A/N: So, I updated as soon as I could, considering my internet gave out for a whole day in the middle!! I'm so sorry for the extra wait. Either way, this is, essentially, the final chapter of the story, apart from the epilogue.
As such, I'm entitled to an extra long Author's Note so I apologize in advance. Do bear me with me.
There are a few thanks that need to be given. To emmapotter, first and foremost, for doing an amazing job betaing this story. Thanks so much, love. We've become such good friends now and I really don't regret my choice at all. I'm sorry I didn't let you read the epilogue but it's for your own reading pleasure :D Hope you forgive me.
To aidanlynchrox, for becoming a great friend through the process, for always inspiring me and being so very enthusiastic and assuring me that I can actually write. Thank you, Elena, for everything! It's really been great getting to know you.
To flying_rabbit for always leaving the first review for every chapter for a very long time now. Thanks so much for the encouragement and for calling me out on the mistakes that I make. They always help me improve. :D
To everyone who has read even a single word of this story. Thank you so much. You've done wonders to my read count. I'd especially like to thank the people who have been reading from the very beginning and stuck with me through the bad chapters. You have no idea how much I appreciate it!
To everyone who has ever left a review: Thank you. I'm a better writer because of you all.
I think that's all. I'm sorry if I forgot anyone! You know I love you guys :D
So, on with the chapter!
“You look gorgeous, love.”
I turned around to see mum and dad leaning against the doorway to my room. They were both beaming at me and I smiled at them with gratitude. It was always nice to get compliments these days, even if it was from people who felt obligated to give them since they gave me my DNA. Frankly, I needed an ego boost and if I was getting it from my mates and parents, then so be it.
“You think?” I asked, turning this way and that.
“Yes. You look beautiful, love. Maybe even more gorgeous than your mum was at your age and that’s saying something.” Replied Dad with a grin.
“I would take offence,” started Mum with a smile. “But he’s right.”
“Thanks, mum.” I said with a broad grin.
I had been waiting for years to turn 17. I couldn’t believe that it was finally time for me to come of age. I had been kept busy by Landon and Sasha the entire day while my mates set everything up and in just 20 odd minutes I was going to head over to the venue. I honestly couldn’t wait. It was the most cheerful I had felt in weeks and weeks. No wonder mum and dad thought I looked good; happiness tends to be visible. I supposed my dress might have had some part to play in it.
Sasha and Landon had bought it for me when we had gone shopping today. Since the venue was the Leaky Cauldron (with many, many alterations, if Mona had anything to do with it), I had kept the dress code as semi formal. As I turned back to glance at myself in the mirror, I realized that my dress was the epitome of that thought.
The dress was navy blue (I was shopping with Ravenclaws so it was no big surprise) and strapless with a sweetheart neckline. It was fairly short too, a first for me since the dress only came down to halfway down my thighs (good thing dad and Landon weren’t too overprotective). The dress actually had pockets, which may have been why I loved it, since I didn’t have to strap my wand anywhere uncomfortable. The pockets had slight silver lace detailing. Overall, it was rather perfect and it fit me like a glove, literally. I was wearing silver stilettos that made my legs appear unnaturally long, I noticed, and I was wearing silver dangling earrings to match with my hair hanging in loose waves.
I didn’t look half bad, actually.
I turned towards the doorway and saw Landon standing with mum and dad, grinning at me. He was wearing a red dress shirt with black slacks. His hair was damp from the shower and I could smell the subtle scent of his cologne.
“Good, bad, ugly?” I asked and he grinned wider.
“Definitely good…wow, look at my kid sister all grown up.” he said.
Mum’s lower lip quivered at his words and the red flag went up in my head.
“Mum, don’t even think about it.” I cautioned because mum was teetering off the edge, about to launch into her ‘our baby’s all grown up’ speech.
“But you look so beautiful!” she sniffed, eyes tearing up. “Look at our baby, all grown up!”
“Jade, come on, love. Aidan’s right, no crying today.” my dad soothed, as he slipped his arm around mum’s waist. “Instead, we’re going to be proud of just how marvellously genetics have worked in this family.”
Mum laughed, tears spilling over, but she wiped them away quickly, squeezing dad’s fingers to assure him that she was okay and everything was fine. She beckoned me over and I made my way to her quickly, not even wobbling. It seemed hard to believe that a year ago I couldn’t walk in heels without seriously injuring myself or someone else. Now, it seemed like second nature to put them on for a party.
Dad took out a turquoise box with a white ribbon tied around it from behind him. Both my parents beamed at me as he held it out to me. Landon was leaning against the wall, smiling at me warmly. I grinned at them before I took the largish box, holding it delicately. I pulled at one end of the ribbon, making it slide out of the knot that it had formed. I let the ribbon dangle off of my ring finger as I slid off the top. I couldn’t help but gasp when I saw what was sitting amidst the white satin lining inside the box.
The necklace was breathtaking and if I was to be honest with myself, I had never seen anything like it. It was elegant yet simple in a way. The necklace was made up of a delicate, silver chain, but with beautiful bezel cut crystals in shades ranging from clear to blue, almost like fish scales that changed colour according to the light. The darkest coloured stone matched my dress perfectly. I wondered vaguely whether they had bought this today, after I had bought my dress.
“They bought it ages back.” Landon supplied, almost like he had read my thoughts. “You just happened to pick the right dress.”
The thought that I had sub consciously picked the right dress made me smile. Almost like that necklace had been made for me. I was about to pick up the necklace and changed my mind in the last second. Instead, I turned to my father.
“Would you?” I asked him with a smile, as I held out the box.
Dad looked surprised for a second and mum had to nudge him a little. He then beamed at me as he took a step forward, taking the box from me.
“It would be my pleasure.” he stated sincerely.
He lifted the necklace out of the box, placing the box on top of my dresser. I then turned around and moved my hair to one side, so dad wouldn’t have too much trouble. Dad’s hands put the necklace over my head and around my neck. I heard the small click of the clasp coming together and I let go of my hair. I turned around to face everyone.
“Well, how does it look?” I asked, looking at my family.
Mum gave me a watery smile and Landon grinned as he gave me a thumb up. Dad just turned around, refusing to look at me.
“Uh, I need to, uh, go and, uh, yeah.” he muttered, about to leave my room when Mum stretched her arm across the door, barring his exit.
“You bleeding hypocrite.” Mum joked. “Now turn around and face your daughter, June.”
Dad turned around slowly and gave me a sheepish smile. I was a little surprised to see tears forming in his eyes. Dad rarely ever cried. The only time I’d ever see him do it was when Landon and I were little and I dropped a frying pan on his toes.
“Dad?” I asked tentatively, walking over to him.
“I’m alright. It’s just….I’m really proud of you, love. A man couldn’t ask for a more wonderful daughter.” he said softly.
I couldn’t see myself but I was sure that I had started glowing with happiness at the statement. I threw my arms around Dad’s waist. He seemed a little startled, but soon had his arms around me. It had been a while since my dad and I had hugged like that, what with me spending so much time at school. But even then I felt just as safe and warm as I did when I hugged him as a child.
I soon felt mum come and join the hug, dragging Landon over.
“Group hug!” she yelled cheerfully.
We all laughed but hugged each other nonetheless. As I looked up at the happy faces of my mum, dad and brother, I couldn’t help but thank my stars.
Thank Merlin some things never changed, things like your family.
“Thanks, you lot! Excuse me; I’ll be right back.” I said with a smile before leaving the small cluster of people who had been wishing me happy birthday.
I made my way through the little groups of people, stopping many times to thank people who called out birthday wishes and offering smiles. It was turning out to be one of the best days ever. For one, my mates had done an amazing job with the venue.
The Leaky Cauldron looked practically unrecognizable. I knew that for certain, since some people passed through to get to Diagon Alley and each of them had a bewildered expression on their faces. The rustic atmosphere remained with the wooden bar and flooring. But not much else stayed the same. Many of the booths had been cleared out, though some were left so people could take a rest from drinking and dancing. The whole place had a warm, golden glow to it. There were pale gold streamers hanging at regular intervals on the walls and the table cloths were also pale gold. And, my favourite, there were white lilies at each table and each end of the bar.
It looked amazing, and I was in love with my friends for pulling it all together. I knew that that all of them had organized this together. Mona had decorated everything, Rose had done all the spell work to change the place up (with a little help from the landlords, our every own Neville Longbottom and his wife), Lily and Hugo had handled all of the invitations, Al had helped with a bit of everything and, having similar taste as me, had picked out the music for the night. And Prentice, of course, picked out the alcohol selection (if the word ‘typical’ just ran through your mind, you’re thinking exactly what I thought).
“Hey, birthday girl!”
Speak of the devils.
I grinned and walked over to the bar which had been all but conquered by my mates.
“Hey, you lot!” I called when I was a few feet away. They waved me over and I laughed as I came to a stop in front of them.
“I can’t get over how beautiful you look tonight.” Rose gushed, shaking her head, Scorpius, who had his arms around her waist, nodding his assent.
“No, really, Aidan, you look fantastic.” Scorpius added and I only blushed a little.
“Thanks.” I replied happily.
“You know, I know you’re my best mate and everything and generally I wouldn’t say it but…” Albus paused as he gave me a once over. “You look kind of hot.”
I laughed and gave him a small hug which he returned readily. “Thanks, mate. I’ll take that as a compliment.” I assured when I pulled away from him.
Christine was on vacation with her family in Switzerland, but she had been sweet enough to send me a card and a bunch of chocolates that morning. For that reason, Al was going solo but he was holding up more than well enough, seeming very cheerful and outgoing.
“Take it easy on the liquor, Andrews!” Rose called down the bar and I turned to see Prentice downing a shot with Mona doing the same.
“I’m just taking advantage of my rather good taste in booze, Rosie! You might want to do the same!” he answered with a grin, throwing an arm around Mona as the two walked over to us.
“You know what, he’s right.” I piped up. “Shots all around?” I asked.
“That’s my girl!” boomed Prentice and I wondered just how much he’d been taking advantage of the open bar.
“He’s had a fair few.” Mona whispered clandestinely to me, and I nodded my understanding but couldn’t help but roll my eyes fondly at Prentice, who didn’t even notice the action.
“Ben, 6 shots of tequila!” Prentice called out.
Ben the bartender, a guy I had gotten well acquainted with on my last birthday, gave a wide grin before he charmed the shot glasses to set themselves on the counter in front of us. He tossed the bottle of tequila into the air before catching it behind his back deftly. He began to pour out our shots, not pouring individually into each glass but just holding the bottle upside down as he moved it over the glasses.
“Can you make that 7, mate?”
I recognized the voice immediately and turned around, pleasantly surprised. Landon had been socializing with the all of the guests for a while now. He had worked hard the past week, having started his Healer training on the 1st. Sasha had night duty so she couldn’t come but she had wished me a very happy birthday before she’d Apparated back to her place after our shopping spree. I supposed it was Sasha’s absence that was the reason for my elder brother coming over to hang out with the plebeians.
“Well, well, would you look who decided to join in.” Al grinned, clapping a hand on my brother’s shoulder.
“I thought, why not? It’s not like I’ll get to see you guys too much once you start school again.” Landon reasoned, glancing at me to see if I looked upset.
He probably expected me to still be sad about going back to Hogwarts without him but I had gotten over it. I had made my peace with the fact that we all had to grow up and leave one day. And we couldn’t expect our parents, our brothers or even our mates to have our back all the time. I was ready to head back to school without my brother’s presence but with all of his support. That would do, I was sure.
“Oh, don’t remind me. It will be so boring at school this year!” Rose groaned, leaning against Scorpius’ shoulder, as if hoping he’d be able to make the thought less daunting.
“Yeah! And we won’t even be able to have any fun since we have to ‘set an example’ for the younger students.” Albus added with a nauseated expression, making air quotes to mark the three words that caused him much distress.
“Thanks a lot, Landon.” Rose inserted, mock glaring at my brother, but I knew she didn’t mean it.
The thing was, Al and Rose had each gotten letters from Hogwarts on Harry’s birthday, saying that they had been appointed Head Boy and Head Girl for the year. Rose had sent a very long letter squealing and complaining about what a big deal her mum had made about it. Al had sent a letter as well, saying that his dad was shocked that any son of his would ever manage to be Head Boy. Al’s uncle George had only said, ‘Oh, not another one! Mum’s going to go bonkers!’ Al didn’t know quite what to make of it and didn’t know how he felt about being Head boy.
But I knew they could both do it. My heart told me they could. They were more than capable and I knew they’d make everyone proud. Headmaster Shacklebolt would be right chuffed. Professor Longbottom had been pretty happy to learn that the new heads were both from his house. Of course, it was all because of Landon and Sasha’s recommendations. They had picked the perfect people for the job.
“Oh, come on you two! It’s not that bad, really!” Landon assured with a smile. “I had a blast.”
“But then again, you’re you.” Prentice pointed out with a grin. “Frankly, mate, not many people would’ve been able to handle that kind of responsibility. I couldn’t and I know James sure as hell couldn’t either.”
“Yeah but Rose and Al can! They already were Prefects!” Mona argued and I nodded.
“Yeah, I think they’ll do a lot of great stuff. It will be pretty interesting to see what they do.” I agreed.
“You’ll be fine, love. I know you will. It runs in the family, after all.” Scorpius said with a smile. Rose only sighed as she smiled back.
“It runs in yours too, doesn’t it Scorpius?” Mona asked and he nodded.
“Yeah, mum was a Prefect and Dad was Head Boy along with Rose’s mum.” clarified Scorpius. “Dad wasn’t that upset I didn’t get Head Boy, actually. I thought he would be but he surprised me by saying that being Quidditch Captain was the only thing he expected of me. And,” Scorpius paused for effect as he smirked at Rose. “He said that at least someone in the family got it instead of some daft Hufflepuff.”
Rose blushed scarlet as we all oohed and aahed. Rose had risen quite a few notches in Draco Malfoy’s book in the past year and it wasn’t surprising. She was bright, funny, independent and a brilliant Quidditch player, in short, she was just like Scorpius. Mr. Malfoy could hardly complain. But never did any of us think that he might actually be fond enough of Rose to consider her family. But then again, it was hard not to like Rose.
“Looks like someone’s made quite the impression.” Landon stated with a grin.
“I suppose so.” Rose mumbled with a smile before turning back to Scorpius. “But he’s right, you know. You don’t need to be anything more than what you already are.”
“I know, love. I’m fine.” He promised, kissing her cheek. “Besides, I’m still Quidditch Captain. I still get preferential treatment.” he added with a grin.
“Guess you will too, won’t you Aidan?” Prentice asked, grinning as he started passing shot glasses to everyone. I grinned back.
I had been made Quidditch captain. I didn’t quite understand why. I had always thought that Al was better at Quidditch than me but…well, I suppose it hardly mattered. Even if Rose or Al had gotten the captain’s badge, we would have still shared the position and consulted each other on every decision. That’s how it was going to be with my captainship as well.
“Here’s to the birthday girl!” Al called as he raised his shot glass and everyone but me followed suit. “Here’s to hoping you have a marvellous birthday, love, and to many more to come!”
“Cheers!” we all yelled before we downed the shot.
As the tequila blazed a trail down my throat, I looked around at all of my friends. Some were new, like Prentice and Scorpius; some were old, like Rose, Al and Mona; and some were related to me, like Landon. But they were all my friends and I loved them to bits for being with me on my birthday and making the day feel more complete.
Yet, I couldn’t help but think about the one person who was missing; the one person who could fill the void entirely.
I was wondering what exactly James Potter was up to.
“Hey, do you have a radio back there?” I asked hurriedly, looking around to make sure that none of my mates had their eye on me.
Ben the bartender nodded and I sighed with relief. “Yeah, it’s in the back room. Is there a problem?” he asked with some concern.
“No, nothing like that. I just need to listen to this radio show my friend is going to be on.” I said, assuaging his worry. “D’you think I could pop inside and just listen for a bit?”
“Anything for the birthday girl.” he replied with a smile and I smiled back. Turning 17 was already starting to pay off. “But I’m afraid there’s no way to get around this bar except to jump over it.” I gave him a questioning look and he grinned. “Well, after you got around it on your birthday last year, Mrs. Longbottom thought it might be smarter if we just blocked the –”
“Yeah, alright. I get it.” I interrupted, blushing furiously. I would never live down my sixteenth birthday. “So I have to jump over?”
Ben nodded and I sighed. Yeah, that was going to be real easy to do while wearing the shortest dress I’d ever worn, as well as the pointiest heels known to mankind. I shook out my limbs in preparation and took a few steps back, telling the people surrounding that part of the bar to make room. I took a small running start before I vaulted up and over the bar, landing on the other side, right next to a very surprised looking Ben.
“Aw, Aidan!” Lysander Scamander-Lovegood complained. “I thought you were going to dance again!”
“Shut your face, Sandy!” I called back to him, unable to suppress my grin.
Ben led the way through a small door behind the bar which I found led into the very busy kitchens. I smiled at some of the staff who smiled or grinned back. We got to a small room off the kitchens which looked to be a break room for the staff. There was a table and a few chairs along with a plate of muffins and, in the corner, a radio which I was most pleased to see.
“You think you can find your way back?” Ben asked and I nodded. “Later, then.”
“Thank you!” I called after him and he grinned as he shut the door behind him.
I glanced at the clock hanging on the pale pink wall and noticed that it was 10:30 p.m. Henry’s show would be halfway over. I hurried over to the radio and started twiddling the dials, trying to find the right channel. There was a lot of static only and I was beginning to get a little worried as I frantically turned the dial. Just when I was about to lose hope, I heard Henry’s familiar voice and slowed down, using the other dial to clear up the static until I could listen to everything with surprising clarity.
“Thanks for being on the show, Kenneth. I’ll make sure I come by to see you ‘beat the Magpies to a pulp’ as you put it!”
“You’re always welcome to, Hayden. And thanks for having me.” replied a deep baritone voice that wasn’t anywhere as soothing as my headmaster’s voice.
“My pleasure, Kenneth! Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was Kenneth Kennedy of the Kenmare Kestrels. Phew, what a mouthful, eh? Bet you lot can’t say that ten times really fast! Kenneth Kennedy of the Kenmare Kestrels, Kenneth Kennedy of the Kenmare Kestrels, Kenn – Ah, and there’s my producer telling me to get a move on with the show and she’s absolutely right so why don’t we talk to our next guest?”
Henry sounded so natural and he never ceased to surprise me with how normal he sounded during his shows. Amidst my admiration for Henry, though, was that note of nervousness, even though I had no need to be nervous. I was only going to hear James’ voice, not see him. But I supposed I wasn’t nervous for me; I was nervous for Henry as well. I had been very surprised when I had heard James was going to be interviewed by Henry. I had even written Henry, asking him why he was doing it. And Henry had only said that a good journalist never let’s personal matters get in the way. And that it would be brilliant for ratings. No arguments there.
“The next Quidditch star has only been with us for a couple of short months but he’s already quite the sensation. I have with me James Potter of the Tutshill Tornadoes. Hey, James and welcome to Hanging with Hayden!”
My heart skipped a beat as Henry said those words.
“Hi, Hayden. Thanks for having me over.”
It had been ages since I had heard that voice and it still got my pulse to quicken. He sounded polite, cheerful and happy, overall. And why wouldn’t he have been? He had won his match against the Arrows in the evening. Of course he sounded happy.
“Thanks for actually coming over! This is your first time being interviewed by anyone isn’t it?”
“Yeah, actually, it is. I’ve been focusing more on my game lately but I thought it might be good fun. Besides, I keep my promises.”
“That you do! You see, everyone, James here promised me that he’d make his media debut on my show and he’s kept up his end of the bargain and now it’s my turn. So, James, how does it feel, being a national Quidditch player?”
“It’s honestly like a dream. It feels incredibly surreal, actually. I –”
The door opened and, purely out of reflex, I turned off the radio and turned around to see who had entered. It was a girl, a waitress from the looks of it, and she seemed just as surprised to see me as I was to see her.
“Oh, I‘m sorry! I didn’t know anyone was in here.” she said, giving me a small smile.
“No, Ben brought me back here. I just wanted a little time off from the crowd.” I lied easily and she raised an eyebrow at me.
“Isn’t it…isn’t this your birthday party?” she asked tentatively and I gave her a sheepish grin.
“Yeah, it is. I… I guess I’ll get back to it now.” I finished lamely as I got up from my chair.
She moved aside so I could walk through the door. I retraced the path that I had taken with Ben to get to the break room until I hit the kitchens and, eventually, the small door that led out to the bar. I walked through only to find what could only be described as good old Hogwarts style fun.
“Chug, chug, chug, chug!” the crowd that had gathered around the bar yelled.
It was a familiar scene, except that instead of the Potter brothers chugging down their beer, this time it was Lorcan and Lysander Scamander Lovegood. And that wasn’t even the most shocking part. The most shocking part was that –
“I WIN!” Lorcan roared, slamming his pitcher down on the counter with surprising force for such a skinny and normally calm person.
“No, you don’t! I want a rematch!” Lysander yelled, having only half an inch of beer left in his pitcher, so he hadn’t lost by much.
“Fine by me, mucker! Bring it on!” boomed Lorcan. The brothers high fived and ordered 4 more pitchers of beer which Ben the bartender got to serving up.
I had to say, I was rather amused by this side of Lorcan.
I rolled my eyes, responding to the many greetings I got as I walked to the side of the bar where the crowd wasn’t as thick. I vaulted over the counter and landed on the other side soundly. The heels I was wearing really were rather sturdy, I realized.
I started making my way through the crowd, trying to find my friends. I saw Lily and Hugo with some of their friends and playing what could only be described as a non-alcoholic version of some drinking game. I laughed a little, giving them a wave which they returned, before I continued on to find my friends.
I looked around, hoping to catch a glimpse of Rose’s fiery hair or Al’s unruly black mane but to no avail. I couldn’t see them anywhere.
“Oy, turn up the volume, would you love?”
I immediately recognized the tone and voice as Prentice’s. It was coming from one of the booths that had been left intact at the back. I started walking toward it and turned the corner to see Al, Rose, Scorpius, Prentice, Mona and even Landon seated in the booth, Mona’s small hand held radio sitting in the middle of the table. They weren’t huddled close which meant they must have cast some sort of charm to keep the noise from the party from filtering into their booth.
I had little doubt what they were listening to; especially after they all turned to stare at me at my arrival, each one wearing a guilty look. None looked guiltier than Al, though.
“Aidan, we –” he started but I held up my hand to silence him.
“Just shift down so I can sit, would you?” I told him.
He looked relieved as he shifted in some to make room for me. I stepped closer to slide into the leather sofa seat of the booth. I could immediately tell when I’d crossed into the boundary of the charm they’d put up because all the noise surrounding me disappeared. Instead, the sound of the slightly crackling radio filled my ears.
“- And are your parents supportive about your career choice?” Henry asked.
“They come to every single match and scream like mad people. You tell me.” James joked and the two shared a laugh. “My dad has never required my career to be anything. He’d always told me to do what my heart said was right. He always said that as long as I was happy, he’d be happy too. And mum is prouder than ever, seeing as how she used to play Chaser and I took after her. My younger brother Al is the one that takes after my dad because he plays seeker. I’m sure that if Al decided to be a Quidditch player tomorrow, mum and dad really wouldn’t mind.”
“It must be great to have that kind of support from home.” Prompted Henry.
“Yeah, it really is. The thing is that my siblings and I, we’re rarely seen as anything but Harry Potter’s kids. It kind of puts a bit of pressure on you to prove that you are your dad’s kids. Most of the time people expect me just like dad but that’s Al. And my sister, Lily, is just like mum. And I’m like both. But we’re all our own people. The fact that at least our parents understand that is just amazing.”
“I have no doubt. And what about your friends? Are they equally pleased?”
“Yeah, they’re great about the whole thing! My best mate, Prentice, gets a right kick out of going out with me these days because people always come up to us for autographs. I still find it kind of weird that people want my autograph but I just can’t say no to my fans. And you’d think my mates would be a little annoyed with all the interruptions but they all take it in stride. And I guess a lot of that has to do with the fact most of my friends are my cousins as well, and they’re all used to getting extra attention.”
“I suppose it’s hard not to be friends with your cousins when you come from such a close knit family. And you went to school with a lot of them as well, didn’t you?”
Like he didn’t know.
“Yeah, I did. Some of them are still in school actually. My brother and sister still are, as are my cousins Rose and Hugo.”
“You certainly do seem to keep it all in the family, don’t you?” Henry teased and James let out a cheerful laugh.
“I’m half Weasley. We really can’t help it. But I do have my fair share of friends who aren’t family. Like my best mate and his girlfriend. I’m pretty sure neither of them has any Weasley blood in them. And that’s pretty rare!”
“Either way, it must be nice to have people you love who keep you grounded.”
“Now, that I cannot deny.” I could practically hear James smiling as he said that.
“Now, speaking of people you love…” trailed off Henry and you could hear his light hearted tone as he said this.
“Oh, I think I know where this is going.” James groaned, good naturedly.
“Well, of course you did, James. No smoke without a fire, is there?”
“Come on, Hayden. We’re in the magical world. Surely you get that there can indeed be smoke without a fire!” James argued.
“I’m choosing to ignore it for the sake of making my point. Now, James, a lot of women out there want to know what exactly is going on with you and one Bethany Meyer.” I could tell that Henry had been waiting to bring this up. Nothing gets ratings to sky rocket like discussions about a Quidditch star’s love life.
“I knew this was coming. I know you’re not going to believe me but seriously, nothing is going on between Bethany and I.”
Henry snorted disbelievingly and he wasn’t the only one. Everyone sitting in the booth, except for myself, snorted along with him. Rose was rolling her eyes and Mona was shaking her head disbelievingly while Al was just staring at the radio, brow furrowed in concentration. I loved my mates for paying more attention to the topic at hand than everything else that James had said earlier on because I knew that if it weren’t for me, they wouldn’t be the least bit bothered about James’ love life. Landon caught my eye and gave me small, supportive smile which I returned before I went back to listening.
“- And I’m a hippogriff!” Henry inserted, eliciting a laugh from James. “Come now, James. You two have been spotted at a lot of social events together. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers that kiss at your first match against the Wasps!”
“We both just got caught up in the moment, Hayden, trust me. It was my first victory and she’s a very supportive team owner and has now become a very close friend but that’s all. We’re just good friends.” James insisted.
“If that’s true, you’re saving a lot of young girls from broken hearts!” said Henry with a very girly sigh and James laughed.
“Well, one of us has to! You’re already off the market. Otherwise, I’m sure you’d be their first choice. I remember when you came to Hogwarts in January. The girls went wild!”
I was sure James remembered that visit very clearly. He really had never been ignored so much in his entire time at Hogwarts.
“You’re making me sound like the bad guy! And besides, I’m no longer off the market. I’m well and truly on it once more.”
My heart literally stopped beating. Silence descended on the booth. None of us dared to say anything and no sound was coming from the radio except for the low crackle. It was silent for so long that we all started looking up and exchanging glances with each other. I didn’t know what to think. Maybe the radio wasn’t catching signal but Mona shook her head, indicating that her radio was working just fine.
Finally, after 15 seconds which seemed to last hours, James spoke.
“You’re…single again?” James asked incredulously.
“That’s right. Although, I think this is the first time that I’m saying it publicly so I’m not surprised that you haven’t heard yet.” Henry said soothingly.
Of course he wasn’t surprised. I had told him that James didn’t know when he had asked me what I was going to do about my ‘unrequited love’. I almost snorted at the thought. I was not in love with James.
“But you were dating someone…from my school, right? I saw the article.”
“Yeah, I was but I’m afraid we parted ways…mutually, might I add.” Henry was a sweetheart for not telling all of Britain that he had dumped me for cheating on him. “Sometimes some people just aren’t meant to be while others are. But the lady in question and I have remained very good friends since the split.”
The conversation was leaving the realms of a normal interview and entering unknown waters. Al was watching me the entire time, as was Prentice. All of us were waiting to hear what James had to say.
“I’m sorry to hear you guys split up, though. Break ups are never easy.” If anyone knew something about that, it was James.
“Don’t worry about me, mate. I’ve had over a month to recover. I’m as good as new! So ladies, don’t shy away! I’m not about to get all depressing on you!”
It was a brave attempt on Henry’s part to lighten up the mood and as he started advertising himself, I vaguely heard James repeat the words ‘over a month’. And just like that, I couldn’t do it anymore.
I reached forward and turned off the radio. Everyone except Landon and Prentice yelped in protest but I stood up determinedly.
“You guys can keep on listening if you want but I’m not going to. This is not how I want to spend my birthday, but it’s up to you how you want to spend your time.”
I was about to walk away when Al caught my wrist. I turned with a sigh to look into his sincere eyes.
“Sorry, Ade. It’s your birthday and we should all be spending it having fun, not getting you down.” he stated and everyone murmured their agreement, looking guilty.
I sighed once more. “Look, it’s alright. Al, he’s your brother and he’s your friend. I can’t stop you guys from listening to such a major event in his career. I’m the one who’s sorry. I’ve really fucked things up and it’s unfair for you lot to have to pick sides.”
“Rubbish.” Prentice said, speaking for the first time. “It’s not like that. James is my best mate, but I care about you just as much. So things didn’t work out for you two, doesn’t mean I’ll stop talking to either or not be able to handle talking to both. You haven’t done anything wrong. You’ve fixed everything you could and you’re better for it. It’s more than I can say about my previous break ups.”
“Hear, hear.” Scorpius, Landon and Al echoed. Mona and Rose smiled fondly at Prentice before turning to me.
“Now, let’s leave all this and get to celebrating your birthday in style, shall we?” Rose asked cheerfully.
“Yeah! Shots all around!” Mona squealed and everyone cheered their assent.
I rolled my eyes but grinned at my mates. Leave it to them to think alcohol is the answer to everything.
“3…..2…..1…. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!”
Gold confetti started pouring from the ceiling and I immediately recognized it as Rose’s spell work. I could barely see, it was falling so thickly, but I didn’t care. I was grinning like a mad person.
I was finally 17.
I could take out my wand and hex someone right then and there.
I decided against it, but took great pleasure in the fact that I could.
Ben the bartender and a couple of the waitresses rolled out a very large and very pretty vanilla iced cake that had seventeen candles burning brightly. They rolled it right up until it was in front of me.
“Happy birthday!” Ben wished and I smiled at him gratefully.
“Thanks for everything, Ben, really.” I said sincerely and he winked before he stood off to the side.
There was a knife next to the cake with a golden ribbon tied around the handle. I picked it up and looked around. Landon was standing on one side, smiling happily at me. Al and Rose were standing close to me on the other side, grinning like there was no tomorrow as they watched on. Scorpius had an arm around his girlfriend and winked at me as I caught his eye. Mona and Prentice were standing with Landon, both smiling at me and Prentice gave me a thumb up, blue eyes twinkling. Lily and Hugo were standing across from me, clapping and cheering happily, aided by the Scamander Lovegood twins.
The noise was deafening and all the people crowded together was creating a lot of heat, making the atmosphere a little congested and uncomfortable. Yet, I had never felt so loved.
“Make a wish, love!” Rose said, eliciting many cheers.
“Thanks Rosie.” I answered, thanking her for the party but for everything else that she did for me.
She must have understood some of them because tears pooled in her eyes as she beamed at me. She reached for my hand and squeezed it lightly.
“Go on, love.” Albus urged, nodding towards the cake as he grinned at me.
I blew him a kiss and Al blushed a little, making everyone laugh. I looked to Landon who also nodded towards the cake. He placed his hand on my upper back, letting me know with that gesture that it didn’t matter that I was a grown up now; that he would always be there, that I would always be his kid sister. I felt myself tearing up and tried to swallow the lump that was forming in my throat as I turned to the cake.
I bent over the cake, getting ready to blow out the candles.
“Don’t forget to make a wish!” Lily said loudly as I inhaled fresh air.
I thought about that.
A wish, was it? What could I possibly wish for?
I had the best friends a girl could have, supportive parents and a brilliant brother. I was moderately talented and was decent looking. I was already fairly blessed and it was nice to realize that I had a lot more than most.
But there was something I wanted, wasn’t there? Was I girly or immature enough to actually make a birthday wish out of it?
Of course I was…the immature bit. Not the girly bit.
Rolling my eyes inwardly, I took in another deep breath and closed my eyes.
I wished that things would be okay with James and me again.
And with that thought, I blew out the flames from all the candles amongst much cheering and raucous applause. Lysander and Loran started a rousing round of ‘Happy Birthday’ as I cut the first piece of cake. I slid the piece of cake away and turned to Landon to offer him a bite which he took readily. I then turned to Al and Rose who took healthy bites, right before grabbing the cake from my hand and force feeding it to me, causing much laughter.
Ben and the waitresses rolled away the cake to cut it into even pieces and serve everyone. People started crowding around me to give me birthday hugs as soon as Rose, Al, Scorpius, Prentice, Mona, Landon, Lily and Hugo had had their turn since they always got priority. Then the Scamander Lovegood twins engulfed me in bear hugs before I got passed on from person to person.
I was laughing at a joke cracked by Bailey Ryan, my roommate from school, and I glanced away from her into the crowd when I glimpsed something.
It was a head of unruly dark hair. It could have been Al’s, my head told me, but I recognized that shade of brown immediately.
And just like in all those muggle movies that Rose had made me watch when we were barely teenagers, the crowd parted and there he was, holding a broomstick in one hand and the other hand nervously ruffling his hair. His hazel eyes were shining brightly, contrasting his now tanned skin. He caught my eye immediately and started walking towards me.
I didn’t even hear what everyone was saying to me as I left Bailey’s side, walking over to him, drinking in all of him as I did. It had been a long time since I’d seen him in person; too long it seemed.
We came to a stop in front of each other and for a moment, neither of us spoke. We just took in every detail about each other. I took in the dark jeans and white dress shirt he was wearing, the scent that surrounded him, like a burst of fresh air. More than anything, I took in the small details of his handsome face that I should have appreciated more when I had had the chance.
“Hi.” he said softly.
His hand reached forward and picked out a piece of gold confetti from my hair.
“Hi.” I replied breathily.
A/N: Ah, the end. Yes, yes, you want to hit me for finishing it there. And no, I can't tell you what happens. You'll see in the epilogue :D Drop a review if you can!! :D
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