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Chapter 32 : In Which Happiness Can Be Easy
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I didn’t speak until Cassie had pulled me down the stairs and out of the Castle. We sat down underneath the beech tree beside the lake and I wrapped my arms around my legs, pulling my knees up into my chest and curling up as small as I could.
The sun was shining and Cassie shrugged off her coat. She spread it out in the grass and sat down on top of it, tipping her hair back so that it caught the light and shone gold.
“I think he’ll be okay,” Cassie told me. “I know it probably doesn’t mean much from me, but I just have a feeling it’ll work out. You deserve that.”
I shrugged. Part of me wanted to talk about Al and was desperate for Cass to keep telling me he’d be fine, but I knew she had no more idea what was going on than I did.
“I actually wanted to ask you something,” Cassie said tentatively. “About the baby.”
I turned my head to look at her. I thought she was probably changing the subject to help me stop panicking about what was going on in the Hospital Wing, but if that was the case I couldn’t help but feel grateful. The distraction was welcome.
“Yeah.” She looked nervous. “I’m not due for a little while. Ten weeks. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot.”
I nodded and waited for her to keep speaking.
“I know you’re cross with me. I do. But you’re still my best friend,” Cassie said.
She looked at me hopefully, perhaps waiting for me to confirm her statement. I stayed silent.
“Anyway,” she continued. “You’re the best friend I’ve ever had. You’re like family, really. And I was hoping...I talked to James about it, and we were wondering if you’d maybe…”
Her voice trailed away and I raised my eyebrows. She cleared her throat.
“Will you be godmother, Ollie?”
I released a breath I hadn’t realised I’d been holding. Cassie watched me, brow furrowed. I sighed.
“I don’t know, Cass.”
I took another deep breath, thinking carefully about my words. Earlier I’d just wanted to hurt her. Now I really wanted her to understand what she’d done to me.
“I’d like to be able to say yes,” I said. “I would. But agreeing to do that...to be there in your life in that way...I’m just not sure.”
“You’re not sure you want to be in my life?” She sounded hurt. I hated her for it.
I shrugged with one shoulder and rubbed my eyes.
“I don’t know. I meant what I said earlier. We can try to see if we can repair this mess you’ve created. I’d like to think we can fix it. But I don’t want to commit to something like that when I don’t feel sure.”
Cass nodded slowly and then blinked away her own tears.
“Okay. Well, the offer’s still there if you change your mind.”
I gave her a small smile. Her eyes were watery and she started to dig up blades of grass with one hand. I could see the mud working its way into the crevices of her perfectly manicured nails, but she didn’t seem to care.
“Are you and James together, then?” I blurted out. I wasn’t sure where the question had come from but suddenly realised I didn’t know anything about her life at the moment.
“I’m not sure, really.” She kept pulling up grass, green spilling through her fingers.
“It might be worth getting sure,” I said. “Given that you’re about to have a baby together.”
“I know,” she murmured. “I met his parents the other day. He told them everything, and they said they’d help me, but I’m not sure what I want.”
I rolled my eyes. “I guess you can just ignore it all and hope other people sort out your problems for you. As always.”
“He asked me to marry him,” she said, interrupting me.
I gaped. I hadn’t expected that.
“I said no. We’re not ready for that,” Cassie explained. “He’s trying to do the right thing, but I’m not sure it would be the right thing, really. We only slept together in the first place because we were drunk and I got myself into a state and he happened to be there. If this hadn’t happened we would have ended it after a few weeks. It’s not exactly a recipe for a long-term relationship.”
I thought about asking her more about how her and James had ended up together. When I’d first found out it had seemed hugely important. She broke Scor’s heart and I wanted to understand how she had justified it to herself. This was my opportunity to ask questions, but after the emotional toil of the last few weeks I found that I didn’t really care anymore. Scor was going to be alright, and Cassie could keep her secrets.
Cassie drew in a sharp breath. “We’ve got company.”
I followed her gaze and smiled. Scorpius was heading towards us from the castle. He looked worried and sped up when he realised I’d seen him.
Scor’s expression tightened when he looked at Cassie, but he gave her a nod before dropping down behind me.
“Hey,” he said, pulling me back to lean against his chest.
I turned my face into his shirt and he wrapped his arms around me. Being with Cassie had helped me stop thinking about Al, but I didn’t feel properly comfortable around her anymore. Having Scor’s warmth surrounding me felt comforting.
“Sorry for not being here earlier,” he whispered into your hair. “I should have stayed with you.”
I shook my head. “You’re here now. Thank you.”
His grip tightened around me and I managed a smile.
It was the first time the three of us had been together since New Year’s Eve, and I don’t think any of us could ignore how different it felt. We sat together in silence with the sun glaring down at us, and I wondered if we’d ever go back to the easy chatter we used to so happily fall into as soon as we were together. And then I remembered Al, and wondered if I’d ever go back to easy chatter with anyone if he wasn’t okay.
We sat there for a long time. Scor didn’t let go of me and I was glad. I kept expecting Cassie to make an excuse and walk away. It couldn’t have been easy for her to be there, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if she’d chosen to leave us rather than deal with the awkwardness she’d created. But she stayed beside me.
When the sun was blazing high above us and the grounds had filled up with the excited chatter of students enjoying the Sunday weather and my back had started to cramp from staying in the same position for so long, we were disrupted by a whoop from near the castle.
The whoop got louder and was broken up by laughs, and then Louis Weasley collapsed onto the floor in front of us in an explosion of laughter and cheers. Rose caught up a moment later, out of breath and beaming.
I pulled away from Scor, hardly daring to feel hopeful but unable to see how they could be so happy unless it was good news.
“She’s waking him up,” Louis shouted, punching the air in triumph and then rolling over in the grass.
I looked at Rose, waiting for her to confirm his statement before letting the relief burst through me.
“She is,” Rose beamed. “Bulstrode’s waking him up. He’s going to be alright.”
I jumped up and flung my arms around her. Rose hugged me, squeezing me tightly and laughing. Louis reached up from the grass to grab our ankles and pull us down towards him so he could join in. I laughed shakily and my eyes filled with tears even though I was happy.
“Apparently she just wanted us to clear out so she could wake him up without it being too chaotic,” Rose said. “After such a bad head injury it would have been disorientating for him to wake up surrounded by so many people.”
“She could have just told us that,” I said, frowning. “She made it sound like something awful was happening.”
“Yeah, well, it’s Bulstrode,” Louis shrugged. “She’s not exactly known for her stellar bedside manner. It doesn’t surprise me. I heard she was a Slytherin in her day.”
He screwed up his nose and pulled a disgusted face. I hit the back of his head and he laughed.
“So he’s going to be okay? He’s really waking up?” I sat up so I could look at Rose properly, wanting to make sure I fully understood her answer.
She nodded. “Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny are with him now. It might take a bit of time before he’s ready to see us, but he’s going to be okay.”
After that it was like nobody could manage being sad anymore. I lay in the grass between Rose and Louis, and Scor lay down on Rose’s other side. Cass looked slightly unsure what to do, but Louis told her he was too happy to bother being cross with her so she smiled shyly and lay down as well.
Now that we looked happier, other people started to sit down with us. Joe and Oz bounded over, closely followed by Esther and Clara.
Amethyst Twine came over and knelt beside me, whispering that she was pleased to hear Al was okay. Clara looked thrilled when she arrived and insisted that she stayed with us. She reached out and started to braid her hair. Amethyst looked surprised but smiled, and I caught Esther’s eye and grinned.
Dominique Weasley arrived with my cousin. Jason scooped me up into a hug and Dominique sat down next to Louis, stroking his hair even though he kept wriggling away and telling her she was embarrassing him.
Clara gushed about how much she loved Dominique’s dress and Dominique thanked her and said she could borrow it any time. Esther laughed and told Dominique she might regret saying that, but Dominique waved her comment away and insisted that she had too many clothes already.
Jason and Oz started to talk about graduation, which was coming up scarily quickly. I didn’t think they’d ever had much to do with each other apart from their annual competition on the Quidditch Pitch, but they seemed to share the same excitement about leaving school. Joe grabbed Oz’s arm and told him he mustn’t ever leave, and Jason laughed with them.
Esther leaned back and started to chat to Cassie about the internship she’d been offered over the summer. I half expected Cassie to ignore her. She’d never been interested in a friendship with Esther or Clara before. But Cass just looked relieved to have had somebody start a conversation with her.
It was sort of strange, having my Slytherin friends sitting so happily with the Gryffindors I hadn’t really known until this year, but I didn’t want to question it. I was surrounded by people I loved and watching them all sitting together made me feel calm in a way that I hadn’t expected.
“They’re coming.” Louis nudged me and pointed ahead.
Al hardly even looked like he’d been injured. If he hadn’t been leaning into James so heavily he would have looked completely fine. He was smiling and held onto Lily’s hand as they walked towards us. Lily looked exhausted but delighted, and kept peering up at her brother as if to make sure he was still there. On Al’s other side, James had one arm protectively around his shoulders and was obviously supporting him as they walked.
Louis and Rose were both immediately rushing over to Al, taking it in turns to hug him. Dominique and Jason joined them quickly. Dominique swept her cousin up into her arms. Jason gave Al a nod but stepped back to hug James, who looked like he probably needed the comfort.
Esther and Clara waved at Al from the grass, beckoning him over, and Amethyst gave him a smile. Even Scor got to his feet to tell Al he was pleased he was okay.
I hung back, feeling out of place again like I had in the Hospital Wing. All these people were very clear on who Al was in their lives. He was their family, their friend, or just an acquaintance to some of the Slytherins, and they could easily smile and tell him how happy they were to see him. I hovered behind them all, wondering what words I could possibly find that would be appropriate.
Al didn’t look at me for a moment. He was surrounded by people and looked overwhelmed. After a while, the others started to sit back down in the grass. Lily flopped down next to Louis and spread out like a starfish beside him.
James took a seat next to Cassie and lay back so that his head was in her lap. She looked startled by his sudden presence but didn’t move away. Instead, she lifted a hand and ran her fingers through his hair. I watched him catch her wrist and pull her hand towards his lips so he could kiss her palm. She blushed and smiled. I looked away and found Al watching me.
“Liv,” Al said, looking directly at me.
I took a step towards him but dropped my eyes to the floor. Rushed, scrambled thoughts chased through my brain, trying to work out whether he’d said my name in a way that implied he was happy to see me or whether he was maybe just wondering why I was there.
“Can we go for a walk?” He said. “You promised we’d talk after the match.”
I nodded, relieved. As we walked away from the rest of the group, he rested a hand on my shoulder. I wasn’t sure whether he was doing it for the physical contact or whether he just needed support now that James wasn’t by his side, but I liked the feeling of his skin against me.
We stopped next to the lake and he looked down at me, letting go of my shoulder. He looked a little bit anxious. It was strangely endearing.
“So...” he said, and then looked confused about how to carry on.
“How are you feeling?” I lifted a hand to his arm, wanting to touch him again.
He nodded, looking distracted. “I’m fine. I don’t really remember being hit, to be honest. Seems like everyone made a bit of a fuss out of nothing.”
I laughed but it felt like it probably shouldn’t have been funny.
“I spoke to my mum,” he said abruptly.
“Yeah?” I wasn’t sure why he was telling me this.
“Yeah. She wanted to talk to me about you.”
“She seems to think you’re in love with me.”
My breath caught in my throat and I chewed my lip.
Al frowned, looking nervous. “Well...um, are you?”
I shrugged. “That’s none of your business.”
I turned around to look back at the others, still sitting under the tree. Cassie was now chatting to Jason and Clara, James’s head still in her lap. She saw me looking and gave me a little wave.
Al spun me around, catching my hand.
“I kind of hoped that you were my business.” He grinned.
I smiled. “Mmhmm. I’m glad you’re awake again.”
“Me too,” he said. “I hate to think how much you must have been suffering without my company.”
I glanced back at the tree. Scor pulled a face at me and stuck out his tongue before turning to say something to Amethyst. Joe had now sat down on Oz’s shoulders and Oz was trying to shake him off while Jason helped support him. Dominique was giggling and taking pictures. Looking at them made me smile.
Al and I had things to work out. I wasn’t really sure how I felt about him keeping secrets from me, and still felt ambivalent about the things I’d learned about his relationship with Laura. And I felt guilty for the way I’d ignored him. I knew I needed to stop running away from my problems. I couldn’t always let him be the one to fix things.
Our...friendship, relationship, whatever we were going to call it was still complicated and messy. It was going to take work. But looking over at the rest of our friends sitting under the beech tree made me want to put in that work. They all looked so peaceful and so cheerful. They made it look like it might be easy to be happy.
“Al?” I peered up at him, taking a step closer.
“I think I’m probably in love you.”
He turned me around to face him so that I could see how wide his smile was. It was the kind of smile I’d usually want to draw, desperate to capture the warmth in his eyes, but I’d drawn his happiness hundreds of times before and for now I only wanted the real thing.
“Well, that’s lucky,” he grinned. “I think I’m probably in love with you too.”
He pulled me in for a gentle kiss and, with the sun on my face and laughter and cheers from the beech tree filling my ears, it was easy to fold myself into him.
For the first time in a very long time, it felt like things didn’t need to be complicated.
A/N: HEY! So here we are. I started writing ‘Complicated’ over two years ago now and I can’t quite believe it’s finally finished. There are hundreds of little (and not so little) changes I would make if I were writing it again, and I suspect that even if I get around to making the edits I’d like to make I’ll never feel completely satisfied, but I have loved creating Olivia and her story. I’ve had so much fun writing here and this wonderful website has brought me so many lovely moments and wonderful people, so thank you to everyone who has been a part of that, through reading and reviewing and sharing your own amazing writing.
This is the end of Olivia’s story for now, but look out for two new pieces I have in the works. The first chapter of ‘Long Live the Queen’, a Lily Luna novel set in the ‘Complicated’ universe will be up later on today, and my novella ‘Fallen’, featuring Cassie several years later, should make an appearance very soon if all goes to plan. I’m not ready to let go of these characters yet - I’m enjoying them all far too much.
Usually when I post a new chapter I set up some review swaps on the forums so I can return the favour and give you my thoughts on your stories. Without the forums it’s a bit trickier but if you’d like to swap reviews I’m always happy to - just mention in your review that it’s part of a swap and I’ll get to yours as soon as I can :)
All that remains is to say an enormous thank you again to all of you who are still here. Your lovely thoughts and feedback have consistently motivated me to keep writing. This story wouldn’t exist without you.
Lots of love, E xx
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