Chapter 3 : Kiss, Kiss
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I didn't know a single person crammed into that tiny little pizzeria.
It took great will power on my part not to cling to Harry. Instead, I stood a little straighter and reminded myself that I was fifteen years old as of 12:02 this morning. That meant that I was a young adult witch. I could cast powerful spells, brew strong potions, and turn anyone of these people into a toad if I tried hard enough.
Surely I could move among them for an afternoon. Of course, no one here was from Hogwarts. If any of my sister's Slytherin friends could see this now, they would surely petition her immediate dismissal from their house.
Speaking of, Morgan Alison Stone was not even a little bit hard to spot in the thick press of teenagers. In true Momo fashion, she was dressed in the hottest shade of green she could find. I was certain that pubs across London were bidding on that dress to use in place of their neon signs.
She honed in on me like a guided missile and squeezed her way between two conversing boys she could have easily walked around to reach me. They took notice and stopped speaking to watch her.
"Piper!" she squealed. She threw her arms around me dramatically as if she hadn't seen me in ten years rather than just this morning at breakfast. "Happy birthday little sister! I was wondering where you were!"
Let me just say that she is only older than me by four minutes. Technically, her birthday was 11:58 last night. I've always heard that the oldest is supposed to be more mature, but that wasn't the case for Momo. Well, not mentally anyway, I thought as I eyed her full bust and swaying hips with a little envy. Just a little. It's not like I couldn't just make mine bigger if I wanted. I was happy with what I had.
At present, I returned her hug. "Happy birthday, Momo," I replied. I pulled back and checked my watch. "I can't be late. Mum isn't even here yet." With a shake of my head, I turned to the party at hand. "So! Who the hell are all these people?"
She wrapped an arm around my shoulders and began steering me through the bodies. I latched onto Harry before the sea could cut us off and dragged him with me.
"Language," Momo hissed with a smile. She looked like a Barbie doll, the way her face seemed to be stuck like that. "These are all our friends!"
"The only person I know is the one I dragged here kicking and screaming," I replied through an identical smile. Momo glanced at Harry as a greeting, but otherwise ignored him. House rivalry and all.
"We went to school with every single person here," she informed me. The smile never wavered as she spoke. I had always thought she was actually a gifted ventriloquist in this way.
"That doesn't mean I know any of them. Is Mrs. Benton here?" Mrs. Benton was a librarian I befriended while we were in school. Though I can't prove it because I can't talk to her about it, I always suspected that she was a Witch, or at the very least, a Squib. She always seemed a bit magical.
"No, I did not invite that crusty old hag!" she cried. "Why couldn't you be a normal kid who made friends her own age?"
I quirked an eyebrow at her and then made it turn rainbow and back. "A normal kid?"
The smile vanished. Momo sighed and rolled her eyes. "Alright, point taken. But... Try to mingle a bit. I'll be right back." And with a swish of long, dark hair, she disappeared into the jungle.
"Yay, birthday party, so much fun..."
Harry managed a chuckled and for that I felt better. "I'm suddenly just a little bit grateful the Dursley's ignore my birthday."
"Ouch. Wow. Way to bring a girl down, Potter," I mocked. "Do you know any of these people?"
He shook his head. "Not a clue. I barely have any contact with any Muggles whatsoever and I think today I am content with that."
"Oh, shove off. Let's go get some pizza."
We squeezed our way in and out, getting both food and drink and quickly seizing two recently vacated stools the moment they became available. Harry and I managed to sit quite content to mingle with each other and our pizza, falling back into our conversation before we arrived whilst tip toeing around the subject of 'The Chosen One' and the 'Department of Mysteries' incident.
The most interesting thing to happen was the arrival of Dudley and Piers. I still don't know how Harry's enormous cousin managed to find enough room in the over crowded pizza shop to even begin to be able to walk through the door. I suspected an Enlarging Charm, but Mum and Dad didn't use magic and the remaining magicals present weren't allowed. Not to mention that I think the Ministry would have a fit using it on a Muggle establishment, but I digress.
So, a baby elephant and a rat walk into a birthday party and the birthday girl turns an unpleasant shade of red, clashing with her neon like a cheesy Christmas tree. I think the joke is the punchline.
Of course, Morgan is too much the hostess to tell them to leave without cause and they had brought her presents. I watched Dudley stutter and fumble as he spoke, presenting the shopping bag -no time to wrap last minute- to my darling sister. I sat back, feeling an odd mixture of pity and glee as she accepted them as graciously as she could manage, exchanged brief pleasantries, and ducked away. Before I knew it, she appeared at my side with a none-too-pleasant look on her face.
"Explain," she said venomously from behind the Barbie smile. I opened my mouth, but she held up a hand. I didn't have an answer anyway. "Nevermind. I don't want to know. But just you know that if I have to spend any amount of time with him this summer because of this, you will regret it."
And then she vanished. I exchanged a look with Harry and then proceeded to keep an eye on Dudley's movements. Good thing he was easier to spot than Momo.
Periodically, I caught sight of my father, running this way and that trying to help the staff. He looked so out of place amongst the sea of denim and hoodie clad teenagers. It wasn't that he was an adult. It was that no matter where he went, he looked like the stuffy lawyer that he was. Even at his daughters' birthday party he couldn't bring himself to dress casually. I caught Harry staring at him in a moment of silence and I nudged him with my elbow.
"Got a crush, there, Potter?" I teased. Lots of Momo's girlfriends thought Dad was 'hot for an old guy.' Why not boys, too?
"What?" Harry looked at me, puzzled. "Oh, no, it's just, I feel like I've seen you dad before..."
"For the last time, Harry. We live. On the same street," I deadpanned.
He cast me an annoyed look. "I mean somewhere else, Stone. He sort of looks like someone I know. Or... Someone I knew, rather."
Further discussion was halted as the room suddenly burst into applause. Dozens of bodies found themselves places to sit. Mum and Jake appeared from the swinging door leading to the kitchen, each carrying one side of a sheet cake.
It was glorious.
Yellow cake baked to perfection, punctured with holes right out of the oven so that warm caramel and fudge could be drizzled into it's very pores. Then it was covered end to end with whipped topping and finally topped with a random candy bar, broken into pieces. This year Mum seemed to have gone a slightly different route and covered it with mini peanut butter cups.
I sometimes thought the cake was a bigger attraction for the party goers than Momo was. It was certainly the only reason I showed up.
Jake made to move away and Mum caught his arm, giving him a stern look and whispering something to him. He gave her a look before dropping into a chair, scowling. I realized with a stab of guilt that she was forcing him to stay.
Mum put on a smile, clapped her hands together, and turned to the crowded room. "Good afternoon, half the population of Little Whinging!" The kids laughed. She was always a great hostess. "Could you please help me locate my beautiful daughters so that they can find their way up here?"
A group of boys were suddenly fumbling all over themselves to escort Momo to the cake and Dudley was beating them all out with sheer mass. Dad, my normal usher, appeared at my elbow. He was a handsome man, except that his nose was crooked at the very end. He had been rather sulky all summer. You would have thought his best friend died, the way he acted; and he worked more than ever now. Mum must have strong armed him into being here today, where he had still found himself work to do.
Presently, he offered me his arm with only the shadow of a smile on his face. "It's your birthday," he remarked as I stood and accepted it. "You're supposed to be happy."
"Breeding dementors tend to have the opposite effect," I quipped as we made our way between tables and chairs. He tensed and gave my arm a warning squeeze. "I'd be happier if you'd stop for a bit and enjoy yourself. Would it make you smile if I told you I think Potter likes you?"
He looked at me with the strangest smile of amusement, but that was the last of it as we reached Mum. Momo was pulling up the rear with Dudley, but when they reached the empty expanse of floor between the crowd and the rest of the family, she politely removed her arm from his and told him stiffly, "I can go alone from here, thank you."
"Alright!" Mum said, starting a short applause as we both stood before Morgan's Masses. "Thank you all for coming today and celebrating Morgan and Piper's fifteenth birthday with us! If you've come to parties in the past, you know that we usually save present opening for afterwards since so many of you come, but before we cut the cake, the girls share their gifts with each other!"
Momo, already recovered from her Dursley ordeal, trotted over to the one table dedicated to suffer the weight of all of her gifts and plucked a shiny bronze bag from it's midst. Mum pulled my carefully wrapped gift from her purse and handed it to me. Momo came back and we hugged.
"This is to help you narrow down your options," I murmured in her ear before we parted and I handed her the little box.
She set the bag down and ripped open the paper. I had put it in a plain brown box. Although the item looked Muggle enough, the original box would have blatantly advertised that it was from the Wizarding World. I included a note for Momo in with the gift to explain. It was a magical locket that was supposed to make a picture of your true love inside, so long as you were wearing it when you met them.
She scanned the note briefly, stuffed it back in and withdrew the silver heart shaped locket. "Oh, it's wonderful!" She showcased it to the room like she was a model on a game show. "Help me put it on!"
Handing it to me, she turned around and swept her hair up so that I could clasp it around her neck. She turned back and beamed.
"I love it! Now here!" She stooped and picked up the little bronze bag and shoved it at me with her normal flourish. "This is part one! It should help you expand your options," she added in an undertone.
I laughed and shook my head at her, digging around in the bag. I felt some sort of material and pulled it out. It was a miracle of great will that my hair did not turn as red as my face. I can't believe she would do this to me, the sister who literally wore her colorful emotions everywhere. Keep... Calm...
I held a bright blue and white lace bra out for Harry, my family, and almost every adolescent in town to behold.
"It's got extra padding! You know, for lift!" she said excitedly.
Coming to my senses, I stuffed the... Unmentionable back into it's shiny bag and tried to ignore the chuckles, whistles, and cat calls now filling the room.
"How... Thoughtful," I said carefully. "Thanks, sis." A little warning would have been nice.
"Wait!" she cried, taking a step closer. "There's a part two!"
"What's that, a matching thong?" I tried to mutter the sarcastic remark quietly to only her, but cheers of approval swept the room anyway.
Momo looked reproachful. "Piper! No! That's still in the bag."
Oh, God, I was never attending my birthday ever again. July ninth just does not exist on my calendar anymore. Suddenly I was just as much an object for ogling as Momo was. I never knew how much I appreciated my level of invisibility in normal society until this moment.
"Momo..." I said cautiously.
"Close your eyes..." And just in case I refused to do it on my own, she slipped behind me and covered them for me. "Everyone be quiet!" she commanded. Instant silence.
She steered me awkwardly around, keeping her hands over my face. "Are your eyes closed?"
"Yes," I replied. Just a few more minutes and then people could have cake and forget this ever happened.
"Good." We stopped moving and she dropped her hands. "Guess who!"
"How does that-?"
I was cut off as new hands found my face, one circling around the nape of my neck and the other at the small of my back. Before I could do or say anything, lips were atop mine, gentle but firm.
The person moved back and I opened my eyes to see the grinning face of my still very new boyfriend, Terry Boot.
"Happy Birthday," he said.
That had been my first kiss.
I don't really know how to describe what I was feeling at that moment. I'd read dozens and dozens of books about what I should have been feeling, but I don't think they got it right. Maybe my embarrassment had spoiled it for me, or simply just the shock of it all. I may have been a little numb. I'm really not quite sure.
I know what you're thinking. They're dating and they haven't kissed before? Well, let me completely stop the story to explain.
After Harry's excursions at the Ministry of Magic and the Minister finally admitting that Voldemort had returned, people were really scared. On the last day of school, Terry told me that life was too short not to say what we want to say and then continued by saying that he liked me as more than a friend and would I ever consider being his girlfriend. I was shocked and flattered and, well, I'd only ever had a crush on one other boy and I did like Terry so I said yes. We spent the train ride home holding hands and we hugged goodbye.
Hugs and hand holding and this is the second time I've seen him in the six weeks since the term ended. All we did the first time was go out to dinner with my family.
This is my first relationship. I don't know how they work. I thought kissing was something you worked up to while spending time together.
The next thing I knew, Terry was snapping his fingers at me. "Earth to Stone. I know my lips aren't that magical."
"Terry," I managed finally. Life had resumed around me as a line of kids stood waiting for cake. "I just... You weren't supposed to be here and I just... I mean..." This wasn't exactly how I had thought something like this would go.
Harry appeared next to us with plates of cake and I was grateful to have something to do with my hands and for some sort of change in subject.
"Potter," Terry said with a nod. "I see you weren't too busy being Chosen to come."
I frowned at his tone.
"I wouldn't have missed it for the world," Harry replied smoothly. "Funny, I don't think I've ever seen you come to Piper's birthday before." Funny, Harry had never been to one either.
"Oh, well, family stuff gets in the way sometimes, but as Piper is my girlfriend, Dad had to work it into his summer plans," Terry replied. He turned so that he was next to me, slipping an arm over my shoulders.
Harry nodded. "Oh, it's good that you can pencil her in if need be." He ate a bite of cake calmly as it he hadn't a care in the world.
I looked from one boy to the other. I had almost forgotten there was a bit of... Dislike between the two. Terry had blatantly refused to support Harry or the DA last year, not believing his claims. He had also fiercely defended Marietta Edgecomb when she has ratted us out to Umbridge. I think Terry might have felt a bit betrayed when Luna and I sided with The Boy Who Lived. I suddenly wondered if that had anything to do with his sudden carpe diem attitude about me.
"Speaking of penciling in," Terry said gruffly, "I have one of your birthday presents for you. I couldn't bring the others given the company."
"I thought you were my present?" I said dumbly.
Terry grinned. "You're adorable."
He kissed me again, just a quick peck this time (and I still wasn't sure of how to react or feel), and went to retrieve a package from near the door where he had a packed bag sitting. He came back and handed it to me, taking my plate of untouched cake so that I could open it.
I smiled at him before focusing on the present. I could already tell from the size and shape that it was a picture frame. I wondered if Terry realized that moving pictures also couldn't be shown in front of 'the given company.' Carefully, I peeled back the paper and was relieved to see non-moving pencil work inside the frame. Opening it fully, my face broke into a huge grin.
"I remember this," I said softly.
Back in First Year, Luna and I were all each other had after we were sorted. It wasn't that I couldn't make other friends, it was that I liked Luna and her dad's magazine and I wouldn't let anyone say anything bad about her. She gave me and Momo a seat on the train when every where else had been full or older students didn't want an 'ickle firstie' sitting with them. Terry didn't start hanging out with us until later in the year, but he had ended up sitting in our cabin that first year. There was another First Year running around with a camera, asking to take pictures of people. He stopped by our cabin and took one. He gave us a copy. Eventually.
The picture in the frame was a hand drawn version of that first picture of us.
"Oh, Harry, look how tiny we were!" I said, turning the drawing about to show him. "I still had braces!"
Harry squinted. "Why is your hair as light as Luna's?" he asked.
"Oh, I liked the way it looked, so I made it that way," I told him, having forgotten about that entirely. "Oh, this is the best! Thank you!" I threw my arms around Terry's neck, not feeling weird at all anymore. Couples kissed. And boyfriends gave amazing presents.
"Well, I have another present. And I have Luna's for you. She couldn't come, already off with her Dad looking for creatures. I'll give them to you at the hotel." He leaned down for another kiss and I was okay with it. Mostly.
"You have to stay in a hotel?" Harry asked. His presence annoyed Terry, I could tell.
I let go of him and nodded. "Dad has a pretty strict No-Visitors policy. In primaries, we had to always go to a friend's house rather than have them over. As for out of town boyfriends, Dad gets them a hotel room and we can only meet in public places. I don't know what exactly he is afraid of that we can't have guests, but... You can't really over rule your parents."
Harry raised his eyebrows at me and I remembered his earlier comment about Fidelius Charms. I suppose that would... No. I shot him a look back and gave a slight shake of my head. I wasn't falling for it simply because my dad was a bit of a nutter.
I glanced back at Terry. "How did you set this up anyway?"
"Morgan helped. I owled her that I wanted to surprise you and she fixed things with your dad to make it work."
Suddenly my conversation with Mum about my clothes made more sense. "Well, I'm glad."
"Me, too." He kissed the side of my head. Then his arm dropped and squeezed my rear. Eyes wide, I was back to feeling a little weird again.
I laughed nervously and reached for his hand, putting it firmly at my waist. Harry raised his eyebrows even more and I just laughed again. "Happy..."
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