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Conventional Wisdom by SnitchSnatcher

Format: Novel
Chapters: 22
Word Count: 112,253
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: General, Humor, Romance
Characters: James (II), OC
Pairings: James/OC

First Published: 02/06/2009
Last Chapter: 06/21/2010
Last Updated: 09/09/2011

Summary:
Banner @ BitterSweetFlames!
request-unconventialwisdomcopy.png picture by chasing_starlight

My best friend is getting married. I should be happy, but there's just one small problem: He's not marrying me. And I'm the mother of his child. What worse is that his fiancee asked me to be her maid of honor. Merlin, I should've stayed in bloody Panama.


Chapter 8: How Is It That You Know Everything? - Chapter Seven

A/N: There’s going to be a change in point of view sometime during the chapter, so if the narrative changes, well, that’s why. I figured you all could use a fair warning. Enjoy!


Chapter Seven
How Is It That You Know Everything?


When I came stumbling out of the fireplace at two o’clock that afternoon, I knocked into a chair and let out a stream of colourful curses as the pain throbbed in my big toe, which alerted Mum to my presence. Though she gave me a questioning look, she didn’t say anything as I smoothed out my robes and hurried over to her, for she had Jack clasped tightly in her arms. I couldn’t help grinning ear to ear when he started to wiggle in protest and reach out his fat chubby hands for me.

I snatched him out of her arms before she could put up a fight and nestled him close to my chest; I hadn’t realised how much I had missed him until I actually saw him.

“Oh, Mummy’s so happy to see you too, Jack,” I whispered, kissing his forehead in between syllables. He giggled, which made me smile. I looked up at Mum. “How was he?”

“Perfect,” she answered, but then she frowned. “Well, for the most part, anyway. He was rather upset when you left.”

For some reason, her revelation made my smile widen. “Was he really?”

Mum looked confused by my enthusiastic tone. “Yes. . .he was. For a bit, I was afraid that he wouldn’t stop crying until you got home, but I managed to pacify him with a bottle.”

“Oh. Cool,” I muttered, waving a dismissive hand in her general direction; some part of my brain registered her scoff of offence, but I didn’t say anything. I was too immersed in tickling Jack’s chubby tummy and making him laugh to care all that much.

“Anyway,” Mum said, her tone cooler and brisker than usual. “The Scamanders sent an owl and asked if we would like to come over for dinner tonight. I went ahead and said that we would go.”

This snapped me out of my not-caring-all-that-much mood immediately.

“What?!” I exclaimed, so loudly that it startled Jack. His face screwed up and he made a high-pitched keening sound, not all that dissimilar to the noise I had always imagined a basilisk getting its eyes pecked out by a phoenix would sound like before the great flood of fat tears began. “Oh great,” I grumbled, frowning at my baby in concern, “now look what you did!”

“What I did?” Mum huffed in offence again. “You’re the one that shrieked in his ear, Mara! I did nothing wrong at all!”

“I shrieked in his ear only because you said that you had already told Aunt Luna that we were coming to dinner without even consulting me!” I returned in a very ‘uh-duh’ way.

Mum did not look amused. Not in the slightest. “Oh, I’m to consult you now, am I? After I have taken care of your infant son for the better part of the day?” She scoffed again, much more dramatically than ever before. “Well, excuse me, Your Royal Highness. Sorry if I figured that you wouldn’t have any other plans for the evening!” she shouted, her hands finding their way to her hips.

“Are you suggesting that I don’t have a social life?” I questioned scathingly, lightly bouncing on the balls of my toes in hopes of quieting Jack. It wasn’t working. In fact, it seemed to make him cry louder and harder.

Or maybe it was because of our arguing, but that was just a guess.

“I don’t have to suggest anything,” Mum retorted harshly, “because you haven’t done a single thing since you’ve been back!”

My jaw fell open and I gasped dramatically. “For your information, Mother. I actually do have plans for tonight: Teddy Lupin invited me over to his house for dinner!”

Mum opened her mouth in preparation to yell at me, but failed to do so at the last moment. She pursed her lips and tilted her head, studying me intently. “Why would Teddy Lupin ask you over to dinner?” she finally asked, sounding (and looking) overwhelmingly confused.

“He figured that we should catch up,” I responded, continuing the gentle bouncing, my hand rubbing small circles into Jack’s back. He was no longer shrieking shrilly. Instead, it was a frustrated cry, one that was quickly dissipating.

“Catch up?” Mum parroted.

“Yeah, you know - talk about the old times and what we’ve been up to since we last saw one another at his and Victoire’s wedding.”

“But when did you even see him, Mara?” Mum asked, “I thought you had been at Gringotts the entire day!”

“I was at Gringotts all day, Mum,” I sighed, brushing my hair behind my ear, a typical habit of mine when annoyance inflamed me. She still look as though a giant had clubbed her on the side of the head. “Teddy’s my boss,” I clarified with a roll of my eyes.

“OH! That’s wonderful!” Mum cried, clapping her hands together excitedly. “Now you won’t be uncomfortable around all of those goblins - you’ve always been scared of them.”

Despite the fact that Mum and Jack were the only other people in the kitchen, I couldn’t help blushing all the way down to my feet. “I’m not scared of them. Just intimidated.” And extremely so.

“That’s rubbish, Mara Francis, and you know it,” said Mum with a wave of her hand, “you’re frightened out of your mind of goblins. At least,” she added as an afterthought, “you used to be. Anyway, you need to start getting ready.”

“Getting ready?” I repeated incredulously, my eyes practically bulging out of their sockets. “Mum, it’s four o’clock.”

“So?”

“I’m not supposed to be there until seven!”

“Well, we’ve got to find something that fits you,” she argued.

I glared stonily at her. “Thanks, Mum,” I deadpanned, “you’re a real confidence booster.”

She winced and patted my arm. “Sorry, love. You know me. Open mouth -”

“Insert foot,” I finished monotonously, flicking my eyes at the ceiling. “It’s no wonder where I get it from.”

- - -


James’s POV

It was perhaps the most perplexing thing about women - their incessant need to shop in order to vent their feelings. I didn’t understand it and I highly doubted that I ever would. However, it is highly likely that my opinion is influenced by the fact that I am not a woman, but actually a man. One that most certainly did not enjoy spending three hours in some Muggle department store, browsing rack after rack after rack of the dishes, all of which had the same exact pattern on them.

“What do you think of this one, Jimmy?” Sophie asked, holding up yet another tea cup.

I cringed. Not because of the tea cup, though I’m sure if I saw it up close it’d be as ugly as all the rest had been, but because of the nickname. Jimmy. I hated it. Always had and probably always will. Everyone who knows me knows this, and I’ve told her several times to stop it, but she insists. Why, you ask, when she knows that it annoys me to no end? Because, and I quote, it’s “cute”.

She huffed exasperatedly at my lack of immediate response. Really now, you’d think that she would know better than to expect an instant reaction from me to anything that doesn’t fall under Quidditch, women, and as odd as it might seem, hippogriffs. If you must know, I had a stuffed hippogriff named Buckbeak that I used to carry around everywhere. Actually, I think Mum might have it somewhere up in the attic.

“James!” Sophie exclaimed, stomping her foot on the ground.

“What?”

She rolled her crystalline eyes. “I asked you what you thought of this!” She held up the tea cup again.

I carefully placed the Waterford Crystal glass that I had been admiring on the shelf and walked over to her. The smile returned to her face, and I found myself grinning in response. It was a force of habit, really, more than it was a genuine smile; it’s damn near impossible not to smile when Sophie smiles. Her smile could light up even the darkest of nights.

When I reached her, she handed over the tea cup gingerly, handling the cup like it was a baby. As my hand closed around it, I pretended as though my grip faltered and the cup slipped from my hand. It was inches above the parquet floor when I caught it deftly.

“James!” she shrieked, smacking me roughly on the arm. I tried not to wince. It was possible that it might bruise. “How many times have I asked you to stop doing that?” she continued, hissing through her gritted teeth.

“Oh, come on, Soph,” I replied, resisting the urge to roll my eyes extravagantly. “It’s not like I actually dropped it.”

“You could have,” she countered irritably, making to fling her hair over her shoulder, but stopping at the last minute when she caught the look on the attendant‘s face.

“Yes,” I agreed with a short nod of my head, “I could have. But I didn’t. And that’s all that really matters.”

Though Sophie narrowed her eyes, she didn’t say anything. Instead she glanced pointedly between myself and the cup in my hands. There was a hopeful glimmer in her eyes. With a small sigh, I consented her silent request and turned the cup over in my hands, looking at the pattern but not really seeing it. Not that ‘seeing’ the pattern would change the fact that I couldn’t distinguish the difference between the cup I held in my hands and the last twenty-five.

What Sophie didn’t know certainly wouldn’t hurt her.

Though, admittedly, if she ever found out, she would most likely ki- I mean, hurt me.

“Are those pink swirls?” I questioned hesitantly after a few minutes of ‘examining’ the cup. I didn’t want to upset her.

“Technically they’re spirals,” she responded in an oddly icy tone, “but yes, they are.”

Well, that was new. The icy tone, I mean. I knew, perhaps better than anyone on this planet aside from her parents, that Sophie could be a bit - er - temperamental at times, but typically speaking, she cried when she was upset or made snide little comments. Not once had she dropped her voice and added that extra chill.

Oddly enough, I kind of liked it.

“Why does it matter?” Sophie continued. The glacial note in her voice had dissipated. Drat. “Do the spirals bother you?”

I shook my head, which caused several locks of hair to fall into my eyes. I pushed them away irritably. “No, it’s not the spirals.”

She threw her arms up in irritation. “Then what is it, James? I’ve shown you at least two dozen different china patterns and so far, you’ve had a problem with every single one. I’m beginning to think that you’re disagreeing with me simply for the sake of disagreeing with me.”

“You want a straightforward answer?”

“Of course I do, honey,” she said, her tone suddenly sweet and considerate. Where the hell had my fiancé, gone? Had she pulled a Sybil on me? I certainly hoped not. “That’s why I brought you along in the first place. I want your opinion.”

“Really? Because I could’ve sworn you dragged me all the way to Muggle London with the purpose of boring me to death, Mara,” I commented jokingly before I even realised what I said.

Sophie’s face turned an alarming shade of red. However, I was quick to learn that it wasn’t the comment that bothered her. Sure, she didn’t think that my little quip was clever in the slightest, but it wasn’t the source of her agitation.

“Did you just call me ‘Mara’?” Sophie growled lowly.

Well shit. There goes any hope for a decent afternoon with my fiancé. As much as I wanted to deny it, I knew that it would be stupid for a multitude of reasons.

For one, Sophie could smell a lie from a mile away. Seriously, she was like a niffler, only instead of being able to sniff out shiny, expensive things, she could spot even the most intricately woven lies. It was scary, really, especially when I first found out about her unbelievable talent of smelling the rat, so to speak. I had accidentally broken her remote control after pressing the buttons too enthusiastically and tossed the remote into the fish tank. I expected it to sink to the bottom, but it didn’t, and it was still floating on the surface when she came out of the bathroom. When she asked me what happened, I told her an elaborate story about nargles sneaking in through the half-open window with the aid of some Cornish pixies that just so happened to be living in the flowerbox outside of said window and they broke the remote control and then threw it into the fish tank.

Right, so it might not have been the best or most believable lie I’ve ever told, but I needed no further convincing that it was incredibly stupid to lie to Sophie. However, it was even worse if you didn’t tell her the truth about a lie. That really pissed her off.

Another reason why I didn’t lie is because, well, she didn’t like Mara. Not at all. Hated her, in fact. I wasn’t entirely sure why, but when I told Mum about Sophie’s intense dislike for my best mate, Mum said that it had something to do with jealousy. What I couldn’t comprehend is why Sophie would be jealous of Mara. After all, I hadn’t seen Mara in almost a year and a half following the disaster trip to Panama that I hated thinking about because of how disastrously it had gone, and I saw Sophie on a daily basis. It was my opinion that if anyone should be jealous, it should be Mara. Not that she would be jealous of Sophie - for one, Mara wasn’t the jealous type and two, it was obvious that she didn’t want anything to do with me. Or hadn’t, anyway. I wasn’t sure how she felt now that she was back in England.

Regardless.

“Possibly,” I answered, mustering up my most innocent, most adorable smile, but to no avail.

She didn’t smile back, and her face darkened from an alarming shade of red to an unhealthy hue of bright purple.

“Uh - Sophie, darling?” My voice cracked ever so slightly. “You might want to let go of that cup before you -”

The cup shattered in her hand, the pieces crumbling to the floor. The attendant behind the counter looked scandalised.

“- break it.”

- - -


By the time seven o’clock rolled around, I was exhausted. And nervous. But mostly exhausted.

I had half the mind to send an owl to Teddy and regretfully inform him that I wouldn’t be able to come to dinner because I was so tired, but I changed my mind at the last minute no thanks to my need to know everything. My curiosity to know exactly what Teddy knew was eating away at me like a virus, little by little until, eventually, it’d be too much for my brain to handle and I’d explode.

As the minutes ticked away, I couldn’t help thinking, What could James have told him? There was a plethora of things that James could have whispered into his other best mate’s ear. I didn’t care about some of the things. . .but others? Such as the night in Panama in which Jack was conceived. . .I didn’t exactly want everyone to know about that. James might not have been able to put two and two together and come up with the answer of Jack, but Teddy was sharper than that. In fact, he had probably figured it out before I had come back to England.

Every time I thought about it, my palms began to sweat and my stomach became the home to a frantic jumble of butterflies. It was a childish reaction, perhaps even a foolish one, but it scared me half to death - the not knowing what Teddy knew. He would never use it against me, but still. . . I didn’t want him to think poorly of me.

I threw a final glance at the alarm clock situated on the nightstand next to my bed. It was very nearly seven o’clock. My stomach twisted itself into a painful knot and I fought back the urge to vomit. I had no idea why I was so nervous about having dinner with the Lupins - I got on very well with Teddy’s wife, Victoire, and up until half past six, I had been looking forward to dining with them. But now? Now I was so anxious that my hands were shaking and I could hardly slip my feet into my shoes.

I managed, though I wasn’t entirely sure how. I grabbed the light jacket hooked on the back of the rocking chair position next to Jack’s cot and pushed my arms through the sleeves. I turned towards the cot and smiled down at Jack, who peered back at me through the bars. He wiggled about on the mattress and made the same grabby-motion with his hands that he did when I had first come home. A soft smile touched my lips and I reached down, scooping him up out of the cot and securing him against my chest. He made a noise of contentment.

As always, I dropped a kiss on to the top of his round head, the dark wisps of baby hair tickling my chin. “Are you ready to go, sweetheart?” I asked in him a whisper, lightly pressing my cheek against the crown of his head.

I didn’t expect an answer and I wasn’t disappointed. Heaving a small sigh, I knew that it was time to face the inevitable. While it wasn’t the end of the world, I knew that if I said the wrong thing that there was a good chance that Teddy would go running to James and tell him everything that I had divulged.

Are you crazy? Teddy would never do that.

I snorted at the voice in the back of my head in amusement. Of course Teddy would do that, he and James were best mates. Teddy was more likely to do James a favour than me.

You know that’s not true, my conscience muttered irritably, Teddy loves you like a sister, and he treats you the same way too. If you tell him the truth, I know he won’t tell James. He’s better than that.

Deciding that it was pointless to argue with the voice in my head - even in the wizarding world it wasn’t right for people to hear voices in their heads, even if it was their conscience - I double-checked that Jack had booties on both of his tiny feet and looped my arm through the shoulder strap of the diaper bag. Moving Jack into a more comfortable position, I allowed my eyes to sweep over the room in search of forgotten items, but unfortunately, it seemed as though that, for once, I had remembered everything. A stream of softly murmured curses issued forth from my lips as I turned on my heel and walked out of my room, knowing that if I didn’t leave now, I probably would never leave.

I shouted a goodbye to Mum and Dad, who were in the living room, Dad was reading the Evening Prophet and Mum was knitting, and before I could hear their full responses, I was out in the backyard, striding towards the vegetable garden near the small frog pond. Once I was outside of the safety wards, I squeezed my eyes shut tight, praying that Apparating didn’t cause brain damage to infants, and twirled on the spot.

Seconds later, though it felt like an eternity, I found myself on the sidewalk in front of Teddy and Victoire’s swanky London row house. The wrought iron gate was ajar, and I took that as a sign that Teddy had lowered any of the protective wards that might have been placed around the house for our arrival. Hitching the diaper bag up on my shoulder, for the strap had been cutting painfully into my skin, I hurried through the gate and up the stairs to the front door, which was a cheery shade of red with a bronze knocker. My hand shook like mad as I grasped the knocker and banged it three times against the door. I didn’t have to wait very long for someone to open the door.

“Mara!” Victoire greeted enthusiastically, a pleasant smile of welcome on her face.

“Vicky!” I returned just as eagerly, rushing forward to give her an awkward one armed hug.

“Come in, come in,” she said when we broke apart. “It’s getting cool outside and I wouldn’t want your son to catch a chill.” She stepped away from the doorway and made a sweeping gesture with her hand, ushering us inside.

I smiled and stepped into the house, which was emanating the same warmth that Teddy’s office had. While Victoire busied herself with reinforcing the magical enchantments on the house, most of which consisted of obscuring the house from Muggle view, I looked around the place. As I expected, it was comfortably decorated with plush sofas and deep mahogany coloured wood. The place smelled of cinnamon and marina sauce, which as odd as it sounded, was actually an unbelievably charismatic aroma.

Victoire turned back towards us, another radiant smile on her glowing face. “Oh, it’s so good to see you again,” she gushed, once again enveloping me in a bone-crushing hug. If she kept at it, the strength of her embraces would rival those of Molly Weasley.

“It’s good to see you too,” I managed to reply after spitting some of her long, white-blonde hair out of my mouth. I ducked out of the hug first and quickly glanced down at my son to make sure that he hadn’t been crushed to death in the process of our mini reunion. He hadn’t.

Victoire didn’t waste a moment. “When Teddy told me you were coming over to dinner, I was thrilled. It’s been. . .what, almost three years since you’ve been gone?” She gave me an inquisitive look, one of her sleek eyebrows raised in question, but when I didn’t immediately respond, she continued, “I was even more surprised when Teddy told me that you had a baby. Is this him?” she asked, gesturing towards my arms.

“Yeah,” I answered, shifting him in my arms so that his back was pressed against my chest and he was facing her.

Her squeal of delight caught me off-guard. “Good Merlin, Mara, he’s beautiful!” she exclaimed, her silvery blue eyes wide with affection. Unlike most people who uttered these words to me, I didn’t take offence to Victoire for one simple reason: She had phrased her sentence like a compliment instead of a shocked cry.

I found myself flushing a deep red. “Thank you,” I mumbled pathetically.

“May I hold him?”

“Sure,” I said without hesitation. She smiled widely at me and gently lifted my son out of my arms, cradling him against her chest.

While she cooed over him, I tried to hide my surprise at my own actions; usually, I fought tooth and nail against people who wished to hold my son yet when Victoire asked, I gave him over without so much as batting an eyelash. Perhaps it was because I knew that she, too, was a mother and knew how to handle children. Not that I was proclaiming to be an expert on child-rearing seeing as how I had only become a mother myself just four short months ago.

Victoire continued to babble to Jack as she veered off to the right. I followed her uncertainly, wondering where she was taking us. As we crossed underneath the archway, a loud peal of delighted laughter, a child’s laughter, reached my ears followed by the soft pattering of tiny bare feet against hardwood floor. We rounded a corner and when we emerged in the living room, I couldn’t help smiling. Teddy was on his knees, his arms raised over his head in what I assumed to be scary sea-monster fashion, chasing his daughter around the table. My eyes were drawn to the little girl with a shock of bubble-gum pink hair.

“I didn’t know that Dora was an Metamorphmagus,” I commented to Victoire.

“We didn’t either until last week,” was her reply. At my raised eyebrows, she added, “Last Monday, she broke out in a horrible rash of green and white spots all over her body. We thought that it could be a new strain of dragon pox, but when we took her to St. Mungo’s, they said that her abilities had been lying dormant because the hormone in charge of Metamorphing was not yet present in her system.”

“Until last week?” I questioned hesitantly; I didn’t want Victoire to think that I was dull, it was just the Healing jargon that confused me. Even though none of what she said was necessarily jargon - whenever Healing came into the picture, my attention span seemed to dwindle rapidly.

“Until last week,” she confirmed, smiling delicately at me. She pressed her lips against Jack’s forehead before handing him over to me. I took him eagerly, arranging him in my arms. “He’s such a good boy,” she remarked.

“You say that now,” I began, snorting derisively, “but at three in the morning he’s nowhere near as pleasant.”

“I know exactly how you feel,” Victoire laughed. “Dora wasn’t nearly as bad as Remy is, though. Talk about an impossible child to please.” She rolled her eyes, but it was an affection roll rather than a roll of annoyance.

“Where is Remy?” I asked, suddenly realising for the first time the absence of the small child.

“Upstairs in his cot, sleeping. At least I hope he is.” She pushed a hand through her hair and she suddenly looked very weary. “Thank Merlin he went down easily; he always seems to be much easier to put down when Teddy is the one putting him to sleep.”

A harsh pang racked through my chest and my eyes started to water. If James had been there since the beginning, would Jack go to sleep much easier when encircled within his father’s arms or would he become fussy when anyone else aside from me held him before putting him to sleep? I swiped at the few tears that leaked out of my eyes and attempted to get a hold of myself. That was neither here nor there and I couldn’t very well go back in time and change the decision I had made.

My chain of thought was interrupted by a triumphant yell and the loud squeal of a small child. I looked up and saw that Dora was wiggling in her father’s arms, trying to escape with all her might. She was commanding him to let go, but Teddy refused, his fingers dancing along her ribcage. Another loud peal of laughter escaped Dora and her hair changed from bright pink to dark purple to acid green to the same dark blue hue as her father’s hair. It was one of the most bizarre things that I had ever seen.

“All right, all right,” Victoire called over their laughter. “Bedtime.”

“But Mummy -”

“Don’t argue, Nymphadora,” said Victoire in an uncharacteristically stern tone. “I told you that you could remain downstairs until Mara arrived, and she has. So,” she finished, planting her hands on her hips. “Bed.”

Before little Dora could respond, Teddy scooped her up in his arms and stood up. “I’ll take care of it, Vicky,” he said, throwing their daughter of his shoulder. As he passed us, he winked at me. “Hello Mara.”

“Hi,” I returned with a small wave. Once they had gone, Teddy’s footsteps heavy on the stairs, I turned back to Victoire. “Would you mind if I put him down?” I asked, nodding towards Jack.

“Not at all. I’ll get Remy’s playpen,” she said, hurrying off down the hall. I shifted awkwardly from foot to foot until she came back seconds later. Pulling her wand out of her back pocket, she flicked it at the mass of rods and mesh fabric. It assembled quickly, all of the pieces snapping into place and the fabric stretching itself taunt. I eyed it cautiously; it looked on the verge of collapse.

“Go on,” Victoire urged, correctly interpreting my hesitance, “it might look unstable but I promise that it’s not.”

I found myself blushing a deep scarlet once again as I gently laid Jack down in the playpen. “I know I seem silly, it’s just that. . .,” I trailed off, shrugging.

Victoire chuckled, and she placed a comforting hand on my shoulder. “You don’t have to explain yourself to me, Mara. I’ve been in your shoes before.” Leaning forward, she peered into the playpen at the half-asleep Jack. She cocked her head to the side, a ripple of silvery blonde hair spilling over her shoulder. A thoughtful expression took residence on her beautiful face and her brow puckered. “You know, he looks almost identical to -”

A loud thump cut off her words. We turned at the same time to see Teddy picking himself up off the floor, holding his knee that was most likely bruised. As he hobbled over towards us, he explained, “I jumped down the last few steps.”

It was very difficult to hold back my laughter not because it was particularly funny, rather because I hadn’t forgotten, even after all this time, just how clumsy Teddy could be. Before a swarm of childhood memories could overcome me, Victoire spoke.

“Did she put up a fight?”

“No,” Teddy said with a shake of his head, pushing a hand through his bright blue hair. When Victoire raised a sceptical eyebrow, he added, “Well, a bit of a fight. She said that she wanted to meet you, Mara,” he turned towards me, grinning, “said that she wanted to hold her cousin.”

“Cousin?” I questioned, mildly confused. “They’re not -”

“We’ve gone ahead and told her that Jack was her cousin,” Victoire cut in smoothly, “because when it all boils down to it, we’re family.”

I tried to respond, but my throat was clogged with emotion. I could feel my lips trembling ridiculously as well as tears gathering in the corners of my eyes. My gaze travelled from Victoire’s exquisite visage to the encouraging smile on Teddy’s face. I opened my mouth to say something, but Teddy clapped me on the back and said lowly, “We know, Mara.”

- - -


As my chest shook with laughter, I reached for my wine glass, which was very nearly empty, and drained the rest of it. The red wine slid down my throat and I wiped the sides of my mouth on my napkin.

“This is great, Victoire,” I said, gesturing with my fork towards the little remains of my spaghetti Bolognese.

“Thank you,” she replied with a bright smile like a beam of sunshine. “It’s Teddy’s Grandmum’s recipe.”

“Ah, that would explain why it tasted so familiar,” I remarked, forking some more of the sauce covered noodles onto my fork. Chewing and swallowing, I added, “I hadn’t had a decent batch of spaghetti since. . .well, I guess the last plate I ate was at your wedding reception.”

“What?” the Lupins’ exclaimed in unison.

I nodded my head slowly, unsure why they sounded so shocked.

“But that was almost three years ago!” Teddy added incredulously.

“I don’t understand why you both sound and look so scandalised,” I said with a laugh. “It’s not like they eat loads of spaghetti Bolognese in Panama, now is it?”

“It must be bullocks in Panama,” Teddy commented as he reached for the bottle of wine positioned in front of us. He poured himself a glass before raising the bottle in my direction. “More?”

“Absolutely,” I responded, holding out my glass for him. He tipped a generous amount of the red liquid into my glass, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to drink the entire thing without getting tanked. I couldn’t allow myself to get drunk when I had to Apparate home with my infant son. That was just irresponsible.

“And,” I resumed, suddenly remembering Teddy’s statement, “it isn’t bullocks in Panama. Actually, it’s quite lovely there.” I frowned. “If I’m being entirely honest, I miss it.”

“But not as much as you missed all your family and mates in England, yeah?” Teddy hedged.

When I glanced at him, he was smirking widely. I laughed into my glass of wine. “Not even close,” I assured him with a sturdy nod of my head, taking another sip of wine.

“Speaking of Panama,” Victoire began, her tone overly light and conversationally. There was an indifferent expression on her face, but it was the glimmer of desire in her blue eyes that betrayed her. “How was the training?”

I rolled my eyes. “Look, if you want to know about Jack’s father, just ask,” I sighed, my eyes falling on the half full glass of wine. My heart filled with longing, but I resisted the temptation. It would probably be for the best if I remained sober during this. . .interrogation that I had just agreed to.

“Who is he?” Victoire asked at once.

“Some man I met on a dig,” I answered noncommittally.

“’Some man I met on a dig’?” Teddy repeated mockingly. “Oh, come on, Mara. You’ve got to give us more details than that.”

I snorted derisively. “I think you should be glad that I’m telling you anything at all, Theodore Remus Lupin. Besides, I never knew that you had such a penchant for gossip.”

“I’m merely seeking the truth,” he replied airily.

Victoire joined me in my laughter, though she was much quicker to sober up. “I agree with Teddy,” she said finally. “Not that you have to give us more details or anything, but couldn’t you at least give us a name?”

Shit. I hadn’t been expecting this, though I wasn’t entirely sure why. Of course people would want to know the name of my father’s child. Of course they would want to know what he did for a living, what kind of person he was, how we met. While I already knew one of the three answers, I still had to invite two more. The wine was calling to me now, all but begging me to take a drink of the precious.

I resisted.

“His name was. . .Jason,” I said with difficulty. Thankfully, neither Teddy nor Victoire raised an eyebrow at the time it took me to respond; they probably figured it was just hard for me to talk about the man.

“Just Jason?”

I pulled the first surname that came to mind out of my head. “Phillips. His name was Jason Phillips.”

“Hmm,” Teddy hummed. I was surprised that he wasn’t stroking the imaginary beard on his chin. “It sounds American.”

“That’s because it is American,” I retorted, tucking my hair behind my ears nervously. My fingers itched to remove the wine glass from the table.

“Personally,” Victoire interrupted before her husband could chastise me for procreating with an American. “I don’t think it matters what his nationality is. Though I’m curious. . .what was an American doing in Panama?”

“Well, I’ve just said that I met him on a dig.” I looked back and forth between the couple, hoping that they would connect the dots on their own, but their faces remained blank. “Isn’t it obvious?”

“Oh!” Teddy exclaimed after a few moments of silence. “He’s a Curse Breaker!”

I was going for Muggle anthropologist, an occupation I had taken a great interest in after conversing with several Muggles present on the site, but I supposed that a Curse Breaker worked as well. For some reason, however, it just didn’t sound as sophisticated.

“Yeah! He’s a Curse Breaker!”

“Does he work for the American branch of Gringotts?” Teddy asked interestedly.

“No,” I replied, a little too briskly, a tad too snappishly. “I mean, no. He doesn’t work for the American branch, but a private investor.”

“So he’s a freelance Curse Breaker?” Victoire questioned, an excited note in her voice, leaning forwards on her elbows.

“Yep.”

“He sounds delicious - I mean, exciting,” she quickly amended after a brief glance at her husband.

“He was very exciting, and fun, and nice,” I said, trying to play up the imaginary man that was the supposed father of my baby.

“If he was so perfect then why’d you break up?” Teddy asked.

“He had to go back to America,” I answered without a moment’s hesitant. Inwardly, I praised myself for coming up with such a quick response. “And before you ask, no, he didn’t know that I was pregnant. . .hell, I didn’t even know I was pregnant until he was gone for three months.”

“Did you try to contact him?” was Victoire’s next inquisition.

“I did, but he was on assignment in. . .Venezuela and I wasn’t going to bother him. . .or burden him with something this huge,” I said. This time, however, I wasn’t making up my response, aside from the Venezuela bit, of course. I hadn’t wanted to burden James with the responsibility of becoming a father, especially since he had left so quickly after our night together.

“Burden him?” Teddy parroted hollowly. Victoire and I exchanged an uneasy glance; the blue-haired man beside me was about to get very angry. “Burden him? What the hell were you doing with a man who didn’t want to assume responsibility of his own child?!”

“He didn’t know, Teddy!” I said loudly, trying my hardest to drown out his rising voice. “He still doesn’t know that Jack exists. And I’m not going to tell him, not after all this time.” I made an angry swipe at the unbidden tears in my eyes. “If he ever finds out and wants to take on the role, then fine,” I continued, my own temper rising, “he can have at it! But the way I see it is that we were already over and done with once I found out that I was pregnant with his child, so I wasn’t about to drag him back in my life when he was so obviously eager to be out of it!”

Teddy was pursing his lips so roughly, the skin around his mouth was turning an alarming shade of white. His wife reached across the table to grab his hand, but when her smooth palm touched the top of his hand, he pulled it out of her grasp.

“Teddy,” she began, but he was quick to silence her.

“No,” he said roughly. “If Mara doesn’t want her son to have a father, then she doesn’t want him to have a father. However, I think you’re making a huge mistake not only because Jack is going to grow up, wondering why his father left and if the man in question ever loved him, but there is also a huge chance that Jack’s father will want to know his son, would want to know that he exists.”

“Teddy,” Victoire tried again, but he ploughed onwards.

“If you ask me, Mara,” Teddy continued, his moss green eyes locking with mine, staring straight into my soul, “I think you’re scared. Scared of what his reaction will be when he finds out that you’ve been keeping a secret like this from him for so long. For a long as I can remember, you’ve hated it when people are angry with you and there’s a fat chance that Jack’s father will be very angry at you for shutting him out of his son’s life.”

“I’m not shutting him out,” I countered firmly, “I’m merely protecting my son from the possibility of rejection.”

“You’re not protecting your son, Mara, you’re protecting yourself,” Teddy corrected.

A knot tightened in my stomach, and I swallowed the gasp lodged in my throat.

He was right. I was protecting myself from the possibility of losing my best mate and my son’s father all in one go. I knew for a fact that I wouldn’t be able to handle it, seeing as how I was already a mess when James was still in the dark about Jack. I couldn’t possibly imagine what things would be like if James found out about his son and rejected him. . .rejected me. Not to sound too overdramatic, but it really would be too much to bare.

“Look,” Teddy said after a beat, placing his hand over mine. “I’m not trying to hurt you, Mara,” he assured me, squeezing my hand for good measure, “and I’m not trying to lecture you, but you need to know that your worst fear won’t necessarily become a reality. As I’ve said several times already, there’s a huge chance that you should contact this Jason bloke, and let him know the truth.” His eyes found mine again and his gaze pierced right through me as he spoke his next words with a conviction so profound, I was stunned into silence. “He deserves it.”

- - -


Twenty minutes later, I was hoisting Jack out of the playpen and positioning him in my arms as to not wake him up. Luckily, he didn’t so much as stir as I jostled him around, slipping his left foot back into the bootie he had managed to shake off while he was sleeping. I could feel my heart begin to thrum painfully against my ribcage, threatening to jump in my throat and suffocate me, but somehow I managed to keep my breathing under control.

Slinging the diaper bag over my shoulder, I stepped into the foyer where Teddy was waiting for me; Victoire was still in the kitchen overseeing the clean up procession. I had offered to help, but she insisted that I get Jack back home as soon as possible, and that I ought to see myself into bed almost as soon as I had everything settled. I tried to smile at him, but found that I couldn’t; his words were still echoing in my head and most likely would be for the rest of the evening, if not for the rest of the week.

“Bye,” I said, turning the doorknob and stepping out onto the front stoop. Before I could descend the first step, however, Teddy’s hand wrapped around my wrist.

“Can I just say something?”

“I thought you just did.”

“Very funny,” he said with an exasperated roll of his eyes. “I meant what I said in the dining room.”

“I know you did -”

“No, Mara, I don’t think you understood what I was trying to say,” Teddy insisted, looking very stern all of the sudden. “I know that you know that I want you to tell Jack’s father the truth, and I know that you will, but I meant now. As in as soon as possible, not five, ten, or even fifteen years from now. He deserves to know the truth - James is your best friend after all.”

My mouth dropped open and my eyes all but bugged out of my head. “W-w-what?”

“Goodnight,” Teddy said with a wide, Cheshire Cat-like smile before he shut the door in my face.

- - -


A/N 2: Merlin’s pants, it’s been awhile since I’ve updated and I’m truly sorry for that, but my personal life caught up with me. If it wasn’t the school play then it was helping Student Council prepared for prom. And if it wasn’t prom then it was a project. And if it wasn’t a project. . .well, I think you get the picture. As usual, I want to thank everyone who has reviewed and everyone else who hasn’t - regardless of whether you drop a line or not, I appreciate everyone who reads this. Also, I’d like to give a shout-out to I love prongs; it was her birthday on the 15th and since I couldn’t get the chapter out on time, I figured I’d give a holler! Please review!

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