Chapter 9 : Secret Dating And Not So Secret Matchmaking
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A/N: The aftermath of the kiss is finally here! Enjoy. :)
Secret Dating And Not So Secret Matchmaking
I stare at the ceiling, my mind trying not to break from all the thoughts penetrating it. The commotion in my head is unbearable so I can’t sleep. I can’t move, either.
But someone makes sure I talk.
„How’s it going, chap?“
I sit up in my bed to see my father taking his place at the stool beside me. His beard has grown discernibly. It reminds me of all those times I would sneakily practise hair growth spells on him, usually when he was asleep. And every morning, until I moved out, dad would wake up with a new and drastically different set of locks. He never got angry over it, though. My father is indeed placidity in human form.
He raises his eyebrows at me, knowing full well that I’m lying. I sometimes despise how well he understands me.
„Urgh, all right. Things... happened at that wedding that I would rather forget.“
„So bad, huh?“
I nod. Dad holds my hand for a moment, rubbing it soothingly. In addition, I conjure two cups of tea for us, so we sit and drink together in silence. I always enjoy our bonding, as it’s so simple, not even words are necessary, and yet, it never fails to make me feel better. And the fact that dad doesn’t push for me to speak is what usually makes me do exactly that, albeit on my own terms.
After we’re done, dad wishes me good night, assuring me it’ll get better, and stands up to leave.
He turns around, a questioning expression on his wrinkled face.
„Do you think... People can want to befriend me without some ulterior motive?“
„Why do you-“
„It’s just that... I mean, look at me. I barely have two friends.“
My father sits back on the chair and kisses my forehead gently. „Jill, you are like your mother in many ways. You have her wordily spunk, her ambition and the occasional weirdness.“
„Hey.“ I jab him in the ribs playfully.
„But...“ He lets me be, just smiling in return. „You’re a bit of a loner like myself. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It usually means that you choose a rather small number of people to trust. But once you do choose them... you stick with them for life.“
I nod my head, looking down for a moment. „It’s just that... sometimes I feel like people don’t like me. And, usually, that doesn’t bother me. But...“
Dad pulls me into a quick hug, brushing my locks away. It somewhat makes me feel like a child again, warm and safe in my parent’s arms.
„Hey, if someone doesn’t want to be friends with you, it’s their loss. Ok?“
I grin in response. „Ok.“
Dad gets up to his feet and walks to the door, where he lingers for a moment, just smiling at me. He then walks out, shutting the door firmly behind him.
And so... I’m left alone in my childhood room again.
I couldn’t go back to the flat in fear of being found by Albus. I let the girls know I’d be sleeping here and warned them to not tell him where I’m at. I want to have some peace so that I can think this through. Unfortunately, my mind doesn’t seem to want to cooperate.
Since my head is pulsing with pain I choose to look around instead, the space still mostly the same. The Weird Sisters poster above my bed, the piles of old Daily Prophet’s on my desk, the lack of bright colors... It makes me realize how fragile time is, how quickly it passes. Although, now that it should show its nature when I truly yearn for it, time seems to drag painfully. Since I can’t manage to clear my mind, I start looking through my desk. Albums and albums of me and Willow. And an old diary, that tickles my interest. I open it up with sheer wonderment. It’s from when I was still going to a regular school. Mum not being sure if I’d end up being a witch, mostly kept me in the dark. So, in turn, I did the same. I had these... episodes, as I called them back then, which completely freaked me out since I didn’t know what they were, essentially. But I stubbornly kept them to myself. And to this diary.
The tenth of October, 2015
I was talking to Sam today and I wanted to tell him that I like him. He has nice blue eyes and sandy hair and smells wonderful, too. But then I got nervous and the water from the nearby fountain just kind of... flew out and soaked Sam to the bones. He got really angry and said that it was my fault. I started crying as soon as I got home. Mum asked me what was wrong, but I lied. I told her some silly story so she wouldn’t bother me further. She just wouldn’t understand. No one does.
I chuckle at my poor 10 years old self. I was so confused back then. Not that I feel any less confused now, to be frank.
I sigh, flopping back onto my bed.
And that’s when I hear it.
I frown, at first thinking I must have imagined it. But when the sound repeats itself I walk to the window, where it seems to be coming from.
I sigh with irritation when I spot Albus Potter standing below, though. „How did you find me?“
„Willow told me where you live.“
„I will kill that little traitor, I swear!“
„Come on, I was very persuasive.“
„I bet.“ I start to close my window but Al pleads me not to.
„I beg you, give me a chance to explain.“
„What? That you kissed me out of hurt and despair? I already known that.“
„Just... can you get down here? It’s hard talking to you like this.“
I shut the window closed this time around and go back to my bed. But Al won’t shut up, now getting progressively louder with his pleas. So I get up and walk downstairs in my pajamas and an embarrassing old robe, trying not to wake my parents at the same time. When I leave the house, Al is already standing in front of the door, a guilty look evident on his face.
„Don’t say that you’re sorry again. That much I got.“ I warn him.
He nods. „I’m a jerk.“
He can’t help but smirk a little before continuing. „I acted on impulse without thinking about your feelings and I’m...“
I give him a cautionary look and he nods. „Right, no sorrys. I’m just... I made a mistake, ok? Doesn’t that happen to you sometimes?“
„All the time.“ I finally soften up and give him a small smile.
He grins, happily accepting the opportunity. „See? We dig each other. Why lose that over some kiss?“
„Great kiss.“ He corrects and I chuckle.
He bows down slightly. „I wanted to show you something, as well. Care to join me?“
„In this?“ I show to my robe.
„It’s fine, we’ll be alone.“
„All right.“ I shrug. „Lead the way.“
I let him apparate us, after what we end up on a small meadow, shielded by a thick forest. The sky is dark and starry, shedding light on a table in front of us. A few candles are levitating above it and there’s some kind of a drink poured in two glasses resting atop.
I narrow my eyes at Albus.
„I was kinda counting on your forgiveness.“
„I can easily take it back.“ I tease him.
„And miss all of this?“
Minutes later we’re drinking and laughing and I can’t shake the feeling that this is what enjoying life really looks like. I steal a quick glance his way, observing him while he’s resting his lips on the glass and playing with his green bowtie, that matches his astonishing emerald eyes too perfectly. And I know I have to bring it up, because I’m confused and I don’t like being that way. It’s already hard for me to obtain control over my emotions without Al further messing with them.
„I think we need to set some ground rules if we want to keep this friendship going.“
„Oh? And what may those be?“ He smirks at me.
„No more kissing.“
For a flick of a moment I think he’s truly disappointed, but then he speaks up in a light manner. „Bummer.“
„I know. I’m a bloody brilliant snogger.“ I try to keep it cheerful as well. „Still... no physical acts towards each other. What so ever.“
Albus laughs. „All right. I’ll try to stay truthful to that rule. That’s all I can say.“
„Fair enough.“ I nod. „And second... You’ll let me help you move on from Alice.“
„Well, if you exclude sex, how do you plan to do that?“
„Joking!“ He tries to protect himself from my light hitting, but fails poorly.
„So we have a deal?“ It’s me offering a hand this time around and he accepts it festally.
„Does tickling qualify as a physical act, too?“ He jumps immediately, not waiting for my answer, knocks me to the ground and starts titillating me.
I can’t help but laugh so hard that I’m actually crying. He lets me be after awhile and so we lay down in the grass, gazing up at the night sky. We play a game, where we tell what shapes from the wizarding world the stars resemble.
„That one is oddly James alike, wouldn’t you agree?“ I point to one particular constellation to our right.
I expect a laugh in response since the group rather resembles a Troll and it’s quite obvious, but Al keeps quiet.
„I know what you’re worried about.“ He suddenly turns on his side to look at me, the stars long forgotten. „But I’m not like him, not really.“
I turn to him, as well, puzzled. „What...“
„I know that you were in love with my brother.“
I’m paralysed for a moment, not able to look back at him. I sit up, feeling lost, my breath cut off. I want to run but, at the same time, I know I haven’t got the strength for it. Albus takes note of my state and puts a suiting hand on my back, urging me to look at him. So I do, with great effort.
„It’s all right.“ He squeezes my trembling palm. „I’m not going to judge you or anything. I mean, look at me. If there’s anyone who’s a mess, it’s me.“
„How did you...“ I try to put the question together, but words get lost along the way.
Even so, Al understands me all too well. „I knew all along.“
I frown at him.
„That’s the up side of being the quiet one. You know things.“ He smiles at me.
„But you... you asked me about it when we played Flaming lies...“
„I wanted you to trust me.“ His grin suddenly falls. „Are you angry at me?“
I sigh. „When you look at me like that, even if I want to be... how can I?“ I smile at him sadly.
He embraces me briefly in response. „Look. You don’t have the control over who you fancy. Neither do I... or anyone else for that matter. So stop blaming yourself. Besides, James is the one who should be ashamed.“
I glance at him in confusion.
„As I said, I know things.“ He smirks.
„You’re really peculiar, Albus Potter.“
„I think I heard that one before.“ He smiles at me.
We lay back down, looking at the night sky yet again.
„Thanks.“ I whisper, because I know he’ll understand me without having to further explain.
He nods his head and searches for my gripe. Our fingers intertwine and I don’t even care that this is probably crossing the friendship line. Because Albus... He’s different. No ordinary rules apply to him.
And so we make up. Which implies that I have three friends now (Well, if you count the always woeful Ash.), a personal record. I can’t help but finally be an optimist about my future. Imagine that: Tatum Kenward is hopeful for a change. Beware, because this might as well be a sign of the world ending.
„Absolutely brilliant coverage!“
I smile proudly to myself as my Daily Prophet colleagues approach me to congratulate me on my Wednesday Spells piece about the Malfoy-Weasley wedding.
I would’ve written it for my home newspaper, but Chief has taken measures to throw out trashy sections, as she calls them. All the fun has been reduced to astronomy readings by the local seer and some crosswords. It’s now all about politics, science, health and sports. Frankly, I thought it would reduce our sellings, but it turns out that people like us more this way. I guess I doubted Chief with no reason.
„Leave the celebrity news to celebrity papers.“ She said.
Not that I’m complaining. I get to earn my salary, plus a little something, something on the side. Since Chief lets us occasionally write for other papers, as well, if it comes down to approximately five pieces a month.
In short, Chief’s kinda brilliant.
Today I have to submit another article to her, so I make my way to her office. Only to find James once again walking up and down in front of it. He takes note of my presence and immediately runs to me, pulling me to the side maniacally.
James casts a quick Muffliato and breaths out a deep sigh of relief.
„James, what the heck is this Chief thing all about?“ I ask, slightly annoyed at this point.
„I told you... I need to talk to her-“
„But you can’t. Yes, I do have a decent memory, thank you very much.“
He bites his lip nervously, finally cracking. „I kinda want to see her... badly.“
I frown at him. „I don’t...“
„Remember that fight we had in the Great Hall on Halloween?“ He urges me to recollect, so I do.
The thirty first of October, 2022
Will and I were sitting at the table of my house, absorbed in our conversation about dragons and books, when it happened.
James strode into the hall and slammed a paper in front of Chief, who was eating just a few chairs from us.
„Stop writing rubbish about me, Lloyd, or I swear-“
„What, you’ll tell your daddy to yell at me?“ She smirked.
I stared at my boss, worried for her well being. This was James she was talking back at and James got nasty when angry.
Everyone was now following the pair’s movements, nobody willing to interfere. (Un)fortunately, all the teachers were absent since they were having some kind of a staff meeting. The Heads were responsible for order. Meaning me, since James was the one causing trouble to begin with. I got to my feet, trembling. Now, I didn’t want to fight James, but he was positively furious and I was scared for Chief, however tiring she was as a boss.
„James.“ I placed a hand on his forearm, trying to calm him. „Come on, drop it.“
„Oh, I will. As soon as she stops making stories out of my private life.“
„That’s what the crowd wants, Potter. And I’m all about pleasing.“ Chief was now on her feet, her face inches away from James’.
„This is just a game for you, Lloyd, isn’t it? How about you find something truly productive to do?“
„Oh, and shagging around is productive?“
„More so than trashy writing, yes. You’re just a pest living of everybody else’s experiences!“ He pushed the paper into her chest with what seemed like all of his force.
But Sunshine pushed it back equally strong. „Well, look who’s talking, daddy’s boy.“
With that, Chief rushed out of the Hall, leaving James staring after her in pure anger. I tried to make him sit down and relax, but he resisted, storming right after Chief. I wanted to run after them, I did. I was just too stunned to move.
„Yes?“ I look at him in confusion.
„Well... it was supposed to be fake.“
„Fake?“ I frown at him.
„You see, we did that. We fought in public and Lloyd urged her journalists, you included, to write badly about me, because... we were trying to distract people from what was really happening.“
I suddenly remember Al’s words about James being in love and a creepy feeling awakes from the bottom of my stomach. I gaze at James and, before I even ask, I realize I know the answer. „What was happening?“
„We were secretly dating.“ He supplies.
I nod my head, understanding just how much sense that makes. At the same time, I curse my journalistic brain for not piecing this together sooner. Way sooner.
„You loved her.“ I conclude, because it had to be love for James to be so broken that night, for him to get so drunk, for him to kiss me and not remember, for him to find a friend in the jerk that Liam Wood was soon after and want to learn from the best, killing what was left of the nice guy residing in him.
He was trying to let go of something that was too important to get over so easily. And I got caught up right in the middle of it, blaming him for my misery, when really... he was more miserable than I could had ever been. Because, as Willow made me realize, I didn’t love James. But he...
„I did.“ He doesn’t try to deny it, seeming happy to finally share it with someone. „That’s why when she told me we are over later that day... I couldn’t believe it. She said that when I talked about her paper, about her future career, it was clear that wasn’t far from my true thoughts and that she could’t stay with someone accusing her of being a pest. I tried to reason with her, because that’s what we always did, yelled stupid things at each other. But she was certain that I wasn’t lying this time around.“
„Were you?“ I ask him, scared that he might confirm it.
Because it isn’t just Chief’s job, it’s mine, as well.
„Of course not!“ James frowns, clearly offended I would even assume that. „But I couldn’t convince her. So she left me. She broke me that day... You remember.“
„All too well.“ I nod.
James looks at me in sorrow. „If I ever did something bad to you in that period, I’m sorry. I was only aware of my own pain back then.“
I smile at him, patting the upper side of his palm. „It’s ok. I’ve moved passed it.“
We stay silent for a moment before I add, curious. „So... You’re still hung up on her?“
This is so surreal. The boy I was desperately after, is desperately after another girl. And round and round it goes. I guess that’s just life at its ironic best.
James leans back on the wall, sighing. „I tried to move on. But all the dating I did after was just a way for me to fight memories of her.“
He smiles sadly for a moment, breaking his dark expression. „We were really happy, you know.“
I nod, but something still doesn’t sit right with me. „Why were you secretly dating, then?“
„We both found it extremely arousing.“ He laughs. „We were eventually going to make it public, though, but... that never happened.“
I look at his grim face in sympathy. „Look, James. I understand. All too well. But you can’t just stalk Chief.“
Well, ain’t I a hypocrite?
„You either make a move or you don’t. I suggest you do. But maybe after you sort the rest of your life out. You know, your job, family life... Become the best version of yourself... for her.“
He gives me a side smile, pinching my cheek lightly. „You know, I didn’t even realize how much I missed hanging out with you.“
„It’s because it’s so easy for you to forget me.“
„Come on, when have I ever?“
„Oh, don’t get me started.“ I laugh.
„Well, I apologize for all the ignoring past James did. From now on, I promise you, I’ll be a good friend. Or even possibly... a brother in law?“ He winks at me, a slightly questioning expression on his face.
„Oh my Merlin!“ I scream in frustration. „Why does everybody keep pairing me up with your baby brother?!“
„Maybe because... it makes sense?“ He suggests.
„I does not.“ I cross my arms in anger.
„Me thinks you protest too much.“ He winks yet again after what he breaks the Muffliato spell.
I gape at him, now not able to yell anymore in fear of alarming my fellow colleagues.
„Thanks for being a pal... sis.“ He runs away before I can answer.
„Son of a....“
„Why do you want me to contact my cousin Mary, anyway?“ Ash looks at me suspiciously after my plea.
„Because...“ I sigh. „I’m tired of everyone urging me to date Al. So Mary will do it.“
„Al is not some piece of meat you can pass around, you know.“ Willow meddles from her place on the couch, watching WiTV.
„Mary is a vegetarian, anyway.“ Ash returns, muffling her chuckle.
Willow, on the other hand, almost chokes on her butterbeer in laughter.
I roll my eyes at them. „This is getting way out of hand.“
„What, your lust for Albus Potter? Because, yes, it’s getting way out of hand. It’s actually embarrassing how in love with him you are.“ Willow says, her mouth now full of popcorn.
„I will not take anything seriously from someone who is in love with Orin Wadding.“ I point to the talkative host currently gracing our tv screen.
Willow gasps jumping in front of the tv protectively. „Do not involve Orin in this!“
„You two are insane.“ Ash sighs.
I turn to her again. „So, will you help me?“
Ash looks to Will, who’s shaking her head violently.
„Fine. Just so I can get a rise out of our resident Irish fangirl here.“
„I will have my revenge when you least see it coming.“ Willow narrows her eyes at Ash dangerously. „And Irish boys are the hottest and you know it.“
I use the opportunity to get Mary’s phone number from Ash, smiling happily to myself. I’m finally going to be saved from all the annoying teasing.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I can’t imagine myself being with Al, ever, but the more everyone keeps insisting on it, the less I find him suiting for myself. It’s just how my crazy brain works.
„So... let me get this straight. You’re setting me up with a Muggle vegetarian girl, who’s an ex model. What exactly do you think we’ll have in common again?“ Al squints at me.
„Don’t be so prejudgemental, Al.“ I warn him.
„I’m just wondering.“ He shrugs.
We’re playing exploding snap at his flat and I’m winning, which is a nice change.
„Ok, what kind of girl would you like to date, then?“ I set aside my cards and focus on him, genuinely curious.
„You’re really into this whole matchmaking thing, aren’t you?“ He laughs.
„It’s fun, yes.“ I confirm.
„I don’t know.“ He shrugs. „The kind that likes me back, I guess.“
I shake my head. „Oh, come on. What else?“
„Well, I suppose... I like funny girls, intelligent, of course, with a passion of their own. And brown eyes. I really like brown eyes.“
I tilt my head to the side. „You do?“
„Why’s that so strange?“ He grins, amused.
„Most people like blue or green eyes. They’re prettier than the rest.“
„I don’t care which are prettier. I care which seem warmer. And those would be the brown ones. Right?“
I stare at him, my dark eyes getting lost in his light pair. „Right.“
I snap out of it quickly, though, not letting my conscious wander. „I guess I could match you up with Willow’s cousin Sage, then. Just... don’t tell Will.“
„Why?“ He appears amused.
„Because I said so.“
„Well, aren’t you bossy.“
„Why, do you like it?“ I raise my eyebrow playfully.
„A woman on top? Are you joking? Those are my weakness.“
„Well, you started it.“
I shake my head at him, but he just smirks in return.
Sage is positively ecstatic I matched her up with Albus. Seems she has had a crush on him for awhile now. Which makes me feel better about myself, because it appears everyone has at least one impossible love story in their life. Although, mine wasn’t really about love, but misplaced admiration.
Al calls me up that Friday afternoon to help him get ready for his date. I oblige because I know it’s not really about how incapable he is to get ready by himself, rather that he wants us to spend more time hanging out. And that’s something I find myself not being able to refuse as of lately.
The getting dressed part is as brief as it can be (He picks out a fuzzy green sweater and a pair of black jeans in which he looks heavenly.). And since we’re left with some extra time, what with Albus getting ready so quickly, he cooks us a small meal. I look on as he stands by the counter, mixing up drinks, while the spoon stirs the food by itself. I realize he’s a master at making potions, but I wasn’t aware he’s such a great cook, as well.
„It’s kind of similar, really.“
Did I say that out loud? I do that too often, I swear.
„I was really awful at Potions and I’m atrocious at cooking, so that makes sense.“
He turns around to send me an amused look. „I can teach you.“
I hum, thinking about it. „Well, all right. Since I’m going to introduce you to your future wife, I guess I can use a favour in return.“
Albus just laughs.
We sit on his balcony later on, drinking delicious liquor and snacking. The radio is playing some song about an unexpected love between a human and a Veela. The sun is setting lazily and I feel my skin slowly going cold. These are probably the last sunny days this year.
Ah, London weather.
Speaking of which, Al’s balcony offers a magnificent view of the town. The famous pointy hats can be seen hovering over the crowd. It’s nice living in this part of the city, where magic is present at every corner.
„Rose and Scorpius are leaving on their honeymoon Monday morning.“ Al suddenly breaks the pleasant silence. „We’re throwing them a goodbye party this Sunday. I was wondering if you’d want to join me.“
I actually shiver in fear at the thought of that party, because I think I only survived the wedding thanks to everything happening so fast, every relative being engrossed with the pair and me leaving so soon. This would mean I’d actually have to spend quality time with the clan.
„Why don’t you take Sage instead? I’m sure she’d love to accompany you.“
Al narrows his eyes at me, curios. „Are you still freaked out by my family?“
„N-o.“ I draw out.
Al raises his eyebrow at me, unconvinced.
„Ok, yes!“ I exclaim. „But you have to admit, your relatives can be a bit...“
„Too much?“ He supplies.
I nod. „And I’m a bit closed off, so I don’t know how’s that going to work.“
„You’re not closed off with me.“ He smiles.
„No, I’m not. But you’re probably the one Potter I can handle.“
„Oh, come on!“ He grabs my hand. „Don’t we always have fun together, no matter where we are?“
I sigh. „It’s no use. You’re going to win this argument anyway, aren’t you?“
„I thought you’d never realize.“ He winks at me.
I stay awake in my bed that Friday night, unable to sleep. I’m curious as to how the date went and if Al liked Sage.
So, the first thing I do in the morning is apparating to Al’s flat. And scaring him senseless. He drops the plate on which a delicious looking sandwich is residing and it smashes to million of pieces. Only when he flicks his wand with a quick Reparo do I notice that he’s in a robe with barely any clothes on him and a pair of glasses on the bridge of his nose. I catch myself gazing at his black briefs, before I shake my head.
„I guess it’s my fault for offering you to drop by at any time.“ He smiles at me and leads me to the kitchen, where he presents me with a sandwich of my own.
„Oh, come on. We’re like siblings now. And that’s what siblings do-they bug each other, right?“
„Do sisters usually stare at their brothers’ groin then or...?“
I smack him lightly on the head with my wand.
„Bloody gillyweed, what was that for?“ He winces in pain.
„For being sleezy. And... bloody gillyweed? You can’t even curse properly, Albus Potter. So stop trying to act like a prick when you’re far from it.“
„Like you do it much better.“
„Excuse me. I’m a Slytherin.“ I smirk proudly.
„Go on, then. Swear.“ He provokes me.
I purse my lips, frowning. „Um... Bloody hell?“
„That’s merely a variation of my own swear. You’re the most un-Slytherin Slytherin I know, Ty.“ He laughs at me in a highly mocking fashion.
„I resent that.“ I observe his face with an entertained grin. „By the way, I like your glasses. Are you copying me, Potter?“
Finally, his smirk melts away and is replaced by a barely visible frown. „I wish that’s what everybody would think, instead of me looking exactly like my father now.“
I tilt my head to the side, supporting it with my palm. „Why does that bother you?“
I’ve never really heard him mention his father is a such way before. Early on in our acquaintance, he recalled their flight classes, when Al was about five, which ended with the awkward child breaking his... well, almost everything. Which made Al not ever want to be a part of a Quidditch team. Even though he does enjoy the sport, quite immensely so, but from afar. And that is exactly how my love for Quidditch is like, as well. Albus also told me about how his dad sometimes teamed up with him in order to play pranks on James, since the older boy wouldn’t stop tormenting his younger brother. My point is, up until now, Al always spoke of his father in a fond manner. So, I’m a little startled by his words.
Albus sighs deeply. „Because... I’m not exactly like my father. Nor do I wish to be.“
I nod. „That... would make more sense if you were in Scorpius’ shoes.“
He suddenly throws a spoon at me, but I duck just in time, fortunately. „Hey!“
„I threw spoons at Lily all the time. If you want to act like you’re my sister, deal with it.“
I gasp. „Albus Potter, such a badass.“
He shrugs, a playful smile on his full lips.
„Ok, enough with this morning banter. I want to know how your date went!“ I clasp my hands on the table, giddy for the details.
„Fine.“ He says, while Accioing our empty plates to the sink.
I stare at his back dumbly. „Fine? That’s all you’re going to say?“
„What were you expecting?“ He turns to face me, perplexed.
„Excitement, at least.“ I shrug.
Al leaves the dishes behind and invites me to sit on his balcony again. A faint rain is clouding my vision, albeit we are safe from it up here. The people on the street below, however, are running in all directions. Some of them are using small Protego shields, in order to stay dry. I smile at them, in love with the sight of a mixed London full of Muggles interacting with magical folks. It’s always been my wish to live in such a neighbourhood, since I grew up in a mixed family myself. I like that environment, I like having first-hand knowledge about both sides of our world.
„I can’t date Sage, Ty.“ Albus suddenly utters.
I turn to him, ready to argue. „But, Al, you have to at least try to move on.“
„I will.“ He agrees. „Just... on my terms. When I’m ready, you know.“
I gaze back at the crowd on the street hurrying to find shelter from the rainy weather. I get lost in my thoughts for a moment, the drab around us causing me to take my time. Just when I’m about to add something, though, someone jumps in.
„And when you finally find the bloody One, right?“ The voice reveals a distinct, posh accent.
The two of us avert our eyes from the city to the girl standing just a few feet behind us, right in the middle of Al’s kitchen. She’s levitating two suitcases behind her, with a beam on her lips, as well as a knowing look in her dark eyes.
Al jumps to his feet and into the girl’s arms, laughing in excitement. „Does this mean that you’ve forgiven me?“
„It means that I’ve met far bigger idiots out there, so I’m partial to tolerating you.“
Albus snickers. „I love you, too.“
I stand up as well, albeit awkwardly, with no idea how to react. In the end, I opt for the arm-crossing and foot-skewing response.
„And is this my substitute?“ The girl rests her hands on her hips, a playful smirk on her pretty, dark features.
„Oh, you wish.“ Al teases. „Emma, meet Tatum Kenward, my new partner in crime.“
The girl extends her palm for me to take it. Her grip is firm and no-nonsense. With an elusive smirk, she offers me a hello. „Emma Wittling. Nice to meet you.“
But her whole body language indicates that she could do without me.
And so, it dawns on me: this will be the end of the Tatum-Albus era.
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