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Published: 03/17/2010Updated: 04/16/2016Words: 449,284Chapters: 98Hits: 153,722
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- Story Summary:
- What happens when the past collides with the present and threatens to cast the Potters' and Weasleys' lives into disarray...
Chapter 82 - California Dreaming
Parker dropped his knapsack at his feet. It landed noiselessly in the sand. The ocean was an endless, undulating stretch of azure, glinting in the late summer sunshine. The water crashed against the shore, then slipped away with a rush of foam. Salt-scented breeze toyed with his overgrown curls, and tickled along his bristly jaw. He dropped to the sand next to his knapsack and quickly pulled off his trainers and socks. He stood and, with a quick glance around, unfastened his jeans, and wriggled out of them, revealing a pair of bright red watershorts that came down almost to his knees. A spate of giggles behind him made Parker's ears burn and he self-consciously hitched the shorts up higher on his hips. The lure of the water beckoned, a siren song too temping to be ignored. His faded t-shirt joined his jeans and Parker darted for the ocean, diving into its embrace. Nothing in England could produce this sort of euphoria. Not even the shore in Cornwall.
Body surfing, Parker recalled the adventures he'd had in the past few months. He loved it in America. The people were friendly, welcoming. And some of the food was akin to a religious experience, as far as he was concerned. The shack in Texas where they gave him brisket on a piece of waxed paper was small, and the scent of wood smoke had all but slapped him in the face, but the brisket nearly melted in his mouth. Places in the desert where the sky was so big, he fancied he might get lost in its encompassing expanse. He chuckled inwardly at his own naïveté when he heard of a place called "The Magic Kingdom". He had expected a place that celebrated magic, not an amusement park, overrun with wide-eyed, squealing children, followed by longsuffering parents. Parker freely admitted he was just as enthralled as the children. He had even posed for a photograph with a large mouse named Mickey. He wondered if he could convince Molly to let Arthur visit this wondrous kingdom of magic the Muggles had created.
Parker blinked water from his eyes. A tall, blonde girl emerged from the surf wearing what amounted to a few sticking plasters and string. 'Erm... hi...' he replied weakly.
'You got a name?'
'Parker...' he mumbled. 'Parker Weasley...'
The girl swam closer. 'I'm Mackenzie.'
'Weasley...? That's a pretty unusual last name.' Mackenzie wiped droplets of water from her nose. She rose up with the next wave, scrutinizing Parker so he felt like a specimen in Herbology.
'I suppose. Never quite thought about it, actually,' Parker admitted. 'I've got lots of cousins, you see, so it doesn't feel quite so uncommon.'
'I love your accent! Where are you from?'
'England. London, actually. Fulham,' he babbled.
'Which school do you go to? UCLA? USC? Cal State? Wait... I'll bet you're a Stanford boy, slumming in Long Beach for the weekend.'
'I'm not in school just now, Parker told her, paddling toward the shore. 'Taking a year off before I continue my studies.'
'Coolness. You doing anything special tonight?'
'I was supposed to head up to San Francisco later. I've got some friends there...'
'Oh...' Mackenzie visibly drooped with disappointment. 'Shoulda known,' she grumbled as she swam away. 'All the good looking ones are. And that accent...'
'You think I'm good looking?' Parker blurted.
'So what did you have in mind for tonight?' Parker asked.
'The summer movie series is ending tonight, and I'm a sucker for those really old black and white ones. I was thinking about getting some takeout and going to see the movie. '
'That does sound like it would be fun,' Parker said wistfully. He swept his hair from his face. 'I don't have to go to San Francisco tonight,' he said suddenly. 'I'll just have to ring the person I'm to stay with and let them know I'll be delayed until tomorrow.'
'Well, all right, then.'
Mackenzie emerged from the water and Parker's mouth went dry as he followed her to a small pile of clothing near his own. At least my imagination won't have to work overtime to picture what she might look like, he mused.
Mackenzie scribbled on a scrap of paper with a pen and held it out to Parker. 'It's really easy to find George's. Anyone can tell you how to get there. I'll see you there at seven.'
'Brilliant.' Parker watched as she sauntered off, the paper clutched in his hand. He yanked his t-shirt over his head and shoved his feet into the waiting trainers, then snatched up his knapsack and pelted away from the beach to the small cottage overlooking the shore. As he ran inside, he called, 'Michael! Michael! I need to call Benjamin!' Parker hurriedly toed off his trainers, nearly tripping in his haste.
'Slow down, cowboy,' Michael Carter drawled. 'What's the rush?'
'Date with a girl.'
'You're at the beach for all of thirty minutes, and you have a date?' Carter tilted his chair back on its rear legs. 'D'ya even know anythin' about her?'
Parker's grip on his knapsack tightened. 'She's tall, blonde, and wore an infinitesimally tiny red bikini. Is there something else I ought to know? It's just a takeaway dinner and one of those movie things.'
'Gotta admire a mind that'll remember a word like "infinitesimal" when confronted with a skimpy red bikini...' Carter motioned toward the small fireplace. 'Go on. And I know you're a big boy and can take care of yourself, but try to be back by dawn.'
Parker guffawed with surprising bawdiness. 'I'm rather grateful you think my prowess with women is such that tall, blonde goddesses throw themselves at me and insist on shagging me senseless.'
'Just take your wand with ya,' Carter sighed. 'What time are ya meetin' her?'
'She a Muggle?'
Parker shrugged. 'I don't know.' He turned toward the spare bedroom. 'Does it matter if she is?'
Carter set his chair back to the floor. 'Does it?'
Parker shook his head. 'It's just one date.'
'I hope ya got a good story.'
A weight settled in the pit of Parker's stomach. 'Story?' he asked tightly. He was an awful liar.
'The usual claptrap ya tell Muggles.'
'I've never had to do one before...'
'Keep it simple and as close to the truth as possible. Less chance you'll let somethin' slip.'
The weight in Parker's stomach burned. 'Maybe I ought to stay home, then.'
Carter snorted. 'Go get yourself cleaned up and you and I'll come up with somethin' plausible.' Parker opened the door to the spare bedroom. 'She pretty?'
Parker looked down at his bare feet, wiggling his toes as he brought up the memory of Mackenzie. 'What do you call pretty?'
'In this case, what you think is more important than what I think.'
His eyes closed as Parker attempted to verbally paint the girl's portrait for Carter. 'Tall, thin, not really voluptuous... Most blokes wouldn't give her a second look if you walked by her on the street. Not to say she's ugly,' he added at Carter's raised brow. 'She's not very showy about her looks. Bikini aside.' Parker shrugged. 'She looks like she'd be an excellent Quidditch player. Would make a good Keeper...' He trailed off, gazing into the distance.
'Oh. Well. In that case...' Carter chuckled, waving Parker away. He was beginning to wonder if being able to play a decent game of Quidditch was a prerequisite for marrying into the Potter/Weasley clan.
After a quick wash, Parker ambled back into the sitting room, grabbing an apple from the bowl on the small, round table sitting under a window. His stomach rumbled, despite the hearty lunch he'd eaten before he'd gone to the beach. The combination of water and sun made him hungry. Too keyed up to sit, he stood on the deck, letting the light wind dry his hair into a halo of reddish-brown curls. 'Any ideas for my false history?' he asked Carter.
Carter stretched out on a wooden day lounger, stacking his hands behind his head. 'It's not uncommon for British Muggle students to take off a year before they start college. You've heard of a gap year, I assume.'
Crunching into the shiny, red apple, Parker nodded. Swallowing he said, 'So I'm Parker Weasley, Muggle, taking a year off to see the world?'
'Isn't that almost the truth?'
'Yeah. And telling her I'm going to stay with family in San Francisco is the truth.' He leaned against the railing. 'But what am I doing in San Francisco...?'
Carter tapped the top of the wooden slat above his head for several moments. 'Volunteerin' as a tutor for underprivileged children,' he exclaimed, sitting up with the force of his exuberance at arriving to a solution.
'And Hogwarts is just another boarding school for gifted children.'
'Technically, it is,' Carter pointed out, raising a glass of iced tea to his lips.
'And Dad's some Parliament minion...' Parker mused, his enthusiasm for the story growing. 'I suppose that's technically the truth, since he's the liaison between the Muggle Prime Minister and Kingsley...'
Carter smiled smugly. 'There ya go. All plausible, and mostly verifiable. If your gal's inclined to look it up.' He suddenly grew serious. 'Are ya thinkin' of goin' on more than one date with her?'
Parker ran his hand through his damp curls. 'Do you want to know how many dates I've been on?' He continued without waiting for Carter to reply. 'Less than ten. I was always too busy with school and my studies. And yes, Michael, I wanted to date girls. It's also a little hard to get time alone when you've got such a large family and they're always around.' Parker grimaced. It was a little difficult to not feel a small amount of frustration when one had several younger cousins tagging along.
Carter laughed. 'Yeah, I can see that.' He settled back into the day lounger. 'If ya wanna stick around here for a few more days an' get to know this girl a little better, you're more than welcome to stay here. Benjamin'll understand.'
Parker closed his eyes while he tilted his face up toward the sun. 'Thanks. I'll see how it goes tonight.'
The easy part, Parker mused to himself, was getting to the restaurant. He rang for a taxi. So now he waited nervously for Mackenzie to arrive, pacing in front of the entryway. Unbeknownst to him, several diners seated at tables with fluttering blue-and-white checkered tablecloths smiled sympathetically as he passed by their tables. Mackenzie loped up to him, dressed in a pair of jeans and a gauzy sort of shirt. 'You're early!'
'Unfortunate habit of mine,' Parker told her.
'Do you even like Greek food?' she asked suddenly. 'I didn't think to ask...'
'I like gyros,' Parker said.
Mackenzie walked into the restaurant and grabbed a menu from a counter. 'Do you mind if I order?'
'Not at all,' Parker murmured. 'I bow to your superior knowledge.' Flashing an impudent grin, Mackenzie whipped around, blonde hair swinging, and rattled off a list of items from the menu to the woman behind the counter, then fished out a wallet from her bag.
'I'll pay for it,' Parker said.
'I asked, I'll pay,' Mackenzie retorted stiffly.
'You don't understand,' Parker hissed. 'My mother would reach across six thousand miles of land and ocean to smack me on the head if she knew I was letting you pay for dinner.'
Mackenzie batted her lashes. 'If things go well tonight, I'll let you buy breakfast.' She took advantage of Parker's momentary shock to hand several notes of Muggle money to the woman. Giggling, she took his elbow and guided him to a bench against the wall. 'It'll be about fifteen minutes.' She settled against the cushion and patted the place next to her. 'So tell me... What brings an oh-so-proper English guy like you to Long Beach?'
'Nothing, really,' Parker said, folding himself to the bench. 'I just wanted to see America. My father has a cousin that lives in San Francisco, and I'm going to stay with them for a bit.' He smiled shyly. 'One hears such rumors about the beaches in southern California, so I thought I'd see for myself if they were true.'
'You always look as scruffy as you did this afternoon?'
'God, no!' Parker choked. 'My grandmother would be absolutely horrified if she knew I was out in public looking as I did. She's a great one of looking smart, you see.'
Mackenzie patted his now-smooth cheek. 'You clean up real good.'
'Do you always ask strange English boys out that you've only just met?'
'You would be the first.' The woman called out to Mackenzie, and she leapt up to collect their dinner. Parker reached between them and snagged the large bag, mouth watering at the tantalizing aromas that wafted from it. He nodded to the woman, and trailed out of the restaurant behind Mackenzie, following her until she stopped at a car parked a block away.
She twirled the key ring around her index finger. 'Wanna drive?'
Parker let out a low whistle of appreciation. The low, sleek convertible was a glossy midnight blue with white leather seats. A running horse decorated the front grille work. 'How old is this...?' He ran reverent hand over the door. Harry, he knew, would fall over himself to get a chance to drive it.
'Nineteen sixty-eight Mustang. My older brother and I spent months restoring it. Had to make modifications to it so it's up to Cali safety standards, but she still handles like a maniac.' Mackenzie held out the keys. 'It's an experience everyone ought to have.'
Parker gazed longingly at the keys. 'I'd love to,' he said reluctantly, 'but I can't drive. I don't know how. Growing up in London, you know. Used the Tube, mostly.'
Mackenzie leaned against the car. 'Maybe you'd prefer a turn on my Nimbus 2015.' She laughed as Parker's jaw dropped.
'You're a witch?' he spluttered.
'Guilty.' She opened the driver's side door and slid into the car. 'Still want to see the movie with me?'
Parker hastily groped for the door handle and joined her. 'How did you know...?'
A look of embarrassment came over Mackenzie's face. 'I looked it up. Weasley's not a very common name, and you're in all the gossip rags over here.' Parker was horrified. He wondered what he'd done to put himself that that sort of position. 'Isn't your dad like the vice Minister or something like that?'
'Senior Undersecretary to the Minister of Magic,' Parker mumbled.
'So is he like, next in line?'
'No. Not that I know of...' Parker squirmed. 'Is that why you wanted to go out with me?'
Mackenzie started the car with a roar. 'I didn't know who you were until after I asked you.' She peeled from the parking lot. 'Makes news when the second-in-command of the British Ministry's son wants to goof off across the States.' She eased into the traffic, and began to maneuver through the hectic traffic. 'So why are you here, really?'
'I was supposed to start my studies for International Magical Law,' he sighed. 'This month, actually. But I... I just couldn't stand the idea of any more schooling. It was always books and studying and then more studying. I'd been at the top of my class since I started Hogwarts and one day before the Easter holiday, last year, the idea of continuing with even more of it all made me nauseated. So my dad suggested I take a year off to give myself a break.'
'And the cousin in San Francisco?'
'He's real. His father and my grandmother were siblings. His wife works for the branch of Salem there.'
'So you're eighteen? Nineteen?'
'And your dad just let you go wandering off into a strange country just like that?'
All too soon, Mackenzie pulled the Mustang into a car park and turned off the engine. 'Is it just you...?'
Parker shook his head. 'I have two younger brothers. Payton just started school this year and Patrick's got two more years until he goes.' He paused slightly. 'I also have fifteen cousins.'
'Fifteen?' Mackenzie repeated faintly.
'Yes,' Parker told her cheerfully. 'My dad is the third of seven. Well, six. One of his younger brothers was killed in the last wizarding war in Britain. And all six of them married and had families of their own. And so far, sixteen of us have attended or are attending Hogwarts.'
Mackenzie just stared at him. 'I'm trying to wrap my head around that...'
Parker grinned, taking a deep breath. 'Well... there's my granddad and grandmum... Uncle Bill, Aunt Fleur, Victoire, Madeline, Alexander, Nicholas; Uncle Charlie, Aunt Bronwyn, Isabella, Owen, Aidan; my dad, Mum, Payton, Patrick; Uncle George, Aunt Katie, Fred, Jacob, Sophia, Uncle Ron, Aunt Hermione, Rose, Hugo, Uncle Harry, Aunt Ginny, James, Albus, and Lily. Oh, and Uncle Harry's godson, Teddy. He's engaged to Victoire.' He managed to spit out the last bit of information before he ran out of air. 'Holidays are quite the affair.' He climbed out of the car and waited for Mackenzie to fetch an old blanket from the boot of the car. 'What about you?'
'It's just me and my older brother, Brett. And my parents.' She started for a small park, where a crowd of people had begun to gather.
'I never did catch your last name.'
'Hathaway. Mackenzie Hathaway.'
Parker stopped cold. 'You mean as in Sutton Hathaway?'
Mackenzie pulled a face. 'So you know of him?'
'For someone who was going to go into International Law, yes. If you want to negotiate anything in the magical community in America, you have to go through Sutton Hathaway. The man's bleeding legendary.'
Mackenzie spread the blanket over an unclaimed spot on the grass and sat down, taking the bag from Parker. She opened it and methodically removed the food. 'Of all the boys in the universe, I find one that admires Dad...'
Parker plopped down to the blanket and picked up a dolmathe, cautiously nibbling the edges, then with much more enthusiasm. 'I didn't say I admired him. I merely said he's legendary,' he said defensively. 'My uncles would love to expand their joke shop to America, but your father's all but flatly rejected their applications.' He reached for a spanakopite. 'Are you studying for something?'
'I finished Salem a year early and I'm at Pepperdine.'
'You don't go to college in Britain?'
'No. The Ministry does post-Hogwarts training. You learn on the job as an apprentice, mostly.'
'Ah. We like assimilation here. A couple of the college and universities have a building or two that's charmed against Muggle students, and that's where we have classes. I'm doing broom design and engineering.'
Parker blinked. 'I didn't know you could do that...'
'I have a friend that's up at Stanford. She wants to work in one of the primary schools set up for the magic kids.'
'I'm going to volunteer at the primary school in San Francisco.'
'Maybe you'll stick around and try getting into Stanford's teaching program.'
Parker choked on a bite of falafel. 'I haven't figured out what I'm doing next week, let alone next year...'
Mackenzie shrugged. 'Something to think about.'
'Yeah. I suppose it is...'
Mackenzie gazed at the ocean, bundled in one of Parker's spare sweatshirts. 'I love the beach at night,' she said happily. 'It's otherworldly.' She perched on the railing of the deck of Carter's cottage. 'So did you really crack up at school?'
'I didn't crack up. I told you earlier. I didn't feel I could handle the grind of International Law after seven years of nonstop work. It was more of a realization that the thing I'd spent nearly seven years of my life working toward was no longer what I wanted to do with my life. Does tend to take the wind from your sails. Especially when at that moment, actually doing any of my homework felt like an exercise in futility.'
Parker hoisted himself to the railing next to Mackenzie. 'I went to the library one night after dinner and took my books out and... Nothing. Didn't do my homework or revise for exams. I even had an essay due for History of Magic, and I couldn't make myself take the parchment from my bag. I'd finally admitted to myself that if I went into International Law, I'd be extraordinarily unhappy. International Law's four more years. Three years in several other countries, and one year back in Britain. It's almost as grueling as becoming a Healer or Auror.' He glanced at Mackenzie in the darkness. Her expression was one of concern and curiosity, so he decided to plow ahead. 'I didn't want to upset my father. That is what made it all so awful. I felt like I was letting him down.'
'So you're a people pleaser.'
Parker shook his head. 'No. I look up to my dad. And when I was small, I wanted to be just like him.'
'And your dad?'
'He just wants me to be happy. Even if I opened up a branch of my uncles' shop here, my dad would be all right with that, because it's something I chose to do and it makes me happy.' He inched closer to Mackenzie. 'Why?'
She tucked a strand of hair that had escaped a small clip nestled at the back of her head behind an ear. 'My father thinks anything I do that I like is a waste of time,' she admitted.
'If it makes you happy it isn't a waste of time.'
'Yes, well. Sutton Hathaway thinks fooling around with brooms is frivolous and that I ought to do something respectable like law, or Healing.'
'The more fool he, then,' Parker said quietly. Impulsively, he leaned forward and brushed his lips over Mackenzie's. 'Sorry...' he said bashfully. 'Momentary lapse of...' His words were cut off by her mouth landing firmly against his.