Chapter 17 : A Visit Home
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“I’m worried about them,” Hermione conceded. She was talking quietly to Ron in the kitchen while Harry and Ginny slept on the second floor of the house. She and Ron had been discussing what their next move should be when Hermione had to admit her thoughts.
“Of course you’re worried about them. I’m worried about them too. Their only daughter’s missing!”
“Shh,” Hermione hissed. “Don’t wake them up. And stop being an idiot. I’m not talking about them individually, I mean them. Their marriage.”
“Oh,” Ron said as he realized what she was talking about. He hadn’t thought about their marriage at all since this whole ordeal had begun. He’d been mostly focused on Harry’s psyche which wasn’t in too good of shape. “I guess they’re not doing too well.”
“I don’t think they’ve even spoken since Lily went missing,” she said. “That’s not healthy. And Harry’s sleeping in James’s old bedroom instead of with Ginny. What does that tell you?”
“That he didn’t want to disturb her?” Ron offered. The minor nuances of married life still eluded him after all these years.
“Or it means that he doesn’t want to be near her.” Hermione looked serious, but Ron couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“Oh come on. They’re going through a bit of a rough patch, but who wouldn’t in their situation? This is Harry and Ginny we’re talking about. They’ve been together since they were fifteen.”
“Losing a child makes couples fifty percent more likely to split up,” Hermione said. “It doesn’t matter how strong they were together.”
“They aren’t going to split up,” Ron said stubbornly, but Hermione had placed the seed of doubt in his mind. He couldn’t help but go over everything Harry had said the last two weeks and see if it could be interpreted to mean something else.
Nothing seemed to click. He’d hardly even mentioned Ginny, let alone wanting to split up. “You’ve run mad. He’s upset over his daughter, not thinking about leaving Gin. Anyone would act the way he is in that position.”
Ron had thought about Harry’s actions long and hard and found he couldn’t quite decipher them, something he attributed to having never been in the same position. He’d tried to imagine how he would react if something ever happened to Hugo or Rose, but he couldn’t. And part of him really didn’t want to.
“I’m not saying we call in divorce lawyers,” Hermione said and Ron looked utterly scandalized.
“Divorce lawyers?” He asked, gob smacked.
“I’m saying that’s not what we do,” she explained with a sigh. “But we should be aware that this could be a situation that arises in the future.” Hermione chose her words carefully, knowing that Ron could be scared off from the idea if she didn’t.
“That’s-” But Hermione didn’t get to hear what Ron thought because a near explosion in the fireplace drew their attention. James appeared, a little the worse for the wear, but healthy enough as he rose to his feet coughing.
“What did you do to that thing?” He asked. His eyes were bloodshot and he looked as though he hadn’t slept in weeks although Hermione knew better than to comment on it.
“We tried to have it disconnected from the Floo network, but the Ministry hasn’t been very quick n the uptake,” Hermione said. “I had it partially blocked off so only those most motivated would make it through.”
“Guess that paints me motivated,” James said as he wiped the soot from his eyes and face. He’d put off this meeting for as long as possible, but the Cannons’ next game was coming up soon and his not being there was sure to make the news.
“You could have come through the back door,” Hermione said. “That’s why we set the wards so news media couldn’t come around the back of the house, but those related to Harry and Ginny can.”
“So essentially you’ve screwed Teddy out of coming?” When Hermione’s mouth dropped open in surprise James rolled his eyes. Sometimes his aunt went around things in a way that was so complicated that she forgot some basics, like the bloke who was practically Harry’s son and had probably been trying to get around the wards since they were put up.
“Never mind,” James muttered, sure they would fix the Teddy situation just as well without his presence. “Are Mum or Dad here?” He asked, although what he meant was if they were in the right state of mind to speak to him.
“They’re asleep, but I’m sure your father will be up in just a while if you’d like to stay. We have food.” James’s stomach growled, but he shook his head. He was just there to deliver his news and get back to the store.
“I can’t I’m on my lunch break,” he said. He was quite relieved that his father was out of commission temporarily and, well, he wasn’t too surprised they hadn’t mentioned his mother.
“Lunch break?” Ron asked. “They give you those from Quidditch practice?”
“No actually, I’m working at Uncle George’s store down in Hogsmeade. With Roxanne and Freddie, you know.”
“What happened to Quidditch?” Ron asked. This was suddenly his territory. He knew everything there was to know about the Cannons and had been thrilled when his nephew signed with them. “Do you really need a second job to support yourself? I know rookies don’t get paid much, but your father or I could help out if you’re running low on funds. Rent and things like that. We’ll help you out.”
James shook his head. That was why he never talked to his uncle about these things. He always assumed James was having money troubles. He certainly wasn’t wealthy by any means, but James was able to scrape by just fine. “It’s not that, Uncle Ron,” he said, annoyed. “The Coach and I have been talking for a while and we decided it would be best for me to take a little break.”
Ron looked utterly shocked, but Hermione just looked confused. She wasn’t as well versed in the world of Quidditch as her husband was. “A break? What does that mean?” She asked, looking from her husband to her nephew. “What’s going on?”
“Did Rollisson kick you off the team?” Ron asked, still looking shocked. “Why? Are you not playing up to potential? I know you’ve got the skills to go far. I can have a talk with him, if you’d like.”
“No! Just stop, okay?” James asked. He hadn’t meant this to turn into a big deal and he wouldn’t have told them if it wasn’t going to be in the papers. This was going to be a big story when it got tied in with Lily’s disappearance and Harry’s erratic behavior. James didn’t want them to be too surprised by it all. “I got suspended, alright? You happy now?”
“You got suspended? For what?” Hermione asked, suddenly on board. “Is this about your drinking problem?”
“My what?” James practically shrieked. “I’m eighteen! I go out and party with my friends, that’s hardly a problem. And if you must know, no it isn’t about my drinking. Coach thinks I’m going through a tough time and could use a break.” Then he added in a lower and faster voice, “Plus I kind of skipped the last game and a week of practice.”
Hermione and Ron exchanged a look that James couldn’t quite read. He could tell they looked a bit worried and his uncle seemed frustrated, but he didn’t know what the look meant. Married couples always seemed to be doing that, like putting a ring on someone’s finger gave you access to their mind or something.
“James, if you’re having a tough time you can come talk to us. You don’t have to suffer through this on your own,” Hermione said, walking over to him and putting a hand on his shoulder. “Your parents are suffering in their own way, but we’re here for you.”
James jerked away. “What is this, some kind of intervention? I’m not a child anymore.”
“But you’re barely an adult as well,” Hermione continued. “We know how close you were to Lily-”
“Are!” James shouted, his face turning red. “We are close! Just because she’s not here right now, doesn’t mean anything has changed!”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Hermione said, lifting her hands in self defense. “I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Of course you did, you mean everything you say! You think over every word three fucking times before it comes out of your mouth!” Both Hermione and Ron looked appalled at James’s language, but he didn’t seem to notice or care. “You think she’s never coming back, don’t you? Is that what the Aurors and hit wizards think too? No wonder Dad’s off his rocker! Fuck you! Fuck you all!”
He stormed out of the front of his house, ignoring the reporters that instantly swarmed him, and stalked to the edge of his property to apparate away. Hermione stared after him in shock. James had always been the most trouble of Harry’s three children, but she couldn’t ever remember him talking to them that way before.
“Do you think someone should go after him?” She asked, nervous and unsure of herself.
Ron shook his head. “For all he’s an adult, he’s still just a kid. Give him his space, time with Roxy and Freddie. They’ll be able to help more than we can.” He put an arm around his wife and they both turned back into the house together.
James hadn’t lied about being on his lunch break, but after his argument with his aunt and uncle he wanted nothing less than to go back to the store and have Roxy and Freddie look at him with identical pitying expressions.
Instead of apparating to Weasley Wizard Wheezes in Hogsmeade, James found himself outside of a muggle pub that was open all day. It was barely midday so the only people in there were eating lunch.
It was a sparse lunch crowd even for a pub and James calmly walked up the counter and ordered their strongest drink. Apparently the bartender got people drinking during the day often because he didn’t give James any kind of strange look. He just served him and went back to watching the football game on the telly.
James watched the game for a short while, then turned back to his drink. Muggle football was like Quidditch on the ground with fewer nets. What was the fun in that? He’d never really been interested in muggles the way his granddad was. They just seemed kind of boring. Dull. Inconsequential.
“Not watching the game?” The barkeep asked gruffly. “It’s a big one.”
“Who’s playing?” James asked. He had no interest in the game, but it seemed like the polite thing to say. Besides, this was the man who was supplying him liquor for the afternoon.
“Who’s playing?” The muggle asked in shock. “Only the biggest two rivals in the country! Manchester United and Manchester City!” James nodded as though the names meant something to him. He’d occasionally played football with the muggles in his neighborhood, but had stopped after discovering Quidditch. “You’re not from around here, are you?” The barkeep asked.
James shrugged. It was fine by him if the man thought he was from somewhere else. Anonymity suited him, an odd desire for Harry Potter’s son and a would be Quidditch star. “So this game, who’re you pulling for?”
“City, of course,” he said. Then he gave James a glare through narrowed eyes. “If you’re a United fan you may as well leave now before I throw you out.” James shook his head and the man’s attention was instantly turned back to the screen. “Ah, ref! That’s dirty foul you just missed! Right under your nose, it was!”
James went back to his glass of liquor and downed it. Instead of dousing the fire that was in the pit of his stomach, the drink seemed only to fuel it. After his fourth James was more than a bit tipsy. He didn’t to be the happy drunk he’d been in the past. Instead he felt annoyed by the barkeep’s prolonged interest in the match.
“You gonna get me another sometime soon?” James slurred waving the glass around in front of his face.
“You may want to go a little easy on that, lad,” he said as he took the glass. “It’s early still. Are you living at home or in University?”
James shook his head. He didn’t know what ‘University’ was, but he definitely wasn’t living at home. “Just give me another,” he said. The man shrugged and filled the glass, handing it to the younger boy.
“Suit yourself, but you might try a bit of honey with that vinegar.” James scoffed at the man’s statement. Sober he might have understood, but drunk definitely not. He could tell it was useless, though, from the man’s expression and tone. He was trying to impart ‘greater knowledge’ or ‘wisdom’ or some other adult bullshit like that.
James couldn’t figure out why adults always thought they knew everything. In his experience they were just as clueless as him and his peers. He finished the drink and slammed it on the counter, cracking the handle. “Another, sir!”
“I think you’ve had quite enough.”
James shook his head. He was tired of people deciding what was enough for him. “I’ve money, I can pay.” The bartender didn’t respond to his requests, so James stood up and tried to push his way around the counter. “I’ll get it myself,” he muttered.
“Not back here.”
James pushed the man out of the way and the resulting scuffle ended him with a black eye, a bruised arm, and sitting in the street outside of the pub. Picking a fight with a man twice his size hadn’t been his most brilliant idea in a while, but instead of feeling regret, James felt oddly light.
The brawl seemed to have taken a weight off of his chest for all it given him a sore face. He tottered along the street until he found an alleyway quiet enough to apparate home.
A/N: Right on time! NaNo's just around the corner so I'm all of the excited! I'll hopefully have time to get back to writing this fic in December. I feel kind of guilty that I'm posting but not really working on it. Oh well, don't forget to leave a review! I love your feedback!
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