I never really thought that perfect moments existed. Life happens randomly, nothing can really be planned and things don’t just “fall into place.” Sitting on the bed in the top floor of the Burrow, watching James’s face grow closer and closer to mine, nervousness and anticipation curdling in my stomach, I wondered if maybe I was wrong. Maybe sometimes, life does throw in perfect moments every now and then.
But of course, reality had to knock sense back into me. Perfection is an unattainable myth. Instead, life is complicated. It’s messy. And it likes to knock me back on the ground every time I pick myself back up.
“Hope?” I asked, cutting through the awkwardness that had filled the room. “Why-what are you doing here?”
“Victoire is having a bridesmaid meeting today, as you know,” Hope replied, eyes flicking between me and James, who had pulled himself off the floor and was trying to hide a blush. “As the Maid of Honor, it’s fairly important that I be here.”
“Right,” I muttered.
James cleared his throat uncomfortably, his hand shifting though his hair. “Er, hi. I’m James Potter. Uh, you must be Val’s sister.” He stood up and stuck his hand out to Hope, discomfort written clearly across his face.
Hope looked at James appraisingly. She shook his hand hesitantly, still glancing back and forth between him and me. “Nice to meet you, James. Your cousin speaks highly of you.”
He ducked his head in a nod, biting his lip. He looked back at me briefly, and his cheeks flushed red. I had to stop myself from smiling. He was adorable.
I stood up, tugging my shirt down slightly. “Wait up here, James,” I said quietly. “I’ll come talk to you after the meeting.”
He looked at me sharply and Hope raised an eyebrow. I left the room silently, not looking back to see if Hope followed me.
As soon as I left the room, I felt myself start to blush. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I almost kissed James. James Potter, my best friend and the only person in this world that I truly trusted. It was easy to say that things were about to get complicated.
“So, what was that?” Hope asked from behind me as she closed the door. We stood at the top of the landing and I watched her warily.
“I’m not really sure, but I doubt I’d tell you even if I was,” I said, not meeting her eyes.
Hope blinked, frowning. “C’mon Val. You can’t be mad at me. You’re my sister and I love you.”
“Doesn’t mean you know me,” I retorted. “Face it, Hope. You haven’t known who I am for over six years. Don’t try to pull the love card on me. You can’t guilt me into forgiving you.”
“But I didn’t do anything!” she protested.
“Val, please,” she said, catching my hand as I tried to walk down the stairs. “How can you blame me for not seeing what you didn’t want me to see? What you didn’t want anyone to see.”
“James sees,” I said firmly. “He saw back when I didn’t like him. He sees everything, yet we’ve only really known each other for two months. Even when I was trying to get him to leave me alone, he didn’t give up. He knows things about me that I never even knew myself.”
Hope grabbed my other hand, looking at me imploringly. “Why didn’t you tell us?” she asked softly. “About Joy, about… about how you felt? Why did you stay quiet for so long?”
I pulled my hands free and looked away. “I was the one that was messed up over Joy’s death. I didn’t need any of you worrying. I don’t tell people because they don’t need to know.”
“Val,” she said, placing a hand on my shoulder. I wanted to throw it off. Its weight felt like a lie, like false comfort. “Joy’s dead. You can’t hold onto these past memories like this.”
I whirled around, sudden anger sparking in me. “You’re saying I can’t remember my sister? That I should just forget about her? Believe me, Hope, I know better than anyone else that Joy is dead.”
“You need to talk about these things!”
“I do,” I said harshly. “With James.”
And with that, I turned and marched down the stairs before she had the chance to stop me. Her words echoed in my ears, stinging and burning. Let go of my memories? As if. Even if I don’t want to remember, I will never forget.
Needless to say, the meeting was a bit awkward. The bridesmaids were me Hope, Dom, Rose, Roxy, Lily, and Victoire’s friend Sarah. The tension between Hope and I was so obvious that even Sarah, who was oblivious to our disagreement, felt awkward. Dom, Rose, Roxy, and Lily kept glancing at each other, frowning, and the side of Toire’s face was twitching. She was majorly stressed about this wedding.
To be perfectly honest, I felt kind of useless at the meeting. It was basically Vic telling us all what her plans for the wedding are and us all agreeing and telling her she was a genius while she glared at us. She was actually kind of frightening. After an hour, she let us all go, reminding us that we would be going to get our dresses fitted in a week. The wedding was almost a month away.
I left the room hastily, but once again, Hope caught me before I made it to the stairs. I could hear the other girls shuffling around in the kitchen. In fact, I distinctly heard Roxy shush Lily so they could listen. I had to restrain myself from rolling my eyes, but I also felt a bit annoyed. It wasn’t their business.
“Seriously, Val,” Hope began, her voice tinged slightly with desperation. “Can you please talk to me?”
I sighed in resignation. “What do you want?”
“I just… my God, Val, I’m so sorry,” she breathed, tears sparkling in her eyes.
My throat closed up as she enfolded me in a hug. I let her hold me, though I made no move to embrace her back. My shoulders tensed and I squeezed my eyes shut. Hope pulled back quickly, looking at me with hurt in her eyes. I felt a bit guilty, seeing it there, but I did nothing to rectify it.
“Please,” she whispered. “We had no idea, about any of it. But we should have. We’re your family and we love you and we should have known. Please forgive us, Val. We all lost Joy. We can’t lose you, too.”
“You didn’t lose me,” I said, my voice sounding too calm, even to me. “You let me go.”
With that, I backed away from Hope and retreated up the stairs. I took a deep breath once I reached the top landing. James was waiting for me in there. James. Who I had almost kissed.
I pushed the door open hesitantly. James was pacing around the room, looking impatient. He looked up as I entered the room and smiled at me. My stomach twisted and I felt a smile forming on my own face.
“How was it?” he asked.
“As to be expected,” I replied with a shrug. “Victoire told she wanted our opinions on everything, but in reality, she just wanted us to agree with her. So that’s what we did. It was kind of boring, really.”
James took my hand and pulled me down onto the bed. “That’s not what I was talking about.”
He brushed my hair back – he does that a lot – and raised his eyebrows. I looked over his shoulder, not quite able to meet his eyes. His gaze was intense, and I felt almost nervous when he looked at me like he was. When did this happen? James shouldn’t make me nervous.
“Are you going to tell me, or are you going to stare aimlessly off at the wall for a little longer?” There was amusement in his voice, but only on the surface. Anyone who knew him well, which I did, could hear the tension, the worry underneath the humor.
I slowly let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. Looking up at the ceiling now, I shrugged. “It wasn’t anything terrible, I suppose. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t know, please forgive me, you should have said something,’ blah blah blah. She also felt the need to point out that Joy is dead, as if I didn’t already know that,” I scoffed. “She also told me to move on. A bit blunt, if you ask me. No one lets me forget, but everyone expects me to. Doesn’t that just make a bunch of sense?”
“You’re being bitter,” James pointed out gently. I looked at him, a wry smile twisting my lips. I was in an odd mood. There was the ubiquitous pain that I had felt since I saw Joy collapse in our sitting room, but it was dulled. I was upset about my fight with my family, but it really didn’t feel important right now. When I was with James, nothing else seemed to matter anymore. With him, I was happy. It was simple, but it was wondrous.
“You’re right,” I conceded. “Sorry. I just… don’t know how to feel about it all. I guess only time will tell.”
James looked at me in puzzlement. “You’re in a rare form. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you like this.”
“I feel different. You make me feel different.”
At his raised eyebrow, I smiled. “Not bad different. Just… the rest of the world kind of fades away. I have worries and troubles, but I just can’t focus on them around you. It’s refreshing.”
And at that, the awkwardness crept back into the room. I looked down, seeing that we were holding hands, and quickly pulled back. We both glanced at each other warily, uncertain as to what happens next.
“Val…” James began, tentative.
“I don’t know,” I responded automatically.
The corner of his mouth twitched, but he still regarded me seriously. “How can you not know if you didn’t even let me finish?”
I shook my head. “I know what you were going to say. But I don’t know what my answer is.”
“Then what was my question?”
“You know,” I whispered, willing back my blush. He quirked an eyebrow.
“Do I?” James’s face was blank, uncaring. It was a mask of indifference and I knew it was false. There were cracks in façade. He was trying to look like my answer was trivial, like this was all unimportant, but I knew him too well. What I didn’t know was why he wanted me to think he didn’t care.
“You were going to ask… you know… about what happened earlier. Before Hope walked in.” I couldn’t meet his eyes. It was all too… intense. I could feel a connection of some sort, a spark binding us together. It frightened me.
His hand found its way under my chin and, like so many times before, James pulled my head up so he could look at me directly. I closed my eyes, afraid of what I would see, what I would do.
“What was going through your mind?” he asked quietly. “When… it… almost happened. What were you thinking?”
“I don’t know.”
“Would you have, you know, gone through with it, if Hope hadn’t walked in?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did you want to?”
“I don’t know!” I cried, finally opening my eyes. “Please, James, just leave it alone! I just… don’t know!”
“Dammit Val, then what do you know?” he said, his voice rising. He sounded agitated, upset. I could feel his hand shaking from where it still gently gripped my chin. His brow was furrowed and he looked troubled.
I got up, pulling back from him harshly. “Look, just drop it, okay! Can’t we just forget this happened? I need to think… I don’t know… I just…” I trailed off, breathing heavily.
Did I want this? Did I want to date James? I couldn’t even figure out my own feelings. And that wasn’t the worst of my problems. What was James feeling? Was he afraid that I liked him, that he was leading me on, and was now trying to figure out how to let me down easy? Or did he, like everyone kept saying, fancy me, and was trying to figure out if I felt the same?
“James,” I said in a softer tone. “I don’t know what that was before, I honestly don’t. All I know is that you’re my best friend, my only friend, and I need you. I need you how you are right now. I don’t know what I want, and I don’t know what you want, but I know that I need things to stay the same. I can’t handle any change right now, James, I just can’t.”
He looked at me, his expression inscrutable. I felt like I was dangling from a great height, a fragile hold keeping me suspended in the air. Everything depended on James’s response. If he agreed with me, let the past stay in the past, then I would feel the earth firmly beneath my feet again. But, if he didn’t let this go… I would plummet to the ground. And then I would be alone.
James let out a big sigh. “All I want is for you to be happy, Val. If that’s what you need, that’s what we’ll do.”
I smiled and hugged James tightly. His arms wrapped around my waist, gently squeezing. I could feel fire spread through my body at the closeness. It made me feel alive and vibrant. It was as though I could do anything as long as I had James. The only thing I couldn’t do was figure out was why the hell I felt that way.
If I had to pick a favorite Weasley, not including James, it would probably be George. The man was utterly hilarious. He was constantly jovial, always making jokes and pulling pranks. He was basically a less clueless and more awesome version of Fred. It was obvious he had never really grown up.
George seemed to like me just as much. As James had said, my joke about his ear instantly endeared him to me. And my continued joking with him and the rest of the family just served to strengthen the affection. I wasn’t sure why, but I just really liked being around George. I may not have known him long, but he honestly felt a bit like a father to me. Except I think I’m the more mature of the two of us.
I found myself sitting outside, despite the cold, on my last night at the Burrow. James was inside, having an eating contest with Fred, Teddy, and Ron. Normally, I would have joined them, but things had been a bit… odd between James and me. Yes, I was still closer to him than anyone else in the world and we spent almost every second together, but it was different. It felt like there was something in the way. So instead of showing all those boys what eating really is, I decided to take some time to think to myself.
As it turns out, I didn’t get much time for solitary reflection, as George joined me shortly after I went outside. I glanced over at him and smirked. “Evening, St. George.”
He chuckled softly at the name I had given him. “Care to tell me what you’re doing out here, Val?”
“Thinking, I guess,” I said with a shrug.
“Ugh,” he shuddered. “How awful. I guess it’s a good thing I’m here to save you from it. When I was your age, I made sure to never think when I didn’t have to.”
I smiled slightly. “That must be where Fred gets it from. What a great role model you are. Besides, I know that’s not true. Where else would you have gotten all the ideas for your joke shop?”
“True,” he acknowledged. “Fred and I did a lot of thinking for that.”
“Fred?” I asked. How could his son help him when he wasn’t even born?
“And there it is,” he muttered. “The thing I came out here to talk to you about.”
At my confused look, his mouth twitched into a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “I’m surprised you don’t know. You’re a smart girl. Far too smart to be stuck hanging around with James and Fred. The way everyone talks about you, you know everything. But I guess you don’t know this.”
“And I still won’t know unless you tell me,” I said, baffled by the way he was talking in circles. This didn’t seem like the George I had come to know over the holidays.
He suppressed a snort. “Yeah. You’re definitely too good for James. And to think you actually dated my son… I would think he tricked you into it, but you’re far too clever.”
I laughed at that and he joined me. “All teasing aside,” he said, looking more serious and… a bit sad, “there was something I think you and I should discuss.”
“What it is?” I asked. Was it about James? Had anyone noticed a difference in how we acted? Were we acting different? Was it obvious?
“By now, I’m sure you’ve noticed that the Weasley family is rather large. Yeah, I know, that’s the understatement of the year. Well, it should be bigger. I have a twin brother, Fred.”
I stared at him in astonishment. He has a twin? How could I not know this? Seriously. We even learned about the Weasley family in History of Magic. But I didn’t know this major detail? How could I not have known? And why didn’t James mention it?
“Fred was my best friend. We were Beaters for Gryffindor together, pulled pranks, and opened the joke shop together. But he was killed during the Battle of Hogwarts,” George said of this in a matter-of-fact voice, but I could see the sadness in his eyes.
I looked at him in shock. Of course. Of course Fred would have died. Why else would he be missing? I looked out over the snow covered gardens, biting my lip. George… knew. He knew exactly how I felt. And here he was, one of the most upbeat, cheerful people I’ve ever met. He’s happily married and has a wonderful family. He lost the person closest to him, his other half, but he was fine.
“It really sucks, doesn’t it,” I said. He raised an eyebrow and laughed.
“That has to be the most refreshing reaction I’ve ever gotten. People I don’t know will walk up to me on the street and tell me how sorry they are for my loss, even to this day. My God, I can’t stand that.”
“Tell me about it,” I agreed. “There’s a reason I don’t tell people about Joy. I hate going home for the summer, because all the people in Roscrea look at me with such… pity. They all tell me they understand my loss, but they don’t. Their sympathy doesn’t make me feel better, it feels like they’re patronizing me. That’s why I like your family so much. None of you do that.”
George nodded sagely. “It’s because we know what it’s like. Those of us who went through the war had to experience a lot of tough losses, and we’ve told our kids all about it. Believe me, if anyone can understand you, it would the Weasley family.”
“You know something,” I said thoughtfully. “Right now, you feel more like a father to me than my own dad. It’s kind of pathetic. And your brothers and sister are nothing but kind to me.”
He clapped a hand on my shoulder. “Things will work themselves out in the end, don’t you worry. And if I’m your father, does that mean I have to have the strict parent talk with James?”
I looked at him in surprise, raising my eyebrow at his suddenly jovial tone. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Oh, don’t give me that rubbish, Val. I’m missing an ear, not eyes.” He nudged me playfully. “You and my nephew. You two aren’t exactly subtle.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I responded automatically, blushing furiously.
“I know you two aren’t dating, I’m not that presumptuous,” he acceded. “But honestly, if you two start fancying each other any more, you’ll probably explode into a pile of teenage hormones. Disgusting.”
I had to suppress a smile at his teasing words, but I was still mulling over what he said. Well, he’s gone through the same things I have, maybe I can talk to him about James. Didn’t I just say he was like a father to me?
“I’m… really confused,” I admitted. “I just… I don’t know. James is super important to me, I mean, you’d have to be blind not to see that. But he’s just my friend. And I don’t know if I want to change that and if I do, how that will affect everything. I’m scared, I guess.”
I glanced at George, who now looked kind of nervous. “Oh God,” he muttered, “I am not good at this. Um…” He cleared his throat and spoke louder. “I know that it’s hard to trust people, love them unconditionally, after feeling such a loss, but it honestly makes things better. I had a really hard time after Fred died, but Angelina helped me so much. Don’t give up on… on love, or whatever, just because you’ve gone through hard things in your life. Because it will all mean so much more to you, because you can appreciate it so much more than people who have never gone through loss.”
“Who would have thought,” I said with a small smirk, “George Weasley, giving serious, wise advice about love to a teenage girl. If word of this gets out, your reputation will be ruined.”
He stared at me for a second. “You’re blackmailing me, aren’t you?”
I grinned impishly. “You know, the thought never crossed my mind. But now that you mention it, there are a few… requests I’d like to make.”
“Shut up, kid,” he said, shoving me. “As an adult and authority figure in your life, I cannot condone that sort of behavior.”
I raised an eyebrow. “But…”
“But as George Weasley, I feel nothing but proud and highly amused.”
The next day, I piled into a compartment on the Hogwarts Express with the Weasleys. Even though we split up into two compartments, it was still rather crowded. I was with James, Fred, Roxy, Al, and Rose. Louis, Lily, Hugo, Molly, and Lucy were in the compartment directly across from us. Throughout the ride, several people visited us, including Maisie Finnegan, Mike Karalis, Simon Longbottom, and the Scamander brothers.
I sat next to James, my legs splayed over his lap while I leaned against Al. Rose and Roxy were across from us while Freddy was sprawled on the floor. James was drumming out a rhythm on my knees, Rose was reading, Fred was babbling about seeing Rhiannon – who had stayed at Hogwarts for the holidays – again, and Roxy and Al were debating the importance of Chasers vs. Seekers in Quidditch.
“The team that catches the Snitch is not guaranteed to win the match. It’s up to the Chasers to give the team enough points that the 150 gained from the Snitch will be inconsequential,” Roxy argued. A valid point, if I say so myself. Of course, I might be a bit biased.
“Yeah, but the game can’t end without the Seeker. And everyone knows the Seeker is the most important player,” Al shot back.
“Oh, that is bullshit and you know it!” Roxy snapped. If Al wasn’t careful, she would probably get violent soon. Roxy hits hard. Really hard. I’ve always thought she’d be a good Beater. But then she’d have to work with Fred, and that would just spell disaster. She’d probably end up hitting Fred more than the Bludgers.
“Then why is the Seeker the most targeted player by the Beaters, the most idolized by fans, and the highest paid position in the professional league?” Al asked with a smug smirk.
Roxy scowled furiously. Yep. Al is definitely going to be attacked pretty soon. “Because there is for too much emphasis placed on their value. This is exactly the point I’ve been trying to make. All you have to do is fly around for a while and then catch a ball faster than another person. Anyone can be a Seeker if they have good eyesight and a small amount of flying ability. Chasers are vital to the whole game the entire time. We have to be agile, athletic, and clever. We have to be able to work as a team, think fast, and weave through all the Bludgers and other players.”
“Besides, Al,” James broke in, “I wouldn’t say Seekers are the most idolized. At least not at Hogwarts.”
“Really, then who is?” Al asked skeptically.
“Well, think about it. What person would you say it the most idolized at Hogwarts for their Quidditch talent? And then tell me what position they play.”
Slowly, everyone in the compartment turned and looked at me. I glanced around at them in confusion. “What?”
James flicked my leg. “It’s you, idiot. Everyone knows that you’re practically worshipped for being the Chaser Extraordinaire. Like seriously, in that last match against Hufflepuff, when you flipped upside down to avoid the Bludger and then scored? I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing that move used in the World Cup this year. Genius.”
“He’s been trying to learn that one ever since,” Rose commented, turning back to her book. “After he fell off his broom for the third time I told him to stop unless he wanted me to write to Aunt Ginny.”
“You stealing my moves, Potter?” I asked, raising an eyebrow in amusement.
“And failing at them,” Roxy snorted. James blushed slightly.
“Oh, just go back to your argument,” he muttered.
I patted James on the head as pompously as I could. “It’s okay Jimmy, I still love you, even though I should turn you in for plagiarism.”
He turned to look at me, looking shocked. “What did you call me?” he asked slowly, sounding disbelieving. Um. Okay then, that’s weird.
“Jimmy,” I said, nonplussed. “It’s generally an accepted nickname for James, but I guess I don’t have to call you that if it bothers you…”
“No,” he said quickly. “No, I like it. Call me whatever you want.”
“You’re going to regret that,” Fred muttered. Al nodded darkly, breaking away from his continued argument with Roxy.
I glared at them. “I’m sorry, do you have any complaints Fredward and Allison?”
Al winced. “I thought we agreed that you wouldn’t call me Allison?”
“Yeah,” Fred chimed in. “And you very well know that Fredward is my least favorite of your little names.”
“And that is exactly why I used those names. Now shut up before I hit you both.”
“Notice how James gets the option of declining a stupid nickname,” Freddy grumbled.
I rolled my eyes. “That’s because I actually like Jamie. I just put up with you, Fredino.” I ruffled James’s hair affectionately.
“Okay, I put my foot down at Jamie. It’s way too… cutesy,” James interjected, although a huge grin was overtaking his face. What was he so happy about?
The rest of the train ride passed trivially after that. For the most part, I sat in silence, still half sitting on James, and thinking about everything that had happened to me over the holidays. I confronted my past, spilled my secrets to my family, and I broke. Then I met the entire Weasley family and put myself back together with insurmountable help from James. Now, I was better than I have been for six years, but there was something nagging my mind ceaselessly.
There are boundaries to every friendship, but especially those between a girl and a bloke. There are certain things you don’t talk about, things you avoid doing, and lines you don’t cross. But as of late, and especially when James and I were in the bedroom before Hope showed up, those lines had been blurred. Even now, James and I might be considered too close for those who are merely friends.
Now I had to think about the conversation James and I had after the bridesmaid meeting. I had to think about what George told me last night. I had to think about what I wanted. But most importantly, I had to figure out what James was thinking.
It may seem odd that James was my top priority. But our relationship has always been about me in the past. Making sure I was happy, talking about my life. It was time for me to start thinking about James and what he wanted and needed.
Aw, look at that. Val is maturing. Putting other people first!
So what did you think? Especially about the long awaited talk with George? I was a little unsure of it. It seems a bit… sappy?
Originally, back in Chapter 8 I said that the Ted and Vic’s wedding would be in March, but now I’ve moved it to February. I’m planning on going back and changing Chapter 8 to reflect that. Basically, I changed it because this story is progressing a bit faster than I thought it would way back then. There are specific things I want to happen at the wedding and I just can’t delay them.
After last chapter, this story received it’s one hundredth review! Congrats to Dezire_427! You know, when I said you had to be number 100, I was actually joking, but well done anyways, my dear.
Just a little aside, if you’ve never heard the song Shake It Out by Florence + The Machine, I highly suggest you give it a listen. Not only is it an amazing, beautiful song, but it seriously makes me think of Val and it’s been a huge inspiration for this entire story.
Leave me a review and tell me what you think! And in the meantime, here’s a preview for Chapter 20!
She pulled back and looked at me. “Is something wrong? Did I do something? I mean, you never wrote back.”
“I never got any letters from you,” I said, frowning.
Her eyes widened. “What do you mean? I sent you a letter and your gift the day before Christmas. I wrote again twice but you never responded.”
“Oh,” I said, understanding. “Your owl probably never found me, I wasn’t at home.”
“Then where were you?” Lessie asked, tilting her head in confusion.
“Er, I ended up spending the holidays with the Weasley family,” I said awkwardly.
Disclaimer: I’m sure that by this point, you comprehend that I am not J.K. Rowling.