Chapter 25 : Unicorns, Seething and Mistletoe
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After that, my mood shifted from miserable to shitty and miserable. Which makes everything so much better, really. I mean, this is what Christmas is all about. I’m all about sharing in the love and festivities, you know. So bring on the presents, and cheer, I say!
Because this is just fucking fantastic.
I might just run away to Nigeria if my day gets any worse.
Then again, I might be speaking too soon.
“Morning, Sleeping Beauties!” Jason warbled as he danced into our room. The door banged against the wall behind him. I groaned and buried myself into my bed. Go away, please.
“Artemis, my darling love! Dommie, my darling pregnant love! –”
“ – Alex, my darling cousin love! And lastly, ELLA MY ONE AND ONLY DARLING LOVE! MERRY CHRISTMAS! I LOVE YOU ALL! ALL OF YOU!”
“Brilliant,” I snapped, raising my head from my pillow to shoot Jason a sharp glare. “Now kindly take your Christmas love and chuck it out the fucking window. And then let me sleep.”
“Don’t be hating on my Christmas love, you ungrateful little Scrooge,” Jason said haughtily.
“Bah, humbug,” I said, sighing in a resigned sort of way and getting out of bed. “I’ll be a Scrooge if I want to be. So there.”
“That’s not very manly,” I sang maliciously.
“You’re awfully mean for someone who’s supposed to have just woken up on a lovely Christmas morning.” He noted.
“I’ve been awake for a while. I don’t think I slept at all, to be honest.” I grimaced.
Jason’s eyebrow popped up slowly, his stupidly cheerful expression slipping off of his face. “What’s wrong?”
“What makes you think something’s wrong?” I shot back irritably.
“Love, I’ve known you for years. I can figure out when something’s wrong by taking just one look at your face.”
I sighed again. Damn this child and his ability to know me so well. “I got in a fight with James last night.”
“Aw, girl, why don’t we get you some hot chocolate and talk all about it?” Jason said cheerfully, slinging an arm around my shoulders and steering me towards the door.
“Should I be the one to tell Ella you’re gay, or do you want to do the honors?”
“Jason’s what?” Ella asked sleepily, extracting herself from her blankets and staring at her through her bleary eyes and severe bed-head. She sort of looked like a troll. One of those crazy dolls with that wild pink hair that sticks straight up.
Except not pink. And more human-like.
But pretty much the same thing.
“Nothing, go to sleep. I love you,” Jason added hastily. Ella grunted oh-so-attractively and fell backwards onto her pillow. A couple of seconds later, she let out a loud snore, which we took to mean that she had fallen asleep once again, with probably no recollection as to what just happened.
“Nice catch,” I told Jason drily, after we were done staring at her lump. He stuck his tongue out at me, and I let out a reluctant grin.
Somehow, something tells me that my original Christmas plan of ‘moping about’ will not be happening if these people have anything to do with it.
“Dude, that blows,” Fred said later, picking up the can of whipped cream from next to him and spraying it into his mouth. He looked at me with his foamy face and offered a smile. I grimaced back.
“Yeah, I totally blew it,” I sighed. Apollo put his arm around me.
“But you’re not going to give up, right?” he asked cheerfully.
“Because we’re Joneses and Joneses never ever back down from what they think is right! It’s like, our personal philosophy. Of life,” he declared proudly, throwing in a couple of salutes just for good measure.
“Dude, I wish I had a personal philosophy!” Jason said excitedly, putting his mug of hot chocolate down. “I’m gonna come up with it now, and it’s going to be, like, epic.” He thought for a second. “Something like, ‘I’m so cool. Be jealous. But don’t hate. Appreciate!’ It’s perfect, right?”
We stared at him for a second.
Apollo picked up a marshmallow, licked the side of it, and stuck it on Jason’s forehead. We all contemplated it for a second.
“You’re an idiot,” Apollo promptly decided.
Jason crossed his eyes desperately to look at it. “That is so not cool, Apollo! You’re such a meanie.”
“But you look so lovely,” I said sweetly. “Just like a unicorn.”
“I don’t want to look like a lovely unicorn. It’s not manly.”
Fred then picked up his wand and shot a spell at the marshmallow. “It’s not coming off ‘till midnight!” he told Jason gleefully.
Jason’s eyes narrowed, and he picked up the whipped cream can and sprayed it at Fred’s face, finishing it off with the spell. “Now we’re even,” he said smugly.
“You bitch!” Fred said angrily. “I have whipped cream all over my face! You just have a marshmallow on your forehead!”
“But you look so much more lovely that way,” Jason said innocently. “Just like a cloud.”
“Throw in a couple rainbows, and you two could be a walking fairy tale!” I exclaimed. Apollo cracked up loudly next to me, and both of them turned around to glare at him.
“You’re being the rainbow,” Jason snarled, reaching towards his wand. Apollo’s eyes widened, and, quick as a flash, he snatched up their wands.
“RUN, ARTEMIS!” he yelled, sprinting out the door. I let out a shriek (just for the fun of it) and followed him out into the hallway.
“OI!” Fred and Jason yelled, and they came thundering after us.
It is six a.m., and four fully grown teenagers are sprinting around the house, causing mayhem and general chaos in very loud voices.
Yep, these people are not going to be pleased.
“GIVE – ME – THE – WAND –!”
“NO!” I screamed, holding the wands higher above my head as both Jason and Fred jumped and down, trying to get to them. Apollo cackled happily from under me, his hands at my knees to keep me from falling.
“Artemis, get down!” Fred finally exclaimed, what was visible of his face bright red. Jason was so mad his marshmallow was melting slightly.
“You want it?” I taunted, wiggling the wand close to him. His hand shot towards it, and I swung it above my head. “Come and get it, sucker!”
Letting out an infuriated (and humiliated) roar, Fred lunged at Apollo, putting his own hand on my thigh so that he could jump higher to get to the wand. Meanwhile, Jason attacked from behind, grabbing my waist and trying to pull me down on top of him.
“THIS COUNTS AS SEXUAL HARRASSMENT, YOU FIENDS –”
“OI, GET YOUR RUDDY HANDS OFF OF MY SISTER –”
“GIVE ME THE DAMNED WANDS –”
“What the fucking hell is going on?”
We all froze, still in our comical position, and swiveled our heads to look at James, who was standing at the doorway, looking sleepy, confused and irritated.
Also really adorable.
But he always looks adorable, so that just goes without being said.
Apollo was the first one to snap out of our weird stupor, and he pulled me down slightly. “Catch, James!” he yelled, throwing me towards him before I could even get out a measly little squeak of protest.
I let out a frightened shriek, but James’ arms shot out and caught me before I could go tumbling to the ground. For a second, he pulled me protectively towards his chest, but before I could sag in relief against him, I was already safely on the ground, a good three feet of distance between us.
There was a second of shocked silence.
“Mate,” Jason said, “You just threw your sister at James.”
Apollo’s eyes were wide with horror, his hands over his mouth. “I seriously did not mean to do that,” he said weakly.
“Apollo, this may come as a surprise to you, but you do not throw people at other people,” James voice was laced with amusement, but under the surface, it was tight with something else.
“Well, I’m okay, as long as you don’t do that to your child,” I said nonchalantly, shrugging in a ‘whatever’ sort of way.
“You could have gotten hurt.” James sounded shocked and a little angry, and I turned to look at him, surprised that his eyes were glimmering with anger.
My mouth fell slightly open, and I blinked a couple of times.
Which obviously makes me look so intelligent.
“But I didn’t.”
“But you could have.”
“…but I didn’t.”
“But you could have. You have a problem – you should know that!” James shot towards Apollo, sounding slightly hysterical.
“James,” I sounded extremely surprised. “James, I’m okay –”
“Don’t do anything stupid, okay? Just stop doing stupid things, Artemis!” he yelled.
“We were just –”
“You’re driving me mad!”
“Why can’t you just stop,” his face was slowly turning bright red, “just stop – being – you!”
“Um,” I said, shooting a wary look towards Apollo, Jason and Fred, all of whom looked kind of shocked, “I – er – apologize for being me. I’ll try harder to make it less obvious from now on.”
“Good!” James shot towards me, his hands at fists by his sides.
“Okay,” I said unsurely, my eyes wide.
“And stop telling me that you love me!” he added.
“But I do,” I blurted. Apollo let out a strangled squeak, and my face reddened. Whoops.
“I – you –” James spluttered angrily for a couple of seconds. He looked a bit constipated, and his face was slowly turning a shade of dark purple that got me worrying about his blood pressure. There were a couple minutes of shocked silence, during which James continued to seethe at me. I glanced edgily back towards Apollo, Fred and Jason. They were staring alternately between me and James, who was still seething and spluttering in extreme anger due to the fact that I loved him.
I think I need to have a deep re-evaluation of my life. Clearly, someone up there really hates me.
Deciding that spluttering incoherently was not going to do anything for him, James marched up to me, his face hard. “You,” he said angrily, poking me once on my shoulder, “are making it really hard for me to hate you, you know that?”
Yeah, I’m just so lovable. I should be a care-bear.
I rubbed at my shoulder, a pout set on my face. “That hurt, James.”
He poked me again. “I don’t care if it hurt!”
I poked him back. “Stop being a prat and poking me!”
“You stop being a prat!”
“I’m not a prat! You’re a prat!”
His mouth dropped open, and he shoved me so that I stumbled back a little. “Take it back, you…prat!”
“Stop shoving me! And I won’t take it back!”
“Take – ” shove “ – it –” shove “ – back!”
I stumbled into the wall. “Ow! Stop bloody shoving me! And I won’t take it back – it’s the truth.”
James’ eyes were dark, glimmering with anger and something else that I couldn’t identify. As he stepped up in front of me and grabbed my chin in his hand, I knew that neither of us had been arguing about who was a prat. He glared down into my eyes, and I stared boldly back up at him, my mouth puckering outward slightly because his thumb and fingers were digging into either side of my face.
(I look like a fishie. Glub.)
There was a long moment during which we glared at each other, both defiant, both refusing to back down, then –
“Erm,” Jason cleared his throat awkwardly, “we’re still here, you know.”
Neither of us bothered to respond.
“O…kay, then,” Fred said, “I guess we’ll just…er, leave.”
Silence again, so they shuffled out of the door, leaving me and James behind. My eyes were watering slightly since I refused to blink, but James was fine, his eyes not even wavering from the dark glare. I gulped, sure that my eyes were slowly turning red.
I couldn’t take it anymore – I blinked, my eyelashes brushing against his cheek.
That did it. By the time I had opened my eyes again, James had pulled my face up closer to his, and his mouth hovered dangerously over mine. I let out a quiet gasp, my chocolate-ly warm breath fanning over his lips.
In a heartbeat, he had released my face and was stumbling backwards, dragging both of his hands through his hair. “Fuck,” he said quietly. Then, louder – “FUCK!” He kicked a wall, then cursed loudly again, grabbing his foot as he hopped around.
“You – you complicate everything!” James yelled, pointing an accusing finger at me. I flinched back against the wall, my eyes wide.
“Damn right, you should be sorry!”
“Er…sorry again, then.”
“Ugh,” he breathed in sharply through his nose. “You’re unbelievable, Artemis. Just – unbelievable.”
“Look, I said I was sorry,” I said, feeling slightly indignant.
“I can’t hate you,” he decided, stopping in the middle of the room, simply standing there and facing me. He looked weary. “I just can’t.”
“Then,” I hesitated, biting my lip, “then…maybe you should just let yourself love me.”
There was a silence, and I cringed, waiting for the explosion –
“I can’t do that, either,” his voice was exhausted.
“Why not?” I asked plainly, looking at him steadily, not a trace of embarrassment in my voice.
“Because I can’t trust you.”
My mouth fell open at that one. “Excuse me?”
“I can’t trust that you won’t do the same thing to me – just like you did last time,” he said bitterly. “I just – can’t.”
I swallowed against the rough feeling in my throat. “I promise I won’t. I couldn’t let myself hurt you again, James.”
He looked at me for a long time. “I believe you,” he finally said quietly. Then he turned around and walked out of the room.
I stared after him incredulously, my mouth slightly open in shock.
Well, that solved nothing.
“You’re kidding. You’re fucking kidding me right now.”
I pushed both of my hands through my curls in exasperation and tried moving my feet, but they refused to budge from the ground. Letting out a frustrated scream, I cursed again, loudly.
“Language!” Nana Weasley called from the other room.
“Sorry!” I yelled back. But I cursed again under my breath, just for good measure.
So, I think this is about the time I’ll find it sufficient to say that my life sucks.
“Shouldn’t there be some sort of rule against this?” I asked desperately to my group of friends, who were all crowded around us and trying to save us.
Fred winced. “Sorry – no.”
I would be the pathetic loser stuck under mistletoe with her brother. Of-bloody-course.
“But he’s my twin brother!” I unnecessarily reminded everyone, my face slowly turning a bright red. Apollo seemed to be in some sort of weird, meditative state next to me. He was muttering something about ‘clear your mind, it’ll all be okay’ under his breath. It’s obvious Trelawney taught him that crap.
“Look, it’s not going to let you go until you two –”
“NO WAY!” I screamed, drowning out the rest of Al’s sentence. “THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL THAT I’M SNOGGING MY BROTHER – FORGET IT!”
Apollo whimpered and started chanting faster.
“Why’d you even put these damned things up?” I moaned, looking at Fred deploringly. “You’re all related here!”
He muttered something unintelligible under his breath.
“Wanted to snog Alex,” he mumbled louder.
“You could have done that any old time, you tosser!” Ella shot at him, smacking him upside the head.
“Okay, I get that what I did was a little stupid –”
“A little stupid? A little stupid?! What kind of brain-dead thickhead would do something as utterly and completely idiotic as this?!”
“Well…Freddie,” James said helpfully.
I turned around to glare at him. “You’re not helping.”
He put his hands up in surrender and backed up a couple of steps. Honestly, and to think that I actually love the bloke.
“This is ridiculous,” Dom noted.
Thank you, Dominique, for clearing that up. We were all dying to know.
There was a moment of silence. I was still fuming, and Apollo was now taking deep, calming breaths. He seemed to be on the verge of hyperventilation.
Typical. I yell and scream at everything in my vicinity while Apollo tries not to have a mental breakdown. Always our best ways of dealing with strenuous situations. No wonder we’re considered Wonder Twins. We’re so rational we put Dumbledore to shame.
Suddenly, I was hit with an epiphany. It was an enlightening epiphany, the kind that hits you over the head and leaves you dazed for a couple of minutes in happiness.
Okay, so perhaps it wasn’t that great. But it was an idea.
“We can trick the mistletoe!” I blurted out suddenly. Everyone turned to me.
“How?” Apollo asked fearfully.
“Dom, get over here and snog Apollo. If the stupid weed can’t tell that it’s trapping twins underneath it, then it shouldn’t be able to tell who’s actually doing the snogging, right?” I didn’t wait for an answer, instead grabbing Dom to drag her over to us and practically throwing her at Apollo.
I then screwed up my eyes and plugged my ears so I wouldn’t see anything traumatizing.
Gotta keep it classy, mature, and poised. Which, obviously, I absolutely define.
An agonizing three minutes later, I was tapped on the shoulder. I opened my eyes to see that everyone was grinning, save for Apollo and Dom, who both looked slightly dazed and very pleased.
“Yes!” I said, doing a quick happy dance. “It – didn’t work.”
I was still bloody stuck.
“It didn’t work!” I repeated, trying to move my feet. “Bloody hell, it only worked for Apollo!”
Fred and Al started cracking up.
“You have the worst luck in the world,” Ella said gleefully.
“Well, see you later!” Alex waved sarcastically at me, and her and a still-laughing Fred walked off, closely followed by Ella, Jason, Rose and Scorpius.
“I hate you lot!” I called after them.
I pouted and looked up at the mistletoe. “What the hell am I supposed to do now? I can’t snog myself!”
Al shuddered. “Disturbing mental images.”
Noah laughed. “Your fault for thinking about it.”
“Not helping!” I reminded them. My face was slowly turning pink with desperation. “I don’t want to stay stuck down here for the rest of my life! Think of something!”
“It’s obvious – someone has to snog you,” Apollo said rationally. Great, so now he decides to act like an intelligent creature.
“Brilliant. I guess I’m stuck here forever,” I said stonily.
“Well,” Dom said brightly, “I could always go and get Louis. He thinks you’re hot.”
I made a face. “Next option.”
I hit her for even mentioning it.
“I kid,” she assured me through her laughter. “We could run over and get one of the Scamander Twins! They’re both very attractive – even you said that Lorcan’s pretty hot –”
“I’ll do it.”
There was a long, loud silence as we all swiveled around to stare at James as though he had sprouted three extra heads.
“What?” I asked, my voice hollow with surprise.
“Well, you are desperate. Better me than Lorcan Scamander, right?” he shrugged as though it was no big deal.
Dom looked anxiously between the two of us. “I’ll go and get Lorcan,” she said.
“You don’t have to, Nikki. I’ll do it,” James repeated, this time a little forcefully. I swallowed nervously.
“Are – are you…crazy?” I concluded.
“You have a girlfriend!”
“She already hates me!”
“Then I guess this won’t change things.”
“Why?” I finally asked.
He paused for that one. “I don’t know why,” he finally said. Then he walked up to me, cupped my chin, and kissed me right on my mouth.
For a second, I considered pushing him away. But then the next, I realized how amazing this felt – every second of it – and I just lost myself in the feeling. I could feel myself slipping and melting; my heart was pounding, my breath was ragged, and everything was a dizzying sense of blackness and warmth and touch. I drowned in the way his lips moved against mine, and how his hand felt against my face and in my hair. And what he was doing with his tongue – Merlin…
Almost too soon, it was over.
I stood there, completely undone, my eyes closed and my breathing shallow and fast. For a long moment I was still, not trusting myself to open my eyes and expose myself to the world. I was content in the cozy darkness of my eyelids, where I didn’t have to worry about anything.
When I finally opened my eyes again, I was standing alone in the middle of an empty room, in a house full of people.
Merry Christmas to me.
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