Chapter Nine – Shocks, Giggles and An Interesting Morning
Standing in the middle of the Potters’ sitting room, James burrowing his face into my hair and trying to stop myself from cursing is not exactly how I planned to spend this evening. It is late; I'm not even sure why Lily was still up when I came over. Eventually, James lets go of me but instead brings his hand to my face to brush the stray strands of hair away from my eyes.
“Damn I miss you Lou,” he murmurs and I cannot help but feel like he did not quite realise that he missed me at all. But he did, which is what matters. “I’ve been such a mess,” he confesses quietly, looking down at his toes.
“James,” I reach out to tilt his head up with an index finger under his chin. “I’m not going anywhere okay? Just talk to me,” I smile and he nods but the look of sadness does not fade from his face. I am not the one he really needs. He takes my hand and pulls me through the familiar hallway of the Potter home and up the stairs to his bedroom. I have been in James’ bedroom countless times but somehow, I still get a little spasm in my heart every time he lets me in. It is stupid really, I mean, it is just a room.
Taking a seat on his bed, I let him sort through his thoughts. Finally he sighs and comes to sit beside me, a vacant look in his eyes. I study his face as he contemplates how to being. There are suggestions of shadows beneath his brown eyes and despite the warmth of the sun during the day, his skin has a pale tinge to it. Guilt stabs at my heart once again: he needed me. He needed me and I was not there for him.
“Everything is such a mess Lou,” he mumbles, staring at his bed sheets. “I haven’t seen Al since we got off the train at King’s Cross. I haven’t heard from him; mum and dad know where he is but they refuse to tell me, saying Al needs space. I miss him Lou, he’s my brother. Mum is the worse though, I think she wanted him to stay at home but he refused. I will never understand what goes through his mind sometimes…” James trails off. So Albus had moved out? I wonder where. I wonder if he is with Vivian. I suppose it is his stubborn Gryffindor pride that meant he refused to stay at home. I would bet my enter Gringotts vault that James would have done the same.
“Dad is trying to hold everyone together but it’s wearing him out. He even suggested that I stay at home for a while longer but I can’t Lou, I just can’t. Not with the way everyone is now.”
“Wait- You’re moving out too?” I ask, breaking my decision not to interrupt him.
“Yeah,” he gives a half smile. “I’m renting a flat in Diagon Alley. I need to have my own place Lou, I can’t stay here forever and we’re done with school… It’s only tiny but at least it will mean I have to take care of myself,” he smirks and I cannot help but smile at the idea of James looking after himself. He is such a mummy’s boy.
“Wow, who would have thought. When are you moving out?”
“Two days. Fred’s helping me move my stuff,” he shrugs.
“Are you near the shop?” I ask.
“Yeah, just across the street actually, I’ll have the lovely Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes sign to wake up to every morning,” he chuckles briefly before the hopeless look returns to his face. “Why did she do it Lou? I know she thinks I’m in love with Vivian but…” My heart contorts again and I have to avert my eyes. That is not what Alice thought. She stupidly thought he was in love with me. How wrong she was.
“James I…” I start but I cannot finish. I could not possibly tell him the truth. I could not possibly tell him that Alice wanted to give me the chance to be with him. I could not cope with his reaction. I could not cope with the rejection. “I don’t know,” I lie.
“When did life get so complicated?” he frowns. “I remember a year ago, my biggest problem was getting over the crush I had on you.”
Why? Why James? Why would you say that? Why would you even think that? Why? Why? Why? Why? What possible reason could you have for telling me that? Would you like me to hyperventilate and die? Is that my punishment fir going on a date with Rob? Why? Why, why, why?
“Lou…? Are you okay?” James waves a hand in front of my face. “Hello?”
“I’m- fine,” I finally manage to choke out.
“You blanked out for a second there.”
“Mmm,” I nod, trying desperately to think of something to say. An excuse perhaps. “You had a crush on me?” I blurt out. Since when did my mouth decide it could say things without permission from my brain?
“Uh… yeah. I thought you knew that,” he frowns but relaxes back onto his pillows, clearly satisfied I am not about to die from a heart attack.
“N-uh,” is my articulate response.
“It doesn’t matter anyway; I got over it when we went back to Hogwarts,” he shrugs.
“You fancied me the whole summer?” I gasp.
“Relax Lou! And yeah but it’s fine now, don’t get so worked up. I swear you knew anyway…”
“It was just a crush Lou, it’s not that important, it wasn’t like I was in love with you or anything,” he gives a humourless chuckle. “You’re like my sister Eloise.” Great. Just stab the knife right where it hurts why don’t you Potter. “Hey, are you okay?” he suddenly looks worried and I realise I am still frozen and that there are tears forming in my eyes. “Lou, what’s wrong?” I asks, coming over to my side of the bed and cupping my face in his warm hands. I refuse to meet his worried gaze and instead focus on blinking back the tears. “Jeez if I knew it would weird you out so much I would never have brought it up. Seriously though, I swear you knew. You were off with me for the majority of the summer, so I figured you must have guessed… Eloise, please don’t cry,” he begs, pulling me onto his lap and into his arms.
I cannot seem to stop the tears. They just start to fall and I cannot hold them back. Eventually I stop even trying. I was off with him last summer but that was because I thought he had fallen in love with someone else and I had to come to terms with the fact that he would never love me. I had no idea he actually fancied me.
James holds me close to his chest, stroking my hair and looking utterly perplexed as to how he had upset me like this. I just let all the tears fall onto his robes. How did we end up like this? I came here to comfort him and here he is, comforting me.
Somehow, James manoeuvres us so that we are lying down, his arms still wrapped protectively around me and a frown marking his forehead. When did frowning become such a common expression for my best friend? He never used to frown…
The place between dreams and reality is a strange place to be. You are never entirely sure whether you are awake or asleep; whether the things you are seeing and feeling are real or part of a dream… My bed is unusually warm, even for the summer and it feels somehow smaller. It smells different too. It’s a comforting smell, the smell I associate with safety and with secrets. But not with my bed.
Rolling over, I become aware that there is something else in my bed. That must be what is making it feel smaller. Forcing open my bleary eyes, I try to focus on the object in question. It takes a few moments before I realise it is a face… A beautiful face with sunlight beams illuminating the dark eyelashes and picking out the sparse freckles on his nose. It’s a he? Forcing myself to concentrate harder, I try to work out who the face belongs to.
At last, I realise it is James’ face. Content that I am still dreaming, I allow myself to snuggle closer to him and he instinctively wraps his arm tighter around me, pulling me still closer, like proper dream-James would do. My fingers fasten themselves on the material of his shirt and I can feel the warm muscles beneath it. My foot nudges as his leg and he responds by rubbing his shin against my calf. His fingers disentangle from my hair to trace patterns on my back. I shiver in delight.
I can feel his breath on my face, the steady rhythm soothing and peaceful. With two fingers, he trails a line from the base of my skull right to the bottom of my spine and hand tightens on his shirt. He shifts onto his side so that I can snuggle even close to him, pressing the full length of my body against his. This is fast becoming the best dream I have ever had.
He drapes his entire leg over mine so that our legs alternate and his other arm comes over so that he can rest his hand on the exposed bit of skin just above my hip where my t-shirt has slipped up slightly. The coldness of his hand which must have been outside of the sheets on my warm skin forces a slight moan from my lips which I attempt to muffle in his chest.
Best. Dream. Ever.
As I shift my body even close to his so that every possible inch of me is touching him, I feel hardness digging into my lower waist. I smirk at the fact I have aroused my dreams-James. I move my hand down and slip it beneath the fabric of his shirt, feeling the Quidditch toned muscles rippling beneath my touch. The hand he had on my hip slipped around to the small of my back and he pulled me flush against him, trapping my hand beneath his shirt and forcing another gentle moan from me. He moans quietly in return.
The same hand moves from the small of my back up to my shoulder blades then down again slightly before slowly moving to the side. My heart races as he strokes the skin a little way below my armpit…
“What the fuck!” someone shouts and James rolls over so fast, with me in his arms, that we end up falling off the bed. Off of his bed. Fuck.
This was not a fucking dream.
I must have fallen asleep in James’ bed.
“Seriously, I was kidding last night when I said Lou was here to screw you! I didn’t think… Holy shit, mum is going to freak out!” Lily screams and runs from the room, letting the door bang shut behind her and allowing me to assess the magnitude of the situation that I now find myself in.
I am lying on the floor.
Actually no. I am lying on top of James who is lying on the floor.
We are tangled in bed sheets.
Our legs are interwoven and he is evidently still aroused.
My hand is still trapped between us, beneath his shirt.
His hand… Oh sweet Merlin.
We stare in horror at each other for what seems like eternity, neither daring to move.
And then it happens. I snort. Of all the noises I could make, my body decides to snort. How attractive. James looks confused for a moment before a smile creeps onto his face. A proper one.
Within seconds, we are both laughing hysterically, still entangled in the sheets. I collapse against him so that my face is pressed against his neck and he is laughing into my hair. My heart is still racing and I can feel his doing the same through the sparse material separating us. As we lie there, laughing, the door bangs open again.
“Oh my,” comes the unmistakable sound of Mrs Potter. “Well it was bound to happen eventually I suppose,” she comments with a slightly smug tone to her voice. I barely register her words as I gasp for air. Finally, James and I manage to control our laughter enough to lift our heads to look at the door where Mr Potter, Mrs Potter and Lily had congregated. The expression on their faces however, causes a fresh wave of giggles to overcome us. They wait patiently until we can control ourselves once more.
“Morning mum,” James grins and Mrs Potter response with a raised eyebrow and a slight smile.
“Good morning James, good morning Eloise, how nice to see you,” she smiles mischievously.
“Rose is going to love this when I tell her,” Lily grins and then her eyes widen as she zooms in on us. “James is your hand on her-”
“Lily!” Mr and Mrs Potter shout simultaneously as both James and I burst into fresh giggles and immediately retract our hands from the other’s chest. Reluctantly, I make a move to get up but James grabs my by the shirt and forces me to stay where I am.
“Right well we’ll just leave you to then shall we,” Mr Potter suggests, steering his daughter and wife from the room. “Breakfast will be in fifteen minutes if you’re interested,” he adds on before shutting the door on us.
I turn my face to James’ to find him already staring up at me. I smile shyly. For several endless moments, we just stare at each other until finally I cannot take it anymore and let out another giggle. We collapse again and I roll off him, immediately missing the feel of pressed against me.
“Yeah, sorry for pulling you back down, I didn’t think they needed to witness the extent of my morning glory,” James smirks and I blush furiously. “It’s times like this when I'm so glad you are not actually my sister because that would be so wrong,” he teases and I throw a pillow at his head. “Right, I don’t know about you but I’m going to have a shower before I go downstairs.”
“You go first but make it quick,” I shrug. He smirks slightly before disappearing into the bathroom adjacent to his bedroom. As the door clicks shut behind me I take a deep breath and force myself to calm down. My heart is still racing but thankfully my breathing is under control.
This is not the first time I have slept over at James and I know we have slept in the same bed a number of times when we were too lazy to set up the spare one without magic but I do not recall ever waking up in quite that fashion. It normally ended up with James squished against the wall and me spread across the bed, taking up all the room. We had never ended up so… close.
And now his family thinks we… well yeah.
Which we didn’t .
I hear the shower switch off and a few moments later, James steps out with just a towel around his waist. It is nothing I have never seen before, in fact one summer James and Fred streaked across the Potter’s garden so technically I have seen James completely naked. He grins at me and comes over to shake his wet hair in my direction.
“Nice James,” I snort before getting off his bed and heading into the now steamy bathroom. I shower quickly, eager for Mr Potter’s famous breakfasts. As I step out of the shower, I notice James’ has scrawled something on the misted up mirror. Lou smells… delicious. I grin stupid. It is something we started in our Second Year when I stayed over during the Easter Holidays. The first one in the shower would always write a note on the mirror. His was always ‘Lou smells…’ followed by something, usually disgusting, while mine was always ‘James is a…’ followed by something vaguely derogatory. ‘Delicious’ was a new one.
At the end of the day, he is and always will be, my best friend.
Breakfast is only mildly awkward; James got down first and must have cleared up the misunderstanding because Lily is still looking downtrodden and Mrs Potter keeps making the occasional titting noise as if she cannot quite fathom what is going through our heads. Which is rather amusing.
As usual, I have ended up in a pair of James’ sweatpants and an old one of his Canon tops which he must have bought several sizes too large to begin with. My hair is dripping wet and splayed across my bag as I dug into Mr Potter’s delicious eggs, bacon, toast and beans.
“So what are you two up to today then?” Mr Potter asks casually.
“I’m gonna show Lou my flat,” James mumbles around a large portion of food.
“James Sirius Potter! What have I told you about talking with your mouth full?” Mrs Potter demands.
“Technically it is only half full,” James smirks, earning himself a slap on the head. I giggle and he glares at me. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch Mr Potter smiling down at his plate. But only briefly. I suddenly remember the glaringly obvious absence of Albus.
Pretending to focus on my food, a study the occupants at the table. Lily is thin, thinner than she used to be and the shadows under her eyes suggest a lack of sleep. Mr Potter looks strained and tired but partly content to have the majority of his family with him, even if the sadness in his eyes gives away the pain he feels of having Albus not living with him. I wonder if he has seen Albus at all recently.
Mrs Potter, as James said, is the worst. The taught lines on her face betray her constant worry and the stress the whole situation has put on the family. I can only imagine their reaction when they first discovered Albus was married and expecting. Not the usual celebrations of joy I suspect.
“Damn it,” Mrs Potter mutters suddenly, standing up to look out of the kitchen window. “Those bloody gnomes are back! James, Lily, get your shoes on and get rid of them,” she orders and James and Lily jump to their feet, clearly afraid of their mother’s wrath should they even attempt to argue. I stick my tongue out at James as he heads out the door. He narrows his eyes at me.
“James! What are you doing!” Mrs Potter screeches a few moments later and I catch James chasing after Lily with an angry looking gnome in his hands. Mrs Potter runs outside and starts shouting at her son.
“Idiot,” Mr Potter smiles affectionately. “What did he expect?”
“Well he isn’t exactly reputed for his brain cells,” I snort, standing up to help clear the table.
“I’m glad you are here Eloise,” Mr Potter turns to smile at me. “James seems to have taken the whole situation the worse. Ginny and I have been worried sick about him and about Al. I haven’t seen him smile since he got back from Hogwarts. You’ve done wonders,” he grins as a blush creeps into my cheeks.
“I’m a Hufflepuff, we have to be useful for something,” I joke.
“Be that as it may…” Mr Potter laughs. “Thank you.”
“No problem,” I smile back.
“Eloise! Save me! Mum’s trying to kill me!” James screeches as he comes running back in the door and uses me as a human shield from his mother.
Hello, sorry about the horifically long wait, real life has been getting in the way but hopefully I will get back on track for updates. This is a bit of a James/Eloise fluff chapter and not at all what I had planned but I hope you like it all the same. Please let me know your thoughts in a review and if you have any questions for either me of my characters, you can check out my blog, there is a link on my author's page. Thank you for reading,