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Masquerade by dracoismyboyfriendguys
Chapter 7 : Wine is Nice
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 7


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The sun is nearing the end of its descending arc, casting long shadows through the paned window which create a grid-like pattern across the dark wood floor. The orange light illuminates specks of dust caught in its beam which hang nonchalantly in the air. There’s a definite sense of stillness in Priyanka’s bedroom where Al and I are sprawled out on her double bed, him wrapped under her purple quilted blanket and me leaning up against the brass bed frame with a pillow hugged into my chest.

We’ve been in this position for the best part of two hours, listening to old records from Al’s parents house on Priyanka’s muggle record player and just talking. It’s as the light fades even further and the lamp posts outside the window suddenly flick on in a flare of gaudy yellow that Al finally sits up with a slight groan. 

“I should get going,” he says, leaning his chest forward to stretch out his back. 

I pout. “Already?” Although we both know that we can’t stay shut up in here forever, no matter how much I’d like to. 

He nods solemnly and jumps off the bed with a newfound energy. “I’ll see you next weekend sometime?”

“Sure,” I tell him, and follow him towards the bedroom door.

He heads into the living room, which is as still and silent as Priy’s bedroom had been. I flick my wand at the lamps overhead and they both fill the room with light. Just as Al’s at the fireplace, ready to grab up some floo powder, I say, “You sure you won’t stay for some food?”

“Can’t,” he tells me with a small shrug as he reaches for the small wooden pot in which the grey powder is stored, “I’ve got a small mountain of paperwork to look at before tomorrow morning.” 

I don’t protest again, knowing that it’s only for a few sporadic moments that Al can actually relax and forget about his work for the ministry, and not wanting to push my luck. 

“Take care of yourself, Is,” he calls, stepping into the emerald flames and shouting his address above their roar. I reply with a similar farewell but Al is whisked away before he can hear it. 

Sighing slightly, and resigning myself to a lonely Sunday night in, I cross the room into the little kitchen and peer into the magi-fridge, hoping to find some inspiration as to what to cook. These nights haven’t exactly been uncommon during the fortnight I’ve spent at Priyanka and Alice’s apartment. The former seems to be on one of her whistle-stop tours of the male sex, staying at what seems like a different house every night with whichever unfortunate soul she’s settled on that particular day.

Alice, on the other hand, has been away most nights as part of a project at her job, something about a herd of rare Croxlug being caught up in telephone wires. Or maybe it was fishing nets? Anyway, she’s been spending every waking hour working even when she is home. 

There’s been one benefit to all of this, however. In the past couple of weeks since the night at the club, Al and I have gone from strength to strength. Priyanka certainly got one thing right, Al really is everything I need and he's been coming over after work a few nights a week, just to chat and eat and generally hang out. Priyanka and Alice, however, haven’t been best pleased about this, both taking it upon themselves to decide the after everything that happened, Al and I should give each other a bit of space. But, honestly, I have to disagree, becoming friends with Al Potter is probably the best decision I’ve ever made.

In other aspects of my life, however, things are not going so well. James hasn’t made any contact with me since that night, and frankly, I’m pissed off about it. I mean, I know this is the twenty-first century and that I would be entirely within my rights to decide that I could be the one to make the first move- you know, feminism and all that. But it’s been weeks and I’ve long since got the impression that if he wanted to speak to me, if he was being honest about having feelings for me, then he would have sent me a letter or something. And to make matters perhaps even worse, Al’s told him about the fact that he and I are friends now, that that issue is entirely off the table, and he still hasn’t reached out. 

After inspecting the contents of the fridge for a full, disappointing five minutes, I eventually resign myself to reheating a portion of fried rice from a week-old Chinese takeaway. I give the box a good sniff (just in case) and tap my wand around the outside of the grease-stained cardboard carton a few times until the rice is sizzling slightly inside. I then leave it on the coffee table in the living room while I change into my pyjamas and eventually allow myself to sink down onto the black leather sofa, wrap a fluffy blanket around myself and dig a fork straight into the container, deciding that a plate may ruin this picture-perfect vision of self-pity. Turning on the muggle telly to a reality show, which is featuring a woman who eats the stuffing in sofas, I bite down into a particularly hot prawn, that burns the inside of my mouth. 

*

The next morning, I arrive at the Quibbler building in Diagon Alley just as the street is beginning to flood with early morning commuters. It’s a tall structure, mainly white bricked with a blue, swirling pattern around it that gives a strong impression of a helter-skelter at a muggle fairground. There are a variety of odd-looking plants outside, including a particularly aggressive one with bright red leaves that attacks the unwary if they happen to walk too close. Trust me, I learned that the hard way and my little finger still hasn’t recovered.

Ms Scamander visits the offices at least once a week usually and when we’ve been there at the same time, she’s made a point of telling me all about the various beneficial properties of the plants. I don’t bother informing her that, following my run-in with the maneating shrub in the red tub, I like to keep a wide berth from anything vaguely botanical. 

I’ve been working here for a couple of weeks now and, so far, it’s definitely the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had- and that’s saying something considering most of the time I’m proofreading other people’s articles. I’m writing my first piece of my own this week, it’s only a short story about a restaurant that’s opening up on Diagon Alley this week but I can’t help feeling like I’m finally accomplishing something. 

There’s the slight downside that I’m not being paid anything for all of this, of course, and while I do love living with Priyanka and Alice, sleeping on a sofa bed isn’t really what I’d envisioned my adult life to look like. I have an interview at a bar on Knockturn Alley later this afternoon- after the war there was some serious gentrification there, and while the main nightlife scene has definitely moved on, at least this place was willing to give me a chance with no experience. Still, I suppose they can’t be too picky when you’re literally pouring pints in Voldemort’s favourite hangouts. 

I head into the main Quibbler office which, as usual, is buzzing with activity. By the window overlooking the street, a more senior writer, Stephanie I think her name is, is trying to shove a squirming mandrake into a bright orange pot. It’s putting up a real fight- I think there’s even some blood running down her arm- and opening its mouth to scream, fortunately no sound is coming out. I think she’s working on a piece for next month’s issue- ‘I Raised A Mute Mandrake For A Week and Here’s What I Learned About Myself’. Should be a real page-turner. 

“Looking good, Steph,” I remark as I sit down a few seats away (leaving a wide berth from the writhing plant) and hoping that’s actually her name.

Stephanie grimaces at me, glancing up for just enough time for the little bugger to get another bite in. She swears loudly and I shuffle my seat a few more inches away. 

Turning my focus to the magi-computer in front of me, I scan through the list of tasks I’m supposed to complete this morning. It’s mainly just administrative stuff: mindless enough, which is probably a good thing considering the Mariah Carey blasting through the office. Davis is writing an article comparing the effectiveness of cheering charms before and after listening to different Christmas music. Last week I heard ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ forty-seven times.

I proof-read the articles I’ve been assigned for this morning, glancing at the clock what seems like every five minutes. I’ve made a reservation at the restaurant I’m reviewing for half-past twelve- a time which doesn’t seem to be getting any closer. To be honest, I don’t know why I’m even so excited about going. Work said I could bring two guests with me, and seeings as all my friends have normal jobs with twenty minute lunch breaks, guess who I’ve ended up having to bring? My mother and Amy. 

Yippee. 

I was only going to take Mum so that I could give her some wishy-washy account of what’s been happening with me recently before she gets some made-up bollocks into her head and convinces herself it’s true. I thought I’d escape Amy because of it being in the middle of the day, and her being ‘completely rushed off her feet’ as a busy, busy healer. But, probably as a divine punishment for something I did when I was a small child, it was Amy’s day off and she decided there’s nowhere she’d rather spend it than going for lunch with her mother and sister. 

Eventually, the minute hand drags itself round to the quarter-past mark, and I practically leap out of my office chair. I make a quick comment to Stephanie about where I’m going so that it doesn’t look like I’m just running out of the office to escape Mariah’s warbling- she’s already told me that I’m all she wants for Christmas seventeen times- grab my coat, and head out onto the street. 

There are a few early Christmas shoppers strolling up and down, puffs of steam emerging from their thick cloaks as they point and talk about the items displayed in the window. A young girl, she’s probably about seven, stops dead in front of Quality Quidditch Supplies, and begins fervently tugging on the sleeve of her father’s cloak, pointing into the window at the training broom on display. 

Please Daddy?” I hear her whine. Her father smiles and shakes his head fondly. He pulls her away from the shop and she trails behind him with her head down, until something catches her eye in the next window and she runs forward to push her face against the glass. Her father glances back, squinting at the details of the broom. 

*

“And that is when Healer Morris told me that I’m almost definitely going to become Head of Ward by next Christmas!” Amy squeals. She accepts my mother’s delighted ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and, when I don’t respond, she shoots me a smug smile. “Still,” she says, “I suppose for now we should be celebrating Isadora’s success. It really is nice that you’ve been able to find something, even if it isn’t quite a real job.” 

I’m about to point out that my ‘not quite a real job’ has got her a free spinach and mushroom risotto, but I bite my tongue and instead just meet her patronising smile, heaping my fork with fusilli from my own plate. “Well, I suppose it’s just nice that the training for my profession happens on the job and doesn’t rack up thousands of galleons worth of debt.” Amy purses her lips. 

It’s notorious within the Wizarding community that the years of studying and training healers have to go through means that they always end up in debt up to their eyeballs. Well, almost always. Mum paid Amy’s way through most of it- so she’s got off pretty lightly compared with most other people. Still, it’s a sore spot I’m happy to poke. 

“It’s very nice for both of you, darlings,” Mum finally says and Amy and I stop glaring at each other and look vaguely confused instead. Mum’s never really been the type to jump in and put an end to our sibling squabbles. In fact, I think she rather likes the drama of them. “And I must confess I do have some news myself.” 

I’d forgotten she said that in her letter a while ago. My life is currently moving at about a hundred miles an hour so it’s weird that this is still her latest thing. 

“Which is?” Amy asks- straight to the point.

Mum presses her lips together in a tight smile. She looks so much like Amy when she does that. Her small nose wrinkling in excitement in the same way Amy’s does when she looks mildly pissed off. Which is most of the time. 

“Well,” Mum starts slowly, clearly enjoying creating the anticipation. I try not to give her the satisfaction of looking interested, even though I do want to hear what it is she has to say. “I’ve met someone, darlings,” she says, resting each of her hands on mine and Amy’s wrists. “A man!” 

Well that’s not what I was expecting. 

Ever since my dad left while I was at Hogwarts, my mother has never exactly lost her sex drive, giggling at younger men on the streets and flirting unrelentingly with waiters in restaurants, but as far as I’m aware, she hasn’t had a proper relationship. 

“His name is Andrew, he lives in Kensington,” she tells us, and for a second I can almost see a glimmer of real human emotion in my mother’s eyes. Like she’s dropped the whole ‘oh darlings’ airs and graces for just a moment, and is, in fact, just a woman talking about someone she genuinely cares about. “And he’s thirty-three.” 

And there it is. 

Amy chokes on the wine she’s sipping and splutters into her hand. “What?” she finally gasps, lowering her still clenched fist. 

I just sit there dumbly. Of bloody course, my mother couldn’t just have a normal relationship. Because when have things been normal round here recently? 

Mum looks as if she expected this and is still smiling just as broadly, clearly adoring the drama this revelation has created. 

“Did you give him some of your love potion chocolates?” I ask, and even Amy shoots me ‘was that really necessary?’ look. I think it was. Completely necessary. 

Listen, I’m not being rude. For once. It’s not as if my mother is really all that old- she’s only forty-seven, and she looks pretty good for her age too. That’s what a lifetime of unadulterated vanity will get you. But that still means that she was already well into her Hogwarts career when this guy was just being born. She fought in the bloody Battle of Hogwarts while he was still shitting himself in nappies. 

What I’m really worried about, though, is the fact that Mum and her business are now worth a fair amount of money, probably enough that it would be worth seducing her for. I can’t think of too many other reasons why someone would go after a woman old enough to be his mother.

Okay, well not quite but very nearly. 

“Where did you meet him?” Amy asks at the same time as I say, “Where does he work?”. She glances at me with her brow furrowed in concern- clearly she’s thinking along the same lines as me. 

“Well, darlings,” Mum starts, and she tells us all about how Andrew visited her office from Gringotts, to discuss switching to their new business savings accounts, and how it was love at first sight. Amy looks at me dubiously. “But,” Mum says, “you’ll get a chance to properly meet him soon- I’ve invited us to our house to spend Christmas with us this year!”

Oh it really is the most wonderful time of the year. 

Mum leaves to get back to the office soon after, explaining to us that this is the busiest time of year for personalised orders, and reminding us that we should get in our own orders soon to avoid disappointment. I don’t bother telling her that there’s absolutely no one I want to seduce via a box of potion-infused caramel chocolates, even if the box will sing a variety of carols to them upon opening. 

“It’s just so fucked up,” Amy says almost as soon as the restaurant door swings shut behind Mum. 

“Yeah,” I say slowly, slightly disconcerted that Amy has just sworn, “It is a bit, isn’t it?”

She leans forwards, resting her arms on the glass table, “So you agree we need to do something?” Her brown eyes are so focussed they're almost popping out of their sockets. It makes her look like a frog.

I bite my lip, I’d made a promise to myself not to undertake any more meddling schemes. Not before the new year, at least. But I don’t want to see Mum get screwed over. “Sure,” I tell her, “I agree.”

Amy nods at me firmly, grabs her handbag, and follows Mum out the door without saying another word. Honestly, they’re as dramatic as each other. 

Picking my own things up and leaving to walk to Knockturn Alley, I realise that that’s probably one of the first times in a while that Amy and I have agreed about anything. I’m not sure I like it. 

*

The owner of ‘The Centaur’s Pet Nargle’ bar is man called Jeffrey who I assume is only a few years older than me, but the thousands of cigarettes he’s smoked over his life have sagged his skin and yellowed his teeth. He’s reclining so far back on the leather sofa of the bar’s back room that he's practically lying down, resting his hands on his chest in a prayer-like motion and staring up at the grimy wood ceiling. The whole image gives a strong impression of a drug-addict ex-rockstar lying on the couch of a disgraced psychiatrist. 

I shift uneasily in my own leather (or maybe pleather) armchair and try my best to look vaguely professional, but also like I wouldn’t mind working somewhere like… well, like this

“So, Is-” he says in a broad cockney accent, “-you don’t mind if I call you Is, right?-” I shake my head and attempt a smile. “So, Is, you’ve never actually worked in a bar before, that right?”

I swallow. “No, I haven’t, but until recently I was working for a magical publishing agency and that gave me a lot of experience in customer service which I think is a really important transferrable skill…”

I trail off but Jeffrey doesn’t seem to notice. “But you know how to pull a pint, make a few drinks?”

I nod earnestly. “Yeah. I’m pretty proficient in cocktails, too.” When Mark and I were together, his older brother- a muggle- bought us a home bar for Christmas one year and so we both became decent at quite a variety of different drinks. 

“Great,” says Jeffrey, sitting up so quickly that his greasy ponytail swings over his shoulder. He pushes it back with his right hand and then holds it out to me. “Welcome to team Centaur, Is.” 

*

I practically skip out the bar, clutching my uniform- a set of black robes-, and my official letter of employment. Jeffrey told me that they hadn’t got any other applicants so he just wanted to check I would be somewhat competent. But the fact that there wasn’t any other choice doesn’t dampen my spirits. As I walk down Knockturn Alley, I’m debating on whether to head back to the Quibbler offices to write my review on the restaurant or just go home, get into Priyanka’s bed with a celebratory bottle of wine and do it there.

What I’d really like, of course, is to be able to clamber into a bed that’s actually mine, with the blankets I’ve had since my Hogwarts days and not have to worry about spilling red wine on the sheets. But I still haven’t got my stuff back from Mark’s place. Or our place, actually. I also really need to sort out what we’re going to do about the lease. 

Have I ever mentioned that I hate being an adult?

And then, because as we’ve already established, the universe hates me, I see a familiar shape walking through the passageway between Knockturn and Diagon Alley towards me. 

“Shit,” I mutter as the man’s broad silhouette gets closer. I can’t just turn around and walk in the opposite direction, that would make me look stupid and pathetic (which I am but I don’t want everyone else knowing that). Wishing I’d bothered to learn a disillusionment charm, I slam my head against the slimy brick wall to hide it. 

“Uh, Issy?”

I whirl around, using the end of my sleeve to wipe the moss off my forehead, and come face to face with Mark. There’s a pang in my stomach. I’m never going to even think about him ever again- clearly he’s got some kind of summoning spell working in my head. 

“Oh?” I say in as surprised a voice as I can muster. “Fancy seeing you here!” 

Mark ruffles his hair and shrugs (another pang). “Yeah, just passing through on my way to work. Doing stuff for a lot of the bars around here.”

I smack myself in the head dramatically. “Well of course you are!” I titter.

I’m not sure why I suddenly feel so nervous. I mean, I haven’t seen the bloke in a fortnight and yes, I haven’t been seeing anyone else but I’m also not spending every night hopelessly pining for him. 

“Right,” Mark says uneasily. “So what are you doing here, then?”

I pause. I don’t want him thinking that my life has completely fallen apart and that I’ve had to resort to being a barmaid, but I also can’t deal with the secrets anymore. “I’ve just got a job. ‘Centaur’s Pet Nargle’ just down the road,” I say, gesturing vaguely behind me. I see Mark’s eyes widen slightly. 

“Oh wow, right- wouldn’t’ve ever placed you there.” He scratches the back of his neck and laughs. “Well, you know where to come if they ever put you in charge of music.”

"Aha, yes I do!" I force a smile and begin to step past him. “Well, I’ll be seeing you around, I suppose.”

Mark puts out a hand to stop me (pang). “We need to sort everything, Issy. With, you know, the flat and stuff.” He doesn’t continue so I stop and fold my arms expectantly. He bites his lip and breathes so deeply that his nostrils flare, and for a split-second there’s nothing I want more than to throw myself at him, pin him against the wall and plant my mouth firmly on his. “Well, you see, I’ve packed up all the boxes of your stuff, and I thought you might want to come and pick them up…”

He trails off but I’m barely listening. Have his eyebrows always made that cute v-shape when he talks? “Uh-huh.”

“Because- well because Ella’s moving in soon and we need the space.”

Another pang. But this time it’s in my chest. And it’s more like a gun-shot.

*

I’ve spilled red wine on Priyanka’s bed sheets. I don’t care, though, I’ll clean it up in the morning. Well, I cared at the time- I cried. But I’ve been crying for two hours now so maybe it wasn’t really that which made me sad.  And I’m on to my next bottle now so it’s okay. I just can’t believe how stupid I’ve been. Of bloody course she’d be moving in. They were fucking together. In fact, they were definitely fucking together. Fucking all over my fucking bed. 

I pour myself another glass and drain most of it before I catch sight of myself in the mirror. Let’s just say that an inferius would look more alive than me. The makeup I’d put on to go to work this morning is smothered all over my face and my eyes are red and puffy, stark against my sallow skin. I put the glass down and pick up a tissue from Priyanka’s dressing table, wiping it over my face until most of the traces of black mascara are gone. Then I plod into the kitchen to get a glass of water. 

I lean against the black stone counter, taking steady sips and trying to calm my breathing. So what if Mark is moving on? I am too! I practically have two jobs! I have friends and friends last a lifetime unlike stupid cheating bastards of boyfriends. 

Plus Ella seems like a bit of a skank so she’ll probably cheat again. 

I’m imagining this scene in detail (and enjoying it more than I care to admit) when I hear a tapping on the glass of the living room window. I leave the cup on the counter and hurry to it, where I find a large tawny owl pressing his beak against the window pane. I’d recognise that bird anywhere having used him for the best part of two years- Mark bought him just after we got the flat. I consider just ignoring him and shutting the curtains but I like Caspar the owl too much to do that. 

I push the bolt and open the window. The cold night air hits me as the owl flies into the room and perches on the leather sofa. “Right, what have you got for me then, Cas?” I ask seriously. Caspar jerks his leg out and lets me untie the parchment. I stroke the top of his head as I unfold it. “You know, if this is a horrible letter I’m holding you personally responsible,” I whisper to him. But Caspar just ruffles his feathers and flies back out the window. Apparently it’s males of all species who like to make me feel completely alone. 

I slouch against the spot the bird has just vacated as I begin to read, blinking heavily to get rid of the wine fog. 

 

Is,

I’m sorry that you’re upset. I shouldn’t have sprung it on you like that I guess. Anyway, you can come by anytime after six this week to get your stuff. Ells should be home. 

I do hope you’re okay, Issy. I really do. 

Mark

 

I throw the letter into the fireplace and point my wand at the empty grate. But the alcohol means the spell doesn’t work properly and instead of incinerating the damn thing, it simply crumples slightly. I cross the room and rip it apart with my bare hands instead, pretending it’s both Mark and Ella’s stupid faces. 

She’s there in my house. I bet they’re cooking dinner in my kitchen, swanning about the living room that I picked out the decoration for, wiping up their shit with the toilet brush I bought from the muggle supermarket. 

And then I’m crying again, sitting next to the fireplace with my arms wrapped around my knees. Why should he get someone else? How did I suddenly go from having three guys to having absolutely bloody no one? What use are friends if they’re not even here? And what the hell happened to James? You shouldn’t be allowed to just tell someone you like them and then just ignore them. You can’t just kiss someone like that and then… go? 

I grab my wand and summon my bottle of wine from the bedroom. Wine is nice to me. Wine doesn’t start playing happy families with some cheating tart. Wine doesn’t get your hopes up and then just sod off.

By the time I’ve finished the bottle, my hands are shaking. It’s not fair- and I’m going to do something about it. I pull myself up from the living room floor with considerable difficulty and stumble into the fireplace. Grabbing a chunky handful of floo powder, I speak as clearly as I can, saying the address Al scribbled down for me last week when he told me I should just go and ‘see if you can sort things out’. Somehow I’m not sure this is exactly what he had in mind.

Most wizards have enchantments on their fireplaces so that not just anyone can floo right into their front room and James Potter is no different. I suppose not many people would take too kindly to a slightly inebriated, slightly deranged woman turning up in the middle of the night. From where I’m stuck behind James’s fire, I can vaguely see into his living room. It has dark wood floorboards and a long red leather sofa- fancy, but definitely a bachelor pad. 

This was a mistake. He might not be home. He might be home with another woman. Or, maybe worst of all, he might be home and not want to speak to me. I’m trying to work out how I can just get back to Alice and Priyanka’s when there’s a crash from somewhere else in the apartment. 

“Who’s there?” a voice calls, and James stumbles into the room, wearing nothing but spotty boxers and brandishing his wand like a sword. 

Maybe if I just stay really, really quiet, he’ll go back into his bedroom and he’ll never even know I was here. 

He comes up closer to the fireplace and casts ‘lumos’ with his wand. I blink hard against the bright light. “I know you’re behind there!” he says, and I can tell he’s trying his hardest to sound threatening. The bright red polka dots on his underwear do nothing to help this. “Who is it?”

He’s practically inside the grate now, leaning forwards so that the muscles in his chest ripple and squinting with those deep hazel eyes. I’m trying to be quiet but I think my pounding heart must be giving me away. And then his head jerks backwards in surprise. 

Fletcher?” 

My mouth goes dry and I don’t know what to say. I lean backwards as far as possible until my back is pressed against what feels like a brick wall. If I wasn’t so drunk, I’d just try to apparate, but I know I’d end up splinching myself and I don’t really fancy a trip to Mungo’s tonight. 

“Uh- hi!” I say eventually. James looks more shocked than ever but flicks his wand and the barrier between me and the grate opens suddenly. I stumble forwards and James grabs my arm to steady me. 

Still holding tightly, he looks me up and down in disbelief. “I don’t mean to sound rude but what the hell are you doing here?” And he doesn’t sound rude- he just sounds confused. Which is completely fair, I suppose. He probably thought he’d made his opinion clear by not reaching out to me, and I’ve just shown up at his house in the middle of the night. I’m such a bloody mess and there’s nothing in this world I want more than to be out of there as soon as possible. 

“Uh- wrong address,” I slur, trying to pull my arm out of his grasp, but he holds onto it. “I’ll just be- uh- going now, I guess.” I yank away again harder this time and trip against the fireplace. 

“Woah,” James says, wrapping his arm around me completely this time and guiding me towards the red sofa. “Yeah, no I don’t think you’re going to go anywhere right now.” I want to protest but I’m all too aware of his bare chest next to my t-shirt. I collapse down onto the sofa and James perches himself next to me, biting his lip and fixing me with a look of concern. “How many have you had, Fletcher?”

I sniff. “Only a couple.”

“Of bottles,” James smirks. And then suddenly my face is wet and I don’t know why. “For fuck’s sake, Fletcher, are you crying?” 

“No!” I protest, wiping my nose with the back of my hand. 

James waves his wand and a toilet roll comes zooming across the room. He pulls off a piece and wipes my face with it. He’s so gentle and he smells like soap so I cry some more. 

“Shh,” he says, moving closer towards me. I let him pull me close against him until my head is resting against his chest, and I can hear the quick beating of his heart. When I’ve eventually stopped crying, he runs his fingers through my hair and whispers, “So what’s happened, Issy?”

The use of my first name catches me off-guard, but I’ve cried all my tears so I just take a deep breath. “I don’t know. Nothing. Everything.” I feel him chuckle slightly. “What?”

“Oh, nothing,” he says quickly. “It just sounds like a lot, that’s all. Or, not a lot at all.” I stay silent, staring up at the swirly paint patterns on the cream ceiling and the few strands of James’s black hair that stick out the furthest. 

“You have nice hair,” I tell him.

He laughs. “Thanks. So do you.”

“Then why didn’t you speak to me after that night in the club?” He stiffens underneath me so I sit up and turn to face him. 

“Is that why you’re upset?” he asks softly. 

I shrug. He sighs and pushes some hair out of his eyes. He really does have long hair. I’m surprised he can even see where he’s going most of the time. 

“Issy, look.” I’ve heard that opening before. “I didn’t ignore you because I don't like you-“

“Then why did you?” I interrupt. 

He hangs his head. “I don’t know.” 

He doesn’t move for a few seconds so I reach underneath his chin and pull his face back up. His stubble tickles the tips of my fingers. He smiles slightly but I don’t. I didn’t come here for him not to give me any explanation. I mean, I’m not entirely sure why I came, but it definitely wasn’t for that.

“I was just scared, I guess,” he says finally. “I think I was worried that you were just upset about what happened with Al, and that I was just a rebound from that Mark bloke.”

The sound of Mark’s name makes my stomach turn. Or maybe it’s just the red wine. Either way, I lean forwards on the sofa, breathing deeply and trying not to throw up all over James’s posh wood floor. 

“Issy?” James says, crawling on the floor to face me. “You alright?”

I nod slowly and sit back up. “Yeah, sorry.”

“Me too,” he says lamely. 

We sit in silence for a few seconds. I figure I’ll stay here until my stomach’s settled enough to floo again, and then I’ll go home. And flee the country, change my name and avoid human beings for the rest of my lonely existence. 

“She’s moving in with him, James,” I say before I can stop myself. “They’re going to live together, both of them in my flat. Right where we lived.” The tears are catching in my throat, but I force them back down. 

“Oh, Issy,” James whispers and sits on the sofa again, hugging me tightly. He presses his lips against my hair so I can feel the warmth of his breath on my face. “It’ll be okay. You’ll get through this, I promise.” 

“But what if I don’t? What if I can’t?”

“Of course you can,” he murmurs fiercely, squeezing me close. “If you can pretend to be in love with my dweeby little brother, you can do anything.”

I smile weakly. “I’m really sorry about that, James.”

“I guess we both have things to be sorry for.”

I nod gently and turn my head so I can look into his eyes. “I’m sorry for just showing up here too. And I’m sorry for being so drunk.”

He grins at me. “’S’alright. You’ve clearly got more balls than me. And just make sure you get me a taste of whatever you’re drinking on our next night out. Clearly works wonders.” 

I stick my tongue out at him playfully, and before I know what’s happening, his lips are on mine. His tongue dances on my lips, seeking entry and I let him in. He kisses me deeply, greedily, pulling me up with his strong arms until I’m sitting on his lap. My hands reach into his long hair, combing through it as I pull him in towards me. He runs his fingers around my waist, sending shivers up my spine. I can feel his bare chest underneath me, his heart quickening as he teases his fingers at the hem of my t-shirt. I reach my own hands down and place them on top of his as he lifts it up over my head. We break apart for just a second before he begins to kiss my neck, his mouth trailing down towards my collar bone. I pull into him, reaching again for his hair as my hips arch subconsciously. 

“I- really- am- sorry- Issy,” he breathes, in-between planting kisses up and down my neck. 

“Don’t be,” I whisper back, pulling away for just a second before I kiss him hard again. 

He reaches for my back and rolls me underneath him, my hands now running across his broad shoulders. He begins to kiss down my stomach, stopping just above the waistband of my jeans. 

“Are you sure, Fletcher?” he whispers up at me, his hazel eyes excited and hungry. 

I nod and he continues to kiss my body, pulling my jeans down my legs slowly. His kisses send waves of electricity through me and I instinctively let out a moan, my eyes shutting as I let him take over. 

And then suddenly he stops and I can feel him shifting away from me on the sofa. I open my eyes and sit up. James is kneeling over me, breathing hard but looking thoroughly uncomfortable. 

“What?” I ask, pulling myself up further, suddenly very aware that I’m left in only my underwear. “What did I do?”

“What? You didn’t do anything,” James sighs as he runs his hands over his face tiredly. 

“Then why-?”

He inches further away from me. “You’re drunk. I’m not about to take advantage of you.”

“T-take advantage?” I splutter. This isn’t a bloody Jane Austen novel. “I’m a big girl, James, I can look after myself.”

“Oh yeah, sure,” he says sarcastically, “that’s why you show up at my house in the middle of the night pissed out of your skull.” 

I inhale sharply, reaching for my t-shirt and pulling it back over my head. “Fine! If that’s how you feel I’ll just leave then, shall I?” 

He sighs. “That’s not what I meant.”

I can feel the tears stinging behind my eyes. It’s because I know that he’s right. I grab my jeans off the floor and march over to the fireplace, looking for the floo powder. 

“Where is it?” I growl, turning back towards him. James is still sat on the sofa, his head in his hands. 

“I’m not letting you floo home in this state, Issy,” he says softly. Oh so now he suddenly cares about me so much!

“James Potter you tell me where the floo powder is right now or so help me God,” I snarl, advancing on him. I look wildly around the room but I can’t see the stupid pot of it anywhere. 

“Is I think you should just go to bed.” He stands up and puts an arm around me but I shake him off. 

“Just let me go home, please,” I say in barely more than a whimper. There are definite tears in my eyes now. “Please.” 

He shakes his head with a pained look on his face. “C’mon,” he says, taking my hand and leading me to one of the doors off the living room. We go into a large cream bedroom with a big double bed in the centre. The blankets look so soft I can practically feel them already. 

James lets go of my hand and uses it to gesture to the bed. “Go on, get in.” 

I don’t even bother to argue and clamber under the covers. They’re even softer than they looked and I rub my bare legs against them gently. I shut my eyes and rest my head on the pillow. James climbs on top of the covers on the other side so I roll over to face him. 

“Issy,” he whispers, checking that I haven’t completely conked out on him. 

“Mmm?”

“I’m really sorry. And, for the record, I do really, really like you, okay?”

“Okay,” I tell him, my voice muffled by the pillow. 

He kisses me on the forehead, stands up and creeps out of the bedroom. 






Disclaimer- I own nothing except the OCs.

A/N: Agh I know it's been such a long time since I've updated this but I promise I'm not abandoning! Although I doubt I'll have many readers left now. I started university, had a bout of glandular fever and have basically just not had the time or energy to write! But I'm back now and hoping to power through in the next few weeks. 

Hope you enjoyed this rather all over the place chapter! I always love reviews!

Alice xo
 


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