Chapter 26 : Apologies and a Lack of Excuses
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A/N: Hey, you lot!
I know it's been pretty long since my last update BUT this is the longest chapter that you guys have probably ever read so, obviously, it took a little longer than I thought it would to put it all together. I didn't want to split up this chapter because I didn't want to do that to you guys. I wouldn't want it done to me, anyway. But alas, HPFF's rules may not have a limit but the uploader does so the chapter has been split it up but I promise I'll update the next part of the chapter as soon as this part is validated.
This is, essentially, the first part of the last chapter of this story. After this there is only the second part of the chapter and then an epilogue left, which I've already written. And, after THAT, I will start the sequel to Deja Vu.
Yes, there is going to be a sequel.
We're almost at the end. Thanks so much for being with me all this time!
I'd like to thank my beta, emmapotter, for all the work she's put into this story.
And now, after that absurdly long Author's Note, I give you the first part of the end.
“You look terrible.”
I snorted in a way that I imagined must have sounded very pig-like but since I already looked terrible to everyone, I decided to let go of my girly inhibitions.
I kept stirring my tea, even though I knew that the sugar must have dissolved ages ago. Perhaps the reason why I kept stirring was because the clinking of my spoon against the porcelain cup was the only sound that broke the awkward silence, a silence which, let’s just say, I could have done without.
The little muggle café was rather cosy, and it had the added benefit of being a non magical establishment, meaning that my chances of running into anyone I knew from school were slim to none. That fact alone would have been enough to get me out of the house for a cup of tea. But that wasn’t why I had dragged myself out of bed. That, I did for the person who’d asked it of me.
Landon looked, perhaps, just as good as I looked bad. His long holiday in Paris and the many weekend trips that he took with Sasha had done him good. His skin was glowing with a great tan which must have come from the many days spent in the summer sun. His hair had gotten longer and a little sun bleached, but this all suited him. Although he was watching me with barely masked concern, his face still had that glow.
You know that ‘glow’? When someone’s really happy with the way their life is going?
The glow that seemed to be stuck on everyone’s faces but mine?
The glow that I used to have?
You get the point.
He had that glow.
He looked great, in other words.
I had pulled my stringy, slightly greasy hair into a ponytail before Landon had pulled me out of the house, and was wearing a baggy t-shirt that had once been Landon’s and sweatpants. My skin, unlike my brother's, was just as pale as it had always been, having spent a lot of time over the summer in what could only be described as solitary confinement. My eyes looked sunken and I had dark circles.
I looked like the Grim Reaper’s assistant.
Landon had thought so as well, apparently, which was why he had put his foot down and decided to get me out of the house. The sun was shining brightly and I squinted my eyes as I looked out the window. It was a beautiful day…the kind that I couldn’t bring myself to admire.
I cleared my throat before I spoke. “So, what are you going to do over the weekend?” I attempted, my voice raspy from not having been used very much.
“I don’t know yet. Haven’t made any plans as of now.” he replied lightly, watching me carefully.
I raised an eyebrow as I took a sip of my tea. “You haven’t made plans yet? It’s Thursday.”
It was his turn to raise his eyebrow. “In what world? It’s Monday.”
I furrowed my brow in confusion. “Monday?” I asked.
He nodded slowly.
“Yeah, Monday. The 10th of July.”
My eyes widened as I digested this information.
The 10th of July.
The 10th of July?
I had thought it was the 6th. A whole four days had gone by and I hadn’t even noticed. I hadn’t even kept track of the time.
Well, that’s four days I’d never see again.
I was surprised so much time had passed. It had felt like ages…well, it had been ages, hadn’t it? 15 days had passed by since…
Happy place, Briars, think of a happy place.
But I couldn’t. I couldn’t think of a happy place. I had been trying and failing for the better part of two weeks now.
I’d cried at the beginning.
Oh, yes. I cried.
I cried a lot, in fact. More than I had at perhaps any other time in my life.
Albus had been with me that first day. He had been the best mate I could’ve ever wanted. As soon as he had gotten over the initial shock of what he saw, he had insisted that his parents take us back to my place before meeting James. Lily and Hugo had looked like they wanted to argue but had said nothing at a look from Harry. Harry and Ginny had not asked any questions about why Albus wanted to leave without congratulating his brother on the match. Perhaps because they could tell that if they didn’t take us home, Al would apparate us over himself.
Al had let me cry. I’m sure it must have been weird as hell for him, watching his best friend weep over his brother. And he must have found it scary as well, considering the last time he saw me cry like that was after my first break up in 4th year. A bad comparison to make since I’d at least had a reason to cry back then.
James and I had never even had anything together to begin with. By all means, I had no right to cry at all. But Al said nothing of the sort. He had just let me lie on my bed in a foetal position with my head in his lap, stroking my hair.
Rose and Mona had replaced him the very next day. My mum had replaced them the day after that. I’d stopped crying by the 4th day.
Then it was just silence. I didn’t even read, I didn’t eat all that much. I refused to look at any newspapers or magazines, or anything in writing which would perhaps trigger more thoughts. It was childish of me. But I didn’t give a damn.
There was no sense of time either, since all the curtains in my room were shut and I only ever travelled down the corridor to my bathroom, nowhere else. No wonder I didn’t know the date properly anymore.
Mum and dad must have been worried sick. But they had let me take my time, dropping into my room for a visit whenever I was feeling a little upbeat and would give monosyllabic answers as opposed to saying nothing at all. They’d never seen me like this before and I hated that they had to see me go all weak… all over some boy.
He’s not just some boy, answered the rebellious voice in my head and I had the urge to laugh derisively.
Of course he wasn’t.
He was James Potter, son of the Boy-Who-Lived, Quidditch star and completely and utterly unavailable.
I had blown it. I really had. I should have said something. There were so many times when I should and could have said something but I never listened to the quickening of my heartbeat, the warmth of my skin or the fluttering in my stomach, all the indications of my feelings for James. I had had a chance, no matter how small, and I had blown it.
Not only had I blown it, I had also hurt the feelings of a guy who was possibly perfect in every way. A guy who I had loved to talk to and laugh with and spend time around. I had cheated on Henry with James and then, I had taken too long telling James anything and within a month, I had no chance with either. I didn’t mind not having a chance with Henry anymore; I didn’t quite deserve someone of such calibre. But I had to admit, the thought of not having a chance with James stung very deep.
I had no one to blame but myself.
Which was exactly what I was doing.
I realized that Landon had been watching me carefully and tried to wipe my face of any expression. I didn’t want him to guess what I had been thinking. He’d be well and properly ashamed if he heard what was flying around in my head. Our parents had taught us both to face our problems and obstacles head on, but seeing me now, one would think that I had missed that particular memo.
“I heard what happened.”
I blinked at the words that came out of my brother’s mouth.
“I’m sorry?” I asked hoarsely, taking another sip of my almost cold tea.
“I heard what happened with you and Henry…because of what happened with James.”
“Oh.” I said after a moment of silence.
I couldn’t even hold Landon’s gaze. I felt so ashamed of myself. I felt so guilty. My brother had always thought the best of me. He knew I messed up and all but he probably never thought of me, his kid sister, as someone who would cheat on their boyfriend. My cheeks started heating up and tears started filling my eyes. My vision became blurry and a lump started forming in my throat as I stared at the wooden table top. A single tear fell and splashed on the table top and within a second, Landon had pulled his chair closer to mine and had me enveloped in a brotherly hug.
“C’mon. Don’t cry love. Sshhh.” he whispered holding me close, stroking my hair gently.
That just made me wail even louder.
“I’m a horrible person, Landon! You should hate me!” I sobbed, drawing a lot of attention to myself.
“But I don’t, ok?” he murmured soothingly.”You’re my sister and I’ll always love you and be proud of you.”
“Well, you shouldn’t!” I howled wiping my tears away.
“Shut it.” he replied easily.
Landon held me for a very long time; until the last of my sobs dissipated. I was just sniffing a lot when Landon decided that it might be safe to pull away from me. He leaned back in his chair and watched me as I grabbed some napkins and wiped my nose.
Eventually, I had no excuse and I just had to face him, look him dead in the eye. Luckily, it was easier than I thought. Landon wasn’t judging me. He was just worried about me.
“Who told you?” I asked, trying to sound casual.
“D’you have to ask? Have you ever even met your mates? Mad, the whole lot of them! Got an owl each from Mona, Rose and Albus, telling me what had happened, saying that they were worried.” Landon said, smiling fondly and I couldn’t help but crack a small smile as well.
“They did, huh?”
I shook my head at the thought of my mates sending frantic owls to my elder brother, who had probably been looking for a reason to come and talk to me.
“Yeah, they did. They love you, you know. They’ve been really freaked out.” he told me quietly and I nodded to show that I understood.
“I’m so sorry.” I whispered a moment later, burying my face in my hands.
I looked up into my brother’s calm, serene face disbelievingly.
“Why? You’re asking me why?” I asked hysterically. “Landon, I kissed my best mate’s older brother!”
“I heard he kissed you.” Landon interjected mildly, and I waved it away impatiently.
“Fine, I let my best mate’s older brother kiss me! I was with my boyfriend at the time I let my best mate’s older brother kiss me! My boyfriend’s left me, my best mate’s older brother, who I may have a huge thing for, has run off with his older and far more beautiful team owner and my friends may think I’m mad! And, to top it all off, it’s all my fault!”
I took a few deep breaths to calm myself and looked into Landon’s face. He looked very serious, but in no way did he look angry or annoyed with my outburst. He just looked thoughtful. When he was sure that I wasn’t about to burst into more speech, he leaned forward.
“I know all that.” he stated very slowly. “What I meant was…why are you saying all this to me?”
I blinked as I thought over his words. He was waiting for me to put it together and, just like he knew I would, I knew what I had to do.
He was right; I didn’t need to say sorry to Landon.
No, I needed to apologize to someone else entirely.
“Okay, that’s great! Can I just have my messages, Nicole?” he asked, as he walked past the couch where I was sitting to the receptionist’s desk. “And would you mind –”
He turned around and caught sight of me sitting there. I could’ve sworn his jaw dropped a little bit, before he composed himself and turned to look at the receptionist questioningly, watching me out of the corner of his eye.
“Ms. Briars requested to see you. I told her you were busy.” answered the pretty receptionist, who I now gathered was named Nicole. “But she insisted on staying until you had finished. She’s been waiting for 4 hours.”
Nicole cast me a kind smile which I returned shyly. She handed over a few purple post-its, that no doubt contained all the messages that Henry had gotten while he’d been working. He took them slowly before he turned to face me. He wore no expression and gave nothing away as he took his time walking over to the sofa. I noticed that he looked very nice, wearing a light blue t-shirt and slightly loose jeans. I stood up when he got close enough and we stood barely 5 feet apart.
“Hey.” He stated and I started blushing.
Don’t ask; even I didn’t know why.
“Hello.” I replied breathily.
I realized, with a certain amount of relief that the breathy tone of my voice was because of my nervousness, not because of any effect that he was having on me. Oh, he looked very good and I certainly still found him very attractive but…I wasn’t attracted to him anymore if that made any sense at all…which, of course, it didn’t.
“So what can I do for you?” his tone was professional, even, and I was glad to notice that it contained much less hostility than it did the last time I spoke to him.
“I, um,” I started awkwardly. “I was wondering if, maybe, we could talk…”
He gave me a once over before he spoke.
“Right then.” he stated coolly. “Let’s take this somewhere else. There’s a place near my house that serves some good iced tea.”
It astounded me that he knew me well enough to know that I was craving some lemon flavoured iced tea. It was a fairly hot evening, almost a good week since my talk with Landon. I had been gathering my courage for days and it had taken much prodding from Al, Rose, Mona and my parents to get me here. But, it was moments like that one made me want to turn tail and flee. Because I saw a very small but very real glitch with that plan.
“Um, well, I…um…” He raised an eyebrow at me and I sighed. “I still can’t Apparate and if we went closer to your place then either you’d have to take me home by side-along or let me use your fireplace so I can floo out and I don’t think that you’d…” I trailed off, shuffling a little.
He sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose, eyes shut tightly. I flinched. I’d barely been with him 5 minutes and I’d already ticked him off. Henry sighed as he dropped his hand to his side.
“It doesn’t matter.” he started quietly. “I’ll take you back. I could really use some coffee right now.”
And the best one was from that café. I distinctly remembered him telling me about that place more than once.
I shrugged and he gestured for me to follow him. He led the way through the familiar passage and the well lit staircase, down to the exit which led out into a rather quiet alleyway of muggle London. He looked around surreptitiously before he extended his arm to me. Ever the gentleman, I couldn’t help but think. I took his arm gingerly, not wishing to irritate him more than I already had with my presence.
I shut my eyes as the uncomfortable sensations that I associated with apparition enveloped me. My eyes opened automatically as fresh, slightly artificial air gushed into my lungs because of the deep breaths I was taking. I realized that Henry had Apparated us into the lobby of his apartment building. I took a few more gulps of air, realizing but trying to ignore the fact that Henry was watching me with a certain amount of concern, as he always used to whenever we Apparated anywhere together.
He cleared his throat when I caught his eye and looked away from me. and released my arm before he walked over to the glass doors of the building. He held the door open for me and I walked through, out into the high street. He soon fell into step with me and led me down the street until taking a left turn into a smaller street that had a café called Sol. It had a few outdoor tables which Henry preferred. Or at least I guessed he preferred them since he sank into one of the chairs, letting out a sigh as he did so. I awkwardly sat in the chair that was opposite his.
We’d barely been there ten minutes when someone arrived to take our order. After ordering a cold coffee for himself and an iced tea for me, he leaned back in his chair, letting his head drop back. He looked tired but that wasn’t surprising. He’d been covering all the Quidditch premier league matches and had been interviewing many of the new rookie players, as well as the veterans.
I had it on good authority, however, that he hadn’t interviewed James yet. And, if Nicole the receptionist’s gossip was worth anything, Henry had refused to interview James. This news hadn’t been released yet, of course, but it was only a matter of time before WWN let James Potter know that their best radio show host refused to interview him.
And then, James would know why.
According to what Rose and Al told me, James had been so out of touch with everyone that he had no idea that Henry and I weren’t even together anymore. He and Bethany Meyer had been spotted by many magazines together for numerous social events and he seemed quite oblivious to most other things. After all, the only people who knew what had happened had kept it to themselves, so I didn’t blame James for not staying updated about my love life.
Henry’s hair wasn’t its natural dark blonde anymore but was back to the bright blonde hue of Hayden Harkins’ hair. He looked amazing either way but I preferred the natural colour. Perhaps he could tell what I was thinking because he caught my eye as he ran his fingers through his hair.
“Duty calls. I’ve had to make a lot of public appearances so I changed it back.” he explained quietly and I nodded my understanding as a waitress brought out our order. “Thank you.” he said gratefully and the waitress smiled at him warmly before going back inside.
I took a sip of my iced tea and found it to be quite up to par. And Henry seemed to be falling in love with his cold coffee, but he just had a thing for caffeine in general. It felt oddly familiar, being back with him again, even if we weren’t a couple anymore.
It was then that I realized it was the familiarity as well that had kept me tied to Henry for so very long. I had taken advantage of how comfortable I had been with him. It was a shame really, because I rather liked him as a person. I just had to go fuck it all up. How very typical of me.
I set my glass back on the table top and watched Henry as he gulped down some of his cold coffee. I wondered how he’d been, who he’d talked to about what had happened. Not because I was worried about my reputation. Oh no, that wasn’t it. I had my mates to take the edge off. I was wondering who took the edge off for him. He had probably talked to Jon and Uncle Quinn. He really did look tired…and yet, as handsome as ever.
“Might I say…” he began, startling me out of my thoughts. “You look extraordinarily pale, considering Britain’s having the hottest weather it’s had since 1995.”
I cleared my throat before I spoke, “I haven’t been getting out much…or at all, for that matter.”
He raised an eyebrow and concern filled his eyes. “Are you…alright?”
I lowered my head and shut my eyes. “Please don’t do that.” I begged.
“Do what?” he asked, confusion colouring his voice.
“Be nice to me. It’s more than I deserve, especially after what I did to you.” My voice was shaking and I tried in vain to steady it.
“Aidan.” he started unsurely and I looked up at him then to stop him.
“Please just let me say what I came to tell you.” I blurted out and he closed his mouth, waiting for me to continue. “I’m so sorry Henry,” I breathed, wringing my hands. “for everything. You were so good to me. You gave me everything I wanted or needed and I can’t believe this is what I did to repay you. I’m so sorry! I treated you like crap and you deserve so much better than that. You were the most amazing boyfriend a girl could have. You always treated me like I was special and I –”
“Aidan, stop.” he said commandingly as he reached across the table to still my hands with one of his own.
I stopped speaking immediately and my hands stopped twitching under his calm touch. I watched him nervously, biting my lower lip as he withdrew his hand from mine. Henry was watching me with a fair bit of uncertainty in his eyes. But there was something else that I detected in his face which caused me some amount of relief. I dared to hope that it was empathy.
“Okay.” he said after what seemed like hours. I furrowed my brow.
“Okay?” I asked, not quite understanding what he meant.
Henry smiled a little, as if amused by what I had said. “Yes, okay.”
“I don’t –” I began but he interrupted me.
“It means that…I understand.”
I blinked. “You understand.” I stated sceptically.
“Yes, I understand.” He reiterated as he drained the last of his cold coffee.
“Pardon me for asking what may seem like a question to which the answer is very obvious…but, what exactly do you understand?” I asked hesitantly.
Henry burst into laughter and I could do nothing but stare at him. I wondered whether the pressure from his job was finally getting to him. It would be a very tragic end for anyone, going crackers because one was too burdened by their celebrity. But that didn’t make much sense to me seeing as how Henry rather loved his job. I just watched him laugh with a certain amount of apprehension before his laughter subsided.
“I’m sorry.” He said, chortling. “I’d forgotten how funny you could be. Your expression was pretty funny. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look that confused.”
“I think that’s because I am very confused right now.” I replied cautiously.
“Well, don’t be. It’s quite straightforward, actually.” He said matter-of-factly. The thing is, I forgive you.” He said the last part with a small flourish and that only had me more confused.
“You forgive me? Already?” I asked, disbelief probably etched in my features.
Henry nodded magnanimously.
“Yes, I forgive you. Already.” he added with a small wink.
And I meant it. Why would anyone forgive my behaviour so quickly? As the focus of my idiocy, I had honestly thought that he would be sane enough to be angry at me for a good few months before he forgave me. I had even made plans for Rose to apparate me to his office once a week for the next month! This was definitely a shock for me.
“That’s a really good question.” He reached for my iced tea and took a very small sip.
It was a habit of his that I found most endearing because, having had a lot of boys for friends, I was used to them thinking that food was communal property and it was quite normal to be staring at an empty plate or glass when left unattended for more than three minutes. But Henry always tried to take the smallest bites or sips when he wanted to taste anything that I ordered.
I found myself thinking about all the nice things about him rather often. Not because I missed him as my boyfriend but because I felt guilty about how I’d treated them. And because those very qualities would’ve made for a brilliant friend.
He set the iced tea back down in front of me before he leaned back in his chair. “I was really pissed off at you. Chances are that if you’d come back to talk to me the day after we’d ended it that I would have had you thrown off…” he gave me a sheepish look before he continued. “Escorted off the premises…but then I talked to Jon.”
“Okay…” I said, still not quite sure about where he was going with this.
“Did I ever tell you that Jon dated Dominique for a couple of months?” he asked casually, and I lifted an eyebrow.
“No, you didn’t.” I answered, getting comfortable.
“Well, he did. Right before I started dating Dominique, actually. Jon and Dom were a fairly reserved couple, but they were together and they seemed to have brilliant chemistry.” Henry explained, as he recalled the events from his last year in school. “But then Dom found out that Jon had been cheating on her.”
“Jon cheated on Dominique?” I asked loudly. “But no one cheats on Dominique!”
“I do believe Jon was the first…and the last I think because, well, you’ve seen Dominique.” Said Henry with a grin and I nodded. “I think, in many ways, the reason Dom started going out with me was to get back at Jon. Even though Jon had started dating someone else: Megan Summerby,” I gasped because Megan or Megs I had been told was Jon’s wife. Henry smiled at my reaction before he continued speaking. “Dominique knew that it stings when a guy’s best friend starts dating his ex. It’s a huge violation of the code for us guys, you know? But either way, that’s what got the ball rolling.”
“Wow! I never knew that!” I exclaimed, shaking my head.
“Yeah, well, it was a long time ago. But, like I said, I talked to Jon about…” he trailed off and I couldn’t help but flinch. There was still a slightly bitter note that entered his voice when he referred to the incident in question. I guess I deserved that and he had earned the right to use that tone many times over.
“Yeah.” I mumbled, hoping he’d take the hint and continue talking instead of letting me drown in the awkward silence that had surrounded us.
“Yeah, and he did the normal thing a mate is supposed to do. He cursed you to high heaven –”
“Thanks, Jon.” I muttered and Henry let out a laugh.
“He took me out for drinks and we both got smashed. But the next day when we woke up in my apartment with the names and addresses of many a witch written on our chests, he really levelled with me.” I couldn’t help but laugh at the image he had painted for me.
“He had only talked to me once about how he and Megs had gotten together and I suppose that I had forgotten but he reminded me that his relationship with that ‘wench that happens to be the love of my life’ started while he was with someone else.” Henry mused thoughtfully. I was barely breathing, hanging on to every word he said. “He told me that he had ended it as soon as he could afterwards and he felt immense guilt for it.” Henry looked up into my eyes with his shockingly blue ones.
“But he also said that he never regretted it. And I remembered looking at you the night you told me and how sorry you looked. But I recognized that look on your face as the same one that Jon wore when telling me about Megan.” I was unable to look away from him otherwise it was my cue to stare at the tabletop guiltily. “Jon told me that I should cut you some slack because chances are you didn’t plan it. And that it took a lot of guts to be that honest with me. And that people do a lot of stupid things when they’re in love.”
“I’m not in love.” I blurted out quickly.
Henry raised his eyebrows.
“I beg your pardon?” he asked, an amused smile playing about his lips.
“I said I’m not in love…with James.” A grimace accompanied the name that I had just uttered.
“Right…” Henry gave me a searching look before he grinned. “You’re lying, though.”
“No, I’m not! I’m not in love with him!” I protested and he only grinned wider.
“Get a reality check, love. You need to figure some things out and this should be tops on your list.” I was about to plead my case but he held up a hand. “That hardly matters. The point is that you feel something for him that you probably don’t feel for me. And if that’s the case, you did the right thing by telling me. We shouldn’t be together. And we aren’t. So, technically, everything’s worked out brilliantly, eh?”
“Huh?” Not the most intelligent word I’ve uttered but it seemed to encompass all the thoughts running through my head.
“Don’t think we’re even though, mind you. You still owe me for the whole cheating on me thing.” Henry joked and I gave a shaky smile in return. “But, overall, we’ll be okay.”
“We will?” I asked weakly and he gave me an assuring smile as he nodded.
“The thing is, I’ve had a lot of girls come on my show and many times the topic turns to love and all that other shite. I’ve heard many times about the ‘one’.” Henry made air quotes to emphasize the word. “And as stupid and presumptuous as this may sound, I think that James might be for you what Megan was for Jon, you know? And I can’t possibly hold that against you, knowing how happy Jon is now.”
“But I’m not in love with him!” I exclaimed once more and Henry just rolled his eyes.
“Alright then. But, the fact is, we’re cool. So, for the first time in history, I’m going to ask you something I’ve never asked an ex.” I looked at him expectantly. He plastered a huge grin on his face and stuck his hand out to me. “Friends?”
I stared at him for a few seconds before I started howling with laughter. He followed suit and it was with a lot of joy that I reached my hand across the table to grasp his, answering him mentally.
“I still don’t understand why you can’t just come!” Rose exclaimed as she flicked her wand towards the wall, systematically attaching scarlet and red streamers.
“You know why I can’t come.” I muttered as I did the same thing that Rose was doing manually.
Merlin, I couldn’t wait for my birthday! It was only 8 days away and every little thing that I had to do the muggle way seemed to be getting more and more tedious. I just couldn’t wait to use magic. And Rose wasn’t making things easier on me with her flicking her wand about. Al wouldn’t know what I was going through since he was lounging in a chair, flipping through Which Broomstick. Looking at him you wouldn’t even have been able to guess that we were decorating the ball room for his father’s birthday party, not mine.
“Oh, come on!” Rose snorted as she placed both hands on her hips, scowling at me. “You’re not going to come for Uncle Harry’s birthday party just because James will be there?”
I rolled my eyes as I climbed down the ladder and moved it forward a few feet to attach the other end of the streamers.
“Yes, Rose, I’m not coming to Harry Potter’s birthday party because I don’t want to run into the guy that I kissed while I was dating someone else and who is now dating someone himself. Oh, and did I mention he happens to be Harry Potter’s son?” I responded sarcastically.
“That explanation’s getting a bit old, by the way.” Al called from his chair and I satisfied myself by giving him a rude hand gesture. He only chuckled, as if I amused him.
“Al’s right, Ade. You’ve avoided him long enough.” Rose stated flatly.
“I haven’t been avoiding him, as you put it. Technically, this is the first time that I will be avoiding him, considering that there’s been no other time when I would have run into him, anyway.” I reasoned as I put up the streamers.
“Actually, it’s the second time. The first one being after his first Quidditch match since we didn’t stay for the end or go to lunch.” Al pointed out. I seriously wanted my wand back just so I could hex him.
“So what? Either way, I haven’t been avoiding him.” I remarked stubbornly. “And even if I was avoiding him, you could hardly blame me. I refuse, absolutely refuse, to run into James, have him ask me where Henry is and tell him that we broke up. He’ll figure out why and imagine how pathetic it will look to have all of that happen in front of Bethany Meyer!”
“Oh, who cares about that hag?” Rose said vehemently. “I’ve seen pictures of her in Witch Weekly and she has crow’s feet! That’s how old she is! I don’t think James even likes her!”
“Yeah, I don’t think he does either,” Al agreed. “He hasn’t even brought her home yet and he tends to do that whenever he’s dating someone when he’s not at school. This will be the first time that woman comes home and it’s not like it’s a private affair. Shows that he doesn’t think much of her and doesn’t want mum to ask too many questions.” Al granted casually as he flipped a page.
“Either way, I’m not having it.” I said determinedly as I climbed down the ladder, carrying it forward again. “The fact is, James is with her and that’s all that matters.”
“But Aidan –”Rose protested and I cut her off.
“Damn it, Rose, don’t you understand?” I burst out, my voice echoing in the large room. “I can’t do that! I can’t see him having it off with someone else and wait around in some corner with a drink in my hand, knowing that I will never be that person with him. It was hard enough seeing it once. I can’t do that to myself again! I can’t and I won’t!”
My voice ricocheted off the walls, until it eventually dissipated. I couldn’t help but admire the acoustics of the room as I climbed up the ladder once more, angry tears stinging my eyes and heat creeping up my neck. Silence fell on us three as I continued to work, trying to ignore the fact that my two best mates were staring at me.
I heard Rose’s heels clicking on the parquet flooring as she walked over to my ladder. It was with a reluctant sigh that I looked down at her as she stood there, sympathy in her eyes.
“I’m so sorry, Aidan. I should have realized. I guess I just thought it would take your mind off things and I didn’t even think that it might only remind you of them. I’m so sorry.” She apologized quietly.
I climbed down the ladder in one fluid movement and the next thing I knew I was hugging Rose tightly.
“No, I’m sorry. I made this mess and I’m making all of you guys cover for me. It’s not fair to you and I’m so sorry Rosie.” I pleaded.
“That’s rubbish and you know it.” Albus interrupted, standing up and tossing his magazine onto his chair. “You made one mistake. Hell, you didn’t even make it! He kissed you!”
“Yeah, I know. I was there, Al, remember?” I mumbled into Rose’s shoulder.
“I think what Al means is that you did your part. You fixed up your bit. Your responsibility is over.” Rose interpreted calmly. “It’s not your fault that James has cocked this up so badly by going out with that bint. So this isn’t your mess, technically.”
“I guess.” I acknowledged as I pulled away from Rose. “But I’m still –”
“Not coming to the party?” Al and Rose guessed, together.
“Yeah, I figured.” Al grinned, putting his arm around me.
“And if you don’t want to come, we can’t make you. We want you to have fun, not drown in misery.” Rose added, as she slipped her arm around my waist.
“Have I ever told you guys I love you?” I said with a smile as I shook my head.
“Well, yeah. But it never hurt to be thorough.” Albus mused.
“I love you. You’re the best mates ever.” I asserted sincerely and Rose nudged me with her shoulder.
“All in a day’s work, love.” she inserted.
“Sorry for interrupting this cosy little get together but we’re back!”
Both of us turned around to see Mona, Prentice, Lily and Hugo at the doorway to the ballroom. Hugo, who I hadn’t seen since the day after Rose’s birthday (I tried to attach that day to a happier memory), ran over to give me a huge hug. I returned it with a laugh since the kid really did seem happy to see me.
“Hello to you too!” my voice sounded muffled against his shoulder and he laughed as he let me go.
“Hey Aidan!” he greeted with a grin. I smiled as I reached up to ruffle his hair.
“You’re getting bloody tall, aren’t you?” I exclaimed when I realized that I had to reach a little higher than usual to get at his hair.
“Yeah. Almost as tall as Al.” he said, puffing up his chest proudly.
“Oh, yes, they should give you a medal or something.” Lily supplied with a roll of her eyes, as she walked over to us.
“You’re just jealous because you’ll be lucky if you’re able to touch James’ shoulder without jumping!” Hugo countered, choosing to name his tallest male relative.
I tried not to flinch noticeably and, luckily, the only people who seemed to notice the movement were Al, Rose and Mona. Prentice only glanced at me briefly before turning back to the small argument that had started between Lily and Hugo. I wasn’t quite sure whether Prentice guessed the reason for the flinching.
I had learned that not much got by Prentice, whether he decided to show it or not, so I was having doubts. Either he knew what was going on or just happened to look in my direction. Either way, he decided not to ask awkward questions and, for that, I was thankful.
“Alright, you two. Break it up, eh? Let’s head to the kitchen for some lunch.” Al rationalized, as he separated his sister from his cousin.
“Yeah, you lot might have had a bite to eat outside, but we’ve been working all morning and hence have deserved a wonderful meal cooked by Aunt Ginny.” Rose stated as she stowed her wand in the pocket of her jeans.
“I know I just ate,” Prentice said to Mona. “But I could use some of Ginny’s cooking.”
“You don’t need to explain anything to me, love. I’ve been dating you long enough to know that you’re a pig and I’m still here, aren’t I?” Mona said with a smile.
“My girlfriend, ladies and gentlemen. And Merlin, how I love her.” Prentice proceeded to lay one on Mona for so long, that it took a whole lot of throat clearing from all of us for the two to break apart.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s just dandy. Go make out on your own time and in your own house, Andrews. Some of us are about to start eating and do not want that mental image during the process.” Rose said as she started walking out of the ball room.
“See, I know you’re snapping at me now but deep down you know you love me, Rosie.” Prentice grinned as he slipped his arm around Mona’s waist and followed us out.
“I knew I shouldn’t have hugged the sod at the train station. He keeps using it as some sort of proof of my affection for him.” Rose muttered to me and Al and I laughed.
It was odd being back in the Potter household, considering the events that had unfolded the last time I had been there. But I had gotten over it after the first couple of hours. After all, Harry and Ginny could hardly be blamed for all that had happened that night. So when Rose had asked me the day before to come over to help decorate for Harry’s birthday (and had given me her iron clad word that James would not be home) I couldn’t decline. And, to be quite honest, I had missed everyone. It was nice to get in touch again.
We walked past the living room, Al’s hand tapping the wooden panels as we passed; a habit that made me flashback to the first time I had stepped into this house over the Christmas holidays. It seemed so long ago now. Things were so very different.
Different…were they better?
No. I decided that they weren’t better. I had been through a lot and I had fucked up a lot since then but I had needed it. I had needed it all to be done. I wouldn’t trade my now for my then…not ever.
We walked into the kitchen, following the glorious smell of shepherd’s pie that was wafting out of it, to be met by a rather hilarious sight.
“Come on, Harry! You can beat this wimp!”
“I’m your brother!”
“Husband trumps brother, Ron, sorry.”
“Honestly, you two!”
We all stood stock still barely three feet into the kitchen.
Ron and Harry were arm wrestling, elbows on the kitchen table. Ron’s face was screwed up and a rather disturbing shade of red while Harry, though looking considerably paler, also looked to be in a fair bit of distress. Ginny was cheering on her husband like nobody’s business while Hermione fretted over the entire thing, looking worriedly at her best mate and husband in turn. I did not envy Hermione Granger Weasley in that moment.
We all exchanged glances.
“10 galleons on Uncle Harry.” Hugo said hurriedly.
“You’re on!” Lily accepted, high fiving him before we all ran over to the kitchen table.
“Come on, Mr. Potter!” Mona cheered, clapping her hands enthusiastically.
“Yeah, come on Uncle Harry!” whooped Hugo.
“Hugo, you’re grounded!” Ron grunted, shooting his son a rather nasty look.
“Won’t matter when I win ten galleons!” Hugo mumbled to me and I giggled.
“Come on, dad!” Al yelled and Rose simultaneously before turning to look at each other and laughing.
“Come on, Uncle Ron!” squealed Lily.
“Finally, someone’s on my side.” Uncle Ron huffed as he tried to push Harry’s hand towards the table.
“Yeah…Lily, you should teach your Aunt Hermione a few things.” Harry joked and Ron glared at him.
“Just because I choose not to engage in this immaturity doesn’t mean I’m not siding with you, Ron.” Hermione said haughtily and Ron snorted.
“I’m not believing it until I hear some cheering!” he argued.
Hermione rolled her eyes before clearing her throat awkwardly. “Go Ronald.” She said quietly.
Ron would have lost right then and there because he almost forgot to hold up his hand in shock after hearing the words leave his wife’s lips. It was only because Rose, Lily, Hermione and Prentice (who thought Ron was a rather good laugh and hence deserved to win) yelled “NO!” that he managed to keep his hand in place. After that, Ronald Weasley looked like he’d won the lottery and couldn’t keep his eyes off of Hermione who blushed.
“You cheered.” he said to her and she blushed even further, giving him a shy smile.
“Honestly, Ron. Concentrate, would you?” she replied, nodding towards Ron and Harry’s hands.
Ron nodded before turning back to face Harry with new determination etched on his face. He exerted a little more force and no one missed Harry’s hand slowly inching towards the table top. Ginny’s eyes widened upon seeing this and she decided that desperate times called for desperate measures.
“C’mon, love! You can do it! And if you win, I promise we can try that thing you wanted to do on your 35th birthday.” She said, lowering her voice and winking at a bewildered Harry.
“Mum!” exclaimed Al and Lily, looks of horror on their faces while the rest of us roared with laughter.
“Bloody hell, Gin! That’s unwanted information!” Ron boomed, face turning redder.
Harry, however, was now working towards a goal and he honestly looked like he couldn’t afford to lose. Ginny winked at him and he grinned before he turned back to look at Ron.
“Mate, you’re going down.” Harry said with a wicked smile.
“Keep dreaming, Chosen git.” Ron smirked.
Both pushed as hard as they could and I was really beginning to get concerned about the sturdiness of the kitchen table. Their intertwined hands moved in one direction for a few inches and then the other, making the game rather exciting (and slightly boring). Ron, for the most part seemed to have the upper hand, though. I expected him to win, given another couple of minutes.
I was proving to be right because Ron pushed his hand forward a little harder, driving Harry’s hand down. It was almost over.
“Bloody hell, Hermione, stop taking your clothes off, would you?” Ginny exclaimed.
Ron turned his head frantically to confirm the statement and, in that split second, Harry forced his hand down to the table top. Ginny, Hugo, Al, Mona and I started applauding and cheering while Ron couldn’t believe what had just happened.
“That’s not fair!” Ron whined.
“All’s fair in love and war, mate. And this, definitely falls under that category.” Harry replied with a grin. as he clenched and unclenched his fingers. “You’d have done it to me…if Ginny wasn’t your sister, that is.”
Ron thought about this for a moment before he shrugged. “Fair enough. Well played, sis.”
“I learnt from the best.” Ginny granted graciously, smirking.
“Now that that’s finally over, can we get to feeding the children? Al looks like he might start eating the plants!” Hermione said with amusement colouring her voice.
“Cactuses are edible, right?” Al asked, turning away from the thorny plant he had been staring at longingly.
“Isn’t it cacti?” asked Ron, turning to Hermione for confirmation. “What?”
Hermione’s jaw had dropped at the question but she immediately composed herself before clearing her throat and replying. “Um, yes, it is. Both work, actually.”
“Let’s eat before I die of shock.” Ginny said as she flicked her wand and pots and dishes flew from the kitchen counter and set themselves on the table.
All of us took our seats around the table with considerable enthusiasm, while Hermione set the plates in front of each of us. Within a minute, everyone was digging into the delicious meal, courtesy of Ginny Potter.
“Now, Aidan, what is this I hear about you not attending the party tonight?” Ginny asked sternly as she passed the mashed potatoes to her husband.
“What? Why not?” Harry asked, turning to me.
Everyone turned to me, waiting for an answer and I tried to rack my brains faster to come up with a better excuse than ‘Because I kissed your son and don’t want to run into him and his new girlfriend since that would be all kinds of awkward.’ I wish I could have said that I had some important business in the morning but even that wouldn’t have worked since the Golden Trio’s birthdays had been declared national holidays ages before I had even been born.
“Uh, you see, I –” I began awkwardly.
“Hey, isn’t there an Arrows vs. Wasps game going on?” Rose interrupted, giving her aunt a rather significant look.
God bless you, Rose Weasley.
“Yeah, we should check who wins to see who Fred and James will be playing in the next match.” Al inserted, catching on quickly.
“Mona, did you bring your wireless?” Prentice asked, turning away from his plate.
“I don’t just carry it around randomly, you know.” Mona exclaimed with a roll of her eyes.
“Well, there’s that plan scrapped!” Prentice said cheerfully.
“Shut it, Prentice. We have one here. Granddad Weasley gave it to dad a few years back.” Al granted, as he nodded towards one of the kitchen shelves that held a compact wooden radio.
Ron summoned the radio which flew into his large and slightly rough looking hands. He started tuning the radio, his tongue between his teeth and he let out a whoop of triumph when he found the channel. He was immediately shushed by almost everyone at the table who were intent to listen to the match.
“It’s almost over.” Lily noted when she heard the commentator going on about the seekers chasing after the snitch.
“What’s the score do you think?” asked Hugo.
“Hardly matters. Whoever catches the snitch wins the game.” Shrugged Al.
“You’d be shocked at how that doesn’t happen sometimes.” Harry corrected, exchanging a smile with Ron.
“And they’re neck and neck! Oh, sharp turn there and looks like Vartan lost a couple of inches on Morgridge there! Looks like the Wasps have victory in the – did you look at that? Sharp surge of speed from Vartan there and he gets shoved to the side by Morgridge but he doesn’t budge. He’s only inches away! Just one more – And he’s done it! He’s caught the snitch! The Arrows win! Ladies and Gentlemen, the Arrows will be playing the Tornadoes in the upcoming match on Saturday afternoon! It should be exciting to watch! We’ll see you all there! Go Arrows!!”
With that, the commentator signed off and the station went into commercials.
“Tornadoes v. Arrows, eh? Should be a good match. Are we going to support the boys?” Ron asked.
“I have tons of work so I’ll be going into work for a bit but you go ahead, love.” Hermione granted, squeezing her husband’s hand.
“We’re definitely going.” Ginny grinned, referring to herself and Harry.
“Well, Aidan’s birthday party is that night so…” Al trailed off.
“We might come if it’s early enough but Saturday matches are always on afternoons so I don’t think Al or I can make it.” Rose gave me a smile which I returned.
“We won’t go either.” Lily spoke up, for herself and Hugo. “Who’ll decorate the place with Mona?”
“Yeah, James will understand. We’re just missing one match. He’ll play hundreds this year but Aidan’s birthday only comes once a year.” Hugo reasoned with a wide grin.
“I don’t blame you lot for wanting to be there. Her birthdays tend to be entertaining, don’t they?” Harry asked and my eyes went as wide as saucers.
“I’m sorry?” I spluttered as the adults laughed.
“We showed them pictures.” Rose explained and I chucked my spoon at her which she caught deftly before tossing it back to me.
“You wait until I can do magic legally. Then you two are done for.” I threatened Albus and Rose.
“You know, I’ve never been to your birthday parties but I’m looking forward to it. Lysander said something about pole dancing and I have to say, I’m mighty intrigued.” Prentice stated with a smirk and I rolled my eyes.
“Don’t believe everything you hear, Andrews. I’m planning on celebrating my birthday with class this year.” I lifted my chin up haughtily to prove my point.
“Aren’t we celebrating it in the Leaky Cauldron again?” asked Al with his brow furrowed.
“Well, yes, but this time I’ll have the bartender monitor our drinks.” I explained, causing much laughter.
“Please tell me what happened when you get back.” Begged Ron, grinning at Hugo who acquiesced with a thumbs up.
“Or we could just ask Neville, actually.” Hermione supplied.
“Or I could stay under a rock for my birthday!” I suggested brightly and the boys started roaring with laughter while Rose, Lily and Mona giggled.
“- Hanging with Hayden, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night, only on the Wizarding Wireless Network!”
Every head turned to me to gauge my reaction except Al, Rose and Mona’s. The family knew that I had broken up with Henry and they also knew that we were talking again, but I supposed that they expected me to be very cut up about it, which I really wasn’t. Henry and I were friends now and it was working rather well. We owled each other at least once every two days to keep in touch. That wasn’t an aspect of my life that I was unhappy with.
Everyone relaxed when they noted that I was calmly taking a sip of my water and wasn’t uncomfortable at all.
“And don’t miss the one hour Saturday night QPL special! Guests include Mia Varnikova of the Bellycastle Bats and Kenneth Kennedy of the Kenmare Kestrels! And don’t miss the media debut of the rising star of the Quidditch world, James Potter of the Tutshill Tornadoes! All on Hanging with Hayden on the WWN!”
All hell broke loose as I started choking on my water.
A/N: So I know you guys must not like me very much right now but do leave me a review! You know I love them :D
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