Chapter 5 : A Dream, A Guest, and A Family Reunion
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It was hot, wherever I was, a kind of heat I’d never actually experienced before. The sun shone very brightly overhead, and I had to keep squinting to try and see where I was. All I knew was that I was walking through a field of very tall grass, dry as a bone, that rustled loudly everytime I took a step.
Nothing could be seen around me for miles, just tall grass. I heard a laugh, and looked around frantically. There was no one around and I kept walking. There was the laugh again, and I squinted, there! Far off in the distance, near the horizon, was a figure. I started running, trying to catch the person, whoever it was. They never got any closer, but the scenery started to change. The grass got smaller and greener, and off in the distance I saw a large white house, with a very large oak tree in the backyard.
There was the figure again, moving back and forth. As I ran faster, everything came into focus. A swing, and a girl. Bees buzzed around my head. The sun beat down on me, and my clothes stuck to my skin. The air smelled of dry grass, honeysuckle and something else fragrant I couldn’t place. My feet moved me towards the tree, the shade and the girl swinging back and forth. I tried to speak, but found I had no voice. I tried to yell, no sound. I put a foot into the circle of shade and felt transported to another world. The scenery shifted, and I was standing in a forest with tall, red trees.
The air was very clean, and cool. The scent of pine and dark dirt assaulted my senses. Everything had disappeared, no house, no swing, no girl. I looked intently around, searching for any sign of something familiar. A flash of white caught my eye. Behind a tree just a few feet in front of me, a gauzy white fabric billowed out and danced in the wind.
A laugh again, musical and sweet sounding, reached my ears. I was inches from the tree, and lunged around the trunk to grab at whatever was there, only to be met by a face full of tree bark. I spit out the bark and looked around again. Where was this girl? Why was she playing with me? On the wind, I heard the whisper of my name. James, come find me it said. I’m trying, I yelled, only no sound came out.
I whipped my head around, searching again for a sign and there she was. Standing, facing away from me, looking out into the forest. Needles crunched underneath my feet as I stepped closer to her. My hand reached out and just barely grazed her bare shoulder before the scenery shifted yet again.
My eyes took in the new view, a lush, green hill and beyond, the ocean. This time I didn’t have to look for her, she was standing on the edge of the cliff. The white dress was shifting around her as it blew in the breeze, and she turned to face me. The wind picked up the material and it drifted across her face, not allowing me to see anything.
She turned back to face the ocean, laughed again, then started running down the wooden path cut into the hill. My feet pounded across the grass as I chased after her. Mist came out of nowhere and the salt air enveloped me, dampening everything. I carefully found my way down to the beach.
I was standing in a cove, and looked towards the cold, steel blue water that was right ahead. She was walking in the waves, the bottom of her dress getting soaked. James, she said, come to me. Again, my feet carried me towards her.
I reached out and wrapped an arm around her slim waist, drawing her into my chest, and expecting her to disappear at any moment. My eyes closed and I relished the feeling of holding her, feeling her soft skin. Her hair danced in the air and tickled my face, but still I didn’t look. Do you see me James? Look.
I didn’t, instead I slid my hands up her arms, over her shoulders, and up to her head. I titled her head back and moved my head down, placing my mouth over hers. I kissed her slowly, tasting the salt air on her lips. She smelled like the forest, and the hot summer day. My senses were overwhelmed. James, she said, her mouth moving under mine. Look at me, she said. My forehead rested against hers as I pulled back. Will you stay if I see you? I didn’t want the answer, but she answered, telling me she would always stay if I could see her.
It didn’t make any sense to me, but I had to know what she looked like. I opened my eyes slowly, and looked down at our bare feet, then my gazed slowly travelled the rest of her body. Her face was very hazy and I couldn’t make any details. I can’t see you, I said, finding with relief that my voice finally worked.
I’ve always been right here James, you can’t see me because of the mask you wear, it’s clouding your vision. Take it off and you’ll see me clearly, she said.
Her hand reached towards my face, tangling briefly in my hair before grabbing onto something on my face, pulling it back towards her. Everything around me sharpened immediately. The waves, the sand, the cliff and then a feathers My fairy princess had grown wings like a hawk’s and I looked towards her face, framed by dark hair made heavy by the sea air. James! A flash of silver eyes and then everything changed.
“JAMES! WAKE UP YOU LAZY BAS…”
“ALBUS POTTER, YOU WATCH YOUR MOUTH!”
“Is your brother awake yet?”
“He is now, and he doesn’t look happy about it.”
“Tell him to get…”
“He knows what to say Mum!” Lily screamed down the stairs. Why was my family so loud? My room came into focus, slowly. Red and gold wallpaper, hardwood floors barely seen under piles of clothes, and bright green eyes much too close to mine.
I wanted to murder Al for waking me up from that dream, and though I tried to remember it, it fell away from me as I landed painfully back into reality. All I could grasp were fragments, a forest floor, a crashing wave, and a flash of silver. And a pillow coming rapidly towards my face. SMACK! Al just stood there looking at me, pillow in hand and green eyes full of mirth.
“WHAT IN THE BLOODY HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU? I’M AWAKE DAMNIT!”
“JAMES, DON’T SPEAK LIKE THAT WHEN YOU’RE SISTER IS AROUND!”
“It’s not like she cares…” I whispered under my breath. “Get out, Al!”
“So, what was your dream about?”
“Must have been a good one. You were making out with your pillow when I came in and whispering about a girl.”
“GO AWAY AL!”
“Merlin, you’re pissy in the morning.” I shot a glare at him, and when he didn’t move, I threw a handful of hard candies at him. “Alright, alright, I’ll leave you alone. Geez.”
I flopped back onto my bed and let out a loud, annoyed groan. Why did I have to wake up before seeing her?
“Come back to my dreams tonight.”
Lily started pounding on my door and yelling about breakfast. I threw a pillow at the door and it landed with a loud thud.
“MUM! JAMES JUST THREW A PILLOW AT ME!”
“I DID NOT! I THREW IT AT THE DOOR!”
“I DON’T CARE WHO DID WHAT, BOTH OF YOU GET DOWNSTAIRS!” My Mum yelled loudest of all, and it really wasn’t a good idea to annoy her early in the morning. I walked over to my curtains, yanked them open and threw the windows open too. Fresh, morning air came rushing in and I took a deep breath.
It was August 15th, and school started again in two weeks. I was going with Charlotte to pick her sisters up from the train station. Her father had flown in with them a few days ago, and we were meeting with him so he could pass off his two favorite daughters to his least favorite.
This was all according to Charlotte, I thought she was overreacting. Al and Lily were coming with us as well. Mum was driving us and then dropping everyone at Charlotte’s house. I was looking forward to the afternoon most of all. I’d learned the past few weeks that Charlotte really knew how to cook and she had promised me a picnic lunch, if, in return, I showed her how to fly a broom. She knew the basics, but wanted to get over her fear of flying and figured I was the best person to ask.
I looked over at my owl, hoping to see a letter tied to its foot. Ever since that day when I decided to write her while basically sitting outside her front door, we had chosen to communicate this way while bored. We tried it once with my owl while sitting on opposite sides of a field, but after just a few back and forth trips, my owl had nipped me hard and flew away. Today would be my first day seeing her in two weeks. Vacations are great and all, but there’s nothing like falling asleep in your own bed. I stretched out my arms, feeling the muscles straining.
“JAMES SIRIUS POTTER, DON’T MAKE ME COME GET YOU!” Uh oh, time to go downstairs.
“COMING!” I ran downstairs, skipping steps and leaping onto the ground floor landing. The air smelled of delicious breakfast things and my stomach grumbled loudly. Everyone was already at the table eating when I finally arrived, skidding right into my seat. I quickly grabbed a plate and piled food on. Mhmmm.
It took me a minute to realize we had company. I had just shoved a huge bite of toast into my mouth when Lily nudged me. I looked at her and she snickered. I’m sure I looked ridiculous, but really, was that necessary? Lily leaned over to me, whispering something into my ear. It took another moment before it connected. I finally looked up at the table, easily taking in Al, who was also snickering and my parents who were looking amused and slightly ashamed.
That was when I saw Charlotte. The way I must look suddenly became a huge concern for me. I swallowed, then choked and had to be saved by my Dad. How embarrassing. I sat straight up and tried to be sly about fixing my hair, and failing. I hate my sister sometimes, she notices everything.
Charlotte, fortunately, was not paying attention and was having a serious conversation with Al about, what nerds, his upcoming OWLS. He was starting 5th year and Lily was starting her 3rd. Since she wasn’t paying attention, I tried (again) to be discreet about fixing my disastrous appearance. I still had major bed head, crumbs all over my face and chest, all in all not the way I wanted to look around a girl. Although I was shirtless and that should make up for it.
“James stop fussing with your hair, I’m sure Charlotte thinks you look just fine.” Thanks Mum, that’s exactly what I needed you to point out. She smiled at me and I narrowed my eyes in response. Mum turned her attention to Charlotte.
“So Charlotte, are you happy to have your sisters coming home?”
“Yes ma’am. Thank you for driving us today.”
“My pleasure. Are we still dropping all of you off at your house?”
“Yes please, if that is still alright.”
“Perfectly fine. I had something to ask your mother anyway about her gardens. I never should have gotten into gardening. Can’t seem to give it up though. One of these days I’ll get things to grow.” Dad snorted underneath his breath, and tried to hide it with a cough.
“Real smooth Dad.” Lily is rat. Seriously, you can’t do anything around her. Eyes of a hawk that one.
“You have a lovely garden.”
“That’s because I’ve been cheating and using spells.” My Mum winked at Charlotte, which made her smile. She seemed like another person to me, too quiet and polite. She was sitting straight in her chair, no elbows on the table. I took in her appearance, as I was getting used to doing. Her long hair was swept off to one shoulder, tied lightly with a gray ribbon. Her one shouldered white top showed her smooth shoulder. I noticed most of all that she was fidgeting with her necklace, something she did when she was feeling out of place.
“Thank you for inviting me to breakfast Mrs. Potter.”
“You’re very welcome Charlotte. What’s one more person at the table? I forgot to tell James you were coming it seems.”
“He did seem surprised to see me.” And there was the Charlotte I had gotten used to the past few weeks. “How are you James?”
“Happy to be back home. You?”
“Why so formal you two? Haven’t you been owling each other letters day and night for the past two weeks?” I could feel my face reddening, and failed to stop it from happening. Thanks Dad.
“Yes, Mr. Potter, we have.”
“Harry, dear, don’t embarrass them.”
“Well, I’m off to work anyway.” Dad dropped a kiss onto Mum and Lily’s heads and put a hand on my shoulder as he said goodbye to Charlotte. “Charlotte, don’t be a stranger. You are welcome here anytime. James needs to spend more time with people outside of his cousins.”
“Dad! I have plenty of friends that I’m not related to.” He laughed as he walked away. Charlotte looked amused.
“So Al, happy to be seeing Ava today?” I smirked at him. Everyone knew they were in love, they just hadn’t admitted it yet. He stared down at the table, and mumbled a yes.
“She wrote to me two nights ago, said she really misses you.” Charlotte was much nicer than me, this was clear. Al just smiled into his bowl. “And Lily, Harper said something about giving you a monkey hug?”
“I’ll be prepared.” Why was Lily grinning about this?
“What is a monkey hug? Does she smash a banana in your face or something?”
“No! Geez James, that’s like the stupidest thing ever.”
“Well Lils, I think a monkey hug sounds pretty stupid, so someone smashing a banana in your face is actually a little less stupid.”
“Would you both stop arguing in front of our guest!”
“Charlotte doesn’t seem to mind Mum.” Al mumbled, rightfully so, it’s dangerous to argue with Ginny Potter.
“Well, I do! Now hurry up. James still has to get dressed and we need to leave soon.”
“I haven’t eaten enough!” I really hadn’t, only 3 pieces of toast and 5 sausages.
“Yes, you have. No one wants to watch you eat any more James. You’re gross.” I glared at my darling little sister, vowing to someday smash a banana in her face for that. She looked like she wanted to do the same and when she started reaching for the oatmeal (which she hates), I knew it was time to leave. I quickly snatched a piece of toast off the plate and dashed up the stairs.
20 minutes later and I was running back downstairs, having showed and changed into jeans and a polo shirt.
“I’m ready!” I said loudly, wandering through the kitchen and into the rest of the house. No one was downstairs, weird. Did they leave without me? “Hello?” Nothing. Back upstairs it is. “Mum?” No response. “Lily?” A laugh. “Are you lot playing hide and seek with me? Aren’t we a bit old for that?” A laugh again. “Seriously?”
“James, why are you talking to yourself?” I turned around and saw Charlotte standing right next to my bedroom door. I walked up to her, and slid around her to shut it. She
didn’t need to see that I had unmentionables strewn across my floor.
“I wasn’t talking to myself. I think my siblings are playing hide and seek with me.”
“Actually they’re in the office, your Mum was showing me something. I just had to put something in my bag downstairs.”
“What was she showing you?”
“Um…,” she started chuckling, this can’t be good, “baby pictures?” She bit her lip trying to stop laughing and stared at the floor. I spun on my heel and barreled into the office.
“MUM!” Lily rolled around on the floor laughing.
“Baby pictures!?! Are you trying to kill me?”
“Why would I try to kill you dear, I love you. You’re my firstborn after all.”
“Baby pictures! To a girl! That’s embarrassing!”
“She’s the only girl you’ve ever had over, and you were such a cute baby. If it makes you feel any better, I was only showing her the pictures of you two.”
“Did you know that you would only go down for naps in the afternoon if Charlotte was in the crib with you? So sweet.” Kill me now. “See, look!” She showed me a picture of two babies in a crib, both with massive amounts of dark hair. Charlotte and I were both in the same crib, she was facing one way and I another, but our heads were right next to each other. As if that weren’t mushy enough, we were also holding hands. “I just made a copy for Charlotte!” I looked at her, and she had the decency to look ashamed. “James Potter, don’t look at her like that.”
“Are we going?”
“What’s got your knickers…”
“James is right, we should go now. Everyone pack up!” One by one, we shuffled out of Mum’s office and all followed each other to the car with the magicked backseat to be larger than normal. Yea, it wasn’t technically allowed but when your Dad is Harry Potter this isn’t much that’s impossible. There were some perks to being his son. Lily sat in the front with Mum, and Al sat in the back with us, reading.
“You brought a book with you?”
“The Kite Runner.”
“Let me guess, Ava’s recommendation?”
“It’s really a fabulous book, I hope you enjoy it.”
“So you’ve read it?”
“Yes, and then I passed it onto Ava. Are you liking it so far?”
“I am. It’s fascinating reading about this whole other world that exists, even among muggles.”
“You should read his other books if you end up liking it. I have them both, you’re welcome to borrow them.”
“Thank you for the offer.”
“Can you stop talking about books and pay attention to me?” Charlotte smacked me on the arm and Lily yelled a thanks from the front seat. I sunk lower into my seat and scowled. This was going to be a long drive to the station.
I was right, it was a long drive to the station. Charlotte’s Dad and sisters were meeting us in Bristol, which was almost a two hour drive from where we lived. Al and Charlotte kept chattering on about books and after getting bored with staring out at the scenery, I decided I might as well take a nap. Our car had two backseats actually, facing each other, like in trains. Al was on one side by himself. Since I had most of the backseat to myself, except for Charlotte (who hardly took up any room), I laid down, putting my head in her lap. She automatically started running her fingers through my hair, and it was so relaxing that I fell right asleep.
A loud slam woke me up, and I realized that we were at the station. Charlotte was still playing with my hair. Lily had opened the door and was staring at me weirdly.
“You snore. Poor Charlotte.” I shot up and immediately wiped my mouth in case I had also drooled. I hadn’t. Thank you Merlin! I climbed out of the car, and reached back in to see if Charlotte needed help. She didn’t and politely shoved me out of the way. Al climbed out last, sniggering. I think my family liked her. They were going to hate it when we didn’t end up dating and falling madly in love like Teddy and Victorie. My family walked on ahead, and Charlotte fell into step next to me.
“You don’t snore, you know. Lily was just bugging you.” She bumped her shoulder into me, and smiled.
“Little sisters are good at that.”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“You have two!”
“You really don’t get that we don’t really spend all that much time together do you?”
“My family is constantly popping in and out. We never leave each other alone.”
“Sounds nice.” The sad smile I hated showed up.
“Don’t look so sad. You have flying lessons to look forward to.” She looked at me in horror. “Hey, that was all your idea.”
“I’m just, terrified of flying. Keep me on the ground and I’m a happy camper.” I grabbed her around the waist and lifted her into the air. “Too high for you?” Her long hair fell around my face and I caught a whiff of her perfume, light and floral. I couldn’t read her expression.
“I think I can manage this.” She sounded breathless, and I wondered why.
“JAMES, STOP MOLESTING CHARLOTTE!” Did Al really have to yell that for the entire station to hear? Maybe Charlotte had the right idea, family isn’t always the best thing. I put her down and we started walking again. I looked over at her and notice she looked very tense.
“Worried about seeing your Dad?” She just nodded and then froze for a second. I followed her gaze and saw a tall man standing with Ava and Harper. He didn’t look that scary. She bit her lip, looking like she was about to cry, and walked towards them, calling her sisters names. They walked over to us, gave her a very, very brief hug and then ran towards my siblings.
Al looked like he was having a panic attack, but still had a huge smile plastered on his face. It was not a good look for him. Ava launched herself into his arms and they almost fell down. It almost made me sick how cute they were together. I might have to make that a mission at school- they were soulmates, it was obvious.
I saw Lily turn around and Harper made a flying leap onto her back, latching on tight. Was that a monkey hug? The two girls were chattering away excitedly. Mum was standing next to Lily with a concerned look on her face, but it wasn’t directed at any of her children.
Charlotte stood a ways away with her father, and if I hadn’t known this guy was her Dad, I never would have guessed. They looked nothing alike. They weren’t hugging and were standing awkwardly a few feet apart. Charlotte looked at me with a deer in the headlights look. That’s when I walked over.
“Mr. Gray, I’m James Potter, Charlotte’s friend.” He shook my hand.
“I didn’t realize you and Charlotte were friends.” Ok, that wasn’t the nicest response.
“Just since this summer, we live near each other you know? I had to rescue her a few weeks ago, she hurt herself.”
“You hurt yourself?” Her Dad finally looked down at her with a slightly surprised look on his face.
“It wasn’t a big deal. I’m fine.”
“Oh. Ok. Well it was nice to meet you James, I’m going to go say good-bye to my daughters.” He walked away and Charlotte looked like she was about to crack into a thousand pieces. I slung my arm across her shoulders, and pulled her close to me. She whispered a thank you.
It wasn’t an easy goodbye to watch. I didn’t believe Charlotte before, but I did now. Her father loved and adored Ava and Harper, and didn’t have the same level of affection for his oldest child. Ethan Gray spent ten minutes hugging Ava and Harper good-bye, kissing their heads, telling them how much he’d miss them and asking them to write him a lot. When it came time to leave, he just looked at Charlotte, gave her a very awkward hug, thanked Mum for picking the girls up and left. It made me angry.
I didn’t know families like that existed. I was starting to understand why Charlotte was so hot and cold sometimes and vowed to include her in my family as much as I could. She was very quiet on the drive back, just staring out the window and looking like if so much as a leaf touched her she’d break. Her sisters ignored her, happy to be back with their best friends. Al and Lily begged Mum to let them come over to our house, and she readily agreed, after we stopped at their house to drop off their things.
Once we got there, Charlotte stood around patiently while her sisters got their things inside. The moment her mother showed up though, she turned and walked quickly around the corner of the house, seeking solace in the backyard garden. I followed immediately and found her standing next to a fountain.
“Charlotte, come here.” She didn’t move, but looked at me, her face a mask of sadness. I walked to her and pulled her into my arms. She buried her head in the crook of my neck. I couldn’t feel her breathing. “You need to breathe.”
“If I breathe, I’ll cry.”
“I’m so sorry Lottie. I didn’t realize.”
“I tried to explain.”
“I didn’t understand. I’m sorry. Come with me tonight… we’ll go camping or something, ok? Give you time away. You can tell me, or not, cry or not… whatever you need.”
“I didn’t realize you were so…”
“Nice? I thought you might have realized by now that I’m not quite the same person I am at school.” I might have sounded annoyed, oops.
“I had realized. I like this you better.” I didn’t think that was possible. Maybe my brain was right, Charlotte was good challenge for me.
“I like this you better too. Well, not this exact you, the sarcastic one that makes me laugh and hits me when I’m being stupid.” She looked up at me, wiped a few tears away and gave me a small smile.
“That would be nice.”
“Go get some things and we’ll go back to my house to get the camping gear.” She walked to the back door, and slipped inside quietly. I went back around to the front of the house, pulled Mum aside and asked if it was ok to camp with Charlotte. She said as long as I used protection, it was fine with her. I wanted the earth to swallow me. I tried to tell her we weren’t dating and I was just being a good friend and she just gave me this weird look.
Charlotte and I went to her favorite grove of trees after getting all the gear we needed. Magical tents are awesome. I made it my business to get her laughing. That was after she spent a half an hour crying because her parents didn’t love her. She deserved so much better than her family. We fell asleep on separate beds (told you Mum!) and walked back to my house in the morning, just in time for breakfast. Ava and Harper were gone, something Charlotte seemed relieved about. She didn’t want to go back to her house, but knew she couldn’t run away for the rest of the summer.
“Two more weeks, and we’ll be back at school.”
“And you’ll probably go back to ignoring me.”
“I won’t hate you if you do.”
“I won’t. I promise.” She looked like she didn’t believe me.
“Bye James. Thanks for last night.”
“Anytime. We’ll do it again at Hogwarts, yea?” She started walking up the lane.
“And get caught, no way!”
“Ravenclaw!” I yelled at her still retreating figure.
“Gryffindor!” She yelled back and then was gone. I kind of missed her already.
A/N- It’s almost time to return to the bestest magical castle in the world! Will James keep his promise? Will Charlotte open up more? I had a bit of trouble with this chapter and hope it didn’t show, maybe after a solid week of writing chapters and future scenes for this story my brain finally had enough. Anyway- hope you enjoyed reading it and I would love to know your thoughts!
Credit goes to Khaled Hosseini for writing The Kite Runner.
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