Chapter 4 : The American in the Burrow
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I shake my head of those thoughts; if I continue to think like that now, I will never go in and Louis will never forgive me.
Okay, that's not true; he'll forgive me, he'll just punish me first. It'll last a while and it won't be pleasant.
With that thought fresh in my mind, I take a deep breath, wrap the bag a little too tightly around my hand and open the front door. I suddenly wish that I had come with Louis, a wish I often have when he can't, but he had to work late for some reason or another last night and I had slept in my own apartment. He should already be here.
Find him quickly, Frankie.
I don't see him. But Lily sees me, and I suppose that's better than a few others I could name. She runs toward me happily, her arms held out to wrap around my neck when she jumps up. That and my own arms quickly moving to her waist keeps us both from falling to the floor. We don't travel in the same social circles and her job as an investigative reporter for the Daily Prophet keeps her busy, so this one Sunday a month is more or less the only time she gets to see me, not including Christmas.
Of course, by 'me' I obviously mean the desserts I make.
Lily jumps down, strands of her red hair that are not trapped in a ponytail jumping with her. She has to look up to meet my eyes, her five foot two inches are no match for my six foot five. Even so, I don't consider myself a match for her; there's a whole lot of fierce in her small frame, particularly if you antagonize her or keep her waiting.
"So, what did you bring?" she grins up at me.
I pull out a chocolate cake, her favorite, and hand it to Molly Senior as she walks past, getting a polite thank you in return - she's a lovely woman, Molly, she just doesn't like it when I try to cook - then I pass Lily the bag.
"The recipes you asked for, I made it into a book for you," I tell her, keeping hold of the bag so that she has to move closer to me. I whisper into her ear, "There's an extra cake at the bottom."
Lily squeals excitedly; I made the first cake big enough so that there's enough for everyone without the slices being too small, but as I said, it's Lily's favorite and she really hates to share it. I've learnt that at least if she has her own, everyone else might get a piece of the other.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can't wait to start baking," she says, laughing. She turns to her family. "Daddy, I'll be back in a minute, I'm just taking my new cookbook home."
Harry nods along with her, happy to play along with her enthusiasm, but as soon as Lily has gone through the floo, he turns to me and shakes his head knowingly. Then he faces Scorpius Malfoy, who is hiding his face behind a toddler on his knee, a toddler who has his eyes and hair, but his wife's uncontrollable personality.
"You're not going to keep her still for a while, Scorpius," Harry tells him.
"I know. I can imagine the sugar rushes she and Elliot will have and it's terrifying," he mumbles in reply. His head snaps up, his blue eyes glaring at me. "Why do you hate me?"
"I don't, I just wanted her to stop bugging me about it," I answer honestly.
"You only see her once a month," Ron says, laughing.
I nod in agreement, just so I don't start any sort of argument, but he obviously doesn't understand how insane she can drive you when she's yapping in your ear constantly about what she wants and what she'll go through to get it. I always walk away checking that my ears aren't bleeding.
With no sign of Louis around the living room, I can only assume that he's running late or his mother has him somewhere, since she's - thankfully - not here either, and move to sit on the couch between James' partner Oliver (I think after all the rumors in seventh year, it wasn't a surprise to find out that James was bisexual, even if James did) and Albus' wife Alexa (them getting together was not the surprise, Al knocking her up at eighteen was). James is the sort who likes to joke around and be as not serious as possible, often forgetting entire conversations because it's gone in one ear and out the other. But he's far from dumb; he's a psychiatrist, a very good one I'm told. He says he's serious enough at work. Albus is kind of anti-social; he used to try to avoid everyone, including his family, because he had very little patience and was really bad with the idea of germs 'getting him', but he is slowly getting better. Kids have certainly helped with the patience and his wife has helped with everything else.
They're not the easiest to talk to, because James can be annoying and Albus doesn't like to talk, but Oliver and Lexi are cool. Oliver is from America and often feels a little like an outsider, so we have that in common; we spend quite a bit of time together with his cameras, making videos. It's fun. Lexi owns an events company and often asks me to cater for her, so we know each other really well. They're good friends; Louis and I are actually godparents to her and Al's twin boys, who were just born on Christmas Eve.
"You alright, mate?" Oliver asks quietly. I know his look of concern is directed at me, even though his eyes are on his camera. As usual.
"It's just been a long month," I reply. "How are the kids?" I ask Lexi.
Lexi drops her head onto my shoulder, which is only easy to do because I'm slouching, and leaves her hair when it covers her entire face. I smile softy, though she can't see, and push the dark waves back behind her ear.
"I'm so tired," she whispers, then she shushes me and points to the end of the couch. I understand why immediately when I spot two tiny, sleeping bodies in a twin pram. I can't believe Lily didn't wake them up.
"Two down," I say.
Lexi smiles and sits up. "Gracie taking a nap upstairs with Nicky. Isaac is running around somewhere outside."
"How is Isaac?" I say next, hesitantly.
Lexi's smile drops fast and she doesn't try to bring it back like I know she has done for others. Oliver pretends to be busy with his camera still, even turns to talk to Harry about a work related thing he has going on (he's a photographer); he's a good man.
"He's still the same," she says. I know what she means; on Christmas Eve, there was an accident involving Hugo, his son Owen and Isaac. Hugo got hurt. For some reason, Isaac stopped talking because of it. He didn't even speak when he saw the twins.
"The Healers say he's handling what happened in his own way, that he'll talk when he's ready to, so Al and I have stopping trying," she continues sadly. "It's just hard, you know. He'd just started to feel comfortable talking to other people."
I nod and agree, tell her I'm sorry and that it'll be okay. The truth is, I have absolutely no idea what she's going through; I'm not a parent, I don't have someone to look after. Even my foster sister is grown.
There's just me now... and Louis.
Where is he?
"He's fine, though," Lexi finishes,her smile small, but back and real. "He seems happy; he doesn't talk, but he still laughs. And he's still signing, so we understand him. He's missed you, they all have."
"Just say the word and I'll be there. I'm a very good babysitter," I tell her. She laughs, but she can tell that I mean it. "All you have to do is ask."
"There's a party next Saturday, for a friend from school. It involves staying in a hotel for the night, so you'd have to sleep over," Albus butts in, watching me expectantly for an answer.
"No, Al. Frankie, you don't have to, we aren't going," Lexi says, that last bit a stern no to Al himself.
"Lex, Isaac is okay, Gracie really won't give a shit who's there and the twins will be fine without us for a night," Al defends his reasons for telling me slowly. I imagine they've been talking about this for a while. "We promised Jake we'd go; it'll be alright."
"I really don't mind babysitting," I promise her. I'll have to tell Anthony I can't work, but he's been pestering me about slowing down for ages now and he always looks relieved when I tell him about my monthly Sunday dinners; I really don't think he'd mind me taking the night off.
I roll my eyes. "I wouldn't be offering if I wasn't."
Lexi is quiet for a few minutes, seriously contemplating what to do, then she sighs and nods. "Then we'll go. Thank you, Frankie."
"More like good luck, Frankie," Albus smirks. "You can't take it back now."
I open my mouth to tell him that I don't intend to, that I'm genuinely happy to look after the kids, even though he's looking at me oddly. I'm stopped, though, by Louis coming down the stairs. He looks pissed and when I see his mother follow him, I can easily guess that it's something to do with me. She doesn't like me, thinks I'm a bad influence on her baby boy.
One, it's definitely Louis who is the bad influence on me. Two, he only likes it when I call him baby. So, she needs to stop talking about both these things.
He spots me pretty quickly and, probably to make some sort of a statement that everyone but Fleur Delacour-Weasley will ignore, he leans down to kiss me, tongue and all. I'm nothing if not helpful with his statements; I pull him to me, until he's sitting somewhat awkwardly across my lap. Lexi moves away before he can kick her; Oliver snorts but says nothing.
The statement doesn't last all that long, despite Lucy in the background shouting that we can stop any minute now.
Louis smiles down at me. "Hello."
Yes, my greeting is a question. I'm just a little confused as to what the question is referring to; his outburst or his obvious denial that anything is wrong?
"So, how long were you waiting outside for this time?" he asks knowingly.
I play along; he'll tell me everything later. He always does. "About ten minutes."
He actually looks surprised. And more than a little pleased with my response. "A record," he whispers.
"Well, something told me that I needed to be here for when you were done talking to your mother," I tell him seriously. Which is a lie, of course, but he knows that. "And compared to her, I'm not afraid of the house killing me."
That bit is true. I don't know what I did the day we met, but she's clearly never gotten over it. Fortunately, I don't think she knows where I live. Unfortunately, I spend most of my time at Louis' and she does know where he lives. I glance her way, glad to see that Bill is distracting her. Bill's nice; I don't want to get on his bad side, especially since that is his wolf side, but he doesn't hate me.
I think Louis is going to sit on me all day just to prove his unknown point until he actually slides off to sit in Lexi's previous space.
"You have company," he murmurs to me, gesturing toward the back door.
Isaac Potter, Al and Lexi's oldest comes running in, Lucy's son and his cousin, Cameron, close behind him. But only Isaac continues running to me, while Cam goes to his mother. Someone must have finally told him I was here. He holds up his arms for me to pick him up, but doesn't stop running, so I have to lean back to make sure he doesn't hit me in the face. He gets comfortable on my knee, sitting across so his muddy shoes are on Louis' pants.
"Thanks," he mutters.
"Well done, Zac." I hold out my hand for a high five; he scratches his head, just above his hearing implant, then returns it. I tilt him back a little, make sure that he can see my lips and I can see his hands. "How long has it been since I saw you?"
Christmas, he signs, looking at me like he's disappointed.
I feign a gasp. "That was over a month ago! We'll have to fix that." He nods seriously. "What if I stayed next week and we planned our birthdays?"
Isaac jumps up and down on my knee, grinning excitedly. Bouncy castle party.
"Bouncy castle party! That is an awesome idea!" I point at Lexi. "Mummy, bouncy castle party!"
"On it," she laughs.
"How old are you going to be?" I ask him curiously. He holds up seven fingers. "Seven? Are you sure? I could have sworn you were only born yesterday."
Hr shakes he head, laughing at me because he thinks I'm silly (he signs that), and he points at me. "Uncle Frankie will be twenty-eight, which is not as cool as seven. But I'm okay with it because Louis beat me to it."
He didn't get a bouncy castle party, Isaac signs, finding that funny.
"No, he didn't. He's not as fun as us," I reply, shrugging my shoulders apologetically. "But can we forgive him? Because December is a bit too cold for bouncy castles."
Isaac doesn't agree with me. Warming charms.
"Warming charms." I tut and turn to Louis. "Sorry, but I can't find a fault in his logic. You're just not cool."
Louis is silent for a moment, calming holding up a finger for us to wait, then he leans in. "I'm one of the only family members who just puts the money in your card."
We share a look, Isaac and I. He's awesome.
"I don't get money in my card," I point out.
"You've never complained about the presents I give you before," Louis is quick to retort.
You get s-
I cover his hands with my own. "Hey. No. I didn't teach him that."
What is it? he signs when I let go.
"It's a grown up thing, Zac," Lexi tells him quickly, holding out a hand. "Come on, darling, let's get you ready for dinner. I'm gonna kill Hugo."
She whispers that last part. I believe her.
By the time Fleur has moved away from Bill, Louis has found Harry. No one messes with Harry and his dislike of conflict, so we all know that Fleur won't bring anything up in front of him now. She most likely won't say anything to me either, but the moment she comes just a fraction my way, I run anyway - okay, I show Oliver my lighter and I walk out to the back. Quickly.
I'm not alone. James had the same idea and has already beaten me to it. I find him leaning against the house, by the back door, cigarette lowered back down and smoke been blown out of his mouth.
"I thought you quit," I accuse lightly, glancing Oliver's way.
"It's been a very stressful week," James answers tiredly. I work on not rolling my eyes at him; he says that a lot, that's why he started smoking. Apparently dating Melanie Randles is very stressful and can lead to people doing desperate things. Having met her, I'm inclined to agree. But that was when he was sixteen.
He nods to my own cigarette now between my lips and the lighter I bring to it. "Louis hasn't got you to quit yet?"
I light it and inhale, then speak. "He doesn't try."
James chuckles, the silence that comes between our conversation drawn out by his cigarette. "Partners try. We nag and we moan, it's true. It doesn't matter about gender. Oliver used to go on about my smoking, but since I mostly quit, he's moved on to my inability to wash dishes. I nag when he takes pictures while I'm trying to sleep. In fact I've kicked him out of bed twice this week. Literally. I kicked him. Louis will nag."
"Louis is not my partner, so no. And why isn't Oliver going on about your inability to listen when people talk?" I ask.
He smirks at me, his eyes alight with excitement. I think I just became a new game. "He's used to it and he's gotten very good at finding ways for me to listen. Or he does it anyway. So, don't change the subject."
"Don't you dare try and get something out of this, no smart ass remarks or rumors like you did with Ted and Vic. I swear, James, I'll hurt you if you do," I threaten him seriously. I mean, it won't go past a fat lip and a black eye, but it'll do.
"Ted and Vic got married," he retorts smugly.
"They've been divorced a lot longer than they were married," I feel the need to point out.
James shrugs and goes back to his cigarette. "Technicality," he says, smoke blowing into my face. "I was still right."
Now I roll my eyes. "Keep talking and I'll tell your mother you're still smoking."
He shuts up, his eyes scanning the house. Ginny is still in the kitchen, helping Molly with dinner. Her and Bill, sometimes Percy if he wants something, always help Molly with dinner. She's not like she used to be and it keeps getting worse.
No one knows how long it'll be before Alzheimer's will fully set in, but for now they won't stop her from doing what she loves.
Ginny has been with Molly since I got here and won't leave until tables need to be set up for dinner, that's when Ginny gets everyone else to help, but James is still wary. I was right; I haven't seen him until now because he is hiding.
"I could tell Harry, too," I add.
"Don't bring my father into this.The man is a hypocrite," James says, glaring at me.
As hard as that is to believe, that is also true. Theo Nott, who was Harry's partner for Auror training and is still close friends with the family, especially since Albus married his daughter, his son AJ is Cameron's father and his son Kieron is Nicky's best friend (how Fleur can like Kieron Nott and not me is ridiculous). Harry is even godfather to his youngest, Grayson. Anyway, Theo used to smoke and Harry sort of picked it up, mostly after drinking or a stressful day. Like James, they have both technically quit, but there are days when they still do. They don't always get caught, but we know.
"Hypocrisy is why I want him to know," I admit.
"Hey." Speak of the devil. Harry pops his head out of the door. "Ginny is coming, she wants you to help set up the tables and Roxy let slip that you're outside. This is an awful hiding place, by the way. Really awful."
"I was fine for the half hour I was out here until Brooklyn joined me." He waves his hand at me, the one with the cigarette in it.
"Don't do that," Harry scolds him, taking the cigarette before the lit end can get to my face. Smooth move. Ignoring James' annoyed 'hey', he takes a drag and hands it back. Then puts his finger to his lips.
I don't care about that.
"Stop calling me Brooklyn, my name is Frankie. I moved from Brooklyn when I was three, hence the slightly odd English accent. But you can't call it me!"
I said that Oliver and I have things in common. But does James call him Jacksonville? No!
"Suck it up, Brooklyn."
I knock his hand away and his cigarette falls to the ground. There, now neither of them can have it. Harry tries to comment on my behavior, but only manages to get out 'childish' when we hear a voice that even has me putting out my cigarette.
"Harry, did you find - oh, there you are, James. I need you to -" Ginny stops suddenly and, completely ignoring us two, frowns at Harry. "Do I smell smoke?"
"Yes," he says and points to James and I. Admittedly, he is being honest. "I came to tell James you were looking for him and the smoke was blown on me. Hence the smell."
"You're a terrible liar, Harry Potter," she tells him, her still dark red hair falling into her face when she shakes her head in disappointment.
"I know. So, you know I'm not lying because you just can't make this stuff up."
Harry smiles innocently, almost childlike. Ginny doesn't buy it; he winces and rubs the spot after she hits him on the head.
"Be a better example, Harry. James, help get the tables ready. Frankie, save Louis."
I stare wide-eyed, my head going from Harry to the house and back, and the reality of the situation finally sets. It feels like I've been kicked in the stomach. And I will kill Harry Potter for it. Because now I have to go near her and clean things up.
"You left Louis in there alone!" I yell.
"I left him Roxy. But if you're so concerned about your boyfriend, go and get him," Harry suggests calmly, his arm extended at the door.
I say nothing in response to that and just push past, searching for Louis among the mess that is a Weasley family dinner. I find him by the stairs, Fleur rubbing his arm in soothing circles while she talks, and everything seems fine. I almost thinking about turning back when he flinches and moves away.
"No. Stop it," he snaps at her.
I stay behind him, wrapping an arm gently across his chest from the shoulders, and pull him to me. He tenses first, but he recognizes my touch instantly, then my cologne, then my voice when I whisper into his ear.
"Come with me, baby. We'll help set the table. Come with me."
"We are talking, Francis," Fleur says. She sounds tired more than angry, but there's still an edge to her voice reserved only for me. One day, I will find out what I did to make her hate me.
"Your conversation is over," I tell her sternly. "Louis doesn't want to talk about it and I won't watch him go through it. If you try, we'll have dinner elsewhere and I'll let you explain it to Molly. Come on, Louis."
If he answers, whether with words or a nod, I miss it; he hardly seems to do anything. Except move his feet; he starts to follow me in the direction I came. When he's more than arms length away from her, I turn back, close enough that only she can hear me.
"If you continue down this road, you will open up a wound that you will never be able to close. Because if you force him to choose, he will never forgive you for putting him in that position."
"You are so sure that he will choose you?" she asks.
"Yes." I know it's true, I'm sure. My answer will never change because I will always be sure that his choice will be me. "Because I'm not the one making him decide."
I find it oddly amusing as I walk away, shaking my head when Louis asks what I said; I spend every moment not with Louis wishing that he'd move on from me and finally walk away, but here I am, defending whatever we are and hating her for trying to persuade him to leave me. And it's not pride or wanting to beat her, it's Louis. He's been in my life for so long; it's easy to wish when he's not around, but when he's with me it's hard to let go. And I've never forced him to choose; maybe doing so would be the thing that would drive him away, but I won't.
Because I can't.
I really hope I know what I'm doing.
Dinner in the Burrow is always outside, under the gazebo with warming charms and wards to keep the heat in and the flies out. There just isn't enough room inside. The tables are already set up into one long line by the time Louis and I get there, so we help with the plates and cutlery. Molly, Ginny and Bill will bring out the food last, in big bowls that go in the middle; it's kind of like a buffet. Everyone has different likes and dislikes, some are fussy and some will eat anything, so buffet-style and letting people pick is easier than guessing what to put on people's plates and listening to them complain, even if it's a little chaotic moving the bowls around so everyone can reach.
Louis and I are lucky to find two seats at the middle of the table, the bowls right in front of us; we'll be the first to get something this way. It's first come first serve for seats, there's no seating plan like there was in one of my care homes, and everyone goes for the middle ones.
The only talk during this is what each person wants and demands to know where that bowl is. It tends to last a few minutes, but timing typically depends on how fast people are at passing the food around.
Molly is the last to sit down, but Arthur has already got a plate ready for her. She always sits at the top of the table, able to see everyone. She smiles and puts her hand on her heart, watching us proudly.
"Finally, the whole family together."
I check faces, then lean in to whisper in Louis' ear. "She's miscounting."
Louis checks next and frowns. "Er, Nana, Hugo isn't here."
"I'm not gone yet, Louis," she frowns at him, referring to her memory. "I know that everyone is here."
Louis apologizes to her, but opens his mouth again and I know he's going to insist that Hugo isn't here. I shut him up quickly and make listen, my finger pointed at the empty chair two seats away from him. The front door slams shut and a soft whistle can be heard from inside, along with the drop of something heavy hitting the couch.
"Hello, children. You must have missed me more than I missed you because I am not sleeping, like I should be," Hugo sighs, falling into the empty seat and filling up his plate.
He looks dreadful, not that I'll tell him that; his brown hair is usually straight and neat and his clothes are usually ironed. He has everything the way he thinks it should be. Now his hair is sticking up at odd angles, there are bags under his eyes and his clothes are wrinkled. He's a mess.
"Where's Emmett and Owen?" Rose inquires innocently. She looks away when he glares at her and her husband Will parts her hand sympathetically.
Oh, Rose. Don't talk.
"They are at home, sleeping. It's what people do when they've been up for over twenty-four hours and just get in after a flight from L.A. to London," he snaps. "They weren't told they had to come here for dinner."
"Is that why you haven't made eye contact with your mother yet?" George laughs, finding it all hilarious.
"That would be why."
"Hugo, don't be so melodramatic," Hermione scolds him, as though he was still a child and not a married almost-twenty-four year old with a six year old son (recently adopted). "We haven't seen you since the New Year and this is the one time a month everyone can make it; surely you can get through a dinner with your family."
"I'm here, aren't I?"
"So, Hugo how was... everything while you were gone?" Roxanne asks hesitantly. She's referring to what happened to him, but won't actually say the words in case Isaac can hear them; magic messes with his implant, so even with it he can't often hear, but sometimes words get through.
Hugo understands straight away, glancing at Isaac briefly before answering. "It was fine."
He rubs at his right shoulder, where his scars start, almost without realizing it and I have to wonder how it really was. Even though Bill, Louis and Ted have traits, Roxanne and her husband Aidan are the most sympathetic, I think, since Aidan is also a werewolf. I know from him that the first change is always the most painful and that the pain that comes with changing into an entirely different species will never go away. You just get used to it.
The full moon was last week, while Hugo was in Los Angeles; he was all alone for his first time. He could have been here, turned in the woods with Aidan for help, but he refused to cancel his trip. They were supposed to move out there permanently; they decided to stay when they got Owen, but kept the home they'd bought for visits. They wanted to show Owen, to see if the kid liked it enough to want to stay, but the kid loves being here with a new, big family and a best friend in Isaac. I think Hugo was kind of hoping he'd want to stay there, though.
The conversation takes a lighter turn and everyone breaks off into different topics, making everything louder. It's hard to keep up, so I mostly stick to talking to Louis and Molly, who is sat across from us, and only answer others when they call for me specifically. By the time dinner is almost over and Ron is asking about dessert, we've already planned dinner with Chloe, two trips out that will probably get cancelled and Louis decides to help me babysit the kids on Saturday because I've ruined his plan to go to the cinema. Thankfully, he seems happier about this new arrangement.
"I was hoping you would come home for dinner on Saturday, Louis," Fleur says casually, not looking up from her plate as she cuts her meat.
"Sorry. Maybe another night," he tells her.
"Francis sees you every day, that's all," she shrugs.
"Not every day, but Louis' getting there," Molly chuckles. "He'd run away with Frankie if he could."
"Molly, shut up," Louis growls at her just as Fleur insists that 'her baby boy' would never.
"Sorry, Aunt Fleur, but if Frankie asked him to go, he'd have his bags packed in an instant," Molly continues to joke, not fully realizing how much truth is in there.
"Molly," Bill warns her. That shuts her up.
"Louis would never be so selfish as to just take off without a word just because Francis said so," Fleur speaks as though she's making a vow. She thinks she can swear to it because she knows her son. And it pisses me off. She knows nothing about him.
"Maybe he's already asked me," I suggest coldly. I get an elbow in the ribs in return and when I turn away from her shocked gasp to see that Louis had gone horribly pale, I understand exactly what I said to her. I regret it instantly. "Louis -"
"No," he shakes his head. "No."
The atmosphere changes again, the tense mood shutting everyone up and making dinner very awkward, even for Hugo, who is usually the one making things awkward.
It's Lily who clears her throat and decides to brave speaking to him; she's the only to think of a safe topic fast enough.
"Louis, Scor says the clients love you at the firm. Do you like being an architect?" she asks, though she probably knows more about what he does than anyone else, since he works with Scorpius. Or for Scorpius, I'm not entirely sure.
"I'm not an architect, I'd need to study and get a license for that and I'm not going back to school," he says after a minute or so of hesitation. "I sit in a room and draw designs while a client talks about what they want, then the architect turns it into the design that gets built. I spend most of my time creating portfolios for clients to look at. But yes, I do like it. I miss painting, though."
And the conversation goes on. But I know exactly when he stops contributing; I watch him the entire time.
He ignores me.
He was seventeen when it happened, his birthday. I was waiting in our usual spot behind the school, his present in my hand and by my side was a small basket of cookies I'd baked for him, each one had his age written in icing. The elves had let me do it myself because it was a special occasion.
We had promised to meet at four, straight after his last class of the day, but it was almost five and he still hadn't shown. I didn't move, I knew that there had to be a reason because he was rarely late; he looked forward to our meetings. We were in different houses and only in a few classes together, then he had tutoring to do and homework happened in between; we may have lived under one roof, but we didn't see each other that often.
Just after five, I heard heavy footsteps. When I looked up, I saw Louis running toward me. He was sweaty and out of breath and I had to wonder what he had been doing; he'd been running for exercise since he was thirteen, he could run laps around the school with very little problems now. The distance from the front gates to our spot was nothing to him.
"Are you alright?" I asked as soon as he was sat in front of me. I pushed back his fringe and checked his pulse at his neck; it was racing and he was so hot. My hand was coated in his sweat, but I didn't care, I only cared about him.
"I'm fine, I just had things to do before I got here," he murmured, his breathing heavy. I didn't believe him, his voice trembled as he spoke. Something had upset him. But I didn't push for information, I let it go for now. I didn't want to ruin his day.
I held out the present. "Happy birthday."
"Thank you," he said gratefully and I hoped the smile was real. He tore at the wrapping, lifted open the little lid and pulled out the chain.
"I picked white gold because I know silver irritates you, being part werewolf and all," I told him while he examined it.
His finger grazed the small, paper-shaped pendant and the miniature paintbrush on top. He turned it over, to the inscription, and froze. For a terrifying moment, I thought I'd something wrong, that maybe I shouldn't have put what I did.
'Love, Frankie'. Was that too much?
"Carla helped me pick it out." I referred to my foster mother, starting to ramble. "And Taylor got you a Painting by Numbers, it's of some type of animal, but she wants to give it to you herself, so I told her she can when we go home for Christmas. Louis?"
"Let's run away," he blurted out.
I started to laugh, sure it was a joke, but the way he stared at me made me stop. "You're serious." He nods once. "Louis, we can't run away."
"Sure, we can," he pleaded with me, moving closer. "We'll get off at the front of the train, sneak through the barrier and just run. We'll go somewhere nice and we won't look back."
"Louis, we have family here, we have friends. They'll worry."
"All they do is try to control our lives, make things harder than it should be and hurt us in ways you didn't think was possible," he whispered bitterly. "They don't care."
And I knew then what was wrong. Not the whole story, he told me that later when we were in the Room of Requirement, but the fact that his mother had been speaking to him about me was obvious. I already knew that she didn't like me, already knew she thought Louis should stay away from me. But that started when we were fifteen and it was more of a parent's right to tell their child what they thought then. Louis was seventeen now, a legal adult; he could drink, he could get married, he could leave home and she couldn't stop it. And she'd pushed him over that edge.
I hated her. And I hated myself, because I'd obviously done something to cause her to distrust me so much and I didn't know what it was to fix it. I couldn't make her see that she was wrong.
I pulled Louis to me, didn't care that he was straddling my waist to hug me, and I promised him that things would be okay, that I'd make it work so we could stay. He nodded into my shoulder and I felt hot tears touch my skin; I hugged harder.
Once he'd calmed, he pushed back a little, just enough so he had room to put the chain on and read the inscription again. "I love it, thank you."
"I also made you cookies. I know you love them."
"I love you," he said softly, telling me for the first time. I didn't say it back, maybe he thought the inscription was enough because he kissed me. It was hard and wanting and I knew how the night would end between us.
He never brought up running away again.
But I knew he wanted to.
I push back the memory of that day and just focus on Louis; he's been sat alone halfway up the stairs since dinner ended and hasn't come down. Bill cut up cake, gave me two pieces and asked me to talk to him; that was twenty minutes ago and I'm still on the corner step, just watching him.
He knows I'm here, I'm waiting for a sign that I can move closer and he's not ready to give me one. He may love me and want to be with me, but he can still be angry with me. It's the second time this weekend.
Louis keeps his head down, his finger tracing the inscription on the chain he still wears. He must have gone over 'Love, Frankie' a million times in the eleven years he's had it. I asked him once, why did he keep looking at it; he said that's how he knows I'm a liar. I love him, I've told him... just not out loud.
I breathe out in relief when Louis moves over, allowing a bit of space on the step he's sat on. It's a tight fit, but neither of us complain. I hand over his slice of cake and he let's go of the pendant to take it.
"I'm so sorry, Louis. I wasn't thinking, I didn't mean to tell," I promise. It was always a rule in our relationship that we wouldn't tell anyone about that day. An unspoken rule, but a rule nonetheless. And I've broken it.
"It's fine. She was bound to know one day. Even if it takes years, Fleur Delacour-Weasley knows everything," he mutters. "She just doesn't share everything."
I curl my finger under his chin, make him look up. I almost drop my hand when I see how much this hurt him, but I swallow my doubts and continue. "I still shouldn't have said it. I shouldn't have let what happened get to me like it did. I just hate that I don't know why she hates me."
"Because she knows you'll hurt me," he says quietly.
"I told you, she knows everything," he continues. "Including you wanting me to walk away. She doesn't have the faith in you that I have, she doesn't understand why you think the way you do. And it upsets her to know that you'll hurt me and she can't stop it because I won't listen."
"Louis -" I start slowly.
"Shut up," he interrupts, a pained look on his face. "If you even think of saying something about our relationship and me leaving, shut up now. I made my choice a long time ago."
I keep it to myself like he wants, but it's hard, physically as well as emotionally, like swallowing a block of ice. It's that he says 'know' that gets to me: she knows you'll hurt me. Not 'think'. They're waiting for it, he's waiting for it, yet hoping it doesn't; how is that a good thing?
It takes everything I have to not ask him that very question. Instead, I change tactics. It's still the truth, but it's one I always thought I'd keep to myself.
"Wanna know a secret?" He nods warily. "Sometimes, I wish I'd said yes that day. I don't know if running away would make things better or worse, but I'm not keeping my promise and all I know is that the thought of getting out of here makes you happy."
"Sometimes, I wish you'd said yes, too," he admits.
I lean forward, rest my forehead against his, then move to kiss the same spot. I travel down the side of his face until I reach his cheek; he turns to meet my lips with his own.
That's when we acknowledge someone else on the stairs; Fleur's retreating back and messy blond bun is all we see but we know it's her.
"I didn't know she was there, I swear."
Louis sighs and leans back into me, breaking off a piece of his cake. "I believe you; how do you think she knows everything?"
I groan. Why is life so messed up?
A/N: I didn't know the wait would be so long because I didn't know the chapter would be so long...
Think of Seize the Day as what happens after Silver Linings 2, if I had stuck with my normal headcanon and kept Louis as gay and Nicky as straight, but I needed that change for things - What happens to Hugo will come into Silver Linings 2 if anyone has read 1 and is waiting for that; this was a nice (or sad, depending on how you look at it) little preview of it. Why Isaac stops talking will not be revealed until his story is posted... I don't know when that'll be. But if you wanna know, feel free to ask. :)
What did you think of the flashback? Of Louis and Frankie? Of Fleur, who is a very overprotective mother after seeing Vic go through a divorce and is still watching Nicky lose his mind to his magic (if that gives you a reason not to hate her for hating Frankie... it helps me :P).
This chapter was kind of a whirlwind of emotions (for me anyway), the next chapter should be a lot lighter.
I hope you enjoyed reading this, please let me know what you think. :)
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