Chapter 1 : Betrayal
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This is getting rather tedious.
"Daddy, there is no way, absolutely no way, that I am going to do that." I cross my arms over my chest and glare at my father. He stares back at me with a mixture of annoyance and determination written across his aging face, refusing to let me drop his gaze.
"Yes, Flora. I'm not asking you if you would like to, I'm telling you that you are going to." His tone is stern – it is one of the first times he has ever used a stern tone with me.
When your daughter is the ex-Hogwarts Stick in the Mud you tend not to have to tell her off too often, you see.
"But I don't want to! In what universe would I ever agree to take a road trip around the country with Albus Potter? What good could possibly come from that situation?" I ask in exasperation, brushing a few strands of deep brown hair out of my eyes in irritation.
Daddy sighs and sits back down in his chair, and I realise that we have both stood up without my noticing amid our argument.
"Flora, you start your healing course in September, and I just want you to have tasted a little bit of life before you start your career. You left Hogwarts nearly a year ago and you still treat everything like you did when you were first made a Prefect in fifth year. You've never even been to a party, for goodness' sake!"
"I would have thought you'd be happy about that – don't most fathers want their daughters to stay home every night and never hang around with boys?" Daddy glares at me for a moment and purses his lips in annoyance.
"Flora, I'm not saying that I want you to become a drug addled prostitute, but I would like to feel like the fact you're the daughter of the Minister for Magic hasn't taken anything away from your life." Daddy stares at me a little sadly until I relent a tad and sigh. "I just feel like being raised the way you were has meant you never got to be a normal teenager, and I just want the chance to make it up to you. You're nineteen, not ninety."
I sigh and look down at the table.
"But why Albus Potter?" I ask eventually, and Daddy sits up a little straighter.
"Well, I was talking to his father and he mentioned that he was struggling with Albus at the moment – he is supposed to be going into Auror training in September, but he's going out and getting drunk every night instead of studying –"
"Yes, he sounds just like the kind of person I want to spend a month and a half with," I grumble under my breath. Daddy ignores me.
"- and his father is worried. He thought that the responsibility of looking after my daughter on a trip around the country might help. Plus, his father is making him do it so it doesn't cost me a knut." Daddy smirks in a self-satisfied kind of way.
I sigh and place my head in my hands, resting my elbows on the table in the most unladylike way. This could only happen to me. Honestly, why couldn't I just have been put into a normal family?
But no. Instead, I am the daughter of the Minister for Magic, with a perfectionist mother and a father that is forcing me to go on a road trip around the world with a boy that I haven't seen in nearly a year, and didn't like too much when I did know him.
Honestly, the amount of times that I had to give Potter detention for sneaking around the castle after hours was ridiculous. It was like he got some kind of high out of being caught.
Clearly my father has a couple of screws loose in the head department. In what world does it ever seem like a good idea to send your nineteen year old daughter off around the country – confined to the very restricted insides of a car, I would like to add - with the boy that is splashed across the front cover of Witch Weekly every other week for his latest scandal?
Well, I can only hope that Mother sees this plan for the disaster it is sure to be and puts a stop to it.
"That's a fabulous idea!"
You have to be kidding me.
"No, it is not!" I almost yell; only remembering at the last moment that young ladies never raise their voices in public. "It is one of the most ridiculous, hare-brained, disastrous, idiotic plans that I have ever heard in my life!"
Daddy looks up from polishing his watch and frowns at me, his thick grey eyebrows drawing together. Mother sighs and stares at me with those wide brown eyes of hers, almost begging me to just do as I am told.
I cross my arms resolutely over my chest and marvel at how defiant I am being.
I'm not even that anxious about the fact that Daddy is frowning at me and Mother looks disappointed. I quite like being this rebellious.
"It doesn't really matter what she says, love," Daddy assures Mother, looking over the table at her. "I've already agreed it all with Mr Potter and his son, so there is nothing she can do about it." My mouth drops open in indignation.
"I am not an asset, Daddy! Please don't refer to me as one. If I just refuse to get into the car then you can't make me go! I don't even want to see more of England – it will just rain for the whole of the summer anyway, so it's all very pointless." I roll my eyes and fold my arms over my chest, crossing my feet over at the ankles beneath the seat of my chair.
"Flora, if I have to fling you over my shoulder and physically carry you into that car, then do mark my words, I will." Daddy shoots me a disapproving look over the tops of his glasses and I scowl at my glass of wine.
"So am I going to meet this person soon, or is he just going to show up at our house with a car and a suitcase and drag me to wherever the Merlin he's taking me?" I ask, smoothing down the front of my dinner dress as I slowly stand up.
"He and his father will be attending dinner with us tonight, actually, so the pair of you can... reacquaint yourselves, for lack of a better term. I am aware that it has been almost a year since you last saw him."
"Well I graduated last July and it is now May, Daddy, so it's been ten months. That's a long time to go, on the not seeing someone scale. Especially when you're expected to go on a roadtriparound the countrywith them." My daddy sighs again.
"Flora! It is not becoming of young ladies to behave in such an ungrateful and childish manner," Mother snaps, shooting me her usual 'I've been sucking on lemons all afternoon' face. They must have taught her it in the same place that they taught her to be so uptight. Honestly, compared to my mother, I look like the loose and fun one.
"Sorry," I grumble petulantly, slowly taking my seat again as I realise there is really no winning the argument, and leaving the table without the details would just be cutting off my nose to spite my face. I cross my legs at the knee under the table, knowing full well that my mother can't see.
"That's quite alright," Mother says stiffly, but I know that she doesn't mean it. She just doesn't want to make a scene in front of Daddy. "Now listen to your father."
"Fine," I grumble again, but at the look on Mother's face I quickly change tack. "I mean, alright. What is it you need to tell me?" I don't know of any other teenagers that need to speak to their parents as though they're talking to the Queen – why is it just me?
"Mr Potter and yourself will be leaving London in our old Land Rover this time next week – on the Wednesday morning at roughly eleven o'clock. You will then both look at the list of places we have provided for you, and choose where you would like to go in what order. You will be given a muggle debit card, which will be your responsibility but for both your and Mr Potter's usage, and the key to Gringotts vault that has been opened especially for this, but only contains a small amount of wizarding money. You won't be needing very much."
I frown, but keep my mouth shut. I can already see an oversight.
"Any questions, Flora? You look like you have something you want to say." Daddy shoots me another look over the tops of his glasses and I quickly smooth the frown off my face. Daddy always says that it always makes me look far too surly and unlikeable when I scowl.
"Two, actually. The first being, why are we bothering with the car in the first place? Why make it a road trip? Why not just have Albus Potter supervise me, and we'll apparate to a different place in the country every day? That would be so much easier than messing around with a car and petrol and muggle money, which I'm sure neither of us know how to use."
"Well, that is one of the... elements of this holiday that I was going to mention to you later. The Gringotts account is only to be used in an emergency, hence the small amount of money. Essentially, this trip that Mr Potter and yourself are embarking on is going to be a muggle affair – you'll be driving a muggle car, spending muggle money, going to muggle places and acting essentially like muggles. Magic is only to be used when strictly necessary."
I gape at my father's completely serious face, praying to see the ghost of a joke tickling at the corners of his mouth. But no – there is nothing. He is being serious.
"You have to be playing a trick on me! I'm not even going to be allowed to use magic? Are you trying to make this trip as difficult and tedious as possible for me, Daddy, because I have to say, right now you seem to be doing a bang up job of that!" Mother gapes at me and gestures angrily to my chair, and I realise that I have once again leapt to my feet in a fit of anger.
Slightly shamefaced, I resume my seat and stare angrily at my father, who looks as calm and stoic as always.
"You said you had two questions. What is the second?" he asks calmly, and I take a deep breath.
"You said," I murmur, trying to control the shaking of my voice, "that you would be giving Albus Potter and I a list of places that we should visit, and we will choose in which order. Does that mean that you haven't even mapped out a route for us to take?"
"Yes, that's exactly what it means," Daddy says calmly, ignoring me as I groan and replace my head in my cupped hands. "I want this to be an adventure for you, Flora – that is the reason I'm forcing you to do this! I want you to discover your sense of adventure, your sense of fun and recklessness – to look out that window and not know where you're going and not care. I don't want you to sit there and stare at a map and work out how fast you can visit all the places so you can get back home and carry on doing nothing."
"I'm not doing nothing. I'm reading my textbooks for my healing course to make sure I will always understand my classes, I'm reading a selection of classic wizarding literature, I'm working on the family charity and hosting events for that, and overseeing the organisation for their campaigns, I'm having the house elves teach me how to cook – I'm doing a lot, Daddy!" I am indignant – he is the one that sits around in his office all day and seemingly does nothing, not me.
"Yes, but nothing that a teenager should be doing. You're going to be twenty next birthday, Flora, and what you just described sounds like something a fifty year old woman would be doing."
"Yes, but... but... Daddy, I don't want to do this."
Daddy shrugs, but the action is punctuated by the sound of the doorbell resonating around the entrance hall. The pitter-patter of gentle footsteps tells me that one of the house elves has already gone to answer it. Mother fiddles with the pearls around her neck and adjusts her wedding ring. Daddy tightens his tie and smoothes down his blazer. I try to force the scowl off my face.
Two men enter the dining room, and in an ill deserved gesture of good will and good manners, I rise to my feet and assess the pair of them coolly.
The shorter of the two is instantly recognisable, though I have only seen pictures of him in newspapers and glimpses of him at events that Daddy has held. He is going slightly grey, a little bald around his crown and a pale white scar is splashed boldly in the shape of a lightning bolt in the very centre of his forehead.
He is dressed in a smart dress shirt and black trousers, with business shoes very similar to my father's. His glasses are round, and look so battered that he would be well suited to purchase a new pair. A thin gold wedding band winks from his ring finger. I smile at the famous Harry Potter, but he isn't looking at me – he's looking at the surly boy that has slouched into the room after him.
From what little I remember of Albus Potter, he was never surly. Arrogant, obnoxious and rude, yes, he possessed those qualities plentifully, but he was well known for being a cheerful guy that loved a laugh.
They boy in front of me looks nothing like that – lines creases his forehead as he frowns, his eyebrows furrow together and crow's feet appear on either side of his eyes as he glares, and his lips jut out like a trout as he pouts – the way it transforms his face is almost unbelievable.
He's dressed almost painfully casually in deep blue jeans, a stretchy blue t-shirt with a pocket sewn deliberately wonky over the breast, and grubby white trainers. His hair is off in a million and one different directions, not unlike his father's, and his bright green eyes hiss angrily at the ground.
I bite my tongue to resist the urge to throw a sharp comment at him about his lack of respect shown by his almost offensive state of undress.
He pulls his worn black hooded sweatshirt off and throws it over the back of the chair that he has allocated as his own, and parks himself down on the seat without hesitation. Behind him, Harry Potter closes his eyes in mild frustration but quickly recovers himself, and steps forwards to grasp my father's suddenly outstretched hand.
With a few firm pumps, they shake and then break, Mr Potter sliding down into his own seat and gazing apprehensively at the cutlery and dining set in front of him.
We've brought out our finest goblin silver for the 'occasion', and the look of it all sitting there looks a little daunting to the untrained eye – not to mention ostentatious, but Daddy doesn't seem to be able to understand that. I fumble with the napkin on my lap, trying to keep my eyes of Albus Potter's glare.
"Well, Harry, I'm very pleased you could make it," Daddy smiles smarmily, and I frown. When did my father become a suck up?
"Likewise, Bill," Mr Potter smiles back, and I start a little.
Someone of lower rank than my father addressing him by his first name is something I have never heard before. It is always Dainty – or Mr Dainty, to those really low down. My mother looks surprised also, but distracts herself by playing with the expensive goblin silver bracelet on her wrist.
"The house elves will serve the starter momentarily – we're having prawn cocktails with a mixture of dipping sauces and a particularly fine vintage Chardonnay that I think you'll appreciate." I frown as one of the house elves shuffles up next to me and lays down an oversized cocktail glass filled with baby shrimp and some kind of spicy red sauce.
"Sounds delicious," Mr Potter smiles, and then turns to look at his sullen-faced son. "Doesn't that sound delicious, Albus?" he adds tightly, narrowing his eyes slightly.
Albus slouches down even further in his chair and glares at everyone from over the table, but nods stiffly all the same. Mr Potter seems placated, because he nods once and then turns back to look at the rest of us. His eyes fall onto me, and I instantly feel a strange need to start fixing my hair. His eyes are not cold or assessing, but I still feel as though I am sitting a test.
Apparently I pass, because Mr Potter's face breaks into a large smile and he quickly leans across the table towards me with his arm outstretched.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Flora. My name is Harry Potter," he smiles, as though an introduction from someone of his stature is even necessary.
"Lovely to meet you, Mr Potter," I say quietly, taking his hand and shaking it in the ladylike way that my mother has taught me. I can see my father's almost imperceptible nod of approval from the head of the table. Resisting the urge to smile smugly, I focus my attention back on Mr Potter.
"Please, call me Harry, my love. It's lovely to meet you. Your father has told me you show certain – how should we say... reluctance towards the plan, but honestly, I think you'll love it. You'll have more of a laugh than I did when I toured the UK for the first time." Mr Potter winks at me and I burst out laughing, remembering only at the last second not to laugh too loud because it is rude.
Even Daddy chuckles at the joke, but my mother remains as lemon faced as ever and only offers an amused grimace. Thankfully, Mr Potter chooses to ignore her.
"Well, I was beginning to consider the plan not being a complete train-wreck until about three minutes ago, when I was informed that I wouldn't be allowed to use magic unless it was an emergency and we would be living as muggles," I say quietly, and Albus Potter finally shows some sign of being alive by sitting up stock straight in his chair.
"What?" he half-yells, and my mother's offended face causes Mr Potter to instantly shush him and shoot him a warning glare.
"Albus," he says warningly, but Albus seems to not give a toss.
"That is ridiculous! Not only am I being forced to take some stuck-up brat around the country against my will, I am going to have to act like her personal fucking servant because she's clearly been raised to think that everyone will drop everything in life to be at her beck and call, but I have to do all of this... as a muggle?" Albus looks horrified, but Mr Potter's face remains stoic. I have to admire him.
"Yes, you do. I would like to remind you that you wouldn't be being asked to do this if you had managed to show a little restraint, or good judgement, or good behaviour on any of the other occasions that your mum and I have asked you to improve your attitude." Albus completely ignores his father, and glares at the table leg next to him.
"Whatever," he spits, and my mother's lemon face returns.
"Albus Potter, we are in very important company right now and if you are not careful then I will do so much more than have you chaperone the Minister of Magic's daughter."
With one more quick scowl, Albus slowly smoothes his expression out until it is no longer angry – it is not happy, not by a long shot, but impassive is better than nothing, I suppose. I sit up a little straighter and readjust the napkin on my lap, just for something to do.
"These shrimp are excellent," Mr Potter smiles, taking a large bite out of the end of one of the largest ones. Albus stares at his cocktail apprehensively, but eventually shrugs and tosses one in whole. He chews it no more than twice and then swallows, still looking surly.
I can't help but lament on the difference between this boy and the boy that had thought he was king of the universe back at Hogwarts. That guy was renowned for being one of the most positive, fun-loving people out there – while I was renowned for being a fun sucking swot, but who cares about that? – and he was always grinning and larking about with his lardy friends.
It has been less than a year, ten months to be precise, and Albus Potter seems to have transformed into a completely new person. Or maybe he isn't a new person; maybe he's normally the person he used to be, but the prospect of this godforsaken road trip has gotten him in as bad of a mood as it has gotten me.
"So, Flora, what have you been doing since you left Hogwarts last summer?" Mr Potter asks, and I start slightly.
"Well, I took the required year off before I joined healing school, which I am starting in September, and I worked on the family charity, organised events and oversaw the committee, that kind of thing. I attended Ministry events and worked closely with human resources at the Ministry to work on improving their internship programs. My aunt, uncle and I went skiing for a month in Italy back in December, and that was incredible. I've been reading a lot more – picking up on the literature I should have read at Hogwarts but never had the time to with all my prefect and head girl duties. I've also written a novel, but that is not yet for anyone's eyes."
Mr Potter gapes at me, looking slightly shell-shocked, and then glances at my father, who looks at him as if to say 'see, this is what I was talking about'. Mr Potter clears his throat, but his next question is interrupted by his son.
"Merlin, how old are you – nineteen or ninety?" he snorts. I narrow my eyes at him in shock and my mother's lemon face returns with a vengeance. Daddy sits up straight in his chair and coughs to gain Albus' attention.
"Alright, son, I understand that you're not too thrilled about going on this road trip, despite it being as much for your benefit as it is for Flora's, but I won't have you talking to my daughter like that."
Albus nods grouchily and withdraws from the conversation, resuming his previous hobby of glaring at the table leg closest to him as though his wishes it will burst into flames and give him and excuse to get out of here.
"Well, Flora," Mr Potter tries again, most likely trying to make up for the rudeness of his son, "that all sounds like fantastic, worthwhile work. I think it's incredible to see a young person so involved in charity and the ministry – I wish more people your age would have your kind of attitude." He sends a pointed look at Albus. "But tell me, what do you do for fun? Albus is going to have to know what kind of places to drive to while you're off."
"Fun?" I frown. It's not that the concept is foreign to me; it is just that I don't do anything for fun. Other people do things for fun – I organise the event and then annoy everyone by making sure the fun is had in a safe and sensible manner.
"Yes, fun..." Mr Potter says slowly, and I blush a little.
"Well, I don't really do anything for fun," I start, but I am slightly drowned out by the loud groaning noise that Albus makes. Ignoring him, I plough onwards. "I mean, occasionally I go with my best friend Andromeda to the muggle cinema, or we go for a bike ride, or something, but most of the time she goes places with other friends and I stay home." I shrug, and Mr Potter starts to look a little uncomfortable.
"Well... that sounds... interesting," Mr Potter murmurs, and I know by that he means that he thinks I'm boring and he's sorry his son will have to spend so long with me.
"Daddy?" I say suddenly, and Daddy quickly swallows the bite of prawn he was chewing and nods at me. "How long is this road trip actually going to be for – is it a week, or what?" Mother frowns at my use of 'or what?', but I'm not really paying any attention to her.
"A week? Oh pet, I want you to see as much of England as you can – a week wouldn't even be enough to see the majority of London, Flora. I know you've already seen a lot of London, but Albus might want to visit somewhere. This trip isn't just about you. You'll be gone at least four weeks, I would say – preferably more. I won't be too pleased if you're back before six weeks are up, to be honest."
"A month and a half?!" I say shrilly, again only remembering in the nick of time that young ladies never shout. My father nods solemnly. "A month and a half – is there even enough places in the United Kingdom to take forty two days at a minimum to see?"
"Well, that includes driving time," Daddy says reasonably. "You have to remember that you're going to be driving everywhere – you may be in the car all day doing nothing, some days."
"Oh wonderful," Albus spits out bitterly again, and I find myself wondering what his problem is. Is he having to leave his girlfriend behind or something to go on this trip?
Does Albus Potter even have girlfriends – I am under the impression that whatever girl smiles at him in the right way is his girl for the night, and after that one night he will move onto someone else. Not exactly the sign of a stand-up guy, I have to say.
His brother is the opposite – it had been all over the papers last month that James Potter, at the tender age of twenty one, had gotten engaged to his long-term girlfriend. I remember James from when I was in school – when I was a fifth year prefect I was forever giving him after curfew detentions. He was a little arrogant and cocky, and he liked pranking far too much, but he was a decent guy, James Potter. His girlfriend was alright, too, from what I can remember – as much of a free spirit as he was.
Compared to Albus, James seems like one of the most appealing men on the face of the planet.
"Albus," Mr Potter warns again, but he might as well have been talking to the wall, with all the attention that his son pays.
"No, this is just wonderful, Dad. And I really mean that. I mean, what wouldn't I love about babysitting some fun-sucking ex-prefect around the country while she visits museums and other boring shit that nobody gives a toss about anymore?"
"Albus!" Mr Potter finally raises his voice, and Albus seems to be slightly intimidated because he shrinks down and looks slightly ashamed for the first time since he got here. His surly expression returns, and he averts his eyes so he is once again staring at the table leg.
"I'm going to visit the bathroom," I say coolly, laying my napkin down on the table as soon as I have finished my prawn cocktail. Daddy nods and Mr Potter smiles warmly at me, but I can almost sense my mother's disapproval floating over from next to me.
When I reach the bathroom I hop up onto the counter surrounding the white marble sink and lay my head in my hands, trying desperately not to think about what the next month could end up like for me – stuck in a car with Albus Potter and his attitude with no way to escape. I pray that he is not going to be that grouchy for the entire journey – I would like to at least attempt to enjoy myself.
I glare around at the fancy shell-shaped soaps, the fancy bottles of hand cream written in elegant French cursive and the fluffy white towels hanging from polished silver towel rails – I love all of it. And knowing that the conditions living with Albus Potter in a car are not going to be anything like my life of fancy soaps and prawn cocktails is depressing – it makes me consider pulling a muggle-movie move, popping open the window and climbing out.
Of course, having nowhere to go other than Andromeda's house – whose mother would immediately send me back and alert my parents – kind of limits the possible consequences of doing something as rash as running away.
Once again smoothing down the front of my dress, despite the blatant lack of creases or crumbs, I head back out of the bathroom and into the dining room, where a quiet discussion has begun between my father and Mr Potter about the Chudley Cannon's chances in the National Tournament.
"Ah, good, you're back," Daddy smiles, and he immediately gestures to the nearest house elf to proceed with the next course.
And so a pattern emerges – listen to idle small talk, answer mono-syllabically when spoken to and quietly eat the next course that is served. Albus Potter does not sell himself to have particularly impressive linguistic skills either. I guess that the road trip is going to be a very silent affair.
I stare apprehensively at the short denim shorts that Andromeda is holding up, wondering how something that short and age-inappropriate had managed to find its way into my bedroom. It most certainly does not look like the type of clothing that belongs with my Victorian teddies or frilly bedspread.
"Come on, Flora, what if it's baking sun outside? You're really going to sit in a car in tights or trousers? You'll bake to death!" Andromeda protests, shaking the short denim affair around in the air a little. My face remains impassive, and she eventually throws it down onto the quilt in defeat.
"I have plenty of modest length dresses that can be worn in the baking sun, despite the fact I'm pretty sure the concept of sun is foreign in this country." I shoot Andromeda a look that she chooses to ignore, and she looks longingly at the shorts. She has long been under the impression that I dress like a middle-aged woman and need to stop.
Trying to force me into hotpants and a top small enough to be classed as underwear is not the way to do that, I'm afraid.
"Yes, and none of those 'modest length dresses' are actually made for hot nineteen year old girls," she sighs impatiently, but this time it is my turn to ignore her. Folding a pair of flesh coloured tights into a ball, I slot them into the large pocket in the lid of the suitcase and hope they don't get snagged. A ladder in one's tights is not ladylike.
"Well, you see mothers walking around in clothes that are not meant for forty-something women, but it doesn't seem to stop them," I mutter quietly, staring down at my two pairs of brown loafers. With or without leather stitching, that is the question...
"Yes, and people generally wind down their windows and scream 'mutton dressed as lamb' at them," Andromeda sighs, seizing the shorts and stuffing them into her oversized tote bag. I lean down and pick up the leather-stitched loafers, press the soles together and settle them in between my ballet pumps and sandals.
Andromeda reluctantly hands me a black cardigan and watches with pursed lips as I fold it as small as it will go, and place it on top of one of my six pairs of jeans. Daddy did say we were allowed to use magic to wash our clothes, though, which is a good thing.
"Do you always dress like a granny?" she asks disapprovingly, and I nod vaguely as I fold another summer dress in half and lay it down on top of my shoes. Taking the same dress in blue, I fold it the same way and lay it on top of its twin.
"You know I do," I say testily, and Andromeda raises both hands in a gesture of surrender. Taking a moment to bask in the glorious silence, I take three stretchy t-shirts and fold them into small squares, laying them down the side of the suitcase beside my shampoo and conditioner bottles.
"I still can't believe your dad is making you do this," Andromeda snorts suddenly, and a smile twitches the corners of my lips for the first time. Neither can I, in all honesty.
"Well, that's Daddy," I sigh. "He thinks he's doing the right thing."
"Well, he does have a point," Andromeda says reasonably, and I snap my head up so I can stare at her. She is grimacing at her, her eyes slightly apologetic, and I fist the material of another dress up in my clenched hand.
"What do you mean, he has a point?" I ask tightly through my teeth, and Andromeda once again raises both of her hands in the air. I resist the urge to narrow my eyes at her and carry on with my packing, slowly pressing bra cups into one another and tucking the straps down so they took up less room.
"What the bloody hell are these granny panties doing in your 'take' pile?" Andromeda shrieks suddenly, whipping a pair of my knickers out of my dwindling stack of clothes and waving them about in the air a little bit.
I flush and make to snatch them back, but she is too quick for me – she's back like a flash, and she's grinning in glee like she's never discovered anything quite so wonderful before. Throwing them at my head, she begins to laugh.
I frown down at them and quickly slip them into the lid pocket with the rest of my underwear.
"Merlin, if Albus Potter was to catch an eyeful of them, babe," she laughs, and I jump a little at the mention of his name. Neither of us have really focused on the fact he will be travelling with me until now.
"Well, as hard as this might be to believe, I'm not planning on letting Albus Potter have a root through my underwear, so we really don't have an issue there," I say coolly, folding my blue blazer up and laying it on top of my dresses.
"You know, you are going on this thing with Albus Potter – what are you going to wear if he insists on going to a nightclub, or something? You won't know what to put on because you haven't taken anything with you that you could wear..." Andromeda's hand is slowly inching back towards her tote bag, and I groan internally. She is a like a dog with a bone – she just will not let it go.
"Well, if he wants to go to a nightclub then he can go on his own, can't he? I'm not going to go to some hole where teenagers drink their trivial issues away and rub up against each other for no reason whatsoever." Andromeda groans again and lays her head into her hands, pounding her forehead a couple of times against the heel of her palm.
"Merlin, I wonder what you'd be like sometimes if you hadn't been raised by the Minister of Magic and his uptight wife. You never know – you might have actually turned out normal." I laugh softly and toss one of my smaller teddies at her, which she catches deftly like the Quidditch playing genius she is.
"I consider myself to be normal and the rest of my age bracket to be animalistic perverts, actually," I inform her, and she claps her hand to her chest.
"I'm offended! I will have you know, Miss I Don't Sneeze, Cough or Blink Without Permission, that I am not an animalistic pervert. Going to the occasional party and having the occasional drink with people from the opposite sex does not make you a pervert, it makes you fun."
"Well, I was informed today that 'fun' was an unknown concept to me," I say, and Andromeda laughs. Picking up my last two t-shirts, I fold them as small as they will go and lay them on top of the rest of my clothes, pleased to see that everything fit neatly without the need for rearranging and sitting on the lid of the suitcase, as we always have to do before Andromeda goes on holiday.
Andromeda lolls back onto my pillow and kicks her long legs in the air, her brown hair spilling all over my pillow. I pray she doesn't have head lice – that would be the very last thing I need.
"I'm gonna miss you while you're gone, you know – who am I going to go and see films with, and who am I going to go cycling with? I'm going to look like a loner now." Andromeda pouts and I laugh, leaning down onto the bed and giving her a crushing hug, basically lying on top of her. If the lazy whatsit hadn't lay down on my bed in the first place then she wouldn't be being crushed, so really... it is her own fault.
"I'll miss you, too – think of me when you're having fun and you know I'm locked in a car with Surly McSurlykins."
"Maybe it won't be too bad, Flora – I remember Albus Potter from school, and he was a cocky bastard, but he was a laugh. He was a fun bloke with a good sense of humour – he was the kind of person whose company you would enjoy. Maybe he was just acting that way to try and get out of going on this trip."
I frown and heave the suitcase off the end of the bed, dragging it to be doorway. I yell down for a house elf to come and charm it downstairs, and then focus on Andromeda again.
"Yes, maybe – I hope so, anyway. From what I remember of Albus Potter, he might not have been the kind of person that I want to rub shoulders with, but he was funny. I hope he hasn't lost that." I frown and glance out my bedroom window, which overlooked the large gravelled driveway.
Our old Land Rover came crunching through the trees into the main part of the drive as I watched, and it was quickly followed by another car – a much sleeker silver one – with the license plate 'POT 4 LYF'. I frown, and Andromeda bursts out laughing.
"I really don't think they realised what that was going to sound like out of context," she wheezes, going slightly red in the face.
I take my sunglasses (it wasn't sunny outside, but it was bright – you know, a white sky that hurt your eyes because of all the clouds) and my handbag, slide it elegantly onto my shoulder, smooth down my smart black jeans in the mirror and head out the door.
Andromeda follows me, still laughing to herself.
"Oh, I am so coming with you. I want to talk to Harry Potter about that licence plate of his."
"Ah, Flora, there you are," Daddy smiles, holding out both of his hands in my direction. Mr Potter seems to breathe a silent sigh of relief but Albus' face doesn't change at all from behind his sunglasses. Andromeda is struggling to contain her giggles behind me.
"Yes," I say quietly, wincing into the watery sun and pulling my sunglasses out of my handbag. I slide them onto my nose as Albus Potter sighs and leans into the open car window, fiddling with something on the CD player.
Mr Potter looks uncomfortable, and it is only then that I notice that three women and another man are standing with him – the ever popular James Potter, the ever famous Ginny Potter, the firecracker and a half that is Lily Potter, and the attractive girl that is James Potter's fiancée. I can't remember her name, but I recognise her face.
"Flora, it's lovely to see you again," Mrs Potter smiles, stepping forwards and pulling me into a hug that is probably as uncomfortable for her as it is for me. I find myself wondering when I actually saw her before, other than in passing, for this to be an 'again'.
"You too, Mrs Potter," I say quietly, pushing my glasses further up my nose. James Potter's eyes sweep up and down me, and he frowns, and then murmurs something to his girlfriend.
"So are you all packed and ready to go, Princess?" my father asks, and I jump a little at the endearment – Daddy is not the kind to usually refer to me with a nickname. He calls me by my name, because he always asks what the point would be of calling me Flora if that wasn't what he was going to refer to me as.
"Yes," I mutter again, and my mother's lemon face from the week before returns.
"You got clothes, shoes, ID – everything you need to live without magic?" I nod again, and mother quietly clears her throat.
"Have you got everything you need to keep yourself presentable? Because chances are you will be recognised, as will Mr Potter, and you want to look your best." I nod lightly at my mother and head over to the boot of the car, popping it open and checking that both of my suitcases are in there.
"Right, well, it seems like they're ready to go," Daddy grins, clapping his hands together and bouncing around slightly on the balls of his feet. Something definitely not fit for a fifty-five year old man to be doing.
"Yes, it looks like they are," Ginny says quietly, tucking a long strand of red hair behind her ear and staring apprehensively at the polished black hood of the Land Rover. She steps forward suddenly and wraps her arms around Albus, who looks a little disgruntled but pats her on the back all the same.
James suddenly pushed himself off his makeshift seat on the roof of his own car and swings his arm casually around Albus in one of those classic bro-pats, or whatever they're called. James' girlfriend or fiancée or whatever offers him a silent wave, but Lily Potter has the strangest reaction of all of them – she stares blankly at her brother for a moment, then flicks her hair at him and flounces off into her dad's car.
I am a little shocked at Albus' reaction – instead of looking angry or hurt like I assumed he would, he smirked and guffawed arrogantly at the car.
Daddy steps forwards and gives me a quick hug, kissing me on both cheeks and squeezing my shoulder lightly.
"Good luck, Flora – and please remember, we are doing this for you. But if at any point it gets too much for you and you want to come home, then you can – I want you to enjoy yourself. Can you do that for me?" Having learned as a little girl that I always do what Daddy tells me, I nodded, staring determinedly at my feet. Daddy coughs quietly, and I flush a little bit.
"Yes, Daddy," I murmur, and I can hear both Andromeda and Albus chuckling from behind me.
"Enjoy yourself, darling – that's the reason we've organised this. We want you to have a good time. For once in your life, we want you to act like a teenager," Mother says quietly, and I jump a little bit. Never before has she addressed me before in such a... caring manner.
It is unnerving, but I appreciated it.
"Thank you, Mummy," I say quietly, and she leans forwards to peck me on both cheeks.
They both nod and step back, and I glance apprehensively at the Land Rover but head over to it anyway, pulling open the passenger side door and dropping onto the seat. I glance over the dark tinted windows with appreciation, the nice sized gap between the two front seats and the cup holders.
Cup holders are always good. Just to prove this, I pull my water bottle out of handbag and pop it into the cup holder, nodding approvingly at it.
I jump a little when the driver's side door is pulled open, and quickly stare ahead with extreme concentration, surveying the windshield as he fiddles around with the keys and adjusts the seat backwards, forwards and then backwards again.
"You got everything you need? You ready to go?" Albus asks, and I nod.
"Even if I didn't, I can always just apparate back here and get it. It's not really an issue," I shrug, and Albus smirks.
"Right. Well, let's get this train wreck over and done with," he finally sighs, and with a quiet groan from the engine, we pull off the gravelled drive and onto the open road.
And so it begins...
disclaimer: nothing in this chapter belongs to me.
heeeeeey. so, new story! it was high time i posted one ~ bang was started in like january and being summer is coming to an end... so here it is :D plus, this one isn't a james/oc! i thought i'd try a few new things ~ albus/oc, present tense... yeah, that's it. any thoughts so far ~ plotline, albus, flora? and yes, flora is a snob. a big one. eeeerm... any thoughts you have would be very welcome, and i hope this is decent :D
ellie :) xx