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Defying Gravity by momoe

Format: Novel
Chapters: 26
Word Count: 122,943
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, Romance, Angst
Characters: Harry, Ginny, Teddy, Scorpius, Albus, James (II), Lily (II), Rose, Victoire, OC
Pairings: Other Pairing, Harry/Ginny, Rose/Scorpius, Teddy/Victoire, James/OC

First Published: 04/26/2008
Last Chapter: 12/20/2009
Last Updated: 12/20/2009


Seventh year Gryffindor Prefect, Albus Potter, and his girlfriend, Nat, have found themselves in an unthinkable situation: expecting a baby.  Murphy's Law applied, the next nine months will be filled with hardships starting with a pretty major one: telling the parents.

Chapter 22: 21..Tied Up in Lies...Part One

I just wanted to thank everyone who’s reviewed so far, especially my recurring one’s (you guys rock!!). I respond to every review, so if you leave one check back for the response. Also, you can get a lot of clues as to the future of the story in those responses, and remember: if you don’t ask, I can’t tell!

Thanks ~momoe 

Defying Gravity

Chapter 21: Tied Up in Lies...Part One

It was four-thirty on Friday afternoon when James entered Diagon Alley via the Leaky Cauldron. He’d woken up thirty minutes before to an ugly black owl pecking away at his bedroom window, a scroll of parchment clutched in its talons.

James recognized the handwriting immediately. He’d been in close contact with his brother and was awaiting the owl with bated breath – not. He had rolled his eyes, climbed out of bed, and snatched the letter from the owl and shooed the bloody bird away.

It screeched loudly and took flight, and James slammed the window closed. He was angry at being woken up, especially after his mum had dragged him out of bed at seven in the morning – when he’d only gotten home at five-thirty – and forced him to sit through a lecture of how his current lifestyle was unhealthy, how his parents were worried about him and that he needed to get his act together before Quidditch training started up.

In a little over a week he’d be gone most of the day, anyway. And he was thinking about getting his own flat in London. Living with his parents was cramping his style.

He didn’t get back to bed until nearly ten, his father having taken mid-shift (eleven to seven, which, knowing his father, would end up being ten to midnight, at least) had wanted to stay up and talk with him. They hadn’t had any true one-on-one father-son time since the summer.

After mindless chit chat about the upcoming season and the impending status change of uncle a grandfather, a few awkward moments his father had asked him if he wanted to talk about Jennifer, and long stretches of silence that caused James to stop and think back to when his relationship with his father had become so strained – he couldn’t remember – he’d excused himself to get some sleep and Harry’d made the excuse of needing to get ready for work. They’d each gone their separate ways and James breathed a sigh of relief.

He hated the fact that he was relieved that he wasn’t in the presence of his father anymore, once upon a time his father had been his hero, his confidant, his best friend…he just felt like there was nothing he could do to stop it so why bother?

He’d fallen into bed and slept hard for six hours until the annoying pecking of the bloody owl on the bloody window pane had woken him. He’d read the note and sighed. His brother had told him it would be any day now; James was glad, though, that it was today. He didn’t feel comfortable walking around with that in his pocket all weekend.

At present, as he stood at the edge of Diagon Alley trying to catch the attention of the wandering maps that asked destination and screamed ‘you are here!’ when someone touched them, a red dot blinking furiously, and wondered why he’d even agreed to his brother’s harebrained scheme.

It was mad. Nat would never forgive him.

Suddenly not wanting any part of the idea, but knowing that he had already promised his brother (and chastising himself for that fact the whole time) he swiped at a map floating close by, wincing when, as soon as he touched the blasted thing, it emitted a screechy, “You are here!” followed by a blinking red dot. He knew where he was. That wasn’t the problem.

He just didn’t know where he was going.

He grazed over the map, his gaze shifting back to the letter his brother had sent him, searching for the matching address. He found it and cursed.

It was at the other end of the alley.

Which, if you lived back in his parents’ time, that wouldn’t be so bad. But since the war, a whole new crop of shops had popped up and blossomed. Without the impending doom of the extinction of their race looming over their heads, witches and wizards weren’t as worried about the economy, and business shot up over night. Now, instead of Diagon Alley being a mostly straight shot with short, smaller, more concentrated alleys branching off, the whole place had become a sort of catacomb of shops, pubs, little outdoor bistros…you name it, you could find it in Diagon Alley.

And he had to travel all the way across it to pick up one thing that could fit into his pocket for his brother.

Albus owed him.

He set off on the trek around the crowded alley. He passed oldies like Flourish & Blotts, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, Magical Menagerie, and Quality Quidditch Supplies (of which he stopped to browse and caught himself at nearly five, reminding himself that he was there for one thing only). Coming into the newer section of the alley, he encountered new shops including two apothecaries and a store specializing in muggle bicycles. He shook that wonderment off and continued on his journey.

Halfway there he noticed a group of young women sitting at an umbrella-covered table and sucked in a hiss through his teeth. He ducked behind a witch with a wart on the end of her nose, who was walking briskly towards one of the apothecaries up ahead, and followed her to keep from being noticed by the girls.

James recognized a few of them. He’d slept with at least two of them, maybe three. He sighed. He was a man whore, he realized this. He just didn’t think there was anything he could do about it.

Luckily the witch didn’t seem to notice that he was crouching and moving along behind her, and as soon as he was out of eyesight of the girls, he stood erect and passed the woman without a backward glance.

A few minutes later he consulted the map and decided he’d missed a turn. He back pedalled for two dozen paces then turned down a cramped alley, barely missing getting sideswiped by a street peddler, his cart overflowing with reams of fabric that shimmered in the fading sunlight.

He held the map in front of him, along with the rumpled-from-being-shoved-into-his-pocket-too-many-times letter from Albus, and compared addresses. According to the moving dot on the map, the shop he was looking for should’ve been at the end of the alley.

James glanced up from the map. Well what do you know? He really had no need to consult the map or the parchment, because there was no way anyone’d be able to miss that store. The sign above was as big as the shop below, with bold but not gaudy, swirly font that proclaimed the store to be called “Alexander’s”.

Inside the store, once he made it past the security charms and anti-theft-meter (which looked strangely like the one sold at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, but it couldn’t be in a shop as upscale as this, right?), he noted the bright lights, the shiny display cases, and the sales clerks behind the counter.

It seemed you had to have impeccable taste and a naturally (or unnaturally, he ‘sposed) turned up nose to even file an application to work there, much less shop there.

“Can I help you?” a man with a navy blue sport coat under navy blue robes (which, in James’s opinion, was tacky and not stylish at all), his nose perfectly edged towards the ceiling, and an air of I-think-I’m-better-than-you about him, walked from around one of the display cases and to James.

James realized he was probably a bit underdressed for this establishment. He wore jeans with holes in the knees and a threadbare Magpies tee shirt under his cloak, which he’d unbuttoned because of the heat of the closeness of bodies in the alley. The shirt was stretched across his broad chest, and he felt uncomfortably exposed.

Abort! Abort! His mind screamed.

He didn’t socialize with this calibre of people, and he was sure Albus was mistaken when he’d written down this address. Though, he ought to try, and then duck out gracefully when the perfect stepfords started chucking things at him.

“Er, I’m here to pick up an, erm, package for, uh, Albus Potter,” he said slowly, glancing at each and every sales person, there were four, who had their beady little well-trained eyes on him.

“Are you Mr. Potter, sir?” the haughty man asked, turning on his heel and walking away from him. What the hell? Did these people treat all of their customers like that?

James followed him up to a counter, rubbing his neck slowly. The man brought a square box and set it on the counter. James’s eyes widened. What the hell had his brother gotten himself into?

“Are you Mr. Potter, sir?” the man asked again, his voice taking on an edge that James wasn’t sure he appreciated.

“One of them,” James muttered childishly. The man in front of him, James finally caught the nametag attached to his robes, which said ‘Albert’, gave him a look of contempt and started sliding the box away from James.

“Look, Albus is my brother. I’m picking this package up for him. If you could just give it to me, I’ve got the money,” he absently sent a hand to his cloak pocket to make sure that he did, in fact, have the bag of coins that had come with the yesterday’s owl, “I’ll just take the, er, package and go.”

“I’ll need to see some identification.” He pulled a clipboard from behind the counter and flipped a few pages as James fumbled for his wallet. He knew he had at least his apparition license, laminate and all, in there. Just his luck, he’d forgotten it at home.

“Mr. Potter didn’t mention someone other than himself doing the pickup.”

“He’s a real busy bloke.” James made a show of checking each and every pocket or place a folded wallet could fit before turning back to Albert. “Funny story –”

“No identification,” Albert snatched the box up, “no package.”

“Sir!” one of the other clerks, a woman with bright blonde hair and round glasses, hustled up to the man just as James turned, defeated, towards the door.

“He’s really a Potter, Mr. Albertson.”

James nearly snorted. Albert Albertson? Were his parents snorting pixie dust when he was born?

“Ah, Jamie-Leigh to the rescue,” Albert replied. James sure didn’t like the tone he took with the lady, but who was he to get into the middle of an obvious employer-employee relationship?

“It’s true, sir,” she insisted, her bright blue eyes going wide. “He plays for the Montrose Magpies. My son just loves them. His brother is Albus Potter. They have a sister named Lily!” James wondered if she knew more about his family than he did, and turned towards the two, questioningly. The woman paid him no notice, though she did lower her voice when she said, “His father is Harry Potter.”

That’d do it, James thought. Everyone knew his father. Everyone feared his father. He didn’t know why. The man was a giant teddy bear. He turned toward Albert, who was giving him a calculated look, as if he was trying to see Harry Potter in the man he was looking at.

Finally, after a two minute staring contest, Albert released the package into James’s custody – only after forcing him to sign an identification certificate, which also came about after the war when known former Death Eaters tried to impersonate deceased witches and wizards in order to escape persecution – and James left the shop in a hurry.

That whole situation made him want to drink. Heavily.

He rushed to the rendezvous point, eager to shower, to brush his teeth of the fuzzy feeling you get when you first wake up, as he hadn’t had time to brush his teeth earlier in his rush to get the package before the shop closed.

He entered the Leaky Cauldron and sidled up to the familiar woman with her back turned. He gave her a quick tap on the shoulder, the opposite shoulder by which he was standing, and he laughed out loud when she turned away from him to find nothing but air behind her.

She turned, her pale, blonde-going-gray hair swiping around. She frowned, put her hands on her hips, and let out a tisking noise.

“James Potter,” she shook her head and laughed, hit his shoulder lightly before turning back to fill the patrons’ cups with coffee.

“Hello, Mrs. Longbottom,” James said sweetly and waited until she’d finished to walk to the bar.

“It’s been a long time, James. To what do I owe this pleasure?” She passed off the coffee pot to a young waitress, who winked at James as she walked by, and turned to the eldest Potter son.

“Dropping off something for Albus,” he thrust the box across the counter, eager for the thing to be out of his hands. It made him antsy to have something that expensive in his possession when it wasn’t his. If he got attacked he had no doubt he could defend himself – his dad’s Harry Potter! – but he didn’t like to chance it.

“Ah, is this…” without it being said, she knew he knew what she was talking about.

“Sure is,” James nodded, a little half smile. He still couldn’t believe it.

“Well I’ll make sure it gets to him. I’ve got some things for Arnie, as well. You know, it’s been a long time since he’s flooed in the middle of the night to ask to come home for a day, so it concerned me when that happened just last weekend.”

“Oh really?” James was only half paying attention and didn’t particularly care.

“Turns out, it was because of a girl! Who knew? I thought poor Arnie would never have a girlfriend, and as you’d have it, he was keeping her a secret!”

That interested James, and he perked up a bit on the barstool he’d slid onto.

“Really? What happened?”

“He wanted to go public, she didn’t.” Mrs. Longbottom shrugged, but the ache she felt for her son’s broken heart was obvious in her eyes.

“Well she’s obviously not worth it, then,” James consoled the older woman. “I mean, what girl wouldn’t want the world to know she’s with Arnie? He’s smart…uh, funny sometimes. He knows some great plant jokes, albeit he does get a little repetitive with the ‘what did the mandrake say to the cabbage baby’ punch line. Where was I going, again?”

“He’s a great guy,” she reminded him, trying not to laugh at her son’s friend.

“Right, well he is. And he deserves better than some little trollop that only wants him when it’s convenient for her.”

“Thank you, James.” And he felt like she truly meant it.

“Sure,” he shrugged. “I’ve gotta get going. Let Albus know I say, ‘don’t ever do that to me again, dipwad,’ okay?”

“Dipwad, got it.” She smiled again, and he waved as headed towards the floo.

When he entered the house, all was quiet. Good. That meant both his parents were still at work, and he could get ready in peace.

With his obligations for the day finished, it was time to get his drink on.

Nat bit her lip and rubbed her distended stomach again. She was nervous. No, wait. Nervous was an understatement. She was scared shitless. She was scared of getting caught, getting detention…catching him.

She really wanted to believe that Albus wasn’t capable of cheating on her, but the evidence was against him, that was for sure. First the sudden change of mood, then the disappearing act, and the biggest one, ignoring her sexual prowess when any teenage boy would be happy to take what he could get, even if it was from a frumpy pregnant teenage girl.

“Tell me again why we have to wear all black when we’re going to be under the cloak,” Nat bit her lip again, the lip balm that soothed her chapped lips rubbing off on her teeth. She turned from the mirror, where she was looking at herself in a long sleeved black jumper, to Rose, who was pulling on a skin-tight pair of black jeans.

“In case we get separated,” Rose shrugged, jumping to get her “chocolate” weight into the fit-like-a-glove trousers. “In case Lucy pulls another Lucy and decides she can’t follow directions and ge– Lucy!”

Nat turned to find Lucy, her red hair wet from a recent shower, flop onto her bed wearing a pair of pyjamas and fuzzy slippers. She pulled a book from beneath her bed and began to read as Rose glared at her angrily.

“What the hell, Luce? Get up and get dressed! Al is scheduled for rounds in twenty minutes and we have to sneak out of the Common Room right after him so he doesn’t know we’re gone!”

“I’m very aware of the plan,” Lucy told them snootily, only glancing up from her book to shoot a look of apology at Nat.

“Then why aren’t you getting dressed?” Rose demanded, her face reddening.

“Because I’m not going.”

The air seemed to crackle with electricity as Rose nearly blew her lid. “What do you mean you’re not going? We have a plan!”

“I know, Rose,” Lucy finally turned her head to glare at her cousin. “I heard the plan the five times you went over it before I took my shower. I know the plan like the back of my hand. I’m still not going.”

“Why not?” Nat spoke up, feeling like Lucy would probably respond better if she wasn’t being yelled at.

Lucy sighed and pulled herself up onto her knees. “I’m so sorry, Nat. You know I want to be there for you. I just can’t chance getting detention. Not as close to the end of school as we are. My dad would kill me! Or worse, he wouldn’t finance the expedition to Australia he promised me after I ace my NEWTs.”

“I understand,” Nat nodded after a moment. She was bubbling with laughter inside. It really wasn’t funny, besides the fact that Lucy’s dad not paying for her to go to Australia was worse than death in her eyes, but no one ever said a pregnant girl had to be rational.

“Fine,” Rose hissed. “Whatever.”

“Rose, it’s okay,” Nat tried to reassure her best friend and calm her own nerves at the same time. “It’ll be more room under the cloak for all of us, anyway.”

The door creaked open and Rose jumped a foot in the air, turning, ready to defend herself, and Nat wondered when Rose had become so jumpy. After Scorpius, that’s when.

Lily entered the room, a bundle of shimmery material clutched to her black-clothed chest. She was also wearing skin tight trousers and solid black trainers that Rose had recently coloured.

“Did you get it?” Emileigh rushed out of the bathroom in only black trousers and a bra, her toothbrush hanging out of her mouth, Kate following her, fully dressed.

“I got it!” Lily held up the freshly expanded invisibility cloak. “Mum was so easy! I just told her that we were spying on a boys-only party in the common room tonight to search for suitable bachelors, Nat excluded, and she was all for that. Apparently mum was left out a lot as a child. Which, I guess, is good for us!”

“Was the charm hard?” Kate asked her typical Kate questions.

“Nope. Just a bit of complex wand work, a few jabs more than swishes, but mum gave me very detailed instructions and waited until it was the right size before she’d let me leave.”

“And you tested it out?” Rose demanded. Nat could practically see her rolling her hands, nervously. No wait. She was rolling her hands nervously.

“Of course!” Lily sighed dramatically when Rose gave her a sceptical look. “Fine, girls, get under.”

She forced Emileigh, Kate, Nat, and herself under the cloak, all them standing, and there was plenty of room for at least one more, if not two.

“So, does it meet with the Rose Weasley stamp of approval?”

Rose grumbled a bit but decided that it was, and Lily and Emileigh high fived.

“Four minutes, people! We are leaving in four minutes!” Rose shouted suddenly after her watched emitted a loud series of beeps.

And sure enough, four minutes later, the five girls were tugging the cloak over their heads in a single file line. Nat was in the middle, Emileigh directly behind her, and Kate bringing up the rear. Lily was in the very front and Rose trailed her, carrying the map.

They had a close encounter with a group of seven, count ‘em seven, third and fourth year girls climbing the staircase – Nat was sure that one girl even brushed her arm. She’d looked directly at Nat, pursed her lips in wonder, and continued walking.

Lily breathed a sigh and continued on down the stairs and, eventually when someone came in through the portrait hole, they escaped in carefully orchestrated (and practiced!) fashion. In fact, they’d spent nearly an hour that morning deciding if it was necessary to sneak out of the Common Room or just walk out.

Obviously, they decided they needed to sneak out in case someone, Bryce or Arnie, were awaiting their return. As far as anyone knew, they were upstairs in their dormitory doing nails or hair or some other girly thing.

“Ouch,” Lily hissed when Rose stepped on her heel by accident and the older red head guided Lily to an alcove near the Common Room.

“You’ve got to stop that, Lilers. No talking, from any of you, not a peep.”

“Yes, drill sergeant, sir,” Emileigh whispered into Nat’s ear and she giggled. She couldn’t help it. It was one of the few times she’d smiled since the big V-day debacle.

Rose unfolded the map, pulled her wand from her trousers, touched the map to the middle, and whispered, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”

To Nat’s amazement, ink flooded the pages, labelling classrooms, secret passageways, secret rooms…it even labelled the staircase with the trick step as “Tricky Stair”…how unoriginal, yet appropriate.

“There he is,” Rose whispered, so quietly that Nat doubted even she, who was stationed behind her, would’ve heard it except for the fact that she was leaning over Rose’s shoulder, practically ear-to-ear, in amazement. “He’s on the first floor. And Meghan’s with him. They must be starting at the bottom of the castle and working their way up. They’ve probably already done the dungeons.”

As per their plan, they snuck quickly down the stairs to the second floor. It had been decided to keep a floor between them unless the prefects lingered in one spot too long. And according to the map, they were moving at a swift pace through the first floor.

Then Albus and Meghan moved up a staircase to the second floor and the group of girls took a different way to the third floor. Nat slumped against the wall at the top of the stairs. Rose took her watchful eye off of the map and turned to Nat.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” she muttered, squeezing her eyes shut. “I’ve just been getting a little crampy lately. And dizzy. I’m sure it’s just stress.”

Rose smiled sympathetically and rubbed Nat’s shoulder. “We’ll get to the bottom of this, Nat. I promise.”

“Thanks Rose. You’re such a great friend. I probably would’ve been oblivious to all of this if you hadn’t been such a great friend.”

“I couldn’t just stand by and let you get hurt, Nat. Even if it is by my stupid cousin.”

Just then there were voices on the staircase they’d just come up from, and Rose looked at the map and cursed under her breath.

Somehow she’d missed Albus and Meghan patrolling the whole second floor and they were now coming up on the third. Luckily, the prefects kept to the other side of the wall and passed the girls without finding them out. Rose breathed a sigh of relief and then pointed at Lily to go on up to the fourth floor.

This time, when they arrived up the staircase no one spoke. No one even breathed all that loudly. They just crowded around the map in a little semi-circle watching, waiting for the duo to make their way up to the fourth floor.

Except, they didn’t. Halfway between the staircase leading to the Great Hall and the one up to Gryffindor Tower, they stopped. And then a moment later, their little dots moved past something labelled “Humpback” and their dots became fuzzy.

“Go,” she whispered to Lily, all but shoving her down the stairs. She didn’t have time to stop and make sure the other girls were following her. This was her chance to catch Albus. She felt it. She needed it.

They rounded the corner at a run and skidded to a halt. The tiny dots labelled ‘Albus Potter’ and ‘Meghan Longbottom’ were directly ahead them, but the only actual mass in front of them was a statue of a one-eyed humpback witch.

“What the hell?” Rose muttered, reaching out her cloak covered hand to touch the statue and then looked back down at the map.

The Albus and Meghan dots had begun to move away from them.

“They’re leaving the castle,” Lily said, wide-eyed.

After a moment of silence between the five, Kate finally spoke up. “What do we do now?”

Rose opened her mouth to respond, but Nat beat her to it.

“We wait.”

Meghan leaned against the cold stone wall and waited for Albus to give the statue the password. After almost two months of this, he still didn’t trust her with the password. He didn’t trust her as far as he could throw her after she’d tried to seduce him in her mother’s office on New Year’s Eve.

It had been a miss, but they’d made this little arrangement, so it wasn’t a total loss in Meghan’s eyes.

The statue of the one-eyed witch moved out of the way and Albus entered the secret passage. Meghan pushed herself off the wall and followed him. With the sound of grinding stones, the statue moved back into its proper place. After the first night of this, Meghan had grown accustomed to the sudden darkness and had her wand out before the passageway closed. She muttered a brief spell and the torches lining the passage roared to life.

Albus drew the curtain hanging from the ceiling shut, effectively separating the two, and then shrugged out of his robes and began taking his uniform off. He pulled on black trousers and a tight black tee shirt from a bag of clothes that he’d stashed in the passage nearly two months ago, and was just getting the shirt over his head when the curtain slid open revealing Meghan in similar attire, only she wore a short black skirt instead of trousers.

“Jeeze, I’m still dressing,” Albus bit out, smoothing the shirt over his abs and stomach before grabbing a cloak up.

“Relax. It’s not like we haven’t seen each other naked before,” she said with a smirk, crossing her arms over her chest causing even more cleavage to be revealed out of the ‘v’ of her top.

“That was a long time ago,” he muttered crossly, stuffing his uniform into a ball and tossing it into the weather-proof bag. They’d leave their uniforms there and, when they returned, change back before re-entering the school.

She shrugged nonchalantly. “Ready?”

He turned and followed Meghan, lost in his own thoughts. About Nat. Nat had been acting weird all week.

After Valentine’s Day, she stayed locked up in her dorm with all of the girls, and didn’t even come out for meals. Albus hadn’t had a chance to give her the Valentine’s Day present he’d gotten for her – a big white teddy bear with a red heart clutched between its paws that proclaimed “I Love You” in white, loopy script – until after dinner on Monday. She just smiled and hugged it to her. He had to pry it out of her hands to get a kiss, and he got a chaste one at that, and then told her about the hidey-hole in the back of the heart that contained a square box with a charm bracelet. It was charmless, but it wouldn’t be for long.

He hadn’t seen her wearing it, come to think, but that was probably just because it didn’t have any charms on it. Right?

He followed behind Meghan through the winding passageway and up into Honeydukes Cellar. He waved at Mrs. Marsden, the new owner of the shop that allowed them to traipse through because they were a “cute couple”. He didn’t have the heart to tell her that they were nothing of the sort, and figured she could think whatever she wanted as long as they were still allowed to use the passage.

They left Honeydukes and entered Hogsmeade. They looked old enough to be just out of school – they practically were – and could pass as a browsing couple. Meghan looped her arm through his as part of the façade as they made their way to the outskirts of Hogsmeade to the apparition point.

He hated this part.

“Ready?” he whispered, already pulling his ex-girlfriend into a tight hug. Without waiting for her to answer, he waved his wand, gave a sharp jab, and they disappeared.

The duo reappeared in the store room of the Leaky Cauldron, and Albus stepped away from her immediately. One of the buttons on her fashion-oriented-yet-seemingly-impractical cloak got stuck on his cloak and she jerked forward, tripping on the corner of a box, and tumbled to the ground.

They were still connected, and he fell into a heap on top of her. She let out a rush of air sending the scent of her cinnamon gum into his face. His glass had slid down his nose, and they’d made quite a ruckus.

The door to the store room flew open suddenly and Hannah Longbottom stood there, hands on her hips. She gave them a disapproving look and disappeared with a cluck of her tongue, leaving the door wide open.

Albus scrambled off of Meghan and shrugged out of his cloak. Meghan climbed off the floor, muttering something about finding herself a ‘gentlemen’ who would ‘help her off the floor’. Albus rolled his eyes. Had he actually cared about Meghan more than in a friendly, thanks-for-getting-me-a-job sort of way, he probably would’ve helped her up.

But lately she’d been laying the flirtatious winks, bum pats, and comments on thick. Albus knew he wouldn’t do anything with her come-ons. He loved Nat more than anything, and he would prove it to her yet.

Then maybe she wouldn’t be so distant.

Albus hung up his cloak on the rack near the door, and took a hanging apron from the same rack. He held it up to his front and pulled the strings around his narrow hips, tying the green material in a bow in front of him.

He left Meghan to do the same and exited the room, walked down the short hall, and into the crowded pub. He waved to a few regulars on his way to the bar where Hannah was handing a tumbler half full of amber liquid to a bald man who looked to be in his mid to late forties.

“Evening, Jason,” Albus nodded to the man, a Friday night regular from what Albus could tell from working at the Leaky Cauldron for two months.

“’ello, Al!” the man, obviously a tad tipsy, boomed over the music. The music wasn’t all that loud, but Jason seemed to think he needed to shout to be heard over it.

“How’s the wife and kids?” Albus asked, bemused at the way Jason gazed appreciatively at Meghan as she came down the hall in her low cut top and short skirt.

Seeming to catch himself staring, Jason cleared his throat and stood up a bit straighter.

“Roy caught a nasty cough from that damn preschool and Virginia sent ‘im to ‘er mother’s so ‘e wouldn’t get the baby sent. I asked why she didn’t just send Marissa to ‘er mother’s and take care of ‘er own damn sick child, and she told me that Marissa is still breastfeeding and needs ‘er mummy. I told ‘er that Roy needed ‘is mummy, too, not ‘is mummy’s mummy and she kicked me out! Told me ter come ‘ere, so ‘ere I am,” Meghan had caught his gaze, again, halfway through his story, and his eyes followed her as she checked on patrons with a wide, friendly smile on her face.

“Careful there, Jay, her mum’s right over there.” Albus nodded his head down the bar to where Hannah was still serving drinks, smiling and laughing happily, oblivious to the older man’s eyes on her daughter.

“Ain’t nothing wrong with lookin’, sonny! She’s a little young, and on the boney side for me. I like a little junk in the trunk, if ya catch my drift,” he sent his elbow out to nudge Albus and instead knocked over an array of bottles of liquor that Albus hastily cleaned up with his wand. “S’ry,” Jason muttered, taking a long drink from his glass.

“It’s okay,” Albus shrugged, picking up a rag to manually clean the streaks the spell had left into a gleaming surface.

“Been figurin’ there was sumthin’ goin’ on between the two of ya,” he was looking at Albus, now, but nodded in the direction of Meghan.

“Nah. I’ve got a girl. A great girl,” Albus told him.

It wasn’t the first time someone from the pub had said that he and Meghan should date, or that they’d make a cute couple. He chalked it up to the fact that they hadn’t met Nat, and he and Meghan were the only two workers under thirty on the night shift.

“Ah, I ‘member. The one you got knocked up, right?” Albus rolled his eyes, and Jason didn’t catch it because he downed the rest of his drink in one shot. “Pour me ‘nother, boy.”

Albus complied, filling the cup with coffee and flavouring and colouring it to look like Whiskey – a trick he’d picked up from Meghan for people who start having too many drinks too close together. It was only nine, so Albus didn’t want to have to kick him out and spoil his fun because he became too inebriated; he did want Jason to be able to remember their conversation in the morning, though.

“So your girl, is she pretty?” He slugged a swallow and didn’t even notice the difference. Albus had mastered those charms.

“Very,” Albus nodded. He took the slip of drink orders Meghan handed him and began mixing the drinks like a pro. Working there for nearly two months, Albus came to the conclusion that he never wanted to drink.

And he didn’t want to end up like Jason, who was at a bar rather than at home taking care of his family. No. Albus was going to be a hands-on father. He would be there for everything, and nothing, especially not a bottle of whiskey, would stop him.

“As pretty as that one?” he bent his thumb in the direction of Meghan, who was bent over at a table of older men, flirting for tips.

“More. Much, much more.”

Four hours later, at one in the morning, Albus’s back ached, his feet hurt, and he couldn’t wait to get some sleep. He’d been going non-stop since his chat with Jason.

He propped himself up on a barstool and forced himself to concentrate on the till’s contents in front of him. It was his head if he counted the money wrong, and Hannah would have no complaints taking it on a silver platter.

“You cleaned up good,” Meghan slid onto the stool next to him, her hair a mess, her cheeks flushed with heat.

“That’s the till,” Albus muttered in concentration.

“I meant that,” she nodded her head to a stack of gold at the end of the counter. Albus’s green eyes widened in surprise.

“What the hell is that?”

Hannah came out of the office carrying two boxes in front of her and set them on the bar in front of Albus, effectively screwing up his count. He wasn’t paying any attention, though, and was staring at the pile of gold coins.

“Oh, that,” Hannah shrugged as if it were no big deal. “After you started working here and word spread that you were going to be a father, we set up a separate account for donations. That’s the money we’ve gotten so far.”


“Look, Al, you’re well liked here. And you work hard. I know we can’t pay you much-”

“You pay me fine!”

“-so Nev and I thought it might be nice to help you out a bit more. It was all given freely. We want you to be able to take some time off before and after the baby and, apparently, others agreed.”

“I don’t know what to say…”

“Just accept it. I know you won’t work here forever, but this plus your income while you’re working here, you and Nat could get your own flat…”

Albus shook his head. He’d already spent most of his earnings so far on –

“Oh, and James dropped this by,” Hannah pushed one small box in front of him. His heart nearly stopped. This was it. This was what he’d gotten this stupid job for, and there it was, right in front of him.

He hadn’t really expected James to do it. According to his mother, who still sent him and Lily weekly updates, James had been drinking too much and doing non-gentlemanly activities (her word, not his). He figured James would forget. Good thing he sent that last, pleading letter.

“Is that…?” Meghan looked at the box and then to Albus. He nodded, biting his lip. He just couldn’t believe that he was holding it. “Wow,” she breathed.

“I’ve got to finish counting this,” Albus muttered, his face suddenly flushed at the feeling of the two women’s eyes on him.

“Go. Get some rest. I’ll count it,” Hannah urged, nearly pushing Albus and Meghan towards the back room.

“Are you sure?”

“Your count is always off, anyway, Al. No offence.” Then she thrust the other small box into Meghan’s arms. “Give this to your brother. Now off with you!”

Once again, Albus hugged Meghan tight to his chest, wishing that she would hurry up and pass her apparition test and get her own license. She was only a sixth year, though she was seventeen, and hadn’t taken the class yet. She could’ve taken the class at the ministry over Christmas hols but she’d spent the time working for her mother.

They apparated to the outside of Honeydukes and sent up red sparks to get the attention of Mrs. Marsden, who never went to bed before two because of the late night programming on the wireless (except for one time when she’d fallen asleep and they’d apparated right into the store room, only to set off the anti-burglary wards and escape before the aurors showed up).

Mrs. Marsden had a sweet disposition during the day, but late at night she was a sour puss, and her frowning face appeared in the lit window above the shop. Close to five minutes later, when Meghan was frantically pacing and was ready to send up another round of sparks, Mrs. Marsden appeared at the door. She took down the wards with jerky wand movements and opened the door only wide enough for the two to enter single file.

She grunted, resetting the wards, and turned to follow them to the store room to make sure they didn’t steal anything. She wasn’t a very trusting woman at night, Vicky Marsden.

Albus moved the stone and allowed Meghan to enter the tunnel ahead of him. He climbed in behind her and just as Mrs. Marsden was about to move the stone over their faces, he pulled a bottle out of his cloak and held it out to her.

It was cherry rum, her favourite.

“We really appreciate this,” he told her as she took it. He saw her sour face split into a smile before turning to follow Meghan, who had already lit the torches in the tunnel.

The trip back was silent as they were both tired, and Meghan drew the curtain closed to change back into their uniforms. Albus tiredly tugged on his uniform shirt and trousers, leaving his tie untied and slung around his neck, not caring that they were extremely rumpled from the ball he’d squashed them into earlier. He slid his package into the pocket of his trousers, wanting to feel it close to his body as it had cost him quite a lot of money.

He opened the curtain to find Meghan facing away from him, fully dressed, waiting for him to finish so he could open the passageway. He didn’t feel at all bad about not giving her the password. He wasn’t sure what she’d use it for, and didn’t want to be a portal to her bad judgement.

Albus opened the passage and peeked to make sure the coast was clear – it was – before allowing Meghan to exit ahead of him. They were both nearly out when Meghan tripped on the witch’s foot and started to fall.

Acting quickly to keep her from getting hurt, he caught her around the waist and then pulled her against his body. He held her there for a few seconds to make sure they both had their balance, and Meghan turned her head sideways, her cheek nearly touching his nose, and whispered a strangled, “Thank you.”

His arm slid from her waist to his side and he shrugged. They began heading down the hall towards the staircase to the entrance hall – Albus usually walked Meghan back to her dorm before going to his own – when a sudden movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention.

He spun around in time to see his cousin and sister appear out of thin air, followed by Emileigh and Kate, and lastly, Nat. His stomach clenched; his heart skipped a beat; his eyes widened. What the hell was she doing there?

“Nat,” he took a step forward, and then another. Her head was down, her eyes on the floor, and she just stood there. He took one last step forward at the same time she looked up at him.

Her eyes were filled with tears. Her hands covered her abdomen, their babies, protectively. Then, she took one step forward, and then another, until they were toe to toe.

He saw it before it happened, but he was powerless to stop it. She let out an anguished cry and drew back her hand.

Then she slapped him.

A/N: A few last things:  Congrats to everyone who guessed it!!  I love hearing you guys' theories.

thanks to Ivoryrose_x on the forums for the title of this chapter (and next chapters ‘Part Two’).

Katie, you were wrong about him. :P

Sorry to disappoint those of you I promised would see Kylie this chapter. The chapter was just getting way too long. But you got a great chapter, right?