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Bang by PygmyPuffLover
Chapter 19 : Emotional reunions are not to be held at best friend's weddings.
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 12


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Five months later…

“You look fucking gorgeous, Molly,” I said, my voice slightly throaty as I stared at Molly, who was primping herself in the six foot mirror in the middle of the room. Her wedding day had finally arrived, and since I’d been dragged out of bed at six in the morning to get ready for it, didn’t I bloody well know it. Just looking at her nervous but ecstatic face made me ache with happiness for her and with sadness for myself. Because I’d never get what she had.

She was wearing a wedding dress that she’d had custom made from three different designs, all blended together. One of the top designers at Gucci took three of the ‘hot off the press’ wedding dresses from their latest season’s collection and put them together in one perfect dress as a wedding gift. The thing had taken a month and four different seamstresses to get just right, but Molly said it was worth every second and every knut spent on it – and I can tell that it was a lot of knuts. Molly loved the fact she’d be the only one ever to wear it.

It was a strapless affair, with a sweetheart neckline that pushed her boobs up in a way that would excite Lorcan and take five years off her father’s life. The parts of the dress that covered her chest were shaped like two clams, moulded perfectly to her figure and then flowing into a ribbon band that wrapped around her waist. It was about three inches in width and then the skirt began.

The skirt flowed out from her body, but not in a way that would make her look too ‘princess-y’. Apparently that was a bad thing, though I’m not really too sure about that. I thought that every girl wanted to look like a princess on her wedding day, but apparently that’s no longer the trend.

The skirt was as bright white as it could get, studded sparingly with expensive crystals that got grew frequency as the skirt reached the floor. Despite being ginger, Molly had gotten a spray tan to boost her ‘natural colour’ and a light shimmer spray had been spread over her collarbones to give her a glow. The amount of preparation that had gone into Molly’s skin shocked me, especially since everyone at the wedding would have seen her regular skin on an everyday basis anyway. It would be no surprise to any of the four hundred guests.

She’d spent two hours at the hairdressers getting her hair absolutely perfect. My hair had taken half an hour, which I thought was more than enough time and getting a little excessive, but Molly’s took four times longer. It was beautiful, though. Extensions had been added at the base to take her hair from a few inches below her shoulders to midway down her back. All of this hair had then been loosely tipped to one side, curled and then secured into a loose bun, plenty of tendrils spilling down in loose, barrel curls. One thicker tendril had been left hanging over her free ear. Though plenty of her hair was in her face, Molly swore it didn’t bother her. I then had to spray her crown with enough glitter spray to make a Child Beauty Pageant jealous.

As for her makeup – that was another hour, right there. Molly offered to get mine done at the same time, but I did my own. And it turned out pretty damn well, if I do say so myself. But Molly’s is flawless – glowing skin, enormous doe eyes, plump lips, high cheekbones – she looks like a princess. Or she would, if that’s what she wanted to look like.

She looked the image of perfection, in other words.

As her maid of honour, I was not supposed to outshine the bride, as Lucy made very clear, and I felt like expressing my disbelief that anyone ever could outshine Molly. I’d never seen anyone look as perfect as she did right then. And in my state, there was no way that I could ever take any of her well-earned attention away.

Molly only wanted a small wedding party – just me as her maid of honour and her pain in the arse sister as a bridesmaid. Chief bridesmaid, she called herself, but that was a self-appointed title. We were wearing similar dresses, with mine being a slighter deeper shade of purple to indicate that I was the maid of honour. Did you know the darker colour indicated that? Me neither. I’d had to have my dress remade which Lucy sneered at, saying I was causing troubles for Molly, but Lorcan told her to shut up – turns out him and Molly’s sister kinda rubbed each other up the wrong way.

Our dresses were the same design, only differing in colour. They were floor length dresses that stayed close to our legs and skimmed our figures – which obviously looked better on Lucy than it did on me. A sweetheart neckline, similar to Molly’s, showed off my growing ‘assets’ to their best advantage, apparently. The pearl buttons on the back were a pain to do up or undo on your own, though.  Lucy clawed the shit out of my back when did up mine.

Molly, purely out of the kindness of her heart, had also switched the heels we were wearing so that I didn’t have to stand for an hour in the five inch killers that we had originally been supposed to wear. It was either smaller heels or me sitting down, and we all had agreed that that would look worse.

But Molly thought she was damn lucky that I was in the wedding at all – being six months pregnant and standing in front of four hundred people that would all be judging me was never going to be easy. Especially not when the father was going to be standing in the same position as me, just behind the groom. I prayed that Molly’s wedding would be enough of a reason for James not to kill me on the spot. Molly thought he was going to cause a brawl that would end with the priest being used to club me over the head. Lucy just sneered a lot.

The two of them were the only ones in Molly’s family that knew about my… predicament. Lorcan had wondered why he hadn’t seen me for a couple of months, since the second I got big enough to not be able to hide it with a large jumper or baggy trousers I stopped leaving the house. I had to take early maternity leave from my job – James Potter’s ex-girlfriend walking into work pregnant would stay quiet for about three minutes. My boss did the Potter family a favour – said he’d hold my job until I came back. I wouldn’t have gone back to work, if I didn’t know that I’d have to raise a baby as a single mother.

That is, unless James murders me in front of the entire congregation for hiding my pregnancy from him. But still – how many women know what to do when their boyfriend admits to trying to kill their ex-fiancé and then find out they’re pregnant. Oh, and they don’t even know whether the baby is said boyfriend’s or said ex-fiancé’s.

It’s a wonder, the world of modern magical medicine. Babies don’t even have to be born now for a paternity test to be done on them. James, having left his toothbrush in my apartment by mistake before I kicked him out, offered up a prime test-bunny for St Mungo’s lab. I submitted the DNA under a false name – Brick Wall – and hey presto. It turned out I was carrying a baby brick.

Certainly saved myself the stress of explaining to Molly why I wasn’t having her cousin’s baby.

I had never, ever, ever planned on not telling James about the baby. I was just biding my time. I made myself a deal – James would know about the baby by the time the baby was two months away from its due date. Three months away by this point, my time was up – Molly’s wedding was upon me and I couldn’t let her down, just because I was too stupid to tell my boyfriend to wrap it up. I never thought about it. So stupid, since the same thing had happened to Mark.

Mark. God, Mark. The same Mark that thought I was suffering from flu, was on a business trip with work, was at a spa with Molly, was wedding shoe shopping, was getting my hair done – reason after reason after reason to not see him after I couldn’t hide my bump any longer. I hadn’t seen him for seven weeks, and I was missing him like crazy. He may have been my brother, but he was always one of my closest friends, and I missed him more than I’d imagined.

Brent, on the other hand, was back at Hogwarts, and had written me a grand total of two letters since September, one being this:

Hey Aimes,

How are you doing? Everything’s cool here, but the lessons are hard, which sucks. Decided my new favourite food is ravioli. Hope you’re doing good, and miss you loads, like.

Brent

The affection pouring forth from it had almost overwhelmed me. But still, it had made me laugh so I’d forwarded it on to Mark, who then pointed out that Brent hadn’t contacted him at all since he went back to school. The two of them were never close, but a lack of contact between them prompted me to ask Shane whether he had heard from Brent – turns out they were writing to each other daily, while we go fuck all. Bloody charming, I know.

“Are you sure?” Molly asked, turning around and smoothing her hands down over her flat stomach. I smiled, nodded and pulled her into one armed hug while trying to simultaneously avoid her hitting my bump or me touching my hair. The baby was feisty that day – kicking like it was their job.

“Yeah, you look perfect. I know it’s not the look you were going for, but you look like a princess. Like one out of those Tales of Beedle the Bard books.” Molly grinned at me, and then her expression morphed back into one of slight nervousness. Her teeth had caught the edge of her bottom lip and she was chewing on it, a nervous tick she’d picked up from her mother.

“You look gorgeous too, Aimes. Especially given the… circumstances.” Molly shot me a disapproving look, which Lucy seconded with a snotty snort. The look I didn’t mind – I knew it wasn’t anything to do with judgement for getting pregnant, but more for splitting up with James in the first place (Molly was convinced that pair of us were ‘soulmates’) and then for not telling him immediately when I found out that I was up the duff. But James – what he did, trying to get Dan to crash his car, was ridiculous and meant I was beyond furious with him. And then to have to stick my tail between my legs and go crawling back to him and say ‘oh yeah, I’m knocked up and you’re the daddy’… yeah, it wasn’t for me. And hence I’d been putting it off as long as possible.

I had already come to terms with the fact that James might flay me alive for hiding my pregnancy from him for like four and a half months, but what could I have done? What was done was done.

I’d watched too many girls from the estate get pregnant at the hands (or something else) of young boys that wanted nothing more than into their knickers, and I didn’t want to be another girl that got knocked up by her no good hick boyfriend and then had to live off the father for the rest of their lives because they never went out and did anything for themselves. I didn’t want to be another girl from an estate that was thought of as just too stupid to stop themselves getting pregnant. For some reason, when you’re single and pregnant, guys seem to think you’re going outside with a Free Parking sign stuck to the front of your t-shirt.

“Thanks,” I said. I glanced in the mirror. My hair had been straightened perfectly and then twisted into barrel curls at the bottom, with the fronts pinned back into two slightly protruding pouffes. I quite liked it like that, and having seen Wendy or Willow or Wanda or Whatever do it, I was pretty sure I’d be able to recreate it for the baby shower that Molly was insisting on throwing.

I don’t need to sit in a room with twenty women I barely know while they hand me breast pumps and triple packs of dummies and baby-grows and other stuff that I know literally know nothing about. I’ve tried to read several books about raising babies but… it’s just… hard. Accepting that this is going to be my life and I’m going to be doing it on my own. But the baby will be worth it. It will.

I’ve seen enough of those aforementioned estate girls get pregnant and then have an abortion, believing it’s the easier option, and then spend the rest of their youth regretting doing it and wishing they’d had someone to tell them not to. For me, that person was Molly.

“Yes, yes, you both look beautiful, Aimee looks heavily pregnant, Molly looks like the perfect bride, I look lovely too, so on and so forth, let’s move on. We were supposed to meet Mum, Angelina, Fleur and Ginny ten minutes ago.” My heart very nearly leapt out of my chest, and Molly fumbled with the water bottle she was holding as I turned my accusing gaze on her. She looked down at the floor as Lucy smiled something that looked oddly like a smug smirk. The dumb bitch.

“You never told me I was going to have to see Ginny before I saw James,” I hissed, and Molly shrugged. She looked like she was going to say something, but I cut her off with my mad rambling. “Oh Merlin, what am I going to do? Hi, Ginny, yes, I know I’ve split up with his son and haven’t spoken to him for five months, despite you having tried to contact me several times, but I’m carrying your grandbaby so please don’t fucking hate me?”  I groan and cover my eyes with my hands.

“How about… how about we tell them you’ve gone to get your hair adjusted – that it got wet and so you’ve had to have it sorted? That they’ll see you when you’re walking down the aisle?” To my great surprise, the clever suggestion hadn’t come from the mouth of my best friend – it had come from her sister. Lucy stood up, shrugged and picked up her bouquet. “I don’t hate you, Aimee. I know this is hard on you. So yeah, if Molly tells them that I’ll play along.”

“Thanks, Lucy,” I said quietly. Lucy nods once, then turns on her heel and heads out of the little room at the hotel that we’d been put in to get ready. Molly sighs, kisses my cheek and then goes to follow her.

“I wish you’d come, Aimes,” she said sadly. I smiled sadly too, guilt eating at the pit of my stomach at the thought that my drama might be and might already have ruined my best friend’s wedding. Why had I waited until this moment? It really was such a bad idea. In front of everyone – it was going to be in front of everyone. James was going to throttle me in front of everyone.

“I wish I would too. But you’ll be fine – I’ll see you in about an hour.” Molly smiled sadly at me and then headed out of the room and into the hallway. Alone at last, for the first time since six o’clock that morning, I took a deep breath and sank down onto a soft little couch behind me.

Being alone and pregnant, in the sense that not only did my baby not have a father but I couldn’t tell anyone about my predicament, couldn’t even leave my own house without charming myself into some kind of elaborate disguise, was so much harder than I had ever imagined. I had a newfound respect for single mothers everywhere and I hadn’t even had the baby at this point. There was no one to assuage my guilt at the way I’d lived before I realised – for four-odd weeks of being pregnant, I had smoked cigarettes – not regularly, but still – and drunk. And I drank plenty. The stress of not having James anymore affected me more than I thought it would and I ended up drinking a lot to ease the pain. You would have thought I’d have learned from my father’s early mistakes, but no.

Until I got get all the appropriate tests run by a Healer that Molly had organised and had sign an NDA to make sure that they wouldn’t disclose my pregnancy to the press, I sat curled up on my sofa with a glass of orange juice that I never actually finished and wondered whether my stupid, stupid lifestyle was going to hurt my baby – in any sense of the word.

Would they know who their father was, or would they never get to know because I was so busy sleeping with two men that I never should have to know who it was? Would that make their mother a slut, or would they understand when they got older? Would they be deformed, disabled, sick, because of the fact I wanted to suck on a stick full of hundreds of different chemicals that slowly destroy organs, let alone foetuses? Would their limbs be too short, would they suffer pain, because I wanted to chug alcohol down like there was answers in the bottom of the bottle?

I shoved my head into my hands and felt my shoulders shake as I remembered the stress of those first few weeks. Believe me, there was no one that was filled with more self-hatred than me in those few days. The day the tests had come back, it was like the weight of the universe had been lifted off my aching shoulders. I sobbed onto Molly’s for three hours in relief.

Of course, the tests had only told me a fraction of what I needed to know. The baby was James’s – was that better or worse than it being Dan’s? Who really knew? And according to the scan, the baby was developing well and looked like it would develop well. No disabilities were showing at that time that can be shown by a child’s physical appearance – but what did that mean about a baby’s cognitive function? Would the baby have learning difficulties, be unable to read, talk, to develop past a certain age because of me. I may have damaged my own child.

Of course, these were risks that every parent had to take – and that was before the baby was even born and I had to try and figure out how to raise a child. That is, if I was allowed to raise it – would James sue for custody and have my baby taken from me? Claim that me hiding the pregnancy was a sign that I was an unfit parent? My eyes welled up as I sat there pathetically, my head in my hands while Molly and Lorcan limbered up to vow to love each other for the rest of their lives?

I poured a glass of water with shaky hand and smoothed my palm down over my stomach. I tried to drink it but my throat seemed to be blocked, my tongue seemed too big for my mouth and I just felt like if I stood up and walked out of that room, it was going to be the end of what I can only describe as a period of blissful ignorance. It hadn’t been blissful, but at least I’d only had to deal with myself.

~+~

An hour later, Lucy returned. She slipped around the door, her lithe figure bending at the waist so that her dress didn’t snag on the doornail, and her eyes held something akin to pity – something I didn’t want or enjoy receiving from a girl both younger and bitchier than me – and the bitchy thing was hard to one up me on, let me tell you.

“Are you ready to go? The wedding party is getting ready at the back of the hall for the walk up the aisle in five minutes – I was told to come and get you. I think… it may not be any of my business, but I think they may know that something is going on with you, Aimee. They don’t see you and all of a sudden you’re avoiding seeing them? This goes deeper than just a break up and don’t think my family aren’t smart enough to figure that out. Well, Louis probably isn’t. You may have one of them fooled.” I managed a weak smile at Lucy’s sweet attempt at humour. She was making an effort, at least, and that was something I was grateful for.

“Let’s go then. It’s about time to show them that they’re right.” Taking a deep breath and accepting Lucy’s helping hand, we headed out of the room and down the plush carpet to the lifts. My stomach was rolling and twisting and I felt like I might both throw up and faint at the same time, but I just kept putting one clumpy heel in front of another. The thought of that made me well up again – remembering the last time that I had resented being in clumpy heels.

The lift from the fourth floor of the hotel to the ground floor felt like it both lasted forever and was over in a flash. I blinked at then we were there. But at the same time, each floor dripped by like it was being deliberately slowed down just to prolong the torture.

I crossed my hands over my stomach and took a deep, deep breath. It didn’t help.

When the doors opened, it seemed like the heavens may have been smiling down on me. There wasn’t a single person in the lobby, and security had kept the well-wishers far enough away from the door that they wouldn’t be able to see me. Lucy walked on my left to try and block me, just in case. We took two left turns and still encountered no one, and then stepped into the empty room behind double doors that hid the room where all the guests were sat – where Molly would soon become Mrs Scamander and Lorcan would vow to spend the rest of his life being a model for various fabric colours. The thought almost brought a smile to my lips. Almost.

I stood facing a window that looked out on a little garden behind the hotel, which was blocked off for anyone without access to the little chapel. It was a tiny courtyard affair – thick green grass and flowerbeds filled with exotic flowers in all colours. A few headstones were smattered in the corner and I wondered whether they’d let me be buried there when James was done with me.

The door behind me creaked open, which told me that everyone had started to file in. As far as I could remember, it was Lysander escorting Lucy up the aisle, as a groomsman, and then James escorting me as I was maid of honour and he the best man. Victoire’s small children, Ghislaine and Vincent, were the flower girl and boy. They’d be going first. Albus and Audrey would follow them. Then Luna and Rolf Scamander, who would hopefully provide some entertainment with their colourful outfits, would be next out. Then Lucy, me and Molly. She was walking up the aisle with her dad. Percy took this role on very proudly, and had had his part straightened perfectly just for the occasion. It was very sad, according to Molly.

“Aimee!” Albus said, his tone high pitched and just a little too delighted. I was never sure whether that boy’s compass pointed completely straight, if you catch my drift, but having someone be so enthusiastic was sweet regardless. I wanted to turn and thank him, too see him, but my stomach would then be on show and at the angle I was standing at, it was actually hidden. “Long time no see. Our James has been absolutely – fucking ouch, James!” I nearly smirked.

“Hi, guys,” I said awkwardly. It wasn’t the most literate or witty thing that I could have said, but it was all I had. Add that to the fact I was standing resolutely with my back facing them, they all probably wondered what I was smoking – Percy and Audrey especially.

“Aimee?” Albus asked, and a second later a hand reached out and touched the small of my back. I jumped a little, my clumpy heels making odd noises on the carpet, and then swallowed a load of spit that had accumulated in my mouth. I turned around as quickly as I could – like ripping off a plaster.

And as I did so, it was almost like a cartoon strip, in the way that I could see their faces changing colour shade by shade. From ordinary, to pale, to white, and in James’s case, to a clammy shade of green. And despite my previously frozen features refusing to co-operate before, they now decide to make up for that tenfold. A giant, circus-worthy smile nearly splits my face in half and I’m fairly sure everyone in the room gets to see every single one of my teeth.

“Hi, guys! How’re you doing? You had a nice five months since I last saw you?” Another demonic smile graces my face and I think wave – with both hands. Rapidly. I’m surprised I didn’t break out into song and dance and ask them to join me in a group rendition of the YMCA.

“I – the – what?! That’s a – is it – whose kid – what?! I don’t – fuck – no – what? What?!” James shakes his head rapidly and backs away from me like he thinks I’m emitting poisonous radiation and then hits the wall behind him. The jolt seems to shock him back into his senses, as he blinks rapidly a few times and then his face smooths out into the impenetrable expression I remembered so well from our early days of hating each other’s sorry asses.

“Well, Woods… you’ve changed,” he comments coolly, and then turns around. “Molly, where am I supposed to stand to escort her in?” Molly points, wide eyed, to a point on the back of the carpet. James moves over and stands on the spot, looking steadily forwards like I’m not standing there, six months and one week pregnant with his kid growing in my uterus.

“It’s yours,” I said suddenly, and James’s eyes flicked to mine for a fraction of a second before he went back to looking forward like he’d never heard me speak. Everyone else was standing in dead silence, staring between the two of us – particularly at my stomach. “I said – James, it’s yours.”

“Funny that you feel the need to tell me that. You look – what, six months along? The fact you’re so sure it’s mine makes me think that you had that baby tested. What, did you do someone while you were with me, Woods?” James didn’t look at me, but I felt my heart sink at the barely repressed fury in his voice. It was a tone so cold it could turn water to ice and my blood almost began to run cold in my veins. A badly repressed shudder trickled down my spine.

“I – well… James we were only together for like 2 hours!” The words slipped out of my mouth before I had a chance to censor them. Albus looked like he’d swallowed his own tonsils and Molly’s eyes widened beneath her four pounds of eye makeup. I’m surprised she could keep her eyes open.

“Oh, smart fucking going,” James hissed, before he stepped forwards and seized my arm just a little too roughly for someone handling a pregnant woman. He pulled me into the place I should have been standing, next to him in the line to get into the chapel. Molly and Percy looked at each other and then slipped into line behind us, as everyone else filed into the correct positions. James was like a frozen figurine next to me, his face stoic and chiselled from ice, but his eyes were wide and if my impressions had been correct, just a little bit terrified.

“Is everybody ready to go?” Nana Molly poked her head around the door to the chapel, thankfully missing my stomach, and smiled widely, not noticing the palpable tension in the silent room. When Lucy nodded, she headed back in and two doormen opened the doors. Ghislaine and Vincent, as the flower people, were the first to make their ways down the aisle.

Then Luna and Rolf took their turn. Luna was dressed in a silver, floor length dress that started high up her neck but swooped down to reveal her back. Silver chains were strung across the empty space, and little daisies hung randomly along these chains. Silver ballet pumps poked out from underneath the hem of her dress and revealed two large, plastic daisies stuck to each of the toes. Adding on some bright red lipstick, shimmery gold eye shadow and with her hair pulled up into a messy bun so tight that it completely removed the wrinkles from her face, she looked both beautiful and the image of crazy. Her husband was wearing matching silver dress robes and a daisy corsage.

Lucy and Lysander were next, though Lucy’s expression was sour instead of happy. Albus looked like someone had kicked him in the stomach. I closed my eyes. I was ruining my best friend’s wedding, and I knew it. And there was nothing I could do about it. With Audrey clinging to Albus’s arm, the two of them shuffled out the room looking nothing short of shell-shocked.

“James, Aimee, you’re up,” Molly hissed from behind me. James gripped my arm in a death hold and pulled me forwards.

It was like a wave. It started with the people seated at the back, and then flowed like a wave to the people in the very front row. The eyes would look, smilingly at the pair of us, probably thinking how cute we looked and how romantic this whole wedding was. And then their eyes would drop to my stomach and disbelief would register instead on their snotty, arrogant faces. Then judgement. Or horror. Or shock. Or, in some cases, confusion. I swallowed hard. James’s fingers gripped my arm so hard that he left moon shaped grooves in my skin.

I carried on forcing one foot in front of the other, feeling awful not for just hurting Molly, for taking the attention on her big day, but for hurting James. I didn’t think about it that was until I was shuffling up the aisle on his arm. I, his girlfriend left him, ignored the twenty two letters he sent me – one for every week that I wasn’t talking to him, and then showed up at his cousin and best friend’s wedding, where he was best man, and just showed him, in front of everyone, my enormous baby belly. No wonder he looked like he wasn’t sure if he wanted to bolt, faint or strangle me.

When we finally reached the end of the aisle, I refused to make eye contact with the crowd and instead stood in front of Lucy, behind where Molly would eventually stand, and in front of Lorcan, whose eyes were wide but did not seem, unlike the rest of the crowd, captivated my me. He was staring at the doors, waiting for Molly. And when they opened, the crowd stood up, and Lorcan’s face morphed into one of such love that it made my heart… do something. Weird. I don’t know.

She looked beautiful, coming down the aisle on her father’s arm. Even Percy managed to look somewhat attractive and interesting in her presence. His boring, plain black suit that he had refused to trade in for anything snazzier seemed to fit him better, his shoes seemed even shinier than when he had finished meticulously polishing them, his hair did not look like a greying shade of ginger but more reddish, brighter, and Molly looked radiant on his arm.

My eyes were filled with tears before I had realised what was happening. Walking down the aisle, I didn’t see Molly Weasley, a twenty-something getting married to her long-term boyfriend. I didn’t see a woman that had a career and an apartment and a plan to have children soon. I saw an eleven year old girl that waltzed up to me after my brother had kicked me out of his compartment and told me ‘don’t worry, you can sit with me’.

I saw the girl that had been by best friend for the best part of a decade – the girl who had held my hand through my pregnancy up to this point, who had kept it from the love of her life at my request. The girl who gunned so hard for me to be with her cousin – because she wanted me to be family.

My eyes drifted to James and I found him staring at her too – his baby cousin, on her wedding day. His hands were clenched into fists at his sides as his eyes drifted to me. I took a deep breath, and then did what came naturally to most people. I offered him a wide, watery smile and placed one hand on my stomach. He looked, for a second, like he might be considering flipping me off.

And then he smiled back. Just a teeny, tiny smile that made my stomach flutter – and not in a way that made me think our baby was just enjoying a little more ball-less Quidditch practice.

That one smile gave me more hope than anything else that had happened over the last five months. Molly reached the front, took her place opposite an overwhelmed looking and beaming Lorcan, and then leant sideways to kiss her dad on her cheek. Percy stumbled over to his seat, tears sparkling behind his old-man spectacles.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate the union of Molly Penelope Weasley and Lorcan Demetrius Scamander.” Molly had only wanted the vows to be traditional – nothing too wild or wacky, just simple ones that had been spoken time and time again. Creative weddings were all the rage now, but Molly and Lorcan had just wanted something simple – the idea of their wedding reflecting Luna and Rolf’s made Lorcan shudder. From what I understood, there was something involving dancing around a maypole and then singing their vows in soprano. Needless to say, Lorcan was a fan of traditional white weddings after he found out.

The priest wittered on for a little while and then my attention was drawn back when the vows began. Molly was beaming and Lorcan was still looking a little shell-shocked. She squeezed his hands as Lorcan blinked.

“Lorcan, do you take Molly to be your wedded wife, to live together in marriage? Do you promise to love, comfort, honour and keep her for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health? And forsaking all others, be faithful only to her so long as you both shall live?”

“I do,” Lorcan rumbled, his deep voice low and thick with emotion. Tears would have spilled down my cheeks was I not so used to being emotionally dead that it was a statistical improbability. I could hear Lucy whimpering softly behind me, but she’d always been a wet lettuce.

“And you, Molly, do you take Lorcan to be your wedded husband, to live together in marriage and love, comfort and honour him for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health? Do you promise to forsake all others, being faithful to him for as long as you both shall live?”

“I do,” Molly said solemnly, staring at the priest as though she was worried that he might think she was lying and not taking this completely seriously. The priest smiled comfortingly at her and then raised both of his hands, his arms spread and smiled widely at the gathered crowd. I didn’t follow his gesture, but looked back at James, thinking it was safe as I assumed that he would be looking at the congregation. As usual, I was wrong – he was looking at me, his eyes narrowed and his bottom lip sucked into his mouth as he chewed on it.

“I’m sorry,” I mouthed, on a whim and without really thinking about it. He looked at me for a moment, a few shaky seconds where I was convinced that he was going to look away, leave me standing there knowing that he was never planning on forgiving me. But instead, he nodded once, a slow, concise nod, and then mouthed back to me.

I know,” was all he said. And it made me smile one huge, embarrassingly enormous smile that I had to duck my head down to avoid showing the world. Maybe, just maybe, things would end up alright between James and me. Maybe we’d be able to sort something out where we could raise our baby and not hate one another. Maybe my child’s home wouldn’t too broken.

I was in love with James Potter, there was no two ways about it. I was head over heels, want to sing in the rain, skip to the loo, dance in a musical, shoot myself in love with James Sirius Potter, and yet I loathed what he did, loathed what he stood for, loathed the fact that I was so in love with him that it clouded my rationality and… I hated the fact that he might try to get me back because I was pregnant. He didn’t try to get me back when I wasn’t – and I certainly wasn’t going to be one of those oblivious wives that lets their husbands marry them because it’s the ‘right thing to do’ and then get cheated on for the rest of their lives.

I should have let him explain – I should have let him tell me why he did that to Dan, what really happened – whether Dan was telling the truth or if he was just trying get James into trouble. Dan always did like street racing. What I should have done was open one of those damn letters, or answered one of the phone calls – he always called me at five o’clock on the day that I received a letter. Eventually, I disconnected the phone every Sunday when I first woke up.

They say you regret the things you don’t do more than the things you do do – I always thought that was bullshit. I regretted sleeping with Dan when I was supposedly with James, I regretted one drunken night back in sixth year when I slept with the cousin of the guy I was dating, I regretted that time that I thought it would be a good idea to drink and entire bottle of vodka and then dance on a table in my underwear… but I’d never regretted not doing anything before. Until now, that is.

Molly and Lorcan were then told to exchange rings, and Molly slid a thick gold band onto Lorcan’s left hand, followed by him sliding a thin gold band studded with three, beautiful asscher cut diamonds that matched the enormous one welded onto the top of her engagement ring.

“By the power vested in me by the Ministry of Magic, the Church of St Joseph’s and the great county of Oxfordshire, it is my honour to now pronounce you man and wife. You may now kiss the bride.” The priest looked away as Lorcan pulled Molly in for one quick, chaste kiss.

“May I present to you Mr and Mrs Lorcan Scamander,” the priest says to the church, and Molly and Lorcan turn, hand in hand, to face their friends and family. As they begin their assent up the aisle, everyone in the wedding party slips back into the pairings they were in before, more or less. Audrey and Albus, Lucy and Lysander, Ghislaine and Vincent, and James and I. James supported me with one hand on my elbow and made us walk quickly after the others, probably not wanting anyone to stop us and ask when my stomach decided to distend like I’d swallowed a watermelon.

~+~

Wedding photos had followed. Two hours of wedding photos. Standing with different variations of the same fifteen people, watching different variations of those same fifteen people standing together, and getting bored of watching everyone giggling over champagne while I sipped on a glass of iced water – though I did nick the ice from the champagne bucket, and that helped.

James had let go of my elbow the second we got into the room, and hadn’t said a word to me since, not even when we had to pose together for ten minutes worth of photos as the best man and the maid of honour. The photographer let me know, on no uncertain terms, that my being pregnant was a pain in the arse for him as he was trying to make ‘aesthetically beautiful photographzzzzzzzz’. I was surprised he didn’t just ask me to turn around.

“Aimee,” Harry said suddenly, from behind me, “is there any chance that Ginny and I could have a word with you?” I turned around, my hand flying to my stomach in some kind of newfound defence mechanism, but iron girder arms went around my chest and collarbone before I could move. James’s head appeared over my shoulder and shot his parents the kind of look that would have been slapped off my face had it been me and my parents.

“No, you can’t. I’m talking to her first,” he spat angrily. I grabbed hold of my wrist by instinct and ran my finger along his wrist by way of attempting to relax him. If he had been a cat, his hackles would have relaxed and he would have purred. But instead, he just breathed a little easier.

“You’re finally going to speak to me then?” I asked, as he grabbed hold of my wrist and towed me towards the corner of the room. I brushed a few loose curls out of my face and James kicked open the heavy duty doors and dragged me down some kind of corridor. It was significantly less posh than the rest of the hotel – the carpets were scratchy not plush, the walls were painted a patchy cream colour instead of wallpapered, there were no windows and the doors were painted stark white and all looked the same. “Where are we?”

“Staff corridor – you’re not supposed to come down here but I don’t really care. I don’t want to be anywhere where anyone is going to hear us.” James pushed open one of the stark white doors, poked his head in and then hastily retracted it. “Yeah, there are two people fucking in there. Let’s go somewhere else.” He tried the next door, shrugged and then pulled me inside.

It was probably once an office of some sort, but it had fallen into disuse and was consequently empty and a little decrepit looking. Still, I supposed they hadn’t expected guests to show up there. There was a large desk covered in an array of papers and a thick coating of dust, a spinning office chair with several slices in the leather from serious use and a wastepaper basket on the floor overflowing with old pieces of paper and chocolate bar wrappers.

I looked at James, waiting for him to say something, but he just stared at me. His brown eyes, shot through with gold and several other shades that made the backs of my knees feel like jelly that had been sat out in the summer sun for hours, were staring unyieldingly at me. His lips thinned further with every passing second. My hands started to shake a little.

“Why – the – fuck – didn’t you tell me that you were… up the fucking duff?!” My eyes widened as the volume of Potter’s voice nearly shot the wig off my head. If my hair was a wig, or if hair could actually be knocked off with the volume of one’s voice.

“I – I was planning to. I knew I was going to have to see you eventually.” This answer clearly wasn’t what James had wanted to hear, since red flush flooded into his cheeks and his brown eyes flashed with menace. I knew James wasn’t going to hurt me, but my stomach began to turn flips in fear. Even my baby, who had been surprisingly good the entire day, started to kick. I didn’t know whether they baby was feeling my fear or knew that its daddy was just spitting distance away. I put my hand on my stomach and slowly rubbed circles.

“Careful baby, be careful,” I whispered. “You’re getting bigger and so your little feet hurt more.” Strangely, the kicking stopped. I like to think that the baby understood me, but it was probably just a mad coincidence. James looked at me, looked at my stomach and then sucked one of his perfect lips into his mouth. Biting down on it, he dropped to his knees and shuffled forwards on the slightly grimy carpet until his hands were pressed flat on my stomach.

“He’s not kicking,” James grumbled, his tone accusatory. I repressed the urge to smile, finding the whole scene something I normally would rather not – cute.

“Was before,” I said simply. “They’ll do it again if you’re patient. Maybe you should ask.” James looked up at me like I was mad, like I had suggested that he takes one of the pens off the desk and lops his own head off with it, but then brings his head down and nuzzles my distended belly button, which had been poking out more and more as the baby got bigger and bigger.

“Erm, hey, baby,” he said slowly. “My name is James Potter. I’m – I’m your mummy’s old boyfriend. And I’m your daddy. And I haven’t really had time to get to know you yet, but, uh, I’d really appreciate it if you’d give me a little kick or something. So I can feel you.” The baby didn’t move. “I tell you what, if you kick for me, then I’ll buy you a motorbike for you when you’re eighteen… how does that sound.” I was just about to protest when the baby kicked, harder than I’d ever felt them kick before. I laughed as James’ grin looked big enough to encompass the earth.

“I swear to Merlin, James, if you buy my baby a motorbike then I will personally run you over with it. I swear to Merlin I will.” James looked up at me, his expression oddly tender.

“Our baby, Aimee, our baby. It’s not yours, it’s ours. You don’t have a right to them just because you’re carrying them and I’m not. They’re just as much my baby as they are yours.” He kisses my stomach twice, kisses my belly button through the dress and then stands back up. “I’m so mad at you right now, Woods, but… I don’t know. I just feel like I can’t be mad at you while you’re standing there, my kid growing inside you. It’s weird.”

“I don’t want you to be mad at me, James. I did this to protect myself, to protect my baby. But I… I want you in their life, so badly. I want you to be there for us, to be there when they’re born.”

“You should have told me. I’ve missed out on five months of this pregnancy because you decided to stay out of the Wizarding world. I’ve written you so many letters, called you so many times, and – fuck! Short of showing up at your work or breaking down your door, there was nothing I could do to get to you. I was giving you two more weeks – talk to me, or I’d be round at your apartment – the one I’m still paying for, by the way.” I blushed a little in something akin to shame.

“Look, I was trying to come to terms with it myself, okay?” I said loudly, splaying my hands out. “We got together and then I found out that you tried to kill my boyfriend and then we split up and then I found out that I was pregnant and… I just… I was scared, James. Fucking terrified, to tell you the truth. So I gave myself until I was seven months pregnant to tell you. It just so happened that Molly’s wedding came first.”

“You could have really embarrassed my family and ruined my best friend’s wedding if I hadn’t managed to control the urge to throw you over my shoulder and demand to know everything and anything right then and there.” I swallowed hard and slowly made my way over to the chair. I brushed a little dust off the seat and settled in comfortably, arching my back to try and take some of the pressure off my bladder. The baby seemed to like pretending that my bladder was a drum and he was the next big thing in the musical world.

“I know I could have. I was really – I was confused, James! I thought you were a psycho!” James frowned and sat down on the desk, not bothering to brush it off first. I was sure that Molly was going to kill me later for that – James would have huge dust stains on the back of his tuxedo pants.

“I didn’t try to kill Dan, Aimee,” James said, his voice steely. “The Ministry of Magic investigated and cleared me.”

“Of course they did, your dad practically owns the fucking Ministry of Magic. No one is going to arrest James Potter, Harry Potter’s son, for trying to kill someone on the word of an average Joe who has no more proof than the fact that his car was a little banged up. Let me guess, you claimed that you and Dan just got into a bit of a race and you overtook him, not noticing he’d run off the road?” James smirked, but his eyes were narrowed and dark as flint.

“Yes, actually. Because that’s what happened.” I swallowed hard and glared up at him. “What, Aimee? Why would I possibly want to hurt Dan? He never did anything to me. I saw him on the road, and he initiated a race. So we raced, our cars bashed a few times, I overtook him and never looked back. How was I supposed to know that he’d gone off the road?”

When he put it like that, I felt like a fool. He was looking right at me – if he was lying to me, he was damn good at it. I’d said it myself – Dan always had liked a good old street race. I should know, I was in the car half the time. Road rage didn’t even cover it.

“Oh. Well, in my defence, I didn’t know that, and I was too busy dealing with morning sickness and hiding my pregnancy to really sit down and think about it! I never planned on keeping it from you – I just wanted to get my head in order first.” James swallowed, but looked a little more understanding than he had before. He suddenly looked up, a devilish smirk on my face. He leaned down suddenly, his six foot two frame stooping so he could press his lips to my ear. I nearly shuddered but managed to control my practically-teenage hormones.

“You know, I haven’t had a chance to tell you yet, but you look damn gorgeous pregnant.” I flicked my eyes up to him and pressed my palms onto his chest. Attraction was one thing that certainly hadn’t faded with our time apart. Absence makes the heart grow fonder – apparently it makes other things grow something else, too. “Damn, damn good.” He pressed him lips to the lobe of my ear and his clean-shaved chin tickled my neck.

Molly had told me that it had been a nightmare trying to get James to shave his stubble for the wedding. He’d grown a bit of a scruffy beard, a kind of rock-star/Quidditch player thing that he was trying to get going, but Molly wanted all the men in the wedding party clean shaven.

In the end, Lysander had held James’s hands behind his back while Lorcan held his head still in a chokehold and Molly sat on his knee and shaved his face. I asked why they didn’t just use a spell to freeze him and then do it, but I was just met with three blank stares on three otherwise intelligent people. Apparently that thought hadn’t occurred to them.

“You don’t look too bad yourself, Potter. You should consider kitting up in a suit more often.” He rolled his eyes and leant forward again, so he could press his lips against my collarbone. I hated that stupid piece of bone in my neck – even after I gained my weight back and then some, with the pregnancy and all, the stupid thing carried on protruding out of my neck as though it was wearing a banner screaming ‘look at me, look at me’. I loathed the thing, thinking it made me look like one of those emaciated models off the runway. But when James kissed it, it suddenly became my favourite part of my body.

“I’ve missed you,” he said suddenly, quietly, his lips moving against my skin until I shuddered a little bit. “I’ve missed you so much. All those letters I wrote to you – all the times I called you. I thought you liked me too, and I couldn’t figure out why you suddenly wanted away from me. Why you wouldn’t let me explain anything.” I sighed.

“I… I considered opening your letters so many times. But I just… I couldn’t do it. I missed you too much too. I knew if I opened them I’d want you back, and I didn’t know if that was even something we could do. You were the first person to ever really take care of me, James. One of the first people that ever wanted to look after me and put back together all of my broken pieces. And you did most of that while hating my guts – so what does that say about you?” James smiled sadly.

“I’m not an angel, Aimee, and you’re going to have to get that idea out of your head right now if we’re ever going to work.” I swallowed. “I’ve done a lot of things. I’ve been with a lot of women. I’ve cheated on them, lied to them, let one think that I was going to marry her when in reality I was sleeping with her sister-”

“You were sleeping with Bethany’s sister?!” Potter shrugged guiltily.

“Kinda, yeah. But the point is, Aimee, I’ve never been a really good guy. That was always my brother’s job – the one named after a hero, and all that. And I have no idea if I’m gonna be a good… whatever to you, or a good dad to this baby, but it’s not up to you to decide whether or not I get to be involved. This is my baby, you’re my girl, and that’s that. Yeah?” I blinked

“James, I never said I was your girl,” I started, but James pressed a finger over my mouth.

“I said it. And if I’ve said it, then I mean it. We’re gonna be together, and we’re gonna raise this baby together. Merlin only knows if we’re going to fuck everything up or if we’re going to end up like one of those couples from movies that raise their kids like pros and then play out a montage where they giggle over a birthday cake, push the kid on a swing and take walks in the park swinging the kid between us. But we’re gonna try, and that’s that. Yeah?” I blinked a few more times.

“James, I do want to be with you, I do, but I just think that, under the circumstances, I… I don’t,” I sputtered off and James leant down to press his lips against mine. I grabbed hold of his head and pulled him further towards me, nearly yanking his ass off the dusty desk, but he just grinned at me and settled his hands on the back of my chair.

“I kept all the letters I sent you, after you sent me them back. I have the twenty-third in my pocket right now, if you want to read it. I was going to give it to you today and force you to read it. This one isn’t really anything special – I’m not very romantic and all, but I wrote this one yesterday. Here.” James stuck his hand into the inner breast pocket of his tuxedo jacket and pulled out a single piece of parchment, folded in half with my name written in slanted, spidery handwriting on the side.

Letter 23

Aimee,

I miss you. Please talk to me. I’ll tell you everything if you’ll just come and see me. We’ll go for coffee or something. Tea. Vodka. Whatever. It’s been five months and I want to see you. And in case you were wondering, even though you haven’t read the past 22 letters, I’ve decided that I do. I definitely do. And it’s up to you what you do with that.

James

“You definitely do what?” I asked, confused. James leant back and pursed out his lips, looking both amused and ever so slightly irritated. He then whipped the letter back out of my hand, slipped it back into his breast pocket and grinned at me.

“Well, I guess you’re going to have to read the other letters, aren’t you? I don’t write letters, babe, and I don’t like the fact that when I actually did bother to write them, ten times the amount of them I sent my mum when I was in Seventh Year, they didn’t even get read. When this wedding is over, we’ll go back to my place, and you can read them. I kept them all, after you sent them back.” I opened my mouth like a goldfish. “They’ll tell you what I do.”

“And you told me you weren’t romantic,” I grinned, causing James to roll his eyes, purse out his lips like an old woman and poke my hard in the front of my ribs. He was pointedly avoiding my stomach area, and I instantly got the sense he was going to be one of those overbearing fathers that thought that being pregnant was all too similar to being made of glass.

“Eh, maybe it’s just an excuse to get you back to my place. I’ve heard it’s tradition for the best man to nail the maid of honour at a wedding.” I gasped.

“James!” I shrieked. “You can’t say that.” I thought for a second, then smiled. “What time are we going to be going back to yours today?”

“Whenever we can get away without any grief. Shouldn’t be hard with you in the situation you’re in. Wait, is it even okay to have sex when you’re knocked up?” I rolled my eyes and jutted out my bottom lip like I was hurt about something.

“Is that all you want me for?” I simpered, and James tugged on one of the curls that had been painstakingly burned into my hair. “And yes, it is. I looked it up in one of the fourteen baby books that Molly bought me. I managed to get through three of them before I felt like I might as well morph into a walking, talking baby shop. Like, I’m having a baby – that’s not the only thing going on in my life right now.” James rolled his eyes, and then his expression froze.

“Wait, are you telling me that Molly knew you were pregnant and didn’t tell me?” I gaped for a moment and then slapped my ‘charming’ grin onto my face, the one that I thought made me look suave and enchanting but Mark told me made me look like I had trapped wind. A charming boy, really. James narrowed his eyes at me, my charming-ness clearly not working.

"Well, I had to tell her because I had to have my bridesmaid dress adjusted so that I could actually fit into it with this watermelon sticking out of me, and then – look, James, she didn’t even tell Lorcan!” James was slightly red in the face by this point and his nostrils were flared out.

“So my cousin, my own cousin, whose snotty nose I wiped when she was younger and whose boyfriends I beat up when they dumped her in Hogwarts, didn’t bother to tell me that my old girlfriend, the one she knew I was running myself ragged trying to get to talk to me without putting myself in position for a restraining order, was having my baby… and she didn’t feel like this is something she ought to give me a heads-up about? Like, a sticky note stuck to the front of the fridge would have been enough – hey James, came to see you but you weren’t here. Just a quick note to let you know that Aimee is pregnant and you’re the daddy! Congrats!”

“James, you’re blowing this way out of proportion! I’m only six months pregnant! I didn’t tell Molly that long ago, only when I got too pregnant to hide it from everyone, when I was about four months. That’s why I took an extended leave of absence from work and stopped going to Diagon Alley shopping and… yeah. I didn’t think it would good if I was waddling around, looking like a whale that had swallowed a beach ball, when the papers had at least one article per day about us.” James rolled his eyes and ran his hand over his oddly clean chin.

“Yeah, some of those were whacked up, weren’t they?” I let out a nervous laugh and nodded, rubbing my hands up my arms. Molly had loved the fact that my olive-toned skin meant she didn’t have to risk a spray tan on me – I’d be the same colour as her and Lucy afterwards naturally.

“I remember one that said I was secretly a pole dancer and you split up with me when you found out. And then another that said you’d married Bethany in Vegas behind my back and so we’d broken up. Oh, and another that said we were in a very expensive custody battle over a fish that we bought together and both of us wanted to keep. Apparently, we thought that Bubbles was quite a hot commodity.” James laughed woodenly.

“Why didn’t you just come and see me, come and tell me? Am I that unapproachable or something?” James ran his hands through his hair, which had gotten quite long since I last saw it and so was curling at this ends, making him look seriously delicious. “Like, fuck, Aimee, I was pretty good to you, wasn’t I?”

“James, we can go over this to death, or we can just leave it and accept that I am pregnant and it is yours and the sky is blue and you want to have something to do with this baby, and that’s all well and good and fine. Yes?” James smiled and leaned down to pull me into one of the sweetest I’m sorry kisses I’ve ever received.

“Can we have sex on this desk now?” I rolled my eyes and punched him hard in the ribs. I might have been pregnant, but that didn’t mean my punch lost any of its power.

“No, we can’t. I can’t get any dust on this dress.” Potter groaned and leant back, his face contorting in mock agony as he put his hand over his heart. I punched him in the knee, seemingly trying to make him ache in every single bone of his body, and he pulled me onto his lap. I leant my head down on his shoulder and Potter patted my back awkwardly, obviously out of his comfort zone since we were both wearing all our clothes and my stomach could probably pass for a small island in the right light at the right angle.

~+~

“How did it go, how did it go, how did it go?” Molly asked, grabbing my hands and pulling me into the luxurious bathroom just off the main hall where everyone was enjoying little glasses of champagne in crystal flutes and tiny little food things that barely constituted a bite but cost more than the entire of a steak dinner. Tiny little things, they were – pieces of salmon the size of a knut with a teeny dollop of crème fraiche on top and then a sprig of mint that you needed a magnifying glass to see was placed carefully on top. Albus had eaten an entire platter before Ginny noticed and took it away from him.

“It went fine,” I smiled, twisting my fingers together and leaning myself against the sink unit. The bathroom was opulent, much like the rest of the hotel – exactly the kind of thing that Molly would pick out had she been able to choose the decoration of the bathroom herself.

The floor, oddly, was carpeted; a thick beige colour with shimmery reflects that you could curl your toes up in. The floors of the actual cubicles were covered plain white tiles. The walls were a deep brown colour, with vases of brown, gold and cream plastic flowers arranged in 50 centimetres intervals along the west wall. The tiny soaps were carved into shell shapes, which seemed like a colossal waste of time to me but made everything look a lot swankier.

 “Really? Good, good. Well, since that went well, maybe this will too – there’s someone I want you to see, Aimes. I think this will be a good thing – at least, I hope it will. Please don’t freak out or try to slug me in the back of the head or something – it is my wedding day and all.” Molly grinned slyly at me. “And you could have ruined my wedding if it wasn’t for your irritatingly good luck…” I rolled my eyes.

“Fine, fine. Who do you want me to go and see?”

“They’re waiting for you by the fire exit at the back of the room. They weren’t invited to the wedding but I knew you’d want to see them now, even if you don’t think you should. There is something you need to know, to see, anyway.” I frowned at Molly’s weird behaviour and slowly backed out of the bathroom, before running back inside for a quick wee. Like I said, the baby likes to play Rock Band on my bladder when they get a little bit bored.

After a quick wee, I followed Molly’s directions to the back of the champers-room and headed down a miniature staircase that consisted of four steps laid down in the same plush carpet as the fancy-ass bathrooms. There was someone sitting in a chair with their back to me, but simply from the swirl of hair on the crown of the man’s head, I knew who it was. But at the same time, there was something that just wasn’t right. And I realised exactly what it was when Dan wheeled around his wheelchair and looked me right in the eye. I put one hand on my back and one hand on my stomach.

Dan looked just as surprised at the way I looked as I was at the way he looked. He was thinner than I remembered – the lean muscles that had once corded around his arms and abs were gone – he was a lot wirier now than he was, and his arms were thin rods underneath a shirt two sizes smaller than the ones he was wearing when he was with me. His hair had been cut so it no longer hung in his eyes, and it was darker than it had been, probably a result of no longer being bleached by the European sun. His eyes, though, were exactly the same.

“Whose baby is it?” he asked me quietly, his eyes glued to my stomach like someone had squirted a load of superglue onto his eyelids. I took a deep breath and propped one bum cheek up onto a little wooden table that held nothing but several useless, stubby candles.

“James’s. I got a paternity test done,” I whispered, first glancing over my shoulder to make sure that there was none of the nine million Potter/Weasley family members were behind to overhear. Dan’s face looked both relieved and almost disappointed at the same time, so I reached out one of my hands and took one of Dan’s. They felt smaller, thinner too.

“I didn’t know you got wheels. You’ve still got both your legs, so I take it you’re not an amputee. How come you’re in one?” Dan frowned sadly and brought my hand up to rest under his chin. The gesture would have once been romantic, but now it was just comforting.

“I’m paralysed from the waist down. The accident damaged the base of my spine. I have limited movement in the top of my spine and so I can turn small degrees either side and have full use of my arms, but I can’t walk, or move my legs at all.” Dan didn’t look bitter or angry… he looked more resigned than anything else. “I spent the first three months being furious at the world and hating everyone that tried to come near me, and then… well, it was your brother actually. Brent. He was over visiting Shane and he saw me snap something at Tara-Lynne, a three year old baby, so he punched me in the shoulder and told me to grow the fuck up. And so I did.” Dan shrugged.

I raised my eyebrows and the corners of my lips twitched up into a smirk.

“Alright, maybe it wasn’t exactly that easy, but I haven’t screamed anything at Tara-Lynne in seven weeks now. So yeah. It’s… well, it’s shit actually, but I’m gonna have to get used to it because there’s some things that even magic can’t fix.” I frowned.

“Shit. Sorry, Dan. That sucks.” Dan nodded slowly, pushing his lips out to one side with a shrug. “So I’m knocked up, you’re fucked up and we’re stuck in a wedding where we have to put on fake accents and pretend to be posh-er than we are so that they don’t tie us to stakes and burn us as imposters.” Dan laughed loudly and pulled my hand so that I plopped down onto his lap.

“How’re you doing with this, Aimes? You look good preggo. You don’t have that glow they’re talking about or whatever, but you still look damn good. Fancy a shag?” I laughed loudly.

“Fuck off, Daniel Richardson!” I said, head-butting him in the side of the head. Dan kissed my temple and then shoved me off his knee. “You’re doing alright though, babe, yeah? I heard you and James split up from the papers or whatever, but you look too happy with that big mutated belly to be raising some sprog on your own.” I rolled my eyes and laughed again. Had Dan always been that funny? I didn’t remember him ever having such a good sense of humour. Maybe losing the use of his legs improved the use of his humour. I guess there is a silver lining to everything.

“Nah, we’re doing good. We’ve been having a little bit of trouble but I reckon things are going to turn out alright. I hope they are, anyway. Anything big happening in your love life, or have these wheels rolled you right off the romantic radar?” Dan rolled his eyes again and took a toffee from some bowl by us that I was pretty sure wasn’t there before.

“Yeah, actually, you. Fuck off, I’ll have you know that girls seem to find good looking guys in wheelchairs a lot less dangerous than good looking guys in hoodies drinking ten pints of beer a night and then moaning that their fiancée is going to kill them for spending all that money.” I poked him in the side of the head again. “It’s not that serious – I don’t know if she’s going to be alright in the long run with the fact that her guy can’t walk, but we’ll see. I really like her. She’s the first girl I’ve been able to picture myself with since you.” I raised my eyebrows.

“Wow, really?” A twinge of jealously turned in my stomach, but I knew it was just that pathetic part of me that wanted all of the good looking guys for myself.

“Yeah.”

“What’s her name?”

“Lucy,” he said slowly, and then he took a deep breath. “There’s a reason Lucy Weasley doesn’t have a date with her tonight. She’s dating me. But I didn’t want to ruin her sister’s wedding since her sister hates me and all and you were the maid of honour and I was pretty sure that you hated me, I thought it would be best if I just declined the plus one.” I raised my eyebrows.

“Wow, didn’t think that she had the heart in her to date a guy that couldn’t walk. I always thought she was going to end up in a miserable fake-marriage to some rich guy called Brick or White or Davidoff or something filled with affairs and three kids that hate their parents and end up as serial killers or something along those lines. Not with my crippled ex-boyfriend.”

“I didn’t think you’d end up pregnant with Harry Potter’s first grandchild, to be honest, so I guess we’ve both been a little shocked tonight.” I smiled and leaned down to kiss him on the cheek.

“Don’t be a stranger, Dan,” I said as I heaved myself up. “I mean, don’t be expected an invite round to my place for casserole and tea since James would probably kick the shit out of you and I don’t actually know how to make casserole, but stay in touch. I hope things go… well for you and Lucy.” Dan smiled.

“Thanks, Aimes. I hope Potter doesn’t turn out to be a wife-hitting deadbeat.”

“Cheers.”

“No problem.”

I turned back around and headed over to a display of glasses of water stacked in some kind of pyramid shape when I was intercepted by Harry and Ginny, who were both glancing around like they were trying to make sure their eldest son hadn’t spotted them. In fact, I’d bet my meagre life savings that’s exactly what they were doing.

“Aimee, could we have that chat now? Clearly we have a lot to talk-”

“AIMEE BROOKLYN WOODS, GET OVER HERE NOW,” Molly screeched over them, storming across the room pulling Lorcan along by the sleeve of his tuxedo jacket. Her cheeks were flushed even more than they had been under her expensive blush, and her blue eyes were flashing. “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS I’M HEARING ABOUT YOU AND JAMES ONLY ACTUALLY DATING FOR TWO HOURS BEFORE YOU SPLIT UP? DID YOU LIE TO ME?!”

“Molly, I can explain…” I said slowly, raising my hands.

“You better explain! Or I’m going to use my new hubby as a battering ram and mow you into the ground, preggo or not!”

have to get more normal friends.




disclaimer: nothing in this chapter belogns to me. 

eh. eh. eh. not bad timing, huh? i'm back at school now though so the last chapter will come out... well, who knows? i hope you liked this one anyway! any thoughts?

ellie :) xx


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