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The Albatross by Beeezie
Chapter 8 : Poor Judgment
 
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Lily jerked back. Anthony scrutinised her for a moment, and then made a face.

“No go, huh?” She shook her head wordlessly. Her heart was hammering in her chest, and she had absolutely no idea what to say. He sighed, but said after a moment, he managed to cheerfully say, “Well, it was worth a try.”

“Worth a try?” she repeated incredulously. “Are you joking?”

He shrugged. “Well, I thought you might not be interested, but now at least I can say that I tried.”

Lily stared at him. He didn’t look anywhere near as embarrassed as she felt, a fact which she found quite obnoxious. “You’re insane,” she said after a minute.

“Why?” he asked. He was outright smiling now, and even in the fading light, she could see a twinkle in his dark brown eyes. She couldn’t understand how he seemed so relaxed. He was the one who had just been shot down. “Because I decided that the pretty redhead who I’ve come to like very much was worth making a play for?”

She looked away from him and focused on the pavement in front of her. “Thanks,” she said sarcastically, and he laughed.

“Well, you are,” he said. “And I do.” She wrinkled her nose involuntarily, and he added, “Not just like that. You know that.”

He was right - about that, at least. She also knew that him kissing her shouldn’t have taken her by surprise, at least not to the extent that it had – all the signs that he liked her were there, even if she been pretending that they weren’t.

Well, at least she was better than her brother Albus, who was completely clueless as well as awkward.

When she didn’t say anything, he frowned and shifted over to kneel in front of her. “I’m sorry,” he said, and from his expression, he meant it. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“I don’t know if I’m upset,” Lily said after a moment of consideration. “I just feel really awkward.”

He rested his head against the railing. “Sorry,” he repeated. “Are you ready to go inside, or do you want to stay out here a bit longer?”

Lily considered that. Dusk was truly beginning to fall, and she found the relative darkness oddly comforting. “I think I’ll stay out a bit longer,” she said.

“Do you want company, or should I go inside?” he asked. She glanced up at him, and he held up his hands. “I promise that I won’t try to kiss you again.”

That got a giggle out her. “Don’t feel like you have to stay,” she said, and he dropped back down onto the step.

“From you, I’m pretty sure that’s a yes,” he said. “Look, I really am sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.”

“No,” she agreed, but changed the subject before he could say anything else.

By the time they got up to go back inside, night had really fallen, and the street lamps had come on. Lily had managed to push the kiss out of her mind while they talked, but when Anthony held the door for her on their way inside, it came rushing back. He didn’t try anything else, and he looked as calm and easygoing as ever, but that seemed to be how he always looked. He’d looked that way two minutes after he’d kissed her. He’d said that he was sorry, but now that she was thinking about it, he hadn’t quite said that he wouldn’t do it again.

The look Edwin gave them when they reentered the flat didn’t help her anxiety; she wasn’t sure if he was annoyed or suspicious or both, but she excused herself to go bed after she’d nibbled on some bread.

She considered talking to Edwin about the kiss, but even after they’d made amends the next morning, she felt too awkward. She was still annoyed at him, for one thing, and for another, Anthony was his friend, and she suspected that throwing a wrench into that dynamic would be more headache than it was worth. However, she did feel like she needed to talk to someone, and after some brief hand-wringing, she broached the subject of Anthony's kiss with Annie the next time they were both working in the shop.

She'd barely gotten the words out when Annie’s eyebrows shot up. “Anthony did what?”

“He kissed me.” Lily was not sure what the significance of this was, other than a little awkwardness between the two of them, but judging from Annie’s face, there was certainly something significant about it. “Why? What’s the matter?”

Annie rubbed her forehead. “He’s an idiot,” she said, and Lily was surprised to hear genuine disgust in her voice.

Her face must have spoken volumes about her consternation, because after a moment, Annie cast an eye around the shop. It was quiet, as was characteristic for late morning; other than a girl sitting by the far wall enjoying a salad and an iced lemonade with an elderly woman whose hair was liberally streaked with grey, they were alone.

Annie lowered her voice anyway. “Look, before anyone met you, Edwin warned all of his friends to stay away from you, in a romantic sense.”

Lily frowned. “Why?” she asked curiously.

Annie shrugged. “You’d have to ask Ed to know for sure – and by the way, I don’t recommend doing that unless you’re willing to deal with some serious drama – but my impression was that he thought that you had more than enough to be dealing with without his friends twisting your head around.” She snorted. “Typical Anthony. No one else ignored him.”

“Typical?” Lily asked.

Annie sighed and looked up at the ceiling. If she was expecting the large crack in the paint directly above the counter to give her an answer, however, it seemed to let her down. “Yeah.” She shifted her gaze back to Lily. “Look, Lily, Anthony’s a nice guy. He really is. But he tends to think with his hormones, not his head, and he’s got a thing for redheads.”

Lily felt her face get hot. “Oh.” That seemed completely inadequate as a response, but she honestly wasn’t sure what else to say.

"It's not that he doesn't like you as a person," Annie hurried to say, "or that he's been trying to manipulate you into liking him. That's not really who he is. He just..." She shrugged helplessly. "He doesn't have a lot of impulse control, sometimes, so his best friend's warning probably flew right out of his head once he met you."

"But I'm not interested!" Lily protested, feeling a wave of panic sweep over her. She had absolutely no experience in this sort of thing; in the Wizarding World, boys tended to be too intimidated by her brothers and a few of their cousins to do more than hint at her, and when she ignored them, they got the hint. There was no James to hide behind here, and Lily really didn’t want to have to start to avoid one of her closest friends in the Muggle world.

"And that's fine," Annie said, cutting off the wave of anxiety that had been starting to sink in. "You told him you weren’t interested?" Lily nodded. "Then he'll back off. Don’t worry. He’s an idiot, but he’s not pushy.”

Lily sighed. Annie was helping to relieve her tension, but she was still left feeling drained and vaguely unhappy. "I really didn't need this drama," she muttered, sinking onto the stool behind the till.

Annie watched her for a minute and then said, "So I guess Ed was right, huh?"

Lily shrugged. Her happy little world away from the drama and stress of her family had suddenly become a lot less happy. "Maybe it would be different if I actually liked him," she said. "And if I didn't know that Edwin had warned him away from me."

It would also be different if they weren't all Muggles who were completely ignorant of the Wizarding World, but that was another issue.

Annie frowned at her. "Other than Blondie, have you ever even had a boyfriend?" She laughed when Lily looked up sharply. "Sorry," she said. "I know. He's going out with your cousin. I just find it funny that the only 'family' of yours that I've ever met - other than Ed, of course - is someone who's not even quite an in-law."

"He's with Rose," Lily said dismissively. "And he's ridiculous about it."

Annie cocked her head to the side. "How so?"

Lily tried, with limited success, to explain Rose and Scorpius's relationship to Annie. It was difficult to capture some of the specifics because she couldn't really explain about his family's past, the issue of blood status, or some of the pranks her brother and Roxanne had pulled on Scorpius over the years, but on the whole, she thought she did a pretty good job. Annie seemed a little perplexed, anyway, which was probably the right reaction.

"So he basically fell head over heels for a girl who was always nasty to him?" Annie asked.

"Pretty much." It had been a bit more complicated than that, and Albus, Scorpius, and Rose all agreed that Scorpius had been equally unpleasant to Rose, but while Lily could easily see Rose behaving poorly, she had a more difficult time seeing Scorpius behaving the same way on a consistent basis. It wasn't that she didn't love her cousin - she did. However, she also knew her cousin, and she knew that Rose had a temper and was generally a lot less easygoing than Scorpius was.

But what did she know?

“And this is one of the cousins who does crazy secret dangerous things?” Annie pressed, and Lily nodded. Annie took a sip of the tea she’d poured herself when Lily had started to explain Rose and Scorpius to her as she processed that. After a moment, she said, “I really want to meet these people. I can’t imagine Blondie having such a high maintenance girlfriend. Not that I really know Blondie, mind you, he just doesn’t look the type.”

“His name is Scorpius,” Lily said lightly, and Annie snorted. She’d decided very quickly that the name ‘Scorpius’ was just too strange, and had tried out several different nicknames that she found more acceptable before settling on ‘Blondie.’

The more time she spent in the Muggle world, the more Lily could understand where Annie was coming from; Scorpius really was a very odd name by their standards, especially for somebody like Annie, whose family were all transplants from Spain.

The conversation lapsed into a comfortable silence, and after a few minutes, Annie said, “Anyway, don't worry too much about the situation with Anthony. It'll be fine."

Lily smiled. "Thanks," she said. "And no. I haven't really had a boyfriend. I've been too - er - busy."

That was a bit of a white lie. Quidditch and schoolwork had kept her busy enough, but it wasn’t as though most of her teammates hadn’t managed to juggle relationships alongside them, and if she’d been so inclined, she was sure that she could have, too.

But she hadn’t been. She didn’t know quite what it was, but none of the boys at Hogwarts had ever seemed like they were worth the effort.

Annie, however, seemed to accept that. "Fair enough." The door opened, and a group of teens who had probably just gotten out of school wandered in. Annie snapped her fingers at Lily as Lily got to her feet. "Hey, I've been meaning to ask - I have two tickets to the Tottenham/Athletic Champions League match next week, but my sister bailed on me. It’ll probably be good - it decides who wins the group. Do you want to come?"

Lily hesitated for a moment. "Athletic's the one in Spain, right?" she asked. "The one in the final last year?"

Annie clapped her hands. "See, you're learning!" She looked so excited by this development that Lily let out a laugh. "So, will you?"

"Sure," Lily said. "That sounds like fun."

Annie beamed at her before turning to face the customers, and Lily made herself busy pulling out tea bags so no one could see the smile that had spread across her face, too.

As it transpired, Annie had very good seats for the match. Both Edwin and Anthony expressed their jealousy more times than was strictly necessary, and their envy improved Lily’s enthusiasm for the match. It wasn’t Quidditch, but it was something, and Lily was starting to like it in its own right, rather than as just a lackluster substitute for Quidditch.

As the match approached, Annie seemed to get progressively more excited. Lily walked in one morning to a large banner proclaiming Annie’s support for Athletic Club, and she started to engage in (relatively) good-natured sparring with anyone who walked in wearing anything related to Tottenham.

Lily was slightly confused at the enthusiasm with which Annie was approaching this match - they weren’t Liverpool, after all, and as far as she’d seen, that was Annie’s major football obsession. When she’d posed the question to Annie, however, Annie had looked at her and said very simply, “I’m Basque.”

Lily did not have anywhere near enough of a background in history to understand what that had to do with anything, but when she asked Anthony - mercifully, Annie had been right and their friendship had gone on as though the kiss had never happened - he launched into a long explanation about the history of Spain in general and why the Basques were so devoted to Athletic in particular.

Lily hadn’t really needed to know a great deal of what he ended up telling her, but she supposed the extra knowledge couldn’t hurt. Sure enough, she had a chance to work in a mention of Athletic’s policy of only signing Basque players the day after after Anthony’s lecture. Annie had been so impressed that she’d thrown her arms around her and given her an extra day off.

Lily did not especially want an extra day off, but she appreciated the sentiment.

The day before the match, Annie dragged Lily home with her after their practice and shoved a jersey into her arms. She made Lily promise to wear it the following day before allowing her to go home.

Lily was a little surprised at just how many Athletic Bilbao jerseys she saw in the day leading up to the game, especially given that Tottenham were a London team. When she voiced this to Annie, however, Annie had an explanation ready.

“A lot of people in England fell in love with Athletic Bilbao back in the 2011-2012 season, when they outplayed Manchester United over two legs in Europa, and a decent number of people stayed obsessed, especially once Athletic really started winning things.”

Lily didn’t understand a lot of the specifics of the explanation, but she got the gist.

By the time she and Annie were approaching the stadium, Lily was feeling downright giddy. It was her first live football match, and she was surprised by how similar the atmosphere was to Quidditch matches, albeit significantly lower to the ground. She supposed she shouldn’t have been; fans were fans, and there was no reason that Muggles should be different from wizards.

But it was still a pleasant surprise, and being seated in the middle of the Athletic section proved to make the experience even more enjoyable.

Unfortunately, Tottenham scored first. Lily half-expected Annie to lose it, but she underestimated how relentlessly positive her friend could be. “It’s okay,” Annie told her. “Athletic can bounce back. They’ll be fine.” Her attitude didn’t change when Tottenham scored their second goal, and if anything, the people around them became more fired up.

Athletic scored a few minutes before the half ended, and Lily expected that to be the end of it. She was therefore quite surprised when they equalised just before the whistle blew for halftime. She was not, however, surprised to turn to Annie and find her in tears.

“I knew they could do it,” Annie said, throwing her arms around Lily. “We’ll come back and win this. You’ll see.”

“Is it really that important?” Lily asked. “I thought they both go through.”

“They do.” Annie pulled back a little and tucked her hair behind her ears. “But if we win the group, we’re almost sure to get to the quarter finals. We’ll avoid Arsenal, Barcelona, and Ajax, and they’re the favourites this year.”

Lily didn’t understand any of that, but she smiled anyway.

Annie hugged her again. “We’ll win,” she repeated excitedly. “I know we will.”

Lily was about to say something else when she heard a voice say, “Lily?”

Her heart immediately stopped. She would have known that voice anywhere.
 









A/N: Dun dun dun. I'll try to get the next chapter up soon so you're not dying of curiosity about who recognised Lily. 

A little football context: Arsenal, Liverpool, and Tottenham are English clubs. Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao play in the Spanish league. Ajax are Dutch. Athletic Bilbao do indeed have a self-imposed policy of only signing Basque players.


There are two major tournaments in Europe every year: the Champions League and the Europa League. The Champions League is for the best of the best. The Europa League is for the best of the very good. Participation in both is determined by domestic performance the season before.

Thank you for reading! :)  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts!



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