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Masquerade by dracoismyboyfriendguys
Chapter 5 : Don't We?
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 6


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Being friends with Lily Potter is surprisingly easy. Not that I would consider it hard to befriend a funny, chirpy and frankly obnoxiously friendly girl under normal circumstances, but there’s just something about Lily which makes it impossible to dislike her. Over the past few days, I’ve spent countless hours lounging around with her listening while she tells me about her boyfriend, her job, and anything else that takes her fancy. One of the main benefits is that she doesn’t require much response to carry out these conversations; an occasional murmur of agreement or assurance seems to do the trick most of the time.

But, of course, the primary benefit from spending so much time with Lily is that I don’t have to spend as much time with people who aren’t Lily, namely Albus or James. I’ve spent the last couple of days avoiding them as far as possible. Well, I’ve been avoiding Al. James doesn’t need me to stay away from him, he’s doing that to me perfectly well on his own. Every time I walk into a room with him in it, he glares down at the ground, his hazel eyes fierce and unwavering, and then after a few awkward minutes, makes an excuse to leave. That is, unless we’re the only people in the room, then he just storms away without any words at all. There’s a little part of me that hates this, that hates the fact that James and I couldn’t even begin spending time together at all before it became so painful to be around each other. But it’s okay, the current main priority is making it through the week. 

Well, that and dodging Al. Since he basically poured his heart out to me the day after we got to the hospital, being around the younger Potter brother is perhaps even more excruciating than the older. He’s tried to talk to me about it a few times, but before he can, I blurt something out about needing to help Lily or having to reply to a letter from Priyanka. Now, three days later, he’s all but given up, which I guess is a positive and a negative in equal amounts. I’m glad that I no longer have to dip into my ever-decreasing pool of excuses to dart away from him, but it also means that there’s this huge hippogriff in the room whenever we’re alone together, which is quite a lot considering we’re still having to share a bedroom. 

I’m lying back, stretching out my bare legs in one of the baths in the main body of the spa, the rose coloured water lapping around me, mulling over all of this. There’s only three more days, I’m telling myself, three measly days and then I’m done with this whole situation. I sigh and bring my legs into my body, resting them on the side-bench in the bath and wrapping my arms around them. 

“Everything okay?” Lily asks me. She’s running the tips of her fingers through the water, creating tiny whirlpools on the surface.

I nod and sit up, tucking my hair behind my ears. “Sorry, I was miles away.”

Lily smiles. “You do that a lot, you know,” she says.

“Do what?”

“Go off in your own little world. You get this glazed expression on your face. Like this.” She lowers her head and stares into the water, her hazel eyes bulging. She looks like someone trying to hold in a fart.

“I do not!” I cry indignantly, although my head was pretty much in that exact position a few seconds earlier.

“You do!” Lily laughs, resuming the position but with more intensity.

“I. Do. Not,” I tell her, annunciating each word with a splash that leaves her red hair plastered to her face.

She raises her eyebrows and begins cupping water in her hands. “Oh? So you want to play dirty, Fletcher?” 

“Oh, Lily,” I exclaim, flashing her my best bedroom eyes, “I thought you’d never ask.”

She responds by chucking a handful of water into my face so I flick some back at her and, before I know it, we’re screaming and dunking each other under the water, all our hair completely wet through. An older lady walks past the bath, shaking her head and muttering something about them “Letting any old riffraff in.” Lily leans out from around my thrashing arms to shout back to the lady that her cousin actually owns the place so she can stick her riffraff up her-. But we never find out where she can stick it, because I dunk Lily under the surface once more. She comes up a few seconds later coughing and rubbing the water out of her eyes. 

“You really do play dirty.”

I shoot her an exaggerated wink. “You like that, you should see me on dry land.” 

Lily snorts and looks at me fondly. “I really like you, Issy.”

I’m a bit taken aback but I smile across at her. “I like you too, Lil.”

She frowns. “Now, see that’s just cruel.”

“What?”

“I said I ‘really’ like you, and you just said ‘like’.”

I roll my eyes. “My sincerest apologies.”

“I’ll think about forgiving you.” She turns to me, and looks up at me carefully. “But seriously, Is, I’m glad that you’re going to be my sister-in-law.”

My stomach twists and I look down at the water again. Stupid Lily being stupidly nice. “Me too,” I finally manage.

Lily smiles and pulls me into a hug. “Shall we go get lunch?”

I nod and we climb out of the bath. On our way back to the changing room, Lily stops to stick her tongue out at the lady from before who scowls as we run into the changing rooms, giggling.

 

*

 

The rest of the family are already sat around our usually dining table by the time Lily and I arrive. Lily’s wrapping the ends of her hair around her wand, trying out some new spell she read about in Witch Weekly that’s supposed to eliminate frizz ‘for good’. James and Harry are sat on one side of the table, arguing loudly about something, food spewing out of their mouths as they try to shout over each other. Ginny and Al, on the other hand, are leaning in closely to each other, intently discussing something, Al opens his mouth to reply, but Ginny glances up and makes eye contact with me. She lays a hand on her son’s arm and Al stops talking, looking up at me and Lily instead. If I’d blinked, I would have missed it, but in that moment, I’m sure they were talking about me. 

Oblivious to this, Lily walks ahead of me and plonks herself down next to Al, still twirling her long red hair around her wand. I follow and sit next to her at the only seat left on the round table, uncomfortably aware of James shuffling away from me on my other side. 

“That’s an… interesting technique, Lily,” Al says, eyeing his sister’s wandwork suspiciously.

Lily puts her wand down on the table and begins helping herself to salad. “It’s supposed to get rid of frizz. I needed it after someone got my hair wet.” She looks at me pointedly and I stick my tongue out at her.

“And clearly mine is dry as a bone,” I deadpan, gesturing at my own damp hair.

“That’s different,” Lily pouts. “Yours is short, it won’t look so bad if it dries naturally.”

“Well,” Harry interjects, “if it’s any consolation, Lil, I think your hair looks beautiful however you style it.”

Lily raises her eyebrows at him. “No offence, Dad, but I’m not about to start taking hair advice from you.”

“Uh, why not?” Harry asks, clapping his hand to his chest in mock offence. “I’ll have you know, I won Witch Weekly’s ‘Best Haired Bachelor’ three times in my glory days.”

James nods furiously. “Yeah! And when you insult his hair, you’re basically insulting mine.”

“And mine!” Al chips in.

“Yeah,” James laughs. “And hey- at least we’re not gingers.” Lily flicks a piece of bread at him, which misses and lands in my lap instead. 

“Yeah, Lily. You big ginger minger!” Al yells and his sister looks at him disgustedly.

“Too far, Albus,” she says, rolling her eyes.

“Yeah, that’s a bit weird, mate,” James agrees, smirking at his younger brother.

Al gives them both the middle finger, earning him a smack on the shoulder from his mother and returns to his lunch, laughing. Not for the first time since I’ve been here, I feel like an intruder. I’m sitting at the table with the family, a part of the conversation to an extent, and yet if I wasn’t here, everything would be exactly the same. I busy myself with eating the salmon that’s appeared on my plate, picking at it as if every mouthful needs to be constructed with absolute precision. 

“Oh, Issy?” Al says suddenly, after a couple of minutes of everyone eating in silence. “A letter came to the room for you.” While I’m trying to think who could want to be sending me a letter right now, and pushing away the little bit of me that hopes it’s Mark, Al produces a folded-up envelope from his pocket. 

I wince as I see the familiar curly handwriting on the cream paper, because it’s not Mark. Oh no, this is much, much worse. I take it from him and shove it hastily in the back pocket of my jeans. I can feel James eyeing me carefully while I do this, so I force a smile and resume eating perhaps a little too enthusiastically. 

“Who is it?” Lily asks, through a mouthful of baked potato. 

Lily,” Ginny hisses, “don’t be so nosey.” But Lily ignores her mother and keeps staring at me curiously. 

“Oh.” I swallow hard.” Just my mother.”

Harry frowns slightly and looks across at me. “Do we know your mother?”

“I’m not sure. Romilda Vane?” Mum reverted back to her maiden name during my last few years at Hogwarts. She said she liked it better than Fletcher anyway. “It’s just more unique, darling. Any old nobody can be called ‘Fletcher’.” 

Harry slams his glass and water down and starts coughing. “Sorry,” he splutters, “went down the wrong way. Romilda Vane? Wow.”

Harry,” Ginny scolds, in the exact tone of voice she was using on her daughter a few minutes ago. Harry looks at me a little sheepishly, but I smile warmly. 

“That’s my general reaction to her too,” I tell him with a wry smile. 

“Isn’t she the one who tried to poison Uncle Ron?” Lily asks bluntly.

“Nah, that was Draco Malfoy,” James corrects, thrusting around a forkful of pork pie. 

“You’re both wrong,” Al interrupts. “It was Voldemort really.”

Ginny shakes her head, looking disparagingly at her children. “Ignore my… offspring.”

“How is she anyway?” Harry asks me brightly. 

I cock my head. “Well, she hasn’t changed much by the sounds of things.” Harry laughs. “Actually, I should probably go and see what she wants.” 

I stand up and tell Lily that I’ll meet her in a few minutes. And then, realising that it probably seems a bit odd that I’ve barely acknowledged Al though the whole meal, I squeeze his shoulder as I walk past him and out of the dining room. When I’m in the lobby, where Al and I stood a few days ago, I pull the letter from my pocket and smooth out the envelope with my fingers. “Here goes nothing,” I mutter, opening it up. My mother isn’t a particularly sentimental person, so the majority of the time I get a letter from her, it usually means I’ve fucked up in some way. 

 

Darling, it begins. That’s another thing about her, she practically refuses to call me by my actual name. It’s only ever ‘darling’, usually said a bit condescendingly. 

 

Darling,
Amy wrote to my yesterday telling me that she saw you at St Mungo’s because of a nut-related reaction. Didn’t I tell you that we should we have sent you for that treatment? Susannah’s daughter did it and she’s never been in Mungo’s since. Did you know that? I do wish you would have let me help you, darling. 
But, onto more pressing matters. Amy tells me that you were there on the arm of none other than Albus Potter! I’d have thought you could have spared a minute to tell your old mother the exciting news? But no, I’ll just be sitting here wistfully reading through the Prophet, and one day, I’ll probably read an article about you getting married to Potter in a hideous wedding dress because you didn’t let me help you choose one, or even tell me about the wedding. How will you feel then, darling? 
But, I digress. What happened to Mark? Although I wasn’t his biggest fan, I did think that you two made a good couple. But I suppose Albus does have lovely eyes. I hope the grandchildren inherit his. 
Anyway, darling, I’m hoping you’ll find time soon in your busy, busy schedule to fill me in on everything; your life does seem rather dramatic at the moment. Although, I do have some rather exciting news of my own to tell you! I hope you’ll be as excited for me as I am for you. 
Let’s see each other soon, darling,
Mum’ 

By the time I’ve finished reading Mum’s letter, my eyes have pretty much rolled into the back of my head. I swear, that woman is a walking satire. And Amy? Amy ‘I promise I won’t tell Mum, you can talk to me- I am your sister after all’ Fletcher is a lying cow. I’m not sure why I ever doubted that. Deciding I may as well get the inevitably painful response over with, I cross the lobby (narrowly avoiding bumping into the lady from the spa we ‘befriended’ earlier) and approach the front desk. A youngish boy of about eighteen is sorting through papers. His rugged blonde hair and blue eyes look familiar, but I can’t say exactly where I know him from. 

“Uh, hi,” I say, stepping in front of the desk and trying to catch the boy’s attention. He looks up at me and frowns slightly, as if trying to place me too. 

“Isadora, right?” he says slowly and then nods, his blonde hair bouncing. “You were Gryffindor prefect when I was in third year.” I must look at him blankly because he continues, “I’m Louis Weasley.”

“Of course you are!” I hit myself on the forehead. “What are you doing here?”

“I work here,” he says, in a tone which suggests he wants to add Duh to the end of that sentence. 

“Funnily enough I’d worked that one out.” I nod to him standing behind the desk. 

Louis grins. “My sister owns this place. Pretty cool, right?” 

I glance up and I’m struck again by just how pretty the hotel is. It looks like there’s no ceiling at all, like the building just keeps going up and up, eventually fading into the colour of a summer sky. “Pretty cool,” I agree with a nod.

“So, you okay?” Louis asks.

I shake my head, returning to the task at hand. Sorting out my family. “D’you have any parchment? Like for writing letters?”

Louis nods and reaches up to a shelf behind him. He puts down a few sheets of parchment in front of me. “Perfect, like for writing letters.” He says this last bit in a high-pitched voice, mocking me. I pull a face at him as I move down the desk slightly, finding a space to write. I remember now why Louis looks so familiar. Despite only being a third year when I became a prefect, I would always catch him out of bed during my night rounds, usually accompanied by girls, alcohol, cigarettes or d) all of the above. 

I grab a quill from a pot and chew the end of it, thinking about what to say.

 

‘Amy,
You’re a real piece of work, you know that? One thing I asked you to do: don’t tell Mum, and you couldn’t even keep your mouth shut for a day. I wouldn’t do that to you and you know it. 
Isadora
P.S- whilst you were blabbing to Mum, did you happen to find out what her secret news is?
P.P.S- since you’re so in to sharing other people’s secrets, you can clue me into that too.’

I read over the letter to my sister, deciding it sounds pissed off enough to let her know she’s royally screwed up, and then fold it over. I then take a new sheet and begin fervently writing again.

 ‘Mum,
I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you, we’re not really doing the whole ‘telling people’ thing yet, and I specifically asked Amy not to open her big fat gob. 
Anywho, as and when I do get married, I will most definitely take you dress shopping with me and you can pick it out for me, sparing you the humiliation of having things written about me insinuating a poor sense of style. I know how disappointing that would be for you.
You’ve got me intrigued about the big secret. Now mine’s out of the bag, do you want to fill me in?
I’ll let you know when I’m around soon,
Isadora’


I write my name in nice big letters, just in case Mum has actually forgotten what it is, and take the two letters back to Louis. 

“All done?” 

I nod. “Yep.” He flicks his wand at them and they zoom off into a room located just off the lobby. 

“They’ll be sent out by this evening,” he tells me. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

I laugh and he shoots me a confused look. “I’m sorry,” I snort, “I just can’t take you seriously.”

He stands up straighter and gives me a pompous smirk. “I’ll have you know, I’m highly professional.”

“Days of gallivanting around in the wee hours and hooking up behind portraits behind you then?”

Louis’s eyes twinkle. “Between nine and five every weekday they are, yes.”

I throw my hand across my chest and beam proudly at him. “All grown up.”

I turn to walk back into the dining room and I’m met face to face with Ginny. It never ceases to amaze me how good she still looks; I hope I look like her when I’m older. She also still has a good sense of dress: where my mother still maintains she can wear thigh-high boots, Ginny has accepted that hers probably shouldn’t roam above the knee anymore. She’s wearing brown boots today, tucked into blue skinny jeans and a floral blouse. I smile up at her brightly, but she doesn’t quite manage to meet my expression.

“Shall we go back in?” I ask, gesturing towards the dining room.

Ginny presses her lips together and glances back. “Actually, I was hoping we could go for a walk together?” It’s definitely a question, but probably one which I can’t say no to, so I just nod my head and let Ginny slip her arm through mine. I know she used to be a professional Quidditch player and everything, but I was definitely not expecting her to be this strong. She practically drags me through the french doors at the side of the lobby which extend out onto a veranda. It’s early November so there’s a definite chill in the air, but somehow none of the cold actually seems to affect me even though I’m only wearing a t-shirt. There must be some kind of charm. 

Ginny leads me to the fencing, where there’s an open expanse that stretches all the way out to the ocean. I lean against the wooden railing and stare out to sea, catching a slight whiff of the salty air for the first time. 

“So, how have you been finding everything?” Ginny asks me, lowering herself so that she’s leaning next to me, our shoulders almost touching.

I smile up at her. “It’s been incredible, seriously amazing.”

“Aside from the minor trip to hospital,” Ginny laughs, nudging my arm. 

I smirk. “Well it broke up the trip for everyone, I suppose.” I tap my fingers against the wood and glance down. “I can’t thank you enough, for everything, you know.”

She shakes her head. “I meant what I said the other day, Isadora. I’d do anything for one of the family.” A pang of guilt ripples through my stomach. Maybe Ginny’s been tossing those words over and over in her mind too. “And that’s why I just need to make sure that everything is…” She pauses. “-okay.”

I swallow hard and force myself to meet her bright brown eyes. I have a sickening feeling in my stomach and my palms begin to clam up. “Okay?”

“Al’s a great boy-“ she starts.

“-I know,” I interrupt, nodding earnestly. No matter what happens in the next few minutes, I want her to know that I do truly care about her son. 

“Let me finish,” she says. It’s not severe, but it’s firm, so I bite down on my lip and steady myself.

“Al’s a great boy. But he has his faults, of course. Nobody’s perfect, Issy.” She knows. She must do. Why else would she be talking to me like this? She knows and she’s trying to make me feel better about being a lying, conniving bitch. “I think that sometimes Al gets ahead of himself, and that he doesn’t mean to rush into things, but he gets so caught up in the moment that he can’t help himself. Do you know what I mean?”

I nod, and I honestly mean it. “Yeah,” I mutter. “I do.”

Then she turns so she’s facing me and says, “Issy, why don’t you have an engagement ring?”

My heart skips a beat. I stare down at my bare fingers, suddenly horrified. We thought of everything! I could have sworn we thought of everything on that stupid train. But we didn’t. How could we have forgotten a ring? Surely, the principal part of any engagement is a ring. I don’t know what to say, but Ginny’s standing there, expecting an answer. “I don’t like them,” I blurt out. “I don’t like how traditionally the woman wears one before the man, I think it’s not very progressive.” I’m making it up as I go, but honestly? Not a half bad story. “So Al and I decided that we’d just exchange rings on our wedding day. You know, equality and all that.” I’m nodding, completely caught up in the genius of my own story.

But Ginny’s not nodding. She sighs, disappointed. “Al said you lost it, and that you hadn’t got round to claiming on the insurance yet.” My stomach drops and my heart begins to smash against my rib cage. “I asked him earlier.”

Fuck. My throat has gone completely dry, so I swallow again. “He must have not known how you would react to that . He told me you and Harry were quite traditional about these things.” 

Ginny tilts her head to the side, considering what I’ve said. “I suppose,” she mumbles. “I just wish he wouldn’t lie.” There’s another pang of shame in my stomach. I’m sure I should say something to comfort her but I don’t know what, so I just stand there, my mouth opening and closing like a dumb goldfish. “Issy,” she says, her voice barely more than a whisper, “do you really want to marry my son?”

I falter. Her eyes are glassy with tears, and I can feel a pricking sensation in my own. But I feel like I’m stuck, it’s too late to change this now. So I close my eyes, letting the tears roll slowly down my cheeks and nod my head. Ginny pulls me in to a tight embrace and I let myself rest my head against her. I’m not a big crier, but for some reason I just can’t hold it in now. I’m thinking about Al, and everything he said about Emily, and the way he looked so vulnerable when he was wrapped up in bed. I think about James, and the way that he won’t even look at me, and how he must think I’m some kind of cheater. Then, of course, Mark enters my thoughts as he always does, and I guess I’m crying for everything that could have been with him. And maybe I’m just crying because being here, with the Potters, it’s made me realise everything I’m missing from my own family. 

 

Ten minutes later, I’m scampering back towards our suite. When I reach the door, I realise I don’t have a key, so I pull my wand out from my jeans’ pocket and tap it against the door handle. I push on the door, but it doesn’t open. All I want is to be in my bed right now. There’s still tears running down my face and I must look like a crazed woman, angrily jabbing my wand against the door to no avail. Out of sheer frustration, I kick it and feel a sharp pain rising in my foot. 

“Fuck,” I mutter, hopping on one leg and grabbing at my bruised foot. Then I hear footsteps on the other side of the door. I’m considering making a run for it back down the corridor, but the bad foot front doesn’t exactly make that look like a favourable option. 

The wooden door swings open. “There you are!” Lily throws her arms around me. “God, I was looking everywhere for you.” She pulls back and grabs my shoulders, smiling brightly at me. I watch as her eyes take in my streaky mascara and red face. Her brow furrows and she tightens her grip. “Oh Issy! What’s the matter? Is it Al?” 

These days, that’s apparently enough to set me off crying again. Lily pulls me into her again, and I feel her soothing hands rubbing my back and stroking my hair, just like her mother was doing downstairs. I’d left Ginny, telling her that I wanted to clean myself up, but with the assurance that I did care very much about Albus. It’s gone too far, I can feel it. Everything is only going to lead to people getting hurt. 

“Lily,” I manage through sobs, “I think there’s something I need to tell you.”


*

 
I’m lying on Lily’s bed, my hands over my face. Lily’s bedroom is remarkably similar to mine and Al’s, except that all of her bedding has managed to stay on her bed, rather than half of it being spread across the chez lounge. It also smells a lot better. I’ve been stuck on the bed for almost half an hour now, while Lily paces up and down, still shaking her head. 

“So, let me get this straight,” she says, not for the first time. “You and Al aren’t engaged?”

I don’t move my hands away from my eyes, but simply shake my head. I’m not even sure whether Lily is looking, but she’s asked the question so many times now that she doesn’t need to. Or maybe she’s hoping I’m joking. Maybe she’s thinking that if she asks enough times, then soon I’ll jump up and say, “Only joking, Lil. But I really had you going didn’t I?”

But I don’t. Because for what feels like the first time in forever, I’ve told the truth. 

Lily stops pacing. “So, Al was engaged?”

I finally sit up and look over at her. She’s frowning and her hair looks like she’s run her fingers through it one too many times, but aside from that, she’s handling it pretty well. “Yep.”

“But not to you?”

“Nope.”

She shakes her head again. “I can’t believe it.” 

I glance up at her meekly. “I’m so sorry.”

She sighs and sits down on the bed next to me, taking one hand and resting it on my leg. “It’s okay, I guess. I thought something must be up.”

I frown at her. “Why?”

She smiles. “Because for the past few days, I don’t think I’ve even seen you two exchange a single word.”

“That’s not fair- I distinctly remember asking him to pass the salt at dinner yesterday!” Lily smirks but then looks down and begins picking at a loose thread in her jeans. 

“Whose idea was it?”

“Mine,” I admit, feeling my cheeks flushing. “It’s so stupid looking back on it now, but I was panicking. I’d just lost my job, my boyfriend, my home. And then I met Al and everything just seemed to fall into place. I guess I just didn’t realise how quickly everything would get so fucked up.”

“It is fucked up,” Lily concedes, but she doesn’t sound angry. “Does James know?”

I swallow hard. “No. Nobody does.”

Lily frowns. “That’s weird.”

“What is?”

“Well, it’s just that Al and James usually tell each other everything. Or, at least, they used to.” I suddenly feel like I’m about to be sick, so I lie back on the bed again. Lily does too and scoots up so that our heads are next to each other. 

“Do you hate me?” I ask, turning to face her. 

She rolls over too and looks into my eyes. “No, I don’t hate you. I’m just sad that you guys felt like you had to do this.”

“I am really so sorry,” I whisper, feeling tears pricking my eyes again. But Lily smiles and puts an arm around me. 

“Do you have somewhere to stay now? I would offer you a place at mine, but, well, I still live with Mum and Dad and that might be hard to explain…” she trails off.

I grin at how sweet she’s being, especially because I’ve just told her that I’ve basically been lying to her the whole time I’ve known her. “It’s okay. I think I’m going to write to my friends and ask if I can stay with them for a bit. And then I guess I’ll try and find my own place.” To be honest, the thought f actually getting back to normality is fucking petrifying. Probably only mildly less so than staying here with the Potters. But I think going to stay with Priyanka and Alice will be a good place to start. “Actually I should probably go do that.” I sit up and wipe the last few tears from my face.

“You sure you’re okay?” Lily asks. She grabs her wand and uses it to remove some of the mascara streaks from around my eyes. 

“Yeah, I’m fine. Are you?”

She grins at me. “It’s a bit of a shock, but yeah, I’m okay.” I smile back at her and get up, walking towards the door. 

Then I turn on my heel and say, “Lils, could you not tell Al that I’ve told you? I know that’s super bad of me to ask but-“

Lily waves her hand. “I get it. My lips are sealed.” She mimes doing this and I leave the room, feeling significantly better than when I came in. 


*


Issy,
Of course you can stay with us, dumbo. I’ve got a sofa bed in my room so you can stay there for however long you need. But only on the condition that you tell what the hell’s been going on. Your boyfriend cheats on you and you disappear off the face of the earth for a week? That’s dramatic even for you, Is. 
Al told me to tell you that she doesn’t agree with that. 
Anyway, just floo in whenever today, one of us will be in. 
See ya soon,
Priy and Al

I smile and tuck the letter, which was waiting for me at the breakfast table, into my jacket pocket. Today is our last day at the hotel, so we’re eating and getting ready to leave. Ginny and I haven’t spoken too much since we were out on the veranda, but her warm smiles don’t suggest that anything’s changed between us, which I’m completely grateful for. Lily, on the other hand, has become even more of my sole confidant. And, true to her promise, she hasn’t breathed a word of what I told her to anyone else, although the knowing looks she shoots me every time someone mentions the engagement aren't exactly subtle. 

I drain the last dregs of orange juice and stand up from the table, making an excuse that I need to finish packing. As I’m walking away from the table, a voice calls after me. 

“I’ll come help you,” Al says, getting up to join me. 

I fake a smile and wait for him to walk out with me. I’ve been maintaining my successful avoidance of him and I was really hoping to keep it up for the last few hours. But like most of my plans at the moment, that one seems to have fallen through. 

We walk back up to the suite in silence and it’s only after the oak door slams shut behind us that he finally speaks. 

“You’ve been avoiding me,” he mumbles. 

“I haven’t been, Al,” I protest, although my blushing face clearly suggests otherwise. 

“Stop lying!” he shouts. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard him properly raise his voice, and it takes me by surprise. “Why, Issy? What did I do?”

I sigh. “You haven’t done anything.”

“Then wh-“

“It’s just complicated, isn’t it? Frankly, I feel shit about taking advantage of your family like this, okay? I feel shit about lying to everyone. I’m also just fucking confused, Al. Once we get out of here, I literally have no idea what I’m doing. So maybe it’s nothing to do with you, Albus. Maybe it’s just that everything is going to shit.”

Al looks a little taken aback at my outburst. “You could have talked to me about it.” He has the same expression as before, vulnerable and hurt. 

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” he says, stepping towards me and taking my hand. “I’m sorry that I got us into this.”

I shake my head. “No, we both got ourselves into this mess.”

“So, do you have somewhere to go now?” He pauses. “Are you going to go back to Mark’s?”

“No, I don’t think so. He was an arsehole in the end.”

“Good. He doesn’t deserve you.”

I roll my eyes. “You don’t even know him, Al.”

He squeezes my hand. “Yeah, but I know you. And you’re not the kind of girl who should be treated like that.”

“Oh yeah? What kind of girl am I then?”

“The best kind.” Al blushes and looks down at our interlinked hands. 

My stomach drops, and I pull my hand gently from his grasp. “I’m really not,” I whisper. I think the past week has proven that.

Al shrugs. “Where are you going then?”

“I think I’m going to go stay with Alice and Priyanka, they said I can stay on their sofa bed for a while.”

Al frowns and shakes his head. “Nah, don’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because you shouldn’t have to sleep on a sofa bed.”

“Well do you have any better ideas?” I ask, crossing my arms. I’m not sure when he became my personal advocate. 

“Come and stay with me,” he blurts. He’s said it so quickly that I’m sure I must have misheard him. 

“What?”

“Come and stay with me for a while,” he repeats. “I’ve got a spare room. You can stay for as long as you need.”

I pause, the breath catching in my chest. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

“Why not?” he demands. 

“Because we’d have to be around each other all the time! I’m not going to intrude on your life even more.”

“You wouldn’t be intruding, Issy,” he says softly. He tries to reach for my hand again, but I pull it away. 

“Don’t,” I snap, and then take a deep breath. “It’s too complicated, Al. And people would get the wrong idea. I mean, it’s not like we actually have feelings for each other.”

“Don’t we?” He looks down at me angrily, his green eyes narrowed. 

“Al?” 

“Forget it,” he mutters sharply, and walks away from me, towards the front door of the suite. He opens it, and standing in the doorway is James. Al pushes past his brother and stalks off down the corridor, leaving me standing alone in the room with James staring at me, confused. 

“Trouble in paradise?” he asks snarkily, as he comes into the room. 

“Why are you always so horrible to me?” I round on him. It’s probably uncalled for, but I’m fuming. “The past few days, you’ve been glaring at me like I’m something you’ve just scraped off the bottom of your shoe. What did I even do to you?”

“Woah, Fletcher, calm it,” he says, raising his hands in surrender. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.” I huff and push past him, heading towards my bedroom, but he catches my arm and pulls me back to face him. “What?”

He smirks at me. “Well, you see, Fletcher. I work for the Department of Mysteries, and we’re supposed to report any suspicious or dangerous behaviour that we see, and right now, if looks could kill, I’d be stone cold six feet under. So, really it would be unprofessional for me to allow you to storm off now.”

“What do you want, James?”

“I want you,” he says, poking me, “to tell me what you’re so pissed off about. Is it my twatty brother?”

“Twatty?”

“Oh please, Fletcher, he’s a Slytherin, of course he can be a twat.”

“I was more concerned with you making up words.”

James grins. “So you going to tell me what he’s done?”

I bite my lip. “He hasn’t done anything, really. He’s a good guy.”

“He is, isn’t he?” James nods.

“What happened to him being ‘twatty’?” I finger quote the last word.

James waves his hand. “Well, that’s only sometimes. I’m sure you feel me- Fletcher the elder was a bit like that I seem to remember.”

I shake my head darkly. “Don’t get me started.” I still haven’t forgiven Amy for grassing me out to Mum.

“So what’s up then?” James asks, running a hand through his dark hair awkwardly.

I look up at him and pause. “Nothing, I suppose.” He doesn’t look like he’s going to take this for an answer. 

“It’ll save us all time and energy if you just tell me now. We all know you’re going to eventually.”

“And how do we know that?”

James claps a hand to his chest and flutters his eyelashes. “Because I, Fletcher, am what the ladies call, ‘irresistible’.”

I snort. “Sure,” I say sarcastically, nodding my head. “Nah, but, I’m fine really.”

“Well, I do seem to have cheered you up.”

“Yeah, I got a good laugh out of your big. Ugly. Mug,” I say, emphasising each word with a prod on his chest.

James catches my hand in his, and pulls me in towards him. “Glad to have been of service,” he murmurs, into my hair. He wraps his arms around me and I can smell the coffee on his breath as he pushes his face against the side of my head. I pull away from him slightly and look up into those big, hazel eyes. And then, without thinking about what I’m doing, I’m leaning in to him, and he’s leaning in to me. 

The sound of the door flying open sends us jumping away from each other. Al is standing in the doorway, just as his brother was a few minutes ago, glowering, not at James, but straight at me. 

“Mum says that we’re leaving now,” he tells us, not moving his eyes from me. He strides across the room and enters our bedroom, slamming the door behind him. James is looking at me with a mixture of guilt and disgust on his face. Al entering the room seems to have reminded him of who we are and what we’re actually doing.

I bit down hard on the inside of my cheek. “James, I need to tell you something.” I try to grab hold of his arm, but he wrenches it away from me.

“Save it,” he spits and storms off in the opposite direction.

I yank my hands through my hair distractedly and hurry towards my bedroom where I can hear Al flinging things around inside. 

“Albus, I can explain,” I say, as I walk in. 

He looks at me and for a second I think he might be about to cry. “I don’t need to hear it.”

“I’m sorry,” I plead, crossing the room to him, where he’s stuffing clothes into a duffle bag. 

“You don’t need to be,” he says coldly. “Like you said, it’s not like we actually have feelings for each other.”

He carries on packing, not acknowledging me. I gather up the rest of my own belongings in silence, stealing glances at him. When he’s done packing, he walks towards the door and finally looks back at me.

“At least it’s over now.”

I nod. “I just wanted to say, thanks for being so nice to me.”

Al scoffs. ”Nice? Great, I'm the nice guy"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I don't know, you tell me, Issy. One minute you're going on about what an arsehole Mark was, but you just don't see that-"

"See that what?” I demand.

He shakes his head. “Nothing.” He grabs his bag and starts to leave the room.

“Albus, please.

He stops, his hand on the knob. “Maybe if I just swagger about and ruffle my hair up a bit, and just generally be a complete twat and then you'd actually look at me like something other than a brother.”

I shake my head. ”What are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about James! I'm talking about you and James and how nothing I do will ever be good enough for you because you're only attracted to arseholes!”

“There is no ‘me and James’,” I tell him. 

He raises his eyebrows. “That’s not what it looked like.”

"Al listen,” I start, but I don't actually know what I want to say.

"Save it,” he says cooly. I’ll see you around.” And then he storms off again before I can say anything else. 

 

Downstairs, Ginny catches my arm, as I skulk in the lobby, trying to not meet anyone’s eye. 

“Are you okay?” she asks gently. 

I nod. “Yeah, I’m great. Thank you so much for everything this week.”

She smiles brightly. “It was nothing, dear. It’s been so lovely getting to know you.” She pulls me into a close embrace and I wince involuntarily at the action. “Ooh, I have this for you.” She produces a card from her trouser pocket and hands it to me. “Contact details for Luna at The Quibbler. I’ve already written to her for you, but if you just follow that up.”

“Thank you,” I murmur, squeezing her hand. And she shakes her head fondly at me again. 

“Right everyone,” she cries turning to her family. “We need to have a family picture before we all leave.”

Al grimaces and James stares at the ground guiltily. Their mother doesn’t seem to notice; she rushes over to the front desk to find someone to take our picture. I haven’t spoken to Lily, but she seems to have noticed that’s something’s wrong as she takes my arm and leads me towards her bothers and Harry, who’s trying to organise everyone into a pose. 

Ginny comes back, followed by Louis Weasley, brandishing a camera. “So, we’ll have the happy couple in the middle,” she says, winking at me, “and everyone else around the edges.”

I walk gingerly towards Al, who doesn’t look at me but slips his arm around my waist. It’s like having a corpse’s arm across my back, he’s not holding it up at all, rather letting it dangle limply. 

“Say cheese,” Louis says and I force myself to smile, but I can tell it looks strained even without seeing myself. 

We break apart and Ginny turns to me. “I’ll get a copy to you as soon as it’s developed!”

I smile gratefully at her and walk to Al. He glares coldly at me. “What?” he asks.

“Do you need me to apparate you home?” I mutter to him. 

He presses his lips together. “No. I’ll go with Lily.” Then he forces a smile and puts an arm around me. “I’ll see you at home later, darling.” He practically shouts the last word but Ginny and Harry don’t seem to notice the venom in his voice. 

“Yeah, see you later,” I say, as I walk towards the fire places in the lobby, ready to floo to Priyanka and Alice’s. I wave goodbye to Al’s parents and Lily, who mouths ‘Owl me’ and mimes writing. I flick my gaze over to James and find him already watching me. I give him a weak smile and he responds by glaring down at the ground, shuffling his feet. 

I sigh and step into the fireplace, saying the address and letting the emerald flames whisk me away.



A/N- Raise your hands if you like some good ol' romantic angst? Nope, just me? Alrighty then. I hope you guys liked this update- it was a nice, long one! Do you prefer longer chapters, or should I split ones of this sort of length into two?
I'd love to hear what you thought so remember to leave a quick review!
Thanks for all the support so far- it means the world!


Alice xxx


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