Chapter 8 : Romania Maybe?
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Christmas was rapidly approaching and we had only a week to go before I received a letter from my mummy dearest, I was surprised it wasn’t a howler.
I’m sorely disappointed in your promise to behave this year being broken, I really thought you could manage a whole term without letters being sent to your father and I informing us that you’ve been tormenting the new teacher, this behaviour really needs to stop.
I’d just like to let you know we’re going to visit Uncle Charlie for the first week of the holidays, and we’re spending Christmas at the Burrow as per usual. I think Rory is coming with us for Lily’s sake to Romania, would you like to invite Charla too?
Please try and let us know what your plans are for the holidays soon.
I laughed as I read the ending, as Charlie pulled the letter out of my hand and skimmed over it. She took a lot less time than I did to read, I never worked out how she read so quickly.
‘So are you going to invite me to see your Uncle?’ she asked, grinning and handing back the paper, I folded it up and slipped it inside my pocket, I was probably going to forget to reply anyway.
‘I dunno, maybe if we win the Quidditch match on Friday I’ll ask you, as a surprise?’ I raised my eyebrows, silently asking if this was a good plan.
‘Surprise ruined!’ She laughed prodding me in the side.
‘Ok,’ I grabbed both her hands so she couldn’t poke me any more, ‘would you like to come to Romania with me to visit Uncle Charlie?’
‘I’d love to,’ she replied, kissing my cheek.
We were sitting in the stands of the Quidditch pitch, watching Albus train. This was a rare sight, because Albus supposedly hated Quidditch, so when we came down to practise and found him chucking golf balls around then zooming after them, neither of us wanted to disturb. And while we were watching, my owl Bob landed beside us.
‘You’d need to ask your Dad first.’ I reminded her.
‘Yeah, I don’t think he’ll mind, he’s got some work thing to do with the Ministry and Mums going off to America to do something, if I didn’t have something to do I’d probably go insane waiting for my parents to remember they have two daughters.’
‘Is everything okay with your parents Charlie?’ I asked, suddenly feeling concerned, she sounded rather irritated, the way she spoke about her father.
‘You sound a little bitter,’ I raised my eyebrows, and pulled her closer because her teeth were chattering.
‘It’s all ok,’ she promised, ‘but I’ve got Arithmacy work to get on with and if we aren’t practising, I’ll see you for dinner.’
‘Love you Char,’ I told her, tearing my eyes away from her and watching Albus intently as she left, so intently I almost didn’t hear her whispered reply.
‘I love you to Jim Jam.’
‘You know you’re bloody brilliant,’ I yelled to Albus as he caught the Snitch he’d started practising with for the fifteenth time, he flew over and hovered in front of the stands.
‘Yeah I know, pity I have the post boring job in the game,’ he grinned, ‘you scared off Charlie already, I though you love birds looked pretty cute.’
I threw Bob at him, but Bob soared upwards, hooting indignantly before landing back on my shoulder. Me and Bob are cool like that.
‘Just kidding Jamesie,’ Albus clambered over the side of the stands and sat beside me. ‘So you invited her to Romania?’
I nodded, ‘yup, Rory’s coming so she probably will too.’
‘Mum said you might ask her to come,’ he spoke.
‘You inviting anyone?’
‘Nope,’ he replied, with an emphasis on the P. ‘I’m not going to Romania.’
‘Oh really?’ I said, wracking my brains for some mention of this in Mum’s letter.
‘Yeah, I got offered a Quidditch thing, to train with Puddlemere United for the holidays, apparently they give spots to a very talented kid, one for each position. I got Seeker.’
My eyes widened, no wonder he had been training, ‘Wowza, Albie that’s brilliant!’ I tried to push all remotely jealous feelings away (come on, I so deserved a place like that!) and tried my hardest to feel thrilled for my bro.
‘You should have got one, not me!’ He said quietly, after a couple of moments silence.
‘What are you on about, you’re bloody amazing.’
‘Yeah,’ he looked at me, ‘but you are the best captain this teams seen since you got here and we’ve only played one game.’
‘Whatever Al, you know the reason Lily ties you to the post in the changing room before every match is because we do need you to win!’
‘Thanks.’ He smiled and got up to leave, he mounted his broom and was about to take off before I said hurriedly;
‘Albus, you’re the best seeker I’ve ever seen play at Hogwarts, you deserved that spot way more than me!’
Of course I was jealous, I mean what do you expect, but I do love Albus and Lillers, so maybe being nice to Al for a change would be a good thing. Right?
~ ~ ~
Romania is made up mostly of either plains and grass, or mountainous areas. Uncle Charlie’s Dragon Research and Rehabilitation Centre that he opened up a couple of years ago is set up right in the middle in the mountains, right by a little all Wizarding village consisting of no more than ten families.
That was where we were set to meet my parents, in Uncle Charlie’s house which is about three times the size of every other house there and has more than enough bedrooms for ever Potter/Weasley ever... pity most inhabit baby dragons.
‘Lily, James,’ mum crooned, as we fell out of the fireplace, ‘we missed you!’
‘Oof!’ I was flattened to the floor as Charla came rocketing out behind me.
‘Oh my God I’m so sorry James are you ok?’ she cried, sitting up only to realise she had landed on my back.
‘Yup!’ I grunted, rolling over so she fell on her butt. Her face formed the most ridiculous surprised expression.
‘James,’ my mother scolded, ‘you shouldn’t treat girls like that!’
‘Charlie’s not a girl!’ I protested using the side of the sofa to pull myself up, then hauling Charla up so I was carrying her like a baby, my face incredibly close to hers. Damn I should move!
‘It’s so nice to have you all here for the holidays!’ My mother kissed my cheek and patted Char on the cheek affectionately.
‘Thanks Ginny,’ Char wriggled out of my arms and slipped down onto her feet, she would have fallen back onto her bum if I hadn’t grabbed her elbow and steadied her as Mum hurried off to fawn over Rory and Lils.
‘James,’ I looked up to the doorway, where my dad was standing leaning against the frame. He was smiling, but there was something hidden behind his smile that didn’t seem quite right.
‘Hey Harry,’ Char said breathlessly, wrapping an arm around him.
‘Nice to see you again Charla,’ Dad beamed down at her, ‘why don’t you head upstairs, you might be able to find a room that isn’t infested in Dragons, however there are two rooms upstairs, I think, that are empty. Would you like to take a look ?’
‘Course,’ Char grabbed the back end of her trunk and dragged it towards the rickety staircase. I made to help her but my father called me back.
‘James, come here a minute!’
‘Uh,’ I turned to face him, with a quick glance back to Charla, ‘ok.’
I followed him into the kitchen, which was small and grungy and packed with old pots and pans and baby bottles. I picked one up and flicked it across the counter.
‘Uncle Charlie seems to have a lot of kids!’ I chuckled, trying to loosen the tension that hung in the air. Dad turned to face me and I saw his smile had gone and his features were riddled with concern.
‘Whatever happened it wasn’t me!’ I started, raising my hands in defence.
‘I wasn’t going to blame you for anything but I wanted to make sure you were aware that there have been difficulties in Charla’s family since her parent’s divorce.’
I paused, ‘I know, but she said everything’s been better since Rory-’
‘James, Aurora’s problems were minor compared to everything that’s been going on in the Wood family, there have been problems with Mr Wood at the Ministry and Katie is not going to be around for her daughters much unless they want to move to the Salem Witches Institute!’
‘What kind of problems at the ministry!’ I asked suspiciously.
‘It doesn’t concern you, but your mother and I have been worried about those girls since problems came up before half term. You know Charla best and you look after her alright!’
I nodded silently.
‘I heard about the Quidditch games,’ he said after a long moment of hushed silence. ‘Well done.’
‘Yeah,’ I flicked another baby bottle across the counter. ‘Still wasn’t good enough to get a training spot like Albus.’
The fact that my Baby Brother had got something for Quidditch that I hadn’t had been gnawing away at me since the day he told me.
‘Don’t beat yourself up about that, you don’t even support Puddlemere, you support the Tornadoes!’
‘So?’ My voice began to raise, ‘It’s a chance to train with professionals, to make Gryffindor the BEST!’
‘Your life shouldn’t revolve around Quidditch James,’ my father put a hand on my shoulder to stop me leaving, ‘you should concentrate on other things too.’
‘Is that your way of reminding me, he’s still the best, the smartest, the greatest Quidditch player,’ I growled, ‘the better son even, assign him to look after Charla!’
As I stormed out, pushing past Char who stood at the doorway, probably listening to the whole conversation, not that I cared. I found the bedroom Char had ditched her trunk outside quickly; it was the one I always stayed in when I visited Uncle Charlie. I stormed into the one next door to hers and slammed the door shut with such force that the lampshade swung round wildly. Then I kicked the cupboard, leaving a shoe mark on the wooden door.
As I flopped down onto the bed I realised that most of my bad mood revolved around the fact that chances are Charla was hurting a lot more than she told anyone... what if she was cutting herself like Rory did...
‘Someone’s PMSing,’ the door creaked open and Charlie’s bright curls appeared, her bright eyes were a little red and puffy, she’d been crying, and she was chewing her lip anxiously.
Without a word I was on my feet and crossing the room, I scooped her up into a hug and pressed my lips to her head, burying my face in her hair. She was so short she had to stand on tiptoe to wrap her arms around my neck and hug me back, but I didn’t let go.
‘I’m so sorry Charla I had no idea.’
She choked out a laugh and it sounded like she was crying more, as she pulled away I could see thin tear tracks glistening down her cheeks. ‘I didn’t want to mention it.’ She mumbled.
I didn’t say anything, but I did grab her wrists and pull up her long sleeves, examining them for the same pattern of laddered scars, thankfully her arms were still smooth and pale as ever.
‘I can handle it better than Rory,’ she smiled a little, realising my intentions. I kissed her forehead and held her tight, scared if I let go she’d fall apart... or I would... or both of us.
That night, through the thin walls that separated our rooms, I heard Char rolled around in her bed, tossing and turning and whimpering softly into her pillow when she thought I was asleep. I crawled out of bed and tiptoed over to hers, like I used to when she stayed at my house when we were younger.
I slipped under the covers, not giving a toss I was only wearing a pair of old Quidditch tracksuit pants, and slipped my arm around her. I felt her stiffen as my arm wrapped around her stomach, she was freezing.
I was pretty much on the verge of falling asleep when I felt Charlie turn over and curl up against my bear chest, she pressed her lips against my nose, like she used to, and breathed deeply.
I was too tired to know if what she said next was real or part of my dream, but I was sure I heard her whisper softly,
‘Thank you James.’
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