You know it hurts me that I didn't figure it out before.
And now it's too late for a soliloquy, it's way too late for dignity.
It's time for apologies.
-Apologies , Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
September 20th, 6:58 P.M – St. Mungo’s Hospital supply closet (Fourth Floor: Spell Damage)
Staring at the rows of fresh bandages and bottles of Essence of Dittany in the dim lighting of the supply closet, I was beginning to lose a bit of my resolve and most of my sanity. Earlier, June had made it sound so easy! And for a few delusional minutes I thought maybe I could just waltz right in and everything would be good. But that was until the two of us got near her room and I heard the entirety of my family on the other side of the wall.
I still didn’t have a clue on what to say to her, and I didn’t really want a large audience to witness it.
Thankfully, June promised she would get me when everyone else was gone and that I could wait (see: hide) until that time came. That seemed like a great idea at the time, but sitting here seems to just make me feel even more anxious.
I lean back in frustration, knocking over Skele-Gro bottles. "Damn!" I cry out as the third bottle hits my head.
Just then, the door creaks up and a beam of fluorescent lighting from the hallway hits my face. "June, is that you?" I ask, the sudden light change making it hard to see.
"Al, didn’t I ever teach you that it isn’t polite to use vulgarity?" says a voice that could only belong to one person; Uncle George.
"For some reason, I think the only lessons I remember you teaching me were the proper ways to drive Uncle Percy mad," I say with a small smile, although my cheeks are a little red. It is kind of embarrassing to be found hiding in a supply closet after all…
He walks in and sits next to me on the floor, a broad grin on his face, "As you’re Uncle, it’s my duty to make sure I teach you important things like that. I’m glad to hear I’m accomplishing my goals!"
I give him a smile, "You definitely are."
"So, a little birdie told me you were hiding in here," Uncle George says, cutting right to the chase.
I groan, cheeks flushing with embarrassment once again, "I told her not to tell anyone."
He laughs, "Don’t feel bad, June didn’t mean to tell me. She tried to sneak off to find you, and I, being the master of sneaking, was able to deduce what was going on at once. I asked her kindly if she wouldn’t mind if I talked to you instead, and let’s be honest, could anyone refuse this face?" he says, pointing to his signature smile.
"Grandmum Weasley seems to be able to just fine, and Aunt Angelina, and Roxy-" I start to tease him, but he cuts me off.
"Okay, point taken. But no one else in the world can," he says nudging my shoulder. "You know, you really shouldn’t be putting me down, I’m your favorite Uncle!"
"Hate to break it to you, but Uncle Percy is my favorite," I deadpan.
Uncle George puts a hand to his heart, "Oh Merlin, don’t even joke about that. You’ll give your poor old uncle a heart attack," he says just as seriously.
We both laugh, but I quickly realize that he probably didn’t come and sit in here with me to joke around.
The pair of us fall into a comfortable silence for a couple minutes before he speaks again.
"Did I ever tell you about your Uncle Fred’s funeral?" he questions, taking the conversation in a direction I wasn’t expecting.
He doesn’t talk about his twin often. Every once in a while at a family party a prank they pulled will get mentioned, or he’ll say how his son Fred is so much like him. But he gets this look in his eyes, a look that can only be worn by someone who’s truly experienced loss, that has always kept me from asking any extra information.
"No, I can’t say that you have," I reply.
He sighs, "Well, then you probably don’t know that I almost didn’t attend."
A look of shock crosses my face, but I wait for him to continue before saying anything.
"I know it was selfish, and that I wasn’t the only one who lost Fred, but he was my twin. He was my brother, best friend, and better half. I thought there was no way anyone could understand the pain I was in," he says, a faraway look in his eyes. "When the day of the funeral came around, I locked myself up in our old room at the burrow and wouldn’t come out for anyone. I was sad and scared. The thought of having to see him buried frightened me more than anything has in my entire life. Until that point, I was in denial; I hoped it was all one, big, horrible nightmare. Going to his funeral would only mean that it was real and that Fred was really gone."
"What made you change your mind?" I ask delicately, feeling a pang of empathy for my uncle.
"Your mum came and talked some sense into me. She made me realize that even though it was going to be difficult, I would regret not going. It would have been disrespectful to my brother’s memory if I hadn’t gone," he says, putting an arm around me. "I know how hard it is to put yourself in a vulnerable position, to willingly do something that you know will be painful, but you have to be strong. If not for yourself, then for the people you care about."
He stands up and offers me a hand to help me up as well, "Now, you take as much time as you need. When you’re ready, I know your mum would really love to see you."
"Thanks, Uncle George. I can always count on you," I tell him sincerely.
He smiles kindly, "I’m happy to share my infinite wisdom anytime."
My uncle gives me a pat on the back before heading towards the waiting rooms. His words were that last push I needed, I decide. My mum needs me, and now that most of my family is on their way out, I can go see her without their watchful eyes. Besides, I’m not a scared little pansy, I’m a man. I can do this!
Wish me luck.
September 20th, 7:25 P.M – St. Mungos waiting room (Fourth Floor: Spell Damage)
Whatever Al’s uncle said to him must have really worked, because he’s been in there talking to her for a while. I just wish I knew what was going on in there. I hope he’s doing alright; he was a tad nervous when I saw him-
"Girl," a woman addresses me, interrupting my thoughts. She has a small frame, but her voice is booming. "You there, with the mousy hair!" she says, pointing straight at me.
"Hey, now, watch it lady. My hair isn’t mousy!" It may not be the best shade of brown, but it’s not that bad…
She rolls her eyes, "No matter, I really don’t care. Just tell me, who are you waiting for?"
She’s trying to sound nonchalant, but I can see there’s something she’s hiding from the gleam in her brown, beady eyes. Just by the look of her, I can tell this woman is up to no good. What she could possibly gain from this information, I have no idea, but I won’t be the one to tell her.
"I really don’t think that concerns you," I say coolly.
This seems to make her rather angry, but before she can say anything, James enters into the waiting room. Her eyes light up at the sight of him.
"Excellent," she whispers under her breath with a smirk. She turns around and books it out of waiting room towards the elevators before I’m even able to process what occurred.
"What was that?" James asks, gesturing to the door the woman just left through.
I tilt my head, "You know I’m not quite sure. But whatever, I’d rather hear about your mum," I say, brushing it aside for the time being.
He breaks into a huge smile, his eyes gleaming. "She’s doing great, really great. The healers aren’t sure why she suddenly woke up, but they are very hopeful that whatever hit her didn’t do any permanent damage. They may even discharge her later this week."
I give him a huge hug, "James, that’s fantastic! But your mum is Ginny Potter after all; I don’t think there’s anything out there that can stop her. She’s a fighter."
"You got that right, she’s one of the strongest people I know!" he laughs, leaning in towards my ear. "If you repeat this, I’ll deny it, but I’m a bit of a mummy’s boy, if you can’t already tell."
"I won’t tell a soul," I say with a smile. "Now, did you see if Albus was still in there?"
He stiffens slightly, but doesn’t seem quite as angry at the mentioning of his brother’s name as he was before. "I think he was finishing up, he had a lot he wanted to catch mum up on."
"Alright," I say. "And James, I fully intend to stay out of it, but can you try to cut him a bit of slack? It hasn’t exactly been rainbows and bunnies for him the last few months either. Not visiting really tore him up inside."
He doesn’t reply, but gives me a solid nod.
I take that as a good sign.
I change the subject to his other family members, asking how everyone else is as I wait for Albus. Mrs. Potter waking up kind of turned into an impromptu family reunion. I don’t know all them, but I’ve heard enough family stories to feel like I do.
After a nice round of small talk, I see Albus come through the door and into the waiting room with a small smile on his face.
"Al! How’d it go?" I ask eagerly.
"Much better than I expected," he says, running his hands through his hair. "Dad was supportive, of course, and was happy that I came. Mum didn’t know that it was my first visit, so I had to tell her. It was tough, but she was completely understanding. I’m pretty sure Uncle George talked to her right before he talked to me, because she seemed to know what I was going to say before I could even say it. But I guess mum does usually have that ‘all knowing’ thing going on anyway."
"What did I tell you? You were afraid for no reason!" I say happily.
I love it when I’m right.
He playfully rolls his eyes, "I know, I know. You’re brilliant and wonderful, yada yada yada."
"We should probably leave. The lady behind the desk is giving us dirty looks. I think visiting hours may be over," James interjects, avoiding making eye contact with Albus.
"Right, let’s go," I agree, taking Al’s hand and head towards the door.
The walk to the elevator and ride down is a quiet one, but not entirely awkward. It was just semi-awkward, which was more than I could have hoped for, seeing as James hated Al’s guts not too long ago.
But when we step out of elevator and into the lobby, things get a bit out of control.
"James Potter! Over here, can we get a statement?" shouts a very tall wizard, parchment and quill in hand.
"Albus is it true you’ve been neglecting your mother and acting out?" another person yells.
I spot the woman who was being extremely rude to me pushing her way through the crowd, also with parchment in hand. "We’ve heard reports you hate your family, Albus. We must know, are the Potter brothers really feuding? Please, can we have a comment?" she shouts with the same booming voice as before.
The blood from my face drains as a camera light flashes. How do they find out about his stuff?
Albus grabs my hand, his jaw clenched. "Ignore them, keep walking," he says tersely under his breath, leading me towards the door.
James takes a more aggressive approach, turning around to face the mass directly. "Leave my brother alone, you vultures! This is none of your business; do you people have no decency?" he says loudly.
It silences the crowd for a moment, mainly because they are too startled by his outburst to ask more inappropriate questions.
It gives us a chance to push past them and step outside, but his words don’t hamper them for long. They follow us out and Albus barely has time to grab our arms and dissaparate before a second wave of questions comes at us.
We arrive at the Leaky Caldron, and Al heads straight to the bar. I guess he needs a drink.
"What the hell was going on back there?" I ask James, seeing as Albus is a bit preoccupied. We walk over to a table and sit down before he answers.
He lets out a frustrated sigh, "Damn press. Somehow the news about my mum must have leaked. I’m not sure how they heard about the rest, but you know how reporters are. They are like Rita Skeeter clones; they love to exploit sensitive situations."
I guess that explains why that lady was poking around the waiting room. She wanted to make sure she was in the right place to get her ‘story’.
"How disgusting, those people have no respect for privacy," I spit.
"It’s all part of the glamour of being related to Harry Potter," he says with a playful eye roll, but there’s a tiredness to his voice that suggests this kind of thing really takes its toll.
Al returns from the bar with three Butterbeers in hand, one for each of us. "Thanks, James, for having my back. You didn’t have to," he says earnestly and somewhat awkwardly.
James takes a mouthful of his drink, "You don’t have to thank me. No one messes with my brother except me. They had no right to say those things to you."
"Still, thank you," he says quietly.
Each of us silently sips our drinks, unsure of what to say.
"I don’t hate you," James says to Al, breaking the silence.
Oh Crap, this is turning into a brother moment. Just drink your Butterbeer, June, and shut up. Let the boys work things out on their own.
"I was really angry at you, but I don’t hate you. And I did a lot of petty things in an attempt to get back at you, which I’m sorry for. It’s just I-" he pauses for a moment, trying to figure out exactly what he wants to say. "I felt abandoned. Growing up, we always had each other to depend on. We were the Potter boys, brothers through thick and thin. And when all of this happened, I figured we could deal with it together. But then you didn’t want to deal with it at all, and I had to handle it all on my own."
"I’m so sorry James, I didn’t mean too," Al says, his voice thick with emotion. "I never wanted you to feel like you were on your own. But to be honest, I felt kind of abandoned by you as well. When I told you I wasn’t sure if I could handle seeing her, you were so quick to be angry with me I never got a chance to explain. You wouldn’t hear me out," he sighs. "I guess we both let each other down."
He nods gravely, "I know, and I’m sorry. I should have heard you out."
"And I never should have left you hanging like I did," Albus concedes.
"We are pretty sucky brothers it seems," James says with a slight smile
"Only sometimes," Albus responds, holding his hand out his brother, "Let’s try to suck less in the future, and be there for each other, okay?"
James takes his hand and they shake, "Okay, sounds good to me."
I try really hard to keep quiet, but I can’t. "AWW, BROTHERLY LOVE. HOW ADORABLE!" I squeal, but then quickly put my hand over my mouth. I’m not very good at keeping things to myself.
The both give me a look and Albus jokingly rolls his eyes, "Way to ruin the moment, June."
September 20th, 10:12 P.M – Albus’ flat
"Well, I think this day turned out pretty productive," I say to Al.
We stayed at the Leaky Cauldron for a while; now that Al and James were talking again they just wouldn’t shut up. But I prefer them talking much more than when they weren’t, even if I had to sit on a wooden stool until my bottom went numb. It’s a small price to pay, really. After they were finally done, James went home and Al invited me back to his place.
"Yeah, I guess I’m just a great problem solver," he replies with a smile.
I scoff, "More like I’m incredibly convincing and was able to get you to man up."
"You’re right," he says, scooting closer to me on the couch. "And I think I know a good way to thank you," he says with a wink.
With one simple wink, the entire atmosphere has changed. I laugh softly, my heart starting to beat at his proximity. "Oh, is that so?"
He runs his hand down the side of my face, caressing my cheek. "Yes, and I think it’s something you’re going to like."
Did someone turn down the air conditioning? I swear I wasn’t this warm a minute ago…
A small shiver runs down my spine, and my heart is in a full out sprint. How is it, that this boy can make me is go crazy with the slightest touch?
He puts his mouth an inch from mine, "I hope you’re going to like it a lot." His warm breath tickles my face, causing my cheeks to flush.
There are a lot of things I find attractive about Albus, but right now I don’t think there’s anything I could love more than his perfect lips.
"I hope so, too," I whisper, my green eyes locking with his blue ones. I take back what I said before; I love his eyes just as much.
Instead of replying, he leans in to kiss me. His lips are even softer than I remembered. Oh boy, are they soft. I knot my fingers through his short black hair, pulling him in closer. He does not object; it’s been so long since we’ve kissed like this.
"Oh, Merlin, I’ve missed this," he moans, his lips trailing down to my collar bone. He kisses my neck softly, setting my skin aflame.
I move my hands down from his hair to his back, grabbing his shirt and pulling it over his head. Another wonderful part of his body becomes visible; his muscles.
I run my hands down his toned back as his mouth makes its way back to my lips.
Damn, this feels good.
But then a sudden though occurs to me, "Wait, Al," I say, regretfully putting a bit of space between us. "Are you sure this is a good idea? I know we’ve been working on our ‘friendship’ but all that was pretty much rubbish. Today was the first time I think we can say we’ve truly been on good terms in a long time, are we sure we want to rush it?"
He sighs, "The right thing to say would be that I agree with what you said, and that we should stop and take things slow like we wanted to before. But the truthful thing to say would be that I don’t give a damn about the right thing, and that I don’t think I could wait any longer if I tried."
He looks at me as if he’s expecting me to be disappointed in his answer or something, but I give him a smile.
"Good, because I don’t think I can wait either."
Then I decide to snog Albus Potter senseless, and it feels great.
A/N: Chapter 9! Sorry it's been awhile, but with the house cup and real life stuff, I've hardly had writing time lately. I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter! This is the first time I've ever written a kissing scene in detail like that, so I would love to hear your thoughts. Also, if anyone's wondering, there is still plenty of the story left. I know it seems like I'm tying everything up, but it's not close to the end. My story is going to have a lot of mini plots, that get delt with throughout the story :)