Chapter 13 : Fatal Flaw
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One thing I'd decided for certain by the time lunch came around was that I wouldn't break up with Matt just because he refused to tell me about his scars or nightmares. If it were any other bloke, I'd probably run screaming in the opposite direction, but the fact remained that he was Al's best friend. I trusted my brother completely and he'd been Matt's best friend since they were eleven. If there were any sketchy aspects about Matt, Al would've told me and he probably wouldn't have been friends with Matt in the first place.
Yet, what I wished more than anything was that he'd tell me whatever it was he was hiding. Not just to satisfy my own curiosity, but because it would mean he felt safe confiding in me. What hurt more than anything was that he didn't feel he could trust me, because if he did, he'd tell me.
I needed to see him and I needed to talk to Rose but I wouldn't get to do either that night. I'd already promised Ashtyn we'd go out and celebrate the publication of another book she'd edited. Doing so was a tradition of ours because for one night, it meant Ashtyn would be slightly less busy, but for the first time I almost wished we didn't have to. I really needed to talk to someone about Matt and I couldn't talk to Ashtyn about him.
Whatever it was he was hiding, I couldn't confide my fears in Ashtyn because it meant I'd have to mention his scars and if they were so secretive that Matt couldn't talk to me about them, they were too secretive to mention to Ashtyn. I needed to keep it to myself. But Rose, Rose didn't count because I had a hunch she, as well as Albus, knew exactly what Matt was keeping from me.
I didn't expect Rose to tell me about Matt's scars, but just telling someone would help me sort my feelings about it and Rose was the only one I could do that with. Except perhaps Albus, but that would just be weird.
My musings on the subject were interrupted by the door opening and slamming against the wall. The bell jangled loudly and fell onto the floor with a dinging crash. I jumped and looked up.
A red-faced man with greying brown hair and glasses that looked a lot like Uncle Percy's stormed into the shop, letting the door slam behind him.
“Where's Bradley Weasley?” he demanded.
“Um,” I began, thoroughly confused. I'd never seen this bloke before and usually when angry men stormed into the place I at least knew who they were.
The door opened again and in walked a tall, blonde woman followed by a scared-looking teenage girl with long, straight brown hair. I recognized her and suddenly everything fell into place. The girl was Shawna Gordon and the other two were most likely her parents.
“Dad, please!” Shawna shouted.
“Victor, wait!” the woman added.
“What's going on out here?”
I turned and saw Bradley, hair disheveled, walk into the waiting area. He took one look at Shawna and the purple-faced man and smiled pleasantly.
“Ah, Miss Gordon,” he began. “I presume these are your parents?”
Shawna nodded. “Yes,” she whispered.
“Please, come into my study. Lily, could you bring some tea?”
The group disappeared into the back and I hurried to prepare five cups of tea. I didn't want to miss any of this. I could not have asked for a better distraction from Matt.
Five minutes later, armed with a tea tray, I opened the door to Bradley's study and saw that Victor Gordon seemed to have calmed down and Shawna looked vaguely less afraid.
“Can we begin now?” Victor asked, glaring at me.
I smiled at Bradley and he nodded in return. He'd waited for me and I was very grateful. I hated missing the beginnings of things.
“Yes,” Bradley said, taking a cup of tea.
I passed out the rest of the tea cups and took the last remaining seat.
“I want to know what the meaning of this is,” Victor demanded. “My daughter tells me you've been snooping around in our lives?”
“Dad, that's not exactly-”
“Shawna, I want to hear it from him.”
“Shawna asked me to look into her adoption,” Bradley explained. “She came to me and I did as she asked. I gave her the information I found and that is all.”
“You should have contacted my wife and I,” Victor said. “Shawna's just a girl-”
“Excuse my bluntness, sir, but your daughter is of age,” Bradley replied.
“If you'd told me the truth when I asked I wouldn't have had to ask Mr. Weasley to do anything,” Shawna explained.
“We would've told you when we felt you were ready to handle it,” Shawna's mum, Candace, I think? said.
“Oh, yeah? When would that have been? When I turned thirty?”
“Not necessarily-” Victor began.
“Dad, look, I'm sorry I did all of this behind your back, but you really left me no choice.”
Victor sighed, clearly resigned to the fact that he had no control over this situation. “Fine. Mr. Weasley and Ms...”
"Potter,” I supplied.
“Potter,” he repeated, staring at me.
“Harry Potter is my dad," I said, answering the question I knew he was thinking.
“Oh. Okay. Anyway, I apologize for my outburst. I just wish my daughter hadn't felt the need-”
“Then you should've told me,” Shawna said, folding her arms over her chest. “Both of you. You should've told me. You still could, you know.”
“What difference does it make?” Victor asked. “Clearly this bloke has already figured it out.”
“Yes, but I haven't told her,” Bradley said. “In delicate situations like this I require the client to come in to hear the information straight from me rather than send an owl. Shawna hadn't made an appointment yet.”
“I was hoping you two would tell me on your own,” Shawna said quietly. “So I waited until after you got back from your holiday, but then as soon as I mentioned Mr. Weasley you came storming in here.”
Victor turned red again. “And I'm sorry about that.”
“Never mind that,” Bradley said, looking at Victor and his wife. “The point is, you two have a choice. Tell Shawna yourself or I'll give her the information she paid for.”
Victor and his wife shared one of those parental looks and his wife sighed. “We'll tell her,” she said.
“Fine,” Shawna said, “tell me now.”
“Shawna, I don't think this is an appropriate place-”
“Mum, I'm not leaving here until I hear it from you or Mr. Weasley.”
“Do you mind?” Victor asked.
“Not at all,” Bradley said.
Candace took a deep breath and sighed before beginning. “Shawna, when your aunt Emily was at Hogwarts she got pregnant. Your father and I were newly engaged. Your grandparents were anything but supportive and Emily ran away. She turned up at St. Mungo's months later and gave birth to a healthy baby girl. That baby girl was you.”
“Oh, God,” Shawna said, burying her face in her hands. “I'm Aunt Emily's daughter?”
“Biologically, only. You are our daughter. Emily asked us to adopt you and we did, because we knew Emily didn't have the resources to raise a child, but more importantly, because we fell in love with you from the moment we saw you.”
“We all hoped Emily would return to Hogwarts,” Victor added.
I glanced at Bradley. All of it fit what he found out so far. The only thing he couldn't find out was what happened to Emily after.
“Does she...does she remember any of this?” Shawna asked quietly.
Candace sadly shook her head. “We aren't sure, Shawna. That is one of the reasons why we were so hesitant to tell you. Emily's doctors agree that it would be best not to mention it, so you always have to remain her niece and nothing more.”
What was wrong with the aunt? I wanted nothing more than to ask, but even I knew that would be rude.
“Oh, God. Poor Aunt Emily,” Shawna whispered.
“Can we discuss this at home now?” Candace asked, setting her tea cup down.
Shawna nodded. “I'm sorry, Mum, Dad.”
“We're sorry we never told you,” Candace said.
“How much does she owe you?” Victor asked Bradley as Candace and Shawna left the room.
“Nothing,” Bradley said, holding up his hands. “Don't worry about it.”
“I insist,” Victor said, reaching into his pocket.
“Donate it,” Bradley replied as he walked Victor to the door. “Donate it to whatever team is researching the illness your sister-in-law has.”
Victor nodded. “Thank you.”
Bradley and I followed the Gordons out into the waiting room and said goodbye. After they left I reattached the bell to the door and Bradley washed the tea cups.
“I'm glad that one worked out,” I said, returning to my desk. “Sad, but at least they're together.”
Bradley nodded. “I had my doubts, but I'm glad to be proven wrong.”
“Lily? Lily, hello, you in there?”
I jumped, nearly falling off my bar stool, and turned to Ashtyn. She was glaring at me while stirring her drink.
“That's the third time you've stared off into space tonight. Everything okay?”
“Yeah,” I muttered. The truth was, I'd spent the past half hour thinking about Matt rather than paying much attention to what Ashtyn was saying. I'd been hoping Matt would show up at the Rusty Bludger while Ashtyn and I were there, but he hadn't yet.
Ashtyn sighed. “No, everything isn't okay. I only asked on the off-chance you would tell me what was wrong. You've been distracted all night.”
“What is it, Lily? Is it Matt?”
I didn't say anything. I stared into my drink as if it held more answers than Matt himself would.
“That answers that,” Ashtyn said. “Come on, then, what is it?”
“What do you mean?” I asked, feigning innocence.
“For God's sake, Lily,” Ashtyn said, slamming her glass down onto the bar with more force than necessary. “You've been dating him for two months. Now's the time when you normally find some sort of fatal flaw in whoever it is you're dating.”
“I'm not that predictable-”
“You are,” Ashtyn assured me. “The only exception was Sean, who you managed to hang onto for five months.”
“And Colin,” I reminded her. I dated Colin for nearly a year before he took a job in America without discussing it with me.
“Oh, yeah, Colin,” Ashtyn mused. “He really was the best, wasn't he?”
“No, Matt's the best,” I told her.
“So there really is nothing?”
“Nothing,” I said adamantly. I refused to tell her about the scars.
“All right,” she said warily. I could tell she didn't believe me.
“I swear, Ashtyn, I'm fine.” And it wasn't a lie because I was fine. It was Matt who wasn't fine, because he was the one having nightmares and refusing to talk about them.
We didn't stay at the pub as long as we usually do, partly because it wasn't a weekend and partly because I just couldn't muster up the energy to stay out as long as I normally do. For once it was me wanting to call it an early night instead of Ashtyn, and she accused me of growing up. As much as I'd wanted to deny it, it was at least somewhat true.
I owled Rose as soon as I returned to my flat, inviting her over for dinner the following evening. Talking to Ashtyn had done nothing to appease my nerves. What I needed more than anything was to know how serious this...thing was that Matt was hiding from me. Rose would tell me if it was something I needed to watch out for, right?
The return owl arrived early the next morning, just as I was preparing to go to work. Rose agreed to come over, so long as I made tuna-noodle casserole. I assured her I would, considering I couldn't make anything else. Now certainly wasn't the time to get adventurous in the kitchen.
Work was incredibly slow, especially in the wake of yesterday's events. Bradley, having recently cracked another tough adoption case, now had nothing except small one-day investigations. It was only a matter of time before another serious one came in, so he took advantage of the relaxing day and left early.
I left early as well, in order to stop by the store for dinner ingredients and more food for Sir Thumbs. After returning to my flat, I contemplated stopping by Matt and Albus's, but decided against it because I didn't want to not be home when Rose arrived. Instead, I sent him a quick owl telling him I was having dinner with Rose and asked if he wanted to meet at the Rusty Bludger after work the next day.
An hour later dinner was made and Sir Thumbs was fed. I put a warming charm on the casserole since Rose hadn't give me an exact time as to when she would arrive. I then poured myself a glass of wine and began to ruminate over the Matt situation yet again.
I breathed a huge sense of relief when I heard a knock on the door a half hour later. Sir Thumbs went running for it and I picked him up before answering. He howled as I did so.
“Hey, Rose,” I said, stepping back to let her in.
“Hi,” she replied. “And hello to you, Mr. Evil Cat.”
I released the beast and he tore through the flat and disappeared into my bedroom, thoroughly upset.
“It smells wonderful in here,” Rose said as she set her bag down.
“It's all cooked, so we can dig in.”
I heaped a large portion of casserole onto a plate for Rose, poured her a glass of wine, and then got myself a plate of casserole as well.
“So,” Rose said as she sat down with her food, “what prompted this? I don't think you've cooked dinner for me in years.”
“I'm having a crisis,” I said.
“Worse than your usual crises, I suppose? Normally you just come over to my office for lunch.”
“I thought this would be a nice change. And besides, you know I hate going to your office. I always feel like a patient.”
“You know I could set you up with one of my colleagues-”
Rose had been trying to get me into therapy with one of her colleagues since I was 23. She hadn't had success yet. “You are the only person I can talk about this with. The only.”
Rose raised her eyebrows and set down her plate. “Okay, you've got my attention.”
“Well, I suppose I could ask Albus or Kaden, but they're blokes-”
“This is about Matt, isn't it?”
She doesn't miss a beat. “Yes, it is.”
“Oh, God, Lily. You're not going to ask me advice on how to break up with him, are you? Because I told you the last thing he needed-”
“I don't want to break up with him!”
“This is your normal relationship timeframe. Except for Sean and Colin, of course.”
It was Ashtyn all over again, I thought. “No, I swear, I'm not going to ask you how to break up with him. I love him and I don't see that changing anytime soon.”
Rose sighed. “Good, because I promise you, when that time comes, Lily, I will not be involved.”
“If, Rose. If that time comes.”
“Fine. Then explain, please.” She picked up her plate again and sat back to eat.
I took a deep breath and another sip of wine. “He's hiding something from me. Something big. And don't tell me I'm being paranoid because I swear I'm not.”
Rose nodded. “More explanation, please. I'm not accusing you of being paranoid.”
I still felt weird talking about this, despite my near certainty that Rose knew the answer. “His entire body is covered in scars. Not just the occasional scar from a cat wound, either. Loads of scars of all different sizes, including a particularly nasty one on his back. I haven't asked him what they're from, but he hasn't told me either.
“And, the other night, he woke up with a nightmare and wouldn't talk about it. He didn't even tell me it was a nightmare, but I had a feeling it was because he went out into the living room and sat there staring at the moon for God knows how long and that's what Dad does when he has nightmares. So I just assumed. Then I told him he could tell me anything, no matter what, and he said that he couldn't. He may have even been crying. I'm not sure on that because he wouldn't look at me, but that's probably pretty supportive of crying, right? Blokes hate it when girls see them cry.”
“People have nightmares, Lils,” Rose said.
“This wasn't your average nightmare,” I explained. “You didn't see him. He reminded me so much of Dad when he wakes up from those nightmares about Voldemort and the war. It was awful.”
“Well, there's one other thing, but I didn't really think about it being weird until recently. He rarely ever talks about his childhood. I'm always telling stories about when James, Al, and I were little, like when James broke that statue in the park, but Matt never tells stories like that. I know he was born in Australia and what not, but he never talks about anything from when he lived there. He only ever talks about his Hogwarts years. The only thing he's ever said was that he was born two months premature and that his family moved because of his dad's job.”
“Uh-huh,” Rose said, nodding. She set down her plate and looked at me. “Lily, I love you, and you're my cousin, but I can't tell you something Matt told me in confidence.”
“So you do know?” I asked. “I know you can't tell me, but all I want to know is whether it's something I need to worry about, something that will wreck our relationship.”
“I do know,” Rose said. “As for the other two things...well...it's nothing for you to worry about. I promise you he will explain eventually if the two of you stay together.”
“Yes. Remember when I told you how shy he was and how difficult relationships are for him?”
“This is all tied together. Telling you will be difficult for him, possibly more difficult than agreeing to go out with you in the first place.”
“And will it wreck what we have? Will it be like Sean?”
Rose sighed. “Lily, I can't answer that for you. It depends on the person. For many people, yes, this would cause them to break up with Matt.”
I swallowed hard. “What about you? If you were going out with him, would you break up because of it?”
“Absolutely not,” Rose said. “And in my heart of hearts, I don't think you would, either. But I obviously can't guarantee that.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. I trusted Rose completely, and if she said she wouldn't break up with Matt over this, I was fairly certain I wouldn't either. “Thank you, Rose.”
“You can't tell him we had this conversation,” Rose said, picking up her glass of wine. “Have you talked to Ashtyn about this?”
“I won't,” I said. “And no. I assumed since he wouldn't tell me about the scars I had no right to tell anyone else.”
Rose smiled. “I'm really proud of you, Lily.”
I stared at her quizzically. “Why?”
“You've matured over the past few months. I don't know if it's Matt or the fact that you're getting older or what, but you've matured.”
Rose grinned. “It's a compliment, Lily. Matt's been good for you. Don't blow it.”
“I'm trying not to,” I said. “Do you think I should ask him about it?”
“No,” Rose said immediately. “Let him tell you in his own time. You'll freak him out, otherwise.”
I laughed. “You make him sound like a nervous cat.”
Rose blushed. “This conversation doesn't leave this flat. He'd murder me.”
“Don't worry. Do you have any idea how long it'll take him to tell me?”
“I know you're impatient, but it could take a while.”
“How long did it take until he told you and Al?” I asked.
Rose sighed. “He never did. Al and I figured it out. Well, I figured it out.”
“Do you think I could figure it out?”
“Possibly, but I'd tread carefully, Lily.”
“I know, I know. Nervous cat.”
Rose groaned. “I'm going to come to regret this conversation.”
“No, you're not,” I said.
“Just promise me one thing,” Rose began. “If you do happen to figure something out, come to me before you go to him.”
I nodded. “I will.”
Rose and I polished off the bottle of wine without anymore discussion of Matt or my love life. When I went to bed that night I felt infinitely better about Matt's secret and relieved that it most likely wouldn't be the end of the best relationship I'd ever had.
A/N: Thanks for all the lovely reviews!
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