I could hear the pulsating music from where I stood across the street. I was staring at the building—which was more like a large house than an apartment building—trying to decide if I should go in.
I mean, I’d dressed up, done my make up and donned my heels, so you’d think it would be a no-brainer.
But… There was a feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was the kind of feeling you get before you put your hand up in class to answer the really hard question or before you share a first kiss with someone. Butterflies.
I had butterflies. I was 26 years old and still getting butterflies. Ridiculous.
I was jerked out of my reverie by a group of girls on the opposite sidewalk laughing loudly as they entered the building. They were obviously going to the party. I think I recognized one of the interns just before she ducked inside, out of the cold.
Cold. Watching them walk into the— and I’m assuming here— warm foyer, I became aware of the fact that the night was getting chiller by the second and all I was wearing was a light black leather jacket. Rubbing my arms, I started to cross the street.
I was going to do this! I had spent over an hour getting ready (although, to be fair, most of that time was spent dancing around and singing using my curling iron as a microphone) and I was here already.
Pulling open the door, the music got 10x louder. Even if I didn’t have the apartment number scrawled on a now very beaten up piece of paper, I would have been able to find it.
Climbing the stairs to the third floor, people littered the hallway and framed the open door. There were already red cups strewn about. I suppressed a laugh—even though most of us were supposed to be ‘adults’ or whatever, it felt like the red cups would never leave us.
Entering the apartment, I saw that the place was pretty big—larger than I thought from the outside. And it was packed. I hadn’t seen this many people at a house party since I was 21. People seemed to be smushed into every corner, and I could understand why the music was so loud—the sound of people talking almost drowned out the beat. I scanned the room for Rose. She was, after all, the only person I could say I knew here. Before I could move very far from the door I heard a “you came!” yelled loudly and turned to see Rose in extremely tall heels teetering towards me.
Unfortunately, at that same moment, there was a surge of people in her general vicinity. A very large guy in a rugby shirt staggered backwards, right into Rose.
This time, there was no suppression of laughter. As she stumbled and fell over, a giggle escaped, and before long I was struggling to keep my laughing in check. I was a sucker for people falling—I always had been. My dad and I used to spend hours on the Internet watching people falling on Youtube.
It seemed like about 40 people reached forward to help my friend (co-worker? Acquaintance?) up. A boy that looked eerily familiar shoved the guy who had knocked over—and who was now apologizing profusely—away and grabbed Rose by the arm. She shook off the fall, smiled at the person who knocked her over, told him it was alright and detangled herself from all the arms holding her up. Geez, I thought (while still chuckling, I must admit), one person falls and we need to bring out the national guard.
She searched the room trying to get her bearings again before spotting me and marching over, the familiar guy still holding her arm. I had almost gotten my laughter under control, but when she almost slipped on some spilt beer—almost taking her and the guy she was with down—I lost it again. She was smiling when she made her way over, obviously amused at my amusement. As I wiped under my eyes to fix my makeup, I noticed the guy had a sour look on his face and was staring at me with unmasked disdain.
Well okay then.
“Hey,” she said when she reached me, “You made it!”
“Yeah!” I couldn’t keep the amusement out of my voice when I asked, “So, are you alright?”
She chuckled a bit before nodding and sarcastically saying, “Just dandy. I don’t know what’s better, my fall or the fact that the national guard showed up to help me up.” She shook her head as I grinned.
“Oh, you must think I’m terribly rude,” she rushed to say when she realized that the guy was still standing beside her, “Violet, this is my cousin, James. James, this is Violet. She’s the American I was telling you about—you know, the trader.”
I held out my hand to James but he just stared at it. After a moment I dropped my hand, rubbing my palm against my black pants in an attempt to pass off the awkward, unreturned gesture.
James turned to Rose and told her he’d see her a little later before disappearing into the crowd. Rose turned to me, her eyes apologetic.
“Sorry, he’s a bit of a prat sometimes. I reckon he saw you laughing at me—he’s pretty protective,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Protective of what, I don’t know. All the boys in my family are like that. Just wait till you see what he’s like when I try flirting with someone.” I laughed, trying to remember where I’d seen that boy before.
I caught a glimpse of him over her shoulder, and I couldn’t help but think that a girl should remember a guy like that. He had dark, unruly hair that looked like it was never anything but a mess and subtle brown eyes. His nose was straight and his lips average, but by god, that jaw line. You could cut vegetables with a jaw like that. Even though he was a seemingly average looking guy, there was something in the way he carried himself and looked at people. He exuded confidence. I watched him smile at a girl across the room and I understood why she all but swooned. He had a killer smile. It also helped that he was filled out, but not overly muscly. Yeah, a girl should remember a guy like that.
“You look fantastic! I’m glad you made it out,” I heard Rose say as I tuned back into what she was saying. I glanced down at my outfit. I had on my chunky black heels, high wasted black jeans and a high necked cropped gray tank top. My eyes were emphasized by more mascara than I’d ever wear on a normal day and I wore deep red matte lipstick to compliment my dark features. My dark brown hair was naturally wavy/curly, and fell just past my shoulders.
“Thanks,” I said easily, “You do too.” And she did. While I had opted for my usual gray/black, Rose was striking in a loose fitting crew neck long sleeve white dress. The flowy skirt came to mid-thigh, showing off her long legs. She was wearing gorgeous strappy heels to complete the ensemble. Her red hair flowed in loose waves and her makeup looked like it had been applied by a professional.
Her naturally thin and lean frame was in stark contrast to my tall, rounded figure. Where she had long legs, I had large hips and a small waist. I was ‘overweight’ by some people’s standards, but I was perfectly happy with my body. Still, I fidgeted standing next to her—I felt 16 again as I self consciously pulled down my top.
She grinned, not noticing my self-conscious gesture, and stared around.
“Here, come with me, I’ll introduce you to some people!” Rose said, looking at me again.
“Oh, uh… okay,” I said as she grabbed my hand and pulled me through the throng of girls to a corner near the kitchen. We stopped to grab drinks—I think she must have tossed the cup she was carrying earlier when she had fallen-- before making our way over to a circle of people all lounging on chairs and countertops, talking animatedly amongst one another.
“What is this, the annual family convention?” She joked as she walked up to everyone and easily inserted herself beside a girl with light brown hair. No… it actually looked more red than brown. Taking a quick survey of the circle, I saw at least two others with red hair.
I’d gone 26 years without knowing more than 4 red-heads, but 3 weeks in England and that number had doubled. What, was there something in the water?
A very attractive, tall boy with ice blond hair and a wicked smile pretended to be appalled by her statement, “Please,” he said haughtily, “Like I’d ever share blood with you people. What would my father say?”
Everyone around the circle laughed, except me, because I couldn’t tell what was funny. A guy with black hair and gorgeous green eyes shoved the blond kid.
“You wish you had our bloodline,” He said before the blond one pushed him back.
The blond boy smirked and made eye contact with Rose. “No, I don’t,” He said quietly as he raised his glass to his lips. I don’t think anyone heard him except for me and Rose though, and as I stared back and forth between the two I saw a blush creeping up Rose’s neck.
Ew, I thought as I watched them, I’m practically watching them have eye sex.
He stared at her for a moment longer, his eyes saying more than his words had. Then he winked and looked away. She seemed flustered and stole a glance around the circle to see if anyone had noticed. When she caught me looking at her questioningly, she smiled and shrugged as if to say family, right? But I knew that look. It was the same look my best friend Emma got in second year at Cambridge, when the boy she’d been crushing on since the third week in first year kissed her after a night out.
It was a look that said holy shit, holy shit, I’m panicking what just happened in the absolute best way possible.
She touched her cheek to determine if the blush had gone away. It had. Then she cleared her throat, drawing most people’s attention in the circle to her. God, what was with this girl and people fawning all over themselves to listen to her? Was she a god or something?
“Guys,” she said loudly, giving three boys across the circle, including the blond and black haired boys, a pointed look.
“This is my friend Violet. She just started work at Gringotts with me—she’s a senior trader too. She’s brilliant,” Rose said, placing her hand on my arm.
I stood their awkwardly as everyone’s eyes swiveled from Rose to me. I gave a small wave, unsure of what to do. Merlin, what’s wrong with me? I’m usually not this… socially awkward.
Thankfully, Rose continued talking, sparing me from having to say anything.
“That’s Lily, my cousin, and Dom my other cousin, and Hugo, my brother, and…” She continued around the circle, pointing to and introducing each person. There were at least 6 people standing here. And pretty much all of them were cousin’s.
I wondered about their family. It was obviously large… How many of them were there?
I smiled and nodded along, trying to memorize their names, but knowing I was going to forget them in 5 minutes.
I studied each person—whoever their parents were, they must be attractive. Seriously, this was every normal looking human-being’s nightmare. Sure, some of them, like the black haired boy with clear green eyes whose name was… Albus, I think, we’re pretty average if you looked at them objectively. But… they all had that same way of carrying themselves, that same confidence I saw earlier in James. I glanced at the party behind me. Yup, most of the people there were staring at the circle of people I was standing in pretending not to gawk.
Even though some could be categorized as average or slightly above average, some—most—we’re hella gorgeous. Dom could very well be a supermodel for all her blond hair and blue eyes and toned, tanned body. She had freckles on her nose and a light French accent.
Scorpius, the boy with ice blond hair who had stared intensely at Rose, was almost like her male counter-part, only he was taller and didn’t have freckles or a French accent. No, he had that rich-kid cadence—the way he talked reminded me of old money and distinguished breeding.
The third boy who had been joking around with Albus and Scorpious, Freddie, was equally gorgeous. He had caramel coloured skin, deep brown eyes and hair and a 1000 watt smile. Just from standing here for a little while, I could tell he was the loudest of them all. People seemed to hang off his every word, and every third sentence was something funny or inappropriate.
Lily, the brunette/red-headed girl next to me had an easy wit and charm. She was pretty, by anyone’s standards, but you could tell people gravitated towards her not because of her beauty but because she was clever and sarcastic and self-deprecating.
Just before it turned 10 and people were starting to head to the bar, I decided I should use the washroom before we left. I had been talking with Freddie for half the night, and we were trading stories—him, about his childhood and the pranks he had pulled off at school, me about the stupid stuff I’d done while in college.
It was evident that the sour, unpleasant guy I’d met earlier in the night—his name started with a J, I recalled... Jake? Jordan?... No, James, it was definietly James—was one of his closest friends and partners in crime. How anyone so unfriendly could be friends with Freddie was beyond me. Maybe it was because they were cousins?
The longer we talked, the more comfortable I became. People flitted in and out of our conversation, fueling our talks. I had long ago switched from beer to this stuff I’d never heard of before—firewhisky, I think it was called—and it was strong. I was nursing my third drink of it when I decided it was time to break the seal.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, easy there Vi!” Freddie laughed while steadying me. I had hopped from the counter and stumbled upon landing. I wasn’t incredibly drunk—University hadn’t just taught me economics—but I was unstable.
“Bathroom, be right back!” I said, shaking my head to shake off the unsteadiness. Obviously, this only served to make the world spin a bit, so I stood gripping the counter until I could see straight. Freddie sat holding my waist grinning the entire time.
I plowed through the ever-thinning crowd when I felt a hand on my arm. I turned my head to see Rose breaking off conversation with people from work. I tried my best not to scowl at them, but I’m pretty sure in my state I didn’t have full control of my facial features because a couple of them shrunk away like I looked furious.
“Are you going to the bathroom?” She asked me. I nodded my head and she quickly excused herself from the group she had been standing in and fell into step with me.
“I can go myself, you know.” I said, glancing at her.
“I know, but they were talking about work. I wanted to hex myself. Plus, I have to go pee, and girls stick together.” She laughed.
Apparently, it didn’t matter what world you lived in—muggle or wizarding—but girls always felt the need to go to the bathroom together. I was kind of grateful, because I actually had no idea where I was going. As people left, the apartment only got larger.
Instead of walking towards the long line of people standing outside a door that I assumed was the washroom, she ushered me up a hidden set of stairs in the far corner of the place.
“Perks of living at the place where the party is being hosted—private loos,” she whispered as we reached the landing.
She turned off into the third bedroom down the hall and walked into the en-suite bathroom. I whistled. This place was huge. And gorgeous.
“So,” she said as she headed for the toilet. Okayyyyy, so I guess we were at that stage of friendship then. I focused on retouching my lipstick and clearing the smudges of mascara under my eyes, trying to look everywhere but at Rose. “How do you like the party? I see you’re getting along with Freddie,” she snickered.
I rolled my eyes, “Yeah, he’s nice,” I said trying to play it off. I was definitely developing a crush on the guy.
“Just a warning, Freddie doesn’t get serious. With anyone. He’s a flirt,” she said, coming to wash her hands.
“Well, that’s a relief. I don’t get serious either. With anyone.” I said, smiling at her in the mirror before I turned to use the bathroom. I wasn’t lying either. I had done the “serious” thing once, and it had ended horribly. I was not up for that again anytime soon.
“I don’t get your family. Shouldn’t you… I don’t know, cringe at the thought of anyone doing anything with your cousin?”
Rose laughed and applied more lipstick. “Don’t worry, I do. I don’t really think about it like that.”
“You’re really close with all of them,” I observed, washing my hands.
She shrugged. “Yeah, I guess. I know some better than others, but we just have such a large family, you know, and everyone’s so close in age. It’s easy. We all went to school together… I don’t know, I guess we had our own friends in school but as you get older… family is constant... you know?” She shrugged again. We stood, staring at ourselves in the mirror.
“Actually, I don’t really know,” I said, to my surprise. To hers as well, if the curiosity in her face was any indication. “I’m… I’m an only child. So are my parents. So… just me.” I said, forcing a little laugh. It had gotten awkward, and I didn’t know why.
“That sucks,” she said, pulling a face, “So I guess you made some pretty strong friendships then, at school? That’s what Scorpius did—he’s an only child too.”
I shook my head. “No, not really. I didn’t have too many close friends, and then I stopped being involved in the wizarding world when I went to Cambridge. I basically moved continents and stopped using magic—to a lot of people, that was renouncing the wizard part of me. Then I moved to New York, and… well, you could say it’s not easy to keep up friendships, especially with people from school.”
She looked at me curiously, as if I was some shiny object she’d found on the beach. “So, you just… left everything behind? Everyone? When you went to university?”
I nodded. “Yeah. I went to live with my dad. He’s a professor at Cambridge. Or, well, he was,” I swallowed the lump in my throat. “He’d always wanted me to go to school, ‘real school’ he called it, so… I left. I mean, at 17 I had no idea what I even wanted to do, who I wanted to be, and the muggle world was like an escape from responsibility, from having to start my life. It’s been about 8 or 9 years since I’ve spent a lot of time in the wizarding world. I don’t think my mother was very happy with me, but she was hardly ever around so I don’t think her opinion counts,” I said. The firewhisky I’d drank must have some Felix Felicis in it. I blinked at myself in the mirror, not quite knowing why I’d opened up to Rose, of all people.
I was immensely grateful when instead of asking me about my dad or my mother or school or anything, she just went, “Hmm… That’s… wow. I couldn’t imagine not using magic for so long.”
“I used magic. Just… not as often. And definitely not when I had roommates.”
We were silent for a bit, neither of us knowing what to say.
Then, before I really knew what I was doing, I blurted out: “So, are your parents, like, famous or something?”
I don’t know why I thought that was the logical next question, but all of a sudden I needed to know and now seemed as good a time as any. All night I had watched people fawn all over Rose and her family members. They were the center of attention and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why.
Right after I blurted out my question, I blushed. “Sorry, that’s such a random thing to say.”
Rose, however, was laughing. I couldn’t understand what was so funny, but I found myself laughing along with her.
“You…” she gasped. Maybe she was really drunk (which meant maybe she wouldn’t remember any of this tomorrow either), because I didn’t get why it was so hilarious, “You…” She sobered up a bit and looked at me with interest. “Are you serious?” I just nodded. Why wouldn’t I be serious?
“My mum is Hermione Granger. My dad is Ron Weasely, and Lily and Albus and James’ father is Harry. Harry Potter.”
I looked at her blankly, not understanding what that meant. The names sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place them.
She looked at me, exasperated but highly amused.
“Seriously?” I just stared at her, trying to think of where I’d know those people from, “The Golden Trio? The Chosen One? The boy who lived? Harry Potter who saved the whole wizarding world from the evilest wizard ever? Voldemort? Seriously?!”
I blinked again and it sunk in. I recalled all the History of Magic classes that I had listened to, and there had been many. How did I not remember that?
“Oh. That makes so much more sense.”
We stared at each other for a second before I started giggling. Then, we were both laughing, and soon enough I was clutching my side as a tear escaped my eye. Just as we had composed ourselves, I giggled again, setting us into another round of laughter.
Yeah, it all made so much more sense.
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