Chapter 25 : The Calm Before the Storm
| ||Rating: Mature||Chapter Reviews: 1|
Background: Font color:
Teddy and Dominique had shared with the family that they didn’t want to wait for their December wedding. They had spent months planning the winter wedding, but after their time spent apart and their safety jeopardized by Parker Namken and the Death Eaters, waiting just didn’t seem have a point anymore. So it was all-hands-on-deck in the following week as everyone did their part to put the wedding together. Luckily, though, all the aspects of the wedding that would have been the most difficult to throw together last minute were already in place; they didn’t have to book a venue, as they would simply host the wedding at the Burrow, and Dominique’s dress had been purchased months ago and was ready for the big day, aside for some last minute alterations which Dominique’s grandmother had taken care of in a heartbeat. Shortly after getting engaged, Teddy and Dominique had asked Harry if he would get officiate their wedding. Touched by the gesture, Harry had of course graciously accepted and promised to marry them, and he had become ordained months ago. So, other than finalizing what he would say and practicing and running through the ceremony, Harry was ready to marry them. Other than those few aspects of the wedding, everything else was able to come together quite seamlessly.
However, even though they would be getting married in late August just a week before returning to Hogwarts, they would still wait to have their honeymoon in December, as everything had already been booked and paid for. And Teddy and Dominique really didn’t mind. So, instead, after having their wedding night at an upscale hotel in London, they would simply gather for a late brunch with their friends and family. To be honest, Teddy and Dominique far liked the idea of sharing those memories with their friends and family better than leaving them, as they had all faced terror and fear of what life would be like without their family, so they saw every moment with their friends and family as a moment to be cherished.
Of course, in the week that followed the raid, Kingsley’s death, and Hermione’s appointment as Minister for Magic, it wasn’t all cheerful, happy wedding planning. Hermione was suddenly overwhelmed with paperwork and other Ministry of Magic regulations, but she seemed to wear the title of Minister for Magic quite well. After she had been sworn in and made her first address, it was again clarified to the people that she had been appointed Minister for Magic by default due to her previous position as Head of Magical Law Enforcement. In such a position, she had been second-in-command to Kingsley and to the entire Ministry. So, in the event of the Minster for Magic’s murder, Ministry of Magic regulations called for a forgone election and the current Head of Magical Law Enforcement to be appointed as Minister for Magic until a public election could be held. That meant Hermione’s appointment as Minister for Magic was only temporary; however, in that one week alone, the Ministry and the people said nothing but great things about Hermione. Her official election to the position was all but certain.
So while the majority of the family worked together to perfect Teddy and Dominique’s wedding, Harry, Ron, and Hermione often worked hours late into the night at the Ministry to look for any sign of Parker and the Death Eaters and where they may have relocated to. But as Parker had proved for the previous three years, he knew how to move underground and go unnoticed. There was no sign of them.
Kingsley’s funeral had taken place just two days before Teddy and Dominique’s wedding, and it had been an extravagant affair. While Kingsley had simply been laid to rest in the Shacklebolt family plot, the service itself had been one of great grandeur. He had received a hero’s farewell, and nearly a thousand had attended, for he had served as the Minister for Magic for over twenty-five years after all. A member of Kingsley’s family gave the official eulogy, but Harry had also spoken at the Shacklebolt family’s request. Although uncomfortable with such speaking, Harry had done it anyway and gladly—speaking of how Kingsley had been a friend to him and his family for nearly three decades, of how Kingsley had been a man of unwavering bravery and had fought by Harry’s side during the Second Wizarding War when others had given up on him, and of how their friendship had been tested three years ago when Kingsley had been presented with damning evidence showing Harry had been behind the murder of a fourteen-year-old boy, yet Kingsley did his duty and their friendship had changed for the better because of it. It had been an emotional service for everyone, and it had been the perfect farewell Kingsley deserved.
After Kingsley’s service, it felt as if a burden had been lifted from the Potter’s and Weasley’s shoulders. In the midst of the wedding planning, they had felt guilty for turning toward happier occasions by trying to share laughs and turning a terrible week into a brilliant one about love and family. Kingsley deserved his time of mourning, yet after his funeral, they felt as if they had paid their respects to him and could rightfully focus on celebrating Teddy and Dominique. They knew that was what they had to do; they had to focus on the good and allow themselves to be happy. For their own sake, they simply had to if they didn’t wish to worry and fret about Parker’s every moment. They still had to live. Seeing Albus and Kingsley lose their chance to live was enough of a message to them.
So, with that thought in the back of their minds, Teddy and Dominique’s wedding came on a warm, summer evening and went off without a hitch. In a loose, vintage wedding dress made of lace and satin, Dominique had walked down the aisle with lily petals beneath her feet, in her bouquet, and in her hair. Teddy had cried at the sight of her. A spot amongst the groomsmen had been left open in memory of Albus. James had nearly dropped the rings when handing them to Teddy. Lorcan had cracked a joke when the congregation was asked if there were any objections. And Harry had married them beneath the stars and intimate candlelight.
Deep inside, some of them wondered if something would interfere with the ceremony—if Parker would strike again or if chaos and desolation would once again befall them. Many had felt weary during the ceremony, looking around expectantly at unusually loud noises, but nothing ever went wrong. And when the reception rolled around, those who were worried or uptight during the ceremony seemed to let loose. No one had a care in the world.
So, feeling unusually happy and carefree for the first time in over a month, James enjoyed sitting with Norah at the wedding party table the after dancing had commenced. At the wedding party table, some had gotten up to dance or mingle with others, but James and Norah had stayed back at the table to simply take in the scene.
Norah had moved closer to James, leaning into his side and simply watching the others dance. James had wrapped an arm around her and was stroking her arm sweetly.
Norah finally spoke, her voice a whimsical whisper as her cheeks sung with her smile. “I can’t remember the last time everyone was this happy.”
James smiled, and he didn’t know why, but he felt his gaze move to the empty seat beside him at the wedding party table. Next to him was an unused set of dinnerware; the wine glasses were empty and spotless, as were the plates and utensils, and the chair in that spot held a sign reading For Albus.
James loved that Teddy and Dominique had left an empty spot for Albus in all aspects of the wedding. Teddy had asked him to be a groomsmen far before the name Parker Namken had resurfaced, and of course Albus had accepted, and after his passing, Teddy still wished to have Albus as one of his groomsmen—even if that meant he was only a groomsmen in spirit. And James felt as if he was. Standing next to an empty space during the ceremony and sitting next to the empty chair now, he really did feel as if Albus was watching them from somewhere. And that made him happy.
Norah, noticing the falter in James’ demeanor, stroked his cheek and encouraged him. “Albus would want this. He’d want you to enjoy tonight.”
James nodded quickly, pulling himself from his stupor and bringing himself back to the happy occasion at hand. “Yes. Yes, I know.” He sighed heavily, reached out, and touched the chair next to him. “I just miss him so much.”
“I know,” whispered Norah reassuringly. She leaned over and pressed a lingering kiss to his cheek. “We all do.”
“With everything that’s been going on lately,” began James again in a somber voice, “I’ve been thinking a lot about what I prophesized—that he’ll come back to me one day. That I’ll see him again. But I don’t understand how or—”
“James,” Norah said curtly, giving him a stern look.
He looked to her dolefully and sighed in defeat. “Right,” he said to himself, shaking his head. “Sorry.”
“Not tonight,” she reassured him. “Don’t think about it tonight. For Albus, set it aside for one night and be happy.”
James smiled then and nodded. He had to suck in a deep breath to convince himself, but once he did, he smoothed out his dress pants and then stood up and offered a hand to Norah. “Dance with me.”
She smiled and accepted his hand gracefully. She let him lead her to the dance floor, where he spun her once before taking her into his arms. She settled against him, wrapping one arm around his neck while her other remained in his own extended by their sides.
Norah loved dancing with him. It used to be a common occurrence when they first graduated Hogwarts and moved in together. Often on the weekends, they would go dancing at a pub—not the fast and obnoxious kind of dancing, but dancing in each other’s arms to classical music or smooth jazz. But as they had grown older and busier in their work, their dancing nights and grown fewer and fewer until they were no more. But now, dancing with James again, it felt like old times and she was reminded of how truly happy she was with him.
James was a wonderful dancer, too. He was swift and agile on his feet; he made every twist and turn flow seamlessly together—much unlike his father, who was clumsy and bumpy on the dance floor and who rather disliked it while James very much enjoyed it.
Norah smiled up to him. “I missed this.”
“I did, too,” he admitted with a grin before leaning down to press a kiss to her lips. When he pulled away, he spun her once, her champagne-colored bridesmaid dress fanning out around her, and pulled her back in. “We need to have our dancing nights again.”
“I would love that.”
“You look absolutely beautiful, Norah,” said James softly, admiring how truly flawless she was to him. When Norah was happy, she seemed to have a glow; it radiated from her and brightened the room.
She blushed and looked down, hiding her flushed cheeks from him. “You’re just trying to earn brownie points so you have a better chance of getting lucky tonight.”
James burst out with a quick laugh, a true, joyous, and carefree laugh. “Am not!” he defended himself as he spun her again. “I was just paying you a compliment and speaking true, but hey, if it leads to sex, then that’s just a bonus.”
Norah giggled at their banter. They both knew what they would be doing later that night; it was a wedding, after all, and they were both so happy for the first time in a long time, and with the closeness and intimacy of the wedding, it was obvious what the night would lead to.
“I don’t remember the last time you were this happy…” she found herself commenting.
And it was true. He had been happy in a relative sense of the word, but so much had happened; Parker was back and wreaking havoc in their lives, James had discovered a piece of Parker lived inside him, and most of all, his brother had died. But even before their lives had been flipped upside down by Parker’s return months ago, he still hadn’t been this happy. He hadn’t been this happy since before their break-up. Far before their break-up. Perhaps even a year or two. Even when they were together, he had been so weighed down by his job and his abilities and responsibilities as a seer and the side effects of being epileptic. And now they knew his troubled posterior was attributed to more than just that—it was because he grew more and more like Parker every day since that fateful day at Azkaban three years ago. That piece of Parker inside of him weighed him down and changed him, preventing him from allowing himself to be happy.
She had almost forgotten what true happiness looked like on him.
James found that his feet stopped moving then, and they grew still in the middle of the dance floor. He took her face into his hands and kissed her deeply. “I don’t remember the last time I felt this truly happy. I had almost forgotten how it feels.”
Norah ran her fingers through his hair. “One day, when this is all over, this is how you can feel again all the time.” She took his wrist into her grasp and kissed the scar upon it. “You won’t be weighed down by this anymore.”
As James opened his mouth to respond, a body collided with his. James stumbled from the force and looked over his shoulder to find it was Lorcan who had danced himself and Molly right into his back.
“Oi!” Lorcan teased. “The dance floor is for dancing—not snogging!”
“Sorry, Lore,” Norah laughed and smiled as James teasingly shoved Lorcan’s shoulder. As James shoved him, he only then noticed the cocktail in one of Lorcan’s hands. Some of the clear liquid sloshed out of the glass from the shove, and Lorcan tried to right himself before spilling any more.
“Bloody hell! Don’t be wasteful!” chided Lorcan, and for good measure, he chugged the rest of his giggle water. When he lowered the glass from his lips, he burst out with string of uncontrollable giggles.
“Wasteful,” Molly teasingly scoffed. “He held the drink in one hand while we danced. I think I’m wearing half of it.”
James snorted at Lorcan’s giggles and shook his head at Lorcan. “Well, I wasn’t watching out for a drink on the dancefloor. As you said, the dancefloor is for dancing—not drinking.”
“I can multitask!” declared Lorcan as he snatched Molly up once more and began to spin her around.
“Merlin’s beard…” muttered James in exasperation as they began to dance off. He raised his voice so it would carry with them. “We still on for brunch at our place tomorrow?”
“I’ll be there!” Lorcan called back as he danced himself and Molly into the crowd, and they disappeared from view.
James turned back to Norah with a smile and took her into his arms once again to continue their dance. As they did so, James looked around the dancefloor and to his family, all of whom were beaming with happiness, either moving joyfully to the music or sitting scattered at the tables with their friends and drinking merrily. But no matter what everyone was doing, they all had one thing in common: they were happy, they carefree—if only for a night—and no one was thinking about the threat they faced.
They danced, ate, drank, and talked late into the night until they sent Teddy and Dominique off for their wedding night, and even then, some still stayed behind later to carry on the party. James and Norah left after the bride and groom’s send-off, though. They bid farewell to their family for the night and retreated to their flat, where they shared a romantic night and fell asleep in each other’s arms.
Despite their late night, they were still able to wake up easily in time for their brunch. After sharing a shower together, James and Norah dressed and began to cook breakfast together while waiting for the others to arrive.
Norah was pouring herself a mimosa and refilling James’ glass when they heard a knock from the front door a full thirty minutes before their guests were supposed to arrive. Confused, Norah set down the bottle of champagne to answer the door.
She opened it to greet their first guest for the brunch and found Molly standing there in her dress from the night before with her heels in her grasp. Her hair was in disarray and her makeup was smudged. Molly pursed her lips and let her eyes grow wide, clearly trying to hide shame and self-loathing.
Norah blanched at the sight of her. “Molly!” she gasped. Her first thought was that Molly had been harmed in some way; considering Parker on the loose and recent events, it seemed logical, but by the expression on Molly’s face, Norah knew she had not endured any harm.
“Is anybody else here yet?” Molly demanded to know, asking before Norah could get another word in.
“No,” answered Norah, confused. “You’re the first.”
“Good,” she said abruptly and pushed herself inside. Norah closed the door behind her and turned back to her friend. “Can I borrow a change of clothes?”
“O–Of course. But only if you tell me what the hell happened,” bargained Norah, folding her arms across her chest.
James walked in then to greet their guest, but he stopped in his tracks when he spotted Molly. He seemed to do a doubletake as Norah had, for his eyes widened in sudden alarm, but then his brow furrowed in confusion when he knew the situation couldn’t be one of alarm, until finally a grin spread across his face. He snickered. “Heyyy, Molls. How’s that walk of shame going?”
“James!” Norah scoffed, shooting him a reprimanding glance. Norah, too, had figured out Molly’s situation, but Norah at least had the tact to not tease her about it. James, however, continued to chuckle.
“What?!” he asked innocently. Then he turned his attention to Molly, who stood between them with her arms folded across her chest and her head bowed in quiet deliberation. “Who’d you hook up with?! That ex co-worker of Teddy’s from his old Ministry job—that one you were chatting up by the bar?!”
“Clothes, please!” Molly demanded first. She would answer all their questions but only after she was out of her dress.
“Fine, fine, fine,” sighed Norah.
Norah led her to their bedroom, James following eagerly behind, awaiting the details of Molly’s night. Norah pulled out a change of clothes from their closet and handed them to Molly, who disappeared into the bathroom to change and clean up. She emerged a minute later in the pair of jeans and loose sweatshirt. She had washed her face to clean up any caked and smeared makeup, and she had pulled her messy red hair back into a bun at the base of her neck.
James and Norah looked to her expectantly, ready for her to explain. But Molly wouldn’t yet. She shook her head and demanded further. “Alcohol.”
“I can help with that,” said James eagerly. They migrated from the bedroom into the kitchen, where James fixed Molly a mimosa.
She sat down at the table with the drink in her hands, and James and Norah slipped into the chairs on either side of her. After she took a sip, she began. “Please don’t freak out…” she begged. “I’m freaking out enough. I don’t need the two of you freaking out, too.”
“Just tell us who the hell you shagged.”
“Lorcan,” Molly blurted.
James and Norah both leaned back in their chairs in shock. Their eyes met from across the table as they processed that information, and then they turned back to Molly.
“Lorcan and I hooked up.”
“H–How?” questioned Norah. “How did that even happen?”
It was a shock to them both that Lorcan and Molly had hooked up. The two of them had been the best of friends since they first wen to Hogwarts together at eleven years old. They had spent so much time together over the years and played Quidditch together constantly during their years there. They knew each other in and out, but through their ten years of friendship, nothing romantic had ever sparked between them. And no one had ever thought that it would.
Molly shook her head and began to rant in a flustered fashion. “I don’t know how it happened. There was alcohol and dancing involved; it just happened. We were two of the last to leave the reception; we were both having so much fun, and we didn’t want the night to end. So he asked me over for a drink—which is nothing unusual! We grab drinks together all the time! But then we were at his flat, and there was this tension for some reason. And I hate wearing dresses; you know I hate dresses, so I wanted to change, and he lent me a shirt. But when he moved to hand it to me…we just went at it. And it just happened. I don’t really know how. But I woke up this morning, and when I saw him next to me, I knew I had to get out of there. But we have this brunch! So I couldn’t miss it. But I really just want to crawl into a hole and hide…”
“Molly,” said Norah slowly and encouragingly. “Slow down. It’s fine!”
“I didn’t want to be late to brunch! But I woke up too late to go home to change, so I just threw my dress back on and came here! He was still sleeping when I left. And I honestly hope he sleeps through brunch. I don’t think I can deal with seeing him right now. W–What will he say?! We’ve ruined our friendship! It will be so awkward now!”
“You don’t know that,” said James, trying to be helpful, but in truth, he had no idea how to help.
Norah nodded. “James is right. You haven’t ruined anything, and it doesn’t have to be awkward if you don’t let it.”
“Right,” agreed James. “Just talk to Lorcan about it. Clear the air to make sure your friendship is salvaged.”
Molly groaned and took her head into her hands. “Ugh! Why did I have to go and screw my best friend?!”
“Because he’s exactly that,” said Norah thoughtfully. She could relate; James was one of her best friends. “He’s your best friend. Sometimes you just can’t help it; sometimes it just feels right to have that romantic experience with them. How…Did it…Was it…”
Molly knew what she was asking. She took a deep gulp of her mimosa before she answered. “Honestly…It was the best I’ve ever had.”
Before anyone could speak, Lily and Scorpius strolled into the kitchen. The three at the table had been so invested in their conversation at the matter at hand that they hadn’t even noticed the two let themselves into the flat.
Of happy cheer as he strolled into the kitchen with Lily’s hand in his, “What was the best you’ve ever had?”
“Sex,” James blurted. “Molly had great sex last night.”
Exasperated, Norah looked to him as she shook her head. “Can you not keep your mouth shut today?!”
“Really?!” Lily asked enthusiastically. “Who with?!” She went over to the counter to pour herself a mimosa and sat down with the others.
“Nobody!” shouted Molly before James or Norah answered for her. She didn’t want anybody else to know about what had happened between her and Lorcan. Not until she cleared things up with Lorcan at least. “Nobody. It was just a hookup. Some guy from Teddy used to work with at the Ministry.”
“Mysterious,” teased Lily at the vague answer.
But after Lily’s comment, that was that and no one asked any further because it was obvious to them that Molly didn’t wish to talk about it. They went about their brunch, drinking their mimosas while swapping stories and talking about how happy they all were for Teddy and Dominique.
They knew Teddy and Dominique would be late to the brunch, seeing as it had been their wedding night, so they dug into the food and had almost forgotten about any more potential guests until they heard the familiar crack again followed by the opening of the front door.
Molly froze at the table, and her eyes immediately went to James and Norah. She hoped desperately it wasn’t Lorcan and that she would be lucky enough to get away with not having to deal with Lorcan just yet.
But of course, she didn’t have such luck.
Lorcan briskly strolled in, his long, silver hair in disarray and clearly flustered by being late to the brunch. He looked to Norah and James when he entered. “Sorry I’m late.” Then his eyes shifted to Molly, and something passed over him that no one seemed to understand, but it was enough to send Molly reeling.
She dropped her fork with a clatter and rose from her chair. “I have to go.”
No one could stop her or even had the time to try, for she was too determined. She exited the room in an instant. Scorpius and Lily exchanged confused looks while Norah and James watched the scene unfold in anticipation.
Lorcan seemed to freeze for a brief second after Molly’s exit before he pursed his lips and then spun on his heels. He quickly followed after her, audibly sighing. “Molly!” he called after her, running. “Molly, wait!”
As desperate as they were to know what would unfold, the other four remained seated at the table as to give them their privacy, all the while desperately listening in to their conversation.
The passion Lorcan held in that moment made him speak at greater volume, so it was easy to hear him as he caught up with Molly in the living room.
“Molly, stop! Please don’t leave—especially not because of me. Can’t we talk for just a moment?” Lorcan asked desperately.
Molly’s voice was audible, too. “I–I really don’t want to talk. I’d rather stay in ignorant bliss than talk about what happened last night.”
“Well, I need to talk about what happened. I wanted to talk to you before brunch so this wouldn’t happen, but I guess I overslept,” he began. He audibly sighed before continuing. “Look, I know you’re scared and I know this is all a little weird, but I don’t want last night to ruin anything between us. I don’t know what last night meant to you…b–but it meant a lot to me. And I don’t want to forget that it happened or go back to being friends. I want more, Molly. With you.”
“I–I’m not sure I understand…”
“I’m saying I want more. I’m saying last night may have seemed like a one-night stand at first, but it turned into something more. I’m saying I want to give this—us—a shot.”
“You don’t mean that…You don’t want to be with me.”
“I do,” admitted Lorcan. “I do want to be with you. You’ve been one of my best friends since we were eleven; I know you, and I know I want to be with you. Last night—and I say this knowing we have eavesdroppers in the next room—was the best night of my life. And I’m not just talking about the sex. Don’t get me wrong; the sex was the best I have ever had, but last night was amazing because I spent it all with you.”
There was silence for a long while. Lily and Scorpius had managed to silence their shocked gasps as to better listen in, and James and Norah continued to sit in still anticipation. Norah actually found herself reaching over to take James’ hand, and she squeezed desperately. She didn’t quite realize it and she didn’t know why, but she found that she liked the idea of this new dynamic between Molly and Lorcan. It made sense; they spent so much time together, and in truth, with their relationship as friends, they would never find a better significant other than they would with each other.
“Come on, Molly. What do you say? Please don’t shut this down. Give us a chance. Let me take you on a date. Just one date.”
Then Molly’s voice emerged. “O–Okay. I want to give this a shot, too.”
“Thank you, Mol—” Lorcan’s excited voice began but was quickly interrupted by Molly.
She spoke in that stern and commanding voice she often had when on the Quidditch pitch. She was once again her tough and confident self. “But no flowers! I hate flowers!”
“Don’t you think I know that by now?! I would never give you flowers.”
“And no chocolate, too. I know, Molly. No flowers, no chocolate, nothing you have to wear a dress for. I know you, Molly.”
“Well, then, if you know me so well, why aren’t you kissing me?” asked Molly with a hint of a giggle in her voice.
Then there was silence. There were no more voices to be heard, and they all knew what that meant. Lorcan had taken her into his arms and kissed her.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Other Similar Stories
To the Guilt...
Memoirs of a...
by Alphonse D