Chapter 10 : Brunch
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Albus was drinking his own coffee, sitting at the breakfast table and trying to persuade Ollie to make pancakes. Ollie was perched on one of the kitchen counters eating a bowl of fruit.
I took a seat opposite Albus and sipped my coffee.
“Cook your own pancakes,” Ollie said, flicking a grape at Albus’s head.
He turned his head and caught the grape between his teeth.
“But you’re so much better at them than I am,” he said once he’d swallowed the grape.
“We’ve got brunch in half an hour,” Ollie said, rolling her eyes. “We’re not having pancakes.”
Albus looked at me and sniffed. “I’m marrying a cruel woman, Cassie. Cruel.”
I laughed and took another sip of my cappuccino. It was nice to see them relaxed together.
“Nice lie in?” Ollie asked me. “Waking up in your bed made me feel like we were at school again.”
I smiled. “Yeah, I felt like that too.”
“And then your snoring reminded me that I’m better off sharing a bed with him.” She nodded towards Albus. “He whines about pancakes a lot but he’s a very quiet sleeper.”
“I don’t snore,” I insisted.
Albus laughed. “You absolutely do. I can hear you from our room.”
Ollie passed me a grape and I threw it at his forehead. This time he didn’t manage to catch it.
“I should go and get dressed,” Ollie said. “We have a wedding brunch to get to.”
Albus rolled his eyes. “Remind me why we’re doing this brunch? I prefer breakfast here with you.”
“You were too scared to tell your grandmother we didn’t want one,” Ollie reminded him.
“Hmm. Yeah, that sounds plausible,” he said. “I regret my cowardliness.”
Ollie jumped down from the countertop and kissed his forehead.
“Go and get dressed,” she said. “Cass, help me? Everyone’s going to be looking at me and trying to work out whether I’m good enough to marry into the family.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Albus said. “They love you more than they love me.”
I helped Ollie get dressed and then apparated with her and Albus to the Burrow, where Molly Weasley Senior had constructed possibly the most extravagant brunch I’d ever seen.
“There she is!”
Louis rushed over to me, picked me up and spun me around, then planted a sloppy kiss on my cheek.
“You’re sitting with me today,” he told me, taking my hand and pulling me towards the long table running down the marquee in the garden.
Ollie raised her eyebrows at me and I shrugged.
Louis saw her expression and laughed.
“Cassie’s my new best friend,” he said. “I’m kidnapping her from you.”
“You’re welcome to her. She snores at an unreasonable volume,” she smiled.
Louis showed me to where he was sitting and I took a seat beside him. James was a few places down on the other side of the table with Cadence by his side. He looked away when I tried to catch his eye.
Louis leaned in towards me and lowered his voice.
I elbowed him. “Nice subtlety.”
“Subtlety is not my area of expertise,” Louis laughed. “But they’re on their way. And I told Nana Weasley so she won’t kill us when we have to leave the table in the middle of brunch.”
I glanced down the table to look at his grandma. It hadn’t occurred to me to think she might be annoyed with us, but I was pretty sure she wasn’t any kind of fan of me.
“Chill,” Louis instructed. “Have some champagne.”
He forced his own glass into my hand and reached out to pour another one. Several of his relatives were giving him odd looks, presumably judging him for being nice to a known enemy of the Potter/Weasley clan, but he didn’t even seem to notice. I suppose he’s had enough time to get used to being the occasional black sheep of the family.
“Thanks,” I murmured. “For looking after me.”
“Any time,” he beamed. “This way you owe me. And I reckon you’re good at getting people out of sticky situations.”
I rolled my eyes, then sat back as Louis was drawn into a conversation about wizarding bars with his cousin Freddie.
I listened to them talk, watching Freddie with interest. He’d been in my brother’s year at school and had been his main Quidditch rival. Andi had recently confessed that this had been accompanied with regular adult-content excursions into broom cupboards. But Freddie didn’t look at me, and presumably this wasn’t on his mind.
I was so preoccupied with contemplating Freddie and his love life that I nearly missed the figure waving to me from the gate.
Arielle was wearing a floaty pink tea dress and had her hair pulled into a high ponytail. She looked completely unlike the Arielle I was used to seeing (generally in various states of undress and inebriation and draped over my bed) but I don’t think I’d ever been more pleased to see them.
I stood up and tiptoed down the table to James’s seat.
He must have known I was there, but he determinedly continued his conversation with Dominique and didn’t acknowledge me. Cadence, sitting beside him, watched me with a curious expression. Jason, on her other side, put an arm around her and drew her into a conversation about some muggle kids TV show.
“James,” I said, repeating it when he continued to ignore me. “James, can you come with me for a sec? I need to talk to you about something.”
Albus was sitting across the table, listening and frowning. I saw Louis making obscure gestures at him but didn’t see how Al could possibly understand what he was saying. I knew they’d been best friends their entire lives, but Louis was a little bit drunk and even though I knew the entire plan I couldn’t see how his clumsy sign language represented it at all.
But Al seemed to understand whatever Louis was trying to say, because he leaned forwards to James.
“Go on,” he said. “I’m the groom so you have to do what I say. Go see what she wants.”
James scowled at him, looking so furious that I thought he might just ignore the request, but he pushed his chair back and stood up. He paused for a moment, leaning forwards to kiss Cadence with a tenderness I hadn’t seen in him before, but when he followed me away from the table he was glaring again.
“What do you want?” He snapped, once we were out of earshot of the table.
“There’s someone I want you to meet,” I said, not looking back at him. There didn’t seem to be any point trying to have a conversation. This wasn’t about me.
We reached the gate and Arielle stepped forwards, kissing my cheek and giving James and dazzling smile.
“I remember you,” James said, still scowling. “Arielle Delacour. What are you doing here?”
She was unphased by his rudeness. “I’d like you both to meet my husband, Henri.”
Henri stepped forwards and held out a hand for James to shake. He was tall and thin, with tanned skin and thick brown curly hair. When he smiled it revealed his four gold front teeth. He had nothing close to Arielle’s beauty, but there was something charming about him.
James didn’t seem particularly eager to shake this stranger’s hand, but his good upbringing outdid his bad mood and he held out his own hand.
“Cassie thought you and Henri could have a chat,” Arielle said. “About some things you have in common.”
Henri nodded to James’s amputated arm. “I heard about your accident. I’m sorry.”
James’ scowl darkened and he glared at me, plainly unimpressed by the meeting and blaming me. I tried not to let my own smile falter.
“Thanks,” he spat out. “But I’m not sure there’s much you can say to help me. You seem to still have both arms.”
Henri smiled pleasantly and lifted up his left trouser leg, revealing the prosthetic leg beneath it.
James raised his eyebrows. “Oh.”
“I heard you’re a Quidditch player?” Henri asked. “I’m a squib, so the loss of Quidditch after my accident didn’t exactly have a big impact on me. But I’ve always played a ton of football and not being able to run properly hit me pretty hard for a while back there.”
Arielle leaned into him and kissed his jaw. Henri wrapped an arm around her waist. I shuffled awkwardly from one foot to the other but stayed to listen to him.
“It was really rough,” Henri continued. “Really, really bad. And it was before I met Arielle, so I was dealing with a lot of it by myself. But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about. I guess I want you to know that I understand how hard it is. I do. But also that there are ways to make it better. The muggle prosthetic lets me run and I’ve been able to create new things I care about through it. I coach primary school sports and the kids don’t care that it’s not my real leg. And I spend a lot of time with kids that can’t use their legs, helping them throw and catch.”
James was still scowling. I wanted to put a hand on his arm to show him I was there and caring, but I thought he’d probably shake me off.
“Henri’s got to a point where he’s really happy,” Arielle explained. “He’s doing exactly what he wants to be doing, and his leg doesn’t hold him back.”
“Exactly,” Henri agreed. “And I mean...well, it would be stupid to say I’m glad it happened. Obviously I’d rather still have my leg. But I do think the things I’m doing now are much more fulfilling than whatever I might have done without the accident. I can’t imagine life any other way.”
James sighed. “Look, I appreciate you coming here. I know what you’re trying to do. And I’m glad it all worked out for you. But it’s different.”
Henri raised his eyebrows. “How so?”
“I lost my arm,” James blurted out. “I’m a Chaser without a throwing arm. There’s not any prosthetic that can give it back to me.”
He had tears in his eyes and turned away from Henri, towards me. I hesitated for a moment, but stepped forwards and placed my hands on his shoulders.
“James,” I said softly. “We know it’s different. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be something that can make it better for you too. It doesn’t have to be the same as Henri’s situation, but there will be a life you can live that makes you happy.”
James shook his head. “It’s all ruined.”
I sighed. “Look, I know you can’t play. And I know how much Quidditch means to you, so of course it’s horrid. But there are lots of people who aren’t able to fly. Loads of people have conditions that stop them playing. Imagine what you could do if you found a way round it.”
Louis and Lucy had quietly come up to join us. Louis had a hand resting on Lucy’s chair, but she was wheeling herself. She had tears in her eyes.
“She’s right, James,” she said. “I always felt so left out when we were kids and you lot were always flying and talking about Quidditch. I would have given anything to be able to join in.”
James looked at her and the bitterness faded from his face. His expression was all tenderness and I was reminded why I’d been so jealous of this massive, warm family when we were at school.
“I never knew that,” James said. “I always thought you enjoyed reading while we played.”
Lucy shrugged. “I didn’t want to spoil it for you. But yeah, it was really hard for me. It would have meant the world to me if there’d been some way for me to try it.”
James looked thoughtful. “There must be a way to involve people with disabilities in Quidditch. It’s not fair for so many people to be left out.”
Henri nodded. “Muggles do a much better job of it. They have paralympics - a whole competition for people with different disabilities. I got really into wheelchair basketball for a while, before they fitted the prosthetic.”
Lucy looked intrigued and started to ask Henri about the sport. He was animated as he talked about it, and started telling her about the different clubs he could recommend her to if she was interested.
James looked back at me. “Maybe I could do something with this.”
I tried to hide my excitement. “How do you mean?”
“I don’t know,” he muttered. “It’ll take some time to figure out. But maybe I could use this. I could adapt Quidditch for people like me. And people like Lucy. I could find a way to make it accessible.”
“I think that would be amazing,” I whispered.
He was smiling now and I couldn’t believe how happy it made me. I was so pleased to have been part of something positive for him. And it was possibly the first interaction we’d ever had where I wasn’t trying to get something from him.
“So, I hate to break up the party, but Nana Weasley looks like she might start breathing fire if we don’t head back to the table soon,” Louis said.
Lucy nodded. “We should get back to the others. It’s Al and Liv’s wedding brunch.”
James turned to Arielle and Henri. “Thank you. Really, thank you. You’ve made things feel...different.”
“Any time,” Henri grinned, metal teeth glittering. “Get in touch if you ever want to talk about anything. It’s not going to be easy, but I reckon you’ll find a way to make things good.”
“You want to join us for brunch?” Louis offered, grinning at Arielle.
She shook her head. “We have a date. A pretty London girl.”
We said our goodbyes and then wandered back over to the table, walking slowly so that Lucy’s chair didn’t stick in the mud.
“I think I’d quite like marriage if it was like theirs,” Louis was saying to Lucy. “They seem to fit in an awful lot of sex with other people.”
Lucy shushed him. “That’s their business. And you’re not fit for marriage with anyone.”
James and I walked behind them, the backs of our hands bumping into each other every so often as we walked.
“Thanks, Cass,” he said quietly.
I shook my head. “It was actually Louis’ idea.”
“And I’ll thank him too. But thanks for making me listen to them.”
“I just want you to be happy,” I confessed. “But I know I’m not usually very good at it.”
He gave me a faint smile. “I don’t know. We’ve had our moments.”
I returned the smile.
“Hey,” he said. “Do you want to sit with Cadence and me for brunch?”
He must have seen the panic in my eyes because he immediately went on to explain himself.
“You don’t have to tell her who you are,” he said. “But she’s amazing. I think you’d like to chat to her.”
When I sat down next to James we received a few disapproving glances from his more terrifying relatives, but nobody said anything. Molly Weasley Senior had brought out the food and people were too preoccupied with eating to care very much what we were doing.
“This is Cassie,” James told Cadence.
“What’s your job, Cassie?” Cadence asked me, focussing her big blue eyes on my own.
I was startled by her directness. I hadn’t expected to have to speak about myself.
“Er, I don’t really have one,” I told her. “I do a bit of modelling sometimes. Mostly I just travel and do bits and pieces.”
Cadence looked like she was mulling this over and took a bite of her waffle while she was thinking.
“When I grow up I’m going to be a Quidditch player,” she told me. “And I’ll do travelling too, like you and like Daddy.”
“That’s exciting,” I said. “What team are you going to play for?”
“Puddlemere, of course,” she laughed. “Where Daddy plays.”
Then she frowned and put down her waffle. James ruffled her hair but it didn’t seem to reassure her.
“But Daddy’s not a Quidditch player anymore,” she said sadly.
“I don’t know,” James said, catching my eye and smiling. “Maybe I can be. Just in a different way.”
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