Hi. Am back. So, this is connected to, but independent of, Fire and Ice. It fits in with my next generation world, but it's not necessary to read any of my other work first. I actually started writing this when I was still writing Ten Little Things but then the idea for Fire and Ice came along, and I figured posting in chronological order made more sense.
Anyway, Allison Longbottom is the middle child of Neville and Hannah, and my own creation. Mitch is her brother; Lydia is her sister. I'd love to hear what people think of this, so I'll stop now and get on with the story.
Heart and Home
She knew it was childish to sulk, and Mitch said it was girlie, too, even though he sulked all the time. But right now this minute, Allison Longbottom didn't care – she was going to sit right here and sulk all she wanted.
She managed almost a minute before James came over, in something between a walk and a run. She'd heard Aunt Ginny say loads of times that James never walked, and Ally thought maybe that was true – if he wasn't running, he was moving like this.
"Hey, Ally." He said brightly."What's'matter?"
She glared. "I want to play too."
"Oh." His smile faded a little. "But you might get hurt, Ally. You're only little." He flicked a glance towards their respective little sisters, who were making daisy chains and talking animatedly. Clearly he thought she'd be better suited joining them.
"Albus is little." Ally pointed out. "And you're letting him play."
"But Al's a b -" He cut himself off just in time. "I mean, Albus is a couple months older than you, Ally."
She knew he'd been about to say "boy" but decided to let it go. "But I want to play."
James hesitated, obviously torn. "How 'bout this? You can play, but you have to wrestle with Al? 'Cause me or Mitch might hurt you, but you should be OK with Al. You could even win him." He said it with the faint disdain an older brother feels for his younger one.
Ally brightened. "OK." She didn't much want to wrestle with James or Mitch anyways. They were a lot stronger than her. James' smile slipped back into place, and he held out his hand. Ally took it, and let him pull her to her feet.
She opened her eyes nervously, and sighed with relief when she recognised the house, its red bricks dull in the darkness. The dark wood that framed the windows and doors was barely distinguishable without any light behind the glass. It should have looked unwelcoming, cold, and even, with the trees around the side of it, creepy. Yet it didn't. And to Allison Longbottom, the house was her refuge.
She felt, suddenly, dangerously close to crying. This was safety, this was comfort, and this was the first place she'd thought of when she'd walked out of her house. Her house. The tiny little house that she'd hated, but happened to live in.
Maybe it would have made more sense to go to her parents' and let them, and her younger sister, fuss over her. Or to go to Rose, who was, after all, her closest friend in the entire world. But she hadn't; she'd come to James.
She forced herself to breathe, in and out, until she felt steady again. She had cried on James Potter's shoulder more times that she could count, and she knew that he wouldn't mind her doing it again. But she refused to cry any more over him.
She looked at the house for a moment longer, absently pleased that she'd apparated to the right place – over the last few months, she'd been struggling with it a little, which was, according to everyone else, perfectly normal.
Being pregnant could throw off your magic a little, apparently.
She started up the path, glad that it wasn't too far up to the front door. The back garden was large, but the front wasn't so long. She didn't think she could've handled a hike up to the front door.
She tried the door first. She'd known James Potter her whole life; knocking on his door would feel strange.
Unfortunately, it looked like she'd have to; the door was locked, and after pulling out her wand and attempting to charm it open, she realised he'd taken his security seriously. It might have, another time, made her smile, because hardly anyone else she knew bothered with muggle locks.
But that was James.
With a sigh, she knocked softly on the door. There was no sound from inside; it was ten to midnight, and she realised that if he was asleep, she'd have to knock louder. It was a part of her basic character that she hesitated guiltily before doing so, reluctant to drag him from his bed.
She banged on the door, waited, and banged on it again. When no sound came from within, when no lights came on, she sighed.
It hadn't occurred to her that he wouldn't be home. He'd always, always been there when she needed him, more so than her own brother had. She was almost two years younger than him, and though she'd been in his brother's year at school, though she'd been his cousin's best friend, though her own brother had been James' age, they'd been drawn together from the beginning; as a child, she'd followed him around, her usual shyness muted around him. He'd accepted her, and treated her with a patience he'd rarely offered his brother, and even sometimes his sister. As teenagers, they'd become friends as well as family, part of a large group spanning both their year groups. When she was fifteen, they'd tried being a couple, because everyone thought that they should. It hadn't worked; too used to being friends, to the easy, almost sibling-like relationship, they'd found it difficult to act like a couple.
But he'd always, always been the person she ran to in a crisis. Mostly, she figured, because he was James, solid and understanding. Because she knew that if she went to him, he'd listen, comfort, and do what he could to fix it. When she was six, a boy had pushed her over in the park. James had listened, briefly comforted, then ordered Mitch to stay with her, while he went across the park to the boy. Less than a minute later, she'd gotten an apology off the kid. That had been the event that had conditioned her to go to him in crisis.
And so when Allison Longbottom had gone home and found her fiancé in bed with another woman, she'd come here, to James.
"Come on, James, you have to be home." She muttered. She was just about to turn away, walk round to the back and hope that he was less strict with his back door lock when she heard a click; the door opened.
"Ally?" His expression went from irritated to worried the second he realised it was her. She could tell, just by looking at him, that he had been asleep, but not for very long. "What's wrong – what's happened?" He stepped back automatically to let her in; she stepped forward and allowed herself a moment to be amazed by the house again.
From where she stood, she could see the upstairs, where three bedrooms resided. The living area, to her left, was open and uncovered, so that if she'd stood on the second level, she have been able to look down into it. She loved every inch of the house, and was insanely jealous of him for living in it.
"Ally?" James said, pulling her out of her thoughts. She walked into the living area, decided she wanted to sit before she humiliated herself. She considered sitting on the window seat; instead chose the sofa by the opposite wall, and sat down heavily. For a moment, she studied the third wall, where a fireplace rested between shallow bookshelves.
"Ally." He stood in front of her, evidently committed to making her talk. "What's wrong – is it the baby?"
"No." She said quickly, appalled that she'd let him worry, think the worst. "Sorry, I didn't think. The baby's fine, and so am I." She rested both hands on her expanded abdomen, and fixed her gaze on the space where, until a little while ago, an engagement ring had rested. "Archie's cheating on me though."
"What?" He stepped towards her, then spun round to face the front door. She knew that he was deciding whether to stay with her or go to her fiancé.
Ex-fiancé. It sounded, even in her head, weird. James faltered; his instincts, she thought affectionately, telling him to protect and avenge, all at once. Because that was who he was.
"Was cheating on me." She corrected herself, her voice flat. "We're officially over now, as immature as that sounds." She raised her hand to show him the lack of engagement ring. "I threw the ring at him. It bounced off his forehead. Would've been funny if there hadn't been a naked woman in my bed."
Her bed. Only it was his bed, really, Ally thought. His bed, his house, and she'd simply moved into it almost year ago. Had she really thought she could be at home there, when she'd hated every inch of the place?
"I...I'm sorry." James said softly. He'd walked forward, sat down on the sofa next to her.
She smiled softly. "You never liked him anyway."
"I...I didn't think he was good enough for you, that's all." James shrugged.
She began to play with her hair, twirling a lock of it around her finger. "She – the woman – was more his type, I think, than me. Brunette, very gorgeous, and...classy, I suppose is the word."
"Yeah. Takes real class to sleep with someone else's fiancé." James replied mildly. "Ally, I didn't think he was good enough for you, but I'm still sorry. You want me to go curse him?"
"Not now." She replied with a smile. "Can I stay here for a while?"
"Of course. Two extra bedrooms." He reminded her.
She laughed, because she still felt like crying. What else were you supposed to do at the end of an almost-two-year relationship, with a broken engagement and an eight month pregnancy? "Only you would buy a three-bed house to live in alone."
"I fell for the place." He shrugged again. With anyone else, the gesture may have seemed awkward. But she'd never known James to look or act awkward at all. It was something she still envied him for. "Are you sure you're OK?"
She nodded. "Tired, though."
"No, you're not." He replied flatly. "We're going to talk about this, Allison."
She winced at the use of her full name. No one had called her Allison since she was...well, ever. Except her parents, when she was in trouble.
"There's nothing to talk about." She said, then glanced up and met his eyes. She sighed, then shrugged. "I hate his guts, I'm angry, humiliated, and I hate myself for ever getting involved with him in the first place."
"And the baby?"
She looked confused, not understanding what he meant.
"Do you hate the baby? He's the father." He said it casually, leaning back.
There was a small wave of anger, that he'd consider it of her. But more, there was hurt, because she thought he knew her better than that.
"Didn't think so. Had to check, though." He said calmly, causing her to glare at him for a few more minutes. He offered her a grin. "C'mon, Ally, I had to make sure."
"Huh." Was the only reply she could think of.
"Did you hit him?" He asked casually.
"No." She felt, just a little, ashamed that she hadn't. "Yelled at him, though."
He raised his eyebrows. "I don't remember the last time I heard you yell. It's just not something you do."
"Yeah, well, this was a special occasion." She replied flatly. She refused to look at him, hoping he wouldn't ask if she'd cried.
Because the answer would be yes, and she didn't want to admit that, even to him. He'd know. Of course he'd know. But still.
"I gotta pee." She announced, struggling to her feet.
"'K. I'll put your bag upstairs. Middle room OK?"
"It's fine." She replied, knowing she had little choice; the middle room was the only spare with a bed inside. Impulsively, she flung her arms around him when she stood, and was comforted when he hugged her back. "Sometimes," she said brightly, deliberately lightening the atmosphere, "I really, really, really love you."
"Is this one of those times?" He asked hopefully.
"Yes. Yes it is." She released him, and smiled before she turned away. She walked past the staircase, down the short hallway. A piano sat there, directly opposite the front door, despite James being unable to play. He'd simply thought a piano would look nice there. He'd been right, too. To her left, double sliding doors – open, so that it appeared to be simply an archway – lead to the kitchen; to her right, identical doors, also open, lead to another short hallway. She went right; directly opposite her was another window seat; left was the conservatory, assessable by more sliding doors, and to her right was her goal; the small downstairs toilet.
She could hear him in the kitchen when she came back out, and because she wanted to be alone – and she knew he'd understand and respect that – she walked back round to the stairs, and made her way up.
She paused a moment in the upstairs hall to look down, at the living area and the entrance. It never failed to impress her.
The middle bedroom was almost empty; though James had carefully furnished the rest of the house, the spare bedrooms had been neglected. A bed and a wardrobe was all it offered. Her bag – her every possession magically packed inside – sat on the bed. She shifted it to the floor, and without bothering to change or even slide under the covers, laid on her side and closed her eyes.
She was asleep in seconds.