I woke up the next day to find Victoire leaning over me.
The previous night had completely drained me of all energy. I’d gone out with Roxy at some insensibly late hour, wasting hours mindlessly wandering from store to store in Hogsmeade as she meticulously looked over clothing. The trip did little more than to exhaust me and remind me why Freddy was my favorite cousin; he was a tactless prick, but he was relatively low maintenance. I’d come to the small flat Victoire and I shared and collapsed.
“Nicky, are you all right?”
She pushed my arm. “Nicky, wake up.”
I could faintly see the outlines of my sister’s hair. “Five more minutes.”
“You have to get up. Did you forget about Molly’s birthday party?”
I pulled the bed sheet back over my head. She yanked it away, and said, sounding slightly exasperated, “You’re going to be late.” I didn’t respond, to which she sighed. “Fine. But just remember that you made me do this.”
With one firm shove, she pushed me off my bed. I landed on the ground and felt the impact of the hard floor against the sides of my arms. I groaned.
“Good,” she was standing over me now, smiling. “You’re finally up. Get ready.”
I rose, grumbling and shooting her evil looks. “You’re so annoying sometimes. And I’m not going.”
“What do you mean you’re not going?”
“I have work today. And I don’t want to go.”
“Nicky, you have
to. It’s Molly’s birthday! How can you not go? You’ve already missed every single Sunday brunch for the last month with some ridiculous excuse or another! Everyone’s going to think you’re avoiding them!”
avoiding them, though.
In the three years I’d spent in France, I hadn’t really written to any of my cousins or aunts, save for the odd letter I got asking me how I was. I didn’t really know my cousins except for Freddy and Roxy. I didn’t know much about Lily’s new boyfriend or Rose’s new job. I didn’t even know how old Hugo was now.
Which was why I didn’t want to see Molly or any of my other cousins again.
It would be very, very awkward.
So, for the month I’d been back from France, I’d been doing the sensible thing – staying away.
“Come on, get ready. Hiding isn’t going to solve anything.”
There was a reason why I wasn’t in Gryffindor in Hogwarts.
I sighed. She was probably right. Victoire had irritating and mind-boggling habit of being exactly like our Maman. She was bossy and overly nurturing, but she was around me so often that I wouldn’t be able to tell the ceiling apart from the floor without her there.
I walked out of my room, tripping over my own feet and cursing Roxy for keeping me out so late. Every time I was tired, it seemed that morning came within the blink of an eye.
The Sunday morning light irritated my skin. I turned away and felt along the corridor wall, slowly trudging up to the bathroom.
I collided with something head on - something that had muscles and was massaging his arm, groaning.
“Teddy?” I blinked.
“You alright there, Nicky?”
Teddy came into full view. To my horror and complete embarrassment, I realized he wasn’t wearing a shirt – only some loose trousers.
I was determinedly stopping myself from blushing.
“What’re you doing here?”
At this, he paused and his lopsided grin fell a little. “It’s – uh – actually – “
At the sight of my suspicious look, he broke off and called, “Vic, what do I tell your sister?”
I could hear my sister laughing guiltily. “Looks like we’ve been caught, Ted.”
He wasn’t getting away so quickly. I prodded his arm. “When did you get here? I came home early in the morning and you weren’t here.”
“ – uh – “
Victoire reentered, carrying an empty plate in one hand. She grinned at me, her eyes twinkling mischievously. “Don’t tell Maman, alright? You know she doesn’t approve.”
“What were you doing here, though? If something came up, you could’ve just sent an owl. “
At this, they both burst out laughing. Teddy snaked an arm around Victoire’s waist and shot me an amused look.
“Well,” he began, leaning in to kiss Victoire, “if you really want to know – ”
“Oh that’s just disgusting!” I ran towards the bathroom, refusing to look back. “Never mind I asked!”
As I closed the door and splashed cold water onto my face, I could hear them still laughing. I sighed. I still had a long day ahead of me.
It was nearly an hour before we Apparated over to the Burrow. Victoire had called Freddy and demanded that he excuse me from my Sunday shift at Flourish and Blotts so I could attend.
He’d refused. Victoire had brought Roxy in and he’d suddenly realized the value of family.
I didn’t know which one of them I was more annoyed with.
Victoire, for making me come, Freddy, for being a cowardly prat, or Aunt Audrey, for giving birth to Molly on this day.
After a few seconds of forceful spinning, I arrived at the Burrow. Victoire and Ted apparated next to me with a pop, still holding hands. It was in parts sweet, but mostly nauseating how they were always together. We landed near the fireplace and I looked around, feeling more nervous than ever.
What if my cousins didn’t like me anymore?
The air hit me and I stood there, feeling slightly out of place. All around the room, people were lounging around. The ambience of the room was warm and familiar – it was tinged with the slight scent of my grandmum’s cooking and of talking – of memories long past and yet to be made. Everything from the old and molding sofa to the wall covered with portraits of red-headed children laughing was vaguely near to me.
I felt conflicted.
As if I had never been to France. As if the past three years of my life had never existed. I had come full circle – back to the place of so many carefree childhood wanderings.
I was being silly.
I had left for three years. There was no use denying it. And my cousins had probably forgotten me. There was no use denying that, either.
And now, I was back.
I felt butterflies in my stomach as I looked around. I could recognize most people, save for the occasional stranger scattered in the sea of redheads. Hugo had grown taller. James had cut his hair and Lucy had dyed hers. Lily was holding hands with a tall, black-haired boy whom I did not recognize.
Victoire glided over, looking perfectly at ease. “Lily, Lucy, how’ve you been?”
They both looked at her, smiling. A few words that I could not hear passed between them and within seconds, they were all laughing. I didn’t miss the flashes of admiration that passed in the other girls’ eyes as they looked at my sister.
That was my sister.
She was as good with people as I was bad with them. I didn’t resent her for it just like I didn’t resent Louis for being taller than me or Roxy for having black hair. That was Victoire. Sociable.
A few moments passed and I stood there, in the midst of people that I barely knew. Everyone was busy laughing and talking. Nobody had noticed that I was there again for the first time in years. I stared outside the window, watching the rain fall over the trees in the distance. It was a light, small shower that left the skies in a pale azure color.
“Hey.” It was Freddy. “Here.”
He was holding two glasses of butterbeer. I took a glass from him obediently. He was wearing bright orange robes that clashed horribly with his dark skin.
“What is it?”
“You’re not talking to anyone.”
I shrugged. “It doesn’t make a difference.”
“Look, we all know why you haven’t been here, okay?” He sighed. “Nicky, don’t be like – “
A large, jubilant shout interrupted him. There was a crack of thunder above us as Albus and Molly both emerged from the fireplace, grinning widely.
“Finally found her, Luce!”
Lucy rushed over to her sister, looking irate. “Molly! Where were
you?! How can you be late to your own party?!”
“Sorry about that,” said Molly, not looking particularly apologetic. “Emergency at the office. I had to take care of – “
“Oh, just get inside the kitchen,” said Lucy crossly, shepherding the larger part of the family into the next room. “Nobody needs another episode of ‘what happened today at the office’.”
“You know you love it,” Molly said, eyes twinkling. She caught sight of Lucy’s eyes and promptly followed her in.
I fell behind, lingering awkwardly. Everyone had emptied into the other room – even my mother, although she gave me a slightly curious look as she left.
I wouldn’t complain. I really wouldn’t.
My cousins were nice people, really. My aunts and uncles were also nice. I couldn’t blame them for forgetting me. It wasn’t too hard to and they’d had plenty of practice. I watched the butterbeer inside the glass swirl. There was a faint sound of footsteps, but I didn’t look up. Someone was leaning against the threshold.
“Aren’t you going to go in?”
I awoke with a start, nearly spilling the butterbeer.
“Ah – sorry about that – I didn’t mean to – ” He broke off with a nervous laugh. “That was my fault. Every time I see you, something falls over.”
“Scorpius? What – what’re you doing here?”
“Same reason as everyone else. Molly’s birthday.”
“You know Molly?”
“Molly and I used to work together a few years back.” He put his hands in his pockets and shrugged.
There was a small silence between us as I considered him. Even he knew my cousin more than I did.
I stared at my butterbeer, at my feet, out the window, waiting for him to leave and clear the painfully empty silence between us. He didn’t. When I looked up, to my embarrassment, I saw that he was looking at me as well.
“So…” he began cautiously, “what’re you doing here? How come you’re not with them?”
“No reason,” I said quietly, “I – like it here.”
We could hear gleeful shouts erupting from the next room. Feet shuffled and the air was full of cries of “Happy Birthday, Molly!”
“Come on,” he said gently, “we should go before it’s completely over.”
I sighed. I really was being unreasonably childish. “…okay.”
He gave me a large carefree smile and ran his hands through his hair. He seemed to do that a lot when he was nervous. I smiled back.
After Molly cut the cake and the ritual round of cheering and hugging passed, everyone dispersed to different rooms. The rain was falling well by then, punctuating the shouts that came every now and then. The drops slid cleanly onto the glass, blurring the treetops into fans of green.
I was standing by myself again.
Beside me, Freddy and Uncle George were arguing and I was watching them, amused.
“Dad,” said Freddy, sounding entirely exasperated, “I’m not going to quit my job!”
Uncle George grinned and feigned a dramatic shock. “My son, my one and only son is refusing me! After all the years of work I’ve – “
Tired of their endless bickering, I began walking upstairs, looking for something – anything – to do. My hands grazed the sides of the walls which had once been so familiar to me, so full of memories. The stairs creaked horribly unflatteringly with each step I took. Typical. My grandparents hadn’t fixed this place at all over the years, had they?
Upstairs were my uncles’ rooms. Uncle George had shared a room with his brother, my Uncle Fred, who still had a seat to himself every time our family ate a meal together. I passed by Uncle Percy’s room, smirking slightly at the large “Do Not Enter” scribbled on the front of the door. It was when I passed Aunt Ginny’s old room that I heard them.
A small crack of the door was open. I had walked right past, turning by chance to catch a grasp of what it was like inside that I saw all of them seated on the bed.
Molly. Lily. Lucy. Roxanne. And even Rose.
They were all gathered on the bed, arms against the mattress and against each other. In all honesty, it stung. It stung to see all my female cousins sitting together in what obviously looked like a planned meeting. It had not even occurred to them, I supposed, that I wasn’t there. They were already too used to it.
“ – he’ll never notice me,” Molly sighed.
I could almost hear Victoire’s voice scolding me. Nicky, what do you think you’re doing eavesdropping?
But I wanted to know.
“Don’t say that,” said Rose, patting Molly’s hand sympathetically. “I’m sure he will.”
“I don’t know, Molly, you’ve been friends with him for ages. Maybe it’s just time to let go.” Lucy was inspecting her nails.
Rose shot her a dirty look. “How can you say that?”
“I’m with Rose on this,” Roxanne said, squeezing Molly’s shoulder. “Don’t give up, Molls.”
Molly swatted at her own auburn hair, looking as though she were woefully bereft. Theatrics, honestly. “It would be so much easier to give up on him if he wasn’t so fit.”
fit,” said Lily, nodding.
“Lily! You have a boyfriend!” Rose sounded scandalized.
“So what? I’m taken, not blind. I think he’s got nice eyes.”
“He does,” Roxanne said. Everyone stared at her and she blushed. “Well, what? Like Lily said, I’m not blind.” There was a great booming noise from downstairs and everyone flinched. Roxanne’s expression darkened. “I’ll bet that’s Freddy again...oh, he’s going to be hearing from me…”
Molly broke in with a fresh wail. “But he wasn’t there earlier! When I was about to cut the cake! Scorpius is never going to fancy me!” She put her head in her hands. Everyone burst out, trying to encourage her.
I stood by the crack in the door, mortified. I had obviously heard something that I wasn’t supposed to and I edged away, feeling in equal parts betrayed and guilty. I slipped downstairs as quickly as possible.
James was sitting in the center with a small circle of people around him, talking forcefully. James was the patriarch of our generation and of our cousins. He ruled over all of us – even Teddy and Albus. He met my eyes briefly and I looked away quickly. I knew that he had never approved of my job in France. There was too much in his eyes for me to be able to meet – power, fame, and a gentle, burning confidence.
On the other side of the room, Lorcan and Lysander were running around, arguing over whose turn it was to fly on the toy broomstick. Aunt Luna watched them placidly, a serene expression on her face.
Lorcan approached me, blue eyes wide.
“Will you play with us?”
He was possibly the most adorable eight year-old I’d ever caught sight of. He had tousled brown hair and cheeks that looked like they’d been inflated and three years ago, he’d told me that he wanted to marry me someday.
I pecked him on the cheek. “Do you remember me, darling?”
He nodded sullenly, hair bobbing slightly. “You’re Nicky.”
Lysander appeared and poked him in the side. “Her name’s Dominique, idiot!”
“Don’t call me an idiot!”
“I can call you whatever – “
I heard someone laugh and I turned around, watching the two boys scuffle briefly.
Scorpius was standing there, grinning. “Are those two usually like that?”
“Yeah,” I managed faintly, still thinking of Molly. “Usually.”
He was smiling again. I watched as he edged closer to me and the two boys. He put his hand to his hair and he burst out nervously, “Uh – I don’t mean to bother you, but – er – “
“Ah – I always manage to make myself sound like an idiot. It’s – it’s – “
He always looked so cheerful. Light and bright, like the rain beyond the windows that was drenching the world In a slow, circling wave of water didn’t exist at all.
“Coffee,” he said suddenly. “We were planning to go sometime soon, yeah? Would Tuesday work?”
He was grinning so lightly. Molly fancied him. I couldn’t. I really, really couldn’t. But I could feel something in my stomach flutter slightly.
I saw him smile and I knew that I was going to do something selfish. Maybe it was him or me or the rain, but I wanted this – this cheerful confidence that he had – for a little longer. I told myself that nothing would come of it, that we were just going to be friends anyway and that Molly could have him all she wanted.
I smiled back slowly. “Yeah. It would.”
A/N: I hope you guys didn't think it was too confusing and that you enjoyed it! :-) And I did decide to stick to canon and make Lorcan and Lysander significantly younger than the Weasley cousins, so I hope the sudden introduction of them as children didn't throw you off. :]
Please don't forget to review! ^_^ I love all my reviews and reviewers and shall respond as soon as possible! :D