Chapter 9 : Albus: When Insightful Friends Drink
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I move backwards, press myself against the wall for Rose to get past me. She says nothing really, just a quick thank you that I barely hear over the music, and she's gone. I've noticed her discomfort while I've been a good host. She's spent most of her time with family and her boyfriend, Will. Well, his name is Albert, but his middle name is William and that's what we all call him. He's a good friend of ours and he, Lexi, the others and I get along great. Why doesn't she? The more I see of Rose, the more confused I get. I've tried asking Will; he doesn't know and even if he did, I don't think he'd tell me. He loves her, he'd keep her secrets. The only reason I'm sure he doesn't know is because when I ask, he looks as genuinely confused by it as I do.
I follow her out, but I turn left to the kitchen rather than right. She goes upstairs, probably to go to the bathroom. Inside the kitchen, Darcy is making out with her boyfriend, Ewan Warren, ex Ravenclaw chaser and captain, and Will's friend and ex dorm mate. Jeez, is everyone here seeing somebody?
They don't notice me, they're too busy pressed against the wall near to the table, on other side of the room to me. I'm not going to disrupt them, no way. I go to the fridge and grab a cold beer for Chris and two bottles of orange juice, one for me and one for Alexa. Then I get out of there as fast as I can and go back to the living room. Rose is back in the room with Will, laughing with Emmett. I shake my head, but ignore it. Even if Rose doesn't tell me what's wrong, I'll find out eventually. They're all going to be a part of my life for a long time, I'm not going to just let it go. Only for tonight.
The first person I find is Alexa. I hand her her drink, which she takes gratefully and smiles. I smile back, squeeze her hand and go to the couch, leaving her with her brother, who I don't look at because I know he's glaring at me. I sit beside Chris and hand him his beer. "Thanks, mate," he slurs a little. He's already had a few drinks. I'd call him tipsy. Chris waves a hand around the room lazily. "Despite the suburbia feel, this place is not so bad. I like it."
"Me too," I smile, taking a drink.
"Lexi is kicking Kieron's ass on that racing game," he says, chuckling.
"No one beats Lexi at anything, but her games console is something not many can beat her at because there aren't many wizards who have one," I explain slowly, so that he understands. When you speak too fast, drunk Chris stops listening. He's completely unlike his older brother. When you speak too slow, Casey stops listening, drunk or otherwise. Just because you bore him. He's fun to talk to. "Not including Muggleborns and families with Muggles, I think Lexi is the only one I know with one."
"I have one," Chris calls out like he defensive.
"Like I said, families with Muggles. Your step-mum got you yours, right?"
"Oh, yeah," he laughs and nods. "The first Christmas we had as a family after she married my dad. I was ten. And I am good."
"No! Lily, no!" There's a small bang and we both look up just in time to see Scorpius covered in soda, Lily throwing her head back as she laughs. He glares at her for a few seconds, then follows her lead. No one can stay mad at Lily, it doesn't matter who you are, how angry you try to be or what she's done. He turns to me. "Potter, do you have a spare shirt I can wear?"
I stand up and point out the door, to the stairs. "Yeah, follow me." I lead the way to my new room and open my wardrobe door. "Take your pick."
He grabs a plain, white shirt and nods in thanks. I take that as my cue to leave and shut the door behind me. Lily is waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs, still laughing. "Got him a new shirt?"
I nod. "What did you do?"
Lily shrugs, looking sly. "He held my drink while I used the bathroom, wouldn't give it me back. I told him I could just take it, he said I couldn't, so I did." She lifts up her drink, the cause of all the trouble I assume, and takes a mouthful. "Somehow, it tastes so much better now."
I nudge her into the direction of the living room. "You're evil. Get in there."
It's almost midnight when I find myself outside in the garden. The party is slowing down a little, a couple of people have gone and the music has been turned down. Well, it is the middle of the week. I left them all talking about the weekend, excusing myself when Lexi asked the others about us going to lunch on Friday. My family know about the scan that morning, they know why I leave the room. Lexi is so much better at keeping things a secret than I am, I'm still worried I'm going to spill all tonight. And apparently I'm not the only one in my family who can't keep a secret; I glanced at Rose and Will and they both gave me a look as I left, although his was purely sympathetic while Rose's seemed more disapproving.
Well, I didn't ask for her approval. I walked out annoyed. She shouldn't have told him, it wasn't her news to tell. But I've known Will since first year, he'd be understanding and there to help, no questions asked, so I'm not angry with Will for knowing. I'm angry with Rose for telling.
I hesitate for a second before I sit carefully on the kid's swing. We decided to keep it, so it would a shame to break it now. I'm barely sat on it really, but it holds my weight well enough. I don't swing, just sit. It's getting colder now, the wind whips over my skin and it's so cold it hurts a little. But I don't care, it's calming, quiet. Right now, I like calm and quiet.
"Hey." I look to my left to see Chris leaning against the metal bar of the swing set. How long has he been there for? "Nice swing set."
"Yeah, the people who used to live here left it. We thought we'd keep it; the twins might like it or Teddy's daughter. Plus, it's a good place to sit." I shrug softly and smile. I wonder if my kid will like it.
"I was talking to Lily," Chris spoke softly, his arms folded over his chest. "She said Theodore owns this house, but that your dad helped pay for it."
"Well, I do live here, too. It's just Theodore's name on the dotted line. He said he was owning it until we had good jobs with steady incomes," I explain quietly. It's too peaceful to be any louder.
"What happens when one of you meet someone? Who's going to move out?" he asks. Oh, I see where this is going.
"Probably Lexi, she said before we got this house that she'd want something bigger eventually." I scoff and roll my eyes. "She sounded like she was joking, but we know Lexi and her need for space."
"We do. So when she moves out, will Theodore just sign this place over to you?"
I shrug. "Probably. Or my dad if I don't have a good job and steady income," I echo my words from before. "Unless he likes me enough to continue looking after it himself until then."
Chris looks ready to disagree, but then he pauses. "He does like you," he says eventually. "He sees you as family, anyone can see that. The house, though, I can't say." He laughs suddenly, probably due to the amount of alcohol he's had. But it's so sudden I frown, ask him what the matter is. "Nothing. It's just this house. It's so domestic, the whole neighborhood is. Maybe it's because I've drank so much, my thoughts are kinda weird, but if I didn't know any better I'd ask when the baby was due."
My eyes widen to the point of pain, but I don't care. He's not supposed to know yet, he's not supposed to say these things. This is the last time I ever let him drink if it's going to lead to him being more insightful than usual. I'm finding it very hard to breath. And Chris notices. He stops laughing quickly, suddenly looking like he's completely sober, and holds me by my shoulders, standing me up so we're eye-to-eye.
"Hey, I'm sorry, Al. I didn't mean to freak you out like that." Oh, he thinks I'm just freaking out about the idea of sleeping with my friend. That I can handle. I start to calm down. "You normally laugh when I say something about your relationship with Lexi. Unless..." Then his eyes widen and he lets go of me. I shake my head slowly. "Oh, my God, it's true. It is, isn't it? You knocked up Alexa!"
He holds up his hand, wants me to shut up. I do, only so I can figure out his reaction. He looks oddly calm, I'm not sure I like it. I mean, I never expected him to freak out, to yell or anything, but to be this calm? I didn't see it coming. And I change my mind; now I really don't like it. And then of all the things I expected to happen next, it wasn't this: "Oh, mate you have the worst luck when it comes to that girl. You finally get into her pants and she ends up pregnant."
Then he laughs at me. What? Finally? Did I hear that right? What the fuck is that supposed to mean? "What?"
"Oh, come on. It's obvious you like her. No one is that close to someone of the opposite sex without feelings getting in the way at some point." Chris rolls his eyes at me. "Albus, everyone at school has thought you were together at least once. You can't tell me you're that oblivious to your own feelings."
"I do not like Lexi as any more than a friend," I choke out. "She'd know by now, we're not exactly discreet with each other."
"Not if you didn't realize it yourself," he says, shaking his head at me. He freaks me out, saying he knows more about my feelings than I do, but then he shakes his head and I feel like I'm in the wrong? How the hell does that work? "I bet that night you had with her is all you can think about. No wonder I'm always kicking your ass in training; I was beginning to think my expectations of you had been too high," he smirks.
It's like he can get inside my head tonight. Or have I always been this easy to read? Lexi's always saying exactly that. "I don't like Lexi as more than a friend," I repeat, whispering. I can't. No, I don't. It's not possible, even if I do think about that night a lot. "That's not what we're talking about."
"No, you're right. We'll talk about you being in love with your best friend another day." I open my mouth to correct him, but he continues. "So, how are you feeling, Daddy?"
I want to call him out for that, too, until I focus on his face and I see that he's serious this time, concerned. "I'm terrified."
"I'd be a little worried if you weren't." Chris glances at the house, then back at me. "Was this party to tell us? Because you're not doing a very good job."
His tone is casual, almost joking. He's trying to lighten the mood. It kind of works. I smile. "No, this really is a housewarming party. We decided to tell you during lunch Friday afternoon, after you had training. Our scan is in the morning."
"Really? Okay, at least you were planning on telling us soon. This scan is after the first trimester, right? I remember my step-mum saying that when my cousin was pregnant, that was when she told people. When I asked why, she said because everything was okay then." I nod slowly, that is why we chose to tell them after the scan. He cocks his head to the left. "You asked for the day off on Friday, said it was personal. They let you."
"I can't believe you're going to be a dad," he murmurs softly. "Whoa."
I think it's hit him now. "Yeah, whoa." I fall back down onto the swing. Will Lexi mind if Chris knows before the scan? It's only two days. "I've started to process it. I'm not freaking out anymore."
"You're going to be great," he says suddenly. "And this looks like a great place to raise kids. I get it now."
"We like it." Does he really think I'm going to be great?
"Lily makes sense now. She said your mum called the money for the house a gift. I thought she meant graduation, but when I asked her that she shook her head and walked away. It isn't, is it? It's for the kid?"
"Yeah. She wanted to make sure her first grandchild had a room of its own, she said, and they were going to buy me a place anyway." I shrug. "You can't tell them you know yet, it's got to be after the scan. Lexi was insistent."
"I promise. You really are going to be great, just listen to your instincts and you'll be fine."
"My instincts are the reason we found out she was pregnant," I admit. "So she gave me sixty percent of the blame."
"That sounds like Lexi," he chuckles. "Sixty percent is not bad all things considered. I'd have thought eighty percent at least. I can't believe you'll be a dad," he repeats. "Maybe Theo will keep the house for you, well, for his grandchild. Can I be godfather?"
How did we get to this topic of conversation? How does he know how to lighten the mood so easily and make it okay? Wait, I sound ungrateful. I should thank him. But I don't. Maybe later when he's not so drunk and I can really know how he's taking it. I get up instead, make my way to the house. "You sound just like Lily when she asks to name the baby after her."
He catches up, grabs my arm. "Name him Christopher."
Uh oh. "No."
"I'm going to be the best uncle and godfather this kid will ever have and he'll be proud to be named after me," he continues, like I've said nothing. I roll my eyes. I always figured that out of all our friends, he'd take it better, except Will, but not like this.
"Whatever. I'm just glad you know. I thought I'd end up telling everyone tonight, but just one person who isn't family knowing is good. I had to tell them, Lex and I being young and not being together and all."
"I get it. And you will be together." I push him away. "No, I came out here for a reason, before the baby drama came out." I stop at the back door, leading to the kitchen, and raise an eye-brow. Really? At least he's changing the subject. "You know how I suck at looking after myself and, you know, life in general?" I nod. "Can I crash here until I find a place? I'm trying to prove to my dad that I can look after myself and it's harder than it looks. We're not all like you, Mr. Family Man."
"You'll have to ask Lexi," I smirk.
His face drains of what little color he's gotten back after figuring out that he was right about us having a baby, joking or not. Lexi will never allow it, she won't trust him as a roommate. Yes, he'd be willing to help and would pay us back in return, whether that would be chores or rent. But we'd have to actually think about rent because a few days to Chris is years to everyone else. He's terrible when it comes to looking after himself, he'll never leave. Lexi won't let him stay. He swallows, but nods. "Okay."
"She'll say no," I call out, following him into the house. "You won't get the answer you want."
"Shush." He stops in front of Lexi in the living room, who is playing with the metal guitar-like control that goes with her singing game. "Lexi, I need a place to stay, can I sleep on your couch?"
Lexi pauses the game just as it's about to start and tells Scorpius to wait. When she faces me and Chris, she's smiling and nodding. "Sure, stay as long as you like."
Chris turns to me, looking like the smug git that he is as Lexi presses play and starts to sing. "You should have knocked her up when I wanted that motorbike for my seventeenth," he whispers in my ear. I give him a dead arm. Louis pushes past, snickering. He heard.
"Why on the couch, Chris?" Darcy asks, confused. She's sitting on Ewan's lap on said couch, his arms wrapped around her. I frown. Public displays of affection on my couch!
And Chris has to sleep on it! Ha!
Chris answers before I can say anything to that, not that I know what to say. "You saw that spare room, it's just wooden floor and teddy bear borders that look like they're marching. You know I don't like moving teddy bears." He shudders.
I laugh. Apparently that's Casey's doing. When Chris was about two, Casey decided to frighten him by making his teddy bears move around in the dark while he whispered words to scare him. Chris has never gotten over it. I think it's hilarious. I know what he's not going to buy for this kid. The best uncle and godfather to a kid who can't have a teddy bear because said best uncle and godfather is too scared to buy him one. Oh no.
Ouch. I groan when Chris elbows me in the ribs. He rubs his hands together. "The night is young and I have a place to stay; we should celebrate that. Emmett, get the shots."
"We have training tomorrow," I remind him, rubbing my ribs.
"You wanted a party on a Wednesday," he points out, accusing me like it's my fault he's going to be hungover on a work day. Okay, maybe it is. "Use it as an excuse to finally be able to kick my ass tomorrow."
He winks at me and I know he's referring to what he said in the garden, that the reason I'm so slow is because I'm thinking about my night with Lexi. Emmett is back with the alcohol in one hand and a stack of shot glasses balancing in another. I'm not entirely sure how he managed to bring them back without dropping any. But I ignore it and glare are Chris. "I will."
People gather around in a circle and each take a glass. With two left in his hand, Emmett moves his hand to me. I shake my head. "Come on, Al. You've been the best host, the party has been awesome. You deserve one drink."
I glance around the circle, hoping someone will let me step away, but the moment I catch eyes with Will, who also has a glass, all hope is lost. He's supposed to be the good one. I take the glass and Emmett pours the alcohol, filling each shot glass to the top. Some of it spills to the floor and I'm thankful the old occupants wanted wooden floors instead of carpet.
Hugo, a sneaky git who successfully managed to get permission for himself and Lily to floo home for this party (I still don't know how he did it), pushes past to stand between Emmett and Megan and we wait for his say so. He counts down. "Three... Two... One. Go!"
Now it's a party.
...I'm so going to regret this.
I decide I don't regret drinking when I wake up. I only played in a couple of rounds of the game, then stepped back while everyone else played. We were too close to Alexa and the smell had been making her nauseous. She left the room and I used the excuse of being a 'good roommate' to follow her and leave the game. She hadn't let me talk to her until I'd brushed my teeth, though.
It's nice waking up after a party and want to fill my stomach rather than empty it, is my first thought when I enter the kitchen of my new house and said stomach rumbles softly. I go through the cupboards and end up pouring some chocolate coated cereal into a bowl. I walk into the living room to find Chris. He's fast asleep on the couch, snoring softly. I sit on the floor in front of him, it's cold against my bare legs, and there's a chill from the open window. I probably shouldn't have come down in just my boxers. Oh well.
Chris snores again. I dig my spoon into my cereal, put a huge helping into my mouth and crunch. His eyes snap open and he winces.
It's not my fault he's a light sleeper with a hangover.
"Good morning, Christopher," I say brightly.
"Go away," he mutters, shutting his eyes once more.
"No. This is my house, remember?"
"I didn't forget any part of last night," he whispers.
Git. I admit, I did wonder if he would actually remember the part about Lexi being pregnant with my kid. I'm glad he didn't, I need someone who isn't family to talk to about it. I need Friday to come quickly, so I can tell the others. I need my friends.
Lexi needs them, too. I know she does. Especially Darcy and Megan.
So I choose to ignore the fact that he's trying to get back at me and nod. "Good."
Chris nods, too, yawns loudly and turns to lie on his back. "Where's Lexi?"
"She's still asleep," I answer. I checked on her before I came downstairs to see if she was awake and wanted breakfast. She looked so peaceful, I decided not to wake her and just let her sleep. "We'll probably be gone by the time she's up."
"Hmm," is all he feels like saying. Or is it all he can say? He rubs his eyes and swings his legs around, so he's now sitting up. "My head hurts," he moans softly.
"You drank a lot," I point out. "You won every shots game, congratulations. If Lexi could drink, there might have been a chance of you losing that title. We actually didn't drink that much, despite what she says, but she beat me... That night," my voice drops until I'm quiet. I don't want him thinking he's right about my thinking of that night. He'd never stop gloating.
"Yeah, I was watching," he whispers.
What? My eyes widen ever so slightly. "I didn't know that."
"Because you couldn't keep your eyes off the girl in front of you." I scoff. "I'm too hungover to argue, so just listen. You were upset that night because Zabini was with Glover, I saw. But she means nothing to you. You just thought she did because she doesn't care who you are and she's not a friend, so it's okay to date her. Lexi knows more about you than anyone, even me I bet, and she still doesn't care who you are. But she's a friend and you put up stupid boundaries. Well, they shattered when you slept with her and were turned to rubble when you decided to have a baby together. Those boundaries are gone, Albus," he says quietly, standing up and walking away from me. "Take something from it; tell her you like her and be with her."
Chris scrunches up his face in disgust, as though he can't believe that last part was the best he could come up with. "I'm going to get a quick shower and get dressed, since Mum put clean clothes in my bag."
I nod and stand up. I have to get dressed, too. He'll want to go straight to the Ministry after he's gotten ready, he thinks the fresh air will do him good. That and the hangover potion he'll find in the cabinet in the bathroom. I'm sure that that'll be of some help. I tell him where it is. "Hurry up, Chrissy. Since I'm missing tomorrow, I want some extra time today. It has to be this morning because Dad said no to me having more time tonight. I have a good reason to miss a day, and it's only one day, so I don't need to make it up, he says. But I want to beat you."
"Then sort your life out, it'll help you think straight," he says from the stairs. "Hey." He waits for me to look up at him. "I meant what I said; you'll be great. You can do this. And I'll be here, we all will. I'll make them."
"Thank you," I answer appreciatively. "You're taking this a helluva lot better than I expected and I expected you to take it well."
Chris shrugs. "I know what it's like, remember? You were there when my cousin was pregnant. She didn't even have the father with her, but she did great because she had her family and now she has her fiancé. I was there for her, now I'll be there for you. I know what it's like to see someone in a situation like this, I know what you must be going through, and I've had practice in being supportive."
I remember how he was when Tasha had gotten pregnant a couple of years ago. She'd only been a little older than Lexi and I are now, nineteen, and she's done well. I should have remembered that. My smile is more relaxed now, genuine. I'm glad I have Chris, even if he can't cook or clean or look after himself. Unlike last night when he was drunk, I know he's taking it well and why. "Thanks, Chris," I say again. "I needed to hear that."
"Good. Next, I'll get you to understand how you feel about Lexi," he winks and disappears up the stairs.
He's never going to let this go, is he?
A/N: You'll recognise Will Rivers (Albert) and Ewan Warren if you read Bertie Rivers and the Bucket List. Ewan and most others call Bertie "Will" in that, too.
I hope you enjoy this chapter and like that Chris knows now. The next chapter will be about Friday, in Alexa's POV. Let me know what you think. :)
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