Over the next couple of days, the infamous Snog began to slowly recede into the back of my mind, only coming back to haunt me when I lay down at night and attempted to get a few hours sleep. The explanation behind this unnatural phenomenon lay in the hands of Lily’s extraordinary family. This excluded Petunia, the self proclaimed Witch Hunter of the Evans’ household. At least, that’s what I imagined Petunia would call herself if she was one of those people who thought it necessary to give themselves a nickname.
Anyway, moving on.
Being with the Evans’ family (minus Petunia, who spent an alarming amount of time with a boy who went by the name of Vernon Dursley and, according to Lily, was roughly the size of a walrus) was a breath of fresh air. It was nice to see a fully functioning family that seemed to love each other more than life itself. The way that Mr. Evans looked at his youngest daughter, the light that caught in his sparkling green eyes, made me feel a twinge of jealous toward the brilliant and beautiful redhead. Of course, I was happy that she was so loved by her parents. But it made me realize that perhaps my life wasn’t as fulfilled as I pretended it to be, that maybe everything wasn’t all right and I missed my father more than I let on.
When I submersed myself into those memories, I was always quickly pulled to safety by either Lily or her wonderful parents. Her mother, who insisted several times that I should call her Angie as she felt “ancient” being addressed by the same name as her dreaded mother-in-law, started to address me by pet names such as “sweetheart” and “honey”. Whether it was out of habit or intentionally, I couldn’t help but enjoy it. Normally, I didn’t fancy pet names all that much, but when the words left Mrs. Evans - oops, I meant to say Angie’s - lips, the muscles around my mouth immediately lifted into a happy grin.
In the mornings, Lily and I would head downstairs only to be greeted with a delicious breakfast. Now I’m a huge fan of my aunt’s cooking and I’d always thought she was the greatest cook known, but as soon as I tasted one of Angela’s omelettes, I knew that I had been sadly mistaken. I would never tell Aunt Eliza that I favoured Angela’s cooking over hers; it was a secret I would take to the grave. I would sit down across the table from Lily with Mr. Evans at my left elbow, reading his paper through his bifocals. He wouldn’t look up from his newspaper, but he would make an occasional comment that left a stitch in my side from laughter. If he said something particularly crude, Angela would hit him on the back of the head with an oven mitt, which only made me dissolve into another fit of high pitched, fairly annoying giggles.
Once breakfast was eaten and we were cleaned up, we usually left the house to do something more exciting. On the first day, we went to the park. Lily and I played with Cappa in the snow, cooing at the adorable kitten as he attempted to climb over the mountainous piles of snow while Mr. Evans and Angela went for a turn about the paved way. The second day of my stay, we made a trip to the London Zoo. It was a place I had never been before, much to the surprise of the entire Evans’ clan. I told them how I would always refuse my father’s offers to take me as I didn’t want to see all the sad animals in the glass cages. Her parents had laughed, but Lily said that I did make a good point for a small child. That day was one of the most enjoyable that I could recall in a long time. On the third day, we went to the cinema. We watched a movie that Angela and I ended up leaving early due to the fact it failed to capture our interest. Instead, we hurried across the street to a small café where we drank hot chocolate. Angela told me countless stories of how she and Mr. Evans met and fell in love, which were no where close to cliché. I don’t think I’d ever laughed so hard with another adult, including Aunt Eliza.
We went on many other day trips that were fun packed and laughter filled. I almost felt like I was a part of the Evans family, even though I was well aware that I wasn’t. Somewhere deep inside, I found myself wishing that I was. My mind quickly banished the thought. If I was an Evans, then I wouldn’t have Aunt Eliza. And a life without Aunt Eliza wasn’t much of a life, if you asked me.
The days slowly melted into one another. I was happy for the distraction. I would be happy for any sort of distraction to keep me from thinking about The Snog. Of course, it didn’t always elude me like I hoped it would. No, at night when my mind was slack and I was more than ready to go to bed, I would imagine his slick lips against mine, his hot breath intermingled with mine, his glorious hands on me. I hated it. I wanted the stupid dreams to go away, but no matter how hard I tried, no matter how many times I jolted myself awake, they always came creeping back to burst my dream cloud.
X - - X
It was the sixth day of my stay at the Evans’ house. Like every other day I had been here, I rolled out of bed and shuffled out of the guest room into Lily’s room. She was still sleeping, like always, but like she requested of me the first morning here, I was to wake her up when I woke up. I poked her in the side and she grunted.
“You told me to wake you up when I woke up,” I said as I fought back a yawn. Unfortunately, I lost the battle and ended up being consumed by one of the biggest yawns in the history of yawns.
“Is breakfast ready yet?”
I shrugged my shoulders, even though I knew she couldn’t see me; her quilt was pulled over her head. “I dunno. Doesn’t your mum usually make breakfast every morning?”
Lily tossed the blanket aside and fumbled around on her mattress, struggling to push herself to her elbows. She blinked blearily at me. “What time is it?”
I glanced over at the alarm clock on her bedside table. The digital numbers were green and glowed iridescently. “Nearly nine. Why, does it matter?”
“It would if it was too early,” she mumbled under her breath as she untangled herself from her quilt and stumbled around on the floor. She placed a hand on her head as though she were trying to get the world to stop spinning. I followed her with concerned eyes as she crossed the room and took her dressing gown off the hook beside the closet door. Once she donned the robe, she gestured to the door and I conceded to her silent command, marching down the stairs.
I wasn’t all that surprised to see Angela standing at the stove, her back toward us as she prepared our breakfast or to find Mr. Evans already in his seat at the table, the paper unfolded in front of him. At the sight of his newspaper, I suddenly realized it had been nearly a week since I had so much as picked up a copy of the Daily Prophet
and completed a crossword puzzle. This thought bothered me more than it should’ve, but I pushed it aside as I took my customary seat at the table.
“Good morning, girls,” Angela said in a sing-song voice as she set a plate in front of me.
And there it was, the best damn green onion and cheese omelette that I had ever tasted, looking absolutely delicious on the white plate. I smiled up at her. “Good morning,” I replied in the same voice Lily’s mum had greeted us with.
Lily sent me a surprised look, her emerald eyes wide. However, she said nothing when her mother placed a plate of fried bacon and eggs in front of her. Instead, she grabbed her fork and knife eagerly and cut into her breakfast, all but shovelling it into her mouth.
From his place beside me, Mr. Evans laughed. “Where’s the fire, Lils?”
She looked up from her plate and realization dashed across her face. “Um,” she responded, her slim shoulders moving upward into a funky, somewhat deformed shrug. “I guess I’m just really hungry?”
I resisted the urge to laugh at her. With a small smirk on my face, I started to eat my own breakfast and nearly moaned out loud when the first morsel touched the taste buds on my tongue. Mmmm, it was just so yummy!
Once she finished preparing her own breakfast, Angela took her seat at head of the table, opposite her husband. She took a sip of coffee before taking a bite of her eggs. We fell into a comfortable silence as we ate. And you wonder why I want to be a part of their family when I have Aunt Eliza at home? I may lapse into comfortable silences with Aunt Eliza, true enough, but almost always, she would start rambling. . ..
With a pang, I realized that I missed her rambling more than I thought I did. My heart thumped in my chest albeit painfully. It was a little bit harder to eat my breakfast than it had been in days.
Halfway through our meal, the post arrived via owl. Every morning since I had been here, there was an affectionate letter in the mail from James. Sometimes, during the evenings when I attempted to play a game of chess with Mr. Evans, Lily would sit in a cosy armchair and reread her letter, a soft expression on her pale, freckled face. At first, it was cute, but after the third letter, I realized that James might’ve been more in love with her than I originally thought.
Things seemed to be turning out that way, didn’t they? They were always much bigger, much more meaningful than I believed them to be. I wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not.
Lily hurried over to the window and wretched it open, allowing the two owls entrance. I cringed, my back pressed firmly against my chair as - wait a tick. There were two
owls? That was more than a little odd. I was more than just a tiny bit curious now. Maybe it was an owl from Alice to Lily. But it didn’t fit. Alice had a barn owl and neither of the two majestic owls that came swooping in belonged to her. I recognized one of the owls, the beautiful snowy owl, as James’s, but the eagle owl. . .now I wasn’t so sure about that one. However, it did seem a little bit familiar.
But that’s not all I was surprised about. Oh no, not in the slightest. Not only were there two owls but the eagle owl had a huge parcel grasped within its beak. Its surprisingly sharp, pointed break. I felt the heat rush to my cheeks. Not out of embarrassment, but out of fear. Oh Merlin. . .
Lily took her letter from James’s owl and tore it open. I watched the eagle owl, my eyes growing as wide as saucers when it gave a great flap of its wings and landed in the middle of the table, its eyes focused on my. A shriek of fright escaped me and I tried to leap out of my seat. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much room between the wall and my chair, so I only succeeded in hitting my head against the wall behind me. It hurt. Badly.
A brief silence fell over the room. Mr. Evans and Angela were staring at me, identical expressions of confusion on their faces. The silence was quickly shattered by Lily’s loud laughter. I looked over at her to see that she was doubled over, her hand clutched to her stomach. Oh, so apparently, it was amusing to her. I had to admit, if I was watching it instead of experiencing it, I would probably be on the floor, laughing while I kicked my legs. But she was my best mate, she wasn’t supposed to start laughing at my fear.
I glared at her and righted myself, a hand flying to the back of my head. A huge lump had already begun to form and I knew that I was in for a monster of a headache. How very lucky of me. The owl started to trod across my plate until it was on the edge of the table, its beak thrust out at me. I could hardly retain my shudder as I subconsciously pressed myself against the wall, biting back what would’ve been another shriek of terror had I not seen the name scribbled across the parcel.
All right, so this owl didn’t want to attack me. It didn’t want to eat my thumbs as a tasty snack only to come back for my index fingers and pinkies. It was carrying a package for me. The scrawl looked vaguely familiar, but even if I wanted to there was no way I would be able to place it. I had difficulty remembering which socks I had on, much less whose writing looked like what. The slightly slanted letters threw me for a curve, but I reluctantly took the package from the owl. It seemed satisfied and turned on its tail (no pun intended, I swear) before spreading its great wings and flapping out the window.
The parcel was heavy in my hands. “And unnaturally lumpy.”
“What’d you say?” Lily asked, a grin on her face.
I looked at her, my brow furrowed. I wasn’t aware that I had spoken, but similar situations happened to me on a regular basis, so I was relatively used to it. “Oh, the package. It’s sort of lumpy.”
Without another word, Lily rushed over to my side, James’s letter forgotten, and took the package from my hand. I didn’t mind. In fact, I was glad that she had taken it. Something within my stomach told me that I already knew who it was from. My hand flew to my throat where the heavy amethyst pendant hung on the silver chain. When I touched the metal, a heated spark wound up my arm and an odd calm rushed over me; every time I touched any part of the necklace, it had the same effect.
Lily turned the package over in her hands a few times. A look of deep concentration passed over her face as she squinted at the words scrawled across the front.
“Well,” she said after a while; Mr. Evans and his wife had gone back to their plates of yummy eggs and bacon. “It’s obviously for you.”
“Believe it or not,” I began. “I actually managed that one on my own.”
She smirked at me and handed the parcel back to me. “Open it,” she instructed as she folded her arms over her chest.
My eyes widened. My mouth went dry. My hands started to shake. . .
All right, so maybe none of that happened. Actually, I hurriedly tore the plain brown paper away from the bulky object in my hands. It was better to get it over with than let my mind travel into the world of speculation. We all knew how much trouble I would be in if I let my thoughts stray and ideas take a hold on me.
What I wasn’t prepared for was what the package contained. Or rather, what the parcel was.
A low gasp of surprise escaped me as the deep purple fabric pooled in my hand, softer than silk and lighter than air. I was briefly reminded of James’s Invisibility Cloak and the singular time I had been underneath it with Sirius. A tremor of - well, something - rippled through me as I stared down at the object in my hands.
“What is it?” Angela asked. I jumped at how close her voice was. I jumped again when I turned my head and saw that she was standing at my shoulder. Mr. Evans was on my other side. And here I thought that Lily was a nosy person. No wonder where she gets it from, I thought with a mental eye roll.
I shrugged my shoulders. “I dunno.”
“Looks like a dress,” Mr. Evans said.
“Yeah,” Lily agreed, nodding her head eagerly. “It does.”
“Well,” Angela exclaimed, clapping her hands in an excited way that reminded me so much of my beloved Aunt Eliza. I wonder how she was holding up. “Unfold it and let us have a look!”
Swallowing nervously, I quietly reminded myself that I might as well get it over with and not drag out the torturous process of wondering what the hell it was. It certainly looked
like a dress and a very formal one at that, but for all I knew, it was a flying carpet. In fact, I hoped that it was a flying carpet. I glanced at Lily out of the corner of my eye and she smiled at me encouragingly like any best mate would. She was forgiven for laughing at me earlier, I decided.
I held my breath as I held up the fabric. It fell swiftly, the edges skirting the white tiles of the kitchen floor. I gasped. Somewhat dramatically.
It was, perhaps, one of the most beautiful dresses I had ever seen in my life. Of course, I didn’t wear dresses all that often, much less owned one that still fit me. But still, it was exquisite. The dress as you might’ve guessed, was floor length. I was stunned at how something so simplistic could be so gorgeous! It was one of those form fitting dresses with a built in bodice. A lump immediately formed in my throat as I thought of what would happen when I put it on. Would it fit? I hoped it would, it was much too pretty to go to waste. I could tell by the sleeves - or lack thereof - that it was one of those off-the-shoulders numbers, something that would look incredible on someone like Lily, but on me? I would probably look like a retarded - well, I dunno, but I wouldn’t look good, of that much I was sure.
“Wow,” breathed Lily and her mother in unison. “It’s beautiful!”
When I blinked, I was surprised to feel a tear trickle down my cheek. I quickly wiped it away, hoping that no one saw, but when I felt the pressure of Mr. Evans’s hand on my shoulder, I knew that he’d seen it.
“I know,” I muttered softly, my finger finding and stroking the small, pearly clasp on the left shoulder bunch of fabric. Furrowing my brow, I asked, “What d’you think it’s for?”
“What? The brooch?”
In my mind, I wondered - oh, is that what its called? I shook my head to myself and bit in the inside of my cheek. “No, I meant the dress.” I sighed. “I can’t imagine why someone would send it to me.”
Beside me, Lily let out an almighty cackle of disbelief. At least, I hoped it was disbelief. If she was cackling like that just for the sake of cackling, then I really was afraid that she’d fallen off her rocker.
I sent her an incredulous look and she laughed. “Isn’t it obvious?” she exclaimed once the look on my face shifted from incredulity to questioning.
Now, it was probably arranged in a confused fashion. “Um,” I stalled, biting down harder on the inside of my mouth. “Not really?”
She gave a short laugh again, her piercing eyes searching my face for any sign of joking. There wasn’t any and she seemed to finally discover it. Her mouth snapped shut with a tiny click and her cheeks flushed a deep crimson.
“Oh,” she murmured. Lily cleared her throat and began to explain. “Don’t you see? It’s obviously for James’s New Years Eve party tomorrow night.”
My brow puckered with confusion. “What d’you mean? I thought. . . .”
“James didn’t tell you, did he?” When I shook my head, she muttered darkly under her breath that she would kill her boyfriend of a little less than one month for not telling me. She rolled her eyes and sighed, licking her lips. “Well, this party. . .it’s sort of an annual ordeal at the Potters’ house and it’s a really big deal to his parents. There’s all sorts of families there from the Ministry and family friends of the Potters’, but. . .a lot of them are pureblood, you see, and it’s only because the Potters’ want to be nice and respectable to them all. And well,” she rubbed the back of her neck nervously, “you see, Ellie, it’s a formal event. You know, black tie and evening gowns sort of thing? So, I’m thinking that whomever sent this to you meant for you to. . .wear it. . .tomorrow night.”
“A f-f-ormal. . . ?” I trailed off, my voice helpless. The colour quickly let my face. I felt dizzy on my feet. I must’ve swayed to the side because I felt Mr. Evans grab my elbow suddenly as though he was trying to steady me.
“Are you going to be all right, Eleanor?” Mr. Evans asked, his tone coloured with concern.
I nodded my head and pushed the dress into Lily’s hands. “I’m just - I need a - yeah.” I walked out of the kitchen, closing the door behind me, and hurried upstairs to the guest room where I had been staying. Merlin, this wasn’t good at all!
X - - X
It had come. The New Years Eve party. I had woken up with an upset stomach and now, with three hours until the official party started, it was still acting up. Flipping and flopping like I was on one of those rollercoaster things that Aunt Eliza always tried to get me to ride. I stared at the mirror in the bathroom, my wet hair hanging limp around my shoulders. I could do this. I had to. I didn’t have any other option. I had to face my fears, whether I wanted to or not.
I took a deep breath, hoping to ease the knot that had started to harden in the pit of my stomach. It didn’t work, much like I expected it to, and I expelled the breath. I might as well just face the music while I was still conscious.
With a resolute sigh, I gathered up my dirty clothes and left the safe confinements of the bathroom. As soon as I stepped out into the hall, I bumped into Petunia. She leapt back a good ten metres as if I had stung her or something. I stared at her, wide eyed and confused, as she made small yipping noises that reminded me of an irritated ostrich.
“Um,” I said, biting my lip. “Are you all right?”
Her face turned a startling shade of plum. “DON’T!” she bellowed in voice so big, it was impossible for it to have come from her. “Don’t you dare talk to me, you - you-.”
“Freak?” I supplied innocently, smiling slightly.
“URGH!” She threw her arms up into the air in a hysterical motion and stomped down the rest of the hall.
I stared after her, momentarily stunned into silence before my blood began to thunder loudly in my ears. Oh right, I had to go prepare for my eminent demise. I rolled my eyes to myself and heaving another heavy sigh, made my way toward Lily’s bedroom, the very place where I was supposed to go so she could help me get ready for the party.
Seconds after I’d rapped my knuckles against the white wood of her door, it sprung open. Lily had her hair up in curlers and was halfway through putting on her make up by the looks of it. She smiled widely and opened the door for me to come into her room. I slipped into the room and I was a little surprised to see Cappa was already on her bed, swatting his small grey paws at one of her stuffed animals, a moose named Pippin. Apparently, the moose was named after one of Lily’s favourite characters from a famous Muggle book series called “The Lord of the Rings”. Having never read the books myself, I thought it was a rather odd name to bestow upon your stuffed animal.
“Was that Tuney I heard shrieking out there?” Lily questioned, her tone amused, as she nudged the door shut with her toe. It clicked into place.
I laughed and nodded. “Yeah, that was her. I accidentally bumped into her when I was coming out of the toilet and she completely flipped out on me.”
The smile faltered on Lily’s face, but she quickly turned away from me and to the mirror. “What’d she say to you?”
I shrugged my shoulders and made myself more comfortable on the bed. “Oh, you know, the usual. She attempted to call me a freak, but I guess she was just so repulsed that I had actually touched her that she just couldn’t get the words out.” I sighed wistfully.
Lily laughed and turned to face me again, a mascara brush in her hand. “Really? Did she turned that really odd shade of purple?”
I bobbed my head. “Yes!” I exclaimed, a chuckle building up in my throat. “She did.” The stone in my stomach was starting to lessen, to become softer and more bearable. Maybe laughter was the best medicine after all.
The redhead shook her head softly. “It’s a shame. I wish you could’ve met Tuney before she turned all. . .well, you know how she is. She was really a wonderful girl.”
“I’m sorry, Lils, but I have a hard time believing that,” I commented, my voice low.
“I know. Alice does, too. But she wasn’t always this bad,” Lily sighed weakly. “She’s only gotten worse with age.” She was quiet for a long time and eventually, turned back to the mirror to finish putting on her makeup.
I watched her, equally quiet and lost in thought. Cappa climbed onto my stomach and curled up into a little ball, mewing in contentment when I stroked the top of his tiny head. He pressed his skull into my palm, eager for more affection. Originally, I’d thought that bringing Cappa here would’ve been a big mistake on my part as I wouldn’t be able to give him the proper amount of attention. Naturally, I was wrong; Lily and her mother showered him with more than enough attention, and yet here he was, acting like he was attention starved. Nevertheless, I continued to pet his head and he mewed happily, the only sound aside from the occasional shuffle of make up products on Lily’s dresser that filled the room.
Nearly twenty minutes later, Lily turned to face me once again. “All done,” she announced. My eyes were immediately drawn to her face and I gasped. She looked lovely. I told her so and her cheeks were stained red. “Oh, I don’t look that good!”
“I think you do,” I remarked as I sat up. I didn’t even realize that I’d laid down.
She rolled her eyes in exasperation before her face broke into a wide grin. “Your turn!”
“What?” I squealed, so loudly I woke Cappa up. He stumbled about like a confused drunk for a few moments before collapsing on the bed in a small heap.
“You honestly didn’t think you were going to the party without any make up, did you?”
“Maybe?” I winced.
“Eleanor!” she exclaimed, her voice full of amused outrage. “You can be so silly sometimes. Come over here and sit down. I promise I won’t do anything to your face that I wouldn’t do to my own.”
I sent her a look and reluctantly stood up, crossing the room to sit down in the vanity chair. She’d turned it so that it would be facing her instead of the mirror. I glowered at her as Lily began to select what she would use.
“Oh, wipe that look off your face,” she said once she caught sight of my glare. “It’s not like I’m going to do anything crazy. At least it’s not Alice; you can trust me.”
I nodded in silent agreement, my eyes trained on the floor. “Did you have to turn me away from the mirror, though?”
Another grin swept across her perfect, freckled features. “Of course I did! It wouldn’t be any fun if you got to see what you looked like before my job was complete.”
“That’s not fair!” I cried, furious. “You got to see yourself!”
“That’s because I was doing my own make up,” she replied, not at all bothered by the fact that I was trying to escape the chair. “Don’t make me bind you to that chair, Ellie. I would really hate to force you into this.”
I laughed bitterly. “Isn’t that what you’re already doing?”
She sent me a look. “Do you want to look good for Remus or not?”
That comment alone was enough to shut me up for the thirty minutes it took her to complete her work, as she’d called it. Hell, it was enough for me to mull over while she went about fixing my hair in a way that I would “just love”. I trusted Lily, so I didn’t say anything when she pulled out a very threatening looking device that she called a curling iron. I’d never heard of one before, but I sat as still as possible so she wouldn’t burn me with the hot metal, just like she instructed me to.
This is exactly why I hated getting makeovers.
X - - X
An hour and a half later, I was staring at The Dress, which was hanging on the back of the door to the guest bedroom. It was such a beautiful dress that I feared I would ruin it. Even with the fantastic job Lily had done with my hair and make up, I still wouldn’t look right in the dress. Perhaps it would look much better on someone like Lucinda or Lily. They had the shoulders, those perfectly round and delicate, feminine shoulders, to pull off the dress. Me? I barely had any curves to call my own and would look like a flimsy piece of cardboard in the dress.
“Just put it on,” someone said from the doorway.
I whirled around to see Angela leaning against the door jamb, her arms folded quaintly over her chest.
“You scared me.”
“I tend to have that effect on people,” she said, grinning. “Go ahead, put it on. It’ll look fabulous on you, even if you don’t think so,” she tacked on before I could speak.
I stared at her. “Can you read minds or something?”
She laughed, it sounded like wind chimes. “Not quite. I can recognize signs of hesitation. And doubt. Which I don’t know why you have either.” Her brow puckered together in genuine bafflement. “The way Lily spoke about you in her letters made it seem like you were one of those girls who was very sure of herself.”
“Lily talked about in me in her letters home?” I asked, incredulous.
“Of course she did,” Angela said. “She always said how she thought you were such a good person and probably even better friend, but that you didn’t like talking to people all that much. But when you finally did come around, oh, Lily was so excited. She wanted to make friends with you so badly.”
Again, Angela laughed. “That’s Lily for you. Anyway, I suppose I should let you get dressed. James is supposed to be picking the pair of you up at six o’clock and it’s nearly five thirty. You should start getting dressed, Eleanor. I know that Lily is already putting her shoes on.”
I smiled softly at Angela and as she turned to leave, muttered, “Thank you.”
“Anytime, dear.” She shut the door behind her with a soft cliff and I turned to look at the beautiful yet slightly intimidating dress again.
So Lily had always thought that I was sure of myself and that I would make a good mate? I couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought. If anything, it was Lily, not I, who was that sort of girl and the better mate. I wished I could be more like Lily, someone with a good head on their shoulders. I had an all right head on a set of clumsy shoulders.
I guess this is it, I told myself as I took the dress off the hanger. I unbuttoned the flannel shirt I’d been wearing and was careful not to mess up my hair. I know Lily would throw a fit if one strand was out of place. I would, too, if I’d spent as long as she had trying to get the stubborn strands to fit into place in an elegant way; there was hardly anything elegant about me.
The sound of the zipper was ominous and sent a chill down my spine. I tried to ignore it as I slowly stepped into the dress, careful not to do anything stupid. Knowing me, I would tear a huge hole in the fabric before I took two steps. Thankfully, I was going to be wearing flat heeled shoes under the gown; Merlin forbid I had three inch heels strapped to my feet. Both Lily and I had agreed that would be a huge safety hazard for everyone involved.
I was astonish to find that the dress fit much better than I thought it would. It wasn’t a perfect fit by any means, but there wasn’t as much space in the bust area as I thought there was going to be. It had looked to be a big space to fill, but apparently I filled it as best as I could. The gown was off the shoulders, just like I suspected it to be. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I noticed that my shoulders looked much more delicate than I could ever remember them being, a lot more thinner as well. I was mildly concerned. I’d never been a bulky person, but I wasn’t exactly a stick figure either. I would have to remember to gorge on the refreshments. I reached back and pulled the zipper as softly as possible. If I snagged something, I would kill myself. And you think I’m joking.
As I fastened the amethyst pendant around my neck (it was surprising how perfect the colour of fabric of the dress matched the necklace that Sirius had given me), there was a brief knock on my door. It flung opened before I could say anything and there was Lily, standing there in all her beauty.
Her auburn hair was pulled into an elegant half twist, the bottom half of her locks hanging in waves around her shoulders, which made them look all the more delicate. A stab of jealous surged through me as my eyes took in her emerald dress. It was no doubt that she’d bought the dress because it matched the colour of her eyes so perfectly. It was a classic number with an empire waist and two straps that came up around her neck.
“Like it?” she asked, twirling about on spot. I saw that the straps criss-crossed one another over the pale expanse of her back.
“You look stunning,” I said, meaning every word.
“So do you!” Lily cried, rushing toward me as much as her heeled feet would allow. She grabbed my hands and made me spin in a circle, like she had. The edges of my dress flared out around me and she laughed. “That dress looks amazing on you! Remus won’t be able to keep his hands off you.”
My stomach faltered and my heart stuttered in my chest. Remus. . .I would have to deal with him tonight. For the first time since The Snog. My blood once again began to thunder in my ears and I tried to stop the room from spinning.
“Let’s hurry downstairs!” Lily said, releasing her tight grip on one of my hands and pulling me toward the door. “James will be here any moment!”
I followed her down the stairs, my heart beating erratically against my ribs. I was afraid it would bust out of my chest if I didn’t control it soon. Even though I should’ve been thinking about Remus, there was only one face that I saw in my mind’s eye. I wondered how he would look all dressed up at the shindig at James’s manor home. He would probably look like some sort of Greek god descended directly from the line of Adonis himself.
You’re only getting yourself into trouble, thinking thoughts like that.
I’d been expecting the Voice to appear and once more, I was thankful for it. It was right. I would get in trouble if I kept thinking thoughts like that. Especially if I kept thinking them until I actually saw him. All hell would break loose and that was something I definitely couldn’t afford.
We’d been downstairs for naught but two minutes before there was a casual knock on the back door. Lily’s eyes widened with excitement and a shriek of pure delight escaped her as Mr. Evans answered the caller. From my position in the living room, I could just barely see through the narrow doorway, past Mr. Evans’ broad shoulder. He was shaking hands with James and there was a smile on his face. That was good. Very good, indeed.
When James came into the living room, even I had to let out a soft gasp of wonder. He looked as handsome as ever in his impeccably cut black suit. There was a narrow black tie fastened around his neck and a nervous tinge of pink around his neck. If anyone would be able to detect nerves in another human being on this night, it would be me.
But James only had eyes for Lily.
“Lily,” he breathed so softly, I wasn’t sure if I’d made it up or not.
I felt like a stranger intruding upon their moment, so I averted my eyes as soon as he captured her lips in a sweet kiss. Thankfully, they didn’t suck too much face and released one another, taking a hand instead. James turned his now glassy eyes to me and smiled widely.
“Wow, Ellie,” he said as he gave me an one armed hug, his fingers still laced through Lily‘s. “You look beautiful. Remus’ll be knocked off his feet.”
I tried not to cringe too noticeably at the casual dropping of his best mate’s name and grinned back at my good friend in response. “Thank you, James. You sure do know how clean up.”
James laughed heartily. “If you think I look good, wait until you see Remus and Sirius. They sure do know how to go all out. I suppose its because they want to look impressive for their girls.” The wink he sent me was a little too warm for my liking.
However, I couldn’t help thinking which one was truly dressed to impress me. Thankfully, before my thoughts could completely consume me, James spoke again, drawing me out of my trance.
“Well, we better get going,” he said, addressing the room at large which included myself, Lily, Mr. Evans, and James; Angela had gone to pick Petunia up from Vernon’s house. “It was wonderful to finally get the chance to meet you, Mr. Evans.”
“Please,” Mr. Evans responded, taking James’s proffered hand in his grasp and shaking it. “Call me Mark. And the pleasure’s all mine. It’s good to know that the right sort of bloke is making my Lily as happy as she is.” He dropped James’s hand, returning it to his pocket.
“Bye Daddy,” Lily said, kissing her father on the cheek shortly.
“Goodbye, Mr. Evans,” I said to the man, smiling kindly at him.
He grinned in response. “Have a good night, kids. And don’t stay up too late.”
We laughed and turned toward the door, stepping out into the backyard. The Evans’ backyard was much larger than mine and Aunt Eliza’s and had much more personality. But seeing as how dusk was quickly settling and the party started in nearly twenty minutes, we were running short on time for me to admire the surroundings.
We didn’t waste any time. On James’s count, we all whirled around on the spot and disappeared with sharp CRACKS!
X - - X
“. . .and these are my parents, Julian and Mary Potter.” James gestured grandly toward his parents, who looked like very humble people indeed.
“Hello, dear,” his mother said, taking my extended hand. Her skin was smooth to the touch and her grip was gentle. I wasn’t expecting James’s parents to be as old as they were, but nevertheless, his mother was a very beautiful woman. Her once black hair was beginning to fade into a deep grey and probably would’ve hung a little below her shoulders had it not been swept back into such an elegant and somewhat complex bun. She wore a burgundy dress that complemented her warm brown eyes, the eyes that were so like her son’s. The smile on her face was very maternal and warmed me from the inside. “It’s very nice to make your acquaintance.”
“It’s nice to meet you as well, Mrs. Potter,” I returned, unable to prevent a smile from spreading across my face.
She laughed heartily. “Oh, James must’ve forgotten to tell you,” she waved her hand as though it were an every day mistake. And knowing her son as well as I did, it probably was. “You may call me Mary, if you wish. It makes me feel much younger.”
In that instant, I was reminded of Angela, Lily’s wonderful mother who had treated me like her own daughter in the short time I had been staying with them. “All right then,” I amended. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mary.”
Mary Potter grinned widely at me. “That sounds much better.” She patted the side of my hand as she let her fingers fall.
I was introduced to Mr. Potter next. Julian Potter was nothing like his son. Where James was tall and lanky, Julian Potter was tall, that much was true, but much more stockier. In his younger days, I bet he was built rather nicely, with shapely muscles ringed around his arms. He was an attractive man, even with his salt and pepper hair. There was something wry about his smile that was all too familiar to me. The crinkles around his sky blue eyes reminded me of James as well, the way his eyes would scrunch together when he smiled wide.
Unlike his wife’s grip, Julian shook my hand firmly and pumped my arm. “Welcome! Jimmy has told me a lot about you,” Mr. Potter proclaimed, his voice booming throughout the vast ballroom in which we were standing.
My eyes widened slightly and I glanced over at James, who was standing with his mother and Lily. I tried to gain control of my surprise, tried to reign it in, and licked my lips. “He has?”
“Oh yes!” He laughed loudly. I nearly jumped out of my skin in shock; James laughed exactly like his father, it was almost scary. “He says that he’s persuaded you to start coming to the Quidditch matches. Says that you didn’t used to fancy the sport.”
I swallowed nervously, unsure of how I should respond. “What can I say? He’s a real charmer.”
This seemed to satisfy Mr. Potter, who I would later discover was a very popular, very well liked man throughout the wizarding community. He laughed again, just as loudly as before, and it bounced off the walls, rang in my ears.
“That’s my boy,” he said, chewing on the end of his Cuban cigar. “You know, I used to play a bit of the sport myself.”
“Really?” I supplied, relatively surprised.
“Jimmy never told you, did he?”
I shook my head. “No, he didn’t.”
Mr. Potter rolled his eyes. “Figures.” He shook his head briefly and his impossibly messy hair fell into his eyes. He swiped at it and continued, “He doesn’t like boasting about it much. Thinks that people will get it in their minds that my success in my time is the only reason why he’s on the team at school.”
I snorted. “Sure. Because no one would be able to see how talented he is.”
“Exactly!” Mr. Potter exclaimed. He clapped me on the shoulder so roughly, I swore I felt a bone pop out of place. I tried not to wince as he squeezed my shoulder between his thick fingers, but it was just too painful for me to feel any affection from it. “You really do know your stuff. Jimmy had said you came to your senses. I was sceptical at first, but now - now I believe him.”
There was something about Mr. Potter that I really liked. Maybe it was his frankness or his sense of humour. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but I knew that if I got to know him a little better, he would prove to very entertaining indeed.
“He got me a book, you know,” I said, scrounging around for a topic to keep our conversation going; Lily’s attention was still on Mrs. Potter and her wonderful boyfriend. “To help me better understand Quidditch.”
“Did he now?”
I nodded deeply. “He did. Quidditch Through the Ages
, I think it was called. Very interesting read, you know. I’ve learned a lot about the techniques of old and the histories of the teams. I saw that it had your name listed under Puddlemere United, but at the time, I wasn’t sure if it was you or not. I mean, James had never told me the names of his parents nor that you played Quidditch.”
“Yes, I played for Puddlemere,” a slow grin slid into place on his lips. “They were some of the best years of my life. It’s how I met Mary, actually. I ran into her when she was in the stands with her fiancée.”
My eyes widened. “She had a fiancée?”
“At the time she did,” Mr. Potter said, his sparkling blue eyes clearly in the past. He rolled his cigar around his mouth, gnawing on the edge with his teeth. “Not after I was finished courting her. It took her nearly six months to come around and actually go out on a date with me. By that time, she’d already called off the engagement and was too upset. She thought that could cheer her up. Mary even said that she didn’t plan on ever talking to me again after that night.”
There was a brief moment of silence in which I glanced between Mr. Potter and his lovely wife, who was now greeting some guests. I was momentarily caught by surprise - when had guests started arriving? When I scanned the room, I was even more surprised to see that there was a good amount of people gathered.
“Shame, isn’t it?” Mr. Potter remarked.
I looked at him, my eyebrows pulled together in confusion. “What’s a shame?”
“That Mary fell in love with me,” he replied, a wry smile on his face.
I burst into a fit of laughter. Mr. Potter was quick to join me and I knew immediately that he was one of those people who would do anything for the chance of laughter. It also occurred to me this party was not his cup of tea. I imagined that he would rather be up in his den, smoking cigars on his own account with a glass of wine in one hand and a group of his closest friends, maybe even just James and his wife surrounding him as company. Yes. . .Mr. Potter may have spoke in loud tones, but I could tell that he preferred the quiet sort of life.
“I don’t think it’s a shame,” I said once I had regained my composure. Several people had been staring at us oddly. “Because if she hadn’t fallen in love with you that night, I wouldn’t have one of the best mates I’ve ever known. And I also wouldn’t have a reason to stand in front of you to have this conversation.”
Julian grinned a very Cheshire Cat like grin at me. Normally, grins like that made me uncomfortable, but coming from Mr. Potter, it just felt right. He took the cigar out of his mouth and gestured at me with it.
“You know,” he said after a long pause, one of his blue eyes squinted shut. “I like you. You’ve got spunk.”
I laughed again. “I’ve hardly got spunk, Mr. Potter.”
“Well,” Mr. Potter commented. “You must have something. That boy over there can’t stop looking at you.”
I furrowed my brow in confusion. He pointed over my shoulder and I slowly turned to look, unsure of what I would see. However, at the sight of the devilishly handsome boy that was gazing at me, their eyes twinkling with delight, I couldn’t help but allow a smile to spread across my face.
As happy as I was to join whomever was waiting for me, I turned back to Mr. Potter, a sad smile on my face. “As lovely as our conversation is. . . .” I trailed off.
“We’ll continue it later, my dear,” Mr. Potter said, his hand coming on my shoulder again. I was afraid that he was going to squeeze the life out of it, but thankfully, he simply let his calloused hand rest there. “I’ve got guests of my own I have to start mingling with. Unfortunately,” he added gruffly, a sour look on his face. He threw the cigar into a potted plant and wiped his hands on his pants. “Until later.” He bowed very formally at me. I bit back a wide grin as he whirled around dramatically, the hem of his black dress robe swirling around him.
Once Mr. Potter was gone, I took a deep breath and met my gazer halfway across the room. Two strong arms wrapped around my middle and lifted me off the ground. I was spun around and a bout of happy laughter escaped me. I was surprised that there was no crushing sense of guilt, that my heart wasn’t thundering with nerves and my palms weren’t sweaty.
I was returned to the ground and able to look properly into the face of the boy. I reached up with a hand to tuck a floppy lock of sandy brown hair behind his ear.
Before I could say anything, his mouth was over mine. His lips were warm and familiar against mine but there was something missing. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but I kissed him back with the same fever that he kissed me with. The fingers of my left hand had just found the soft tendrils of wispy hair at the back of his neck when he pulled his face away from mine, the hesitation of this action more than obvious.
My head spun lightly. “Hello to you, too,” I muttered.
Remus laughed warmly and dropped a kiss onto my forehead. “Sorry about that,” he apologized and he sounded genuinely sorry. “I just couldn’t take it any longer. It feels like I haven’t seen you in such a long time.”
I wrapped my arms around his middle and laid my head against his chest. He tucked me under his chin and we stayed like that for several minutes. I could feel his heart crashing against his chest in a erratic rhythm. I’m sure mine was beating in a similar fashion.
“I know,” I finally replied, disentangling my limbs from his and gazing up into his face.
His warm brown eyes sparkled. “Do you realize how. . .how. . .,” he trailed off, his lips pursed as he struggled to find the right words.
“How what?” I asked, curious.
He grinned down at me and softly kissed my mouth. “How very tempting you look in that dress. You know, purple really suits you. Why don’t you wear it more often? When not in uniform, all I ever see you in is blue, grey, and that awful orange jumper you have.”
“Hey!” I exclaimed, wagging a finger at him. “Don’t insult the jumper. It’s one of my favourites.”
Remus grabbed my hand and brought it to his mouth, planting a kiss on the inside of my palm. I felt my heart skip a beat, but there was no thrilling feeling in my stomach that would’ve been there a few weeks ago. At this, my stomach did react; it churned uncomfortably and now, I could feel the guilt beginning to overcome me.
I opened my mouth to say something, but before I could utter a single word, a wide grin swept over Remus’s face. He was not looking at me, so I wasn’t me he was grinning at, so I followed his gaze over my shoulder. And almost immediately, my stomach plummeted.
Oh. . .fuck
. I was not
ready for this!
They looked so beautiful together, it was almost painful. In fact, I felt a sharp pinch in my chest that I subconsciously rubbed as I stared at them in wide-eyed wonder. Of course, she would look like a Greek goddess, what with her long, flowing blonde hair and a gorgeous turquoise dress which clung to her every curve. Her icy blue eyes danced with delight, even from here. Hell, I bet my eyes would be doing the conga as well if I had him
on my arm. Where Lucinda might have been considered to look beautiful tonight, Sirius Black was nothing short of stunning. The cut of his suit was crisp and hung off his lanky frame perfectly. His impossibly black, glossy hair was hanging in his grey eyes, much like it always did. However, I noticed that while his girlfriend look joyous, he did not. The set of his full lips was not that of happiness, but discontent. Though it was hardly noticeable, the fact that I did
notice it made my heart skip a beat and my stomach swoop.
Before I could stop him, Remus called out to his best mate. “Sirius! Lucinda!” He waved them over with an energetic hand.
Ice gripped at my insides and I had to place a hand over my stomach to keep from vomiting. Oh no, this was not good at all. The Voice was screaming at me to make up some excuse, to hurry to the toilet before they came over here, but I pointedly ignored the Voice.
No, I was stronger than that. I could face them. At least, I hoped I could. And if I didn’t think I could handle it, then and only then would I take the coward’s way out. I would hurry to the bathroom and lock myself inside until either Lily or Alice came looking for me.
“Remus,” I hissed out of the corner of my mouth. I grabbed his hand to get him to stop waving, but it was already too late. I glared at him. “Are you suicidal? You do realize that Lucinda knows that we now both know about her and Amos?” I whispered harshly.
The colour drained from his face as his smile faltered. “Fuck,” he murmured hotly under his breath.
He slid his hand into mine and I held fast. I needed something to hold onto to keep me rooted in the world of consciousness. There was no spark when his fingers wound around mine. Another wave of guilt came crashing over my head and all I could think at this point of time was if Remus would ever find it in his heart to forgive me. I prayed that he would.
They came floating toward us. A smug smile was on Lucinda’s face as she placed her talons - oh, excuse me, fingers around Sirius’s arm. It seemed that she was dragging him over here, like he did not want to be near us - near me.
My stomach gave another jolt.
“Padfoot!” Remus exclaimed, rushing forward to embrace his best mate. He let go of my hand and I wished he hadn’t. I could already feel the room tilting around me.
A brief, but genuinely happy spread across Sirius’s face. “Moony!” Sirius hollered, returning the embrace with much enthusiasm. They pulled back quickly and clapped each other on the shoulder. “You all right?”
“Never better,” Sirius said, his gaze fixed pointedly on me as his arm snaked around Lucinda’s waist. He tugged her toward his body and she eagerly wrapped her arms around his toned torso.
“Hi Sirius,” I greeted, my voice strained.
The board was set. So this was how we were going to play the game. With cold indifference and vacant, meaningless words. I could play that game. Especially if I was being treated so badly with absolutely no reason at all. After all, he did kiss me first.