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A/N: So, so sorry that it's taken so long for me to write this chapter! As you can see it's a long one again! :D Hopefully that makes up for it! If not, please don't throw things at me! I originally was just going to say there would be two chapters left but I couldn’t leave the story the way it was. I just couldn’t so it’s been extended for just a few more chapters and then it’ll be finished. Just as a little warning… the chapter does not end the way you think it would ;)

Disclaimer: I only own my OCs and the plot but everything you recognise from the Harry Potter world does not belong to me but the talented J.K. Rowling.





If I must say, it was rather surreal getting up at Char’s house instead of waking up to the Spanish sun shining in from a balcony. It also dawned on me that I’d never actually stayed a night on the yacht… that we now owned. It still hadn’t settled in that I half-owned a yacht. When I opened my eyes, I was staring at a framed picture of Char and Darrell when they’d first started dating and they both had smiles on their faces, looking the perfect picture of happy. James was still fast asleep next to me, snoring his cute little head off as his arm was draped around me. Yet again. I turned over quietly and carefully so as not to wake him up and climbed out of the sofa bed, heading in the direction of the kitchen because now that I was awake I noticed that my stomach kept grumbling rather loudly.


“Good morning.” Char whispered to me when I walked in, surprising me because I didn’t think she’d be awake at this time in the morning.


“Morning,” I whispered just as quietly because I didn’t want to wake anybody else up in the house, “How come you’re up early?” I opened up the cupboard holding the mugs and made myself a strong cup of tea to wake myself up a bit more. Char put her cup down and gave me a slightly bewildered look, “What? Have I got something on my face?” I tried to look at my face and neck in the spoon to make sure James hadn’t given me any inappropriate ‘marks’ from last night.


“Elle, it’s nearly one o’clock in the afternoon,” she ignored my question, pointing over her shoulder at the clock hung on the wall, “You’ve both been asleep for ages.”


“What?!” I put my mug down harshly, narrowing missing the spray of scalding tea on my hand.


“Yeah.” She nodded in response.


“Why didn’t you wake us up?” I questioned in shock, trying to quickly chug down the boiling tea in my haste to get ready and spend the last few hours with Norah before we had to go back to Spain.


“You both looked so tired and work out so we left you to catch up on your, obviously, much needed sleep,” she answered, stopping me from burning myself by dragging the mug away from me but at the last thought I had frozen in dread, “What? What’s the matter?” It hadn’t even registered in my mind that tonight was my Hen party. And tomorrow I was getting married. To James.


“I’m getting married tomorrow,” I leant against the kitchen counter, staring down at my hands that were still cupped around my half-drained mug, “I’m getting married tomorrow.” I repeated dumbly. I didn’t meant for it to come out so scared but it did and Char picked up on it because I’d stupidly let my guard drop for a second in her presence as if she knew about the deal.


“Why do you sound so unhappy about that?” She tried to make eye contact with me but I wouldn’t look at her. My eyes were roaming everywhere except at her face.


“I’m not unhappy about it,” I shrugged nonchalantly as possible, “It just surprised me that it was so soon,” she didn’t look convinced at all so I changed the subject, “Where’s Darrell? I would have thought he’d be awake by now?”


“He’s at his Mum’s picking up Ruari and Gabby.” She replied finally and turned away which made relief swim through me as it looked like she was going to drop it.


“Are we going back to St Mungo’s today so we can see Norah?” I drained the last bits of my drink and began washing it manually so it gave me something to do.


“I already went this morning,” she said and I looked at her, my brow raised, “And they’re still not letting her have visitors. Apparently she’s not stable enough for that.”


“That’s a bit shit.” I muttered grumpily.


“What’s a bit shit?” Both Char and I’s heads turned to the kitchen doorway where a sleepy-looking James was rubbing his eyes and stretching his arms over his head.


“Norah’s still not allowed visitors.” Char answered quickly, turning around to fix us all some breakfast. Well, lunch for her.


“Yeah that is a bit shit,” he nodded his head in agreement and came to stand next to me, wrapping an arm around me and kissing me gently, “Morning.”


“Good afternoon, technically.” I smiled slightly, wrapping my own arm around his waist and feeling a little less dread about today and tomorrow. James was in the same position as me and although he may not reciprocate my feelings, he was getting married to someone he’d only known for just over three weeks too.


“Why what time is it?” he yawned loudly and cutely as he looked up at the wall clock, “Bloody hell! I didn’t think it’d be this late!” He exclaimed looking down at me with shock evident in his hazel eyes.


“Neither did I.” I shrugged casually as one of my fingers trailed slowly along his back and side subconsciously.


“I’m just gonna make you something quick so you both can get ready and we can go to St Mungo’s.” Char interrupted us, putting the stove on so she could cook us some bacon butties.


“Thanks Char.” I smiled, going back into the living room with James in tow. I settled myself down onto the sofa bed, under the covers, and switched the TV on. James climbed in beside me and put his arm around my waist as usual as I snuggled into the crook of his neck. We sat in silence until Char came in, placing the big plate of bacon butties on our laps for us to eat. We devoured them, filling our empty stomachs until our hearts were content. Char then told us we could get changed in her room and we did so, putting on the clothing we wore yesterday as we had nothing else here.


“I almost forgot that we were back in England, you know.” I admitted out loud, chuckling to myself at my silliness. I had been in such a good mood ever since Norah had woken up and it felt nice to not have this dark cloud hung over me all the time because of not knowing whether she’d survive or not.


“Me too,” James agreed, pulling his pyjama shirt over his head. And I had to stop myself from drooling. I knew I had seen his torso and abs multiple times before but it still managed to shock me whenever I saw it, “See something you like?” His voice broke me out of my stupor and I locked eyes with him, feeling my face redden and heat up with embarrassment. His mouth was curved upwards into a victorious smirk and his eyes were alight with amusement.


“Shut up,” I shoved him roughly, turning my body away so that he couldn’t see my bright red face. I heard him chuckle and peered over my shoulder just in time to see his abs disappear under his white shirt. Just as I saw him slowly take his pyjama bottoms off out of my peripheral vision, I took that as my turn to quickly get undressed and pull on my blue jeans and cream-coloured t-shirt, “See something you like?” I teased when I turned and he was giving me the exact same greedy stare.


“Not really, no.” He teased back easily and, once again, I shoved him in the side. He retorted by grabbing for me and mercilessly tickling my sides.


“Ah! No! Stop!” I shrieked breathlessly, giggling at the same time and trying to escape his clutches.


“You’ll never escape me!” He bellowed in his most ‘evil’ voice and began half-wrestling, half-tickling me again.


“I’m guessing you two are ready to go to St Mungo’s then?” Char’s head popped round the doorframe and we both froze immediately like two children caught with their hands in the cookie jar.


“Yep,” I nodded with my voice coming out raspy thanks to me being out of breath. James’ hands retracted slowly as we walked down the stairs into the living room again. I tried to regain my breathing as I slipped on my socks and shoes when I noticed that Char had tidied up the living room and put the sofa bed away, “Char, you should have left it for us to clean up.” I twisted my head round to look at my sister, who was by the front door getting herself ready.


“It gave me something to do and I don’t mind, it’s my house.” She shrugged in response not looking at me and rummaging through her handbag for something. When she found what she was looking for – which turned out to be a pen – she quickly scrawled something down on a pad of paper and stuck it on the noticeboard by the door.


“Yeah but it’s our mess.” James also inputted, standing up to meet her at the door.


“Oh hush up,” she lightly smacked him on the arm much to his surprise, “You’ve done far more for us than tidying up a little bit.”


“Well… thank you.” He rubbed the back of his neck nervously after running it through his hair.


“It should be us thanking you, James,” she replied sternly, opening the front door and stepping out, allowing us room to follow her. When we were out, I pulled the door closed and she locked it, “Ready?” She looked at both of us with her arm extended. I grabbed onto her arm whilst James latched onto mine and I felt the sudden pulling sensation in my stomach as we apparated into the hospital. Our feet hit the ground in the apparition zone on the ground floor in St Mungo's and it took my eyes a few seconds to adjust before we were off, walking in the direction of Norah’s room. We walked up in silence until we reached the door where our Dad was patiently sitting outside.


“Hi Dad.” Both Char and I said simultaneously. His exhausted head slowly lifted and his brown eyes locked with Char first and then me before returning them to the wall opposite. I took that as a ‘hello’ and sat beside Char in the line of chairs opposite her door.


“What time is it?” I leaned against James’ shoulder, wrapping my arms around his as if he was my teddy bear.


“Nearly half two, why?” He replied, checking his watch and reaching his hand up to run it through his hair again.


“Just wondering,” I said quietly, looking at the floor and then back up at him, “What time are we going back?” His head swivelled to me so that I could see him properly from where my head was rested against his bicep.


“Whatever time you want.” He placed a delicate kiss on my forehead and intertwined his fingers with mine. And that alone made more butterflies zoom around my stomach.


“James you know if you say ‘whatever time you want’ I’ll never want to leave her side?” I answered honestly, moving my head so that my chin was propped on his shoulder.


“How about we leave at half three? That gives us an hour to say our goodbyes?” He suggested and I nodded my head as best as I could with my head on his shoulder.


“Okay,” I sighed, shifting back to my original position, “That works for me.” I felt him chuckle slightly underneath me and I couldn’t help the small smile that briefly flitted across my face. It wouldn’t go away and every time I thought more about the last three weeks it just kept getting bigger. So much so that I had to bite my lip in an attempt to hide it. A few Healers walked past with a business expression on their face, holding clipboards and some holding mugs of coffee or tea. Eventually the familiar face of Teddy came out of Norah’s room followed by a few more Nurses and Healers.


“How is she?” Dad was the first to jump up, scaring Teddy just a little.


“She’s… she’s doing okay…” He trailed off, looking at James sheepishly.


“What’s wrong?” Char blurted and I could practically feel the worry radiating off of her.


“There’s nothing wrong with her health per se…” he sighed heavily again before turning all business-like, “Her physical health is satisfactory but, her mental health may need to be looked at. She’s struggling to come to terms with what year it is but that’s to be expected when you’ve been under for as long as she has.” He said it rather pointedly at my Dad as if it was his fault for not bringing her out of the coma earlier but Dad didn’t seem to catch it.


“And?” I urged him to continue and his eyes briefly met mine and a little glimmer of something was there.


“And she is also struggling with the loss of use in her legs,” he replied, looking down at his clipboard before passing it to one of the other Healers that was in her room, “I haven’t told her anything that has happened in the last four years because I feel that is something that she needs to hear from you. But still not yet, we have a few more tests to run which should be completed by tomorrow. And if she passes, you may visit her.” He advised seriously before nodding his head sombrely.


“Thank you, Healer Teddy. For everything.” I thanked him quietly and he placed a comforting hand on my shoulder before disappearing round the corner.


“Elle, it’s nearly half three.” James whispered in my ear as I turned back to see Char and Dad hugging briefly. The sadness started settling in my stomach at having to leave Norah behind even if it was just for another week or so.


“Okay.” I nodded my head in agreement and walked up behind Char, who turned around at the sound of my footsteps. Her smile disappeared when she saw my facial expression.


“You’re leaving?” she looked up at James as well and we both nodded, the guilt washing through me. I think she noticed as she suddenly engulfed me in a hug, “It’s okay Elle, you need to leave for your wedding. She’ll understand.” She whispered in my ear as her arms wrapped around me gently. I hugged her back just as tight and not wanting to let go but I knew I had to eventually.


“It’s not her I’m worried about…” I whispered back, looking pointedly at Dad when we let go and she went to hug James. He still didn’t seem to understand that Char was basically telling him he was a part of the family now whether he liked it or not. She never hugged just anybody.


“Don’t worry about him. I’ll make sure he won’t get five minutes alone with her,” she told me, “And honestly Elle, she won’t blame you because it wasn’t your fault and she’ll know that.” I looked down at the floor to avoid seeing her face knowing that she was lying to make me feel better. James’ arm snaked around my waist, sending shivers down my spine as he delicately kissed the top of my head.


“Yeah, uh,” I managed to slowly lift my eyes to meet my Father’s, “I’ll see you soon.” He nodded ever so slightly that I almost thought I had imagined it.


“See you tomorrow evening.” Char pulled me into another bone-crushing hug and I reciprocated.


“See you later, Charity!” James hollered to my sister as we walked briskly down the corridor, down the multiple flights of stairs and towards the apparition zone, “Are you ready to go back?” I looked up at James to see him looking down at me with a remote sense of worry on his face.


“Not at all but,” I paused, shrugging my shoulders, “We probably have to face Ginny sooner or later.” I tried to make it all seem joking because I knew he was talking about the wedding tomorrow but I didn’t want to acknowledge that fact.


“True,” he nodded his head as if he believed that that was what we were talking about too, “She’s gonna have a field day with this.” He gestured down to the new ink all over his forearm and I chuckled along with him.


“That’s not my problem.” I took his offered arm with a smug smirk knowing that I didn’t pressure him to get the tattoo so Ginny couldn’t have a go at me.


“It will be when I tell her you chose the design and did nothing to stop me.” I heard the complacent tone in his voice before he decided to apparate us back to the villa without letting me get a word in edgeways.


“You wouldn’t dare!” I exclaimed hotly when our feet touched the ground and the nauseous feeling disappeared.


“Try me.” He retorted, sauntering up the porch stairs and towards the front door. Without skipping a beat I rushed after him and burst through the open front door at the same time as him.


“James, Elle, is that you two?” Ginny called from what I assumed was the kitchen.


“Who else is it gonna be Mum? Death Eaters?” I think that was Al, responded sarcastically which was met with a very loud smack in return, “Ow! That’s child abuse! I could ring someone!”


“Good! Do you want me to dial the number?” Ginny retorted before we heard footsteps heading in our direction.


“Yep… we’re back.” James laughed under his breath as Ginny’s iridescent orange hair had appeared from the archway into the kitchen.


“Ah, it is you two!” she hurried forwards engulfing both of us into a tight hug, “I was so worried about where you’d gone the other day!” I could see that worry evident on her face and in her eyes and I felt the guilt multiply.


“Sorry that was my fault…” I muttered a quick apology, “Erm, I had some family stuff that I had to take care of…”


“It’s okay, I know all about Norah honey,” she comforted me and led me into the kitchen. I nearly choked on my own spit when she uttered that sentence because I didn’t recall ever updating her about it all. She sensed my shock and hastily explained, “Oh! James was keeping me updated every so often because I was worried about you.” I turned my head a minor amount to narrow my eyes at James who, in return, smiled at me sheepishly.


“Oh, okay.” I hurried to put a small smile on my face when we walked into the kitchen where everyone else was obviously.


“Hi!” Lily pounced on me immediately with an excited hug that I was not expecting.


“Hey, what’s with the hug?” I questioned with a disbelieving laugh.


“I’ve really missed you!” She admitted, giving me a knowing look that told me she had some news to spill.


“Thanks Lily, I missed you too.” I replied shyly, feeling a light blush on my cheeks.
“Glad to see you back. How are you feeling?” Harry stood up, pulling James into a hug and then giving the same treatment to me but whispering the last question in my ear.


“Yeah, yeah. I’m good.” I answered as honestly as I could because I still needed to pretend to be excited and happy in front of his family about the wedding tomorrow. It was then Al’s turn to stand up and offer us both a hug and I received mine shyly once again, still not used to being treated this way.


“Great! Now that you’re back we can get started on the Hen party!” Lily squealed, clapping her hands happily. James rolled his eyes beside me as he stared down at his younger sister.


“We’ve literally just stepped foot in the doorway, Lil. Can we not relax a bit first?” Ginny ushered her to sit back in her seat because she was getting way too excited over this. Which was making the guilt triple inside of me. Lily had told me time and time again that she was glad that she could have me as a sort-of-sister that she could talk to freely and she was so excited about me being in the family. She was going to be so downhearted when this deal is over, her reaction was going to be the worst for me, I think.


“I agree,” Harry butted in because Ginny was going to agree with Lily, “Let them relax for a few hours, we’ll have dinner and then you’re free to do whatever you want.”


“Fine.” Both Ginny and Lily pouted childishly and the three boys chuckled.


“I’m just gonna go to the library then.” I pointed awkwardly over my shoulder to the exit and when everyone had acknowledged that they’d heard me, I quickly wandered into the large room not realising how much I’d missed it. I reached for Treasure Island which was what I had been reading before everything just blew up. My legs pulled me over to the couch that I had always sat on and I pulled them under each other, balancing the book on my legs as I carried on reading from where I left off. The door clicked open slowly and I hoped to God it wasn’t James. I don’t know why he should have been the one to tell Ginny my personal life. I wanted to be the one to tell her when we got back. Granted I probably wouldn’t end up telling her but I still would have appreciated it if he would have told me he was telling her everything. Even in my head it sounded like a stupid thing to be mad at him about. Unfortunately it was James and he sat beside me silently, watching me read because I could feel his eyes burning a hole in the side of my head.


“Are you mad at me for telling my Mum?” He asked sheepishly, stretching his arm over the back of the couch so that it was rested slightly against me. I sighed loudly and closed the book. I thought about it for a few seconds as I stared at the front cover of the book. Was I really mad at him? Or was I trying to find an excuse not to speak to him in the hopes it would lessen my feelings for him? Was I being stupid? I put my head in my hands and sighed again, not really knowing how to answer that question so I simply said,


“I don’t know.”


“I’m sorry Elle,” he replied almost instantaneously, “I shouldn’t have told her. It should have been you telling her, I’m sorry.” He rambled helplessly and I couldn’t help the small smile that appeared on my face.


“James,” I said over his mumblings and he paused to look at me seriously, “Shut up.” I let my grin widen as his shoulders relaxed a little and he grinned shyly.


“Sorry.” He quickly uttered and I chuckled, picking my book back up and leaning against him as I continued reading. My mind was once again lost in the book, well I say that, it’s more like trying to get lost in the book. I was pretty sure that I had read some paragraphs four or five times to be able to understand what has happening. James had not picked a book for himself but instead had taken to gently trailing his middle finger up and down my upper arm which was extremely distracting in itself and it didn’t help that he could probably feel the goose-bumps it was causing.


“Dinner’s ready!” Al’s head popped round the door with a smile and then disappeared as soon as it had appeared. Both James and I stood up in silence, exited the library and walked into the kitchen, taking our normal places next to each other. It was still a bit tense between us seen as we hadn’t really resolved anything that had happened a few minutes ago but I wasn’t about to let that ruin the façade we’d spent three weeks creating in front of the other Potters.


“So, how’s Norah?” Ginny was the first to make conversation as we dug into the pizza slices that were on our plates.


“She’s awake,” I shrugged, “But we weren’t allowed to see her whilst they do tests on her.” I didn’t make eye contact with her but kept my eyes on the food in front of me as I played with it before stuffing my face so I wouldn’t have to speak.


“I’m sure you’ll be able to visit her when we go back to England,” she comforted me and I smiled somewhat gratefully. I felt James’ arm on the back of my chair and felt his knee brush against mine lightly, “What on Earth is that?!” She suddenly shrieked loudly, causing me to get a fright and almost fall out of my chair.


“What’s what?” I asked, desperately trying to finish chewing my food in worry.


“I better be dreaming, James.” Her eyes narrowed into slits at her eldest son and his eyes flickered to the tattoo that was now on display on the back of my chair.


“It’s a tattoo Mum and no, you’re not dreaming.” He had the audacity to roll his eyes at her, moving his arm onto the table so everyone could get a better look at it.


“Why on Earth have you got a tattoo on your arm?!” I shrunk back in my seat, not wanting to face the wrath of Ginny Potter.


“Because I wanted one.” James shrugged in return making Ginny’s face become redder and redder. Lily and Al were eyeing it with a mixture between admiration and jealously because as far as I knew, Ginny had banned those two from getting tattoos. However I knew that Lily wanted some but I wasn’t sure about Al.


“Do you know what that’s going to look like on your wedding day? When you’re older? What are you children going to think?” I think Ginny half-seemed to remember that I had two tattoos and quickly offered me an ‘I-hope-you’re-not-offended’ look.


“For one my arm is gonna be covered by the tux,” James held up his index finger, followed by his second and third finger, “Two, I think it’ll still look just as cool when I’m older. And three, my children won’t be bothered whether or not I have tattoos.” He shrugged yet again, putting his hand back down and leaving Ginny to stew in silence.


“I think it looks really awesome.” Lily admired it out loud, quickly clamping her mouth shut when her Mum gave her a death stare.


“Ginny, it’s already been done so we can’t really do anything now.” Harry finally spoke up from where he was sat quietly observing the tattoo.


“I know,” she sighed in frustration, “I just wished you would have told me before you did it.”


“If I told you before I did it, you would have found me and talked me out of it.” James said gently, a small smile on his face that seemed to soften Ginny up. The rest of dinner went by without any more incidents but the closer it came to finish, the more worried I was getting because I had no idea what Ginny or Lily had planned for this Hen party. And I couldn’t stop fidgeting out of nervousness.


“Elle don’t worry, you’ll be fine,” James leant down and whispered in my ear, “If anything, I should be the one who’s worried with what my Dad and Al’s got planned for tonight.” He chuckled to himself as we all stood up and cleared our plates away.


“What have they got planned tonight?” I asked out of curiosity because I had no idea what Ginny and Lily had planned for me.


“I have absolutely no clue and, quite frankly, I’m terrified.” He grabbed hold of my hand, giving it a light squeeze as we all walked into the entrance hallway before we were supposed to be splitting up for the night.


“Neither do I.” I admitted, looking at Ginny and Lily who were whispering conspiratorially to each other from next to James.


“Come on you two!” Ginny suddenly snapped her attention away from her daughter and gestured to the two of us, “Hurry up and say your goodbyes so we can get started!” James looked down at me just as I looked up, the look of terror mirrored in his eyes, as we both spoke at the same time,


“Good luck.” Before James was unceremoniously dragged away by Al and Harry without saying a proper goodbye. Ginny was telling me earlier that the boys were staying on the yacht tonight because they had to keep the two of us separated as a tradition.


“You are gonna so love tonight! It’s gonna be so much fun!” She squeaked in happiness, pulling me by the arm up the stairs into James and I’s old bedroom. To my surprise, Molly and Dom were sat on the edge of the bed with smug grins on their faces.


SURPRISE!” They screamed, running forward to embrace me tightly and I froze in shock. Eventually though, when my body caught up with my brain, I wrapped my arms around them twice as hard.


“Oh my god!” I nearly screamed back, “I can’t believe you two are here! I’ve missed you so much, you have no idea!” I let go of them to get a good look at their faces before hugging them both again and then running to Lily and Ginny and giving them hugs too, “Thank you so much! Best surprise ever!”


“We thought you might like to have your friends here during your Hen party.” Ginny spoke when I let go of her. I turned back round to face Molly and Dom, who were now holding Hen party supplies that included a sash, tiara and little shot glasses on beaded necklaces. Not to mention male genitalia-shaped objects too. My face blushed bright pink as they laid everything out on the bed and I hoped to God I wasn’t gonna have to wear them the whole night.


“Don’t worry, these are only for later on.” Dom reassured me when she saw my frightened expression.


“Later on? What are we doing now then?” I questioned, my curiosity getting the better of me because I knew that we’d have to go out at some point because that’s what always happens on a Hen night. Well that’s what we did on Charity’s.


“That’s also a surprise that you’re not allowed to see until we get there.” Molly joined in, placing a black blindfold over my eyes so I was thrust into a world of darkness.


“Oh God, you’ve not hired strippers have you?” I muttered, my face going pinker as all the other girls giggled.


“Don’t worry, you’ll enjoy tonight.” Someone replied but that only made me more nervous.


“You didn’t answer my question,” I retorted making everyone laugh once again, “All you keep saying is ‘don’t worry’ which just makes me worry more.”


“Don’t worry.” Was all that was said followed by a collective snicker from the group. How lovely, they torture me more. I was guided down the stairs and out the villa carefully with one person either side of me with their arms linked with mine.


“We’re gonna apparate now Elle, okay?” Someone warned me, it sounded like Molly, but I didn’t have time to ponder it as I felt my navel being pulled through a tiny tube before my feet landed on smooth carpet.


“Where are we?” I blurted out stupidly because of course they were going to tell me where we are when it was a surprise, Elle! From what I could tell it was quite quiet, not much chatter was happening and even if it was, it was in hushed whispering. In the distance I could hear muffled footsteps almost as if the people were wearing slippers as they were walking around. A calming lullaby was subtly playing in the background but it was still clearly heard. The blindfold was yanked off of my eyes as they tried to adjust to the sudden brightness of the new environment. Eventually the brightness dimmed to a low light and I could look around properly. The interior of the place was very regal yet minimal at the same time with plain white/cream/beige or marble décor and light wood furniture. It was an incredibly relaxing environment with mostly women walking to and from places in long floor-length cream robes and matching slippers.


“Where are we?” I repeated dumbly because it hadn’t registered as of yet.


“We’re in a spa, dumbass!” Molly smacked the back of my head but still whispered. Even saying the word ‘dumbass’ earned her glares from the staff.


“Oh!” I gasped as a young woman wandered up to us, handing the five of us a pair of robes, a bikini and slippers each, “Thank you.” I smiled kindly which was reciprocated.


“You’re all here for the full treatment, yes?” She asked me but I wasn’t all that sure what we were doing here so I looked sheepishly at Ginny.


“Yes, we’re having the full treatment today.” She answered for me before we were all escorted to a large changing room for us to change into our bikinis. We all quickly changed, wrapping the robes tightly over our semi-naked bodies.


“If you would just come this way for your first treatment…” the same woman made us follow her down a long corridor and into a room with five comfy chairs and little bowls of water at the bottom, “If you would just sit down and the nail technicians will be in soon.” She closed the door and let us get settled down in the seats as I started to register what was happening. I was getting spoilt in a spa and I had no idea what a ‘full treatment’ was at all. Not long after a few people came into the room and started the work on our finger and toe nails, massaging the feet first.


“Thank you so much, guys!” I thanked them gratefully, feeling really appreciated and looked after as the nail technicians made my nails look presentable after the false nails kind of ruined my natural ones.


“Honestly it’s not a problem, you’re supposed to relax and be spoilt on your Hen night.” Molly reached over and lightly tapped me on the arm as I smiled bashfully at her.


“And to enjoy your last night of freedom.” Ginny added, making everyone giggle. After the nails were finished, we were shuffled into separate rooms to be given a full body massage. I began to really relax into the massage because it gave me the opportunity to not have to think about tomorrow or have someone telling me how excited I should be about it and all too soon, the massage was over.


“You can relax in the spa pool that is just through that door whilst we get the sauna room set up for you.” Another woman opened the door as we all walked in one-by-one. The room was massive, two times the size of the kitchen in the villa with dark blue tiled flooring and a gigantic swimming pool taking up the majority of the room. The whole environment just screamed serene because of the quietness of it and the fact that the lights were dim as well. Before I had the chance to disrobe and climb into the pool, Lily pulled me to one side with an urgent look on her face like she needed to speak to me.


“What’s wrong Lily?” My brows furrowed together in worry as a million and one problems ran through my mind.


“Well okay, you know your birthday party on Thursday?” she looked at me expectantly and I nodded, trying not to think about what had happened after, “And when we went to that club afterwards and you gave me some advice about Oliver?” I nodded yet again, “Yeah well I did go back to his hotel room and slept with him but when I tried to speak to him about a relationship, he just blew me off and said he had to be somewhere else.” She looked so sad as she finished speaking that I instantly pulled her into a hug, stroking her back and thinking of the best thing to say to her.


“I’m sorry to say this Lily but it sounds like to me he just wants no-strings-attached sex with you,” I admitted honestly, “And if that’s the way he’s going, then he definitely isn’t boyfriend material for you. You deserve someone so much better.” All she did was nod her head in understanding before unravelling the strings around her waist and laying her robe down on the lounger.


“I’m sorry to make sure a big deal out of my problems when you’re supposed to be enjoying yourself. It’s your Hen party after all!” She tried to sound upbeat and happy but I could tell it was strained and I felt so bad for her. Here I was with a perfect fiancé who had done so much for me and really cared about my happiness and had no faults, that I could see anyway. Except it’s not real, my brain reminded me and my heart did that weird thing where you can feel it stop for just a millisecond as I thought that.


“Lily, it’s fine! You can come and talk to me anytime about your problems, even if we’ve fallen out.” I reassured her, copying her movements by taking off my robe and walking towards the massive pool where everyone else was busy swimming or floating. Lily laughed at that and dived in, splashing me lightly as I decided to do a cannon-ball dive instead. It wasn’t long until we were called into the sauna room and I could feel the sweat pouring out of me as the room’s temperature increased. It even got to the point where I couldn’t see Dom, who was sat right next to me, because of the steam. We sat in there, joking around and having slightly deep conversations for about an hour until we’d had enough and exited, pulling our robes back on around us.


“Thank you so much, guys! I really feel spoilt!” I gushed happily, feeling relaxed and just really content with life. Of course some of that was due to the fact Norah was awake and alive.


“And so you should!” Dom said just as happily with her arm lazily around my shoulder as we walked back into the changing room to put our normal clothes back on.


“Now for the best bit!” Molly jumped up and down excitedly and the worry came back from before. I looked between the three other women and almost high-tailed it away from them as their evil smirks widened and Molly came towards me with the blindfold once again. I was silently led out of the spa by two of them before we apparated somewhere else. Once my feet landed on the soft carpet and the familiar beach smell assaulted my nostrils, I almost snorted at how ridiculous they were by thinking I wouldn’t know where we were.


“We’re back at the villa, aren’t we?” I blurted out smugly whilst I was being led up the flight of stairs.


“Yes but that’s not the surprise, it’s coming later.” Ginny replied twice as smug as I had been and I realised that this was a trick to make me think this was all we were doing tonight. When we stopped, someone took the blindfold off and I looked around to see we were all back in the master bedroom where all my Hen night stuff was still set out.


“So… what are we doing?” I rocked back on my heels awkwardly whilst everyone started moving things around the room.


“Getting ready!” Molly shouted, walking out of the bedroom and coming back in a few seconds later with five suit covers over her arm, looking very sneaky.


“For what?” It seemed pointless to be asking so many questions because no-one seemed to answer them anyway.


“Going out tonight,” Lily rolled her eyes from where she was started to put make-up on, “Don’t you listen?”


“I forgot.” I shrugged, sitting on the edge of the bed and looking at all the make-up scattered on the bed. My eyes widened at how much make-up there was in the world or how much women actually needed. I picked up the nearest item which turned out to be some sort of liquid eyeliner that I had never seen before but looked fancy.


“Ah ah!” Ginny slapped my hand away, making the eyeliner fall back onto the bed with a loud clatter, “No touching the make-up,” she whirled back around as she finished her own, looking so young and youthful once again that I had to stop myself from staring too much. She was absolutely beautiful, no wonder Harry had fallen in love with her, “And no doing your own make-up either. That’s what Dominique is here for.” My eyes wandered over to Dom who was busy lining her eyelids sharply with a black kohl pencil before stepping back and admiring herself in the mirror. Then without warning she turned towards me and started making her way over with a pensive look on her face.


“Mmm, should I do bold or classic?” She mumbled to herself, looking down at the make-up then looking back at my face. She did this for a few seconds before she finally decided on something and reached for a bottle of foundation, “Okay just sit back and relax Elle, this won’t take long. Ish.” Dom shrugged, pumping the foundation onto a brush and slathering it all over my face. Thirty minutes, and much face-tugging later, she let me stand up to look in the mirror and when I did, I was blown away. She had lined my lids with jet black liquid liner making a very thick line that nearly covered my whole lid and lined my waterline with the same black pencil she was using earlier. Along with that she had put a bright, neon pink lipstick on my lips that accentuated my cupids bow. She had definitely gone for the bold look, there was no way this was considered classic.


“Oh wow!” I gasped, leaning my face in to get a better look and being amazed at how much my blue eyes appeared brighter because of the black, “It’s really nice, thank you!” I smiled, even more amazed when the pink lipstick made my teeth look whiter.


“Glad you like it.” Dom smiled back eagerly.


“Now, get dressed! The first one is yours.” Molly interrupted and pointed to the very first suit cover on top of the pile. And to be honest I was kinda scared to open it mainly because Molly’s fashion sense was much more… outgoing than mine. I pulled the zip down tentatively and pulled the dress out, pleasantly surprised.


“Oh wow!” I repeated dumbly, holding it up against my body in the mirror to see the whole outfit. It was a beautifully demure bodycon dress that came down to my knees with spaghetti straps and a quite low neckline, “It’s so lovely! Thank you so, so, so much! I love it!” I squealed, racing to hug Molly before racing into the bathroom and pulling it on, being careful not to mess up the make-up. It fit perfectly, adjusting to my body shape magically which just made me more excited.


“It looks amazing on you!” Ginny gushed, walking around me in a circle once I’d entered the bedroom again.


“Thank you! I’m so excited for tonight!” I said happily, making myself comfy on the bed as one-by-one each girl went into the bathroom to get changed into their outfits. Molly was obviously wearing a very short dress, Dom was in a pair of shorts and a boob-tube, Lily’s was a bit more modest but accentuated her boobs more and Ginny was wearing skin tight jeans and a sheer black tank top.


“This is all making me feel young again, I feel twenty-one!” She clapped her hands really giddily which made me giggle. It was cute seeing her all excited about this whole thing yet at the same time it was nerve-wracking because of the fact it wasn’t real. That thought really brought me crashing down from the cloud nine I was currently floating on because it wasn’t real and we’d faked the whole thing to please his family. I stared at all the girls mindlessly thinking about how my family would react when they found out… or if they found out. Char would most definitely be the angriest, Dad probably couldn’t care less and Norah… well, she didn’t know what was going on so it might be a bit confusing for her. And we still had to catch her up to speed with all that had happened in the four years she’d been under. I doubt she’d really care if she’d found out I’d faked a marriage when we tell her that Mum had passed away, that she had been in a coma for four years and that she was actually twenty-two not eighteen.


“What’s the matter?” Molly’s face suddenly appeared in front of my eyes and I jumped a little in surprised, “Getting second thoughts? Because it’s not too late to run now and still have your freedom.” She suggested, earning a slap from both Ginny and Lily whereas Dom just laughed along.


“Molly Weasley! How dare you put such thoughts into Elle’s head?!” Ginny shrieked, her cheeks going an almost pink colour but I didn’t miss the sideways glances she kept throwing at me.


“Don’t worry Ginny, I’m not having second thoughts,” I reassured her even though I really was, “I was just waiting for everyone to get ready.” I shrugged, shifting on the bed to get comfy again.


“I’m almost done!” Lily yelled from the bathroom where she was curling her hair with her wand. It was almost like that was a sign for something because the other three women immediately shared smug smirks and glances at each other. It could only mean one thing.


“You guys hired strippers, didn’t you?”

 

**

 

After what could only be described as the most traumatising experience I’d ever had in my life, we decided to head to another club to get drunk and Molly may have had way too much.


“You know I love you guys right?” she hiccupped, slurring her words all over the place, “I mean, technically, I have to love you three because you are my faamillyy,” she sloppily looked up at Ginny, who had her arm round her and was escorting her back to the villa, and motioned to Lily and Dom who were skipping way in front of us. I didn’t get as drunk as Molly and Dom would have liked because I had the wedding tomorrow and I wasn’t allowed to be hungover for that – strict rules from Ginny – so I’d had a few but only enough to gain a bit of liquid courage, “But I really do love you Elle, you’re my best fwiend ever!”


“I know, you’ve told me about twenty times already tonight.” I giggled at her because she was adorable when she was drunk.


“I just wanted you to know that I really app-apprech-apprr…” She gained the strangest looking expression on her face as she trailed off.


“Appreciate?” Ginny suggested in amusement.


“That’s the one!” Molly comically pointed at Ginny as she said it and then slumped back down, “You as a fwiend, Elle!” She carried on the sentence as if she’d never stopped and ended it with a large smile that bared all of her teeth.


“I appreciate you too Molls,” she nodded her head sloppily, “But you’re very drunk now so you probably won’t remember this in the morning.”


“What do you mean I’m drunk? I feel perfectly fine thank you very much!” she suddenly got really offended, pushing herself off of Ginny and trying to walk in a straight line. As soon as she took the first step she immediately face-planted the floor, “Ow! Where did the floor come from?” She moaned loudly and I laughed hysterically until tears were coming out of my eyes. She really was hilarious. Ginny helped her up again before continuing to help her along until we eventually reached the villa. It was even harder work trying to get Molly up the stairs to her bedroom because she kept forgetting to pick her feet up and ended up falling forwards every so often.


“She is going to be so sore tomorrow,” Ginny chuckled fondly, closing her door gently and walking me up to the old bedroom I was staying in. Lily and Dom had gone ahead and got straight into their beds, “But anyway, get a good night’s sleep and I’ll see you tomorrow, good night sweetheart.” She embraced me just like my Mum used to do and also placed a tender, loving kiss on my forehead before turning around and heading towards her own bedroom.


“Good night, Ginny.” I whispered back and as I was turning around to head to bed, I heard her respond,


“You can call me Mum if you wish.” And I nearly started crying then and there. It had been a long time since I had gotten the chance to call anyone ‘Mum’ and hearing it just brought back all the guilt, the sadness, the shock and everything I hadn’t felt in such a long, long time. I sat myself on the edge of the bed as the anxiety about tomorrow starting increasing in me. What if they find out that we had faked it all? What if I wake up tomorrow and find out I can’t do it? What if James doesn’t love me back like I love him? All these questions kept racing through my mind as I mechanically got under the covers – still in my dress and make-up – and closed my eyes.


“Maybe it won’t be so bad… maybe it’ll all turn out fine,” I whispered to myself in the darkness after fifteen minutes of internally debating it back and forth in my mind, “There could be a possibility he might reciprocate my feelings for him right? And then we could stay married?” I started picking at the skin around my nails as a nervous habit that I thought I’d dropped as a child, “But I wouldn’t know how to even approach speaking to him about it.” I stopped my monologue and started speaking to myself internally again.

Maybe I could find out where he was tonight and tell him how I felt? I was drunk enough and even if he says he doesn’t, we could still go through with the plan and I’d eventually get over my heartbreak. And if he says he does, then everything will work out! We can stay married and I’ll have found someone who loves me and cares for me. And no-one would have to know we’d faked everything. Maybe I should do it? I thought to myself as adrenaline coursed through my body at the idea. I quickly climbed out of bed and pulled on a pair of sandals that did not match my outfit at all but I didn’t care because I was going to tell James how I felt tonight.

As I tip-toed through the villa I wondered whether it was worth letting Ginny know I was going out but then I thought I’d be back soon enough that they wouldn’t even know I was gone so I dismissed it, walked out of the front door and apparated to the pub I suspected he was at. It turned out he wasn’t at that one but the one further down – which was just pure luck, maybe everything was going my way for once – so I headed out the door and started the quick walk down the road for the next one.

 

Just as I’d passed the alley way just a little further down from the front door, I noticed two people come stumbling out of said door holding hands and I froze in my tracks.

 

My heart dropped and I suddenly became queasy.

 

It was James but he was with Courtney. What the hell was she doing at his bachelor party? And why the hell did they invite her? I quickly hid myself in the entrance of the alley way and peered round so I could keep watch and they couldn’t see me. A niggling feeling in the back of my head told me something wasn’t right and it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. They talked for a while and it seemed like they were talking like a regular couple, as if they were talking about what they were going to have for dinner tonight and it made me remember that James had still been in love with Courtney when we first started this whole thing. Was he still in love with her? I’d never properly asked him before. I kept watching and waiting until James finally leaned in for a hug but stopped at the last second.

 

And I could feel my quivering heart finally burst and shatter in my chest as their lips meet in a briefly passionate kiss. I didn’t even realise that I had been holding my breath until I breathed out heavily and felt the intensified sting in my ribcage. My back slid down the wall of the alley way after I stopped staring, hiding myself away, and the final epiphany dawned on me.

 

He had never stopped loving Courtney, he had used me as a cheap deploy to make her jealous and make her realised that she’d made a mistake. And the tiny fragments of my heart exploded even more, piercing my insides with little sharp, yet painful, cuts. When I had told myself after I slept with him that there wasn’t really anything he could do to me anymore, I was wrong.

 

This.

 

He could do this to me. I didn’t even know that hearts could break over and over in one go but mine definitely was. It didn’t help that the same image was being repeated over and over in my head and when I closed my eyes all I could see was them kissing again and again. My legs had started to move and I didn’t register that they’d made me run into the bar next door, sat me down on a bar stool and got me blindingly drunk until it was too late. I didn’t even notice or care that Valerie had walked in and sat next to me either.


“How many have you had to drink, Elle?” She looked at me with such genuine concern and pity. Which was something I didn’t need from the likes of her.


“Enough to know I don’t want to have this conversation with you.” I responded with what I thought was mirth but it only came out monotonous.


“Ouch.” She plonked herself down next to me and tapped the bar, ordering us both another two drinks each.


“Whatever.” I downed the drink in one, wanting the burning sensation to last just a while longer. Just so that it would distract from the throbbing and searing pain that was coming from behind my ribcage.


“What are you doing here?” She asked, finally moving her body to face mine as I tried to keep myself up properly. The faces of the people around were becoming more blurry by the second and I was pretty sure I was getting to the point of my addiction again. But I didn’t care, I needed all the drinks I could get in me. I wanted to get completely, utterly, blindingly drunk and make stupid mistakes and forget about everything for a few hours. And wake up tomorrow with a small case of amnesia.


“Having a drink. Like everyone else!” I held a sloppy hand up, toasting myself and downed yet another shot of clear liquid. I wasn’t even sure who was paying for these drinks anymore but they kept appearing in front of me.


“You know what I meant, Elle.” She gave me an exasperated look as if she could be doing something else with her time instead of spending it talking to an absolute failure in life. And it made me angry.


“What do you even care, Valerie? Why do you even care about why I’m here alone,” I spat out venomously, letting all my frustration out finally, “You’ve never liked me. You’re Miss Perfect, always getting everything right. Your life is a breeze,” she stared at me in shock as I ranted, “What? Come here to rub it in my face? Like you always do!”


“You think I’m Miss Perfect?” she whispered so quietly, “Elle, I think you’ve got this all wrong. I’m nowhere near perfect!” She laughed hollowly and downed shot after shot after shot.


“Spare me that crap! You could have any boy you wanted at school, you got perfect grades, you were so pretty and you could get any job you wanted outside of Hogwarts. And me? Look how I ended up.” I felt the waterworks starting but refused to cry in front of Valerie Parker, the woman who single-handedly crushed my entire self-esteem in school. It would be like one last victory for her to see me cry.


“Can I be honest, Elle?” Valerie looked down at her hands on her lap and fidgeted nervously, “I kind of thought you were the perfect one…”


“What?!” I choked loudly, not believing for a second what I was hearing. And yet she looked so vulnerable and child-like, it was hard not to believe her.


“Yes I could have had any boy I wanted,” she rolled her eyes as if it was such a burden to be desirable, “But whenever I looked at you, you never seemed phased by boys. You never seemed obsessed over any of the cute ones, or the dates to the Balls. You were really chilled out and focussed more on your education and I thought you were really cool,” she glanced up at me as I was shocked into silence, “I secretly wanted to be your friend, but all the other girls said you weren’t popular and you were too weird, so I didn’t say anything. When you started getting good grades, I thought I could as well,” again, she glanced up at me before looking down at her lap, “And we could have something to talk about… basically I was trying to be you.”


“All this time… you were trying to be my friend? I thought you were trying to beat me at everything and rub it in my face,” I whispered, turning to the bar and putting my head in my hands, “I was trying to be you! That’s why I dyed my hair blonde, I was trying to fit in and be popular! Like you!” we both settled into awed silence as the weight of the last twelve years fell onto our shoulders, “We spent all this time trying to one-up each other!” I laughed with a tone of incredulity.


“I don’t actually own that resort, you know?” she nudged me with a kind smile, breaking the silence, “I faked the whole thing. I still work at that small café in Scotland and I’ve probably put myself in massive debt by having that celebratory party.”


“Wow! Okay…” I felt brave considering we were telling each the truth for the first time, “I have had two relapses, including this one. Charity doesn’t know about either and I’d like to keep it that way.” I stared at her pointedly and she zipped her mouth shut.


“When you turned up at my apartment by accident in Scotland, I actually did feel sorry for you. I looked after you until you were better the next day but you were too out of it to remember me,” we revealed secret after secret, laughing and continuing to drink as the night wore into early morning, “Travis and I aren’t even together! I faked that too because I heard you were engaged.” I giggled loudly, ignoring the looks the bartender was giving us.


“I’m not even engaged!” I proclaimed loudly with a happy smile on my face, despite the fact I was falling apart inside.


“What?!” Valerie exclaimed dramatically, slurring heavily and suddenly everything was really funny. It took a good few minutes to calm down enough to explain the whole story to her, “What a jerk!” Her mouth was hung open comically as I finished the tale, catching her up to speed.


“Tell me about it!” I rolled my eyes sloppily.


“To jerks! And fakes! And idiots!” She cheered loudly, holding her drink up and spilling half of it down her in the process.


“And stupid-heads with moppy black hair and stupid brown eyes!” I toasted too and poured the drinks down my throat.


“Those too!” Valerie added and I giggled, falling off my bar stool with a heavy thud. The skirt on the dress had ridden up a little exposing a bit more of my thigh than I’d usually be comfortable with but who cared! The last thing I remembered was laughing over the bar about me having the biggest crush on Travis when we were at Hogwarts.

 

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