Dedicated to Becca, because I promise her a LouisOC forever ago; Mad, because there are a few things in here that I hope will make her smile, and because she is the Delia to my Chloe, any day of the week =)
And for Amy, because she beta'd this for me, and got so excited about it when I told her. (loveyouAmy)
Once upon a time, in a faraway land, Louis Weasley fell for a girl.
He's only twelve when he first meets her.
A voice calls out into the silence of the forest-like field, and Louis jumps in shock and looks around for the source of the voice. He sees a slim figure standing a few metres away, and creeps over to the person, hoping that the bushes he is crawling through don't quiver too much.
He doesn't recognise the person, but their voice is distinctly feminine.
"Quick, get down," he whispers, pulling her sleeve so that she is crouched on the ground beside him. Merlin, this girl has no idea what she's gotten herself into, has she?
He reaches out and grabs her hand; it's too easy to get lost in the darkness, with only a little moonlight as a guide; and he doesn't want whichever cousin this girl belongs to, to kill him. Besides, there's nothing wrong with it – he holds hands with Lily all the time. Though his heart usually doesn't start beating faster when Lily holds his hand.
"Why are you holding my hand?" the girl asks, clearly confused, though she doesn't tug away.
"It's dark, okay?" he replies, distracted by the rustling of the bushes next to him. "Move," he whispers, his voice barely discernible in the clear night.
They run together in the frigid darkness, hiding behind tall trees and hiding beneath untamed bushes. He leads her to a large boulder, magically placed in the centre of the arena just for this game.
"Can you hear anything?" he asks urgently, looking around for a glimpse of pale skin or eyes shining in the dark. Louis hasn't won a game since the time he teamed up with Lily when he was seven, and they hid in the tree house until the sun rose the next morning. This time he is determined to prove to James that he isn't a 'boring, Hufflepuff, goody-two-shoes.'
"No... Should I be hearing anything?" she replies, a faint note of laughter in her voice, like she knows something that he doesn't. He ignores it, though – after all, what could this girl possibly know that Louis hasn't discovered?
"Shh…" he mutters, turning away from her to peer at a suspicious looking branch.
She brings a small, charmed paintball gun from her back pocket – a dangerous place to have a paintball gun, she knows – and steps on Louis' foot. Hard.
"Ouch!" he squeals, before quieting in the hope that no one heard him, though he knows that is incredibly unlikely. "What was that for?"
She shoots him directly in the chest in answer, three splotches of red paint spattering over his black hand-knitted jumper. He stands completely still, the reality of his situation dawning over him; their hands are still intertwined, though neither realises it.
"I got him!" the girl calls into the dark, magically created forest, and a silver light goes on over their heads, spreading a glow and warmth over the arena's occupants. Louis can now see Roxanne, Fred and Chloe jumping down from the surrounding trees, while James and Alice (looking distinctly ruffled) rush into the clearing from their nearby hiding place.
"Well played, young Louis," she says, ruffling his hair as she walks past him to the knot of her friends that stand waiting for her. She delicately pries her hand from his tight grip, and all he feels is a sense of resentment at being treated like a kid.
The devastation at losing yet again, takes the place of any other emotion, as Louis' other cousins and their various friends walk run or are pushed into the clearing, except for Lucy and Lorcan, who have probably forgotten they were ever playing.
He watches the girl who fooled him as she talks to her friends, who are all wearing either red or gold – obviously some of them teamed up again, he decides.Who is she?he asks himself, wondering why he hasn't seen her before. Clearly, she is good friends with Alice, Chloe and Roxanne, and seems very close to Fred and James.
He feels someone jump on his back and hook their legs around his waist, and suddenly his whole world goes black.
"Lily, what are you doing?" he sighs wearily, and hears a girly giggle in his ear.
"How did you guess that it was me?" Lily asks laughingly, removing her hands from Louis' eyes. He blinks quickly, trying to clear his eyes from the sunspots, and grabs one of Lily's feet. He pulls her shoe and sock off and starts tickling her feet until she squirms. She jumps off his back and starts to run back to their childhood tree house, him following her all the way to the rickety structure.
He pounces on her, and they fall to the ground in a laughing heap, and he almost forgets about the strange girl who held his hand.
The journey back to Hogwarts after Easter is awkward that year. Louis is squished between Lily and Hugo, who seem to be playing a game of 'who can be the most annoying', and Roxanne and Jenna, who are making out on the seat next to him.
Why did he have to choose a compartment with his cousins, he whines to himself, hoping that Jake will walk through the door and save him from this eternal hell.
Jake Boot is his best friend, though they are different in many ways. Louis is a Hufflepuff, and quieter, in spite of his Veela heritage, and refuses to take advantage of his status as a Weasley. Jake, on the other hand, is loud, arrogant, and takes advantage of Louis' status for him; but both have the determination of a Hippogriff that refuses to move from the centre of the road.
At that moment, Jake walks past hand in hand with a mutual friend of theirs, Brianna Cox; he winks cockily, and Louis winks back, a mixture of feelings bubbling underneath the surface. He was sure that Jake didn't know that he had fancied Bree ever since he had discovered girls four months ago, but it didn't make it hurt any less. Besides his feelings for Brianna, he could see the complications that his friends' relationship would cause for Louis. Who would partner him in Potions? Would they hang out as much with all three of them, or would Jake and Bree wander off by themselves?
A knock at the compartment window disturbed him from his thoughts, and he looks up to see a brunette girl standing outside, waiting to be let in. He hears a strange squelching sound to his left, like a plug being pulling from a bathtub of water, and his head whips around to spy Roxanne pulling her lips from Jenna's, and the two rush over to the door with a squeal and slide it open.
"Lia!" Jenna calls, as comfortable with Roxanne's friends as she is with her own, while Roxanne follows more sedately, ever the controlled one.
"Hey Delia – how was the rest of your summer?" Roxanne asks, reaching forward to hug the other girl tightly.
"Come in – James and Alice have disappeared again and no one has seen Fred or Chloe since we met at the platform!" Jenna adds, and the three girls burst into giggles, attracting the attention of the other occupants of the compartment.
Roxanne must have noticed Louis' eyes on her because she looks directly at him and smiles brightly. "You've met Delia, haven't you Louis?" she asks, and the entire compartment bursts into laughter, Lily and Hugo miming Lily stepping on his foot. With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, he realises what it must mean – and also that Delia must have told everyone exactly what happened.
"Nice to meet you - again," he says, ever the gentlemen as he stands and holds out a hand for her to shake. She shakes his hand firmly, and her porcelain palm feels utterly perfect as it touches his.
"And you, young Louis," Delia grins friendlily, removing her hand from his, and his heart sinks again though whether it's from the loss of contact or her words he doesn't know. He meets her eyes with a small smile at her attempt at a joke, and is startled to see a pair of orbs that perfectly match his.
Delia brushes past him and sits down, the compartment rocking with conversation and laughter, and Louis joins the others on their quest for apparent insanity.
A few days later at breakfast, the troupe is sitting at the Gryffindortable, laughing and talking without a care in the world, never mind the fact that most of them weren't even sorted into Gryffindor.
The chaos is broken by Lily leaning forward and placing her elbows on the table, causing (almost) instant silence and making ten pairs of eyes turn towards her. She might have only been attending Hogwarts for just over half a year, but she has already established herself as the leader of their group, alongside Jake.
"Okay," Lily starts, leaning forward even more. Lyndon Hughes, a Ravenclaw who is sitting opposite her, takes the opportunity to look down her red blouse; at least until the very Hufflepuff Hugo whacks him across the head for 'perving on his cousin', causing a scuffle to break out between them.
"Oi!" Jake shouts at them, jerking his head at Lily before sitting down to take Brianna's hand again. Louis scowls at them, the Slytherin and the Gryffindor all tucked up together, the very picture of cliché happiness, even at twelve years old.
"Okay," Lily starts again, glaring at hapless Randolph, who is trying to appear as if he is actually interested in this when all he wants is to read a good book. "This is James and Fred's last year, so they're going to want to leave with a bang. And Easter break is the perfect opportunity for them to gather more supplies," she adds thoughtfully, dropping one arm down to tap her nails against the hard wooden surface of the table.
"So we're going to have to be better than last year," Jake jumps in with a careless smile at Lily, who frowns a little. She always did love to be in control. "The water balloons that were hung above every doorway was a nice touch, but James and Fred coaxed a pack of Nifflers to walk through the halls and eat Professor Wilkins's watch."
"If we could pull off something brilliant it would show my brother! Then I'd finally get revenge for the time he shaved half my hair off, and when Mum grew it back it was the wrong colour," Lily mutters under her breath, and everyone except Louis is so busy nodding in agreement that they don't notice the last part of her speech.
"So we'll deal with this later," Jake finishes, standing up and starting to walk away with Brianna amid the laughter that has swelled at his words. "Come on, Lou – stop being such a slowpoke!"
He sighs and moans and asks why Jake is always so impatient, but inside he's smiling because things will never change.
It's a beautiful summer's day at the Burrow; the sun is shining, and the birds are chirping, and Grandma Molly is turning pounds of lemons into lemonade. But way up high in the trees, four young conspirators plot their plan for that night's game of paintball.
"Which colour do we want?" Lily asks insistently, as if she has to plan out her outfit in order for it to match with the paint they will splatter on their opponents.
"I'm still not sure what's going on," Jake interrupts her, and Lily stops talking (for once), a frown on her face. They rarely fight, close friends as they are, but an undercurrent of tension is always present between them.
"Every year, we play a game that the Muggles call paintball. Chloe told Fred about it, who told James and Alice, and they decided that we should all play a large scale game of it, with a few modifications, of course. Uncle George developed the magical, easy to wash off paint, as well as the paintball guns," Hugo explained, tapping his fingers against his leg. "The first time was at the Burrow-"
"Grandma wasn't very happy that her Flutterby bushes got covered in mauve paint," Lily added, taking up the story. "So Dad and Uncle Percy showed us this forest-like area a few blocks over – add in a couple of magical boundaries, and we were good to go. Keeps the gnomes happy, too. They love getting splashed with paint, for some reason."
"There are only a few rules – all team members must wear the same colour; if you get hit three times, you're out; the game can only be played at night; all Weasley family members must be present; and you can't leave the 'arena', as James calls it, until every person playing has been hit three times. The team who have hit the most people win, and everyone else has to buy them ice-cream and do their summer chores until the next game is played," Louis finishes, counting the rules off on his fingers and looking at his best friend, who has remained miraculously silent throughout their admittedly long explanation.
"Alright, so what colour will represent the awesome foursome?" Jake asks, breaking into a wide grin.
"Why don't you choose, Lily," Louis says to her, ever the peacekeeper, and the tight lines around her mouth soften at his words.
"What about silver?" she says, looking through the tiny treehouse window at the sliver of moon that is always present, even in the daylight, and for a moment there he could mistake her for Lucy, the dreamer, if Lily didn't have a shock of red hair flowing from her head.
Jake's lips press together; silver was always Bree's favourite colour, and Jake and Bree broke up (again) not too long ago. That's the reason why she isn't here with them, talking and laughing and holding hands with Jake with that perpetual smirk on her face that matches his arrogant smile.
"Why don't we go with yellow this time?" Louis says hastily, noting Jake's expression and wanting to avoid whatever it is that's going through Jake's head right now. "There are two Hufflepuffs here, after all, and James' group always chooses red."
"No imagination," Lily agrees, and the tense moment passes, leaving behind a group of friends who delight in one another's' company. "So, what's the plan?"
"Well…" Hugo starts, and the other three lean in closer, their whispers and mutterings breathing life into the old wood of the treehouse – at least until Victoire calls them down for the lemonade Grandma Molly made.
Two boys creep amongst the undergrowth, one fourteen, the other all of fifteen years old. One, the younger boy, steps awkwardly on a root, knocking the older one with his elbow.
"Hugo!" Louis admonishes, rubbing the sore spot on his arm where Hugo's strangely pointy elbow has jabbed into it.
"Sorry," his cousin whispers back sheepishly, and Louis imagines Hugo rubbing the back of his neck with his hand, the way he always does when he thinks he's in the wrong.
Hugo stops suddenly, his sharp ears hearing a sound that Louis hasn't picked up on. It's times like these when the musician in Hugo comes in handy – he's trained his ears to hear the slightest sounds and changes in pitch. They both twist the knob on the top of their paintball guns, hearing a muffled click echo from inside the shooter.
A slight frame appears from between two trees, her pale blonde hair lit softly by the crescent moon shining down from above. Another figure emerge from the trees and grasps her hand, his other hand holding his paint gun. The two murmur softly together, her blonde hair merging with his, and the two boys watching them from the shadows immediately recognise the couple.
"It's just Lucy and Lorcan," Hugo whispers, and Louis nods in acknowledgment. They shoot off a couple of yellow paintballs at the two, before moving on.
As they walk silently through the woodland, weapons clutched in their hands, Louis worries about the other half of their team wandering through the woods. Lily and Jake don't exactly have the most even temperaments – quite the opposite, actually – and he doesn't want them to be at each other's throats for the next year because they've had yet another ridiculous argument. Though Lily had clearly been in the right that time they ignored each other for two months; Jake had no right to scare off her boyfriend simply because he 'looked at her funny.' The guy had turned out to be cheating on Lily, but that didn't matter at the time. Albus had collaborated with James, Hugo and Fred on a revenge scheme – with Lily leading the team, of course. The boy had never looked any of them in the eye since.
"Look out!" Hugo's harsh whisper cut through his worrying, and Louis managed to duck just before a large branch would have knocked him on the head. He had almost walked straight into it.
"Right, so where's the big tree we're supposed to meet Lily and Jake at?" he asks, trying to cover his embarrassment.
To his credit, Hugo doesn't laugh at him, keeping as focused on the task ahead as Louis is attempting to be. "We should be close – there!" he whispers excitedly, pointing into the gloom ahead where a faintly pink light is shining.
They rush as quickly as they can towards the light, mindful of their opponents hiding in the trees, just waiting for them to walk past. They reach the meeting spot unharmed, except for a couple of globs of blue paint landing on a nearby tree; they were probably shot by Mollysander, as the Weasley family has taken to calling the couple, who seem to be joined at the hip.
The two boys stop just a few metres from where Lily and Jake are supposed to be causing a distraction, hearing a lot of loud noises coming from the area, just as they had hoped. The plan, as Hugo had explained, was to cause a huge commotion that would draw some of their opponents to the area. In the meantime, Hugo and Louis would creep up behind the spectators and shoot them all with their sunny yellow paint. It was foolproof, and quite devious for Hugo, who when pressed had admitted to asking his best friend Ella for advice. Ella usually came to these games, but her family was visiting her Irish grandparents for the summer. For a Hufflepuff, Ella was unusually devious.
Louis raises his eyes above the bush line to see what kind of distraction Lily and Jake had come up with, and gasped in horror. He hadn't even thought of this remote possibility; the chances of this happening were so small, he hadn't even considered it, and from his quick glance at Hugo's face, he knew that his cousin hadn't expected it either.
He had to think it, otherwise he wouldn't be able to process it properly in order to yell at Jake (and Lily) later.
Jake and Lily were kissing.
Or, to be more precise, they were making out against a tree, unheedful of James' steadily growing anger – he was always the most protective of Lily out of all the cousins – and Roxanne taking shots at them with her silver paintball gun.
He saw Hugo march into the clearing out of the corner of his eye and dashed after him, half-formulated thoughts running through his head, the clearest of which was 'I still have to win.'
Gun in hand, he twisted the nozzle again, listening intently for the hollow click that quickly followed his actions. Reaching the clearing, he shot wildly until he didn't have any more paintballs left, though there were a multitude of paintballs when the game had started.
By some kind of miracle, Lily had stopped kissing Jake for long enough to help him out, while Jake was being pinned against a tree by both James – who had managed to get loose from Alice and Chloe's hold – and Hugo, so he wasn't really much help.
He looked down at himself, hoping that he hadn't been shot, himself, in the slight darkness, though most people had been too busy at first to notice that Louis had jumped into the clearing and started shooting them all.
Lily grinned in victory, and he matched her gaze, eyes wandering away to search the clearing, counting numbers and looking around for other people playing the game.
"Who else is left?" he asks Chloe, who looks unruffled by everything going on around her, the only (seemingly) sane person standing in this clearing that's still framed by a soft pink light.
"We got Lucy and Lorcan-"
"So did we," Louis pipes up, unable to help himself.
"And then Fred got shot by Dominique, who in turn was shot by Victoire – we heard Victoire's victory kissing session with Teddy, as well as the moment when she shot him in the foot for 'distracting her'," Chloe adds with a mischievous grin. "Rose and Albus snuck up on us while we were laughing at Teddy, and managed to shoot Alice twice, as well as Victoire three times… but we got them back," she says, her grin turning cocky, an expression Louis can easily imagine Fred wearing. "Then you got all of us…"
"So who tagged Mollysander?" he asks, wondering if the pair could still be around.
"Me," a familiar voice says, stepping from the shadows with a silver gun in hand. She quickly shoots a stunned Louis, before tackling Lily, Hugo and Jake. Turning around to face them all, she places a hand on her hip, looking for all the world like she's just been crowned queen.
"Delia… I didn't know you were playing tonight," Louis says, once he can finally speak. He had tasted his victory, until she had taken it all away with one little word.
"Yeah," Delia replies, smiling at him. "I went rogue tonight, young Louis – only Roxanne knew I was coming," she says with a wink, while Roxanne gives a sheepish wave at the clearly disgruntled Louis. "What's going on here?" she asks, walking towards Jake, Hugo and James, who are still grappling on the ground, while a recovered – and incredibly pissed off – Lily rebukes them.
"James, it was just a distraction, you prat! And Hugo – you came up with the plan!" she growls angrily, yanking her brother and cousin off Jake.
"You came up with the plan?" James snarls at Hugo, all too happy to transfer his anger away from his precious sister.
"I didn't tell her to dothat," Hugo mumbles, and Louis looks sideways at Delia to find her watching the proceedings with an amused expression on her face. James turns to Alice, his usual partner in any crime, but she just shakes her head at him, clearly telling him to let it go.
"Let's just forget it, shall we?" Chloe says, turning to a decidedly purple-looking Fred who has just stumbled into the clearing, drawn by the raised voices. She links her arm with his and marches over to the transparent boundary, James and Hugo following her sheepishly.
She presses her gun to the barrier, muttering the words that will end the game and let everyone out – wands are banned from the 'arena', just in case things get a little heated; Weasleys' are very competitive, you know – causing James to be distracted from his still slightly angry thoughts.
"Fred! You gave her the password?" he calls, catching up to Fred so he can walk alongside.
"She tricked me into it," Fred replies, glancing sideways at his girlfriend of three months and best girl friend of seven years, who smiles and kisses him on the cheek.
"You gave up the password to a girl because you like her?" James asks in mock outrage, catching Alice's attention.
"You gave me the password, James, and I should hope that you likeme!" she calls, and Fred turns to James, halting the entire party just outside of the boundary, and a flurry of words are exchanged by the two of them, with various cousins and friends contributing.
"Hypocrite!" "Softie!" "James!" "I can't believe you!" "You did it first!" "James!" "Fred!" "Can we go home?" "Yeah – Grandma's probably got some soup, and more lemonade!" "James!" "Alice!" "What?"
"I love you!" James says, after finally listening to his girlfriend's saying of his name.
"Yeah, love you too – let's get back to the Burrow, shall we?" Alice replies, rolling her eyes and starting to walk forward again.
Then Louis is swept up in a tide of family, friends, and a blue-haired boy who is family in every way but blood. There's laughter and talking, and any doubts and worries can be put aside until tomorrow – or at least for another ten minutes.
It's summer again in the Burrow. The past year has flown by far faster than he ever thought it could, in a dance of strengthening friendships and blossoming love. Alice and James got engaged a week ago, and Grandma Weasley is still so busy gushing over them that she doesn't notice Louis sneaking out the back door to the tree house.
As he nears it, he hopes he doesn't find Jake and Lily there again; it turns out that their kiss in the forest on game night had led to something more, and they had been on and off – in typical Lily and Jake fashion – for just under a year. Apparently, the tension crackling between them had actually been love, or so Lily claims.
He climbs up to the top, swinging himself over the last branch and into the open doorway. He relaxes, hearing utter silence coming from within, and he crawls over to his favourite spot, the one opposite the doorway. He closes his eyes for a moment; it always takes him a little while to get used to the feeling of swaying in the breeze, but the peace is worth it.
When he opens them, he's startled to find Delia sitting next to him, her feet tucked up under her as she reads the latest edition ofQuidditch Weekly.
"Anything good?" he asks; if he's going to be with people, he might as well talk, right? Besides, in the several times they've met over the years, since that first time four years ago, he's never once felt like she's invading his space, unlike somepeople he could name.
"Just a boring article on the Harpies," she says disinterestedly, already moving her hand to flip to the next page. She remains utterly composed, as if she expected him to be here – as if they had planned to meet in the tree house, and Louis had simply forgotten.
"No article on the Harpies could be boring," Louis scoffs, an avid fan of the Harpies ever since Aunt Ginny had taken the family to one of her matches when Louis was six.
"What about that one last year, on the replacement Seeker? Joan Marsden, or something. The reporter wrote about the girl's hair more than what kind of broom she rode!" Delia exclaims, her tone edged with disgust. Girly, Delia might be (sometimes), but nothing messed with her Quidditch.
"Agreed," he says, making a face. No bloke wanted to pay for a Quidditch magazine to read an article about some girl's hair. If he wanted to read about girls – and not just their hair – he'd readWitch Weekly, or borrow one of James' forbidden magazines from underneath his bed. James had offered to lend them to him before; apparently, Louis needed 'manning up.' "What's this one about?"
"Jenna Robinson," she replies, making a face to match his.
"Jenna Robinson, newest Chaser for the Holyhead Harpies?" he asks her, wondering why she looks so dismayed. "She's fantastic!"
"She's an alright player, I suppose," she starts doubtfully, flipping back to the page where the article was printed. "But she's a showy player – all dazzle, and no goals. Elizabeth Wood could outshine her any day."
"Wood?" he gasps. "She's a Keeper, not a Chaser! And she's only nineteen!"
"She could still shoot more goals than Robinson!" Delia retorts, a fire in her eyes so bright he can almost see flames dancing in them. "And Robinson is only twenty!"
"You know Jenna, though; hell, you played on the same team as her!" Louis argues, "Roxanne's ex-girlfriend, remember?"
"Jenna's a sweet girl, there's no denying that. But she simply isn't Quidditch star material!" she shouts, her face inching closer to his. His open mouth closes, and they simply breathe together for a moment, light specks of dust making patterns in the air before their eyes.
"You have no proof, though!" Louis exclaims, breaking the silence, and she draws back from him with an eager look in her eyes and a challenging expression on her face.
His inner Ravenclaw is rubbing his hands together, preparing for the debate ahead, but when he looks at Delia opening her mouth to reply, he thinks there might never be anything as wonderful as debating over Quidditch with this girl.
They argue until lunchtime, the subject changing from Quidditch to Muggle sports to why girls wear so much makeup. Time flies by, and he can hardly believe it when his stomach starts rumbling and he realises it's time for lunch.
"Let's go, Louis," Delia says, crawling past him to the doorway and the ladder down to the bottom, and he realises that this is the first time that she has called him Louis, without the 'young' attached to it with an iron tether.
'Today is a good day,' he thinks, following her down the ladder to the ground – can he help it if he stops to take in the view on his way down? And he's not exactly talking about the trees and the grass – he's a sixteen year old hormonal boy, after all.
They become almost like friends after that, finding new topics to argue and talk about, and eventually they reach the point where she high fives him for teasing James the way she's taught him to, or where he mock applauds her (another thing she's taught him) when she manages to beat Rose at chess. He doesn't want to tell her that Rose has always been rubbish at chess, and that even Fred beat Rose once.
At the end of the summer, she wishes him good luck for the next school year (-"don't forget to get detention at least once. It isn't a school year without a good detention!-" "of course, Delia.") and he remembers that she's twenty-one, and hasn't attended school for three years, at least. For a while – the length of a single summer – he had forgotten that they were five years apart.
"I'll write," she promises, high fiving him one last time, before Apparating into the night, a flash of her blue-grey eyes the last thing he sees of her.
His palm tingles, and he's not sure whether it's because she hits so hard, or whether it's justher. Because no matter the difference in age between them, she's helped to give him the best summer he's never imagined.
At Hogwarts, he waits in vain for her to send him a letter; he spends half of breakfast looking for an owl to swoop in, his neck cricking from being bent in the same way for fifteen minutes.
After six months, he gives up on her, and on Jake and Lily, who haven't broken up in three months and call that an accomplishment. He has a feeling that even when they're both old and grey, they'll still break up every now and then, just to keep things interesting, as they call it.
Elenora Collins meets his eyes over the table during one of their 'on' times, where they each seem to try to gross out everyone else as much as possible, and jerks her head at them, rolling her eyes at their antics.
"I worry about Lily, sometimes," she says, with all the emotion of a girl who genuinely worries about her best friend, even if she would do the same thing in her shoes.
"Don't worry," Louis responds. "I told Jake that if they went too far, I'd Floo James. Jake's scared of him now," he adds, sure that Lily would have told her best friend about 'the incident'. "Some Gryffindor."
She giggles in spite of herself, pulling herself back together for long enough to stick up for her house. "Gryffindors are plenty brave! Even Jake," Ellie teases.
"Really? I bet I can name five Gryffindors who aren't brave in the slightest. We'll start with Harry Potter," he says, clearly joking – he's kind of proud that he's kept the skills that Delia taught him.
They enjoy some playful banter for the rest of breakfast, and he finds himself enjoying her company. But something always seems to be missing, something that he can't quite put his finger on.
A letter arrives a few weeks later, a crumpled up piece of parchment with his name scribbled hastily on the top.
Sorry I haven't written. Been really busy. Will be back for summer.
I expect to see you then – make sure you have a detention to tell me about!
Four lines on a torn page, and yet they make him happy. Delia just brings out the best in him, he supposes, tucking the parchment inside his robe,
Turning to kiss Elenora on the cheek, which has become their ritual ever since he asked her out a week ago, he walks alongside her, listening to her chatter.
She remembered about the detention joke, he thinks as they walk away.
Elenora breaks up with him a week later, saying something about destinies and 'seeing other people' which he assumes just means that she's met someone else.
The strange thing is, he's completely fine with it.
It's summer again – and sometimes he thinks his life revolves around summer – the trees the same as usual, the sun still shining down. But the air feels expectant, as if something is going to change this summer.
Delia's going to arrive today, Louis remembers. Alice and James' wedding is tomorrow, and they're supposed to have a rehearsal dinner tonight. He wonders where she's been, that she can only come back the day before one of her best friend's wedding.
The leaves and branches start shaking around the tree house where he sits, and less than a minute later a brunette bombshell is throwing herself through the makeshift door which no one ever bothered to fix.
"Oh Louis! It was fantastic – the colours, the people, the dancing; the dancing was fantastic, and everything was brilliant and amazing, and I'm living my dream, Louis!" Delia gabbles, barely pausing to take a breath. She keeps babbling and she crawls across the floor to sit beside him, and he gathers that she was sent to Spain for four months to make arrangements for the next Quidditch World Cup.
He knows he should be mad that she only sent him a single letter all year, but the enthusiasm glows so bright in her eyes that he can't find the heart to ignore her.
As if he could ever do that.
The rehearsal dinner goes smoothly, and the next morning the Burrow is a hive of activity. People are rushing everywhere, trying to get things done before the wedding is supposed to start.
Delia spies him amidst the chaos and grabs his hand; they are so comfortable with this simple gesture that he still thinks nothing of it, though his skin burns where her fingers lace with his.
They both walk straight to the treehouse, her clambering up first, and then him. It has quickly become their special place, where he can forget that she's five years older and completely unattainable.
"Aren't you supposed to be down there?" Louis asks, pointing down at the white tent where Alice is getting ready.
"They pushed me out of the room, saying that I'd only cause trouble," she replied, and he doesn't even need to ask who 'they' are: Chloe and Roxanne would never let Delia near Alice when she's wearing white.
They talk for a while, about work and the wizarding economy – Louis has never felt so grown up – talk which quickly turns to which flavour of ice-cream is better, raspberry or gooseberry.
He finds himself staring at the shape of her lips, the way they move when she talks, the fluttering of her dark eyelashes against her slightly bronzed skin. And she's clearly made him so much more Gryffindor, because he leans forward just a bit more from where they were bent over another edition of Quidditch Weekly.
And he breathes a sigh as their breath mingles, a flashback to not so long ago, because this feels so utterly perfect for their first – and maybe only – kiss. Her eyes are bright with something he can't name, but he doesn't even try to figure it out, he's too focused on the feel of every ridge and crack of her lips as they finally meld with his.
Her long eyelashes brush against her skin as her eyes drift shut, and he follows suit, opening his mouth just a little bit wider, and-
"Delia, Louis! Get down here right now!"
The wedding flies like a blur after that, a meshing of colour and cake and music and priests saying words he couldn't remember if he tried.
One memory sticks out above the blurred images that make up his recollection: Delia standing next to Alice at the altar, her lips softly parted and her eyes smiling straight at him where he sits in the crowd.
With a jolt, he realises something very important: without even realizing it, he's gone and fallen in love with Delia Thornton, twenty-two year old head assistant in the Ministry's Department of Magical Sport and Games.
And he's only a seventeen year old Hufflepuff who is only who he is because of her (well, mostly).
He tries to find her after the ceremony ends, but there never seems to be a private moment. He knows they have to talk about it – surely the electricity in that treehouse wasn't just felt by him? And maybe, if there's a little time to spare, he can kiss her again. And again. And againagainagain.
He locates Roxanne in the crowd, her arm around Phoebe's waist as they smile for Granddad Weasley's camera. "Have you seen Delia?"
"Sorry Louis – she had to go back to Spain. Apparently it was urgent," she says gently, and surely she doesn't know that Louis' world is splintering around him.
Because for the whole six hours that he's known he loved her, the world has shifted and she has become the centre of it. 'That's the trouble with Hufflepuffs', he thinks. 'Too loyal for their own good.'
A message arrives the next day, the same crumpled kind of parchment as the last letter – if he could even call it that – that she sent to him.
Next summer. I promise.
And he doesn't know exactly what she's promising – a summer, a kiss, a lifetime – but he holds that written, crumpled kiss next to his heart for the next 362 days.
Oh, life's a blur that moves too fast, and suddenly it'sthat summer, and if the air tingled with promise last year, it's practically sparking with it now.
This is when it's all going to change.
Lily's all of seventeen now – the party was just last week – and James has promised that as soon as Delia, Ella and Jake come to the Burrow, their whole troupe of family, friends and others in between will have a proper party (read: with alcohol) at a new wizarding club in London, to celebrate the youngest Weasley turning seventeen.
(Jessica Fleur Lupin doesn't count, of course – she's only four after all, and Victoire and Teddy are happy to leave her behind for the night.)
They crowded onto the dance floor and next to the bar two hours ago, and all he can see is moving bodies and abandoned drinks, the loud music pumping through his veins.
Delia's dancing with him again – how many times is it now? He can't remember, and he doesn't really care.
There's a faint memory of something important to talk about, but it slips away like he was trying to catch a fish with his bare hands.
The music pounds again, a stronger beat this time, and he loses himself in the music. The only time he's ever felt this alive was a single moment in a single summer, exactly a year ago.
"You're a bit of a lightweight, aren't you Louis?" she calls over the music, but he can't hear her. She grabs his hands and leads him past the bar and outside, grabbing a couple of water bottles on the way out.
"Drink this," Delia says, and he drinks it obediently, his heart already longing to go dance again. He isn't sure if it's the alcohol in his veins, or simply a love of music, but this girl in front of him is important enough to stay.
"So we have to talk about the kiss," she adds, putting her hand on his knee, and it's like some of the missing pieces of the puzzle have come back – and now he can remember.
"Look, I really like you," he says, his mind clear enough that he remembers not to sayI love you. "Is there something in this water?"
"Yeah – a bit of Sobering Potion," she grins, and then her expression turns thoughtful. "I like you too…"
"So what now?" Louis asks, drinking some more water. He doesn't want to screw this up.
"I guess we could try being more than friends," she says, and this is probably the most uncertain she's ever been in her life.
"We'll take it slow," he agrees; if this is what she wants, he'll give it to her.
"Yeah," she breathes, pressing her lips to his, and then she's winding her arms around his torso, and it's almost painful not to touch her – taking it slow, remember – and maybe there isn't as much Sobering Potion in the water as he thought there was. Otherwise why would she be kissing him like he's the last Chocolate Frog left in the world?
He forgets to think as her tongue traces his lip, and then the whole world is on fire and he doesn't want it to ever stop burning.
She pulls back, panting a little, and unhooks her leg from where it has slid around his thigh. "Waited two years for that kiss," Delia grins, pressing their lips together again, but briefer this time. But this kiss is burns twice as much, because shewantshim, and not just because she's drunk and he's horny.
"Want to be my girlfriend?" he asks, his voice a little hoarse and his words a little bold, and he's not sure whether it's the drink or the fact that she always brings out this side of him.
"Now, let's go get smashed!" she yells, pulling him by the hand back onto the dance floor, and he wonders if a person can actually get drunk on love.
It's six months before they tell anyone. It's not that they want to hide it, particularly, but there just never seems to be the opportune moment.
Mollysander gets engaged, Rose starts dating Scorpius, and Teddy and Victoire grant their daughter with a sister.
So it's just another day for them, hanging out after work in her apartment and drinking wine like sensible people.
At least until Delia gets the idea to have a shots competition, and suddenly he's drinking more than he ever thought possible, and this is the second time in six months and three days that he's gotten drunk – and is it a coincidence that it always happens with Delia? Although, to be fair, the first time was mostly James' fault.
She's sitting next to him on the couch, tracing patterns with her finger, and he starts when she starts kissing patterns on his skin, as if she's trying to commit every single freckle on his neck to memory.
And the night dissolves into whispered touches and myriad kisses, and the feel of skin on skin on skin.
Louis opens his eyes and immediately cringes as the bright sunlight streams through Delia's window directly into his eyes. Blinking slowly, he shifts onto his side, immediately searching out the other occupant of this decidedly comfy bed, though he isn't quite sure how he ended up here in this place which is clearly Delia's bedroom. He hears slight movements coming from next to him, telling him that she's awake already, and he smiles at the thought of her watching him sleep.
He looks at her, sure that his love and adoration for this woman is painted on his face. Usually he would turn away, but her eyes are bright and her smile is wide, and he can't help but remember the feel of her lips on his.
He finds himself reaching towards her again, hormones fuelling his fantasies; she is far too close, and the faint scent of oranges rising off her bare skin is enough to send him mad.
"Louis!" she admonishes, batting his hand away. But her eyes still smile with that hint of longing he has been searching for. "Get dressed, and then we'll talk," Delia adds, and he throws her a last smile, slipping from beneath the covers and quickly pulling on his jeans over his orange boxers.
He turns around, catching a glimpse of her blue-grey eyes staring at him intensely, and he hurries out of the room, because if he stays he'll end up doing something he isn't sure he'll regret.
Delia leans forward, placing a vial of swirling silver potion in front of him.
"Hangover Potion," she explains, grabbing another vial for herself.
"My cousin's didn't give you these, did they?" he asks, staring suspiciously at the vial and squinting at it as if it could tell him the name of its maker. 'What if they've guessed, from all the time we've been spending together, and now they want to kill him?' he thinks.
"Victoire gave them to me, but I don't think she is the kind of cousin you meant," she smiles, a quirky half-smile that holds an eternity of laughter in its depths. He stops himself there – it seems as if Rose and Lucy have had more of an impact on him than he thought. Or maybe it's justher.
"No," Louis laughs, downing the potion in a single, disgusting gulp. There's a silence, then, neither awkward or comfortable, and like most silences between them – though they are rare – Delia is the one to break it.
"Well, I didn't exactly intend to get you drunk last night, and then seduce you," she starts conversationally, drinking her own vial.
"Really? I quite enjoyed the seducing part," he says boldly, and suddenly he thinks of his twelve year old self, so focused on winning the game that he didn't really enjoy a very pretty, older girl holding his hand.
"I'm quite happy to seduce you again, if you'd like," Delia replies with a wink, already sliding closer to him.
Just before he leans in to kiss her, he has a sudden thought. "We should tell everyone soon, shouldn't they? Otherwise they'll kill one of us. And I'm too pretty to die!"
"I'm pretty too – at least that's what you said yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that," she teases, smiling broadly at him.
"Veela," he says simply, and she groans, knowing that he's right. "But you are very very pretty," he adds, kissing her briefly. "So, tomorrow?" he asks, and she nods. "I wonder what they'll say…"
"Who cares?" she exclaims, and that simple sentence is like the mantra of her life.
And suddenly – amazingly – it doesn't matter that they are so many years apart.
Maybe they are too carefree, and maybe they are too impulsive, and maybemaybemaybe they've taken things just a little too fast, but they are two fires that cannot burn without each other.
And maybe he isn't sure where exactly they'll go from here; but he knows that she has changed him, and he has changed her, and holding hands innocently in the darkness isn't enough for them anymore.
As if the two of them could ever be innocent.