Chapter 25 : Alexa: When We hold Our Silver Lining
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I've never been more thankful to have my family and friends until this happened, even my mum. If I need anything - food, books, even just a hug - they're there. Nicky and Kieron have been keeping the media at bay; all they know is that the baby is born and that he's in the hospital. They don't even know that he's a boy or his name. I've seen Jessica a couple of times, going to the other end of the ward with Jason for his semi-regular check ups, and I know she's dying to know everything, but the staff here are on my side. Well, they keep every patient's privacy, but I'd like to think they're on my side when it comes to Jessica Shepherd.
Jason, however, is a different story. I snuck him in to see Isaac while he was waiting for his tests and she had stepped out. His healer knew, of course. It's our little secret. He had similar problems when he was born, so he's been telling me what his healer does now - regular check ups on his heart, his asthma, his eye-sight.
We don't know what may be wrong with Isaac yet, it could be nothing, but Erik is optimistic that he can do those tests soon. That's what he said when we talked about it last week.
Albus turning in his sleep disrupts my train of thought and I lie properly on my back because I know he'll wake soon. He'll know that I've been awake for a while and he might say something about it, but it's not my fault I keep waking up early and can't get back to sleep. At least I've actually been sleeping, unlike the first week we came home at night - I didn't sleep for the first three nights. I slept in the hospital. It's like it became a routine. That's changed now, been set right, and soon enough I'll be sleeping properly again. As soon as Isaac is fine. Which means I'll probably get a night or two of real sleep before he comes home and we're up at all hours.
Somehow I'm okay with that. It's an odd thought.
"Morning," he mumbles sleepily, rubbing his eyes. "How long have you been awake for this time?"
"About an hour," I shrug, giving him a little white lie. It may be close to two hours, but he doesn't need to know that. I wasn't lying in bed starting at the ceiling last night, I was out the moment my head hit the pillow, so I consider this a good thing.
"Sure," he says, shaking his head at me, but says nothing else. "What do you think about Apparating to the hospital instead of flooing? We can pick up breakfast at that place you like?"
"Sounds great," I smile, my mouth almost salivating at the thought of having one of their croissants. Or two. Or three. Oh, they're so yummy.
"Then we'll go and see Isaac," Al finishes giving me the plan for the day and pushes away the sheet, getting ready. I watch him leave, his reluctance to call our son by the nickname 'Zac' like everyone else making me grin. He worked too hard to name the baby 'Isaac' to give him a shortened name so soon.
Still laughing - it feels good after so much worrying - I get out of bed, using the main bathroom to take a shower since Al took the en-suite. He's already dressed by the time I get out and says he'll wait for me outside, leaving me alone in the room. He's probably hoping Craig will just be leaving for work and will have someone to talk to while he waits, considering he's still the only friend Al has made here.
I get ready quickly, quick drying my hair with the dryer before tying my hair up, and find Al holding up a hand in a wave as Craig drives off. I hook my arm through his as soon as the door is locked. "Will you be making other friends here or is he the one for you?"
"Oh, we'll be together forever," Al plays along. He leads the way to the alley we use to Apparate, then to the cafe I found near the hospital about a week after Isaac was born. I wait by the door while Al orders breakfast to go, knowing exactly what I want because I haven't ordered anything else yet. The croissants are too delicious for me to part with just yet. Ordering something new would be like cheating.
I can't do that!
The croissants are as delicious today as they were the other day; the chocolate inside is warm and the pastry seems to melt on my tongue. It certainly makes me feel better. We make small talk as we walk the few steps to the hospital, are moods lifted today, more than they were yesterday. And I'm not sure why, because we were given the same news about waiting when we left last night that we've been given for the last few days, but I like it.
The receptionist waves as we walk past, used to seeing us every day now, only this time, instead of the usual greeting, she tells us that Erik needs to talk to us and to wait here. I start to worry again, my smile dropping and take deep breaths when my stomach twists in horrible knots. It won't do to have my breakfast come back up now.
"Breathe and follow me," Erik's voice breaks through the dark cloud that began to form in my mind, his soothing voice washing away the negative thoughts before they can fully form.
Al squeezes my hand and we do as Erik says, letting him lead the way down the corridor and... into the nursery. Near the door, in a cot with his name along the edge, Isaac's fingers twitch while he sleeps. He's still smaller than some of the nursery's residents, but there no longer any devices on his chest, no machines monitoring him or magic keeping him alive.
"He's breathing on his own," Al murmurs, voicing my own relieved thoughts. "He's okay."
I almost cautiously move forward, as though one hasty move will send him back to the special care unit or I'll pop the bubble and this will be a dream, and run my finger down his cheek while Erik watches us. I get to Isaac's tiny hand just as he opens it, letting him grip my finger until he let's go again, then I go back to his cheek.
"We've been monitoring him closely since yesterday, he started breathing properly on his own in the early hours of the morning and we gradually removed the devices," Erik explains softly. "We've not long moved him into here. I was going to call you, but I knew you'd be here soon enough."
"Thank you," I tell him, meaning it for everything he's done for us in the last month, every late night and early morning he's been here, every bit of information he's given us, whether good, bad or repeated.
Erik shrugs in a nonchalant, 'it's my job' kind of way, but he smiles a huge boyish grin and I know he's pleased. His other patients either haven't given birth yet or have been... easier. Plus he knows my dad; he knows what the pressure of doing his best is like. And Dad's not even his blood.
"I thought you might like to see him before we run those tests," Erik finishes. "I'll give you some time."
Al wraps his arm around my shoulders and I lean into him. Despite the small, nagging doubts about being a parent and obsessively calculating how many times a day I might be calling my dad or Ginny when I should be sleeping, it's currently squashed down by relief and happiness.
Zac is okay.
It's the best feeling in the world.
I spend the rest of the day Emmett here at the hospital; Megan is able to join us for lunch in the staff room and we leave the building for snacks, but we mostly stay in the staff room and wait for news. Al and the others are in training or school, and Em's the only one with a day off, so he said he was happy to sit with me. I'm anxious to know the results of Zac's tests, but I think Al should be here as well, and I have no idea what they're doing or how long it'll take, so it's kind of making me jumpy.
And Emmett is absolutely crap at calming me down. Now that he knows Zac is fine, he says he no longer has to walk on eggshells and he makes jokes about the fact that I'm jumpy. He's keeping it light and innocent, away from the actual tests or anything to do with Zac, and he does make me laugh, which I think is his intention. He's just not stopping the constant bouncing up and down that even I'm sick of doing.
When Al comes back carrying a bag of cookies, I almost jump into his arms and kiss him right there. Thinking about other things, even if it is just sugary treats, and listening to his voice as he tells me about how he was finally able to get Chris back by throwing him into a wall helps.
"See, Emmett, this is what I wanted," I gesture to Al.
"You only asked me to keep you company," he points out, smirking.
"Call him Macaulay. Let's see him laugh then," Al says.
"Cruel, Potter. You take it too far," Emmett grumbles, his smile dropping, and he mutters to himself about how evil his parents are for giving him the double-barrel name Macaulay-Emmett. Yeah, it's not his first and middle name - Macaulay-Emmett is his first name. He has no middle name. Em hates it. But everyone calls him Emmett, so I don't know why he cares so much.
All of my friends, including Ewan, Will and, er, Rose, are here by the time Erik comes into the staff room, Dad and Kieron standing behind him. I only told Dad and Em, Al only told Chris, but news does like to travel and Kieron would have hurt someone if he hadn't been told that Zac was okay straight away. Dad promised to do it.
"You do realize that this room is for hospital staff, right?" Erik jokes.
"Why are you even in here?" Will asks, confused.
"It kept us out of the way," Emmett says.
"Yeah, Emmett was in the way," I agree. He nudges me in the ribs.
"Why are you two being mean to me?" he pouts. "If I wanted this, I'd have visited my parents."
"Melodramatic baby," Megan laughs, pushing his head forwards. "I bet you were mean to Lexi today."
"Why would you think that?"
"You're always mean to somebody, McQueen. It's like your life can't function without it."
"Kieron understands that," I smile at my brother. He agrees. "Is everything okay, Erik?"
"Are you okay for your friends and family to hear or would you rather step outside?" I glance at Al, who shrugs, and follow his example, telling Erik that we'll just tell them as soon as anyway. "Isaac is getting stronger, but he'll need to come in for regular check ups; respiratory problems and such. I suspect it may lead to asthma, but it's hard to know for sure with him being so young. We're giving him medication to see if it helps. And -"
"And?" Dad prompts when Erik pauses.
"Isaac isn't responding to sound, not to our voices and he wasn't startled by the door slamming." I frown when he pauses, but say nothing and wait. "We ran the tests and they show that he has sensorineural hearing loss. The tests lead me to believe that Isaac is profoundly deaf in both ears."
"Oh," I whisper, not knowing what else to say.
"What can we do?" Al asks for me.
"There is no cure. You can look at technology, Muggles have cochlear implants that I think would be more effective than hearing aids. Isaac could get them at around a year old, that'll help when it comes to learning to talk. I'd recommend learning and teaching him to sign, too. Just in case. It might help."
"But he's fine, he's healthy. More or less," I add, remembering the first part of the conversation. "Zac will be okay."
"Yes. He's okay. We might even let you take him home soon. If Sophie and Jane let him go, that is," Erik smiles.
"Then we can deal with everything else as it comes," Al tells him. "As long as he's healthy. Can we see him now?"
"Si," he nods. "I also think he's hungry."
Kieron looks away, the memory of when Sophie talked to me about giving Zac milk still haunts him; it grossed him out. He had to leave the room. But Sophie said there were benefits and I wanted to help my baby.
It's a weird feeling, though.
Sophie is in the nursery when Al, Dad and I come inside, everyone else choosing to wait outside. She's tending to another infant, but she smiles at us and makes her way over to us when she's done her job.
"How is he, Sophie?" Dad asks. His smile is wide and almost infectious; this is the first time he's seen his grandson outside of the special care unit.
"He's doing just fine. He's ready to be fed. Would you like to hold him now?"
Her smile widens when my own does. The stronger he became, the more I was able to touch him. A couple of weeks ago, the bubble charm had gone down and I'd been able to touch him while soft blankets and warming charms kept him warm instead. But this is the first time I will actually be able hold him in my arms; he'd been too weak before. I nod my head enthusiastically and Sophie carefully picks him up and brings him to me while I move to the chair near the corner.
He looks so small, wrapped gently in a blanket, and I don't think I've ever been so careful in my life. Dad kneels down on one side of the chair, Al on the other, and they watch intently while Zac moves about, his eyes half open and looking at me. He has the same dark blue eyes as the rest of the Nott family, but what little hair he has looks like it'll be as dark as Al's. It's hard to have the insecurities about being a parent when all you can think when you see him is that he's adorable and precious and yours.
He's my baby boy. And I love him.
Sophie hands me a small bottle and, after a few tries, Zac starts to drink. He doesn't finish the whole bottle; I rub his back softly and Sophie takes it away. Dad laughs softly when he starts to move slightly in my arms and it looks like he's burying his head in my chest. Al just stares in what looks like wonder.
"What are you thinking, Al?"
"What am I thinking? I'm thinking about that day when we were sat in your bathroom, looking at that test. Do you remember when we talked about having a silver lining?" I nod, remembering that day clearly; he'd hoped the silver lining would be that we were good parents. "Well, here he is," Al whispers.
I smile at that, Dad buries his head in his arms. "That, Al, has got to he the sappiest thing you've ever said. But I like it." I run my finger down Isaac's cheek. "And I still can't believe that I actually called you Isaac, but it makes your sappy daddy happy. Making you and naming you were the only contributions he could make."
"I want to say sorry, but I ain't pushing out a baby," he makes that clear to me. Like we're given a freaking choice.
"As long as the next one you may or may not push out is a good few years away, I don't care who does it," Dad glares at us.
I'll hurt him for that later, when I'm not holding my baby.
Another one? Do I look crazy?
Dad guesses what I'm thinking immediately. "You think that now, but give it time. A lot of time," he feels he needs to add.
"Keep saying these things and I won't let you hold him," I warn him.
Only a small bit of the threat is actually serious.
"Lexi," Al speaks suddenly, a distant look on his face like he's just remembering something. "What did Craig say to you? We were talking about the name the night Isaac was born, when I went to get the bag. He said you never saw it coming. I was meant to ask when I came back, but I forgot."
"Er, I was sat on the front step, waiting for Nicky to come so we could go for things for the party, and Craig was bringing his daughter back from school. She asked me if I wanted a girl or a boy and I said I didn't know, that we didn't even have names yet, and Craig asked if would we prefer to take the kid to football practice or to dance lessons, so I said that boys and girls can do both. He said 'I bet little Isaac can't wait' and I said yeah," I scoff. I still can't believe it. "He said the name and I could see it in my head. I never saw that coming. But you won the moment I said yeah."
I do not appreciate his smirk.
By the end of the week, I think everyone has held Zac at least once, except Lily and Hugo, but they'll be home in a couple of days for Easter and Hugo's birthday is always during that time, so we'll be there. And by we, I mean me, Al and Zac.
It's very exciting.
Annie comes into the nursery and helps me to change and dress Isaac in the new sleepsuit she bought for him, along with Dora's old car seat. We don't have a car, like Teddy does, but it's in great condition and is good enough to carry Isaac around in. I strap him in carefully and cover him in a blanket.
"Auror training," I answer Annie, fixing the blanket and keeping my eyes on Zac. "We're going to meet Daddy at home."
I grab the handle and let Annie hold open the doors as we walk to the fireplace. "You have everything you need?" I promise her that I have. "And you have his inhaler?"
"Yes. It's in his bag and I will never leave without it."
This last week, Annie and Erik have been monitoring his breathing, his coughing and wheezing, and the asthma medication they've been using has helped. They taught me how to use it, so I can look after him at home, and if it gets worse I know to come straight back because other treatments might be necessary. Erik explained this until I could literally hear his voice in my head.
"Your dad told me to check," she smiles, holding up her hands in surrender. "If I don't see you before, I'll see you at the joint party thing."
"Hugo is not happy about that," I grimace slightly. Why would he? It's supposed to be his seventeenth birthday party and, without his permission, his family hijacked it to have a 'welcome home/congratulations it's a boy party' for Isaac. But I made sure that it will be before Hugo's party is due to start and it doesn't last for very long; that made the kid a little happier. And, if I'm honest, it made me a little happier, too. I just want to sit down and not do a thing, except look after Isaac. Things are calm now; I like it. Al likes it.
"But we'll see you there," I continue, waving good bye.
I step out of the fireplace and turn the car seat around to face the living room.
"Welcome home, Isaac."
I've just finished feeding him when Al comes home, sweaty and dirty. He push him away when he tries to kiss my cheek.
"Ew, Al, get a shower."
"In a minute," he grins, using the bib to wipe away a bit of milk on Isaac's lip. "How is he?"
"He's disgusted by the fact that his dad is sat so close smelling like he does," I moan, pushing him back again.
"Get used to it, Lexi," Al warns, laughing. "He's got Quidditch obsessed family members and a football mad neighbor; you'll have two sweaty, dirty boys running around this house soon enough. Asthma and hearing loss won't stop him from living his life like all the other boys. Except Hugo, not like Hugo."
"Definitely not like Hugo," I laugh. "He's going to be fine."
"Of course he will," Al promises, kissing my forehead. "He's a Nott."
"That's not what his birth certificate says," I point out. "I believe that says 'Isaac Christopher Potter'."
"I believe you're right, which makes you the odd one out, Miss Nott."
He kisses Zac's head and takes off to get a shower and I have to stare in shock.
Miss Nott: we won't be changing that anytime soon.
Al's Auror training and visits and my odd sleeping patterns, thanks to my late nights and early starts, mean that by the time we put Isaac in his crib and fast asleep, we're both exhausted and ready to sleep. Al is already lying face down on top of the bed sheets by the time I'm finished in the bathroom. I ask him if he needs to use it, even gently shake him awake, but he's out like a light and I can't even bring myself to move him. As soon as I get under the covers, I'm asleep, too.
I wake in the early hours, sure I heard crying, and in my groggy state, I pull myself up and listen. The house is silent, except for whispers, faint words from outside the room, and Al's side of the bed is empty. But still warm; he hasn't been gone long. If a clue as to were he is, I climb out of bed and make my way to Zac's room.
The first thing I notice is the stars; Kieron's star mobile is on and the room is filled with stars. If I get on my tip toes I can see Zac's curious face, his small smile even though his lids are half closed. I hear Al before I see him, leaning down against the bars to watch Zac.
"Uncle Kieron loved you before you were even born; he only makes things for people he loves, that's why only Mummy and Granddad Theo have his cool gadgets. Which makes you really special, because Uncle Kieron is a hard man to be around. He doesn't let people in," Al whispers and I wonder who else he's been telling Zac about. It's like the audiobook on our family history. "But Aunt Lily will tell you everything and give you everything. She's crazy, but you learn to love her. It took Daddy a while, she stole my room and made me share with Uncle James until we got a bigger house, but it can happen. Speaking of Uncle James, stay clear of him; he'll bore you with psychology and no one wants that. He wants to be a shrink; it started when he was seven and tried to find out what was wrong with Hugo."
Al's tone of voice makes me think that James still hasn't figured that out yet and won't stop trying, but I keep my laugh contained; I don't want him to know I'm here and stop talking.
"We have a big family, Isaac, and they can be crazy and they can be scary and they keep more secrets than they tell, but they love you, so we'll give them the benefit of the doubt." Al sighs, waving his hand through one of the stars. "They come through in the end; they were with me and Mummy all the time when you weren't well, kept us sane. Well, they kept me sane; give Mummy a dessert and she'll do what you want. And I never thought they'd be the ones who keep me sane, but they did, so I have high hopes for you when you meet them properly."
He lowers his hand to strokw Zac's cheek, then lowers himself to his knees so that they're face-to-face. "And I know that you can't hear this, and that you wouldn't understand yet if you could hear, but that's okay. Because you'll see it as you grow. You'll see a lot of things as you grow."
Stepping back, I leave my two boys alone as Al starts to talk about the hardships of the media and that he'll make sure Zac is fine.
A/N: One chapter left. I cannot deal with this sadness. ;(
June 11th last year, I posted the very fist chapter of this story. I hope to post the last chapter by or before that time. I think that will be cool. So, look out for it. :)
Si - yes in Spanish.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think. :)
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