There was a very short moment, during which I felt like the world had stopped turning on its axis while Oliver and I stared stupidly at the Healer.
"That's impossible," I finally said.
"Right, impossible," Oliver repeated.
"It is possible," the Healer said, still beaming as if he had just told us the best news in the world.
"But how? I haven't had a relationship – in that sense – since much longer than two months," I exclaimed.
"Think about it," the Healer insisted. "There is no other possibility. Now, if you'll excuse me…"
The door slammed behind him again.
"Two months, we're at the beginning of November, so that brings us to the beginning of September," I calculated.
"Or the very end of August," Oliver added quietly.
I stared at him, uncomprehendingly, before realisation hit me in the face like a ton of bricks.
"Oh, God," I whispered. Oliver nodded. "Oh, God!" I shrieked this time. "Again? Again? What is wrong with us? Are we genetically programmed to have children together?"
"I think the question to ask ourselves is now what?" Oliver sat down on the bed next to me and wrapped an arm around my shoulders.
"I'm not getting rid of it," I immediately told him. "I can't."
"Against your religion?"
"No," I rolled my eyes. "I've just been taught to deal with my mistakes. And when I see how things turned out with Grace, I'm sure I can get through this as well."
"You're going to leave, aren't you? It's what you did last time," I smiled sadly, daring him to deny.
"Will you stop? What do I need to tell you for you to trust me? I cannot imagine my life without you or Grace anymore. Letting you run away to Canada was a very stupid mistake I made, and it hurt me more than you can ever imagine. So no, I'm not going to leave, not today, not tomorrow, not ever, and the fact that you're carrying my child again makes me the happiest man in the universe."
"Man, man," I muttered playfully, "whatever helps you sleep at night."
"You of all people should know there are more interesting things to do at night." I blushed, and he continued. "Things that involve you, me, barely clothed, groaning and sweating, and…"
"Right, okay. I'm aware of what sex consists of, you don't need you to describe it in detail."
"Sex? I was talking about pillow fights!"
I laughed and rested my head on his shoulder. "You're so stupid."
And he kissed me.
A few weeks later, as I passed the three-month mark and my pregnancy was definitely confirmed, I decided to tell Cat.
Her reaction was completely unexpected.
She burst into tears.
"I'm really happy for you," she sobbed, "I really am, but it's just so unfair! You and Oliver have abnormally high breeding rates, and it's absolutely not fair!"
I was completely lost, and handed her a tissue, waiting for her to continue.
"Tim and I have been trying for a year now," she blew her nose, "an entire fucking year, with no result whatsoever. I have fucking injections, we have sex according to a fucking calendar that's stuck next to the mirror in our bathroom, and nothing! I haven't even had my fucking period for seven fucking months now due to all these fucking treatments, and I'm starting to think I'll end up sterile. So of course I'm thrilled for you, but you don't realise how discouraging it is for me that your one-night stands with Oliver systematically get you pregnant."
"I'm sorry." Commenting on her repeated swearing would really have been out of place. Not to mention pot calling kettle back.
"Don't be, it's not fault. I'll compensate by kidnapping your child," she grinned tearfully at me.
"Don't you think you might be trying too hard though?"
"Of course not, I really want this child!"
"That's what I mean," I explained. "You want it so badly that you're not letting things happen as they should…"
"I know," her shoulders sunk. "Look, I'm supposed to stop these injections in a few months if nothing happens. I've started researching in vitro fecundation, and that's the next option. And if that doesn't work, then I don't know what will."
I hugged her tightly. "Don't worry too much about it."
She sighed. "Can't help it. On a more positive note however, Tim and I have set a date for the wedding." A huge smile flowered across her face at the thought. "The fourth of January."
"That's in barely a month."
"That's not a problem, everything has been planned out for centuries now."
"We don't even get to go dress shopping together?"
"Oh, we are," she smiled evilly. "For your dress and yours only."
I pulled a face. "Can I at least see yours?"
"Nope," she laughed. "It's a surprise!"
"That only applies to the groom, and according to what I've heard recently that's not me."
"Indeed, it's not you. We don't need to contract to swear we'll love each other forever."
That's when I started crying.
"Here, try this," Cat tossed yet another dress at me. I gave the bright orange number a brief glance before looking back at Cat.
"There is no way I'm wearing something that makes me look like a mutated carrot," I informed her. "I'd rather go naked."
"Fine, fine," she rolled her eyes, "what about this one?" She held up a strapless powder blue dress.
"I'm going to freeze to death, seeing as you chose to hold your wedding outside."
"Bullshit, we'll have heating charms on the place."
"This one then?"
"Are you trying to find a dress I can wear at your wedding or to dress me as a hooker?"
She threw her hands up in mock exasperation. "I'm going to agree with your previous suggestion and tell you to go naked if you don't find something soon. We've looked through everything here!"
I pointed at the only rack left unattended by us. "Not there…"
Cat made her way over and started sifting through the dresses.
"Too pink, too short, too vulgar, too long, too granny-like, too white, too ugly, too long, too dull, too prude, too Slytherin..." I heard her mutter. "Aha!" She came back proudly holding a deep red dress with gold trimmings, and without further ado stuffed it into my hands. "Try this."
It had long sleeves, but left my shoulders bare, attached at the side by gold clasps, and as soon as I had it on, I knew I would be buying it.
"Once a Gryffindor, always a Gryffindor," Cat commented as I walked out of the changing room. "You can wear it with your gold heels, and that medallion you have, the one made out of a coin. I'm thinking a bun, red lipstick, maybe some…"
"Cat, I can manage my makeup. There's no need to convince me, I'm getting it."
She smiled happily. "I can't believe this is really happening, getting married with you as my witness just seems so strange…"
"And Grace as your bridesmaid, let's not forget."
"I wouldn't, she was too thrilled about it."
Grace had just entered her princess phase and had been absolutely overjoyed at the idea of wearing a pretty dress and holding Cat's veil down the aisle.
Well, aisle. Down the Quidditch pitch was more appropriate.
Yes, Cat and Tim were marrying on a Quidditch pitch.
For the first time since she was born, Grace spent Christmas with her father and his family at the Wood home. It was also my official introduction to the family.
The sitting room was busy with activity, Oliver's cousins and their children (for some) dispatched around the room, talking and laughing, glasses clinking with the crackle of the fire in the background.
Grace looked a little worried, until a small boy with curly brown hair and caramel skin ran up to her and stuck out his hand.
"Hello, my name is Noah Jordan-Bell. Do you want to come and play?"
Grace politely took his hand and shook it before following him out of the room, leaving me to stand on my own. I was absolutely terrified that this would turn out to be disaster.
"Hi, you must be Kim," a pretty brunette in a wheelchair rolled to my side. "I'm Katie, Noah's mum and Oliver's cousin."
"Katie, as in Katie Bell?"
She grinned. "Jordan-Bell, but yep, that's me."
"I love your work," I told her earnestly. The pictures she took were absolutely stunning, Oliver had one hanging on his living room wall.
"Thanks," she blushed. "It's not what I ever thought I'd do for a living, but hey, you've got to adapt to the circumstances," she gestured to the contraption she was sitting in. "I obviously wasn't going to continue Quidditch, was I? Not professionally, at least."
Katie Jordan's fall off her broom had been a shock in the world of Quidditch. She had been knocked out clean at a height of two hundred metres away from the ground, had spiralled down and landed with a sickening crunch despite the numerous cushioning charms sent her way. Her spine was shattered, she had no possibility of walking again, but she had survived
"You still play?" I enquired.
"Oh, yes, this thing actually flies," Katie laughed, pointing to her chair. "I'm a Chaser on the paralympic British team, and I play at family games too."
Oliver arrived at that moment, wrapping his arms around me from behind. "Everything okay here ladies?"
"Absolutely," Katie answered.
"Perfect," Oliver kissed the side of my head. "I wouldn't want my girlfriend and my favourite cousin not to get along. Have you seen Lee anywhere?"
"He's outside with Anna, Paul, and Leo preparing the fireworks, I think," Katie shrugged. "Or preparing something against you, I can't be sure."
Oliver muttered something incoherent, before letting go of me and setting off to find Lee.
"Anna is Oliver's sister, right?"
Katie nodded. "Quite the prankster if you're not careful. Oliver thinks Lee is a bad influence on her," she smiled wickedly, "except he still hasn't realised I'm the one who gives her ideas." I laughed, and Katie continued. "I've never seen Oliver like that with anyone before, you know, and boy have I met a few of his flings… How long have you been together?"
"Erm, a month and a half, officially speaking" I admitted.
She gaped at me. "What do you mean, officially speaking?"
"Have you got time for the long version?"
"Always do if it's juicy."
I like this girl. "A bit more than six years ago, Oliver and I were very, very drunk, things happened, I ended up pregnant, he didn't know it was his, we dated for two months, I told him he was the father, we broke up, I gave birth to Grace and moved to Canada with her, I came back this summer, Oliver and I ended up as neighbours, things happened, he asked me out, I said I had to think, he asked me again, I said yes, and that's about it."
Our relationship in a nutshell.
Katie looked furious. "He dumped you because you told him the truth?"
"That's not what I said."
"Maybe, but it's what happened, isn't it? Merlin, the boy has no brains."
She wheeled herself towards the glass window that led to the garden, opened it and rolled out into the cold night air.
"OI, OLIVER! GET OVER HERE NOW, YOU MORONIC, WORTHLESS LITTLE PIECE OF SHIT!"
I burst out laughing, and she winked at me as Oliver ran over in her direction.
"What did I do this time?"
"I can't believe you would dump Kim because she told you that you were Grace's father! Sure, she shouldn't have hidden the fact from you, but honestly, get your act together! I thought your mum had taught you something about respect, I'm very disappointed with you."
"Katie, that was years ago, and the point is Kim and I are together today," Oliver pointed out.
"I don't care! You are a jerk and an idiot, I think I should go and tell your mother how terribly educated you are," she chastened him teasingly. "In fact, I think I'm going to go and tell her this right now," she manoeuvred her wheelchair back inside the house.
"Is she always like this?" I questioned.
"Oh, yes," he laughed. "She considers it her personal mission to keep me on the right track. That was also a way for her to give us some time together."
I smiled and pulled him to me. "Bless her."
Oliver placed his hands on my hips and rested his forehead against mine. "I completely agree."
"Look, mum, look," Grace shouted, wildly waving her toy broom over her head. I acknowledged it with a smile, and, reassured, she turned back to inspecting it from every angle.
"Do you know what position you'd like to play, Grace?" one of Oliver's numerous cousins asked.
"Chaser, like Auntie Cat and Auntie Katie," she replied proudly. Katie beamed at this while Oliver grunted.
"Thanks very much, Grace, I'm offended," Oliver called out to her.
Grace walked over to him and scrambled into his lap. "You shouldn't be, daddy. It's not because I don't want to be a Keeper that I don't love you," she kissed his cheek.
This child was amazingly perceptive. Oliver and I exchanged a glance over her head, him bearing a stupid smile.
"Well, I'm going to find Noah," Grace abruptly slid off Oliver's lap. "We said we'd build a tower together."
"Did you hear?" Oliver's eyes followed Grace's retreating figure.
"I love you."
"That was unexpected, but I love you too."
"You two are so cute," Anna Wood interjected with a smile. "Why aren't you married yet?"
"It's too soon," Oliver immediately said.
"Bullshit," Anne snorted, quickly glancing around to make sure her mother hadn't heard. "You've been talking about this girl for six years."
"He has?" I looked at her, surprised.
"Dear God, yes," she took no notice of her brother's embarrassment, "we were starting to wonder if you really existed or if he had just made you up to cover the fact he was gay. Obviously, that's not the case, so I repeat, Ollie dearest, why haven't you married her yet?"
"I don't know if she'd accept."
"Ask her then," Anna shrugged like it was the most obvious thing on earth. "Hey everybody, Oliver's about to propose!" Her voice rose over the din, shutting everyone up.
Oliver shot his sister a weary look. "Honestly, Anna. What am I going to look like if she says no?"
Laughter erupted around the room, and I smirked at his discomfort.
"Well, Oliver, seeing as you've got no guts, I'll do this. Will you marry me?"
Oliver just stared at me, looking Stupefied, as his whole family waited silently.
"Hell, why not?" He kissed me on the mouth.
There was a chorus of 'AWWWWW' followed by a round of applause.
I was engaged.
A/N: Going abnormally fast with the updating but the queue is so short! Who knows, maybe this story will be complete by the end of the week? Thanks, validators!
THOUGHTS ON THIS CHAPTER? I love hearing from all of you, and I'm really sad to think that soon I won't have a chance to expect your reviews... There might be a sequel, focused on Grace, to this story, let me know whether or not you'd want to read it!