Four days later I still didn't have a plan and doubted I'd ever come up with one. I wasn't a planner in terms of my personal life. Work, yes. At work I was incredibly organized, but when it came to relationships, family, and friends I was the type of person who went with the flow. Maybe that was the reason why all my relationships ended so poorly; I'd have to ask Rose.
But the fact remained that I had no desire to start planning now, especially since I couldn't come up with a decent plan to begin with. I thought of having Rose ask Matt if he liked me but that just seemed so teenagerish, and asking Albus if it was okay if I asked Matt out just seemed like I was giving my brother too much control in my love life. Therefore, both plans were nixed.
It had been twenty-six days since I kissed Matt and twenty-eight since Albus left on his mission. How much longer could he possibly take? My stomach felt queasy as I remembered the one mission that took three months. That had been the longest so far and sent my parents into a frenzy. Dad was ready to send Aurors out after Albus but he finally returned the day after Dad said he was going to do it.
Who set up all the arbitrary timelines of when a person was over another person anyway? Who's to say a month was the magic amount of time it would take me to get over Sean? Didn't it depend on the people involved? Rose herself said I was resilient and got over blokes quickly, but then she claimed I was on the rebound from Sean. I told her that I was over Sean and that Matt wasn't a rebound and she didn't believe me, yet here I was nearly a month later still wanting to go out with him. Rose was wrong.
Suddenly I had to talk to Rose. I stood up and glanced at the clock. It was just after six. Rose probably wouldn't even be home from work yet. Maybe I could catch her at St. Mungo's.
I threw some food in Sir Thumbs's dish and hurried outside. Diagon Alley was busier than it usually was on a Monday evening and after passing more than a few teenagers I realized Hogwarts must've let out over the weekend. June had certainly flown by, I thought as I walked through the crowd. Locating a deserted alley between two shops, I dodged a witch with a screaming kid on each arm, and ran in to Disapparate.
I reappeared seconds later in St. Mungo's Apparition and Floo room. It was packed with Healers, Brewers, and nurses queueing up to Floo home. Others Disapparated throughout the room. I fought against the flow of traffic and entered the waiting room.
A short lift ride and walk down the psychiatry corridor later I arrived at Rose's study. The door was open so I walked right in and found Rose taking off her lime green robes and shoving them unceremoniously in the wardrobe in the corner of the room. Underneath she wore denims and an old Gryffindor t-shirt. She turned around and looked at me quizzically.
“Lily?” she asked.
I walked into the room and took a deep breath. My heart was pounding. I hadn't even realized I'd ran from the lift to Rose's study.
“Rose,” I said. “Hi.”
“What are you doing here? Is everything okay?”
I flopped unceremoniously into the same chair I'd sat in before and Rose sat in the other one. She was looking at me, but not saying anything.
I took another deep breath. “I am not rebounding.”
Rose raised her eyebrows. “What? Lily, what on earth are you talking about?”
Oh my God. Did she forget our talk already? It had only been a month. “With Matt. I really like him, Rose.”
Realization dawned on Rose's face. She sighed. “Oh, Lily. Sorry, I'd forgotten about that.”
Awesome cousin award, right there. “I just wanted to tell you that I'm not rebounding and if I do go out with him it won't be like it was with Sean and all the other blokes I dated. I'm not going to hurt him and you don't need to worry about him. It's been a month and I can't think about anything other than him. I go to the Rusty Bludger and stare at him and I know that's creepy but it's true. And I know it's weird that I've known him nearly my whole life and was never attracted to him before but I can't explain it. But that's just it. I can't explain anything about this. It just is. And-”
“Lily,” Rose interrupted. “Stop. You don't need to try to explain any of this to me.”
Why was Rose so bloody confusing? “But before you basically told me that if I went out with Matt I'd dump him and he'd curl up in bed for a month until Al dragged him to a pub.”
Rose laughed. “Lily, I promise that isn't what I meant. I was a bit worried about him when you told me you liked him but only because he's so quiet and sensitive compared to you. You have to swear to me you'll never tell him I said that, by the way.”
“I swear,” I said.
“And I really didn't know you weren't rebounding,” Rose continued. “But I see it now. I see it in your eyes and when you talk about him.”
“So you won't forbid me from asking him out?”
Rose groaned. “I'm sorry about that. Honestly, I am, but you were so determined and I had to do something.” Rose's eyes suddenly lit up. “Oh my God, Lily, I completely forgot. Albus got back late last night.”
My jaw fell open. Really, Rose? We had this whole conversation and she just now remembered to tell me that Al got back? “Seriously?”
Rose nodded. “I got an owl from him around three in the morning.”
“He never owls me when he's back,” I muttered. But I supposed that didn't matter. The point was that he was back!
“Just give him a few days,” Rose said. “You know how he is after missions. He'll need to sleep and do paperwork.”
Right. Whenever Albus returned from a mission he immediately took a shower and then slept for at least a day. Then he went to Mum and Dad's or Nana Molly's for a huge meal. Then paperwork. The whole process took three days and only then was he ready to talk to anyone. I could wait three days, couldn't I? I'd waited a month, after all.
“I will give you a piece of advice,” Rose began. “You're going to have to take the reigns on this one, Lils. Even if Matt likes you, it'll take him weeks or even months to do anything about it. Don't take it personally. That's just how he is.”
I nodded. “Thanks, Rose.” I really hadn't been planning on waiting for Matt to make the first move. This was the 21st century, after all.
Rose stood up. “I've got to get going. I'm babysitting for the twin terrors tonight.”
“Good luck,” I said as I got up. “Will Sophie be there at least?”
“No,” Rose said, sighing. “Teddy and Victoire are taking her out to dinner to celebrate the end of her first year.”
“Better you than me,” I said, grinning.
Rose groaned. “Keep me updated, Lils.”
“I will,” I assured her.
I followed Rose out of her study and returned to my flat. Albus was home. Three days. I could wait three more days.
The following three days reminded me of the days before I went to Hogwarts for the first time. Painfully slow. By the time the third day rolled around I swore the clock was actually moving backward. I spent the day at work organizing Bradley's most recent files and invoices, but my mind was elsewhere.
“Whatever happened with the Shawna Gordon case?” I asked Bradley as I watched the second hand on the clock tick by.
“It's at a standstill,” Bradley muttered. “The adoption records turned up nothing. All I know is that her parents didn't adopt her through the Ministry adoption agency like they told Shawna, so they're hiding something. It's just a matter of finding out what.”
“Do you know where you're going to start?”
Bradley nodded. “St. Mungo's. That's the best place to start for cases like this. Chances are Shawna was born there, no matter who her biological parents are. And now that Shawna's home from Hogwarts I'll have her get me a few of her parents' hairs to do a DNA test, just to rule out another Peter Wayland case. Although, I really doubt it's another of those.”
“Aren't all the files supposed to be sealed at St. Mungo's?” I said skeptically.
“They are, but a few of the nurses can be gossipy,” Bradley explained. “They also tend to be the ones who never forget anything. So if there was anything suspicious about Shawna's birth, one of them will remember it.”
I laughed and shook my head. “Good luck with that.”
“Thanks,” Bradley said. “I'm going to head out. I do need you to stick around until five today. Mitch Cornwall is supposed to be coming by to pay me since he claimed he didn't have any Galleons on him the day I finished his case.”
Of all the days I couldn't sneak out early, I thought. “All right. See you tomorrow.”
Bradley disappeared out the door and I sighed, sitting back in my chair. It was four o'clock. One hour left. Then I'd be able to leave and go back to my flat for a quick change and touching up of my face before heading to Albus and Matt's.
I was a bit nervous about it, which was odd since I'd long since lost the nerves of asking blokes out. Maybe it was because he was Al's best friend or maybe it was the fact that so much seemed to be riding on this, but whatever it was, I was nervous.
When the clock finally hit five Mitch Cornwall still hadn't shown up. Honestly, it was the stupidest thing in the world to try and skip out on paying a private investigator. Did he really think Bradley wouldn't be able to find him and demand payment?
I certainly wasn't going to wait around any longer for Mitch, that was for sure. I grabbed my purse and locked up in record time. I didn't even wait until I reached an empty alley before Disapparating and I went immediately to my flat rather than the far end of Diagon Alley. It was a day for skipping my usual after work walk.
Sir Thumbs howled at me as I walked in, demanding his food dish be filled. It still contained half of the food I put in it earlier, but since a bit of the bottom was showing, it wasn't full enough. I tossed another scoop of kibble in and hurried to my room to change.
I changed outfits three times before finally settling on my most flattering denims and a purple tank top that was just snug enough to show that I was a woman but not so tight that I looked like a slut. It was a delicate balance and occasionally I put a toe over the slut line when I went to the pub, but tonight was not the night for that. Tonight I needed to look sweet and innocent. I laughed to myself at the thought of James's reaction if I told him I was going for sweet and innocent.
After contemplating whether to bring a bottle of wine for about ten minutes (decided against it, mainly because I didn't have any wine in my flat, and because I didn't need to get drunk while doing this), I left, shutting the door before Sir Thumbs had the chance to make a run for it. My heart rate steadily increased as I left my building and Apparated to Albus and Matt's.
I paused on their doorstep before knocking. I then took a deep breath and knocked. The door opened a few seconds later and there stood Albus.
“Lily!” he exclaimed. “Didn't know you were coming over.”
Should I have owled them first? “Thought I'd make sure you're alive after your mission.”
“I am in fact, alive,” Albus said as he stepped aside. “Come on in.”
I've long since stopped asking Albus how his missions went after he returned from them. When he first got involved in whatever it is that he does I would ask, but he could never say anything. Occasionally Dad knows where he goes and what he does, but none of the rest of us are ever clued in. And most of the time even Dad doesn't know.
“Want a drink?” Albus asked as I followed him into the kitchen. “I've got wine, beer, and I think there's still half a bottle of firewhiskey somewhere... Hey, Matt, is the firewhiskey still around?”
I heard footsteps and Matt appeared in the kitchen moments later. He was still dressed in his Ministry robes and his hair was just as disheveled as ever. My heart fluttered. Our eyes met but he quickly averted his gaze.
“I think so,” he said. “Should be behind the tea.”
“That's okay. I'll just have water.”
Albus turned and stared at me. “Who are you and what have you done with Lily?”
“Jeez, Al, you make me sound like an alcoholic,” I muttered. The last thing I needed was alcohol while asking Matt out.
Albus laughed. “I'm just saying...”
“Oh, shut it,” I said. I reached behind him and grabbed a glass out of the cupboard. I then turned on the tap and got my own water.
Albus and Matt each grabbed a beer and the three of us went into the living room. Albus sat in an overstuffed armchair, leaving the couch for Matt and I.
“So, Lily, what have I missed?” Albus asked. “You're the first one I've seen besides Dad when I turned in my paperwork earlier. Angie and Nigel back from their honeymoon?”
“Yes,” I said. “They got back three weeks ago. And everyone's calling them Ange and Nige now. It's kind of gross.”
Albus laughed. “What about you? How have you been?”
“Good,” I said, sneaking a quick glance at Matt. He looked vaguely uncomfortable. Okay, enough was enough. Time to get this over with. “Actually, I have a reason for coming over here. Other than seeing you, of course.”
Albus gave me a wry smile. “I know you kissed Matt.”
Matt and I exchanged looks. He was blushing profusely, which was adorable.
“I told him,” Matt said.
Well, that certainly made things easier for me. I turned to Matt. “So, Albus knows. Do you want to go out with me on Saturday night?”
Matt looked slightly taken aback, but not in a bad way. He just looked surprised at my question. “I, er, um...” He turned to Albus.
Al put up his hands. “I told you, I'm fine with it.”
Matt seemed to relax, but he still looked a bit agitated. “I guess. Yeah, sure.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. “Awesome. Six work?”
Matt nodded. “Yeah, six is fine. Where do you want to go?”
“Not the Rusty Bludger,” I said, imagining it packed with my cousins and their various significant others.
Matt laughed. “No, definitely not. Let's go to a Muggle restaurant. I'll ask Dillan for a recommendation and pick you up at your flat.”
“Okay,” I said, surprised and happy that Matt seemed to be taking the reins. That could only mean that he felt something when we kissed, right?
I noticed that Albus's head moved from Matt to me and back to Matt as we discussed the details of our upcoming date. It was hard to read his expression. He didn't seem upset about it, exactly, but there was a vague uncomfortableness that reminded me of the way Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur discussed my cousin Gabriella and her habit of flitting from city to city in her profession of starving artistry. Yet Albus had just said he didn't care about Matt and I kissing. Weird.
I only stayed at Al and Matt's flat for about an hour, for fear of doing or saying something stupid if I spent too much time there. Nor did I accept Albus's second offer of a beer. Nope, wasn't going to make that mistake.
“I'll walk you out,” Albus said as I got up to leave.
I raised my eyebrows at him. Albus never walked me out of his flat. “I'll see you on Saturday, Matt.”
“See you then, Lily,” Matt said. He seemed unfazed by Albus wanting to walk me out.
Albus followed me out into the corridor and shut the door behind us. “Lily, I need to talk to you,” he said.
“Is it about James?” I asked, suddenly remembering that Al missed James's revelation of how he'd spent the past few years.
Albus groaned and began to walk down the corridor. “No, of course it doesn't have anything to do with James. Mum already told me all of that. No, this has to do with you and Matt.”
“I thought you said you didn't have a problem with it,” I said as I followed him.
“I don't,” Albus said flatly, “but that was when it was just a kiss. I didn't know you wanted to go out with him.”
“What does it matter?” I said defensively. My brother didn't have any right to meddle in my love life. “James didn't care.”
“That's because James doesn't know Matt very well,” Albus explained as we started down the stairs.
“He seems like a perfectly nice bloke to me,” I retorted. “Rose knows Matt and she doesn't have a problem with it.” Anymore, I added to myself.
Albus sighed. “Lily, it's not Matt. Look, I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but-”
“Oh, God,” I interrupted. I knew exactly what this was about. It was a repeat of Rose's first talk. “Seriously, Albus? Seriously? Why does every single person think I'm going to break his heart? This is getting ridiculous. First Rose and now you-”
“I thought you said Rose was okay with it.”
“She is. Now,” I muttered. “Look, I'll tell you the same thing I told her, even though it really isn't any of your business, Albus Severus-”
“Really? With the Severus, Lily?”
“Shut up. I like Matt. A lot. I haven't been able to think about anyone or anything else for the past month. You can even ask Ashtyn and Hugo if you want to be sure. When I go to the pub, I'm thinking of Matt.”
Albus sighed. “Please, Lily, whatever happens don't dump him the way you've dumped your previous boyfriends. He's been through a lot and he doesn't need you destroying any confidence he's got.”
Wow, I thought. Whatever happened to him must've been pretty awful. “I'm not worried about that. My previous boyfriends have kept huge, ridiculous secrets from me, hence why I dumped them so abruptly and refused to talk to them again. I already know Matt. You know Matt. He's certainly not pretending to be someone he's not or hiding the fact that he dates six women at once. For once I don't have to worry about any massive secrets coming between us and that feels good.”
For a split second Albus looked strangely worried at my mention of massive secrets, but it disappeared so fast that surely I must've imagined it.
“Just be careful, Lily,” Albus said quietly. “I know I can't control what you do or what he does and I know he likes you-”
“Er, yeah, that's why he agreed to go out with you.”
“Well, he could've just said yes to be nice.”
Albus laughed. “Matt doesn't go out with girls if he doesn't like them, even just to be nice. He's turned down quite a few girls.”
My heart soared. This was a good sign. I smiled. “Thanks, Albus. Will you be around on Friday?”
“As of right now, yes,” Albus said.
“Of course. I'll be there.”
“Okay, I'll see you then.”
Albus nodded. “Have a good night, Lils.”
Things were looking up, despite Albus's weird reaction to Matt and I going out on a real date. A/N: Thanks for all the lovely reviews! I did not mean to reveal the fact that Amy & Dillan have a daughter when I posted that family tree. It was going to be a surprise for when I introduced her in the story. Too late now, though!