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Chapter 6 : Chapter 6
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The slightest crack in the curtains allowed the June sunshine to creep across my bed and fall across my face, which was why I was awake at seven thirty on a Sunday morning my one day of rest a week. I had tried desperately to fall back into a comfortable doze but sleep had resisted such futile attempts, such as rolling over. I sigh to myself thinking that if I can’t sleep I will at least rest.
That was until I heard the unmistakeable patter of small four and a bit year old feet on bare creaky floorboards. Indeed it was just a few moments later that my door creaked open with a worn out ‘crrrruuuuck’. I watch in tired amusement as my little girl, peeks her head round the door and smiles in delight as she sees that I am awake. She charges across the room and then a pair of small hands reach out and tug at the sheets.
I smile to myself as I hear my daughter’s soft voice.
“Mummy is it time to get up?”She whispered.
“Nearly,” I reply slowly, sitting up a little and leaning down to pull the blonde haired girl into the bed alongside me, “but first, mummy needs a big cuddle.”
She smiles up at me, it’s a smile that makes my insides clench because it’s his smile. It’s one of the two things she’s inherited from him, the other being his eyes, those big unmistakable hazel eyes with numerous golden and espresso coloured flecks, just like his. She wraps her little arms around me and squeezes tight; I can’t help but smile as I gently kiss the top of her head and squeeze her back. After a couple of minutes she raises her head off my chest and winds up in a kneeling position next to me, before gently brushing a few strands of hair away from my face and kissing me softly on my cheek.
We smile contentedly at each other.
“So what shall we do today?” I ask, pulling her down next to me. She snuggles up close to me, wrapping a lock of my hair round her finger.
“Okay, anything else?”
She pauses for a moment and then shakes her head.
“Are you sure, because I thought we could maybe go to Diagon Alley and try out that new play park and then perhaps we could get an ice cream?”
She smiles excitedly, “Really?”
We spent the morning playing and after we had eaten lunch we headed off to Diagon Alley using the alleyway a few streets away from the flat in order to disapparate.
Diagon Alley was bustling, filled with wizards and witches making the most of a sunny Sunday afternoon. We walked hand in hand down the street, Alyssa chatting happily about everything and nothing. We paused for a few moments in Flourish and Blotts, a shop that will forever remind me of Hogwarts, before we headed down to Iced Delights the newly established Ice- cream shop that bordered the park.
I order our sundaes, hers a triple chocolate and whipped cream bowl of happiness and mine a strawberry and banana melt, yum.
We take a seat at one of the wooden tables outside and wait for a few moments until the sundaes arrive.
The tables around us were filled with families, couples in their thirties with two point four children and I can’t help but be slightly jealous.
I push it away and take a breath, this was my life, I tell myself, it wasn’t what I had imagined but it was good. I look at my daughter, and I can’t help but smile, she has cream on her nose and chocolate moustache, neither of which particularly compliment the pink dress she is wearing.
“Is that nice?”I ask.
She nods shovelling another heaped spoon into her mouth.
I shake my head and smother a chuckle as yet more chocolate is smothered around her mouth.
“Well, you certainly inherited your Father’s eating habits.” Oh no, I don’t believe that that just slipped out. Please, tell me she didn’t hear. Daddy wasn’t exactly a topic we had ever discussed.
She looks up at me, a frown creasing her brow,” But Mummy I don’t have a daddy.”
She states confusedly.
What should I say?
I sit there for a few seconds my mouth opening and shutting like a goldfish, “Um, I- uh .” I take a deep breath, “Just ignore mummy, I was being silly, why don’t you go and play.” I suggest, hoping to distract her.
She smiles, ”Okay.” and slips off the wooden seat, leaving her ice cream half finished.
Oh thank Merlin for four year old minds and play parks.
“Wait a second,” I call back to her, “come here.”
She rushed back over to me and found her face being attacked by a tissue that I had managed to sneak out of my bag. After wiping her face clean I give her a big kiss on the cheek and I send her on her way. She runs into the park giggling.
I watch her for a few moments as she climbs onto one of the swinging brooms and then turn and dig out a battered paper back from the depths of my bag.
Alyssa joins me from time to time, shovelling a spoonful of ice cream into her mouth before running off into the park. Whilst I enjoyed the sunshine beating down on my back and shoulders as I turned page after page of my book, lost in an imaginary world.
That world was suddenly disrupted however by a deep voice and a dark shadow falling across the table.
“You know that’s the second time you haven’t called me; a lesser man might have given up by now.”
I drop my book onto the table, my heart pounding. Oh you had to be kidding me.
But there as godlike as ever stood James Potter. A grin plastered across his handsome face that was partly concealed by a pair of dark shades. The arms of his crisp white shirt rolled up to the elbow revealing those delightfully tanned forearms.
Ignoring my silence and as confident as ever he states, “So I’m just going to pretend you’ve invited me to sit.” As he takes a seat to the left of me opposite Alyssa’s ice cream, “So.”
An awkward silence is left hanging between us, and all I can hear is the pounding of my own blood as is rushes round my body.
“So are you here alone?” He tries again indicating the second ice cream bowl.
“Oh, um no.”
“Friend.” I reply. Daughter, Friend same difference, right? Although I can’t help but snatch a guilty glance at the play park, “You?” I ask back trying to sound casual, even as I glimpse my daughters honey coloured hair.
“My girlfriend’s in one of the boutiques.” He states indicating a row of expensive shops, with posh window displays with a shrug of his shoulders.” She wants a new dress or something, and I’m taking her to meet mum and dad tonight.”
I raise my brows, “Sounds serious.” I remark.
“ Yeah, well I’ve been seeing her for a year so it’s about time really, right?” he asks his brows suddenly creasing, obviously searching for confirmation.
“Only you can answer that James.” I respond unhelpfully.
He lets out a dry chuckle. “Thanks.”
I smile, “You’re welcome.”
“So how are you?”
About to have a heart attack.
“Look about the other night...”
“I’m fine James, really.” I interrupt, looking down at the table. I didn’t need him to remind me of that night.
There’s an awkward silence, and I catch a second glimpse of honey coloured hair.
“How’s the family?” he asks.
Playing only a few feet from here.
“Um... I don’t know. Lynn and I don’t speak, so yeah...” I trail off lamely, my thought briefly drifting to my stepmother. “How’s yours?” I ask out of politeness more than anything else.
“Everyone’s doing well thanks,” and a smile a proper smile crosses his face, “Al’s engaged, Lily’s working, Mum and Dad are good. Grandad retired a couple of years ago. Gran banished him to the shed with his plugs after a week.” He chuckles shaking his head.
I can’t help but smile at this, I had always liked Arthur.
Before either of us could say anymore a pair of hands encircled his neck and a sheet of dark ebony coloured hair fell partly across his face as someone planted a kiss on his cheek.
James looked slightly stunned almost as if he had forgotten that he did indeed have a girlfriend. After planting a rather more possessive kiss on lips she stared daggers at me with a pair of espresso eyes, framed by long dark lashes.
“Who’s your friend James?” She asks in a silky voice.
“Uhh..umm... this is Abi. A friend.” He states.
“An acquaintance.” I correct, not looking at James.
“It’s nice to meet you.” She said in a tone that clearly said it wasn’t, “I’m James’ girlfriend Jennifer. Jennifer Goldstein. I’m a model.”
I raise an eyebrow, smiling slightly at this girl’s need to assert herself above me.
“Abi Perkiss, waitress.”
I can see the girl visibly relax, as if there was no way that James would ever date a lowly waitress.
James couldn’t leave it at that though, “Oh come on Abs,” he says using that stupid pet name that he loved and at once Jennifer is back on the defensive, “ She’s a designer really, just waiting for her big break. Hey maybe you could work for her do a show or something.” He sounds excited now.
Jennifer looks as if she’s just swallowed a bitter lemon, but forces a smile and replies, “Yeah, maybe.” In tone that clearly stated never.
However before James can make any further plans there’s an ear piercing scream and I’m instantly on my feet. I know that scream. Not even thinking about James and Jennifer I stand up and rush towards the play park. It takes me only a few minutes to find her.
A mother is trying to comfort her, but Alyssa is having none of it. Tears are streaming down her face, her nose is running, knees and palms bleeding.
When she sees me she runs straight into my outstretched arms.
I gather her up and pat her back soothingly, running a hand up and down.
“Thank you.” I say to the mother, before making my way back to the table, having forgotten about who else was now occupying it.
I’m still muttering comforting words into Alyssa’s hair as I set her down on the table. I brush the remaining tears away with my thumb and then rummage in my bag for a tissue to wipe her nose.
I then turn my attention to Alyssa’s knees. Mopping them up with a second tissue and then pulling out a couple of plasters. I had never been good at healing charms. After cleaning the grazes on her hands I kiss her cheek.
“Shall we go home?” I ask softly, “Uncle Pete’s coming for tea, let’s go make him a nice cake.”
I silently prayed she’d agree, the thought of having to face James now, in front of his perfect model girlfriend and with my snot covered shoulder and tear streaked daughter was mortifying.
Mercifully she nodded, and reached out her arms to me. I gathered her up and with one arm managed to gather everything into my bag, as James and Jennifer looked on. Jennifer looking triumphant, apparently convinced now that James could definitely not have feelings for a snot covered single mum, who was a waitress.
James on the other hand was looking from me to Alyssa and back again, his mouth slightly open and comprehension dawning.
I meet his once as I finally sling the bag over my shoulder, and I know that he can see fear in them, ”I’m sorry, we have to go. Bye.” I say shortly and turn away from them,
disappearing as quickly as possible into the crowds, I don’t stop for anything ignoring James, cry of, ”Abi.”
But I couldn’t ignore the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, because I had seen that look of comprehension, he knew.
I can’t help but stare at the spot where she disappeared.
Or rather they disappeared.
She has a child.
She has a child.
My child? The thought had suddenly struck me.
Did she have my child?
“ James, James, James.” Jennifer’s sharp barks interrupted my thoughts and I finally look at her.
“James c’mon you promised me you’d by me a new dress, I can’t meet Harry Potter in just any old thing you know. But I’ve found the perfect one. You’ll love it.” She pulls me up by my arm, pearly white teeth on show, as she begins to drag me towards a cluster of expensive looking shops.
I personally was pretty sure that I couldn’t care less about what she wore, however it probably wasn’t the best time to tell her that. We came to a stop outside the most expensive looking boutique. I turned for a second to glance at the spot once more before Jennifer’s impatient “ C’mon James.” bid me enter the shop. I sigh, duty called.
I was at home now, well technically not my home but mum and dad’s. We’d spent maybe another in the boutique getting the outfit just right, before having to hurry home so she had enough time to get ready of all things. We’d then driven the two hours to mum and dad’s house so the photographers who were continually camped outside their gates could get a good photo of her entering the house of Harry and Ginny Potter. The pictures would no doubt appear in tomorrow’s papers, oh what a boost for her career.
I wasn’t sure where that burst of bitterness had come from but I promptly shove it the back of my mind that was the least of my problems right now.
Mum served us a delicious roast dinner for tea, I unfortunately didn’t taste much of what I ate, which wasn’t a whole lot. At the time the only thing I could concentrate on was the answer to a very pertinent question, is she mine?
Was she mine?
That was all that was important.
Not the chicken.
But rather, am I a father?
Jennifer’s new contract. Couldn’t care less right now.
Oh, Merlin do I have a daughter?
My latest high score, doesn’t help me answer the question.
When everyone else had finished dinner mum led Jennifer through to the sitting room, whilst I helped dad with the dishes.
We were nearly halfway through when dad broke the silence.
“Is everything alright James? Only you’ve been really quite quiet tonight.”
I shrug noncommittally and look him innocently in the eye as I reply honestly, “Just thinking.”
“About Jennifer?” he probes.
No about the fact that I may or may not be a father, I want to shout, but don’t.
“Um, yeah.” I respond instead.
Dad doesn’t say anything for a moment,
“Well she seems very nice.”
Oh Merlin, this is dad’s way of asking what the hell are you doing?
I stop drying and look directly at him again, “I know she’s nice.”
He nods catching my drift. He knew she wasn’t right for me, and so did I but it was much easier not to drop her. So yes in a way I was using her, but at the same time she was using me too.
“Is there anything else?” He asks again.
I shrug again, “Something came up, but I’ll sort it out tomorrow, nothing to worry about though.” Just a life altering Yes or No question that I need answering.
“If you need any help-“
“I’ll come to you dad.” Not likely I privately think, at least not this time.
We stay with my parents until about ten o’clock and then take our leave. I’m privately pleased that Jennifer persuaded me to drive rather than take the floo as it gives us the opportunity to leave earlier.
The journey back to London takes us a little over two hours. Jennifer talked for the majority of the journey, gushing about my parents in such a way that all I had to do was occasionally give a grunt or yes, which gave me an extra two hours with my thoughts. Pictures of that little girl are now racing through my mind. There was no doubt that she was Abi’s, the hair confirmed that, but was she mine and Abi’s?
Jennifer and I head into the Victorian Townhouse that we share, she walks directly into the bedroom whereas I practically charge over to the liqueur cabinet. I take out a bottle of whisky and pour myself a generous double. I think I may need this if I’m to get any sleep tonight. I sit in the dark sitting for who knows how long, before inspiration strikes. I snatch a piece of parchment and quill from the desk and write a swift note to my cousin Lucy who worked at the Ministry in the Magical Registration Department, where she had access to the location of every witch and wizard in the country. I take the note into the kitchen where my barn owl is sat waiting, and attaching the note to its leg I watch as it disappears into the night. I then head upstairs, undressing and sliding into bed next to Jennifer.
I wake up at seven minutes past five the next morning and spend the next three hours pacing the sitting room, my stomach churning, thoughts of fatherhood spinning around my head. I’m trying to picture the little girl again, and once more I see that honey coloured hair, but what else. Pink dress. She was definitely wearing a pink dress. Pigtails, little ringlet pigtails. Abi’s nose, yep she definitely had Ab’s nose. Eyes, what colour...
A pecking sound at the window interrupts my flow, and by eight fifteen, thanks to Lucy, I know where she lives. I dress quickly not really looking at what I’m putting on, just wanting an answer.
I race out of the door, forgetting to kiss Jennifer goodbye. I dash into a nearby alley and disappear.
I swallow; I’m looking at the building. It’s pretty ugly to be frank. A big concrete tower block in south west London. I take a big gulp and look down at the scrap of parchment clutched in my hand, just to double check the address. I see that it is indeed correct,
Merlin what is she doing living in this dump.
At that moment a man comes through the door nearly knocking me over.
“Oh sorry mate, didn’t see you.”
“No problem. Thanks.” I add slipping through the door that he’s holding open for me.
The stairwell smells faintly of stale urine and the lift even worse, I opt for the stairs, climbing them until I reach the fifth floor. And there it is flat 504. The door painted a warm red.
My heart pounding in my chest, I reach out and knock on the door.
“Did you forget...” she stops mid sentence, when she sees that it’s me standing there.
Her eyes widen.
She’s wearing the daytime uniform for The Shooting Star. A knee length black skirt and matching black shirt, that doesn’t have all the buttons done up yet. Seeing my wandering gaze, she flushes a little and her now trembling fingers start to hook the offending buttons home.
“Is she mine?” I blurt out.
Her mouth opens and closes goldfish style and she’s not looking at me.
“Is she mine?” I ask again demandingly.
“I-I...James I can’t do this right now.”
“I just want to know if she’s mine.”
Before she can say anything else there’s a “Mummy, I’m finished.”
“I-I’m coming.” She turns away from me, and begins to turn into the first doorway on the left.
Without hesitation I follow, pausing only to shut the door behind me. The kitchen is small, galley style and in the far corner there is a table with three chairs around it, and I abstractly notice that there are also three bowls on the table. I stop just inside the door way. Abi is leaning over the little girl, wiping her face with a cloth, and then she kisses her on the cheek before helping her off the chair.
“Brush your teeth please and find your shoes.” she tells her.
The little girl nods, pigtails jiggling and then she comes careening towards me. She slows slightly and looks up at me, before rushing past me.
It hits me like a ton of bricks. Eyes, my eyes, exact replicas.
Merlin, she’s mine.
Abi is dumping the three bowls in the sink when I look back up.
“S-she has my eyes. She’s mine” It’s a statement this time not a question.
She doesn’t look up but nods in response before declaring, “But she’s mine James not yours. She’s my child, my daughter, my baby. Not yours.” She bends down now to reach into the fridge.
I ignore her reply.
“You should have told me. Why didn’t you tell me? I had a right to know.” A righteous anger is beginning to well up within me, she should have told me that I was father.
“And what would you have done James? Give up your place on the quidditch team, been faithful, married me.” She says spitefully. “Please.”
“You never even gave me a chance and don’t pretend you did this for me.” I reply hostility resounding in my voice.
She stops viciously buttering the bread and finally looks up at me her head cocked at an angle, big brown eyes boring into me.
“No, James I didn’t do it for you, I did it for me. I did it for her.”
“What do yo-.”
“Don’t shout.” She commands, indicating the open kitchen door.
And before I can say anything else there’s the quiet patter of feet and there she is my daughter. The reality takes my breath away and the rest of my question drifts into nothingness.
“Mummy, can I wear these to school?”
I look down and she’s holding a pair of pink ballet slippers which clash horribly with the overly large maroon school uniform.
“No, you need your school shoes, sweetheart.”
“But mummyyyyyy –“
“No Alyssa, get your school shoes please.” Abi says sternly.
Alyssa, I try the name out in my head, Alyssa Potter, my daughter.
“James I can’t do this right now.” She’s cutting the sandwich in half and starting to wrap it up, “I have to get her to school and I have work.”
I clench my jaw and but nod, wanting to stay.
“This isn’t the end Abi. I want to see her, she is my daughter and I want to see her.”
She pauses, takes a deep breath, has a battle with herself and then finally nods,
“Okay.” I repeat. “I‘ll let myself out.”
She nods in response.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed!
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