Disclaimer: If I was JKR I would be being my awesome self somewhere else.
"Last call! ALL ABOARD!"
A bell dings.
“LAST CALL BACK TO KING’S CROSS STATION!"
“Laney! Laney, where are you? Oh! There you are! Quit running off ― where’s your trunk?” Rose spatters at me, her face turning a very unnatural shade of red.
We are standing just outside of the Hogwarts Express, ready to leave for the Holidays. Rose has been badgering me every five minutes since the moment I woke up this morning. She is completely neurotic about time ― to the point where I worry about her mental stability.
“Rose,” I say, my hand on her shoulder, “my trunk is right here,” I point to the large case at my feet, “quit having a panic attack. You’re going to give yourself hiccups again.”
She nods, breathing heavily and tugging at her sleeves. “Right, right...calm, yes. Yes ― AL, FOR THE LOVE OF MERLIN, HURRY UP!”
I jump backwards at her loud burst and Al’s glasses go crooked. For the past ten minutes he has been trying to package his broom. “Er ― Laney, maybe it’s best if you take her onto the train...I’ll catch up to you in a few minutes.”
“All right,” I reply, grabbing Rose’s arm. “Come on, dear, follow me onto the nice red train now. That’s it. No, don’t be afraid ― there’s candy in our compartment!” I say calmly to Rose, trying to bring her out of this manic episode.
“Laney, you sound like a pedophile,” Al says pointedly.
I throw him a look.
“Watch it, Potter,” I growl.
He smirks and continues messing with his broom.
As we enter the Hogwarts Express, I head straight down to the tenth compartment where Lily, Fred, and Dara are waiting for us. “Hiya,” I say, dumping Rose into a seat. “Fred, a little help?” I ask, gesturing to our trunks. He pops up and helps me load them into the compartments. “Brilliant. Thanks, Fred.”
I fall down into a seat and sigh. My heart has been going haywire for this past week; I’m so excited to be spending Christmas with the Potter/Weasley clan that I can hardly stand it. I do feel a little intrusive being the only non-Potter/Weasley, but then I remember how I have no where else to go, and I feel much better. And then there’s that kind-of-major-thing about Harry Potter knowing my parents. Yes, I think it’s safe to say that this is going to be an interesting Holiday. The train’s final horn blows and I feel it start to move beneath me.
“Phew, just in time,” Al says, sliding open the compartment door and joining us.
“Oh my goodness, Al!” Rose squeaks. “I thought you weren’t going to make it!” She hits his arm.
“Ouch! What was that for?”
“For making me nervous!” she shrieks.
“Heaven forbid, Rose being nervous. How terribly out of character for her,” says Lily, eyes rolling to the ceiling.
“Hey, Rose?” I say quickly, before she can retort.
“Yes?” she responds a little begrudgingly.
“How are, uh, classes going?”
She raises an eyebrow. “Good, I guess. Since when do you care about school, though?”
“What! Can’t a girl be interested in her friend’s student life? Yeesh,” I say defensively.
“No,” Fred interjects, looking bored. “School’s rubbish. This is winter break! Let’s not bore ourselves with Hogwarts codswallop.”
“Hogwarts isn’t codswallop, Fred,” Dara snaps in an irritated tone.
Joy, here comes the Dara versus Fred bit again.
“Oi, get that stick out of your arse and piss off,” Fred replies heatedly.
Dara looks sincerely offended. “That language is offensive, you know!”
“As if I give a hippogriff’s fart about your feelings,” he says, stretching. “Actually, I rather fancy offending you.”
Dara snarls a retort and they bowel off into another full steamed row.
The rest of us exchange looks and make ourselves comfortable. It’s going to be a long train ride...
And that it was.
Hours went by of Dara and Fred bickering. We eventually had to take shifts sitting in between them, causing much uproar from the pair: “How old are we, five? We ― aren’t ― FIGHTING!”
After the long, seven hour train ride was over, everyone was thrilled to see the dreary London skyline.
“Finally,” I gasp as I fling myself off the train and onto the platform. “I thought I was going to die in there.”
Al, Rose, and Lily are following tightly behind, all looking quite as glad as I am for being off that bloody train.
“Good riddance!” Dara shouts at Fred, storming off toward her mum. I give Ms. Valentin a wave and turn back to the group.
“She just never shuts up, does she?” Fred says to no one in particular, rolling his eyes. The rest of us exchange looks, knowing full-well that Fred had as much a row with Dara as she him.
“There’s Mum and Dad!” Lily says excitedly.
We turn to find Mr. and Mrs. Potter standing by the train, beaming at us. I’ve already met Mrs. Potter, but seeing the actual Harry Potter was a crazy thing. I have never thought of him as a celebrity before, but I am suddenly feeling self-conscious about my plain self.
“Hi honey,” Mrs. Potter says, hugging Lily.
“Good term?” asks Mr. Potter, rustling Al’s hair.
“Yeah,” says Al, grinning.
“Where are James and Hugo?” Mr. Potter asks, glancing around.
“Dunno,” Al responds. “They’ll catch up. Dad, this is Laney Becks,” he says, gesturing to me.
I flush. “Hi,” I say, abnormally shyly.
“Nice to meet you,” he grins, shaking my hand.
“Good to see you again,” Mrs. Potter says, beaming at me.
“You too,” I respond kindly.
“Mum! Dad!” Rose squeals, making eye-contact with a bushy haired woman and her tall, red haired spouse.
“Rose!” they say, walking up and crowding her in a hug.
“Heard you got detention,” her dad says, rustling her hair. “You keep it up, right?”
“Ron!” her mother scolds, throwing him a look.
He clears his throat but winks at Rose all the same.
“Where’s your brother, dear?” Mrs. Weasley asks.
“Here!” A small, brown haired boy comes running up. “Hi Mum, hi Dad.”
“Hey Hugh!” Mr. Weasley says, patting his son on the shoulder.
“Sweetheart, you have dirt on your nose,” Mrs. Weasley says, attacking him with a handkerchief.
Mr. Weasley rolls his eyes.
“You must be Laney!” Mrs. Weasley says after she’s done cleaning Hugo’s nose, turning to me.
I grin. “Hi,” I say, shaking her hand.
“I’m so happy to meet you!” she trills, hugging me. “Rose talks non stop about you.”
I laugh. “Thanks Rose,” I say, smiling gratefully at her.
“We’re so happy to have you staying with us for the Holidays. You are welcome anytime ― this is Ron,” Mrs. Weasley says, gesturing to her husband.
“Hi,” I say to him.
“Hello,” he responds gleefully.
“Right. Harry?” She turns to Mr. Potter. “See you tomorrow for dinner, then?”
“All right, we better be off. Everyone ready?” She looks around. “Okay. See you, Potters!”
“Bye, Al! Bye, Lil!” Rose and I say as we head off through the barrier.
“Hi, I’m Hugo,” Rose’s little brother declares to me as we walk into the busy train station. “I don’t think we’ve met. I’m a third year.”
“Laney,” I say, grinning at him.
“Lily says you’re cool,” Hugo continues, smiling up at me. “Wanna be friends?”
“No!” Rose snaps, shuffling him away. “Go play with dolls or something. Leave Laney be.”
“I’m not six years old, Roe,” Hugo grumbles, demonstrating a nickname for Rose I have never heard before.
“Sure, I’ll be your friend,” I say to Hugo. “And, uh, Roe?”
Hugo cheers and Rose gives me an angry look. “Eurgh, please don’t call me that. My family think it’s cute ― blech,” she says, making a face.
“It is cute!” I say, deciding that whether she likes it or not, I am now calling her ‘Roe’ for the rest of her life.
“For a five year old, yes, for a fifteen year old, no.”
“I like it. Roe ― it has a fine ring to it. That’s what I shall call you from now on.” I chuckle at my own wit.
“Never mind! Never mind!” I squeal in horror.
Both the Weasleys and the Potters live in a beautiful old place called Godric’s Hollow. It’s full of history and magic for us witches and wizards. It’s best known for the cemetery where some of the most famous witches and wizards of all time have been buried. I love it ― the whole place. I wish I had grown up somewhere so beautiful.... I wonder if I would have turned out different, growing up in a stunning little village like this. You know, maybe not have become such a pessimist. Then again, I like being a pessimist. I fancy myself quite the accomplished Negative Nancy, you see.
We Apparate onto the front porch and walk inside. It’s a quaint little place with loads of Rose’s and Hugo’s old childhood artwork all over the walls. It’s neurotically clean, but has the cozy feeling a cottage should have.
“My room’s up here,” Rose says, dumping Hugo with our luggage and leading me upstairs.
“Merlin,” I breathe as she kicks open the first door on the right. The whole thing just screams Rose Weasley; it’s a large room with crisp white walls and drapes. She has two twin beds with neatly folded Gryffindor quilts on them and several fluffy red and gold pillows lined up against the head boards. There are two skinny bookcases on either side of the large window at the furthest end of the room, chalk full of magical textbooks and other things she has read.
She also has a desk with what looks like a few Muggle devices sitting on it and a bulletin board containing strategically pinned notes. There’s a small protruding square a few feet away from her desk that seems to be some sort of reading area. Inside it is a dark burgundy coloured lounge chair with a Gryffindor-gold floor lamp next to it.
I realize that this room is kind of like the anti-Laney. However, I love every bit of it.
“This is so completely you,” I laugh, making myself comfortable on a bed.
“Thanks,” she replies, hanging her coat neatly in the closet. “Pumpkin Juice?” she asks, pulling out her wand.
“Wicked!” I exclaim, just now noticing the small white icebox on the other side of the burgundy sofa. Before, I had merely taken it as a side table. “Sure!”
She beams and summons two goblets from the icebox. “Here,” she smiles, handing one to me.
“Thanks!” I say, swallowing some juice. “And, uh, using magic, are we?”
She flushes. “Well, the Ministry can’t really know. They can only detect magic ― they can’t tell you who did it unless you aren’t around any wizards. They just expect parents to enforce the rule. But, uh, what Mum and Dad don’t know won’t hurt them.” She smiles sheepishly.
I laugh fullheartedly.
“I’m utterly exhausted,” she moans, sinking down onto the couch.
“Me too,” I say, resting my chin on my knees. I look around the room. “It’s sort of like a hospital in here.”
She laughs. “A hospital?”
“Yeah,” I say, considering my words for a moment. “All white and stuff. Like, ‘follow the nice men in white coats to your room now,’” I say in a voice like a mentally deranged person.
“So, in other words, my room looks like an asylum to you?” she asks me pointedly.
“Yeah! That’s it!” I say, glad to have found the right words to describe it. “But it’s brilliant ― best room I’ve ever been in.”
She rolls her eyes, laughing at me.
“Hey Rose?” I say, suddenly remembering something. “What ever happened between you and that Riley bloke down after the Quidditch scrimmage?”
“Oh,” she giggles, blushing. “It ― well ― he’s asked me to a Hufflepuff second term party for when we get back to school.”
“Wow,” I say, trying not to sound as concerned as I feel. “That’s great, Rose. Maybe ― maybe he’ll ask you out.” I cringe at these words. That is the last thing I want.
I nod, smiling as honestly as I can muster. It’s difficult for me to be understanding to this. I want to be happy for her, I do, but there’s something that I just don’t like about Riley. Something that makes me think he might be doing this on a dare or as a way to get back at someone else. I can’t bear to see her get hurt again, I can’t. But at the same time, expressing these feelings would crush her. I know I have to let her make her own mistakes.
Later that night we joined the Weasley family for a delicious dinner (steak and kidney pie made by Mrs. Weasley. Mr. Weasley complained a lot about it) and then headed back up to Rose’s room to unpack and get to sleep.
I place all of my things in neat piles in her two empty drawers (I feel that by being my usual messy self I might hurt the room’s feelings) and slip into my pajamas.
“Mum’s put warming charms on our beds,” Rose says, pulling a hairbrush through her tangly curls.
“I noticed,” I say from inside my bed, cozy as a clam.
“And you think I’m neurotic,” she says, kicking off her socks and climbing into bed. “I’m a right picnic in the park compared to Mum. Wait until you see some of the things she’s got organized around the house ― every magic book ever made ordered from A to Z in our living room is just one example.” She laughs, “Dad hates it. Drives him mad.”
“So that’s where you get it from,” I say, laughing. “Apple doesn’t drop far from the tree then, does it?” I wink at her.
She rolls her eyes. “Guess not.... Night.”
“G’night,” I mumble, blowing out the candle and closing my eyes.
“Rose! Laney! Wake up!”
There’s a loud rapping on the door.
“Wha...” I slur, my eyes bleary.
“I’m up! I’m up!” Rose squeals, sitting bolt upright. She falls back into her bed from a slight head rush.
“Who’s there?” I say, rubbing my eyes.
“It’s Lily! Get up!”
I slide out of bed, feeling the blood rushing back to my feet. I drag myself over to the door and push it open. Lily’s standing there, grinning at me.
“You really couldn’t have just come in?” I growl at her. “Would’ve saved Rose the heart attack and a half from your pounding on our door. It was open, you know.”
She smirks, skipping past me and over to Rose, who’s now slipping her socks back on.
“Breakfast is downstairs, you two. Aunt Hermione’s made eggs. Laney, you didn’t tell me your hair was curly!” she says, taking a double take on me.
I groan. “That’s because it isn’t,” I retort. “I’ve just got horrible bed head every morning.”
Lily laughs. “That’s why I braid my hair before bed,” she says, pointing to her braided hair. “Otherwise it’s stark raving mad in the morning.”
“Not as bad as this,” I say, glancing in the mirror. A description of my appearance almost isn’t even necessary. Let’s just say it’s along-the-lines of ‘Woolly Mammoth.’
We trot downstairs to the smell of eggs and toast.
“Here you go,” Mrs. Weasley says, handing us each a plate of steaming breakfast as we enter the kitchen. “Sleep well, Laney?”
I nod. “Perfectly, thanks.”
She beams at me. “So glad to hear, dear. Lily, could you pass the salt?”
“Sure thing,” Lily says, handing a silver container to Mrs. Weasley.
“Wait a moment,” I say, looking at Lily. “You don’t live here.”
She laughs. “Brilliant observation, Laney.”
“No, I mean, how are you here? Doesn’t your family live somewhere else?”
“Nope. All on this block. I live a few doors down,” she replies, jerking her head towards the window. “I’m here all the time, though. Aunt Hermione is a much better cook than Mum.”
Mrs. Weasley gives her a grateful look but denies the statement all the same.
“So what do you want to do today?” Rose asks me after a few minutes of silent stuffing of our faces.
“Er, dunno,” I respond indifferently. “Maybe we could see Al?” I suggest this in a casual tone.
She gives me an annoyingly knowing look. “All right, that sounds like a plan.”
We finish our meal (thanking Mrs. Weasley wholeheartedly) and head off to the Potters’ house. It’s bloody freezing out and there’s snow half way up to my waist. When we get to their front porch, Rose pushes open their door and kicks off her boots.
The cottage is beautiful on the inside. It’s exactly the kind of place I see Al growing up in. It’s honestly the most humble little domicile I have ever been inside of. There are family portraits covering every inch of the walls, happy curtains tied back with happy bows, Quidditch objects strewn carelessly by the doorway, a crackling fireplace with four rather squashy looking armchairs around it, Gryffindor gear in every nook and cranny, and a lazy black cat snoozing on the burgundy rug.
“Wow,” I breathe, peering around.
“Hmm?” Rose says indifferently. “Oh,” she says, evidently just realizing that I had never seen the inside of the Potter’s house before. “It’s lovely, right?”
I nod. “Kind of like a wizard’s heaven.”
My thoughts stray back to my old home in Scotland with Netta. I remember all the pink dishes she had with little-old-lady candies in them, my bubbly pink room with frothy white curtains and lacy bows, her kitchen chalk full of casseroles and Jello-salads, watching her knit fluffy pink socks....
Life is so much better now. Not that I don’t miss my great aunt, I do quite a bit. It’s just that I need adventure in my life. I need change. That’s something you just don’t get with people like Netta. But here, in the centre-most area of magical culture and history, I feel so...right. Like a piece of a puzzle you find crammed into the wrong spot for years and then move it into its perfect fit. For the past fifteen years of my life I’ve felt crammed. Now something finally feels right and I have no intention of letting that go.
“Hey you two,” a voice says happily. Al walks in from the kitchen, beaming at us.
“Hi,” I grin. “This place is great!”
He laughs. “Thanks.”
“Al, where’s Uncle Harry? I think I’m going to get a flying lesson from him today,” Rose says.
I gasp. “You hate flying!”
Al looks equally surprised. “Yeah, Roe, I thought you were against it?”
She looks defensive. “Who’s to say that I’m not allowed to try it out?” she snaps, going red. “My dad was a really good Keeper in his day. And don’t call me that!”
Al and I exchange looks. “Sure he was,” Al says awkwardly. “Well, if you really want to, I think it’s great. Dad’s upstairs with Teddy.”
“All right,” she says, heading up the staircase. “I’ll find you guys in a bit.”
She disappears up the stairs, leaving Al and I alone and staring at each other.
“What do you wanna do?” I ask, attempting to fill a very loud silence.
“Let’s go on a walk. I’ll show you around Godric’s Hollow,” he says, pulling open the front door.
I follow him outside, tugging the Gryffindor hat down over my ears and tangly brown hair. We trudge through the front garden and onto the icy street.
“So, uh, is it haunted or something?” I ask stupidly as we walk up to the famous graveyard.
He gives me a funny look and laughs. “Not haunted,” he replies, leaning against the snow-coated fence. “It’s where my grandparents are buried.”
I swallow. I want to say something but it’s caught in my throat.
Brilliant, Laney. Way to go and make things awkward.
He smiles at me. “C’mon, I’ll show you where they lived.”
We continue walking until we are in front of a partly destroyed cottage. I of course know what this is: It’s Lily and James Potter’s home. It was exploded the night Voldemort killed them. I look tentatively at Al, acknowledging the fact that his arm is touching mine.
“Mad, right?” He stares at the cottage in a longing sort of way. I of course only notice how his green eyes are throwing shimmering light in all directions and hardly hear what he says.
“Huh?” I reply a little distantly.
“It’s where Voldemort tried to murder my dad.”
My attention levels a bit. “Do you come here often?”
He hesitates, “I ― yeah, I do.” He looks defiantly at me, as if daring me to question the act.
I don’t know how to react ― I can see it hurts him: the fact that a large part of his family has been in mortal peril before. I want to comfort him ― to connect with him in a way that I know he needs. Why can’t I? My whole life I’ve been so afraid of opening my heart to someone: Even just touching another person sets me on edge. I want to fall in love; to feel free and open and happy in someone else’s arms. But I can’t. I’m cynical and harsh. This thing of ― love ― it just isn’t me. But I want it to be me. I’ve felt cold and lonely my whole life.
Something unlike anything that has ever happened before burns inside me: Without thinking about it ― without caring about my vulnerability for once ― I slide my hand into his and let the way I feel set into my eyes, hoping he understands. From the way he turns toward me, gazing down at my hand in his, I know I’ve done something right.
He touches my face with his hand ― my whole inner-self wanting desperately to turn him away, but I don’t let it.
Our eyes lock and I can feel a sudden burning emulating between us. Every fibre of my being is rejecting this feeling, but I can’t shake it. And I won’t.
I hardly even notice myself start to lean towards him....
The sudden cry from a playing child causes me to start and slide my hand from his. My eyes flicker to the icy ground and I blush, meanwhile cursing myself for instigating this awkward situation.
The child in question, a Muggle girl with rosy cheeks and blonde pigtails, comes dashing by us in hot fleet of her squealing brother. I feel the sudden urge to throttle her.
After a few seconds of awkward quiet I notice that Al is focused on a spot directly above my left shoulder.
“What?” I snap instinctively, whipping myself around to face the empty street.
“James,” says Al in a stoney voice. “What...what is he doing?”
And then I see it: There in the midst of the park is James, wrapped tightly around a raven-haired girl whom I recognize as Charlotte Vinter, Gryffindor Beater and one of James’s fellow sixth years. Albus looks utterly repulsed. I stifle a laugh and turn to him, “Guess they’re a thing then.”
He shakes his head. “She lives in London...not Godric’s Hollow...and ― and James?”
“It’s true,” I laugh, “Charlotte hates James. Last Quidditch practice when he was plowing into us about how we keep dropping the Quaffle, Charlotte tried to kill him with her Beater’s bat.”
Al looks pale. “They’ve been sneaking around.”
“What’s wrong? James is always snogging someone. What’s so different about this time?”
“He’s sneaking around...” he repeats. “Meaning he actually likes her.”
“Isn’t that a good thing? God knows he needs a stable relationship ―”
“I ― I dunno.” He redirects his vision away from his older brother. “Come on,” he says, dragging me in the other direction. “I can’t look at that anymore.”
We trudge off into a little park, thickly decorated with Christmas cheer, where Al leads me to a bench.
“So Muggles live here too, then?” I ask, watching as several different families bustle in and out of the stores.
“Yeah,” replies Al, “all the wizarding families have Muggle Repelling Charms on their homes, though.”
It’s quiet for a moment as we listen to the shop bells ding as their doors are opened.
“It’s beautiful here,” I say quietly, noticing my breath turn to mist.
“What?” I ask, crinkling my forehead.
“You know,” he says, continuing to laugh, “before I met you, I sort of thought you were this horrible, emotionless person.”
“I was,” I reply honestly.
“So why’d you change?”
“I don’t know,” I say, watching a snowflake float down to earth. “I guess I never really had a reason to change until I met you and Rose.” I blush a little at this bold statement; I don’t much like explaining my feelings to people.
He smiles down at the icy ground.
It’s silent for a bit as we watch the snow come down ever faster. I stare at my glove, thinking about Al and trying to make sense of this ridiculous and confusing thing between us. As usual, I cannot make head or tail of the situation.
I hear the quiet laughter of two children playing in the snow and I glance up at Al. “I don’t understand you either,” I say to him very quickly. He looks confused. “The other day in the corridor,” I explain, “you said you couldn’t understand me. You said that you don’t know what to give me.”
His eyes dig into mine. “I don’t,” he says.
“Well, I don’t either!” I say a little fiercely.
“I’m simple,” he replies. “You’re bloody confusing!”
“So are you! What the hell am I supposed to make of the things you’ve done?” I snap.
“What? What have I done that’s confusing?”
I stare at him. “Well, for starters, you completely ignoredme and went out with that bloody swamp creature of a human being for three months!”
“Only because you snogged James, Laney!”
This is a low blow. I say through my teeth, “I wouldn’t have kissed him if I hadn’t seen you snogging Ivy and gotten myself drunk! I came to that party to see you, Al! But you were already eating her face when I got there!”
His face looks torn between fury and bewilderment. “Wait ― you came to see me that night?”
“What? I ― yes,” I spew, still heated.
He swears loudly, “Damn her!”
“What’s going on?” I say, feeling like I’m missing something.
“She told me that you weren’t coming at all that night. That you weren’t interested in me. She said you both had talked about it and you had intended to ditch me that night. So when I saw you and James ― I wanted to.... That’s why I did it.”
“She what?” I exclaim murderously.
He sinks back into the park bench looking frustrated. “She’s manipulated us,” he breathes. “Straight from the start. Malicious bitch...”
I shake my head in disbelief. “I’m going to fill a room with horse-sized, rabid Pygmy Puffs and just trap her in there until she implodes or spontaneously combusts or something,” I growl.
He bursts out laughing, “I think you’d be everyone’s hero.”
“Al, listen, I’m sorry,” I say sheepishly. “For snogging James and the like.”
He nods. “It’s okay, Becks. And - er - I’m sorry for believing Ivy in the first place.”
I grin, “No worries.”
“Right.” He jumps up, beaming at me. “It’s noon. I expect the family’s here.”
I always thought the Potter/Weasley clan was a big one, but I never knew just how big until we reentered the Potter’s now-crammed great room. My mouth falls open as I see them. Albus catches my eye and winks.
“Al, dear boy,” a tall red-haired man with a horn-rimmed spectacles says as we come through the back door, “good term, I hope?”
“Cheers Uncle Percy,” Al replies, grinning. “‘S been all right.”
There is a woman standing tightly next to him with mousy brown hair that’s held back in a very stern looking knot.
“Hi Aunt Audrey,” Al says a little less comfortably. She gives him a single, very curt nod.
“Look sharp, Al,” says a man I recognize as George Weasley, owner of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.
“Uncle George, Aunt Angie!” Al beams at them. “This is my good friend Laney,” he says gesturing to me.
I step out of his shadow and try to be social. “Hi there,” I say, shaking their hands.
“Tremendous to meet you!” George says, reaching into his pocket. “Instant Darkness Powder?” he asks, holding out a black rock to me.
“George!” his wife says, grabbing the rock.
I laugh, “No thanks, but I’ll be sure to stop by your shop next time I’m in Diagon Alley.”
“I like her,” he says to Al. “Cheerio!” They walk into the kitchen.
Al laughs, “Uncle George is great.”
I nod in agreement.
Next moment, Fred and James come fighting through the thick crowd to meet us, a tall, avocado haired man in their wake.
“Becks, this is Teddy Lupin,” James says to me.
“Hi,” I say, smiling at him.
“We’re trying to get a Quidditch group together. You two interested?”
I can tell Al is uncomfortable.
“Not right now,” I reply, “I need to find Rose...thanks, though.”
As I start to turn away, more family swallows us in. “Al, honey, how are you?” a short, grey woman says. She pinches his cheek affectionately.
“Albus, my boy! Good to see you,” his grandfather says.
As they start to crowd him more, I break away. I’ve never been one for small spaces.
Right as I make my way into the back garden however, Lily comes bounding up to me bearing a piece of parchment and quill. “Liam’s just wrote me,” she explains, waving the letter in my face, “he said” ― she lowers her voice ― “he wants to meet up with me.”
I raise my eyebrows. “How? I thought he was in Scotland?”
She shakes her head, “He’s staying with family in Surrey. That’s not far from here!”
“And he asked you to sneak out?” I ask, a little disgruntled by this fact.
“No, no,” she says. “He wants to meet up on New Year’s Eve. He said he’ll floo to Godric’s Hollow if my parents are all right with it. I know they won’t be though, so I’m just going to meet him by the statue in town.”
“So you are sneaking out?”
She shifts uncomfortably. “Well, yes. But the thing is, you can’t tell Rose. Okay?”
“Don’t worry,” I respond knowingly, “I won’t throw you to the lions, I swear.”
She looks grateful. “I’m going to go write back ― thanks Laney!” She dashes off into the cottage, her red hair flipping behind her. I shake my head, laughing.
It’s eerily quiet in the Potters’ back garden and I wonder vaguely where everyone is. Then there’s a sound...a sort of...whooshing...coming from above....
In an instant, I have been knocked clean over. “What the ― ROSE!”
I stretch my right arm painfully and glare daggers at Rose, who is now spread-eagled on the ground next to me, broom aloft.
Mr. Potter swoops down between us looking mildly amused. “All right, Laney?”
“I’m fine,” I say, trying and failing to sit up.
“And you, Roe?” he asks his niece.
“Yes ― sorry Laney,” she mumbles, sitting upright and looking dizzy.
“Well,” Mr. Potter says, clapping his hands together. “That’s ― er ― that’s something then. Ready to give it another go, Rosie?”
Rose hiccups and gives an unsteady wobble. “Sure, Uncle H-Harry,” she stutters. She then throws me a furtive look, teeters onto her broom, and shoots off into the air again.
“Ouch, that looked like it hurt,” comes a voice.
“Rose really is a dreadful flyer. Just dreadful,” says someone else.
“She still hasn’t sat up yet,” comes a third, male voice. “I wonder if she’s all right in the head...?”
I sit bolt upright and spin myself around to face three, young looking people.
“Oh look, Molly, she’s responsive,” the dark girl says, elbowing the curly haired blonde in the side.
I stand up, brushing dirt off of my jeans. I give them all an inquisitive look.
“Molly Weasley,” the blonde says in a high soprano, throwing out her hand. “This is Roxanne and Louis.” She gestures to the dark-skinned girl and the pale, brunette boy.
I shake her hand a little reluctantly and consider them for a moment. “You at Hogwarts?”
“Next year,” they groan.
“It’s Lucy who’s there from my family,” Molly says in her trilling, swift voice. She scowls resentfully at the ground.
“Oh yeah?” I ask curiously, “What year?”
“Fourth. Ravenclaw.” She rolls her eyes.
I turn my attention to the boy who says, “One of my sisters is there, but the other is out.”
I observe him for a moment and realize just how familiar he is. “Dominique Weasley?”
He nods. “You know her?”
“Not well,” I reply honestly. “We have Quidditch together but she doesn’t talk to me there.”
“Sounds like Dom,” he replies.
“My brother Fred’s in your year,” Roxanne pipes up, beaming. “You know him?”
“‘Course I do,” I say, grinning. “Fred’s great.”
I watch their eager faces, staring up at me like I’m Merlin’s pants. I guess I kind of like these little squirts. They have spunk.
“Laney, dear,” Mrs. Potter says, coming into the back garden with a certain bounce in her step, “an owl has just arrived for you.”
“All right,” I reply, “talk to you later.” I wave at the little trio and follow Mrs. Potter into the kitchen. I land eyes on the enormous snowy owl whom I recognize as Felipe, the Valentin’s owl. His wide eyes watch me reproachfully as I extract the letter from his leg.
“We’ll let her have a rest with our owl,” Mrs. Potter says, allowing Felipe to land on her arm. As she exits the kitchen whispering coos to him, I tear open the thick parchment and read:
Hello! I can’t believe it’s taken so long for me to write you! I found out on the first day of the holiday that my grandparents are taking Mum and me to South America for the summer! I can’t believe it! Can you imagine? Sun for more than three days of the summer! Anyway, I just had to boast a bit! How’s your stay with Rose, though? Crowded? There sure are a lot of those Weasleys!
“What’s that?” asks Rose as she enters the kitchen looking dizzy.
“Just a letter from Dara,” I say, scribbling a short reply on the back. “Apparently she’ll be spending the summer in South America.”
“Wow!” gasps Rose, her eyes flicking open and coming alight with interest, like perhaps she had just found a particularly rare book. “That’s incredible!”
I nod and look out the window. “Yeah, I suppose.”
“‘S wrong?” says Rose quickly, a tentative expression etched into her smooth face.
I pause. “Well, I don’t have any home to go back to anymore...I just figured I would stay with her this summer, that’s all.”
“You’ll stay here,” Rose replies.
“I — really?”
“Of course,” she says, devouring a muffin.
I smile gratefully at her. She doesn’t even know the half of what that means to me.
Later that night Rose and I clamber into bed feeling hyper. Snow is swirling around outside the window and the room is glowing by a flickering candle. It reminds me vaguely of Hogwarts and I wonder what Chaz and — Slimewad — are doing. I’ve never really heard much of Ivy’s parents.
Perhaps they are spending Christmas in their crypt.
“...and I hope I get that Care of Magical Creatures book I’ve been asking for,” Rose bubbles, gesturing wildly around with her hands. I laugh watching her ramble on. “Anyway,” she says, leaning back on her pillow, “what do you want?”
I blink. What did I want? “Er — I hadn’t really thought about it.”
“Well, I hope you’ll like what I’ve gotten you,” she says, fluffing her pillow and popping back down on it.
Meanwhile, I gulp. I had completely forgotten to get Rose a gift. I smack my forehead with my head.
“What is it?” Rose asks confusedly, glancing nervously from my hand to my face.
“It’s nothing!” I squeak. “I’ll just use the loo then...” I dash out of bed, slipping on a stray sock and doing a sort of sliding wipie-out along the way. “EURGH” — popping back up — “s-sorry...right. Be right back...THE CHAMBER POTS BECKON!”
She stares at me.
“Ahem, y-yes...right.” And I sprint through door and tumble into the hall. I peer down the stairs to see the Potters, standing by the doorway and getting ready to leave from a late dinner. “Al!” I hiss, waving madly for Albus to come to the stairway.
“What is it?” he says, looking at me with a knitted brow.
“I forgot to get Rose a gift,” I half whisper, half shout, at him.
I watch the blood drain from his face. “So did I!” he suddenly whispers back.
“Tomorrow morning?” I ask.
“It’s a plan.”
“Al? Let’s go!” Ginny calls from the great room.
We nod at each other and head away. When I enter the room, adrenaline from a few moments ago still pumping, I see that the candle is burned out and Rose is turned away, fast asleep. I crawl into bed and shut my eyes tight, trying to clear my mind.
I wake up early on Christmas Eve to the sound of Molly, Louis, and Roxanne playing Exploding Snap in the Weasleys’ living room. I blunder downstairs and flip over the game board.
“Sleep well?” asks Molly in a bitterly sarcastic voice, kneeling down to collect the game pieces.
“You woke me up,” I sniff.
Okay, so I’m a bit of a Sleeping Beauty ― sue me.
“We’ll be sure to tone down our fun a little more next time,” Molly grumbles, just finishing resetting up the game board.
I take one look at her, flip the game board again, and make a B-line for the back garden.
“I like her,” I hear Roxy say as I walk away, “she’s feisty.”
As I swing open the back door, I can see James, Lily, Hugo, and Teddy Lupin playing a rousing game of two-aside Quidditch in the frigid cold. When they notice me, James frantically signals for me to stay put as they touch down.
“Just the girl I was looking for!” says James, pulling off his Gryffindor hat, raven hair in every direction. “Wanna take my place in Quidditch? I’m, uh, supposed to meet someone,” he says, muttering the last part.
I shake my head ‘no.’ “Can’t, sorry,” I say, “I’ve got other obligations.”
“Like what?” he snaps, seemingly dropping the nice-guy act.
“Al’s helping me sort out a gift for Rose,” I respond mildly.
“You can snog your girlfriend some other time,” I say, cutting him off.
“What girlfriend?” James says very quickly, widening his eyes at me and going very red. He turns to the accusatory stares of Teddy, Lily, and Hugo. “I don’t have a girlfriend. Seriously, I don’t,” he assures them.
“Anyway, why are you guys over here instead of at the Potter domicile?” I ask, ignoring James’s pleading words.
“Mum accidentally decreased the area of the Muggle Repelling Charms on our back garden,” Lily says, shrugging. “She was cleaning her wand or something....Anyway, we can’t fly higher than the treetops without being seen, so we came over here.”
I nod in understanding, “I better go,” I say, “if Rose asks, I’m on a walk.”
They grin, bid me farewell (James still muttering incoherent ‘meeps’ about not having a girlfriend), and swoop into the sky.
I push my hands into my jacket pockets feeling the warmth of three sweaters and an overcoat coming off of me. In the depths of my pocket I can feel my Redwood and Dragon Heartstring wand. I pull it out and roll it over in my hand. I think about how Lily said that her mother had been cleaning her wand when the enchantments had accidentally lifted.
Wizards clean their wands? Is that like...necessary?
I scratch a bit of dirt off of its base. “Damn, Eleanor,” I mutter, examining all the smudges and dirty spots on my wand, “you’re a mess.” A few blue sparks fly out the end.
“Did you just name that stick Eleanor?”
I start at the noise and look around for the culprit. I turn to see the rosy-cheeked, blonde haired child that had startled Albus and me just the other day, staring intently at my wand.
“You!” I gasp.
“Can I have that?” she asks, cocking her head to the side and causing her curly pigtails to bounce.
“No,” I snap, turning on my heel and continuing to walk.
She steps in front of me. “But it’s special — I saw blue sparkles come out!”
“No you didn’t!” I hiss, trying to get around her.
“Yes I did!” she shouts. “Gimme the magic stick!”
“It — isn’t — a — stick!” I shriek. “Her name is Eleanor and — no — you cannot have her!” She throws herself at me at clings to my leg.
I shriek, flailing my limbs around wildly and stumbling.
Oh my God — it’s touching me!
“Off! Off, you monster!” I scream, slipping on a patch of black ice and face-planting the knee-deep snow.
“I — WANT — PRETTY — STICK!” she screeches, still clinging to my leg with a vice-like grip, even though I’m wildly flinging about.
“YOU — CAN’T — HAVE — IT!” I roar back, giving another great shake to my leg. For a moment, her weight is lifted. I relax involuntarily for a second before I gasp: she is suddenly flying at me from every direction — snow flinging at confusing angles and causing me to cover my face with my forearms. She punches every last inch of me with her tiny fists, meanwhile raiding my pockets for Eleanor. I try repeatedly to throw her off of me, but as my vision is obscured, all I can see are bits of her pink shoes and pigtails. “Get off!” I bellow through my arms.
Oh my Merlin — she’s going to murder me!
“Where is it? WHERE IS IT?” she trills.
“Bugger off!” I shout, trying to stand, but something is blocking me: I look down my legs and squeal; she’s straddling my knees and pinning me down!
A demon child!
STRAIGHT FROM HELL!
“Give it to me, or else,” she says in a small but dangerous voice.
I can practically feel Eleanor screaming in horror in my back pocket.
“NO!” I yell, trying one last time to throw her off of me. But it’s too late: In an instant she has grabbed my arm and ripped up the sleeve. She gives me a devilish grin.
“W-What are you doing?” I ask in a quivering voice, eyes flitting from my exposed forearm to her pointy baby teeth. My eyes bulge. “Oh God — NO! DON’T DO IT!” I plead.
To my squeals, she swoops down and sinks her little teeth into my skin.
“OH MY MERLIN! IT BIT ME!”
With a surge of superhuman strength, I detach her from my arm and throw her off. “CONFUNDO!” I shout, whipping out my wand and thrusting it in her face. My shoulders heave as I watch her eyes fall out of focus.
I hear the sound of fast footfalls pounding across the pavement. “Laney! What happened to you?” Albus comes flying up to me, clearly out of breath, and puts his hands on my shoulders. He tries to make eye-contact with me but all I can do is stare at the creature behind him. “What? What’s wrong? I heard you screaming all the way from my bedroom!” he says, gently rattling my shoulders. “Tell me what happened, Becks!”
I raise a shaking finger and point at the dazed little girl behind him. He looks at her, then me, then her, then back to me again. “You’re serious? Her?”
The little girl winds a curl around her finger and watches as it unravels.
“That — thing — is a monster,” I breathe.
“That’s ridiculous!” he says. “Go on home, Celia.” He pats her on the shoulder and she skips off.
“You named it?” I gasp. “Al! You can’t name it, you’ll get attached!”
He looks pointedly at me. “Laney, that’s Celia — she’s my neighbour. What happened?”
“She saw my wand!” I shriek. “She tackled me to the ground to try and get it!” I jab my finger at the Laney-shaped hole in the snow. “She — she assaulted me!”
Gently, he reaches up and dislodges a twig from my snow-matted hair. He shakes his head in disbelief. “The way you were screaming...I thought someone was trying to kill you!”
“She was trying to kill me!”
He laughs. “Whatever you say... Anyway, what d’ya have in mind for Rose?”
I open my mouth to retort and then stop. I sniff. “Maybe a clasp?” I suggest quietly. “We could both go in on it?”
“Brilliant!” he says taking my hand. “Come on.”
“Well, I’ve just owled the Ministry and explained what happened,” Mr. Potter says to me later that evening. Just a few hours ago I had been sent a letter from the Minister himself, stating that they had detected underage magic and if it happened again, I would be expelled. I had then frantically explained to Mr. and Mrs. Potter that I had been assaulted in the street by a stick-crazed little girl.
“Thanks, Mr. Potter,” I say gratefully.
“Call me Harry,” he replies brightly.
“And I Ginny,” Mrs. Potter adds. “No reason for titles.”
After thanking them a few more times I exit the kitchen and head into the crowded living room. In fact, it’s so bloody cramped that I slam straight into someones back.
“Sorry, I’m sorry!”
I stare pleadingly up at the beautiful face above me. Her silvery-blonde hair glistening in ringlets down her back, her ice-blue eyes looking over her perfect nose at me, and her red lips in a tight line....
This is the famous Toire Lupin, I’m sure of it. I had only heard tale of what Toire Lupin was like: She had been a living legend in Gryffindor; dating Teddy Lupin since her second year at Hogwarts, she was viciously beautiful, a Quidditch star, wicked smart, and cruel to anyone who looked at her the wrong way.
“It’s...fine,” she says in a bitter voice. She looks me over for a few seconds and then narrows her eyes displeasedly. Instinctively, I flatten my fringe.
“Toire, this is Laney Becks,” Teddy Lupin says, walking up to us. “She’s good friends with Rose.”
She looks at me a moment longer and then grabs his hand. “Teddy, it’s hot in here. Let’s go outside.”
I watch as they disappear out the back door. Shaking my head, I walk over to where Dominique, Molly, and Louis are sitting. I plop down next to Molly and rest my chin on my knees. Dom sniffs and hurries away, strawberry hair flouncing behind her. I roll my eyes at this. “Apparently neither of your sisters like me,” I grumble to Louis.
“It’s okay, they don’t like anyone,” he replies brightly.
“Reassuring,” I mutter.
Next moment, Lily comes stalking up and drops down by my feet.
“‘Swrong?” I ask, poking her back with my foot.
“Yeah, what’s the matter?” Molly asks.
“Molly, Louis, go away,” Lily snaps.
Looking highly offended, they get up and leave.
“What’s up?” I ask Lily.
“Hugh is mad at me. We’ve just had a row.”
I try to take on my most patient personality. “What happened?”
“He doesn’t like Liam,” she says angrily. “I don’t get it. He says we don’t hangout anymore since I’ve started going out with Liam.”
“Well...is it true?” I ask tentatively.
“How can he expect me to not spend time with my boyfriend?” she snaps.
I look at her with my brows raised and I know she knows what I’m thinking.
“Okay,” she admits, her hard eyes softening. “I’ve been a non-existent friend for the past month.” She glances towards Hugo (who is sulking by a chair). “Hugo is my best friend,” she declares, a quiver in her voice. “He knows me better than anyone and — and if he doesn’t like Liam...then I’ll have to end it with him.” She jumps up.
“Lily, don’t,” I say, jerking her feebly back onto the couch.
“But I have to!” she says fiercely.
I expect to see her crying, but of course, she is not. Instead, she looks angry and defiant. “Do you not think it important for my best friend to like my boyfriend?” she demands.
“Yeah, but Hugo doesn’t not like Liam, necessarily. He just wants to spend more time with you.”
She starts to say something but stops.
“Don’t end it with Liam because of this, Lily.”
Dammit, how come I’m suddenly the rational one?
Lily glances nervously at Hugo again. “I have to go apologize to him,” she says quietly. Her eyes land pleadingly on me.
“Don’t look at me,” I mutter. “I don’t apologize for my mistakes.” My mind strays to earlier in the park. “Usually,” I add with a sniff.
I watch Lily walk up to Hugo and smile sheepishly at him. His face fills with frustration as she bows her head and mouths an apology. Moments later I watch them walk from the kitchen appearing like they have a quite a lot to talk about.
I suddenly feel hot and claustrophobic, the immediate need to have fresh air in my lungs embellishing me. I slip off the couch and walk through the room, head slightly pounding. I slide by Toire and Teddy Lupin on my way out the back door and rush into the cold. My eyes drift to the starry sky, looking, somehow, for answers.
With a pang I think of Netta. When I was nine years old, after my mum and dad stopped visiting, Netta took me outside one night to stargaze. As I cried, she told me how my future lay in those stars, and that I wasn’t alone.
A sudden rush of guilt swept over me: what happened to us? What happened to me? That sweet little girl who sat teary-eyed on her great aunt’s lap? I had hardly felt anything when she died. What hurt me more was that my parents had practically disowned me in a letter. Yet, why had that surprised me? They were never there for me growing up; Netta was my family, not them.
And then something shook me: I had turned all of Gryffindor against Ivy. Were there going to be consequences for that? I might possibly have ruined her future at Hogwarts. Netta would be disgusted.
I’m not apologizing for what I did, I tell myself indignantly, she showed the entire school that letter from my parents. She deserved what she got.
I grasp angrily at the porch railing. The letter.... My mind traces over the words I have read so many times until I reach the most troubling part: We believe she was killed by a...criminal...in search of your father and I have.
I curse. It had been all their fault. They disappear for seven years, running off and having adventures, letting Netta and me deal with all the repercussions.
In my shoes, I am suddenly aware of the socks I am wearing. Fluffy pink ones... “What’s happening to me?” I whisper.
I jump at the voice and whirl around. Harry is standing there watching me.
“Sorry — just getting some air,” I mutter.
He smiles. “‘Sall right. Do you think we could talk for a moment?” And into his pocket he reaches, pulling out a letter addressed in bright green ink.
Elena Marie Becks
I stare at the emerald words. “It’s from my parents, isn’t it?” It’s hardly a question. I watch the letter tentatively, as if it might explode if looked at the wrong way.
“It is indeed,” he says, nodding. “Let’s take a walk.”
Author's Note: Hello everyone! Oh gosh - this chapter has been bloody madness. Never have I actually had to honestly cram for a deadline before now.
EDIT: OHEY guys! So tell me, how do you like the AWESOME NEW BANNER?! Can I thank Gina enough? Her name is justonemorefic. She wrote Game. She's awesome. Find her at the TDA and TELL HER I SENT YOU! :D By the way, I have a pretty amazing chapter in store for next update! Love you allllllllll.
PS: I have a new fic up, "Letters from a Hogwarts Anonymous." Read it! :D
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