Chapter 4 : Reunion
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James Potter and Lily Potter
“Ruby, you almost finished?”
Lily was pounding on my door, her loud voice now ringing in my ears as I pulled on a pair of jeans and, after that, my gray boots. My best friend was driving me insane with her knocking, so I hastily hopped over to the door, still trying to shove my right foot into my boot, and pulled the door open with one hand. “What?” I said irritably as I toppled onto the floor—I mean, really, being balanced on one foot couldn’t last too long for me, could it?
Lily was dressed in a daring denim skirt and a blue blouse, her hair curled all around her heart-shaped face. I raised my eyebrows at her bare legs, but tried to not argue with her that it was absolutely freezing outside—the girl was more stubborn than anyone I’d ever met. She ignored the fact that I was sprawled unceremoniously on the floor and waltzed right in, taking a seat on my bed. “James should be here any minute, and I just want to make sure you can meet his new girlfriend. I’m telling you, you won’t believe who it is.”
I blew a strand of dark brown hair out of my face, rolling my eyes as I got to my feet. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if there were too many females left for James—he had gone through girls so fast when he was at Hogwarts that I was sure there were only a select number of girls left in England that were interested in dating him anymore—and, of course, his many relatives. And me for that matter—James may have been charming, but he was far too obnoxious and full of trouble to make me attracted to him. “I’ll take your word for it, Lily,” I said, running a hand through my long hair and smiling at her. “So what exactly do we have planned for today?”
“Nothing much, I don’t think,” said Lily thoughtfully as she chewed on her bottom lip. “Mum’s got a whole schedule full of things we can do this week—including baking,” at this, she grimaced, “so she’s letting us relax today. It’s just James and his new girlfriend coming home, and getting the family back together again. Get ready for Mum crying because we’re all back together, and Dad trying to keep the tension at a minimum.
I raised my eyebrows, but said nothing, not exactly looking forward to any explanation. “Any idea when Lysander and Lorcan may be coming?”
“We’ll definitely see them at the Christmas Party at the Burrow,” Lily replied. “But I’m not sure if they’ll be coming over anytime soon—their parents still aren’t very thrilled with them, after they nearly got caught sneaking out to Hogsmeade last week. I still can’t believe they didn’t invite us to come with them!”
“Oh, come on, Lily,” I said, rolling my eyes at her again. “Can you imagine what your parents would say if Professor Longbottom caught you out with those two, completely trashed? I’m just happy they went by themselves, and someone like Professor Slughorn or, even worse, Professor McGonagall didn’t find them trying to sneak out. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to be involved in that.”
The pretty red-head sighed, and pouted at me. “Why must you be so practical?”
“One of us has to be,” I grinned at her, tugging on a strand of her dark red hair and pulling her to her feet. “Come on, let’s go see your eldest brother, I’m sure you’ll be just thrilled to see him.”
Lily was the one who rolled her eyes this time, but laughed nonetheless as we walked out of my room. We chattered gleefully about nothing in particular as we descended the staircase, and I noticed Scorpius and Albus sitting on the couch, both wearing dark, wary expressions on their faces. I frowned at them, and asked as soon as my feet touched the carpeted floor, “What’s wrong?”
Scorpius was watching his best friend, but Albus stared straight into my eyes, looking like he was conflicted on what he was going to say. Lily, of course, took this brief moment of silence to reply for him. “He always gets this way whenever James comes home,” she said casually, taking a seat on the other couch and gesturing for me to join her. She crossed her legs as I took my seat, and I noticed Scorpius’ eyes had moved from Albus to my own best friend; our eyes met, and he hastily looked away. Before I could contemplate what had just happened, Lily added, “Al, will you please relax? You’re making me nervous just sitting like that.”
Albus rolled his eyes at his sister, but let out a soft sigh; his eyes found mine, and I smiled lightly up at him, hoping to see him calm down a bit as well. His shoulders relaxed more, and he returned the smile briefly before exchanging significant glances with Scorpius.
I had always known there as a slightly rivalry between the two Potter brothers; one was in Slytherin, the other in Gryffindor, so it was no real surprise that they had tension between them. From what I had gathered from Lily, after Albus had been sorted into Slytherin, James had taken it as a personal insult, and taken it upon himself to punish his younger brother for being placed in a different House. I had not exactly been happy with this information, as it was hardly fair for James to bully Albus just because of the House he had been placed into, but Lily had told me to stay out of it. Apparently, it had gotten worse as they got older, especially when it seemed Scorpius became the brother that James should have been to Albus. It was a complicated matter, clearly, and not even Lily had all the facts. I just knew that, no doubt, it was not easy for any of the Potters when the family was brought back together.
Lily let out a sigh in irritation, and fidgeted in her seat; I couldn’t help but laugh and roll my eyes at her. She could never sit still for one minute, and was no doubt cursing her brother and his companion for taking so long. “When are they supposed to be here?” I asked the room in general, trying to keep my voice quiet and soothing for all the tension.
“Any minute,” said Scorpius finally, giving me a look; it was clear that he had been in my position, and that he understood exactly how uncomfortable I felt.
Two loud cracks, like a familiar gunshot, came from the front door, and we all glanced at each other, looking to see who would be the first to get to their feet and answer the door. Instead, the door burst open, and in came James Potter. He was exceptionally handsome, with jet black hair and dark, chocolate brown eyes. His muscles were thicker than Albus’, but he was several inches shorter. As he entered the house, a bright, warm smile was spread across his face, and it only grew as his mother threw her arms around him, happily tearing up at seeing her eldest son return.
It was then that I noticed the tall, pretty brunette standing behind James, waiting patiently as he embraced his father now. It was not until James finally moved out of the way, allowing his companion to walk through the doorway that I recognized her: Charlotte Corner, James’ best friend throughout Hogwarts, and the one girl that he had never dated during those seven years.
“Mum, Dad, you remember Charlie,” said James, his voice full of pride and love as he took her small hand into his.
I glanced over at Lily, and she was raising her eyebrows at her brother. No doubt this was what she had been talking about before; but I had always believed that, while Charlie clearly loved James more than a brother, she would never act on her feelings. Lily had even told me that, after she asked Charlie why she wasn’t dating her brother, Charlie had believed that her friendship with James would be ruined if she ever told him about her feelings. I was shocked, to say the least.
The room suddenly went quiet, and James was gazing at Albus, Lily, Scorpius, and me, as his parents and girlfriend looked on hesitantly. Finally, he gave his siblings a wide grin, and said, “What, I haven’t seen either of you in months, and I don’t even get a hi?”
Lily smiled rather tentatively at her eldest brother, and walked over to him in three confident steps; her arms wrapped around his neck, and he embraced her closely, whispering in her ear and making her laugh. Lily pulled away, and we all looked at Albus now. His hands were balled into tight fists, and he looked like he’d rather jump off a cliff than actually touch his older brother. However, he glanced over at me this time, and I had just tilted my head to the side and tried to figure out what he was trying to tell me with his eyes, when he stormed out of the house, shouldering past James and Charlie, and into the chilly, afternoon air.
Scorpius and I exchanged glances. James sighed, and turned to his family. “Glad to see things haven’t changed,” he mumbled.
Honestly, I shouldn’t have been too surprised when Albus stalked out of the Potter household; Lily had always mentioned that her brothers had been feuding ever since the younger brother was sorted into the Slytherin household, much to James’ disappointment and shame. According to Lily, Albus had been sure his eldest brother would, deep down, support him no matter what House he was placed in; so, when James decided to act like he only had one sibling after that night, Albus had been more than hurt.
Lily wasn’t exactly sure when their animosity escalated to the point where Albus refused to associate himself with James, but it seemed to involve something in Albus’ third year. She had no idea what had happened, but, apparently, it was bad—bad enough to where Albus had stormed out of his own house when forced to actually face his own brother after months of separation.
After Albus had left, Mrs. Potter had ushered James and Charlie into the kitchen, trying to keep them occupied while a very exhausted-looking Mr. Potter asked Scorpius, Lily, and I to go and find Albus and convince him to come home. Of course, we had replied, and we had bundled up in jackets and gloves—and, for Lily, a dark purple knit hat—before we walked outside into the cold, looking for Albus Potter.
Lily and Scorpius decided to go right, leaving me on my own to turn left, walking alone on the sidewalk as the sun received its rare chance to peek around the clouds and light up the thick walls of snow. My breath would come out in soft gray clouds of air, and my fingers were beginning to go numb. After about an hour and a half, just when I was debating on turning back and seeing if Lily and Scorpius had found Albus, I came upon a small, deserted park. There were a couple of dull, obnoxiously yellow slides, a set of monkey bars, a swing set, and a whirly-go-round that was squeaking as the chilly air gently pushed it around and around.
Right when I was beginning to turn on my heel, I noticed the dark figure sitting on one of the swings, his face held in his hands. His jet-black hair was sticking up in all directions, and I couldn’t help but smile in relief that I had finally found him. I took a few tentative steps towards him, and he didn’t even move when I sat down on the swing next to him. “Al?” I asked him softly, hoping that he would give me some sort of conformation that he was alright, even for the moment.
Albus slowly lifted his head up, and his emerald eyes held so much loss and despair that my heart ached for him; I thought about reaching a hand out and touching one of his, but stopped myself, sure that it would make him feel uncomfortable. “Hey, Ruby,” he replied dully, running a hand through his messy hair and turning away from me.
“We’ve been looking for you,” I said softly, making my hands busy by holding onto the chains holding onto the swing. My fingers locked around the icy metal loops, making my skin slightly burn. “Me, Lily, Scorpius…” My voice trailed off, and I wished I could tell him that his brother had gone out looking for him as well, as I was sure it would have made him feel more optimistic about their relationship.
“What, James didn’t want to go out into the cold and find me?” Albus laughed coldly, and my stomach squeezed into knots at the sound. He shook his head and looked at me with a twisted smile on his face. “I’m sure he’s sitting down for dinner with now with Mum and Dad, not even bothering to think about me.”
“Al, that’s not—“
“Don’t tell me that it’s not true,” he snarled, getting to his feet and taking a few harsh steps away from me. I sucked in a breath, surprised at his tone, but I kept my composure, and let him continue on. “You don’t get it. I’m sure you see James as the charming son, the one everyone just loves.” Albus practically spat out the last word. “You know nothing about what my brother is really like.”
I stood up from the swing, and eventually came to stand right in front of him. He was hanging his head, his hands in his pockets, and looking absolutely miserable. How could this be the same Albus Potter that I had been walking with hours before? Lily had warned me that Albus could be moody sometimes, but this was nothing that I had imagined. “You’re wrong,” I said simply, making him look straight into my eyes, surprise written all over his face. “I’ve always known James is an obnoxious pig. He talks far too much for his own good, and is always getting into trouble. He’s human,” I shrugged, “just like the rest of us. And while I may not understand whatever it was that went on between you two in the past, I know that you can be the better person and put it aside, for the next two weeks, and at least tolerate James. I’m not saying you have to be best mates or anything,” I added hastily as he began to open his mouth, “but just keep your temper, and don’t go storming out whenever you're forced to socialize with him.”
Albus gazed down at me for a few seconds, before slowly nodding and running a hand over his face. I was shocked that he actually listened to me, let alone understood what I was saying because, honestly, I was just winging it there. Not to allow him to see my surprise, I smiled gently up at him, and decided to take his hand into my gloved one. “I’m sorry about…you know,” he said quietly, continuing to stare at our entwined fingers.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said, waving my other hand and squeezing his before letting go. “Come on, let’s go back to your house before you freeze to death. You should have grabbed a jacket or something before you left.” I began to walk away, and found that Albus was still lagging behind, looking down at me thoughtfully. “What?” I asked him curiously, tilting my head to the side curiously as I looked up at him.
“It’s nothing,” replied Albus a little too quickly; but, before I could question him on it, he walked past me and I had to hurry to catch up with him. “So why did you walk here by yourself?” he asked.
“Lily and Scorpius decided to go the other way, and make sure we could cover more ground in a shorter span of time,” I said casually, running a gloved hand through my hair. “Hopefully they realized they went the wrong way and decided to go back.”
The walk back to the Potter household was quiet, with the both of us being caught up in our own thoughts. When the large estate eventually came into view, I saw a splash of red and blonde on the front step. I couldn’t help but smile as looks of pure relief flashed across both Lily’s and Scorpius’ faces, and I was sure I saw a twitch in Albus’ mouth out of the corner of my eye.
“Hey, mate,” Scorpius broke the silence as we approached the standing duo, and I could tell they were both being rather tentative around the boy standing next to me; I couldn’t really blame them, seeing as how he clearly had a lot of pent-up anger against his eldest brother and he had a difficult time containing it. “You alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” replied Albus quietly.
Lily hesitated before saying to her brother, “James and Charlie went over to Fred’s house to hang out with him for the rest of the day. He…he thought it’d be best if you guys got some space for at least a few hours…” Her voice trailed off.
Albus simply nodded, clearly not wanting to discuss James anymore.
“Let’s do something. Let’s…play Quidditch or something,” said Scorpius, a mischievous grin suddenly appearing on his face as he gazed around at all three of us.
My stomach fell immediately to my feet, but I ignored it as Lily smirked at both of the boys, no doubt getting ready for this competition. Even a slow smile had formed on Albus’ face, and it seemed to bring up his spirits. And, if it meant I could see that happy look in his eyes, I was more than willing to swallow my dislike of Quidditch and play a few rounds. Honestly, what’s the worst that could happen?
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