Chapter 5 : Of Trust, Injuries, and Precocious Nephews.
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It ends on Friday.
Oh, bloody hell.
Let there be a chance to fix this.
“She’s not actually my sister,” I said quickly. “I mean, you said something, so I responded quickly. By reflex.”
“Naturally,” he agreed amiably.
“So do you believe me?”
“Oh, of course not.” He turned to look at me, a half-smile on his face. It grew when he discovered how truly bewildered I was.
“What?” he started laughing at my expression. “You mean you thought I didn’t know?”
“I - erm,” I shook my head, trying to make sense of the current situation. “What?”
“Sarina, I’ve known the whole time. Since I met you at the hospital.”
“You’ve known the whole time,” I repeated.
“Did you really think I didn’t remember you from school? You stayed away from all of us, but we were more than acutely aware of your presence. I know who Aisha is, I’ve known who Aisha is. Besides, even if I hadn’t, you described her as the Minister’s daughter, she has the same last name as you, and you two look so alike it’s not even funny.”
“We do not look alike.”
“That’s not exactly the most pressing issue at the moment though, is it?”
“You were aware the whole time?” I repeated, this time raising my voice. I cocked my head to one side and glared at him, and his smile disappeared almost as fast as it had appeared minutes before.
“I -,” he scratched his neck uneasily. “I figured that I would just let you tell me when you wanted to?”
“I was acting like an idiot this whole time and you just let me?”
“Wait a minute, are you turning this around on me?”
Because the best defense was a good offense, but I couldn’t very well tell him that or he’d be on to me.
Wait, I thought, as I saw his expression straighten.
“You know what,” I said quickly. “Why don’t we just forget the whole thing?”
“Oh no,” he said grandly. “We should definitely discuss this.”
“Its really not necessary.”
“But it is, since you clearly can’t trust me...”
Ah, fudgesickles. I had clearly been absent when God was giving everyone tact. It was time to backpedal.
“I never said that I could not trust you.”
“You just implied it, did you not?”
I paused. “That’s not fair, I have a hard time trusting people in general,” I told him seriously. “All jokes aside, we actually should talk about it. It’s just that now isn’t the time.”
Al looked around, his gaze moving around the room until it returned to me and landed, for some unknown reason, on my toes. I wiggled them, just for fun.
“Interesting color choice,” he murmured.
“You’re avoiding the subject,” I reminded him.
“You can avoid telling me who you are for months, but if I avoid a conversation with you for thirty seconds, I go on your hit list?”
“I never said I was rational.”
“Good thing I never actually thought you were.”
“If you keep this up, Al, you may actually hurt me,” I said, looking up at him through my lashes. He didn’t look too mad, and once his face softened and the hard lines evaporated, he looked like the Al that I actually knew.
“I’ve already wounded you, you just don’t know yet,” he smirked, bringing his head closer to mine.
“Oh, is that so?”
“There’s an arrow with my name on it that’s already gone straight through you. I’d be willing to wager that the only name that you’re going to be thinking about for the next three weeks is mine.”
“That’s not self-absorbed of you at all, is it?”
He sidestepped the question. “I do believe we’ve strayed from the original topic of your mistrusting me.”
“Damn it, I was so close.” I stepped away and took a large sip of my drink, finishing it.
“You don’t trust me, Sarina. We can’t build a friendship with a lack of trust.”
“A friendship,” I said, leveling my gaze at him.
His eyes bore into my own. “Among other things.”
By this point, I had no clue what we were even talking about. He knew that I was the Minister's daughter. He had probably already figured out how this would affect our relationship, if we ever had a relationship, and yet he was still standing here.
Talking about friendship and other things.
“If I told you that I forgot your umbrella at home on purpose just because I was curious as to what ‘bad things’ you could possibly do, what would you say to that?”
“I’d say I’d got you pegged, but then you’d probably say something to make me doubt myself in that. Either way, I was planning on asking you to go out later, if you wanted. Maybe for coffee or something.”
“We could go out right now.”
“I’m not really into the big party scene,” I said. And it was true. If I was interested in the kind of lifestyle that my father’s position offered me, I would never had hidden my family background from Al; we wouldn’t even be in this position.
“And yet you’re at Jinx.”
“It was a favor for a friend,” I said defensively, crossing my arms across my chest. The club had dimmed now and someone had likely put a spell on the place, as the lights were having some sort of disco ball effect. I wasn’t sure if it was the shadows dancing across his face, but Al looked livelier than usual, and yet more serious at the same time, if that was possible. “Besides, Louis, that idiot, didn’t tell me that it was going to be such a big thing. As far as I knew, we were just having a ‘small, lively gathering’, and that’s a direct quote from him, by the way.”
He blinked and looked around, his right hand automatically moving to rub the back of his neck. “You have a point. This isn’t really Louis’ scene.”
“No, it’s really not.”
“And yet, you stayed.”
“He’s my friend,” I defended, crossing my arms across my chest. Al’s gaze immediately settled on my neckline. I cleared my throat, bringing his attention back to my face, but he didn’t even look the least bit embarrassed.
While Aisha always claimed that a person’s eyes could betray their thoughts and their soul, I had never taken the time to understand what that meant. With Al, though, it was like I could see past the bored, seemingly nonchalant facade, and go straight into his excited male psyche, where his good mood was unsurprisingly well-hidden.
“Isn’t that sweet.”
“Well I can’t say that that’s an adjective I’m used to hearing in reference to myself.”
“Good, so you won’t be expecting anything from me?”
“Do I ever?” I deflected.
In truth, I did. Or, at least, I had for a while, after our last two visits. The more I saw of Albus Potter, the more I wanted to see. Samir may think I was falling in love, but I wasn’t sure what it was. I did know, though, that I wasn’t opposed to being alone with Albus Potter in places where our friends couldn’t find us.
I guess it was a good thing that he didn’t answer, instead taking me by the hand and pulling me lightly until I came out of my internal monologue and realised that he wanted me to follow him; he just didn’t want to be conspicuous.
We had a snowball’s chance in Hell.
Al didn’t take the front entrance, though. He circled around the room, nodding to people he saw and knew, and then pointed them out to me if they were close enough to him to warrant an introduction. Even in something as little as this, he was acting completely normal. My one firewhisky was already addling with my brains, but Al, who’d downed two already (or so he said to the people who offered him more), seemed nothing less than completely sturdy. I could exchange witty banter all he wanted tonight, but trying to remain inconspicuous while in plain sight at my best friend’s birthday party inside the most exclusive Wizarding club in London was not a task I could perform.
Finally, finally, we exited through the back door, laughing and breathless. Ezra Smith, unlike his father, was not above Potter Syndrome. Despite having gone to school with the Weasley children and the offspring of other famous witches and wizards, his own parents included, Ezra continued to believe that he needed to be a kiss-up to everyone.
It could have been irritating, but Ezra was a sweetheart. Al and I had just spend fifteen minutes trying to contain our laughter while listening to him babble on about how I was so good at my job and Al was so naturally gifted at his.
“Oh, oh hold on Ree,” Al gasped, holding his stomach. “Give me a minute.”
“I think I’m drunk,” I giggled, grabbing onto his shirt to keep from falling down. I lost my balance, though, and pushed him against the brick wall closest to us. “I had one drink, nothing to eat, and I’m touching you, so I probably am drunk.”
His arms went around me, and I shivered involuntarily. “See, I knew I had an effect on you.”
“Don’t flatter yourself, I’m cold.”
“Are you, really?,” he squinted at me. “Let me see your arm.”
It was a request, but he didn’t wait for an answer. He brought up my right arm and rested it on his shoulder, then bent his head down so he could examine it. Sobriety notwithstanding, this was weird.
“Have you lost your mind?”
“Shut up, I’m trying to see if you have goosebumps. If you were actually cold...”
I gaped at him, letting both my arms fall. “Seriously? If you thought I was lying, you could have just said so.”
“You would have denied it. That wouldn’t have worked for me,” he said, his dark gaze burning into me. “I like to be...thorough.”
Albus Potter was quite possibly the sexiest oddball I’d ever met in my entire life. I think he could see my thoughts on my face, too, because he smirked and pulled me closer to him.
“Just like you, I don’t like being lied to,” he said, his voice low. “If you feel a certain way about something, Sarina, you should give others that same privilege.”
The fact of the matter was, I had no right to say anything to Al about his not saying anything to me. If I hadn’t lied to him about who I was, we wouldn’t be in this problem in the first place. If he was mad, I couldn’t tell. His eyes were unreadable, to me, at least. Someone more poetic would have been able to describe the thousand and one emotions swirling in those green pools.
I could walk away now. I could just throw my hands in the air, back away from him, and say, “Sorry, but I told you I don’t trust people easily.” That would be the end of that.
It would also, I realized with a start, do me more trouble than good. I wanted him, I wanted him so much that my blood was boiling just being this close to him. Attraction ran deep, apparently.
Unless it was more than just attracting, but I could think those thoughts just yet.
“Is it because you thought I would treat you differently?” he asked suddenly, breaking me free from my thoughts.
“Albus Severus Potter, believe me when I say that this only had to do with me. It’s how I behave with everyone, this- all of this lying is not specific to you.”
The change in his mood was almost instantaneous.
“It’s not specific,” Al said flatly, face falling. “Right. Okay.”
His arms let go of me, and the my hips suddenly felt lighter, without the weight of his hands resting there. As he stepped away, he nodded slightly, lips pursed.
“Wait, no, that’s not what I-”
“No, it’s fine,” he put up a hand to stop me. “You don’t have to explain. Actually, I feel like I’ve made myself look like enough of an arse tonight.”
“Sarina, this is sufficiently awkward already, isn’t it?”
“You can keep the damn umbrella, by the way.”
“Oh for God’s sake, would you let me get a word in edgewise?”
He finally stopped then, the bright white of his shirt standing out against the darkness of the alleyway. Most clubs in Muggle London, Wizarding or otherwise, had a penchant for leading out to disgusting back alleyways. This one, unfortunately, was no different. Al, as he turned around, stepped on a broken glass bottle and winced theatrically.
“I feel like I go through a lot of pain for you,” he told me.
I was unsympathetic. “I really don’t care.”
“Fine,” Al replied, bending down to take a look at his shoe. “I think I’m bleeding.”
I didn’t budge.
“Could you, for one second, ignore the fact that we’re currently in an argument and come heal my foot, please?”
He cursed and pulled out his wand. I didn’t know how skilled he was at actually healing himself, but I doubted his expertise (and his injury) for obvious reasons:
Al hadn’t even taken off his shoe. This either meant that he wasn’t injured at all, or he had no clue how to heal himself.
I couldn’t really take the chance to see. The Healer in me was already aching to help him, and the other part of me, the part that was already insanely attracted to him, wasn’t looking forward to the idea of seeing him in pain, either.
“Damn it. Stop, before you hurt yourself even more,” I cried, hurrying to help him. Al sat down on the dirty tarmac, and, at my urging, took off his shoe.
This would also be a good time to mention that the glass had gone through the sole of the shoe.
That could only mean one thing:
He was bleeding.
“Damn it,” I said again.
“And in pain, yes. I thought I’d mentioned that.”
“I thought-” I stopped myself before I could continue, mentally berating myself for leading the conversation around to my trust issues, again.
“You thought I was lying.”
I couldn’t look at him. What could I say, or even do, at this point? I had lied to Albus Potter about who I was. Maybe to someone else this wouldn’t be as big of an issue, but at my age, in my mid-twenties, I was expected to act more mature.
“You know, I thought it was funny at first,” Al told me, his green eyes looking at me in earnest. “I thought, ‘Hey, this girl seems like she would be able to keep a secret. Maybe that’s because she has something to hide.’ I mean, apart from being the Minister’s daughter. I understand why you don’t want everyone to connect you to your parents, Ree. To be fair, I think I understand better than most people. You just haven’t seen this situation from all perspectives.”
“You intimidate me,” I whispered. I couldn’t take my attention off of his foot, because I was carefully trying to extract the piece of glass that was wedged into his skin. Maybe he was looking at me, maybe he wasn’t, but I knew that he had to hear me. “I haven’t been self-conscious since I was fourteen and found my best friends. I grew into myself, and my abilities, and my station in life. Nothing could shake me, and I could go around being as flimsy or crazy as I wanted, say whatever nonsense I wanted, just because everyone knew that when it mattered, I got myself together and did what my job well. Okay? I knew who I was and what I wanted.”
“I don’t see what that has to do with me,” Al replied, whispering now, too.
Rain had started to fall, and he had somehow managed to enclose us in an invisible bubble. Being an Auror came in handy sometimes, I guess. Covertly casting spells that were unknown to the masses was somewhat of a specialty, when your job was sometimes a glorified version of Hide-And-Seek.
Your target finds you, and there’s a good chance that you either kill or are killed.
Then again, my Healing skills were coming in handy in the back alleyway of a nightclub. So I guess everything has it’s purpose in life.
“Everytime I see you,” I said slowly. “I want to kiss you. And that scares me.”
For the first time in what seemed like hours, my patient actually broke into a grin. “Is that so, Healer Shah?”
Unbiddingly, a smile appeared on my face, too. I extracted the last of the glass, closed up the cut in his foot, and then let go and looked up. “I just didn’t know if you would kiss me back because I’m me or because I’m Sarina Shah. Which is not to say that I thought you were the type of person to care about reputation, but I did. I mean, when I first met you, I tried to label you, too. It would have been hypocritical to think you wouldn’t have done the same thing to me.”
Al was silent for a few moments, contemplating my short speech. Then, when I was ready to start biting my nails in fear of rejection (I didn’t, since they had just touched his foot), he looked up at me, grinned widely, and before I knew what he was doing, pulled my head down towards him.
I was kissing Albus Potter.
I was kissing Albus Potter.
I was kissing Albus Potter.
My heart felt like it was about to explode, I couldn’t even think anymore. He pulled me closer to him, and I moved to straddle him. My dress was riding up my thighs, and I knew that if anybody caught us out here, we’d be splashed across the cover of Witch Weekly’s next issue.
And yet, all rational thought left my mind as one hand moved down the back of my neck to rest of my waist, and the other left the tarmac and settled on my thigh. My skin was burning and my heart was exploding and I hadn’t felt so full and happy in the longest time.
He pulled away, grinning. “Still scared?”
I smiled back. “Not even a little bit.”
And then I leaned forward and kissed him again.
“You know,” Aisha leaned across me to get to the bread bowl. “Everyone noticed that you disappeared with Albus Potter at Louis’ birthday party.”
I kicked her under the table.
She stuck her tongue out at me.
My father stared at his grown, mature, adult daughters.
This was not a normal night for me. We rarely had family dinners, but since my nephew’s birthday had just passed and we hadn’t had time to celebrate it together, Mum had insisted on everyone coming round for dinner. I was able to get an off from Mungo’s without too much hassle, since I had been working too hard for the better part of four years and had way too many vacation days to spare.
I hadn’t seen Al since the night at the club last weekend; this meant that I had no idea where we stood about anything. He was attractive, definitely, and a great conversationalist. Also, he was a good kisser, though I probably should have said that first. At the end of the day, though, I couldn’t put my life on hold for anyone. I had work to do, a life to live, and friends to entertain me while I was bored. Just because one boy kissed me at a party and hadn’t talked to me since...
Why hadn’t he talked to me?
It was killing me, and it translated into everything I did.
“Girls, stop acting so childish,” Samir said to us sternly, sending us a glare as he raised his wine glass to his lips.
“Dad, can I have some wine, too?” asked Aditya.
My brother choked. “You’re eight years old, Adi,” he reminded his son.
“I’m almost nine!” Adi replied precociously, as if he hadn’t already mentioned his upcoming birthday fifty times in the last hour.
“Stop it, Adi,” Janvi told him, patting his head as she helped her younger son into the chair across from me. Sid, the birthday boy, was the cutest child I had ever seen. Ever.
At four, he was speaking in full sentences and running around everywhere and trapping Aisha and Aditya in all of their lies. The child had the luck of stumbling upon secrets and being fed candy as bribes on a weekly basis. I, with my spotless record and boring life, had never been faced with the moral dilemma that is child bribery, but a cloud was looming in the distance, and I could only think that it was a matter of time.
“Al’s cool,” Sid announced.
“Is there a reason you feel this way?” I asked him, not expecting a serious answer.
“Yes,” he nodded vigorously, pointing to his head. “He has the same color hair as me.”
Ah, of course. I couldn’t hold back my smile, though, so I didn’t try.
“I like Albus, as well,” my father spoke up from the head of the table.
Well. This was new. Daddy very rarely met any of my friends outside of typical society functions. In this, Al was no different from Louis.
Except that Al had called himself out when he had mentioned to my father that I was his date to my own brother’s anniversary party. So, you know, there were things and then there were...
“When have you met Albus Potter,” Mum asked Dad as she handed him the plate of rotlis. “You only keep in contact with Harry and Ron.”
“Oh,” Dad turned to Mum, obviously surprised that he didn’t know. “He and Sarina are dating.”
I dropped my spoon. “N-oh-er- actually-”
“What? Ree, dikra, you never mentioned this to me!”
“So that’s where you disappeared to, Ree. I didn’t think you were that type of girl,” Aisha winked.
My sister, even out of her teenage years, was a pain in the neck.
“What kind of girl is Sarina foi?” Adi asked, not comprehending the adult conversation.
My sister-in-law turned to Aisha in exasperation. “Really, you couldn’t wait for dinner to be over before you went and started a conversation like this?”
Aisha shrugged. “It’s not like Sarina hasn’t done it to me before.”
“First of all, you little snot,” I glared at her. “I never did it when I knew it was going to turn into a big thing at the dinner table; secondly, I never made it awkward around our nephews; and, lastly, Albus Potter and I aren’t dating!”
“Well, thats a shame,” my mother said to me, raising her eyebrows. “Because his mother told me that she was so glad that you were.”
“What in the actual fuck, Mum,” I blurted out. “What are you saying?”
“Language, Sarina!” Janvi said sharply. “I know whatever you’re feeling must be stressful, okay, but can you please refrain from cursing around my sons?”
“Right, of course, sorry.”
“You know better than that,” my sister-in-law replied tiredly. At my meek nod, she turned her attention to my brother. We couldn’t hear what they were whispering about, but finally they raised their heads.
“Mum, I think we’re just going to go home,” Samir said. “You two clearly have things you wish to discuss with the girls, so Janu and I are going to take the boys home and get some rest. It’s going to be a trying week and I don’t want to push it.”
“Arre, no, Samir. No one is going to yell at Sarina for anything. Stay.”
“I should hardly think that’d be fair, Mum. I’m twenty-five years old, who I date, or don’t date,” I stressed to Aisha, poised to interrupt me with her fork raised in the air. “Is none of your-”
“It is very well my business,” My father glared at me from his seat. “No matter how old you are, the kind of people you associate with and the type of lifestyle you live is very much my business. Now, the fact remains that you are a responsible young woman who can clean up her own messes on the rare occasion that she makes them. Your mother and I have no need to worry, especially not when the boy in question is Harry Potter’s prodigy.”
“He’s also rumored to be the next Head of the Auror Office,” Aisha supplied.
“Aisha,” my mum pointed a knife at her. “Eat your food and stop bringing gossip to the dinner table.”
“Mum, I’m serious. It’s all over the magazine offices.”
“I believe we’ve heard too much of the magazine offices tonight, haven’t we? Can we just table this discussion for now?”
“Yes please,” I cut in. “And the next time you want to discuss one of your daughter’s love lives, please point your finger at Aisha. It’s not like she didn’t go missing at Louis’ birthday party.
She didn’t, but that was besides the point. When you point a finger at someone, there are always three pointing back at you.
Besides, I couldn’t feel guilty about throwing the attention onto her. It wasn’t like I was actually dating Albus Potter.
I wasn’t, was I?
A/N: I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter, late as it was. 99% chance that updates won't take this long ever again. [:
Rotlis: They're like an Indian form of bread.
Foi: Father's sister.
Arre: This is a figure of speech, basically means "Oh" or "Come on".