Chapter 14 : A Bad Morning, A Decent Afternoon, and A Night to Remember (Part Two)
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My clothes stared back at me for a good half hour while I decided what to wear. It was stupid, but I wanted to look good for Charlotte. It really didn’t matter what I wore, because she has a boyfriend and therefore shouldn’t be paying any attention to how good, or not good I looked.
However, it was a holiday and I knew my Mum would get mad at me if I didn’t wear something halfway decent. I pulled down a pair of black slacks, and slid them on. As I was finishing buttoning them, a knock sounded at my door.
“Enter at your own risk!”
“I hope you’re planning on wearing more than that.” The voice that haunted my dreams floated to my ears. I turned around and had to stop my jaw from dropping.
Charlotte was leaning against the doorframe, wearing a strapless sapphire blue dress. Her hair was pulled back with loose curls framing her face. She was wearing bronze heels and a bronze belt in the shape of eagle wings wrapped around her slim waist.
“James? You’re staring at me again. I know, it’s the dress right? It’s ok, isn’t it?” She looked down at herself and gestured down at herself, looking sheepish. She was talking to me again. I hoped it meant she had forgiven me.
“You look stunning. There’s nothing wrong with the dress.” My voice came out not sounding like my voice. My body was betraying me right now.
A wide, sincere smile spread across her face and I smiled back. She walked further into the room, and before I could stop myself I wrapped her up into a hug. She hesitated for a moment before wrapping her arms around my still bare torso.
My heart was pounding and the smell of her perfume filled the air around us. I didn’t want to let her go, but I did. She looked at me, her cheeks much redder than they had been two minutes ago.
“Happy Christmas Eve James.”
“Happy Christmas Eve to you too Charlotte. I’m sorry about earlier, I’m so so sorry. Don’t hate me.” She whispered that she could never hate me. We just stood there looking at each other for another minute before Charlotte cleared her throat and asked me what I was going to wear. “You clearly went with your house colors, so maybe I should do the same?” She nodded in response to my question.
“I’m going to head back downstairs. Your Mum sent me up to check on you, I’ll tell her you’re on your way down.” She left, and I took a deep breath to try and calm my unsteady heart. The air was still filled with the scent of her, and I banged my head against the closet doorframe.
Five minutes later, I was walking downstairs, having put on my crimson button down shirt and gold tie. Our house was full of Weasleys, and the three Gray girls. Rose was watching as Hugo and Roxie played a game. Al and Ava were sitting on the floor stringing popcorn onto thread that would later be wrapped around the massive Christmas tree.
All the adults were standing near the kitchen, and they all waved at me as I made my way past them and over to the rest of my cousins, and Charlotte. They were all lounging on the largest couch, watching a movie on the 70 inch television, it looked like Die Hard. This must be Freddy’s pick.
After I had showed it to him a few years ago, he declared that it was obviously a Christmas movie and ever since then, it became a Christmas Eve staple. There was very little room to sit down, unless I moved someone.
Dom and Charlotte were sitting right next to each other, with a small gap in between. Charlotte had her legs stretched across Dom’s lap, and the only open section of the couch. She smiled up at me, while Dom glared at me. I swear, something is wrong with my cousin.
“Move James! You’re in the way!” I grinned at her, and made as if to sit on her lap.
“EW! No! You are not sitting on me, you’ll mess up my dress.” She looked up at me, eyes looking like a frozen lake.
“Then where exactly am I supposed to sit?”
“On the floor!”
“And ruin my nice pants. No, I think not!” It was too easy to push her buttons, and she stared up at me, looking like she was about to breath fire.
“Seriously James, move. You’re blocking the TV!” I saw Charlotte pull her legs up, and I immediately swooped down, making sure to sit on Dom’s dress. Charlotte was shaking silently with laughter next to me as Dom shrieked. “I told you NOT TO SIT ON MY DRESS!”
“Well, it’s so big and there’s only so much space…” I let my words hang in the air, knowing it would bait her into responding.
“Are you saying I’m fat?”
“No, I’m saying your dress is fat.”
“My dress is not fat!”
“If you say so.” I turned towards Charlotte and she was smirking at me. She shifted around, and I realized she was now quite scrunched up on the couch. I grabbed her legs and laid them out across my lap, noticing with pleasure that she blushed again.
A loud explosion sounded on the screen and everyone turned their attentions back to Detective McClane. I looked at Charlotte again and mouthed another apology. She just gave me a small, sad smile and looked back at the TV.
Mum yelled at all of us after a few hours, telling us dinner was ready. Thank God it wasn’t assigned seating. All the adults sat on one end, so they could have their adult discussions about politics and economics and boring things.
Charlotte sat down next to Dom, and I immediately took the seat next to her. Her sisters sat across the table. Al and Ava were looking very awkward together. I leaned over to Charlotte and whispered something in her ear.
“Mistletoe needs to be hovered over those two tonight until they kiss.”
“That is my sister, you know.” She didn’t look angry, just amused.
“Are you telling me you don’t agree with me?”
“No, I do. I agree very much. It doesn’t need to be rushed though.”
“5 Galleons it happens tonight.” Charlotte looked at me and smirked.
Dinner went on for hours. It was around eight in the evening before people started to clean up. Thank God for magic, clean up was super easy. Charlotte had tried about 5 times to help the adults, and they all but dragged her back into her chair and glued her there.
I leaned back in my chair, and pulled at her ponytail while she was talking to Rose, who was sitting across from her. Charlotte kept placing her ponytail over her shoulder to keep me from pulling on it, and it never worked. She finally turned around to face me, an attempt at a glare creeping across her features, but she was too amused to make it happen.
Her skin glowed in the candlelight and I was slightly mesmerized watching the candlelight dance across her skin. I didn’t notice the napkin coming at me until it hit me in the face. I shook my head and looked around for the culprit. It was only Charlotte and I left sitting at the table, which surprised me. When did everyone else get up and leave?
“You’re off in another world tonight James.” I looked at her, and my words stuck in my throat. Candlelight + Charlotte= my breath getting taken away. Again.
“I bet Asher wishes he could see you tonight.” Why was I reminding her of her boyfriend? Probably because I needed to remember that she had one.
“I doubt that.”
“Why would you say that? You’re his girlfriend,” I said with some bitterness, “He must want to see you.” Charlotte said something quietly. “What?”
“I said, Asher and I broke up last week. I just, hadn’t gotten around to telling you yet.”
“You broke up?” Could this really be true? Is this about to be the best Christmas Eve ever?
“Yes.” An intensely bright flare of hope spread through my entire body and suddenly there was light back in my world. Keep it together James, I thought.
“Why? I thought you liked him.” At least my voice sounds relatively steady. Or not, I thought as she looked at me sharply.
“Did he break up with you? Although I don’t see why he would, he’s fancied you since 2nd year. He’d be an idiot to break up with you.” Without realizing it, my fingers had been playing with one of her loose curls. She sounded breathless. I was too wrapped up in this moment to realize that half of my family were standing around staring at us, still sitting at the table, our heads close together.
“I broke up with him. It wasn’t fair.”
“What wasn’t fair?” I looked up and our eyes met and locked. I leaned closer to her and noticed that her chest was rising and falling rapidly. My hand slid down her cheek and cupped her neck. “Charlotte, what wasn’t fair?” I had to know.
I placed my forehead against hers and didn’t move my gaze from her wide, gray eyes. Her lips parted and I wanted to kiss her so badly it hurt.
“It wasn’t fair because I didn’t love him the way he loved me. He deserves better than me.” There was my fragile little dove. I wish she’d figure out she wasn’t a dove, but a phoenix.
“Charlotte, love, don’t say that. There is no one better than you.”
“James, didn’t your mother ever teach you not to lie.” It hurt me that she actually believed all this about herself. My other hand left the table and cupped the other side of her neck and I pulled back a bit. I stared at her and saw the confusion and hurt, the hope and what, my God, looked like desire.
“You are better than anyone I know and I hope that one day very, very soon you believe that. Asher is an idiot for letting you go without a fight.” A single tear fell down her face, and I flicked it away with my thumb. “I wouldn’t.” A gasp escaped her lips.
“You wouldn’t what?”
“Let you go without a fight.”
“James…” Her doe eyes stared back at me. My face inched closer to hers. I could feel her breath and was inches from her lips when a loud bang sounded very close to us. Every single curse word I knew was flying through my brain, but I bit my tongue.
I looked up and took in several things at once. One, all the adults were standing off to the side, staring at Charlotte and I, looking extremely disappointed. Why were they watching us?
Two, I noticed that Harper was staring at us, wide eyed, holding her hip in a way that indicated pain.That loud bang must have been her running into the table. Her mouth was open and she looked horrified to have interrupted us.
Three, I noticed that the candles were about to burn out and it would soon be pitch black in the dining room. Harper ran off, limping on one leg. I grabbed Charlotte’s hand and dragged her after me, into the library. This was not a moment I wanted to share with my entire family.
The room was cold and dark when we entered. I shut the double doors firmly behind me and told Charlotte to stay put. I picked my way over to the large floor to ceiling windows and threw open the heavy curtains, letting the light of the full moon shine into the room.
Charlotte stood against the door, her hands behind her back, looking very nervous. I walked over to the large fireplace and built up a fire the muggle way. Though I could have used magic, being in a house full of adult magic users, I chose not to just in case the restrictions for underage magic use had gotten stricter since the last time.
Soon the fire was roaring away and the room was warming up. My fingers were gripping the mantle, nails digging into the wood. The flames danced as I watched them, needing a few moments to compose myself. I turned around and saw Charlotte still standing in the same spot. She stared back at me, eyes wide, and a visible shiver went through her.
My feet carried me over to her, and I reached around her to grab her hands. They were clenched behind her back and her breath hitched as I pried them apart.
“Come here.” I said before realizing it sounded like a command. “Please.” She nodded and walked with me over to the fireplace. “Are you warm enough?” The heat had been cranked up downstairs, but it was fairly cold in this room still.
“I’m a bit cold.” I walked over and pulled a blanket off the chair right next to the fire and draped it around her.
“Charlotte, you can’t honestly believe that you aren’t good enough for Asher, do you?” I wasn’t going to chase around this. She dipped her head, not meeting my eyes and that was all I needed to know. “Oh Lottie, no.” I went to her, and pulled her into my chest, my head resting on top of hers.
The blanket fell off her shoulders all of 20 seconds after I’d put it there. Oh well, I was warmer. I could feel her pressed against me, her arms trapped, palms flat on my stomach. Her forehead rested underneath my collarbone and I realized I never wanted her to leave this spot. “How can I make you understand how amazing you are?”
“Why me James?” Her voice was muffled, and I heard a quiver in her words as she was speaking.
“What are you asking me?” I titled her head up towards mine, so I could look at her. Her hair was falling out of her ponytail and more curls were framing her face.
“Why do you, of all people, want to spend time with me? Inviting me here for the holidays, me of all people? I’m nothing compared to…” She stopped and pushed herself away from me, turning to face the fire.
Shadows danced around her silhouette and I watched, entranced as she reached up and pulled her hair free of the band holding it in place. Soft waves of rich, chestnut hair cascaded down her back. I was frozen in place, taking in what she had been trying to say.
“Compared to my normal girls? Is that what you were going to say?” She half turned to face me and nodded before ducking her head back to face the fire. “Charlotte, haven’t you noticed? I can’t play that game anymore. You changed that. That’s what all my behavior has been about. You’re special.”
“I’m not that special James.”
“You are special Charlotte. You’re special to me. I’m sorry you don’t see how amazing you are, but you are. Amazing. Beautiful. You have a fire inside of you. I’m a moth drawn to a flame. I’d be an idiot if I didn’t see how special you are. Asher figured it out long before me, and I wish it hadn’t taken me until this summer to figure all this out.”
Charlotte turned her head briefly, and I saw tears falling down her face. I came to stand in front of her and I grabbed her hand, linking my finger with hers. She stared down at our interlaced hands and tried to force a smile through the tears. I used my other hand to force her face up towards mine again, noticing that her make-up was still perfect.
“Uh… not that this is what I should be noticing, but when girls cry, doesn’t their make-up run?” She laughed and mumbled something about magic.
“You’re a good friend James. Trying to make me feel better. I’m ok, I’ll just stay here for a while. Go spend time with your family.” She was doing it again, deflecting and trying to push me away.
“I’m exactly where I want to be.”
“No. I’m exactly where I want to be Charlotte. If I didn’t want to be here, I wouldn’t be. You’re who I want to spend my evening with, so please stop pushing me away.” She looked like she wanted to say something, but was unsure if she should. “Whatever you want to say, you know you can tell me anything, right?”
“I want to believe that. And before you get on my case, it’s not because I think I can’t trust you. Telling you somehow makes it all real, and I don’t want… I don’t want to face it yet. I’m not strong enough.”
“Yes you are. But if you don’t want to tell me, it’s ok. I’ll never push you. Please just remember I’m here to listen.”
“Even at school?” This girl was going to break my heart, and not in the traditional way. I hated her family even more in this moment for creating this wall around her.
“Even at school. I’m always here for you.” Charlotte looked down into the fire and was quiet for a few minutes. I found myself playing with her hair again.
“I don’t know if you do gifts tomorrow, or tonight, but I have something for you. Two somethings, actually. Can I give them to you now?”
“You didn’t have to get me anything.” Her gift was sitting in my pocket and I touched it to make sure it was still there.
“Well, I did. I’d really like to give them to you, if that’s ok?” Her face tilted up towards mine and she looked hopeful.
“Ok, but only if you agree to open yours as well.”
“You didn’t have to get me anything.” She shouldn’t have sounded so surprised.
“Well, I did.” I said, repeating her words. She smiled and stepped away from me.
“I’ll be right back.” Charlotte’s heels clicked on the wood floor as she walked back out into the house. The heat from the roaring flames was too much and I walked over to one of the large, arched windows.
This was one of the best views in the house, the valley spread out beyond our backyard. The full moon and starlight glinted off the snow, so that it looked like a sparkling sheet of white studded with thousands upon thousands of diamonds. I rested my head against one of the panes, letting the frosty glass cool me down.
The events of the evening tumbled through my thoughts, and I ached. I ached for Charlotte. Her pain became my pain and I wished I could take it away. I wished I could find a magic mirror that would show her how I saw her.
I ached to wrap her into my arms and kiss her. I ached to feel her soft skin underneath my fingertips and to feel her body become pliant and willing. I ached, I ached, I ached.
It was very easy for me to get consumed with my thoughts, and I didn’t hear the door click shut. I didn’t hear the clack of heels against wood. I didn’t hear her call my name and I about jumped out of my skin when I felt her hand slide across my back.
Charlotte stood next to me at the window and if I thought she looked good next to firelight, it was nothing compared to how she looked standing in a patch of moonlight. She looked ethereal. She was also holding two packages in her hands.
“You were serious about two gifts. Charlotte- you really didn’t have to.”
“Only one is an actual gift. The other is something I found that I knew you would want to have.”
“That still makes it a gift.” I took her hand and walked over to the couch. We both sat down and I picked up the larger of the two packages, which she indicated I should open first. She was biting her lip and looked worried.
I do love opening gifts, and tore open the simple wrapping paper to see two tickets nestled in a box, along with a pair of Quidditch gloves that I’d been salivating after for months now. They were top of the line and would greatly improve my game. I didn’t even read the tickets at first, but when I finally did, my jaw dropped.
“You… World Cup tickets in a private booth… Pre-game invitation…,” It was the last piece of paper that did me in though. “You are hereby invited to join the team of your choice in a training session…” I read the rest of the paper in a hurry, and I stared dumbfounded at the pile on my lap after.
“I can’t say I’m great at picking out gifts… but I hope you like them. You can take anyone you want to the game.”
“Charlotte! I can’t believe you… this is amazing. Wow. Thank you!” I swept her up into a hug, crushing her to me. “How did you manage all of this? This is seriously too much Lottie.”
“James, you’ve done more for me than I could ever possibly explain. This is nothing.”
“Do you know how hard it is to get invited to training sessions?”
“I know. That’s why I got you into one. I have a Quidditch connection, ok? That’s all I’m going to say. I called in a favor.”
“Charlotte, seriously. Thank you, I love them.”
“Now before you open the next one, understand that this is not a gift. This is just something that needed to be returned to you. I hope you don’t mind that I’m the one giving it back.” My brain cycled through all the things I could have possibly given her that she would want to give back and I came up with a blank. “Be gentle with it though.”
Now I was really curious and gently pulled back the paper. At first, what I was holding didn’t register. And then, when I finally realized what she had given me, the true caliber of her amazing person crashed into me. I jerked back and stared at her wide eyed.
She looked both hopeful and nervous, biting her lip lightly and searching my face for any indication of how I felt. I looked back down and, had I been less of a manly man, I would have actually shed tears.
A memory flashed through my mind of the time I told Charlotte my biggest regret. How I had given something away without knowing it’s true value. I had tried to find it in the years since giving it away, and always came up with dead ends. Somehow, she had found it. I looked up at her, dumbstruck. I couldn’t even form words, but she had figured out what this meant to me and she smiled.
“Ever since you told me about this, I’ve been trying to track it down. I finally got word the day after we left school that someone had it and that it was for sale. I figured you would want it back.”
“You are the most incredible person I have ever met. I can’t believe you tracked this down for me, and you found it. Charlotte, I can’t even begin to explain what this means to me. I can make it right now. I can…” I choked on my words, realizing that I could fix the rift between myself and my Dad.
“It wasn’t right for anyone else to have it. Do you want me to leave you alone? You look…”
“I’m just… amazed. I had given up on finding this. Do you know that this means?”
“That you can give it back to your Dad. Which means you can drop the ridiculous idea you have that there’s a rift between you two.”
“Charlotte, you’re allowing me to fix the biggest problem in my life.”
“That’s what friends are for James.” She smiled at me and got up to walk away. I grabbed at her hand before she stepped too far away.
“Can you just give me a minute? I want to give you your gift.”
“I’ll wait as long as you need me too.” Did she mean more than one thing by that, cause it sounded like it.
I sat in absolute shock for a good 20 minutes before finally coming out of my haze. I looked for Charlotte and saw her sitting in the chair closest to the fire, reading a book. Her feet were tucked up underneath her and one hand was cupping her face. She looked entranced by whatever she was reading.
I stared at her for a while before finally standing up, my body protesting after being in the same position for so long. She heard me moving and looked up, smiling. I stood in front of her, and placed my hands, palms up in front of her.
She put the book down on the armrest and placed both her hands in mine. Slowly, mine closed around hers and I pulled her to her feet. There was nothing I could say to even try to explain how much this meant to me, and how amazing I thought she was for doing it for me.
Asher was a fucking idiot for not fighting for her. He didn’t deserve her. After this, it was even more obvious that I didn’t deserve her. But I had to let her know how I was feeling. Words froze in my throat as I looked down at her. Charlotte looked up at me, expectantly.
My eyes locked onto hers and I took in every detail of her face. Her high cheekbones, and wide gray eyes sparkling, shadowed with vibrant blue. My hands, on their own accord, started exploring. They slid up her arms, across her shoulders and back down. They found her waist, and I was very aware of everything.
The metal belt, every detail of every feather was felt by my fingertips. I slid one arm around her back and pulled her to me, leaving no space. I felt the soft silk of her dress underneath the sparkly gauze layered on top. My other hand slid back up her arm, up her neck and into her soft, silky hair.
My eyes never left hers, and I saw as the emotions shifted. Her tongue darted out to moisten her lips and that did it for me. I bent my head down and placed my mouth gently against hers, feeling her entire body tense for a brief second before she became utterly pliant. Like water flowing, she molded perfectly into my body.
A groan escaped her lips, and my ability to be gentle vanished. I pulled her tighter into me and moved my mouth more forcefully against hers, groaning as she complied, opening her mouth under mine. My hand was fisted in her hair. Everything I had ever wanted came alive in that moment.
Lights flashed behind me and my nerves felt like they were on fire. I had never had a kiss like this. Nothing had ever come close. I pulled her hair back and nipped down the side of her jaw and down her neck. She was breathing heavily, her chest heaving against me. I moved back to her mouth, biting her lower lip.
She wrapped both hands around my neck, and pulled my face towards her, eagerly returning my kiss. The fire burned our skin, but we didn’t move. The world spun on around us, time passing as we stayed rooted to the spot. Her mouth was soft and ripe and I realized how much I had been missing out on by not having done this sooner.
One hand stayed rooted in her hair, keeping her mouth firmly pressed against mine. My other hand went everywhere, landing on the zipper of her dress. I sucked in a breath as her hands crept under my shirt and started exploring. With more restraint than I figured I could have possessed at that point, I pulled back briefly. We were both breathing heavily. I couldn’t stay away, and drew her mouth back to mine.
Time passed. When you’re having the best moment of your life, you don’t pay attention to time because you don’t want it to end. I spent hours kissing Charlotte, pulling her out of the library and into my room. We fell onto my bed and wrapped around each other.
Charlotte rolled underneath me, and wrapped a leg around my waist. My hands ran up her smooth leg and I groaned for the thousandth time that night. It occurred to me that this may be her first time in someone else’s bed, but she wasn’t acting like it.
Her fingers were busy working at my shirt and I sat up long enough to shrug it off my body, throwing it onto the floor. I looked down at Charlotte and every nerve fired again. Her dress was pushed up to her upper thighs, her hair spread out on the pillow and her lips were oh so deliciously swollen. Her eyelids were heavy and she sat up on her elbows, staring back at me with as much passion as I was looking at her with. Somehow, I found words.
“If you don’t stop me now, I won’t be able to.” That wasn’t entirely true. I would never force her to do anything she didn’t want to do.
“If you’re worried about this being my first time, it’s not.” I jerked back a bit in shock and noticed that she immediately looked worried and ashamed. I remember during our 20 Questions game this summer, I had asked her about this and she hadn’t said anything. I assumed it meant she was still pure, but I guess not. “It happened last year.”
“It’s not like it’s mine either. I don’t care about that.” And I realized I meant what I said. “Say the word and I’ll obey Charlotte. I’m all yours.”
“In that case…” She sat up and my heart seized, I thought she was going to leave. Instead, she leaned in to me and kissed me, wrapping both her arms around my neck and letting her finger slide through my hair. My hands ran up the back of her dress until I found the zipper, my hands freezing.
I felt her smile and took that as my cue, sliding the zipper all the way down. I didn’t even realize how much I had wanted to feel her bare skin against mine until this moment. Her mouth moved easily underneath mine and I gently pushed her back onto my bed.
I tugged her dress down her legs and sucked in a breath as I took in her form. Charlotte looked torn between embarrassment and utter desire, her hands fluttering, as she tried to decide if she should cover her body.
It occurred to me, as my eyes ran lazily up and down her body, that she may be thinking of all the other times I’d done this in my life, and if she was just another girl to me. She wasn’t. Every other time had just been because, it just happened.
Knowing her as I did, I knew she wouldn’t listen to my words. She watched people’s actions. I laid my body over hers, keeping myself above her by resting on my elbows. My head ducked and I captured her mouth with mine, pouring all my emotions into this kiss, trying to show her how I felt.
I used every ounce of will I possessed to keep it slow. The box with her present in it bounced against my thigh as she wrapped her legs around my waist, pulling me closer to her. Her hands drifted down to my belt buckle and I growled, eliciting a laugh from her. I covered my mouth with hers, again and if there was ever a time to properly used this word, I ravished her.
Maybe she’s ravishing me, I couldn’t tell. All the pent up emotions between us broke. My world became her, only her. I know, for the rest of my life, I will never forget our first time. There was an utter moment of completeness that had been missing from my admittedly short life.
A/N- First, I have to say that this chapter didn't go at all as I had planned. I had this story all figured out in my head, and as is often the case with writing, the story has been writing itself. I seriously, seriously didn't plan this, but after writing it, I couldn't imagine changing it. Somehow, it just feels right, if unexpected and maybe out of character for Charlotte. I sincerly hope you all like it. Like seriously hoping you don't hate it. Gah!!
Two, Credit goes to 20th Centruy Fox for producing Die Hard, as well as to the director (John McTiernan) and the writers (Roderick Thorp and Jeb Stuart).
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