Chapter 24 : More Pranks, Christmas Dinners and The Almost-Full Truth
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I smiled widely at Mrs. Potter. “I slept wonderfully, thanks for asking.”
“Am I going to find out why there was a girl screaming bloody murder last night?” She asked conversationally as she slid a pancake onto my plate.
“You might, yeah,” I said, rolling my eyes at Albus, Scorpius and Freddie, who were currently involved in a rousing game of ‘Who Can Stuff More Food Into His Mouth Without Gagging on It’.
Dom was winning.
I found this incredibly pathetic on the boys’ part.
“Morning, everyone!” Roxy said brightly as she ambled in and sat down next to Fred. “Did you all sleep well last night?”
“Yes, you?” Ella asked her innocently. Rose and Noah collapsed into fits of irrepressible laughter.
“Oh, it was fantastic,” Roxy said happily, piling waffles onto her plate and nonchalantly reaching over to thump a choking Fred on the back. He swallowed the massive clump of food with some difficulty, his eyes watering.
“Thanks, sis,” he gasped.
Suddenly, the sound of breakfast was shattered by a blood-curdling scream.
“Oh, dear,” Hermione said mildly as she stopped in her tracks on the way to her seat and turned around to look at the stairs. Sarah was stomping down, looking livid and ready to kill.
“Someone,” she said shrilly, breathing heavily and spitting clumps of blonde hair out of her mouth, “has replaced my shampoo with glue. And whoever did it is going to pay.”
The table fell silent.
“Hello love,” Harry Potter said brightly as he came into the room behind Sarah. He patted her shoulder affably. “You’ve got a little something in your hair.”
Sarah let out another shriek and sprinted up the stairs. Mr. Potter turned to the rest of the table, looking lost.
“Was it something I said?”
It was past noon when Sarah made another appearance, this time looking as though she had fought and lost a battle against her various enhancers. James’ mouth fell open when she stabbed her way over and sat down next to him, the expression on her face promising death to anyone who so much as looked at her.
“Er,” he said oh-so-eloquently. Sarah pretended not to hear him, her dead glare set on the wall in front of her. She had tried and failed miserably to comb the glue out of her hair, but the result was a series of spikes sticking out at odd angles all around her head. Her skin looked blotchy, a pimple the size of a small country poking resiliently out of her forehead.
“You look – lovely,” he said in a small voice, clearing his throat awkwardly.
She turned around to glare at him. “Shut up, James.”
He bit his lip. “Right. I’m just – going to go…over there…” his voice trailed off pathetically as he scrambled over to Apollo, who was currently arguing with Dom about the name of the child as Albus, Rose and I watched on in mild amusement.
“I told you I like Wulfric,” Dom said stubbornly. “It was one of Albus Dumbledore’s middle names – the bloke had loads of them – and it sounds regal.”
“It sounds stupid,” Apollo said flatly. “I am not inflicting our child with a name like Wulfric. That’s almost as bad as naming your kid Albus or Scorpius. No offense,” he added hastily, upon seeing the looks of outrage on their faces.
“Offense taken,” Al said huffily. “Just because your parents aren’t nutters doesn’t mean you can make fun of the less fortunate!”
“Hear, hear!” Scorpius said enthusiastically, plopping down next to Rose. “Us wonky-named blokes must stick together and fight the injustice of the world.”
“Damn right,” Al said, fist-bumping Scorp. “We are so bloody underappreciated. You know, for someone named Albus Severus, I turned out pretty okay. I should get some sort of award for this major accomplishment.”
“Me too,” Scorpius chimed in. “I’m Scorpius Hyperion…my name’s weirder than yours –”
“No way!” Al said right away. “Mine’s way wonkier –”
“Yeah right –”
“Okay, you’re not helping!” Apollo said loudly, looking weary.
“Wulfric. I’m writing it down,” Dom said decisively, pulling the list of finalized names towards her.
“The hell you are!” Apollo said, snatching it away and holding it above his head. Dom let out an angry noise and reached towards it.
“I – like – Wulfric – goddamnit!” She shrieked, jumping up with each word to try and get to the list.
“For the record, I hate it,” I put in mildly.
Dom turned around to glare viciously at me. “I don’t remember asking you!”
“Actually, you were the one who made me write a list, so –”
“What about something like Sirius, for a boy?” James said quietly. Dom stopped glaring at me to turn around and look at him. James shrunk back slightly, expecting an explosion, but –
“Sirius is a nice name.” Dom sat down, looking thoughtful. James let out a relieved sigh, and I mouthed ‘good one’ at him, grinning when he winked back.
“I also like Minerva,” Dom added.
There was a short, horrified silence.
“You want to name your child after McGonagall?” I asked incredulously.
Dom flushed. “Well – not necessarily. The name Minerva is the Roman name for the Greek goddess –”
“Athena, we know,” James said. “But honestly, you like the name Minerva? You do know that your child will be mocked for the rest of her life, right?”
“She won’t have any friends,” Al added, his eyes wide. “She’ll be a loner, constantly ridiculed for her wonky name –”
“And when she’s sixteen and going through that uncomfortable phase of teenage angst,” Scorpius paused for dramatic effect, “she’ll probably commit suicide because she can’t stand her pathetic life.”
There was another brief silence.
“Are you two explaining the story of your lives to us?” Rose asked innocently.
“I still don’t understand why our Christmas tree has to be so huge,” Lily complained under her breath as she pulled twigs out of her hair.
“It’s your fault you’re a klutz and tripped into it,” Al quipped helpfully.
Lily’s eyes narrowed into a glare. “I didn’t trip, I was shoved by the baboon I call a brother.”
“You should have gotten out of my way,” Al said. “I was carrying an extremely large box of ornaments –”
“Oh, you are so –”
“Ah, Christmas,” James said loudly, intervening between his siblings and putting an arm around each of their shoulders, “That wonderful time of year when families get together and show their love for one another.”
I ducked behind a particularly large ornament featuring their family as I giggled into my hand.
“Artemis, what are you doing?” Lily snapped at me as she shrugged her brother’s shoulder off of her. I emerged from behind the ornament, hopefully projecting an image of innocence.
“Hmm? Who, me?”
“Well, how many other Artemis’ are there in this house, huh?”
“I – well, I was just…er…um…”
Spying on James like a creeper. Because I am one.
“Helping me,” Fred appeared behind me and slung his arm over my shoulder.
“Yeah. That.” I smiled weakly for added emphasis.
“With what?” Al asked suspiciously.
“Nargle hunting!” Fred said brightly, starting to steer me away. “They love infesting Christmas trees, you know.”
“I thought it was mistletoe,” James said, clearly amused at my horrified expression at being caught in the act of ‘nargle hunting’.
“Whoops! Our mistake!” Fred smacked a hand to his forehead dramatically. “We’re gonna go check out that mistletoe, then – er, not together, obviously, because Artemis is like my sister and it would be pretty horrible to kiss her – not that kissing you is horrible,” Fred’s eyes were wide, sounding as though he dearly wished he hadn’t even opened his mouth in the first place, “I mean, you’re quite attractive, and I’m sure tons of people want to kiss you…I’m just not one of them, obviously, because I’m in love with –”
“Fred, stop talking,” I said in a flat voice, covering his mouth with my hand mid-sentence as we walked away. He mumbled pathetically against my palm.
“And that,” he muttered as I finally released his mouth, “is the last time I save a damsel in distress. You couldn’t have been more discreet about your stalking?!”
“I wasn’t stalking,” I protested.
“Yes, you were.”
“Fine, maybe a little,” I admitted grudgingly. “Whatever, Fred.”
“Anyway, listen, I had to tell you something –” he started, speaking to me in a low, urgent voice.
“Artemis, come on, Dom’s going ballistic because Nana Weasley forgot to knit her a larger sweater!” Ella exclaimed, grabbing my arm to tug me away.
“Wait, hold on –” I looked desperately at Fred, who was staring after us, looking frustrated.
“JUST BE CAREFUL AROUND THE –”
“HURRY UP, FOR GOD’S SAKE!” Ella’s impatient yell drowned out his sentence as she towed me up the stairs.
Crap. I’m sure this is going to come back and bite me on the butt. Extremely hard.
“Psst,” Al whispered to me as we sat down to dinner. I raised my eyebrow at him, and he leaned over as nonchalantly as he could, darting his eyes around the table for added theatric effect.
“Tonight is our night of glory,” he breathed mysteriously into my ear. I looked at him in confusion, but he merely winked and sat down next to Noah, glancing once at Sarah (who, unfortunately, managed to use magic to make herself look slightly better), then looking at me with a smirk.
I sat down nervously, fidgeting with the corner of my dress as I stared at Al and Scorpius, who were talking to each other in low, hushed voices with looks of glee spread on their faces. Reaching out behind me, I snagged Dom and Ella, pulling them down and shoving them into the chairs next to me. Alex sat down across from us, amused by the two loud shrieks that they let out upon being unceremoniously pulled into wooden chairs.
“What?” Dom asked angrily, looking absolutely angelic in her white dress and headband.
“They’re up to something,” I said, nodding my head towards Al and Scorp.
“They’re always up to something,” Ella said impatiently, rubbing her butt morosely.
“No, but this time –”
“Ella, budge over,” James’ voice said from behind me. I froze mid-sentence, my mouth still slightly open. Which I’m sure is wildly attractive.
“Ugh, fine,” Ella muttered angrily, though she sent me a discreet wink and moved over one seat, letting James plop down next to me.
“Hi,” I said, forcing my frozen face into something resembling a smile.
“Hello,” he said pleasantly, shooting me a brief grin (that pretty much just melted my insides) and looking around the table. He quickly looked past Sarah, who was glaring at us as though she wished daggers to physically shoot out of her eyes and impale me to death.
“Your girlfriend doesn’t look too pleased,” I noted, trying not to sound too happy about that fact.
“She’s not doing such a fabulous job of blending in with my family,” James responded, looking at her and smiling when she turned her glare on him. She rolled her eyes and bestowed a begrudging smile on him in return. I tried not to scowl. Or gag. Or upchuck my lunch.
“I wonder why that is,” he added, turning a suspicious gaze on me.
I tried to look all innocent, like ‘who, moi? No!’
He gave me a look that clearly told me not to insult his intelligence.
I grinned impishly at that one.
“In my defense, I never told anyone to do anything,” I said.
“So, what did you tell them to do, then?” He asked.
“Nothing! I’m innocent,” I protested, my eyes wide. I think the blonde curls, silver headband and festively cute dress definitely add to my argument.
“Really,” he seemed skeptical. How rude.
“Honestly James, how juvenile do you think I am? Maybe your cousins are trying to tell you something,” I said wisely, ignoring when both Dom and Ella snorted into their soup.
“We-hate-your-girlfriend,” Roxy got out between coughs from across the table. I let out a short bark of laughter and clapped my hand over my mouth. Dom elbowed me viciously in the ribs.
“Do you need some water, Rox?” James asked through a tight-lipped smile. Roxy shook her head, smiling angelically.
“Something’s up,” James said in a low voice, turning to me, “and I’m going to find out what.”
“What makes you even think that something’s up?” I managed to get out.
“All you guys seem to be up to something. It feels like everyone knows something I don’t –”
“Are you sure you don’t want to get your throat checked, Roxanne?!”
“No, I’m okay.” Upon seeing James’ glare, she also threw in a, “I love you, Jamie!” for good measure.
He turned his accusing expression to me.
“Oh, look, is that soup? God, I sure do love me some steamy hot soup,” I announced, leaning across the table to avoid his eyes.
I am the master of subtlety. I should get a badge or something.
“It just feels like all of you have this super large secret that I don’t know about,” James continued to muse, his gaze on Al, Apollo and Scorpius, all three of whom were whispering to each other, pretty much the embodiment of ‘secrecy’.
“Of course not, don’t be ridiculous,” I said.
“Yeah? Then what’s that lot discussing?” James jerked his head towards the aforementioned trio. I tried not to curse loudly.
“Merlin only knows,” I said instead, as casually as I could.
“Are you sure you don’t?”
“Positive.” This time I wasn’t lying.
“Can someone pass me the fucking soup?!”
The table fell silent, the adults all looking quite affronted at the sentence that had just burst past Sarah’s lips in a very loud, rude voice. She, too, looked horrified at what she had just said.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” she squeaked. “I honestly did not mean to say that, I don’t know – okay, for god’s sake, just give me the damn soup. Someone. Anyone. I don’t have the patience for this apology.”
Sarah’s eyes widened and she clapped her hands over her mouth. We continued to gaze at her in obvious shock.
“Er…here,” Noah finally said, passing her a large bowl. Sarah sent her a grateful look, then opened her mouth again –
“You sure you didn’t take it all for yourself, you stupid little bitch? Honestly, I don’t know how you managed to land yourself a boyfriend, you’re quite ugly.”
Noah’s mouth dropped open. “How rude.”
Sarah shook her head, “No – I –”
“Take that back,” Al said in a low, angry voice.
“Oh, and don’t even get me started on you, Albus Potter. Honestly, if I had a name like yours, I’d just save myself the humiliation and kill myself.”
Al’s eyebrows shot upwards. “Want to say that again and try staying alive afterwards?”
Mr. Potter’s eyes were shooting bolts of green anger. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay? Perhaps you should –”
“Invest in a comb? Yeah, perhaps you should. Honestly, what have you been doing all day, sticking your finger in an electric socket? Newsflash: it’s not very attractive,” she sang the last part in a vastly superior voice, and Mr. Potter looked disgusted.
“Sarah, honestly, maybe you should go upstairs and lie down –” Dom started cautiously.
“I wasn’t talking to you, you little whore,” Sarah snapped. Apollo shot out of his chair, his expression livid and his hand hovering near his pocket. Scorpius pulled him down with some difficulty, his eyes wide.
“She’s not worth it, mate,” he muttered, though his voice was loud enough to carry around the table.
“Went and got yourself knocked up, did you? Must be because you’re too stupid enough to use protection. Honestly, who forgets that?” Sarah sneered.
What an idiot.
Dom’s dad is a werewolf. Like, hello? He can totally eat your face off.
Well, I’m sure no sane animal would like to eat Sarah’s face – it’s quite vile – so maybe he’ll just scratch it off or something.
Either way, Sarah should say good-bye to her face.
“You probably drugged her or something, you little shit,” Sarah added to Apollo.
I jumped out of my chair without realizing it, and the whole table turned to me.
“Sarah, go upstairs,” I said quietly.
“And you! You think you’re oh-so-high-and-mighty, don’t you? You think you’ll be able to waltz in and steal my boyfriend from me?! Well, think again bitch. He’s mine. I don’t give a shit if you’re in lo –”
I lowered my wand, and Sarah’s mouth continued to move even though no sound came out.
“Silencio,” I said, as an afterthought. “Maybe you should go upstairs until you’ve calmed down.”
Her face completely red, she practically ran out of the room. The sound of her heels clicking rapidly on the steps echoed back to the table, which was silent in shock.
“Real charmer you got there, James,” Teddy said sarcastically.
James refused to meet anyone’s eyes. “Excuse me,” he said abruptly, standing up and walking speedily out of the room. The front door slammed a couple of seconds later.
“So I take it that Christmas dinner has officially been ruined?” Fred asked.
Al and Scorpius exchanged a discreet high-five under the table, and, upon noticing my raised eyebrow, sent me simultaneous winks.
I rolled my eyes.
I’ll never admit this to them, but that was genius. Pure genius.
“Hey,” I said cautiously, walking carefully up to James after our hasty Christmas dinner had ended. James turned slightly to look at me, his breath curling like ribbons of smoke towards the starry sky. He didn’t say anything, just gave me a half-grimace of greeting and turned back to look at the moon.
I bit my lip. “I – uh, brought you some dinner. Thought you might be hungry.” I held out the hot plate, looking at the side of his face.
He sighed. “Thanks, but I’m not hungry.”
I winced slightly at his harsh tone. “It’s really good,” I tried, using my hand to waft the smell towards him. “Christmas dinner by your Nana Weasley. I know this stuff is your favorite.”
“I don’t want it, Artemis.”
“Maybe you should just –”
“I said I don’t want it!” His voice was loud and sharp, cutting through the night like a bullet.
I sighed quietly. “Okay,” I said softly. “I’ll leave you alone. I – sorry.” Giving him one last wistful glance – he was facing resolutely towards the moon, his jaw locked tight – I trudged back towards the house, my boots crunching into the snow.
I stopped suddenly, deciding that it wasn’t in my nature to give up that easily. “I’m leaving it on the kitchen table,” I told him. He didn’t say anything. “In case you come back in later, and you’re hungry.”
Well, I tried.
I turned around again to leave –
“What are you guys playing at, anyhow?” James voice carried back to me, and I stiffened at how angry he sounded.
“What do you mean?” I asked, facing him. He marched up to me, his face hard.
“You know what I mean. The bugs on her bed. The glue in her shampoo, the spells put on her stuff, tonight at dinner – what the hell is wrong with you guys?”
My mouth fell open, ready to spew forth a plethora of lies and excuses, “I –”
“Why are you trying to make me miserable?” he shouted at me, his voice sounding a thousand times louder in the stillness.
“I’m not –”
“Well, whatever you’re trying, it’s working, Artemis. I’m fucking miserable, okay? Are you happy now?”
“No,” I said. “No, I’m not. I’m not fucking happy, for god’s sake. Why the hell would I want to make you miserable, James?”
“Why are you dating her?” I demanded. “I know you don’t like her. Why are you wasting your time?”
“How do you know I don’t like her, huh?” He asked. “What makes you think you know me that well?”
“Because you were in love with me! And it’s not that easy to move on!”
“Well, maybe I have!”
“I know you haven’t, James –”
“Well you know what? I’m trying to. And it’s working. Because you’re not even worth it, Artemis, you’re really not.”
Tears pricked at my eyes. “I’m probably not, but I know you still love me. I know there’s a part of you that hates Sarah for what she is – why can’t you see that?”
“I don’t love you,” he hissed, his eyes flashing a thousand colors of anger. “You know why? Because you, Artemis Jones, are selfish. I finally saw that about you. Everything has to be the way that’s most convenient for you – and when it’s not, you go and ruin other people’s lives to make sure that it gets that way.”
My mouth had fallen open slightly. “I –”
“And yeah, maybe a small part of me does still love you – but I can’t do it anymore. Okay? I just can’t put myself through that anymore, because it hurts, it really does. You’re the type of person who ruins things to get your way, and I can’t live with someone like that,” he finished.
I couldn’t help the tears that fell down my cheeks. “You’re right,” I breathed, my hands shaking slightly around the plate. “You’re completely right – I am selfish. And I’m sorry for that. You have no idea how sorry I am. I was just – I was scared. Fucking terrified. And I just put my defenses up right away, and the result wasn’t just you being miserable, James, I was too. I realized my mistake after I made it, which is something that can seriously be unhealthy for a person – but it’s just how I am. And I know that it’s really selfish for me to want you back, but I can’t – I don’t,” I took a ragged breath, “I just don’t know what to do anymore,” I said in a small voice. “It still scares me. A lot. But I know that I can’t – I can’t force myself to try and sit around while you date someone else. So yeah, maybe I am being stupid and childish and juvenile and selfish. I’m sorry if it’s making you upset. But I…I’m in love with you. I’ve been in love with you, and I just –”
“If really love me, you’ll stop,” James cut across in a low, angry voice. I looked up at him through the water streaming down my face. “Wh –”
“If you really, truly love me like you keep saying, then you’ll stop what you’re doing, and leave Sarah alone. And let me be happy with her. She makes me happy. Which, okay, you guys probably wouldn’t understand, but it’s because you don’t know her,” James said.
I couldn’t help it – I laughed harshly through the tears. “Don’t know her? If there’s anyone here with that predicament, it’s you, James. Can’t you see that she’s putting up an act around you? She’s just acting like someone she’s not, for the sake of –”
“I don’t,” James cut across loudly, “want to hear it, god damn it! I just want you to – stop! Just stop, Artemis, okay? I’m sick of it. I’m sick of you being selfish and me forgiving you for it – this is honestly just too much. I’m tired. Just let me be, please,” he sounded weary and sad.
I shook my head and let out another ruthless laugh, still crying. “You really think it’s that easy for me, James? You think I haven’t tried? I want to see you happy, if you can believe that. I love you – I don’t want to hurt you, even if that means you stay with Sarah. At first, it was just revenge against her –” James opened his mouth, but I cut him off, “ – don’t ask me what it was for, but I can promise you that it’s a legitimate reason. Then…everything changed. I just – just want what’s best for you.”
“You don’t know what’s best for me,” he said in a quiet voice.
I let out a bitter smile. “I know more than you think I do.”
“And how, exactly, do you figure that one out?” he asked angrily.
“I –” I closed my eyes. “I can’t tell you.”
“Oh gee, that clears everything up –”
“Not yet,” I finished. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you right now. You’d let your anger judge for you, and that’s seriously not something –”
“Try me,” he hissed.
“No,” I said, using the most calm and patient voice I possessed. “I can’t. Just – I’m…I’m not giving up. I just want you to know that I’m not giving up on you. I might have done that before, but not…not this time.”
He scoffed angrily, looking away. “Whatever.”
“I’m sorry James,” I whispered. “I really am. I’m sorry I’m hurting you.”
He closed his eyes. “Please leave me alone.”
I bit my lip and turned around, walking inside and shutting the door behind me with a quiet click. As I set the dinner plate in the middle of the table and put a charm on it to keep it warm, I looked back outside.
James was watching the moon.
OH DAMN THAT WAS INTENSE.
you should probably review now, just for my happiness :) <3
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