Chapter 15 : Chapter 15: Part One
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“What are you still doing up?” I whisper, peeking my head around the door to my daughter’s bedroom.
She looks up at me from her bed, “I’m too excited.”
I can’t help but smile, oh to be young again and excited about Christmas, or more specifically Christmas presents. It was rather disappointing now being the one who bought the gifts, there were no surprises.
I cross the dark room, narrowly avoiding impaling myself on one of Wanda’s plastic heels, before I kneel at her bedside. I stroke her soft curls, and in a hushed tone I respond, “Well, Father Christmas can’t come until you’re sound asleep.”
“Why?” She asks innocently, eyes wide.
“In case naughty little girls sneak out of their rooms and open all the presents.” I reply tickling her ribs, recalling last year’s fiasco, when I awoke to find Alyssa curled up in the living room, surrounded by shredded paper and unwrapped toys.
Once she has finished squirming and giggling, I gently pull the covers up to her chin,
“Right time to sleep now, ok, and tomorrow there’ll be lots of presents just for you.”
I kiss her softly on the cheek, “I love you.” I whisper.
“Love you too.”
I sit and watch her for a few minutes and when I think that she is finally drifting off I make to leave. But just as I get to my feet there’s a small voice that penetrates the silence from behind me.
“Will Father Christmas bring me a daddy this year?”
Talk about being blindsided, where the hell had that come from?
It takes me a moment to gather my thoughts, it wasn’t like James and I had discussed this, not since out first meeting anyway, but maybe it was time.
“Um, no ‘Lyssa. You already have a daddy so Father Christmas can’t bring you another one.”
Even in the shadowy room I can see the frown creasing her forehead, “But I don’t have a real daddy, real daddies live with mummies. Why can’t I have a real daddy?” She asks perturbed.
I sink back down to my knees, sensing this could take a while.
“Well, ‘Lyss sometimes mummies and daddies... don’t live together... sometimes that’s better but it doesn’t stop mummy or daddy loving you just as much as if we all lived together.” I answer, hoping my answer sufficed.
Alyssa doesn’t respond, and I hate not knowing if that’s a good or a bad thing, so I sit there waiting.
Eventually she breaks the silence,” Mummy...”
“Is Pete my daddy.” She asks seriously.
I answer easily, ”No, no Pete’s not your daddy,” I steady myself with a deep breath, now came the hard part, “It’s James, ‘Lyss. James is your daddy.”
Again there’s silence, and again I wait anxiously, biting the inside of my lip, sometimes I really wished they gave you a manual along with your newborn that explained how to deal with awkward situations like this one.
Maybe I should invent one.
My attention turns back to my daughter, who suddenly breaks out into a huge grin, “I like James...he’s a good daddy.” She tilts her head to one side, “He buys me ice-cream.”
I can’t help but grin too at the wonderful workings of my daughters mind, because obviously buying ice-cream constitutes good father material.
“I think so too, he is a good daddy.” I agree with her, I glance down at my watch, “Now, it really is time for bed, ok.”
“Ok.” She yawns out.
I kiss her again on the cheek and stand, I even make it to the door before there’s a familiar drawl, ”Mummy...”
I turn to her and our eyes meet, “Can I call James daddy?”
A small smile creeps across my lips and I respond gently, “I think James would like that...Now sleep, please.”
She returns my smile with a contented one of her own and obediently she shuts her eyes. I retreat from the room, pulling the door to. Almost immediately the self doubt began, had I done the right thing or had I just made a huge mistake?
I raise my gaze heavenwards, Father Christmas if you can hear me all I want for Christmas is a bloody parenting manual!
“Why are we doing this again?” I ask turning to face James who’s sitting in the seat next to me looking as queasy as I felt.
He takes one hand off the wheel and runs it through his already messy hair, “Seemed like a good idea at the time.” James says not quite managing to keep the nervous wobble out of his voice.
He glances out of the car window at the higgledy-piggledy house, “You know I don’t think they’ve seen us pull up, we could always...you know...postpone this for... I don’t know ...forever.”
As much as I wanted to do a bunk, I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps it was time, “Or maybe we should just bite the bullet and get it over with,” I suggest, “I mean no matter how careful we are a newspaper’s bound to pick it up sometime, and it’d be twice as bad then.”
James sighs, “Yeah, you’re right, maybe we can sell her as an extra special Christmas present?”
I let out a chuckle and catching James’ eye I add,” What one you can’t return, get a refund on or exchange?”
James meets my eye and grins, “Exactly.”
We probably could have stayed in the car grinning at each other all afternoon, but at that precise moment a small voice piped up from the backseat, “Can I have a special Christmas present?”
I turn to her still smiling and reach through to the backseat tickling her little tummy,
“No.” I say.
Once I manage to release Alyssa from her car seat and help her jump out the car James shuts the door and locks the car and then we proceed across the driveway until we’re standing in front of the big looming red door.
Okay so it’s not really that big nor does it loom, in fact it’s probably the least threatening door in the history of doors, what with flaking paint and a ‘welcome’ mat.
Nevertheless James and I just stand there for a few moments, both of us contemplating the possible outcomes of this meeting.
I’ll admit I’m envisioning lots of blood and broken limbs.
As James finally turns to me I believe he’s envisioning the same thing, ”Are you sure you don’t want me to take you home?” he asks with a slight tone of hopefulness.
I get the feeling he’d like me to say Hell, yes. As a matter of fact I would rather like to give him that reply.
“No.” I respond, sealing my fate.
We both take a steadying breath and James states, “Let’s do this.”
James then surprises me as he takes my hand in his before he pushes open the door. I have a feeling it was to make sure I actually followed him in and didn’t abandon him on the doorstep, still I find it kind of comforting. We pause briefly in the hallway to dispose of our coats. I hand my dark blue trench coat and ‘Lyssa’s beloved pink and purple parka to James, who manages to find room on the overcrowded coat rack.
James then takes my hand once more and leads me through to the newly extended dining room, ducking as he passes through an archway.
The majority of the family is already sat at the table and food is being levated onto the table .
“James, love, come in, come in we’re about ready to start.” Nanna Weasley is the first to greet him and beckons him in. I try and shrink behind him but it’s too late I’ve been spotted.
“Oh, and who’s your lovely looking guest?”
Oh Merlin, I think I’m going to be sick.
“Everyone this is Abi.” He says pulling me forwards slightly, “Mum, Dad you remember Abi, don’t you?”
“Of course we remember Abi, how are you love?”She asks from her place at the table,
“We haven’t seen you in a long time, how’s everything going?”
“I’m doing fine thank you.” I manage to reply and flash her a smile to prove my point, all the while avoiding Al and Rose’s questioning stares.
“That’s good. James I thought you said you were bringing two extras.”Ginny continues.
The moment we’ve both been dreading finally rears its ugly head.
“Um, yes, yes I did; um everyone this... this is Alyssa.”
Everyone’s eyes are on us.
“Um James... that’s Abi.” Al helpfully points out as no one new appears due the fact that a child who has never ever been shy before, has now come down with a case of severe stage fright and has managed to clamp her hands round my legs and is hiding behind them.
“Um...no.”I intervene, unclamping ‘Lyssa’s fingers and then stepping to the side and crouching down beside her. In response she throws her arms round my neck and buries her head in my hair.
All eyes have followed my descent and a few people on the far side of the table have stood up to get a better look, including both Mr and Mrs Potter and Al and Rose.
I pick her up now and their eyes travel with us as I once more stand alongside James.
“She...uh.... she’s um...” I look to James for help now.
“She’s our daughter.” He finishes.
Silence. There is complete silence in the Burrow as everyone looks between James, Alyssa and myself, probably trying to work out whether or not this was a joke of some sort, but one look at her eyes and they’d know, definitely not a joke.
There’s still complete silence.
I’m beginning to think that blood and broken bones would be considerably better than this, when Ginny looking aghast pushes her chair away from the table and strides out of the room, Harry then excuses himself and follows his wife.
It’s Nanna Weasley who finally takes charge after a few more moments of awkward silence,” Right, well, let’s not let this good food go cold,” she said indicating for people to start eating, then turning to James and I she adds with a kindly smile, ”Have a seat, dears.”
However James has other ideas, he gently touches my elbow, catching my attention, “I’ll be right back ok.” He murmurs, indicating the doorway through which his parents had exited earlier with a nod of his head.
“Ok.” I reply, watching him depart and leaving me in a room full of Potters and Weasleys.
I really should have abandoned him on the stoop.
I follow my parents out of the kitchen and into the sitting room at the back of the house, leaving Abi and Alyssa at the mercy of my extended family.
This had been a crap idea. I had thought it best just to spring it on them as a happy surprise and Christmas had seemed like the perfect opportunity especially since Abi’s plans had fallen through due to her ‘unfortunate’ split from Pete. However I now recognized that perhaps a little bit of forewarning might not have gone amiss.
I pause outside the closed door stealing myself for the coming onslaught. As I step into the room I see mum and dad at the far end of it, dad is stood there hands in pockets looking out onto the garden, whilst mum paces back and forth exclaiming in a raised voice, “How could he? How bloody could he?-”
Catching sight of my sheepish entrance, she strides towards me, her rant changing, “How could you? Did I not raise you to be a responsible young man? How could you James Sirius Potter, how could you do this?” Her eyes are flashing dangerously, her voice is rising alarmingly, and she middle named me, Merlin this was going to be ugly. “A baby, James, you got a girl pregnant and didn’t tell us-“
“Mum, I-“ I try to interject before she really gets motoring.
“I’m not finished. “ She interrupts me before I can even begin to protest, ”I didn’t raise you to pull stunts like this James Sirius, to do stupid things. How could you? How cou-“
“Mum, I-“ I try again.
She looks as if she might bite my head off for interrupting her, but this time dad intervenes. He’s moved away from the window and is now standing behind mum, his hands resting gently on her shoulders.
“Gin,” He begins softly, “let him speak.”
I dare not meet my dad’s eyes, I can already feel the waves of disappointment radiatng from hm, there’s no need to see it in his face too.
I look at mum instead, meeting her fierce gaze head on, anger is much easier to face than disappointment, “I didn’t know-“ I begin but don’t get very far.
“How could you not ha-?” Mum explodes almost immediately.
“Gin.” Dad interrupts her again, giving her shoulders a squeeze, “Go on.” He says to me.
I take a deep breath, “I didn’t know Abi was pregnant. We broke up at the end of seventh year, I messed it all up and I don’t blame her for wanting nothing to do with me, but I never knew, I swear, I only found out a few months ago.”
“Why didn’t you tell us then, son?” My dad asks.
I still can’t meet his gaze, “Abi didn’t want me to, the fewer people who knew the less likely it would be to get out.”
“It’s not as if we’d have gone blabbing to the tabloids James.” Mum states.
“I know.” I say exhaling deeply, “but we’ve been taking it slowly, Merlin, I don’t even think Alyssa really knows I’m her dad, yet.”
“What? That’s ridiculous.” Mum exclaims loudly.
Dad sighs loudly, “Ginny be reasonable, you could hardly expect Abigail to thrust a father onto her child who hasn’t grown up with one.”
“I’m not saying it’s a perfect arrangement mum, but...we’re doing our best and its...its bloody hard...but I’m trying to do what’s right.”
Mum seems to soften a little, “A little forewarning wouldn’t have gone amiss, James, you should have come to us sooner.”
“I know.” I relent, “I’m sorry, I just...I didn’t know how. I knew you’d be disappointed.” I look to the floor feeling ashamed.
A pair of thin but surprisingly strong arms wrap around me, “Oh, James, you make me so mad sometimes.” Mum admits, “But I’m proud that you’re doing the right thing and... and I’m not disappointed about being a grandparent... although I would have liked to have waited a few more years before attaining that title, if I’m honest.”
She pulls away from me to get a good look at my face before she continues seriously, “Are you sure though that she’s... you know...”
“Yes.”I say quickly, leaving no room for doubt, “She’s definitely mine.”
“And you’re sure it’s not about the mo-“
I roll my eyes, “No mum,” I almost laugh, “She won’t take a knut of me, believe I’ve offered.”
Tenderly she brushes my hair from my forehead and smiles softly, ”How old is she then? She’s quite big, tall like you.”
“She’ll be five at the beginning of February.” I say returning her smile.
The moment is interrupted by a loud grumbling.
“Sorry.” Dad says slightly abashed, rubbing at his stomach, “I skipped breakfast to make room for Molly’s roast.”
Mum rolls her eyes, “Let’s go and join them then, or you won’t get any at all, you know what they’re like, they’ll strip that turkey clean, the vultures.”
As we make our way out of the room, dad gently squeezes my shoulder, and I think for the first time that maybe today would be alright after all.
A/N A big thanks to those who have read and reviewed, I love reading your comments. Hope you enjoyed this one too.
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