My cousin Dominique threw a party that next weekend. Not to celebrate the birth of her new nephew (because she didn't often throw parties for anyone but herself), but because she'd sold her book.
Dominique had never been much of a writer, so we'd all been a bit surprised when she told us she was shopping around a manuscript she'd written. This had particularly come as a surprise to my cousin Roxanne, who actually was a writer, and had never sold a book of her own.
The manuscript had sold, and would be published soon apparently, and Dominique wanted to celebrate, by which she usually meant show off and rub it in to the rest of us. Dominique was like that.
I couldn't entirely fault her for the book – she was capitalizing on the horrible time she'd had recently, and really if one's husband is going to run off with another woman and then be Obliviated so he doesn't remember what he'd done and expect one to take him back and pretend it never happened, one might as well make some money off the bastard by selling the story to a publisher. Since he'd lost his job at the Ministry, she wasn't getting any other kind of money out of her ex.
Dominique answered the door dressed in purple robes cut low at the chest, her hair curled in red-gold waves down her back and her makeup perfectly done. Sometimes it was hard being related to her.
“Rose, Scorpius!” she exclaimed, as if she were surprised and humbled to see us. She was really good at that. She should've been a politician.
“Hi Dommie,” I said as we came inside. Scorpius smiled at her a little vaguely. He didn't like her much; thought she was too fake. Smart man.
“There are drinks at the bar,” Dominique told us, waving to indicate the small corner set-up. There was a uniformed man behind the counter preparing drinks.
“She hired a bartender?” Scorpius muttered as we left Dominique to welcome more guests.
I shook my head in exasperation. Really, you couldn't put anything past Dominique.
Most of the guests were Dominique's friends, but there was a healthy scattering of Weasleys who'd been unable to plead previous engagements. Victoire hadn't made the party, of course, since she'd got the perfect excuse by having a baby only a week ago, but my brother was there, standing at the bar with our cousin Albus Potter, and Molly Weasley was on the couch with the accordionist she was dating. Her mohawk was notable for its absence today – I wondered if Dominique had told her not to do it, or if it was still styled au naturel from her sister's wedding.
Lucy the newlywed was also missing, not surprisingly since she was probably still on her honeymoon (and had always been really good at dodging annoying family get-togethers anyway), but I didn't see Roxanne anywhere either. I wondered if she was busy or if she'd been so annoyed that a non-writer cousin published a book before she did that she hadn't wanted to come.
“It's your turn to be designated Apparator,” Scorpius reminded me as we made our way to the bar.
I groaned. A Dominique party without the comforting haze of booze? It was only fair, yeah, since he was the D.A. way more often than I was, but it still sucked. I pulled a face at him. “All right.”
Hugo and Albus must have already been a bit liquored up, because they greeted Scorpius's order of firewhiskey and soda with a resounding cheer.
“Men's night!” Hugo crowed. Albus clapped my boyfriend on the shoulder. Scorpius looked very pleased with himself. They were such idiots.
“Rose's turn to be designated Apparator!” Albus added, and they all cheered again and toasted me.
“Where's James? James!” Hugo looked around. My cousin James Potter popped up out of nowhere. He has a habit of doing this at the worst times.
“Are we drinking? Oi! Firewhiskey and soda here as well!” James called to the bartender.
I could see Dominique giving us a frown from the opposite side of the room and led the boys off to the side, behind a group of Ministry warlocks. “Dommie's going to kick us out if you lot don't shut up, all right?”
“Scorpius, you're drinking?” James clinked glasses with him. “It must be Rose's turn to be sober.”
“Rose's turn!” they all chorused loudly, holding up their glasses at me and then drinking deeply.
I rolled my eyes and looked for an escape. “Stay here while I go and talk to Molly a bit, all right?”
They gave another cheer, this time saluting Molly, who looked up at the sound of her name and gave them a little wave. I left.
“They can't help themselves, can they?” she asked as I sat down next to her, nodding her head at the lot of them.
“I don't think so.”
Fred had turned up now, drink in hand. I was going to have to get all five of them home at this rate. All they needed was Louis to make the nightmare complete. Fortunately Louis's mojo was running strong as ever, and he was in a darkened corner of the dining room with two skinny blondes giggling at him.
“I think you should leave them here,” Molly suggested. “Wouldn't it be fun to see how Dominique dealt with that lot passing out on her expensive rugs?”
I actually considered it for a moment. It would only be fun if I got to see how she reacted, and that meant waking up far too early. “I have a better idea. I'll call their mums to come fetch them later.”
Molly looked impressed.
I woke up the next morning (and by morning of course I mean noon) feeling sick to my stomach, which was utterly unfair when I hadn't even been the one drinking. Scorpius was already puttering around the kitchen looking bleary-eyed when I emerged from the bathroom. He looked up at me, squinting a bit against the bright sunlight.
“Were you throwing up, Rose?”
“No.” I sat down at the table and put a hand to my head. “Nearly, but no.”
“You didn't drink, or I'd offer to share this Hangover-Curing Potion with you.” He sat down at the table, sipping at the cup of minty-smelling potion. “Coming down with something?”
“Apparently. Let me have a sip, see if it helps.” I drank a bit of the potion, and it did clear up the last remnants of queasiness. “Maybe the rum is still seeping out of my pores from Majorca.”
“I doubt it. We've been back for over two months. Nobody could drink that much.” He seemed to reconsider. “Although we did give it a bloody good run-up.”
I left him to finish up the potion and went to Victoire's house.
Having promised her to come visit the new baby this week, I had dodged actually doing so long enough for her to send me an owl reminding me that I hadn't even held baby William yet. Apparently I wasn't going to be able to avoid this. Not that I dislike babies – although they do make me a bit nervous – it's just that Johnny Lupin is enough to make anyone wary.
William was only a week old though. Probably he hadn't learned to headbutt yet.
She was making lunch when I got there, and I grabbed one of the sandwiches.
“Oh good, you're here,” Victoire said cheerfully. “Liam is asleep right now, but he'll be up any minute wanting a feed. You can hold him after.”
I sat and ate the sandwich and watched her bustle around the kitchen. She seemed quite back to her usual self, even though the baby was only about a week old. The thought of no more Victoire-saying-the-first-thing-that-popped-into-her-head was quite cheerful.
Of course, now I was going to have to hold the baby. Generally I avoided holding babies, partly because I was afraid I'd drop them and partly because it always made me wish a little bit that I had one as well. This sort of conflicting crap makes me hand babies right back over and dodge offers to hold them again.
Liam woke after I finished my sandwich, doing that high-pitched newborn cry that I remembered from Victoire's previous three children and seemed designed to screw straight into your brain and down every nerve ending. Victoire went to fetch the baby, and I followed her into the living room.
Victoire always looked very motherly, but she did look particularly motherly when she was nursing a baby. She just did the entire motherhood thing so effortlessly. Of course, this was her fourth, so she was probably quite used to it now. Still, I didn't watch too closely. I didn't need to see that much of my cousin, and Victoire is not shy at all when she's nursing.
My aunt Fleur came in while we sat there, with little Dora (Victoire's third child and only daughter) on her hip. She smiled at me and sat down in the chair beside us, shifting Dora to her lap. Dora was a year and a half old, I think. I have a hard time keeping track of how old Victoire's kids were.
“Hello Rose.” Aunt Fleur bounced Dora on her lap a bit, and Dora snuggled into her. Dora was adjusting remarkably well to being displaced as the baby, probably because her grandmother was staying with her and babying the hell out of her. Aunt Fleur didn't noticeably play favourites or anything, but I was pretty sure Dora was her favourite. Maybe because she was a girl, or maybe because any kid looks good after Johnny Lupin.
“Hi Aunt Fleur. Are you staying with Victoire?”
“Mum's going to stay a few weeks to help out,” Victoire put in. “Isn't that lovely?”
Voluntarily staying for weeks to help take care of Johnny Lupin? She ought to receive hazard pay. I made a murmur of agreement, and Aunt Fleur caught my eye and winked.
Victoire's oldest popped his head in the room. Remus was, as many oldest kids are, quite responsible and well-behaved. Of course, this was probably only by comparison to his younger brother, who often believed himself a manticore.
“Mummy,” Remus announced. “Three times twelve is thirty-six.”
“That's correct,” she agreed.
Remus beamed, and then went on, “Also, Johnny punched me in the stomach so I kicked him. Now he says he'll never be my friend again. Make him be my friend again.”
Victoire didn't even blink. “Ask Mémé to talk to Johnny for you.”
Remus turned to his grandmother. “Mémé-”
Aunt Fleur hefted Dora, who clung to her neck, and followed Remus out of the room.
I watched them go, and then glanced at Victoire. She was shifting the baby, and when she saw me looking, she handed him over and started rearranging her clothing.
Liam was already asleep again, and I took him gingerly, cradling him in both arms. At least sitting down I knew I wouldn't drop him. The little bits of fine hair he had appeared to be quite red. It was probably too early to tell yet, but I didn't think she'd managed to produce a Metamorphmagus like her husband. Again. Weasley genes seemed to overpower whatever gene Teddy might have passed on, although Liam did resemble Teddy.
He opened his eyes a bit, and we stared at each other.
The little blue eyes met mine, and a feeling crept over me that something was missing in my life. No, not the ineffable joy of motherhood.
I hadn't had my monthly for a while.
I stared, unseeing, at Liam and did the math in my head. Well, I tried to. Maths aren't my strong suit. I was pretty sure I hadn't seen it since we'd been to Majorca. That couldn't be normal. It certainly wasn't normal for me. What with one thing or another, I hadn't been paying attention this month. Or last month, apparently. I hadn't noticed how late I was.
“Victoire, are babies contagious?”
“What? Is he sick? He's not sick.” She snatched Liam out of my arms and examined him.
I was feeling kind of sick myself. “Um, no, that's not what I meant.”
“Don't scare me like that,” she scolded me, hefting Liam up onto her shoulder. He was asleep again.
I stared at him blankly for a moment. His face scrunched up and his lips wiggled a bit in his sleep, as if he might be dreaming of food. The kid definitely had Weasley genes.
“Victoire? Do you know how to do a pregnancy test?”
She gave me a look. “Are you kidding?”
I went home rather shell-shocked. Scorpius was sitting on the kitchen counter when I got to our flat, eating a bowl of cereal and paging through some sort of art magazine. He looked up when I came in, but his smile faded when he saw my expression.
I dropped my handbag on the floor and stared at him. I really had no idea how to break this gently. “I'm pregnant,” I said. Best to just get it out there, really.
The bowl slipped in his hands, and he fumbled with it for a moment, slopping milk all over the kitchen tile. He set the bowl carefully on the counter next to him and we stared at each other in silence.
“Um,” he said eventually, looking utterly stunned. “What?”
“That's pretty much what I said too,” I told him heavily, collapsing into a chair.
He slid down from the counter and came over to sit next to me. “Are you sure?”
“Victoire did the test.”
He nodded, accepting Victoire's expertise in that area without question. We sat in silence for a while, and he looked rather as if he'd been hit in the head with a Bludger. I was feeling that way myself, so I couldn't entirely blame him. It didn't feel real. I didn't think I was really taking it in yet.
Eventually I asked, feeling hesitant, “Do we want to do this?”
He gave a helpless shrug. “I don't know, Rose. Do you want to?”
“I don't know. But...” I bit my lip. I had a weird feeling, sort of like I'd missed the train to Hogwarts and sort of like I was about to go after a really dangerous felon. That sort of thing had never stopped me before, though. “I don't want to not do this.”
He looked nonplussed. “So what you're saying is, you want to have the baby?”
I did the same helpless shrug he'd just done. “We're twenty-seven. Maybe it's time. Maybe this is a sign.”
“Pregnancy is often a sign that one is going to have a baby,” he said dryly, and I punched him in the arm. He reached over, put his hands on my cheeks, cradling my face gently, and gave me a long kiss.
“Your dad's going to kill me,” he said when we broke apart.