Chapter 17 : Train Ride, Three Years Later.
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Final chapter image by Gwen!
'In order to see the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain'.
“Gwen! Gwen, come back here now!”
Amelie Harris ran along Platform 9 3/4 in high heels. They pinched at her toes and she winced, limping slightly as she tried to keep up with the small girl running ahead.
“Amy! Come on! We're going to be late and then Daddy is going to kill you.”
“Don't call me Amy!”
The little girl stopped, her plaits still swinging and her hand still clasped around the handle of her trunk. An owl hooted contentedly inside its cage.
“Flo calls you that.”
“But Flo is my mother,” Amelie replied, leaning on her knees so as to steady her breath, “she's allowed to call me horrible nicknames. I don't go around calling you Nog, do I?”
Gwen winced, and shook her head violently.
“Plus since when did you call her Flo? Don't you call her Mum?”
“She's not my real mum,” Gwen replied, walking more slowly now, “so I see no real reason to call her that. Plus everyone else calls her Flo.”
“You don't count because Daddy is murder you for making me late and after he goes all Voldy on your arse, you won't be able to call anyone anything. This is my first train ride on the Hogwarts Express, after all.”
Amelie always did a slight double take when the small girl swore. In front of her father and her new mother, Gwen was always the perfect picture of innocence and youth and perfection. Her giggles were so high-pitched that Amelie's brain melted every time you heard them and dogs went mental with the high frequency. Her room was pink, her clothes were pink, and her cheeks were rosy and blushing and pink. She liked unicorns. She smelt like flowers.
She was irritating.
“Of course it is, and you never let me forget it,” Amelie muttered, grimacing at small girl's plaits and pink dress and white frilly socks.
The pair walked further along the platform, swerving in between devoted parents and excited children and reunited school friends. Steam lingered around the great scarlet steam train. A huge station clock showed the time: ten to eleven. Amelie nudged Gwen and they both looked up at it.
“See, we've got plenty of time,” Amelie said smugly, ignoring Gwen's petulant pout. Amelie heaved a large bag full of parchment and quills and books further up her shoulder. “We should go find you a compartment or something. There'll be all filled up soon.”
Gwen nodded and pulled her trunk onto the train. Amelie dumped her bag in an empty seat and helped her stepsister slide it onto the luggage rack.
Amelie picked up her bag and returned to platform, ignoring the young girl.
She was suddenly very interested in the condition of her nails.
“Amy! Amy! AMY!”
Amelie pulled a notebook out of her bag and scribbled a few words down, still ignoring her stepsister. Her sister's real name was Gwenog, after her maternal grandmother (Florence's new marital victim was the son of the Holyhead Harpies star), but she had no interest in Quidditch or her namesake.
Gwen was suddenly jumping in front of her, tugging on Amelie's coat and poking her in the side and trying to gain her attention. Amelie ignored her. As usual, Gwen would just pester her with questions about the sorting ceremony, or what the professors were like, or whether the boys were good-looking, or whether the food was good or whether unicorns roamed freely around the grounds. The small girl had annoyed her with questions so many times that week that Amelie had learnt how to tune out her voice, and not give in to the girl's highly unconvincing false tears.
“Amy! AMY! LISTEN TO ME!”
Amelie's mother had insisted that she should attend daily 'family dinners' so that they could bond together 'as a family'. Her new husband, Martin, was a boring man with little hobbies or interests or personality, so conversation was split between Gwen - who mostly talked about her eye shadow or her new edition of Witch Weekly - and Amelie's mother, who would talk about her eye shadow and her new edition of Witch Weekly. Amelie would toy aimlessly with her food and listen to their high-pitched conversation and die a little inside.
Gwen waved her hand in front of Amelie's face, but the older girl simply hit it away and continued to write in her notebook.
“Amelie! You are being so mean!”
Amelie shrugged, ignoring the girl's pout.
“Fine. I just wanted to tell you that the Potters are over there, but if you don't want to listen to me, that's fine. I'll just sit here all alone, with such low self-esteem that I won't feel like taking to all the other scared first years so I won't have any friends ever and die alone with thousands of cats having never met a unicorn or touched a boy or...”
Amelie took no notice of Gwen and her life story. She had put down her notebook and was looking over to the other end of the platform, where a large group of people had gathered. There were several flashes of a camera. Amelie moved over, Gwen close on her heels. No matter how many years had passed since the end of the wizarding war, the Potters still got attention wherever they went.
He was there, and he was still the same. Amelie was expecting him to look different, to look older or more tired, more like his father. He still looked slightly bedraggled, and his hair was still sticking up all over the place. He wore glasses now, and they suited him. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt with a leather jacket to protect him from the rain outside.
Amelie was looking at James. He was laughing when he turned his head, and their eyes met. Her mind was suddenly filled with visions of rain-drenched shacks and firewhisky and mouldy sofas and cherry lip balm...
She quickly looked away, swearing under her breath. Gwen grinned maliciously.
“Weren't you two friends when you were at Hogwarts?”
Amelie ignored her, still looking down to the floor. There was a barrier of people between her and James and they protected her from him gaze.
“You were,” Gwen was saying scandalously, “and you used to date! Flo told me while we braided each others hair!”
“Gwen, stop it.”
“You kissed James Potter!”
“Amelie and James, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g...”
Gwen was singing. Gwen was skipping. Gwen was singing and skipping through the crowd of people, towards the family grouped in the centre, towards the man with the dark hair and the leather jacket. Amelie raced after, her large bag bumping at her shoulder and her hands reaching out to grab onto her stepsister's shoulders. She tried to stop her from running into James and his family and making a fool out of herself.
“First comes love...”
“Then comes marriage...”
“NOG!” Amelie shouted, but the girl just turned and laughed. Shouting 'Nog' just sounded stupid.
“Then comes the baby in the golden carriage!”
“Gwenog, please, just don't...”
“Gwenog, as in Gwenog Jones of the Holyhead Harpies?”
Amelie paused. Quite literally paused, with her hands outstretched towards Gwen and her tiny pink dress and her legs spread wide in an awkward running pose. Her eyes were wide and staring, but not at the tall handsome man standing next to her, but at the ceiling, trying to avoid his eyes.
James Potter was standing next to them.
“Hello Mr. Potter,” Gwen was saying, her voice sickly sweet and a gigantic smile spread across her smarmy face, “my name is Gwenog Jones, but you can call me Gwen.”
Amelie winced as she watched her stepsister curtsey.
“Right,” James said uncertainly. Amelie could feel his gaze on the back of her head, and so she stood up straight, rearranging her hair and clothes and making herself look relatively presentable and normal.
“I am related to the great Gwenog Jones, but I just want you to know that I am completely my own person and I fully intend to conquer the world, just like my grandmother, but not necessarily in the field of Quidditch, like my grandmother.”
James' eyes widened. His hand started to twitch towards his hair, just as it always did when he was nervous or when his hair was particularly bouffant.
“I was just going to...” James started, but Gwen was far too fast for him.
“I was thinking of going into the fashion industry,” Gwen said, toying with the end of her plait, “because I just really don't think that there are enough pink clothes on the market right now and I have a really hard time trying to find stuff for my pet unicorn so I'm guessing there's a whole world of opportunity right there...”
“Gwen, shut up,” Amelie interrupted her, and James turned to face her, relief etched all over his face.
“No one cares about your unicorn clothes.”
“But Flo said that...”
“No one cares.”
James had put a hand to his mouth and was trying hard not to laugh. Gwen had visibly deflated.
“Run along now,” Amelie said, pushing her away, “I'm sure you'll make friends if you pretend you're someone else. Have a good year!”
Gwen, apparently satisfied with the unemotional goodbye, skipped off towards the train and her compartment.
The crowd surrounding the Potters had disappeared, along with the rest of the Weasley clan. James shoved his hands into his pockets, and Amelie toyed with a loose button on her jacket.
Silence spread between them, and James scratched the back of his head.
“So... err... how are you?”
“I'm well,” Amelie replied, “how about you?”
“I'm good, you?”
“Err... we've already done that bit.”
The two stood in silence for a while, as the whistle blew and steam billowed. There was a flurry of people towards the train and a lot of hurried goodbyes.
“So, what are you doing here?”
“Family tradition,” James answered quickly, “we all have to turn out every year to show the next generation onto the train or face the wrath of Audrey. What about you?”
“I was just dropping Gwen off.”
“And she is your...”
“Of course. What number is Florence on now?”
“Thirty-three,” Amelie said, “there's been two more since Thomas fell off that bridge a few years back. The registry office thinks it's a record.”
“Well she must be very proud.”
“She's too busy trying to set me up with young bachelors to be proud. She's insisting that she's losing her looks and that she'll have no money in 'the autumn of her life' so I have to provide for her by marrying and divorcing or killing off various wealthy men.”
James smiled. So did Amelie. Perhaps the unintentional bonding over Gwen's inability to be understood or cool or normal had been the icebreaker. It wasn't as awkward as she had thought it would be.
“It's been a while,” James said nostalgically.
“I heard you're a Quidditch player.”
“Reserve for the Cannons.”
“Nice,” Amelie replied appreciatively, “I work for the Prophet.”
“I though you said you were going to be a potioneer.”
“I also said that I was going to be a Quidditch player until you so cruelly shot me down.”
“Well you'll get more money being a serial divorcee.”
“It's true,” Amelie joked, “and much less work.”
“I don't know. Dating and dumping people can be pretty hard on the nerves,” James answered. He laughed. Amelie was certain that he had meant it as a joke, so laughed weakly in response, but James was now looking down at the floor and running his hand through his hair. His statement had struck particularly close to home.
“It has been three years...” Amelie said quietly, after a long, pregnant pause. James was still completely interested with his shoes and once again she revisited the Shrieking Shack in her mind, and she could hear the thundering rain and smell the damp and the firewhisky and Watson's perfume.
“Oh, I know,” James said quickly, blushing slightly and flattening down his hair like he always did when he was nervous, “but I broke up with my girlfriend last weekend.”
Amelie paled. Of course he was talking about someone else, she reasoned, he hadn't been sitting for three years pining for her. She hadn't been pining for him, but she had always felt a familiar twinge of guilt whenever she saw his photo in the paper, or saw that the Chudley Cannons had won, or whenever it rained. She had moved on, dated other people, got a new job...
“I'm sorry,” Amelie choked.
“Do you want me to attach antlers to her head?”
“Perhaps later. When Lily's finished with her.”
They both smiled. The train was now pulling out of the station. Someone called James' name, and he turned, saying goodbye to them with an effortless wave of his hand.
“I though you'd died in that shack,” Amelie said and James laughed.
“I fought off the Hufflepuff girls and the lure of Droobles Best Blowing Gum and made it to graduation.”
“I didn't see you there, or at the party.”
“I wasn't... I didn't... I didn't feel like talking to you, you know? I didn't feel like talking to anyone.”
Amelie nodded. She absentmindedly adjusted the end of her skirt. It was strange talking about something that happened three years, when they were seventeen, when they were so young. She remembered that her hair had been long then and slightly curly. She had wanted to be a potioneer and she had been dating the great James Potter.
“So... err... yeah. I was going...”
“Rose and Scorpius are moving in together,” he interrupted quickly. He toyed with the zip of his jacket and Amelie raised her eyebrows, “they graduated last year.”
“So he didn't kill her or convert her to Death Eater-ism?”
“I'm sorry about that,” James replied softly, his eyes oddly large behind his new glasses, “about that and the whole cheating on you thing.”
She could burst with awkwardness.
“Oh, right. Well I was...”
“I mean it was completely stupid, because... because, well, we were pretty good together, weren't we?”
“People thought so,” Amelie answered, now looking right into his eyes. He had taken off his glasses and she could see now that he had more freckles but his eyes were still filled with the same chocolaty goodness.
“Until I... when me and Georgina...”
“Right, until me and Georgia.”
The station was practically empty. The train and the surrounding crowd had left a long time ago.
“But you did think,” James continued, slowly and painfully, as though the words had great difficulty coming out of his mouth, “before all that... you did think that we had something, right? Or was it all completely one-sided?”
Amelie looked at him. She wondered where all this was coming from. She hadn't seen or spoken to James in three years. The last time they had met he had been slightly tipsy and she had ended their long relationship. He had told her that he loved her, but she still rejected him. It had been raining. She had still loved him too, but she would never have told him that. Now he was standing before her, three years older and hopefully wiser, asking her whether the two of them had shared something special when they were students and thought that eating Cockroach Cluster or having a boyfriend in Slytherin was the worst thing that could ever happen to you.
“Why are you asking me this, James?” Amelie said, with a weak laugh.
James simply continued to look at her.
“Is this because your girlfriend broke up with you? You're feeling all emotional and sentimental and reflective or whatever?”
“No, this has nothing to do with her.”
They looked at each other.
“I'm sorry,” James replied, and he was smiling, “I haven't talked to you in three years and suddenly I'm spouting all this emotional crap on you. I'd forgotten how you didn't like to talk about feelings.”
“I was the best girlfriend ever.”
James smiled nostalgically. The two of them began to walk towards the barrier through to King's Cross. They paused as they approached the brick wall, and Amelie patted James lightly on the arm.
“And it wasn't completely one-sided, Jimmy,” she said, and she laughed when he grimaced at the use of the much-hated nickname, “I loved you too, remember?”
They both pushed through the barrier and onto the Muggle station outside, which was packed with bustling commuters and tourists and families on days out. They walked towards the exit.
“I've got a big game coming up,” James said excitedly, “one of the actual chasers broke his arm and the healer messed it all up so he's out for a couple of matches. They've picked me to play as his replacement.”
“That's great, James,” Amelie replied heartily, “they are going to be so impressed.”
He blushed again. They had stopped on the steps leading out of the station. They ignored the angry mutterings of sleep-deprived businessmen.
“I was just wondering if maybe... if you fancied... if you wanted to come? I've got a spare ticket and I could probably get you into the after-game party, if you felt like it.”
“That would be great, James,” Amelie replied happily. A smile graced her features.
“Yeah, I'd love to come see you play.”
“Are you sure?”
“No James, I'd rather spend the night in with Gwen and her unicorns and my mother.”
“Victoire's going to be there as well, just to warn you... and she's all hormonal because of the pregnancy.”
“Then I'm definitely not coming anymore,” Amelie grimaced, but James picked up the sarcasm in her voice, “if Victoire's going...”
“I made sure that she'd be on her best behaviour. I got Teddy to swear.”
“Well if Teddy swore than that means it's official.”
They smiled at each other, and Amelie looked hastily at her watch. She was already running late for her next meeting: some over-pretentious business was simply begging her to interview him.
“Sorry, James, I've got to go. Send me an owl about the match thing, right?”
They hugged, briefly and gently, and Amelie kissed him lightly on the cheek. He watched her disappear down the steps and into the streets of London, limping ungracefully in her uncomfortable high heels, with her dark hair swinging. James smiled, and turned to walk the other way.
The rain stopped when the clouds parted.
The sun came out.
So yeah. This is the end. I have plenty of emotions and feelings and so be prepared to read a novel length author note.
I want to thank every single person who has ever read this story. This is by far my most popular story on the site, and I want to thank you all for making me want to keep writing it, and not give up halfway through (which I was tempted to do at more than one occasion). I especially want to thank everyone who has reviewed - whether you’re a regular or anonymous or your review is long or your review is short or you're simply popping in to help Bronze win the Ravenclaw review tag (I’m really not interested if you're on the Blue team :P). You are all wonderful and fantastic and your points and praise and criticism literally make my day.
Special big thanks to an anonymous user called Staceface, who left this story its first review. I want to thank Ak, Michelle, kurlz, PrincessPadfoot, Rachelle and Gina, who have all helped out with the editing and betaing or - in Gina’s case - squeeing and caps lock. I also want to thank ariana_tithe and Gwen, who made the lovely graphics.
TGS. You’re all incredible, and the cbox is the best.
Thank you to Ravenclaw, and your intelligence and general clawsomeness.
To James and Amelie, and to the United Kingdom, with your endless supply of rain.
You’re all fab.
Including monobrow man: