“You didn’t mention that we’d have to share a room again,” I grumble, sitting down on the edge of the creased bedcover and glancing around at the slightly unsavoury surroundings. The small space gives the impression of a messy room that has been very quickly and hastily tidied for us, but in more of a shove-everything-under-the-bed way than anything else. I pray they at least changed the sheets, but judging by the creases wrinkling the fabric, it is a fruitless prayer.
Albus rolls his eyes at my whining and dumps both of our bags into the tiny amount of floor space that has not already been filled with piles of unwashed clothes, a table piled precariously high with stacks of unimportant looking papers and an exercise bike. I wonder whose room this is, accepting that the broke practically-students cannot afford a house with a spare room.
“This is Beckett’s room,” he says, answering my unasked question.
“Oh,” I say again, as this seems to be one of the only words I am able to squeeze out of my throat since Wallis told me… told me what she told me. Albus raises an eyebrow at me, but says nothing. I let out a loud breath that I hadn’t realised I had been holding.
“They’re ordering pizza tonight – we normally get one meat feast, one Hawaiian and one hot pepper – will you be able to eat some of that? If not, I’m sure they can order you a mini cheese pizza or something. I’ll give them some money towards it – I’ve already told them they shouldn’t be ordering out just for us. Normally Wallis cooks them something quick.” I nod lightly.
Albus lets out a loud breath, his more in annoyance than mine, which was to calm me down, and sits down on the exercise bike, shooting me a scrutinizing look. I almost flinch, but manage to hold my expression calmly. The last thing I need is to get Wallis into trouble and put Albus in a bad mood, when we have to spend so much time together.
“Alright, spill it, what’s the matter?” I shake my head, but he just glares at me. “Has someone said something to you? That weird man from the national park – did he say something?” Albus switches from looking annoyed to looking slightly worried, and his hand drifts towards the phone in his back pocket.
“No…” I say slowly, wondering where he’s going with it. “What does that man have to do with anything?” Albus blinks a few times.
“Nothing. Nothing, of course. Ignore me. You might want to change into something more comfortable and meet us down in the living room – we’re having an epic Playstation 7 battle – you’ll see me make Danny cry when I crush him at American Football.” With a childish grin, he scarpers out the room.
I shake my head and start to unbutton my blazer, but Albus pokes his head back around the door before I have even slid my arms out of the sleeves.
“Sorry,” he says quickly, noticing my scandalised expression. “I was just… I was wondering what you and Wallis were talking about before. You’ve been acting funny ever since you spoke to her.” I shook my head innocently, wondering whether my appalling lying skills are going to trip me up.
“Oh, nothing that would interest you,” I fib. Albus doesn’t seem completely appeased, but pokes his head back around the door and heads downstairs. I let out another deep breath.
This is going to be a long night.
“YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE – THAT WAS MY POINT! THIS WHOLE GAME IS RIGGED!” Danny tosses down his controller with a flourish and throws himself against the back of the couch, folding his arms across his vast chest and setting a juvenile pout on his lips. Wallis is shaking with silent laughter next to me. Albus smirks innocently at him.
“I wasn’t aware you could rig these games. Maybe you’re just not very good.” Danny gapes at the very insinuation, his massive hands curling into muscular fists. If I was Albus, I would be running very fast in the opposite direction, but Albus just held his ground, still wearing his smirk like a crown.
“I play this thing every chance I get – two or three hours a night, every night. Just ask this lot, they go mad that I hog the only TV. There is no way one primped little Daddy’s boy from the country can step in and beat me! No way!” Now even I am trying not to laugh as some red travels up Danny’s face and rests in his cheeks, making him look a little like a sunburned radish.
“Well, Danny, maybe you’re just not as good as you think you are,” Albus teases lightly, and Danny looks like he is contemplating whether to laugh or clout Albus around the back of the head.
“Oh shut up, you,” Danny grumbles, but his tone is teasing. One second later, he launches himself off the couch and at Albus’ middle, knocking him off the couch and onto the less-than-spotless floor. They roll around for a few seconds, finding their footing, and then they launch into a full scale wrestling match, with Beckett drawing up a quick scoreboard on the window with wipeable marker pen. I can imagine the look on my mother’s face if I was to do that at home.
The house elves would spit in my bed.
“Are they always like this?” I ask Wallis quietly, wondering what it must be like to live with three hyperactive boys. I wonder why, other than lack of funds, she decided to room with them. You couldn’t pay me enough, to be quite honest. She laughs and tosses her hair over one shoulder.
“No, only sometimes. Ricky is the mellow one out of all of them – he’s spent the last year perfecting his hipster look, so he’s trying to be all calm and unruffled to keep in with that. Beckett’s pretty calm too, some of the time, but he loves to gamble – hence the scoreboard. Danny might be the size of a house, but he’s a teddy bear. He’d never actually hurt Albus; they’re like brothers.” Wallis looks around at the four of them, and it’s impossible not to see how much she cares about them.
I consider that to be odd, because from what I’ve seen, they don’t have enough brains between them to fill an eggcup. Not that I would ever say anything, since Mother always says that such comments are impolite.
“Do you like living with three other people?” I ask, and she nods. Seeing my confused expression, she decides to elaborate.
“Well, how many people live in your house?” she asks.
“Three; Daddy, Mother and myself. And then the four house elves live in the Elf Quarters, and the groundskeeper lives in a cottage at the bottom of our garden, next to the paddock.” Wallis blinks at me a couple of times, and then shakes her head.
“What are your elves called?” she asks curiously, and I can tell that this has nothing to do with her original point, but she wants to know more about the girl that clearly has more money than she knows what to do with. I flare my nostrils but fix my Press Smile onto my face.
“Sarnie, Marina, Anistar and Flower,” I say shortly. Wallis’s eyebrows rise but she says nothing.
“Anyway – you have three people living in your house. I have four. It’s like living with your family, except I’m blood type B positive and Ricky is O negative. We were in a motorbike crash a few months ago and had to have blood transfusions,” she adds in response to my questioning gaze.
“Well, yes, but…” I glance around pointedly at Albus and Danny, who are still rolling around on the floor like a pair of puppies. Wallis laughs cheerfully.
“I don’t mind. I think of them like brothers. They’re young; fuck it, so am I. You’ve gotta have a laugh while you’re young, Flora, or you’ll turn into one of those bitter, millionaire women with depression and alcohol problems.” I raise an eyebrow. “Yeah, I know they’re a little bit weird. But it’s alright – Albus will have Danny on his back in a minute.”
“Albus will have Danny on his back? You’ve seen the size of Danny, haven’t you?” Wallis laughs cheerfully and pats me on the back.
“Yes, but Albus is the better fighter. He used to brawl all the time; he couldn’t control his temper to save his life. He was always getting into bar fights – the reason that he was in detention so much in school was because he was always fighting. That’s why we broke up, actually – he constantly had some kind of bruising on his face, or a black eye, or something. His dad involved him in karate and judo when he turned fifteen and he got better – he doesn’t lose his temper as often now. But he has a very, very short fuse; I’d be careful with that if I was you.” I blink a couple of times.
“He doesn’t…” I stare at Albus as he traps Danny’s wrists with his hands and pins them above his head, causing the steel band of muscles around Danny’s upper arms to stretch against his t-shirt. “He doesn’t look muscular enough for that.”
“Nah, he looks pretty lean from the outside, I know. He’s a good fighter though; you should watch him in action sometime. Normally he spends the summer doing amateur boxing, and he won the championship last year. He’s really good.” Three seconds later, a loud crow of satisfaction tells us that Albus has won the wrestle.
“Wallis… can I ask you something?” Wallis nods encouragingly at me. “I was just wondering if you could tell me a little more about… about Albus and his so-” Wallis suddenly leaps forward and claps her hand over my mouth, shooting an anxious look at the boys.
“Come with me,” she says slowly, and then stands up. The boys are too busy arguing with one another over who is going to play the next game of American Football to notice we are leaving. Wallis takes my wrist and leads me down a dingy corridor, to the one bedroom on the ground floor of the house. Wallis’sroom, according to the sign pinned on the wood.
Once we’re inside, she gestures to the bed to tell me to sit down, and then she begins to root in the top drawer of the desk that takes up the majority of the room. I glance around her bedroom with interest, noticing that several things she keeps in her room wouldn’t even be allowed into my house.
Wallis continues to search in her desk as I frown at her ceiling.
Every inch of available wall and ceiling space is filled with glossy A4 posters of various musical groups; rock bands, by the look of them. Men wearing liquid eyeliner four inches thick around their eyes, men in fishnet shirts, men clutching guitars while showing the abundance of tattoos that cover their arms, men with their hair backcombed half a foot into the air. Each of them is enough to give me nightmares, and I wonder how Wallis sleeps under a sea of them every night.
“Who are all of these bands?” I ask slowly, hoping that they are all bands.
“Black Dragon Hides are all on that wall,” she says without looking up, pointing to the wall to my left. “Spellbound is on the back wall. Newt Eyes and Unicorn Heart Strings are on the wall with the window. The ceiling is a mixture; little known bands, you know? The Potion Makers, Crash, Stranded in the Desert with Nothing but a Toothbrush – all those kind.”
“I’m sorry – did you just say that one of these groups is called Stranded in the Desert with Nothing but a Toothbrush?” Wallis laughs and nods.
“They’re just called Stranded for short,” she explains.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what are we doing in here? Albus is already suspicious of me enough without me disappearing every five seconds. He doesn’t normally let me go anywhere without telling him where I’m going. He seems to think he’s my bodyguard rather than my chauffer and trip buddy.” Wallis looks uncomfortable, but says nothing.
“I just wanted to show you this,” she says, finally finding what she had been looking for. She hands me a photograph – a seemingly unthreatening muggle photograph. In it are two people; one is Albus, looking the picture of wasted youth in a black shirt and black jeans, his hair ruffled and pink Day-Glo painted in stripes across his flushed cheeks.
The girl next to him is pretty, even I can tell that. She’s not one of those girls that makes male jaws drop and female eyes turn green with jealousy, but she is in possession of a good few nice genes. Her hair is long and brown, hanging down to her ribs. Her eyes are wide and brown and crinkle at the edges as she is smiling. She’s not tiny, but then again, how could you expect her to be? In the picture she’s quite clearly five months pregnant.
“Is this her, the mother?” I ask curiously. I wonder what happened to her. “How old are they both?” Wallis smiles sadly and sits down on the bed next to me. She takes the picture from my hands and lies it down on the bedside table with an unusual amount of care.
“Her name is – was – Amelie. She’s a French girl that moved over here with her parents when she was sixteen – she’s a year older than Albus. When he was seventeen and she was eighteen, he got her pregnant after sleeping with her a couple of times. She was hoping he’d date her, especially after he found out about the baby, but he didn’t. He said he’d be a father, but he didn’t want a serious girlfriend. He was a bit of an asshole about the whole thing, really,” Wallis laughs suddenly, and the unnatural sound makes me jump. It doesn’t fit with the sombre atmosphere.
“What happened to her?” I ask, noticing that she said her name was Amelie.
“Well, she’s six months in this picture, I think. She carried the baby to term and gave birth to a beautiful little baby boy. He’s eighteen months old now, their son. It was just before Albus’ eighteenth birthday, the birth.” I nod, dumbfounded.
“What’s his name?”
“Noah,” she smiled, and I let my lips curl up into a little smile myself. “Noah Severus Toussaint-Potter. He’s just called Noah Toussaint now, by my mother. It was easier than attaching Albus’ name to him, I’m sure you understand. Amelie was a muggle – the Wizarding world never found out about her or the baby.” I nod slowly.
“I still don’t understand why your mother is raising their baby…” I say, not comprehending what is actually going on. It sounds like a horribly complicated situation that you see on muggle television when you’re ill and watching whatever graces the screen. Jeremy Vile, or whatever his name is.
“Well, Albus was still in school, so Amelie asked him to leave boarding school and help her raise the kid, and his dad refused. Harry said Albus needed to finish his education, and I don’t think he had any faith that Albus would be a good father anyway. Kill it before it dies, you know? Anyway, Harry and Ginny hired a nanny to help Amelie with the baby and to stop her from missing Al too much, but it… it helped the baby. It just… it didn’t help Amelie.”
“What are you talking about? Why do you keep talking about her in the past tense?” Wallis blinks unseeingly at me and my insides begin to curl. I am sure I know what’s coming, but I also know that I don’t actually want to hear the words being spoken.
“Amelie’s dead,” Wallis says finally. A loud breath whooshes out of my lungs.
“What happened?” I ask.
“She… Flora, you have to understand, you cannot talk about this with anyone, certainly not Albus and most certainly not your father. Do you understand me?” I nod. “Flora, Amelie killed herself when Noah was four months old. She was suffering with depression for a long time – that was part of the reason her family moved to England, to give her a fresh start – but it was getting better. When she had the baby, she suffered from horrible post natal depression, but she wouldn’t tell anyone. Eventually that led to her committing suicide. She waited until the nanny had taken Noah for a walk and then-”
“I don’t want to know how she did it,” I cut across suddenly, knowing that I don’t want to hear what this ill, damaged girl did to herself when she had a four month old baby to look after. “How did Albus not realise that she was so sick? He should have taken care of her and the baby!”
“Albus was never around, Flora – he was seventeen and still in full time education. He was in seventh year, for pity’s sakes.” Wallis sighs and rubs the heels of her palms across her eyes. “It was a very, very sad situation. They broke up for Christmas and Albus took the baby for a week, but that one week showed everyone that he couldn’t handle being a father. He left the baby alone for hours at a time, left his ten year old cousin, Roxanne, in charge of him so he could go to the pub with Danny… not that Danny knew, of course.” I shake my head in horror. “He didn’t know what he was doing. He’d never spent more than a few hours with the kid before then, and even then he had been supervised by Amelie.”
“So they took the baby off him?” I guess.
“No, no one took the baby off him. But Harry and Ginny could see that this baby was going to ruin Albus’ future, and as much as they loved their grandson… well, they knew his life would be better if he was raised by someone else. Someone normal. An adult, as opposed to a clueless teenager.”
“So how did your mother end up becoming Noah’s guardian?”
“My mother really wanted another child; I’m one of seven, see. But I’m second from the youngest. My younger brother is sixteen now, and she knew her last kid would be leaving the nest soon. But my mum had to have a hysterectomy five years ago because of a tumour they found in her womb – it was benign, but the healers didn’t want to take a chance – and so it isn’t physically possible for her to have children. She decided she wanted to look into adoption.
“I was still close friends with Albus; we were on again and off again by this point, but both of us knew that we were never going to be serious. I told my mother everything that had happened because I was worried about Al, and that’s when she suggested it; she could foster Noah. Albus and Ginny love my mum, they agreed that she would be… she would be a good choice. But mum… she was heartbroken that Albus wasn’t going to be in the boy’s life.
“She decided that she didn’t want to adopt Noah – she wanted to foster him. She also said that there was no way that she was going to raise him like he was her child, not when she knew who his father was. She asked that Albus comes to visit Noah once a month. He does. Spends the day with him, takes him the park, brings him a present. All that.
“My mother reckons Albus is going to be mature enough to look after Noah himself soon. She loves the boy, she does, but she wants him to be with his father. She’s forty seven, anyway. I think she’s only just realising now that it’s… it’s an old age to be raising a baby.” Wallis shrugs.
“Wow…” I say slowly, shaking my head. Thinking of the immature, thinks-he’s-amazing boy that tried to scare the life out of me on that broomstick, I can’t see the person Wallis is talking about. The man that goes to visit his son once a month, until Mrs Chelan decides him ready to look after his little boy. It just… it doesn’t fit his image. Maybe he works to keep it that way.
“Yeah. So don’t give Albus too hard of a time for being an asshole; he’s going through a lot. It worries me sometimes that he’s not growing up fast enough, though. But this is all far too serious for right now: how about we go and get drunk?” Wallis laughs and waggles her eyebrows at me.
I laugh uncomfortably and wonder when we went from calmly discussing the difficult parts of a practically stranger’s life to discussing how we were going to get ‘drunk’. It may have escaped your notice up until this point, but I don’t do things like getting drunk.
Never have, never will. I’ve never been drunk in my life, and I never plan to. Sounds like a horrible thing to be; uncontrollable and unable to control your inhibitions. There’s a reason you have inhibitions – it’s to stop you doing the kind of things that you do when you’re drunk.
“I don’t get drunk,” I say stiffly, but Wallis just grins and rolls her eyes. Seizing my wrist again, she pulls me out of the doorway, leaving me just enough time to sneakily snatch the photograph from its place on the bedside table.
“Come on, Flora! Get some of this down your throat!” Beckett thrusts an almost empty bottle under my nose and waves it around for a moment, letting the putrid smell fill my nostrils and make the slight thumping in my temple become even more pronounced than it already was.
I grimace and shake my head yet again, refusing to accept the bottle. Beckett curses creatively again.
“Merlin, we all knew you were a killjoy, but serious-” Wallis kicks him hard in the shin, and he cuts off with a grunt of pain. I smile gratefully at her, but graciously allow him some time to amend his statement. “Erm… what I meant by that, is… erm, right… maybe you should try some of this. You might loosen up a little and have a… laugh. A good time. Yeah. Right. Sorry.” Beckett stares down at his feet as Albus and Danny begin a drunken poking war behind his head.
“I don’t drink, thank you, Beckett. I never have and I never plan to.” I smile cordially at him and he takes a deep swig from the bottle himself, swallowing it without so much as a grimace. Albus and Danny progress from a poking war to a gentle elbowing war. Maturity at its finest.
“Why not?” he asks bluntly. I blink a couple of times.
“Well…” I stammer. I know full well why I don’t drink, but I am not able to put this into words under the scrutinising stare of someone of less than average intelligence. I frown and look to Albus for some help, but he is too busy attempting to bruise Danny’s ribs with his elbow while Ricky holds onto his ankles to pay any attention to me.
“Yes?” Beckett asks, frowning at me. He drains the last of the amber liquid into a cheap mug with a skull and crossbones painted on the front in Tipp-Ex and hands it to Wallis, who leans back into her chair and gets to work on glugging it. I sigh, thinking I’ve been let off, but he pulls another bottle out from a drawer under the threadbare couch and pops off the thin metal cap. Not even a cork.
“Erm… well… do you have any vintage wines?” I ask, only realising how ridiculous I sound when the words have already left my mouth. I attempt to amend the situation. “I mean, it doesn’t have to be vintage, you know… just well-aged. Red would be preferable but it’s not got to be red – I can drink white. Or rosé.” Beckett drops his judgemental eyebrow and begins to laugh, a loud sound that echoes around the room and makes Wallis jump, slopping a little of her drink down the front of her shirt.
“No… no, Flora, we don’t have any form of wine. Some random woman trying to convince us to join her religion bought us a bottle of cheap red a few months ago, but Danny used it to clean out the toilet because we were out of bleach. Thought the alcohol might clean it. It didn’t, it just stained the porcelain red.” I blink. Wallis sighs and rolls her eyes at me. Albus manages to kick his way free of Ricky’s grasp and launches himself at his waist, and the both of them knock over the smaller couch and go tumbling to the floor. Neither Wallis nor Beckett pay them any mind.
“Then I’m alright. I’ve never tried anything that isn’t wine, and even then, I still only have one glass.” I shake my hair over my shoulders. I feel a little odd without my heels and dress, like these kind of people are my kind of people or something.
“Well, aren’t you just a bundle of laughs,” Beckett slurs, pouring some of this new, clear liquid into another chipped mug, and handing it to Danny, who has just gotten up off the floor and has flopped down onto the couch next to Beckett. He takes up a good three quarters of it.
“What’s she done?” Danny asks, and I only now notice how deep his voice is. He might as well be wearing a t-shirt that informs the world he smokes thirty cigarettes a day. Just as I think that, he pulls out a silver box of cigarettes and takes one, holding it between his lips as he roots around in his pocket for what I assume is his lighter. I hope he is going to leave the room to smoke, as lung cancer is not something I have ever aspired to have, but I can almost say for certain that my hopes are pointless.
“Oi, get out of this house if you’re going to suck on a cancer stick,” Wallis snaps, jabbing her thumb at the back door and shooting Danny a glare. He sighs but heaves himself up and slouches off.
“Anyway…” Beckett puts in, shoving an even more chipped mug into my hands and shooting me a look that just told me that I was not to argue. I decide to accept it graciously and somehow manage to implement the devious tendencies Andromeda has been trying to programme into me for the last year to get rid of it without having to pour it down my oesophagus and poison my liver.
“YOU FUCKING BASTARD – FLORA, BABY, SET CUPCAKE ON HIM! DO IT! DO IT! THROW THAT FUCKING DRAGON THING AT HIS HEAD.” I raise my eyebrows and wonder whether Cupcake has settled well into Beckett’s room. I know Beckett himself wasn’t too happy about my pet being left in his bedroom unsupervised, but Albus point-blank refused to let it come down to the living room with us.
“No,” I say simply, and Ricky and Wallis both begin to laugh. I blink a few times, wondering whether they’re laughing at me or at my joke. I’m not used to people laughing at something I’ve said because it’s funny, merely because I’ve committed some kind of teenage blunder, making myself sound middle aged. Wallis pats me on the knee.
When they both turn around to watch the final moments of the ‘epic battle’, during which Albus somehow manages to end up straddling Ricky’s hips and pinning his arms above his head, causing Beckett to almost have a seizure with his wild laughter, I pour my half-mug of alcohol into the empty plant pot that I assume Danny had been using as an ashtray.
I’m sure Wallis notices, because she smirks at me, but she then turns her head away and says nothing. I decide that Wallis Chelan might be someone I judged too quickly in Hogwarts; maybe, just maybe, she could end up being something similar to a friend. Maybe.
“Oh Merlin, that was hilarious,” Wallis pants, wiping her leather sleeve over the tears streaking black ink down her cheeks. Beckett clutches his stomach as Ricky and Danny pound Albus on the back, all of them cracking up. I huff loudly and toss my carefully curled hair over my shoulder, annoyed that it took me thirty minutes to style this morning since Albus stole my wand in revenge for letting Cupcake sleep next to his head on his pillow during the night.
I needed someone to act as a buffer, since we had to share a bed, but dear Al didn’t seem to understand that. He was convinced that, and I quote, “that fucking animal was going to rape me, and I know it!’. I could tell that Cupcake was as unimpressed with him as I was.
And then, after having to spend thirty minutes doing my hair and twenty minutes doing my makeup, I got laughed at and teased mercilessly by the four boys and even Wallis, to some extent, for wearing another tight dress and expensive sandals to go out in the… less than savoury area that they live in. I was impressed with myself, since I hadn’t worn heels, but my sentiments didn’t seem to be shared with the rest of the group.
Those events, once put together, meant that I was not in the best of moods by the time I was dragged out of the house and forced to go on what they called a ‘swag walk’, which seemed to consists of the four boys walking painfully slowly in front of Wallis and I, checking out every member of the female species that walked within a twenty foot radius. That, and them drinking copious amounts of beer from white cans that Ricky kept pulling out of his satchel.
I asked Wallis how often they did this, and she just laughed, before informing me that this was a daily occurrence. Of course, she wasn’t normally forced to be in attendance.
After wandering the streets for a good two hours, I’d worked up an appetite, and suggested heading to a small gourmet place I’d seen on the corner of the only street we’d walked down so far that did not look like a hideout for the big bosses of secret human trafficking organisations. It had a couple of dodgy-looking alleys, I’ll grant you, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as one of the first roads I’d been forced to walk down, where two men were openly smoking something very illegal in the middle of the road.
Shockingly, I found myself hoping that a car would just come speeding along and smush them, to show them that life is too short for them to be wasting it doing foolish things like drugs. Of course, I kept my feelings to myself, sensing that Albus’ friends might not be the type to object to the odd high.
I couldn’t help but notice they’d get on very well with Andromeda. Most likely better than I will ever be able to. They have the same kind of crass humour.
But all five of them had kicked up a fuss about heading to a restaurant, claiming they couldn’t afford it – even after Albus informed them that I would be paying – and so we ended up eating lunch at none other than Burger King. I had never been to a Burger King in my life before that moment, and from the kind of clientele I saw eating at the next table, I plan never to return.
I was sure one of the more common looking women was going to seize the wooden splint she was stirring her black coffee with and stab me through the jugular with it. She just looked the type. Wallis told me I was overreacting.
I can only imagine the horror on my daddy’s face if he saw what his infernal trip has reduced me to doing; and, to boot, I haven’t even seen many impressive Wizarding sights, like he promised. Not unless you count being scared to death by an automated broomstick, which I don’t.
“It wasn’t that funny,” I sigh, but I am ignored, of course. Wallis links her arm through mine, an unfamiliar gesture, and she grins at me.
“It was pretty funny,” she giggles. “How on earth have you gotten to nineteen years old without ever going on a seesaw?” She digs me in the side with her skinny elbow. “I mean, really, you should have seen your face. Albus was slamming into the group and you were just leaping about two foot into the air… and your face…” Wallis once again dissolves into laughter.
Danny comes around to my other side and grabs hold of my backside, before wrapping his arm around my waist, still laughing at Wallis’s comments. I shriek, leap into the air a little bit and quickly push his arm from me, stepping to the other side of Albus before he gets any funny ideas about touching other parts of my anatomy that he has no right to. He raises his eyebrows at me as Ricky just about dies laughing, holding onto the wall next to him.
Wallis buries her face in her hands, her chest heaving, and I realise that they’re laughing at me. Nothing much has changed after all, it seems. I’m still the girl everyone laughs at because she’s just too responsible. A little responsibility never hurt anyone, but this is clearly yet another group of people that just want to fritter their lives away and never achieve anything.
“You can’t – you can’t do that! I’ll tell my daddy if you do that again!”
“Flora, he doesn’t mean anything by it,” Albus sighs, not succeeding in masking his chuckles.
“Well I’d appreciate it if he kept his hands to himself,” I inform him snottily, adjusting my dress.
“Sorry, Flo, I didn’t mean to offend ya,” Danny says, holding both hands up in surrender. Ricky sinks to the floor in a small ball, rocking with laughter. Tears of indignation spring to my eyes at how foolish this one, insignificant group of people is making me feel, but I refuse to acknowledge it.
“Please don’t call me Flo,” I say, recalling my daddy’s reaction when one of his old school friends dropped around when I was younger and tried to call me Flo. It’s not a name that suits me and not one that my parents ever approved of – it’s bad enough that women get a monthly ‘gift’ from mother nature, without having to be nicknamed after it.
“Fine,” Danny shrugs, looking quite unconcerned and unoffended. It relaxes me a little, to see that I haven’t offended him. Daddy always tells me how important it is not to offend people, as they are generally a lot harder to work with if they have an ill impression of you.
“Look, do you want to head home, Flora?” Wallis intervenes, watching me carefully. “The boys can stay out for a bit longer, but we’ll go home and watch some TV and get started on dinner.” She grins widely at me and my eyes feel a little watery again. It’s been a very long time since someone’s gone out of their way to be as nice to me as Wallis has.
“That would be lovely, thank you,” I murmur. Wallis takes my arm again, but Albus seizes hold of my other wrist before I can go very far.
“She’s not going anywhere without me,” Albus says quickly, and Beckett and Ricky raise an eyebrow at one another. “If you’re going home, then I’ll walk with you, and then I’ll come back to meet the boys once I’ve seen you’ve locked the house and all.” Wallis frowns but Albus just shoots her a warning glance that stops her from saying anything further.
“Albus, I’m sure my father didn’t stipulate that you have to accompany me everywhere, every minute of every day,” I sigh, but Albus’s jaw just tightens and he flexes his hand around my wrist. I know it will be pointless to argue, so I nod my consent. Wallis is smirking a little.
“I’ll be back in a minute – I’ll meet you at that pub on the corner. Get me a pint,” Albus says, slapping a muggle note into Danny’s hand and then taking my arm in a similar fashion to Wallis, so I am flanked by them on either side. I shoot a small smile in Danny’s direction as we walk, to smooth over the possibly rough ice between us. Good people skills, Daddy drummed them into me as a child. Of course, he taught me to communicate well with stuffy old men and their rich wives, not poor teenagers that drink too much.
I decide to bring up Albus’s weirdness about walking me home when we are in bed tonight – the purely platonic bed, of course – and allow him to steer me, and therefore Wallis, in the direction of their house. He walks quickly, shooting one quick glance over his shoulder before ploughing swiftly onwards. Wallis does not look quite as confused as me, but she still has a crease between her eyebrows as she watches Albus.
We reach the end of their road fairly quickly, and I look up as Wallis gasps from next to me, freezing on the spot and clutching my arm with her razor-sharp fingernails. I glance up at Albus as he curses loudly under his breath, yanking his arm out of mine and grabbing hold of my hand and pulling me down the road, stopping in front of their house.
Their ransacked house.
The door has been beaten down, shown in the footmarks and chipped wood imprinted on the front.
The door hasn’t been quite shut properly again, and the few inch crack shows that the inside might be just as bad as the outside. There is some smashed glass on the path leading up to the front, and a folded piece of parchment is sitting on the front step. Albus snatches it up before I can and stuffs it into his jeans pocket without even looking at it. He’s on the phone a second later, gesturing that Wallis and I are not to step into the house without him.
“Danny, the three of you get home now. I don’t care that you’ve just bought drinks – Danny, your house has been fucking trashed! Get your ass back here now!” He pauses for a moment, presumably to let Danny talk. “Alright. Yes, all three of you. See you in five.” He hangs up and shoots an angry look around.
“They had wands, there was no need to wreck your house,” he mutters angrily. Wallis brushes away the tears in her eyes. I wonder why, and then notice her staring at the motorbike sitting out in the road. BITCH has been keyed into the paintwork in ten inch letters, right along the side. Without so much as blinking, Albus has gone to its side, pulled out his wand and fixed it. Wallis relaxes a little, as if only just remembering that a lot of the trouble can be fixed with magic.
“Are we not going in?” I whisper. Albus shakes his head.
“Not without the other three. I’m not taking the chance.”
“Who’s done this? Not to sound rude, Wallis, but who would want to steal from you? You’re four broke teenagers, there’s nothing of value in that house. Wouldn’t you break into one of the houses with the nice cars out front?” Wallis presses her lips together and hugs me to her side.
It strikes me as strange that she is the one comforting me, but something like lowly property crime is nothing something I have ever experienced before, and I realise that she must think I am scared. Come to think of it, I am a little scared.
“They weren’t thieves,” Albus grumbles. I look at him.
“What did they want then, if they weren’t looking for things?” I ask, perplexed.
“They were looking for something, Flora, but they weren’t thieves.” Albus doesn’t meet my gaze, but stares with narrowed eyes at the shredded copy of the Daily Prophet that has been left in the open crack of the door. Whoever has done this clearly had no qualms about a muggle walking past and seeing that. The thought makes me stomach flip, thinking of my daddy’s hard work keeping the Wizarding world a secret.
“What were they looking for, then?” Albus doesn’t answer me. “Albus, what were they looking for? If it’s something in this house, then I would like to move to a hotel. I’m sorry, Wallis, but I can’t stay here. I’d like you to stay with us, actually – I’d hate to think you might get hurt.” Wallis shakes her head, looking pityingly at me.
“Flora… they didn’t want something from this house.”
“Then why would they break in here?”
“Flora…” Albus groans. “Flora, your father didn’t hire me to take you on this trip because I know how to drive a car,” he grumbles. “You’ve seen enough of my driving to know that I’m shit at that. I’m not your chauffeur, and I’m not doing this to be taught some responsibility.” He stares hard at me.
“What?” I ask. He curses again.
“Do you not see where I’m coming from?” he hisses, glancing around again.
“Fucking hell, Flora – I’m your fucking bodyguard.” There is a few moments of tense silence.
“Why would I need a bodyguard? I’ve never needed one before. I wouldn’t need one at all if I didn’t have to go on this trip.” Albus frowns, but says nothing as he is interrupted by the arrival of the three boys, who have clearly been running.
“Our house…” Beckett groans, but I can’t take my eyes off Albus. Why would I need a bodyguard? And why wouldn’t Daddy tell me that’s what he is?
disclaimer: nothing in this chapter belongs to me. esp. not burger king. or anything else I might have mentioned in this chapter. nopes.
heeeeeeeeey. sorry this has gotten dramatic - is that the right word? - so quickly, but I wanted to get the story a-movin', so you know... yep. I hope you liked the chapter, anyway! loads of love, my dears ;)
ps. thank you to the person who reminded me about this story and how I left it on a cliffhanger; it was you who gave me the kick up the bum to finish this chapter :)