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 snapped open and despite their puffiness –because of the dried up tears— the sight before me was 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, an image that still lingered from the nightmare I had been having just a couple of seconds before.
Then the green eyes disappeared and I frowned a little, staring at the serene face of Albus Potter who lay two feet away on a mattress on the floor. Had I just imagined that or was he really awake? I continued to stare at him but he seemed sound asleep so I decided that my mind was 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 looked out of the window at the sky, so light blue that it was almost white.
Convinced that I was only imagining things I looked back at his face, only to be surprised again as his very awake eyes stared right back at me. My heart fluttered when he didn’t look away.
‘Good morning’ he mouthed, sending me his beautiful crooked smile. I smiled back at him, feeling my cheeks burn. My eyes seemed to be glued to his and though my mind was telling me to NOT HAVE SUCH INTENSE EYE CONTACT, I couldn’t tear them away.
Suddenly the bedroom door creaked open and both Albus and I closed our eyes quickly as someone tiptoed into the room.
Hadn’t I, just a couple of hours ago, sworn to myself that there was no way whatsoever Albus could fall in love with me? Then why was I flirting with him before the day had even begun?
He had been watching me sleep. I tried to ignore this thought but a small, satisfied smile crept onto my face. It wasn’t because we weren’t allowed to be together that I couldn’t enjoy little things like that, was it?
I noticed the room had gone silent once again and opened one eye carefully. To my surprise, Albus’ eyes were wide open again but they weren’t looking at me anymore. I followed his gaze and breathed in sharply.
In between me and Albus stood 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 spluttered, trying to work my way out from under Louis’ arm but this only stirred him in his sleep, making his grip on me even tighter while he inhaled deeply, his face buried in my hair.
Fleur Weasley’s eyebrows disappeared behind her perfect blonde hair and I let out a desperate whimper, digging my nails into Louis’ arm so he would wake up. He grunted. Damn you, Weasley.
“Louis!” She hissed as she saw my failed attempts at escaping from Louis’ grip.
“Mum, g’way,” Louis grumbled, finally lifting his arm from around me so he could rub his tired eyes. I jumped up and tried to get passed Mrs. Weasley without getting within arm’s length. As I held up my arms defensively and mumbled something about ‘just being friends’ and ‘bad nightmares’, I hurried out of the room before anyone of Louis’ other roommates woke up.
On the landing, I almost ran right into Bill Weasley. Great!
After a moment of surprise, he looked over my head at the room I had just exited. Realising that was his son’s room, he sent me a mischievous wink and let me pass, chuckling cheekily. Damn you, Weasleys.
Completely flustered, I rushed back into Dom’s room where Rose, Lily and Lucy were all awake but still in their beds. They looked at me expectantly.
“Where the hell have you been?” Rose asked impatiently.
“Is that Al’s jumper?” Lily asked at almost the same time.
Lucy just giggled.
I sighed and ignored 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 started gathering whatever belonged to me and stuffing it in my bag.
“Where’s the fire?” Rose asked, amused now.
“Your aunt is going to kill me,” I muttered as I continued to run around the room.
“Aunt Fleur is back?” Lily yelled excitedly, jumping out of her bed. “Oh finally, breakfast! I’m starving. Come on, Luce.”
Lucy wanted to protest but Lily threw her one pleading look and the two fourteen year olds left the room. Lucy was far too mellow for someone as conniving as Lily.
“Ni?” Rose asked gravely as she slowly got out of her bed. “Niobe! Talk to me.”
I stopped in my tracks as I heard Rose use her stern voice. God, that voice scares me.
“What have you been doing all night?” She asked, pulling me onto her bed to talk.
“What d’you mean?” I asked, slightly offended by Rose dubious tone.
“Well, you never returned to your bed and err... you’re wearing nothing but Al’s jumper!” Rose whispered hurriedly. I rolled my eyes, but couldn’t stop a blush from creeping up my cheeks as I pulled the jumper over my head to show her I was still wearing my usual nightwear underneath.
“I ran into him in the kitchen...” I started to explain.
“Was he stealing the chocolate cake Nana Molly made especially for Louis?” Rose cut me off.
“No,” I said immediately, making the mistake of breaking eye contact with the redhead. She squinted her eyes sceptically and opened 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 was 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 said sarcastically.
“You should really stop reading those muggle romance novels,” I commented. Rose nodded.
“But seriously, why is my aunt going to kill you?” Rose asked soberly. I sighed and closed my eyes.
“She found me in Louis’ bed,” I murmured.
“What? Louis?” Rose said 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 turned very intense. Her eyes were still looking right at me, but I couldn’t decide whether she was really seeing me, or just staring (as crazy people like her tend to do at times).
“Rose!” I snapped my fingers in front of her face when I started 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 than I think I’m going to have to make that window behind you my exit.”
“You’re in love with him?” She whispered, 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 frowned, truly starting to question Rose’s sanity. And that’s saying something because I’ve been sharing a dorm with this nutty redhead for 5 whole years – trust me, I’ve seen ALL kinds of crazy.
“I knew you liked him. But love him,” Rose breathed, raising her eyebrows at me. I panicked.
“No! Nobody said anything about love!” I spluttered, trying to act casual.
“You just did...” Rose deadpanned. I snorted as if that statement was 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 moved about frantically. I folded them together and put them in my lap gently, trying to calm down before I looked up at Rose.
She was smiling, and it wasn’t her good smile. It was that smile that Lily also often wore. The one that said: 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 cooed as if that was the sweetest thing she had ever heard. I cringed.
Now that thought was going to haunt me every time I thought of Al’s breath, which happened 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 that 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 squeaked suddenly, surprisingly loud after our whispered conversation.
However jumpy she made me at the moment, I let out a breath of relief. If I had Rose on my side, I could face any and all of the Weasley parents –apart from Nana Molly maybe. The thing with this family was that everyone had a temper, which resulted in a lot of yelling and cursing. To an outsider, their arguments seemed very serious and frightening, but all the family members were so used to the shouting that it didn’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 were the same; there was a lot of yelling, a lot of accusations and a lot of fingers pointed at each other, but in the end they didn’t hold grudges.
The problem was that it scared 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 was pondering this, Rose had got up from the bed and practically skipped through the room. I realised she had started to rummage through both our bags, holding up clothes to see if they fit together or not. I frowned.
I already knew what I was going to wear. I didn’t need help dressing!
“Wear something red. Al loves red,” Rose muttered as she kept 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 sighed, closing my eyes dejectedly. She ignored me. I tried 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 explained as she now flitted in and out of the humongous closet that belonged to Dominique.
“I don’t want your help with Albus. I want your help with Louis’ mom,” I said exasperatedly. It was 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 brushed off my comment. “And believe me, Ni, when I tell you that you do need my help.”
She lifted up the pile of clothes that I had left at the foot of my bed after taking them off last night. It was a mass of beige and brown.
“What do you mean by that?” I asked, offended.
“A bit of colour wouldn’t hurt. Look outside. Haven’t you noticed it’s summer?” Rose said 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 asked putting up a pair of brown shorts that I had also been wearing the day before. “They’re short and summery and... short.”
“Okay, they’re fine. Al likes brown. And this,” she said 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 left the room and started descending the stairs –Rose going first– I could hear the noisy chatter of teenagers and clatter of plates coming from the kitchen. It seemed like everyone was up. I didn’t know whether that was a good thing or not; it meant there would be no awkward silence between me and Fleur but it also meant a lot of witnesses if she decided to put me on the spot.
As we entered the kitchen, Fleur looked up at me and I grimaced guiltily, expecting a scowl but she looked almost... relieved?
“Oh girls, please help me with these two, will you? I’m trying to cook here,” She sighed before turning back to her stove.
She had been 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 stood Louis’ special birthday cake which was missing a pretty large chunk. I sighed.
I stepped forward and claimed 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 said lightly. The two boys turned their surprised eyes to me. “I really needed some comfort food, you know... nightmares.”
Louis’ wide eyes flitted from me to the chocolate cake to Albus’ smug grin and back to me. His eyes softened and with a defeated sigh he slid into the chair next to me. Louis could never be angry with me. I’m telling you, the kid is too good for me.
“No, it’s alright. You can have it,” he said, pushing the plate toward me. I chuckled as I saw Albus’ smug smile turn into an incredulous grimace.
“What? She can have it all? That’s so unfair!” He whinged. I raised one eyebrow at him sceptically. I had just lied to my best friend for him and he still didn’t want to share his precious cake? Greedy little git, isn’t he? It’s kind of cute...
Louis shrugged and I pecked him on the cheek gratefully.
“Thanks. You’re the best!” I said happily, before I saw 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 smothered his laughter behind his hand as Fleur turned back to her scrambled eggs. I grabbed the mug that stood in front of me just so I could bury my face into it. Ugh, coffee.
“I would lay off the caffeine, grrreat friend,” Louis whispered teasingly, taking back his mug from me and drinking from it. “What’s going on?”
I just shook my head and stared down at my plate, avoiding the weird looks I got from all the other family members, and started attacking Nana Molly’s cake.
Merlin, it was good! No wonder Albus was jealous. Not that he had any right to be, he had gotten his share last night.
Breakfast was served and all the teenagers started fighting each other again, trying to get to the pancakes first. I guess they were all a bit gluttonous.
I waited until Rose was finished and went back upstairs with her to clean up Dom’s room. My clothes were assemble and stuffed into my bag right before Dominique Weasley walked in, looking tired but beautiful none the less –I mean seriously, how was I supposed to impress Al when his cousins all looked like runway models?
You’re not supposed to impress him, remember? Right...
Dom flicked her wand once and the two extra mattresses next to her bed disappeared. I so looked forward to the day I could do magic whenever I wanted. Since my mother died, I was 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 appeared beside me, holding up Al’s green jumper and giving me an amused look in the mirror. I tried to ignore her and continued to brush my teeth.
“Al probably wants it back,” she said impatiently. I shrugged and Rose let out an unsatisfied sigh. I succumbed and spit into the sink.
“Then give it back to him?” I suggested. Rose still didn’t look satisfied.
“You have to give it back,” Rose urged on, pushing the jumper into my hands. I sighed.
“Al’s not the grand gesture kind of guy. This is probably the most romantic thing he’s ever done for a girl!” She explained. “Go and show him you appreciated it!”
I wished I hadn’t seen her wiggling eyebrows after that sentence.
“He knows that, okay? Believe me, he knows,” I assured her, thinking of how he had 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 retaliated. Rose gave me her sceptic look again. “Just don’t waste your time. Al and I are not going to happen, okay? Trust me!”
I pushed Al’s jumper back into Rose’s unwilling arms and turned to leave. Throwing a dirty look at Rose over my shoulder, I opened the door and my face slammed right into the naked chest of the person who was standing on the landing, about to enter. I let out a low, unattractive grunt and stumbled back.
Rose giggled as I looked up at Al’s face, which was far too close for me to be able to think straight. Our faces turned bright red around the same time, as I took in the fact that Albus was standing there wearing only his boxers and a towel draped over his left shoulder.
“You should put on some clothes,” Rose whispered before dropping Al’s jumper onto his outstretched arm that was holding the door open. Rose fled from the room before either of us could respond and we jumped apart.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered, 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 said awkwardly, shifting my weight from one foot onto the other.
Al shuffled out of the way, feeling very self-conscious. I tried not to look at any part of his uncovered body as I walked past him.
“Niobe?” Al called after me as I walked onto the landing. “Thanks for lying for me this morning. I really appreciated that.”
I did a mental facepalm at his choice of words while smiling back at him politely. I leaned against the wall after he closed the door and I could hear him turn on the shower.
Could I have been even more in love than the day before? The promise to ‘not make him’ fall in love with me, had now somehow turned into ‘not let him’ fall in love with me. It had seemed such an easy promise to keep, certainly on his part, because really, Albus had never been interested in me before.
Then why was there suddenly so much tension between us? Why was I suddenly seeing things that made me believe there might be something there after all? Or was I just reading into things too much after having the vision? Yeah, that was probably it.
I sighed as I banged my head against the wall.
How was it fair that he had to die? He did nothing wrong and yet he had to be stripped from life, leaving his family behind in pain. Harry’s favourite boy, Harry who had suffered so much already, who had lost so many loved ones already. No, I couldn’t let this happen.
“Ni? Oh, there you are! Ready to go?” Louis asked with a bright smile. I smiled back at my best friend and nodded.
He picked up my bag after I had put away my toothbrush and we headed 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 explained as I started to hear Victoire’s shrill voice.
We used 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 had learned to appreciate sickening clichés like that.
“Are you okay?” Louis asked, frowning at me. I could feel my mood drop as I got closer to leaving the Weasley house. “Do you want to talk about, you know, last night?”
I looked him in the eye. His beautiful, light blue, greyish eyes that were always so full of joy and life. I hated it to make them sad. I wouldn’t. There was no reason to burden Louis with the load I was bearing. I had made my choice, and I just had to stick by it.
Albus would not fall in love with me, and only I could make sure of that. No reason to get Louis involved.
“What’s wrong, Niobe?” He whispered.
“Nothing,” I replied decidedly, taking a handful of floo powder in my hand and stepping into the fire. “Leaky Cauldron.”
A/N: That was quick! It can only go downhill from here... Yeah, I'm an optimist. :)
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