Chapter 28 : All In The Morning Betime *
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All In The Morning Betime *
Black Balloon – Goo Goo Dolls
‘Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.’
The day of the wedding didn’t get off to a great start.
Firstly, they awoke in the morning to rain. Serious rain. Rain that looked like it was going to settle in and take up residence in the area for at least a few years.
Secondly, said rain induced a breakdown in the bride, according to the girls. James and the other boys counted themselves very fortunate that they hadn’t actually had to witness the breakdown.
Finally, there was no reply from Stac, and although this should have impacted on James alone, it had a rather dampening effect on his friends, too.
‘She’ll be busy. That’ll be it. It’s got to be,’ Sam reassured James over breakfast. They were gathered in the kitchen, wolfing down huge portions of kippers and eggs. Well, the others were. James was staring at his still-full plate with something approaching despair.
Catching the tail end of the conversation from across the table, his Uncle Ron looked up with uncharacteristic perceptiveness.
‘Jim, it’ll work out. Whatever it is. If she’s a good kind, the kind worth keeping, it’ll work out.’
Aware of how worried his Uncle must be to warrant such plain speaking, James tried to smile, but it felt stiff and forced. To close the subject, he started to shovel food into his mouth, although it was utterly tasteless, and left the table as soon as he could, ostensibly to find Teddy.
This was easier said than done. He wasn’t in the room he was sharing with Alex. He wasn’t out in the garden, where people were starting to drift back into their tents and get ready for the ceremony. He wasn’t anywhere to be found in the rest of the house.
Alex, when James found him, hadn’t seen the groom either, and both of them were starting to worry just a little. They agreed to split up and search, but not to tell anyone. Victoire was giving enough trouble without knowing that her intended had gone walkabout.
Thirty minutes later, James was starting to get frantic. There was still no sign of Teddy, and the wedding was due to start in just over an hour. Alex still had no clue as to his friend’s whereabouts, and was starting to think about going over and letting Bill and Fleur know.
James, knowing and dreading his cousin’s reaction if she found out, convinced him to hold off a bit longer. Then, because he couldn’t think of anywhere else that he hadn’t searched, he headed for the last place he’d ever expect Teddy to be.
Even as he climbed the rickety old ladder that led up through the ceiling, he was mentally preparing himself to come back down again groom-less.
It was to his surprise, then, that he found exactly the person he had been looking for, sitting by one of the windows, staring out at the scene below.
Teddy wasn’t yet dressed in his suit. He was still wearing the striped pyjamas that he’d received from his Grandmother the previous Christmas. He didn’t look up as James made his way over.
‘Ted…mate, you okay?’ James began, not really sure what else to say.
Teddy nodded, still not taking his eyes off the view from the window.
‘He’s fine,’ said a voice from behind James, ‘we were just having a little last minute chat.’
To James’ surprise, his father was sitting calmly on a chair off to one side. He was slightly hidden by a pile of random clutter, which was probably why James hadn’t seen him before.
‘Dad? What are you doing here? Have you guys been here the whole time? Alex and I have been going mental trying to find Ted!’
Teddy at least had the decency to look a little guilty.
‘Sorry. I just…I needed to get away from everyone for a bit. Clear my head.’
‘And I wasn’t about to let him worry alone,’ Harry added, and Teddy tossed him a look that was halfway between grateful and exasperated.
‘Worry?’ James asked bewilderedly, ‘Worry about what?’
Teddy didn’t reply. His face wore a strange expression, almost…haunted. It was completely out of character for the usually bright, happy-go-lucky boy with the blue hair.
‘Ted? What’s up?’
Harry silently handed his son a magazine he’d been holding. As James glanced over the cover, he saw the title of a well-known Healing Journal. It was Teddy’s favourite publication, and he always had copies lying here and there around his flat.
It wasn’t hard to see what the problem was. Splashed across the front of the journal, in the large print that marked it as the main article, were the words ‘Lycanthropy – Genetic Link Finally Confirmed’.
Flipping to the page number listed, James read through the article with a sinking heart. New research, conducted in secret and away from the censorious eyes of the larger Wizarding community, had confirmed what Healers had been whispering at for years; that the disease of Lycanthropy had a genetic component. More importantly, that it could be present in an individual who showed no signs or symptoms, like a recessive gene, and could be passed down through generations.
Meaning both Teddy and Victoire could be carrying the gene.
Meaning that their children could be born werewolves.
‘Mate…when did you get this?’
‘This morning,’ Teddy answered quietly, ‘the owl came while I was still in bed. I was feeling a little jumpy, so I started reading to try to calm down.’
Trust Teddy to read gruesome medical articles in an effort to calm down.
‘And when I saw it…bloody hell. What am I going to do, James?’
‘Do you have to do anything?’ Harry asked in a calm voice, ‘This doesn’t change anything, Ted.’
‘Like hell it doesn’t!’
Teddy took a deep breath. His lower jaw was shaking, and he ran a hand roughly through his hair, trying to pull himself together.
‘Vic wants kids, we both do, but this…we could both carry the gene without even knowing. And there’s no way to know, not until we have kids.’
He looked pleading up at the Potter men.
‘How could I do that to anyone, let alone my own kids? Force them to live with something like that?’
‘So what?’ Harry asked, still in his calm voice, ‘You give up? Call off everything, stop living your life because of something that might, might happen, when you don’t even know if it will for certain? That’s no way to do things, Ted. It’s not right. If you try for happiness, sure, something might go wrong, it might all fall apart, but at least you tried. At least happiness will be a possibility. If you don’t try, if you just give up, then you don’t even have that.’
‘Has been brought up by father with more than a touch of lycanthropy and a mother who always stood by him. Honestly, mate, if there is any girl in this world who is equipped to deal your unique situation, Victoire is probably that girl. Besides,’ and here Harry leaned forward in his chair, his face intent, ‘if I have learned one thing over the years it’s that what we have, right now, at this moment, is precious. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. We don’t know what’s going to happen ten minutes from now. We can plan for it and worry about it all we like, but we still can’t really control it. All we can control is how we act and how we react. When something is good, when an opportunity is there, you have to take it. Because it’s precious.’
‘You and Vic,’ James added, ‘you’re supposed to be together. You always were. Anyone could see that. What are you going to do, stand her up on her wedding day? You wouldn’t make it halfway back to London. Forget about the fact that she’d kill you; you wouldn’t be able to do it. You have to be with her. That’s what love is – when not being with them…destroys you.’
Turned away as he was, facing Teddy, James missed the sharp look his father directed at him from behind his back.
Teddy’s face was starting to lose the haunted look.
‘Am I being an idiot?’
‘Just a bit,’ James agreed drily, ‘but it is your wedding day. I think the one time you’re definitely allowed to be an idiot is on your wedding day.’
‘Sorry I gave you the run around,’ Teddy apologised, turning away from the window, ‘I just…freaked out, you know?’
‘Yeah,’ James accepted it with a half-laugh, ‘trust me. I know the feeling.’
They sat companionably for a moment.
‘Who is she?’ Harry suddenly asked, breaking the comfortable silence.
James felt his face flush, but he kept his voice calm.
‘Who is who?’
‘The girl you’ve ticked off. The one who’s made such changes in my son.’
‘You don’t know her.’
Teddy was looking at James with dawning comprehension.
‘Bloody hell. Not…not Stac?’
Face now roughly the same colour as a tomato, James avoided his father’s and godbrother’s eyes.
‘You didn’t! And you didn’t think to tell me? How is that fair?’
‘It’s not…I mean, it is, but it’s not…’
‘I don’t even know anymore. We were a…a thing, but now…who knows?’
Harry and Teddy exchanged looks.
‘This is what you were talking about last night, yeah?’ Teddy inquired, and James nodded.
‘I said some stuff…that I shouldn’t have. Really shouldn’t have. It was awful stuff, the worst stuff to say to her.’
‘It always is, though,’ Harry said reflectively, ‘if you know someone well enough to really love them, you’ll know what will really hurt them as well. It’s the risk that you take when you love someone.’
‘You’re just full of advice today, aren’t you, dad?’ James commented in a wry tone.
Harry just shrugged.
‘It’s the privilege of being old, I guess, you get to pass off odd bits of knowledge here and there along the way.’
‘Never mind that,’ Teddy interrupted, ‘how did it happen? Merlin, I knew you were going to end up with her, I just knew it! Vic’ll be so excited to hear!’
‘No!’ James protested urgently, then ducked his head and rubbed his eyes tiredly.
‘No,’ he continued in a normal voice, ‘please, Ted, you can’t spread it around. Our mates know, and the family that’s at school, but…that’s all. And Vic’s not, discrete, you know? We really can’t afford for it to be general knowledge at the moment.’
‘Her family, still?’ Teddy commiserated, and then explained in response to Harry’s questioning look, ‘her family, Stac, that is, they’re Pure Bloods and pretty stuck up.’
‘Right,’ Harry commented with dawning understanding, ‘so that would make you…’
‘A blood traitor,’ James finished flatly. Of course, there was slightly more to it than that, but he wasn’t about to go spreading that around, either. Not even to his dad and Ted.
‘But I don’t even know if that matters anymore. Whatever we have, or had, it could be over, for all I know. I tried to apologise, but…nothing so far.’
Teddy smiled faintly.
‘If I can take a turn to offer a bit of advice?’
He didn’t wait for a reply, but went on.
‘Every relationship goes through snags every now and then. It’s what makes the good times good. You wouldn’t appreciate them, otherwise. I know Vic and I have had some mammoth rows over the years, but we’ve always got back on track again after.’
‘But what if the snags are too big? What if the other person doesn’t want to get back on track?’
‘James, stop worrying. Give her a bit of time to get over things, and then take it from there. Stac isn’t the kind of girl to stay mad for no reason. Just give it some time.’
‘Speaking of time,’ Harry prompted suddenly, and James shot to his feet, suddenly remembering his reason for being in the attic at all.
‘Bollocks! Ted! You’re supposed to be getting married, you prat, not sitting up here all day nattering like an old woman!’
Teddy cursed under his breath as he, too, remembered, and the two of them hotfooted it down the ladder and to Teddy’s room. They managed to pick up Alex and the other groomsmen along the way, and soon they were all changing into the black suits that Victoire had picked out for the occasion.
As James was helping the groom with his cufflinks, he paused for a moment and smiled at his godbrother.
‘Feeling better now?’
‘Much,’ Teddy agreed fervently, ‘thanks. Don’t know why I was ever worried to begin with.’
His face beaming, he pulled on his suit jacket, straightened his tie, and headed from the room, groomsmen at his heels.
‘Alright, then, let’s get me married!’
The ceremony was beautiful, of course, organised as it was by Victoire and Fleur. Grandma Molly cried, as did Fleur herself and Mrs Delacour and Grandma Tonks. In fact, most of the female population of the church was crying by the end of the vows, which Teddy and Victoire had written themselves.
Dom and Rose looked beautiful, and Victoire’s other two friends were some of the most attractive women that James had ever seen in his life. One had olive skin and the body of a Greek goddess, and the other was a petite Asian girl who looked like a model. Alex and the other two groomsmen were having a hard time keeping their eyes on the bride and groom, and James had to elbow the best man in the ribs when it was time for him to hand over the rings.
Everything, luckily, went off without a hitch. Even the weather seemed to want to co-operate, clearing up about ten minutes before people started seating and staying that way for the rest of the day.
And, this being a Weasley wedding, of course, the reception was an even bigger success, if that were even possible. There was enough food to feed a small country, the music was fantastic, and everyone was having a wonderful time.
James even managed to stop worrying for short amounts of time. Of course, the situation with Stac was always there, in the back of his mind, but he was able to let it go from time to time and just be in the moment.
Time enough to worry about that later.
The following Monday, however, was not quite so successful. The clean-up effort following the wedding had been huge, and James and his cousins had been absolutely run off their feet. So when it was time to return to classes once more, none of them were particularly enthusiastic, not even Rose or Albus.
James, however, was up bright and early on Monday morning. After dressing quickly, he left his room to wait in the corridor outside of Stac’s door. He figured that she had to come out eventually, and when she did, he’d be waiting there with his apology ready to go.
But she never appeared.
Finally, when he really had to leave or risk being seriously late for class, James gave it up as a lost cause. His first lesson of the day wasn’t one that he shared with Stac, and so James found himself not really listening to what the Professor was saying, but staring anxiously at the clock and counting the moments until he could leave.
At morning break, he still couldn’t see the object of his search. He did manage to find Margie, though, and asked if she’d seen Stac anywhere.
‘Not since this morning, sorry,’ was the reply he was given. Confused, he enquired where she’d seen Stac that morning, when he’d thought that she hadn’t left her room.
‘Oh, she slept in with us last night,’ Margie informed him airily, ‘up in her old bed.’
James considered this information carefully. So, Stac was mad enough to not want to risk seeing him at all. That wasn’t a good sign.
Something told him that a simple apology wasn’t really going to cut it this time.
Thanking Margie absentmindedly, James headed off for the library. He had some planning to do.
‘Don’t you think you’re taking this a little too far?’
For the second night in a row, Stac was in her old bed in the Gryffindor dormitory. From across the room, Jaya and Margie were looking at her concernedly.
‘James was all over the place today. He’s really cut up about this, Stac.’
‘He’ll be fine,’ Stac replied dismissively, brushing her hair and trying for unconcern.
‘He called me Jaya when we spoke,’ Margie reminded her sardonically, ‘and apparently he spent all afternoon in the library.’
‘It was nice letter that he wrote,’ Jaya added, ‘he really meant it. He’s sorry.’
Stac gave up trying to pretend and stared at her hairbrush moodily.
‘I know. I…I can’t accept it yet, I just can’t. The fact that he made fun of what I’m afraid of, after everything that’s happened? He hurt me, and he was supposed to be the one person who never would.’
‘People hurt each other,’ Margie said matter-of-factly, ‘its life, it happens, get over. Tell him how you feel, without rowing, and then he’ll know what’s out of order for next time you fight.’
‘Screw that,’ Jaya interjected scornfully, ‘tell him if he ever does it again, you won’t sleep with him anymore. That’ll make him pay attention.’
‘Jaya!’ Stac exclaimed in a shrill voice, and her mouth fell open in shock.
‘What?’ the brown-skinned girl demanded with a sound of surprise. As she took in Stac’s obvious disbelief and Margie’s exasperation, her own face took on a stunned expression. She quickly left her bed and crossed the floor to climb in next to Stac.
‘Don’t tell me…you two aren’t sleeping together yet?’
Stac didn’t even have words to express herself this time, and Jaya rolled her eyes and groaned.
‘Oh, stop being such a cow, Jay,’ Margie scolded as she joined them, ‘of course she isn’t. Did you really think they were?’
‘Umm, yes! You’re all over each other, all the time! You’re serious? Not even once?’
‘Jaya,’ Stac said sternly, striving to keep indignation from colouring her voice, ‘up until the end of last year I was facing an arranged marriage, possibly to someone I’d never met. My only value to my family, and therefore the only value my life had at all, was my perceived purity. Growing up with values like those takes a little while to get over!’
‘But you would, wouldn’t you?’ Jaya pressed interestedly, ‘One day, I mean. Wouldn’t you?’
‘Maybe. I don’t know. I guess…no? I don’t know, Jay. I’d never really…thought about it before.’
Stac’s expression grew bleak.
‘I don’t even know if there’s an us anymore, so who can really say?’
‘Can we not do this now?’ Margie demanded of Jaya, ‘It’s probably not the best time.’
‘Sorry,’ Jaya apologised, ‘I wasn’t even thinking. You just…you surprised me, is all.’
She hugged her friend contritely.
‘Sometimes I forget that your world isn’t our world. Isn’t my world. But it’s okay,’ she reassured the other girl, ‘it’s fine. Your world is good too.’
James’ plan centred around a few very important components. One was provided, quite cheerfully, by his Uncle George, who was more than happy to send a few things down to Hogsmeade for his nephew to pick up.
Another was the cooperation of Jaya and Margie, who, after he had explained everything to them, were only too happy to help. Together, they’d hashed out the final details that would ensure his plan’s success, and then he had sworn them to secrecy. Jaya in particular seemed to enjoy his idea almost a little too much, and Margie periodically glared at her during their conversation, which James found very odd indeed.
The final element, however, he didn’t have much control over at all, and it had necessitated the rather rapid unfolding of his plans.
The one day of the year that young men dread more than any other, and the one day that young women dream of for months on end.
That Friday, the morning of the fateful day, James was once again up and dressed early. This time, however, he didn’t wait in the Heads’ corridor. Instead, he went directly to the Great Hall, to check his handiwork for the umpteenth time. He’d spent hours the previous night making sure it was all in place, but with so much riding on getting this right, he wanted to be absolutely certain.
When other students began filing in for breakfast, yawning and stretching, James took his place at the Gryffindor table and tried to look inconspicuous. Then, because he might as well do something while he waited, he loaded his plate with food and began to eat.
The Hall was mostly full by the time his quarry entered the room. Jaya and Margie, as innocently as possible, steered Stac down the Gryffindor table to where James sat, finished his breakfast now. Then, before she could do anything, they plopped her down on the bench next to him, turned on their heels, and walked away, abandoning her to his plot.
Stac glared at James from where she sat. If she was being really honest with herself, she wasn’t actually mad with him anymore. In fact, she was having a hard time maintaining the distance between them. They hadn’t spoken in nearly a week, let alone had any kind of physical contact, and she missed his embrace with a longing that frightened her. But the hurt that she had been nursing so carefully still rankled in her heart, and so she ignored the feelings that his proximity sent through her and simply glared.
Taking a deep breath, James started to talk.
‘I know you’re mad at me, and you have every right. I was an idiot. I said stuff that I never should have and I hurt you. I’m so sorry, Stac.’
She didn’t make any reply, but she didn’t get up and leave either, so he took it as a good sign and continued on.
‘And I know what makes it worse is that I said I never would. I promised I’d never hurt you, and I broke that promise. I broke it without even thinking.’
Her glare faltered just a little before she stuck it firmly back in place, but behind it, Stac was wavering. He was right, that was what had made it worse.
‘Now you’re thinking, how can you really trust me? You did so much, protected me through so much when I wasn’t even aware of it, and yet you can’t even trust me to keep a simple promise. You’re thinking, is this even worth it?’
Part of her hated that he could get inside her head so easily, but another part of her, a much larger part, was already starting to soften and waver in her resolve to be angry.
‘So this is what I have to say for myself now. I was wrong completely to say those things. I want to say that it will never happen again, I want to make that same promise to you that I made before. But I can’t. Because I can’t keep it. I’m going to hurt you, Stac, that’s just how it goes. And you’re going to hurt me, too. That’s what a relationship is – it’s trusting someone else with the most breakable parts of yourself, the parts that are the easiest to hurt, and hoping that nothing goes wrong.’
Shifting ever so slightly closer, James took one of her hands, holding it below the level of the table so no one else could see.
She didn’t tug away.
‘What I can promise,’ he carried on, voice and face intent, ‘is that when you need me, I will be there. I will be the person that you can turn to at any time, for any reason, for the rest of your life. I am not going anywhere. Everything I want is right here. If you ever need me, I will be right there, by your side.’
The emotions that swamped her at this declaration were so intense that Stac had to close her eyes for a moment. Drawing in a deep breath, she cracked her lids to see James still staring at her.
‘So…am I forgiven?’
The look on his face was so hopeful that she couldn’t help but laugh.
‘As apologies go, that was pretty good.’
‘It was, wasn’t it?’ James agreed, face breaking into a smile, ‘Oh, and not to forget…’
He muttered a word under his breath, and suddenly the world was plunged into darkness. From the shouts and exclamations coming from around them, Stac concluded that it wasn’t just her world, but the entire Hall.
‘Happily Valentine’s day,’ James’ voice suddenly whispered in her ear.
Then his hands came up to gently cradle her face, and she felt the warm pressure of his lips on hers.
Stac gasped, and he took the invitation to deepen the kiss, pulling her towards him and holding her tightly.
But…they were in the Great Hall! In full view of the entire school! Anything could happen, anyone could see!
All those thoughts sped through Stac’s mind, and then just as quickly sped out again. Before she knew what she was doing, she had threaded her hands through James’ dark hair and was kissing him back, uncaring of whatever mayhem was going on in the darkness. Sinking into his arms, she gave herself up to the kiss and, for once in her life, relinquished control. Didn’t worry about consequences or repercussions, but allowed herself to live in the moment, just for once. She no longer held the reins, but she couldn’t find it in herself to care.
It took long, long minutes for the blackness to clear away and the world to return to normal. By the time it did, James and Stac were sitting normally, side by side, a perfectly acceptable distance apart. From a few feet away, neither seemed even to be aware of the person next to them.
But someone looking up close, very close, might see the faint blush that still coloured Stac’s cheeks, or the slight smile that curved on her face. Someone looking closer might even see the triumphant gleam that lit James’ eyes.
And if someone happened to drop their fork under the table and go to pick it up, as Margie had done, they might even see two hands holding each other tightly, as if they would never let go.
There were a lot of forks dropped under the Gryffindor table at breakfast that morning.
Hello dearies!! Did you miss me? I'm so sorry for the gap - uni and exams and NaNo and prac will do that to you. My apologies to all. So here is a nice little lovey chapter to make up for it. And, oh my goodness! We are so close to the end! Which is bittersweet, after having been at this thing for so long. Please let me know what you think, reviews absolutely make my day. Love to you all!
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