The feeling that I was being watched was so strong I opened my eyes. I blinked a couple of times to check I wasn’t dreaming.
My mother lying next to me. In my bed. It was strange right?
She looked like she was about to cry as she reached over and stroked my hair. She seemed to be at a loss of something to say, as was I. I had an excuse. i had just woken up but she didnt seem to know what to say. So we both layer there, me looking over my shoulder at her as she lay behind me.
Until she smiled faintly and said, “David and I are having trouble naming the baby.”
“Oh?” I said in surprise, rolling over to face her.
“What do you think of the name Sophie?”
“What if it’s a boy?” I asked instead of giving my opinion.
She rubbed her stomach fondly. “I don’t think it is. I have a feeling, like I did with you. I think you are going to have a little sister.” She paused to look at me and to swallow back the tears that threatened to spill. “And I know she will look up to you. Her wonderful big sister, who is smart and funny. Passionate and determined, an individual through and through. The one who I hear made the Quidditch team this year.”
I laughed. “Who would have thought, right?”
“No.” She said touching my face again. “That’s was that determination I admire so much.
I smiled sheepishly. “Only the determination to prove someone wrong.”
“And I bet you did. I see all those things - I know how you are but maybe I don’t know you. We have both changed so much. I look at you and realise you aren’t a child anymore and I don’t know when that happened. I am far from ashamed of you Ana. I’m sorry if you didn’t know.”
I looked down at my hands to steady my breath. “I have one question. Do you remember when I was about five and you dropped me off at Grans and you were wearing you best blue suit and you turned and waved at the gate... did you see me fall into the creek?”
She shook her head, a slightly confused look playing in her eyes. “Your Gran told me you fell but I didn’t see you.”
I nodded. It was good to hear that. “What's going to happen to her house?” I asked, thinking of the place where I spent most of my childhood. That attic was still full of my toys. I had a room of trinkets and mementoes there. Photos and clothes...
She bit her lip. “I don’t know yet. Ellie has spoken of moving in herself but I don't know yet.”
“What about you? It seems like a waste to leave it empty.”
“It does. Maybe.”
“Are you happy mum?”
She nodded. “I am. Are you happy Ana?”
I stopped to think. “Most of the time.” I said with a smile. She smiled too.
“Breakfasts up!” David hollered from downstairs interrupting our chat.
“Come on.” Mother said grabbing my robe and handing it to me. She stopped at the doorway. “Actually I have to get something, I’ll meet you down there.”
I shrugged and made my way downstairs without her.
“Good morning.” David greeted me cheerfully. “Breakfast first, then presents.”
“Presents?” I repeated.
“What would Christmas be without presents?” he asked, placing a plate of pancakes infront of me. “And we have lunch at your grandparents.”
Oh ew. That was just what I needed.
I stared at my plate. “Hey David?” I asked and he looked up at me. “What's your mums name?”
“Ida.” He replied. “Why do you ask?”
“No reason.” I said quickly.
Maybe a little too quickly for he nodded knowingly. “You spent almost a week there and you didn’t know her name?”
I shrugged sheepishly. “She never introduced herself! And it got to the point where it would have been embarrassing to ask. And your dad only called her...” I held up my breakfast.
“Pancake.” He finished with a chuckle as mine fell from my fork, landing with a thump on the plate. he continued to chuckle, stopping then starting again.
"It's not that funny! You aren’t going to tell her right?”
“Tell who what?” Mother asked waltzing into the kitchen.
“Pancake?” We both offered.
She looked between us but decided not to question it. To my surprise she then pulled from behind her back her wand and held it high. I frowned. I couldn’t remember a time when I had seen my mother with a wand.
“Ten inches, oak, unicorn hair.” She said to me. “I haven’t done this for so long. You ready to duck?”
I grinned, hoping she was kidding. “Swish and flick?” I suggested, thinking of the first lesson they ever taught.
“Right. Wingardium Leviosa!” She said pointing her wand at a spoon.
To all of our surprise it lifted a few inches off the table.
David let out a low whistle. “That’s definitely magic.”
I had never felt so alone as I stood in the middle of the foyer of my Grans house. Mother had told me in the car as I turned an unhealthy shade of green that they had all agreed one more party was needed. If you ask me they didn’t think it through properly. She wasn’t kidding when she said nothing had been moved but the whole house just seemed empty.
People were scattered everywhere, guests hadn’t started to arrive but the staff mother had hired rushed around putting the finishing touches on everything.
David came over and squeezed my shoulder. “You all right?” I nodded but my arms were wrapped so tight around my waist I could barely breathe.
“Why don’t you go change?” He suggested but I wasn’t listening to him anymore. My stomach lurched when I spotted Sirius by the door. What was he doing here? And in a tuxedo. Forgetting that David was talking to me I made my way over to him. Very quickly.
I couldn’t believe how good it was too see him.
Letting go of any sane thoughts I stepped up close and wrapped my arms around his neck taking in the familiar scent and comforting warmth. I don’t think I have ever actually hugged him before and I don’t know why I did just now. I relieved to have him wind his arms around my back.
“Merry Christmas An.”
“You told me you weren’t coming.” I muttered when I really should have returned the greeting.
“If I knew the dress code I wouldn’t have.” he joked pulling away to hold me at an arms length. True, pink tweed wasn’t my best look.
“Shut up. I just came from tea at the manor.” I said drawing out my words like my grandmother tended to and rolling my eyes. “Haven’t had a chance to change yet.” I said leading the way upstairs.
“Pink suits you.” He teased. I had no reply for that.
“Ana!” Mother called from across the room. “Your aunt just arrived. She’s looking for you.”
I nodded and continued up the stairs. I turned when I realised Sirius wasn’t following me anymore.
“She doesn’t seem so bad.” He commented.
I raised my eyebrows. “You should have seen her yesterday when I announced she was a witch at tea.”
He let out a low whistle. “You didn’t.”
“Unfortunately I did. I’ll share the story sometime.”
He grinned eagerly. “No now. What happened? Did she - This is your room?” he said as I flung open the door.
“Technically no. This is my Gran’s house. Was... my Grans house. I’ve never actually live here...I don’t think so at least.” I said stepping into the wardrobe to search for a suitable dress that wasn’t, well, this one.
Sirius leaned his head around the doorway. “You sure have a lot of stuff here for a place you don’t live.” he said pulling at the bottom of the many dresses. “So tell me the story.”
“I used to spend a lot of time here.” I reasoned. “And I just have a lot of clothes.” I looked up to find him holding the dreaded peach number. I pulled a face.
“I wore that to my mothers wedding.”
“Right.” he said shakily stepping back from the lacy dress. What was up with that?
“What do you think of this one?” I asked holding out a simple full-skirted cream dress with black satin sash.
“Much more you.” he said with a nod.
“Well anything is more me that this.” I said sarcastically indicating the pink tweed dress and jacket set that I had been asked to wear earlier today for lunch.
Kicking off the matching shoes in one step and pushing him out of the wardrobe in the next, I shut the door to change dresses.
“And I was that close.” He called though the door. I smiled knowing he couldn’t see me.
“How was the Grandparents?” he called again.
“Ah, just dandy.” I said as I shimmied out of the heavy pink dress and tossed it on the floor. I didn’t care what happened to it. If I never had to wear it again I would find my life complete.
The fabric of the new dress just brushed my knees, the softness almost a relief after being in that thing all evening.
“Would you believe I only found out her name this morning?” I said nervously as I stepped out smoothing out the sash. He was looking at me in a strange way.
“What? No good?”
He shook his head. “You look nice.”
Turning my attention to my hair, I let it free and revelled in the feeling of freedom. I hated wearing my hair up. I searched the cluttered surface of my dresser for a brush. I couldn’t even remember the last time I saw one here... Guess I would have to settle for running my fingers though it.
“They tried to set me up with their nephew.”
I heard him snort back laughter. “How did that go?”
“I told him he had a pole up his arse.”
“How very ladylike of you.” he commented.
A squirt of my favourite scent, a dab of lip gloss and I was done.
“Well?” I asked turning back around to face Sirius. He was sitting on the edge of my bed with one of the many photo frames that scattered this room in his hand.
I sat next to him and looked at the one her was holding. “Is this really you?”
“Shut up.” I said taking the photo off him. It was me sitting in my pram wearing a huge sun hat and a look that gran used to say could curdle milk.
“Weren’t you told you are supposed to smile in photos?”
“Must have missed that memo.”
“Is that your parents?” he went on picking up another.
“Yep. When they were out age...they were married less than a year later.” I told him. It was my favourite photo of them. They were so young and carefree. For a short time I use to believe in the fairytale story that picture told. I used to stare at it and think if everyone could love like that then we could all be happy.
“They look happy.” he said wistfully.
“I think they were.” I said in a whisper. “Then at least.”
“They were too young. I can't help wonder if they would still be together today if he didn’t die or would I be just another child of a ruined marriage? Hating both my parents or playing matchmaker to a useless cause?”
“Is this why you are so against love?” He asked looking at me and waving the frame around.
“No.” I said firmly taking the frame from him and setting it back down “I’m not against love. I just don’t – “ I started but found I couldn’t finish my thought. Not anymore at least. Once upon a time I would have told him love was for fools especially at our age, but did I believe that anymore?
See this was why I didn’t believe in fairytales. Far too complicated.
He stared at me but didn’t say anything. His eyes prompting me to speak were enough to make me crack. He was so close and making me nervous.
“Shoes!” I cried snapping my fingers and jumping up to rush back into the wardrobe. I stood there for a moment trying to calm down. Since when did anyone have this effect on me?
“Which ones?” I asked quietly finally emerging with two pairs.
“The red.” He said resignedly.
I nodded. Good choice. I quickly slipped them on my feet.
“Ana –“ he started but I cut him off.
“Okay. I think I am ready.” I said clapping my hands together.
He smiled. “Shall we then?” he asked opening the door for me. He paused after I had passed him.
“So what did you call her? If you didn’t know her name.”
“Nothing?” I replied. “Better that what he called her. Pancake.”
“That’s... nice.” He offered.
At the bottom of the stairs my aunt greeted us.
“Hey Ana baby. I’ve been looking for you.” She said hugging me. “Love the dress. Not kidding this time. Hi...” she said to Sirius who was still standing behind me. “Do you mind if I steal her for just a moment? Thankyou!” she sang without waiting for a reply. She shot him a grin and grabbed my arm, leading me away.
“I’ll see you downstairs!” I called from halfway down the hall.
“I hear you had high tea at the manor.” She said finally relinquishing her hold on me as we entered her old room.
“And I hear you caused a little drama yesterday at tea. Actually I have heard three different versions each more dramatic than the last.”
“Really?” I asked wincing.
“Nah. Just teasing. Your mother did tell me though.”
“She was casting spells over breakfast this morning.”
“Really?” Els asked in surprise. I nodded. “So what do you think?” She asked pulling out a periwinkle blue dress out of her wardrobe.
I walked over to her to lift up the plastic cover.
“For me?” I asked dumbly. She nodded.
“I know I said you could choose your dress but I saw it and I fell in love... I tell you, if I didn’t have to wear white...”
I laughed. I could imagine my aunt, the bride, turning up in blue and shocking the oldies. Imagine that with my mums friends, oh the scandal it would create!
“No, I love it.” I assured her. “Are you sure it’s a bridesmaids dress though? Its missing the lace and ruffles... bows-”
“Stop it!” Aunt Els laughed. “I just wanted to show you before I showed the others. Does it pass?”
“It definitely passes. I love it. Thanks.”
“So then... who was the guy?” she asked slyly slipping the dress back onto the hanger.
I knew that was coming. She is so predictable.
“Just a friend from school.” I said nonchalantly as possible.
“Uh huh...” she murmured waggling her eyebrows at me. That’s when I turned to leave. Nothing was going to convince her otherwise.
With a laugh she caught my arm. “Okay I get it. Just a friend. Introduce me though? I love to meet your friends.”
“I would have you know.” I told her pulling a face. “But you dragged me away.”
“Oh, I dragged you away did I? Well I wouldn’t want to hold you up. I give you permission to leave.” She said graciously using my dress to curtsy.
I didn’t move.
Aunt Els quickly hung the dress back up and turned to me. “Friends.”
“Friends.” I echoed.
“Sit down. I sense there is a story coming.”
I sat. “Did you know gran was once in love in a muggle.” I asked.
“No I didn’t.”
“He died in an accident in Germany. He was in the army working and they were engaged.”
“How do you know this?”
I shrugged. “She left a box of junk at the top of my wardrobe. Nat and I sorted through it we found the ring and letters from him and a news article about the accident. Did she ever tell you when she met grandpa?”
“Yeah. He was a friend from school. A year ahead of her as I recall.”
“Like Sirius and me. You know how I met him?” I asked. She shook her head. Well obviously. “He was annoying the hell out of me and I refused to give him my name. So he asked around. Been annoying me ever since. I think he is the only person who can simultaneously make me want to laugh and kill him with one simple comment.” I turned away from her wishing she would wipe that knowing smile from her face. “I think I am falling for him bad. Or fallen.”
Aunt Els laughed. “Why Ana, you hopeless romantic. Next you will be telling me you believe in fairytales too.”
I shook my head. “No. Never”
“Why not? Seems to me you just described the beginning of one.” She said nudging me in the side.
I sighed. “I can't. If I start believing in fairytales I have to believe in true loves and one true love means fate and destiny have to get involved and if fate and destiny are real then I have to question my entire existence! Was my mum happier with Dad or with David? How would things have been different if he was alive? Was gran ever really happy? Was her destiny to lose a love and end up with someone that didn’t appreciate her?”
“Mum was never unhappy Ana. Whatever made you think that?”
“She used to fight with grandpa constantly!”
“They had been married forty years! Trust me they loved each other. They were comfortable. Both knew that the other would never be truly mad at the end of an argument. It was their way of saying they still cared. I just hope Jeremy and I will be like they were in forty odd years. And as for being happy, well Ana she was never happier than when she was with her favourite granddaughter.”
“You mean her only granddaughter.” I muttered.
Aunt Els laughed. “Nah, you were definitely her favourite, kid.”
“What do you think would have happened if she did marry Walter?”
She shook her head. “None of us would exist? Don’t think about it too hard. If only and buts shouldn’t be considered. And as for your dad, well she was happy with him, she loved him but she also loves David.”
“Well then you just contradicted the one true love rule of a fairytale. I betcha Cinderella would have never considered speed dating if prince charming was killed by a runaway house and cart.”
Aunt Els laughed. “Remind me not to let you make a speech at my wedding. So you don’t believe in fairytales but you like this guy? And he?”
I shrugged. “Is Sirius Black?”
“So? What does that mean?”
“It means a lot of things.” Yet I could not explain one.
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