Chapter 4 : Cecelia's
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I hadn’t made it. I was not going to be an Auror.
More than anything, the only person I wanted was my dad. As childish as it sounds, he always managed to cheer me up and find the happiness in a sad situation. Even if I couldn’t work in Law Enforcement like him, I hoped he would still find something positive.
As I let the need sink in, I – more than ever – wished he hadn’t left. I wished my mother… I wished I could hear him saying he’d still be proud of me, but I suppose I’d never know now.
Lucy was the first person to reach me. I wasn’t too surprised at this, seeing as how she was probably the only person I had there supporting me. I clenched my teeth as I felt her arms wrap around me, another wave of sadness hitting me as she mumbled an apology.
“I want to go home, Luce.” Her arms slacked from around me, and I turned to face her. “Let’s go, I don’t want to be here anymore.”
She nodded and stood. Words failed her as she held out her hand to help me up, though I could tell she wanted to drench me in more apologies.
As we walked towards the Atrium Floos, I spotted Kayla. Eyes sopping and cheeks burning, I was sure that was how I would look if I was bawling my eyes out too. A woman with the same colour hair had her in a tight embrace and a man with her nose patted her on the back; I assumed it was her mum and dad.
What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I crying?
I didn’t. I didn’t let myself do it. And I hated it.
When I was fifteen, I found out through a letter that my parents were getting a divorce. I cried, and cried, and nearly failed my O.W.L.’s, almost losing out on my spot in the classes required to become an Auror, just because I made a mess of myself that I was losing my father.
And at fifteen, I realized that wasn’t the kind of person I wanted to be. I was someone that let her emotions get in the way of accomplishing her dreams. I didn’t want to do that to myself again, so I didn’t cry. After all these years it just didn’t happen anymore.
I felt Lucy’s arm link with mine and pull me away from the crowd. My feet could hardly do the work required to get me away, so I was forever thankful for her presence. Before I could register the fading chatter Lucy was releasing my arm and holding a small container of Floo Powder in front of me. I took a small handful, tossed it in and muttered out my address.
I headed straight for my couch when I stepped over the grates into my flat, not bothering to wipe the soot off my nice clothes as I sat down on it. Positioning myself in the corner of the ‘L’ shape, I shut my eyes and curled up into the fetal position, waiting for my best friend.
What… what was I going to do?
I winced as the green from my fireplace flooded through my eyelids, announcing Lucy’s presence. My head sunk with the couch as she took the seat right next to me.
“You smell like grass,” I commented through still closed eyes.
She let out an unsteady chuckle. “I had practice before I came to the ceremony and I forgot to bring my dress shoes to the locker room; these are my Quidditch trainers.” She was quiet for a few more moments. “Taylor?”
“I don’t know,” I quickly interrupted her, finally opening my eyes. “I don’t know what happened. I won’t get any answers why until I ask Ron or Harry for them and right now I don’t want to know, I just want to…” I let my sentence trail off as I couldn’t find the words to complete it.
Honestly, I didn’t want to hear what I did wrong. I knew I eventually would, but right now, I wanted to stop being sad, and that information wouldn’t help.
Lucy didn’t pester me to ask for the information, she just shifted so I could rest my head in her lap. In order to suppress her urge to ask more questions, she started to put little plaits into the side of my head, humming to herself as she did. I shut my eyes again and focused on letting the harmony of her invented tune warm my unpleasantness. It was relaxing, and before long I could feel a little bit of my irritation and grief pass.
“Do you want me to turn the telly on?” I offered after a while, rubbing my eyes and glancing around for the remote.
“Will it work?” she asked sceptically as she sectioned off another part of my hair.
I exhaled. “On a Friday afternoon? You’re right, not a chance.”
I felt her laugh silently. She fidgeted with some of the hairs she had missed and after a while she finally spoke again. “I’m not going to ask what happened, but… do you know… what you’re going to do?”
If I had the answer to that...
“I’m—” I sat up and took my feet off the couch. I was sad that she stopped humming because I could already feel a little bit of my resentment coming back. “I don’t know. All I know is I’m not going to be an Auror.”
“Taylor…” Lucy was shit at comforting people, but I had to give her credit for trying. I could tell all she wanted to do was to make me laugh.
So, I let her.
“Luce, please, just stop feeling bad for me. I didn’t make it and you feeling bad for me isn’t going to magically change the Auror department’s minds. So please, cheer me up how you want to.”
She studied me for a few seconds and I gave her a hopeful glance. I knew she wasn’t convinced, but I waited for a few seconds and watched as sides of her cheeks eventually twitched. “Your hair looks ridiculous.”
I lifted my hands up and ran my fingers along the plaits she had put in. As if it were a foreign action, I felt my cheeks lift up and my lips curl into a smile. “I’m not wearing my hair like this tonight.”
Her eyes widened. “James! Taylor, I’ll Floo him and cancel for—”
“Lucy.” I stopped her frantic spluttering after she started towards my fireplace. She looked down to me. “It’s four o’clock, you said I’d be there at seven; you can’t exactly cancel three hours before a date actually starts. Besides—” I swallowed and sighed. “You were right on Wednesday.”
“What?” she furrowed her eyebrows.
I shrugged. “Things do change in three years.”
“Taylor…” She sighed. “You don’t have to do this; James will understand.”
“Lucy,” I sighed back, smiling when she laughed at my tone. “If I sit around here tonight all I’m going to do is apparate to Diagon Alley, buy a big tub of Triple Chocolate Frog, and mope in front of the static,” I explained as I pointed to the telly.
She eyed me, raising an eyebrow as if she was trying to ‘figure out’ my attitude. I eyed her right back. “What?”
“You… want to go out with James, don’t you?” She grinned.
“Lucy,” I warned.
“I won’t tell him you want to go out with him, Tay Tay,” she continued to tease as she stood off the couch.
I frowned at her. “Please don’t call me that.”
“Let’s go find something to wear!” she said with a smirk, linking her arm with mine and dragging me towards my bedroom.
I rolled my eyes at her. “Okay. But first, please take these bloody plaits out.”
“Can I borrow this?”
I shifted my glance from my eyelashes to her standing behind me in the mirror. Reflected, she was holding up an old light blue dress in front of her. It was one that I hadn’t worn in ages, so I nodded.
“Thanks.” I turned back to put the finishing touches around my eyes. Once I was satisfied, I realized she was still staring at me through the reflection. I grabbed some lip gloss and turned around to her. Leaning back on the bathroom counter, I applied it as I watched her study her own reflection.
She snapped out of her gaze and shook her head. I motioned for her to say it, but she only sighed. “I’m supposed to be making you feel better and here I am sulking.”
“Luce, tell me,” I demanded in what I hoped sounded like a concerned tone.
Biting her lip, she shifted her weight onto the opposite foot. “I think I’m going to dump Tanner tonight.”
“Oh? Why?” I asked.
She sighed. “I found some glitter on one of his uniforms when I visited him last night. He said it was mine, but you know I don’t wear that shit when I have practice, so…” She let her sentence trail off and eyed my open drawer of makeup. “I’ve had practice every day this week.”
I frowned. “I’m sorry, Luce; I know you really liked him.”
“It’s alright.” She shrugged. “It’ll just leave me free for your party!” I smiled after she did, and did a little twirl to silently ask her approval of the look we had chosen. I picked out a purple dress I had gotten in Muggle London a few months ago, but had never found the chance to wear until now. With major help from Lucy managed to get my hair into a few decent looking waves. I did some greys and blacks around my eyes, to go for a ‘smoky’ look, hoping it would make the blue look a little brighter.
“You look perfect!”
“Not like I just learned the last three years of my life were a waste?” I asked, tone full or sarcasm.
“That’s the spirit!” Even when I was down on myself, and she on herself, she could make me laugh. “I think I’ll take your advice though; hit up Ben’s shop and listen to some old matches on the wireless.”
I stood up off the counter and walked over to hug her. “Invite him to my party next week. God knows he’s about the only other ‘friend’ I’ve got these days.”
Yeah, my friendships were really that sad lately that I included the ice cream shop owner in my list of them.
I felt her chuckle. “Will do.”
We ended the embrace, and I checked the time. “I’d better get going,” I commented as I realized I’d be just on time after goodbyes.
She hugged me again and I waved my wand to shut all of the lights off. I walked her to my fireplace and offered her the Mason jar I kept the Floo Powder in.
“Oh,” she added as she took a small handful. “Even though you always lie about it, I can tell if you kiss on first dates or not, so…” she couldn’t finish her sentence as her laughter took over. Before I could retort, she stepped into my fireplace, shouted “Creamery Charms!” and vanished into the green flames.
I huffed and disapparated.
I landed in front of the restaurant in Tutshill and glanced into the window. Lucy picked this place a lot for my first time dates (yes, sadly I can say that without exaggeration) because it was very romantic… it set the mood, she’d say. Cecelia’s wasn’t as fluffy as Madam Puddifoot’s in Hogsmeade, instead filled with dim candlelight, a tuxedoed wait staff, and soft jazz music playing live every night.
I let one of the hosts take my cloak and walked up to their stand. I tried to peer past him to see if I recognized James from school memories, but the dining room was full of people.
“Good evening, ma’am. Are you meeting someone?”
I looked back to him. “Err, yes… Potter?”
The man looked up from his reservation list and studied me for a moment, before glancing back down. I could have sworn I saw him roll his eyes at me. Probably trying to decide if I was a crazy fan of their family or something.
I felt a bit put off, but I didn’t let it bother me as he found the name on the list. Giving me one of the fakest smiles I’ve ever seen, he held out his hand and said, “Right this way, ma’am.”
My stomach started to turn and tickle as we walked through the dining room. I remembered Lucy’s words, “Go out and celebrate with James”.
I wasn’t going to let things get to me, that’s what. I knew I was stronger than letting something ruin my attitude on a day like today. Things change in three years. I started to scan the faces of the dining room, seeing if I could spot any similar to the Auror I had been working with for the past three years. I saw a rather good looking man with black hair, but I quickly frowned as I realized he was holding a spoon up to the face of a small child.
I nearly ran into the host I was following as he came to a sudden stop. “Here you are, ma’am.” I realized he was holding the chair out for me. However, I wasn’t concerned with him waiting for me to sit.
For only seconds before I had spotted the same man across the table from the pulled out chair. It actually was his hair that I recognized first, but not from the familiar colour. It was the way his hands were tangled in them, as if running his fingers through his ebony mess would solve all of the problems in the world. He was sitting at a table by himself, gazing down into a glass of brown liquid. The smallest puffs under his unmistakably brown eyes gave away more than he looked as if he was ready to.
“Taylor Hill, right?”
He was standing.
His mouth was moving.
His hand was reaching towards me.
Normalcy, Taylor! Time to talk back!
“Uuh— yeah, Taylor. You’re James P-Potter?” I stuttered out as I met his hand to shake it.
“Just James.” He gave me a nice smile and let go of my hand. He held out his other hand to point to the chair, offering me to sit as he did the same. “D’you want something to drink?” He waved for a waiter, who ran over before I had made it onto the seat.
“Yes, Mr. Potter, what can I get for you? We have a ’73 vintage elf-made cabernet on special, or can I bring you another—”
“Whatever she’d fancy,” he was quick to interrupt and pointed at me.
I gave the eager waiter a polite smile. “Just water, please.”
“Yes, ma’am!” Before I could thank him he was halfway across the dining room.
I chuckled to myself and looked back to James. I would have to thank Lucy; at the very least her cousin was attractive. He didn’t look as much like his dad as I thought he would; I could definitely see some of his mum – the famous Harpies player and Lucy’s favourite aunt – in his eyes and cheekbones. He was swirling his tumbler, studying the liquid as if it was about to tell him all the answers to life. When he realized I was watching him he quickly put it down and smiled to me. “You look really pretty; Lucy said you were her best friend... I guess I expected someone from the Harpies.”
I blushed. Good lord I think the ice in my cup had started to melt from the heat radiating off my cheeks.
“Thank you,” I mumbled and tried to force my tone into one of more confidence. “I’m her Hogwarts best friend. I love watching Quidditch… I’m just a pretty lousy player around brooms.”
He chuckled and set down his glass. I felt myself blush again as he let a playful grin slip onto his lips and I reminded myself to thank Lucy double. “I bet you’re not that bad.”
“Do you remember Flying Lessons they give all the first years?” I asked. He nodded. “I called ‘up’, and knocked out a tooth. I’m lousy.”
For the first time that night his laugh lit up his eyes. “Okay, I guess you could be that bad.” He smirked, giving away his teasing with an actual smile a few seconds later. I gave him a look of fake hurt, but I could only hold it for a second before I joined his laughter.
It was nice… his flirting. It pushed away everything for a few seconds.
A lull fell over us and all of those disappointing feelings bubbled back. I looked back to James, watching as he reached for his tumbler again. He didn’t look exactly the part, but I could see a little of his father in him. I noticed the scruff on his chin as Lucy’s words sank in; things change in three years. I inwardly laughed as I thought back to all of the clean shaven – or, too young – dates I’d had. As the silence started to become uncomfortable, I was thankful for the water glass in front of me; I had something to occupy my mouth from saying something stupid.
I watched him over the rim of my glass and felt a little sorry he couldn’t take as long of a drink of his Firewhiskey as I could with mine. After he set his glass down I could tell he was searching his brain frantically for the next topic. I put my cup down.
“Are… are you okay, James?”
His eyes shot up to me. “Yeah!” I wasn’t convinced, but I decided to drop the topic. It wasn’t really any of my business, though I had a few assumptions by Lucy’s setup. Big shifts in players for Quidditch teams were usually announced in a large Saturday edition of The Daily Prophet, so I knew if the topic didn’t get brought up – by the way he frowned when he thought I wasn’t looking, I thought it might – I could always check tomorrow if I felt compelled.
“Have we decided here?” I jumped at the voice of the waiter.
I dropped my eyes down to the menu, scanning it for the first time. I never had much of an appetite to begin with, but the disappointment fresh in my mind of today’s results had diminished it to nothing. I read through the entrée options on the menu, each one of them sounding viler than the next. I felt my eyes slip towards the dessert menu, wishing I could just order from that – takeout – and be away from anyone else.
I also wanted to take Lucy’s advice and act normal. After James asked what was good (I took a guess he hadn’t scoped out the menu either) the waiter perked up and went into a snowball of suggestions.
Ribeye? No. Warm gazpacho? No. Pecan crusted Tilapia? Hell no.
“…Also, we’ve got an excellent mushroom risotto on special, otherwise I can start you off with some crab fritters, or tonight’s tasting menu is—”
According to this man, everything was on special. I let him drone on as I stole another glance at James. He grinned back, obviously finding the same entertainment in the overeager server. The moment quickly passed and I tried to settle the butterflies as we both looked back down to our menus. As our waiter moved onto the beef entrees, I snuck a peek and watched James’ eyes moving back and forth, but even I knew he wasn’t absorbing the words in front of him.
As he looked up to respond to the waiter, I dropped my gaze back down to the desserts.
“I’ll take a refill—” he tapped his index finger on the rim of his glass. “—and the… the last thing you mentioned. And—” he paused as he looked back down to the menu, “—the molten chocolate Cauldron Cake for her.”
My eyes flew off of my menu as the waiter wrote down our ‘order’. He seemed sad that we hadn’t taken his suggestion of the eight course tasting menu, but it quickly faded him as another table was seated a few down from us. I recognized one of the players from the Tornadoes that had just taken the table with his family. I looked back to James, silently asking him what had just happened.
“Lucy warned me.” He shrugged with a smile. “She said you would panic when it came time to order and probably wouldn’t get anything, so I should order you the best looking dessert.”
I was going to kill Lucy Weasley.
I was too busy wishing he’d stop smirking that it came as a surprise when it actually happened. His eyebrows furrowed and brought my attention back to the conversation, just in time to hear him ask, “Err… she also mentioned you were celebrating something? She didn’t go into details, but…”
Dammit. Of course she did. I felt my cheeks grow hot as I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. Keeping my eyes on my silverware, I mumbled, “Things kind of fell through, I’m not really celebrating anymore.”
I had made him uncomfortable. He quickly held up his hands to defend his expectations and sputtered out an apology. “I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have assumed.”
“It’s alright,” I muttered. “You had every right to ask. I’ll have to thank Lucy personally tomorrow for her fantastic timing.”
He pursed his lips and after I laughed he let a chuckle slip. “She meant well, maybe just holler at her a little.”
I nodded with a smile and let another lull fall over us. I looked around the restaurant in order to prolong picking the next topic. I felt a sudden wave of thankfulness at his excitement and covered up a laugh as I watched him rush back to check on our food. “You’d think the waiter wouldn’t be so star struck, working at such a nice restaurant in Tutshill,” I commented.
And that’s where I messed things up. James grimaced. “Dad’s name has that effect on people.”
“I’m sorry,” I instantly replied, feeling bad at my failed attempt at conversation.
“Don’t be,” he responded, flashing me another smile. It didn’t set me at ease, but I let him go on. “I guess I should get used to it. As of tomorrow ‘First born son of war hero Harry Potter can’t fight the sting of competition,’ will be the hottest phrase in the wizarding world.” I cocked an eyebrow at him. He elaborated, “Sting… Wasps… I guess a career at The Prophet isn’t in my future either.”
He laughed, but it wasn’t sincere. I gave him a sad smile, unsure of what to say to follow. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
“You too.” He nodded, holding up his drink to click it with my cup. “And it’s alright. I just—” he let out an unamused laugh, “—need to figure out what I’m going to do with my life now.”
I watched as he ran his hand over the stubble on his chin and let out a sigh through his nose. I thought about what he had just said. Need to figure out what I’m going to do with my life. There’s a laugh. All I ever wanted was to be an Auror. I didn’t even know the name of any other professions out there! Okay, I knew Lucy was a Professional Quidditch Player and Caroline was an International Magical Cooperation Journalist, but besides Law Enforcement, I hadn’t even considered anything else.
Thankfully our food came out a few moments later, distracting the both of us from the small relating moment. Even having not eaten all day I wasn’t feeling particularly famished, so I took small bites of the cake as James and I got to know each other.
Despite the fact that we were both pretty down on ourselves this particular evening, I still had fun learning about him. When he stopped talking about getting cut, he got into all of the Quidditch fandoms in his family and how argumentative things get when someone turns on the wireless.
“Lucy’s the worst, by far,” James pointed out, making me laugh. “In-season she’s... she’s mean! When we were smaller, her dad had to put her in timeouts all the time for fighting with Louis.”
I had met her dad a few times, and while he was a little… proper about things, he was a nice guy and really big into his family. I had never met Louis, but I knew he was quite a bit younger than Lucy, so I rolled my eyes.
“She’s mean all the time.” I laughed, and reached to the center of the table for the bread bowl. I broke off a piece and started to eat as he went on.
James laughed. “Hugo’s just weird.” He leaned in closer. “He’s got a bit of a gambling problem; likes to bet on anything and everything. Kid’s run himself broke.” He sat back up and chuckled to himself. “Uncle Ron’s the worst; sometimes I just think Hugo gets his money because his dad still bets on the Cannons winning.”
I swallowed the bread and laughed. “The Cannons? Why!?”
He rolled his eyes. “I’ve asked mum multiple times… no one really understands.”
“Lucy got me tickets to the last Harpies vs. Cannons game… it obviously didn’t sell too well, considering…” I let my sentence trail off and he chuckled. “Remember the one they lost in twelve minutes?”
James smiled and nodded. “I heard that one on the wireless at work.”
“Where do you work?” I asked, thankful for the ease in conversation. I could feel myself becoming more comfortable around him by the second as he went on about his job.
“The Quidditch Supplies Shop in Diagon Alley,” he said with a small shrug.
I tilted my head a little and furrowed my eyebrows. “Really? I work at Gringotts and Lucy drags me in there all the time; granted I cower in fear the whole time, but I can’t believe I’ve never seen you.”
He chuckled. “I work in back, receiving shipments and testing products before they go on the shelves.”
“Yep.” He nodded and took a drink. “The shop has an Undetectable Extension Charm in back; it’s about half the size of a normal Quidditch pitch, but it’s perfect for what I’m doing. Everything has to be quality checked before the shop will sell it. It’s a lot of tedious work, but the new brooms are fun.”
I smiled to him. I was doing that a lot. “Somehow that doesn’t sound too fun to me.”
He laughed and looked back down to take another bite. When he looked back up and saw I was watching him, he dug the fork back in and asked, “Do you want to try this? It’s excellent.” He picked the fork back up. I made eye contact with him and saw him smiling.
What the hell, right?
I pulled my napkin from my lap, leaned over the table and let James Potter feed me off his fork. I brought my hand up under my chin as it got close enough to my lips and giggled as he laughed at me. It was some kind of roast, but I was too preoccupied by the smile he was giving me to realize the flavour.
“It’s really good,” he said, “I wonder if my nana got a job here without telling anyone.”
“She’s a good cook?” I asked after I swallowed.
“The best.” He smiled. “I’ll have to bring you sometime…” he paused and smirked, “I’ll starve you for a few days, and then you’ll have to eat.”
I was so going to kill Lucy.
I kicked him under the table.
“Well… tell a girl you want to see her again and get kicked in the shin. I must be losing my touch.” He started to laugh. I looked up from my dish and made eye contact with him, meeting his smile with one of my own. James could probably hear the butterflies going crazy in my stomach.
“I guess I will have to thank Lucy.” Before I could embarrass myself further I looked back down to the dish in front of me. Out of the corner of my eye I could see him smile and do the same.
The rest of the evening went fairly smoothly considering the preceding events. I finished my dish (which, was fantastic – molten chocolate cauldron cake, how could you go wrong?) and even laughed when James joked around about how brilliant my dessert first strategy was. I didn’t have to explain in detail and I appreciated a lot that he didn’t ask.
Basically, I spent the entire second half of the evening panicking about Lucy’s last statement. Because things were going well.
After James placed a few coins on the table, I let him lead me out towards the front of the restaurant, suppressing those pesky butterflies as I felt his hand graze the center of my back. I could help but laugh as he ran ahead of me to grab my cloak from the host and held it out for me. When I gave him the smallest sceptical look, he elaborated.
“Mum pounded manners into Albus and me for years. She’d come all the way from Godric’s Hollow and beat my arse if she found out I didn’t hold the door for you.” He chuckled and rushed around to hold the door open.
“Ah, so that’s the only reason?” I asked with a smirk as he stepped next to me. We started walking down the Tutshill Boulevard, enjoying the sounds of the bustling Quidditch city on a Friday night.
“Well,” he continued, “despite the bruise on my shin—” he looked over and smirked. I pushed him playfully in the shoulder, and the fluttering exploded in my stomach when he reached and grabbed for my hand. He intertwined his fingers with mine, thankfully ignoring my blush and surprise. “—I would like to see you again, so I figured I should make a good impression.”
I bit my lip and silently agreed. “Err… well it’s… it’s my birthday next week…” I was having an extremely difficult time formulating a sentence as his thumb brushed mine. “I… err, Lucy’s holding a little get together in Holyhead… if you’d like to come.”
He smiled; somehow he was able to gather an invitation out of that. “I’ll be there.”
We walked for a while in a comfortable silence, admiring the city. I was growing anxious as I saw the clock, knowing it was getting late and that the night would be ending soon.
I felt a bit sad as he dropped my hand a few minutes later; I knew he was thinking the same, and it was a long day for the both of us. I turned to face him and furrowed my eyebrows as he reached for his back pocket and pulled out his wand.
“I’ll take you home, if you’d… what’s wrong?” He caught the look on my face.
“You—” I felt myself let a chuckle slip. “You keep your wand in your back pocket?”
He frowned. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Except it’s the first lesson of the first day in Auror training… You’d think he’d know that, his dad being the head of the department and all. “What if it ignited? Better wizards then you have lost buttocks, you know!”* I quoted Alastor Moody, one of the famous war hero Aurors that Ron referenced a lot, and chuckled. “It’s one of the first lessons in Auror training…”
He didn’t laugh. In fact, he looked about the opposite of laughing. “You’re an Auror?”
“I… wanted to be an Auror—” I reached for his hand again, feeling a large pang of disappointment and embarrassment when he pulled away. “—James? I’m sorry, it was…”
“It’s fine, Taylor.” He gave me a very unconvincing smile. “It’s just… strange to hear that from anyone besides dad. I’ve got to go, I was up really early. Err… this was a great evening,” he mumbled. “Bye.”
Before I could ask what the hell I had said wrong, he disapparated.
a/n: *Quote from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, page 45 – I did not write Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling did. She gets the credit for that one.
So, what did you think of this chapter? The date? The end? Anything you would love to talk about, I’d love to hear about.
Also, another huge thank you to Elenia for beta'ing this chapter!
Thanks for reading!