. Later ones shall be longer but I think adding to this would ruin it a little.
I would love love love to dedicate this whole thing to the title creator, MOLLY ♥ I love her like...a ridiculous amount and so this is for you, my dear.
Anything thoughts on how this is for a starting chapter are very, very welcome!