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Just I move to roll the parchment, a final thought springs to mind. I grab my quill, and underneath his name, I cross out what was previously there and write, Thank you for showing me how to be.
"Aren't my potter boys just adorable?" Rose asks me, flicking ash out the window.
I look at them, Albus drooling and James watching the smoke dance in the air, glasses falling down his nose, and I nod. "Well, I think so."
"Finnigan," says a voice behind me. I look around the trunk of this thin tree, and to my delight, I find Louis Weasley. He looks glorious in this end-of-summer sunlight, his skin glowing, his hair bright, his clothes casual and comfortable but still lovely. He's lovely.
"Nora, we want you to join the paper," Emma cuts in.
"That's been established," I tell her, my hatred unintentionally shifting. I make sure to say the next bit with a kinder tone. "But not in what capacity."
"An advice column," Scorpius says seriously.
The lake is cold again today. Today is my birthday. I feel alive; I feel special.
The first issue of Hogwarts Weekly featuring Anonymous comes out today. I tried to forget, but, of course, Rose will not let me. I love her for so many things, and always shoving me towards greatness is definitely one I have to will myself to love.
I awake the next morning in just a t-shirt and knickers. Yesterday, this wouldn't have meant a thing, but today, I do not wake up alone.
"Why are you always on the grounds, actually on the ground, when you're upset?" James sits next to me, farther away this time than when he wrapped us both under his cloak. I want to feel his closeness to me again. I do not reach out.
Thoughts of him spread through my mind like a picturesque fog. My love shifted. My dreams changed. My pen wrote a whole new name in the margins of my journal pages.
Turning away, the bathroom light streams out of the open doorway, accosting my eyes. The light flicks off, and Deidre steps out. Her shadow tiptoes to her bed; I hear a sniffle. Unmoving, I watch her. She sits on the side of her bed and fingers the petals of a flower standing on her bedside table. In the darkness and the distance, I do not recognize the flower and wonder its meaning.
“I know all of this is awkward, but I deserved for you to push past it and tell me what you felt or didn’t feel.” A moment of silence passes as the breeze strengthens; a large orange leaf drifts through the air just above my face, falling then flying, falling then flying again. It settles in my lap as if it belongs there.
I turn my head to look back into the greenhouses through the blades of grass and the occasional dandelion and find James still looking at me. I imagine myself in a blue dress and saddle shoes, Lucy to his Schroeder. There are infinite worlds with stories like this.
The entrance hall doors are already open when I reach them, and I find James and Rose just outside as promised. Rose is sitting in the grass in a rare pair of uniform trousers, braids tucked behind one ear to display a buttercup flower. She is smiling wide as she speaks, and I turn to see Deidre sitting a few steps away. James is standing against a near wall with an open book in hand.
I smile at the sight of Deidre having fun, another buttercup slid into the folds of her curls.
“Is that a question or…?” I respond, reaching to steal a chocolate from his box. As my hand hovers near, I am struck with the question of how James perceives my fatness. What will he think of the fat girl reaching into his box of chocolates? I tell myself these thoughts are irrational but watch as my hand retreats anyway.
James, ever oblivious to my inner turmoil, picks up a chocolate and places it in my hand.
James stands above me in the grass and says something, but I am too distracted to hear. I try to tell him to give me a second. The words do not form on my lips. He sits next to me and watches my movements. I stare at the enhanced colors of his face and eyes. The whiskey color I remember from my father’s bottles stares back at me, intense.
“You’re beautiful,” I say.
Rose calls this the come up.
It’s coming on Christmas; they’re cutting down trees; they’re putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace; oh, I wish I had a river I could skid away on.
I find myself, eyes closed, singing along, however softly, to the words I have heard many times. I open them to chance a look at James and find him staring back at me, the beginnings of a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. I breathe in and close my eyes once more.
“James is downstairs buying ink,” Rose tells me as I stand again.
She is met with my silence.
“He’s buying you a present,” she continues. “He’s on the line right now. It’s a fairly long one if you’d like to catch up with him.”
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