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Chapter 26 : Winter Break
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Things hadn’t been pretty since the Quidditch match. I’d sort of lost it on both Asher and James, and none of us had said a single word to each other since. It had been four incredibly tense days.
We officially left for break in less than a week. Everyone was restless, finding it hard to concentrate in classes. I was more restless than I think I’d ever been. Between worrying about Dom, Asher and two weeks with James, my brain couldn’t process anything else. I tried to listen in class, but just couldn’t.
My mind kept getting pulled away from listening to wondering how this holiday was going to go. Ava had blown up at me this morning in the hall, saying I better not mess up this holiday the same way I’d messed up her summer with Al. Dom was depressed. James would look at me, grin and then get a really weird look on his face. Harper was actually happy that I was going to be staying at the Potter’s with them. Everything was crazy, and it was really hard to figure out what I actually thought.
Asher had tried to talk to me this morning, and I’d just blown him off. I knew what was coming and wasn’t quite ready to have that conversation.
I prided myself on ignoring my feelings. I was aware of them, but didn’t like to let them to the surface. To pay attention to them meant to face them. I never wanted to face them. I ignored how messed up my family was. I ignored the pain and hurt caused by my fathers preference for my sisters. I ignored it all.
But I couldn’t ignore that everytime I was with Asher, I thought of James. I couldn’t ignore it, and that was mostly because unlike everything else in my life, this pre-occupation affected someone else. My misery caused by my family was mine alone. I thought, since Asher was such a good guy, I could work past the feelings I had for James.
Two months I’d tried, and I should have ended it sooner. It wasn’t fair to Asher to keep this going. I'd told my friends what I was going to do while we were all trying to fall asleep last night.
Gia had been thrilled, and had Dom not been going through what she was, I felt like she would have been more vocal about my choice. I’d told them last night what I was going to do. My cousin had been giving me big, stupid grins all day, followed by two thumbs up.
I’d about strangled her when she said she was going to tell James at breakfast, so that he could make out with me in the middle of the Great Hall. I told her that she needed to leave that discussion up to me, and I forbid her from saying anything.
Class ended and I felt my heart start beating more rapidly. Asher always met me around the corner from this class, and I figured he would be there today as well. I was right.
Asher was leaning against the wall as I came around the corner from the Transfiguration classroom. He had his tie undone, and his shirt was pulled out of his pants. His bag was on the floor next to him, and he was chewing on a licorice stick while reading a textbook.
In another world, this would be my perfect match. In this world though, it was someone else. He finally looked up and gave me a small smile. I squared my shoulders, took a deep breath and hitched my bag back up. Asher kissed my cheek when I stopped in front of him and looked shy. My face fell and he noticed, of course he noticed.
“What’s wrong Charlie?”
“Can we go somewhere quiet?” His face fell and I just had the sense that he knew what was coming. My heart felt for him, as much as it leapt at the thought of ending this. It was still a week and a half to Christmas, hopefully this wouldn’t ruin his holidays. It had only been two months, he couldn’t be that attached to me, could he?
Taking the lead, I walked towards the library. We couldn’t make a scene there, not that Asher was a drama queen.
The library was probably my second favorite place in Hogwarts, next to Ravenclaw Tower. I loved the way it smelled, old parchment and dust. It’s a strange smell to love, to anyone but a bibliophile.
We found a quiet table in the back and sat down, facing each other. He hunched over and stared down at his intertwined hands. I sat with my back straight as a rail and looked just over his shoulder. I’d rather be reading than doing this. I’d rather be flying a crazed hippogriff than doing this. I sighed quietly.
“You’re ending this, aren’t you?” That is why he is a Gryffindor and I am not. He has the courage to come out and start the conversation, which saved me from an awkward start.
“I’m sorry Asher. I really am.” He finally looked up at me, and I started crying. He looked torn between wanting to comfort me and looking like he wanted to be anywhere but here. “It’s really not about you, I’m just not the right fit for you. You deserve someone better Asher. Someone that will be invested in you, that will be fully present. I’m not that girl.”
“And if I said I didn’t care?”
“I do. I care. It’s not fair to you Asher, not right. You should be with someone that’s happy.”
“You can be happy Charlie. But you don’t want to be happy with me, do you?”
I resented the implication, but it was true. I didn’t want to be happy with him, because I wanted to happy with someone else. I couldn’t tell him that, it would hurt him too much. “It’s not that Asher. I wanted to be happy with you, because you are so special and such a good guy. I’m just not in that space right now. I’m sorry.”
“Is this because of James?” To his credit, he looked me dead in the eye when he asked the question. To lie or not to lie, I’ll go with creative truth-telling, I decided. As much as I did think this was about James, it also wasn’t. It was, really, about where I was at.
“This is about me Asher and where I’m at. This isn’t about James.” It was totally about James.
“If you need to tell yourself that.” He looked at me and I bit my lip, hard, drawing blood. “I could have made you happy Charlie. You and I would have been good together, if you’d have let it.” I snapped my eyes to him, feeling incredibly annoyed all of a sudden. One thing I hate is people telling me how I feel. I know how I feel, even if I don’t always admit it.
“That’s not for you to tell me Asher.” I spoke harshly and slid my gaze across his face. “I know how to be happy, and if I was finding it with you, I wouldn’t be breaking up with you.” I let a huff out, my emotions were getting away with me. “I’m sorry. I really am. I’m sorry that this hurts you, but it hasn’t been working for me and there’s no point dragging this out. I just can’t do this.”
I laid my head on my hands, not looking at him. I sucked at break-ups, not like I had a lot of practice.
“What if I said I loved you? What if I said that I loved your broken pieces and I wanted to help put them back together?”
“I’d say that you are the sweetest guy I have ever known, and I’m blessed to have been this close to you. But, my issues are mine to fix. Not yours. I don’t need you to make me whole, I need to be whole myself. I’m not there.”
“You’ve really made up your mind?”
“Yes.” I looked at him sadly, feeling his pain, and a tear fell down my cheek. He nodded his head, pursed his lips and stood up quickly, walking away from me as fast as he could.
I slammed my head against the table and wondered what was wrong with me. Dumping a guy that liked me, all because I wanted something else that would never happen. The second James realized he could have me, he’d probably lose interest. Maybe he only wanted me because he couldn’t have me. Whatever, I’ll deal with all that later.
It was the day before break started, and I was sitting by myself at the Ravenclaw table. Dom had decided to busy herself with extra projects for all our teachers that wanted help, so she could stop crying. I knew she was still hurting, badly, but it was at least nice to see her moving around again.
Georgia had slept in, which she did sometimes. She’d probably come barreling into class with a minute to spare, looking perfect. I don’t know how she did it.
Asher and I weren’t speaking, for obvious reasons. Rose seemed to want to me to sit with her, and I suspected she knew I’d broken up with Asher, even though I still hadn’t told anyone. I told her I just wanted to be alone.
Besides, I wasn’t ready to be near James until I had to be. It would just be too awkward to be sitting there him, while Asher was just a few feet away. I dropped my head down onto the table and sighed.
I didn’t want to hang out here anymore, and I wasn’t hungry. My bag slammed against the bench as I slid it off the table, and I grumbled to myself.
Hopefully, I could make a quiet exit.
“CHARLOTTE!” I closed my eyes and froze. Really, universe? REALLY?
I took a few more steps, trying to ignore whoever was calling my name. Unless there was another Charlotte here.
“CHARLOTTE AMELIA GRAY!”
Nope. They definitely wanted me. I whirled around, yelping quietly as my books slammed into my thigh.
Scorpius waved me over, and after trying to communicate that I'd meet up with him later, I finally gave up and walked over. I had to, he'd been getting louder and louder the longer I ignored him.
I slid into the empty spot next to him.
“What?” I asked, annoyed
“I needed to ask you something.” He ran his hands through his ice blond hair, and grinned at me.
“And this was the best way to do it?!?”
“Yes, why not?”
I looked around and realized people were staring at us. My eyes scanned the Slytherin table and I noticed Avery Nott leering at me. I glared at him, and turned my head, not quite missing the suggestive move he made.
“What do you need my help with? And can we move this somewhere else? Avery creeps me out.”
Scorpius slipped his arm around my shoulder and turned to glare at Avery.
“Yea, come on.” He continued to stare down Avery, who just laughed, until we were far enough away from them. Scorpius turned to me and smiled.
“What did you want?”
“I need help picking out a gift for Rosie.”
“You should just tell her you love her.”
“Sshhhh! People might hear you!” He looked around wildly and I chuckled, biting my lip to keep from saying anything else. “Seriously. I need help. I don’t know what to get her.”
“She’ll like anything you get her.” Scorpius paused mid-step, whirled me around to face him, and got real close to my face. So close I could see the small flecks of blue in his green eyes.
“Charlotte. You are a girl. You are supposed to be more helpful than this. SO HELP ME!” He shook me lightly and stared at me, looking like a wild mountain main.
I stared at him, and then laughed quietly. “Ok. Ok. I’ll help. Do you have any ideas so far?”
“Nothing!” He wailed. “I’ve even been listening to everything she says, hoping she’ll drop a hint. I even asked her what she wanted for Christmas, and she said nothing, then smiled at me with her cute little smile and I sort of melted a bit and forgot about presents… and now… NOTHING!”
“You’re being a bit dramatic, and I have to get to class.”
“You have to help me!”
“I will help you. Geez dude, calm down.”
We had, unfortunately for him, reached my classroom. “Ok Scorp… I have to go now. I’ll see you later and we can figure something out then.”
“Now. You have to tell me now!”
I stared at him, then surprised myself by laughing. He was such a character.
“Look… she and I both love old books. Find a first edition of one of her favorite books. You know what her favorite books are, because I’ve heard you two talking about it. That’s my suggestion. I don’t want to be late for class.” I turned around, but didn’t make it far.
He’d pulled me into a bone crushing hug, and when he finally released me he had the stupidest grin on his face. I chuckled again and walked into class.
The final day passed in a blur. Everyone but me was excited to be going off for the holidays. I was still sad about ending things with Asher, even though I knew it was one hundred percent the right thing to do. I was worried about what this would mean once James found out, and spending two weeks in the same house as my sisters. I was still worried about Dom, and how she was going to cope with her family. This wasn’t shaping up to be fun from the very start.
Mostly though, I couldn’t keep my thoughts away from James, and being single now.
The moment that became public news, the entire Wotter clan would be staring at James and I, as if they could will us to just hook up in front of them. Georgia wasn’t happy that I was keeping quiet. She said I was denying myself the opportunity for some incredibly hot sex with a guy I’d been lusting after for months. I smacked her on the shoulder for that and didn’t talk to her for an hour.
I spent the night curled up in Dom’s bed, looking at old photos with her. It didn’t escape my attention that she kept running her hand over her stomach, and frowning. She laid her head on my shoulder and talked about what she was planning on naming the baby, and asked me if I would join her for a private ceremony at her house. She just wanted it to be the two of us, because her family wasn’t being incredibly supportive. I think they were still focused on the fact that she’d gotten pregnant.
It made me angry they weren’t being more supportive, and I could see the break this was going to cause if they didn’t move from blaming her to consoling her.
We fell asleep curled up next together, and though I didn’t sleep much, I was relieved to see that she did. It might have been the first night since she’d told me that I heard her sleep through the night.
I was still awake when the sun crested the horizon, and I laid still and watched as the light in the room changed slowly. Georgia snorted from the bed next to us, and I bit back a laugh. Unfortunately, that little sound woke Dom.
She stared up at me with her big blue eyes, and I smiled, running my hand over her head.
“I’ve been thinking Charlie. You should tell James how you feel. Life changes in an instant, and you don’t want to look back and wonder. Promise me you’ll tell him.”
“Promise me Charlie. Even if he wimps out again, you deserve to try.”
We stared at each other, until I finally caved and told her I would tell him by the end of break if he didn’t say anything first. She smiled, the first real smile I’d seen in weeks, and hugged me.
“Let’s get this show on the road then.” She crawled out of bed and tip toed into the shower. I followed her, barely thinking twice about the second shower that appeared out of nowhere. We were all used to things just happening at Hogwarts.
Our bags were already gone by the time we walked out. They actually passed an actual note around in the days and weeks before break that anyone leaving the school had to be fully packed by ten pm the previous evening. It was always really funny watching students coming down clutching odd pieces of clothing they forgot about.
The three of us walked arm in arm down to the train in mostly silence. Dom was still off and on, and neither of us blamed her. I was now busy thinking about my promise to Dom that I’d talk to James, and wondering why in the seven hells I’d agreed to that. Georgia chatted for us, talking about all the hot guys she was destined to meet on her cruise. She hoped to find a really hot one to do naughty things to in front of her parents to gross them out. She loved getting reactions out of them, which I always thought was really, really weird.
I was pretty quiet on the train ride back to London, staring out of the window silently. James charged into our cabin at one point, and sat next to me, poking me repeatedly until I finally cracked a smile. Once I was engaged, and talking, he left to go back to wherever he had come from. He was acting calmer around me than he had in months. Had he found out already? If he had, did that just prove me right, that he wasn’t going to actually do anything?
Georgia and Dom were both staring at me after, noticing the obvious, that I brightened whenever he was around. Maybe this wouldn’t be the worst holiday, I thought with a smile. At least I was single now, and didn’t have to berate myself for imagining.
The countryside sped by, although most of it was hard to see owing to all the rain. It finally let up somewhere near London, and I finally tuned back into the conversations happening in our compartment. It was then I discovered that both Dom and Georgia were asleep, but James and Freddy had joined us and they were playing exploding snap. I walked over and sat next to Freddy, looking across at James. He ruffled his hair, looked up at me and winked.
“You’re going down James.”
I nudged Freddy and he looked at me. “Annihilate him Freddy.” He grinned at me, and turned back to James, who was looking at me like I’d betrayed him.
He launched himself at me, and started tickling me. I squealed, yelling at him to stop, before dissolving into a very loud fit of giggles. Breathing was getting more and more difficult, but I couldn’t stop laughing.
James finally stopped, and when I opened my eyes I realized his face was only inches from mine. We were both breathing heavily, and he looked as flushed as I felt. I noticed, this close to him, how many gold flecks he had in his eyes and I smiled warmly at him.
“You’re my cheerleader, Lottie. Not his.”
“Not his. Ok.”
“Say you’re mine.” His lips parted, and I was hit with a very strong desire to kiss him. I wondered if he could tell that’s what I was thinking, because his eyes darkened.
“Good. Now come to my side and help me win.” He stood up slowly, holding out his hand for mine. Just like I remembered, his skin was warm and a little rough, and I watched as my hand almost disappeared as he wrapped his around mine. We both sat back down on the other side, and then looked up, realizing that all three of them were blatantly staring at us. They looked incredibly amused, and I blushed.
“One of these days… you two are going to owe me five galleons.” Freddy turned to look at both of them, and then looked back at us, grinning.
“What are you talking about?” James asked him.
“You’ll find out after it’s happened, yea.” I looked at both of my friends and had a feeling I knew what they had bet on. They both tried, and failed, to look ashamed. James looked at me, and I shrugged, a smile on my face.
“You’re going down.” Freddy muttered, getting ready to play.
I quickly lost interest, pulling out my book instead of watching them. Quidditch was fun to watch, but this was boring to me. Oh well, I thought, we’ll be in London soon.
About a half hour later, Kings Cross came into view and everything suddenly got very chaotic. I wrapped my arm around Dom, and hugged her tightly. I knew she was very worried about seeing her parents. The three of us walked out together, shoving our way through the wall of students and out onto the sidewalk.
Georgia hugged me for a good five minutes once we were outside before we walked to meet her parents, promising that she would write back if I really needed to talk. Even though we walked the edge between the muggle and the magical world, we didn’t really use phones or computers like other muggles our age.
I waved at my aunt and uncle, who looked very unhappy, like most adults in our family. I smiled sympathetically at Georgia, who put on her brave face and walked towards them. She had told them that she wanted a holiday trip to the Mediterranean, and they booked a cruise for one week and would be spending the rest of the holiday in France.
Dom and I were going to be meeting her in Paris soon for a girls birthday trip. All three of our birthdays were within a few weeks of each other, and given that we were all finally turning seventeen, we wanted it to be something special. Dom was looking forward to it, which made me happy. She needed something good to help fill the gaping wound left in her heart.
I just hugged her, telling her that she could come stay with me, or we could go book a hotel room if she needed space from her parents. They hadn’t talked much since Dom had told them she’d been pregnant. She was worried about how they were going to act around her. We heard someone yelling her name, and I was literally shoved out of the way by her Mom.
“Sorry Charlotte.” She looked over Dom’s head at me, and I smiled, waving away her apology. I said my goodbye to her, and walked away. I didn’t need to be there for that private moment. It was obvious that Fleur was concerned and couldn’t have acted like a more loving mother if she tried.
James snuck up behind me and then pinched my sides, making me squeal. I turned around and smacked him.
“You scared me, you dolt!” He just laughed, and slung his arm around my shoulder, leading me over to where his Uncle George stood. James’s parents couldn’t meet us today, so they arranged for his Uncle to come pick all of us up. He sent all of our belongings ahead, courtesy of magic and we all grabbed a taxi to the Leaky Cauldron.
Once we were in Diagon Alley, we followed him to his shop. James nicked something as we walked back to the office, and I elbowed him. He didn’t put it back, and I continued to scowl at him until he went into his Uncle’s office.
“Alright, you lot, you know what to do.” He held out a flowerpot full of Floo powder, waving each of us into the fireplace. James and I went last. I noticed with a laugh, before I spun out the office, that his Uncle made him return the item he’d tried to nick.
When I arrived, in a cloud of ash, I saw the Potter house, looking just like I remembered it from this summer. It was quiet, and I walked over to the window, looking out over their backyard. Lily and Harper were already outside, doing some kind of weird dance while singing at the top of their lungs. Ava and Al were nowhere to be seen, as yet, but I hadn’t left the room.
James walked out of the fireplace with ease, looking like a model walking a runway show. He swung his arms wide.
“Make yourself at home. You’re staying in the same room Dom was in last time. Remember where it is?”
“Yes, James, I remember where it is.”
“Then go settle in, and we’ll go for a walk or something.” We walked out of the room and wound our way towards the back staircase.
“It’s cold out!” I protested.
“It's time to live a little Charlotte.” He was halfway up the stairs, but swung his head around the corner to wink at me before dashing away. I made my way to the room I was staying in and collapsed onto the bed, smiling. This really might not be such a bad holiday.
A/N- Finally! At least that's what I assume most of you are saying after reading this. Hope you enjoyed that little bit and please feel free to leave a review telling me what you thought.
The next chapter is called This Is Where The Healing Begins. If that's not the title of the next chapter.... please don't read any further. If you've read from the beginning up to this point you know that I'm editing right now and the next chapter will be brand new... so yea... if that's not the next chapter, don't read it.
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