Chapter 23 : Albus: When Our Baby is Born
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But I am.
I'm sure Lexi will forgive if she was ever to know; she knows me enough to probably guess my thoughts. And I can guess her's - if she weren't trying to get through the contractions, she'd be screaming that it's too soon and that she's not ready.
Rodriguez leads us into the first available room, yelling orders at the medi-witch to keep everyone out except for me and Theo. By the time Lexi is on the bed, she's almost sobbing, tears streaming down her cheeks, and she's not even bothering to hide it or wipe them away. So, either the pain is that bad or she's freaking out because she's worried. Maybe it's a bit of both. And I hate that I can't help her, only be here. I hate that there's something in this world that can reduce my best friend to this, when she's normally so strong.
It terrifies me.
"It's going to be okay, Lexi," Rodriguez soothes, his accent strong and surprisingly calming. "Just breathe."
Lexi does as she's told, squeezing my hand in one and Theo's in her other as another contraction comes. Her chest rises and falls rapidly, her breathing coming out quick and shallow, but under Rodriguez's instructions and with the help of the pain relief potions a medi-witch brings for her, she's able to slow down slightly. She's calm enough to think, to speak.
"What's happening?" she whispers, trying to keep eye-contact with Rodriguez. "Why is this happening?"
"It's like a curse in our family," Theo mutters, which is so not helpful. My glare seems to be enough to get him to take a different approach, but I think he's just more surprised that I did something that wasn't completely robot-like (I'd managed to hear him say that about me to Annie when asked as we walked). Theo crouches down low and kisses Lexi's fist, stroking her hair with his free hand. "Don't think about that, Angel. Everything's going to be fine. Erik?"
Rodriguez looks up, his hands now off Lexi's stomach. He pushes back his already rolled up sleeves and looks very serious. He's not going to change into his work clothes, I can tell. He could if there was time; I know that labor can take a while - Mum was in the Muggle hospital for over forty-eight hours before she was ready to have me, before this ward was built. It's part of the reason why my mum helped Astoria Malfoy when she heard about women wanting this ward. Which makes me think that Lexi doesn't have that time. I'm glad she won't be in pain for long, but for him to stare the way he is?
Oh, God. Is something wrong?
"Erik?" Theo yells and I follow his gaze, realizing that Rodriguez hasn't just been staring, he has the mouse in his hand; he's watching the ultrasound, he's monitoring the baby.
"You're not ready to push yet," he says softly. "But your baby's heart rate is too low, might not be strong enough. We might have to look at other options rather than a natural birth."
"I don't care," Lexi promises softly, slowly. "Do what you have to. Just tell me what to do."
Nodding, Rodriguez has the medi-witch hold the mouse and monitor the baby while Annie and Sophie prepare the small cot set up for the baby to be placed in, along with anything they may need in case of complications. There's not much - blankets, potions - it's magic they'll be relying on most... ways of helping the baby's heart. They're faster than potions.
While they do what they do, the medi-witch close to us speaking every so often, Rodriguez washes his hands at the sink, then puts on gloves - it reduces the risk of infection. There's risks of that after your water breaks, I remember reading it. Barely hearing his words to Annie, I understand that he doesn't want to leave the room just in case. He wouldn't know what to do if anything happened to Theo's daughter. He speaks fondly of Theo, regards him as family after all the years Theo's known him, looked after him. Ministries from other countries brought their own bodyguards, but Minister Rodriguez trusted the word of Andrew Shepherd when he was told they'd be looked after, trusted Theo to look after ten year old Erik when he was asked to help. He feels like he owes the man and he won't go.
I don't think I've ever liked a person more.
But he shouldn't worry about anything happening. Nothing will happen... Nothing can.
I don't think I could handle it.
Lexi squeezes my hand again and I go back to whispering reassurances. It helps both her and me. I try not to listen to the medi-witch talking to Erik, who's now wearing some sort of robe around his clothes that tie around the back, in the same green color as the uniform, or look at Annie's worried face; just knowing that my baby's too small, his heart too weak, is bad enough. I don't need to know if it's getting worse or not, not if I want to stay in the room.
He's back at the end of the bed moments later, telling Lexi she's doing great, that it'll be alright soon.
"Got a name yet?" he asks, obviously trying to help us both think of something else, if only for a moment.
I shake my head, about to make a lame joke about it being the hardest part of this, when Lexi opens her mouth and takes me by complete surprise. "Isaac if it's a boy. You win," she smiles at me briefly. "It was going to be a surprise. Besides, I've started to like it. And Zac is a nice nickname."
"And if it's a girl?" Erik prompts, still examining her.
We keep our eyes on each other and we know, how could it not be? She loves the name, she loves the person that comes with the name... and I did promise. "Dakota," I murmur.
"That's great," he says with a smile. It drops ever so slightly a few seconds later and his eyes are on the screen again. The beeping slowed... "It's time. Lexi, I need you to push," he commands, firm but gentle.
"What if the baby's not strong enough?" she whispers and all I hear in her voice is fear and dread. I kiss her hand while Theo strokes her hair, promising it'll be alright.
"He won't be if we wait anymore," he tells her honestly. "It's now or never. We can help him now, he'll be fine. Push, Lexi."
She does. Then again. And a few more times. All the while, she's being reassured, being told what she wants to hear. What she needs to hear. And after what feels like forever, but must have only been fifteen or so minutes, Erik is holding our baby. But there's no sound. Babies cry, right?
"Is he okay?"
Erik cuts the cord, hands him to Sophie and the two medi-witches and Annie do what they need to. I hold my breath...
...And our baby cries.
It doesn't last for very long, but I can just about see the tiny thing's chest moving and it's enough for us all to calm just a little.
"Say hello to Isaac," Erik whispers, smiling up at us.
"It's a boy?" Lexi sobs, looking both happy and sad. I know the sad tears are because he's not alright. Yet. Erik nods. "Can we see him?"
Annie gives instructions to the other two and they take Isaac away. "Soon," Annie promises. "They need to make sure he's alright first, there are a few tests they need to do. You'll can see him as soon as they're done. It'll give you time to rest."
"I'm fine," Lexi tries to protest, but the way her voice shakes and her eyes droop tell us all otherwise. And I don't blame her.
"We'll take care of you while everyone else takes care of Isaac. He's in good hands."
"Healer Rodriguez," Medi-Witch Sophie calls quietly, stepping back inside. Erik nods and pulls off the robe and gloves, saying he'll see us soon and going to the baby - to Isaac. Sophie stops by my side. "We have a room ready for you, Miss Nott. You can rest there."
They give her a private room, big enough for a bed and a cot, and with a small en-suite. Lexi refuses to rest until she's taken a shower and Annie sits with me and Theo while we wait, telling me how well we did and how proud of us she is. I'm not exactly sure what I did, but I nod along. I'm too tired to ask, to say anything really. I think I'm in shock, whether it's over the premature pregnancy or the complications or the fact that I'm a parent at all I don't know. But my rational mind vaguely recognizes this as shock, it's similar to how I felt when I saw the positive pregnancy test... and then some.
When Lexi comes out, there's some color back in her cheeks and she's moaning about wearing the hospital regulated pajamas instead of her own; she's okay right now. She reluctantly sits cross-legged on the bed and Sophie holds up a vail.
"This will help you sleep," she says.
Lexi shakes her head and glares. "I don't want to sleep. I want to see my baby."
"I know, Angel, I know," Theo soothes. "But Isaac needs to be seen to first and you are exhausted. You've gone through so much today, you need to rest. You can't look after a baby if you're not healthy."
With a stiff nod and without looking at her dad, because if she does we all know she'll have to acknowledge that what he's saying is true, Lexi takes the vail, settles into the bed and takes the potion. Within minutes, she starts to doze, her breathing even, her voice soft. "You'll stay with me, Daddy?"
"Always," he promises.
"Where's Mum and Kieron?" she asks. I wonder if she'll remember asking for her mother next time she wakes.
"I'll get them," I tell her.
"Daddy," Lexi says suddenly, smiling.
"Shush, stop answering me, not talking to you," she mutters, her voice muffled. "Al, you're a daddy."
Then she's out like a light and the shock that I thought would cripple me before lessens even more than it did while she spoke. It's more like I'm in a daze now, I'm able to move and talk and think.
I'm a daddy.
The feeling is surreal.
"Someone should tell everyone else," Theo breaks the silence, his eyes glued to his daughter.
"I'll do it. You stay with her. I'll be back before she wakes," I say, getting up. I kiss her head and walk away, stopping at the door. "What's it like being a granddad?"
"I'll hurt you for that later," he mumbles, but he smiles a little. That's good enough.
I wonder the halls, I'm in part of the ward I've never been before, and find our family and friends talking amongst themselves in the main waiting area. I take a moment to watch them; their concerns, their fears, their possible reactions to having a new family member. I hope the little news I've got is enough to lighten their mood, even if we do have to wait for any real news. I wonder if Kieron will let his mum continue to hold his hand once he knows his sister is fine and Erik is with his nephew.
I clear my throat and for a second there's silence as they all turn to me. Then I'm bombarded with questions. My dad has to calm everyone down and the woman at reception desk shakes her head, but says nothing. She probably seen worried family members before. The only person sitting calmly is Hugo; I don't normally say this, but I kinda wish the others would follow his example. It'd make things easier. I wish he wasn't lazily reading a magazine like he would at home, though. Even if pretending everything's fine is his coping mechanism.†
"What happened, honey?" Mum asks. "How are Lexi and the baby?"
I take a deep breath, watching Kieron as I talk. It's been him and his sister against the world for so long, he needs to know the most. "Lexi is fine, she's with Theo and Annie and she's sleeping. The baby is in need of extra care, there were complications. Erik is running tests, I don't know anything yet."
The others are listening intently as I talk, not knowing whether to be thankful or fearful right now. Kieron just stares. Dealing with things is not his strong suit. He's worse than Hugo.
"Boy or girl?" Lily asks hesitantly, watching for a reaction.
"A little boy," I smile. And so does Kieron. "Isaac."
"You won then," Emmett grins.
I nod. "I don't know when Lexi decided. She said she wanted it to be a surprise, probably to see the look on my face that she saw before when she told Erik. She was so adamant that it wouldn't be; surprise was an understatement."
"He'll be okay," Scorpius says, his voice unsure but the look on face determined.
"Of course he will be," Daphne Greengrass scoffs. "He's a Nott, they're the most stubborn people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting." Then she glances at my dad and she rolls her eyes. "He's also a Potter, they're the luckiest people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting."
"Stubborn luck?" Dad tests the words, letting them roll off his tongue, and nods. "I can live with that."
"She wasn't giving you a choice," Kieron mutters with a reluctant grin, speaking for the first time. "Isaac Potter, eh? I like Zac," he shrugs.
"That's what Lexi said. The surprise for the rest of you is the middle name; it's after his godfather." They stare at me expectantly, especially the guys. Besides Hugo. "My son's name is Isaac Christopher Potter."
"Really?" he whispers, shock and awe apparent.
"If you and Megan are up for the job," I nod. "We've kept it quiet for a while now, we wanted to wait until he was born."
Megan claps her hands, giggles and covers her mouth with her hands. "This is so exciting. You know we're going to spoil him, don't you? Not like Kieron will, ours will be cheaper, but you do know that?"
"We figured you'd say that no matter what. Darcy and Lily have already made this clear to us."
The girls nod enthusiastically.
"When can we see Lexi and Zac?" Astoria Malfoy quietly demands to know, Draco uncomfortably nodding by her side. I know he wasn't dragged here, he cares for his family and would willingly come for his niece, but actually seeing him around my family is still quite a shock. Astoria not so much, not since she met my mum. Being two years below Dad and Draco, a year below Mum and the family wisely choosing to keep their heads down during the war helped Astoria when she and Mum met and bonded over their difficult sons, there wasn't so much animosity. It's not a shock to see her with us at all, or with my parents at least, in fact it's a welcome relief. She always knows what to say when her family and friends need to hear it. She's doing exactly that for Kieron.
"I don't know about Isaac yet and Lexi is asleep, but she made a request before she did so." I turn to Kieron again and point behind me. "Straight to the end of the corridor, turn left, private room 2." With a grateful nod and leaving a chaste kiss on Dom's cheek, Kieron lets go of his and Daphne's hands and takes off. I give an uncomfortable smile to Daphne. "She asked for you, too."
The words take her by complete surprise, and her family take it the same way, but she takes a deep breath and follows the instructions I gave to Kieron.
Annie steps out as I go back in, telling me that it's a family moment, and I know it's because she's uncomfortable being in the same room as her boyfriend's ex-wife. I nod and ask her if she can find out anything about Isaac for me and she smiles gratefully, glad for something to do, and tells me she'll be back with news soon.
Either the potion was really strong or Lexi is just so tired because she sleeps for a couple of hours and I sit in the corner and wait while her brother and parents talk around her; Theo gives them a little information on what Isaac looks like from what little he saw and they finally look like a family. There's no shouting or arguing or threatening; Kieron is smiling and Theo is teasing Daphne about being a grandmother. It's friendly, purely platonic on his side. He knows how he feels now, he's safe, there's no chance of her hurting him. I suspect that might be Annie's doing. It's a little different on her side, though, that's obvious. She kept a baby for him, stayed for him, strayed from her child-free comfort zone for him - after all of that, how could losing him stop her from loving her ex-husband? She keeps her distance, though. Keeps it a feelings-free zone.
I'm glad. And if either of the Nott men have noticed, I'd think they'd be, too.
The only thing that worries me is†the wistful look on Theo's face, like he's waiting for something. Or someone.
Maybe he wants Annie to come back? I quickly realize that that can't be true; I've seen that wistful look many times on Theo's face over the years. It's not Annie, but I'm too tired to want to ask or know or be bothered by it in general. He's never talked about it before, so he won't now.
I've got other things to think about anyway. I'm quickly reminded of that when Erik comes into the room.
"Hey," Theo says, smiling warmly. "How is he?"
"He's in the special care unit; he needs help with his breathing," Erik starts with the bad news. God, I hope. "But I'm gearing towards being positive that he'll be okay. I can't make promises, but he's stable and he's responding well. We need to wait for him to get stronger, then we'll go from there."
"Can we see him?" I ask.
"Yes," Erik smiles. "You can't touch him, there's a bubble charm around him; it'll keep him safe while his immune system gets stronger, keep away any potential infections. But you can visit. Do you want me to take you?"
I think about it, a quick second decision while my eyes are on my little boy's mummy, still sleeping peacefully, then I shake my head. "I want to wait for Lexi to wake. That should be soon, so I'm going to run home and get her the clothes she wants. She'll want stuff for Isaac here, too."
"I'll go with you," Kieron says, standing up.
"No, it's fine, you stay with Lexi."
"I wasn't asking you, Albus," he tells me, sounding more like his old, cocky self. "Lexi is fine, Zac is fine and I don't like hospitals. I need to go."
He's out the door before I can say okay and Theo shrugs knowingly. "I'll be back soon," I tell them, pretending I haven't noticed the change in atmosphere now that Theo and Daphne are more or less alone.
After a quick message to my family, replaying what Erik said, I find Kieron waiting for me in the transport room, smaller than the one in the emergency ward, and we Floo to the house. It's exactly how we left it this morning, but it feels like we left it years ago - so much has happened since the engagement parry. This morning, Lexi was pregnant. Now we have a baby boy. A sick baby boy, but he's here and that all that matters.
"I'll go and get the stuff," I say, making me way out of the living room. As I do, I grab my phone from the couch and send Xavier a quick text to let him know what happened. His reply is quick, congratulating us and hoping everything will be okay. He must have been waiting for me.
The front door opens as I get to the top of the stairs and the wind is harsh and cold; Kieron is sitting on the step, seemingly welcoming it. He must really hate hospitals.
I'm quick to grab Lexi's pajamas and her favorite clothes, along with other... necessities, throwing them into a bag. Next I find myself in the baby's - Isaac's - room and grab sleepsuits, nappies and an outfit for him. They will probably be too big for him now, so I hope it'll do. I also grab the green stuffed dragon Lexi bought. She'd like to give it to him.
Kieron isn't alone when I meet him outside; Craig is leaning over the fence talking to him. He's dressed in a suit, but it's no longer very smart - the tie is loose and haphazard, the shirt is untucked and the jacket is balled up in his hand.
"Big day, Craig?" I ask.
"Work meeting in style," he shrugs. I remember; he's been promoting McCarthy Advertising with fancy parties and dinners trying to snatch some big client before another firm. I was surprised to find out that he worked with McCarthy Advertising; the man who built the company is a Muggle, but his wife was a witch, so they do work for both sides. Obviously the Muggle workers, like Craig, don't know that. They're one of the best firms in the UK; Kieron's been talking about them. The man's kid goes to school with Hugo.
"Kieron was telling me that Lexi had the baby early. Little Isaac, eh? How are they?" Craig asks.
"Lexi's fine. Isaac needs special care, but they're positive. I was just grabbing some things," I explain, holding up the bag.
"I like the name. I'm glad you won," he smirks lightly, winking.
"What did you do?" I ask suspiciously.
"Let's just say she didn't see it coming. Ask her," he says, saying good night and walking inside.
"I like him," Kieron says suddenly, getting up and walking inside. "Lets go."
"Will you be okay?" He shrugs. "Why don't you like hospitals?"
"Why don't you mind your own business?" he asks instead.
Ah, there's the Kieron Nott I know.
Lexi is awake when I get back. A little groggy from the potion, but sitting up. And eating the sandwiches I remember seeing at the party. She holds one up, "Frankie brought these back for me."
I hold up the bag. "I brought the clothes you wanted and some for Isaac."
Her lip twitches. "Frankie also brought cake."
I pull out the dragon. "I remember what you said."
Then she smiles. "We have a winner. Come here." I drop the bag by the bed and hand her the teddy. "Erik said you wanted to wait for me to wake before going to see him." I nod hesitantly, confused by the frown on her face. "I just can't believe he's really here," she whispers. "And that he's a boy. I was so sure we'd be calling her Dakota and watching you squirm when Cody kept his promise."
"When are you going to learn to trust my instincts, Lexi?" I smirk, reminding her of how we found out in the first place. "I'm nearly always right."
"I know," she mutters, pretending not to like that. "Well, Daddy Albus, I am awake and I've eaten. Lets go see him."
I hold out a hand, smiling despite my fears. "After you."
I help her up and watch her walk, ignoring her family in the room, and I'm struck once more by the fact that I'm a daddy. And that my best friend is my baby's mummy.
Now this feeling is surreal.
But I'm not worried about that.
A/N: I said I'd post this is a few days. I hope you're not disappointed. So, what did you think? Boy or girl? The name?
I hope you liked this chapter. I hope to have the next up soon. Please let me knowwhat you think. :)
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