Chapter 22 : Mermaids, Dancing and Perfect Moments
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A few days after our exams, Louis started talking about the idea of another party.
“You know, an end of year celebration, because we’ve actually made it through our exams and none of us died from the trauma of it all!” He said on Sunday afternoon as we lazed about outside in the sun, to which we all nodded in agreement.
“But not the last night of term,” Justin, ever the responsible prefect, said. “That’s probably not a great idea.”
“Yeah, I think you’re right,” Rose agreed. “You guys know Teddy right?” Most of us nodded. Teddy Lupin was Harry Potter’s godson, he was the son of two people close to the Potters who had died during the war. He was born during the war and had married Louis’ sister Victoire two years ago.
“No, no idea who this Teddy bloke is,” Louis joked, earning himself a playful slap from Jane.
“Anyway,” Rose continued, rolling her eyes at her cousin. “Dad told me that when Teddy finished his N.E.W.T’s the seventh years decided to throw this big party on the last night of term. Well some of them partied a little too hard and went to bed so late that they didn’t wake up in time the next morning. They actually missed the Hogwarts Express!”
“I remember that!” Albus joined in. “I was about ten I think and the school couldn’t contact Teddy’s grandmother so they had to contact Dad to ask if Teddy could Floo to our place! Dad was ready to go soft on him but Mum said he should learn some responsibility and gave him a twenty minute lecture and then made him go and de-gnome the garden by himself, even though he was still in a really bad way from the night before!” We were all laughing pretty hard by now at the thought of poor Teddy Lupin, a really nice guy who worked in the Werewolf liaison office at the ministry, being told off by Mrs. Potter. “I still remember Dad coming and hiding in my room where Lily and I were playing. He said Mum had never reminded him so much of Grandma Weasley!”
I liked listening to Albus tell stories, he had a real knack for it. He understood timing well, what details to leave in and what details to leave out. Plus, you could tell he enjoyed the attention, not in a ‘look at me!’ sort of way like when Louis or Fred would make a joke, but in the sense that his eyes would light up when people listened to him, as though the audience energised him. I wondered vaguely if there was a way he could use that in his future career, maybe he could be a teacher or a presenter on one of the Wizard Wireless Network radio stations. I decided that I should mention it to him next time we had a chat.
That was until I remembered that I was still trying to avoid private conversations with Albus. I felt like a bit of a hypocrite, running away from my feelings for Albus when I’d told Alice to take the risk and go for it, but I had to keep reminding myself that the situations were not the same. James was crazy about Alice, he’d been pursuing her all year, and she liked him back. Albus and I were friends, good friends, great friends even, but the unfortunate truth was that I wanted more than friends, and being around him when I knew that he didn’t want more just hurt too much.
He caught my eye at that moment, while I was still laughing at his story, and just sort of held my gaze for a minute. My laughter died away as he continued to stare at me, an odd sort of smile on his face. I smiled back at him, my heart full of the affection I felt towards the scruffy haired, green-eyed boy. I found it hard to believe that only a year ago we’d barely known each other, it was almost like we’d only met in our fifth year at Hogwarts.
“Well we go home on Monday, a week from tomorrow,” Jane was saying, interrupting my thoughts and breaking my staring contest with Albus. “So what if we have the party on Saturday? That way, everyone can sleep in on Sunday morning and still has Sunday afternoon to pack their trunks, enjoy the end of term feast and get a good night’s sleep before catching the Hogwarts Express.”
“You’re a genius,” Louis commented, leaning over to kiss Jane. “I knew there was a reason I liked you so much.”
So after putting the idea to the seventh years, it was decided that a Gryffindor end-of-year party would be organised for Saturday. Gwen suggested not starting it too late so that the kids in younger year levels could still enjoy it. Some of the boys had groaned at this, but a lot of the older students backed up the idea.
“Hey, the little kids have worked just as hard as you guys,” Dominique said one evening at dinner. “They deserve a party too. Anyway, we’ll make sure they get to bed at a decent hour and we’ll all still be able to have fun once they’re asleep.” Nobody could really argue with this logic so it was decided that the party would start at 6pm, meaning people could go down for dinner early if they wanted, or come up to the party later.
The next issue to arise was whether or not people from other houses were allowed to be invited. Since it was likely that other houses would be having end of term celebrations, we agreed that people from other houses could be personally invited, but it was not a free-for-all. Rose grinned as she bounced off across the Great Hall to tell Scorpius. I thought she might be tempting fate there, but her cousins had improved lately, so maybe he would be accepted in the spirit of ‘schools-out’ cheeriness.
I took advantage of the fairly easy week and my plan to keep my distance from Albus, to give my trunk a decent clean out. I’m not a terribly messy person, but I was pretty sure there would be missing pieces of homework from second year in the mess that lined the bottom of my trunk. It was surprisingly therapeutic to throw out the rubbish and clean the bottom of my trunk using a scouring charm. I carefully folded all of my clothes, stacked my books and packed my trunk neatly, surprised at how much extra room there suddenly seemed to be.
I moved next to my bag, which I knew for a fact had a layer of scrap parchment and broken quills at the bottom. I tipped everything out on to the floor by my bed and began to sort things into piles, testing quills out on a spare piece of parchment and combining nearly empty bottles of ink. I was almost finished when I picked up several pieces of parchment that were folded neatly together. Realisation dawned on me as I unfolded the application form Albus had given me for the Ministry of Magic Internship.
Friday, he’d said, that’s when the application was due. It was Thursday afternoon so if I filled it out and sent it off tonight, it would still get to London on time. I stared indecisively at the form, as though expecting it to tell me what to do. The internship seemed like such a great idea and when Albus had first brought it up I was so excited. Working in at the ministry would give me so much experience, and I would get to see Albus, even if it was only in the tea room for lunch.
But then things got complicated. I’d more or less told Albus I was in love with someone who didn’t love me back and then I’d kissed him…well sort of. Well ok, not really but it was enough that he would know I wanted to kiss him, and that was all it took to ruin everything. It wasn’t that I thought Albus would be mean about it, in fact he would probably be nice about it...too nice in fact. I really, really didn’t want Albus to pity me. Wouldn’t it just be weird if we both ended up at the ministry and had to see each other every day? I glared at the application form in frustration. Why is this such a difficult decision? Why does everything I do these days have something to do with Albus bloody Potter? Why did I have to go and fall for him?
I slid my feet towards myself so they were flat on the floor, my knees bent. I dropped the parchment on the rug next to me, propped my elbows on my knees and rubbed my eyes using the heel of my hands. I was starting to get a headache from all this thinking and decision making.
“Lucy, you ok?” It was Jane who had come upstairs to see where I was. Apparently there was an epic game of exploding snap going on downstairs. I picked up the application form and handed it to Jane, explaining my predicament, right down to every last detail about the conversation in the Owlery, Peeves and his stupid water balloons, running away and even cutting my leg when I fell on the stairs.
“Wait, Albus kissed you?” Jane whispered. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor now, facing me.
“Not really, he just sort of leaned towards me and I leaned in too; it wasn’t a real kiss.”
“But it could have been, I mean if Peeves hadn’t interrupted you,” I couldn’t work out why Jane was grinning, why on earth would my best friend think this was something to smile about. “Maybe he wanted to kiss you Luce!”
“No, but he didn’t!” I exclaimed. “He was just being comforting because he thinks I’m in love with some guy.”
“Maybe…” Jane didn’t look like she agreed with me, but she seemed to let it drop. “But why should that mean you can’t do the internship? I mean you and Al are friends, and you’re both mature enough to work at the Ministry together. Anyway, you probably won’t even be in the same department!”
“I guess so,” I said, still unsure.
“Ok, well answer me this. Forget Albus, forget your family, forget me, forget everyone. What do you want to do Luce?” Jane fixed me with a serious look and I closed my eyes, trying to see past all of my emotions and my need to make sure I wasn’t upsetting other people. What do I really want?
“I want to send off the application,” I said, opening my eyes. Jane didn’t say another word, she simply pulled a quill and a bottle of ink from the piles I had been sorting and handed it to me, along with the application form. She even sat with me while I filled it out and then offered to go up to the Owlery with me to send it off before dinner.
“Thanks Janie,” I said, giving my best friend a huge hug as we entered the Great Hall. “That was the push I needed, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Jane grinned as she wrapped her arms around me, “The feeling’s mutual Luce.”
The Gryffindor end-of-year party was off to a roaring start (pun totally intended!). It was a fairly casual affair, most people in jeans or shorts, though a few girls had donned pretty summer skirts or dresses. I was wearing navy blue shorts, with a red top that was dotted with little white hearts. I’d slipped a pair of white canvas plimsolls onto my feet, the kind of shoe that was just perfect for the warmer weather we were experiencing.
The music was blaring from the old radio and everywhere I looked, people were laughing, talking or dancing. The summer holidays were upon us and the mood had shifted accordingly. Rose, dressed in a flowery looking sundress, was dancing happily with Scorpius, both of them laughing as they bopped along to the music. Justin and Gwen were sitting on a window seat, talking quietly about something. Louis was busy entertaining Jane, Will and a few other students with one of his impersonations near the fireplace. Jane was giggling uncontrollably and I smiled, glad to see her so happy.
“Fancy a butterbeer?” It was Fred who lowered himself onto the sofa next to me, holding out a bottle. I accepted the drink, thanked him and took a sip. “Now you do know this is a party don’t you?” He said, a cheeky look in his eyes. “You’ve just finished your O.W.L’s, by some sheer miracle the stress of it all hasn’t killed you and summer hols are about to begin. You’re supposed to be having fun, not sitting on a couch looking gloomy.”
“I’m not looking gloomy,” I said.
“Shall I conjure up a mirror for you? I’m not a betting man but I could win this one, hands down.” The grin hadn’t left Fred’s face. I took a long sip of my butterbeer before responding.
“That’s a downright lie,” I said. “If two flies were climbing up a wall you’d take bets on it!”
“And I’d give you excellent odds too!” He laughed. I couldn’t help but laugh with him, it was rather infectious.
“But I still think you need to have some fun,” He said, taking the butterbeer from me. He stood up and pulled me to my feet. “Come on Bell…let’s dance!” He started pulling me towards the space that had been cleared away for a makeshift dance floor.
“Oh! No Fred I…” I began to protest, but Fred simply dragged me into the throng, twirling me around and making me laugh again.
“See, you do know how to have fun,” He grinned, spinning me around again before he started jumping up and down on the spot like a crazy person, still holding my hand. I was laughing at him and trying to get into the rhythm of the music when someone across the room caught my eye. Albus was watching me dance with Fred, and he looked angry. Fred tried to spin me around again but I pulled my hand free.
“Thanks for the dance but I’ve had enough,” I said, tearing my eyes away from the dark haired boy across the room. I turned and headed towards the portrait hole, thinking only of getting away from the crowd and Albus.
“Lucy!” Rose appeared in front of me, holding Scorpius’ hand. “Lucy are you alright, you look a little green,” She called above the blaring music.
“I’m fine, I was just going to get some air,” I said.
“Lucy, before you go I really need to tell you something,” She said, looking slightly worried. “Maybe I should have told you this a while ago, it’s about Albus.”
“Rose,” I said, my heart suddenly pounding in my ears along with the music from the radio.
“Lucy it’s important,” She said.
“I…I can’t Rose,” I gasped. “I need to go,” and with that, I pushed through the crowd and climbed out of the portrait hole into the quiet of the corridor. I made my way downstairs, my heart still pounding as I headed for the entrance hall and the front doors of the castle. It was getting late, but being summer, the sun was still hanging in the sky. I knew it was probably close to curfew time, but I doubted any teachers were going to give me a detention on the second-last night of term. The air had that warm, sweet, summery smell to it and there was a very light breeze, making the balmy temperature just about perfect. I took a deep breath as I looked out across the grounds, my heart full of love for the place that had been my second home these last five years. Before I even realised what I was doing, I made my way towards Hagrid’s hut. I knew he wouldn’t be there, the teachers were having their own end-of-year celebrations in the staff room, but it wasn’t the gamekeeper I wanted to see anyway. Outside the rough wooden dwelling, there was a largish sort of pen erected. Hagrid had built the little area so that the three crup puppies could play outside when he wasn’t around. They were growing but they were still young enough that they might run off into the forest and get hurt – or eaten.
I climbed over the small fence and was greeted by excited barking as the three puppies barrelled up to me. I knelt down in the soft grass and greeted the dogs with scratches on their bellies and behind their ears. I moved so I was sitting down and crossed my legs; immediately, two of the puppies climbed into my lap. The third, who was the smallest, and I realised with a start the same crup Albus and I had worked with back in our first lesson with the puppies, struggled to follow his siblings, but couldn’t find any room. I reached out and picked him up, cuddling him close to my chest.
I felt awful; I was supposed to be having fun and yet it felt like everything was falling apart. I wanted Albus, I wanted him more than I could admit to anyone else, and as much as I told myself staying away from him was the best decision, it was tearing me up inside. How could it have all gone so wrong? I thought sadly as tears began to roll down my cheeks. The puppy in my arms gently licked them, causing me to give a sad sort of laugh.
“The animal girl of Hogwarts is in her element I see,” Said an all too familiar voice, and I whipped my head up to see Albus standing just outside the little wooden fence. The small smile dropped from his face as soon as I did so. “Lucy, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?” He asked, his voice full of concern.
“It’s nothing, I’m fine,” I said, moving the puppies from my lap and standing up, brushing the grass from my shorts and the tears from my eyes. Albus watched me carefully as I did so, but I avoided looking straight at him.
“Lucy, I need to talk to you about something,” He said. “And I mean without you running away from me this time,” he added. I looked up at him and saw that whilst he was smiling, there was a seriousness in his eyes. You can’t put the inevitable off forever, I told myself. You may as well get it over and done with.
Taking a shaky breath, I climbed back out of the puppy pen and took a few steps towards Albus, leaving a gap of about three feet between us.
“I’m not going to bite you,” He looked amused as he took a small step closer to me. I could feel my pulse quickening, and everything inside of me started screaming to run away, but I forced my feet to stay planted on the spot. I didn’t have the nerve to look Albus in the eye so I looked out across the Black Lake which was shimmering slightly in the setting sun.
“Did you know there are mermaids in the lake?” I said suddenly.
“What?” Albus sounded surprised but I didn’t look at him.
“Scottish mermaids anyway,” I said. “Well merpeople I suppose; it’s not fair to call them all mermaids is it? Bit sexist really I guess,”
“Uh…” Albus still sounded confused, and I still refused to look at him, the words running from my mouth of their own accord.
“The mermaids you see in picture books are Greek mermaids, or sirens as some people call them. The mermaids we have here look different, not quite as beautiful. But they still sing like the other mermaids; they have their own language you know,”
“Yes I know,” Albus said. “My Dad’s been down there, he’s seen them.”
“He has?” It was my turn to sound surprised. In fact I was so surprised that I actually pulled my gaze away from the lake to look at Albus.
“And she finally looks at me,” He said, smiling.
“Oh…uh…I…” I stammered, looking down at my feet. Albus gently reached under my chin and tipped my head up so I was looking at him again. My pulse started racing as I looked at his face. He removed his hand from under my chin and this time I didn’t look away. I was listening now, whatever Albus had to say, I would hear him out – even if it broke my heart. Oddly enough, it was Albus who was now looking nervous.
“We’re friends aren’t we Lucy? Well at least I think of us as friends…” He began.
Oh boy, here it comes, I thought, biting my lip and fighting off the tears.
“No, that’s not what I wanted to say,” Albus looked frustrated and closed his eyes for a second, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. “Right, um…have you ever been looking for something, like a book or your watch or your wand or something, you know something really, really important, and you look for it for ages until you realise you were holding it in your hand the whole time?” He looked at me with an expression that was obviously pleading with me to understand. I nodded, cautiously, wondering where this was going.
“Well sometimes people are like that. You have them there and you just take them for granted and then you stop and look at them and get to know them, and you realise they were what you were looking for all along.” Albus rubbed the back of his neck. “Is this making any sense?”
“I’m not sure,” I said quietly. Albus suddenly took another step closer to me, there was only a foot between us now. My heart skipped a beat and I felt a bit weak but I kept my eyes on him.
“We’ve known each other since we were kids right?” He said, confusing me with his sudden change in topic. He didn’t wait for my response but just kept talking. “And yet, I didn’t look at you properly until this year. I mean sure I’d looked at you, I knew who you were, but I didn’t see you for who you really are. Lucy, I feel like I only really met you this year.”
Something in my mind sparked, a memory of listening to Albus and Rose talking in an empty classroom. ‘I haven’t known her for very long and I don’t want to do anything that’s going to cause her to leave my life.’
“And you are so amazing Lucy, so much more amazing than you realise. I can’t believe I was so stupid and didn’t see it before but you’re smart and kind, you’re independent and really clumsy. And you are so funny and insanely talented with animals and you’re just brilliant,” Albus was still talking and my mind raced to keep up with him, like it was frantically putting the pieces of a puzzle together.
“And there’s something I’ve wanted to do all year but I’ve been too scared because once I’d discovered how awesome you were, I didn’t want to lose you, and I couldn’t bring myself to risk it. But then you stopped talking to me and…and I’ve been going crazy Lucy. I… well I… I miss you.” Albus shrugged his shoulders as though conceding defeat.
And then I gasped, a small, quiet gasp as my brain put the pieces together. But before I could say anything, Albus reached out his hand and gently ran his fingers across my cheekbone, my skin feeling hot where he touched me. Butterflies the size of quaffles were flying around my stomach as I stared up at him. Albus ducked his head so his face was close to mine and suddenly I forgot how to breathe.
“Lucy Bell, I am falling in love with you,” And then suddenly, Albus was kissing me; his lips met mine forcefully and yet gently, my lips parted slightly and his lower lip pushed between them as my fantasy from the last ten months came true. I leaned into him, kissing him back like I’d been supposed to do it my whole life. My hands reached around his neck and Albus wrapped his free hand around my waist, pulling me closer, while the hand that had been on my cheek had slipped around to the back of my head so it was now tangled in my hair. It was the strangest sensation, actually kissing Albus after all this time, and yet it felt like the most natural thing in the world to be doing. It wasn’t like any other kiss I’d experienced before, it was full of passion and months of pent up frustration, and yet it was gentle and full of tenderness at the same time. I tightened my arms around his neck, pulling myself even closer to him, feeling so safe in my little prison, trapped between his chest and his arms.
I don’t know how long we kissed for, but when Albus pulled back and I opened my eyes, the sky had started turning beautiful shades of orange, yellow and pink. I kept my hands locked behind his neck and I looked into his eyes to make sure, to be absolutely certain, that he felt what I felt.
“I have wanted to do that for the longest time,” He laughed, resting his forehead against my own.
“Really?” I asked, disbelief evident in my voice.
“Ever since that night we had detention down in the dungeons,” He smiled. “There is something about the way you fall over that I find positively adorable.”
“I can’t believe it,” I sighed as Albus tightened his grip around my waist. “I thought you liked someone else.” I bit my lip nervously before deciding to be honest. “I heard you talking to James that night after the Quidditch match and then a little while back to Rose. I never heard you name the girl and I just assumed…”
“It was you,” Albus laughed, lifting his head slightly so he could shake it in disbelief. “It was always you. And I was so jealous of McMillan, and then James for a while before you told me about Alice, and even Fred seemed to be getting too close!” An image flashed across my mind of Albus watching angrily as I danced with Fred and suddenly I understood.
“We’re so stupid!” I exclaimed, causing us both to start laughing.
“And the guys have been egging me on all year, I think they were about ready to give up on me,” Albus smiled.
“And Jane knows, and Rose…and probably Gwen too!” I giggled. “And I thought Louis and Jane were bad! I suppose we should go and tell them then?”
“In a minute,” Albus said, kissing me softly on the lips again. “I’m just enjoying this moment too much to stop right now.”
“They can wait,” I agreed as I reached up towards him and we kissed once more, and it was perfection.
A perfect kiss,
With the perfect guy,
In the perfect place,
A perfect moment.
AN: So I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that quite a a few of you are relatively happy with this chapter! They finally got there, Al found that Gryffie courage to tell Lucy how he felt, Lucy used her brains and worked out it was her all along and the two of them got their kiss! I hope you guys liked the way it all came together.
I can't believe we're nearly done, there's just the epilogue left and I'm so excited about changing this story to 'complete' that I doubt I'll be able to wait too long to post it, so look out for the last chapter soon. I'll also have an exciting (well exciting to me anyway) announcement next chapter about my future plans for Lucy, Al and everyone else.
Thank you as always to all of you for your beautiful reviews, for sticking with me and especially for hanging in there with Lucy and Al. Big hugs to all of you :D
Oh, and here's a little sneak peek at the epilogue!
“Merlin I love my Mum,” Rose smiled as she piled her robes into her trunk. “Especially those undetectable extension charms she does. Makes packing so easy!”
“I’ve really got to find out how you do that,” Jane said as she sat on her trunk, trying with all her might to get the lid to close. “I wonder if my Mum knows how.”
“It can’t be that difficult, I mean Mum taught herself how to do it when she was seventeen,” Rose said, levitating a pile of books into her ‘bigger-on-the-inside’ trunk.
“Yeah but isn’t your mum like the smartest witch that ever lived or something?” I asked.
“Something like that,” Rose giggled. “But still, I don’t think it’s that hard. I’ll look it up in the holidays.”
“I’ll be waiting on your owl,” Jane grunted. “That’s it, I’m done with doing things the muggle way! Who knows a spell to get this bad boy shut?” She pulled out her wand and pointed it at the trunk, as though waiting for inspiration to hit. We all looked at each other, every single one of us at a loss to find an appropriate spell.
“Um…Wingardium Leviosa?” Gwen suggested. We all giggled and I walked over to help Jane squeeze her trunk shut.
“I suppose you could have done what Lucy did,” Gwen suggested as she folded a pale blue cardigan and shoved in her backpack.
“What? Have a complete nervous breakdown over Albus Potter?” Jane joked. “I don’t see how that would help me with my packing.” I turned to her and made a face, though she knew I wasn’t really mad. She was probably the only person who could have gotten away with saying that however.
“Well I was referring to the cleaning out her trunk part…” Gwen smiled.
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