Chapter 26 : Albus: When Everyone Comes Together
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He's so... happy.
He has been for a while, but today has been nothing but smiles and hugs and whistling. Lexi says he's been whistling! And it's because of the guy standing in front of him, running his fingers over Kieron's while the minister reads out the vows.
For someone who used to fear commitment, who shuddered at the thought of marriage and once said he'd never get married, he hasn't shown an ounce of said fear at all. Maybe there was the occasional bit of doubt - What if it all goes wrong? What if it gets called off? - but nothing more. He's been counting down the days ever since they set a date last summer. Now, just over a year later, I'm watching my cousin and Lexi's brother on their happy day, Louis and I on Nick's side and Theo and Xavier on Kieron's, with Theo holding Isaac in his arms because the kid just wouldn't sit still and Kieron wanted his nephew there. I don't think anyone is not smiling.
His hands are shaking ever so slightly when they exchange rings, nervous anticipation showing, and then the moment Lexi and I have been waiting for comes, the moment that has us exchanging eye contact, holding our breath and hoping two little words don't bring back all his previous thoughts of commitment and have him running back up the aisle.
With a clear and confident voice, Kieron says, "I do."
Oh, thank God for that. We're not the only one's who seem to be releasing that reliefed breath either.
Grinning, and I think it's because of everyone's reaction this time, Nick repeats the words and the minister declares them married. Kieron whispers something to him, then pulls him forward and kisses him in a way that has me wanting to look away while being at least a little jealous.
It's the first time Kieron's taken his eyes off Nick since the ceremony started.
The guys chose a hotel to get married in, a big, posh one with large rooms for the wedding and enough rooms for guests to stay. I don't know what the room they got married in usually is, it looked kind of like a chapel by the time we got there, the gold and silver theme beautifully decorating the room without looking completely over the top.
Lexi is very good.
The hotel has two dining halls; we're using the slightly bigger one to eat and give the speeches (well, people think there'll be speeches, but you never know with Kieron) because it fit all the tables in for the guests, while the smaller one is for the music and dancing part of party. I don't know if the hotel staff are using the big room for anything else afterwards, but they'll be clearing it out once we're gone.
There's a picture of Teddy and Vic's wedding in my parent's house, the two of them sitting in the middle of the head table - a long rectangular table that was placed at the front, so they could see everyone and everyone not sitting with their back to them could see them. Kieron and Nick chose not to do that; we have the biggest round table in the room, placed in front of the others, but also close to the other tables. Now it feels like we're a part of the wedding party, but it's also clear that this is the 'main table'.
And I say 'we' because I get to sit with them. It's Nick, Kieron, their parents, and us groomsmen, Xavier, Louis and myself. Then there's Annie and Lexi and Isaac was on her knee. At seventeen months, we think he's a little too young to sit with the rest of kids without adult supervision just yet. Besides, I don't think he could ever leave his favorite person in the whole world.
Is it me? Is it Lexi?
No. It's Granddad Theo. Isaac latched himself onto the man's arm as soon as he was able and never let go. It takes ages to calm him down when Theo leaves the room, even longer when we go home. He's with Theo now, between Annie and Daphne because Theo wasn't going to let his ex-wife and his new fiancé sit next to each other (they got engaged about a month ago). At least with Isaac on his knee, Daphne is kept busy.
Watching them makes Lexi smile and she's both happy and a little sad; the way Theo is with Isaac reminds them all of how he was with her and Kieron and it doesn't take a genius to know that he misses having children to watch grow (he might have mentioned it). Sure, he has his grandson, but he has to give Isaac back. He's always wanted a big family, having a rather lonely childhood, but he never had the chance after his divorce, not until now anyway. Now he has his own two and he loves Annie's two, but he wants his own. I know he and Annie have talked about kids, I was unfortunate enough to walk into the room while they broached that uncomfortable (for me) topic, but he's also worried about having a baby at his age (he was forty-six in March). And when Theo worries, Lexi worries.
I know she'd love a little brother, though. Not a sister; she doesn't want to give up the Daddy's Angel title she's had since birth. Kieron doesn't mind giving the Daddy's Little Boy title, which Isaac didn't get a variation of - he's Buggerlugs. I don't know why.
It takes a nudge in the ribs and Lexi waving her hand in front of my face for me to finally look away from them and realize that Theo is no longer listening to Isaac's ramblings, but is talking to Kieron, Nick and Lexi, while occasionally making sure that Isaac doesn't touch the microphone from the cochlear implant he got a few months ago.
"We were talking about how long they'll be married before Nicky eventually kills Kieron," Lexi laughs. "Bill was asking if you agreed that they'd last."
"Yes," I say when I notice the look Kieron gives me. Not that I need a look; I believe it. Nick's lasted this long, almost ten years. I doubt Kieron can surprise him enough to want to kill him anymore.
"See. Of course we'll last," Kieron grins, taking Nick's hands in his own. "Because, not only do I not want to die, but I also only plan on getting married once. So, you've got to be the one."
"Coming from you, that's romantic," Nick nods approvingly. "If it were anyone else, the all too casual tone and the control freak demand would have me punching you in the face."
"Good job it's me then," Kieron murmurs against his lips before kissing him. "Besides the scar on my hip from when you pushed me and I fell through the door is enough."
"You shouldn't have called me a nutter," Nick shrugs, taking a sip of his champaign.
"You - No, I shouldn't have," he quickly agrees, no longer going to say that, yes, Nick is a nutter. See, he's not actually taken that bit back. And Nick knows it.
"Some people think scars are attractive on people," Daphne grimaces. "Not me, some people."
"Too much information, Mother," Kieron copies the grimace; it looks scarily similar. It's still odd to hear him call her that instead of by her name, even if it does sound way too formal. A few more years and he might even get to 'Mum'.
"I much prefer tattoos," he and Lexi say together, then high five. Then he looks down when Theo narrows his eyes intently. "Not that I have any. Al has, though."
I shrug, not the least bit phased by the fact that he's actually tattled on me. My mum did freak a bit; Dad needed half an hour to calm her down and she needed a reminder that I was almost nineteen at the time.
"I have a phoenix on my left shoulder, because of my patronus, and 'Isaac' written on the base of my neck," I tell them, pointing at each place even though I don't turn around, so they can't really see. "And Will has three and Hugo has one."
"I love Will's; he's got a dragon on his shoulder, tribal art down his arm and 'you only live once' down his side, on his ribs," Lexi says. "But Hugo's is so cool; it's a wolf on his hip."
"No, Kieron's is the best," I add on. Okay, so maybe I'm just a little bitter about the fact that he dropped me in it. "The art on his back and side is awesome. But Nick's name over his heart is just so sweet."
"Really sweet," Lexi plays along, grinning. "Me, Daddy? I have none. I'm not a liar."
"I hate you both," Kieron grumbles.
Father and son share eye-contact for a good few minutes, then Theo picks up his glass. "Okay."
"That's it?" Kieron asks, frowning.
"Why would I care what you do? It's your body and you're in your twenties."
"Why can't my mum be like you?" I mutter.
"Screw that, why did you put me through that just now? Making me think you're were going to have a go a me?" Kieron demands to know.
Theo moves Isaac's hand away from his ear and grins. "Because it was funny. Besides it wasn't exactly a secret; I saw your back about a month after you got it done, when I went to see you about the company and you was looking for a shirt."
"I thought you were in the hall."
"I went back into the hall," Theo nods. "I went looking for you first, not that you could hear me with your music so loud."
Kieron curses, then shrugs, then the topic changes to what Kieron is planning to do with the family business and tattoos are forgotten. He's got big plans; right now it's still just the potions company - Remedia et Potionibus LTD, the biggest distributor of the world's life saving potions, who make sure hospitals get their medicines and werewolves get their Wolfsbane, is owned by the Notts, by Kieron Nott. The world is doomed - but he wants to build around it, make other companies. And he knows how because of his many years following Theo, as well as his studies in business and his degree in law, with him now looking further into business law.
"I just don't know how I feel about everyone knowing we own ReP, and they will when they find out that it's part of the brand new Nott Industries, which is apparently happening," Theo says, frowning.
Kieron shakes his head; maybe he's feigning sympathy, maybe he's not, Theo still looks ready to tell him he can still be grounded... or get a smack... actually, I don't think Theo's ever done that.
"Oh, Dad. That was a long time ago; no one who lived through those times will ever forget, but they've moved on. And they like us; you did that. I think they'll like that they can still trust our company. Besides, you signed it over to me; the company is no longer yours to play with."
Kieron bites into the last bit of his chicken, grinning like a kid at Christmas. The best part, though, is how easily Theo wipes the grin away.
"I can't wait to hear your speech. In fact, I think it's time."
Kieron's speech went better than he, and everyone else, expected - he thanked everyone for coming, he thanked Lexi for organizing the entire day, then he talked about how much Nick means to him. It was surprisingly nice, I didn't know he could be so... loving. Nick said he could be, but I guess I had to see it to believe that he really could be.
It took a good few minutes, but everyone eventually made their way into the second hall and the doors were shut as soon as the hotel staff went inside. People split up then, sitting where they pleased, with whoever they pleased. Some went to the bar, a few were pulled onto the dance floor the moment music started playing. I tried to find all of my friends, but apart from Darcy and Ewan, who were sat with a drink, everyone was occupied.
So, I'm sitting with them, though they're sort of ignoring me because their own world seems more fun, watching Chris and Megan dance and going on about how they're finally back together (and this time it looks official) when they remember that I'm here, while Lexi is with my parents and Isaac. I found Emmett arguing with Uncle Ron a while back, and I hope everything is okay. He'll tell me when he gets here.
"Hey!" Xavier calls over the music, sitting by my side. "Why are you acting like a wallflower?"
"I'm waiting for Lexi and Emmett," I answer, pointing at each of them. "He's going to wanna rant and she's going to wanna dance, so I'm trying to guess which one will get here first."
"Which one are you planning on running away from?" he smirks. He knows me so well.
"The dancing. Where's your date?"
Xavier scowls just a little, just enough for me to know that I'm wrong and he's disappointed. "He's not my date. And he's in the restroom."
"I'm surprised he agreed to come," I mention. I was genuinely shocked when the RSVP came back with a yes.
"I needed to hide from my manager," Cody tells me, sitting across the small, round table. "Plus, why wouldn't I? It's not like the engagement party; this time I've known you all for about a year and a half."
"No, I thought you had that training thing," I shrug. I don't know anything about Quidditch.
"It was moved to next week. I found out a couple of days before I got the invite. Why? Don't you want me here?"
"I do, I'm just wondering if you want to be here," l chuckle, gesturing to the rest of the room. "Every available woman, as well as a fair few taken women, is gawking at you. And you've noticed; you look very uncomfortable."
He shrugs awkwardly, mutters about being used to the stares. I'd imagine so, considering he's famous and good looking; he always wins Witch Weekly's stupid Wizard of the Year and Hottest Male awards, which Kieron hates and is trying to get Nick to fix. But there's a difference between being used to it and liking it. He looks like he's praying for it to stop.
That one word changes the entire mood around us; Xavier's face lights up the moment he sees Ethan, still loving that he finally has that title. It didn't happen until Ethan's third birthday last year when he and Tasha took the kid out for breakfast before the birthday party. It came as a complete shock to Xavier from what I hear; out of the blue, he got a 'thank you, Daddy' when Ethan was given his breakfast. He's not long turned four now and it still makes Xavier smile.
And seeing Xavier smile makes Cody smile. Since they work for rival teams and have been told to stay away from each other, not that they listen, Cody doesn't see Xavier with Ethan often.
The little boy jumps up onto his dad's knee like he hasn't seen him in days, even though he's been moving between Tasha and Xavier all day, but Cody's here now, there's someone else to talk to. Ethan wriggles on Xavier's knee, getting comfortable, and then watches Cody.
"Daddy got the snitch, but your team had more points, that's why you won," he says seriously, playing with his fingers and the ring on Xavier's middle finger. "But we will next time."
"Are you sure about that?" Cody grins. Ethan nods twice, long and slow. "Then I wish your team luck."
"Say good luck to Daddy," he tells him.
Laughing, Cody meets Xavier's eyes. "Good luck, Daddy. Did you enjoy watching the final, Ethan?"
"Yeah. It was fun. I like you," he says. We all assume he's talking about the game and Cody's ready to say thank you when Ethan speaks again. "I like you with Daddy."
Oh. Cody gets uncomfortable and Xavier goes red, asking Ethan why he'd think that when he's never said anything. He gets a shrug in reply and the kid jumps off his knee to stand by Cody.
"Mummy says Daddy likes boys and that's okay. Stew says Daddy likes you."
"I'm going to kill him," he mutters. "He'll pay for that. I'm going to get them both back."
"Do you like Daddy?" Ethan asks. Is there no way to make this child stop talking?
Cody looks conflicted and kind of terrified and keeps looking to me to know what to say. All I can do is shrug. If he says no, Ethan will probably ask more questions. If he says yes, Ethan will probably take it literally because of what Tasha has told him. The man is screwed either way.
"Sure," he says anyway.
"Good," Ethan smiles. "Daddy's fun. When I stay with him, he gets ice cream. Uncle Jon let's me sit in his car. He's making it."
"He's rebuilding it," Xavier clarifies. "In the garage."
I nod along, remembering what he said about his family; his father owns a garage, his big brother works there and their dad thought Xavier would continue the 'family business', but he'd found Quidditch instead.
Ethan goes on to talk about all the things he can do at 'Daddy's', eventually moving to sit on Cody's knee, and I excuse myself. With Xavier moving forward to talk with them, it seems too much like a private family moment for me to want to hear more. Though they'd probably kill me if I told them that.
I go to the bar for a drink - soda this time - but I only have it for a minute; when I get to Lexi, she passes me Isaac and takes my drink.
"Thank you, Al."
"Right. Sure. What's going on with Emmett and Ron?"
Mum's like the Cheshire cat, actually rubbing her hands together at the thought of gossip. She's been a reporter for way too long, I think.
"Apparently Emmett proposed to Hugo last night and he said yes. Ron is not happy, says Hugo is too young. But he's eighteen and Ron can't stop him," Mum tells me. "We've been talking about it, we think it's lovely. Emmett is a nice boy and Hugo loves him, Ron's just being crazy and overprotective."
"So, Hugo can get married, but I can't get a tattoo. That's just mean," I say.
Mum's eyes narrow scarily. "You have them, don't you? Don't push me, Albus. Uh oh."
We follow her gaze, not all that surprised to see Kieron finally break it up; Emmett holds up his hands and walks away, Ron looks very red.
Just when he was starting to be okay with Emmett. Those two should stop dropping such huge news on the poor man; I don't think his blood pressure could handle that kind of hit.
Kieron comes to stop in front of us and holds out his hands to me, silently asking if he can hold the baby. I pass him over and Kieron murmurs to the baby about being with his favorite uncle.
I don't know about that - James is surprisingly good with him. The kid's spoilt, I swear.
"What did you say to Ron?" Dad asks curiously.
"I told him to get out or shut up because if he upsets Nicky, I'll kill him," he answers, still smiling at Isaac and sounding so calm he could be talking about the weather. "He made the wiser choice."
"I saw," Dad mutters, stepping back a little, wary.
"It was an empty threat, Harry," Kieron promises. "It would have been no more than bruise, maybe a broken bone or two."
"You do realize you're talking to an Auror, right?"
"You do realize you're talking to a lawyer?" Kieron counters, his arrogance rolling off him in waves. He thinks he could keep himself out of jail. And maybe he could... unless the prosecution got Blaise Zabini. Then he's, well, screwed.
Kieron is good, but he's new and inexperienced and not going into criminal law because it distances his work from his dad. Business law he wants, family law - custody battles and divorce - you can give him. But criminal law is Blaise Zabini's and according to Dad and Aunt Hermione, he's one of the best.
Why I'm going on about this like I think it'll actually happen, I have no idea. I think I need to sleep.
"Ignore him, Harry," Lexi says, putting an end to the conversation. "Kieron's only saying this now because he's just had to break their argument up. He really doesn't care enough to get involved." She turns to her brother. "Behave."
"I'd do as she says if I were you," AJ Wolfe, a friend of Louis' and who hung out with Nick and Kieron regularly before he got a criminal record, walks past and winks, giving Lexi a high five just before he walks away and meets Lucy. Despite the fact that a fair few family members are in law enforcement, he's not afraid to have a casual relationship with her.
He's got guts. Either that or no brains.
"Since when did you two become friends?" Kieron asks, not entirely happy about it.
"Since Zac was born. He bought the baby a present, so I went to say thank you. Didn't I, Al?" I nod, remembering that conversation. "Why are you the only one allowed to be his friend? Or you were anyway. Now, if you're okay with Zac, I'm going to the bathroom."
She walks away and her abrupt end to the conversation goes in one ear and out the other... I get my drink back, half gone and with a lip gloss stain on one side, but a drink none the less. Finally!
All is set right in my world.
Besides, Theo would have said something if he didn't think AJ was okay to be around.
So many things happen before the night is out - Kieron spends the night hiding from Roxy because she wants him to speak on her and Aidan's radio show; Erik spends the night sulking because, after a year and a half of trying, Lucy wants to be with AJ over him because he would like to see if it can be serious and she doesn't; Hugo and Emmett confirm the engagement before... disappearing; Xavier actually gets Cody to dance with him.
And Molly doesn't believe in miracles!
The biggest thing, though, was probably Kieron reminding everyone that he's dated girls after commenting on Molly's appearance. Apparently we should stop assuming things just because he's called Nick his boyfriend since they were fourteen.
He makes me question things, usually just for fun. I don't like it.
I do, however, agree with him that it's another miracle that he's got Nick at all; dating, either guys or girls, was never top of Nick's list. He preferred his own company. He never even looked at another, or made little comments like his dorm mates.
Like Kieron's joke before, we cousins wondered if he was one day going to tell people he was asexual. Of course, I was eight at the time, so 'Dom doesn't like people like Vic likes people' was good enough.
By midnight, I'm ready to follow Isaac's example and sleep. He's lucky enough to have his pram to sleep in and while he's with me, I can't use the seats.
I glance up at Theo, then nod. "Just a little. Have you finished dancing with Annie?"
"It's your turn, I've come to sit with Zac," he say. "Lexi has made sure that everyone has enjoyed themselves; now that people are starting to leave or go to the room they've paid for, she now wants one dance with her boyfriend, then she'll happily go with you and the baby to your room. She's even picked out a nice, slow song for you."
"That sounds nice," I say, smiling. I fix Isaac's blanket and find Lexi by the DJ, waiting for me. I pull her to me gently and let her wrap her arms around my neck, mine finding their way to her waist. I gesture to the room. "You did good. You're definitely the best events planned I know. I'm glad they picked you."
"Thank you," she grins. "Have fun?"
We dance through two songs, making plans for the next day - checking out of the hotel and maybe spending the day with Isaac in the city. It's calming with the music starting to quiet and the guests starting to leave. Every so often I check on Theo with Isaac, spinning around slightly so that Lexi can see as well when I see AJ sitting with them.
"What's going on there?" I ask, nodding to them. They're talking and smiling, AJ putting his hands by the pram for reasons I can't see.
Lexi shrugs, not appearing to be too bothered by it. But she knows AJ better than me, she knows whether she trusts him near the baby and I trust her.
"When AJ first got into trouble, Dad was the one who brought him in, who found out what was going on and made sure he was okay, was able to keep him out if jail because of it," she says quietly, so that no one else can overhear. "It was one of the rare times when it wasn't AJ's fault and Dad helped him. He's okay. He lies and he steals, but so does Hugo. Well, he did, he promised Dad that was over."
"Okay," I assure her.
"Good. Now we're halfway through the third song, let's say we finish this dance then go to bed."
"I knew there was a reason I loved you," I joke, resting my head on her shoulder.
"I love you, too," she murmurs into my ear.
It's enough to have me lifting my head up to kiss her... one that lasts the rest of the song. I may be exhausted, but even I can still appreciate this.
Life can be long and life can be hard, but life is good. Lexi let's her hands drop to my waist, teasing me by messing with the band of my pants. Maybe Isaac can stay with Mum and Dad...
Oh, life is very good.
And maybe one day life will be... more.
A/N: The last chapter, guys, and just a few days before the date I posted the first chapter last year. I'm both sad and happy and kind of excited... because I've planned the first few chapters of the sequel. It's called Reasons to Smile and I don't know when it'll be up, but I'm hoping soon. Being a sequel to a pregnancy story, that will also factor in, but this will be more about family then relationships and babies, so pregnancy is more of a secondary plot point.
Remedia et Potionibus - Remedies and Potions in Latin. Thank you, Tammi (alicia and anne), for helping me with the title. And listening to my many talks about my stories. You're awesome!
Cheshire Cat is a reference to Alice in Wonderland and belongs to Lewis Carroll.
Kieron whispers finally to Dom, both for finally being married and for actually getting through it without freaking out. The pressure is gone. :P
I don't know about America, but here in the UK, buggerlugs is a slang term for a mischievous child, often spoken as a term of endearment. Well, it is in my family. :P And it will be in the sequel. :)
I hope you've all enjoyed this story. I can't wait to hear what you think! I'm so excited to have finished this story and I can't wait to continue! :D