Chapter 9 : Nothing to Worry About
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I still wasn't sure what would happen after dinner, which was vaguely unsettling. Rose had said she would've been shocked if I slept with Matt on the first date, because Matt wouldn't do that, but what about the second date? It wasn't the sort of thing I usually discussed with men over dinner, but we always managed to wind up in bed nonetheless. Except with Matt.
And that intrigued me.
Was it weird that I was worrying more about the sex than what I'd wear, while standing in front of my closet looking for an outfit? Probably. But I wasn't fussed about my outfit and just decided to go with a classy navy skirt and a sparkly top.
This was how I found myself ready fifteen minutes early and spent those fifteen minutes picking cat hair off my skirt, even though I didn't care that my skirt was made mostly of cat hair. In fact, I was so enthralled by my cat hair extraction exercise that when Matt knocked on the door I jumped, scaring the crap out of Sir Thumbs. Not literally, but with Sir Thumbs, you never know.
“Hi,” Matt said as I opened the door.
“Hi,” I said, kissing him briefly. “How are you?”
“Good,” Matt said, pulling a dozen roses out from behind his back. “No lilies this time.”
I laughed. “Thanks. Now if you were to give these to Rose...”
“What's with the flower names in your family?” Matt asked.
“I was named after my grandmother,” I said as I yanked the dead lilies out of the vase, tossed them in the bin, and replaced them with the roses. “I think Rose was, too.”
“Don't name your future daughter Daisy,” Matt said. “She'll only get daisies from her future boyfriends.”
I groaned. “Shall we go to dinner?”
“Yes,” Matt said. “I thought we'd go to a pub tonight.”
“Not the Rusty Bludger,” Matt said as we left the flat.
“Speaking of the Rusty Bludger,” I said, gently pushing Sir Thumbs back inside and shutting the door. “I ran into your sister there the other day. At the Rusty Bludger, I mean.”
“I figured. That's one of three places you could run into her. The other two being St. Mungo's or her house. Mostly St. Mungo's.”
“She works a lot?”
“That's an understatement. I thought she would've scaled down the work after having Lucy, but it hasn't happened yet. She worked right up until she went into labor, too. Her boss wasn't pleased, but she insisted that going into labor in St. Mungo's was a good idea. Which it probably is, but probably not while brewing potions.”
“She went into labor while brewing?” I asked as we started down the street.
Matt chuckled. “Sure did. And as they were wheeling her up to the maternity ward she was shouting instructions to Kaden about her half-finished potions.”
I laughed. “That's hilarious.”
“Mum wasn't happy she didn't take it easy the last two weeks,” Matt explained.
“How long ago was it? How old is Lucy?”
“She just turned two,” Matt answered.
I nodded. I couldn't imagine having a baby let alone a two-year-old. “So, what pub are we going to? The Leaky Cauldron?”
Matt shook his head. “Nahh, a Muggle pub. You'll like it.”
“I tend to like most pubs,” I said, then blushed immediately. “That came out wrong. I'm not an alcoholic.”
Matt laughed. “I didn't think that.”
“You know, none of the other blokes I've gone on dates with have taken me to Muggle restaurants.”
“Really?” Matt asked. “There's so much more variety with Muggle restaurants. When was the last time you saw a wizarding Ethiopian restaurant in London?”
Never, I thought, but then again I probably wouldn't like Ethiopian food. “I never thought about that before.”
“Makes picking restaurants for us to go to so much easier,” Matt said, smirking.
My heart fluttered. That meant he intended to take me out again. I probably already knew that, but it was nice to have the reassurance. And I'd probably be willing to try Ethiopian food for Matt.
“Here we go,” Matt said, turning into a tiny pub squashed between a grocery store and a solicitor's office that I probably would've missed otherwise.
I followed Matt and glanced up at the sign. “The Pig's Snout?”
Matt grinned. “Get it?”
“Is this the Muggle equivalent of the Hog's Head?”
“It's got fewer goats. No goats, actually. But yeah, that's why I came here. Their fish and chips is amazing.”
I wasn't a huge fan of fish, but I figured I'd try it. I could at least eat the chips.
The pub was just as small inside as it was outside, containing only four booths in addition to the bar. The booths were taken so Matt and I sat at the bar.
Matt hailed the barkeep and ordered himself a beer and I ordered a glass of white wine. White wine goes with fish, right?
“Did you get your report done?” I asked as our drinks arrived.
Matt nodded. “I finished it up yesterday. Bloody thing took forever.”
“What was it on?”
“General statistics on the employment rates of lycanthropes in the United Kingdom,” Matt explained. “I had to put it in a fancy report that was easy for the Minister to understand. We need more funding.”
“How do you even get statistics on that?” I asked. “Do you send out a survey and hope people complete it?”
“No. Lycanthropes are required to check in with the Werewolf Control Unit every few months and job status is one of the questions they answer. So all I had to do was collect the information from them. Easy, but time consuming. What about you? Anything exciting happen this week at work?”
“Not really,” I answered. “We've got a girl trying to find her birth parents who's supposed to come in for a meeting with Bradley because he cracked the case, but she hasn't responded to the owl yet. Bradley suspects now that the answers are there, she's having second thoughts.”
“Here's to a boring week of work, then,” Matt said, raising his glass.
I clinked my glass of wine with his beer and we drank. Sometimes a boring week was a good week.
Matt flagged down the bartender again and ordered two fish and chips. “Get ready,” he said. “Best fish and chips ever.”
“How many places have you had fish and chips?”
“More than you'd think,” Matt said. “My parents were a bit obsessed with it when we first moved here since it's such a classic British dish, and wanted to try lots of different varieties. But this place I found on my own, years later.”
I'd forgotten that Matt used to live in Australia. “What was Australia like? Do you miss it?”
“Not really,” Matt said. “I hardly remember it, to be honest. I was eight when we moved. I like the snow here, especially around Christmas. And all my family and friends are here, except for my uncle in America. Amy's got a few friends in Australia, though. She misses it more than I do, but even she wouldn't move back.”
“Still, it's so cool that you used to live there,” I pointed out.
Matt shrugged and I got the vague sense that he was a bit uncomfortable with that topic.
“Have you lived in London your whole life?” Matt asked.
I took a sip of my wine and grinned. “Yeah. I don't lead an exciting life.”
“Moving isn't that exciting. It's more stressful, at least it was for my parents.”
“Why did you move? I don't think Al's ever mentioned it.”
“My dad's job,” Matt said.
“Aw, that's a boring reason,” I joked. “You should've said you were running from the law or something.”
Matt visibly paled. Or at least I think he did, but the lighting was kind of weird. Oh, God, what if they really were running from the law? That would be exactly the kind of thing that would happen to a bloke I went out with.
Luckily at that moment the fish and chips arrived, looking as greasy as fish and chips should be. I was suddenly ravenous and really hoped I liked the fish because it smelled so good.
Matt immediately dug in, ripping off a piece of fish with his fork, dipping it in vinegar, and shoving it in his mouth. He grinned after swallowing and then watched me, waiting for my verdict.
I took a very small piece of fish and ate it slowly, not bothering with vinegar because dipping things in vinegar is gross. And, to my surprise, the fish was really good. Really, really good.
“Okay, confession,” I said. “I usually don't like fish.”
Matt laughed. “You didn't have to order it. You could've gotten a hamburger. Or a steak.”
“I don't like steak either. And do they even have steak here? It's a pub. I would've gotten a hamburger but you made the fish sound like it was heaven on a plate, so I went with it.”
“Wait,” Matt said, pausing to eat a chip, “you like hamburgers but not steak? They're both made of cow. All a burger is is ground steak. In fact, in New York where my uncle lives, there are places that call burgers ground steak.”
“Steak and hamburgers are completely different,” I pointed out. “It's perfectly normal not to like steak but to like hamburgers. The grinding makes it taste better.”
Matt sighed and shook his head. “A steak is so much better, though, especially when rare.”
“Oh, God,” I said. “Rare steak is even worse. I don't even like hamburgers with any pink in them.”
“That takes all the taste out.”
“Ew,” I said. I started eating in the hopes that Matt would change the subject, because rare steak was enough to take my appetite away.
“You're quite picky, aren't you?”
“Er, yeah,” I muttered. Usually my pickiness was something I tried to hide until at least the fifth date.
“My sister is, too,” Matt said. “I'll eat anything.”
“So will my brothers and most of my cousins. It's disgusting sometimes.”
Matt laughed. “Hogwarts was the best, with basically a feast everyday.”
“It's a wonder more of us don't wind up fat,” I mused.
Matt snorted into his beer, which shouldn't have been attractive, but I found it rather adorable when he emerged with beer trickling down his face. Honestly, I'm a lost cause.
Matt and I finished our fish and chips quietly and ordered second drinks. One of the booths opened up and we stole it right out from under another couple's noses, and then laughed about it for a good five minutes while they glared at us from our vacated seats at the bar. I probably should've felt bad, but I didn't, because Matt and I were now in a cozy booth and we were sitting on the same side. He put his arm around me. My heart sped up.
“I'd apologize for my fish breath but you have fish breath, too,” Matt said, before kissing me.
I giggled. “I can't even tell you taste like fish.”
“This is a weird conversation,” Matt said.
“I think most of our conversations have been weird.”
“That's no surprise considering we were brought together by an evil cat and a lack of water at your flat.”
Brought together, I thought. Did that mean we were together? I didn't know. You'd think I'd be better at this given the amount of boyfriends I'd had, but I wasn't. I felt like I was 15 again.
“Weirder things have brought people together,” I pointed out. “Bradley met his wife while digging up information on her brother.”
I nodded. “It wasn't a very exciting case, but she found Bradley spying on her brother and they hit it off.”
“That's awesome,” Matt said.
Matt and I stayed at the pub for two more hours, talking about everything and nothing at the same time. I had another drink, going one past my usual two drink limit for dates, but I had them spread out so I didn't feel very drunk. We left once the pub got extremely crowded and so loud that we couldn't hear each other.
“Want to walk for a bit?” Matt asked, taking my hand after we left the pub. “It's still early. I just hate crowds.”
“Sure,” I said. So that was one difference between us, I thought. I love crowds, especially at concerts and clubs when people were packed in dancing together. I love the way a crowd of people seem to become one, all united by one thing, be it the band playing or the club itself. “I take it you don't go to clubs, then?”
Matt laughed. “I've never once been to a club.”
“Really? Not even once to try it?”
“Nope,” Matt said. “I already know I'll hate it, so I haven't bothered.”
“I haven't been to one in ages,” I said. The last time I went to a club was before Ashtyn got married, back when most of my friends were still single. Now I really didn't have anyone to go with. “I think I might be getting too old.”
Matt laughed. “You're not too old. But if you ever do go to one again, I don't think I'd be able to join you.”
Somehow, that didn't bother me as much as it would have three years ago. Back then, if a guy didn't like to party I didn't find them attractive. “That's okay. I think I'd rather go to a pub with you.” I squeezed his hand.
Matt turned to look at me and smiled. His eyes sparkled gold in the light of the lamppost. He stopped walking, pulled me close, and kissed me right there on the sidewalk, while people rushed past.
We broke apart and started walking again. I didn't let go of his hand. I couldn't remember the last time a bloke made me feel this good.
After walking around London we wound up back at my building in Diagon Alley and I was overcome yet again by nerves about what would happen when we got upstairs. I was ready for the next level, but was Matt? Would it be awkward if I invited him in?
I was so worried about this that I didn't speak the entire walk up to my floor. Matt squeezed my hand once we reached my door and kissed me again.
“I had fun tonight,” he said. “Are you free tomorrow night?”
I smiled. “Yeah, I am.”
“Want to go to Hogsmeade?”
“Sure,” I said. “I haven't been there in ages.”
“Me either. I'll pick you up at six. Does that work?”
I nodded, deciding to just ask him in. The worst that could happen is that he'd say no. He obviously wanted to see me again, so it couldn't hurt. “Do you want to come in?”
Matt bit his lip. “Not this time, but I'll see you tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay. Good night.”
“Good night, Lily,” Matt said, and then he kissed me once more.
I was slightly disappointed, yet happy at the same time. It was weird.
The following morning I woke up still thinking about Matt denying my invitation to come inside. I kept telling myself not to read into it and that it was perfectly normal to wait longer than the second date to seal the deal. I was very glad to be spending the afternoon with Ashtyn because she was usually able to convince me I was worrying over nothing.
I had a quick cup of tea, showered, and left for Ashtyn's. Ashtyn lives on the other side of London, in a very posh neighborhood, so I apparated. Her flat building is much nicer than mine, and even has a doorman. I supposed editing books is more lucrative than being a secretary for your cousin, but it surely helps that her husband owns a small chain of grocery stores.
“Hello, Lars,” I said to the doorman as he opened the door for me.
“Afternoon, Lily,” he replied.
When you hear the name Lars you probably expect a very large, very buff man, possibly of Eastern European or Russian decent, but Lars the doorman was none of those things. Instead he was a short, skinny man originally from Ireland.
I headed to the lift (yes, her building actually had a working lift) and rose to the fifth floor. Ashtyn's door was the fourth one down the corridor and instead of knocking, I walked right in. We'd long since stopped knocking on each other's doors.
“Ashtyn?” I shouted, walking into her living room. Her flat contained more than three rooms, so it wasn't obvious where she was upon walking in.
“Lily!” she replied, walking in from her bedroom. “I sent Aaron out to bond with John so that we could have the place to ourselves.”
“Excellent,” I said. Aaron, Ashtyn's husband, was great, but there's a reason girl talk is for girls.
“And I already got Chinese,” she added, gesturing to a paper bag sitting on the coffee table.
We walked over to the couch and dug into the food. I purposely hadn't eaten anything before coming because Ashtyn always has food.
“So, spill,” Ashtyn said in between bites of sesame chicken.
I launched into a narrative of my two dates with Matt, leaving out the story of how he got his job because that seemed private, and adding extra emphasis on the fact that he hadn't wanted to come into my flat at the end of either date.
Ashtyn grinned the entire time. “You're so gone,” she said after I finished.
“Is it that obvious?”
She nodded. “Very. And I still find it funny that you fell for one of John and Albus's friends.”
“I do too, to be honest, but mainly because I dated all those losers and Matt was there the entire time.”
Ashtyn shrugged. “Maybe you had to date the losers to realize you should've been looking a little closer to home.”
“Maybe,” I said. “Do you think it's weird that he didn't come inside last night, though? Aren't blokes always thinking about sex?”
Ashtyn groaned. “You really have dated losers. But Lily, there are gentlemen who like to get to know a girl first.”
“I know. Aaron and I waited three months.”
“Three months?” I exclaimed.
Ashtyn smiled. “Yes, and you've only been dating for a week, so calm down.”
I sighed. “You're right.”
“I always am.”
“We're going out again tonight.”
“Then you've got nothing to worry about,” Ashtyn said. “He clearly likes you. Just don't push the sex. It'll happen when it happens.”
“But three months?”
Ashtyn laughed. “Don't knock it. We're married now.”
“Marriage is the last thing on my mind,” I assured her. “But I do really like him.”
“I'm glad, Lils. You deserve to be happy.”
“You know what's weird, though?”
“Last night we were talking about how he moved to Australia when he was little and I asked him why. He told me it was because of his dad's job, so I said that was boring and joked that I'd thought he and his family were running from the law. But instead of laughing he got really quiet and pale. Is that weird? Do you think they really were running from the law?”
Ashtyn groaned. “Oh my God, Lily. You are reading way too into that. Maybe he heard you wrong. Pubs are loud.”
“Yes. You're forgetting he's Al's best friend. If there was anything weird about him Albus would tell you. Or he would've told you not to date him, and he didn't say that, did he?”
“No, I suppose not,” I said, thinking it over.
“You're just overly anxious due to your history with blokes not being honest with you.”
“You sound like Rose,” I pointed out.
“Rose is pretty smart. Just stop overanalyzing everything and enjoy going out with him.”
I sighed. “Okay, I will.”
“And for now, let's just eat all this Chinese in one sitting. I need a break from work.”
“What's going on?”
Ashtyn groaned. “Everything.”
“Spill. I've got time,” I said, settling back into my chair.
Ashtyn and I spent the entire afternoon together, and by the time we polished off the food and she finished ranting about work, I'd put my worries about Matt out of my mind. Ashtyn was right. I had nothing to worry about and everything to be happy about.
A/N: Thanks for all the lovely reviews! I finished this story last night, although I think the last chapter and epilogue might need some editing. But it's exciting!
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