Chapter 13 : Owls, Presents and Sharing Secrets
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Here's Alice! Lovely Chapter Image of the two Bell sisters by cast!el @ TDA
Two days after Christmas, I packed my suitcase again and fastened it excitedly. Today was the day Alice and I were going to head back to her flat in Diagon Alley, for three whole nights by ourselves! Mum looked a little worried but Alice reminded her sensibly that the flat was perfectly safe and she couldn’t very well go back on her word when she’d promised it to me like that. Mum agreed, though not before she’d packed a basket full of Christmas leftovers and forced it in to Alice’s hand.
“Now take care of your sister,” Mum fretted as I hopped impatiently from one foot to the next, jiggling my suitcase slightly to indicate my excitement.
“Mum, it’s Alice! Of course she’s going to look after me!” I exclaimed.
“Alright, alright. You girls have fun and stay safe, ok?” Mum gave me a tight squeeze before Alice put her hand in mine.
“We’ll see you in three days and I can always floo if I need anything,” I grinned, before Alice turned on the spot and the kitchen disappeared. Seconds later, we arrived with a loud popping noise in a small but rather cosy sitting room. There was a small, sky blue sofa and a squashy arm chair in a bright shade of cerulean, arranged near a fireplace. The mantelpiece was painted white and held several photo frames; I noticed my own grinning face, smiling and waving enthusiastically at me across the room from one of the photographs. A large square mirror hung above the mantle, reflecting the windows on the wall opposite. Several large wooden bookcases lined the walls, all heaving under the weight of the books that were housed on the shelves. There were two doors in the wall opposite us, one to our right and one behind us.
“That’s my bedroom on the left and the bathroom on the right,” Alice explained, pointing at the two doors on the far wall. “That’s the kitchen behind us and that’s the front door over there.” I turned slowly, taking in the small space, a smile on my face. “Do you like it?” Alice asked.
“It’s amazing!” I breathed, my grin widening. “Alice it’s adorable! I can’t believe it’s all yours!”
“I know!” Alice laughed. “Sometimes it all feels very surreal and I wonder what on earth I’m doing living here on my own, but it’s just fantastic Luce, it really is!”
Alice gave me a (rather quick) tour of the flat, and showed me where to put my suitcase.
“I’ll conjure up a bed for you at night,” She explained as we left the bedroom. Like the rest of the unit, the kitchen was small but light and airy, and Alice had managed to fit a small table and two chairs in the corner by a window that overlooked Diagon Alley below. After the tour, Alice suggested we go downstairs so she could show me where she worked. I’d been into Flourish and Blotts many times before, but there was something special about it now being the place where my sister worked. She introduced me to Mr. Randall, the owner of the shop, who greeted me with a broad smile and a friendly handshake. Alice led me down the many rows of towering books, pointing out the various sections and displays she had set up. We spent the remainder of the day wandering up and down Diagon Alley, window shopping and eating ice-cream before heading back to the flat to eat a dinner of crumpets toasted over the fire.
Alice had to work the next day, but I didn’t mind very much. After a glorious sleep in, I spent several hours perusing the pet shops on Diagon Alley. I spent the longest time in Eyelops Owl Emporium, chatting to the owls and feeding them owl nuts that the shop keeper gave to me. He didn’t seem to mind me being there, maybe he sensed that I was at home amongst the beautiful birds. I was particularly distracted for some time by a large tawny owl that reminded me of Kenrick. As I scratched the back of his head, a tiny sparkle from my wrist caught my eye, and I was distracted (as I had been many times before) by the tiny crystal unicorn hanging there. Every time I looked at the bracelet, I forgot how to breathe for a moment; I’d worn it every day since Christmas Day and it still gave me butterflies. I couldn’t quite believe Albus had sent it to me; well obviously he’d told me that he considered us to be friends, but I hadn’t even bought him a Christmas gift because I was afraid he would read something in to it. Realising I should probably get him something, I reluctantly left Eyelops and wandered down the street, looking for the perfect gift. I paused outside WWW but decided it would be silly to buy him something from there – after all, he could probably get anything in that store at a discount.
Four times I passed Quality Qudditch Supplies, but I didn’t go in. I was keeping it as a last resort, because really, what was I going to find in there that would make a decent gift? He would be sure to already have all the equipment he needed to play and I couldn’t afford something extravagant like a new-model racing broom; and anyway, something too expensive would make him suspicious. However, after spending twenty minutes in Scribbulus Everchanging Inks, I conceded defeat and made my way to the shop with a full set of Puddlemere United robes in the window.
A small brass bell tinkled over the top of the door when I entered the large, warm store. The shelves around me were piled high with Quidditch equipment and memorabilia and at the back of the room there was huge display of racing brooms. Despite the crowded shelves, the shop still felt bright and inviting and I felt quite at home there straight away. I began my search by perusing a rack of flags in the colours of various Quidditch teams. The packaging explained that they came with a special charm to make the words on the flag change, ‘Now with 17 phrases!’ the box announced. It would have been an alright gift if I could remember which team Albus supported. I wondered if he’d told me once and I’d been so distracted by his eyes or his smile or his hair that I hadn’t been listening. I chastised myself internally for being such a terrible friend and vowed to listen more often when Albus was talking to me as I moved on to a display of gloves.
After about ten minutes of useless wandering around the shop, a cheery looking shop assistant came over. He looked about the age of my dad and was wearing bright green robes with the shops name embroidered on the chest and a small name plate that read ‘Geoff’.
“Can I help with anything dear?” He asked kindly. “Is there something you were looking for?”
“I’m not sure,” I replied. “I’m looking for a present for a…friend. They’re a Quidditch player – a seeker – but I’m not sure what to get. I think they have all this stuff, you see.” I indicated to the rack of Seeker’s goggles I had just been inspecting (‘repels rain and snow’ the tag promised).
“Ah, I see,” Geoff nodded sympathetically and stood there in thought for a moment. Suddenly, he raised a finger in the air and a smile broke out across his face. The sudden movement made me jump slightly, but he was already talking. “Oh, I have something that just might do the trick, very new item in fact, we only got them in on Boxing Day,” he was bustling down an aisle, towards the counter, and I quickly followed him. When he reached the long, polished, wooden counter, he slipped behind and began searching the shelves of a large cabinet against the wall. “Ah, here it is!” He exclaimed. “Seeker was it?” He asked and I nodded mutely as he selected a box and brought it over to the counter. He opened the packaging and pulled out four items.
The first was a small brass tablet, about the size of my hand, but square in shape with two small circles jutting out at the top and a small knob on the side. Next to this he lay what looked like a rather short and thin brass coloured quill, though it was just the end that you write with, there was no feather. Finally, Geoff held out two small figures in the shape of people, about three or four inches tall. One wore bright red robes and the other blue and they were both holding miniature racing brooms. Geoff placed the two figures carefully on the counter and they both immediately walked to the two circles sticking out of the top of the brass tablet, positioning themselves next to each other before freezing one again.
“What is it?” I asked, my curiosity inflamed; I’d never seen anything quite like it before.
“It’s called ‘Trenworths Take-Anywhere Trainer’. Trenworths is a new company on the market and they make some very interesting Quidditch related items. It’s quite unique, isn’t it?” Geoff was obviously impressed with the ‘Take-Anywhere Trainer’.
“What does it do though?” I was still a little unsure of what it was and whether or not Albus would want one. I also realised Geoff hadn’t told me a price yet and even if it was fantastic, I might not be able to afford it.
“It helps you to visualise how different moves will work in a Quidditch match,” Geoff explained, holding up the quill-like object. “You simply write the name of the move here,” I watched as he wrote ‘Wronski Feint,’ on the flat surface of the brass tablet. Even though he hadn’t used ink, the letters shone a bright silver colour. “Then you just press this button, and watch!” He pushed the small knob on the side and immediately the two figures climbed on to their brooms, kicked off and began zooming around, about a foot off the top of the counter. As I watched, the figure in the red robes began a steep dive towards the counter-top and the blue figure soon followed him. At the last moment, the red player pulled out sharply and began zooming around again, but the poor blue player didn’t have time and crashed on to the wooden surface. I let out a small gasp, but the little man in blue robes was already brushing himself off and walking back to the brass table, where the red player had just landed gently. They both positioned themselves on the brass circles and froze again.
“That’s amazing,” I laughed; I’d never seen anything like it, but it was so clever. It occurred to me that an item like this could be modified to use with animals, showing the correct way to restrain a dragon or to approach a Hippogriff. I tucked that idea away though, because Geoff was talking again.
“They have different types made for the different positions,” He was saying. “This is the seeker variety, and it recognises over a hundred seeker moves,” He pulled a small book out of the box and showed me the list of plays written there, along with the instructions. “You can also change the colour of the robes of the two figures to represent your favourite Quidditch teams,” He read from the side of the box now as he put the instruction book away.
It was perfect, there was no doubt about that. I was positive Albus would love it and being so new on the market, I could almost guarantee he wouldn’t have one already; but there was one more hurdle to jump first.
“How much is it?” I asked nervously, biting my bottom lip as Geoff lifted the price tag.
“Five Galleons,” He smiled. “They’re supposed to be eight but it’s a special price because they’re a new item.”
“Five?” I repeated, unable to hide the smile on my face; I could definitely afford five Galleons. Geoff pulled down a new unopened box from the shelf and offered to gift wrap it for me as he still had some Christmas wrapping paper left. A few minutes later, I handed over five gold coins and left the shop, grinning to myself as I made my way towards the Owl Office. I knew Alice wouldn’t have minded me using Pages to send the present, but I doubted the tiny bird would have made it that far if he had to carry the box as well, so I paid thirteen sickles and four knuts to have a fluffy barn owl deliver it for me. The lady at the Owl Office gave me a piece of parchment and a quill to write Albus a message .
Hope your Christmas with your family ended well, and I don’t know what you’re talking about, an orange jumper sounds brilliant! Thanks for my Christmas present, the unicorn is very cool. Here’s your present, I’m sorry it’s so late but I’m hopeless so you’ll have to deal with it!
Hope you’re enjoying your holidays,
My stomach flipped over nervously as I made my way back out in to the crisp, winter air. I had tried to keep my note simple and friendly so that he wouldn’t read too much in to it, and I hoped he liked the present. I chewed on my lip as I headed back to Alice’s flat, hoping it wasn’t too much and it didn’t give my feelings away. Glancing down at my bracelet again though, I figured it would be alright; after all, he sent me a present first.
By the time Alice got home from work that evening, I’d made a decision: I was going to tell her about Albus. Wandering Diagon Alley for hours, trying to find the perfect gift for a boy who was supposedly just my friend was the tipping point, the thing that made me realise just how insane I was. Also, I had realised that if I confided to Alice about Albus, I might be able to get her to open up some more about James. So after we’d sat down to our delicious dinner of Mum’s leftovers and Alice had made us some tea, I turned to my sister and took a deep breath.
“Alice, I need to tell you something,” I said nervously.
“Hmmm?” She said, looking up from the books she was stacking neatly on one of her many bookshelves.
“It’s about a...well…um…” I stammered. Alice left the book on the shelf and turned to face me, her eyebrows raised. “a boy,” I finished.
“A boy?” Alice repeated curiously, coming to sit beside me. “What about a boy did you want to tell me?” She smiled knowingly and I bit back the urge to throw the topic of James in to her face. I sighed and stared down in to my tea, trying to work up the nerve to finish what I had started.
“Ok,” Alice continued. “Let’s try a different tactic. Who is this boy? Someone from Hogwarts I’m assuming.”
I nodded, still staring at the warm liquid in my mug.
“Ok, and I’m assuming you like this boy more than the other boys at school?” She said it liked a question, even though she obviously knew the answer. I simply nodded again.
“Ok, so does this boy have a name?” She pressed gently. I sighed again, knowing I couldn’t put it off any longer. Eyes still focussed on my tea, I opened my mouth and mumbled an answer.
“Albus Potter,” My voice was barely louder than a whisper, but Alice still heard it.
“Albus Potter, really?” The amusement in her voice was enough to cause me to look up at the little smile on her lips.
“I’m glad I amuse you,” I muttered.
“No Luce, it’s not that, it’s just…well it’s sort of funny isn’t it? I mean how coincidental that you’ve fallen for Albus Potter when…” She froze, her eyes suddenly widening at her words and instantly clasped a hand over her mouth. It was too late though, I’d caught her meaning and a smile now spread across my lips.
“When you’ve fallen for James Potter?” I finished her sentence with a smirk.
“I haven’t fallen…”She mumbled pathetically before letting her shoulders slump in defeat. I realised that’s the closest she’d probably ever come to admitting her true feelings about James and I didn’t want to push her too far, so I didn’t say anything else on the matter. Alice was a late bloomer and is very unsure about romance, but I had the sneaking suspicion that James had the determination to win her around eventually. “So, Albus huh?” She said after a few moments of silence.
“Yup,” I smiled sadly at her, leaning back against the couch.
“How long’s that been going on?” She asked.
“Since September 1st; he’s sort of…grown up this year,” I tried to explain. “And we’ve actually become quite good friends too, but he…well I mean I…” My voice drifted off pathetically.
“You want more than friends?” Alice offered and I nodded. I then proceeded to launch in to the full story, including every conversation, every tutoring session, every touch from hugs in the Quidditch stands to the strange palm reading session on the train a few days earlier. I told her about overhearing Al telling James about this other girl he liked and Albus telling me I was his friend. Eventually, an hour later, I finished off by explaining the unicorn bracelet and my shopping trip earlier that day.
“That’s a pretty nice bracelet,” Alice offered, carefully examining the sparkling charm.
“I know,” I replied with a sigh. “I have no idea what to do Alice. Sometimes I think there might be some sort of spark between us but then I think I’m just kidding myself. I mean if he liked me, surely he would have said something, right? And I mean he’s really popular and he’s asked girls out before so it can’t be that he’s nervous and I’m not exactly out of his league so he wouldn’t have anything to lose by asking me out and anyway, he likes this other girl so I guess he’s just being nice to me ‘cause we’re friends …”
“You know, they’ve invented this thing called punctuation,” Alice smiled at me as I stopped for breath. “You might want to use it some time.”
“Sorry,” I mumbled. “I guess I’ve just been talking to myself about all of this and it’s nice to get it out for once. I’m so confused.”
“Tell me about it,” Alice muttered to herself and I raised my eyebrows curiously, causing my sister to blush.
“You know one of these days you’re going to actually have to face James,” I told her. “I think he’s pretty smitten, he’s not going away quickly.”
“Exactly, he’s smitten, enamoured, besotted, infatuated…”
“Impersonating a thesaurus, are we?” I laughed.
“Look, what I’m saying is that James is probably just caught up in the excitement of it all. He’s built me up in his head as something fantastic and exciting, just because I’m older than him or something.” Alice shared in a rare moment of vulnerability.
“But Alice, you are fantastic and exciting,” I reasoned, completely serious.
“Oh shut up,” She laughed, throwing a cushion at me, and completely missing the point. “I just think he likes the chase. What if I actually let myself fall for him and then he gets bored with me because he realises I’m not who he imagined me to be?”
“Hmmm,” I mused. She had a point, I mean yes, James did seem pretty infatuated with Alice, but that could just be because he liked chasing her, and maybe his idea of who she was wasn’t exactly accurate. After all, James and Alice were very different people and most people wouldn’t have put them together as a couple. I honestly didn’t know what to tell Alice. “I honestly don’t know what to tell you,” I admitted. “But I do think you owe it to yourself – and him – to get to know each other properly. He might surprise you, after all, maybe there’s more in that head besides quaffles and broomsticks.”
Alice was about to reply when a sudden tapping at the window caught our attention. We glanced over the edge of the couch to see Artemis hopping from foot to foot on the window ledge. I jumped up from my seat and quickly opened the window, letting him in from the brisk night air. Artemis flew around the room a few times before settling on the back of the sofa and hooting at me. Eyebrows raised at my sister, I removed the piece of parchment that bore our mothers handwriting.
“Is that from Mum?” Alice asked curiously as I unfolded the letter. I nodded vaguely as my eyes scanned the page, reading the message. It wasn’t very long, only two short paragraphs with a brief message, but one that caused my mouth to drop open slightly. “What is it?” Alice asked, scooting to the edge of her seat. I held out the parchment with an odd smile on my face.
“Looks like you’ll get to spend some time with James,” I said. Alice didn’t take the parchment but rather continued to stare at me, a look of panic and confusion on her face. “The Potter’s have invited us all to their New Year’s Eve party.”
AN: Thanks to everyone for your support and reviews. You all make me feel so warm an fuzzy inside and it's so amazing to know that people not only read my stories but actually enjoy them! So thanks for that :) I hope you enjoyed this chapter, and I just want to mention that the 'Trenworths Take-Anywhere Trainer' is my own invention not a canon item, but hopefully you all think it was an appropriate gift.
The next chapter isn't finished yet but I can give you a sneak peek at what I've done so far:
“I’ve got an idea,” I jumped in surprise at Alice’s voice and I looked up at the door to see my sister, wrapped in a fluffy blue dressing gown and looking more alert than I had expected.
“Oh?” I replied as she padded over to the kettle to pour herself some tea. “What sort of idea?”
“Well it’s your last day here with me since we have to go back to Mum and Dad’s tomorrow before the, um, party,” She stopped for a moment to take a sip of her coffee but I imagined it was also an opportunity to compose herself. “And I’ve got today off so I thought we could go shopping, you know get some new clothes or something.”
“Shopping sounds nice,” I replied, my heart sinking a bit. It wasn’t that I didn’t like shopping, but I’d spent the last few days going in and out of every shop in Diagon Alley and to be perfectly honest I was a bit over Madam Malkin’s latest offering. I preferred to wear Muggle clothes as much as possible anyway.
“Well I was wondering,” Alice continued, seemingly oblivious to my disappointment. “How would you feel about a trip into muggle London?”
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