Chapter 16 : But It's Better If You Do
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But, but I'm afraid that I
Well, I may have faked it
And I wouldn't be caught dead in this place
Panic! At The Disco - But It's Better If You Do
James' brow furrowed. "You mean pretend like we were dating?" He asked in confusion.
"Exactly." Ginny pursed her lips. "And that you still are."
"So, what do you think?" She asked finally.
James and I looked at each other briefly before turning back to her.
After our classes were over that very same evening, James and I met in the common room to talk about how we would work things out. My main concern was telling our friends our secret as soon as possible.
Time was running out for us to come clean before they found out I was pregnant from someone else, or figured it out on their own. I didn't know how they would react, especially once they knew James was the father.
I was unsure of so much, and I really hated it.
James leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “How do you think we should tell them?” His voice was gentle, like he was afraid I might panic if he spoke louder than a whisper. I think he could sense my unease, and Merlin knows the sudden increase in hormones put me in constant danger of bursting into tears for practically no reason at any moment.
I cleared my throat, and looked down, felling slightly ashamed. “Well… Rose and Lily already know.” I winced as I waited for him to reply, afraid he would be upset that others had found out before him.
James sighed. “I know they do, Violet.”
I looked up suddenly, dropping the bracelet charm I had been fiddling with in my lap. “How did you know they know?” I asked in surprise. James seemed a little uncomfortable as he shifted on the cushion he was seated on.
“When you were… hurt,” James swallowed harshly, looking down. “They were worried about you. They were worried about the baby. It just slipped out.” He twisted his mouth as he looked away, like it was difficult for him to look me in the eye.
I took a deep breath. I didn't blame either of them for telling the secret. In fact, I was sort of relieved. It saved me having to come clean, and honestly I knew they only told because they cared about me. I couldn't be angry at them for that.
I released the air I had been holding and nodded. “Okay.”
James seemed somewhat surprised that I had dropped the subject so fast, but quickly changed his face back to his usual unreadable expression. I ran my foot along the carpeted floor beneath the window seat we were perched on together as I thought about how we should tell our friends.
“I think we should just do it fast. Just sit them down and tell them,” James nodded along, agreeing with me. “And the sooner the better.” He added, making sure to keep his voice down so the few people in the common room didn't overhear our conversation.
Aside from that, we also had to convince people we were a couple. I blushed when I thought about what that would entail. Would we have to, er, show affection? How far were we willing to take this? And would anyone even believe us?
I suppose it would be fairly easy on my part, what with my friends knowing about my perpetual crush on the guy. They would know that I would jump at the chance to be James’ girlfriend.
But what about James’ friends? I suppose to them, our seemingly sudden relationship would be random and totally unexpected. Would they believe us at all? Would they buy James taking a sudden interest in me even though he had shown no signs of attraction before?
I tried to hide my disappointment at that thought. Yeah, James had agreed to fake-date me. That still didn't mean anything. He was protecting his dad’s reputation, as well as his own. It really had nothing to do with him and his feelings for me, of which I am sure he had none.
“Hey,” I heard James say. “What’s wrong?” I looked up at him and sighed, shaking my head. Trying to reassure him, I forced a smile. “Nothing.” He didn't seem to believe me, judging by the doubtful expression on his face.
He chewed on his lip and looked down at his lap. It seemed like he was having somewhat of an internal battle with himself as he thought of what to say next.
“This isn't about us ‘dating’ is it?” He made the air quotes with his fingers while he talked, “because, if it is..” James stopped and dragged a hand through his messy hair as he trailed off, looking around the quiet common room as if searching for inspiration of what to say next. “We don’t have to do anything, if- if you don’t want to.” He swallowed. “I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.”
I felt touched that James was willing to risk his entire life if I wasn't happy with our arrangement. But that totally wasn't the case. I mean, aside from the fact that it would be another lie to keep up with, the deal was pretty sweet. Come on, I’m not going to lie here. The chance to pretend that James was my boyfriend was brilliant, even if it was just all make-believe, even just for a little while.
“No- I’m okay with the plan,” I scratched the back of my neck stiffly. Something shifted in James’ eyes and for a moment, he looked almost pleased. “I mean, we can try.” James chewed on his thumb while he mulled over my words.
“Yeah,” He said. “We can try.” Glad that we were both in agreement, I smiled at him. He returned it with his signature crooked grin and the ever-present butterflies in my stomach picked up yet again. They never seemed to go away, no matter how much time I spent with him.
“So when should we tell everyone?” I asked anxiously, chewing my lower lip. James’ eyes drifted over my shoulder and he let out a nervous chuckle.
“No time like the present.”
Before I could even respond, I heard the thump of enthusiastic footsteps. “Well, well, well, what do we have here?” I looked around at the familiar voice and saw Ruby skipping towards the two of us with a huge grin on her face and a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “Why, it’s the two lovebirds!,” she teased.
I sighed and looked at James. Slowly, I mouthed, “I want to tell everyone together.” He nodded mutely and faced Ruby.
“Where is everyone else?” He inquired, leaning back in the seat and crossing one of his long legs over the other knee. Ruby jumped down to sit in between us, smiling brightly and indicated to the old clock placed on the wooden table to the left of us. "It's almost dinner time. Everyone will be down in the great hall."
James ran a hand through his hair again, one of his most nervous habits. I swallowed harshly as I started to notice some of the other students start to leave the common room, presumably on their way to get their dinner. James sighed, stood up quickly, and offered me his hand.
Here goes nothing.
“What’s going on?” Fred didn't try very hard to mask the suspicion in his voice.
I turned to James, hoping he would start the explanation. He rolled his eyes at me and faced our friends.I looked down at all our friends sitting down in front of us. Fred, Albus, Alex, Ruby, Rose and Scorpius.
Herding them together hadn't been as difficult as I thought it would have been. After dinner, they had all followed us soundlessly to the Room of Requirement, their curiosity apparently their driving fuel.
The room was small but cosy, providing a soft couch for our friends to sit on. James and I stood in front of them.
Well, I stood in front of them. James paced.
He tugged at his ear. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, as if he were unsure how to begin. “So.. Violet and I have some news,” He said nervously.
I captured my bottom lip between my teeth and began chewing fiercely. His voice broke the silence again. “It may come as a bit of a shock to you.“
Before I knew what he was doing, I felt his strong arm wrap awkwardly around my shoulder. While fighting the feeling of warmth I felt spread through my chest, I almost missed what he said next.
Nobody said a word in reply, the shocked gasps and grins emitting from our friends mouths were response enough.
“So it's true!” Alex exclaimed, reaching across the couch to high-five Albus. He smiled at her happily as he settled back in his seat. “Frankly, I knew it was just a matter of time before you told us.” He said, with a smug smirk on his face.”I told everyone so.”
Fred nodded, “It’s true. He did.” Scorpius joined in with the nodding.
James squeezed my upper arm reassuringly. “Yeah, well. We've been dating for quite a long time now.”
Cries of “I told you so”s and “Five galleons please!“ were chattered excitedly between the group as James and I looked at each other. I knew our friends were somewhat rooting for us to get together, especially after the girls reaction this morning. But I had no idea we had been a topic of discussion and debate among them.
I silently watched Rose, the only one who had not spoken since our revelation. She sat staring into space, seemingly in deep contemplation. I think I knew what she was thinking about. I took a deep breath to explain James’ involvement in my pregnancy, but she beat me to the punch.
“Well," Her voice was quiet. “what about Chastity?”
I felt James’ firm grip on my arm falter momentarily and I froze.
James and I hadn't thought about how to explain Chastity. If we had been dating for the past four months, how did that explain him having a girlfriend for the past two weeks?
My teeth’s grip on my lip increased until I tasted blood.
The group in front of us all fell into silence as they awaited an explanation.
I racked my brain. How did we explain this?
I was about to burst into tears and admit defeat just as James spoke up.
“Violet didn't want people to know we were a couple.”
His explanation was poor at best. And honestly, I was annoyed he was choosing to blame me as an excuse.
Indignant, I raised a finger. “Now hang on just one second.” I interrupted.
James shot me a sly warning look, immediately shutting me up. His eyes told me he had a plan.
Deciding to trust him, I closed my mouth with a pop.
He turned away from me again, taking his arm with him. I had to stop myself from making a pathetic whimper at the loss.
He carried on. “So anyway, Violet and I had a fight on New Year’s Eve. I said either we tell people we were dating or we would break up. I wanted everyone to know we were a couple, but Vi wouldn't hear of it.” His eyes slid back to me, and I saw a mischievous twinkle in them. The little bugger was messing with me. “So we decided we should break up for a while.”
Alex huffed. “On the night of your breakup you started going out with someone else?”
Ruby crossed her arms. “That was a dick move, Potter.”
James ran a hand through his messy hair, ruffling it up even more. “I was mainly going out with Chastity to make Violet jealous.” He watched me and tilted his head to the side. Surprisingly, I found his expression to be very sincere. I had to admit, it was a good story. Heck, I almost believed him there for a second.
Our friends burst into chatter once again, talking away to each other animatedly. Apparently, the had been convinced. James cleared his throat. “Guys.”
They ignored him, continuing to babble on.
“Guys.” He emphasised. Again, no one responded.
I pursed my lips and exhaled through my nose. “Guys!” I called out loudly. They all silenced and looked at me expectantly.
“There’s more,” I said simply. Rose clasped her hands and looked at me sympathetically. In that moment I knew she had figured everything out. She knew James was the one to get me pregnant, and she knew I was about to tell everyone now. In a movement so quick I almost missed it, she nodded her head mutely. The small act of support was the only push I needed.
Silence fell around the room in a way that could only be described as uncomfortable. Each face staring back at us had their mouths hanging open bar Rose, who sat with a small smile of satisfaction. James returned his arm around my shoulders.
“That was a little more abrupt than I would have done it, but okay.” He whispered good-naturedly in my ear. I lifted my hand to squeeze his as it hung over my shoulder.
Ruby’s eyebrows knit together. “I knew you two had slept together, but I had no idea…”
Fred shook his head. “Neither.”
I briefly remembered seeing Fred’s nod to James as he pulled me from the pub that October night. I hadn't really ever given much thought to how much he knew about us.
At least I could stop worrying now. Everything was out in the open now. Well… at least almost everything. Suddenly, James’ arm around my shoulder felt like a weight, burdening me. I casually took a step out of his reach and wrapped my arms around myself. I had confessed one secret only to gain another. When would the lying ever stop?
Albus rubbed his jaw before he spoke. “Do mum and dad know?” He asked carefully.
James was nodding before I even opened my mouth to reply. “They weren't very happy.” He shrugged. “But they came around. Mum, especially.”
“That’s good.” Albus sighed in relief.
“What about your mum, Vi?” Rose inquired, twisting a piece of red hair back behind her ear.
The sudden ache in my heart had me swallowing to avoid tears once again. I would not allow myself to be upset anymore. I had pushed all thoughts of my mother and her abandonment from my mind and I wasn't about to revisit them.
Seeing me struggling, James reached for me again and tucked me under his shoulder comfortingly. “She didn't take it so well.” I saw him shoot them all a head shake, signalling them to not say anything more. I bit the inside of my cheek harshly, trying to distract myself from my oncoming tears.
Trying to diffuse the situation, Fred jumped up. “Er… Congratulations!” He spread his arms out for a hug and I walked towards him cautiously. My head barely reached the top of his arm, but I wrapped my arms around his waist and he patted my hair. I heard murmurs of support and I felt another pair of arm wrap around the two of us. Then another. This continued on until the eight of us were wrapped up comically in a group huddle, laughing.
Finally, something had actually turned out alright.
There you have it! Sorry it was a short one, but I felt guilty about neglecting the story and just wanted to get something out. Please take the time to leave a review, they always mean so much to me.
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