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Chapter 1 : Alexa: When Emotions Break Through
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Then again, he is a Potter and a Nott - Albus Potter's and Alexa Nott's, which is probably worse - so strange is kind of a given anyway. He actually acts like us, us being Kieron and I. If he weren't in a hospital, Kieron would do exactly what Isaac is doing with Casey Reed now, but he would do it to piss them off. I did it mostly because it was fun. Albus would try to stay as far away from people as possible, no matter the situation he was in, so he doesn't count at all. But me and my brother, despite the other reasons, would do it to cause a distraction, one that lasted as long as we could get.
Isaac, such a sweet and quiet boy (which in itself is strange, considering his family), is only doing it to cause a distraction. It's the same every time.
What is it? Well, it's simple, normal (for us), nothing bad or something that seems to have an ulterior motive unless you know us. He's copying Casey's movements, making it hard for Casey to examine him because Isaac isn't staying still. And Casey, being a relatively good and patient healer even if he is crap at it anywhere else, is allowing it to continue until Isaac finally let's him do the examination.
He always does in the end, just so he can leave. He doesn't hate hospitals like his daddy and uncle, he just hates tests. He hates being poked and prodded and told what he can and can't do, or what new 'bad thing' he has that requires more medicine. He's sick of it (no pun intended) and if I'm honest, I don't blame him at all. But Casey has to do them, so he'll play along until he can't delay it any longer (he has other patients to see), and then he'll... well, he'll bribe the kid.
We all know the signs; it's not long now.
Casey slowly tilts his head to the left, his lips pursed together in a pout and his eyes narrowed in a frown, as though he's thinking of something, and Isaac follows almost simultaneously. Keeping his face the same, Casey quickly moves in the opposite direction; Isaac isn't far behind. They let their faces relax for a second or two, and then their eyes get really wide.
It's too funny not to laugh a little.
Casey points in my direction, Isaac doing the same, but neither look at me. "No laughing, Mummy."
Isaac doesn't speak, he rarely ever does when he's not home or with his granddads, but he opens his mouth and smacks his lips together in pretend.
"Okay, kiddo," Casey says with a sigh. He sits up properly and waits for Isaac to the same. He ignores the small, 'you've ruined my game so I'm annoyed with you' sigh my little boy has no doubt gotten from my dad and/or mother (because you never know) and perfected and stretches out a hand to reach the decent-sized paper bag he'd put on the bedside table when he'd come in. "If you let me run the tests now and if you sit still like the good boy I know you are, you can have all of these sweets."
I hold back a scoff; Casey must be busy today if he hadn't been able to think of anything better. Last time, he gave Isaac a stethoscope, which he loved even though he couldn't hear through it. Still, when Casey shakes the bag and the sweets make a thud loud enough for me to know there's a lot in there (oh, God, the sugar), Isaac's eyes light up like an over-the-top-decorated-tree at Christmas.
He sits back and stays as still as he possibly can be while Casey examines him; his hearing, his lungs and heart, the rash on his side (reason number two for me making this appointment, reason number one being the cough); it's all pretty routine for us, Isaac has needed regular check up since he was born, and it's over in minutes. Smiling in reassurance, Casey - after I have Isaac promise not to eat them all and give my nod of approval - hands over the sweets as promised and makes his way over to me.
"Acute bronchitis; take him home, give him lots of fluids and let him rest and he should be fine," Casey murmurs. "The rash looks like some sort of allergy. You said he only got it a couple days ago, so find out what's new in his life in the last week and get rid of it. It'll clear up; it's already starting to, so he doesn't come into contact with it on a regular basis. You've already got the cream to help with the itching."
"Thanks, Case," I whisper back gratefully.
"No, problem." He turns to Isaac. "Until next time, kiddo."
Isaac gives him a quick wave and goes back to the bag, preferring the company of sugary treats to healers, even if said healer is his godfather's big brother and a family friend. As soon as Casey is gone, I step forward, crouching low to look up at my son on the bed. He has a good mix of both me and Albus in him - his dad's dark hair and thin lips, my natural tanned skin and the Notts' famous blue eyes, an almost intense dark, like navy, that seem to glow in the dark and sparkle when the light hits them. Well, people say they're 'Nott eyes', but they're not, they just didn't see them on a person in the UK until my grandmother came and my dad was born. He got them from his mother and her side of the family, who are from New Zealand - Walker eyes, they should be called.
There's a whole story behind them - not the color, why my family have them in the first place - but that's not important right now. What's important is that my son, who should be happy with his sweets, has sad eyes.
"What's the matter, sweetheart?" I ask gently. He doesn't answer. I know he can understand me; because of the implant he got when he was a baby, he was able to learn to talk like other children with help from his family and a therapist, and he does well, even if he's a little slow and needs time to take it in and answer. But he's not comfortable with that. So, I curl my finger under his chin to get him to look up and I sign, something Albus and I learned to do just after we found out our baby was deaf. "Is it the tests? I know you don't like them, but they're important."
With a simple shake of his head, Isaac tells me that's not why he's sad and I rack my brains trying to figure it out until he answers me.
"Is Daddy home now?" he asks hesitantly.
Oh. I bite my lip to keep from sighing, or saying something he won't like and I'll regret, and wish once again that Albus Potter would get his act together and remember that he has a family, a little boy who treats him like a hero and misses him like crazy. Isaac is sad because Albus left early again this morning and neither of us are sure if he'll be home tonight.
"I don't know, Zac," I tell him honestly. Getting his hopes up will only make things worse if he sees that Albus isn't there. I don't want that, I can't see him holding back tears and hiding in his room again.
"Where is he?" he whispers.
"He's working," I answer softly, and though I hate saying the words it's probably still the truth. He's always working. I used to suspect, you know, something else, I even looked into it, but I always found him at his desk or on a case. He just finds work more important than his family right now... but I don't tell Isaac that. "His job is very important and he just has a lot of it right now. Like I do in summers."
"But I go with you," Isaac points out.
"Sometimes, but my job isn't as dangerous as Daddy's," I have to counter and see his dejected look once again. Damn it, Albus, I could kill you for this. And yet I continue to defend him, "Daddy's job is like Granddad Theo's and Granddad Harry's, you remember? As much as they would love to take you with them like I do, it's not possible, sweetheart. But I know that Daddy's work will slow down soon."
I know because we will be talking. He's not like my dad or Harry; Albus is his own boss, he can manage his workload. He can slow down for his own kids.
I check my watch, wanting to ignore the thought of a confrontation with my husband - at least for a little while - and make a decision that will likely lift Isaac's spirits a little when I tell him. Besides, there's only an hour or so left; he won't miss anything important. And they're not expecting him back.
I hadn't wanted to pull him out at all, if that's any consolation - this was the only appointment I could get at short notice if I wanted my son to be seen to quickly.
"Are you up to going back to school?" I check. Naturally, the kid shakes his head. "Then how about we go to Nana Molly's, pick up your sister, and then go to bed. We can sleep in my room and we'll put whatever movie you want on."
"Can we have ice cream like we always do?" he asks with a pout. I almost get sucked into it.
"Nice try," I say instead. "You have sweets. We can have ice cream tomorrow."
I step back and get up, let him jump off the bed and hold out his coat for him to put his arms through. He waits expectantly for me to zip him up, but with a quick shake of the head he knows I won't. If we were going outside, then yeah, but we're going to floo to the Burrow. It's easier. And Apparating makes him sick; I don't want to put him through that when he's already been through medical tests.
Isaac keeps quiet as we walk out, keeping hold of my hand and sticking close to my side, like he wants to be glued to me. It's a common thing for him to be clingy when he's been here or when he's sad; this is a bit of both. He cluches the bag of sweets in his left hand, which makes it a little hard for him to wave to Annie as we pass and leave the ward, but he manages it.
The floo room we use is the hospital's smaller one on this floor rather than the big, main on by the reception area on the ground floor; it's quicker to get to, easier, and it keeps us away from crowds - they make Isaac uncomfortable, they just annoy me.
In the fireplace, I grab the floo powder, keep a tight hold on him and call out for the Burrow.
The place is pretty much empty, which isn't unusual. It's not like when members of the family went off to Hogwarts but still had people who were young enough that more regular visits seemed mandatory. Everyone of my generation is grown up, they have jobs and lives that often come before family dinners; we drop in every so often, someone always needs a babysitter, but no one expects to see everyone, not on Sundays. The last Sunday of every month is still when everyone tries to come here for dinner, but sometimes not even that works.
Today, Arthur and Molly are looking after my daughter. As the third youngest child in the Potter/Weasley clan, at only a year and a half (though in a month or so, she'll be the fourth youngest when Roxanne gives birth), I don't really feel the need to send her to daycare full time when there are members of the family who are more than willing to spend a few hours with her; soon I'll have to, whether people like it or not, but for now we're good.
Maybe it's mother's intuition at work, but it takes about a second for my brain to register that the house is empty except for Hugo, who is going through some soft of journal on the couch. Arthur is probably tinkering around in his shed and I pray to whoever will listen that my daughter is with him. Where Molly may be, I have no idea.
I lead Isaac to the couch and let him sit down; Hugo doesn't even look up from the book.
"Hugo," I prompt, earning a sort of grunt in return. "Oi," I snap a little louder, refraining from calling him an asshole because of the six year old by his side. A minute, and a bit of my patience later, he faces me. "Where's Dakota Grace?"
"Out for a walk in the village with Nana Molly," he replies with a smile, going back to his book. Okay, it's okay. I take a deep breath...
Is he fucking kidding me?
I take another, deeper breath. The first one didn't work.
"Hugo," I growl. "Is Arthur with her?" He shakes his head; I contemplate killing him. "Why did you let her take the baby out alone?"
Although, even as I say that, I feel like I should know the answer; he's not a parent or a babysitter, he doesn't like kids or want kids and is content with having absolutely nothing to do with kids. Gracie isn't his problem... and though I should be used to that, the asshole still needs to pay.
"One, I'm not here to babysit, it has nothing to do with me," he answers, just like I knew he would. "Two, it's a good day, Alexa, a really good day. They've been gone for twenty minutes and should be back in just a few more. Besides, do you really expect me to say no to her? The woman may be losing her mind, but she is still scary. If you don't like it, don't bring the kid around."
"I -" I start, then turn to Isaac, who is only pretending to not be listening. Like mother, like son. "Cover the implant, baby."
He does after a slight hesitation and I won't lie, he probably isn't covering the microphone properly. But if he wants to pretend, so will I - just this once. Though, thanks to his dad, uncle and granddad, he's probably used to it anyway.
I bat Hugo's book down and poke him hard in the chest. I ignore what he can do, I ignore the fact that his magical ability is better than mine; it doesn't matter in this instant. "If something's happened, I will kill you."
Hugo pushes my hand away. "Good to know."
Glaring, but with nothing else to do but wait, I sit down next to him. If he's right, they should be back soon enough anyway. Instead, I glance at his book; it's full of numbers and abbreviated code I will never understand because I don't know what goes on inside his head (and I never want to). It's probably something to do with his job... his actual job anyway.
Speaking of... "Shouldn't you be at ReP today?"
Just as Kieron promised on his wedding, he expanded our original business and created Nott Industries. And he's always tinkering and planning and creating new things, so as you might have guessed, NI is huge, both size-wise and income-wise. We make a lot, way more than we used to and way more than I ever thought I'd see - and that's coming from an old money Pureblood. But Kieron can't control it by himself, so about three years ago he made me co-owner and partner. We already had a board; between us two and them, we control a lot of businesses all over the word, including a law firm that Kieron is sole owner of and primary works in as a lawyer and an events company that I am sole owner of and use as my primary job. Dad owns a couple of things, too, but we still overlook them.
The potions company, being the largest and one of the oldest in NI, is still our biggest source of income and our most important business, given that one of it's jobs is to manufacture and distribute medicine to hospitals. Freddie Weasley is our financial advisor, in charge of that entire side of ReP (basically he's our main accountant), but he also acts as our go-between, talking to NI's board for ReP since the previous man in charge retired a few weeks ago. He makes sure everyone is doing their jobs and oversees new employees.
Like Hugo, who was given a small job in testing just the other day. Freddie, though he may love his family, was against the idea from the very beginning and couldn't believe it when Kieron gave him a chance... neither could I.
He should be there now.
"It didn't work out," he mutters, his eyes back on his code. "Which is just as well because I got a new client this morning. I'm going to be quite busy."
"It didn't work out?" I ask in shock. "Kieron will kill you! What did Freddie say?"
"A lot; he's the one who fired me," Hugo replies.
The sigh escapes me before I can stop it, not that I'm sure I want to stop it. He needs the sigh, he needs to know exactly how frustrated he makes everyone. He needs to know that someone will eventually hurt him.
"Don't give me that look," he snaps. "Kieron knew what he was getting himself in to when he hired me. I am not a lab rat and I can't work with idiots."
"What did you do?"
Smirking knowingly, as though I should know the answer to that already, Hugo opens his mouth to speak, only to close it again when the door to the Burrow opens and Kieron walks in, holding it open so that Molly can push Gracie's pram in.
"Ask your brother. He probably knows already."
"I know what?" Kieron asks.
I ignore him, get up to ask Molly how the baby was and about their walk; they stopped in a shop where Molly bought Gracie a small doll, but otherwise that was it and the baby slept through most of it. Molly seems fine, too, which I'm thankful for.
I can feel eyes on me the entire time, Kieron in hurt and Hugo in mild confusion; he probably knows something, even if it's not the whole story, I wouldn't be surprised.
It's Hugo who finally answers him. "She's wants to know what I did to get myself fired."
"Oh, that." Kieron nods in understanding, lifting up Isaac and sitting the boy on his knee. Then he digs into his pocket and pulls out some notes, handing the money to Hugo. "Two days, I'm impressed. I was expecting you to get the sack on day one."
"I told you I'd beat you," Hugo winks.
"You knew he'd be fired. You hired him for a bet," I finally realize. God, what is wrong with this family?
"She speaks," my brother mutters, nicking one of Isaac's sweets. A moment later, he lightly slaps Hugo across the cheek. It's not playful, but it's not harsh either; there was probably no pain, there'll be no mark and Hugo doesn't even flinch. "That was for making three of my employees cry; Stacy threatened to quit, she was so upset."
"Stacy's a wuss. Why are you here?"
"Nicky left his files here when he came to pick up Noah yesterday, he made me promise to get them for him," Kieron explains. "You now wonder why I'm still sitting here; I forgot where he said he put them. I need to remember. Do you happen to know where he put them?"
Hugo gives Kieron an are-you-completely-mental look and puts his journal away. They stare each other down until Kieron looks like he's practically daring Hugo to speak and I have to wonder if I should call Isaac over because they'll end up dueling or if Isaac being there is a blessing because Kieron just might have enough self-control to keep his wand in his pocket thanks to the little boy on his lap.
Given who my brother is as a person, I don't chance it.
"Isaac say good bye to Uncle Kieron and Hugo, we have to go home."
"Bye, Uncle Kieron," he whispers, leaning in to accept the hug and the kiss to his cheek. He doesn't try to hug Hugo; he knows not to. "Bye, Hugo."
"Bye bye, Zac Attack." I roll my eyes at Kieron's nickname, but say nothing, saying good bye to Molly.
Hugo waves, then turns back to my brother. "I don't give a damn about Nick's things. Why is your family dynamic so messed up? You, Lexi and your dad hardly talk unless you have to. I'm pretty sure it's killing the natural order; your family should always be close."
"Don't know, she won't talk to me," is the last thing I hear before I step into the fireplace. They don't see or hear my scoff.
He's such a liar.
I do exactly as I promised Isaac in the hospital; I get the kids upstairs, put them into their pajamas, let Isaac pick the movie and get us all into my bed. I make an additional promise of ordering pizza for tea tonight and we settle down.
Time passes by because we sleep through a lot of the afternoon, and when the pizza arrives and we eat on the living room floor, Isaac starts watching the front door, growing more and more disappointed in the process. And I can't decide if I should use my energy being angry at Albus or sad for Isaac, because it's just too tiring to feel both, especially given everything that is happening with my family. I can't do it all myself.
I wish I could talk to my dad.
When I finally take Isaac to bed, he curls up with his teddy bear and his dragon and hides his face, not wanting a story.
Only once I'm outside do I hear the soft, heartbreaking sniffle that comes from a crying child.
He's getting better at pretending.
A/N: Chapter one and I'm already piling on the angst. Now you know you're in for a rough ride. I hope you enjoyed this chapter, please let me know what you think. :)
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