I love Christmas in my house; my dad's home for the holiday, there's Christmas music on all afternoon and my mum bakes while I get to be the official tester. It's normal, it's nice. I wish today was like that. Unfortunately not. And it's all because of what happened six days ago.
Not long after Louis got all of his presents, Digby had us called into his office. My parents were already there, as were Louis' and Scott's. They wanted to hear what we had to say, but they were talking amongst themselves and it took my dad yelling to get them all to shut up. Sometimes parents are worse than the kids, I swear. My mum blamed Scott, his parents blamed Louis and Louis' parents went on about how he had the right to defend himself and his friends. Basically they agreed with my mum.
Only it was Jack who defended me and Louis who threw the first punch. Even if what Scott said did provoke him somehow, it didn't really look all that good for him. I was worried as to what he was going to say.
Did they have to be so loud?
"Let the kids speak," Dad had said calmly once everyone had settled down. "Jazmine," he warned my mum. She must have tried to speak. My dad's always been good at controlling a crowd, it's what makes him so good at his job in International Magical Cooperation.
"We were on our way to Hufflepuff after Potions and he was waiting for us. We told him to leave, he said no and then he started talking about my ex." Louis stopped then, hesitated. "I hit him and then he came at me, his punch to my stomach winded me. CJ tried to stop him and Daniel hit him, caused his nose to bleed. I found it hard to breathe after he hit me, I wasn't fast enough to stop him, but Jack got there before anything else happened. He told me what to do and about the potions he has, so I fixed CJ's nose in the corridor, took him to his common room and cleaned his face. Jack came and got him the potion, then told us Lucy had come to you. That's it."
Louis had taken a deep breath after that, I heard him let it out. "I know that what he said was just to get a reaction out of me and it worked, but I also know I shouldn't have hit him, I apologize for that, and I'll take whatever punishment I get. But CJ was only trying to help, he didn't do anything wrong."
It had been quiet for a long while, we were just waiting for Digby to tell us what was going to happen. "Since it's Christmas soon, I've decided to be lenient; Mr. Weasley and Mr. Scott will both receive detentions each night for the duration of term and for the week they come back. The first will be tonight after dinner; you'll come here. Consider this your warning. You may go."
Duration of term, including that night, had only been three, so it didn't sound so bad, even with the other week. That was probably what he meant by 'lenient'. After a word with their respective kids, both Scott's and Louis' parents gave their good byes and left, then Jack and Lucy, until it was just my parents, Louis and I. What a great way to meet Mum and Dad. I felt so sorry for him already. And me. This meeting wasn't meant to be for... A long time, let's put it that way.
My mum started to fuss, hugging me tightly. "Are you okay, honey?"
"I'm fine, Mum. I'm a big boy," I reminded.
"Don't baby him, Jaz, he's seventeen now." I can always count on Dad.
"But he's still my baby," she countered.
"Who you happen to be squishing."
Eventually she let go, but it didn't lighten the mood. "I hope you realize how lucky you both are here," Dad said to us. "If your condition had gotten any worse, CJ, it could have led to suspension for him. Who knows what could have happened to you. But I'm proud of you for wanting to help, even if it wasn't the best idea in the world. I'm just glad you're okay. Now I'd hug you, but I promised not in front of an audience, so I'll see you at home."
He ran his hand through my hair instead, ruffling it up. But at least he didn't hug me. It was bad enough my mum did, if my dad did, too, in front of Louis, I'd have died... A little too melodramatic?
"It was nice to finally meet you, Louis. Believe it or not, they have actually mentioned you."
Dad said good bye to us both, followed by mum, who snuck in another hug, and they left. Louis and I went to dinner, while he told me what he thought of my parents, he went to his detentions, packed and we got the train home three days ago. And now Mum is being strange and not her version of normal while my version of strange either; it's unnerving. Dad says she's thinking something through. If that's the case, she may be quiet for a while.
She's in the kitchen with Dad while I'm sat alone in the living room, listening to Christmas songs. I thought it best not to get in the way. The door's wide open, so there's no creak, but I do hear his footsteps. And I feel the couch sink a little further in due to his weight. The smell of freshly baked treats are wafted under my nose. "Cookie?" I shake my head. "My God, you're sick."
"I'm fine. What's Mum thinking about?" I crack. I can't help it, I need to know... It's not like I'm ever going to be a world class spy.
"She's thinking about things she should have thought about a long time ago," he says quietly.
Oh. "She's thinking about me."
"It's nothing bad, kiddo. It's just something she needs to do," Dad assures me. "Now -" He's cut off when the phone rings. The phone is mainly for Dad's Muggle friends that he's kept in touch with since childhood and one's he'd made later, but occasionally his Muggleborn friends from Hogwarts and work call. Sometimes Jack does. Lucy's more likely to use the Floo network. There aren't all that many wizards with a phone. So I can't imagine any of them calling now, on Christmas Eve.
"Mum still doesn't know how to use that," I tell him as he goes to get it.
"That's because she's a Halfblood with a Pureblood family, she never had one growing up, not like me, the Muggleborn. Hello." He sinks back into the couch and there's a really long pause. "How the hell did you get this number? Oh, really. It's for you." Dad hands me the phone. "Louis says his brother is very good at his job."
I laugh and take it. "Louis' brother is a journalist." Dad mutters about how much sense that makes on his way out. I put the phone to my ear. "Hi."
"Your dad was not happy about me getting this number."
"He was just surprised. How did Dom get it?"
"I just asked for your number. Personally, I'd rather not know. I think I heard something about getting Hugo's help and, if that's the case, I really don't want to know. I tried to get ahold of Lucy first, if that's any consolation. She wasn't answering, so she couldn't give me yours or Jack's."
"Because you like talking to Jack or because he was your second choice for finding me?" He laughs down the phone and says the second one. I frown, although then I remember that he can't see to elaborate like he normally would. I don't talk to people on the phone much. It's Dad's really. "You don't talk about Hugo much."
"For good reason," he warns me. "I'll fill you in at the party."
"Okay. Where are you?" I'm trying to figure out where he is by the background noise. I think I can hear water, which makes sense because he said he lives on a beach, but I didn't know he had a phone.
"When you leave the beach, there's this little village. The village has a payphone and my dad, who works in a bank, has Muggle money. I just needed your number."
"Well, you do know that you could have just waited for Lucy, gotten my address from her and floo called, right?" I ask with a confused smile. I mean, why go through all that trouble of finding the phone number?
"I know, but that would have meant pretending my mum wasn't listening to me while she pretended she wasn't listening at all. I need my privacy. Anyway, there's a reason I called."
I fake gasp. "You mean to say you it's not because you miss me? This is what it feels like to die inside. It hurts."
"Actually, I think that's the reason," he cuts in and I suddenly stop talking and listen. I knew it, but it's nice to hear it. "I told myself it was to see how you are after what happened in school, but I kinda forgot that when you started talking." He pauses. "I've never missed someone before. It's strange."
What's strange is hearing him taking whatever feelings he has seriously instead of flirting all the time. Is that another step up in the 'I don't want to be with a commitment phobe' part of why we're not together when Lucy asks? I'm gonna say yes. I change the subject, though; I don't want him freaking out over it. "Well, I'm okay. My mum is acting weird, though."
"Dad said she's thinking about things she should have thought about a long time ago?"
"What does that mean?"
"It means she's thinking about me and I'll find out when she's ready to tell me," I translate quietly. I don't want them knowing I'm telling Louis about this, do I? Maybe I'm a little nervous to hear her thoughts, too.
"I'm sure it's nothing to worry about," Louis assures me. How does he do that? He's not even here, he can't see me. But I do feel better. A little.
"If I find out before the party, I'll let you know. Speaking of which, I need to tell them about that."
"You better be coming. I will come to wherever you live and bring you myself. Where do you live?"
"Essex. If you want specifics, you're gonna have to ask someone else; I'm just brought here. And I'll be at the party, I promise."
"Good. I have to go, my money is running out in this phone. Next time, I'll either endure my mum's snooping or flirt with the waiter in the café into using that one."
"Endure your mum's snooping," I tell him. Even to my ears it doesn't sound very nice. It's almost... Possessive and jealous. It's like Halloween all over again. I clear my throat, but Louis doesn't seem to mind. In fact, he sounds pleased. Like it's the reaction he wanted.
Ciaran: 1. Louis: 3.
I'll get him back for that.
"I'll see you soon, CJ. Merry Christmas."
"Merry Chrismas," I manage to say before the line goes dead. I drop the phone at my side and lean back into the couch.
I jump out of my skin. "Dad! How long where you listening?"
"Long enough," he says with his mouth full. Ew. "These cookies are delicious, by the way. So, what party?"
"Lucy's New Year party, the one she invites me to every year."
"You're actually going this year?" He sounds surprised. Am I that boring?
"Is this so you can spend time with Louis?"
"Yes." Lying is just a hassle.
"I like him." Good. "He seems like a good guy." He is. Mostly. Shh. "Does he know about your rule that it has to be special?"
Dad scoffs. "Then he's a really good guy."
He groans. If he didn't want an elbow in the gut, he shouldn't have chosen to sit so close. "So, I can go?"
"From what I hear, you've already decided."
"I'm being polite. Where's Mum?"
"Here." Mum sits on my other side. I remember now why I have a corner in the Hufflepuff common room and why I hate sitting in the middle; I feel trapped. I can't get out!. "We want to talk to you."
I nod, hope that gulp wasn't too loud. Uh oh. "Okay."
"Don't look so worried. It's not bad." I wish saying that automatically made me feel better. It doesn't. "You know, I've been a worrier my whole life. Even though I begged my parents to go to Hogwarts, I was scared I'd be alone. It was a new country, I had to speak in my second language all the time. But I went and I don't regret it. Of course when I met your dad, he only made it worse at first," Dad doesn't like that, "but the end result is what matters. When I got the job here and we moved officially, I knew that I'd worry about you while your dad travelled and I would be looking after you alone for the first time, letting you go to daycare and not being with you. After what happened, I guess it just became more of a worry and I don't think I've ever taken it very well. To the point where you don't take it very well. You say you're fine, but you look for guidance. When something goes wrong, you panic. You say you've accepted it, but you haven't."
"No," she interrupts. She's stern, determined. This is what Dad meant. "We need to fix this, Ciaran. You're seventeen now, an independent adult, and I'm not going to stop you living your life, no matter how much I worry. I trust you and I know you'll be okay because you can do anything. We've always known that really. It'll take time, and I'm sorry it's taken so long for me to say this, but once you've fully accepted that being blind won't change anything, you'll see it, too."
That's good to know," I mutter, standing up. "If you'll excuse me, I have a party to get ready for."
"No." It's my turn to interrupt. "You're not me, you don't know what it's like. Last week when Scott punched me was Louis' birthday. That night Jack told me he couldn't stop smiling when we were in the common room. I would never have known if he hadn't told me. So I hate what happened to me. I barely even remember it, but I hate it. And I won't talk about it anymore. Not now, not ever, because there's no point; it'll always be the same. I appreciate it, though. Thank you. I'll be down for dinner."
I linger out the door, by the stairs, long enough to hear whatever they have to say to each other. "Should we bring him back in? Sit him down? He needs to understand."
"No," Dad says softly. "That kind of goes against the space you said you'd give him. Just let him keep that space. He's only seventeen and Louis is the first person he's ever been close to. Knowing Ciaran, he's probably confused and nervous enough as it is without wanting to think about what being blind brings with it. He just needs time to adjust."
"You're probably right," she agrees with Dad. "We'll leave him."
I continue up the stairs, hoping he's right.
Not even Christmas has me waking up early. Honestly, it's just not me. I asked once and I've never wanted to get up early. I've been woken up my whole life. My parents were so pleased to have such a quiet baby (my uncle's words, not mine). It's always Mum who wakes me up on the special occasions like Christmas, because, whatever this is, I get it from Dad.
I feel her hand on my back, shaking me. "Come on, Ciaran. I waited until your friends floo called your presents and I sent theirs back, so now you have to get up."
"Fine," I groan. That's kind of the deal, you see. Mum let's me sleep in instead of going straight to my grandparents and waiting around for Christmas dinner, but she always wakes me up after all my presents have come and she's delivered my friends from me, so that I have time to open them. If I don't get up after all my presents come, she'll start waking me up early. And what sane person wants that?
I roll to the edge and swing my feet out, stand up and find the bathroom. I have to brush my teeth first, even if I don't get washed and ready. I hate morning breath. Then I go downstairs. I can hear my dad snoring on the couch. He won't be the moment he smells eggs and toast.
I sit on the floor against the couch, near the arm. It's my spot, it's where I go at Christmas, and my presents are already there. They go in an order; parents, rest of family, friends. New books (ever the Ravenclaw, Mum), a watch that tells me the time when I press a button (only this one doesn't say 'earthling' just the time), a talking remembrall (this might actually come in handy), new clothes (probably something I'll wear today). The one Mum says is from Lucy is a new quill, among other things, and Jack's is a voice activated journal, password protected and only my voice opens it. That is... Quite cool actually. Especially since I like to fill my journals with music that is written as I play by my magic quill and I don't like people to see.
"How sweet of them to coordinate their gifts," Mum gushes. "Are they together yet?"
I cross my two fingers together. "Almost."
Dad wakes just as I get to the last gift, from Louis I guess. I find the gift tag and I'm about to show it to Mum so she can read it out to me when my fingers brush the over the top and I stop. It's in Braille. How did he manage that?
"What does it say?" Dad asks as he yawns.
I read it, sure my smile is getting bigger each second. He's actually learning. You can tell it's inexperienced, but it's still understandable. "It says 'thinking of you' and 'merry Christmas' and his name."
I tear open the wrapping paper and lift up the lid of the small box before feeling inside. "It looks like some kind of iPod," Dad says.
I frown. "The music thing?"
"Yeah." He takes it out of my hands. Buttons click and I can faintly hear sound, but it's not music. Dad puts something in my ear. "Books."
"I remember I told him in passing that there were a few books I missed. You used to read them because they weren't in Braille. This is so cool. How do you pause it?" Dad presses a button and it goes, then he navigates my finger to which button do what so I can find my own way. "Dad, can I have an iPod? For the music."
He laughs. "You should have asked for one or Christmas."
Mum leaves to make breakfast, laughing as well, and we get ready for my grandparents straight after. I put my books in my pocket and wait in the living room. None of us mention what was said by me yesterday, a very good thing, and I think about my present for Louis instead. I hope he likes that one as much as his birthday presents. I guess I can ask him at the party.