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Silver Linings by TheHeirOfSlytherin

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Format: Novel
Chapters: 26
Word Count: 120,480
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Contains Slash (Same-Sex Pairing), Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, Humor, Romance
Characters: Harry, Ginny, Scorpius, Albus, James (II), Lily (II), Hugo, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Other Pairing, Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione, Teddy/Victoire

First Published: 06/11/2012
Last Chapter: 06/07/2013
Last Updated: 03/11/2014

Summary:
Albus/Alexa

Banner by deceptive_serenade @ TDA.

One drunken night, meant to cheer up a friend, turns into a commitment neither Albus Potter or Alexa Nott think they're ready for: Parenthood.

Do you believe every cloud has a silver lining?


Chapter 1: Alexa: When We Have a Few too Many
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Graduation. 

The word won't leave me alone, no matter how hard I try to come up with nicer words, ones that don't make me want to vomit, like 'party' and 'summer'. But no, 'graduation' wants to stay. And on the rare occasions that the word does disappear, it is quickly replaced by 'adulthood' and 'job', which is actually just as bad. Worse even. 

They are words that remind me of my future, one that is starting to happen surprisingly quickly now that I've graduated. As in no more Hogwarts, as in no longer leaving home for a school year. As in leaving home permanently and looking after myself! 

Crap! 

I start to hyperventilate just thinking about no longer living with my dad. I need my dad. I wonder if he'll let me stay with him forever, he loves me enough, I know he does. I'm Daddy's Angel. He couldn't wait for my idiot brother to leave, but me? No. I know I can stay...

Okay, maybe Dad wanting Kieron out of the house is a bit of an exaggeration. He tells us frequently that he, and I quote directly, loves us both equally. But we both questioned Big Brother's 'activities' in his bedroom, especially with his 'friend'.

Note to self: Say hi to Nicky Weasley. 

...I do actually like Kieron's friend. (Boyfriend.) 

I can't believe Kieron now actually lives with Nicky, mostly because I can't believe Nicky can put up with him (it's how you know it's love), but also because he did it. He left home after graduation and made a new life, with a job and an apartment and a partner. He didn't freak out or get scared as we usually tend to do with the thought of commitment. I must ask him how he did that. 

Because I have no freaking idea what to do now!

I sigh in my seat and rest my chin on my right arm, with my left raised to twirl my finger in my empty bottle. It's my year's graduation party, which I think is kinda pointless considering the graduation was at Hogwarts yesterday, but this party was organized by parents. They hired a venue here in London, with a DJ, bought the food and the drink - they actually trust us enough to keep the supply of alcohol - so it's an open bar.

I think it was primarily my dad and Mr. Potter. They kinda work together at the Ministry, so they talk a lot (my dad is the lead Hit Wizard, while Mr. Potter is Head Auror). They're good friends. I haven't really spoken to Mr. Potter since I was eleven and stopped going with Dad to work because I had Hogwarts in the year and friends to visit and who visited in the summer, though I still saw him at King's Cross and was polite enough to wave. 

He's not bad, I have no idea what Uncle Draco keeps talking about. His son's a pain in the arse, though...

"All alone, Nott? Not like you."

...Speak of the devil. 

I look up, my hand moving from the glass to cup my chin. I smirk softly, it's the only 'mean' response he's going to get out of me, given I'm too lazy and, admittedly, still very much in shock over the fact that I'm now officially an adult to give my usual look. "What do you want, Potter?" 

I'm all bark and no bite tonight. Pity, I miss the old me. I mean the usual me; I'm not gone for good. 

Albus Potter flattens down his hair, which looks like a rainbow of colors due to the lights, and sits beside me. He brings his bottle to his lips and takes a good long drink before he turns to me. "So, what were you thinking about?" 

I raise an eye-brow; what makes him think I'm thinking? "You're thinking about something if you'd rather sit alone and stare into space than sit with the Bubblehead Clan who call you a 'friend' while you think of ways to hurt them and they you." 

I hate it when he's right. But he's only right because he knows me. We're not exactly best friends, but thanks to Kieron and Nicky dating and Al being as close to his cousin as I am to my brother (which is very, believe it or not), we do hang out a lot, like most of the time. We went to breakfast, sat with our 'friends', went to class, hid in the library and bitched about everyone in school, including said friends. Albus is actually very good at bitching. If it was ever to become a sport, I'm afraid to say he might just beat me. Might, never forget the might... Maybe we are best friends?

But our friendship works both ways and I know him just as well. Why, when not even half an hour ago I saw him laughing and joking with the friends he actually liked, was he suddenly over here, hiding with me and clinging to that bottle of beer like it's his lifeline? I take note of his frown and the narrowing of his eyes and the answer comes pretty quickly; he's sulking. I re-raise said eye-brow. "What happened?" 

He scoffs and takes another long drink, but I just wait patiently. Or as patiently as I can be, considering I generally don't have a whole lot of it and I willingly admit that. I know he'll tell me, he always does. "I saw Phil Glover making out with Catrine." 

I want to laugh and tell him that it never would have happened if he had only asked her out when he had the chance, but I fear our usual joke won't have the same effect as normal and keep my mouth shut. Instead I scan the room for any sign of the couple, I don't want them near to see him sulk, then stand up; the empty bar is my destination and alcohol is our answer. My Grandfather Greengrass tells me alcohol is helpful when the occasion calls for it and, for once, I hope he's right, because after seeing the look on Albus' face, the occasion definitely calls for more alcohol. 

"Where are you going?" he asks, grabbing my arm. 

I jerk my head to our left. "To the bar, we need drinks." He lets go of my arm, understanding completely, and nods. "I'll be back in a few minutes."

With people either around the tables or on the dancefloor and the bar relatively empty, it really does only take a few minutes for me to get our drinks and come back. I order four of whatever drink Albus had brought with him, two each so we don't have to go back as quickly, and sit down at his side. I pass him his two and we each hold up a bottle, banging them together in salute before we drink. 

I sincerely hope I don't regret this... 

...Turns out they're not so bad and we order more and more, soon followed by another drink he called shots. We compete with those drinks, seeing who can drink the fastest. At first it's Albus who keeps winning, but the more I drink the more comfortable I become and I'm soon drinking him under the table, an expression I hear my brother say to Nicky all the time. 

"Hey, do you think Kieron and Nicky will let me plan their wedding?" I say suddenly, thinking of Nicky reminding me. 

He bursts out laughing. "I didn't even know your brother had finally plucked up the courage to ask Dom to marry him," is his answer. 

I frown. I hate it when his family calls Dominique 'Dom'. He is quite obviously a 'Nicky', though his professional work name is 'Nick'. But his family have been calling him that since he was born and he's too used to it to get them to stop, not even for me. He tells me it'd be weird if anyone other than Kieron and I called him 'Nicky' and I like that I have something no one else does (my brother does not count), so I don't say anything about it. "Well, not yet, but you just know it's inevitable." 

"Maybe. In that case, no, they won't let you; Dom's a control freak, he'd wanna do it himself. But he likes you, so he might let you help," Albus says. I can accept that; one of the things I like about him is our similar tastes. 

Potential weddings soon leave my mind when we continue our game. 

***

"I just can't believe she'd rather be with Phil Glover than me. How is that possible?"

I find it hard to concentrate and just shake my head; I've lost count of how much we've drank, but it's leaving me rather calm and funny at the same time. I've never been drunk before, but I get the feeling this is drunk me. Albus, however, has been drunk before and I've seen him. He gets overly emotional. "She doesn't know what's she's missing."

"She doesn't. And now she'll never know."

"Good for you, find someone else."

"I will." 

"Just don't cry on me again."

"I won't c- Hey!" A few minutes of weird silence and we erupt into a fit giggles. "Lets talk about you instead, then. Why were you hiding here?"

"I don't want to grow up," I tell him softly. That wasn't meant to sound so weak and... sad. Maybe alcohol leaves me feeling overly emotional, too. Maybe everyone... I feel a little more sorry for Albus now. 

"Everybody grows up, whether you like it or not, Alexa." He turns my head so I face him, looks straight at me with his green eyes. "We are close?" 

I shrug. "Close enough, I think. We hang out, talk, laugh. But the only reason we tell each other our deepest, darkest secrets is because we make each other," I laugh at that last part. He doesn't. Instead he leans forward and kisses me. I forget everything around me for a few seconds and just sit there, unmoving. It doesn't register until his hand slides down my cheek to hold onto my elbow. The movement sends shivers down my spine, which causes me to jump back and I stand. "I need some air."

"Alexa!" he shouts to me, but even though I feel like the ground is spinning in an effort to knock me down, I don't stop, not until I'm outside of the club and into the street. The cool air does nothing to clear my mind, but it cools my suddenly hot, alcohol fueled body. "Alexa, please."

Damn him. I should have known he'd follow me, but I can't handle this. When I said to find someone else, I didn't mean me. "Look, Al," I start, turning around. 

He cuts me off, prevents me from saying anymore, by bringing his lips to my own again. This time he's more determined than before for me to want it, to kiss him back. 

I don't know if it's the alcohol or if it's me or if I'm just crazy, but I do. I kiss him back and I don't care why. 

I just want more. 



A/N: For the Mothers in the Making challenge and my second time ever writing a pregnancy story, though only my first one currently posted. Also, first Albus/OC. Exciting. :)

I hope you enjoy and like the idea of Male!Dom; I rarely see it and I love it, so I have to include him. :P

Sam.


Chapter 2: Albus: When Alcohol does not Solve Anything
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Oh, my God.

What was I thinking drinking so much? How could I possibly think that alcohol would solve my problem with Catrine? Because the noise from that goddamn alarm clock is doing a very good job of drilling into my head and killing whatever brain cells I have left, reminding me just how stupid I was.

Oh, finally, it stopped.

I drag my hands down my face, my eyes squeezed shut as I try to remember last night, and groan, maybe a little too loudly. How could I do this to myself? It hurts so much. And I cannot remember past competing with the shots.

I hate shots. They are the devil's drink.

Oh, wait. I remember moaning about Catrine with Lexi. I, er, think dammit, think. I remember her warning me not to cry, which I don't do. I remember asking if we were close and I remember -

I jump up, eyes wide. Oh no. How could I possibly think that kissing my best friend was a good idea? How could I follow her?

I search the room for anything familiar. It is familiar alright; this is Lexi's room. I pull the bed sheets closer to me and it takes me a little longer than it should to realize I'm naked. As in completely naked. "Everything's fine, nothing happened," I whisper to myself, over and over, just hoping that it'll eventually sink in and I can believe it. But I really can't believe those words or anything that wants me to believe that we didn't actually do what I really think we did.

We did, didn't we? We couldn't have.

I force myself to look to the left of Lexi's king size bed, praying for me to be alone, that she brought me here out of pity because I was a drunken mess and let me sleep. I'd rather take her pity than have to face the fact that I may have potentially ruined our friendship. But there she is, her back to me, still fast asleep. The covers just hide her waist, but she's bare from there up and I audibly gulp. The night starts to come back; the kisses, the touches, the way she felt. Admittedly, if she had been anyone else, I'd be patting myself on the back; last night is starting to look amazing.

But it wasn't just anybody; it was Lexi. The girl who introduced herself by saying she was only talking to me because she liked Dom, who didn't care who my family were, who would test Uncle George's products with me and bitch about the Bubblehead Clan. My friend.

I should wake her, I know I should, I don't want to be one of those guys who sneaks out of a girl's room at the crack of dawn. I'm not Louis!

I raise my hand, hover over her back to shake her gently, when she moves onto her back. I avert my eyes quickly and I think my 'whoa' is a little too loud.

"What's going on?" she mutters sleepily. At least she's awake.

"Morning." I have no idea what else to say.

"Al?" I nod, still refusing to look at her, and even though I can't see her reaction, I think she gets it and I have a good enough imagination to figure it out. She screams; I was not expecting that. The bedsheets move quickly and I drop my hands to make sure I'm still covered; I was expecting that. "Oh, my God. I remember."

I turn to see her running her fingers back through her dark hair. Flashbacks of me doing that very same thing last night hit me suddenly and I drop my eyes again. "I can't believe you kissed me!"

My immediate response is to apologize; I did kiss her and she left and I followed her and continued to kiss her. This most likely would not have happened if I hadn't followed her. But a thought comes to me and I stop myself, suddenly defensive. "Don't say this is all my fault! You kissed me back the second time and it's that time that allowed this," I gesture to us, to the bed, to the whole bloody room, "to happen."

"It wouldn't have happened if you hadn't followed me and kissed me, hell if you hadn't kissed me at all! What possessed you to do that?" I open my mouth to speak, but just let it hang because I have no idea how to answer that. Not that she'd really let me speak anyway. "But don't worry, I do put some blame on myself. I am clearly insane to think I could be a good friend and cheer you up, to have more drinks than I should, than I ever have, for you. Because, my God, it hurts!"

I just sit there, not knowing exactly what to say. Yes, I initiated it, but I thoroughly stand by the fact that it takes two and she's as much to blame as I am. But what shuts me up was not her long rant about why I was to blame or the fact that this is one of the rare times she has ever genuinely yelled at me. It's because she decided to get changed while she yelled and now she is standing up and glaring at me, while my eyes have unonsciously made their way to her night shorts and to her long, tanned legs.

More flashbacks. Damn. I turn away.

"We should just forget it ever happened," I hear Lexi's voice, but she sounds further away than I know she is. Oh, last night...

"Yeah, we can do that." I nod determinedly. We can so do that; we can forget it happened, go back to just being friends and pretend we don't know what sex together is like. What we're like... Yes, we can.

"You're imagining it!" she shouts.

I hate it when she does that; she just knows what I'm thinking. "No, I'm not," I deny anyway.

"Oh, don't you lie to me!" Alexa scoffs. I turn back to her. She's got her hands pressed against her hips, her hair flowing over her shoulders, and her eyes wide. She's not glaring at me anymore, that's a small consolation. I watch her until I finally understand what's she's thinking. Why she's so mad that it happened and her determination to forget it. It's exactly what I was thinking before.

"We're gonna be fine, Lex, this won't ruin things between us," I assure myself as well as her. "We're just gonna forget about it. It was one night, we can ignore it. Go back to normal."

"Yeah?" she asks quietly. I nod and she relaxes slightly. She believes me and if she can believe me, so can I.

We both turn to the sound of a door opening and closing. "Lexi, did you get home alright?"

Oh, shit. Her dad!

Her fear returns, this time for a totally different reason. She leans forward and grabs my shoulder, tries to push me off the bed. "You have to go now," she whispers fiercely.

I move to get up, then realize I'm still naked. Right now, I don't know which would be worse; Theo Nott catching me in his daughter's room or Alexa seeing me naked again. I think my answer is enough to determine which I think I'd rather endure. I pull the sheets tighter. "You know, I'd rather not."

Alexa narrows her eyes, tries not to yell, and runs around the room. She throws me my clothes and the look she gives me tells me I have no choice but to get dressed and go before she makes me. I don't doubt that, she's done it before. I grab my pants and swing my legs off the bed, pulling them on along with my socks and shoes before I stand up.

"Alexa!"

Lexi goes to the door, pressing herself against it so he can't get in. "I got home fine."

"I heard quite a bit of noise last night," he says. We share a look, one question; do you think he heard something? But his tone sounds more curious than demanding, like he just wants an explanation for noise rather than one for having sex with her best friend. I pull on my t-shirt and shake my head, my gut telling me we're fine.

"It was probably when I apparated in, you know I hate it because I can never get it right. Thank you for putting down the wards so I could come straight to my room, by the way. I really appreciated that."

Alexa rolls her eyes at me while saying that, then mouths at me to hurry up. I bet she's thinking that being able to stop for a second, even due to protection spells, would have given her enough time to come to her senses and stop us from having sex. Because I'm thinking the same thing. I find my jacket, wave it at her in an 'are you happy?' motion and mouth something I've been wondering since she told me to go; what exactly am I supposed to do?

She shrugs, then points to the door. I'm about to say I can't go through the door with her dad there when it dawns on me she might be gesturing to her dad. She's waiting for him to leave.

"Alexa, are you okay?"

"I'm fine."

"Well, can I talk to you face-to-face instead of through a door?"

Fuck. I was not expecting that. And neither was she. She points to her bathroom, but I don't get there in time. I jump behind her door as it opens and she plasters on a huge, fake smile. I roll my eyes; is it to act as though nothing's going on or to hide a hangover? Probably both.

"Morning, Daddy."

"Morning. You're okay?"

"Uh-huh, completely fine."

"Last time I heard that, your brother was hiding Dom in his bathroom."

We both hold back nausea, not believing he actually said that. He's so damn near right, it's scary. Alexa recovers quicker than I do. "I can't believe you just compared me to Kieron, Dad." She opens up the door wider, pushing me further against the wall. Ouch. "Do you want to check the room, Dad? Because you can check the room."

I hold my breath. I'm gonna get caught. He's gonna kill me. "No, I believe you." Oh, thank God. He changes the subject. "I'm going to make breakfast, would you like some?"

"I would love some, I'll be down in a minute." She shuts the door. I rub my arm. "Okay, Albus, I am going to have breakfast with my dad. I'm going to keep him talking and busy in the kitchen. You are going to sneak out the door and we're going to forget about what happened and go back to being friends. We're never going to talk about it, it never even happened. Yes?"

"Yes."

"Okay." Alexa heads for the door again. "I'll see you tomorrow. Maybe."

She leaves me alone in her room and more memories of last night come back. Ah, if only it hadn't been Lexi. I give it a couple of minutes, then sneak out, down the stairs and to the door. I pause when I hear their voices, but no one comes. I don't think I breath again until I'm out the door and running down the manor's estate. As soon as I'm able, I apparate to my family home, straight to my bedroom because my dad had done the same as Theo.

Only there does the most important memory of all come back to me.

No protection!



A/N: I'm so excited for this story and now that I've got my chapters posted for another story, I think I'll be able to update this quicker than last time. Because it's only gonna get bigger for them from here on in. ;)

Sam.


Chapter 3: Alexa: When Trusting your Instincts can be a Good Thing
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I am going to kill Albus Potter.

I tried so hard to forget what happened between us, but he just had to go on about that night and the lack of protection. My day was going perfectly fine until he came banging on my front door, practically yelling about that tiny little detail.

Thank God my dad was not home to hear it. Or my brother; that would have been horrifying to witness. I imagined a bloody Albus-shaped mess on the hall floor. Then a Kieron-shaped one for killing him before I could.

Because it's been just over a month since it happened and now I'm freaking out. Why? Because I'm late. I am rarely late. And he is sat on my bed, looking ready to shit himself because it's all he's thought about since that night.

I can't help but glare at him as I lean against the door to my bathroom, but he doesn't take any notice. He just continues to sit there, muttering to himself, trying to make himself feel better when his gut tells him otherwise. That's one of the only things that really annoys me about Albus; when he's worrying about something, he over thinks things, to the point where he genuinely believes it and then he tells himself it's going to be okay, even though he's already freaked himself into believing it's not.

That's what he did in regards to this. The moment he realized we had been too drunk to think about protection, he started to worry about the consequences and what to do and he freaked out and yelled at me and now his words are getting to me because I'm late. Have I mentioned that I hate him yet? Because I do.

He throws himself back against my pillows. "Everything's going to be fine, we're okay. We're fine."

"Albus, shut up," I snap. I just cannot take it any more. "I blame you for all of this, by the way. For the sex and for all this worrying, which is really not needed. I also blame my dad for letting you in today and forcing me to listen to you worry, then tell yourself it's fine. Why do you come to my house anyway?"

"It's big, it's nice and your brother doesn't live here anymore so we're always alone now," he mutters. Oh. Not what I expected him to say because it's not the real reason. Well, I can only accept that his sister is way too nosy. "We're gonna be fine."

"Potter!"

He jumps up, holds himself up with his elbows. "You're angry."

I nod. "I'm feeling a lot of things at the moment, Albus. Anger is just one of them."

"You're very emotional." He looks terrified. I have a bad feeling. "That's a symptom," he whispers. He ducks before one of my books gets to hit him on the head. Damn him. "Well, it is," he protests, like he's defending himself. I don't want to hear his defense! How does he not get that? "So is feeling tired and nausea and sensitivity in... certain areas."

When he eyes stop at my chest I pick up another book. He has every reason to hide. "Albus, the only thing making me tired and nauseous is you." He slowly removes his arms from his face. I drop the book and try to give him my best 'it's gonna be okay' smile to calm him down. "Now, will you please stop researching all of this. You're just going to scare yourself even more."

"Most is just what I remember from when Vic was pregnant and Mum still has one or two baby books," Al says quietly. I give him my most stern look; he's got to get the message. "I will stop researching." I almost breathe a sigh of relief; finally his madness will stop. "If you do something for me."

Oh, crap. "Depends on what it is," I finally choke out. He just doesn't make it easy for me, does he?

Albus picks up the white, plastic bag he had brought with him and hid under my bed and makes his way over to me. He stops about an inch in front of me, forcing me to look up just to see eye-to-eye, but with heels on it's not by much. He opens it up and pulls out a blue box. It doesn't take me very long to realize to what it is.

"No!"

"Lexi, please. It's just one test, then we can forget it ever happened and go back to normal as promised," Al pleads with me. I continue to shake my head. How can he do this?

"Where did you even get that?"

"A Muggle pharmacy, it was the quickest option," he shrugs. "I told the woman it was for a friend, which is true."

"Did you tell the woman that you are the reason you think your soon-to-be-ex friend needs the test?" I growl.

"No, I'm not that stupid while sober," he says, rolling his eyes. Oh, he really is. "Please, Lexi. We need to be sure before we can move on. Just take the test, watch it turn negative and we can go back to normal. One test, for me, or I'm going to go crazy."

We stare each other down for what feels like forever, but when I finally look away and see the clock I realize it had barely been five minutes. Glaring, I snatch the box out of his hands and twirl it between my fingers as I try to figure out exactly why I'm doing this. Okay, so he's still my friend - for now - and I don't want this to drive him crazy - yet. We can't bitch about people if he's lost it. And taking this stupid, Muggle pregnancy test will calm him down and show him that everything's fine, that I'm not- that he should stop listening to his gut for everything.

I'm doing it for Albus... And I'm doing it for me. I have to do it, I have to calm me down, too. "Wait here," I mutter, walking away and locking myself in my bathroom.

Once inside, I lean against the door and shut my eyes. I hear him tell himself it's gonna be fine again and the door rattles when he throws himself against it to lean on the other side. I move away and rip open the box, read through the instructions and swing it back and forth in my hands until I have to go. I turn on the tap, I think about rain and water, anything that will get this over and done with.

As soon as I'm done, I bang on the door and open it. Albus follows me into the bathroom and we both sit against the bath tub, the test by our sides, and he's reading through the instructions.

I think about why I'm sat here, on the cold floor tiles of my bathroom, waiting for a pregnancy test to tell me whether or not my idiot friend knocked me up. It never would have happened if I hadn't brought him here or kissed him back, if he hadn't followed me or even kissed me in the first place. If we hadn't gotten drunk because he'd seen an evil bitch snog an arrogant prat. If Albus had had the good sense to know he was better than her.

But he didn't and we did all those things because of it and now here we are. Though, for this situation, I mostly blame his panic attack when he realized what we'd forgotten and his cousin, Louis, for being who he is. He made tests mandatory in the Weasley family, I swear.

"You think it's been two minutes?" he asks quietly.

"Maybe," I shrug. "You should check. You're the one who wanted me to take the stupid thing."

"Or you could. Considering you had to pee on it, I'd rather not."

I turn to glare at him, but it's only for a second. He's trying to stay calm and okay, wanting to believe his words that it's all fine completely. But his eyes give him away; he's anxious, scared and stalling. He wanted me to take the test, but he's not so sure he wants to know the answer.

"Together," I promise. I grab some tissue, since he was so kind as to remind me of what I had to do, pass the rest to him, put my hand on the edge of the test and Al copies, so we've both got hold it. "One."

"Two," he goes next.

"Three," we say together, pulling it up.

I let go of it quickly; I'd memorized the instructions long enough while I was waiting to pee to know exactly what that stick means, what it's screaming at me. Albus stares at it, but I don't think he's really looking. He perfected the art of scaring himself shitless over the month and now I'm going to join him.

"Every cloud has a silver lining, right?" Albus finally speaks, but he barely gets it out.

"What's the silver lining in this?"

The pregnancy test falls from his hands to the floor and he leans back against the bath tub; I don't think I want to know his answer.

"Maybe we'll be good parents."

I don't say a thing.

I silently admit, listening to his gut is a good thing.

Oh, yeah, and I am so going to kill Albus Potter.

***

"I'm going to be a dad... I can't be a dad, I'm way too young... Oh, my God, I'm going to be a teenage dad!"

He's been pacing my bedroom and saying similar statements for the better part of an hour. It's my turn to lie on my bed, only rather than join him in calling out the inevitable I've gone unnaturally quiet. This is so hard to process; this morning I was complaining about how he should stop listening to his instincts (in my defense, he has been wrong a fair few times), now I'm thankful he pushed me for that test. I don't even want to imagine a family member figuring it out before me. And to think, this all started because Al freaked out over our lack of protection. He even researched symptoms for four weeks, which I guess is where I am. I wonder what else he researched...

No! I don't want to know that right now.

"Are you okay?"

I turn to lie on my back and there he is by my side, concern showing on his face. "I get drunk for the first time, in an effort to cheer you up, and this is my price. How do you think I feel?"

That concern turns to pain for just a second, before it disappears and he feigns indifference and looks away. "I'm sorry."

I didn't mean to hurt his feelings. I move to get up and he slides over so I can sit next to him. He knows I'm genuine when I hug him, because I rarely do, so I pull Al to me and we stay like that for as long as I'm comfortable doing so. "It's not all your fault, I guess." I'll blame him again tomorrow. He laughs, but it's not exactly a happy one. "I'm sorry, I'm just a little... scared. But I'm now glad you freaked out last month, told me all this stuff and got the test, if it's any consolation."

"Sometimes my worrying does come in handy," he agrees.

I start to speak, but I hear the front door open and I swear I go paler than I did when I found out I was pregnant; my dad is home. How the hell am I supposed to tell him? It's obvious Al is having similar thoughts, probably about his own family... He has a big family. The closer his footsteps get to my room, the faster my heart seems to beat in my chest. Then he knocks.

"Yeah?" I call out, hoping it wasn't as shaky as it sounded to me.

Dad opens the door, leans against the frame so it seems only the top half of his body is in my room. "Hey. I bumped into your dad at work, Al, he wants to know if you're going home or if you'll be here tonight. I questioned why he still asks when you stay here every Friday, but said I'll pass along the message."

"Right, because Dad cooks on a Friday," he whispers. I think he's still in shock, made worse by remembering we have to tell people and that one of those people is currently speaking to us. "I don't eat that anymore."

"No," Dad says quietly, then he turns to me. "Is he okay?"

"He's not really feeling very well," I only half-lie; he does look like he's going to be sick. "But of course he's staying, it's Friday."

"Right." Dad stands up straight, ready to leave, and points to us both. "You know where the menus are."

As soon as he shuts the door, we both turn to face each other. "I don't think I'll be able to get through the night without him figuring out something is wrong if I stay."

"You have to stay, you always stay," I remind him. "If you don't, he'll definitely know something is up."

"We can't pretend it's a family emergency?"

I want to swipe the back of his head. "He's going to floo call your house to tell them you're staying as usual, he'd be just as likely to call to say you'd be home and he'd probably ask if they were okay with the emergency. Wouldn't take a genius to know you were lying."

"Right. That was stupid. It'll be fine."

"It will be fine." I take his hand and stand him up. "We are going to get the menus, argue about what we want, order take out, give our weekly thanks to Dad for finding a way to piss off my mum by getting a TV and watch a movie and as soon as he's gone to bed, we're gonna talk about what to do."

He nods and agrees thoughout my entire plan until the very end and I resist the urge to shake him. "About what?"

"About how to tell everyone," I answer through gritted teeth. "I don't know about you, but I think others will notice when I get bigger and pop out your kid."

He covers his face in his hands, lets out an annoyed, slightly high-pitched shriek, and nods. "Right, yes, we'll talk about that. I'm sorry, I'm not handling this very well." I move his hands away. "I just don't know what to do."

"I'd be kinda surprised if you did." I raise an eye-brow, put on my best imitation of Nicky. "Anything you wish to share, Mr. Potter?"

It's small, quiet, barely even there, but it's a real laugh and that's the reaction I wanted. I nudge his arm lightly. "Come on, I want Chinese."

"I want curry."

"Tough, you knocked me up; we're having Chinese."

I run when he starts to chase me down the stairs, careful not to fall. "That's not fair, Lexi, I have nothing to use against you."

"Give it up, Albus, you'll never get one up on Lexi," Dad calls from the living room.

Oh, Dad, if only you knew the whole story.  



A/N: Al is fun to write when he's freaking out. Louis is such a bad influence... And you haven't even met him yet. 

So, it's been about a month and Al spent the whole of it worrying to Alexa, researching signs in hopes of avoiding it. But it's a pregnancy story, so... Ha! I hope y'all enjoyed. I appreciated your reviews of what you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 4: Alexa: When We Talk about the Future
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Dinner is actually pretty normal, all things considered. We argued about what we wanted to eat until Dad took away the menus and just ordered pizza. I love that our home was built in what is now a Muggle area and his year away during the war taught him the beauty and value of a television, a phone and a microwave, even if they're the only Muggle appliances he'll ever know how to use properly. Or at all. Because once I move out, they'll be beauties and values I'll be glad I grew up with, especially now that it seems I'll be cooking for two.

Thank you for this, Daddy.

See, I still call him Daddy. I'm screwed.

I eat my pizza slowly, planning what to say to my dad when the time comes to tell him. Maybe Al can help me with that later, not that I put my faith in the guy's words in any situation, but still, it wouldn't hurt.

"So, Harry says you've been apartment hunting, Al. How's that going?"

Dad's question brings me back to reality. I completely forgot Albus had been looking for his own place when he wasn't researching the early signs of pregnancy. At least the kid will have its own room when it goes to see it's dad.

Oh, God. I'm a single mum! This kid is gonna have to go back and forth between parents. This kid is gonna be me and Kieron (some weekends, anyway)... Except it'll like its mum. Hopefully. I stuff more pizza in my mouth; it's a lovely distraction from reality.

I think both my dad and Albus notice my sudden distress, but neither mention it and Al answers his question. "Not bad, I found a couple of places that I like. I'm going to look at them next week."

I'm surprised by how calm and normal Al is sounding, considering how he was before, especially at the thought of staying. But here he is and he's not freaking out. Why is it that only I get to see the crazy? Or is he secretly a really great actor and he will be crazy-like with everyone once they all know?

"That's good. You taking Lexi with you? She won't ever visit if she hates it. I'd ask her myself, but she seems to be in her own little world."

"I'm here," I say, slapping Dad's hand away when he waves it in front of my face. They both laugh at me. Well, they've always gotten along. I wonder how long it'll last once Dad knows; he's very protective of his family. Well, me, Kieron, our cousin, Scorpius, and Aunt Astoria. He and Uncle Draco never really got along in school, but they're okay now. He and Mum... Let's not go there. Ever.

"I'm just thinking about my own living arrangements, the future and stuff," I tell them, which is kind of true. I had been thinking about what I was going to do after graduation. I haven't put much thought into it since I found out about this, though. I don't want to. But I'm going to have to.

"This explains why you look like you're about to cry. Please don't cry." I'm not gonna cry. Dad hates it when I cry; more because I rarely cry than that he doesn't know what to do. He's awesome at making me feel better, knows exactly what to do. But because it almost doesn't happen, he hates that there is something out there that causes his little girl to cry. His words, not mine.

"Can't I just live with you forever, Daddy?"

...Damn, I did it again.

"No, Daddy has plans for when you leave," he smirks at me and then at Al. I throw my crust at him; I don't need to know any of this. At all.

After dinner, it's pretty quiet. I don't know which movie we end up watching; Al picks it and I'm hardly paying any attention. I'm literally counting down the minutes until Dad says he's going upstairs and I can talk to Albus about our situation. But at the same time I don't want him to leave; I want him to stay with me so I don't have to talk. Every time Dad leaves the room, I hold my breath just waiting to know what's gonna happen.

It's almost midnight when he finally gets up off the floor and kisses my forehead. "Good night, guys. And actually get some sleep this time, yeah!" he calls on his way up the stairs.

The moment I no longer hear him, I point my wand at the door and close it, casting a Silencing charm for good measure, and when I turn back to face Al, the TV is off and he's waiting for me. "You handled yourself very well," I praise. I think Al needs the reassurance first.

"I pretended it wasn't real, easier said than done, though," he admits softly. "I sat there, talking and laughing with your dad and I kept thinking he's going to kill me when you tell him."

"When I tell him?" I ask, both curious and a little pissed. But I don't show it. If I don't like his explanation, then I'll show it.

"Yeah, I was thinking if you told your family and I told mine, we'd get it done faster and can focus on actually knowing what to do with the baby rather than what they're gonna say about it. And if we each tell our families at the same time, we don't have to worry about how one will take it to the other. What do you think?"

He's looking at me like this is the thing to be nervous about; he's probably really focused on the hormone part of the pregnancy. What did he say? That you can be more emotional? I bet he hates that part. But this is one of a small number of occasions where he's said something we can actually take on board since this started. I give my approval; I think it scares him a little more.

"That makes sense. I'll tell my family, you'll tell yours and we'll deal with the rest afterwards. Telling them can be the only thing we think about right now. One step at a time, you know?"

It takes him a minute to answer. He's still in shook because I agreed with him. I just sit there and wait; I'm used to it. Agreeing with him is not actually that rare of a thing for me to do, I just don't usually say it so nicely. I'm not mean, just more sarcastic in my response. It's one of our things. But how can he think we could be our usual selves today?

We have bigger things to think about.

"Yeah." He clears his throat. "Well, my family try to have dinner every Sunday, but it's more likely one Sunday a month. You know because I keep inviting you."

"Yeah, and I keep declining. What's your point?"

Albus rolls his eyes. Maybe I can blame pregnancy already or him for not being clear, but I don't get it. "This Sunday is the first in a few months where the whole family can actually be there for dinner, including Molly and Louis, so I can tell them then."

Oh. Why couldn't he have just said that? "I'll get my family here on Sunday and tell them then, too." I mess with the empty pizza box, prepared to just end the conversation and say Dad was right, we should go to sleep, when a thought comes to me. A very important thought. A thought Albus might just appreciate. "It's a good thing we've decided to talk to our own families separately and not together; Kieron would have killed you. He's less likely to do that now that you won't be here when he knows."

He looks pained, like the information could kill him at any moment. He pulls his legs up, tucking them to his chest, and wraps his arms around them. I remember when we were twelve and he stayed here for the first time; Kieron telling him that scary story about the woman in the attic had not been a good idea. He was terrified, didn't sleep all night and didn't come back for weeks. It's just like this. I might not see him for a while.

No. I will not let that happen.

"What are the odds of me just avoiding Kieron for the next eighteen years and eight months?" Al asks hesitantly. I want to laugh. Just the thought of Al trying to hide from my brother has me hiding a giggle. Keiron will find him and Albus will be lucky if he doesn't get torn apart. My brother can do that; he's a lawyer.

But I won't; he's obviously scared. Rightly so, everyone is; my brother has a temper. I haven't quite figured out how Nicky got past that or how he knows to calm him down. Before it was just my dad who could do that.

I turn my thoughts from Kieron's issues to my friend in front of me. "It'll be okay. I'll have my dad's help by the time Kieron gets to you and Nicky will not say no to me; you'll be fine."

I reassure him enough to drop his arms and cross his legs instead. He's no longer guarded Albus, he's slightly calm Albus; all is good.

Until Sunday.

***

Albus stayed for breakfast on Saturday, but left soon after, leaving me alone with my thoughts. What kind of friend leaves another alone during a time like this? A crappy one, that's who!

Okay, so maybe he has his own thoughts to deal with. And maybe he would have stayed if his mother hadn't called, asking him to accompany her shopping. And maybe he did try to get out of it, except his mum guilt-tripped him by reminding him of last Summer (something she doesn't even know the full story of and which I'm not allowed to ever talk about). But still, he left me alone. And when I'm alone he's not the only one who knows how to worry.

I only had to go through that torture for about an hour, though. Kieron came home and went through new apartments he'd found for me that I might like, like he promised. Then I went out with friends for dinner, then my mum came over and that managed to distract me for a couple of hours.

It was at night, when I was really alone, that was the worst, but I managed to calm myself down and come up with something I could tell them. In my head, it sounded reasonable and quick, while explaining everything, and I was able to sleep at night. It was once I woke up that I began to doubt myself.

I told my dad about my plan for a family dinner, told him I had something to tell him. He didn't know whether to be suspicious or afraid, but agreed. I tried to sound casual, hoped he'd think I'd wanna talk about moving (Kieron just told him over breakfast, he knows I'd want it all planned out first), obviously it didn't work.

Or maybe it did and he's just cautious about his little girl living alone; that's something Dad would do.

So, I'm sitting on the couch in the living room, squirming and fidgeting, jumping at every little thing while I wait for my family to come. And, unfortunately, I mean my whole (immediate) family. Yep, Mum included. And I hate it. I think Dad hates it more, though. The thought of her in his house makes his skin crawl.

...A story for another day.

Aunt Astoria is the first here, Uncle Draco right behind her. She let's go of his hand to hug my dad, gives a very excited 'hey, Theo' like she hasn't seen him in ages, even though she saw him the other day. She makes her way over to me while Dad shakes Uncle Draco's hand and I stand up quickly to hug her.

Maybe it's an expression on my face, like I look as though I'm hiding something, maybe she just knows, I don't know. But the look she gives me is not one I especially like. Astoria squeezes me gently just above my stomach, saying nothing, and Scor comes over.

"Cuz," he says, holding his hand out. We slap our hands together and he narrows his eyes just a little. "I was sleeping."

I shrug. "I don't care. Sit down."

His lips twitch slightly, but he doesn't smile and sits down next to me. Kieron suddenly pops up on Dad's right. I have no idea when he got here. He nods his head and shuts his eyes, leaning back against the couch. His thoughts are probably on the same page as Blondie's.

"Nicky at The Burrow?" I ask him.

He nods and grunts. I roll my eyes. "Why we here?"

"Your sister has something to talk about," Dad tells him.

He makes no move to get up or even look at me. "Get on with it then."

"Charming," I scoff.

"We're waiting for Daphne," Scorpius says.

That gets him to sit up. "I'm leaving."

"You have to stay, it's important." I try not to plead, but that's what it sounds like and I think Kieron notices that. Despite what he thinks of her, he loves me more; we were always there for each other, still will be, I know. He settles back into his seat, albeit a little stiffly, and nods.

As soon as Dad let's Mum inside, I consider that my cue to get up. I can feel the tension in the room between my family, the sudden drop in temperature the moment she walked in, their eyes focused on me in the middle of the room rather than anywhere else, and everything I had planned to say last night escapes me.

I've never been so nervous, I feel as though everything has sped up, especially my heart rate, and it just slips out. "I'm pregnant."

If the room didn't have my complete attention before, it does now. Dad jumps up, his back straight. "Come again?"

Now my brain decides to explain. Kind of. "He was really upset and it was the only way I could think of to distract him, so I got the drinks and it worked until the end and he started to think of her and he got depressed and he kissed me and I left and he followed and it just sort of happened. I had no idea it would happen, we never planned it I swear."

"Who the fuck is it?" Kieron demands.

I just continue to watch Dad. He's figuring it out, piecing it all together; he knows there's only one person in the world besides my family I would help. When he shuts his eyes and groans, I know he knows what was wrong that afternoon when he was at my door. "That's why he looked ready to be sick, you found out on Friday," he mutters.

"Yeah."

Kieron digs into Dad's arm with his elbow. "You saw him? You know him?"

"Al Potter."

One minute his in front of me, the next he's gone; on his feet and down the hall. I hear him shout for The Burrow and I panic, eyes wide. Dammit! That I was not expecting!

"Kieron's going to kill him," Uncle Draco predicts.

"Dad, we have to stop him!"

"I will." I raise an eye-brow when he doesn't move, finding it hard to believe him. "I didn't say now."

"Make it now!" He still doesn't move. I turn to Scor and try to pull him up. "You have to help me. Kieron cannot kill Al, I need him to be alive to suffer."

"Why should I?"

I don't even have to think about my answer. I've got everything planned for rainy days such as this. "VPBC can't wait to see you. Imagine one day she finds her way to you."

His eyes widen. "You wouldn't!" But he knows I would, I wouldn't even blink, so I just smirk. He gets up. "We have to stop Kieron," he calls out as he runs to the Floo Room.

I follow. "Not so fast, young lady." Young lady? Seriously? "We're going to talk about this."

I turn to my mother. "You're only here because I didn't want to have to tell you separately. Nothing more. We have nothing else to say and you can leave now."

I run to the Floo, thinking thank God I chose to wear sneakers, and get to the infamous Weasley home. I knock into Scorpius when I get there and Albus is on the floor.

I think we're a little late.



A/N: Brand new chapter, quicker update and I wonder what's happened to Albus... ;)

And Theo, not a happy father right about now. Next: the reaction of the Weasley family. :P

Sam.


Chapter 5: Albus: When Family Members Understand
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I've freaked out a lot recently. So much so that I'm pretty much all out, at least right at this minute. Some part of me wishes I was still freaking out, telling me that my body should not be unnaturally calm while I lean against the kitchen table in my grandparents house, watching my family, bar Louis, talk amongst each other around the house. I should still be freaking out, shouldn't I?

But the rest of me is very glad that I look calm; no one has noticed anything different, no one has any idea what I'm going to say once Louis gets here. They all think I'm just being my typical self; wishing I were somewhere else. Which, as insulting as it is, is also kinda true.

Yeah, so I can only take my family together in small doses. You would too if you were related to them.

...Not the point.

They have no idea just how much everything is going to change. In eight months there's going to be a baby at the table; my baby. And maybe Lexi, finally.

I haven't looked either of my parents in the eye since I came home yesterday. I just keep thinking if I do, they'll know. They can do that, just know things, or at least suspect things, after a look; they're scary like that. Shopping with my mother had been so awkward, I think back and cringe. Man, it took me ages to look at them properly after I lost my virginity just because my mum still considers me her baby. Not Lily, me. This is so much worse than that. Or bigger. I'm kind of undecided on it being the 'worst' thing to happen. It's definitely not a good thing, but for it to be the worst it would have to have been a mistake and I consider it more of an accident.

Why? Because I can't seem to stop thinking about that night and both my body and my mind refuse to acknowledge the mistake of sleeping with my best friend and the pregnancy happened because of that. We don't even like each other as more than friends... Do we?

No, we don't. We really don't. Neither one of us are particularly subtle with our words; if one of us liked the other we'd know by now.

I just wish I could stop thinking about it. Fuck, why couldn't Lexi have been lying when she said she was great in bed?

An odd thought enters my head: did she think the exact same thing about me?

I shake my head, I don't want to know that, run my hands down my face and check my watch. Where is Louis? I really want to get this over and done with. I wonder what Lexi's doing right now? Is she waiting? Has she told already? How did they take the news? Is her dad going to kill me? God, what's her brother going to do to me?

I force down whatever threatens to come back up. Kieron's temper is a force to be reckoned with. Add that to his fiercely protective nature for his sister and I am a dead man. James was right; they're going to put 'Albus Severus Potter - Idiot' on my tombstone. Simple, to the point and very, very true.

I should not have kissed her.

I don't regret kissing her.

I groan. It will say 'crazy idiot' on my stone because I am clearly quite mad, going on completely insane. Why does crazy me have to be so honest?

Where the fuck is Louis?

"Are you okay, son?"

I blink, unaware anyone had come over to me, and finally recognize that it's my dad standing next to me. "Yes," I say, but even I hear my voice waver ever so slightly. Just because I'm no longer freaking out, it doesn't make me okay. I am going to be a father after all. He frowns at me, gives me that look. You know the 'I'm a parent, I know when you're lying' look. So I just shake my head. "I need Louis to hurry up so I can talk to you all about something very important."

"And what it is is not okay?" he asks cautiously. He goes into 'protective father mode', not that he'll need it once he knows. It's Dad's reaction I want to know the most, so much so that waiting for it is partly what's scaring me. I can pretty much guess the reactions of others; Mum will scold me, remind me of my responsibility, then hug me and tell me we'll be fine; James will laugh, boast about how they were all watching the wrong son; Lily will be so excited about being an aunt that she won't care how it happened and start asking questions. I bet she'll ask us to name the baby Lily if it's a girl.

I'm getting ahead of myself. Way too much. "I don't know what it's going to be," I answer him as honestly as I can. "I hope it'll be okay."

Dad rubs my back, just below my neck. "Louis will be here soon, then you can get whatever it is off your chest. And I promise you now, whatever it is, it will be okay and we'll deal. Alright?"

I almost scoff. Sure, you say that now, I think. But I just nod to him. I hope what he says will actually be true once everyone knows. When the Floo connection opens up I don't look up, thinking it's just Louis. But then I remember that Louis never uses to Floo, he hates getting dirty and will always apparate into the garden. Always.

So when I do look up I want to be sick all over again and then run away because Kieron looks murderous. They know. "You," he points at me, practically growling. "Come here."

I laugh out of fear. "No, thank you."

He charges for me and I run around to stand behind my dad. Yes, I, Albus Potter, am hiding behind my father. He did practically save the world, after all. And I definitely don't regret that. I glance around Dad to see Dom holding Kieron back, trying to get him to look at my cousin.

"Kieron, what is it? What's wrong?"

That's when he realizes they don't know yet, that I haven't told them; the look in his eye says it all and he gives me a look that's half sinister and half smug before pointing at me again. "He knocked up my sister."

Everyone in my family share a look, and then, almost simultaneously, they turn to me.

I run like hell when Dom let's Kieron go.

***

My nose is painful and bleeding, the left side of my face feels swollen and I feel eyes on me, but not even they can force me to open my eyes or move in general.

"Open your eyes, Albus." Oh, no. Not him. He can get me to open my eyes. He nudges my leg. "Look at me, Albus."

"I'd rather not, honestly, I'm safe here," I whisper.

"Not when I'm skilled in Occlumemcy."

My eyes snap open, for me to see Theodore Nott's cool and collected features stare back at me. He keeps eye contact with me and it takes everything I've got to not look away. You wouldn't think there'd be anything to be afraid of when you first look at the man; he's well built but not overly so that it's scary, he's always smiling unless you bring her up and when he laughs it's infectious. But when you do something that gets to him, like piss him off, insult his family or, God forbid, say or do something that effects his kids, and it's like his eyes go cold and dark; it's intimidating, it's terrifying, and I refuse to look away from it to show it's the first time I'm afraid of him. Just a little. 

But I still wish he was nice Theo with the infectious laugh. Lexi inherited his laugh. Actually I see a lot of Lexi in her dad. Lexi. She's the only reason I look away; I want to find her, want to know if she's here. She is, standing by the fireplace between Kieron and her cousin, Scorpius Malfoy. When my eyes connect with her's Lexi gives me a small smile, reassuring me. Despite what she thinks, she's always reassuring me, been there for me. Maybe, despite enjoying that night a lot, I don't feel anything other than friendship for her, but our relationship is strong and genuine and, after all this, unbreakable; she's my best friend and I love her. I won't tell her, but I do. I smile back and I think that is how we tell each other.

I turn back to her dad to see he's also turned to Lexi then back to me, and he no longer looks cold, just weary. I can understand weary. I understand all of it; he's scared of how we'll handle it, he's scared I'll walk away. I know he is because I had those fears in the beginning. But I got rid of those thoughts straight away and it seems he has now, too.

"You've got yourself into a right mess, Al," he says softly. "Because of Catrine Zabini. That girl is scarier than her mother and just as devious as her brother. You're better than her, to get drunk because of her was completely stupid."

"I know." Of course he knew why, Lexi woud have told him at some point and I spend more time at their house than I do at my own; he knows more about Catrine than Mum does. And I knew all about the Zabini family; her brother Blaise was always talked about as the only 'lovable' playboy, when he was a playboy; apparently when he left them, they felt like they were telling a friend 'I'll see you later.' Her mother and her many husbands never left the society pages. But Blaise had mellowed over the years; he's finally asked his girlfriend to marry him and their son started first year when we started seventh; he's a good kid. She was trouble. I always knew, but it wasn't until after that night that I finally began to see it. Perhaps that's another reason I don't regret us sleeping together. "She's so far from my mind now that it's like I never thought about her to begin with. I only wish it had never started in the first place, but she was different, she didn't care who I was. I think I just held on to that. Look where that got me."

"Now you have a responsibility."

I look up to see my dad's stern, but not angry, face and nod. "You're not mad."

"I'm a little disappointed," he admits and now I wish he was mad. "I always thought it would be James coming to us for something like this. Or Louis. And I'm terrified just imagining myself as a grandparent." He frowns then, only for a second, but it put that thought in Theodore's head; he obviously didn't think about being a grandparent before. He kneels down to rest on the arm of the chair someone must have sat me on after what I assume was Kieron knocking me out. "But, among other things, Alexa told us that you found out on Friday and that your first thoughts were of telling us. You weren't planning on keeping this a secret, so no, I'm not mad."

"I'm mad."

"Quiet, Kieron," Theodore and Alexa say together.

That reminds me of Theodore's feelings. "I thought you'd be mad," I tell him.

"I was." Well, at least he's being honest. "But I've learnt to ask before I attack, which was why I stayed sat down when Kieron came to hurt you. What I wanted to say was kind of answered for me when you shared your look with Lexi; I know you'll be there. I can't ask for much more than that really. You're lucky I like and trust you." He pauses. "You're actually the only guy she's ever been with who I've ever liked."

"Hey!"

He turns to her. "Oh, like I didn't know!" I make sure my grin is gone by the time he turns back to me. "Don't think your off my hitlist, my daughter comes first. The only reason you're still breathing is because I like you and Lexi would secretly be sad if you ended up dead and because that baby will need its dad. But if you decide you can't handle it, if you leave, if you hurt her, I'll come for you."

I gulp and nod. "That will never happen."

"You never know that until it's happening," he states, like he knows from experience and maybe he does. "But right now I believe you."

"Thank you."

"Don't thank me yet; the reality of the situation, of me being a granddad, is finally hitting me and I'm not actually taking it very well." I feel pity for his pained, freaked out expression and I wonder if that's what I looked like yesterday. "Okay, Lexi's allowed to talk now."

Ah, so that's why she was so quiet. They have this thing were only one person is allowed to speak at a time in situations such as this; this was Theodore's turn, so obviously his kids remained quiet. My family really needs to learn that. Though I'm surprised they managed to keep quiet for this long. It's a family record.

"I don't really feel like talking, I need some air." I follow Alexa out into the gardens with my gaze, waiting until she's outside before I stand up. She said she needs some air, I want her to get some before I intrude.

"Can I talk?" James asks, looking smug.

"No," I call out, along with a few other people actually.

I find Alexa across the field were we play Quidditch, by the small pond. She's standing against a tree, just staring into space. "Are you okay, Lexi?"

She turns slowly to face me. Her eyes are red but I don't see any tears fall; she won't let them. "No." Her voice cracks. "We've told them, so what? I still have absolutely no idea what to do now."

I pull her to me, this time the thought of touching her doesn't bring back memories of graduation, but memories of other times we've come across a situation that required consoling. She feels better when you rub her back in slow, soothing circles, says it's relaxing. So I do and she calms down. "It'll be fine. We'll get through this and we'll make it work, you, me and the baby. We can do this." I stop, a thought suddenly coming to me. I have to ask. "I mean, you want the baby, right?"

This is what I mean by not being subtle; we just say what we think.

"The thought of adoption or anything else never crossed my mind," Alexa tells me sincerely. "Admittedly, I haven't thought of much, but even now I don't think I could do that. I only think about being a mother and that's what scares me; what if I'm terrible? I can't even look after my owl, you do."

"It'll take practice, but we have family and friends; we'll be great parents in our own little way," I assure her, but also myself. "You're my best friend; I'll be there all the way."

"You consider me your best friend?" she asks in genuine surprise.

"Yeah, am I not yours?"

I really hope I don't look or sound as disappointed as I feel. Alexa is quiet for a long time, or it seems like a long time, before she finally smiles and grips my shoulders. "Yeah, you are. We're best friends who are having a baby."

I nod and I hesitantly place my hand on her flat stomach - for now. Alexa stiffens, breaths and relaxes under my hand. The freaking out has stopped, the fear has started to wear off a little and I swear the quickening of my heartbeat and the smile on my face is something close to being happy. Should that even be allowed? I move closer. "We're having a baby. It's real and it's happening."

"I know. I'll need your protection from your fans," she jokes. Of course she's joking; I need her to protect me. I tell her so and she laughs that bloody infectious laugh. "Probably true."

I hug her again, this time for me, and she knows this because she let's me. "We're gonna be okay."

I look up and from the corner of my eye see our dads' watching us, probably making sure we are okay. "I know."

We spend quite some time outside, not really saying anything, until she gets bored and demands we go back in. The moment we enter through the back, Louis enters through the front, causing everyone to fall into silence.

"Sorry I'm late, I was... Held... Up." He notices everyone's quiet. "What did I miss?" he asks slowly. Louis scans the room, I watch him meet the eyes of every person until he lands on Alexa and I. Something must have given us away because he smirks. I look down; my arm is wrapped around Lexi's waist with my hand on her stomach.  "Well, at least I know to remember protection. So when's the kid due?"

I want to kill him.



A/N: It's too bad this was Al's POV and he was knocked out, so we don't get to see Theo when he was mad. I might have to do something about that... ;)

Thank Ramita/deceptive_serenade for not wanting me to forget to post this today. Reviews are much appreciated. :)

Sam.


Chapter 6: Alexa: When Great Minds Think Alike
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There's something about this place that I'm not sure about. I just don't know what; it's not right. I look up at an angle, my hands at my hips while I twirl slowly in a circle and take in the apartment once more. I stop at the kitchen and see my dad and Harry Potter speaking in hushed tones; they're discussing our future and I've given up trying to ask them if it was actually a conversation Al and I should be having. That's right; I didn't fail in telling them it was something I should talk about, I failed in asking if it was. How pathetic have I gotten? It's the hormones, I swear. Yesterday, just the thought of them saying no to me had me tearing up a little. It was horrible.

I move my gaze to the door, to the estate agent showing the apartments to us today. She's reading through papers in her binder, when she flicks the papers up it looks like more apartments for us to see. She's nice, the estate agent, she's very understanding of our situation and gives some advice on baby safety that she found helpful, which I promised to keep in mind for later. I just want her to stop flirting with my dad; it's kinda scary and really I wish she wouldn't. She's not bad looking or anything, she's actually very beautiful. Her hair is brown, but the graying roots at the top makes me think it's definitely dyed. She still wears a thin layer of make-up which makes her look younger than I'd assume she is, given when she was told I was pregnant told us she had three grown-up children herself. She really takes care of her appearance without going overboard. But I don't want to tell my kid that their step-nana gave me and their daddy our first homes. Freaky, right? Although, I know that will never happen really and it's fun to watch my dad squirm. That's what he gets for letting Kieron leave, which ending with him knocking Albus out. Payback's a hormonal, pregnant bitch and her name is Alexa Jaimie Nott. Bring it.

And if anyone tells James Potter that my middle name is Jaimie, they will die. Not many people know my middle name, especially not James. I don't hate it, I just don't really mention it, but he has a habit of calling me a different name every time he sees me. I hate to think what he'd call me if he found out.

I finally turn to the window, or at Albus who is looking out of the window, and sigh loudly enough for him to look at me instead, my arms now folded over my chest. He acknowledges me, but so do the others; I can tell they've all looked up, I can see their reflections in the window. Once they realize I'm only looking at Al, they all go back to what they're doing and Al makes his way to me. "So, what do you think?" he asks me.

"In a minute. First, why are they here again?" I jerk my head to the lurkers in the kitchen.

"Lex, the money we made from our Summer jobs between school will help pay the rent. The money we make from what jobs we get now will help us continue to pay that rent. Alone, neither of us can afford to buy apartments," Al tells me slowly, like I'm a child. Or he's trying not to set me off again. Again, meaning he's trying, not that my hormones have been going crazy. They haven't, it was just that one time when I thought they'd say no to me. And he may have been there when it happened.

I shake my head quickly, pretending to snap out of a daydream. "Yeah, they're paying. Why are they here now?"

"Because we're paying." I look up to see them stare at us like we're missing the point. Harry continues. "We're entitled to look at the places we're buying."

I point at Harry. "Now you make sense." I point at Albus. "You should have said that." I point at the estate agent. "There's something about this place that I don't like, so we need to keep looking. It's just -" I finally face Al again, considering he's really the one looking at this apartment, so it's him I should ask. "Do you see yourself and the kid in this place?"

"I think you should talk about how you're going to split parenting responsibility to look after the kid before you ask that question."

My dad is just not helpful. Shut up, Dad.

Albus puts an arm around my shoulders and leads me closer to one of the bedrooms. "That's actually what I wanted to talk to you about," he murmurs for only us to hear. I frown; it is? "Remember the other day I said I wanted to ask you something and that I'd ask when we were alone?"

Oh, yeah. I remember. "Yes."

"Well, given the last three days we've been looking at apartments, I think this is about as alone as we're going to get and I need to say it now."

"Okay." Al nods repeatedly at me, but says nothing. "That was your cue to speak."

"Right," he pulls himself from his thoughts. "It's just a little harder than I thought it would be. Okay, so I've been thinking about the whole 'splitting responsibility' thing and I was talking to Teddy while I was thinking and he was telling me about things that are special for first time parents, during the pregnancy and after."

I pull a face; throwing up and getting bigger are special? I don't believe that. And, yes, I may have done a little pregnancy research of my own. "Like what?"

"Like feeling the baby kick for the first time, for example," Al answers and he sounds kind of excited about the thought of touching my stomach. I bet he hasn't fully acknowledged that bit. "He also talked about when the baby crawls for the first time, their first steps and their first word. Anyway, I don't want to miss that. I said I'd be here for the pregnancy all the way and, after talking to Ted, I really want to be there after, too. So, I was thinking we could be... Roommates."

My mouth drops open. Really? Did he basically just ask what I think he just asked? "It can be until the baby is maybe a year old or so, we can talk about what happens next then."

I think he's continuing to explain his idea, but I swear all I hear is him asking me to live with him, to share the responsibility together and not be alone. Oh, right, he is still talking.

"Teddy told me about the responsibility; the getting up late for feeding and changing and all that. We have family, but we can't call them for help all the time and I think it'll be better if we're together for this and not alone. If we're in this together we should be together, literally I mean, living together. Not in the relationship sense, that would be weird."

"Yes." It just slips out before he can say anymore. I don't want him to say any more anyway; my answer would still be the same. Not alone. Imagining it is like heaven. "We can be roommates. We were in the same house at Hogwarts and you practically lived at my house. It'll be like that, only we'll live on take out because neither of us can cook and we don't have anyone to do that for us."

"Exactly." Al grins. He's like a kid at Christmas. Teddy must have really focused on the special moments. I don't care, I love Teddy right now. Not alone.

Although it would have been nice if I'd been there to hear it myself. It was weird and awkward being at the Burrow on Sunday; Louis more or less said exactly what I thought; I expected Lily to be excited; James was just as predictable. And Scorpius spent the day talking to Lily about her excitement. But his other cousins only gave us an extremely awkward congratulations like they really didn't know what else to say to us. His aunts and uncles were just as bad, and I thought they'd have at least said something to us considering they'd had kids, but only his Aunt Hermione talked of 'responsibility' and it wasn't much after our dads had spoken. Nicky spoke about it with us; he asked if we'd thought about the future without asking too much that that became uncomfortable, too. Then he reminded me that I knew his address and number and that all I had to do was call. I do like his mother, Ginny; she shouted at him, then she hugged him. Then she hugged me and told me I was welcome any time, to talk to her if I needed anything and said she'd make an appointment to see a healer for confirmation and all that. That appointment is on Monday.

I can tell I'm gonna get on so well with Albus' family.

Anyway... I agree with Al. "Exactly. We should tell them." I glance at the people still in the kitchen. "Yay, okay."

Oh, no. Did I just say 'yay'? "Why are you two 'yay-ing' and 'okay-ing'?"

Damn, too loud. They heard me. The shame. But I'm just too excited to care. Finally, something good is happening to me. Something is taking the fear away just that little bit more. We walk back to them, the estate agent now giving us her full attention again, and I run my hands through my hair. "Well, we've decided to share the responsibility together and be roommates," I start.

"So, we're gonna need a slightly bigger place," Al finishes.

"Bigger space?" Dad splutters. Wait for it. "More money?" There it is. He goes a fairly dark shade of red, choking out random noises and words I don't understand. If he doesn't calm down in another minute, I'll start fearing for his health. Finally he shouts out, "I'm not getting you a house!"

I laugh, so tempted to see how far I can get with the idea of getting a house. But I decide against it; I love my dad too much to do that to him. "We're not talking about a house. The baby doesn't have to have his own nursery, it can still be two bedrooms and the crib can go in my room. The rooms will just have to be a little bigger, to fit a double bed and a crib and all our things, because you know I'd roll and fall out of a single bed. A lot. And," I stretch out my arms, almost hitting Al in the face, "space to roam. Besides, we've agreed it's officially only for the first year or so. We'll talk about living arrangements again after that. Though I'm actually starting to think we're stuck together."

Dad points an accusing finger at me. "Are you excited by the thought of not being alone or because you'd get to spend more of my money?"

I'm completely honest with my answer. "Both, Dad. Always both."

"Actually," Al butts in, "because you'd be combining the money to buy the same apartment rather than buying us each one separately, you may actually be spending less all around." He turns to me. "With all the money, we might be able to afford a house."

I jump up and down once, clapping my hands. I'm acting like a Bubblehead Clan member, but, again, I really don't care. I knew I made Albus Potter my best friend for a reason, Slytherin that we are.

Dad glares. "No. I prefer the idea of spending less money. Not the same, not more. Less. What do you think about them living together for the baby, Harry?"

"I think they've practically been living together since they were eleven, at school, yes, but also at yours and they know exactly what each other is like. Plus," Harry points at me, "Alexa can't drink and their predicament is about as big as it can get, so they'll be fine."

"Hey," I say, a little insulted. "What about your son?"

"If, heaven forbid, anything happened, you'd be sober to think clearly and stop him. Or slap him." Yeah, I would do that. I nod. "Best friends sharing an apartment? Okay. I'm actually wondering why this didn't come up sooner. Might have saved time."

"Awesome."

I face the estate agent for the first time and watch her look really busy with papers and her phone. I'm glad we decided to live in a Muggle area of London. Besides my love of their electronics, communication is so quick. When she notices we're all watching her, she says, "I heard your every word and I'm on it."

It's the second time today I've said 'yay'.

Pregnancy can really mess a girl up.

***

The estate agent leads us into the new, bare apartment and stands in the middle with a wide smile. She throws the occasional glance at Dad behind us, but mainly keeps her focus on us. They may be paying for it, but we get to pick it. It's like they can look but not touch any of the chocolate in the factory while Al and I get free reign. It's so much fun. "So, this one has a spacious open-plan living and kitchen area, two large bedrooms, a brand new bathroom with an utility closet next door and a balcony with a view of the city."

I swear, the moment she says 'balcony' Albus' head whips to the side faster than lightening and his eye twitches. So, not this one. But when she says to look around, we do anyway. We check each room together, not speaking until we're back in the living room. We decided from the start we would save our opinions for the end. "So?" he asks me first.

Well, we both already know his answer, so I might as well. "I like the space out here, it's good, and the overall size of the bedrooms is great, definitely big enough for a double bed and a crib. But I don't like the wardrobes; I need space for both me and the baby and that looked too small. I thought about putting half of the baby's things in mine and half in yours, but that seems like a hassle we don't need. Al?"

"I'm not comfortable with the idea of a balcony and a baby in the same house. I'm already a paranoid over-thinker, how do you think we knew about this so fast? I don't need more nightmares."

I knew it. And, apparently, so did Dad and Harry. "Next," is all Harry says.

***

The next apartment is slightly smaller, I can tell. And also very empty. She does the same; brings us in, stands in the middle and gives us a description of the apartment. "It's on a lower floor this time. Here are double doors, but it's just a metal gate, no balcony, and the gaps between the bars are thin; wide enough for an arm to go through, but nothing more." She opens the doors to demonstrate. "The living and kitchen areas are slightly smaller, but still have enough room. The bedrooms themselves are also smaller." I frown. "They're still big enough for a double bed and a crib. And a smaller space makes for a larger wardrobe."

I feel better now. When she finishes the description and says to look around, I go straight to the bedroom. I can easily imagine a nice double bed and a crib by the wall, I just can't imagine it being my double bed and my kid's crib. Something about this place just doesn't feel right to me, either. I don't want to see anymore, I just go back to the living room and find Al already there. "Well?"

"I don't know," he mutters. "I just don't see it."

"Me neither." I'm confused because it's a nice place and less than our combined budget. Then the ceiling starts to shake a little, dust falls, making me cough and sneeze, and people above are yelling. "Thin walls," I wheeze.

"Next," is all Dad says.

***

The next three places are all busts, too, and I'm so tired, I just want to sleep. By four pm I'm all but ready to give up and try again another day while I wait for Al and Harry to leave the apartment. "We've got one more stop for today, then we'll try again another day."

It's like the estate agent read my mind. Thank you.

"We'll go, then try again?" Al asks curiously. "Do you automatically think we won't like it?"

That is actually a good question.

"Honestly, I think you will like it. I just don't think you'll get it in the end. But I want you to see anyway, just in case."

"Lead the way," I say just before I yawn.

We get into the old Weasley car, which Harry drives while both Al and I slouch to hide from the view of the windows in fear of being seen in it, and follow the estate agent in her's. Seriously, this car should not driven anymore. The drive isn't that far, but it's nothing like what we've been looking at all day. They're estates, as in houses. She stops outside of our apparent destination and I get out as soon as I'm able. "I have a bad feeling about this," Dad mumbles.

"No wonder she doesn't think we'll get it in the end," I tell Al, rolling my eyes. "She did hear the conversation."

"She's effectively ruined getting that date," he laughs quietly.

We continue to laugh behind their backs, practically snickering. This is fun, we haven't been bitchy in a while, not since graduation when we made passing comments about Rich Waterman for thinking he could use me to 'clear the way' for Bubblehead Clan president to get to Al. It was not cool.

I can't help but enjoy this moment. If my smile is anything to go by, I'm really enjoying this moment. It feels normal, we're back to normal. I rub my hand across my stomach as we enter the house. Well, more or less normal. She leads us all into the living room and already the dads are not very happy.

But we are.

"So, this is the living area," Al says, more to me than the woman.

I nod. I walk past Dad and Harry, to the wall by the door. "I see the couch here."

"Yeah, and the television could go in the corner," he points to the space by the window, "or the wall right across from the couch. I like it."

The woman asks if we're ready to see more and leads us out and across the hall. "The dining area, a nice size; big enough for family dinners and parties." I can see us having dinner with family in here; Kieron and Nicky, our parents. She leads us away. "A smaller dining area, for breakfast and lunch maybe, and it's open-plan with the kitchen. The kitchen's been newly refurbished; the door opens to the garden."

She opens the back door and shows us the garden. It's a fairly large garden, nicely kept, the edges filled with flowers with a swing set at the end. "The previous occupants left the swing because their children are a little older. They say if the new owners have children they can keep it or throw it away. Shall we see the upstairs?"

"Please," I reply. "I love this house," I whisper to Albus on our way up the stairs. "I want it, I want it, I want it."

"On the slim chance our parents actually buy it for us, will you make me move out afterwards?"

I link our arms together at the top. "I don't know. I'll probably trade in for a bigger one later."

He only shakes his head and laughs. If we actually do go through with the roommate idea, which seems very likely right now, I have no idea what will happen by the end of it. Personally, I think that, unless we meet someone else, we really could stay roommates for longer than the year, even if we weren't havng a baby. And since I don't think any guy my age will want to date a single mum, I think I'll stick with the idea of staying roommates for a while, despite what we said. Albus may still meet someone, being who he is and all, and if that happens don't you think I deserve to have wherever we stay, even if it isn't the house? I hate the esate agent now, by the way, because I love this house.

"So this is the master bedroom," she says, "complete with en-suite." She points to the small door, by the door we came in, the closet next to it. I walk around the bare room, imaging sleeping in here. And I can, it reminds me of my room at home with the white walls and the bathroom by the door.

"This would definitely be my room," I announce, nodding. "Definitely."

"Since we're speaking hypothetically," Al says. So he saw the look and my dad's face, too. "Why would this be your room?" I give him a look, just one, reminding him of how this all started. I made him take sixty percent of the blame (I was being nice), so I overrule him. "Fine."

I smirk as we walk out and she shows us the next biggest room, what could be Al's room. It's on the left of what could be my room, the bathroom in-between. I see it was a boy's room already, the paint is a deep blue. Which, coincidently, is Al's favorite color. It's only a little smaller than mine, which I know he likes, and doesn't have a bathroom, which he doesn't mind. Why does this house have to keep getting better?

Finally, she leads us to the room that was on the right of my bedroom. I think I feel a few tears when I walk in. Stupid hormones. The walls are a faded white color, which can be painted over, and the borders are of teddy bears playing drums. I don't normally do cute, it's not me. But this wouldn't be for me, it'd be for the kid, so as its mum I'm allowed to think it's cute, right? "This could be the baby's room."

I think what scares me the most isn't that I can see this room as the baby's room, but I see it as my baby's room. There's no more 'the', it's all 'my'. I see me in the room with my baby. I thought the knowledge of being pregnant had finally sunk in, but no. Not until now. Breathe, Alexa. Just breathe.

"Hey, are you okay?" Al is in front of me, his hands on my shoulders. I nod, shaky. Why am I shaky? "It's good to breathe, Lex."

"This is really real," I whisper, not in shock like I felt before when he asked me how I was. I sound empty, like I'm stating a fact. I'm back in Hogwarts, giving an answer a teacher has picked me out to give. I give the answer willingly, but it doesn't mean anything to me. This doesn't mean anything because I already knew it, it just didn't seem to completely sink in until now. Until this room.

"Yeah, it is, but remember what we said on Sunday," he says.

"We're okay," I recite. I change the subject. "I really like this room."

"You saw it, too," Albus replies, nodding. I'd say I gave something away, but he just knows me that well. Sometimes, we're great minds; we think alike. And we both think that this room is our kid's. Which means...

"Dad," I drawl, turning around. I've got my head cocked to the right and my winning smile clear for them both to see.

"No. I'm not buying you a house," he exclaims. "No way. An apartment, maybe. But you're not ready for your own house." Phase two: I stick out my lower lip, my hands joined together and tucked under my chin. I want to say it's like when I was a kid, but, just like now, I still use it. It's a rule you follow when you want something and I really want this house. "Not the look."

He starts to crack. I sense defeat. Ha, I'm winning. My dad can go after every criminal Harry gives him with no problem. But he can't get past me. I'm his daughter; I learnt from the best. "We've got the combined budget of what was going to be two apartments, we've got our Summer job salaries sitting in our accounts, as well as all the money we've ever chosen to save growing up, and we're not exactly short of money. We can afford this house, in this nice little neiborhood where I can see kids riding bikes in the street from out the window and people waving to eachother as they walk past. Dad, it's so nice part of me is wondering why I'm saying this and wanting to leave. So why aren't I?"

"Because you're a parent," Harry speaks almost as a whisper. "You're not thinking about yourself. It took you seeing this room to realise it, but the thoughts were always there."

I agree with him completely. I knew he'd see that, they both would. They're parents. "It's not about the money," Dad admits. "You're eighteen years old; I don't think you're ready for a house."

"It's an apartment with stairs," Al shrugs. I elbow him. "What? I'm just trying to see the difference between sharing a flat and sharing a house."

"Adults have houses, families."

Albus' eyes narrow. I can't remember the last time he looked ready to hurt someone and it's never been directed at my father before. "Families can live in an apartment, too. And we are adults, especially in the eyes of the law. Just because we're not together, doesn't mean this kid won't be part of a family." He turns to the estate agent. "We love the house."

She waits for conformation from both our dads before she does anything. Dad could easily say no and walk away; he is the one with the money after all. But he doesn't. When Harry eventually nods, he looks back at us. "Call yourself an adult all you want, but until you're actually working and have a steady income this house is mine. Since I assume it'll be Lexi who keeps it." He glance around the room and I know why he thinks that. "Everything about this house comes through me. You need anything, you come to me. That is the deal, the only one I'm prepared to give."

"Deal."

I grin, agreeing with Al, and walk to my dad, practically squeezing him. He kisses the top of my head and hugs back. "Deal."

We let each other go and he walks over to the door. "Now it seems I have papers to sign. After you, Jenna."

Oh, so that's her name. I really should have payed more attention. Harry laughs at us before shaking his head and leaving the room to follow my dad. Which leaves just me and Albus in the baby's nursery. One shared grin and we slap our hands together.

We have a house.  



A/N: Wow. My longest chapter ever. Not just for this story, but ever. It just didn't want to end. :P I thought about splitting it, but I couldn't find a decent place and I like it as it is and I didn't want you to have to wait, so it's all here. :)

Hope you enjoy.

Sam.


Chapter 7: Albus: When it Begins
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I don't like hospitals, I've never liked hospitals, and now I know I will never like hospitals. It used to be that the thought of all that blood, all those sick and hurt people, would make my skin crawl, I felt ill and I really just wanted to get out of there. But now I just get an uncomfortable feeling. Right now I'd take the uncomfortable feeling because at least that is better than boredom.

Mum made the appointment to confirm the pregnancy, make sure everything was okay and all that, with a healer she knew and liked. She'd started healer training not long before I was born and was Vic and Teddy's healer for Dora. If that's the case, she has to be the best. So I trust Mum's judgement and Vic's agreement, I just hate waiting. There's a problem of some sort, I wasn't really listening. I might have zoned out after hearing the words 'it'll be a while'. I didn't like those words.

So now I'm waiting, reading some stupid magazine because I thought it best to not touch the pregnancy leaflets just yet, and I'm all alone. Lexi left me in some waiting room in a fancy looking ward that, compared to the rest of St. Mungo's, is very new and is obviously for pregnancy and everything to do with kids because I vaguely remember Mum saying we were only here for Lily's birth (it wasn't here when James and I were born, that's how 'new' it is), but I don't remember ever actually being here. Why would I? I was two when she graced us with our presence and I had to share a room with James. Sisters; gotta love them.

How long does it take to go to the bathroom? I lift off the chair, about to ask someone to check on Lexi, check on her myself if I have to, when she comes back into the waiting room and makes her way to me. Thank God, I did not like the idea of checking on her myself. Lexi sighs loudly as she practically falls into her seat and I pick up the magazine again. "You alright?"

"Yes."

"You took quite a while. Did you have to, you know?" I gesture with my hand.

She laughs at me. She actually laughs at me. I should not be surprised by this. "No, Al, I did not have to throw up." I go back to the stupid magazine and ignore her. I'm not actually sure what I'm reading anymore, when you're as bored as I am it all just blurs into one. "How bored are you?"

"How can you tell I'm bored at all?" I ask slowly, although I can tell just by listening to what I just said and hearing my own voice. My voice sounds extremely dull. I hate it, it depresses me. It because of this place. I hate my dull voice and I hate this place... Yeah...

I'm done.

"You're reading the Agony Aunt section of Witch Weekly."

I turn to face her and her raised eye-brow, her eyes are on the magazine, then I actually focus on it. "Oh, yeah," I chuckle. "This used to be good. Mum said they talked about real problems, it was a way to get help with issues after the war while staying anonymous. Witch Weekly did it because the Prophet still needed some work." I stop. "I don't know why that is interesting."

"We need to get you out of here." Lexi crosses her fingers and squeezes her eyes shut. "Please hurry up and call us in so we can leave. Please."

She repeats it a couple of times and then one of the doors open, a young medi-witch popping her head out. "Alexa Nott?"

Lexi's eyes snap open as soon as she hears her name, drops her hands and turns to me. "Well, that almost never works. Come on," she says, grabbing my hand.

And the uncomfortable feeling is back.

I drop the magazine and follow, and not just because she's making me. The medi-witch points to the bed and asks Lexi to get comfortable. She lets go of my hand now that I'm in the room, so I'm left to stand by her side with my arms folded over my chest, looking and feeling like an idiot who doesn't know what he's doing. Only, instead of just looking like it, I really don't know what I'm doing. "There's a chair in the corner if you'd like to sit down, sir."

Sir? Did she just call me sir? "I'm good, thanks," I force a smile. I can't be old enough to be a 'sir' yet. She's freaking older than me!

She doesn't notice. "Healer Moore will be here soon."

As soon as she leaves and I wait long enough to guess she's not near the door, I turn to Alexa. "Sir?" Alexa rubs her ear. Dramatic gesture or not, I don't care if it came out louder than intended. "Show some compassion, I'm traumatized here."

"You're traumatized? Get a little perspective, I have to push out a human being." I can't help but shrug and nod and agree with her. Let's face it, I'd rather be called 'sir'. That sounds painful. And I know painful; I've had a quaffle thrown at certain areas. Again, you gotta love sisters. Please, let this baby be a boy. Lexi shuffles on the bed, pulls up the pillows so she can lean back but while sitting up still. "This is so comfy. You alright, standing?"

"Stop smirking." Time to get that chair, I think.

The door opens then and a woman I assume is Healer Moore comes in, smiling widely at us. It's warm, a little reassuring actually. The uncomfortable feeling lessens somewhat. She pushes back a bit of hair behind her ear and holds out her hand. "Alexa Nott."

"Hello."

She does the same for me. "And Albus Potter. Your mum talks about you a lot. It's nice to meet you both. I'm Healer Moore, but after months of seeing me, patients usually end up calling me Annie."

"It's nice to meet you, Healer Moore," I say, letting go of her hand.

She turns to Lexi. "So, how are you feeling?"

"Tired, emotional. A little nauseous actually." They both stare at me like I've grown another head. I laugh awkwardly. "But you were obviously talking to Alexa. I'm gonna get that chair." I grab it and bring it to the bed, so my arms can rest on top. Man, that does feel comfy. "I'm good now."

"I'm good, too. Unless counting the shock, then there's some still there. But I've spent this week processing it."

Yeah, she willingly came and spent time at my house, talking to my family outside of school and everything. She did tell me her mum and maternal grandparents had been looking for her at home and that Daphne Greengrass would never come to my house, but I choose ignore the ulterior motive. She didn't come to my grandparents house on the Sunday, though. That's next on my list.

"I'm glad to hear that," Moore smiles again. "Any symptoms at all? A little emotional? Morning sickness?" Moore glances at me while she asks Lexi this. What? Dads can feel those things, too. Maybe it's not due to whatever happens to the body in pregnancy, but it's definitely because of pregnancy in general.

"I've seen a slight change in emotions, I'll admit," she says. I hold back my scoff. Slight? I've seen her almost cry more times since this happened than the whole time I've known her. And I really mean almost cried; she never actually does.

"You're still in the early stages, but I wouldn't be surprised if the morning sickness started soon. Although, there are some women it doesn't happen to."

Alexa crosses her fingers. "To me being one of those women."

Healer Moore laughs in reply, but we both know Alexa is definitely not joking. She hates being ill. Having a cold or something she's fine with, she gets to lie in bed or on the couch and watch movies with ice cream and chocolate, but being physically sick is a big no; she can't eat the ice cream or chocolate. I'm not sure how she'll take morning sickness... And I'll have to live with it!

I didn't think of that. When I came up with the idea of being roommates, one of the first things that came to my head was how it would have happened whether she was pregnant or not. I always knew she'd help me find a place to live, love it and end up moving in. She was right in the house; we're stuck together. And it's not a bad thing. We're good together, we work. So, I'll just have to handle morning sickness, won't I?. If I have to. I cross my fingers for her, too.

"I'm going to perform the ultrasound now." Healer Moore pulls forward the machine, a box with a blank screen on a stand with wheels, and takes off what looks like a mouse on a computer. It's wired to the machine. "This device," she waves the mousy looking thing, "will act as a Muggle video camera, taking a image from inside your stomach."

"How does it do that?" I find myself saying. It's like I only imagined saying it, until Healer Moore smirks at me.

"Magic. The image will project onto the screen beside me. This will let us see the baby. I warn you now, it's a little cold." She places the device, as she called it, onto Lexi's stomach as soon as her top is lifted up. I barely notice Lexi shiver, my eyes are glued to the screen. This is it. This is why we're here, going to appointments and sharing a house with a nursery and a swing in the garden.

And I am shitting myself.

There's silence for a few minutes and then Healer Moore points at a small speck to the right, no bigger than a peanut. "There is your baby. Congratulations."

Right. Yeah. Okay.

"That's it?" I hear Lexi ask. "That little thing?"

"That's it."

I don't even bother trying to speak, to acknowledge what they're saying. They sound so far away, I could be imagining it all anyway. I still can't take my eyes off the screen, this time because of what I can see, not what I was waiting to see. I helped to make that little speck on the right.

Whoa.

I feel as though I'm frozen, like I'll never move again, until a hand curls over my own and squeezes. The trance breaks and I look down, then to Lexi. She's smiling at me; half amused by me, half sincere.

"I'll give you both a minute," Healer Moore says quietly, standing up.

"Thank you," I murmur just as she gets to the door. She nods in acknowledgement and leaves the room. I go back to face the screen, getting up. It's not so easy moving around the bed while also holding onto someone's hand, involves a bit of stretching, but I manage it and I sit by Lexi's side, on the bed, with our hands still joined and now resting on her stomach. I'm glad Healer Moore had taken the picture and removed the mousy looking device before leaving; it would have been awful to lose the picture if our hands had knocked the device. I pull the screen closer. "I can't believe that's our baby."

"I know. I can't believe I made that with you."

"I'm gonna pretend not to be hurt by that."

"You know what I mean." Lexi pushes me to the side playfully with her free hand and when I turn to face her, she's rolling her eyes. "I never thought I'd ever sleep with my best friend and end up having a baby."

"I know."

Lexi let's go of my hand, sits up properly to swing her legs off the bed and sit by my side. "Do you think we'll be able to get a picture?"

"I don't see why not," I shrug. "My mum went to a Muggle hospital for her scans of me and James, she wanted to show everyone apparently, but this ward was built by the time Lily was born and Mum said she came here. So, she must have got Lily's here because she has one."

"Yeah, you can thank Aunt Astoria for that," she laughs quietly. I frown. "She petitioned to the Ministy and hospital staff for this ward to makes things easier for mums. She said if Muggles can have a clean and safe hospital environment with the necessary medicines and equipment for pregnancy, then so can we. People agreed with her and she had Uncle Draco donate money and help fund the ward."

"That was nice of her. But why did she do it?"

Then she really laughs and it's that really loud, infectious laugh that she gets from her dad. I can't help but join her. "Because Scorpius was a nightmare." Once we settle down, she pokes me in the arm. "Apparently so were you. She met your mother a few times in the beginning, Ginny became a big supporter."

"Good to know."

"You wanna know what else is good for you to know?" I nod. "Labor sounds painful enough. If this baby is anything like you were, I'll hurt you. I'll make you feel all the pain I'd have felt."

"You'll have to catch me first."

The door opens before Lexi has a chance to say anything and I am safe for a little while longer. Healer Moore hands me a card. "It's your appointment for your three month scan. If you have any problems getting to the appointment, let me know and we'll rearrange. And this is a prescription to help with your first trimester." Then she turns to the machine, she presses a button on the side and the picture comes out. It's like one of those cameras that develops the picture and has it come out the other end after it's taken. Hugo's grandfather got him one once for Christmas. She hands both the prescription and the scan to Lexi. "I'll see you in a few weeks."

We thank her and she follows us out. "If you have any problems feel free to call."

"We will," Lexi says sincerely as we shake her hand again.

"Al!" I turn to the voice shouting my name. Oh, my God. Someone gave Louis a fat lip and the side of his head is black and blue. Are they stitches? "Hey. A healer said you were here, I thought I'd say hi. I can follow you out."

"What the hell happened to you?"

"Were you finally caught by some poor girl's boyfriend?" Alexa snickers. I nudge her with my elbow. It's an excellent point, but now is not the time.

Louis glares. "She'd hardly be a 'poor girl' if she'd slept with me in the first place. They tell me they're single, I'll have you know. And no, it's work related. The crazy bastard hit me with some curse, knocked me backwards and into a wall. The potion should be about ready to kick in and heal my face. The stitches are to close my head wound until it kicks in."

He's right, already I've noticed the bruises are lighter in color. But as soon as he opens his mouth again I'm tempted to completely rearrange his face myself. This cannot be happening. He grins at Healer Moore and holds out his hand. "Hi. You must be the amazing healer my aunt says is looking after my cousin's accident."

He has such a way with words. She looks at him skeptically, but takes it. "Healer Moore. You're an Auror?"

"No, Hit Wizard," he corrects. "I work with Alexa's dad."

"He's in training and works for my dad."

Louis shushes her. "Do you have a first name, Healer Moore?"

"Annabel, but everyone calls me Annie."

"Pretty name. And you work on the pregnancy ward. Do you have kids?"

Oh, God. I know where this is going. Why aren't I stopping it?

Healer Moore folds her arms over her chest and looks him up and down. Something tells me she knows where it's going, too. Okay, this is why I'm now not going to stop it. This could be fun to watch. "I have two; a six year old daughter and a two year old son."

"You and your husband must be proud," he answers, but he's got that smug smile going. He's seen the lack of a ring.

"I'm recently divorced actually."

Her smirk is bigger. I turn to Lexi, whisper if she has any idea what Healer Moore is planning. She does not. Damn. "I'm sorry." He's not. "That must be hard for the kids. I wouldn't be surprised if you were to keep any guy you were seeing away from the them for as long as possible."

"You have no idea."

"He really does," I mutter.

He gives me a dead arm, the dick. "So, anyway," he turns back to her, "Annie, recently divorced, two kids, perfectly happy to keep the guy away. I'm Louis Weasley, it's lovely to meet you."

"Hello, Louis. I distinctly remember hearing your name over and over when you never called my medi-witch back." She pointed to the young woman behind us. It's the medi-witch who called us in and called me 'sir'. Oh no.

"Uh oh, Sophie."

"It's good to know you remember her name," Healer Moore says cooly. She looks both professional and scary.

Louis laughs awkwardly and steps back. "Well played, Ms. Moore. I have to go before she sees me."

"I've never seen him run so fast," I chuckle. "You're awesome and he deserves it."

"I'll see you both in a few weeks and if you could keep your cousin away, that would be great. I just don't want Sophie seeing him and crying again. It's not fair on her and some of the patients don't really like it."

I nod. "I'll do my best. But I wouldn't worry about Louis coming back anyway, he's really uncomfortable around kids. Vic won't even let him hold Dora in case he drops her. So all's good." I take Lexi's hand. "Coming?"

"Yeah. I love her," she whispers to me as we walk away. "No one ever has the guts to talk to Louis like that."

"Except you," I add.

"I thought I'd be alone forever," she jokes. At least I think she's joking. "Oh no. He waited for us." I let her go in front of me, which means she let's go of my hand, and she stops in front of Louis. "Why are you still here?"

"I'm putting off going back to work." He shivers. "Paperwork, ugh. I don't want to do it."

Lexi walks past him and into the elevator. We follow and I end up in the middle. I glance at both of them; it's probably a good thing.

"Your healer is good, no one has ever said something like that to me before."

"She said stay away from the ward, she doesn't want Sophie seeing you and crying."

"Fair enough." I admit, I'm surprised. I share a look with Lexi and even she is. We expected something... Different from Louis. "It's not like I'll never see her. She has to leave here sometime."

Oh, there he is. I was actually afraid I'd lost my cousin for a minute.

I shake my head, stopping Lexi from whatever it is she was about to say, and we step out of the elevator. "I have to go to work."

"You can't tell Theo you're dying. Your head is looking better already."

"Damn. See ya."

As soon as we're outside of what we know is the hospital, although all we can see now is an abandoned building, I give a quick wave and watch Louis apparate before we leave the side alley and enter the busy streets of London. "You leave me alone with that every Sunday."

"For that reason," Lexi scoffs. "You could always have dinner with me and Dad. He does cook, you know."

"I can't, I eat with you on Fridays to get out of eating Dad's idea of food. I can't have two days in one week. I need 'family time'."

"Think of it this way; your whole family can't meet up for dinner every Sunday and they are usually the one's who have jobs and other commitments. Soon you are going to be one of those family members, what with your job and your kid." Lexi smirks at me. "Why can't you handle your family again?"

"They're big and scary and do crazy things."

"Like knock up their best friends?"

"No," I glare. "But Dom did sleep with one of his best friends once."

"And?"

"They're still together. And I got to meet the best friend's evil little sister."

She raises an eye-brow. "Evil, eh?"

"Yeah, she likes to mess with my head and blame me for everything, among other things."

"She sounds like a bitch. I like her already. Lunch? We have stuff to discuss."

***

Lexi picks a nice, little café for lunch and, as it is actually a very warm summer's day, we sit outside under the awning. The waitress comes back with our sodas and I order a tuna sandwich with a side order of chips while she asks for the same, only chicken instead of tuna. Once we're alone, Lexi has some of her drink and leans forward. "So, I was thinking about telling others."

"What about it?"

"Well, you were there and made me take the test, so I didn't have to tell you, and we kind of had to tell our families, being eighteen and not together all, but I was thinking about our friends and the media and everyone else. I mean, you're not exactly unknown in this world."

"True." I'm glad Lexi has decided to bring this up really, because I've been thinking about the same thing. "It's understandable that we had to tell our parents now, but I only told the rest of them as well because as great as they are at keeping a secret from the rest of the world, they're not so good at keeping one from each other," I admit, taking a drink of my own.

"Right. So, I was thinking that for everyone else, we wait until after this next scan to tell our friends and then we'll come up with a plan for the media. We'll tell them when everything is... Okay."

"You actually looked at the website I wrote down," I say, awed. I told her what the website said about miscarriages in the beginning, although I also told her that I didn't know if things would be different as we have magic and potions, but I didn't think she'd really look.

"I glanced. I had to go all the way to the library to glance because I don't have a computer, but I glanced." She grinned at me. "I also read a couple of those leaflets you refused to while we were waiting."

"Any good?"

"See for yourself next time we're there," Lexi winks. See, she's evil. "Oh, good, our food is here."

The waitress puts down our food. "Enjoy your meal," she smiles brightly.

I lift my sandwich up and glance at Lexi. She hasn't even taken a bite and she already looks a little green. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," she mutters. "It's just... The tuna smell -"

She bolts out of her chair and runs away, to the ladies room I presume. "And so it begins," I whisper to myself, taking a bite of my sandwich.

Man, this is delicious. 



A/N: Brand new, also quite long, chapter for y'all to enjoy. :)

And they got to see the baby. Awww. :D

Edit: A part got cut about Louis. He's training to be a Hit Wizard (he's only twenty after all :P).

Sam.


Chapter 8: Albus: When Safe Areas are Needed
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I can't wait until I officially move out, because then I can sleep peacefully without the knowledge that with sunrise comes pain. And by pain, I mean my sixteen year old sister jumping on me while shouting out her daily demands. Now the physical pain of being jumped on, I can handle. But the demands, that gets to me mentally. Maybe a little emotionally as well. It's too early.

I groan loudly and turn onto my side, causing Lily to slide off my stomach and onto the bed, and I bury my head into my mattress. But she doesn't go away, like I ever thought she would. "Get up, Albus." Demand one. "We need to talk about my niece or nephew. If it's a girl, you're calling her Lily."

Demand two. I roll my eyes, even though she can't see it, and turn back onto my back. Sleep is hopeless; I'm awake now, I might as well get this over and done with and start my day. It's not like this is the first time, she's been saying this to me since the day after the scan six weeks ago and she'll continue to say it until I listen to her. Her words, not mine. No way is this kid being named after my bratty sister, I'd rather name her after Rose... No, on second thoughts I'd rather name her Lily. Not that I have anything against Rose, she's great despite us no longer being as close as we used to be, I just don't think Lexi would approve. They have issues with each other. God knows why.

Lily nudges me, looks down with her eager, 'I'm waiting as patiently as I can but don't push me' smile, and sits cross-legged in the space on the bed with her arms folded over her chest. She has to wait patiently, she may be predictable every morning but I give her something new each time. At least I'm not bored in the mornings. I shrug and start slow, with something I've only said once before. The first time. Lily didn't have an answer then. "What if it's a boy?"

Her smile doesn't dim, like the first time, in fact it seems to get wider. Her eyes are bright with excitement. She has her answer. "I still can't think of an alternative of Lily for a boy and if he is a boy I don't want my nephew traumatized with a girls name, even if it is awesome. So, instead, his name should be one that I love."

"What's that?"

Practically giddy with excitement, Lily jumps up and down on her knees and moves closer to me. I sit up and lean against the headboard. We're face-to face now. She raises her hands like she's presenting something and acts like she's revealing the most important piece of information in the world. In her mind, maybe she is. On both counts. "If it's a boy, you name him -" Lily slides her hands away from each other... "Elliot."

I cock my head to the right, just a little, and narrow my eyes in thought. The longer the seconds pass, the bigger Lily's grin gets and she drops her hands in her lap with enthusiasm. She's given a few suggestions randomly, for boys and girls names, during the weeks, and I've dismissed each and every one immediately. So she's treating my silence as a good thing, she knows I'm thinking about it. Truth is, I haven't wanted to think about names. But now is different. It's been six weeks since our confirmation appointment, six weeks since Healer Moore gave us our scan of the little speck that is mine and Lexi's baby along with a new appointment card for another scan. A scan that is on Friday, two days away. A scan that means the end of the first trimester, that means everything's okay and as it should be, that means telling our friends and picking names and buying things for the nursery.

It means it's real.

And names seem to be my safe area, I can't go wrong with choosing names. When I have time to think about it. Who knew Auror training would be so exhausting? I'm not even going to stay on as an Auror, but I figured the skills would come in handy. Theodore agreed with me. So, I'm going through four years of exhaustion, so that in the end I'll have a badge that says 'Albus Potter - Bounty Hunter' because you can't just become a bounty hunter, you need training and knowledge of the law. Can't wait. I've even got a perfect imitation of Aunt Hermione's voice in my head, reminding me of those facts. This is the first time I've had any proper time to think about names since I decided last week that it would be my safe area. And Lily has given me a name, apparently her favorite name. Which is like giving me permission. Damn I can't do that. Shame because Elliot is actually a nice name. Elliot Potter... I can't believe I'm actually liking a name my sister suggested and dismissing it.

"I like Elliot," I murmur and her smile is so huge now it's almost infectious. "But it's your favorite. What if, way in the future when you're older, you want to use it? But I have instead?"

Lily's smile seems to dim then, but not as much I expected it to, and she's quiet while she thinks. "You're so right. I'll think of another. I love the name Elliot way too much to just hand it over, no offense."

"None taken," I laugh and push my sheets back. Lily moves back to let me out of bed and to the bathroom. I have enough time to get a shower and have breakfast before I have to leave for Auror training. I wait for the temperatre to cool, so it's just right, before I strip and step in. Last night Dad told me our trainer would let us out a couple of hours early today. Friday is usually a half day, so he'll probably add those couple of hours on then, knowing him, but I'd be okay with that if I was actually going to be there. The only reason Dad's letting us out early is because there'll be a meeting that, as an Auror, our trainer has to attend. It's a big one they have once a month. And I'm going to use the time to help Lexi finish getting the new house sorted for our housewarming party tonight.

No one's seen the house except me, Lexi and our parents. We decided to keep it a surprise for everyone else, have them wait until the party. And it's taken six weeks for us to sort everything. Redecorating didn't take long, there wasn't much we were changing. Just new coats of paint in some rooms, new wallpaper in others. But there were things we had to buy, kitchen supplies and other bits and pieces, and with the parents working, my training and Lexi decorating alone while trying to figure out what to do with her life, it's taken a while to get the house finished. All that's left now for us is the beds; they'll be going in later. We decided to work on the nursery as we go, after we've told our friends.

Don't won't them seeing the baby's room and asking questions at the party.

For now we let them think it was the previous occupants' baby's room. On Friday morning we'll have the scan. On Friday afternoon they'll know. That's the plan.

Good plan.

Hopefully.

Someone bangs on the bathroom door and I turn off the shower, getting out quickly. I dry myself and wrap it around my waist as I unlock the door and go back to my room. Lily's gone now and I get dressed in peace. She's not bad the rest of the day, besides the odd request or question, it's just in the mornings when she sits on the bed and knows I can't go anywhere until she moves.

Downstairs, Mum is putting breakfast on a plate, omelette, pushing the plate closer to the edge of the breakfast bar once she sees me. "Morning, Al. Got everything of your party organized?"

I shake my head. "Not yet. I have to go shopping and finish buying food and drink. Lexi is giving me a list."

I take my plate and sit at the dining table, next to Lily, opposite Dad. "Are you sure about having a party?" he asks me, skeptical. "Considering what happened at the last party you went to."

His lips curve upwards until Mum is at his side and he groans, leaning forward slightly. I assume she kicked him under table. Lily's laughing her head off, covering her mouth with her hand because she's still eating. I don't laugh, he's mostly joking but I understand his apprehension. And so do Mum and Lily, hence the reason one kicked him and the other needs to calm down before she chokes. "Lexi can't drink, I won't, but I won't stop everyone else who's of age. Dom and Kieron will be there, probably Casey, too. It'll be fine."

It's not a complete lie, I don't intend on drinking since I'm the host and will be spending the night making sure everyone else has drinks and food. But, knowing my family and friends, I might end up having at least one drink. But they don't need to know that.

"Casey? Chris' brother? He's a year younger than Dom, right?" Mum asks.

I nod. "He's friend's with Lou, surprisingly. You know Casey?"

"I've seen him a few times, mostly at St. Mungo's. I have a friend there, Melinda, who says he rarely seems to leave. She said she remembers being like that during her Healer training as well." Mum laughs softly. "I'll be surprised if he's at the party."

"Yeah, me too." I finish my breakfast quickly and stand up, dropping my plate in the sink, and I wave. "I'll see you later."

I hear Dad follow me, stopping only to say goodbye to Mum and Lily, and I get to the fireplace first. I call out for the atrium at the Minstry and step out slowly. Last time I tripped over my own feet and fell flat on my face, people laughed. Now I know not to laugh if I see it happen to someone else. Unless it's a family member, it's like a universal right to laugh then.

The Ministry is busy already, but not packed yet. It's still early for some. Law Enforcement always seem to be the earliest to arrive, Aurors and trainees, then the lawyers and law students. Sometimes I meet with Kieron before I start training and he does whatever he does (he's no longer a law student, was given a job as soon as he'd graduated in the summer. He doesn't talk about his cases, rightly so I guess). He likes to ask me questions about me and Lexi. Not so much about the baby; we don't want people to hear and spread the word. Rumors travel quickly around this place. Sometimes I'm sure it's worse than when we were at school.

I don't see him yet, he's usually waiting for me by the elevator, so I assume he's already in his department and I release the breath I didn't even know I was holding. Kieron's an intimidating guy. The whole family is. I'm lucky I've known them for so long really or I wouldn't know how to handle it. I get into the elevator and make my way to the training center. It's defensive spells today and I have to kick Chris' ass this time. He kicked mine with blocking spells. He's just that little bit faster than me.

He's a smug bastard.

Sometimes I wonder why the hell I'm friends with him.

"Ready for me to beat you again?"

Speak of the devil. There at my side is Christopher Reed, best friend number two.

"It's my win today." I only glare at him for a few seconds, then Chris winks and grins and I have to copy. He wraps his arm around my shoulders and pulls me closer. "I'm still gonna beat you."

"You don't even want to be an Auror, you deserve to be beaten," he smirks. I shrug. "I can't wait for your party or to see this house. Why a house? I knew you two would end up as roommates, but I thought it would be a flat not a house."

I laugh, hope it doesn't sound awkward or strained, and tell him our little half-lie. It's actually very true, which is why we know it's believable, it's just not what got us a house. "You know Lexi, she loves her space. It's the only thing she'll willingly spend so much money to make sure she has. Seriously, do you really see her in an apartment?"

Chris only has to think about it for a second. "No," he chuckles. "So, a house it is. Maybe I should ask why you chose to live with her instead?"

"I needed a place to live and she has a house," is my quick response. Well, technically her dad has a house, with money from my dad for me. He called it a gift for the baby, Mum's idea. But Chris doesn't need to know that.

Inside the gym-like room we call the training center, which is actually a huge square room with space in the middle for days like to today where we learn to defend ourselves from different spells a suspect may use against us, I make my way to my usual spot across from the door. Along the walls are different pieces of equipment for our training needs; dummies for scenarios, safety mats. We'll use those today, so no one breaks anything when they're thrown to the floor with said defensive spells. And I mean when, not if; people like to throw others to the floor. They think it's funny. We all try first, work hard, so our trainer doesn't really mind when we start to mess around a little by the end of the day.

I look around the room while I stretch my arms, still getting used to my surroundings. On my first day, Dad said that for the first two years of Auror training we're likely to spend most of our time in this room, then you decide whether you want to be an Auror or a Hit Wizard. Third year is real world training; Chris and I will be partnered with two qualified Aurors and work with them, some office stuff and paperwork, but there is field word, more for Hit Wizards because they have different training during the last year. But there's always paperwork. When you qualify, it's back to paperwork until you're handed your first lone assignment, which is always babysitting or something similar. You can be handed that at any time in your first few months. And after that, you're partnered with someone and are given what junior Aurors call 'real cases'. Chris has this to look forward to. He can't wait.

I glance around at the others in the room. I wonder who'll be his partner. Or will an already qualified Auror choose to work with him? It's been known to happen, if they see potential.

Chris stops in front of me, bounces on his toes and shakes his arms a little. He looks like he's getting ready to step into an arena and fight. Maybe he is. I'm going to get hurt, I know it. Finally he stops. "What have you got to do after we finish today?"

"Go shopping for the party."

"Mind if I come with you? I can help."

I smirk. "You just want to see the house before everyone else."

He shrugs, but doesn't hide the fact that I'm right. "Of course I do. And we will, me and the others. You know we'll be there earlier. So can I?"

"Sure," I answer. Then our trainer, Malcolm, comes in and calls for our attention.

Class has begun.

***

I fall to the floor, exhausted and sore, and try to catch my breath. Chris looms over my head, smirking, then moves to kneel in front of me. "Admit it."

"You kicked my ass," I sigh. We're done for the day and Malcolm has already gone. I wait for the room to empty before I hold out my hand. "Help me up then." He does and nudges me in the direction of the door, handing me everything Kieron had given me during lunch. I make sure the money and the shopping list is safe inside my wallet, then stuff said wallet and my keys in my front pocket, my wand in the inside pocket of my jacket. "We'll get everything we need from the shop, take it to the new house and we can get a shower there," I say as we make our way to the elevator.

Chris pushes back his light brown hair, damp with sweat, and frowns before wiping his hand on his pants. "I'll bring your shopping in with you, but I'll get a shower at home. I'll have to leave to get changed anyway. Will you have clothes there?"

"Yeah, everything should be moved in now." I pull on my t-shirt. "These were the only things I had left at home. I officially won't be living there anymore. I'm sleeping in my new house tonight. In my bed that I took from my bedroom at Theo's house."

Chris pushes me out of the elevator the moment the doors open, shaking his head. "It's not your bedroom, it's a spare bedroom that you sometimes slept in when it was just you staying, since most of the time, whether just you or all six of us, we always camped in the living room."

I groan in fake annoyance. "Oh, you sound just like Theodore. I'm the only one who ever slept in that room, in that bed, so he let me have it. Better?"

Chris raises an eye-brow. Silence for one heartbeat. Then another. Then he shrugs. "Alright." We leave through the visitors entrance and walk through London. The breeze is light and it's not too cold, perfect. Just what I need. "I can't believe he just let you have a bed."

I shrug. "I needed a bed."

"You have a bed at home," he counters.

"I needed a new bed, that was soft and let me have a good nights sleep, not old like the bed at home. I'm gonna need a good nights sleep after -" I stop myself quickly. I was just about to say 'after the baby's born' and Chris can't know that yet. Damn.

"After training, I understand that," Chris says, smiling. It's another reminder that I'm lying to him, one of my best friends. Out of our group of six, if I can't talk to Lexi, I'll go to Chris every time. Before Emmett or Darcy or even Megan. I hate that I have to wait until Friday to tell them I'm going to be a dad, but Lex and I promised and we can wait two more days. Until then I hope I can handle how guilty I feel and not blurt it out when the others ask about the house at the party. I've never lied to my friends before. "I still don't think he would have just given you a bed, though," he continues.

I carry on this conversation, tell him everything that happened that day. It's easier to deal with right now. It's a safe area along with baby names. Although that's only safe when I'm alone or with Lexi. Until Friday anyway. "His ex-wife may have been there to try and talk to Lexi and she may have overheard our conversation about new beds and how much it would cost and she may have said no when Lexi asked if we could take two from Nott Manor, which may have made him very angry at her for thinking she had a right to give her 'opinion' and said yes to us taking a bed each."

"Oh, so Daphne Greengrass is the reason you have that bed. Now it makes sense."

"He didn't take it back and say no when he finally got rid of her, he said it was alright, that it wasn't like they were being used." I stop, remembering the look on his face when Theo had said that, I'd never seen him look so sad. Lexi literally ran around the table to hug him, promising him she'd always visit with me and the baby, so much so that he'd wish we'd stop. He'd laughed at that. A little. "I think it's hit him that he's the only one left in that huge house," I whisper. "After he got divorced, he put his whole life on hold for Kieron and Lexi, then they went to school and he had work and friends, but they still came home during the summer. Bringing us, bringing Dom, with them. Now even that's changed."

"Yeah," Chris winks. "It's his turn to bring home a friend."

I elbow him in the ribs, but I can't help but laugh. "If Lexi ever hears you say that, she'll hurt you."

"So, she'll never hear me say it. Come on, we have shopping to do."

***

Chris is in awe when we stop outside the front door to the new house, I think it's shock. He turns around, seemingly taking in the neighborhood, before finally looking at me. His mouth his hanging open a fraction, which isn't much all things considered. Part of me can't wait to see his reaction when I tell him Lexi and I are going to be parents. I think jaw-dropping surprise will have a whole new meaning. "I don't think I truly believed it," he mutters. "Not the buying a house bit, the living in a family residence bit. Kids are riding bikes, playing in the streets. The neighbors are talking to each other." He nods to the two women across the road to the left. "You're in suburbia. Can I be a little worried?"

"Be worried all you want, I'm not moving." I grin and enter the house, knowing I won't be leaving this time, and stop. The first thing I notice are the voices, oh-so-familiar voices; Megan's laugh, Darcy yelling at Emmett, Emmett moaning in general. My grin widens. "Looks like the rest of the gang beat you to it."

"Guys, stop. Al will be here soon with the food and drink for the party," Lexi tries to be stern, but it's not hard to tell she's still laughing at whatever happened, too.

"Al's already here and he brought a friend." I nod my head to Chris and place the bags on the counter. "We got everything on the list. There was change, but we bought a drink each, so now there isn't. I'm going to get a shower."

"Yeah, I should go home, shower and change."

Megan throws Chris a bag, which he catches easily, and he frowns. "We stopped by to see if you were home and bring you here, we knew training had finished early, but you weren't in. Now we know why. Your stepmum gave it to us, said you'd laid it out this morning and told her it was what you were wearing tonight. She also put in clean clothes for tomorrow, just in case."

"That woman is a saint." Chris checks the bag, nods and looks satisfied. Everything is there. "Hurry up and shower, will you. I need one. Do you want help setting everything up, Lex?" I hear him ask as I leave.

"No way am I letting you touch the food when you're all sweaty. Find something else to do."

"You can help us figure out why Em's being all secretive until Al gets out the shower, then we're gonna go through all his stuff," Darcy says.

"I heard that!" I yell from the stairs. I jog the rest of the way to the bathroom, grab a towel and jump in. I only take a few minutes, considering I had one this morning, and I'm out quickly. Dried and dressed in record time, I straighten my black shirt with my hands, letting it fall over my new jeans, and tug at the sleeves. I run my hand through my hair, checking in the mirror to see short spikes sticking up. Water droplets fall when I touch the tips, but I don't mind that my hair is still damp. It'll dry.

I'm leaving my room as Chris is entering the bathroom. "I'll be a few minutes and I'll get changed in your room." He turns to look at me, closing the door so it covers the bottom half of his body. "The guys have almost finished getting everything ready, people will start coming at seven.You have less than half an hour."

"Okay." I nod and he shuts the door.

In the living room, Emmett and Darcy are messing with the music and other electronics. "I'm so glad Lexi brought her games system," Emmett says, smirking at me. "I'd pay to listen to you sing, especially when you're drunk."

Ah, so Alexa did bring her karaoke game. I knew she would. I also should have known she'd have it set up for tonight and I remember why I tell her I don't like her fascination with Muggle electronics, especially since she has to make sure they're all turned off so they don't break when she uses magic. I remember the first time I had the courage to play it last Christmas, after a large quantity of alcohol. I sang one song myself, then Lexi and I turned a solo song into a duet, singing a line each. We were awesome, if I do say so myself. But it's not happening tonight. "Sorry, Em, but I only sing when I'm drunk and since I intend on being a good host tonight, I won't be drinking. No drinking means no singing."

Emmmett's face falls. "Oh, don't do that, Albus. Alexa, your evil roommate won't sing tonight!"

"I'm sure you'll find a way, Em," She calls from the kitchen. I shrug, I know he'll try. I leave him with Darcy, her smug grin telling me she knows Em will try, too, and find Lex and Megan in the kitchen.

"Need my help?"

"Not now, everything's sorted," Megan tells me, shaking her head.

"Will you be on kitchen duty? Get people a drink if they ask, sort the food?" Alexa asks me and I know exactly why. Her sense of smell has kicked up a notch, some things make her sick. Alcohol is one of them, certain fish is another. Mum says this is normal, as do the books (see, I still read them).

"Sure, you can be in charge of entertainment and sing for Emmett." I expect her to smile and she does. I open my mouth, about to tell her to go on and leave it to me, when the doorbell rings.

Let the party begin. 





A/N: Okay, so I expected to finish this chapter, but it got too long. So, I'm stopping it at over 4k rather than over 8k (I wouldn't be surprised :P). Which means the next chapter will be the third in Albus' POV. But don't worry, more of Alexa's POV after that. :)

I hope you like their friends; Chris, Emmett, Darcy and Megan. They are here to stay.

This chapter seems a bit filler-y now, since I didn't get to the end, but I hope you enjoy anyway. Let me know what you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 9: Albus: When Insightful Friends Drink
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I'm so thankful that we only invited friends and family and that they listened when we said not to invite people themselves, because this place is packed. Seriously. This house looks and feels a lot bigger when it's just the two of us.

I move backwards, press myself against the wall for Rose to get past me. She says nothing really, just a quick thank you that I barely hear over the music, and she's gone. I've noticed her discomfort while I've been a good host. She's spent most of her time with family and her boyfriend, Will. Well, his name is Albert, but his middle name is William and that's what we all call him. He's a good friend of ours and he, Lexi, the others and I get along great. Why doesn't she? The more I see of Rose, the more confused I get. I've tried asking Will; he doesn't know and even if he did, I don't think he'd tell me. He loves her, he'd keep her secrets. The only reason I'm sure he doesn't know is because when I ask, he looks as genuinely confused by it as I do.

I follow her out, but I turn left to the kitchen rather than right. She goes upstairs, probably to go to the bathroom. Inside the kitchen, Darcy is making out with her boyfriend, Ewan Warren, ex Ravenclaw chaser and captain, and Will's friend and ex dorm mate. Jeez, is everyone here seeing somebody?

They don't notice me, they're too busy pressed against the wall near to the table, on other side of the room to me. I'm not going to disrupt them, no way. I go to the fridge and grab a cold beer for Chris and two bottles of orange juice, one for me and one for Alexa. Then I get out of there as fast as I can and go back to the living room. Rose is back in the room with Will, laughing with Emmett. I shake my head, but ignore it. Even if Rose doesn't tell me what's wrong, I'll find out eventually. They're all going to be a part of my life for a long time, I'm not going to just let it go. Only for tonight.

The first person I find is Alexa. I hand her her drink, which she takes gratefully and smiles. I smile back, squeeze her hand and go to the couch, leaving her with her brother, who I don't look at because I know he's glaring at me. I sit beside Chris and hand him his beer. "Thanks, mate," he slurs a little. He's already had a few drinks. I'd call him tipsy. Chris waves a hand around the room lazily. "Despite the suburbia feel, this place is not so bad. I like it."

"Me too," I smile, taking a drink.

"Lexi is kicking Kieron's ass on that racing game," he says, chuckling.

"No one beats Lexi at anything, but her games console is something not many can beat her at because there aren't many wizards who have one," I explain slowly, so that he understands. When you speak too fast, drunk Chris stops listening. He's completely unlike his older brother. When you speak too slow, Casey stops listening, drunk or otherwise. Just because you bore him. He's fun to talk to. "Not including Muggleborns and families with Muggles, I think Lexi is the only one I know with one."

"I have one," Chris calls out like he defensive.

"Like I said, families with Muggles. Your step-mum got you yours, right?"

"Oh, yeah," he laughs and nods. "The first Christmas we had as a family after she married my dad. I was ten. And I am good."

"No! Lily, no!" There's a small bang and we both look up just in time to see Scorpius covered in soda, Lily throwing her head back as she laughs. He glares at her for a few seconds, then follows her lead. No one can stay mad at Lily, it doesn't matter who you are, how angry you try to be or what she's done. He turns to me. "Potter, do you have a spare shirt I can wear?"

I stand up and point out the door, to the stairs. "Yeah, follow me." I lead the way to my new room and open my wardrobe door. "Take your pick."

He grabs a plain, white shirt and nods in thanks. I take that as my cue to leave and shut the door behind me. Lily is waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs, still laughing. "Got him a new shirt?"

I nod. "What did you do?"

Lily shrugs, looking sly. "He held my drink while I used the bathroom, wouldn't give it me back. I told him I could just take it, he said I couldn't, so I did." She lifts up her drink, the cause of all the trouble I assume, and takes a mouthful. "Somehow, it tastes so much better now."

I nudge her into the direction of the living room. "You're evil. Get in there."

***

It's almost midnight when I find myself outside in the garden. The party is slowing down a little, a couple of people have gone and the music has been turned down. Well, it is the middle of the week. I left them all talking about the weekend, excusing myself when Lexi asked the others about us going to lunch on Friday. My family know about the scan that morning, they know why I leave the room. Lexi is so much better at keeping things a secret than I am, I'm still worried I'm going to spill all tonight. And apparently I'm not the only one in my family who can't keep a secret; I glanced at Rose and Will and they both gave me a look as I left, although his was purely sympathetic while Rose's seemed more disapproving.

Well, I didn't ask for her approval. I walked out annoyed. She shouldn't have told him, it wasn't her news to tell. But I've known Will since first year, he'd be understanding and there to help, no questions asked, so I'm not angry with Will for knowing. I'm angry with Rose for telling.

I hesitate for a second before I sit carefully on the kid's swing. We decided to keep it, so it would a shame to break it now. I'm barely sat on it really, but it holds my weight well enough. I don't swing, just sit. It's getting colder now, the wind whips over my skin and it's so cold it hurts a little. But I don't care, it's calming, quiet. Right now, I like calm and quiet.

"Hey." I look to my left to see Chris leaning against the metal bar of the swing set. How long has he been there for? "Nice swing set."

"Yeah, the people who used to live here left it. We thought we'd keep it; the twins might like it or Teddy's daughter. Plus, it's a good place to sit." I shrug softly and smile. I wonder if my kid will like it.

"I was talking to Lily," Chris spoke softly, his arms folded over his chest. "She said Theodore owns this house, but that your dad helped pay for it."

"Well, I do live here, too. It's just Theodore's name on the dotted line. He said he was owning it until we had good jobs with steady incomes," I explain quietly. It's too peaceful to be any louder.

"What happens when one of you meet someone? Who's going to move out?" he asks. Oh, I see where this is going.

"Probably Lexi, she said before we got this house that she'd want something bigger eventually." I scoff and roll my eyes. "She sounded like she was joking, but we know Lexi and her need for space."

"We do. So when she moves out, will Theodore just sign this place over to you?"

I shrug. "Probably. Or my dad if I don't have a good job and steady income," I echo my words from before. "Unless he likes me enough to continue looking after it himself until then."

Chris looks ready to disagree, but then he pauses. "He does like you," he says eventually. "He sees you as family, anyone can see that. The house, though, I can't say." He laughs suddenly, probably due to the amount of alcohol he's had. But it's so sudden I frown, ask him what the matter is. "Nothing. It's just this house. It's so domestic, the whole neighborhood is. Maybe it's because I've drank so much, my thoughts are kinda weird, but if I didn't know any better I'd ask when the baby was due."

My eyes widen to the point of pain, but I don't care. He's not supposed to know yet, he's not supposed to say these things. This is the last time I ever let him drink if it's going to lead to him being more insightful than usual. I'm finding it very hard to breath. And Chris notices. He stops laughing quickly, suddenly looking like he's completely sober, and holds me by my shoulders, standing me up so we're eye-to-eye.

"Hey, I'm sorry, Al. I didn't mean to freak you out like that." Oh, he thinks I'm just freaking out about the idea of sleeping with my friend. That I can handle. I start to calm down. "You normally laugh when I say something about your relationship with Lexi. Unless..." Then his eyes widen and he lets go of me. I shake my head slowly. "Oh, my God, it's true. It is, isn't it? You knocked up Alexa!"

Fuck!

"Chris, please."

He holds up his hand, wants me to shut up. I do, only so I can figure out his reaction. He looks oddly calm, I'm not sure I like it. I mean, I never expected him to freak out, to yell or anything, but to be this calm? I didn't see it coming. And I change my mind; now I really don't like it. And then of all the things I expected to happen next, it wasn't this: "Oh, mate you have the worst luck when it comes to that girl. You finally get into her pants and she ends up pregnant."

Then he laughs at me. What? Finally? Did I hear that right? What the fuck is that supposed to mean? "What?"

"Oh, come on. It's obvious you like her. No one is that close to someone of the opposite sex without feelings getting in the way at some point." Chris rolls his eyes at me. "Albus, everyone at school has thought you were together at least once. You can't tell me you're that oblivious to your own feelings."

"I do not like Lexi as any more than a friend," I choke out. "She'd know by now, we're not exactly discreet with each other."

"Not if you didn't realize it yourself," he says, shaking his head at me. He freaks me out, saying he knows more about my feelings than I do, but then he shakes his head and I feel like I'm in the wrong? How the hell does that work? "I bet that night you had with her is all you can think about. No wonder I'm always kicking your ass in training; I was beginning to think my expectations of you had been too high," he smirks.

It's like he can get inside my head tonight. Or have I always been this easy to read? Lexi's always saying exactly that. "I don't like Lexi as more than a friend," I repeat, whispering. I can't. No, I don't. It's not possible, even if I do think about that night a lot. "That's not what we're talking about."

"No, you're right. We'll talk about you being in love with your best friend another day." I open my mouth to correct him, but he continues. "So, how are you feeling, Daddy?"

I want to call him out for that, too, until I focus on his face and I see that he's serious this time, concerned. "I'm terrified."

"I'd be a little worried if you weren't." Chris glances at the house, then back at me. "Was this party to tell us? Because you're not doing a very good job."

His tone is casual, almost joking. He's trying to lighten the mood. It kind of works. I smile. "No, this really is a housewarming party. We decided to tell you during lunch Friday afternoon, after you had training. Our scan is in the morning."

"Really? Okay, at least you were planning on telling us soon. This scan is after the first trimester, right? I remember my step-mum saying that when my cousin was pregnant, that was when she told people. When I asked why, she said because everything was okay then." I nod slowly, that is why we chose to tell them after the scan. He cocks his head to the left. "You asked for the day off on Friday, said it was personal. They let you."

"Yep."

"I can't believe you're going to be a dad," he murmurs softly. "Whoa."

I think it's hit him now. "Yeah, whoa." I fall back down onto the swing. Will Lexi mind if Chris knows before the scan? It's only two days. "I've started to process it. I'm not freaking out anymore."

"You're going to be great," he says suddenly. "And this looks like a great place to raise kids. I get it now."

"We like it." Does he really think I'm going to be great?

"Lily makes sense now. She said your mum called the money for the house a gift. I thought she meant graduation, but when I asked her that she shook her head and walked away. It isn't, is it? It's for the kid?"

"Yeah. She wanted to make sure her first grandchild had a room of its own, she said, and they were going to buy me a place anyway." I shrug. "You can't tell them you know yet, it's got to be after the scan. Lexi was insistent."

"I promise. You really are going to be great, just listen to your instincts and you'll be fine."

"My instincts are the reason we found out she was pregnant," I admit. "So she gave me sixty percent of the blame."

"That sounds like Lexi," he chuckles. "Sixty percent is not bad all things considered. I'd have thought eighty percent at least. I can't believe you'll be a dad," he repeats. "Maybe Theo will keep the house for you, well, for his grandchild. Can I be godfather?"

How did we get to this topic of conversation? How does he know how to lighten the mood so easily and make it okay? Wait, I sound ungrateful. I should thank him. But I don't. Maybe later when he's not so drunk and I can really know how he's taking it. I get up instead, make my way to the house. "You sound just like Lily when she asks to name the baby after her."

He catches up, grabs my arm. "Name him Christopher."

Uh oh. "No."

"I'm going to be the best uncle and godfather this kid will ever have and he'll be proud to be named after me," he continues, like I've said nothing. I roll my eyes. I always figured that out of all our friends, he'd take it better, except Will, but not like this.

"Whatever. I'm just glad you know. I thought I'd end up telling everyone tonight, but just one person who isn't family knowing is good. I had to tell them, Lex and I being young and not being together and all."

"I get it. And you will be together." I push him away. "No, I came out here for a reason, before the baby drama came out." I stop at the back door, leading to the kitchen, and raise an eye-brow. Really? At least he's changing the subject. "You know how I suck at looking after myself and, you know, life in general?" I nod. "Can I crash here until I find a place? I'm trying to prove to my dad that I can look after myself and it's harder than it looks. We're not all like you, Mr. Family Man."

"You'll have to ask Lexi," I smirk.

His face drains of what little color he's gotten back after figuring out that he was right about us having a baby, joking or not. Lexi will never allow it, she won't trust him as a roommate. Yes, he'd be willing to help and would pay us back in return, whether that would be chores or rent. But we'd have to actually think about rent because a few days to Chris is years to everyone else. He's terrible when it comes to looking after himself, he'll never leave. Lexi won't let him stay. He swallows, but nods. "Okay."

"She'll say no," I call out, following him into the house. "You won't get the answer you want."

"Shush." He stops in front of Lexi in the living room, who is playing with the metal guitar-like control that goes with her singing game. "Lexi, I need a place to stay, can I sleep on your couch?"

Lexi pauses the game just as it's about to start and tells Scorpius to wait. When she faces me and Chris, she's smiling and nodding. "Sure, stay as long as you like."

What?

Chris turns to me, looking like the smug git that he is as Lexi presses play and starts to sing. "You should have knocked her up when I wanted that motorbike for my seventeenth," he whispers in my ear. I give him a dead arm. Louis pushes past, snickering. He heard.

"Why on the couch, Chris?" Darcy asks, confused. She's sitting on Ewan's lap on said couch, his arms wrapped around her. I frown. Public displays of affection on my couch!

And Chris has to sleep on it! Ha!

Chris answers before I can say anything to that, not that I know what to say. "You saw that spare room, it's just wooden floor and teddy bear borders that look like they're marching. You know I don't like moving teddy bears." He shudders.

I laugh. Apparently that's Casey's doing. When Chris was about two, Casey decided to frighten him by making his teddy bears move around in the dark while he whispered words to scare him. Chris has never gotten over it. I think it's hilarious. I know what he's not going to buy for this kid. The best uncle and godfather to a kid who can't have a teddy bear because said best uncle and godfather is too scared to buy him one. Oh no.

Ouch. I groan when Chris elbows me in the ribs. He rubs his hands together. "The night is young and I have a place to stay; we should celebrate that. Emmett, get the shots."

"We have training tomorrow," I remind him, rubbing my ribs.

"You wanted a party on a Wednesday," he points out, accusing me like it's my fault he's going to be hungover on a work day. Okay, maybe it is. "Use it as an excuse to finally be able to kick my ass tomorrow."

He winks at me and I know he's referring to what he said in the garden, that the reason I'm so slow is because I'm thinking about my night with Lexi. Emmett is back with the alcohol in one hand and a stack of shot glasses balancing in another. I'm not entirely sure how he managed to bring them back without dropping any. But I ignore it and glare are Chris. "I will."

People gather around in a circle and each take a glass. With two left in his hand, Emmett moves his hand to me. I shake my head. "Come on, Al. You've been the best host, the party has been awesome. You deserve one drink."

I glance around the circle, hoping someone will let me step away, but the moment I catch eyes with Will, who also has a glass, all hope is lost. He's supposed to be the good one. I take the glass and Emmett pours the alcohol, filling each shot glass to the top. Some of it spills to the floor and I'm thankful the old occupants wanted wooden floors instead of carpet.

Hugo, a sneaky git who successfully managed to get permission for himself and Lily to floo home for this party (I still don't know how he did it), pushes past to stand between Emmett and Megan and we wait for his say so. He counts down. "Three... Two... One. Go!"

Now it's a party.

...I'm so going to regret this.

***

I decide I don't regret drinking when I wake up. I only played in a couple of rounds of the game, then stepped back while everyone else played. We were too close to Alexa and the smell had been making her nauseous. She left the room and I used the excuse of being a 'good roommate' to follow her and leave the game. She hadn't let me talk to her until I'd brushed my teeth, though.

It's nice waking up after a party and want to fill my stomach rather than empty it, is my first thought when I enter the kitchen of my new house and said stomach rumbles softly. I go through the cupboards and end up pouring some chocolate coated cereal into a bowl. I walk into the living room to find Chris. He's fast asleep on the couch, snoring softly. I sit on the floor in front of him, it's cold against my bare legs, and there's a chill from the open window. I probably shouldn't have come down in just my boxers. Oh well.

Chris snores again. I dig my spoon into my cereal, put a huge helping into my mouth and crunch. His eyes snap open and he winces.

It's not my fault he's a light sleeper with a hangover.

"Good morning, Christopher," I say brightly.

"Go away," he mutters, shutting his eyes once more.

"No. This is my house, remember?"

"I didn't forget any part of last night," he whispers.

Git. I admit, I did wonder if he would actually remember the part about Lexi being pregnant with my kid. I'm glad he didn't, I need someone who isn't family to talk to about it. I need Friday to come quickly, so I can tell the others. I need my friends.

Lexi needs them, too. I know she does. Especially Darcy and Megan.

So I choose to ignore the fact that he's trying to get back at me and nod. "Good."

Chris nods, too, yawns loudly and turns to lie on his back. "Where's Lexi?"

"She's still asleep," I answer. I checked on her before I came downstairs to see if she was awake and wanted breakfast. She looked so peaceful, I decided not to wake her and just let her sleep. "We'll probably be gone by the time she's up."

"Hmm," is all he feels like saying. Or is it all he can say? He rubs his eyes and swings his legs around, so he's now sitting up. "My head hurts," he moans softly.

"You drank a lot," I point out. "You won every shots game, congratulations. If Lexi could drink, there might have been a chance of you losing that title. We actually didn't drink that much, despite what she says, but she beat me... That night," my voice drops until I'm quiet. I don't want him thinking he's right about my thinking of that night. He'd never stop gloating.

"Yeah, I was watching," he whispers.

What? My eyes widen ever so slightly. "I didn't know that."

"Because you couldn't keep your eyes off the girl in front of you." I scoff. "I'm too hungover to argue, so just listen. You were upset that night because Zabini was with Glover, I saw. But she means nothing to you. You just thought she did because she doesn't care who you are and she's not a friend, so it's okay to date her. Lexi knows more about you than anyone, even me I bet, and she still doesn't care who you are. But she's a friend and you put up stupid boundaries. Well, they shattered when you slept with her and were turned to rubble when you decided to have a baby together. Those boundaries are gone, Albus," he says quietly, standing up and walking away from me. "Take something from it; tell her you like her and be with her."

Chris scrunches up his face in disgust, as though he can't believe that last part was the best he could come up with. "I'm going to get a quick shower and get dressed, since Mum put clean clothes in my bag."

I nod and stand up. I have to get dressed, too. He'll want to go straight to the Ministry after he's gotten ready, he thinks the fresh air will do him good. That and the hangover potion he'll find in the cabinet in the bathroom. I'm sure that that'll be of some help. I tell him where it is. "Hurry up, Chrissy. Since I'm missing tomorrow, I want some extra time today. It has to be this morning because Dad said no to me having more time tonight. I have a good reason to miss a day, and it's only one day, so I don't need to make it up, he says. But I want to beat you."

"Then sort your life out, it'll help you think straight," he says from the stairs. "Hey." He waits for me to look up at him. "I meant what I said; you'll be great. You can do this. And I'll be here, we all will. I'll make them."

"Thank you," I answer appreciatively. "You're taking this a helluva lot better than I expected and I expected you to take it well."

Chris shrugs. "I know what it's like, remember? You were there when my cousin was pregnant. She didn't even have the father with her, but she did great because she had her family and now she has her fiancé. I was there for her, now I'll be there for you. I know what it's like to see someone in a situation like this, I know what you must be going through, and I've had practice in being supportive."

I remember how he was when Tasha had gotten pregnant a couple of years ago. She'd only been a little older than Lexi and I are now, nineteen, and she's done well. I should have remembered that. My smile is more relaxed now, genuine. I'm glad I have Chris, even if he can't cook or clean or look after himself. Unlike last night when he was drunk, I know he's taking it well and why. "Thanks, Chris," I say again. "I needed to hear that."

"Good. Next, I'll get you to understand how you feel about Lexi," he winks and disappears up the stairs.

Damn.

He's never going to let this go, is he?



A/N: You'll recognise Will Rivers (Albert) and Ewan Warren if you read Bertie Rivers and the Bucket List. Ewan and most others call Bertie "Will" in that, too. 

I hope you enjoy this chapter and like that Chris knows now. The next chapter will be about Friday, in Alexa's POV. Let me know what you think. :)

Sam. 


Chapter 10: Alexa: When News is Told
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I don't know why people love Fridays so much. Sure, it can mark the beginning of the weekend, but aren't most too tired from the week to want to do anything but wind down? I am; that's why Al and I, usually with the other four, would order take out and watch a movie. Saturday we'd go out, that was my favorite night of the week, although our Fridays weren't so bad, just uneventful. Until now.

Maybe one day I'll go back to having uneventful Fridays and fun Saturdays. Until then, I hate them both. I'm dreading this talk and my Saturdays are pretty much gone now.

I groan at myself in the mirror and throw my jeans onto my bed. Today we have our twelve week scan and then lunch with the guys, which will lead to us telling them I'm pregnant, and all I can think about is how much I'm hating the days. As if the days are more important; I've got four friends waiting for me and I dread to think of what they'd say.

Except Chris. I think Albus is right; he won't take it so bad, especially after his cousin... I wonder if I can talk to Tasha about all of this. She's been in my situation and, although Albus' mum and Aunt Astoria are great and all, they were in their twenties and were married. I really would like to talk to someone who knows what this is like.

Making a mental note to talk to Chris about meeting Tasha at some point, I grab another clean pair of jeans and finish getting dressed and ready. Downstairs, Al is already eating breakfast and he's alone, so I assume Chris has already gone to the Ministry. He basically tells me exactly what I've assumed while I make my own breakfast.

"How are you feeling?" he asks when I sit next to him. His eyes are narrowed slightly, concern clear in his tone, and I can't help but smile. I can't believe I'm about to say this, but I consider myself very lucky to have to go through this with Al; he's sweet and caring and will be a good dad. I know a few guys who'd be inconsiderate assholes with no idea what to do and a couple who'd just walk away, sadly. I wonder if Tasha's kid's dad had walked away if he'd known; I can't remember her saying she'd told him.

"I'm okay," I tell him eventually. And I am; there was no morning sickness before. I dare not hope, it's sprung up on me in the afternoon a few times, but so far, nothing is a good thing. I hate being ill. "Are you ready for today?"

"For the scan; yes. For the lunch; not so much," he mutters honestly, playing with his cereal. "Rationally, I know that they won't take it so horribly, they are our best friends, but I can't help but think bad things anyway."

I chew my toast slowly, trying to come up with an answer good enough to make him feel better, but nothing comes to me. I decide to just wing it. "It's hard not to think negatively, but we know our friends and we know the positives. This talk will be a piece of cake. It's the rest of the world I'm worried about," I mutter that last bit, not really wanting him to hear that part. At all.

You know, I think I really started to help him, right until the end. Now he's all pale and looks like he could be sick at any moment. He pushes his breakfast away from him. "I don't want to think about anyone who isn't friends and family right now. One step at a time, please."

...Oh, so he did hear me mutter.

I squeeze his shoulder gently and nod. I hope it reassures him. "Of course, I'm sorry. We're going one step at a time. There is no one else involved, except for the two of us and our friends."

"Thank you," Al replies. We finish our breakfast quietly, then he takes our plates and washes them. "Are you ready to go?" he asks once he's done stalling.

I nod again. This part is easy, we've already done this. I follow Al through the house, into the living room, and he grabs the floo powder, handing it to me. "Ladies first."

"Thank you, sir," I reply, playing along and trying to stay serious. But it's so hard to do when he's got his really stupid grin showing. I refuse to look him in the eye and grab the floo quickly. If I look at him, I won't stop laughing. And we have to go. I call out our destination and step out, into the hospital's travel room. Albus steps out next and we make small talk on our way to the 'baby ward', as he and the males in his family like to call it... And Roxy, of course.

It's a different receptionist telling us to sit down and wait for our healer, but the same medi-witch who comes out calling my name. "I'm just going to run to the restroom," Al whispers in my ear, walking away and leaving me to enter the room alone. Well, he seems more afraid of this part than I do, I can't wait for him to realize he has to enter alone, too. I wish I could wait outside so I can see his face, but then he probably wouldn't give me the reaction I wanted, considering he wouldn't be coming in alone. I'll have to be content with my imagination.

I don't know why he's trying to stall this bit anyway, I thought he'd stall leaving.

I make myself comfortable on the bed. It seriously is so comfy, part of me wishes I could take one home. But that would be weird. I lay slouched, with my legs crossed over, and wait for Healer Moore to enter the room. Or Albus, if he hasn't caused himself to pass out on the way. He's only ever passed out once since I've known him. When they were thirteen, he and Emmett got into an argument about a girl in Ravenclaw that they both liked. The fight was about who she would like more, went on for over an hour until Albus made a stupid decision to hold his breath until Emmett backed off. Emmett called his bluff and we all watched as Albus fell to the floor. Em asked that girl out while Al was in the hospital wing.

Girls make thirteen year old boys do crazy things. No, girls make boys of any age do crazy things. Especially Albus, he can do very crazy things for a girl.

The funniest part of that memory was what happened two years later; Emmett came out as gay. No words can describe the look on Al's face that day. He made himself pass out for nothing. Although, by that time Al already had his little crush on Catrine. They got over it pretty quickly.

The door opening interrupts any other memories from coming back and Healer Moore comes in smiling. "Good morning, Alexa," she says brightly. "How have you been? Taking the potions I gave you?"

"Yes," I reply, nodding. "Every time I should, as recommended. And I've been okay, thank you."

"Any morning sickness?"

"Ah, yes, a bit. But none today. So far," I add quickly.

"Morning sickness tends to stop around the beginning of the second trimester, so I wouldn't worry about it anymore," Healer Moore reassures me. "Where is Albus? Sophie told me you were both here."

"He is in the restroom," I explain. "He should be here any minute -" the door opens and he steps in. "Now."

"What were you two talking about?" he asks suspiciously, eyes narrowed slightly.

I smirk. "We were just wondering if you had any more obvious questions you wanted to share with us," I lie.

Albus frowns at me, and then actually frowns at Healer Moore. "None today, I'm all out of obvious questions. Where's the -" he stops mid-sentence and frowns at the chair that is by his side. "Never mind."

Both me and Healer Moore laugh. I like that we have a healer who can laugh with us. I'm so glad Ginny called her for us. Albus puts his finger to his lips; he wants us to stop laughing and pretend that his almost obvious question never happened. So I almost let it go, giving him the occasional dig while Healer Moore sets up the machine that will show us the baby again.

"We're going to check the baby's development, okay," she tells us, professional once again. We nod, teasing over for now, and I roll up my t-shirt at her request. I shiver slightly when the cold mouse-like thing (as Al so eloquently put it) touches my stomach and he squeezes my hand. I'm glad he's here, obvious questions and all. Healer Moore points at the screen. "And there she is. Or he," she adds quickly.

"Yeah, when can we find out about the sex of the baby?" Al asks. "We haven't talked about it, and I actually kind of want it to be a surprise, but I thought I'd ask. Just so we know."

"When you have your next scan, at around twenty weeks," Healer Moore answers him with a smile. "We can talk more about that scan and the baby at a later date."

She goes back to the scan, telling us about the baby; its size, its heartbeat, that its healthy. The whole appointment doesn't take as long as I'd thought it would be, and before I know it she's already taken another picture and removed the mouse from my stomach. I sit up and fix my t-shirt, my legs swinging and my hands twitching. I'm nervous now, after we leave here we're going to meet our friends in town. Chris will have finished his Auror training by now and Al and I are meeting him and the others at our regular place. It's a café not too far from Diagon Alley, we'd go there before or after we bought our school supplies, depending on what time we decided to go. Well, depending on what time Emmett decided to go; he can be such a girl when it comes to his appearance.

"Are you okay, Alexa?" Healer Moore asks quietly. They're both watching me intently.

"We're just a little nervous about lunch, we're telling our friends today," Albus explains.

"Oh," she nods once, understanding. "I remember a similar conversation once upon a time. Slightly different, though; I was married."

"But your friends took it well?" I ask.

She grimaces. "Yes. The in-laws, however, weren't exactly happy. They didn't like their Pureblood son marrying and having a family with a Half-blood. They're better around me now and they love their grandkids," she says, now smiling. I must have looked as sympathetic as I felt.

My dad doesn't really talk about how it was back then, but I know because it still can be. Old prejudices don't just go away, it doesn't matter what the Ministry says or how many parties they throw to state otherwise. I smile back and stand, grabbing my coat. I swear I don't mean to say it, it just comes out. "Do you talk to all your patients so openly?"

Healer Moore laughs at me. It's soft and surprisingly not what I imagined. I don't feel offended by the fact that she's obviously laughing at my question, which is odd because I usually hate when people laugh at me. "Usually by the end. Like I said before, after so long we end up a little closer, since I'm pretty much the only senior healer with this expertise. But I'm also good friends with your mother and your aunt; you will see a lot of me, not just here. You'll find out all of this anyway." She holds open the door for us and hands me the picture. I put it in my coat pocket. "Good luck with your talk, guys. I'll see you soon. Hopefully, Louis-free."

"He still comes here?" Albus asks in surprise.

Healer Moore shakes her head, then frowns. "Technically, no. He only came once a couple of weeks ago; he found out when my shift ended and waited outside. He must have got it from Ginny, because I was meeting her that night."

"Don't think he's gone away," Al warns her. "He can be very persistent when he wants to be. He was probably really busy with training."

"Yeah," I agree quickly. "He's actually good at what he does. He's one of the best in his class, Dad says. They look for that, make them work that little bit harder. Plus he's in his third year of training and he chose to be a Hit Wizard instead of an Auror, so he'll be given cases and stuff. If you're lucky, it'll tire him out so much he can't come to see you."

"I'll bear that in mind," she laughs lightly.

With the Louis topic dropped, we say our good byes again and leave the hospital. We floo to Diagon Alley from the hospital - we're lazy like that - and leave through the wall, out into London. The café is only a few minutes walk and, like everything else, we decided to wing what we say to them. This makes it extremely hard to fill up the silence between us. We're coming up with things are friends could say, scaring ourselves even more, even though we know we shouldn't. I know we both are because Albus always does it, has been doing it a lot just this week, and I'm usually the one who makes him stop.

God, I really have no idea what to say to them.

"Guys, I'm pregnant," sounds the easiest. Simple enough, right? If we want to get right to it. It sounds like something you'd just blurt out. Same with "Guys, Alexa's pregnant," if Albus takes the lead.

Right now, just blurting it out sounds like a great idea. It'll make the talk go a lot faster.

"There they are," Albus mutters, nudging me in the ribs with his elbow. They're sat outside, our usual table. Emmett notices us first and nods in our direction, since he's sitting at the end of the six-chaired table that faces us, making Chris, Megan and Darcy turn to us. Darcy waves us over. "Here we go."

We get to the table quickly and sit on the other side. Megan takes a sip of her glass of Coke. "Good, you're finally here. Now we can order."

"How did everything go?" Chris asks. I turn to him, trying not to look suspicious. "Al got the day off because he said he had some appointment, I'm just wondering how it went," he tells me innocently. A little too innocently, I think. What is he thinking?

"It went fine," Al assures him. So he knows Chris is thinking something too, yet he doesn't seem to care.

...Oh no.

"It's odd, being here and not talking about getting ready for Hogwarts," Darcy muses, temporally distracting me from that thought. "Probably because we're usually already in school by this time." She pauses for a drink. "I think I'll like that we can come here more often."

"Yeah, that would definitely be the highlight of my day," Emmett replies dryly.

"Ignore Em, he's in a mood because we keep asking about his new boyfriend," Chris snickers.

"You're seeing someone?" both me and Albus ask.

Emmett says nothing.

"He won't admit to anything," Megan explains with a grin. "We're not sure why and we're trying to get it out of him. He's a very stubborn Slytherin."

"Aren't we all?" Emmett points out, rolling his eyes. "So, besides the house, what's new with you two?"

"Well," Al says, stuttering a little. "That's actually why we planned this lunch."

"I'm pregnant." See, I told you I'd just blurt it out. I should really learn to stop that. I point to Albus. "It's his."

They all share a look, which really confuses me, and then they turn back to me and Al. They're waiting for something.

"And?" Megan prompts calmly.

"You are taking this too well," I say instead.

"Sorry. And?" Megan says a little more dramatic. "Was that better?"

Albus smacks Chris across the arm. "You told them?"

I smack Albus across the arm. "You told him!"

"No!" he promises me. "He figured it out at the party and I wasn't going to outright lie about it. He promised to keep it quiet until we told everyone."

"I didn't tell them, I swear," Chris says calmly. "Emmett did. He said it as soon as we sat down and the others agreed. I don't know how they knew. I think he did something again."

"Please," Emmett scoffs. "It's you two, I'd be more worried if you hadn't slept together. And you bought a house, with a nursery and a garden with a swing. It doesn't take a genius, but I took the stereotypical viewpoint and crossed my fingers when I saw the nursery. Congratulations, by the way. And my question about what was new was referring to the appointment, which I could only assume was a scan of some sort."

I narrow my eyes. Now more than ever, I swear he has some weird psychic power. "You really are more than just a pretty face, aren't you, Em."

"Oh, so much more," he winks.

"You're boyfriend must like that about you, I would."

His smirk drops a little. "Maybe," he says vaguely.

"But you still only guessed. This could have gone so wrong for you."

"I'm lucky I was right then."

The waitress comes before any of us can say something else and we order our food, as well as drinks for me and Al. She writes everything down, and with a smile, tells us she'll be back with our meals soon. We stare at each other for a full minute before we all burst out laughing. Our talk definitely didn't go to plan, since they had already guessed, but they knew either way and they had taken it well. Better than I had hoped for and I can't help but be a little excited. I put one hand on Al's shoulder and stretch so my other is on Emmett's and I glance from him to Megan, wanting him to do the same. Soon we're all holding onto the other and we lean forward slightly, squeezing each other's shoulders. It's as close to a group hug around the table as we're going to get.

I really love my friends.

"The scan was fine," I tell them, taking the picture out of my pocket for them to look at. "Our healer says he or she looks healthy."

"Will you find out the sex of the baby in the next scan?" Darcy asks.

"Well, I found out today that Al wants to keep it a surprise, and I agree, so no," I reply. "We could, though. So, we have the option if we change our minds."

"You can find out a few things in the twenty week scan, if I remember correctly," Chris comments. "Tasha had tests done for any abnormalities. I went with her for that one. Everything was fine, though."

"Fingers crossed then," Albus murmurs, looking slightly worried again.

The change in atmosphere is noticeable and the others start talking over each other, until Darcy holds up a hand. "So, about Emmett's new boyfriend. Oh, don't think we'd forgotten," she laughs when he groans.

"Fine," he gives in. As they all knew he would. We're actually surprised he lasted this long. "It's new, it started in April while we were still in school, so we don't really want to jinx it by telling everyone. He's -" Emmett falters a little, but then clears his throat and continues. "He's still in school, he's a couple of years younger than us. He was sixteen and I was seventeen when we started dating."

For once, he sounds like he doesn't completely hate that his birthday is near the end of August and he's younger than the rest of us. Another couple of days and he probably would have been in the year below us and in school right now, spending his day with his new boyfriend and being harassed by Lily because she loves the idea of having a gay best friend and apparently just having Hugo isn't enough, as he is her cousin and not just a friend.

She's a strange kid.

"And it being new is why we can't know his name?" Chris continues.

"Yes and no," Emmett frowns. "I'm friends with one of his family members and they're quite close. He's more protective of the person I'm seeing than the others because he's the youngest and I don't want anything to come between me and my friend or them." He turns to Al. "I don't know what to do."

"Is this guy the type to make you choose between him and the one your seeing?" Albus asks him.

Emmett shakes his head. "I'd never think he would, but I've never dated someone in his family before. He's generally the type to make you come to an agreement before making you choose, saying we're all stuck with each other, so I hope not."

Nodding, Al smiles. "Then talk to the guy about it, maybe wait for your boyfriend to come home at Christmas, so you can do it together and he can see that you're serious. If you are serious, that is."

"I am. I really like him."

"Then from what you've said about the guy, he might be fine with it. It might be a little weird, but he'll probably get used to it."

"Yeah, maybe," Em nods. "Maybe I'll wait and we'll both talk to him. It'll give us time to figure out what to say."

"You know, he sounds an awful lot like you, Al," Darcy comments and I have to agree with her. She sounds almost nonchalant, except she's got that look in her eye that says she knows something. Maybe she's figured out who Emmett's referring to and who the boyfriend is. I'll have to get it out of her later. "You might get a new best friend out of all of this."

Emmett clears his throat, while we all laugh. "Let's not get carried away." He takes my hand. "I am sorry, Alex, I'm practically stealing your thunder here. Let's talk baby names."

I almost snap at him for the name he calls me, before I remember that he's the only one I let call me 'Alex'. It's just that he hasn't in so long and James has. I refuse to let James call me anything other than Alexa. Still, I narrow my eyes anyway. "If you are another person telling me to name the baby after you, I'll hurt you."

Emmett narrows his eyes, too. Him in genuine confusion. "Why would I do that? I want to know what names you like."

Oh, Emmett, I love you. Why can't others be like you when you're sweet like this? Set an example. I smile brightly, and as lunch arrives, we go through the list of baby names I've secretly thought of and add new one's my best friends have thought of.

Surprisingly enough, Emmett ends up being added to it.

Chris is far from happy.

***

It's a good job that everyone knows our group are so close and that it's no secret that Emmett is gay and that he says his new boyfriend is very understanding of our friendships, because before Emmett came out publicly and he was dating girls (and guys) who were easily jealous, they hated that we were always holding hands.

Seriously, if there wasn't a whisper about my relationship with Al, there was a rumor about my relationship with Emmett. Someone once asked me who was better. Another wanted to know if I loved them both so much I couldn't decide. What made it worse was that no one believed me when I told them they were just friends and I was actually dating a very understanding Gryffindor named Robbie, who thought it was great that I had such an awesome group of friends and loved that I was telling people about him, but wasn't appreciating the fact that they weren't listening.

Emmett did us all a favor when he told people he was gay and seeing a Ravenclaw named Scott, people stopped talking about us when they saw us holding hands and it was just Albus and I that were the make believe 'it couple'.

Obviously Robbie and I didn't last.

I think that what got to me the most was the two questions that constantly circled in my mind: why did the school only want to see me with Albus or Emmett, especially when I spent a lot of time with Chris, too? And why did they even care?

And the only reason Em and I are always holding hands is because he likes to get lost in that creative little head of his and disappear. We need to make sure he stays with us. At least that's what we told him after he took a wrong turn in first year, after our first class together because he wasn't paying attention. He missed dinner and almost got a detention for being out after hours, but after he explained he just got a warning and suggested he get a map of the school. That was the night Al showed us his dad's Marauder's Map, which James had stolen from Mr. Potter's office and Al had stolen from James.

Him taking my hand just became a routine, that we still do now, and it makes us laugh when random Muggles point at the 'adorable looking couple', even though the fact that they're talking about us is weird. I just hope his new boyfriend is more like Scott than the others.

I miss Scott, he was cool.

Emmett squeezes gently to get my attention and I squeeze back, so he knows I'm listening. "I think we should all go out next week. We can do whatever you want, with no drinking, I just miss our Saturday nights. We barely hung out all summer."

"It's sounds like a great idea," Megan says and Chris agrees enthusiastically. Al gives me a worried look, to which I roll my eyes, and then he nods, too.

"Sure," I tell him. "Just the six of us, so you can forget you don't have your guy? Or would you not object to Darcy bringing Ewan, who would bring Will, who would bring Rose?" I pull a face. "Please say you would."

Emmett shakes his head, looking sympathetic. They all know Rose and I aren't on good terms. Al swears he'll fix it one day. I'm not so sure. "If Darcy wants to bring Ewan and he wants to invite them, we can't stop it. Besides, you just won't talk to Rose. You can be my date for the night, as long as I can secretly have at least a couple of drinks," he amends his previous statement.

"Your guy won't mind?"

"Not at all."

"I'm really starting to like this guy. I hope you introduce us soon." I make him promise.

"That's just great," Al moans. "Megan will probably find someone else to be with, which means you're leaving me with Chris," he jokes.

"And what the hell is wrong with Chris?" Chris demands, playing along.

Albus snorts. "One; I spend all day with you anyway, you need to give me my space. Two; you're just not my type."

"You know what? I just can't do this any more," Chris mock-cries. "We're just not working as partners, the spark has gone. I think we should end it before someone gets hurts."

I think he's referring to them being partners in Auror training, despite it being an obvious joke. It's what Al is talking about anyway. "You should have thought about that before you agreed to be my partner. Now you're stuck with me. Is that why you're always kicking my ass?"

"No." Chris winks and Al blushes and they both glance at me. Then Al pushes him to the side; he just misses the passing group of adults going in the opposite direction. "Sorry," he mutters to them between giggles. "Ow. I think I twisted my ankle."

Yet he's still laughing. There must have something in his drink at the café. Emmett let's go of me to walk with the guys, Megan and Darcy take a side each and we walk with our arms looped.

"So what's it like, being pregnant? Knowing you're going to be a mum?" Darcy asks quietly.

I shrug. "Terrifying. But when you're talking about it, getting the room ready and seeing the image on the screen and picking names and all that, you can't help but get a little excited. Especially when you know he's going to have the best family ever, including the aunts and uncles." They know I mean them. "I'm glad you all took it so well. I was afraid you'd freak out and leave until we drifted apart and stopped hanging out completely."

"Arrational fears was all that was," Megan assures. "We're best friends. Always have been and always will be, no matter what. We wouldn't be very good best friends if we left you when you and Al needed us. I mean, you've met Al's family; this kid is going to need us if he or she wants to survive them. Albus is no use for that, considering he spends most of his time avoiding them. His Weasley survival skills are actually lacking."

"I heard that!"

Oh, Al. I'm pretty sure he was meant to.


A/N:
It's been so long since I updated this, and for that I apologize. I hope you like this chapter and I'll definitely try to make sure the next update is quicker. :)

Watch out for Emmett. There's more to him (if you're confused about how he knew...). ;)

Sam.


Chapter 11: Alexa: When Old Enemies Become Potentials
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I no longer like shopping. It's never been my favorite thing to do anyway, but I didn't hate it. I'd go willingly with my friends and could happily buy a few things to add to my wardrobe. Until the other day, when I was walking through London for something to do and while browsing through the kids clothes, almost subconsciously wondering what my kid would like - either that, or my brain was trying force out what I was trying to ignore - and I came across a section of clothes that made me stop, then turn and want to run home to my dad.

The maternity section.

Aunt Astoria called the second trimester 'the honeymoon period'; the morning sickness starts to disappear and your energy returns. Astoria said she felt almost normal again, except for the growing 'baby bump' and the labor, that she mostly enjoyed being pregnant. But I don't want to get bigger. I'd like to stay exactly as I am please. No, I'd like to go back to how I was before, when my clothes fit properly. Take away my Saturday nights and punish me with nausea, I'll never drink again and I'll swear to a life of abstinence until I'm married (if I get married), but give me back my comfy jeans. They're my favorite.

I discreetly hug my arm over my chest, my hand on the right side of my stomach. You can't tell yet, I'm not ready to wear maternity clothes. For which I'm glad; I don't need the rest of the world knowing just yet. Why, out of every guy at that party, the father had to be the youngest son of the most well known man in this world, I will never know.

Fate must hate me.

So must the father. I turn to look through the shop window, finding Albus not too far from the counter. Well, that's something; ten minutes ago he was still by the door. He'd already left me in Flourish and Blotts fifteen minutes before I'd left to find him. That was half an hour ago. I have no idea what he's looking for in there. It's a Quidditch shop. He hates Quidditch - he and Hugo are pretty much the only ones in that family who do, which I think is hilarious considering who their fathers are - the git can barely even fly. At least Hugo can fly, though he never does because that's how he realized he's afraid of heights.

Now if James was here, I'd understand. But he's not, so I don't. I can't imagine Al wanting or needing to get James anything without a good reason. Maybe he asked Albus to pick something up for him. If he gave Albus the money or Al got something in return, that would make sense.

Maybe fate really does hate me, Al taking so long to get something for James and making me wait is my punishment for moaning about maternity clothes.

No. Now that one's just crazy talk. Right?

"What's up?"

His voice makes me jump and I glare when I turn to him. Albus doesn't hide his smile, but his eyes show enough concern for me to forgive him and let my glare drop. "Do you think there's a spell that let's me stretch out my clothes, so I can where my favorite jeans again?"

"You're thinking about getting bigger again." It's not a question, but I nod anyway, probably looking as miserable as I feel. Albus rolls his eyes at me, eyes that now show absolutely no hint of concern, only amusement. "I don't know if that's a thing you should be thinking about yet, but what do I know? Being just a guy and all."

His tone is mocking as he repeats the words I said last night. He's right, though; he doesn't know. I ignore his sarcasm and reply as though he's being serious. "Exactly. I should ask Aunt Astoria."

"I wouldn't be surprised if she said yes, there's a spell for most things," he says.

"And the infinite wisdom of Albus Severus Potter comes through. What's in the bag?" I change the subject, pointing to said bag, before he can remind that we both know he can be right sometimes, and then give an example.

Al smirks at me, he knows exactly why, but he allows it. He pulls out a pair of expensive looking gloves, designed specifically for Seekers (I remember because Dad and I have bought similar pairs for Kieron), and a golden snitch in a clear, plastic case. I take the case carefully in my hand and lift it up for a closer look. They're not designed for actual playing, they're a little bigger and magicked to be even bigger inside, but they're still made with an equal amount of care and are not touched unless by the person they're meant for, for them to hide their treasures. In this case, it's only for the person Al is giving it to to touch.

It's a small, round safe basically, but even I can admit that they really are beautiful. The person it's for will probably love it.

I hand it back just as carefully. "For James?" I ask.

Al looks at me like I'm crazy. "Why the hell would I get anything for James?"

"He's the only one in your family who still plays Quidditch," I shrug. He shakes his head; so not James. "Who then?"

"A friend I met last summer, it's his birthday next Tuesday."

"You have a new friend and you didn't tell us?" He opens his mouth. "Scratch that, you've had this friend for over a year now, making him no longer new, and you didn't tell us?"

"Are you done?" he laughs.

"It's all I have for now."

Still chuckling, Al wraps his arm around my waist. "I haven't seen him since that summer, we mostly talked through letters. And I did tell you I was writing to a friend."

"You did," I admit. "So I may be able to forgive you. Who is he?"

"He's name's -"

"Alexa?"

We both look up. "Rich?" we say together, both equally as confused and maybe even a little mad.

"I need to talk to you," he says quickly as I'm walking away, giving Al a quick nod of greeting to look like he's not ignoring my friend. A friend who's more than capable of beating the crap out of him if he's angry enough. And believe me when I say Al wants to.

"I have nothing to say to you."

"I know you're angry about what happened at graduation and you have every right to be, but believe me when I say that I had no idea what was happening," he rushes through his little speech, trying to keep up with me.

"I find that hard to believe, she is your cousin," I spit out. He grabs my arm, making me stop, and I almost pull away until I see Rich's face; he's a little red and breathless and actually sincere. I hold a hand to shut Al up; I'm willing to listen before I decide whether or not Al should hurt him. "Go on."

Rich's face turns an slightly darker shade of red and since we're no longer moving, I can only assume it's due to embarrassment. He glances at Al, I shake my head; he knows he has to say it now, in front of Al. It's a punishment he deserves and he accepts it unwillingly. "She overheard me telling a friend that I liked you and had thought about asking you out at graduation. She kept telling me it was a good idea, that at least talking to you and seeing where things could go couldn't hurt. So I did. While I was talking to you, I saw her with Al behind us and I finally knew why she'd said that."

"Finally?"

"Jessica always has an agenda," he mutters. "I had a feeling she did then, but I just wanted to talk to you. I didn't stop to think about what it could be. You saw her, then you looked at me and I knew you thought the worst and I'm really sorry for my part in it, even if it was unknowingly. I've wanted to tell you that since it happened, but I haven't seen you since then."

"Great. Now that you've apologized and you know better than to ignore Jessica's plans, we can go." Al takes my hand to pull me away. "Let's go."

I pull him back. "Hold on. You really didn't know?" Rich shakes his head, promises he didn't. "Then I forgive you. I'll see you around."

"Wait!" he calls, making me and Al stop again. "Can I make it up to you? We can have that date we talked about?"

"I don't think we're there yet anymore," I tell him, shaking my head. He looks disappointed, but he understands. "But tomorrow, we're all going out. You could come."

Al's eyes bulge; he hates the idea and doesn't want him to come, but he's too shocked to speak. Rich gets it, though. "No, I really shouldn't. I don't wanna mess with your plans."

"No, you don't," Al says quickly. "Let's go."

"Come on, Al. It's hardly five star dining, it's dinner and a movie. Adding an extra person is no big deal." I turn to Rich. "I believe you when you say you had no idea and that you want to make it up to me, so come. We can hang out; it's a start."

They both have their own reasons for their silence while I wait for an answer. "Tomorrow," Rich says finally. "Where shall I meet you?"

"Fifty Whitmore Drive, it's just outside of London," I say. "About half six."

"I'll see you then."

As soon as he's gone, Al glares at me. "What the bloody hell did you do that for?"

***

Al's not the only one who chooses to glare at me once they find out I've invited Rich Waterman to come out with us.

"Are you out of your mind?"

"What possessed you to do that?"

"This is an evil plot, in which we get to hurt him, right?"

I give Emmett a look which clearly tells him is idea is insane. "It's not a plot to hurt him," I say. "I thought this would be a good thing, forgive and forget and second chances and all that. To be able to do that makes you a better person and that's what a parent would teach their kid, right? How can I teach my kid to be the better person if I can't do that? And I have to be the parent who teaches it, considering the father has no intention of doing so!"

"Don't bring me into this," Al mumbles. I told him this last night and he hates that I'm right. "We forgive and forget. We all know what Jessica Shepherd can do, I wouldn't be surprised if Rich was actually a nice guy."

"How much did that hurt to say," Ewan snickers. I want to laugh along with him, but I refuse to let myself. I'm being mature and adult tonight. Ewan winks at me, though. He's laughing for the both of us. I like Ewan, especially when he's alone. I mean, I like Will, too, but with him comes his girlfriend.

"You don't want to know," he sighs.

"This adult Alex is temporary, right? It's got to be pregnancy hormones. Because this mature Alex is scaring me a little," Emmett says quietly. He does look kind of scared, I must admit.

I walk across the kitchen and wrap my arms around him. "It's going to be okay. You can get used to it. This mature stuff has got to be a good thing." I glance at the clock. "Now Rich will be here any minute, are we ready to go?"

"Yeah, I'm just going to sign this card, so I don't forget," Al replies, sitting down at the table.

That reminds me. "Who your friend? How'd you meet? When do we get to see him?"

"You have a new friend?" everyone else asks, surprised. Except Emmett, of course.

"His name is Xavier. We met last summer, when I was in my depression phase," Al says, writing in the birthday card. His depression phase is not as bad as it sounds; everything got on top of him with NEWTs and careers advice and his family, among other, mostly minor, things. He could cope with them separately, just not all at once. So, he went out one night and came back all happy and calm and normal again. Teenage drama, I call it. He was being a drama queen.

"I went to Eros with Emmett," he continues.

Chris interrupts. "The gay bar?"

"Do you wanna know or not?" We all nod. Except Emmett. "He dragged me with him to take my mind off school and I met Xavier. It didn't take him long to realize I wasn't gay, I told him I just wanted to talk. He listened, it was nice to talk to a guy who wasn't family or a friend and didn't already know my problems, who'd give me a straightforward, unbiased answer without going into detail about my feelings like a girl would. We stayed friends."

Al closes the flap of the envelope and puts it in the middle of the table. "Anything else?"

"So, he's the one who helped you and had you come back to us all happy and normal again," Darcy says. "I like him. Do we know him?"

"Oh, yes. He's three years older than us, played Seeker for Gryffindor and is now a professional player," Al smirks, his eyes on me.

"Oh, my God," I whisper excitedly. The others know, too. "Your new friend is really the gorgeous, ex-Gryffindor, Puddlemere United Seeker, Xavier Sinclair - who was in a gay bar." My shoulders visibly sink as the implication sinks in and becomes fact. "Why is it always the good one's?"

"I am going to take that as a compliment. At least you know you're okay with Waterman. Speak of the devil," Emmett smirks. The doorbell rings.

"How do you do that?" I hear Darcy exclaim as I go to open the door.

"Hey, Rich," I say, feeling kinda awkward about this whole thing. But I stand by my whole forgive and forget idea. "Come on in."

Rich steps in after a moments hesitation. He's dressed casual like the rest of us; jeans and a t-shirt under his jacket. Yet he can't look any more out of place with the rest of us. He's never hung out with us before. "Nice place, it's very - yeah, I'm pretty sure I moved out of a place like this."

"Oh, you mean the whole family environment feel to it." He nods slowly and follows me into the kitchen. "It's a nice place, spacious and affordable. Dad can moan about me living in a house all he wants, but I'd bet he'd love the idea if I had asked for a penthouse-like apartment in the city. Kieron and Nicky live in one of those, so Dad knows what it's like."

We stop besides Al, who is back on his feet, his arms folded stiffly across his chest. I make sure I'm standing in between them. "Well, official introductions, I think. Since you've never actually spoken to any of them. You've already met Albus Potter, best friend and roommate, though sometimes I have to wonder why."

"Gee, thanks," he mutters.

I ignore him and continue. Does anyone say 'gee' anymore? "That's Darcy Conway and I imagine you know her boyfriend, Ewan Warren, give you were both in Ravenclaw." I move to point to their right. "That's Megan Hughes, next to her is Christopher Reed." Finally, I go back to my left. "And this is Freaky Psychic Douchebag, but everyone else calls him Emmett McQueen."

"I am insulted by that. I'm not freaky," Emmett pouts.

"It's good to know where your priorities are at," Rich mumbles, just loud enough for everyone to hear. "He's really psychic?" he asks me.

"We don't know," I answer honestly. "He does this really freaky thing where he takes one look at you, or even takes one look at a room," its the only way he could have guessed, "and can tell you everything. He's says he's not psychic, that he is just able to notice all the little details, but I don't believe him. It doesn't explain his scarily accurate ability to know when a person is coming and who it is, or when a phone's about to ring."

"Freaky." Rich risks a glance in Emmett's direction. "So, you consider yourself a gay version of Sherlock?"

"How do you know Sherlock wasn't gay? Did you not watch his bromance with Watson?"

Rich shakes his head. "I assume you're talking about a program; I don't have a television, I've only read the books."

"You have my pity."

"Emmett!" I snap, daring him to say anything else. Unfortunately, Emmett's the only one in the world who isn't afraid of my glare. He only stares back, looking cocky and smug. What are you going to do, he's saying.

"No, it's alright," Rich says. "I'm actually surprised Emmett's parents let him have a television. See, I just didn't want one. I was barely home, either at my uncle's house, who does have a TV, or out with my friends, so I didn't need one. Your parents, however -"

He doesn't finish his sentence, he doesn't need to. Emmett is scary calm, his face blank, but his eyes are narrowed and calculating. This is it, this the moment Em decides whether Richard Waterman lives or dies (aka stays or is kicked out of my house). No one can stop it. We hold our breath. Eventually, Emmett releases his gaze and shrugs. "They don't know. He can stay."

"Hey, look at that, he passed," Ewan laughs. He turns to Rich. "No one has passed Em's rite of passage since me, fifth year."

"How did you do it? Because I'm not sure exactly how I did."

"I did the same as you; I stood up to him. I told him to piss off, he was oddly proud."

"He's also standing right here." Emmett turns his narrowed eyes to me. "I thought we were leaving."

I grab my coat, which I'd thrown on the back of one of the kitchen chairs before. "We are. Come on."

I make sure I'm walking close to Rich until we find a place secure enough to apparate. At least we know where we'll end up, we've apparated there before, but we don't yet know this place well enough to know where Muggles can and can't see us. Ewan and Darcy are on his other side, telling him how not to piss off Emmett. Just because he's passed, it doesn't mean he's safe. Emmett is very unpredictable and can be just as moody. "Never hug him, especially not surprise hugs. He hates them," Darcy sighs. She loves hugs. "He'll push you away if you're a girl, he'll punch you in the face if you're a guy."

"That hurts!" Chris calls.

"I wouldn't dream of it," Rich says, looking at them as if to say they're crazy for even suggesting he'd want to hug Emmett. "Do you let your boyfriend hug you, Emmett? I hear he's a hugger."

We seem to freeze mid-step, then all turn to Rich. Mostly because he sounds so nonchalant, like he says this all the time. "Keep talking and I'll kill you before you get your coveted date with Alex."

Me: "You know who he is?"

Darcy: "Who is he?"

Emmett: "Fuck that! How do you know?"

"You wanted me to stop talking," Rich says quietly, only answering Emmett. Given the topic, I suppose that was the smartest move. It's the uncertainty over Emmett's admittedly brilliant mind and what he can do that makes him continue, still only answering one of us. "I saw you two during the summer. I didn't think he had it in him to keep up with you and handle this relaionship, but everyone has always underestimated him."

More pieces of the boyfriend puzzle fall into place and me and Darcy share a look. Yeah, we definitely need to talk.

"I thought your friends knew who it was. I'm sorry," Rich finishes, looking confused. I'm sure he thought we were so close that we told each other everything. He's wrong. Just most things. We are allowed secrets, that's why Emmett still lives with this one. Also because we need him alive to find out if I'm right, but that's beside the point. "I won't say anything."

Slowly, we continue walking.

"He won't tell us because it's new," Megan explains. "He just doesn't want it jinxed. We allow it because it's obvious Em really likes this person. If he wasn't serious, we'd have known from the beginning. Alexa isn't the only one who's grown more mature."

"What's your reason for being mature?" Rich asks with a smile.

I bite my lip to keep from cursing. This has seemed more or less like any other night out, I almost forgot that I'm pregnant. Whether he gets his date or not, and it is a possibility now that I know he had nothing to do with what happened and we can go back to our talk about said date, he might stay in our lives thanks to this night.

He's another person I have to tell.

Maybe telling Rich will be a good thing, even if it does ruin anything that may happen between us - though who's to say it will? - after all, he's Jessica Shepherd's cousin. He'll know her better than anyone. He could be a useful ally in our plan to hide from the Bubblehead Clan. Jessica is the president and on Team Al, her best friend, Lorelai Bishop, is vice president and on Team Scor - as best friend and cousin, I get in the way. A lot. They hate me. They also try to use me to their advantage, that's why I'm always seen with them and called a friend. They haven't succeeded in getting either guy, but I doubt they'll give up. I mean, come on, it's only been seven years. That's nothing!

When Jessica finds out I'm having Al's baby, she's going to kill me. See why I need Rich?

"Inviting you tonight," I finally answer, being mostly honest, just as Al finds a place to apparate. He takes my hand; apparating yourself is not recommended during pregnancy, in case of splinching. We end up in an alley with the others and step out into the busy London streets.

Next stop: pizza.

***

I eat more pizza than is normal for me, though I am eating for two, and I try to hide it. But Rich notices. He doesn't care, even though he doesn't know why. He even pointed out that he can't remember me ever eating this much in school. I turned it around by flirting a little and commenting on the fact that he's noticed me. Al keeps making gagging noises when he thinks Rich isn't looking.

"So, what do you all do now that you're out of school?" he asks.

"Healer training," Megan is the first to respond. I'm glad she's joining me with my 'be the better person' policy and giving him a chance. "What about you?"

"I'm an intern at the Daily Prophet, I'm a journalist."

"Figures," Emmett mutters, not at all looking surprised.

"I'm playing Quidditch still," Ewan answers next. "There's a Chaser position with Puddlemere open. People keep telling me my expectations are too high as I'm still only eighteen, but I'm going to try out anyway. Age didn't stop Oliver Wood, who is now the coach, and it didn't stop Xavier Sinclair, who is their star Seeker. There are rumors he'll make captain soon enough."

"It's good to have expectations like that, it shows your faith and confidence in yourself," Rich says. "If you don't have that confidence in yourself, how do you expect to achieve anything?"

"Exactly," Ewan agrees.

"He's going to be amazing and he's going to get that position," Darcy states proudly, giving him a quick kiss. "I'm training to be a curse breaker."

"Cool."

"Emmett is in university in East London, studying Creative Writing, he wants to be an author," I say. "He's amazing, I love his short stories. They're kinda like fairytales, but they're not always what you expect."

"If Alex ever has kids, she might read them to him or her. She has a copy," Emmett adds with a smug smile.

"Maybe," I answer, calling his bluff. I know he won't ever say anything; he's not like that. "Chris and Al are both in Auror training, even though Al doesn't want to be an Auror."

"Then why?"

"I want to be a bounty hunter," Al says between mouthfuls of meat feast pizza. Rich looks so confused, obviously not understanding what that has is or what it has to do with Auror training. "An Auror solves the case; they track the criminals -"

"Kinda like a detective," Chris adds in.

"Hit Wizards already have a face; they hunt down the criminals -"

"Kinda like a bounty hunter," Emmett finishes.

"So, why not specialize in your last year and become a Hit Wizard?" Rich asks, making a good point.

"Because I want to work for myself, be more freelance, and not have to answer to Lexi's dad, or mine for that matter," Al tells him. "With Auror training, I'll have knowledge of law enforcement, both wizard and Muggle, which they do for when cases overlap as they sometimes have done, but I won't work for them. I can work with them, though; since I'll be fully qualified, Dad or Theo could call me in if they need me or if we have an overlapping case."

"Oh, I see now. Good luck." Rich turns to me. "What are you doing, Alexa?"

"Spending time with family, although they tend to call it invading their personal space." I shrug my shoulders. "I have no idea what I want to do yet."

"You will," he promises. I glance at Al the moment Rich turns away; it's just what he keeps promising me. He nods discreetly; I'm not sure if he's just agreeing with that promise or if that's his subtle way of accepting that I win and Rich is okay. He's so confusing when he's losing, because he hates to lose and will drag it out until he has no choice but to admit it.

"Well, I'm stuffed," Megan sighs. "If we're all done, I say we pay for this and get to the cinema. What are we watching?"

"Please no chick flicks," Emmett mutters, praying to the ceiling.

I stretch and tap him repeatedly to get his attention. "Supernatural horror with strong language and strong violence, or bad boy action with an extreme amount of strong language, an equal amount of strong violence and a fair few scenes that require a sexual nature warning?"

"Baby, you had me at 'bad boy'."

That's what I thought.

***

The movie turned out to be as action-packed as we thought it would be, all the required ratings were definitely needed. We loved it.

I turn to Em and wrap arm around his waist, pulling him to me. It's not hard to guess that action was more what he needed than romance; seeing Darcy and Ewan together has been reminding him all night that his guy isn't here. And if it's who I suspect it is, I completely understand why Em misses him. That guy really knows how to get under your skin until you can't help but fall in love with him. I'm not saying that's were Em is, but I won't be surprised when it happens. Not even Em's hard shell and reputation can stop that. If it's the guy I'm suspecting.

I hope it is. You say their names separately and you can't imagine them ever working, but once you put them together and can imagine them, you wonder how you could have ignored the fact that they're perfect. They're far from perfect people, but they're perfect for each other. Their differences compliment each other; Em is hot tempered and he is cool and level headed, Em will walk right into something and he'll be there to make him pause, Em has a creative imagination and he'll make it happen.

People listen to him, they love and respect him, and he uses it to his advantage, something they definitely have in common. That and their brilliant minds. They could rule the world. It's a terrifying thought.

If it's the guy I think it is, I wish he was here right now.

Wow. Hormones make me abnormally caring.

Make. It. Stop.

"Are you okay?" Em asks quietly.

"I am. Are you?"

He nods slowly. "I understand my aversion to romance tonight. What's your excuse?" I give him a look; I am not touching that subject. "Oh. I approve, by the way. He's alright, your potential." Emmett nods to Rich, who's laughing with Ewan.

"He's not my potential," I mutter. "We're hanging out because of my whole forgiveness thing. Besides, it's not like he'd stay once he knows I'm you-know-what, which is probably for the best; when his cousin comes for me, it might be best that he not become collateral damage."

"Yeah. Al really knows how to pick 'em," he winks. "Nah, we should give him more credit; she picked him this time. And he does alright sometimes," he refers to me, nudging me lightly. I roll my eyes. "Go make the most of your limited time together."

"You can be really sweet sometimes," I grin, walking further ahead.

"So can you."

I agree and leave him to his thoughts, meeting Rich at the front of our group. "Enjoy your night?"

"I did," he replies, sounding genuinely surprised. "Thank you for inviting me."

"No problem. She's not hanging around and spying on us, is she?" I joke.

Rich scans the area, not subtly, and shakes his head. "I don't see her. I haven't talked to her all week and she has no idea I'm out with you guys. It never hurts to check, though."

We get back to the alley we apparated to before the others. "I'd really like to see you again."

I decide to listen to Emmett and make the most of our limited time; we did already talk about a date, after all. And I am being the better person. "Well, you have my address. Call soon, maybe we'll see."

"I will." And like a gentleman, he kisses my cheek. "Good bye. I'd walk you to your house, but I think your roommate has had enough of me for one night. Bye, guys," he says, reminding that the others are here; they saw everything. He waves once and apparates away.

Al's face is a blank, I can't tell what he's thinking. We say good bye to the others and leave for our own homes. Al says nothing to me as we walk to the house, when we get inside he's gives me a quick good night and is up the stairs.

What the hell is going on?



A/N: Eros is the Greek God of love, one story saying he's Aphrodite's son, another saying he's an adult male who embodies sexual power. It seemed like a fitting name for a place Emmett would go to.

Sherlock and Watson refer to Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, the program Emmett refers to is the BBC's version, Sherlock.

I made up the street they live in for this story, though one probably exists somewhere.

What do you think of Rich? What will Jessica do when she finds out? What's up with Al? How does Emmett know everything? And who is this mystery boyfriend? ;)

I hope you enjoy. Please let me know what you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 12: Albus: When Secrets Become Burdens
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I all but run to my room after I say good night. I lean against the door, breathing hard and fast, completely unmoving. I don't even have the energy to fall into bed; it's draining me, escaping my body through my heavy breathing. Then my legs give way and I fall to the floor, almost in slow motion. I faintly hear Alexa follow me, her sharp knocks against the door must surely be hurting her hand. She continues for a while, calling my name and demanding to know what the hell is wrong with me. I don't answer her and she eventually gives up. But only for tonight, she promises she'll try again tomorrow and every day after until she has her answers.

"I can't help you if you don't tell me," is the last thing she says before she leaves for her own room. Her voice is low, but so clear because it's so silent, and she sounds upset and worried.

But what can I tell her? That I hated seeing her with Rich, that the thought of seeing her with him, or, when I think about it, anyone else for that matter, makes my skin crawl and my chest ache, that imagining her having her own family and having to listen to my kid talk about the guy she's spending her life with until he forgets about me completely and the other guy gets to be called 'Daddy' actually causes my heart to break?

That I want that guy to be me?

That Chris might be right?

Ah, fuck!

My breathing slowly, but surely, returns to normal and my heartbeat becomes soft and slow, as though it's giving up along with my denial. I was so focused on keeping Alexa as my friend that I completely missed the slow and steady change into more. I moved my romantic interest Catrine's way, who is the absolute opposite to Lexi in every way, even their ability to not care about who I am are for different reasons: Catrine cares too much about herself to care about anyone else, including me; Lexi's seen me through everything in my life since we started Hogwarts, she knows me better than anyone and sees more than just the youngest son of Harry Potter, savior of the world, and Ginny Potter née Weasley, ex-Quidditch star and woman to capture the savior's heart.

But Catrine was hot and not a friend, which meant she was dateable. Yes, I'd noticed that Lexi is beautiful and funny even when she is speaking fluent sarcasm and caring when she wants to be, but she's a friend and that's not something I was ever willing to lose, despite how we met.

Maybe I did subconsciously put up boundaries between us.

I pull my legs up to my chest, my elbow resting on top, and groan into my hands. I am such an idiot. How could I have not noticed until now? I'd seen Lexi with guys before...

But I'd focused on Catrine before, we hadn't slept together before, we weren't having a baby and living together, preparing for our family before.

And now she's back to thinking of having that date with Rich, like they'd talked about after we'd graduated, before the Jessica business had started. Of course he's going to call her, it's obvious how much he likes her, I can't blame him for that, and she's going to say yes because being mad at him had never stopped her from liking him.

They're going to have that date and I there is no way I can stop it, not Rich or any guy that comes along.

I let myself fall to the left and lie on the floor, squeezing my eyes shut. I'm so screwed.

***

I hate this.

Rich called on Monday, saying the only reason he hadn't called on Sunday was because that was his article deadline. They'd talked over the floo over almost an hour and my frustration grew with each passing tick from the living room's clock.

She's been dashing around the house since three o'clock; Rich will be here at seven to pick her up. Does four hours seem a bit much to you? Taking that long to get ready for one date really seems like a bit much. Lexi could be here, sitting with me and Chris and listening to all the reasons why she should cancel... Well, all the reasons that don't mention my feelings as any more than platonic. There are actually quite a few of them, so Lexi won't get suspicious.

I made a list after she'd told me she was going on the date - I'd left the room by then. I was in my bedroom, screaming into my pillow. It was a very manly scream, of course.

I throw my head back onto the couch and groan when I hear Alexa's footsteps coming down the stairs and into the living room. Chris whacks my arm and I look down, finding her by the doorway. Her make-up looks natural, at least it does to me; her cheeks are a soft red that makes me think of her blush when I whispered things in her ear the night we m-had sex, her eyes look sexy and like she's hide a secret you need to know and you would do anything to get it. She's wearing the black dress her aunt Astoria bought her for her eighteenth birthday, the one she's only worn twice before and both were for very special occasions (her birthday and our graduation, which I played major parts in). The dress molds her body without looking like it's stuck to her skin, the left side is a little longer than the right, stopping just below knee while the other side stops a few inches above. It has three straps across each shoulder, through right now one on her right has fallen down, past her hair, and it's quite low cut, showing the very tops of her breasts, but it's not enough to make her look inappropriate.

Usually, I love the dress. Her father disapproves. On both counts, now I know why.

"So, what do you think? Too much?"

"Yes," I blurt out without thinking. Alexa's smile drops and she looks at me like I've said the wrong thing. She checks the clock and she knows she doesn't have time to change. Her who expression deflates to a look of despair.

Damn hormones.

"I know I don't normally wear this for a first date, but this dress is the only one I could find that hid the bump," she cries, her voice all high-pitched and scared. There are no tears, though. "And he said to dress up. It could be a really romantic place, I can't go in my sweats!"

Chris hits me again and holds up a hand to stop Lexi's rambling. "Ignore him, Lex. You look amazing and it's definitely not too much. Rich will think your perfect, Al would if he were going on this date."

"Really?" Chris nods and pinches me until I nod, too. "Then why say it?"

I glance at Chris and he glares discreetly. "I'm sorry, Lexi. I was just thinking that you don't normally wear it for first dates, you really do look perfect."

"Thank you," she says with a relieved sigh. "And the hair?"

I watch her hands smooth down her hair without physically touching it; it cascades down her back and shoulders in waves and I can smell the scent of her favorite strawberry shampoo from here. It took her over an hour to make her hair perfect. I watched the clock. "Amazing."

"Definitely," Chris agrees. "Don't be afraid of him not liking it."

"I'm not afraid of him not liking it," Lexi frowns, the look on her face saying he's insane for even suggesting that. He shares a look with me and we both nod; Lexi has never given a thought to what any guy may think of her, knowing immediately when she looks fantastic and when she needs to change. So, he is insane for suggesting it.

Although, it did take Emmett until last summer to teach her how. Megan tried and gave up two summer's ago, but Em said he'd refuse to be seen with her until she looked 'presentable'. We all know she did it to mess with him; she's not fond of shopping unless she has to, but she likes to have things that make her look good. She'll always make sure she's 'presentable', no matter the occasion. Emmett just got her to make that 'extra effort'. His words, not mine.

Lexi nods her head, for knowing that she's right and for accepting that she looks good and does not need to make a quick change or cancel. She turns to her left. "And the bump? I couldn't see it in this dress."

"Us either," I say after confirming with Chris. "But I think you should tell him. He might take it well."

Please don't take it well...

I'm a horrible person.

"I'll think about it," Lexi answers, smiling sweetly. Too sweetly.

Translation: Not a chance in hell.

"Now I just have to come up with an excuse to why I can't drink, just in case he asks if I want wine or something," she mutters. "I'll just tell him I don't really drink; it's true. Okay, I'm ready."

We all turn to the sound of the front door opening; that shouldn't happen. "That can't be him," Alexa whispers.

"Hey, Al, I know it's a nice neighborhood, but you should still lock your door - hello." I relax when I see Xavier come into the living room. Until I realize his hello was just for Lexi. "Wow."

I clear my throat, but he doesn't notice. No one does. Lexi's hands go to her mouth. Oh, my God. Xavier Sinclair is in my living room."

"And he's being weird and staring," I shout. Still, no one pays attention.

"Are you staying to celebrate my birthday?" Xavier asks, clearly flirting.

Alexa looks downhearted again, for the first time disappointed about her date. And it's over a gay celebrity Quidditch player. "No, Al didn't tell me you were coming and I have a date."

"Then he is one lucky guy," Xavier sighs.

"Aren't you gay?" Lexi asks, frowning again. This time confused. She looks at me, probably thinking I've fed her misinformation to get her to stop rambling about sometihng (or someone). I've done it before.

"Yes," he assures her, smiling. "But I mean it; the guy must be special. You look amazing. And if I'm being completely honest, part of me is actually not so sure about myself anymore." He shakes his head rapidly. "I'm good. I hate confusion. Hello, Lexi."

Lexi's hands move from her face to her chest. "You know my name. I am aware that Al probably told you about me, but I don't care; you know my name."

"Yeah," Xavier grins. "I actually know your brother. I noticed he only let me go round to his house when you weren't there after he told me that you'd talked about how cute I was when you watched my Quidditch game in your first year. He's very overprotective, your brother."

"Yeah, he's done that with almost every guy I've met or thought about meeting, he 'lawyers up'," she mutters, nor exactly pleased about that. "He did with Chris and Em."

"Not about Al?" he asks, pointing to me.

"No, he always thought he'd break Al with just his words," Lexi admits with a grin, winking at me. I roll my eyes. "He probably might have if he'd thought for a second that Al would actually do something."

"Like knocking you up," Xavier says casually. I bite my lip.

"Excuse me," Lexi smile too sweetly again, holding up a finger. Then she glares at me. "You told him?"

"How did you think I knew all that stuff in the beginning? How did you think I knew what to ask for when I bought that test?" I ask, holding my hands up in surrender. "I needed to go to someone."

"So, you go to a gay friend no one knows you have?" Chris asks. I nod.

"You know a lot for a man who sleeps with other men," Alexa turns to Xavier with a smile; it's not exactly a pleased smile, but she's not mad that he was the first to know. Only because she loves him. "Considering you can't accidentally knock someone up."

Xavier leans against the door frame, his arms folded over his chest. He suddenly loses his usual confidence, looking reminiscent, almost sad. "I was with a girl once. I was hiding my sexuality because I was afraid I'd be kicked off the team if they knew. She was at our victory party a couple of years ago and she came over. I played a part and it went too far. She told me she was pregnant, that she wanted us to be a family, and I told her the truth. I also told her that I'd still be there, but she took off. I didn't see her for a few weeks, then she came to me after practice one day, crying her eyes out, and she told me she'd lost the baby. I looked it up after she ran the first time, that's how I know."

We sit in silence, just listening to his story. Watching him, it's ike he felt compelled to finish it once he'd started. It's one he's obviously never shared, not once. I understand why. His face is pale and his breathing is rapid. It takes him a few minutes to calm himself, then he moves into the living room. "We need to change the mood before it becomes a really crappy birthday. I'm only here now because I had practice all day, I'm going out with friends tonight. Might even meet someone. When is your date coming, Lexi?"

Lexi glances at the clock again; she's been doing it every so often. She only stopped for Xavier's story. "Any minute."

She starts to ask him how his practice was, lightening the mood by pretending she's interested. He barely opens his mouth and the door rings. "That's him. Bye, guys. It was awesome to meet you, Xavier. Maybe I'll see you again soon."

We listen as she opens the door, greets Rich pleasantly and leaves the house. As soon as she does, I groan again. "It's just not fair."

"You could always tell her," Xavier suggests. I give him the finger and point to the coffee table. "Happy birthday, Xave."

"Ah, I love presents."

"You never told me that story," I say quietly while he opens the package containing his gloves.

He pauses for a moment and shrugs. "It was over two years ago, it's not like a can change anything," he says, pain flashes in his eyes.

"I'm sorry," Chris says, though his mind seems to be on something else entirely.

"Thanks." He inspects the gloves. "For your sorry and for the gift." He puts it down and picks up the other. "Let's talk about you, Al. Why did you let her go with him when you clearly wanted to take her against the wall, with or without an audience?"

"We're not all you, Xave," I roll my eyes again.

"No comment. How long have you been in love with her for?"

"I'm not in love with her," I deny quickly. I'm coming to terms with the fact that I have feelings for her, I can't be in love with her.

"Since fourth year, when she grew up and he realized she was actually a girl," Chris answers, slowly looking like his usual self.

"I am not in love with her!" I growl, standing up. "I just -" I stop and wait for myself to calm down. "I don't know what I want."

"Yes, you do," Xavier says, seemingly more preoccupied with his snitch.

I think back to the night we came home from the cinema; I knew what I wanted then, at least in some form. I wanted Alexa and the baby here with me, as a family. But will my feelings extend long enough to make a real relationship or will my love her change again? I know my feelings grew as we got older, but I also know that my thoughts keep going back to that night and I can't base my feelings purely on sex. I can't be with her if how I feel about her isn't as strong as I want it to be, if it becomes just a about sex or the kid. That's not fair on either Lexi or our kid.

I know that's why I've been doing my absolute best to keep this from her, that's why I haven't being as straightforward as I usually am with her and she insists on finding out.

I know what I want; I want to know for sure.

But I can't if she's seeing other people.

"I do," is all I say.

"Do you have alcohol in your fridge?" Xavier asks suddenly.

"There's some left over from our house warming party, which you were invited to by the way," I glare, but with a small smile to show I'm joking. He was in Germany, after all. "Alexa can't drink because she's pregnant and I promised I wouldn't for her, not that I could if I hadn't promised; the smell makes her ill. Why?"

"Because I've decided to stay tonight, help you. I can confirm my sexuality tomorrow," he smirks, disappearing into the kitchen. He comes back, handing us both a drink,and holds his up on salute. "Happy birthday to me."

***

When Alexa comes back, Chris is fast asleep on the couch/his bed, while Xavier is asleep on the floor. I lie next to him, but I don't sleep, so I hear her when she comes in.

"How was your date?" I whisper, making her jump. "Sorry."

Alexa notices the other two are fast asleep and nods her head in the direction of the stairs. Getting the message quickly, I follow her, making myself look anywhere but her while she's standing in front of me in that dress. She goes straight to her bedroom, shutting the door on me. I give her a few minutes, then turn to walk away, confused as to why she wanted me here, when she opens it again. Her make-up is off, her hair is tied back and she's in her pyjamas. Lexi leaves the door open for me to enter.

"I thought Xavier was going out for his birthday?"

"He changed his mind, decided to stay. How was your date?"

Lexi falls onto her bed and lies back, motioning for me to join her. "It was alright for a first date; he was charming and funny and a gentlemen, just a kiss on the cheek."

"Did you tell him?" Lexi shakes her head. "Thought not. He has to know sooner or later."

"I know. I'm just taking Emmett's advice; he said to enjoy my limited time with him. I liked him before and I like him now, plus we usually always listen to Em's advice, so I took it." Lexi frowns suddenly. "Will Xavier be okay on the floor?"

"His back will be sore in the morning, but if you don't want a punch on the face I wouldn't wake him." She turns to me, surprised. I explain, "Reflex."

We sit in silence, she starts to fall asleep while I watch her. Which is not creepy. I move a stray hair from her face and kiss her forehead. "I'm glad you enjoyed your date," I whisper, mostly sincere. She'll never know that I'm hoping Emmett's words about their limited time together comes soon.

"Thanks," she murmurs, sleep taking over. I get up to leave, but before she let's sleep take over her completely she says, "Don't think this is over. I will find out what you're keeping from me."

"I know."

I dash into my room to grab an extra pillow and blanket for Xavier, not wanting him to hurt his back completely because of the floor. I'll find a way to roll him onto it. I move down the stairs quietly, not wanting to wake them. I manage to get the pillow under Xavier's head when Chris wakes up. "What time is it?"

"Almost midnight," I say quietly, finally getting the blanket underneath my friend and covering his front with the rest. "I'm going to bed, I'll see you in the morning, mate."

"No, wait," Chris says hurriedly, jumping of the couch and pushing me into the hall. "Before, when Xavier told that story, I think I know who he was referring to and I don't think he knows enough about her to know that I know her."

"Who is she?"

"This girl I know, she was about nineteen when she met Xavier, a year older than him. She told me she met the father at a Puddlemere victory party and that he didn't want to be a family when she told him he was pregnant, not that he couldn't." Chris stopped and took a deep breath before continuing. "He said she told him the baby was gone, but she lied."

My eyes widen as his words are processed in my head and I realize what he's saying. "Xavier's a father."

"He has a two year old boy," Chris whispers.

I turn to my friend, fast asleep and completely oblivious to our conversation, to the fact that he has a little boy somewhere in the world with no idea who his dad is. "Do you think we should tell him?"

"I wondered, but I don't know. You know him a lot better than I do, which is why I'm telling you."

"Who is this girl?" Chris looks uncertain, like he's about to betray some big secret that's not his to tell. But if he wants the burden of telling Xavier about his son on my shoulders, a burden I will kill him for, he has to tell me her name. "Who's the girl, Christopher?"

"Tasha."

...Oh no.



A/N: Ooooh, interesting... *wonders what will happen*

Hope you enjoy, please let me know what you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 13: Alexa: When Moments Deserve An Awkward Tick
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I wake up feeling more tired now than I did last night, but oddly excited. One should not be both tired and excited. Oh, God. One? Ah, I sound just like Emmett, except when he says it he's usually mocking his family. And I sounded serious.

I groan, lying back into my pillow; of all the things to think about first thing in the morning. I turn from my side to my back and stare up at the ceiling, thinking about last night. My date with Rich was fun, loads of fun, and I really enjoyed myself. He took me to a family friend's birthday dinner party, which turned out to be way more exciting than I thought it would be. Rich's friend, well the kid of his uncle's friend, is really boring, as are the guests he invited, but Rich and I kept ourselves entertained. We made up stories about them, which is definitely not mean when they can't hear us - shush - and we came up with reasons as to why they are so dull. He's quite the storyteller, almost as good as Emmett - but not quite. He picked a good career path. He's a very capable journalist.

When we left, happily leaving their disapproving looks behind, he Apparated me into the city for real food, then to the same spot we used to leave and walked me home, kissed me on the cheek and said he'd call.

Yeah, it was a fun night. And I really like Rich; it's hard to believe he and Jessica are related, except for the occasional gleam in his eye when you wonder what he might be up to and know you have to be careful. Then you see the family resemblance.

That doesn't put me off seeing him again, I like him and I'm taking Em's advice about our limited time together, but there's something... missing.

Maybe I just have too many things to think about right now; I have the baby and Albus to think about. Right now, definitely Albus. He's trying to hide the fact that he's hiding something from me, it's as though he thinks I've never seen this behavior before and he can hide it. I've seen it with others, never with me. I think that's what I hate most, that he's really using this behavior on me.

For that alone I'll find out what the hell is going on with him.

That's my goal, and with it in mind, I push back the bed sheets and jump out of bed, breakfast and a hot shower will wake me up. In that order. I leave my room and make my way to the kitchen, where I notice a recently met face sitting at the table.

"You're still here."

Xavier turns to face me and raises a cup of tea - I can smell it - in salute before going back to his breakfast.

"I am," he answers when I'm stood in front of him and he's finished swallowing. "I hope you don't mind. I made breakfast, eggs and bacon, as a thank you for letting me crash on your floor."

"Yum," I say gratefully, taking enough food for two and piling it into my plate. Well, I am eating for two, as the saying goes, and I'm so hungry. "How was the floor?"

"Pleasant." I turn back to face him, sitting opposite him at the small dining table, and frown. "Oh, Al brought me pillows and a blanket," he explains with a smile.

I smile back. I thought I loved meeting Xavier last night, all cocky and confident, except for the story anyway. But this Xavier, with the nice, genuine smile, who can cook, an Xavier who looks adorable with the dimble in his right cheek, seems way more... normal. More like a regular guy than a celebrity. I love this Xavier more.

He has a familiar face, a smile I know. I wonder why I recognize this version of Xavier so much.

Then I hear footsteps and I know Al and Chris are coming; I conclude that it's because he's only three years older than us and went to school with my brother and Nicky. I'd seen him around plenty of times, that'd be when I saw that smile.

"Oh, good, breakfast."

"Thank Xavier," I tell them, pointing to the food. "He's a better roommate than you already, Chris, I may have to kick you out and let him stay. None of us can really cook," I add just for Xavier.

"Well, I can't clean, so I'm pretty useless beyond the oven," he grins. "Not that I have anything to clean; I'm never home."

They do thank Xavier and sit down at the table, stuffing the food down. I don't think they're even able to taste it, not really. I keep my eyes on Albus. He notices, looks up every couple of minutes, but he doesn't keep eye contact and he doesn't speak to me when he's done eating, not directly at least.

"That was delicious, thanks. We should go, we don't want to be late."

"We've got time," Chris says, proving that by taking time to finish the rest of his eggs. "Besides I want to talk to you about you not needing to trade roommates because I may have already found a place."

"You?" I ask, skeptical. My eyebrows are raised and I can't help the chuckle that escapes. Even Al forgets he's being weird around me to share a similar look with me and he must have told Xavier enough about us for my favorite blond - other than Nicky - to keep up with us. "You found a place? All by yourself?"

"Yes," Chris says, defending himself well. But the looks we give him must cause him to give up because he sighs and shrugs. "Megan did. Oh, don't look all smug. She found a place and the one across from hers was also vacant. She put my name down and we're going to look at them after training today. The apartment building is not too far from St. Mungo's, which is convenient for her, and I can easily get to the Ministy via floo."

Albus laughs. "So, you'll be living next door to a friend who knows you so well that she understands your inability to look after yourself and will simply go across the hall to help you. Megan is basically a roommate."

"And she's okay with that," Chris says with a wide grin and eyes that light up at the mention of Megan's name. "Well, mostly. I could probably get away with take-out during some days of the week, since we'll both be busy with training, but she'll make sure we eat properly at breakfast and on weekends. She also said she'll be teaching me how to cook."

"It would make looking after yourself quite a bit easier," I point out, but not pointing out that Al and I need to follow that same advice. They all know that anyway. "Don't you need to go now?"

"Yes," Al gasps, practically running. "See ya!"

Chris rolls his eyes and follows, his pace more like a casual stroll. "Bye, guys."

He shakes his head at me, looks oddly conflicted when he turns to Xavier and leaves. I'm not the only one who noticed, nor am I the only one so confused by him, but Xavier shrugs it off quickly and points in the direction they took off in.

"So, when do you think Christopher and Megan will tie the knot and join you and Albus in baby-making paradise?"

He starts to laugh at his little joke, until he sees me shake my head. The sparkle in his eyes tell me he's still amused by something, but his expression is curious.

"We don't talk about their relationship much. They've been a very on-again, off-again couple since they were thirteen," I explain everything as much as I can. He told us a very personal story last night, so he must trust us enough to do so. That tells me I can trust him, too. I don't want to use that as a reason to tell him my friends' personal business, but I get the feeling he's staying with us. We won't see him all the time because of Quidditch, but Xavier will be around thanks to Albus. It'd be better if he knew, that way he won't say anything like that joke around them and make things awkward.

"They were mostly on again until sex became involved. Megan is sure they're each other's firsts, and she doesn't regret it, but after, Chris decided he wanted more than just one person and broke up with her. His fooling around earned him a reputation, but he's never cheated on her. They get together, try for a little while, then they break up and he's with someone else."

"Why does your friend put up with that?" Xavier asks, but that same look in his eye tells me he's already figured out the answer. It'd be hard for him not to; he saw Chris' face when we talked about her.

"Because she still cares about him, just like he still has feelings for her. It hurts her, but Megan knows Chris, just like we do; it's a phase that he'll grow out of and she'll wait because she's crazy. I mean she's patient," I amend when Xaveir gives me a look. "If she thought for a second that he wasn't going to come back, she'd stop waiting and I'd have broken his nose. But we know he will, and like I said, he's never cheated or done anything to seriously damage their relationship, so she's okay with waiting."

"Does she put her life on hold for him?"

I scoff. "No. She dates and she has fun, she doesn't take it seriously. Megan keeps hinting that her waiting is almost over anyway; the last time they broke up was at the start of seventh year and they haven't been together since, but you saw his look. Maybe this roommate thing will be good for them; he'll get to see what it's like to be with her."

Xavier's grin is practically contagious. "So, she's not completely clueless, after all."

He means me. "What's the supposed to mean?" I frown, losing my smile completely. "You mean Al, don't you?" He only nods. "I know he's keeping something from me. When it's something small, something he'd tell you about honestly if you asked, he's like an open book. But when it's like this, when Al tries so hard to keep it from you, he has the perfect poker face. I mean, you know he's keeping something from you, but he gives nothing away about what it could be. I've seen it a lot, but never directed at me before. I'm waiting for him to slip."

"Could be a while," Xavier mutters, a little bitter about it. He wants Al to tell me.

I realize then that he doesn't just know that Al is hiding something, but that he knows exactly what it is. "You tell me what it is. Or at least give me a hint," I say in a tone that I hope isn't too much like pleading when Xavier gives me a conflicted look. He can't tell me, or he doesn't want to, because he thinks it's Al's job.

He's probably right.

"It's something he's come to realize recently," Xavier relents. "Well, it's been there for years, but he'd buried it, to the point where he missed it competely and mistook it for something else. But it was never going to stay buried; it's all risen to the surface now and he doesn't know what to do. He wants to be sure about it before he tells you, he said. But he needs to talk to you to be sure, you know?"

I must have a look that he approves of because he looks relieved. Me, not so much. I'm not sure what to do with this information; will I like the outcome?

"I can practically see your brain working, connecting dots," Xavier says. "You're not clueless, Alexa. Keep going."

I nod slowly. Xavier stands up. "I hope the breakfast was enough for you to not tell Kieron I was here, even after all these years he'd flip. I should go." I say good bye, oddly calm despite my thoughts. Xavier stops at the kitchen door and gives me one last, encouraging look. His familiar smile gets to me again and he gives me one last clue. "Think about what you just saw in Chris; who is Al with when he gets that same look?"

Then he's gone and I'm left alone with half a plate of eggs tand two strips of bacon that suddenly don't look so appealing. Instead I think about what Xavier said, try to remember where I've seen Al have the same look Chris has when thinking about Megan. I think it's obvious at first; he'd have a dumb 'I think I'm in love' look whenever he saw Catrine Zabini. But I dismiss it just as quickly; yes, he had that look, but even a child could see it was more about want than love. Not that a child should be noticing those things, but the point stands. It's not real like Chris'.

But I know when it is real. It's so obvious, like it's been staring me in the face and screaming 'I'm here'. It's real when we laugh about stupid things, when we eat take-out and watch a movie, when we tell each other our secrets, and when we try to stay up all night to do work only for me to catch his eye-roll before I fall asleep on his shoulder.

It's real when he looks at me.

Damn. Emmett's right about the limited time and I finally understand why. I push my plate away and fold my arms across the table, then I drop my head on top and groan, long and loud.

I'm an idiot.

***

I give it a few days. Albus wants to be sure and I should let him do that. Even though now the looks I get from him are curious and confused; I'm not ignoring him, I'm just not bugging him about wanting to know what's he's hiding. Al hasn't spoken to Xavier since he stayed over, so I know he has no idea about our talk. Al doesn't know what to think, although I think part of him is glad I've stopped. He even asked me why I wasn't asking anymore.

"Because I'm not going to get an answer from you anytime soon and I know when to give up," I told him. Which is all kind of true.

Instead I try to focus on Rich. I know what's missing now, what I have to do and why I don't want to be with him despite how much I like him. I'd have cancelled each date he asked for, but I have to tell him that I'm pregnant. I can't put it off anymore and it's a better reason to give him about no longer dating him than telling him that everyone at school was right and my best friend has feelings for me and I'm an idiot who might just be able to feel the same, given time anyway.

God, this is so hard. And weird. And a little awkward.

"Earth to Lexi." I blink when a hand is waved in front of my face and turn to Rich. "Are you alright?"

I start to nod, then start to shake my head, then end up just shrugging my shoulders. "I have to tell you something. About me and Al."

"I know he likes you," Rich says quickly. As does the rest of the school, I want to add. But he knows that already. "It's why Jessica hates you so much."

"That makes sense," I mutter.

"What I don't know is how you feel," he continues. "That's why I look forward to these dates so much. This is it, right?"

This time I do nod, but I don't talk about my weird, conflicted feelings for another guy or how confused I am because I like Rich, just not enough. I go on with my original plan and leave out feelings completely. I'll cross the feelings bridge when Al is ready to talk to me. The pregnancy bridge is more important right now; people are going to know soon, that the Savior's youngest son is going to be a dad, and I want Rich to hear it from me. Not from another source. It'd be horrible if his boss gave him the story to write about before he even knew.

"Not for the reasons you think," I start. He looks up and turns to me quickly. We stop and it just comes out, right there in the middle of the street. "I'm pregnant." I pause and curse. "I really should learn to say that better. This is the third time I've had to say it and I keep blurting it out, no plans or anything. It's so annoying."

Rich touches my arm, which effectively ends my rambling. He's shocked, as he should be. "Sometimes blurting it out can be a good thing, you get straight to the point, It's Al's?"

I nod. "Graduation was fun," I tell him, a bitter edge still in my tone whenever I think about that night. It changed everything, and though I can't bring myself to regret it all, I can't help but wonder what would have happened if Al hadn't caught Catrine kiss Phil.

"Whoa," Rich whispers. "Okay, that I wasn't expecting. Maybe I should have," he says after a pause. I don't care what situation we're in, I hit him for that. "I'm sorry, it's just that, well, it's you and Al. Everyone said you'd get together, I don't think this will shock the rest of our year as much as the rest of the world. Except maybe Jess," he adds as an after thought, then he freezes, eyes wide. "Oh, God. She's going to kill you."

"You can keep her away, right?" I ask, more cautious than fearful. Normally, I could handle Jessica Shepherd. But I'm pregnant now and Healer Moore says to be careful. I regret asking, though, because this night is not about her. "Sorry, we're talking about this affecting you and us."

"Oddly enough, I'm okay. Or I will be," Rich tells me, sounding mostly sincere, though his voice wavers a bit and his eyes don't hide how sad he is. "If this baby doesn't bring you two together, I don't know what will."

I don't point out that it'll be the metaphorical feelings bridge that'll most likely decide what happens between me and Al than the baby. Because neither of us will want to get together just for the kid only to break up. That's not fair. Instead I say, "I guess we'll see what happens. I'm sorry, Rich."

"Don't be," he answers in a tone that makes me think I should promise him that. He's mostly sincere again. "You can't get rid of me that easily. I learnt the hard way what happens when you don't talk to people; maybe if I had told you that I liked you sooner things would have been different. Then again, maybe not. Even when you both dated other people, the school didn't care. They only saw you and Al. So maybe you'd have gotten together anyway. We'll never know. But I like being around you, so now you're stuck with me. I can settle for friendship, I think. I've been learning to do that anyway, remember?"

I do; his first thoughts when I mentioned me and Al in the same sentence was that I wanted to break up with him for Al. Him saying he's learning to be my friend kinda makes sense.

"It'll be okay," Rich finishes, sounding more like he's promising that to himself than me. I agree anyway. I need to hear it, too. "I just want to try one thing."

"Okay," I say slowly.

I don't expect the kiss but I do part my lips for him to continue. It's short and sweet and reminds me of kissing Emmett during a game of Spin the Bottle because Fred Weasley's rule was five full minutes with tongue. I feel... nothing. Nothing special anyway. It doesn't fill me with the strong desire for more like Al's did at graduation. But that was alcohol-fueled, so I can't put much stock in Al's kiss either.

Rich's just feels... nice. No more.

And when he pulls away, I think he realizes that, too.

"Yeah, it'll be okay," he repeats, more sure this time. He continues to walk me to the apparition point, asking me random pregnancy questions and promising he'll watch out for Jessica. He's trying, so he can stay. I'm glad.

One problem solved, a million more to go.

***

Problem number two is already up when I come down, but is no where near dressed. Though, I suppose he doesn't have to be; it's Saturday. He has no Auror training, no other commitments to take care of. He's having a lazy day.

I, however, am up and dressed and ready to go out.

"Good morning, Al," I say, putting on my brightest smile.

His own is warmer than it has been recently, has been since I told him about Rich. Now that I know what to look for, it's like the poker face has gone for me. But that's not all that I see; he's only wearing his pajama pants, which rest at his hips, and all I see is what looks like a thin layer of muscle, but what I know from my slowly returned memories of graduation are better than they look. Albus is strong, his body hard, and already just over two months of Auror training is helping him. I repeat: I'm an idiot.

"Morning. You going out?"

I swallow the weird feelings I think are mostly hormonal. I've seen Al like this before; today should not be any different. "Yeah, I'm going to talk to Tasha, remember?"

Al's smile disappears and he nods, looking as conflicted as Chris did when he looked at Xavier. I'd ask Chris what was going on, but he's at his parents' house, packing - he got the apartment, and cheap too - so I can't until later. Unless Al tells me now. "I remember."

"What is it?"

Al shakes his head and sits up on the couch and I think he's not going to tell me after all. And he doesn't, not everything at least. "I need you to see it, so that I know I'm right when you come back and can talk about it." He pauses and I wait. I've learnt to have a lot of patience around this guy recently. "I need you to look at Ethan, really look, and then ask Tasha about his father."

"Why?" I ask.

"If you see it, you'll know," he promises.

It's not the first time I've had to go on blind faith and trust Al's intentions, so I doubt it'll be the last. I nod and say okay, then I turn to the fireplace and floo to Tasha's house. She's there, waiting for me, looking so much like Chris with her huge smile and dark, wavy hair. Her arms reach out to catch me and she pulls me into a hug I awkwardly return. "Hey, Tasha."

"It's so good to see you, it's been so long," Tasha gushes. She glances at my stomach. "How have you been?"

"Good," I assure her, letting her lead me to the couch. "Where are Stewart and Ethan?"

"They've gone to the shop, they'll be back soon. How are you and Al doing?"

"Going through some things," I admit. "But I think we'll finally be working through them soon."

Yes, we will. Because I'm done waiting. But maybe it'll be after the weird hot flushes have stopped.

"I hope so, you're so good together."

"Thanks, I think," I answer, once again wondering what people really see when they see us together. I open my mouth to ask the questions I came for, regular questions I've asked Healer Moore, I just want to hear them from someone closer to my own age, who's been in this position. But the front door opens and in comes running the reason I don't completely hate kids. "Hey, Ethan."

"Aunt Lexi!" he calls, jumping up for me to catch him.

I sit him on my lap, so he's facing his mum, and he shows me his sweets. Tasha's fiancé, Stewart, gives her a quick kiss and we share greetings before he disappears to give us space. Ethan doesn't go with him, in fact I squeeze him a little tighter. I always do. Ethan is adorable, that's the only way to describe him; from his messy blond hair to the dimple on his right cheek when he smiles. I just want to keep him. I only give him back when I remember that I don't know how to look after kids.

Tasha gives me a knowing smile; she's seen this enough times to know what I'm thinking. "I'm going to be a mum now; I could easily learn."

"He's a monster," Tasha points out.

"Am not!" Ethan shouts out.

"Of course you're not," I agree. "Because you're not related to me and Kieron; we know monsters. We were monsters. One of us still can be."

Ethan giggles, his smile wide, and there's the dimple in his cheek... And the memory of the familiar smile. Along with a story I was told a few days before. Albus must have figured it out. No, I bet Chris told him; that would explain the look he gave Xavier before he left that morning.

The look that said he wanted to tell Xavier something important, but couldn't.

How do you tell someone you barely know, someone who has just told a story about losing a child, that your two year old cousin might be that person's son? That he might be the child they'd thought they'd lost and realize they were told a lie.

Albus is right; you know when you see it. I know what he wants me to ask Tasha.

I set Ethan down on the floor. "Sweetheart, why don't you go and play with your toys? I need to have a grown up talk with your mummy."

"Okay," Ethan replies with a smile that only reminds me of Xavier and leaves the room.

"Are you okay?" Tasha asks me, concerned by my sudden change in mood.

I nod. Questions about pregnancy can wait for a little while. "Tell me about Ethan's dad."

Tasha freezes.

***

"I can't believe it! You were actually right!" I call as soon as I'm through the floo. "Did Chris tell you? I remember he's had this really odd look on his face ever since Xavier told that story. Albus?" I search the rooms for him. "Al?"

"I'm upstairs!"

I climb the stairs as fast as I can, shouting all the way up. "I just can't believe - whoa!" Like a child, I cover my eyes with both of my hands, but like the hormone-crazed teenage girl I've become more of these last few days, my body responds to the sight of a wet, only-covered-by-a-towel Albus Potter enthusiastically. "Al?"

"What?" he asks. I'd roll my eyes at him for sounding so innocently confused, only I've got my hands pushed tight against them so I can't. Not that he'd see it anyway. "Are you okay?"

"You're naked," I point out.

"I've lost count of the number of times you've seen me in a towel. It's usually me averting my eyes," he reminds me and I wish that wasn't true, but it is. I slowly drop my hands and keep my eyes on his concerned, embarrassed face. At least that hasn't changed, in fact I've think it's gotten worse, probably because he likes me, but he still won't move. He never has. He has this disease called pride. It's a dangerous thing. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"Fine." I frown at how high-pitched my voice sounds, clear my throat and try again. "It's just being a weird day."

A little better.

Albus moves away from the bathroom, his cheeks still pink - I'm not sure whether it's all embarrassment or if it's partly from the hot water - and comes a little closer. I used to tease him about running away to get dressed first, what I'd give to have him do that right now, because I have a horrible feeling that he's trying to be confident about this to show he feels something for me rather than actually tell me - because he shows, he does not tell. Making himself pass out to get Emmett's attention, for example, or the kiss at the graduation party. And I don't want him to show me, I want him to go, because I also have a horrible feeling that this sudden rise in hormones is something pregnancy related and not so much to do with him. Because I've haven't had thoughts about Stewart before today either. In fact, I'm pretty sure I read about it in one of the pregnancy things Healer Moore gave me.

I want to tell him all of this... But my mouth has gone a little dry.

"You were talking about your visit to see Tasha," he prompts, either not noticing my reaction to him or noticing everything and thinking that whatever he's doing is working and therefore pretending not to notice. Such a cunning Slytherin. "What did she say?"

There's genuine curiosity there, his need to know this for his friend coming through, and I hold onto it. Because I have that dangerous thing called pride, too. In fact, I usually have more of it than he does, and I can't run away and lock myself in my room like I desperately want to. Maybe it's just a natural Slytherin trait. I've heard of others having it as well. We can't not have our pride, even if it does become our downfall.

"She was shocked when I mentioned it, but she knew I knew as soon as I asked, she'd seen my reaction when I looked at Ethan, like you said. She couldn't deny it and she told me." I congratulate myself pn keeping my voice mostly normal. I almost clap, but stop myself by folding my arms across my chest and continue. "She met Xavier at the after party after his first game. They were celebrating in his honor; he'd won on his first game, beaten some sort of record, beaten something anyway. He hadn't told anyone about his sexuality and when Tasha came over, they were all cheering him on, suggesting he talk to her. So, he did and they got very drunk and the rest is history. Xavier kept going on about his career taking off, but she'd thought they'd be able to work something out, until he told her that he was gay. She didn't want to ruin his career by making him a single dad, so she panicked and lied. Stewart knows everything, thinks she should tell him," I finish and have the urge to congratulate myself again.

Albus moves again, this time to lean against the wall, and sighs. "Do you think she will?"

"No idea," I say, my voice small and quiet as I watch water drops drip from his hair to his chest and down to his belly button.

I'm so screwed.

"Do you think I should?" I try to answer but my throat dries up again. Screw pride, I'm running. Or I would if I could; just as I turn, Al grabs my arm. "Should I?"

Don't kiss him, I tell myself. That's all I can think. I can't kiss him, not like this. I shouldn't kiss him. Don't kiss him.

But I do. I lean up and I kiss him. It's me who starts it this time and it's both amazing and horrible at the same time. Horrible because I'm still thinking don't kiss him. The amazing feeling, probably the hormones, is so much louder and clearly winning this internal argument, because the kiss just deepens until I forget everything.

***

I'm trying to understand how we got into the bedroom.

"You dragged me," Albus answers, equally shocked now that it's sunk in.

It takes me a moment to realize that he's answered me because I spoke out loud and he's not suddenly become a Legimens. I concede and nod; I dragged him, I pulled him to the bed, I initiated it the second time around and I regret it more than the first time. The first time we were drunk, control was sort of lacking. This time, I'm pretty sure I just unintentionally used him for my own needs.

I'm a horrible person.

"Can I ask what happened?" Al asks cautiously. "I mean, I know what happened, but... How? Why? What happened?"

"I, er..." I stop, having absolutely idea how to answer him. What do I tell him? Finally, I settle on the truth. We're good at telling each other the truth. Well, most of the time. "Remember the part of the book I showed you that mentioned hormones rising or falling?"

"Yeah. Oh." I cringe just listening to Al's voice; he's so disappointed.

I grab the blanket to keep myself covered when he pulls it back to sit up. I turn to my right, to face his back. "I figured out what you're hiding from me."

His back tenses. "You have? That's just perfect."

He stands up, not seeming to care that he's completely naked, and I sit and watch as he grabs his towel. "Al, wait."

He stops and, maybe against what his head telling him, judging from how long it takes him, Al turns around. "What?"

"I want to talk about this."

"Maybe when I'm not freaking out," he says and leaves. I dress quickly and follow him, knocking on his door. He opens it eventually, dressed. "While you were gone, I promised Chris I'd help him sort his things in his new apartment. I'd told him I'd wait for you and ask if you wanna come. If you do, we're now very late."

"Fine, be like this. It's not my fault you don't want to talk about it. And you should be grateful I do want to talk about it, because I never do." He narrows his eyes at me, but I'm on a roll here. "I'll go to Chris' with you and I'll bug you about it the whole way and every day until you decide to finally talk to me about us."

"Fine," Al snaps back, moving past me. "Are you coming?"

"Yes." I follow him to the fireplace. "Word of warning; if Chris asks, I'll tell him the truth. Every little detail and you can't run away from that."

"You wouldn't?"

Honestly, I'm not sure. The thought of telling Chris anything about me and Al is more than a little nauseating. The others maybe. But saying I'll tell Chris was the only one likely enough to get some kind of reaction out of him.

"Try me."

"This is definitely not how I thought this day would turn out when I woke up this morning," Al sighs, all fight and anger seemingly gone.

"Me neither," I tell him honestly. "And I'm sorry about the hormone thing. I wish they had fallen, not risen."

"You didn't make me sleep with you. I wanted it," he snaps again. Then he closes up and I know he's not going to talk about it now because he has enough time to say, "I'm not ready," before flooing to Chris' new place.

Going through life-altering moments that can make life with best friend and father of baby go in either direction? Check.

For this part of the life-altering moment, I'll go and put a big, fat tick next to the box marked awkward.



A/N: Finally got a new chapter up. And things between them are a little bumpy now, but at least she knows. They're getting somewhere. ;)

I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 14: Alexa: When Some Things Get Worse and Some Get Better
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Every tension-building minute I sit through with Albus, the more I regret what happened. I never had a plan, a way to tell Albus that I knew about his feelings or how to talk about any of mine, I had absolutely no clue what was going to happen. I refused to even imagine it, but I'm sure that none of my thoughts, if I'd had any, would have been worse than how things are between us right now.

Albus has never not wanted to speak to me about something before. Well, not in a long time. He tells me he's not angry about us having sex brought on by hormones, far from it. Those were his exact words, plain and simple - 'far from it'.

He doesn't know what to say, he told me. He was trying to figure it out. Not because he wanted to plan a big, perfect speech to persuade me we should be together, although I suspect he'd planned to bring it in anyway, he just wanted to know what to say. Before, the plan was to be two friends who have a baby together and would become roommates until we had a more permanent plan. Now, whatever happens between us will affect us far more personally. If we try to make it work, we'd be a family. If we didn't or couldn't, what will happen to our friendship?

Albus has been thinking about it all. He wants to know what to say, he wants to prepare himself for either good or bad news.

So, I should give it to him. I won't give away any hint of what I think I want to say.

The awkward moments are when it's quiet between us, when he's deep in thought and I have no idea what he's thinking. Thankfully, that's usually just in the evening, when everything has calmed down and it's a quiet evening. During the afternoon, when he's back from Auror training, Albus is more or less his usual self, worrying about me and asking me questions and generally being my best friend. There's just a little bit of awkwardness there, because he knows I know how he feels about me. Or at least as much as I can guess; he needs to talk to me if I want to know everything.

"Are you sure you'll be okay?"

I roll my eyes, secretly enjoying this moment of normality between us, seeing the Albus who'd been there in the beginning of the pregnancy, and I nod. "I'll be fine."

"You heard her," Emmett calls from the hallway. He enters the living room with my glass of water and sits beside me in the couch. "She'll be fine, she's got me. Will you go to training now?"

I raise an eye-brow and point to the door in a 'you heard him' motion. Albus rubs his hand in soothing circles around my 'bump'. I secretly enjoy these moments, too; when Albus forgets for a moment that things are awkward between us. I stay as still as I can and let him. "I just wish I could be there. It's an important scan."

"I know, but everything will be fine, just like they have been before. And I'm forcing Emmett to come with me, so I'm not alone." Emmett links his fingers through mine and waves our joined hands in the air. "It'll be okay. I'll tell you everything tonight when you get back," I promise.

"Okay," Albus says with a nod. He moves his hand, stands up and the moment of non-awkwardness breaks. "I'll see you later."

Then he's gone.

Emmett keeps our hands joined and drops his head on my shoulder. "He's just panicking, over-thinking things as usual. It'll be okay soon," he says softly, showing his rare bit of genuine Good Boy Em. Good Boy Em only comes when you need him.

"You're saying that because you know everything," I tell him, feigning confidence. "You know he'll be okay."

"Yes," he assures me, then amends, "Well, most things. I understand the awkwardness; you slept together again because you were crazy. Where does the small amount of anger hidden in there come in? Because I suspect that is why him talking to you is taking so long. Albus is always awkward, he just does it anyway."

"Because you all know we slept together. I threatened to tell to get him to talk and dared him to try me, he called my bluff."

"And you told," Emmett finishes and I nod guiltily. "Slightly silly thing to do, do you agree?"

"Hey, you are on my side today," I remind him.

Emmett holds his hands up in surrender and nods as though his life depends on it. Which, right now, it so does. "All the way, I promise. I'm just saying that Awkward Al is easier to talk to than Angry Al and it might not have been wise to tell us. But I'm secretly glad you did, I like to know things."

"I know, you're right. I was just so frustrated because he was freaking out and running away. You know I hate it when people walk away from me; I walk away from them." Emmett agrees. "The anger is there, but I don't think it's driving him to be silent for longer. He'd have done something to make me see that; walked out of the room when I come in or something. Like he does with you."

Emmett's smile is not the nicest. It's not mean, just... annoyed. "Did you have to remind me? Maybe you're right; it is just his overcautiousness. Do you remember the first time we saw that in first year?"

I laugh a little when Em does. "When he was deciding whether or not he wanted to be our friend."

"Yeah," he says with a nod, still laughing. "We were already talking because we were in the same classes and stuff and we all sat down, a week into school, and were all, like, yeah, we're friends now. And Al walked off and ignored us for almost a week because he was deciding whether or not to go to the Hat and request a change to Gryffindor."

"Until he remembered his brother was there, along with a few other family members, and he didn't want to be near them," I continue. "He preferred being the only one in his family to end up in Slytherin and just sat with us." My laughter dies down pretty quickly. "I don't think that will happen again."

"Al's done stranger things, Alex. You never know." With that last piece of Good Boy Em advice, he stands up and takes my hand. "Come on, we have an appointment to get to."

***

When we get to the ward, Emmett takes the time we have waiting to go in to gape. He's never been to this part of the hospital, he's rarely ever been to hospital in general. Out of all of us, this is all very new for him. Chris came with Tasha, Megan and Darcy have older relatives, but Em is an only child with one cousin, who is male and living somewhere far away and hot. I can't remember where and Em hasn't seen him since he was ten, he said. He looks... Unsure. I've never seen Em so unsure.

He snaps out of it when he hears a woman cry out from across the ward on the right. I've never been down that way; where we are now is where you go for appointments and check up and stuff, across the ward and around the corner is where women give birth and is where the baby nursery is and the ward for premature and sick babies. On the left is for sick children up to a certain age, then you go to the other parts of the hospital. Casey wants to specialize in looking after children, which means he'll be working on this ward soon enough.

"This is all a little scary," he whispers, not wanting any of the other patents to hear him. He keeps looking down the corridor; the woman has stopped screaming now, but he's still freaked. And a little curious. "Have you ever been down there?"

"No," I shake my head. "I'm not ready to hear women scream, let alone see the nursery. You usually can't hear them, her door must have be open before."

"Miss Nott."

I answer and stand, making sure Emmett comes with me. Healer Moore isn't here, I'm told she's with the screaming woman and will be here soon. I climb onto the bed and wait patiently, Emmett takes the seat on my right and lifts up his legs to rest on my bed. "What's she like, this healer?"

"I love her, she's amazing," I answer. "Thankfully, I think Louis has given up trying to get a date. He would have ruined things. Tell me how you knew I was pregnant."

He rolls his eyes and grins at me. I still think he found out somehow and didn't just guess, but I'm only asking now so it distracts him from the screaming woman. And me. He usually stares at me for a moment, then shakes his head and tells me he already has. Today, he sits up straighter, letting his legs fall to the floor.

"You really wanna know?" I nod, eyes wide. "'Lexi, sweetheart, I can't wait to see what you do with the baby's room. I hope you and Al realize that my grandchild will be so spoiled. See you soon. Love Ginny'. You left the note on the top of the drawers in the nursery."

I let my mouth drop; I remember that note from Al's mum. She knew I was decorating and wanted to know if I had any ideas for the baby's room. I'd said no. Em was the first to come the day of the party and went to look around. "That note was in my room. I saw it."

"I moved it before the others got there," Em explains. "Once I saw the note, I started to see other things, little signs that told me you were pregnant, like the house itself. The others don't know about the note; I just told them about the signs when I told them that you and Al were going to have a baby. They promised to keep it quiet until you told us. But that's how I knew."

"Because I was careless and forgot something." I roll my eyes. Damn.

"Yep, it's all your fault," he grins.

"What is?"

We turn to the door and watch Healer Moore come in. She smiles, but she's curious and she points to Em. "Hi. This is one of my best friends, Emmett McQueen. Albus has Auror training and couldn't come."

"So, she dragged me," he finishes with a polite smile.

"It's lovely to meet you, Emmett," Healer Moore says, shaking his hand. She turns to me. "Did you think about what I said?"

"We did," I nod, thinking back to a couple of weeks ago, before the awkwardness, when we saw her at Al's parents' house with his mum. "We've decided that we want the sex of the baby to be a surprise."

"She decided this without me, I want to know," Emmett butts in.

"It's not up to you," I remind him for the millionth time. "It's not your baby."

I hear him mutter a 'thank God'; Emmett would not handle being a dad... Ever, probably. "I still want to know; I need to know. Do I buy blue or pink? I get confused when things are gender neutral, I'll end up calling him 'she' or vice versa."

"Get used to it." Healer Moore smiles are our banter and waits for me to get ready for the scan without pushing me. Finally, I pull up my top and let Healer Moore put the device onto my stomach. "Wait for it, Em."

He gapes again when he sees the baby on the screen. The image is bigger than the first one, but still just as amazing for him because it's his first time ever seeing a scan. "Wow," he murmurs. "That is actually there," he points at my stomach and repeats, "Wow."

"That?" I ask with narrowed eyes.

"He? She?" He shrugs. "Let me know the sex of the baby and it won't happen again."

"No way." I turn back to Healer Moore. "Is everything alright?"

"The baby is just a little on the small side, that's all," she answers, looking slightly worried, but not enough for me to go into full breakdown mode.

"Is that bad?" Emmett asks. He's lost his humor a little now.

Healer Moore takes her eyes away from the screen to look at us properly. "There are many reasons for it, so not always, no. We'll just have to keep an eye out. If you're worried about anything, you come straight in, okay?"

"Okay."

I nod until my neck hurts a little and I have to stop. The rest of the scan is similar to the last; Healer Moore tells me how the baby is doing and prints out a picture. I practically have a little photo album now, but I don't care. Besides, Astoria and Ginny like to see them. The difference, though, is what she says. Instead of the baby being fine and healthy, the baby is small and its heartbeat is lower than last time. But only by a little, so the worry is only a little. For now.

Healer Moore let's us go after reminding me to come in if I think anything is wrong and confirms that my due date is near the end of March and we go in silence. Emmett doesn't talk to me until we're outside. "Are you okay?"

"Yes," I say quietly. Healer Moore is not too worried just yet, so I'm not. But I have to go home and be the one to tell Al all about it, I have to watch him worry more when things are already awkward between us. I love Em, but I really wish it was Al who was here right now. "I'll be fine."

"I have to go to class now, but I don't want to leave you," he says, checking his watch.

"Go. I'm fine," I promise. "I'm going to pick up some lunch and see my dad. I won't be alone."

That's the only thing that seems to calm Emmett and he nods. "Okay. I'll see you later."

He hugs me quickly and leaves, looking back a couple of times until I can't see him at all and I know he can't see me.

***

I keep my promise to Emmett, whether I actually promised or not, and go to see my dad with some lunch. I just need my dad right now. I prepare myself for the odd looks people give as I walk through the atrium of the Ministry. My bump is not huge, but it's noticeable. People know now, about me, and soon they'll know who the father is. As soon as people we went to school with find out, I imagine they'll guess Albus, but no one will know for sure until we tell them.

I knew this would happen, I even almost went home, but my need to see my dad won and I walk to the elevator without meeting glances or listening to whispers. This place is worse than Hogwarts sometimes.

The elevator ride is short, time passes like it's nothing because I don't let myself notice it, and I step into Law Enforcement. I see Harry Potter on my way and wave, but he can't stop and I don't want to, so there's no small talk between us. My dad is the next person I see, having a conversation with a younger Hit Wizard, and like he senses me coming, Dad turns around and smiles at me. He dismisses the man by his side and folds him arms, standing in front of me.

"To what do I owe the pleasure?" I hold up the cheeseburger I bought him and his smile widens. "It's why I love you," he says, taking it from me.

"I hope it's not the only reason," I reply.

Dad wraps his arm around my shoulders and leads me to his office. "Of course not." He opens the door and sits me down on the small couch he has in the corner. "You never visit, what's the matter?"

"I need to have one of our one-on-one, serious daddy-daughter talks," I tell him, straight to the point. Now I have to figure out which thing to tell him first. I'd tell him the baby news first if the worry was huge, but it's not and my problem with Al is big, too. Decisions, decisions. "Are you ready?"

I wait for Dad to finish the piece of burger in his mouth. "Ready."

"I slept with Albus again."

He chokes on his second piece, but that's not my fault. He shouldn't have bitten into it as I spoke. "I'm not sure if I like how easily you can tell me these things," he mutters, rubbing his chest. "Why do I need to know this?"

"It was during that part of the pregnancy when hormones can rise and stuff and now he's disappointed because he likes me and he's trying to figure out what to say about wanting to be with me because he's too cautious, which means he's not actually talking to me," I say all in one breath.

And what does Dad ask? "He's finally told you he likes you?"

I throw a cushion at his head. "No. I figured it out and realized that I'm an idiot."

"Oh. And now he's being his usual weird self?" I nod. "Al is as stubborn as Louis and they can take it to scary levels, you have to wait it out. He'll talk to you soon. He won't be able to wait much longer to find out how you feel, he's stubborn but his patience is questionable." Dad turns his back just to throw his rubbish into the bin, so doesn't see me roll my eyes because he's just told me what I already know. "Something tells me that's not all you want to tell me."

"The baby's smaller than he should be and his heartbeat is a little low."

"And you're worried," he says softly. I nod and put my thumb and forefinger together; just a little. I can't help it. "It doesn't always mean something's wrong; you were smaller than average and Kieron was born a couple of weeks premature." He pauses. "My nanny told me that I almost died twice, something to do with my breathing. It must run in the family."

"That doesn't quite make me feel better," I tell him honestly. "But thank you. I think."

"The point is that you shouldn't scare yourself unless your healer is worried. It won't be good for the baby if you're stressed."

"Okay."

Dad pulls me closer for a hug and I just sit there, letting him run his hand up and down my back and hold me.

"He?" he says after a few minutes. "You said 'he'?"

I shrug. "I don't know if the baby's a boy or a girl, we decided to keep it a surprise. I just can't help but say 'he' sometimes. Did you do that?"

"Your mother and I decide to keep both you and Kieron as surprises. I honestly didn't know about Kieron, yet kept saying 'he'. For you, however, I said 'she' because I wanted a girl."

"How crazy were you?" I joke.

"You didn't turn out so bad," he says. I laugh at that, but it's cut short when there's a knock at the door and Dad let's me go. "Come in!"

I'm not prepared for the Minister for Magic to enter. I've seen him a few times before, he's come to Hogwarts for various 'family reasons'. But when I would come here, Dad and Harry would go to him if he wanted them, not the other way around.

"Afternoon, Minister Shepherd," I say, standing up.

"Hello, Alexa," he answers with a nod and a smile. "Are you and Albus looking forward to your new arrival?" I frown without realizing I'm still talking to the Minister. I'd think he'd noticed the bump, but his eyes were on my face the whole time. And no one knows about Al. "I may have overheard your father talking to Mr. Potter. My lips are sealed."

"Thank you. And yes we are, sir."

"Good, good." And just like that, I'm not here. The Minister is here for a reason, so I sit and let them talk. "The party on Saturday, Theo. Is everything ready?"

"As best as I can," Dad replies confidently. "Señor Rodriguez will be picked up and brought there for eight, as requested. It's all secure."

"Good, good," he repeats, always nodding. I like that Minister Shepherd is that predictable. You're never surprised, there's no room for that in his job. He's not like his daughter or his nephew. "Now I just need to find a sitter."

"What happened to you're regular sitter?"

Minister Shepherd sighs, shaking his head this time. Also predictable. "She's ill and can't look after Jason."

"Jason? Your son?" I speak without meaning to. I heard that Jessica had a little brother and Rich talked about him a few times. He's nice from what I hear. I completely ignore my brain tell me I'm stupid for setting foot in the lion's den. "If you need a sitter, I'd be happy to do it."

"You would?" Minister Shepherd asks, surprised.

"You would?" Dad asks, horrified.

I ignore him. "Of course. I'm not doing anything and you obviously need one."

"And Jessica would love to see you again, it's been so long since graduation. She won't be staying, though," he says sympathetically.

I try not to punch the air in happiness. "That's such a shame, I would have loved to see her for longer. But to catch up a little would be enough." Dad coughs to hide his laughter. "Anything to help a friend and her family."

"I like her, Theo. You should being her here more often."

Dad nods, his face a nice shade of red and I can't tell if he wants to laugh or cry. "I'll think about it."

He gives me his address and asks me to be there for six because he wants to be at the venue early, then he leaves and Dad falls back into the couch. "Tell me now if you're trying to ruin my career."

"I am not, don't worry. You heard him; Jessica won't be there." Dad rolls his eyes. "I thought it would be a good thing for me. Besides, I've looked after Ethan a few times. Granted, the others were there, but they all fell asleep early and I looked after the kid by myself for three whole hours. If I can look after him when he was an eighteen month old, I can look after a nine year old."

"You think?" he asks, skeptical.

"No problem," I assure. "Rich has told me all about Jason; he's a good kid. But if he's nine, why can't he go to this party?"

"Nobody wants to go to this party," Dad scoffs. "I've known Erik Rodriguez since he was ten and he'd rather eat pizza, drink beer and go out. Unless it's a party with real music."

"Who is he?"

"The Spanish Minister for Magic's grandson. He's coming a few days earlier than the Minister and Shepherd wants to make him feel welcome so he has nice things to say. Shepherd doesn't understand that the only reason Erik is coming is because he has to and doesn't care about politics." Dad rolls his eyes again, then answers my previous question. "Jason is sick all the time, he doesn't go out much because of it. That's why he's not coming."

"Oh."

The door opens again and Louis comes in with a bunch of files. He gives them to my dad, gives him information I don't know anything about, waves at me and leaves. It's the quietest I've ever seen him. It's a little unnerving.

"I have to get back to work," Dad says, standing up and leading me to the door. "Give Al some time, don't worry so much and I'll see you later."

"Bye, Dad."

I kiss him quickly on the cheek and leave. Next stop: home. I still have a few hours before I have to tell Albus about the appointment.

***

My cooking skills have improved since I starting living alone. These chicken nuggets aren't bad, granted they aren't home-made, I just put them in the oven, but still. They're delicious.

...And coated in peanut butter. It's surprisingly nice. And made completely by accident, which I think makes it even better.

"Hey!" Al calls, stepping though the front door. "Anyone here?"

"In the living room." Albus comes in, sits next to me and holds up his hand in a wave. I hold up the plate. "Chicken nugget?"

"Thanks," he answers, taking one. "What's with the jar of peanut butter?"

I show him by taking a nugget and dipping it into the jar. "Wanna try?"

He looks hesitant at first, but he eventually dips his bit of chicken into the jar and takes a bite. Then he takes the jar. "That is surprisingly delicious," he murmurs, having more.

"I know, right?" I agree. I sit and watch him for a minute. He notices, but doesn't do anything. "The baby's okay, I think. He's a little smaller than average and his heartbeat is a little low, but Healer Moore isn't worried."

"Yet," he adds, finishing what I couldn't.

"Yeah. Dad says I need to stop stressing about things, it doesn't help."

"Hmm." He frowns. "I'm causing it, aren't I?" I shake my head. "Don't lie. You want to talk and I'm ignoring it."

"You said you needed to think, I accept that," I tell him.

"No. Well, yeah, but it's not just that," Al answers. "You weren't supposed to figure it out after talking to Xavier. Yeah, I found out about that. I wanted to tell you. I'm just shocked and embarrassed, I guess, that I didn't realize."

Al turns to face me properly. "We need to start this again, be natural and normal with whatever relationship we have. See what happens."

"I agree."

We shake hands, smiling, and he looks like the old Albus again. He pulls me his way, like Dad did, and let's me rest my head on his shoulder.

When Albus wants to talk, I definitely know what to say now.  



A/N: Their relationship could never be bumpy for long. They have bigger things to worry about... Jessica, for example... ;)

Hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 15: Albus: When Words Slip Out
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There's nothing worse than being blasted into a wall first thing on a Monday morning. I think I might have a concussion.

"Ow." I pick myself up off the floor. Well, off my stomach to sit on the floor, and cautiously touch the back of my head with my hand, wincing as I do so, until I'm used to it enough to put some pressure on it. "Son of a - Christopher!"

Malcolm calls over, asking me if I'm alright. I give him a thumbs up - it may hurt like hell, but I think I'll be okay - and he gives everyone a break for fifteen minutes, so I slump my shoulders and relax against the wall. Chris comes over to join me and sits across from me, a pitying look on his face.

Why? Because I told him about me and Alexa and our little talk after she told me about the baby.

"So, you sleep together, then you avoid her," he starts.

"She went crazy with hormones, slept with me, then told me she knew how I felt about her," I defend. "Forgive me for taking it kind of badly."

"Forgiven." I start to argue back, but the look he gives me makes me shut up and he puts his index finger on his lips, his other index finger pointing at me. "She went crazy; so what? You got to have sex. I want to tell you about how much of an idiot you are for avoiding her. She wanted to talk to you about your relationship! Do you know how serious that is?"

"Yes." I glare at him. I am not an idiot. "I was afraid she'd tell me that it was only because of the hormones and that she didn't feel the same. You can't blame me for thinking that."

Chris covers his face in his hands and groans, very loudly, which attracts more attention than before - a fair few pairs of eyes have been watching us, but I was able to ignore them until now. Now it's unnerving. I make myself focus on Chris, who's still covering his face, but is, thankfully, no longer making any noise. Personally, I think he's being extremely childish and should grow up. I don't know what Megan sees in him.

"God, Albus." He drops his hands and stares at me. "She wanted to talk to you. Wanted! Do you know what that means? Do you?" I shrug. "If someone needs to talk to you about relationship stuff, you get scared and you think they're gonna dump you. Believe me, I know. I've done it. If someone says they want to talk to you, you sigh in relief because if they want to talk to you, it's probably a good thing."

"It is?"

"It must be if they want to tell you. Wanting to talk and needing to talk are two completely different things and she said want."

I think about what he's saying; Lexi did say she wanted to talk. I've been around for a couple of her break ups; I'm pretty sure she said need then. My head hurts. And not just from the wall.

"So, you think she wants to tell me that she wants to be with me, too?" I ask.

"I think you should go talk to her and find out what she wants to say," Chris says. "Alexa isn't exactly where you're at; when I look at her, I'm sure she likes you. It's been there for a while, but as a 'maybe we could be something', her feelings haven't been there for as long as yours, including when you didn't know it."

"Is this supposed to make me feel better?" I glare.

Chris rolls his eyes at me. "Whether they've been there for a few months or a few years, she is still choosing you, the biggest loser out of all the losers she's met, who has managed to successfully worm himself into her bed - twice now - and get her to want to talk about relationships. She usually dumps them long before they get that far." Now he decides to lower his voice. "And you know it's not because of the kid, you know how she feels about family and stuff, after her parents divorce and all. You were the first person she talked to about it."

I have to agree that what he's saying could very well be true. Alexa won't be with me for the kid, just like I wouldn't be with her for the same reason. Only for me it's because I just don't think it would be fair, Lexi, however, has been in that position. Well, that's what she told me. When she told me about her parents, the only thing that remained, and still remains, a secret is the reason they finally got the divorce. I got the impression that it all comes down to Kieron, but she won't say.

All I know is that whatever happens between us, it really won't be because of the baby. I can consider that a good thing. My mind is finally made up, now I just hope I go through with it. I'll talk to Lexi later.

So, really there's only one thing left to say. "I'm not a loser."

Chris gives me another pitying look. "You're too cautious, you over think everything, when you put a thought in your head you become scarily obsessive - thinking Lexi was pregnant, for example, thinking you liked Catrine, for another. Yeah, Al, you kind of are a loser." He leans across and pats my shoulder. "But that's okay, we love you anyway."

"Thanks," I mutter sarcastically and slowly, because moving with a banged head is making the room spin a little, I stand up. "You still crashing my parents' house later?"

"We all are," Chris assures. "I want to ask you about what to get Lexi for her birthday on the way there."

I nod along and say okay just as Malcolm starts training again, not really listening, but I know what he said went in because my mind plays back what he says. I freeze, eyes wide, then I snap out if it just enough to drag my hands through my messy hair. The swearing that escapes my lips is not only because I touched the bump that is now growing on my head

Crap! I completely forgot about my best friend's birthday!

I can't imagine why she'd ever want to be with me.

***

Chris goes on about ideas for Lexi's birthday - which is in three days, I remember - from jewelry to clothes to stuff she can use for the baby all the way to the fireplaces. He dismisses the baby idea quickly; Lexi will love being given presents for the baby, but not until the baby is close to being born and definitely not for her birthday. It's her day; if she can't use it, she doesn't want it.

And people think she's spoilt...

I go through first, since it's my parents' house it's only fair, and step out into the living room. It's empty, as I expected it to be, but I hear voices in the kitchen and follow the sounds just as Chris steps through. Lexi and Emmett are already here. I kiss my mum's cheek as I walk to the cupboard for a glass, because she'd moan about how hurt she is that her son doesn't love her enough - all an act, of course, that started when I was five because I wouldn't give her a kiss in front of everyone on my first day of Muggle school. I move to the sink next and fill my glass with water.

"Dinner will be ready soon, so if you won't get a shower and change first, at least wash your hands and face," Mum warns me, turning back to Lexi and Emmett. "Seriously, sweetheart, how do you handle that smell?"

"I have a big brother," Lexi says sympathetically.

"Don't get me started on big brothers. The differences between them and Albus? He's my son, I can tell him what to do."

"Okay, first of all, you can't; I am an adult, with a home and family of my own. I don't even live here anymore," I remind her. Mum gives me a look, daring me to continue speaking to her the way I am. I step back a little. "But I love you and that's why I listen."

"Yes, it is," she agrees with a smug smile.

"I don't know why you care anyway," I say, finishing my water. "Not only did you date a guy who went through Auror training, but you were a Quidditch player."

"True," Mum concedes. "But that 'guy', who you happen to call 'Dad' by the way, was home before me and clean and the Harpies changing rooms have showers. Who knew?"

I roll my eyes; Ginny Potter aka smartass. Not that I'd tell her that. "I'd love to take a shower, Mum, but I have no clean clothes here and I'm not going to make myself clean just to put sweaty clothes back on."

"You could floo home, it's not like it would take you very long," Emmett suggests with a grin.

"But I'm already here, so no," I shake my head. "You can handle one night."

Mum mutters something about boys and Chris joins Emmett to talk about God knows what. I stop next to Lexi and move in close to her. I half expect her to move after what she said to my mum, but she looks at me like she's waiting for me to say something - which I kind of want to do - and she only frowns a little.

"I want to talk to you later."

"Why can't we talk now?" she asks curiously.

I glance at Mum, who looks down quickly. "Nosy people. Later."

Lexi's frown deepens for a moment, then her eyes widen and I think she understands. She nods quickly. "Later."

Smiling reassuringly, I leave to do what my mum said and get a quick wash.

***

Darcy and Megan come in just as Mum gets Emmett to set the table and she is serving dinner, Dad and James arriving at the exact same time just a couple of minutes after my friends - Dad through the floo, James through the front door. One after the other, they kiss Mum's cheek - Dad for a little too long - and join us at the dinner table.

Dinner is familiar and loud, except for the fact that all of my friends are here. Lexi never came here before the pregnancy because I was always at hers and Em only ever came here to get away from his family when he knew they'd look for him at Lexi's. James finds time to wind Lexi up in some way, when he's not going on about the Cannon's 'epic loss' the other day, but quickly stops when Mum warns him and Emmett kicks him under the table.

When we finish, I help Mum clear the table, and because we have guests, she uses magic to clean the dishes and ushers us all into the living room. The reason why hits both Lexi and I the moment she sits us down on the couch and takes Lexi's other side - the scan.

We haven't told them yet.

"So, how was it?" she asks when we say nothing.

"Okay," Lexi starts slowly. "The baby is smaller than he or she should be, but as long as I take things easy and not stress, Healer Moore isn't too worried."

"It's probably nothing to worry about," Dad says with a reassuring smile. "So, I take it you don't know the sex of the baby? You said he or she."

I shake my head and copy his smile; it's actually quite comforting. "No, we decided to keep it a surprise. It makes picking baby names more fun."

I meant it as a joke, but Darcy's, Megan's, Chris' and Mum's eyes all light up and their grins are huge. We're definitely onto the baby name topic now.

Lexi glares at me; at least once every few days she gets asked to have the baby named after them by Chris, by Lily if she were here, and the others just like to give suggestions. "Nice going, Potter," she growls.

I shrug. It was bound to happen anyway, I'm really just getting it out of the way.

"Do you have any names picked out yet?" James asks, more focused on the magazine he has in his hands.

"We don't need another James," Darcy adds quickly. "I still like Emma."

"We don't have any names picked out," Lexi tells them, then she gives me another familiar look. "We're still deciding."

It's Dad's turn to laugh. "What name have you picked, Al?"

"Isaac," I answer. "What's wrong with that?"

"No," is all Lexi says. Again.

"Isaac is a pretty name," Megan says excitedly. "Lovely and not too common. No, more than lovely. Little Isaac Potter. How adorable."

"No," Lexi repeats. "I like Adam. Why are names so hard?" she moans when I shake my head.

"You'll find the perfect name eventfully," Mum promises.

I scoff. "Easy for you to say; you two just named us after people you knew."

"Yeah, but we knew a lot of people, so it was kind of hard," Dad defends. "I didn't even expect your name until I was told."

"I don't understand," I frown, confused. "I thought it was you who named me."

"Nope, I named James, your mum got to name you," Dad replies, sitting back against his chair and folding his arms. It's officially story time. "We knew we wanted at least two kids, so we decided I would name our first and Ginny would name our second. We gave each other suggestions, but your mum refused to tell me her final decision until after you were born and we knew you were a boy. She knew I'd think it was perfect."

They turn to share a look, one so obviously filled with love for each other that I have to change the subject before I throw up my dinner. No one wants to see that look on their parents' faces. "What were your suggestions? In case we like one of them."

Dad finally looks back to me and goes back into 'story time' mode. "I only really had one; your mum wouldn't tell me what she decided, so I'd constantly whisper 'Jacob' to her stomach."

"So, before you decided 'Albus Severus' was perfect, you wanted me to be called Jacob?" Dad nods. I test it out in my head. Jacob Potter. Jake Potter. "Kinda would have preferred 'Jake'. Don't get me wrong, I'm honored to be named after two Headmasters, but the Muggles don't know them to understand and when you're five years old, spending your lunch times alone in the classroom because the other kids are laughing at you isn't exactly fun."

Lexi wraps her arm around my shoulders and rubs her hand up and down my arm, promising that if she'd been there, she'd have kicked their asses for me. I appreciate that she's trying to cheer me up, but honestly I'm not so sure having a girl fight my battles would have helped my chances of being accepted. Besides, I had James kick their asses and when Hugo came along, I got him to use his genius brain to freak them out. I didn't stay to watch and Hugo never told me what he did, but he was only five at the time, so it couldn't have been too bad. All I know is that they never bothered me again after that.

I thank Lexi anyway and the name picking continues. I resort to doing as Dad said he did; I lean down to Lexi's stomach and repeatedly murmur 'Isaac' until she gets annoyed and pushes me away.

I refuse to give up.

Eventually the conversation shifts to school and for once I'm thankful James is around. I love my brother, I really do, but he can be a pain. Mum talks about the letter Lily sent - she and Hugo are more or less enjoying their sixth year of school, but Hugo is seeing someone new and misses him. I turn to Lexi when she snickers and she shakes her head, looking down.

"Do you know who it is?" I ask.

"Maybe," she answers vaguely, still laughing.

"I had no idea you and Hugo were close enough for him to tell you something about his personal life," Emmett says. I have to agree with him.

Lexi's smug smile is huge now, her face practically glowing with humor and excitement. "Some things I do notice."

"Some things are best left alone," Emmett warns. "If he's not telling, then he obviously doesn't want people to know yet."

Darcy leans forward to whisper in his ear. I barely manage to catch, "Like you," then she moves back and she looks as smug as Lexi does.

It doesn't take me long to put two and two together, especially when Emmett starts to look a little pale, and I pray I came up with five... It's just too weird to think about.

So, I'm not.

It's not true.

It's not happening.

I'm pretty sure I remember giving Emmett advice about talking to a relative friend, as in me, at Christmas. Since I'm the friend of his who Hugo is close to. So, I have until Christmas to get used to it...

Another snicker from Lexi, this time at me, reminds me to get her to tell me how she and Darcy knew.

I stand up, just to do something that doesn't involve thinking about one of my best friends potentially dating my youngest cousin. "I'm going to get a drink, anyone else want one?"

I'm bombarded with noise, people talking over one another to tell me what they want, and I'm not so sure my head takes it all in. But I nod and smile and try, praying to God I get it right. I'm saved when Dad gets up too and says he'll help; he must have heard them all, or at least some, so he can fill in the gaps... Maybe.

He walks with me into the kitchen, silent and thoughtful, which isn't completely out of character for him, but it's usually when he's worrying about a serious case or his family. While I grab glasses and mugs from the cupboards, Dad takes out juice and pop, fills up the kettle and fills one glass with water.

"Lexi went to see Theo after the scan. He said you and her were going through some things, but he didn't elaborate. You seem okay, though." Dad finally looks up from sorting the drinks. "You're okay?"

Oh. He's worried about me.

I nod and smile, it's small but genuine and enough for me to see Dad relax.

"We're fine," I tell him, thankful it's honest. If he'd asked me a couple of days ago, he'd see me lying through my teeth. "So, what do you think of 'Isaac'?"

Dad only grins.

***

Lexi's so tired by the time we get home that I promise her that what I want to say can wait one more night and send her to bed. I let her go alone while I make sure everything's closed and locked up, then follow her. She's already fast asleep when I peek inside her room to check on her.

Lexi is still fast asleep when I wake up, and after a wash, I use the time I have before Auror training to look for her birthday present. Leaving her a note to tell her I'll see her tonight on the kitchen table, I make a quick breakfast and leave. The walk to the Apparition spot we use isn't enough time for my breakfast to settle; my hand grasps my stomach the moment I'm in front of the pub. I really should wait a bit before traveling this way - like they say to do with swimming.

The pub is more or less empty, a couple of people who I assume are guests are having breakfast; I'm able to walk through without anyone so much as batting an eyelid. Outside, there are more people, but only a few. Shops are just starting to open, it'll be a while before the crowds swarm in. I wish I had more time to spend here, it's oddly peaceful early in the morning, but that would mean being late for training and being the Head Auror's son will not get out of trouble.

So, I speed up a little. I need to at least have an idea of what to get Lexi before I go, given her birthday is so soon; browsing through one or two of her favorite shops and looking through windows will have to do right now.

I stop to pick up a child's doll and hand it back to her mother, turning briefly when the thought of what walking with my kid around Diagon Alley would be like, and don't see whoever is in front of me. I walk right into them.

"I'm so sor -" I stop when I see exactly who it is. Ah, crap. "Hello, Jessica."

Smiling excitedly, then visibly taking a deep breath - I didn't think I was that exciting - she relaxes her face. "Hey, Al. I didn't expect to see you here. You're not usually up this early."

I hope my face doesn't give away how freaked out I am inside. "We need to have another one of our talks on boundaries, don't we? You know I don't like it when you talk about my life like it's a schedule for you to follow."

"No, silly," she giggles, pushing back her shoulder-length blond hair. I'd consider her rather pretty if she didn't scare me so much. Somebody, help me. "I just remember from school. I haven't seen you since then. So, how have you been? I hear you've moved out of your parents' house."

"Yeah, I live with Lexi," I reply cautiously. I don't know exactly what she's heard and Lexi is a sore subject for Jessica, but my friend is also the key to keeping my stalker from looking for me. "It's nice," I finish quickly, trying to side-step her.

Jessica just moves in front of me, like a reflex. I bet she wasn't even fully aware that I tried to get away.

"Yeah, I heard that, too," she mutters, her happy smile fading a little. "She came to babysit my brother. I only saw her for a minute, though. I left before my parents. I hear she's knocked up."

"Yeah," I say, trying not to react to her suddenly smug grin. Just wait till it's announced, I can't wait to see her face then. I remember Lexi telling me that people had noticed, that shed heard whispers. She wants to give Rich the 'story'. He's already agreed, probably to rub it in his cousin's face that he knew before her because he's still not so happy about the fact that he no longer has a shot. His words, not mine. The news goes out on Friday, so I think it's okay just admitting that what she's no doubt already seen is true. "Lexi is having a baby. She's very happy about it."

"Do you know who the father is? Being her best friend and all," she adds.

I bet she's thinking of all the rumors about me and Lexi in school and how to tell everyone that they were wrong and she has a shot with me. Not that I know her all that well, I never want to, I just heard her once say that she'd find a way to tell everyone they were wrong. Judging from her smile, I assume this would be it.

Mine, I want to say, I almost do say, but in the end I know stopping myself is the best idea. I take a breath and start to tell her that it's none of her business. Except...

"Her boyfriend's," I say instead. Which is not even a half truth, we haven't talked yet. I want to kick myself. But I just keep on talking. "They had a thing at the end of school, decided to stay friends. But feelings have come into it and they decided they want to see where things could go."

I feel like I'm having the conversation I should have with Lexi alone. At least the thing and the friends and the feelings parts are true. That's gotta count for something.

"Awesome. What's he like?"

"He's alright," I shrug nonchalantly, not entirely comfortable talking about myself. "Look, Jessica, I really have to go."

"Right, you have Auror training," she says enthusiastically.

I frown. I don't like when she asks people about me, but I really hope she knows that because of her dad or someone she knows and not because she's been coming to the Ministry to see me.

"Right. Bye."

This time she doesn't stop me and I pretend the running away is because I'm going to be late of Auror training, even though I'm sure I still have about half an hour and I'm pretty sure she knows it, too.

I can't believe I said all of that.

I have got to talk to Lexi later.

***

When I get back home, Lexi is lying on the couch with the wireless playing and a piece of paper in her hand. I peer over her shoulder, trying to catch a glimpse of what I suspect is a birthday list, so I have a clue what to get her, but the moment she catches me, she hugs the paper to her chest and sits up.

"Hey, Al - oh, God, is that blood on your face?"

My hands are at my face faster than I can blink, but when I pull back and see the smeared red substance on my fingertips, I remember the ink incident during lunch. "Oh, no. Ashley drew on me."

"Ashley the guy or Ashley the girl?" Lexi asks curiously.

I pause for a second, only to think back to our really weird afternoon. Well, more funny than weird, though drawing on me because I 'have that kind of a face' is not exactly normal. After the pause, I correct myself. "Both Ashleys drew on me."

"Yeah, that's not crazy," Lexi replies with a hint of sarcasm. Or a bucket full.

I wave my hand, telling her it's nothing, and sit down beside her. "So, about that talk I mentioned last night. You know I've had these feelings recently, though some would argue it's been a while." I stop and wait for her to say something about that, but she just nods, keeping quiet. "I was thinking, hoping and wanting to talk to you about us and couples and doing that... Together. God, I'm so bad at this."

"Yeah, you are," Lexi laughs. A normal reaction if it were any other situation, so I'm going to take it as a good thing. "It's actually one of the reasons I've always liked you. You don't hid behind self confidence and other things that make me not like people. You're you. For that reason, and maybe a few others, I want to agree to us and couples and doing that... Together."

I exhale loudly, letting myself fall back into the couch, and Lexi joins me. She threads her arm through mine and just sits with me, like she always has done.

"We'll start slow," she continues. "We'll have a date, I've always wondered what you do on dates because you never talk about it, and we'll go somewhere amazing. Preferably somewhere where Jessica can see us."

My groan is involuntary and loud, very loud. Lexi faces me quick. "Too soon?" she teases.

I shake my head. "About Jess. I bumped into her while I was out this morning. She had noticed that you're pregnant when she saw you at her house to babysit and she asked me who the father was and stuff."

"What did you say?" she glares.

"Not that it's me, I swear." I raise my hands in surrender. "I may have said that the father was your boyfriend and that you're very happy, though. All I could think about was the look on her face when she knew it was me and it just slipped out."

It takes a while, but eventually Lexi stops with the glares and nods. "I forgive you." Then she smiles. "I understand why; the look I have imagined is awesome - oh."

"What?" I ask.

Lexi chuckles at my slightly panicked reaction and grabs my hand, placing it gently over the right side of her stomach. "Wait for it."

I do, puzzled, until finally I feel quick movements underneath my palm. "Your kid has been kicking all afternoon."

"Wow," I murmur, too excited to correct 'your kid' to 'our kid'. "This is so surreal."

"Well, come back to the real world, I'm not doing this alone. Especially now that you've told your stalker that you're my boyfriend," she adds, winking. "You're my shield. No, you're your kid's shield. Do your job."

"I'm going to ignore the fact that you're using our baby as emotional blackmail, and promise that Jessica won't do anything," I smile. "We can do this."

The relationship, the world knowing, the parent stuff, I mean it all.

Fingers crossed.



A/N: I'm sorry for the long wait, I've just finished exams and coursework, only to start more coursework. The world will know in the next chapter. :)

Did you guess right about Emmett's boyfriend? ;) He is the last gay character, it's only him and Dom in the family and, with Em and Kieron, the only ones mentioned. Xavier doesn't have a relationship.

And in case you were wondering, Hugo, with his vivid imagination, told the bullies he had a poisonous pet snake and it was somewhere in the school. I tell you because it doesn't come up much... (He's a Gryffindor in Hogwarts, not a Slytherin. ;))

I hope you enjoyed. Please let me know what you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 16: Albus: When House Arrest Equal Birthday Parties
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It's a weird feeling waking up in your best friend's bed, especially when she's now technically your girlfriend.

No, it was nothing like that. We spent the night talking about plans for the baby, particularly the nursery, and fell asleep on top of the covers, clothes still on and everything. But it's still weird.

I get up slowly, careful not to wake Lexi, and sneak out to my own room. Or old room, I'm not really sure what the rules are for a situation like this, but I assume I should still say 'own room' since this was the first night we shared a bed. I act quickly, not wanting her to wake up first, and find the presents and card that I hid in my bottom drawer, all wrapped up and ready for her to open. She's still asleep when I go back to her room; I leave them on the bedside table, so that she can see them the moment she wakes up, and sneak out again.

Next: breakfast.

I'm halfway through my first crumpet and stirring the scrambled eggs when I hear her footsteps on the stairs. I check the bacon and serve the eggs when she reaches the kitchen and stands on the other side of the kitchen unit, holding her presents. Lexi opens up the card to put on the side and smiles at me - I went down the jewelry road, because shopping isn't really something she really loves unless it's for jewelry, and I know I made the right choice.

Lexi holds up the silver charm bracelet, the 'A' charm swinging back and forth. "Put it on for me?"

I turn briefly to turn off the bacon and walk over to her, taking the bracelet in my hand so she can hold out her wrist. I fasten it on quickly enough and let go; Lexi holds up her arm. "It's beautiful, thank you. And I really love the necklace, though I'm pretty sure the baby is too young to be picking out presents."

I chuckle while she holds up the thin, matching chain to let me see the 'No. 1 Mummy' charm on the end.

"I couldn't help myself, I had to see your reaction," I laugh. "You don't have to wear it, not until the baby is born anyway."

Lexi replies by holding it out for me to take and turning around. Her hair is already tied up in a messy ponytail, so it's easy for me to fasten it around her neck. "Happy birthday, Lexi," I murmur, letting go.

"Thank you," she answers softly. Then she turns back to face me, all smiles. "So, what's for breakfast?"

I finish serving the breakfast and grab her favorite bagel, leading her to the table. "Enjoy."

"Don't mind if I do," her dad says to me, stealing a bit of scrambled egg from his daughter's plate. He ignores her complaints. "Got any more?"

"What are you doing here and how did you get in?" she demands.

"Do you forget who owns this place and therefore has a key?" he counters smugly. He turns the smug grin on me. "I can't remember the last time breakfast was made for me."

"You're lucky I made extra," I mumble, going back to the food. It was just in case Lexi wanted more, but she'll have to go without as I have Auror training soon and can't make any more. I pick up my own plate on my way back and slide his over to his place at the table. "So, you're here because..." I prompt.

"It's my daughter's birthday," he finishes slowly, like he's waiting for me to understand what he's saying. "Nice necklace, by the way. And the charm on the bracelet; the 'A' stands for 'Alexa', right?"

I start to nod, obviously it's her initial, but Lexi shakes her head and smiles one of those sickeningly sweet smiles that are meant to freak out family members. "It stands for 'Albus', Daddy. I mean, it only seems right for me to have something to symbolize my boyfriend."

Theodore's eyes widen when she stresses that last part and he groans. "Boyfriend? Why do you do this to me? If you plan on torturing me, couldn't you have at least waited until after Christmas?"

"Why?" I ask, covering my mouth with my hand so bits of crumpet isn't spat out.

Theodore points at me. "Seriously? Him?" Lexi nods and tells him to answer my question. "Because Ginny bet you'd give a relationship a try and said it'd be any time up to Christmas, Harry bet Christmas day to New Years and I bet after, hoping for never."

"How much does Mum get?" I say excitedly. "You know she'll spend your money on the baby, or give it to us to spend on the baby, just to hurt you."

The look on his face tells me he already knows that. "Twenty five each. She'll have fifty galleons," he grumbles.

"Oh, cool. And what's wrong with me?" I ask last.

"You? Nothing, I've known you long enough to like you a little. But it's bad enough that I'm sharing a grandkid with Harry, I don't want us to actually be family," he says. I think he's joking... mostly.

Lexi whacks him on the shoulder, which has no effect on him whatsoever, and drops her fork. "One, you sound like he's proposed; we haven't even gone on a date yet. Two, although I assume that, yes, Al got the 'A' to stand for 'Alexa', I will keep it as 'Albus' because he is my best friend, get an 'L' for 'Lexi' and when the baby has a name, I'll get an initial for him or her as well. Because I can. Okay?"

I say good bye and leave them to it, knowing she'll have her dad apologizing soon enough. I just get to the door when I hear, "So, where are my presents?"

It's going to be a long day for Theodore Nott.

***

Lexi's birthday is only small, she has cake at her dad's house, with me and our friends, Kieron and Dom and, obviously, her dad. Her presents range from clothes (Emmett) to DVDs (Darcy), Chris and Megan give her a scrapbook of our seventh year and Mum had the fifty galleons converted into Muggle money, along with a little extra, and put it in a card for Lexi.

The card says happy birthday, but it also says to spend it wisely, so we both know the money is preferably for the baby. Lexi is okay with that, since she's been looking at things for the nursery now anyway, and she keeps the card separate from the rest of her presents.

We stay for a few hours, talking about how she and Dom spent her birthday in London, looking at baby things and talking about how everyone will know tomorrow - not only has Lexi given Rich the story for the Prophet, but now Dom has it for Witch Weekly. Now absolutely everyone will know about the pregnancy without us ever needing to open our mouths.

I'm not sure if it's a perk or a curse of being part of a well known family.

Sure, we don't have to tell people, but we've still got our life in the public eye. I'd rather it not be there at all. It's not like we're the first teenagers in the world to have a kid.

It's not that late when we leave, about half ten, but after a long day in Auror training, I'm exhausted and looking forward to going back to bed. Lexi clearly sees that, points it out with a chuckle and practically forces me up the stairs.

"Okay, I'm going," I yawn. Then I stop and notice the thin package and card at the bottom of the stairs.

I hope you don't mind me 'breaking in'. Happy birthday, Lexi. Xavier.

"For you," I say, handing it to her.

Lexi opens the card and scans it, stuffing it under her arm to get to the package. She opens it so fast that it rips, but she doesn't care, and pulls out a pair of tickets and badges. I groan; I may hate playing Quidditch, but watching it is admittedly not so bad. Lexi doesn't play it because playing doesn't interest her, she likes to watch it, but it's more for the players than the actual game. Given how her eyes light up, I'm guessing it's for that reason.

"He got us tickets to the Puddlemere vs Montrose game, with passes to be anywhere in the stadium. We can meet the players" she squeals. "Can you imagine having Xavier Sinclair and Cody McIntyre in the same room? Just right there with you?"

"McIntyre? That's the Montrose Chaser, right? The one with the girls name?" I ask.

Lexi glares. "Dakota is a unisex name, I'll have you know. Like Dominique. Besides, everyone calls him Cody."

"I gathered," I try to roll my eyes, but end up squeezing them shut when I yawn again instead. "I'm going to bed."

"It's the Puddlemere home game, in a couple of weeks," Lexi continues, following me. "You're coming with me, right? Or should I ask Emmett?"

"Of course I'm coming," I reply. "It'll be nice to see Xavier play." I turn and face her, pretending to be her. "And oh, my God, I just can't wait to finally meet Cody McIntyre. It'll be a dream come true!"

"Haha," Lexi says dryly. "Just go to bed."

I stop my teasing and kiss her cheek. "Happy birthday."

"Thank you."

We share a good night and go to our own rooms. Only when I'm settled in bed do I realize that I preferred waking up in Lexi's room.

***

I'm almost ready for Auror training when Dad's patronus comes through, interrupting our breakfast to say that I have a day off because there are reporters waiting for me. I'm officially under house arrest, for the weekend at least. I don't think they know where we live, so we should be okay here. I share a look with Lexi just as Dom's owl comes in through the open window with a copy of both the Prophet and Witch Weekly, telling us exactly what we already know...

Youngest Potter son to have baby with secret girlfriend, Alexa Nott.

"Secret?" Lexi scoffs. "Make sense that they'd think we lied about being together last time they asked us."

"That was during Christmas in sixth year," I remember. "Do you really think they'd assume we've been together at least that long? Though, why they want to know anything, I'll always wonder."

"Al, you're the youngest son of a very famous wizard. I'm the youngest daughter of a man from an old, Pureblood family, a man who publicly denied being part of Voldemort's regime before the war and had to hide in the Muggle world because of it, as a lonely, scared seventeen year old kid. Then he came back, went into law enforcement and became friends with said very famous wizard. And I'm related to the Malfoys. I became friends with you, you've been connected to the Minister's daughter, there was the big story about my brother being gay," Lexi says all in one breath, stops and finishes. "Everything we do attracts the attention of the media. You'll have to get used to it. We'll have to get used to it, to prepare our kid. We're interesting news to these people."

I groan and nod, knowing that what she's said is true and I really need to learn to live with that.

"You know this baby is just the icing on the cake to what they already see as a big story." I frown and ask what she means. "I mean that Jessica loves the media's attention; she's always talking to them, telling them about her life and her family and her ambitions. One of those ambitions is you, Al. She's told them quite a few times that you're meant to be."

Lexi lifts up the articles. "I bet she's already seen these and she is furious. They'll want to know exactly what is going to happen now that you're officially taken; they'll go to her, still look for us and we all know that we're a part of the biggest gossip story since Kieron publicly kissed Nicky."

"Why is is always us?" I groan, remembering that story.

"Al, we talked about people for fun in school," Lexi points out. "We're gossip magnets."

"We didn't gossip, we talked about the truth," I remind her quickly.

"Yeah, but we had to hear the gossip to wheedle out the lies from the truth," she replies. "So, just ignore it for today, we knew this would happen. Enjoy your day off."

Lexi continues eating her breakfast as normal. I just don't know how she does it.

***

Being stuck inside all day during your day off, no matter what the day off is for, is so boring. I feel like I need to move, to do something or go somewhere, but we're not to go out. I've never had to do this, my week is filled with Auror training and we spend the weekends with our friends, but Lexi is perfectly at ease spending the day at home. I have to remind myself that she doesn't know what she want to do yet, so she doesn't have a job; she's been doing this since September and can afford to stay at home. The money my dad's parents and godfather left him, plus the money he got from interviews and stuff straight after the war, means we're comfortable, though Dad used most of the interview money helping Aunt Hermione with her charities and campaigns. Lexi is from an old, Pureblood family, as she said, they have money from generations doing who knows what - some kind of business Theodore only looks into every so often - and they'll have money to last generations to come.

I always forget she's essentially rich because Theodore taught her and Kieron - me, too, since I spent so much time there - to provide for themselves, a value he learnt when away during the war. He gave them an allowance and he encouraged them to get summer jobs. Theodore may have bought this house for the baby and Kieron's fancy apartment for passing his law exams and getting a job, but Kieron and Nicky pay for everything else and once we get jobs, that's it; no more money from Theodore Nott.

We're adults now and we provide for ourselves.

He'll always be there to help, though. He taught us to look after ourselves, he didn't cut us off for good.

...Damn, she's got me calling my cousin 'Nicky'.

Ignoring that, I lean over her shoulder to look at he paper she's scribbling on. It's the baby's room and she's organizing it like a guest list. She's always been good at organizing events - her dad's fortieth was awesome, even though he told everyone he was still in his thirties. Only Dad was brave enough to sing 'Happy Birthday' and add his actual age into the song. Mum and Hermione weren't afraid, just smart enough not to mention it.

"What's that?" I ask.

"Colors," she answers. "Since we don't know the sex of the baby, I'm thinking of going in the traditional neutral colors direction; cream walls and I saw an adorable white and brown border with teddy bears on. Kind of like the one already in the room, only not ripped and they're carrying balls not drums. What do you think?"

"Sounds nice, but I want to see it first."

Lexi nods. "We'll go shopping soon."

I leave her alone then, moving to the door when I hear the letter box clatter. I grab the letters up off the floor, all for Theo since they're about the house and he owns it. I open the door when there's a knock.

"Hey, Albus," the man I remember as our next door neighbor says.

"Hi, Craig," I reply, holding out a hand.

Craig returns it with a smile and points to his house, the one on my left. "So, we're having a party today, it's my birthday, and my wife and I wondered if you and Alexa want to come. We think it's time we made you feel more welcome here."

"Awesome. Happy birthday," I add, turning to glance at Lexi. I know I'm meant to stay at home, but the party is only next door and no one knows where we live and I'm so bored. I'm sure I can get Lexi to agree. "We'd love to go," I tell him.

"Great," Craig grins. "People have just started to come, because some are still in work, so whenever you're ready. See you later."

"Later," I call, shutting the door.

"Who was that?" Lexi asks as I enter the living room.

"Craig. Our neighbor; six one, pretty wife, two kids," I elaborate when she gives me a puzzled look. Her mouth opens and makes an 'oh' sound, then she goes back to her list. "It's his birthday today and we've been invited. So, let's go."

Lexi drops her pen and looks at me, seeming to be conflicted - stay here or go next door? It's not like we're leaving the country.

"Okay, sure," she answers, standing up. "Although, I hope he doesn't mind that we have nothing to give him."

"We still have that crate of alcohol Casey left during our housewarming party. It's not like I can drink it," I say, starting to go get it. But I stop, a sudden thought coming back to me. Oh, crap. "One thing I need to mention, Lexi. Me and Craig have talked a few times, nothing big, just greetings when we pass each other, sometimes a quick chat."

Lexi folds her arms and glares, silently demanded to know what I've done. "A couple of weeks ago, just before things became awkward between us, he and I were talking about kids and us and he might have called you my fiancé."

"I take it you didn't correct him." I shake my head. "So, even though we've gone from sleeping together - twice - and having a baby, to starting a new relationship, you get nervous at thought of anything physical happening between us, including a kiss. But you're okay to suddenly be engaged. Did you look where you were going when you drove straight into crazy town?"

I shrug. "It's not like I could do anything, he walked away as soon as he said it. Besides, I think they think we're old fashioned because of my name or something and I want them to like me."

"Come on, Potter," she whines. "It's the twenty first century, I doubt they're going to care that we're not married! And that's just stupid. Why didn't you tell him the truth? That you were named after an old family friend?"

"What part of 'he walked away' didn't you hear? I wasn't going to yell things in the street."

Lexi scoffs and moves towards the door. "I'll just have to put him straight when we there. Go get the beer."

"It's his birthday, can't we just leave it for a day?" I ask.

"Sure," she says sarcastically. "We'll make it a game; I'll tell them all about our fake wedding, I'll make it elaborate and amazing, then I'm calling it off at the end of the night."

"I'd be worried if you didn't," I tell her honestly.

She smacks my arm. "I'm not doing it! I'm putting him straight and I'll tell him that you tried to explain, but he was already leaving. I'm not going to let you lie if you really want them to like you. Now get the beer."

"You're probably right," I concede, moving towards the kitchen. "I mean, if we become friends, we'd have to invite them."

She calls me names I never want to repeat; so, that's a no to jokes.

I grab the crate from the kitchen and let her lead the way out and next door to the party. Craig answers the door and I introduce them, following him through the house and into their kitchen. It's a similar design to ours, so easy to find our way around, and I put the beers in pretty much the same place as I picked them up next door. Craig takes a few minutes to introduce us to his wife, Maggie, and the couple of friends of theirs who have already come, then excuses himself when we hear the piercing cry that clearly belongs to a child, leaving us with Maggie.

"We're glad you could come," she says with a warm, friendly smile. "It's nice to see more young people in the neighborhood. So, how far along are you, Alexa?"

"Just over five months," she answers politely. "Al says you have to kids, how old are they?"

"Kayleigh is almost five and Bobby, who Craig has gone to get, has just turned two. Do you know what you're having?"

We shake our heads, tell her it's a surprise. "We did that with Kayleigh."

"Not with Bobby?" I ask curiously.

Maggie shakes her head. "Craig really wanted a boy, he just had to know, and I was okay with that. I really didn't mind."

We both seem to pause for a moment, then at the same time agree that we don't mind either. It's an odd moment, which makes us laugh a little.

"Look at you two, so in sync," Maggie gushes. "Sometimes I wish Craig and I were like that; planning our wedding was almost disastrous because he kept changing his mind."

"Well, me and Al have been best friends since we were eleven, practically inseparable, so we just know each other really well," Lexi tells her. "We're together now, but not at the wedding planning stage."

And there it is, she said she'd do it.

"See, I told you," Craig says smugly, walking in with a two year old miniature of himself in his arms. "She wondered if you were, because you looking very 'couple-y', but I said no. I was a little confused after we spoke a while ago, though."

"Yeah, Al said he tried to tell you, but you had to go and he didn't feel comfortable shouting it out in the street," Lexi says sympathetically. "It was completely his fault."

"Thanks," I mutter.

Lexi sticks out her tongue. "So, happy birthday, Craig. Is this Bobby?"

"Yep," Craig smiles, bouncing the kid on his hip. "My little football star. He's a little shy, unlike Kay, but only in front of new people."

Bobby proves that to be true by hiding his face on Craig's shoulder.

"He's adorable," Lexi says with a hint of a high-pitched baby voice, which she notices and gets rid of. "He looks just like you."

"Thank you," Craig replies, with a grin that obviously says he's taking Lexi's words to mean that he too is adorable. His grin is cheeky and playful and so far from serious that I find myself glad it doesn't bother me. I like Craig, I want to have friends in this neighborhood. "So, the food will be ready soon. The party is inside, but we put the gazebo up to use the barbecue; we can cook more food this way and I do love an excuse to use my barbecue. Do you want a drink?"

"We'll have juice," Lexi says before I can.

"I'll get them," Maggie says, kissing Craig lightly on the cheek before moving away to the fridge, Lexi moving with her.

She only comes back to hand me my juice, then she's off again, talking to Maggie and a few other of their female friends. She leaves me with Craig, Bobby and the guy friends, talking about football. It doesn't take them long for them to realise that it's not a sport I watch, but I'm quickly caught up.

***

"That Kayleigh sure can talk," Lexi laughs, walking into the house. "So, Craig's trying to get you to join his football team, eh?"

"Maybe it'll be a sport I'm actually good at," I shrug. "What?"

Lexi turns to me and I find the reason she's stopped in her hands. I take the note from her, quickly recognizing Rich's handwriting, and read it until I'm pretty sure it's memorized.

Jessica's out for blood.

God, I hope that's metaphorical.

Because she'll definitely come for us.



A/N: New chapter, I hope you enjoy. Please let me know what you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 17: Alexa: When Questions are Asked
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Quidditch in school was hardly what I'd call a manly, physically athletic sport. It can be rough, even dangerous, but flying around on a broomstick is so not the sort of thing to leave you with toned abs and looking all around hot. If you think for a second that it's a sport that does that, that that's the reason to play, you should turn around and walk away right now because you're entering the wrong profession.

No boy in Hogwarts looked good because of Quidditch.

They looked good because they worked for it. And to each their own, I don't care why the guys think they need to look as good as the celebrities they follow and secretly idolize as much as girls do.

Which leads me to the professional Quidditch players. When they say they're in training, they don't mean lifting weights and running laps - although, I know they do things like that to keep fit and all - no, they mean actual Quidditch training; flying on brooms, throwing balls into hoops and catching snitches while their coach keeps track with their watch, so they know they're beating times. Those abs that a fair few, though not all, guys have? Yeah, that's to sell the team. It's to make teenage boys look up to them and women want to watch, it's to attract more people... It's to sell tickets.

And boy does it work. I will not lie.

It's mostly the stars the coaches push to sell their teams - Xavier Sinclair, Cody McIntyre and Danny Gilbert, from the Falcons, just being three of them (for the girls, it's Olivia Parker, the Harpies Keeper who is still Chris' favorite poster, and Natalia Thomas, who is an admittedly beautiful chaser on Xavier's team). Each one looks just as amazing in their own ways and is probably the reasons why a fair few kids want to play nowadays, having the completely wrong idea when it comes to why they all look so good.

I imagine long workouts I could never do and diets I could never follow, but I do love to watch them play. The guys for, well, obvious reasons, but all of them because they are really good players and Quidditch can actually be fun to watch once you get into it. To be honest, there are times when I think I still don't completely understand the appeal this game has and wonder if I'll always watch it just for the players, but then I'll see something, a goal or a foul move, and it interests me enough to focus more on the game, maybe even shout out along with the rest of the fans.

Albus may have grown to hate playing the game, but even he can admit that watching it is not so bad. Fun even, once he stops moaning about it - it's not the game's fault he can't fly.

So, I'm glad he said yes to coming with me. I would have asked Emmett, but he stares at the players more than I do, and after him it would have been Scorpius, but he's been really busy with school lately - he's putting his scribbles to good use, as Uncle Draco joked, and wants to be an architect. His grandfather kinda wanted Scor to go into the family business, something to do with finance, but Aunt Astoria fully supported his career path and Uncle Draco couldn't say anything because he works in the Ministry. So, now he'll be the one who builds my dream home. I don't know where yet, but it'll be amazing and there'll be plenty of room, both inside and out. Which is why I'd be okay with him not coming here with me.

There'll definitely be room if the kid becomes a Quidditch fan for the right reasons.

Albus pulls on my hand, bringing me back to the real world with a jolt, and flashes our badges to the security guard, so we can get inside. He's a big guy, intimidating until he smiles at us, then I doubt he could hurt a fly. The back of the stadium, this time at Bodmin Moor, is the perfect way to go in if you have every intention of meeting a player or two before the game. Whether or not we actually do is another matter, but it's better to get in this way and try straight away than to go through the front entrance and have to push your way through crowds, only to miss your chance because you've spent so long trying to get in and the game has already started.

It's also easier to get to the box we'll be watching the game in.

"So, what were you thinking about?" Albus asks, leading the way.

"Scorpius becoming an architect and building the new house, with a garden big enough for our kid to play Quidditch if he wants to," I reply, grinning because I know he'd rather the kid not want to play, so he and Hugo aren't alone. Not that he'd think of stopping the kid from playing if he or she wanted to.

He groans, as I thought he would, but says nothing.

Probably because the Magpies manager just walked past us, turning left in front of us.

The Magpies changing room must be there.

Cody McIntyre is so close.

I start to move left. Al pushes me forwards and up the stairs.

"But -" I start, practically heartbroken. I turn to him, letting him see exactly how I'm feeling right now. "Cody."

"We are here to see Xavier, because we know that he'll be in the little lounge on the floor we're currently heading to, before the box," Albus says, continuing to push me up the stairs. "Now if we happen to see Cody McIntyre in there, then you can go nuts. I'll even let you hug him."

"Really?" My eyes light up. "Anything else?" I joke.

"Don't push it when this relationship is still so new," Albus murmurs, sounding like he's joking with me, but we both know his imagination is running wild right now.

"I promise," I say, my hand on my heart, still keeping my teasing tone, even if my promise is serious. "No pushing."

I stop trying to force myself backwards, instead I relax and continue to walk, giving Al the okay to let me go. He can trust me not to turn and run to my favorite celeb, one who I don't already know. Xavier doesn't really count, since I went to school with him, even if I never actually spoke to him. Cody McIntyre, however, went to Beauxbatons.

The lounge is empty, no Quidditch players in sight, but that's not what has me running inside - it's the buffet table; plates of little sandwiches and mini sausages and Bertie Box in a bowl, among other things. I've already bitten into a cheese sandwich when Al reaches me.

"The food is for the players," he reminds me.

"But we're allowed in here," I counter. "And the food is in here."

"The passes may allow us access to here, but it's still the players' lounge. We came to see Xavier, who is obviously not here, so we can go." Al slowly drags me away, I feel like he'll be doing so a lot today, and I let him. "There'll be food where we are," he promises.

"Just eat it," Xavier says, rolling his eyes as he enters the room. My eyes light up again, but Al doesn't let go. Xavier goes to the buffet table and takes a cake just to spite me, I bet. He refers to the other players. "They rarely do."

"Just you," Al points out.

"Obviously, I didn't include myself," he says with his mouth full of the dessert. Now I'm not so hungry. "I figured you'd come here."

I bite my lip to keep my comments to myself, shake my head and try again. "Could you try swallowing your food before you speak?"

"Why?" he asks with a cheeky grin and a thankfully food-free mouth. "Does it ruin the image you have of me?"

"A little bit," I answer honestly. "The more I know you, the more I see you as a normal guy rather than a desirable celebrity. And I don't have the patience for most normal people, Albus being... Well, he's not even an exception, he drives me crazy most of the time. Don't you, Al?"

"I've given up trying to stop it," he shrugs, playing along. "Nothing I do works."

I agree with Al, feigning sympathy for him and pouting at Xavier. This could be our fun, new game; confusing people with our relationship, not that anyone has ever truly understood it anyway. We're enigmas; it's Craig's reason for thinking that Al and I are so good together. But he doesn't know us all that well, so I'll accept his answer.

It's better than Rose Weasley calling us crazy.

"At least I'll always have Cody McIntyre," I continue with a dramatic sigh.

"Ah, Cody," Xavier murmurs, his tone sounding very dreamy and wistful. I can't tell if it's real or faked. "One day he'll love me as much as I love him. One day he'll be mine."

"He just doesn't know it yet," Al pretends to whisper, snickering.

"Oh, he does," the blond counters with a slight grimace, definitely looking more annoyed than upset by the fact that his make-believe plans are known by the guy he's make-believe going to fall in love with. "I'm not allowed to talk to Cody anymore. Apparently, going to see him in their changing room and shouting that he secretly loves me as he walks away is bad."

I give him a disapproving look, elbowing Al in the side until he stops laughing and joins me.

"Hey, we were joking around," Xavier defends. "It was the Magpies manager who wasn't happy about it. Cody doesn't need distractions, he said."

Oh. See, now I understand. I stop with the stern look, changing to more of a sympathetic one. "You are pretty distracting."

It's meant to be a compliment; I look him up and down as I say so, and while I think he understands my meaning - he glances down at his own body - he still frowns. "That manager is more paranoid than mine, I swear. I did not think that was possible."

"Oh, how is Oliver?" Al asks, referring to Xavier's boss and an old family friend, Oliver Wood, in an effort to change the subject.

"S'alright," Xavier shrugs. "Or he will be when we beat the Magpies."

"Good luck with that," comes a new voice.

He's leaning against the door frame, still in his regular clothes, and smirking at Xavier like he's heard the funniest thing in the world and doesn't want to hide how far from true he thinks it is. Which I understand completely; he hasn't been named one of the best Chasers for nothing. Even if Xavier were to catch the snitch, there is always a chance that it may not be enough.

He looks way better in real life than he does on my poster. No picture seems to do his stylishly messy brown hair and his dark green eyes justice; lovestruck girls would swear they get lost in those eyes. But while I can't help the huge smile and the inability to not be excited to finally meet him, the dream of holding the man in front of us and never letting him go that I had at twelve years old when he was an eighteen year old, just noticed reserve player, the dream I swore would stay forever, has indeed gone.

I must really want this thing with Albus to work.

Either that, or I'm just growing up. Maybe both. I hope it's both.

"Hello, Cody McIntyre," I say simply.

That's when he chooses to acknowledge the other two people in the lounge. Cody's answering smile is natural and friendly, so different to Xavier's cheeky, flirty smirk when we first met properly. It's his words that get to me more. Only a little.

"I read about you in the paper. And the magazines," he adds. "Hello, Alexa Nott. And you're Albus Potter?"

Al nods hesitantly.

"I admire your decision to stay together through this," he says, still smiling. "Plus, I've been hearing whispers from my journalist friend about what the Minister's daughter is saying and, well, I don't like her."

Screw what he said about reading our story in the paper, not that I'd ever really hate him for that when everyone has read the story; I genuinely love him now. Finally, someone who can publicly admit to not liking her.

"Boy or girl?" he asks, obviously sticking to the baby subject.

"We don't know," Al replies. "We want it to be a surprise."

"What do you want, though?"

"We say we don't mind, but it's no secret that Al wants a boy because he's afraid of girls," I smirk.

He denies it quickly and with enough assurance in his voice to convince himself, but the pink tinge in his cheeks tell everyone else otherwise.

"So is Sinclair, that's why he's gay," Cody jokes with a wink.

"That is true," Xavier nods mock-seriously. "Girls scare me to death, there's just so many rules about what to say and do etc. And, my God, the mood swings. I mean, make up your mind. Tell us what you want."

Cody prods him in the cheek. "See, fear." He claps his hands together then and steps backwards. "Anyway, I just came here because I'm hiding from my coach, but I do have to get ready. Maybe I'll see you two again. Come on, Sinclair, I can't beat you if you're not playing."

"I don't need to rush to get ready, so I'm in and out before my coach sees me," Xavier snorts. "We still have at least half an hour before we need to get ready. Well, fifteen minutes," he amends. "Oliver will find me eventually and he likes to be prepared, which means early in his head."

Cody shakes his head and starts to walk out, shouting that the 'smartass blond' had better be on the pitch on time, so Cody can kick his ass. I don't understand how it's meant to have any effect, Cody is a Chaser not a Seeker, and Xavier doesn't even blink.

"When you talk to me like that, I know we're meant to be."

"Stop it," Cody growls.

"I think it'll be a traditional wedding."

"You're pushing it," he's warned.

"Or outside," Xavier muses. "I see you as more of the outdoor type."

"You don't know me well enough to come to that conclusion," Cody tells him, finally stepping outside. Before he walks away, he adds, "And you wonder why you've been told to stay away from me."

"He's gotta point," Al whispers in my ear. I try not to laugh, putting my finger to my lips; we can't have Xavier asking questions about why we're laughing.

"Definitely more of a traditional boy," he mutters dejectedly. He pulls a face. "Wants kids and everything."

"Speaking of kids," Al says as Xavier goes back to the buffet table.

His back stiffens visibly, he almost seems to freeze, and he doesn't say a thing to stop Al, as though he really can't. I nudge Al, glaring; he talked of getting Xavier to talk about that night and his thoughts on the kid and, well, kids in general, so that he has an idea of where to go in his 'let's tell Xavier' plan. A plan I fully disagree with, thinking he shouldn't be telling Xavier himself, he should be talking to Tasha with Chris and getting her to tell him herself.

"Do you talk to the girl you were with at all?" he asks, ignoring me.

Slowly, Xavier turns. "No. Subtly is not your strong suit, Al. Now why do you want to know?"

"You were sad when you talked about not getting to be a dad, I wondered if you wanted it. Because you're openly gay now, what happened won't happen again," Al tells him softly. "Do you blame her for what happened or would you talk to her?"

Xavier looks like he thinks Al is insane, or needs some sense knocked into him - I have different reasons for agreeing with him.

"Of course I was sad. Not feeling ready to be a dad didn't make me heartless," he tells Al softly. "My baby essentially died. It's not something I'd want to go through again. And no, I don't blame her; she miscarried, it's not something she could stop. But I haven't seen her since. If she's ever passed me in the streets, she's ignored me. That's okay, though; I wouldn't want to talk to the person who rejected me either."

I can't help but feel incredibly sorry for him and it takes everything I have not to let it show; it's not fair what Tasha did, no matter why she did it.

"It's not like you could live a lie; you're gay," I point out kindly, pushing my feelings about Tasha's lie to the back of my mind.

"I thought about it," he answers quietly, biting into another little cake. "Pretending I was straight and being with her. But that wouldn't have been fair on either of us. I'm not that cruel. Now I'm going," he tells us, getting up suddenly. "Oliver will have my ass if I'm not in the changing rooms. Enjoy the game and the tickets; you have no idea how many people I had to suck up to to get those for you."

"Xave!" Al calls just as he gets to the door. "Would you have been there?"

There's barely a pause, Xavier's answer is almost immediate, even a little automatic, as though he's thought about it over and over in his head to prepare himself for this very question.

"Every terrifying step of the way."

***

We leave the lounge for the box as soon as Xavier leaves, me quietly scolding Albus for asking him personal questions about a part of the man's life that he didn't even need to tell us about before his game. Xavier doesn't need to worry about Al and his past and why he's being asked questions right now. If his strayed thoughts lead to an accident, he may never get to see his son. Al may want to help, but he really could have picked a better time. In the privacy of our house, for example, if he could manage to get his friend - our friend - to come back.

That and my opinion that Tasha should be the one to tell him causes our little argument - well, more of a disagreement about the how, since I kind of agree with him on the why - to last even as we're sitting in our seats. I imagine it could have lasted well into the game, but I hear my name being called. I turn, mouth still open and ready to speak, then shut it quickly when I recognize the little person who must have shouted me running in my direction.

"Jason."

The little boy stops next to me and sits in the chair on my right, leaning back into the couch and swinging his legs rapidly. He pushes the square lenses of his blue-rimmed glasses up his nose and smiles up at me. I haven't seen him since I babysat for the Minister, but I can see subtle differences since then, even though it wasn't that long ago. His skin has more color than before, his cheeks are rosy and his eyes are a bright and clear green, still lighter than Cody's. He looks so different to the sickly pale boy I first met.

"You are looking so much better," I smile.

"My new medicine works," he whispers shyly, noticing that Al is here. "I can eat properly without being sick now and my chest doesn't hurt much anymore."

"I'm glad, soon you'll be playing sports and eating as much junk food as you want," I promise. "Do you wanna meet my friend?"

Jason nods slowly and I sit back, lightly pushing Al forwards. "Jason, this is Albus Potter. Do you remember what I told you about him?"

"You're gonna be a daddy," the little boy answers, which is not what I told him, but whatever. "Jessie knows now. She's not happy."

He whispers the last part, turning to the entrance to the box. I stop breathing. I knew he hadn't come alone, he's only nine years old, but I figured that he'd come with Rich or another family member. Not his dad and his mum and his sister. I hear Al's shallow intake of breath and Jason looks very apologetic.

"Hello again, Alexa," the Minister says warmly.

"Hello," I croak, standing up to shake his hand as they move to sit in the seats right behind us. "I didn't expect to see you here."

"Jason is feeling much better now and he's never seen a Quidditch game before," Mrs. Shepherd replies, giving her son a warm smile. "This was his idea."

"Yay," Jessica mutters sarcastically, staring at me. If looks could kill.

"Oh, hush, Jessica," her mum scolds. "We're here as a family for your brother and we're lucky your dad was able to come. Don't ruin it."

"I'm sorry, Jason," she says and I'm glad it sounds sincere. Then she turns back to me and the sincerity has gone. "Looking forward to having a baby, Alexa?"

Albus turns around. "We are, thank you."

"You could have told me it was you, rather than lie about a boyfriend when we spoke," she spits, glaring. She's making her parents awfully uncomfortable. Her dad tries to step in, but I shake my head. It's not a secret that she likes Al, it's that she hates me that Minister Shepherd doesn't, or didn't, know. I'm not so sure anymore.

"We weren't telling anyone," Al answers her patiently, even a little sympathetically. It calms her dad. "It just wouldn't have been fair to tell you and not everyone else. Oh, and I didn't lie, I am her boyfriend," he kind of lies. He wasn't when they spoke.

She just doesn't need to know that.

He smiles politely and turns back to the Quidditch game just as it's announced and the players fly onto the pitch. Jason is fascinated and watching him fall in love with the game distracts everyone enough to not say more about the pregnancy. Jason doesn't take his eyes off the game as he asks us questions; I tell him about the rules and the players, pointing out Xavier and Cody and the others.

"You know them?" he asks excitedly.

"We know Xavier," Al says. "He's our friend."

"Wow," he murmurs. "Can I see him?"

"Maybe, if he comes back to see us after the game," I tell him without actually promising.

It doesn't matter to Jason, though. He turns around. "Mum, I might have a Quidditch friend."

He doesn't wait for a reply, he goes back to the game.

I get up almost two hours into the game, really needing a drink and just needing to move in general, and I leave Jason to talk to Al. I just pick up the jug of water when I feel a presence behind me.

"Drink?" I ask, knowing exactly who it is. It could only be her.

Jessica grabs the pumpkin juice instead and pours her own; I take a sip of water and wait for whatever it is she has to say. She won't do anything, not with her dad here, so I'm not worried. Well, I wouldn't be worried anyway. Jessica is a talker, not a doer. She uses words to fight and people to actually fight for her.

"You and Al won't last," she sneers.

"And you'll be there when it happens, waiting for him," I finish with a dream-like sigh. My sigh rivals Xavier's.

"I'm not an idiot, I know Al doesn't want me," she snaps. "But I also know that you don't feel the same way he does. You'll leave him just like you've left everyone else."

"You don't know a thing about me and how I feel," I say softly, with enough venom in my voice to catch her off-guard. "Al is my best friend and nothing will change that. We'll always be together."

"And when did you admit to him being your best friend?" she asks, looking smug. "You didn't say that once in school."

"I never said it to any of my five friends," I mutter honestly. "Neither did they, we always knew. Are you done?"

"The other's aren't like Al. Albus used to ask, used to wonder and worry about it, wonder if you'd stop being his friend and leave him because you never said," she says quietly, glancing at his direction. He looks up every so often, nervously watching us, then goes back to Jason. "How long before he starts to worry about how long you leave him now? How much worse will it be? Maybe it's already started."

I don't watch her leave, I fear I might lash out and hurt her if I do. Instead I go back to my seat and focus on the game.

"Are you alright?" Al asks quietly.

I nod, but I think he knows I'm lying. "Later," I whisper.

I cheer with Jason when Xavier catches the snitch.

***

We go back to the lounge after the game, Jason pulling his family with him, and wait for Xavier to come in. We know he won't be staying as long this time, it'll just be to congratulate him, then he'll be off with his teammates. Jason jumps up and down, hardly containing his excitement, and doesn't stop until he starts coughing. It's nothing like when I babysat, or times before that I've only heard about, but it's enough to panic his mother and have her grab his inhaler. He takes it, uses it and promises to calm down, but swears he's fine.

"Wow, more people," Xavier says, stopping at the door.

Jason seems to forget his promise completely, as well as his shyness, and runs over. "You were awesome," he says.

"Thank you," our friend replies, kneeling down so they're closer in height. "And what's your name?"

"Jason Shepherd," he answers proudly. "My dad is the Minister."

"I know, I recognize him. That must be so cool." Jason shrugs and Xavier laughs. "Did you enjoy the game?"

"Yes."

"Which team do you support?"

"Puddlemere!"

"Yay!" Xavier holds up his hand and Jason high-fives him enthusiastically, barely hitting his hand. Xavier then stands, promising he'll be back in a minute. When he does, he's carrying a cap, a quill and his wand. He writes something quickly, mutters a spell I can't quite hear and puts the cap on Jason's head. "There, now you can tell everyone you proudly support Puddlemere."

Jason pulls it off and reads out loud. "'See you at the next game, Jason. Xavier.' Wow." He turns around to show us, pointing to the message next to the team's emblem that Xavier charmed to be readable on the blue cap, probably unable to be washed off as well. "Are we friends now?"

"Sure," Xavier chuckles. "I have to go now, I just came to see if my friends enjoyed the game."

"We did," I answer.

"Well done," Al finishes. "How did Cody take losing?"

"I haven't seen him," he says. "But he's not usually one to hold a grudge over losing. I'll see you soon maybe."

"At Christmas, we're having a little party at the Burrow on Christmas Day, just a few drinks after dinner and stuff. You could come," Al tells him. Oh no.

"Maybe. Bye Jason, Minister, family."

As soon as he leaves, the Minister and his wife give their own good byes, taking away their very excited little boy and stilling glaring daughter. I wave and wait till they're all gone, too. Then I turn on Albus.

"You're inviting Tasha, aren't you?"

"No," he says, shaking his head. "Chris will."

Oh, he so deseerves the dead arm.



A/N: New chapter. Big things happen at Christmas in the next chapter. ;)

Hope you enjoy. Please let me know what you think.

Sam.


Chapter 18: Alexa: When Everything Happens in One Night
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Warning: Sensitive Topic - Xavier's story.

***

The walk to Emmett's apartment is far from boring - it's loud, it's angry and it's in freaking freezing winter weather. My thick winter coat doesn't seem to help me, but Darcy yelling for the whole world to hear seems to be enough to keep herself warm.

I wish listening to it kept me from freezing.

"I cannot believe she actually said that to you!" she shouts. I rub my ear with my finger, then with my whole hand, but I swear it's still ringing. I never would have guessed she was angry. "And you told Al?"

"As soon as we got home," I assure her. Quietly.

"And how did he take it?"

"Better than you." I roll my eyes when she turns her pissed off look my way. "I mean he got mad and was louder than usual, he even started threatening to do something about it, but he didn't actually threaten to kill her like you did. He also wasn't screaming at me."

"Near you," she corrects with a nod. "I'm screaming near you. That's not the point anyway, she crossed the line."

I stop her, my hands pressed to her shoulders, and make her look at me properly. "I know, Darcy. Believe me, I know. But I can't make it go away. Or her," I add before she can open her mouth. I even narrow my eyes to make sure she gets my 'keep your mouth shut' point. "I hate her for what she said, she laid out one of Al's worst fears for people to see. It took me ages to calm him down. Though, surprisingly, most of it was to keep him from going after her than for what she said. But that's not point; she said something that really hurt him. I'll make her pay for that."

"And what about you?" Darcy asks softly.

Slowly, I let go of her. I have to ask. "Do I leave everyone?"

"You haven't left us yet," she tries to reassure me. But her eyes widen as mine do, because she's heard exactly what she just said. "You don't leave the people you really care about."

Groaning, I continue to walk to Emmett's. This is one of the rare occasions when I will freak out and worry about something more than Al. He's already told me that he doesn't listen to a word Jessica says. He also said that we can't get rid of each other that easily. But hearing that you do leave people is still not something you want to hear.

"Family and friends don't count, I meant relationships," I tell her softly.

"You've never been on the other end of a break up," Darcy answers slowly. "You did the dumping. But you've only had, what, three relationships throughout the whole of Hogwarts. And apart from Robbie in fifth year, when you sat down and talked, the other two were idiots. They deserved it and she is so wrong, because none of them was Albus oh-my-God-how-does-he-manage-to-stay Potter. You're like PB and J, Alexa, which I only use because I know how much you love it; you work. You're stuck together."

"That's what I said," I murmur. Then I shrug. "That's what he said. Although, he didn't use the PB and J analogy."

Darcy shakes her head, smirking. "He's not cool enough to use the PB and J analogy." She takes my arm and we finish our walk to Em's. Now that we're not both focused on our conversation, the cold has come back in full force and we're practically hugging each other the whole way. "You really are going to make her pay, right?" she asks hopefully.

"Oh, Al already has ideas and he's much more focused in training now that he thinks things are finally 'falling into place'," I promise. "His head is clear and ready for revenge. It's like Al is back, now I remember exactly why and when he became my best friend."

"You're remembering the incident in second year, too," Darcy grins, chuckling.

"He was on fire that day," I whisper, still a little awed. "Those Gryffindor cousins of his never saw those spells coming. It was actually fun talking about our homework while they dangled upside down."

"No, my favorite was when Al hid James' broom, the poor kid nearly cried," she says, proud of him. We all were that day.

We stop outside of Emmett's apartment and I press the buzzer repeatedly, only to get no answer. "So, we stop yelling about a bitch, we reminisce over Al's epic revenge schemes because they probably won't be the last, we understand me and Al will be okay and we get to Em's with a newly formed smile, only to be stuck out in the cold because the bastard won't answer his door." I try again for another minute. "He knows we're coming."

Darcy knocks my hand out of the way and has a go, like that will help anything. It doesn't. He still doesn't answer his bloody door. "Maybe he's not in?"

"He should be, he promised."

"If only we had a key," she sighs, turning to leave.

Key? Key! I dig my hands into my pockets. "I have a key to this door and to his apartment. He made a spare set and gave them to me in case of absolute emergencies. I think this can count as an emergency."

"He gave you keys?" Darcy demands, outraged. "Why not me?"

"First come, first serve," I answer. "I was the only one there."

"Where was I?"

"In the living room, we were in the kitchen; it was when we were at my dad's for my birthday." Darcy glares, her hands on her hips. I point at her with the key in my hand. "Don't you look at me like that, you would have done exactly the same."

"Why? What did you do exactly?"

I shrug, putting the key into the door. "I took them out of his hand as soon as he took them out of his pocket. He never had a chance to choose."

She gasps, looking at me as proud as she'd been for Al a few moments ago. "Sneaky."

I grin and push the door open, running in and keeping it open for Darcy to enter the building before I let it swing shut. She follows me to the elevator and presses the button to the top floor - no way am I taking the stairs - while I grab hold of the second key, ready to open his apartment door. When the elevator stops at our desired floor, Darcy steps out first and finds Emmett's apartment. Since they usually come to my house, it's the first time we've ever been to Emmett's and we're only here because I need to pick up the Christmas presents that Em picked up for me. He had to, so Al wouldn't see them - his present is in there as well. Since Al is with his brother and Chris all day, getting them back to the house shouldn't be a problem. And we get to floo back; I'd wanted to floo here, but Em said he'd blocked it.

Why? Because he's a mean, crazy bastard, liking the idea of a pregnant woman walking in the cold because she can't Apparate and the friend she brought with her didn't pass her test.

Darcy finally finds it and steps aside for me to open the door. Thankfully, if Emmmett has any other locks on the door, he hasn't used them because it opens easily enough. When I turn to shut it, I see he only has a chain, which means he must have wards up when he goes out.

Which means he should be in. The git.

"Emmett?" I call. No answer. But he'd never leave the house without putting wards up, he hates being in his house without wards up. He must be in.

I move to look around when I notice that Darcy is stood completely still, shock plain on her face. Her mouth even hangs open a little bit. So, I stop and look around. That's when I see it.

The apartment huge, bigger than Kieron and Nicky's even. The floor is all smooth wood, the furniture is a rich, dark leather. There's shelves of books across one side of the wall and a large screen television and speaker system on the other, with shelves of DVDs and music. Everything looks new and expensive, right down the the cutlery in the kitchen - I peeked.

If Emmett is here, no wonder he couldn't hear us.

I snap my fingers in front of Darcy's face to 'wake' her up and she slowly comes back to the real world.

"He said his parents were old money, I accepted that, but to see what he can get with that money? That is a totally different thing," she croaks. "You old Purebloods really know how to attract money, don't you?"

I shrug, uncomfortable; out of all of us, money hasn't really been an issue for me and Em. But he's the only one who really flaunts it - new clothes, the latest things, stuff like that. While Kieron and I had allowances and got jobs and despite the house and the vault, didn't live like Emmett. The apartment, however, is more his parents' idea.

I pick up the remote to his music system and wave it in front of her. "This is the price the McQueens' pay to keep their disgraced son happy and away from them."

"Right," Darcy nods, changing suddenly from awed to sympathetic. "Assholes who use money to get what they want. It's sad that what they want is to keep Emmett away."

"It's not like Emmett gives a shit, he's worked so hard to get to the point where they'll give him what he wants without question," I remind her, now looking around for the presents. "Okay, I have no idea where to start looking, so I'm going to see if Emmett is here."

"I thought we established that he wasn't," Darcy asks, looking as confused as she sounds.

I turn back to her, seeing that she hasn't moved from her place by the couch. I point behind me, down the bright, white hallway I'm following. "He must be, he'd never leave the house without putting wards up. So, I'm going to find his room and see if he's there. Wanna come?"

I wink and she gets it instantly, her eyes lighting up, and she runs my way. No one ever has a chance to see Emmett's things. There's been so many times when he's gone through our things and yet we could never do the same. Until now anyway.

The first room we find is small and empty, so I guess it's the spare room, and the second is his bathroom. I point to the last one, most obviously Em's room, and we share a nod before I open the door, into his room.

...And our eyes fall on the two bodies in the bed.

I don't know whether to be freaked out or amused, but I'm not altogether surprised. I'm just thankful that they're currently sleeping and with a couple of inches of bedding separating them. I'm also thankful that they're at least covered from the waist down because I'm already traumatized by the fact that I've seen a very naked Emmett before, I'm not ready to see a very naked Hugo Weasley.

Not ready? Scratch that. Make it never going to happen.

Their chests rise and fall slowly, peacefully, almost in sync. They don't make a sound, don't make a single movement that would tell me they've even subconsciously acknowledged the fact that there are two other people in the room. So, I do what any good friend would do in a situation that requires letting a friend know you're in his house...

I pick up the little ball I find on top of one of the cupboards near the door, make sure it's not too hard, take aim and throw it right at Emmett.

It was the obvious choice, choosing Emmett. I know him better, know what's he like and that I'm safe. Hugo absorbs magic and knowledge like a sponge; I'm pretty sure he knows more than me and he'd probably know how to hurt me.

Well, he might wait till the kid is born first, but three months will not prepare me for his revenge.

The ball lands on Emmett's stomach with a thud; he wakes up groaning, his hands automatically finding his stomach, and sits up. "Oh, my -" Then he sees us. "What the hell?"

"Have you started the Christmas celebrations a little early?" Darcy asks with an amused grin.

Emmett mutters something along the lines of 'something like that', but I can't make it out for sure. Not that I want to know. Hugo doesn't move except to flex his arm; he still looks like he's sleeping peacefully.

"Will you two get out?" Em growls, looking around for what I assume is his pants. Which are by my feet. I pick them up and throw them at him. "Thanks. Leave."

"I can't believe you're were sleeping," I shake my head. "It's the afternoon, guys."

"We've had a very long, hard morning," Hugo answers softly, an even softer, just noticeable, but still there, smirk on his face. I cringe.

So, he is awake.

"Get. Out," Emmett says one last time. We pay close attention to his tone of voice and listen, going back to the living room. He follows us out seconds later, fastening the button of his jeans. "What the hell are you doing here? And that key is for emergencies!"

"You knew we were coming," I counter. "And I consider potentially freezing to death outside your building a pretty big emergency."

"You weren't supposed to come for another h -" I thrust his clock into his hands before he can finish that sentence. "You're on time. Oh, shit."

Darcy nods. "You and Hugo are adorable, but next time you should set an alarm. That way we don't have to see what we just did. And you won't have a ball thrown at you."

I wave at hand at her carelessly; she can give Emmett life advice another day. I have things to do. "Yeah, yeah. Where are my presents?"

He pushes past us, into the living room, and we follow. He stops at a small closet by the kitchen and pulls a Christmas themed bag out of it. I know there's an extension charm on it - with everyone I know, I have more presents than should be able to fit in that bag. Em puts it in front of me.

"You can go now," he says simply.

"But I want to talk about you and Hugo," I reply innocently.

Emmett gives me one simple answer. "No."

He doesn't have a choice, though. Hugo walks past him, leaving a quick kiss on his neck, and drops onto the chair across from where me and Darcy are standing. The fact that he still has his pants button undone and his shirt wide open, to reveal his smooth looking, flat chest only makes it harder for me to look the guy in the eye.

Judging from his grin, he notices.

"I'm interested to know what they have to say."

Ha. One of the things I've always loved about Hugo is his little motto: to give people a reaction you have to care what they think in the first place.

I should have known that keeping their relationship a secret was all Emmett's idea. He'd care about Al's reaction more than Hugo and the kid is closest to Albus than anyone else. Well, him and Louis.

I smile at Emmett and hold up a hand, put into a fist, and uncurl a finger. Question one: "Why aren't you home with your family? It's Christmas Eve."

"I promised I'd be home by seven to spend Christmas with them," he shrugs. "Christmas doesn't start till then; Dad is with Harry, Mum is finishing case files and Rose is with Will."

Darcy uncurls another finger and continues. Question two: "Do you love Emmett? Answer wisely because, Weasley or not, we'll hurt you."

Hugo laughs, whether it's because of the random question or the threat Darcy gives him, I don't know, but it really makes him laugh. Emmett goes a little red, which tells me he already knows the answer. Since the youngest member of Al's family is still breathing and in our friend's bed, I can guess what the answer is.

"Yeah, I do," he finally answers, still chuckling. "Anything else?"

In response, Darcy lets me drop my hand and turns to Emmett. "Well done, I approve. Because if he was straight and I was single..."

Darcy doesn't finish that, she doesn't need to even if she is taking Emmett's look, an unvoiced, barely concealed threat, seriously. We all know what she means. You can't deny that Hugo isn't a little bit attractive, in an adorable, I-just-want-to-hug-you-and-never-let-go way (it's what makes his 'dark side' such a surprise). But I will always see him as the little, brown haired, blue eyed boy who's smile scammed people out of their money. In other words, he was usually with his mum, helping with her campaigns when he didn't have a babysitter. When Hugo, society's angel, smiled, society responded by donated money to Hermione Weasley's charities, plus any she was associated with, and signed petitions that allowed changes in laws to be taken seriously, even if they weren't changed in the end.

Darcy turns to me. "Don't you agree, Lexi?"

I pull a face and hope Hugo doesn't take it badly. "No, thank you. I'm happy with Al, if that's alright with you. Speaking of Al, I should go, or he'll get home before me."

I pick up the bag as Emmett opens up the floo network, give a slightly awkward - in my eyes, because he doesn't care - good bye to Hugo and step into the fireplace, making sure to grab a bit of floo powder first. I ignore him when he responds to my comment about preferring Al to him with "It must be love!"

"See you at Christmas dinner, boys. I look forward to seeing how Al will take the news. You did promise to tell him, after all," I remind them.

Hugo goes a little pale. Something I've said has effected him; we both know that Al will not take essentially being lied to very well. Hugo respects Al enough to be wary.

Finally!

***

Christmas dinner with the Weasleys is, dare I say it, normal. It's kind of like Christmas with my own family, only louder, given that there is usually only six of us. I can't count the number of family members currently in the Burrow. Mrs. Weasley put tables together in the garden, underneath a sort of gazebo. Warming charms and wards keep the cold out, so we're not uncomfortable, and it extends across the garden, ready for the Christmas party afterwards. They don't usually have a Christmas party, they have a New Years Eve one to celebrate the year because Christmas is usually just for them, whereas friends are invited to the other. But this New Years Eve is a full moon; Al's uncle Bill, Louis and Harry Potter's godson Ted are already agitated enough; a little snappy, riled up, they're not really sleep and they have a slightly dangerous glint in their eyes - they all have traits, Teddy from his father, Bill from an attack. Louis was the only one to inherit them from his father, there was always a chance that his children wouldn't get it, just like Teddy might not have, and it skipped Victoire and Nicky.

That's why I don't completely hate Louis for who he is. Having werewolf traits from his father and Veela traits from his mother, he's never been the best at controlling his urges like the others, even though his aren't as strong as the others. Louis gets angry too quickly, dangerous without warning and his smartass mouth does him no good. As for the company he keeps, that gets worse the closer the full moon comes.

He is, appropriately put, like a dog in heat. He's already a little jumpy.

Who knew two rather small parts of him could make him so bad?

And they're why the party is tonight; you don't want to be near them during a full moon, though, call it morbid curiosity, but I've never actually seen Louis or Ted during a full moon and I'm interested.

Reason number two as to why the party is tonight is because the Burrow is quite close to fields and countryside and while I don't think there has ever been sightings of a werewolf near here, they don't take that chance.

But a Christmas party is just as fun as a New Year party, so I don't think anyone really minds.

Al's family certainly don't. They're sitting around the table, laughing and joking and talking about who's coming and how the party will be. I recognize some names, not others, the only one's I really know are my friends and Tasha. I stay at the end of the table, with Al, Hugo and James, along with my dad and brother. I can still hear others, mostly random snippets and sentences that don't make sense on their own unless I pay attention, but I stick to the people I'm close to. Mostly because I just don't want to yell across the table.

Kieron is asking me how the pregnancy is when I hear James trying to get my attention. I ignore him at first; ever since he found out about my middle name a couple of days ago he's been calling me 'Jaimie' or 'James III' (because he's James II, obviously), but I turn when Al tells me that he just wants the gravy boat that's on my left.

"Can I have it, James?" he asks with a wary looking smirk.

I know why he has that look, he's not the only one who's been name calling. But he takes it like a man and continues his game because he knows he technically could be known as what I call him. Whereas I am not a boy.

I pick up the gravy boat. "You mean this, Junior?"

"Yeah," he replies simply, holding out his hand. Smiling sweetly, I hand it to him. He doesn't look, he just tries to pour. Nothing comes out. "Oi!"

"You never asked if there was anything in it," I say, still smiling.

"She's got you there, bro," Al chuckles.

James glares and finds another gravy boat. "All hell will break lose when the spawn of the evil bitches is born."

"Just wait until he's old enough," I start.

"We'll let him visit you," Al finishes.

"Give him a sugar rush like no other first," Dad adds, grinning almost wickedly. That gets a few nervous laughs from parents within ear reach. If their kids were anything like me and Scor, they all fear the sugar rush.

Dinner ends with stories of their kids and experiences with sugar. The parents, or maybe I should say the older people - no, that still doesn't sound right - help clear the table, while the younger generation move the tables and prepare for the party.

"There is usually dessert afterwards, but that's all saved for the party," Lily says as we watch. I can tell by the look in her eyes that she really wants to run to that table. Her favorite is the sponge cake Louis' friend Frankie Pierce makes, but lots of other people love it, too. She wants it before anyone else can get to it.

"I don't know why you're laughing," she glares. "I'll save you a piece and you'll see what I mean. That man is a god in the kitchen."

"I believe you," I play along. As soon as guests start to come and no one is looking, Lily sneaks off and grabs the cake, and I mean the whole cake, and a knife. She cuts off a piece and hands it to me. It's like heaven in my mouth, sweet but not too sweet. And it's soft, it melts instantly on my tongue. I wish I could survive with just Frankie's cake. "I truly believe you," I promise, reaching out for another piece.

Lily moves back, cake and all, shaking her head and grinning. "I said a piece. That was my Christmas present to the baby."

"Fine, I'll just go and tell your grandmother what you're doing," I shrug. Lily's eyes widen; you fear the wrath of Molly Weasley when you disobey her and Lily's already been told off twice.

"I'll give you a bigger piece if you keep your mouth shut," she whispers immediately, already cutting off said piece and dropping it into my hand.

She runs off the moment my back is turned, but I don't care so much anymore; my friends, Tasha and her family are here now.

They greet me first, as good friends should, but this party is so lively, it just seems to draw you in, and they quickly continue on and mingle. Will finds Rose, Darcy and Ewan go to the drinks table, Megan pulls Chris onto the make-shift dance floor that I like to call grass because that's where Hugo and Molly put their music. Hugo himself is inside, sitting with Emmett and whispering. They turn to me and Al occasionally. I try to be subtle about it, but Al doesn't. I think his suspicions must have started a while ago, since he's not asking me why; he's just shaking his head.

"I did say to wait until Christmas, when they were together, and tell me then," he mutters, confirming my suspicions that he's had suspicions. I nod and agree, though I kind of hope he's not completely calm. Just because it's rare to see him mad. His family think it's weird, obviously since they're his family, but mad Albus is kinda hot. "I'll be back in a minute."

I'll be right here," I say. No way am I moving from the best spot to see what happens. "Come back here, I need to... Tell you something."

Raising an eye-brow, more curious than suspicious, Al nods and walks over to his friend and his cousin. He sits across from them and, taking a deep breath, Emmett moves forward. I can't hear what they're saying, they're not speaking loud enough. Seriously, they're just talking.

Emmett: "Al, I'm dating Hugo."

"Albus: "Okay."

That's all it looks like.

Talk about disappointing.

Okay, I'm not totally disappointed; arguments might ruin Christmas and I don't want that to happen. But I still hoped for more than just a quick chat, I thought Al would do something. I can't help but pout a little, but Al quickly catches my eye again. I follow his gaze to Ron Weasley... who has never really liked Emmett after a very bad first impression and is way too overprotective of his little boy.

Please be what I think it is...

"Uncle Ron, Hugo and Emmett have something they need to tell you."

Emmett glares at Al, not daring to look at Ron, who's so suspicious right now. Hugo can't decide if he should be pissed off or proud of his cousin. Al just winks and walks back to me. I grab the sides of his shirt and gently pull him forwards.

"Sneaky," I grin.

"I learned from the best," Al replies, copying my smile.

He covers my hands with his own and starts to move mine away; he's still slightly uncomfortable with us officially being together. I don't blame him for how he feels, it's still a little weird knowing our relationship is, er, more now, but how can we go further and be comfortable with each other as a couple if he keeps worrying? So, I'm doing something about it. It's small, practically nothing, but I think it'll be a start.

I continue to pull him with me, until I can't move anymore. Neither of us can. Then I let him remove his hands. Al tries to move, but nothing works. Then he looks up to see one of his Uncle George's Christmas designs; magic mistletoe. You can't move at all until you've kissed the person you're stuck with. It's a very funny prank when you're watching two people who hate each other or even something as simple as not feeling the same way (Emmett and Darcy was funny, Emmett and Ewan was even funnier - Ewan really shouldn't have tried to hurt Emmett while he was still under the mistletoe).

"Did you have anything to do with this?" Al asks with a slight chuckle. Well, at least he's taking it well.

"Maybe..." I say innocently. "I just don't want you to be uncomfortable with everything. We've been on a few dates and it's been fun, but this is still a new thing for us. As a couple anyway."

Al doesn't say anything, which worries me a little, more so because he's still smiling. No worry whatsoever. Calm Al is so unusual, mostly because he's been more calm than worrying recently, even after the Jessica thing; it's like hitting people with magic and being thrown into walls has been good for him.

Or maybe it messed with his head.

Either way I'm kind of liking it.

Don't get me wrong, worried Al is pretty much here to stay, he'll always have something on his mind. Actually, I'm pretty sure he's got things on his mind now. He just doesn't seem to be letting them get to him as much as he used to. It makes me wonder exactly what they are.

When a minute passes and he still says nothing, I start to. Nothing comes out, though. Because that's when Al moves forward and presses his lips to mine. He's gentle and slow, doesn't push for more. I let my hands rest on his arms and his own fall to the sides of my stomach.

This is it. I no longer regret what we did at graduation or a few weeks ago, but if I'd ever thought we'd have a first kiss back then, this would have been what I'd have in mind. Yeah, this is it.

We don't pull away until someone wolf whistles, but we don't seem to care about that. I look up to watch the mistletoe fly off and turn back to Al.

"That was good," I whisper, fumbling over my words a little. This is new for me.

"Good. I was beginning to think I was bad," he laughs. "You didn't have to pull me under the mistletoe. I don't think I've ever kissed someone under mistletoe before," he muses.

I shrug nonchalantly. "It's nothing special. I just wanted to make sure you couldn't move."

He knows I'm more or less making it up about knowing that kissing under mistletoe being nothing special. Truth is, it's never really appealed to me, so I've never done it. I honestly just didn't want him to run away. Now I'm starting to think he wouldn't have anyway.

"Good to know," Al smiles. "Now turn around; you're my human family shield, remember?"

"How could I forget?" I mumble, too excited about the fact that we're moving forward to care that I'm back to hiding him behind me, like I've done since first year.

We don't move far.

"Al, go and help your father and Ron mingle with guests, it might distract your uncle from the whole 'Hugo's dating Emmett' thing he wants to kill the poor boy for," his mum goes on. She has never not liked our friend, she thought Em's first impression was hilarious.

(Ron just won't get over the spider thing; Em didn't know what was in the box.)

"They're big boys, why do they need me?" he complains.

"You will do as you're told, Albus Severus."

Ginny - she won't let me call her Mrs. Potter - gives him a stern look, one that makes you want to do whatever she says because she's not afraid to hex you. I've heard that she was rather good at the bat bogey one.

The look works better than any charm; Al removes his hands from my waist to hold them up in surrender, then walks off, leaving me alone with the soon-to-be-grandmother.

"Jacob Arthur was a nicer choice," she sighs, watching Al walk outside. She turns to me. "How have you been, Alexa?" she asks kindly.

"Good," I nod. I move to sit on the couch now that Hugo and Em are hiding, er, gone. Ginny sits beside me. "If you don't like Albus Severus then why did you pick it?"

"I do like Albus Severus. If I didn't, I wouldn't have picked it at all." It's my turn to give her a look, not that it does anything to change her smile. "Mostly. I never liked the man who shares Al's middle name, not after the things he did, or helped to do. But when Harry told me why, I grew to respect him. It didn't stop me from forgetting what he did, but he did what he did with good intentions. He helped Harry, he promised to look after Harry, and all because of love. He was brave and loyal and did what he had to for the one he loved. Despite the things Snape did, his name was Severus Snape, I respect him for the qualities he had and I want Al to have those same qualities. So I picked the name."

I let Ginny explain her reasons, not interrupting to say that I know who Snape is thanks to Uncle Draco when it was on the tip of my tongue, and I agree that Al does have the qualities, in his own way anyway.

"Harry was actually thinking of those names for James, before he chose James Sirius," she continues. "He said them separately and I think Severus was a joke at first. Or did I hope that? Anyway, I knew he liked them and he had the same reasons as me. I just wish I could have stopped the kids at school. Although, Rose did tell me that the teasing started with the name, but they didn't start picking on him until he caught them stealing from the other kids and he told on them."

"I wish I'd gone to that school, I'd have sorted them out," I promise. "He wouldn't have appreciated a girl fighting his battles, but he'd have gotten over it eventually."

Ginny laughs softly and sighs again when she's called. Telling me she'll talk to me later, Ginny gets up and goes to Bill. From the way they're shouting across the room, having a conversation while she walks, I gather that Louis has disappeared upstairs and Ginny's the only one brave enough to talk to him. Well, brave and willing. My dad could, considering that working with the guy means he knows him well, but he's outside.

I'm only alone for a few minutes; Al manages to sneak away and ends up back by my side.

"Your dad is flirting with our healer," he shudders.

"Is that why Louis is sulking upstairs?" I snicker.

"It's not funny! Aren't you a little freaked that your dad could potentially end up dating Annie?" he asks. "Because she's liking him a lot more than Louis."

"Well, my dad didn't make her medi-witch cry, so he's ahead in potential date points already. Plus they're closer in age." Albus pokes me, which I do not appreciate and show that by poking back. "It might be a little weird, but I could deal with that. I like Annie and Dad needs someone. I don't like that he's lonely. This will be good - what's going on?"

Confused by my sudden change of topic, Al follows my gaze to small crowds and the sound of happy cheers. If I look real hard, I can see Kieron and Nicky in the middle. I don't have a chance to get up and look or myself; Lucy comes running in, very exciting.

"Kieron just proposed," she squeals. "Finally!"

Screw my aching feet and tired body, I run as best as I can to find my brother, not even waiting for him to turn. I wrap my arms around him from behind. The action makes him jump and he spins around to hug me properly.

"This is so exciting. Isn't it so exciting, Dad?"

Everyone seems to turn to Dad, waiting for his answer. He gives one we all should have expected. "This is it, right?" he asks seriously. "I have no more kids for this family to take, so this has to be it."

I shake my head at him, still smiling, and turn to Nicky. "Can I help plan it? Because I've been planning your wedding since you were fourteen and I have some cool ideas."

"We only got together when we were fourteen," Nicky points out slowly.

"Don't go there," Kieron warns him. "I have all but obliviated that conversation from my mind."

I smack him lightly on the arm, which does absolutely nothing to my brother; he rolls his eyes at me and pulls me closer, then let's me go and pulls Nicky to him instead. That's when I have to turn around; no one wants to see their sibling make out with the other half.

"It's adorable, isn't it?" a familiar voice says to me. A voice which makes me freeze. The voice wraps his arm around my shoulders and watches them. "No, I still don't want to do that. I mean, they're twenty-one and despite Kieron's job, he still has studying to do. He's not a proper lawyer yet. Do they have to?"

"They've been together for seven years, Xavier," I protest, nervously looking around, while trying to be discreet. "They want to celebrate that; does how old they are matter?"

He pauses for a minute. "I suppose not."

Finally, I catch Al's eye and he glances at Xavier before disappearing, probably to find Stewart. The plan he came up with is simple in theory; if Xavier and Tasha meet again, she will know that he's stuck with us and will have to decide whether or not to tell him the truth. Stewart, who knows this plan, will keep Ethan away. Everything that happens will be based on Tasha's decision, all Al did was invite a friend to a party.

But like I told Al - when do our plans ever work out?

It runs in his family, you know.

"Hey, Xave," Al says,making his way back. He must have found Stewart. "I didn't think you'd actually come."

"Well, you did invite me, it would have been rude not to," he answers cheerfully.

"Wanna drink?"

Xavier shakes his head. "I've had enough and I don't get drunk anymore. Is that -" We turn to where he points and share another nervous look. "Tasha!" he calls.

Tasha turns at the mention of her name, recognizes Xavier and runs off towards the house. He follows her and we follow him, as does Chris - Al must have told him, too. She gets outside of the front door before he catches up to her and we hide behind it; they're close enough for us to hear, enough for them to see us, but they don't seem to care.

"This had better not ruin Christmas," I whisper to him. "If it does, then I don't care if you have your own room, I'll make you sleep on the couch for this."

"We really are a couple, aren't we?" he whispers back.

"What are you doing here?" Tasha cries, bringing us back to their situation.

"Albus invited me, he's my friend," Xavier explains. "And you know I've been friends with Kieron and Nick since school. Why are you here?"

"Al's friend Chris is my cousin, Al invited us," she mutters, looking like he's wishing she'd said no.

"Small world," he tells her with an equally small smile.

"I need to go."

"No, I want to talk to you." Xavier stops her from leaving. "I never got to apologize for how I told you about me. You just took off, then you came back and gave me bad news and took off again. But I am sorry."

"Just forget about, Xavier. It's okay," she rushes out. "I have to go."

"No, please wait," he pleads. "I really am -"

We all freeze when he does and we all know why; considering I am yet to give birth, there is only one person this way who could be called 'Mummy'.

Ethan only stops when Chris grabs him, but it's too late. Xavier has already seen him; his dark blond hair and his blue eyes, the dimple in his smile. Ethan holds out his arms, but Tasha is too stunned to move.

"Mummy!"

"You're a mother?" I just manage to hear Xavier whisper. Louder, he continues to speak. He sounds like a machine; emotionless and cold. "How old is he? He's got to be two years old, two and a half at most, if I've calculated right and I like to think that I have. No way could you have a kid that age from anyone else."

We all hold our breath, even Ethan is keeping quiet. The poor kid, he's just watching his mother. He must be so confused.

"Mummy's sad," he whispers.

Then Xavier chooses to show some emotion.

"You lied to me!" he screams, causing Ethan to jump in Chris' arms and start to cry, suddenly scared.

"All you wanted was to play Quidditch, I was scared I'd ruin it for you," Tasha tries to defend herself. "I'm sorry."

"Sorry?" he asks incredulously. He scoffs. "You told an already terrified eighteen year old that his baby was gone, but that's okay because you're sorry. Well, you got what you wanted; I dedicated my entire life to Quidditch, just trying to forget. I couldn't bring myself to talk to my family, they still don't know. I kept myself away because I was scared they'd find out and be disappointed in me. Now they've given up on me; my dad doesn't even speak to me unless he has to. I admit that I let things get bad, what's happened with my family is my fault, but you made a decision that wasn't yours to make. You told me my baby was gone. Do you know what that does to a person? You almost destroyed me!"

"I was nineteen. I got scared and I freaked out!"

Ethan continues to cry, only getting louder, and it starts to attract attention. One look from Chris has Emmett and Kieron keeping everyone away, making up excuses for them to go back outside and enjoy the party. When Stewart finally manages to push past, he rushes out, standing in between the two.

"Who the fuck are you?" Xavier demands, tears flowing.

"Tasha's fiancé."

Understanding dawns on Xavier quickly. "You're the one my son calls 'Daddy'," he whispers. "This is between me and Tasha"

"Not anymore," Stewart all but growls. He points to us. "Not when you are scaring Ethan!"

For some reason that stops Xavier completely. "You named him 'Ethan'. Well, it's good to know you were thinking of me," he sneers."I want to see him."

Stewart pulls him back before he an get far. "Get him out of here, Chris." He forces Xavier to look at him and I love that Stewart is here right now, that he knew about Al's plan, because only he could stay somewhat calm in this situation. Only he can help Xavier. "What Tasha did was wrong. She knows that, we know that. She knows how I feel and she knows I can't defend her actions. You being Ethan's dad has never been news to me and I get that you're angry, I get that you're upset and scared and I get that you want to see him. But you are going about it the wrong way. Next time he see you, he's going to remember you as the man who yelled in front of his mummy and scared him."

Slowly, Stewart let's him go. "So, calm the fuck down. Go home, get some sleep and come back when you're sure you won't hurt somebody. Then we'll talk about you seeing Ethan."

Xavier back away slowly, his eyes on Stewart the whole time, then without a word or a glance anyone else's way, he Disapparates.

"You should have told him the truth," Stewart says to Tasha, his voice tired; they've had this conversation before.

He walks off, looking for Chris and Ethan and Tasha, finally seeming to notice that we're here, mutters about getting some air. I turn to look outside the back; apart from some looks, no one else seems to care. They probably didn't hear over the music. Christmas hasn't been ruined for them. But for Xavier? For Tasha and Stewart and little Ethan? I don't think it's one they had planned.

I finally turn to Al, who looks torn; his plan backfired, just like I predicted. But I won't follow through with my threat. It wasn't fair to Xavier that everyone knew about Ethan but him and Al was just trying to help because Chris couldn't bring himelf to.

I pull Al closer, tell him we'll stay for the fireworks, then go home. We'll make hot chocolate and grab some snacks and we'll watch a holiday movie in my room. I promise we'll contact Xavier in the morning, but that we won't push him.

He welcomes the hug, saying nothing.

Despite how the night ended, I wish him a merry Christmas. Silently, I wish we never end up in a situation like this.

I hope we last.



A/N: Wow, a really long chapter. A very packed, drama-filled chapter. I hope you enjoyed it. :)

I borrowed Frankie from my Louis/OC, Seize the Day. The reason Emmett's parents keep him away will come up, if you wondered, but it's not a main part of the plot. You'll also know what Al still thinks about and how Xavier will handle meeting poor, little Ethan. How he found out is sad, but necessary...

Please let me know what you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 19: Albus: When We Go One Step at a Time
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We tried contacting Xavier the day after Christmas; we called, we used the floo, we sent owls. I even went to his apartment a couple of times. Nothing. It's like he just disappeared. Not even his teammates knew where he was - I had Dad go to Oliver Wood for me.

So, after sending one last owl, I finally decide that it's time to give up and climb the stairs, into Alexa's - our? - room. There really isn't anything else I can do; if Xavier doesn't want to be found, he won't be. He knows how to stay invisible, despite his celebrity status. I'm glad he can maintain his privacy when he needs or wants it, but right now I find it very unfortunate, for him and for me. I'm not so sure it's what he really needs right now.

Lexi is already fast asleep when I go back inside; she was almost gone when I left her. I lie on top of the covers and try to finish the movie we had put on, but not even my worry for my friend or the sounds of fireworks can keep me awake, though it's my previously late nights of constant worrying for my friend that has made me so tired in the first place. It's just gone midnight, officially the New Year, but I imagine people will still be out celebrating for a while. We would be, if we'd had our New Year party as usual, but since it's a full moon and ours was moved to Christmas, me and Lexi decided to just stay in tonight. I'm glad.

I just about turn off the television and my eyes are already closing. I drop the remote and that's the last thing I remember, except one thought; morning can't come quick enough. So, when I'm woken up just over an hour later - I check the alarm clock three times to make sure it's not lying and I haven't really only been asleep for a few minutes - it comes as a complete surprise; I wasn't expecting anyone at this time of night. Especially not on my mobile - something I only have to keep in touch with Muggleborn and Muggle friends (some I met when growing up, others from school and Craig now).

Cautiously, I pick it up and check the name; it's Xavier. I remember that I gave him my number on his birthday when he realized I actually had a phone and he didn't have to write a letter. Xavier is a Halfblood, his father is a Muggle, and he has one to keep in touch with his family. Well, I guess that was the reason initially; as he barely talks to his family now, he mostly uses it when he goes out. Most of his contacts seem to be dates. I think I'm one of the only contacts on that phone of his, besides his family, that he can't sleep with.

And he rarely calls me, so my surprise just grows. I answer.

"What the hell, Xavier?" I whisper, wishing I could yell. But I don't want to wake Lexi. "I have been looking everywhere for you since Boxing Day!"

"Albus Potter?"

I frown; the voice is definitely not Xavier's, but it is familiar. I've heard this person's voice before, I'm sure; I must know him. It takes me a few minutes for the memory to resurface, during which he tries to get my attention again. I don't know him, not really, I've just met him once. In the players' lounge before a Quidditch game.

"Cody McIntyre?" Despite remembering the voice, it still comes out as a question.

"Yes," he replies, breathing a sigh of relief. "I was beginning to think I'd dialed the wrong number. I'm not really sure how to work this."

"Why do you have Xavier's phone?" I demand, then I wince. I don't mean to sound so harsh, but I can't help it; my worry for my friend is kind of the one in control here. I apologize and tell him why, even though I don't think he asked for an explanation. "Is he alright?"

Cody answers me, but I can't hear him and have to ask him to repeat it three times. I climb back out of bed and stand in the hall; if I don't have to whisper, maybe he'll have a better chance of hearing me as well. Because he's shouting. I can hear the loud pounding in the background, the dance music; where he is unmistakable - he's in a nightclub. Actually inside, shouting over the music, rather than going outside to take a call. My worry increases; is there a reason he can't go outside?

"He's fine," I finally manage to hear the man shout. I can't help but let go of a relieved breath, just as he had a few minutes ago. "I have no idea how he knew where I was, but he called the hotel I was at and had them find me. He kept wishing me a happy New Year and telling me to come celebrate with him. I only came here because no one's been able to find him for five days!"

I try to keep the phone pressed to my ear, seeing as it's the only way I can hear him properly, but his yelling and the loud music is starting to make my ear ring and I have to keep a little bit of distance until he's stopped talking. Almost hesitantly, I bring it closer again.

"Where is here?" I ask slowly, hoping it's loud enough for him to hear because I still don't want to raise my voice.

"Eros," he tells me. I roll my eyes; of course. Maybe I should have gone there five days ago and just waited for him. "He's in one of the private rooms," Cody continues. I may be wrong, but he sounds wary about that. And very uncomfortable. "He's with someone; I didn't want to leave them alone in case he did something stupid!"

Ah, that would explain why he's shouting over the music. It would also explain why he's very uncomfortable.

I admit, when I realized who he was, I thought he'd have just left Xavier alone, thinking it was his own life and he could do whatever he wanted, and called me just so someone knew where to find him. But throughout the whole conversation, he's sounded like a concerned friend. I thought their friendly banter in the players' lounge, and other conversations they had talked about, was just that; a bit of friendly competition between apposing teams. Obviously not. Cody may not put up with his jokes of them being together, though he doesn't take them badly, and they may not see each other often due to schedules and games, but he really does seem to care about Xavier. They may not be best friends, that seems doubtful, but Xavier has someone worrying about him, leaving his own party to stay with him.

Although some part of me can't help but wonder why Xavier would call Cody instead of me, it's only small; I'm mostly glad he has someone else. I started to fear me, his work, the mandatory visits to see his family and his one night conquests would be his only forms of human contact.

"Good," I finally reply. "Don't leave him. I'll be there in a minute."

"I thought you'd tell me to take him home or something, I didn't expect you to say you'll come here," Cody shouts again. The music sounds so much louder for a second; someone must have opened a door or something. "What can you do that I haven't already tried?"

He sounds skeptical, curious, but I don't say. "I have my ways. I'll be right there."

I hang up before Cody can say anything else, but I doubt he even noticed, or cared; he'd started yelling at someone else by then. Most likely Xavier. Like before, some part of me wonders why Xavier called him and, like before, it's only small. I go to my room, quickly changing into a comfortable pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Then I slip on my shoes and go back to Lexi's room. I mean to leave a note, not even expecting her to read it because I'm sure I'll be back before she wakes, but she turns around unexpectedly and her arm stretches out, hitting air instead of me.

"Al?" Lexi asks sleepily. She opens her eyes for a brief moment, barely enough time for me to think they'd been open at all, let alone anything else. "Did the movie finish? Are you going back to your room?"

Obviously, she didn't notice that I'm dressed. "No, I'm going to get Xavier," I answer softly. That gets her attention; she opens her eyes again. I answer her unspoken question. "He's at Eros, Cody McIntyre just called to tell me. I'll find out where he's been the last few days, don't worry."

I expect her to give me a list of questions to ask him, along with threats about making us worry, but the moment the question leaves her lips, I know it's the one I really should have expected. "Why is Cody McIntyre in Eros?"

I can't help but chuckle; the last time she heard that one of her favorite celebrities was in the club, she'd had to admit to the fact that she couldn't ever have him. I don't think she'd like to go through that again. Not that I think she wants to be with Cody McIntyre over me, but apparently it's nice to have the dream where it might happen one day. It's hard for her to dream of being with a guy when you know that in real life he'd rather be with another guy.

I'm almost tempted to tell her that it's the same situation. Does that make me a bad person?

Well, I don't. So it doesn't matter.

"Xavier called him, Cody went to get him. Xave's not listening, though," I explain. I press my lips to the top of her head, telling her to go back to sleep. "I'll be back soon."

Her light breathing is her only response.

***

There's a line of people still waiting to get in by the time I get to the club. I ignore their protests, their yells for me to get to the back of the line, and find the bouncer. His name is Ben; I remember him because he was very chatty with Xavier when we were leaving, after that one and what I thought was the only time I'd ever be here. He's tall and not as big as the other bouncers, muscle-wise, with curly brown hair and a nice smile. He seems to be Xavier's type, but once they started talking I found out that they're just good friends.

I know he'll let me in.

Ben gives me a sympathetic look the moment he sees me. "Trying to get Xave out?" I nod. "Well, good luck; I hear that guy Cody is already about to give up."

He moves the rope for me to get past, ignoring the even louder protests, and smiles reassuringly, even though the look in his eyes clearly tells me he doesn't believe I can help. I hope he doesn't get into trouble for letting me in, but I can't add it to the seemingly growing list of things to think about it.

The club is full; I have to squeeze past sweaty, alcohol-fueled bodies all the way to the private rooms, the whole time feeling like I really need to take a shower. But I get to the end of the main part of the club eventually, now I just have to find the room Xavier is in. The private rooms are for exactly what the title suggests; privacy, to get away from everyone else in Eros when you want your own party, whether it's a party for one, two or a group. Each one is a good sized room, with a leather couch that takes up the back wall and a table for your drinks. There's a champaign bucket by the couch in case you order it and the music isn't so loud in them, so it's easier to talk.

Xavier usually gets the one on the end, that's where he was the night we met, so it's the first place I look.

It's the only place I look.

I recognize Cody standing outside the door. He waves me over when he sees me and nods his head in the direction of the room.

"Do what you have to do, so I can go home," he says down my ear, pushing the door open. He enters before me, choosing now to take action where the stranger is concerned. He uses his hands to push the guys apart and grabs Stranger's shirt. He doesn't pull Stranger up, but I'm sure he will if he has to. "It's time you left. Now."

Xavier just watches them, amused by Cody's actions, and doesn't even take notice of me. But he knows I'm here and so does Stranger; two against one. He takes off, muttering things I don't care to hear.

I take that as my cue to step forward.

"Come on, Xave. We're leaving."

"I don't have to go anywhere with you. I'm a big boy and you're not my father," he answers with a smug grin, calm and coherent for someone who's supposed to be drunk - an impression I got from Cody's call. Too calm and coherent.

"Yeah, all I heard was noise," I feign indifference, even shrug my shoulders. But inside I kind of want to hurt him for putting me through crap by disappearing and not giving a damn about it. "So, get your ass off the couch and get moving, or I'll have Cody drag you out. He seems willing to do it. Actually, I think it's safe to say he's eager to do it, considering what you've forced him to witness."

"I can't wait," he almost growls.

Xavier, so help me, just doesn't care about the implied threat. He turns to Cody, flirty, and throws his arms over the back of the couch. "Really?"

I know I shouldn't; I have no idea what's he's been doing the last five days and the last time I saw him, he wasn't taking things well, but it just seems to come out. All I do know is that it's the only thing that'll make him listen.

"You can't let what's going on with Tasha get to you, you'll ruin your life. And you've already damaged it enough." It certainly gets his attention; his whole body tenses and he's now glaring at me. "It's not just you you have to think about, you have a son now."

And that gets Cody's attention. "He has a what now?"

"I have son," Xavier replies quietly. "His name is Ethan, he's two now and I've missed it because his mother lied to me."

"This is the baby you said died?" he asks, shocked.

I'm just as shocked that Cody actually knows about that, causing me to question exactly how close they are again, but now doesn't feel like the time to ask about their relationship. Apparently Xavier feels the same.

"I know she's your friend's cousin and I'm not asking you to choose between us, but you can't say anything that'll make me forgive her for the hell she put me through," he finishes.

"I'm not going to," I promise. "What you do is your decision and it's for you and you alone to make. I just want you to put yourself in her shoes for a minute; she met a guy who pretended to be interested beause he didn't want his team knowing about him, she listened to him talk about how much he loved Quidditch, how much it meant to him, and it all came flooding back when she found out she was pregnant. And to top it off? Not only was he not interesting, but he could never be."

I pause only to watch him grimace as he remembers what he did. "Tasha is not a bad person, Xavier. She made a choice, which turned out to be the wrong one, and she made it based on what she knew. She knew that Quidditch was your life when you were eighteen, it probably still is, but she didn't know you enough to understand that you wouldn't hate the thought of being a father, no matter how scared you were. She regrets her choice, she always will, but she was a scared kid, too. She didn't know what to do, she was alone because she hadn't told anyone else and all she knew about you was Quidditch. What would you have done in her position? Would you have told the guy if you thought you'd either ruin his career or end up alone anyway because he wanted nothing to do with the baby? You'd already told her you were gay, so even if you did want the baby she'd be alone."

I expect him to tell me that it wasn't her choice to make, to say the same things he'd yelled at Tasha at Christmas, but the look on his face tells me he's already thought about all of this. Knowing Xavier and who he is as a person, it just makes him more stubborn.

He scoffs. "You sound like Stewart."

"Whoa," I interrupt him - and Cody's 'I can't believe he has a kid' monologue. "You've been with Stewart? That's who you've been with these last five days?"

Damn. I should have looked instead of just calling.

"Why were you with Stewart? How did I miss you when you went home? And why did he lie when I asked if he'd seen you?"

Xavier answers my demands in order, counting them off with his fingers. "Because he knows my kid. Because I didn't go home, I stayed at my sister's. Because I told him to, so I wouldn't have to put up with your questions. I know you, Albus; stop worrying, I'm allowed to freak. I went to Stewart because he was honest with me, there was no bullshit, and he's already told me this story. I understand why she did it, I don't think she's a bad person, I'm just not ready to forgive her for it," he finishes, standing up.

He picks up his drink and downs the rest in one. "I knew he'd call you," he says, pointing at Cody. "But I thought I was ready for your questions. Now I think I should have drank more than orange juice."

Orange juice? That's it? I turn to glare at Cody. "You made it sound like he was drunk!"

Cody holds up his hands. "I told you he was here and that he was with somebody, you made that assumption on your own. He can do stupid things while sober. Or do you not know him as well as you think?"

"Easy, boys," Xavier tuts, walking past and out into the club. We follow, none of us speaking until we're back outside. We say good bye to Ben, who looks a little awed that Xavier is no longer inside, and discreetly nod, even though I don't think I really did anything. Xavier continues to speak, "You know I don't drink and I couldn't drink even if I wanted to; I promised Stewart I wouldn't."

"Why?" I ask curiously.

My friend stops and turns to look at me. "Because every day for five days, I asked if I could see Ethan. Yesterday, he said yes. I get to see him tomorrow. It sucks that I have to ask, but after I handled things badly at Christmas I'll take what I can get right now."

"I still can't believe that you have a kid," Cody mutters, his disbelief evident.

"Yeah, well, me neither," Xavier replies. He suddenly sounds tired and scared and exactly how I had pictured he'd be. "What if I'm bad? What if I can't do this? I've already scared him. What if he hates me?"

"He's only two years old," I tell him, trying to be reassuring. I have no idea if what I'm about to say is true, though, I'm just basing it off experiences of my own, when James and Roxy, under Fred's guidance, pranked and scared me a lot when I was Ethan's age. And family arguments I'd apparently witnessed that had gotten bad sometimes. I don't remember them, people have told me. "Right now, he's scared and confused, but he probably won't even remember it later. But he will know his dad. That's all that matters, isn't it?"

"Unless I'm a bad dad," he whispers.

"I don't believe that. I saw you with Jason Shepherd."

"Yeah, but he's not mine."

I don't answer, I don't have a chance to; Cody is standing in front of Xavier, his hands cupping our friend's cheeks to make him look. "Then you just take it a day at a time, Xave. You see him tomorrow, you spend time with him and you get to know your son. That's all you're doing; spending the day with him. You can do that."

It takes a few minutes, but he eventually nods and repeats the little mantra 'I can do that'.

"Where are you meeting him? I can go if you want. Lexi as well probably," I add.

"I'd like that, you don't scare me as much as Stewart does," Xavier answers, nervously chuckling a little.

"Yeah, he's like that at first, buts he's alright," I promise.

Xavier nods, seemingly agreeing with me. "We're going to the park near his house. Lunch time."

I tell him I'll see him there and Cody takes his arm. "Come on, I'll take you home. You can tell me all about this."

He nods again, starting to walk away, only to stop and curse. "No, I said I'd check on Louis tonight; I saw him on my way to the club." My cousin's name comes to my attention and many questions come to my mind. "You know what, screw it; he's a big boy, he can take care of himself, and I'm not brave enough to go in there."

"Go in where?" I demand to know, just as Cody asks who Louis is. "He's my cousin. Where is he, Xavier?"

"Out," he says vaguely. Guiltily. God, what has he done now? He's not the best company during the full moon. "I'll see you tomorrow."

I grab Xavier's arm. "No. After the crap I've gone through looking for you, I have a right to know this. He's my cousin. Where is he?"

"Eclipse," Xavier tells me reluctantly.

I drop my arm, shock and denial, among other emotions, building up inside. Finally, I settle on acceptance; of course he is. After everything that's happened recently, I shouldn't be surprised. Plus, this is Louis we're talking about; he's an 'I'll do what I want' kind of guy with little care for personal safety, especially during a full moon.

"What's wrong with Eclipse?" Cody asks. He's full of questions tonight. "It's just a club, right?"

"I forget you're so naive to the world," Xavier jokes halfheartedly.

"It's a vampire club," I answer him. "The front part is just a club, yeah, but the back rooms is for the vampires. They have people willing to be fed on in there." I turn to Xavier. "He's not -"

"No," he says quickly, shaking his had adamantly. "He goes to drink alcohol. And to see Kendra," he adds after a pause. "Actually he's probably home now."

"With this Kendra," I finish, getting the feeling I know what he's not telling me.

He shrugs, saying nothing more about it. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Yeah," I mutter, my mind on my cousin and a life we had no idea about.

We'll be talking the next time I see him.

***

"Louis is seeing a vampire?" Lexi whispers as we walk to the park. I told her all about Louis this morning; she won't tell anyone else.

"I have no idea, but I will be finding out."

Lexi let's out a low whistle, more to emphasize shock than appreciation. "Aren't vampires and werewolves, like, mortal enemies?" she asks, keeping her voice low.

I roll my eyes. "He's not a full werewolf. And you watch way too many movies."

"True," Lexi doesn't even pretend to disagree with me on the movie issue; it is her favorite Muggle appliance after all, after her dad got one and told her about the things he watched while 'away' (she was about four at the time, so obviously he didn't go into detail about him being in hiding), and while Kieron read, she'd watch TV. Even now she asks if what he's reading has a movie version.

Her next words bring me back to the other part of our conversation. "But you don't know; you don't talk to wolves or vamps, just Louis and Bill and Ted. They could be mortal enemies for all you know."

"I think that if they were feuding, we'd have heard about it by now," I explain. "The media just love to make big deals out of things; they'd probably jump at the chance of scaring the public because they know readers would grow and listen when they told them what to do."

Lexi agrees with me. It's scary when she just agrees with me straight away. But I know why; despite the pleasant tone we're keeping, she doesn't hate Louis and is concerned. And she's nervous about Xavier meeting Ethan.

I squeeze her hand gently when we reach the park.

Xavier is already here - it's not a very big park, so we find him easily - lying across one of the benches near the kid's play area. Ethan loves the park, having people push him on the baby swings, so it's the obvious place to meet. Ethan will be more comfortable here.

"Sit up, you," Lexi scolds jokingly. "I'm the tired one, you're just lazy."

Whatever her plan is, I think it works; Xave let's go of his nerves just a little and smiles, sitting up.

"Al said you'd come, I shouldn't have doubted," he says.

Lexi shrugs and grins. "Well, I am a nosy bitch, I need to know everything. Me and his cousin, Roxy," she points at me, "would be such good friends if I didn't find her so annoying."

"She's a nosy bitch, too," he guesses.

"She's worse," Lexi promises him. "I just like to talk to Al about it, people rarely ever know that I know their business. She uses it against you."

"And yet we hear such good things about the Weasley family," he sighs in mock-disappointment.

"I know, right? That phrase about appearances being deceiving is definitely true when it comes to this family." She turns to me again. "Isn't that right, Al?"

I nod and play along. Mostly. "More so for Hugo, I think. Most people know what everyone else is like and say nice things in general anyway; no one knows that Hugo is an evil genius."

Xavier points at both of us. "Then I can't wait to find out which family member will arrest him one day."

"Oh, I don't know, if these two will have anything to do with it, they'll probably get him a good lawyer," Stewart's voice says, referring to Kieron. He's standing on Xavier's other side, by the arm of the bench, carrying Ethan in his arms. The little boy has his head buried in Stewart's shoulder, but he peeks at us every so often. Xavier goes silent, his eyes on his son. "Hello," Stewart finally says.

"Hey," Lexi is the first to answer, ready to smile when Ethan looks again. "Ready to have fun in the park, sweetie?"

Ethan nods shyly and it's Stewart who answers. "We're going to have loads of fun, aren't we, mate? And we hope you're hungry because Ethan brought his favorites." I notice the picnic bag over his shoulder for the first time. "We hope you like egg mayo sandwiches."

"It's my favorite," Xavier says softly. Ethan turns to him briefly then; 'it's my favorite' is pretty much his famous line when talking about sandwich fillings. He rarely eats anything else, except strawberry jam on it's own or PB and J, but only when Lexi makes it.

The look between father and son only lasts for a second or two, then Ethan hides his face again, but it causes Xavier to bring his smile back. He gestures to the park. "Lead the way."

We move to a large grassy area on the other side of the playground, by the slides this time, and Stewart finally sets Ethan onto his feet to open the bag and pull out a blanket. Lexi grimaces at the thought of sitting on the floor and waits for me to sit before slowly following my lead, leaning into me so she's using my chest as a cushion. Stewart sits across from us Ethan moving quickly onto his lap, this time burying his face in the man's t-shirt. Xavier is the last to join us, looking out of sorts and uncomfortable, but he doesn't walk away like I fear he will - he sits in the middle, right between us and Ethan. He's close to both sides, yet there's still that little bit of distance.

"Have you told your family yet?" Stewart asks, going straight to the awkward topics.

It's a completely open question, anyone listening would never know what he means, but we know and we impatiently for Xavier to answer.

He shakes his head and gestures to Ethan. "One step at a time, yeah. I'm barely getting visiting hours."

I almost flinch at the bitter edge in his voice, a sad undertone worming its way through as well; he makes it sound like he's some kind of criminal. Stewart doesn't flinch; this must be one of the things they talked about. He rubs Ethan's back soothingly and whispers in his ear, pointing to the basket. I expected to see the kid glued to Stewart today - I'm just full of expectations, it seems - but no, he moves, taking the basket with him, and sits in between Stewart and Xavier.

He bites into a sandwich before Stewart asks him to give everyone else one. He only gives Xavier one, because he's closer, and the basket just gets moved around.

"Ethan, tell everyone what you did in school before Christmas."

"Paint," he whispers.

"You painted pictures, didn't you? What where they of?" Stewart prompts.

"Quid."

"Quidditch, yeah. You love Quidditch. Who else loves Quidditch?"

Ethan points at Xavier without looking at him; Lexi and I had guessed that he might have told the kid things about his dad, although without actually calling him the kid's dad.

"Yeah, Xavier loves Quidditch," Stewart continues. "You brought a picture to show him. Do you want to show him the picture?"

Ethan stuffs the rest of the little square sandwich into his mouth, oddly reminding me of when Xavier stuffed the cake in his mouth at the game, then holds out his hands. He takes the picture and drops it on Xavier's knee.

It's mostly swirls and splotches, what could maybe be a ball is in the middle and the long stick on the left could be a person or one of the poles, but Xavier smiles like it's famous art and leans in.

"You did this?" Ethan nods, still not looking at him. "Wow. Will you tell me about it? What's this?"

He points at the biggest splotch; Ethan looks and shrugs his little shoulders.

"Is it the players, Ethan?" Stewart asks. "Are they playing? Or is that the little one?"

"Little one," he replies, pointing at the smaller mess of paint on the right.

"So, is the big one the fans?" Xavier asks. "Are they cheering?"

"Yes. Like this," he says, holding up his arms and shaking, but making no noise. "Like that."

"Wow. And what's this? Is this the captain?"

Ethan laughs a little. "Me."

"That's you?" Xavier gasps. "You're playing Quidditch? Are you the best?" Ethan nods. "Are you better than me?" He shrugs again. "Maybe one day when you're big we'll see."

"I big," the kid protests.

"Show him how big you are, Ethan," Stewart boasts. "Show him how high you can swing."

"Kay," he grins, getting up and running into the play area. He's almost at the gates, still in clear view, when he stops.

"The irony, Xavier," Stewart tells him, "is that you control how high he goes because you have to push him."

The stressed 'you' is clear; Xavier follows Ethan to the swings.

***

We use the time without Xavier and Ethan to talk about the five days Xavier was 'gone' for. Stewart fills us in on what they talked about every day that Xavier went to him - once he got Xavier to calm down and listen to why Tasha did what she did, not that he thinks she not completely blameless, he told Xavier about Ethan - but he kept it brief, saying that it was for Xavier to tell if he chose to. Stewart won't get involved any more than he has to. It's not that he doesn't like or care about the guy or the situation, of course he does, he's part of it, he just doesn't like being stuck in the middle unnecessarily.

And he thinks it's unnecessary because it's for Tasha and Xavier to talk about.

But we all know that won't happen for a while... Unless Xavier surprises us (again) by being the bigger person.

It was on the fourth day that Stewart felt that Xavier was truly listening and was calm; he talked to Tasha about him seeing Ethan. Apparently she thought about coming, hoping that now everything was out in the open and she trusted that Stewart was right, she could be talk to him without a fight. She dismissed it when Chris told her to think about the situation from Xavier's prospective.

It's a complicated, messed up situation. But I think things will be okay. I mean, Ethan's not suddenly calling Xavier 'Daddy' and I know he's still scared he won't be good enough and he's worrying about Quidditch as a career and all the times he's away, but right now, watching him get to know his kid, he can do this.

Ethan comes back first, tired and sweaty from running around in the playground, and he demands his juice twice before Stewart finally gets him to ask somewhat nicely.

I think stubborn pride runs in the family because if he weren't a baby, I'd be saying that the reason the kid sits next to Xavier once he's back is just on principle - you just don't sit next to the guy who made you say please.

He soon falls asleep, his head resting on Xavier's arm until he's gently moved to sit on his knee. Stewart takes his bottle and he gives a sort of approving nod.

"See? You're not so bad," he says quietly. "It just takes time. It gets easier."

Xavier opens his mouth to speak, then he shuts it, shakes his head and tries again. "I guess. It's not this, being with him, that I'm worried about."

"What is?" Lexi prompts.

"What he'll call me," he whispers.

Stewart chuckles, it's soft and quick, but he's definitely amused. "He's not going to get confused over who to call 'Daddy'? You'll be the first and the only."

"He doesn't call you that?" Xavier asks, confused.

We all shake our heads. Stewart's the only male parental figure he's had, but it's not been long enough for Ethan to change what he says.

"Ethan calls me 'Stu' because he can't say 'Stewart'. He's never called a man 'Daddy' before," Stewart continues. "I met Tasha a couple of months after Ethan's first birthday, but she took things slow. I knew all about him, and you, but because of what happened with you, she wouldn't let a guy meet Ethan until she was absolutely sure about him. I didn't meet Ethan until his second birthday, two days after I proposed. Six months ago.

"You don't have to worry about that, you just have to give it time," he finishes his little speech, packs away the picnic bag, then turns as though he's just remembered something. "That includes talking to Tasha, even if all you can be is civil right now. Sharing responsibility is going to be hard enough, we don't need the added tension and Ethan one day asking why you don't talk to 'Mummy'. Besides, I refuse to be your errand boy."

"I'll talk to her. One day," he sort of promises. "It's just hard right now. One step at a time, yeah."

"I'll hold you to that," Stewart threatens. Regretfully, he adds, "I should put him to bed, let him sleep properly."

Xavier nods slowly and carefully lifts Ethan up to carry him in his arms while Stewart helps Lexi. The walk to their house is short because they live quite close and all too soon Xavier is handing Ethan over. The look on his face is almost heartbreaking and I see Lexi hastily wipe away a tear - she'll blame hormones for that later.

Tasha opens the door as they get there, hesitantly holds up a hand to wave. At first I think he's going to ignore her, but then he waves back and they shut the door.

"That was harder than I thought it would be," he murmurs.

"Come on," Lexi says, wrapping an arm over his shoulders. "we'll go to ours, go on a chocolate binge - we'll eat it, we'll drink it, we'll go nuts."

"I wish I could, but there's something I have to do." We share a look before we question him on what it is. "I have to go home; I need to have a long overdue conversation with my family before my younger sisters go back to school."

"Good luck," I tell him awkwardly, but sincerely.

He can help but laugh at me. "Thanks. I'll see you both later."

We watch him leave, waiting for him to disappear before we turn in the other direction. I take Lexi's hand. "Did you say something about chocolate?"

"Lots and lots of it," she swears.



A/N: Sorry for the wait, but yay, new chapter.

Feel free to form your own opinions and thoughts on Tasha and Xavier and their situation, but personally I hope you don't hate her too much. :)

Eclipse is of my own creation, it, like Eros, likes to pop up in some of my stories. :)

I hope you enjoyed. Please let me know what you think.

Sam.


Chapter 20: Albus: When Arguments Lead to Honesty
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I think my favorite part about Auror training is the real life practice training. In the third year, it's mostly real life training, with qualified Aurors as mentors - that's the best - but first year practice is good, too. We go to somewhere outside of London, like a park, somewhere quite remote where you're unlikely to be seen by Muggles - they put wards and Muggle repelling charms up as well as shields that keep us from being seen just in case, but remote is better than the city - and we go through drills, including chasing and apprehending criminals.

You get told a week before you go. My class was told a couple of days after New Year; the first day back in training.

I have no idea where we are, I was too busy trying to get Louis' attention, but I lost sight of him and Chris just dragged me along and Malcolm Apparated us here before I could even ask. But I don't care. It's been really cool watching the rest of the first year trainees work on their skills when I'm not training myself.

I'm currently the Auror apprehending Chris with a one of the junior Aurors who have been assigned to help us. While Chris is on the run, somewhere in the park, me and Peter act as though were members of the public, like if we were in town; we talk and laugh - he's alright - but we're also surveying the park, keeping everything around us in sight at all times, and I eventually see Chris. He's got his back to us, not yet noticing that we're on his tail, and I surprise him with a stunner.

Unfortunately, he hears just in time and deflects it. Then the fun starts; the chase. This is why real life training is so much fun - on the outside, we're learning; on the inside, we both know we're just messing about, chasing each other and shooting out spells.

Who doesn't find that fun?

Chris is fast, he always has been, but I've been getting better; I run during the weekends now, so this doesn't wind me as much as it used to, in fact I only just feel the burn in my legs when I manage to grab him.

"You're under arrest, Reed," I boast.

"You should check that ego of yours, Potter."

He pulls himself from my grip, his wand ready to stun me, but between my family's never ending parade of pranks and training, plus practice on my defensive magic, I've learnt a thing or two. My wand is already out, my one-way shield in place and a body bind charm on my lips. His stunner bounces right off the shield, my charm goes through, and he's completely bound, stuck while I laugh.

"I like my ego the way it is, thanks," I grin, folding my arms smugly.

Chris rolls his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, just get me out of this."

"I like it," I tell him honestly. "This is payback for throwing me into the wall. Do you remember?"

Chris nods and sighs, "Yeah."

From behind me, Peter, who'd been watching our practice, whistled. "Nice shield. That stunner just bounced right off it."

"I've been practicing," I answer, only slightly modest about it.

But it's true; I started practicing defensive magic in fifth year, and I kept at it until I got things near damn perfect. What I've always been the most proud of is my shield; I can make it a full shield, protecting myself completely, but not being able to do anything in return. I can also make it one way, like it is now; I can still use my wand against criminals, but they can't get through my shield. It was an absolute bitch to get right, I couldn't get it to work for months, not until the end of Easter during seventh year. The mental strength it took to work, the concentration I needed to get it right, was draining. The school nurse was tired of treating me for my nose bleeds.

"Nothing can get in, but Albus can still get them," my dad's voice calls out proudly. It's my first practice session, he said he might stop by, but I knew he'd definitely come. "Well done, Al. You can let go now."

I drop my shield, while Peter removes the charm around Chris, and Dad, followed by Theo and Louis, step forward.

"I'm impressed," Theo said. "I'm glad I decided to come."

"Why's Louis here?" Chris asks curiously, rubbing his arms like he'd physically been bound.

"I was shadowing Louis in a case, we just got back when Harry said you were here," Theo tells us. "Since he did so well, I said yes when he asked to come. He'd tell you all this himself, but the guy he arrested punched him in the jaw and he's in quite a bit of pain."

"I think I need a healer," Louis whispers, barely moving his jaw.

"I'll take you there now," Dad promises, rolling his eyes. "We told you we should have just gone, but you wanted to come here first."

"Sorry," he continues to whisper.

Dad rubs Louis' shoulder reassuringly, barely touching him in case it causes him to move - Louis manages to whisper that warning. The afternoon sun shines down on us, but it doesn't fool us; it's still winter, still freezing, and Malcolm ends the session. We'll be back in the Ministry training rooms tomorrow, but I don't care that we've spent pretty much all day in the cold - I bested Christopher Reed today. It feels good.

"Feel free to Apparate straight home from here, guys, everyone else is," Dad says. "Come on, Louis."

"Wait, I want to talk to Louis," I call out. Dad pats Louis' back and moves away with Theo. "So, who's Kendra?" I ask.

If he could drop his jaw, he could. He automatically tries to, but then he moans in pain.

"I'm going to kill Xavier," he mutters venomously.

"If it helps, he was very guilty about telling," I tell him. "Who's Kendra?"

Louis rolls his eyes; it's the only part of his face that he can safely move without hurting himself. "Are you kidding? He's annoyed with me for being 'stuck' looking after me that night. If he looked guilty, it was probably about something else."

Now that I think about it, it's probably true. Maybe it's not guilt I saw; his mind was only on his son that night, it could have been something else, a different emotion.

I shrug. "Well, you shouldn't have made him promise to check in on you then. That was a stupid move on your part. Who's Kendra?"

"I didn't do that, Casey did. I was with him last night," Louis says, still not answering my question. "We saw Xavier outside as we got to Eclipse, Casey made him promise, then my good friend fucked off home. Not because of the club, I might add. It's just a club, there's nothing wrong with it. He fucked off because he had to go to work early the next morning."

"Sounds like Casey. Who's Kendra?"

"She is a woman who works at the club." I narrow my eyes and wait. "She is a vampire who works at the club." Almost there... "She is someone I like to sleep with."

"Interesting. Why don't we know about her?"

"Because our family are nosy bastards, you know that," he says. "I don't want questions about my love life. Can I go to the hospital now?"

"Lexi is very upset that you didn't tell us about your girlfriend," I sigh. "I'd expect that if I were you."

"I don't have a girlfriend. And why did you tell her?" he moans. "She'll only care about the vampire bit."

"Of course she does, she thinks it's all very weird because she thinks vampires and werewolves should be fighting. Be prepared for that, too."

"That's why you wanted to talk to me, isn't it?" he asks, shaking his head without actually moving it. "You don't care about my life, you just wanted to mock me about Lexi. Why couldn't that have waited until after I had my jaw fixed?"

"Because she's asking for you now," I answer honestly. "And I do care; you are my cousin, a cousin who doesn't stay with one girl for more than a night, no matter what they are. Do you see now why I'm curious?"

"Good bye, Albus."

I call after him, but he ignores me, waving a hand dismissively. I can't help but laugh, then frown because he's not the first person to walk away from me; it's like I live to annoy recently. I've stopped caring about Louis' extra curricular activities. He's a big boy, he can take care of himself. If he were in any real trouble, he'd have come to us - well, he'd have come to my dad or Theo. Knowing that he's alright, I just want to question him about having a girlfriend, because any girl who can keep Louis for longer than a weekend should be given girlfriend status.

Chris pats me on the shoulder and says good bye, Apparating home just before I reluctantly leave. I'm able to land in my living room because she's taken down the wards for me and I find her and Nicky - Dom, damn it, Lexi - on the couch. One look and I can see flower arrangements on one side and fancy suit catalogues on the other.

They're planning his wedding.

"Hello, children," I say, muffling a yawn. I was so wired out in the field, but now that I'm home, I feel like my whole body is shutting down. I'm so tired. I fall onto the chair.

"Al, what do you think of this outfit?" Dom asks me, holding up the open catalogue.

From the angle of my body and the fact that my eyes are half shut, I can barely see it. I shrug.

"Don't bother asking Albus," Lexi mutters. "I keep asking about the nursery, which I realize I now have to get back to, for days now and I've gotten nowhere."

"I'm not having this conversation with you again," I tell her quickly.

"It wasn't a conversation," she says to Dom.

I open my eyes and sit up, able to look at her properly. "You're right, I'm sorry. Let me rephrase: I'm not having this argument with you again."

"Wow," Dom says uncomfortably. "And that's my cue to leave. I have to go home and get ready for dinner with Kieron. I'll see you both soon. Maybe. Please take it easy with the party, Lexi. Just family and friends.

Lexi promises to do as he says, just as I ask what party.

"My engagement party. See, Al, some people like to celebrate the fact that their partners finally got the message."

"Awesome," I answer slowly, more in hope that it's the answer he wants to hear than in a patronizing way. Unfortunately, even I can hear that patronizing is exactly what it sounds like. His look says more than words need to; he's not afraid to slap me across the head. So I do the only thing I know I can do; I put the spotlight on someone else. "You do know Lexi, right? She won't rest until your party is elaborate and fancy and that usually includes more guests than you need just to show off."

I realize too late that it was the wrong thing to say, the worst thing to say. She looks at me like I've slapped her, like she's balancing on the edge and demanding to know why before I push her off. It's horrible. I regret every word instantly.

"Yeah, I'm not getting involved in this," Dom mutters. It's what he does, though; he gets involved, he tells people what to do. But his whispered "fix it" before he runs out of the door is the only 'help' he's able to give.

Lexi pulls herself up then, refusing to look me in the eye. "I need to finish the room. There's so much to do."

"Lexi -"

"Leave me alone, Potter. Just leave."

She only uses my last name when she's angry, so angry, that words just aren't enough. She usually yells it, just one insult and my last name and I leave her alone until she comes to me. She never whispers it, she never sounds so hurt. My last name is my slap in the face. I won't leave her alone this time, nor will I leave the house. She goes up the stairs as quickly as her body will allow her; I catch up easily, have to match her pace.

"Lexi, I'm sorry," I tell her sincerely, following her into the baby's room. "I didn't mean for it to come out like it did, I was just tired and annoyed because we keep arguing."

"Yes, you did," she snaps, angry tears forming around her eyes. I stop, frozen. I can't remember the last time I saw her cry. "You've said it before. I will do as Dom wants; if he wants something simple, just family and friends, he'll get it. I'm not that selfish, that self-absorbed. But, yeah, maybe things will be a little fancy, maybe there'll be a little more than there should be, but he won't care. Because he knows that I need something to do, that's why he gave me this. And so do you; I told you! You know me, but you say it anyway. No go away; I said to leave. I meant it."

"Lexi, please. You know that I'd never say anything that would hurt you."

"Well, you did."

She pushes me out of the room, slamming the door shut. I knock and I bang, I try and force it up with my body and I try magic, but every time I get the door open, she's ready; she's locked herself in. It's some of the first things she learnt, locking charms, ever since she accidentally did it as a child. She knows how to hide herself away. "Lexi, please open the door. Lexi, don't ignore me, open the door."

She ignore me anyway. It's no use shouting, she won't listen. And I can't keep trying the door if she's right there, waiting. She'll have to step away eventually, she'll have to come out. I just have to wait until then, let her calm down. Let myself calm down, too. Everything is changing so fast, becoming real. I can't handle it. I can't take it out on my best friend either. I need to walk, to get out. I'm suddenly not so tired anymore.

I end up down the street, to the small alley that we use to Apparate without been seen. I just close my eyes, no destination in mind, just the one thought: I need to talk to someone who understands us. It's a dangerous way of Apparating; even with the thought clear in your mind, you could likely end up anywhere and you usually end up splinched. The pull that comes with this mode of transport comes only a few seconds after a mostly clear image of where that thought will take me enters my mind and, thankfully, I end up right in front of the manor's large, old doors with what looks like a small cut on my arm. There's hardly any blood and it's easily healed - not bad as far as splinching goes. Some cases are much worse.

I stand there for a while, just staring at the doors and wondering if this is the right thing, then with a hesitant hand, I use the knocker to let the owner know that there is someone at the door. The manor is large and he could be anywhere, so the knocker echoes around the house. You can't not hear it.

It's not long before he opens the door; he was probably just in the living room. "Albus. What a surprise? I thought you'd be at home after your training today. But I don't kno about Louis if that's why you're here; he's still at the hospital with Harry."

"Hey, Theo. That's not why I'm here, can I come in?"

"Sure." He holds open the door to let me through, pointing to the living room. He switches off the television and watches me curiously. "Are you alright? Is Lexi alright?"

I swallow my fear, not knowing exactly how he'll take the start of this conversation, but I need to know, to talk. I need... reassurance. "Lexi has locked herself in the nursery, crying. Because I upset her."

"Why?" he asks, dangerously calm.

"We've been arguing a lot the last couple of days," I explain guiltily. "It just started out of nowhere; I came home and she had a go at me about the nursery. Now every time I try to say something, she bites my head off. So, today when Dom told her to take the party planning easy, I just snapped and I told him she wouldn't listen just to show off. Now she won't talk to me."

"And you are telling her father this because?"

"Because you know us better than anyone, even my parents. You've been there through everything. You know everything about her," I whisper. He knows more than I ever could. "I hope that you can help me to understand what's going on; if it's me, if I need to do something." Then I give him the biggest shock of all, the reason my fear over talking to him is so great. He did warn me after all. "Because I can't handle it anymore. I can't take that."

Theo checks the hall and makes damn sure the door is closed before speaking to me. "Be thankful that Kieron is upstairs in his room, because if he heard that you're thinking of leaving Lexi, he'd kill you."

"Kieron is going to dinner with Dom," I point out, my voice shaking a little. He can't be here.

"Not yet, he isn't. He's here."

"I don't want to leave her, I want to be with her," I say quietly, now afraid that her brother will hear me. "But I feel like she's practically driving me away and I don't know what to do. This entire situation terrifies me and school does not prepare you for it. That's why I came to you."

I turn away from him, focusing on the photographs along the wall, because if I keep my eyes on Theo any strength I have will crumble. I don't have the energy to pretend that these last few months have been in any way easy anymore. I'm still only eighteen.

Without thinking, I reach out to pick up one of the photos on the table, my fingers grazing over the frame. Everything was so simple back then; there was no baby and feelings and issues to deal with. We were just best friends.

"That picture was how I knew, you know?" Theo breaks the silence. I finally face him, notice his arms folded stiffly across his chest. But then he takes a good look at the picture and he can't seem to help but stare fondly. "You were fourteen years old there and I told you to get to bed and sleep properly, but neither of you listened. You said you were going to stay up all night, watch the movies and eat the food. But when I got up in the morning, you were both fast asleep, with your arms wrapped around each other. I took the picture because I wanted you to see that I was right about you both falling asleep, but seeing you two together? My only thought was that I was stuck with you forever. No matter what happened, you and Lexi would come through."

He pats me on the shoulder, a little too hard, and moves to sit on the couch. He has his head in his hands for a moment before he looks at me. "I've had over four years to deal with the fact that I'd one day have to call you my family and mean it, this baby won't change that. Not if you're strong-willed enough to keep fighting. You just have to get through to her. Let her calm down and talk to her. These arguments haven't started for nothing; something has upset her."

"How do you know the difference between something you can get past and something that'll change everything?" I ask slowly, not quite sure where my thoughts are going exactly. "What if one day something happens that we can't fix? Do you keep trying or do you let it go?"

"I don't know," Theo answers honestly.

"Did you think you could get past the reason you divorced your wife?"

Theo stiffens, the floor becomes more interesting. "No. It wasn't something I could get past. I made a choice and I will never regret it, no matter how much I think about the past."

"You think about the past? But you hate her; you argue all the time, you can't stand to be in the same room as her," I point out, joining him on the couch. "Why would you think about that?"

"Because she was my wife, Albus, that doesn't just go away," he whispers. "She made bad choices that I find hard to forgive her for, but I don't hate her. Sometimes I wonder if I still love her, but I know that leaving her was the right choice, and not just for the reasons that finally pushed me to do it. It was on my mind for a long time. But if she knew about any lingering feelings I kay have, she'd try to use it to come back and I can't go through that again. So, she can't be in the same room as me, she can't know. If I have to kick and scream and act like a brat to make sure that it doesn't happen, then so be it. I want to move on with my life, be with someone new."

"Annie?" I guess.

He nods. "Maybe. I like her. I guess we'll have to see."

"I hope you can put up with two little kids again for her."

If looks could kill; I start to think I shouldn't have said that, he looks like he's weighing up his options of what would happen if he hurt me. But he settles for a small smile, which I'm glad for, and mutters that he thinks he'll manage, which I have no doubt.

"Can I ask you a question?" I say, hating that I might break the nicer atmosphere in here. But I came here to talk about me and Lexi, only to do that I need to ask something else. Because I think I'm starting to understand something. The moment he nods, I just let the question fall out; I'm getting it over and done with, like ripping off a plaster. "Why did you and Daphne get divorced?"

"Because of me," Kieron answers me before Theo has time to react to it, let alone respond. He's leaning against the door frame - when he came in, I have no freaking clue - and watching us, a curious mix of emotions plain to see on his face - he's sad, he's nervous, he's guilty. He's not mad, though. Thank God. "She wanted to go shopping, to meet up with friends, but she had me and there was no babysitter; Lexi was with Astoria and they were already out. So, she took me with her. She left me in the shop. By the time she noticed, I wasn't there anymore. Draco found me in the street; I was so angry with her that I just ran off. I tried to get back home, but I got lost. I refused to leave the Malfoy home and because Lexi was already there and would follow me everywhere, she wouldn't leave either. So, Dad made a choice."

"Between you two and Daphne," I finish the rest of the story in my head. I already knew the ending. "You chose them."

"I chose them."

Kieron lowers his arms, they drop like dead weight. "Lexi is upset because the due date is getting closer and she's afraid that she'll end up like Mum. She's always been afraid of being like Mum; that's why she leaves people before she gets too attached. She never saw you coming." He moves suddenly, both panicked and determined. "I have to go, I have to talk to her."

"Because you think that you can calm her down?" I have to admit that it's something I should have thought of; Lexi will do anything for Kieron, why not leave a room?

"Because I skipped a chapter in the story," Kieron answers, making his way to the floo room. "This part isn't meant for you."

Both Theo and I follow.

***

The door opens easily this time; I was right, Lexi moved away. She's staring at the wall, looking at two different squares of what I swear are the same color. The room is bare; we'd gotten rid of the old crib and drawers the last owners had left because Lexi decided that she wanted to buy new ones; the baby's own things, not leftovers. She keeps her back to me, pretending not to notice even though she knows I'm here - she stiffens when I wrap my arms around her waist.

"I'm so sorry," I whisper sincerely. "I'd never intentionally hurt you and I hate myself for doing so now. It's just been a really bad couple of days."

It takes a few moments of silent prayers and I have to hold my breath to keep from sounding so loud, but Lexi eventually responds - she puts her hands over my own and squeezes. "I know. Where did you go?"

"To see you dad. Kieron was there, too."

That has her turning around, checking me out. "And you made it out in one piece?"

"He told me about what happened, why your parents got divorced," I tell her, needing her to know. "He told me that you're scared of being like her."

"It's partly true, but Keiron doesn't know as much as he thinks," she mutters. "You think that's why I'm angry with her, why I hate her?" I nod uncertainly. "It's not. I don't know why Kieron did what he did, he gets angry and he does stupid things, it's just who he is. I stayed with him because he wanted me to, but I was only four then. I learnt pretty quickly that Big Brother can't help but have drama in his life. He exaggerates, makes things worse than they are, and while he's always honest, he doesn't tell the whole truth. He misses bits out. I learnt pretty quickly that he did the same about Mum."

The chapter he wants to tell her about. I'm sure it's the same.

"Then why do you hate her?"

Lexi's eyes are still red and wet from before, still susceptible to tears she's doesn't seem to be afraid to let fall today. Appearance used to be everything just so that no one would see her when she was sad. Now, if she even notices the paint on her cheek, she doesn't care, or her figure or not being as sociable as she used to be. Already, she's not like her mother. She just doesn't see it yet.

"My parents' marriage was over a long time ago, what happened with Kieron just finished them off," she tells me softly. "I overheard them yelling about it once. I was only four, I didn't understand, but I had a friend who lived across the road and she went with her dad every weekend. She was okay, so I thought I'd be okay, too. Then everything happened; they got the divorce, got joint custody and we saw Mum some weekends if Dad managed to get Kieron there, not at all if he couldn't because I wouldn't leave him."

She runs her hand through her hair; she hates telling this story, she hates crying. She finally drops her hand onto her stomach, rubbing in soothing circles. I take her hands in mine, silently telling her that she can continue. "I figured out Kieron's issue with the truth when I was twelve, but that didn't matter because she gave up when I was eight. She couldn't handle Kieron anymore, so she gave Dad full custody. She didn't fight like he did, she didn't try like my friend's parents did. She was never the maternal type, but she tried for my dad. And she was okay until all of this. I don't hate my mother, Albus, I'm angry with her."

I pull her to me, wrap my arms around her and hold her tightly. "What if I do something stupid? One stupid thing is all it takes for my family to fall apart," she sobs.

"That won't happen to you, I promise. I'm here."

"Dad was there."

"Your dad didn't love your mum like I love you," I whisper into her ear.

I feel her freeze as she let's the words sink in and I start to imagine the worst. Until she speaks. "I know. I love you, too." Lexi pushes back a little, just enough to see the tiniest hint of a smile. It's the biggest I've seen in a few days. "Thank you."

"Do you wish Kieron would tell you his reasons?" I ask, just about managing to not glance at the door.

"Sometimes," she shrugs. "Other times I just think that he's a bastard with a temper that sometimes makes him seem mean when he's actually a scared little boy, who eavesdrops behind doors."

Kieron groans, stepping inside and at least able to look guilty. "How did you know?"

"I smelt your cologne the second you got to the door." He discreetly sniffs his collar; she knocks my shoulder. "That's for not telling me."

I apologize quickly; we're a step away from being argument free. I'm keeping it that way. "Is that the only reason you said all of this? So, your brother would know?"

"At first. But now that I have, I kind of feel better."

"There's only one chapter left," Kieron says. "She told me not to wonder off that day and I was good, I stayed with her. Then I needed to go to the bathroom," he scoffs. "I tried to tell her, even pulled on her coat to get her to look at me, and I thought that she'd heard me. But she hadn't paid attention, so she wasn't there when I got back. I was so angry with her; she promised we'd spend the day together, even when we were with her friends she wouldn't ignore me, she said, and she wasn't there. I was seven years old, in my eyes Mum had lied again. So, I ran away. I just wanted to go home, instead I got lost. Draco found me, she'd called him and the Aurors, desperate, he said. I didn't care that she'd noticed I wasn't with her and came running back to look for me, pretty quickly, I heard, and I didn't care that I was the one who moved; I hated her for forgetting me when she'd promised. I told you to stay with me instead because I knew you'd listen and I shouldn't have, that wasn't fair. I hated her for childish, selfish reasons and was too stubborn to stop it. I shouldn't have dragged you into it."

"Why are you bringing this up now?" Lexi asks, more curious than suspicious.

"Because you're worried and it makes you sad, which makes me sad. You're my sister and I hate it when you're sad, especially when I'm the cause. When I overheard Albus and Dad talking, I had to," he answers her. "When I overheard Dad and Annie, I wanted to."

"Dad and Annie?"

"Hmm. She was at the house the other day; he invited her over for dinner. They're getting to know each other, they like each other," he explains. "I snuck in to get a few of my law books and they were talking about her kids. Her daughter was asking if they would have to call Dad 'Daddy' and not see theirs anymore. I was thinking about how much it would suck to be in that situation. Then I realized that we kind of are, it doesn't matter that we're older than those kids. She could be our stepmother. I like her, but I don't know if I want to call her 'Mum'. I have a mum."

He says that reluctantly, which really doesn't surprise me given their history.

"She keeps popping up in our lives recently," he continues. "Asking about you, asking about me, and as weird as that is I kind of thought it was be a good thing for you, if you want to talk to her. Maybe one day she'll be in our lives so much that your kid will be calling her 'Grandma'. Personally, I'd pay to see that. Either way, I'm inviting her to the engagement party. If she's really good, or if I haven't hurt her, I might invite her to the wedding."

Lexi leans in. "Wait for it." I can't help but look confused, so confused, right now. "This is a joke; he's messing or it's someone else under Polyjuice. Wait for it."

Rolling his eyes, Kieron holds up his hands, "Oh, it's me, I assure you. Although, i surprise myself. If it was any other day, hearing that he'd upset you would have me breaking your little friend's nose."

"Boyfriend," she corrects just to tease him, finally wiping her tears away.

"Whatever." I hold back a laugh when she mutters that it's definitely him. "I do feel lightheaded, though. This whole being nice to her stuff is already making me ill; I only started to think about it a couple of days ago and I haven't even seen her yet. I should eat... something... food... Nicky!"

Kieron suddenly takes off, faster than I've ever seen him. Clearly he's just remembered that he's having dinner with my cousin tonight... Then again, so did I. Lexi will probably make him apologize for just running out, make him feel guilty about loving his fiance more than his sister. He knocks into Theo on his way, who'd promised to stay downstairs, but I bet had been listening in the hall, too.

"Everything okay now?"

"Almost," I assure him, my eyes still on Lexi. "Now that we're good and there's no worry about us and we even said 'I love you', I'm thinking we make the second biggest bedroom the nursery."

"You mean your room?" she asks.

"No, see considering that I spend most of my time in your room, I'm just going to move my stuff into there," I let her know, like it's nothing. But on the inside, I'm freaking out a little. This is new and strange and what if she says no?

"Fine, but I'm keeping the left side of the bed." I nod; I prefer the right anyway. "And I'm not moving my clothes; you'll just have to fit yours in."

"Compared to yours, a little space is all I need," I smirk.

"I can't believe I'm hearing this," Theo says to himself, going on about his daughter's love life and therapy. "I'm going to go, I have things to do. Have fun with the nursery."

Lexi pauses our chat to hug her dad and say good bye, then makes me follow her to my now old room to check out where everything will go in a bigger space.

"Anything else I need to know now that we're not arguing?"

I shrug, leaning against the doorframe. "I sleep in my underwear."

Yeah, that earns me a look.



A/N: Finally a new chapter. What did you think - of the family situation that's finally out? Of Al and Lexi? Theo and Annie? Please let me know. :)

I hope you enjoyed.

Sam.


Chapter 21: Alexa: When Good Days End with Bad Dreams
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It's not easy pushing Al off of my knee, he's like dead weight when he sleeps. Why he's asleep, I have no idea. He just is; he got up alright, got dressed and followed me to my dad's, then he lay down on my knee... and started snoring. I eventually manage it, with a small bump in the road, so to speak - he smacks his head on the lining of the sofa. Thankfully, it's actually on the seat part, so it's soft on top, but it's hard underneath and hitting that is what wakes him.

"Please, no more," he cries. Then he looks around and realizes where he's been for the past hour. "Oh. Thank God for that."

"Still having those nightmares, Alby," Kieron mocks him in a whiny, baby-like voice with the nickname he heard Lily call him once and decided to keep.

I move to sit next to my brother, smacking across the arm. It's hard enough to surprise him, he even jumps and rubs the spot, but we all know that there is no way I've left a bruise. He has thick skin to cover his thick skull. Okay, I admit I'm still a little pissed with him after everything that happened a few days ago, but still, it's Al I'm defending right now.

"Leave him alone," I scold him. "Lily's being going on and on about weddings and christenings and dresses for every occasion. It's bringing back traumatic memories."

Al responds with a groan, falling back into the couch, this time in the middle. When he was ten, Lily, with the help of big brother James, had Al try out her outfits as revenge for him ruining her favorite doll. He mostly got over it... until she starts stuff like this just to remind him.

It's not funny... but the picture the Potters have of poor Al is adorable.

I go back to Nicky, pushing Kieron back into the couch so that I don't have to lean forward, and hand him the writing pad I'd been making notes on. "What do you think, Nick? It's simple like you want, just a party here, but is also elegant and fancy. I can get them while I'm out if you approve, but I'm doing it today or you do it yourself because I hurt, so I won't be out for long."

Nicky let's go of his quill and puts it on top of his knee with the article he's currently writing, reading through the notes properly. His smile gets a little wider each time. It's nothing really special; a few congratulatory banners that I'll have specialized for them, food I'll have Louis' friend Frankie make when Louis begs him for me, I'll also talk to George about a fireworks show. He's good at them.

"This is perfect, Lexi." He passes it back to me. "You're amazing. Have you ever thought about doing this for a living? Events planning?"

My eyes widen and my mouth parts and I get up, only pausing when I feel a sharp kick. Oh, Baby does not like me getting up too fast. I rub my stomach with one hand, brushing off the guys' worries with the other, and continue my way back to Al. I'm so excited, I accidentally sit on him, just catching his hair and missing the rest of his head.

"Ow!" he moans.

"Sorry. Get up." I nudge him until he eventually, and grudgingly, sits beside me. "So, what do you think? Me planning people's parties and stuff? I'll be awesome, don't you think? I've already being planning things since... forever."

"I thought it was just a hobby. Lexi, if I thought you'd consider it as a career, I'd have told you months ago," he mumbles sleepily, his head resting on my shoulder.

"Why is he so tired?" Nicky asks, pointing at him.

Albus taps my knee. "She had me up late painting the nursery and getting it ready for when we get the baby stuff. Then when I finally got to bed, she kicked me off and on for a full half an hour, then she slept on top of me. Needless to say, 'tired' is an understatement."

"I was going to make him come with me today, but I'm okay with him staying at home and dragging Craig in to help if I get anything," I let them know. See, I can be a nice person. I'm a good girlfriend to Al.

"Craig? That's the neighbor with the adorable smile, right?" Kieron asks curiously. Nicky turns on my brother, his eye-brows raised and his arms folded. "I may have glanced. And you can say nothing; I see you glance all the time."

"Really? And all this time I thought I was being subtle," he answers sarcastically.

"Oh, baby, I don't care if you look," Kieron smiles, going back to his law textbook. I hold up a finger to Al; any minute now, just wait. "As long as you know that I'll break something if you touch."

There it is.

I feel like I should be at least a little worried for Nicky's safety and, well, his life in general when it comes to my brother, I do like him after all. But they've been friends since they were eleven and together since they were fourteen, so I imagine Nicky can take care of himself by now. He doesn't need his soon-to-be sister-in-law protecting him from the big bad wolf... who knows how to create a storm, lightening and everything. He's put up with it for this long without my help. Even so, I don't appreciate the glare directed at me when I laugh at Kieron's comment. The shrug I give him apparently makes it worse.

At least I know when to stop... Or leave.

"Go home, Al, you'll sleep better there," I tell him gently, a small nudge in that direction more than an outright demand, I think. Because they definitely won't let him sleep if he stays here. I can see it in their eyes. I pull him up with me, walking him to the floo room, and kiss him quickly before letting him go first. "I'll see you later."

"You won't be out long." He makes me promise; I cross my heart and everything. And I mean it; I do not want to be out for as long as I need to be. Being pregnant is exhausting. "And I know Darcy and Megan will be there, but you'll call me if you need me?"

"Yes. Now go. And remember, my dad is coming over for the mail and stuff after work."

"I remember," he mutters, stepping into the fireplace. He calls out our address and manages to return my wave before disappearing completely in the bright green flames.

As soon as he's gone, I step in and call out Diagon Alley. Floo is an unpredictable way to travel, I think, at least for some; there's always a chance of landing the wrong way, tripping over your own feet and falling flat on your face. It's happened to me a fair few times. But I've gotten much better, enough to not be worried today. Plus it's safer than Apparating. Pregnant women are discouraged from traveling this way, no matter how far along you are - there's dangers of splinching causing miscarriages, or hurting the baby in any way. The risks are too high. Side-along is safer, but is still only recommended when necessary.

I land in one of the alley's fireplaces safely and step out into the cobbled street. It's gone lunch and it's Saturday, so it's really busy and I start to wish I'd come out sooner. Thankfully, my friends are right there, waiting for me. They each take an arm and lead the way.

"So, where to first, Lex?" Darcy asks, unusually excited about baby shopping. Although, she's a shopping addict, will take what she can get, so I don't think I should be all that surprised.

"You're a strange girl," Megan tells her.

"We're just browsing here," I laugh. We're bumped into a few times as we walk, more so when we try to stop and browse the windows, but with me in the middle I'm okay and they mostly try to swerve past and miss us. I'm grateful for that.

The longer we spend in the alley, the more I realize that I probably shouldn't have come here at all. I chose to come here first just to get it out of the way in case I found something I liked, but really wanting to look in one of the baby stores in London. There's not much here for babies; sure, there's robes and toys and stuff, but cribs and prams? Bottles and dummies? None of that's here.

After about an hour, we head to the wall. My time here is not completely wasted, though; in my bag is the most adorable set of robes from Madam Malkins for the 'welcome to the world' party that Darcy joked about and I agreed to have, just because I was bored and got to plan something, and a baby t-shirt from the Quidditch store that says 'No. 1 fan' that Al will hate. I did walk out thinking that someone, probably Harry, will buy one, if they haven't already, but oh well, Baby can have two.

My feet start to ache when we get to the wall and I think about us getting the bus into the city center when I'm poked on the shoulder.

"Healer Moore," I say, surprised, and I smile, introducing her quickly to my friends, or more like rejogging memories if they met at Christmas. "How are you?"

"I think I should be the one asking you that," she points out. "I'm good. How are you?"

"A little achy, if I'm honest, and kinda hungry actually," I muse, then shrug. "I think a look in a baby shop and food will be it before I go home."

"But there's so much to buy," Darcy pouts. Megan rubs her arm in soothing circles, trying to hide her amusement because damn anyone who tries to stop this girl from shopping. "Fine, I'll continue another day and who knows what I'll get for this kid without adult supervision?"

"We don't even trust what she buys herself without adult supervision," I remind Megan worryingly. "Remember the cardboard cutout of that actor she just had to have?"

She nods and shudders. "And those shoes."

"I'm right here, you know!" she snaps without venom. She knows we're only joking. She might have even joined in if Healer Moore hadn't started to laugh.

"You remind me somewhat of my best friend, she's a lot of fun. Especially if alcohol is involved," she smiles. "Are you coming through the wall?"

I nod and we follow her when it opens. My friends continue to chat about Darcy's outrageous shopping buys when they notice me move away to walk in step with my healer, or maybe now my ex-healer since I'm not all that comfortable with the thought of my dad's potential girlfriend delivering my baby. It's the estate agent and the house all over again.

"What brings you here?" I ask her curiously once we step outside of the old pub. Apart from the odd times I've seen her with Ginny, I've never seen Healer Moore outside of the hospital.

"Just shopping," she shrugs. "It was a nice surprise seeing you out, I thought I'd ask about how you are. Do mind if I walk with you?"

She sounds sincere, honest, about her intentions, but it's her eyes that have me inclined to not believe her. They flicker, only keeping actual contact with me occasionally, and her body is too stiff to be casual. I've seen this before; everyone acts different, but overall, there are similarities, such as stance and eye contact. They might has well have a big flashing sign on their heads, saying 'Theo's got to me and he thinks his daughter's an idiot'.

"Dad told you to come, didn't he?" I ask knowingly.

She visibly relaxes. "Yes. He wants us to get to know each other outside of the hospital, to get along, you know, before anything happens. Your opinion means a lot to him, which is okay. I was actually going shopping, though, I need things for my kids; I said I would if I saw you. And I did, so I kind of had to keep my promise."

"Your dad's a nosy bastard," Megan smirks. Yeah, well, she wouldn't be if he'd heard and she'd never say that to his face. Not that he'd do anything, they just have more respect for him when he's around. I, on the other hand, would call him a nosy bastard to his face.

"He is," I agree with her, turning back to Healer Moore. "And it's okay; I understand why he wants that. So, we're going to get the bus into town. Did you drive?"

"No, Apparated."

"Good." Megan and Darcy suddenly pop up on either side of her. "Because we have healer/patient/baby questions we'd like to ask you."

My look is nothing but sympathetic.

***

Curiosity sated by the time we get off the bus, at least for now, my friends stick to casual conversation on the walk into the shop and disappear to look around, coming back every now and again to show me all of the things that they think are adorable and I should buy, but essentially leaving me alone with Healer Moore.

"Your dad said you were finishing the nursery," she starts the conversation, a little nervously. It's odd to hear from her.

"Al finished it last night," I reply, not helping the smile. He did a great job. "It's lovely. Now that the walls are cream and not dark blue, it looks a lot brighter. Now we just need everything else."

"Hence the baby shopping."

"Yeah. I wanted Al to come with me, but he's exhausted after last night and says that he trusts me. Plus he's made friends with our neighbor, Craig, and I think he wants Al to watch this football game with him, in our house."

"So his wife can't nag him?" she asks with a laugh. "For my ex-husband, it was his friend's house if he couldn't go to the pub."

"Can I ask what happened between you?" I say hesitantly, more because it's not my place than feeling as nervous as she did a few minutes ago. But she's with my dad, who's been through enough. "You don't speak about him in a bad way."

Healer Moore shrugs. "We'd been together since we were kids, you know. Got married, had kids of our own. And we loved each other, still do in a way, but not like before. We just grew apart. We're trying the whole 'we can still be friends' bit and I think it's working; we still get along and talk, mostly about the kids. He wants to meet your dad, to know what kind of man will be around our kids, but he already knows enough from me to not push the issue."

"He sounds nice," I tell her sincerely. "I'm glad my dad might have found something with you, but I'm still sorry about your relationship."

"It's alright. Even the kids are starting to get used to the idea. Well, my daughter anyway, my son is too young to understand," she adds.

"Now that they know they won't lose their daddy," I remember, then I wince as she gives me a look. "Kieron snuck in to get some of this things while you were telling my dad, he overheard. It reminded me of him and me with our mum."

"Your dad says he's invited her to his engagement party."

I grimace. "Don't remind me. Hey, what do you think of this?"

It's a pram, not too big and feels light, easy to push around. It looks like a basket with a hood; the baby would be facing my direction when I pushed the pram, so I'd be able to see and hear him or her without needing to stop and move around. The fabric is dark blue and has a striped pattern on it if you look close enough. The handle has grips on it for my hands and there's a sort of tray along it, complete with a bottle holder. There's also a small basket underneath for toys and the baby's bag and stuff. I like it.

"It's nice," she says. "Certainly seems to have everything you'd need. Not too pricey either," she adds, holding up the price tag.

I let it go and continuing looking, remembering the exact place the pram is in just in case I go back for it. I'm keeping my options open, though. And I'm glad I did, because then I find one that I love even more. It's all black, nothing special in terms of looks, but that's not what catches my attention. As it is, the part where the baby lies is mostly flat, so he or she would be elevated just a little, and it looks kind of like a basket-type, like the other, and the handle is at the front, so I'd see the baby as we walked. But the bottom can come apart and the seat can come up or down, plus the handle can be moved - when the baby is older, but still young enough to need a pram, I can still use this one, I just need to raise the seat. Maybe change the handle, so it'd be on the other side, behind the baby. It's a little bit more expensive than the first, but I have more than enough money and for the first time, I don't think I've ever been truly thankful for that. I can't imagine not being able to buy my baby things.

It doesn't take long for one of the shop's staff finds her way to us and the pram is soon on a list to be paid for and asked to be delivered. I wait to pay because she comes with us to the cribs; I want to have everything together before I pay. My friends find us then and help to pick. I choose one that matches the nursery; it's a light wood, plain and modest and big enough for the baby to use it for a while.

After that, it's just little things - essentials, like bottles, nappies, dummies and neutral pajamas (I'll be clothes later). I look at things that apparently help with breastfeeding, which I haven't even thought about before. The last thing I buy is a stuffed green dragon from the toy section. Uncle Draco would be proud.

Now it's time to go home. Nicky's decorating will have to wait.

"Shopping is so much fun," Darcy sighs contentedly, carrying her own shopping bags. Mine will all be delivered to me, so she's the only one who came out of that shop with bags. She won't tell me what she got.

"You always say that," I mutter, not exactly listening because I'm focused on my stomach. I rub gently, like I've been doing for a while now; I kept feeling kicks and mild pains, now I think it's getting worse. Then it really does feel worse. "Oh, ow, ow, ow."

Healer Moore catches my arms and keeps me steady while my friends crowd me.

"Lexi, are you okay?" Megan asks, worried.

"It hurts," I whisper. "What's wrong?"

"I think I have an idea, but I'm going to get you to St. Mungo's and have another healer confirm it," Healer Moore tells me comfortingly, taking me somewhere out of the crowds to Apparate me to the hospital, telling me about the healer. "He's new, but he's very good. You'll like him."

She takes the hands of my friends as well, Apparating us all straight into the children's ward - healer privileges, I guess. She takes me into a room, asking for a Rodriguez (I swear I've heard that name before), and gets me settled on the bed. The healer who comes in, who I assume is Rodrigues before he introduces himself, is every bit of Spanish loveliness as his last name suggests. He's tall, dark and handsome, with short but thick black hair and warm eyes. He tells me to breathe while he examines me and the baby, speaking to me reassuringly. I focus on his accent. His English is clear and fluent, but his accent is still strong.

He's doing a very good job of keeping my mind occupied; no wonder Healer Moore said I'd like him. He's calming, he's sweet.

Al is so not going to like it.

Healer Rodriguez gives me something and the pains are already fading by the time he goes to leave. "I'll be back in a minute, just rest," he says gently, nodding to Healer Moore before walking out of the door.

"Where's he going?" I ask her.

"He's just going to get your records and something for you to eat and drink, now that you're calm," she answers. "What do you think of him?"

"I think I'm in love," Megan murmurs with a sigh, still watching the door for when he comes back.

"You were right, I do like him," I say. "He knew exactly what to do, what to say, to keep me calm and okay. I would definitely trust him when the time comes."

"So, the fact that he's a guy doesn't matter?"

I shake my head, no. "But why does my opinion matter?"

"We've been short-staffed for a while, so we've been looking for someone anyway. But now that I'm with your dad and you've been worried about it being uncomfortable having your dad's girlfriend deliver your baby, I thought you would like a new healer. I'll still be around, he's new and I'm his boss, but Healer Rodriguez was happy to be yours. All you have to do is say yes."

"Yes. She says yes," Megan says before I can. I just nod instead.

"Yes to what?" Darcy asks, coming back inside, Healer Rodriguez following with a bottle of water and a cookie. He's already perfect; I love cookies.

I gesture to him. "This is officially my new healer. Where did you go?"

"I called the others and your dad, who called your brother; they're on their way," she says, looking a little guilty. Of course she is, they'll just be worried.

I shrug it off, it's not like I wasn't going to have them crowding me and asking what's wrong eventually, especially from Al. "So, what was wrong, Healer?" I ask instead.

"Braxton Hicks," he tells me. "It's nothing to worry about, it's your body preparing for labor. Which I'm apparently now a part of."

"You've done... that before, right?"

He gives me an incredulous look, looks down at his scrubs, then, very sarcastically, shakes his head. "Nope, so very new, so very inexperienced..."

He trails off, but his eyes are still warm and his smile is comforting. I'm oddly reassured. "I like you. It's so much better when healers aren't stiff and dull, I think. I'd get annoyed with them."

"Good, because it was either me or Healer Salt and, well," he turns to Healer Moore. "I don't think he likes me very much."

"He doesn't like anybody," she tells us. "He mostly works with the older children. He wouldn't handle labor well, he'd just scare them."

I finish my cookie, nodding and continuing the conversation, ignoring this Salt guy. I get the feeling they're talking to keep me calm after the pains before; Healer Moore has probably been told more about me by my dad. That's what he does when something is wrong, he talks to me. Just like Al did in the garden after our families found out about the pregnancy.

"How are you liking England?" Darcy asks.

"It's alright. I come here a lot with my grandfather, so it's not really new," Healer Rodriguez replies. "And I kind of have family here. Well, I say family; I'm staying with a man who became a family friend when I was ten. Even living in a different country, I think he looked after me more than my own family did. If he could babysit me when I was ten, he should have no problem babysitting me sixteen years later."

"If he's anything like my dad, he'll be helping you find a new place quickly," I say with a nod, remembering his words that day we ate pizza, the same day I found out that I was pregnant. God, it feels like so long ago.

He laughs along with what was only me partly joking. "Yeah, that sounds like him."

The door opens then, almost slamming into the wall because it was pushed so wide. Al moves to my side, his face a bright red, probably from running, Chris and Emmett move to ask Darcy and Megan what happened and my dad stays by the door. "What the hell happened?!" he yells. "You were okay before. Weren't you?"

"Mostly," I whisper, hoping he doesn't hear it. Oh, but he does and I fear for his sanity... and quite possibly his life.

"I'm going to get him some water," Healer Rodriguez says slowly, looking ready to make him a patient here at the hospital.

"A wise decision. You can tell me what's happened on the way." My dad goes with him, followed by Healer Moore, so that it's just me and my friends.

"It was Braxton Hicks, Al, our new healer said there's nothing to worry about. He did a scan like Healer Moore did in our appointments, kept muttering in Spanish, but I think it's about the baby. My Spanish isn't very good. I'd have to guess that he was just checking things off to himself, since he didn't say anything about that."

Al breathes a huge sigh of relief. "The false contractions thing. That's normal. Darcy freaked me out, making it sound bad."

"Sorry, but in my defence, I had no idea what was happening and just thought that you should know."

"It's alright, Darcy." I whack Al's arm; he does not get to suddenly be the calm one now that he knows what it is. "That's normal? You don't get to say that so casually! Should we kick you in the groin and see how you feel?"

"Please don't," he whispers.

He's spared an answer thanks to Healer Rodriguez coming back with his water. I introduce them, inform Al that he'll be my new healer and try to remember where I've heard his last name before while Al asks him labor-type questions I've chosen not to hear. Not that I need to; he's asking questions about what he can do at the time. Because the bastard doesn't have to do the hard part. You know, the giving birth to a human being part.

I need another cookie.

"My overall advice is to just be there, be supportive," he's told. Healer Rodriguez looks at me. "Annie wants to know if you want to see the nursery, if you're ready to see what happens between birth and taking your baby home."

"Yes," Megan and Darcy say together. Honestly, they're more excited than I am, more than they should be. Maybe one of them should give birth instead.

They push Al out of the way - in a nice way, of course - and help me off the bed, leading me away with the healer before any of the guys can say anything.

"So, the nursery," I hear Chris say, Emmett's groan quickly following.

We find my dad with H-Annie (well, she's not my healer now), standing in front of a window. "There are a few women around here, ready to give brith, but the doors are shut and the soundproof charms are up, so you're fine," she says, looking at Emmett. "This is the nursery. This is where your baby will be looked after while you rest. We make sure they're healthy and that they're in the Ministry records."

The room isn't full; there are a number of infants in cot-like beds, most sleeping, and the two medi-witches and the healer in there are more than enough to look after them. I just about hear Darcy's aww, can imagine that she's probably thinking about her future with Ewan again. She won't be joining me in motherhood any time soon, but I do know that she does want kids someday. It helps to think about Darcy as a mum, because then I don't have to think of me - this is all so real. My baby will be here soon, in this room. End of March; that's not so far away now.

"I don't like it here, it's scary."

"Oh, grow up, McQueen, they're harmless babies," Megan laughs.

"How happy are you to find a guy who hates kids?" Al asks with grin. Hates kids? Hugo's mean.

"It does make me feel better," Em admits.

"Well, I should go. It's not my day off, I have patients to see." Healer Rodriguez salutes me. "I'll see you soon, Alexa."

"What's the other room?" Chris asks, pointing to a door we can just about see.

"That's where premature and sick babies go, babies who need care. It's where your dad would have gone if this ward had been built back then."

"It's where Jason Shepherd was for three and a half months." The Minister told me.

"He was very sick, but he's doing so much better now." It only takes a nod from my dad for her to wrap her arm around my shoulder, not as a healer but as a friend, maybe even family one day. "Don't worry about it, Lexi. Stress isn't good for you or the baby. He, or she, is smaller than he should be, we know, and it may lead to minor problems in the beginning, but everything else is going well. The moment you feel that something might be wrong, you know where I am and I'll make sure you have Healer Rodriguez's information, too."

"I'm okay," I assure them. "It's just a little scary, that's all."

"It'll be fine," Al says. "Come on, let's go home. You can tell me what you bought today."

We all end up in front of my house, Apparating and walking up to it because Al remembered that he had been watching football with Craig before he came here; he'd left Craig in the house. They say good bye at the door, though, so it's just me and Al who go in.

"Craig!"

Craig stops at the doorway to the living room, not looking pissed by the fact that he was left alone at least. "Hey. I was going to go when Al left, but I didn't have a key to lock up, so decided to stay if that's alright. Good thing, too, because a delivery came for you. I signed for them for you. Did you, like, pay extra for them to come today?" he asks, a little shocked, and points in the living room. "Because Al told me that you'd gone shopping today and I never get my deliveries on the same day."

"I ordered before a certain time," I tell him, excited. "Everything's here. Now we can finish the nursery."

"Now?" Al mutters sadly. I nod, making the face I use when I want something. He knows no one can say no. "Be a good neighbor, Craig. I need help with these boxes."

"But," he stammers. "But I don't want to."

"He's okay, Craig. He just wants to finish it quickly, so he can worry about me. Because I can't help."

"Damn you," he curses. It wasn't meant to be a guilt trip. Oh, well. He grabs a box. "How are you anyway? Al says you were in the hospital."

"Braxton Hicks. I'm alright." I fall carefully onto the couch and lie on my side.

"I remember the first time that happened with Maggie," he grimaces. "I freaked out; she told me to quit acting like a baby because she had things to do. This was back when we lived near to her parents." His grimace changes, like he's in physical pain. "They hate me.

"Then they're silly. Thank you for helping."

I don't hear them come back; I fall straight asleep, too tired from today to even take my coat off.

***

I do end up in my bed eventually. Craig helped take the baby stuff up to the nursery, unpacked the crib and helped put it together before he was called away. Al left everything else, made something quick to eat and woke me up. He tells me as we eat. Then I go to bed and I'm back asleep, only to be woken up again, shaking and with tears down my cheeks.

Al is awake and sits with me instantly, his arm arounds my shoulders as he gently asks wants wrong.

"Bad dream," I whisper. "It was just a horrible mix of what happened today with my own imagination of the room for sick babies. I'll be okay."

We lie back down and he keeps his arms around me, letting me rest my head on his chest. "It was just a dream, everything's fine."

I know that, or I hope that. I do know that it's a dream I never want to have again.



A/N: New chapter, new character. I hope y'all like him. You may even already know of him... ;)

Not long now... I hope you enjoy this chapter. Please let me know what you think.

Sam.


Chapter 22: Alexa: When Baby Steps Become Huge Leaps Too Soon
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My trip to the hospital spread around the family pretty quickly; my dad made good on his promise to keep it quiet because I didn't want people to worry, but I forgot that he'd told Kieron, who was with Nicky, who told his mother, who told... the world. And by the world, I mean Molly Weasley the first and Ginny Potter. They are two of the strongest women I have had the pleasure of meeting, yet are the two most likely to fuss and demand to know things and make sure you're better than fine before they let you go when something happens.

I thought having a baby with a Potter would be hard because of the media. I did not take in his actual family - the grandchild of Harry Potter is sacred everywhere, it seems.

It's good to know that this child will be so well looked after. At least I won't ever have to worry about help... Or babysitters.

I'm going to pretend that I'm pissed at my brother, though. He's more likely to be nice to people today if he thinks it'll make me happy and get him back in my good books. Plus I think I have a valid reason - he didn't come to the hospital like everyone else did. My brother, who has always been there and expects me to do the same, didn't come see to me in what we thought was an emergency. Why? Because he couldn't find his pants.

His pants!

See, that's what happens when Big Brother and Fiancé have the house to themselves.

I think I'm allowed to glare, even if I'm not actually pissed; it's not like anything was really wrong and, thinking about it, I probably would have whined if he had worried. He's the fearless, badass one, after all. I'm just the bitch who tells it like it is and occasionally hits back.

"Will you please stop looking at me like that?" Kieron pleads, breaking my thoughts and the silence. "Dad said you were probably fine when he called, that it sounded like the Hicks thing, otherwise I'd have run in my underwear if I had to."

Well, there is also that - we both trust Dad's judgements. If Kieron had been in the hospital and Dad had told me that it was minor, I probably wouldn't have gone either. I'd have waited at home or visited the next day like he did. But, as I said, he's more likely to be nice if he thinks that giving me what I want will get him in the good books. And he needs to be good today; it's his engagement party and he invited our mother and I won't let it be ruined for him. Even if it's him I have to stop.

Wait, did he say what I think he said?

My turn turns into a frown and he understands.

"Maybe not my underwear, I would have run home to find pants first and remember to leave clothes here."

"How did you lose them anyway?" I have to ask. I hope I don't regret this.

"I didn't lose them, I spilt my drink all over me, put them in the wash. I couldn't find clean pants because they're all in my apartment," he replies, pulling on his sleeve. He thankfully doesn't talk about the events we know happened after - Dad did, after all, walk in on them. With Annie. She and Kieron hadn't officially met yet. I wish I'd been there to see the introductions. I'm also glad I wasn't.

Oh, that's confusing.

Kieron turns to face me properly and holds out his arms to let me see his whole outfit. "What do you think?"

I lean back into the couch and glance over his new clothes - black pants and a plain white shirt, with new cufflinks with a little snake on one and a bird on the other. For the Slytherin in him and the Ravenclaw in Nicky. An engagement gift from me and Al. The outfit is nice, makes him look good, but it's not completely fancy. I nod approvingly. "I think I have great taste."

"I think you do, too," he smiles. I want to laugh, but just about manage to stick with a smile as well. If he weren't thinking he had to suck up to me, he would have rather said something like, "You're not so bad sometimes."

Being his sister, someone he thinks he needs to protect, does not stop him from being his usual cocky self. Unless he has to.

Then he suddenly looks nervous, wiping down his outfit. "I can't believe I'm more nervous about today than the thought of actually getting married."

"Well, you're the one who invited Mum," I say, sympathetic but blunt. "She tries, actually she's been trying a lot recently now that I think about it, and now so are you. This could be good, Kieron. So, if we can be good and she can, today will go well. I promise."

"I believe you. I'll be good."

I stand up, give him a quick hug so that I don't crease our outfits. He relaxes after a moment, wrapping his arms around my waist and breathing lightly in and out.

"How come when I tell him it'll be okay, he freaks about how it won't be, but when you say it, he calms down?" Nicky demands to know. I let my brother, who just shrugs, go and turn to Nicky, who has his arms folded like he's waiting for an answer. "Seriously. I had to -"

"Let's get this party ready, shall we? We have guests coming soon," Kieron interrupts before Nicky can say anything about their love life. I love my brother. "Albus is with Dad putting up the banners, right?"

"Yeah. Annie, Fleur and Frankie are setting up the food table," I continue. "Fleur and Frankie are arguing, Annie is trying not to laugh last time I checked. They'll all be in the ballroom."

"I forget that this is a manor," Nicky muses, fixing his collar. "There are so many rooms you don't use. I had no idea that the back room was a ballroom."

"We used to have birthday parties in there. Daphne would make them really special and try to give us everything we wanted," Kieron says, reminiscing a little. "We stopped using it when they got divorced. Dad would take us out instead. Anyway, we're not thinking about that, not when we're about to have a house full of annoying little idiots celebrating our happy day."

The abrupt change in conversation, along with Kieron's attitude, helps to ease away the awkward tension that started to build up as he thought about the way things used to be with Mum. I can't help but laugh at the look on his face, the adorable 'save me' look he gets when he's around people he says aren't as smart as him, so can't talk to, or he just doesn't like.

"Kieron, you promised you'd be nice," Annie says, walking into the living room. She fixes her earrings and stares up at him expectantly. There is no fear there, no nervousness - how does she do that?

"Er, one, I am being nice, I could have said a lot worse. And two," he faces me instead, "why is she acting like my mother?"

"Excuse me?" Annie narrows her eyes and waits again. "You promised you'd be nice."

I cannot believe it - Kieron steps back, holding up his hands in surrender. "I am on my best behavior."

"Good," Annie smiles and leads me back to the couch. She looks lovely in her dress and mostly comfortable being around us as 'Dad's girlfriend' instead of 'Healer', but there's a sense of nervousness just concealed. I can see it thanks to the crease in her brow, the waver of her smile, and I know why because I overheard her telling Dad; she has questions that can only be answered by doing - will we like her as Dad's girlfriend? Will she and Kieron get along? Will her kids be okay?

Her kids are coming to this party, their father is dropping them off. She'll have her answers soon. I hope she likes said answers.

"It'll be okay," I whisper for only her to hear. "I promise."

"Thank you." She nods, at least looking a little reassured. Louder, she asks about me. "We're getting close now, are you okay? Do you have a plan?"

"Call you?" I suggest with a weak smile. "I don't know. As long as I can get to the hospital, I'll probably block out the rest. Does it really hurt as much as people say?"

"Labor is different for everybody," she says vaguely, bypassing my question completely. Damn. "Breathe, Lexi, breathe," I hear her say. "You'll be fine, you've got me and Healer Rodriguez."

"I'm okay, it was just a little panic that's all," I say. I glance at Annie, then at Kieron and Nicky, who are now sat to my right on the other couch. "We're not going to tell Al about it."

"Deal. I was talking to Al before, asking about what he'll do when the baby is born."

"Yeah, he was asking about taking some time off to be with the baby," I explain quickly. It's helping. "He's been talking to his dad and his trainer, but it's mostly up to his trainer. It's all about if his trainer believes Al can catch up what he would miss; if he can't, he either doesn't take the time off or he drops out of Auror training and starts again in September. He'll find out soon. Ginny said she's just a call away if I need her and I have my dad, so it'll be okay no matter what happens. I think."

"I'm sure it will," Al says, sitting beside me and taking my hand. "The room is done and your dad has gone to get changed and - that's the doorbell" he adds on, changing what he was about to say.

Annie jumps up, muttering about it being Callum and the kids - so, that's his name?Albus tells me about the room while she's gone, reassuring me that it's set up exactly as I wanted it since I couldn't help. I can hear Annie talking, though, and they talk for a good few minutes before the door shuts and she comes back with her kids. Her daughter keeps sort of close, willing to look around but not letting go of Annie's hand. The little boy, on the other hand, is wriggling in her grip like he's determined to get down and run around. Either their dad gave him sugar or he's not naturally shy.

"Okay, introductions," Annie says, siting them down on the couch with me and Al and pointing. "This is Theo's daughter, Alexa, and her boyfriend, Albus. Al, Lexi, this is Hollie and Samuel."

"Hello."

Hollie just waves, but Samuel says hi back and points at my stomach. "Baba."

"Yeah, Alexa is having a baby." She points to the other couch. "That is Theo's son, Kieron, and his fiancé, Nick. You've come to their party."

This time Kieron just waves while Nicky says hello.

"Where's Theo?" Hollie asks, speaking for the first time.

"Here." Dad stops in front of us and Hollie relaxes; I'm suddenly glad they'd met Dad first, before this party. They won't be completely uncomfortable. Well, Hollie won't. "Do I look alright?"

"No," I gasp. "You're wearing jeans! Where are the trousers I had put on your bed?"

"Still on the bed," he replies. "I still look smart. And they're clean. Win/win, I say."

I gesture to the shirt he's wearing; it's the one I picked out, but he looks a mess with it as it is. "Could you at least tuck the damn shirt in?" He does and I nod reluctantly. "You'll do."

"Good. Now what time is it?"

"Almost one, we've got about an hour before people bar family come. We're good."

"I'm not waiting for them," Dad says mysteriously, going to the door. He opens it just as the door bell rings, which makes me think he planned something. Then I hear my friends and think it was probably them who planned something, he was just told about it. "Living room," is all he says.

"Oh, new people," Ewan says, pointing out the obvious.

"This is Hollie and Samuel, Annie's kids. What's going on? What's with the bags?" Albus asks curiously.

Darcy holds up a familiar bag, the one she came out of the shop with me a couple of weeks ago. "Baby presents!" I let out excitedly. More for the present part than the baby part, I'm sad to say.

"We're having a baby shower," Darcy squeals.

"Why?" Kieron asks slowly. Dad shakes his head; he's asked these questions.

"Because Darce has been watching those TV shows again and thinks it's a good way of giving out baby presents. Apparently, the baby isn't a good enough thing to come out of a pregnancy," Megan says sarcastically.

"I didn't say that. I just said that presents are nice before the painful stuff comes," she defends, her voice getting softer and softer as she talks. Pain...

Will clears his throat and moves to sit on the floor, everyone else following so that present opening can start. I make sure I'm able to sit on cushions and lean on the couch before I join them; I don't want my back hurting any more than it already seems to be. Al and I start with Darcy and Ewan's gifts, since she's the most excited; she bought toys at the shop, cuddly teddies and musical games. We thank them gratefully and pass them to Dad, who moves them into the corner of the living room, at the side of the couch I'm leaning against. Megan and Chris give us more clothes, including an adorable set of pajamas that I think will have to be what the baby will wear first. I can already see it. Will gives me a baby mat that goes on the floor and has a sort of mobile above, to keep the baby entertained. The gift tag says 'Will and Rose', but I'd be surprised if she had actually gone out with them and picked it.

Nicky's family come in groups as we're talking and laughing and opening presents, bringing their own as well, both for my and for the guys, and my corner of the living room become a little cluttered. Kieron doesn't get a cluttered corner; if the Weasleys haven't brought him and Nicky alcohol, which has gone in the ballroom, they brought them money, which has gone straight in their pockets.

The last one to give me something is Kieron himself. He gets Darcy to make space, so he can sit right next to me, and holds up a tablet-like device I saw him with before. It's black, with a medium-sized touchscreen, a couple of buttons on the right and what looks like speakers along the edge. I'd think it was store bought if I didn't know my brother so well; he tinkers, he designs. He made this. If you look closely, you can tell.

I run my finger along the edge, but I don't actually take it. "What is it?"

"Do you remember when we were kids, we'd camp in the garden and Uncle Draco would point out the stars?" he asks. I nod slowly. I do remember that. Dad points his wand at the curtains, closing them, Kieron turns the device on and the room, along with the screen, is surrounded by stars. He uses his fingers to turn the stars on the screen while we watch the exact same thing happen around us, then he talks. "Draco." The stars change, showing what must be the constellation he named. "Sirius." It changes again.

"Wow," Hollie whispers, awed, and I have to agree.

Kieron turns it off and passes it to me, as Dad re-opens the curtains. "It's a mobile for the baby's room. So, don't ever tell your kid that Uncle Kieron doesn't get him anything."

"How did you make that?" Roxanne asks, nodding towards the device in my hands.

"With time, tools, magic and a bit of testing from George. And help," he adds a little reluctantly. "I couldn't get it all done on time on my own because of work and my studies. You like?"

"I love. Thank you. I'm officially no longer mad at you," I promise, paraphrasing because of the children in the room. I'm not even fake pissed.

"Awesome," he grins. "Not that I'm surprised really; it's not easy to stay mad at the best big brother in the world."

"You think too highly of yourself," Dad laughs.

I have to agree with that, too. But in my head; today he can be the best.

***

We move to the ballroom when the first guest comes, quickly followed by others. Soon everyone who agreed to come is here and I'm so glad that Kieron agreed to using the ballroom rather than the living room; while the living room is a good size, this room is still bigger. Certainly big enough for a party. From my place near the food table, I can see pretty much everyone; Kieron and Nicky nearby with Xavier; Dad dancing with Hollie while Annie talks to Harry and Ginny; Al with his cousins and our friends; Samuel running around with Ethan; My mum looking uncomfortable in the corner with Aunt Astoria; Hugo ignoring Emmett, not that I know why.

I wave Hugo over when Emmett walks away and he sits beside me, sulking. "What's up?"

"I have a right to be mad when you just find out that your boyfriend is writing letters to his ex and has been for a long time."

"He didn't tell you that he was talking to Scott?" Hugo shakes his head sadly. Oh, Emmett. "It doesn't mean anything," I try to reassure. I'm sure it doesn't, if I remember some of the things Emmett told me they talked about. Not that I'm going to tell Hugo that; I fear that him knowing that I knew would push him over whatever edge he's dangerously close to.

"Then he should have told me," he mutters.

"Want some cheering up?" He nods slowly. "You know how you have a thing for accents and languages? Well, my dad knows a guy from Spain, Erik; Dad's pretty much been his babysitter since the guy was ten and they treat Dad like family. Anyway, he's been in England for the Spanish Minister and has been staying here, so he's coming to the party. You can test out your Spanish and listen to his accent when he speaks English. Sound fun?"

"That does sound like fun."

"I'm glad I can help," a familiar voice says from behind me. I don't need to turn around to confirm my suspicions. I knew I knew the damn name. I wish it had registered sooner, but in my head, 'Erik' was the Minister's grandson and 'Rodriguez' was the healer. That they were the same freaking person never crossed my mind, especially since the contact information Annie gave me says 'Enrique'.

"In the hospital, when you mentioned the guy you were staying with and I said if he was anything like my dad he'd kick you out soon, we actually were talking about my dad," I remember. He laughs and sits beside me. "Your information says 'Enrique', Erik."

He shrugs. "Enrique is my real name. Someone got my name mixed up with another when I was a kid and called me 'Erik'. I liked it and it stuck."

"That makes more sense," Hugo joins in the conversation. "'Enrique' is Spanish for 'Henry'."

"It is, don't call it me," Erik warns. "So, why does he need cheering up?"

"Trouble with my boyfriend," Hugo answers instead of me. "I'm trying not to show it; I don't want my dad rejoicing over the thought of a break-up."

"He doesn't approve?"

Hugo shakes his head. "He doesn't like Emmett. And he tries to strike up conversations about girls I know, but that's because he's not comfortable talking about guys. He'd rather talk to me about girls than about nothing at all. So, I sing or play the chorus to It's Raining Men until he walks away."

"I can't decide if that's mean or funny," I tell him, honestly conflicted. I mean, poor Ron, but the mental image I have of him is sort of hilarious.

"It depends on the situation we're in; it's usually funny, though. If I was going to be mean, I'd yell. Dad usually laughs awkwardly, pats me on the shoulder and says he gets it before he walks away."

Ah, that's good. Then I find it funny.

"So, you know now, Lexi," Dad says as he walks past. I know he's referring to my healer being Erik from the look the guy gets. "I told him to tell you."

"And miss her reaction? Hell no," Erik jokes. Then he turns serious. "I'm still your healer, though? Right? I mean it, you don't want Healer Salt."

"You're still my healer," I promise. I'm starting to think I'll be too preoccupied with the actual labor to care about being uncomfortable around any healer anyway. I'm not changing again. I wasn't even planning to swap Annie for Erik, she did so when she heard what I'd said. And I appreciate it as long as I know it wasn't her trying too hard to be excepted into the family.

I open my mouth, ready to ask questions about pain relief, when I see Mum walking over to talk to Kieron. "Excuse me," I mutter, getting up slowly and walking over, too. Dad has the same idea and we both get to Kieron and Nicky as Mum does.

"Congratulations, darling," she says sincerely. "I'm very happy for you. I hope this helps."

Kieron takes the envelope, which I guess has a Gringotts check in it because she doesn't use Muggle money enough to have an account for that. He doesn't open it or say thank you, but he does smile a little before he walks off. Nicky follows, thanking her briefly first.

"Wow, progress," Dad says.

"Agreed," Mum mutters.

"You're trying too hard," I tell her uncomfortably as soon as Dad leaves. "You can't give up because he's a stubborn kid, then suddenly decide it's okay now that he's an adult. He's still stubborn, more so really. You have to take baby steps. Inviting you here was his, you coming at all was yours."

"What's yours?"

"Telling you this." I glance around the room, then point out of the door. "Come with me."

She follows me into the living room cautiously and I point to a new picture on the display, one that I don't even remember because it's been so long since I saw a picture of her in our house. Mum picks it up, almost afraid she'll drop it, and just stares at the image, shocked and near emotionless apart from a single tear. I happy one, I hope. It's of her and Kieron, she has her arms wrapped around his waist and she's tickling him. He's three years old in this picture; when Dad saw it, he said that Kieron was a complete Mummy's boy then, that he tried to be with her all the time. But the more she was gone, the less upset he got about it. He was just disappointed. I guess that's why I didn't hate her as much as Kieron did for her one brief mistake; I was a Daddy's girl anyway, I know her more now than I did then, so it didn't hurt as much. She was Kieron's world.

"He found it in a draw in his room when he was bringing back spare clothes for when he stays over the other day," I explain quietly. "He brought it down and put it on the side, said he didn't want to take it to his apartment. Dad left it here."

It's the only one of her in the house, and I doubt there'll be many more now that Dad is with Annie (I don't think it'll be very good for a girlfriend to see pictures of an ex-wife), but it was a start for Kieron. Maybe one day he will move it to his apartment. I think Mum has the other pictures of her with us, this was just Kieron's favorite as a kid.

"Baby steps," she murmurs. "Okay. How are you?"

"Tired and hungry and wishing people would stop worrying. I don't like it when people worry. And my back hurts," I say, leading the way back to the party. Mum puts the picture back before following and she squeezes my shoulder, then goes back to Astoria.

"So?" Al prompts.

"Baby steps," is all I say on the matter. "Have you mingled enough? Are you ready to stay by my side?" I ask sarcastically.

"Yes," he answers seriously, with a smile. "You sit; I will get food."

I reluctantly does as he says and go back to my seat, alone now because both Erik and Hugo are gone. Well, not completely; like I said, my seat is by the food table, so Al is still within talking distance. And even that doesn't last; Hugo comes back just as Al does, with food of his own, telling me that he was just waiting for me to come back because I don't ask more questions than I need to. He knows that I can be incredibly nosy, but he also knows that I'm a little apprehensive of his magical ability and don't push. He's smarter than Kieron, which Kieron doesn't like and is terrifying in itself considering what Kieron can do, but my brother focuses more on technology and science whereas Hugo pushes though magical boundaries. What both guys can do, however different, makes me wary.

I don't know why he's sitting with me, whether that's what he says or not; I'm Emmett's friend, being with me will not stop Emmett from coming over. Albus says as much. And Emmett actually walking over speaks volumes. My friend sits on the next chair to Hugo, holding his arm to keep him from moving, which isn't hard to do. Hugo may be taller, but he's kinda lanky; Emmett is built like a tank compared to him.

"I am so sorry I didn't tell you about Scott, but we said that unless it was absolutely important that we didn't have to explain everything we did," he starts, ready to argue.

"I consider you talking to your ex to be absolutely important," Hugo counters angrily. Al whispers that we should go; I shush him. I might need to make him intervene at some point.

"It's not important because it means nothing!" Now I shush Emmett; people are starting to watch us. He takes a deep breath before continuing. "Scott and I were friends long before anything romantic happened between us and we're still friends now, but that is it. I don't love him, he doesn't love me. He knows all about you; you only saw the last letter, the one saying he was coming back, you haven't seen the one's talking about the guy he's with, who's coming to England with him, or that he jokes about stealing you from me because you'll apparently love him more than me.

"I didn't think about telling you I was writing a friend because I'd been writing to him long before we got together, but I was going to tell you that he's coming back and I was going to tell you about him. Because I want you to understand that he's not an issue. I love you, Hugo."

The sincerity in Emmett's voice is almost too much; he's never had such a long conversation about feelings before and I imagine it'll be a long time before we hear another. Hugo would know that better than anyone. He no longer looks angry or upset, but he's not exactly content with the news either.

"It's not Scott," he says. "It's any guy who comes along. Who wants to be with a stupid kid who purposely makes wrong decisions just because he doesn't care? I'm not a good person."

"So you say," Emmett shrugs. "I'll take my chances," he says before kissing him.

"Yeah, now I'm leaving," Al mutters. I hold out my hand for him to help me up and I take him with me to see how Kieron is. He keeps watching Mum because Mum keeps watching him. Despite that, he's been smiling and laughing. Now that Hugo isn't ignoring Emmett, I can put my focus back on my brother. "You look like you're in a good mood, Kieron?"

"Have I punched you in the face today?"

Al frowns at my brother's question. "No."

"Then I'm in a really good mood. Don't ruin it by asking stupid questions."

I snicker, earning a look and a nudge in the arm. "What's Xavier doing?"

Kieron follows my gaze to my newest object of questioning now that I know asking about my brother is a stupid question. "He's talking to his friend Cody. Said friend has apparently been keeping tabs on him since finding out about Ethan; they don't want him running off again."

"Lexi, Cody wants to know if you like the baby stuff he thinks he picked out for me."

Xavier moves closer and holds up the phone he's using. "Yes. Thank you."

"You're welcome," I hear clearly and know he's been put on speakerphone. "I didn't know what to get because I don't know the gender. It makes picking things hard."

"You didn't pick it," Xavier mutters.

"Ignore him, I did," Cody says. "Have you got names yet? Xavier said you were still choosing. You know what I great name is..." he trails off, sounding amused. Xavier rolls his eyes.

"You know, I like the name Dakota," Al muses, playing along. "If it's a girl, we'll definitely name her after you."

There's a moment of silence on the other line, and then an answer, "You can't take that back now."

We laugh while Al mutters about not getting the answer he wanted and goes to get a drink. "If it were to happen, you're so going to call that kid Cody, aren't you?" Xavier asks with a grin.

"Hey, he said he'd name the kid after me. She'd love it." There's another pause and we hear yelling on the other side. "I have to get back to practice. Have a fun party."

"Is practice why he didn't come?" I ask Xavier. "I did put a plus one on your invite."

"No. He didn't come because he doesn't know Kieron and Nicky. He's only met you a number of times. Practice was just a coincidence."

"He can be intro - whoa," I exclaim, my hand on my stomach.

"Lexi, what is it?" Kieron demands, holding my by the shoulders.

"I don't know. I'm fine," I whisper. Kieron leads me away and sits me on the couch in the living room, making sure Dad and Al know. They follow, along with Annie, Erik, Mum and the Potters. "Please stop worrying. I'm fine."

They don't believe me; Erik asks me questions while Dad asks Annie. Erik puts his hands on my stomach every time I feel something. They sit for almost an hour, monitoring me. The pains get stronger and closer together and he doesn't have to tell me what is happening by now.

"Lexi is having contractions," he tells everyone else.

"But the baby shouldn't be born for another month and a half," Al panics.

"Sometimes it happens, it's like a freaking curse in this family," Dad tells him. "But that doesn't mean it's bad. It'll be okay, Lexi. I promise," he whispers, taking my hand.

"Will we be able to delay the birth?" Annie asks Erik.

"I don't know. I need to examine her properly. We're going to take you to St. Mungo's, Lexi."

I nod, willing to do anything to stop the pain, and he and Dad help me up. Then I feel something wet trickling down my leg.

"I think my water just broke."

"We have to go," Erik says quickly.

"I'll tell people what's happening, make sure they're gone, then I'll get to the hospital," Mum tells Dad.

I let them drag me away, barely hearing a thing; I just can't believe this is happening.

I'm having a baby.



A/N: Uh oh... I hope the little warnings and the conversations about the baby, plus the last chapter helped you prepare for this, but if it's still a shock, hugs are available... *hugs*

So, will it be a boy or a girl? Names? What do you think will happen? 

It's Raining Men belongs to the Weather Girls. 

I hope you liked this chapter. Please let me know what you think. I'll try to post the next chapter as soon as possible. :)

Sam.


Chapter 23: Albus: When Our Baby is Born
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The walk to the room Healer Rodriguez is leading us to is a blur of whispered reassurances and breath control - from both of us. Worry is a given here, worry is the correct thing to do in this situation. It has to be, because I'm not the only one feeling this way. It's too fucking soon, we shouldn't be here right now, about to have a baby. All I can think is that it's too soon, that we're not ready, that I'm going to be a bad dad because of it. Even when we had time, I was thinking nine months was just enough to make me adequate and that with Lexi and our family I'd move to 'good' eventually. But I'm nowhere near adequate. And I know it's selfish to think it now, I can hear the disapproving voice in the back of my mind telling me that I should not be thinking about this, not now.

But I am.

I'm sure Lexi will forgive if she was ever to know; she knows me enough to probably guess my thoughts. And I can guess her's - if she weren't trying to get through the contractions, she'd be screaming that it's too soon and that she's not ready.

Rodriguez leads us into the first available room, yelling orders at the medi-witch to keep everyone out except for me and Theo. By the time Lexi is on the bed, she's almost sobbing, tears streaming down her cheeks, and she's not even bothering to hide it or wipe them away. So, either the pain is that bad or she's freaking out because she's worried. Maybe it's a bit of both. And I hate that I can't help her, only be here. I hate that there's something in this world that can reduce my best friend to this, when she's normally so strong.

It terrifies me.

"It's going to be okay, Lexi," Rodriguez soothes, his accent strong and surprisingly calming. "Just breathe."

Lexi does as she's told, squeezing my hand in one and Theo's in her other as another contraction comes. Her chest rises and falls rapidly, her breathing coming out quick and shallow, but under Rodriguez's instructions and with the help of the pain relief potions a medi-witch brings for her, she's able to slow down slightly. She's calm enough to think, to speak.

"What's happening?" she whispers, trying to keep eye-contact with Rodriguez. "Why is this happening?"

"It's like a curse in our family," Theo mutters, which is so not helpful. My glare seems to be enough to get him to take a different approach, but I think he's just more surprised that I did something that wasn't completely robot-like (I'd managed to hear him say that about me to Annie when asked as we walked). Theo crouches down low and kisses Lexi's fist, stroking her hair with his free hand. "Don't think about that, Angel. Everything's going to be fine. Erik?"

Rodriguez looks up, his hands now off Lexi's stomach. He pushes back his already rolled up sleeves and looks very serious. He's not going to change into his work clothes, I can tell. He could if there was time; I know that labor can take a while - Mum was in the Muggle hospital for over forty-eight hours before she was ready to have me, before this ward was built. It's part of the reason why my mum helped Astoria Malfoy when she heard about women wanting this ward. Which makes me think that Lexi doesn't have that time. I'm glad she won't be in pain for long, but for him to stare the way he is?

Oh, God. Is something wrong?

"Erik?" Theo yells and I follow his gaze, realizing that Rodriguez hasn't just been staring, he has the mouse in his hand; he's watching the ultrasound, he's monitoring the baby.

"You're not ready to push yet," he says softly. "But your baby's heart rate is too low, might not be strong enough. We might have to look at other options rather than a natural birth."

"I don't care," Lexi promises softly, slowly. "Do what you have to. Just tell me what to do."

Nodding, Rodriguez has the medi-witch hold the mouse and monitor the baby while Annie and Sophie prepare the small cot set up for the baby to be placed in, along with anything they may need in case of complications. There's not much - blankets, potions - it's magic they'll be relying on most... ways of helping the baby's heart. They're faster than potions.

While they do what they do, the medi-witch close to us speaking every so often, Rodriguez washes his hands at the sink, then puts on gloves - it reduces the risk of infection. There's risks of that after your water breaks, I remember reading it. Barely hearing his words to Annie, I understand that he doesn't want to leave the room just in case. He wouldn't know what to do if anything happened to Theo's daughter. He speaks fondly of Theo, regards him as family after all the years Theo's known him, looked after him. Ministries from other countries brought their own bodyguards, but Minister Rodriguez trusted the word of Andrew Shepherd when he was told they'd be looked after, trusted Theo to look after ten year old Erik when he was asked to help. He feels like he owes the man and he won't go.

I don't think I've ever liked a person more.

But he shouldn't worry about anything happening. Nothing will happen... Nothing can.

I don't think I could handle it.

Lexi squeezes my hand again and I go back to whispering reassurances. It helps both her and me. I try not to listen to the medi-witch talking to Erik, who's now wearing some sort of robe around his clothes that tie around the back, in the same green color as the uniform, or look at Annie's worried face; just knowing that my baby's too small, his heart too weak, is bad enough. I don't need to know if it's getting worse or not, not if I want to stay in the room.

He's back at the end of the bed moments later, telling Lexi she's doing great, that it'll be alright soon.

"Got a name yet?" he asks, obviously trying to help us both think of something else, if only for a moment.

I shake my head, about to make a lame joke about it being the hardest part of this, when Lexi opens her mouth and takes me by complete surprise. "Isaac if it's a boy. You win," she smiles at me briefly. "It was going to be a surprise. Besides, I've started to like it. And Zac is a nice nickname."

"And if it's a girl?" Erik prompts, still examining her.

We keep our eyes on each other and we know, how could it not be? She loves the name, she loves the person that comes with the name... and I did promise. "Dakota," I murmur.

"That's great," he says with a smile. It drops ever so slightly a few seconds later and his eyes are on the screen again. The beeping slowed... "It's time. Lexi, I need you to push," he commands, firm but gentle.

"What if the baby's not strong enough?" she whispers and all I hear in her voice is fear and dread. I kiss her hand while Theo strokes her hair, promising it'll be alright.

"He won't be if we wait anymore," he tells her honestly. "It's now or never. We can help him now, he'll be fine. Push, Lexi."

She does. Then again. And a few more times. All the while, she's being reassured, being told what she wants to hear. What she needs to hear. And after what feels like forever, but must have only been fifteen or so minutes, Erik is holding our baby. But there's no sound. Babies cry, right?

"Is he okay?"

Erik cuts the cord, hands him to Sophie and the two medi-witches and Annie do what they need to. I hold my breath...

...And our baby cries.

It doesn't last for very long, but I can just about see the tiny thing's chest moving and it's enough for us all to calm just a little.

"Say hello to Isaac," Erik whispers, smiling up at us.

"It's a boy?" Lexi sobs, looking both happy and sad. I know the sad tears are because he's not alright. Yet. Erik nods. "Can we see him?"

Annie gives instructions to the other two and they take Isaac away. "Soon," Annie promises. "They need to make sure he's alright first, there are a few tests they need to do. You'll can see him as soon as they're done. It'll give you time to rest."

"I'm fine," Lexi tries to protest, but the way her voice shakes and her eyes droop tell us all otherwise. And I don't blame her.

"We'll take care of you while everyone else takes care of Isaac. He's in good hands."

"Healer Rodriguez," Medi-Witch Sophie calls quietly, stepping back inside. Erik nods and pulls off the robe and gloves, saying he'll see us soon and going to the baby - to Isaac. Sophie stops by my side. "We have a room ready for you, Miss Nott. You can rest there."

They give her a private room, big enough for a bed and a cot, and with a small en-suite. Lexi refuses to rest until she's taken a shower and Annie sits with me and Theo while we wait, telling me how well we did and how proud of us she is. I'm not exactly sure what I did, but I nod along. I'm too tired to ask, to say anything really. I think I'm in shock, whether it's over the premature pregnancy or the complications or the fact that I'm a parent at all I don't know. But my rational mind vaguely recognizes this as shock, it's similar to how I felt when I saw the positive pregnancy test... and then some.

When Lexi comes out, there's some color back in her cheeks and she's moaning about wearing the hospital regulated pajamas instead of her own; she's okay right now. She reluctantly sits cross-legged on the bed and Sophie holds up a vail.

"This will help you sleep," she says.

Lexi shakes her head and glares. "I don't want to sleep. I want to see my baby."

"I know, Angel, I know," Theo soothes. "But Isaac needs to be seen to first and you are exhausted. You've gone through so much today, you need to rest. You can't look after a baby if you're not healthy."

With a stiff nod and without looking at her dad, because if she does we all know she'll have to acknowledge that what he's saying is true, Lexi takes the vail, settles into the bed and takes the potion. Within minutes, she starts to doze, her breathing even, her voice soft. "You'll stay with me, Daddy?"

"Always," he promises.

"Where's Mum and Kieron?" she asks. I wonder if she'll remember asking for her mother next time she wakes.

"I'll get them," I tell her.

"Daddy," Lexi says suddenly, smiling.

"Hmm?"

"Shush, stop answering me, not talking to you," she mutters, her voice muffled. "Al, you're a daddy."

Then she's out like a light and the shock that I thought would cripple me before lessens even more than it did while she spoke. It's more like I'm in a daze now, I'm able to move and talk and think.

I'm a daddy.

The feeling is surreal.

"Someone should tell everyone else," Theo breaks the silence, his eyes glued to his daughter.

"I'll do it. You stay with her. I'll be back before she wakes," I say, getting up. I kiss her head and walk away, stopping at the door. "What's it like being a granddad?"

"I'll hurt you for that later," he mumbles, but he smiles a little. That's good enough.

I wonder the halls, I'm in part of the ward I've never been before, and find our family and friends talking amongst themselves in the main waiting area. I take a moment to watch them; their concerns, their fears, their possible reactions to having a new family member. I hope the little news I've got is enough to lighten their mood, even if we do have to wait for any real news. I wonder if Kieron will let his mum continue to hold his hand once he knows his sister is fine and Erik is with his nephew.

I clear my throat and for a second there's silence as they all turn to me. Then I'm bombarded with questions. My dad has to calm everyone down and the woman at reception desk shakes her head, but says nothing. She probably seen worried family members before. The only person sitting calmly is Hugo; I don't normally say this, but I kinda wish the others would follow his example. It'd make things easier. I wish he wasn't lazily reading a magazine like he would at home, though. Even if pretending everything's fine is his coping mechanism. 

"What happened, honey?" Mum asks. "How are Lexi and the baby?"

I take a deep breath, watching Kieron as I talk. It's been him and his sister against the world for so long, he needs to know the most. "Lexi is fine, she's with Theo and Annie and she's sleeping. The baby is in need of extra care, there were complications. Erik is running tests, I don't know anything yet."

The others are listening intently as I talk, not knowing whether to be thankful or fearful right now. Kieron just stares. Dealing with things is not his strong suit. He's worse than Hugo.

"Boy or girl?" Lily asks hesitantly, watching for a reaction.

"A little boy," I smile. And so does Kieron. "Isaac."

"You won then," Emmett grins.

I nod. "I don't know when Lexi decided. She said she wanted it to be a surprise, probably to see the look on my face that she saw before when she told Erik. She was so adamant that it wouldn't be; surprise was an understatement."

"He'll be okay," Scorpius says, his voice unsure but the look on face determined.

"Of course he will be," Daphne Greengrass scoffs. "He's a Nott, they're the most stubborn people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting." Then she glances at my dad and she rolls her eyes. "He's also a Potter, they're the luckiest people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting."

"Stubborn luck?" Dad tests the words, letting them roll off his tongue, and nods. "I can live with that."

"She wasn't giving you a choice," Kieron mutters with a reluctant grin, speaking for the first time. "Isaac Potter, eh? I like Zac," he shrugs.

"That's what Lexi said. The surprise for the rest of you is the middle name; it's after his godfather." They stare at me expectantly, especially the guys. Besides Hugo. "My son's name is Isaac Christopher Potter."

"Really?" he whispers, shock and awe apparent.

"If you and Megan are up for the job," I nod. "We've kept it quiet for a while now, we wanted to wait until he was born."

Megan claps her hands, giggles and covers her mouth with her hands. "This is so exciting. You know we're going to spoil him, don't you? Not like Kieron will, ours will be cheaper, but you do know that?"

"We figured you'd say that no matter what. Darcy and Lily have already made this clear to us."

The girls nod enthusiastically.

"When can we see Lexi and Zac?" Astoria Malfoy quietly demands to know, Draco uncomfortably nodding by her side. I know he wasn't dragged here, he cares for his family and would willingly come for his niece, but actually seeing him around my family is still quite a shock. Astoria not so much, not since she met my mum. Being two years below Dad and Draco, a year below Mum and the family wisely choosing to keep their heads down during the war helped Astoria when she and Mum met and bonded over their difficult sons, there wasn't so much animosity. It's not a shock to see her with us at all, or with my parents at least, in fact it's a welcome relief. She always knows what to say when her family and friends need to hear it. She's doing exactly that for Kieron.

"I don't know about Isaac yet and Lexi is asleep, but she made a request before she did so." I turn to Kieron again and point behind me. "Straight to the end of the corridor, turn left, private room 2." With a grateful nod and leaving a chaste kiss on Dom's cheek, Kieron lets go of his and Daphne's hands and takes off. I give an uncomfortable smile to Daphne. "She asked for you, too."

The words take her by complete surprise, and her family take it the same way, but she takes a deep breath and follows the instructions I gave to Kieron.

***

Annie steps out as I go back in, telling me that it's a family moment, and I know it's because she's uncomfortable being in the same room as her boyfriend's ex-wife. I nod and ask her if she can find out anything about Isaac for me and she smiles gratefully, glad for something to do, and tells me she'll be back with news soon.

Either the potion was really strong or Lexi is just so tired because she sleeps for a couple of hours and I sit in the corner and wait while her brother and parents talk around her; Theo gives them a little information on what Isaac looks like from what little he saw and they finally look like a family. There's no shouting or arguing or threatening; Kieron is smiling and Theo is teasing Daphne about being a grandmother. It's friendly, purely platonic on his side. He knows how he feels now, he's safe, there's no chance of her hurting him. I suspect that might be Annie's doing. It's a little different on her side, though, that's obvious. She kept a baby for him, stayed for him, strayed from her child-free comfort zone for him - after all of that, how could losing him stop her from loving her ex-husband? She keeps her distance, though. Keeps it a feelings-free zone.

I'm glad. And if either of the Nott men have noticed, I'd think they'd be, too.

The only thing that worries me is the wistful look on Theo's face, like he's waiting for something. Or someone.

Maybe he wants Annie to come back? I quickly realize that that can't be true; I've seen that wistful look many times on Theo's face over the years. It's not Annie, but I'm too tired to want to ask or know or be bothered by it in general. He's never talked about it before, so he won't now.

I've got other things to think about anyway. I'm quickly reminded of that when Erik comes into the room.

"Hey," Theo says, smiling warmly. "How is he?"

"He's in the special care unit; he needs help with his breathing," Erik starts with the bad news. God, I hope. "But I'm gearing towards being positive that he'll be okay. I can't make promises, but he's stable and he's responding well. We need to wait for him to get stronger, then we'll go from there."

"Can we see him?" I ask.

"Yes," Erik smiles. "You can't touch him, there's a bubble charm around him; it'll keep him safe while his immune system gets stronger, keep away any potential infections. But you can visit. Do you want me to take you?"

I think about it, a quick second decision while my eyes are on my little boy's mummy, still sleeping peacefully, then I shake my head. "I want to wait for Lexi to wake. That should be soon, so I'm going to run home and get her the clothes she wants. She'll want stuff for Isaac here, too."

"I'll go with you," Kieron says, standing up.

"No, it's fine, you stay with Lexi."

"I wasn't asking you, Albus," he tells me, sounding more like his old, cocky self. "Lexi is fine, Zac is fine and I don't like hospitals. I need to go."

He's out the door before I can say okay and Theo shrugs knowingly. "I'll be back soon," I tell them, pretending I haven't noticed the change in atmosphere now that Theo and Daphne are more or less alone.

After a quick message to my family, replaying what Erik said, I find Kieron waiting for me in the transport room, smaller than the one in the emergency ward, and we Floo to the house. It's exactly how we left it this morning, but it feels like we left it years ago - so much has happened since the engagement parry. This morning, Lexi was pregnant. Now we have a baby boy. A sick baby boy, but he's here and that all that matters.

"I'll go and get the stuff," I say, making me way out of the living room. As I do, I grab my phone from the couch and send Xavier a quick text to let him know what happened. His reply is quick, congratulating us and hoping everything will be okay. He must have been waiting for me.

The front door opens as I get to the top of the stairs and the wind is harsh and cold; Kieron is sitting on the step, seemingly welcoming it. He must really hate hospitals.

I'm quick to grab Lexi's pajamas and her favorite clothes, along with other... necessities, throwing them into a bag. Next I find myself in the baby's - Isaac's - room and grab sleepsuits, nappies and an outfit for him. They will probably be too big for him now, so I hope it'll do. I also grab the green stuffed dragon Lexi bought. She'd like to give it to him.

Kieron isn't alone when I meet him outside; Craig is leaning over the fence talking to him. He's dressed in a suit, but it's no longer very smart - the tie is loose and haphazard, the shirt is untucked and the jacket is balled up in his hand.

"Big day, Craig?" I ask.

"Work meeting in style," he shrugs. I remember; he's been promoting McCarthy Advertising with fancy parties and dinners trying to snatch some big client before another firm. I was surprised to find out that he worked with McCarthy Advertising; the man who built the company is a Muggle, but his wife was a witch, so they do work for both sides. Obviously the Muggle workers, like Craig, don't know that. They're one of the best firms in the UK; Kieron's been talking about them. The man's kid goes to school with Hugo.

Small world.

"Kieron was telling me that Lexi had the baby early. Little Isaac, eh? How are they?" Craig asks.

"Lexi's fine. Isaac needs special care, but they're positive. I was just grabbing some things," I explain, holding up the bag.

"I like the name. I'm glad you won," he smirks lightly, winking.

"What did you do?" I ask suspiciously.

"Let's just say she didn't see it coming. Ask her," he says, saying good night and walking inside.

"I like him," Kieron says suddenly, getting up and walking inside. "Lets go."

"Will you be okay?" He shrugs. "Why don't you like hospitals?"

"Why don't you mind your own business?" he asks instead.

Ah, there's the Kieron Nott I know.

***

Lexi is awake when I get back. A little groggy from the potion, but sitting up. And eating the sandwiches I remember seeing at the party. She holds one up, "Frankie brought these back for me."

I hold up the bag. "I brought the clothes you wanted and some for Isaac."

Her lip twitches. "Frankie also brought cake."

I pull out the dragon. "I remember what you said."

Then she smiles. "We have a winner. Come here." I drop the bag by the bed and hand her the teddy. "Erik said you wanted to wait for me to wake before going to see him." I nod hesitantly, confused by the frown on her face. "I just can't believe he's really here," she whispers. "And that he's a boy. I was so sure we'd be calling her Dakota and watching you squirm when Cody kept his promise."

"When are you going to learn to trust my instincts, Lexi?" I smirk, reminding her of how we found out in the first place. "I'm nearly always right."

"I know," she mutters, pretending not to like that. "Well, Daddy Albus, I am awake and I've eaten. Lets go see him."

I hold out a hand, smiling despite my fears. "After you."

I help her up and watch her walk, ignoring her family in the room, and I'm struck once more by the fact that I'm a daddy. And that my best friend is my baby's mummy.

Now this feeling is surreal.

But I'm not worried about that.



A/N: I said I'd post this is a few days. I hope you're not disappointed. So, what did you think? Boy or girl? The name?

I hope you liked this chapter. I hope to have the next up soon. Please let me knowwhat you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 24: Albus: When Stories are Told
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Theo, Daphne and Kieron, though the latter was rather reluctant, give Lexi and I some privacy, letting us see our baby alone. As his parents, we get to be his first visitors. Rightly so, I muttered to Lexi when Kieron tried to protest. He doesn't want to leave Lexi alone (because apparently I don't count), he doesn't want to miss seeing Isaac for the first time and he definitely doesn't like being told no. But it was Theo who said no, so he has to listen. People rarely cross Kieron, people never cross Theodore.

They wait outside the special care unit; the window is smaller than the nursery's one and I don't think Isaac is near it, so they won't be able to see him, but knowing they're there anyway seems to calm Lexi.

"This is it," she whispers, hand on the door, ready to push it open. "We're going to see a baby, a baby we made. Our baby." She glances at me. "This is like a very weird dream."

"Accept him being real and dream of holding him, then that one will actually happen, too," I whisper back, smiling softly. "Or better yet, get your dad to dream it. Sometimes his can get wicked accurate."

"Which is why I don't want him to. Just in case," Lexi adds quietly, fearfully.

I squeeze the hand not pressed to door and let her know that I'm here with her no matter what Kieron says. Or wants.

"He'll be fine," I tell her, hating that, despite what Erik said, I can't bring myself to actually promise it. It would be too much if I did and then something happened. I couldn't handle it. I glance up briefly to see my dad leaning against the wall, watching us intently. When our eyes meet, his smile is encouraging. I feel calmer now, stronger. I'm so glad he's here. I nudge Lexi. "Come on. Our son's in there. Let's say hi."

Chuckling at me and shaking her head, Lexi takes a deep breath and finally gives the door a push. Erik is waiting inside, monitoring a cot on the right, close to the wall. He waves us over when he sees us, keeping up that positive attitude he had when he told me we could visit. I feel reassured. He looks down at the cot and starts whispering, like the baby can really hear him, and for some reason that makes me want to laugh hysterically - off all the things to do in this situation. I manage a quick chuckle and I see Lexi biting her lip, trying to keep a straight face and looking around nervously. She definitely has the same thoughts as me then; unfortunately, we're not the only visitors here and this is not a place to laugh.

"Here's Mummy and Daddy," Erik says softly and I involuntarily look down.

I mean, I want to see my son, I do, but wanting to and doing so are two different things. I feared what I would see, my imagination running wild. My relief is evident to them both when I realize my imagination was far worse than reality. He's so small, so... fragile, but it's nothing like what my Dursley cousins would describe on the television to freak me out. They'd watch all kinds of things to freak me out, especially hospital programs. I now remember why I didn't tell them about the baby when I last saw them. There are no tubes, no wires, only the two devices on his tiny stomach and chest and the bubble charm around him. He doesn't look distressed or severely ill; he's fast asleep, his fingers twitching every so often. I go back to the devices, follow them until I see the only machine. They look like the machine and device Annie used to monitor the baby during the scans, only the machine is bigger.

"What are they doing?" Lexi asks the same question I'm thinking.

"Monitoring his internal organs," Erik answers, pointing at the screen. "His heart, lungs, kidneys, all of him. It's adapted from Muggle technology; with magic, everything had to be checked separately and that wasted time and lives," he says sadly. "So, these were brought in about a year after the ward was built, after mothers who'd been to Muggle hospitals suggested it. Annie told me the history when she gave me the tour on my first day," he shrugs, explaining how he knows so much about a hospital he's just started working in.

"What does the monitor say?" I ask hesitantly. I'm not so sure I want to know, but I feel like I need to know. I need to hear why Erik is 'gearing towards being positive' that my son will be okay. Erik gives it to us step-by-step; Isaac's heart and lungs aren't fully developed, which is why they're so weak, same with his other organs. Babies have been born this young before and been fine, Isaac needs the extra care because he's been small throughout. Just like Theo was and Kieron was and Lexi was, though she was fine. Theo calls it a curse for the Nott boys, so I'm wondering if it's something to do with genetics. I don't know. Magic is been used, though; the device on Isaac's chest is keeping his heart and lungs going, helping him to breath; the one on his stomach is strengthening his kidneys, liver and the rest of his body; the bubble charm itself is keeping him warm, safe from infections and adding strength to the devices. And he's responding to them, getting stronger, a little at a time. We just have to wait.

We can wait.

"How long until he'll be fine?" Lexi asks.

...Maybe we can wait.

"I don't know," Erik shrugs honestly. "Every child responds differently. We just have to wait and be thankful that he's getting better not worse."

She nods slowly, accepting that it's certainly better than the alternative, and seems okay to just watch him. Her hand brushes over the bubble charm, like she's pretending she's touching Isaac, and we see the charm shake, shimmering as if a light has hit it, and we know now that it's really there.

"Don't press too hard. Bubbles pop; that would be bad," Erik warns us carefully. Lexi apologizes, pulls her hand back a little, but doesn't drop it. "I'll leave you alone now. Sophie will be here soon to make sure he's fed."

He's gone before either one of us can ask how that's supposed to happen.

***

I leave Lexi with the grandparents after a while; she wanted to be the one to tell them what Erik had said, to answer any questions they might have. She said I did so much, telling them the hard news while she slept, that it was her turn while I rested, but I know that's not the whole story. She's just not ready to leave him yet. And I don't blame her. I'd be staying as well, but the little space we have in the special care unit is crowded enough and I'm exhausted. I can't remember when I last slept, I don't even know what time it is. All I know is that the engagement party was definitely yesterday.

Isaac was born late evening on February thirteenth, which was a few hours ago. So I know today is definitely the fourteenth...

"Happy Valentine's day," a voice calls out.

Crap. That's today. And I had dinner planned and everything. Oh, well, I think Lexi would prefer being with Isaac anyway. Maybe I can bring her something.

"You're not my type," I grin at Kieron, who's got his hand on a sleeping Dom's chest. I can't help but laugh as I look around - he's not the only one sleeping along the waiting room's chairs. Kieron shushes me when Dom moves.

"Why aren't you with Isaac?" I ask, sitting on the one empty seat here, the one right next to him.

"You were still in there and Dad didn't know how much time you wanted, so he told me to get some sleep. But I can't," he replies softly. I open mouth to tell him that he doesn't need to worry, that Lexi and Isaac are fine - for now. Then I remember that he hates hospitals more than I do, so that's probably why. "Why aren't you there?"

"I've been ordered to sleep," I try to smirk, but I end up yawning. It's long and uncomfortably loud and Kieron shushes me again.

"You need it," he whispers. "I'll get you a drink. Crappy tea or horrible coffee?"

"Water," I go for the safer option. "So, you don't hate me that much?"

That stops him in his tracks and he's frowning, looking very confused. "I don't hate you, I've never hated you. You annoy me and you do things that make me want to hurt you sometimes, like get my sister pregnant. But I'd rather it be you than some of the other assholes she's met. You're good for her, you keep her grounded and safe, even if that's only because you're a constant worrier."

"It's just - all the things you've said and done, and before..." I mutter.

Kieron's frown disappears and he actually smiles at me, then he laughs. Something has definitely amused him. "Oh, Al. You're just so easy to tease. But I tease everybody."

"I know. I don't care about that, I never have," I tell him honestly. "It was before, when you said you didn't want Lexi going in to see Isaac alone, like I wasn't there, I wondered."

"Oh." He's frowning again. And he looks... sad. And worried. And scared. "That wasn't about you, I swear. It's just, being with my sister, is calms me down. It was just me and her until you and Nick came. Nick wasn't with me in that room, he couldn't help, and it was just the first thing that came to my mind. I'm sorry."

"It's fine," I promise, wisely choosing not to ask him why he hates this place so much. I get uncomfortable because of the thought of sick people and germs and catching something. I worry. His is deeper than that. "It's just good to know that you really don't hate me."

"There's a difference between hating you and just wanting to punch you," he winks. "I'll be back with your drink."

He gets the drinks from the staff room around the corner, so he's back in a couple of minutes with a cup of water and a crappy cup of tea. He sits back and tries to relax, his hand back in Nick's - ah, screw it, they got to me! - and asks me a couple of questions about his nephew. I only get to "He's okay", then I hear a light snore and Kieron is finally asleep. I briefly wonder if I'll be able to catch some sleep in Lexi's room before I decide to stay put - Lexi probably won't be back for a while and, for the first time, I'd rather be with my family than alone.

***

When I awake, Kieron and Dom - so, it's an in-the-moment thing - have gone, as have my siblings and my friends. The only person sitting with me is Theo, smiling tiredly. I look around again and gesture with my hand; my mouth has decided not to work yet. Theo moves to sit next to me, rather than across, and hands me a cup of water.

"James, Lily and the gang have gone to see Zac with Kieron and Nick, your cousins and father have gone home to get some sleep and get changed and your mother is with Astoria and Daphne in Lexi's room," he explains quickly, trying to hide a yawn. "Erik is asleep in the staff room; he and Annie decided to take it in shifts to monitor Zac, since it's technically no longer their day off and they have other patients to see. She's with another patient now."

"What time is it?"

"Almost nine am," Theo says. "You seem to be the only one here willing to get more than an hours sleep. Zac is fine," he adds when he sees my mouth open, like he anticipated the question.

I let myself fall back down on the chairs while he continues to talk; he's speaking softly, it's soothing. "Lexi is asleep now. She wondered where you were, thought for sure she'd find you in the room, but she was pleasantly surprised when your mum said you were with Kieron. She thinks it's the start of something wonderful; Kieron was not amused when I told him. He pulled a face, kind of like the one you're pulling now."

I let my face relax, getting rid of the scowl I'd knowingly given him. "Wrong Nott," I whisper, watching for his reaction.

He looks somewhat amused and somewhat weary and it takes every bit of strength I have to not even crack a smile; I'll be showing this memory to Lexi one day. She'd love seeing the look on Theo's face. "I know," he finally answers me. "I always knew, remember?"

The memory of our talk about the photograph comes straight to mind and I nod, even though I still don't get how a picture of us falling asleep on the living room floor could have told him we one day might have ended up together.

"Guys and girls can be friends without feelings complicating things. But to be best friends? To have a bond that strong, to have someone you want to tell everything to, for them to be there and love you no matter what? Feelings grow, Al," he says simply. "You can call Megan and Darcy your best friends, but you've never had a bond as strong as you do with Lexi with them. You've never looked at them like you'd do anything without question or held them like you were protecting them. Like you do in the picture. That's how I know. Because that's how Harry looks at Ginny, that's how I used to look at Lavender."

"Lavender?" I frown.

He nods. "I used to be with Lavender Brown before Daphne. Well, technically it was at the same time, but that's complicated and we won't go down that road just yet. Didn't I ever tell you?"

I shake my head, sitting up; his personal life doesn't come up a lot. Or ever. "This is the same Lavender Brown who Uncle Ron used to date?"

"Yep. She changed after the war. And it was an accident, us meeting." I listen intently, more awake now, and imagining that her changing would be true. I remember the stories of the war, censored versions anyway; Lavender was left badly scarred after Greyback's attack. She barely pulled through.

"But she didn't want me the same way I wanted her," Theo continued. "She didn't want people seeing her for a long time, she wouldn't tell people about me or accept that I wanted to be with her. I loved her, but I couldn't take it anymore."

"Where does Daphne fit into this?" I ask, engrossed in a story that is not my own. I don't have to think or worry or judge; I just listen. I suspect Theo is only telling me this story to humor me, he knows me well enough, but I don't care. I feel like I finally know something about him besides the doting but lonely father.

"That's where it gets a little complicated. They both knew I was dating the other; Lavender wanted something casual with me and at first I wanted the same. Then Daphne asked me out and I was technically single, so I said yes. I told her from the beginning, but she wanted more and she pushed for it. She made everything special, she talked to me, she loved me - it was everything Lavender wasn't doing. I loved them both, but Lavender wouldn't let me in and Daphne was so determined to get me that she became too clingy, too possessive. But she only wanted me, she didn't want what I wanted - a family. Neither of them did." Theo shrugs, circling his finger where his wedding ring used to be. "Things got bad, I got depressed."

I can imagine that, too. The girl he cares for wants too much and the girl he loves doesn't want enough. It's kind of sad.

I take a deep breath, ask the question I desperately want an answer to. "How did you know which direction to take? That you should be with Daphne?"

He laughs, humorlessly. It's more like a scoff really. "Ah, yes. The reason for this entire conversation." I narrow my eyes; I wasn't aware he had an agenda. "I have every faith in you and Lexi. I mean what I say about knowing about you two. But don't do what I did; follow your heart, not your head. I was going to break up with Daphne, with both of them, when she told me she was pregnant with Kieron. I told myself that she loved me and she wanted me and she was willing to have a family with me. I told myself we both wanted it and I married her.

"Don't do that, Albus. You're moral and you're good and I know you well enough to know that, though you probably won't go through with it, you've at least been thinking about if getting married is the right idea."

I think back to my talk with Craig, when I could have easily said we weren't engaged but didn't. I remember the thoughts that came with it; maybe it popped up a few times, I small voice asking if it was right. But I never listened; I was never going to propose just because of a baby. I'm a cautious over-thinker, a worrier through and through. Proposing is rushing into things I can't control; I need that control.

"See?" he smiles. "I was going to have this conversation with you before Zac was born, but apparently the kid didn't want to wait."

"I'm not going to propose to Lexi," I promise. "But didn't things go well at first? You were married for over seven years before you got the divorce."

"No, things were bad at first; I was still depressed, she was going crazy being a mum. I, er, did something I'm not proud of and it caused a mess I'm still dealing with. But it put things into perspective," he continues before I can ask about the mess. So, that's not part of the story then? "I talked to someone and as Kieron got older, she changed her views a little. He loved her more than anyone, went everywhere with her. And she tried so hard. And I loved her. It just wasn't enough in the end. But you understand why I'm telling you this?"

"Theo, you're talking to the guy who second guesses his plans and his back ups; I won't be rushing into anything, I promise."

"Good," he yawns. "Now I've been up for over twenty-four hours, so I should really sleep."

He's ready to lie down, our conversation officially over, when Annie finds us and comes over. "Come on, Tired Ted," she grins, her hand in his hair. "There's a semi-comfortable couch in the staff room with your name on it."

"Tired Ted?" I smirk.

"You heard nothing," he glares.

I hold up my hands in surrender, causing Annie to laugh. He glares at her, too, but she isn't phased at all. Not scared of Kieron, not scared of Theo, able to make Louis feel that human emotion we simple folk call guilt - this woman has guts. Would making her talk to Hugo be pushing it?

"Come on, you can't give me a nickname, then think you won't get one yourself," she points out.

"What's your nickname?" I stupidly ask, because one look from Theo has me not wanting to know. In fact, I regret opening my mouth.

"Rated mature, kid," is all he says and is then pulled away.

Er... Ew.

***

After a bathroom break and eating some of the cake that Frankie left, I grab a drink from the staff room, taking care not to wake Theo, and take that and the rest of the food to Lexi. I find her sitting up in bed, our friends around her, and they're talking and laughing, but she's obviously irritated. She's tapping her knees, the sheets, anything she can touch for something to do because she hates that she has to sit in bed and wait to see Isaac. The last bit of news I heard was given to me just after Theo had left me, over an hour ago - he was being examined again and everyone had to leave the special care unit.

Lexi won't properly calm until she knows that he'll definitely be alright, but maybe dessert will help to put her mind off the negatives for a minute.

I hand her the bag and she does relax like I hoped. Well, she stops tapping. "Ah, cake!"

We all laugh and Chris makes some room, so that I can sit by Lexi's side. "You can go home, you know," I tell my friends. "Get some proper rest."

"Believe me, we tried to tell them," Lexi scoffs between mouthfuls of cake.

"We?"

"We," Hugo agrees, coming in with a plastic shopping bag. I recognize the logo as the one across the road from the hospital. He hands it to Emmett, who rummages through it and pulls out pop, a packet of crisps and a sandwich - real food, in his eyes, not hospital food. He passes the bag around and puts his stuff on the bed before letting Hugo drop onto his lap. "I tried to get them out of here, but they're adamant about staying."

"We are free-thinking, independent adults, who can do what we want." Hugo, Lexi, Emmett and I stare at him; he may have moved out, but we all know that he still keeps his mum up-to-date. She'd come looking for him if he didn't. "And our parents know where we are. We're staying."

Emmett points at Chris. "What he said, only without the add on because I mean the first bit."

"Alright." I turn to Hugo. "Why aren't you back in school?"

"Because it's Sunday, Lily and I go back tonight. Plus it's Valentine's Day, which means he's coming home eventually today," Emmett chokes on his sandwich and I think we as a group go little red; the meaning is clear. "It's also Frankie's birthday, which is why Louis and Casey aren't here yet," he adds as an afterthought.

Darcy clears her throat, creating just a little more space between her and Emmett than before. "So, Isaac is adorable. I can't decide who he looks more like yet."

"How are you meant to? He's a ball of wrinkly skin with minuscule tufts of hair on his head. It's impossible to tell until he's older," Hugo says matter-of-factly. He's not harsh, there's no malice; he's just a kid stating a fact on a subject he doesn't like. I still want to hit him. "I like that his birthday is the thirteenth. One day it'll be a Friday the thirteenth. Aren't you glad that he was born on a Saturday? I mean, talk about potential bad luck."

Lexi throws her pillow at his face.

"Keep talking, Hugo, and I will make sit outside on your own," Emmett warns.

"I'm just making conversation," he mutters.

"Well, it's the wrong moment," Megan glares, the last to rummage through the bag for whatever she asked for, having stopped to gape at Hugo's words. The glare slowly fades away as the goes through the bag and she pulls out a card and two boxes. "Here," she says to Lexi.

I move to sit beside her on the bed, rather than on the chair, and she opens up the card. "Congratulations, it's a boy," she reads the front. It's the message inside that draws her in the most, the brief but sincere 'he'll be okay' that has her forgiving him. "Damn it, Hugo, stop being so... mercurial. It make it so hard to stay annoyed at you."

He grins knowingly and gestures to the boxes. The first box is chocolates, obviously for her, but she gives him one. The second one is a children's book, one Lexi mentioned having once but lost.

"You can't get this from the shop I sent you to," Emmett said.

"No, but you can from the second hand book store down the street," he answers. "I thought you might like it, you said it was your favorite. You can read it to the ball-baby," he corrects himself hastily.

"I mentioned this book in passing years ago, when Dora was born," Lexi reminds us and I briefly remember her telling Ted and Vic about it.

"I have an eidetic memory, it stuck."

"So, you just decided to get it?"

Hugo gives Darcy an are-you-crazy look. "Does that sound like something I'd do? No. I went into the shop to look for something for me; I need something to read if I'm gonna be stuck here. But I found that and I thought 'what the hell?' and I bought it."

"That sounds more like you," I agree.

Lexi nods with me. "Thank you."

The subject changes again, but I see the slight curve of Hugo's lips as we talk. He can be nice. I don't know why he tries so hard not to be.

***

There's only so many things you can do in a hospital when you can't bring yourself to leave it. Lexi will be okay, she can go home tomorrow, but I know she won't. Which means neither will I.

It's late now and even our friends are leaving for the night, with a promise that I'll call them if anything changes - especially Chris, he's taking the godfather position seriously. With an Auror for a godfather and a Healer for a godmother, I know we made the right choice.

"Have you seen Lily?" Mum asks as she hugs me. Dad is staying, so she's finally letting herself go home.

"She said something about the restroom," James answers. He looks ready to drop.

"I'll go find her."

I take James' words into consideration, heading for the restrooms first. Hopefully, she'll be coming out of them if this is right, or I'll ask Annie or Sophie to look for me. I find her, though, around the corner - and she's not alone.

"I can't believe I'm actually an aunt," she gushes, obviously excited.

Scorpius frowns. "I can't believe my girlfriend's nephew is my cousin. It sounded odd in my head, too. I wonder what he'll call me."

"A weirdo," she grins.

"Why?"

"Because I'll teach him to."

Then she leans in to kiss him and I just have to stop it. I clear my throat and Scorpius tries to step back, but Lily has hold of his t-shirt.

"Hey, Big Brother," she smiles.

"You're going now, Mum is looking for you," I let her know, trying so hard not to look them in the eye. My little sister can have a boyfriend, that boyfriend can be Scorpius Malfoy, but, God, I wish I hadn't witnessed it. "Did you two want to wait to talk to us, too?" I joke, reminding them of Hugo and Emmett.

"No, I don't want your permission," Scorpius laughs. It ends just as quickly as it started. "I'm not looking forward to James finding out, though. He tries to give everything a psychoanalysis. Damn wannabe shrink."

"You say wannabe, but he is currently in his second year of studying, so that he can be a shrink," I point out. Scorpius groans. "Go. Before Mum comes looking. When did it start? who have you told?"

"The summer. And Mum, Dad and Astoria, ages ago," Lily says. "She said she'd tell Draco."

"And where will we be when it happens?" Scorpius prompts, walking in front of us.

"Mexico," she feigns a promise, shaking her head at me.

I can't wait for that conversation.

***

As soon as everyone is gone, bar our dads, Lexi and I go back to the special care units. Someone had put chairs in, pushed them to the back, so we sit and we talk about things we might do once Isaac is home. I don't remember much after that. The next thing I know, I'm been shaken awake by Lexi and being told she'll give us some time alone.

Us? I don't understand at first and it takes me a minute to recognize the shadow in the semi-dark corner as Rose, who, and I can't believe that I've just noticed, has been absent since the party. Either that, or I just hadn't noticed her.

What kind of a cousin am I? To notice and talk to at least every one of my family members, even my friends, at least once, but not Rose? The girl who I was closest to until we started Hogwarts.

"Hey, stranger."

She gives me a small, sad smile and sits on the chair by my side. I take the moment's silence to wipe the sleep from my eyes and sit up properly. God, I can't wait to sleep in a proper bed.

"He's beautiful," she whispers. "I still can't believe he's yours and Alexa's."

"Me neither," I agree.

"I'm sorry I haven't been here until now. And I'm sorry I haven't been more supportive throughout... this. It's just -" She stops, shaking her head, running her hands through her hair, doing everything except looking at me. "I don't know what I want to say. Well, I do, but I don't know how. Alexa... She's not going anywhere now. She's here to stay."

"She always was, even before the baby," I tell her slowly. I'm not sure where this is going and, if I'm honest, I'm not sure I want to. Rose is treating this conversation like a life-changing confession and that's what scares me. There's been enough change in my life recently; I don't need anymore.

"I know. But the baby makes it real. The baby being born means I can't sit back and pretend that it hasn't happened."

"Pretend what hasn't happened?"

"That I haven't lost my best friend," she whispers. And a piece of the puzzle starts to click into place. "It was you and me all the way up to Hogwarts. Then you got sorted into Slytherin, because you were too worried about looking weird talking to a hat like you said Uncle Harry said you can do, and everything we talked about lasted a grand total of two days. Two days, Albus! Then Alexa comes along, saying you have to be friends because she likes Dom and Dom is her brother's friend, and you let her take you. I told myself you were just too shy to say anything when you didn't tell her we were talking, but you didn't even say good bye to me."

"Oh." The puzzle pieces keep falling; the hostility between Rose and Lexi, the awkward moments that happen between us. I thought we'd just grown apart, I don't even remember not saying good bye. But I do remember the day Lexi first spoke to him, when she'd pulled me away to ask if Dom would be okay with her talking to him in school. That's the only time I'd ever seen her nervous, unless Xavier was near; Dom was new and cool to her, the first person to get through to her brother and like him enough to stay. I also remember my thoughts that day. "Oh."

"What?" she asks suspiciously.

I owe it to my cousin, who I have unintentionally hurt, to be as honest with her as she is with me. "I don't remember not saying good bye to you, I just remember a pretty girl wanting to talk to me. Thinking she was pretty, ignoring everyone else just to talk to her, probably should have been my first clues. It was a thought I had about her from the beginning; it's part of the reason I kept my mouth shut. It's hard to tell a hat you don't want to be in a house when a pretty girl is already in there. I was a speechless eleven year old."

"And she was sorted first," Rose scoffs. "What is it with the boys in our family and keeping it in their pants?"

"Harsh, Rose. It was a delayed reaction, I stared for a moment; I was never going to tell the hat I wanted to move, I was too worried about looking strange and the hat saying no. Despite what Dad said, I thought it would say no," I tell her honestly, even a little angrily. "But I don't regret staying, I'm glad I stayed. I made amazing friends in Slytherin, people I'd do anything for. But I made great friends with people in the other Houses, too. I was in the same classes as Lexi and the others, they all came up to me a week later and told me we had to be friends. I'd be in the exact same position with Lexi even if she hadn't dragged me away from you that day."

"I know," she says, not looking at me again. "I didn't know about them, though."

"I don't understand."

"Do you remember about a couple of weeks into school, there was a rumor about Alexa being a bully? That she was just as bad as the old Slytherins, being from one of the old families?"

"Yes," I snap, then I take a breath to keep control and keep my voice low. I don't ask her a question, but she looks guilty already. "That was you. You know, there's a zero tolerance policy on bullying; it hasn't gotten rid of bullying, kids just got smarter about it, but the policy is still there. The only reason Lexi didn't get into trouble was because Digby believed her; he knows Theo and my dad, he knows Lexi and that if a Nott was bullying, he'd be more likely to get it right with Kieron. You could have gotten her expelled before she'd even started. You would have gotten expelled if you'd been caught."

"I know that, I hate myself for it," she cries. I have to shush her. "But she stole my best friend; I was angry and upset because you just walked away and when someone asked why I was crying, Alexa's name just came out. And I was too hurt to stop it. It backfired on me anyway."

"Because she wasn't expelled?"

"No!" At least she has the curtesy to look sincere, glaring at me, appalled that I'd ask. "I wanted you to be angry with her, to come back and talk to me, but you put your arms around her and so did the other four and you promised it would be okay. So, I gave up hoping you'd be my best friend again and tried to just hang out with you instead. But you were always busy with them."

"You started hanging out with us in fifth year, with Will," I remember. "Not often because you and Lexi didn't like each other."

"She knew," Rose whispers. "She saw the look on my face when you held her and she confronted me. I told her why and she promised not to tell you, but said that me and her wouldn't be talking and I was fine with that."

I squeeze my eyes shut. Oh, Lexi. If Rose weren't my cousin, she'd have made sure I knew everything, but she would never be able to turn a person away from their family.

"Why are you telling me this now? Why is everyone telling me stories now?"

"Maybe because you need to hear them. Because the baby makes it real and I wasn't here. Will was so angry with me because of it; 'your cousin is ill and you're not there, Rose'. I told him this story, including when I started to hang out with you, and he almost broke up with me."

"I'm the one who's angry with you, why would he wanna dump you? Will doesn't do things because of other people's personal lives, no matter how angry he is with you. He'd want you to talk to me, which I assume is the reason you're here, but he wouldn't dump you."

"No, but using him would. I wanted to hang out with you, so when he asked me out, I remembered you were friends and I said yes," she explains. I rub my eyes and shake my head; damn it, Rosie. "It lasted five minutes. I preferred his company to yours, I had fun with him. I liked him. He said he'd let it go, that he doesn't care about the past, as long as I talked to you."

"He's a good friend," I tell her sarcastically. She gets the implied meaning and looks away.

"I don't expect anything to happen between me and Alexa, I just needed to clear the air. She's part of the family now, she'll be here forever, and I don't want things to get worse between us. I regret everything and I wish I could take it back, but you're to blame, too. I'm not saying I should have taken my hurt out on you instead, I shouldn't have taken it out on anyone, but I wish you hadn't just forgotten me."

"I understand," I tell her softly. I do; I shouldn't have forgotten her for new friends; it wasn't like I'd never had friends before, I'd had some in primary school. But they were the first friends I didn't have to lie to, who were the same as me. And, yeah, I ended up liking one of them, even falling for her. But it's not an excuse. I stand up, pulling her with me and hug her. I can't remember the last time I gave Rose a hug; even when we were little, it was her who would comfort me. She's the oldest, it was her job, she said. "I'm so fucking mad at you and I'm so fucking sorry."

"I know. Me, too."

"It's not me you have to talk to, you know?" I murmur.

She sighs, her whole body stiffening in my arms. "I know. Tomorrow."

Rose pulls out of my arms and walks away, smiling apologetically, then stops when she sees Lexi standing by the door, watching. Rose glares at me. "She just pops up out of nowhere."

"I had to make sure Al didn't do anything stupid and remind you that my family should never hear of it. You're eighteen now, almost nineteen, and the only way you'll be able to get past Kieron's wrath now would be if Nicky got there first to stop him," Lexi warns, as she should, I think. "My dad was pissed as hell that day, I don't know what he'd do. If it makes you feel any better, I no longer hate you for it, liking you is just not on the top of my wish list. I don't care about what you did to me; you missed your cousin and you were upset, I get that. I was so upset about Kieron going to school without me that I refused to respond to his letters for days until he felt so guilty he actually tried to come home. But I'm glad he didn't because I felt horrible when I saw how sad. And I'm glad I didn't tell Al because I didn't want to see him that sad. That's what made me so angry; it would have hurt him. Now you've apologized; you did something stupid as a kid and you've said sorry. No one else knows and I don't care, so forget it. Please."

"Okay."

"But it doesn't make us friends."

"I know."

Lexi steps aside, let's her out, and I smile, slightly awed. "Since when did you become a better person than me?"

"Since I got pregnant and realized growing up was not an option," she shrugs. "I mean it, Al. People grow apart, she knows that, but you were her favorite person in the world once. I know what that's like. If you had left me, I'd want you back that much. So, don't make her suffer for too long."

"I won't make her suffer at all, we're both in the wrong," I say. "So, we forget it now. No prolonging it, no hurting each other. We forget it. Maybe one day you'll even be friends."

Lexi shakes her head, chuckling, but says nothing. If she was totally against the idea, she'd have said. We say good night to Isaac and she leads the way out of the special care unit.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have hope.



A/N: A new chapter and only two more to go. And we've been told stories; I think that's how you know something's coming to an end - the reveals. ;(

Theo's dreams is a reference to Her Hero and is not important to this story, so hasn't needed to be mentioned. It will come up again in the sequel, though. But is still not very important, except for a moment or two. :)

I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 25: Alexa: When We hold Our Silver Lining
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Isaac is in the special care unit for over a month, it's almost his actual due date, and though Albus and Dad managed to get me home eventually, it's only to sleep. I feel like we've practically moved into St. Mungo's hospital, as much as Kieron hates it. Of course, I don't blame him for hating hospitals, given why he hates them. But every day is either no news or good news and both are far better than bad news. Every day he gets a little stronger, a little bigger. Erik and Annie are very optimistic; if he's half as strong as Dad and Kieron was, he'll be fine. And neither of them had this ward.

I've never been more thankful to have my family and friends until this happened, even my mum. If I need anything - food, books, even just a hug - they're there. Nicky and Kieron have been keeping the media at bay; all they know is that the baby is born and that he's in the hospital. They don't even know that he's a boy or his name. I've seen Jessica a couple of times, going to the other end of the ward with Jason for his semi-regular check ups, and I know she's dying to know everything, but the staff here are on my side. Well, they keep every patient's privacy, but I'd like to think they're on my side when it comes to Jessica Shepherd.

Jason, however, is a different story. I snuck him in to see Isaac while he was waiting for his tests and she had stepped out. His healer knew, of course. It's our little secret. He had similar problems when he was born, so he's been telling me what his healer does now - regular check ups on his heart, his asthma, his eye-sight.

We don't know what may be wrong with Isaac yet, it could be nothing, but Erik is optimistic that he can do those tests soon. That's what he said when we talked about it last week.

Albus turning in his sleep disrupts my train of thought and I lie properly on my back because I know he'll wake soon. He'll know that I've been awake for a while and he might say something about it, but it's not my fault I keep waking up early and can't get back to sleep. At least I've actually been sleeping, unlike the first week we came home at night - I didn't sleep for the first three nights. I slept in the hospital. It's like it became a routine. That's changed now, been set right, and soon enough I'll be sleeping properly again. As soon as Isaac is fine. Which means I'll probably get a night or two of real sleep before he comes home and we're up at all hours.

Somehow I'm okay with that. It's an odd thought.

"Morning," he mumbles sleepily, rubbing his eyes. "How long have you been awake for this time?"

"About an hour," I shrug, giving him a little white lie. It may be close to two hours, but he doesn't need to know that. I wasn't lying in bed starting at the ceiling last night, I was out the moment my head hit the pillow, so I consider this a good thing.

"Sure," he says, shaking his head at me, but says nothing else. "What do you think about Apparating to the hospital instead of flooing? We can pick up breakfast at that place you like?"

"Sounds great," I smile, my mouth almost salivating at the thought of having one of their croissants. Or two. Or three. Oh, they're so yummy.

"Then we'll go and see Isaac," Al finishes giving me the plan for the day and pushes away the sheet, getting ready. I watch him leave, his reluctance to call our son by the nickname 'Zac' like everyone else making me grin. He worked too hard to name the baby 'Isaac' to give him a shortened name so soon.

Still laughing - it feels good after so much worrying - I get out of bed, using the main bathroom to take a shower since Al took the en-suite. He's already dressed by the time I get out and says he'll wait for me outside, leaving me alone in the room. He's probably hoping Craig will just be leaving for work and will have someone to talk to while he waits, considering he's still the only friend Al has made here.

I get ready quickly, quick drying my hair with the dryer before tying my hair up, and find Al holding up a hand in a wave as Craig drives off. I hook my arm through his as soon as the door is locked. "Will you be making other friends here or is he the one for you?"

"Oh, we'll be together forever," Al plays along. He leads the way to the alley we use to Apparate, then to the cafe I found near the hospital about a week after Isaac was born. I wait by the door while Al orders breakfast to go, knowing exactly what I want because I haven't ordered anything else yet. The croissants are too delicious for me to part with just yet. Ordering something new would be like cheating.

I can't do that!

The croissants are as delicious today as they were the other day; the chocolate inside is warm and the pastry seems to melt on my tongue. It certainly makes me feel better. We make small talk as we walk the few steps to the hospital, are moods lifted today, more than they were yesterday. And I'm not sure why, because we were given the same news about waiting when we left last night that we've been given for the last few days, but I like it.

The receptionist waves as we walk past, used to seeing us every day now, only this time, instead of the usual greeting, she tells us that Erik needs to talk to us and to wait here. I start to worry again, my smile dropping and take deep breaths when my stomach twists in horrible knots. It won't do to have my breakfast come back up now.

"Breathe and follow me," Erik's voice breaks through the dark cloud that began to form in my mind, his soothing voice washing away the negative thoughts before they can fully form.

Al squeezes my hand and we do as Erik says, letting him lead the way down the corridor and... into the nursery. Near the door, in a cot with his name along the edge, Isaac's fingers twitch while he sleeps. He's still smaller than some of the nursery's residents, but there no longer any devices on his chest, no machines monitoring him or magic keeping him alive. 

"He's breathing on his own," Al murmurs, voicing my own relieved thoughts. "He's okay."

I almost cautiously move forward, as though one hasty move will send him back to the special care unit or I'll pop the bubble and this will be a dream, and run my finger down his cheek while Erik watches us. I get to Isaac's tiny hand just as he opens it, letting him grip my finger until he let's go again, then I go back to his cheek.

"We've been monitoring him closely since yesterday, he started breathing properly on his own in the early hours of the morning and we gradually removed the devices," Erik explains softly. "We've not long moved him into here. I was going to call you, but I knew you'd be here soon enough."

"Thank you," I tell him, meaning it for everything he's done for us in the last month, every late night and early morning he's been here, every bit of information he's given us, whether good, bad or repeated.

Erik shrugs in a nonchalant, 'it's my job' kind of way, but he smiles a huge boyish grin and I know he's pleased. His other patients either haven't given birth yet or have been... easier. Plus he knows my dad; he knows what the pressure of doing his best is like. And Dad's not even his blood.

"I thought you might like to see him before we run those tests," Erik finishes. "I'll give you some time."

Al wraps his arm around my shoulders and I lean into him. Despite the small, nagging doubts about being a parent and obsessively calculating how many times a day I might be calling my dad or Ginny when I should be sleeping, it's currently squashed down by relief and happiness.

Zac is okay.

It's the best feeling in the world.

***

I spend the rest of the day Emmett here at the hospital; Megan is able to join us for lunch in the staff room and we leave the building for snacks, but we mostly stay in the staff room and wait for news. Al and the others are in training or school, and Em's the only one with a day off, so he said he was happy to sit with me. I'm anxious to know the results of Zac's tests, but I think Al should be here as well, and I have no idea what they're doing or how long it'll take, so it's kind of making me jumpy.

And Emmett is absolutely crap at calming me down. Now that he knows Zac is fine, he says he no longer has to walk on eggshells and he makes jokes about the fact that I'm jumpy. He's keeping it light and innocent, away from the actual tests or anything to do with Zac, and he does make me laugh, which I think is his intention. He's just not stopping the constant bouncing up and down that even I'm sick of doing.

Jerk.

When Al comes back carrying a bag of cookies, I almost jump into his arms and kiss him right there. Thinking about other things, even if it is just sugary treats, and listening to his voice as he tells me about how he was finally able to get Chris back by throwing him into a wall helps.

"See, Emmett, this is what I wanted," I gesture to Al.

"You only asked me to keep you company," he points out, smirking.

"Call him Macaulay. Let's see him laugh then," Al says.

"Cruel, Potter. You take it too far," Emmett grumbles, his smile dropping, and he mutters to himself about how evil his parents are for giving him the double-barrel name Macaulay-Emmett. Yeah, it's not his first and middle name - Macaulay-Emmett is his first name. He has no middle name. Em hates it. But everyone calls him Emmett, so I don't know why he cares so much.

All of my friends, including Ewan, Will and, er, Rose, are here by the time Erik comes into the staff room, Dad and Kieron standing behind him. I only told Dad and Em, Al only told Chris, but news does like to travel and Kieron would have hurt someone if he hadn't been told that Zac was okay straight away. Dad promised to do it.

"You do realize that this room is for hospital staff, right?" Erik jokes.

"Why are you even in here?" Will asks, confused.

"It kept us out of the way," Emmett says.

"Yeah, Emmett was in the way," I agree. He nudges me in the ribs.

"Why are you two being mean to me?" he pouts. "If I wanted this, I'd have visited my parents."

"Melodramatic baby," Megan laughs, pushing his head forwards. "I bet you were mean to Lexi today."

"Why would you think that?"

"You're always mean to somebody, McQueen. It's like your life can't function without it."

"Kieron understands that," I smile at my brother. He agrees. "Is everything okay, Erik?"

"Are you okay for your friends and family to hear or would you rather step outside?" I glance at Al, who shrugs, and follow his example, telling Erik that we'll just tell them as soon as anyway. "Isaac is getting stronger, but he'll need to come in for regular check ups; respiratory problems and such. I suspect it may lead to asthma, but it's hard to know for sure with him being so young. We're giving him medication to see if it helps. And -"

"And?" Dad prompts when Erik pauses.

"Isaac isn't responding to sound, not to our voices and he wasn't startled by the door slamming." I frown when he pauses, but say nothing and wait. "We ran the tests and they show that he has sensorineural hearing loss. The tests lead me to believe that Isaac is profoundly deaf in both ears."

"Oh," I whisper, not knowing what else to say.

"What can we do?" Al asks for me.

"There is no cure. You can look at technology, Muggles have cochlear implants that I think would be more effective than hearing aids. Isaac could get them at around a year old, that'll help when it comes to learning to talk. I'd recommend learning and teaching him to sign, too. Just in case. It might help."

"But he's fine, he's healthy. More or less," I add, remembering the first part of the conversation. "Zac will be okay."

"Yes. He's okay. We might even let you take him home soon. If Sophie and Jane let him go, that is," Erik smiles.

"Then we can deal with everything else as it comes," Al tells him. "As long as he's healthy. Can we see him now?"

"Si," he nods. "I also think he's hungry."

Kieron looks away, the memory of when Sophie talked to me about giving Zac milk still haunts him; it grossed him out. He had to leave the room. But Sophie said there were benefits and I wanted to help my baby.

It's a weird feeling, though.

Sophie is in the nursery when Al, Dad and I come inside, everyone else choosing to wait outside. She's tending to another infant, but she smiles at us and makes her way over to us when she's done her job.

"How is he, Sophie?" Dad asks. His smile is wide and almost infectious; this is the first time he's seen his grandson outside of the special care unit.

"He's doing just fine. He's ready to be fed. Would you like to hold him now?"

Her smile widens when my own does. The stronger he became, the more I was able to touch him. A couple of weeks ago, the bubble charm had gone down and I'd been able to touch him while soft blankets and warming charms kept him warm instead. But this is the first time I will actually be able hold him in my arms; he'd been too weak before. I nod my head enthusiastically and Sophie carefully picks him up and brings him to me while I move to the chair near the corner.

He looks so small, wrapped gently in a blanket, and I don't think I've ever been so careful in my life. Dad kneels down on one side of the chair, Al on the other, and they watch intently while Zac moves about, his eyes half open and looking at me. He has the same dark blue eyes as the rest of the Nott family, but what little hair he has looks like it'll be as dark as Al's. It's hard to have the insecurities about being a parent when all you can think when you see him is that he's adorable and precious and yours.

He's my baby boy. And I love him.

Sophie hands me a small bottle and, after a few tries, Zac starts to drink. He doesn't finish the whole bottle; I rub his back softly and Sophie takes it away. Dad laughs softly when he starts to move slightly in my arms and it looks like he's burying his head in my chest. Al just stares in what looks like wonder.

"What are you thinking, Al?"

"What am I thinking? I'm thinking about that day when we were sat in your bathroom, looking at that test. Do you remember when we talked about having a silver lining?" I nod, remembering that day clearly; he'd hoped the silver lining would be that we were good parents. "Well, here he is," Al whispers.

I smile at that, Dad buries his head in his arms. "That, Al, has got to he the sappiest thing you've ever said. But I like it." I run my finger down Isaac's cheek. "And I still can't believe that I actually called you Isaac, but it makes your sappy daddy happy. Making you and naming you were the only contributions he could make."

"I want to say sorry, but I ain't pushing out a baby," he makes that clear to me. Like we're given a freaking choice.

"As long as the next one you may or may not push out is a good few years away, I don't care who does it," Dad glares at us.

I'll hurt him for that later, when I'm not holding my baby.

Another one? Do I look crazy?

Dad guesses what I'm thinking immediately. "You think that now, but give it time. A lot of time," he feels he needs to add.

"Keep saying these things and I won't let you hold him," I warn him.

Only a small bit of the threat is actually serious.

"Lexi," Al speaks suddenly, a distant look on his face like he's just remembering something. "What did Craig say to you? We were talking about the name the night Isaac was born, when I went to get the bag. He said you never saw it coming. I was meant to ask when I came back, but I forgot."

"Er, I was sat on the front step, waiting for Nicky to come so we could go for things for the party, and Craig was bringing his daughter back from school. She asked me if I wanted a girl or a boy and I said I didn't know, that we didn't even have names yet, and Craig asked if would we prefer to take the kid to football practice or to dance lessons, so I said that boys and girls can do both. He said 'I bet little Isaac can't wait' and I said yeah," I scoff. I still can't believe it. "He said the name and I could see it in my head. I never saw that coming. But you won the moment I said yeah."

"Awesome."

I do not appreciate his smirk.

***

By the end of the week, I think everyone has held Zac at least once, except Lily and Hugo, but they'll be home in a couple of days for Easter and Hugo's birthday is always during that time, so we'll be there. And by we, I mean me, Al and Zac.

It's very exciting.

Annie comes into the nursery and helps me to change and dress Isaac in the new sleepsuit she bought for him, along with Dora's old car seat. We don't have a car, like Teddy does, but it's in great condition and is good enough to carry Isaac around in. I strap him in carefully and cover him in a blanket.

"Where's Al?"

"Auror training," I answer Annie, fixing the blanket and keeping my eyes on Zac. "We're going to meet Daddy at home."

I grab the handle and let Annie hold open the doors as we walk to the fireplace. "You have everything you need?" I promise her that I have. "And you have his inhaler?"

"Yes. It's in his bag and I will never leave without it."

This last week, Annie and Erik have been monitoring his breathing, his coughing and wheezing, and the asthma medication they've been using has helped. They taught me how to use it, so I can look after him at home, and if it gets worse I know to come straight back because other treatments might be necessary. Erik explained this until I could literally hear his voice in my head.

"Your dad told me to check," she smiles, holding up her hands in surrender. "If I don't see you before, I'll see you at the joint party thing."

"Hugo is not happy about that," I grimace slightly. Why would he? It's supposed to be his seventeenth birthday party and, without his permission, his family hijacked it to have a 'welcome home/congratulations it's a boy party' for Isaac. But I made sure that it will be before Hugo's party is due to start and it doesn't last for very long; that made the kid a little happier. And, if I'm honest, it made me a little happier, too. I just want to sit down and not do a thing, except look after Isaac. Things are calm now; I like it. Al likes it.

"But we'll see you there," I continue, waving good bye.

I step out of the fireplace and turn the car seat around to face the living room.

"Welcome home, Isaac."

***

I've just finished feeding him when Al comes home, sweaty and dirty. He push him away when he tries to kiss my cheek.

"Ew, Al, get a shower."

"In a minute," he grins, using the bib to wipe away a bit of milk on Isaac's lip. "How is he?"

"He's disgusted by the fact that his dad is sat so close smelling like he does," I moan, pushing him back again.

"Get used to it, Lexi," Al warns, laughing. "He's got Quidditch obsessed family members and a football mad neighbor; you'll have two sweaty, dirty boys running around this house soon enough. Asthma and hearing loss won't stop him from living his life like all the other boys. Except Hugo, not like Hugo."

"Definitely not like Hugo," I laugh. "He's going to be fine."

"Of course he will," Al promises, kissing my forehead. "He's a Nott."

"That's not what his birth certificate says," I point out. "I believe that says 'Isaac Christopher Potter'."

"I believe you're right, which makes you the odd one out, Miss Nott."

He kisses Zac's head and takes off to get a shower and I have to stare in shock.

Miss Nott: we won't be changing that anytime soon.

***

Al's Auror training and visits and my odd sleeping patterns, thanks to my late nights and early starts, mean that by the time we put Isaac in his crib and fast asleep, we're both exhausted and ready to sleep. Al is already lying face down on top of the bed sheets by the time I'm finished in the bathroom. I ask him if he needs to use it, even gently shake him awake, but he's out like a light and I can't even bring myself to move him. As soon as I get under the covers, I'm asleep, too.

I wake in the early hours, sure I heard crying, and in my groggy state, I pull myself up and listen. The house is silent, except for whispers, faint words from outside the room, and Al's side of the bed is empty. But still warm; he hasn't been gone long. If a clue as to were he is, I climb out of bed and make my way to Zac's room.

The first thing I notice is the stars; Kieron's star mobile is on and the room is filled with stars. If I get on my tip toes I can see Zac's curious face, his small smile even though his lids are half closed. I hear Al before I see him, leaning down against the bars to watch Zac. 

"Uncle Kieron loved you before you were even born; he only makes things for people he loves, that's why only Mummy and Granddad Theo have his cool gadgets. Which makes you really special, because Uncle Kieron is a hard man to be around. He doesn't let people in," Al whispers and I wonder who else he's been telling Zac about. It's like the audiobook on our family history. "But Aunt Lily will tell you everything and give you everything. She's crazy, but you learn to love her. It took Daddy a while, she stole my room and made me share with Uncle James until we got a bigger house, but it can happen. Speaking of Uncle James, stay clear of him; he'll bore you with psychology and no one wants that. He wants to be a shrink; it started when he was seven and tried to find out what was wrong with Hugo."

Al's tone of voice makes me think that James still hasn't figured that out yet and won't stop trying, but I keep my laugh contained; I don't want him to know I'm here and stop talking.

"We have a big family, Isaac, and they can be crazy and they can be scary and they keep more secrets than they tell, but they love you, so we'll give them the benefit of the doubt." Al sighs, waving his hand through one of the stars. "They come through in the end; they were with me and Mummy all the time when you weren't well, kept us sane. Well, they kept me sane; give Mummy a dessert and she'll do what you want. And I never thought they'd be the ones who keep me sane, but they did, so I have high hopes for you when you meet them properly."

He lowers his hand to strokw Zac's cheek, then lowers himself to his knees so that they're face-to-face. "And I know that you can't hear this, and that you wouldn't understand yet if you could hear, but that's okay. Because you'll see it as you grow. You'll see a lot of things as you grow."

Stepping back, I leave my two boys alone as Al starts to talk about the hardships of the media and that he'll make sure Zac is fine.



A/N: One chapter left. I cannot deal with this sadness. ;(

June 11th last year, I posted the very fist chapter of this story. I hope to post the last chapter by or before that time. I think that will be cool. So, look out for it. :)

Si - yes in Spanish.

I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think. :)

Sam.


Chapter 26: Albus: When Everyone Comes Together
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I never thought I'd ever say this in public again, because it's so rare for others to see and last time Lexi and I did they called us liars, but her brother has the biggest, most adorable smile in the world. Seriously, it's her dad's times a hundred. It no longer compares.

He's so... happy.

He has been for a while, but today has been nothing but smiles and hugs and whistling. Lexi says he's been whistling! And it's because of the guy standing in front of him, running his fingers over Kieron's while the minister reads out the vows.

For someone who used to fear commitment, who shuddered at the thought of marriage and once said he'd never get married, he hasn't shown an ounce of said fear at all. Maybe there was the occasional bit of doubt - What if it all goes wrong? What if it gets called off? - but nothing more. He's been counting down the days ever since they set a date last summer. Now, just over a year later, I'm watching my cousin and Lexi's brother on their happy day, Louis and I on Nick's side and Theo and Xavier on Kieron's, with Theo holding Isaac in his arms because the kid just wouldn't sit still and Kieron wanted his nephew there. I don't think anyone is not smiling.

His hands are shaking ever so slightly when they exchange rings, nervous anticipation showing, and then the moment Lexi and I have been waiting for comes, the moment that has us exchanging eye contact, holding our breath and hoping two little words don't bring back all his previous thoughts of commitment and have him running back up the aisle.

With a clear and confident voice, Kieron says, "I do."

Oh, thank God for that. We're not the only one's who seem to be releasing that reliefed breath either.

Grinning, and I think it's because of everyone's reaction this time, Nick repeats the words and the minister declares them married. Kieron whispers something to him, then pulls him forward and kisses him in a way that has me wanting to look away while being at least a little jealous.

It's the first time Kieron's taken his eyes off Nick since the ceremony started.

***

The guys chose a hotel to get married in, a big, posh one with large rooms for the wedding and enough rooms for guests to stay. I don't know what the room they got married in usually is, it looked kind of like a chapel by the time we got there, the gold and silver theme beautifully decorating the room without looking completely over the top.

Lexi is very good.

The hotel has two dining halls; we're using the slightly bigger one to eat and give the speeches (well, people think there'll be speeches, but you never know with Kieron) because it fit all the tables in for the guests, while the smaller one is for the music and dancing part of party. I don't know if the hotel staff are using the big room for anything else afterwards, but they'll be clearing it out once we're gone.

There's a picture of Teddy and Vic's wedding in my parent's house, the two of them sitting in the middle of the head table - a long rectangular table that was placed at the front, so they could see everyone and everyone not sitting with their back to them could see them. Kieron and Nick chose not to do that; we have the biggest round table in the room, placed in front of the others, but also close to the other tables. Now it feels like we're a part of the wedding party, but it's also clear that this is the 'main table'.

And I say 'we' because I get to sit with them. It's Nick, Kieron, their parents, and us groomsmen, Xavier, Louis and myself. Then there's Annie and Lexi and Isaac was on her knee. At seventeen months, we think he's a little too young to sit with the rest of kids without adult supervision just yet. Besides, I don't think he could ever leave his favorite person in the whole world.

Is it me? Is it Lexi?

No. It's Granddad Theo. Isaac latched himself onto the man's arm as soon as he was able and never let go. It takes ages to calm him down when Theo leaves the room, even longer when we go home. He's with Theo now, between Annie and Daphne because Theo wasn't going to let his ex-wife and his new fiancé sit next to each other (they got engaged about a month ago). At least with Isaac on his knee, Daphne is kept busy.

Watching them makes Lexi smile and she's both happy and a little sad; the way Theo is with Isaac reminds them all of how he was with her and Kieron and it doesn't take a genius to know that he misses having children to watch grow (he might have mentioned it). Sure, he has his grandson, but he has to give Isaac back. He's always wanted a big family, having a rather lonely childhood, but he never had the chance after his divorce, not until now anyway. Now he has his own two and he loves Annie's two, but he wants his own. I know he and Annie have talked about kids, I was unfortunate enough to walk into the room while they broached that uncomfortable (for me) topic, but he's also worried about having a baby at his age (he was forty-six in March). And when Theo worries, Lexi worries.

I know she'd love a little brother, though. Not a sister; she doesn't want to give up the Daddy's Angel title she's had since birth. Kieron doesn't mind giving the Daddy's Little Boy title, which Isaac didn't get a variation of - he's Buggerlugs. I don't know why.

It takes a nudge in the ribs and Lexi waving her hand in front of my face for me to finally look away from them and realize that Theo is no longer listening to Isaac's ramblings, but is talking to Kieron, Nick and Lexi, while occasionally making sure that Isaac doesn't touch the microphone from the cochlear implant he got a few months ago.

"What?"

"We were talking about how long they'll be married before Nicky eventually kills Kieron," Lexi laughs. "Bill was asking if you agreed that they'd last."

"Yes," I say when I notice the look Kieron gives me. Not that I need a look; I believe it. Nick's lasted this long, almost ten years. I doubt Kieron can surprise him enough to want to kill him anymore.

"See. Of course we'll last," Kieron grins, taking Nick's hands in his own. "Because, not only do I not want to die, but I also only plan on getting married once. So, you've got to be the one."

"Coming from you, that's romantic," Nick nods approvingly. "If it were anyone else, the all too casual tone and the control freak demand would have me punching you in the face."

"Good job it's me then," Kieron murmurs against his lips before kissing him. "Besides the scar on my hip from when you pushed me and I fell through the door is enough."

"You shouldn't have called me a nutter," Nick shrugs, taking a sip of his champaign.

"You - No, I shouldn't have," he quickly agrees, no longer going to say that, yes, Nick is a nutter. See, he's not actually taken that bit back. And Nick knows it.

"Some people think scars are attractive on people," Daphne grimaces. "Not me, some people."

"Too much information, Mother," Kieron copies the grimace; it looks scarily similar. It's still odd to hear him call her that instead of by her name, even if it does sound way too formal. A few more years and he might even get to 'Mum'.

"I much prefer tattoos," he and Lexi say together, then high five. Then he looks down when Theo narrows his eyes intently. "Not that I have any. Al has, though."

I shrug, not the least bit phased by the fact that he's actually tattled on me. My mum did freak a bit; Dad needed half an hour to calm her down and she needed a reminder that I was almost nineteen at the time.

"I have a phoenix on my left shoulder, because of my patronus, and 'Isaac' written on the base of my neck," I tell them, pointing at each place even though I don't turn around, so they can't really see. "And Will has three and Hugo has one."

"I love Will's; he's got a dragon on his shoulder, tribal art down his arm and 'you only live once' down his side, on his ribs," Lexi says. "But Hugo's is so cool; it's a wolf on his hip."

"No, Kieron's is the best," I add on. Okay, so maybe I'm just a little bitter about the fact that he dropped me in it. "The art on his back and side is awesome. But Nick's name over his heart is just so sweet."

"Really sweet," Lexi plays along, grinning. "Me, Daddy? I have none. I'm not a liar."

"I hate you both," Kieron grumbles.

Father and son share eye-contact for a good few minutes, then Theo picks up his glass. "Okay."

"That's it?" Kieron asks, frowning.

"Why would I care what you do? It's your body and you're in your twenties."

"Why can't my mum be like you?" I mutter.

"Screw that, why did you put me through that just now? Making me think you're were going to have a go a me?" Kieron demands to know.

Theo moves Isaac's hand away from his ear and grins. "Because it was funny. Besides it wasn't exactly a secret; I saw your back about a month after you got it done, when I went to see you about the company and you was looking for a shirt."

"I thought you were in the hall."

"I went back into the hall," Theo nods. "I went looking for you first, not that you could hear me with your music so loud."

Kieron curses, then shrugs, then the topic changes to what Kieron is planning to do with the family business and tattoos are forgotten. He's got big plans; right now it's still just the potions company - Remedia et Potionibus LTD, the biggest distributor of the world's life saving potions, who make sure hospitals get their medicines and werewolves get their Wolfsbane, is owned by the Notts, by Kieron Nott. The world is doomed - but he wants to build around it, make other companies. And he knows how because of his many years following Theo, as well as his studies in business and his degree in law, with him now looking further into business law.

"I just don't know how I feel about everyone knowing we own ReP, and they will when they find out that it's part of the brand new Nott Industries, which is apparently happening," Theo says, frowning.

Kieron shakes his head; maybe he's feigning sympathy, maybe he's not, Theo still looks ready to tell him he can still be grounded... or get a smack... actually, I don't think Theo's ever done that.

"Oh, Dad. That was a long time ago; no one who lived through those times will ever forget, but they've moved on. And they like us; you did that. I think they'll like that they can still trust our company. Besides, you signed it over to me; the company is no longer yours to play with."

Kieron bites into the last bit of his chicken, grinning like a kid at Christmas. The best part, though, is how easily Theo wipes the grin away.

"I can't wait to hear your speech. In fact, I think it's time."

***

Kieron's speech went better than he, and everyone else, expected - he thanked everyone for coming, he thanked Lexi for organizing the entire day, then he talked about how much Nick means to him. It was surprisingly nice, I didn't know he could be so... loving. Nick said he could be, but I guess I had to see it to believe that he really could be.

It took a good few minutes, but everyone eventually made their way into the second hall and the doors were shut as soon as the hotel staff went inside. People split up then, sitting where they pleased, with whoever they pleased. Some went to the bar, a few were pulled onto the dance floor the moment music started playing. I tried to find all of my friends, but apart from Darcy and Ewan, who were sat with a drink, everyone was occupied.

So, I'm sitting with them, though they're sort of ignoring me because their own world seems more fun, watching Chris and Megan dance and going on about how they're finally back together (and this time it looks official) when they remember that I'm here, while Lexi is with my parents and Isaac. I found Emmett arguing with Uncle Ron a while back, and I hope everything is okay. He'll tell me when he gets here.

"Hey!" Xavier calls over the music, sitting by my side. "Why are you acting like a wallflower?"

"I'm waiting for Lexi and Emmett," I answer, pointing at each of them. "He's going to wanna rant and she's going to wanna dance, so I'm trying to guess which one will get here first."

"Which one are you planning on running away from?" he smirks. He knows me so well.

"The dancing. Where's your date?"

Xavier scowls just a little, just enough for me to know that I'm wrong and he's disappointed. "He's not my date. And he's in the restroom."

"I'm surprised he agreed to come," I mention. I was genuinely shocked when the RSVP came back with a yes.

"I needed to hide from my manager," Cody tells me, sitting across the small, round table. "Plus, why wouldn't I? It's not like the engagement party; this time I've known you all for about a year and a half."

"No, I thought you had that training thing," I shrug. I don't know anything about Quidditch.

"It was moved to next week. I found out a couple of days before I got the invite. Why? Don't you want me here?"

"I do, I'm just wondering if you want to be here," l chuckle, gesturing to the rest of the room. "Every available woman, as well as a fair few taken women, is gawking at you. And you've noticed; you look very uncomfortable."

He shrugs awkwardly, mutters about being used to the stares. I'd imagine so, considering he's famous and good looking; he always wins Witch Weekly's stupid Wizard of the Year and Hottest Male awards, which Kieron hates and is trying to get Nick to fix. But there's a difference between being used to it and liking it. He looks like he's praying for it to stop.

"Daddy!"

That one word changes the entire mood around us; Xavier's face lights up the moment he sees Ethan, still loving that he finally has that title. It didn't happen until Ethan's third birthday last year when he and Tasha took the kid out for breakfast before the birthday party. It came as a complete shock to Xavier from what I hear; out of the blue, he got a 'thank you, Daddy' when Ethan was given his breakfast. He's not long turned four now and it still makes Xavier smile.

And seeing Xavier smile makes Cody smile. Since they work for rival teams and have been told to stay away from each other, not that they listen, Cody doesn't see Xavier with Ethan often.

The little boy jumps up onto his dad's knee like he hasn't seen him in days, even though he's been moving between Tasha and Xavier all day, but Cody's here now, there's someone else to talk to. Ethan wriggles on Xavier's knee, getting comfortable, and then watches Cody.

"Daddy got the snitch, but your team had more points, that's why you won," he says seriously, playing with his fingers and the ring on Xavier's middle finger. "But we will next time."

"Are you sure about that?" Cody grins. Ethan nods twice, long and slow. "Then I wish your team luck."

"Say good luck to Daddy," he tells him.

Laughing, Cody meets Xavier's eyes. "Good luck, Daddy. Did you enjoy watching the final, Ethan?"

"Yeah. It was fun. I like you," he says. We all assume he's talking about the game and Cody's ready to say thank you when Ethan speaks again. "I like you with Daddy."

Oh. Cody gets uncomfortable and Xavier goes red, asking Ethan why he'd think that when he's never said anything. He gets a shrug in reply and the kid jumps off his knee to stand by Cody.

"Mummy says Daddy likes boys and that's okay. Stew says Daddy likes you."

"I'm going to kill him," he mutters. "He'll pay for that. I'm going to get them both back."

"Do you like Daddy?" Ethan asks. Is there no way to make this child stop talking?

Cody looks conflicted and kind of terrified and keeps looking to me to know what to say. All I can do is shrug. If he says no, Ethan will probably ask more questions. If he says yes, Ethan will probably take it literally because of what Tasha has told him. The man is screwed either way.

"Sure," he says anyway.

"Good," Ethan smiles. "Daddy's fun. When I stay with him, he gets ice cream. Uncle Jon let's me sit in his car. He's making it."

"He's rebuilding it," Xavier clarifies. "In the garage."

I nod along, remembering what he said about his family; his father owns a garage, his big brother works there and their dad thought Xavier would continue the 'family business', but he'd found Quidditch instead.

Ethan goes on to talk about all the things he can do at 'Daddy's', eventually moving to sit on Cody's knee, and I excuse myself. With Xavier moving forward to talk with them, it seems too much like a private family moment for me to want to hear more. Though they'd probably kill me if I told them that.

I go to the bar for a drink - soda this time - but I only have it for a minute; when I get to Lexi, she passes me Isaac and takes my drink.

"Thank you, Al."

"Right. Sure. What's going on with Emmett and Ron?"

Mum's like the Cheshire cat, actually rubbing her hands together at the thought of gossip. She's been a reporter for way too long, I think.

"Apparently Emmett proposed to Hugo last night and he said yes. Ron is not happy, says Hugo is too young. But he's eighteen and Ron can't stop him," Mum tells me. "We've been talking about it, we think it's lovely. Emmett is a nice boy and Hugo loves him, Ron's just being crazy and overprotective."

"So, Hugo can get married, but I can't get a tattoo. That's just mean," I say.

Mum's eyes narrow scarily. "You have them, don't you? Don't push me, Albus. Uh oh."

We follow her gaze, not all that surprised to see Kieron finally break it up; Emmett holds up his hands and walks away, Ron looks very red.

Just when he was starting to be okay with Emmett. Those two should stop dropping such huge news on the poor man; I don't think his blood pressure could handle that kind of hit.

Kieron comes to stop in front of us and holds out his hands to me, silently asking if he can hold the baby. I pass him over and Kieron murmurs to the baby about being with his favorite uncle.

I don't know about that - James is surprisingly good with him. The kid's spoilt, I swear.

"What did you say to Ron?" Dad asks curiously.

"I told him to get out or shut up because if he upsets Nicky, I'll kill him," he answers, still smiling at Isaac and sounding so calm he could be talking about the weather. "He made the wiser choice."

"I saw," Dad mutters, stepping back a little, wary.

"It was an empty threat, Harry," Kieron promises. "It would have been no more than bruise, maybe a broken bone or two."

"You do realize you're talking to an Auror, right?"

"You do realize you're talking to a lawyer?" Kieron counters, his arrogance rolling off him in waves. He thinks he could keep himself out of jail. And maybe he could... unless the prosecution got Blaise Zabini. Then he's, well, screwed.

Kieron is good, but he's new and inexperienced and not going into criminal law because it distances his work from his dad. Business law he wants, family law - custody battles and divorce - you can give him. But criminal law is Blaise Zabini's and according to Dad and Aunt Hermione, he's one of the best.

Why I'm going on about this like I think it'll actually happen, I have no idea. I think I need to sleep.

"Ignore him, Harry," Lexi says, putting an end to the conversation. "Kieron's only saying this now because he's just had to break their argument up. He really doesn't care enough to get involved." She turns to her brother. "Behave."

"I'd do as she says if I were you," AJ Wolfe, a friend of Louis' and who hung out with Nick and Kieron regularly before he got a criminal record, walks past and winks, giving Lexi a high five just before he walks away and meets Lucy. Despite the fact that a fair few family members are in law enforcement, he's not afraid to have a casual relationship with her.

He's got guts. Either that or no brains.

"Since when did you two become friends?" Kieron asks, not entirely happy about it.

"Since Zac was born. He bought the baby a present, so I went to say thank you. Didn't I, Al?" I nod, remembering that conversation. "Why are you the only one allowed to be his friend? Or you were anyway. Now, if you're okay with Zac, I'm going to the bathroom."

She walks away and her abrupt end to the conversation goes in one ear and out the other... I get my drink back, half gone and with a lip gloss stain on one side, but a drink none the less. Finally!

All is set right in my world.

Besides, Theo would have said something if he didn't think AJ was okay to be around.

***

So many things happen before the night is out - Kieron spends the night hiding from Roxy because she wants him to speak on her and Aidan's radio show; Erik spends the night sulking because, after a year and a half of trying, Lucy wants to be with AJ over him because he would like to see if it can be serious and she doesn't; Hugo and Emmett confirm the engagement before... disappearing; Xavier actually gets Cody to dance with him.

And Molly doesn't believe in miracles!

The biggest thing, though, was probably Kieron reminding everyone that he's dated girls after commenting on Molly's appearance. Apparently we should stop assuming things just because he's called Nick his boyfriend since they were fourteen.

He makes me question things, just for fun. I don't like it.

I do, however, agree with him that it's another miracle that he's got Nick at all; dating, either guys or girls, was never top of Nick's list. He preferred his own company. He never even looked at another, or made little comments like his dorm mates.

Like Kieron's joke before, we cousins wondered if he was one day going to tell people he was asexual. Of course, I was eight at the time, so 'Dom doesn't like people like Vic likes people' was good enough.

By midnight, I'm ready to follow Isaac's example and sleep. He's lucky enough to have his pram to sleep in and while he's with me, I can't use the seats.

"Tired, Al?"

I glance up at Theo, then nod. "Just a little. Have you finished dancing with Annie?"

"It's your turn, I've come to sit with Zac," he say. "Lexi has made sure that everyone has enjoyed themselves; now that people are starting to leave or go to the room they've paid for, she now wants one dance with her boyfriend, then she'll happily go with you and the baby to your room. She's even picked out a nice, slow song for you."

"That sounds nice," I say, smiling. I fix Isaac's blanket and find Lexi by the DJ, waiting for me. I pull her to me gently and let her wrap her arms around my neck, mine finding their way to her waist. I gesture to the room. "You did good. You're definitely the best events planner I know. I'm glad they picked you."

"Thank you," she grins. "Have fun?"

"Yes."

We dance through two songs, making plans for the next day - checking out of the hotel and maybe spending the day with Isaac in the city. It's calming with the music starting to quiet and the guests starting to leave. Every so often I check on Theo with Isaac, spinning around slightly so that Lexi can see as well when I see AJ sitting with them.

"What's going on there?" I ask, nodding to them. They're talking and smiling, AJ putting his hands by the pram for reasons I can't see.

Lexi shrugs, not appearing to be too bothered by it. But she knows AJ better than me, she knows whether she trusts him near the baby and I trust her.

"When AJ first got into trouble, Dad was the one who brought him in, who found out what was going on and made sure he was okay, was able to keep him out if jail because of it," she says quietly, so that no one else can overhear. "It was one of the rare times when it wasn't AJ's fault and Dad helped him. He's okay. He lies and he steals, but so does Hugo. Well, he did, he promised Dad that was over."

"Okay," I assure her.

"Good. Now we're halfway through the third song, let's say we finish this dance then go to bed."

"I knew there was a reason I loved you," I joke, resting my head on her shoulder.

"I love you, too," she murmurs into my ear.

It's enough to have me lifting my head up to kiss her... one that lasts the rest of the song. I may be exhausted, but even I can still appreciate this.

Life can be long and life can be hard, but life is good. Lexi let's her hands drop to my waist, teasing me by messing with the band of my pants. Maybe Isaac can stay with Mum and Dad...

Oh, life is very good.

And maybe one day life will be... more.



A/N: The last chapter, guys, and just a few days before the date I posted the first chapter last year. I'm both sad and happy and kind of excited... because I've planned the first few chapters of the sequel. It's called Reasons to Smile and I don't know when it'll be up, but I'm hoping soon. Being a sequel to a pregnancy story, that will also factor in, but this will be more about family then relationships and babies, so pregnancy is more of a secondary plot point.

Remedia et Potionibus - Remedies and Potions in Latin. Thank you, Tammi (alicia and anne), for helping me with the title. And listening to my many talks about my stories. You're awesome!

Cheshire Cat is a reference to Alice in Wonderland and belongs to Lewis Carroll.

Kieron whispers finally to Dom, both for finally being married and for actually getting through it without freaking out. The pressure is gone. :P

Kieron is gay. He's just messing with Albus' head... again... and Molly likes to join in. ;)

I don't know about America, but here in the UK, buggerlugs is a slang term for a mischievous child, often spoken as a term of endearment. Well, it is in my family. :P And it will be in the sequel. :)

I hope you've all enjoyed this story. I can't wait to hear what you think! I'm so excited to have finished this story and I can't wait to continue! :D

Sam.


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