Chapter 8 : Louis
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“You’re the best Weasley I think,” I told him.
“I know,” he said seriously. “S’what I’ve been telling everyone all these years.”
His head flopped down on top of mine. His hair tickled my forehead. I swatted him away and he sat up straight again.
I craned my neck to look up at the clock hanging above us.
“Want to know something funny?” I said, turning to look at Louis.
He yawned and gave me a glazed smile. “Do tell.”
“It’s three in the afternoon,” I slurred. “It’s not even dinnertime yet and we’ve had two and a half bottles of whiskey between us.”
Louis wrinkled his face and then shrugged.
“Most people are at work right now,” I said.
“Silly people.” He shook his head. “Jobs are overrated. I am very anti-jobs. I am pro-sitting-and-drinking-in-the-afternoon. And anti-jobs.”
“Me too. People are so silly with their jobs and their weddings and their adulting.”
“Exactly. Silly silly silly people. They should be like us. All you need to be happy is whiskey and foods covered with melted cheese,” Louis said, looking pleased with himself.
“And sex,” I added.
“And sex,” he agreed.
I reached for the half-empty bottle beside me and took a long swig, then passed it to Louis. His hand brushed against mine as he took it.
“Do you ever think maybe they’re the ones that have got it right?” He asked, suddenly more somber.
“What?” I tipped my head up at him, pulling a face.
He shrugged. The motion of his shoulder jolted my head, pushing my face closer to his.
“I don’t know. Maybe we’re the fuckups, you know?”
I laughed. “Maybe?”
“You’re right,” he said sadly. “We’re the ones sitting here drinking at three in the afternoon on a weekday. We’re definitely the fuckups.”
“Do us a favour and shut up,” I said lifting a hand to stroke his cheek. “I like afternoon drinking. And I don’t mind your company.”
He frowned, looking thoughtful, and then dropped his face down, pausing with his lips hovering above mine.
I shrugged and closed the gap between us.
Kissing Louis was different to kissing James. It was sloppy and silly, and we kept moving in different directions and having to hold onto each other to rearrange ourselves, but his lips were soft and his hands were warm and I sort of liked being joined to him.
I ran my tongue over his upper lip and Louis groaned. I lifted one arm to wrap around his neck, but he pulled away, his back suddenly rigid.
“No,” he said firmly.
I rolled my eyes and shoved my hands into my hair, pulling it up into a ponytail and holding it there with my fingers.
“No,” he repeated. “This isn’t what I want.”
“Ssh.” I dropped my hair and reached one hand back to his face.
Louis shuffled backwards, away from my outstretched fingers.
“This is fucked up, Cassie. What are we doing?”
I gave a one-shouldered shrug and a hopeful smile. “Something fun?”
Louis shook his head. “You’re completely insane. Do you just enjoy interfering with other people’s lives?”
I felt a little bit hurt. Any desire to kiss him had rapidly left me.
“You started it,” I said sulkily.
“Did I?” He sounded wounded. “Maybe I did. God, I’m awful.”
“Or maybe I started it. I don’t know. No need to beat yourself up about it, anyway.”
He laughed drily.
“You’re the mother of James’s kid. James. My cousin James. And by the looks of your outfit you were with him last night.”
I looked down at the shirt and boxers I was wearing. I’d forgotten that I wasn’t in my own clothes.
“I can’t do it, Cassie. It’s wrong,” Louis said, sounding resigned.
He ran a hand back through his hair. He suddenly looked attractive again.
“We could just not tell anyone?” I said hopefully.
Louis shuffled backwards, looking anguished and grey.
“I’m such a shitty person,” he moaned.
I spun round to face him, crossing my legs on the floor. I felt more sober, suddenly, somehow, and alert.
“I am,” he said. “Really, truly shitty. I can’t believe I’ve done this again.”
“Again? We’ve never done this before.”
“I have. My cousins are my best friends. And family. I don’t want to start fucking the girls that matter to them.”
“James and I haven’t been together for years.”
Louis raised an eyebrow. “You’re the mother of his child, Cassie.”
I pulled James’s shirt tighter around my waist, feeling strangely small. I wanted to fold myself up and hide away.
“You’re right,” I mumbled. “We’re awful. Especially me.”
Louis nodded. I guess I sort of thought he’d try to argue that he was worse out of the two of us, but we both knew that wasn’t true. He hurt people out of idiocy. I hurt people out of carelessness: I didn’t care enough. And that was cruel.
“James is so sad,” I whispered. “I just wanted to spend some time with somebody who doesn’t make me hate myself.”
“And I don’t make you hate yourself?”
“You didn’t until now.”
He blew out a long, slow breath and then slung his arm back around me. I curled into a ball and tucked my head against his chest. We sat like that for a while. I had tears in my eyes that I didn’t want him to see.
“Why don’t you just go back to him?” Louis eventually broke the silence.
I shrugged against him. A tear rolled down my cheek. I felt useless.
“He really cares about you,” Louis said. “And you could be a family.”
“I don’t think I’d be very good at being in a family,” I confessed.
“You used to be good at being with James.”
“Sometimes. Sometimes we were good,” I agreed. “Sometimes less good.”
Louis kissed the top of my head. The idea that a few minutes ago we’d been kissing seemed ridiculous. Now he just felt like somebody comforting that I’d known for a long time. I could imagine us being close, if things had been different. We could have been good friends at school.
“Why are you never in a relationship?” I said. “I don’t think I remember you ever having a girlfriend.”
“I don’t know,” Louis sighed. “I’ve never felt any need to be, you know? It doesn’t appeal much.”
“You’re not jealous of Al getting married?”
“Nah. It makes sense for him. He loves to love people, and him and Liv are adorable. But I can’t imagine it for me.”
“Maybe not. Lucy thinks I’m aromantic.”
“Do you think you’re aromantic?”
“Dunno. Don’t see much point trying to put labels on it. But yeah, I guess I’m...not very romantic. At all. I can’t imagine having what Al and Liv have. Or even what you and James have.”
I shook my head. “I don’t think James and I have much of anything any more. And he’s so unhappy now. I wish I could fix it for him.”
Louis’s arm tightened around me. He was thinner than James, but the weight was still comforting.
“It’s such a huge thing for him to get used to,” Louis said. “He’s learning to live with one arm. It’ll take time.”
“I feel like....I so badly want to make it better for him. I want to help. I’ve never felt like this.”
“That’s because you’re selfish,” Louis laughed.
I wanted to tell him off for being rude, but we were interrupted by the lift doors opening across the room.
“Come help, Louis,” a girl called out. “It’s pouring outside. My wheels are all slippery.”
Louis jumped to his feet and rushed over to the lift. He suddenly looked almost sober. The lift doors finished opening and revealed Lucy Weasley in her wheelchair on the other side. Her hair and clothes were soaked through and she looked exhausted but she was smiling.
Louis wheeled Lucy out of the lift but then left the chair by the doors and scooped his cousin up into his arms. He gently carried her across the room and carefully set her down on the sofa opposite where I was still sat.
Lucy leaned back into the cushions, wincing a little as she used her hands to move her legs up onto the sofa. Louis supported her until she looked comfortable. She looked so fragile. I didn’t know why she couldn’t walk. I’d never wanted to ask. But it never seemed to stop her smiling.
“Lucy, you remember Cassie?” Louis sounded a little bit nervous.
Lucy nodded and smiled at me, but I noticed her anxious glance at Louis. She was obviously trying to figure out exactly what she’d interrupted.
“Cass was just saying she wishes she could help James deal with everything,” Louis said.
“I think we all wish we could help him,” Lucy said. Her voice was much softer than any of her cousins. “Have you seen him much since you’ve been home, Cassie?”
She asked the question without any hint of judgement. She sounded like she was genuinely interested, rather than trying to collect gossip.
“A little bit,” I said, feeling my face flush.
“He’ll be alright, you know,” Lucy said reassuringly. “I heard he even went to Al’s stag.”
“He was miserable the whole night,” Louis said.
“Of course he was,” Lucy said. “But he’s got a lot of people around him to support him. And he’ll learn how to cope.”
“He’s lost Quidditch though,” I said. “I can’t really imagine James without Quidditch.”
Lucy sighed. “That’s true. And it’s really hard on him. But eventually he’ll find other things that make him happy. When I was little I used to be completely heartbroken when I couldn’t join in with the things my cousins all enjoyed, but I found things that worked for me. I loved being a prefect at school, and the squibs I work with now value me just as much as they would if I could stand up. And I’m proud of myself.”
“I’m proud too,” Louis said, grinning at her.
“Yes. Well, I’m blessed with a huge nosy family that try to take credit for all my achievements,” Lucy laughed. “And James has that too. Once everyone’s got over the shock of it, they’ll be good for him.”
I managed a smile. “That’s good to hear.”
Lucy smiled. “Okay, Lou, I hate to make you move me again when you’ve just carried me over here, but I think I’m going to love you and leave you. I need a nap. Someone came back at three in the morning and crashed around the flat for half an hour so I didn’t get much sleep.”
Louis had been standing and listening to Lucy, a thoughtful expression across his face, but he shook himself and helped her back into her chair, drying the wheels with his wand, and Lucy gave me a little wave.
“Nice to see you, Cassie. I’m glad you’re thinking of James. Maybe you’ll be able to help him find something new.”
I watched her wheel herself away, feeling a little bit shocked by the encounter. I’d never known Lucy very well, and assumed she shared her family’s dislike of me. But she was nice. And she’d just assumed that I was kind and would be trying to help James. I wasn’t used to people assuming good things about me.
“Do you think she’s right?” I asked Louis. “Do you think James will find something else that makes him as happy as Quidditch?”
“Lucy’s not very often wrong,” Louis said, yawning. “Tell you what, we’ve managed to sober up pretty quickly.”
“Speak for yourself. You seem completely sober. The whole world rocks from side to side every time I turn my head.”
He laughed. “Well, you’re hiding it well.”
“Practice makes perfect.”
“I hope you don’t feel too ill. We’re about to go on a trip. International portkeys and alcohol don’t mix all that well.”
I thought he was joking. “Oh, sure, where are you taking me? Can I request somewhere sunny?”
“France,” Louis said, straight-faced. “There’s someone we should speak to. About helping James.”
I stopped smiling. “You’re serious? You want to go to France?”
“No time like the present.” Louis smirked.
“What, have you got other plans tonight? I was under the impression you didn’t see a lot of friendly faces in London.”
“We can’t just...go to France. International portkeys take time to set up.”
“Ah, but luckily I have an unnecessarily enormous family.”
“How’s that relevant?”
“Connections, my friend. Friends in high places. Cousins in high places.”
I rolled my eyes. “I take back the comment about you seeming completely sober.”
Louis chuckled. “My cousin Roxy works in the Department of Magical Transportation. She’ll sort us out.”
I looked at him, narrowing my eyes in suspicion. I wasn’t quite sure where this plan had come from. The day had passed in a bit of a blur and now I was being swept into some crazy drunk Louis idea that may or may not have a reason behind it.
“Come on.” Louis held out a hand. “Let me take you to France, ma cherie.”
I glared at his outstretched hand.
“I’ll even buy you dinner in Paris before we come back,” Louis added.
I took his hand and let him pull me to my feet.
Forty five minutes later, we were standing outside an unfamiliar black door in a familiar French town. I was wearing a cream lace dress, hastily borrowed from a drowsy Lucy Weasley, and kept self-consciously picking at the sleeve. Louis reached out and took my hand, stopping me fiddling.
“Calm down, Cass. It’s going to be fine.”
I stuck my tongue out at him. “I just want to remind you that this is your plan. And that however badly it goes you still promised to buy me dinner.”
He looked amused. “You know what, I think I quite like you.”
“I mean it. I know you’re the one who must not be named and you have no soul and eat baby kittens for breakfast and so on, but I’ve quite enjoyed today.”
“Me too, I guess,” I said reluctantly.
“Let’s be friends,” Louis beamed.
I stuck my tongue out again and let go of his hand.
I refused to knock at the door, so Louis rapped his knuckles against the wood, giving me an exasperated grimace when I took a step backwards and placing a gentle hand on my lower back to stop me from running away.
The door swung open and Arielle Delacour greeted us, beautiful face frozen in a look of stark surprise.
“Hello, cousin dearest,” Louis said, leaning against the doorframe. “We wondered if you might let us have a quick word with your husband.”
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