I no longer like shopping. It's never been my favorite thing to do anyway, but I didn't hate it. I'd go willingly with my friends and could happily buy a few things to add to my wardrobe. Until the other day, when I was walking through London for something to do and while browsing through the kids clothes, almost subconsciously wondering what my kid would like - either that, or my brain was trying force out what I was trying to ignore - and I came across a section of clothes that made me stop, then turn and want to run home to my dad.
The maternity section.
Aunt Astoria called the second trimester 'the honeymoon period'; the morning sickness starts to disappear and your energy returns. Astoria said she felt almost normal again, except for the growing 'baby bump' and the labor, that she mostly enjoyed being pregnant. But I don't want to get bigger. I'd like to stay exactly as I am please. No, I'd like to go back to how I was before, when my clothes fit properly. Take away my Saturday nights and punish me with nausea, I'll never drink again and I'll swear to a life of abstinence until I'm married (if I get married), but give me back my comfy jeans. They're my favorite.
I discreetly hug my arm over my chest, my hand on the right side of my stomach. You can't tell yet, I'm not ready to wear maternity clothes. For which I'm glad; I don't need the rest of the world knowing just yet. Why, out of every guy at that party, the father had to be the youngest son of the most well known man in this world, I will never know.
Fate must hate me.
So must the father. I turn to look through the shop window, finding Albus not too far from the counter. Well, that's something; ten minutes ago he was still by the door. He'd already left me in Flourish and Blotts fifteen minutes before I'd left to find him. That was half an hour ago. I have no idea what he's looking for in there. It's a Quidditch shop. He hates Quidditch - he and Hugo are pretty much the only ones in that family who do, which I think is hilarious considering who their fathers are - the git can barely even fly. At least Hugo can fly, though he never does because that's how he realized he's afraid of heights.
Now if James was here, I'd understand. But he's not, so I don't. I can't imagine Al wanting or needing to get James anything without a good reason. Maybe he asked Albus to pick something up for him. If he gave Albus the money or Al got something in return, that would make sense.
Maybe fate really does hate me, Al taking so long to get something for James and making me wait is my punishment for moaning about maternity clothes.
No. Now that one's just crazy talk. Right?
His voice makes me jump and I glare when I turn to him. Albus doesn't hide his smile, but his eyes show enough concern for me to forgive him and let my glare drop. "Do you think there's a spell that let's me stretch out my clothes, so I can where my favorite jeans again?"
"You're thinking about getting bigger again." It's not a question, but I nod anyway, probably looking as miserable as I feel. Albus rolls his eyes at me, eyes that now show absolutely no hint of concern, only amusement. "I don't know if that's a thing you should be thinking about yet, but what do I know? Being just a guy and all."
His tone is mocking as he repeats the words I said last night. He's right, though; he doesn't know. I ignore his sarcasm and reply as though he's being serious. "Exactly. I should ask Aunt Astoria."
"I wouldn't be surprised if she said yes, there's a spell for most things," he says.
"And the infinite wisdom of Albus Severus Potter comes through. What's in the bag?" I change the subject, pointing to said bag, before he can remind that we both know he can be right sometimes, and then give an example.
Al smirks at me, he knows exactly why, but he allows it. He pulls out a pair of expensive looking gloves, designed specifically for Seekers (I remember because Dad and I have bought similar pairs for Kieron), and a golden snitch in a clear, plastic case. I take the case carefully in my hand and lift it up for a closer look. They're not designed for actual playing, they're a little bigger and magicked to be even bigger inside, but they're still made with an equal amount of care and are not touched unless by the person they're meant for, for them to hide their treasures. In this case, it's only for the person Al is giving it to to touch.
It's a small, round safe basically, but even I can admit that they really are beautiful. The person it's for will probably love it.
I hand it back just as carefully. "For James?" I ask.
Al looks at me like I'm crazy. "Why the hell would I get anything for James?"
"He's the only one in your family who still plays Quidditch," I shrug. He shakes his head; so not James. "Who then?"
"A friend I met last summer, it's his birthday next Tuesday."
"You have a new friend and you didn't tell us?" He opens his mouth. "Scratch that, you've had this friend for over a year now, making him no longer new, and you didn't tell us?"
"Are you done?" he laughs.
"It's all I have for now."
Still chuckling, Al wraps his arm around my waist. "I haven't seen him since that summer, we mostly talked through letters. And I did tell you I was writing to a friend."
"You did," I admit. "So I may be able to forgive you. Who is he?"
"He's name's -"
We both look up. "Rich?" we say together, both equally as confused and maybe even a little mad.
"I need to talk to you," he says quickly as I'm walking away, giving Al a quick nod of greeting to look like he's not ignoring my friend. A friend who's more than capable of beating the crap out of him if he's angry enough. And believe me when I say Al wants to.
"I have nothing to say to you."
"I know you're angry about what happened at graduation and you have every right to be, but believe me when I say that I had no idea what was happening," he rushes through his little speech, trying to keep up with me.
"I find that hard to believe, she is your cousin," I spit out. He grabs my arm, making me stop, and I almost pull away until I see Rich's face; he's a little red and breathless and actually sincere. I hold a hand to shut Al up; I'm willing to listen before I decide whether or not Al should hurt him. "Go on."
Rich's face turns an slightly darker shade of red and since we're no longer moving, I can only assume it's due to embarrassment. He glances at Al, I shake my head; he knows he has to say it now, in front of Al. It's a punishment he deserves and he accepts it unwillingly. "She overheard me telling a friend that I liked you and had thought about asking you out at graduation. She kept telling me it was a good idea, that at least talking to you and seeing where things could go couldn't hurt. So I did. While I was talking to you, I saw her with Al behind us and I finally knew why she'd said that."
"Jessica always has an agenda," he mutters. "I had a feeling she did then, but I just wanted to talk to you. I didn't stop to think about what it could be. You saw her, then you looked at me and I knew you thought the worst and I'm really sorry for my part in it, even if it was unknowingly. I've wanted to tell you that since it happened, but I haven't seen you since then."
"Great. Now that you've apologized and you know better than to ignore Jessica's plans, we can go." Al takes my hand to pull me away. "Let's go."
I pull him back. "Hold on. You really didn't know?" Rich shakes his head, promises he didn't. "Then I forgive you. I'll see you around."
"Wait!" he calls, making me and Al stop again. "Can I make it up to you? We can have that date we talked about?"
"I don't think we're there yet anymore," I tell him, shaking my head. He looks disappointed, but he understands. "But tomorrow, we're all going out. You could come."
Al's eyes bulge; he hates the idea and doesn't want him to come, but he's too shocked to speak. Rich gets it, though. "No, I really shouldn't. I don't wanna mess with your plans."
"No, you don't," Al says quickly. "Let's go."
"Come on, Al. It's hardly five star dining, it's dinner and a movie. Adding an extra person is no big deal." I turn to Rich. "I believe you when you say you had no idea and that you want to make it up to me, so come. We can hang out; it's a start."
They both have their own reasons for their silence while I wait for an answer. "Tomorrow," Rich says finally. "Where shall I meet you?"
"Fifty Whitmore Drive, it's just outside of London," I say. "About half six."
"I'll see you then."
As soon as he's gone, Al glares at me. "What the bloody hell did you do that for?"
Al's not the only one who chooses to glare at me once they find out I've invited Rich Waterman to come out with us.
"Are you out of your mind?"
"What possessed you to do that?"
"This is an evil plot, in which we get to hurt him, right?"
I give Emmett a look which clearly tells him is idea is insane. "It's not a plot to hurt him," I say. "I thought this would be a good thing, forgive and forget and second chances and all that. To be able to do that makes you a better person and that's what a parent would teach their kid, right? How can I teach my kid to be the better person if I can't do that? And I have to be the parent who teaches it, considering the father has no intention of doing so!"
"Don't bring me into this," Al mumbles. I told him this last night and he hates that I'm right. "We forgive and forget. We all know what Jessica Shepherd can do, I wouldn't be surprised if Rich was actually a nice guy."
"How much did that hurt to say," Ewan snickers. I want to laugh along with him, but I refuse to let myself. I'm being mature and adult tonight. Ewan winks at me, though. He's laughing for the both of us. I like Ewan, especially when he's alone. I mean, I like Will, too, but with him comes his girlfriend.
"You don't want to know," he sighs.
"This adult Alex is temporary, right? It's got to be pregnancy hormones. Because this mature Alex is scaring me a little," Emmett says quietly. He does look kind of scared, I must admit.
I walk across the kitchen and wrap my arms around him. "It's going to be okay. You can get used to it. This mature stuff has got to be a good thing." I glance at the clock. "Now Rich will be here any minute, are we ready to go?"
"Yeah, I'm just going to sign this card, so I don't forget," Al replies, sitting down at the table.
That reminds me. "Who your friend? How'd you meet? When do we get to see him?"
"You have a new friend?" everyone else asks, surprised. Except Emmett, of course.
"His name is Xavier. We met last summer, when I was in my depression phase," Al says, writing in the birthday card. His depression phase is not as bad as it sounds; everything got on top of him with NEWTs and careers advice and his family, among other, mostly minor, things. He could cope with them separately, just not all at once. So, he went out one night and came back all happy and calm and normal again. Teenage drama, I call it. He was being a drama queen.
"I went to Eros with Emmett," he continues.
Chris interrupts. "The gay bar?"
"Do you wanna know or not?" We all nod. Except Emmett. "He dragged me with him to take my mind off school and I met Xavier. It didn't take him long to realize I wasn't gay, I told him I just wanted to talk. He listened, it was nice to talk to a guy who wasn't family or a friend and didn't already know my problems, who'd give me a straightforward, unbiased answer without going into detail about my feelings like a girl would. We stayed friends."
Al closes the flap of the envelope and puts it in the middle of the table. "Anything else?"
"So, he's the one who helped you and had you come back to us all happy and normal again," Darcy says. "I like him. Do we know him?"
"Oh, yes. He's three years older than us, played Seeker for Gryffindor and is now a professional player," Al smirks, his eyes on me.
"Oh, my God," I whisper excitedly. The others know, too. "Your new friend is really the gorgeous, ex-Gryffindor, Puddlemere United Seeker, Xavier Sinclair - who was in a gay bar." My shoulders visibly sink as the implication sinks in and becomes fact. "Why is it always the good one's?"
"I am going to take that as a compliment. At least you know you're okay with Waterman. Speak of the devil," Emmett smirks. The doorbell rings.
"How do you do that?" I hear Darcy exclaim as I go to open the door.
"Hey, Rich," I say, feeling kinda awkward about this whole thing. But I stand by my whole forgive and forget idea. "Come on in."
Rich steps in after a moments hesitation. He's dressed casual like the rest of us; jeans and a t-shirt under his jacket. Yet he can't look any more out of place with the rest of us. He's never hung out with us before. "Nice place, it's very - yeah, I'm pretty sure I moved out of a place like this."
"Oh, you mean the whole family environment feel to it." He nods slowly and follows me into the kitchen. "It's a nice place, spacious and affordable. Dad can moan about me living in a house all he wants, but I'd bet he'd love the idea if I had asked for a penthouse-like apartment in the city. Kieron and Nicky live in one of those, so Dad knows what it's like."
We stop besides Al, who is back on his feet, his arms folded stiffly across his chest. I make sure I'm standing in between them. "Well, official introductions, I think. Since you've never actually spoken to any of them. You've already met Albus Potter, best friend and roommate, though sometimes I have to wonder why."
"Gee, thanks," he mutters.
I ignore him and continue. Does anyone say 'gee' anymore? "That's Darcy Conway and I imagine you know her boyfriend, Ewan Warren, give you were both in Ravenclaw." I move to point to their right. "That's Megan Hughes, next to her is Christopher Reed." Finally, I go back to my left. "And this is Freaky Psychic Douchebag, but everyone else calls him Emmett McQueen."
"I am insulted by that. I'm not freaky," Emmett pouts.
"It's good to know where your priorities are at," Rich mumbles, just loud enough for everyone to hear. "He's really psychic?" he asks me.
"We don't know," I answer honestly. "He does this really freaky thing where he takes one look at you, or even takes one look at a room," its the only way he could have guessed, "and can tell you everything. He's says he's not psychic, that he is just able to notice all the little details, but I don't believe him. It doesn't explain his scarily accurate ability to know when a person is coming and who it is, or when a phone's about to ring."
"Freaky." Rich risks a glance in Emmett's direction. "So, you consider yourself a gay version of Sherlock?"
"How do you know Sherlock wasn't gay? Did you not watch his bromance with Watson?"
Rich shakes his head. "I assume you're talking about a program; I don't have a television, I've only read the books."
"You have my pity."
"Emmett!" I snap, daring him to say anything else. Unfortunately, Emmett's the only one in the world who isn't afraid of my glare. He only stares back, looking cocky and smug. What are you going to do, he's saying.
"No, it's alright," Rich says. "I'm actually surprised Emmett's parents let him have a television. See, I just didn't want one. I was barely home, either at my uncle's house, who does have a TV, or out with my friends, so I didn't need one. Your parents, however -"
He doesn't finish his sentence, he doesn't need to. Emmett is scary calm, his face blank, but his eyes are narrowed and calculating. This is it, this the moment Em decides whether Richard Waterman lives or dies (aka stays or is kicked out of my house). No one can stop it. We hold our breath. Eventually, Emmett releases his gaze and shrugs. "They don't know. He can stay."
"Hey, look at that, he passed," Ewan laughs. He turns to Rich. "No one has passed Em's rite of passage since me, fifth year."
"How did you do it? Because I'm not sure exactly how I did."
"I did the same as you; I stood up to him. I told him to piss off, he was oddly proud."
"He's also standing right here." Emmett turns his narrowed eyes to me. "I thought we were leaving."
I grab my coat, which I'd thrown on the back of one of the kitchen chairs before. "We are. Come on."
I make sure I'm walking close to Rich until we find a place secure enough to apparate. At least we know where we'll end up, we've apparated there before, but we don't yet know this place well enough to know where Muggles can and can't see us. Ewan and Darcy are on his other side, telling him how not to piss off Emmett. Just because he's passed, it doesn't mean he's safe. Emmett is very unpredictable and can be just as moody. "Never hug him, especially not surprise hugs. He hates them," Darcy sighs. She loves hugs. "He'll push you away if you're a girl, he'll punch you in the face if you're a guy."
"That hurts!" Chris calls.
"I wouldn't dream of it," Rich says, looking at them as if to say they're crazy for even suggesting he'd want to hug Emmett. "Do you let your boyfriend hug you, Emmett? I hear he's a hugger."
We seem to freeze mid-step, then all turn to Rich. Mostly because he sounds so nonchalant, like he says this all the time. "Keep talking and I'll kill you before you get your coveted date with Alex."
Me: "You know who he is?"
Darcy: "Who is he?"
Emmett: "Fuck that! How do you know?"
"You wanted me to stop talking," Rich says quietly, only answering Emmett. Given the topic, I suppose that was the smartest move. It's the uncertainty over Emmett's admittedly brilliant mind and what he can do that makes him continue, still only answering one of us. "I saw you two during the summer. I didn't think he had it in him to keep up with you and handle this relaionship, but everyone has always underestimated him."
More pieces of the boyfriend puzzle fall into place and me and Darcy share a look. Yeah, we definitely need to talk.
"I thought your friends knew who it was. I'm sorry," Rich finishes, looking confused. I'm sure he thought we were so close that we told each other everything. He's wrong. Just most things. We are allowed secrets, that's why Emmett still lives with this one. Also because we need him alive to find out if I'm right, but that's beside the point. "I won't say anything."
Slowly, we continue walking.
"He won't tell us because it's new," Megan explains. "He just doesn't want it jinxed. We allow it because it's obvious Em really likes this person. If he wasn't serious, we'd have known from the beginning. Alexa isn't the only one who's grown more mature."
"What's your reason for being mature?" Rich asks with a smile.
I bite my lip to keep from cursing. This has seemed more or less like any other night out, I almost forgot that I'm pregnant. Whether he gets his date or not, and it is a possibility now that I know he had nothing to do with what happened and we can go back to our talk about said date, he might stay in our lives thanks to this night.
He's another person I have to tell.
Maybe telling Rich will be a good thing, even if it does ruin anything that may happen between us - though who's to say it will? - after all, he's Jessica Shepherd's cousin. He'll know her better than anyone. He could be a useful ally in our plan to hide from the Bubblehead Clan. Jessica is the president and on Team Al, her best friend, Lorelai Bishop, is vice president and on Team Scor - as best friend and cousin, I get in the way. A lot. They hate me. They also try to use me to their advantage, that's why I'm always seen with them and called a friend. They haven't succeeded in getting either guy, but I doubt they'll give up. I mean, come on, it's only been seven years. That's nothing!
When Jessica finds out I'm having Al's baby, she's going to kill me. See why I need Rich?
"Inviting you tonight," I finally answer, being mostly honest, just as Al finds a place to apparate. He takes my hand; apparating yourself is not recommended during pregnancy, in case of splinching. We end up in an alley with the others and step out into the busy London streets.
Next stop: pizza.
I eat more pizza than is normal for me, though I am eating for two, and I try to hide it. But Rich notices. He doesn't care, even though he doesn't know why. He even pointed out that he can't remember me ever eating this much in school. I turned it around by flirting a little and commenting on the fact that he's noticed me. Al keeps making gagging noises when he thinks Rich isn't looking.
"So, what do you all do now that you're out of school?" he asks.
"Healer training," Megan is the first to respond. I'm glad she's joining me with my 'be the better person' policy and giving him a chance. "What about you?"
"I'm an intern at the Daily Prophet, I'm a journalist."
"Figures," Emmett mutters, not at all looking surprised.
"I'm playing Quidditch still," Ewan answers next. "There's a Chaser position with Puddlemere open. People keep telling me my expectations are too high as I'm still only eighteen, but I'm going to try out anyway. Age didn't stop Oliver Wood, who is now the coach, and it didn't stop Xavier Sinclair, who is their star Seeker. There are rumors he'll make captain soon enough."
"It's good to have expectations like that, it shows your faith and confidence in yourself," Rich says. "If you don't have that confidence in yourself, how do you expect to achieve anything?"
"Exactly," Ewan agrees.
"He's going to be amazing and he's going to get that position," Darcy states proudly, giving him a quick kiss. "I'm training to be a curse breaker."
"Emmett is in university in East London, studying Creative Writing, he wants to be an author," I say. "He's amazing, I love his short stories. They're kinda like fairytales, but they're not always what you expect."
"If Alex ever has kids, she might read them to him or her. She has a copy," Emmett adds with a smug smile.
"Maybe," I answer, calling his bluff. I know he won't ever say anything; he's not like that. "Chris and Al are both in Auror training, even though Al doesn't want to be an Auror."
"I want to be a bounty hunter," Al says between mouthfuls of meat feast pizza. Rich looks so confused, obviously not understanding what that has is or what it has to do with Auror training. "An Auror solves the case; they track the criminals -"
"Kinda like a detective," Chris adds in.
"Hit Wizards already have a face; they hunt down the criminals -"
"Kinda like a bounty hunter," Emmett finishes.
"So, why not specialize in your last year and become a Hit Wizard?" Rich asks, making a good point.
"Because I want to work for myself, be more freelance, and not have to answer to Lexi's dad, or mine for that matter," Al tells him. "With Auror training, I'll have knowledge of law enforcement, both wizard and Muggle, which they do for when cases overlap as they sometimes have done, but I won't work for them. I can work with them, though; since I'll be fully qualified, Dad or Theo could call me in if they need me or if we have an overlapping case."
"Oh, I see now. Good luck." Rich turns to me. "What are you doing, Alexa?"
"Spending time with family, although they tend to call it invading their personal space." I shrug my shoulders. "I have no idea what I want to do yet."
"You will," he promises. I glance at Al the moment Rich turns away; it's just what he keeps promising me. He nods discreetly; I'm not sure if he's just agreeing with that promise or if that's his subtle way of accepting that I win and Rich is okay. He's so confusing when he's losing, because he hates to lose and will drag it out until he has no choice but to admit it.
"Well, I'm stuffed," Megan sighs. "If we're all done, I say we pay for this and get to the cinema. What are we watching?"
"Please no chick flicks," Emmett mutters, praying to the ceiling.
I stretch and tap him repeatedly to get his attention. "Supernatural horror with strong language and strong violence, or bad boy action with an extreme amount of strong language, an equal amount of strong violence and a fair few scenes that require a sexual nature warning?"
"Baby, you had me at 'bad boy'."
That's what I thought.
The movie turned out to be as action-packed as we thought it would be, all the required ratings were definitely needed. We loved it.
I turn to Em and wrap arm around his waist, pulling him to me. It's not hard to guess that action was more what he needed than romance; seeing Darcy and Ewan together has been reminding him all night that his guy isn't here. And if it's who I suspect it is, I completely understand why Em misses him. That guy really knows how to get under your skin until you can't help but fall in love with him. I'm not saying that's were Em is, but I won't be surprised when it happens. Not even Em's hard shell and reputation can stop that. If it's the guy I'm suspecting.
I hope it is. You say their names separately and you can't imagine them ever working, but once you put them together and can imagine them, you wonder how you could have ignored the fact that they're perfect. They're far from perfect people, but they're perfect for each other. Their differences compliment each other; Em is hot tempered and he is cool and level headed, Em will walk right into something and he'll be there to make him pause, Em has a creative imagination and he'll make it happen.
People listen to him, they love and respect him, and he uses it to his advantage, something they definitely have in common. That and their brilliant minds. They could rule the world. It's a terrifying thought.
If it's the guy I think it is, I wish he was here right now.
Wow. Hormones make me abnormally caring.
Make. It. Stop.
"Are you okay?" Em asks quietly.
"I am. Are you?"
He nods slowly. "I understand my aversion to romance tonight. What's your excuse?" I give him a look; I am not touching that subject. "Oh. I approve, by the way. He's alright, your potential." Emmett nods to Rich, who's laughing with Ewan.
"He's not my potential," I mutter. "We're hanging out because of my whole forgiveness thing. Besides, it's not like he'd stay once he knows I'm you-know-what, which is probably for the best; when his cousin comes for me, it might be best that he not become collateral damage."
"Yeah. Al really knows how to pick 'em," he winks. "Nah, we should give him more credit; she picked him this time. And he does alright sometimes," he refers to me, nudging me lightly. I roll my eyes. "Go make the most of your limited time together."
"You can be really sweet sometimes," I grin, walking further ahead.
"So can you."
I agree and leave him to his thoughts, meeting Rich at the front of our group. "Enjoy your night?"
"I did," he replies, sounding genuinely surprised. "Thank you for inviting me."
"No problem. She's not hanging around and spying on us, is she?" I joke.
Rich scans the area, not subtly, and shakes his head. "I don't see her. I haven't talked to her all week and she has no idea I'm out with you guys. It never hurts to check, though."
We get back to the alley we apparated to before the others. "I'd really like to see you again."
I decide to listen to Emmett and make the most of our limited time; we did already talk about a date, after all. And I am being the better person. "Well, you have my address. Call soon, maybe we'll see."
"I will." And like a gentleman, he kisses my cheek. "Good bye. I'd walk you to your house, but I think your roommate has had enough of me for one night. Bye, guys," he says, reminding that the others are here; they saw everything. He waves once and apparates away.
Al's face is a blank, I can't tell what he's thinking. We say good bye to the others and leave for our own homes. Al says nothing to me as we walk to the house, when we get inside he's gives me a quick good night and is up the stairs.
What the hell is going on?
A/N: Eros is the Greek God of love, one story saying he's Aphrodite's son, another saying he's an adult male who embodies sexual power. It seemed like a fitting name for a place Emmett would go to.
Sherlock and Watson refer to Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, the program Emmett refers to is the BBC's version, Sherlock.
I made up the street they live in for this story, though one probably exists somewhere.
What do you think of Rich? What will Jessica do when she finds out? What's up with Al? How does Emmett know everything? And who is this mystery boyfriend? ;)
I hope you enjoy. Please let me know what you think. :)
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