You are viewing a story from

Conventional Wisdom by SnitchSnatcher

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

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

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 12: Does Your Mother Know?

A/N: Just so you know, there will be another change in view point during this chapter. =)

Chapter Eleven
Does Your Mother Know?

Watching Sophie and her mother comb through rack after rack of wedding dresses in search for “the perfect one” was a bit like watching primates grooming their young, plucking out the bites of leaves and eating the small bugs. In short, it was amusing yet revolting at the same time, mainly because Sophie and her mother were giggling and cooing over all of the dresses like a bunch of school girls - like they were the best of friends.

At first, I thought it was mildly cute, but after her mother reached forward and groped her daughter’s breasts, turning to look over her shoulder and ask the dress lady person if Sophie would need a strapless push-up bra (I swallowed my vehement cry of “No!”), things turned extremely awkward. I might have had a close relationship with my mum, but there was no way in hell that I would let her openly grope my boobs in public. That was just weird.

I suppose it didn’t help that I was the only other person there. Lily had contacted Sophie earlier than afternoon to let the bride-to-be know that she was going to be late. In Lily Language, that meant she was going to show up for the last five minutes. I swallowed nervously. I was left completely and utterly alone with the woman who would be exchanging vows with my best friend in a little under twelve days and her mother, who was very polite, but also very straightforward. Much like her daughter.

Maybe it was an American thing.

And maybe it was also an American thing to ask the best friend of your future husband to be your maid of honour after only meeting once - and very briefly at that. I’ll admit, I was still a little confused as to how I ended up in the bridal shop, even though Sophie had made herself quite clear. I tried to make sense of it all as Sophie and her mother continued their incessant searching for the perfect dress.


Sophie shifted in her chair, leaning forwards to take my hand. I don’t know why she thought it was necessary, but I went along with it simply because I didn’t know what else to do. My mind was in panic mode, and generally speaking, I wasn’t the best thinker whilst panicking. Or ever, really.

“Would you like to be my maid of honour?” she asked again, sending me an expectant look through her dark, unbelievably long - and most likely fake - eyelashes.


“Why?” She laughed, acting like it was the most amusing thing she’d ever heard. I highly doubted that, considering whom she was engaged to. “Because I asked you, silly. That’s why.”

“No,” I said with an impatient shake of my head. I slid my hand out of her grasp, returning it to support my son’s bottom. Jack gave a sharp pull on my hair. “I meant why are you asking me of all people to be your maid of honour? We hardly know each other. Shouldn’t the title go to your own best friend instead of your fiancé’s?”

Her smile faltered a bit at the corners, though her expression remained pleasant. “Originally I had planned for my best friend to be my maid of honour,” she began, delicately tucking a strand of wavy blonde hair behind her ear, “but Margaret contracted dragon poxes over the weekend.”

Over my shoulder, I heard Mum draw in a deep breath of surprise.

“Oh dear,” Lily said, sounding genuinely concerned. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Sophie mumbled softly, averting her gaze to her clasped hands and looking resigned. I wasn’t buying it. This was just an excuse, not a reason. Besides, girls like Sophie didn’t ask such monumental questions without an ulterior motive. I was determined to get to the bottom of this very peculiar mystery.

She cleared her throat and blinked dramatically. “Anyway,” Sophie continued, tossing her hair over her shoulder. “Like I said earlier, since you are James’s best friend, I thought it was fitting to ask you. If anyone knows Jimmy like I do, it’s you.” The smile on her face didn’t reach her eyes, which were uncharacteristically sharp and, unless it was just a trick of the light, challenging. “Besides, what’s his is now mine. Or it will be soon enough,” she added, giving a simpering little giggle that made my blood boil.

My blood was still boiling when the sound of Sophie’s voice drew me out of my reverie.

“I beg your pardon?” I asked, a slow blush creeping onto my cheeks. I hated when people caught me not paying attention. At least she wasn’t gloating about it like my professors at Hogwarts used to.

Instead, she smiled kindly at me and repeated her inquiry. “What do you think of this one, Mara?”

She held up an off-white dress. It was strapless, with a plunging neckline outlined in beading that, by the looks of it, would stop somewhere above her belly button. On anyone else, the dress would have looked tacky, but there was no doubt in my mind that if Sophie put it on, she would look stunning. Swallowing my jealousy and formulating a polite response was extremely difficult.

“It’s. . .,” I hesitated, trying to find the right words as I dragged my tongue along my bottom lip. “It’s very pretty,” I finished lamely.

Sophie beamed at me and handed the dress over to the consultant.

I had every reason in the world to lie to be, but for some reason, I didn’t. It might not have been very logical on my part, but she had asked me to be her maid of honour because I was James’s best friend and, obviously, she trusted me. At least, she acted like she did. Regardless, in this situation, I could have told her that it was hideous and that she should put it back on the rack without another moment’s consideration. But I hadn’t, and a part of me was vaguely disappointed.

The other half was celebratory.

The dress was very pretty - beautiful, even, but it was also borderline indecent. I would never wear something so tasteless to my wedding, but if Sophie wished to make herself look like a tart on her big day, then she was more than welcomed to it. I wasn’t about to stop her. With my luck, however, she looked like a ruddy supermodel - and she’d be the one taking James home that night, not me.

Twenty minutes and fourteen requests for my opinion later, the little bell over the shop door tinkled merrily and a very flustered looking Lily bustled into the bridal shop.

I perked up, twisting in my chair to greet her. “Finally,” I joked with a dramatic sigh, hoping to get a rise out of her. I received anything but.

“Don’t,” she growled as she tugged her arms out of her jacket and dropped into the chair next to me.

The smile fell away from my lips as I took another look at her. Her eyes were bloodshot and the tip of her button nose was red. Her bright red hair was rumpled, like she had been pushing her hand through it repeatedly. Something she only did when she was very upset.

“Lily?” I asked tentatively, laying a hand on her arm.

She hiccoughed. “What?”

“Are you -”

“I’m fine, Mara,” Lily muttered, raking her fingers through her locks.

Yep, she was definitely upset.

“I don’t believe you. You’re playing with your hair,” I pointed out smugly.

She lowered her hand and tucked it against her chest.

I rolled my eyes. “You should know better than trying to fool me, Lils. I’ve known you since you were born. Before then, actually,” I added as an afterthought, remembering the pictures on the mantle piece of James and I as toddlers, pressing our ears against Ginny’s stomach. I shook the image from my mind.

“I’m not trying to fool you,” Lily said as her dark eyes roved over the shop.

“Right, because I believe that,” I replied, folding my arms over my chest as I settled back in my chair. “You should know that you can always come to me if -”

“Merlin, you don’t give up, do you?” the redhead asked rhetorically, throwing her hands up in the air exasperatedly. “Honestly, you’re worse than my mother.” She pulled her fingers through her hair. My chest swelled and I smiled at her smugly. She rolled her eyes. “Henry and I had a fight, all right? That’s it.”

“Do you want -”

“No,” she interrupted shortly. “I don’t want to talk about it. It wasn’t even all that serious, anyway.”

I cocked my head to the side as I regarded her curiously. She appeared to be telling the truth, and she didn’t give me any reason whatsoever to doubt her. Still, I couldn’t help noticing that something about her seemed. . .well, off.

Before I could inquire any further, Lily nudged me in the side and whispered lowly, “Don’t look now, but here comes Bridezilla.”

I sputtered, choking on my laughter as Sophie and her mother returned from the deepest, darkest recesses of the store. My eyes flickered over her shoulder to the consultant, whose arms were weighed down by several dresses.

“Oh, hello, Lily!” Sophie greeted cheerily, rushing forward to give her future sister-in-law a hug. Lily returned it half-heartedly, patting the blonde on the back while pulling a face at me. Again, I struggled to maintain my laughter. “I’m glad you could make it,” continued Sophie as she released Lily. “I thought you might not be able to come.”

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” Lily said with a gusto so mocking, it was almost believable.

Sophie grinned. “That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. Now,” she said, clapping her hands, “who wants to go first?”

“What?” Lily and I exclaimed in unison.

“You didn’t think that I was the only one trying on dresses today, did you?”

* * *

Ginny Potter was flabbergasted.

When she had accepted the invitation to lunch from her long-time friend, Hannah Longbottom, she hadn’t expected to be hit with such a surprise. Of course, the force of the blow didn’t strike her until Hannah passed over her precious grandson and Ginny felt the weight of the child in her arms. The moment the baby’s - Jack, she reminded herself - deep hazel eyes met hers, she knew there was something off about the whole situation. She only knew one other person in existence with such intense hazel eyes. . .

She shook her head to herself as she slipped her arms out of her jacket, brushing off the bits of dirt that clung stubbornly to the fabric; before departing, Ginny had helped Hannah with her gardening, Jack observing them from his pumpkin seat, his tiny fist wedged in his mouth. No! There was absolutely no way that could’ve happened. They were - and still are - best friends! To think they would - that they would do. Well, it was just ridiculous. Her eldest son might not have acted like the sharpest goblin axe in the bunch, but he was sharper than tacks. Most of the time, anyway. Aside from that, he was responsible. And surely he would have taken up his responsibility as a -

“No,” Ginny muttered as she kicked off her shoes. She flicked her wand at the far corner of the kitchen where a series of hooks were mounted on the wall, holding several different aprons in various states of decay. The newest of the aprons wiggled its way out from underneath the pile and zoomed into her waiting hand.

“My James wouldn’t do that,” she assured herself as she knotted and tied the strings together, giving a more forceful than necessary tug to secure them.

She had raised her children better than that. While she couldn’t control every aspect of their adult lives - particularly their love lives - she hoped that some of her and Harry’s moral teachings and values had been passed down to their three kids. Besides, this was Mara, not just another girl that James happened to be dating. The thought of them being involved romantically and going as far as consummating the relationship. . .well, if she was being entirely honest, it was weird. And not just because she was James’s mother.

They had grown up together, constantly consumed in one another’s presence. They took baths together when they were toddlers, for Merlin’s sake! Those were the sort of things children who went onto become life-long mates did, not lovers.

Ginny cringed at the thought as she opened up the refrigerator and removed some vegetables from the lower drawer. No more, she told herself, giving one last final shake of her head in an attempt to vanquish such peculiar thoughts from her mind. It wasn’t her business and as much as her Weasley instinct was telling her to meddle, she resisted the urge, instead chopping the carrots for tonight’s soup by hand rather than by magic as a means of distracting herself.

* * *

“Are you sure it’s okay -”

“Mara, I swear to Merlin, if you ask me again, I will be forced to hex you!” Lily cried, sending me a very annoyed look.

I held up my hands in surrender, chuckling. “All right, all right. I was just checking.”

“For the seventeenth time?”

“I didn’t ask seventeen times,” I said stiffly, shoving my hands into my jacket pockets. “It was more like three. And I was only being polite; I didn’t want to force my presence on you.”

Lily heaved a sigh and pushed a hand through her thick red hair. “It’s fine, Mara. I’m just a little -”

“Strung out?” I suggested.

She laughed shortly. “I suppose you could say that. First it was the fight with Henry, which, for the last bloody time, I will not tell you about, so quit your asking!” Lily sent me another look and I pushed my bottom lip out into a pout. I thought I would get the goods when Sophie was out of earshot. She rolled her eyes and continued, “Then it was the two whole hours of trying on hideous dresses -”

“They weren’t all that bad,” I objected, albeit very weakly.

“Maybe you should go home and lie down - you’re starting to become delusional,” Lily joked, sticking her tongue out at me when I raised my hand threateningly.

“I think you’re just being overdramatic about the dresses,” I said as we rounded the corner and disappeared into an alleyway. “Sure, a fair portion of the lot were stupendously ugly, but the ones she picked aren’t too horrible looking.”

Making sure no one was around, we linked hands and, with an excruciatingly tight squeezing sensation, Apparated in the small dandelion field to the east of the house. As Lily picked her way through the flowers, she made a disgruntled noise of agreement. “The colour looks absolutely rubbish on me, though,” she mumbled.

It was my turn to send her a look. “Sea green doesn’t look good on anyone - and why are you griping anyway? At least you’re skinny! I’m still carrying around all this stupid baby weight.” I slapped my stomach for emphasis, eliciting a laugh from the redhead at my side. At least she wasn’t bitching and moaning like she had been at the bridal shop. I’d been two seconds away from Avada-ing her arse if she continued harping on about it.

As we drew up near to the house, Lily said, with a resigned sigh, “This whole wedding is going to suck.”

“You’re telling me,” I grumbled lowly as she crossed the lawn. At least you don’t have to watch your best friend and the father of your child marry someone else.

Before my thoughts could turn entirely black, I followed Lily up to the front door, trailing a few feet behind her. By the time I stepped onto the porch, she had already opened the door and was inside, shrugging her arms out of her travelling cloak. I hesitated, fidgeting with my hands as I debated what to do.

“What are you doing?” she asked sceptically. “Come inside.”

“I don’t know if this is such a good idea, Lils,” I said lowly, staring long and hard at my feet.

I didn’t have to look up to know that Lily had her hands on her hips and was glaring at me down the slope of her nose. “And why not?” she demanded.

“Because James is going to -”


I closed my eyes and counted to ten, wondering if I should just give up speech all together and become a mute. “Speak of the devil,” I muttered to myself as I looked over Lily’s shoulder to confirm my suspicion.

My eyes widened considerably and suddenly I wished that I hadn’t bothered looking at all. I knew his voice from anywhere.

James was standing at the foot of the stairs in a pair of jeans, which were unbuttoned at the top, and nothing else. Subconsciously, my eyes roved over his body, slowly taking it in. It wasn’t anything that I hadn’t already seen before - I had seen him completely starkers, for Merlin’s sake - but still, I couldn’t stop staring at the flat planes of his leanly muscled stomach nor the little tuff of dark brown hair that disappeared in the waistband of his boxers. The last time I had seen him without a shirt, I ended up pregnant.

Well, one of the times.

“H-hi James,” I greeted, inwardly cursing my inability to speak clearly in his half-naked state. It was like the time in fifth year when I barged into his dormitory to rant and rave about how ridiculous the terms of my detention were and he had just stripped out of his dirtied Quidditch kit. As you might have guessed, it was extremely awkward and we made a silent agreement to never mention the moment ever again. Several years later, we laughed about the story over a pitcher of margaritas on the beaches of Panama and that night, you guessed it! He - or should I say we - got naked together.

Coincidence? I think not.

“I didn’t expect to see you here,” James said, sliding his arms into the sleeves of the shirt he had been holding loosely at his hand and pulling it over his head. To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. However, the logical part of my brain believed this to be a good thing as I wouldn’t say or do anything stupid now that I was able to think clearly. Well, for the most part.

“Yeah, well, I didn’t think I was going to end up here,” I replied, reaching up to itch the back of my neck. When he sent me an quizzical look, I added, “Lily invited me to dinner at the last minute after the dress shopping.”

He jerked visibly at the mention of the wedding. “Oh, did she now? That was nice of her,” he commented, awkwardly leaning against banister. I assumed that he was trying to pull off the whole ‘nonchalant’ look, but truth be told it wasn’t working. If anything, it only intensified the electricity in the area, making the hairs on my arms stand on end. Or it might have been a bead of water running down the side of his neck, disappearing under his collar.

I am not that drop of water slowly making my way down his stomach. I am not that drop of water slowly -

“So,” James said suddenly, interrupting my train of thought. Inwardly, I thanked him for doing so. Circe only knows what would’ve happened if he hadn’t; I might have jumped him, but then again maybe not. I did have some sense of self-control. “How’d it go?”

“How’d what go?”

He gave me the same look he’d been giving me since we were kids when I said something stupid.

“Oh, you mean the dress shopping,” I said.

“Yeah. So,” he pressed, running a hand over the top of his damp hair. “How did it go? Was Sophie alright? By that I mean was she overbearing?”

“Just a bit at first, but she got -”

“Because she only gets like that when she’s shopping,” James ploughed on, his voice growing gradually higher in volume. “I mean, she’s one of those ‘in the zone’ shoppers, y’know what I mean? How to put this? Hmm, well, she gets like me when I play Quidditch. Like really intense and -”

“I get it, James!” I disrupted, effectively cutting him off. “And if you would’ve let me finish, you would have heard that she got better within the first few minutes. Mainly, she was just worried that her mum had forgotten about their appointment. Apparently her mum’s very forgetful.”

“Yeah, just a bit,” James said, chuckling. When I raised a brow for further clarification, he said, “She kept forgetting what my name was the first three times I met her, but it looks like she’s finally got it down.”

“I should hope - you are marrying her daughter,” I responded, smiling widely at him.

Instead of returning it, he merely nodded his head in agreement. I tried not to feel too satisfied that he wasn’t flipping cartwheels at the prospects of marrying the blonde bombshell. Of course, he could just be nervous especially since the Big Day was fast approaching - only twelve days left until they exchanged vows. That would be perfectly understandable. Hell, I was even nervous about James’s Big Day and not just because I was a part of the wedding party. Regardless of whom he was marrying, he was still getting married and I had to be there to support him, even if I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and shake some sense into him. Or at any rate, kiss some into him. But the likelihood of that happening was slim to none.

I opened my mouth to say something, but thankfully James’s younger brother, Albus, poked his head around the corner. He looked right at James and said, “Mum says dinner’s ready.” His bright green eyes cut over to me and smiled. His resemblance to his father was astounding, so much so that it almost freaked me out. “Hey Mara.”

“Hi Al,” I said. “How goes it?”

“Good, I suppose, but right now I’m hungry,” Albus replied, his eyes twinkling mischievously behind his glasses. “You coming or not?” He disappeared the way he’d come and I turned to James, once again raising a brow.

“Shall we?”

“Ladies’ first,” James said, giving a grand and quite honestly ostentatious sweep of his arm. I rolled my eyes and punched him on the shoulder as I passed him. “Ouch,” he muttered, rubbing the spot. “You’re abusive, d’you know that?”

I laughed as I followed in his younger brother’s footsteps, passing through the doorway that connected the hallway to the kitchen.

The room was full of activity and obviously fortified with a Silencing Charm as the volume increased tenfold when I stepped into the kitchen. Harry was feeding their giant black dog, Snuffles, whom was named in memory of Harry’s godfather; I thought it was rather strange too, though I teased James about this relentless - he was the only person I knew who shared a namesake with his dog. Lily was helping Albus set the table and by the looks of it, they were arguing about something. I could guess the subject matter. It was always the same with them - Albus was an Unspeakable and Lily was constantly needling him about exactly what his job entailed. Compared to his siblings, Albus was fairly skilled at keeping mum. Ginny was standing at the stove, her back to the doorway.

When James stepped into the room, my back brushed against his chest, and I struggled to maintain my gasp of surprise. It was silly of me, simply stupid to react in such a way over a small amount of contact. I hastily scooted to the side to make room for him and he seemed grateful for it. The door snapped shut behind us, alerting the occupants of the kitchen to our presence. Lily and Albus didn’t seem to care, but Harry looked up and smiled at me.

“Oh, hello Mara,” he greeted warmly as he rose to his feet. Snuffles shoved his nose into Harry’s palm and licked, whimpering for more attention. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ginny pause mid-motion. “We weren’t expecting you.”

I narrowed my eyes at Lily, who flushed a light shade of pink. “Yeah, that seems to be the general sentiment.”

Harry laughed good-naturedly. It was a pleasant sound, one that brought back memories of my childhood. “Don’t worry about it. You’re always welcomed here. You’d think that after twenty-two years you would’ve figured it out already.”

“Yeah,” I agreed with an uneasy chuckle. “You’d think that I would, but it also took me thirteen years to finally address you by your first names.”

“Something that you still have a bit of difficulty with, if I remember correctly,” James threw in as he pulled out a chair. I half expected him to sit down, but he jerked his head towards me. Flattered, I sank down into the chair, allowing him to tuck it underneath the table.

“Aw, well if you aren’t just the perfect gentleman,” Albus teased as both he and Lily followed suit and sat down in chairs across the table from James and I.

James pulled a face at his younger brother, and I laughed. It was eerie, being back at their house, in their kitchen, and sharing a meal with the entire family. Just like Harry’s short bout of laughter, an onslaught of fond memories assaulted my brain, including a very sticky, very messy food fight that had taken place when Ginny had been away on a business trip. You could still see the stains on the ceiling if you knew where to look for them.

A pale, freckled hand snaked in the space between mine and James’s shoulder, placing a bowl of soup in front of us. “Be careful, it’s hot,” Ginny advised as she floated down the table, pausing to drop a kiss onto Harry’s cheek. Inwardly, I smiled but outside my face remained neutral. It was all but forbidden to show any emotion towards the affection nature of James’s parents’ relationship; I had learned the hard way during Christmas a few years back.

I waited until Ginny had taken her seat at the end of the table opposite her husband before eating. The first bite was hot just like she had warned, but it was delicious. Clearly she had inherited her mother’s cooking abilities.

“This is great, Ginny,” I commented as I spooned some more of the soup into my mouth.

She didn’t respond.

James cleared his throat loudly. “Mum?” he pressed somewhat impatiently.

“Oh!” Ginny said, jerking herself out of her thoughts so violently, the soup on her spoon sloshed down the front of her blouse. “Bullocks,” she cursed, grabbing her wand and cleaning up the mess whilst replying to my compliment. “Thank you.”

Well, that certainly wasn’t what I expected, but perhaps she was a bit miffed that her daughter had failed to inform her of a dinner guest or at least give her a fair warning. I glared at Lily, but the redhead was too busy threatening her older brother with a blunt butter knife to notice.

* * *

“It was great seeing you again, Mara,” Albus said as he gave me an one-armed goodbye hug. He would’ve used two, but he hadn’t taken his little sister seriously and was paying the consequences; she’d jabbed him a bit too hard with the butter knife. “Don’t wait so long to visit next time.”

I smiled at him, reaching up to ruffle his already extremely messy hair. “I won’t as long as you promise not to agitate your sister,” I said with a laugh, nodding towards his arm.

“I suppose I shouldn’t have singed off her eyebrows,” Albus remarked, shrugging. “She’ll get over it.”

“Not bloody likely,” I snorted. I gave him another quick hug before stepping out into the dusky night. “See you, Al!” I called once I got to the edge of the wards, walking through them with a slight shiver.


I smiled to myself and shoved my hands into my pockets once more, deciding to walk home rather than Apparate. It was a warm, almost balmy evening, a gentle breeze swaying the tall stalks of field grass. Not many nights like this occurred during the summer, and I wanted to savour it. I was halfway down the lane when I heard a voice calling my name.

“Wait up!”

Turning around, I saw James jogging towards me, his hair flapping comically in the wind. I did as he asked and waited until he caught up with me. It didn’t take very long for him to reach me and when he did, he thrust something into my hands.

My jacket.

“You forgot that.”

“Oh,” I said, folding it up and tucking it under my arm. “Thanks.” We stood, facing each other and not saying a single word. The crickets were beginning to chirp and the frogs were bellowing from their ponds. All in all, it would have been the perfect setting for A Moment, but that could and would never happen. I kicked at the gravel, hooking my thumbs through the belt loops on my jeans. “Well, I should go.”

I pivoted on my heel and started down the lane once more. I can’t say that I was all that surprised when James easily feel into step beside me. “I’ll walk you home.”

“You don’t have to do that,” I said earnestly. “I’m a big girl, I’m more than able to take care of myself. Besides, don’t you have to get back to Sophie?”

Glancing out of the corner of my eye, I saw James lowered his head and stare at his feet as we beat the familiar path to my parents’ house. “Why do you always have to say things like that?” he asked quietly.

I furrowed my brow, returning my gaze to the road ahead of me. “What do you mean?”

“You know what I’m talking about.”

A part of me was tempted to play the oblivious card, but he was being serious. I could tell by the tone of his voice, the way he was staring dejectedly at his feet. My words had ruffled his feathers, so to speak, and he obviously wanted to address the issue even though I wanted to run in the opposite direction.

I lifted my shoulders and shrugged. “I don’t know,” I admitted just as softly, not daring to look at him. “I guess I’m just trying to get myself accustomed to the idea of it, is all.”

The intensity of his stare was enough to make me scratch a non-existent itch on my arm. I wasn’t used to his heavy gaze; I hadn’t felt it for the longest time. It was strange, being under his scrutiny again, so strange that I had to bite down on the inside of my cheek to prevent myself from telling him to quit.

“It’s all happening so fast, isn’t it?” James said suddenly.

This time my curiosity was too much. I tore my eyes away from the road and focused them on James’s face, which looked exceptionally handsome in the fading sunlight. Though I recognised the worried expression on his face, it felt foreign. I could count on one hand the number of times I had seen James truly worry over something. This was one of those times.

I laid my hand on his arm, my eyebrows knitting together in concern. We jumped at the jolt of energy that shot between us at the skin-on-skin contact. “James?” I questioned, lowering my voice in hopes of conveying my trepidations. “Are you -”

“I’m fine,” he said hurriedly, surreptitiously shaking my hand away from his arm. “It’s just - it really is happening so fast. When I agreed to Sophie’s request of a summer wedding, I didn’t think she meant this summer!”

“Did you tell her that you don’t want to get married so soon?” I asked.

“No,” James answered with a heavy sigh. “I didn’t, but I have hinted at it. And before you say anything, yes, she did pick them up. She’s not as stupid as you make her out to be.”

“Hey!” I exclaimed, pulling my best innocent expression. “I never said that she was dumb.”

“You implied it, which is basically the same thing,” he retorted, bumping his shoulder against mine as we crested the hill and slowly began the descent; my parents‘ house wasn’t very far away now. “But she brought up a good point,” James continued.

“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a Legimens,” I said, returning the bump and stumbling as I rebounded off of his body.

He rolled his eyes and pushed another sigh, this one exasperated, through his lips. “She said that there was no point in waiting until next summer. If we really love each other, we should get married as soon as possible. At one point, she suggested that we go to the Ministry and have a civil ceremony, but her mum convinced her to have an actual wedding instead.” A frown momentarily took residence upon his face, puckering his dark brow. “I’m not sure how I feel about either, to be honest.”

That makes one of us, I thought darkly as we reached the bottom of the hill. We drifted away from the main road, taking the gravel path that lead towards my parents’ yellow house, which was nestled in the valley between two hills. I knew exactly how I felt about James’s upcoming wedding and by this point in time, so did a great deal of other people, namely Mum, Teddy, and Terra, the latter of which was a surprisingly good listener and the most eager to verbally abuse the big boobed blonde.

Usually the sight of the garden gate was a cause to smile, but tonight I felt like frowning. This was the first real conversation James and I had had since I’d been back in England. I didn’t want it to end, not when we were finally getting to points that needed to be discussed, the most obvious of which was still floating around in space, just waiting for the opportune moment to be snatched and brought back to Earth. It had taken us much too long to get to this point.

A part of me wanted to ask him inside, but I refrained, mainly because Jack was in the house and I was paranoid that if James spent too much time around his son, he’d have an Epiphany. I don’t know if you’ve ever witnessed one of his epiphanies, but there’s usually a lot of obscene swearing and body flailing. I didn’t want to imagine his reaction to the truth. What would he think of me when the bomb was dropped? I shuddered just thinking about it.

“Well,” I began, resting my hand against the gate, the skin of my palm tingling as the wards surrounding the house registered my presence. “This is me.”

“That is it,” James said with a short nod of his head. “So I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?”

“What’s happening tomorrow?”

“You mean Sophie didn’t tell you?” he asked exasperatedly. I shook my head, prompting him to roll his eyes and shove an irritated hand through his hair. “Tomorrow evening, the bridal party is going out for a wine tasting. According to Sophie, it’s something of a tradition where she’s from.”

“When you say bridal party. . .who does that include?”

“Me, you, Sophie, and Albus,” he answered. “In short, the bride, the groom, the best man and the maid of honour.”

My smile was hard-pressed. “Oh joy. I can’t wait.”

James laughed, nudging me in the side with his elbow. “Come on, it won’t be that bad. I’ll be there.” He preened.

I rolled my eyes. “That’s precisely the reason why I don’t want to go.”

He snorted in amusement. “Whatever, Mara. You know you love and adore and cherish me to Kingdom Come.”

A pang shot through me. He wasn’t being serious about it - he was joking. The sad thing is that he didn’t know how close to the truth he was. Biting in the inside of my cheek to prevent tears from springing into my eyes unbidden, I laughed. It was a hollow sound, nothing like my true laughter, and I could tell that James saw through it. Once again, the crease appeared between his brow momentarily.

“Well,” I said again, unlatching the gate. “Until tomorrow.”

“Until then,” he confirmed with a nod, stepping forward to give me a hug. It was short, but extremely warm and I clung to the remnants of his warmth when we separated. He flashed a grin before dropping a kiss onto my forehead. “Bye Mara.”

I watched him go until he disappeared around the bend. Once he was out of sight, I heaved a sigh and closed my eyes. “Bye James,” I whispered, beginning the first step of letting him go forever.

* * *

A/N: The chapter title comes directly from one of my favourite ABBA songs, “Does Your Mother Know?”

I hope you all enjoyed a little insight from someone other than Mara or James. I felt that it was the little snippet of Ginny’s day was necessary because like some of you have been saying, someone’s bound to notice the similarities in appearance between James and Jack, especially since the baby is supposed to look so much like him, so who better than the woman who raised James? At the moment, she’s merely suspicious, but Weasley women are usually right about their hunches. . . Anyway, thanks to everyone who reviewed the last chapter and while I realise it’s been a little over two weeks since my last update, at least this is better than waiting a month! Remember to review!