Chapter 12 : Part 2, Chapter 3: Idiocy Abounds
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“Louis, you can’t run from me,” he sang, annoyingly superior, as we continued barreling down the hall towards the “bathroom”.
I should have known that Al was going to follow me when I excused myself to get a breather. If he wasn’t related to me, I’m sure everyone back at the office would be pretty suspicious at his eagerness to follow me down to the loo. Only girls are allowed to do that.
When men go pee, it’s a solitary type of business.
“Fine,” I snarled, stopping so abruptly in the hallway that he almost speedwalked right past me, “fine, I’ll talk about this with you.”
I crossed my arms, waiting for him to start.
I groaned. When Al smirks like that, shit goes down. “I don’t know, okay? Al, I don’t know if I like her. Leave me alone.”
“Well, I think you do,” he stated happily.
“Well, isn’t that just fucking dandy for you.” I gave him a flat look and twirled my finger in the air to indicate extreme sarcasm.
You’d be grumpy too, if the girl you screwed over suddenly came back and gave you heart palpitations. Stop judging me.
“Louis,” he said seriously. “Do you?”
“I told you I don’t know.”
“You need to decide.”
I shot him an irritated look. “What does it matter to you, Al?”
He grinned. “Well, I do enjoy laughing at your stupidity, and most of it revolves around Aisha DiMarco.”
My jaw locked. “I am going to punch you,” I promised in a dark voice. Al let out a squeal and started running in the opposite direction, with me hot on his heels.
We were sprinting down the next hallway like a pair of toddlers when a door opened to let out Aisha and The Fucker, both looking a bit irritated at our absence. Al skidded to a halt in front of them and I barely stopped myself in time before I crashed into him and sent them all tumbling to the ground in an impressive display of Human Dominoes.
“Hi,” Al said in a breathless voice after we were all finished staring at each other in shock (Aisha and The Fucker) and shame (Al and me).
Aisha didn’t look impressed. She crossed her arms and frowned at us – well, actually, me. “Where you two playing tag?”
I started chuckling, but stopped abruptly when I realized I sounded like I was choking and dying. “No,” I assured her, “we were, uhm…running.”
“Because…?” her expression was bordering on ‘dangerous’.
I was about to open my mouth and say something stupid (the word ‘exercise’ was blinking in my brain) –
“Because Louis promised his sister that he’d babysit her kids and he’s going to be late picking them up,” Al said promptly.
I blinked at him. When did he get so good at lying? Bloody hell.
“Oh,” her expression cleared. The Fucker still looked a bit confused. “Well, we’ve picked up a couple of files, so –”
“Why don’t you stop by at my flat later?” I cut across in a stroke of brilliance. “We can go over them there.”
Aisha shot me a cold look, as if to convey without words the sentiment of ‘hell no’.
“That sounds like a great idea!” Al said loudly. “I was going to suggest going out to dinner, but I’m sure Louis can cook something up.”
I rolled my eyes. The prat would do anything for my cooking. Seriously, if I didn’t become a lawyer, I’d open my own restaurant or something.
“Aren’t you taking Alison out to dinner tonight, Al?” I asked him.
He faltered under my glare. “Right,” he said feebly, knowing I was capable of injuring him in morbid ways if he didn’t comply.
“Well, I can make it,” The Fucker said brightly.
I had half a mind to tell him that he wasn’t invited, but Al stepped on my foot and the only thing that came out of my mouth was a garbled yelp.
Aisha gave me another weird look. “I suppose I’ll be able to stop by for a little bit,” she said slowly.
“Great,” I said, my eyes still watering slightly from the pain in my foot. Bloody Al. “I’ll see you around six, then?”
She gave me another long, searching look. “Fine.” And without another word, she turned around and walked away, leaving the three of us to stand there in awkward silence.
“She’s brilliant, isn’t she?” The Fucker finally said in an overly happy voice, grinning away like a total prat. “Don’t answer that,” he said quickly, laughing.
Al looked like he was in pain and physically holding himself back from socking one in The Fucker’s face. “Why not?”
“It’d put you in an uncomfortable situation,” The Fucker chuckled, “you don’t want to be agreeing with me about how fantastic my girlfriend is.”
If I’d been drinking something, I would have spat it all over the place.
Instead, I pursed my lips in that ‘just swallowed a lemon’ expression that Aunt Audrey always has on her face. “You’re dating?” I asked.
“Well,” he acquiesced. “Not yet. But I’m fairly certain she likes me. Who wouldn’t?”
He laughed at his god-awful joke. My brain went into ‘puppy-slideshow’ mode so I wouldn’t go barmy and just Avada his stupid face.
“But I’m thinking a couple more days and she’ll definitely be mine,” The Fucker said thoughtfully. “She’s a real catch, don’t you think? Wait!” Me and Al both flinched at the sudden outburst. “Don’t answer that!”
He was still laughing as he walked away.
“Biggest fucking prat if I’ve ever saw one,” Al remarked matter-of-factly.
“Say you cancelled your date or something,” I turned to him, “please, mate. You have to stop me from killing this prick.”
Al grinned. “Only because you’re asking. Oh, and make lasagna.”
I turned a stony expression onto him, and he shrugged. “Victoire’s kids like it. And you did promise her you’d babysit them today – holy shit, you forgot.”
“I’ll see you later!” I called as I ran down the hallway at top speed. Of course Al’s not a good liar, what was I thinking? I’m just a forgetful person.
Victoire is going to kill me.
“Wow. I thought you’d forget,” Victoire said as she opened the door.
“I did,” I admitted breathlessly, still trying to catch my breath. There’s no point in lying to Victoire. She’s like a human lie-detector or something. It’s actually kind of creepy.
“Thank Merlin!” Teddy crowed as he staggered down the hallway with his children attached to various limbs. He dumped the toddler he was holding in my arms. “Date night!” This was punctuated by some pathetic dancing and squealing as everyone tried to hold on.
Victoire shot me an exasperated look.
“Hey, you married him,” I said, shifting my sleeping niece into a more comfortable position.
“Yeah, he’s been cooped up for a while,” she said in a strained voice. “We both really need this, especially since we’ve got twins on the way.” She pointed at her growing belly, and I sighed.
“Victoire, there’s a difference between simply having many children and flat-out breeding. You’re dangerously close to the line that separates those two things,” I told her.
She smiled sweetly at me. “Mentally, I am giving you the finger.”
Charming girl, this one.
“Okay,” she said suddenly, clapping her hands. “You get three, Nana gets three, and Mum wants two. So take your pick.”
“Victoire, they’re kids, not groceries.”
Her murderous expression promised pain. I decided not to make any more insightful remarks for the sake of my physical health.
“Fine, I’ll just take Belle –” she snuggled into my neck. Hopefully she’ll stay asleep the entire time “—Emilie, and Leah.”
“Yay!” Em sang as she danced over to me, “Uncle Lou, can I have a piggyback?”
“No, me!” Leah yelled. She jumped off of Teddy and tried to climb me.
Yep, this is the extent of the danger that I face: three year old females trying to claw their way up my back. I live life on the edge.
This is going to be a fun night.
“Freeze!” I yelled. They both froze in place. Victoire still thanks me for coming up with this little ‘game’.
What can I say, I’m just amazing at life.
“I’m already carrying the baby,” I said. “I mean, if either of you want to be carried, that’s fine. But just so you know, only babies get carried.”
“Uncle Lou, I don’t want the piggyback ride anymore,” Emilie said in a solemn voice. “I’m five. I’m not a baby.”
“Me either, Unca Lulu!” Leah clapped her hands to accentuate this point.
I couldn’t help but grin. More than anything else in the world, I love these girls. Don’t tell Victoire, she thinks I pick favorites.
“You so pick favorites,” Victoire said in a fond voice.
Bloody hell, and now she can read minds too.
“Here’s Isabelle’s stuff –” she handed me a big flowery bag and I smiled at her sarcastically in thanks “—and remember if she starts crying she likes to be rocked, and Emilie’s allergic to –”
“Strawberries and coconuts, I know,” I cut across patiently. “And Leah can’t have anything with sugar past eight otherwise she won’t sleep. Belle needs to be fed her entire bottle and burped otherwise she’ll projectile vomit.”
“Right,” Victoire said distractedly, “And –”
“Tor, you do this every time I babysit. I know my girls. We’ll be fine. Please take your break, you guys are acting weirder than usual.” I shuddered.
Her eyebrows knit in the strain of trying not to say a “big-kid” word. “Shut up,” she finally muttered.
I kissed her quickly on the cheek and grabbed Leah’s hand so she wouldn’t run away (she’s an inquisitive one. Drives everyone nuts). Em pressed her hand against my leg, and with a final goodbye and another hysterical reminder from Victoire, we apparated with a loud pop.
“I hate doing that,” Emilie complained as soon as our feet hit the floor of my flat.
“It’s fun!” Leah countered, immediately letting go of my hand to poke interestedly at an extremely breakable new television.
“Alright,” I said, putting Belle into her little playpen thing. It transfigures into a pillow when Belle’s not over. Very convenient. “Leah, jump on my back. Em, which movie do you wanna watch this time?”
Leah squealed and clapped her hands, not realizing that if she spent the entire time stuck on my back she wouldn’t be able to roam around and break things, as per her usual favorite pastime.
“Can I watch the one with the big hairy beast?” Em asked politely. Em’s my favorite because she’s so bloody adorable. And sweet. And polite. You don’t find that kind of personality often in my family.
“Love, you’ve seen that one eight times already,” I said, amused.
She blinked her big blue eyes at me. “But it’s my favorite.”
Damn those blue eyes. I sighed and flicked my wand so that her movie came on, and she gave me a huge sloppy kiss on my face and plopped down right in the middle of the floor.
“Up, up!” Leah chanted as soon as her sisters were properly situated. I chuckled as I picked her up and swung her around so that she could clasp her hands around my neck. I whirled around a couple of times and she squealed and giggled happily all the way to the kitchen.
Let it be known that after this night, my tympanic membrane will never be the same again.
Leah chattered endlessly about every topic known to man – or very small girl – as I moved around the kitchen.
“And then Remus said that I was stupid because I ask too many questions but I told him he was stupid because he was a boy and then mum got mad at both of us because stupid is not a nice word but boys really are stupid, Unca Lulu. Except you’re not stupid because you’re a big boy and I like you –”
I forgot how hard it is to tune this girl out. She tightened her grip around my neck as I swooped down to get a new pot and I nearly died of asphyxiation.
I’m sure Aisha wouldn’t be too devastated about that.
“I’m not ‘upposed to touch you because you’re a boy and boys have cooties, but I told Mary that you didn’t count because you were my Unca Lulu and you couldn’t have cooties because you’re too nice. And then Miss Heather told Miss Kate that you were a hottie and I didn’t know what that meant so I asked Mum and she started laughing and told me to ask Daddy, and I asked Daddy and Daddy said it was someone who had a very high body tempature –”
“It’s temperature, love,” I corrected absently as I made sauce in a pot.
…bloody hell, I sound like Victoire.
“ – yeah, and then I asked him if that meant that mum was a hottie too, and he started coughing really loudly and told me not to call her that and so I asked him why and he sighed really loudly, and then told me to just ask my Mum. So then I asked Mum and she told me that it was just something that big kids said about people who looked really nice.”
She paused for a second to watch me spread sauce over the lasagna noodles.
“I think you’re a hottie, Unca Lulu,” she said seriously.
If it wasn’t so damn adorable, I probably would have laughed or choked on my own spit.
“Well thank you, Leah-bear,” I told her. “I think you’re the prettiest, funniest, nicest little girl ever.”
“Well thank you, Unca Lulu,” she said happily. “You’re the bestest Unca Lulu ever.”
Unfortunately, I’m also her only Unca Lulu.
I’d just barely finished when the doorbell rang, causing Isabelle to wake up and start screeching loudly in retaliation.
“Unca Lulu, Belle is crying,” Leah informed me.
“I know love,” I said, rushing out of the kitchen and into the main room. “Emilie, could you get the door please?” I asked as I scooped Belle out of her playpen and tried my best to do the whole bounce-rock thing that Victoire spent three hours teaching her various baby-sitters how to perform.
“Mum said not to open the door to strangers, Uncle Louis,” Em told me, tearing her eyes away from the dancing teapots.
The bell rang again. Belle screamed louder, her face screwing up and turning a shade of deep red I usually associate with Uncle Ron when he’s mad about something.
“Coming!” I bellowed towards the door.
“My hands are full, Emmy, please get the door. I’m right behind you, I swear.”
Begging a five-year old for assistance. I believe this might be a new low I’ve reached in life.
She frowned slightly, but unfolded herself and padded towards my door, turning around to make sure I really was right behind her. Leah reached over my shoulder and patted Belle on the head. Like a miracle, Belle stopped crying and stuffed her thumb in her mouth, her big brown eyes still filled with tears. I almost cried in relief myself. I was trying to pull Belle’s thumb out of her mouth (Victoire gets really mad when I let her do that) when Em finally pulled open the door.
Aisha stood on the other side, still wearing the clothes that she’d worn to work and clutching a bottle of what looked to be like wine. My fingers froze on Belle’s fist. Somewhere in the background, another song started playing loudly in the film.
And then there was me, standing there like a gormless idiot.
Aisha smiled lightly. “Are you going to invite me in?”
“Mum says we’re not allowed to invite strangers in,” Emilie informed her.
“She’s not a stranger, Emmy,” I said numbly, reaching down to push some hair out of her face. “Please apologize for being rude.”
“No, that’s okay,” Aisha said quickly, bending down so that she was at eye-level with my niece. “Your mum must be really smart,” she told Emilie, smiling her trademark Aisha smile that I’d nearly forgotten about. “My name is Aisha. What’s yours?”
Em glanced up at me, and I nodded. “My name is Emilie Ann Lupin,” she said importantly. “It’s a real treasure to meet you.”
“Pleasure, Emmy. It’s a real pleasure to meet you,” I corrected automatically. I nearly smacked myself in the face.
DEAR LOUIS, STOP ACTING LIKE A MOTHER. IT’S NOT GOOD FOR PERSONAL (HOPEFULLY MASCULIN) IMAGE. SINCERELY, LOUIS.
Aisha laughed, that same tinkling laugh that seemed so contagious even in Hogwarts. “It’s a real treasure to meet you too, Emilie Ann Lupin.”
“Now you can come in,” Em said, pushing my knees so that I’d shuffle aside and clear a path for Aisha to step in.
“Hi,” I added stupidly.
Aisha barely spared me a glance. “Thanks, Emilie.”
“I’m Leah!” Leah put her hands flat on my shoulders and kicked me a couple of times in the back as she tried climbing up to my head.
“Ouch, Leah, how many times have I asked you not to climb me –”
“And this is Isabelle! She’s my little sister. And this is Unca Lulu. He’s the bestest Unca Lulu in this entire world.”
A vague, still-optimistic part of my brain clutched onto the tiny shred of hope that I was simply imagining the hot feeling on my face and I really wasn’t blushing at all.
Aisha looked as though Christmas and her birthday had come early. “Well it’s great to meet you and Isabelle, Leah. And it’s simply wonderful to meet your…Unca Lulu.”
Her lip twitched into a smirk as she looked at me.
“You think my name is funny,” I said as I closed the door behind her and dropped Leah to the floor, “wait ‘till you hear what she calls Al.”
“Unca Alboos is coming, too?!” Leah shrieked happily. Aisha burst into laughter.
“Unca Alboos is super-excited to see you, Leah-bear,” I said, reveling in the way Aisha’s nose scrunched up when she laughed. “In fact, you should probably tell Unca Alboos tons and tons of stories all night.”
“Oh, I will! I might tell him about how Miss Heather and Miss Kate think you’re a hottie and I think you’re a hottie too – and Miss Aisha, you’re a hottie too! Isn’t she Unca Lulu?”
I shrugged apologetically at Aisha as I led the girls back into the main room, but she didn’t look too offended. In fact, she was actually smiling as she followed us in.
“I didn’t know Victoire already had three kids,” Aisha commented in the most professional-sounding voice I’d ever heard her use.
I tried not to laugh at this. “Actually, she’s got eight kids.”
I cleared my throat loudly over the rest of her sentence, nodding my head towards Leah and Emmy, both of whom were watching our conversation with interest.
Well, it’s good to know that I’m at least more interesting than a couple of animated dancing household items.
She coughed lightly. “Right. Wow.”
“Yeah, and they’ve got twins on the way,” I said, pulling Belle’s thumb out of her mouth again and quickly sticking in a pacifier before she could start wailing.
“I didn’t know you liked kids,” Aisha said after a couple of seconds of awkward silence, while I rocked Belle back and forth and the girls started watching their movie again.
“I don’t like kids,” I scoffed, leading the way into the kitchen. “I only like Victoire’s kids.”
“Ah. Of course. Big difference between normal children and your sister’s children,” she said dryly.
“Obviously. You like lasagna?”
She chuckled. “And you can cook? Weasley, this really isn’t the best way to prove to me that you’re not effeminate.”
I nearly dropped Belle in surprise, my throat drying involuntarily as she brought back memories of sixth year in Hogwarts.
“Yeah, I still don’t have that badass beard,” I croaked, trying to make a joke out of it. But I was watching her carefully when I said it, watching the way her shoulders hunched in and her expression cleared into a carefully blank mask, and I knew that I’d lost her brief moment of friendship as quickly as it came.
“Why isn’t anyone else here yet?” she asked, blinking once. The change was actually kind of shocking: her eyes closed off, her face settled back into the lines of rigid professionalism.
“They should be on their way,” I replied carefully, ducking my head slightly to catch her eyes in mine when she looked down at the floor. “Aisha –”
“I’d prefer if you called me Healer DiMarco,” she cut through coldly.
I took a step back; her voice hit me like a blast of ice. “Right. Of course. Sorry.”
She shot me a deeply distrustful look and stepped around me to my table. She took out her notes and spread them out, and in the next second she was reading them as thoroughly as she could. I’d clearly been dismissed.
…she hates my guts.
And I care way too much.
This is not going to end well.