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Chapter 24 : The One where Summer Starts to Talk
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“Summer Ronny Lancaster! Open this door now, chica, or I’m going to find a window, smash it in and then release the full wrath of Frederick Arthur Weasley upon your skinny arse!” I frowned as the all-too-recognisable voice floated up the stairs, followed by the sound of Minty padding across the hall and opening the door with a crack of her bony fingers.
“Oh! Hey, Minto – do you know where my homegirl at?” Minty squeaked something unintelligible from the floor above, and then there was the sound of hammering footsteps on the stairs.
What my stairs had ever done to Fred was beyond me, but he seemed to want to stomp the shit out them. I’d ask, but he’d most likely tell me that the stairs insulted his family honour and that he had to invoke revenge upon them.
There was a second of silence, and then a giant bang.
I blinked up at the door, which had been slammed open with an unnecessary amount of force – to the point where it had probably knocked a chunk out of the wall behind it.
Fred was standing in the doorway, the sunless bright light of the December day illuminating his silhouette. His mouth was twitched up into an enormous beam, his brown eyes twinkling from across the room. What’s got him so happy?
I’ve never been that happy in my life. And I wouldn’t mind, it’s not even his wedding day or the birth of his sprog – it’s just him coming to visit me in the holidays. Speaking of which, why had he shown up at my house in holidays?
“What the bloody fuck are you doing here, wanker?” Fred’s smile dropped a little and his eyes rolled back into his skull, as he cocked a hip at me and strutted into the middle of the room.
And yes, I do mean strutted. He had his hand on one hip and everything. He dropped down onto the bed in front of me, seized the copy of Witch Weekly that I had been reading and tossed it on the carpet over his shoulder.
“Well, hello to you too, soul sister!” Fred scowled, clicking his tongue and flicking me on the side of the forehead. I swatted him away and leaned off the side of the bed, reaching for my magazine.
I’d just gotten to a really good article about ways to make your face seem glowier without overloading on the highlighter. It was also giving celebrity tips on how to contour your cheekbones – and I wasn’t going to say no to that.
“Git,” I grumbled under my breath, stretching my arm out and waggling my fingers to try and seize the bloody thing.
Fred gasped and clapped an exaggerated hand to his mouth, before launching across the bed and seizing my ankles, hoisting them above my head and flipping me off the bed.
I shrieked as I was tipped upside down, and landed flat on my back with a sickening crunch.
“WHAT THE FUCKING HELL, FRED? YOU COULD HAVE BROKEN MY BACK!” I screamed, sitting up painfully slowly, twisting from side to side, to check whether or not Fred had permanently hindered me from the use of my spine.
Fred was trying to disguise his snickers behind his offending hand – unsuccessfully. I glared up at him and hauled myself to my feet, cracking my back to either side.
“Aw, come on, Summer. Don’t get in the huffmobile with me.” Fred seized my hand and pulled me down onto my bed, wrapping his arms around my shoulders and face – rendering me unable to yell at him anymore.
“I’m not in the huff-mobile – now get your bloody arms off me, you giant oaf!” I squawked, but Fred paid absolutely zippo attention. As per usual.
“No! Not until you tell me you love me! Or I’ll never let you go! Not until you tell me that it’s true, that you really mean it!” Fred cried, his voice switching to soprano as he flung me around a little in his arms.
“Fred, get the bloody hell off me!” I yelled, trying to pry Fred’s arms off me as his grip tightened to the point that I could barely breathe.
“NEVER! NOT UNTIL YOU ADMIT IT! TELL ME YOU LOVE ME, SUMMER! TELL ME!”
“Oh for fuck’s sakes!” I yelled a little louder. “I love you, Fred!” I pulled my head away and spat my hair out of my mouth and Fred grinned proudly, looking like he wanted to pat himself on the back. “You do realise that isn’t the first time you’ve done that, don’t you? You big saddo.”
I poked Fred in the chest and rolled my eyes as he pouted. His eyes widened as he blinked at me, all doe-eyes and pouty lips, looking like a baby that had been robbed of its lollipop.
Why did Fred always manage to make me feel like the metaphorical lollipop snatcher?
“Anyway, what are you doing here?” Fred cocked an eyebrow at me and waved a hand in a circle, telling me to try it again. “Fine – Fred, how come you’ve decided to come and visit me?” Fred nodded in approval and leaned back on the bed, settling his head comfortably into my pillow.
Again, if he has nits – it’ll be off with his head.
On a slightly random note, did you know that cows have two stomachs? I found that out the other day, and I couldn’t believe it. I think it is quite plausible to say that my gob was officially smacked. Two stomachs. I mean, I’d love two stomachs, you can fit more food in – but you’d probably get really fat.
Maybe all cows are actually obese, but nobody realises it because all cows are the same. So their obesity is classed as normal. And let’s be honest, no one ever wanders down the streets of Wales and thinks – Cor blimey, isn’t that a podgy cow?
I mean, that person would have to be a weirdo for perving on a cow, but the point still stands.
“I just came around to invite you to the Burrow for dinner tonight. James and Dom want you to come too – Penelope and Connor are coming as well, to be introduced to the family.” Fred flushed a little, and my interest was instantly piqued. “And we’re... well, Penelope and I are going to introduce her as my girlfriend.”
I rolled my eyes at the sweetness and leaned forwards to muss up Fred’s hair, to which he just blushed further and tried to suppress a giant grin.
“Good on you, Freddie. You both deserve it.” I wrinkled my nose at him affectionately and turned to drop into the wheelie chair in front of my desk.
“Thanks, chica. Anyway, we thought that you might feel a little left out if you weren’t there,” Fred shrugged apologetically as I pursed my lips, “and James didn’t want to be left on his bill, so we thought that you might like to come. My Nana Weasley will be cooking.”
Fred grinned hopefully as I shrugged, nodding.
“Sure, I don’t see why not,” I shrugged again, “How come you came to invite me – wouldn’t that normally be James or Dom’s job? I didn’t even know you knew where I lived.”
“I’ve been here before! Of course I know where you live!”
“Yeah, but I didn’t know you’d taken note of the address.”
“Yeah well, people always underestimate those that will rise to power. When you’re enslaved to a race of superior beings, and I am their worshipped overlord, I will remind of this moment, O Summer of Little Faith.”
“What the bloody fuck are you banging on about, twit?”
“I dunno. What, am I supposed to know everything around here?” I rolled my eyes. “Anyway, James didn’t come because he was too busy having a screaming match with Al upstairs – something about staying the fuck away from someone, I’m not really sure – and Dom was sucking face with Connor in her bedroom. And you very rarely get off your lazy arse to read letters, so I thought I’d pay you a home visit.”
I chuckled a little and Fred beamed proudly.
“Wow, well, thank you for the special treatment, Fred. It makes me feel wonderful.” Fred’s grin widened, the sarcasm slipping over his head so fast that it could have scalped him.
“No problem, Summer. You’re my favourite snarky robot. And for my favourite snarky robot, anything is possible.” Fred flung his arm around my shoulder and pulled me off the wheelie chair onto the bed with him.
I almost shoved him off – knowing my luck, my dad would probably wander in again and think Fred was my newest flame. But then I remember that Dad had left that morning to take Louise to the Bahamas for the weekend, and so wasn’t even at home.
She had walked into the dining room that morning, whilst my mum and I were eating breakfast together – alright, it was in stony silence but that is beyond the point – all dressed up in a bikini top, a denim waistcoat and a pair of shorts so tiny that I thought she’d walked out in her knickers.
But no. She was wearing clothes. Barely, but they were still there. And after flicking around her hair extensions like she had damaged her spine and pouring herself a glass from our jug of water, she smugly informed us that my father was flooing her to the Bahamas for the weekend.
The last time my dad went to the Bahamas, he dropped my mother and I off and went home for the day to work, promising he’d be back that night.
He didn’t come back. He later claimed he’d been ‘too busy’ and ‘hated the heat’. But even then, I’d suspected he just hadn’t wanted to spend two weeks in a villa with no one to talk to but me and my mum.
Funny. His hatred of the heat seemed to have evaporated the moment Lulu Plastic Chest duck-waddled into the picture.
My mum had choked on her croissant and looked like she wanted nothing more than to run out of the room and smash a few vases – it’s what I did later, and it really does help let the anger out – but held her tongue.
At least my father had the decency to look a little abashed when he walked through the room and told us he was leaving.
Why the bint needed three hot pink suitcases for two days was beyond me, but I didn’t want to waste my valuable breath on her and ask.
But anyway – after deciding that even if my dad was home, I didn’t give a flying fuck what he thought, and what he thought about me, I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him into a Dominique Weasley monkey hug.
“Well, I’ll see you tonight,” I sighed, climbing slowly off the bed and dropping back down onto the wheelie chair. “And Fred, for the love of Merlin, do not introduce Penny as ‘the hot piece of ass that has agreed to suck my face off’.”
“I wouldn’t do that!”
“You did it to Carmen! And I’d like point out that she stopped speaking to you two days after that. Small word to the wise – girls don’t like being called things like that.”
“What? No I don’t.”
“Oh. I thought you did. Only because you always seemed to prefer being call hot and fit and whatnot, rather than being called beautiful.” He was actually right. If a bloke used to call me beautiful, I’d laugh at their stupidity and walk away.
If a bloke called me fit, I’d give him the finger and wink. It just seemed preferable. ‘Beautiful’ makes you feel like a princess, like a precious little girl that needs to be looked after and treated like a child. And I didn’t want to be compared to a princess – I was very far from one.
But the image of James and I on the very bed that Fred was sitting on right then flooded into my mind. James calling me beautiful. And it felt right – it felt good. It made me feel special.
“I – I’m not really arsed, either way,” I frowned, wanting the conversation to end. Fred nodded, looking a little surprised. But he knew better than to push it – a nice fat scar above the eyebrow would be the price for getting on my nerves on a bad day.
“Right. Well, see you tonight, Summer. Miss ya ‘till then – stay crispy, doll.” Fred swatted me on the arse and spun me around in a hug that nearly had me kick the lamp off the bedside table.
“See you tonight, love,” I smiled, “I’ll miss you until then, too.” I added as he pouted.
“I know you will,” he winked, before slipping out the door and down the stairs, singing a soprano version of Sex on Fire. I don’t even want to know.
Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.
I did not think this through.
Seriously, when they were giving out brains, I must have been in the bog or something, because I clearly have none. There are people that have to take pills three times a day – I could do with taking a good old dose of common sense.
I mean, seriously – James.
Yeah, sure, I’ll go to a Weasley/Potter dinner because all my best friends are going to be there. But there will also be the bloke that I’d – nearly shagged a few days ago. The best friend that I’d almost shagged a few days ago.
The best friend that would most likely think that the recent semi-breakup from my boyfriend was to do with him, and whether or not I was ready to consider a relationship with him... and I wasn’t.
I was becoming paranoid – what if we were awkward with one another? What if we got there and James just ignored me? What if he found out that I wasn’t with Jack anymore and his hopes or ideas or whatever went all whacked and...
And then he could become depressed and have to go into an institution, and then he’ll get out and turn to drink because he’ll see Fred and Penny being happy and he’d want that, and then he’d take skanky Erin and shag her when he was bored but he’d refuse to have a real relationship with her because he was scarred for life about the fact that I’d married Kyle Davies and had seven fat little children with super-gelled hair, and then he’d eventually die of alcohol poisioning and it would be all my fault.
Oh Merlin, I’m going to kill James. I hate my life.
But regardless, I am a strong, confident, happy, attractive, all the other shit that you’re supposed to say when you make one of these speeches woman, and I will not – what is it? I will not let negative thoughts stand in my way!
I can do this! Right. Dinner at the Burrow. Nana Weasley’s roast potatoes. Crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Right.
“Summer! You’re here! I knew you’d come. James was convinced you wouldn’t, for some reason, but I just knew you would – he needs something to cheer him up, anyway, because Albus and him had another huge argument this morning. But anyway, you look lovely! Is that top new? It looks stunning on you, you look really skinny!” Lily didn’t breathe once, tugging me into the house and wrapping her skinny arms around me in a chokehold hug.
“Um... hi, Lily. Nice to see you too.” Lily beamed like I had paid her the biggest compliment in the world, before seizing my hand and tugging me into the living room off the kitchen.
“James! Summer is here! I told you she’d come – so you were wrong! That means you owe me a galleon!” Lily grinned and bounced over to her brother, holding her hand out flat with a James Smirk playing at her lips.
James’ trademark scowl was on his own.
“Do you have to speak so bloody loud, Liligit?” James snapped, plunging his hand deep into the pocket of his jeans and shoving it into Lily’s hand. Lily’s beam wasn’t even enough to turn that frown upside down.
“What? I already told her outside that you didn’t think she was coming. There’s no need to get all grouchy knickers with me.” Lily huffed defensively, crossing her arms over her chest.
“What?! Why would you tell her that? Why? Do you have any tact whatsoever?”
Lily pouted a little, looking hurt, and I decided that it was my turn to play the knight in shining armour. Stepping further into the room, abandoning my ice-cool position leaning against the doorframe, I smirked.
“You know, James, you’re not exactly the King of Tact yourself – I’ve just heard everything you’ve said.” I smirked a little wider as James jumped and his scowl deepened.
Such a miserable child.
Honestly. The life that most children dream about one day having and he still manages to find something to scowl about. That’s quite a skill.
“Yeah, well... it’s rude to earwig on people, anyway. So you’re just... rude. You should just... stop being rude. Yeah, Summer – stop being rude!” I blinked at him as Fred looked up from the slice of beef he was chewing on to cock an eyebrow.
Well, James, if you ever want people to think you’re insane, then you’re going the right way about it.
“Right,” I cocked an eyebrow. James frowned and rustled the back of his hair awkwardly, staring down at the floor with a pale flush on his cheeks. I coughed a little as Lily stared between the pair of us, her lips twitching.
Considering that girl is practically a fully blown psychic, that didn’t make me feel too wonderful.
If his little sister knows what is going on at the moment, then I’m pretty sure I’ll just run away to live with the druids. I don’t know where the druids are, but wherever it is, that’s where you’ll find me. There shouldn’t be any James Potters amongst the druids.
What the fuck is a druid, anyway?
“Summer! You’re here! Ooh, you look stunning – have you lost weight? You look like a stick insect.” Ah, Dominique Weasley. One of the only girls in the world who can give you a compliment and make it feel like an insult.
“Hey, Dom. Yeah, I’m fine, thank you. A bit hungry, but we’re having dinner soon so I’m sure that will be fine. Yeah, this top is new, thank you for noticing.” I smiled ironically at her as she rolled her eyes and flopped down onto the couch.
“Less of the sarcasm, missy. No bloke wants a girl with a sharper tongue than knife. After all, you’ll need the knife to make them sandwiches... well, no bloke other than Jack. He seems to have no problem with being the main recipient of the Summer Lancaster Snark.” Dom winked as I flushed a little and dropped down onto the armchair of Fred’s armchair.
Dom might be one of those girls that could be thrown on a wild goose chase if you told her that there was a mirror on the other side of the forest, but she could be intuitive at the worst of times.
From the corner of my eye, I could see James frowning at me as I glared down at my knees, struggling to keep my face impassive. I didn’t want to let on to any of the vultures that not everything was quite as peachy in paradise anymore.
Lily would probably collapse with excitement.
“You know, Penelope is never sarcastic,” Fred said conversationally, and I snapped my head up at him to cock an eyebrow. Fred looked quite unabashed, cramming the last of the beef slice into his mouth and wiping his lips on the back of his hand.
“And you mentioned that because?” Fred shrugged and started rooting around in his pocket, before pulling out a half-melted chocolate cake bar and pulling off the wrapper.
“I dunno. Why not?” Fred bit one half of the cake bar in one clean bite and chewed twice before swallowing. I gaped at him as he crammed the other half in whole.
The boy is like a walking dustbin.
“Aww,” Dom cooed. “I think it’s cute. He’s so obsessed with Penny that he feels the need to mention her whenever he can.” She winked at Fred’s reddening face and ignored the shut-it-you’re-embarrassing-him elbow that James jabbed into her ribs.
“Shut it, you. You and Connor are the ones that can’t keep their hands off each other – I’m pretty sure you stole the eye-virginity of ninety percent of the first years.” Dom didn’t look abashed in the slightest – quite the contrary.
Dom smirked arrogantly and looked a little proud, tossing some blonde hair over her shoulder.
“Right, because you and Penny never snog in front of other people – in fact, Fred, I was wondering – have the two of you even had your first kiss yet?” I covered my mouth to mask my giggling as Dom batted her eyelids innocently.
“Shut it, you. We don’t snog as much as you two do.”
“Oh, you so do.”
“We so don’t.”
“Wow, amazing comeback – switching around my own words. But regardless... you so do.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sakes – are you two really going to sit there and argue about which of the pair of you has the more active sex life? That’s just sad.” James snapped, and I blinked a little at how abrupt he was being. They hadn’t done anything to him.
“Alright, snappy. What’s got your boxers in a twist?”
Dom blinked and raised an eyebrow at me, and I shrugged cluelessly. Why James was pissed off what beyond me – I didn’t have Lily Potter style psychic powers.
“And don’t call it a sex life,” Fred added, and I turned my head to the side to stare at his pink cheeks. He was fumbling with the wrapper of the cake bar he had eaten, not looking any of us in the eye. I bit my lip to hide a smile when I realised what was going on. Dom, evidentially, was a lot denser than my dear self.
“Why not?” Dom blinked, and James looked like he dearly wanted to elbow her again.
“You know, Dom, there is a curse that exists that I think would probably be very useful on you. Would you like to know what it is? I’ll tell you. Every time you’re nosy, your nose grows a little. Nose – nosey, gettit? So snout out, unless you want me to hunt down Penelope’s book and cast that fucker on you.”
Dom waggled her hands around in what I could only really refer to as a dodgy version of some Broadway jazz hands.
“Ooh, I’m quaking in my heels. Don’t curse me, Fred, please! I’m so scared!” I pressed my lips together to again try to hide my chuckling, and the colour in Fred’s cheeks grew a little again.
He clearly didn’t like being outsmarted by his younger, female cousin.
“You should be. You know what? I’m going to just leave this conversation – I’m going to be the bigger person and just walk away.” Fred nodded firmly and shoved himself off the armchair – I quickly leapt into his spot – and crossed the room, flicking his fringe off his face with a floppy hand, in traditional bitch-girl pose.
“I love beating him in arguments,” Dom sighed, leaning back into the cushions of the couch and smiling serenely, softly closing her eyelids.
I blinked at her for a second, marvelling at how strange her eyelids looked when closed for long periods of time whilst coated in a thick layer of glittery silver eyeshadow.
There was quiet rustling behind me, and I turned around in time to see Fred sneaking back into the room, shoes removed, standing on his tip toes. His eyes widened and he pressed a finger to his lips in warning when he saw me looking.
I rolled my eyes but didn’t bother to warn Dom – it wasn’t anything to do with me.
Besides, Fred taking out revenge on Dom (trust me, it had happened a lot) always promised to be entertaining – and loud, but that’s another story.
Dom’s a screamer. I can only imagine what she’s going to be like when she’s popping out her sprogs in the future.
Fred crept around the armchair that my arse was comfortably parked on and lapped the couch, until he was standing behind Dom, whose head was lolling back onto the couch cushion behind her. There was a tense moment of silence, before Fred leapt forward like a panther and launched himself onto Dom’s back.
Dom screamed and her eyes flew open as Fred kicked one leg over hers and forced her head into his armpit. Dom’s screaming got louder.
“Fred! You stink! When was the last time you had a wash?!” Dom shrieked, using her thin arms to try and shove Fred’s massive chest off her.
But a brick wall like Freddie-boy wasn’t going anywhere.
“See, Dommie, I don’t like it when people are rude to me,” Fred commented lightly, acting as though he wasn’t sitting on his cousin’s knee with her head stuck in his armpit, being held there by force. “It makes me a little upset.”
Dom blindly swung her fists out, trying to pummel Fred but failing miserably.
“It actually hurts my feelings a little. You know, every now and again I actually have a little cry at night because you’ve hurt me so much.” I pressed my hand against my mouth as Fred closed his eyes and shook his head regretfully. Lily was bright red and had pinched her lips together to try and stem her own laughter.
“GET. THE. FUCK. OFF. ME.” Fred shook his head again, using his free hand to biff Dom across the head.
“What the bloody hell are you doing, Fred?” A voice rang out across the room, and I jumped a little. I whipped around to see Connor standing in the doorway, an eyebrow cocked and his lips pursed a little. He looked a little shell shocked at the image of his best friend sitting with his girlfriend’s head in his armpit.
“Teaching Dom a lesson,” Fred shrugged casually, waving his free hand in greeting.
Connor opened his mouth like he was going to say something, but then closed his eyes and shook his head, deciding just to let it go. This did not please Dommie in the slightest.
“CONNOR DALE, YOU ARE THE MOST USELESS LUMP IN THE WORLD – GET THIS GIT OFF OF ME!”
I have such an awkward life.
I mean, seriously. It’s unreal.
Do you have any idea how awkward it is to be sitting at a dinner table next to Merlin knows how many pairs of couples? It’s ridiculous. And situations were not helped by the fact that Percy and Audrey were trying to engage me in an in depth conversation about whether or not they should invest in the muggle stock market.
There are only so many times that you can pretend to drop your fork under the table in an attempt to put a sharp end to the conversation.
But I was unsuccessful – Dom was nearly pissing herself, like she knew I was considering picking up the fork I was eating with and stabbing it into my eyeball.
But now was even worse – everyone was either asking Penny and Fred about their only-just unveiled relationship, cooing over Dom and Connor gazing lovingly into one another’s eyes, or chatting to each other over plates and plates of Nana Weasley’s cooking. Nana Weasley herself was cramming roasties into her mouth with a proud expression on her face, smiling happily at her family. Her husband was sitting next to her, discussing the purpose of jigsaws with Lily and Albus.
James was sitting next to me, poking the fat from his beef around his plate with the tip of his fork, a grumpy expression set on his face and his bottom lip jutting out angrily. I was sitting next to him, my face nearly paralysed with boredom.
Last time I had been at the Burrow, James and I had already crept off to his room to snog by this point.
But as I sat in the garden of the Burrow, surrounded by happily married couples and their children, watching them all interact with each other in a way that was easy as breathing, I could help but feel jealous.
They were all so lucky.
I bet none of them were alone on Christmas day. I bet none of them have ever walked out onto Platform 9 ¾ to find no one waiting for them. I bet none of them have ever spent the majority of the holidays eating dinner alone or with their house elf, in an empty house.
I wanted to be a part of a family like that – a loud, chaotic, slightly insane family with more members than I could count.
And as I thought about the future, about families, about whether or not I would ever have a family like this, I found my mind drifting back to Jack. I hadn’t thought about him since he had left my house last night, not until Fred had brought him up before, but now my mind was stuck on him.
Sweet, kind, safe, caring Jack. Jack who was always there for me, who was there for me after I fell out with James, when my friends were so wrapped up in themselves to pay attention to the fact James and I had fallen apart. Jack who had shown up at my house a few days after Christmas just because he wanted to visit me.
Jack who I had cheated on, regardless of whether or not I wanted to refer to it as that.
I tried to imagine what it would be like to be cheated on, to have someone you trusted and really liked be with someone else whilst they were supposed to be with you... and I couldn’t. It was too harsh. And to think I’d done that to someone like Jack, someone who’d never done anything to me but be a good friend, made me feel sick.
He was much too good for me.
And so then I realised that when I got back to Hogwarts, that it would be the end of the road for Jack and I.
He needed a girl that was ready for a relationship and serious and full-on as he wanted – a girl that could give him everything that he would give her. And that wasn’t me, not by a long shot.
I thought about how he might be feeling about me – whether he’d feel betrayed, upset, or just plain pissed off. I’d be pissed. But then again, it doesn’t take much to make me angry.
I’m so sorry. I should have said that last night, and I’m sorry I didn’t. I really am. You’re lovely, and you’ve been an amazing friend to me – and I seriously hope that you will still want to be my friend, because I really do love your company. I didn’t mean for what happened with James to happen, not whilst I was with you. And I’m sorry it did. You didn’t deserve that. You are an amazing bloke, and one day you’re going to meet an amazing girl and have an amazing life. I don’t want you to ever feel like it was because of you, or because you weren’t enough, or anything like that. It’s my fault. Well, and James’. But mainly mine. And I truly am sorry if I hurt you.
Thank you so much for being my friend,
“What are you doing?” A voice came from behind me as I strapped the note to the leg of the Weasley’s owl, pushing open the window with my elbow. I jumped about a foot in the air and whipped around at lightning speed.
The owl clearly wasn’t happy about that, as she leaned forwards and pecked sharply at my arm in retaliation. Do you see the kind of treatment I have to put up with?
Even owls bully me. That’s how pathetic my life is.
“Um... James. What are you doing here?” I asked, quickly pushing the owl out of the open window before James had a chance to see the recipient. James folded his arms and leant against the doorframe, his eyebrows drawn together in suspicion.
“I asked you first.”
“Sending a letter.”
“Didn’t you hear Fred before – there is a curse that you can put on nosey people. To quote dear Freddie – snout out.” James rolled his eyes and walked further into the room, slipping alongside me and staring at the black dot that was Josie the owl, illuminated against the moon.
It goes dark far too early in December.
“Anyway, you never answered my question. What are you doing here?” I asked, cocking my head to the side so I could look at him.
“I was looking for you. You disappeared really suddenly, and I was worried you might have gone home.” I blinked and nodded slowly, turning back towards the window to hunt for the Josie-dot. It was no longer there.
“What are you thinking about?” I said suddenly, the words slipping past my lips before I’d even had a chance to think about them. I pinched my lips shut straight afterwards, but I’d already spoken.
James cocked an eyebrow in amusement.
“About what we were doing the last time you and I were alone in the Burrow,” James smirked, “and so by extension, I was thinking about how badly I want to kiss you right now.” James continued staring out of the window like it was no big deal.
I gaped at him.
“You – you can’t say things like that – I – you... I have a boyfriend!” Well, no I don’t, but James didn’t know that. “I mean, you’re the one that said that you wouldn’t touch my while I was still with someone else, and – you... you!”
James started chuckling along with my stammering, evidentially finding the deterioration of my mental health of great amusement.
Glad to be of assistance. I’ll be here all week.
“I said that I wasn’t going to touch you. I said nothing about speaking.” James shrugged nonchalantly. “Besides, it’s quite funny to watch you have a complete tizz and do when you don’t know what to say.” I scowled at him, but he didn’t seem to care. I really need to work on making my glares a bit scarier.
“You’re a twat,” I informed him. I like to be a helpful member of society, distributing information and whatnot. I’m practically a girl scout, when you think about it.
“Aw, I know you don’t really think that. I know you love me really.” This James was a complete contrast to the one that had been sitting outside, looking like he wanted nothing more than to go and pummel his pillow for a bit.
“I do not.”
“Haven’t we had this argument before? You really need to stop repeating yourself.”
“I – you... urgh! You are such a git!”
“I know you don’t really believe that.”
“I do! You’re a git! A very gittish git!”
“Gittish? Is that a word?”
“Nah, I’m pretty sure you just made that one up.”
“You – urgh! You should just not be allowed. Seriously. They should make an exhibition at the zoo for you and keep you locked up in it all the time so that no one ever has to deal with you,” I was almost giggling by the end of it, and James had one hand pressed against the cool counter top to prevent him against falling should his shaking legs give in.
Nothing was particularly funny, yet the laughter kept coming. Pretty soon I had been folded into a hug, and I was giggling away into the scratchy nylon of one of James’ seldom worn dress shirts, which had been shed of its cufflinks earlier in the evening.
I breathed the smell of his shirt in deeply, just like a good ol’ creeper, and opened my eyes. I wasn’t aware I had closed them.
“When I was ten I broke my arm,” I said suddenly, and James glanced down in amusement. Yes, yes, let’s all have a laugh at Summer’s expense. Very fucking funny.
“Right. And why is that relevant?”
“I had climbed a tree because the boy who lived down in the village had told me that snotty little rich girls like me couldn’t do real country thinks like climbing trees and riding horses. I fucking hate horses, terrifying buggers, so I decided to prove him wrong by climbing the giant oak in the park.”
James was silent, his breathing barely audible in the stifling tranquillity that was the Burrow’s kitchen.
“I got right to the top, I did. Sat there on the fattest branch feeling like the smuggest bastard on the face of the planet, as the snotty brat gaped up at me from the grass. Then he smirked at me and told me that I might be able to get myself up, but I wouldn’t be able to get myself down. I was hot-headed even then. I had to prove him wrong. So I swung my legs down and tried to climb down the fucker. Since I told you I’d broken my arm, I’m sure you can guess – I fell. Landed on my side. Broke my arm in three places.”
James blinked again and slowly pulled me down to one of the padded dining chairs that surrounded the scrubbed table in the middle of the kitchen, plopping me down onto his knee. I curled up into a ball, my knees under my chin.
“Carry on,” James murmured, when I didn’t immediately resume speaking.
“The bloke was a coward. Laughed until I glared up at him with tears streaming down the muck on my face, clutching an arm that was positioned like a crazy straw. Sobered up quick and ran back to the village, and didn’t look back. I was about two miles from Lancaster Hill, and I wasn’t getting picked up from the Post Office for another two hours. But the pain my arm was awful.”
I shuddered as I remembered sitting on the park bench for three hours, sobbing, clutching a broken arm to my chest.
Many nice old ladies with carpet bags and dogs that looked like backcombed rats had passed and tried to offer me a lift home or to the hospital, but I’d said no. I’d sat on that park bench until the park emptied an every other child went home, until my dad eventually drove up.
“He was an hour late,” I whispered, staring unseeingly at the large brass pot on the cooker, “He was always late. He pulled up and took one look at me, before flinging himself out of the car and nearly sprinting to me and tossing me over his shoulder to cart me back to the car.”
James shifted from underneath me and dropped his chin down onto my shoulder.
“That doesn’t sound too bad,” he muttered. “He just wanted to get you home so he could heal your arm, right?”
“Wrong. He shoved me down into the passenger seat and started roaring about what people would think about me being covered in dirt – did I want them to think that my parents never made me wash? – and about me hanging around in the park on my own – what kind of father did I allow the neighbours to assume he was? I was ten. And he’d let me go around the village on my own anyway. But he didn’t care about that. Yelled himself hoarse for a good twenty minutes, before he healed my arm quick with no bedside manner whatsoever, and drove me home in silence.”
James blinked at me as I refused to blink, refused to let my eyelids meet, because I knew that would mean that the tears brimming in my eyes were going to force their way out.
“He cared more about what the neighbours would think than he did about me. He never gave a shit about me. Never. And you know what, that never bothered me. Never did. I was good on my own, I always have been – I made friends and made them my new family. I didn’t need a man who didn’t care whether my bones were broken, only that my face had mud splattered on it from landing on the ground.”
James hugged me tighter to his chest as my eyes stung and my breathing grew more erratic.
“It did bother you.”
I looked up into James’ grave expression, and he quickly leaned forwards to press a kiss onto my forehead, before kindly deciding to elaborate.
“I’m not saying your father doesn’t care about you, because he does. He’s shown that a lot recently. He doesn’t care as much as he should, and he had a really dodgy way of showing it, but he does care. And when he acts like he doesn’t, it does bother you. You want him to care, because you do.”
“I don’t care about him.”
“Yes, you do. He’s your father. Whether you like it or not, every young girl cares about her daddy and wants him to love her like she loves him. Unconditionally and with all their heart. And you could never deal with the fact that your dad never loved you like that.”
“I was a burden to him,” I whispered. “He said that – he said that in front of you. He said that he didn’t know why he listened to his mother and married mine. Because then he wouldn’t have been stuck with me.”
“Your dad was nineteen when he got married and twenty one when he had his first child.”
“Summer, that’s so young. I want to still be in school, in Auror training, when I’m nineteen. I should have only just started my career at twenty one. And to be married and with a baby – he’d missed out on being a twenty year old lad because he had a family to look after. And he was bitter about it. So he shut himself off from you two and poured himself into his work, the one thing that was his – and so you grew more resentful of him, because he made you feel resented.”
“When did you become a therapist, twit? I didn’t ask for a psycho-analysis.”
“Funny, because you need one. You’re fucked up, Summer, face it. You’re angry and bitter and sarcastic because you have all these unresolved issues that you won’t talk about, that you keep locked up because you don’t want to admit they exist –”
“I do not have unresolved issues!”
“Please, Summer, you’re practically the dictionary definition of ‘rich girl with daddy issues’.”
“Why do you think it bothers you so much that he’s getting remarried? It’s not because he’s leaving your mother, you know neither of them ever loved the other, it’s because he’s going to have a new family. He made you grow up feeling unwanted and alone, like he hated his family, and now he’s going to have a new one and he seems happy. You don’t want him to be happy with anyone else because he wasn’t happy with you.”
“Gee, don’t sugar coat it, James. Just tell me what you really think.”
“He wasn’t happy with you, Summer, and he made you feel like he hated you and didn’t give a fuck. So you forced yourself to believe that you didn’t give a fuck either, and you just had to show that to the world. If everyone thought you didn’t care about anything, then he’d think you didn’t care about him.”
“Please stop talking. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I’m sorry I brought it up.” The tears were stinging badly now, and my chest was heaving. I wanted to scream.
“You love your dad, Summer. And you care about him. And you don’t want him to marry Louise because you want him to stay with you and be the target of your anger, to mask the fact that you do care. You would rather he was unhappy with you than happy with anyone else. Why he wants to be happy with that woman is beyond me, but it’s not my choice to make. Your dad was a shit father and a shit role model and the reason you’re as angry as you are, and I hate the fucker for being such a twat to his own family, but you love him, because he’s your dad and that’s what little girls grow up programmed to do. To love their dads. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll move the fuck on.”
“I don’t want anything to do with him after he marries her,” I whispered into James’ chest.
“Then don’t. He’s never done anything to deserve having you in his life after he leaves your mother.”
“She’s not much better,” I grumbled, finally succumbing and letting the tears slide down my cheeks, masking my face with a curtain of my hair. James could probably feel the tears through his clothes and knew what was going on, but said nothing.
“She is better. Better than him, anyway. She cares, and she’s made a conscious effort to try and make up for the fact that your dad was never there for you. She might go about everything in the wrong way – buying you jewellery that costs more than this house and shit that you don’t want – but she does it to try and show that she cares. And you get angry with her because you think she’s trying to turn you into the lady you’re not, and she isn’t. Do you not get it? This whole time, she’s just being trying to show you how much she loves you, because your father never did.”
“He – he didn’t ask me, not once, whether I was okay. After I fell from that tree.” I murmured, my voice thick. I sounded like I was recovering from a bad bout of flu. “He just yelled and yelled and yelled at me. I saw other kids falling over and scraping their knees, and being carried and hugged and kissed by their fathers who put plasters on their cuts and wiped their tears away with their thumbs. None of them got treated to another round of ‘you’re a Lancaster and it’s time you started acting like one!’.”
“He was a prick who didn’t understand children; it was as simple as that.”
“Then he shouldn’t have had any,” I hissed sharply, and James sighed.
“It wasn’t quite that simple.”
“Oh, and you would know, would you? Tell me, James, how is that you magically know all of this stuff about how my mother and my father feel about me? About how I feel about my father? How do you just miraculously seem to know how everyone is feeling?”
“Because I watch you. And I can figure it out – it’s not hard. I’ve known for years why you’re as bitter as you are. Every time you’d burn a letter from your father and spit on the ashes, I could see it. Everyone could. But it’s such a touchy subject with you that no one ever wanted to bring it up.”
“Good friends,” James corrected tartly. “I spoke to my dad last summer, after you showed up at the house and screamed my bedroom down. You’d gotten into a huge fight with your dad about something stupid. I asked my dad why your dad had bothered to have kids if he seemed to hate children so much, and he told me that I couldn’t understand.”
“What do you mean? It’s not complicated. You want kids, you have one. You don’t, you don’t. Not hard. I’m pretty sure a kid itself could figure that little riddle out.”
“Voldemort had fallen, and purebloods were suddenly the targets of a lot of hatred. People stopped thinking in terms of purebloods and death eaters, and merged the two into one. Purebloods really needed to start marrying amongst themselves and producing children, because they couldn’t marry anyone else. The community wouldn’t have them.”
My mouth had dropped open without me realising.
“You know your cousin, Scorpius?” I nodded. “Well, it’s only by chance that you have your mother and not his. Astoria and Daphne were part of the Greengrass family, and they were asked if they were willing to marry in order to preserve pure blood. They both agreed. Draco Malfoy – part of the oldest pureblood families going – and Jason Lancaster – a pureblood whose father had recently come into a lot of money – were chosen as appropriate suitors for the girls.”
I couldn’t imagine a time like that – when my parents and all their splendour and jewels would be frowned upon, when they would resent their blood status and not pride themselves on it.
“It was only a matter of which one would marry which. The story was everywhere. There had been a lot of controversy about my dad refusing to allow Draco Malfoy to go to Azkaban after his mother saved his life, and so it sparked a lot of media interest that he was going to marry. Astoria was sixteen and your mother was eighteen. Draco was eighteen and your dad was nineteen – they were just teenagers, Summer. Astoria was younger than we are now. In a month or so, you’ll be the same age your mother was at the time. The time when her husband was being chosen for her.”
Suddenly I was struggling to breathe. I had no idea. I’d never bothered to find out. I had no inkling something like that had happened – they’d never dropped a hint. I couldn’t ask if I didn’t know I should have been.
“It was decided that because your mother was the legal age for marriage without parental consent, she would marry the older of the two men. A one year age gap and a two year age gap looked better than a sixteen year old marrying a man that was almost twenty. They got married after being engaged for a month, and it was decided that Astoria would be eighteen before she married. Her and Draco were engaged for two years.”
I staggered off James’ knee and stuck my head under the faucet of the sink, gratefully gulping down mouthfuls of cool water.
It calmed the nausea that was rolling in my stomach.
“The moment they married, the pressure was on. Everyone wanted them to have a baby, and to have a baby now. But they weren’t in love, at all. They didn’t even know each other. Dad says that he needed to visit your dad about something law-related about six weeks after they married, and they were the most awkward couple he had ever seen.”
“It sounds like being back in the nineteen-thirties,” I muttered.
“Well, that’s what the pureblood society was like. Stuck in a time warp. Things have changed a lot now, which is good. Things are different. But anyway, your parents remained childless right up until Astoria and Draco’s wedding – much to the huge disapproval of the pureblood society at large – and it was only when your aunt and uncle returned from their honeymoon that your mother found out she was expecting. Your Auntie Astoria, doing what was expected of your mother and father, had gotten pregnant during her honeymoon.” I shuddered as unwelcome images floated into my mind. “Hence you and Scorpius having the same birthday.”
“Why are you telling me all this?” I eventually muttered, drumming my fingers along the countertop.
“Because you need to know.”
“Because you always assumed that your father treated you with such detachment because he was a rude bastard that didn’t give a shit about his family. That wasn’t it at all. He was frustrated. He married young – too young, to a woman he didn’t love and frankly never learned to love. Your aunt and uncle were madly in love by the time they got married, but your mother and father still didn’t love each other ten years later!”
“He wasn’t made to marry her! He made a choice to get married! He could have said no – I would have! He was given a choice – forced marriage is no longer legal in the wizarding world, and whilst some pureblood families expect arranged marriages, you can refuse. I did.”
James’ head snapped up so fast I worried for a second that he might have damaged his spine.
“What do you mean – you did?”
“It’s not a big deal. When I was sixteen, my father asked me if I would be willing to enter into a pureblood arranged marriage, because if I was then he would begin to organise it. I told him that over my dead body would I do such a thing. He called me ungrateful and stormed off. I always assumed it was because he wanted to marry me off so he didn’t have to deal with me anymore.”
James sighed sadly and held his arms open, inviting me to crawl back into them.
Something suddenly occurred to me, and it wormed itself into my brain and manifested itself there, plaguing my thoughts. I couldn’t get it out of my head – the stark realisation of what James actually meant.
“He didn’t want to get married, but he did. He didn’t want children, but he had one. My mother and I were both just a burden to him – is that what you were trying to point out this whole time? He didn’t love my mother and he didn’t love me?” My voice broke halfway, but I carried on anyway. I could barely see – tears were once again clouding my eyes.
James gaped at me in horror, and quickly threw himself out of his chair and pulled me into the tightest hug known to mankind – and I have been hugged by Fred Weasley.
“No, no, no! That’s not what I was saying at all! Your dad does love you – he loves you as much as a father should love his daughter. You were always so convinced he loved you but didn’t care about you – you can’t do one without the other. He does care about you. He just... he has a funny way of showing it. And to be honest, you’re too wonderful for him to deserve as much love as you give him.”
“I wasn’t aware I loved him at all – he always made me feel like shit.”
“And so you loved him more, because you wanted him to love you back. He was your dad – all you wanted was his approval and his affections, which you never received. He’s as negative as you are – he only ever sees faults. And you take that personally. One sided love is always the worst.”
“Well... ain’t that a bitch?”
James chuckled and leaned down to press another kiss to my forehead. I sighed and wrapped my arms around his waist, almost smiling at the crippling familiarity. In James’ arms, again. I always seemed to end up back there.
“You heard me.”
“No, I seem to have gone deaf. Can you repeat what you said?” James smirked impishly at me as I shot him a scowl.
“I said, wanker, thank you.”
“You know, I don’t remember the wanker part last time...”
“So you did hear me, then?”
“Damn. Walked into that one. You should be a lawyer, I was right.”
“Damn straight, fool.”
“Never again. And why are you saying thank you?”
“For figuring all that out. For finding out about my mum and my dad. For actually caring enough to stand here and talk about it. Thank you for –” I was going to say ‘thank you for being my friend’, but the words brought me up short. They were the exact words I had written to Jack not twenty minutes before. And that wasn’t right for James.
“Thank you for what?”
“Thank you for loving me.”
James laughed cheerfully as he beamed and tightened his arms, a feat I hadn’t thought possible. So tight, in fact, that my feet lifted a good six inches off the floor, and left me hovering there like a twat.
“No problem, love. What are best friends for?”
“They’re for coming round to my house tomorrow so we can go ice skating, because I want to talk a little more.” James pretended to faint against the counter, and I rolled my eyes. “Yes, yes, I want to talk. It feels good. I feel better.” James smiled, and looked like he was about to speak, when someone very unwelcome in that moment burst into the room and beamed at us.
“Come on guys, we’re going to start a game of strip poker!”
“Um, Freddie? You do realise that ninety percent of us here are related, don’t you?”
disclaimer: nothing in this chapter belongs to me.
RIGHT. i have three things to mention and i don't want to forget any of them. okay. first, THANK YOU SO MUCH for getting me to 100 favourite author... things. you know what i mean. i'm so happy :D ahem... second, sorrysorrysorry about how long it is taking me to respond to reviews at the moment. atm i have... nineteen odd waiting for me, but i had fifty-something yesterday so i am getting there! but yeah, no matter how long the response takes, i will always respond. promise. and third ~ on the subject of reviews... woah. you guys are being so amazing to me at the moment! i mean, it's insane. so. many. reviews! thankyouthankyouthankyou.
right, so... this chapter. summer has daddy issues, to put it lightly. all mixed in there will all her other issues. lovely. and let's face it, summer is basically the main reason her and james aren't together, because she's in the mindset she's in at the moment. did that make sense? i hope so. why am i still writing an author's note? this thing is too long.
um... yeah. sorry for this chapter taking a little long than before ~ i put up chapter seven of bang, and then a strange and random one-shot that i just felt like putting up, and then i had so many reviews (big hugs, people, big hugs) to answer and i only have like... 1000 words of the next chapter written but BLARGH. i break up on tuesday and then we're all good! ANYWAY. i hope you liked the chapter and i'd love to know what you thought!
ellie :) xx
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