Today was the first day of the rest of our lives.
We’d left the safety of Hogwarts exactly twenty four hours ago, and had been too tired, and wired, last night to have any time to talk about what all this was going to mean. This townhouse was going to hold three people full time, and at least two more part-time and it already felt too small for me.
We’d definitely need to establish some rules, which was my only plan today. If the rest of the damn house would wake up. It was nine o’clock, and I’d been up for three hours. In that time- I’d showered, dressed, left the house to go to the corner coffeshop, loading up on coffee beans and pastries, and bribing them to give me a container of cream. When I’d gotten home, I’d set about deciding what else I wanted to do with this place now that I had time in front of me.
I wrote down a grocery list, and a plan for that room in the back, figuring it would best to switch that around to be Dom’s room. It was right off the backdoor into the backyard, giving her some privacy if she wanted to have people over. By people, I meant gentleman callers that would be around for a bit, and then not. She hadn’t found her person yet.
The quartz countertop was covered with torn off pages from a white notepad, some stained with bits of jam and splotches of coffee. Groceries, paint colors, home accessories, and what I wanted for house rules, which would differ depending on if Harper was here full time or not.
I sat down with a huff, looking up the stairs and waiting from someone, anyone to come down and relieve my boredom. I hadn’t yet had a chance to retrieve my electronics from the Potter’s house, and didn’t have many books here either. I added a trip to the bookstore to my list.
I wondered about heading back out into the neighborhood, when I heard a door open. Harper yawned, her arms above her head as she exited her room. “Morning Charlie. Do I smell pastries?”
I smiled. “Yes, I got them a few hours ago. There’s also a chai latte for you, though you’ll need to warm it up.”
“Uh, you’re a full blown witch now. Can’t you wave your wand and do some … magic?” She grinned, holding the cup out for me. I grabbed my wand and flicked it, muttering a spell under my breath.
“All that I learned in seven years and the first real thing I do post graduation is warm your tea up.”
She beamed at me, tearing into a cherry danish. “Thanks! What’s with all the lists? Geez Charlie, how long have you been awake?”
I looked at my watch. “Three hours and forty five minutes.”
“Can I shower and pop over to the Potters for the day?”
“Sure, as long as Lily’s parents don’t mind.”
“We’re almost fifteen, they don’t care. Plus, you’re going to discuss house rules today, which don’t really apply to me since I’ll only be here during the summer and for short breaks. I’ll do whatever you all agree to.”
“Even if it means no ordering pizza after ten pm?” I shot back, wrapping my hands around my own mug of tea. My latte was long gone, and I’d had to settle for the tea I could find in the house. We really needed to raid a grocery store.
“That’s a stupid rule that will never stick with yahoo and dingus upstairs.”
A male voice drawled, and I looked up, biting back a laugh at James’s hair. “Who are you calling a dingus and a yahoo?”
“Pretty obvious if you ask me.” She said, darting past him to go back to her room. “I scribbled a few things on the grocery list. And I still need a few things for my room.”
“House stuff we can talk about tomorrow, and we’ll go shopping too?”
She nodded, and I turned my attention to James, who plopped down next to me. “Your lovely sister called me a dingus.”
I laughed. “She’s heading to your parents in a bit, we should probably go with her. I doubt Dom will wake up until noon. Eat and shower now, please.”
He nodded, snuggling into my side, his eyes drifting closed. I smacked his leg, and stood up, laughing again when he fell over. James pouted at me. “We have no food.”
“We have pastries and cold coffee. You can have that, or whatever is at your Mum’s house. Either way, my computer and phone are at their house, and since you’re living here now, I figure you’ll want some stuff from your house.”
He grabbed two chocolate croissants and shoved them in his mouth before heading back upstairs. I followed him, to make sure he actually showered, poking my head in to Ava’s room to see Dom sound asleep in a dark room. I’d leave her a note, not that she’d care. She was staying here for a week- then leaving the same day as James to meet her sister in Paris.
I stayed in my room just long enough to see James get in the shower, ignoring his requests to join him. I wondered what he might want from his house, and how I’d have to rearrange things. This needed to feel like his space too.
His house was quiet when we arrived a half hour later. Al looked up from the chair, reading, and smiled. “Hullo guys. What are you doing here? Bored of adulthood already?”
“I bet James is here to borrow a book on cleaning spells cause he’s already made a huge mess.” Lily said, coming down the stairs.
“Shove it squirt.”
She just stuck her tongue out at him, and draped her arm over Harper. “Can I sleep over tonight Charlotte?”
“Course. Al, you’re welcome to join the insanity if you want.”
“I think I’ll take a quiet house tonight, thanks though.”
“I’m gonna make some food, then pack, then we head back love?” James asked me, shoving his sister as he walked past her.
“Sure. My stuff is in your room, make sure to pack that.”
“Aren’t you gonna help me?” He asked, frowning.
“You’re an adult, aren’t you?” I said with a laugh, earning approving stares from his siblings until I backtracked. “Of course I’ll help.”
“James, you don’t deserve her.” Lily said, dragging Harper upstairs to her room. Two peas in a pod, their red heads already bent, gossiping about something. Dom and I had been like that when we’d been younger, and were still very close, but never like my sister and her best friend.
I sat down next to Al, picking up a newspaper and reading it, giving James about an hour by himself upstairs before I went up. Not much had been done.
“You’ve packed next to nothing.”
“Not true love.” He said, smirking at me from his spot on the floor. “I packed almost all my clothes, they’ve already been whisked away to your place.”
“Our place,” I corrected, “besides, don’t you want anything else?”
“What do I need? Old posters, fragile trophies, and books I’ll never read? The only place I’d put any of that would be the office, and that’s gonna be Dom’s room … it’s fine. This will always be my room, I don’t need to do everything now.”
“Just make sure you have what you what, and need. Which means plenty of underwear and socks, and your video game system. I’m sure Harper will be more than happy to play with you over the summer.”
“I’ve got all that I need in those two boxes,” James grabbed my hand, and pulled me down to his lap, “and right here.”
I dropped my forehead to his. “You’re getting awfully sappy lately, better not let anyone hear you.”
“I know I’m leaving in a week, I already miss you.” He said back.
“You’re not moving to Siberia, James. We’ll be just fine.”
“It’ll just be you and Harper for a bit there, while Dom and I are gone. Are you going to be okay?”
“With my younger sister? Yes, I’ll be fine. It’ll be good, give us a chance to talk about things. With our parents, and Ava and all that. She’s already bugging me about letting her redecorate the cottage Mum left me that I told her she could have.”
“She won’t graduate for a few more years, what’s her rush?”
“Independence, obviously.” I sighed, looking around his room, climbing off his lap. “I should head back home, someone needs to get food for the kitchen, and lots of it.”
He looked around too, shrugging. “I’m all done for today. Let’s send this off, and head out. I’ll need sustenance if I’m going to go up against Dom later.”
“Our discussion won’t be that bad.”
He just laughed, and stood up. With another look around his room, he flicked his wand and a few more things disappeared. “Let’s go stock the house. You get the food, I’ll get the liquor.”
We left his room, James heading downstairs while I wandered down the hallway to Lily’s door. I knocked on the partially shut door, and pushed it open. “Harper?”
She and Lily were sitting on her bed, legs tangled in each other while they looked at something on Harper’s laptop. I recognized the neon yellow case she’d gotten for it, covered with stickers. Something about the way they were sitting nagged at me, but I didn’t want to dwell on it much, or think anything bad.
Harper looked up at me, pulling away from Lily a bit, her fingers going to her hair in the way she did when she was nervous. I frowned for a second, wondering, but shoved the thought away. “Yeah Charlie?”
“James and I are heading back out. We’re gonna get food for the house, and I’ll make a family dinner tonight? Anything in particular sound good?”
“Can you make carbonara? And garlic bread?” Lily asked me.
“Sure. Be home by five please.” I stared pointedly at my sister, backing away when she nodded and waved me away. I stood alone in the hallway for a moment, wondering if I’d need to have a different kind of conversation with Harper when it was just the two of us.
I walked downstairs, to see Al by the fireplace with James. “This one changed his mind, and wants to come over tonight, told him to just come now.”
Al looked at me weird. “Is that alright?”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t it be?”
“You have a strange look on your face.” Al said, grabbing a handful of powder. “You sure you don’t mind?”
I smiled, shaking my head to clear my thoughts. “I’ve told you before Al, you’re always welcome at our place. Maybe you can come food shopping with me while James unpacks, if you want?”
“Sounds good to me.”
James and I apparated back to our place, to find Al had already arrived via the fireplace. James went upstairs to unpack while Al and I went to the store, Dom having left a note that she had shopping to do for her trip and would be back to help with dinner. Her idea of helping was filling wine glasses, and providing commentary like I was competing on a food show.
After we got back, Al, ever the polite one, helped me unload bag after bag after bag of food. The fridge and pantry had been bare of all but a few things.
“What’s bugging you Charlotte?” Al asked finally, holding a jar of mustard.
“Nothing’s wrong. I’m thinking something, need to sort it out myself first.”
“You’d tell us though, if something was wrong and we could help?” He asked, his eyes roaming my face for any clues.
“Of course. I promise, nothing is wrong. I’m just trying to figure something out.”
“Can I be blunt?” He asked, startling me.
“Does this have to do with our sisters?”
I wanted to keep a tight hold of my reaction, but I failed, my eyes widening as I stared back at him. “How’d you guess?”
“I’m the quiet, intuitive one remember? Are you wondering the same thing I am?”
“Depends on what you’re wondering.” I said back, cautious.
“Should we wait for them to tell us that they’re dating?” He said, quietly. “There’s been lots of clues, really, I’ve just seen them more than others. Is that why you’re upset, that Harper might be gay?”
“Absolutely not! Would it bother you if Lily was?”
“Not in the slightest. Did you just start to piece it together today, and that’s why you’re a million miles away?”
“You’re definitely the intuitive one.” I said. “Yeah, I didn’t even walk in on anything, it just felt private. Something about how they were sitting with each other … it only makes me nervous because I’ve already had one sister with big secrets that didn’t talk to me.”
“If we’re both right, Harper will talk to you when she’s ready. Which, is why I haven’t said anything to anyone. It’s not my business.” He was still holding the jar of mustard, but put it down, shutting the pantry door behind him.
“I won’t say anything if you don’t.” I smiled at him, gathering all the reusable bags we’d bought and putting them in a cabinet near the pantry. “Want to help me figure out how to turn the office into a bedroom for Dom?”
He followed me, and we worked out a plan.
A few hours later, the three of us that would be living here full time gathered at the dining table after it had been cleared off. Al had returned to his house after eating, and the girls were up in Harper’s room.
My sister insisted that she didn’t care what the rules were unless it directly involved or affected her, in which case, she wanted me to bring her downstairs. Harper had already told me she fully planned on helping with meals, errands, and picking up her own messes. She wouldn’t pick up after James or Dom though.
“Alright bestie, cousin, let’s get down to business here. Charlotte, this is your house, so what are you thinking?” Dom said, linking her fingers together, and grinning at me.
“It’s our house …” I started to say, getting interrupted. Go figure.
“Not really, it’s all in your name. We’re living at your place, so you’re kinda the head boss lady around here. James can shove it if he disagrees with me.” Dom stared pointedly at James.
“Fully agree there, it’s her house, whatever she wants is fine by me.”
“Even she makes you clean the bathrooms?”
“Sure. It’s just a flick of my wand, it’s not like I’ll be on my knees scrubbing the floor.”
“I’d pay good money to see you with rubber gloves on, scrubbing the toilet out.”
“Can you both shut up?” I said, holding my hand up. “My rules, or requests, are pretty simple. Everyone helps with everything except what directly applies to them. James and I will clean our areas of use, and Dom, you clean up yours. Everyone will help with errands and common use areas. I got a pad to keep on the fridge so everyone can make note of what we need.”
“Fair enough, but no one gets to touch my Equadorian fair trade coffee beans.” Dom said, leaning back in her chair.
“Fine.” I snapped. “We can create shelves in the pantry and fridge dedicated to each person, if that makes everyone happy.”
James leaned across the table, grinning at Dom. “If you touch my ice cream, I will attack you with a pimple spell.”
“I’m sorry, am I living with children? Why are you both being so possessive over food? New rule, if you eat food that belongs to someone else, you’re on the hook to replace it. Not even just food- if you use something that belongs to someone else- replace it!”
“I’m sorry Charlie, but I will only be making so much money, and James over here is of the male variety and as such, especially as a pro athlete, will come home and devour every crumb in sight. I like expensive things.”
“Guess what Dom, I have money. I like Charlotte’s idea. If you use up what’s not yours, you replace it.” James shot back.
“That goes for staples too. If someone makes brownies at three in the morning and uses all the flour, that needs to go on the list.” I said, staring at Dom.
“Why are you looking at me?”
James snorted beside me. “You’re going to be the one needing brownies after your midnight sexcapades. Speaking of which … are there any rules about guests being brought over? I am not dealing with her pretty boys in the morning.”
This might get uncomfortable, I thought, looking back and forth between the both of them. They both looked at me, then at each other.
A sigh spilled out of me, and I bit my lip before speaking. “I’m going to preface this by saying that I really want this to feel like everyone’s home, but at the end of the day, I guess Dom is right and this is primarily my house that you all are living in. I’m a quieter person, so if you want to have people over during the day, ask all parties that will be here first. If it’s one person stopping over for a bit- whatever- but a heads up would be nice. No planning on throwing parties of any kind unless you have the approval of everyone else. If you do have people over, for whatever reason, it’s your responsibility to clean up after said party. Dom, there’s a reason you’re getting the office with the semi-private entrance. You’re an adult, and I don’t want to interfere with your personal relationships, but be respectful. Especially when Harper is around.”
“What about you two?” Dom asked, pointing to both of us. “No sex in the living room, or on the kitchen counter. You keep it in the bedroom, or your private bath. I’ll keep my relations in my bedroom. Speaking of which, when will that be done?”
“By the time you get back from Paris. You said you didn’t care what was changed architecturally as long as you had privacy, and most of the bookcases stayed.”
“Perfect. And then I can pick out furniture and decorate the room?”
I stared at her, wondering how we’d gotten off topic. “You should really pick all that stuff out soon, that way when you get back, you can move right in and everything will be done. I don’t care what you do as long as you don’t break walls.”
“Are there any other major rules we’re forgetting to talk about?” James asked, looking to me.
“One more thing, James, I demand a girls night once a week where you disappear so I can catch up and have bestie time with Charlotte. You can sleep at your house that night or something."
“The fuck?” James shot back. “You’re not saying I can’t sleep in my own bed, with my own girlfriend whenever it suits you.”
“I didn’t say that. I said once a week. We can even pick a day, like Sunday, or something, so you’ll always be prepared!” Dom beamed at him.
“Dommie, I say this with love, but fuck that. Take a few hours if you want to do whatever, I’ll stay out of your hair. But I’m not going spend one night a week at my parents house. Charlotte?”
“She’s already regretting agreeing to have both of us under the same roof. It’s okay, Charlotte, we’ll figure it all out as we go along. Nothing needs to be perfect right away, even though you like it like that. But you love James, and he’s far from perfect, so you’re already getting good practice in!” Dom grinned, wiggling her eyebrows at James, who glowered at her.
“Can we be done now?” James asked. “I can’t take anymore of her.”
“She’s your cousin.” I said, laughing.
“I have a date soon anyway, but don’t worry, I won’t be bringing him back here. Harper and all that. I’ll be back late, don’t wait up.”
I stared at her, touching the new ring I wore on my thumb, an enchanted rose gold band. “Let me know that you’re safe.”
She touched the matching ring on her thumb. When we’d both realized that we’d be living in the city, even as witches, we decided to come up with a simple way to tell the other that we were safe. The ring would warm gently when everything was fine, and turn ice cold if something was wrong.
“It’s just a late coffee date Charlie, but I’ll let you know that I’m cool. I’ll also make sure to clean up after I make brownies later tonight.” She winked at James, and headed upstairs, leaving us alone.
“All I want is for you two to not blow up this house.”
“I can’t make any promises.” James said with a smirk. “It’s still relatively early, what do you want do tonight?”
“Hmm, curl up on the couch with a bottle of wine and some popcorn, and watch a movie?” I replied, reaching for him as he stood up. “Sound good?”
“Yeah, love. If I can pick the movie.” He grinned wickedly.
“Not Die Hard. Not again.”
He pouted. “I wasn’t going to suggest that! Maybe I was, but fine, we can watch something else instead. As long as it’s not some chick flick with Ryan Reynolds. You gush over him too much.”
“I mean … have you seen that man? He’s very attractive.”
“I’m very attractive.” James laughed, puffing up his chest. I snorted, and threw a pillow at him, drawing an extra think knit blanket over me.
“Always modest, James.” I shot back, looking up as Harper came down. “You and Lily need anything?”
“If you’re watching a movie, can we come watch too? You’re making popcorn right?” She asked, and I nodded.
“How about you guys pick the movie tonight, maybe we can make this a weekly thing when you’re around.”
“Works for me. As long as there’s popcorn and ice cream. LILY! GET DOWN HERE!” She shouted up the stairs. Lily ran down a moment later, and curled up by herself in the overstuffed chair. Harper settled next to me, leaving James to find his own spot.
The girls settled on Tangled, a favorite of Harper’s from when she was little, and that night was everything I’d hoped for. Of course, it was only our first week in this house, but here we all were, together. Or mostly, but there was the definite promise of more nights like this with anyone we wanted.
It wasn’t so bad, leaving school, when these kinds of memories were waiting to be made.
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