Chapter 30 : The Day After
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We lay under the covers after, and I was happy. The sound of the midnight bell started ringing throughout the house and I knew at some point I would have to leave his room.
Dom must be wondering where I had wandered off to. Or, given that James and I had disappeared at the same time she probably assumed I was with him. Actually, everyone probably assumed we’d snuck off together. I was quite positive they wouldn’t have guessed we’d be doing… this.
Us Gray girls move sort of fast, I thought, thinking about Al and Ava. Zero to sixty in ten minutes.
We hadn’t spoken for a while, and I had no idea what he was thinking. Was I just another girl, just another night? Did this mean something? Was this the beginning of James and Charlotte the couple? Or just the most amazing of nights between friends?
I couldn’t care right now though. I was riding high, I’d never been this happy before. James suddenly tensed and pulled me closer towards him, if that was even possible. I picked my head up off his chest and looked up.
“James? What’s wrong?” Panic seized me and I wondered if he was regretting this.
“You’re leaving for few days.” He traced his finger down my nose, to my lips. “I don’t want you to leave.” The panic released its hold on me, and I smiled.
“Does that mean you’ll actually miss me, or miss this?” He got a very serious look on his face and I realized that now may not be the best time to joke.
“I will miss you, and I will spend the rest of the week waiting for your return.”
“We don’t have to talk about it now.”
“That’s not what I was going to ask, but ok.”
“I mean, we do need to talk about… this… at some point, but I mostly wanted to know if I could take a shower.”
“Of course you can. Want company?” He grinned at me, and I laughed. I turned away from him and sat up in the bed, giving James a very good view of my naked back. His fingers started tracing patters on my lower back and I got goosebumps. His shirt lay on the floor, and I picked it up, sliding my arms through before standing up and facing him.
He lay back in the bed, head propped up on the pillows. The sheet was draped lazily around his lower half and he was looking at me with dark eyes. I smiled at him, before getting nervous and dipping my head. I heard, rather than saw him lean forward. He grabbed me around the waist and pulled me onto his lap.
“Are you wanting something James?” He pulled my face to his and kissed me with excruciating tenderness. It’s official, I was now a puddle. His eyes searched mine as he pulled back.
“I should never have waited this long to do that.”
“So I guess she was right.”
“Who was right? Why are you talking about another girl?” He sounded confused and slightly scared. It was cute.
“Dom, Dom was right.”
“Um… why are you talking about my cousin?”
“She said I should just tell you how I felt because you’d return the favor.”
“My family is annoyingly accurate about some things.” He kissed me again.
“You do seem to like kissing me.” He growled and flipped me onto my back. My hair fanned out onto the pillow and his shirt fell open, as I hadn’t bothered to button it yet.
“I really, really do.” So he did it again, and again, and again. I was pretty sure that coherent sentences weren’t going to be happening for a while after. It sort of helped that we fell asleep for a few hours.
The sun was just beginning to rise when I woke up. I yawned and stretched, rising up on my elbow to look down at James. His hazel eyes popped open and stared at me, almost in wonder. He reached out and tugged me back onto his chest.
“Morning.” I said, smiling at him. He leaned up and kissed me, rolling me onto my back. He didn’t say anything, just sort of ravished me again. My nerves were tingling and I couldn’t stop smiling. He grinned at me, and I turned away from him for a moment so I could quietly act out a very girly and excited scream.
“So shower?” I asked, turning back to him.
“Right. Can I join you?”
“You still have energy to move?”
“I’ve never felt better.” He grinned down at me and if there was any part left of me to melt, I would have melted.
“Good, then you can carry me, because I can’t. Move that is. I’m a puddle.” I smiled up at him and my heart melted (again) as he smiled back. He reached over me to grab his shorts and then walked over to the door, poking his head out first.
After realizing it was all clear, he walked back over to me and held his hands out. I grabbed them and he pulled me forward and then lifted me up over his shoulder.
“James! Carry me another way!” I shrieked at him, but couldn’t do it properly because I was laughing.
“Nope.” He walked back over to the door and double checked to make sure the coast was still clear, then sprinted the both of us over to the shower. He kept me up on his shoulder as he reached into the shower to turn the water on, only putting me down long enough to shove his shirt off my body. The hot water created a wall of steam around us and it was easily the least normal shower I had ever had.
James and I walked out of the bathroom together, hand in hand. He had a towel wrapped around his waist and I had put his shirt back on, draping a towel over my shoulders to help dry my hair with later. Right before we got to his room another door opened down the hallway and we both froze.
“Oh Thank God! Finally!” It was Dom, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. At least it wasn’t his parents, that would have been mortifying. I caught my best friends eye and she grinned. “Get back to whatever you were doing. Cheerio!” Dom walked past us into the bathroom, laughing happily to herself. James looked down at me and pulled me into his room.
“Happy Christmas Charlotte.” He bent his head and placed a light kiss on my lips. I wrapped my arms around his waist and placed my ear over his heart, listening to the steady beat.
“Best Christmas Ever.”
“I’m going to get dressed, and then I’ll finally give you your present, ok?”
“I’ll sneak into my room and grab some clothes too.” He turned around, looking like he was going to protest, but I skipped out of the room before he could do anything. I walked the few steps to the guest room and shut the door behind me.
I leaned up against it, closed my eyes and smiled, a smile so wide I thought my face would crack. James would be waiting on me though, so I walked over to my suitcase and rummaged around for something cute. Dom strutted in a minute later, and upon seeing me in the room, she shrieked and jumped on my back. Which meant I fell to the floor, a loud breath of air escaping from my lungs.
“You and Jamesy! OH I’m so EXCITED!” Dom still hadn’t let me up, and was just sitting on my back clapping her hands.
“Yes. We’ve sealed the deal. Now, can you please GET OFF ME!” A laugh vibrated through my entire body, and I rolled onto my back after Dom got off me. She looked down at me, grinning.
“Sealed the deal? As in… wait! Did you sleep with him?!? Ew… no wait, I don’t want to know that. Wait, yes I do. Just, no details, cause seriously… ew.”
“You did see us coming out of the shower together… what did you think we were both doing in there?”
“You could have been taking separate showers!”
“We didn’t, ok.”
“More than once?!?”
“Yes?” I scrunched up my face and found that I couldn’t stop laughing. Somehow this was all too much.
“Geez Charlotte, I knew you had it in you!”
“I’ve had sex before you know!”
“Still… you go from being in love with him since the summer to going all the way in one night.”
“It’s not like I planned it.”
“What happened, like exactly, you have to tell me!”
“James is kind of waiting for me to come back dressed. I mean, I know I’m a girl but…”
“James can wait 10 minutes while you explain your evening to me. Last I heard, you were mad at him because he’s been a total wanker to you this whole holiday. But then over dinner he couldn’t stop staring at you… I mean, it’s been quite obvious that he’s head over heels for you and oh my god he must be so relieved to finally be able to snog you. Wait… I’m rambling. Tell me. Now.” She pulled me up onto the bed, cupped her chin in her hand and just stared at me, blue eyes glittering. I looked out the window to watch what felt to me like the most perfect sunrise ever.
“Can I get dressed first?” I pulled my favorite pair of skinny jeans out and then rooted around for a nice shirt to wear. I was about to pull out a white button down blouse and my favorite blue sweater when Dom shrieked at me.
“NO! You are not wearing that. You must wear something cuter.” She jumped off the bed, stalked over to me and yanked my two shirts away from my grasp. They got thrown onto the floor while Dom rooted around looking for something she deemed acceptable.
I looked down when she said aha and then sat back on her heels, smiling her scary smile up at me. She held out something that was a dark green, a sweater I forgot I owned. She shook the sweater at me, telling me to take it and put it on. I pulled it over my head and looked at myself in the mirror. It fit me really well, why had I never worn this before?
Dom, who seemed both excited and grossed out to be giving me tips on looking cute for James, said that showing some skin was always good. She tossed a long gold necklace at me, and fussed with my hair. While she styled me I told her what had happened the night before.
How I had told James that I had broken up with Asher and what he had said. I told her about how Harper interrupted him when he was about to kiss me and James had dragged me into the library. I told her about giving him his presents and how I had sat in front of the fireplace reading while he sat in shock.
I told her about the moment when he first kissed me and how right it felt. I told her about everything. She sat there staring at me, a wistful smile on her face. When I was done telling her the story, she hugged me and then kicked me out of the room, telling me that she was satisfied and I could go back to James.
I knocked very quietly on his door and took an automatic step back when it flew open. He still didn’t have a shirt on and was only wearing dark jeans that hung low on his hips.
“You took forever.”
“Dom held me hostage.”
“Am I just going to stand out here in the hallway?”
“No, what I want to do to you shouldn’t be done in public halls.” He grabbed my wrist and pulled me inside. I got pushed up against the door, my hands were held behind my back and James took his time kissing me. I wasn’t complaining though.
After a while he broke away, slipped his hand into mine and pulled me towards the bed. James pulled a small box out of his pants that were lying on the floor, turning around and holding it out to me. He looked slightly scared.
“Why are you looking scared?”
“I just… hope you like it. I’m not known for picking out meaningful gifts.”
“More the rubber duck and dirt flavored brownie mix type?” I knew about that courtesy of Rose, who had told me about his horrendous gift to their cousin Victorie.
“I’m offended by that statement! Mostly because it’s true.” He crossed his arms across his chest and looked at me, a small smile on his lips. I was sitting in his desk chair, one leg pulled underneath me and the other hooked on the bottom rung. I leaned forward, and my sweater slipped further down my arm. “Go on, open it.”
It was wrapped in sliver paper, with a gold ribbon tied around it. The ribbon fell off easily when I tugged on it and the paper magically disappeared. I pried open the lid of the blue velvet box, hearing it protest. Nestled inside was a bronze locket.
“It’s pretty!” James stood over me and let out a huff.
“They put it in the wrong way! That’s the back, flip the locket over.” I did as he asked and saw that underneath a glass dome was the Ravenclaw symbol surrounded by an ivy filigree design. It was beautiful, very beautiful. I found the small switch and opened the locket, but both sides were empty.
As gracefully as I could, I folded myself out of the chair and stood in front of James, holding the box in one hand and wrapping my arms around his neck. He bent down and kissed me.
“Thank you James. I love it.”
“It’s not just a regular locket. There’s a story to it. Here let me put it on you, and I’ll explain.” He turned me around, pulling my back into his chest. His arms came around me, holding the ends of the locket in each hand. I pulled my hair to one side and felt it settle just below the hollow of my throat.
James bent his head down and placed little kisses on my neck and bare shoulder, causing a low moan to escape. “Before I get distracted by taking your clothes off, let me explain.” He sat down on the floor, leaning up against his bed. I joined him and waited for the story.
“The locket is over 200 years old. It originally belonged to a young witch, who was, as you can probably guess, in Ravenclaw. She was a lot like you according the story provided by the shop I bought it from. Her name was Victoria and she was half English, and half American. She, like you, grew up in the south until coming to England almost full time after starting at Hogwarts. Victoria lived a hard life. Her mother died when she was a little girl, and her father quickly remarried, finding the ultimate evil step-mother. According to the shop owner, Victoria, once very full of life, became very quiet. She had always been fascinated by people, and why they did what they did. She watched her father become a bitter person, watched her brothers break and die way before their time. She watched, and learned. She noticed that people often went against who they were as people. Their fears got the best of them, or they made bad choices and never forgave themselves. She said that people were always looking for the darkness instead of finding the light. One day, she found an old locket while walking around her hometown in America. She took it home and enchanted it. After losing almost everyone she loved to darkness, she became determined to live in the light. Whenever you are wearing the necklace, and whenever you do something that is right for you, something that will keep you in the light, the locket will grow warm. It won’t burn you, but you will feel the heat. It’s meant to be a guide, a way to help you grow up and out, like a flower reaching for the sun. Victoria was proud to be in Ravenclaw and thought the symbol of the eagle was appropriate for the enchantment. It’s all about flying free of the bonds that hold you. When I came across it, quite on accident, it had your name all over it. I had to get it for you and I, I really hope you like it. I hope it helps you reach for the sun.”
The more James told me about this locket, the more touched I was and tears leaked out of my eyes and fell silently. I wrapped my hand around the necklace and felt a faint flutter, as if it recognized the heart beating in my chest.
He turned to face me as he stopped talking and looked concerned about the tears on my face. I knew what he was thinking.
“James… this is the most perfect gift anyone has ever given me. I love it. I really love it. Thank you.” The concern on his face evaporated, replaced by a warm smile. I climbed onto his lap, wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him. A bright flare of heat seared my chest and I leaned back with a gasp.
“What? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Um… nothing.” My fingers wrapped around the locket and I looked down. I guess it worked. Apparently James was good for me, although I think I’d known that for the last 6 months. He pulled my face back up, so he could meet my eyes. Soft lips closed over mine and I melted into his embrace.
A knock sounded at the door and we both groaned in frustration. “What?” James snapped at whoever was on the other side.
“Are you both decent? I really don’t want to walk in and see anything that will scar me for life.” Dom, of course it would be her.
“Yes, we’re both decent.” She opened the door, balancing a tray in one hand and covering her eyes with the other. “I said we’re decent.” Her hand drifted down and she opened her eyes.
“You’re sitting on his lap!”
“Fully clothed! Geez Dom. At least he’s not naked.”
“Ew. Ew. Ew. That is my cousin!”
“Did you bring me food Dommie? I always knew you were my favorite cousin.”
“Freddy is your best friend.”
“Well… next to Freddy.”
“I figured you two might want to stay holed up in here all day, and given, um, what I assume you will be doing, you’ll burn a lot of calories… and so yea, lots of food here. I snuck it all away before anyone could ask questions. I’m going to tell them that you both snuck off early this morning for some alone time to figure things out, so just stay in here and keep quiet. No… screams or anything. Ew, bad image in my head. Get out!” Dom smacked herself in the head, and kept her eyes closed, slowly inching out of the room. I was happy to see her acting more like herself. That ceremony on the beach seemed to have been really therapeutic for her, for which I was incredibly grateful.
“You’re the bestest friend a girl could ask for Dom.”
“I know.” She finally looked at both of us and then stared at me. “I’m happy this is finally happening. Enjoy the day.” She walked away, shutting the door behind her quietly. She had put the tray of food down on his desk and the smell of freshly baked muffins assailed my senses.
I climbed off of James and grabbed a muffin, tearing into it with a large bite. I polished it off in 4 bites, and grabbed the basket with baked good, bringing it over to James. He did the same thing I did, only he inhaled two muffins in the time it took me to eat one. He looked up at me with his mouth full of food and I laughed.
After eating, we had laid down on his bed and both let out big yawns. Having been up most of the night and spending most of that time doing physical things, we were both beat. James had pulled the curtains across the windows, throwing his room into darkness. My head sank into the pillow and the last thing I felt before falling asleep was James curling up against me, his arm draping over my stomach and pulling me close.
I woke up many, many hours later. Raising my arms above my head, I did a full body stretch and yawned at the same time. I wondered what time it was and squinted at my watch but it was too dark to see. James rolled over and groaned before his breathing steadied out again. His arm was draped over me, and I picked it up gingerly, sliding out from underneath the weight.
I sat on the edge of the bed for a moment, the scenes from the past 24 hours shifting rapidly through my head. What would the next 24 hours hold? This didn’t seem like the best time to have started anything, as I was leaving very early tomorrow morning for a few days, on a girls trip to Paris.
Georgia, Dom and I all had birthdays close to together. Mine was the first, and was December 30th. Georgia’s was January 4th, and Dom’s was January 15th. Since we’d be back at school soon, we decided to plan a trip to celebrate our 17th birthdays in style.
It would be fun, but I already knew it was going to be hard to not be around James immediately following this. Whatever this was, I didn’t know. I padded quietly over to the window and flicked the curtains aside, getting blinded by the bright light of the setting sun.
Ok, so it was almost dinner time, which meant we had been asleep for almost 9 hours. After letting my eyes adjust to the light, I stared at the grounds of the Potter house. It must have snowed again today, there was an untouched layer of snow covering everything.
White snow made everything magical somehow- the world was stripped of bright color, and colored in a white layer that sparkled in the setting sun. Behind me, I heard James flop over again.
“What are you doing?” He groaned, voice thick with sleep.
“Just looking, wanted to know what time it was.”
“I can stay for a bit. I should probably head back to my room and pack for my trip.”
“No trip. Miss you. With me.” My eyebrow went up, he wasn’t making sense.
“Just come here.” He picked his head up off the pillow and looked at me. His hair was sticking in about a thousand different directions and his eyes were heavy with sleep. He laid on his stomach, back bare, and the covers were twisted around his legs. He whined at me again.
I yanked the curtains open, letting the reddish gold light stream into the room. James cursed at me and buried his head deeper into his pillow. A laugh escaped me and I trotted over to the bed, hopping up.
Feeling mischievous, and knowing he hated being tickled, I traced my fingernails over his skin. He tried squirming away from me, but I just found another spot. James growled and sat up long enough to grab me, before he laid his body entirely over mine and buried his head in the crook of my neck. I was good and trapped and I didn’t mind in the slightest.
“What were you attempting to say?”
“I said I don’t want you to go on your trip. I’ll miss you and would rather you stay here with me.”
“It’s cute that you’ll miss me that much, but it’s only a few days. You’ll survive.”
“Charlotte- I just went six months denying myself the opportunity to do this…” He kissed me deeply, “And this,” He ran his hands over my body, “and this,” he kissed my neck before capturing my lips in another searing kiss, “so I’d really rather be able to continue doing this for however long you’ll let me.”
His skin looked gold in the light and I ran my fingers through his hair, trying to straighten it. James propped himself up on his elbows, which gave me some breathing room.
“I don’t see any scenario in which I’d not want you to do all that.”
“Good.” He growled.
“But I’m still going on my trip.”
“What if I come with you?” He pouted at me and I bit my lip to keep from laughing, it was so cute.
“Girls trip only, sorry.”
“But you’re going to Paris. It’s the city of love. What if you get swept of your feet by some snooty, boring Parisian guy?”
“I think I have more sense than that. Besides, how many times in a week can a girl get swept of her feet?”
“Only once, I hope. But you three girls alone in a big city, I’m going to worry about you”
“I think we can handle ourselves just fine…” He looked down at me and I could tell that he was genuinely worried. “I’d like to see someone try to jump any of us. We’d hex them into oblivion if they so much as looked at us wrong. Dom and Georgia won’t let anything happen to me, and I sure as hell won’t let anything happen to them. I may seem quiet and broken, but I’ll fight like hell to protect them, and myself.”
“That’s what I like about you Charlotte.” James linked both his hands with mine and raised them above my head, my back arching. His mouth came down to mine and he kissed me quickly. “Your fire. Yes, you have a fire.” He said it because I scoffed, I couldn’t help it. “I don’t look at you and see the broken pieces, those things you’re convinced make up who you are. I look at you and see the fire. I see the phoenix. I see all you can be and all I want is to help you be that person. I want you to know that you aren’t the sum of your hurts, you are the sum of all your great moments inside of those hurts.”
I flashed back to a few weeks ago, when I had broken up with Asher. How Asher had said that he loved my brokenness and wanted to help me put myself back together. James was entirely different in that he knew I could fix myself, if I only believed.
He looked at me and saw what the Japanese called kintsukuroi- the art of fixing something broken with gold so that the cracks become more beautiful. Asher looked at me and saw something to fix. James saw the shimmering opal in my darkness.
The setting sun streamed into the room and lit everything with a reddish gold hue. I wrapped a leg around his and leaned up and into him, finding his mouth. All I felt was the heat, the fire. He let my hands go, and I wrapped them around his neck, twining my fingers through his hair. James pulled back and looked down at me.
“You’re absolutely positive you want to go.”
“Absolutely. You’ll just have to wait for me to get back.”
“With bated breath.”
“Now I really should go pack.”
“Fine. But I’m helping.”
“How can you help me pack?”
“I can help you by making sure you don’t pick anything that will tempt a guy to try and flirt with you.”
“You sound like a jealous boyfriend.”
“Well… I don’t want anyone to bother you.” He didn’t at all protest about me using the word boyfriend, even though it wasn’t directed at him. Did he already think that? Huh… I wasn’t the slightest bit bothered by the idea.
“Should I wear a paper bag over my face as well.”
“If it will keep guys from flirting with you, yes.”
“James, Dom won’t let any guy near me. Nothing to worry about. You’re extra cute when you worry though.” We walked into the guest room and found Dom lying on her stomach reading a magazine.
“You two finally done with your marathon sex session?”
“What? Oh don’t be like that Charlie.” James was roaring in laughter and leaned against the wall. Al and Ava popped their head into the room.
“I see they’ve come out of his room.” Al leaned against the doorframe.
“Yup.” Dom said, still casually flipping the pages of her magazine.
“Needed a break from all the sex?”
“OI! Shut up Al!” James roared. He turned to me and noticed that I was the one laughing now. “What is wrong with my family?”
“I think they’re wonderful. Better than mine.”
“I am here you know.” Ava sounded annoyed.
“Yea, well, you may have a good relationship with our family. I don’t and I think they all suck.” Ava turned on her heel and stalked off, quickly followed by Al. Dom watched them leave with a bored look, then turned to us.
“So why are you here and not getting physical?”
“Because I have to pack for my trip, and James insisted on helping me. Apparently he doesn’t trust me to pick out the right clothes.”
“James, you seriously don’t need to worry about her flirting with anyone else. She’s been head over heels for you since this summer, even if, oh shut up Charlie, she won’t admit it.” Dom scoffed at me, and threw one of her magazines at me.
I pulled my overnight bag towards me and starting sorting my clothes. James objected to about half of it, but I put them in anyway. We decided to spend the evening with his family, everyone curled up on the massive couch downstairs and watched movies.
Despite my protests, James wouldn’t let me sit more than 2 inches from him, and I spent the entire time curled up with him. I guess it was pretty obvious to everyone that we were together. Although we hadn’t had that conversation, and I really didn’t know where we stood. I spent the night with him, again, and we parted ways in the morning.
He embarrassed me to no end by kissing me in front of his entire family. I promised him I would write to him while I was away, still thinking it funny that he was reacting this way. We would only be in Paris for 4 days.
A/N- So... are we liking this turn of events?
The next chapter will be called What Once Was Lost. :)
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