Chapter Seven: Aftermath
In a perfect world, he would never have had to come back in the first place. He would never have had to face his parents again or hear what they thought of him, and then maybe he wouldn’t have got so drunk and done what he did at the wedding. He certainly wouldn’t have this throbbing head, either, and the very thought of moving made him want to retch.
“Awake, are you?” The voice sounded distant and the blurs in the room began to form into shapes and then into people. Or one person duplicated, he couldn’t quite tell with the pounding of his brain against his skull. Whatever he was lying on sunk and a hand pressed itself against his forehead none too gently. “Sit up.” It was definitely a woman and he had a horrible sinking feeling in his stomach that only made him want to be sick more. He couldn’t remember anything from last night. Had he found himself into another randomer’s bed? Surely if he was that
drunk, she wouldn’t have wanted to do anything…
He suddenly felt very aware that he was then most probably stark naked in the middle of a stranger’s home and licked his lips, dry and still stained with champagne.
“Where are my trousers?”
“You’re wearing them, you berk,” she said, turning around and picking something up off the floor.
“Are they my boxers?” he said and the woman stood up.
“It’s my scarf. Now will you sit up?”
It sounded so familiar and yet distorted in his mind to a drone, like a buzz of a bee hovering in his ear. The woman was strong, whoever she was, and helped him hoist his body upright. She flicked her wand and the lights came on dimly. To his left was a chair with a bucket balanced on the seat, and when he moved his head to the right, his whole body lurching with it, he saw a tray of potions in an array of colours that he wasn’t sure if he wasn’t imagining.
“Drink.” A hand, lightly freckled he could see now, in the light, held out one of the glasses and he looked at it in disgust. “Drink,” she said again and as he put it to his mouth tentatively, she tipped it back for him. It slithered down his throat, gloopy, almost solidifying on his tongue, and he could feel it winding its way to his stomach. He thought he might be sick until for the first time in what felt like days, the nausea passed on. His head still throbbed and his eyes were still not all the way open, but the woman put another glass in his hand and this time, he took it without force.
Although his head didn’t clear up completely, it felt less like it was made of lead and with his sickness gone, he felt safer rubbing his eyes to clear the sleep from his eyelashes. The lights brightened a little more again and the woman got up from the bed, clattering around with the array of solutions she’d brought up.
“Yes,” she said, frowning and looking at him as though he was insane. “Who’d you think it was?” He closed his eyes, wondering whether he could exchange her for some leggy brunette instead, and shook his head.
“Not anyone who knows Dominique,” he said and he thought for a moment that Rose had laughed, but from the stony look on her face when she turned back around, he doubted it very much. He made to get up but she raised her eyebrows and shook her head. “What?”
“You’re not going anywhere. I want you where I can keep an eye on you.”
“You sound like my mother.”
“No, I don’t,” she said coolly. “If I sounded like your mother, you’d be on the street.”
He laughed but she didn’t show any sign of being amused. Setting the tray on the dresser and dimming the lights again, she left the room. When the door was closed, she lingered for a moment for any signs of movement but there was nothing. She exhaled softly and made her way to the living room of the tiny flat she lived in. James’s spoiled clothes from the night before were hanging up drying. Stained with alcohol and the vomit from trying to move his inebriated body from where her uncles had left him, at the pub in the village, to her place, she had taken no pleasure in having to strip him to his underwear and then redress him in the clothes that Owen hadn’t wanted when he moved out.
She sat herself down in the armchair in the corner of the room, picking up the newspaper that had come whilst she was upstairs and skimming it for anything worth noting. Naturally, there was nothing beyond reforming a couple of tiny, irrelevant laws and an advert for the Gobstones World Championship in Skegness. She dropped the paper back on the floor and sighed.
Dominique might have been who he had once called his best friend, but James and Rose had grown up with that name attached to them. Closer in age to each other than to Albus, they had taunted and teased their way through childhood until James left for Hogwarts and things began to shift. He had come back with a swagger, straight backed pride and a smirk painted permanently on his face. Rose was no longer good enough. He had become close to Dominique, the pride and joy of second-year Gryffindor, and so she lay forgotten in the depths of memory. She took to Albus instead, the shy and retiring type that she did not loathe but rather did not fully understand.
She was glad of being sorted into Ravenclaw, if only for the space from the boys who she was obligated to like yet had no desire to spend more time with.
Perhaps that was where it had all gone wrong for James; maybe if she’d stuck with him, she could have grounded him back where he belonged. Her mother had always said she had a way with people, a way that neither of her parents had. Albus had come out of his shell. Lily had stayed on the straight and narrow, and although Hugo veered off course easily, he always came back. James was a lost cause. Everyone had said it but she wasn’t sure anyone had truly believed it until now.
She begged to differ.
He had wanted to get up and leave, to not look behind and there was only one reason he would have done so. He was embarrassed, ashamed and he was scared of what might face him if the rest of their family caught him anywhere near Weasley blood. He wasn’t quite as bad as they said, and where there was hope, there was the chance of fixing it.
She just had to find a way of doing it without ostracising herself from the family too.
Molly swept her wand up with a final emphatic flick before collapsing into one of the chairs still out from the night before. Her whitening hair was teasing its way out of the bun at the back of her head and her exhaustion fed right into her very core. It was seven o’clock and every last remnant of the night before had now been tidied away from sight. She closed her eyes.
Her only daughter’s eldest son had always been a troublemaker. He would tug at Lucy’s plaits until she cried and push Dominique into the flowerbeds. They let it slide with a tut and a pointing finger; his spite came from a lack of the attention lavished on him by everyone when he was alone.
She had struggled to believe it when he disappeared. He had threatened it for a while, that somewhere something bigger was calling, but she thought they were words of a teenager too arrogant for his own good and that it would die away with time. Lily’s savings from the work she did every holiday taken from her account, Albus – the meek and mild – knocked out and left slumped at the foot of the garden, not so much as a note giving the family an apology or his love.
And Molly knew he loved them because in spite of everything her grandson was, he had always been the first to leap for a hug or plant a kiss on the cheek of a relative he would later confide he didn’t even like. The boy had once appreciated his family regardless of their faults. People didn’t change that much, not without reason.
“I told you I’d do this, Molly.”
Percy’s wife was stood in the middle of the kitchen, her dressing gown wrapped tightly around her and her eyes heavy with sleeplessness. The older woman shook her head.
“It took my mind off things.” Audrey sat down on the seat beside her mother-in-law and smiled.
“Where do you think he is?”
Molly’s short stature darted with a youth she thought she had long left behind in an attempt to reach her granddaughter, stood off to the side clutching a champagne glass she hadn’t taken a sip from. The tall girl glanced down to her grandmother and stooped a little to hear the whisper.
“Go and get him.” Rose bit her lip and Molly squeezed her hand. “For me, Rosie. Keep him safe.”
The reluctance oozed from every pore of the girl’s body but nonetheless, she nodded. Molly didn’t hang around and made her way towards where Lucy and Roxanne were looking bored and dejected in silence. She glanced around to the spot she’d left but Rose had gone.
There was only one person who could fix James. She just hoped it would work.
“I don’t know,” Molly said, her voice low. Audrey nodded but there was something in the way her eyes moved that suggested she didn’t believe her.
“I hope he’s okay.”
Molly covered her daughter-in-law’s hand with her own and patted it softly. She’d always had a good heart; Hufflepuffs were underestimated.
“Me too, dear. Me too.”
Louis angrily tapped his wand against the shattered glass but it merely twinkled on the wrapping paper and then dulled again. He’d not slept. He’d taken every single broken present up to the attic room of his grandmother’s house once the crowd had fizzled away and spent all night doing his best to rectify his cousin’s damage. James always had been a selfish bastard. What he couldn’t have was banned from everyone else too; toys, brooms, girls, it had always been the same. If he couldn’t be there, he’d want to ruin it for everyone else too.
In his absence, people had blotted out the worst of him. It would have been easier for everyone to invite him and watch him like a herd of deer waiting for the kill than to let him to his own devices. Louis knew he was just as guilty; he’d tried to have as little as possible to do with James as he could, though his mother’s respect for Harry and Dominique’s old friendship with the Potter boy often led to their close proximity.
He stared at the glass again, trying to work out what it might have been. It would make it easier to fix, at any rate. Around him were plates, shining new again, photo frames bent back into shape, towels with the quiche and champagne stains removed, but this glimmering mess was a mystery.
He’d promised his sister he would fix it. He’d promised them both that it would be okay. Even though he was younger than them, still his protectiveness swept through him as though he were their elder. He was the man. They used to mock him for saying that but now he was the one making everything better. Victoire had gone home, exhausted and carrying two children under five wearily. Dominique was downstairs, somewhere, and only four hours ago he had still heard her crying.
He looked at the label of the present, standing up with a bit of a stagger from the tiredness that he was just coming to feel.
Dear Dom and Matt,
All the best for married life.
He siphoned every piece of broken glass into one of the boxes of the photo frames and wrapped a ribbon messily around it. As he approached the kitchen, he could hear the murmurs of newly awoken adults and he turned on his heel. He didn’t want questions. Instead, he opened the front door and hurried away down the path, praying everyone was too preoccupied with each other to gaze outside. Once free of the enchantments of his grandparents’ home, he Disapparated, box clutched tightly to him, leaving only the slightest footprint in his wake.
A/N: I’ve been hit by a huge surge of inspiration for this story of late. I’m currently working on Chapter 14 and aiming to have this entire story done by the end of the month. Fingers crossed! I’m so sorry for the delay in posting chapter 6 – I hope you all enjoy it from here and I promise updates will be more regular as of now.