A/N - Hey there! I said it would be Autumn's birthday tommorow... and thus... HERE WE ARE. I've also been on a review-responding-streak and I've now answered all the reviews to this story (insert applause here) which is really exciting. I hate being behind. Anyway... I'll let you read now :)

 

“So,” Dom grinned, practically bouncing beside me. “Do you like it?”

“Of course I do,” I implored, smiling at her. And it was the complete truth – the top, well Dom claimed it was a dress, but I had my doubts, was beautiful, and I had to admit that the underwear set she’d brought me was beautiful, even though it was a slightly strange gift. Dom was like that though – she’d pick out something totally off the wall to give to you, but make it work perfectly.

Of course it was always clothes.

Still, I’d been slightly concerned when I was woken at five by Dom to open her gift, to find a lacy bra with matching knickers. Which I was now wearing.

I inadvertently found myself stretching to look over at the Gryffindor table...

“He’s fine, Autumn,” Dom said linking her arms through mine and dragging us towards her spot. “I don’t know why you get so worked up about these things, they happen often enough.” I decided not to inform her that my interest in the Gryffindor table didn’t lie with Freddie Weasley, who I knew full well had recovered completely and been physically chucked out of the hospital wing, but with one of her other cousins... “... You’re a walking disaster.” Dom finished.

I suddenly felt very irritated at her – waking disaster? I wasn’t that bad, and it wasn’t my fault that I had the tendency to be unlucky, always finding myself in awkward and increasingly more complicated situations (case and point: James Potter).  Anyway, it was my birthday, and given she was the only person who was likely to pay any attention to this fact at all, she could wait till tomorrow before she started with this ‘walking disaster’ talk.

If Dom noticed my irritation she made no acknowledgement of the fact, and carried on rambling on about something until Benson sat down at his usual spot and said “Happy Birthday Autumn,”

“Thank you,” I said loudly, making a point of smiling before grabbing the platter of pancakes. I’m not one for sugar-coated food so early in the morning – but it was my birthday. And at least I should celebrate it.

Then I looked down at my plate and swore loudly. My brother’s face had emerged out of the surface and was grinning at my psychotically. “HAPPY SEVENTEENTH!” The plate yelled, making several people around us jump and stare in our direction.  Then the plate began to sing happy birthday to me, very loudly, and very badly in my brother and his mate’s voices.

Then, once he’d finished singing, my brothers face exclaimed “Have some cake!” and then, the plate seemed to extend upwards and upwards until there was a normal sized cake on top of it, still with my brothers face talking out of it, “Candles!” He said next, and seventeen candles seemed to grow from under the icing – one out of his eye for goodness sake - and then he gnashed his teeth together and yelled “Eat!” and his face faded away into the cake, and my brother – who was now standing right behind me grinned and said “That’s quite something, isn’t it?”

The candles promptly lit themselves.

“It really is,” I agreed, hugging him round the waist and pulling him into the seat next to me (avoiding the huge parcel that was on the floor next to him – and was nearly his height). “Now, why don’t you have the first slice of cake?” I asked innocently.

“Really,” He said, “I think as it’s your birthday – you should have the first slice.”

“No really,” I said, “I insist.”

“No I insist.”

“Now, Oliver...” I said raising an eyebrow. “Why on earth would you reject a piece of cake...?”

“Fine,” Oliver said, “It’s not real cake – but how did you know?”

“I’m a Ravenclaw and you can’t magically produce cake.” I said. “But thank you,” Then I threw my arms around his neck and grinned. He smelt of Oliver, which was a smell quite close to home, but with a hint of extra boyishness that made it bearable.

“Embarrassing me,” Oliver muttered before finally getting rid of me. I laughed and pulled him into the seat beside me, suddenly forgiving Dom for all her wrongdoings and feeling rather special. “You’re present,” he said gesturing at the large, very tall, and very straight looking) wrapped present. I found the corner of the material and pulled it open, trying my best not to rip it, but giving up after the first tear.

What else, but a series of books? ‘The alternative history of magic’, ‘The complete works of Jane Austen’, ‘The squib’s guide to Quidditch’, ‘The magical muggle and other phenomena of the modern age’,  ‘The mystical beasts of South Asia’, ‘A day in the life of a dementor’ and, finally – ‘The purple Cauldron’ which claimed itself to be ‘an epic love story that stretched across four generations.

“Shit,” I laughed, turning over ‘The Purple Cauldron’ to read the blurb. “That’s a lot of reading material.”

“Well,” Oliver said with a grin, “It is your seventeenth, after all. Has April written to you?”

“I got a letter a couple of days ago,” I said, “She seems just the same as normal. She told me to tell you to write to her,”

“I wrote to her the other week,” Oliver said in an offhand way that meant I didn’t’ believe a word of it. He was notorious for not writing letters. That was his thing. We only communicated in the summer, when neither of us had anyone else to talk to. Then we acted as each other’s best friends... but not for the rest of the year.

Then we heard that familiar flurry of owls, and I felt my heart sink. There was an awkward pause as both Oliver and I tried not to look and see if that familiar owl was heading in our direction, but peaking out of the corners of our eyes all the same.  I coughed, and looked back down at the cake, which had now deflated into a strange mess of powdery green solid. I didn’t want to know what would have happened if I’d been stupid enough to eat it.

My appetite for pancakes had most definitely gone.

The owl landed on the centre of the table dropping off a fat envelope before immediately taking off and heading back out the hall. Oliver and Dom were watching me. Benson seemed to have picked on the strange vibe, because he was staring at the letter too.

A.O. Pearce it read. I frowned and snatched it up from the desk.

“I’m going to put these books upstairs before class,” I said quickly, re-pilling the up – placing the letter on top. “See you,” I said, before half-running out of the great hall. They just had to ruin it. Had to ruin what had started out being such a good day and –

“Shit, sorry James,” I muttered, slamming into him with my pile of books (which was so tall it practically covered my face – the complete works of Jane Austen is a huge book) and then having to step back comically to stop them all catapulting everywhere. Probably creasing and bending back the covers, which was something I could not abide by. Books should never be mauled. Never.

“Its fine,” He said, bending down and picking up the letter from the floor. He looked it for a split second before placing back on the top of my file. “Stealing books again, are we Autumn?” I smiled at that and shook my head.  “Birthday presents?”

“Your memory astounds me,” I said. “I’m just going to put these up in my dorm,”

“Need a hand?” James asked, taking three of the books out of my hands before I’d had a chance to answer. “Happy birthday, by the way,” He said with a grin. I temporarily forgot that I was mad that my birthday had been ruined by the letter, and smiled back at him. I gave him another three points for being so extremely beautiful.

And three, I suppose, for helping me carry my books.

“This all from your brother,” I nodded, grinning at the sheer fantasticness of my brother, and this present. I wasn’t going to be bored for days. Maybe even a few weeks. Whenever Dom was busy with Benson I could just burry myself in another book... “The squib’s guide to Quidditch?” James questioned, picking up the book that was on the top of his pile.

“I think he’s trying to be funny,” I said. “I can just about fly, and I can follow Quidditch but... playing it. Way beyond me.”

“I’m sure it’s not, you should have tried out this year,”

“I don’t have a broom,” I admitted. “And the school ones are crap.” He nodded, half leading the way up to the Ravenclaw common room. Of course he would know where it is.

“Anyway, what else have you got?”

“Dom got me a dress and some underwear.” James raised an eyebrow at this but said nothing. “And that’s it so far,”

“Parents?” He asked. I nodded towards the letter, just as we reached the entrance to the Ravenclaw common room.  “I can take them from here,” I said, reaching out to take the last few books.

“Don’t be silly,” James said, tightening his grip. “There’s a lot of books here – you don’t want to be carrying them up stairs.”

“I did before I bumped into you,”

“And you were definitely struggling.”

“Only if you can answer the riddle,” I said, “That’s the way it works James.”

He raised any eyebrow again, and turned to face the entrance.

“What is the root of all change?”

James considered this for a second. “Individuals,” he said defiantly. This was considered for a tense few seconds before the door swung open, and James marched in.

“You’ve never got one right before,” I accused, watching him glance around unsurely before locating the girl’s staircase and eyeing it warily. “It should let you up,” I said, “Because, technically, I do need your help up the stairs – and I am a damsel in distress but...”

“I’ll risk it,” James said, stepping onto the first step.

“Of course, “I said, rolling my eyes. “If it turns into a slide, just jump – it’s the first door here.” They didn’t change, but James must have slipped or something because he panicked mid step and made an awkward and misjudged leap at the door. His momentum carried him right through the door, sending my books scattering all over the floor.

“Careful!” I exclaimed, stepping over him and hastily straightening out the cover of ‘the complete works of Jane Austen’ which hadn’t appreciated being forcibly thrown to the floor. I placed my own stack lovingly on my bed before noticing that the other girls were still in the dorm and where staring curiously at James, who was still lying half in the dorm half out. “Erm...” I said awkwardly, before picking the rest of the books off the floor and placing them next to the others on my bed. “Birthday presents from my brother?”

James pulled himself to his feet.

“Oh, happy birthday,” Felicity said with a smile. Jessica nodded in agreement. Danielle just looked at me in a way that made me decidedly uncomfortable.  James coughed in the doorway.

“We’ll... just be going then,” Jessica said, grabbing Felicity’s arms and pulling her to the door – both exchanging raised eyebrows and poorly controlled giggles, looking between James and I all the while. Danielle took longer to leave her gaze still entirely focused on the back of my head.

“Thanks for that I guess...” I said, not entirely sure how James had managed to convey that there was something going on between us within one cough. Was there something going on between us? Hell if I knew.

“I suppose this is the dress?” James questioned, picking it up off the floor and holding it up against himself. “I’m not sure if it’s my colour,” Brown – with a tinge of red. One of the classic autumn colours that Dom insisted that I wore almost all of the time. “You can wear it to our victory party...and the underwear she brought, if you want.” He added as an afterthought.

“I’m wearing that now,” I laughed, suddenly becoming very aware of the letter on the floor. I frowned at it, and chucked it in the direction of my trunk, “Come on, I don’t want to be late.”

“Aren’t you going to open it?” James asked looking at envelope carefully.

“No.” I said making towards the door. “I left in a hurry, Dom might come after me – we should go.”

“Yeah,” James laughed. “Right.”

I frowned, folded my arms over my chest and walked slightly ahead of him so that he knew I didn’t appreciate the comment and I didn’t want to talk about the letter. He fell back into step with me as I crossed the threshold of the Ravenclaw common room and back into the harsh light of the corridor.

“Why are you so defensive about Dom, anyway?” I frowned at him and decided not to merit that with an answer. “Considering it’s your birthday, you seem awfully touchy today.”

“That’s why I’m touchy.” I countered. “Look, can we just go to Defence? And can you like... wait two minutes before walking in? Dom will hardly care it’s my birthday if she sees us talking.”

“What is her problem anyway?”

“James!” I exclaimed. “Drop. It.” He raised an eyebrow but kept his mouth shut, leaving it a full twenty seconds before entering the classroom after I did. I slumped on my seat next to Dom – one of the classes where we didn’t have a seating plan – and felt very much like crying into my desk, or hiding until this whole day was over. It was crap.

“Autumn,” Dom said, fiddling with a piece of her hair distractedly. “How long do you think you should be with someone before you have sex?”

And it gets worse.

 

                                                                                                                       

 

“I just don’t know what to do,” Dom declared after another fifteen minute rant about some crap I’d stop listening to after the third time she’d said ‘Benson said...’ and imagined how it would feel to pull my own fingernails off – because that was the better way to spend my birthday.

“Don’t do anything. It’s been less than a week,”

“I know,” Dom said defensively. “I’m not going to do anything yet – obviously. I hope he doesn’t think I’m some kind of slut...”

Because no one thinks that at all. I reprimanded myself. In my defence, I’d already been subjected to this torture multiple times during the course of the day. The entirety of Defence had been Dom detailing everything about her new relationship with Benson – which, don’t get me wrong, I was interested in, I really was – I was fully able to talk about boys for long periods of time... but then at lunch I’d had an hour long visual demonstration of how fabulous their new founded relationship was. After they’d had a free period together, and I’d been told all about that – via note – during Transfiguration. I’d had a well needed break from it all in Care of Magical Creatures, and Hagrid had even been kind enough to wish me a happy birthday and present me with a cake that I wasn’t going to eat. Ever.

Now, though, I was having a full recap of everything she’d droned on about so far. And a second lesson of Defence, which was the one subject I couldn’t do. And it was a theory lesson.

“I mean... everyone already thinks I’m a slut anyway so -”

“That doesn’t mean you have to act like one.” I returned sharply. “Anyway, Dom – don’t you want to hear about my love life?”

Dom turned to me and raised an eyebrow at that. I could almost imagine her face if I told her that I’d gone on a date with James Potter and was fully planning to wear the dress she’d brought me to the Gryffindor victory party. I didn’t, of course, because – as prior mentioned – I am appalling at Defence and am not yet suicidal (but we’re getting there).

“Go on then,” Dom said – looking taken a back. “Fill me in.”

“Well...” I said. “One of the guys at church invited me to coffee.” I said. It was true, but I wasn’t going to mention that it was after-church-coffee that everyone was invited too, and that I’d known him since he was twelve which instantly meant I’d have an extreme issue fancying him. Because he’d been a strange twelve year old.

“How old?” Dom questioned.

“Eighteen,”

“Looks?”

“Erm... dark eyes – not sure what colour, slight stubble, long-ish hair. Prominent chin. Dimples.” Dom nodded in approval – all of the above were acceptable features. Dom was especially in favour of the dimples and stubble aspects – hence why I’d included them.

“Height?”

“About an inch shorter than me,” I admitted – hating my tallness even more.

“We’ll find you someone yet,” Dom said, patting me on the arm.

“He could grow?”

“He’s eighteen; he’ll be a midget for life.”

“I’m pretty sure I’m still growing,” I sighed.

“You’re an anomaly,” Dom laughed. “You’ll probably grow forever and have to go live with the giants, now – who could we set you up with? Hey! What about one of Benson’s friends – we could double date!” She exclaimed. “Although, I’m not sure if I like Benson’s friends. Most of them are those big guys on the Quidditch team. Thick as anything, but big and brawny – and Benson’s been teaching these new moves and stuff. Quite complicated, I think. He’s always complaining after Quidditch practice but -”

“Yeah, right.” I said shoving my poor notes in my bag. “Look, Dom, I think I’m going to head to the library for a bit.” Her face fell slightly.

“But, Autumn, it’s your birthday. You can’t study.”

“I’m feeling pretty anti-people,” I said making towards the door. “Seriously, it’s fine. I’ll join you for lunch. I need to get this Defence theory stuff nailed anyway, as there’s no way I’ll be able to pass the practical exam.”

“Well... if you’re sure... but, I’ll be in the Common room if you want me,”

“Aren’t you going to be off spending some time with Benson?”

“No,” Dom shook her head. “It’s your birthday. I’ve got vodka and everything upstairs – I figured we could have a little party later.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” I smiled weakly – surprised by this sudden display of thoughtfulness from Dom Weasley – before disappearing and heading to the library. I felt better now that I was on my own. Like I could breathe properly. People could be so suffocating sometimes and I just felt... felt like I was going to get mad and really upset someone at any moment.

I slumped down on my regular seat at the library and rested my head on the wooden desk. I’d feel much better when the whole day was over... much much better. That was the annoying thing about birthdays. Despite knowing what they will be like, we all have the tendency to expect a little more from the day. We expect the world to centre around us because it’s our birthday when really... it’s just another one of those days. A particularly bland and frustrating day at that.

“Hey,” A voice said. I looked up, startled. James Potter. “You all right?”

I nodded and leant back on my chair, taking a deep breath.

“Not a birthday person?”

“No,” I admitted. “Not exactly.”

“So... I got you a present,” James said. “It’s not that great,” He passed it over. Poorly wrapped but there all the same. I forced myself to smile and unfolded the corners. Chocolate. Kind of perfect actually. I unwrapped it and stuffed two cubes in my mouth immediately. “I take it you’re not allergic then,” James laughed.

“No,” I confirmed once I’d stopped chewing. “Sorry about being a bit moody earlier,” James shrugged it off. “I just...” I didn’t finish the sentence and instead left it hanging. I definitely wasn’t going to explain the inner workings of my brain to James Potter – I didn’t exactly trust him (yet).

“Sorry for getting at Dom,” James returned. “I honestly don’t get it though – how someone as nice as you can be best friends with her...”

“Well you wouldn’t, because you don’t get Dom.”

“And you get her?” He sounded sceptical.

“Of course I do, she’s my best friend.” He raised an eyebrow. “Look, Dom’s a Weasley – and you know what that means? It means the minute she walked into Hogwarts everyone should have been falling over themselves in love with her, and they didn’t.”

“Well if she wasn’t such a – ”

“No, she wasn’t like that in the beginning. Anyway, even if she was a little... you know, it didn’t matter for anyone else. Everyone loves Rose even though she’s a bookworm, they love you even though you can be a bit of an idiot sometimes – they loved Victorie, loved Louis, loved Roxanne, loved Freddie – they all fell in love with every Weasley and every Potter that entered Hogwarts. Hell, even Lucy and Molly are pretty well liked, in their own way.”

“But Dom -”

“Dom had always expected to get to Hogwarts and be the golden girl like her sister, like you all expected. She’s always said they were too many of you in this year, maybe she’s right, but she ended up sitting alone on the Hogwarts express, being the first Weasley to be sorted into Ravenclaw and not having made any friends for the first week. The others had met on the train and weren’t interested, I was a bit of a loner – not quite in their group – and then she approached me halfway through the first week and that was that. But it shouldn’t have gone like that and ever since then Dom has known she’s the least favourite Weasley and there’s something about her that people don’t like – and that’s why Dom wants to avoid the lot of you like the plague, and that’s why she acts like a bitch sometimes.”

James stared at me for a long moment and didn’t say anything. “And she told you that did she?”

“Yes actually,” I said. “In second year. She hasn’t exactly mentioned it since, but that is the kind of thing that stays with people. Especially when Louis is dotted upon by everyone.”

He considered this for a very long time. “I don’t blame her for hating the world,” James said slowly. “It just pisses me off when she takes it out on you.”

“Friends always do that,” I shrugged it off. “And, maybe she’s a little self-centred, but she’s my best friend – and she’s lovely most of the time.” James looked as if he seriously doubted that.

“The library, on your birthday – only a Ravenclaw.” A voice said, and it was a very familiar voice, and then my head darted around trying to find the owner of the voice... And there she was, my sister, grinning at me – all tanned and brown form Egypt.

I squealed, stood up and had thrown my arms around her in about a millisecond. “Merlin!” I exclaimed, practically jumping on the spot and staring at her.

There are some occasions when it is acceptable to act hysterical. Your sister suddenly appearing after two years of prolonged absence is one of them.

“Now, Autumn, I know it’s been awhile, but it’s not Merlin... its April.” I hugged her again – then saw my brother standing behind her and grinning.

“Why are you here? How...?” I spluttered. “Oh my god!”

“I’m here for your Birthday, of course. It’s not every day your sisters turns seventeen.” I gaped at her. I couldn’t believe she was here. She was in Hogwarts. My sister was standing in front of me in all her glory. She was, perhaps, the only female person in the world who was taller than me. Except... it seemed like in the past two years I’d overtaken her. That saddened me a little bit. Still, I couldn’t remain too sad for long – because my sister was here.

She grinned. “I’ve been in Hogsmeade for ages. I sent the letter from there last week. It was all Oliver’s idea!” I beamed at him and threw my arms around his neck too – still making a pathetic squealing sound. “And, who is this?” April grinned, nodding towards James who was sat there observing the whole scene with a slight smile.

“James Potter,” I said in a casual offhand way (that made my sister’s eyebrows hit the roof). “I can’t believe you’re here!”

“Dom helped too,” She continued. “Sent the letter to Oliver saying where you’d be so I could surprise you,” I sent a triumphant grin in James’s direction. “Enough of all this hysteria, here’s your present,”

I was given another square parcel that looked very much like a book. I opened it carefully and turned it over in my hands. “This is great, April, but I’m not sure you’ve quite managed to beat Oliver’s stack...”

“Read the title.” April said slowly.

“An Alternative history of Magic,” I said. “This is the one you suggested to me in your letter?” I questioned, turning it over in my hands.

“Yep,” April grinned. “Now read the author’s name...”

“April Pearce, oh my god!” I exclaimed. “You finished the book!”

“Damn right I did,” She grinned. “And you’re wearing the watch I sent you,” She said reaching out for my hand to respect how it looked on my wrist. “I hope you haven’t been wearing it before today!”  I took my hand back and grinned at her.

“So... are you back in England for good?” I questioned hopefully.

“Not quite,” April said. “I’m staying for a few weeks. I’m going to come watch the Quidditch match on Saturday and then stay for the Hogsmeade weekend after that. Then I’m going to Australia.”

Australia? That’s even further away!” I exclaimed. How long would it take to send a letter to Australia? I wasn’t even sure if it was possible to send a letter to Australia, actually. Not by owl. There was a chance she wouldn’t have a fixed address anyway.

“Only for about a month,” April said. She’d said that about Egypt. “I mean it this time,” She added, sensing my thoughts. “Anyway, I’m taking you and Dom out for dinner – I have permission and everything, you’re welcome to join us James?” April suggested.

“No,” James said, shaking his head. “Erm... Dom isn’t so er... knowledgeable about the fact that we talk. Have a good meal, Autumn,” James smiled. I wanted to hug him, but decided against it, and instead picked up what was left of the chocolate bar and slipped it in my pocket. I grinned at him before reluctantly turning away.

“Now,” April hissed in my ear. “Was that the James Potter? Why didn’t you tell me!?”

I guess it wasn’t such a bad birthday after all.

 

A/N - Happy birthday Autumn! Reviews are greatly appreciated (and all responded to! Harrah!)
                                                                                                                           

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