There's nothing worse than being blasted into a wall first thing on a Monday morning. I think I might have a concussion.
"Ow." I pick myself up off the floor. Well, off my stomach to sit on the floor, and cautiously touch the back of my head with my hand, wincing as I do so, until I'm used to it enough to put some pressure on it. "Son of a - Christopher!"
Malcolm calls over, asking me if I'm alright. I give him a thumbs up - it may hurt like hell, but I think I'll be okay - and he gives everyone a break for fifteen minutes, so I slump my shoulders and relax against the wall. Chris comes over to join me and sits across from me, a pitying look on his face.
Why? Because I told him about me and Alexa and our little talk after she told me about the baby.
"So, you sleep together, then you avoid her," he starts.
"She went crazy with hormones, slept with me, then told me she knew how I felt about her," I defend. "Forgive me for taking it kind of badly."
"Forgiven." I start to argue back, but the look he gives me makes me shut up and he puts his index finger on his lips, his other index finger pointing at me. "She went crazy; so what? You got to have sex. I want to tell you about how much of an idiot you are for avoiding her. She wanted to talk to you about your relationship! Do you know how serious that is?"
"Yes." I glare at him. I am not an idiot. "I was afraid she'd tell me that it was only because of the hormones and that she didn't feel the same. You can't blame me for thinking that."
Chris covers his face in his hands and groans, very loudly, which attracts more attention than before - a fair few pairs of eyes have been watching us, but I was able to ignore them until now. Now it's unnerving. I make myself focus on Chris, who's still covering his face, but is, thankfully, no longer making any noise. Personally, I think he's being extremely childish and should grow up. I don't know what Megan sees in him.
"God, Albus." He drops his hands and stares at me. "She wanted to talk to you. Wanted! Do you know what that means? Do you?" I shrug. "If someone needs to talk to you about relationship stuff, you get scared and you think they're gonna dump you. Believe me, I know. I've done it. If someone says they want to talk to you, you sigh in relief because if they want to talk to you, it's probably a good thing."
"It must be if they want to tell you. Wanting to talk and needing to talk are two completely different things and she said want."
I think about what he's saying; Lexi did say she wanted to talk. I've been around for a couple of her break ups; I'm pretty sure she said need then. My head hurts. And not just from the wall.
"So, you think she wants to tell me that she wants to be with me, too?" I ask.
"I think you should go talk to her and find out what she wants to say," Chris says. "Alexa isn't exactly where you're at; when I look at her, I'm sure she likes you. It's been there for a while, but as a 'maybe we could be something', her feelings haven't been there for as long as yours, including when you didn't know it."
"Is this supposed to make me feel better?" I glare.
Chris rolls his eyes at me. "Whether they've been there for a few months or a few years, she is still choosing you, the biggest loser out of all the losers she's met, who has managed to successfully worm himself into her bed - twice now - and get her to want to talk about relationships. She usually dumps them long before they get that far." Now he decides to lower his voice. "And you know it's not because of the kid, you know how she feels about family and stuff, after her parents divorce and all. You were the first person she talked to about it."
I have to agree that what he's saying could very well be true. Alexa won't be with me for the kid, just like I wouldn't be with her for the same reason. Only for me it's because I just don't think it would be fair, Lexi, however, has been in that position. Well, that's what she told me. When she told me about her parents, the only thing that remained, and still remains, a secret is the reason they finally got the divorce. I got the impression that it all comes down to Kieron, but she won't say.
All I know is that whatever happens between us, it really won't be because of the baby. I can consider that a good thing. My mind is finally made up, now I just hope I go through with it. I'll talk to Lexi later.
So, really there's only one thing left to say. "I'm not a loser."
Chris gives me another pitying look. "You're too cautious, you over think everything, when you put a thought in your head you become scarily obsessive - thinking Lexi was pregnant, for example, thinking you liked Catrine, for another. Yeah, Al, you kind of are a loser." He leans across and pats my shoulder. "But that's okay, we love you anyway."
"Thanks," I mutter sarcastically and slowly, because moving with a banged head is making the room spin a little, I stand up. "You still crashing my parents' house later?"
"We all are," Chris assures. "I want to ask you about what to get Lexi for her birthday on the way there."
I nod along and say okay just as Malcolm starts training again, not really listening, but I know what he said went in because my mind plays back what he says. I freeze, eyes wide, then I snap out if it just enough to drag my hands through my messy hair. The swearing that escapes my lips is not only because I touched the bump that is now growing on my head
Crap! I completely forgot about my best friend's birthday!
I can't imagine why she'd ever want to be with me.
Chris goes on about ideas for Lexi's birthday - which is in three days, I remember - from jewelry to clothes to stuff she can use for the baby all the way to the fireplaces. He dismisses the baby idea quickly; Lexi will love being given presents for the baby, but not until the baby is close to being born and definitely not for her birthday. It's her day; if she can't use it, she doesn't want it.
And people think she's spoilt...
I go through first, since it's my parents' house it's only fair, and step out into the living room. It's empty, as I expected it to be, but I hear voices in the kitchen and follow the sounds just as Chris steps through. Lexi and Emmett are already here. I kiss my mum's cheek as I walk to the cupboard for a glass, because she'd moan about how hurt she is that her son doesn't love her enough - all an act, of course, that started when I was five because I wouldn't give her a kiss in front of everyone on my first day of Muggle school. I move to the sink next and fill my glass with water.
"Dinner will be ready soon, so if you won't get a shower and change first, at least wash your hands and face," Mum warns me, turning back to Lexi and Emmett. "Seriously, sweetheart, how do you handle that smell?"
"I have a big brother," Lexi says sympathetically.
"Don't get me started on big brothers. The differences between them and Albus? He's my son, I can tell him what to do."
"Okay, first of all, you can't; I am an adult, with a home and family of my own. I don't even live here anymore," I remind her. Mum gives me a look, daring me to continue speaking to her the way I am. I step back a little. "But I love you and that's why I listen."
"Yes, it is," she agrees with a smug smile.
"I don't know why you care anyway," I say, finishing my water. "Not only did you date a guy who went through Auror training, but you were a Quidditch player."
"True," Mum concedes. "But that 'guy', who you happen to call 'Dad' by the way, was home before me and clean and the Harpies changing rooms have showers. Who knew?"
I roll my eyes; Ginny Potter aka smartass. Not that I'd tell her that. "I'd love to take a shower, Mum, but I have no clean clothes here and I'm not going to make myself clean just to put sweaty clothes back on."
"You could floo home, it's not like it would take you very long," Emmett suggests with a grin.
"But I'm already here, so no," I shake my head. "You can handle one night."
Mum mutters something about boys and Chris joins Emmett to talk about God knows what. I stop next to Lexi and move in close to her. I half expect her to move after what she said to my mum, but she looks at me like she's waiting for me to say something - which I kind of want to do - and she only frowns a little.
"I want to talk to you later."
"Why can't we talk now?" she asks curiously.
I glance at Mum, who looks down quickly. "Nosy people. Later."
Lexi's frown deepens for a moment, then her eyes widen and I think she understands. She nods quickly. "Later."
Smiling reassuringly, I leave to do what my mum said and get a quick wash.
Darcy and Megan come in just as Mum gets Emmett to set the table and she is serving dinner, Dad and James arriving at the exact same time just a couple of minutes after my friends - Dad through the floo, James through the front door. One after the other, they kiss Mum's cheek - Dad for a little too long - and join us at the dinner table.
Dinner is familiar and loud, except for the fact that all of my friends are here. Lexi never came here before the pregnancy because I was always at hers and Em only ever came here to get away from his family when he knew they'd look for him at Lexi's. James finds time to wind Lexi up in some way, when he's not going on about the Cannon's 'epic loss' the other day, but quickly stops when Mum warns him and Emmett kicks him under the table.
When we finish, I help Mum clear the table, and because we have guests, she uses magic to clean the dishes and ushers us all into the living room. The reason why hits both Lexi and I the moment she sits us down on the couch and takes Lexi's other side - the scan.
We haven't told them yet.
"So, how was it?" she asks when we say nothing.
"Okay," Lexi starts slowly. "The baby is smaller than he or she should be, but as long as I take things easy and not stress, Healer Moore isn't too worried."
"It's probably nothing to worry about," Dad says with a reassuring smile. "So, I take it you don't know the sex of the baby? You said he or she."
I shake my head and copy his smile; it's actually quite comforting. "No, we decided to keep it a surprise. It makes picking baby names more fun."
I meant it as a joke, but Darcy's, Megan's, Chris' and Mum's eyes all light up and their grins are huge. We're definitely onto the baby name topic now.
Lexi glares at me; at least once every few days she gets asked to have the baby named after them by Chris, by Lily if she were here, and the others just like to give suggestions. "Nice going, Potter," she growls.
I shrug. It was bound to happen anyway, I'm really just getting it out of the way.
"Do you have any names picked out yet?" James asks, more focused on the magazine he has in his hands.
"We don't need another James," Darcy adds quickly. "I still like Emma."
"We don't have any names picked out," Lexi tells them, then she gives me another familiar look. "We're still deciding."
It's Dad's turn to laugh. "What name have you picked, Al?"
"Isaac," I answer. "What's wrong with that?"
"No," is all Lexi says. Again.
"Isaac is a pretty name," Megan says excitedly. "Lovely and not too common. No, more than lovely. Little Isaac Potter. How adorable."
"No," Lexi repeats. "I like Adam. Why are names so hard?" she moans when I shake my head.
"You'll find the perfect name eventfully," Mum promises.
I scoff. "Easy for you to say; you two just named us after people you knew."
"Yeah, but we knew a lot of people, so it was kind of hard," Dad defends. "I didn't even expect your name until I was told."
"I don't understand," I frown, confused. "I thought it was you who named me."
"Nope, I named James, your mum got to name you," Dad replies, sitting back against his chair and folding his arms. It's officially story time. "We knew we wanted at least two kids, so we decided I would name our first and Ginny would name our second. We gave each other suggestions, but your mum refused to tell me her final decision until after you were born and we knew you were a boy. She knew I'd think it was perfect."
They turn to share a look, one so obviously filled with love for each other that I have to change the subject before I throw up my dinner. No one wants to see that look on their parents' faces. "What were your suggestions? In case we like one of them."
Dad finally looks back to me and goes back into 'story time' mode. "I only really had one; your mum wouldn't tell me what she decided, so I'd constantly whisper 'Jacob' to her stomach."
"So, before you decided 'Albus Severus' was perfect, you wanted me to be called Jacob?" Dad nods. I test it out in my head. Jacob Potter. Jake Potter. "Kinda would have preferred 'Jake'. Don't get me wrong, I'm honored to be named after two Headmasters, but the Muggles don't know them to understand and when you're five years old, spending your lunch times alone in the classroom because the other kids are laughing at you isn't exactly fun."
Lexi wraps her arm around my shoulders and rubs her hand up and down my arm, promising that if she'd been there, she'd have kicked their asses for me. I appreciate that she's trying to cheer me up, but honestly I'm not so sure having a girl fight my battles would have helped my chances of being accepted. Besides, I had James kick their asses and when Hugo came along, I got him to use his genius brain to freak them out. I didn't stay to watch and Hugo never told me what he did, but he was only five at the time, so it couldn't have been too bad. All I know is that they never bothered me again after that.
I thank Lexi anyway and the name picking continues. I resort to doing as Dad said he did; I lean down to Lexi's stomach and repeatedly murmur 'Isaac' until she gets annoyed and pushes me away.
I refuse to give up.
Eventually the conversation shifts to school and for once I'm thankful James is around. I love my brother, I really do, but he can be a pain. Mum talks about the letter Lily sent - she and Hugo are more or less enjoying their sixth year of school, but Hugo is seeing someone new and misses him. I turn to Lexi when she snickers and she shakes her head, looking down.
"Do you know who it is?" I ask.
"Maybe," she answers vaguely, still laughing.
"I had no idea you and Hugo were close enough for him to tell you something about his personal life," Emmett says. I have to agree with him.
Lexi's smug smile is huge now, her face practically glowing with humor and excitement. "Some things I do notice."
"Some things are best left alone," Emmett warns. "If he's not telling, then he obviously doesn't want people to know yet."
Darcy leans forward to whisper in his ear. I barely manage to catch, "Like you," then she moves back and she looks as smug as Lexi does.
It doesn't take me long to put two and two together, especially when Emmett starts to look a little pale, and I pray I came up with five... It's just too weird to think about.
So, I'm not.
It's not true.
It's not happening.
I'm pretty sure I remember giving Emmett advice about talking to a relative friend, as in me, at Christmas. Since I'm the friend of his who Hugo is close to. So, I have until Christmas to get used to it...
Another snicker from Lexi, this time at me, reminds me to get her to tell me how she and Darcy knew.
I stand up, just to do something that doesn't involve thinking about one of my best friends potentially dating my youngest cousin. "I'm going to get a drink, anyone else want one?"
I'm bombarded with noise, people talking over one another to tell me what they want, and I'm not so sure my head takes it all in. But I nod and smile and try, praying to God I get it right. I'm saved when Dad gets up too and says he'll help; he must have heard them all, or at least some, so he can fill in the gaps... Maybe.
He walks with me into the kitchen, silent and thoughtful, which isn't completely out of character for him, but it's usually when he's worrying about a serious case or his family. While I grab glasses and mugs from the cupboards, Dad takes out juice and pop, fills up the kettle and fills one glass with water.
"Lexi went to see Theo after the scan. He said you and her were going through some things, but he didn't elaborate. You seem okay, though." Dad finally looks up from sorting the drinks. "You're okay?"
Oh. He's worried about me.
I nod and smile, it's small but genuine and enough for me to see Dad relax.
"We're fine," I tell him, thankful it's honest. If he'd asked me a couple of days ago, he'd see me lying through my teeth. "So, what do you think of 'Isaac'?"
Dad only grins.
Lexi's so tired by the time we get home that I promise her that what I want to say can wait one more night and send her to bed. I let her go alone while I make sure everything's closed and locked up, then follow her. She's already fast asleep when I peek inside her room to check on her.
Lexi is still fast asleep when I wake up, and after a wash, I use the time I have before Auror training to look for her birthday present. Leaving her a note to tell her I'll see her tonight on the kitchen table, I make a quick breakfast and leave. The walk to the Apparition spot we use isn't enough time for my breakfast to settle; my hand grasps my stomach the moment I'm in front of the pub. I really should wait a bit before traveling this way - like they say to do with swimming.
The pub is more or less empty, a couple of people who I assume are guests are having breakfast; I'm able to walk through without anyone so much as batting an eyelid. Outside, there are more people, but only a few. Shops are just starting to open, it'll be a while before the crowds swarm in. I wish I had more time to spend here, it's oddly peaceful early in the morning, but that would mean being late for training and being the Head Auror's son will not get out of trouble.
So, I speed up a little. I need to at least have an idea of what to get Lexi before I go, given her birthday is so soon; browsing through one or two of her favorite shops and looking through windows will have to do right now.
I stop to pick up a child's doll and hand it back to her mother, turning briefly when the thought of what walking with my kid around Diagon Alley would be like, and don't see whoever is in front of me. I walk right into them.
"I'm so sor -" I stop when I see exactly who it is. Ah, crap. "Hello, Jessica."
Smiling excitedly, then visibly taking a deep breath - I didn't think I was that exciting - she relaxes her face. "Hey, Al. I didn't expect to see you here. You're not usually up this early."
I hope my face doesn't give away how freaked out I am inside. "We need to have another one of our talks on boundaries, don't we? You know I don't like it when you talk about my life like it's a schedule for you to follow."
"No, silly," she giggles, pushing back her shoulder-length blond hair. I'd consider her rather pretty if she didn't scare me so much. Somebody, help me. "I just remember from school. I haven't seen you since then. So, how have you been? I hear you've moved out of your parents' house."
"Yeah, I live with Lexi," I reply cautiously. I don't know exactly what she's heard and Lexi is a sore subject for Jessica, but my friend is also the key to keeping my stalker from looking for me. "It's nice," I finish quickly, trying to side-step her.
Jessica just moves in front of me, like a reflex. I bet she wasn't even fully aware that I tried to get away.
"Yeah, I heard that, too," she mutters, her happy smile fading a little. "She came to babysit my brother. I only saw her for a minute, though. I left before my parents. I hear she's knocked up."
"Yeah," I say, trying not to react to her suddenly smug grin. Just wait till it's announced, I can't wait to see her face then. I remember Lexi telling me that people had noticed, that shed heard whispers. She wants to give Rich the 'story'. He's already agreed, probably to rub it in his cousin's face that he knew before her because he's still not so happy about the fact that he no longer has a shot. His words, not mine. The news goes out on Friday, so I think it's okay just admitting that what she's no doubt already seen is true. "Lexi is having a baby. She's very happy about it."
"Do you know who the father is? Being her best friend and all," she adds.
I bet she's thinking of all the rumors about me and Lexi in school and how to tell everyone that they were wrong and she has a shot with me. Not that I know her all that well, I never want to, I just heard her once say that she'd find a way to tell everyone they were wrong. Judging from her smile, I assume this would be it.
Mine, I want to say, I almost do say, but in the end I know stopping myself is the best idea. I take a breath and start to tell her that it's none of her business. Except...
"Her boyfriend's," I say instead. Which is not even a half truth, we haven't talked yet. I want to kick myself. But I just keep on talking. "They had a thing at the end of school, decided to stay friends. But feelings have come into it and they decided they want to see where things could go."
I feel like I'm having the conversation I should have with Lexi alone. At least the thing and the friends and the feelings parts are true. That's gotta count for something.
"Awesome. What's he like?"
"He's alright," I shrug nonchalantly, not entirely comfortable talking about myself. "Look, Jessica, I really have to go."
"Right, you have Auror training," she says enthusiastically.
I frown. I don't like when she asks people about me, but I really hope she knows that because of her dad or someone she knows and not because she's been coming to the Ministry to see me.
This time she doesn't stop me and I pretend the running away is because I'm going to be late of Auror training, even though I'm sure I still have about half an hour and I'm pretty sure she knows it, too.
I can't believe I said all of that.
I have got to talk to Lexi later.
When I get back home, Lexi is lying on the couch with the wireless playing and a piece of paper in her hand. I peer over her shoulder, trying to catch a glimpse of what I suspect is a birthday list, so I have a clue what to get her, but the moment she catches me, she hugs the paper to her chest and sits up.
"Hey, Al - oh, God, is that blood on your face?"
My hands are at my face faster than I can blink, but when I pull back and see the smeared red substance on my fingertips, I remember the ink incident during lunch. "Oh, no. Ashley drew on me."
"Ashley the guy or Ashley the girl?" Lexi asks curiously.
I pause for a second, only to think back to our really weird afternoon. Well, more funny than weird, though drawing on me because I 'have that kind of a face' is not exactly normal. After the pause, I correct myself. "Both Ashleys drew on me."
"Yeah, that's not crazy," Lexi replies with a hint of sarcasm. Or a bucket full.
I wave my hand, telling her it's nothing, and sit down beside her. "So, about that talk I mentioned last night. You know I've had these feelings recently, though some would argue it's been a while." I stop and wait for her to say something about that, but she just nods, keeping quiet. "I was thinking, hoping and wanting to talk to you about us and couples and doing that... Together. God, I'm so bad at this."
"Yeah, you are," Lexi laughs. A normal reaction if it were any other situation, so I'm going to take it as a good thing. "It's actually one of the reasons I've always liked you. You don't hid behind self confidence and other things that make me not like people. You're you. For that reason, and maybe a few others, I want to agree to us and couples and doing that... Together."
I exhale loudly, letting myself fall back into the couch, and Lexi joins me. She threads her arm through mine and just sits with me, like she always has done.
"We'll start slow," she continues. "We'll have a date, I've always wondered what you do on dates because you never talk about it, and we'll go somewhere amazing. Preferably somewhere where Jessica can see us."
My groan is involuntary and loud, very loud. Lexi faces me quick. "Too soon?" she teases.
I shake my head. "About Jess. I bumped into her while I was out this morning. She had noticed that you're pregnant when she saw you at her house to babysit and she asked me who the father was and stuff."
"What did you say?" she glares.
"Not that it's me, I swear." I raise my hands in surrender. "I may have said that the father was your boyfriend and that you're very happy, though. All I could think about was the look on her face when she knew it was me and it just slipped out."
It takes a while, but eventually Lexi stops with the glares and nods. "I forgive you." Then she smiles. "I understand why; the look I have imagined is awesome - oh."
"What?" I ask.
Lexi chuckles at my slightly panicked reaction and grabs my hand, placing it gently over the right side of her stomach. "Wait for it."
I do, puzzled, until finally I feel quick movements underneath my palm. "Your kid has been kicking all afternoon."
"Wow," I murmur, too excited to correct 'your kid' to 'our kid'. "This is so surreal."
"Well, come back to the real world, I'm not doing this alone. Especially now that you've told your stalker that you're my boyfriend," she adds, winking. "You're my shield. No, you're your kid's shield. Do your job."
"I'm going to ignore the fact that you're using our baby as emotional blackmail, and promise that Jessica won't do anything," I smile. "We can do this."
The relationship, the world knowing, the parent stuff, I mean it all.
A/N: I'm sorry for the long wait, I've just finished exams and coursework, only to start more coursework. The world will know in the next chapter. :)
Did you guess right about Emmett's boyfriend? ;) He is the last gay character, it's only him and Dom in the family and, with Em and Kieron, the only ones mentioned. Xavier doesn't have a relationship.
And in case you were wondering, Hugo, with his vivid imagination, told the bullies he had a poisonous pet snake and it was somewhere in the school. I tell you because it doesn't come up much... (He's a Gryffindor in Hogwarts, not a Slytherin. ;))
I hope you enjoyed. Please let me know what you think. :)
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