Giving it a month was easier said than done. Suddenly I found myself with huge amounts of spare time that I hadn't previously ever had. Spare time that could be devoted to thinking about Matt and ruminating on our kiss. After a week, I'd come to the conclusion that I just wanted to know if he felt anything, like I had. I assumed he did, but I really wouldn't know for sure until I asked, and that was out of the question due to Rose's advice.
So, instead, I occupied myself with other things. I cleaned my entire flat, which, honestly, didn't take very long due to the lack of space. I babysat Victoire's twin terrors so she and Teddy could have a night out. That resulted in my hair turning green for a full twenty-four hours. I swear those two have done more accidental magic than the rest of the Weasley clan put together. I went to the pub with Hugo, Eddie, and Samantha. Eddie and Samantha are two of my still-single cousins. We had a night of fun that resulted in a hangover from Hell, and Hugo laughed at me the entirety of dinner at his house the next day.
I kept busy. Plenty busy. Yet I still managed to find huge blocks of time in which to think about Matt. It was all I could to to stop myself from Apparating to his flat and demanding an answer to my burning question about whether the feeling I'd had was mutual.
Part of me thought I'd hear from Matt. Perhaps an owl or even a visit to the office or something, anything. But he remained just as quiet as me, as if he'd spoken with Rose as well. Of course, if he really was as shy as Rose said, he was probably too afraid to owl or visit.
That thought just baffled me, since I'd never dated a shy bloke before. Maybe that was my problem. Maybe I needed to break away from my usual type. No one could argue that my usual type was good, so maybe I needed a shy bloke like Matt.
A loud knock on my door jolted me out of my obsessing, causing me to spill the mug of tea I'd been balancing on my left knee all over the carpet. I quickly siphoned it up with my wand and ran to answer the door, thinking that it was Ashtyn, wanting a break from her editing. But when I opened it, it wasn't Ashtyn standing in the corridor, but my brother.
Not the brother I'd been hoping to see either. No, it was James.
“Hey, Lil,” he said, walking past me and into my flat. That was the thing about James. He never waited to be invited inside.
“James,” I replied, shutting the door. “What are you doing here?”
“Visiting my favorite sister,” he said, walking into the kitchen. He stopped at the counter and reached into my biscuit tin, pulling out a few Hobnobs and shoving them into his mouth.
“That line has gotten old,” I muttered. “Really, what is it? I haven't seen or heard from you since Angie's wedding. Where have you been?”
With James, one never knew. He didn't exactly have the greatest track record with jobs and was known to disappear for days on end, only to return with gold he didn't have before. I suspected gambling, but for all I know he had a mysterious legitimate business going on. When he was at Hogwarts, the only thing he wanted to do was play Quidditch professionally, but he never got recruited by any teams, so when he graduated, he was left with no ideas on what to do. He worked for Uncle George for a few years and still does on occasion, but he's never had anything steady.
James shrugged. “Around. But what about you? I heard you had a bit of an incident with Al's flatmate.”
I groaned and threw myself onto the couch. “How did you hear about that? I only told Rose and Ashtyn.”
“I heard it from Matt,” James said, joining me in the living room. “He came and talked to me right after it happened. He was all worried, but I told him I didn't care. You can fend for yourself. To be honest I'd be more worried about him-”
“Nice. Real nice. You're a great big brother,” I interrupted, not telling him that Rose had basically said the same thing.
“I think you ought to go out with him,” James continued. “At least we know he's normal and not pretending to be his brother. Not that he has a brother.”
“Rose said he won't go out with me until he knows Albus won't mind. She also said I need to wait until I get over Sean, but I'm over Sean.”
“Could be weeks before Albus returns,” James pointed out.
“Don't remind me,” I muttered. “Never have I been more excited for him to return. But seriously, James, why are you here?”
“Can't I just come visit you?”
“You could, but you never do,” I said. “Last time you visited it was to try and get me to accompany you to a sketchy pub in Knockturn Alley. Lord knows why you wanted to go-”
“You would've found out if you'd agreed to go.”
“And I'm still quite happy I didn't.”
“Fine. I just want you to come round Mum and Dad's for dinner tonight. See? Completely innocent.”
“Perhaps,” I replied. “Why didn't they invite me themselves?”
“Because I'm going to dinner to tell them something and I want you there just in case things don't go well.”
“So you want me there to break any tension,” I said flatly. “Classy, James. Does this have to do with what you've been doing the past few years? With the disappearing and such?”
“All right, fine, yes, it does. But it's nothing bad, I swear it. And nothing I have to tell Mum and Dad is anything bad, but they just might jump to a few conclusions before I explain.”
Why did I have a feeling that this was not going to end well? “Are you going to explain this to me beforehand?”
James grinned. “Nope. See you at six. I've got things to do beforehand.”
I groaned as James left my flat. Whatever this was, it surely wasn't good. The plus side? At least now I'd have something different to obsess about for the remainder of the afternoon.
I purposely showed up late to dinner in the hopes that James would've already started telling Mum and Dad about whatever it was he was planning to tell them, but they hadn't even started eating. It was as if they were waiting for me. James looked relieved when I finally showed up.
“Lily, how are you?” Mum asked as I followed her downstairs into the kitchen. “And do you have any clue as to what James wants to tell us?”
“Nope,” I replied. “And I'm good. Nothing new.”
Dad and James were waiting at the table. A cauldron of stew was warming over the fire and four steaming bowls of it were on the table, along with a loaf of fresh bread. I took my seat next to James and waited for him to start talking.
But he didn't. Instead he started eating his stew, as if there was nothing special about this particular dinner. Mum and Dad exchanged glances and then began to eat their own stew. I followed suit. Perhaps James was so hungry that he needed to eat before he could start to explain. He was half-Weasley, after all.
Mum looked suspiciously at James and then turned to me and smiled. “Lily, what's new in your life?”
Besides my need for Albus to return so I can see if he'd be okay with his best friend dating me? “Not much, Mum.”
“Everything going well at the firm?” Dad asked.
I really did enjoy how my parents called Bradley's business “the firm” as if by calling it that they could pretend it was a fancy solicitor's office or something. “Yeah. Bradley's stuck on a case, but I'm sure he'll figure it out. He figured out that werewolf case way back, so he can figure out anything. How is the Auror office?”
“Good,” Dad answered in between bites. “Fairly unexciting recently, but that's good in my line of work.”
“And Mum? How is the Prophet?”
“Fine,” Mum said, turning again to James. “For God's sake, James, would you just tell us what this is about already?”
James sighed and set down his spoon. “All right. But you've got to promise me that you won't tell me how stupid I've been until after I'm done telling the whole story.”
Mum and Dad exchanged one of those parental glances of doubt. I thought they would've stopped doing that after we grew up, but they haven't. I asked Victoire about it once and she said that she couldn't imagine not thinking of her kids as kids, so that's probably where it came from.
“Just tell us, James,” Dad said quietly.
James toyed with his napkin and stared at his stew. “I know you've been worried about me, about where I go when I disappear. And I can't tell you that your worrying was for nothing because I did make some stupid decisions, but I learned from them.”
“What exactly did you do, James?” Mum asked.
“Gambled. In Monte Carlo, mostly.”
“Monte Carlo? Dammit, James,” Dad muttered.
I was right! I grinned at my realization and then realized that it probably looked like I was smiling about James's dumb mistakes, so I quickly wiped it off my face.
“I haven't been there in two years, Dad. I promise. I swore off gambling.”
“But you've still been disappearing,” Dad said.
“Yes, I have, but for other reasons. I've been investing in small start-up companies for the past few years. They've been located all over Europe, so that's where I've been. I even did one in Australia last year.”
Dad's eyes grew large. “James,” he said quietly. “Where on earth did you get the money to do that?”
“Gambling,” James said sheepishly. “It's an awful addiction, but I was good at it. Very good. My last few trips to Monte Carlo were very lucrative, but I knew it could go south fast, so I stopped. Then, on my last day there, someone approached me about their idea for a new broomstick. They recognized me as your son, Dad, and knew that I loved Quidditch.
“I checked it out to make sure it was legitimate and it was. So I backed him, and his company was a success. He paid me back and I got quite a lot extra.”
“What broomstick?” Mum asked.
“The Lightning line,” James said.
Mum's jaw fell open and I didn't blame her. The Lightning line of racing brooms had been the latest craze the past year. England's team played on them, as did a number of other teams. My cousin Georgia, who designs brooms for the Firebolt company, said they took a huge hit in profits after the first Lightning broom came about.
“You backed the Lightning Broomstick Company?” Dad asked.
James nodded. “I never knew they'd be so successful when I did it.”
“And you kept it from us,” Dad added.
“Yeah, seriously. I loaned you fifteen Galleons last month. You didn't need them,” I said.
“Well, I didn't have the Galleons on me at the time-”
“I expect all fifteen back,” I said. “With interest.”
James shrugged. “I'll give you twenty tomorrow.”
I grinned. “Excellent.”
“Lily, you're distracting him,” Mum said. “What about the other companies?”
“They weren't nearly as successful as Lightning. A bookshop, a line of haircare potions that flopped, a sweet shop. I was open to pretty much anything except joke shops. And that brings me to the actual announcement.”
“You mean the Lightning thing wasn't the announcement?” Dad asked.
“No. I'm not invested in it anymore,” James explained. “That was just the backstory. It's what you needed to know so you'd know that the money I've accumulated is legitimate.
“You know that Uncle George has been wanting to start scaling back on his involvement in the joke shop, at least in terms of the business side of things-”
“Yes, Alicia's been hounding him about taking a few holidays,” Mum said.
“Can't blame her. George has hardly taken a holiday in his life,” Dad added. “But what does this have to do with you?”
“I'm buying a share in the business,” James said. “Fred and I both are, actually. It'll be split three ways and Fred and I will take over part of the business side of things, as well as part of development.”
“How long has this been in the works?” Dad asked.
“Six months,” James answered.
“And you managed to keep it between you, all this time?” Mum asked, astounded. I didn't blame her for being shocked. Nothing stayed secret in our family.
James smirked. “Somehow, yes, we did.”
“James, this is brilliant,” Dad said. “I don't think I've ever been this proud of you.”
“Thanks, Dad,” James said.
“Yes, very well done, James,” Mum added, standing up. “This is call for celebration. I'll go get the pudding.”
Well, this certainly wasn't what I'd been expecting from this dinner. Really, there was no reason for me to have been there to break tension because James's news was good. But I was glad he'd included me. With Albus always off in random countries for work and James's disappearances (which I supposed would end now), we had lacked family dinners for the past few years. Tonight had been nice. Even though Al wasn't there.
A week later I found myself where I usually did when I had nothing to do on a Friday night. The pub. The Rusty Bludger to be exact, and it was there that I realized Rose hadn't expressly forbidden me from being in the same place as Matt, just that I couldn't kiss him. Matt just so happened to be in the same pub, which made sense since it was his brother-in-law's pub, after all. He was sitting at the bar next to my cousin, Kaden. I was across the room at a table with Hugo and Ashtyn, but I'd chosen the side of the table that would give me the best view of the bar, and therefore, Matt.
I jumped, nearly knocking over my beer, and tore my eyes away from Matt. Ashtyn was rolling her eyes and Hugo was laughing.
“What?” I asked.
“Ashtyn's been calling your name for two minutes,” Hugo said. “You've been staring at the bar, ignoring her.”
I felt my cheeks redden. “Sorry.”
“Who's even over there?” Ashtyn asked as she turned around to look.
“No one,” I said quickly. I hadn't spoken to Ashtyn about Matt since that day at her office. There just wasn't anything to talk about.
Ashtyn turned back around and gave me a withering look. “Matt again?”
I blushed even harder. “Um-”
Ashtyn sighed. “You're still hung up on him?”
“Not hung up, exactly-”
“Then what?” Ashtyn asked. “How long has it been since you kissed him?”
“Wait, you kissed Matt Eckerton?” Hugo asked.
Oh, right, I never told Hugo. “Um, yes, three weeks ago.”
Hugo groaned. “You lot don't tell me anything anymore.”
“That's because you rarely go out anymore,” Ashtyn said.
“You try going out when you have five kids,” Hugo muttered.
“I'm never going to have five kids,” Ashtyn said. “You're distracting me, Hugo. Lils, what is going on? I can't think of a single time when you were hung up on a bloke and you didn't either get together with him within a week or forget about him.”
“I know,” I said. I hadn't told Ashtyn about my conversation with Rose. “What's wrong with me?”
Ashtyn grinned. “What's wrong with you? Nothing. You actually like him. I'm just curious as to why you haven't asked him out.”
“It's complicated.” I sighed. “Rose forbid it.”
Hugo burst out laughing. “Seriously? When has anything my sister said ever stopped you from doing anything, ever? When we were seven she told you not to climb that tree at the Burrow because the branches were too skinny and you did it anyway and broke your arm. I think you did it just because she told you not to.”
“What he said,” Ashtyn added, gesturing to Hugo with her drink and slopping it onto the table in the process.
“Rose said he's had worse luck with relationships than I've had and he doesn't get over them like I do. Then she called me resilient. She seems to think that I'm the reason all my relationships don't work and she doesn't want Matt to get hurt if I rebound with him.”
“She said that?” Hugo asked.
I nodded. “Yeah, but I told her I wouldn't be rebounding. I haven't thought about Sean in at least a week and every time I think about Matt I get that warm fuzzy feeling all the women in romance novels claim to have.”
Hugo groaned. “Do we really have to discuss this?”
“Yes,” Ashtyn said. “Lily, you've got to ask him out. I don't think you'd be rebounding, either. You could have your pick of any of the single blokes in this pub, but you haven't gone for any of them. You haven't gone after anyone since Sean, have you?”
“I haven't gone after anyone since kissing Matt,” I corrected her. “I just don't want to.”
Ashtyn grinned. “You have a huge crush on him.”
“I do,” I agreed. “But it gets more complicated. Rose said he won't go out with me until he knows Albus is okay with it.”
“Oh, right,” Ashtyn said. “Yeah, dating your brother's best friend is tricky.”
Hugo started laughing again.
“What's so funny?” I demanded.
“Albus is away, isn't he? So you can't even know whether he's okay with it.”
“That's the problem,” I said flatly. “And it's not funny.”
“It's a little funny,” Hugo said before downing his drink.
“Well, do you have a plan?” Ashtyn asked.
“Plan?” I repeated. “What do you mean, plan?”
“After Albus returns,” Ashtyn explained. “What are you going to do? How are you going to find out if he cares whether you go out with Matt?”
I took a sip of my beer to buy time. The thing was, I hadn't thought about that. I had absolutely no idea what I would do when Albus returned because I didn't even know for sure whether Matt liked me. And if he was as shy as Rose said he was, would he even ask me out if he did?
“No, I don't have a plan.”
“Well, that's what you'll do until Albus comes home. Think of a plan,” Ashtyn said.
A plan, I thought. Well, that was certainly easier said than done. A/N: Thanks for all the lovely reviews! I'm really glad everyone likes the story so far. A few of you have mentioned wanting some Matt POV chapters, which I am not going to do. I want the entire thing to be from Lily's POV. But I will write a one-shot from Matt's POV where I'll delve into his feelings.
And others have requested a family tree. I'm not going to do a full one, seeing as the Weasley-Potter family has gotten huge at this point, given all the cousins' marriages and children. But I'll do one for the main characters.
Walter Eckerton -- Julie Bailey Eckerton
Amy Eckerton Blayney (age 37)
Matt Eckerton (age 31)