Chapter 7 : The Love You Save (May Be Your Own)
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Thankful that the Department for Magical Vegetation was on the way, Lily popped out of the lift just enough to see Archie waiting for her and held the door as he walked in past her. “Thought you left without me,” he teased as he took her hand in his.
“I couldn’t quite do that,” Lily purred before placing a quick kiss on Archie’s cheek. She could see that he had dressed a little nicer than usual and was clean shaven instead of showing a day or so worth of stubble. “You look nice,” she commented, giving his hand a squeeze.
“You’re quite stunning yourself,” Archie murmured, placing a kiss on Lily’s hand. While at the Ministry, they tried to be conservative with their affections towards one another but the lift, while a dreadfully slow way to travel, gave them opportunity express slightly more intimate feelings.
Once the doors opened to the bright atrium, Lily pulled Archie towards the café where they’d meet Rose. Seeing that her cousin was already at a table made Lily grin widely. Rose was a lot of things but early was hardly one of them. Lily pulled a chair out and sat down before greeting her cousin.
“Why hello,” Rose grinned, setting down her menu. “I’m Rose,” she said to Archie, extending her hand.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Archie,” he said with a dashing smile. Much to Lily’s relief, Rose did not giggle when Archie said his name, despite their giggles over it the previous weekend. “Lily has told me a lot about you.”
“Well, why wouldn’t I talk about my two favorite people?” Lily smiled, hoping that Rose wouldn’t share anything terribly embarrassing with her boyfriend. “What’s good on the menu?” she asked, opening hers and skimming down it.
“I think I’ll get a toastie,” Rose decided, closing the menu with a snap. Lily gave her a look from the top of the menu that told Rose she was slightly on edge about their lunch. As Rose wasn’t her brother, who would jump on the chance to embarrass people in front of their significant others, she decided to be more gracious than she felt like being.
A few minutes later, the waiter came by and collected their orders, leaving the three of them without anything to occupy their time but talking. Rose was gearing up to fire off questions to Archie when Lily took the conversation down another path.
“Have you talked to Albus since the news about Brandon?” Lily asked, knowing Rose would want to discuss Brandon and his newly discovered daughter.
“I haven’t yet,” Rose said as she squeezed lemon into her water. “Dad was talking about it; he knows Brandon from work.”
“What news?” Archie asked, looking between the two women. Archie listed and Lily recounted how the man her brother had been dating discovered the existence of a daughter whose mother died. “Sounds like a mess,” he commented. “Not the type of situation your brother would want to get involved with.”
“I think Al’s pretty cut up over the whole situation,” Lily told them. “At least James told me as much.”
“It sounds like a chance for him to be shot of the mess though,” Archie offered.
Rose narrowed her eyes at Archie before asking but didn’t say anything for a few moments. Lily piped up with a nervous laugh and said, “It’s not as bad as it sounds right now.”
Archie leaned back in his chair and shrugged. “It just doesn’t sound like a normal relationship, that’s all. I don’t have anything against two blokes hooking up, but Brandon sounds like he’s unstable.”
Lily put her hand on Archie’s arm and gave it a gently squeeze. “He’s an auror so he has to be quite responsible for that job.”
“Oh, he is?” Archie said, the surprise ringing in his voice. “I don’t mean to sound prejudiced but I didn’t think there were many gay aurors. I mean, it’s kind of a macho job.”
The scowl that formed on Rose’s face alerted Lily to a fast approaching argument. “You just don’t know enough gay guys to know how wrong you are, sweetheart,” Lily said smoothly.
Rose chewed on the inside of her cheek for a moment before feeling calm enough to respond, “Yeah, Archie, you should really consider broadening your horizons before-“
“Yay! The food is here!” Lily cried, staunching the flow of words that were threatening to erupt from Rose’s mouth.
Relieved that Archie at least didn’t eat like a pig – something she loathed almost as much as bigotry. Deciding to hold off on completely dismissing Archie as a good boyfriend for Lily, Rose moved onto asking Archie about himself while they ate. After they had all tucked into their lunch, Rose began on the questions.
“What is it you do with magical vegetation?” she asked in a tone that would suggest she’d forgotten his ignorant words from earlier.
“I’m on a team that investigates magical agriculture. We’re responsible for checking that muggles can’t find the crops – especially the dangerous ones – and that people are growing that they’re licensed for,” he explained, holding a spoonful of soup between the bowl and his mouth. “It’s a lot of paperwork but I also get out in the field sometimes.”
Lily nudged Archie and whispered, “Tell her about the raid you went on.”
With a nod, Archie went on, “We raided on grow operation the other week that was doing some sort of illegal muggle crop when their paperwork said they were lovage and sneezewort producers. The owner, bloke by the name of Hawthorne, put up a bit of a fight.”
“I remember reading about that,” Rose commented, waiting for Archie to talk up his own participation in the event.
“It was only three of us there and Hawthorne got Willis when we first showed up. I ended up catching the loose bludger of a man with a stinging hex,” Archie bragged with a smile towards Lily.
Lily beamed at Archie, pride and affection evident in her expression. Rose couldn’t bear to be too cruel to someone her cousin was so fond of. They finished eating in almost no time which was perfectly okay with Rose. She could definitely tolerate Archie but wouldn’t be signing up to hang out with him for long periods. With a creeping sense of guild, Rose hoped that Lily would get Archie out of her system and move on.
There were simply too many boxes to unpack after the most recent shipment from their suppliers. Albus was surrounded by towers of boxes that needed to be sorted and cataloged before being put out on the floor. A crate at Albus’ feet labeled ‘Contents for Ages 0 to 6 Months’ caught his eyes. Deciding to start with that shipment first, Albus tapped the box with his wand, causing the lid to come off revealing the merchandise within.
Albus bent to examine the various items below. There was a baby rattle that played a different lullaby based on the time of day and a set of squishy blocks that were flavored like a fruit based its color. Albus stood up looking at a self-reading book when George came to check on his efforts.
“With all the kids we’re getting through the shop, I thought we should expand into toys for the younger ones and see how they do,” he said, causing Al to drop the book he was holding up.
“Should do well,” Al commented, putting the box back together and marking his packing sheet.
A look passed over Albus’ face that told George his nephew was thinking about more than increasing sales. “Have you visited Brandon recently?” he asked, knowing that Albus would catch that he really wanted to know if he’d seen the auror since learning about his daughter.
“No… I wrote to him though. I just don’t want to intrude,” Al said, feeling his face grow red.
George gave Albus a hard stare, wondering if his nephew could imagine what it’s like to withdraw from people in a moment of pain. “You should try being a little more direct with your interests, Al,” George told him, giving a rare bit of advice. “When… well, when Fred died I pulled back from everyone until Angelina sought me out and yanked me out of my grief.”
Al fidgeted with his quill for a few moments before responding, “But… Brandon didn’t lose anyone like Uncle Fred.” It always felt weird to talk about Uncle Fred when Albus’ cousin was also Fred but it seemed to mean something to his parents and family who knew his late uncle to still refer to him properly.
“No, but he’s still gone through a life-changing shock,” George said in a rather more terse tone than usual. “Based on everything you’ve said about him, he seems like a strong fellow but even the best of us crumble.”
It felt strange for George to have such strong guidance as he was usually one to let people be as they wanted and think nothing of it. His insistence that Brandon would be going through a rough patch resonated with Albus as he worked at unpacking the rest of the boxes and getting them to the store shelves.
After the better part of the morning was spent finishing up with the inventory, Albus was glad to be at the store counter to help customers. He felt distinctly disheveled and was hoping for a chance to go home during lunch to change. In a rare act of clock-watching on the job, Albus was a mere five minutes from his break when the door opened.
Before Albus could belt out his perfunctory greeting, Scorpius’ voice reached his ears. “Hi Albus, I was hoping we could have a word?” he asked politely.
“Definitely,” Albus said with a smile. “I’m leaving for lunch in a few minutes if it’s okay to wait.”
“I don’t mind waiting,” Scorpius smiled, causing Al’s stomach to flip uncomfortably.
When the clock struck one, Albus shouted up to George’s office, “I’m headed to lunch.” Not sure if he should hold Scorpius’ hand or not, Albus swung his arms idly and said, “I was going to head to my flat and change. Is that okay with you?”
Scorpius nodded with a feeling of apprehension about being in such private quarters with Albus. “Mind doing side-along? I’ve never been to your flat.” Scorpius reached out for Albus’ swinging arm and took hold of his hand. With a turn and pop, they were off to Al’s bedroom in the small flat he shared with James.
“I was doing inventory this morning and got a bit manky,” Al explained as he pulled his robes over his head.
“That’s understandable,” Scorpius said shortly. “I often kip upstairs and change after some pungent potions.” Scorpius turned so that he was not quite facing Albus as he was divesting himself of every stitch of clothing.
Al put his hand on Scorpius’ shoulder, still not dressed, and asked, “What is it you wanted to talk about?” Albus knew he was being forward by not getting back to being dressed right away but he wasn’t one to turn down some fun at lunch if he could help it.
Scorpius’ cheeks turned pink as he glanced and saw that Albus still remained naked. “I… I can’t wait until you’re dressed,” he said with a shake to his voice. It was difficult for him to bring up the topic he felt must be discussed, let alone while Albus was completely starkers.
“Right-o,” Albus laughed, summoning clean clothes from his wardrobe. Pulling his pants on, Albus looked at Scorpius with mounting curiosity. It wasn’t like Scorpius to rebuff him when they were alone. Once he was fully dressed, Al went back to where Scorpius was staring at the floor. “All dressed now.”
With a glance at Albus’ feet to check if he was really dressed, Scorpius felt it was safe to try talking with Albus about their relationship. “I feel horrible about last weekend,” he said without preamble. “I can’t keep seeing you while I’m dating Corbin.”
This was not unexpected for Albus, not with Scorpius being too shy to cast him a glance while he had been changing. “Are you two dating exclusively?” he asked, hoping he sounded supportive rather than aggressive and forlorn.
“Yes,” Scorpius nodded. “I’d like to give us another chance, Albus, but I need more than a maybe from you before I ditch Corbin.”
Albus held in a frown and waited a few moments before he replied. “I just need to be independent for a bit, that’s all,” he said softly, stepping closer to Scorpius.
Scorpius could feel his legs lock in place as Albus moved closer to him. This wasn’t how people usually said they’d give each other space. It was those green eyes that kept him locked into place when his brain was reminded him to step away. Ablus’ lips moved gently against his own for the shortest of moments before pulling away.
“I’m glad we got that sorted out,” Scorpius breathed, finally taking a step back. “I need to get back to the shop,” he said with a casual air that did not match his confused feelings.
Albus watched as Scorpius left and sank down onto his bed. Life was pushing him towards making a decision that he heart and mind weren’t ready to agree upon yet. He knew that stringing Scorpius and Brandon was at best unfair and could lead to being detrimental but cutting one of them out of his love life felt too permanent for Albus to contemplate just then.
Brandon sat in the newly acquired rocking chair and surveyed the sitting room of his flat. The change in décor from bachelor pad to a glorified nursery was just marked the visible change in his life over the past week. Brandon never expected to have kids, let alone be the sole provider for one. He looked down at the dark tuft of hair peeking through the baby’s blanket and smiled. Despite not having planned for her, Bran was inexplicably glad for the tiny child in his arms.
There was a quiet tap at the door, causing Cora to stir in Brandon’s arms. Frowning slightly at who could be popping by unannounced, Brandon carefully got up and went towards the door and looked through the eyehole. Rose Weasley was standing outside the door with a box tucked under her arm.
Tapping his wand against the locks, Brandon stepped back as Rose came through the opening door. Her face lit up at the tiny bundle in Brandon’s arms. “I just had to come by and see her,” she whispered excitedly. “Oh, Mum sent me with some books she found useful on parenting,” Rose added, rolling her eyes.
“It’s great to see you,” Bran smiled. “Come on in,” he said, stepping aside to Rose could get past him.
Rose set the box of books down on the counter and looked around. “This isn’t quite what I imagined your place to look like,” she said with a grin until she wanted to kick herself for sounding so flirtatious.
“My decorator was insistent that I add the baby furnishing,” he joked. “No idea why.”
A comfortable quiet fell between them for a few moments while Cora’s quiet snoring filled the air. “Can I hold her?” Rose asked tentatively.
Brandon smiled and adjusted his daughter so that Rose could take her. “Here you go,” he said quietly.
Cora’s sleep was momentarily interrupted as she adjusted to Rose’s arms. “She kind of looks like you,” Rose commented, placing a kiss on top of Cora’s fuzzy head.
“Nah, she looks like Moira, her mum,” Brandon said as he looked through the books from the Weasleys. “Your mum thought I’d need a book on nursing techniques?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
Giggling slightly, Rose explained, “She thought it would help you to know the theory.”
A cry from Cora broke apart their exchange. “Let me take her – I think she’s hungry. Or needs to be changed,” Brandon said with his arms towards Rose.
Taking Cora into his arms, Brandon held her at eyelevel and cooed gently. “What’s the matter?” he asked the fussing infant. Cora stopped crying which caused a huge grin to spread across Brandon’s face until vomit splashed onto his face and shirt.
Rose sprang into action and vanished the vomit. “They do that a lot,” she said, taking the sick covered baby. “You grab a clean shirt and I’ll burp her.”
Brandon pulled the shirt over his head and tossed it in the hamper before heading to his room for a clean one. Rose’s eyes followed him as he walked away, noting the tattoos on his arm. Cora burped up a bit more while Brandon was changing. “You might need to get a few more shirts,” Rose started to call but stopped when the door opened.
“Why hello,” came an older woman’s voice. “Who, may I ask, are you?”
Turning on the spot, Rose saw a woman in her 40’s standing in the doorway. “Mum,” Brandon called, standing a few feet behind Rose. “I thought you were stopping by tomorrow.”
A kind smile spread across the woman’s face before she said, “I couldn’t wait that long to meet my granddaughter.”
Still patting Cora’s back, Rose introduced herself to Brandon’s mother. “I’m Rose Weasley – a friend of Brandon’s.”
“Beatrice Savage,” she said, not proffering a hand as both of Rose’s were busy with Cora. “I met your family many years back,” she told Rose in a kind voice.
Looking towards Brandon, Rose said, “I should get home.” Brandon picked his daughter up and gave Rose a one-armed hug, thanking her for the help and books. “It was nice meeting you Mrs. Savage,” Rose said, extending a hand to Bran’s mom who was observing her with a keen eye.
“Pleasure,” Beatrice said warmly. Once Rose had shut the door behind her, Beatrice turned to her son and grandchild. “May I?” she asked with a nod toward the baby.
“This is Cora,” Brandon said as he passed his daughter over.
Beatrice examined the baby with the scrutiny of one inspecting a high value item before surrendering gold for it. “You’re positive she’s yours?” she asked, taking in the tiny features in front of her.
“Mum,” came Brandon’s terse voice. “I am sure. D’you think I’d just go pick up a child from any woman I spent a few nights with?” Brandon hated being so vulgar about Moira, who he’d only dated for a few weeks, but sometimes blunt was the only way to get through to his mum. “They did tests at St. Mungo’s before work would let me go back and claim her from the family she was with.”
Seeming to accept this as a sign for her to give affection to the child, Beatrice ran a finger through Cora’s hair. “She’s adorable and looks a lot like you,” she told Brandon. “Does her mother’s family want her?”
Shaking his head, Brandon said, “They’re muggles and aren’t very accepting of magic. I remember Moira mentioning that once or twice.” Cora let out a happy shriek as Brandon tickled her gently. ‘My boss has been very supportive while I’ve been dealing with this,” he told Beatrice.
“I’m not surprised,” Beatrice commented. “Are you taking time off while you’re setting in with Cora?”
“They’re giving me paternity leave for a bit and then I’ll have to find a nanny.” Looking around his flat, Brandon added, “Probably a bigger place too.”
Beatrice sat in the rocker to coax Cora back to sleep. With a hesitant look at her son, she asked, “Will you settle down with someone? A woman’s touch will help while you raise a daughter.”
The statement felt more than unfair to Brandon. His mother had always been supportive and accepting of anyone he loved but he supposed it was her rather old-fashioned mentality that caused her to push for a ‘traditional’ family. “I’ll do what I’ve always done, Mum, love who I love and let the cards fall where they do.” Brandon’s voice was firm but his the anger he felt at the suggestion.
The tone in her son’s voice told Beatrice that there’d be no persuading him otherwise. Frankly, she would have been slightly disappointed if he did bend to social norms for a family. Beatrice had been a single mother to him and never regretted it despite being often told it would be to her son’s detriment. “You’ll be a wonderful father, Brandon,” Beatrice said reassuringly.
Once Cora was in her crib and his mum was set up on the futon, Brandon crawled into bed and glanced at the note from Albus. He wished it had been Albus who popped by rather than Rose. Brandon missed Al and desperately needed someone to lean on while his life settled around him.
A/N: This chapter title is a song by Joe Tex. I’d love to know what you think of Archie, Albus’ behavior this chapter, and Brandon’s mum. I want to give a big shout-out to LightLeviosa, Ravenclaw333, and Lululuna for jumping on this chapter so fast! I’ll be getting these up thanks to JulNo!!
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