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Chapter 20 : The One with Lots of Presents
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But still, I didn’t understand it. I mean – we hadn’t fought too badly in Hogsmeade, and yet the situation didn’t seem like it was on the road to recovery. I even considered shoving him into a classroom and hashing it out with him right then, right there, until we sorted the shit out, but a little thing called my pride got in the way.
And now the Christmas holidays were starting, the big day itself only a week away, and we’ve exchanged nothing more than the occasional ‘what was the Transfig homework?’ and ‘could you pass the butter?’.
It’s so strange that I think even Loved Up Couple 1 and Loved Up Couple 2 have started to notice.
Oh yeah, them. Dom and Connor were pathetic. Dom hadn’t even made it back up to the castle before she decided to get over it, and the second she had seen him again she had attacked her face with his mouth and they’d shagged in a nearby broom closet – classy lady, that Dom. They didn’t even stop speaking for an hour. They should take lessons from James, he’s king of holding a grudge over nothing.
Fred and Penny still aren’t official, though Merlin knows why. They want to take things ‘slow’. By all means, go ahead, but taking things slow generally doesn’t mean you spend every waking moment together and snog like you’re going to die tomorrow AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE.
People have no bloody pride.
Honestly, were they not taught basic table manners whilst growing up?
Actually, I’ve met George Weasley, so that might be a stupid question.
Jack, on the other hand, does not seem to understand the concept of taking things slow. He’s excited as fuck for exchanging gifts with one another just before we get off the train, so much so that even I’m a little curious as to what he’s got me.
Dom, however, is even more desperate to know. She’s taken it upon herself to guess what it is before he’s given it to me, to the point where I think she might commit if she’s wrong.
You know, if I could teleport back in time, maybe it would be a good idea to go back and choose some friends that weren’t so completely batshit psycho.
The list itself is actually quite interesting. It goes a little something like:
A talking Thestral.
A jewellery box that plays Cauldron Full of Hot Strong Love.
A box of condo--- DOM IF YOU FINISH THIS ONE I WILL KILL YOU.
Roses, chocolates, a teddy bear, something really romantic.
A holiday getaway for two in Paris! (Really, Dom? Really?)
A spa gift voucher.
An engagement ring! (Are you actually taking the piss, Dominique?)
A star named in your honour.
A weekend of free sex. (Dom, you are very close to being strangled right now.)
A candlelit dinner on Boxing Day!
A boat ride across the River Thames.
A diamond necklace. (You have to be kidding.)
Yes, I kid you not. The woman is insane. An engagement ring? We’ve been dating for a month and a half. If he bloody tried to give me an engagement ring then I’d chuck the thing at his head and run screaming from the compartment. Well, maybe not run. Power walk. Laziness prevails, pet.
And then the awkward question arose, and I began to lose faith in Christmas all together. Am I supposed to buy James a chrimbo present?
I mean, I don’t think I should, given the fact he’s pissed at me and he’s getting on my last nerve, and I seriously doubt that he’s going to buy me anything. But what if he did give me something, and then I was standing there with nothing to give him and end up pulling a Harry Potter and giving him a pair of old socks?
That would be awkward.
James always got me the best presents at Christmas. Right from first year, we used to have something normal, like chocolate, to give each other in front of everyone else, and then we’d meet somewhere before we got on the train and give each other proper presents.
Last year he got me a 100 galleon gift voucher for any of the shops in Diagon Alley, a charm bracelet with little crystals studded around it and some shoes that I’d pointed out to him and Connor once in Diagon Alley.
I got him some of those insanely expensive padded high top trainers that blokes like so much, some gold cufflinks, a gift voucher for a barber’s shop in Hogsmeade – I’m sorry, but you’ve all seen the bloke’s hair – and a six pack of Firewhiskey.
But I still didn’t know whether I was supposed to have bought him just a little something to give to each other in front of everyone – I mean, they’d get even more suspicious if we just suddenly stopped exchanging gifts altogether – or not. What if he didn’t get me one, then he’d feel awkward.
But then, what if he bought me his usual expensive present and I’d bought him some crappy cheap thing that looked even worse than not buying him a present at all.
THIS WAS TOO HARD.
And also – was I supposed to let him know that I’d bought him a present before we got on the train, or wait for him to say something? But then, what if he thought the same thing and didn’t say anything and we both left with the other’s presents still in our pockets?
So, being the little genius that I was, I decided to cover all the bases – and no, not in that way, you sick munchkin – and buy a present that would cover all of it. I’ve bought a card, in case we don’t get each other presents, I got him a box of chocolates as a small present, and a shirt and tie set from Merlin’s Suits which probably cost my dad about a month’s salary, as well as an expensive new watch with a gold face and a brown leather band.
Ha. You try and catch me on unawares now, Potter.
I’ve got you cornered good and proper. Mwahahaha.
“Summer! Get your attractive arse out of that bed now and get down here so we can swap our Christmas presents!” Fred yelled up the stairs to the dormitory, kicking the wall to try and attract more attention.
Urgh. Don’t wanna get up. Nooo. Don’t make me.
“Summer! If you are not down in the next thirty seconds with all of our presents, then I will fly my broomstick up there and carry you down kicking and screaming!” Oh Merlin. That got me up alright. Spitting my hair out of my mouth, batting it out of my eyes and grabbing the bag with all of their presents in, I ninja rolled down the staircase to the common room.
Well, I like to say that I ninja rolled. I actually missed the top stair and tumbled down to the common room, but nobody else knew that.
“Ooh good, you’re here,” Fred said, pulling me to my feet and shoving me onto whoever was sitting in the armchair behind me. I didn’t appreciate the dull oofing noise they made. I happen to have lost three pounds in the last two weeks, thank you very much.
I turned around to glare at source of the oofing, and nearly leapt out my skin as the warm brown eyes of James Potter stared back at me.
“I – I... I’ll just get off you, now,” I stammered, scrabbling to my feet and dropping onto the ground. Fred frowned at me.
“What are you doing? You two always share an armchair at Christmas...” Fred said slowly, cocking an eyebrow at me and glancing suspiciously at James, who was suddenly staring out of the window as though it was fascinating him.
“Right, of course we do... budge your fat arse up, Potter.” James glanced at me in surprise, but scooched up on the seat anyway, leaving a tiny gap for me to try and squeeze my butt into. Not being funny, but I don’t remember being the size of a breadstick.
Flushing, I tried very hard to squeeze into the tiny little gap and ended up cock eyed on the seat, half of my bum sitting on James and the other half digging into the side of the armrest. James swallowed hard and switched his gaze from the window to the floor, flushing slightly. I glared at Fred. Fred grinned back.
“Right, present time!” Fred grinned, and tossed a badly wrapped present at Connor’s head.
Five minutes later, I’d been given a pair of earrings from Dom, a box of chocolate cauldrons from Connor, a new set of quills and parchment from Penny, and a pair of luminous yellow socks with a matching scarf from Fred.
You know, I would pay good money to find out where he actually finds these things to buy. Last year he bought me a jumper with a giant Christmas tree on the front, decorated with moving baubles in the shape of Fred’s head.
No, I don’t know where he bought it. And no, I don’t think I really want to.
“Right, now you two,” Dom smiled, gesturing to James and I with the arm that was modelling her new bracelet. Yeah, I get a box of chocolate cauldrons of Connor, and Dom gets a silver bracelet with an effing sapphire attached. I hope he knows that I’m expecting something like that next Christmas.
“Erm, right,” James said awkwardly, reaching back down into the bag that was holding all the presents. He pulled out a medium sized box wrapped in snowman-adorned wrapping paper, with a loopy silver bow stuck haphazardly on the top with liberal amounts of spellotape.
“Here,” he stuffed it into my hand a little brusquely and looked back down to the floor as I shifted on his lap, leaning down to grab his present out of my bag. I dropped it onto the armrest next to him.
Pulling the wrapping paper off and letting it flutter to the ground, I smiled at the Christmas Edition box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. James pulled the wrapping paper off his own box of Madame Rosetta’s Firewhiskey Filled Chocolates.
“Thanks, Summer,” James smiled awkwardly and offered me a rough grin, reaching around me to scratch the back of his neck awkwardly. I grinned back at him bent the cardboard of the box beneath my thumbs.
“No problem,” I muttered back, “Thanks for the sweets.” Dom frowned at me for a second, her fleeting glance enough to ask me if there was something going on, but Connor caught on in less than a second and quickly pulled her into a soft kiss. Dom’s confused glance was smoothed off her face faster than the speed of light.
“Right, well, I think we ought to go down to breakfast,” Penny smiled, her hair a mess from where Fred had forced her new lime green jumper over her head – yes, lime green, emblazoned with the words ‘I LOVE FRED WEASLEY’.
For some reason, Penny seemed to love it. I would have chucked it back at Fred’s head and told him to buy me a proper present, but that’s just me.
“Happy Christmas, everyone,” Connor smiled, holding up his goblet of pumpkin juice and clinking them against ours. A little spilled out Dom’s and splattered across the table. I watched the stain seep into the tablecloth instead of focusing on the fact that James’ hand brushed mine as we all brought our glasses back down.
“Will you pass the muesli, Summer?” James asked quietly from next to me – luckily Jack hadn’t come down to breakfast yet so he could flip the shit about the fact James was sitting next to me – and I nearly knocked over my own pumpkin juice as I leaned over the table to grab it for him.
“Thanks,” he said as I handed him the bowl, and suddenly he was leaning towards me. Jumping about half a foot in the air, I practically flew backwards and stared at him with my eyes the size of saucers.
“What – what are you?” I stammered stupidly as Fred cocked an eyebrow at me. James rolled his eyes, grabbed the sleeve of my jumper and pulled me back upright.
“I was only going to bloody whisper to you, you weirdo. Meet me in the Charms classroom on the second floor at half ten, just before we get on the train – so we can give each other our proper presents.” James leaned back again as I gaped at the side of his head, thanking the lord that I had actually bought him a decent present.
I wonder why he still wants to give each other nice gifts.
Maybe he bought it before we fell out and doesn’t want to waste his money.
“James?” I asked into the silent room, frowning at my watch. It’s twenty to eleven... James is never late. What’s going on? I scanned the room quickly, even looking under the desks in case he was going to leap out from under the table and try and give me a heart attack. But no, he wasn’t there. I chewed on my bottom lip, idly swinging the Christmas gift back around my wrist.
I sat down on the edge of one of the desks, glancing towards the door every few seconds or so. Where is he? Did he just send me here to let me know how pissed he was with me, and that he was never going to buy me one of our special Christmas presents?
Well, that’s a bit a douche move.
As my watch slid its way to quarter to, I started to chew on my bottom lip a little harder. Maybe this is his way of telling me that things are officially done between us, and nothing is going to be the same again. The thought made my heart sink.
Why is my heart sinking? That shouldn’t happen. That might be a sign of a medical problem. Hearts are supposed to stay in the same place, aren’t they? Does this mean I’m going to die? Oh goodness, James Potter is going to kill me.
I’ll kill the bloody tosser for killing me.
A second later the door crashed open, and James stood in the doorway, his hair blown back off his face and a very angry expression on his face. What’s got his knickers in a twist? Honestly, my friends really need to work on controlling their tempers.
“What are you doing in here?” James snapped, and I jumped slightly.
“I... am waiting for you! What are you not doing here?” James frowned and me and stomped forwards, curled his fingers around my wrist and pulled me off the desk, out of the door and down the corridor, the whole time hissing expletives under his breath. Once we reached the grand staircase he started to head up the third floor, and then pulled us into the first charms classroom in the corridor. I frowned.
“James, you said to meet on the second floor charms classroom,” I said slowly.
“No, I said third floor,”
“No, you said second. If you’d said third then I would have met you on the third.” I said slowly, rolling my eyes. He did say the second floor. He did, right?
“Can you not go three minutes without arguing with me?”
“I’m just saying...”
“Well, even if I did say second, I meant third so you should have come to the third.”
“What?! How was I supposed to know that you were thinking that we should meet on the third floor? I’m not a fucking mind reader, James!”
James grabbed the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger and squeezed down, breathing hard out of a small gap between his lips. He looked pissed. For once, I actually did the smart thing and just kept my mouth shut.
“Look, can we just swap presents now?” James said slowly, and I nodded. I hesitantly held out my hand patted his shoulder, before taking hold of his thumb and pulling him over to were his gift bag was sitting. I pushed him down into a seat and perched myself on the desk in front of him.
“Well, here you go,” I said awkwardly, handing over the bag and glancing down at my fingers. James pulled out the shirt and tie, held it against his chest and grinned. I reached back out into the bag and pulled out the box with the watch in, which was wrapped in shimmery silver wrapping paper.
He pulled the paper off and dropped it to the floor, and grinned again. Pulling the lid off the box, he snapped the watch onto his wrist and held it out to me, a smile crinkling the corners of his eyes.
“Will you fasten it for me?” He asked, and I shook my head slightly in disbelief, a reluctant smile playing on my own lips. I reached out and slipped the pointed end of the band through the gold loop, pulled it tight and fastened it securely – not being funny, but the thing cost an arm and a leg, I don’t want it flying off when he’s playing Quidditch.
“It’s really nice, thanks, Summer.” James grinned, mussing up my hair with the palm of his hand. I grinned back at him, but felt like frowning.
Why is he acting all happy and calm?
He’s acting like we normally do when we exchange presents – like no shit happened between us with his devil incarnate brother. Like he hasn’t spent the last two months trying to get away from me.
“No problem,” I murmured uncharacteristically shyly, picking at the chipped nail polish on my fingers. James mussed up my hair again. I bit my lip. Everything seemed awkward, slow – like we were going through the motions, but both of us knew that we were acting. I just wanted to talk to him, to get everything out in the open – but I didn’t want to shatter the calm and civil atmosphere that we had built around us.
I wanted to ask him what the fuck he thought he was playing at, wanting to swap presents and mess around with each other and sit next to each other at meals when he hadn’t wanted to so much as look at me before then, why he suddenly wanted to act all chummly-wummly and pally-wally when my name was mud a few days ago.
He makes no sense.
He’s the most damn confusing bloke I had ever met in my life – his mood swings, his grudges, his baggage, his opinions – and yes, I’m not the angel in white, but he didn’t mind.
He knew I made mistakes, he knew that I had cheated on people before – not that I cheated on James – but he knew that. And yet he seemed honestly shocked when he found out that I had kissed someone else.
I never claimed to be perfect, and he knew full well the reasons that I hated the concept of dating. It’s just – the idea of belonging to someone else, that you can’t be with anyone other than that person, the lack of secrecy, having everything out in the open for each other to see – having to be faithful to them all the time, the jealousy... I didn’t want that.
I still don’t. With Jack, it just feels different – it doesn’t feel like being in a relationship, not like it was with Andrew, or Callum, but different. Like he’s just a friend that’s there for me, who I occasionally snog. Like it was with James.
But it’s not with James. And I wish it was.
Wait – do I?
My frantic self analysis was interrupted by James’ voice, which broke through my thoughts and gently coaxed me back to Earth with the promise of presents.
“Here, this is for you – I’d been working on it for a while, and I wanted the chance to give it to you, even if everything is different now.” James held out the gift bag, and I quickly pulled out the large flat object inside.
It was about a foot by two feet and wrapped in a sheer layer of white tissue paper, which was bandaged at the corners with more layers of James’ signature spellotape. He likes to wrap presents by hand, he won’t use a spell – he thinks there is more a ‘charm’ that way. At least when you use a spell it doesn’t look like it’s been wrapped by a monkey’s uncle.
I pulled the tissue paper off and nearly dropped the picture frame. Inside a large, carved golden frame was a montage of tiny pictures, each one about the size of a postage stamp.
There was a picture of me by the lake at the end of last summer, one of James in a theme park, one of James and I in the Three Broomsticks, James on a broom, me chewing on a quill, James pulling bunny ears behind my head, James with his arm around my waist, James in first year, one of me in second year, a picture of James and I holding our OWL results together... at least a hundred different pictures, in all the colours of the rainbow, all blended together. In the bottom left corner there was even one of James planting a soft kiss on my lips.
I don’t even remember that kiss. I wish I did.
And in a small gap in the centre, written on heavy white parchment in gold cursive was the words ‘James and Summer, 2015-2021’. My mouth dropped open.
That was the most unlike James present that I could ever have imagined.
Since when did he do caring things like that? It must have taken him so long... I ran my fingers over a couple of the pictures, not really sure what to say.
“Thank you,” I eventually choked out, and James relaxed a little, letting out a breath that I hadn’t realised he was holding.
“You like it?” He asked hopefully, and I almost felt like laughing. Do I like it? How could I not like it? I just wanted to give him a huge hug and bury my face in his neck and tell him how much I love it, how it was the nicest thing he could ever give me – but I didn’t.
James was the one that said I needed to learn how to be faithful to someone. So I will. To Jack. This means no snuggling up to James, regardless of how lovely the presents he buys me are. Instead, I held my hands out and took one of James’, brought it up to my mouth and gently kissed his thumb.
I don’t know why. I just did. It seemed like the right thing to do.
James grinned and took the thumb I had kissed, brought it up to my cheekbone and ran it down to my jaw, his warm brown eyes holding me in place. My mouth dropped open slightly as his thumb brushed down the middle of my nose, across my eyelid, brushing through my eyelashes.
Oh, fuck Jack. I want to kiss the bloke.
Just as I had made the subconscious decision to snog the living daylights out of the bloke, James started to speak. Why speak? There was no need.
“Are you happy?” He asked, his eyes suddenly becoming a lot more serious and his brow furrowing slightly. I jumped a little.
“Happy?” I said slowly, testing the word. I said from the start that I was dating Jack because he made me happy – because he made me calm. And that’s true, right? I am happy. Happy with Jack. So I should tell James that I’m happy. Because I am. “Yes, I’m happy,”
James closed his eyes quickly, wincing slightly, but before I could properly decipher his expression he had smoothed it over and had plastered a painfully fake smirk on his face.
“Happy as Larry?” He said quietly, and I snorted.
“Depends. How happy is Larry? Because is Larry is some psycho depressive freak then I would have to say that I’m a little bit happier than Larry. Whereas if Larry is a billionaire with three wives in their early twenties and a yacht, then I would have to say that I’m not quite as happy.” The crease between James’ eyes smoothed out and he started to chuckle.
“You’re insane, you.” James grinned, flicking me on the temple. A second later the grin slipped slightly off his face, and he stood up. “We should probably get going, the train leaves in half an hour.” Shoving his hands into his pockets, James slouched off towards the door and left.
I blinked at the door, and then dropped my eyes back down to the photo frame.
The picture of James and I kissing seemed to burn itself on the back of my eyelids. That was the past, Summer. You have to let it go.
I hate the universe.
“And Nana Weasley makes the most amazing roast potatoes, they’re all crispy and delicious and salty on the outside and then why you bite in they’re so soft, and fluffy as a cloud, and you smother them in this amazing homemade gravy which is made with the broth from cooking the turkey, and ooh – the turkey! She always seems to get the best turkey going, and...” I zoned out as Fred moved onto the merits of his Nana Weasley’s turkey.
I mean, I know what a good cook the woman is, but I don’t need to hear a fifteen minute long blow-by-blow description of everything on his plate.
James had been nodding along originally, making murmurs of agreement every now and again, but had switched to staring out the window with his knees tucked up to his chest, a deep crease between his eyebrows.
Fred’s description of the carrots – with hand gestures – was interrupted by Jack knocking on the door and waving at me through the window. I back waved at him, smiled, grabbed his present from the rack above Dom’s head and excused myself.
James kicked the seat in front of him. Nobody but Connor bothered to look at him strange.
I think that might be a sign that something is wrong with you, when people don’t even look at you strange for kicking seats for no reason.
“Hey, love,” Jack smiled, leaning down to give me a peck on the lips. I pulled away quickly and grabbed his hand, towing him off down the train.
“So, where are we off to?” I asked as I towed him along, and Jack chuckled from behind me, grabbed my waist and pulled me into his chest, clamping his lips down onto my neck and shoving us into the compartment we were passing.
“Jack!” I laughed as he laid down on the seat and pulled me down onto his chest. Then he was kissing my nose, my cheeks, my forehead, the tip of my nose, the front of my neck, my collarbone – and I was melting onto his chest, just curled up like a child.
He’s not complicated, Jack. He’s just simple, easy – even when he was pissed off with me after the Hogsmeade disaster with James, he didn’t even bother to try and get all pissed with me, he just stayed calm, told me I’d offended him and let me apologise.
With snogging. I’m not really a talkative, apologetic person.
“Urgh,” Jack said suddenly, pulling away from our snog and sitting up slightly, “Just give me a minute to breathe, baby – I want to give you your present before we get off the train, and at this rate I’m going to snog you all day.”
“Well, I don’t see a problem with that,” I grumbled, and Jack laughed.
D’aww. He looks cute when he laughs. His cheeks go all chubby. Gah. He is going to have the cutest kids in the future.
“Here, this is for you,” Jack said, kissing me quickly on the forehead and handing me a perfectly wrapped box, about the size of one of those muggle leaflets you get through the letterbox, telling you how it would change your life to try the new pizza place down the road.
I pulled the paper off and stuffed it down the back of the seat – Jack pulled it out a moment later, folded it into a square and pushed it into his back pocket... strange – and stared down at the black suede box.
He’s bought me jewellery. Oh flying fuckmuffins. I’m not really the jewellery kind of gal, to be perfectly honest. I wear cheap ribbons around my wrists and bracelets that Dom buys from charity shops that are made from bits of wood painted rainbow colours.
I don’t do expensive jewellery that you can only wear when the Queen comes for tea.
It would stress me out to wear it. What if someone mugged me? My mum nearly got mugged once, because she wore her expensive pearls and diamonds to go to the muggle supermarket and get some bread.
With slightly shaking fingers – come on Lancaster, man up, it’s only a bit of jewellery – I pulled open the lid and blinked.
It was beautiful. A long, chunky silver chain twisted down to a smooth silver heart, which was adorned with a few diamond-like stones and embossed with a few twisting golden lines. Sliding my nail under the groove at the side – now I really wish that I’d repainted my nails – I popped the lid open and smiled.
In one half was Hogwarts, an illuminated picture of the castle at dusk with the windows alight, and in the other half was a tiny picture of Dom, Penny and I, when we were all about fourteen. I was wearing a dodgy flowery shirt; Dom was wrapped in a towel over her swimming costume and Penny was trying to block out the camera with a textbook the size of a boulder.
Picture-Summer waved up at me, and Picture-Dom cocked a hip and waggled her fingers. Picture-Penny tried even harder to stop the camera from focusing on her, but Picture-Dom was having none of it.
I smiled down fondly at them, and leaned up to give Jack a soft kiss.
There was something about the fact that Jack hadn’t tried to give me a heart necklace with a picture of him in it that made it so much more special; he had put something in it that he already knew I loved. I probably would have freaked if he’d tried to put a picture of himself inside it. Though I didn’t mind when James made that photo montage of the two of us.
“Thank you, I love it,” I smiled, kissing him on the cheek. Jack grinned.
“Really? You really like it?” He asked.
“Of course I like it, twat,” I smiled again and kissed him gently on this lips, “Why did you think I wouldn’t?”
“I dunno. I was convinced you were going to chuck it at my head and tell me to never come anywhere near you again.” I cocked an eyebrow.
“I don’t know why you lot all think I’m the devil incarnate, you know,” I rolled my eyes, and Jack quickly leaned into give me another. Smart move.
“Do you want your present now?” I asked against his lips, but he just grunted.
“Nah, give to me later. Right now you can snog me, woman.”
“Summer! Summer! Over here, honey! Yoo-hoo! Here! I’m over here!” Kill. Me. Now.
My mother was waving to me from across the platform, decked out in a powder blue skirt suit and some matching blue court shoes, two strings of pearls around her neck and the insanely expensive bag dad bought her for Christmas last year swinging on her arm.
“Summer! Your father is parking the car, so I said I’d come and wait for you,” I smiled at her and dropped my trunk onto the ground next to her feet. Dad would put that on a trolley when he got here.
Mum seized me by the shoulders and leant back, her eyes scanning my face, my hair, my clothes – maybe an oversized jumper and leggings weren’t the best choice for going home – with her pained expression like she’d been sucking on lemons. As she rubbed the ends of her hair between her fingers – I don’t know, she thinks it tells her whether my hair is healthy or not – I noticed that her own hair had been highlighted, the pale brown now filled with delicate blonde streaks.
“I’ll have Francois come over and give your hair a trim, sweetpea, it’s looking a little raggedy at the ends...” I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.
“I’m trying to grow my hair, Mum – I don’t want it cut.” My mum frowned, her perfectly pencilled eyebrows furrowing.
“You’ll have to have it cut, Summer, it will need to look nice and presentable for the Ministry dinner we’re having on Christmas Eve – your father would not appreciate either of us not looking our best.”
I frowned. There seemed to be something a little off with my mum – something strange had flitted across her face the moment she’d mentioned my dad. Has something happened? Don’t tell me he’s got a new hobby. There’s only so many times I can listen to him telling me the merits of hunting ducks as opposed to deer.
The screeching of metallic wheels alerted me to my father’s arrival, and the sound of his fancy business shoes clacking against the cold stone of the platform.
“Summer,” he said quietly, leaning forwards to wrap one arm around my shoulder and pull me into an awkward half-hug, “You look well, my love. You could do with a haircut, though,”
I raised my eyebrows quickly and helped him pull my trunk onto the trolley, knowing that if I left him to do it then I’d be treated to another rant about how just because he was the man didn’t mean he was going to do all the hard graft, and he still had a bad back from having the flu back in 1997.
“Right, well, let’s go,” Dad said suddenly, turning the trolley around and briskly walking away, “I don’t like leaving the car parked here, it’s probably going to get robbed...”
And we walked away, my dad pushing the trolley, my mum swanning along behind him, fiddling with the diamond bracelet on her wrist, and me dawdling behind them, keeping an eye out for any of the Looney Crew.
I caught James’ eye just before I got to the barrier, and he offered me a small smile. I twitched my lips back at him just as he raised his wrist, pulled his shirt sleeve up and shot me a flash of my watch on his wrist. I shot him a real smile and sank through the wall.
Gravel crunched beneath the tyres of the car as we pulled up the long driveway, right to the house that was perched on the top of our hill. Lancaster Hill – my dad had the name changed when he bought it. Our three other cars were parked next the fountain, the muggle gardener hacking away at some hedge next to one of the flowerbeds.
The house itself was ridiculously large. There was no need for it to be that big, not when there were only three people in the family. But my dad was one of those men that had to have the best of everything, just so he could brag about it to the rest of his Ministry friends.
They’re all just a load of baboons in business suits, the lot of them.
The house was Victorian, all small windows and ivy and black planks of wood crossed underneath the overhang of the roof. The door was double, a deep shade of brown, decorated with a giant number 10. Curling golden snakes made the door handle, just to remind the family of our Slytherin roots.
My dad nearly pissed himself when he found out I was in Gryffindor.
When I was home for Christmas in first year, and he didn’t know I could hear him, I could hear him telling my mum that he thought it was a betrayal to the family – as though it was something I chose.
I would have been happy being in Slytherin with Scorpius.
My mum would have none of it – she was a Slytherin too, but she told him right off that it didn’t matter what house I was in because I was still the same person. Regardless, we’d both learned to keep our gobs shut when it came to Hogwarts houses.
My dad pulled up in the last parking space, popped the boot of the car open with his key and headed off to the house, leaving me to get the trunk out of the boot.
Of course. We wouldn’t want to bring back your old flu injury, Daddy.
I dragged the trunk up the drive to the house, where Minty soon took it and sent it up to my wing. My mother had disappeared, presumably to talk to one of her equally stuck up trophy wife friends, or flick through Madame Malkin catalogues for more insanely expensive dresses for me.
My dad was probably off spending money on something flashy and unnecessary.
Well, what a nice welcome home.
As the silence around the dining table – which is a mahogany affair that seats sixteen, I would like to point out – reached a level that was just plain uncomfortable, I found myself shifting in my dress.
The thing was just plain itchy. Why do I have to wear a dress, smart shoes and make myself clean and presentable just to eat dinner in my own house? Back last summer, when I was round at James’ most days, we actually wore our swimming costumes to eat dinner because it was freakishly hot.
And here, my mother is actually wearing white dinner gloves.
It’s not even like there is anyone here to see her dressed like that. I think it’s just so she and Dad can remind themselves of how rich they are.
As I took a deep sip of mulled wine and tried to pick the steak out of my teeth with my tongue – what can I say, I was raised to be classy – as my mum put down her fork, nodded slightly at my dad and stared gravely at me.
I stopped chewing.
“Summer, I’m afraid we need to talk to you about something quite serious,” Mum said quietly, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. I put my glass back down and stared between her and dad. It was only now I noticed that neither of them were wearing their wedding rings – you can tell with my mum, the thing is about the size of the iceberg that the Titanic hit.
What the bloody fuck is going on?
“Summer, I’m sure you’ve been able to tell from a while now that your father and I haven’t been the happiest...” My mum murmured softly, reaching across the table to grasp my hand. The sapphire ring on her finger dug into me.
My dad shifted in his seat and shot my mother a warning glance.
“Well, we’re not happy, Summer. When you’re not home, we don’t even eat meals together. We – well, your father and I didn’t marry because we were in love, we married because pureblood families were dying out, what with the amount of them in prison after Harry Potter put an end to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named – and my father and your dad’s father insisted we married. I mean, we made a choice, duty to our families, over love. And that was fine for us. But we can no longer make it work, or pretend we’re happy. We all deserve to be happy, Summer. You understand, don’t you?” My mum stared at me sadly.
I struggled to swallow.
“What – what are you saying?” I asked, my voice raising several octaves.
“We’re getting divorced.” My dad said brusquely, taking a deep swig from the glass of whiskey that Minty had just refilled for him.
My mouth fell open.
“What – what do you mean, you’re getting divorced? I mean, I’m not stupid, I’ve known for a while that you’re not happy, but... you don’t need to divorce! I mean, you can just separate for now, and then, if you still don’t work, then...” I trailed off as my mother’s eyes filled with tears and my dad shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
I glared at the pair of them.
“What aren’t you telling me?” I snapped.
“We need to get a divorce, Summer,” my Mum said quietly, shooting a glance at my father.
“Why?” I said shortly. My dad sat up straight and looked directly at me with the bright blue eyes that I inherited.
“Because I’m marrying someone else, Summer – and until I’m divorced, I can’t get married again.”
My world flipped upside down.
My mum breathed out sharply through her nose and pressed her lips together. My heart went out to her, but I was too angry to comfort her. No, I’d surpassed angry. I was flat out pissed.
“You’re marrying someone else? Oh, and when were you planning on introducing your daughter to this mystery woman, Daddy?” I sneered, and my dad’s mouth dropped open.
“Don’t you talk to me like that, young lady –” Dad started, but I didn’t give a fuck what he had to say.
“No, you don’t talk to me like that! You cheated on Mum! How could you do that? Let me guess, she’s some blonde bint that’s about five years older than me – she’s gonna be a gold-digging whore, I can already tell – and just... urgh! I am so pissed at you! How could you do this? Where are mum and I going to live? You can the new bitch are probably going to live here, so what about us? Or do you not give a shit now you’re going to have a spanking new family?”
My dad’s mouth fell open.
“You’re going to live with me and Louise, Summer, and your mother is moving back in with her parents until I find an appropriate house to purchase for her. You’ll visit in the holidays.”
I laughed. A blood-curdling, hair-raising, dog-killing, bone-chilling laugh.
“You’re seriously fucked in the head if you think I’m going to live with you,” I said quietly, “I’d rather live with Nana and Grandpa Greengrass than live with you and the whore – tell me, do you call her Lulu yet?”
“Mind your language!” Dad kicked his chair back and got to his feet. Tears had begun to leak out of the corners of my eyes and my breathing was erratic as more hatred than I had ever felt before began to possess me.
“DO NOT TELL ME WHAT TO DO!” I screamed. “YOU’VE FUCKING DESTROYED OUR FAMILY. I FUCKING HATE YOU!”
My mother clapped her hands to her face and leaned down to face the table as my father flushed the colour of a beetroot. I stepped back from the table and spun blindly on the spot, not knowing where I was aiming for – anywhere that would make me feel better.
I was squeezed through a tight tube, spinning in an abyss until my feet slammed to the ground. I blinked through my tears, which were falling uncontrollably now, and peered at the house in confusion.
My stomach dropped when I realised where my brain had chosen to take me.
Somewhere that would make me feel better.
I staggered to the door and hammered on it, leaning against the doorframe as I tried to control my insane sobbing – I wasn’t even that upset, I was just so angry – how could he do that to us? Push Mum back into moving in with her parents so he could marry someone else.
The... the bastard.
The door was pulled open and Albus Potter blinked back at me, his mouth hanging slightly agape as he peered at my pathetic, curled up form on his doorstep. I opened my mouth to tell him what I wanted, but he didn’t even need to be told.
Stepping back, he turned around and hollered, “JAMES! GET DOWN HERE NOW! QUICK!”, at the top of his lungs.
James’ feet hammered on the stairs, and suddenly he was in front of me. Like his brother, his mouth dropped open, and then he was shoving Albus out of the way to get to me – actually, I think he just wanted to shove Albus – and pulling me into his arms.
“Summer, what happened?” He asked frantically, pulling me into his chest and smoothing down the back of my hair with the palm of one of his hands. I didn’t answer, but continued to sob, breathing in the special James Smell and letting him rock me sideways.
And we stood like that for I don’t know how long, until Albus sloped off somewhere else, until a light layer of drizzle started to fall from the sky, until Ginny Potter pulled the curtains back and peered out to see what was going on. But eventually, he spoke again.
“Summer, tell me what happened.”
“They’re getting divorced,” I murmured, “They’re getting divorced, and my dad is marrying someone else, and my mum is going to have to move out the house and in with Nana Greengrass, and the new woman is called Lulu and everything is changing and wrong and I don’t know what to do and – and–” James swore under his breath as I started to cry again.
“Summer, no, everything is going to be fine, I promise. I’m here, I’m here, please stop crying,” James whispered into my hair, “You know I hate it when you cry.”
After a minute, I wiped my nose on the back of my hand – yeah, I’m such a lady – and pulled away, taking James hand and squeezing it tight in both of mine.
“I’m so sorry about this,” I said roughly, my voice sounding like one of the Weird Sisters with all the crying, “You’re really pissed off with me right now and I just show up on your door crying... I should go. I’m sorry to bother you, you don’t need this,” I went to pull away but James pulled me back into his chest.
“Don’t be insane,” James said flatly, “Anything for you, Summer. I thought you knew that.” I buried my face in his chest again.
He kissed the top of my hair.
“It’s alright, you’re okay,” James said softly, taking me by the hand and pulling me into his house, up the stairs and into his bedroom. And as he dropped onto his bed, I took him by surprise and curled up on his knee.
He closed his arms around my waist and started to rock me gently again, and you know what? I actually started to feel better. So we stayed there, in our strange position, for hours, James just rocking me as I breathed into his neck, his fingers tracing patterns on my arms.
And everything was going to be okay.
I knew it was.
Because James promised it would be.
disclaimer: nothing in this chapter belongs to me, it all belongs to the respective owners.
so, bit of a faster update this time. i don't have much to say here... so any thoughts on the chapter?
ellie :) xx
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