I did not recognize my life anymore.
It was unlike anything I could have ever expected, but it was better than I ever dreamed. Mostly. Classes had begun a few months ago, and I was knee deep in books studying to be a Healer. I was still an early morning person, while Dom was not, and James was in and out constantly. Mostly out, but not cause he wanted to be.
I joked about replacing the solid front door with a revolving one. I’d imagined that we’d all have loads of time together, relaxing and cooking, and the like, but instead, we all kind of flitted around doing our own things, colliding at random times for meals and socializing.
Dom was loving her life, and was surprising me with her commitment to keeping things neat and clean, and was always happy to stop by the store on her way back. Her interest had always been in creating potions, especially ones that would change your appearance, so she’d gotten a job at a magical beauty salon, and came home every other day with a different hair color and style.
James was thriving on the Cannons, fitting in to the existing team well, and finding a new friend in the backup Keeper that started about the same time as him. Nate was a frequent guest for dinner now, much to Dom’s delight. He was just her type, and though he was much calmer than her, he kept up with her flirtatious jabs better than most guys I’d seen her with. I was waiting to wake up one morning and find him in my kitchen with nothing but his skivvies on.
Harper and Al were, of course, back at school. Ava was still at Ridgeview, and I’d be going back after Thanksgiving to discuss her next step. It was nearing Halloween, and I was going to meet Harper for lunch at Hogsmeade soon. She and I wrote each other frequently, and of all the good things in my life, I was most grateful for my blossoming relationship with her.
As for me, my life had boiled down to a pretty easy routine. I woke up early, had a few cups of coffee while reading textbooks or reviewing my homework, then I went to classes in the morning, had lunch at home, went back to a long afternoon class, then came home and made dinner. I always made a ton of food, waiting for people to drop in. Despite the rule about giving roommates a heads up before bringing people over, Nate and Dom’s new work friend Emmaline stopped by most nights. Since it was now kind of expected, I didn’t mind.
Tonight, however, I was very much looking forward to. For the first time in weeks, James and I were getting a date night. He’d just gotten back from a game in Scotland, and demanded that Dom leave for a night or two to give us the place to ourselves. James also demanded that I dress up a little for tonight, but wouldn’t tell me where we’d be going. He was going to meet me here after training.
At four thirty, my watch beeped at me, and I shut the textbooks my eyes had been straining to read. There really was only so much medical information a human brain could take in. I dumped the cold cup of tea by my elbow, and headed upstairs to my bathroom, starting a hot bath. If James wanted dolled up … he’d get dolled up. I had just enough time to do everything — shave, facial, nails (thanks to Dom’s rapid dry potion), and makeup.
I doubted we were going to a ball, so left things simple but classic. A few sprays of my favorite fancy perfume, that only I saved for special occasions, an expensive blend of white flowers and sandalwood. Red lipstick and red nails were paired with a simple side ponytail, and a smoky eye. I zipped into a fitted little black dress with lacy cap sleeves, and a gentle pleated skirt with a very low back. I finished the look with a pair of wedges, in case we ended up walking a bit somewhere.
At five minutes to six, I walked downstairs, wondering where James was. He said he’d be back by 6. I looked around the living room when I got downstairs, but didn’t see any sight of his giant bag of sports gear, or his new favorite jacket. I glanced at my watch again, frowning, waiting.
I whipped my head towards the front door, wondering who would be arriving right now. I began to feel nervous then, until I opened the front door and melted. James stood on the doorstep, grinning like a cat that had caught a mouse, holding a large bouquet of roses and lilies. “I never did do this properly before, so I’m here to pick you up.”
I wanted to reply with something snarky, but I was too touched by the gesture to do much but take the flowers and smile. James was in clean jeans, with a crisp button down shirt and heavy leather jacket.
“I was starting to worry about you.” I said, falling into his arms after he stepped through the door. James caught me perfectly, dropping his head to my neck to place a few gentle kisses. “I miss you.”
“I plan to remedy that tonight. Whenever you’re ready, my love, we have a dinner to attend.”
He held out his hand, his hazel eyes sparkling with delight and something else I couldn’t quite place. “You look stunning, Charlotte. I’m a lucky man.”
“Are you going to tell me what we’re doing tonight?”
“Let’s just say we’re recreating one of the best nights of my admittedly short life.” He grinned, wrapping both arms around my waist. “Are you ready?”
“Do I need a jacket?”
“No, we won’t be outside long.”
“Ahh, a clue.” I said. “Let me at least get my purse.”
“We need to leave soon before I lose track of my plans tonight, and strip you out of that lovely dress.” James said, his eyes roaming over my figure.
I grabbed my purse, and my own leather jacket out of the hall closet before linking my hands with his, figuring we were going somewhere close. James winked at me, and we apparated, appearing on a dark side street. My best guess is that we were nowhere near London anymore, and my brows furrowed trying to figure out what we were doing. James draped his arm over my shoulder like he often did, grinning and whistling to himself as we turned the corner onto a more brightly lit street.
He kept walking, still grinning, until I caught sight of a building further down the street, a memory flashing back to me. “Is this …?”
“Yeah. I figured we could go for a movie after too, if you wanted. Or just go back home and make out, cause I was stupid and didn’t do that last time.”
James had brought us to the Italian restaurant where we’d come last summer, on our first date that wasn’t really a first date. I turned to James, and melted, touched by this thoughtful gesture. “You’re earning some good boyfriend points tonight.”
“I need to keep surprising my stunning girlfriend so she doesn’t get too pissed that I’m always off with other guys.”
I laughed. “Teammates.”
“C’mon, my love, let’s go eat.”
I leaned into him, our fingers linked, as we walked down the street and into the restaurant. It looked identical, down to the same waitress turning to greet us. Much like last time, she clearly wanted to completely ignore me in favor of flirting with James, her eyes roaming over him, an appreciative smile on her face when she walked us to a booth in the corner. She put the menus across from each other, but James slid in next to me, his arm around my shoulder, only looking at her long enough to order us wine.
She stared at him, and feeling territorial, I grinned at her and waved, snuggling closer to his side.
James nuzzled my neck, his fingers tracing circles on the bare skin above my knee. “Gods, I’ve missed you so much.”
“You’re the one that had to go and be a professional athlete.” I joked. “Aren’t you happy?”
“I love it, more than I thought I would. I always liked the discipline that came with it, and I’ve gained a lot of new muscles, which should make you happy.”
“I love you no matter what.”
He grinned at me, his hand sliding behind my neck to pull my face towards his. He kissed me gently. “Good to know. I love what I do, but I miss you like crazy and wish we had more time together.”
“Me too, but it’s alright. I like having quiet time, and my studies are only going to get crazier. I hope you’re happy though, I don’t want you to be upset with your career because we don’t see each other as much as we’d like.”
The waitress came back, interrupting our conversation, wine glasses on a tray. She laid them down in front of us, and still managed to ignore me while asking James he’d like. “We’ll split a Caesar salad, she’ll have the fettuccine alfredo, and I’ll have the lasagna. Can we also get some extra garlic bread, I’m starving today for some reason.”
“All that working out must make you hungry.” The girl said with a wink.
James looked up at her in surprise. “I guess.”
The girl leaned into the table a bit, staring down at him. “Is there anything else I can do to make this first date special?”
At that, James brought my hand to his lips, his eyes only on me. “We’ve been together a while actually. Had our first date here well over a year ago, and we’re very happy. Thanks though.”
I laughed when the girl actually pouted, but was relieved when she walked away. “You’re breaking her heart again, she waited on us last time and left you her number. Also, we haven’t been together since last summer like you told her.”
He smirked at me, taking a sip of his wine. “That was our first date, we just didn’t have our second one for a while, and I knew then you’d be my girlfriend one day, so I say it counts.”
“Do you even care about breaking her heart?”
“I only ever care about breaking your heart, and hope I never, ever do it.”
I smiled. “This is really sweet James, getting to have dinner out, and here of all places.”
“I’m glad you’re happy. It’s all I want.”
“You have to want other things too James.” I said with a chuckle, so it didn’t sound harsh.
“I do, but for now, what I want is to make sure you’re happy. We all left school expecting to have a lot of time together, and now you’re spending a lot of time alone. I feel bad, Dom does too.”
“It’s alright, I don’t mind. I’m out of the house a lot for classes, and when I’m home, I have so much reading to do for school, I hardly notice that you guys aren’t around. Except that it’s far too quiet some nights. Dom spends a lot of nights out at clubs.”
“I wish we had someone else there with you. I worry about you alone in that townhouse.”
“That house can’t fit another person. It’s going to be hard enough if Ava comes back and needs a room.”
“Any word from her lately, you haven’t said much about her when I’ve been home.”
“That visit to Ridgeview and our brief conversation proved that she’s angry at me. I know Al gets occasional letters from her, but I don’t. I doubt they’ll let her stay for another term, so she’ll either have to come back to Hogwarts, or transfer to Illvermorny. Whatever it is, I’ll figure it out.”
“And classes, those still going okay?”
“Doing well with the Herbology stuff, but advanced potions was tricky until I started doing study sessions with another student. We meet up for tea a lot after that class and he gives me his notes.”
James stared at me, raising an eyebrow, his tone quiet and controlled. “He?”
I stared back. “Yeah, he. Tristian studied at Illvermorny, but is living here while he does the program.”
“Is he gay?”
“No. Why would you ask that?”
“Because I don’t know how I feel about you hanging out with another guy.”
“He knows I’m happily taken, and hasn’t shown the slightest bit of interest in me.”
“Then he is gay.”
“No, he’s definitely straight.”
“So he has flirted with you?”
I finally lost my cool and glared at James. “This is our first real night together in weeks, I don’t want to spend it arguing about a guy I only see twice a week for study sessions that I have zero interest in.”
“Alright.” James said, but he said it in a way that told me he was now going to worry even more about what I was doing and with whom while he was away. Great.
Our food arrived then, and we were provided with a distraction. James inhaled his food, and the rest of the dinner passed in relative silence. He was clearly still stewing over my mention of my having a male acquaintance. I sort of wished I hadn’t said anything, because it had sort of ruined the evening, but I didn’t have anything to hide, and my dealings with Tristan were purely related to school.
The waitress was eyeing us, smirking and giggling with another girl about her age. I spoke quietly, breaking the ice. “She’s probably going to give you her number again.”
James gave me a very intense look. “I’ll ignore it, just like last time.”
“I’m sorry if I upset you.” I replied.
“Let’s get out of here, and talk elsewhere. We can do a movie down the street first if you want? I don’t want to kill the evening.”
“I’d rather go home.”
He sighed. “Charlotte, I’m sorry. You got all dressed up, I don’t want to shorten this night before we need to.”
I laid my hand on his face, kissing him quickly. “I remember you wanting to peel me out of this dress. You can do that once we’re home.”
“Oh yeah?” He said with a delicate grin. “I’d very much like to keep that promise, if you'll let me. Wait here love, I’ll be back.”
He slid out of the booth and walked up to the two girls, handing a couple of bills to the waitress, before he turned to me and held out his hard. I grabbed my jacket that I’d shoved in the corner of the booth, and practically skipped over to him, my skin tingling with anticipation. He had a predatory look in his eyes, and I figured I was in for it tonight.
It was fully dark out when we left, and James quickly pulled us down the side street, sliding both arms around my waist, lowering his mouth to mine, before apparting back to my backyard. “Home sweet home.”
“Let’s hope Dom isn’t here with a new guy. I’d hate to interrupt them.” I said, walking up the steps, and unlocking the back door with a quick wave of my wand.
“I kind of bribed her to stay away tonight, and tomorrow morning. Let me tell you, your best friend robbed me.”
I laughed. “She should get into Magical Law.”
“She’s smart enough for it, took about half my monthly salary to convince her to stay gone.”
“You wouldn’t give up that much just for twelve hours of privacy.”
“Oh, that’s not what I bribed her for. Partly, yes, but also so we could do whatever we wanted, wherever we wanted, except her bedroom.” James wiggled his eyebrows at me, draping his jacket on the back of a chair, before sliding mine off and dropping it atop his.
“I’m glad you’re not mad at me.” I said, changing the subject, running my hands over his arms as he drew me into his body, his hands clasped behind my back.
James dropped his forehead to mine, squeezing me tightly. “I’m not mad at you. I’m envious, and worried. I’m not here as much as I’d like to be, and you’re my world Charlotte. I’d give up everything to keep you by my side. You’re all that matters to me.”
I laid my hands on his chest, tucking my head into the crook of his neck. “James, that's exactly why I think it’s so important for you to have something beyond me that’s so important to you. We’re eighteen, there’s so much life ahead of us. Make sure you accomplish some dreams before we get too serious.”
He pulled back, frowning. “I love you Charlotte, and yes, I love being on the Cannons, but I’d give it all up in a heartbeat if I felt it was getting between us. That’s why I’m worried when you mention a guy for the first time tonight, I worry that he’ll make a move, or you’ll be hurt by someone else and I’ll be off in another country.”
James started pacing, and I froze, wondering where all this was going. I wondered if he thought I was falling out of love with him, or if something else was going on. “James … come sit down, let’s talk.”
“We are talking.” He snapped, running his hands through already wind tousled hair.
“Do you think I’m going to fall in love with someone else?” I asked, kicking off my wedges and settling on the couch, balancing delicately on the edge.
“Of course I do. I’m gone … all the time. Before I signed with the Cannons, I imagined waking up next to you every morning, and being home every night to hear about your day and your classes. I imagined this summer to be a million other things. I miss you. I have pictures of you plastered all over my locker, and I take them with me on games, especially the ones you can't make it to. I know we’re only eighteen Charlotte, and I know that means we’re young, but I know how I feel about you. I know how much I’ve changed since knowing you, and I don't want to go back to a life of meaningless hookups. I want you, and I …”
“What?” I pleaded, feeling my face crumple with sadness. “What do you need, or feel?”
“I need to know that same dream is still there, when things calm down. My future still has to include you.”
“James, come sit down.” I begged, waiting for him to come next to me. When he did, I climbed onto his lap, grabbing his face with both hands until he looked at me. “You are what I want for my future, and you’re who has my whole heart and soul. You're everything to me James, and I still want that dream too. Please trust that, and don’t ever worry about what I'm doing when you're away, because I promise you that ninety percent of the time, it’s related to school.”
“And the other ten?”
“Making a fresh cup of tea because the one I made got cold.”
James chuckled, flipping me over onto my back in one very smooth movement. “Tell me you love me, I need to hear it.”
I smiled up at him. “I love you.”
“Can I take this dress off you now, and wrap myself around you? I need all of you.”
I tapped his nose, but smiled. “Careful James Potter, before you start sounding possessive. You already have all of me.”
“I’d never be possessive, but can’t promise to always be above getting jealous.” He kissed me then, a deep, intense kiss, and I forgot what we’d been talking about.
He was true to his word, and slowly peeled my dress off me, palming my back as he slid the zipper down slowly, his mouth on mine. It landed unceremoniously on the floor, tossed aside by James, who was now far more interested in looking at the lingerie set I had on. It was sheer and bright red, with bits of lace in specific places.
He growled, pulling my back to his front, his hands everywhere. His voice was low and husky in my ear, the same ear he nipped at a moment later before dropping kisses on my neck. “I don’t recall you owning anything like this.”
I turned around and took a step back, trying to feel brave standing in front of him in racy, red lace lingere, but I couldn’t help but feel self conscious. This wasn’t something I’d ever done before, but the look in his eyes helped the nerves melt away. “Dom and I went shopping last weekend, I picked this up, thought you might like it.”
“Feel free to get more stuff like that to surprise me with.” He growled, ripping his shirt off, and the undershirt he had on. He was right, he’d definitely gotten new muscles, his six pack now an eight pack. James saw me looking at him, biting my lip, and grinned. “I”m happy to give you another few seconds to enjoy this view, but then I’m coming after you, and I’m going to bury myself in you love.”
“You’d have to catch me first.” I said, darting into the kitchen, putting the island between us. His laugh sounded with mine, and we danced around the house, James never getting quite close enough to grab me. Until I thought to run upstairs. My short legs failed me, and he caught me halfway up.
I blinked and it seemed like we were already in the bedroom, and on the bed, and then James was kissing me while I fiddled with his pants. It wasn’t long before our clothing was on the floor, and we were tangled in the sheets, wrapping ourselves around each other. We didn’t fall asleep for a good long while.
The next morning, I woke up to the sound of rain. I blinked a few times, fighting back the urge to fall back asleep. There wasn’t anything I needed to do today but grocery shop and have dinner with Dom at a new wine bar we’d found, so I had all morning to lay in bed if I wanted.
With James. I stretched, grinning, my body sore in all the right ways. We were thoroughly tangled up in each other and the sheets, his arm tight around my stomach, holding me to his body. I tried to gently peel his arm off, so I could use the bathroom and brush my hair, but the moment I shifted an inch, James mumbled.
I smiled, turning in his arms to face him, my fingers rubbing the stubble on his face. One hazel eye opened to peek at me before he shut his eye again.
“No?” I repeated quietly.
“Stay here, with me.”
“I wasn’t going to leave the house, just the bed.” I replied.
His response was to tighten his grip around me, nuzzling his head in the crook of my neck. “Charlotte.”
My name was a prayer on his lips, and I kissed him gently. “James.”
His eyes finally opened, still cloudy with sleep. His smile was gentle and heartbreaking in its purity. We stared at each other for a bit, James still fighting back sleep. His eyes drifted closed again, and I waited until he was safely asleep before untangling myself from him. I padded softly into the bathroom, turning on the shower.
I meant to just take a quick shower — but after I shampooed my hair, I just stood there, letting the hot water rush over me while my mind drifted. I jumped back into reality when I felt hands on my hips. James, on my mind, and all over my body.
I turned around in his arms, letting him pick me up, and back me into the wall, the water pouring over him now. My legs wrapped around his waist, my body opening as he slid into me, his mouth capturing the sigh that bled from my mouth. He worked slowly, comfortably holding me against the wall as he moved, working me towards that delightful release. Even when it was over, both of us happy and sated, he held me there in his arms, his mouth on mine.
“I want it to always be like this.” He said finally, putting me down gently, turning to the practical side of showering. I smelled his shampoo that reminded me of a cold winter morning and breathed deep. I didn’t want to tell him that I’d used his shampoo a few times just so the world smelled like him, even if only for a moment.
“I mean, it’s can’t always be like that. Eventually we’ll become an old married couple that has sex only on special occasions, and argues all the time.” I said with a laugh, walking behind him to wrap my arms around his waist.
James laughed, and I kissed his back before stepping out of the shower. I grabbed my hair brush, spelled with a trick of Dom’s, to instantly dry hair as you brushed through, my body still wet but my hair dry and shiny. I dried off, putting on a bit of mascara before heading to the closet to get dressed.
I headed downstairs before he could pull me back into bed, setting about making coffee and starting omelettes for us.
James came down a few minutes later, just as I was sliding his eggs onto a plate. He was wearing nothing but loose jogging pants, and I admired his shirtless chest all over again. “There are perks to being the girlfriend of a pro athlete. The view is great.”
“I aim to please.”
“Oh, you’ve taken care of that plenty in the past twelve hours.” I said with a broad smile, turning back to the stove to make my own eggs.
“I still plan to add to that tally, all over the house. It is why I bribed my cousin to leave for a bit.”
“Eat your eggs before they get cold.” I shot back, taking a sip of coffee to hide my smile.
“Do you ever think we’ll get to live alone together, and do this everyday?” He asked after a few minutes, his omelette entirely gone from his plate. He got up, heading right for the container of blueberry scones I’d made two days ago.
“I hope so. I have a feeling Dom will want her own place next year, but there’s still Harper and Ava. I imagine there will be a time a few years down the road when you and I can be alone.”
“Before kids.” He said, serious.
“Well, yeah. You think about kids?”
“I think about kids with you, but I don’t want them right now.”
“Oh good, cause I’m definitely not ready for kids.”
“But you want kids? With me? A house with a garden in the countryside, and dinner parties, all that?”
I put my cup down, laying my hand against his face when I climbed onto his lap. He was being far too serious for my taste, especially since it was still before nine. “James Potter, you tell me what’s going on right now, you’re freaking me out.”
“Connalley is retiring at the end of the season, and the Cannons want to offer me the starting spot, for a three year contract and a lot of money.”
“That’s amazing news! Why do you seem depressed about it, and why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
“They just talked to me about it yesterday after training. I don’t know Charlotte, I spent the last two months of school thinking about where we’d be in five years, and in every scenario I ran through my mind, you were always there. Since I started all this right after graduation, I’ve hardly seen you. It’s already hard on me, not seeing you, doing this for another three and half years? Singing that kind of contract won’t just mean training and games, it’ll mean interviews and promotional stuff. You're going to be slammed with school and your internship in the spring. How will we survive that and still love each other?” James rambled on and on, finally taking a deep breath when he asked the question that had clearly been bothering him.
I kissed him first, waiting until he responded in kind before leaning back, the counter digging into my spine. “I’m not a Seer James, I can’t look into the future and tell you what’s there. I can’t tell you how we’ll do in two years when both of us are insanely busy. All I can tell you is that, yes, I see a future with you, and we’ll just have to promise to work hard and when we have time alone, to keep that as alone time as often as we can. We’ll have to try writing more, I’ll try to make it to more games. That’s all we can do … stay committed and work hard at it. Like everyone else.”
James bent his head to my neck and held me close. “It’s so hard, not seeing you. I’ve tried to talk to Coach about getting to come home every night, but he says it’s important for team building that we spend time as a team, and by the end of it all, I’m so tired, it’s just easier to crash at the bunker.”
I ran my fingers though his hair, trying to cherish how vulnerable he was being, and then feeling awestruck at just how much he loved me. “Let’s get through this year, this season, and maybe we go look at a house closer to where the team is based. Dom can stay here, in the city. I can get to classes easily no matter where I am in the country, and then I’ll be closer to you for as long as you stay with them. Because, you are going to sign that contract for three years if it’s a good deal. You’ve wanted that since you were six years old, you’re not going to pass on it just because you miss me. I won’t allow it.”
He looked at me then, smirking. “You won't allow it? It’s my life.”
“It’s our life, and if you pass on that opportunity, you’re going to resent me down the road. It’s human nature. We’ll make it work.”
“That might be a good plan. Because otherwise I’m going to lose focus thinking about you with someone else.”
“I don’t want anyone else.”
“Now, sure. What happens when you’re mad at me, or missing me, and someone else is around.”
“Nothing happens. I would never do something like that.”
“I’m being jealous, aren’t I?”
I nodded, smiling. “You just miss me, that’s a good thing. You’re the pro Quidditch player, I should be worried about you meeting some fangirl that’ll stop at nothing to get in your pants. Every other week in America there’s a story about some famous athlete that got caught cheating on his girl. Statistically, you’re more likely to do something than I am.”
James furrowed his brows, fingers on my hips digging in tighter. “Do you worry about that with me? You know I’d never do that.”
“Not really. I probably should, given your history with girls before me.”
“That just seems like another reason to finish out my one year contract and be done.” He said, lifting me onto the edge of the counter so he could pace around the kitchen.
“No. I’m sorry James, but this can’t be how our future starts- by you giving up a dream. You can have both- the career dream, and me. You and I just need to find news ways of staying connected.”
“I like when you put your foot down. It’s kinda hot.”
I rolled my eyes, and jumped off the counter. “I’m glad that me being realistic turns you on, but can we be done with this conversation. You have to leave tonight to prepare for your game in Belgium, so can we do other things? Please?”
“Alright, love, whatever you want.”
“That’s your way of saying we’ll talk about this another time, isn’t it?” I asked him, heading upstairs.
He yelled after me, “One hundred percent correct!”
I sighed, and walked back into the bedroom to flop onto the bed, face first, hearing him coming up the stairs. Of all the conversations I thought we’d have today- him giving up a dream and where we’d be in five years— realizing none of it was what I expected. It was amazing to me that he thought about us that far ahead. My brain only thought about two months in advance, to my next meeting at Ridgeview and to the upcoming holidays and what kind of Christmas tree I’d get for the house.
As James fell into the bed next to me though, my mind opened a door, and I began imagining what might be. The house we might buy together, what kind of engagement ring I’d want, and what our wedding would look like. What our kids would look like- we’d probably have quite a few- and what we’d call them. Once that idea settled in my head- I felt worry too, but shoved it aside.
I had to stay in the moment, just for today.
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