I thought this sort of stuff only happened in muggle films. They come up with the strangest things – men with giant knives creeping into showers and repeatedly stabbing the woman as she screams and chocolate syrup goes streaming down the drain. The heroine, her breath in ragged bursts around her in the air, creeping down a flight of stairs to the basement just in time for the serial killer/rapist to attack her while the rest of us flinch yet still watch on in morbid fascination.
I’ve noticed a trend in these films: the main heroine is an overwhelming idiot.
Now let’s parallel this to my life, shall we? The single mother, raising her son away from the world that she grew up in takes said son to said world for the first time in his young life. There she meets the father and brother of her baby-daddy (aka her husband, but that just ruins the dramatic affect), and the brother of said baby-daddy aka husband recognizes her. She thinks.
(Clearly, I am the main heroine of this story. And the overwhelming idiot.)
Then the notes start to arrive.
At first it’s just a picture – you, with your black hair and brown eyes and tanned skin but you know it’s you because you’re standing next to your brother with your son on his shoulders and you’re looking at this beaming kid like he’s your entire world. And he’s glowing, untouchable in that moment of pure excitement and fun and for the first time he’s normal.
And yeah, the picture’s a bit creepy. But you’re used to these kinds of things, as your own father often got a very large assortment of death threats, hateful messages, marriage proposals, and there was that one time when some batty lady sent him her lacy knickers (your mum sent back a scathing letter that neither your nor your brother were allowed to read, but it involved a picture and your dad with the smuggest smile on his face when he saw said picture).
But then it happens again. This time, a piece of parchment with just a name.
Blake Sirius Potter.
And that’s when you panic a bit.
“Scorpius, it is not bloody funny to send me cryptic little notes,” I spat acidly at my bewildered brother from my place in his fireplace. He was crouched in front of me, looking all for the world like he had absolutely no clue what was going on.
“What are you on about?”
I let out a frustrated little growl – seriously, this was getting old – and wrenched myself into his living room, shoving the two messages in his hand. He stared at them, starting to look alarmed.
“Adele,” he said quietly, looking up at me with grave eyes, “I didn’t send these.”
“…what do you mean, you didn’t send these?” I echoed, my voice edging on hysteria. My entire body felt cold. My stomach clenched in fear.
“I didn’t –” he shook his head, looking down at them again, “—I’ve never seen this picture before in my life.”
The room spun around me. “So…who’s sending this?”
Scorpius looked deeply troubled. “Let’s go to Mr. Potter.”
“No,” I said immediately.
But I shook my head, feeling relieved. Potter. Of course. This was probably James’ way of making me crack or something, because he’d definitely seen me with Blake. James has always had a very twisted sense of humor. He’s probably just trying to let me know that he’s figured out my secret and he expects me to arrive at his doorstep to explain everything to him in full detail, hopefully with moving pictures and home videos.
A bubble of laughter burst through my lips, “It’s fine, Scorpius,” I said, shaking my head, “it’s just a joke. Nothing to worry about.”
He didn’t look convinced, the expression on his face of skepticism as I took the notes from him and stuffed them haphazardly into my pocket.
“Are you seriously that opposed to seeing Mr. Potter?” he asked incredulously. “Adele, there’s a fine line between being stubborn and being downright stupid. This is serious.”
“This is James,” I said calmly, with a certainty that I didn’t even know I possessed. “Trust me, it’s just James.”
He still didn’t look convinced, but he dropped it, and I floo’d back home feeling lighter. That night, however, I camped out on the couch with my wand clutched tightly in my hand.
It just felt safer. But everything was completely okay.
I know your secret, and intend to make it mine.
Cute, James. Real cute. He must have taken a new course on creepiness lately. I wonder how the evil laugh’s coming along. Maybe we can practice together. My Mum Glare could always use a bit of refinement, and knowing James, his evil laugh is probably as evil as Santa Claus.
And hey! He wanted to help keep the secret. That was totally cool with me. So totally cool.
So totally cool, in fact, that I decided to bring Blake to work with me that day and keep him in my office. You know, just in case. Not that I’m worried. I’m totally not. This is just James being stupid and me being paranoid. Everything’s fine! Totally fine! IT’S PRACTICALLY RAINING LOLLIES AND TEDDIES, THAT’S HOW FINE THE WORLD IS.
“This is so cool!” Blake squealed excitedly, bouncing every two steps as he clutched at my hand and tried to look at everything at once. His eyes zoomed around, his head craning every which way. “Mum, do you really work here every day?”
“Yes I do,” I replied, heart swelling at his excitement, “you like it?”
“It’s awesome! I just saw a guy with a tree growing from his head! Are you gonna get it out? Can I watch? Can I help? Can I have a tree on my head?” His voice had reached a pitch that was rather painful for my grandma-like ears.
“Nope,” I said without missing a beat, “you’re going to do something tons more exciting.”
“Really?!” he practically screamed, looking as though everything had magically turned to chocolate.
“Really. You get to practice Healing in…my special Healing den!” I said enthusiastically, opening my office door with a flourish and letting it crash back into the wall.
Blake peered inside, looking decidedly less excited. “I don’t see anyone with a tree in their head.”
I puffed up my face then slowly blew the air out, thinking fast. “No…” I said slowly, “but! You can watch a film instead! How about that?”
He perked up considerably, even more so when I transfigured a potted plant into a TV and let him watch that movie with the lions (it’s apparently his favorite). I left the room shaking my head – the kid’s already a Gryffindor. Dad and Scorpius don’t stand a chance in their quest to convert him.
After Blake was locked in with a clever charm that would only admit those who shared blood with him (just in case Rose wanted to visit sometime during the day) I carefully schooled my expression into a mask of professional politeness and strode into the coffee room as though this was just another ordinary day in the life of Adele Potter.
“Morning,” Benjy greeted me, obviously completely undeterred as he flashed me a wide smile and handed me a mug of coffee. I smiled gratefully and took a sip – no one makes coffee better than Benjy does. Seriously. It’s like he has a gift. I swear he’s been a Starbucks Barista at least once during his life.
I set the mug on the counter and flipped through my folder of patients. When it comes to rotations, I’ve only got one or two – my department is more of an emergency type of place. Quidditch injuries aren’t exactly premeditated. And all Quidditch players are rather stupid – getting hurt is just not important when you’ve got a game to win. And if you won, then it was so worth it.
Can’t say I blame them, though – I mean, it’s Quidditch. You don’t go halfhearted on Quidditch. You live and breathe that shit.
“Hey,” one of the secretaries – Hannah – stuck her head in the room, smiling as her eyes landed on me, “we’ve got one.”
I checked my watch. Who injures themselves at nine a.m.? Who even plays Quidditch at nine a.m.?!
“Bloody hell, this should be good,” I muttered, reaching towards my cup. My fingers knocked it over and it shattered against the ground, sending little spatters all up my legs. I groaned – today was just not my day.
“I’ll make you another one,” Benjy offered instantly, but I shook my head – judging by my luck, I’d probably knock that one over as well.
“Let’s just go.”
It was a ridiculously busy day – apparently everyone who bothered to sit on a broomstick today was completely incompetent. We had a couple of standard protocol blackouts due collisions with goalposts, bludgers, and other players. One idiot managed to swallow the snitch three days ago and it was now lodged somewhere in his large intestine. That one took hours – by the time I got off for lunch, I was exhausted.
“Where are you headed?” Benjy asked as I pulled off my robes and hung them in the staff room.
“I might just nip back home for a bit,” I said carefully.
“There’s this really great place in Diagon Alley…”
I smiled tightly. “Really Benjy, thanks for offering but I really do want to get home.” I scurried away before he could call after me, slipping discreetly into my office.
A relieved grin spread over my face when I saw Blake – not that I didn’t expect to see him or anything. I mean, he was safe here. I just…I just felt kind of antsy. Something felt off-kilter. I didn’t like it.
“Hey, buddy,” I said warmly, kissing the top of his head and dropping down next to him in front of the telly as I handed him an unwrapped sandwich. He was curled up on the couch, reading a book with yet another film playing in front of him. “What have you been up to?”
He shrugged. “Nothing. Auntie Rose came to say hi. Mum, I’m bored.”
Guilt surged through me – it wasn’t fair to stick him in my office like this just to ease my fears. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I can’t bring you around with me, love, it’s not allowed.”
“Please?” he cried, “I’ll be good, mum, I swear!”
“Please,” he begged.
I sighed. Damn those green eyes. “Okay, fine,” I said, and he cheered. “But!” I called, raising my voice, “you have to stay with me all day – stuck like glue, Blake Sirius, do you hear me? – and you can’t touch anything, okay?”
“Yes, yes!” he said, jumping up and down, “I promise mummy, I love you!” Then with a huge sloppy kiss on my cheek, he set about devouring his sandwich with a large, excited grin on his face. Even stupid decisions like this seem worth it when I see that smile.
My mind raced furiously while he chattered about how many cool things he was gonna see today, mapping the rest of the day out. After lunch things slowed down a bit on this floor – more and more people left and Benjy and I were basically the only ones left by two o’clock. I had nothing to worry about, really, when it came to people seeing Blake. Besides, I’m pretty sure most of them had an inkling I have a son anyway; it became a bit of a dead giveaway when I got steadily bigger and then left for a little while. Benjy…well, I could get rid of him easily. I didn’t have a problem handling patients myself for the rest of the day. I’d just be missing out on the little description of what was wrong with them before I stepped into the room – little things like name, ailment, how it happened – and I could just get it when I got there by actually talking to the patient. I didn’t need Benjy, technically.
Okay. This was going to work.
I promised Blake to be back in ten minutes before I slipped out the door in pursuit of Benjy. I found him quite easily – naturally, he was loitering around the caffeine section. Making tea this time.
“Hey,” I said easily, stopping in front of him, “I was just thinking – why don’t you take the rest of the afternoon off?”
Benjy blinked. It wasn’t exactly in my repertoire of generosity to hand out free time.
“Yeah,” I said brightly, nodding for emphasis, “I’m really feeling like today’s going to be a slow day. Take the rest of the day off, I’ll be totally okay.”
“Um,” he still looked startled, “Why?”
I beamed, “I’m in a good mood!”
“…you’re never in a good mood,” he noted flatly.
The smile on my face became slightly strained as I punched him playfully on the arm. He winced. Crap, need to work on playfulness.
“Seriously, Ben,” I said in the cheeriest voice I could muster. I sounded like a disturbing mix of Barbie On Happy Gas and Drunken Air Hostess, “I’m giving you the day off and you’re asking me why?” I let out a startlingly unstable round of laughter, “get out of here, mate!”
He looked deeply worried, but backed away, “You’re feeling okay?”
“Yeah,” I nodded, “totally okay!”
His eyes lingered on the spot where I’d spilled my coffee earlier that day, a crease appearing on his forehead. I generally don’t function without caffeine, so this was probably completely foreign to him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried admitting me to our psychiatric ward himself.
“Okay,” he finally said slowly, a slow smile spreading over his face, “yeah, I’ll take the day off. Thanks, love.”
“No problemo, amigo!” I chirped, accepting his kiss on the cheek. I grimaced as he bounced away. Amigo? Bloody hell.
I scurried back to my office and poked my head in, smiling as Blake’s face lit up and he jumped eagerly. “I can come?”
“Let’s go, you’re my new assistant for the day,” I grinned.
“Yes!” he barreled out of the door and hugged me enthusiastically, pressing his face into my legs, “this is going to be so cool!”
“I’m afraid my job is actually dreadfully boring,” I said, taking his hand and leading him down the hallway, “we’re going to have to sit around and wait for someone to get hurt playing Quidditch.”
“We can play a game, mummy,” Blake said reassuringly, jumping over every crack on the ground, “I know tons of games.”
“Oh good,” I faked relief, “I don’t know any games.”
“Nuh-uh! You know tons of games like Quidditch and that makes you a cool mum. Honest,” he said earnestly.
Cool Mum status? I like it.
I opened my mouth, but just then a memo flew up to me, stopping in front of me and folding itself into the shape of a mouth.
“We’ve got a new one, Adele,” Hannah’s voice rang out, “Room 14B. He’s not so bad, but his brother brought him in – pro Quidditch players, you know how paranoid they are about the little things – so you know, don’t be a –”
I fake-sneezed as loudly as possible.
“—because I seriously want free tickets. His folder’s outside the door.”
“Okay,” I said clearly, and the memo zoomed away. Blake tugged on my hand, his eyes sparkling.
“Does that mean we have a patient?” he asked in a hushed voice.
I grinned. “It sure does. I’ll race you there.”
With an excited squeal, he shot down the hallway, me right behind him. Definitely one of the better decisions I made, I reflected contentedly as his laughter echoed around the empty corridor.
We skidded to a stop in front of 14B, both panting slightly.
“I won,” Blake announced breathlessly, and I ruffled his hair as I caught my breath and grabbed the folder off the wall next to the door.
“You won this round,” I said as I put my hand out to open the door, turning back to look down at him, “but I’ll totally beat you on the race back.”
“No way!” Blake laughed, catching my hand in his, “I’m way faster than you.”
A small laugh burst past my lips but ended abruptly, the carefree grin slipping off of my face as I realized whose room I’d just walked into. My stomach lurched, heart pumping furiously, blood running like liquid ice through my veins – sodding hell, this could not be happening to me.
“I knew it,” he said triumphantly, “I knew it was you.”
“James,” I said in a strained voice, my chest squeezing painfully. Blake gave my arm a questioning tug but I just shuffled slightly in front of him, hiding him from view. “James, what are you doing here?”
“Al got hurt,” he shrugged carelessly, twitching his head towards the bed. Another mild heart-attack as I realized that it was indeed Albus Potter sitting up on it, nursing his arm and staring at me like I’d just walked back from the dead. I swallowed and wrenched my head away, back towards James. My hand was starting to sweat, but I didn’t let go of Blake. His presence behind me was comforting, like I could always just stand in front of him and shield him from the world.
“I’ll just – I’ll be right back,” I croaked.
“No you won’t,” James said pleasantly, putting his hand on my shoulder. I froze in the doorway, half-in, half-out, Blake still hidden in the shadow of my body and the door. Shit. Shit, shit, shit. “I saw you at his Quidditch Game.”
“I wasn’t at any Quidditch Game,” I said automatically. Al had started violently when James mentioned the game, his eyes narrowing. James didn’t tell him anything? Shit. This was so bad. I needed to get out of here. I needed to get out of here and curl up at home with a blanket and Blake and hide him from everything on this planet forever.
James laughed humorlessly. “I’d recognize that glare anywhere, Adele.”
Right. Of course my glare is considered to be a distinguishing feature. I should probably be worried that I’m such an angry creature in general. That says bad things about my personality.
I swallowed furiously, and James took my silence as confirmation. “Why don’t you come in?” he invited, as though this wasn’t my ward and he’d been living here for his whole life.
My eyes narrowed. “I’ll just be back. Give me a minute, please.”
James stooped down, his eyes narrowed, hazel spitting fire at grey. “Going off to hide your evidence, mummy? Al deserves to know. I deserve to meet him.”
“He doesn’t deserve anything,” I spat bitterly.
“Quit being a bitter harpy and get your arse in here.” With that, my charming brother-in-law yanked me into the room, Blake stumbling against me as James shut the door behind us. He let out a small whimper, pressing himself into my back.
Al was staring at the movement behind my legs, but his eyes snapped up to mine when I looked at him.
For a long time we just stared at each other – I didn’t know about him but I was trying to memorize every new line on his face, the light stubble on his jaw, each individual shade that his eyes sparkled as emotions flitted through them, too fast for me to catch or read.
“Why didn’t you come back?”
His voice broke in the middle and for some inexplicable reason, a tear slipped down my face. It was one of those moments where you’re so numb you don’t even realize what you’re feeling and by that time it’s all so overwhelming that all you can think to do is cry.
“I didn’t think you wanted me to,” I choked out. Al blinked and looked down, clenching and unclenching his hands against the sheets. There was another pounding silence and James rolled his eyes, looking as though he wanted nothing more than to jump in and make this whole scene speed up. Well screw that, I don’t know what to say. Everything’s kind of just…ethereal right now. Maybe this is all a dream.
“Mum?” Blake asked in a small voice, and that fragile moment between us shattered – I could feel it splintering against the ground between us, and Al’s eyes flashed up, dark green and frothy.
“You have a son,” he said in a low voice. I nodded, unable to speak – the words were aching to tumble out: he’s yours, he’s yours, he’s yours and all I could think to do was stand there like an idiot because they were too heavy to say, too hard, too real, just too, too much.
“Mummy, what’s going on?” Blake whispered, and Al’s face contorted, lip curling as he snapped his head to the other wall. Hurt spread through my chest, a fresh wave of tears pricking my eyes. After all this, he still wants nothing to do with me. He doesn’t want his own kid. Oh god, get me out of here.
I squeezed Blake’s hand, and crouched down in front of him, my back to Al. Blake looked worried and scared, completely different from before. He reached out and touched my face, bringing a tear back against his fingers.
“He made you cry,” he said, his voice raising in volume.
But he stepped around me, his face twisting in all of the five-year-old fury he could muster, “Hey!” he yelled towards Al, “no one makes my mum cry, you great big –”
“Blake,” I said frantically, pulling him back against me before he could finish, “be quiet, please –”
James made an odd strangled noise in the back of his throat, and my heart sped up again when I realized that he could see Blake clearly for the first time, with his messy black hair and –
“His eyes are green,” Al said in a hollow voice. He’d gotten up from the bed, probably without even realizing it, and was staring at Blake as though he’d never see him again. He tore his gaze away, to me, wordlessly asking for an explanation.
I swallowed against my dry throat. “His name is – his name –” I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t force the air past my lips.
Blake craned his neck to look at me, a questioning twist at his mouth.
“Blake Sirius Potter,” he announced, giving me a reassuring look (that’s okay, mum, I can help you out here), “My name is Blake Sirius Potter.”
There was a pulsing moment of shock.
“Surprise,” I blurted weakly.
…I am such a blundering idiot.
in case you're wondering, yes, i do let out an evil little chuckle after writing a cliffhanger.