Every tension-building minute I sit through with Albus, the more I regret what happened. I never had a plan, a way to tell Albus that I knew about his feelings or how to talk about any of mine, I had absolutely no clue what was going to happen. I refused to even imagine it, but I'm sure that none of my thoughts, if I'd had any, would have been worse than how things are between us right now.
Albus has never not wanted to speak to me about something before. Well, not in a long time. He tells me he's not angry about us having sex brought on by hormones, far from it. Those were his exact words, plain and simple - 'far from it'.
He doesn't know what to say, he told me. He was trying to figure it out. Not because he wanted to plan a big, perfect speech to persuade me we should be together, although I suspect he'd planned to bring it in anyway, he just wanted to know what to say. Before, the plan was to be two friends who have a baby together and would become roommates until we had a more permanent plan. Now, whatever happens between us will affect us far more personally. If we try to make it work, we'd be a family. If we didn't or couldn't, what will happen to our friendship?
Albus has been thinking about it all. He wants to know what to say, he wants to prepare himself for either good or bad news.
So, I should give it to him. I won't give away any hint of what I think I want to say.
The awkward moments are when it's quiet between us, when he's deep in thought and I have no idea what he's thinking. Thankfully, that's usually just in the evening, when everything has calmed down and it's a quiet evening. During the afternoon, when he's back from Auror training, Albus is more or less his usual self, worrying about me and asking me questions and generally being my best friend. There's just a little bit of awkwardness there, because he knows I know how he feels about me. Or at least as much as I can guess; he needs to talk to me if I want to know everything.
"Are you sure you'll be okay?"
I roll my eyes, secretly enjoying this moment of normality between us, seeing the Albus who'd been there in the beginning of the pregnancy, and I nod. "I'll be fine."
"You heard her," Emmett calls from the hallway. He enters the living room with my glass of water and sits beside me in the couch. "She'll be fine, she's got me. Will you go to training now?"
I raise an eye-brow and point to the door in a 'you heard him' motion. Albus rubs his hand in soothing circles around my 'bump'. I secretly enjoy these moments, too; when Albus forgets for a moment that things are awkward between us. I stay as still as I can and let him. "I just wish I could be there. It's an important scan."
"I know, but everything will be fine, just like they have been before. And I'm forcing Emmett to come with me, so I'm not alone." Emmett links his fingers through mine and waves our joined hands in the air. "It'll be okay. I'll tell you everything tonight when you get back," I promise.
"Okay," Albus says with a nod. He moves his hand, stands up and the moment of non-awkwardness breaks. "I'll see you later."
Then he's gone.
Emmett keeps our hands joined and drops his head on my shoulder. "He's just panicking, over-thinking things as usual. It'll be okay soon," he says softly, showing his rare bit of genuine Good Boy Em. Good Boy Em only comes when you need him.
"You're saying that because you know everything," I tell him, feigning confidence. "You know he'll be okay."
"Yes," he assures me, then amends, "Well, most things. I understand the awkwardness; you slept together again because you were crazy. Where does the small amount of anger hidden in there come in? Because I suspect that is why him talking to you is taking so long. Albus is always awkward, he just does it anyway."
"Because you all know we slept together. I threatened to tell to get him to talk and dared him to try me, he called my bluff."
"And you told," Emmett finishes and I nod guiltily. "Slightly silly thing to do, do you agree?"
"Hey, you are on my side today," I remind him.
Emmett holds his hands up in surrender and nods as though his life depends on it. Which, right now, it so does. "All the way, I promise. I'm just saying that Awkward Al is easier to talk to than Angry Al and it might not have been wise to tell us. But I'm secretly glad you did, I like to know things."
"I know, you're right. I was just so frustrated because he was freaking out and running away. You know I hate it when people walk away from me; I walk away from them." Emmett agrees. "The anger is there, but I don't think it's driving him to be silent for longer. He'd have done something to make me see that; walked out of the room when I come in or something. Like he does with you."
Emmett's smile is not the nicest. It's not mean, just... annoyed. "Did you have to remind me? Maybe you're right; it is just his overcautiousness. Do you remember the first time we saw that in first year?"
I laugh a little when Em does. "When he was deciding whether or not he wanted to be our friend."
"Yeah," he says with a nod, still laughing. "We were already talking because we were in the same classes and stuff and we all sat down, a week into school, and were all, like, yeah, we're friends now. And Al walked off and ignored us for almost a week because he was deciding whether or not to go to the Hat and request a change to Gryffindor."
"Until he remembered his brother was there, along with a few other family members, and he didn't want to be near them," I continue. "He preferred being the only one in his family to end up in Slytherin and just sat with us." My laughter dies down pretty quickly. "I don't think that will happen again."
"Al's done stranger things, Alex. You never know." With that last piece of Good Boy Em advice, he stands up and takes my hand. "Come on, we have an appointment to get to."
When we get to the ward, Emmett takes the time we have waiting to go in to gape. He's never been to this part of the hospital, he's rarely ever been to hospital in general. Out of all of us, this is all very new for him. Chris came with Tasha, Megan and Darcy have older relatives, but Em is an only child with one cousin, who is male and living somewhere far away and hot. I can't remember where and Em hasn't seen him since he was ten, he said. He looks... Unsure. I've never seen Em so unsure.
He snaps out of it when he hears a woman cry out from across the ward on the right. I've never been down that way; where we are now is where you go for appointments and check up and stuff, across the ward and around the corner is where women give birth and is where the baby nursery is and the ward for premature and sick babies. On the left is for sick children up to a certain age, then you go to the other parts of the hospital. Casey wants to specialize in looking after children, which means he'll be working on this ward soon enough.
"This is all a little scary," he whispers, not wanting any of the other patents to hear him. He keeps looking down the corridor; the woman has stopped screaming now, but he's still freaked. And a little curious. "Have you ever been down there?"
"No," I shake my head. "I'm not ready to hear women scream, let alone see the nursery. You usually can't hear them, her door must have be open before."
I answer and stand, making sure Emmett comes with me. Healer Moore isn't here, I'm told she's with the screaming woman and will be here soon. I climb onto the bed and wait patiently, Emmett takes the seat on my right and lifts up his legs to rest on my bed. "What's she like, this healer?"
"I love her, she's amazing," I answer. "Thankfully, I think Louis has given up trying to get a date. He would have ruined things. Tell me how you knew I was pregnant."
He rolls his eyes and grins at me. I still think he found out somehow and didn't just guess, but I'm only asking now so it distracts him from the screaming woman. And me. He usually stares at me for a moment, then shakes his head and tells me he already has. Today, he sits up straighter, letting his legs fall to the floor.
"You really wanna know?" I nod, eyes wide. "'Lexi, sweetheart, I can't wait to see what you do with the baby's room. I hope you and Al realize that my grandchild will be so spoiled. See you soon. Love Ginny'. You left the note on the top of the drawers in the nursery."
I let my mouth drop; I remember that note from Al's mum. She knew I was decorating and wanted to know if I had any ideas for the baby's room. I'd said no. Em was the first to come the day of the party and went to look around. "That note was in my room. I saw it."
"I moved it before the others got there," Em explains. "Once I saw the note, I started to see other things, little signs that told me you were pregnant, like the house itself. The others don't know about the note; I just told them about the signs when I told them that you and Al were going to have a baby. They promised to keep it quiet until you told us. But that's how I knew."
"Because I was careless and forgot something." I roll my eyes. Damn.
"Yep, it's all your fault," he grins.
We turn to the door and watch Healer Moore come in. She smiles, but she's curious and she points to Em. "Hi. This is one of my best friends, Emmett McQueen. Albus has Auror training and couldn't come."
"So, she dragged me," he finishes with a polite smile.
"It's lovely to meet you, Emmett," Healer Moore says, shaking his hand. She turns to me. "Did you think about what I said?"
"We did," I nod, thinking back to a couple of weeks ago, before the awkwardness, when we saw her at Al's parents' house with his mum. "We've decided that we want the sex of the baby to be a surprise."
"She decided this without me, I want to know," Emmett butts in.
"It's not up to you," I remind him for the millionth time. "It's not your baby."
I hear him mutter a 'thank God'; Emmett would not handle being a dad... Ever, probably. "I still want to know; I need to know. Do I buy blue or pink? I get confused when things are gender neutral, I'll end up calling him 'she' or vice versa."
"Get used to it." Healer Moore smiles are our banter and waits for me to get ready for the scan without pushing me. Finally, I pull up my top and let Healer Moore put the device onto my stomach. "Wait for it, Em."
He gapes again when he sees the baby on the screen. The image is bigger than the first one, but still just as amazing for him because it's his first time ever seeing a scan. "Wow," he murmurs. "That is actually there," he points at my stomach and repeats, "Wow."
"That?" I ask with narrowed eyes.
"He? She?" He shrugs. "Let me know the sex of the baby and it won't happen again."
"No way." I turn back to Healer Moore. "Is everything alright?"
"The baby is just a little on the small side, that's all," she answers, looking slightly worried, but not enough for me to go into full breakdown mode.
"Is that bad?" Emmett asks. He's lost his humor a little now.
Healer Moore takes her eyes away from the screen to look at us properly. "There are many reasons for it, so not always, no. We'll just have to keep an eye out. If you're worried about anything, you come straight in, okay?"
I nod until my neck hurts a little and I have to stop. The rest of the scan is similar to the last; Healer Moore tells me how the baby is doing and prints out a picture. I practically have a little photo album now, but I don't care. Besides, Astoria and Ginny like to see them. The difference, though, is what she says. Instead of the baby being fine and healthy, the baby is small and its heartbeat is lower than last time. But only by a little, so the worry is only a little. For now.
Healer Moore let's us go after reminding me to come in if I think anything is wrong and confirms that my due date is near the end of March and we go in silence. Emmett doesn't talk to me until we're outside. "Are you okay?"
"Yes," I say quietly. Healer Moore is not too worried just yet, so I'm not. But I have to go home and be the one to tell Al all about it, I have to watch him worry more when things are already awkward between us. I love Em, but I really wish it was Al who was here right now. "I'll be fine."
"I have to go to class now, but I don't want to leave you," he says, checking his watch.
"Go. I'm fine," I promise. "I'm going to pick up some lunch and see my dad. I won't be alone."
That's the only thing that seems to calm Emmett and he nods. "Okay. I'll see you later."
He hugs me quickly and leaves, looking back a couple of times until I can't see him at all and I know he can't see me.
I keep my promise to Emmett, whether I actually promised or not, and go to see my dad with some lunch. I just need my dad right now. I prepare myself for the odd looks people give as I walk through the atrium of the Ministry. My bump is not huge, but it's noticeable. People know now, about me, and soon they'll know who the father is. As soon as people we went to school with find out, I imagine they'll guess Albus, but no one will know for sure until we tell them.
I knew this would happen, I even almost went home, but my need to see my dad won and I walk to the elevator without meeting glances or listening to whispers. This place is worse than Hogwarts sometimes.
The elevator ride is short, time passes like it's nothing because I don't let myself notice it, and I step into Law Enforcement. I see Harry Potter on my way and wave, but he can't stop and I don't want to, so there's no small talk between us. My dad is the next person I see, having a conversation with a younger Hit Wizard, and like he senses me coming, Dad turns around and smiles at me. He dismisses the man by his side and folds him arms, standing in front of me.
"To what do I owe the pleasure?" I hold up the cheeseburger I bought him and his smile widens. "It's why I love you," he says, taking it from me.
"I hope it's not the only reason," I reply.
Dad wraps his arm around my shoulders and leads me to his office. "Of course not." He opens the door and sits me down on the small couch he has in the corner. "You never visit, what's the matter?"
"I need to have one of our one-on-one, serious daddy-daughter talks," I tell him, straight to the point. Now I have to figure out which thing to tell him first. I'd tell him the baby news first if the worry was huge, but it's not and my problem with Al is big, too. Decisions, decisions. "Are you ready?"
I wait for Dad to finish the piece of burger in his mouth. "Ready."
"I slept with Albus again."
He chokes on his second piece, but that's not my fault. He shouldn't have bitten into it as I spoke. "I'm not sure if I like how easily you can tell me these things," he mutters, rubbing his chest. "Why do I need to know this?"
"It was during that part of the pregnancy when hormones can rise and stuff and now he's disappointed because he likes me and he's trying to figure out what to say about wanting to be with me because he's too cautious, which means he's not actually talking to me," I say all in one breath.
And what does Dad ask? "He's finally told you he likes you?"
I throw a cushion at his head. "No. I figured it out and realized that I'm an idiot."
"Oh. And now he's being his usual weird self?" I nod. "Al is as stubborn as Louis and they can take it to scary levels, you have to wait it out. He'll talk to you soon. He won't be able to wait much longer to find out how you feel, he's stubborn but his patience is questionable." Dad turns his back just to throw his rubbish into the bin, so doesn't see me roll my eyes because he's just told me what I already know. "Something tells me that's not all you want to tell me."
"The baby's smaller than he should be and his heartbeat is a little low."
"And you're worried," he says softly. I nod and put my thumb and forefinger together; just a little. I can't help it. "It doesn't always mean something's wrong; you were smaller than average and Kieron was born a couple of weeks premature." He pauses. "My nanny told me that I almost died twice, something to do with my breathing. It must run in the family."
"That doesn't quite make me feel better," I tell him honestly. "But thank you. I think."
"The point is that you shouldn't scare yourself unless your healer is worried. It won't be good for the baby if you're stressed."
Dad pulls me closer for a hug and I just sit there, letting him run his hand up and down my back and hold me.
"He?" he says after a few minutes. "You said 'he'?"
I shrug. "I don't know if the baby's a boy or a girl, we decided to keep it a surprise. I just can't help but say 'he' sometimes. Did you do that?"
"Your mother and I decide to keep both you and Kieron as surprises. I honestly didn't know about Kieron, yet kept saying 'he'. For you, however, I said 'she' because I wanted a girl."
"How crazy were you?" I joke.
"You didn't turn out so bad," he says. I laugh at that, but it's cut short when there's a knock at the door and Dad let's me go. "Come in!"
I'm not prepared for the Minister for Magic to enter. I've seen him a few times before, he's come to Hogwarts for various 'family reasons'. But when I would come here, Dad and Harry would go to him if he wanted them, not the other way around.
"Afternoon, Minister Shepherd," I say, standing up.
"Hello, Alexa," he answers with a nod and a smile. "Are you and Albus looking forward to your new arrival?" I frown without realizing I'm still talking to the Minister. I'd think he'd noticed the bump, but his eyes were on my face the whole time. And no one knows about Al. "I may have overheard your father talking to Mr. Potter. My lips are sealed."
"Thank you. And yes we are, sir."
"Good, good." And just like that, I'm not here. The Minister is here for a reason, so I sit and let them talk. "The party on Saturday, Theo. Is everything ready?"
"As best as I can," Dad replies confidently. "Señor Rodriguez will be picked up and brought there for eight, as requested. It's all secure."
"Good, good," he repeats, always nodding. I like that Minister Shepherd is that predictable. You're never surprised, there's no room for that in his job. He's not like his daughter or his nephew. "Now I just need to find a sitter."
"What happened to you're regular sitter?"
Minister Shepherd sighs, shaking his head this time. Also predictable. "She's ill and can't look after Jason."
"Jason? Your son?" I speak without meaning to. I heard that Jessica had a little brother and Rich talked about him a few times. He's nice from what I hear. I completely ignore my brain tell me I'm stupid for setting foot in the lion's den. "If you need a sitter, I'd be happy to do it."
"You would?" Minister Shepherd asks, surprised.
"You would?" Dad asks, horrified.
I ignore him. "Of course. I'm not doing anything and you obviously need one."
"And Jessica would love to see you again, it's been so long since graduation. She won't be staying, though," he says sympathetically.
I try not to punch the air in happiness. "That's such a shame, I would have loved to see her for longer. But to catch up a little would be enough." Dad coughs to hide his laughter. "Anything to help a friend and her family."
"I like her, Theo. You should being her here more often."
Dad nods, his face a nice shade of red and I can't tell if he wants to laugh or cry. "I'll think about it."
He gives me his address and asks me to be there for six because he wants to be at the venue early, then he leaves and Dad falls back into the couch. "Tell me now if you're trying to ruin my career."
"I am not, don't worry. You heard him; Jessica won't be there." Dad rolls his eyes. "I thought it would be a good thing for me. Besides, I've looked after Ethan a few times. Granted, the others were there, but they all fell asleep early and I looked after the kid by myself for three whole hours. If I can look after him when he was an eighteen month old, I can look after a nine year old."
"You think?" he asks, skeptical.
"No problem," I assure. "Rich has told me all about Jason; he's a good kid. But if he's nine, why can't he go to this party?"
"Nobody wants to go to this party," Dad scoffs. "I've known Erik Rodriguez since he was ten and he'd rather eat pizza, drink beer and go out. Unless it's a party with real music."
"Who is he?"
"The Spanish Minister for Magic's grandson. He's coming a few days earlier than the Minister and Shepherd wants to make him feel welcome so he has nice things to say. Shepherd doesn't understand that the only reason Erik is coming is because he has to and doesn't care about politics." Dad rolls his eyes again, then answers my previous question. "Jason is sick all the time, he doesn't go out much because of it. That's why he's not coming."
The door opens again and Louis comes in with a bunch of files. He gives them to my dad, gives him information I don't know anything about, waves at me and leaves. It's the quietest I've ever seen him. It's a little unnerving.
"I have to get back to work," Dad says, standing up and leading me to the door. "Give Al some time, don't worry so much and I'll see you later."
I kiss him quickly on the cheek and leave. Next stop: home. I still have a few hours before I have to tell Albus about the appointment.
My cooking skills have improved since I starting living alone. These chicken nuggets aren't bad, granted they aren't home-made, I just put them in the oven, but still. They're delicious.
...And coated in peanut butter. It's surprisingly nice. And made completely by accident, which I think makes it even better.
"Hey!" Al calls, stepping though the front door. "Anyone here?"
"In the living room." Albus comes in, sits next to me and holds up his hand in a wave. I hold up the plate. "Chicken nugget?"
"Thanks," he answers, taking one. "What's with the jar of peanut butter?"
I show him by taking a nugget and dipping it into the jar. "Wanna try?"
He looks hesitant at first, but he eventually dips his bit of chicken into the jar and takes a bite. Then he takes the jar. "That is surprisingly delicious," he murmurs, having more.
"I know, right?" I agree. I sit and watch him for a minute. He notices, but doesn't do anything. "The baby's okay, I think. He's a little smaller than average and his heartbeat is a little low, but Healer Moore isn't worried."
"Yet," he adds, finishing what I couldn't.
"Yeah. Dad says I need to stop stressing about things, it doesn't help."
"Hmm." He frowns. "I'm causing it, aren't I?" I shake my head. "Don't lie. You want to talk and I'm ignoring it."
"You said you needed to think, I accept that," I tell him.
"No. Well, yeah, but it's not just that," Al answers. "You weren't supposed to figure it out after talking to Xavier. Yeah, I found out about that. I wanted to tell you. I'm just shocked and embarrassed, I guess, that I didn't realize."
Al turns to face me properly. "We need to start this again, be natural and normal with whatever relationship we have. See what happens."
We shake hands, smiling, and he looks like the old Albus again. He pulls me his way, like Dad did, and let's me rest my head on his shoulder.
When Albus wants to talk, I definitely know what to say now.
A/N: Their relationship could never be bumpy for long. They have bigger things to worry about... Jessica, for example... ;)
Hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think. :)
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