Chapter 11 : Right Place, Right Time
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Disclaimer: JKRness is what you see. Save Laney. That's me. (That rhymed!)
I look into the familiar emerald eyes of Harry Potter and listen as we walk around his back garden.
“How much do you know about your parents, Laney?” he asks me, peering up into the starry night sky.
“I ― not much, I guess,” I say. “They used to visit every year. Then it became every other year.... By the time I was nine, they just stopped coming altogether. My Great Aunt always told me they were world travelers, though.”
He nods, seeming thoughtful. “And...they never told you anything specifically about their work, correct?”
I think about this for a moment. Of course I had been curious when I was younger about what their work was. At one visit I actually had inquired about what their jobs were, but they had instantly flushed up and changed the subject. For a long time I had wondered about it, but I eventually became more concerned with why they stopped visiting, not what or who they were working for.
“I never really asked,” I respond. “I mean, I did once when I was a child but they never responded to my question. After a while I had more things to worry about than where they worked.”
He continues to look at the sky, thinking. “I see.”
I crane my neck and try to make eye-contact with him. “But ― But you said in your letter to Al that my parents worked in the Ministry? I don’t understand. How could they work for the Ministry and still be world travelers? And why didn’t they tell me they worked for the Ministry?” I’m ranting now, but I don’t care. All these questions that have been eating away at me are finally rushing out.
“If they worked for the Ministry then they should’ve been in London loads of times in the past decade! So why haven’t they come to visit me? And if they worked for the Ministry then how come they didn’t give my great aunt a funeral or come help me get through her death? And they said in their letter that they are ‘in hiding, dealing with a criminal?’ What the hell is that supposed to mean? And why are they repeatedly dumping me with and extended family? Why don’t they want me?” My shoulders heave up and down as I finish this gushing rant of questions that, quite frankly, I’m not sure I even want the answers to.
He gives me a moment to calm down before speaking. “When I first met your parents ― it was years ago ― I found them to be very curious. No one really knew what to make of them. They were there before I was and no one really knew what their jobs were. I was just a brand new Aurour at the time, but then, a few years later when I became Head Aurour, I discovered exactly what they did. Your parents are Aurours too, Laney.”
“What?” I ask, taken aback.
“Yes. They are both incredibly intelligent and very powerful with magic. But they are not normal Aurours, Laney.”
“What do you mean?”
“I cannot say. What I can say though is that when I spoke with them, I inquired about you. They admitted to having a daughter but were at first hesitant to explain themselves ―”
“Explain themselves?” I ask. “You mean to tell me there’s a different reason why they left me with Netta?”
“Well, yes,” he responds, reaching into his jacket. “We had a long chat. I told them that it wasn’t acceptable to keep you in the dark anymore ―”
“In the dark?”
“― and by the end, they felt it was time you knew the truth.”
He pulls out the envelope again and holds it out. “I hope this will explain some things for you.” He places it into my gloved hand and smiles.
I’m frozen to the spot, staring down at the parchment in my hand. “I ―” I cannot speak; I am lost for words.
“I urge that you should read it when you’re ready,” he says knowingly. “It’s freezing out here,” he says, glancing around, “we should get back inside.”
He starts to walk away, but something burns inside me and a newfound bravery shows its face: “And my parents couldn’t tell me this?” I ask angrily.
From the look in his eyes I know the answer. They didn’t want to see me. “Take it,” I choke, thrusting the letter at him. I stare determinately at the ground. “I don’t want to know who they are or what they do.”
“Laney,” he says quietly, “what your parents did was wrong.”
I look gratefully up at him.
“I’m not asking you to read this,” he continues, “or even want it. I’m just asking you to have it. It could bring you the closure you need one day. The closure you can’t get from Rose or Netta or even my son.”
I go bright red.
He winks. “And yes, I know.”
He holds out the letter again. “Please?”
As I reach out for the silky parchment, Harry gives me a silent smile. He then puts his hand on my shoulder for a moment, looks me in the eye, turns, and walks off, vanishing into the velvety dark.
It is very late before I return to the house, bearing a very important letter in my pocket. The letter that would explain everything. I can see through the windows that everyone has either left or found something to do upstairs. I glance back over my shoulder to the spot in which I just stood.
I was in the dark for what felt like hours, staring at the seal with unblinking eyes.
If I could just stare hard enough...maybe ― maybe it would open by itself....
For some reason, I couldn’t ― can’t ― bring myself to open it. Just an hour ago I finally came to terms with a small, very significant piece of me: the absence of my biological parents. And now I’m supposed to break the seal into a whole new explanation? Go through the exception process all over again?
I enter the cottage, squinting into the dark. My face feels unusually numb and droopy; I’m not sad nor let down, not anxious nor excited, I’m nothing. I feel empty.
Abruptly there is a loud scratching sound and a blinding light snaps on. My eyes squint reflexively. Rose is standing there, eyes narrowed, candle in one hand, shaking out a match in the other. “You were out there for an hour after Uncle Harry came back,” she states sharply, jaw tensing. “I’ve been really worried about you ― thought someone had Imperiused you, the way you were standing there, staring at that letter.” Her eyes sink to my jacket pocket where my hand is holding lightly onto the parchment. It seems as though she is trying to use some sort of X-ray vision to see through it.
“‘Sokay, Rose,” I say, waving the letter in her face. “I’m fine. Dandy. Really.”
Her eyebrows jump upward. “Oh pa-lease,” she spits, rushing over to look at me more carefully. “I know a sultry, sullen Laney Becks when I see one!”
“Not sultry or sullen.” I shake my head. “Confused, that’s all.”
“Confused about what?” asks Rose, her stubborn expression softening slightly.
I look down at the letter in my hand, addressed in brightest green. “I dunno ― I guess just why this is all suddenly happening to me.” I chew the inside of my lip for lack of words as a silence spreads across the room.
“Well, look on the bright side!” Rose chirps in a slightly anxious voice. It’s as though she’s worried about my stability. “At least you can finally get some answers!”
“What do you mean?” I ask a little sharply.
“The letter!” She gestures wildly at the parchment, “Go on then, open it!”
“N-no!” I say quickly. Why did I say that? “I mean, I, um, I will later.”
She looks at me a with an unreadable expression. “Laney,” she says quietly, stepping towards me and taking the letter from my hand, “I know ― I know this must be hard for you.... I know that the last thing you want right now is another empty explanation...but...but I think you should at least read it.”
And I see it. I see that look in her eye, the look I know means she isn’t going to take no for an answer because she’s stubborn as hell and thinks she’s right. And so I lie. “I will read it Rose, I promise. Listen ― I’ll even read it right now, I just need to be alone. Okay?”
Her lips thin a bit but she nods all the same. “All right...I’ll just be upstairs....”
I stare down at the ground. And then I hear something like a whisper. I look up in time to see her tucking something away in her pocket.
“Did you say something?” I ask.
“It was nothing,” she says, holding out the letter. “Here.”
I take the parchment from her and force a smile. “I ― I promise I’ll read it.”
I wait until she has disappeared up the staircase to let the convincing look wash off of my face. I ignite the fireplace, plop down on the armchair in front of it and stare down at the emerald green words on the envelope. Elena Marie Becks. I choke back frustration at seeing my full name written out.
I stare at the letter for a moment. I just can’t help be a little bit curious....
I slip my thumb under the seal...
And then something occurs to me: they don’t know me. It’s too late now. Anyone who has the bollocks to address me by Elena doesn’t know me. And they are my parents.
In one angry moment I’ve thrown the parchment into the fire. I watch it burn and burn, flames licking away the emerald green letters bit by bit. I can still feel in my hand where a moment sooner I was holding the letter.
My eyes flutter open on Christmas morning and I yawn and stretch. I can see the mound of hand-wrapped presents at the foot of my bed and through the window, a coating of frosting-like snow covering the ground and pine trees. Big, puffy snow flurries fall from the cloudy sky creating, in short, the perfect, dreamlike white Christmas.
Rose is already busy unwrapping her pile which is substantially larger than mine and seems to be entirely books.
“Oh, wow!” she exclaims, holding up a particularly large one entitled A Wizard’s World of Spells and Enchantments. Just by looking at the way Rose is struggling to hold it upright, it can’t be a page under 20,000. I laugh loudly and she looks over at the noise. “Laney! Well, come on then, open your presents!”
I slip off of my bed and pull on some house shoes. I grab the first present from Lily and rip it open. It’s three boxes of home made treacle tart and a tiny silver lily with a link attached to the end. I look curiously at it for a moment: it is very beautiful, I have to admit, but what could it be for?
The next package is from Fred, who gave me a couple of things from his dad’s joke shop and then, once again, a tiny silver broomstick with a Wimbourne Wasps logo on the base and a link attached to the end. Furrowing my brow, I put it aside and continue to open the rest of the packages. From Rose is a book called The Science of a Positive Attitude and a tiny silver rose. From Dara is a long letter of a how much she misses me, a vibrantly beaded, home made wand carrier and a small silver dragon fly. From James is a revised new year Quidditch practice schedule and a little silver goblet.
I stare down at the package from Albus and rip the paper open. It isn’t large, just a small box. I pull off the lid. Inside is a lovely silver bracelet with one single charm hanging off the end: a tiny scarlet engine. My mind flies to September first of this year; the first day Albus Potter and I had ever made eye-contact. That was the day that everything changed, and I had no idea. I saw him clearly for the first time on that day, in the last compartment of the scarlet engine, where he hesitated to let me through the doorway and our eyes met.
“It was all Al’s idea,” Rose says, smiling over at me. “I think it’s pretty incredible, what about you?”
I beam. “Are you kidding?” I say, attaching each of my friends’ links to the charm bracelet. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever had before! It’s beautiful!”
Rose grins at me. “Hey, you forgot one,” she says, dislodging a last package poking out from under my bed.
“Oh,” I say, knitting my brow, “who’s it from?”
She squints at the paper, “Er ― Ana and Barney ―” she falters, glancing up from the paper. “Your ― Your mum and dad, I think.”
I take the package from her. “This doesn’t feel like a dress,” I note, weighing the heavy parcel in my hands. I set it down and pull off the paper.
I hardly even hear Rose’s exclamation as I gape down at the gift from my parents. It’s a dark-wooded, hand carved music box with a large, emerald stone in the center. I lift the lid back and watch as a red ball of light floats upward and hovers over the box. Soft music plays a sleepy, enchanting song as the light bobs above it. The inside casing is green satin and laying on it is a small scrap of parchment.
Guard this with your heart.
Mum and Dad
“Laney, this looks really special,” Rose breathes, watching the glowing red light with round, intriguing eyes.
“Yeah, it does,” I agree in a quiet voice. “I ―”
There is a sudden knocking on the door. “Rose? Laney? We’ve got to go to the Potters’ for Christmas lunch! Come on, girls!”
I snap the music box shut very quickly and tuck it away in my trunk. “C’mon,” I say, smiling, “let’s go.”
“Ah, Becks, like my present?” asks James after I greet him in the Potters’ kitchen.
I laugh and hold out the charm bracelet. “It was so kind of you to remind me of that night.”
"Well,” he says, fingering the tiny silver goblet on my wrist, “I figured it’d help you to remember who your first good snog was.” He winks.
I yank my wrist away and raise my brow at him. “You’re walking on thin ice, Potter.”
He laughs. “As usual.”
I cast around for Albus as James walks away. I haven’t gotten the chance to thank him for my gift yet, for he’s been talking to relatives all afternoon. But by the end of the day, I still haven’t gotten a chance to speak with him, and I give up and walk home with Rose.
Over the next week we spend day after day relaxing at Rose’s house. Lily stops by occasionally, along with Louis, Roxy, and Molly, but I still can’t seem to get a free moment with Al. I wear my charm bracelet at all points of the day, not removing it for even a second.
I have been spending any free time curled up in my bed, staring at the glowing red light and music box from my parents. At the rare moments that I do venture outside the confounds of Rose’s room, I search for Al.
Christmas week comes to a sleepy close and finally, it is New Year’s Eve. The Potters come over at about two o’clock for lunch and the rest of the extended family follows suit.
After a heavy lunch, I glance around the room for something to do, and then I see him: through the door I land eyes on Albus, standing on the porch, alone.
I am at the door in a tidy spell, readying my self. I swing the door open and slip through. “Hey,” I say. “I’ve been trying to talk to you all week.”
He smiles at me. “I’ve been trying to do the same.”
“Listen,” I say nervously, fiddling with my bracelet. “I wanted to thank you for this.” I hold up my wrist and watch as light is thrown from the shiny silver charms.
He beams. “You like it?”
“Love it,” I say enthusiastically. “It’s the best gift anyone has ever given me.”
It’s quiet for a moment. My heart is pounding: there’s something that I want to do, something that I’ve been thinking about all week. My heart races even harder as I ready myself: I’m going to do it. I will do it. I’m ready for this.
I stomp my foot in anger. You have got to be kidding me!
“What?” I snap through my teeth at a grinning Fred Weasley.
“I need you, Becks! C’mon!”
“Why do you need me?”
He grabs me by the wrist and yanks me away from Al and into the house. We arrive at the kitchen table where he points at a bottle of Firewhiskey. I pull my arm from his grasp and glare at him. “What do you want, Fred? What is that?”
“It’s joke Firewhiskey, that’s what!” he says excitedly. “I’m gonna leave it out tonight and see who takes it!”
“Okay? Why are you telling me this?”
He looks let down. “I thought you could help me pick a target...it does the coolest thing! It makes you ―”
“Merlin, Fred,” I snap, “I don’t have time for this.” I walk away from him and glance out the back door. Great. Al’s already talking to someone else again.
It’s almost midnight and I’m leaning against the counter half listening to Hugo and Louis talk about Hogwarts. I can see Albus through the corner of my eye. Every few minutes I notice him looking over at me and I avert my eyes quickly. I wanted to kiss him earlier. I was going to do it. No backing down.
I curse Fred under my breath. The chances I’ll get another opportunity like that are slim, and I feel like tying Fred to the Womping Willow and just leaving him there to die won't even make me feel better.
Everyone seems to be growing tired except for me. I’m wide awake and in the worst, most sinister mood imaginable. I know that my chance has passed, for the second we get back to Hogwarts Albus’ll have a new a girlfriend. I grind my teeth angrily. I give up. I admit it. I’m in love with Albus Potter. I’m in love with his stupid hair and stupid eyes, his stupid glasses, his stupid smile, and his stupid family. I’m griping the edge of the counter so hard that the backs of my knuckles go white.
“Er, Laney, are you okay?” Hugo asks, looking from my whitened knuckles to my frustrated face in confusion.
“I’m...fine,” I breathe, trying my best to look convincing.
“It’s almost midnight!” I hear Molly squeal in the crowd of people.
Everyone begins to chorus, “10, 9...”
I look at Al, who is gazing intently at me. A shiver runs up my spine.
“8, 7, 6...”
“Oh, fuck it,” I hiss under my breath.
I grab a cup off the counter and swig down the burning alcohol. I fight through the crowd of people until I am facing Al.
He looks momentarily surprised at the way I am staring at him but I see the same, hungry glint in his eye as me.
“1! HAPPY NEW YEAR!”
This is it. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. Nothing will stop me now. I lean in, eyes closed, and...
...and then I burp.
I burp so loudly that the entire cheering room fizzles away to silence.
“Did she just burp?” someone whispers.
Oh my God.
I drank the joke Firewhiskey.
I AM GOING TO KILL FRED!
I sprint from the room and run outside, hardly taking notice in the explosive Muggle fireworks colouring the sky above. I am mortified. Every fibre of my being is humiliated. I want to dig a hole out here, bury myself in it, and never, ever come out.
And then the door opens.
I turn around to see Albus, standing there.
I want to say something but the words are caught in my throat. I could cry.
With a coy smile, he pulls me to him.
And we're kissing.
Author's Note: AHHHHHHH THE LONG AWAITED SNOG! :D :D I hope it lived up to your lofty expectations! So what does this mean? Ooooh, ahhhhh. Who knows?
Guess you'll just have to wait until the next chapter!
And tell me, how do you like the new banner?! Justonemorefic made it! She rocks!
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