Chapter 8 : An Engagement Party To Remember
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I should have just stayed at home, I thought, as I waded through the chickens and the gnomes and the Wellington boots. But then I would have had to face a night in with Henrietta.
My relationship with her had reached a horrible all time low, where I would actively move out of any room she had just entered. It made eating rather difficult, and it made doing anything at all a bit difficult. At least she had stopped talking to me as well, so that was a blessing.
Hopefully Henrietta didn't know about my reason for keeping her around, how I was using her to make Amelie jealous, to maintain the picture of a perfect relationship - but it had been dragging on for far too long. Amelie wasn’t showing any signs of budging and so I might as well just wait for Henrietta to realise what she was doing wrong and my relationship with her would be saved.
I smoothed down my hair and pulled at the hem of my jumper, bracing myself for the onslaught of hugs and Quidditch jokes, and preparing myself for a night of longing looks sent in Amelie's direction. My fingers inched towards the doorbell, dreading the squeal of excitement that would follow my arrival...
But I was too slow. The door was already opening and she was standing in the doorway and smiling and wearing nice clothes and smelling nice and her hair was shiny. Amelie.
She stopped smiling when she saw me, though, and at that moment I would have much rather stood in the same room as Henrietta for an hour maximum.
"I know, I know! Really Fred, I'm sorry! I have to go! Duty calls, and Grylock wanted this study finished by tomorrow morning..." And then a man was standing by her side, and his arm was around her waist. He stopped smiling when he saw me, too.
"Hello," she said coolly to me. I smiled weakly.
"Hi," I croaked.
"You must be James," said the man, finally smiling and extending a hand, "I've heard so much about you."
"Good things, I hope."
"Not all of them," Amelie answered.
"Well, all of them are very complimentary," the man said, gesturing inside. "I'm Ewan, by the way. I'm...."
"He's my boyfriend. The one I was telling you about?"
I didn't understand why she was acting like such a bitch. She hasn't smiled once, and she hasn't moved to let me pass so we could have this unbelievably awkward conversation inside. It was too hot outside.
"Yes," I said, nonplussed, and shook his hand. "Nice to finally meet you."
Ewan smiled again. "Likewise. Anyway, I really do have to go now, I'm afraid. Got a report due in first thing and barely written a word."
He pushed gently passed Amelie - not before kissing her cheek - smiled again at me, waved at the people standing in the window, and then disapparated.
"What's up with you?" I said light-heartedly, turning to face Amelie.
"Nothing," she replied curtly, and headed back into the house.
I half expected her to slam the door in my face. She obviously upset with me for some unknown reason, and I didn't understand. We last time we had spoken obviously I had been in the wrong, but I had apologized. She was just being a bitch.
It was weird not knowing. I was guessing that Ewan in all his magical wisdom and all-knowing knowingness totally knew what was wrong with her and had told her the right things so she would feel better.
Whereas I had no fucking clue.
"And you remember... his face... the toilet... his cat!"
The words were struggled, bursting out randomly between fits of hysteria as Fred and his friends decided to reminisce about some ridiculous curse-breaking course they had attended way back. I smiled at the jokes politely - they were nothing compared to some of the crap the Quidditch lot got up too - but I supposed quality night outs were what you gave up in return for getting superior grades in your NEWTs.
Overall the party was turning out a whole lot better than I expected. The firewhiskey was buzzing through my veins and Victoire couldn't come and so it was going swell. Lucy had got incredibly drunk and sufficiently embarrassed herself to provide us with stories for the rest of the decade, and Uncle George had set off one of the best firework displays I had ever seen. I had met a couple of Fred’s friends from Gringotts, and they all seemed nice enough. They had all spoken well of Ewan though, and so my esteem of them dropped a little.
The only problem was the Amelie situation.
After our awkward encounter at the front door, she hadn’t spoken to me. She had blatantly ignored me when I had asked her to pass a pumpkin pasty, and had made snide comments whenever we had found ourselves in the same conversation with someone.
I could see her now, sulking in an armchair by the fireplace, Alice perched on the armrest. They were whispering together conspiratorially, occasionally giggling and pointing, and other times (rather disturbingly) staring right at me. Or it could have been Fred. Or the questionable wedding bell decoration that was hanging by a thread above my head.
Something flickered in my stomach. She was pretty, even with the heavy frown she was sporting, and she was wearing a nice green dress that brought out her eyes. Her hair was shiny in the firelight.
Then again I could have just been hungry - I never did get a pumpkin pasty.
Fred and his friends were still laughing over their sub-par adventures. I had no place to join, and I simply stood next to their group and drunk my glass of champagne. Alice and Amelie were still talking by the fire.
Amelie was nodding, with Alice whispering in her ear. Merlin knows what they were talking about (babies, dresses, flowers, men’s ability to stereotype) but hopefully it wasn’t about too horrible. Hopefully it was about Lucy’s ridiculous skills when it came to drowning her sorrows in firewhiskey, or positive things about me, like how handsome I looked tonight or how Amelie was going to steal me away from Henrietta.
“James, James... listen to this. Mickey, right... he once tried to get into this sarcophagus and...”
“Yeah. Funny. Ha ha,” I replied.
“He hasn’t finished yet,” Mickey said, looking at me so moodily that the laughter and the chatter seemed to die down to silence and daggers zoomed towards my eyes in slow motion. This strange illusion only ended when I blinked and I dodged, dipped and dived out of the circle and hid in a nearby alcove.
“Bloody hell!” I nearly jumped out of my skin as Alice stood in front of me, her arms crossed and a stern look on her face. I had been sitting nicely in my lovely little alcove for at least an hour, only sneaking out to steal a bottle of champagne and a whole plate of fancy canapés to consume on my lonesome.
“I can’t believe you’ve just been hiding away all this time.”
“Well, you would too if Mickey gave you the eye.”
She obviously didn’t not know what I was talking about - she was staring at me like I had drunk the entire bottle of champagne in half an hour, which I clearly had not.
“We’ve been looking for you.”
I snatched up a canapé and munched on the smoked salmon and fancy cream cheese.
Alice sighed and grabbed me by the elbow, pulling me out of the alcove with a sharp tug. I don’t know what she was so angry about - there were plenty of other people at the party, including her new fiancé and some of her best friends from school - so why was she looking for me? I just hoped it wasn’t something to do with the furtive looks her and Amelie had been giving me.
“You’ve got an owl. It arrived about five minutes ago.”
“Yes, I know you’re struggling to comprehend that someone might want to talk to you, but you need to come with me.”
She glared at me again as I followed her into the kitchen. An owl was perched on the window sill, a letter tied to its leg. I hurried over as Alice tapped her foot impatiently and watched me unroll the letter. It was from Jack Goddard.
“Thanks Alice,” I said, skimming the first couple of lines.
“Who’s it from?”
I kept reading.
James, I need you to come into work first thing tomorrow. Mansfield wants his job back - he came into my office today demanding that I re-sign him to the team. Threatened me with inspections and offered me bribes and told me all about his new stepmother and how wealthy she is.
Joseph Mansfield was the chaser before I was, until he got his arm broken in a match against the Tornadoes. But it wasn’t just broken - some idiot Mediwizard had removed all his bones, put them back in, messed around with his muscles, twisted his shoulder and his elbow and his wrist. He was off Quidditch for weeks.
I wasn’t complaining - that’s how I got my first full match off the bench.
We need to do something. I’m including you in this because he mentioned your name a couple of times and I’m pretty sure Ron or your dad or whoever would be able to put in a good word if things do go pear-shaped. Plus you’d be out of a job if you don’t get involved and I’m guessing you don’t want that.
“What’s it about?”
I turned to look at her. She raised her eyebrows, expecting me to answer her. I frowned. She had never really been interested in the goings on of the Quidditch team before, just turned up to matches because she thought they were fun. Fred had always asked and asked what our tactics were, who was getting signed, who was getting dumped - but Alice didn’t care. She wouldn’t even know who Mansfield was.
“None of your business.”
“Oh come on, James,” she said. “You can tell me.”
“It’s from Jack.”
“So it’s not from Henrietta?”
Be in the office at 8 on the dot otherwise I’m firing you and giving him the job back, even with his gammy arm, which looked in remarkably good health. I might be able to buy us some time - get him to do some routine training exercises to see how he’s healed, but I don’t...
“Amelie will be glad to hear that.”
“What?” I had no clue what she was getting at, or why she was bringing this up now. This was probably one of her crazy little schemes to get me to admit something or do something stupid or something like that. This probably all planned by her and Amelie.
“Amelie. She’ll be happy you’re not getting lovey dovey poetry from your girlfriend while you’re at the party.”
“Alice, you know full well how shitty my relationship with Henrietta is, don’t be...”
“I’ve got to pretend you’re happy, don’t I?” She smirked. “That’s what I’ve told Amelie anyway.”
I know this sounds dodgy but if your aunt or your dad could get any dirt on Mansfield that would be great. If he gets some sort of higher authority involved we’ll need to act fast and have some sort of reason to not let him back on the team.
“She’s looking for you,” Alice was saying.
I couldn’t deal with both things at once. Mansfield was trying to get his job, using any means possible. He was threatening Jack and he was going to steal my job if we didn’t do something, whereas Alice was wittering in my ear about Henrietta and Amelie and Merlin knows what.
“Amelie’s looking for you!” Alice repeated.
“Right,” I said. I’d have to sort Mansfield out straight away. Uncle Ron would be furious (hopefully) and so we’d find some dirt on him that would give us reason to stop him. Mum would also do something although probably turn this into some lesson of responsibility and get me to do it myself.
"Listen, she was fine when she arrived and then she asked about you and I said you were coming and she was fine and then she asked about Henrietta and I said how happy you were together because that's what you told me to say and now she's all sulky. But that’s a good sign because it means she’s jealous, right? And so she’s coming to find you to apologise and hopefully...”
It says in the rules that I have to give him a trial run before he could come back to the squad and so I set one up but he couldn’t make it. I didn’t bother organising another one and neither did he. Ask Ginny or Ron about how that affects stuff, even though I should probably know.
Get back to me as soon as possible, and see you at 8. Jack.
Alice hit me around the head.
“Merlin, woman! What’s wrong with you?”
“You’re not listening to a word I am saying!”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said sarcastically, waving the piece of parchment in front of her face, “I’ve got other things on my mind!”
“I hope you’re not talking about Henrietta!”
“Why are you so obsessed about this?” I said, and the music and chatter and laughter from the living room almost drowned me out. “Amelie told me that she wasn’t interested and so I tried to get her interested by using Henrietta. She’s obviously moved on, Alice. She’s got Ewan, who is...”
“Apparently so,” I answered quietly. “You don’t want to ruin that, especially if she’s happy.”
“You tried to,” Alice said. “You want her to be with you.”
“I did. I do,” I replied. “But she doesn’t. And I can’t force her to.”
It was strange to say it out loud, and to Alice, who would definitely just run off and tell her all about what happened and everything I had said. Alice was a loyal friend. She was just looking out for us. She wanted us to be happy. She smiled at me, before looking briefly down at her engagement ring. She admired it in the candlelight.
“What was your letter about?”
“Stuff at work. Shit’s going down and I think that...”
“Alice! Have you seen him? Albus said that he was in...”
And she was standing in the doorway and looking lovely and breathless and her hair was messy. Her cheeks flushed at the sight of us. She was flustered, and it took her a minute to return to the steely demeanour she had worn so well when she opened the door to me earlier.
“I was just looking for Alice,” she said. I nodded.
“I was going to go outside, you know, and see the...” she attempted, but Amelie and I both stared at her, and her words seemed to falter. She sighed. “He knows that you want to talk to him. There’s no good pretending otherwise.”
“Amelie, wait” I said, joking, “I really am very flattered that you want to see me, but I...”
“Don’t joke around,” she snapped.
“Look who’s being all serious, that really is a turn up for the books.”
“If you’re going to be like this, then I definitely don’t want to talk to you.”
“Well maybe I...” I began, but Alice kicked me in the leg, stopping me from speaking. I was being stupid. She wanted to talk to me to apologise for her behaviour, according to Alice. This was my opportunity. I had wanted to talk to her, to convince that Ewan was horrible and I was perfect, so she would be with me and we could all live happily ever after.
“So what exactly is it that you want with me?”
Amelie paused. She sat down. She stood up. She played with the hem of her dress and pulled at her hair.
“Alice, would you mind?” She gestured awkwardly at the door.
“Oh, right. No, not at all.”
And Alice left through the door to the living room, sending me a thumbs up and a little wink. The room returned to silence, and I sat down opposite Amelie. She looked up at me, smiled shyly and then looked back down at her hands.
Both of us were just so stubborn that apologising was one of the worst things to do. I knew I shouldn't feel so superior, but I did.
"I also want this apology to be in writing, but I know how illegible your handwriting is so if you get Alice and Rose to do it and you sign that is also acceptable."
She didn't interrupt me. She just kept staring at the table.
"Alice also said that you and Ewan are having some problems in the bedroom, or something like that. So if you want me to help you with that I could give you a check up or get you back in the swings of things with a few..."
I stopped. She wasn't reacting like she was meant to. Amelie was still just looking at the table, mouthing something. She looked insane.
"Are you all right?"
"Seriously, you're being weird."
"Says the guy who wanted a formal apology in writing," she snapped.
"You chose that example over the warm-up sex?" I said. Amelie rolled her eyes at me.
"I want to do this properly."
"Do what? The warm-up sex? On the table?"
She inhaled deeply, closed her eyes and spread her fingers on the table-top. She didn't look at me. Amelie looked and sounded so serious that I wanted to laugh. She had been so rude to me when I had arrived, and basically ignored me all evening... I was allowed to have a little fun, wasn't I?
"You look weird."
"Just shut up James!"
"What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to be serious but I keep being interrupted by you and your ridiculous nattering about formal letters and warm-up sex!” Amelie opened her eyes, and she was glaring at me from across the table. “I'm trying to be mature here and you keep turning it into some sort of joke!"
"Look at the bowtruckle calling the wand wood! You've done this every time we've argued."
“Because you take yourself too seriously, that's why.”
“I do not!”
She stared at me pointedly, but I still had no clue what she was talking about. I could say nothing in response, so she went back to her weird ritual. I appreciated the effort, but she could have just got it over and done with by now.
“What are you sorry for?”
“How I’ve treated you,” she replied, her eyes still closed. “Just in general.”
“All right,” I said, with a note of finality. I pushed her hands off the table and she opened her eyes. “You don’t need to do all of this. You sounded perfectly serious just then.”
“But there’s more I want to say!”
She stared at me, and I stared back. And then, miraculously, she smiled. A great big beaming smile that made me feel so happy and warm and everything that I just wanted to pull her from the other side of the table and kiss her and hug her and everything.
“I lied to you.”
“When you said you didn’t want to the warm up sex?”
“Will you shut up about that? I have a boyfriend.”
“Yeah, and I have a girlfriend, but I’m still up for it.”
And immediately the smile faded and was replaced by a grimace.
“And that’s the issue! That’s what happened with Georgia Watson, wasn’t it? And that’s what’s happening now - don’t you see? I’m Georgia Watson, and Henrietta is me! You’re cheating on her with me!”
“And there lies the problem,” I replied sarcastically. “We’re not doing anything that could be classified as cheating.”
“You said you liked me. You said you wanted to have sex with me.”
“Exactly!” Amelie leant across the table and smacked me around the head. “Stop with this shitty cavalier attitude... don’t you care about her at all? She’s never done anything particularly horrible to you, or me, or anyone.”
My mind played a fast motion picture of my entire relationship with Henrietta, from its origins in the pub in Scotland, to now, and her angry face as I slammed the door and apparated to the party. Moments of it made me cringe, moments of it made me angry but, admittedly, there were fragments of the relationship that made me happy. We were bitching about Mansfield or the opposing Quidditch team, or we were eating out in a fancy restaurant with people wanting to take our picture.
But then again, they were a few happy moments in a relationship full of arguments and hatred. We just didn’t like each other anymore.
But I liked Amelie. I probably loved her.
“I thought you were happy,” she said, then realised her mistake. She pulled back from me, and tilted her chin haughtily. “I mean, err... I think Alice mentioned something about you two smiling... or laughing. I don’t know, maybe...”
“Ah, that’s where you’re wrong.”
“I got them to say those things. I wanted you to think that we were happy.”
Another smack around the head. I probably shouldn’t have told her, but here we were, sitting at a table, alone, and she was making me say all these things. And Amelie looked pretty as well, which didn’t help.
“I wanted you to make you jealous,” I said. It was better to frank with her.
“You manipulative son of a bitch!” She said, and I almost chastised her for speaking about my mother like that, “You know, you being all happy and everything, I didn’t want to ruin it... I wanted to apologise about my behaviour and about lying to you, only to find out that you’re the one to blame!”
“The one to blame? That doesn’t make any sense!”
Amelie slumped back in her chair, and scoffed. She crossed her arms.
“You can’t judge me... you said you lied about something too.”
“Yeah,” she snapped, “a little white lie that no one even cares about.”
“What was it?”
“It doesn’t matter now.”
We sat in silence again, although this time Amelie wasn’t going through some weird ritual to make herself more ‘serious’. I wasn’t revelling in her apology and I didn’t feel superior. Several family members came in and out, getting glasses of water or bits of food. Alice opened the door, mouthed silently at me with some very complicated hand signals, and then shut it again.
I felt bad about Amelie. She thought I had been happy and she had been coming to explain herself before I messed it all up again.
“I did lie to you,” she said quietly.
I didn’t say anything, and just looked at her to show I was listening.
“I told you I was dating Ewan when I wasn’t.”
“At the restaurant?” I replied. “When you were rejecting me?”
“Don’t put it like that.”
I stared at the table for a long while. That moment had been one of the worst in my life - I knew I shouldn’t have taken her to a public place so people could actually watch me being humiliated. I had felt so bad after that.
“So when did you start dating him?”
“Couple of weeks afterwards, something like that.”
“So Alice and Fred have been telling stories to me too.”
Another moment of silence.
“So we both lied,” she said.
“Well we’re both pretty rubbish then.”
And then, to my surprise, she walked around the table and tugged at my arm. I stood up, and then she hugged me. It was warm and lovely, and in that moment I wanted to tell how how much I missed her, how much I wanted her back, how I didn’t actually care that she lied to about Ewan... I liked her so very much. I loved her.
Amelie opened her mouth to say something witty, and I took the opportunity to kiss her.
I felt her freeze beneath my touch, obviously surprised, but then she was running her fingers through my hair. I couldn’t believe the last time we had done this had been over three years ago, but it felt like yesterday. My hands travelled up and down her sides, finally landing on her hips, and I couldn’t believe this was happening. Amelie was kissing me again, in my kitchen, with my whole family next door, with Henrietta at home, and...
Amelie pulled away from me. She took one breath while I stood there, confused, my lips still puckered and my arms around her waist.
And then she was back, and I sensed a difference in the way she kissed me. Her lips were passionate and eager but not too aggressive. This wasn’t trying to prove anything. We were kissing and it was great and I was happy and hopefully she was happy, and it was like Georgia Watson and those three years hadn’t happened.
And she had come back to me. She could have stopped me from kissing her. She could have left the room and never talked to me again, but here she was.
"I forgot what I was going to say," she said in a breathless voice.
"Then it wasn't important," I murmured back.
Hello! I'm back! Sorry my updates are becoming so sporadic, it's pretty stupid. Hopefully I will get better at it. Thanks for reading, and if you feel like leaving a review, do!
14/9/15: Edits, edits, edits...
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