Chapter 27 : This Is Where The Healing Begins
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Three days into break, and I was heading to Dom’s house for most of the day. She had wanted to have a little memorial on the beach. I was happy to be leaving for a bit.
Agreeing to come here might have been a very stupid thing to do. James and I had almost made out four or five times, and when we weren’t busy making goggly eyes at each other, we’d been arguing. A lot.
It was as much my fault as his. I wanted to tell him I was single and open for business, so to speak, and was letting my frustration at my own cowardice come up. I snapped at him when I didn’t have to, and then he inevitably ended up retaliating.
We’d retreat to separate corners for a few hours, and then hang out again as if nothing had happened. It was getting aggravating. I didn’t feel like dealing with it anymore, and might just come out and tell him tonight. I don’t know why I was afraid to tell him.
The way he looked at me… I should have trusted that. But he’d already said once that he liked me but wouldn’t do anything about it. I wasn’t entirely sure I could handle it again.
It was going to be quite cold today, so I put on my lined black skinny jeans, slid on my favorite boots and figured out what else to wear. I rifled through my trunk, and finally pulled out a skin tight black turtleneck and threw on a soft rose colored sweater. It’s not like I needed to look good for anyone. I was going to support Dom.
It was almost time to leave, I realized, looking down at my watch. I grabbed my warmest coat and a scarf and walked silently down the stairs. No one seemed to be around, so I sat down in a chair at the table, nibbling on some of the breakfast leftovers.
Owing to an odd set of circumstances, James’s Dad needed to go to Shell Cottage on the same day and time as I did. He came thundering down the stairs a few minutes later and smiled at me.
“Yep.” I craned my head, part of me hoping to get to say goodbye to James.
“James is out on his broom. He does that when he’s upset.” I looked at Mr. Potter, concerned. “Don’t worry about him. He will be more than fine. Ready?” He held his arm out, and I swallowed nervously. I held onto his arm tightly, and squeezed my eyes shut, feeling the uncomfortable sensations that meant we were apparting.
Though we’d just stared taking Apparation lessons at school, none of us were certified yet. It was a strange feeling, and I was more than relieved when the ocean came into view. I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with salty sea air. Breathing… it was a nice thing.
I stumbled a bit as I took a few steps towards the house, feeling sick.
“Are you ok Charlotte?”
“Not a big fan of that.”
He chuckled and then lightly grabbed my arm as I stumbled again. “I remember the first time I did Side-Along Apparation. It wasn’t fun. I didn’t know what to expect and I sort of figured I wouldn’t ever do it again.”
“What changed your mind?”
“It’s useful, and quick.”
I looked up at him and smiled. “Charlotte.”
I stared at him in confusion. “For what?”
“You’ve been a good influence on James. As a parent… thank you.”
“Oh. We’re just friends.”
“Are you both entirely sure about that?” I blushed furiously, and became suddenly very interested in the individual grains of sand beneath me. “My wife is going to kill me for saying that, please forgive me. You two just seem very close.”
I was saved from needing to answer that, not that I knew how I would answer that, when Dom opened the door and walked out towards me. She hugged her Uncle and then linked her arm through mine, and off we went down the beach. She had a pack slung over her shoulder.
She still wanted the ceremony, and had only wanted it to be the two of us. Georgia would have joined us if she could.
We walked about a mile down the beach, neither of us saying a word.
After starting a fire the old fashioned way, we sat down on the sand, as close to the flames as we could handle. It was cold, and quite windy out. Dom laid her head on my shoulder, and let out a deep sigh. Her blonde hair blew around her, tangling quickly in the salty, windy air.
“It was going to be a girl.” I didn’t turn to look at her, but found her hand, and linked my fingers through hers, squeezing tightly. “There are ways to tell, you know, with magic. A little girl.” Tears started leaking out of the corners of my eyes, and I felt her shoulders shaking with her own tears.
She turned into me, and I wrapped my arms around her, holding her close. She cried and cried, and I stared into the flames, my bottom lip quivering as I tried to hold back the flood of emotions. I didn’t want to break down. I wanted to be strong for her.
“I don’t know how to go about life like it’s normal. I don’t know how to go about filling this void.”
“Dom, I don’t know what to say.”
“It’s ok. You don’t need to say anything. I wanted her. I wanted to know what she would look like, who she’d take after. Watch her grow up. I know I can still have that, but… you’ll find out when you’re pregnant Charlotte. You go from it just being you… to knowing you’re going to be a Mom and it just… changes everything. I want to get a tattoo today, to remember her by. But after that, it’s going to be time to say goodbye.”
“Dom, you don’t ever have to forget her.”
“I won’t. But I can’t stay like this Charlie. Consumed by grief, wondering what might have been. If I want that experience again, I have to keep moving forward, knowing there’s a part of my heart carved out for her, forever.”
“You’re going to be a great Mom one day Dommie.”
“So will you, you know? I know it freaks you out, but your Mom is utter shit as a parent, but you and James are going to have the worlds cutest babies.” She nudged me, and smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes.
“Can we not talk about that?” I chuckled and laid my head on hers.
“I have something I want to burn.” She leaned away from me, let out a deep breath, and pulled something out of her pack. It was a small wooden box.
She turned to look at me, and stood up, holding out her hand. I grabbed her hand, and let her pull me up. Dom walked forward, and I knew that though she was holding onto me, she needed to do this herself. I wasn’t sure if that box contained the baby’s ashes, as Dom still hadn’t told me what had happened when she’d lost the baby. Maybe it was symbolic, or filled with letters.
She squeezed my hand real tight, and then let go, crouching in the sand as close to the fire as she could get. I stood back and that image seared itself into my brain. The overcast sky, the steel blue ocean and white capped waves. And forever I would remember the image of my best friend kneeling in front of a roaring fire, holding onto a little wooden box as her hair blew around her face, to say goodbye to a dream.
Dom placed the box in the flames, and took a quick step back, and then another. I saw her small frame start to shake, as she brought her hand up to her mouth, her head dipped low. She kissed her fingers and held them up to the sky.
“Goodbye Amelia Rose.”
She walked back towards me, and I opened my arms. She seemed so tiny as I hugged her.
“Amelia Rose is a good name Dommie.” Her blue eyes were very red rimmed as she looked at me, and I got a watery smile in response. Amelia was my middle name, and Dom had always joked she would name her firstborn that.
“Had to name her after my two favorite people.” I hugged her again. “Let’s go Charlie.” Her pack was light as I picked it up, slinging it over my shoulder.
Dom kept looking back over her shoulder, and we walked in comfortable silence back to her house. Fleur tutted over her when we walked in, and I saw Mr. Potter look up, confused. It still wasn’t public knowledge. She hadn’t been this attentive since Dom’s first year at Hogwarts.
“We’re going out Mum. Be back later.” Dom grabbed my hand and dragged me over to the fireplace. We both grabbed a handful of powder, and went to Diagon Alley. It was busy, which wasn’t all that surprising to either of us. Christmas was just a few days away. The air smelled of potions and sweet spices. I loved Diagon Alley this time of year, it was so festive and so very, very magical.
Dom dragged me into the lone tattoo parlor. It was a tiny place, but from what I could tell, did a lot of business. Who would have guessed tattoo’s were a popular wizarding thing? It only took a few minutes, because magic was awesome and made everything a billion times easier.
Dom wouldn’t sit still in her seat, waiting for her appointment time to arrive.
“What are you getting?”
“A shooting star. And her name.”
I smiled sadly at her, guessing the reasons behind wanting a shooting star. They were brilliant and beautiful, bringing hope. They also never stayed around long.
Someone finally called her name and she hopped onto her feet, walking in the back. I stayed put, looking around in curiosity at the pictures on the wall. I didn’t stay put long, as Dom came back and yanked on my hand.
“You’re not letting me do this alone.”
I laughed, and let myself be dragged into the back. An old guy, maybe sixty, that was covered in tattoos smiled warmly at both of us.
“You want one too, miss?” He asked, looking at me.
I snorted and shook my head. “No. No thank you.” Dom sort of glared at me and the guy laughed.
“This’ll only take a moment.” She held out her arm, having finally decided to get it just below her elbow. She looked at me, and gripped my hand, whispering something over and over again. The guys wand flared with a bright light and he chanted some incantation. Dom kept muttering something, and I finally figured out she was saying the name. Amelia Rose.
Ten minutes later and Dom was the proud owner of some silver and black ink. She hadn’t winced at all, which had surprised me. She wasn’t known for having the highest level of pain tolerance. Maybe wizard tattoos didn’t hurt?
Before we walked out, she’d turned to me and cracked a smile. “You could get James tattooed on your person, I think that would let him know you like him enough.”
I pursed my lips and stared at her, getting a small laugh out of her.
“Ok. Fine. Let’s get some coffee then, yea?” She linked her hand through mine and off we went to the wizarding equivalent of the Muggle worlds most popular coffee chain.
Dom seemed lighter somehow, after today, and I finally felt like I could stop worrying about her every second of every day. She smiled more and more as the day went on, although I caught her looking up at the sky whenever she thought I wasn’t looking. She wouldn’t get over this in a day, I knew.
We parted around three in the afternoon, talking excitedly about Paris. A few days, without boys or parents, to celebrate turning seventeen. It would be quite the experience and I couldn’t wait for it. Anything to get away from James and that whole bunged up confusing situation.
I wandered into a random store, purchased a random item, and used their fireplace to Floo back to the Potter’s. Most stores in Diagon Alley had that deal now. It occurred to me as I arrived in a cloud of soot, that I could have just gone to his Uncle’s shop and not had to bother buying… I looked down in the bag… a replica bust of Peeves. Huh. Had I been that distracted?
The house seemed strangely empty, for which I was quite grateful. I plopped down on the couch, and drew my knees up to my chest. Now that I was sitting down, I felt like crying. The vision of Dom saying goodbye kept popping me up, and now that I didn’t have to be strong for her, I felt like breaking down.
I hadn’t processed anything. I’d just gone from breaking up with Asher, to focusing on the last week of school, to coming here and going back and forth with James. I felt so utterly drained, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to move for hours.
Time passed, and the light in the room slowly darkened. I didn’t care enough to get up and turn a light on. I could probably sit here for hours without being bothered. Harry and Ginny were supposed to be out super late because of some Ministry function and Lily and Harper were sleeping over at another friends house. That left Al, Ava and James and I. James must be with Freddy, because it wasn’t possible for him to be silent this long. I’d have known if he was home.
I realized I wasn’t alone in the house when I heard someone moving around in the kitchen. Whoever it was pulled the fridge door open and I winced at the bright light.
“Hello?” They asked. Male, definitely male. It wasn’t James, which left me with one option.
“Charlie?” I sighed. Everyone had taken to calling me Charlie, because Dom always did, and I had never bothered to correct it. Now it was my name.
Al flipped on two more lights, and I covered my hands with my eyes. Once they adjusted, I looked up and saw Al standing in low hanging pants without a shirt on. He looked… like he’d just been properly made out with. I knew the look, because it’s how I’d looked after James had kissed me over the summer. Ava must be thrilled. I hoped they hadn’t slept together. She was too young.
“You ok? You don't look so hot.”
“Had a rough day with Dom.”
Al sat down in the chair across the room from where I was, and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.
“Want to talk about it?”
“No. What were you just up to?” I made myself smirk at him, forcing myself to look ok. He blushed, going deep red.
“Uh… Uh…. Uh…” He stuttered, “I’d really rather not tell you.”
“Did you just sleep with my sister?!?” I stared at him wide eyed, my hand flying to my mouth. Had they?
Al refused to look at me, and ran his hand through his hair, chuckling nervously.
“Can we talk about you instead? I really don’t want to talk to you about what I just… uh… I mean… um… what…” He sighed, and laughed, leaning back in the chair.
“I can’t tell you about my day.”
“Dom’s news? I know something is going on with her.”
“Yes. It’s her news.” I looked at him, and bit the inside of my cheek, trying very hard not to picture what he’d been doing a half hour ago. Big sisters didn’t need those sorts of images. I could try and be angry at her, but I'd had the same first moment at the same age.
“Want to talk to me about James, then?”
“What’s there to talk about?”
“Well… you’re single now, so you two should be doing what I was just doing… assuming you’re ok with that kind of thing.”
I laughed loudly in surprise, looking at him with wide eyes. He shrugged, but at least had the decency to look slightly ashamed of himself. “Who says I’m single?”
“Just tell me you are, because I already know.”
“Fine. I am. But you can’t tell James.”
“He’s my brother!”
“Please Al? I promised Dom I’d tell him how I felt by the end of break, but I’m not doing it today. Ok? So please… don’t say anything.”
“You have until Christmas.”
“Fine.” I drew the word out, and smiled at him. I was good with deadlines, and I wasn’t doing too well keeping this news to myself anyway. A few days. Christmas Eve was in four days.
“Al?” Ava said, tiptoeing into the room. She didn’t seem me at first, and I saw her smile at Al in a way I didn’t quite want to see. I wasn’t entirely thrilled to see that she was just wearing one of his shirts. “What are you doing down here? I thought you were coming back…”
“I was. Just noticed Charlotte over here moping and wanted to make sure she was ok.” Al nodded in my direction, and stood up to walk over to her. I closed my eyes.
“Charlotte.” Ava said, and I looked at her. Al was standing behind her, kissing her neck.
“Hey! Big sister right here. Uh uh. You want to go do that stuff, you do it away from me.”
“Gladly!” Al tugged on Ava’s hand, and grinned at her.
“Eww! No.” I waved them away, not checking to see if they’d left.
“Charlie.” Ava was standing there, with her bitch face on, staring at me. Al was nowhere to be seen.
“Can I not even have this night without you somehow getting in the way?”
“What are you talking about Ava?”
“Can you seriously just shag James or something, so that everyone will stop waiting for you two to hook up, and then Al can get back to paying attention to me?”
“You two are always off doing God knows what… how am I part of your problem?”
“You’re not being a good big sister… you’re supposed to help me get the boyfriend.”
I felt like pointing out if they didn’t make it official after sleeping together, that was clearly their issue and not mine. “You know what Ava? I’ve had a horrific day, and I don’t feel like dealing with your bullshit, so if you don’t mind, I’m going upstairs. Leave me the hell alone right now.”
“See what I mean… God!” She yelled as I stalked up the stairs, and into my room, falling face first onto my bed. I grabbed the comforter with both hands, curled up into a little ball and started crying.
All those emotions I’d held back the past few weeks came rushing out in a massive wave. I cried so hard it felt like I couldn’t breathe. Dom. My parents. Asher. James.
I heard my door click shut silently, and shot up, staring wildly at the door that I could barely see in the dark and through tear filled eyes.
“Lottie. Why are you crying?” A weight settled on my bed, and I felt him reach out and cup my cheek. I rolled back into the fetal position and sobbed. James laid down next to me, and rubbed his hand up and down my back, in slow circles.
“Want to talk about it?” I shook my head from side as best as I could. “I can’t tell if you’re nodding or shaking your head no.”
“No.” I whispered, trying to take some deep breaths. Before I could stop him, James had sat up and rolled me onto his lap at the same time. I laid my head on his chest, and listened to his heart beating. It was soothing.
Slowly, very slowly, I started to calm down and breath normally.
“Are you ok?”
“I’ll be ok.”
“I wish you’d tell me what’s going on.” The pain in his voice cut me like a knife, and I snuggled closer to him, feeling the change in his heartbeat. His voice hitched and then his arms wrapped tightly around me. “Oh Charlotte… what you do to me.”
“Later. I just… I just want to do something mind numbing. I don’t want to think, or feel. Can you help me with that?”
I felt the vibrations of his laugh, and placed my hand lightly on his chest.
“C’mon Lottie, let’s go watch a movie.” James, still holding me on his lap, slid to the edge of the bed, and got to his feet, holding me to his chest. He walked out slowly, somehow opening the door one handed, and then placed me gently on the ground in the hallway.
There was a little light coming from somewhere down the hallway. James looked down at me, tucking a strand of my hair behind my ear. I surprised him, and wrapped my arms around his waist, tucking my head into his chest. Figure it out James, I thought. Make a move. I’ll let you.
James took a deep breath and took a step back. I closed my eyes in defeat, and turned on my heel quickly, heading down the stairs. I grabbed a blanket off the back of the chair and laid out my full five foot three inch frame on one section of the couch.
He finally came down a minute later, and walked around lighting a few candles for ambiance, explaining quietly that he didn’t want to disturb me by turning on a light. I was half asleep by this point, and mumbled something in response. I didn’t see the look he gave me, the raw, aching desire. Had I seen it… I would have woke up and been brave and kissed him the same way he’d kissed me over the summer.
Instead, I stayed where I was, and he put on a movie. I wasn’t aware of what it was, because I was already going back to falling asleep. James picked my feet up and sat down right where they had been.
I was out in a few minutes, and couldn’t have told you anything about the movie he put on if my life depended on it.
Hours later, sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up and realized I was about to fall off the couch. James must have fallen asleep and fallen over on me, and in the course of the last few hours, we’d both shifted to accommodate that. He’d curled up behind me, and draped his arm over my stomach.
I smiled, and shifted closer to him as quietly and easily as I could. I didn’t want to wake him up and ruin this moment. Maybe just for tonight, until the sun rose, I needed something that felt right. Something that felt normal.
James was my new normal, and I fell back asleep thinking about that.
A/N- Hope you all enjoyed that. I'm still just waking up, so don't have much to say right now.
The next chapter will be Christmas Eve, and it will be titled as such. If that's not the next title, don't read any further. That is all. Enjoy what's next! ;)
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