Disclaimer: I do not own Wizards of Waverly Place. No profit is being made from releasing this fictional story.
Author's Note: Has anyone read the Hunger Games books? I just finished the first one and I must say… it gave me goosebumps! Advice to everyone: Read it! It's a phenomenal book.
And again, thank you for staying with me. If anyone is interested, I found a very touching Harper/Justin video on youtube ( watch?v=NutF0csz4Oo&feature=related). Now I'm usually not into fanvids, but this one was extra sweet so I thought I'd share it.
Also, just a shout out to Jewel Leigh: Really? I never checked myself but that does give me such a boost of confidence. No offense to the Justin/Alex pairing fans out there, but it's hard for me to be open-minded with the idea of them doing the naughty when they're supposed to be brother and sister. Yeck.
Let's read on!
A Familiar Pattern 23
Harper twisted herself to try to get a better look at her backside. She reached behind to smooth the crease on her dress, and then twirled to view herself from a different angle. In a few hours, the Transfer of Powers will be held in a grand ballroom filled with hundreds of Wizards and magical creatures. It is to be a highly publicized, formal event complete with tuxedos and ballroom gowns that she and the rest of the Russo family are due to attend. It took Harper an entire day of contemplating to finally settle to wear one of her own creations: a gown that she produced for a class final.
It was a simple gown, but elegant enough to be adaptable in almost most formal affairs. She faced the mirror and ran her hands through the smooth, silky fabric, admiring the way the dress fitted her in just the right places. The strapless dress fitted her torso and hips tightly, until it only slightly whispers at her thighs and flares onto the floor. Four inches of ribbon wrapped around her upper stomach, separating her chest from the rest of her body which, as she intended while creating the piece, allows for the eyes to appreciate the top and bottom movements of the gown independently from each other. And the top that covers her chest has been stiffed and shaped into horizontal mounds to shape her breasts, further accentuating the upper curves that peaked shyly above the fabric. It was a sure A-class design, but what earned her to special recognition to receive an A+ was her decision to further 'Harper-ize' the dress.
The gown would look like any other regular gown if it weren't for her color of choice. At the gown's initial creation, Harper had attempted to dye it into two different colors. She had wanted the top of the dress to be a deep, moss green and the bottom of the dress a pale yellow. Although, because of her lack of dyeing experience, the moss green had bled halfway down into the skirt, causing it to blend with the pale yellow. The result was an almost tie-dye effect, but with only two colors and at a horizontal separation; the upper half of Harper was dark, almost black, moss green, and this color blended very nicely into the yellow as it traveled down to the flare of her gown. It was unconventional for a gown, but so 'new' that her superiors had complimented her nonstop, telling her that she had a real knack for creating strange yet attractive designs.
"A real Belle of the ball," she muttered as she ran her hands passed her hips, wincing when she noticed how sharp her hip bones had become. It wasn't new to her, but she had been trying her hardest to ignore it. The stress of schoolwork had been getting to her; add to that the stress of the past few days made it even worse. She had been neglecting to eat properly, only nibbling on crackers and drinking water whenever she remembered to do so. A few times, she had tried to eat real meals but had found that she never had the appetite for it. And because of that, anything she ate tasted like cardboard. If Justin only knew, he would be so upset by it.
She scoffed. "As if he'd even notice," she said to herself, then immediately felt guilty for thinking ill of Justin. He had been trying to make it up to her for the past few days. Truly, he has. For the past three nights, upon coming home from school, she would find a plastic-wrapped flower on her bed with a card attached to it. The card only had an impression of a red heart on it, but she knew that they had been from Justin. He was still too busy with his interviews and appearances to really spend some proper time with her, but he must have noticed how sad she had been if he was resorting to buying flowers for her. Sure, the doubts were still itching at the back of her mind, but for tonight, she had decided to be as supportive as she could possibly be.
It would be interesting to see how she would do it, though. She had been instructed by Crumbs to strictly keep her distance from the Russo family. Harper was expected to attend because she was part of the family but in terms of her official existence within the ceremony, she was supposed to be absolutely invisible. So she would smile and gaze, and maybe even pray for the evening to go well, but she was to do so at a distance, where no one can realize or recognize her. She was to do it alone. If only Zeke wasn't already previously engaged for the night, this wouldn't be so hard on her.
The thought made her sad once more, causing her to hunch her shoulders and lower her gaze. She looked at herself in the mirror again, and couldn't help but feel like a typical fairy tale heroine, the kind that wishes to be a princess but can't because the entire world is against her. It was enough to make her eyes slightly water.
"Don't be selfish, Harper," she said to herself as she looked at her mirror-self with determination. "You're going for your family. Support them. This is about them, not you."
With a huge sigh, she moved to her cosmetics desk. For the next hour, she concentrated removing the huge curlers on her hair, leaving the wide ringlets of red hair to fall freely to her shoulders. After using a few bobby pins to tame a few stray strands of hair, she moved on to her make-up. Harper figured that if she was going to go stag on this event, she was going to be most beautiful stag there.
She glanced down momentarily from applying her make-up to mix the right combination of face powder. Upon looking up to with a brush near her cheek, she suddenly screamed as her peripheral vision caught the silhouette of a dress floating behind her.
"Please don't kill me! Aaaahhhh!" screamed Harper as she cowered and covered her eyes, waiting for the inevitable. But nothing came. When she dared a peek with one eye, she saw her blonde nemesis dressed just as formally and awkwardly shuffling her feet. Harper quickly stood and straightened to her full height. With a clearing of her throat, she tried to look as composed as possible. "What are you doing here?"
Juliet met her gaze cautiously. "I came to talk."
Harper scoffed lightly and turned back to her cosmetics desk. "I don't know about vampires, but humans usually knock first before entering someone's room."
"Yes, I'm aware. I used to be human too," said Juliet, her voice was small and unsure. "And I had meant to, but I didn't want Justin to know that I'm here. So I just flew in through your window instead."
As Harper finalized her mascara, she checked herself once more, turning her face to both sides to make sure that her make-up was even. "Well, what do you want? I'm kinda busy here," she said as she bent down from her seat and began to strap on her heeled sandals.
"I wanted to give you this," Juliet said as she held out a small, black box.
Harper ignored her for a moment, letting the uncomfortable silence pass between them. Finally, with a haughty air, she stood from her seat and accepted the box. When she opened it, her eyes immediately turned into slits. "And what the hell do you mean by giving me this?" she said accusingly as she held up a heart-shaped locket, the very same that she and Justin had argued over for the past three nights. "It isn't enough that you get to spend the limelight with my boyfriend. Now you have to directly shove it in my face?"
With the anger and hostility that Harper was displaying, it was surprising that Juliet was able to keep herself calm and composed. Silently, she took the few steps towards Harper, all the while maintaining a soft expression. She took the necklace from Harper's hand, and cradled the silver heart on her palm. Harper looked at her curiously but kept quiet. Suddenly, without protest from either participant, Juliet closed her fingers into the locket with great force. Her arm shook and the tiny muscles on her bicep hardened as she clenched her hand into a fist. When she opened her hand, the locket was almost unrecognizable. Harper's eyes widened as she stared at the now wrinkled piece of silver metal in Juliet's hand. Tiny shards of glass that had popped out from within were now embedded in the vampire's palm and fingers, forming tiny beads of blood to seep out.
Harper's hostile demeanor immediately disappeared when she saw the blood. "Oh my gosh! Your hand!" she exclaimed, immediately taking Juliet's hand in hers as she tried to brush off the loose shards in her hand. "You're bleeding!"
"It's nothing," Juliet assured her. She took the broken locket into her other hand, shook her injured hand to rid herself of the glass shards, then lifted it to her mouth and licked the entirety of her palm. Harper grimaced at the sight, not sure what to think of it, but just as suddenly sighed in relief as Juliet held out her hand to Harper to let her see the wounds closing. "Vampire saliva. Works faster than Neosporin."
Harper laughed nervously. "That's good to know," she said. She allowed herself to be her usual cheerful person again as she smiled at Juliet. "That locket is… It was…. Why did you do that?"
Juliet took Harper's hand, gently placed the locket on her palm and guided her fingers to enclose it. "In the twenty-eight hundred years that I've been alive, I have never tried to take what is not mine. And I'm not going to start now." Juliet offered her a tiny smile as she squeezed her hand. "Justin told me that you were upset with my wearing this necklace. Please understand that I only wore it to show as evidence that he and I were dating, just to further fuel that 'show' that he was required to display. It meant nothing more than that."
Harper just stared at her, speechless. 'Shame' wasn't even a strong enough word to describe how she was feeling at that moment. "I'm… I'm so…. sorry," she mumbled.
Juliet smiled, wider this time and with more ease. Harper could only stare at her appreciatively as Juliet turned into a bat and flew out of her window. She hoped that Juliet wouldn't think too ill of her for behaving the way she did.
After finishing with her preparation, Harper settled herself carefully on her bed, being extra careful not to wrinkle her gown too much, and watched television. As an extra precautionary step, the family and Crumbs had decided that Harper was to go to the event separately and well after the Russo's and Juliet has gone. With a sigh, she waited patiently for Mason, who was to be her navigating escort through the other dimension. Her stomach started to grumble as the Shake It Up theme song came on.
"Don't knock it 'til you rock it…" she sang along. In no time at all, she was on her feet trying to mimic the dance moves on the show. "Bring the lights up! Burst the doors down!" she sang, her voice loud and excited. She was so into the song that she didn't notice another presence in her room.
Harper spun clumsily around and posed as if a camera was on her. When she neared the end of the song, she prepared herself for a big finale. She jumped with arms spread wide; screamed the final "Shake it up!" of the song, and just as suddenly screamed as a face appeared in front of her who was seemingly yelling the song along with her. Her feet fumbled as she landed. She started to fall backwards, but a pair of strong arms wrapped around her waist and halted her falling.
"Fantastic improv concert there, Harper. I was quite thrilled to have viewed the majority of it," the cultured accent provided as Mason's familiar face registered in her eyes. Harper squealed as she hugged him fiercely, overjoyed at having such a friendly existence within arm's reach.
"Well, let's see the damage here," said Mason as he held her at arm's length and looked at her entirety. "Spin once please." She complied. "Now vogue." She posed. Mason's eyes softened and his tone gentled as he told her very sincerely, "Absolutely breath-taking."
The trip to the actual place of the ceremony did not take long. Harper had grown accustomed to walking through the other dimension so the white smoke and random doors that led to who-knows-where didn't surprise her anymore. Although, she did pay close attention to her every step and kept a tight hold on Mason's arm, noticing with mirth how they have suddenly become at even height as a result of her heels.
"Here we are," Mason declared as he gestured towards an old Victorian door standing mysteriously alone in front of them. It was attached to a door frame and nothing else. "Are you ready?" he asked her.
She erected herself to full height, gave him a firm nod, and then held her breath as he proceeded to open the door. Immediately, her eyes widened and her mouth gaped as she took in the scene before her.
The place was enormous; a ballroom the size of a football field. Her eyes took in the farther built first, noticing how the towering walls were sparkling white and embellished with massive paintings of what looked like various magical creatures, ranging from mermaids to ghouls, separated by lavishly sculpted Byzantine pillars. Looking up, her mouthed formed an 'o' at the high ceiling that almost glowed from the variety of brightly painted fairies of whose eyes looked as if they were watching the movement below with great amusement. Her gaze followed the line of five gigantic crystal chandeliers, each the size of a house, floating in mid-air and illuminating the entire ballroom. Harper tried to imagine how the venue would look from the outside, but sighed dejectedly as she suspected the role of magic for the grandeur of the space.
Harper examined the place further as she looked around; scanning the areas where it would be safe for her to either walk through or to loiter within. The center held a hardwood, rectangular area where people, and creatures, were already dancing to music that blared through the air. Where the music was coming from, Harper couldn't even fathom. The carpeted floors that surrounded it were covered with tall, circular tables that were only large enough to hold cocktail drinks and small plates of finger foods. At the far wall, a grand staircase that went up almost a hundred feet from the ground led to a platform of three thrones. That, she assumed, was where the actual ceremony would be held.
She jumped slightly as she felt Mason's hand on her elbow. "They're being interviewed somewhere over there," he said as he pointed to the right. "I'm required to join them. You know, for Alex."
He looked at her sadly, conveying the guilt that he felt for having to leave her. Harper merely smiled and kissed his cheek as Mason offered her a final embrace before scurrying off and disappearing into the growing crowd. All alone, Harper hesitantly decided to walk further into the ballroom, carefully surveying anyone or anything who might suspect her of being mortal.
It felt like she had been walking aimlessly for hours while looking around, smiling back whenever she was offered the courtesy, and sometimes even offering a short chat. Harper walked around the entire venue, smiling and pretending to look like she had a purpose. Twice or thrice, she passed by the area where the Russo's were trapped and surrounded by crowds of people, media personnel, and Wizards who looked like they held high positions within the council. The Russo's looking happy; they were laughing and smiling for everyone to see, and everyone present in the crowd cheered them on. They didn't even see Harper, couldn't, if they were even looking for her. There were too many people demanding for their attention.
Harper watched helplessly as Justin placed his arm around Juliet's shoulders. It was just for show, she knew, and Juliet had assured her of the vampire's position when she offered the gesture of destroying the locket. Still, Harper couldn't ignore the irking jealousy that was bombarding the back of her mind. She wasn't even angry anymore, just miserable, disappointed, and desperately clinging to the idea that it wasn't real; that it was all make believe. She watched them flirt and grin at each other, flawlessly pretending that they were indeed a true couple. But when Justin kissed Juliet's cheek, Harper reached her limit. She couldn't watch any longer. With a final look of longing, she walked away and tried to find a secluded place to be alone. Locating an unlocked double glass doors, she pushed it open and stepped out into a huge, marble-floored balcony that overlooked a vast, calm oceanic scene lit by moonlight. She hugged herself as a breeze passed by.
She walked to the edge of the balcony and placed her hands on the cool, marble blocks that separated her from nature. She leaned out with her head held high and gazed onto the crescent moon while listening to the soft lapping of the water on the beach far below. Her mind wandered to her current situation, thinking about how beautiful she had made herself look and how lonely she felt in a room full of so many magical creatures. A soft gasp escaped her throat as she tried to hold the tears that threatened to blur her vision. She remained that way for a good amount of time.
A soft breeze passed through her again, carrying with it a salty, musky scent that was slightly familiar to her senses. The corners of her mouth rose as she heard the slow, heavy footsteps of a companion.
"A too coincidental and befitting picture," a deep, slightly baritone voice reached her ears. "A beautiful, lone princess draped with the soft glow of the Venetian night sky. I am truly much honored to be able to see such a prospect."
She turned slowly, already expecting a welcoming grin from the merman that she had befriended not too long age. He did not disappoint. Andy offered a slight bow before moving closer to her.
"Did you say 'Venetian'?" she asked curiously as she turned towards the ocean again, trying hard to identify any clues that would reveal their current location.
Andy nodded with a smile. "Yup. We are in Venice, the land surrounded by water on all sides."
Harper nodded in acceptance. "I supposed it makes sense. Where else would mortals not pay attention to a magically enhanced palace?"
"Exactly," agreed Andy. "The entire city is already magical up to the neck. Now, my fair lady, may I offer a compliment? And I promise that it is a very friendly compliment, and will not insinuate that I mean to inappropriately flirt with you, against all moral codes regarding one who is already taken."
She giggled. The sound was welcoming to both Harper and Andy. "Please. I would never deny a compliment."
Andy grinned. He closed the distance between them and placed both hands on her shoulder. "You, Harper, look very, very stunning this evening."
The blush that rose to her cheeks only added to intensify her complexion. She smiled mischievously at him. "That sure sounds like a flirtatious line, despite what you claim."
"To each her own," Andy said. "I was actually really hoping that I'd see you tonight. I wanted to make sure that you've received my gifts?"
Harper's brows furrowed. "Gifts?"
Andy grinned sheepishly. "From our last meeting, I got the feeling that you've been a bit… down, maybe. I wanted to cheer you up so I've been dropping off flowers at the restaurant."
Harper's eyes widened in realization. The flowers that she had found for the past three nights on her bed… They weren't from Justin.
"I assumed you knew. Your brother, Max? He assured me that you would receive them."
Harper nodded slowly. She tried hard to hide the hurt from expression as thoughts of Justin plagued her again. "I did. I did receive them," she assured him, then made a mental note to scold Max. "Thank you. They did cheer me up."
Andy did not miss the brief look of uncertainty that passed through her features. "Well, I wanted to give you something tonight too…. As a 'thank you' for dancing with me last time."
Harper sighed. "That's not necessary. I was happy to dance with you."
"Well, nonetheless, I'd still like to give it to you," Andy insisted. He examined her for a bit, looking her up and down as if analyzing her flaws. He pointed to her neck and raised his eyebrows.
She placed a hand to her bare neck and blushed. "I didn't have any real jewelry. It would be kind of lame to come here with the plastic kind."
Andy eyed her curiously. "No jewelry… But you have a boyfriend. Curious."
"Meaning… well, I don't know how mortals are, but where I live, men provide their women with many riches. The most common are flowers and pearls."
Harper thought about this. It was true that Justin had never truly given her an expensive gift. Many of the gifts that she received from Justin were mostly keep-sake than materialistic. Like when they went on their first date, he had taken her to a world that she would never have imagined herself to be in. And there was also that time of their first month anniversary. He had declared that he would make her fall in love with him (which was not necessary, really, because she had already beaten him to it), and proceeded to flash them to the courtyard facing the St. Basils Cathedral in Moscow, Russia just in time for the monthly fireworks to go off. No, she did not own any material gifts from Justin, but she did held many unforgettable memories.
She jumped slightly as she was brought back by the touch of Andy's hand on hers.
"Please, allow me," he whispered as he removed her hand from her neck. She couldn't help but notice how he didn't let it go.
Andy caressed her neck with his other hand, sending a shivering sensation down to her chest. She gasped when she felt something icy cold encircle her neck. Looking down, she saw that it was a pearl necklace. It glimmered against her white skin.
"Don't be intimidated. It is made of water. Its life span is a mere two hours."
Harper laughed as she relaxed. A pearl necklace that will disappear in two hours… Only in the magical world.
Andy proceeded to hold up her hand and gently caressed her wrist. Soon, her wrists glowed and a similar-looking pearl bracelet appeared. She smiled at him.
"Thank you," she said. "This is really very nice of you."
"No thank you needed," he told her. He held her gaze trying to convey himself to him, all the while moving to hold both of her hands in his. Surprisingly, she didn't protest. She should have, but, at the moment, she found herself vulnerable. Harper yearned for attention and for pampering. So she let herself be momentarily taken away into the depths of his eyes. If it weren't for past knowledge, one would think that they already belonged to each other.
"By the gods, Harper, I can't believe I've only just been able to meet you recently," he told her, causing her eyebrows to furrow. "I don't think you realize just… how… wonderful I believe you to be."
She smiled. "You really know exactly what to say to raise a girl's confidence," she whispered.
"I didn't say it for the sake of your confidence," said Andy. "I said it to be truthful."
Her reaction was anything but unexpected. A tear rolled down her cheek. Her lips quivered as they turned into a smile. Andy looked at her with evident worry, unsure of what to do.
She took a deep breath to calm her shaking nerves. "You know," she started, "I can't remember the last time that I heard anyone say something like that to me. And that makes me feel really sad."
Andy regarded her with awareness. His chest tightened at the thought of how long she had been keeping this hidden feeling at bay. He closed the gap between and intended to embrace her when a sudden clearing of the throat broke the silence.
"Am I interrupting something?" Justin asked as he emerged from the double doors. His eyes widened when he noticed Harper's sniffing. He glared at Andy. "I don't know who you are but you'd better get the hell away from her."
Andy scoffed as he turned to his accuser, already drawing conclusions as to the reasons for Harper's tears. He started to move towards him when a squeeze to his hand stopped him. Looking down at Harper, Andy was forced to calm himself as she shook her head slightly. His lips thinned to a line before he nodded in defeat. With a last firm squeeze to her hands, he let her go and moved away from her. He walked towards the double doors without looking back to either Justin or Harper. As soon as he was gone, Justin rushed to Harper.
Justin placed both hands on Harper's cheek and lifted her gaze to his. "Harper, what's wrong? Did that guy hurt you?"
Harper shook her head and gave him a smile. It was an awkward smile, but Justin didn't seem to notice. Instead, he just wrapped his arms around her and rested his head on top of hers.
"I've been looking for you," he said. "Juliet told me that she talked to you." He gently pushed away at her shoulders and held her at arm's length. "Are we okay now?"
Harper's brows furrowed as the question of her and Justin being 'okay' filled her mind. Like too many times beforehand, Justin didn't notice, again. Instead, his mind was trying to catch up with his eyes as he took in the sight of her. Harper blushed when she realized that his eyes were thoroughly examining every inch of her.
"Wow," he mumbled.
His sight remained darkened and glazed as he temporarily lifted from his stupor. Losing all control of his moral boundaries, he suddenly enclosed her in an embrace and kissed her fully. She stiffened slightly in surprise, but just as instantly dropped her shoulders and tilted her head more towards him. She indicated no protest as she allowed herself to be immersed in the hunger of his action. For moment, Harper forgot about her doubts and her fears. She reveled in the security of his arms; a moment when words held no equality to exploit and passion.
Justin maintained a close proximity after he released her, breathing heavily as his lips hovered a mere centimeter from hers. He moved his head back only slightly from hers to get a good look at her glassy gaze. "Harper," he whispered as he moved his hands to her hips and she on his shoulders. "I can't even express how happy I am right now. I have everything I've ever wanted in life. I have magic, my dream job, and you. What else could a guy ask for?"
Harper could only offer a smile in reply. The happiness in his tone and the twinkle in his eyes; how could she even think of taking it away from him on that joyous night.
"We'll always be like this," she assured him. "Happy. No more fights from now on, okay? Just happy. Happy, happy, happy."
Justin grinned as he pressed his forehead on hers. "Happy. Happy, happy. Promise."
He pressed his lips onto hers again, but this time, she did not allow herself to revel in the ecstasy of the action. This time, while he closed his eyes and kissed her like there was no tomorrow, she, in return, maintained her awareness while she reacted as automatically as possible. Her mind wandered back to her doubts and her fears. She felt tears well up in the corner of her eyes as she pressed her lips firmer onto his, desperate to hang onto him as if he would disappear from her life at any moment.
The sound of a gasp pierced the air. Harper quickly pushed away from Justin and saw Theresa Russo standing stiffly and blushing profusely by the doors. Harper's own cheeks reddened in embarrassment.
"Hi, guys," Theresa offered as she awkwardly held up a hand to them in greeting. She looked at her son apologetically. "I'm sorry to interrupt, Justin, but the council members are looking for you. They want to prep you for the transfer."
Justin nodded, if not dejectedly. "We'll talk later, okay?" He planted a final kiss to Harper's cheek before releasing her and walking away. A look of pain and longing passed through her features, of which did not go unnoticed.
"Sweetie," said Theresa softly as she advanced towards Harper and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Is something wrong?"
Harper smile awkwardly as she tried to compose herself. "It's nothing, Mrs. Russo," she said to her. "Just stress."
Theresa nodded. "Yes, we've all been under a lot of stress lately. Do you want to talk about it?"
Harper shifted her gaze towards the ocean as she hesitated. She hadn't really talked to anyone about how she had been, nor has she tried. Not even to Alex. She had thought about it, but decided against it, concluding that Alex was busy enough as it was and her lack of objective opinions wouldn't have done Harper much good.
She felt a warm hand on her cheek. Allowing the hand to guide her gaze back to Theresa, Harper smiled sincerely as she saw the concern in her surrogate mother's eyes. A moment more of hesitation passed before she exposed her soul to her. She told her everything: from the information that she gathered from Andy, to her jealousy of Juliet, and to the question of her future. There was no pause in her speech. She kept talking until everything that she had felt was spoken out loud. When she was done, Theresa's lips had thinned to a line as she considered everything that she had been told. And then, to Harper's surprise, Theresa hugged her.
"I never expected that this would happen again in my family," Theresa said into Harper's ear. "I really hoped it wouldn't…. I really hoped…"
Harper pulled away gently. "What do you mean?"
With a huge sigh, Theresa moved away from her and settled herself to the edge of the balcony. She leaned against it as she crossed her arms on her chest. "Have I ever told you about how Mr. Russo lost his powers?"
Harper shook her head. "All I know is that he gave it up to marry you."
"Yes, he gave up his powers," she said, nodding. "But how it happened… It was so painful for everyone…"
Harper stared at her curiously. A lump formed in her throat.
"We kept our relationship from the council for a very long time. It wasn't easy, but we did it. And his family approved of me, especially Kelbo, so they helped us too. But still, it was very hard. Planning a date was like planning for a wedding; every detail, from meeting to leaving, had to be carefully designed. Honestly, even just talking to him over the phone was like Mission Impossible." Theresa chuckled, and then turned solemn just as suddenly. "It was all fun and exciting at first. Until I got pregnant…"
"Justin," Harper murmured.
Theresa nodded. "Yup. Justin. Suddenly, it wasn't all fun anymore. Things became serious. We couldn't just live for the moment. We had to seriously think about our future. We had to consider what we really wanted."
Harper listened to her intently. A feeling of familiarity rose in her chest, and she couldn't help but picture herself being in Theresa's shoes as she told her tale.
"We had many discussions about marriage. He wanted to get married so badly, but he wasn't allowed to. And I didn't want to agree to it either. It was, like, illegal for Wizards to marry a mortal, and I loved Jerry too much to get him into trouble. There was no alternative to it, really," she sighed heavily. "There was no choice. The only logical, and documented answer as was written in one of those council books, was to leave me. And Justin. The idea of a wizard forming a union with a mortal was… unheard of. It had never been done before. And the council preferred that it stayed that way."
"You mean," Harper started with a deep frown, "Mr. Russo was the very first wizard to give up his powers for a mortal?"
Theresa smiled sadly at her. "Yes. He was the first to do it. The very first."
Harper's breath caught as she made sense of what she had just been told. She had always known about Mr. and Mrs. Russo's story, but not this part of it. She wondered if their children knew about it.
"When I found out, I was so, so upset with him," Theresa continued. "I love him, Harper. I love him so much. So much so, that I even humored the idea of not being with him. Becoming the Russo family wizard was everything to him. It was his biggest accomplishment. He loved magic. He loved using magic. It was a big part of his life. I didn't think he could live without it. And then, when I found out that he gave it up for me… I felt so guilty."
Theresa turned to her with a sincere smile. "He gave up his entire world. For me. And I didn't want that. I just wanted him to be happy."
"But you were carrying his child. I would think that he'd be happiest with you than as a wizard."
Theresa nodded. "I know that now. But back then, I didn't even think of that. I was more afraid of the repercussions. From his family, the council… his sister… Life became so hard after that. He was shunned away by his family and the entire wizarding world. That, and the council was so upset with him for renouncing his powers. It was like an insult to their kind. If it weren't for Kelbo's persistence, Jerry would still have been cut off today. Kelbo camped inside the council's court until they lifted Jerry's banishment. He is the reason why Jerry was able to inherit the portal door in the walk-in freezer."
Harper smiled. She thought of Uncle Kelbo, the infamous, clumsy, and very unique Russo, and felt a sudden admiration for the man.
"To this day… I don't know…" Theresa hesitated as she paced a bit. "To this day, I wonder if Jerry's life would be better if he hadn't met me. Sometimes, I wonder if he regretted what he did. I doubt he would tell me, but, still, I wonder."
Harper didn't know what to say. The insecurity in Theresa's eyes seemed impenetrable.
"Mrs. Russo," she started, although she wasn't completely sure if she should continue. The slight nod that she received urged her on. "I love Justin."
Theresa looked at her, and smiled. Her brows furrowed as she predicted what was to come.
"I don't want him to be unhappy," said Harper, her voice small and pleading. "I love him."
Theresa stared at her sadly. Suddenly, the emotions that she felt when she first found out that she was pregnant with her first child came rushing back to her. "Oh, sweetheart," she said as she wrapped Harper in her arms again. "Have you talked to Justin about this?"
Harper shook her head.
"Maybe you should, Harper," Theresa told her. "Maybe you should."
Harper stood at the very back of the crowd when the Transfer of Powers began, far away from any suspecting creatures of her true relationship with the Russo family. She squinted her eyes as she watched Max sit in the middle throne chair while Alex and Justin sat on either side. Silence took over the entire ballroom as a sparkling, rainbow-color stream floated out of Max body and enter into Alex's, causing her to shiver until the stream dissipated. When it was over, Max's complexion seemed pale, and his expression confused. Harper concluded that it must be the effect of becoming a full mortal as she saw attendants in white coats attends to the youngest Russo, offering him a glass of juice as they fussed over his demeanor.
Then, the moment that everyone had been waiting for, the honoring of powers to Justin. Harper watched intently as Crumbs took his place behind his chair. He placed both hands on either side of Justin's head, seemed to take a huge breath, and then closed his eyes. The old wizard's entire body glistened; a bright flash emanated from him and blinded everyone in attendance. When the white light disappeared, the audience was left to gaze at a shivering Justin. His eyes were wide and his breathing looked rapid. He looked panicked at first, then a smile formed on his lips, which immediately transformed into a grin. The ballroom erupted with cheers.
A tiny smile formed on Harper's lips as she clapped her hands along with every else. Happiness filled her heart as she saw the joy in the Russo's faces, even Max, who still looked a bit sick. She watched Juliet and Mason join the stage, and the hugs that were soon exchanged. And as she watched Juliet embrace a grinning Justin, Harper couldn't help but feel depressed and left out. She tried not to be so self-centered, but, for that night, she was too tired to compose herself. Her surrogate family was celebrating, and she couldn't be a part of it. Instead, she was standing very far away from them, smiling and clapping all by her lonesome self. She almost felt foolish.
Harper took a huge breath and let it out slowly. With all her might, she pushed those negative feelings away. Or… no, not completely away. She controlled them, and suppressed them. Even for just that slight moment, she was determined to be a good person and see it through.
She watched as Mason planted a chaste kiss onto Alex's lips.
Harper felt her chest tighten. She wanted to be that. She wanted to be that with Justin. But she knew it was next to impossible at that point. Their circumstances would make it too difficult for her. For him.
Her eyes casted down before she turned around and walked slowly away. The attendants that opened the door for her did not miss the tears that were falling freely from her eyes.
Much later that night, Justin burst through the portal door to the Russo home. He had been looking for Harper all evening since the Transfer of Powers, but didn't find her. He assumed that she had decided to go home by herself. The rest of his family were barely getting themselves through the door as Justin ran out, calling her name with delight in his voice. He wanted to see her. He wanted to finally celebrate with her.
He checked her room first. She wasn't there.
He checked the living room. She wasn't there.
He checked Alex's room. She wasn't there.
And then he checked his room.
Time seemed to slow down as his mind registered what was on his bed. He didn't recognize it immediately, but when he did, his throat dried up and his breath caught.
There, laid neatly in the middle of his bed, was the plate that Harper made for him years ago; the one that she made for him as a farewell gift and had tried to give as he was leaving for college. He stared numbly at the image of himself and her, photoshopped to fit perfectly into each other's arms.
Laid next to it was a sheet of cupcake-patterned stationary paper that he knew only she used. A slight whimper escaped his lips as he read the words written in Harper's near, cursive handwriting.
I love you.
Even hours later, the rest of the Russo's could still hear the sobs coming from Harper's basement room. Justin had ran in there to confirm her disappearance and had yelled in frustration as he found much of her essential belongings gone. Theresa and Jerry looked to each other, trying to decide what to do, but neither had the courage to disrupt the distress of their eldest son.