What, with her going through the grieving process?
About her husband's death and my loss of memory?
Well, whatever. The fact remained that I did not get along with her, at all. I'd tried to keep it under covers, but we disagreed on too many things. She blew up over the most simple of things, like, for example, how to cook bacon. Or which channel was best. Or how much toothpaste to put on the toothbrush. Or the big things, like Muggle politics. Or whether magic was really all that great, to begin with. I sensed she was bitter.
Angry, and bitter, and sad and unhappy. I tried, I really did. I tried to see her perspective.
But I guess I'm just not good at that.
Nathan was sweet. Annoying, sure. At times, damn right bloody irritating. But he didn't make me pissed off so much.
I spent a lot of time with the Potters, next door. The rest of their family either lived down the road, a few blocks away or just used Floo Powder every time they wanted a family lunch. Which was about twice a week.
They taught me Quidditch.
Or, James taught me Quidditch. And Dom and Roxanne and Louis and Albus, when they were around.
“C'mon, Rose, don't be a wuss, for Merlin's sake. It's just a broomstick, it won't bite you!” yelled Sophia, who didn't live too close, so I didn't exactly know how she'd travelled from the other end of the country to here. And Eloise. And everybody who wasn't directly related to the Wotters. Magic confused me still. The Wotters had tried to teach me some simple spells, but so far all I'd done was blown up a sink. A nice sink, too. An expensive marble one.
“I'm telling you, I don't like brooms!” Rose was backing away. Whatever. Like that was going to help her, what with most of the Wotters closing in on her.
“Well, too bad.” Sophia said, smugly.
“Over my dead body.”
About five minutes later, Rose was in the air. No, not on a broomstick. I mean, being levitated, by James. He'd just had his seventeenth birthday, a couple of weeks ago. I'd missed it, being unconscious.
“Fine! Alright, I'll play Quidditch! But as soon as I fall off I'm -” Rose. Rose, Rose, Rose. When will you ever learn? James dropped her, onto the ground.
Rose was going to fall off her broom.
We divided the teams as usual, picking the team captains – invariably James and Dom, being the eldest – and them picking us each one by one.
“Albus,” James said. He winked at me. The hell?
“Sophia,” Dom countered.
“Willow.” I stepped over to James. Strange, being picked third. I didn't think I was that good. Of course, Rose and Molly were the absolute worst, and I'd hoped against hope that I'd be picked before they were.
James sighed. It was out of – obviously – Rose and Molly. The two worst.
Ugh. They could barely even fly.
Rose and Molly just rolled their eyes. They just wanted it to be over as quickly as possible. They knew that Quidditch was definitely not for them, whereas Dom and James were looking at it as a serious career choice.
We huddled in groups, the two teams.
“Okay, here's the plan,” hissed James, “be aggressive. Rose, I don't want to see any of that 'oh my gosh I'm scared of balls' attitude. You are a Chaser and you are to go and get those balls, got it?”
I laughed too.
“Louis. Willow. Beaters. Work as a team. Make up your own game plan, whatever. But work together. And knock them off their brooms if you have to. I don't care. Albus. You're Seeker. Stay out of the game as much as possible. Focus. Lily. Nathan. Watch out for Lucy. She's small, but fast. Work together. Don't let Rose play.”
“But you just said -” protested Rose.
James ignored her.
“Hands in, people.”
“One. Two. Three. THE JAMUNCHERS!” We all yelled.
“THE DOMINATORS!” The other team yelled.
Much cleverer than the Jamunchers.
Fred walked out, decked out in the most ridiculous referee gear ever.
At least, he said it was referee gear.
Personally, I thought he just liked dressing up. In black and white one piece pyjamas.
With a giant whistle.
Fred was strange.
A bit mucked up in the head.
You know what I mean.
Fred let go of the Golden Snitch.
“Ok! Brooms at the ready... get ready, steady... go easy on the midgets...” Fred was going to cop it for that later. Nathan, Lily and Lucy were practically growling and frothing at the mouth. “ And GO!” Fred released the Quaffles and the Bludgers.
I stood on the ground a moment late. The others were already in the air, swooping and diving, after the Quaffle.
“C'mon Willow!” yelled Louis, whacking a Bludger at Eloise.
I took a deep breath, grabbed my broomstick and zoomed off, and up. The main brawl was occurring somewhat fifteen metres off the ground, and I was sitting at about twenty, getting my bearings. I watched Louis. He was a blur, Beater's bat raised permanently, hitting Bludgers at everyone except – I noticed with a grin – Sophia.
I swooped into action. Beater's weapon at the ready.
Just let those filthy Bludgers come at me.
They'd get pulverised.
Our Quidditch pitch was a tad smaller than your standard one, James had explained to me whilst teaching me the basic laws and stuff about Quidditch. Apparently, Aunty Hermione had refused to put Muggle Repelling Charms on anything larger than forty metres by twenty. Which limited their game. I had to side with Aunt Hermione on that one. Quidditch was just a game.
A very violent one, yes. But still, just a game.
“With that attitude, I think Wood's going to have to find someone to replace you,” James had sighed.
“Well, maybe she should. I'm no good at it, anyway.”
“Yes, you are! You have the ability, you just need to find it!” James had insisted.
James hadn't even brought up the whole 'me having loved him' yet, which was frustrating me. I'd tried, several times, to broach the subject, which had proved futile, to say the least.
The game lasted longer than I'd anticipated. It was becoming dark, and the score was 580 – 490, our way.
Rose had fallen off, multiple times (it's not my fault she kept getting in the way of my Bludgers), and I could practically feel the Weasley appetite raging all around me. The Wotters were hungry. Actually, so was I.
So scratch that, everyone was hungry.
And Albus was being a lousy Seeker.
The two times he'd caught sight of the Snitch, he'd lost it before he could get within ten metres.
“LET'S JUST GO IN ALREADY!” I yelled at James.
He shook his head firmly. Was that such an unreasonable request?
The adults started to wander out of the house, some 80 yards away.
Fuck, I'm an idiot.
Fuck fuck fuck.
Fred blew a whistle, signalling for everyone to take a break.
Willow was first on the ground, followed by Rose.
She wasn't the same Willow.
The Willow I knew would have been last on the ground. She wouldn't fucking be wanting to forfeit a Quidditch game just because it was getting dark and she was tired. She wouldn't be writing off Quidditch as just another game. She wouldn't be fucking wanting to quit the team, without even trying.
The Jamunchers huddled.
“Albus. Hurry up and catch the fucking Snitch,” Louis hissed. Yes hissed, not shouted. Damn unusual for Louis. I looked up, and there was the reason for the whispering.
Our parents. All watching. Fucking great.
Albie said nothing, but nodded.
“I'm freaking hungry.” Louis added.
“Ok, guys. Lily, Nathan, Rose, good job.” I addressed them. Rose gave me an incredulous stare. “Well done, Rose, you almost managed to stay on your broom the last time a Bludger came your way!” Sarcasm seemed to be my coping mechanism as of late. “Albus. I think Louis speaks for us all. Louis, Willow, good teamwork. Willow, your attitude is pissing me off though.”
Willow stared at the ground sullenly.
“Ok, hands in, everybody,” my team put their hands in obediently, though Willow's face was still fuming. “One two three -”
“THE JAMUNCHERS!” yelled everybody.
What the fuck was his problem?
“Willow, I want a word with you.” He said, just as I was going to take off. I followed him, temper in the danger zone. Way up there. Not as bad as when I'd bashed the Skeeter cow, but pretty fucking high.
“Willow. I know you can't remember. I fucking get that, okay? It doesn't mean that you can use that attitude with me, got it?” He stormed off, grabbing a broomstick and soaring back to the goalkeeper's posts. I watched in bewilderment.
What attitude? I wasn't the same person, so what? I didn't know what my normal attitude, hell, even my normal outlook of life itself was. James was so... angry all the time. He was a grouch. Didn't mean I didn't like him, because sometimes he was fine. Maybe he forgot occasionally that I wasn't Willow any more, not really. I didn't honestly see how I could have loved him.
I couldn't concentrate for the rest of the game, and I could tell it was pissing James off. I kept mis-hitting the Bludger
Sophia caught the Snitch, although I barely noticed, I was that out of it. The final score was 560 – 630, and the Jamunchers won.
“Ooh, look at the time!” Hermione exclaimed. “Willow, you'd better run over and tell your mother that we'll have you for tea tonight. I was planning on asking her earlier, but I'm afraid it must have slipped my mind.”
“Right-o,” I said. “What's for tea?”
The Wotters looked at me strangely.
“I'm joking,” I laughed, but to myself, my voice didn't sound quite right. A little off. “I know the answer... a lot!”
I walked in the front door, pretending to be cheerful. I was determined not to let James get to me. What was one arsehole to me? Nothing. I could pretend he was a fly, a little, annoying, germ-riddled bug whom I just needed to swat. Yes, a bug.
James the fly. James the cockroach. James the dung-beetle.
No, not dung-beetle. Dung-beetles were too awesome.
They roll those balls of poo like bosses.
Going on about dung-beetles.
Like a normal person.
“MOTHER? I'M GOING TO THE POTTER'S FOR TEA! YOU'RE WELCOME TO COME!”
I added the last part for Mum's benefit.
See that, being nice. I'm such a nice person, trying to be nice to my horrible mother.
Anyway, I knew she wouldn't want to come. She didn't like the Potters much. Too magical, for her liking. So I felt quite safe in inviting her without an actual invitation.
“WHAT WAS THAT?” She yelled back. Got a pair of lungs on her, that one.
I heard her approaching, down the corridor.
“I said,” I said, calmly, “that I'm going to the Potter's for tea, and you're welcome to come along.”
“You spend every waking moment at that house! Honestly. You can stay here and eat. It won't kill you, to spend some time with your mother for once.”
Oh, Mother dear. How do you know that?
“Well, I'm going. It's rude to turn down an invitation like that.”
I walked out the door.
Well, she knew where I was, and that was the main thing.
I walked across to the Potter's, and was about to enter, when I heard a coughing noise.
It could have been a homeless person, wanted some change or something. It could have been my Mother, although it sounded more like a man than a woman.
Deciding the latter was more probable, I turned around, to explain just why I wasn't going to obey her like a six year old child. I was sixteen, for Merlin's sake, and I could make some of my own decisions, thank you very much.
Which honestly hadn't seemed like such a dangerous idea.
But there, standing – leaning on a street light as if he'd been waiting for me – a man, cloaked in black. He was pale, and blonde-haired, and looked slightly thin and unhealthy.