“WILL! What did I say about leaving empty Butterbeer bottles on the coffee table!” I shout, my face red.
Will rolls his dark eyes. “Come on, Lil,” he pleads. “I haven’t done that recently. Can you cut me some slack once in a while?”
“Will,” I say, tapping my foot impatiently, “You did this three days ago. And use a coaster,” I add, catching sight of his water glass on our very expensive coffee table we bought last month together at a shop in Knightsbridge.
“You’re a right cow, you know that?” he says. “It’s like living with my mum.”
“Yes, I’m sure Darcy will be very happy to learn about her son’s truculent behavior,” I say dryly.
“I was planning to make breakfast today,” he says, grabbing my hand and leading me into the kitchen where a bowl, eggs, and what appears to be a fruit salad are on the table.
I soften a bit, biting my lip. “Okay, I won’t tell Mark and Darcy what you’ve done,” I say, half-jokingly.
I sit at the table and sip my coffee (a packet of sweetener, no milk). Will is busy cracking open eggs into the pan and has charmed some tomatoes and onion into chopping themselves. He is actually quite impressive.
Well, okay, I have a secret. I can’t cook. Not for my life. Once I tried making dinner for us – a lovely pasta dish I’d seen in a cookbook I was given – and it was a disaster. The pasta was still hard since I didn’t know how much time to boil it for (I knew I should’ve read the directions on the box!). The sauce burned and the bread I’d thoughtfully popped in the over was black.
It looked like coal. How do you manage to turn bread into coal?
“Impressed, aren’t you?” Will laughs, his face creasing into a smile.
“Shut up!” I toss a balled-up napkin at him.
“Okay, Lily, how d’you want your eggs?” he asks, doing some show-offy flipping of the eggs in the pan. Damn egotist.
“The usual,” I say.
“Yes, ma’am,” he salutes me in a mock display of respect (he really has none for me).
“So why did you make me take a sick day?” I ask. “I’ve already received 43 owls from the hospital with various complaints. Apparently Willington decided to go ahead with the experiment. My life is wonderful.”
Will laughs again. “Actually, I was hoping we’d go and drop by Sam and David’s. I mean, they should have gotten engaged by now. We can go after breakfast, though. I thought we’d give them a bit of a lie-in after what I’m sure was a busy night last night.”
Will waggles his eyebrows suggestively at me and I roll my eyes. Bloody tosser.
“I completely forgot about that, to be completely honest,” I say sheepishly. “I knew I forgot something this morning.”
“So we’ll go?” he says, putting my plate of eggs in front of me. Mmm. It smells delicious.
“Excellent,” I say happily. “Definitely.”
“By the way,” he adds. “I fixed the mirror in your bathroom that was making inappropriate comments to you. And that light in the hallway.”
I smile at him gratefully. “Thanks. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“Hire a handyman,” he jokes. “I’m like your bloody personal slave.”
“Shut up.” I shove him gently.
“After we see Sam and David,” I say. “I’ve a lunch with my mother.”
“Say hi for me, will you?” he pecks me on the cheek as he takes my dish to the sink.
“I’ll help you clean up. Then we can go to Sam’s!” I do a little dance that I wouldn’t dare do in front of anybody except Will.
I grab our coffee mugs and deposit them in the sink. As Will washes them, l charm the counters clean with a wave of my wand. Will puts away the pans and eggs and I return the plates to their rightful spots. We’ve developed a routine together over the years. It gives me a frisson of happiness as I survey our rather domestic moment together. I like knowing that even if Will shags six different women a week (as he is wont to do – he is a sexy bloke), I’m the only one he is so ... comfortable with?
I can’t quite articulate what I’m thinking but it allows me the lovely delusion that I’m different then the others.
A girl’s got to dream, doesn’t she?
As we Apparate into Sam and David’s flat, I see Sam and the diamond sparkling on her ring finger and I shriek. I can’t help it; it’s a reflex.
Brown eyes gleaming with happiness, I throw my arms around Sam and hug her soundly. I pull back and say sincerely, “I’m so happy for you. You’re going to have so much fun.”
Sam smiles, her eyes filling with tears of joy. “I know.” She glances up at David, who smiles affectionately.
“Wait a second!” she whirls around and smacks me. “You knew and didn’t tell me!”
“Only a little before you did!” I exclaim, dodging another hit. “Will knew before me!”
“Way to inculpate me! Thanks so much, Lils,” he shouts sarcastically as Sam turns to him with an evil gleam in her eye.
“I can’t believe no one told me!” Sam says loudly, examining her ring and shaking out her brown hair.
“Sam, darling, it’s meant to be a surprise,” David explains patiently.
She dismisses him with a wave of her hand.
“So, when’s the big day?” I ask excitedly.
Will rolls his eyes and I catch his muttered words to David. “It’s like she’s bloody getting married.”
“In three months at Sullivan’s. The fourteenth of September,” says Sam.
I hug Sam again. “So excited.”
“Speaking of which,” adds Sam. “Are you ready for your blind date tomorrow night?”
“John owled me to ask about you. I think he’s nervous, which means he sounds into you,” says David.
I smile at David. I notice Will scowling out of the corner of my eye.
“Enough about me,” I say. “This is your day.”
Sam nods happily. “My wedding is going to be the best bleeding wedding you’ve ever been to.”
I laugh. “I’m sure it will.”
After I triple check that I have my keys in my bag (I lose them all the time. I don’t know where they go. I think Will tries to steal them to make me go bonkers), I Apparate to The Garden, a small restaurant tucked away in a corner of Diagon Alley. Mum and I lunch here once a week. It’s a tradition. We have a weekly postmortem of everything we’ve done in the past week.
I totter over to the table and dump my bag on the back of my chair. Blasted heels.
“Hi, love,” Mum says cheerily, flashing me a smile. She surveys my casual jeans and sweater and asks, “Why aren’t you dressed in a suit for St. Mungo’s? It’s a weekday!”
“Oh, right,” I say. “Well Will made me take a sick day today. We had to go see Sam and David.”
Mum rolls her eyes. “Again! Will is horrid. Were you hungover or something?”
“Mum!” I exclaim. “NO! We went to see Sam and David because David proposed last night and we wanted to offer our congratulations!”
Mum looks shocked. “Last night?”
“Blow me. That’s fantastic. But I can’t believe it. It makes me feel so old when you lot get engaged and soon married. Bloody hell,” she breathes.
I laugh. “It’s amazing. They’ll be so happy together.”
Mum softens. “I know. They make an excellent couple.”
We’re silent for a moment. I stir my iced tea with my straw and stare pensively into my drink.
“Lily,” she says gently. “What are you thinking?”
I sigh. “I don’t know.”
That’s a lie. She knows it is. But she nods and lets it go.
“So, how’s Dad? Things going well at the Auror office? I Owled him yesterday but he hasn’t responded.”
“It’s going well,” says Mum, accepting the change of topic. “He loves working with Uncle Ron as you know. But you’ll see everyone this weekend at your grandmother’s birthday.”
“And Will is coming?” she asks raising a brow.
“Yes, he is. But he has a bloody date with the new Seeker –“
“Yes,” I say warily, eyeing her. “How do you know?”
“Lily, I love Quidditch. I used to be a professional, remember?” Mum looks at me sardonically.
“Right. Anyway. I told him he has to cancel and he wasn’t pleased but I hope he’ll do it.”
Mum nods. “Good. James was hoping to have a word with him about the Wasps.”
“I can’t wait to see Milla and James! I haven’t seen them since they went on holiday to St. Tropez!”
“I know. Let’s order.”
A waiter appears and takes our orders.
“So I meant to tell you. Your brilliant father and uncles – my idiot brothers George and Ron – decided it would be fun to charm their cars to fly much like Dad’s godfather Sirius’ motorcycle did. And the morons forgot to put Disillusionment charms so Muggles couldn’t see them.”
I giggle. “You’re joking.”
“No! It was a right mess. It was like your father and the others were thirteen. I tell you, they’re worse than teenagers.”
“Mum, no one is worse than James and Ben and Luke as teenagers.”
Mum catches my eye and laughs.
“Cheers, darling,” she says and we clink glasses. “To men who are complete and utter idiots.”
“I’m so late!” I cry as I hurry out of the bathroom, putting one last coat of lipgloss on and fixing my earring for the hundredth time.
My heel snags on a bit of carpet and I trip. I give a frustrated shout. Will appears in my doorway, leaning against the frame with an amused expression on his face.
“Shut up!” I snap. “I’m already having a shitty time as it is. I hate blind dates.”
“I didn’t say anything,” comments Will with a raised brow.
“Oh, you think you’re so bloody clever, do you?” I growl, fumbling with my necklace that just won’t close no matter what I do. I hate these stupid contraptions.
He walks over and lays an arm on my shoulder. I immediately relax.
“You’ll be fine,” he says calmly. “Here, let me help you.”
He moves my hair aside and I tilt my head to give him better access. I suppress a shudder as his fingers come into contact with my skin as he deftly attaches the necklace.
“Thanks,” I mutter, feeling suddenly shameful that I yelled at him.
“Welcome.” He brushes a kiss on my cheek and resumes his post leaning against the door.
“I don’t want to go,” I admit.
“I know,” he says, looking intently at me.
I check my watch and mentally kick myself. I’m so late.
“Listen, I need to go, but I’ll be back later. Don’t wait up.”
“Okay,” he says. “Give me a shout if you need anything. Oh, and you got another owl about a Willinger or Willington or someone.”
“Ugh,” I groan and push a hand through my hair. “I don’t have time to deal with that now. If anything else happens, leave the owl in my room. I really need to go.”
I smile at him and grab my bag, heading for the door.
“Don’t forget your keys!” I hear Will behind me.
“Thanks,” I say gratefully. “I don’t know what I’d if I didn’t have you. I wouldn’t ever be able to enter the flat again.”
I make for the door and as I open it, Will says, “Oh, and I need to tell you something.”
“I canceled my date with Maggie Lorring,” he says, his eyes intent on mine.
I search his eyes for a moment and say eventually, “Good. That’s great. Mum will be happy. Okay, I really need to go.”
And I turn and Apparate.
I arrive at the restaurant, a little Italian place, and compose myself. I walk up to the hostess, and am about to ask for John Wilson when someone taps me on the shoulder and says, “Lily? Lily Potter?”
I turn to see a dapper man in a suit with blond hair and blue eyes smiling at me. “That’s me,” I say with a smile. Maybe this won’t be so bad.
“I’m John,” he says, kissing me on the cheek. “Nice to meet you. You look lovely.”
I flush and smile at him. “Likewise.”
He takes my sweater and leads me to our table. He pulls out a chair for me and I sit down, impressed. This is more like it. Why aren’t there more chivalrous, well-mannered men out there?
“So, did you come from work?” he asks.
“No, actually, I took the day off. I was celebrating my best friend, Samantha Cunningham’s, engagement. She and her fiancé got engaged last night. You know David!” I explain with a grin.
“That’s lovely! Tell them congratulations from me. I did notice David was missing from work today.”
“I will,” I respond, relaxing.
“Wine?” asks a waiter who has just appeared.
“Red?” asks John, and though I hate red wine, I nod with a smile.
Will would know I want white, my traitorous mind thinks. I mentally curse myself.
I remind myself that this isn’t about Will. It’s about this man, this lovely man, who is actually interested in me. With that sobering thought, I smile at John and take a sip, hiding a cringe. God that’s disgusting.
“So do you enjoy working at Gringott’s?” I ask.
“Yes, I’m head of investments. I’ve always enjoyed numbers and our newest investment portfolios are selling well. We’ve raked in a large profit this year. Enough work chitchat,” he says. “I don’t want to be the world’s most boring date. Blind dates are awkward enough.”
I laugh. I raise my glass to him. “You’re absolutely right. To actually interesting dates.”
“To interesting dates,” he echoes, smiling at me.
“So have you been anywhere interesting on holiday?” he asks.
“Yeah bloody right. Being a hospital administrator sort of sucks up all your time. My last holiday was a year ago to St. Bart’s. I don’t have time to catch my breath.”
“Well, I was in Crete a few months back. It was fun. I went with my brother George.”
“Are you close with your family?” This is a key question. If he says yes, then he’s a winner.
“Yes, very, actually. And now that I’m finally settled in my career, I’m looking to start one of my own,” he says frankly.
I stare at him, astonished. This man is The Perfect Man. Sitting in front of me!
“A family?” I repeat stupidly.
“Yes, I’ve been dating around but I just want to settle down,” he says. “I’m tired of the dating race. It’s so tiring.”
I nod, mesmerized.
“Do you want kids?” he asks.
I’m starting to feel as though I’m on an interview. Like I’m applying for the position of Stepford wife.
Snap out of it, I tell myself. This man is honest and lovely and just what you’re looking for.
“Yes,” I reply. “I’d love them.”
Um, okay. This is a bit creepy. He’s really starting to sound like an interviewer.
“Er, three?” I say.
“Me too!” he says. He puts a hand on mine. “Lily, I really think this could go somewhere.”
I Apparate straight into Sam and David’s flat, crying. Sam is reading a case on the couch and as she sees me she drops her file and hurries over to me.
“Lily?” she asks worriedly.
“Is everything okay in here?” asks David as he appears in the doorway. He looks at me in confusion.
I bury my hand in Sam’s shoulder and she shoos David away. I know my makeup’s ruined but I can’t help it.
Sam strokes my hair and lets my cry. After several minutes of this she gently asks, “Lily, what happened?”
“I just … I fucked it up. I always do this to myself. John was perfectly lovely …” I trail off as more tears stream down my face and speech is impossible.
“Go on,” she urges.
“I … I must hate myself or something. He was the perfect man and I just can’t let myself be interested in anyone! I’m so bloody hung up on …”
I freeze as I realize what I’ve said. Sam doesn’t know. I haven’t told anyone about my feelings for Will.
“On…?” she prompts. She looks at me for a long time and says, “Will?”
I look at her in shock. “How do you know?” I don’t bother denying it.
“Lily, I may be thick about a lot of things, but I know my best mate. And I know you better than I know myself. I noticed this a long time ago.”
“Oh,” is my response.
“Okay, so tell me what happened,” she says.
“Nothing happened. I didn’t walk out on him or anything. Nor did I have verbal diarrhea,” I say, but stop as a new sob overtakes me. “I just … I shut myself off. There he was, offering me my dream on a silver platter, and I reject it. All for bloody Will who has no clue about anything and leaves his socks in the living room.”
Sam nods mutely, waiting for me to continue.
“This guy was talking about marriage and having kids – everything I want. And all I can think about is Will does this and Will does that and John doesn’t know my favorite wine like Will does. I have no love life because of him! And the worst bit he has no fucking clue.”
Sam looks at me for a long time. “Did you ever think about telling Will?”
I snort, giving her a look. “Yeah right. I’ll just go home, shall I, and announce, ‘Will, I’m really in love with you and want to bear your children.’ Yes, that’ll go over well.”
“What are you going to do?” she asks.
“I don’t know! I just hate myself sometimes. I don’t let myself move on. I haven’t had a real relationship … ever,” I say, realizing this for the first time. “I mean, I do the odd bit of dating and obviously shagging around, but I’ve never had a proper boyfriend or longterm relationship.”
Sam nods sympathetically. “I’m sorry,” she says, hugging me.
My eyes tear up again. “I don’t know. It’s just like I don’t even have an interest in anyone else.”
She’s silent as she hugs me.
Because, really, there’s nothing she can say.
A/N: Chapter two done! I hope you like it - I'd love to hear what you think! Please review!