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Hopscotch by Ernie_the_Dino
Chapter 20 : 20
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 6


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21:06 GMT


“This is illegal.” Tara told Toby as he fastened the ALL-ACCESS wristband onto her wrist.

“No it’s not.”

They were in Toby’s kitchen, dressed to the nines, waiting for the others to arrive for pre-drinks. Nick and Kelly were flooing in from the castle, with special permission from Professor Slughorn. James and Lucy were apparating, Rachel, who had failed her test the first time and had yet to take it again, was taking the Knight Bus to the Leaky Cauldron and joining Fred who only lived one street away, to walk the rest of the way over.

“Really?” Tara raised a fair eyebrow. “Did you pay money for this?”

He gave her an offended look, “What on earth would I want to do that for?”

Toby Jordan had been taught from a very young age: ‘it’s not who you know, it’s how you know them’. His father was not a crooked man, he was a clever one. ‘Money is not an issue, when you have contacts, and a solid barter system’. 

Therefore, he had spent his holidays doing things that definitely didn’t aid his formal education, but, he believed, would round out his overall character and preparation for life outside of school. Along with a bit of backhand dealing to sort the DJ out with a fresh set of speakers and get the bar staff kitted out with new uniforms, all to secure free entry to the nightclub Cloud 19 on one of the hottest nights of the year. 

He fitted is grandmother’s greenhouse with the jars of fluorescent fireflies he had been given by Hagrid for going Christmas Carolling with him at the end of term. His grandmother, a formidable seamstress who worked for Gladrags Wizardwear before her arthritis set in, then embroidered several waistcoats with the Cloud 19 logo, which he had gotten on a discount by the mention of her name and a few false promises to the girl working the till. 

The WWN was refitting their recording studios with new speakers due to a new sponsorship contract, and with a magical copy of his Dad’s ID card and a raid of his father’s wardrobe, he had very little trouble slipping the second-hand speakers out into the back alley and into the duffel bags he’d asked Lucy to bewitch with an Undetectable-Extension-Charm for reasons he hadn’t been quite clear. 

He had then taken them to Concordia and Plunkett Musical Instruments for a bit of fine tuning of their charms, in exchange for the antique cello he had been given in lieu of payment for de-gnoming his grandmother’s elderly neighbour’s garden once a week the previous summer and twice since he’d returned home for Christmas.

The manager was also ready to hire him to foot their PR programme after he spent five minutes loitering in their offices before settling his agreement. Most people said he had a bing mouth, but that wasn’t true. He was just the king of autosuggestion, (sadly his father was too, so he never did get that python for his thirteenth birthday), and after dropping a few pointers, they had offered him the free entry and a paid internship starting in the summer.

“Okay, first of all,” Tara put her hand on his arm, flipped her hair, and put on a soppy falsetto, “That’s so romantic…” He smirked. Then she stood up straight again. “Second of all: that’s illegal.”

“It’s illegitimate,” He bopped her nose. “It’s not illegal.”

“Tobias, dear, those words are synonymous.”

He grinned at her, “Do you want to go?”

“Of course, I want to go, I just don’t want to get kicked out before midnight because of some dodgy deal falling through.”

Toby rolled his eyes luxuriously, “Nothing is going to fall through—”

Nick promptly fell out of the fireplace. 

“Except that.” Toby added quickly, offering a hand to pull Nick to his feet.

The latter boy brushed soot off his emerald green suit, and straightened his black tie. “Evening.”

“You don’t scrub up half bad, Croaker.”

“Thanks, Jordan.” Nick twanged one of Toby’s braces, “Nice threads.”

“Now, now.” Tara swatted his hands away and looped her arms around Toby’s waist. “Only I’m allowed to do that.”

Kelly was quick to follow Nick’s entrance from the fire, performing a forward roll to right herself on the kitchen tiles — an impressive feat in a silver mini-dress and boots that laced up to her knees. She shook out her hair, which was chin length and platinum blonde for the night and sparkling with silver glitter spray.

Grinning like a Cheshire Cat, she reached into her handbag and pulled out two bottles of creamy liquid. “Who wants eggnog?”

Tara, exasperated, asked, “What the hell have you two been up to?”

“Never you mind.” Kelly replied. “Now, brandy? Or do you want rum?”

“Oooh, rum for me, please!”

Kelly poured her a glass, and as Tara lifted it to her lips, Toby began to chant:

“Ohhhh, WE LIKE TO DRINK WITH TARA…” 

Nick and Kelly joined in, familiar with the rhyme,

“’CAUSE TARA IS OUR MATE, AND WHEN WE DRINK WITH TARA, SHE GETS IT DOWN IN EIGHT—”

“—SEVEN—”

“—SIX—”

“—FIVE—” 

“—FOUR—”

“—THREE—”

“—TWO—” 

“—ONE… AYYYY!” 

“Gah!” Tara wiped her mouth on her arm. “You’re all dicks! How much rum did you two put in this?” 

Nick pointed at Kelly accusingly, “Not me.”

“I thought it was good.” Kelly said, hand on heart.

“It was bloody delicious.” Tara retorted. She held up her glass. “Another!”

Toby put his arms around her so her back was to his chest and kissed her ear.

“I’m going to be carrying you home, aren’t I?” 

“Probably.” Tara turned her head so he could kiss her properly. “Yes.”

“You’re a goddess.”

“I know.” She kissed him again, harder this time, and he could taste the rum in Kelly’s christmas cocktail.

Nick’s voice broke them apart. “Christ on a bike, Weasley.”

Fred had walked in, wearing the most outrageous burgundy and electric blue paisley print suit, and glowing white shoes.  

“Fred!” Tara moaned. “You were supposed to wait for Rachel!”

“I’m sorry,” Nick cut in smoothly, “But that’s the only issue you’re taking with Fred’s appearance tonight?” 

“Rachel isn’t coming.” Fred replied. “And fuck you, Croaker, I look incredible.”

Kelly, who had done a spectacular spit-take into the sink at the sight of Fred, spun to face him at this news, “What?! Why isn’t Rachel coming?!” 

Before Fred could reply, there was a loud CRACK! and James apparated right into the middle of the room, landing precariously on the end of the kitchen table. He grabbed the light fitting for balance and scrambled slightly in his polished oxford shoes. 

“Nice of you to drop in, Potter.” Toby said after the customary swearing out of shock had died down. “Now, if you dont mind, feet off the table.”

“Sorry, mate.” James grinned sheepishly and swung down onto the tiles. He gave his cousin a once over, “Freddie, I can’t believe you’re actually wearing those.” 

“So you’ve worn them before?” Tara marvelled.

Fred, offended, scoffed. “Of course.” 

James tugged the sleeves of his wine coloured blazer straight, getting into storyteller mode.

“His dad buys him and Roxie horrible dress robes in effort to make them understand the financial struggle for good robes he and his siblings went through growing up. Trouble is, Fred likes them too much and wears them voluntarily.” 

“You’re all rotters.” Fred muttered as he made himself a screwdriver. “I look fantastic.”

“Fred.” Tara ordered, “Stop sulking and tell me why Rachel’s bailing on us.”

“Hmm? Oh. She called the pay-phone in the Leaky Cauldron. Her mum got pulled into an extra shift and there’s nobody else to look after her brother, so she’s staying home to babysit. She says she’s sorry to miss it and sends kisses to all of you.”

“This’ll make Lucy’s New Year.” Toby raised his eyebrows. “Where is Lucy, anyway?”

*** 

21:47 GMT

Lucy was in Belgravia, debating whether or not it was practical to run upstairs and rappel out of her bedroom window with a bed-sheet-rope. Her father had anti-apparation charms on the house, for security, and the Floo grates were locked after ten pm for privacy. She could break them of course, but that would cause questions. She needed out of this house, without getting caught. That was a lot easier to do when the ground floor wasn’t swarming with people attending her parents New Years Eve Party. 

They were the toffs from the Ministry and the hotshots from her mother’s Law firm, Weasley & Warren. It was all firm handshakes and fake smiles and expensive firewhisky that she knew how to brew better.  

Everywhere she looked there were faces seen in newspapers, voices Lucy had heard on the radio. There was Edward Lorton, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister of Magical Education; and ex-Wizengamot Member Bones; Mr and Mrs John Urquhart, the largest private donors to St Mungo’s Hospital; Angus Ogden, the CEO of Ogden’s Old Firewhisky; and the Head of the Goblin Liaison Office, Amanda Troughton (one of the most skilled politicians of her time); and of course the Minister of Magic, Hermione Granger herself and her husband, Lucy’s Uncle Ron; all wearing tie-pins and pearls.

Her father shook hands and clasped shoulders, tricked women into giving up their names and then pretending he had known them all along. Her mother air-kissed cheeks and clinked glasses, her eyes effete, laugh high and confident forcing conversation to swell so to accept it. Molly was a natural at this sort of thing, she moved through the crowds in her sensible shoes and her hair coiled up in a clip, smiling and chatting, checking on the champagne and sparkling ginger beer. There were vol-au-vents and delights on cocktail sticks circling the rooms on silver trays. Some couples were dancing gracefully in the cleared dining room. Everything smelt like puff pastry and power. 

Lucy thought she might suffocate to the sound of the symphony playing in D minor. All she wanted was to drink neat spirits with her cousins, dance disgracefully with her friends, and kiss her girlfriend at midnight, wake up in her arms, and make a new years resolution to hold onto her forever.

Someone bumped her from behind and she lost her grip on her glass of champagne, sending sparkling wine onto the robes of The Right Honourable Judge Macmillan and glass shards shattering across the chessboard tiles of the atrium. 

The Judge yelped and spluttered. 

Time stopped. Music skipped. Bodies turned. Eyes narrowed.  

Lucy couldn’t move.

She knew what they were looking at. They weren’t seeing the second daughter of a Diplomat and a Lawyer, a straight-O-student, a young woman with a bright future. They were looking at an arrogant teenager without the worldly experience to back it up, a girl with too many piercings and not enough pink, an alien who clearly didn’t belong in this world, let alone this party. She was never going to belong here. 

“I— Er… Excuse me—” 

Lucy ran for the nearest door, which just happened to be her father’s office, and slammed it behind her. Her knees gently refused to hold her weight, sending her sinking to the floor, her fingers pressed into the deep pile carpet and her breath rattled in and out of her lungs. She started to crawl, but she was shaking too hard to make it far. Her vision was blurred with tears. Her skin had gone cold beneath her sweater.

It had been months since Lucy had last had a panic attack. Back in June, prompted by a lack of sleep and far too many exams to study for. Professor Flitwick had insisted she drop some subjects for Seventh Year, and she had been fine, she had it handled. Madame Longbottom still gave her concerned looks if she saw Lucy transporting her usual stack of books to and from the Library and Ravenclaw Tower, but she hadn’t needed any Calming Draught all term.  

This was different, this had been a long time coming, this had been something she had known for a long time and had been refusing to admit. This had been depleting her lung capacity all year and only now had she run out of oxygen. She’d been swimming in dangerous waters before. Bit this… This could drown her.

“Lucy? Come on, Luce, breathe. You have to breathe. You know that when you stop breathing, you stop thinking, you know this. I know you do. And I know that not thinking is the single most terrifying thing someone of my bloodline can do. Breathe, Lubert, think.”

She was vaguely aware of someone holding her and stroking her hair, but until that particular nickname was used, she hadn’t recognised her own father’s voice.

“Dad?”

“Hi, darling.”

“Hi.”

He shifted in his dress robes to accommodate their position on the floor. “How are you doing, Lubert? Think you can sit up yet?”

Lucy shook her head.

“Okay.” Percy nodded. “Okay, we’ll just stay here until you can, okay?”

Lucy nodded.  

From this angle, she was hit with a wave of nostalgia from playing in her father’s study when she was barely tall enough to reach the door handles. Everything looked different from this level, the bookshelves seemed endlessly towering, the desk a fortress to take shelter under, the cabinets were cliff faces to climb. By the time she was five, Percy had started locking the door to his office when he left for work. 

It had been years since she had been held in her father’s arms like this. He still wore the same aftershave he had a decade ago. It was grounding somehow.

Lucy tugged on his arm, and he pulled her upright.

Percy smoothed her hair and handed her his silk handkerchief. Lucy wiped her eyes and blew her nose. 

“Who do you need?”

Lucy blinked.

“Rachel— I need Rachel.”

Percy nodded seriously. “Can you stand?”

“I think so.” 

Percy eased her to her feet, checked her balance, then peeked out the door to the hallway. “Alright, let’s go.”

He put his hand at her back and guided her into the porch. They put on their matching long grey overcoats and crept outside onto the stoop. 

“Do you have the address?”

Lucy reeled it off. “You can apparate based of that?”

Percy arched an eyebrow, “You’d be surprised what the Head of the Department of Magical Transportation can do.” He offered his elbow. “Hold tight.”  

When they landed on the street where Rachel lived, conveniently under the cover of darkness provided by the broken street light, Lucy turned to her father.

“How did you know what to do…? I mean… you didn’t even hesitate…”

Percy sighed and slipped his hands into his overcoat pockets. He rocked onto the balls of his feet and back onto his heels.  

“Did you really think you were the only one this whole family who felt like they didn’t belong?”

Lucy dipped her head, her cheeks flaming like they did in first year and she had still asked all her questions in class and her teachers had dismissed them as stupid. She had learnt to go to the academics themselves, either by book, or by upperclassmen, or by letter. There were no stupid questions in the Ravenclaw common room, but there were Professors at Hogwarts who refused to teach. She should have known better than to put her Dad in that category. 

“I was the third of four Prefects and second of two Head Boys to come out of my siblings at Hogwarts. But I didn’t play quidditch. And I cared about school. I cared about it a lot. So that’s all I was to them. I cared about my career — too much — more than my family to begin with. I’m brilliant, and you’re better, and you resent me for that, for not quite being brilliant enough to aspire to. You’ve surpassed me already, and now you’ve lost your role within the Weasley household. The thing is, Lubert… you would have hated me if I were better. If I had been a better wizard, I wouldn’t have been a good father, and you would have never forgiven me for that. So, I’m sorry I’m not everything you expected from the stories you were told about me as a scholar, but I’m not sorry I was there for you in every way possible as a dad. I know I’ve done that to the best of my ability. Because let’s face it, Lubert, I’m always going to be your Dad. Your Uncle Harry defeated Voldemort, but to James and Albus and Lily, he’s just their dad. Your Aunt Hermione is the Minister for Magic, for Merlin’s sake, but to Rose and Hugo, she’s just their Mum… I’m just your Dad, Luce. Cut me some slack.”

“I’ll try.” She glanced over her shoulder at Number 59. “Thanks for bringing me here.”

“You should be with the people you love most on New Years Eve. I’ve had my share.” Percy kissed the top of her head lightly. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Okay. Bye, Dad.”

He nodded once, then disapperated with a quiet, Pop!

Lucy’s fingers were so cold it hurt her knuckles when she knocked on the door, her breath fogged in front of her like a dragon as she waited for Rachel to answer.

Her fathers words came back to her, “You stop breathing, you stop thinking… breathe…

The door swung back to reveal Rachel standing in the hallway in a reindeer onesie, silk hair wrap, and slipper boots. She blinked a few times, making sure she was real and not a mirage.  

Lucy felt a touch overdressed in her expensive wool coat, cashmere sweater and leather trousers. “Hi.”

Rachel stepped closer, frowning at Lucy’s smudged mascara and pink nose. “You’ve been crying.” Then she pulled Lucy into her arms and into the house. “Come inside, you’re freezing. Are you okay? Of course, you’re not okay, you’re here. I’m making hot chocolate for me and Olly, I’ll make another mug for you. Christ, Lucy, you’re fingers are like bloody ice cubes — did you walk here from Belgravia? Come through to the kitchen…”

Lucy allowed herself to be tugged through to the kitchen to be coddled, knowing the deep resonating sensation of calm meant she had found her way home. This was where she needed to be.


***

23:17 GMT

Fred frowned at Roxie sitting at the kitchen table, looking miserable and sipping her mug of hot chocolate. She had on a full face of makeup, her hair in full-fro-party-mode, blood red nail varnish, and their Dad’s old quidditch hoodie which hung almost to her knees.

She frowned right back at him, “What are you doing back this side of midnight?”

“I’ve got a date.” He swung open the fridge and pulled out the two Demi-Champagne bottles and the box with a straw skewer of 12 grapes for each bottle. “I thought you did too?” 

“Nelly cancelled the party — stomach flu.”

“So go out clubbing with Louis.”

“Louis has been out since five. I’m not going anywhere near that boy.”

“Surely your friends are out on New Years.” 

“I’m the year below you, remember, Freddie? Half my friends are underage, the other half have a terrible taste in music, or hate clubbing all together.”

“Sounds like you need new friends.”

“Shut up. You’ve had the same two friends since you had baby-teeth.”

“I have many friends, Roxanne… including your pal Nick Croaker…”

Roxie narrowed her eyes. “I really wouldn’t call him a ‘pal’…” 

“… who just happens to be at Cloud 19 tonight… You still like him, right?” 

“Why are you telling me this?” She flipped her hands at him, impatient. “It’s impossible to get in there… Yes, I still like him.”

Fred simply slipped his ALL-ACCESS wristband from his wrist and dropped it onto the table in front of her. “Happy New Year, Sis.”
 
“Where did you get this?… Toby.” She answered her own question. “Why would you give this to me?”
 
Fred shrugged and gathered his goodies in a bag. “Like I said, I’ve got a date.”

 

 Maria was sitting on her bed reading the December Issue of Potion Pioneering when she heard the knocking. She got up and opened the door, but found the corridor to the rest of the Leaky Cauldron empty. The knocking came again.

Slowly, she turned on the balls of her feet to stare at the curtains shrouding the window. 

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” 

She shut the door and crossed to the window, and reached out a cautious hand to draw the curtain back. Her wand was drawn ready.

Fred was clinging to the drainpipe running down past her window, snowflakes sitting perfectly in his crazy curls, his nose pink from the cold, trying his best to look suave despite the paisley suit and the long drop below him.

Maria rolled her eyes and slid the window up. She leaned her elbows on the sill. “Fancy seeing you here.”

Fred shrugged, adjusting his grip on the drainpipe. “Yeah… well… I was in the neighbourhood. Thought I’d… pop round.”

“At midnight on New Years Eve.”

“I’m working on some resolutions, and I thought — ‘hey! I know who’s organised — Maria Santiago! She can help me.’

“What do you have so far?” 

“1. Always wear gloves for drainpipe work in the winter.”

Maria rolled her eyes and moved back from the window. She beckoned him inside.

He climbed onto the ledge and swung himself inside. Maria hastily hid her teddy bear and kicked off her cat slippers under the bed. She spun back to him at the sound of two pop!s thinking about apparation, but it was just the tiny champagne corks being released from their bottles. She watched as Fred dropped a skewer of 12 grapes and a straw into each, and then offer one to her. 

She took the bottle and took a sip. Spanish. She preferred Italian, but the sentiment was appreciated none the less.

“2. Take things seriously.”

Maria glanced at his suit. “Good luck with that one.”

“More seriously.” Fred corrected himself. “I’m gonna get my act together. Stop pulling all the pranks… which I know have been making your life a living hell and I’m sorry. I’m sorry I did that. I’ve been such a dick, trying to get your attention when you have so much more going on in your life to deal with, that was a dick move…”

“Yeah, I know, right?” Maria took another sip of her champagne.

Fred stuffed his free hand in his trouser pocket and rocked back on his heels, staring at the knots in the floorboards. 

“Yeah, I deserved that.”

“No, I’ve enjoyed the sparring. It takes my mind off everything else. Everyone needs a Fred Weasley Fiasco every now and then.”

“I think I’ll patent a cocktail by that name.” 

Maria grinned. “Fred Weasley Fiasco on the rocks?”

He took her hand and twirled her around, “Fred Weasley Fiasco with a twist?”
 
“Virgin Fred Weasley Fiasco?”

“I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you on that one.”

Maria smoothed the lapel of his jacket and tilted her chin up to meet his gaze. 

“I thought you weren’t going to do that anymore.” 

He set her bottle on the end table with his own, and rested his hands on her hips and  his forehead on hers.  

“I’ll do my best.”

“You’d better.”

And then she leant in close and put her lips against his. She shivered as his cold hands sliding up the back of her pyjama shirt, tracing the sharp line of her shoulder blade and notches of her spine as he held her close. Maria’s fingers slid into his hair and she kissed him over and over. Never enough. 


***

23:57 GMT

Toby jerked his chin towards the dance floor, where Kelly’s dress was shimmering like a glitter-ball, throwing out rainbows onto the inebriated party-goers around her.   

“Nearly midnight, J.” He said pointedly. “Are you going to dance with her first? Or are you just going to kiss her sneak-attack style?”

“She’s the one who does the sneak attacks, not me.” James replied darkly. 

“Get over yourself, mate. You like her, she likes you, go over there and get your New Years Kiss.” He lifted his bottle of gin and lemonade to his lips, “Merlin knows we’ve all been waiting long enough.” 

But James knew it wasn’t that simple. Something was different. Something about Kelly seemed… off. Ever since he had said goodbye to her on the train platform, she’d been acting strange. Or, more accurately, she had been acting more like a normal teenage girl, something Kelly certainly was not. She seemed fragile, and almost volatile at certain points during the night. Maybe it was the booze, as he’d never seen her after this much alcohol, and she and Croaker had been drinking before they got to Toby’s, hours ago. Still, celebrations aside, Kelly wasn’t herself. 

She never used her abilities to draw attention to her appearance, yet she was sparkling like a disco ball. She was fiercely independent, but she hadn’t let go of Nick all night. Every time she came close to thinking straight she took a shot. And every time she wobbled in her heels, she grabbed a different friend to dance with.  

Kelly had made it clear she didn’t want him anywhere near her tonight. Whatever was between them, it could wait until the morning… or possibly the afternoon. There would be nothing romantic about a kiss at midnight tonight. She would quite possibly be sick on his shoes.

“Then another day won’t make any difference… Roxie?” James spotted his cousin weaving through the figures next to them and caught her elbow. “What are you doing here? How did you get here?”

Roxie seemed distracted. She lifted her hand. “Fred gave me his wristband.” 

“Are you drunk? You seem out of it?”

“I’m… er…” 

The countdown had started around them. 

“TEN—”

“I’m…”

“NINE—”

“Roxie, I can’t hear you!”

“EIGHT—”

“…tying to fine…”

“SEVEN—”

“What?!”

“SIX—” 

“I’m looking for somebody!”

“FIVE—” 

“Who?!”

“FOUR—”

“Nick!”

“THREE—”

“Croaker? He’s over—” 

“TWO—”

“—there!” James pointed onto the dance floor.

“ONE—” 

Roxie turned her head in the direction that he pointed… 

 


“HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!” 

As cheers erupted around them, Nick leaned in and kissed just below the glitter on her cheekbone. He was saying something else, but as Kelly turned her head to hear him better, her lips brushed his as he spoke. Without thinking it through, she put her hand on the back of his neck and secured his mouth with hers. 

Kissing James was like soaring through the clouds, a psychedelic high that left her lightheaded and flushed, with a long way to fall. Kissing Nick was like night swimming, too dark to know the depth of it, with the jitters and adrenaline that came with breaking the rules. And after an extra fortnight under adult supervision in the castle when she should have been backpacking in Africa with her brother, Kelly was more than welcome to some rule breaking.

And then suddenly, she stopped. Because what was she thinking? What was this ever going to achieve? What good would ever come from making out with your best friend when you were drunk? What good did the drinking do in the first place? She would still have the same problems when she got back to the castle, except she would now spend the night on the bathroom floor, trying not to throw up.  

Nick gave her a wary look, somewhere between, Are-you-going-to-be-sick-on-my-shoes? and Please-don’t-be-in-love-with-me.

She didn’t quite trust herself on the answer to either of those questions, but she knew dragging Nick into her problems wasn’t the way to go. He had his own issues. He was her sounding board, but he wasn’t her doormat. He had a life. He had stuff to be getting on with as it was, stuff with his parents. Stuff with school. Stuff with Quidditch. Stuff with Roxanne.  

Oh, Roxanne… 

Oh, she really should not have kissed him.  

She probably shouldn’t have kissed anyone, given her current inebriated state. 

She should probably sit down soon. Possibly outside. Or near a toilet. It was Decemb— No! It was January! It was New Years Day! It was 1st January… 

She was definitely going to be sick in the near future. Or cry. Or both. Probably both.

“Kelly? You okay?”

Kelly couldn’t bring herself to lie convincingly, not to Nick, who would see straight through it anyway, so she just blinked and told him.

“I gotta go.”

Then she turned and fled as fast as her heels would take her. 

 

 
Nick stared after in bewilderment until his slightly blurred vision focused on a different girl, in stood on the edge of the dance floor, staring right back, except she didn’t seem to recognise him. She didn’t seem to know him at all. He realised she wasn’t looking at him at all. She was staring right through him, like he was a stranger.

With the tiniest shake of her head, she turned and walked away. 

“Roxanne!”

He scanned the crowd, looking for her trademark hair and the fishnet-sleeves of her shirt. He spotted her on the spiral staircase to the top-dance-floor and started after her. 

Roxanne was making quick work of the stairs, which were a lot more twisty and nauseating than Nick had expected after two glasses of eggnog, a Sangria, a Black Russian and three sour bombs. 

Once onto the Electro-Pop floor, which had a dance floor that flashed different shades of neon with the bass, and clubbers decorated with Day-glow-potion on their eyelids and lips, she became harder to see. It was like searching negative space.  

Then he saw the door for the roof and knew exactly where to find her. 

The snow was falling thicker and the glow from the city lights reflected off the pristine white surface coating the rooftops surrounding them. Fireworks were echoing across the Central London, bursting brilliantly above the Thames, though they didn’t have much on the fireworks at the Quidditch Bonfire, muggle pyrotechnics didn’t hold much of a flame to Weasley Wizard Wheezes.
 
“Roxanne.”

She was stood with her back to him, her hands balled into fists at her sides. She glanced over her shoulder, barely looking at him, and sighed.

“Go away.”

“Can we just talk about this?”

“Here’s a thought? No!”

He sighed and came to stand at her side, letting his right hand hang loose beside her left fist, not quite touching, but just enough to exchange body heat. Roxanne always had cold hands. Then, quick as a flash, he snatched up her hand and kissed the back of her knuckles. 

Roxanne gasped and snatched her hand back like shed been burned, clutching it to her chest.

“What? No! You can’t just kiss her then kiss me! That’s not how it works!”

Nick cocked his head. “How what works?”

“I don’t know! Romance? The magical midnight kiss or… whatever… Shut up.” She pointed a finger at him. “You’re not allowed to laugh at me, you’re in trouble.” 

“Really?” Nick couldn’t help but smile. “Big trouble?”

“Big trouble.” Roxanne prodded him in the chest.

His grin grew wider. He tucked a curl of hair behind her ear, letting his hand slip down her neck to rest with his thumb on her pulse point and his little finger in the curve of her collar bone. “What’s my punishment?”

Roxanne narrowed her eyes. “I get to see the Slytherin Playbook.”

“Absolutely not.” Nick chuckled, lifting his other hand to her hair.

“Fine. That’s not fair…” Roxanne conceded. “You have to apologise.” 

“For which part?”

“For all of it.”

“Yeah, that’s fair.” Nick sighed. He ran his hands down her arms to her hands and gripped them tightly in her own to keep them warm. “I’m sorry I didn’t open up to you when we were together and I’m sorry I pushed you away. I’m sorry I let people say those things about us and I’m sorry I didn’t have your back like you had mine. I’m sorry for every horrible thing I ever said to you to get you to walk away from me before you got too close. Just because I dont know how to accept love, doesn’t mean you had to take that. You didn’t deserve it. I’m sorry for flirting with you at the Quidditch Bonfire and then blanking you afterwards. I’m sorry I don’t listen to you when you give me advice on the pitch. I’m sorry I got knocked off my broom. I’m sorry for pretending to be unconscious a little longer than I was just to hear what you say to me when you think I’m sedated. I’m sorry I told you to stop looking after me all the time, because, let’s face it, I need a supervisor to survive.” Nick sighed again. “I’m sorry for kissing Kelly tonight, that wasn’t cool. She’s the best friend I’ve ever had. That’s all it was to me, a New Years Kiss, nothing else.”

“You kissed me last year at New Years.” 

“That was in a game of Spin the Bottle, and you bit me hard enough to draw blood.”

“That was my first kiss!” 

“Yeah, I know. I was there. Remember? The second one was because you wanted a do-over.”

“The third was for luck.”

“The fourth was for practise.”

“And the fifth…”

“I think you just wanted to do me by that point.”

Roxie shoved his chest lightly. “Shut up.”

“I bet you still do.” He sang softly.

Roxanne shook her head, a laugh in the back of her throat, “You’re wrecked.”

Nick closed his eyes. “That is true… Are there any takeaways open? I’ll buy you chips to say sorry.”

“You already said sorry.”

“I know.” He nodded. “But chips could help.”

Roxanne considered. “They could.”

“Excellent.” He dropped one of her hands and twirled her so his arm was draped around her shoulders and their fingers were still interlaced. “Lead the way, Roxie.”  


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