Chapter 21 : The Twenty-First One
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“James, it’s me,” Ginny called through the door, “Can I come in?” I went to climb off James’ knee, but he wrapped his arms tighter around my waist and kissed my temple.
“Sure, come in,” James called back.
Ginny pushed the door open softly and poked her head around, her red hair swinging underneath her face. A woman with three teenage children should not be so good looking. I hope I look like that when I’m in my forties.
“I was just wondering if you’d like to stay here for the night, Summer,” Ginny smiled, subtly dropping down another box of tissues onto James’ chest of drawers. I blinked a couple of times and wiped underneath my eyes with the back of my hand.
“Are you sure?” I muttered, and James rubbed his hands softly up the backs of my arms.
Ginny smiled fondly at me, and I was a little pissed to see that she looked sympathetic. I don’t need sympathy; it’s not me that’s getting the divorce. I need my dad to drop off the face of the planet.
“Of course,” Ginny smiled again, “I’ve sent an owl to your mum and dad to let them know where you are, so they won’t worry, and I told them you’d be staying.” I nodded and leant my head back against James’ chest. “If you come with me, I’m sure we can find you something of Lily’s to sleep in, you’re about the same height.”
I nodded and crawled off James’ knee and headed into the hallway with Ginny, who instantly wrapped an arm and around my shoulder and stated to tow us off to the door covered in pictures of Oliver Wood.
Damn, that mine is fine. I don’t give a flying fuck if he’s in his forties now.
Ginny didn’t even bother to knock this time; she just shoved the door open with her free hand and pulled us into the violently pink room.
I think my eyeballs might have exploded.
Everything was pink – pale pink walls with a hot pink border, hot pink carpet, hot pink bedspread and hot pink curtains around the four poster, pale pink wardrobes and chest of drawers, pink teddies everywhere, pink lampshade, pink curtains, a giant pink canvas covered in pictures of pink roses...
“Hey Lily, what’s your favourite colour?” I asked weakly, and Ginny laughed from next to me.
“Lily, do me a favour, find something comfy for Summer to sleep in?” Ginny said, and Lily rolled off her hot pink beanbag and crossed the room to one of her wardrobes.
Ginny slipped out the door behind me with a comforting smile and closed the door softly behind her, leaving me alone with Lily in a room that could give Dolores Umbridge’s office a run for its money.
Lily rooted around in the wardrobe, pulled out a soft grey pair of jogging pants and a stretchy pink t-shirt, and tossed them to me.
“I’ll close my eyes if you want to get changed,” Lily smiled, dropping down onto the bed and clapping her – you guessed it – pink pillow over her eyes. I rolled my eyes a little and pulled the clothes on, praying that a gust of wind wouldn’t suddenly blow in through the closed window and make Lily drop the pillow.
After I’d dressed, I glanced in the mirror and started slightly. My eyes were the same colour as Lily’s room, and practically the size of pinheads.
Attractive, Summer, attractive.
“Well, thanks for the clothes,” I said slowly, and went to head out the door, but Lily called me back before I had so much as reached for the doorknob.
“Actually, Summer, I was wondering if I could have a word,” she said, and I raised my eyebrows. Slowly making my way over to the bed and dropping down next to her, I brought my knees up under my chin and waited for her to start to speak.
“Look, Summer, we both know about all the shit that’s happened between Albus and James,” Lily started, and I took to staring a patch of pink wall above her head to avoid looking in her eyes.
“Yeah, I know,” I said quietly.
“And I know that what happened with you and Albus made everything even worse,” I flushed slightly and started to pick at the new nail varnish on my fingers. It’s hard to believe I painted these a few hours ago because my mum can’t stand chipped nails.
“Yeah, I imagine it did,” I muttered.
“And you know why James is so pissed off with you, right?” Lily asked slowly. I blinked up at her in confusion. I thought we were talking about James and Albus.
“Well, because I snogged his brother, I suppose,” I shrugged. This is not the kind of conversation you want to have with the little sister of the two blokes. She probably thinks I’m some kind of man-eating slag.
Which I’m not. Shut up.
“Well, yeah, but you do know why he was so pissed that you snogged his brother... right?” I frowned at Lily. Yeah, I know exactly why. Because I’d been snogging James, agreed not to snog anyone else, convinced myself he was getting back with his ex, got pissed, snogged his brother and then started dating the ex boyfriend of his little cousin. But does she know that?
She seems to know everything.
Maybe she’s omnipotent.
“Uhm... yeah. But I’m not sure you know why James is so pissed off with me,” I said slowly, and Lily actually rolled her eyes. Shit, does she know? Did James tell her? I’ll murder him.
“Please, anyone who bothers to take their head out their own arse and look at the pair of you can tell,” Lily rolled her eyes good naturedly as mine widened. Anyone can tell? But we tried super hard to be mega sneaky ninjas!
“What do you mean?” I asked slowly, and Lily stared at my face for a moment, looking confused.
“I mean, anyone can tell that James is in love with you... you do know that, right?” I thought Lily was joking. I honest to Merlin believed that she was joking. But one glance at her serious expression told me that she was being serious, that she honestly believed what she was saying.
And that’s when the laughter started.
It felt like I hadn’t laughed in so long, given that I’d spent the last three hours sobbing stupidly into James’ chest, and so the laughter was even more hysterical than it should have been. My hair flopped into my face and I clutched my heaving stomach through Lily’s shirt as I struggled for air.
The idea was just so insane. If James ‘loved’ me, then don’t you think he’d have, oh, I don’t know... asked me out on a date?
“Lily, I hate you burst your bubble, darling, but James is not in love with me. I promise you.” Lily’s face fell, and for one horrible moment I was worried that she was going to cry.
“Does that mean you’re not in love with him?” Lily asked quietly, looking quite heartbroken.
The question brought me up short. I opened and closed my mouth a few times, fishing around for anything that would get me out of answering the question, before I settled on telling her the truth.
“Lily, I have a boyfriend – a boyfriend that isn’t James,” Lily’s mouth fell open.
“I didn’t know that...” She murmured, flushing a little. I rolled my eyes and nudged her in the ribs. You know, I quite like Lily Potter. She’s pretty chill. I can’t pull off calling people ‘chill’, can I?
“I do love James, I do – but I’m not in love with him. And I’m pretty sure he feels the same way about me – or at least, he used to.” I glanced away for a second, troubled. “But we’re not in love with each other, we’re just friends – in fact, we’re barely that anymore.”
“Right,” Lily deadpanned, “That’s why you showed up on his doorstep when you were crying your eyes out. I notice that you didn’t head off to your boyfriend’s house.” I glanced down at my fingers.
Fuck, she’s smart.
Why couldn’t James have a stupid sister?
“Look, Lily...” I started, but she held up a hand to silence me.
“Just don’t hurt him again, Summer. That awful blonde bitch fucked him up enough, and completely ruined his relationship with Albus – and what you did didn’t really help the situation.” She cocked an eyebrow at me. “And I want you to know that yes, you pissed him off, but you also really hurt him. And I’ve told you why that is...”
I glared at her.
“He’s not in lo –”Again, she cut me off.
“But Summer, I won’t let you hurt him again. Just decide where you stand with him, and stick to it. I won’t have him hurt any more than he already has been. He’s the last person in the world to deserve it.”
I know he is. That’s why I feel so shit for messing him around.
“Alright. Thanks, Lily.” I said awkwardly offering her a strange half smile. If I was Dom, I would have given her a hug. But I’m not Dom, and the only person I hug is James, so I think I’ll just sit here looking miserable.
But Lily had different ideas, because she half lunged across the bed and flattened me in a hug, pecked me on the cheek – oh good Lord – and then smiled.
“I’ll see you in the morning, I’ll make sure that Albus and James leave some food for you,” Lily smiled, and I twitched my wrist at her in some semblance of a grateful wave.
I’d just stepped out into the hall, wondering vaguely how many heating charms the Potters used to keep their house so toasty and warm – it’s like walking in a house-sized fridge at night in the winter, back at home – when I was ambushed by Ginny Weasley, who stepped out of a bedroom behind me making no noise.
Alright, maybe ambushed wasn’t the right word.
“Summer, you alright, darling?” I shrieked slightly and leapt half a foot in the air. “Is this bedroom alright for you, for tonight?” She gestured to the room she had just exited, and I had to work to contain my surprise.
I’d just assumed I’d be in James’ room.
“Yeah, yes, that’s fine – thank you, Ginny,” I smiled, and she leaned forwards to give me a quick hug. I always feel rude calling her Ginny, but she always tells me off if I try to call her Mrs Potter. She says it makes her feel old.
James’ door opened as she released me, and he looked a little surprised to see me heading into one of their spare bedrooms.
“Where are you going?” He asked me, and I cocked an eyebrow.
Well, if I’m walking into the spare bedroom in pyjamas, as directed by your mother, then I think it’s pretty obvious that I’m going on a hike around the plains of the Sahara Desert. Merlin, James, use that thing that you like to call your brain.
“Summer’s sleeping in this room tonight,” Ginny smiled at her son, but her eyes were narrowed slightly in warning.
“No, she’s sleeping in my room,” James said flatly, taking a couple of steps down the hall and seizing me by the wrist, “She came here because she wanted to talk to me, she’s not spending the night on her own in the spare bedroom.”
Ginny cocked an eyebrow.
“James, sweetheart, I really don’t think it’s appropriate to let you and Summer share a bed,”She cocked an eyebrow as I flushed, but James looked quite unabashed, “I mean, how do you think Summer’s parents would feel if they found out that I’d let their seventeen year old daughter spend the night in my seventeen year old son’s bed?”
“They probably wouldn’t care,” I muttered, and James pulled me closer to his chest.
“Besides, as a responsible mother, I have to –” James’ expression was nothing short of mortified as he realised where his mother was going to go with this.
“Mum, she has a boyfriend!” James said quickly, and Ginny’s mouth fell slack.
“What?” Ginny asked. “A boyfriend that isn’t you, you mean?” James flushed the colour of a traffic light and stared down at the toes of his slippers as though his life depended on it. I rested my head on his chest.
“His name is Jack,” I said quietly, and Ginny’s eyebrows nearly disappeared into her hairline.
“Oh. Well... well, I suppose there is no harm in you spending the night in James’ room,” Ginny muttered distractedly, fiddling with the ends of her long red hair. I smiled a little at her, and she did return it, but there seemed to be something a little off.
But before I had a chance to look any closer, James had seized my wrist and was tugging me back to his bedroom, snapping the door shut behind us and kicking off his slippers.
I curled up on the end of the bed, my knees under my chin.
I was just about to say something to James when Ginny hammered on the door.
“Just keep it clean, you two!” She called, and James flushed the colour of a radish with bad sunburn.
“Mum!” He yelled back, but she’d already left. I laughed at his expression.
“Sorry about that,” he muttered, dropping down next to me on the bed and pulling me back into his arms. I breathed in the special James Smell – you know, one day I’m going to figure out what he actually smells like, because it’s not any body lotion I’ve ever smelled before – “She’s so bloody embarrassing.”
“What mother isn’t?” I murmured, wrapping my arms around him and pressing my face into his t-shirt. James chuckled and kissed the top of my head.
“So, are you going to talk to me about it, or just sit there in silence and let it eat you like usual?”
“Sit here in silence and let it eat me like usual,” I muttered back, and he moved his hand from my waist so he could flick me on the side of the forehead.
If he had given me brain damage then he’s the one that would have had to pay my medical bills.
And buy me several of those helium balloons with sympathetic cats on the front.
And boxes and boxes of my favourite chocolates. And bottles of Firewhiskey, and baskets of muffins, and a personal Healer to come in and wash my hair for me every day. And he’d have to buy me special silk pyjamas to wear when I get moved to the public ward. You know, I don’t know why sick people complain all the time – it sounds like the life.
Well, you know, other than the part about being sick.
“That’s not good for you, Summer,” James said, lying back on the bed and assuming some kind of freakish crab position so he could tug the duvet down from under his back. He slid under the covers and cocked his head to the side to instruct me to do the same.
As I crawled under the covers with him, I realised that I really hadn’t thought this through.
Sure, share a bed with James Potter sounds simple enough on paper, but in real life? It’s a lot harder than you think, and a lot more awkward. I mean, he’s got a double bed. There is no need for us to be pressed so close together.
I mean... Jack. My boyfriend. Right. I wouldn’t like it if he spent the night with another girl, so I shouldn’t really... well, James is a friend, so it doesn’t really count. And anyway, Jack doesn’t have to find out – what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.
“C’mere, you’re freezing,” James said suddenly, wrapping one of his arms around my stomach and waist and pulling me onto his chest, so my nose was nestled in the crook of his neck.
You know, now he mentions it, I am pretty cold.
I slipped my arms down and tucked them into his sides, because James suddenly seemed to have taken on the properties of a space heater and was warming me up good and proper. James chuckled slightly into the darkness, but made no effort to speak.
After about fifteen minutes of silence, during which my eyes became so heavy that I was right on the verge of dropping off, James spoke again.
“If someone had told me this would be happening a week ago, then I’d never have believed them.” James whispered into the blackness, and I smiled a little into his neck.
“If someone had told me this would be happening this morning then I would never have believed them.” James chuckled again, his chest moving up and down slightly. I suddenly had to resist the urge to start kissing his neck. It must be something about sleeping in his bed.
Does funny things to my brain, you know.
The silence was comfortable, settling around us like a blanket as we both lay there, intertwined in the darkness for a while. It was peaceful.
“Summer – why... back in Hogsmeade, when I told you that I had missed you, why did you – why did you not say anything back?” James spoke into the silence, his hand loosening slightly on my stomach, and I could tell that it was so he could pull away at any moment if he needed to.
“I did say something back. I stammered ‘I’ a lot.” I retorted quietly, my voice thick from crying and the silence of the last twenty minutes.
James sighed slightly in the darkness and shifted as though he might be putting a little distance between us, and instantly I panicked. I tightened my arms around his waist so he couldn’t move and pressed my nose even deeper into the space between his shoulder, neck and hair. James’ pillow smells like him. I may have to steal it.
“Don’t be a smartarse with me, Summer,” James snapped, patronisation practically dripping from his words all over the duvets. I pouted like nobody’s business.
“Well if you don’t want me to be a smartarse, what do you want me to say?” I asked quietly, and James’ entire body tensed. His arm tightened around my back and I was pressed so tightly against him that his hip was probably going to bruise my stomach.
There was no way we could have slept like that; we would have been like mummified corpses for the whole night.
Silence fell like a curtain between us, but James’ grip didn’t relent. My unanswered question hung in the air.
“I want you to tell me how you feel,” James eventually said, and my eyes flew open so fast that I could have slit his throat with my eyelashes. My throat had gone dry.
I don’t talk about emotions, he knows that. That’s the fucking reason I didn’t tell him I missed him on that disaster of a day out. I didn’t even like having to feel the emotions, let alone having to voice them to someone who would hear and therefore remember how I felt. Feelings are shit. I would turn myself into an emotionless robot in a heartbeat if I was given the option.
“I know you do,” I whispered, once again proving my excellence at being the queen of the cop out answers.
“Tell me, please. I don’t give a shit what you’re telling me about, but tell me how you feel – your parents, your friends, everything that happened today, your crying... me. Just tell me how you feel.” I pressed my lips together.
I really, really didn’t want to.
James shifted the hand that wasn’t strangling my waist and lifted the arm of mine that was resting across his chest, lacing his fingers with mine and bringing my hand up to brush my fingernails with his lips.
“Talk to me, Summer. For once in your life, talk to me.”
“I talk to you all the time,” I whispered, and James suddenly turned on his side so our chests were pressed together, nose to nose, eye to eye, sternum to... well, boobs. I’m sure he wasn’t too upset about that.
“I mean talk to me, Summer. Please.” My eyes had adjusted to the blackness now, and the way James’ eyes were boring into mine nearly put me back onto the brink of tears.
I gulped down the excessive amounts of my spit that had suddenly arrived in my mouth, uninvited – hey, whoever said I wasn’t a lady? – and then parted my lips. I was going to do this. I was going to trust him. I was going to do it.
“I... missed... you, James. A lot.” The words were staccato, disjointed, like a badly made jigsaw puzzle, but they were out there. I couldn’t suddenly transfigure into a Hoover and suck them back out of the atmosphere and into my head, where no one could ever hear them.
James’ jaw slackened, before twitching up into a proper James Potter Smile. Not the James Smirk, but a much rarer occurrence – a James Potter Smile. The charming, ovary-exploding smile I missed so much.
“Really?” I rolled my eyes.
“You were my best friend, you fucker, and then you stopped speaking to me. Of course I missed you. And so did the charms and transfiguration classrooms of Hogwarts.” I winked at him and his lips twitched up into the James Smirk.
I missed that more than I thought I had. I wanted to kiss it off his lips.
“Past tense?” James said suddenly, the smile dropping off his face a little. I blinked, not understand what the bloody fuck he was rambling on about.
“What you on about?” I slurred sleepily, snuggling into James’ chest a little and pressing my head further into his cloud pillow. James tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and kissed my temple one more time, before snuggling down next to me.
“You said it in the past tense,” James said quietly, and listened but kept my eyes closed, “You said ‘you were my best friend’. Do you not reckon we’re best friends anymore?”
My eyes cracked open.
“James, this is the first time we’ve properly spoken in a month, and before that it was another month before you’d spoken to me. Once a month isn’t really a wonderful sign of best friendship, I have to say.” I kissed his chest through his t-shirt. He should sleep shirtless. Even if it is the winter. He can freeze to death, but at least I’ll have a nice view.
“Funny, because I think we look pretty best friendly right now,” James muttered, and I couldn’t help but feel a small urge to smile. I didn’t smile, but I felt the urge to. And that was something.
“Alright then, James. You’ll always be my best friend.” I offered him a giant, movie star style grin and he rolled his eyes good naturedly, but something seemed a little off.
“Yeah, best friends forever... excellent.” I frowned. Is he being sarcastic?
“Oi, you’d be lucky to have me as a best friend forever, I’ll have you know!” I protested, but my admonishment was cut short by the fact a yawn that a train could have driven through possessed my face, stretching my mouth out to inhumane proportions.
I could have entered the Cirque du Soleil with that freakishly flexible mouth.
“Yeah, lucky, that’s the word,” James rolled his eyes and pulled me back down to his chest. Before I could think of a snappy retort, the heaviness in my swollen eyelids had taken over and I fell asleep, tucked into James’ side.
“JAMES, SUMMER!” A voice yelled from outside the door.”I WANT TO COME IN, BUT IF I GET IN THERE IN FIVE SECONDS AND YOU TWO ARE NAKED THEN I WILL – well, I’ll ridicule you for life – BUT I WILL ALSO BLOODY MURDER THE PAIR OF YOU. SO GET DRESSED. NOW.”
I stirred a little against James’ chest.
“Fuck off, Lilibrat,” James slurred from underneath me, swatting a hand in the air ever so slightly, as though that might make Lily, who was on the other side of the door, go away.
Not likely, Jimmy, my pet.
“So you are naked? Is that why you don’t want me to come in?” Lily called, but she didn’t sound horrified enough for my tastes. This isn’t because of what she told me yesterday, is it? Her stupid little – wrong – theory.
“No, we bloody aren’t starkers, but we are tired, so bloody go away.” James shifted slightly in the bed and I was twisted slightly on his chest, so one of my legs curled upwards over both of his, my face resting on the side of his chest. I ran a splayed hand up his chest and wrapped it around the shoulder that was away from me, so I could hug him to me.
After receiving confirmation that James and I were in fact clothed, Lily seemed to disregard the rest of James’ sentence. Pushing the door open, she breezed into the room, bringing with her a lovely batch of blinding light.
Squinting and groaning, I pressed my face harder into James’ chest to try and bloke out the light.
“You two, I was told to come and get you up for breakfast. Mum’s made bacon and eggs because Summer is here, and Albus is eating the stuff so fast that you’re probably not going to get any if you don’t get a move on.” James grunted at her.
“’Kay.” James slurred, and I nodded into his chest. Easier than speaking. But Lily still didn’t go away.
She just stood by the door, all annoying and awake and... there. She didn’t even say anything. She just stood there and stared at us. Annoyingly. Blinking and everything.
“Lilitwat... can we help you?” James eventually asked, groaning and shifting slightly.
“You guys do realise that you’re in a double bed, and yet you’re both squeezed into the tiniest gap imaginable together? I mean, you both have enough room for two other people on either side. You look like Siamese twins. It’s going to take you half an hour just to detangle yourselves.” James stuck his finger up at her.
Lily looked like she was finally going to get the hint and leave, but as she reached the door, she turned around and said the one thing that would have caused me to knock her out, had I been properly awake.
“You know, you two are going to make the most gorgeous couple one day,” Lily grinned, and then – and then, she closed the door so we couldn’t shout at her.
Well, James couldn’t have shouted at her anyway because he was too busy choking on his own saliva. To try and save the situation, I started to ramble.
“Right, should we get up? I only had two bites of caviar last night before I left, and I didn’t have any lunch on the train, so I’m fucking starved. I feel like my stomach is going to randomly combust. Then you’ll have to go around your room and pick up all the little bits of Summer stomach.” James blinked at me and then started to laugh, kissed the top of my head and then shoved me off the bed and onto the floor.
“Get ready to go down to breakfast, then,” James smiled, and I hauled myself off the bed to start pulling on my clothes. James rolled his eyes slightly and cocked an eyebrow at me.
“Turn around, perv,” I snapped playfully, and James pursed his lips, showing a remarkable likeness to my grandmother.
“Well, if you don't want my wonderful company, then fine,” James grinned and leaned down towards me, to my pathetic position all curled up on the floor. His face was hovering above me, and the small distance between our faces took me back to when this was a regular occurrence.
Subconsciously, without even thinking about, I was leaning up slightly to press my lips against his, just like I normally would if we were this close, but James seemed to realise what was going to happen before it did.
Raising the index finger of one of his hands, he pressed it against my lips and stopped me getting any closer to him.
He tapped my lips with his fingers, an arrogant smirk on his face, and then leaned down to brush his lips against my ear.
“You,” he murmured, “have a boyfriend, missy. That means you’re not supposed to try to kiss other blokes. Maybe you should work on that.”
With a quick forehead smacker and a flick to the side of the head, James turned around and carried on getting ready. With nothing but the dress I had arrived in last night, and thinking that I was probably going to look like a walk of shame, I hauled myself off the floor and started getting ready.
I just stole James’ toothbrush.
“Oh, thank Merlin you’re home,” Mum simpered, jumping out of the armchair and folding me into the most awkward hug in the history of the universe. I kept my eyes still by my sides, my spine poker straight and not relenting at all.
Mum dropped her arms a moment later, and stared down at the floor as steady footsteps came into the room front behind me. I didn’t even bother to turn around – I didn’t want to look at him. I felt like I would have been sick if I had to look at his face, so smug with undeserving pride because his family name bought him a decent job at the ministry.
“If you ever talk to me like that again, or walk out without telling me where you’re going, you will be in big trouble, young lady, do you understand me?” My father’s voice was cold, sharp. My mum was begging me with her eyes to be polite to him.
“Yes,” I muttered.
“Don’t speak to me in that ungrateful tone. I’ve given you a lifestyle most children could only dream of.” He snapped, and I glared at the floor, my back still facing him. “Upon your... demand, you will live with your mother and grandparents, starting from your next break from school.”
I nodded at the floor, anger surging up my veins. In that moment, with anger making my head pound, I found myself wishing I had spoken to James about how I felt about it – maybe it would have made me deal with it better.
“On Christmas Eve, a large selection of influential men from the ministry, like myself, will be coming here for a dinner party to celebrate the large donation your mother and I are making to St Mungos.”
“Fine,” I sighed, knowing it would be another night of me in a cocktail dress, sipping disgusting champagne that tasted like bubbly chemicals and being hit on by men in their fifties that had gotten bladdered and could no longer tell how old I was.
Oh, and a night of being polite to a load of up-themselves men and women wearing jewellery that cost more than our house.
“They do not know about the impending divorce, and I do not intend them to. Your mother and I will be acting as though we are together, and you will not say anything. Do you understand?” His tone was chilling, testing me. I glared harder at the floor.
Dad crossed the room swiftly, picked up a bottle of amber whiskey in a glass bottle with a giant crystal stopper from a table in the corner, a faceted glass from a tray next to it and filled it halfway, before adding some ice from a small silver bucket.
I glared at him. Where does he think he is, a bar in the middle of the Caribbean?
“And Summer – you will be on your best behaviour. No swearing, no eye-rolling and no mouthing off to important ministry officials. Or there will be consequences. Am I making myself quite clear to you?” Dad stared at me over the top of the glass as he took a deep sip, and I snapped my head back around so I once again had my back to him.
“Yes,” I muttered.
“Good.” And with that, Dad turned on his heel and left the room, leaving my mother and I staring at the floor, refusing to look at one another.
“Summer, I-” She started, but I found that I just didn’t want to hear it.
“I don’t care,” I sighed, turning on my heel and following the path that my father had just taken. I just wanted to be back at Hogwarts. Or back at James’. One of the two.
“You look beautiful, darling,” Mother smiled, gently patting my cheek with the hand that was not clutching a glass of stupidly expensive champagne. I glared at the glass, because it represented everything I had despised about my upbringing.
“Thanks,” I said shortly. She sighed, and I almost rolled my eyes with relief. For the past five days, she had been trying in vain to get me to speak to her, making idle chitchat and trying to talk about things that you don’t even want to imagine that your mother thinks about.
The moment she’d started talking about her worries about the menopause, I’d screamed.
That shut her up fast enough.
“Look, Summer, I know you’re angry with... everyone, but I have a little surprise for you.” Mum smiled at me hopefully and resisted the urge to roll my eyes again. Most likely it was another bank breaking piece of jewellery that I would refuse to wear.
“What is it?” I grumbled, when she didn’t explain further. She smiled like it was all some big secret. I glared harder at the glass, wondering if it would pull a Harry Potter in the Zoo and just smash by the power of my peepers.
Judging by its consistently solid form, it wouldn’t.
Grabbing me by the elbow, she spun the pair of us around on the spot and gestured to the family that had just walked through the door, and were being greeted with a cool handshake and nod of recognition from my father. A family that I had never expected to see in our house.
A family containing a red headed woman and a red headed girl, both looking beautiful in long dresses. A family that contained three men with messy, raven coloured hair, two with bright green eyes and one with eyes a shade of chocolate that I would recognise anywhere.
“Mum, what are they doing here?” I hissed, glancing around.
The knots in my stomach were wondering if James would still be as sweet and tender as he had been after I’d shown up on his doorstep, or whether he would have reverted back to introverted, angry James that I had grown accustomed to over the past months.
I prayed it was the first one. I had liked having my best friend back.
But a more chilling realisation pooled in the pit of my stomach, and my eyes widened. Before my mother could answer the first question, I had asked her a second.
“Mum, did you think this through at all?” I swallowed hard. “Most of the men in here are family members of death eaters, purebloods, people whose family, maybe even parents got locked away because of Harry Potter. Do you really think they’re going to appreciate them being here?”
My mother blinked, looking a little shocked.
“Oh... I didn’t think of that,” she whispered quietly.
“Evidentially not,” I snapped.
My mother ran her fingers across her cheek, and I noticed that the iceberg sized rock had been restored to its place on her ring finger.
“Why are they even here?”
“Well, Summer, you’ve been so closed off these past couple of days – you won’t come down to meals, you won’t talk to either of us, you glare if anything comes near you... James has always had a way of cheering you up, so I thought you might like him to be here. He is your best friend, Summer.” She cocked an eyebrow at me. “And I couldn’t very well invite him and not the rest of his family, could I?”
I pinched the bridge of my nose between my thumb and fingers, breathing out through my mouth. I was just about to snap something back, most likely something more sarky than necessary, when a pair of thin arms closed around my middle.
“Summer! This is so cool, I love getting dressed up!” Lily squealed. “It was so nice of you to invite us, I mean, Albus looked like he was going to wet himself when Mum said it was for all five of us, which was hilarious, but I think it was nice of you to invite him too.” Lily gave me one final squeeze, and then let go.
The rest of her family caught up a second later, and smiled at me a little uncomfortably. A horrible thought hit me as I consider Lily’s words. They thought I’d invited them. Oh shit. And they weren’t exactly the best invitees for this kind of event.
“So sorry to have you all dragged out like this, on such short notice,” I said cheerfully – too cheerfully. It didn’t sound like me. “My mum seemed to think you’d all like to come and invited you – but the champagne is pretty good!”
I snatched one off a passing waiter and thrust it into the air.
“Long live the Minister, and all that – toodle pip, I need to visit the ladies room.”
And with that, I turned on the balls of my feet – if I tried to turn on these stilettos then they’d most likely fly off and puncture someone in the neck – and pegged it to the other side of the hall.
Smooth, Summer, smooth.
Still, at least the Potters might not think I’m a psycho for inviting them.
But after that little display of insanity? They probably think I’m psycho, full stop.
My mother found me in the bathroom, sitting in the gap on the counter between the two sinks, pulling at the bodice of my floor length plum dress, wondering what would happen if I just set fire to it right there and then. I’d have to walk back through the hall in my undercrackers, but maybe it would be worth it.
Fuck it, it would definitely be worth it.
“Summer Oriona Lancaster! I invite the Potters to come, they get all dressed up and come out here, and you treat them like that! You didn’t even acknowledge James!” I glared moodily at the floor. I didn’t like being reprimanded like a child.
“Sorry,” I grumbled.
“You don’t mean that,” Mum snapped, and I smirked a little bit. She always knew when I was lying.
“No, I don’t,” I shrugged. “But I am sorry you invited them.” I decided to be honest – fuck knows why. Honesty gets you nowhere.
“Why would you be sorry I invited them?”
“Because they had to come to this failure of a party, so you and dad can pretend be happily married and act like the family isn’t falling apart, just so you can flash the fact you’ve got a lot of cash. What are you going to do when we live with Nana and Grandpa Greengrass? They’ve got money, but not enough to keep you in this lifestyle. You’re going to have to get a job, Mum.” She jumped a little, like this thought had never occurred to her.
“Well, you’ll only be there over the Easter holidays,” Mum muttered, and I could tell she was trying to formulate a plan on the spot. “Your graduation is in six months, and then you’ll get your own place.”
“Get my own place?” I echoed, jumping a little.
“Well, yes. You’re not going to live with us; you’ll be eighteen by that point.” Mum blinked at me like it was obvious. “Summer, there is no need to look so shocked. You can live by yourself at eighteen. I was married at eighteen.” I jumped again.
Married at eighteen. Holy fuck. And I don’t even want a serious relationship.
Still, look where that marriage ended up.
“You’ll probably get financial help from your father, so you’ll be alright – and your job will pay for whatever you want to do.” I jumped again. I realised then that I would be leaving the protection of school in just over half a year, and then I would have to work.
Work. The notion had never occurred to me before. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. There was nothing I had extreme skills in – what was I supposed to do? Get Daddy to buy me a decent job at the Ministry? I’d rather not.
“I – I don’t want to talk about this,” I stammered, pushing past my mum and out of the bathroom. “I’ll go and see the Potters, see if I can save this train wreck of an evening.”
I had only just skidded back into the hall when someone tapped me on the shoulder, standing a little closer than I would have liked.
I scowled, instantly beginning to plot the gruesome death of said person if it turned out to be one of my father’s friends asking for a dance. But I snapped my head to the side, I found myself wanting to smile instead.
What is it with all the smiling-urges lately?
People are going to think I’m a happy person if I keep wanting to smile. And we can’t have that.
“May I have this dance, dear Miss Lancaster?” James asked, holding out a hand and smirking at me in that stupid mocking way of his. Fucking twat.
But regardless, I dropped my hand into his and let him drag me onto the dancefloor, where my mother and father were doing an awkward waltz with their faces leaning as far away from each other as possible without causing permanent spine damage.
“I have to warn you, I have special skills on the dancefloor,” James smirked, and I rolled my eyes.
“Fucking bring it on, Potter – Mum forced me to take ballroom dancing lessons for five years until I threw a hissy and made her stop.”
James burst into laughter, pulling me into his arms properly, one of his hands on my waist and the other holding my hand, his shaking head resting against the side of mine.
I prayed he didn’t have nits. They’d be a bitch to get rid of with hair as long as mine.
Why don’t they invent a charm that gets rid of them? That could be my job after I graduate.
James started to rock us from side to side as I thought, my head resting on his chest and his lips pressed to my hair – I almost told him to get off, my hair took three hours to get right – and I just relaxed, for the first time in nearly a week.
“James, what do you want to do after we graduate?” I asked, realising I didn’t know.
“I want to be an Auror, like Dad,” he said confidently, and I smiled.
“You’ll have to do three years of training after school, you know,” I murmured, and he nodded. I could feel his chin against my head. I wanted to smile. I shouldn’t want to smile. Why do I want to smile?
More minutes passed in silence, and the song changed three more times before James spoke again.
“What do you want to do, love?” I almost laughed at the endearment. If the circumstances had been of old, I would have kicked him in the you-know-where for calling me that. But instead I just laughed, and shook my head.
“I don’t know. Probably something at the ministry. Magical law enforcement, maybe. A healer, maybe.” At this, James outright laughed.
“Summer, you couldn’t be a healer – you don’t care about other people.”
“Shut up,” I snapped back, but it was playful, like old times.
“Make me, short arse.”
“Maybe I will, long arse.”
“Long arse? What kind of insult is that?”
“One that is too sophisticated and complex for you to understand.”
“You mean stupid and...”
“Are you struggling to come up with a word that begins with c?”
“Oh, you are one damn frustrating woman, Summer Lancaster,” James chuckled, then something seemed to light his eyes. “Did you ever think of becoming a lawyer with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement? I mean, you love arguing more than anyone else I know, and you nearly always win...”
I raised an eyebrow. A lawyer? I’d never thought of that before.
“I don’t know... I’ve never thought about that before. Arguing for a living. Maybe I should look into that...” James grinned and looked like he was about to respond, when another voice spoke.
“Erm, could I cut in?” A voice that was very much not expected and very much not welcome slid between us, and I jumped a little when I saw Albus Potter standing next to us, shuffling his feet. Let me reiterate – Albus Potter wanted to dance with me. Instead of James. Oh fuck, it’s going to be a bloodbath.
“Of course,” James said coolly, and for some reason I wanted to cry. There was a time, not long ago at all, when he would have knocked Albus out for asking. And now... he doesn’t even seem bothered. He doesn’t care.
James stepped back, let me go – no, I did not cling to his arm like a loser – and Albus took his place.
“What the fuck do you want?” I asked, furious that he had interrupted James and I. We were getting on, fuck it! And he just had to march over with his huge feet and stick them in where they weren’t wanted. Urgh. Prick.
“I need to talk to you, Summer. It’s important.”
“I’m sure it’s not.”
“What the fuck has got your knickers in a bunch; I was perfectly polite to him.”
“I don’t want to talk to you, you know that – James and I were getting along and you just had to come over and be all... there, and now James will be pissed again-”
“Were you dating him when we snogged?”
“Were you James’ girlfriend when we snogged?”
“Are you sure?”
“Well, I think something like being your brother’s girlfriend would be pretty well imprinted on my brain, you know,” I snapped back.
“So you weren’t going out with him?”
“I do believe I just said that.”
“Then what the fuck was going on between the two of you?”
“I don’t believe that’s any of your business, actually, Albus,” I said coldly, forcing myself not to clench my fists into the shoulder of his suit.
“Well, considering my brother is now treating me like I don’t exist; I think I have a right to know.”
“Well, I’m not going to tell you,” I snapped back.
“I know he’s just finally dealing with fact Natalie chose me over him,” Do not punch him in the head, do not punch him in the head, do not punch him in the head, “and he should have dealt with that at the time, but he didn’t –”
“Is there a point to this story, jackass?” I snapped.
“Yeah, yeah, there is a point. Anyway, I thought at first it was just him dealing with that finally, but he just didn’t seem to get over it. And then I noticed that you two spent like no time together, so I asked Connor and he let slip that the two of you weren’t speaking – why would he stop speaking to you? Just because you made out with his brother?” I blinked at him, my mouth twisting into a scowl.
“Like I said, it’s none of your business, in all honesty,” I was clenching my teeth together so I didn’t start screaming at him.
“Yeah, well I just wanted to tell you that if you were in some kind of relationship with James, then it was really shitty of you to snog me –”
I skidded to a halt, my hand dropping from his shoulder and my fists clenching in readiness to deck him one.
“Woah, woah, woah – back up a little there, princess,” I hissed, pretty sure that my eyes alone could have murdered him had I cared to test them, “You are telling me that I’m shitty for snogging you when I wasn’t with James, when you stole your brother’s fucking girlfriend of three years?”
“That was different, I was in love with Natalie, you weren’t in love with me,”
“I bet you weren’t in love with the bitch the first time you shoved your tongue down her throat,”
“Do not call her a bitch! She is one of the most amazing people I know – don’t make assumptions-”
“I don’t need to assume anything, she fucked her boyfriend’s little brother, I think that’s a pretty clear indicator of what I’m going to think about her,” I glared coldly at Albus.
“You are so judgemental, I have no idea how my brother has managed to put up with you for so long. I mean, are you physically capable of not being a bitch for a whole conversation?”
My mouth dropped open.
I could see James staring at us from next to the drinks table, a glass of expensive champagne clutched in his hand and a distasteful expression of his face.
“I – I don’t even know what to say to you,” I said quietly, glancing around subtly to check if anyone was looking, “Just – just stay the bloody fuck away from me. Get out of my house. Just get out.”
Albus cocked an eyebrow.
“You can’t just kick me out – my whole family is here. Just because I told you the truth –”
That was it. Satisfied that nobody was watching, I snapped my knee up at the speed of light, with as much force as I could muster.
Albus let out a strange noise that mostly resembled a dying pigeon, bent double and contorted his face into something that looked like the uncle of a pug dog.
“I’ll show you how much of a bitch I can be,” I hissed, leaning down and hissing in his ear. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that James had dropped his champagne glass in shock, having been the only one that saw.
And with that, I turned on the heel of my shoe and went headed out of the ornate doors that led to the entrance hall of the house – basically a freezing cold marble room that holds wet umbrellas and the mat upon which you wipe your feet after tramping through lovely British puddles all day.
I crossed the hall quickly and sat down on the third stair from the bottom, pulling my knees up under my chin.
That’s when I started to hear the voices.
And no, you prick, not voices in my head – actual voices. They were whispering – well, one was whispering. The other was doing something that can only be described as guinea-pig like whining.
“But Jason – why won’t you introduce me to anyone? We’re getting married; I should be able to meet your friends,”
“Keep your voice down, will you? And they’re not my friends, they’re my colleagues.”
It couldn’t be... my eyes widened and I pulled my knees tighter to my chest, praying that the voices were actually in my head and my imagination were playing a sick trick on me.
“Well, your wife is in there talking to them!”
“I only told her I was divorcing her three weeks ago, you can’t expect me to just drop her off the face of the planet,”
“She’s not your responsibility anymore, Jason – she can look after herself. You’re not going to be married this time in three days.”
“She’s the mother of my daughter, Louise, who hates me enough as it is – and Daphne and I were married for twenty years. I’m not going to ruin her life.”
“So you’re ruining mine!”
“Ruining your life? Because I won’t introduce you to a couple of wizards that sit in an office and do nothing?”
Like you, you mean, Daddy?
“Well, when am I going to meet your daughter?”
“Well, considering she won’t speak to me and glares poison whenever she sees me, I highly doubt she’s ready to meet you,”
“I’m going to have to meet her eventually – you said she was going to live with us!”
“She refused. She’s going to live with her mother and her grandparents.”
“Oh, good. I didn’t want some brat living with us anyway, spending all our money.”
There was a silence. My heart was pounding, anger and hatred coursing through my stomach. My hands were clenched. My dad didn’t say a word.
“She’s not a brat – she’s only eight fucking years younger than you. You can hardly call that a brat. And she still will be spending my money – she’s connected to my bank account.”
“Can’t you un-connect her from it?”
“She is my daughter, Louise. I don’t want to talk about this again.”
“When am I going to meet her?”
Without thinking about it, I was on my feet. I didn’t know what I was doing. I crossed the hall and over to where the voices were coming from. A small, doorless alcove just off the stairs. My hands were in fists again.
First Albus, and now this awful sounding woman. Eight years older than me... she’s twenty five. My thirty nine year old father is marrying a woman fourteen years younger than him. Well, the thing sounds like the traditional definition of ‘gold-digging whore’.
“How about now?” I asked, stepping into the eyeline of the door and crossing my arms over my chest.
My dad’s mouth fell open. The blonde woman next to him looked dumbfounded. I glared at the pair of them. The blonde woman dropped her hands from my dad’s chest. I glared a little more.
“Well, since you have no manners, I’ll start,” I snapped at her, “Summer Lancaster. It’s not really a pleasure to meet you.”
disclaimer: nothing in this chapter belongs to me.
ahem. so. sorry this chapter is a little bit of a filler. so sozzles about that. major sozzlesticks. but anyway, i hope you enjoyed it. but yeah. so, we meet louise properly in the next chapter ~ oooh. ish. anyway - let me know what you think! <333
ellie :) xx
ps. sorry about the wait for this chapter ~ it got rejected twice... oopsie. but it's here now.
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