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Chapter 23 : Beginning of the End
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Asher was waiting for me as I came downstairs the next day. He looked very unsure about whether I would want to see him or not.
“Is everything ok? Between us, I mean. You didn’t want to see me yesterday and I heard from James that something really upset you.”
“It’s not you. It’s just a part of my life I haven’t explained to you, and it’s difficult to talk about.”
“You know I’ll listen, right?”
“I know.” I smiled at him and slipped my hand into his. We started walking down to breakfast, and this time he joined me at the Ravenclaw table. I purposefully kept the conversation over breakfast light and casual, promising to talk to him more after. It was a very awkward breakfast, as Georgia flat out refused to be genuinely nice to him, leaving to go sit with her newest boy toy. Dom was being unnaturally silent, and mostly didn’t talk.
She looked pretty pale actually, and thin. Was she eating ok? I watched her pushing food around her plate and realized that something major was going on with her. I tried to get her attention by throwing pieces of bread at her, but she too just got up and left without so much as a goodbye.
I watched her walking away, turning my head to look at the Gryffindor table. Rose was staring at her with concern too, and we exchanged worried looks. I shrugged at her and she frowned, turning back around to eat.
Asher slung his arm around me, and asked if I wanted the rest of his pancakes. He was smiling at me as I turned to face him, and I smiled back half-heartedly. My best friend senses were tingling and I knew that later on today I’d have to corner Dom and get her to tell me what was going on. But first, I had to try and explain to Asher why my family was what it was.
It was Sunday, and we had no classes. Given that it was mid-November, and quite cold out we decided to go to an empty greenhouse instead of walking down to the lake.
My breath was visible in the greenhouse, and there was something that I loved about winter weather, even though I didn’t particularly like being cold. I looked around and smiled, I loved this school and almost everything in it.
The greenhouses were a nice spot, as long as you didn’t get too close to a plant that could kill you or something. The stone floors, fresh air, the smell of earth and green life, it was comforting in its own way. Professor Longbottom was probably around somewhere, but didn’t seem to be in here with us.
Asher sat down next to me and placed his hand over mine, looking at me and running his other hand over the back of my head.
“So what’s so bad that you don’t like to talk about it.” My first reaction was to roll my eyes, as it seemed a stupid question to ask, but I stopped myself and stared down at the table.
“My parents wrote me letters.”
“What’s so bad about that? Mine write me all the time.” Again, he was asking a stupid question and I felt a flicker of annoyance.
“My family isn’t like your family.”
“Well, everyone’s family is different. But what is so bad that you had to hole up in your room all day?”
“It’s hard to explain.”
“Charlie- I’m your boyfriend. If you can’t tell me…” He sat back and looked at me, and I could tell he was getting frustrated. He ran a hand through his hair and then just looked at me. “Will you please tell me what had you so upset.”
“My family… well… you see… Ok. Look. My Mum is a ghost.”
“I didn’t realize your Mum had died. I’m sorry.”
“She’s not dead. She just, she’s like a ghost. She isn’t present, she isn’t really alive. Living with her is like living with a ghost. She’s cold and she’s never shown me, or my sisters any love. She just floats through her life and there’s nothing vibrant about her. She is a ghost”
“And your Dad?” Asher looked mystified, like he couldn’t believe what I was saying.
“My Dad… My Dad loves my sisters. He has some level of parental affection for me, but I think that’s just because he has to. Don’t’ look like that Asher, you don’t get it. I look like my Mum, and she’s the woman that broke all the good in him. So all he sees when he looks at me is her. I take after the English side of my family, my sisters are more American. More like him. He loves them. Neither of my parents love me.”
“That can’t possibly be true.”
“It is. I was an accident, they didn’t want me. They still don’t.”
“Charlie, c’mon. It can’t really be that bad.” I looked at him and took in every detail. The light brown hair, the green eyes staring quizzically back at me, the scar above his eyebrow, fresh from the last Quidditch game. He was beautiful, he was amazing, and I felt nothing.
“You don’t understand Asher, you’ve never met them. You’ve never seen them with me. I don’t really have a family, you’ve seen my sisters and I. Even we aren’t that close.”
“Relationships are two way streets. Surely if you tried harder.” Tears started leaking out of my eyes, and I wiped them away in anger.
“You can try a thousand times, but if the person on the other end isn’t open, it’s a failure every time.”
“No. You don’t understand Asher! Do you want to know why I was upset? My father has a new family now! A new wife and a baby on the way… so I’ll soon be 4th in line for his affection. My father, who we have always spent Christmas with, has decided that this year it’s not going to happen. He didn’t ask us, he just told us that we couldn’t come and that we should make plans with our mother. And my mother- my mother is basically selling our house, that has been in my family for hundreds of years- destroying our rooms and packing up our belongings and moving to Russia! She won’t even stay for Christmas to see us. She’s just leaving and tells me to make plans with my father. They won’t talk to each other and they won’t talk to us! You tell me… do you understand now?”
While I was yelling, I wandered around the greenhouse. I noticed every crack in the floor. I noticed that it was starting to snow outside. I noticed that he didn’t move, just sat hunched over and staring at me while I paced. There was still that stupid look of disbelief on his face.
“No, I don’t understand. I don’t think anyone could. I know some families are bad, but it can’t be like that.”
“James understands! He’s seen my family and he believes me even if you don’t! That’s why he knew what to do… all he needed to hear was that my parents had written to me and he came and found me. He knew.”
Asher looked angry now and I realized too late that I shouldn’t have said what I said. My hair had fallen into my face, and I shoved it out of the way with my cold fingers.
“Maybe that’s because you talk to him more than you talk to me!”
“That’s rubbish Asher, don’t make shit up! I’ve barely spoken to James since this summer.” It was sort of true. James and I were very hot and cold. We wouldn’t speak for days, not even look at each other. The next day, we’d get thrown together and act like nothing was wrong. The tension was always there, but we’d learned to dance around it when we needed to.
“Except for a few weeks ago when you spent an entire night with him!” So this is what a real fight was like. Huh.
“I had nothing to do with that! Why are we arguing about my relationship with James anyway! I told you what was upsetting and you just sit there and tell me that I’m making it up!”
“Charlie- I’m sorry you’re upset. But I find it hard to believe that your parents don’t love you. They must, look at you.”
“That’s exactly it,” I snapped, eyes flashing, “because of how I look, neither of them can love me. My Dad doesn’t want the reminder of the girl that broke his heart, and my Mum doesn’t want to remember how she wasted her youth. So don’t go telling me that they should love me just because you happen to think I’m something. They don’t and they never will.”
The greenhouse was suddenly making me feel claustrophobic and the cold, snowy grounds sounded like a much better place to be. I stormed out of the room and half jogged away, needing separation from that entire conversation. I heard a door slam and Asher calling for me, but I disappeared into the snow storm.
Between my last rant and this moment, it had really started coming down. The castle was mostly empty, everyone was probably holed up in their common rooms staying warm. It was quite a nice idea, but I didn’t want to see anyone, so I headed towards a classroom that was almost always empty. I had only interrupted a snog session like 5 times.
The door swung open and I slipped inside quickly, leaning up against the door as I shut it behind me. The room was cold, and I wrapped my cloak tighter around me, saying another spell to start a fire in the fireplace.
The room warmed up slowly, but I sat cross-legged in front of the fire to stay warm. I ran over everything and just sat and cried silently.
An hour passed, and I figured that I should probably head up to lunch soon. Or, at the very least, try and find one of my friends before they went in and tell them to bring me food. Supposedly, you could sneak into the kitchens but I didn’t know how to.
I hunched over and wrapped my arms around my legs, staring into the dancing flames. I wondered briefly what I would feel like to reach my hand in and…
BANG! The door opened and slammed against the wall behind it. My head whirled around and I had trouble focusing on the person standing there, I had been staring into the flames for so long.
“Fuck! I didn’t mean to do that!” I did know that voice though, and managed a small smile. James. How in the hell did he find me? “Charlotte, what’s wrong? Why are you sitting all alone, staring at the fireplace looking like your favorite cat just died. Although I’m not sure how you could like a cat in the first place.”
“Cats are perfectly lovely creatures and I did have a favorite cat that died once.” How were we doing this? Not talking one moment and then acting like best friends the next? I didn’t know. It was confusing.
“Once. So why are you sitting here now?”
“Because Asher and I had a fight.”
“How do you know?”
“I literally ran into him as he barreled around a corner. He looked pissed to see me and then asked if I had seen you. I said I hadn’t and asked him if you were ok. Which was apparently the wrong thing to say, I can’t say I’ve ever seen him that angry before. What did you do?” James said jokingly, and came over to sit next to me.
I just looked at him and felt a little flutter. Traitor, I thought, you can’t do that for your actual boyfriend. I suck. I watched as the light from the flames danced across his face, changing his coloring. His eyes stared back into mine, probably trying to figure out what was wrong with me this time. “Charlotte?” He finally broke the silence.
“I tried to explain my family to him, and why I was upset yesterday.”
“Let me guess- he didn’t understand?”
“No, he did not.”
“Yea, Asher has like the most perfect family ever and I could see that he wouldn’t understand your situation.”
“He didn’t like it when I brought you up.”
“Why would you bring me up?” His voice cracked a bit and I stared at him, looking for a clue as to why. I found nothing. We were getting so good at pretending with each other.
“Because I told him that you at least understood my family situation.”
“I don’t understand it. I just saw it firsthand, and more than that, your reactions were enough for me. I don’t care if I don’t see it the same way, you have your feelings and whatever your situation is with them hurts you, a lot. That’s what I care about.”
I started crying again and tried to stop. I kept one arm wrapped around my knees, and used the other to wipe away the tears. James scooted closer to me and lightly wrapped an arm around my shoulder, and my head fell naturally onto his shoulder. We sat that way for a good ten minutes before James spoke again. “I really wish you’d agree to come home with me for the holidays.”
“How did you find me?” I stalled. Two weeks with James was both my greatest desire and my worst nightmare.
“Let’s just say it’s a magic map.” James had his proud prankster look on and he grinned at me.
“Magic Map huh?”
“Nicked it from my Dad a while back. It comes in handy, like now.”
“I don’t know if I should be worried or grateful.” I looked at him, and felt the intensity behind his gaze.
“I’m just looking out for you Charlotte. Which is why I’m going to insist that you come to my house for Christmas; your sisters will already be there. There’s no good reason not to. And don’t even try for the excuse that it will be too much of an imposition. My Mum is the youngest of 7 kids, and our family is huge. Having 3 people staying at our house is just like any other weekend. It’s really not a big deal, and you’ll have a lot more fun with us than you will staying here.”
“Your family doesn’t need my family around, it’s a holiday.” Again, two weeks with James. Nothing I wanted more, and nothing I wanted less. It would be a horrible idea. I wasn’t sure I trusted myself.
“And holidays are meant to be spent with loved ones. C’mon… we can get up early every morning and play pranks on our siblings. It’ll be fun.”
“You make it sound like, one, I’d be sleeping in your bed, and two, that I would actually enjoy playing pranks.”
“Well, one, I think you would have fun playing pranks. Two, I won’t say no if you want to sleep in my bed.” He winked at me and smirked again. I laughed, wondering how we were able to play this off so light-hearted. As if we didn’t catch each other looking somewhat lustfully at each other at least once a day. As if we didn’t want something different, knowing we were both afraid to try. Asher, I thought. Remember who you are with. It was getting harder and harder. Arguments like this weren’t helping.
“I still think that it would be an imposition.”
“If I showed you proof that it would be fine, would you agree to come?”
“I’d agree to consider it.”
“You’re being difficult.” He grinned at me, leaning closer.
“I know.” I smiled at him. He looked down at his watch, and I realized it must be past lunch time.
“You missed lunch, are you hungry?”
“Starving. Fighting with the guy you’re dating and crying wears a girl out.” I made stupid jokes sometimes, shoot me. James stood up and held a hand out. I placed my hand in his, feeling the warmth, and let him pull me up.
“C’mon Lottie- I’ll show you the kitchens.”
“Why thank you kind sir.”
“I’m just fulfilling my duty as your personal knight.” He grinned at me, and walked out of the classroom. James led the way, and into the kitchens, which involved tickling some pears. We stayed down there for a while, tucked away in a private corner, talking and laughing. And eating, lots and lots of eating. The house elves are super accommodating.
We parted ways after, he headed for his tower and I headed towards mine. It was the first time since we’d arrived at school that things had felt like they did over the summer, and I practically skipped back to my common room.
I spent the rest of the afternoon holed up in my bunk, doing homework. I was hungry again around dinner time though and skipped down to dinner, feeling much lighter than I had earlier in the day. I waved at Sky and Rory as I went out, sitting as usual on their boyfriends laps.
They weren’t super close friends, but we were fond of each other all the same. Just as I was making the turn from the staircase to the corridor, I slammed into another person. Without looking, I started apologizing profusely.
“Charlie- it’s me.” I looked up into familiar green eyes. Asher.
“Oh, sorry about… uh… that.” I didn’t know what to say.
“Can we talk?”
“That didn’t work out so well last time.”
“Which is entirely my fault, and I’m sorry.” Asher grabbed my elbow and lightly pulled me away from the throng of students heading for delicious food. He stopped by a small window and I looked out at the grounds, now fully covered in snow. “Charlie… I really am sorry. I shouldn’t have reacted that way. Will you forgive me?”
I turned and faced him, noticing how worried he looked. I smiled at him, feeling like he was lost puppy and I wanted to take care of him.
“It’s ok. It’s not easy to explain my,” I waved my hands around my head, looking for the right word, “life.”
“I shouldn’t have reacted that way. I am sorry.”
“You keep saying that. It’s ok Asher. Don’t worry about it.” He let out a large sigh and held his arms out. I stepped into the circle and laid my head against his heart.
There is something that is eternally comforting about being in someone’s arms and listening to the beat that keeps them alive. He smelled like his woodsy cologne and I let it wash over me, picturing a pine forest and wishing I was there now.
Asher pulled back and leaned down to kiss me, light, but lingering. He tasted like something, but I couldn’t quite figure out what. We walked down to dinner and for once, I sat at the Gryffindor table, since Georgia and Dom were already there.
Georgia had started dating a 7th year, and Dom was sitting with Roxie and Louis. I sat next to Asher, which placed me directly across from James. Dom didn’t look any better than she had this morning, and I noticed that I wasn’t the only one giving her odd looks.
The conversation was kind of awkward, which wasn’t all that surprising. Asher and I were dancing around our argument, which James happened to know about- from both of us. It got even more awkward after James got a letter.
“I told you Charlotte!” He interrupted me mid-sentence, and I just looked at him confused. “I asked my Mum, I told you she’d be fine with it. Here… look. Since you won’t believe me anyway.”
He shoved the letter at me and took a huge bite of potatoes. I read it quickly and placed it on the table in front of him.
“Ok, I’ll start thinking about it.”
“Oh c’mon! It’s fine… you read it. There’s nothing to think about.”
“Yes there is James. I still…” I never got a chance to finish my sentence, because Asher butted in.
“What are you two talking about?”
“I was telling Charlotte that it was more than ok to come home with me for Christmas.” His eyes widened and it finally got through his brain that that wasn’t the best thing to say. “Just because her sisters are already coming to stay with us, and we have the room, and she doesn’t need to be here at Hogwarts by herself for the holidays.”
Asher turned to me, looking agitated but he was clearly trying to control it. He’d asked me if I wanted to come with him for the holidays, and I had politely declined, telling him that I was going to stay here. Awkward.
“And how do you feel about that?”
“Well I tried telling him again this afternoon...”
“Wait, you were with him this afternoon? After our…” He waved his hands, not wanting to finish the thought.
“He found me, I didn’t seek him out.” By then, I was annoyed. So what if I spent the afternoon with James. We were friends. I think. “Not that it matters why I spent the afternoon with him. James has been trying to convince me that it’s more than ok to impose on his families holiday.”
“You wouldn’t be imposing!” James emphasized, stabbing at a piece of steak.
“Yes I would! Besides, I never promised you that I would agree to come, just that I would think about it.” I had whirled around to face James, and was pointing my finger at him.
“You’re ridiculous!” James swung his fork in the air and particles of food went flying. I crunched up my face in minor disgust. Ew. Asher looked at James stonily. “Ash- help me convince her mate. She’s way better off spending the holiday with my crazy, loud and huge family than being bored and alone here.”
“Yea, James, cause I’m going to convince my girlfriend to spend her holidays at another guys house, and yours of all places.” James and I both whirled around to face him and spoke at the same time.
“What does that mean?”
“Nothing. I don’t want to argue. Charlotte can make up her own mind, can’t you?” He turned to me and I just stared back. Something about this felt like a challenge, and I rose to meet it. I turned back to face James while standing up, swinging my hair over my shoulders as I did so. I hoped I looked fierce.
“You know what James, count me in. You’re right Asher, I can make up my own mind. And maybe, as you say, since I can try harder, it would be far better to spend time with my family members that do sometimes, on occasion, want me around.” I stormed out of the dining hall, not noticing all the various looks on my friends faces as I left.
James was grinning, while everyone else had a combination of surprise or in Asher’s case, sadness. What I also didn’t notice was everyone giving James weird looks. They were all thinking the same thing… what was going to happen now?
A/N- Sooo.... yea. What are all of you thinking? I'd like to know. :) This is the annoyong part at the end of the chapter where the author begs for reviews, and says crazy things like we need at least one per chapter to keep breathing. Or something. :D
Anyway- some really juicy stuff coming up... so I sincerly hope you keep reading. :)
Again- as this is going through an edit... if you do not see a date within a week or two of June 7th, 2014 on the next chapter- it has not, I repeat HAS NOT been edited... so don't keep reading. Read only what has a current date on it. Please. It will get really confusing otherwise, and you won't be reading the story I want to tell.
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