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Chapter 1 : In Love With Your Laugh
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His other family members will recognize me from the papers. See, my name is Evalin Gallagher, and I play for the Holyhead Harpies. Recognize that team? That's right, I play for the very same team that James’ Mum did. Just the idea of playing on my boyfriends mum’s old team is so nerve wracking because I want to impress her, but not only is she his mum, she’s Ginny freaking Potter. I don’t think she’s easily impressed, and there’s definitely a lot more pressure to not lose the game. You see, I'm the keeper for the team, and according to the papers, I'm the best keeper the team has seen in over fifty years. I mean, I know I'm good, but I don't think I'm that good.
Oh, I forgot, my head-girl-stealing best friend is Molly Weasley, James’ cousin. She knows about James and I as well. When James and I first started dating she found out by stopping by our flat to visit me and running into James instead. At the request of both James and I, both the Potters and Molly have kept quiet about our relationship. Apparently for a bit too long though, as she's the one who convinced me to finally meet the rest of the family. It was either that or she tell them who the mystery girl is. So between her, Lily and Mrs. Potter I had no way to say no. So here I am. Staring at myself in the mirror, having a conversation with myself, about myself. That's okay, as long as I don't think about the twenty-two Weasley's who will be meeting me today. Drat, there it is.
"Eva, honey, we need to go, I like being late as much as the next person, but Mum's going to come floo us if we don't hurry!" James poked his head in the door and I look over at him, trying to calm myself internally.
James Sirius Potter was named Witch Weekly's hottest man of 2027 and everytime I look at him I know why. Much like his father, James' black hair is always untamed, but it's unkempt in a way that looks like it's been done on purpose. Then there's his eyes. You wouldn't think that brown eyes could be so captivating, yet there they were. Always shining and glimmering, almost never reflecting negative emotions, his eyes are pools of wonder. Listen to me, like a smitten schoolgirl. Well, I suppose I am, James Potter is after all the perfect man.
I look back at the mirror and tug at my hair nervously. My blonde hair always sort of just does it's own thing. One day it's curly and one day it's straight. I don't ever have a particular care for styling it, people can say what they want. However right now, it just looks horrid. I'll never look good enough to meet James' family. Oh Merlin save me. James puts his arm around my shoulder just as I'm thinking this and looks into the mirror to keep eye contact with my reflection.
"Babe, you were named hottest woman of 2027, you couldn't look any better, let's go, they're going to love you!" He was moving me out of the bathroom while he spoke so I couldn’t protest and I looked back with a frown on my face. There goes the theory of hiding in the bathroom until he leaves without me.
"Are we apparating or going by floo?" I looked at him now. Maybe if I focused on our mode of transportation this would be easier.
"Apparating. I want to walk in, make a grand entrance, you know?" I can't help but laugh as he states his reasoning. Despite how nervous I am, James has managed to diffuse any and all tension. He gives me the weird goofy smile he always does when I laugh. I’ve never understood why he makes that face when I laugh, but when I ask him he just winks at me and walks away. He may be attractive, but James Potter is certainly a strange one.
I took his arm and closed my eyes as he apparated us to The Burrow. I opened my eyes when I felt the tugging in my stomach go away and all I could do is just stare at the house before me. Most people would make fun of The Burrow, I suppose. All I see is the most magnificent place ever. The house itself couldn't even be called a house, and if a muggle were to stumble upon this they would be sure it would topple over. As I look at it I decide that the place has to be held up by magic, there’s no way it would still be standing if it weren’t. The house is stacked haphazardly, almost as if on a whim they decided there was a need for more rooms. Which now that I think about it, seems most likely. The Wotter clan is huge, and they never seem to stop growing.
As we walk through the marsh towards the house, I repeat James' words over and over in my head. They're going to love me. They're going to love me. If they love James, they have to love me, because I love him, and he loves me, and they'll love anyone he loves who loves him back. Not even my thoughts are coherent now, perfect. I'm going to meet his Nana Molly and spurt out a spell that makes people grow extra toes or something.
"You'll be fine, just relax." James looked over at me smiling, I wonder if I said that last bit out loud. Stop being silly Evalin. Just focus on one thing at a time.
I keep my pace a step behind James, walking almost directly behind him. If everyone sees James first I won't be the center of attention from the start. Maybe I can get everyone talking about quidditch, that'll be easy enough. We walk through the door and we are immediately submerged in 'Weasley Family Weekend'. Apparently James' Nana had decided that they didn't all spend enough time together, so every three months they get together and spend the entire weekend together playing games, and bonding, and what not. I've managed to dodge it for three and a half years. I was really going for a fourth. I clearly have no such luck.
I mean, don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't want to meet his family. I do! For Merlin's sake I want the boy to propose to me already, but, his family is just so intimidating. I mean, his Nana Molly killed a death eater because she attacked her daughter, his grandfather worked for the ministry up until a couple of years ago. Everyone was throwing parties for him when he retired.
His Uncle Ron works as an Auror and his Aunt Hermione is running to be Minister of Magic. His uncle George owns Weasley Wizard Wheases, only the largest joke shoppe in the entire wizarding world. His cousins range from Aurors, to Healers, to Hogwarts professors. His cousin Victoire even owns a store with her mother Fleur. They're the most popular fashion store in the wizarding community right now. Especially in France. And I didn't even list everyone.
I looked at the insides of the house, the way it all seemed like one large room, the way the stairs wrapped around the center of the house, and the people who were emerging from behind the staircase now to greet us. As they started to hug James and pass him around I quickly untangled my hand from his and backed into the doorway.
Twenty-two sounded bad in my head, but it's certainly much worse in person. Just as I think I'm getting away with standing in the doorway Lily and Molly flank either side of me and bring me forward. I look at the girls next to me and then at James' outstretched hand and take it, squeezing it maybe a bit harder than necessary. I can actually feel my palms starting to sweat, gross, I hope no one tries to shake my hand. I look up at James and he nods at me. Alright. It's fine. No big deal.
"Alright, alright, I know, you haven't seen me in months, I have someone to introduce you all to." James pulled us back a bit from the group, and I tore my eyes from his face to scan the sea of mostly red-heads. Moving my eyes back to his face he gave me a wink and a smile before saying the words I've been afraid of all day. "This is my girlfriend, Evalin Gallagher."
The looks on his families faces ranged from surprise, to confusion, to something that looked like excitement, or maybe it's just constipation, I can't quite tell. My hand starts shaking with nerves and I want to close my eyes and disapparate. Smile Evalin, let them know that you're friendly. Let them know that you're not stealing their golden boy. Maybe you shouldn't say that to anyone, I hope none of them are Legilimens. Molly and Lily are nodding at me and I shrug and take a step forward.
"It's lovely to meet you all," I started to hold my free hand out tentatively, as if to shake hands with them, but begin to lower it when the faces don't change and I remember that my palm is excessively sweaty. "Thank you for having me, your home is beautiful." I look at James' Nana when I say this, hoping that a compliment will make this run more smoothly.
Hermione and Nana Molly were the first to come up to me, Nana Molly enveloping me in a side-hug and Hermione ushering me through the large family, introducing me to everyone. It's wasn't until I was halfway through the kitchen that I looked back at James and he just smiled at me. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad.. Oh darn, I just jinxed myself, didn't I?
James' Uncle Ron and Aunt Angelina seemed to be the most excited to meet me. They both sat me down on the couch and were immediately asking me quidditch questions. Looks like my quidditch plan would work after all. As more and more of the family settled down I was answering questions left and right, and I sighed in relief when Ginny and Lily suggested that we split up. Women in one room, and men across the house in another. I mean, I wasn't excited about being seperated from James, but at least I wouldn't be dodging twenty-two sets of questions.. Just ten.
We stayed where we were, and I looked down as both Molly and her little sister Lucy grabbed my feet and began to take my shoes off.
"Molls, what are you doing?" I used my nickname for Molly, trying to show the family that I'm friends with one of them.
"We're doing your nails." She responded so matter-of-factly that all I could do is shrug and listen to the non-existent conversation in the room.
All of the women in the room were looking at me, aside from Molly and Lucy who were extremely focused on my nails. I began to study each face. Audrey, Hermione, Angelina and Fleur were all giving me looks of speculation, almost as if they were trying to size me up and make sure I am actually good enough for James. I mean, I can understand, he is quite literally the golden boy of the family. But have you ever had four sets of eyes trying to examine you? Lily and her Mum were giving me matching looks of encouragement, but they weren’t as comforting as I had been hoping they would be.
Rose was making a face that reminded me of someone eating something sour, I wonder if it has to do with our time at Hogwarts. I mean, I know I beat her scores in N.E.W.T.s but that was years ago, she couldn’t possibly be harboring any feelings still could she? I could feel my palms starting to sweat again, I want everyone to like me, not hate me for something that happened in school. Victoire and Dominique looked like they were trying not to care, but I could see some of the same speculation in their faces that I was getting from the Aunts. Then there's Roxanne who was giving me looks of.. is that admiration? Her mum said she's a huge Holyhead fan, but I don't want her to treat me like I'm some star. I'm just a girl who happened to be good at quidditch.
The scariest look of them all was the one coming from Nana Molly. Even though she had been the one to greet me first and give me a half hug when I first came in, her face was pure speculation. I could tell that she was trying to size me up, figure out if I was good enough. Which is reasonable, no doubt, but the woman’s scary, and if she doesn’t like me.. No one else in the family will. Please let someone speak, I’d rather answer questions than sit in this deathly silence. I can feel the blood draining out of my face and my palms increasingly sweat more and more. I’m going to hyperventilate in about five seconds if someone doesn’t say something. Anything.
"So, how long have you been dating James?" Anything but that. Rose was the one who asked the question and her voice was full of skepticism. I hope she doesn't dislike me, James favours her the most of all his cousins.
"Well, you see," I pause and look down at Molly, who just nods her head without looking up from my feet, "We've been dating for three and a half years now." If I thought the Aunts were giving me looks of speculation before, they were certainly doing it three times as much now.
Almost every woman in the room looked to Lily and Ginny, who just sat there and nodded their heads. I mean, it’s crazy that I’ve been dating the bloke for three years and they’ve never met me once. All they’ve seen are comments in the papers about a mystery woman. Lily looked at me and then the women in the room, and spoke up before I could. Bless that girl.
"Yeah, we met her because I surprise visited their flat and then dragged them to Mum and Dad's. Eva's a bit of a shy one here."
"Wait, you two live together? But I've been to James' flat loads of times, I've never seen you there." Rose looked at me again, confused this time.
"Well, the Holyhead schedule is absolutely crazy, I mean between both of our schedules James and I rarely have free time. I also hid or disapparated if I heard someone come in.." I trailed off towards the end of the sentence as I realized how bad it sounded.
"Why?" Nana Molly was the one to speak now, and that one word made me feel more guilty than putting an innocent man in Azkaban might’ve.
"I was afraid to meet you all." I said this as quietly as possible and looked at my hands in my lap.
"What was zat?" Fleur spoke this time, and James said that ever since their business got big in France, Fleur has spent a lot fo time over there and her accent has gotten stronger than it was.
"I was afraid to meet everyone. I just, you're all so close, and it's such a big family. You all do all of these amazing things and everyone loves the Weasleys and I'm just.. I'm just not.. Impressive." I was refusing to look up, I didn't want to know what everyone's faces looked like now. I just wanted to hide. There’s a reason I never met any of my other boyfriends’ families.
It sounded like Fleur was about to speak again, but James and Albus poked their heads in summoning Ginny to come out real quick. I made a face at James, and he just winked at me before the two brothers went dashing out of the room. He really is a different one. Ginny shrugged and got up and left the room quietly, the door clicking shut behind her. I looked over at everyone.
Angelina, Fleur and Audrey all had faces of Sympathy, as if they knew how intimidating it was to be in this situation. Molly and Lily were nodding at me and giving me thumbs up. Lucy couldn't be bothered to look up from my toes and Roxanne, Rose, Dominique and Victoire were all studying me intently. I cleared my throat and was about to say something when Rose stopped me.
"I must admit, I wasn't pleased when James brought you home, because, well, I didn't like that you did better than I did in school, and so effortlessly so. However, you aren’t so bad, I suppose James could do a lot worse. Besides, you manage to keep his living area clean. He ought to keep you around simply for that reason." She shrugged and got up to come give me a small hug. I was in shock. Rose Weasley telling me she's okay with me? This is so not real life.
Lily gave me an even more obvious thumbs up, and now all of the women were coming up to give me hugs, and Angelina bent down to whisper in my ear before she straightened.
"I’m sure you want to settle down soon, and are wondering why James hasn’t proposed yet, but don’t worry, it’s a family thing. It took James’ Uncle George forever to ask me. He set me on fire by accident. It was lovely."
I laughed at her comment just as the door opened and Ginny and James walked back in. James was making that weird face at my laugh again and he ran out of the room almost as soon as he had come in and heard my laugh.
"What did I miss?" Ginny asked, gesturing to everyone being closer in proximity to me than before.
"Rose said she approves!" Lily squeeked this out and I could feel my cheeks flushing bright red. I mean, I wanted everyones approval, but Lily didn't have to announce it.
"Oh, lovely darling, I told you everyone would love you." Ginny came over to sit next to me and patted my hand. I smiled over at her. Mrs. Potter really has been like the mother I never had these past few years. I have her to thank for a lot.
See, my parents were both muggles, and they died in a car crash when I was five. So I went to live with my grandmother, but she got sick within that year and wasn't able to take care of me, so I went off to an orphanage. I was bouncing around between foster homes when I got my Hogwarts letter. I never went back into the muggle system. I would either stay with a friend, or find a way to travel in the summers. I started working for Professor Longbottom's wife when I was fourteen at the Leaky Cauldron and she let me live there during the summers. It really worked out well. I guess I've just never been in a family setting, so the idea of being thrown into one so big was just.. Intimidating. James told me I should just tell everyone that, it’s not exactly the easiest bit of information to get out.
Everyone has gone back to chattering, about anything and everything, and I looked over as Nana Molly sat down next to me and patted my arm.
"You know, Ginny told me that he was dating a wonderful girl. I won't lie, I had my reservations when I saw you. Even though you’ve done a good job with yourself career wise, I thought you might just be after his fame. The way you look at him I can tell you love him, so really I guess he could do much worse." She smiled at me and patted my arm again before standing up and walking over to settle an argument between Dominique and Victoire.
My brows furrowed at her comment and I tried to figure out exactly what she meant by that. Does she approve or disapprove? Wait, does she not like me but is accepting me because I love him? Is that better than her not approving but liking me. As I’m trying to sort out my jumbled thoughts Fleur takes her seat next to me and takes my hand. Hers are cold and soft, compared to the rough hands my quidditch career has created and the sweat my nerves have provided.
“Nana Molly, ze did not like me. Ze zought I was no good, but ze zee me love my Bill. Ze love me from zen on, ze just wantz ze best for ‘er babeez. You zee? Ze is protective of ‘er babeez.”
Fleur lets go of my hand and pats my leg much in the same manner that Nana Molly did before going over to join her daughters and help the aforementioned stop their bickering. Though according to Molly that’s almost impossible. Angelina and Roxanne struck up a quidditch conversation with me, and it seemed like almost everyone was joining in to ask me questions. If there’s one thing the Weasley family can agree on it’s quidditch. Almost all of them love it.
Albus came into the room and standing up straighter than I’ve ever seen tried to put on a serious face.
“I am here to request the presence of the women in the other room.” He nodded his head after speaking and turned around sharply on his heel and marched out of the room. I swear those Potter boys are the strangest you’ll find.
Lucy pulled away from my foot for the first time since I had sat down and frowned at the idea of her handiwork being ruined. I didn’t put my shoes back on, respecting her hard work and was careful not to walk in a way that would ruin the polish. Apparently she takes after her Grandad Arthur with her love for muggle things. She’s got a whole kit of muggle nail polish that she’ll use on anyone who will let her. Molly and Lily took my hands and pulled me through the house. They seemed awfully excited for whatever this was. We were soon at the front of the group thanks to Molly’s pushing and shoving and I was no longer focused on not ruining my nail polish, but trying not to trip.
Just as we walk in we see James’ dad, Harry Potter himself, patting James on the back as if in encouragement. Which of course, sparks a comment from the ever witty Lily.
“Oh look, dad’s just giving James some support for functioning normally like the rest of us.”
The comment itself isn’t that funny, but the tone of voice Lily used to say it in was, and I can’t help but bust into laughter at the look on everyone’s faces. I think they’ve all gotten so used to each other that the minor comments don’t seem so funny anymore, but I never get tired of Lily’s random comments or Albus’ weird quirks like when he summoned us into this room. I look over at James as I’m laughing and he’s making that face again. So I make one right back, if he’s going to make goofy faces when I laugh then I am completely justified in giving him a face in response.
Just as I’m starting to make a face back at him he grabs my hand and pulls me into the center of the room. I had been so focused on his face that I hadn’t noticed the rest of his family circling around the room. We were now not only in the center of the room, but the center of the circle. My laughter dies off and I give James a quizzical look. What is this? Some sacrificial ritual for newcomers? I almost laugh again at my thought and try to focus on why James is being so weird.
“James what..” I began to ask what was going on, but he cuts me off before I can finish talking and begins to speak in a soft, gentle tone that’s just loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.
“Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.” He paused to clear his throat. Is that a tear in his eye? I’ve dated him for three years and I’ve never seen a single tear. “I wanted everyone to see why I’ve become such a better person now than I was when I was in school. They did today. You make me good, you’re my better half. I want to have your presence light up the room, your smile fix any bad mood, and I want to be the cause of that laugh of yours. Forever.”
I press my free hand to my mouth and can feel the tears that are brimming in my eyes spill over. This isn’t happening. He isn’t. Three and a half years and all it took was meeting his family? I see him look over to Ginny, who steps forward just enough to hand him a small box. I hiccup and look around the room, the faces are all mirror images, even Rose’s. They are all looking on with smiles.
“My dad gave this to Mum when he knew he couldn’t live without her. I know I can’t live without you, and now that my family agrees,” He takes a deep breath before getting down on one knee and opening up the box to reveal a silver ring encrusted with dozens of diamonds placed cleverly in the shape of a snowflake, “Marry me, Evalin, drive me crazy, clean my messes, make me laugh and cry, and spend forever as a Wotter.”
I open my mouth to say yes but choke on the words, I blink a few times, clearing my eyes of the tears and can only nod my head feverently to say yes. As he slides the ring on my finger I realize it’s a perfect fit and shake my head in wonder. What are the chances that the ring would fit perfectly? He stands up from his kneeling position and pulls me in for a kiss, as the whole family beings to cheer I hear one shout louder from all of the others.
“I FINALLY HAVE A SISTER” Lily screams and everyone bursts out into laughter before enveloping us. Looks like meeting the family isn’t so bad after all.
Hey all! So this story is for KatieRoo's Love Quote Challenge! The quote in the chapter summary and in the story is from Nichole Krauss.
The ending of this story was definitely a bit of a challenge to write, and I'm nervous about Fleur's speaking.
Thanks so much to my awesome beta FredWeasleyIsMyKing also known as Laurenzo7321 on the forums!!! I appreciate all of the help!
That little grey box down there is hungry and would love some comments, critiques, and suggestions! And I would love you forever if you left a review. Really. I'll even take a "my socks are yellow"!
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