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Masquerade by dracoismyboyfriendguys
Chapter 2 : Belly-Flop Feeling
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 7


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By the time the train reaches Exeter, Al and I have done a pretty good at making ourselves a convincing couple. We met (or, at least, ‘remet’) at a bar in Diagon Alley, our eyes met over a foaming butterbeer (“Mum and Lily will love that,” Al assured me) and the rest is history. We also make sure that we have a decent idea of the ins and outs of the other’s life. 

“So what’s my job?” Al asks, testing me. 

“It’s… something like data and I’m feeling something about statistics and…” I falter. I remember him telling me about ten minutes earlier but I also remember being distracted by the fact that the refreshments trolley was coming down the aisle. 

“Come on, Issy!” Al groans. “This one’s easy peasy. I’m a statistics analyser for the Ministry Treasury,” he tells me, as if he’s teaching an idiot what two add two is.

“Right.” I nod. “Knew it was something boring.”

“Hey!” he says. “At least I have a job. Too soon? Okay, alrighty…” he mutters, dusting off the crumbs from the cookie I’ve just thrown at him.

“My turn!” I say. “Tell me about my sister.”

“Her name is Amy and she is a ‘right old cow’,” he laughs, directly quoting my earlier statement.

“Correct. And her job aside from being a prick is…?”

Al doesn’t even pause. “She’s a Healer. Potions Use and Abuse Department.” God, I knew Al was clever at school but his recollection of monotonous details about my sister’s life is pretty impressive. No wonder he has such an impressive sounding (yet boring) job.

When Al’s finished testing me on his brother James’s relationship history, he’s able to recall all five flavours of my mother’s ‘ Vane’s Soft & Sensuous- Chocolate with a twist’ range. He (reluctantly) coaxed me into telling him about her line of love potion chocolates, which she maintains are completely legal- “It’s only a gentle aphrodisiac charm, Isadora!”. I swear there must have been a mix-up at the hospital; sometimes I just can’t see how I’m related to her and Amy. When I tell Al this, he laughs and says he doesn’t know how he’s related to James, either. I remember him from school, we were both in Gryffindor and he was only a year above me and Al. I can’t recall ever thinking that there was a striking difference between the Potter boys. Personality wise, that is. In terms of looks, there’s no denying that they’re almost exactly identical. 

“Hey, Issy?” Al says, looking across at me. “What about your dad? I mean, I’ve heard about your mum and your sister, but you never mentioned him.”

I sigh, and meet his gaze, his bright green eyes wide with wonder and concern. “There’s not much to know,” I tell him.

“Oh,” he says, quickly. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to-“

“No it’s fine. I just,” I pause, not exactly sure what to say. “My dad’s called Malcolm, he’s 57, and he’s a doctor.” Al looks confused, so I carry on. “He’s a muggle and, to be honest, I don’t think he ever particularly liked the fact that Mum was a witch. I think he felt it threatened his masculinity, or something. Anyway, he left in our first year at Hogwarts. He dropped me off at King’s Cross after Christmas, and when I came back for the summer he’d left. I’ve seen him a couple of times since then, but not since I left school. I don’t really know what he’s doing now.”

Al’s still looking at me with that concerned expression. “I’m really sorry, Issy,” he says, and takes my hand in his and grips it supportively. 

I smile. “It’s okay. He was a bit of a tosser, anyway. Seems to be a recurring theme in my family.”

“I think it is in all families,” Al says and I raise my eyebrows at him skeptically. “What?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I laugh. “It’s not as if your dad is only bloody Harry Potter or anything? Bet he was a right tosser, when he was, you know, saving the Wizarding World.”

Al smirks. “You should see him when he loses at Wizard’s Chess. Fucking nightmare; I’ve never seen strops like it.”

I snort and look at him incredulously. “What?” he asks again.

“Oh come off it, Potter,” I say. “I remember I beat you once in fifth year and you didn’t speak to me for a week!”

Al shakes his head and furrows his brow, pretending to think. “Can’t recall it.”

“It was winter, I think, when Priyanka and Scorpius were going out, and we’d all gone to your common room to hang out. Only, those two went off to Scorp’s dorm after about ten minutes so we ended up playing chess.”

“And I seem to remember you had some dirty tactics, Fletcher.”

“Skill isn’t dirty, Potter.”

“Depends what you’re skilled at.” He grins up at me mischievously and I laugh. 

Around that time was probably when Al and I knew each other the best at school. One of my best friends, Priyanka Patil, was going out with his mate Scorpius Malfoy, which of course meant that more often than not, Al and I would be left alone together while the happy couple went off to do whatever it is that happy couples do. Although, like most Hogwarts relationships, it didn’t last more than a couple of months, so we didn’t really spend that much time together after that, save for a couple of joint prefect duties in the last two years. 

“How is Scorpius?” I ask.

“He’s well, yeah. Charms broomsticks for Firebolt, can you believe?”

It’s not really that hard to believe: Scorpius was obsessed with Quidditch at school. I think that’s what broke him and Priyanka up in the end. She was seeker for the Gryffindor team, while he played keeper for the Slytherins. One “completely fucking ridiculous” win later, they were broken up with Priyanka cursing the day she ever decided to give one of those “dirty Slytherin bastards” a second look.

We carry on like this for a while, catching up and laughing about old times until the voice over the tannoy announces that we will be approaching Penzance in about ten minutes. Not for the first time, I realise again how crazy this is. I mean, it’s not just the fact that I haven’t seen Al for years and now I’m supposed to act like I’m in love with him, there’s also that Al’s family is famous. Somebody’s sure to mention to somebody that Harry Potter’s son is engaged and then what if someone realises it’s me and that we’re evidently not engaged and before you know it, every Tom, Dick and Harry will know. Or hopefully not Harry, but you get the gist.

Some of this must read on my face because Al’s looking at me strangely. “You alright, Issy?”

“Me? Right as rain,” I say, but it comes out more like a titter.

“We’ll be fine,” Al says soothingly, taking my hand in his and giving it a gentle squeeze. “Besides,” he continues, raising his eyebrows, “I happen to be very accomplished at the Obliviate charm. You know, if the worst comes to the worst.”

I laugh. “Just make sure you hit me with it too.”

“Promise,” he says solemnly. 

“So,” I say, glancing out of the train window at the coastal countryside speeding past. Nothing here looks particularly appealing so far and the grey sky isn’t particularly helping matters. “Where is it we’re actually going?”

West Way Spa & Spring,” Al tells me, and then, seeing my face which is asking something along the lines of ‘And why would you want to go there?’, he adds, “My cousin, Victoire, just opened it and my mum and Lily have been banging on about going there for weeks. So, with Emily and everything, they thought it would be the perfect place to meet my fiancé.”

“Sans fiance. Too soon? Okay, alrighty,” I mimic, lowering my voice.

“I don’t talk like that!”

I don’t talk like that!”

He opens his mouth to retort but is interrupted by the tannoy telling us that we’ll be approaching within the next couple of minutes.

While Al gathers up his bags, I pull my phone out of my jacket pocket and check it for the first time since leaving London. I have six missed calls and five messages, which is far more than I would ever usually have- not many of my friends actually use their phones regularly, but I’m still kind of disappointed. I mean, I drop off the face of the planet for all anyone else knows and I only get five messages? Fan-dabby-dosey. I check them anyway.


13:46
From: Mark
Issy, please, call me. Where have you gone?


13:57
From: Mark
I’m serious. Where are you?


14:30
From: Ella
Issy, I’m sorry! I can explain, but please just call Mark, we’re worried about you.

 Aw, 'we’re worried', it’s nice that they’re doing things as a couple. Besides, you know, shagging in my bed.

 
15:13
From: Priyanka
Issy where r u?? Ella told me what happened- I knew she was a bitch! Al and I are worried. U can stay here if u need to!

 
16:48
From: Mark
Look, Issy, if you don’t call me soon, I’m gonna have to call your mum. I’m worried

I’m scowling at my phone at that last text, trust Mark to threaten me with the one person I really can’t deal with right now. I text Priyanka back first; her and Al- her roommate and the third member of our trio, Alice Longbottom- haven’t done anything to deserve them being worried. I tell them that I’m fine and staying with a friend- they won’t ask anything more about that, for now. I begrudgingly also reply to Mark, saying basically the same but without the kisses at the end. That’ll show him.

The train begins to slow as it pulls into the station and we walk towards the door. 

“Wait Al- why did you take the train, anyway? Why not apparate?” I say the last word quietly, just in case.

Al looks a bit embarrassed. “You apparate drunk once, and suddenly you’re ‘a danger to the society we hold near and dear’.”

“You apparated drunk?” I snort, earning a confused look from the lady with the pram behind us.

“Yes- but I’d rather that the deaf old lady in Scotland didn’t know about it,” Al hisses. “And especially not my parents.”

“So, you’re telling me that you don’t want your parents to know that their perfect little Albus lost his apparition license? Hmm, that’s really interesting, Al. Guess it means that you have to do whatever I want. What do you think?”

“I think,” he says darkly, “that if shit were wit, you’d have diarrhoea.”

I wrinkle my nose. “You’re disgusting.”

“And you’re in need of a place to stay tonight, so let’s get going, shall we?”

I smirk and follow him through the doors which have just opened up onto the busy platform. We make our way through the hoards of muggle commuters, up the stairs and out onto the Penzance street. The sky is beginning to clear, sending bright rays of warm sunlight down, which cut crisply through the November air. Once we’re clear of the station, we find a side street and move quickly out of sight of any passersby. Al tells me the exact description for our destination and I picture it clearly in my mind.

“Ready?” I say, holding out my arm for Al. He grasps it firmly. “Now make sure you hold on nice and tight, Allykins.”

“You know what-“

But I don’t find out what, because before he can finish his sentence, I’ve disapparated. The familiar feeling of being squeezed through a very tight tube takes over for a few seconds before we land, a few miles away, outside Victoire’s spa hotel. 

“I feel like I’m seven years old again,” Al says, shaking his head to clear a blocked ear. “I think my family are probably already here.”

West Way Spa & Spring is, at least through muggle eyes, a crumbling old hotel at the end on a long country road, about a mile or two outside of Penzance. It’s a bit like Hogwarts, charmed so that no muggle would ever voluntarily set foot in there, and, if by some mistake they do happen to wander onto the grounds, there’s a memory charm installed which will make them forget what they’re doing and return back in the opposite direction. For witches and wizards however, the building is large and white, with dark, red roses growing up the walls, despite the fact that it’s the middle of winter. It’s several stories high, with two large fountains out front, each shooting up long stems of pink water. In short, it looks like the castle in a Disney film my dad showed me once when I was little.

We begin to walk inside as another wave of anxiety hits me. This is a particularly intense type of nervousness. It’s an, oh crap I’m about to take my Divination NEWT and I’ve just realised that I’ve made up every prediction I’ve had this year nervous. Al takes my arm in his. I’m not sure whether it’s because I look as nervous as I feel, and he’s just trying to calm me, or whether he’s beginning the fiancé facade, just in case his family are lurking around.

“Ready?” he mutters, as we approach the entrance.

“As I’ll ever be,” I whisper back, swallowing the lump in the back of my throat.

The doors open as we approach without either of having to utter a single incantation. That being said, the doors at the muggle supermarket where I buy groceries do the same thing, so I suppose magic isn’t always that impressive. I’m gripping Al’s arm more tightly now, holding onto him as if I’m about to disapparate off again. 

And I’m extremely tempted to do just that. Because standing there in the foyer are the Potters. I recognise them immediately, of course. Not just because of briefly seeing them at King’s Cross at the beginning of each year as they were dropping off Al, James and Lily, but also because their faces are often splashed across the front pages of the tabloid magazines in Diagon Alley. Only last week I was reading an article about Ginny Potter’s supposed favourite anti-wrinkle potion. Her skin does look pretty smooth, maybe I should ask her about it.

Ginny’s the first person I notice, which is really saying something considering she’s standing next to Harry Potter. Her flaming, red hair hasn’t faded at all since the first time I saw her at the station over a decade ago and she’s laughing at something Harry’s said, her freckled face pulled into a large smile. Harry’s not looking so bad himself. His dark hair is greying somewhat and he has deeper lines around his mouth than the magazines suggest, but I suppose defeating the Dark Lord is bound to leave a few wrinkles. Even from here, I can see how much he looks like Al, especially similar in their eyes. Al’s brother, James, is also a near carbon-copy of the both of them. But while Al and Harry are made so alike by their eyes, James’s are a darker hazel. Lily has changed a lot since the last time I saw her; her face has lost most of its roundness and she’s cut her hair to just below her chin, which only adds to emphasise her chiselled features. When they spot us walking through the doors, they all turn around excitedly. 

“Albus!” Ginny cries excitedly, rushing to embrace her son. She then turns and faces me. “Emily! It’s so nice to finally meet you!”

She’s pulling me into a tight hug too, as Al says, “It’s Issy, Mum!”

Ginny frowns at Al but then just smiles at me warmly. “Issy, of course! How are you, dear?”

“I’m well thanks, Mrs Potter,” I reply meekly.

“Oh don’t call me, Mrs Potter, it makes me sound so old! It’s Ginny.” As if I wouldn’t know her name. It’s the classic parent line but I smile anyway. It’s odd, even though I know I’m only going to be seeing them for the next week at the most, I’m still trying to make a good impression, like they’re my actual future parents-in-law. 

I shake Harry’s hand and he also repeats the whole ‘My surname makes me sound old’ spiel. 

“We’ve heard so much about you!” Ginny says.

I raise my eyebrows at Al as Lily also hugs me and he shakes his head at me, telling me that his mother is, in fact, just being polite and hasn’t heard anything about me, or Emily, at all. 

“We’ve arranged to go for dinner in the hotel tonight,” Harry says to me and Al. “But you can go and leave your things in your…” He trails off, clearly confused as to why I have no luggage with me.

Fuck. Panicked I hold up my small handbag. “Extension charm,” I splutter. “Always comes in handy!”

Harry nods and smiles, though it seems to be more to himself than to the rest of us. “It does, doesn’t it?” 

Ginny tells us that we’re in an apartment-style suite, sharing with James and Lily too. Al grimaces at me slightly; we were relying on not having to keep up the pretence in the hotel room. This is just getting better and better, isn’t it. The four of us take the staircase up to ur suite, which is on the first floor. The hotel is, of course, as glorious on the inside as out. It’s charmed to look like a medieval castle, with white stone walls and light that looks exactly like a midsummers afternoon, warm and glowing. Our suite is aptly named ‘Masquerade Ball’, and is decorated with large, bejewelled masks that adorn the walls, accompanied with moving quotes that say things like ‘Nothing is as it seems.’ I mean, come on! Wizard god must seriously hate me. Al looks guiltily at me as Lily squeals about how much she loves it! She disappears into her bedroom (to “Call her stupid, muggle boyfriend,” Al tells me), and Al himself dashes off to the toilet (“Well I wasn’t about to use the dirty ones on the train!”) so James and I are left alone in the living area. 

“You’re Amy Fletcher’s sister, aren’t you?” he asks. It’s the first thing he’s said to me, but he’s been staring at my face as if trying to place me. 

I’m surprised, to be honest. Amy was in Ravenclaw and boy oh boy did she live up to the stereotypes. I’m pretty sure you can count the number of days Amy didn’t go to the library while she was at Hogwarts on one hand. I get that they were in the same year and so probably shared some lessons together but still, James and I shared a common room for six years!

Trying to hide my wounded pride at the fact that I’m less memorable than dear Amy, I nod. “Yep, that’s me.”

“Ah, lovely,” James says. 

“Lovely?” That’s one way to describe Amy Fletcher. Not the first one I would opt for myself but-

“So you’re just mini-Fletcher?”

I don’t even try to hide my offence now. “I do not look like Amy!” I protest.

James grins and wiggles his eyebrows. “Sure you don’t.” He pauses. “Mini-Fletcher.”

“Okay fine then, mini-Potter,” I shoot back. 

“Ah, see. That’s where you’re wrong, Fletcher,” he tells me, seriously. “It’s all in the eyes.” He’s pointing at his darker eyes.

“Amy has blue eyes!” 

Sure, Fletcher!”






Two hours later, I’m eating a fancy dinner in a beautiful dining room with the Potter family. And that is a sentence I didn’t think I’d be saying this morning. This morning. I can’t believe that this morning I was in my flat in London with my boyfriend. This whole thing with Albus has been a good distraction, I guess, but it keeps hitting me. And every time it does, it feels like that time in third year when I fell off my broomstick and belly flopped to the ground. Only it hurts in my heart too. 

“You okay, Issy?” Al murmurs to me; I realise I haven’t spoken for a couple of minutes and everyone seems to have notice my silence. 

“Sorry, yeah I’m fine,” I whisper back and smile as brightly as I muster. “So, Lily, tell me about your job.”

She looks a bit frightened at my sudden enthusiasm but is soon telling me about her apprenticeship as a potion-ingredient source manager for St Mungo’s.

“Issy’s sister works there too!” Al says excitedly, clearly over the moon that he can dip into his newly created pool of random facts about me. 

Amy Fletcher,” James smirks and I scowl at him. 

Harry asks some polite questions about what exactly it is that she does and I tell him, trying (and failing) to make potion per particle of blood concentration measurements sound interesting.

“And, what do you do, Issy?” Ginny asks me.

I feel my face getting a bit warm and the belly-flop feeling creeps in again. “Eh, I’m not working at the moment,” I admit. But before anyone has the chance to pity me, I add, “I’m thinking about doing an internship. I did one in Ancient Runes, but I’m not sure that’s the path I want to go down.”

“What are you thinking of going into?” Harry asks, cutting into his steak.

I glance down at my own salmon fillet and desperately try to think of something. “Writing, journalism, something like that,” I blurt out. I’ve said it before I’ve even thought about it, but then I realise that that probably is true. When I left Hogwarts, I did apply for some writing-based internships, but none of them were paying and my mum didn’t want to fork out to get me a flat, so I didn’t do them in the end.

The Potters make polite comments about how nice a job like that would be and the conversation moves in this general direction. I tune out most of the time, only contributing when the talk is turned towards me. I realise this sounds completely selfish, but would you honestly listen to James Potter droning on about his position in the Department of Mysteries? After dinner, we head up to our suite pretty early, and I think Al and I are both extremely glad about that; keeping up the pretence was harder than I thought it would be. We only had a couple of fumbles: when Al thought I’d grown up in Sunderland (not Surrey), and when I mispronounced his middle name as Severon. But I thought mine was an excusable mistake- I mean really, who is actually called Severus? 

Lily’s all about us having a drink from the mini-bar in our kitchen once we’re back up in the suite, but one look at the swirling ‘Masquerade’ print on the wall makes me feel nauseous. I excuse myself with a headache and slink into the room Al and I are sharing. It’s gorgeous of course, like the whole hotel. The large bed takes up most of the room, covered with a cream, satin bedspread. The carpet is a similar shade of light cream as are the walls. I feel like I’m making the whole room dirty just by standing in it. There’s also a light pink chaise-lounge on one side of the room. Al and I argued over who would sleep there and who would take the bed but he whipped out the “You’re a girl! You need a bed.” card. It’s anti-feminist, I suppose. But right now, there’s nothing I want more than to climb under the sheets of the fancy bed and fall asleep. As I throw myself down onto said bed, Al follows me into the bedroom.

“Issy, you okay?” he asks, perching next to me on the bed.

“Yeah,” I tell him. “Just… tired.” He nods. “I just didn’t think it would be so hard.”

He sighs. “I know what you mean.”

I don’t say anything and close my eyes, sinking my head back into the plush pillow. I feel like I’ve made a huge mistake. The Potters are nice enough, of course, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m manipulating them. I should have just got off the train and apparated home, and dealt with this whole situation like an adult. Or better yet, I wouldn’t have got on the train in the first place. That would have solved a lot of problems. I should have just spoken to Mark. 

Mark.

I suddenly have an overwhelming desire to talk to him. He’s a douchebag, a twat, a fuckboy, a straight up piece of shit. But I love him, and that doesn’t go away overnight. Or, you know, over a train journey to Penzance.

My eyes shoot open. In the time I’ve been lying there, contemplating poor life decisions. Al has got up and left. Smart boy. I sit up and pull my phone out of my back pocket. There are two texts:


18:05
From: Priyanka
glad ur okay! but please just owl me later!! u know i hate this muggle crap

 
18:16
From Mark
I’m glad you’re okay. I’m so sorry, Issy. You have to believe me. Owl me later, if you want. Love you.

 
There are tears stinging my eyes before I’ve really had the opportunity to take it all in. And then without really thinking (when am I really thinking these days?), I’m heading to the vanity opposite the chaise-lounge, picking up the West Way embossed parchment and writing. 

Mark, 
I’m at the West Way Spa & Spring, Penzance. Can you please apparate here and bring me some clothes. I think we need to talk.
Issy

I don’t read it before folding it over. I grab a new sheet and begin scrawling again. 

Priyanka and Al,
So I’ve done something super crazy which I can’t quite explain right now. But please don’t worry about me, I’m okay. I’ll let you guys know more soon.
Love,
Issy

I snatch up both sheets and rush out of the bedroom.

“Have they got owls here?” I cry, as I burst into the living area. Al, James and Lily are sprawled across the sofas and drinking what looks like firewhiskey out of glass tumblers. They all look up at me, confused, and I realise how similar they all look when they furrow their brows.

“Fletcher! How’s the head?” James says, grinning at me.

“Do they have owls to use here?” I repeat, ignoring James. 

Al gets up and walks over to me. “Yeah I think there’s some on the ground floor,” he says, taking my hands and looking up at me. “Are you sure you’re okay, Issy?”

“I’m fine,” I mutter, dashing past him before he can say anything else, and out of the suite. I take the stairs two at a time on the way down. I’m not sure where this sudden burst of energy has come from, but I just have a need to get these letters sent. After a brief (on my part) conversation with the lady at the reception who is just too chirpy for my liking, I’m able to attach my letters to a small, grey owl and shove him out the downstairs window. I climb back up the stairs more slowly, catching my breath. I think I just needed to send it before I changed my mind. 

When I go back in, Al rushes to my side again. “What going on?” he murmurs, pulling me out of earshot of Lily and James. 

“I’m sorry,” I say. “My mum was pestering me, I just had to reply to her.”

I think a part of him knows I’m lying, but he nods and smiles slightly. “It’ll be okay.”

I make my headache excuse again and return to my bedroom, falling down onto the bed again. I must fall asleep because I jerk awake to a loud crack some time later. Groggily, I check the gold watch on my wrist; it reads half-past twelve. There’s no sound coming from the living area so I assume that the Potters must have gone to bed. A glance towards the chaise-lounge confirms this as I see Al curled up there, wearing just his underwear. I’m about to roll over and go back to sleep, when I hear a tapping sound coming from the living area. 

I slink out of bed and pad out as quietly as I can, holding the door to make sure it doesn’t slam behind me. And then, behind the sliding door leading out to the balcony, I see Mark. My stomach flips over and I feel my hands begin to clam up just at the sight of him. How pathetic am I?

I walk over and unlock the door. “What are you doing here?” I hiss, stepping outside, despite the fact that I’m not wearing any shoes. “I thought you’d call me first.”

He shrugs. “I had to see you. And bring you these.” He holds up a carrier bag and smiles. I don’t understand why he’s being so bloody nonchalant about turning up here in the middle of the night.

“How did you find out where I was?”

“I asked the secretary. But no one answered the door and the inside has an anti-apparition charm on it. Almost splinched myself but I managed to land here instead.” He says this as if he’s telling me about a trip to the shops and I’m pissed off by how casual he is. I don’t even want to think about what could have happened if someone else had opened the door.

“I- I… don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to say anything,” he says. “But I do. I’m sorry.” I start to interrupt but he holds up a hand to stop me. “I’m an idiot and I’m sorry. I get that you don’t want to hear this, and you probably don’t even want to see me, but I had to say it.”

I’m not usually a person who runs out of things to say, but right now I’m lost for words. I shrug and pull away from him. A part of me wants to kiss him, and tell him that it’s okay. That we can move on and go back to our normal lives. But I know that’s not true. Even seeing him now, I can’t look him in the eye.

I take the bag of clothes from him and step backwards again. “Thank you,” I whisper, “for the clothes. But I need to go.”

“No,” he says firmly, taking my arm and pulling me in. “You need to talk to me.”

I sigh. “Why did you do it?”

He looks away. “I don’t know. It was stupid.”

“Do you still love me, Mark?” My voice is barely audible now and it’s shaking with the sob choking the back of my throat. I blink and a tear rolls down my face. Mark moves towards me, reaching his hand up to wipe it away but I bat him away and rub it off myself.

“Issy,” he says and it’s all I need to hear. 

“Go now, please.” I walk back towards the door, more tears falling now.

“Issy wait- don’t.”

I turn back. “Say something to me that will make me stay.” He knows what he needs to say, I can see him thinking everything over.

He opens his mouth and my stomach flips again. “I’m sorry,” he says.

“Me too.” I stand there, staring at him. He looks like he might say something else but then the moment passes. He lingers a second longer then disapparates with a crack. 

I’m crying harder now, the tears rolling down my cheeks. I lean against the wall and catch my head in my hands, trying to breathe deeply. When I’ve stopped crying so loudly, I slip back inside and walk to the kitchen to pour myself some water. I’m drinking it, steadying myself when I hear a slight cough from behind me.

“You alright, Fletcher?” It’s James, standing up from the sofa and walking towards me. His dark hair is even messier than in the daytime and the stubble around his mouth is thickening. He’s also only wearing his boxers. Him and Al could be twins when they’re asleep; it’s really only Al’s bright green eyes which distinguish them. 

I’m about to say ‘I’m fine’ for the hundredth time but I don’t. Because really, if you can’t express your true feelings to your fake future brother-in-law, then who can you express them to?

“I’m a bit shit.” And then I laugh at the ridiculousness of this whole situation.

James looks a bit taken aback at this outburst. “So, what’s with the tears? ‘Cause I know that Albus isn’t the best Potter sibling, but he’s not that bad, I promise.”

I sniff and drink some more water, considering what to tell him. “It’s not Al,” I say honestly. “It’s just… everything really.” And then I’m crying again.

James comes closer to me and puts an arm around me. He’s clearly a bit uncomfortable but I appreciate it all the same. I can smell his musky scent and the firewhiskey on his breath. “I don’t know what to say, cause frankly I’m crap at dealing with these situations.”

“What situations?” I ask. “Crying girls in your kitchen?”

He laughs and rubs his hand against my arm. “Something like that. Don’t have much experience with it.”

“Always a good sign.”

“Yeah, I suppose it is.” He pauses and takes him arm from around me. I imagine he’s about to walk to his bedroom, and think he’s considering it. Then he reaches out quickly and takes my hand comfortingly. “Look, Fletcher. I know you’ve got Al, but if you ever need someone… else to talk to about anything, I’ll be out here.”

“In the kitchen?” I laugh.

“I like to be near a food source at all times.” He winks at me. 

“I should be getting back to-“ 

“Al.”

I was going to say bed but I nod. “Night, James.”

“G’night, Fletcher.”

I walk quickly back to my room without looking back over my shoulder. James is still in the kitchen, watching me. I can feel his eyes on my back, but I don’t want to turn to see him. I shut the door behind me and Al stirs on the chaise-lounge. 

“Emily?” he mumbles, his voice thick with sleep.

“Go back to sleep, Al,” I tell him.

“Issy? You okay?” He sits up and rubs his eyes blearily. “What time is it?”

“Not sure,” I whisper. “Went to the toilet.”

“Oh. You sure you’re alright?”

I smile sadly. “I’ve been better.”

“I know how you feel.” 

I lie back on the bed, staring up at the ornate cream ceiling. Then I feel the bed moving. Al is crawling across it towards me. “You looked sad,” he murmurs, putting an arm around me. He smells different from James, fresher and softer.

“Did I?”

“Very, and I’ve only re-known you for twelve hours so it’s not even a nuanced sad.”

“What’s a nuanced sad?”

“No idea,” Al whispers into my hair. 

“I hate being dumped.”

“I know how you feel.”







A/N- Hey, thanks so much for the great feedback on the first chapter! It's so encouraging! I hope you enjoyed this one and I'd love to know what you think. What do people think of Al? Al and Issy? James? Issy herself? Let me know!

Alice


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