Chapter 31 : The One After the Thirtieth One
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“Summer, are you okay this morning?” I could hear Hagrid doing best to softly put his old fashioned metal teapot onto the stove and heat up some water for a brew, but he might as well have been clanging some cymbals together for all the good the half giant’s attempts at being silent were. His feet are six times the size of mine; that just doesn’t equal quiet.
“Yes, thank you,” I muttered, but didn’t open my eyes. Hagrid suddenly became a little louder, as though it was alright to make noise now that he thought he wasn’t going to wake me up. Two mugs clanked against the wooden countertop next to the stove, and I hoped he was making me a strong coffee with a good dose of methamphetamine, since sugar just wouldn’t be strong enough.
“I’ll make you a cup of tea before you head up to the castle,” he said, even though his voice had grown husky with his old age – the man was in his nineties! – I still found it comforting. I remembered what he had said to Madame Pomfey last night about James being a good boy.
“Thanks,” I said, squeezing my eyes tightly as he pulled open the floral curtains on either side of the two windows aside to let in the streaming, poisonous sunlight. I pulled the blanket up over my face.
“Summer, everythin’ goin’ alright with you an’ James?” Hagrid said suddenly, brushing past me with the bottom of his huge, oversized coat as he tried to reach the small table in front of his sunken couch to put down my freshly brewed cup of tea. I sighed and pulled the blanket down.
“Yeah… yeah, everything’s… okay.” I could hear the defeated note to my voice but I hoped that Hagrid couldn’t, in his old age and all. Good job that giants live for hundreds of years; though no one really knows how long Hagrid is going to live for. Harry Potter reckons he’ll live to one hundred and fifty, and Ginny reckons two hundred. James preferred not to guess, calling us morbid shits.
“Did he stand you up last night?” Hagrid sat down on the magically reinforced chair, the only form of seating for him since I was taking up the entire of his four man couch, and stared at me over the rim of his mug. His thick eyebrows were overgrown, covering a lot of his eyes, and his hair was wilder than I had seen it in a long time. His beard was now hanging down to his protruding stomach, and streaked with columns of grey.
He looked no closer to popping his clogs, mind.
“No… yes. Maybe. I don’t know.” His thick, wiry eyebrows drew together and the sides of his eyes crinkled with confusion. I felt bad for him, and then even felt a strange desire to defend James, just to get the sad and disappointed look off Hagrid’s face. I knew how much the Potter & Weasley family meant to him; especially the Potters.
James spent at least one of his week’s dinners with Hagrid, and he joined us for breakfast a fair bit.
“He’ll ‘ave a reason, Summer, you can trust me on that one,” Hagrid sighed, patting me on the knee so hard that I can practically hear my knee crack and buckle. I nodded and took my mug of tea, hoping that it wasn’t any of the decaf shit that my mother insisted on after she went on the third – or was it fourth? – of her psychopath detox diets.
They all lasted about three weeks and none of us ended up detoxed. Father just ended up tossing vegetables into the bin calling it ‘rabbit food’, I smuggled chocolate and cake into my bedroom after a suggestion from Harry Potter, and my mum nearly zumba-ed herself to death.
She actually pulled a muscle in her arm doing the above-head waves. She had our house elf follow her all week and carry things for her, so she didn’t ‘injure herself further’. I spent the majority out of that week out of the house for fear of tossing a saucepan at her head.
“I hope so,” I eventually sighed, climbing off the couch and putting my empty mug into the metal bucket built into the countertop as a makeshift sink. The room was badly put together, like a dodgy collage of pictures cut out of some kind of hillbilly magazine, but it had a homely feel that my mansion couldn’t emanate in a million years. Right down to the floral curtains, the entire place just had a warm, comfortable feeling, and I wasn’t even 100% sure it had running water.
I thanked Hagrid for his hospitality and headed back up to the castle, realising that it must have been later than I thought as the last few dregs of breakfast-eaters were draining out of the great hall. I was sure I saw Connor shuffle past at one point, looking awfully sombre and subdued, but he was gone before I had a chance to look properly.
I wondered where I wanted to head next: did I want to head up to the common room and hunt down James so that I could tear his flesh from his bones? Or did I want to go to bed and just sleep the entire day away? Or did I want to just go to some broom cupboard or empty classroom and stay away from all other members of the human race?
I couldn’t decide, so I decided just to walk where my feet took me, and do whatever I told myself to do. Does that make sense? I think so.
Five minutes later, panting slightly, I was standing outside the fat lady. Peeling the skin from James Potter’s body and then having it made into a cape so I can run around a campfire flopping it about, it is, then. I snapped my neck from side to side, stretched out my arms and mentally prepared myself to bollock the one person I had decided, merely hours before, I was never going to bollock again.
“Godric’s sword,” I mumbled to the Fat Lady, by way of a password, and she swung open with an unwelcoming creak. I shimmied my shoulders to give the impression of someone brimming with confidence, and headed into the common room.
There was a few people milling about; two second years in front of the fire, occupying the squishy armchairs that were usually reserved for my group (seniority, bitches) but they looked so pathetic in their matching double buns that I decided to leave them alone. I mean, really. I wasn’t aware that anyone still sold bright pink scrunchies in the 2020’s.
Four or five shifty looking fifth year boys were muttering over a piece of parchment in the corner.
Three tall, skinny girls, each one with a head the colour that hair could not naturally be, were sitting at one of the larger tables by the window. The tallest and skinniest, a girl with a bright pink pixie crop, was popping bubble gum loudly. Her friend, who had an overlong fringe hanging into her eyes in a delightful electric blue shade, was inspecting her nail beds. Their other friend, a bored looking girl with legs the length of the Great Wall of China, was eyeing up one of the aforementioned shifty-looking fifth year boys.
Sarah, the evil roommate from hell since her sister announced her engagement to a man twice her age – i.e. my father – was chatting animatedly with Esme, our other roommate. Esme wasn’t bad. I didn’t like her, but that was just because she was a bit wet. You know, a bit of a limp lettuce.
She was a vertebrae, it was time she started acting like it. Merlin blessed you with a backbone for a reason, not so you could roll over and jump whenever Stupid Sarah said the word.
I shot Sarah a dirty look before continuing my appraisal of the Gryffindor common room. A loner kid with a greasy black sidefringe was reading in a straight backed chair, hunched over his book so far that the other boys had begun to call him Quasi.
And despite the wide array of people – ahem, freaks – in the common room at that time, there was no James. Nor was there a Fred, or a Penny, or a Connor or a Dom. Any of the four people that might actually be able to tell me where my useless lump of a best friend was hiding seemed to be in hiding themselves. I wondered if I could find the little girl that gave me the note yesterday, but the two girls by the fire were different ones.
I sighed with frustration and wondered whether one of the three boys was still in their dorm. My hurt – as much as it churned my stomach to admit it – was once again reverting to anger, my old manner of dealing with emotions. Maybe James was right, all that time ago, about my father’s twattish ways meaning that I never deal with anything properly. Fists first, etc.
Thanking Merlin, and every other magical deity that came to mind, that the founders of Hogwarts had only considered blokes to be the untrustworthy ones, I headed up the boys’ staircase. There was a distinct, not all too pleasant, smell of boy that became burningly strong the moment I stepped onto the concrete stairwell, but I just held my breath and ran to the top door.
I didn’t bother to knock, just let myself in, as usual. James might have suddenly revealed himself as an enormous Twat Master of the Seventh Circle of Hell – nice snappy name, I know – but that didn’t mean I needed to change the habits of a lifetime.
The dorm was, predictably, empty. Not even one of their random, hangers-around roommates was to be seen. I wondered whether there was some kind of meeting for seventh years going on that I had forgotten about, but couldn’t recall anything. I sat down on Fred’s bed and frowned. Surely someone had to be somewhere, unless there had been a Gryffindor massacre that I wasn’t aware of.
There was some loud banging in the bathroom, and I only realised then that I could hear the shower going. The sound of whoever was in the shower getting out of the shower made me jump. A few seconds later, a towel-clad, very attractive roommate of the boys stepped out into his dorm room.
He seemed shocked to see me there – obviously – but he took it in his stride.
“Y’alright there, Summer?” he asked in his thick Scottish drawl, heading over to his own bed and pulling some clothes out of one of his drawers. Expensive jeans and a designer t-shirt crumpled on his duvet as he tossed them about, pulling out some boxers and pulling them on under his towel. I understand him wanting to be comfortable in his own dorm, but really?
“I’m fine, thank you, Alexander,” I said loudly, reminding him that I was still there. Last thing I needed was one of my friends to walk in and see me with the half-naked son of Oliver Wood. As if my reputation wasn’t suffering enough in Hogwarts’s gruelling gossip mill.
“Good, good. You gonna tell me why you’re sitting on Fred’s bed? They all fucked off this mornin’ and they ain’t been back since. I don’t know where they went, neither, sorry.” Alexander shrugged and pulled on his t-shirt, before flopping down on his bed and pulling on some smiley-face patterned socks. I nodded and lolled back against Fred’s bed.
“I can keep ya company if you like,” he drawled again, and I shot him the finger without even lifting up my head. I actually got on quite well with Alexander, and I knew that everything he said was not to be taken seriously. Much to his father’s chagrin, he took nothing in life seriously.
As far as I knew, he didn’t even hook up with many girls. And if he did, he didn’t talk about it. I knew there would be no harm in spending some time with Alex, since everyone else had literally evaporated and diffused out the stomata in walls of Hogwarts, but I just didn’t want to.
I wanted to kick James in a very painful place, that’s what I wanted to do. But Merlin only knew where he was, so that wasn’t possible at that moment.
“I’m good, thanks,” I laughed.
“Suit yourself, darlin’,” he said, finally pulling on his very well fitting jeans. Damn, he was a fine specimen of man. Thick arms, muscular and toned, and a chest with defined abs that poked out from beneath his tanned chest, sinewy thighs and a tight arse shown off in semi-skinny navy jeans… he was a good looking bloke.
Look but don’t touch – no harm in that. Checking him out one final time – much to his amusement, judging by the expression on his face – I pushed off Fred’s bed and headed off to look for the useless lumps.
“You know, Summer, one day James is going to catch you looking at me like that, and my pretty face is going to beaten to a pulp. You’ll be to blame for the loss of this smexin’ thing from the halls of this school.” Alexander smirked at me and sent me a saucy wink in response to my glower and middle finger.
“And why would dear James care who I’m checking out?” I asked innocently, batting my eyelashes at him. I wondered what my eyes looked like, given they were most likely smudged with the remains of yesterday’s mascara. It was Alexander’s turn to shoot me the finger.
“You’re gonna be the death of the kid, Summer, I swear,” he laughed.
Actually, I think you’ll find that he’s more likely to be the death of me. I was the one with freaking hypothermia last night. He was probably snug as a bug in a rug.
“Does everyone think that something is going on between James and I?” I asked.
“Of course. There’s a betting pool on whether you’re gonna be knocked up with his kid before we graduate. There’s another one on whether you’re going to be dating. There’s a bet on when your first kiss was, and a common dare when we play Truth or Dare is to hit on you in front of James. I’d give me left arm to know what’s actually going on between you, but you’re both so sodding private.”
I rolled my eyes and laughed uncomfortably.
“There’s nothing going on between James and I,” I lied, unsure why I was still bothering.
“Course not,” Alexander snorted. “Don’t lie. Are you his girlfriend?”
“I don’t… I don’t think so.” I thought about last night. “No.” I said firmly.
Alexander raised his eyebrows and muttered, “Alright then.”
“Hey Jack, have you seen any of my friends?” Jack looked up from his plate of chicken and wedges and shook his head, patting the bench next to him with the hand that was not holding his fork. His dumbarse mates all nudged each other in the ribs and smirked like nobody’s business.
“Sorry Summer, I don’t believe I have. I think I saw Connor eating breakfast late this morning, but he ate quickly and left quickly, so I didn’t talk to him. I wasn’t exactly keeping tabs on who walked through the door though, you know.” I nodded and sat down next to him, nicking a wedge and hoping that it wasn’t one of those Mexican ones he used to eat that nearly burned the hair follicles out of my skull.
Luckily, it wasn’t, and so the jug of icy water on the table that I would have otherwise plunged my head into remained un…plunged?
“Fuck a duck,” I grumbled, and Jack clicked his tongue at my language. His friends were watching the pair of us like hawks, drool practically trailing down their chins at the thought of what Potter fangirls might… ahem, give them in return for what ‘Slutty Summer and her oh my gawd EX boyfriend’ were talking about. I wanted to kick them in the shins.
I refrained. Willpower for the win.
“Mind your language, you. It’s not becoming of a young lady.” He spoke in a tone so similar to the one that my mother would use, I choked on my wedge and began to cough up my tonsils. “It’s not becoming to choke on your lunch, either. Or wear a shirt so low cut – I can see about four millimetres of cleavage there, Summer. Naughty. And you shouldn’t be wearing converse, either – shouldn’t you be in ballet flats or heels?” I actually did kick Jack in the shin.
“Shut it, you. If you see any of my friends, please tell them that I’m looking for them. I don’t have a clue where they are and I really need to ki- talk to Ja- erm… Dom.” Jack frowned at me but nodded.
“Alright. I’m here if you need me, remember.” I nodded and leaned down to plant a quick kiss on the crown of his head.
I was beginning to get pissed off by this point. James must have deliberately avoided me, if he’d basically disappeared from the face of the school. I’d even taken the marauder’s map from his dorm room – awkwardly encountering Alexander again, who had been in the process of changing his t-shirt – and had a look for him, but he just wasn’t there.
I found out that Connor was in the library, most likely revising for the big Care of Magical Creatures test that he had been complaining about for the last two weeks. Penny was in the library too, but in the restricted section, most likely reading something advanced and boring that she didn’t need to be. But Dom, Fred and James were nowhere to be seen.
A horrible feeling began to eat away at the pit of my stomach; that something had happened. Something had happened to someone in their family. That was the only thing I could think about as to why they would all be out of the castle.
If it was anything less than hereditary diseases that called them all to combust into flames and therefore have to be put out and near-smothered with fire retardant blankets, it wasn’t enough.
“What’s got you looking like you want to hang yourself from the ceiling with the belt from Mr Binns’s dressing gown?” Scorpius dropped down next to me on the bench I was parked on, poking me in the knee with the longest finger on his right hand. I scowled at him. “Seriously, if the wind changes, your face is going to get stuck like that.” He jammed his finger at my forehead, and what I assumed was a deep wrinkle in my skin.
“Can you stop being so cheerful and happy, please?” I snapped. “Just because you’re all happy with Rose and lovey-dovey and sickening doesn’t mean I want you appearing over here and infecting my peaceful miserable-ness.” I poked him on the knee in retaliation.
“Well, dear cousin, it is so nice of you to ask how things are going in my new relationship. Thank you so much for caring.” I shot him the finger. Scorpius rolled his eyes. “Things are going well, FYI. It’s turning out to be worth the complete demise of my masculinity that I had to endure in order to make her mine.”
“Make her mine? Really? Did you have to phrase it like that?” Scorpius shot me a scathing glare.
“Fine, fine. And please, Scorpius, your manliness had been tossed away long before you go whipped for poor Rosie.” He shot me a startled look. “Want me to demonstrate? Okay.” Without another moment’s hesitation, I leant forwards and ploughed my hand into the precariously styled hair atop his head. It looked like he’d left it as he woke up with it, but I was one of the ‘select few’ that knew he got up at half five every morning to style it just right – so that it didn’t look like he’d styled it.
Point? I think not.
His hair was so clogged down with product that it styled around my hand, which pushed the height out of it and plastered it down to his skull. Scorpius yelped like a wounded bull and leapt off the bench, falling onto his arse and kicking his legs to try and get me away from him. I laughed loudly.
“What the – what the fuck do you think you’re playing at? Why would you do something like that? What the – you bitch! I refuse to believe that I share any genetic information with you. What – did you mess it up? Does it look awful?” And then – and this is no word of a lie – he pulled out one of those foldable, half-mirror, half-hairbrush compacts out of the back pocket of his jeans.
He glanced into the glass and then groaned, instantly sliding his hands into his locks to try and fix it all up. I giggled at him.
“Aye, I see what you mean. Masculinity just oozes from your very pores,” I teased.
“Shut the fuck up, you. It does. It’s not my fault that you’ve messed up my hair, you little…” he grumbles under his breath as he struggles to get his fringe to lay the way it had been before. I sit back down on the bench and watch him wipe his hands off on the dewy grass beside him.
“Oh, it looks fine, leave it alone,” I laugh, nudging his stomach with the toe of my shoe. He smacked my ankle away.
“Have you made any plans for our birthday party yet? It’s in like two months, isn’t it? I was being serious when I told you that I don’t want to be handed a Capri Sun and be told to sit down while you explain a game that basically sounds like a boring and sober version of Pin the Tail on the Dragon.” I shot him the finger.
Truth be told, I’d stopped thinking about things that had been so important to me at the beginning of the year. Things like my birthday party – something that seemed so mediocre and unnecessary. I knew it meant a lot to Scorpius, since he was coming of age, but I couldn’t really bring myself to care. I was struggling to even pretend.
Too much had happened in the five months of Seventh Year that I had been through so far for me to spend time worrying about whether or not the party I organised was going to be laughed at and considered a failure by bitches like Sarah. People whose lives were so boring that they had nothing better to do than criticise me for something so superficial. With divorcing parents, a new stepmother from hell – she’s twenty five, for goodness’s sakes! – a deteriorating friendship with my best friend and world’s most confusing relationship with the boy I thought would never make anything complicated… it all sucked. And I was too busy thinking about that to think about something like Scorpius’ birthday party.
“Yeah, I’ve got lots of ideas. They’re all good, you’ll enjoy them,” I lied. Scorpius looked mildly appeased.
“Good, good. I was gonna suggest to Rose that she comes home to meet my parents during Easter break; I was gonna ask her when she’s a little drunk at the party. I know my parents aren’t gonna react too well to her. Well, Mum will be just fine with her, I reckon. Dad will scowl a lot and make ginger references under his breath, and mutter about how he still owes her Daddy a good punch in the stomach.” I laughed loudly, and Scorpius stared oddly at me.
“What?” I asked haughtily.
“You should laugh more, Summer. It suits you.”
“Shut it, you sap.”
“You shut it, you… pale little… cow.” Scorpius’ pieced insult just made me giggle again. I pulled a few boiled sweets out of my pocket and popped one of them into my mouth, offering the blackcurrant one – anyone who’s anyone knows that I can’t stand anything blackcurrant flavoured – to Scorpius, who took it with a smirk.
“So you want Rosie to meet your parents even though you think your dad is going to consider it a family betrayal? I love my Uncle Draco; don’t get me wrong, but… yeah. He’s not got the calmest temper of everyone I know. He always goes on about how I’ve betrayed the family by befriending the Weasley/Potters and being sorted into Gryffindor. Says he owes Harry Potter, but that doesn’t mean he can nick parts of his family.” It was Scorpius’ turn to laugh.
“Sounds like something dear old Dad would say,” Scorpius rolled his eyes. He looked younger, more boyish, and I instantly began to miss the blonde haired little boy that I played with as a kid. He’d gotten too old and too grouchy, far too fast.
“It does, yeah. I’d say you could bring them round to mine, but there isn’t really a ‘mine’ to take them round to, is there?” Scorpius’s smile instantly slipped a little and he got up off the floor, shuffling me up on the bench and hesitantly wrapped his arm around my shoulders.
“Where are you going to be staying this Easter?” he asked slowly, and I shrugged. I hadn’t really thought about it, to be quite honest.
“I don’t know. Mum was going to stay with Nana and Grandpa Greengrass until Dad bought her a new place to live – Merlin knows that she isn’t going to get a job – but now that she’s having a baby, she can’t be expecting to stay with them. I mean, they’re in their late sixties; they can’t be having a baby around all the time. She may be moving in with her baby daddy, I don’t know. Merlin knows I’m not going to stay with them.”
“If I ever see that bloke, I’ll kick him in the nuts for you,” Scorpius offered, leaning sideways to kiss me on the side of the head.
“Thanks. I’d appreciate that.” Scorpius laughed again. “But there is no way on this planet that I’m going to stay with my asshole of a father and his new wife. Fucking Lulu. I’d drop dead before I willingly spent two weeks living with her. So I’ll most likely stay at Hogwarts this Easter. During the summer… well, hopefully I’ll get a job after I graduate and then I’ll be able to get an apartment. Probably get a roommate or something. Dad can give me the money. Fuck knows he can afford it. And he owes me.”
“Being an asshole.”
“Oh, of course. How didn’t I guess? Anyway, you’ll come and stay with me this summer until you can get a place. And that’s final. We have the room, and my parents would love to have their favourite niece come to live with them for a while. They’re both pissed as hell with your dad for what he’s doing with Louise.”
“Lulu,” I corrected.
“Right, her. None of us can come up with any ideas why he’s actually marrying her. I mean, really, it’s not like she’s even pregnant. My dad asked Uncle Jason, and he just laughed and denied it when Dad asked if Loui- Lulu was preggo.” Scorpius shook his head. “I met her, you know. Dad brought her round to ours. She put on a sugary sweet little coating in front of everyone, but I could see through her. Especially after what you told me she said about you. Vile woman.” I nodded in agreement.
“Did you say my dad laughed?” Scorpius nodded. “Well then… I guess hell has finally frozen over.”
“In that case, I owe Fred Weasley two thousand galleons.” I jumped.
“James?” I found him. It was eight o’clock at night, and I had been to dinner and the library, scanning the Marauder’s Map every half an hour or so – I was planning to return it eventually, I swear – until finally, he appeared. My hurt, which had turned to anger, had now switched to worry. Admittedly, the anger was still tap dancing in my liver – does anger live in your liver? – but worry was the emotion making my hands shake a little bit and my teeth chew on my bottom lip.
When his blob had appeared in the common room, sitting in our usual cushy armchair by the fire, I had leapt off my bed and shook myself for a moment in order to compose my scattered thoughts. Dom wasn’t anywhere to be seen, and Penny hadn’t been in the dorm at the same time as me so I could ask if she knew where Fred had buggered off to.
He didn’t turn around. Dom and Freddie weren’t in the common room either, so I couldn’t imagine where they were. James’s shoulders were hunched over, his hands were clasped too tightly on his knee, and his eyes were staring unseeingly into the fire.
“Oi, James!” I called again, and then I crossed the three metres I had left between us and dropped down onto the armchair that was free next to him. He dragged his eyes from the fire and fixed his gaze onto me. His expression instantly dropped from one of hopelessness to one of sheer upset, his eyes – to my horror – becoming a little glassy.
I gaped at him, praying that he wasn’t going to cry. I could not have been dealing with a crying James. My entire being would most likely spontaneously combust from the awkwardness.
“Where… where were you last night?” I asked, but I couldn’t infuse the proper amount of accusation or anger into my tone. The devastated look on James’s face nearly stopped me from saying anything at all. He just looked so… young. He looked like Albus; confused and angry.
“I…” he murmured, and I breathed a sigh of relief. He was talking. “I was at the hospital… last night. St Mungo’s… and then at about nine o’clock this morning, I went back to the Burrow. And I’ve been there since. Dom and Freddie are… they’re still there.” James sighed deeply and let out a deep breath that caused the flames in the fireplace to flicker.
“What? Why were you at the hospital?” I got out of my chair and pushed James’s hands off his knee, sat down on his lap and turned his face so he was looking at me properly. He wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me into his chest, tucking my head beneath his chin. Most likely so he had a chin rest, the lazy bugger.
“My… my granddad died last night. My Grandpa Arthur. There wasn’t… there wasn’t even anything wrong with him. He just… he just died. Nana Molly went into the house after mucking out the chickens to make dinner, and found him passed out in his armchair. He… we don’t know what was the matter with him. She got him to St Mungo’s, and then called for the whole family – they told her straight out that he wasn’t… that he wasn’t going to make it.”
“Crap,” I whispered. I didn’t know what else to say.
“So we all got out there straight away… ‘bout half seven. Dommie, Louis, Freddie, Roxanne, me, Albus, Lily, Lucy, Molly, Rose and Hugo… Victoire and Teddy came from their cottage, even though Vic’s like seven months pregnant. All my aunts and uncles showed… and then Aunt Fleur’s mum showed up too. But he… he died anyway. First time the entire family had been together since the summer, and it was for that. I had to leave.”
“He… what time did he die?”
“Half eight. The nurses kicked us out after that, and let us in two at a time to say our goodbyes to his… you know. I was with Lily. She cried and cried and cried and held his hand and even prayed at one point. I just stood there. My mouth just wouldn’t work. He just looked so old and small and sick and… I don’t understand why he’s gone.”
“I’m sorry, James. I am.”
“Thanks. Nana Molly was the worst. After we got there, she just sat there in this little plastic chair with this tiny plastic smile on her face and tried to make people think that she wasn’t on the verge of bursting into tears. They’ve been together for what, forty, fifty years? They were soulmates. And he’s gone. Why’s he gone, Summer?” He lifted my head from his chest and stared at me.
“I don’t know, James. Sorry. I don’t know.” I shrugged awkwardly.
“Fred kept… Fred kept saying to me ‘haven’t you forgotten something, James?’ but he wasn’t making any sense. Not that he ever normally does. But he didn’t make sense and I wish you had been there, Summer. You should have come.”
“How could I come if I didn’t know where you’d gone? Don’t you think the thing Fred kept telling you you’d forgotten could have been me?” James blinked.
“What’d you mean?”
“The picnic?” I suggested, feeling foolish. I knew I was being selfish and big-headed, but I wanted to know whether or not he’d forgotten about me, or whether or not his dying grandfather just took precedence over our date – as it would, of course. James’s mouth dropped open.
“Fucking… aw, damn, sorry Summer… I… I forgot about everything when I got the letter…”
“Don’t worry about it, James.”
“No! Oh hell, I planned thee whole thing to be really romantic and put all this effort in and I had a speech planned and I even wrote it out on cue cards and… damn! I even played that little squirt of a second year four galleons to drop off that stupid note… Damn!” James slammed his head into the headrest repeatedly and then buried his face in my neck.
“James, don’t worry about it,” I started.
“Is this why Hagrid… I ran into him before and he started muttering something about you and hypothermia and… shit! How long did you stay outside? Goddamn, Summer, the last thing I needed was you in the hospital with granddad!” I glared at him.
“Well, I didn’t know where you’d gone.” James sighed.
“It’s fine. I’m sorry about your granddaddy, James.” He kissed me on the top of the head. “He was a good man, I know that. And your Nana has a big family that will help her get through this. She’s going to be fine. And your granddaddy… he’ll be in a good place. He has to be.” I wondered whether I was saying the right thing to someone who had just suffered a loss.
From the slight smile that quirked his lips, I guessed it was.
And like that, all was forgiven. Because James hadn’t forgotten about me, of course. He’d suffered a loss and he’d left to be with his grandfather. And I’d have to be a selfish bitch to resent him for forgetting about me.
“We good, Summer?”
I could have replied with something cheesy and cheerful, like ‘we’re better’ but I thought that might bring me out in a rash, so I just nodded and jabbed him lightly in the stomach with the end of my finger.
“Yeah, we’re good.”
“Excellent, excellent. Can we go and have sex now? I kinda wanna distract myself.” I switched from a light elbowing in the stomach to a fully blown (okay, very, very light) punch under the ribs. James just grinned cheekily at me, and I rolled my eyes.
“Why’d you leave the hospital without Freddie and Dom?” I asked quietly.
“They wanted to pay their last respects… say goodbye… then they wanted to hang around the Burrow doing fuck all but being with their family. It was suffocating, having everyone there, all mourning over the same person. I love my family, but I didn’t want to be anywhere near them. So I left. I know my Nana was offended, but I was so close to just smacking one into Albus’s jaw.”
“Stop apologising. You’ve got nothing to be sorry for; you didn’t do it.”
“But seriously…” I rolled my eyes and took his hand, carting him up to his dorm since taking him to mine would also end with us in a pile together, but this time because the stairs had turned to a slide and we’d gone skidding to the floor like a couple of mad hyenas.
I woke before James did the next morning, but I could tell that he’d been awake before me and had fallen back to sleep. I hoped we hadn’t already missed breakfast since my stomach was growling angrily, but I figured that James could just take me to the kitchens for some scran anyway. His eyes were puffy and a little red, like he’d been crying for a while and therefore hadn’t splashed his face with some icy cold water.
I pulled his duvet up to my neck, wrapped it around me like some kind of Roman toga and shuffled over to the bathroom, pouring some cold water onto the only flannel in the entire room that didn’t look like it was crawling with many kinds of man-diseases. I flip flopped back to the bed – despite not wearing flip flops – and flicked some of the water at James’s head, waking him up properly.
“What the fu- what the- what’s going- I… huh?” James spluttered, sitting up and shaking his head. Then he glanced down and realised that I had stolen the entire duvet, and forgot about the beads of water dripping down his forehead and falling off the end of his nose.
“Morning, sunshine,” I chirped. He grinned, but it wasn’t his usual grin. There was a crease between his eyebrows and his smile didn’t meet his eyes. His shoulders were slumped inwards. “How are you feeling today?”
“Better,” he said eventually, accepting the flannel I handed him and rubbing it over his red eyes. When he pulled the flannel away his entire face was red, but his eyes no longer stood out like beacons of bloodshotedness – real word? I think not – and swelling.
“Good, good – do you feel up to going to get something to eat or would you rather wait and go to the kitchens, or what?” I prayed he wanted to go and get food now, because I was practically starving to death. I felt like my stomach was caving in on itself and dancing around my kidney, tossing little pieces of stomach at all my other internal organs.
“Nah, we’ll go and get some breakfast now. I can hear your stomach from here, babe – you clearly need to get a good plate of bacon and eggs down your throat.” I laughed uncomfortably and shimmied out of the duvet so that it was wrapped around both of us again. “Well… maybe we can stay up here for another two minutes…”
“Two minutes?” I asked innocently, and James poked me in the bellybutton.
“By that I meant… erm… twenty minutes – nay, two hours! Two hours!” I laughed again, muffling the sound with James’s chest. His hairy legs were pressing against my legs, all hairy and… whatnot.
“The fact you said the word ‘nay’ kind of ruins your statement,” I commented mildly.
I received another poke in the bellybutton for my wit.
“Shut it, you. Let’s go to breakfast. I want to know if my family are back, anyway. Freddie’s not back, so he must have spent the night at the Burrow. I hope I’m not the only grandkid that left the Burrow early. It’s not my fault that being around sobbing and shellshocked family members doesn’t help my mourning process…” James trailed off, grumbling incoherently.
“And here was me thinking you wanted to stay here a little longer... but alright then, off to breakfast we go…” Just as I went to get up, James seized my waist and pulled me back down onto the bed.
“Well, since you’re offering…”
I knew something was wrong the second we stepped into the Great Hall. James was too busy glancing up and down each house table to search for members of his family to notice, but I knew there was something up. Something down. Something all around. Something that was where it should have been, anyway. I couldn’t put my finger on what was freaking me out, though.
“Right… Roxanne is over there, but it doesn’t look like Freddie is back… and Molly and Lucy are both sitting over there. And Louis is back too, but Dominique isn’t. Neither are Hugo and Rose… or Lily and Albus. Well, at least I’m not the only one.” I nodded non-committedly.
“Okay,” I muttered.
“Oi, what’s the matter with you? Do you want to go and sit with Connor and Penny? They’re both looking a bit lonely, sitting as a little twosome up there.” I nodded again and James took hold of my wrist and started to pull me down the aisle between the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw house tables.
“James, why is everyone looking at us?” I asked quietly, as every single person we passed erupted into either giggles or began to whisper to the people nearest to them. I frowned at them but they all avoided my gaze. Fangirls were sitting in close proximity to one another, muttering and murmuring and twittering and giggling and doing other shitty things that made me want to punch their lights out. They were even pointing at us, for hell’s sakes. Did we look different to yesterday?
I’d made sure that my hair was lying flat before we’d left the door, much to the chagrin of Fred’s comb, which I battered in order to try and tame the wild knots that were tangling up the mess on the top of my head. Thanks for those genes, Mummy.
“What? I don’t think they are. Stop being paranoid.” James was too busy scrutinizing Molly’s expression to check whether she looked like she was coping to pay attention to me. But they were looking at me – I knew that they were. Connor was trying to attract my attention from his spot at the table that we were heading towards, performing some kind of strange hand gestures that looked more like an Aztec tribal dance than anything else.
After the Aztec tribal dancing had finished, his moves switched to something that looked a little bit more like a mime that was acting out being inside a glass box. Penny was shaking her head and looking uncomfortably around at the people sitting nearest to them.
“What the fuck is he doing?” James muttered, and I assumed that he was referring to the increasingly weird dancing being performed by dear Connor.
“I have no clue,” I said, sitting down next to Penny while James hopped over the table so he could sit on the other side, next to Connor. Penny was frowning, looking uncomfortable, and Connor stuffed a couple of pancakes into his mouth, presumably to stop us from talking to him about his sudden tendencies to burst into random fits of spastic dancing.
“What the hell were you playing at, Connor? You looked like one of those women on the TV that dance around in the giant barrels, crushing grapes with their feet to make wine. Do you know what I mean?” Connor shook his head, looking confused through a mouthful of pancake. Penny laughed behind her hand, but I had a feeling she knew what had happed to James’s granddaddy because she was watching him carefully, and not speaking as though she was afraid of offending him.
“Erm, guys, maybe you ought to know-” Penny started.
“POTTER!” The dulcet tones of my one dear cousin bellowing across the great hall made me jump, and a second later I saw Scorpius storming around the tables, one piece of blonde hair flopping into his face and the rest of it slicked back in his usual Draco style. His hands were balled into what I called his Fists of Fury – meaning the fists he made when was very, very angry – and his lips were curled back over his teeth in a scarily pronounced scowl.
“Yes?” James asked meekly, looking like he was considering seizing Connor by the shirt and hurling him between himself and Scorpius as some kind of Dominique Whipped Human Shield. “Can I help you?” he added unhelpfully when Scorpius didn’t speak, but stood panting angrily in front of him like a rabid and raging bull. Someone needed to wave something red in his face.
You might have looked like a bit of a tit, like, if you’d suddenly pulled out a tube of lippy and started waving it about like you’d been smoking something you shouldn’t have.
“What in the-” Scorpius cut off already, sucking a deep breath up through his nose. “Right, right – picture the scene, Potter. I’ve innocently,” I snorted at the very thought, “come down to breakfast to eat some bacon, and what is the first thing I hear? Oregon Mitchells telling everyone about a certain conversation that she heard between you and my lovely, innocent, sweet, virginal cousin-” Penny and Connor both burst out laughing, smothering out the rest of his sentence. Penny stuffed her fist in her mouth to try and stop me from hearing her giggles.
“Oi!” I hissed at the pair of them, but Connor just laid his head down on the table and pounded at the wood with his balled up fist as he shook with hysterical laughter.
“ANYWAY,” Scorpius interrupted. “She starts telling everyone that she overheard you talking in the library yesterday. In fact, she recounted the whole conversation that you had; and normally, no one would believe someone like Oregon, but that nerdy Ravenclaw bloke, Andrews, her tutor, confirmed it. And he’s a Ravenclaw – they’re too busy with books to bother to make up rumours.” I rolled my eyes.
“Scorpius, whatever Oregon Mitchells told you would have been bullshit,” I started.
“OH, OH, OH, RIGHT, RIGHT – so Potter, you’re telling me that you’ve never once kissed my cousin?” James blanched when he realised what Scorpius had not; everyone around us had stopped chatting and were staring, open mouthed, at their conversation.
I started praying to every deity on the face of the planet, magical or not, that Scorpius would both suddenly run away from the hall and develop random onset amnesia for the rest of the day, or would keep his voice down and let us discuss this in private, like we should have been. Or, there was option number three, which was for the ground to swallow me alive and drag me straight to hell to avoid having to watch the steam rise out of Scorpius’s ears.
“And if I have?” Wrong answer. James was clearly trying to play Hard Man by talking back, but Scorpius didn’t seem to appreciate the effort. He turned a funny shade of purple.
“Well – well WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL, MAN?!” Scorpius looked like he was either going to pass out, swing a couple of punches and blacken James’s eyes for the next two months, or run screaming, naked, out to the lake and jumping in to cool himself down.
“You’ve made out with my cousin plenty of times,” James pointed out, and I resisted the urge to stand up and slow clap at the official beating of Scorpius Malfoy with Basic Sodding Logic.
“Yes, but she’s my girlfriend! I’m pretty sure there is some kind of rule written down somewhere that says that you can make out with someone’s cousin multiple times if you’re dating them, but not if you’re just a stupid sodding cretin that’s so afraid of commitment that they take advantage of girls that want them!” My jaw dropped open.
It was Connor all over again; males assuming that the males were the ones taking advantage of the females just because they were sexist a-holes with no concept that women have personalities and brains of their own. I wondered whether or not I should toss some orange juice in his face.
“I mean, really, a year? Is that bit true? Once or twice is a mistake, James, I get that, but for a year – that’s just… you’re a cowardly bastard, that’s exactly what you are.” James’s ears had turned red and his face had dropped into a scowl, his lip brought up in a snarl and his left hand curling around the wand that had been hastily stuffed into the back pocket of his jeans.
“Say that again, mate, and I’ll punch your lights out.” It wasn’t James that spoke, though; it was me. Scorpius wheeled around to fix me with a shocked look.
“If you don’t mind, Summer, I’m trying to defend your honour or whatever here. Stop the family name from being trampled on, or something. I don’t know; I’m protecting you from the likes of-”
“From the likes of my best friend?” I asked loudly. Scorpius floundered for a second.
“Well, that seems a little pointless if you ask me.”
“I didn’t ask you.”
“Well maybe you should have, before you started screaming about my personal life over porridge in the mornings. If I wanted everyone to know my business then I would put it on the front page of the sodding school newspaper; but I don’t! This is between James and I, and even though I know you’re only trying to look out for me, you need to sod – off.”
Scorpius blinked again, but the anger didn’t slip from his stiff posture or balled fists.
“Have you slept with her?” he asked James, reverting to the same snarling voice he had been using originally. I resisted the urge to scream and plough my fist into the floor a couple of times, since that would probably make me look a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic. I wouldn’t be surprised if they wrapped me up in a bath sheet and carted me off to the Mungo’s Loony Bin after that.
“Yes.” Again, it was me that answered, not the person that was intended to answer the question. James choked on his own spit and turned a delightful shade of radish while Scorpius stared at me like I had just zoomed up out of the floor and begun to flamenco dance in the nude.
“What the – what the – you – I’m gonna kick the sh-”
“You’re not going to kick the anything out of anyone, Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy, or I will tell everyone about the time that you did that thing that I swore I would never mention when you were trying to impress that muggle girl who worked in the post office around the corner from your house.” Scorpius scowled at me, the very small amount of colour that was in his pale face draining out of it. I wondered where the colour went. Maybe he therefore had an extremely tanned chest.
“I – you’ve been shagging your best friend?” I had nothing to say this time. James coughed.
“No. No, she hasn’t.” I appreciated him lying to try and stop Scorpius from getting annoyed with me, but I would rather he just told the truth and stopped us from getting found out at a later date and me risking falling out majorly with the only member of the family that wasn’t annoyed with me.
“Oh, of course. She’s just fucking admitted you’re having sex, James,” James held up a hand, and the authority in the move caused Scorpius to stop, pause, and give him a chance to speak.
“I never said I wasn’t sleeping with her. But I’ve been sleeping with the girl I’m in love with, not my best friend, and I’ve been telling her that for the past… well, for the past Merlin knows how long. She won’t listen to me, like, because she’s a stubborn cow, but I’ve been telling her. I’ve been sleeping with my girlfriend, not my best friend.”
There was a few seconds of silence so thick that it was actually a little funny. I half expected a couple of crickets to begin chirping or for a patronus to leap through the window and disrupt the quiet atmosphere. Scorpius cleared this throat. And then… the bastard who was sitting two down from Penny stood up, climbed off his bench and turned to face James, before bursting into a round of world’s most patronising slow clapping. The people who hadn’t been watching us turned to look. I wondered how many people Oregon had actually flapped her mouth too.
I wanted to know what she told them, for that matter. She could have told them James had an STD and I was the next in line to run a small country off the coast of Pakistan, but I wouldn’t know since I hadn’t technically bothered to ask. Scorpius looked like he was considering whipping out his wand and hexing the sarcastic clapper. I was considering it too.
“I…” I started, but James had kicked off the bench and was storming out of the hall before I had even had a chance to gather my thoughts together. Penny had her hands clapped over her mouth. Connor was blinking, a slow smirk spreading over his face. He clearly thought he’d won the dating bet. Scorpius looked like he’d been kicked in the back of the knees…
…by a sledgehammer.
To be quite honest, if I had had a sledgehammer in that moment, then I would have been ramming it into the back of Scorpius’s kneecaps without so much as a second thought or a prolonged blink. He deserved a good slap upside the back of his head.
“Erm… excuse me,” I said slowly, and then scarpered out of the great hall after James. Penny nodded encouragingly and Connor rolled his eyes, looking far more amused than the situation really called for. I ignored the stares of pretty much every nosy bugger that was scranning their dinner and followed the path James had taken, not 100% sure where he had actually gone.
“James?” I called, but there didn’t seem to be anyone anywhere. “James Potter? James Sirius Potter?” Again there was no reply, so I just headed up the grand staircase – just in time to see someone dressed in black rooms zooming around the last corner in of the staircase on the sixth form. I cursed loudly and shot after him, tossing my hair over my shoulder to stop it bashing me in the face as I ran.
Curse the Summer Lancaster of this morning that decided to wear her fancy red bra with the bow instead of putting on a handy sport’s bra that stopped me from getting bashed in the face my boobs and therefore breaking my nose.
“James!” I yelled, but I guessed that he would have already gotten into the common room in the time it took me to actually get out of the great hall and then get up off the floor after I fell over on the third floor. I had to remind myself to throttle the little kid that had left his schoolbag lounging around in the middle of the stairs.
When I reached the Fat Lady she was already hanging open, and from the way she was disgruntledly grumbling to the paintings around her, I guessed that James had left her hanging wide open. I remembered to slam her shut behind me.
“James Potter! Will you get down here or am I going to have to come up there to talk to you?” I hollered up the boys’ staircase, and then gave him a couple of seconds to decide how he wanted to respond. When his five seconds were up, I kicked off my school shoes, tossed them at the bottom of the girls’ staircase and then headed up to the seventh year dorm.
“Go away, Summer,” I heard him grumble from the other side of the door, but this just made me laugh a little bit. I went to open the door, but knob wouldn’t turn. I realised that he must have put a charm on the door to stop it from being opened from the outside, so I decided to bite the bullet and kick the stupid thing in. One throbbing foot later, the thing was slammed against the wall and James was falling off the bed in shock.
“Ouch! What the-” James spat one of Fred’s socks out of his mouth and tossed it to the other side of the bed. I laughed and bounced down onto his bed and leaned over the side so my hair tickled landed in his face. He remembered to keep his mouth shut this time.
“Hello, you,” I said loudly, as though nothing unusual had happened.
“Scorpius let you come up here?” he said flatly, staring at the side of the bed rather than me.
“Last time I checked, Scorpius didn’t get a choice in what I do or don’t do, and he certainly didn’t get a choice in where I do and don’t go…” James shot me the finger.
“Funny, because you let him scream about our private life in the middle of the great hall for any Tom, Dick and Harry to hear, didn’t you? Honestly, your cousin has butted out of your life for the past… the past Merlin knows how many months, and now he wants to get involved? And then when I say – when I say that you’re my… when I said it, you just stood there and looked at me like I had sprouted an extra head or something!” James pushed himself off the floor and pulled off his robes, tossing them onto Connor’s bed, along with a random bra that was lying on the floor.
I prayed that it did not, as I suspected, belong to one Dominique Weasley. It had the tacky, bright look about it that Dominique tended to lean towards.
“Well, it came a little bit out of the blue, that’s all!” I muttered defensively, holding up both of my hands as James sank down into the one chair in the room. “I wasn’t expecting it, and I certainly wasn’t expecting that kind of thing to be announced over sodding breakfast in the great hall.”
“Oh, well I am sorry that my timing wasn’t to your taste-” James spat venomously, and I held up a hand to stop him before yet another pointless, dragged out argument caused me to half tear my hair out and spend half the night tossing and turning in sheets that just wouldn’t let me get comfortable. It may have escaped Dom’s notice, but we were not all part-Veela; some of us need our beauty sleep.
“Are you… are you asking me to be your girlfriend?” I asked slowly, and James blinked at me a couple of times, his mouth closing with a quite popping noise.
“Erm… yeah. I guess.” James shrugged offhandedly, like this was a matter of no real importance. But it was important. Because… well, it just was. I’m sure you can figure the reasons out yourself, if you have half a functional brain cell. Would a brain cell even function if it had been chopped in half? Anyway, not the point.
“I… erm… okay then. I guess my answer is yes then. I guess. I suppose. Why not?” I shrugged equally offhandedly and for one second, just one second, shock flitted across James’s face so quickly that I had to resist the urge to smile. After all this shit together, he still thought that I would risk losing him again. “How could I turn you down, anyway, after your granddaddy passed away? That would just make me a soul sucking bitch.”
“And we all know you’re not one of them,” he laughed nervously, attempting to slip back into some of his old humour, but it sounded wrong. His voice wasn’t his usual deep pitch; it was high and squeaky and worried. I stroked my hand across his fringe, accidently flicking a long piece of hair into his eyes. Even though his eye began to water, he didn’t lift his hand from his lap to brush it away.
“Oi, mind it, you. That’s not how boyfriends are supposed to talk to their girlfriends.” James rolled his eyes and walked over to me, dropping down onto the bed and taking my chin in his warm hands.
“Are you sure about this? I don’t want you telling me yes now and then letting me down later in the future, when I truly let myself believe you’re in this to stay. I mean, you’re a little bit unstable and most people would never bother to try and tie you down but no, I want you to commit to me and you know what? I think I deserve that! So, missy, if you’re planning on leaving-” I clapped my hands over his mouth and dropped a kiss on his forehead.
“You ramble too much, honey,” I said in the most sugary voice I could muster, ignoring the red flush that scrawled across the tops of James’s hollowed cheekbones. “I’m not planning on going anywhere, you dimwit – after all, nothing’s going to change.” James frowned.
“What do you mean? You mean you’re not going to stop flirting with any bloke that catches your eye-” I cut him off this time with my Summer Lancaster Death Stare. It’s a reasonably new invention.
“For one, I have never just flirted with ‘any bloke’ that ‘catches my eye’, don’t exaggerate and stop being so sodding paranoid all the time. And second of all, all that was meant by my extremely innocent statement was that you and I were basically together anyway, since the very beginning – nothing in that sense is going to change. If it didn’t scare me then, why would it scare me now?” I was bluffing a little, but James was never a good poker player so I was sure he couldn’t tell.
“Oh,” James chuckled, and he leaned forward so his nose was brushing mine. “Then it doesn’t freak you out at all that if we never split up, I’m going to ask you to marry me one day?” I choked on my own spit but tried to pass it off as a nonchalant laugh. From the way James grinned, I could tell that I hadn’t pulled it off.
“Shut it, you. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
“You make it sound like a bad thing.” I just grunted.
“So you think nothing’s going to change between us?” I shook my head. “Alright, then. How about we test that little fact?” Without another moment’s hesitation, he had strolled to the door of his dorm room and tipped back his head to yell down the stairs. “OI, WHOEVER’S DOWN THERE – I LOVE SUMMER! AND SHE’S MY MOTHERFUCKING GIRLFRIEND. SUCK ON THAT!”
“James!” I shrieked. “You’re a… you’re a tit.”
“I’m your tit,” he winked cheekily.
“Unfortunately,” I grimaced jokingly. “But lucky for you.”
“Yes, it is.” I poked him in the stomach. “I love you,” he grinned.
“I love you, too,” I said, the words not choking up too much in my throat. I smiled as he leaned down to kiss me. He’d only just brushed my lips when the dorm door slammed open and a panting Freddie Weasley came stumbling over the threshold.
“Sorry to interrupt, just wanted to be the first to offer my congrats on the pair of you pulling your heads out of your respective backsides and making it official! Love ya both!” Freddie ran towards us, smacked a kiss on both of our heads, smacked James on the back a few times and then ran back out of the room, leaving the door open.
“That was… weird,” I laughed, wrapping my arms around James’s neck.
“It’s Fred. What do you expect?” I laughed. And then he laughed. And then we both just laughed because we were so fucking delirious that neither of us wanted to stop laughing. And that was fine.
disclaimer: nothing in this chapter belongs to me.
wowsa, last actual chapter of being summer! yikes, I feel old. the next chapter is the epilogue, which takes place a little way into the future, but not much, and then the majority is what happened in the rest of everyone's lives. I have about 6,500 words written for that, and have done for a few months now, so that should be up soon. and that will be the end of being summer. i'll save the emotional shite for that author's note. ANYWAY - they're together now! haha. what'd you think of le chapter?
ellie :) xx
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