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Chapter 6: Out in the Open
Secrets are a very complicated thing, but utterly simple at the same time. The concept of a secret is relatively easy to understand; it’s just a piece of information that is purposely being concealed from a person or a group of people. But once you get into the specifics of a secret, that’s when things start to get messy.
Some secrets are silly, laughable. Often times these are the ones children have, the ones they make a mountain out of a molehill of. As time passes and children mature, they usually come to realize how unimportant the secret they previously they thought was world-ending is. Other mundane secrets can be things like an embarrassing habit or strange obsession. These, like the concept of a secret, are also relatively simple.
But then there’s the other secrets. The ones that are important, life-shaping, and deeply personal. Those are the ones that make life complicated. Everyone has those things they don’t want people to know. But of course, very rarely will they ever stay unknown. The truth always has a very sneaky way of showing itself. And that’s when people can start to get offended.
Perhaps those who discovered the secret are shocked by it. Or maybe they’ll blow it off, think the owner of the secret foolish for hiding it. There are a countless number of reactions that can happen. The worst one, in my opinion, is when people get upset and even angry for not being informed earlier.
But you see, the sharing of a secret is even more complicated than a secret itself. Because it’s not solely up to the secret holder to keep. Anyone that person decides to tell is entirely viable to share it with other people, despite not having the right to do so. Which is why people get picky about who they tell.
There are far too many variables involved to truly wax eloquent about all the complexities of a secret and still limit this to a brief overview, but I will say this. My biggest secret at the moment is, without a doubt, Selene’s pregnancy. And, as was inevitable from the time the secret was created, it was time for it to be revealed.
My mum was staring at the shaking Selene in apparent shock. I couldn’t blame her, really, as I was quite shocked myself. Yes, Selene had a terrible, unhealthy relationship with her parents, but I never thought they’d go so far as to kick her out of the house. I just… couldn’t quite believe it. Why the sudden change? Why the new complete intolerance of their only daughter? There was really only one thing I could think of that would do it.
“Selene,” I murmured to her gently. “Was it because of… you-know-what? Did you tell them?”
She nodded into my shoulder, clutching at me tighter. I suddenly felt cold, a chill running up my spine. I knew that Selene had always secretly hoped she would make up with her parents someday. Under her sarcastic, easily angered tough-girl persona, she really was quite sensitive about those things. She just doesn’t let many people other than me see it.
“They said it was an abomination,” she said in a choked voice. “They told me that I was their biggest regret and I was about to ruin my own life, just like I’d ruined theirs.”
I inhaled sharply as rage began to pound through my veins. I’ve always disliked Selene’s parents – though I’d never actually me them – due to the awful way they treat Selene. But now, I felt nothing but pure, unadulterated hatred. Those were harsh, hurtful words that no one deserved to hear, but to say them to your own daughter? It was unforgivable.
Selene shifted so that she was now sitting sideways on my lap, her head leaned against my shoulder. My stomach got all fluttery and stuff at her proximity. It’s a really weird feeling, but not altogether unpleasant. Plus I feel unmanly for saying the word fluttery. Selene’s nose lightly grazed my collarbone. “I’m sorry for just showing up here,” she said in a small voice. “I’ll be on my way in just a moment, I just couldn’t think of where to go.”
I stared at her incredulously, though she didn’t notice as she wasn’t looking at me. “If you think I’m letting you leave, then you have another thing coming.”
She tilted her head up, her hair brushing along my arm and her silvery eyes meeting my own. “What?”
“Your parents don’t want you in their house? Well then they can go fuck themselves. You’re staying here and that’s not an option.” I glanced up at my mum, remembering she was there. “Er, if you approve, Mum.”
She nodded mutely, unshed tears shining in her eyes. “We’d love to have you, Selene.”
“Are you sure?” Selene asked uncertainly – this was a new side of her. “I wouldn’t want to be a burden.”
I snorted. “Leena, you practically live here, anyways. You know you’re pretty much already a part of the family. And I want you here.”
“Even after how I’ve treated you for the past few months?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper.
I grabbed her chin and leaned in closer. We were inches apart and I had to force myself to concentrate and not kiss her. It doesn’t help that she still smells like coconuts. She’s probably doing it on purpose. Bitch. “I don’t care about the stupid argument we’ve been in. You’re my best friend and a lot more is going to have to happen to change that. Look, I’ve been an idiot. Which, you know, is unsurprising. I’m always an idiot. But anyways, I should have talked to you a lot sooner. It’s just that you’re a bit scary and make me lose every bit of manliness I possess and I know that it’s usually best to just leave you alone when you’re mad at me. But I let it go on for too long. I should have acted a long time ago. Because, well, let’s face it, Lee, you can be stubborn to the point of stupidity.”
Selene stared at me for a moment. “You have manliness?”
I narrowed my gaze. “That’s it! You’re living on the streets!”
Selene laughed and hugged me once more. “You’re the best, James, you know that?”
She laughed again, before sobering up slightly and looking at me with a tentative smile. “You know, I forgave you a long time ago. For… everything. But I still mostly avoided you because, well I was scared. That’s really why I avoided you from the very beginning. I was just scared.”
“Scared of what?” I asked, nonplussed.
“It’s, uh…” she trailed off, examining me. I’ve always felt that those silver eyes of hers could almost see through me, like I was being x-rayed. According to my dad, Albus Dumbledore was like that. But Selene’s a lot prettier than him. She bit her lip. “Nothing, never mind.”
I was going to try and press further, but the sound of my mum clearing her throat distracted me. I’d forgotten she was there again. Selene and I both turned to look at her. She raised an eyebrow. “As sweet as all of this is, do you think you could explain what’s going on?”
Taking note of our incredibly close proximity, I, er, almost blushed – almost, because men don’t blush – and leaned away from Selene slightly. I didn’t really want to, though. She smells good.
“So?” Mum asked. Selene and I both glanced at each other, at a loss for words.
“She doesn’t know then?” Selene asked me, causing Mum’s eyebrow to lift even higher.
“What don’t I know, exactly?” Her voice had gotten a lot sharper. I knew I could only postpone my inevitable murder for so long. But now it seems as if I’m back on death row. I should have written a will.
“I was just about to tell her,” I began to tell Selene, but then broke off and looked at my mum. “I was just about to tell you before, uh, our guest showed up,” I said, jerking my head towards the lovely girl still seated in my lap. I think she should sit there all the time. She’s warm and soft and smells like coconuts. I like coconuts.
“James Sirius Potter,” Mum all but growled. “Don’t give me your excuses. Tell me what is going on right now.”
Was it hot in here? It feels really warm right now. It might be the pressure of my imminent death, but suddenly it feels sweltering. Am I sweating? “Uh… huh… um,” my voice cracked. Merlin, I sound like I’m thirteen again.
Mum just folded her arms over her chest. She’s staring at me with the face from my nightmares. I can’t breathe.
“Er, Dad and Al should probably be here for this,” I said, avoiding her gaze. Her terrible… death gaze.
Yes, I was still trying to avoid telling them. I’m a terrible coward and a shame to Godric Gryffindor. But I was going to keep stalling for as I could. Plus, Al is reasonable and level-headed – he’s pretty much the only one in this family of nutters. He might try and talk Mum out of killing me. So that’s always a win.
“What about Lily?” Mum asked sharply. She’s already mad at me and she doesn’t even know yet! Oh God, it’s going to be even worse than I thought.
I looked down at my lap. Well, technically Selene’s lap, as she was sitting on me. She’d gotten rather quiet, too. “Lily already knows.”
“Oh?” I chanced a glance at Mum. It was frightening. “You told your sister before me?”
“I had to tell someone!” I burst out. “It’s not really something I could put in a letter and… well, it’s Lily!”
Mum’s gaze softened slightly – thank the Lord – and she turned towards the stairs. “Harry, Al, Lily! Could you all come here, please?”
Lily came bounding into the room first, long red hair flying behind her. At first her face brightened when she saw Selene here, before immediately turning to concern. “What’s going on?”
I looked her in the eyes. “It’s time.”
You know, I always wanted to do that. Dramatically announce “It’s time,” and watch the horrified understanding cross everyone’s face. I always imagined ominous music would be playing in the background and everyone would share that look. You know, that total badass look that says we’re all about to go out and get shit done? Yeah, I’ve always wanted to do that. But now that I have, I’ve got to say, I’d take it back if it meant I’d never gotten Selene pregnant.
Lily glanced at Mum quick before mouthing “good luck.” She took a seat next to Selene and I as both Dad and Al walked in much less exuberantly than Lily had.
“What is it, Ginny?” Dad asked, still looking tired from his long shift at the office.
“Your son has something to tell us,” she replied tersely. Dad and Al turned towards me, both offering surprised greetings to Selene once they noticed her presence. They can be amazingly unobservant sometimes.
“I thought you were staying with you parents this Christmas, Selene,” my dad said.
“They threw me out of the house,” she mumbled. I tightened my hold on her, pulling her more firmly against my chest.
My dad was still, his eyes slightly hardened. Sometimes I think he dislikes Selene’s parents even more than I do. I suppose if anyone can understand being hated for being able to use magic, it would be him. Although Dad is now on good terms with both his Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, I doubt Selene will ever reach that point with her parents.
“Why?” Al asked. Lily stared at Selene in comprehension, reaching out to hold her hand.
“It has to do with what I need to tell you,” I said, jumping back into the conversation.
Mum, Dad, and Al looked at me expectantly, Lily nervously, and Selene turned her head to give me a reassuring smile that looked a bit hesitant. This was it. Here I go. Time to let the cat out of the bag. There was no one to knock on the door this time.
I inhaled deeply. Now or never. “Did you know that orangutans warn people to stay out of their territory by belching?”
Ah, and there it is. Everyone is staring at me with the look that’s half worried and half exasperated. I know that look well. I’ve come to call it the “James is an idiot” look. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received that look. It’s not a very good confidence booster, I’ll tell you that.
“Really, James?” Mum asked flatly. “Do you honestly expect me to believe that was the big secret? That is the reason you and Selene have been fighting and the reason why Selene is no longer allowed in her own home?”
I let go of Selene with one hand so that I could rumple my hair. “No. No I do not. That’s not what I meant to say. Actually, I don’t even know how I know that. But it makes for interesting conversation, doesn’t it? Allow me to speculate for a moment, but don’t scientist believe that humans evolved from monkeys? Maybe we have that same biological behavior coded in our genes and that’s actually why men don’t have qualms against burping in public. They do it to show ownership of something, maybe the people they’re with. Therefore, women shouldn’t get annoyed if their husbands belch because it’s their way of showing that –“
“James! Stay on topic, please!” my mum snapped. Oops. That was a major tangent. Where did that even come from?
I could feel Selene shaking slightly as she tried to hold back laughter. You know, when I imagined telling my parents about our impending parenthood, I did factor laughter into the equation. I guess I’m just not very good at planning.
“Right,” I muttered. I desperately searched for the words to tell them delicately. But you know, I don’t think there is a way to announce this other than just stating it outright. I can’t dance around the subject and offer vague hints at it. I’ve just go to come right out and say it.
There is, of course, I stunned silence. I was expecting this. Selene has tucked her head into my shoulder once more. I think she’s just as afraid of the reaction as I am. She’s worried that it might be similar to her own parents’. Mustering up all the courage I had, I forced myself to look at my family.
Lily was peeking out at everyone from under her eyelashes, watching to see what they would do, just as I was. Al’s mouth was hanging open slightly, clearly trying to process the information. My dad was staring at the floor, looking uncomfortable and a little… disappointed. That one hurt. And finally, I looked at my mother.
Her eyes were wide and her lips were firmly pressed together. She was watching Selene and I avidly, eyes flickering around at our slightly intertwined bodies, Selene’s head cradled next to my neck, and finally my face, which I imagined was very pale. Her hands slowly moved to cover her mouth and I almost don’t think she was breathing.
The silence stretched on. No one was moving or speaking. We all just stood or sat as the weight of the news began to fall heavily on everyone. Selene started shaking again, but I doubt it was from laughter this time. I rubbed her back gently, trying to sooth her. Mum’s eyes zeroed in on this and she finally seemed to find her tongue again.
“Oh, you poor dear!” she exclaimed, before running over and pulling Selene off my lap and into a fierce hug.
“You’re pregnant. And you’re parents kicked you out because of it, you poor thing! Oh, you are definitely more than welcome here, dear. We’ll take care of everything, don’t you worry,” she continued, pulling back and holding Selene’s shoulders.
I’m so confused. Why aren’t I dead?
Then her eyes fell on me. She slowly let go of Selene and took a step forward. I shrank back into the sofa and tried not to whimper. I may have spoken too soon. Mum’s eyes were blazing as she slowly shook her head, face starting to turn red. I cowered even more, preparing for the explosion.
“James. Sirius. Potter,” she said in a deadly quiet voice. Lily got up from her seat next to me and quickly backed away, hiding behind Al. She probably didn’t want to get splattered with my blood.
I gulped as Mum put her hands on her hips. “How dare you make me a grandmother this soon! I am not nearly old enough to have a grandchild! What were you thinking, you daft boy? If you don’t know how to use protection then for Merlin’s sake, keep it in your pants!”
I stared at her. I couldn’t do anything but stare. I was simultaneously relieved, amused, afraid, and horrified. Please, please tell me that my mother did not just tell me to keep it in my pants. I’m begging.
I let out a series of unintelligible noises, still unsure of how I should be reacting. I wasn’t the only one. Everyone else was staring at Mum in slight disbelief. I don’t think anyone would have ever predicted that reaction. Once again, we were all plunged into a stifling silence. This one, however, was ruptured when Selene burst out into laughter.
It was her turn to be stared at now. She leaned over slightly and braced her hands on her knees as she continued to laugh. Selene has a pretty laugh. She’s also just plain pretty. And she smells like coconuts. Damn her.
“James,” she wheezed through giggles, “you should have seen your face!”
Lily sniggered at this and I saw the corners of Mum’s mouth twitch upwards. I let out a badly suppressed snort and soon all of us were laughing as well. We just laughed, and laughed, and laughed. Tears were streaming from all of our eyes and she clutched out stomachs as we chuckled uncontrollably. At some point, I think we all forgot why we were laughing in the first place.
Hello, world. Meet the Potter family. When faced with the prospect of teen pregnancy, we just laugh it off.
Eventually we all gained control of ourselves, wiping tears from away and gasping for breath. A trace of a grin still on her face, Mum turned to me and announced, “I’m going to castrate you.”
Now that’s more like it. That’s the reaction I was expecting. I would have felt reassured if it weren’t for the whole… getting my bollocks cut off thing. I really don’t think that’d be a pleasant experience.
I held out my hands cautiously. “Now, Mum, let’s not be hasty…”
“What, you don’t want me to be as hasty as you were to have sex?” she replied, smacking me in the back of the head. “Would you care to explain how this happened? And tell me why, exactly, have you been ignoring the mother of your child? How much of an insensitive prick are you?”
“Ginny,” Selene broke in – my parents insisted she call them by their first names – looking nervous. “It was really me who was ignoring James, not the other way around. And, well, I was pretty stupid to do that. I just didn’t want to need him… even though I did.”
I stared at Selene and smiled. She flushed slightly, but smiled back. Once we got this whole mess out of the way, she and I would have a lot to talk about. Assuming I’m still alive, that is.
Mum’s glare softened when she turned to look back at Selene. She shot me a look as if to say “This girl is far too good for you.” Believe me, Mum, I know.
“Could you just tell us the story?” Dad said, speaking for the first time. “I wasn’t aware you two were dating.”
And… cue the awkward moment. “We’re not.”
Eyebrows were raised all around and Selene stared down at her feet. I wanted to go over and comfort her, but that would have to wait. “It just sort of happened, I guess. And then we were kind of weird around each other and when I tried to talk to Selene I kind of put my foot in my mouth and offended her. And then she found out she was pregnant and she told me and I put my other foot in my mouth and offended her even worse and then I was a tool and decided to wait it out instead of actually trying to make things better.”
Now both Mum and Dad were staring at me in disappointment. I can only imagine how much worse it would be if I told them more specific details of the “fight” with Selene. Because let’s face it, I had been a prat to the extreme.
“James, don’t beat yourself up about this,” Selene said quietly. “We both made mistakes and we were both at fault. Let’s just… move past that all. There are more important things to focus on.” She placed her hands over her stomach, which was – surprisingly – still rather flat.
I think it was that statement that really brought things into perspective for everyone in the room. The reality of it all was that no matter how angry or disappointed my family may be, Selene was going to have a baby. And there was no one in her life to support her expect for us.
“Selene,” my dad said quietly, “I’d like you to know that I consider you to be just as much of a daughter to me as Lily is and I do not only welcome you into my home, but I implore that you stay with us. Ginny said it before, anything you need, anything at all, we will take care of.”
As I’ve said before, a lot of people respect my dad for the things he’s done. The admire him for his defeat of Voldemort and all the work he’s done as an Auror and think him great. But it’s moments like these that, I think, show the true scope of how great my father really is. Because he’s doing for Selene exactly what the Weasley family did for him. And that more than anything else garners my respect for him.
Selene’s eyes slowly filled with tears once more, though none spilled over her cheeks. She merely whispered, “Thank you.”
“We’ll talk later,” Mum told me, before putting an arm around Selene and leading her out of the room. I knew without her having to tell me that she was leading Selene to our guest bedroom. I think she was in need of some sleep. Dad clapped me on the shoulder before following after the two women. Before she disappeared out of the room, Selene shot me a quick look that I understood to mean she wanted to talk to me later. I wanted to talk to her, too.
I was now left in the room with just Al and Lily. Lily was looking slightly shell-shocked at what had just happened and I could see why. I didn’t really expect it all to go down that way, either. I looked at Al next, who was wearing an unreadable expression.
“You’ve been awfully quiet,” I told him. “What, er, what are you thinking?”
He stared back at me, eyes wide behind his glasses. “Holy shit,” he breathed, “I’m going to be an uncle.”
I cracked a grin at that. So he was. And I was going to be a dad. And you know, for the first time since I’d heard the news, the idea didn’t fill me with dread. Because despite all the worry and the drama of today, some good did come of it. Selene was here, waiting to talk to me. Maybe this isn’t going to be so bad after all. I mean, at least I didn’t get murdered by my mother.
The family finally knows! I hope this chapter didn’t seem to drag on, as it was all one scene. It was, after all, a pretty important scene. With a bit of James/Selene cuteness, if I do say so myself. Let me know what you think – I know a lot of you were looking forward to Ginny’s reaction. And this is just the start of it all.
The line “Her terrible… death gaze,” is inspired by the movie Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, created by the genius Joss Whedon, as well as his brothers Zach and Jed, and Jed’s fiancée (at the time), Maurissa Tancharoen.