“I heard her Mummy left because she couldn’t stand the sight of her.”
“I heard her Mum’s in a mental home.”
“Not surprising, looking at her daughter must have sent her over the top!”
I try to block out their words, just like I always do. I pretend what they’re saying doesn’t hurt me, that I don’t long to get away. My eyes itch from holding back tears but I need to stay strong.
Then comes the first hit, and before I can run they’re raining down on me again and again, knocking me to the playground floor. Shrieks of laughter and feral yells surround me, but I curl into a ball and wait for it all to be over.
I wake up, sweat pouring from my body. At first I panic, because my sheets have tangled around me and I think someone’s holding me. When I realise I’m in my bed, I nearly cry with relief, but stop myself. Crying is a sign of weakness.
Glancing over at the other beds in the room, I see the girls sleeping peacefully. They aren’t riddled with nightmares every time they fall asleep, making it impossible to forget. Because that’s all I want to do: forget.
I need to get away to my tree and reflect. I need to think about something else, something that won’t make me want to vomit from fear and morbid sadness. I have to stop myself feeling emotion before I get myself hurt again.
Slipping silently out of bed, I creep across the room and out of the door, wincing slightly as the floorboards creak. I practically run down the stairs and into the common room, skidding to a halt when I notice a dark shape lying on the couch. It moves and turns to face me.
“Couldn’t sleep?” James asks. Of course it would be him.
“What’s it to you?” I reply in full-on defensive mode. In the dim light I see him smirk and feel anger rise up inside me. Who does he think he is?
“Nothing to be honest, but I’d rather not have my partner expelled just before the competition for being out after curfew, if it’s all the same to you.”
He’s got nerve! If it wasn’t for sheer good luck, he wouldn’t still be at school, considering all the rules he’s broken. I glare at him, but make my way over to the windowsill and sit on it, staring out at the grounds. The moon glints on the still lake like a million tiny diamonds sewn onto a rich black silk. The only movement is from an owl, swooping elegantly across the grounds and a dark shape moving in the edges of the forest. I watch it for a while, contemplating how to get away from James without it seeming like I’m backing down.
“You could at least attempt a conversation, you know.” I ignore him, fiddling with my fingers. “I heard you’ve been speaking to Rose.”
I look sharply at him. I suppose Rose must have told him about it, but I’m still annoyed that he’s found out. He might start expecting us to have relatively friendly conversations, and that is something I will not stand for.
“Yes. What’s it to you?” I ask. He lifts an eyebrow and looks at me hard, studying my face as though he’s going to be given a pop quiz on it later. I squirm under his gaze, uncomfortable by all the attention he’s giving me. I don’t like to be scrutinised, and there’s something about James that makes it seem like he can see through my mask. It makes me nervous.
Finally he looks away and I breathe a silent sigh of relief. “Nothing. The fact that you talk to Rose means nothing to me,” he mutters, going to sit on the couch again. He turns back to the Quidditch magazine resting on the arm that he must have been reading before I came in, signalling the end of our short conversation. I walk away, moving swiftly up the girls’ staircase. It is only as I turn the corner on the landing that I think I hear James’ voice, murmuring so quietly I can’t be sure he spoke at all. But I can’t make out his words, so I carry on back to bed.
“So there I was, covered in mud and goodness knows what else, lying on the floor and asking Jay to be my girlfriend! To this day I have no idea why she agreed.” Rose and Finn shriek with laughter as Jay stares adoringly into Richard’s eyes. They’ve been keeping this up for hours – telling story after story of their time together – and it’s making me quite nauseous.
We met up with Rose about fifteen minutes ago in The Three Broomsticks and so far there’s been no sign of the rest of her family, unless you count Al over in the corner with a group of his friends or Lily and Roxanne attempting to flirt with the Scamander brothers and failing miserably. Despite this, Fred, Dom, Molly, James and Lucy have not appeared yet.
Rose and Finn have been getting on surprisingly well. I probably shouldn’t be shocked, considering their almost Hufflepuff levels of niceness, but they’re nattering on as if they’ve known each other their whole lives.
“So, how old are you?” Finn asks Rose. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you don’t look as old as Kestrel.”
Rose laughs, seemingly taking no offence from Finn’s question. “Nope, you’re quite right. I’m thirteen, so I should be in the year below. They had someone leave from the third year when I was in second year, so they asked if I could move up to make room for a new person who was arriving from Durmstrang. I guess it was a little strange at first, but I had all my cousins to share new classes with. I quite enjoy it now.”
Ah yes, Mellissa Meriwether was the girl who left. I don’t remember much about her, except that she was a bit of a flirt and tried to make a move on Hugo, Rose’s younger brother. Considering he was only a tiny first year, I think that James, Fred and Al were justified for the rumours they spread about her. Apparently she left because her family were moving to America, although the humiliation she went through must have made her want to get as far away from pissed off, overprotective Wotters as possible.
Merlin, this is boring. I’m almost glad to see Molly and Lucy drag Fred and James into the remaining seats in the booth. It’s a bit of a squeeze, but with Jay sat on Richard’s lap we manage to fit in.
“You’d better be about to tell me that’s darling Dom is on her way, or Merlin help me I’ll kill that girl,” Rose smiles sweetly. Molly continues to glare at the table while Fred and James gulp audibly.
“She’s off with some Slytherin. I don’t know who, and I doubt she does either,” Molly growls. The boys, for I refuse to call them men, instantly look murderous. Hmm, I sense that Dom’s family are not exactly keen on her somewhat easy nature. Wotters do seem to be overly protective of each other to the point of stupidity.
Rose looks concerned about Dom, but covers it quickly with yet another smile. “So, Fred, how was your date?” she asks, attempting to make conversation. He pouts and James roars with laughter. I’m guessing it didn’t go very well then.
“She ditched me when I started a dungbomb fight in Dad’s shop. It was brilliant, but she screamed something about me being disgusting and childish and flounced off. Never mind, she had a massive nose anyway.”
“Who was she?”
“Umm, Brittany? No, Beth. Hang on, I know it began with a b. It’ll come back to me.”
“Blaire Collins?” Molly asks, her eyebrow arched. I wish I could do that. It would mean I could effectively portray my disgust without even having to open my mouth.
“That’s the one!” Fred cheers. “I knew it was something like that!”
“Yes, I’m sure you feel very proud of yourself for pulling a second year,” Molly smirks. She pretends to look thoughtful for a minute. “Come to think of it, you didn’t pull her though, did you? She ditched you. My bad.”
“Wait. She was a second year?! She told me that she was in our year.” Fred looks outraged. Meanwhile, the rest of his family are trying not to laugh and Finn, Jay and Richard just look bemused.
“What’s red and smells like green paint?” Lucy breaks in as the laughter dies down. I had almost forgotten she was here.
“The Hogwarts Express after Fred and James have finished pranking?” Rose asks tiredly while Fred smirks. It probably wasn’t a great idea to say that, because I can almost guarantee that we’ll be arriving home this year on a train that is no longer scarlet. The snakes will be pleased, green suits them. It’s also the colour their faces go every time Gryffindor wins the Quidditch Cup. Just saying.
“Nope!” Lucy grins. “It’s red paint!”
“Good one, Luce!” Fred slaps Lucy across the back. Everyone else is trying not to groan, except for Finn, who has tears of mirth streaming down her face. Well, someone’s easily pleased.
Molly looks up sharply from the bottle of Butterbeer she had been nursing. “Lucy, you had better tell me that the thing that just touched my leg was your foot covered in a fluffy sock, because it felt distinctly furry.”
Lucy tries to look innocent but fails miserably. “She was lonely, alright?”
“Lucy, who is ‘she’?”
Lucy reaches under the table and emerges a moment later cradling a pile of rags. She looks down at it adoringly, a small smile lighting up her face. She’s not particularly pretty, but when she smiles, she looks alive. And no, I’m not getting sentimental, I’m just pointing out something that surprises me.
“I couldn’t just leave it out in the cold on its own now, could I? She’s called Elephant, or Ellie for short.”
“Right, you’ve finally lost it my dear. Off to St Mungo’s for you. What kind of lunatic names a pile of dirty fabric after some Muggle animal? Answer me that,” Molly rages. “You know, if I wasn’t your sister, I’d be running away very fast right now.”
Just then, a yap emerges from the pile of rags, followed by a tiny nose snuffling at the air around it.
“What the Horcrux is that?” Fred shrieks, his voice uncannily high.
Lucy pulls back the rags to show a tiny body curled up in a tight ball. A chorus of squeals float around the table. I think even James smiled – a real, proper smile, not his customary smirk.
“She’s a Crup,” Lucy says, her voice low and soothing as if she doesn’t want to wake the puppy in her arms. “I found her on the way down, all on her own. She could have died!”
Ellie sneezes and Lucy pulls her closer towards her body, cradling her in her arms. James reaches over and strokes the puppy’s ears, his hands twice the size of her head. “Good luck trying to keep her though,” he chuckles. “We can’t have any pets other than cats, toads or owls.”
Rose hits him. “Like you care about the rules! It was only yesterday that I had to convince you not to test out Uncle George’s new products on the first years. You’re just lucky that McGonagall would never expel someone, unless they actually hurt a person.” So James had been lying to me last night when he inferred that I’d be expelled for sneaking around the castle after curfew. I suppose I shouldn’t really be surprised.
Molly nods slowly. “James is right though Luce, you can’t keep her. Even if you were allowed, how would you walk her? Or remember to feed her? You barely remember the way to the bathroom, how would you look after a pet?”
Rose puts a hand gently on Lucy’s shoulder. “Don’t you think it would be a better idea to give Ellie to the Magical Menagerie shop? They’d look after her and sell her to a nice family who’d really care for her and love her.”
“Yeah, she’d be a lot happier there Luce. Think how lonely she’d be, all on her own while you’re in lessons.”
“Not to mention the trouble you’d get in if you somehow managed to get her back to the castle.”
Lucy grips the Crup to her, her eyes wild. “No!” she says. People are starting to stare. “You can’t take her! She needs me!”
Molly prises her arms open firmly, a sad look in her eyes. “Love, I’m sorry,” she says, taking the puppy from Lucy. “I’m sure you can visit sometimes.”
A fat tear rolls down Lucy’s face. It’s soon followed by another, then another, until she’s sobbing quietly. Molly slips out of the booth with Ellie before she gets the chance to try to get her back. There’s an awkward silence that seems to fill the air and everyone avoids eye contact.
And then comes a – not unwelcome – interruption in the form of Dom. She plonks herself elegantly into Molly’s empty seat, her eyes merry. “Who died?” she asks, clearly joking. “You all look miserable.”
There’s a moment where everyone stares at her in disbelief. I take in her rumpled appearance: tangled hair, swollen lips, flushed face, crumpled clothes, the works.
“So,” says Fred through gritted teeth, “where’s lover boy?”
“What, the Slytherin?” Dom asks cheerfully. “I dumped him.”
“Should I ask why?”
Dom actually has to ponder the question. “He had more freckles than me.”
“Dom, you don’t have freckles. Everyone has more freckles than you.”
“That’s beside the point!” Dom argues. “Freckles are ugly.”
I almost laugh at the comical glares on the Weasleys’ faces. Even Lucy has stopped crying long enough to scowl at Dom.
“Thanks,” Rose says drily. “Considering that we’re practically an advertisement for some freckle-creating potion.” She gestures to herself, Fred and Lucy.
Dom isn’t even listening. Instead, her eyes have landed on my family. “Who are these charming people?” she asks, looking particularly at Richard.
Rose leans forward. “How rude of me. Richard, Finn and Jay, meet Dom, my cousin. Dom, meet Kestrel’s sisters and sister’s boyfriend.” Dom’s eyes dart to Richard’s hands intertwined with Jay’s. She sighs, almost inaudibly, and looks away, offering her hand.
“It’s super to meet you, I’m sure,” she says. I can’t tell whether she’s being sarcastic or not. “You two make a gorgeous couple. I’m sure your babies will be beautiful.” My sister and her boyfriend look rather taken aback, but smile uncertainly anyway.
James coughs loudly. “So, how about them Cannons?”
A/N: First of all, please don't kill me for the long wait. I've had a little bit of not exactly writers block, but something which makes me want to write the ending of this story and not the actual next chapter. So that's my excuse. Lame, I know.
This will probably be a horribly long AN, so bear with me.
Firstly, I would like to take this oppourtunity to thank EVERYONE who has ever reviewed or favourited this story. Particularly to Mu Mu (Juicey_Moosey), who has reviewed every single chapter, nagged me to keep on writing and has generally been the reason there have actually been updates at all, however late. Also to all the lovely people over at the forums who've offered their reviews and that I've gratefully accepted. You guys rule :D
Secondly, I have a Meet The Author thingy! You can ask me anything - and I mean anything. Whether I like cats or dogs, what the weather's like, anything about my stories. Except which twin I prefer. A person should never have to answer that. The link is on my Author page.
Finally (I think), I'd like to say a huge thank you as well to aim.moon at tda for the freaking amazing chapter images. I worship them daily.
Anyway, that's it I think. Hopefully the next chapter won't take so long.
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