Chapter 4 : Baggage
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After I left Matt's last night I had actually thought that kissing him wasn't a bad thing, exactly. His reaction had clearly meant he'd felt something and something was better than nothing because something could turn into something else, if that made sense. But now, in the light of day, I realized just how stupid it was to think that.
Of course Matt wouldn't want to go any further with whatever it was that had happened last night. He was Al's best friend and had been since they were eleven. I was Al's little sister. Dating your best friend's little sister was frowned upon, unless you were Harry Potter, and Matt certainly isn't Harry Potter.
I'd sent Ashtyn an owl with all the details of the evening as soon as I got home, but she had yet to owl me back. She was probably too absorbed in editing to reply right away. But I needed to talk to someone, and chances were, the only person I'd encounter at work that day was Bradley. Bradley was definitely not an option for romantic advice.
I contemplated who else I could talk to as I showered and got ready for the day. As someone who has sixteen cousins, not counting the people those cousins had married, you'd think I'd have plenty of options for advice, but really, I didn't. My cousins generally give crap advice and most are too busy to dish it out in spans longer than five minutes. Unless we were all at Nana Molly's for dinner. Then I'd hear all kinds of unwanted advice.
Halfway through my second cup of tea it came to me. Rose. Rose was the perfect answer. Normally, I didn't like going to Rose for advice because she's a psychiatrist and generally gets my problems spot on and I just don't want to know the underlying reasons for why I do things. But for this, Rose had an advantage over my other cousins. She was friends with Matt. Maybe she'd be able to tell me if there was any hope at all for him to ignore the fact that I was his best friend's little sister.
My mind made up, I set off for work. When I arrived I found Bradley practically buried in a sea of boxes, which were cluttering up the small waiting area in front of my desk. Bradley looked up as I entered and I noticed he had a day's worth of reddish stubble on his face.
“Did you go home last night?” I asked, stepping over a few boxes.
“No,” Bradley said. “I got back from Magical Records and Archives after you left and I've been here ever since.”
“What is all that?”
“Adoption records,” Bradley answered. “All the adoption records from 2019, the year Shawna Gordon was born and then adopted.”
“Is it legal to take those out of the Ministry?”
Bradley shrugged. “Probably not, but Todd said I could keep them for twenty-four hours and he'd cover for me. I'm nearly through them and I haven't found any record of Shawna's adoption, yet her parents swear they adopted her through the Ministry's adoption agency. But if they had, there would be a record of it here.”
“You think they're lying to her?”
“Wouldn't be the first time parents have covered something up before,” Bradley said. “Remember the Wayland case?”
I nodded. Peter Wayland had been sixteen when he came into the office asking Bradley to look into his adoption. His parents spent Peter's entire life telling him he was a Muggle, adopted through a Muggle adoption agency, to cover up the fact that he was actually a Squib. Apparently his parents hadn't wanted him to grow up feeling like he'd missed out on magic. It hadn't worked. Peter now works at the Apothecary in Diagon Alley and attempts to brew potions in the back room when the owners aren't there.
“I really hope this isn't another repeat of that.” Bradley sighed.
“But Shawna's a witch, so it already won't be,” I pointed out.
“Yes, but there could still be something fishy going on,” Bradley said.
I had a feeling there was. Five years of working for Bradley and I'd started to get a sixth sense on these sorts of things. Sure, Magical Records and Archives lost the occasional piece of parchment, but rarely did an entire file go missing. Shawna's parents were most likely hiding something.
After owling Rose to inquire about lunch I spent the morning recording Bradley's latest firm expenses and emptying the till and taking its contents to Gringott's. Bradley didn't move from his spot on the floor, even when Zeke Hamish, another regular, came in to leave me details of a bloke who owed him a night's gambling debt. I assured him Bradley would locate him the next day, after he'd finished with the boxes of adoption records.
Rose sent an immediate owl back, telling me that she could meet with me, but only at one and only for a half hour. At least she didn't demand I bring food. I told her I'd meet her at her study.
The rest of the morning crept by at a snail's pace. I got takeaway for Bradley and myself around noon and forced him to take a break in order to eat it. I knew from experience that he probably hadn't eaten since lunch yesterday. When I took this job my aunt Corrine, Bradley's mum, asked me to make sure he ate at least one meal per day. At the time I'd laughed it off, thinking that no Weasley would ever willingly miss a meal, but Bradley regularly did. He'll deny it until he's blue in the face, but he really is a workaholic like his dad, my uncle Percy.
“I'm taking a late lunch,” I announced at a quarter to one.
“You just ate lunch,” Bradley said, not looking up from the boxes.
“I mean a break from work. I'm meeting Rose at her study,” I explained as I got my purse out of the drawer.
“Oh, are you finally going to let her analyze you? I'll give you the whole afternoon off for that. I mean, Rose is good, but even she can't fix you in a half hour.”
“Shut up, Bradley,” I muttered. “And I'm not going there for her to analyze her. I just need her advice on something.”
“If it's about Sean, don't get back together with him.”
Why did everyone think I was at risk for getting back together with Sean? “I am not getting back together with Sean.”
“Oh, is this about a new bloke, then?”
“What makes you think it's about a bloke?”
Bradley finally looked up and gave me a withering look. “C'mon, Lily. I've known you your entire life.”
“Fine, it's about a bloke,” I muttered.
“Will you tell me who?”
“Not for all the Galleons in the till.”
“Well, you just took the till to Gringott's, so...”
“I'll see you in a bit,” I said. I stepped over the boxes and hit Bradley in the head with my purse on my way out the door. Accidentally. Or not. Take your pick.
Visiting St. Mungo's is not my favorite activity in the world. It's chaotic and smells vaguely of rancid potions. As with Ashtyn, I prefer to meet Rose outside of her place of employment but, as with Ashtyn, it's difficult to pry Rose away from work. I'm not sure why I tend to attract workaholics as friends, given the fact that I'd rather have a day off than work, but who knows.
Rose's office is located in the psychiatry wing, the newest wing of St. Mungo's, which was built in the immediate aftermath of the Final Battle in 1998. Prior to the Final Battle, mental health received little attention in wizarding Britain. Now, the wing houses a few psychologists, therapists, and two psychiatrists. Rose is one of them. Her study is quite large, with a window that looks out over Muggle London. She had it professionally decorated in an effort to create feelings of calm and tranquility in her clients.
I knocked on the door at exactly one and Rose answered a few seconds later, dressed in the God awful lime green robes all the healers at St. Mungo's were required to wear while on duty. I'm not exactly the most fashionable of people but even I know that lime green flatters nobody.
“Lily,” Rose said, stepping aside so I could enter. “Come in. Have a seat.”
I took stock of Rose's study, noticed that nothing had changed, and thought briefly on where to sit. Rose's study contains one of those classic 'psychiatrist' couches, although hers is at least stylish, clothed in dark brown leather. She also has a few armchairs in matching leather. I chose an armchair. Laying on the couch would be too much like she was analyzing me.
Rose shut the door and sat down in the chair next to me. “How are you? Hugo told me about your flat. You know you could've stayed with me.”
Why didn't I think of that? “I've been okay,” I said. “I'll come round your place next time my flat is unlivable.”
“Just okay?” Rose asked, giving me a sympathetic gaze that made her look exactly like Aunt Hermione. “Your owl was quite vague.”
“I need romantic advice,” I said, sighing. Might as well be direct since Rose only had a half hour.
Rose raised her eyebrows. “You never come to me for romantic advice. Is this about-”
“No!” I answered, a bit louder than necessary. “You're the fourth person to ask me about Sean this week. I am never getting back together with him. Don't worry. This...this is about Matt.”
Rose's jaw fell open and she lost her professional look. “Wait. My friend Matt? Matt Eckerton?”
I sighed again. “Yes, that Matt.” I then proceeded to tell her the whole story, from staying with Matt and Becca to last night's dinner.
“And then, just as I was leaving, we kissed,” I explained. “It was the type of kiss that takes your breath away, the type that leaves you wanting more. But then he pulled away and said I was Al's little sister and that he couldn't. Then I left.”
Rose groaned. “Oh, Lily. You kissed him?”
“I never said I was the one to kiss him!” I exclaimed, outraged. Was I really that bad about kissing random blokes? “Why does everyone assume I'm the one that does the kissing?”
Rose smiled, shaking her head slightly. “It's not you. It's Matt. I'd sooner believe that Bradley wanted to give up his PI firm to go work for the Ministry than believe Matt was the one who kissed you. He's painfully shy, always has been, and his luck with relationships has been nearly as awful as yours.”
“But what do I do about it?”
“About the fact that there's clearly some sort of chemistry between us but he can't get over that I'm Albus's sister.”
Rose sighed again. Why did I constantly make her sigh? She toyed with a loose thread on her awful robes and refused to meet my gaze. What was going on?
“What is it?” I asked, suddenly worried.
“Look, Lily,” Rose began, finally making eye contact. “I don't want you to take this in a bad way or anything-”
Nothing good ever followed those words, I thought.
“-You just ended a five month relationship last week. You don't have the greatest track record when it comes to relationships-”
“It's not my fault I attract awful blokes!”
“Maybe not, but Lily, you've got to take ownership. It's partially your fault you stay in relationships with awful blokes so long. You can't tell me that in five months you didn't encounter anything suspicious about Sean. Think about it, Lily.”
I thought. Okay, there was the fact that I never once met Sean at St. Mungo's to go to dinner after work. I suggested it a few times since he was always meeting me at Bradley's firm, but he always said no. And the fact that we always stayed the night at my flat, despite the fact that it was much smaller than the house he presumed to own. And the night I sliced myself with a knife and he refused to do a healing charm on it, insisting I go to St. Mungo's. Then none of the other healers seemed to recognize him when we were there. God, I really am an idiot, aren't I?
“See?” Rose said, even though I hadn't said anything. I suppose the look on my face was enough.
“Fine, you're right,” I muttered. “But what has that got to do with Matt?”
“You know I love you, Lily, I really do, but sometimes you're a bit dense. Your past relationships made you the person you are today and that will affect your future relationships. You have baggage, Lil-”
“Who doesn't?” I demanded.
“We all do, of course,” Rose said. “Me included. But Lily, the last thing Matt needs is another disastrous relationship-”
“Why do you assume I'll be the one who will wreck it? And what about me? What about my disastrous relationships?” I was suddenly remembering why I never came to Rose for romantic advice. I was her cousin. She should at least be taking my side.
“I never said you'd be the one to wreck it. And nine times out of ten there's blame on both sides. But Lily, I know both of you. You get out of a bad relationship, eat a pint of ice cream, have a good bloke-bashing session with Ashtyn, and are back on your feet at pubs within a week. Look at Sean. You broke up with him a week ago and now you've got this thing for Matt. You bounce back quickly, Lil, and that's one of your best qualities. You're resilient. Plenty of people who have had the types of relationships you've had would have given up by now. Sure, you're a bit cynical about weddings-”
“Who wouldn't be after attending ten in the past decade?”
Rose laughed. “Fair point. Anyway, Lily, you're strong. Matt's had fewer relationships than you, and they've all ended badly. He doesn't bounce back like you do. Instead he holes up in his flat thinking about what he could've done differently for weeks until Albus drags him to the pub. It's different, Lily. He needs something that will last.”
Now I was curious as to why all his relationships ended badly, but I doubted Rose would tell me so I didn't bother asking. “But he and I might last. You don't know that we wouldn't.”
“No, I don't. But I do know that you just got out of a long relationship and are probably rebounding. I have nothing against rebounding, but Lily, I refuse to allow you to rebound with Matt. I will put myself in the middle and stop it myself if I have to.”
Put herself in the middle. That just sounded wrong. I giggled.
Rose groaned. “Lily, grow up and get your mind out of the gutter.”
“James would've laughed at that one.”
“And that's why he's your brother and not mine. Lily, you've got to promise me you won't keep pressing at this thing with Matt.”
That was the last thing I wanted to promise. He wasn't some rebound guy. The blokes I'd rebounded with in the past hadn't made me feel the way I felt last night. Nor had they been as nice to just talk to.
“Rose, I really like him-”
“Lily, promise me.”
“Fine, I promise,” I muttered. “But hear me out. What if I waited an appropriate amount of time to get over Sean and I still liked him? What would I do about the being Al's little sister thing?”
“Well, you can't exactly change that-”
“I know that, Rose. But you know Matt. Do you think there's anything that would change his mind?”
Rose sighed and glanced at her watch. I'd probably used up most of my half hour by now. “I suppose, if he really wanted to go out with you, he'd only do it with Al's permission-”
“With Al's permission?” I asked, disgusted. “What is this, last century?”
“Everyone knows dating your best friend's sibling is an iffy situation. Think about it this way. What if you wanted to date John-”
“You did not just say that!” I exclaimed. Ashtyn's older brother was extremely immature and I never had any desire to date him. “Plus, he's married.” How he'd managed to find a girl willing to marry him, I've no idea. But it certainly gave me hope for myself.
“That's not the point. Would you ever date Ashtyn's brother, whether it's John or some fictional brother, without asking how she felt about it?”
Okay, Rose had a point there. “No, I suppose not.”
“Exactly. Matt's probably already feeling guilty about kissing you and that wasn't exactly his fault, now, was it?”
Now I felt guilty. I hadn't thought about that, either. “But Al's gone on a mission.”
“Do you know when he'll be back?”
“Your guess is as good as mine. Could be next week, could be next month.”
“Good,” Rose said, satisfied. “That'll give you time to get over Sean. Give it a month, or until Albus comes back, whichever comes later, then see how you feel. Until then, Lily, just try being single. Trust me, it's not as awful as you think it is. I was single for three years before I found Liam.”
“Okay,” I said, still unsure about the whole thing. “I suppose I can do that.”
“And if you can't, you're not the right girl for Matt,” Rose said, standing up. “Now I've got a patient due in about five minutes.”
I nodded, standing up as well. “Thanks, Rose.”
Rose smiled and gave me a hug. “No problem, Lily.”
“And Rose?” I said, pausing at the door. “When you see Matt and he tells you about me kissing him, please don't tell him about Sean. Or about any of my other exes, for that matter.”
Rose laughed. “My mind is a safe. Trust me, I've had practice.”
“Practice...” I said, giggling. “You've had practice, and you practice healing... Nice pun.”
Rose groaned. “Goodbye, Lily.”
A/N: Thanks for all the wonderful reviews!
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