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The Gift by Twofighter
Chapter 4 : The Smile
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2


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Chapter Four: The Smile

Well, it’s been a long time, long time now
Since I’ve seen you smile.
And I’ll gamble away my time.


Nantes – Beirut






“Daddy, come on!” Pelops said excitedly while he pulled his father’s arm with all the strength he could muster, which wasn’t much since he was only six. Dad stayed put.

“What, ‘come on’? We’re here. Say goodbye to your sister,” Dad said with a furrowed brow. I put my trunk down and turned to my father, who was avoiding my eye.

“But I want to see the train!” Pelops whined, continuing his attempt at getting some kind of movement out of his father. “Through there!”

Dad shushed him and I wrapped my hand around Pelops’ little index finger that was pointing right at the barrier between platform nine and ten.

“It’s rude to point,” I whispered.

“I want to see!” Pelops continued, loud enough for people to turn their heads. I blushed, but dad seemed oblivious to the people around us. He was staring at the ground.

“You could go through the barrier with me and come back here the same way. It doesn’t close off until the train has left,” I suggested embarrassedly. This had become a very awkward moment for me and my dad over the past couple of years. As Pelops got older and insisted more and more on going through the barrier to platform nine-and-three-quarters with me, my dad had found it increasingly more difficult to distract his son from this idea with the promise of an ice cream or something similar, and this year it seemed like Pelops was adamant on getting a glimpse of the train to Hogwarts.

Dad, however, didn’t seem to like that idea at all. He never went through the barrier with me. We always said our goodbyes here. I don’t think my dad had ever seen the Hogwarts Express before, and he wasn’t planning on changing that.

You see, my dad’s a squib… or at least I think he is. His father was a wizard but his mother a muggle, so I guess one could call him a half-squib? Or just a muggle, I don’t know. The problem was that he knew all about the wizarding world because his dad had told him about it, believing his son would also get a letter when he was eleven. He didn’t.

“No,” dad said quietly but resolutely. “You’ll just have to wait until you’re old enough yourself, boy.”

I let my eyes drop from my father to my little brother and sighed. These two men were exhausting, I thought, as I dropped to my knees in front of little Pelops and began shushing him before he could start wailing for everyone to hear.

My dad’s hand let go of Pelops’ and flew up to his hair, running through it in a tired way.

“Pelops? Ssh, maybe next year. Okay, little man?” I tried to soothe him. “It’s just a train.”

As always, my words only seemed to make it worse. I was never really good at the comforting and calming down. My tactic was always pure rational thinking, but I’ve found out that reasoning with a six year old crying because he doesn’t get his way is quite impossible.

Fortunately for me –and every person in a 5foot radius– Pelops’ attention was drawn away from this heart-wrenching disappointment as his teary eyes fell upon a family of four walking our way. His mouth dropped open but no sound came out. I turned to look at what had turned him speechless and saw that my little brother was once again star-struck by Albus Potter and his family.

“Hello Niobe,” Ginny Potter said cheerfully. I muttered back a small ‘Hey’ as I got up. Harry was smiling warmly at me and Lily threw me a quick wave, before smiling down at Pelops, but it was Albus that I was looking at and who seemed to be fascinated with the ground.

“Is this your little brother?” Lily asked excitedly. I nodded and she immediately squatted before him, taking his little hand in hers and introducing herself to him. With his free hand, Pelops rubbed his eyes, trying to get rid of the tears. I had to admit; he was putting on a very cute act, and both Ginny and Lily fawned over him.

I looked up just in time to see my dad and Harry Potter shake hands.

“Nice to meet you. I believe Albus here is in the same year as Niobe, aren’t you?” Harry said, putting a fatherly hand on Al’s shoulder. He looked up and nodded at my dad before shaking his hand as well.

Surprisingly, I saw my dad’s eyes widen slightly as Harry introduced himself. I guess little Pelops wasn’t the only one a little star-struck. All I could think was that this was probably the first time my father didn’t shy away from anything that was related to the magical world.

I picked up my trunk again and walked toward my dad, trying to ignore Albus as much as he was ignoring me.

“I think I’ll go now,” I said, wishing that only my dad would hear but the people around us seemed to go dead silent. “Bye dad. See you at Christmas.”

I turned toward Pelops who was still holding on to Lily’s hand when he took one step in my direction and said: “I wan’ come with you.”

I sighed and squatted before him, trying not to feel too guilty for leaving him again. The first year had been the worst, but still I was feeling miserable enough about it now.

“No, you just stay with your dad, okay? And try to be good,” I said before hugging him and whispering: “I love you.”

But Pelops didn’t really let go and seemed to remember his mission here: “I wan’ see train!”

I could feel everyone’s stares on us. I knew I had to say no to him again, but the Potters wouldn’t understand why.

“No, Pelops. Just stay here with your dad like a big boy. You’ll see the train when you get your own Hogwarts letter, right?” I tried to get him excited about that but it didn’t seem to work. His brow knotted itself and his eyes went moist again. I could practically hear Lily and Ginny’s hearts breaking next to us.

“Why isn’t he allowed to see the train?” Lily whispered to her mother.

“Shush Lily,” Ginny whispered back, and I was just in time to see Ginny’s eyes flit to my father and back to me.

“Let’s just show him. You and dad could bring them both back out here…” Lily reasoned and Ginny made an irritated, hushing noise.

I got up and smiled at Ginny for a moment, whose sympathetic eyes flew from me to Pelops and back. My smile faltered. I didn’t like pity.

But Ginny hadn’t noticed because she had already turned to my father and said:

“Is it okay if Harry and I show your son the Hogwarts express for a moment? We’ll bring him back here safe and sound, I promise.”

It was clear that my father didn’t doubt the fact that the man who killed Voldemort was able to look after his child, but in his eyes I could see the uncontrollable resentment toward the fact that he needed Ginny and Harry’s help. Fortunately, there was no arguing with Ginny Potter and so he could only nod.

Pelops squealed delightfully and immediately grabbed my hand. Lily took his other one as we faced the barrier between platform nine and ten.

Suddenly I felt a warm touch against my right hand, which was still holding onto my trunk. I think I caught a whiff of my favourite smell before I actually saw his face, far too close for me to think straight.

“Let me take this for you,” Al whispered before taking my trunk from me and putting it on the cart he had wheeled into the station. My hand was tingling because of his touch but before the drool could drip from the corner of my mouth, Pelops and Lily were pulling me through the barrier and suddenly a big, red steam engine stood in front of us.

Its magnificence could still amaze me every year and Pelops seemed as speechless as he had been upon first meeting Albus. Even though his eyes were bright and hungry as they scanned the platform, Pelops let go of Lily’s hand and wrapped it around my leg, clearly intimidated by everything around him. I lifted him into my arms and he wrapped his arms securely around my neck.

“A big train, isn’t it?” Ginny said sweetly to Pelops, who nodded. His eyes didn’t seem to be able to catch up with everything they wanted to see. Pelops squealed and pointed as a man on a broomstick zoomed by so fast that he was unrecognisable.

“I wish my boys were still that age. You were such a pretty kid, Albus,” Ginny said, making Al blush more than I had ever seen him do before.

“Are you implying that our Al isn’t pretty anymore, mum?” A familiar voice said. James Potter appeared next to Albus and slung his arm around his younger brother, the newest broomstick available shining brightly in his other hand.

“Shut up,” Al muttered, shoving his brother embarrassedly.

“Kids, I think you should go load your trunks onto the train now, while I destroy my son’s fifth new broomstick this month,” Ginny said sweetly, throwing said son a stern glare. I lowered Pelops to the ground and although he was reluctant to let go, he seemed too engrossed in watching James to really notice whether he was holding my hand or Ginny’s.

“No, mum! This is like… my baby,” James whined, hugging the broomstick to his chest.

“Merlin, the thought of him breeding,” Albus muttered as he reached for his trunk. I chuckled as I took down mine first, and I was granted my first smile of the day. His green eyes twinkled just like they had done a couple of weeks ago and I had to admit that my memory could never really do them justice.

We boarded the train in silence and when I walked into a compartment, my heart gave a squeeze as Albus followed me in. While we put our trunks away, I was desperately searching for something interesting to say, but as always I had to admit to myself that I just wasn’t that interesting.

“So, how was the rest of your summer?” Albus asked nicely.

There you go! How difficult could coming up with something like that be?

“Dull,” I replied immediately, still in line with the thoughts I was just having. “Well, less dull than normally, I guess.”

I was thinking about the piano and realised that, for the first time, there would be something missing at Hogwarts.

“I got some exciting news,” Albus said, and I realised how rude it was of me not to ask about his summer. I had been wallowing in the emptiness of my own life too much.

Al reached for the back pocket of his trousers and pulled out a crumpled envelope. He turned it over in his hand and a red badge fell out of it.

I stared at it for a moment before my brain really registered the words ‘quidditch captain’.

“Seriously? That’s brilliant!” I yelled and before I knew it I had wrapped my arms around him in a hug. It was pure bliss, his smell and the fact that I was so incredibly happy for him, a feeling of pride that came over me. My man, the quidditch captain! I only had to remind myself that he wasn’t my man.

We both blushed as we let go, and I quickly spoke to cover up the embarrassment.

“Well, I better start practicing if I want to make the team again this year,” I said jokingly.

“Oh, you don’t have to try out. Off course you’re on the team. I like you,” Albus said, waving my comment away airily. He didn’t realise how much of an effect his last three words had had on me. The analysis began: did he really like me? In what way; as a friend or could it mean more?

But before I had been able to draw any conclusions, another voice interrupted us.

“Oh, how very professional of you. Luckily, I’m your cousin!” Louis said cheerily.

“Louis!” I yelled, jumping away from Albus and turning to hug my best friend. His long, strong arms enveloped me and for the first time I realised I was truly going back to Hogwarts. After two months of feeling out of place, I was starting to feel like myself again.

“Hey, mate,” Albus greeted him cautiously, clapping him on the back. “I was really surprised I got this. I was sure you’d get it.”

Only then did I think of the fact that Louis had joined the quidditch team a year before Albus had. Maybe it was a little unfair that Albus had gotten the badge and not Louis. There was a brief flicker of disappointment in his eyes as he looked down at the badge, but it was gone before anyone but me could notice it.

“McGonagall probably thought I was going to be busy enough already as Head Boy,” Louis shrugged, taking out his own red badge and showing it to them with a slightly cheeky expression.

“What?” Al and I both said at the same time. And there were hugs and congratulations again, while I pondered the fact that I hadn’t gotten any sort of badge over the summer. I would’ve been jealous if I hadn’t known how busy I already was with just the handful of N.E.W.T.’s classes I had managed to scramble together.

Grinning like an idiot, I went back out onto the platform to say goodbye to Pelops. Ginny and Harry were talking to Ron and Angelique, while my little brother safely held onto Ginny’s hands, his eyes still taking everything in. When his bright eyes found me, he jumped away from the adults so quickly that Ginny couldn’t stop him. After a moment of panic, she noticed he was running my way and smiled.

I caught him in my arms and almost turned around to take him with me on board of the train. If only that was possible. My smile faded as I realised again that I was leaving him behind. When he was younger, I could kid myself into thinking that Pelops didn’t really understand that I was leaving him for months at a time, but noticing every day how much smarter the boy was getting, it was hard to still believe that.

“Will you promise me to be a good boy? Ask dad or Letty to read you a story at night, okay? And send me some photographs from time to time. And maybe a letter?” I whispered in his ear, having that feeling that there were still millions of things I needed to say to him.

“I can’t write,” he giggled, holding onto a lock of my hair as I studied his face for a moment. I had learned to memorize it because I knew from experience how much it would change in only a couple of months.

“But you can draw beautiful pictures! They tell a story, too,” I answered with a smile. He nodded enthusiastically.

As I walked back to Ginny and Harry, who were now joined by (almost) the entire Weasley family, I felt slightly better, knowing that Pelops had at least gotten to see the Hogwarts Express after all these years.

“Thank you,” I said humbly to Ginny, trying to ignore the rest of the crowd. A cute six year old, clinging onto a teenage girl always seemed to draw attention. I lowered Pelops to the ground.

“Oh, it was my pleasure, dear,” Ginny gushed, stroking Pelops’ head endearingly. “If there’s ever anything else we can do for you and your family.”

I knew what she was really saying: if there’s something you need in the magical world, something your muggle family can’t help you with…

It was sad that I never would be able to take her up on it. Pride was quite a problem in our family, and asking help from others just wasn’t something we were able to do. I smiled shyly, once again wishing I could come up with something sensible to say.

The conductor blew his whistle and the crowd on the platform was thinning out. Pelops wrapped his arms tightly around my leg again. I felt my eyes well up as I saw the sad look on his face.

“I love you,” I whispered again, untangling his tiny arms from my leg and squatting before him.

“I wish I was you,” he whispered back. This stunned me into silence for a moment, as I blinked rapidly to make the tears disappear.

“You’ll get your own Hogwarts letter too, in time,” I replied, trying to cheer him up, even though I didn’t really know if what I was promising would ever come true. It didn’t seem like this was a moment for my harsh, rational approach.

He nodded and let go of me. I quickly turned away and headed for the train, hoping the excitement of going back to Hogwarts would come back soon. Louis was waiting for me in front of the train and I could see Lily’s bright eyes from inside, fixated on Pelops as she waved at him lovingly.

Louis silently took my hand and I felt grateful for that as he pulled me along onto the train and into our compartment, where Albus and Rose were already seated. Rose put one arm around my shoulder in a way of greeting as we both waved goodbye to our families. This was the first time I had ever been able to do that.

The next half hour, I was silent apart from the occasional ‘hello’ and ‘bye’ as every Weasley came in for a small chat before disappearing to find their friends. After these formalities, Louis and Rose left to meet up with the other prefects at the front of the train.

Suddenly I found myself alone with Albus, who was humming lazily, clearly not as bothered by this fact as I was.

This was weird. Normally, Albus sat with his dorm mates or the quidditch team on the train. I remembered last year, when I had for the first time found myself without both of my best friends while they were busy with their prefect duties, and I went looking for other people to sit with. I had run into a couple of fellow quidditch players, when suddenly I had found Albus sitting with probably my least favourite classmates, among them: Jessica Taylor.

Jessica was the exact opposite of me. As a chubby eleven year old, there hadn’t really been anything special or attractive about her, and so she compensated by being loud and funny, making her quite popular with both boys and girls. From the very beginning she and the roommates had become good friends, except for me. I was the petite, quiet one of the bunch, which in itself wasn’t necessarily something that made Jessica dislike me. I have to be fair and say that she did try to include me into her clique. However, this required me opening up to her about personal things that I didn’t feel like sharing. Gradually, Jessica realised I wasn’t just a shy girl that needed a little push to come out of her shell.

I had lost my mother and gained a baby brother a little over a year before, and I had become really independent because of that. Much to Jessica’s annoyance, I didn’t need her. I was the girl who went to the restroom alone, who did her homework on her own and whenever she wanted, who wasn’t afraid of missing out something ‘totally awesome’ when she had decided to read a book instead of join the crowd. And most importantly, I didn’t feel like sharing my secrets with her, or anyone for that matter. Pretty soon, Jessica started pretending I wasn’t even there. To her, our dorm only had four beds, all belonging to a tight group of friends.

The real hate came in third year, when I suddenly found myself on a date with a (in retrospect not at all handsome) fourth year boy. I had never been asked out, let alone on a date to Hogsmeade! And this was the first time I was even allowed to go, since my father had so very typically been too late with signing the permission slip.

How was I supposed to know that this rather charming boy with a lot of acne had been Jessica’s first kiss, only a couple of days before our date? I hadn’t been there when the girls were whispering about it in our dorm and even if I had wanted to attend that ceremonial girl talk, I wouldn’t have been welcome. My only source of information when it came to what was going on with the girls in my dorm was Rose Weasley, who had always been nice to me, even in the beginning when we clearly didn’t have anything in common. However, during my second year I had become best friends with her cousin, Louis, as we both joined Gryffindor’s quidditch team. This meant that we suddenly did have something in common, and in third year we discovered that we actually got along very well.

This was also a thorn in Jessica’s eye, and she soon began to excommunicate Rose as well. Hence, our lack of information when it came to her kiss with Aaron, the boy I had a relatively nice date with. When Jessica found out, I obviously became enemy ‘numero uno’. When she did speak to me, or around me, it was always to make snide comments or tell lies. Rose would stand up for me when I wasn’t around to do so myself and we became even better friends, which enraged Jessica only more – along with the fact that I found her cold shoulder not unpleasant at all.

It wasn’t clear whether the next step she undertook had anything to do with me or not, but its timing was definitely very convenient. It seemed as though she had given up on me and Rose, and continued with her life as normal, apart from the fact that she started losing weight. It wasn’t noticeable to anyone outside her immediate environment, but by the time fourth year started, Jessica’s body had changed so much that neither boys nor girls could be oblivious to it anymore. She was still as outgoing and popular as before, and so girls started to look up to her and boys started to ask her out.

After ‘winning back’ Aaron, whom I hadn’t talked since that one date the year before, I got the feeling that this sudden obsession with her weight had been more related to our feud than I had assumed at first. Despite the fact that Louis and I had never been more than friends, rumours were constantly going around because we were spending more and more time together; and Louis quickly became Jessica’s next target. She would gush about how much she liked him and how he was (supposedly) dropping hints to his classmates that he liked her. I knew she was making it all up and tried to ignore her but when she actually had the nerve to ask me whether I could put in a good word for her, I exploded. This was Louis, my best friend, and there was no way I was even going to encourage any form of communication between them. However wrong it sounded, Louis was mine, and because I knew that he didn’t like her at all, I would protect him from Jessica with everything I had.

Unfortunately, Jessica noticed how her actions were getting under my skin and this only gave her the satisfaction she didn’t deserve.

This had been the main reason why I wouldn’t let anyone ever notice I had feelings for Albus the past couple of years – although, I’m finding it harder and harder, certainly when we’re alone in a compartment. The other main reason was of course that Albus has never seen me as anything other than Rose and Louis’ best friend. Add to that the prophecy I had about him only a couple of weeks before, and you got a pretty good picture of my frustration toward the beautiful boy, who was staring right back at me.

“Niobe?”

I jumped a little and started to blush immediately, focusing on his nose to avoid the eyes I had been gazing at.

“Mmh?”

“What are you so deeply daydreaming about?” He asked, his expression half amused and half confused.

“Just people,” I muttered, blushing even harder.

“What people?” He pressed on, looking me straight in the eye. It was equally hard to look at him as it was to look away, thoughts about how I had to hide my feelings for him still lingering in my mind.

“Classmates,” I heard myself say in a soft voice. A ghost of a smile appeared upon Al’s face.

“Anyone in particular?” He said in the same voice, as if there was a secret passing between us. I tried to ignore that voice inside my head that was screaming: you, you, YOU !

Did he know? Of course he does.

Has he figured it out? After all the bumbling, ogling, drooling clues you’ve dropped… He’s not stupid.

Maybe Rose told him? Maybe you should just tell him now.

And suddenly Al’s bright, lively green eyes were fading, as if the liquid inside was slowly seeping out of them. I looked away. He’ll die.

I swallowed and realised the bleach blond hair that danced just outside the compartment belonged to the girl that was the original reason for my ‘daydream’.

“Jessica Taylor,” I said loud and clear, all softness and intimacy gone. Al followed my gaze just as Jessica turned around.

“Yes?” She came in and sat down next to Al, all cheerful and beaming. “Albus! It feels like forever since I last saw you.”

She gave him a quick hug and went on, keeping her hand on his.

“How was the rest of your trip? I bet none of the parties were as good as mine!” She giggled, diving into stories about said event.

I had already been mildly annoyed by the fact that Jessica had completely ignored me even though it had been me who’d called her name, but that wasn’t really out of the ordinary. However, alarm bells were going off inside my head as I registered another little detail: Albus and Jessica saw each other on holiday and he went to her party?

Maybe it was for the best that they were completely ignoring me, so I could take a moment to get the burning waves of jealousy under control.

“Oh my god, Niobe!” Jessica suddenly squealed, as if she truly hadn't noticed me before. “What’s going on here?” Her eyes flitted from me to Al and back; her face suddenly lighting up with pure evilness. “I hope I didn’t interrupt anything. I wonder what Louis would think of this little rendezvous.”

Her long, manicured finger made a small circle, pointing at some imaginary point right in between Al and I.

“I think he still would never want to go out with you,” I replied as harsh as I could. Jessica seemed stunned for a moment; normally, I just ignored every one of her comments about Louis and me, knowing that was the quickest way to get rid of them and of the people commenting.

“Well, it doesn’t seem like you’re any closer to getting out of the friendzone either,” she said in her singsong voice, before turning back to Albus. “Speaking of getting out of the friendzone; Helen and Chris totally hooked up! Apparently, they’ve like secretly liked each other for years… isn’t is cute?”

I tuned her out and stared out of the window, looking at my own reflection in the window, the raindrops slipping down looking like tears against my face. I looked so sad.

I tried to focus on happy thoughts, but some of Jessica’s words would always slip into them. I tried listening to one of the songs I had been playing on the piano the past couple of weeks, but after a while the piano tones in my head were just moving to the rhythm of Jessica’s storytelling.

I still looked sad. I tried to smile; just a pleasant, ‘I am content’-smile to show Jessica and Albus that I wasn’t listening and not bothered at all. Then I realised I didn’t have to pretend if I didn’t want to, not even for Albus.

My years of pretending were over; there was no place for me in Albus’ life; there would never be an Albus and I, not if I wanted there to still be an Albus Potter at all. If Jessica wanted to go after Albus, there was nothing I could do about it. It was time for me to start moving on, before I got really hurt.

When I heard Albus laughing at something Jessica had said, I got up and they fell silent, looking at me expectantly.

“Oh please, do not stop ignoring me! Please,” I snapped, directing my words to the both of them. “Excuse me.”

Jessica looked down at her nails, hiding her reaction, and I didn’t stay long enough to analyse Al’s face.

The hallways were crowded and the storming away part wasn’t as dramatic as it should’ve been because only a couple of seconds later I found myself standing in line to use the girls’ restroom – where else was I supposed to go?

After a couple of sighs and some pondering whether I should just hide in the men’s room, I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder.

“Niobe?”

My heart did a little flip before I had actually seen who it was. But of course, it was Albus. Had he really followed me? I didn’t know that actually happened in real life.

He had left Jessica behind for me. And here I am, furtively trying to get over you!

“What?” I replied in a small voice, feeling stupid.

“Is everything alright?”

The bitterness returned when I thought about the answer to that question.

“Yes, everything’s just splendid. Jessica Taylor is talking about parties with you while effectively ignoring I even exist. Things are just like they should be,” I replied, trying to keep any emotion out of my voice.

Albus frowned for a moment, before slumping against the side of the train. Behind him the countryside passed by at high speed.

“She was being rather rude,” Albus commented and I knew he was just saying that to make me feel better.

“No, she was acting like we always do around each other,” I admitted, leaving the waiting line that was now extinct to stand next to him, our shoulders bumping into each other from time to time because of the train’s swaying.

“Why do you keep stepping on each other’s toes?” He asked, sounding genuinely curious.

“I honestly don’t know,” I shrugged. He gave me an empathic, crooked smile and I felt the corners of my mouth curl upward of their own accord. It wasn’t because I couldn’t act upon my feelings that we couldn’t be friends, right? That sounded good to me. “It’s not that I ever disliked her, as a person… at least not before she went after Louis.” Or you.

I shook my head, trying to clear away the possessive thoughts. Maybe Louis was mine to lose because he was my best friend, but Albus wasn’t. I didn’t have any claim on him and if I could just get my hopes set on being friends instead of more, then I might get out of this situation with my heart still intact.

“Does she have a point there?” Al asked tentatively. I frowned and waited for him to elaborate. “The fact that Jessica went after Louis… It really got to you, didn’t it?”

“Of course it did!” I replied immediately, not really thinking about what he was insinuating. “It’s just… I knew she was just doing it because she thought I might have feelings for him, as in more than friends.”

“And do you?” Al interrupted me. I looked up in surprise and found myself staring into his big, genuine eyes. He had moved closer and was now leaning with one shoulder against the window so that he was facing me. The sense of intimacy was there again, as if this was a secret conversation.

It certainly fit the question, which was quite intimate and personal as well. Nobody had asked me that before, not as straight up as Al had just done, not even Rose, although she had speculated about Louis and I before.

I studied his face, trying to get behind the stoic façade that was demanding an honest answer to his simple question. It was really simple; no, I had never thought of Louis that way. I had never thought of anyone that way with the one exception to that rule standing before me, handing me the perfect opportunity to save him from his horrible fate.

If I said yes, Albus would never try anything with me, out of respect for his cousin.

That meant lying to Al, which suddenly felt harder than I ever thought it would be, but it also meant making things awkward between Louis and me. We were after all just friends, but Louis was a best friend I couldn’t lose.

I tried not to look away, as I normally did whenever I had to talk about my feelings.

“I love him,” I whispered, wanting to see Al’s reaction to these words. The muscles around his mouth tensed a bit and he swallowed. What did that mean? “But, although a part of me selfishly never wants to share him with anyone, I’m not in love with him.”

His face didn’t relax, and I just had to look away. This was far too intense.

“Good,” he whispered, releasing a long held breath. My eyes snapped back to his face. He was smiling, and Merlin, his eyes seemed greener than ever. No, not good. Not good.

“Good?” I whispered back breathlessly. Albus nodded, his eyes studying my entire face, and any thought of wanting to be just friends had disappeared. I swallowed.

“It’s good… to be clear about your feelings; to yourself and to others. To Louis,” he explained, still nodding slowly. I found myself almost hypnotised by the motion.

“We’re good,” I replied, also using that word. It made Al smile, but he was holding back as if he wasn’t really satisfied yet with what I had said.

“Are you sure about that?” His question made me frown. “Is everything just as clear on Louis’ side?”

“Of course it is,” I replied immediately, almost angrily. Why had he asked this? Did he disagree?

A full, satisfied smile spread across his face, making me forget any of those questions. He leaned in mischievously and was about to say something, when his eyes flitted to something behind me. He quickly pulled away from me and stood up straight. I found myself following his movements, as if we were somehow strung together by the moment we had just shared.

“Speak of the devil,” he muttered from the side of his mouth, giving me that completely satisfied smile again.

I almost expected to see Jessica, since Albus mentioned something about a devil, right? But it was Louis, with Rose a few feet behind him.

“Here you are,” Louis said cheerfully, clearly happy about his first prefects’ meeting as Head Boy. His badge was gleaming on his chest.

“Come on, you two! I need someone to beat at chess,” Rose yelled over Louis’ head before turning back to our compartment.

And suddenly I was back on the train to Hogwarts, with my best friends and the boy I had secretly been in love with for years… only, it felt like I had just shared that secret with him.

Had I? No, I had just answered some basic questions. Nothing had changed; Albus was still off limits, even if he was suddenly less indifferent to me.

Unfortunately, this theory meant supressing that voice inside me that said I was more in love than ever before, constantly reminding me of how I wanted to stand so close to Al again.


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The Gift: The Smile

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Prove you are Human:
What is the name of the Harry Potter character seen in the image on the left?


 

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