Chapter 14 : It is never a good idea to go to dinner with the should-have-been in-laws.
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“Aimee! Oh goodness, how nice of you to call. Really, it’s lovely to hear from you!” I winced at the tone and decibel and dropped the mug back into the soapy water, picking up a bowl and rinsing it out to get rid of the remains of soup from the night before.
I’d spent the entire of that day in bed, feeling pretty ill with a hangover and a stomach ache. There must have been something in the shrimp salad that Potter and I were scoffing, because I could barely move for shooting pains up my tummy yesterday. I mean, I missed How to Cook with Magic, I was feeling so ill – how was I supposed to get my daily fix of laughter with that god awful presenter?
“It’s lovely to speak to you too, Lois. I was actually just wondering if you would do me a favour – it’s nothing big, I promise. I just wanted you to pass a message on to Dan for me, would that be alright?” Why I still felt the need to break out the sixties manners whenever confronted with Dan’s mother was beyond me, and it was really irrelevant when you consider that she already loved me.
“Well, of course! You know you don’t even have to ask, pet! Anything for my Danny’s girl, you know that.” I winced a little and pulled off my rubber gloves with a loud snap, dropping them into the sink as the water drained away. They’d dry on their own.
“I... I just wanted you to tell him thank you. For all the stuff. He’ll know what I’m talking about. I just wanted to say thanks, because he didn’t have to. It was good of him.” I could practically hear Lois Richardson’s confusion oozing down the phone, and I realised what was most likely coming. I closed my eyes and sat down on the armrest of my crappy couch, sticking my knees up under my chin.
“Oh, well, why don’t you just come down and tell him in person, pet?” And that is exactly what I didn’t want to hear. “We’re having a big family dinner tonight – Jim and I, of course, Barney, Shane and Daniel, and the three girls. It would be wonderful to have you there, it really would. Shelley is bringing her boyfriend, and I’m sure it would be nice for her if they weren’t the only couple.” Not if one of the other couples contained me, I’ll tell you that much.
“I – well, I actually have some steaks thawing for tonight for dinner, and you know that you can’t refreeze something that should be frozen and has been taken out to thaw... so, yeah. I need to eat my... steak.” I could hear Lois laughing gently down the phone. “I’m sorry, that’s a pathetic excuse, isn’t it? Erm, right. I just... you know that Jim and Shane and the girls... don’t really, well, see eye to eye with me.”
“Darling, they’ll be on their best behaviour, I will make sure of that, don’t you worry one bit. It would be a pleasure. I’ve missed you around the house. Nobody else ever helps me clean or tidy and no one else talks to Dan long enough to stop him bickering with his siblings. You’ve been missed, Aimee. And so has my son. It might not be my place to say, but no one could ever believe that Dan left you for his work. I mean, the two of you were so good together, so happy...”
No, we really weren’t. Thanking Dan’s mother, I asked the time I was expected to show up and hung up quickly, running my slightly damp hands through my hair.
“You’re – wait, you’re going to dinner with Dan’s family, at Dan’s parent’s house? With his sisters, who don’t like you, his brother, who hates you, and his dad, who doesn’t approve of you because of where you’re from and where you grew up?” I sighed down the phone. “Aimee, why the hell are you doing this to yourself? You’re with James now, and Dan is just a thing of the past. Why do you keep getting yourself tied in with him? This is all going to come back and bite you in the arse and you know that, don’t you? So why don’t you just forget him and focus on James?” I sighed again.
“Molly, Dan and I were going to get married. I loved him enough to want to spend the rest of life with him. And even though he left me, I’m not gonna just let him drop off my radar now he’s come back. I – I know you’re not gonna get it. But just do me a favour; imagine that Lorcan suddenly split with you for no reason. If he came back months later, are you saying you wouldn’t have any interest in speaking to him again? Even if you loved him?”
Molly was silent on the other end of the line, and I leant up against a nearby lamppost as I approached the Richardson abode. I didn’t want anyone to overhear my conversation.
“Aimee, this isn’t about me. The point is, you’re being a twat and you need to cut it out.” I could hear Lorcan in the background asking why I was being a twat, and Molly mutter something to him about me banging Dan again. Oh, Molly, if only you knew how true that really was. “Just promise me that you’re going to be careful. And don’t you dare cheat on my cousin.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it. I’ve gotta go.” I hung up the phone and stuffed it back into my bag, chewing the inside of my cheek as I stared at the front door. A car pulled up behind me and someone stepped out, just as I turned around and parked my backside on the half sized all outside the house. Barney leapt out the taxi and grinned at me, waving a cheerful hand.
“Y’all right there, Aimee Woods?” he asked, flinging an arm around my shoulder and pulling me into his chest. I smiled slightly. Maybe today wouldn’t be quite as awful as I thought it was going to be. Well, I thought that until bloody Shelley slimed her way out of the car and straight past us with an obnoxious hair flip.
Barney pulled a face at her behind her head and I pressed my hand against my mouth to stifle the giggles. Wrapping an arm around my arm, Barney dragged me up the small slope to his house and through the front door. He jammed his foot into the doorway before Shelley could slam the door in my face. Bitch. I really don’t like her.
“Come on, Shell, lighten up – takes more muscles to frown than to smile, you know,” Barney sang happily, dropping my arm to fling it around his sister’s shoulder. Her sour face darkened further and she scowled angrily at the blonde man who had followed her out of the car and was standing behind me.
“Hi, I’m Mick,” he said when I turned to look at him. Shelley’s evils never wavered from my face.
“Aimee,” I said. “You must be Shelley’s boyfriend. Yeah, Lois was telling me.” I nodded a little.
“Nice to meet you,” he said charmingly. “How do you know the Richardson family?” I almost laughed at the awkwardness of the question – there was literally nothing I could say that would actually make any sense and not make me look like a raving loon that was stalking Dan. I mean, what was I going to say – oh yeah, I’m showing up to dinner at my ex-boyfriend’s house for no actual reason.
“Oh, I’m an old friend of Dan’s – that’s, erm, Shelley’s brother. Younger, I think. Isn’t Shelley like the second oldest?” Shelley herself scoffed and finally moved her fat arse out of the doorway, finally followed by Barney and then Mick and myself. Mick nodded in response to my question.
“She’s not an old friend of Dan’s,” Shelley sneered, pushing past me and looping her arm around Mick’s shoulder. Like some kind of snake that didn’t want to let its prey escape. “She was his fiancée for a while, but he left her to go and work around the world. He only came back a few days ago and mum is inviting her round for dinner because she wants Dan to get back with her.” Shelley turned her nose up at me, crossing her arms over her chest. “Though why he’d want her back I don’t know.”
“Oi, there’s no need to be mean,” Mick said slowly, staring at the side of Shelley’s head with a slightly uncomfortable expression on his face.
“Yeah Shelley,” I sneered back, batting my eyes at her and pouting my lips. “There’s no need to be mean. After all, bitterness lives in the heart, and you don’t have one.” Mick rolled his eyes dramatically and I soured a little towards him, but said nothing.
“Aimee, get your butt in here and say hello to everyone, will you?” Barney asked, poking his head back around the door and grabbing hold of my wrist. I was dragged into what I remembered to be the dining room and from the glimpse I got of the room, it seemed like Shelley, Mick, Barney and I had been the last to arrive. Of course, my vision was quickly obstructed by Lois’s obnoxiously large chest coming straight at me as she pulled me in for a hug. I was not a huggy person. I don’t do hugs.
“Aimee! Goodness, you have no idea how lovely it is to see you. Really, I can’t even begin to say how much we’ve all missed you around here.” I could see Shane shoot an amused look at his father, clearly laughing at the sheer dishonesty of Lois’s last statement. Maybe she’d missed me.
“It’s nice to see you too, Lois. It’s been a while since I’ve had a home cooked meal, so I’ve been missing your roast potatoes like you wouldn’t believe. Last potato I had was last month when Molly brought me some chips in from the chip shop.” Lois tried to hide her horror. She was stopped from replying with said horror by Dan heading into the dining room from the kitchen. Everyone went quiet. Clearly he had not been informed that I would be in attendance.
“Aimee!” he squeaked, and all three of his sisters began to laugh behind their hands. “Aimee – what are you doing – Aim, you’re – what are you – how did you even get here, I mean, how did you know we were here?” Mick was watching us with a crease between his eyebrows. “I mean, I didn’t think you’d want to speak to me again. I – it’s amazing to see you. Amazing. I thought after the other morning, when you kicked me out –” My face coloured as Lois choked on her drink a little.
“Your, erm, mum invited me here. Said she’d like to see me. So I came.” I shrugged offhandedly.
“Well – I – I’m so glad that you did. I mean, it – I – let’s sit down.” Dan stumbled over himself to grab the chair that I would be sitting at. He pulled it out with a little too much force and nearly fell.
“Here, here, sit down – sit –sit down.” I sat down in my seat and laughed at how flustered he had become. He dropped down into the seat next to me and completely rotated himself so he was facing me. Lois was smiling to herself behind her glass of dry martini. Jim was coolly assessing us over his large tumbler full of brandy. Why he disliked me I would never know – I was good to his son.
It only occurred to me now that Jim and Lois did not read the papers, and so did not actually know that I was ‘dating’ someone else, as far as the rest of the world was concerned. But the sisters most likely did read the papers and so they probably did have a reason to hate me. Now, anyway.
“It’s – it’s amazing to see you. I – I still don’t understand you kicked me out the other morning.” Dan had lowered his voice to try and make the conversation private but the family were still trying to listen in, holding broken conversations to try and hide the fact they were paying attention to us.
“Dan, we are not having this conversation now,” I muttered distractedly, watching Lois struggle back into the room with a bowl full of roast potatoes, a carved turkey and another bowl filled with chunkily chopped root vegetables.
“Here, let me help you,” I muttered when she stumbled, nearly dropping the bowl of vegetables on top of Tara-Lynne, who was gurgling in her high chair. I took the plate of turkey and placed it in the middle of the long table, pulling my shirt up to cover my chest as I leaned forwards.
“Thank you,” Lois beamed, setting down the other bowls and then heading back into the kitchen to get the gravy, stuffing and a bottle of wine. I followed her in to help.
“Aimee, words cannot describe how much I have missed you,” Lois laughed, handing me a bottle for each hand. She picked up the gravy boat and an ornate china bowl filled with homemade stuffing and we both headed back into the dining room.
“So how did you meet?” Jim asked a little while later, taking a large glug out of his wine and surveying Mick coldly over the rim of the glass. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat and Shelley fiddled around with the stem of her wine glass. Dan didn’t take his eyes off me as he shoved two potatoes into his mouth and smothered the last remaining pieces of his turkey with copious amounts of gravy.
“Erm, well, he works in my office. And he asked me if I’d like to go out for a cup of coffee. And I told him I didn’t like coffee, so he said that he would take me for tea instead. But I don’t like tea. So he took me for a hot chocolate, and then he asked if I’d like to go to dinner. We went for Mexican and he didn’t agree with the food he ate, and he ran home and left me sitting on my own. Eventually he got over his embarrassment and explained himself, and so I agreed to go on another date with him. And... yeah. That’s it really.” Lois blinked, looking a little bored. Clearly she wanted her daughters to have much more exciting love lives than that.
“Well that sounds lovely, darling,” she smiled patronisingly, and then turned her wide eyes onto Dan and I, who were sitting slightly closer as Dan kept moving his seat closer to mine, a few centimetres at a time. As if I wouldn’t notice if he did it slowly. “How did you and Aimee meet again, Dan?”
I instantly saw her game. She thought that a large dose of nostalgia would make me miss him.
“Mum, you already know the story,” he muttered, flushing. He bit into another potato as I blushed over the gravy. Shelley scowled at her plate. She clearly was not impressed that her dreary and cliché tale had not been received well by her romance novel-loving mother. “Fine, fine,” he grumbled in response to her encouraging glare.
“Thank you,” Lois said tartly, shaking some of her thick curly hair over her shoulders. Lois was one of those glamorous women that looked like they had just stepped out of a glossy sixties magazine. She wore dark pink lipstick and eyeliner and pale toned clothes made of expensive materials. Her thick brown hair was always curled, her highlights never showing more than a centimetre or two of root.
“I went to the pub for a drink, got a little drunk, stumbled out and crashed into Aimee, who was having a fag on the porch. I stumbled into her and she nearly set my jacket on fire with her cigarette. I started to have a go at her so she had a go at me. And I asked her out.” Dan shrugged, his cheeks pink, and he quickly shoved a few more small slices of turkey into his mouth.
I couldn’t help but think that it was almost as bad of a story as Shelley’s. Since it happened, I had always thought that it was romantic and hilarious and just so random and out of the blue. And now... now I just thought it sounded like we were both bums. A drunk and a smoker who didn’t watch where they were going. I took a deep sip out of my wine so I could blink back my tears.
“So romantic,” Lois sighed, and Barney caught my eye so he could cock an eyebrow. I snorted into my plate of potatoes and turkey. Shelley sighed and exchanged grouchy glances with Mick.
“Would you excuse me for a second?” I asked to the room at large, but didn’t wait for a reply. I pushed myself out of my seat and left through the third door in the room, the one that led to a corridor with the largest bathroom off it. I locked the door behind me and sat down on the edge of the bath, pulled out my phone and punched in Molly’s number. My hands were shaking a little.
“Aimee? You alright? Do not tell me that the whack job mother has kidnapped you and is refusing to let you go unless you hoof it up the aisle with her son.” I laughed shakily and was overrun by a sudden sense of relief that I had decided to ring Molly. I needed someone impartial, maybe even a little biased in the opposite direction right now.
“No, no – she just keeps getting Dan to talk about things that happened in our past. She keeps – she keeps – ignoring his bloody sisters so she can talk to me. They keep glaring at me. Dan won’t leave me alone, he keeps talking and talking and talking and – and he’s sitting next to me and it’s all too much. It’s like the last three months never happened and I don’t want that. I thought I did but I don’t. I can’t just forget that he – I feel sick, Molly, and I want to leave. But I can’t leave, and Molly, I – I don’t know what to do. Help me, will you?”
“What do you want me to do, Aimes? You agreed to go down there, and now you’re going to have to sit there in that fancy house with his fancy parents and family that doesn’t like you and that’s just that. Hang in there, Aimes.” Molly sounded distracted.
“Alright. Thanks for talking to me, Mol. I’ll speak to you later. I’ll see you at lunch tomorrow – aren’t we going shopping or something in your lunch break?”
“Yeah. Yeah. I’ll see you then, Aimes. Hugs and kisses.” Molly hung up.
I splashed a little cold water onto the sides of my neck and dabbed off my forehead with some toilet paper, and checked for lipstick smudges around the edge of my mouth from eating. I could hear someone slowly outside the door and I wondered who was waiting to use the loo, and why they didn’t just use one of the other many toilets in the house.
I pulled the deadbolt back across and twisted the knob, pulling open the door to find Shane leaning against the opposite wall. I glared at him and he did me, and within a second he had grabbed my wrist, pulled me into the bathroom and rammed the deadbolt back across the room.
“I want to talk to you.”
“Well I don’t want to talk to you. Please let me out of the bathroom.”
“Oh shut the hell up, Aimee. You’ve already got Dan not talking to me, and it wasn’t even anything to do with him. He just wanted to prove that he’d stand up for you.”
“And he did stand up for me.”
“Yeah, and look where that got him. The pair of you aren’t even together anymore. He’s head over heels for you Aimee, and you’re just showing up at his house and eating dinner but you’re not making any plans to get married to the bloke.”
“He left me, Shane, for his work. I’m not going to just get married to him.” Shane clearly wasn’t reading the papers either, and didn’t know that I was supposedly shacking up with Potter Boy.
“That’s not what I wanted to talk about, anyway.”
“I know what you want to talk about, Shane. And I’ve already told you that I’m not going to talk to you about it. So fuck off and leave me alone.” I shoved past him and tried to grab the deadbolt.
“Aimee, it was a mistake. You know full well that it was a mistake.” He ran his hands through his hair. “And now not only does your family hate me, but my brother hates me, and that’s just because of you. Because you ran your mouth to him and asked him to get even for you.”
“You deserved it.”
“In your opinion.”
“In Dan’s too.”
“Because he wanted to get laid!”
“He was my brother, you bastard! Of course I was going to stand up for him! And yes, Dan stood up for me because he loved me and he knew what you did was shitty, regardless of whether or not you have thirteen fucking alleles in common and have the same parents.”
“You’re a bitch.”
“And you cheated on my brother. Brent deserved a thousand times better than you. He was sixteen and you were eighteen. He was a kid, Shane. Now fuck off, before I call Dan in here and ask him to give you another matching set of black eyes. You pointed out yourself; he’d do it for me.”
“I love Brent, Aimee, I only called you in here because I want you to talk to him for me. You were the one that introduced us, you were the one that told him to ignore me and because of you, he won’t take my calls and he burns all my letters.”
“No, it’s not because of me, Shane, it’s because of you. You were the one that went to that... party, whatever, and got piss drunk, did whatever with that other bloke and you were the one that didn’t tell Brent.”
“If you hadn’t been fucking well spying on me then you never would have found out –”
“I wasn’t spying on you – I found out that you were at that club, figured that Brent would be with you and wanted to see my brother, since I had just graduated and he was still in school! It’s not a crime to want to see your family!”
“And it’s not a crime to sleep with someone that isn’t your boyfriend!”
“No, but it does mean that said boyfriend wants to break up with you, you bastard. You never deserved Brent, and I swear to Merlin if you go near him again then I’ll give you another set of black eyes. Or get Mark to do it – and you’ve seen the size of my big brother.”
“Are you threatening me, Aimee?”
“Yes. Yes, I am.”
“Look, as fun as it is to sit in the dining room with a dinner getting colder, listening to you two argue, we’re all sick of it. So will you get back in the dining room and at least attempt to put on a civil face? Because you’re doing all of our heads in. Woods, what the hell do you think you’re playing at, coming into our house and starting an argument?”
I stared coldly at Shelley, pulling up the spaghetti sleeve of my dress that had slipped down without me noticing during the argument. The bitchiest of the three sisters had to be the one to come and confront us. Naomi and Anne-Marie were both bitches too, but Shelley was the worst of the worst.
“Sure. And just so you know, though I’m sure you do, he started it.” I brushed past her.
A few minutes later we were all reseated at the table, in stony silence. Dan reached out and squeezed my knee. Lois noticed and nearly wet herself with glee.
“You never informed us that you were dating Aimee’s brother, Shane,” Lois said eventually, a little tightly. I don’t think she ever really got over her son coming out over Christmas dinner when he’d had a little too much mulled wine. After that he never really told her anything about his love life.
“Yeah, I was,” Shane grunted. I stabbed my potato a little too hard with the end of my fork.
“And you never informed us that you cheated on Aimee’s brother – what did you say his name was, Aimee?” I blinked and sighed, not wanting to have this conversation. Dan squeezed my knee again.
“Brent. My brother’s name is Brent,” I muttered.
“Look, Mum, I don’t want to talk about this now. If you want to have a go at me or whatever then...”
“Then what?” Lois asked grumpily, frowning at everyone at the table over her wine, sans me. It seemed that I could do no wrong.
“Then you can wait until we’re not in front of the world and his wife to have a go at me. This is private, Mum. It was a long time ago. Brent has refused to speak to me for one hell of a long time, and what with him being in Hogwarts for another year, and I’m not going to drag myself back into all that now when it’s been about nine months since he last spoke to me. So just leave it.”
“Why are you asking Aimee to put you back in contact with him if it’s been so long, then?” Lois slammed her manicured hands onto the table, and Jim blinked at her in shock. I had never heard Lois raise her voice before, and clearly neither had her husband.
“Because I want to apologise! Contrary to what she believes, I’m not a soul-sucking monster that never cared about her brother. I loved Brent, and I still do. And I want to tell him that, regardless of whether he’s going to take me back.”
“You mean you haven’t apologised yet? Shane!”
“Oh save the sermon, Mum, I’m not in the mood.” Shane pulled a muggle MP7 player out of his pocket and plugged in some white wire earphones, switching a rock song on its loudest volume so he couldn’t hear what any of us were saying.
“Aimee,” Lois was interrupted by a hammering on the door, much too loudly for anyone, really. I hopped out of my seat like I had been burned and headed to the door, nearly pulling Dan out of his seat as he had been running his hand up and down my leg at the time.
“Molly?!” I shrieked when I’d pulled the door open. Because there, sure enough, was my best friend. Standing in the doorway of my ex-boyfriend’s parent’s house. The house that I wasn’t even sure that she knew the address of.
“Hey, bitch. Thought I’d stop by and help. What are best friends for, you know.” She winked cheerily at me and shoved her way into the house. Her red hair was shoved back in a hasty pony tail and she had on her comfortable jeans and a large shirt that I was sure I had seen Lorcan wear before. An old pair of my lace up boots were on her feet. Did she rob them from me a long time ago?
“Greetings, Richardson family. My name is Molly Weasley, and if you don’t mind, I’m here to collect my best friend.” She smiled widely at them all. Dan winced and shrank back in his seat.
“Well, erm, it’s lovely to meet you, Molly,” Lois lied, staring disbelievingly at her husband. “My name is Lois, and this is my husband Jim. These – these are our sons,” she carried on haltingly when Molly said nothing. “This is Barney, and this is Shane, and I’m sure that you already know Daniel. And these are our daughters – Shelley, Naomi and Anne-Marie. Oh, and the little baby is Tara-Lynne, Anne-Marie’s daughter.” Molly cocked an eyebrow at them and twitched her wrist in greeting.
“Well, pleasure to meet you all. There sure is a lot of you. Anyway, Aimee’s boyfriend is my cousin and he wants to see her and wasn’t sure where she was, so I agreed to do the pick-up. So now I’m picking her up. And we have to leave. She thanks you for the dinner, and may I just say that your dress is stunning, Mrs Richardson.” Molly shot her a charming grin and seized my arm, going to drag me out the door. But the horror struck look on Lois’s face stopped me.
“Erm, thank you,” she murmured, smoothing down the front of her dress. “Boyfriend, Aimee? Boyfriend...” Jim put down his glass of bourbon and sighed, his wrinkling face falling flat. Bitchy Naomi with her bottle blonde hair was smirking. Clearly she was one of the people at the table that knew about Potter and I. Or as it should be written, “Potter and I”.
“I’m dating... I’m dating... I’m...” I couldn’t say it. The look on her face meant I couldn’t say it. Dan’s eyes looked oddly glassy. Lois looked like all her worst nightmares were happening at once.
“James Potter. My cousin, her boyfriend, is called James Potter. They’ve been together for a month now. You must know him – rich, good looking, successful, son of Harry Potter, the man who saved the world? Yeah, that’s Aimee’s new boyfriend.” Lois looked like she was going to be sick. Tara-Lynne was throwing turkey at the white plastic tray in front of her high chair, but Anne-Marie was paying her no attention. She was staring open mouthed at me.
“I – I wasn’t aware that Aimee was dating someone new,” Lois murmured. She slowly stood up, pushing the chair out with the back of her knees.
“Well why would I tell you, Mum? You’ve gotten yourself high on the idea of Aimes and I getting back together, and I wasn’t going to crush you by letting you know that it was all going to hell right now. Came back, and found out she’s got herself a better boyfriend. Probably you lot, you’re probably the reason she wouldn’t wait for me. Half of you are goddamn foul to her. And I don’t know what the fuck your problem is with her, Shelley. Run while you can, Mick,” he added.
“Just leave it, Dan,” I snapped.
“Don’t tell me what to do, Aimee, I’m in enough shit because of you.”
“Oh, you’re in shit because of me? Right, right, because it’s always my fault. You – you were the one that treated me like shit, like a maid, I was the ear when you needed to moan and then the sandwich maker when you were hungry. Then you took off and went to shag the Brazilian birds. No part of that was my fault, Dan!”
“Oh, you know what-”
“Look, this is not the place for the two of you to have this argument. If you want to talk, meet up somewhere on your own. But none of us need to know this.” My heart went out to Barney Richardson, who was glaring at Molly while reprimanding us.
“I’m going to leave. Don’t bother ringing, Dan. Come on, Molly.” I began to walk out the room but turned around in the doorway. “And thank you for dinner, Lois. And everything you’ve done for me in the past. I’m sorry that it didn’t work out.” Taking Molly’s hand, I walked out of the room. And to me, what felt like away from Dan himself.
We had reached the hallway and I was pulling open the front door when someone spoke in the dining room, for the first time since we had spoken.
“Well, Daniel, you couldn’t expect her to wait forever.” It was Lois.
“Of course you’re going to defend her, Mum. You always have.” Dan’s voice was bitter.
And secretly, I liked that.
“I didn’t realise that Potter actually wanted me when you came to get me,” I laughed, hopping out of Molly’s car and staring up at the swanky block of flats that was the home to Potter’ s bachelor pad. It was in the fancy area of London full of boutiques that sold dresses that would cost what you could probably sell me for. I sometimes used to walk past them on my way to work, and choose the one that I would buy out of the window if I was minted.
“Well, he said he needed to talk to you and that you weren’t answering your phone. So I realised I had an actual reason for coming to get you, as opposed to trying to think of a fake one. Sorry for dropping you in it with the boyfriend thing, I assumed they’d know.” There was a moment of silence.
“You assumed wrong.” Molly grinned guiltily at me and I leaned forwards to muss up her already haphazard hair. It was a good job she had the day off. It was strange, most of the time I forgot that people that still worked actually had things to do during the day.
All the days just blended into one with me, since I had unlimited free time. There was no reason for anything, and no rush to do anything, since I had nothing to do. No work to go to or wake up for.
“I’ll speak you later, doll. I gotta swing by the cake maker – Lorcan wants to go cake tasting. He didn’t want to go with me when I went, but now he wants to taste it. I reckon he’s just peckish. Apparently he’s not happy with the lemon sponge that I picked out. But still, five months today and I’m going to be Mrs Scamander, so I suppose I’ve got to keep him happy.” She grinned at me.
“Speak to you later.” I pecked her on the forehead and headed off into the building. It reminded me surprisingly of Molly’s building. Marble floors and potted plants made of plastic in shoves, a swanky desk along the end with a receptionist parked behind, well dressed people heading in and out with mobiles glued to the side of their heads.
My heels clacked loudly on the marble floor. At least I had dressed up for lunch, so I didn’t look too out of place. My hair was falling out of my bun. My dress looked cheap compared to everyone else in the lobby. Still, it was cheap. Bought on sale from a shady place in the back of Camden market in the January sales two years ago.
I stepped into the elevator and told a man in a green velvet suit the floor that Molly had told me Potter lived on. The thirteenth floor. The penthouse. I guess Potter really wasn’t kidding when he said that he could afford to get me a new apartment.
“Here we go, ma’am. The doorbell is to the left of the door. Have a lovely day and a safe journey home.” I smiled widely at him, feeling a million dollars, and almost skipped to the giant wooden door that was adorned with a shiny plaque that read ‘penthouse’. I pressed the doorbell and almost grinned – it was one of those singing ones. It was like chilling in Buckingham Palace.
The door was pulled open quickly and I was a little disappointed to see that it was Potter himself, and not a maid. Places like this should have a maid. I made a plan to speak to Potter about getting a maid. You never know, that could be my new job.
“Woods. Hi. You got here quickly. Great. Right, come in. I thought Molly was kidding when she said she’d go and get you.” Potter walked off into the apartment without a second glance, leaving me standing in the doorway like a nutter. I followed him in and shut the door behind myself with a soft snapping sound. I wasn’t sure which direction Potter had gone in. Yes, his apartment had directions.
“Potter?” I called, feeling foolish.
“In the kitchen. I’m getting something to eat. Just sit down; I’ll be out in a minute. No need to be so impatient.” I wasn’t sure where his voice was coming from, so I just headed to the nearest room that contained some form of seating and sat down in the middle of a plush couch. This was the life.
Potter wandered in a second later with a sandwich and a mug of coffee, and my hands began to shake a little. I sighed deeply as Potter flicked on the Wiz-TV and dropped down into a cushy chair, kicking his legs over the side of the armrest. He took a deep glug from his coffee cup.
“So what do you want, Potter?” I sighed, kicking off my shoes and putting my feet up so they squished into the layers of soft fluff. This was the couch that dreams were made of. I leant sideways and buried my face in one of my velvet cushions. This was clearly bought by his mother – there was a feminine touch about the place that Potter himself just didn’t have.
“I just need to tell you that you’re needed for another social event. My brother’s team is in the quarter final for the British National Cup and my mum wants to invite you to come and watch with us since you fit in so well at the charity ball or whatever the hell that was. So you gonna come?”
“Where is it?” I sighed flatly.
“Tornadoes stadium, up north. It’s at two o’clock on Saturday, so it’s not for a few days, and you don’t have to dress up or anything. There is going to be press there. I’ll pick you up at half one and apparate with you there – am I okay to pick you up straight from your apartment?”
I opened my mouth to answer but clearly Potter meant it to be a rhetorical question.
“Good, good. There’s going to be some dinner provided because it’s a VIP box and that’s what they do for VIPs, and you’re dating one. There’s going to be booze too. Bethany and her chunk of lard, if they’re still together, are not expected to be there so there’s no chance of you getting accosted again. Albus actually asked that you came, so you don’t really have too much of a choice.”
“Okay. That it?” Potter blinked at me over a deep sip of coffee and shrugged.
“Yes. Why are you so desperate to get out of here? It’s quite a nice place.” Potter glanced around at the spacious living room, to the cream walls and the deep beige carpet and the expensive wooden coffee tables that were dotted around the room like they were going out of style.
“Look, I never agreed to hang around and have a chat with you whenever you goddamn pleased. I’ve had quite a hard night – just so you sodding know, I was at Dan’s house having dinner with his family when Molly came to get me. Told his mother I had a new boyfriend. She nearly cried, Potter. And then I come back here and I’m told like a common fucking hooker that I’m wanted at a Quidditch match to swing off your arm when I’m still not one hundred percent sure why.” Potter cocked an eyebrow at me and stretched out a little in his seat.
“You quite done ranting?”
“Oh fuck off, Potter.”
“If you calmed down for half a second then you’d know that I was also going to suggest going apartment hunting tomorrow. There’s actually one on the third floor of this building that you might like.” I laughed slightly hysterically.
“This building? Right, like I would ever fit in here.”
“You might do. You’ve never tried. I don’t fit in here either, but people act like I do because they think that I make a fortune. My parents pay for this apartment – they’ve forgotten that they do and they don’t need the money. Why do you think that I can afford a decent apartment for you?”
“Oh. Right. Precious little Daddy’s boy gets his rent paid by his parents. Of course. My mother retired early because of her illness and my dad makes... well, he’s not going to be breaking the bank anytime soon, let me tell you that. My mum and did don’t live on much and I admire them for that.”
“Why don’t they get new jobs that pay more?”
“And who is going to hire a fifty-five year old man with shaky hands and a bad back that’s ten years from retirement and has no qualifications? In this climate?”
“You never know.”
“No, we do know. Life isn’t some fucking fairytale and it’s not going to work out like that. You were born into privileged family and so you have grown up knowing the benefits of having money. I never had any money so I’ve gotten used to living without it. And so has my family. Mark’s a single father raising a three year old on the money he makes as a bartender, for hell’s sake.”
“I – I didn’t know that was what your brother did.”
“Well, it is. Brent is still in school and he has no idea what he wants to do. He’ll probably end up doing a muggle job like that or something like Mark. Mark just needed a job, he didn’t care what it was – he just needed one. He had a child to pay for and my parents certainly didn’t have the funds to help him out.”
“Didn’t they do well in school?”
“Mark chose sports over exams – we all thought he was going to be a professional Quidditch player. He was fantastic. But then just before he could start trying out for his teams, that bitch showed up with little Jack and Mark put everything on hold to become a father. I admire him so much for that.”
“Why didn’t he just become a Quidditch player? He was on my team in school – you’re right, he was excellent. Why didn’t he just try out when he had his kid?”
“Because there were no guarantees with pay, he would have to go all around the world, he would most likely be put on the reserve team, he’d... crikey, he’d have to train ten hours a day. He knew it wouldn’t be possible if he was raising Jack on his own. So he became a bartender in London. It pays the bills, and that’s all Mark really wants.”
“Wow. Heh. Stand up guy. I don’t know if I could do that if a woman appeared out of nowhere and told me I had her kid. I – I don’t know what I’d do.”
“Yeah. I don’t know what I’d do either. But Mark just decided to stand up and do the right thing. Brent, well, he’s shit at sports. But he does pretty shit in lessons too. He managed to scrape four Acceptables in his OWLs, and I think he might manage to get one NEWT, but I’m not too sure. If we’re lucky, maybe.”
“You got loads of qualifications, didn’t you?” I blinked.
“You – you got loads of qualifications.”
“How would you know that?”
“It was in the Daily Prophet after the exams came out – they do a small piece every year on the people that do really, really well. In the piece it said that you were going to Healing School because you got seven NEWTS, four Outstandings and three Exceeds Expectations.”
“How do you remember that? I graduated two years ago.”
“I did a little, ahem, research after I asked you to pretend to be my girlfriend. Thought that might be the kind of thing that I should know.”
“Oh. Right. Yeah, I did. I got eleven OWLs too. Nine Outstandings and two Exceeds Expectations. I thought you already knew that I wanted to be a healer.”
“I did.” I sucked in my cheeks and leant back in my couch, feeling very low all of a sudden.
“My parents were so proud. Words cannot describe how proud they were of me. They told everyone – friends, neighbours, everyone that I was going to Healing School. I was the most academically successful person in our family for generations. And then my mother’s cancer got really, really bad, and my dad couldn’t afford the treatment she needed. She needed specialist treatment, so the free healthcare in the UK couldn’t cover it.”
James sat forwards, placing his head in his hands.
“I turned down my place at Healing School and bought a crappy apartment with the funds I could afford from taking a receptionist job in St Mungos. I wanted to be a healer, and ended up taking messages for them. A little sick, really. And I took care of her. I went to her house every day and helped her wash and washed her hair, fed her, made breakfast for my dad and drove him to work, cleaned the house from top to bottom, made her lunch, went shopping, worked until eight at night, drove to my mum’s and made dinner for my parents, tucked my mum into bed and went home. And I did that every day from six onwards for a hell of a long time.” Potter’s jaw was hanging open.
“Holy shit. But – your mum is still alive. You said you couldn’t afford the treatment. And cancer doesn’t just go away on its own, it needs treatment. You said yourself; none of your family makes much money, so how did you pay for it?” Potter was as engrossed as he would be if this was a gripping novel. I blinked back a few tears.
“Since I was eleven and I got put in advanced classes at primary school, my mum and dad knew that I was gonna go somewhere. So – so,” I cut off, my throat feeling too thick to be able to get anything out. My hands were shaking again, but for different reasons.
“Why didn’t you just go to Healing School the year after, then, when your mum got better? I mean, if you could afford it once then you could afford it... again... shit. You didn’t... you spend your Healing School money on your mother’s healthcare, didn’t you?”
I nodded slowly.
“They had no idea. I told them that the money came from an old boyfriend of mine that hit the jackpot in Vegas and was happy to pay for her treatment. She would have never let me pay for it otherwise. I told her that I couldn’t go back to Healing School because they wouldn’t accept me as I turned them down the first time. She was heartbroken, but they were too excited about the fact mum was going to America to get healed to really care.” I wiped the back of my hand under my eyes.
“Shit, Woods. I had no idea. Do your brothers even know that the money came from you?”
“No. No, they don’t. They all believed the Vegas lie.”
“How did you get the money for Healing School in the first place?”
“My dad won the lottery when I was eleven. Not a huge amount, but enough to pay for my college education. Like I said, they knew I was going to do well in school, so they put the money in an account with a good interest rate and by the time I graduated, it was enough to pay for my schooling.” I pulled a cushion to my chest and hugged it to myself.
“Aimee, you could get another job with the OWLs and NEWTs that you have. I mean, you can’t be a healer without going to healing school but you can get another job – Aimee, you could be a teacher, a tutor, you could work in potion making, anything. Maybe you’re just applying for the wrong job –if you keep applying for receptionist jobs then a fucking NEWT in Potions isn’t going to help you.”
“Look, Potter, this is my business.”
“You know full well you could get a really good, well paid job – so why don’t you?”
“Just leave it, Potter.”
“Fine. But tell me, does your mother at least treat you like the golden child for basically giving up your life for months and months to look after her?” I began to laugh a little.
“Of course not. Brent is the golden child, not me. But hey, I learned to deal with that when I was little. Mark was looking after Jack and Brent was just a kid himself, in school. I didn’t see that I had much choice. But Brent will always be my mother’s baby. She’s completely forgotten everything I did for her now.”
“No, that’s life.” Potter sighed in exasperation and ran his hands through his hair. I remembered having a similar argument multiple times with Dan. The two were too similar for their own good.
“Why do you always have this belief that everything in the world is shit and it’s just out to get you? It’s like you’re constantly just thinking of the worst case scenario. You probably don’t want to apply for a decent job because hey, then you might actually have something to be happy about.”
“You know what, I have no idea why I just told you of all people about my mother and the money. I didn’t even tell Dan, for fuck’s sakes – why would I tell you? Oh, fuck off. I’ll see you tomorrow. Come around whenever – but I don’t want an apartment in this building.”
“Fine,” Potter said shortly.
“Fine. See you tomorrow. You can give me all the proper details about Saturday then.”
“Fine,” Potter answered again.
I’d walked the length of the apartment to the front door before I noticed that Potter had followed me. I turned around to glare at him but his expression stopped me from saying anything. There was crease between his eyebrows and he looked like he was trying very hard to figure something out.
“What’s the matter, Potter?” I sighed.
“Do you regret it? Paying for your mother’s healthcare instead of going to Healing School yourself? I mean, if you got the choice, would you do the same thing again?”
I took a second to breathe deeply and Potter watched me carefully. Where were all the heart to hearts coming from all of a sudden?
“I saved my mother’s life.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
“I know. But that’s my answer.” And with that, I turned around and let myself out of the apartment.
disclaimer: nothing in this chapter belongs to me.
heeeeeey. hope you liked the chapter :) people were asking about aimee's past and aimee's mother so, yeah. there we go :) the next chapter is written and done and dusted so will put that up pretty soon after this one, while I write the next chapter of being summer, which is taking a while. i'm right in the thick of my GCSEs and I have very, very little free time to spare, so I apologise for the shoddy updating. I still love you.
ellie :) xx
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