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Chapter 2 : Chapter 2: Showdown
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“Who invited him?” Lily demanded, glaring around at Louis who looked momentarily like a rabbit caught in a blinding wandlight. He stuttered and stammered and shrugged as the tiny girl grew closer and closer to him, far more menacing than his own siblings, which really was saying something.
“Lily, leave him be,” Al said, grabbing his sister’s wrist and tugging her away. “He’s no wiser than we are about this.”
“Was it Dominique?” she demanded, turning on him now. Far more used to her behaviour than Louis, he merely pushed himself off the wall and walked away. “Al!” He said nothing in response to her childish outcry and stepped outside.
He half-expected her to follow him into the garden but she seemed to have rounded on Louis again instead, judging from the meek reply that the man was trying to formulate in response to the unheard question. The adults had relocated to the marquee, and their voices were vibrantly animated as he passed them. At least there were no tears, but over the years enough people had sobbed over James that maybe they’d dried out for him now. He certainly wasn’t ready to think about falling at his brother’s feet as the eldest probably would expect him to.
He dropped to the ground by the pond, cross-legged, and pulled at the nearest bunch of reeds. Gently, he ripped a strand off each, watching it curl in on itself in the heat. He felt his own snigger rising up his throat and he shook his head amusedly. James was back. He hadn’t said when or where or how or why and he hadn’t expected him to. The thing about James was that he liked to believe he was spontaneous. Al preferred to see him as reckless, thoughtless and an all round prat, and most people would second that given half the chance.
The sunlight was just beginning to dip into the thick lines of clouds. It felt closer than before, beckoning him with a strange allure and charm. Specks on the pond’s murky surface caught the pinkish shimmer and it danced across his scarred hands like the pirouette of a butterfly, balletic and graceful.
“Are you okay, dear?”
His grandmother’s voice was mildly expected and he turned to smile up at her. Twenty-one and meek as a newborn kitten, he found his way slowly to his feet and nodded.
“I’m fine, Nanna,” he assured her, placing a warm hand on her forearm. She covered it with hers and squeezed it gently, in the comforting way that only she seemed to have on him. “Are Mum and –”
“Shook up but aren’t we all?” she chuckled, almost dream like. Ginny’s anger had been quelled and Harry was still in an almost stupor, walking a little like he’d just stumbled through fourteen ghosts at once, but they had been okay, as things go. Molly turned around and they walked without thinking up to the house. “I never understood your brother much, you know? He always had such a big heart –”
“And a big head to go with it, Nanna,” Al added, bitingly. She patted his hand and smiled.
“He’s a good boy.”
“I bet people said that about Voldemort too,” he muttered, releasing his grandmother as they reached the back door.
“Albus!” she scolded, watching him wipe his feet vigorously in what she assumed was some attempt at proving something. He turned slowly and stared at her in some vague anticipation for a rollicking. “Don’t say that in front of your dad.” He laughed and held his hand out to help his grandmother inside and she winked at him, a strip of her youth momentarily revitalised.
“What are you two giggling about like a pair of naughty school kids?” Ginny prompted, her hand running back and forth across her forehead. They looked around and shook their heads, a chorus of a guilty ‘nothing’ coming from their mouths as if they really were both childhood friends as opposed to grandmother and grandson. “Anyway, Mum, we’re off,” she said, sliding off the worktop she was sat on and kissing her mother’s cheek. “I assume he’ll be waiting at home.”
“Be good,” Molly warned, grabbing her daughter’s hand as Harry bent to kiss her goodbye as well. Neither said a word. “I’m serious. I’m not coming to bail you two out of Azkaban.” Their faces lit up a little bit and they nodded compliantly.
“Coming?” Harry asked his son, who was mooching around by the sink. He shook his head. “I don’t blame you. Lily’s gone to Louis’.” Then without another word, they made their way to the fireplace and disappeared into the emerald flames. Silently, Molly and Albus looked at each other.
“I’ll make us some tea,” murmured his grandmother. She tried to ignore her shaking hands as she filled the kettle with water and she tried even harder to pretend that she was not looking forward to seeing her eldest grandson once again. It would not do to defend him against those he hurt the most, the ones who she had to piece together again. No, it would not do at all.
The train pulled in as expected at thirty-four minutes past six. The sun palpitated tiredly in the sky as James emerged from the hidden wizarding platform, soaked in steam that the rest of the station hadn’t seen for many a year, and into the busy Muggle station. Suited men and struggling mums hurried past with briefcases and pushchairs and bags galore. He hoisted his backpack higher onto his shoulder, tucked Beryl’s empty owl cage closer to him and pulled the trunk he’d found abandoned at King’s Cross after him. The strange array of luggage caused a few eyes to turn but he slipped into the open air with little trouble.
With little direction, he wandered until he found himself down a fairly deserted alley between a music shop and a solicitor’s office. He dropped the cage – deciding there was no real need for it anyway as the stupid bird only went nuts when closed in – and pulled the trunk as tightly into his grasp as possible. Apparating with items wasn’t usually his specialty. In fact, Apparating at all wasn’t amongst his strengths, having Splinched himself more times than he’d care to admit to.
And so he was as surprised as ever to find himself with all limbs attached in the right place, and no significant facial features missing. The edges of the Potters’ grounds were unchanged, relatively. New flowers and bigger trees and a new gate marked the two years and seven months since he’d stepped foot outside the house and he tried to ignore the swell in his stomach as he thought about how much it had changed. It didn’t really matter, did it? Yesterday was long gone. Shattered remains long buried deep into molten soil. It was gone and it would remain so.
“Roses for Lily and lilies for Rose.”
His words were stencilled on his tongue and they tripped over his slightly overlong teeth with soothing familiarity as he pushed open the gate. The gravel underfoot was like the ripping of a fairy’s wing from its back. Sickening.
His key still fit the lock. It was an odd comfort, that. They were waiting on his return. They expected a return. It almost made him want to turn and leave but he couldn’t. Not just yet. He couldn’t carry on the way things were. He needed to gain a bit more, faster than last time. He needed security and then could leave again. That was all he was there for, after all.
The piles of shoes by the front door had disappeared, only stocking a neat pair of heels and battered trainers which he assumed belonged to his parents. Lily must have moved out by now, Al certainly had and the place seemed no different. Dumping his things in the living room, he threw himself down on the sofa and tucked his feet up neatly onto the coffee table. Stretching, he rolled onto his side and then swung up and off the chair. Restlessness had always been a downfall of his.
He wandered around the living room, lifting up magazines and papers and opening drawer after drawer to try and find something to amuse himself. His fingers – light as they were long – flicked through the interior design magazine that someone that was not his mother had abandoned down the side of the sofa. The boredom of ornate bed frames and shining silver chandeliers grew faster and faster and he threw it heavily down on the table.
His hand grabbed out for a small folded card that his action had breezed into view. Wedding bells swinging back and forth over the front, he flicked it lazily open.
Ottery St. Catchpole
“Dom’s getting married,” he slurred, turning the card over. “Dom’s getting married on Tuesday. That’s a turn up for the books.” He tossed the card down on the table and shuffled into the kitchen. His eyes crossed the room swiftly, searching out one sole target. His eyes locked onto it and he yanked the bottle across the worktop. Grabbing a mug from the draining board, he sloshed half the wine into the mug, wiping up the spillage with his finger, and gulping at it almost hungrily.
The smash of the mug hitting the floor made him jump more than his mother’s noise. Torn between leaping for the door, leaping to his parents or leaping to the floor to see what he could salvage of the drink, he opted for leaping backwards.
“Clean that up, now. And not with your tongue, for God's sake,” Ginny hissed. “Then living room and clear your stuff out.”
Hands clenched around the oven handle, he cocked his head to the side as though he half expected them to burst into peals of laughter. Anyone else might have picked up on the death grip that his father had on his wife but James merely glanced between the two of them and pulled out his wand, Vanishing the mug and then smiling as though to say ‘Right, joke’s over.’
“I’m not kidding, James. Get your stuff and get out.”
The only person who could stare him down, he cracked and turned to his father, equally stony faced but trying not to look directly at his son’s blue eyes.
“But I’ve got nowhere to go!”
“You should have thought of that two and a half years ago,” his mother snapped, breaking her hand away from Harry’s to step forward. He made no move to stop her, and though she only came up to James’ shoulders, it was enough to make him flinch. “Now. Get out and don’t even think about going to your grandparents’.”
He stared at her one last time, one last chance at breaking her, then shook his head and stormed from the room like a teenager who couldn’t get his own way. Ginny turned to look at Harry who was just as dumbfounded as she was, and offered a hand out to her. Trying to make her lips turn upwards, she stepped towards him and let her husband pull her closer. He murmured into hair, the only words reaching her ears being, “…right thing.”
The way her heart didn’t sink when the front door slammed shut told her that, for once, he might be right.
A/N: I'm fairly sure a lot of this makes very little sense, especially the first section! I know this isn't my best writing but I'm hoping the plot will sustain it.
Anything you can say would be brilliant - characterisation especially is a bit of a worry for me, as there are so many characters and so few words.
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by Serena Slade