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15 ways to (Not) fall in Love with your Best Friend by smashed_crayon
Chapter 3 : Of Polka Dots and Counting Stars
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 10


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This chapter image makes me absurdly happy, for some strange reason. Maybe it's all those polka dots. Either way, it was made by bestlies @ tda (:



 

 

 

 

“Does this make me look fat?”


 

“Should I wear the red lipstick, or the pink?”


 

“Oh, I’m such an obese loser. I’m going to die alone,”


 

“It has to go with my nail polish, so I think I’ll go…”


 

“I can just see those love handles bulging out. It’s like boobs, but on my hips!”


 

“Red! Definitely red!”


 

I groaned and resisted the urge to just give up and face-palm it. “Dom, you’re skinnier than a beanstalk, so shove a pie in it. Lils, in what twisted, surreal world does red ever go with yellow?”


 

My friends fell silent immediately, dropping what they were holding – A short, tight navy blue dress, and a rather offensive bottle of buttercup yellow nail polish – And turned to look at me. I had hardly had time to bask in the beauty of the now silent room, before they looked back down and prattled off again.


 

I don’t even know why I tried. Personally, I was planning on gracing to Lucy’s party in jeans and a T-shirt, and that suited me just fine, thank you very much. I honestly didn’t see the point in fussing over perfume bottles and moisturizing lotions, emptying my whole bag of clothes onto the floor, and spending one and a half painful hours trying to get my hair to behave. This was just a family gathering anyway.


 

“Cherry, tell me what you think? You’re always the best when it comes to advice,” Dom pouted, holding up a silky, frilly, slinky red dress. I glanced over at her and smiled.


 

“Why? Because Lil is blatantly honest and will tell you that you’ll look like a stripper in a nightie?” I asked, arching an eyebrow.


 

Dom grinned and nodded happily, “Yep!”


 

“Well then she would have been right: You’ll look like a stripper in a nightie,”


 

I got an angry scowl and the silky, frilly, slinky red dress in my face in response.  Muttering profanities, I pulled it off and threw myself down, back first, onto Dom’s bed.


 

“What did you guys get Lucy?” I asked, chewing on a piece of hair. It was un unattractive habit of mine – one of many. I heard the sound of something clattering to the ground, and harshly whispered shit.


 

I laughed, “Funny,” I said, “I didn’t get her anything either,”


 

“I did!” Dom chimed happily. “I got her a Witch Weekly Beauty pack special.”


 

I snorted, “That’s going to end up unopened and unused at the back of her drawer, I’m telling you,” I stated sardonically. “The poor girl cakes on enough makeup as it is.”


 

“I’m putting my name on your card, Dommy,” Lily informed the blonde, her voice cheery. I felt the mattress lower a little, and craned my neck back to see Dom perched on the edge, her blonde hair curled and twirled into an elegant bun.


 

“You can put your name on the card too, Cherry,” She sighed, pulling her strawberry pink lips up into a faint smile, “I left space for the both of you. Really, you shouldn’t feel proud that I was expecting this,”


 

“Nah, don’t bother with my name. The girl’s a snotty, whiny, spoilt brat, and I’m not going to give her yet another birthday present. Purchased or other,”


 

“What’s with you tonight, Cherry?” Lily asked me suddenly, joining Dom on the edge of the bed. She was dressed in a loose fitting, flowing yellow dress, and she had taken my advice and coloured her lips pink. “You’ve been moody ever since you came back from Diagon Alley,”


 

I jumped, “I’m fine!” I assured her hastily, “Really, I’m just peachy.”


 

Dom raised her perfectly plucked eyebrows, and Lily sent me a pointed look.


 

“Maybe it’s just because you’ve been spending more time with us, and we’ve finally realized what a grouchy person you are,” Lil reasoned, smirking slightly, “Or maybe something is actually on your mind, and you need us to badger you until you talk about it. Either way, your beans will be spilled, and soon,”


 

“Preferably soon,” Dom added thoughtfully, “You’ll feel better after, trust me,”


 

I deemed their advice silly enough to sigh and roll my eyes at (did they not know me? When have I ever wanted to talk about my feelings?) and as a result, Lily huffed and stood up, Dom pouted and furrowed her pretty brows, and somehow (Hmm?) a cushion landed on my face.


 

“I’m fine guys, really,” I assured them again, even my voice feeling sick of repeating the lie over and over. It came as a habit now, like a automatic response. I didn’t even have to think about it, “It’s just… it was around this time of year that I left home. It kind of bugs me, even though it’s been ages since I’ve seen my parents. Old memories, I guess…” I trailed off, crossing my hands under my head and frowning at the ceiling. I heard a few soft awwws of understanding, and felt a gentle hand touch my arm in a slight sign of solidarity. Dom was leaning over me, a worried look in her light blue eyes. I crinkled my nose as a strand of her raspberry scented hair tickled my cheek, and pushed it away with the back of my hand.


 

“Don’t make a big deal out of this, Dom,” I sighed, closing my eyes on her concerned expression. I knew I was being unkind, but I really didn’t have the strength for anything else right now. “It’s in the past, forgotten,”


 

Truth was, my speech about missing my family wasn’t entirely a lie. Just before school started for the new year, I always felt a slight tug of melancholy pull at my heart, and though it has lessened with the years, the pain wasn’t helping my current predicament in the slightest. I was just glad it could serve as a valid excuse for my stony silence.


 

And then Dom said something that shocked me so much, I didn’t even know how to respond.


 

“Is it Al?”


 

WAS IT AL!!?


 

“… Excuse me!?” I spluttered, after a couple of seconds of stunned silence and goldfish impressions. “Is what Al!?”


 

Though her question had surprised me, I recovered quickly, and turned the look of shock on my face to one of puzzlement. I could tell by the frown on my friends lips that she didn’t buy a second of it.


 

“The reason for your sulking. Is it because of Al?” She repeated, lowering her eyes into suspicious slits. She had taken her hand off my arm now, and had moved so that she was sitting on the edge of the bed, facing me. I glanced around quickly and noted with relief that Lily had left the room, “You didn’t think you guys had us fooled, did you? You haven’t said a word to eachother for the entire holidays. Something must have happened,”


 

I breathed a sigh of relief; At least she didn’t know why we weren’t talking.


 

“Did you guys snog or something?”


 

Oh.


 

“Dom!?” I said in a shocked voice, masking my surprise with a deft look of sincere disgust, “Out of all the things… You think we snogged?” I shuddered on the outside, for show, while on the inside my stomach did cartwheels and set off several types of firecrackers. “Does the term ‘Best Friend’ hold any meaning to you? I don’t see you snogging Lily in your spare time, do I? And you know why!?”


 

“She’s, umm, a girl? And I don’t roll that way?”


 

“No! It’s because she’s your best friend!” I was sitting up now, staring at the blonde girl in front of me with heated intensity, “You wouldn’t want to ruin what you guys have, would you? You wouldn’t ruin your friendship? You wouldn’t! But when you do snog her, that’s what happens! That’s how you mess it all up! It’s so stupid! Silly! Why on earth would anyone – why would… You just. Don’t. Do that!” I stopped for air, breathing heavily, my cheeks flushed and red. Dom was staring at me, her lips hanging slightly open, her blue eyes wide in shock and understanding.


 

“Oh Merlin,” She breathed, “You guys did snog! Shit, Lil is going to flip!”


 

I paled considerably when I realized how carried away I had gotten. Maybe I had taken the whole lying thing a little too far? Fuck, what was my problem? Why couldn’t I have kept my stupid, blabbering mouth shut and stuck with a simple ‘You’re insane, that never could have happened’?


 

Shit!


 

“Shit!” That was Dom. “I had been joking at first, Cherry! I hadn’t expected…”


 

I blushed and stared down at my tangled fingers. “Don’t tell anyone, Dommy!” I blurted out, glancing up at her in desperation, “Kite will kill Al, and Lil will kill me. Neither of us fancy dying, much, to be honest.”


 

Dom shook her head and sealed her lips closed with her fingers. I rolled my eyes and muttered something about that being hardly necessary, but Dom ignored me, and instead continued to stare me down with a creepy look in those cerulean eyes of hers. I smiled nervously and glanced down at her lavender coloured bedspread. When I looked up, she was still staring.


 

Still staring.


 

What!?” I barked, feeling uneasy. Dom jumped at my outburst, snapping out of her reverie.


 

“It’s just…weird. I mean, it’s you and… Al.” She shook head, looking highly bemused, “Weird…


 

I refrained from letting out a desperate ‘How do you think I feel?’, instead settling with, “Well I’m going downstairs. Lips stay sealed, ok Dom? And don’t make a big deal about this. All it was, was one tequila shot too many, and a light that I swear was magical. So not a word. Promise?”


 

She nodded, “Promise,”


 

I smiled, leant over, gave her a quick hug, and stood up to leave.


 

“Wait!”


 

What?”


 

“Mum will kill you if you go down in jeans. Not quick and painlessly, either. No, she’s bound to get out the meat masher and a kitchen knife or two. I’d change, if I were you,”


 

“But…” I stammered, half turning back towards her, only a meter away from the blessed door, “You mean a dress? On me? Do you know what that is going to look like by the end of the night?”


 

“I do, which is why you’re not wearing one of mine. Borrow Lily’s,”


 

I scowled at her pretty face, but she did have a point. This being the first year Lucy went to Hogwarts, and the day she received her letter, Fleur had been rushing around all morning, apparently, trying to make Shell Cottage look like an 18th century ballroom. If I  showed up in casual wear, things weren’t going to be pretty.


 

“I’m going downstairs. You can look after yourself,” Dom stated, lifting herself off the bed and smoothing down what little material there was on her dress, “Lily’s bag is over there. Knock yourself out.”


 

Lily didn’t exactly have a wide variety of dresses to choose from. She was, just like me, primarily a jeans and T-shirt kind of girl. But she did own the random dress or too, and that much couldn’t be said for me. I didn’t have Dom here to help me anymore, either, as she had just left the room, leaving me confused and alone with my dilemma.


 

Muttering darkly about Fleur and her pickiness, and Dom’s unfaithfulness (She just left!), I pulled my T-shirt over my head, dropping it onto the ground as I walked over to Lily’s overnight bag.


 

Why was I searching through this crazy girls shit again? Oh, yeah; I’m looking for a dress. There are more than several things wrong with that sentence; the first being that Lily will kill me when she finds out I’ve been through her stuff. Secondly, umm, a dress? And then, well, I was having trouble actually locating an item of clothing of the general appearance of the bloody thing.


 

Jeans, shirt, pyjama bottoms, skirt, another shirt, silky underwear, something lacy that looked too lethal to wear... Where had she hidden them!? I was just on the verge of searching the bottom of her bag for a hidden compartment when my hands fell on a soft sort of material. I pulled it up out of the mess, and let out a sigh of triumph. A dress! I had found one!


 

I stood up carefully, shaking out the piece of clothing to get a better look: Well, it wasn’t exactly what I would call dressy –vintage red cotton with white polka dots – But it was of the dress variety. It would have to do.


 

I smiled happily at my discovery, throwing the dress over my arm and shimmying out of my jeans. I was just about to pull the thing on when the bedroom door creaked open and tentative footsteps edged into the room.


 

With my back still to the door I quickly glanced down at the dress hanging over my arm. I had no idea what you were supposed to wear with red and white polka dots, so I thanked Merlin for sending Dom back up here to help me.


 

“Hey, Dom?” I said, turning back to face the open door, “I wanted to ask you…”


 

“Oh fuck!”


 

Shit!”


 

At the sight of an extremely embarrassed looking Al standing by the doorway, all the colour drained from my face, and I froze on the spot like a deer caught in the headlights.


 

“What’re you…” I started, hastily pulling the dress over my head, “I mean, I just…” I cursed as one of the buttons got caught on my curls, and gave it a quick, firm tug, wincing as it ripped some of my hair out from the roots. Without glancing over at my friend, I brushed down the crinkled fabric until it was sitting right.  


 

I was mortified. At the look on Al’s face, I nearly checked to see if I hadn’t started growing antlers or something. He was still standing by the open door, his hand on the handle, the other jumping up to his hair, while he stared at me like I was alien that had just pranced out of a giant UFO. My cheeks flared up immediately and I stared at the ground, feeling my heart beat faster with my embarrassment.


 

Why had he kissed me? Couldn’t he have kept his hormones at bay until he had found a girl a little less… close to him? This was the third time in one day that we had found ourselves shuffling awkwardly in a situation that would normally have been completely normale to us.


 

Al had seen me naked, for Merlin’s sake! I had slept next to him in my underwear, swam in the river topless, sat on his lap for three hours straight when we went to Paris to visit Dom’s Tante Gabrielle. And none of that had felt weird at all; he was my brother, just as much as Kite was – I did live with the guy. But now, just having him glance at me in my underwear had me ready to jump out the window to escape the awkwardness.


 

“Sorry, Charity, I should have knocked,” He muttered, keeping his gaze fixed to the salt bleached floorboards. “I didn’t mean – Anyway, I was looking for Dom. Is she here?”


 

Charity? What, did he want me to start calling him Albus now?”


 

“My cousin?” He repeated, “ Where is she?”


 

Oh. Dom, right.


 

“She just went down,” I answered in a voice a little colder than intended. I shot him a quick glance as I twisted around to do up the zip. He was still staring at the floor like it was the most interesting thing in the world, “It’s fine,” I sighed, “You can look up now, I’m dressed,”


 

Al’s green eyes flicked up at me quickly, filling with relief when he saw that I was covered. “Sorry,” He repeated meekly.


 

I just sent him a quick smile, before cursing under my breath as the zip came to a sudden halt, “Bloody hell,” I muttered, tugging at it a little, “Stupid little shit…” I tugged again, more viciously, but the zip stayed firmly put. In a finale, desperate plea for help, I looked up at to ask Al to come over and unhook it.


 

But he was gone.


 

 


 

-:-


 

 


 

Five minutes later and I was trudging down the stairs, my expression grumpy. By the time I had finally gotten that zip closed I had been in such a bad mood that attempting to untangle my curls hadn’t even been an option for me. It wasn’t like it was my birthday, anyway, so who gave a shit? At least this way I wouldn’t be taking any of the lime light off little miss birthday girl.


 

Bitch already got enough attention as it was.


 

The stair railings that led down to the ground floor were decorated with vines of wild roses, that twisted and twirled around the banisters, sending the whole journey downstairs into a walk through a rose garden.


 

How perfectly lovely.


 

What if, per chance, someone didn’t like the smell of roses? What then? I’ll tell you what: They would march down these stairs, ripping the vines off the banister one by one until the coiled wood was bare, and the steps were littered with crushed rose petals.


 

And so what if I didn’t like the smell of roses?


 

Well-


 

‘Cherry-puff-wait up-puff!’ I turned around, and was met with the comical sight of an out of breath Fred Wesley.


 

He was rushing down the stairs, two at a time, his olive face lit up with a smile so wide I was surprised his face didn’t fall off. Reluctantly, I pulled my fingers back from the stalk they were about to rip off, and plastered I smile to my face, ready to act out a happy, peaceful sixteen year old.


 

Freddie wasn’t my Bro like Kite was, but we still shared the pretty tight bond of a strong bromance. I didn’t want his sixth sense kicking in and asking me what was up.


 

‘Yo! My homie! What up, Dog?’


 

‘Not much, G-money. Just getting ready for L-Dogs Bday. Word’


 

We did our gangsta poses (yes, we had gangsta poses, and yes, I just said gangsta. Thrice), and shared our personal handshake.


 

It was legendary.


 

‘C’mon, give some love to the Fredmeister!’ Freddie said, sweeping me into a bone crushing bear hug.


 

I squeaked as I felt one of my ribs crack. My arms tightened around Fred’s waist as my feet lifted up off the stairs, making him chuckle into my hair.


 

 ‘I haven’t seen you in centuries, Cherry! Where have you been hiding?’


 

‘Right under your nose, Mister. I saw you yesterday,’


 

Fred opened his eyes in fabricated shock. ‘That was you? I was under the impression that I was talking to a completely different drop-dead-gorgeous, body of a goddess, sadly no longer blonde-’


 

‘Freddie?’


 

‘Yeah?’


 

‘Shut your trap.’


 

He grinned but fell silent, placing me back down on firm ground and ruffling my hair fondly. I just rolled my eyes in his direction, patting down the stray curls in a vain attempt to tame the mess.


 

“Did you get Luc a present?” Freddie asked, falling into step next to me as I continued my decent down to the party of DOOM. I answered him with a negative, and then settled into a tense silence as my friend rattled off about various different nonsenses, only adding in a ‘Mmm’ ‘I see’ and ‘oh really?’ when I felt it was necessary.


 

One thing that would always amaze me, was the mystery of how Lucy Weasley managed to find herself bountiful amounts of friends when she had never been to school and acted like a stuck up cow. If I were an eleven year old girl, I would flee her presence as fast as I could, and stay away, too. But for some reason, hoards of giggling midgets followed her around wherever she went.


 

And the lounge room at Shell Cottage was full of them.


 

“Holly shit,” I murmured, stopping in my tracks once we reached the bottom of the stairs. I was staring at the transformed living room in amazement, and Fred by my side was doing the exact same thing.


 

“They are everywhere,” He whispered, his jaw falling to meet the ground, “I didn’t know that many little people even existed,


 

 “Sooo Piink…” I sighed, squinting my eyes in pain from the blindingly hideous colour that was shoved pretty much anywhere it could go. Pink tablecloth, pink seat covers, pink floating light things, pink cake… and all of it covered in a thick coating of 18th century goo.


 

“I feel lost…” Freddie said meekly, stepping off the stairs and onto the worn wooden floor that looked too out of place in this dressed up atmosphere, “I don’t even know where I am,”


 

I nodded and stepped down to join him. Shell Cottage wasn’t exactly what you would call spacious. It was a beautiful house, of course, and I enjoyed spending time here, but it wasn’t the type of place I would have picked out to hold the extravagant eleventh birthday of a spoilt drama queen. All the decorations looked too foreign in such a pretty room. Plus, the twenty or so kids running around screaming didn’t help me feel any more comfortable, not to mention the fact that you couldn’t get anywhere without running one of the little brats over.


 

“Fred, Charity!” Called out a flustered looking Audrey Weasley, squeezing her way up to us. Fred and I turned at the same time, hastily trying to change the scared looks on our faces to welcoming smiles. “I just sent all you big kids out to the tree house in the garden. There really isn’t any room in here for us all. We’ll call you back when the cake is ready, though. Oh, and that’s the present table over there,” She gave us a warm smile, pointing her oven mitted hand over to small, rickety coffee table sitting piled high with presents in the corner.


 

“Of course, Mrs. Weasley,” I answered, glancing at where she was pointing, “We’ll just put our presents down and go and join the others, then,” I smiled again, feeling strained and hoping it didn’t show.


 

“Yeah, thanks Aunt Audrey,” Freddie said, giving his aunt a wide, toothy grin. He wasn’t being overly friendly – that was just how Fred smiled. Audrey grinned in response, and after another millisecond of the three of us standing there with our mouths stretched open unnaturally, Audrey left to go see to the food in the oven, leaving us stranded in the middle of the suffocating room.


 

“Let’s get out of here,” I muttered, glancing at the front door like it was a life raft in the middle of a stormy sea. Freddie followed my gaze and nodded fiercely.


 

“You read my mind, partner.”


 

-:-


 

Outside, twilight was just falling, sending the garden and its surroundings into a pale, unearthly light that made the already pretty landscape even more breathtaking. I stopped outside the door, closing my eyes and breathing in a deep breath of fresh, salty sea air.


 

“Coming?” Asked Freddie, who was already halfway down the winding stone path that twisted and turned through the fairylight lit garden. If I were Lucy, I would have held my birthday outside.


 

“Sure,” I answered, jogging a little to catch up with him. A light, warm breeze floated through the air, tugging at my hair and picking up the edge of my dress. “Did Audrey say everyone was in the tree house?” I asked, raising a sceptical brow. Fred shared a pained look with me and nodded.


 

“I think so.”


 

“But that place is-”


 

“Tiny, I know. To be honest, I think Audrey just wanted us out of disaster range.”


 

“Fair enough. I can see that.” I smiled again, the sea breeze having effectively calmed my nerves. I pushed my bare toes into the sand as we walked along, raising my eyes to the slowly darkening sky. There were still few enough stars up there to count.


 

One, two…


 

Freddie reached for my hand, slowly closing his fingers around mine. He wasn’t looking at me, instead choosing to glance out at the slip of beach you could just glimpse through a clump of straggly trees. I knew the gesture was meant to pass off as friendly, but still, I couldn’t help tensing a little at the unexpected touch.


 

I didn’t draw back like I usually did, though. There was something about the sandy garden and the oncoming twilight that made this feel OK. Or maybe it was just the salty air messing with my brain.


 

Eh.


 

“There it is,” Freddie pointed out suddenly, motioning at a tree that, although just as weather-beaten as all the others, towered over them like a giant. It reminded me of a wizened old man, that tree. An old man, worn down by years and years of salt filled air that had turned his twisted bark white and leaves yellow.


 

“Sheesh, I haven’t been up here in so long,” I sighed, looking up as we stepped under the tree’s hanging branches. We could now see the wooden structure perched up high, it’s open windows glowing from the light inside. The soft sound of chatter floated down to us.


 

“Me neither,” Fred said, running a tanned hand over the mottled trunk. “The memories, though… We had some pretty crazy times, huh?”


 

I nodded, smiling, and suddenly I wished my hand wasn’t in his anymore. Despite the cool night air it was feeing clammy and uncomfortable.


 

“Shall we go up than?” I suggested loftily, trying to sound bright. I gently attempted to pry my hand out of his, and Fred, noticing what I was doing, let go immediately and dropped his arm sullenly to his side.


 

“Sure,” He murmured, his usual spark gone, “Let’s go up then.”


 

I paused, wondering what was wrong. Freddie was normally a cheery guy, but sometimes he’d get grumpy just like this, out of the blue. I gave him what I hoped was a reassuring smile, and reached for the first worn step of the rickety ladder. It wound around the trunk, up and up like a spiralled staircase until it reached the landing outside the tree house door. I had climbed this path too many times to count, but still, I had been much smaller back then, and following it with an added fifteen inches was rather disconcerting. I felt big and clumsy as I climbed, and the knowledge that Freddie was right behind me wasn’t helping me keep my grip.


 

Windy nights, blowy dresses and climbing don’t mix too well, to be honest. Normally Fred would have come up with some silly try-hard-sleazy comment that I would have brushed off with a laugh, but this silence was disconcerting. I frowned, wishing I could help.


 

“CHERRY!!” I glanced up at the sound of my name, craning my neck back to catch a glimpse of who it was. “Is Fred with you? We’ve been wondering where you guys were.”


 

It was Kite, leaning over the edge of the platform and staring eagerly down at us. I had to wonder what had gotten him in such a good mood.


 

“Euh, yeah, Fred’s here,” I answered, turning my eyes back to the couple of steps I had left before reaching the platform, “Who’s inside?”


 

“Louis, Al, Dom, Lily, Roxie, Molly and Hugo,” He said, crossing his hands under his chin and resting his head on them, “And I have no idea how we’re going to fit you guys in. Maybe we’ll have to sit on laps,” He perked up at the thought, looking hopeful.


 

Lovestruck fool.


 

“Eugh,” I let out a groan as I lifted myself off the last wobbly plank and onto the wooden platform, rolling onto my back with a sigh and resting my head on Kite’s back. You’d think I’d be fit from all the Quidditch I played, right?


 

I wasn’t.


 

“Hey Kite,” Fred greeted, pushing himself up next to me, not even the slightest bit out of breath. He and my brother shared one of those manly nods before all three of us heaved ourselves off the ground, leaning on each other’s shoulders for support.


 

“Who’s that, Kite?” Came a girl’s voice from inside the tree-house. It sounded slightly unfamiliar. There were so many Weasley’s, I had trouble keeping up with them all.


 

“Cherry and Fred,” My brother answered, pulling a hand through his messy brown hair, “You guys make some room, yeah?”


 

There was a chorus of grumblings from inside, and Kite shot us a wry smirk. “Come on in,” He said, opening the door.


 

Bill Weasley, Dom’s dad, had built this house when her sister, Victoire, was only five. So it had been hanging in this tree for say… seventeen years? It was made of strong stuff, though, and though it creaked and shook a bit when a particularly strong gust of wind came long, so far there had been no accidents.


 

All heads (red and other) turned when the three of us walked in, stooping down low to not bump our foreheads on the low doorframe.


 

It was kind of cosy in here, to be honest. There was a small blue fire glowering away in an old jam jar (courtesy of Hugo, I was sure) sitting in the middle of the tight circle of people, sending strange, flickering shadows across everybody’s faces. A lot of shuffling and grumbling went on, but finally, we all managed to find a place to sit. I was wedged between Hedge and Lily, and I could already feel my legs going numb.


 

The conversation soon settled back again, but I wasn’t listening. Instead my head was filled with images of Fred’s accusing stare and Albus’ cold one, Dom’s knowing look, Kite’s… Well anyway, I had a head full of eyes.


 

“Cherry,” I jumped when I felt a poke in my ribs, turning around to spot Lily gazing at me questioningly.


 

Brilliant. Another pair of peepers to add to my collection.


 

“What?” I whispered back. Everybody else seemed pretty caught up in the general conversation, I had no idea why we were bothering to keep out voices down. Lily sighed and I saw her eyes flick over to the other side of the small room, where Al was sitting, lost in deep conversation with Fred and Hugo.


 

Male bonding time. It’s pretty intense.


 

Wait – Al? Did she know, too?


 

“What!?” I repeated, my tingling legs suddenly the least of my problems. If Lil found out… But she didn’t seem too shocked. Just confused.


 

“Did something happen with you and Fred?” Lily asked, completely taking me off guard. She was chewing on her lip, and her brown eyes looked unusually worried for… well, for Lily. I shook my head firmly in response.


 

“He’s got that look on his face,” Lily said, frowning slightly. I widened my eyes.


 

“What look?”


 

“Cherry…” But instead of explaining, Lily just looked down at the worn floorboards and sighed, making me feel even more guilty than I did already. I stared at her profile for a couple more seconds, trying to find something to say in my defence and failing, before turning my attention back to the general group conversation.


 

The girl’s voice I hadn’t been able to recognize outside turned out to belong to Molly, the eldest Weasley cousin present. She was the life of the conversation now, gesturing with her hands as she talked loudly about something that I honestly didn’t give a fuck about. All the others seemed to hold her in high esteem, like she was some kind of red headed demi-goddess descended down from heaven to bestow upon them her words of profound wisdom.


 

“I’m so over Peter. He was such a bore. You know those people that make you just want yawn whenever they open their mouths?” Everybody nodded solemnly, “Well that’s what he was like. I don’t miss him at all, the poor sod. How about all you youngsters?” She was only a year older than Al, “Do you have any love interests at the moment?” Roxanne opened her mouth to speak. Molly squealed, clapped her hands together, and leant over to place a sloppy kiss on her cousins dark cheek, “How cute! I bet he’s a dish, Roxie, you’ve always had a good taste in men. Oh, Kite, you must tell me more about that new Quidditch move you were talking about before. It sounds terrifying!” She batted her long eyelashes at my older brother, and I felt some bile rise up in my throat, just a little.


 

“Hey, Cherry,” Louis nudged me gently with his elbow, making me turn towards him, “Nice dress,”


 

“Fuck off Hedge,” I riposted, scowling. Louis just grinned and tugged at the spotty fabric.


 

“I kid you not, Charity, it’s an incredible item of clothing.”


 

“What are you aiming at?”


 

“It’s stunning. It really brings out the brown in your eyes.”


 

“Bite me.” My venomous tone went to waste, however, as my face broke into a wide grin. Louis smirked, and I nudged him in the ribs, making him squirm away from me.


 

The smile slid straight off my face when I glanced over at the other side of the room and caught Al staring at me, an unreadable look in his darkened eyes. It was disconcerting, not knowing exactly what was going through his head. Normally I can read him like a crystal ball. Not that the message he was sending was that hard to get. Something along the lines of I’m fucking angry and I want to blame you.


 

Simple.


 

I quirked and eyebrow and titled my head to side in a cool, calm and collected so what? kind of way, before quickly pulling my eyes way from his so that he couldn’t catch the thousands of questions that filled them.


 

Molly had just started to inform us that she had been to a very enjoyable party last Wednesday, when a faint adult voice called up to us from somewhere at the bottom of the tree. Roxanne clambered over five pairs of legs belonging to five protesting people, and poked half of her body out of the tiny tree house door to see what the fuss was about.


 

Before long she was sliding back inside, an ominous look on her pretty face.


 

“So that was Audrey,” She explained, “She says that the cake is ready. She wants us down and in the house now.”


 

It seemed a bit hypocritical, I thought bitterly, that Audrey had jumped at the first opportunity to send all of us outside, just to call us back in half an hour later. Especially for something as trifle as Lucy’s birthday cake.


 

Unless it was vanilla. Then I wouldn’t mind so much.


 

 


 

 “Charity!” I was attacked by a monster with red lips and a short dress as soon as we reached the ground. Stumbling back slightly from the enthusiasm of Molly’s greeting, I tried to show her a smile to match the clown sized one currently inhabiting her face. “It’s been so long!” Molly gushed, enveloping me in an unwanted, one-sided hug. I patted her awkwardly on the back as she happily deafened my left ear. “Oh, I wish you could have come to my eighteenth! It just wasn’t the same without you. You’re always the life of the party!” She let me go, only to grab hold of my shoulders and survey me from afar.


 

Sure, Molster. I wanted to say. I’ve missed you madly as well. Too bad I couldn’t come liven up the first party you’ve ever invited me too.


 

“Looking gorgeous, Charity!” Molly was gushing, “I love your dress!”


 

“Thanks!” I answered, the sarcasm of my cheery tone sadly lost in her empty head. “I love yours too!”


 

Ugliest fucking dress I’ve ever seen in my life.


 


-:-:-:-


 


Lucy’s cake, of course, was strawberry. Silly me had forgotten all about tonight’s colour scheme and had my hopes up for something edible.


 

But I sang happy birthday (if in a slightly murderous tone) and watched calmly (read: furiously) as she unwrapped her many presents. I drank five cups of the bubbly red cordial served in hazardous plastic cups. I didn’t eat any cake. And, finally, when I could no longer stretch my tired cheek muscles to form the benign smile that had been perched on my face for the better half of the night, I congratulated Audrey and Fleur on their wonderful party, and told Dom that I was going upstairs to bed.


 

“Sure, love, you can share my bed with me. We’ll have to fit Roxie, Lil and Molly in-” I grimaced and she laughed, “But they can sleep on the floor.”


 

I smiled tiredly, said thanks and goodnight, and then slowly climbed the rose covered stairs, swapping the blinding, squealing party for the first floor and blissful solitude.


 

Dom’s window was wide open when I walked into her room, the soft breeze pulling playfully at the lavender coloured curtains. The room was dark and silent, but I didn’t bother lighting a candle. I just pulled off Lily’s dress, dropping it where I stood, and dragged my tired body over to Dom’s inviting double bed. I knew that I was going to be woken up in an hour or two by a crowd of cordial drunk girls, but right now, all that mattered was the two pillows and bouncy mattress that were calling out my name.


 

I threw myself down the bedspread back first, and lay spread eagled, staring up at the moon-flecked ceiling, images, words and feelings that had filled my day rushing through my head like a series of snapshots.


 

Was it really only this morning that I was splashing water on Al’s drunken face? The memory brings up a whole new pile of questions, questions concerning our friendship, our kiss, his obvious disgust at an undressed me. Why did I even care about all of this? I mean, come on, man, it’s Al. It’s practically incest to even imagine him without a shirt on.


 

Fuck.


 

With this reassuring word in mind, I drifted off the sleep.


 


 _____________________________________________________
 


 


A/N: It's been so long, I know. I hope some of you have had the patience to stick with this (:
So what do you think about this chapter? Any questions? Favorite characters? Drop me a review and I'll love you long time  ^_^
 


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