Chapter 1 : The Invitation
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No matter how many glasses of red wine I drank in the evening, I still found sleeping difficult. I lay awake for hours and hours every night, hoping that my eyes would properly close before it got light, but frequently ended up with sleepless nights.
When the Daily Prophet arrived before I’d even managed to feel properly tired I always knew it was going to be a bad day.
I threw a shoe at the owl that flew through my window. It hooted reproachfully and I scowled.
“Make it shut up,” the girl next to me moaned, rolling over and pressing her pillow over her head.
I groaned and dragged myself out of the bed, swearing under my breath and pulling on a kimono from the pile of clothes on my floor.
The owl swooped down to hover in front of me, one leg held daintily out so I could drop some coins into its pouch. It then dropped the newspaper it was carrying onto the floor and flew away.
“Has it gone?” Arielle asked. “Come back to bed, ma cherie.”
I frowned at the paper. The boy on the front page was painfully recognisable. Ignoring Arielle, I stooped down to pick it up. The headline made me feel panicky and I sat down on the window sill to read.
Everyone’s favourite Quidditch superstar, James Potter, is facing further horror after his fall last month.
The twenty-five-year-old Chaser shocked Puddlemere supporters in early March when a hex from a spectator threw him off his broom.
Medical experts who witnessed the fall predicted that Potter would be out of the game for at least six months, but Potter delighted fans by returning to the field for his next match, where he singlehandedly scored twelve goals against Puddlemere’s long term rivals, the Montrose Magpies. Potter claimed Healers had promised him that with some strong painkillers, the fall would quickly be forgotten and his game would not be affected.
However, in a cruel twist, Potter was rushed back to St Mungo’s yesterday when his arm seized up during a friendly against the Holyhead Harpies. Reporters were denied access to the hospital, but one Healer, who prefers to remain anonymous, told this reporter that “Potter was foolish, ignoring his accident like that. If he’d listened to us the first time he’d be on his way to recovery by now.”
A statement later released by St Mungo’s, with permission from the Potter family, explained that the potions Potter had been taking for his pain had concealed a more serious injury in his left arm. Without feeling pain, he didn’t realise how badly he’d been hurt, and this injury has continued to increase in severity over the last five weeks. Unfortunately, by the time Potter returned to hospital, it was too late for Healers to save his arm.
Potter’s left arm has had to be amputated at the shoulder. This marks the end of his Quidditch career, and an enormous change in his life.
When approached for comment, James Potter was unavailable. His friend and housemate, Jason Wood, said “James is taking some time to deal with everything that has happened. At the moment he’s spending some quality time with his daughter and would appreciate your respect for his privacy. Now get away from my house.”
The Potter family refused to comment, but there has been speculation about how this latest development will impact Albus Potter’s upcoming wedding (for more details about next week’s nuptials, turn to p12).
Rumours that Potter has turned to alcohol in the aftermath of this trauma remain unconfirmed.
We here at the Prophet wish James a speedy recovery and hope to see him out and about soon.
I felt sick. I didn’t usually bother reading about James. Most papers featured him every so often, usually under lists with titles like ‘hottest single fathers’ or ‘the boys we used to fancy at school: where are they now?’. I probably would have ignored this one too if it hadn’t been on the front page.
I read the article again, different phrases jumping out at me and making the lump in my throat swell uncomfortably so that it was hard to swallow: it was too late...marks the end of his Quidditch career...aftermath of his trauma.
Arielle propped herself up on the bed and looked at me sleepily. Her hair fell down in a tumbling mess around her head, strands of silvery blonde sticking to her forehead. Her lips looked swollen and red and she had a smudge of eyeliner under one eye. As usual, she looked gorgeous - I was pretty sure there was some veela somewhere in her family tree - but I hardly noticed.
“Come back to bed. I’m lonely,” she pouted. “Tu me manque.”
I ignored her.
My hands were trembling. I realised I was holding the newspaper uncomfortably tightly and loosened my grip. After skimming over the article once more, I dropped it onto my desk.
It landed next to the other piece of paper I’d been hoping to ignore. It had been sitting on my desk for the last month while I tried to pretend it didn’t exist. Reluctantly, I stood up to pick it up.
It was a wedding invitation: gold letters printed in elegant swirls requesting my presence at The Burrow next week for the marriage of Mr Albus Severus Potter to Miss Olivia Bell. Under the gold, Ollie’s familiar scribbles were squeezed into the blank space at the bottom of the invite.
Literally no clue where you are in the world and I have strong suspicions that you’ll be putting this straight in the bin and telling yourself you never saw it...but I’ve decided it’s still worth a try.
I know things have been complicated and I know it probably doesn’t feel easy to come back, but the fact remains that you were my best friend for a long time. You’re a big part of my life and I’d really like you to be part of this with me.
It would mean a lot to me if you came to the wedding.
I hope you’re happy and not breaking too many hearts.
So much love,
I’d never really adjusted to the fact she called herself ‘Liv’ now. To me, she was always Ollie. But so many things in her life had changed since we shared everything. So many things in both our lives had changed.
I sighed and let the invitation (with Ollie’s note) fall from my fingers. It felt like all the things I’d been running away from were catching up on me, and I had a feeling I wouldn’t be able to hide from everything for much longer.
“Are you moping?” Arielle sat up properly this time. “Do you need some stress relief?”
She pushed the duvet away from her body, revealing smooth, creamy skin, and rolled onto her side so I could see her clearly. I managed a small smile but stayed where I was.
“If you’d like to fuck again you need to let me know quickly. I have to get home,” she said, dropping back onto her back. “I told Henri I’d be back for breakfast.”
“I forget you’re married,” I said vaguely.
“So do I,” Arielle grinned, baring her teeth.
She laughed and stretched out, lifting her arms high above her head. She had a tiny bite mark on her wrist. The sight of it made me smile.
“I’d rather stay here, to be honest,” she told me. “It’s nice shagging someone with two legs. More logistically straightforward.”
“Do you often shag people with other numbers of legs?” My head was still fumbling through thoughts about the invite and the newspaper, but it was easy to fall back into chatter with Arielle.
“Yep. You don’t know about Henri?”
“Oo, you’ll enjoy this.” Arielle sat up and rummaged in the clothes pile for her own clothes.
“Yep.” She pulled a sweater over her head and then stopped getting dressed so she could smile a mischievous grin. “I find myself married to a bald, one-legged squib with no front teeth.”
I raised my eyebrows but Arielle didn’t take back her words.
“Well,” I said. “You’re a lucky girl.”
She laughed. “I think so. You want to meet him? You can join us for breakfast if you feel like it.”
“Maybe another time.”
“Aw, come on. He won’t bite.”
I laughed and shook my head.
“Not today. I’m actually going to be away for a few days.”
“And you didn’t see fit to inform your lover of your impending absence?” Arielle squeezed herself into skin tight jeans, wriggling on the bed to pull them over her thighs.
She rolled her eyes and stood up. She was still bare footed and started to roam the room, presumably looking for the heeled boots she’d kicked off the previous evening.
“Where are you going then?”
She stopped her search and gave me a pointed look, one hand on her hip.
“I know,” I sighed. “But I need to go.”
“Why? You refuse to even talk about England. Why do you need to go back?”
“I’ve got a wedding to go to.”
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