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Chapter 12 : Albus: When Secrets Become Burdens
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"I can't help you if you don't tell me," is the last thing she says before she leaves for her own room. Her voice is low, but so clear because it's so silent, and she sounds upset and worried.
But what can I tell her? That I hated seeing her with Rich, that the thought of seeing her with him, or, when I think about it, anyone else for that matter, makes my skin crawl and my chest ache, that imagining her having her own family and having to listen to my kid talk about the guy she's spending her life with until he forgets about me completely and the other guy gets to be called 'Daddy' actually causes my heart to break?
That I want that guy to be me?
That Chris might be right?
My breathing slowly, but surely, returns to normal and my heartbeat becomes soft and slow, as though it's giving up along with my denial. I was so focused on keeping Alexa as my friend that I completely missed the slow and steady change into more. I moved my romantic interest Catrine's way, who is the absolute opposite to Lexi in every way, even their ability to not care about who I am are for different reasons: Catrine cares too much about herself to care about anyone else, including me; Lexi's seen me through everything in my life since we started Hogwarts, she knows me better than anyone and sees more than just the youngest son of Harry Potter, savior of the world, and Ginny Potter née Weasley, ex-Quidditch star and woman to capture the savior's heart.
But Catrine was hot and not a friend, which meant she was dateable. Yes, I'd noticed that Lexi is beautiful and funny even when she is speaking fluent sarcasm and caring when she wants to be, but she's a friend and that's not something I was ever willing to lose, despite how we met.
Maybe I did subconsciously put up boundaries between us.
I pull my legs up to my chest, my elbow resting on top, and groan into my hands. I am such an idiot. How could I have not noticed until now? I'd seen Lexi with guys before...
But I'd focused on Catrine before, we hadn't slept together before, we weren't having a baby and living together, preparing for our family before.
And now she's back to thinking of having that date with Rich, like they'd talked about after we'd graduated, before the Jessica business had started. Of course he's going to call her, it's obvious how much he likes her, I can't blame him for that, and she's going to say yes because being mad at him had never stopped her from liking him.
They're going to have that date and I there is no way I can stop it, not Rich or any guy that comes along.
I let myself fall to the left and lie on the floor, squeezing my eyes shut. I'm so screwed.
I hate this.
Rich called on Monday, saying the only reason he hadn't called on Sunday was because that was his article deadline. They'd talked over the floo over almost an hour and my frustration grew with each passing tick from the living room's clock.
She's been dashing around the house since three o'clock; Rich will be here at seven to pick her up. Does four hours seem a bit much to you? Taking that long to get ready for one date really seems like a bit much. Lexi could be here, sitting with me and Chris and listening to all the reasons why she should cancel... Well, all the reasons that don't mention my feelings as any more than platonic. There are actually quite a few of them, so Lexi won't get suspicious.
I made a list after she'd told me she was going on the date - I'd left the room by then. I was in my bedroom, screaming into my pillow. It was a very manly scream, of course.
I throw my head back onto the couch and groan when I hear Alexa's footsteps coming down the stairs and into the living room. Chris whacks my arm and I look down, finding her by the doorway. Her make-up looks natural, at least it does to me; her cheeks are a soft red that makes me think of her blush when I whispered things in her ear the night we m-had sex, her eyes look sexy and like she's hide a secret you need to know and you would do anything to get it. She's wearing the black dress her aunt Astoria bought her for her eighteenth birthday, the one she's only worn twice before and both were for very special occasions (her birthday and our graduation, which I played major parts in). The dress molds her body without looking like it's stuck to her skin, the left side is a little longer than the right, stopping just below knee while the other side stops a few inches above. It has three straps across each shoulder, through right now one on her right has fallen down, past her hair, and it's quite low cut, showing the very tops of her breasts, but it's not enough to make her look inappropriate.
Usually, I love the dress. Her father disapproves. On both counts, now I know why.
"So, what do you think? Too much?"
"Yes," I blurt out without thinking. Alexa's smile drops and she looks at me like I've said the wrong thing. She checks the clock and she knows she doesn't have time to change. Her who expression deflates to a look of despair.
"I know I don't normally wear this for a first date, but this dress is the only one I could find that hid the bump," she cries, her voice all high-pitched and scared. There are no tears, though. "And he said to dress up. It could be a really romantic place, I can't go in my sweats!"
Chris hits me again and holds up a hand to stop Lexi's rambling. "Ignore him, Lex. You look amazing and it's definitely not too much. Rich will think your perfect, Al would if he were going on this date."
"Really?" Chris nods and pinches me until I nod, too. "Then why say it?"
I glance at Chris and he glares discreetly. "I'm sorry, Lexi. I was just thinking that you don't normally wear it for first dates, you really do look perfect."
"Thank you," she says with a relieved sigh. "And the hair?"
I watch her hands smooth down her hair without physically touching it; it cascades down her back and shoulders in waves and I can smell the scent of her favorite strawberry shampoo from here. It took her over an hour to make her hair perfect. I watched the clock. "Amazing."
"Definitely," Chris agrees. "Don't be afraid of him not liking it."
"I'm not afraid of him not liking it," Lexi frowns, the look on her face saying he's insane for even suggesting that. He shares a look with me and we both nod; Lexi has never given a thought to what any guy may think of her, knowing immediately when she looks fantastic and when she needs to change. So, he is insane for suggesting it.
Although, it did take Emmett until last summer to teach her how. Megan tried and gave up two summer's ago, but Em said he'd refuse to be seen with her until she looked 'presentable'. We all know she did it to mess with him; she's not fond of shopping unless she has to, but she likes to have things that make her look good. She'll always make sure she's 'presentable', no matter the occasion. Emmett just got her to make that 'extra effort'. His words, not mine.
Lexi nods her head, for knowing that she's right and for accepting that she looks good and does not need to make a quick change or cancel. She turns to her left. "And the bump? I couldn't see it in this dress."
"Us either," I say after confirming with Chris. "But I think you should tell him. He might take it well."
Please don't take it well...
I'm a horrible person.
"I'll think about it," Lexi answers, smiling sweetly. Too sweetly.
Translation: Not a chance in hell.
"Now I just have to come up with an excuse to why I can't drink, just in case he asks if I want wine or something," she mutters. "I'll just tell him I don't really drink; it's true. Okay, I'm ready."
We all turn to the sound of the front door opening; that shouldn't happen. "That can't be him," Alexa whispers.
"Hey, Al, I know it's a nice neighborhood, but you should still lock your door - hello." I relax when I see Xavier come into the living room. Until I realize his hello was just for Lexi. "Wow."
I clear my throat, but he doesn't notice. No one does. Lexi's hands go to her mouth. Oh, my God. Xavier Sinclair is in my living room."
"And he's being weird and staring," I shout. Still, no one pays attention.
"Are you staying to celebrate my birthday?" Xavier asks, clearly flirting.
Alexa looks downhearted again, for the first time disappointed about her date. And it's over a gay celebrity Quidditch player. "No, Al didn't tell me you were coming and I have a date."
"Then he is one lucky guy," Xavier sighs.
"Aren't you gay?" Lexi asks, frowning again. This time confused. She looks at me, probably thinking I've fed her misinformation to get her to stop rambling about sometihng (or someone). I've done it before.
"Yes," he assures her, smiling. "But I mean it; the guy must be special. You look amazing. And if I'm being completely honest, part of me is actually not so sure about myself anymore." He shakes his head rapidly. "I'm good. I hate confusion. Hello, Lexi."
Lexi's hands move from her face to her chest. "You know my name. I am aware that Al probably told you about me, but I don't care; you know my name."
"Yeah," Xavier grins. "I actually know your brother. I noticed he only let me go round to his house when you weren't there after he told me that you'd talked about how cute I was when you watched my Quidditch game in your first year. He's very overprotective, your brother."
"Yeah, he's done that with almost every guy I've met or thought about meeting, he 'lawyers up'," she mutters, nor exactly pleased about that. "He did with Chris and Em."
"Not about Al?" he asks, pointing to me.
"No, he always thought he'd break Al with just his words," Lexi admits with a grin, winking at me. I roll my eyes. "He probably might have if he'd thought for a second that Al would actually do something."
"Like knocking you up," Xavier says casually. I bite my lip.
"Excuse me," Lexi smile too sweetly again, holding up a finger. Then she glares at me. "You told him?"
"How did you think I knew all that stuff in the beginning? How did you think I knew what to ask for when I bought that test?" I ask, holding my hands up in surrender. "I needed to go to someone."
"So, you go to a gay friend no one knows you have?" Chris asks. I nod.
"You know a lot for a man who sleeps with other men," Alexa turns to Xavier with a smile; it's not exactly a pleased smile, but she's not mad that he was the first to know. Only because she loves him. "Considering you can't accidentally knock someone up."
Xavier leans against the door frame, his arms folded over his chest. He suddenly loses his usual confidence, looking reminiscent, almost sad. "I was with a girl once. I was hiding my sexuality because I was afraid I'd be kicked off the team if they knew. She was at our victory party a couple of years ago and she came over. I played a part and it went too far. She told me she was pregnant, that she wanted us to be a family, and I told her the truth. I also told her that I'd still be there, but she took off. I didn't see her for a few weeks, then she came to me after practice one day, crying her eyes out, and she told me she'd lost the baby. I looked it up after she ran the first time, that's how I know."
We sit in silence, just listening to his story. Watching him, it's ike he felt compelled to finish it once he'd started. It's one he's obviously never shared, not once. I understand why. His face is pale and his breathing is rapid. It takes him a few minutes to calm himself, then he moves into the living room. "We need to change the mood before it becomes a really crappy birthday. I'm only here now because I had practice all day, I'm going out with friends tonight. Might even meet someone. When is your date coming, Lexi?"
Lexi glances at the clock again; she's been doing it every so often. She only stopped for Xavier's story. "Any minute."
She starts to ask him how his practice was, lightening the mood by pretending she's interested. He barely opens his mouth and the door rings. "That's him. Bye, guys. It was awesome to meet you, Xavier. Maybe I'll see you again soon."
We listen as she opens the door, greets Rich pleasantly and leaves the house. As soon as she does, I groan again. "It's just not fair."
"You could always tell her," Xavier suggests. I give him the finger and point to the coffee table. "Happy birthday, Xave."
"Ah, I love presents."
"You never told me that story," I say quietly while he opens the package containing his gloves.
He pauses for a moment and shrugs. "It was over two years ago, it's not like a can change anything," he says, pain flashes in his eyes.
"I'm sorry," Chris says, though his mind seems to be on something else entirely.
"Thanks." He inspects the gloves. "For your sorry and for the gift." He puts it down and picks up the other. "Let's talk about you, Al. Why did you let her go with him when you clearly wanted to take her against the wall, with or without an audience?"
"We're not all you, Xave," I roll my eyes again.
"No comment. How long have you been in love with her for?"
"I'm not in love with her," I deny quickly. I'm coming to terms with the fact that I have feelings for her, I can't be in love with her.
"Since fourth year, when she grew up and he realized she was actually a girl," Chris answers, slowly looking like his usual self.
"I am not in love with her!" I growl, standing up. "I just -" I stop and wait for myself to calm down. "I don't know what I want."
"Yes, you do," Xavier says, seemingly more preoccupied with his snitch.
I think back to the night we came home from the cinema; I knew what I wanted then, at least in some form. I wanted Alexa and the baby here with me, as a family. But will my feelings extend long enough to make a real relationship or will my love her change again? I know my feelings grew as we got older, but I also know that my thoughts keep going back to that night and I can't base my feelings purely on sex. I can't be with her if how I feel about her isn't as strong as I want it to be, if it becomes just a about sex or the kid. That's not fair on either Lexi or our kid.
I know that's why I've been doing my absolute best to keep this from her, that's why I haven't being as straightforward as I usually am with her and she insists on finding out.
I know what I want; I want to know for sure.
But I can't if she's seeing other people.
"I do," is all I say.
"Do you have alcohol in your fridge?" Xavier asks suddenly.
"There's some left over from our house warming party, which you were invited to by the way," I glare, but with a small smile to show I'm joking. He was in Germany, after all. "Alexa can't drink because she's pregnant and I promised I wouldn't for her, not that I could if I hadn't promised; the smell makes her ill. Why?"
"Because I've decided to stay tonight, help you. I can confirm my sexuality tomorrow," he smirks, disappearing into the kitchen. He comes back, handing us both a drink,and holds his up on salute. "Happy birthday to me."
When Alexa comes back, Chris is fast asleep on the couch/his bed, while Xavier is asleep on the floor. I lie next to him, but I don't sleep, so I hear her when she comes in.
"How was your date?" I whisper, making her jump. "Sorry."
Alexa notices the other two are fast asleep and nods her head in the direction of the stairs. Getting the message quickly, I follow her, making myself look anywhere but her while she's standing in front of me in that dress. She goes straight to her bedroom, shutting the door on me. I give her a few minutes, then turn to walk away, confused as to why she wanted me here, when she opens it again. Her make-up is off, her hair is tied back and she's in her pyjamas. Lexi leaves the door open for me to enter.
"I thought Xavier was going out for his birthday?"
"He changed his mind, decided to stay. How was your date?"
Lexi falls onto her bed and lies back, motioning for me to join her. "It was alright for a first date; he was charming and funny and a gentlemen, just a kiss on the cheek."
"Did you tell him?" Lexi shakes her head. "Thought not. He has to know sooner or later."
"I know. I'm just taking Emmett's advice; he said to enjoy my limited time with him. I liked him before and I like him now, plus we usually always listen to Em's advice, so I took it." Lexi frowns suddenly. "Will Xavier be okay on the floor?"
"His back will be sore in the morning, but if you don't want a punch on the face I wouldn't wake him." She turns to me, surprised. I explain, "Reflex."
We sit in silence, she starts to fall asleep while I watch her. Which is not creepy. I move a stray hair from her face and kiss her forehead. "I'm glad you enjoyed your date," I whisper, mostly sincere. She'll never know that I'm hoping Emmett's words about their limited time together comes soon.
"Thanks," she murmurs, sleep taking over. I get up to leave, but before she let's sleep take over her completely she says, "Don't think this is over. I will find out what you're keeping from me."
I dash into my room to grab an extra pillow and blanket for Xavier, not wanting him to hurt his back completely because of the floor. I'll find a way to roll him onto it. I move down the stairs quietly, not wanting to wake them. I manage to get the pillow under Xavier's head when Chris wakes up. "What time is it?"
"Almost midnight," I say quietly, finally getting the blanket underneath my friend and covering his front with the rest. "I'm going to bed, I'll see you in the morning, mate."
"No, wait," Chris says hurriedly, jumping of the couch and pushing me into the hall. "Before, when Xavier told that story, I think I know who he was referring to and I don't think he knows enough about her to know that I know her."
"Who is she?"
"This girl I know, she was about nineteen when she met Xavier, a year older than him. She told me she met the father at a Puddlemere victory party and that he didn't want to be a family when she told him he was pregnant, not that he couldn't." Chris stopped and took a deep breath before continuing. "He said she told him the baby was gone, but she lied."
My eyes widen as his words are processed in my head and I realize what he's saying. "Xavier's a father."
"He has a two year old boy," Chris whispers.
I turn to my friend, fast asleep and completely oblivious to our conversation, to the fact that he has a little boy somewhere in the world with no idea who his dad is. "Do you think we should tell him?"
"I wondered, but I don't know. You know him a lot better than I do, which is why I'm telling you."
"Who is this girl?" Chris looks uncertain, like he's about to betray some big secret that's not his to tell. But if he wants the burden of telling Xavier about his son on my shoulders, a burden I will kill him for, he has to tell me her name. "Who's the girl, Christopher?"
A/N: Ooooh, interesting... *wonders what will happen*
Hope you enjoy, please let me know what you think. :)
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