Chapter 6. The First Step.
Lottie was lying on the sofa with Oscar curled up on her chest. She watched as he slowly moved up and down with each inhale and exhale. She was reflecting on the encounter from yesterday evening; it had not gone well.
It was now daylight, somewhere around the mid-afternoon mark. She had been awake since leaving Sirius and Remus the night before which now made it four days of no sleep. She could feel the effects starting to take place. Everything felt slightly displaced and oddly cold, almost like an out of body experience.
She was confused by her own feelings and reactions. She had thought that it would have been a much more sentimental reunion but instead it was anti-climactic and quite frankly awkward. Not only that, the second she had heard their thoughts, something in her snapped. The same way it had done when she got that visit from Dumbledore a year ago. Only that time it had been much worse. She shook the memory from her mind.
She was angry. But Oscar kept her grounded. She could hardly flounce or get upset and throw things while he lay there on her chest. She did not dare disturb his slumber. Instead she took comfort from the rhythmic motion of her breathing and his gentle movements as a result, watching and counting them one by one.
Not long, she thought to herself, not long until the truth is out.
She looked at the nearby clock, it was four o’clock. She felt a pang of emotion. Nervousness mixed with misery with just a hint of hope. She could not deny how tough life was about to become but then again, she was no stranger to it. She felt nervous because she was about to see her brother for the first time in sixteen years, miserable because of the circumstances and hopeful because it meant that maybe, there was a way forward. But only time would tell.
I should get ready, she thought to herself and then scoffed.
What difference did it make if she was made up and well presented? This was still going to be insanely difficult to explain and navigate. Would they even notice, or care?
Either way, Lottie thought to herself, it is best that I make as good of an impression as possible.
She shifted slightly, scratching Oscar behind the ears to gently wake him. “Come on, darling” she mumbled, “I have to start getting ready.”
Oscar slowly made movements before getting up and stretching out. A small ‘omph!” came out of Lottie as he stretched, putting all his weight on her diaphragm. Oscar eventually leapt off her chest and sauntered over to his water bowl. Lottie stayed there for a moment outstretched and watched Oscar walk. To be that carefree, she thought to herself before slowly pulling herself upright. She reluctantly got up from the sofa and made her way to the bathroom to draw a bath and as she did, waved her hand so that Oscar’s food bowl filled up.
Maybe I’ll have a moments peace this time, she thought to herself, knowing full well that the second she entered the bathroom, Oscar would be on her heels.
Hardly anyone had spoken all day. Breakfast and lunch were silent affairs, with only the sound of plates and cutlery cutting through the obvious air of tension. Remus and Sirius had both stayed the night and had slept in the living room, not wanting to be far from Lottie even if she did not want to be around them.
Everyone was now downstairs playing the waiting game, trying to distract themselves with menial activities whilst every now and again stealing a glance at the time. Three o’clock came, then four o’clock and now it was nearly five in the afternoon. The rest of the order would be joining them sometime between five and Harry’s arrival at just after six o’clock. No one wanted to miss the reasoning behind the mystery, but no one was looking forward to it either.
Fred and George were huddled one corner of the living room, pretending to look over business papers, but there was no need; Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes was doing very well at the moment, considering the circumstances.
A lot of Diagon Alley was closed for business, through fear of being approached by You-Know-Who and his band of Death Eaters. Ever since Dumbledore’s death, atrocious crimes and activities were on the rise. People thought it was just like last time and so, not wanting to fight another war, started fleeing and going into hiding.
Ron, Ginny and Hermione were huddled in another corner, the two siblings engaged half-heartedly in a game of chess on the floor whilst Hermione read a book in the armchair. Crookshanks was curled up on her lap and her eyes were fixed on her book but they showed no signs of movement to say she was actually reading the pages. She and Ron had had a brief and hushed discussion last night about the whole saga unfolding in front of them but came to the same conclusion that they would have to wait until Harry arrived to actually feel like they were able to help.
Remus, Sirius, Charlie and Fleur were all sat at the kitchen table, holding cups of tea, wishing it were something stronger to calm their nerves. Mrs Weasley was bustling around the kitchen anxiously. She had started to prepare dinner, ignoring the fact that she was certain people were not going to be hungry when it was time to eat. It soothed her however, so she carried on. She charmed the kitchen knife so that it started chopping the vegetables whilst she started preparing drinks for everyone’s arrival.
She got out the butterbeers, whiskey, mead and some elf made wine and placed them on the little drinks table in the kitchen that she reserved only for when she had guests for a party. Though this absolutely bore no resemblance whatsoever to a party. She drew her wand and a jug, ice and bottle came soaring towards her. She filled the jug with ice, charmed it so it would not melt, and then poured in the pumpkin juice.
Hearing the clink of bottles, the occupants of the kitchen table looked up and made movements to help themselves.
“No.” said Mrs Weasley sternly, without even looking behind her. “You wait until everyone gets here or you’ll all be pickled.”
Remus, Sirius, Charlie and Fleur all sat back down. She has a point, thought Charlie, glancing over at Remus and Sirius who both looked pale and in need of a stiff drink.
Suddenly, making them all jump, the great grandfather clock whirred with activity and they watched as the hands for Mr Weasley and Bill moved to ‘travelling’ before landing on ‘home’. Mrs Weasley looked out of the kitchen window to see her husband and eldest son walking up the path towards the house. They passed the tent on their way and Molly felt a pang of sadness in her chest. Those poor children, she thought, placing her hand just below her neck and thinking of Harry’s imminent arrival, they’ve been through so much.
“Charlie, dear” said Mrs Weasley, still looking at the tent in the garden, “go and greet your brother and father, would you?” she asked.
“Sure, Mum.” replied Charlie, getting up from the table and taking out his wand. It felt so strange to point his wand at his father and brother in defence, but these were dark times.
Fleur watched him go to the back door and then looked at Remus and Sirius, “Well?” she asked them quietly, “ ‘ave you thought about how you are going to tell ‘arry?”
Both men looked over to her and shook their heads. “Well you ‘ad better come up wiz something soon. ‘e will be ‘ere in less zan forty minutes.” She said, briskly getting up to greet Bill. “Bonjour, mon amour!” she said enthusiastically, kissing him on both cheeks, “ ‘ow was your day?”
Remus and Sirius watched her bustle around Bill, scowling slightly; they were perfectly aware of how much time they had until Harry arrived that evening. But they were not the only ones that had been in a hushed discussion last night. They had stayed up long after everyone else had gone to bed and had talked at great length about all the ways that they could approach the situation. Somewhere around three o’clock in the morning, they had decided to just wing it and hope for the best.
Mrs Weasley was fixing her husband a drink, which signalled to the rest of the group that it was okay to approach the drinks table. Hearing that Bill and Mr Weasley had arrived, the rest of the Weasley children and Hermione joined them in the kitchen.
“Hey Dad, Bill” said Ron, nodding his head towards his brother.
“Hi kids,” said Mr Weasley, looking at the troop that had just walked in, before looking back at his wife who was handing him a butterbeer, “Thank you Molly, dear. Any idea of when we can expect the rest” he asked, looking around the room, clearly talking about the order.
“Soon, I expect” replied Mrs Weasley with a weak smile.
The air felt like it had thickened.
Sirius nudged Remus with his elbow. “Start on a butterbeer and see how we go?” he muttered, eyeing up the drinks table.
Remus simply nodded. As it got closer and closer to six o’clock, he felt the ability to have, let alone hold a conversation, grow less and less. He had not slept well last night so did not feel on top form but could at least be thankful that it had been well over a week since the full moon, so he did not have that to contend with.
His mind however was racing. He was playing the last two days over and over in his mind. The memories from sixteen years ago had come flooding back to him. It made him feel sick. The clonk of a bottle in front of him broke him from his thoughts. He gave his best friend a feeble smile and picked up the bottle and took a sip. “Still want to wing it?” he heard his friend mutter under his breath. Remus nodded. It was the best plan they had.
Lottie looked at herself in the mirror. She felt much better after having a bath and washing her hair. She was now dressed and had dried her hair properly, so it was no longer a wild, untamed mess. She decided to wear it down tonight, as she had had it scraped up into a knot last night and thought she could probably do with making a bit of an effort for meeting her brother for the first time in nearly sixteen years.
Her blonde hair fell in layered waves around her. She inspected the make up on her face. Not too much, but just enough so that the dark shadows under her eyes were not visible. She had put on shades of brown and gold eyeshadow, which was just enough to really bring out the hazel colour of her eyes. She had inherited her mother’s eyelashes, which were long and thick and now had a coat of mascara on.
She took stock of her appearance. She looked quite pretty, except for the way her clothes hung around her. She was already slim, it ran in the family, but she had her demons that she battled with. The battle with anorexia first started when she was fourteen but after a four-year fight with it and with the help of her only friend, she managed to win the fight. However, about a year ago, something switched in her. It was around the time she had that visit from Albus Dumbledore. It was then that she was plagued with the familiar compulsive thoughts and obsessive behaviours and found herself falling back into habit.
This time around, Lottie had convinced herself that this was not the same situation as before, that this was only happening because of all the chaos. She was certain that once she finally got to sit with Harry and explain everything, that it would all go back to normal. She was sure of it. I’m not relapsing, she thought to herself. I’ve got it under control.
Even still, she waved her hand and watched in the mirror as her body filled out ever so slightly. Her collarbones were no longer protruding out of her skin and you could not see her bones through the long dress she had decided to put on. Her arms were slightly more athletic looking and her face, was looking fuller. She performed this spell daily as it made others more comfortable around her. She hated the stares she got any time she went shopping or out in public. The only time she let her guard down was when she was in the bathroom and could lock the door.
She fumbled with the dress she was wearing. It fell all the way to the floor, covering her feet, but it was just a simple, black and sleeveless number. Satisfied with her appearance, she walked out of the bathroom, through the kitchen and living space, into her bedroom. She walked to the dressing table and picked up a long, fine gold chain that had a gold rectangle pendant on it, housing a large, pale yellow crystal. It sparkled in the low lighting and she put it on, making sure the clasp sat at the nape of her neck. Her earrings were already in as she rarely took them out. A variety of different sparkly studs sat in one her many piercings, most of which were small, apart from the gold ring that sat at the top of her left ear.
Lottie peered at her wardrobe; she wanted a jacket of some sort. It was still warm out, but she always felt the cold a lot sooner than everyone else and she did not know what the house would be like. She found what she was looking for and pulled out the long, double breasted blazer. It was black, a relatively thin material and soft. She put it on and rolled the sleeves up so that they were now three-quarter length and the black satin underneath was visible. Satisfied, she looked around for her sandals. Spotting the sparkly, gold sliders, she slipped her feet into them.
She turned to Oscar, who had been watching her from the comfort of the bed. “How do I look?” she asked him. Oscar merely meowed back but she took it as approval.
“Right,” she said, looking around, feeling as though was missing something. Realising what it was, as her eyes fell on her rucksack, she smiled “Won’t need that.”
Lottie looked at her watch and felt her stomach flip. It was ten to six. “Okay, Oscar. Time to go.” She told him, walking towards the tent door. Oscar, not wanting to be left behind, stood up on the bed, stretched and then leapt from the bed to follow.
Hearing the thud of his paws on the ground, Lottie turned back and saw him approaching with a couple of squeaks, “Uh uh, no” she said, pointing a finger at him. “You stay here until you’re called, understood?”
Oscar stopped and sat down. “Good boy.” She said with a smile, “Okay, wish me luck!” and with that, Lottie turned to the tent door and took a deep breath before pulling it back and stepping out into the warmth of the summer evening. It felt much warmer tonight than it had a few nights ago, but she had learnt that there was no rhyme or reason to British weather.
As she walked to the house in front of her, she felt her body tingle with invisible electricity. She had not felt this nervous in a very long time. It felt as though it was getting harder and harder to put one foot in front of the other. She was starting to feel light-headed as she made it to the back door. Though she suspected that it might also have something to do with the lack of food and sleep.
“Deep breaths, Lottie.” She muttered to herself as she fought to steady her nerves. She took a couple of deep breaths in through her nose and exhaled through her mouth. Certain she was not going to be sick, or worse, faint she raised her hand to the door and hesitated. She could hear faint noises coming from inside, it sounded like there were quite a few people in there. She looked at the watch on the wrist of her raised hand. It was exactly five to six.
She sighed deeply and before she could back out and run, like everything in her body was telling her to, she knocked twice and waited.
The voices inside the Burrow stopped and she could almost feel the frantic energy coming from within.
Someone approached the door and then there was silence.
“Er… Um…Who’s there?” asked the female voice.
Lottie looked at the door and frowned in confusion. Was this a joke?
“Lottie?” she almost questioned.
“Lottie who?” came the voice. Lottie could hear harsh whispers from the other side but could not make them out. She raised an eyebrow at the door, before realising that this must be some sort of security thing.
Going along with it, she responded, “Charlotte Lily Potter, sister to Harry James Potter, and goddaughter to Remus John Lupin and Sirius Black.”
No response. There was further muttering before Lottie heard, “Oh for crying out loud Kingsley, it’s her! Oh fine!” Remus, she thought. She heard more footsteps approaching the door.
“Lottie?” Remus asked softly, “Lottie, what did you used to call me when you were little?”
Lottie felt a deep pressure somewhere in her diaphragm. An overwhelming sense of sadness washed over her. She had not been expecting that; only three people alive today knew the answer to that question and two were on the other side of the door. Her eyes burned with the warning of tears. Taking a moment to compose herself, she cleared her throat and sniffed, thinking back to when it was a much simpler, happier time.
Lottie paused before opening her mouth to reply, “… Memus.” she said, her voice soft.
There was a series of clicks, before the door swung open. Remus stood there with his hand holding the edge of the door, looking down at Lottie. His expression was unreadable, but his thoughts were not. Lottie grimaced and immediately softened towards him compared to last night. He was not off the hook by any stretch of the imagination, no one was in her mind, but she did feel sorry for him and the pain he felt.
“Come in.” said Remus cautiously, dropping his arm and stepping back.
Lottie nodded and, as she took the first step over the threshold, her eyes grew wide as she took in the sheer volume of people in the small kitchen.
“An audience,” she mused, under her breath. “Wonderful.”
“Hmm?” asked Remus, closing the door behind them.
“Nothing.” said Lottie, shaking her head slightly.
She had not been expecting anything less if she was totally honest with herself. This was going to be quite the revelation. She glanced around the room and learnt two things immediately. There was a serious mix of age groups and a significant number of people in the room had red hair. She took the opportunity of stunned silence to listen.
Woah, she’s hot.
Merlin! She is far too thin!
Did she say Memus?
She does not look like Harry at all.
I wonder if she’s single.
Did she have an American accent?
Harry is not going to react well.
How is Harry going to take this?
Upon hearing the last two, she blocked them off. She did not want to hear any more for now because she was thinking the same thing and it only made her more nervous and she did not want to give away her secret. Not just yet.
“Would you like to sit down?” asked a slightly plump, kind looking, red-haired lady, gesturing to the long, wooden kitchen table.
“I think maybe introductions might be in order first, Molly dear.” Said the red-haired man beside her.
“I’m not sure we have time.” Came a deep voice from the other end of the kitchen. The man who spoke was looking out of the window.
Along with everyone else in the room, Lottie followed the man’s gaze and her breath caught in her throat. There he was, walking up the garden path, past her tent, with a very strange looking man.
“Harry.” She whispered, her eyes wide. “Oh my god.”
Lottie swayed gently on the spot, the shock of seeing her brother for the first time in sixteen years, taking over. Remus, noticing this, put his arms around her to steady her. She grasped the front of his robes, looking up at him and then over to Sirius who had stood up to look out of the window at his approaching godson. Sirius walked over and joined them, squeezing Lottie’s arm reassuringly. Lottie looked back through the window; they were almost at the door. She had started to tremble.
“Come on,” muttered Remus, pulling Lottie away from the door and over to the far side of the kitchen where there was a perfectly good wall to lean against for stability. Sirius followed and stood with them. Lottie allowed herself to be steered away, trusting that they at least had some form of a plan.
There was a knock at the door and everyone flinched.
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