Chapter 6 : Problem #6
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Keep the nightmares out,
Give me mouth to mouth.
I can't live without ya,
Take me to your house.
Home by Daughter
So, after our lengthy and passionate snog, James and I came to realize that we were stranded out in the middle of a snowy forest in Northern Scotland without our wands, completely lost, and I still couldn't walk because of my ankle. We had just been confronted by a bear (what the heck was up with that? Since when were there bears in Scotland? Weird, I know) which I used a confundus charm on (without a wand, mind you) to scare off.
"James." I said, out of breath. "We need to go back, it'll be dark soon."
"Yeah, I suppose you're right."
We were standing very close still, James' arm around my back, the other in my hair. Our lips were only a couple inches apart.
He stepped away. "Hop on." He said, turning around for me to jump on his back.
I jumped on as lightly as I could, and he began to walk back in the direction we hoped we came in.
"Thanks for the ride. And the snogging wasn't bad either..."
I could feel him give out a hearty chuckle, his shoulders vibrating.
"Trust me, it's really no problem. I should be thanking you, you got us away from that bear. That sure was weird."
"Yeah, when was the last time you've heard of a bear in northern Scotland, or anywhere near the continent?"
"Exactly. Makes me feel bad though. He's probably really lonely."
He laughed again.
"Maybe. But he probably just makes friends with owls and bunnies."
"Still. He probably feels all alone."
James sighed, his shoulders heaving. "Maybe. But maybe he likes the solitary. Maybe that's why he's here. He could've just hopped a plane from way out west in America or Canada to get away from all the other bears."
"Like the muggles wouldn't notice a huge bear was sitting across the aisle from them." I said, laughing. James laughed too.
"Yeah, I suppose you're right. He'd have to sit up front next to the captain."
We laughed harder.
It took us three and a half hours, but we found our way back to the lodge. It was dark of course, and it was just Harry waiting for us. He looked relieved when he saw us coming out of the tree line.
"Thank goodness. What took you two so long? We have Watson and Helsing looking for you now." He said, coming over to us.
"Yeah, sorry. Lex hurt her ankle, then we got lost and ran into a bear." James explained.
"A bear?" He looked skeptical. "In these woods?"
"Yeah, it was really far out, and completely bizzare. Lex scared him off with a confundus charm."
"Without a wand?" He looked towards me.
I nodded sheepishly.
"That's impressive." He said. "Well are you allright?"
"Yeah except for Lex's ankle." James said.
"It's really not that bad, I just can't put weight on it." I cleared.
"Well, that must mean it's just a sprain- i think. Why don't you bring her inside and we'll have a look at it. James, it would be a good idea to just wrap it up and putt some ice on it until we get a healer. I'll call Watson and Helsing back then meet you two in the lobby." James nodded and Harry walked past us in the general direction of the woods.
"You still hanging on?" James asked me.
He chuckled. "Nice one."
He brought me into the front lobby, going up a flight of stairs and down two hallways. He set me down really gently in a big squashy armchair and took the one right across from it.
"May I?" He gestured towards my foot.
I nodded and he picked up my foot and laid it tenderly in his lap, peeling off my shoe.
"Warning, my feet may reek." I cautioned him.
He grinned up at me. "Trust me, you're a girl. No matter how bad they smell, mine will always be worse."
He held my foot by the bottom of my calf and the arch of my foot. He was barely touching me, yet whole leg felt tingly, on fire, despite the dull throbbing of my ankle.
He called over one of the workers, asking for some ice and a cloth bandage.
"How bad does it hurt, on a scale of one to ten, one being a papercut, and ten being eaten alive by a bear?" He asked, still cradling my foot in his lap.
I grinned at the bear reference. "Two point five. But I have a high pain resistance, so who knows."
"Are you sure it doesn't hurt very bad?" He asked, seemingly concerned.
"Positive. I'm fine, I just can't put weight on it." I tried not to roll my eyes at his concern.
"Okay... oh, here's the ice." The helper had brought over a small bag of ice and some thick medical gauze.
James took them both, and started to unwrap the gauze, only to begin wrapping the gauze around my ankle, still being very careful not to move it too much. "Does this hurt?" He asked, looking up at me.
"No, it's fine. I'm fine."
He went back to wrapping my ankle tediously. He finished it off and put the ice on it, which felt good, and took down the throbbing.
"Does this feel okay?" He asked.
"James, I'm fine. This isn't exactly the first time I've sprained or broken anything. I was in the hospital wing at least once a month for Quidditch injuries."
"Well, still." He said. "Spraining your ankle is supposed to hurt."
"It hurt pretty bad the first time when I was seven and I fell out of our tree house, but now it really doesn't hurt very bad. Like I said, I've developed a high pain resistance."
He smiled. "I remember that. You were upset because you weren't supposed to go down to the lake for a week while it completely healed."
I smiled back. "Yeah, I was pissed. It was the last few weeks of summer, and I had to spend it sitting in bed or on the couch. You helped entertain me of course, but I still missed going outside and running around."
"Yeah, after a few days I began to run out of jokes and ideas for pranks and had to resort to making drawings and playing hangman." He smiled broadly at the memory. "Man, I really miss those days."
"Feeling nostalgic, Potter?" I cocked an eyebrow at him.
"You know what I mean. The simpler days. Before everything happened."
"Yeah, don't we all."
We were silent for a few moments, just staring at each other. I noticed the tiny freckles on James' cheeks, right under his eyelids, whose eyelashes were actually long and graceful.
"You doing allright, Alex?" Said Harry, coming over to us.
"Yep. The ice really helped the throbbing." I answered, breaking the moment.
"That's good. Dawson says he can fix it right up, and that he'll be right down. So you guys really ran into a bear?" He asked, somewhat incredulous.
"Yeah, it must just be one of those bizarre things." I answered.
"Well, I'm glad you two are okay. How are you doing otherwise Alex?I haven't seen you around in a long time."
"I'm doing good." I replied. "It has been a while, hasn't it."
"Well, you'll have to stop by sometime. Maybe over the holiday. You're always welcome at our house." He said, smiling warmly, like my father used to.
"Thanks Harry." I grinned back.
"It's no trouble. I'm sure James would be happy to have you."
James blushed. "Of course."
Then Dawson, an older and more weathered Auror, came over and fixed up my ankle properly, with magic. He and Harry left to go to bed, as it was now past ten thirty.
James and I hung back for a while, me now placing both of my feet on his lap comfortably.
"Your dad is pretty great." I commented.
"Yeah, he and I have always been closer. Him and Al are close too. Us Potter men stick together." He grinned, rubbing my feet over my socks.
I smiled, completely relaxed with James, talking about his family. "That must be nice. What about your mum? Are you still close with her? And Lily?"
"Lily and mum are real close, we all are, I guess, except when we argue, which is actually pretty often. Like right now, Lily is fighting with Dad over something. I forget what it is, but they've been at it for a couple of weeks over the mail." He pondered that. "Me and Al fight a lot, which is why we were never allowed to have a room together as kids. When we weren't arguing, we were trying to explode things, and prank Lils." He smiled. "But you probably know all this already. You used to be a big part of our family. We all missed you when you left."
I smiled warmly at him, staring into his green eyes, so filled with warmth at the moment. "Well, I missed you too. Even when we were fighting at Hogwarts, and pranking each other, it was better than those couple of years when I was away from all of you." I admitted. He smiled.
"So where does that leave us now?" He said softly, so soft that I could barely hear him from a foot away.
I sighed deeply. "I'm not sure. But I'm glad you were there when I first showed up." Then, somewhat jokingly, I added, "But don't think that this means I'm going to stop pranking you. You've got a lot coming."
He laughed at this.
The rest of the retreat passed somewhat uneventfully, as I endured another night rooming with the ever so lovely Marina, who (surprise!) snored louder than James' uncle Charlie, who had once fallen asleep in the Potters' armchair while visiting, and practically shook the whole house. The highpoint was when Gary's hair was set on fire during an activity. We were dead tired on the way home and slept the whole way back. It was rather embarrasing waking up with my head in James' lap, but the only ones who had seen were Marina and Murphy, who were asleep as well. And James, presumably.
We returned to work for another week and a half before Christmas holidays. On the last day before holidays, the department had a brief, festive party that included someone spiking the punch, and a round of pin the curse on the Death Eater that went one Impediment curse too far. As I was gathering my things to leave, James was as well.
"So, what do you have planned for your holiday?" He asked amiacably.
"Well, some quality 'me' time, that's for sure. Not really sure. Roxy will probably drag me on a shopping trip so she can buy gifts for 'all her stupid cousins'." In truth, I'd probably spend them watching muggle movie marathons and eating chinese food at my favorite restaraunt. Probably even spend some time at the pub if I really started feeling bad for myself.
"Hey! I take offense at that!" He said, sounding hurt, but smiling anyways.
"Her words, not mine." I said, defending myself. "What about you?" I asked, atempting to be polite.
"Well, Al and Lily will be back from Hogwarts, as will all the other 'stupid' cousins. Teddy's staying with us for awhile, and that's always interesting. Victoire will be busy planning their wedding, so we won't see much of her. Roxy will show up when she feels like it, which is pretty much all the time. Everyone just kind of shows up at each other's houses when they feel like it on holidays, so you should definitely stop by."
I smiled, somewhat sadly. "I'll try."
"Well, I sure hope you do." He smiled genuinely at me, the same smile I was really beginning to love... or appreiciate and like.... yep, definitely appreiciate.
I shook my head and gathered up the last of my things, heading out into the Atrium of the Ministry, then through one of the fireplaces to the alley behind my apartment complex, making sure not to be seen. I went inside, unlocking my door, and entering my messy, small apartment. I threw my bag on the floor and plopped down on my little ugly couch. I was so tired from the past few days of work that I fell asleep within minutes. I woke up a couple hours later only to relocate to my bedroom, where I curled up with my comforter and slept for another nine hours.
The next day I went for a walk to the Chinese place where I had a late lunch/early dinner. I then went to a couple of shops and picked out a fairly decent sweater for Ali, who would be offended if one of her only cousins didn't send something to aknowledge her. I picked out something small for Roxy, and that was pretty much it. The day after, I spent the day tidying my apartment, which took pretty much all day, as I dusted and cleaned the windows as well as sorting through dirty laundry and dishes.
The day after Roxy dragged me with to pick out presents for her cousins in Diagon Alley and parts of muggle London.
It's funny how the tiniest things in life set you off. Like, for example, the next morning when I saw the couple and kid walking the dog down my street while I was fetching the mail, which included a single Christmas card from my cousin Ali. The day after, it was the old man sitting on the bench with the young woman, his daughter, comfortably leaning against him. After that, I headed straight to the pub.
I had always had a special relationship with my dad. We would always play together, and Saturdays were our special time together, when he wasn't working. He would always serve me lunch, a sandwitch with pickles, mustard, tomatoes, and roast beef. He would take me to the park when I was really little, and push me on the swings, so high that I would start to get scared, and he would catch me and hold me in his arms, all encompassing.
So when I saw the father and daughter in the park, the snow gently falling around them, I just about lost it right there. I went into an alley and apparated to an old wizard bar that I knew of, and ordered a large tankard of firewhiskey. And another. At about five, the effects were beginning to wear off, as I held my liquor quite well, thank you very much, and I walked out of the pub, only a little dizzy.
I walked down the familiar street, knowing where I was going subconsciously. I entered the graveyard and meandered to the back, to the large joint grave that I hadn't visited in nearly a year. The graveyard was empty as I sat on the large block of marble, hugging my knees to my chest with one hand, and stroking the names carved into the marble with the other.
Here lies Edward Matthew and Vanessa Coleen Johnson.
May they live joyously in death, as they did, always, in life.
The saying fit them nicely, near perfect fot my parents, but I couldn't imagine some random stranger writing it.
I stayed there for a long while, in a peaceful state, memories of them swimming through my head. How my father would hold me, how my mother would stroke my hair back. A single tear fell from my eyes, melting a tiny circle of snow with it. This was the first tear I had cried since I was twelve years old. It had felt oddly satisfying, but I wasn't really feeling sad, so it ended with that. The tear was more out of the happy memories, than my current sadness. There were church bells ringing not far off, and the sound of voices as they exited the church in front of the graveyard. Two men had entered the graveyard and walked over to a grave on the other side of the large statue thirty meters away.
May they live joyously in death, as they did, always, in life.
I traced over the words meticulously for what must have been ages, following the gentle swoops of the y's in joyously, and the f in life.
May they live joyously in death, as they did, always, in life.
"My mother wrote that, you know. 'May they live joyously in death, as they did, always, in life.' Fits, doesn't it? They were always so happy. Just like you were. My mum always knows what to say." And apparently, so did James.
He sat down next to me, careful not to cover the engraving that I was still fingering. I had looked up, and found his bright green eyes reading the words on the tomb.
"You really miss them, don't you. You're tough, so you got through it, but I don't think you ever really let yourself feel the pain." He looked straight at my eyes, but I didn't respond. Of course it would be James who would figure me out and sum me up in two sentences. Because he was spot on. He knew it better than I did.
"You don't always have to be so tough you know. And you don't always have to be alone."
He gathered me up in his arms then, and I buried my head in his chest, listening to him breathing, feeling his heart beat against his chest at a nice, steady pace against my own, quicker beat.
I wasn't crying, but I needed this more than ever. He stroked my hair, tucking my head into the crook of his neck.
We sat like that for a long time, peacefully. One or two other people came and went, but the graveyard remained mostly empty.
"Thank you James." I breathed. I looked up at him, and he stared back into my eyes.
"Anytime Alex." He smiled again, warming my chest from the inside out. He brushed my hair back and tucked it behind my ear.
He slid off the grave and offered his hand out to me. "Come on."
"Where are we going?" I asked, sliding off as well.
"Back to my place. I just have to leave some flowers on another spot first."
I took his hand and he led me to the grave that the two men had visited earlier. I realized now that it must have been James and Harry. "Were you here with your dad earlier?"
"Yeah, he went back to the house. I told him I'd be along in a little while."
I nodded. "This is your grandparents' grave, isn't it."
He had stopped in front of the graves of Lily and James Potter. The originals, I had to assume.
He nodded. "My dad visits quite often, and I make sure to come with on holidays. It means a lot to my dad, and he misses them, even though he never actually knew them."
"Right. I often forget your dad's the Boy-who-lived. He's just so down-to-earth."
"Yeah. He is."
"Hey James, is it Christmas eve?" I asked, counting the days and hearing the singing now coming from the church. We were walking down the snowy street, hand in hand, on the way to his house.
"What have you been doing these past few days? Hiding in a cave?" He looked at me strangely. "And yeah, it is. That's why the rest of the family is back at the casa. I have to give you a warning, my mum's just about crazy right now, getting ready to go to the grandparents' house tomorrow."
I smiled. "Are Al and Lily home then?"
He gave a little cringe. "Yeah, I suppose I should apologize for them in advance. They'll be all hyper, as it's Christmas eve and all that."
I laughed. "I'm sure I can handle them."
When we passed the empty lot that used to be my house, I cringed, and James squeezed my hand tightly, pulling me closer to him. The foundation was all that was left, except for a couple of wooden slabs that used to be a treehouse, and the worn out swings near the edge of the woods.
James slipped his arm around my shoulders, steering me towards his house.
James' house looked the same as it always had, with it's blue shutters and warm atmosphere. There was light in most of the windows, and movement going on inside. He led me up the walkway, and led me through the front door.
"Albus Severus, if you ever make that gesture again I'll glue those fingers together! And Lily, could you please stop trying to tickle him? It's driving me insane! Harry, could you grab that pan there for me please? Yes, that one thanks." Ginny looked up from the kitchen counter in the room to our left. "Oh good to see you're back James."
"Hey mum." James said, pulling off his jacked and scarf, hanging them half-heartedly over the coat rack in the entryway. "Ran into Alex at the church, brought her with." He helped me out of my coat, and threw that over his own. He led me into the kitchen where the rest of his family was, fluttering about, Ginny at the center of it all.
"Alex! How good to see you!" Ginny said, smiling. "Come over here! I haven't seen you in ages!" She pulled me into a big hug, pulling back and holding my face in her hands. "You look great! So grown up! Would you like something to eat? We've got plenty of food, so help yourself, no need to ask in this house. James can grab you something. Albus! What did I say about playing with the Asparagus!" She turned to yell at Al.
"Hello Alex." Said Harry warmly, cutting up some tomatoes for Ginny. "Good to see you here."
"Hi Harry." I said, smiling.
"C'mon, let's go sit in the living room then I'll get you something to eat." Said James, nodding his head towards the room across from the entry.
When we got there, Al and Lily were just starting a game of exploding snap.
"Hi Alex!" Said Lily brightly. "Want to join us?"
"Sure. Hey Al." I said, entering the room and joining Lily on the couch, beckoning to Al. James took the seat next to Al across from us in the warm, comfortable sitting room.
"You hungry Alex?" He asked.
"Er, yeah." I said, my stomach rumbling as if it could hear what I was saying.
"I'll grab you some chili that my mom made earlier. You okay with that?" He asked.
"Absolutely." I smiled, and he left the room.
"So...." Al began the moment James stepped out ot the room.
"So you and James are friends now then?" Lily asked bluntly.
"Yeah, I guess so." I shrugged, dealing out the first round of cards.
"More than friends?" Al asked pointedly.
"No." I snorted, feeling my cheeks burn.
"Oh, they so are." Said Lily to Al.
"Have you two snogged yet?" Al asked.
I choked. "No! I don't know what you two are talking about. James and I are just friends."
"Lex, we know when you're lying." Said Lily.
"How?" I asked, playing a card from my hand.
"Your nostrils flare." She stated plainly.
"Really? That's weird. I've never noticed."
"I bet James has." Al mused.
"Probably." Lily agreed. "So, are you going to answer the question?"
"What question? Oh, that question?" I laughed nervously. "The answer is no, guys, seriously." I said, trying hard to not flare my nose.
"Hey, I got you some chili, Lex." Said James, coming back into the room with a steaming bowl of Ginny's chili. "So what did you guys talk about while I was gone?"
"Fishsticks." I said quickly, dealing him in and sending a pointed glance towards Al and Lily.
We continued playing for a while, the conversation flowing in and out of the game casually. Lily and Al talked about Hogwarts while James and I told them stories about the Auror office, including the many injuries Gary had sustained because of us. They found it amusing.
"James? Could I have your help please?" Called Ginny from the kitchen.
"Coming!" James called. "Be back whenever." He said to us, leaving the room to help his mum.
"So Lils, how long until the wedding, do you reckon?" Asked Al like it was the most casual thing in the world.
Chili nearly came out my nose.
"You mean until James proposes, or until the actual wedding?"
I was now choking on chili, gasping for air.
"Until James proposes, I suppose."
Someone, please kill me before the chili does it on it's own.
"I'll say sixth months."
I was dying at the hands of meat and beans.
"Are you serious? No more than four!"
Oh, don't mind me, I'm just sitting here, with chili obstructing my airways.
"You want to bet?"
I had stopped choking, and was now gasping, letting sweet air fill my lungs.
"Sure, let's say fifteen galleons if its less than four for me, same for you if its more."
"Excuse me! I'm right here! And that is not going to happen!" I practically shouted, finally able to form words.
"Would you like to enter the pool for fifteen galleons?" Al asked simply.
I scowled at him, then shrugged. "Easiest thirty galleons I'll ever earn."
Lily and Al exchanged signifigant smirks, the little prats.
A/N: Thanks for reading! Please leave a review! Also, you should check out my new story, it's an Al/OC, and takes place at Hogwarts. Still a little tentative, but I'm excited about it.
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