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Beauty Queen by explosion
Chapter 21 : Honesty
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 11


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Disclaimer: Anything you recognize is not mine.



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It was Christmas day. The Hogwarts students had been dismissed for winter break two days ago, and nobody besides Molly had made a move to see me. Not that I expected them to. Or hoped.

Alright, maybe I’d hoped just a little. But it was an irrational hope. Because I had already had my one visitor, and I knew that there was nothing left for anyone to say to me anymore.

I guess I had just hoped that Dom would’ve stopped by. She was still my best friend, after all. But I knew she was most definitely cross with me. I had made her many promises, and I had broken them all.

“So, what do you think?” my mum asked, leaning in and looking at me expectantly. I blinked a couple of times, broken out of my reverie. I then looked down at the swishy green dress, which was the exact same color as my eyes, before looking back up at my mum and forcing a smile. Forced smiles were my default setting these days.

“It’s great,” I responded, feigning excitement. My mum seemed to sense my false tone, and I noticed her hopeful expression sink. This made me feel terrible.

“I thought it’d bring out your eyes,” my mum offered, her brown eyes unsure.

It was time for me to do damage control.

“Mum, I love it,” I said again, trying to sound as sincere as possible. “Really.”

My mum seemed appeased by that. I felt myself let out a relieved sigh. It took a lot more to get her to be satisfied lately. She was still very worried about my personality shift. I had caught her checking up on me on more than one occasion, a tiny frown pinched on her forehead every time she did so.

“And thank you, Winston,” I said, turning to Winston who was sitting on the armchair next to the one my mum was sitting on. “Your gift was very—erm— thoughtful.”

Winston had given me a savings bond. I wasn’t surprised, because he did work for Gringotts, but it had been a very odd gift. Still, I wasn’t going to be rude and point that out. Most of my mum’s husbands never even gave me a gift for Christmas. Most of them didn’t even last until then.

“I’m glad you like it, kiddo,” Winston responded, nodding his head appreciatively. “I had to do some finagling, but I got you some of the best interest rates this side of the Atlantic.”

I nodded. My mum beamed at Winston. For some reason, despite the fact that normally she would be tired of her new husband by now, she seemed as in love with him as ever. Who would’ve thought someone as boring as Winston would be the one to captivate her attention the longest?

“They’re talking about promoting Winston to supervisor,” My mum said to me, as though it was a big secret even though she’d already mentioned this about a million times. “So during New Years Eve we have to make sure to act our best so that his bosses don’t change their mind.”

Ah yes, the New Years Eve party. Winston’s bosses were throwing one for all of their employees and family. It was supposed to be a way to talk in a relaxed setting about bonuses and promotions. Winston had asked my mum and me if we wouldn’t mind going, and my mum had jumped at the chance. She was great at schmoozing people (it was in her DNA I’m pretty sure) and she still wanted to try and smooth things over with the people on the Gringott’s board who probably thought I was a flake. I wasn’t excited to attend the party, but I had nothing else to do and I knew it’d make my mum happier.

“Right well, thank you both again for your gifts,” I said, standing up from my position on the floor, right next to our tree. The tree was covered in all white ornaments, because my mum had considered it classier than having a tree covered with ‘a mish mosh of colors’. Secretly I found the all white tree a bit boring and impersonal.

“You’re leaving?” my mum asked, with a frown. “Don’t you want to stay and watch the yule log together?”

The yule log channel was my mum’s favorite thing about Christmas. I didn’t know why, and I didn’t ask. All I knew was that every Christmas for as long as I can remember, my mum would always grab a cup of eggnog and curl up on the couch to watch the yule log. I normally sat with her, despite the fact that I found watching a log burn boring, just to listen to her softly humming along to the music. There was something about how content and relaxed my mum was that made her seem oddly human to me in those moments.

“I will later,” I assured. “I’m just going to rest for a bit and then I’ll be back down. Promise.”

I walked over to my mum and gave her a quick kiss on the forehead. I then gave Winston a nod, and after wishing them another ‘Happy Christmas’ I walked upstairs to my room.

However as soon as I opened the door to my room, I had a feeling that something was wrong. Well… wrong in the sense that something was different or not the way it was supposed to be. I frowned and looked around the room, searching for the disturbance.

My eyes finally rested on the armchair in the corner of my room, which now had an oddly shaped package leaning against it. I walked towards it, my eyebrows knitted together in confusion.

There wasn’t a note. But as soon as I tore open the package, I didn’t need one. Once I opened it, I knew who it was from.

I inspected the broom carefully. The mahogany handle was extra shiny and the birch twigs at the end were trimmed into a neat line. In glittery gold lettering on the side of the broom was the word Firebolt.

I already knew that Firebolt’s were the fastest and the most expensive of brooms. So the fact that this had been given to me, even after I had done nothing to deserve this, made a lump form in my throat.

I just didn’t understand why. Why was he still trying to do things for me?

I bit my lip and blinked a couple of times. Then, I inhaled a breath and grabbed the broom, leaving my room and walking down the stairs. The sound of the yule log music danced its way into my ears. Frosty the Snowman was playing.

“Hey mum, I’m going to go out back for a little,” I called from the kitchen, loud enough so she could hear me over the music. I grabbed my jacket off of the hook by the sliding glass door that led into the backyard and put it on, not waiting for a response.

“What? Why?” My mum called back, alarm in her voice. “Nata it’s freezing out! There’s snow everywhere.”

I heard the sound of her getting up from the couch she was sitting on and quickly opened the sliding door.

“I know, it’s fine I have a jacket,” I responded, before shutting the door behind me as I hurried outside. I was immediately hit with a cold gust of air and shivered. I didn’t let this deter me though, and before my mum could try to stop me I was kicking off the ground and into the sky.

I had forgotten how good it felt to fly. The wind whipping through my air, the jarring sense of weightlessness, the feeling of control I had because only I could dictate where to go. Even though my mum was right and it was freezing out (my teeth were chattering and my fingers were already starting to feel numb), I felt amazing. Better than I’d felt in a long time.

And for the first time in a long time, I felt a genuine smile pulling at my lips.

*

Every free moment I had, I now spent in the backyard flying.

My mum hated it, at first. As soon as she’d caught me flying, she had demanded to know where I’d gotten the broom (I told her it was from Dom, because that answer was easier), told me flying outside in this weather was going to get me sick (It hadn’t… yet), and explained to me that it was very improper for a girl to spend all her time flying (sports were supposed to be for guys, in her opinion).

For once, I hadn’t listened to my mum. I figured this was the one thing I had left that I could call mine. And over the past week my mum actually seemed to be warming up to the idea. Secretly, I think she was just happy I no longer spent all of my time in my room.

“Nata, we’re leaving in a half hour!” my mum called, leaning her head out of the sliding glass dooe so that I could hear her. “You need to get dressed!”

I sighed, slowly descending from my position in the sky and landing softly on the ground. I made the slow trek inside, shaking my broom out before entering, and was soon eveloped by the warmth of the house. I leant my broom against the side of the wall by the door (another thing that bugged my mum, it ruined the aestetic appeal of the kitchen) and hung my jacket up. My nose and cheeks started tingling as they began to warm up.

“Hurry up and get ready, honey,” my mum said. She was standing in the kitchen with her arms crossed, already dressed to the nines. “I can’t believe you flew this long. It’s New Years Eve. Don’t you want a break?”

I didn’t say anything in response to my mum and instead brushed past her and up to my room. I got dressed quickly, pulling on the green dress that my mum had gotten me for Christmas in an effort to appease her. I had to admit that it really did bring out my eyes. After that, I cast some spells to put up my hair, and then I applied a light layer of makeup.

As I began to walk downstairs, I heard a knock on the front door. My mum and Winston were in the sitting room by the fireplace, which was a ways away from the front door, so my mum called out, “Nata can you get that?”

I obliged, curious to see who was knocking on our door on New Years Eve. We rarely had visitors. I guess I almost should’ve expected that when I opened the door, I’d come face to face with Dom, Rose, and Molly.

My eyes widened, and my mouth dropped open in surprise as I stared at the three of them. I tried to speak, but I couldn’t figure out anything to say. I didn’t need to either, because Molly was always the one to break the silences.

“You took too long,” Molly stated simply, as though this explained why they were here, “so I needed to bring reinforcements. Also, why do you look like you’re going to a wedding?”

Then, she pushed past me and into my house. I came to the realization that out of the two times Molly had come over, she hadn’t been invited either time. Dom entered the house right after Molly, and Rose brought up the rear, until finally the three of them were all standing around me in the foyer of the house.

This was going to be interesting to try and explain.

“What— why— I thought-” I began to sputter but I was cut off.

“We’re kidnapping you,” Dom stated simply, pushing her silvery hair over to one shoulder. “And nothing you say can change our minds.”

“Kidnapping me?” I asked, as though it was the most ludicrous idea I’d ever heard. And it was. It suddenly occurred to me that this must have been Dom’s idea. She always tended to lean towards the theatrical side of things. “You can’t kidnap me. I’m about to leave. Winston needs us to go to a New Years Eve party with him for his work.”

“Too bad, we’re kidnapping you anyway,” Molly stated, grabbing me by the arm. I tried to pull my arm away from her, but then Dom and Rose started to help Molly by grabbing my other arm. I tried to shake them off of me, but my struggles were futile considering I had three determined (and slightly crazy) girls making it their mission to not let me go. Just as Molly was about to spin around and probably sidelong apparate me to Merlin-knows-where, I was saved. Sort of.

“Nata, who’s at the door?” my mother’s voice called, carrying out over the hallway. I then heard the unmistakeable clacking of her shoes as she began to walk out of the sitting room, and soon enough she was standing in the foyer, Winston following close behind. She took one look at the scene in front of her, and her mouth dropped open in an ‘o’.

I felt like now was not the time to mention that that had been the same reaction I’d had when I’d seen these three at the door.

Molly quickly let go. So did Dom and Rose. I think they felt sufficiently awkward. I had warned them they couldn’t kidnap me.

“Hello, Mrs. Mackenroe,” Dom began, because she was the only one that had actually met my mum before (well Molly had, but I still didn’t think it counted). “We’re just here to pick up Natasha. She’s going to spend New Years Eve with us.”

With that, Dom linked her arm through mine. I glared at her and tried to shake her off.

My mum pursed her lips. Winston looked like he wanted to disappear from the situation. Maybe he was more intuitive than I’d thought. “Nata, I told you to tell me the next time you planned on having company over.”

“I’m sor—”

“It’s not her fault,” Rose said, coming to my defense. I could tell that, unlike the other two, she actually felt semi-bad about coming here unannounced. “We wanted to surprise Tash since she’s leaving next week. We thought it would be like a goodbye hang out.”

My mum did not seem placated by this. I knew I was definitely going to get repremanded as soon as they left.

“I’m sorry, but Natasha is otherwise engaged,” my mum responded in a clipped tone. She then gave me a knowing look. “Now come on, we need to be leaving.”

I made a move to walk over to my mother, right as Winston decided to speak.

“Miranda, it’s okay if Natasha wants to see her friends,” he said, putting a hand on my mum’s shoulder. “It’s not required that she go.”

“But she is going,” my mother responded. I would’ve found it odd that they were speaking about me as though I wasn’t there, if it weren’t for the fact that their conversation was basically determining how my night would go. “She made a commitment. She needs to honor it.”

“Oh, just let her have fun,” Winston tried again, giving her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “I’m sure she doesn’t want to hang out with a bunch of old bankers anyway.”

“Winston, she is coming!” my mother snapped. “Don’t tell me how to parent my child.”

I noticed Winston recoil at this. I guess she’d hit him with the ‘my child’ card to make it clear to him that he had no say in my parenting. I found myself feeling bad for him. Mostly because the reason he was getting yelled at was because of me.

“Now, Natasha,” my mum continued, reaching a hand out to urge me towards her. The foyer was now deadly silent, nobody daring to speak. “It’s time to leave.”

I looked back at Rose, Dom, and Molly and muttered an apology to them, before I stepped away and joined my mother. Just as we were about to leave the room to go to the fireplace, there was another outburst.

“But she can’t go!” Dom exclaimed, clearly deciding she needed to take control of the situation. This caused my mum and Winston to turn around in shock. I cringed. Dom really had a flare for the dramatics. “What if… What if we said this was in the name of love?”

Molly let out a gag at this. Rose elbowed her in the side. I felt my face heat up and found myself fascinated with the floor.

“Love?” My mother asked, tilting her head to the side. She seemed skeptical. I didn’t blame her.

“Yes,” Dom said, nodding her head like an overzealous chipmunk. “True love. The stuff they write about in story books.”

I cringed again. Dom was definitely overexaggerating things.

“What Dom means to say,” Rose began, deciding that Dom was not the best person to articulate their thoughts. “Is that we would really like it if you would let Natasha come with us. Please.”

My mum looked at me. I avoided eye contact. “Natasha, what are they talking about?”

“Nothing,” I responded quickly. I definitely didn’t want to explain any of this to her. “It’s not important.”

“Not important?” Molly asked, looking at me incredulously. I could tell by her tone that my words had offended her, and I knew that offending Molly could not lead to anything good. I braced myself. “So you’re trying to say that the one thing that’s made you happy throughout your shitshow of a life is not important?”

My mum was most definitely taken aback by Molly’s tone and language. Too taken aback to speak. I noticed Dom and Rose look at Molly as though she was not helping the situation, and they were right. She wasn’t.

“My life is fine,” I responded calmly, because nobody else was saying anything. Besides, Molly’s words had been directed at me. I looked at my mum who still seemed stunned. “We should go.”

“For the love of Merlin, Tash, you’re life is not fine!” Molly exclaimed, walking up to me with an expression of pure anger and frustration. She pointed at me threateningly, and I hated to admit it but I was slightly terrified. “You are miserable, and you know it!”

“Molly, maybe you should calm down,” Rose warned.

I tried to back away, but Molly wouldn’t have it. She grabbed me by the shoulders and started to shake me. “Wake UP Natasha! You hate your life! You hate pageanting! All you do is complain about how much it sucks and how you have no freedom to do what you want and how controlling your mum is! But you want to know something? This is all! Your! Fault!”

Molly stopped shaking me once she was done speaking, and I tried to regain my composure while the entire room remained eerily silent. Everyone was weighing over Molly’s words, silence veiling the place in a foggy blanket.

“Natasha… you don’t like pageanting?” My mum finally asked, her voice very small. I could tell she had wanted to ask me about the other thing Molly had mentioned, but she didn’t have the heart to.

I opened my mouth. Then I closed it. Then I opened it again.

“She hates it,” Dom said quietly. She sent me an apologetic look “She’s wanted to quit for ages.”

My mum looked at me again, and I finally met her eyes. By the hurt etched across my mother’s face, I knew the one thing I had been trying to prevent from happening, happened. I had tried for so long to keep this secret from her, but now here it was coming out. I guess all of my efforts had been for nothing.

“Mum, I—” I began to say, but my mother cut me off.

“You should go.” She didn’t say it in a mean way. She said it in a sad way. Like she had been holding onto me for so long, but she finally realized she had to let me go.

“But—”

“Go,” my mother said again, with more power behind it. Then she grabbed Winston’s hand and forced a smile at him. “Come on, we’re going to be late.”

I then watched as my mother and Winston left the foyer to head back to the sitting room, and soon enough I heard the wooshing of floo powder as they flooed to Winston’s work party.

There was a long silence as I let everything that had just happened seep in.

“I can’t believe you guys just did that,” I said finally, still watching the now empty space my mother and Winston had been standing in previously.

“I can,” Molly stated unabashedly. At least Dom and Rose had the decency to look guilty. “Someone had to say it, and you weren’t about to. Now come on, we have to go.”

“But I need to talk to my mum,” I began, suddenly feeling the panic set in. “Didn’t you see how hurt she was? I need to make sure everything’s okay!”

“You can do that later,” Molly said, grabbing my hand as she began to spin around on the spot. Rose also began to spin around to apparate, her arm linked with Dom’s. I guess Rose had finally gotten her apparation license while I was gone. It’s funny how much you could miss in a couple of months. “Right now, we have to find James.”

I didn’t have time to protest. I didn’t even know if I wanted to. The only thing I could think as we apparated away was that maybe Molly was right. Maybe this was all my fault.

*

If I had thought that the house my mum and Winston lived in was big, it was nothing compared to the house that we were now in front of. Because this house was massive. So massive in fact, that the idea of finding James inside of it seemed like one big joke.

“Fuck,” Molly said, once we were standing on the front steps. She was looking me up and down as she spoke. “I forgot how awful you look. You can’t talk to James looking like that.”

I crossed my arms defensively. I didn’t think I looked bad per se. I just happened to look like I was about to go to a New Years Eve party hosted by bankers. Which was what I was supposed to be doing.

“Molly, don’t be rude,” Rose chastised. “She looks fine.”

“She looks like she’s a forty year old office worker.”

“Maybe you should let your hair down, Tash,” Dom stated, tapping her chin as she inspected me, clearly trying to fix the problem Molly had pointed out. “You look too done up.”

“Well that’s because I’m supposed to be somewhere else,” I spat back at her. I instantly regretted being so childish, but I couldn’t help but feel bitter. They had basically just ruined my relationship with my mum, and now they expected me to listen to them?

“Natasha, don’t be difficult,” Rose said, giving me a serious look. I had to hide my shock. Rose never chastised me.

“I’m not being difficult,” I argued. “And even if I was I have a reason to be. You guys totally ambushed me!”

“Well that’s not our fault,” Molly commented. “If you had listened to what I’d said when I visited you last, we would not have had to ambush you.”

“I did listen!” I said, pinching the bridge of my nose in frustration.

“No, you didn’t,” Molly responded. “If you’d listened then we wouldn’t have had to be the ones to tell your mum you hate pageanting.”

“You should never have been the ones to tell her,” I shot back, and suddenly I was holding back a lump in my throat. “It should have been me.”

And as I said it, I knew it was true. My friends should not have been the ones to tell my mum how I felt. I should’ve let her know from the start.

“Tash,” Dom said, stepping towards me slowly. “Look I know it’s hard, okay? But your mum… she knows now. That’s the most important thing.”

I thought of Dom and her mum. I wondered how hard it must have been for her to tell Fleur she wanted to quit pageanting. I also wondered how my best friend always managed to be so strong.

“You’re right,” I said after a moment. I noticed Dom’s shoulders seem to relax at my words. Molly and Rose also seemed to visibly exhale. “But I still think this was a bad idea.”

“Are you saying that you don’t want to see James?” Rose asked, looking at me pointedly.

I was silent. I did want to see James. Of course I did. I’d wanted to see him since he’d disappeared from view at the Hogsmeade station over a month ago.

“It’s just… What’s the point?” was my response. “I’m leaving in less than a week to go on a year long tour. Whatever happens… it doesn’t matter.”

“It always matters,” Dom replied, putting a hand on my shoulder. “Besides, you probably won’t even have to do the yearlong tour anymore. Your mum already knows you hate pageanting, so breaking this news to her shouldn’t be a surprise.”

“But—”

“Look,” Molly said, putting her hands on her hips. I guess she was tired of all the talking. “Do you love James?”

That was a loaded question. I’d never even kissed anyone before I’d kissed James. So how was I supposed to know if I loved him? I didn’t know what love was.

But… well… wasn’t love about a feeling? And I knew whenever I was with James, I felt something. Something bigger than me. Something that made me able to tell him things I couldn’t tell anybody else. Something that made me feel safe and happy and—

“Yeah, I do,” I found myself saying before I could stop myself. And once I spoke I realized it was probably the most honest I’d been with myself in a while. “I love him.”

“Then you need to tell him,” Dom stated, beaming after I spoke. “He loves you too.”

“He said that?” I asked, suddenly feeling taken aback. I couldn’t imagine James telling someone how he felt. With him, you just have to understand. He doesn’t spell things out for you.

“No,” Rose answered. “But it’s obvious.”

“How?”

“It just is,” Molly snapped, tired of the conversation. “Now go in there and tell him. And take your hair down. I mean, you do want him to say it back, right?”

I glared at Molly, but I did listen to her. I unpinned my hair from its complicated hairstyle, until it was hanging in loose waves down my back.

“Good,” Dom nodded in approval. She put her hand on the doorknob to the house, but then paused. “By the way, try not to bump into Fiona.”

“She’s here?” I asked, feeling myself panic. Why was Fiona here?

“This is her house,” Molly stated. “She’s the only one who threw a New Years Eve party this year. I guess nobody else wanted to because of the last one…”

As she trailed off, I suddenly remembered that this was now the one year anniversary of Nate’s death. I looked at Rose. She offered me a weak smile.

“Why is James here then?” I asked. “Why would he go out and celebrate on the day that…” I didn’t finish my statement. It felt insensitive in front of Rose.

“Because it’s exactly what Nate would want,” Rose said, smiling sadly. “Nate would kill James if he knew he didn’t go to this party. He lived for parties.”

“Maybe I should tell him how I feel on another day though,” I began unsurely.

“No,” Molly snapped. “You’ve made him wait long enough.”

And then before I could argue any further, Dom flung open the door to as Molly pushed me inside.

The inside of Fiona’s house was even bigger than it looked from the outside. The foyer lead straight into what could only be described as a grand ballroom and the entire room was packed with people dancing and celebrating the New Year. There was a long table on the side of the room with punch and other beverages, and in the corner was a DJ booth, which was blasting the latest wizard pop music.

“Molly!” a voice slurred almost as soon as we entered. We all turned to where the voice came from to see an already drunk Gryffin stumbling out of the crowd. His curly blonde hair was mussed up, and his eyes were shiny. “There you are!”

Molly wrinkled her nose and crossed her arms. “How are you already drunk? The party started an hour ago!”

“An hour I spent missing you. I had to drink to numb the pain,” Gryffin stated, wrapping both his arms around her before giving her a sloppy kiss on the cheek. I looked at Dom and Rose with a mix of confusion and shock.

“A lot has changed since you left,” Dom stated, so that only I could hear.

“Ugh could you sound any more pathetic?” Molly responded, wiggling herself out of Gryffin’s hug as she glared at him and wiped her cheek. Maybe not much had changed. “Come on, let’s makeout. I can’t listen to you say anything that stupid ever again.”

And then Molly grabbed Gryffin by the hand and began dragging him out of the room, probably in search of a place where they could snog without anybody seeing. I noticed Gryffin groping her and giving her random kisses on the cheek their entire journey out of the room. It was almost… cute?

“So are they… dating?” I asked.

“I think so,” Dom said, albeit unsurely. “I’m too afraid to ask.”

“Someone should,” I stated.

“Their relationship isn’t of the importance right now,” Rose said calmly. She looked at me pointedly. Right. “You need to find James.”

I bit my lip.

“Any idea where he’d be?” I asked. There seemed to be about a million people here, so finding James was going to be tricky. At least that made my chances of bumping into Fiona slim.

“Probably somewhere quiet,” Dom said with a shrug. “He may have come to the party, but he’s still not much of a partier.”

I nodded my head.

“Alright, well, I’ll see you guys,” I said, giving the two of them a salute. The hallway that led to the rest of the house was on the other side of the room, so I was going to have to make my way through the large mass of people if I was going to find James. Dom and Rose both wished me luck as I stepped forward, quickly getting swallowed up by the crowd.

Okay. I could do this. Or—at the very least— I could try.

*

“Ohmigod!”

“Natasha? Is that you?!”

“Ohmigod it is!”

There were two loud squeals, and suddenly I was being enveloped in a four-armed hug. I looked down to see none other than Lucy and Lily, their brown and red hair mixing together as they squeezed the living daylights out of me. When the two of them let go of me and stepped away, I found myself reel in shock.

Neither of them were wearing pink.

“We missed you so much!” Lily began, smoothing down the front of her navy dress as she bounced on the balls of her feet. I continued to stare at her with wide eyes. It felt so weird to see Lily in a color other than pink. “I can’t believe you left! I’m so, so sorry about the article. If I had known Fiona was going to do what she did I totally would have stopped her!”

“Yeah,” Lucy said in agreement, nodding her head with vigor. Her dress was silver. “But don’t worry. We, like, totally overthrew her. We told all the girls on the pepsquad what she’d done, and we voted her off the squad!”

My eyes widened even more. Fiona not on the pepsquad… That was unimaginable.

“Everyone thought it was totally gross what she’d done,” Lucy continued, noticing my baffled expression. “And totally desperate. Not that she wasn’t before. But now everyone could see it. Like, we totally defended your honor.”

“Um,” I began, but then I realized I didn’t know what to say. This was a lot of information to take in. Especially while I was still trying to grasp the fact that they weren’t wearing pink. “Thanks?”

“It’s no problem!” Lily replied with a mega watt smile. “We even got promoted to co-captains!”

“Wow that’s…” I trailed of again. “That’s something.”

“I know!” Lily exclaimed, clapping her hands together. Then she frowned. “But wait, why are you here? Did Fiona invite you?”

“Er…. No,” I said, trying to figure out what to say. “I’m actually here to find—”

My explanation was cut off by another squeal. Then Lily flung herself at me again.

“Ohmigosh you’re totally going to profess you’re love to James!” Lily shouted as she kept me in her vicelike grip. She was surprisingly strong for such a tiny girl. She was also surprisingly perceptive. How did she know I came to see James? “This is amazing! Perfect!”

“Ohmigod! We’re going to be cousins-in-law!” Lucy added, looking just as excited. “This is like a dream come true!”

Lily finally unwrapped herself from around me and gave me another wide smile. She didn’t say anything else though, and instead continued to smile at me. I fidgeted uncomfortably.

“Right so… Do you know where he is?” I asked.

“Where who is?” Lily asked, her eyebrows knitted together in confusion.

“You’re brother,” I said slowly. Who else would I be talking about?

“Al?”

“James,” I said, wondering if Lily was serious. Why she thought I’d need to find Al was beyond me.

“Oh!” Lily exclaimed. Then she frowned. “No. I don’t know where he is.”

“Did you check the ballroom?” Lucy suggested. “That’s where most people are.”

“Yeah,” I said, feeling my patience wearing a bit thin. The ballroom was the first place I’d been in. “I checked.”

They both shrugged.

“I dunno what to tell you then,” Lucy said, rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet. She then grabbed Lily’s hand. “But we have to go. Our boyfriends are waiting for us.”

And before I could comment on the fact that two thirteen-year-old girls had a boyfriend before me, the two of them had disappeared. They had also not helped me find James in the least.

I sighed. I’d been searching for the past half hour for James and the only people I’d managed to bump into were Lucy and Lily. Luckily, I’d managed not to bump into Fiona despite the fact that I’d been in just about every room in the house. But I didn’t feel lucky because—well— where could he be?

As I began to retrace my steps, I heard voices in one of the rooms. I decided to peak my head inside to see if I had finally found James.

(Spoiler alert: I hadn’t.)

“Mollyyyyyy,” Gryffin whined. Gryffin had his arms wrapped tightly around Molly’s waist, and they were leaning against one of the walls in the room. Molly had her arms around his neck, although she quickly let them drop at Gryffin’s whines. “Pleeeease? You only have to say it once.”

“You’re such a fucking baby,” Molly stated, trying to pull away from him. Gryffin, however, would not let her go. “I will not say it to you when you are annoying the shit out of me.”

“But whyyyyyy?” Gryffin whined again. “I’ve said it to you twice now and you refuse to say it back. What’s that about?”

“You’re wasted,” Molly stated, rolling her eyes. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”

“I dooo,” Gryffin insisted, and then he began to sprinkle her face with kisses. “I.” He kissed her left cheek. “Love.” He kissed her right cheek. “You.” He went to kiss her on the mouth but she pushed him off.

“Ugh, get off of me,” Molly stated, finally pushing him enough so that he had no choice but to let go of her. She glared at him. “You are such a pansy. I thought guys were supposed to be the emotionally stunted ones in relationships.”

“Yeah, but you’re emotionally stunted enough for the two of us,” Gryffin said with a smirk. He then grabbed her hand and pulled her towards him. She let him. “Besides, it takes a lot of strength to declare your love for someone. It’s the people who don’t say it back who are weak.”

Despite the fact that Gryffin had no idea I was listening, I felt like his words were oddly fitting for my situation. If only I could just find the person I was trying to declare my love for…

Molly’s eyes seemed to narrow more after Gryffin’s words. “I am not weak.”

Gryffin’s smirk grew wider. “So then you’ll have no trouble saying it back.”

Molly let go of Gryffin’s hand and crossed her arms. “Well maybe I don’t feel the same.”

Gryffin laughed, pushing himself off the wall with his foot and closing the space between them as he let go of her hand and enveloped her in a hug. “But you do,” He singsonged.

“I don’t,” Molly responded, her voice muffled by his shoulder, which her face was now buried in.

“You do,” Gryffin stated confidently. Then to prove his point: “I’m taller than you.”

“Like it’s that hard,” Molly said, with a roll of her eyes.

“Must be, because I’m the only guy that is,” Gryffin mused. “But it doesn’t matter, because you’d love me anyway.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“No.”

“The more you deny it the more I’m going to annoy you about it. Don’t you wanna just get it over with? Rip it off like a band aid.”

“Merlin, I hate you,” Molly exclaimed with a huff. She pulled her head off of Gryffin’s shoulder and narrowed her eyes. He continued to look at her hopefully anyway. She then let out a sigh. “And maybe I… you know.”

“Actually, I don’t know,” Gryffin teased, clearly enjoying this. “Please explain.”

“Fine! Whatever,” Molly said, glaring at Gryffin. “I love you, alright? Happy?”

“Very,” Gryffin said, a huge smile stretching across his face. He leaned in and kissed her on the nose. “And I love you too.”

“I know,” Molly said flatly. “You’ve said it like five times. It’s embarrassing.”

Before I could hear Gryffin’s response, I decided I should stop intruding on their moment, so I left. Besides, I had my own declarations of love to attend to. And hopefully mine went as well as there’s did, which surprised me. I never thought I’d see the day where I aimed to be like Molly and Gryffin. But I guess I also never thought I’d see the day where any of this would be happening.

As I began to walk back down the hallway, I realized there was one door that I hadn’t opened. Probably because this one led to the back garden, and considering it was December, it wasn’t my top priority to wander around outside in such freezing weather. But for some reason, I had a feeling if James would be anywhere, it would be out there. Which is why I found myself opening the door to the backyard and stepping outside.

I realized almost as soon as I stepped outside that I’d made a mistake. The backyard wasn’t a garden; it was a maze. There were rows and rows of flowers and bushes arranged in intricate patterns, all of them as tall or taller than Molly. I sighed, bracing myself, and walked forward, wondering the whole time how I was going to navigate my way through this.

It took various wrong turns and a lot of backtracking before I found James. However when I found him, he wasn’t alone. He was with—of all people—Fiona.

Neither of them realized I had arrived, so I just stood there staring stupidly at them. They were sitting side by side on one of the outdoor benches and seemed to be talking about something. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but Fiona was smiling and James was… well he was James. My James. But well… He had been Fiona’s James first. I watched as Fiona made a move to put her hand over his, and when he didn’t shake it away. I suddenly had this overwhelming pins and needle feeling that wasn’t from the cold.

I was an idiot.

I also knew that I had to get out of there. Immediately. And even though it was totally illegal of me, and I’d have my head served to me on a silver platter by Georgiana if she found out, I turned on my heel and apparated away. Hopefully, the loud cracking sound I’d made would at least cause Fiona to jump and let go of James’ hand. If only for a second.

As soon as I arrived in front of my house, I pushed the doors open and ran up to my room. The lump that had been forming for months in my throat was suddenly the biggest it’d ever been, and I knew this would be something I couldn’t swallow down.

So I didn’t try. Instead, I fell into my bed and let it all out. By the time the grandfather clock from downstairs began to chime, signaling that it was midnight, my eyes were swollen shut and I was pretty sure I’d never cried that hard in my life.

To say the least, it was a lovely way to ring in the New Years.



__________________________________________________________________________________________


A/N: Hey guys! So this chapter took longer for me to post because it's the long one I was considering splitting, and seeing as a lot happens in it I didn't want to post it before I was sure everything happened correctly.

Still not sure if it did.

But yeah, Tash's mum knows she hates pageanting, Natasha realizes she loves James, Fiona and James are talking... what's that about? What do you think is going on?

Oh and I'm sure you guys can guess my favorite part of this chapter: MOLLY AND GRYFFIN LOVE EACH OTHER HOW CUTE AWWW! Definitely my favorite scene to write.

Okay well this author's note is long enough. Please review and let me know your thoughts on this chapter. Two more chapters! Well technically one. And then there's an epilogue. But you know, still two.

Love you all xxx
-Rebecca


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