Chapter 33 : New Years Eve
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There is something about walking down a curved staircase in a ball gown that makes a girl feel like a princess. The party was just getting started, and there weren’t a lot of people there, yet. I’d been a regular guest the last two years in a row, and knew how many people would likely show up. Their New Year’s Party was a sight to behold, and this year was no different. It was always held in their house, which was quite easy as it was huge.
I always thought of their house as being like the White House. There was the formal area of the house, and then the part of the house that was actually lived in. The staircase I had just walked down was in the formal part of the house. I left the front room and wandered back towards where I knew James’s family was. It was impossible to miss them, with Ginny yelling at her at least one of her children to do something or other without talking back.
My dress swished around me with each step and I felt like twirling. Candles twinkled on every surface and the air smelled of pine, cold air, and spices. The house had been transformed into a winter wonderland. Not the cheesy prom kind seen in American high schools, but the magical, classy kind.
I was just walking past the hallway that led to the rarely used guest wing of the house when someone reached out and grabbed me. I found myself being led by someone I couldn’t see, as all the lights had been turned off, and being led into an empty room.
Everything was just darkness and shadows around me, and I heard a door click shut, followed by the sound of a lock turning. I had a pretty good idea of who was with me in the room and I smiled. Warm, familiar hands cupped my face and drew me forward.
Soft lips captured mine in a searing kiss and my nerves fired in response. I wound my arms around his neck and felt hands sliding from my face down to my waist, at which point I was pulled even closer towards his body. I used my hands to pull his face closer to mine, deepening the already intense kiss. James groaned in response and held me tightly.
“I missed you.” He whispered, resting his forehead on mine.
“I was only gone a few days.” I reached up and ran my fingers down his jaw.
“Which was still too long.” He kissed me again. I could get used to this, I thought with a smile. “I do like kissing you.”
“You should have done it sooner, or you know, just kept doing if after the first one.”
“I should have.” James pulled me into a hug, placing his chin on top of my head. “As much as I’d like to keep you to myself tonight, this is a party, and we should enjoy it.” He pulled away, linked his fingers with mine and pulled me back out into the house. “Oh and you look beyond gorgeous. I very much look forward to taking you out of that dress later.”
James made a beeline for the beverage table and handed me a cup with a wink. After taking a sip it became obvious that it was spiked, but it didn’t mind. It was a party after all, and it was time to enjoy myself. Time flew by. I’d been led around the dance floor multiple times by Freddy, Al and Louis, before wandering away to get myself a drink. I hadn’t seen or talked to James in hours, but as I’d already been warned about that, I didn’t think anything of it. As one of the Potter children, he had a duty to make nice to all the higher ups. I had zero concept of how much time had passed, and when I finally found a clock, I gaped at it.
It was almost midnight now. People were twirling around me as I walked through the dance floor. I was lightly buzzed and floating on could nine, and my brain took in all the details, albeit a little shinier than things actually were. The floor was made of black wood that resembled a forest floor and was covered in a layer of enchanted snow.
The dancing figures around me kicked the snow up and it sparkled, as it too, danced, falling back to the ground only to be kicked up again. Around the floor were trees, painted black and bare of any leaves. Strewn between the branches were thousands of twinkling lights- dark blue, purple and just enough white light that people could see.
The world sparkled. It felt like an ancient magical site. I half expected to hear prayers to ancient gods and see fairies flying around. Flashes of shirts and dresses caught my eye- dark green, gold, and lots of red. The music pounded through my veins, and I relished in the vibrations. There was a mostly empty corner of the dance floor, and I walked there, watching with delight as everyone danced.
I spun around, a laugh on my face, and found myself in someone’s arms. A hand wrapped around my waist and grabbed my outstretched hand, leading me in a dance. I closed my eyes and drifted with the moment, aware only of the feelings of a tall, hard body and the scents around me. A hint of rose, of juniper, and of amber. Wait, juniper?
I took a deep breath and reality started to bring me back down. I knew that scent. I opened my eyes, and looked up through my lashes. My body froze, interrupting the dance. Twisting away, I stared at him, at Asher.
He looked at me, and I saw two emotions fighting a war inside of him. Happy and sad. He smiled and then frowned, probably wondering why I was reacting so negatively to seeing him. He reached out to me, and I stepped back again, almost colliding into another couple. They barked a warning at me.
“Charlotte. Why don’t you look happy to see me?” His green eyes searched mine and I felt a welling of tears coming. Everything crashed around me, like shattering glass. Why wasn’t that James?
“We broke up.” A whisper of sound escaped my lips and I looked around for James, hoping he hadn’t seen me dancing with Asher and taken it the wrong way. I thought I was dancing with him.
“I don’t want that. Please, let me fix it. Whatever was wrong. I’ll do better. Please Charlotte, I miss you.” I looked at him. He looked like a lost puppy hoping to find a new home with the person standing in front of him- despair and hope. How did I make this much of an impression on the guy in less than two months of dating?
I couldn’t even understand why Asher likes me, let alone why James seems ten times happier with me around. That may just be the kissing and sex though, I wasn’t entirely sure. I was too busy thinking to notice that Asher was standing in front of me. My senses were heightened and I smelled alcohol underneath his cologne. His eyes were bright as they looked into mine and his hand came up to cup my face.
Before I could process his movement, his was kissing me. Ice water flooded my veins and I froze on the spot, not moving and definitely not engaging. My senses came back to me after a few seconds and I pushed him away.
“No Asher. No.”
“Charlotte, please.” I stepped away from him and looked around. No one was paying attention to this, we had somehow found our way to the corner of the dance floor and no one was around. My eyes searched the crowd and I found James, looking right at us, and my heart seized.
He looked angry, but not at me. He didn’t looked betrayed, he looked like someone had touched something precious to him. Everything about his stance and the way he was looking at me screamed, “mine. She is mine.”
My feet moved and I found myself running towards him and into him. He wrapped his arms around me, while I buried my head in his chest and started apologizing, telling him it meant nothing. Asher had just kissed me out of nowhere. James, though I couldn’t see it, was having a glaring contest with Asher. I’d just made it obvious to Asher that James was indeed the reason I’d broken up with him.
James finally led me away, pulling me into a dark corner of the house. Once again, I found myself pushed up against a wall, with James kissing me. Kisses that seared and made my brain fuzzy. Kisses that spoke of possession. It made me giddy, so unlike what I had felt when Asher has just kissed me. James growled and pulled me closer, nipping at my collarbone.
“He does remember that you broke up with him, right?” He sounded angry, but I knew it wasn’t directed at me. “That when someone breaks up with you, you don’t get to kiss them anymore.”
“He wants to get back together.”
“He must not have been happy when you said no.” He laid his forehead on mine and then sucked in a breath. “You did say no, right?” He sounded frozen by fear. I was so astonished by all these events that I couldn’t speak. James turned into a solid plank of wood and I could feel his heartbeat pounding rapidly underneath my hand.
“Charlotte? What did you tell him?” James backed away from me and the loss of his comforting presence shattered my silence.
“No. Come back. I told him no. Of course I told him no.” James deflated and came back towards me, bringing me back into the safety of his arms. “I don’t want him.”
“Who do you want?” Amidst all of this and he was seriously asking me that? I looked up at him, my annoyance shining through the ten other emotions. He laughed for a second before saying, “I’m serious Charlotte. You’re not a game to me and I hope that I’m not a game to you. Which sounds ridiculous, I know, because you aren’t like that, of course you aren’t like that. At the risk of sounding less manly by sharing my feelings, I hope that you realize that you mean a lot to me and this… is… different for me.”
“You do realize the reason I broke up with Asher is because you were all I thought about, right?” I looked up at him and watched his expression change from worry to delight.
“Oh good. Had to be sure.” There was his normal cheeky grin. I smiled despite myself.
“Do you want to go back to the party?” I really didn’t and was hoping he would say no.
“Let’s see…. boring, stuffy old Ministry people, or my ridiculously hot… well… you. That’s a tough one.” He laughed, and the lack of the word girlfriend being used hung between us. That was a conversation for another day.
“I was hoping you would say that.” James told me to head up to his room while he said goodbye to some people, so I snuck quietly up the back stairs; relishing the utter stillness of his quiet bedroom. I checked the clock on his bedside table and noticed that it was ten minutes to midnight.
This crazy year was almost over and I was ending it on a high note, mostly. The window beckoned to me, and I stared out at the crystal clear sky, the stars blinking at me. My thoughts rose up quickly and enveloped me.
I didn’t understand in the slightest why James wanted to be with me. When I dug deep, I realized that I still expected him to leave and find someone better. I knew that I was just waiting for this to play out, knowing that I would enjoy it while it lasted. Whatever I felt I could be, one day, I wasn’t that person now.
James deserved better that me. I was just a sad girl from a broken family. If my family couldn’t love me, didn’t that make me unlovable? The door opened and closed quietly and I sunk into his arms as they wrapped around my waist. From downstairs I heard the sounds of cheering and I spun around to face James.
“Happy New Year Lottie.”
“Happy New Year James.” His arms tightened around me as his mouth sought mine, kissing me softly. The cheering below faded into nothingness as I got lost in the moment. James pulled back and rested his chin on top of my head, wrapping his arms around my shoulders.
“If you don’t mind, I’m going to change now. I hate wearing tuxes. You, of course, are more than welcome to change out of your dress. I’ll even help you.”
“No.” I said laughing. “Toss me one of your shirts will you.”
“Do you really need to wear clothes?” He stood there holding one of his t-shirts, with a small pout.
“Yes, unless you want me to freeze.”
“You won’t freeze, I’ll keep you warm.” And there was that cheeky smile of his again. He looked over his shoulder at me, standing in front of his closet, and tossed me a shirt. I shimmied out of my dress as easily as I could, leaving it in a pile on the floor. The wrinkles could be easily fixed with a simple spell tomorrow.
For now, I was exhausted and wanted to sleep. While James was still changing, I buried myself under the covers and tried to looked like I wasn’t there at all. I didn’t know how long this would last with him and sleeping in the same bed would certainly not happen once we were back at school; so, for now, I decided to enjoy this.
If, at the end of my life, I was going to look back and think about my happiest time, this would be it. I owed it to my future self to fully enjoy this, while I could. Now that I was good and depressed, I tried to fall asleep. James finally climbed under his covers and pulled me to him in one quick movement. He kissed my shoulder and I smiled, wrapping this cozy moment around me.
My necklace flared with heat again, it had a habit of doing that when James was around. I hoped it would stop soon. It was making it harder to know this wasn’t going to last.
The next chapter will be called Definitions, so if that's not the next chapter... read no further. :)
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