Chapter 38

Wes's POV

Wes tried to ignore the shadow looming over him by simply deciding he'd ignore it. If he ignored it—and who was causing it—it might go away. But when a full minute passed and the shadow hadn't moved, Wes lifted a hand to shield his eyes from the too-bright sun before opening his eyes. "Dad?" He asked, squinting, and his father took off his sunglasses and pressed them into Wes's hand. Wes shot him a half-smile and put them on, sitting up properly and crossing his legs, so his father could sit on the end of his lounge chair. Considering that the man had just given him his sunglasses, Wes could spare the space. Especially since his Dad had some trouble walking since he'd come back.

It'd been only a day since Dad had come back, and they were all staying at the Leakey Cauldron. Wes and Sera and their dad all crammed into one room, because they barely had enough money for that—the Finnigans hadn't had a job in months. Obviously Wes's dad wasn't able to bring in money, and enough time hadn't passed that Wes had had an opportunity to get a job. Also—and Wes felt like a complete brat thinking this—Wes wanted a break. And figured he kind of deserved one. But he would have rather died than voice that, so instead he had just spent most of the day by the Potters' pool, supervising James and Sera and whoever else managed to bounce in there.

They—Sera, his father and he—had had a long talk the night before about Wes's mum. Elisabetta di Olympi had been from a prominent Italian family, the only child of a Voldemort Supporter. Her father was long since dead—right after Wes had been born—and her mum had died when Sera had been a toddler. Elisabetta had inherited quite a bit from her parents and that had passed to her children when she'd died. Wes evidently had quite a bit of inheritance now, as well as the di Olympi Villa in Tuscany and a home in Rome that his dad hadn't known much about. Wes's Mum had never told his dad much about any of it—she hated the idea that her parents had anything to do with her children. Wes was fine with that, though. He had enough crazy family. He didn't need more.

Wes had also surprised himself with being fine with his father's explanation for why, legally, Sera and he had no mother: Wes's mum hadn't wanted her mother tracking them down. She didn't trust the woman and hadn't talked to her in years, and Wes's mother was sure that her mother would somehow find her children if she could track them down. And her talking to Wes and Sera would have been the end of the world—and then she'd died, and Seamus and Elisabetta somehow had never gotten around to changing their children's birth certificate. And while that made Wes mad, he now had enough experience with his Dad's Mum that he thought it was probably best that he hadn't had a second crazy grandmother to get in on the chase.

As to why his parents had lied to them that her name was Elisabeth Warren, Wes and Sera hadn't asked, and his dad hadn't offered the information. Wes was just happy his dad was back, even if things weren't perfect.

"We need to talk." Wes's dad murmured to him, and Wes watched his father wearily. He wasn't sure how things had gotten this way. He knew he'd scared Dad at the Ministry, when Dad had just gotten back and suddenly Wes had seen Sera and Dad and realized, starkly, that he had an urge to protect Sera. From their father. And Dad had never hurt or hit them. He had a temper, but he would never take anything out on his children. But Wes knew that he was a different person, Sera was a different person, than the kids that Dad had accidentally left behind. Wes didn't want to talk, though.

"I guess we do." Wes said quietly, looking away for a minute before he looked back at his dad. "Hey, I'm sorry about what happened at the Ministry." He said softly. "I didn't…I'm so freaking happy you're okay, Dad. Just…" Wes looked away again, to where Sera was playing Water Polo in the pool with James and Louis and Lily and Victoire and Teddy. "I've been taking care of her for a couple months, now." Wes looked back at his dad. "I had to put her first. All the time. I still do. And I don't…I don't know how okay you are." Wes was being honest—the only way to approach this was completely honestly, even though it might have seemed awkward, Wes's dad deserved that. "And that's understandable. You were held hostage for a hell of a long time, Dad." Wes paused, letting that thought sit, just for a moment. "And Mum's gone, and it was your Mum that was holding you hostage." Wes fell silent for another moment, not wanting to push his dad through all of this again, just trying to excuse Wes taking Sera from him three days ago. "I can't let her rely on you again if it turns out you're only at eighty percent." He said in a quiet, clear voice, the point of what he was trying to get across. "No one could blame you for it, because you spent nine months in hell, but Sera comes first in my book now. Which means I need to know if you're not okay, so we can take care of it before it hurts Sera." Wes sighed. "Therapy, whatever, it doesn't matter. Just, if you need help, let me or Dean or someone know so Sera doesn't reap the consequences of what happens if you need it and you don't get it."

Wes's dad was watching his son with a kind of knowing smile, but there was something incredibly depressing about it. "It's odd, isn't it." He asked, more a comment than a question, and Wes just sighed tolerantly.

"What?" Wes asked, when his dad didn't continue. His dad wasn't even looking at him anymore, though, and had looked back at Sera. Wes followed his gaze, but sister was fine, and he trusted Teddy to make sure she didn't drown, so he just looked back at his father. Just when Wes was considering repeating the query, his dad spoke.

"It's odd how easy it is to start being a parent and how hard it is to stop." His father murmured, and Wes winced. He knew it was true though—it'd actually been Selma who originally pointed out how true it was, when Sera had gotten sick before the quidditch match. She'd said it was really sweet how nice Wes was to Sera, how worried he was. Wes brushed it off—he'd always been a little protective of his baby sister, though he hadn't really done anything about it until this year—but it'd stuck in his head for some reason. And then, over Spring Break, when she'd been kidnapped, it'd been much too obvious to avoid that he wasn't just her big brother, but more like a parent. But the problem wasn't becoming Sera's parent—it was how to switch back that was hard. "I have no idea what I'm going to do without Bethy." His father told Wes, and Wes looked away, towards the house, hoping that Dean would be standing there to help out with his emotional wreck of a father. He wasn't, though, so Wes racked his brain to come up with something sensitive and kind to say.

"You get used to things." Wes found himself saying to his father after a moment. "Even when it seems incomprehensible, you eventually get used to it." Wes scrubbed at his face, barely believing the words he was about to say to his father. "Dad, I think Sera and I should stay with Dean and Monica." Wes said carefully. He wouldn't have had the guts—aw, hell, Sera couldn't hear—the balls to say this to his father, if he hadn't seen Sera this relaxed with Dean and Monica and the Potters. If Sera wasn't still bruised, still healing—if Wes wasn't still bruised and still healing—Wes might have been able to stick it through the next few months. But his father barely knew him, anymore: barely understood that Sera needed to be taken care of and Wes's dad wasn't up for doing that. Sticking her in a house with a man who was still working through things as big as kidnapping and death and whatever had happened to Dad in the months he'd been gone—Wes couldn't do that to the kid. She was too happy with Dean and Monica and Alec, seeing James and Louis every day. "She's comfortable with them, and we don't even have a house. She needs the stability, Dad, and I wouldn't mind it."

"James! Catch!" Sera cried, laughing, as Lily jumped in front of her, preparing to tickle her. Sera was holding the ball above her head, before she chucked it over Lily and to James, who caught it with a grin.

"You both grew up so much." Wes's dad murmured. "I barely know you." Wes didn't say anything. He didn't even say anything when he was pretty sure the man had swiped at his eye, wiping away what might have been tears. Wes thought for a moment that this was about to happen, that his father was somehow about to acknowledge that Wes and Sera should stay with Dean and Monica, and Wes was immediately regretting his statement. "But Wes," His dad said quietly, continuing, his voice stronger. "You are my children, and I love you." He turned back to Wes, meeting his gaze bravely, and Wes suddenly felt prouder to have Seamus Finnigan for a father than he ever had in his entire life. "So I'll just have to get to know you." Wes's dad said firmly, and Wes swallowed, before he leaned forward and hugged his father tightly. Wes's dad hugged him back, tighter. "I'm not giving up on this family, yet, Kid. And neither are you." His dad murmured, and Wes felt relief smother most of his major organs, calming his heartbeat, which had sped up because of anxiety about two days ago and Wes hadn't allowed it to slow.

The Finnigan Family was damaged, and missing a member, but they would survive the storm.

Sera's POV

"Sera, James," James's grandmother called out from the edge of the pool closest to the house: James stopped tickling me long enough to look up at his grandmother, allowing me to do the same. "Be dears and go get lunch, won't you?" James's grandmother asked us kindly, and James nodded. We detangled and I swam to the edge of the pool, hoisting myself up on onto the edge. I pushed myself to my feet, wincing as my several thousand bruises came into the open. Wes and Dad (that still felt weird to say) were sitting on one of the lounges beside the pool, both of them watching me, and I saw the new lines on Dad's forehead and around his eyes deepen as he saw the bruises on my ribs and back and neck, and the massive one on my thigh.

"Sweetheart, do those hurt?" Dad asked worriedly, and I saw Wes's gaze sharpen a little, as he shited in his chair: he was so overprotective. I shrugged a little.

"Not any worse than some other stuff." I said carefully: I didn't think it was a good idea to bring up that I spent most of my time recovering from huge injuries. Wes winced, rubbing the back of his neck as Dad twisted to glance at him, before Dad turned back to me.

"Oh." He said finally. I heard James get out of the water behind me and I crossed to where I'd put my things, on one of the chairs, and I stepped into my shorts, pulling them up easily. I frowned at the chair—where was my shirt?—before realizing that I'd left my shirt in the room.

"Jamie, can I borrow—" James chucked me his zip-up hoodie without another word, and I pulled it on comfortably, zipping it up most of the way. "Thanks." I said with a grin, and he just nodded silently, his nervous gaze flicking to Wes, behind me—Wes had James living in fear, now. Ever since that talk that had almost destroyed James and me, James hadn't actually talked to Wes, and I couldn't really blame him. James was kind of reserved to begin with and my brother had decided to push—Jamesie, me, whomever—into his firm belief that James and I might have maybe on some planet liked each other.

But I was twelve and James was twelve so we were pre-programmed to be really awkward anyway.

"Oh, Daddy—did I ever introduce you to…" I gestured at James, realizing, suddenly, that it was possible that James had never met my father. Dad shook his head, his gaze flicking from me to Jamie, and I grinned, grabbing Jamie's hand and pulling him forward, so he was standing in front of my brother and my father, before I released his hand deliberately, smiling. "Daddy, this is James Potter. Jamesie, this is my dad."

"Hello Mr. Finnigan." James said boldly, sticking out a hand to shake, and Dad shook his hand carefully with his uninjured hand, looking at James seriously.

"James." Dad said with a nod. "You're in Sera's year at Hogwarts?" I fixed my father with a look—Dad knew that. He was just being a big creep and taking his opportunity to intimidate a boy who I knew. Before Hogwarts, I'd heard a hundred times about how much fun it'd be to introduce a boy to Mum and Dad, and for the first time, I was getting that experience. I'd had guy friends at my muggle school, but those hadn't been the same, because they weren't going to last past age 11. My dad had made his best friend his first week at Hogwarts and that same man was his children's godfather. I knew he took friends seriously—especially male friends of his baby girl.

"Yes, sir." James murmured. I looped an arm around Jamie's shoulders, and Jamie put an arm around my waist, his hand resting on my hip, right at the top of my shorts.

"You like Hogwarts?" Dad pressed, his eyes narrowning significantly, and I fixed him with a glare: how did my father not understand that James was important in my life, and that my father didn't get to just ask these angry, pressing, none-of-his-business questions.

"I like most parts of it." He said honestly, and Dad nodded.

"You play quidditch?" He demanded.

"Yes, sir." James said quietly, and I raised an eyebrow at my father.

"What position?" Dad asked, and I couldn't resist grinning, and I turned in towards Jamesie, pressing my face into his shoulder for a moment in an effort to smother my laughter. Jamesie put a hand on my back, and I turned back from him after a moment, grinning at Wes over Dad's head—but I knew Wes was grinning for a very different reason. Wes thought James and I liked each other and if we were within ten feet of each other, that further evidence. I thought it was funny that my father was acting this way: I knew that my father considered being a beater the only acceptable position on a quidditch team. He thought seekers were pansies (his words), and keepers thought too hard. And Wes was a beater and I was a chaser so there wasn't too much he could say about that. But I knew he didn't respect the chaser position very much, though he swore to me that if I played aggressively enough, it wouldn't matter.

"Beater." James said firmly. Dad nodded solemnly.

"You get good grades?" Dad asked.

"Daddy!" I protested with a kind of crazed grin, turning towards James apologetically. "You do not have to answer that," I assured him, and he put his arm around my shoulders: I leaned against him almost instinctively—it was that automatic at this point.

"I got Os in Transfiguration, Charms and Defense Against the Dark Arts, Es in Muggle Studies, History of Magic and Herbology, and an A in Potions." James listed. I snorted in laughter at the last grade, and Jamie pulled away to throw me a dirty look. I grinned kiddingly, and James raised an eyebrow.

"You got the same thing in Transfiguration." James muttered. I chuckled, pushing my hair out of my face distractedly, before I looked back to my father, still grinning, and my father raised an eyebrow, sighing as his gaze flicked from James back to me.

"I got Os in Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Muggle Studies, Herbology, and Potions, and an E in History of Magic, and an A in Transfiguration." I told Dad with a proud grin.

"My daughter got an O in Charms?" Dad demanded, looking incredulous. "My child?" He looked towards James's Mum's Mum, who had been standing at the edge of the pool and had since begun to approach. "Mrs. Weasley—"

"Trust me, dear, we all had a good laugh that Sera inherited your mother's charms' skills and not yours." Mrs. Weasley said with a generous smile, and I blinked at the positive mention of my grandmother. Mrs. Weasley must not have been familiar with, oh, any number of printed media sources, because my grandmother had been on all of them, in the last months, in association with me, and her hatred/abuse of me. "Saraid and I had a good laugh about the first time you blew off your eyebrows—"

"You were friends with my grandmother?" I asked, shocked. Saraid MacBride was the antithesis of Molly Weasley. I did not know much, but I knew that. Mrs. Weasley gave me a sweatshirt with my initial on it that was too itchy and too big and perfect.

James's grandmother smiled sadly at me. "She used to date my brother, when we were all back at Hogwarts and I was Molly Prewett." She pulled some of her graying red hair over her shoulder. My head spun with this knowledge, and I looked wildly at James—my grandmother had dated his great-uncle. Ew. James just looked caught halfway between super disgusted and very confused.

"But Molly's brother was killed by Voldemort." My dad said quietly, his voice respectful. "And my mother married a muggle who was the exact opposite of Fabian." He glanced up at Mrs. Weasley, an apologetic smile on his face. "And they had me."

"Your mother was very much in love with Fabian, Seamus. We were all sure…" Mrs. Weasley's voice faded off, as she looked away, and I was fairly sure there were tears in her eyes, but then she looked at me. "Distant history." She said, her voice coming back, suddenly. But I'd latched onto the words she'd said: Fabian Prewett was Mrs. Weasley's brother, and Mrs. Weasley had been, as far as I was aware, raised in a family that was 'good,' or rather, not elitist despite their pureblood status. My grandmother had apparently not always been so elitist and angry. As far as I understood, my grandmother had been dating Fabian and then Fabian had died, and not longer, she'd married Dad's Dad, who was a muggle and essentially the opposite of Fabian. Oddly, that suddenly made a little more sense—all her insanity wasn't, suddenly, just insanity. She'd rebounded from her dead boyfriend—who everyone apparently thought she'd get married to—and married a muggle, had a son so it was too late to undo it without putting my father through having divorced parents. And she loved my dad more than anything, put him first. So she was stuck in this marriage and ended up resenting her husband for it, who happened to be a muggle.

And suddenly, she'd gone from being a resentful housewife to being an elitist woman who killed her supposedly muggleborn daughter-in-law and kidnapped her son and attacked her grandchildren.

I nodded uncertainly to Mrs. Weasley in an effort to make it seem like I hadn't just reasoned through all of that, and she dug into her pocket, pulling out some muggle money and a folded piece of paper. "This is the grocery list, please get everything on it, and here's money." She told us emphatically, holding up the paper separately, and pressing it into James's extended hand, closely followed byt he money. She smiled at Jamie and I, and I grinned up at her: I liked Mrs. Weasley. She was nice, but I kind of got a tough-as-nails vibe from her that was kind of comforting. What with my tendency to attract danger, I liked to know that the people around me wouldn't shatter at the first sign of trouble. "Thank you, dears."

"It's a safe neighborhood?" Dad asked, such a reflexive question for him, and I grinned to myself: I liked having him back, even if I wasn't entirely sure what to do with my entirely Wes-reliant world.

"You think I'd let her go if I thought it wasn't safe?" Wes demanded, sounding a little hurt, frowning at my father. I rolled my eyes, but grabbed Jamie's forearm, preparing to pull him away. I wanted to explain to him what I thought about my grandmother—how I believed that somehow,

"It's a very good neighborhood, Seamus." Mrs. Weasley said with a soft smile for my father. "And so you know, Wes did his due diligence before the first time Sera and James ran out for something for the family." She smiled. "Wes has been taking care of Sera incredibly well, Seamus. You should be very proud."

"I am." Dad murmured, glancing back at Wes, who sighed, looking away from our father to me, before his eyes narrowed.

"You have sunscreen on, dork?" He asked, and I pulled a face, shaking my head. "You're gonna burn." He told me with raised eyebrows, and I grinned sheepishly at him; he rolled his eyes, before he grabbed a baseball hat from the table that I knew was Teddy's, and he shoved it at me. I sighed in irritation. "Wear it." He ordered.

"This isn't mine, isn't yours, isn't James's—" I protested.

"I know Teddy Lupin and he will not begrudge you his hat." Mrs. Weasley said firmly, and I sighed, putting it on my head, and I glanced at James displeasedly from under the baseball cap. James raised his eyebrows, and I sighed exasperatedly. "Alright, you two, get going." Mrs. Weasley ordered. James gently pushed me in front of him, and I glanced back at James with a competitive grin on my face.

"Race you to the street." I offered, and James and I took off, sprinting. I raced around the house, jumping the fence on the side of the house, and James caught up with me as we reached his front path, and then down his driveway. James hit the sidewalk a half-second before I did, and I sighed in exasperation as I stopped myself, spinning to face James, a little out of breath. "Ugh, this isn't fair."

"Yeah, sure." James said, scoffing.

"I broke my leg like two days ago—" I protested, grinning good-naturedly, and James just rolled his eyes, starting down the sidewalk, towards the main town. I bounced forward a few steps, catching up with him. We walked forward a few steps before that awkward urge to speak about my mother seized me, but I was with James, and I knew he understood, so I let myself talk. "So I got to know about my mum." I told James with an uncertain smile, and my best friend looked at me sharply. He knew how important this was to me. "Her name was Elisabetta di Olympi, she was born on July 17, 1982, and she grew up in Italy. She didn't go to Hogwarts, but she went to the magic school in Venice—I forget what it's called—and her dad died when Wes was born and her mum died when I was really little." I shrugged. "We inherited some stuff from them, but Dad said since they were Voldemort supporters, he wasn't sure how much of the stuff wouldn't have something to do with the dark arts." I shrugged a little. "And we don't want that." I bit my lip a little. "She was an only child, and she didn't put her name on our birth certificates because she was afraid her mum would track us down through her, and she really didn't want her mum to have anything to do with us." I grinned, looking up at James, but he had to have seen the kind of sadness there. "She never registered a floo or anything because she didn't want her mum to know where we lived. Kind of ironic that Mum and Dad worked so hard to keep away one grandmother when it was really the other who was trouble." I sighed a little bit.

"At least…" James paused, looking at me seriously. "At least you know everything now. At least everything is going to be okay, now." James murmured. "I know it sucks to know this all after she's—gone," James swallowed, "But at least you know."

"Yeah." I said half-heartedly, before I swallowed, looking up at Jamesie with a genuine smile as we turned a corner. "You're a good friend, you know that, right?" I asked softly, and James blushed immediately. "Seriously, Jamie. You've been an incredibly good friend, sticking with me through all this crap—"

"If I'd abandoned you through all this crap, I'd be a sadist, you realize that, right?" James said defensively, and I raised an eyebrow.

"You wouldn't be a sadist. You'd be a kid who would barely know me if you hadn't held me hostage on the train to Hogwarts." I said, shrugging. "I mean, you could have just stuck with Rory and Louis and Edie, even, and had a pretty normal year. And instead you hung with me and suddenly you got attacked and crap." I shrugged. "I guess I'm trying to thank you."

"It's not like you were that hard to be friends with." James retorted, still blushing. "You're a—good person. And I know that sounds stupid, but—" James ran a hand through his hair, obviously flustered. "You're a better person than a lot of people. And you're brave, and you're funny—" James was so red, now, that I feared he was going to turn purple, and I felt a heated blush claw up my own cheeks as well. "And you could have just followed Daisy and Bethany and been weird and giggly all year, and instead, you just…didn't. Because you're better than them." James's voice had gotten so quiet at this point that I would have guessed another few decibels lower would have been whispering.

"Thanks." I said after a second, smiling a little, touched. That was an awfully sweet thing to say.

James and I turned the corner onto main street, now, and we walked a block and a half in companiable silence, letting what we'd just said settle for a few seconds before we dared to plow on. We walked into the store, and Jamesie pulled the grocery list out of his pocket, unfolding it. "Balsamic salad dressing," He murmured, the first thing on the list. I glanced around the grocery store—I'd only been here a few times before—before I shrugged and started down the first aisle, looking around.

"Thanks for being nice to my dad," I said after a second, glancing back at James, who'd begun to follow me. James raised his eyebrows.

"Lots of thanks going on today." He noted, and I chuckled.

"Well stop doing such nice things for me, Potter." I said kiddingly, grinning at James. "A girl can't help but thank you for all the favors you do." I shrugged as if helpless, and James snorted in laughter. "No, but really, thanks. I know he can be a little…" I tilted my head to the side, thinking of the word, "Protective, I guess." James's face slid into a stonier expression, and I raised my eyebrows, before turning onto the next aisle.

"It was fine, he wasn't that bad or anything." James muttered, shrugging.

"He was a little that bad." I said apologetically. "You shouldn't have had to tell him your grades." I glanced back at him, trying to emphasize how seriously I meant that with my expression. "He gets weird sometimes." I said, my only explanation. I knew my father had gotten weird because James was a boy and I was a girl, and everyone and their brother was sure that we liked each other. Wes, being the jerk he was, had probably offered that explanation to my father. But I wasn't about to offer that information to James—he got extremely sketchy every time that anyone talked about really anything like that. Even my invitation to the dance had been unorthodox, if extremely sweet. "And I understand the protective thing."

"I know you do." I muttered under my breath.

"What?" James asked suspiciously, but I saw a glint of humor in his eyes.

"Nothing," I bluffed with a charming smile, and when James's suspicious expression didn't fade, I laughed softly, turning and stepping in front of him so I was facing him. I took off my hat and put it on his head, tilting my head to the side. James was watching me completely seriously, now, and I blinked, my smile fading as I realized how serious things had gotten, so quickly. This always happened with James and I—we always sort of just started to do something else, and somehow, something else faded into one of those little moments that should have been photographed and put in a scrapbook called James and Sera's awkward moments. I wasn't sure it would fit in one scrapbook, though.

James reached up and carefully tucked a strand of hair behind my ear, and then his fingers slid, somehow, down my cheek and behind my neck, so his hand was cupping the back of my neck. And I knew what was about to happen. I knew, I knew, I knew.

And I didn't stop him.

James pulled me forward the half inch it took to close the space between our faces, and he kissed me, shortly, before he pulled back, his hand sliding off. It only lasted a half-second, but it still sent an electric shock through me, already happy without even truly understanding the extent of it. A slow smile unraveled across my face, and James, despite his usually expressionless exterior, grinned. And then someone else walked into our asile, and then I turned away awkwardly, realizing we were standing in front of the salad dressings. I tried desperately to concentrate on them, but I couldn't help but think about Jamesie, the butterflies in my stomach threatening to make me start giggling. James didn't say anything, his arm slipping around my waist silently. I ducked my head, grinning, my hair falling to cover my face, and James sighed happily. I grinned at the ground: James liked me. I liked James. My dad was okay. Yes, my mum wasn't okay. Yes, I had an insane grandmother who'd tried to kill me more times than I could count on one hand. But things were…alright, for the most part. Even if they weren't, that was kind of okay.

I had Jamesie.



All the above are indicators that things are over, done with. This story has taken me nine months to complete and it makes me happy and proud and it's only the second novel-length thing I've ever finished. This story was technically written by me, yes. But the fact that I had any ability write this story at all was largely due to the following people:



The above three are my (incredible) friends. And they kept me from losing my mind while I tried to scribble down chapters of this crazy thing in my Biology notebook and in the margins of Romeo & Juliet.

Big thanks also go to all of my reviewers, and those who have (to my knowledge) been following this story from the get-go or at least a while are bolded:




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Thank you guys all so much…and to everyone reading this chapter. :D I hope you loved the story, and I always want to hear if you did, or didn't, and why.