Chapter 2 : The Jumper
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I’ve been away too long,
And every day I missed you more.
You look like you did before only prettier.
- Love you more, Racoon
My eyes snap open and despite their puffiness –because of the dried up tears— the sight before me is as clear as ever. A beautiful face and two big green eyes, mingling with my mother’s soft female features and her deep blue eyes, parts of an image that’s still lingering from the nightmare I was having just a couple of seconds ago.
Then the eyes disappear and I frown, staring at the serene face of Albus Potter who lies two feet away on a mattress on the floor. Did I just imagine that or is he really awake? I continue to stare at him but he seems sound asleep so I come to the conclusion that my mind is just playing tricks on me.
Really, after being best friends with a male Weasley for four years I should know not to expect any of them to be awake before ten a.m. on a Saturday. Thinking this, I look out of the window at the sky, so light blue that it’s almost white.
Convinced that I was only imagining things I look back at Al’s face, only to be surprised again as his very awake eyes stare right back at me. My heart flutters when he doesn’t look away.
‘Good morning’ he mouths, sending me his beautiful crooked smile. I smile back at him, feeling my cheeks burn. My eyes seem to be glued to his and though my mind is telling me not to have such intense eye contact, I can’t tear them away.
Suddenly the bedroom door creaks open and both Albus and I close our eyes quickly as someone tiptoes into the room.
Didn’t I, just a couple of hours ago, swear to myself that there’s no way whatsoever Albus can fall in love with me? Then why am I flirting with him before the day has even begun?
He was watching me sleep. I try to ignore this thought but a small, satisfied smile creeps onto my face. It’s not because we’re not allowed to be together that I’m not able to enjoy little things like that, is it?
I notice the room has gone silent once again and open one eye carefully. To my surprise, Albus’ eyes are wide open again but they aren’t looking at me anymore. I follow his gaze and breath in sharply.
In between me and Albus stands Fleur Weasley, hands on her hips, in her full veela-glory, staring down at me... in her son’s bed.
“NO! No, I– we... No!” I splutter, trying to work my way out from under Louis’ arm but this only stirs him in his sleep, making his grip on me even tighter while he inhales deeply, his face buried in my hair.
Fleur Weasley’s eyebrows disappear behind her perfect blonde hair and I let out a desperate whimper, digging my nails into Louis’ arm so he’d wake up. He grunts. Damn you, Weasley.
“Louis!” She hisses as she sees my failed attempts at escaping from Louis’ grip.
“Mum, g’way,” Louis grumbles, finally lifting his arm from around me so he can rub his tired eyes. I jump up and try to get past Mrs. Weasley without getting within arm’s length. As I hold up my arms defensively and mumble something about ‘just being friends’ and ‘bad nightmares’, I hurry out of the room before anyone of Louis’ other roommates wake up.
On the landing, I almost run right into Bill Weasley. Great!
After a moment of surprise, he looks over my head at the room I just exited. Realising that’s his son’s room, he sends me a mischievous wink and lets me pass, chuckling cheekily. Damn you, Weasleys.
Completely flustered, I rush back into Dom’s room where Rose, Lily and Lucy are all awake but still in their beds. They look at me expectantly.
“Where the hell have you been?” Rose asks impatiently.
“Is that Al’s jumper?” Lily asks at almost the same time.
Lucy just giggles.
I sigh and ignore their questions. Looking at the mess of clothes scattered around the room, and cursing Merlin for making the Weasley girls nothing like their tidy mothers, I start gathering whatever belongs to me and stuffing it in my bag.
“Where’s the fire?” Rose asks, amused now.
“Your aunt is going to kill me,” I mutter as I continue to run around the room.
“Aunt Fleur is back?” Lily yells excitedly, jumping out of her bed. “Oh finally, breakfast! I’m starving. Come on, Luce.”
Lucy wants to protest but Lily throws her one pleading look and the two fourteen year olds leave the room. Lucy is far too mellow for someone as conniving as Lily.
“Ni?” Rose asks gravely as she slowly gets out of her bed. “Niobe! Talk to me.”
I stop in my tracks as I hear Rose use her stern voice. God, that voice scares me.
“What have you been doing all night?” She asks, pulling me onto her bed to talk.
“What d’you mean?” I say, slightly offended by Rose dubious tone.
“Well, you never returned to your bed and err... you’re wearing nothing but Al’s jumper!” Rose whispers hurriedly. I roll my eyes, but can’t stop a blush from creeping up my cheeks as I pull the jumper over my head to show her I’m still wearing my usual nightwear underneath.
“I ran into him in the kitchen...” I start to explain.
“Was he stealing the chocolate cake Nana Molly made especially for Louis?” Rose cuts me off.
“No,” I say immediately, making the mistake of breaking eye contact with the redhead. She squints her eyes sceptically and opens her mouth to protest. “Rose, focus!”
“Yes, okay! So, you had a romantic midnight rendezvous with Al. He gave you his jumper, and you two had a gloriously hot snogging s– ?” She is wiggling her eyebrows at me.
“Rose! Get your mind out of the gutter!” I cut her off, feeling my face burn. I wish.
“Okay, okay! So, what? You had a little nocturnal stroll together underneath a beautiful starlit sky and then watched the sun rise, all the while confessing your undying love for each other?” She says sarcastically.
“You should really stop reading those muggle romance novels,” I comment. Rose nods.
“But seriously, why is my aunt going to kill you?” Rose asks soberly. I sigh and close my eyes.
“She found me in Louis’ bed,” I murmur.
“What? Louis?” Rose says incredulously. “Why Louis? I’d have thought Albus...”
“Yes, we’ve established that,” I cut her off quickly. “Yes, I’m in love with Albus. Yes, I slept in Louis’ bed. Yes, after 4 years of only friendship, we are still just friends. Yes, your Aunt Fleur thinks I’ve just smooched with her only son. Yes, even your Uncle Bill thinks something must’ve happened.”
Rose’s stare suddenly turns very intense. Her eyes are still looking straight at me, but I can’t decide whether she’s really seeing me, or just staring (as crazy people like her tend to do at times).
“Rose!” I snap my fingers in front of her face when I start to get a little scared. “I need to know if you’re on my side. ‘Cause if I don’t have your genius to protect me against your family’s mad temper then I think I’m going to have to make that window behind you my exit.”
“You’re in love with him?” She whispers, ignoring my frantic behaviour.
That’s what she got out of all that? YES, I DESPERATELY want Albus Severus Potter!
“Eh – what? That is important, how? I thought you knew...” I frown, truly starting to question Rose’s sanity. And that’s saying something because I’ve been sharing a dorm with this nutty redhead for five whole years – trust me, I’ve seen ALL kinds of crazy.
“I knew you liked him. But love him,” Rose breathes, raising her eyebrows at me. I panick.
“No! Nobody said anything about love!” I splutter, trying to act casual.
“You just did...” Rose deadpans. I snort as if that statement is just plain ridiculous.
“Well, there’s a difference, isn’t there? I said in love, that’s the falling, you know, the butterflies. People fall in and out of love all the time. We’re not talking about real “love” here. I mean, that’s for, like... married people. The ones that grow old and ugly and yet still smile when they wake up next to each other even though the other person’s breath smells like a dead racoon...” I let out another incredulous laugh, while my hands move about frantically. I fold them together and put them in my lap gently, trying to calm down before I look up at Rose.
She’s smiling, and it isn’t her good smile. It’s that smile that Lily also often wears. The one that says: I’m going to do you this huge favour because I’m such a good friend and although you’ll probably hate me for it, I’ll do it anyway because it’s for your own good.
“You want to smell Al’s dead racoon breath,” Rose coos as if that’s the sweetest thing she has ever heard. I cringe.
Now that thought is going to haunt me every time I think of Al’s breath, which happens more often than one would expect, I must admit. Just think about it: every time I look at his face, my eyes wander off to his lips, which I would so like to taste... his mouth that opens just a little bit as he moves closer to me... feeling the heat creep up my body while my eyes slowly start to close... the sweet taste of adrenaline on the tip of my tongue as I take in my last breath before my air supply will be cut off by Albus’ lips...
...and WHAM! The smell of a dead racoon. Lovely.
“I’ll help you,” Rose squeaks suddenly, surprisingly loud after our whispered conversation.
However jumpy she makes me right now, I still let out a breath of relief because if I have Rose on my side, I can face any and all of the Weasley parents –apart from Nana Molly maybe. The thing with this family is that everyone has a temper, which results in a lot of yelling and cursing. To an outsider, their arguments seem very serious and frightening, but all the family members are so used to the shouting that it doesn’t really mean anything anymore. You see, when a Weasley yells at you it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re angry ... They might be a bit upset, annoyed, frustrated or even just bored.
In this family all these kind of ‘innocent’ arguments are the same; there’s a lot of yelling, a lot of accusations and a lot of fingers pointed at each other, but in the end they don’t hold grudges.
The problem is that it scares the hell out of me. I’m not a brave person –though I am a Gryffindor... but I’m seriously starting to believe the sorting hat has gone senile. I mean c’mon, he must be like... How old could he be? No idea. But definitely losing it!
As I’m pondering this, Rose has gotten up from the bed and is practically skipping through the room. I realise she has started to rummage through both our bags, holding up clothes to see if they fit together or not. I frown.
I already know what I’m going to wear. I don’t need help dressing!
“Wear something red. Al loves red,” Rose mutters as she keeps looking for more clothes, now going through Lily and Lucy’s things as well. “Or maybe that’ll just make him think of you as family.”
“Rose,” I sigh, closing my eyes dejectedly. She ignores me. I try to make it sound more threatening. “Rose?”
“What are you doing?”
“I’m helping you. Trust me, always start with the look: capture his attention. I mean, he’s known you for years but you need to make him see you again, in a new light. Try to make a new first impression and blow him away,” Rose explains as she’s now darting in and out of the humongous closet that belongs to Dominique.
“I don’t want your help with Albus. I want your help with Louis’ mom,” I say exasperatedly. It’s like talking to a freaking wall!
“Oh, come on! You’re Louis’ best friend. Fleur loves you; it’s just that she likes to baby him sometimes,” Rose brushes off my comment. “And believe me, Ni, when I tell you that you do need my help.”
She lifts up the pile of clothes that I left at the foot of my bed after taking them off last night. It’s a mass of beige and brown.
“What do you mean by that?” I ask, offended.
“A bit of colour wouldn’t hurt. Look outside. Haven’t you noticed it’s summer?” Rose says fiercely, putting a neatly folded pile of clothes in front of me. I saw a lot of red and yellow and... pink, seriously?
“What about these?” I ask putting up a pair of brown shorts I was wearing the day before. “They’re short and summery and... short.”
“Okay, they’re fine. Al likes brown. And this,” she says decisively, tossing me a slightly faded yellow T-shirt before disappearing into the bathroom, not giving me time to respond to the Al-comment.
That much effort for 2 pieces of clothing? Right.
When we finally leave the room and start descending the stairs –Rose going first– I hear the noisy chatter of teenagers and clatter of plates coming from the kitchen. It seems as if everyone’s up. I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or not; it means there’ll be no awkward silence between me and Fleur but it also means a lot of witnesses if she decides to put me on the spot.
As we enter the kitchen, Fleur looks up at me and I grimace guiltily, expecting a scowl but she looks almost... relieved?
“Oh girls, please help me with these two, will you? I’m trying to cook here,” She sighs before turning back to her stove.
She is standing next to Louis and Albus, holding both their wands out of their reach. Ignoring Fleur, the two boys continued to glare at each other. In between them on the kitchen table stands Louis’ special birthday cake which is missing a pretty large chunk. I sigh.
I step forward and claim a place at the wooden table before putting my hand on Louis’ arm endearingly.
“Hey Lu, I hope you don’t mind but I had a bit of your cake last night,” I say lightly. The two boys turn their surprised eyes to me. “I really needed some comfort food, you know... nightmares.”
Louis’ wide eyes flit from me to the chocolate cake to Albus’ smug grin and back to me. His eyes soften and with a defeated sigh he slides into the chair next to me. Louis is never angry with me. I’m telling you, the kid is too good for me.
“No, it’s alright. You can have it,” he says, pushing the plate toward me. I chuckle as I see Albus’ smug smile turn into an incredulous grimace.
“What? She can have it all? That’s so unfair!” He whinges. I raise one eyebrow at him sceptically. I just lied to my best friend for him and he still doesn’t want to share his precious cake? Greedy little git, isn’t he? It’s kind of cute...
Louis shrugs and I peck him on the cheek gratefully.
“Thanks. You’re the best!” I say happily, before I notice Fleur narrowed eyes scrutinizing me. “Friend! You’re the best friend any girl could wish for – or boy! Just in general, Louis, the grrreeat friend!”
Albus smothers his laughter behind his hand as Fleur turns back to her scrambled eggs. I quickly grab the mug that stands in front of me just so I can bury my face into it. Ugh, coffee.
“I would lay off the caffeine, grrreat friend,” Louis whispers teasingly, taking back his mug from me and drinking from it. “What’s going on?”
I just shake my head and stare down at my plate, avoiding the weird looks I’m getting from the people around me, and start attacking Nana Molly’s cake.
Merlin, it is good! No wonder Albus is jealous. Not that he has any right to be, he has gotten his share last night.
Breakfast is served and all the teenagers start fighting each other again, trying to get to the pancakes first. I guess they are all a bit gluttonous.
I wait until Rose is finished and go back upstairs with her to clean up Dom’s room. My clothes are assembled and stuffed into my bag right before Dominique Weasley walks in, looking tired but beautiful none the less –I mean seriously, how am I supposed to impress Al when his cousins all look like runway models?
You’re not supposed to impress him, remember? Right...
Dom flicks her wand once and the two extra mattresses next to her bed disappear. I am so looking forward to the day I can do magic whenever I want. Since my mother died, I’m the only one with a wand at home and let me tell you, when you’ve had things done around the house by magic for the bigger part of your life, it’s pretty difficult to suddenly have to do everything the muggle way.
Brushing my teeth mindlessly, Rose suddenly appears beside me, holding up Al’s green jumper and giving me an amused look in the mirror. I try to ignore her and continue to brush my teeth.
“Al probably wants it back,” she says impatiently. I shrug and Rose lets out an unsatisfied sigh. I succumb and spit into the sink.
“Then give it back to him?” I suggest. Rose still doesn’t look satisfied.
“You have to give it back,” Rose urges on, pushing the jumper into my hands. I sigh.
“Al’s not the grand gesture kind of guy. This is probably the most romantic thing he’s ever done for a girl!” She explains. “Go and show him you appreciated it!”
I wish I hadn’t seen her wiggling eyebrows after that sentence.
“He knows that, okay? Believe me, he knows,” I assure her, thinking of how he caught me smelling it last night. Merlin, I’m so obvious, aren’t I?
“How can I help you with Al if you won’t listen to my advice? You have to seek out one-on-one encounters in which you can show him how much you really like him.”
“I told you. I don’t need your help!” I retaliate. Rose gives me her sceptic look again. “Just don’t waste your time. Al and I are not going to happen, okay? Trust me!”
I push Al’s jumper back into Rose’s unwilling arms and turn to leave. Throwing a dirty look at Rose over my shoulder, I open the door and my face slams right into the naked chest of the person who’s standing on the landing, about to enter. I let out a low, unattractive grunt and stumbled back.
Rose giggles as I look up at Al’s face, which is far too close for me to be able to think straight. Our faces turn bright red around the same time, as I take in the fact that Albus is standing there wearing only his boxers and a towel draped over his left shoulder.
“You should put on some clothes,” Rose whispers before dropping Al’s jumper onto his outstretched arm that’s holding the door open. Rose flees from the room before either of us can respond and we jump apart.
“I’m sorry,” he mutter, holding his jumper up in front of his naked torso. “I thought you had left already. Louis went to look for you an hour ago.”
“Well, I– er, should go find him then,” I say awkwardly, shifting my weight from one foot onto the other.
Al shuffles out of the way, feeling very self-conscious. I try not to look at any part of his uncovered body as I walk past him.
“Niobe?” Al calls after me as I walk onto the landing. “Thanks for lying for me this morning. I really appreciated that.”
I only just refrain from cringing at his choice of words, and manage to smile back at him politely. I lean against the wall after he closes the door and I can hear him turn on the shower.
Could I be even more in love than yesterday? The promise to ‘not make him’ fall in love with me, has now somehow turned into ‘not let him’ fall in love with me. It seemed such an easy promise to keep, certainly on his part, because really, Albus has never been interested in me before.
Then why is there suddenly so much tension between us? Why am I suddenly seeing things that make me believe there might be something there after all? Or am I just reading into things too much after having the vision? Yeah, that’s probably it.
I sigh as I bang my head against the wall.
How is it fair that he has to die? He’s done nothing wrong and yet he has to be stripped from life, leaving his family behind in pain. Harry’s favourite boy, Harry who has suffered so much already, who has lost so many loved ones already. No, I can’t let this happen.
“Ni? Oh, there you are! Ready to go?” Louis asks with a bright smile. I smile back at my best friend and nod.
He picks up my bag after I put away my toothbrush and we head downstairs.
“Don’t mind the yelling. Teddy came back right when dad found the empty bottles from last night. I don’t know how but it has somehow turned into a fight between Teddy and Vic about the Auror department,” Louis explains as I start to hear Victoire’s shrill voice.
We use the fireplace in the kitchen to avoid the squabbling lovers –I say lovers because they are, they’re just in denial, like all potentials soulmates are before they marry and live happily after.
To live happily after. How much I have learned to appreciate sickening clichés like that.
“Are you okay?” Louis asks, frowning at me. I feel my mood drop as I get closer to leaving the Weasley house. “Do you want to talk about, you know, last night?”
I look him in the eye. His beautiful, light blue, greyish eyes that are always so full of joy and life. I’d hate to make them sad. I won’t. There is no reason to burden Louis with the load I am bearing. I have made my choice, and I just have to stick by it.
Albus cannot fall in love with me, and only I can make sure of that. No reason to get Louis involved.
“What’s wrong, Niobe?” He whispers.
“Nothing,” I reply decidedly, taking a handful of floo powder in my hand and stepping into the fire. “Leaky Cauldron.”
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