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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 1: 01..The Art of Procrastination
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Defying Gravity
Chapter 1: The Art of Procrastination

Her eyes snapped open suddenly from a dream. She couldn’t remember the dream; it wasn’t important. What was important was why she was waking up at, she groaned aloud glancing at her watch, five thirty in the morning on a Hogsmeade Saturday. The last Hogsmeade Saturday before Christmas, actually.

Then, her empty belly let out a loud noise, and then she felt a pain in her mid-section. “Great,” she muttered, sitting straight up in the cold morning air. The house elves were supposed to keep the damn fires lit, but it somehow became below freezing in the dorm rooms at Hogwarts.

She felt another lurch in her abdomen and she threw her legs over the side of the bed and hurried in to the bathroom, not even caring that she was in shorts and a tee shirt and it was friggin’ cold. She didn’t even notice.

She did, however, notice when she fell to the floor in front of a toilet in the loo, her knees landing on cold stone. She didn’t need to throw up, though, and after a moment she leaned against the stone wall of the cubical. She brought her knees to her chest, her feet resting flat against the stone. She could feel its iciness through the thin material of her shorts and she shivered involuntarily.

The nauseous feeling didn’t dissipate, and she couldn’t decide if she was hungry or really needed to throw up. She sat on the cold stone floor for nearly an hour before she decided she wasn’t going to retch, nor was she going to be able to go back to sleep.

Instead, she took a shower, allowing the steaming hot water to beat on her tired muscles. She heard the door creak open and listened to one of her roommates pad to another shower stall and start the water. The new girl hummed to herself and she smiled.

“Hey, Rose,” she said. She knew as soon as the girl had walked in that it was Rose Weasley: she would be the only one who was up at this hour. Also, the girl had quite a voice.

“Nat?” came the tentative voice.

“Of course,” Nat sighed. “Sorry to disappoint you. Who did you think it was?”

“Emileigh,” Rose said simply. And then giggled. “Have you been up for long?”

“About an hour. I got that sick feeling again this morning.”

“Again? That’s what, the forth or fifth time this week! If I didn’t know you were on birth control potion I’d think you were pregnant.” Nat laughed at this notion. There was no way she could be pregnant. She took her potion religiously and was the most careful of her roommates. The least promiscuous, too, besides Rose.

“Besides,” Rose continued, “that would mean my cousin would have knocked you up and we can’t have that.”

“Hey! That hurts! Al is a great guy!” Nat defended her boyfriend of a year and a half. “And did you think I wouldn’t notice your cold, empty bed this morning? Been spending a lot of time in the Slytherin dungeons lately, eh Rosie?”

“You’re one to talk!” Rose cried, and only then did Nat feel a tad bit dirty to be having this conversation with her best friend while they were each in the shower. “It’s a miracle you actually spent one Friday night in this dorm.”

“I didn’t want to get in trouble and not be allowed to go to Hogsmeade. At least I would only be sneaking around in my own tower. Tell me, how did Scorpius manage to sneak you up from the dungeons?”

“He didn’t walk me,” Rose grumbled. Nat scoffed. “He was still sleeping when my alarm went off. You know how he hard he is to wake up.”

“No,” Nat chided. “I am proud to say I don’t know that bit of information, thank you very much.” She shut off the water to her shower and began to dry off. The water in Rose’s stall was shut off a few moments later, and then they each stepped out of their stall wrapped in maroon towels with the Gryffindor crest sewn in the middle.

Nat walked over to the mirror and swiped her hand across it, removing the condensation so she could see her reflection. She picked up her brush out of her tote and ran it through her long, blonde hair before parting it off to the side.

Nat and Rose brushed their teeth and dried their hair in silence and then padded out in to the dorm. Nat was happy to see the fire had been reignited and the room was a cozy warm.

She picked out her clothes, and, unabashedly, dropped her towel and began dressing. She pulled on black leggings and a short denim skirt, a black tank top, a white tank top, and then a red long sleeved shirt, giving herself a layered look. She pulled on khaki coloured boots that were lined with a cream coloured fur and headed back in to the bathroom to put the finishing touches on her hair and makeup.

Nat grasped the edge of the sink as yet another wave of nausea washed over her. Rose walked in to the bathroom, humming yet again, and saw her pained stance.

“Merlin, are you sick?” Rose hurried over to her friend and felt her forehead with the back of her hand. “You don’t have a fever. Maybe you should stay here today.”

“Not bloody likely,” Nat spat through clenched teeth. Rose raised her hands in surrender and moved to the sink next to her, picking up a blush brush. “I’m probably just hungry. I skipped dinner last night,” she waggled her eyebrows at Rose in the mirror and Rose pulled a face.

“I’d rather not discuss my cousin’s sex life, thank you very much.”

Nat slid a black head band behind her bangs, which fell artistically in to her crystal blue eyes, and she nodded at the mirror. She turned her head when the door opened and a short girl with brown frizzy hair and flannel pyjamas on shuffled in, a brown bathroom tote bag under her arm. It was filled with hair potions, face creams, and generally every toiletry a person could think of.

“’Morning, Kate,” Rose said, fluffing her hair in the mirror.

”Oh, hey,” Kate turned to the two, as if she hadn’t seen them when she walked in. “Can you try and wake up Em for me? It’s like waking the dead with that one, and Bryce said he wouldn’t wait for her forever. Today’s their first date, you know?”

“Really,” Nat asked, as if she didn’t know. Although, why Bryce Wood even bothered dating Emileigh Thomas was beyond her. Everyone knew she was easier to get in to than a Cannons match. (The Cannons were, like, the worst Quidditch team on the planet, but Rose’s dad still supports them.)

“And get Lucy up while you’re at it,” said Kate, almost as an after thought, as she slipped into a shower stall. The two girls walked away from the billowing steam and back in to the dormitory. Directly to the left of the door was Lucy Weasley’s bed. To the right was Emileigh Thomas.

Rose tilted her head towards Lucy’s bed and Nat scoffed, tilting her head towards Emileigh’s. “She’s your cousin,” Nat hissed when Rose made a move towards Emileigh’s bed.

“But she’s so awful,” Rose shuddered, but reluctantly moved to the bed which contained a red head snoring softly. Nat pulled the curtains to Emileigh’s bed opened and shook the brunette awake.

“Get up,” Nat yelled in her ear. The girl in question shot up in bed, nearly knocking Nat out in the process. “You don’t want to be late for your date with Wood, do you?”

The girl moved quickly and purposefully out of her bed and down to her trunk to gather her shower supplies. Nat looked over to Rose, who was shaking Lucy roughly.

“Go ‘way,” the sleeping girl muttered, turning away from Rose and cuddling closer to a pillow. Rose sighed, throwing her hands up.

“Fine. It’s the weekend. Miss Hogsmeade. I. Don’t. Care.” She said the last part slowly, and close to the other girl’s ear, punctuating each word. Then she turned around and stomped away muttering, “Brat,” under her breath. Nat giggled behind her hand and Rose glared at her. “Are you coming to breakfast? You need to eat something. You will feel better.”

It was nearly eight o’clock, and the Great Hall was packed for so early on a weekend. Although, not so much for it being a Hogsmeade weekend and definitely not so much for it being the last Hogsmeade weekend before a major holiday.

Rose wiggled her fingers in the direction of the Slytherin table, or more accurately, Scorpius Malfoy, and she and Nat made their way to the other side of the hall to the Gryffindor table.

They slid gracefully in to seats in the middle of the table. Rose began piling food on her plate, but Nat sat there. The sight of that food was giving her that all too familiar feeling in her tummy, and the smell of coffee churned her stomach. She cautiously pulled a piece of wheat toast off the top of the stack and set it on her plate.

“Hey, Love,” Albus Potter slid in to the seat next to Nat and kissed her cheek. Bryce Wood sat on the opposite side of the table across from Albus and looked pointedly at Nat.

“Is she even awake?” He flipped his light brown fringe out of his hazel eyes. Of course, he was talking about Emileigh, his date for the day.

“Of course she is,” Nat smiled weakly, buttering her toast. “Give me some credit, Bryce. She’s been waiting for you to ask her out since last term, I doubt she’d miss your first date!”

Nat picked up the toast and looked at it, the butter glistening in the candlelight. She grimaced and took a napkin, wiping as much butter off as she could. She felt rather than saw someone sit in the seat next to Rose and turned her head to see a red head and a boy with white-blonde hair sucking each other’s faces off.

She cleared her throat with a prim, “Eh-hem.” The two tore their faces away from each other and Rose had the decency to look embarrassed. “Good morning, Malfoy,” she said brightly, smiling at the boy in question.

His blonde hair fell to his chin, which was pointed and led to a strong jaw and high cheekbones. He was a God in most people’s eyes, but to Nat he was just Scorpius, the only Slytherin worth befriending.

“’Morning, Long,” he nodded in Nat’s direction. “Potter, Wood,” he added to the boys sitting near them. Just then, a breathless Emileigh slammed herself down on the bench next to Bryce, and Kate slid more gracefully next to her.

Then Kate’s eyes narrowed at Rose. “Your cousin is a bitch,” she said angrily, reaching out to pour a glace of pumpkin juice.

“Which one?” Albus’ eyes narrowed. Rose and Albus were cousins, and Albus had a little fifth year sister, Lily, who he hoped Kate wasn’t referring to.

“Lucy,” Rose answered for her. “What did she do?”

“She bit me!” Kat cried, loudly, causing several people to look their way. “Honestly, I was just trying to wake her!”

Rose leaned forward around Nat to look at her cousin. “She has so much of Uncle Percy in her.” Albus gasped in mock shock and Rose chuckled. “We were both thinking it; only I had the balls to say it.”

“Yeah,” Albus laughed, “then say it to her face.”

“Not bloody likely!”

Nat tuned out her friends and took a deep breath, this time intent on taking a bite of toast. Her stomach was churning uncomfortably, and she hoped that getting something inside it would make it happy.

She lifted the toast to her mouth and nibbled on the crust. She swallowed and then drank a bit of pumpkin juice. After she got that down, she took a bigger bite, also following it up with a drink.

A few minutes later, she had finished her third piece of toast and was reaching for a forth. “Got your appetite back, eh?” Rose commented, taking a bite of her eggs. Nat nodded, then stopped. She felt a lurch in her stomach, the taste of bile in the back of her throat.

“Oh no,” she gasped out before the stumbled off of the bench and, literally, ran out of the Great Hall. She took the steps of the Grand Staircase two at a time until she came to the first floor, all the while cursing the fact that there was not an easily accessible loo on the ground floor.

The bile was getting more potent, and she had to swallow to keep it down. The jostling of running wasn’t helping matters, and she barely burst through the door and made it in to a stall before she lost what little she ate for breakfast in the toilet.

“Merlin,” Kate and Rose slammed in a minute later and she was then dry heaving over the toilet. Rose moved forward immediately and pulled her hair out from around her shoulders so it wouldn’t get in the way. She rubbed Nat’s back soothingly, and Nat rested her arms against the bowl, her head resting on one forearm.

The door burst open again and Albus rushed in, Scorpius, Emileigh, and Bryce moving into the doorway behind him. “Are you okay?” Albus asked, his voice laced with concern.

Nat sat back on her haunches, swiping the back of her hand across her mouth, as Rose rounded on Albus.

“This is a girls’ toilet!” Rose yelled, effectively backing Albus out of the lavatory. “There could be first years in here, Albus. And you are a prefect!”

Oh, did she mention Rose was Head Girl? She had the opportunity to have her own room, but refused, not wanting to be away from her friends. It’s not like she spent any substantial time in the dorm anyway.

She was about to give Albus a final shove to get him out of the room, when Nat suddenly lurched forward and was dry heaving into the toilet again. Kate took her place rubbing her back and holding her hair.

Emileigh, who was standing in the corridor behind two tall boys, pushed her head between their arms and gasped. “Gods, Nat. Are you pregnant?”

Everyone’s eyes, save for Nat’s, turned to Albus and he spluttered. “No!” he cried, “she can’t be! She’s on the potion. Madame Grady” – the witch in the infirmary – “gave it to her!”

“You don’t use spells or anything else?” Kate gasped. Then everyone turned to her. No one expected sweet, innocent, virginal Kate to know anything about birth control. She turned red with embarrassment and Nat groaned, the noise echoing in the toilet bowl.

“Well…no,” Albus admitted, almost meekly. “Why, do you?” He turned, his eyes landing on Scorpius, who snorted.

“Every time! Nothing’s one hundred percent and who knows where Grady gets those potions anyway. She could get them from Professor Kingston” – the potions teacher – “and I wouldn’t put it past him to muck up a batch just for kicks.”

Albus scrubbed his hand over his face and through his hair. He walked quickly over to Nat, who had stood and was coming out of the stall, but she pushed him away, instead moving over to the sinks. She rinsed her mouth out and splashed cold water on to her face, breathing deeply.

“Actually,” Rose said primly, watching her cousin and best friend, “I do know where Madame Grady gets the potions. She special orders them from the Apothecary in Hogsmeade. That’s why you have to have permission from a parent or guardian to take it, because she has to know how many to order. And the apothecary brews them in batches. One batch makes six three-month supplies. Then we girls go and get them every three months, so if hers was affected, so could five others’.”

“That would be you, Emileigh, Kate, Luce, and,” Nat paused, looking at Albus apologetically, “Lily. We all went and got ours together, remember? And Grady was just starting on a new shipment.”

“Lily is on birth control potion?” Albus gasped.

“Relax,” Rose patted his shoulder sympathetically. “There’s other reasons to take birth control potion besides sex.”

“Yeah,” Kate agreed, “I take it to regulate my…visits,” she censored her statement because of the boys in the room.

“Calm down, it’s okay,” Nat patted him reassuringly. Albus pulled her in to a hug and buried his face in her hair.

“You might be pregnant and my sister is possibly having sex. This was supposed to be a good day.” His voice was muffled by her hair, but everyone in the room got the tone of his statement.

“Well, here,” Rose stated. “We will go to Hogsmeade, go to the Apothecary and get a pregnancy test. Then we’ll know for sure and can take it from there. As for Lily, well, Al, she is a big girl.”

“In the mean time,” said Kate, cutting off Albus’ protests, “there are boys in the girls lavatory. And one of them is a prefect. I sure hope a professor doesn’t come up to check on you, Nat. You caused quite a scene in the Great Hall.”

Nat laughed, but her stomach tightened and her smile faded in to a grimace. She couldn’t be pregnant. She was only seventeen. She had her whole life ahead of her.

As if sensing her thoughts, Rose walked over and put an arm around her shoulders, leading her towards the staircase. “We’re going to freshen up a bit,” Rose said to Albus’ questioning look. “We’ll be right down.”

He nodded mutely, running a hand through his unruly black hair, and headed back down the stairs and in to the Great Hall with his friends. Rose had her arm around Nat the whole way back to Gryffindor tower. She muttered the password to the Fat Lady and the portrait swung open. She stepped inside and held her hand out for Nat to take.

The common room was nearly empty for still so early on a weekend, with a small giggling group of fourth year girls near the fire, and a few boys milling around the girls’ staircase, probably waiting for their dates to come down.

Rose pulled Nat to the top of the tower and entered the seventh year girls’ dorm. She was surprised to find Lucy’s bed empty, and heard the water of the shower running in the bathroom.

Nat let go of Rose’s hand and collapsed on her trunk, putting her head in her hands. She let out a loud sob and Rose stroked her back, gently. “How could I be so stupid?” Nat whispered, lifting her head to look at Rose.

“Nat, there may not be anything to worry about. Lets not get worked up until there’s something to get worked up over, alright?” Rose was unnervingly calm as she pulled Nat to her feet and then took her in to the bathroom.

Lucy had just stepped out of a shower stall, a fluffy white towel wrapped around her head holding in her hair, and a Gryffindor towel wrapped securely around her chest. She moved over to the sinks and began brushing her teeth.

“Are you okay?” she noticed Nat and spoke around her tooth brush making it sound more like, “a-oo-oay?” Nat just nodded simply and pulled out her tooth brush.

She brushed the acidy taste of bile out of her mouth, gargling extra long with mouthwash. After that, she washed her face of all of the makeup she’d painstakingly applied hours before, since it was all smudged from minutes before, and simply pressed on some powder and mascara, making sure to put her shimmery lip gloss in her skirt pocket.

“Natalya,” Lucy called as Nat turned to leave the bathroom. Lucy was the only one who called her by her full name, and it was unnerving to Nat. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine, thanks Luce.” She walked past Rose and out of the bathroom, tears suddenly pricking the back of her eyes. No, she wasn’t fine. She was suddenly glad she’d worn water-proof mascara as tears gathered at the corner of her eyes.

“We may need you later on tonight,” Rose told Lucy before exiting the bathroom and closing the door behind her.

“What was that for?’ Nat wondered aloud and Rose shrugged.

“Just in case, I’m buying six tests. If it was a botched potion, any of us could be pregnant.” Nat nodded, a tear that had gathered slid slowly down her cheek. Rose reached up and brushed it away. “Deep breaths,” Rose said soothingly.

“Aren’t you supposed to oversee students entering the village, Head Girl?” said Nat as they made their way down the stairs and out the portrait hole. Rose shrugged.

“Professor Longbottom” – head of Gryffindor House and overseer of Prefect meetings – “decided that it would be nice to give the prefects a whole day in Hogsmeade, so teachers are taking turns patrolling.”

“Oh, that was nice of him,” Nat smiled fondly. Herbology was her favourite subject and she liked Professor Longbottom. He was also a family friend to Albus’ family and Albus had dated his daughter, Meg, briefly before Nat. Meg had been his only previous relationship, so he hadn’t had much experience when he and Nat started dating the summer before sixth year when Nat had gone to stay with Rose the last part of holidays.

“Yes,” Rose agreed, “and I have so many gifts to buy. All of my cousins, my parents…Scor.”

“Gosh you haven’t done any shopping, have you?”

“No, and I plan on getting most of it done today. And then we will swing by the apothecary after a light lunch at the Three Broomsticks, and hopefully get everything all straightened out.”

“Right,” Nat nodded, smiling slightly. They entered the entrance hall and found Scorpius and Albus waiting at the bottom of the stairs for them. Albus held Nat’s red winter cloak, which she’d left in the Great Hall, and helped her in to it.

He kissed her lips and smiled. “Mmm, peppermint,” he licked his lips happily, circling his arms around her waist. “Are you better?” She nodded, leaning her forehead against his.

“I’ll be perfect tonight, when I can get all of this straightened out.” He nodded in agreement, and kissed the tip of her nose before pulling away.

Rose pulled a black cap over her red curls and then slid her hands in to black gloves. Nat wrapped a cream-colored scarf around her neck, and swatted at Albus’ hand, who was playing with the puff ball on the top of her hat.

”Are you sure you’ll be warm enough?” Albus gestured to her skirt and leggings.

“Oh yes,” she smiled happily for the first time that day. “These leggings are thick. And besides, I always have you to keep me warm.” She leaned in to him and kissed him.

“Ugh, get a room!” Scorpius called from behind them, and Albus wrapped an arm around her back, pulling her closer as they stepped out in to the snow.

“She must be feeling better,” Rose commented.

Nat agreed. She was feeling better. And it scared her. 

A/N: I didn't mean to start writing this, but I stayed up one night and cranked out six 4,000 word chapters in one shot (which is a lot and took a long time) but the inspiration struck.

Maybe I got tired of reading all of the "Rose-gets-pregnant-by-Scorpius" stories (don't get me wrong, most of them are fab!) but, really, she's not the only one who can screw up, right?

*Chapter title from Firenze_Fan at the Titled Inspiration thread on the forums.* - very useful thread, btw.

Chapter 2: 02..Bittersweet Epiphany
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Defying Gravity
Chapter 2: Bittersweet Epiphany 

The walk to Hogsmeade was a cold one, and Albus never once let go of her when they were outside. They browsed through shop after shop, making their way down the Hogsmeade High Street. By the time they reached Rose and Albus’ Uncle George’s joke shop, Rose’s jean pockets bulged with shrunken parcels.

It was one o’clock, and, with luck, everyone would be at lunch so they could browse in peace. An automated voice spouted a rude comment as they entered the small shop, and Nat grimaced. According to Albus, his Uncle George had bought this place after the second war ended. Mr. Zonko didn’t want to keep his old shop open, or maybe he died in the war.

Whatever the reason, his Uncle George bought out Zonko’s and set up shop in Hogsmeade. Apparently, he’d had a very successful business in Diagon Alley with his twin brother, who had died in the war.

“Albus! Rose!” A red haired man with a stocky build and slightly protruding tummy-as if he'd had one too many butterbeers and sweets-greeted them from behind the counter.

“Uncle George,” Rose hugged her uncle, smiling widely. Nat had met George only once before, this past summer, and he had been sweet, funny, and charming. His daughter, Roxanne, was in Lily’s year.

“Ah, and you are Natalya, right?” he squinted at Nat as if trying to remember. She nodded and extended her hand.

“It’s a pleasure, sir,” she muttered, her already red-from-the-cold cheeks turning redder when he took her by the fingers and kissed her knuckles.

“And Scorpius. I see you are still corrupting my niece.” He shook hands with the Slytherin, and anyone could tell he was trying hard to keep the look of disdain off of his face. “I trust I will be seeing you two at Christmas?”

Nat and Scorpius both nodded. Nat’s dad had just owled her with permission to stay with the Potters starting Christmas Eve, and any excuse Scorpius had to be with Rose, he took it.

The older wizard nodded, with an air of finality, and then another red head burst into the semi-crowded room.

“Fred!” The quartet exclaimed. Fred Weasley, George’s son, had finished Hogwarts the previous year and was doing an entrepreneurial internship with his father for a few years, trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.

The boys chatted with the former Gryffindors and Rose and Nat snuck away to look at merchandise. Nat’s mind flitted back to her current dilemma. Rose noted the far off look on her face and sighed.

“Come on. Let’s go to Honeydukes. I have a feeling that you are going to need some serious chocolate.”

Nat sighed, her hand drifted across the wooden shelves of the aisles of chocolates and candies. Rose grasped her fingers of her other hand and squeezed.

“So, what are you going to do?” Rose whispered, stopping in front of her friend. She turned her head to the side and played with the sign that read “acid pops” in a neat green scripts.

“When?” Nat asked, knowing exactly what Rose was asking.

“If you are…you know…”

Nat sighed, willing the tears not to spring to her eyes. She had been asking herself that question since damn Emileigh had mentioned it in the loo this morning.

Nat knew for a fact that she was in love with Albus Severus Potter. Her stomach fluttered and a smile came to her face just thinking about him. His fluffy, wild hair. His broad shoulders and narrow waist. His bright green eyes… She wanted to be with him for a long time, preferably for the rest of her life. And she was mostly certain he felt the same way.

“It’s so hard,” Nat finally sighed. “I love him so much. But I’m not ready to be a mother.” Tears sprung to her eyes for the millionth time that day.

“I understand,” Rose muttered soothingly as they slowly moved through the aisles of the store. “He loves you so much,” she said reassuringly. Nat nodded and wiped at her eyes impatiently. She hated crying.

After a moment of walking along in silence, Nat stopped abruptly and cover her face with her hands. Her emotions were getting the best of her as she stood, crying in the middle of Honeydukes. Rose wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her in for a hug.

“His parents are going to hate me,” Nat said, dejectedly. “They want him to be with Meg Longbottom, not me. It would be perfect, Professor Longbottom would finally be part of the family,” she uttered the last part bitterly, not even bothering with the tears that were now steadily falling. “And don’t even get me started on my dad. He’s still blaming me because my mum left. Now it’s going to be slag-this and whore-that. He’ll disown me. I will be a pregnant seventeen year old living on the streets, in a cardboard box. My baby will be born in an alley with the help of a man named “Billy-Bob” or something to that effect…”

Rose rolled her eyes at her friend. Nat huffed, and prepared to go on, when Rose stepped away from her. “Stop being so melodramatic!” Rose cried, taking each of Nat’s hands in her own. “My aunt and uncle adore you. They want Albus to be happy and you make him happy. He had that fling with Meg, what? Two years ago? And your father is an ass for making you feel guilty about your mum leaving. It wasn’t your fault and he knows that. He won’t kick you out, Albus will be there for you, and you will never live on the streets. Even if I have to prematurely move out and we get a flat together, there are lots of people who care for you,” she reached out and grabbed Nat’s chin, forcing her to look at Rose, “whether or not you are pregnant. Got it?” Nat nodded and Rose let go of her face. “Besides,” Rose continued, wiping the tears off of Nat’s face, “you don’t even know if you are.”

“Thanks, Rosie. You are the best!” The turned and looped arms with each other, moving steadily down the aisles.

“I’m dying for some sugar quills.”

“I am in need of some chocolate frogs. Seriously.”

“Having a craving?”

“Not funny!”

“Oi!” The girls spun around and were greeted by their boyfriends, who walked in laden with bags from Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes. “Why didn’t you wait for us?” Scorpius spoke, leaning down and kissing Rose’s cheek.

“Yeah, you know this is our third favourite shop.” Albus smiled at Nat and winked. She smiled back and leaned up on her tip toes, kissing him on the lips. “Hey,” his voice lowered so only she could hear. “Have you been crying?”

Nat shrugged. “Just a bit of girl talk,” she explained. She touched the area beneath her eyes and found it puffy and warm to the touch. “I need to find a loo.”

“Here,” Rose said, having had eavesdropped on their conversation. “You boys finish up here while Nat and I go get us a table at the Three Broomsticks.”

“You want anything?” Albus whispered in her ear when Rose and Scorpius were busy saying goodbye. His warm breath caused a shiver to run down Nat’s spine. She bit her lip and nodded.

“Chocolate Frogs and some liquorice wands. And…if it’s not too much trouble…some Chocoballs? I’m in the mood for strawberry mousse.”

”Anything else, Princess?” He kissed the tip of her nose and she shook her head.

“You get this, I will buy lunch.”

”Okay,” he sighed, knowing fighting with her was a lose-lose situation. She always threw a fit when he tried to pay for everything, and he’d come to find that she was much more willing to compromise.

Rose and Nat walked down the High Street arm-in-arm and entered the Three Broomsticks five minutes later. Nat’s eyes scanned the large pub, and found a large circular booth that could fit six people near the back. “I’ll get the Butterbeers,” Rose muttered, nodding to booth.

Nat moved through the crowded pub and slid in to the booth a moment later, scooting all the way to the middle. Rose carried two pints of Butterbeer, and slid one to Nat. Behind her, Kate was carrying another two pints, and behind her, Lily Potter carried two more.

“Are we having a party or what?” Nat asked, wide eyed, as the six pints of Butterbeer littered the table.

“Look who I found on the street corner. Thought I’d give them a much needed break and allow them to dine with us,” Rose laughed.

“Aren’t you supposed to be on a date?” Nat narrowed her eyes at Kate.

“Arnie is such a bore,” she groaned. “All he would talk about was his stupid plants. He would go on and on and on. Honestly, they sit in the dirt and you water them…”

“Well his is Professor Longbottom’s son,” Lily pointed out.

”True that,” Rose agreed.

“So you ditched him?” Nat couldn’t believe that, Kate wasn’t that kind of person.

“Heavens, no. I’m not that cruel. No, he got an owl. One of his plants was in trouble or something. He had to leave.”

“Did you snog him at least?” Rose wondered. They were all thinking it, though.

“He might have kissed me.” The girls all grinned at Kate and she smiled, shyly. Then she sat up straight. “Unfortunately, there won’t be a second date.”

“I think Arnold is sweet,” Lily informed them, her eyes taking on a dreamy expression. “And Jayson and I just broke up, so I’m so lonely.”

Don’t let your brother hear you talking like that.

“Have at him,” Kate muttered, her Butterbeer nearly half empty. “He’s all yours!”

Albus and Scorpius came in, having effectively shrunken their parcels to fit in to their cloak pockets, and Rose waved them over. Everyone shifted around so that Albus could sit next to Nat and Rose and Scorpius were together.

“Hey, Lil,” Albus nodded to his sister.

“Al,” she nodded curtly back. Albus shot a look at Rose that said, ‘what is she doing here?’ and she shrugged in response.

“Do you all know what you want?” Scorpius and Albus took orders and money and headed up to the bar. Nat eyed the witch behind the bar as she stood, openly flirting with the boys in the pub.

“She is such a slag,” Kate muttered, nodding to the busty witch behind the counter. “She’s married, did you know? And pregnant at the moment.” Her eyes flashed to Nat and she grimaced. “Sorry.”

“Sorry about what?” Heads turned to Lily and she was looking wide-eyed at Nat. Then, her mouth opened in a gasp. “No. Really?”

“Lily, shut up,” Rose hissed as the boys came back. Lily’s eyes glittered with excitement. Albus sat down and threw his arm over Nat’s shoulders, kissing her temple. Lily gushed at the gesture, clapping her hands.

“Did you tell her?” Albus whispered harshly to Rose.

”She doesn’t know anything,” Rose whispered back.

“She’s sitting right here,” Lily’s voice sing-songed to her brother and cousin. Then she leaned forward and whispered, “are you really pregnant?” The privacy gesture was so un-Lily that her two relatives balked at her for a moment. Usually she was shouting off the rooftops any secret she learned. There was not a subtle bone in that girl’s body.

“I don’t know,” Nat whispered back and Albus’ arm tightened around her shoulder.

“It’ll be okay,” Lily whispered reassuringly.

“Who are you and what have you done with my sister? Seriously!” Albus stared, wide eyed, at his sister. She just giggled and shrugged.

“You can’t tell anyone, Lily,” Rose warned.

“Come on, give me some credit. I can keep secrets, you know.” At the disbelieving glances she added, “Important ones.”

The food came just then and the group of friends ate and talked the afternoon away. It was four o’clock when Lily excused herself to go back to the castle. The group of friends made plans and prepared to leave.

“Hold it,” Nat said when everyone moved to stand. “I can’t go in there,” she said suddenly. The four others slumped back in to their seats and she felt the need to explain. “Your Uncle George’s shop is right across the street. If he sees me go in there, he’ll think there’s something wrong. If he sees you or Rose or even Scor go in there, he’ll think there’s something wrong and try to find out. None of us can go in there.”

“He’s probably locked in his office,” said Rose, looking to Scorpius for support. He shrugged and nodded.

“But Fred will be on the floor,” Albus pointed out. “And he’s an even bigger gossip than Uncle George. I mean, this could be nothing and if Fred blabs that one of us was seen going in to the apothecary, especially with a perfectly good infirmary at the school…”

“We’re fucked.” Rose rolled her eyes at Scorpius’ choice of words, but it did get the point across.

“I could do it,” Kate offered, and Nat smiled, gratefully. Her palms were sweaty and she was getting nervous. They stood to leave, with Kate and Rose still whispering together.

“Six?” Kate asked and demanded an explanation. “Okay,” she said when Rose explained about the other girls were possibly non-effective birth control potion, “but what happens if she’s not? Then we have five expensive pregnancy tests.”

“I don’t care,” Rose hissed, her anger and frustration of the whole entire situation finally coming out. She immediately felt bad as Kate hadn’t done anything wrong besides have an opinion. Her voice softened. “Just, please…”

“Here,” they neared the door leading back onto the street and Albus thrust a small bag of coins at Kate. “There should be plenty enough gold there.”

“You don’t have-” Nat started, but was cut off with Albus’ finger over her lips.

“Hey,” said Albus, his arms sliding around her waist. “I’m taking care of you.” Nat smiled and pressed her lips against his. He immediately deepened the kiss, sliding his tongue in to her mouth and grazing her teeth.

“Oi!” Scorpius groaned. “That’s the reason we are in this situation in the first place.”

Kate was adamant that they meet her back in the Gryffindor common room and so they left, separately, and she walked to the apothecary.

The common room was crowded with students showing off their purchases and talking excitedly, and the group of four found a quiet corner near the portrait hole. As dinner time neared, the large room slowly emptied. Students flowed in and out, ridding themselves of their packages and then heading down to dinner in groups.

None of them were hungry, having just eaten a few hours before. Nat began shaking in nervous anticipation, and Albus pulled her on to his lap, rocking her back and forth and rubbing the outside of her thigh. She rested her head on his shoulder and his hand slid higher, coming to rest on her lower abdomen. He didn’t look up, just stared at his large hand covering her.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the portrait hole swung open and Kate clambered in, carrying a brown box with the apothecary’s insignia on the top. Rose and Scorpius jumped up.

“Finally!” he cried. “What took you so long?”

“Professor Moore, if you must know. He caught me coming out of the apothecary and heckled me in to telling him what I was getting that I couldn’t receive at Hogwarts’ infirmary.”

“Did you tell him?” Rose gasped. Albus and Nat had stood by then, and were holding hands off to the side.

“Of course not! I’m not daft! I told him it was an allergy medicine. He followed me all the way back to the school.”

“Why didn’t you shrink the flasks?” Albus wondered aloud.

“The man at the apothecary told me not to, that it could alter the spell. Now, are we going to get this over with? This box is rather heavy and I have been holding it for quite a long time.”

Albus took the box from her and they all headed up to the seventh year boys’ dorm. All of Albus’ roommates, including Bryce and Arnold, were out, so the room was empty. He placed the box on his trunk and then pulled Nat in to him, sliding his arms around her waist. She laid her head on his chest and he kissed her crown.

“Okay,” Rose opened the box and pulled out a flask. She read the instructions and grimaced. She handed them to Nat and she read over them, Albus reading them over her shoulder.

“Okay, just pee in this thing and then in four minutes we will know,” Albus handed her the curved pink bottle, the opening larger at the top, and Nat nodded. She took the flask from his hands and went in to the loo.

“Oh it stinks in here!”

A moment later, the sink turned on. “Are you okay?” Rose called to her friend.

“Yeah,” the water shut off and Nat walked out. “A little trouble going under pressure.”

Albus sat down on a maroon trunk with a big, golden ‘A’ on it in loopy script; Arnold Longbottom’s trunk. He pulled Nat down on to his lap and hugged her close. He didn’t know about her, but he sure could use some comfort right about then.

The door burst open and Bryce rushed in, followed by Emileigh. “Have you found out yet?” she gushed, looking to Albus and Nat.

“Two minutes, seventeen seconds,” Rose counted off her watch. Emileigh nodded and the room fell quiet.

Another minute later, Nat could not sit still. She stood and began pacing the room. She walked almost to the bathroom, and then turned back. Then she did it again. Albus stopped her before she could do it a third time, and he grasped her cheeks in his hands.

“Are you nervous?” He was. She could feel his sweaty palms on her face. She couldn’t speak, so she nodded instead. “Me, too,” he confided, then pulled her in close for a hug. She buried her head in his chest, worried tears filling her eyes.

“Hey,” he muttered when she let out a sob in to his chest. He pushed her shoulders back slightly and looked down in to her blue, tear-filled eyes. “Whatever happens, we’re in this together, okay?” She nodded weakly. “I mean it, Nat. I love you. We will get through this. Okay?” She nodded again and he shook his head. “Say it.”

”Okay,” she whispered. “I love you, too.”

The alarm on Rose’s watch rang out throughout the room and Nat took a large, shuddering breath. She moved tentatively across the room and in to the bathroom. She picked up the pink flask and carried it back in to the room.

“What do I do?” she turned to Rose, who read the directions.

“It says to just open it. That you will know when it’s opened.”

She nodded weakly, and then her hand slid up the glass to the cork. She wiggled it up a bit, her eyes locked on Albus’ as she pulled the cork all the way out of the bottle…

…and a baby’s cry filled the room.

A/N: I have to give credit where credit is due, and the pregnancy tests are based on the pregnancy tests in the story For Bitter of For Worse by Kerichi on a bunch of different fic sites (I don't think it's up here, but it is rated PG-13) so thanks to her for that idea! 

Chapter 3: 03..Shocks and Spills
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Defying Gravity
Chapter 3: Shocks and Spills

“Oh my god,” was the general consensus around the room. The flask slid out of Nat’s hand, and she launched herself in to Albus’ waiting arms. She sobbed in to his chest, and he tried to hold it together for her, but failed. A few tears fell down his cheeks, mostly for his girlfriend, the love of his life, and now, the mother of his child.

“We all need to go,” Rose spoke quietly over Nat’s sobs. The other girls in the room nodded and took a vial reluctantly, more shook up than anything and not having the strength to protest. Before Rose stepped in to the bathroom, she turned to Scorpius.

“Find Lily. She needs to take one, too.”

“Oh god,” Albus sighed, brokenly. He watched his girlfriend slip out of his arms. She crawled on to his bed and hugged a scarlet pillow. He slid on to the scarlet-blanketed bed behind her, spooning her, while her body shook.

Bryce didn’t know what to say. He hated seeing Nat like that. She was his first girlfriend, their fifth year. And she remained a very dear friend of his. To see her so gut-wrenchingly upset hurt him. He felt bad for Albus and Nat, he really did.

Albus watched, over Nat’s shoulder, each girl wait in anticipation. He knew the chance of another girl being up the duff was a long shot with or without the faulty potion. Sex at Hogwarts wasn’t that easy, and even so, these girls were good girls.

He glanced briefly around the room. There were clothes strewn about, along with quills, parchment, and books covering every surface. The candlelight cast orange shadows over everything, but he could still see the worried expressions on his friends’ faces. Instead of dwelling, he turned back to his girlfriend.

“It’s okay,” Albus muttered in to Nat’s ear, smoothing her blonde hair over her shoulder and down her back. “It’ll be okay. You’ll see. We’ll be fine.”

His heart broke to feel her shaking body pressed against his and he knew he couldn’t do anything about it. He held her tight and kept whispering in her ear how much he loved her and that everything was going to be okay. For then, that was all he could do.

Scorpius returned with Lily a moment later, just in time to hear Rose’s flask open. Well, not so much hear as see, because when the cork was removed, a whole lot of nothing came out.

“Oh thank god,” he breathed, rushing to his girlfriend and picking her up, spinning her around. The other two girls opened their flasks to nothing as well.

“Just to be on the safe side,” Rose told Lily comfortingly patting her shoulder. Albus wanted to snap at his sister threateningly, but figured he wasn’t in the best position to do that.

Lucy burst in to the room a minute later, and Rose thrust the final flask at her. Then, Rose turned to the couple laying on the bed. Albus had rolled Nat over so they were facing each other, and he had her head in his hands. He was whispering to her, his thumbs wiping her steady stream of tears away.

Rose had never seen her cousin so affectionate, so loving and caring. It was a surprise to her, this side of Albus. Sure, he really was always more sensitive than his older brother, James, but that wasn’t saying much. James was a Quidditch star, Albus more of the proper, prefect type. Well, until now. Rose grimaced, not looking forward to the conversations that would undoubtedly happen over Christmas once the whole family got wind of this.

Nat sat up, bringing Albus with her. He was attached to her hip, and she was grateful. It was exactly what she needed at that moment, his love and comfort, and the assurance that he wasn’t going to abandon her.

“My parents already love you,” he whispered in to her hair at her protest of the opposite. “They told me this summer. They adore you. My mum thinks you are quite fetching and my dad thinks you have great potential at the ministry.” They had. His mum gushed over her pretty blue eyes.

“Those opinions are going to change once they find out…” she couldn’t even bring herself to say that she was pregnant. She wasn’t naïve enough to think that if she just ignored it, it would go away. But saying it out loud made it more concrete.

Lily came out of the bathroom, her flask ready in her hand. Albus took a deep breath when she opened it and let it out when not a sound came forth. So he would be the only Potter becoming a parent that year. That was comforting…sort of.

As comforting as the fact that his little sister wouldn’t be becoming a parent in nine months was, a sudden sob in his arms reminded him that he would, and he looked down at his girlfriend.

Nat’s bottom lip trembled; tears fled down her face. Her face was red and blotchy. Her nose was running. Her hands clutched at his jumper in fists. She looked like a lost little girl, clinging on to something familiar.

So he lay there, Nat in his arms, while all of his friends murmured words and left hurriedly. He watched the tears slowly falling down her cheeks, biting his lip to hold back his own flood of emotions, until, some time later, her grip on his sweater loosened, her breathing deepened, and she had fallen asleep.

Albus gently tugged his jumper out of her grasp and slid off of the bed. He needed to get out of there, to have some time alone to think and vent and cry himself. He needed some place to not have to worry about his masculinity and be frustrated and upset without it imposing on Nat.

He knew he shouldn’t have just left her there, alone, in the seventh year boys’ dormitory, on his bed. That wasn’t smart at all and he knew that. But he did it. The note he wrote wasn’t nearly adequate and he hoped she would understand when she woke.

He wandered through the castle. He got curious glances from people milling about after dinner and before curfew, with his head down and hands stuffed in his trousers, mumbling to himself, but he didn’t care.

Albus made his way up to the Astronomy tower. He took the steps two at a time, suddenly feeling like he was suffocating in the stifling heat of the castle, and burst through the door at the top.

On the observation deck, he was greeted with the cold, dry night air and he gulped it in to his lungs like a man starved. He pressed his hands against the wall and leaned forward, his forehead touching cold stone. The night was an average bitter cold December evening, but he didn’t feel the cold. Albus turned, slowly, so he was facing the night sky.

With a choked sob, he slid to the ground.

Nat’s crystal blue eyes blinked open. It felt like someone had glued them shut and she reached up and found a thick layer of crust where there had still been tears when she’d fallen asleep. She scrubbed her hands over her face and yawned.

She closed her eyes and rolled over, pressing her face in to the squishy pillow beneath her head. She took a deep, cleansing breath, and her eyes shot open. The scent was woodsy mixed with musky, rather than the flowery scent of her perfume that she usually smelled on her pillow.

Memories of the day washed over her and she sat up straight. She was in the boys’ dormitory. Alone. Well, technically not alone, because she could see someone lounging on a bed across the room, and someone on the bed next to that one, tossing a Quaffel up in the air and catching it, but she was alone.

“Where’s Albus?” Nat asked the boys in the room. Their faces were in the shadows of their canopies in the dull firelight, so she didn’t know of their identities.

“We don’t know,” the one closest to her answered with a high squeaky voice, as if he’d been startled. He cleared his throat before saying, “He wasn’t here when we got back from dinner.”

A feeling of abandonment flitted through her, only to be squashed by a wave of nausea and before she realized what was happening, she’d hopped off of the bed and ran in to the loo.

The water of the shower was running as she shoved open the door and threw herself in to the nearest cubicle, spilling her lunch in to the toilet. She retched until she didn’t have anything left in her, and then she sat back. Tears formed in the corners of her eyes, and fell before she could squash them down.

The shower stopped, and she stood, not wanting to cause any more trouble than she already had. Nat walked quietly out of the loo, past the two faceless boys out of the dormitory, and down the stairs. She didn’t stop in the common room when Rose called for her, and continued up the stairs to her own dormitory. She climbed on to her bed, put up the strongest Imperturbable charm she could muster, and collapsed in to tears.

Albus’ teeth chattered noisily. He hadn’t worn a cloak and had been on the observation deck for quite a while. He ran a hand through his unruly hair and stared at the clear, starry night sky with a sense of detachment. The earlier sense of frantic panic had given way to the cool detached feeling he was having. Albus wondered if he was in shock.

There was no way around it: in less than nine months, he would be a father.

His parents were going to go mental. Plain and simple. They would rave about how he was raised better, should know better, and have been more responsible. But, over time, they would grow to accept it. He just prayed that Nat was nowhere near them when they started screaming.

Nat’s dad was a whole different story all together. It was tragic when her mum had packed up and left the two of them right before her second year. That was the year she and Albus had become such good friends, because he spent nearly all of first term comforting her because of that silly woman.

And then when she went home for Christmas and came back with a whole new set of problems and insecurities, he was there for her then. Her mum left with out a second glance and her dad, having had the whole term to mull it over, blamed Nat. He took it out on her, too. He was verbally abusive to say the least. But he never hit her, for that Albus was glad. Because her dad may have found himself hurting if he had.

The door banged open, and a familiar shape stepped out, her head of curly red hair swivelling about madly until her brown eyes fell on Albus. Then, Rose stomped to him and slapped his arm. Hard.

”What was that for?” He yelled, standing up roughly, teeth still chattering slightly.

“Where the hell have you been?” she said shrilly, in a voice that reminded him much too much of his Aunt Hermione.

“Here. Thinking. Where have you been?”

“Trying to get your girlfriend to come out from behind her curtains. Trying to convince her that you did not run out on her. Trying to convince her that you still love her. Trying to convince her that you are not going to break her heart,” she spat at him. She looked like she was trying to use her arms as wings, the way she was flapping around. “Now, please tell me why I had to do that instead of you telling her yourself?” She tapped her toe, hands on her hips just like her mum, waiting for an answer.

“She’s not the only one who had a fucking bomb explode in their face, today, Rose!” He shouted suddenly, his hands gripping his hair so hard it’s a wonder he didn’t pull it all out. “I needed time. Alone. To think. About what the hell I’m gonna do. I’m too young to be a dad, Rose. I’ll be eighteen. I don’t have a job, I don’t have any money saved up – ”

“Stop being such a fucking coward, Albus Severus,” she spat, venomously. “You know she has problems with people leaving her, abandoning her. First her mum, then her dad, and now you?”

“Don’t you compare me to them!”

“You’re just the same. Walk away at a time she needs you most of all.”

“I’m not walking away!”

“She doesn’t know that, Al! You were just gone. What was she supposed to think?”

”I left a note!” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he realized how stupid and lame he sounded.

So did Rose, and she gave him a haughty gaze. “A note? The mother of your child and you left her a note?”

“Just saying I needed to think and I told her where I’d be,” said Albus, defensively. He crossed his arms over his chest and glared at his cousin.

“Well she didn’t get it. And she got sick again. Arnold was in the shower when it happened, but she left before he could make sure she was okay. Put up the most powerful imperturbable I’ve ever seen.”

Albus was silent. He rubbed his eyes tiredly, and then looked back up at Rose. She had an expression of pity on her face, which normally would’ve made him scowl, but he felt he deserved it at that moment.

“I’ve mucked things up already, haven’t I?”

Rose snorted. “I’d say you mucked things up when you started sleeping with her without using the contraceptive charm.”

“She was on the potion!” Rose’s eyes widened.

”That reminds me,” she bit her lip thoughtfully. “Payment for the next cycle of birth control potion is due before Christmas break. If she doesn’t renew, Madame Grady will suspect something. She may even go to the Headmistress.”

“So then Nat can pay and then not use it. Maybe we could sell it. Start saving up money for baby clothes.” At Rose’s wide-eyed expression he sniggered. “I was joking, Rosie.” She slapped his arm. Hard. He briefly wondered when she had gotten so strong.

“Don’t say that to Nat. You mustn’t upset her, Al. She’s extremely sensitive right now, and her hormones are out of whack and she’s emotional and…she’s just not herself.”
“What do I do to make it right?”

“Talking to her would be a start.”

That was easier said than done. He had walked back to the common room with Rose and sat on the couch, hoping Rose could get her to come down and talk to him. She hadn’t.

He ended up falling asleep on the couch facing the fire between the girls’ and the boys’ dormitories. Albus tossed and turned on the old, lumpy couch, and when he woke up early Sunday morning to a third year girl standing over him, he’d grunted loudly and scared her away.

He refused to move from his post, however, and vowed he wouldn’t until Nat came down to talk to him. Rose brought him breakfast and lunch on her way to take food up to Nat, only to get turned away.

“She’s been sick all morning,” Rose whispered to him quietly. The common room was full of students studying and spending their final Sunday before holiday with their friends and she didn’t want to be overheard. “She can’t keep anything down. The smell of Lucy’s shampoo is setting her off, too. It’s coconut.”

“Tell Luce to get rid of it,” he shouted, causing a few first years that were playing Extreme Exploding Snap by the fire to jump. Albus ignored them, his gaze on the girls’ staircase.

“She has. She’s going to be using mine for the rest of term until she can get more.” She stopped, hesitant to go on, and Albus turned to her. “What are you going to do, Al?”

“Is she up? Awake? Are the wards around her bed down?”

“Yes, yes,” Rose nodded, “she’s studying for final exams with Emileigh and Kate.”

Albus bit his lip, his gaze lifting to the ceiling. He nodded his head, as if contemplating something, and then stood abruptly and ran up the boys’ staircase.

He returned a moment later, a Firebolt 360 broomstick in his hands. He leaned close to Rose and whispered something in her ear before he took off out the portrait hole.

Rose stood and walked up the stairs to the girls’ dormitory. She pushed open the door, entered, and closed it. Emileigh and Kate were reading aloud out of a Herbology textbook, and Nat was laying on her bed, on her stomach, face towards the foot of the bed, head propped up by both hands, listening to them read.

“Girls,” Rose got their attention. “Do you think I could speak with Nat privately?”

”Sure. The loo’s right there,” Kate pointed the door to the bathroom, but closed the book in front of her. “That’s okay. We’re heading down to dinner. Meet us in the library later, Rose?” Rose nodded and Kate turned to Nat. “You’re more than welcome to join us.”

“Thanks,” Nat sat back, her legs crossed in front of her, and shrugged. “I’m kind of tired. This week is going to be long, so I’m probably just going to head to bed.”

Kate nodded, albeit reluctantly, and linked arms with Emileigh, practically having to drag her out of the room. Nat looked up at Rose once they were gone, and Rose smiled. She then backed out of the room herself.

Nat stood up slowly, her eyes scrunching up in confusion at Rose’s odd behaviour, when there was a tap on the window near Kate’s bed. The tap became a little more insistent, and Nat walked over to the window.

She drew the shade, and there was Albus Potter, floating in front of the window. He smiled at her, and gestured for her to open the window. Tears sprang to her eyes and she shook her head. She walked over to her trunk and sat on it, turning her gaze back to him.

Her mouth fell open when she saw him climbing in through the window, straight on to the bedside table beneath it. The chill the open window brought in caused her to shiver, and, noticing it, Albus snapped the window closed.

”What about the wards?” she asked when she could finally find her voice. “No boys in the girls’ dormitories.”

Albus shrugged. “Just can’t touch the floor,” he muttered, jumping straight on to Kate’s neatly made bed. “Are you going to help me?” he had climbed onto Kate’s trunk, which was a giant step away from Nat’s, and held out a hand to her.

“What do you want, Albus?” He winced. She never called him Albus. Not even when they had first become friends. It was always Al, or Alby, or, after they started dating, Love.

“To apologize for being a git last night,” he answered. When she didn’t say anything, he continued. “I shouldn’t have just left you there asleep on my bed.”

“You shouldn’t have left me at all,” she muttered, crossing her arms and legs on the trunk.

“I just needed some time to think. Yesterday was…shocking. I mean, I know you, Nel,” she smiled at his use of his nickname for her: her initials. “You took that potion every single day at breakfast. I saw you. So, really, I fucked up. And that kills me that all of this is my fault.”

“You didn’t fuck up, Al. This was both of our doings. It takes two people to make a baby. I should’ve paid more attention to the lecture that Grady gave us, or the disclaimer on the release form for that damn potion.”

“I had to think about how I’m going to support us. I’m going to have to get a job. A good one, too, not helping out at the joke shop every few days for spending money like during the summer. An actual good-paying, forty hour a week job. That includes benefits.”

“Alby, there’s plenty of time to think about that later. We need to figure out how we’re going to tell our parents first. Or, for me, parent.” She paused there and tears filled her eyes. “He’s going to kill me, Al. Literally. With his bare hands, I’m sure of it.”

“He’s not going to kill you,” Albus said soothingly, or as soothingly as he could without being able to touch her. “Can you help me out here?” She cracked a smile, and grabbed his outstretched hand. On the count of three, she pulled him with all her might, and he bounced on to her bed.

She cuddled up next to him, snuggling in to his arms and resting her head on his chest. “You know I wouldn’t let anything happen to you, right?” She nodded, and her hair tickled his chin.

“But if you’re not there, how can you be so sure?” She bit her lip, a tear sliding slowly down her cheek. “When I told him I was going to spend most of this past summer with you and he couldn’t stop me because I was of age, he called me every bad name in the book. Whore, slag, bitch…”

“He didn’t touch you, though, did he?” She shook her head, the wool of his jumper rubbing against her cheek.

“No, but you were there, too.”

Albus sighed. He really hadn’t wanted Nat to be around when he told his parents, mostly because he didn’t want her to think less of them once they flew off the handle, but it was becoming more and more clear that they weren’t going to be getting around that without Nat being left alone with her dad. And in all honesty, Albus didn’t trust the man not to hurt her.

“The night before Christmas Eve, you and your dad can come over for dinner.” Nat’s eyebrows shot up and he sighed. “Well, you were coming on Christmas Eve anyway, what’s a few extra hours? And your dad wouldn’t do anything with my parents there…”

“So I’m just supposed to pretend that I’m not—you know—for two days?”

“It’s the only way I can make sure that you’re safe without missing some of our family traditions. My mum would kill me if I wasn’t there to help pick out our tree, or decorate it, or decorate the house, and then come home and tell her she’s going to be a Grandmum.”

“I’m going to need to see a Healer,” she muttered, clutching Albus tighter to her. “I don’t have any money, Al.”

“Don’t worry about money, Nel. We’ll figure something out.”

Chapter 4: 04..Like Breathing Under Water
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A/N: This chapter contains a bit of underage drinking at the beginning and some slightly graphic violence towards the end, so beware!

Defying Gravity
Chapter 4: Like Breathing Underwater

Final exams passed by way too quickly for Albus and Nat, but not quick enough for every other student at Hogwarts. The final night there had been a party in the common room. Once Professor Longbottom had sent the younger kids to bed, Bryce brought out a bottle of Ogden’s Firewhisky: Gold Label and spiked the punch.

Head Girl Rose Weasley turned a blind eye and continued sucking the face off of Scorpius. He gripped her hips and pulled her closer, and soon they were excusing themselves to the boys’ dormitory upstairs.

“Don’t borrow my bed, mate,” Albus said warningly, narrowing his eyes at his cousin and friend. Scorpius shrugged, a happy smile on his face, as his girlfriend dragged him up the stairs, heels clicking on the stones and hair flying behind her.

Albus turned to Nat, his smiling turned to a frown when he caught a glimpse of her pouted lips and sour expression. “We don’t snog anymore, Al,” she said to his questioning gaze.

In response, he snatched her hand and dragged her over his lap so he was lying beneath her. He reached up and tucked a tendril of hair behind her ear. Her crystal blue eyes were bright with unshed tears and he craned his neck to kiss her.

He captured the back of her neck and pulled her down in to a more comfortable position. Her mouth slanted over his, opening slightly. His tongue slid in, flicking the bottom of her teeth. The giggle she’d started turned in to a groan when his other hand slipped down her back to cup her bum.

They were having a lovely snog when someone tapped Albus impatiently on the shoulder. Reluctantly, he broke away from Nat to see Lily leaning over him, giving him a stern gaze.

“What do you want, Lily?” He said impatiently. “I’m busy.” As if to emphasize his point, he swatted Nat’s bum playfully, and she jumped, giggling.

“I can see that,” Lily’s eyebrows rose. “Are you sure that’s wise in your…situation.” Her voice lowered, and she nodded pointedly at Nat. Nat gulped, sitting up straight.

“Oh please, it took a lot more than snogging to get her in to that situation. Snogging won’t hurt anything.”

“But snogging can lead to shagging.”

“Shagging won’t hurt anything either, Lily,” Nat told her, frustrated. Not only did Lily’s eyes widen, but so did Albus’.

“It won’t?” he asked. Then waggled his eyebrows suggestively. Nat rolled her eyes and stood up.

“Forget it. I’m suddenly not in the mood. I will see you both tomorrow.” She fled the room, pushing past party-goers to get to the girls’ staircase, and Albus turned to Lily.

“Good going,” he muttered, sitting up and running a hand through his hair.

“I was only trying to help,” Lily told him, plopping in to Nat’s vacated seat, hair bobbing in its ponytail. In Albus’ opinion, her skirt was too short, her make-up too dark, and her top too tight. But he was okay as long as no one was looking at her like that. He sighed.

“Well thanks, but when we get home, no trying to help by telling mum and dad, got it? Or telling anyone for that matter.”

“I promise,” Lily’s eyes were wide and innocent, but the dark lines surrounding her eyes stomped that, and Albus frowned.

“Pinky swear?” He held out his pinky, his eyebrows raised. “The most holiest of swears?”

“Pinky swear!” They linked pinkies and then she hugged him tightly.

“Great. Now can you go ask her to meet me in my dorm in…ten minutes. I have to go make sure Rose and Scor aren’t shagging on my bed.”

The train ride to King’s Cross Station the next day went far too quickly for Albus and Nat, and way too slow for the rest of Hogwarts’ students. It was four in the afternoon when the Hogwarts Express pulled up to the platform.

Inside, in a small compartment near the very back, were two couples, each pair too totally engrossed in one another to even notice the other couple.

Scorpius Malfoy and Rose Weasley were too busy talking quietly and gathering their things as the train slowed to a stop to even notice that both members of the other couple were silent, clasping each others’ hands as if their life depended on them staying linked.

Rose and Scorpius gathered their things and left the compartment. Albus stood, pulling Nat in to a standing position as well. They had to drop hands to grab trunks, but as soon as they were gotten, their hands were clasped again.

They moved slowly down the corridor, the last ones off the train minus the few stragglers and a first year whose trunk had popped open at the last minute. Albus disembarked the train first, helping Nat down after.

He saw his family. They were all waiting for him. All of them. Every single last Weasley/Potter/Lupin was there to pick up the school children and he groaned. Except for James, but that was to be expected.

Off to the side, near the barrier, was a tall man with thinning red hair in a tailored suit. He kept looking at his watch, and then glancing around. He had yet to see them. Albus nodded to him and Nat groaned.

“I was hoping he just wouldn’t show up,” she muttered, pushing blonde hair behind her ear.

Albus leaned down, wrapped his arms around her, and picked her up. She slid her arms around his neck, her face buried in his cloak. “I love you,” he whispered in to her ear. “Remember, alright? Floo if you need anything.”

He put her down, took one last look at his family, who were all staring at him, and her father, who had spotted them and was glaring at him, menacingly, before cupping her face and pressing his lips against hers.

She nipped at his bottom lip, wanting to deepen the kiss and get lost in him, but he reluctantly pulled away. “I love you,” he muttered again, kissing her forehead. He reached up and wiped a tear off of her cheek. She smiled.

“I love you, too, Al. So much,” she bit her lip to keep herself from crying again.

“See you in a few days, yeah? Two days is nothing.”

They parted ways, she went to her dad, who didn’t say anything to her, just led her off the platform, and he neared his entire family. His dad clapped him on the back. His mum kissed his cheek.

The group of them headed to the lot to the cars. Just as he was sliding on to the seat next to Lily, he heard from the car next to him, “So, Scorpius Malfoy, we have some rules in this house…”

The last twenty-four hours had been torture for Albus. He hadn’t spoken much on the ride home from the station, and that caused his mum to get worried. She’d tried to cheer him up by making him his favourite supper, but he’d merely picked at it.

“For goodness sakes, Albus, it’s two days. You will live without a snog for two days,” Ginny had told him, hands on her hips doing a rousing impression of his Grandmum Weasley, after he’d declined a plate of Treacle Tart, his favourite dessert.

He glared at her for a moment before stomping up the stairs to his room. He didn’t come out until lunch the next day when his mum informed him that they had already picked out a tree, without him, and that he’d better get downstairs and help decorate before he ruined Christmas for everyone.

“You have no idea, mum,” he had muttered, but obeyed like the good son he was.

Then, after the dirty work was done, he was informed that Aunt Hermione, Uncle Ron, Rose, Scorpius, and Hugo were coming over for dinner that night. He groaned, but (without even being asked) pulled out the good china and washed off the dust that had collected since the last time the Potters had entertained.

So now he sat watching the telly, sandwiched between Rose and Scorpius, who, after an embarrassing incident with mistletoe, Rose’s bed, and a curious Uncle Ron, had been forbidden to sit next to each other.

Albus smirked at the story, thinking this night wouldn’t be as bad as he thought. If only he knew.

Albus once again sat between Rose and Scorpius, who (annoyingly to him) kept stealing glances at each other, while the nine of them watched the evening news. The newscaster was just signing off when his mum stood and asked about dessert.

“Plum pudding?” she asked him and he shrugged. His stomach was in knots. He was dreading the following evening, when he’d have to confront both his parents and her father and tell them how irresponsible he’d been. It may also have been the weird foreboding feeling that had been following him around all day like a stormy rain cloud over his head that could break open with a downpour at any moment.

His mum handed him a dish, and he picked at the food. He felt like he was going to throw up. After everyone was done, he offered to wash the dishes, the muggle way.

Rose stood to help, and Scorpius rose to follow, but Albus’ dad stopped him. “I think we need to have a nice, long chat.” He and Uncle Ron patted the seat between them, beckoning him forward.

Scorpius shot Albus a pleading look, but all Albus could do was shrug pathetically before pushing his way in to the kitchen. Rose was right behind him, and she set bowls in the sink before turning to him. She turned the water on, for less a chance of them being overheard, and gazed sympathetically.

“Are you alright?” He bit his lip and shook his head, tears springing to his eyes. He groaned and pressed the heels of his palms in to his eyes, cursing the fact that he had to be the emotional Potter. Even Lily had a stronger backbone than him.

“I’m terrified,” he whispered, and she threw her arms around him. “They’re going to be so disappointed. I half wish her dad kills me. Then I won’t have to see how they look at me, disappointedly, for the rest of my life.”

“It’s like you told Nat. They will be angry at first. But they love you. They won’t abandon you in your time of need. If that’s what parents did, there would be homeless children everywhere.”

“I know. I kind of just want it to be over with.” They washed in silence for a moment before Albus nudged her shoulder.

“You got caught with Scor…in your room?”

“Don’t sound so scandalized,” she muttered, her neck heating up as the focus shifted to her. The famous Weasley blush turned the tips of her ears bright red and she tried to cover them with her red hair.

“You’re Head Girl. Prim and proper, just like your mum.” He scrubbed excess filling off a plate and put it in the opposite sink for her to rinse.

“I’m not as bad as she was, according to Uncle Harry. For one, I have a boyfriend.” Rose shook the excess water off the plate and dried it with a towel, adding it to the stack she had already started.

“So, now that Scorpius has corrupted our bossy little know-it-all, what happened?” She laughed and threw the sponge in to the soapy water, splashing it down his front. He muttered a quick drying charm while aiming his wand at the spot, and then he stuck his tongue out at her.

“Last night – ”

“A boy in your room at night? It is scandalous.”

“ – he came to my room looking for something to read,” she continued on while giving him a look, and he shut his mouth. “Mum was watching some documentary and Hugo was playing chess with my dad, so he didn’t have anything to do. Well, a piece of mistletoe followed him up to my room. And you know it’s every girls’ dream to snog her boyfriend on her bed. Shag ‘em, if possible – ”

“Rosie! I’m shocked!”

“I didn’t shag him there, and stop interrupting! Anyway, the kiss got pretty heated, and we ended up on my bed. Well, I was kind of…er…straddling him…and he was kind of…feeling me up a bit…and then my dad walked in – see Scor was supposed to play the winner next and my dad wanted to let him know that Hugo won – and dad flipped out. I mean, I’m surprised you didn’t hear him yelling, it was so loud.”

“I can imagine, finding your daughter on her boyfriend’s lap with his hands on her arse, not to mention his tongue down her throat and wherever her hands are…” Albus’ mind flashed him an image of a little girl with black hair and crystal blue eyes and he shivered.

“So dad forbade either of us from being in the same room alone together, which is probably why he made him stay in the sitting room instead of helping. Didn’t want you sneaking off to skulk about your missing beau.”

“What did Aunt Hermione say?” He wondered, drying a bowl and handing it to her.

“Nothing in front of my dad. But afterwards, she pulled me aside and made sure I had turned in the galleons to re-up on my birth control potion. See, dad doesn’t know I’m on it or anything. My mum doesn’t want him to know the me and Scor are…intimate.”

“I’m pretty sure he’s figured something out after last night. Your dad’s not completely daft.”

“You’d be surprised.”

“What the hell is your problem?” Kevin Long kicked the door to the bathroom open and saw his daughter hugging the toilet. “Have you been drinking?”

“No,” she moaned, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand and pushing herself off the blue tiled floor into a standing position. The yellow paint on the walls was peeling and there was a large crack down the wall across from the toilet. She moved to the sink and rinsed out her mouth.

“Then why the hell have you been puking all day?” He spat angrily. She hadn’t been drinking, but she could sure tell he had been. His breath reeked of Firewhisky and ale and something minty.

“I’m sick. It’s probably the flu.”

She walked down the hall and in to her room. She smiled sadly at the pale pink painted walls and mismatched furniture she’d called hers for the past seventeen years. The surfaces were bare, her bed stripped to the mattress. There was a single poster on the wall, of the Holyhead Harpies the year Ginny Weasley had been Chaser, and she pulled that down and rolled it up quickly.

It was autographed by the whole team, a gift from Albus during third year. He hadn’t wanted it anymore, as he saw him mum every day, and the picture was rather old. Ginny couldn’t have been more than twenty years old. The entire team was smiling and waving, laughing…Nat’s stomach clinched painfully.

She shook off the nausea and shrunk the poster before shoving it in to an empty corner of her trunk. She had packed all of her things up in to duffel bags and shrunken them to fit in to her trunk. She decided after the first round of “slut, tart, whore” when she’d gotten home, that she wasn’t going to take his crap anymore.

“Where are you going?” Spittle flew everywhere when her father spoke, and she wiped a glob off of her cheek. He was sweating, a side-affect from the alcohol he’d undoubtedly consumed, his dark hair was matted to his forehead and beads of sweat were sliding down his face. He was barefooted and bare-chested, and squeezed into a pair of too-small jeans, his belly hanging over the waist.

“Albus’,” She told him, her stance defiant. He had a wild glint in his eye and she almost wished she had waited until he had passed out and then left. But she needed to leave then, while she still had the nerve.

“Oh no you’re not,” he held up a hand as if he were going to hit her. “You’ve spent enough time there this summer, you little whore. No wonder he’s so fond of you. You give it up too easily.”

Tears sprung to her eyes but she refused to give in, and she levitated her trunk down the stairs and in to the kitchen. Sure enough, an empty bottle of firewhisky sat next to an equally empty glass on the otherwise empty kitchen table.

Nat dragged her trunk to the fireplace, but was forcefully pulled back. She ended up dropping the trunk and tripping over it, falling to her knees on the hard floor.

Kevin grabbed her arm and pulled her in to a standing position, poised and ready to hit her, but she flinched and yelled, “I’m pregnant!”

He reeled back, as if he’d been struck, and stared at her wide eyed. His face contorted into a sneer, and he laughed, manically. He pushed her backwards. She spun around to catch herself, her leg going crooked and getting stuck underneath the edge of her trunk.

She felt herself falling over her trunk and she used her hands to brace herself. The edge of the brick fireplace caught right below her left eyebrow, and she heard a definite ‘crack’ when her hand it the hearth.

She stood as quickly as she could, afraid of what he’d do next, but he stood there, eyes narrowed, shaking his head. “You are a whore,” he spat. “Just like your mother. Get outta here. Don’t come back.”

Then he turned and strode out of the kitchen, probably in search of more alcohol. Nat picked up her trunk with her good hand and tried to put pressure on her foot.

Pain surged through her leg and arm at the same time and she became dizzy from it. The room started spinning and she limped to the fireplace, dragging her trunk along behind her as best she could.

She flooed out, her good hand clutching the trunk handle, and prayed that she’d said the words clearly enough to get to the right place.

Albus wandered in to the kitchen after he’d lost a round of chess to Hugo. His parents, aunt and uncle sat around the table, drinking tea and talking loudly. His mum was giggling at something obviously funny that Aunt Hermione had said—which was odd, because Aunt Hermione was not funny in the slightest—and Albus narrowed his eyes and lifted her tea cup to his nose, sniffing.

Ah, she had an accomplice. Brandy.

“Is Hugo almost done destroying you guys?” Uncle Ron asked him and he shrugged, shoving his hands in to his trouser pockets.

“He’s playing Scorpius now,” Albus muttered, leaning against the counter near the sink.

Rose wandered in a moment later, sipping her own cup of tea and Albus sniffed that one, too.

“It’s honey and sugar,” she muttered, her ears pinkening. “Paranoid much?”

Albus was about to retort when the fireplace roared green. His dad leapt to his feet, wand in hand, when Albus saw a familiar head of blonde hair fall unsteadily out of the fireplace.

“Nat!” He cried, catching her as she came off balance from lugging in her heavy trunk. Her hair fell away from her face as she slumped into his arms, exposing a trickle of blood from the corner of her eyebrow down to her ear and neck, dipping below the neckline of a white jumper. “You’re bleeding!”

“Oh dear. Harry, get my healing kit,” Ginny demanded.

“Look at her wrist!” Ron wailed, pointing at the wrist she had fallen on. It was dark purple and swollen. Hermione jumped up to help.

“What happened?” Albus asked, helping her to a seat at the table and then kneeling down next to her.

“Let’s get her healed first, honey,” Ginny muttered, pushing her hair back to get a look at the cut near her eye. Then, ignoring her own directions, asked, “Did you fall?”

“Tripped over my trunk,” Nat mumbled, glancing at all of the people in the room. Hugo, Lily, and Scorpius had come in wondering what all of the commotion was about. The large kitchen was full of people and Nat shrank back into the wooden chair.

Rose stood off to the side, her face white as a sheet. She was scared for her friend, the fact that she showed up battered and bleeding a day too early. Albus had become pale as well, and Nat didn’t look good either way. Scorpius reached down and threaded his fingers with Rose’s; she smiled at him, gratefully.

Ginny applied a healing charm to her eye and had her drink a potion for the swelling of her wrist. “Does anything else hurt?” Nat cringed as Hermione wiped the blood off of her face.

“My ankle,” Nat whispered, lifting her right foot. Ginny pushed up the leg of Nat’s jeans and gingerly slid her shoe and sock off of the swollen area.

“Honey, it doesn’t look like you tripped. Are you sure that’s what happened?”

It was Ginny’s kind eyes that did her in. The brown orbs penetrated Nat to her very core, and tears began forming in the corners of her eyes and then falling down her cheeks. She turned her head to Albus, who, while squatting next to her chair, was nearly eye level with her.

“Dad pushed me,” she said firmly, turning her head to look Ginny in the eyes. “See, he found out that I’m pregnant...”

Chapter 5: 05..Seeking Shelter
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Defying Gravity
Chapter 5: Seeking Shelter 

The kitchen was eerily quiet for minutes afterward. Rose was squeezing the life out of Scorpius’ hand. Albus had his eyes trained on the wood floor, his hand quietly seeking out Nat’s. Nat was staring at the table. Hugo had a wide smile on his face, but got a seething look from Scorpius and decided to keep his mouth shut. Lily was looking back and forth between her parents.

Ginny stared, wide eyed, at Nat. Harry had his hand on his forehead, rubbing it as if he had a headache. Then he pinched the bridge of his nose underneath his glasses. Hermione slid into a seat next to Ron at the table. Hermione had a slew of questions on the tip of her tongue, but Ron’s hand on her thigh stopped her from saying anything.

The only sound in the room was the clock ticking the seconds past, and Nat started counting them. One…two…three… Albus squeezed her fingers and she looked down at him through tear filled eyes as he kneeled beside her. She continued counting.

She got to one hundred seventy-two before anyone moved. Then, Ginny rose from her chair and squatted next to Albus. She hugged him tightly around the neck.

“Oh you poor, poor boy,” she sobbed. He stood, confused, and took her with him. He turned around and removed her hands from his neck.


“Ginny, I don’t think – ” Harry started, taking a step forward to extract his wife from his son.

Albus cut him off by saying, “What are you talking about?” He shot a look at his father, who looked away.

“You must be heartbroken,” Ginny stepped back, wiping tears from her leaking eyes. “She just came here to admit that she’s cheated on you. She’s pregnant with another boy's baby. Why aren’t you more upset?”

“Mum, that’s not what happened,” Albus told her quietly. His whole face had gone red, but with embarrassment or anger was anyone’s guess.

Nat stuffed her swollen foot into her trainer and then stood, leaning heavily against Albus. Her face was red and blotchy from crying, but she held her chin high and levelled her gaze at Ginny.

“I would never cheat on Albus!” She said, angrily. Nat held an arsenal of emotions, from anger to embarrassment, inside, but they were bubbling close to the surface.

Ginny looked taken aback, and brought her hand to cover her mouth. She took two steps away from the teen couple, and then her eyes hardened and she got angry. The fiery red-head’s temper was about to explode, and her family took cautious steps back. The room was stunned at Ginny’s next words.

“I always knew you weren’t good enough for him,” she said evenly, her brown eyes locked with Nat’s blue. “The way you dress, the way you talk, the way you act…I should’ve known this would happen. I thought my son knew better,” she shifted her steely gaze to Albus, who was too shocked to react. “I didn’t think he’d just fall into bed with the first girl that spread her legs for him.”

Gasps of shock rang out through the room, but the damage was done. The words had been said. And even if Ginny had wanted to, she couldn’t take them back. But she didn’t want to; she just saw red.

Nat’s mouth fell open a beat later, the tears that had stopped trickling down her face suddenly picking up again. Then, she turned on her heel and stumbled as fast as she could out of the room, the house, the property. As long as she had her wand, that was all she needed.

Albus saw Rose go after her and then rounded on his mother. “What the hell is wrong with you?” he yelled. He felt like he wanted to reach out and shake her. Or throttle her. And hitting a girl, let alone his mum, had never crossed his mind. Until then.

Harry stepped around Ginny and took hold of Albus’ shoulders before he could do just that. Albus’ green eyes did nothing to mask his current feeling: anger. Pure anger. He was shaking and Harry shook his head slightly, trying to tell him to calm down.

Harry himself was livid with his wife, but getting into an all out brawl would not help the situation. He watched as Hermione stood and took Ginny by the arm, albeit forcefully. The redhead looked like she wanted to say more, but Hermione being there stopped her. Instead, mother and son stared at each other. Anger, contempt…those emotions Harry could deal with. What he could not deal with, the one he recognized so prominently in his son’s eyes: hatred.

Rose came in a second later, completely out of breath. She took two gasping breaths before stuttering out, “She’s…g-gone.”

Albus’ face fell and his heart started beating rapidly. “Gone? What do you mean gone?”

“She left. Ran past the wards. Disapparated. She was bawling…wouldn’t even talk to me…”

“Where’d she go?” he demanded, panic seizing his chest. He shook off his dads hold and pushed past his mum to where Rose was standing.

“I don’t know!” she wailed, leaning heavily against the door frame. “She’s hurt, Al. Her ankle…she could’ve splinched…she could be anywhere.”

Without another word, he turned and fled the kitchen. Nat didn’t know London very well, and with a bum ankle, there was only so far she could go. The only place she’d really ever been in London was Diagon Alley and his house.

“Albus Severus, get back here right now!” Ginny called from the kitchen, hands balled up in fists, her face red and tear streaked, the only thing holding her back was Hermione, and she could’ve shaken the off petite brunette if she really wanted to.

The only answer she got was the door slamming behind him.

He apparated straight to Diagon Alley. It was nearly nine at night, but the cobblestone street was packed with people finishing their last minute Christmas shopping before the shops closed, or heading to a pub or Christmas party. He ran nervous hands through his hair, debating on where to look first. There was really no one place in particular. She would probably just escape to some small space to cry.

So that’s where he searched.

He searched in every shadow, every nook and cranny big enough for a person to fit. Albus started to panic when he reached the turn off for Knockturn Alley.

The couple had been to Diagon Alley enough together for him to know that Nat was scared shitless of that area. See, that’s where her mother had last been seen eight years ago before she disappeared.

He started to turn down the Alley. His parents had practically forbidden him from ever venturing down there, so he had never been. He wasn’t looking forward to it, either.

“Nat?” He called out tentatively, though the sounds of the crowd drowned him out. He tried again, and thought he heard something. It sounded like his name, but he couldn’t place it.

The sound came from behind him, back towards Diagon Alley, and he needed no more persuasion to get himself out of there. He jogged quickly, pushing past people, and came to a small side street, barely wide enough for the set of stairs that led to flats above the shops.

Underneath the stairs, he found her. Her back pressed firmly against the cold brick building, her knees tucked underneath her chin. She had her face buried in her legs, and her shoulders shook with the force of her sobs.

Her hair caused her to stick out like a sore thumb, a blindingly white-yellow against the dark wrought iron steps she was sitting under and the dingy brick behind her.

Albus dropped to his knees in front of her, grabbed her arms from around her legs, and pulled her roughly to him. He buried his hands in her hair and his face in her neck, breathing in her scent as she clung to him.

He held her for a long while, rocking her back and forth as she sobbed in to his chest. Every time Nat let out a choked sob, his heart broke for her a little more, and his anger at his mother swelled.

Eventually, she sat herself up straight. He brought his hands to her cheeks and wiped away the tears there. Once her face was dried for the most part, he cupped her cheeks and forced her to look at him.

“Why’d you c-come after m-me?” she hiccoughed. “You should be w-with your f-family.”

“You are my family now,” he whispered back, pecking her lips lightly. “That woman sure as hell isn’t my family, not if she can say those things.”

A fresh group of tears started flowing at his words, and she buried her face back in his chest. He patted her back reassuringly, and let her cry against him.

“Why?” She mumbled, “Why did she say those things?” Albus shook his head, wishing he knew, and pulled her body closer to his. They sat like that for a long while, her body shaking against his. It took a few minutes for him to realise that she was not crying, but shivering.

“Al?” she mumbled, pulling back from his chest slightly. “I am freezing…”

Albus glanced down at her, noting her thin white jumper and dark denim jeans, and then down at himself, in his thick scarlet jumper with a gold ‘A’ stitched on the front from his Grandmum and faded jeans. Then, he realized that it was cold.

“Let’s go.” He stood and helped her to her feet, pulling her close against his body. They moved out of the little alcove and on to the street.

The shoppers had dispersed as most of the shops were closed by this time of night, and there were random people walking around, heading in to different pubs or wandering around aimlessly.

“Where are we going to go?” she wondered, putting a bit of pressure on her hurt ankle. She hissed as the pain shot up her leg, and Albus turned to her.

“Come on,” he offered her his back and she shook her head. “It’s fine,” he muttered at her hesitation. “Really.”

She clambered on to his back, sliding her arms around his neck. His arms hooked underneath her knees and he carried her down the alley. He put a hop in his step, bouncing her in the process, and she laughed softly next to his ear. Nat buried her face in his neck, breathing in the essence that was Albus. She smiled into his neck, placing a soft kiss underneath his ear, before wiping stray tears from her eyes and leaning her head against his shoulder.

They entered the Leaky Cauldron a few minutes later and Albus let Nat drop to her feet, though he secured his arm around her waist and hauled her against him, refusing to let her put unnecessary weight on her ankle.

“Mr. Potter,” they turned at the voice and saw the old barkeep, Tom. Tom had sold the inn to Hannah Longbottom years ago, but he still worked some nights, as he just couldn’t give it up. He leaned forward against the bar on his elbows, the lights glistening off of his bald head. He smiled a nearly toothless smile at Nat and she burrowed closer to Albus, but smiled weakly back.

Albus moved closer, leaned towards him, and whispered something close to his ear. The old man nodded and reached behind him, handing him an old, bronze skeleton key.

“Al?” Nat asked questioningly when he began leading her up the stairs. He shook his head that he wasn’t going to answer her and helped her climb the handsome wooden staircase all the way to the third landing.

There, he paused at the first door on the left and pushed the key in to the lock. The room was sparsely lit, with one double bed off to the right, a settee, desk, armchair, and another door that led to the loo. A bureau was off to the left of the door, and a mirror rested on the wall behind it. All the furniture was new polished oak and very expensive-looking.

They walked in and Nat stumbled in to him. He lifted her up, cradled her like a baby, and walked her over to the bed. He dropped her onto it and she laughed softly. “My hero!”

“We need to get that foot looked at.” Albus batted her hands away when she went to remove her trainers, and did it for her, pulling her sock off of her foot and twirling it dramatically before tossing it behind him. He pulled out his wand and muttered a spell underneath his breath, his brow furrowing in concentration.

“Do you know healing spells?” Nat’s eyes widened.

“Of course! You were at that weekend workshop with Madame Grady, weren’t you?”

”Er, no.”

“Well, she taught us how to check for injuries. It’s just a mild sprain.” He raised his eyes to hers and grinned. “I think I can fix it, but you need to soak it.”

“Grady tell you that?” She teased.

“Nope. You smell,” he joked, waving a hand in front of his face. “I just thought it’d be nicer to tell you to bathe because of your injury.”

“Ha, ha,” she swatted at him playfully.

“I’ll draw you a bath.” He placed a kiss on her forehead and she settled herself back against the plush pillows on the bed. He stood and disappeared in to the bathroom. A second later, the water was running.

As soon as Nat was settled in the tub, Albus pulled off his jumper and placed it on the lid of the toilet so she’d have something to wear to sleep in other than her soiled clothes. Then he threw himself on the bed, his arms raising up to cover his eyes. He laid there for a long while.

A question popped in to his head and a slow grin spread over his face as he stood and started a fire in the fireplace along the outside wall with his wand. The individual fireplaces weren’t hooked up to the floo network and were only there for warmth, which came in handy on that frigid winter night.

Albus moved over to the desk and sat down on the chair, picking up the provided quill and tapping it against the faux-aged wood. It certainly hadn’t been the first time that certain question had popped in to his head. Oh no, he had, in fact, been planning to ask said question after NEWTs.

But now there was no reason not to.

He could hear Nat humming in her bath and smiled. She seemed to be in a more chipper mood, which was good for her and the baby.

At the thought of the baby, he gulped. Maybe he would wait. No need to do everything at once.

He spun the chair around and could see himself in the mirror above the bureau. His green eyes were dull from lack of sleep and his drained emotional state. His hair was messier than usual from running his fingers through it. He just thanked the Gods that the night was almost over and couldn’t get any worse.

And then, as if the Gods were smiting him, there was a knock on the door. A knock he knew sounded familiar and he groaned.

He was wrong; his night was about to get a lot worse.

The occupants of the kitchen sat in stunned silence. Ginny Potter’s mouth was open in shock. Her son had just walked out. Without a backward glance. His girlfriend was fucking pregnant.

“Er—” her head snapped around at the noise. It had come from her brother and she raised her eyebrows at him. “We’re just…going to—er—go,” he told her standing.

Hermione stood next to him and motioned for Hugo, Rose, and Scorpius to follow them. The Potters sat in silence as one by one the Weasleys and Scorpius flooed away. Rose left, but not before she shot her once-favourite aunt a look of disgust. Hermione turned back when it was just her and Ron.

“Just, um…” Hermione said, shooting a look at Harry and then returning her gaze to Ginny, who was perched in a chair, her jaw set and her eyes blazing. “If you need anything…” she finished lamely, defeated.

“Thanks,” said Harry. Hermione nodded firmly and then she and Ron left the back way to apparate.

Ginny spun around to Lily, her eyebrows raised. “Did you know about this?” she demanded, and Lily shrunk back under her gaze.

“Gin,” Harry started, feeling sympathy for his daughter. She shot him a scathing look and then turned back to her daughter.

“Yes,” Lily answered. Her jaw locked, and suddenly she wasn’t afraid of her mum. Not after what she’d said about her brother and a nice girl she’d befriended in the last year.

“How long have they known?” Ginny demanded.

“Since last Hogsmeade,” Lily’s mouth formed a thin line and the fifteen-year-old held herself back from saying some very nasty things to her mother: a trait she’d, undoubtedly, inherited from her father.

“It’s okay, Lil,” Harry told her, reassuringly, squeezing her shoulder, as if he knew exactly what was going through his daughter’s mind.

The sound of the back door opening had them all turning around. The hope in Ginny’s eyes faded when she saw her eldest, duffle bag slung over his shoulder, walk in to the room.

“Whoa, what’s up?” James Potter asked, noting the tension in the room. Ginny’s lips were pressed together tightly, nearly white from the force.

“It’s been an, er—interesting night,” said Harry, slumping in to a chair.

“Ah,” James said, tossing his bag on to the floor and shrugging out of his cloak. “Any dinner left?”

“Is that all you can think about at a time like this?” Ginny snapped.

“Um…it’s, like, nine at night and I haven’t eaten anything since practice, so, um, yeah…it’s all I’m thinking about.” He took a bag of crisps from the cupboard and sat down at the table next to his father. “Why, mum? What are you thinking about?”

“Oh, nothing. Just the fact that I’m going to be a grandmother at the age of forty-two.”

“What?” James yelled, spraying bits of chewed up chips everywhere. Then his gaze fell on Lily. “Omigod, omigod, omigod.” He put his hand on his forehead and then fanned him self dramatically. “Lily! How could you?”

“Not me you dolt,” Lily snapped, picking up the bag he’d knocked on the floor and folding the top down, placing it back in the cupboard.

“Wait,” James looked thoughtful for a moment, index finger raised to his chin and eyes cast towards the ceiling. “Where’s Albus?”

With his mother’s look, he knew it all. “Omigod, omigod, omigod.” His head slumped to the table, banging hard. “Ow!” he cried, his head snapping up and his hand going to his forehead.

“Do you think she’s okay?” Lily wondered aloud, slumping in to the seat near her mother. Ginny snorted and Lily looked at her through narrowed eyes.

“I’m worried about Albus,” said Ginny, folding her arms over her chest. “Not Natalya.”

“She’s the mother of your first grandchild, you’d better start worrying about her,” James responded and Ginny glared at him. “What?”

“Don’t be such a brat,” Lily said, but instead of saying it to James, she said it to Ginny.

“Excuse me?” Ginny roared, her eyes brown eyes hard. Harry winced at her tone, and stood to interrupt the row that would be going full force soon.

“She’s been worried for the past week and a half, not able to study for exams, or even eat properly and do you want to know why?” Ginny harrumphed and Lily rolled her eyes, but continued on angrily. “She was worried about what you two were going to think about her. She didn’t even care about what her own father was going to say. All she said for the whole week is that you were going to hate her. Albus loves her so much, mum. So much. He was going to propose to her, after they got done with school, but I don’t suppose there’s any reason to wait now,” she said the last part to herself before shaking her head, mentally kicking herself for getting off track. “Albus made it a point to assure her, every day, that he wasn’t going to leave her. No matter what you both thought. And now that he knows exactly what you think, I wouldn’t be surprised if you never saw him again!”

The kitchen fell silent and it seemed that both Harry and Ginny were digesting Lily’s rant. James had his arms folded across his chest, but he didn’t look upset. In fact, he looked downright proud of his sister.

There was a soft ‘woosh’ as the flames of the fire in the fireplace became green and then a tentative voice asked, “Mr. Potter?”

Harry jumped up, expecting the worse, and went around to the fireplace. “Tom?” He asked, shocked. The old man in the fireplace looked fidgety and nervous, but nodded enthusiastically.

“Erm—a young Mr. Potter came in about twenty minutes ago…with a young woman, who seemed to be injured. They both seemed a tad—erm—upset…so I wanted to make you aware…they’re—erm—here.”

“Thanks, Tom,” Harry told him, sincerely grateful. The old man nodded.

“Pleasure, Mr. Potter. Pleasure.”

Harry was about to tell the man to call him by his first name, but he disappeared out of the fireplace before he had a chance. Harry turned to his wife, who looked away from him, anger still etched on her face coupled with another emotion—relief.

“I’m going,” Harry informed the kitchen. Ginny nodded but didn’t look at him.

“I’m coming, too,” James told them, jumping up out of his seat. Ginny was about to refuse, but Harry held up a hand and nodded to his son.

Ten minutes later they were stumbling out of the fireplace at the Leaky Cauldron. Harry led James to the bar to talk to Tom.

“Ah, Misters Potter. I hoped you would be arriving.”

“Which room are they in, Tom?” Harry asked, his impatience growing. He’d had to wait for James to change his clothes and the only thing he wanted was to see his son.

“Thirty-one,” the old man answered. His head turned to James and he smirked, “You should be familiar with that one, Mr. Potter.”

Harry turned shocked eyes to his son, whose face had grown crimson even in the poorly lit pub, and he shrugged. Harry shook his head, muttering about “randy teenagers” under his breath as he led James up the stairs.

On the third landing they stopped at the first door on the left. Harry looked at James, who gave him a reassuring smile and nod, before lifting his fist to the door and knocking.

Chapter 6: 06..Here in Your Arms
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Defying Gravity
Chapter 6: Here in Your Arms

Albus stood from the chair in front of the desk and walked to the door. He cast a sideways glance at the door to the loo, making sure Nat was still in the bath. He wiped his suddenly sweaty palms against his plain white undershirt before opening the door.

He was grateful that his mother wasn’t behind the door, because he would not be held responsible for his actions towards her, but sighed loudly when he saw James grinning from behind their father. He opened the door just wide enough for him to lean against the frame and nodded, waiting for one of them to say something.

“So, where’s preggers?” James snickered.

“James Sirius!” Harry hissed, elbowing his eldest in the stomach. He glanced around to check to see if anyone had overheard him, and when he turned back around to his middle child, the door was slammed in his face.

“What the fuck,” he cursed, raising his hand to knock again. Before he could, though, the door opened and Albus stepped out, pushing the two of them in to the corridor so he could close the door behind him.

Then, Albus crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows to his father waiting for him to say something. The hallway was narrow and smelled of mouldy carpet. James whistled and rocked back on his heels, his hands clasped in front of him and his eyes trained on a suspicious looking stain on the ceiling. Harry sighed, running a hand through his already messy black hair, looking into the eyes of the boy who was his spitting image.

“Is she okay?” he asked finally. Albus nodded slowly.

“Her ankle is sprained. She’s in the bath right now, then I’m going to heal it.”

“Are you sure she doesn’t need Saint Mungo’s?” Harry folded his arms over his chest. “She will need to get checked out eventually.”

“Fuck, dad,” Albus muttered, swiping a hand through his hair.

“Language, son,” Harry scolded, but his heart wasn’t really in it.

“We haven’t really talked about that, okay? Mostly I’ve been trying to calm her down. She’s been so distraught and it’s not good for the baby.”

“Omigod, omigod, omigod,” James was muttering, listening to the conversation in front of him, his hands moving up to in front of his face.

“At least come home,” Harry pleaded. An older wizard with greying hair and crooked glasses ambled passed them in the corridor and entered the room on the right a ways beyond them, casting a glance at the trio before closing the door behind him.

“Ha!” Albus laughed. Harry frowned, glancing sideways at the door the man had disappeared in to.

“Can we talk about this inside?” he whispered. Albus shook his head.

“Go home, dad. There’s nothing more that can be done tonight. Nat and I are tired. Emotionally drained. And I’m so pissed off at the two of you I really don’t want to be alone with you.” Even as he said it, Albus snorted. Yeah, like he could really take the Head of the Auror Department.

“What’d I do?” Harry immediately retorted, defensively.

“It’s more of what you didn’t do.”

“Omigod, omigod, omigod,” James continued muttering, watching the exchange between father and son with excited brown eyes.

“I just need some time…” Harry admitted weakly. “You are seventeen years old, Al. We didn’t expect…”

“Like I did?”

They lapsed in to a period of silence. Albus stuffed his hands in his trouser pockets and slumped against the door frame, staring at the floor. Harry chose a crack in the ceiling. James glanced between the two, a wide smile on his face.

Harry spoke first.

“Okay…um—stay here tonight, and I’ll talk to your mother. You can come around for tea tomorrow. She should be cooled down by then.”

“No,” Albus answered immediately. “Hell no! Not after all the things she said!”

“What?” Harry’s eyes widened in disbelief at the blatant disobedience from his well-mannered son.

“You’re right, Dad, I’m seventeen years old. I’m of age. I don’t have to do what you tell me anymore. I have more than just me to think about now, and there’s no way I’m taking Nat back there until she’s ready. And I promise you, she won’t be ready by tomorrow. She may never be read, and that’s perfectly fine with me.” Albus crossed his arms defiantly, his gazing daring his father to protest.

“So you’re just going to stay here for the holidays?”

“Maybe. I’m not sure. I need to talk to Nat. We might just head back to Hogwarts. Can’t really afford to stay here now that we’ve got to start saving up for a baby.”

“Omigod, omigod, omigod.”

“You don’t even want to talk to your mother about this? We can help you, Al. We support you.”

“Funny way of showing it.”

“So that’s it, then?” Harry’s anger grew and his voice raised, something he rarely ever did around his children. “You’re a big man now so you’re going to go and break your mother’s heart? She’s been having a rough time as it is, Al, and now this…”

“Like she’s trying to be supportive,” Albus spat, his own anger peaking. “We realize we screwed up, okay? But we’re trying to make the best of it and I’ll be damned if I’m going to compromise my girlfriend or my child just so mum can have some peace of mind. If she wanted that, she shouldn’t have called Nat a slut and pretty much inferred that I was some loser who was so horny and desperate he’d fuck anything with the right anatomy!”

Harry winced at the last comment, and chose to ignore it. “You’re going to do that to your aunts and uncles and cousins? Forgo Christmas? What about them?” Harry switched tactics as the ‘mother’ card was fizzling out fast.

“There’s so many of them it would take all night for them to even notice that I wasn’t there. And I plan on going to Grandmum’s on Christmas Eve, okay? But I don’t know about Nat…”

“I don’t know what to say, son.” Harry ran a hand through his hair, his green eyes glittering with unshed tears.

“Goodnight, Dad. See you Christmas Eve.”

Albus entered his room quickly, closing the door behind him. He leaned against it, closing his eyes and exhaling loudly. He had never spoken to his father like that, ever. He was already feeling guilty over it when there was another knock on the door.

“Go home, dad,” Albus said resting his head against the door.

“It’s James.”

Albus opened the door to his brother, noting his dad was nowhere to be found. James stood, a sympathetic smile on his face.

“Sorry ‘bout that,” James muttered, rocking back and forth on his heels. “Um—I just thought you might need this.” He reached in to his pocket and pulled out a small box-like object and thrust it in to Albus’ hands.

“Thanks, bro.”

“You want to talk about it?” said James. His brown eyes held an air of genuineness and Albus smiled softly.

“No thanks. I want to go to sleep.”

James nodded, understandingly. He opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something, but abruptly closed it and then smiled. “Have a—” he waggled his eyebrows “—fun night. See you later, bro.” James turned to leave, but Albus grabbed his shoulder to stop him. The brothers stepped into the hall and Albus shut the door behind him with a snap.

They put their heads together, brown eyes meeting green, and then, “I need to borrow some money.”

James nodded as if he’d anticipated the statement. “How much?”

Green eyes widened and Albus stared at his brother. Never in his life had Albus encountered such a generous James. Sarcastic James, yes. Focused James, yes. But never Generous James. That was a first, and way out of character. There was something going on with his brother. But, unfortunately he didn’t have the time or the patience to explore it further.

“Erm, well…as much as you can spare, actually. With the baby and Healers bills and then…” he trailed, breaking his brothers’ gaze to stare at the ratty red carpet.

“Say no more, bro. I’ll get some investments switched around, put your name on a few things…by the time that baby comes you’ll be sitting on a pretty little estnegg, so to misspeak.”

That was more like the James he knew. Sarcastic and funny and always trying to make you smile.

“I mean, it’s not like I can’t afford it, being a Professional Quidditch player and all…” James trailed, watching the crestfallen look cover Albus’ face. “Sorry, bro.”

Albus shrugged. So there were dreams of his that would never happen. That would be okay, as long as he was with Nat.

Then he realised how old and mature he sounded. He gave himself a figurative pat on the back for that, and then hugged his brother. After a minute or so of idle chit-chat, James headed back to the house and Albus moved back into the room, closing the door behind him.

He held up the box-like object he’d forgot he’d been carrying and placed it on the bureau. Nat sat on the settee in naught but his jumper, which came to her mid-thigh. She stood and walked to him, leaning on her tip toes to kiss him.

“Did you hear it all?” she nodded and kissed him again. “I love you. So much.”

“I love you, too.” She kissed him once more before turning to the object he’d placed on the bureau. “What’s that?”

“Er…I don’t know.” He picked it up and placed it carefully on the floor in front of him. Then, he took his wand from the back pocket of his jeans and did a quick ‘engorgio’ on it. The small box stretched in to a big trunk. Nat’s trunk.

“I’ve got clothes now!” Instead of going for her trunk, though, she climbed up on to the bed, pulled the covers back, and sat in their vacant space against the pillows. She slid her legs underneath the heavy blanket and folded her hands in front of her.

“Does that mean I can have my jumper back?”

“Nope. It’s mine now.”

“You can’t sleep in that heavy thing. You’ll roast.” He nodded his head to the fire.

“I can always take it off.”

“But you’re not wear—” realization dawned on him and she grinned. “You little minx.”

“Gotta love me!” She laughed when he jumped on the bed and began tickling her. After a moment he was straddling her hips and she was laughing, the jumper had bunched up around her stomach.

“I do,” he mumbled, placing a kiss on her nose. “Very much.”

Albus rolled over, clutching the warmth closer to him, as the insistent pounding continued. He snuggled in to the familiar smell of Nat’s freshly cleaned hair, his hand clutching her hip. The banging did not stop.

Grumbling, he fumbled on the bed side table for his watch. He found it and noted it was eight in the morning. He rolled back over, intent on ignoring the noise. Nat was having none of that, and swatted his arm.

“’nswer the door,” she mumbled, her voice husky with sleep. He couldn’t help but find that incredibly sexy. He intended on telling her so, too, but she slapped his arm again.

Grumbling he pushed the covers back and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He didn’t bother with a shirt. If the person on the other side of the door was so eager to speak with him, they could stand the sight of him in his maroon bludger boxers.

He padded to the door and swung it open. He was not expecting to find his Uncle Bill on the other side. The older man smiled widely at him, scars standing out white and stretching across his tan face.

“Good morning, sunshine.”

“Yes, it is morning. Haven’t been up long enough to decide if it’s good yet, but so far it isn’t looking to be. What’s up, Uncle Bill?” Albus folded his arms and waited.

“I was hoping I could take you and…erm—” He paused. He looked decidedly uncomfortable in the dimly lit hallway, and shuffled from side to side on his feet. He looked as if he’d rather be anywhere but there at that moment. Bill nodded at the door.
“Nat,” Albus offered, and Bill’s eyes lit up as if in recognition.

“Yes, Nat. I wanted to take you and Nat out to breakfast.” Albus yawned loudly.

“Which one did you talk to?”

For a moment Bill looked like he wanted to deny the accusation, but then he sighed. “Your mum flooed me at seven this morning. She’s in a right state, worried after you. And Nat,” he added, almost as an afterthought.

Albus narrowed his eyes. “Thanks for the offer, Uncle Bill, but it’s been a long night and my girlfriend’s pregnant, you know. Needs her rest. Thanks though.”

And much like with his dad the previous night, he closed the door in his uncle’s face. He felt remorse immediately. Bill hadn’t done anything wrong. He was just trying to help. But Albus had to think about Nat and her feelings, and Bill forcing them to talk about it wouldn’t do either of them any good.

He slid in to bed next to Nat, who had rolled over and was facing him. He grabbed her about the waist and pulled her in to him, sliding his leg between hers. She shrieked and jumped up.

“Crikey, your feet are cold!”

“Sorry, Love.” He bent his knees moving his feet away from her, and she settled back in his arms. He leaned down, kissing her lips gently. She cupped her hand around his head, forcing them to remain attached. She deepened the kiss, threading her fingers through his hair.

He trailed kisses down her neck, nipping lightly at the base of her throat, and came to the edge of the jumper, which she surprisingly kept on throughout the night. His hand trailed up her leg to rest on her hip.

“Al?” she whispered and he moaned against her neck in reply. “Is it safe…for the baby?”

“Yes,” he mumbled, marking her neck and then placing gentle kisses where the bruise was forming.

“How do you know?” She pulled back slightly, her crystal eyes seeking his emerald ones.

He smirked. “Teddy used to brag about shagging Victoire while she was pregnant with Jade. Said it was the best sex ever. D’ya wanna test that theory?”

“Well,” she mumbled when his lips descended on her neck again. “Since we’re up…”

For the second time that morning, Albus was woken by loud knocks on his door. He rolled over, fully intent on ignoring them again, when he realized Nat was not in bed with him. He reached out, finding the place she had been lying still warm, and opened one eye to see her coming out of the loo, her face white as a sheet and her lips red and swollen.

“I’ll get it,” she said and padded over to the door in just his jumper and a pair of thick socks she must’ve pulled on when she got up. Before he could protest, she was at the door and opening it. He slid his glasses up his nose and sighed loudly.

There was mumbled talking and then she opened it wider, allowing the knockers to enter the room. Albus noted a head of light brown hair (a shock for Teddy, it being so plain) followed by white-blonde.

“Hey, Al,” Teddy Lupin greeted his god brother as he entered the room and sat down on the settee. His wife and Albus’ cousin, Victoire, sat next to him.

Albus rose up on to his forearms and propped himself against pillows. He watched Nat pulling the bottom of his jumper down farther over her bare legs before she moved to her trunk and pulled out a pair of sweatpants.

Politely, the guests looked away while she pulled them on. “So, what are you guys doing here?” she asked when she was finished. Victoire had been a prefect Nat and Albus’ first year and helped them especially, showing them around school and such. Victoire had been thrilled when she found out Nat and Albus were dating, and Nat owled her often for advice.

“Oh, er—Harry owled me this morning, actually. With some…um—news.” Teddy looked distinctly uncomfortable and didn’t look either of them in the face.

“I’m pregnant,” Nat blurted, her gaze on Victoire, who was smiling at her.

“Yeah…that was the erm—news.” Teddy shifted on the couch, his gaze landing on Nat’s feet rather than her face.

“I figured,” Nat told them, her eyes cast downward for a brief moment before she turned to Albus and gave him a weak smile.

“So you must tell us,” said Victoire. “When did you find out?”

“A little over a week ago,” Nat mumbled, sitting at the foot of the bed near Albus’ feet. “I’d been getting sick and got a pregnancy test at the apothecary in Hogsmeade the last visit.”

“Have you seen a healer?”

“Um, no. Haven’t had time, really.”

Victoire’s eyes lit up. “Oh the first appointment is so exciting! I can refer you to mine. I can owl her right now and see if she can get you checked out before Christmas.” At Nat’s nod, she moved over to the desk and took a piece of the parchment that was in every room, along with the quill, and wrote a quick note. She then excused herself to find an owl.

“I’m assuming you’re keeping it, then.” Teddy said once Victoire left. Nat nodded fiercely and Albus said, “Yes,” bracingly. “Good,” was all Teddy said and the room was quiet until Victoire came back.

“Now that’s taken care of,” she relit the fire with her wand and then sat back next to Teddy. “First of all,” she looked back and forth between her cousin and his girlfriend, “we want you to know that we are not here because Uncle Harry asked us to come, okay?”

“But he did ask you?”

“Yes,” Teddy answered, “after the owl, he apparated in at around nine, I guess when he found out you kicked Bill out,” he shot a wide smile at Albus and Victoire clucked disapprovingly at her husband. Teddy cleared his throat. “And he asked us to try and talk some sense in to you…to make you go home.”

“We told him we wouldn’t until we heard the whole story,” Victoire cut in. After he told us, we both said we were on your side and mentioned how disappointed we were in him and Aunt Ginny. I, for one, always looked up to her, being the only girl in a family of her size. How she can usually keep calm and cool in a situation. I told him that I was ashamed of the way she behaved and spoke.”

“Me, too,” Teddy added.

“And the only reason we agreed to come here at all is because we both care about you—both of you—and want to make sure you’re looked after. No matter how mature you think you are, Albus Severus Potter, you are not ready to be on your own.”

“But I can’t go back there,” Albus said, vehemently. “I won’t!”

“We agree, Al. We’re on your side,” Teddy insisted, clasping his hands in front of him on the settee. “So, we want you to come stay with us through the holidays.” Albus opened his mouth to protest, but Teddy held up a hand. “You can’t afford to stay here for three weeks, Al. And only under special circumstances can you go back to Hogwarts early. It’s your choice, but you’re welcome at our house.”

“Your dad said you mentioned coming for Christmas Eve?”

“We haven’t really talked about it…” Albus muttered.

“Well, not to try and berate you or anything, but now’s as good a time as any. There’s a lot of decisions that need to be made, Al.”

“I know, Ted. I’m—we’re—just really overwhelmed right now.”

A noise at the window startled the group and Nat stood and went over to the tiny window, opening it. A small brown owl flew in and landed on the desk next to where Victoire was sitting. It held out its leg, a scroll attached to it. She took it and the owl took flight again, out of the open window.

“Ooh, it’s from Mediwitch Christenson. That was quick! She’s free this afternoon at two o’clock.” She gazed down at her watch and then back at the parchment.

“That gives us just enough time for a spot of lunch,” Teddy said, standing and stretching. “If this is all okay with you two, of course.”

Nat and Albus looked at each other for a moment. “We really can’t afford to stay here for three weeks, Al,” Nat said, placing a hand on her wool-covered abdomen. Albus smiled at her gesture and nodded.

“Okay,” he conceded. “We’ll stay with you.”

“Great,” Victoire stood, rolling the parchment back up. “Just get dressed and we’ll head to our house. We’ve already settled the bill with Tom.”

“You didn’t have to do that,” Albus muttered, his ears turning red.

“Call it an early baby shower gift,” Teddy smirked, his eyes landing on Albus, who was sitting up in the bed, shirtless with sheets wrapped about his waist. “What are you waiting for, Al?”

“Well, Ted, I kind of don’t have any clothes on and I’m a little iffy on letting my cousin and her husband—i.e. my god brother—see me starkers…”

“Point. We’ll wait downstairs.”

“You’re sure my parents aren’t down there ready to make a scene once we leave.”

“Promise,” Teddy held up three fingers. He then turned to leave, following Victoire out the door while Nat went to collect her dirty clothes from the bathroom.

“Ted,” said Albus just as Teddy was walking out the door. The older wizard stopped and poked his head back in.

“Yeah?” He asked.


Chapter 7: 07..Hold My Hand
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Defying Gravity
Chapter 7: Hold My Hand 

The group of four landed in the snow covered garden of the two story cottage just outside of Newport, Pembrokeshire. Fields surrounded the house, with a view of the Preseli mountains behind and the sea in front.

“Welcome to Penhwyr.” Teddy waved his arm dramatically, gesturing to the white building in front of him. “Come, come,” he persuaded, waving them inside after his wife, who was already entering the cosy home.

The house fit Teddy and Victoire’s personalities to a ‘T’. The foyer walls were bright blue, with dark mahogany trim and staircase leading to the first floor. To the left off the foyer was a room with wood panelled walls lined with bookshelves and a cosy sitting nook. Past that was a sitting room, dining room, a large kitchen, and an office with two desks.

Albus and Teddy went in to the kitchen to prepare lunch, leaving the girls alone in the sitting room. The first thing Nat noticed there was the large fireplace. The hearth was made of green faux-marble tile leading off to the beautiful, dark hard wood floors.

“This is amazing,” Nat breathed, fingering the wood mantel above the fireplace. There were pictures in frames atop the mantel, the one closest to her fingers being a picture of the Potter family all smiling back at her. She immediately looked away.

“I decorated everything,” Victoire smiled proudly. On the wall across from a large settee was a large framed family portrait. Victoire wore pale blue robes, Teddy’s hair was its natural sandy brown shade, and on Victoire’s lap was a bouncing blonde baby girl who looked to be only about six months old.

“That was taken last month,” Victoire said next to her ear and she jumped. Victoire laughed softly. “Christmas gift to ourselves, you know? You’ll want to remember every detail; they grow so fast!”

“How is Jade?” Nat ran her finger along the baby’s head before turning her attention to her friend.

“She’s teething at the moment,” Nat grimaced and Victoire nodded, solemnly. “And she’s using a sippy cup! It took her a few tries, but she’s determined, just like her daddy.”

A light smile played over Nat’s features as her head turned back to the family portrait. Victoire patted her back affectionately and tears sprung to her eyes. She turned her head and buried it in the elder’s awaiting shoulder.

“Shh,” Victoire muttered soothingly, patting the girls’ blonde head affectionately.

“I’ve g-gone and d-done it,” Nat sobbed brokenly. She pulled away from Victoire and wiped nose with the back of her hand. She sniffed loudly. “I’ve broken a family apart. I’m a home wrecker…”

“No you’re not.” Victoire went to put her arms around the younger girl, but she backed away.

“Why are you being so nice to me?”

“You’re not so bad, you know?” she attempted to joke. At Nat’s horrified expression, her blue eyes softened. “You’re my cousin’s girlfriend and you are pregnant with my cousin,” she reached down and placed a hand over Nat’s still flat belly. “And you are smart and fun and easy to get along with…”

Nat smiled, shifting from let to right. “Go on,” she encouraged.

“Now you’re just fishing for compliments!” They shared a laugh. “Seriously, though. Once Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny get over the initial shock, everything will work out.”

“You promise?”

“Of course I promise! How could they not see how happy you make Albus?”

“He makes me happy, too,” she admitted softly. She looked down at her hands, picking at a hangnail and continuing. “I never thought this could happen.”

“Anytime you have sex—”

“No,” Nat interrupted. “I mean, falling in love. At my age. I really feel like Albus is the one, you know? I wouldn’t have slept with him nor stayed with him so long if I thought otherwise. I just…I didn’t think it would happen so soon.”

“It happens,” Victoire told her softly. “Take Teddy and me for example. He was the annoying boy who was always over at my Uncle Harry’s house whenever I went to play. Then, he was this annoying little boy who bugged me to borrow quills or stole my chocolate frogs at school. Then, he was a resident Gryffindor hottie that made all the girls swoon. I scoffed.” Nat smiled and tilted her head in wonder.

“I thought you were together at school.”

“Oh we were. The summer before my seventh year—before he went off to Auror training—we sort of ended up snogging while we were supposed to be watching my cousins. We didn’t get caught, yet. Until the train to Hogwarts.”

“I just went to see her off,” Teddy defended himself as he and Albus entered the room bringing with them a plate of sandwiches and a pitcher of pumpkin juice. Teddy ‘accio’ed glasses and they were soon munching on the food and talking.

“I remember that,” Albus said, eyes wide. “I was freaking out about being sorted in to Slytherin and James comes running up saying he saw Teddy and Vicky snogging.”

“Yes, well, I got quite the ribbing from Harry after that,” Teddy grumbled in to his glass.

“He already knew, though,” Victoire pointed out. “Dad told him about us, like, the day after mum told him. Said he wanted Uncle Harry to keep an eye on you at training. Didn’t want his first born’s heart to get broken.”

“If only he knew about Mitchell Flannigan your sixth year, ey?”

“Bastard,” Victoire grumbled. “It’s okay, though. Look what I got out of the deal!” She leaned over and kissed Teddy soundly.

Albus leaned over to Nat and nudged her, catching her attention from the snogging couple. “That’ll be us in a few years,” he muttered in to her ear.

“What married and snogging?”

“Yep.” Nat’s head whipped around to Albus and he had to quickly back away from getting hit.


He simply shrugged, stuffing what was left of his sandwich in to his mouth and smiling around it. Teddy and Victoire finally extracted themselves from each other and turned to the couple sitting before them.

“Ooh, it’s almost two. Ted, clean up this mess while I show them to their room.”

They left a grumbling Teddy to the dishes and Victoire led the couple back through the foyer and up the stairs. They bypassed the first door on the right and went to the first door on the left a few paces down.

“This is the nursery,” she informed them, opening the door and stepping in. It was lavishly decorated in light pink and white, a beautiful white wooden rocking chair off to the side along with a crib, changing table, and numerous stuffed toys.

“I love the stars,” murmured Nat, referring to the trim painted pink with white stars.

“Teddy painted this room all by himself. It was a surprise and it was amazing. He had reservations about making the room so pink…” Victoire paused, smiling warmly.

“Anyway,” she pushed out of the room and back down the hall to the door they’d passed. “This is the spare room.” She pushed open the door to reveal a small bedroom with a double bed. The colour scheme was scarlet and gold, and the wooden furniture was oak stained dark.

“Go, Go, Gryffindor!” Albus mused, throwing himself across the four poster bed.

“Right down to the Gryffindor toilet seat cover,” Victoire giggled. She motioned to the door across from the bed. “Private bathroom. I’ll get you some extra towels eventually. Don’t tell my mother I’m such a bad hostess.”

Nat turned to her, her eyes tear-filled. “Thank you so much, Vic. This is really nice of you and Teddy to do…”

“Don’t mention it. Seriously. Don’t. We’re friends—no! Family. This is what family does for each other. Help them in their time of need. Now,” she rubbed her hands together. “Darlene Christenson will be here in about ten minutes. She’s always prompt, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she was here any minute.”

“She’s coming here?” Nat gaped.

“Of course. If you hadn’t noticed, there’s no maternity ward at Saint Mungos. Darlene’s great, though. She makes you feel so comfortable and makes sure you know everything you need to know.”

There was a ringing throughout the house and Victoire’s eyes lit up. “That’s her. Are you ready?” Nat gave a shaky sigh, and Victoire smiled sympathetically. She could hear Teddy greeting the Mediwitch downstairs.

A moment later there was movement on the stairs and then a tall, lanky woman walked in, a large bag underneath her arm. She had thick red framed glasses perched on a pointy, beak-like nose, and her dark hair was pulled into a tight bun at the base of her skull. She wore a pencil skirt and blazer set, rather than robes, and the brown wool suit looked to be custom made to mould perfectly to her body. She was already tall with long legs, but the brown leather pumps on her feet added height so that her gaze was level with Teddy’s.

“Ah, Vicky,” she spoke in a soft voice that demanded attention and respect without being overbearing, “Teddy tells me Jade is doing wonderfully.”

“Oh, gosh, she’s getting so big,” Victoire gushed. “She’s with her Grampy right now, the poor girl.” Then she turned to Nat and Albus. “Darlene, I’d like you to meet Natalya, the girl I was telling you about in my letter, and my cousin Albus.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” Darlene smiled politely shaking first Albus’ and then Nat’s hand. “Natalya, is it?”

“Nat, actually. Only my mother called me Natalya.”

“Called?” the mediwitch raised her dark eyebrows.

“Oh, she err…kind of left my dad when I was nine.”

“You poor dear, I’m so sorry!”

“It was a long time ago…” Nat looked down at the floor and groped for Albus’ hand.

“And you’re the father?” Darlene turned to Albus.

“Yes ma’am,” he nodded politely.

“Please, child, call me Darlene. Ma’am makes me feel so…old.” She looked to be his parents’ age, her dusky dark hair beginning to turn grey, and he didn’t want to make her privy to the fact that he thought that was old.

“Well let’s talk for a moment, shall we?” She motioned to the bed and Nat, Albus, and Victoire all sat on the ends and sides while she sat in the dark wooden chair at the dark wooden desk. She pulled a clipboard from her large bag, also taking out a muggle pen. She clicked the top and then set them both on the desk before turning to the group. Teddy leaned against the door frame, muscled arms crossed over his chest.

“So, how old are you both?” She crossed one knee over the other.

“We’re both seventeen.” Nat answered for the both of them. Darlene looked surprised, her thinly sculpted eyebrows raised halfway to her hairline.

“Still in school?” they both nodded, and she jotted something down on the clipboard. “And have you informed Headmistress McGonagall about your situation?”

“Um, no. We were waiting for it to be confirmed, actually.” Albus answered. Nat clasped her hand in his, leaning against him for support.

“A home pregnancy test confirmed, right? A false positive is very, very unlikely. Have you been having morning sickness.”

“Yes, ma’—Darlene. Every day. Three or four times a day.”

“Really?” Her eyebrows raised again and she jotted more down on the clipboard.

“Is that bad?” Nat worried her lip.

“It’s a sign for a difficult pregnancy,” Darlene told her bluntly and her face fell. “But I assure you, no pregnancy is ever easy, especially for someone your age. There most likely is nothing wrong. I’m going to do a full exam now, and then we can talk about the results after, alright?”

During the exam, Darlene made Nat feel so comfortable that she actually fell asleep. She barely sensed being poked and prodded, and only awoke when Albus gently shook her. Her crystal blue eyes opened to see pictures projected above her abdomen.

“Your blood pressure is fine, your weight is okay. I need to draw some blood for testing. I have to disclose that tests for sexually transmitted infections are included and are mandatory for the first appointment, so if there’s anything you should tell me…”

“No!” Albus said immediately, jarring the bed enough for the projection to disappear. He apologized quickly before saying, “There’s not. We’ve only ever been with each other.” Nat nodded in agreement and Darlene nodded, writing more on her clipboard.

She used the tip of her long wand to draw blood and fill two vials. Nat winced and looked away at the sight of the crimson substance painlessly leaving her body. The spot was healed a moment later.

“Okay, well, everything looks good, Nat. You’re about seven and a half weeks along, which puts your conception date around the beginning of November, and, with forty weeks gestation, makes your due date—” she marked some things off on her clipboard, “—the end of July. Around the thirty-first.”

“July thirty-first?” Teddy laughed from the doorway. He got four pairs of eyes glowering back at him for interrupting. “Sorry,” he muttered, a hint of a smile still on his face.

After a long pause and a bit more writing from Darlene, she looked back to the couple on the bed. “I have to admit, I’m a bit hesitant about you both going back to school after the holidays. It will be stressful and you must promise to take it easy”—they both nodded feverishly—“also, I will need to discuss with Minerva, but I should be able to make it to Hogwarts once a month for your prenatal checkups. Between visits the Healer on staff should have had prenatal training during her internship and can assist you.”

She jotted a few more notes on her clipboard with an air of finality, and then began packing her things. Before she left, she told Albus and Nat how to reach her in case of an emergency, gave Nat prenatal potions and a prescription for more that she should get filled at Saint Mungos before she left for Hogwarts, and showed the blonde teen exercises she could do to help with aching muscles and to keep herself healthy.

“You should start gaining weight very soon,” she pointed out on her way out the door. Nat was fine with that; she never had been one of those vain girls who ate next to nothing and exercised constantly, so a few extra pounds didn’t frighten her. The mediwitch set up an appointment for a few days before they were to go back to school so she could check her before the train ride.

“Well, that was exciting, wasn’t it?” Victoire said, closing the door behind Darlene. She turned to the couple, who were standing at the foot of the stairs, hands clasped together.

“It was,” Nat agreed, smiling. “It’s made it so much more real. Like, it’s really happening. My baby’s healthy and it’s got a due date.”

“Yeah,” Albus agreed. “July thirty-first. Dad’ll love that.” Nat looked at him, confusion scrunching her features. “That’s Dad’s birthday,” he told her. She nodded.

“It’s okay. Most first-timers are late. Jade was two weeks. By the end I was tearing out my hair ready for it to be over. Ted and I were having sex every day,” she giggled at their sour expressions, “to induce labour.”

“Right,” Albus shook his head to get rid of the mental picture.

They moved in to the sitting room where Teddy was munching on crackers, and Nat caught a glimpse of the family clock. The lower portion of the clock had three hands and a variety of labels, the hands with Teddy and Victoire’s faces on them pointing to ‘Home’ and the one with Jade’s chubby face was pointing at ‘Uncle Harry’s’. The top half was an actual clock, and Nat gasped.

“Wow, that took a lot longer than I would have thought.”

“You did sleep through most of it,” Albus told her, wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her against his chest. “I had to answer all of these questions for you, about your medical history and such. I realized how little I know about your family.”

“I’m not sure I could’ve answered them any better,” she whispered, sadly.

Victoire walked back in to the room after disappearing in to the kitchen and smiled at the teenagers. “I’m getting ready to start dinner. Would you like to help, Nat?”

“Sure,” Nat nodded, speaking around a yawn.

“I’m going to head over to Harry’s to get Jade from Bill,” Teddy told his wife from the kitchen. “Want to come, Al?”

Albus bit his lip in indecision, but ultimately decided not to go. He asked Teddy to pick up his trunk and then moved in to the kitchen to watch the ladies make supper.

Teddy flooed there, it being too far to apparate. He stepped out of the fireplace to a crowded kitchen. Harry was sitting at the table, Ginny on one side, Ron and Hermione on the other. They were talking in whispers. Molly Weasley stood at the stove, stirring something in a pot, her husband nowhere to be found. Fleur sat next to George at the crowded table, and Teddy bent down to kiss her cheek.

“Hey, mum. Where’s my daughter?”

“Teddy!” She jumped up, wrapping her arms around his neck in a hug. “Pleeze tell me oo talked to zem.” He nodded. “She eez wiz Beel in zee living room.”

He walked out of the kitchen without looking at his god father, but instead of going in to the sitting room, he moved up the stairs to where he knew Albus’ room was.

Albus’ trunk was open at the foot of his bed, clothes astray, and Teddy muttered a quick spell to repack the trunk. Then he shrunk it and shoved it in to his pocket before leaving the room. He ran in to Lily on the landing and she pulled him back in to Albus’ room.

“He’s staying with us for holiday,” he told her in a hushed tone. “She’s been checked out by a mediwitch, the baby is fine. She can continue to get checkups at Hogwarts and she should be finished with school before the baby’s due. Think you can pass that along to Rose? Nat was worried about her.” Lily nodded and Teddy kissed her forehead before leaving the room.

“There’s my girl!” He called when he entered the sitting room. His little girl, her blonde hair curling at the nape of her neck, was on Rose’s lap. Rose was leaning against the couch, Scorpius sitting next to her with their fingers threaded together. His father in law lay across the couch, snoring softly. His brother and sister in law and their cousin Fred were playing Exploding Snap Extreme! on the floor in a corner, and they all looked up at his entrance.

“Is she okay? Are they okay?” Rose burst out as Teddy lifted his giggling, gurgling daughter off of Rose’s lap.

“They’re fine,” he insisted, not wanting to go in to detail. He glanced over to where James and Hugo had been playing chess, but both boys were looking at him. “Talk to Lily,” he muttered before picking up the diaper bag and leaving the room.

He entered the kitchen, fully intent on ignoring its inhabitants and flooing away immediately, when a strangled voice stopped him.

“Are they okay?”

He turned to the woman who had been like a mother to him, and the icy exterior he’d put up in indignation on behalf of Albus and Nat melted a bit. Ginny Potter was a complete wreck. Her normally bright red hair was a dull shade, her brown eyes were red and puffy from crying and there were dark circles beneath them from lack of sleep. He glanced to her right and noted that Harry Potter didn’t look much, if any, better.

He nodded in answer, shifting his daughter on his hip. “Um, she saw a healer. The same one Vic had. Says she’s perfectly healthy, the baby’s fine…she’s even willing to go to Hogwarts for her checkups.”

“And Albus,” Ginny’s tear-filled eyes finally turned to him. “Is he still…angry?”

Teddy nodded and gulped. He felt the gaze of every adult in the room on him and he subconsciously clutched Jade closer to his body. “He’s calmed down a lot, since the healer…I think it became more real to them, you know?”

“Any chance he’s coming home?” Molly turned, one hand clutched around a wooden spoon, her knuckles turning white in worry for her grandson.

“We’ve offered for them to stay with us. I’m not going to push them in to it…they know the option’s there.” He didn’t mention the reduced-sized trunk in his pocket. “They’ll be at dinner tomorrow,” he assured them before picking up a handful of floo powder.

“Oh, and Harry?” he started, turning away from the fire to look at his god father. “She’s due July thirty-first.”

The last thing he heard before holding Jade tight to his chest and whirling away was a choked sob and something hard hitting against the table.

Chapter 8: 08..Skipping Stones
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Defying Gravity
Chapter 8: Skipping Stones

“Very good, Love, come to daddy,” he heard his voice and saw a toddler standing a metre in front of him, chubby hands clutching the cushion of the sofa, holding herself up.  She was looking at him sideways, a big smile on her face.  There were four teeth in her tiny mouth.

The baby giggled happily and took a shaky step sideways, letting go of the couch with one hand and then grabbing it a little further down, before letting go with the other hand and moving it closer to the first.  She repeated that and he spread his arms open wider.

Finally she came to the end of her couch, a few steps away from him.  She stood still for a moment, looking up at her father through big, green eyes.  Her dark hair was piled on top of her head, a red polka dotted bow clip holding it there.

He smiled and nodded encouragingly.  She giggled and, shakily, lifted her foot and moved it forward a bit.  First her left, and then her right, hand let go of the couch.  She took two steps on wobbly legs and promptly fell on her butt.

Instead of beginning to wail, as he’d prepared himself for, she giggled at the sound her nappy made hitting the carpet.  Then, the toddler rolled onto her knees, pulled herself in a crawl the rest of the way to her daddy, and plopped herself in his lap.

She stood in his lap and reached up to his face.  A second later, his vision was fuzzy as she pulled his glasses away from his eyes.  He blinked to get used to the change, and suddenly his face was full of blonde hair instead of smiling into the happy face of the baby girl.

His grip tightened around the blonde’s waist and he sighed, content, as he snuggled deeper into the pillows.

“Al,” she whispered, her voice husky from sleep, and he smiled into her hair.  Goodness, he loved her.

“Yes, Love,” he whispered back, and she rolled over in his arms.  Her eyes were still closed, her curls wild around her head.  She had major bed head in the morning.  The crystal blues blinked open.

“We’re gonna have a baby.”

Her bottom lip quivered as she said it, and he kissed her forehead, hugging her to his chest.  The previous night, Teddy had informed him on a few aspects of pregnancy that were Albus’ responsibility.  Such as keeping her happy when she gets too emotional, rubbing her feet or back when they ache, not to mention the randy-ness that comes in the next trimester, whatever that was.

“Yes, we are,” he agreed, forcing her chin up to face him, and he smiled down at her.  “And she’s going to have my eyes and your nose and your lips and your smile and your personality—”

“Pretty much a miniature me with your eyes, eh?” She winked at him and he grinned at her boldness.

“Yep,” he smiled, remembering the dream he’d just awoken from.  “And my hair…or dark hair, at least.”  His hand slid from her waist down to cup her abdomen.  He slid his hand underneath the cotton tee shirt and stroked his fingers over the taut flesh of her belly.

“Mmm,” she moaned, falling over onto her back.  He continued rubbing circles over her stomach and her eyes slid close, a smile of content on her face.  “That feels nice.”  After a moment, she stopped his hand and laced her fingers with his.  She rolled back on to her side and looked up at him through her lashes.

He was reminded of another part of his conversation with Teddy the previous night.  They were in the kitchen doing the dishes by hand while their women did a bit of female bonding (which consisted of going through all of Victoire’s old maternity clothes).

Teddy’d offered to help them.  Financially.  And the blush that flooded Albus’ face at the invitation rivalled that of his Uncle Ron’s when he got really angry or really embarrassed.  His mind flitted to his brother; he politely declined and made a mental note to look for a job.

“Are you happy?” Nat wondered suddenly, snapping Albus out of his thoughts.  He didn’t even have to wonder.  Worried?  Yes.  Scared shitless?  Definitely.  Happy?

“With you?  Always.” 

James Potter rubbed his brown eyes tiredly and gazed up at the first floor window warily.  The sun was just breaking over the snow capped trees of the forest lining the Potter household and he knew his mum would be up soon to begin what would come to be the worst Christmas Eve in the history of Christmas Eves.  The freshly fallen snow crunched under his snow boots as he swayed tiredly.  He hoisted his rucksack higher onto his shoulder, turning his eyes towards his surroundings.

The window to the left of his, a homemade sun catcher shadowed against the glass, belonged to Albus.  James let out a breath.  He was going to be an uncle.  He glanced down at his hands and then back at the window.

It was times like these he wished his coach hadn’t made him quit smoking.

He hadn’t felt the nearly weightless stick of gold between his fingers since the day he signed his contract with the Montrose Magpies, a team that had once had the reputation of being the top Quidditch team in British and Irish history, but was currently in a “rebuilding year.”  A rebuilding decade was more like it.  He hadn’t felt the burning of nicotine entering his lungs in nine months.

James smirked.

Nine months of vigorous training.  Nine months of living on his own.  Nine months of being a star.  It rarely happened, a person right out of school becoming the star Chaser for a legendary team.  Being the first born of Quidditch prodigies Ginny and Harry Potter had benefits.  In nine months he had become famous as the person solely responsible for the ‘Pies’ big comeback. 

In that same amount of time, his niece or nephew would grow and be welcomed into this world.  This crazy world where James’ parents were unsupportive, his nerdy brother gets laid, and everyone had secrets.

And everyone did have secrets.  His brother’s was out of the bag.  His parents were hiding something as well.  He’d never known his mother to blow her top like she had, and he’d done some pretty stupid things in his time.  Not to mention his own secret that was about to make Christmas even more eventful.

Oh yes, even more shit was about to hit the proverbial fan.

He really needed a cigarette. 

Instead, he sucked in another deep breath.  The smell of morning dew and snow assaulted his nostrils and, as he blew out the breath a cloud of steam from his warm breath meeting cold air billowed in front of him.

He stuffed his hands into his pockets, kicking at the snow in front of him.  He loved being outside in the snow.  When he was a kid, he’d spend hours at a time building snow men and having snowball fights with his cousins, only to be dragged inside by his mother before he got frostbite.  Which is why he was just standing there now, in the below freezing temperatures, his winter cloak tucked snugly around him.  There was some sort of calming solace in the early winter morning.

Something distinctly virgin, untouched.  

The sun broke over the tops of the trees and James decided it was probably time to sneak inside.  He’d taken every precaution he could have.  He locked his door from the inside.  He put pillows in his bed where his body was supposed to be.  He’d deceived his already-fragile parents.  All for an overnight to his favourite room at the Leaky Cauldron.

It had been really hard for him to leave Her.

He sighed one last time, securing his rucksack, which contained a change of clothes and his toothbrush, on his shoulder.  Then, he crouched down and dug in the snow, found the box he was looking for, and pulled out his dad’s old FireboltXX. The first broom Harry Potter had purchased after the Blood Wars; an antique.

With heavy skill but lack of enthusiasm, he slid onto the broomstick and rose up to his window.  The window was held open by James’ old Potions textbook, and he slid the window the rest of the way up and scrambled inside, allowing the broom to fall back into the snow.

He collapsed face-first onto the bed and closed his eyes, ready to allow sleep to overcome him when his dad announced five minutes until breakfast from the other side of the door.

James groaned into his pillow.  It was going to be a long day.  

She sighed for the tenth time, waving her wand and muttering a spell under her breath while pointing at the offending garment.  Then she gave a frustrated cry and threw her wand on the ground.  Tears welled in her crystal eyes and she pressed the heels of her hands against them to stop the tears.

Nat removed her hands from her face and found brown smudges on her palms.  Just what she needed.  More time to reapply makeup.  She threw her hands in the air and let the tears flow, slumping onto the edge of the bed.  Her shoulders shook with her sobs.

“Hey,” Albus walked in to the room, frowning.  He tossed the magazine he’d been carrying towards the head of the bed and sat next to his girlfriend, pulling her flush against his chest.

She cried into his white tee shirt and he stroked her hair, allowing her tears to soak in to the cotton material.  She pulled back a moment later, brushing tears off her cheeks.  He reached up to help her, and she smiled softly at him.

“Sorry,” she said with a thick voice.  He smiled and shrugged.

“I’m getting used to it.  Are you going to tell me what that was all about?” he said, thumbing a tear off her cheek.  She sighed, her eyes welling up once more.

“Everything is just so off!” she cried suddenly, jumping off the bed and grabbing up the garment she’d been waving her wand at.  It was a red skirt, and she waggled it at him.   “My magic is off!  I can’t do anything!  Even the simplest of alterations!  I can’t even lengthen a damn skirt!”

“I can—”

“And I cry at everything!” She continued ranting as if he hadn’t even spoken.  “I just can’t stop.  I cry when I’m happy, which is in short supply lately.  I cry when I’m sad…”

“Hormones,” Albus muttered and immediately knew it was the wrong thing to say when Nat began smacking him with the skirt in her hand.  

“Ow!” he held up his arms to shield his face.

“I’ll show you hormones!”

“Hey!” The duo turned and saw Victoire standing in the doorway, Jade on her hip, her tiny fist in her mouth.  “What on Earth is going on here?”

And then Nat burst in to tears again.

Rose brushed her red hair away from her face, her tired brown eyes sparkling in the mirror of her vanity table.  She leaned forward against the brass frame and studied a spot on her face.  Her eyes grew wide and she let out a loud ‘euww!’ before pushing away from the table and standing up.  She stepped quickly across the room, nearly tripping on her long skirt, and found the solution she needed.

She slammed back onto the stool in front of the vanity, squeezed a drop of the solution onto her index finger, and smoothed it over the bump on her chin.  She hated being an oily-faced teenager who got pimples, and she hated even more that there was not a solution strong enough to keep them away.

The directions said the zit would be ‘zapped away’ in just five minutes, so Rose sat back and studied herself in the mirror.  Her hair was now secured at the top of her head with a flower clip she’d gotten last Christmas.  Her green jumper was low cut just enough to be decent for a family occasion, and the sleeves flared like a bell at her wrists.  The black skirt reached her ankles and she knew she would be tripping over it all night.

Rose leaned closer to the mirror.  The offending bump seemed to be shrinking.  She was glad.  There was nothing more embarrassing than having a pimply face in a family full of smoothed-skinned people.  And to top that, Rose had more freckles than any member of her family.

Her face was so freckled, her skin looked tan.  Scorpius had once tried to count only the freckles on her nose, but had quickly lost count.  That may have had more to do with the proximity of her lips, but it still counted.

After a few more moments of waiting, the pimple had deflated to only a pink mark on her chin, a mark that make up could surely cover.  Five minutes later, Rose applied a thin layer of ‘Perme-Gloss Lip Cover’ and smacked her lips together loudly.  She stood, picked up her formal winter cloak from her quilt-covered bed, and opened the door to her room…

Running smack into Scorpius, who quickly pushed her back inside, closed the door, and flipped their places so her back was against the door and he was pressed snugly against her.

Before she could ask him why he was there, his lips covered hers in a passionate kiss that curled her toes in her spikey-heeled boots and left her breathless.  His tongue flicked her freshly painted lips, which parted to allow him entrance.  Her hands found their own way to his hair, her cloak dropping to the floor, and his hands had her waist in a vice grip.

This continued for minutes: lips sliding over lips, tongues duelling.  It seemed like it had been forever since they’d been together like this, when it had actually only been a day or two.  Rose loved the feeling of his hard, Quidditch toned body pressed against hers.  Her hand slid from his shoulder to the hard pectoral muscles beneath his crisp white shirt.  Her fingers flitted to the buttons of said shirt as if they had a mind of their own, but she managed to control them and pushed Scorpius away with one hand.

The Slytherin took a step back to put distance between them so he wouldn’t pounce on her.  Their breathing was shallow, and he was looking at her through hooded grey eyes.  She licked her lips, and he watched her pink tongue dart out of her mouth and slide across the juicy plane of the bottom lip.  He groaned inwardly and forced his eyes closed and his hands into his trouser pockets.

“You’re killing me, Rose,” his whisper came out strangled and she laughed softly.

“What was that all about?” She reached out and straightened his shirt.  With her heels on, the top of her head reached his lip line, and he leaned forward and brushed a gentle kiss against her forehead.

“Just missed you, I guess.”

“You saw me at lunch,” she reminded him, sliding her arms around his waist.

“Your dad is following me everywhere,” he whispered against her ear, following her lead and pulling her close against his body.  “We haven’t had any time alone.”  He pressed his pelvis against her stomach, telling her exactly what that alone time would be used for, and she laughed softly.

Ever since her dad had found them in a compromising situation two days before, Ron had been following Scorpius around, refusing to trust that he would stay out of Rose’s room, or any room with a door that closed, if they were alone.

“He doesn’t trust me,” Scorpius told Rose.

“He did catch us in a…compromising situation…” She laughed.

“I didn’t do anything wrong!”

“Love, you had your hand up my shirt and were working the snap on my bra.  If he hadn’t come in–”

“I wouldn’t be so sexually frustrated right now,” Scorpius groaned, his head falling against her shoulder.  Rose laughed softly, her hand running through his hair in a consoling gesture.  “I really wish you wouldn’t laugh about this,” he bit out.

“Oh come on, it’s a little bit funny.”

Scorpius gave her a look that said he wasn’t buying it, but then he cracked a smile and took her hand.  He kissed her knuckles gently before turning over her hand and kissing her palm.  Then he placed a kiss against the inside of her wrist, pushed her sleeve up, and trailed kisses all the way up to her elbow, all the while his grey eyes locked with her brown ones.

“Okay,” she shivered as he pressed a kiss on the skin at the inside of her elbow.  His head rose and he smiled.

“Okay, what?”  It was his turn to grin as she took a shaky breath to control herself.

“Okay, come to my room tonight after my parents are asleep.”  He pressed a quick kiss to her lips and stepped away from her to compose himself.  “And Scorpius?  Bring your wand.”

He would have laughed out loud if there hadn’t been a knock on her door a second later.  Instinctively he dove for the bed, and managed to scramble beneath it before the door opened and Rose’s dad stuck his head in.

“Almost ready?” Ron asked.  Rose made a strangled nose in the back of her throat that she managed to turn into an ‘um hmm.’  “Good.  Have you seen Malfoy?  He wasn’t in his room.”

“Oh,” Rose felt her face flush and commanded her eyes not to stray towards the bed.  She never had been really good at lying to her father.  “Um, I think he was still primping in the downstairs loo.”

She saw her father roll his eyes and prayed he wouldn’t make a nasty comment about her boyfriend.  Apparently no one was answering prayers on Christmas Eve, because her father snorted.  Then, to add insult to injury, said, “You sure picked a good one, Rose Bud.  Takes more time to get ready then a bloody girl,” before disappearing down the hall.

Rose had nearly turned around when she felt Scorpius brush past her.  She caught his wrist and looked into angry grey eyes.  “Primping?” was all he said before following her father down the stairs.

She frowned deeply, wondering how she was going to fix that one.

Albus pushed open the front door of the Burrow and nearly dragged Nat inside behind him.  She looked around warily, her blue eyes wide, and she took a cautious step back, pressing her back firmly against the door.

He could feel his temper flare at his girlfriend and, as he shrugged off his cloak, did his best to tamp it down.  Nat had changed clothes four times before deciding on the exact skirt she’d been trying to lengthen earlier in the day.  Then she couldn’t find shoes to match, and decided to wear trousers instead.  And then she found the shoes she’d wanted to wear just as they were ready to leave and had to start the dressing process all over, causing them to be forty-five minutes late.

He knew the dinner would not start without them.  But Albus had wanted to beat all of his cousins there so that the attention would not be all on the two of them when they arrived.  The news of Nat’s pregnancy had undoubtedly made its way through the various grape vines of each family, and Albus was nervous for the reactions.

He’d never really been close with his Uncle Bill, who worked at Gringotts Wizarding Bank, or his Uncle Charlie, who had moved back to Romania after the war.  Uncle Percy had always been around, and the two shared good conversations once Albus grew up enough to have grown up conversations.  No way would Uncle Percy lower his projected intelligence to have a intellectual discussion with a twelve year old.  After Albus had gotten his prefect badge was about the time he and Uncle Percy connected.

Which left Uncle George: the man, the legend.  And Uncle Ron.  George would slap him on the back, probably fill him full of firewhiskey for a ‘job well done.’  Uncle Ron would be thankful that it wasn’t one of his children in Albus’ situation.

Albus glanced sideways and saw Nat shrugging out of her cloak, her eyes dancing around nervously, taking in the crowded foyer that had been added on after the Blood Wars.  There were rubber-soled boots lining one wall of the small room; an overflowing coat rack told Albus most of his family had arrived already.

He leaned forward and pressed a kiss against Nat’s forehead, brushing stray curls behind her ear.  She looked up and smiled nervously, and then smoothed down her skirt.  Albus groaned inwardly at the thought of her bringing up the damn skirt again.

She opened her mouth to speak, but Albus place a finger over her lips.  “The skirt looks fine.  The blouse looks great.  Your hair is shiny, as always.  You know most of my family anyway, so there’s nothing to worry about.  If you don’t want to talk to my mum, there’ll be plenty of other people to talk to.”

When he was done with his speech, he moved his finger and pressed a kiss against her lips.  “I love you,” she whispered and he kissed her forehead again.

“Love you, too, babe.  Let’s get this over with so Father Christmas will bring us something good!”

They stepped out of the foyer and were immediately bombarded by Rose, who snatched up Nat’s hand and dragged her up the stairs.  Albus shook his head to himself and sat on the settee next to Scorpius, whose head was resting against the back of the couch, his eyes closed.

“Is she gone?” The Slytherin asked, keeping his eyes closed.

“Yep.  Took Nat up stairs.”  Scorpius opened first one eye and then the other.  “You want to tell me what they’re going to talk about?”

“Rose thinks I’m mad at her?” Scorpius shrugged nonchalantly.

“And you’re not?” Albus guessed.  Scorpius snorted and recounted the events in Rose’s room.  “She’s going to kill you once she finds out you weren’t really mad at her.”

“She saved both of are behinds, Al.  ‘Course I’m not mad!  Doesn’t mean I’m not going to get whatever I can out of the deal.”

“You are such a Slytherin.”

“Brilliant?  Charming?”

“Cunning. Devious.”

“I’ll take what I can get.”

“And then he just looked at me with this hurt look on his face and said, ‘primping?’ and left,” Rose recounted her story to Nat.  They were in a first floor bedroom that had belonged to Albus’ mum, sitting on a bed with a faded blue quilt and not much else.

“Do you think this skirt is to short?” Nat asked, glancing down at her bare knees.

Rose took in the red pleated skirt for a moment before she gestured Nat to stand.  She did, and the red head squatted down and pressed her finger against the skin from Nat’s knee to the hem of her skirt.

“According to my mum, no.  She says if you press your thumb against your knee, your skirt should hit somewhere on your pointer finger, not above.  And you’ve got about a knuckle breathing room, so you’re good.”

Nat raised her eyebrows at Rose, who shrugged sheepishly and smiled.  “Back to the Scorpy thing.  What should I do?”

“Grovel,” Nat answered automatically, pulling the hem of her skirt down in spite of Rose’s opinion.  “Apologize,” she added distractedly, now pulling the top of her black jumper up to hide more of her cleavage.  “I have to go change!”

“No, you look super cute.  You haven’t even gained any weight yet.”

“That’s because I throw up everything I eat.”  She patted her stomach awkwardly, before fluffing her curls and readjusting the black headband behind her fringe.

“That should pass eventually.”

The teenagers whipped around to find Ginny Potter standing in the doorway, looking worse for the wear.  She wore a bright red dress, but that was about the only thing bright about her.  Even her hair looked dull.  And she looked tired.  Exhausted, really.

“Dinner’s almost ready.  We’re just waiting for James to show up.”

“I thought he was living at home over hols until training starts back up,” Rose mentioned perkily, trying to keep the conversation between the two women vying for Albus’s attention light.

“He had some last minute Christmas shopping to do.  He’s supposed to be bringing us all a surprise.”

Downstairs the roar of the floo caught their attention and the three went quickly down the stairs to see what the commotion was.  Nat was last down the stairs, hanging on to the rail near the bottom as a wave of dizziness passed over her.  She shook her head shake it off, and tears stung the corners of her eyes from the pain.

She took the last step and slowly entered the magically widened kitchen where a slew of people stood around a magically enlarged table all looking in the direction of the fireplace.

Standing there was James, a nervous smile on his face, with a woman on his arm.  From head to toe she looked like a goddess, with perfect curly dark blonde hair, perfect almond shaped brown eyes, perfect round breasts encased in a perfect fitting black cocktail dress, all the way down to perfect knee-high boots that looked like they cost as much as the newest Firebolt model brooms.

“James?” Ginny asked in way of explanation, and James nodded.  He cleared his throat and took the stranger’s hand in his.

“Mum,” he nodded to Ginny before his eyes sought and found Harry’s in the crowd of family, “Dad, everyone…” he cleared his throat, wiping his sweaty palms on crisply pressed black trousers.  “This is Jennifer.”

A mummer of ‘hello’ rang out throughout the room, all eyes on the couple before them.  Call it mother’s intuition, but Ginny sensed that wasn’t the end and stepped forward, eyeing her son warily.

“James?” she said again, more suspicious, her eyes narrowing on Jennifer’s left hand.  A large, princess cut diamond balanced on a ring of pure gold.

“Yeah, um…” James gulped again, and dropped her hand to wipe both of his on his trousers.  “You see, Jennifer’s…she’s, well…she’s my wife.”

Albus literally saw the tension leave his brother’s body as his secret was out, then glanced sideways at his mum.  Her face was as red as her dress, her hands were clinched…she looked like she was about to pass out.

But the body that hit the floor was not his mum’s.

It was Nat’s.

Chapter 9: 09..Slim Chances
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Defying Gravity 
Chapter 9: Slim Chances 

Nat felt as if she were floating. A flimsy cloud floating along on a warm summer’s day. Well that couldn’t be right, seeing as it was the middle of winter. But she wasn’t cold at all. In fact, she felt down right comfortable. She was encased in softness.

There was white everywhere. Not the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. And she wondered if this was the end. Had she been hit by a stray spell? Did she just drop dead of her own accord? It seemed as if she was wrapped tightly in a white sheet.

Then she felt a pinch in her lower abdomen and grimaced. That hurt! she thought. It happened again, the pain significantly worse, and her mouth fell open in a silent scream. Just as the pain would fade, the pinching sensation would come back until she couldn’t take it anymore.

If this was heaven, she couldn’t imagine what hell was like.

Then, the whiteness started to fade, becoming darker and darker, and she hastily thought, I didn’t mean it. I like heaven!

Then a familiar voice said, “Come on, Nel, wake up,” and she knew she had to fight to get back to him.

Slowly she blinked, her eyes adjusting to a dimly lit room she recognized as the room she’d been with Rose in earlier. She felt pressure on her hand and found Albus sitting in a chair next to her, as she reclined on the bed, clutching her hand. She squeezed his hand, a small movement of her fingers, and Albus’s green eyes met her blues.

“Oh thank Merlin,” he leaned over and pressed his lips to hers, obviously not caring if anyone else was in the room. And as he pulled back, she saw that there was. Ginny and Harry Potter stood at the end of the bed watching the young couple. Ginny’s face was sad, her eyes tired. Harry looked stressed, exhausted.

She tried to sit up, but her lower abdomen seized and she slumped against the bed, wincing in pain. In an instant Ginny was by her side, brushing her hair off her forehead.

“Don’t try to sit up,” Ginny commanded in a soft, motherly tone and Nat felt Albus squeeze her fingers. “Victoire’s contacted your Mediwitch. She’ll be here soon.”

“It hurts,” Nat whispered in a small, vulnerable voice. Much to her amazement Ginny cracked a smile, her hand never stilling over Nat’s forehead, and told her, “I know,” in a sympathetic voice.

There was a knock on the door and it swung open unceremoniously. Rose was on the other side, and her brown eyes immediately sought Nat. Their gazes locked and Rose let out a breath.

“Thank Merlin!” she cried, but did not enter the already-crammed-with-only-four-people room.

“That seems to be the consensus,” Nat muttered, grinding her teeth in pain near the end as another pinch sent her nerve endings screaming.

“Oh right,” Rose seemed to remember her purpose for being there. “Darlene Christenson is downstairs. She would like to talk to you,” she looked to Albus.

“She needs to check out Nat!” he cried in outrage. Harry placed a gentle hand on his son’s shoulder but didn’t say anything.

“She’s got to know what happened first and there’s a shit-ton of people down there trying to tell her all at once. She wants to hear it from you. She can’t do anything for Nat until she knows what happened.”

Rose turned on her heel and left. Albus was close behind her. Nat watched as Ginny shot Harry a pointed look and Harry left the room, shutting the door quietly behind him. Ginny turned her gaze to Nat, who’s face was scrunched in pain.

Ginny’s long dress twirled about her legs as she sat down on the bed next to Nat. She took a deep breath, her eyes cast downward at her hands. She looked contemplative, as she mentally conversed with herself.

After moments of Ginny staring at her hands while Nat stared at her, Ginny began speaking. “I’d like to – ”

But her words were cut off when the door was thrown open and Albus and Darlene Christenson charged in. Harry followed closely after, and before the door closed behind him Nat caught a glimpse of Rose, Scorpius, Lily, and a few other redheads in the hall on the other side of the door.

Darlene didn’t say a word. Ginny moved out of the way, joining Harry at the foot of the bed, while the mediwitch took out her wand and did a series of spells over Nat’s abdomen. Albus held her hand the whole time the examination took place, only once did her abdomen clinch, and the spasm was observed and timed by Darlene, who’s brow seemed permanently furrowed.

“You’re dehydrated,” Darlene concluded a few minutes later, enlarging a case she’d been carrying and arranging a row of vials of potions on the bureau behind her. “Dehydration can induce labour, even after only eight weeks, so you must be sure to keep hydrated.” She handed Nat a vial of pink potion, and she drank it down quickly. It tasted very floral and sweet. “That should stop the labour for now,” Darlene continued.

“Thank you so mu – ” Ginny started, but the mediwitch cut her off.

“You are Albus’s mother, I presume?”

“Ginny Potter.” They shook hands and then Ginny introduced Harry.

“Well,” Darlene said, turning back towards Nat, “I noticed an abnormality in the sonogram from yesterday, and since I’m here, I thought I might be able to take a look?” Nat nodded, her eyes wide and worried and Darlene turned to Ginny.

“I wouldn’t want to intrude on your Christmas Eve plans, Mrs. Potter.”

“Wait, what?” Albus burst out. “There’s something wrong? Please tell me there’s nothing wrong.”

“I just want to take a look, Mr. Potter. Just a quick little check and then I’ll be on my way.”

“It’s okay, Alby,” Nat squeezed his fingers. Albus nodded and Darlene went to her kit and began pulling out instruments.

“I’m sorry, Natalya, but we are going to have to do this the old fashioned way. Mr. and Mrs. Potter, if you could please step outside…”

Harry and Ginny left with little protest, taking Albus along and assuring him that he did not want to experience that. Albus did not go easily, and it took Nat to convince him to leave.

The door shut behind him and Nat turned tired eyes onto the mediwitch. “Okay, Natalya,” Darlene said as she snapped on an intimidating rubber glove. “Feet apart, bend your knees to the ceiling…”

Jennifer Marie Smith-Potter sat perched on the edge of an ottoman in the sitting room of the Burrow, watching the flurry of activity around her. Someone had passed out, that was for sure. But who, she didn’t know. It had to have been important to have interrupted their announcement.

She smoothed the skirt of her dress over her thighs, and then bunched it around her waist so more of her legs were showing. She had magnificent legs, if she did say so herself, thin but shapely from years of spending hours in the gym. Her brown eyes locked on her husband’s from across the room and she did a little finger wave to get his attention.

He was talking to some redheaded girl, who looked to be near hysterics. Jennifer scowled. This was supposed to be her night. There were too many redheads to keep straight and she wasn’t sure if the girl was a sibling – he has a sister, right? – or a cousin. Then she grew angry again at the interruption.

She crossed her legs at the knee and balanced a glass of water, which she knew she wouldn’t drink because of the chip on the rim, on her hands, her hazel eyes taking in her surroundings. There were Christmas lights strung up everywhere, charmed to blink and bedazzle. There was a tall tree in one corner, surrounded by gifts. The furniture was old and worn, lived, rather than sleek, polished, and new like she was used to.

Her lip curled in disgust at a stain on the burgundy carpet and wondered if these people had ever heard of scourigifying charms. A tall redheaded boy bounded up to her, so quickly she leaned back so she wouldn’t be knocked over, and then he fell to the floor at her feet.

“So,” he said, glancing down at her legs and then back at her. “How long have you and James been married?”

She grimaced at his impoliteness and then a quick remembrance of her surroundings told her that this was as much she could expect from a family of…heathens. Jennifer decided James was the only normal one in the family.

“Two weeks,” she said with an air of finality and dismissal. She looked away, picking a spot on the wall to stare at, hoping he’d leave her alone. He obviously didn’t get the hint, and continued talking.

“I’m Fred. Fred Weasley. James is my cousin so I guess that makes us cousins, too.” She glanced over at him and noticed his gaze was locked on her legs. Oh boy!

“Listen, freak,” she started angrily, but was cut off when there was banging in the hall and then a woman with red hair and tired eyes Jennifer recognized as James’s mum walked in, gazed around the room, locked eyes with James, and marched over to him.
Oh boy!

James had never envisioned a Christmas like this in his life, let alone thought he’d be right smack in the middle of it. He ran a hand through his messy black hair and tried to concentrate on what Lily was saying, tears streaming down her face.

“…gonna die. And you’re married? And you didn’t tell us?”

My sentiments exactly. Wait, what?

“Who’s gonna die, Lil?” He missed that vital piece of information.

“Nat!” she cried shrilly, wiping her nose with the sleeve of her black jumper. “She was so still and lifeless.” Lily stared down at the floor near his shoes. “It’s so strange to see her like that because she’s usually so fun and…full of life. This is a bad situation,” then she turned her gaze sharply back to James. “Part of this is your fault! How dare you go out and get married?”

“Lil, you don’t understand,” James reached up and swiped the pad of his thumb under her eye. She was starting to get raccoon eyes. Note to self, waterproof mascara for Lils. Ask Jennifer.
Like that’d work.

“Make me understand,” she said desperately, clinging to his arm as he tried to pull his hand away.

He was about to reply when there were loud noises on the stairs and he groaned inwardly. He saw her before she saw him and was silently thankful. But then she spotted him, followed closely by Harry. Albus ambled into the room after them, hands shoved into his pockets. A group of family members that had been using the upstairs hall as a waiting room gathered outside the archway door.

His mum marched up to him, stood toe to toe, and glared at him. He shrunk back, feeling like he was eight years old and had gotten caught with his hand in the cookie jar instead of nineteen.

His mum huffed, as if trying to keep her composure in front of family and his new wife. Speaking of, she walked confidently up to him, laced her fingers with his, and began a staring competition with Ginny.

Harry clenched his jaw but didn’t say anything. James’s grip on Jennifer’s fingers tightened as if to tell her to knock it off. His eyes wandered towards the ceiling, feeling the heat rise in his cheeks from all of the attention.

Any other day and he’d be happy for the attention, but right then he wished everyone would just go away. None of this would be happening if Albus’s pregnant girlfriend hadn’t fainted and ruined his plan.

He’d thought making the announcement in front of everyone would give his mother the opportunity to stew and think about it and get over it before he’d have to be alone with her. Then Nat had to go collapse on everyone and push his mum’s already frazzled psyche to the brink.

Apparently the staring competition had ended because both women were looking at him expectantly.

“Er – what?”

Jennifer rolled her eyes. Ginny glared.

“I said,” Ginny uttered through clenched teeth, “you got married?

Jennifer held out her princess cut diamond that she’d insisted on for his mother to see. Ginny gazed at it for a long minute before locking eyes with James. She arched her eyebrow, sceptically.

Then, as if realizing something, her face slowly fell. She looked between James and Jennifer multiple times. So many times, James was getting dizzy just watching her. Then she took a step back away from then, right into Harry.

“Omigod,” she sighed. James cracked a smile at her use of his own term, but it faded quickly with a quick, barely noticeable shake of the head from his brother.

Then, Ginny’s gaze fell on Jennifer, or rather a certain part of Jennifer and James knew exactly what conclusion his mother had jumped to. Before he could even deny it, the words were out of her mouth.

“You’re pregnant, aren’t you?”

Jennifer’s mouth fell open in indignation, as if that were the only reason James would marry her. But she wasn’t so quick to protest.

“Of course not!” James glared at Jennifer. What the hell is she doing? he thought. “She is NOT pregnant!”

His mum looked as if she didn’t believe him. “I cannot handle any more surprises,” she told everyone in the room, making big sweeping gestures with her arms. “So if you’ve got any more surprises, say ‘em now and get them over with!”

Nobody spoke for a moment, until James reiterated, “She isn’t pregnant, mum, honest!”

“I hope not, James,” Ginny said tiredly, her hand pressed to her forehead. “I’m barely grasping the concept of one baby. I don’t think I could handle two.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Mrs. Weasley,” Darlene said from behind the group. Everyone in the room turned to face her, watching the drama unfold. “Because I’ve just come to the conclusion that Natalya is expecting twins.” Her eyes zeroed in on Albus, who had just gone from pink-cheeked from the heat of compacted bodies to stark white. “Congratulations, Albus.”

Twins. Twins. Two of them. Two babies. Two mini-Albus’. Two mini-Nats. Two mini-Albus-and-Nats. She couldn’t believe it. TWO!

Ginny’s eyes watered uncontrollably and she spent a few seconds brushing her hands underneath her eyes, trying unsuccessfully to dry her face and look presentable. Instead, her eye liner smudged, her eyes were red and bloodshot, and her cheeks were wet.

She rung her hands and bit her lip. Harry shuffled his feet beside her in the hall in front of the bedroom they’d taken Nat to after she’d collapsed. She felt her husband slip his arm around her shoulder and slumped against him. “Twins,” she whispered, her eyes locked on the door Albus had entered a few minutes before.

Ginny’d had every intention of following Albus inside, but Harry had held her back. Seems her husband thought the expecting couple could use a few minutes alone to talk. Surprisingly, the rest of her meddling family had stayed downstairs. From the sounds of dishes clunking on the table, they were beginning their Christmas Eve dinner after the nearly hour delay. There was no talking, just dishes being passes around, utensils scraping, but no conversation.

“Shh,” Harry whispered against her hair, and only then did Ginny realize she’d been quietly sobbing into her husband’s chest. She put a tad of space between them, enough to look up into his beautiful green eyes. Green eyes that Albus had inherited. Green eyes that could possibly appear on the faces of her grandchildren in seven months. Grandchildren.

“Two babies, Harry,” she whispered. Her tear flow had stopped, but her eyes still glistened with unshed tears. “We have to help them…they have to come back…we can raise them…it’ll be like – ”

“Stop it, Ginny,” Harry whispered harshly, causing Ginny to cut off her excited chatter and glare at her husband.

“What the hell, Harry? This is it! This is our chance – ”

“No!” Harry stepped farther away from his wife and pushed a shaking hand through his unruly black hair. He took a shaky breath and fixed his eyes on Ginny’s. “This is not our chance,” he swung his arms, gesturing between them. “This is not our choice. This is Albus’s choice. Albus and Nat. We have to be supportive if we want to be grandparents. That’s it. Nothing more.”

Ginny’s lower lip trembled and her vision clouded as more tears surfaced. Next thing she knew, her face was pressed against Harry’s green jumper as her body shook with tears.

Minutes past with Ginny in his arms, her face smashed against his chest, her tears soaking into his jumper. She moved away, wiping her nose with the back of her hand like she’d admonished her children for for eighteen years.

“Use a tissue,” Harry commanded lightly, a small smile breaking his features. Ginny smiled sadly, wiping her tears once more. Then she blinked up at Harry. “I have to tell them.”

Harry nodded in agreement. “An apology to Nat would probably be a good thing, too.”

Ginny stepped out of his embrace and to the door. She knocked softly and then turned the knob, sticking her head through the crack she’d made in the door.

Albus and Nat were curled up together on the bed, Albus on top of the quilt, Nat underneath it. They lay on their sides. Albus had pulled Nat against his chest, his arm flung loosely over her waist, his legs tucked behind hers, his chin resting against the top of her head. Nat’s hand had come to rest on top of his, over her abdomen.

They were both sound asleep.

Ginny stepped back out into the hall, shutting the door softly behind her, her eyes glazing over once more. “Oh Harry,” she groaned, leaning against the wall and sliding down it into a sitting position. “How could I have been so stupid? I’ve ruined everything.”

Harry looked away, sadly.

James’s jaw clinched tightly as he watched his wife across the table pick at her food. How dare she try to start shit with his family? And before he even had the chance to explain the whole situation to them! He should have known better than to introduce her to the collective family, but he thought it was a good idea at the time.

But then he changed his mind. Fred was glaring daggers at Jennifer, and she sat there, smiling as if nothing had happened. Oh but wait. She was going to be a bitch? Oh it’s on.

Dishes were cleared rather quickly, with Rose and Scorpius volunteering to do the wash, the rest of the family headed off into the sitting room for tea. James grabbed Jennifer’s hand as she was following the crowd and dragged her out the kitchen door, into the garden, and then apparated them back to their room at the Leaky Cauldron.

“Ouch,” Jennifer cried as they landed on the hard floor of the same room Albus and Nat had occupied just days before. “You’re hurting me.”

James immediately let go of her wrist and she rubbed the red, tender skin. “Sorry,” he muttered absently, running his hands through his hair.

“What’s your problem?” She spat, marching over to her luggage and pulling out short shorts and a teeny tiny top that she used as pyjamas.

“My problem? My problem? What’s my problem?”

“That’s what I asked!” Without modesty, she unzipped her dress and allowed it to puddle at her feet in a whisper of fabric. James was caught off guard and just stared at her for a minute.

Yes, she was fabulous looking. She’d have to be, with her job.

“M-my problem,” James tore his eyes away from her so he could form coherent sentences. “My problem is you!” There, that’s it. Breathe. Don’t look, just talk. You’re angry, remember?

Parts of him did. Other parts of him didn’t care.

“What did I do?” She cried as she finished pulling on her shorts and top and then started running a brush through her dark blonde curls.

“Oh, gee, I don’t know,” he shouted, finally able to think now that she had clothes on again. “How about the fact that you were rude to my cousin!”

“Um, was I?”

“Fred. You talked to him, called him a freak…”

“Freakishly tall red head with about a bazillion freckles? Sorry, it’s so hard to tell those red heads apart.” The she cracked a sickly sweet smile. “Besides, he was ogling me, James. Ogling.”

“Oh knock off the woo-is-me routine, Jen. You like the attention. You always have.”

Jennifer rolled her eyes and put her hands on her hips. “Besides,” she said with an air of arrogance, as if what he had said went through one ear and out the other. Probably knocking around in that empty head of hers, James thought. “I was going to call him Freakishly tall boy, but your mother interrupted us.”

James didn’t look too convinced, and narrowed his eyes at her. He finally sighed, running his hands through his hair again. He slumped onto his side of the bed and leaned back against the pillows. “Okay, how about alluding to the fact that you might be pregnant. My mum’s under enough stress as it is with Nat being pregnant, and then us being married…she didn’t need that.”

“Well,” Jennifer climbed onto the bed and crawled to him on her knees. “There may be some truth in that statement.”

James went stiff. He blinked once, and then turned his head towards his wife. “What?” he croaked.

“Well, I’ve been waking up nauseous and any food I look at makes me want to throw up.” She shrugged, leaning over onto her hands, giving James a tantalising view of her mostly covered cleavage.

“Is that it?” He nearly breathed a sigh of relief, but had a feeling he wouldn’t be getting off so easily. “Food always makes you nauseous. That’s why you hardly eat, right?”

“Besides,” Jennifer clenched her jaw, “I’m late.”

James took a deep breath. “What are you saying, Jennifer?”

“What I’m saying is…well…I might be pregnant, too.”

Chapter 10: 10..All You Need is Love
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A/N: Quick a/n before we jump right in to this update: PLEASE check out the Hugo outtake to this fic I've posted called "When Hugo Met Mattie."  You'll understand after you read this chapter...

Defying Gravity

Chapter 10: All You Need is Love 

She pulled her bottom lip between her teeth, the remnants of her cherry lip balm she wore the previous night not even registering on her overly stimulated taste buds. She looked slightly left. There was one left. One bitter, salty, tangy treat left. On the right, a galleon-sized dollop of the sweet, fruity substance lay in the bottom of the bowl, tracks of the sticky stuff leading up the sides of the glass from previous swipes.

She looked left. She looked right. She looked left and sighed. She looked right and groaned. She shouldn’t, she really shouldn’t. She didn’t need the calories, for one. She had already met her weight-gaining quota for the month.

Her mouth watered, but that was to be expected. Increased saliva was normal, according to Christensen. Along with the tenderness, nausea…and these cravings!

She sighed.

“Just eat it,” came the exasperated voice from across the bed. Her head snapped up to find her boyfriend, lounged against the footboards in a pair of flimsy pyjama bottoms and a tee shirt, his hair messy, his eyes tired, staring at her over a book. She tilted her head sideways to get a view at the title.

‘Twinspirational: Real-Life Advice From Pregnancy Through the First Year’

She smiled. “Excuse me?”

Albus sighed, allowing the book to fall onto the bed in front of him. He fell forward and propped himself up on one hand and looked at her. “You know you’re going to eat it anyway. It’s food, and, let’s face it, you’ve been eating a lot of food lately. So don’t torture yourself. Mediwitch Christensen said it’s completely normal for you to eat everything in sight and start gaining weight, so, please, save yourself some time and despair and just eat the pickle.”

Nat looked into his eyes. He was tired. Moody. He hadn’t been sleeping well in the days since they found out they were expecting twins. Victoire and Teddy had pretty much left them alone after the holidays, leaving Jade in nursery school while they both worked. Nat and Albus only really saw them at dinner, which Nat reluctantly prepared, justifying that the elder couple was allowing her and Albus to stay with them for free, the least she could do is make a few meals. Besides, she reasoned, she needed the practice.

She decided to let Albus’s bad mood slide, this time, and picked up the pickle spear off of the plate. Then, she picked up the bowl of blackberry jam and dunked the pickle into it, dragging it up the side of the bowl to make sure the jam stayed on the oddly shaped pickle. She licked her lips.

“Wait,” Albus said. Nat looked up to find him bringing the book back in front of his face: over his eyes, to be more precise.

She shrugged her shoulders and bit into the pickle, savouring the bitterness and sweetness all at once. She finished the pickle in three bites before banishing the dishes to the kitchen and licking her fingers clean.

“All finished,” she told him and Albus lowered the book to a normal reading level. Nat furrowed her brow, wondering what his problem was. She rocked forward onto her knees and crawled from the head of the bed to the foot, manoeuvring a stack of books and a pile of blankets as she went, before tucking her feet under her when she sat. Albus lowered the book to the bed and looked up at her.

Her hair was wild from sleep and thrown up into a messy bun at the back of her head. She was wearing a tee shirt of his, a scarlet coloured one with ‘Gryffindor’ in bold, gold letters on the front. He couldn’t see it, but he knew the back read ‘Prefect’ in the same gold print. What he could see, however, was, aside from the tee shirt, she wasn’t wearing much else. The shirt rode high on her thighs as she sat close to him, and the corners of his lips turned upward.

Then his eyes drifted higher, from her bare legs to the hand covering her slightly distended lower abdomen, and his slight smile straightened to a line.

“Are you okay?”

His eyes drifted slowly up her body to rest on her eyes. Crystal blue and full of every emotion she was feeling. Fear. Excitement. Worry. The first two made his gut clench; the last one made his heart clench.

“I’m fine,” he told her softly. Unable to look into her eyes any longer, he offered her his hand. When she took it, he pulled her to him, and then they were laying together, her back against his chest. She picked up the book, and he brushed her hair over her shoulder and looked at the pages along with her.

Nat lay in front of him, her jaw clenched, tears threatening to spill out of her eyes. First he criticises her eating habits, then he can’t even look at her. Oh, she did not miss that look he gave her. He skimmed her body, a look in his eyes as if he wanted to eat her up. Then, as soon as he noticed her changing body, he just couldn’t stand to look at her.

“It says they’re each about four centimetres long,” she said softly, trying to keep her voice steady, “and they only weigh an ounce each.”

“Umhmm.” He made a noise near her ear, and she bit her lip to keep it from shaking. Hormones.

She read in his arms for another hour. She wasn’t sure what he was doing behind her, because he continued to make noise only when she spoke to him. Otherwise he was quiet. Even his breathing was quiet. It was too quiet.

Then, Albus moved behind her, pushing himself up into a sitting position. He stood, stretched, and moved into the bathroom. Nat was confused beyond belief at his sudden indifference to her. Regret. That was the only thing that came to her mind. He must regret even dating her, with this result, or sleeping with her at the very least.

She wouldn’t think anything of it, except for the fact that he’d been abnormally quiet ever since they found out they were having twins. She was still in shock and she could only imagine how he was feeling. He wouldn’t talk to her, but he didn’t normally go into too much depth about his feelings. This time, though, it was concerning her.

She closed the book with a ‘thunk’ and tossed it towards the pile of books she and Victoire had bought on a shopping excursion the day after Boxing Day. That was three days ago and Nat’d already made quite a dent in the pile.

She slid off the bed and over to her trunk. Sifting through the pile of clothes, she grabbed a pair of jeans and pulled them on. It took her four tries, but finally they buttoned. She was pushing them to a more comfortable position lower on her abdomen when the bathroom door opened and Albus came out, fully dressed in jeans and a green jumper. She scowled at him, and he walked over and pressed a kiss to her lips.

It was short, chaste, more of a peck, really, but it was more than she’d gotten from him in days. He grabbed his wallet from the bureau top and shoved it into his back pocket.

“Going somewhere?”

He turned to her and gave her a sort of a half smile. “Dad is taking James and me out to lunch, remember? While mum takes Lily shopping.”

“No,” her eyebrows furrowed. “I don’t remember that.”

“The books say it’s normal for you to forget things,” he told her, his eyes shifting to the pile of books on the bed. “Anyway, I’ve got to go before I’m late. You’ll be fine here alone, right?”

She nodded deftly. He kissed her forehead and then left the room, went down the stairs, and seconds later the front door banged closed.

She’d be fine because she had no intention of being alone. Nat jotted a quick note and left it on the bureau before grabbing her purse and her wand.

She needed to talk to Rose.

Rose’s house was quiet when Nat stepped out of the fireplace. She watched the green embers fade back into a crackling orangey-yellow before turning to face the room. It was empty. The room, which must have been a sitting room, had beige walls and a beautiful, polished oak floor. There were two sofas facing each other, separated by a glass-topped oak coffee table with ‘s’ shaped legs and little designs around the edges. There was a baby grand piano to the right and a three-stair staircase that ran half the span of the wall to the left. Above, hanging from the ceiling, was a crystal chandelier, and Nat realized this must be the formal sitting room. Across from the fireplace, the whole wall was floor to ceiling windows giving a picturesque view of the back garden of the house. She saw a familiar brunette on the patio and smiled.

Hugo was snogging a girl. Very enthusiastically, it looked like.

She heard thundering footsteps and headed up the short staircase into a hallway of sorts. The tan walls were lined with photos of the entire Weasley family, including a bunch of Rose and Hugo as babies and as they grew. At the end of the hall was a grand staircase, at the bottom of which a flushed, out of breath Rose stood, clutching a short, pink dressing gown to her body. She was barefoot, bare-legged, and had a serious case of bed head.

“Nat!” She cried when she finally got her breath back. “Merlin, I thought you were my parents! What are you doing here?”

Nat bit her lip to hide her laugh and looked up, catching a glimpse of Scorpius standing at the top of the stairs in just a pair of plaid boxers before he disappeared from view. Her gaze returned to her friend, whose face was bright red with embarrassment.

“I wanted to talk to you. But if you’re busy…”

“Nonsense,” Rose turned to go back up the stairs. “Just let me, erm—get dressed. I’ll be right back.” She hustled up the stairs and Nat moved past the staircase and into a brightly lit room. It wasn’t so much brightly lit as it was allowing sunlight in from the outside. There were floor to ceiling windows in this room as well, a long table in front of them, and then usual kitchen appliances. So this was the kitchen.

Nat moved to the cupboards and went about fixing pumpkin juice for three, setting it up on the long table. In the centre of the table was a bowl of fruit and Nat picked up an apple. She was about to take a bite, her mouth watering for the ruby red, sweet apple—

“Don’t eat that!”

She spun around quickly, knocking the bowl from the table and watching as the fruit flew through the air and landed on the floor. “Oh no!” She dropped to the floor and began scooping up the wayward fruit.

“Didn’t mean to frighten you,” Hugo told her, dropping to his knees to help her. “Mum puts wax fruit out. It’s just for decoration.”

“Oh,” she said, looking up as their hands touched the same orange. She never realized how blue his eyes were. They were like the ocean. Bright blue and full of laughter and mirth. She stood and noticed a pretty brunette behind them, her long, slender fingers tugging at the edge of her jumper as she stood there, nervously. Hugo slid the bowl of fruit back onto the table and gestured the brunette forward.

“Nat, this is Matilda, my girlfriend. Mattie, this is my cousin, Albus’s, girlfriend, Nat.”

Nat waved and Mattie smiled in return. The three took seats at the table and sat there in complete silence. Nat didn’t really have anything to say, and Hugo and Mattie seemed to be having a private conversation with their eyes. They must’ve been dating for a while, because they were so in tune to what the other was thinking and seemed to be arguing with their eyes and facial expressions. Nat wondered if she and Albus could communicate like that without words.

“You’re not supposed to be inside!”

Nat jumped at the sudden noise and spun in her chair to see an irate Rose, eyes wide, glaring at her brother in disbelief. Nat, confused, turned back to Hugo who was glaring at his sister. After seconds of that, Hugo took Mattie’s hand and led her outside via a door next to the windows.

“I don’t know what that boy is thinking, bringing a muggle in here!” Rose cried, sitting next to Nat and gulping down half of the pumpkin juice she’d left for her. Scorpius followed in a few moments later—fully clothed thankfully—his hair matted to his forehead, still wet from a shower.

“What’s all this yelling about?” He sat next to Rose and drank his own juice.

“Hugo brought his little muggle girlfriend inside. Mum says she’s not allowed inside. There’s too much magic in here, too many magical…things, for her to be wandering around inside the house.”

“Speaking of,” Nat interrupted twiddling her thumbs. “Where are your parents?”

“Working,” Rose shrugged, taking another long sip of her juice. She stood to refill her glass and Nat realized she hadn’t drank any of hers. She took a small sip, remembering the last time she’d had pumpkin juice and been unable to keep it down.

“Your parents trusted you guys here alone?” her eyebrows rose in disbelief.

“Er, not entirely.”

“We were supposed to go to the Potter’s today, but Aunt Ginny took Lily into London to shop, which is just dullsville to me, and Uncle Harry said he’s having a boys day with Al and James. I’m assuming that’s why you’re here? Al had to leave and you were all alone?”

“Erm,” Nat grimaced as her stomach churned and she pushed the glass away from her. “Sort of.” Nat’s crystal eyes connected with Rose’s brown and she silently communicated that she wanted to talk to her alone. She nodded her head to Scorpius and widened her eyes, hoping Rose got the picture.

“I think Nat and I need to have a little girl talk. Scor?” Rose turned to her boyfriend and gave him a “get out” look.

“Sure. I’ll leave. Video Games. One-sided chess. I’ll find something to do in this big, unfamiliar house to which I am a guest…” he was still mumbling to himself as he left the room and went further into the house than she’d been, she supposed a less formal sitting room was her best bet.

“I can’t believe we’ve been friends this long and I haven’t been in your house,” Nat breathed, her head tilting back and her eyes going to the vaulted ceilings and swirling ceiling fans. “It’s very…muggleized. You know, but, um…magicized…” Rose laughed heartily, and Nat giggled at herself.

“My mum’s muggle-born,” Rose reminded her friend, following her gaze. “Above here is my room. Do you want to go up there? We’d have even more privacy…”

Albus took a heaving breath as he stepped out of the floo at his house, but felt only a miniscule amount of oxygen enter his lungs. He couldn’t seem to take a deep breath these days and tried again. He felt as if he’d been having a minor panic attack these past few days since the whole twin revelations. Really, though…twins? Who would’ve thought it?

Granted, he had twin cousins. And his Uncle George had a twin that died. And Grandmum had twin brothers. Who knows if twins run in Nat’s family. He knew so little about Nat’s extended family as it was, so it could be plausible that twins ran in her family and no one ever knew…

The point is that he’s having twins and he’s not ready. Hell, he wasn’t even ready for one.

His father was sitting at the table in the kitchen reading the Daily Prophet, a cup of tea steaming in front of him, when he entered. Albus walked in and plopped into a chair at the opposite head of the rectangular table.

“Mum leave already?” he asked, his gaze going from the pantry to the cupboards, to the muggle stove that runs on electricity that his dad’d had installed. Anywhere but at his father. He hadn’t spoken to him since Christmas Eve except for the few minutes it took to firecall him about this lunch. And even that was staring into a fire and not his face.

“They’ve been gone all morning,” Harry answered, narrowing his eyes as his youngest son. “We’ve missed you around here.”

Albus nodded and twiddled his thumbs nervously in front of him. He didn’t need to be guilt tripped about not being around his family. Not with everything already on his plate. If his dad was just going to do that, Albus might as well have left right then. But he stayed.

“James not here yet?”

As if on cue, James walked into the kitchen through the back door. Walked was a bit more of an overstatement. He sort of trudged. Dragging his feet along. He looked like hell in a hand basket. His eyes were sunken in, and he looked even more bedraggled than Albus did.

“How’s it going, son?” Harry asked warily as James slumped into a chair between Harry and Albus.

“When did my life get so complicated?” James pushed a hand through his black hair, his voice quiet enough that Albus wasn’t sure if James was talking to them or himself.
“I hear you,” Albus muttered, summoning bottles of Butterbeer from the cooling cupboard with his wand, manoeuvring them across the room, and dropping them down in front of his brother and himself.

Albus’s gaze finally landed on his father. The man’s strong jaw was clenched tight as he looked between his two sons. James’s head had slumped to the table, his hand massaging his neck tiredly.

“Okay,” Harry let out a loud breath, “what the hell is going on?”

James and Albus looked at each other in surprise. Their father rarely raised his voice, rarely cursed. Albus bit his lip and nodded for James to talk, since it was pretty well known what his problems were.

James let out a loud sigh, scrubbing his hand over his face before turning his gaze to his father.

“It’s about this Jennifer, isn’t it?” Harry’s voice was softer, calmer, but it still had a bite of despair. All of this tension…and it was the holidays!

“Yeah,” James said tiredly.

The room was eerily quiet for a moment. It was never quiet in the Potter household, even with only half the family there. There was a soft tick! tick! tick! of the clock above the stove, but other than that, you could hear a pin drop. Then,

“So where’d you meet her?” Albus asked. He hoped to keep the attention on James so he wouldn’t draw attention to himself.

“Las Vegas,” came the short reply.

“As in, the United States?” Harry asked. He’d travelled all over the world with his job and had been quite a few places. He knew that city. Sin City. The City That Never Sleeps. Oh boy, what had his son gotten himself into?

“Yeah,” James nodded, sniffing loudly. Albus’s eyes shot to his brother. The poor sod wasn’t crying was he? “The International Quidditch Expo was in Las Vegas this year. I met her there…we got married there…”

“It all sounds horribly romantic,” Albus joked, only to get shot a glare by his father. He quickly shut up.

Harry realized, though, how much James needed to get off his chest, and encouraged his eldest to talk about it. James did. He opened his mouth and a flood of words spilled out. So much that Albus watched the clock. James talked for an hour and a half about his and Jennifer’s courtship, which wasn’t really much of. Halfway through, Harry made sandwiches and Albus made tea, all the while listening to James drone on and on.

Just a lot of sex.

As it was, James and Jennifer met in a club. Jennifer was working. As an exotic dancer. That in and of itself answered so many questions Albus’d had. She was beautiful. And fit. Incredibly fit. With nice legs. Even though Albus wasn’t supposed to notice that, as he was with Nat.

Jennifer had always been turned on by Professional Quidditch stars. She turned twenty-two the day of their wedding. James smirked when he said that, adding that it would be easy to remember her birthday if he could only remember their anniversary, or vice versa.

Their courtship was a short one. They met, shared a meal, shared a bed, shared many more meals and more beds. Then, one night James hung out at…her place of work, got a little pissed, and they ended up tying the knot later that night.

“They should not let intoxicated people get married,” Harry told him, outraged.

“My point exactly. But now Jen wants to file the paper work to get a marriage license here and I bought her that ring…she quit her job…” he trailed off, turning away as if he couldn’t face his father. Albus pressed forward.


“Al!” Harry admonished.

“What? I heard a ‘but’!”

“But,” James started, glaring at Albus. Then he went back to staring straight ahead, neither looking at Albus nor Harry. “I don’t love her.”

The room fell silent again. Harry rolled it around on his tongue. If it could be a taste, it would be bitter…acidy. Albus sat back, his arms crossed. At least he hadn’t married someone he didn’t love. No, instead he got someone he did love pregnant…with twins.

“Let me get this straight,” said Harry calmly. “You got married to a…exotic dancer, whom you don’t love, then, instead of getting annulled or divorced or whatever, you allow her to quit her job, quit her means of lively hood, and drag her to another country. And you don’t love her?”

James breathed deeply, obviously relieved someone understood. “It’s not like I forced her to quit! Other than that, that about sums it up.”

“James,” Harry said it as if it were a curse word, his eyes raised to the ceiling.

“Dad,” James’s head fell onto the table again. “What am I going to do?”

“That’s easy,” said Albus as he stood to get a glass of water. “Don’t process the paperwork to legalize the marriage in England. Besides, to be legally married in the wizarding world, don’t you have to go through the bonding ceremony?”

Harry nodded at Albus before turning his attention back to his eldest. James had sad, scared look on his face. “And then you have to tell her that you don’t love her,” Harry added. “And help her get her job back.”

“She can pawn that ring, it sure cost enough,” Albus added.

“Well, that’s the thing. I’m not sure I can just drop her.”

“And why not?” Harry wondered, stealing a drink from Albus’s glass.

“She’s pregnant.”

Harry sprayed his gulp of water all over the table at the unexpected news. Albus’s eyes shot to James. James looked down at the table guiltily.

“Please tell me you’re joking,” Harry spoke, a dangerous tone in his voice. “Your mother and I cannot handle any more. Please tell me you’re kidding.”

“Well, it hasn’t been confirmed yet.”

“She didn’t take a home test?” Albus spoke.

“She says she won’t, that they’re not accurate.” Albus snorted, and James nodded in agreement. “Yes, I know. And we couldn’t get an appointment with a Healer until after the New Year, so I’m stuck in this sort of limbo…”

“Merlin, James.” Harry ran a hand through his hair. “Do not breathe a word of this to your mother until you’re sure.”

“Yeah, right,” James snorted. “I don’t have a death wish!”

Harry took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. An ache was forming behind his left eye from all of these problems. He squeezed the bridge of his nose for a long moment, then looked up, determined to change the subject.

“So, Albus, how’s Nat?”

“Something’s wrong with Albus,” Nat told Rose as she tucked her feet underneath her body on Rose’s purple duvet. The whole room was purple, a dark purple with lavender accents.

Rose grabbed the white-painted chair from her desk and sat, propping her feet on her bed. “What do you mean?”

“I mean,” Nat sighed, tugging on her hair to tighten her ponytail. “Something’s wrong with Albus. He’s just not himself since…well, since—”

“Since you found out about baby number two?” Rose offered, picking at her nails.

“Right,” Nat nodded. “Since we found out about baby number two. I mean, with one it was okay…well, I guess it wasn’t okay, but we were dealing. Handling it. Together. We were handling it together. But since Mediwitch Christensen confirmed it—the second baby—he’s been really closed off. Quiet. Too quiet.” Nat bit her lip and looked to her friend.

Rose sighed. “He’s trying to stay strong for you, Nat. But it’s all overwhelming, isn’t it? Remember when you guys first found out about baby number one and you thought he abandoned you? Well, he was in the Astronomy Tower.”

Nat smiled softly. “Our tower?” The tower they’d had their first kiss. The tower they’d first made love in, underneath the stars. The tower they used as a rendezvous point after Albus’s prefect rounds. Their tower.

Rose nodded, smiling. “Your tower. Even when he wanted to be alone, he wanted to be with you. So, now that you know that vital piece of information, form your own conclusion.”

Nat chewed her lip some more, staring at the wall for a brief moment, before nodding firmly. “He needs his space. Needs to think. But he’s afraid that I’ll think he’s abandoning me so he’s trying to sort out his thoughts and feelings while being near me. He’s sparing my feelings.”

“Very good.” Rose clapped. “Now isn’t that sweet of my dear cousin?”

“Very,” nodded Nat. They fell into a short silence before Nat’s face broke into a grin. “So, what do you think of Jennifer Smith-Potter?”


True to his word, James did not say anything to his mother about his relationship with Jennifer when she and Lily arrived back at the house nearly three hours after the boys were supposed to have been back from lunch. She was laden with bags, full of clothes, potion ingredients, and other supplies—including Owl treats for their brown owl, Seabrain, named using a mixture of names her children wanted to call him when the family bought him nine years ago.

When Ginny returned home, she went about her business, refusing to verbalize her surprise that Albus was there. She made a lovely dinner of roast beef and potatoes, and, for the first time in a long time, served her entire family. All five of them sat at the dinner table as if nothing was wrong, as if their lives hadn’t been irreparably changed in the last two weeks. It was refreshing. It was nice.

Until conversation turned to Nat and the babies. Nat was at Rose’s for dinner. Ginny frowned, hoping her son hadn’t had a fight with his babies’ mum. That wouldn’t be good. He assured her they were fine, though, and offered to do the dishes before dessert.

She bought treacle tart, Albus’s favourite, just for him. It wasn’t nearly as good as homemade, but she was a working mum, there’s only so much a person could do in a day.

“I’ve made a menu for New Years Eve dinner,” Ginny mentioned as she took the last bite of her dessert.

“What time?” Albus asked, scrubbing the dishes. “Victoire and Teddy are going to some ball in France, they’re leaving tomorrow and are staying for a week. She’s visiting her aunt or something, I don’t really know. And Nat and I are supposed to meet some friends at the Leaky Cauldron for the countdown.”

“Right, okay,” Ginny took her plate to the sink and plopped it into the water. Albus laughed, wiping soap suds off of his face. “We can eat around seven. Would that be okay?”

Albus nodded and Ginny turned to Harry, who nodded his agreement. “Great. Albus, you’ll bring Nat?” Albus nodded. Ginny hadn’t expected any less. Except for tonight, they were pretty much joined at the hip. “And James,” James’s head perked up at hearing his name. “You’ll bring Jennifer? We’d love to get to know her.”

“Sure, mum,” James nodded, guilt shining in his eyes. Inwardly she wondered what exactly he was guilty about: getting married or not inviting his own mother to the wedding. “We’ll be here.”

“I’ll be here, too. Maybe I should invite my boyfriend,” Lily spoke up. Ginny rolled her eyes and walked back to Albus just as she heard her husband say, “What? You have a boyfriend?”

“Al,” she laid a hand on his shoulder, “you and Nat should come over early. I’d like to talk to you two about some things.”

Albus swallowed hard before nodding. “Sure, mum. We can do that.”

Merlin, have mercy. 

Don't forget to check out the Hugo outtake for this chapter "When Hugo Met Mattie" on my author page!

Chapter 11: 11..Twelve Questions...Part One
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And Please read and review the Hugo/Mattie outtake to this chapter, “All I Want for Christmas is You” on my author’s page.

Defying Gravity
Chapter 11: Twelve Questions…Part One

Rose applied another thick layer of mascara as she looked into the mirror on her vanity. Her eye was wide open, her fingers spreading the lid strategically so that makeup that had already been applied wouldn’t rub off too much. She sat back on her little stool, screwing the cap on the mascara. She tossed the tube onto the pile of makeup and fluffed her hair with her fingers.

She squeezed a bit of her favourite perfume on to her wrists and rubbed them together while looking at herself in the mirror. Her gaze slid from the side-part in her hair, to her wide, brown eyes that were accentuated by brown liner above and below the lid, her button nose she’d inherited from the Granger side of the family, her painted lips, to her neck. She grinned remembering the markings, the angry red love bites that Scorpius had left there, she’d covered up.

She caught a glimpse of her bed in the mirror and her smile widened. They’d had so much fun this holiday, it was a shame Scorpius was leaving to spend the rest of break with his family after the new year.

There was a brisk knock on her door and then it opened. Scorpius peeked his head around the door and, when he saw she was alone he opened the door the rest of the way, pointedly making sure the knob was touching the wall, before stepping in. He looked masculine in his tan trousers and black shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He had nice forearms. Very nice. With a tad bit of a tan still from a summer of Quidditch and outside work, nicely muscled. Rose licked her lips, tasting the tart taste of lipstick.

“Your mum wants to know if you’re ready,” Scorpius said, his voice husky as his grey eyes roamed over her body. She blushed, but straightened an allowed him to take in her skirt, stockings, and ankle boots. “Nice top,” he grinned devilishly. Her eyes cast downwards and she rolled her eyes.

So the shirt probably showed more cleavage than her mother would allow her to wear, and it didn’t quite go to the waistband of her skirt, but she had a plan. She picked up the Christmas jumper off the bed and tugged it over her head, straightening her hair in the mirror while Scorpius waited.

She sauntered over to him then, hips swaying with more swagger than should’ve been allowed at her age, and she looped her arms around his neck. With the heels on her boots, her gaze was level with his mouth. Right where she wanted. She raised up on her toes and pressed a kiss to his mouth.

“Thank you,” she whispered, kissing him again.

“Not that I’m complaining,” he captured her lips briefly as she tried to pull away, “but for what?”

Rose went back flat on her heels, her fingers teased the hairs at the nape of his neck. “For loving me enough to put up with my dad all this time.”

Scorpius smiled and bent his head, pressing a gentle kiss beneath her ear before whispering, “Thank you.”

Rose pulled back, wearing a confused expression, and he took both of her hands in his. “For loving me in spite of my father.” Her eyes cast downward; it was still a touchy subject with her.

“Mum says to get your asses downstairs before you’re grounded from New Years,” Hugo said from the doorway and Scorpius turned slowly.

“Does she really have the power to make us repeat a whole year?” Rose giggled and Scorpius slipped his arm around her waist.

“Of course,” said Hugo, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, “she’s Mum!”

Nat tugged at the hem of her dress and bit the side of her lip while she sat in the sitting room of the Potter’s house. She’d been there enough the past summer that it should’ve felt like a second home to her, but after the events over the last week and a half, she felt as out of place as a muggle at a Quidditch match.

Albus sat along side her, holding her other hand and staring off to the left. There was nothing particularly interesting there, just a plain beige wall and Nat sighed. Albus was avoiding her gaze again. He didn’t speak much anymore, not since the twins, and it was a tad unnerving to her.

“It’s going to be okay, right?” Nat whispered out of the corner of her mouth. The faucet in the kitchen turned off so that the noise of the water stopped, and the ‘click, click’ of Ginny’s shoes was heard getting closer and closer.

Albus didn’t answer her.

Ginny moved into the room, carrying a tray including a tea kettle—presumably with tea, along with cream and sugar canisters—cups, and a plate of biscuits. She set the tray on the small table separating two sofas and went about pouring cups. She added a dollop of cream and a cube of sugar to one and handed the cup to Albus.

“How do you take your tea, Nat?” Ginny spoke in a soft voice, with a waver at the end as she spoke the name of her future grandchildren’s mother.

“Two sugars, please,” Nat whispered.

Ginny fixed Nat’s tea, and then her own, before sitting back on the sofa, crossing her legs, her tea left untouched on the table. Then they sat, looking at one another. Back and forth. For a long time. Nat sipped her tea, having let go of Albus’s hand when Ginny had begun serving it, her eyes cast downward at her cup.

The china was pretty, white with blue swirls painted around the rim. Her mother never had nice things like this. They mostly used paper plates and plastic cups her mum bought at the muggle grocery, and they usually ate take away. Her mother couldn’t cook, and Nat’d apparently inherited that skill from her, though Victoire says her cooking has improved tremendously in the week or so Nat and Albus had been staying with her.

Nat looked up as Harry entered the room, and she noticed that there was a fourth cup. He sat beside his wife while she made him a cup of tea. She handed it to him—Nat noted a slight shake in her hands—and Harry took a long drink.

“Blah,” he stuck out his tongue and made a face. Nat giggled and Albus smirked, the first hint of emotion Nat had seen that day. Ginny looked guiltily at her husband.

“Sorry, love. Decaf. For Nat. Caffeine’s bad for the…b-baby…s.”

Harry smiled at Albus’s girlfriend, a warm, welcoming smile. Nat saw the same eyes she loved smiling back at her from a different man and her own eyes stung with tears.
“Speaking of,” Harry started, noting a change in Nat’s behaviour as she picked up a napkin off the tray and dabbed at her eyes. “Ginny, wasn’t there something you wanted to say, love?”

Ginny took a deep breath and nodded at her husband. Her eyes locked on Nat’s across the small table and she sighed. “I just…well, I just w-wanted to apologize to you, Nat, for…everything I said that night,” Harry reached down and took her hand and Nat noticed the unshed tears glistening in Ginny’s eyes. She looked sideways to Albus, but he was looking straight ahead at his parents.

“Ginny’s…well,” Harry looked at his son and gave him a half smile. “Ginny hasn’t been having the best time as of late…health wise, that is.”

“What?” Albus said suddenly, sitting up a tad straighter and leaning forward a bit, resting his elbows on his knees. “What do you mean?”

“My r-reaction towards you, Nat,” she started, a tear sliding down her cheek and dripping off of her chin, “was completely unc-called for.”

“Mrs. Potter—”

“Ginny, love. Call me Ginny, p-please.”

“What’s wrong, mum?” Albus tried to get them back on track.

“A-about a m-month a-ago,” hiccupped Ginny. Her tears started falling faster, and she wiped her eyes, but it wasn’t doing much good so Harry took over.

“About a month ago, we found out that Ginny was pregnant,” Harry said, his eyes going from his hand clasped with his wife’s to Albus and Nat. Nat’s mouth fell open into an ‘o’ and Albus wore a look of confusion.

“But, I thought—”

“We thought so, too, son,” Harry interrupted him, then turned his gaze to Nat. “When Ginny was pregnant with Lily, she had a really rough time with it. She was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes and Preeclampsia—it’s very rare to have both—and ended up having to go on bed rest. She almost died during the delivery and we were told that we couldn’t have any more children.”

“And then I got pregnant. It was a miracle.” Ginny’s tears had slowed and she gazed, red puffy-eyed, at Nat. She smiled a sad, watery smile. “We were going to tell everyone on Christmas Eve, our miracle baby.”

“What happened?” Nat asked softly, reaching across the table for Ginny’s hand.

“A week after I found out I started having really bad cramps, then there was blood, a lot of blood, and then I passed out.” Ginny choked back a sob, and Harry took over the story.

“We were in London at the time, surrounded by muggles, and someone called an ambulance. She was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late.” Harry explained, rubbing Ginny’s back consolingly as she hunched over with the force of her sobs. Nat moved to the couch and wrapped her arms around the older woman’s shoulders.

“I am so sorry I called you all of those horrible names,” said Ginny as she wiped tears off of her face a few moments later. “I was just so angry. Not at you,” she rushed to assure Nat. “I was angry with myself. I had gotten the chance to have the big family I’d always wanted—not that I’m not happy with what I’ve got, love—and then I go and have a miscarriage.” Ginny held her hand up to stop Harry’s protest. “I know, I know it wasn’t my fault, there was nothing I could do, but it still happened. To my body. So I felt at fault. Even now, I still think about it.”

“I am so sorry all of this happened to you, Mrs.—Ginny,” said Nat, hugging Ginny around the shoulders.

“I’m still—I can’t believe the horrible way I’ve treated you!”

“I forgive you,” Nat whispered.

“You’re not angry with us?” Albus wondered aloud.

“Of course not!” Ginny sent him a watery smile. “I mean, I am a bit disappointed in you both for the situation you’ve gotten yourself in, but, Dad and I, we want to help. We’d really like it if you would consider staying with us the rest of break.”

“You said it yourself, Vic and Teddy are going to be out of town for the next week,” Harry inserted, threading his fingers with his wife’s.

“What do you think, Nel?”

At the use of the nickname Nat glanced up. Albus was looking at her, for the first time that day it seemed, and she felt her heart flutter the same as the first time they’d kissed.

“I think,” she chewed her lip for a second, “I think that’s probably for the best, don’t you?”

Christmas Eve dinner was to be celebrated with the entire family. All Weasleys, Potters, friends and their families…everyone was invited. Christmas Day was a day to spend with the individual family. New Years, however, was designated for the Harry Potter and Ron Weasley families.

Each year the houses were alternated. The previous year was held at the Weasley household, so logically this year would take place at the Potters. It had been that way since the two couples had begun dating. What started out as a night to get schnockered with friends, ringing in the New Year together, became a night the two families were all together, aunts, uncles, and cousins, to catch up and chit chat.

It was there that Jennifer felt most out of place.

She technically was a Potter, which was more than she could say for that Nat girl who, by the way, was looking sort of fat in her ugly black dress, and was a little green around the edges.

But it was still uncomfortable, being there. She didn’t know anyone, not really. She hardly knew James, besides the physical aspect of the man. So she sat back while the relatives greeted each other and spoke to each other and laughed, joked, and carried on. She sat back and at the same time stuck out like a sore thumb. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. Well, besides wanting to be the centre of their attention.
Dinner was served promptly at seven and she sat back then, too, while everyone piled their plates high with food. Even the two redheaded girls and the fat blonde. What was it with English girls and eating? And how did they stay so trim? Well, besides the fat one. But she was pregnant.

Well, so was Jennifer.

James sat beside her casting her sideways glances and then looking pointedly down at her empty plate. Jennifer turned away from his gaze and, for once, listened to what was going on around her. The clink of dishes, scrape of cutlery on plates. Not much actual conversation going on. These people take their food seriously!

The youngest ones, the boy and the girl, whatever their names were, were instructed to clear the dishes while James’s mother prepared dessert. Jennifer pouted, wondering why no one besides her husband thought it was odd that she wasn’t eating. Well, if anyone bothered to ask they’d find out that just smelling the stuff was making her want to puke her guts out, never mind actually ingesting the slop. She stuck up her nose in a way that was so like her own mother she actually caught herself and lowered her chin.

“Hugo,” there was a shout from a little way down the table, which caught Jennifer off guard and she turned her head. Her hair flying around her head was probably less than graceful, but the tone in the voice scared her a bit. It was the angry red head. Okay, in a family of red heads that probably wasn’t specific enough.

It was the tall angry redheaded bloke. The really tall one. James’s uncle. What’s-his-face. Merlin, she should really try harder to remember names. Anyway, Tall-Angry-Redhead’s face was turning bright red as he stared at Boy-Called-Hugo.

Boy-Called-Hugo was standing stalk still, wide-eyed, and he looked a tad bit scared. He held a stack of two plates in his left hand and two glasses pinched together between the fingers of his right. The table had fallen silent, anticipating what Tall-Angry-Redhead was going to say.

“What in the hell,” Tall-Angry-Redhead slowly spoke, “is on your finger?”

As if controlled by magic, the room’s occupant’s heads dipped slowly, resting on a silver band surrounding Boy-Called-Hugo’s finger. His left ring finger. The finger of doom, her mother always called it. The finger that signified an institution she’d just entered into a couple of weeks ago in a dingy chapel in Las Vegas.

“No,” Tall-Angry-Redhead said when Boy-Called-Hugo didn’t say anything. “Please tell me you didn’t run off and get married.”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” Bushy-Haired-Lady said, smacking Tall-Angry-Redhead’s arm. “He’s only fifteen! It’s not legal to get married at his age!”

“Papers can be forged,” James’s dad leaned forward, trying to get a glimpse of the ring. Boy-Called-Hugo set the plates and cups down and lifted the circle of white-gold off of his finger. He had a pretty pink blush across his freckled nose, and he looked decidedly embarrassed.

“It’s a…erm…purity ring,” he muttered, his eyes casting downward. James coughed from beside her, covering up a laugh. Tall-Angry-Redhead looked confused. Bushy-Haired-Lady smiled.

“A what?” said Tall-Angry-Redhead.

“A purity ring, Ronald,” Bushy-Haired-Lady said, rolling her eyes. She took the ring out of Boy-Called-Hugo’s hand and brought it close to her face. Ronald leaned close to her to look at it. James was snickering into his napkin, and the girls who eat a lot had expressions of delight. The fat one might’ve even been crying. There were two boys at the end of the table, a blonde that was quite attractive, and the boy with black hair that looked like James that Jennifer remembered was the father of the fat one’s babies.

“It’s a promise ring,” said Boy-Called-Hugo, sounding a tad exasperated.

“A promise for what?” James’s dad pondered. Boy-Called-Hugo’s face turned even more red, if that was possible, the tips of his ears going nearly purple.

“Oh look!” Bushy-Haired-Lady shouted before Boy-Called-Hugo could respond. “There’s an inscription!” She tugged a pair of thick framed glasses from the ‘v’ her blouse made and then held the ring close to her face for inspection. “True Love Waits,” her gaze turned to Boy-Called-Hugo, all soft and mushy all of a sudden.

“Is this…does this mean…?”

“What?” Tall-Angry-Redhead all but yelled.

Boy-Called-Hugo leaned forward and snatched the ring from Bushy-Haired-Lady’s hand. “It means that I’m going to wait until I get married to have sex. Mattie and I are going to wait until we get married to have sex. The ring was a Christmas present from her. Are you happy now?” He turned and marched into the kitchen through the swinging door, leaving the dishes behind.

Conversation buzzed around Jennifer about Boy-Called-Hugo’s ring and his promise. She didn’t care much, and she started picking at the bright red nail polish on her fingernails.

The group of four stepped into the dimly lit Leaky Cauldron in pairs. Rose and Scorpius entered first, receiving a rousing, boisterous greeting from their friends already inside. Nat and Albus stepped in behind them. Nat felt a bit self conscious about how her stretchy dress hugged her changing body, even after her three companions all informed her of how marvellous she looked.

She allowed Albus to hang up her cloak, shrugging out of the warm wool material leaving her three-quarter sleeved dress that hugged her forearms and stretched across her chest. A thin gold chain, a Christmas present from the Potters that she had received just after New Years supper ended, was delicately looped around her neck.

Albus hung their cloaks and, gently pressing his hand at the small of Nat’s back to urge her forward while shaking his head at her sudden shyness, led them to the table their friends were already situated at.

“And here comes the expectant couple,” Emileigh smirked, snuggling closer to Bryce. His arm was snug around her shoulder, and, as he smiled at her remark, he tightened his grip on her.

“Shh,” Albus muttered, glancing around the pub. “Not so loud, would you?”

“Ashamed?” Nat’s gaze lifted to his and she worried her lip.

“Of course not, love,” he said, smiling down at her. “I just don’t want to be the centre of the Hogwarts Rumour Mill until absolutely necessary.”

“It’s okay, mate,” Scorpius said as Nat and Albus slid into the circular booth beside him. “We’ve got a lot of muscle in the group, no one would dare mess with us.”

“Explain to me again how you, a Slytherin, became such good friends with us Gryffindors, and practically shunned from your own house,” Kate brushed her frizzy brown hair out of her face and took a drink from her Butterbeer mug.

“I haven’t been shunned,” Scorpius retorted. “I am Quidditch Captain, after all. I just don’t have much in common with that lot. They’re all hung up on blood lines and the like, while I have taken the much more liberal approach and decided not to concentrate on how much better than you I am.” He grinned cheekily.

“Yeah, haven’t you heard?” Albus grinned widely at Scorpius as a waitress approached for their drink orders but was stopped by another patron. “The Malfoy line is tainted.”

“Not yet,” Scorpius said, throwing his arm around Rose’s shoulder, “but it will be.” He looked at her and winked, and if you listened closely enough, an audible swoon could be heard from all the girls as Scorpius and Rose looked into each others’ eyes, dreamily.

Nat watched the laughter as it crossed Albus’s face. He was happy. Pure joy played upon his features. She frowned a bit, casting her eyes downward at the scrubbed wooden table, and sighed. It was the first time in a week that Albus had looked that happy. She bit her lip, tears filling her eyes, and silently cursed her stupid hormones for making her irrational.

He’s dealing. In his own way; in his own time. End of story.

“You seem a bit happier,” she turned to Albus and commented. His smiling face turned to her. His smile faltered a bit at the glossy sheen of her eyes from unshed tears, but he corrected it before it was noticeable.

“Of course, love. We’re with friends, it’s the New Year, and I’m spending it with my favourite girl.” He leaned in and kissed the tip of her nose. “I love you.”

She was about to respond when the waitress, after having been diverted, finally showed up for their drink order. Nat’s face lifted from Albus and she gasped, though in the noisy pub it was lost.

There, standing before her, was Nat’s worst nightmare. Dressed in an impossibly short skirt—especially for the fact that it was winter outside, and cold—a top that was snug on her buxom body, and heels to make her impossibly long legs longer, was Meghan Longbottom.

And her toffee-coloured eyes were staring hungrily at Albus.

A/N: the outtake to this chapter, "All I Want for Christmas is You" is up on my author page!  Please read/review!

Chapter 12: 12..Twelve Questions...Part Two
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Defying GravityChapter 12: Twelve Questions...Part Two

Meghan Longbottom let out a long, drawn out, probably overly dramatic sigh as she stepped out of the office and into the darkly lit pub. She tied the black half-apron around her hips, bringing the thin, gauzy material back around and tying it in a bow in front of her. The apron was more for show than anything, a part of the new dress code her mother had enforced upon coming into ownership of the Leaky Cauldron, but it would undoubtedly be soiled by the night’s end. The apron, along with white tops and black bottoms – skirts were preferable for girls, but not mandatory – was just another thing her mother, Hannah, had changed.

And one more, she thought as she smiled to a regular – Harold – and began preparing his drink for him, was the introduction of muggle liquor to the magical world. It only increased the work for the employees, having to memorize the ingredients of cocktails and such in order to be as fast and proficient as the boss wanted them to be. But the patrons loved it so, no matter the amount of complaining any employee did, Hannah Longbottom would not take muggle liquor off the menu.

In fact, it had its own menu! It was bright and colourful, with pictures of drinks that categorized according to the drinker’s taste. For instance, if the drinker didn’t like vodka, only drinks without vodka would show up on the menu. Just like magic.

New Years Eve was probably one of the busiest nights of the year at the pub, as anyone could imagine. Not only was the place full of their usual patrons and the trickle of people entering and leaving Diagon Alley, but every year the seventh years at Hogwarts were invited for a New Years Eve Party. Her mum promised a sizable discount to any Hogwarts student (of age, of course) and, therefore, Meghan knew she would see Him there that night.

She started her shift at seven o’clock, and by eight thirty her feet already hurt. She wasn’t required to wear the heels. Her mother even bought her a nice pair of flats that were shiny and had a cute little bow over the toes, but they made her look taller, more mature.

And they made her calves look great.

She began fidgeting when the clock ticked its way into the ninth hour and He hadn’t shown up yet. She didn’t know why she was so obsessed. He had a girlfriend. A girlfriend of a long time. Meghan had recently broken up with her boyfriend – Hayden, a fellow sixth year Hufflepuff – and just wanted to see Him again. They’d known each other forever, gotten along great when they were dating, but had drifted apart.

And, if she were being honest, she wanted him back.

At quarter after nine the seventh years started trickling in. It started with some Slytherins, who quickly took a couple tables in the back and pushed them together, ordered a basket of chips and gravy, and two fingers of bourbon – neat – all around.

The second was the Ravenclaws, who took a round table next to the door. The fact that they showed up surprised her. It being her first year working the holiday, she hadn’t really expected any Ravenclaws. They seemed much too studious, and goody-goody to get drunk on holiday. She, apparently, had been right.

They ordered Butterbeers.

As she was walking away, she heard one of the girls talking about a book she’d read on Christmas Day. In one day. It was as if they were holding a meeting for a book club.

Holding six curvy bottles by the neck, she placed them down in front of each person – three boys and three girls…aw a triple date – and walked away before she learned anything. She had caught glimpses of the conversation, the worlds “Flannery O’Connor” and “Hard to Find” and was pondering this as she moved back behind the bar when the Gryffindors showed up.

It was only a few and she sighed. They used to be her friends, when she was dating Him. Kate helped her with her homework even though she was studying for OWLS, and Emileigh taught her how to fix her hair…

Emileigh, whom she was always jealous of because of her beautiful skin and her hair’s ability to bend into any style Emileigh wanted, dragged behind her a tall, broad-shouldered guy with sandy brown hair and the nicest cheekbones Meghan had ever seen…besides His, of course.

Then her jaw dropped. No way in hell was that Bryce Wood. Bryce, who’d made fun of her flying skills when He had taken her for a picnic-and-fly date during Quidditch practice. The scrawny boy who told her that the House Elves slipped love potions into the beverages at breakfast and dinner so that, during her whole first year at Hogwarts, she only drank during lunch. Bryce had turned into a man, that was for sure.

Kate didn’t have a date with her, and the trio sat in a circular booth across the room from the bar. Good riddance, Meghan thought to Kate’s datelessness. Her brother’d had such a crush on her for the longest time, and finally plucked up the courage to ask her to Hogsmeade. She’d said yes, let him kiss her, and then refused to talk to him again. Well, that’s probably not how that panned out, but of course Arnold wasn’t about to talk about his girl problems with his little sister.

She moved behind the bar just as Arnold walked out of the office himself. His white shirt had soot on it, like he’d just flooed in, and his lips were red and swollen. Looked like he got over Kate fast, eh?

“Where have you been? Shift started an hour ago!”

“Relax,” Arnold hissed, pulling a tumbler from the stack beneath the bar and putting four cubes of ice in it. “Mum and dad aren’t even here, and I shouldn’t even be working. I’m a seventh year, remember? This is my party.”

“You should’ve told that to Regina day before yesterday. Maybe then she wouldn’t have walked out on us,” Meghan spat at her brother, her annoyance rising. She should’ve known better than to ask her mum to schedule someone else. She should’ve let her mum stay back from their vacation in France to taken on the shift herself. But her mother got to spend so little time with her dad nowadays…

She was drying a tumbler with a fresh rag when He walked in. Scorpius Malfoy and Rose Weasley entered first. They really were the perfect couple. Their skin colouring matched and their sense of style complimented each other. He wore dark clothes, usually black or dark grey, and she liked colour, except for some shades red which looked dreadful with her hair, so they never clashed.

They moved off towards the table with Kate, Emileigh, and Bryce, and He followed them inside the door. Of course, He was with Her, but you’d expect that seeing as they were dating. A quick scan of her hands told her He hadn’t popped the question yet, which was good. It meant she wasn’t too late.

He took her cloak – what a gentleman – and led her, by the small of her back, to the table with their fellow Gryffindors. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Arnold raise the divider door to the bar and take out his order pad, but she caught his wrist.

“Why don’t you let me handle them, yeah? Mind the bar?”

“They’re my friends,” Arnold reminded her, his blue eyes glittering with annoyance.

“Yes, but Kate broke your heart,” she reminded him. He didn’t nearly have half the reaction she expected, and laughed at her.

“No she didn’t. Kate and I were hardly in love. But Al broke your heart, so I’m curious as to why you’d want to be around him and his girlfriend, whom he is happy with and about to start a family with.”

“What?” Her eyes widened. Start a family with? So Long was up the duff? That didn’t bode well for her plans for him.

“Yes, and from what I’ve heard, he’s having a hard time of it, so I’d appreciate if you didn’t mess them about, alright?”

“And who are your sources?” Her eyebrows raised.

“Miss?” a patron – an old, nearly bald man with tired eyes and greasy skin – had slid onto the barstool in front of them and was tapping a galleon to get their attention.

“Actually,” she slapped the coin down flat onto the bar to make the noise stop, “it’s mister. Arnold will be taking care of you today. And have a drink, on me.”

“Gin and tonic,” he said, slipping the gold into his cloak pocket.

“Meg!” Arnold cried when she turned with a sway of her hips and walked away.

“Relax,” she grinned at her brother over her shoulder. “I’m just going to congratulate the happy couple.”

She fluffed her hair in the mirror next to the bar and then headed towards the table. Some drunken idiot stopped her to inquire as to the whereabouts of the bathroom, and as soon as she was done with him, she completed her journey to the table of Gryffindors.

Meghan couldn’t help but stare at him. She loved the way his messy black hair fell into his eyes. She loved the way his dress shirt stretched across his wide, swimmer’s shoulders. She loved the way his lips stretched into a wide smile as he laughed with his friends.

And then he looked at her. Not Meghan; his girlfriend. And they shared a few words. And then he kissed her nose. But Meghan couldn’t help but stare at his beautifulness.
“Ahem,” someone cleared their throat, knocking Meghan out of her reverie. She smiled, widely, at the table of her peers. Most of them smiled back. Albus avoided her eyes, and his girlfriend, Nat, had a wounded Bambi look. (Bambi is a muggle thing…a story about a baby deer…its mother gets shot by hunters…tragic really).

“Hey, guys,” she said happily, pulling out her pad of paper from the pocket of her apron and a pen that was attached to it. “What can I get you to drink?”

She took their order and then headed back to the bar. She was slightly hurt that their reaction to her was so cold. Albus didn’t even look at her when he ordered a rum and coke (these wizards love their muggle drink), a glass of water, and tequila shots all around, on him. Except one for Nat. She ordered decaf herbal tea. “Earl Grey, if you have it,” she’d said.

This is England, of course we have it! she wanted to scream at the blond. But she’d held her composure, smiled politely, and sashayed away hoping Albus’s eyes followed her as she left. She got back behind the bar, grabbed a tray for the drinks, and began putting the concoctions together. A margarita for Kate and Emileigh, two rum and cokes, and an Ogden’s Old Firewhisky, two fingers, for Scorpius. And, just for kicks, she made Nat’s tea full strength.

“And just so you know,” she hissed at Arnold, who was filling up a tumbler with club soda and scotch, “I broke his heart. Got it?”

She pulled out her wand and levitated the tray in front of her. The group of Gryffindors were huddled together, talking amongst themselves. She ignored the feeling that she had been shunned, and approached the table with her shoulders back and chest out.

As she placed the drinks on the table, Meghan leaned over, giving anyone who was looking a tantalising view of her cleavage. A quick look to her right told her that Albus had his gaze on Nat, and they were smiling at something one of them said. Meghan blew a piece of hair out of her face and nearly slammed the mug down in front of Nat.

Albus looked up at her, then, and she smiled sheepishly at him, before sliding the tea kettle across the table to Nat. “If there’s anything else – ”

She was nearly barrelled down by a redhead she hadn’t expected to see: Lucy Weasley, who, besides Arnold, was the only Gryffindor who’d had yet to show. She stepped to the side and allowed Lucy to cram into the booth next to Albus.

“So sorry I’m late,” she muttered, tugging off her cloak as best as she could while seated and tossing it to Meghan. “Had to wait until mum and dad left for Uncle Bill’s and Molly was occupied…” she turned to Meghan, who’s mouth had fallen open slightly in shock. “Oh sorry!”

Meghan started handing the cloak back when Lucy dug into the pocket of her trousers and produced a shiny galleon. She tossed it into the air and Meghan caught it, juggling the cloak at the same time.

“Red currant rum and soda, please, and don’t be skimpy on the rum!”

“Where’d you run off to?” Hugo asked, looking up from the telly when he saw Lily come back into the room from upstairs. Her shirt was rumpled, her lips bright red, her hair freshly re-done, and she had a smile plastered across her face. He quirked an eyebrow at her.

“Places to go, people to see,” she plopped down onto the floor next to him. “It is New Years after all.”

“Don’t remind me,” he grumbled, putting his head in his hands. They were silent for a moment, the noise from their family in the kitchen and the television were enough in the small sitting room.

“I like your ring. The light shines off it really nicely.”

“Thanks,” he grumbled again, put his voice was muffled from his hands so it came out more as, ‘danks’.

“You don’t like it?” Lily pressed. Hugo’s head shot up from his lap and he glared at Lily.

“Of course I like it!” he insisted. “Why wouldn’t I like it? It’s a symbol of how…whipped I am. Displayed for everyone to see! Of course! I love it!”

“Hugo,” she touched his shoulder, but he wrenched himself away from her and went up onto his knees.

“No,” he shook his head, and then ran a hand through his brown hair. “It’s not that I don’t love her. I do. I told her I did before she gave me this bloody thing,” he gestured to his hand as if it weren’t obvious what the two were talking about. “And it’s not even that she wants to wait until she’s married to have sex! It’s that she just assumes that I also want to wait to have sex. She implies that she wants to marry me. I’m fifteen!” His rant seemed over, and he slumped back onto the floor next to Lily. She put her hand on his shoulder and he didn’t push her away, but his head fell forward into the palms of his hands.

They sat there like that for Merlin knew how long. The television was loud, Hugo had turned it up so in earnest, trying to drown out the sounds of his parents in the next room as they consumed their body weight in alcohol. Some muggle news anchor was talking about the New Years Eve festivities in London; the countdown would begin in one hour, forty-six minutes.

Then Hugo looked up at Lily, his eyes glistened with unshed tears, and this concerned her. Hugo rarely cried. He was a Quidditch player. He was a man’s man…er, adolescent.

“She…Mattie…she…assumes…that I haven’t already had sex.”


Albus couldn’t help but have a good time. He was in good company, away from the drama of every day life, and his high spirits were helped along by the consumption of alcohol. Rose, who was a social drinker he could tell, was already slurring her words and it was only eleven o’clock. He looked sideways at Nat, who was smiling at the joke Kate had just said, but was looking down at the menu.

“It’s okay if you’re hungry, Nel,” he whispered in her ear and pressed a kiss to her cheek. He was oddly affectionate when he was tipsy.

“Those éclairs sound so good,” she whispered back and kissed his lips, earning an ‘awe’ from the table’s occupants. Albus put up two fingers at them and kissed her again, lingering this time.

“Hey guys.”

Albus turned around, reluctantly tearing his lips from his girlfriend’s, to find Arnold standing beside the table, an apron tied around his waist and his arms folded over his chest.

“Arnie!” Lucy screeched, launching herself into the boy’s arms. Lucy’d had a crush on dear Arnold since forever, and it looked as if the alcohol she’d consumed had loosened her up enough to show it.

“Hey, Luce,” he patted her back as she hugged him. Giggling, she slumped back onto the seat and Arnold slid in on the other side, next to Kate. “Hey, Kate. Guys,” he nodded to the rest of them.

“Hey, Arnold,” Nat greeted, because it seemed as if the others were too inebriated to respond to his polite greeting. “How was your Christmas?”

“Just grand. And yours?”

“Eventful…” she trailed off, going back to look at her menu.

Arnold left after having a few words with Scorpius about the song selection and promising to look into having a few more techno songs on the rotation. Albus tried to get the attention of Meghan to order Nat an éclair, but she seemed to be off helping other patrons.

Lucy excused herself to the bathroom and Albus took the opportunity to slip out of the booth. He told Nat he was going to the loo and to get another round of drinks. Bryce and Emileigh moved over to the table where the Hufflepuffs sat to catch up with some friends there. Kate moved so Scorpius and Rose could dance, though there was no dance floor, and then Kate and Nat slid together near the back to talk.

“So how are you really?” Kate asked, and Nat realized that Kate hadn’t been drinking nearly as much as the others. “How’s the baby?”

“Babies.” Nat snagged her tea cup from down the table and brought it to her, only to realize the mug was empty and so was the kettle Meghan had brought to the table.

“Excuse me?”

Nat smiled sheepishly. “Er…we’re having twins. Surprise!”

Kate smiled and hugged Nat enthusiastically. “That’s amazing! Wow! Two! I’m so happy for you! Gosh, two babies! That’s a lot to handle! How’d telling your parents go?”

Nat launched into the story that she would probably have to tell a few more times, watching Kate’s facial expressions. The girl’d had just enough to drink that her tongue was loose, but not too much that she wouldn’t remember in the morning. And this tipsy girl’s facial expression were funny. She had a look of horror when Nat told her about her dad, shock at Ginny’s outburst, laughter at them staying with Victoire and Teddy – mostly about Nat’s cooking – then finally resting on amazement at the current night’s revelations.

“Wow,” was all Kate could say at the end of it.

Lucy had come back in the middle of the story, holding back her own laughter. When Nat was done, Lucy seemed to burst with the laughter.

“You guys,” she said, giddily. “Rose and Scorpius are having sex in the loo.”

“Nu uh!” Kate gasped.

“Yup. I heard ‘em.”

“In the girl’s room?” Nat asked sceptically. “How do you know it was them?”

“I heard a bunch of giggling, and then a zipper, and I peeked and saw Scorpius’s shoes, those nice shiny leather ones…” Lucy trailed, her eyes dancing with mirth.

“Anyone can have leather shoes, Luce,” Nat told her.

“I haven’t got to the best part yet!” Lucy giggled. “Then, there’s all of this moaning and groaning and then Scorpius’s voice…he calls out…flower!”

“Flower?” Kate asked in disbelief. “Can you think of a more original nickname?” the last bit was said with an air of sarcasm and Nat snorted.

“I’ve never heard him call her ‘flower’ before,” she noted.

“Maybe it’s his special ‘bedroom’ name for her…” Lucy shrugged, and then collapsed into a fit of giggles. “Or bathroom!”

“Um, Luce,” Nat interrupted, her eyes going wide at the sight in front of her.

“And she starts moaning ‘Scorpy’,” Lucy continued to giggle.

“L-Lucy,” Nat stammered again.

“And then the cubicle wall starts moving…”

“Lucy Minerva Weasley!”

Lucy’s eyes snap up to see the angry eyes of her father standing at the edge of the table. His face was contorted in rage, his blue eyes dark, his face bright red and angry.

“D-daddy!” Lucy gasped.

“You were supposed to be and Granny’s house! Imagine my surprise when I floo to check on you and my mother says you haven’t been there all night! And here you are, getting drunk!”

“But daddy!”

“Don’t ‘daddy’ me! Home! Now!”

Lucy was marched out of the pub, the pub that’d gone quiet at the spectacle. Lucy started crying, you could hear her all the way out of the place, and then as soon as the door closed the chattered started up as if nothing had happened.

Rose and Scorpius joined the table again, Scorpius looked quite pleased with himself. His blond hair was a mess, his shirt was buttoned wrong, but he had a satisfied smile on his face.

Rose, though dishevelled and glowing in post-coitus bliss, was frowning. She had an odd look on her face, and was avoiding Nat’s eyes. Nat could’ve been imagining it, she supposed, but she didn’t think so.

“I’m off to find Wood,” Scorpius said. “See you in ten for the countdown.” And he trotted happily away.

“Where’s Luce?”

“Mr. Weasley came and took her away,” Kate giggled. Then she laughed out loud, a boom over the music in the pub, remembering what Lucy had said about the Rose/Scorpius situation in the loo.

“So are toilets really good for sitting and spinning?” Kate laughed again. Nat looked to her friend, surprised. She never was that outspoken about sex, much less her friend’s sex.

Rose grew red in the face, her ears tinged a bright pink, and she covered her mouth. “You could hear us?” a horror-struck look crossed her face. “Out here?” she whispered.

“Relax,” Nat tried to reassure her friend and, at the same time, look around for Albus. He certainly had been gone for a long time. “Lucy heard you and told us.”

“Oh thank Merlin!” Rose cried. “I was scared I’d entertained the entire place with my sex life.”

“Nope,” Nat grinned, finally spotting him climbing off a bar stool. “Just Lucy…flower.” While Rose shouted in outrage, Nat watched Albus walking towards their table. He had two bottles of Meade in one hand and a plate with a delicate, chocolate covered pastry in the other. He had a wide smile on his face that she wished wasn’t alcohol-induced, but she realized it probably was. He set it down in front of her and kissed her.
Then, Albus moved over to scoot into the booth next to her and Nat caught the eye of Meghan from across the room. She had a smirk on her face.

“Bitch,” she whispered.

“What?” Albus asked, swigging his bottle and pushing the other to Rose. Nat wasn’t paying attention to him, though, as she watched the word form on Meghan’s cherry-red lips.

‘Bitch,’ she read the girl’s mouthed word.

“I said, mmm, thanks love.” She leaned into him and gave him a long, passionate kiss. She kept one eye open for a second to make sure Meghan was still watching, and then wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him as close to her as he would get.

Just then, the countdown to midnight started, and she barely noticed when Rose and Kate left the table to find boys to kiss.


She just kept on kissing Albus, his hands in her hair, her hands in his.


She had moved to be practically in his lap by then.


His tongue stroked hers…or did her tongue stroke his?


His hand moved to clutch her thigh to keep her balanced on his lap.


Her lips slanted to a different angle, and her mouth opened wider for a deeper kiss.

“Happy New Year!”

They pulled apart seconds later, both out of breath, breathing heavily. Their lips were red and swollen. Their eyes met, and they both smiled.

“Happy New Year, love,” Albus said. He pulled her forward and pressed a kiss to her temple. And then one to her neck. Then below her ear. Then he nibbled on her neck, causing her to giggle loudly. She pressed her hand to his chest, feeling his heartbeat beneath her palm. It was racing. She raised her eyes to the bar. She smiled.

Behind it, Meghan was staring at her, a look of pure loathing on her pretty features. Her hands were clenched at her sides, an angry scowl formed on her cherry-red lips.

“This is going to be a great year,” said Nat confidently, and pulled Albus towards her for another kiss.

Chapter 13: 13..Because I Care
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Defying Gravity
Chapter 13: Because I Care

Nat finished securing the scarlet and gold tie around her neck before folding down the collar of her shirt just as she collapsed on the bench seat behind her. She looked to the left and saw the country side flying past as the Hogwarts Express sped towards Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. When that image began making her dizzy, she pulled the shade and then lay back across the seat, propping her feet up in Rose’s lap.

Her friend was sound asleep, having already been in her uniform when she arrived at the station in preparation for the Prefect’s meeting, of which she was in charge of, and rounds. Now Rose sat, propped against the outer wall which led into the corridor, snoring softly.

To say it had been a crazy start of the year would be an understatement. It all began New Years Day, when Scorpius left the Weasley’s for his own home and Albus and Nat moved into the Potter home. It had started out peachy keen. Ginny even allowed Albus and Nat to share a room – after some prodding from Harry, mind, and James, who pointed out that she was already pregnant and there wasn’t much else to get up to.

And, by some miracle, Ginny had convinced James to get away from the Leaky Cauldron as well and move back home. She had her whole family back together, plus some. Jennifer mostly stayed in her room, her excuse that she was ill and the baby could not stand the smell of the cleaner Ginny used around the house.

It was a happy day in the Potter house that day, including for James who was glad to have her out of his hair. Ginny thought that odd, she told Nat, because what husband – newlywed at that – wouldn’t want to spend time with his wife? No one mentioned the baby to her, just that Jennifer was a very private person. Weak excuse, they knew, and it was a miracle that a clever witch like Ginny bought it. She had a lot on her mind that was for sure.

Jennifer still refused to take a home kit. In an effort to keep a low profile (because not only would being a Potter stir up hordes of attention, but the male star Chaser of the Montrose Magpies making an appointment with a Gynaecological Healer would make front page headlines), James convinced Nat to floo St. Mungos and make an appointment under the name ‘Jennifer Smith’ for the second week in January. There she could confirm the pregnancy and be referred to an Obstetricianal Healer like Nat’s, Healer Christensen.

Nat sighed, running a hand through her messy blonde hair and looking across the small foot space to her friends. Emileigh was flipping through the latest ‘Witch Weekly,’ undoubtedly trying to figure out whether or not the shade of nail lacquer she’d just had her manicurist apply, ‘Priceless Princess Pink,’ was in fashion this month. It was; it always was.

Kate sat next to the door, her feet tucked under her, her frizzy brown hair in a cloud around her face, staring at the page of a thick tome. She was the resident nerd of Gryffindor and more often than not would be caught reading a book. Some people questioned why, though Rose Weasley was smart no doubt, and one of the best students at Hogwarts with the highest marks, why Kate wasn’t made Head Girl. Kate was the Gryffindor prefect now that Rose became Head Girl, but many a person argued that Kate should’ve been the prefect from their year to begin with.

And Lucy was nowhere to be found.

Not wanting to disturb her friends’ reading, she thought back to her holiday.

Ever since New Years, Rose had acted weird. She frequented the Potters when her parents were at work and Hugo at his girlfriend’s – they spent a lot of time together over the holidays because he was gone for nine months out of the year at “boarding school.” They would sit and watch movies or play a rousing game of exploding snap. Nat would make lunch (she was learning!). And often, during long stretches of silence when she thought everyone was caught up in whatever was on the telly, or while Albus was contemplating his next move during a Chess match, Nat would catch Rose staring at him. Just staring, sometimes a look of wonder on her face, others just a stare. As if she was reading his thoughts.

Nat jokingly wondered if Rose had found anything. Had she become a master at Legilimency and able to cast a nonverbal ‘Legilimens’?

She figured that once Rose was back around Scorpius she’d forget about it and it wouldn’t be a problem.

Nat did confront Rose on one occasion when Albus had fallen asleep watching a documentary and Rose was boring holes into his sleeping form from across the room.

“Just miss Scorpius, is all,” Rose muttered breezily and Nat let the subject drop. It was odd for her, but Nat had bigger things to worry about.

The Monday after New Year’s Albus started acting weird. He was fine after New Years, better than he’d been since finding out Nat was pregnant. He was more attentive, loving, adoring…just more. He seemed happier, more relaxed.

Nat had started becoming tired more easily. She could barely walk up and down the stairs at the Potter’s without becoming winded. She slept in until late, usually ten or so in the morning, and went to bed right after dinner. She’d feel Albus slide into bed sometime around midnight or after one, hair wet from a shower, and he’d snuggle up next to her.

A disconcerting time was the previous night in fact, the Saturday before going back to Hogwarts. That day had been busy; full of celebration. The entire Weasley family went over to the Potter’s for the annual “Weasley Family Snow Ball Fight Tournament.” Thus named because, in teams of two, a single elimination Snow Ball Fight commenced.

Rose forced Hugo to play on her team and, though she fought tooth and nail, Nat teamed up with Albus. She didn’t really want to play; she didn’t want to over-exert herself. But she played for him. They lost against Lily and James – Jennifer didn’t want to play and no one seemed to protest much – and were the first eliminated. Albus didn’t appear to mind, more content to watch his family, and Nat curled up on the sofa for a long nap.

She was awoken for dinner, a huge feast in commemoration of a grand holiday season and ‘well wishes’ on the next Hogwarts term. Shortly after dinner she fell back asleep, as it was her usual bedtime. She awoke around ten o’clock and went down the stairs for a glass of water and to find Albus. She searched for ten minutes, even going as far as to wake up Lily and ask her. No one had seen him, but Ginny assured Nat that he was fine, that he probably went to the pub for one last drink with his mates before term.

She reluctantly went back to bed.

Albus slipped beneath the sheets at one-thirty that morning to find Nat wide awake, curled up on her side because she could no longer sleep on her stomach – the twins were growing so fast. She had been facing away from him when he walked in from his shower in only a pair of boxers. She rolled over as he threw an arm over her waist and snuggled against her.

“Hey,” he smiled and kissed her lips.

“Where’ve you been?” She grimaced. She’d wanted to be a bit more eloquent than that, and she didn’t like the accusatory tone in her voice. Albus, bless him, didn’t seem to mind, and kissed her forehead.

“Went to the pub with Arnold – it was his day off – and Bryce. One last drink before term starts.”

Nat didn’t want to be one of those irrational girlfriends who got all pissy when he went off with the blokes, so she nodded against his chest and stifled a yawn.

Thinking back on it then, Nat didn’t have anything to worry about. He hadn’t told her because he hadn’t wanted to wake her up just to let her know he was leaving. Understandable. She decided to let it go.

Nat must’ve fallen asleep on the train because the next thing she knew, she was being shaken awake. She looked up into the bright green eyes of her boyfriend and smiled, sitting up sleepily.

“Good evening, Sleeping Beauty,” Albus smiled down at her and took her hand to help her stand.

Nat chose to ignore what must’ve been a muggle thing and stood, leaning back into an arch to stretch her aching muscles from sitting on a hard bench all day. They were alone in the compartment, the setting sun casting an eerie orange glow over the small space. Nat place a kiss upon Albus’s lips and then they left the train. They climbed into a carriage led by the Thestrals that neither of them could see but that they knew were there.

Albus had told her about them after his father told him about them, and then Kate gave her a full report on research she’d done on them. Even though she couldn’t see them, she had a good image of what they looked like and was glad she couldn’t see them. Not only because that would mean that she had seen someone she loves die, but because they seemed ghastly.

The compartment was partially occupied, Hugo and another boy who looked to be Hugo and Lily’s age, sat on one side and Albus and Nat clambered onto the other side. The ride would take a while, and Nat studied Hugo for a moment.

Before the Snow Ball Fight Tournament, she hadn’t seen him since New Years. At dinner the previous night he seemed sullen and withdrawn. He was snappy, especially towards his mum, and moody. Now that she thought on it, he spent most of the night huddled in a corner of the sitting room, knees to his chest, glaring at the wall in front of him.

He seemed fidgety then, and she looked down at his hands. They rest on his lap and his right thumb and forefinger circled his left ring finger absentmindedly. Nat narrowed her eyes at that particular finger before looking up at Hugo. He caught her eyes, crystal blue peering into entrancing ocean blue. He’d seen her looking and shook his head slightly, as if he didn’t want to talk about it. She nodded, as if she understood, and decided not to bring up the fact that he was no longer wearing his purity ring in front of his cousin. But later, definitely later, she’d corner him.

They arrived at the castle a moment later and the two fifth years hustled out of the carriage. Albus helped Nat down the steps and they walked up to the castle together. They were just about to enter the Great Hall when Professor Longbottom stepped up to them and asked them aside.

“I hope you don’t mind,” his face was scarlet and he refused to meet either of their eyes, “but your mum told me about your…situation…and, like I said, I hope you don’t mind but, I knew it was going to be hard for the two of you to, err, ask for help,” he added, “stubborn lot,” to himself before finally meeting their eyes. “I informed the Headmistress about your predicament, and she would like to see you both after dinner.”

A horrified look crossed Nat’s face, but Albus seemed grateful. Nat couldn’t be sure, though, until he said, “Thank you, Professor. I’m so grateful.”

Nat barely ate anything during supper. The Sheppard’s Pie they were serving looked a bit burnt around the edges, but her inability to eat probably had more to do with anticipation of the meeting with the Headmistress.

Rose and Scorpius sat across from Nat and Albus looking sickeningly cute as they stole kisses between bites of food. It was as if they hadn’t seen each other in months as opposed to a bit more than a week.

As dessert was served – apple pie with ice cream – and Albus helped himself to two slices, Nat looked to the Head table. Headmistress McGonagall was looking at her and she blushed and bit her lip, having been caught. The Headmistress nodded her head in their direction and then stood to take her leave. No big speech, no well wishes for a good term, just eat and run. Sort of.

Nat elbowed Albus just as he was stuffing the crust of his last piece of pie into his mouth and they bid their friends ado, before hurrying up to the seventh floor. Nat had to stop a couple of times to catch her breath, and, for the first time in her Hogwarts career, cursed the fact that she wasn’t in Hufflepuff where the common room was in the dungeons.

Albus gave the password – mandrake – to the gargoyle, which then leapt aside and the duo ascended the stairs. At the top they found a highly polished oak door with a huge brass knocker in the shape of a Griffin. Albus raised the knocker and lowered it against its matching brass plate on the door a couple of times and pushed the heavy door open upon hearing a quiet, “Enter.”

Nat had never been in the Headmistress’s office before. The oak door opened into a huge, circular room. There were three windows – one showed a view of the Quidditch Pitch, and another, a picturesque view of the mountains surrounding the castle – and the rest of the walls were covered in paintings of previous headmasters of Hogwarts.

Headmistress McGonagall was sitting behind a huge, claw foot desk that was littered with papers. The desk was sitting on a dais, which made it look as if the Headmistress was looking down on the entire room. A ways to her left was an enormous fireplace Nat assumed she used to floo the parents of naughty children. On the other side of the huge desk was a shelf that held the Sorting Hat.

Behind the desk was an enormous portrait of Albus Dumbledore. Nat had heard many stories about him, including one from Harry Potter about the day the man died. Of course, Albus – her boyfriend – was named after the man. The grey haired man in the painting winked at the couple.

“Mr. Potter, Miss Long, please sit,” McGonagall motioned to two chairs that she’d just conjured. “I’ll be just a moment.” There were three quills in motion on the desk, one by her hand and two by magic, resulting in a constant scratching sound.

The teenagers sat opposite the desk, Nat crossed her legs and pressed her hands together in her lap. Albus slumped over and looked as if he were about to fall asleep.

There was another knock at the door and Albus sat upright. McGonagall commanded the knocker to enter and in walked Madam Grady, the Healer on staff. McGonagall quickly conjured another chair in which Grady quickly sat. Madam Grady was an older witch with pretty, brown hair – that had to be colour-potion-treated – done in tight curls, worn off her face. She was short and stout, with tan, leathery skin. Her bright red robes were quite frayed around the sleeves and hem, and her almond shaped brown eyes looked, complete with crow’s feet at the corners, held an air of knowledge and impatience.

“You seem to be in a spot of trouble, Mr. Potter, Miss Long,” McGonagall placed her quill down and gazed at the couple over the top of her slim, oval spectacles.

“Yes, ma’am,” Nat nodded. No use in denying it; she already knew.

“How are you feeling, Miss Long? What are your symptoms at this very moment?” Grady, whose chair had been placed next to Nat’s, grabbed her hand consolingly. Nat saw the sympathetic look in her eye and sighed.

“Well,” she bit her lip and looked up at McGonagall who, through her disapproving stare, smiled a tad and nodded encouragingly. “The morning sickness has been quite bad, and I’ve been so tired lately.”

“Any breast tenderness?” Nat nodded her head and glanced at Albus. He was sitting flush against the back of his chair looking decidedly uncomfortable. “What about spotting? Breathlessness?”

“No to the first; yes to the breathlessness. But only when I climb stairs.”

“I’m afraid that can’t be avoided, Petra,” McGonagall said to Grady, leaning forward onto her elbows on the desk.

“Your healer, Healer Christensen, has sent me your chart so if you have any complications I will be able to help, but I must tell you, Miss Long, my specialty is not Pre-Natal care. Most young ladies who come into this situation leave school.”

“Don’t tell her that!” Albus suddenly spoke, shooting up from his chair. “Don’t put those ideas into her head, Grady. She doesn’t have to go anywhere!”

“I quite agree, Mr. Potter,” Grady looked quite taken aback, and pressed her hand to her chest.

“That’s Madam Grady, to you, Mr. Potter. I know your parents taught you better than that!” McGonagall had stood then, towering over Albus, and he shrunk back into his seat, but not before shooting a glare at Grady. “Miss Long, we aren’t indicating that you should leave Hogwarts by any means. Madam Grady was just pointing out the fact that many of the students in your situation choose not to continue their education. Before we go any further, I would personally like to commend you for making the correct choice. It’s going to be tough.”

Nat nodded, and felt silly for the unshed tears in her eyes. She cried all the time nowadays and was sick of it. She was out of tears and she didn’t want to be so hormonal anymore. Before the end of the meeting, Grady had given her a schedule of checkups for the next three months, including when Healer Christensen would be at the school. McGonagall gave her permission to be in the seventh year boys’ dorm after curfew. She, however, made it a point to reiterate the fact that she was not allowed to spend the night in the dorm, only to visit, and being caught up there would result in detention – no she was not afraid to give a pregnant girl detention – and the loss of house points.

Nat and Albus practically ran out of the room and down the stairs, only stopping when they reached the portrait hole and realised they hadn’t been told the new password. Albus was a prefect and should’ve known.

It was just their luck that Hugo was walking towards them at that very minute, coming from the secret passageway that was the easiest way to Ravenclaw tower. He told the Fat Lady in the pink silk dress the password – Quaffel, if you can believe it – and the three entered the busy common room.

They located their group of friends, who were the only people who knew about the pregnancy, and chatted with them for an hour before Nat decided it was her bedtime. She stood and stretched and caught Hugo’s eye from across the room. He was surrounded by friends who were laughing and talking, but he still had the strange, sullen look on his face.

She resolved to talk to him the next day. She was beat and needed rest. Nat waved at him and kissed Albus’s cheek before heading upstairs to the girls’ dormitory. Rose, who’d been suspiciously missing from the group in the common room – but they’d assumed she was with Scorpius somewhere in the castle – was sitting at her desk alone in the dorm.

“Nat!” Rose yelled when she saw Nat standing in the doorway. She shuffled parchment around on her desk, effectively hiding whatever she’d been doing.

“Hey, Rosie,” Nat shot her a confused look as she walked over to her trunk and pulled out her pyjamas. They’d seen each other in their knickers numerous times, and she unabashedly changed. Rose’s eyes locked on her slightly distended abdomen before turning her gaze away. “Are you okay?”

“What would you do if I told you I thought Scorpius was cheating on me?” Rose worried her lip as Nat moved to sit on Rose’s bed near her. She tucked her feet under her bottom and ran a hand through her hair.

“I’d say you were bloody off your rocker and we need to take you to Grady to get your head checked! That boy loves you!”

Rose nodded, looked back at the desk, and then back at Nat. “Okay, what would you say if I said I thought…Hugo was cheating on Mattie?”

“Hmm,” Nat contemplated for a moment. “Well, Hugo did seem sort of out of it…it could be possible. But Hugo’s one of the sweetest boys I know! I don’t think he’d do that to Mattie, even though he only sees her during a small portion of the year. Come to think of it, I’ve never really seen him with anyone other than his mates. I didn’t even know he had a girlfriend!”

“Nat!” Rose cried, exasperated. “Okay, let me rephrase the question. What would you do about it? Would you want to catch him in the act? I mean, you’d want to have solid proof before you go ruining a perfectly good relationship. There’s always the possibility that he’s not cheating and – ”

“But what if she’s cheating? I mean, Mattie is awfully pretty and she only sees Hugo a few months out of the year. She could have another boy on the side and the purity ring was just a way to control Hugo which is why – ”

“Nat!” Nat’s head snapped sideways to Rose. “I didn’t realise being pregnant transforms you into a space cadet.”

“I resent that,” Nat folded her arms over her chest. Rose laughed at her indignant expression.

“Now, back to my question, you’d find me solid proof, right? Some way, if Scorpius was cheating, you’d find out for me, right?”

“Rosie, Scorpius is not cheating on you! He adores you! And for that matter, Hugo isn’t cheating on Mattie. You’re not cheating on Scor, and Mattie is probably not cheating on Hugo. There, problem solved.” Nat smiled, but Rose didn’t seem satisfied. Therefore, Nat reluctantly added, “Of course, I’d find you solid proof. I’d follow him around just to catch him in the act.”

“Thank you!” Rose cried, throwing her hands up in the air after finally getting the answer she’d been waiting for.

“Now, I have to get some sleep. I’m exhausted! ‘Night, Rosie.”

Nat crossed the dormitory to her own bed and crawled in. Rose called a hurried, “’Night,” and then there was a rustling of parchment and Rose resumed her letter.

She added the finishing touches and then glanced down at the parchment, proofreading her work.

James –

You know I wouldn’t ask you – nee, beg you – if it weren’t important, so here it goes.

Though I’m still unclear of the reason that you took it instead of passing it along to the next Potter in line as Teddy did, can you please send me the Marauder’s map you stole from your father and then proceeded to give to Teddy who, in turn, gave to you, and you so selfishly kept for yourself to keep your siblings from getting up to mischief. Again, you know I wouldn’t ask you if it weren’t incredibly important. I’m in need of it ASAP.

Did I mention you’ve always been my favourite cousin? Because it’s always been you! 

– Rose

Rose glanced over to her friend, who, in the short minutes it had taken Rose to read over the note, had fallen asleep and was snoring soundly. Her left and was thrown above her head, her right rested on her lower abdomen in a protective gesture. Rose bit her lip as she folded the note. She stood and hastily slid out of her house shoes and into her trainers.

She had to get up to the owlery before curfew.

A/N: Chapter Title by Ivoryrose x on the ‘Titled Inspiration’ thread on the forums. Thanks, hun!

Description of the Headmistress’s office summarized from ‘The Leaky Cauldron.’

Chapter 14: 14..Chasing Reality
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Defying Gravity
Chapter 14: Chasing Reality

James rolled onto his side, away from his wife. He couldn’t sleep. Again. He sighed and glanced at the wireless clock on the bedside table. That couldn’t be right. Only two-twelve? James scrubbed his hands over his face. He was tired; he just couldn’t force himself into a restless sleep as he had been doing for the better part of two months: ever since the International Quidditch Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

He was a goner from the beginning. It wasn’t even his fault, really. Some of his teammates – his male teammates, that is – invited him along to a bar. James happily obliged. He was the newbie, after all, and eager to fit in and become part of the team.

He hadn’t known then that it was a strip club, but it was kind of hard to miss by the neon sign, ‘Wicked Witches,’ over the brick square of a building. He’d noticed her right off. She was serving drinks in tiny shorts and a little vest that enhanced her cleavage. He followed his teammates to the table lining the catwalk that ran down the centre of the room.

She served them a round of drinks and winked at him. He read ‘Jennifer’ on her name tag and thought of what a pretty name that was. Then she disappeared. He laughed with his new mates and got another drink from another equally gorgeous cocktail waitress.

Jennifer reappeared twenty minutes later. This time, she was doing a sexy routine on the catwalk in front of him. Looking back on it, he was ashamed to admit the amount of money he slipped into her g-string that night. In fact, he had to make two separate trips to the banker to exchange galleons for the little slips of paper the customers used to tip the girls, who would exchange them back for galleons at the end of the night. Those coins would’ve been hard to keep intact with only a tiny string to hold them in place.

James was transfixed with the girl. So much so that the next night, after playing in a match against the Canadians, he returned to ‘Wicked Witches’ to watch her performance. He dropped another three-hundred galleons that night. And without his mates, he sat alone, downing watered down firewhiskey and flirting with Jennifer until close, where he walked her back to her flat – apartment, she said.

James shook himself out of his flashback and sat up in bed, scrubbing his hand over his face. He was still tired and yet farther away from falling asleep. He stood, careful not to shake the bed too much and wake Jennifer – because that would be a nightmare, to wake her from her beauty rest – and slid his feet into house shoes, tugged on a worn dressing gown, and left the room, shutting the door quietly behind him.

He moved down the dark corridor, padded down the stairs and into the kitchen. He was reaching for a glass for water when someone cleared their throat behind him. He jumped and turned, clutching the glass to his chest.


Harry sat at the kitchen table, a flask in front of him. He was in his pyjamas, his hair a fright – even more so than usual – his glasses perched on the end of his nose. He looked old to James. And his father never looked old. He was as young and vibrant as anyone could be after the childhood and teenage years he’d had.

“’Morning, son,” Harry said, but did not look up from where he was hunched over the flask. James narrowed his eyes.

“Are you drunk?”

Harry lifted his tired eyes to James’ and gave a half smile. “Heavens no, your mum would kill me. Just getting a little…remedy.” His gaze drifted back down to the flask.

James shuffled across the room, filled his cup from the tap, and sat next to his father. “A remedy for what?”

The concern in his voice caused Harry to look up for a moment. “Nothing serious, son, just a touch of heart burn. I’m trying to decide whether this is the fast acting or long lasting potion but the damn bottle doesn’t say.”

James grinned, took out his wand from his pyjama bottoms, and whispered ‘Lumos’. “The ole’ eyes just aren’t what they used to be, eh, dad?”

Harry smiled softly. “Does that mean I’m getting old?” He moved James’s hand closer to the flask of potion, and decided it was fast acting potion. He unscrewed the top and took two drinks of the pink, bitter tasting potion. He winced as the thickness slid down his dry throat, and then breathed a sigh of relief as the burning in his chest slowly ebbed away.

“So now that I’m all fixed up, tell me why you can’t sleep?”

James sighed, putting his unlit wand back in his pyjama bottoms – dark blue and green plaid, well worn and fading slightly – and sat back in the chair.

“Her appointment’s tomorrow,” he said simply.

“Ah,” Harry nodded. “Nervous?”

James nodded with a slight movement of his head. “I just,” he leaned forward and put his head in his hands, “I need to know. I have to know. I’m going crazy. And she won’t take a home test, which pisses me off! It’s like she’s trying to hide something! It’s like she knows that the moment I find out she’s not carrying my child that I’ll kick her to the curb.”

“James,” Harry sighed. “You can’t mean that.”

“Well, I won’t do it right away, of course. And I’ll help her get settled so she doesn’t have to dance anymore. But I’m not signing those papers. I’m not signing my life away to someone I don’t love. I can’t, dad. It’s just not right.”

Harry seemed to contemplate this for a moment, summoning a cup and filling it with water for himself, downing the liquid in two gulps, and then fiddling with the rim of the cup before he made a comment.

“That’s true, Jay. You’ve got a point,” Harry looked up into his son’s eyes. “But, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing if she is pregnant. I know you. You’ll resign yourself to an unhappy marriage out of obligation. And I applaud you for it, I do. It’s the right thing to do. But…gosh, son…I just wish this weren’t the situation at all.”

“Me too, dad. Me too.”

Nat woke early on Wednesday morning. She wasn’t used to being up so early, but after having gone to sleep at seven the previous night, it wasn’t as if she could sleep forever. She tiptoed around the room, showering and dressing in her magically expanded uniform. Rose’d had to help her with that, because her magic had gone all wonky since the pregnancy.

The first two days back to class had been okay for her. She was slowly getting used to people staring at her. How they found out, she didn’t know. Maybe Arnie let it slip to his big mouthed sister. Or Professor Longbottom even. And Emileigh did sort of have a big mouth.

However it happened, it seemed more and more people became aware of the situation and treated her like a circus act. But it didn’t really bother her all that much. Surprisingly. Because Albus was there for her and supported her and loved her and that was all that mattered.

She tugged on a grey jumper over her crisp, white shirt and magically pressed tie and grabbed her black school robes from her desk chair. She lifted her school bag – which was magically lightened with a ‘featherweight’ spell, ala Albus – and left the silent dormitory as quietly as she could.

She entered the Common Room, dark but for the dying embers of the fire. It was only six in the morning, according to the watch – a pink face surrounded by sterling silver and a black dragon hide band she’d gotten from Rose and Scorpius for Christmas – on her wrist. But, surprisingly the room wasn’t unoccupied.

Kate was sleeping soundly on the couch in front of the fire, her hand tucked up under her face, her lips slightly parted. She still had on yesterday’s uniform, her prefect’s badge gleaming in the dying firelight. Nat wondered why she was down there and not up in her bed in the dorm.

Then she remembered that Kate’d had prefect rounds with the seventh year Hufflepuff boy the night before. Nat smiled knowingly, and took out her Potions textbook.

It was a miracle she was even in Potions. If it hadn’t been for her copying from Albus or Rose during classes and sheer dumb luck on her OWL, she wouldn’t even had made it into NEWT level Potions. But most employment opportunities required Potions, and so she really had to have it unless she wanted to be a shop keep.

She glanced down at her stomach. Well, with the way she was going that would probably be the best job she’d be liable to get. And Albus wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an Auror, which took three years of schooling past Hogwarts. How were they supposed to raise two babies together while trying to jumpstart their careers?

The answer was easy to Nat. Her career would have to take a back burner until they could afford for her to attend schooling for whatever she decided she wanted to do. For the most part, she felt okay with that because she wasn’t really positive what she wanted to do.

Just that she wanted to be with Albus.

She worked on her Potions homework for forty-five minutes before Kate stirred. And then the frizzy-haired brunette sat straight up, as if suddenly startled. Nat jumped at the start, and then laughed to herself.

“Are you alright, Kate?”

“Nat!” Kate said, surprised at finding her friend in the Common Room, sitting across from her and a now-roaring fire. “What are you doing down here at this time of night?”

Nat narrowed her eyes. Kate seemed kind of jittery. Nervous even. Her brown eyes strayed towards the portrait hole for a split second and then came back to rest on Nat.

“It’s seven in the morning, Kate,” Nat said curiously.

“Have I been down here all night?” Kate wondered aloud, glancing down at herself, towards the boys’ staircase, the portrait hole again and then back at Nat.

“Kate, you’re acting really weird. What’s going on?”

“N-nothing!” She answered a little too quickly for Nat’s liking.

But the girl was up the stairs to the dormitory before Nat could formulate a response. Instead, she rolled her eyes at the craziness of her friends and went back to her essay, not giving it another thought.

James was floored when Jennifer was up and dressed and at breakfast before him. His mother was at the stove, cooking bacon with her wand eyeing Jennifer sceptically, and his father was at the kitchen table reading the Daily Prophet with a cup of tea in front of him.

James dropped into a chair next to Jennifer and his mother placed a plate of bacon and eggs in front of him, pressing a kiss to his crown, just as she did when he was a kid. She seemed to have caught herself, because she straightened suddenly and went back to the stove to prepare the next batch.

Jennifer was pale, white as a ghost really, with an untouched cup of tea in front of her. Her hair looked limp, pulled away from her face in a loose pony tail, and her makeup wasn’t immaculate as usual.

“Are you feeling okay, Jennifer?” Ginny asked, sliding the last piece of bacon onto a plate for her husband. She placed the plate in front of him, stealing a kiss to his forehead before he could begin eating, and then looked up expectantly at her daughter-in-law.

“I’m fine. Just a bit queasy this morning.”

“Hmm,” she looked contemplative for a moment. “Maybe you two had better postpone your house hunting for a few days. Besides,” she said turning away from them to set the pan into the sudsy water for washing, “don’t you want a house a little closer to Montrose, James?”

“We’re just looking, mum. I have a flat in Montrose. We were thinking about getting a place sort of between here and there to be closer to home.” He knew he was saying that to butter her up in case of the devastating news of another unplanned pregnancy in the family, and the smile that graced her face made his stomach twist with guilt.

“In fact,” James started when he couldn’t bare the silence anymore. He stood and reached out for Jennifer’s hand. “We’d better get going. We’ve got to meet the realtor in twenty minutes.”

“But you haven’t even finished your breakfast,” Ginny slid into the seat next to her husband with her cup of coffee and looked up at her son, who was shrugging into a tan cloak. He helped Jennifer into her own winter cloak and then picked up the last piece of bacon off his plate.

“We’ll see you guys later,” he kissed his mother’s cheek and waved at his dad – who acknowledged him with a nod of his head – and took Jennifer hand, leading her out the back door to apparate.

“Well that was weird,” Ginny muttered into her coffee. She looked at her watch and sighed. “I’d better get to work.”

“Gin?” Harry looked up from his paper, and for the first time Ginny noticed the pain etched on his face.

“What is it, Love?”

“Can you get me the heartburn potion from the cupboard, please?”

Rose looked up from the Prefect Patrol Request Form that had just been given to her by Professor Kingston, the Head of the Prefects. She glanced down the table and then back at the form. That couldn’t be right. It just couldn’t.

She looked towards the ceiling as the morning post was carried in by owls. She waited and waited for a brown tawny owl to soar her way. It didn’t. Again. This was the third day since she’d sent the letter to James and she had yet to hear from him.

She was getting a little bit anxious. But she didn’t want to talk to him. Not yet.

She glanced back down at the parchment in front of her and then across the hall to Scorpius, at the Slytherin table. He was looking at her with a curious look. She looked back down at the request form and sighed.

She couldn’t not fill the request. She couldn’t. She was head girl and that just wouldn’t look right. She might be accused of favouritism.

Sometimes Rose wished she didn’t care so much what people thought. She signed the form, nearly illegibly, and made a mental note to give it back to Professor Kingston in Potions. She glanced back down the table and shook her head.

Guilt knotted in her stomach. She shouldn’t have done that.

Sometimes being Head Girl was a bitch.

“I don’t understand why you’re so embarrassed by me,” Jennifer hissed as they made their way to the receptions desk on the sixth floor of St. Mungos.

“I’m not embarrassed, Jen,” James whispered back, pulling his cap lower on his head. “I’m just trying not to be noticed.”

Jennifer smiled at the older lady behind the counter and received the forms she had to fill out. They walked side by side to the waiting area across from the counter and sat. “I think the dark sunglasses are a dead giveaway, Jamesie.”

James slumped in the hard plastic seat and waited while Jennifer filled out her forms. “Do I sign this ‘Potter’ or ‘Smith’, Love?” She said rather loudly, even though the area was less than half full. James’s eyes darted around, finding only a few people looking their way, and hissed back, “Smith.”

“No need to be rude,” she told him in a hurt voice, “I was just curious.”

She turned in the forms and, ten minutes later, was called back. “Are you coming?”

“No thank you,” he muttered. The nurse, a familiar looking woman with black hair and a friendly smile, was waiting for her patiently at the edge of the area.

“I’m not going in there without you, James.”

James sighed and stood, following his wife to the woman, who held the clipboard with all of Jennifer’s information out in front of her as she led them down a semi-crowded hall.

“Mrs. Smith, is it?” The woman asked, and James had the feeling he knew the girl. He recognized her voice, and she couldn’t have been more than twenty. Much too young to be a healer.

“It’s Potter, actually. My husband’s famous and he’s –”

“Trying to be incognito?” the girl smiled, dazzling white teeth sparkled in the harsh lighting of the hospital. “Hello, James.”

James nearly halted in his tracks. He’d known that he knew the girl. He just couldn’t place her.

“How do you two know each other?” Jennifer asked the question for him as they turned a corner.

“We went to Hogwarts together. Same year; only I was a Hufflepuff and James was the Quidditch Captain of Gryffindor. They beat us for the cup our final year.”

“Kylie Richt!” James said suddenly, and the girl turned and smiled at him.

“You remember?”

“You were dating Connor Stevens seventh year and he was Keeper for Hufflepuff.”

“You scored ninety points on him in that game alone. He’s probably still nursing his bruised ego, the poor sod.” She held her arm out, directing them into the small examination room.

“Are you still dating him?” James couldn’t help but ask as he sat in the chair opposite the exam table.

“Heavens no! We broke up before end of school. I could not stand to see him moping anymore! But look at this! You got married!”

“That’s right,” Jennifer said, inserting herself back into the conversation. “And pregnant, too.”

“Lucky lady,” Kylie smiled and then turned back to her clipboard. James couldn’t help but wonder what that comment was all about. He hardly knew Kylie except for during fourth year when they were paired up in Potions for a term. It was odd how leaving school forced people to grow up. Here Kylie was a…

“Are you a Healer?” James wondered aloud.

“An intern, actually,” Kylie smiled as she rummaged through cupboards and pulled out a paper gown for Jennifer to wear. “I took some summer classes. Usually it would take twelve months to get to this point, but I did it in seven and have been interning here for a since just before Christmas. After another a year I’ll take my licensing test and, hopefully, become a resident, and then I can pick a specialty.”

“Any idea on what you want to do?” James was aware that he was completely ignoring Jennifer, but it was good to have a conversation with a woman and actually be interested in what she had to say.

“I’m thinking about obstetrics, but I’m not quite positive.”

Just then the door opened and a tall woman walked in, her dark hair in a fierce bun at the nape of her neck, her robes a glaring neon pink.

“I thought Healers wore green robes,” James muttered offhanded, earning himself a dirty look from the Healer, whose nametag read ‘Mia Jacobson’.

“Healers with a specialty wear robes the colour of their specialty,” Kylie whispered out of the corner of her mouth. “Gynaecology is pink – for obvious reason.”

James snorted with laughter, earning himself another glare from the healer.

“Hello, Mrs. –” she looked at the clipboard for a moment – “Smith. My name is Mia Jacobson and I’ll be taking care of you today. Can you tell me what the problem is?”

“Well,” Jennifer gulped slightly and James rolled his eyes. She never had trouble speaking and then should be no different. “I think I’m pregnant.”

“And did you have a positive home pregnancy test?” Healer Jacobson’s eyes met Jennifer’s and the latter looked away, as if she were a scolded child.

“No, ma’am. I don’t think those are very accurate.”

“Actually, Mrs. Smith, magical home pregnancy tests, when used correctly, are nearly one hundred percent accurate. For future reference. Now, Mr. Smith, if you could step outside, this should only take a moment. Kylie, if you will…”

Kylie led James into the corridor amidst Jennifer’s insistence that he should stay. He couldn’t wait to be out of there, and burst out laughing as soon as the door was closed. “Is that lady for real?” He burst.

“Afraid so,” Kylie laughed herself. “So, the great James Potter is married, eh? How’d she manage to snag you?” She was laughing, and curious, but she didn’t particularly seem happy. She was beautiful, that was for sure, and James couldn’t believe he’d missed her at school. He had been focused on Quidditch, though, and not failing his NEWTs.

“It was a mistake,” he was quick to assure her. “A stupid, drunken night in Vegas.”

“Ah, American. I knew I recognized the accent.” She nodded knowingly, looking away. “You know, James, I always had a crush on you.”

“You did?” He couldn’t believe it.

She bit her lip shyly, and he could tell that she hadn’t meant to share that little piece of information with him. “I did.” She looked away for a moment. “That was a long time ago, though.”

“Of course,” James hastily agreed.

“And you’re married now,” whether she realized it or not, she took a step closer to him.

“Right.” His gaze slid from her eyes to her lips.

“With a baby on the way.” That was like a jolt of lightning to both of them, and they each took a step back just as the door to the room opened. The clipboard was thrust into Kylie’s hands, and Healer Jacobson took off down the hall and rounded a corner.

“Rude,” James muttered under his breath and followed Kylie into the room. Jennifer sat on the edge of the table in her clothes, her head in her hands.

Kylie, who stood off to one side, gasped and nearly dropped the clipboard. James turned to her, and then to Jennifer, who’d looked up at the noise. Her eyes were filled with tears, and tear tracks ran down her face from where she’d already been crying.

“What’s going on?” He asked no one in particular. No one said anything. There was not a sound in the room but for breathing and the occasional shaky breath from Jennifer. Kylie stood staring open-mouthed at James’s wife. He suddenly got worried. “Jen?” he tried again, putting his hand on her shoulder.

“Oh, Jamesie,” she cried launching herself at him. He caught her body and held her close as her sobs shook her. She sat, crying against his chest, for what seemed like forever, before he pushed her away slightly, and brushed tears off her cheeks with the pads of his thumbs.

“Talk to me, Jen. What happened?” His heart lurched when he looked over and saw the anguished expression on Kylie’s face.

“I-I’m not p-pregnant.”

Breathing a sigh of relief probably would’ve been the wrong thing to do at the moment. Okay, so she was upset that he wasn’t in her clutches anymore. He was just about to suggest they head back to the house and discuss the plan to return her to America and get their marriage annulled when Healer Jacobson walked back in, pink cheeked and out of breath as if she’d run across the whole hospital.

“I’m sorry Mrs. Smith. Jennifer. I just spoke with Oncology. The earliest I could get you an appointment is tomorrow morning at eight a.m. They promised me if there was a cancellation they would floo you first.”

“Oncology?” James’s eyebrows knotted in confusion.

“Am I going to die?” Jennifer asked fearfully.

Healer Jacobson did not answer.

A/N: A huge thank you goes to a few reviewers for name suggestions that I loved but couldn’t use for the twins, so I used them in this chapter. Thanks to Sheena for the names ‘Connor’ and ‘Mia’, and thanks to Dani for the name ‘Kylie’. Also, Graylady, it’s not mentioned, but I pictured the witch at reception named ‘Giselle’.

Chapter title courtesy of Firenze Fan from the forums! Thanks!

Chapter 15: 15..Blissful Ignorance
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Defying Gravity
Chapter 15: Blissful Ignorance

When the final bell rang on Friday, Nat couldn’t have been happier. She had lasted an entire week without dropping from exhaustion. She left the greenhouses, ignoring the imposing eye of Professor Longbottom, clutching her robes to her chest. Albus strolled up the hill next to her, both his bag and her bag over his shoulders. It was hard enough for her to make it up the hill without being too winded without adding the weight of thick school books and pads of parchment into the mix.

Nat couldn’t believe the amount of work they’d been assigned in only the first few days of classes. She wasn’t particularly looking forward to taking her NEWTs – who would? They’re called ‘Nasty’ for a reason – and the amount of work for each class was mind boggling. Albus was being such a great sport for her, being extra attentive during class and taking careful notes while she dozed on the table, carrying her books from class to class, even the ones he wasn’t in – Muggle Studies and Care of Magical Creatures. He sat with her in the library before dinner and helped her write her essays, and they spent after dinner in the common room by the fire, continuing on homework, or just snuggling.

He’d been doing prefect rounds multiple times a week, which confused Nat. He never had to do them as much. She had been meaning to ask Rose about it as she did the prefects schedule. But it was nice of him to be picking up the slack. And it wasn’t as if it was taking away from her time with him.

Albus had been leaving the common room around seven o’clock, and Nat would go up to the dormitory and chat with Rose or Kate – who weren’t doing rounds nearly as often as Albus – and be asleep by eight-thirty. She’d been even more exhausted than normal since school had started and she was looking forward to the weekend, when she could sleep in as late as she wanted.

Rose and Scorpius caught up with Albus and Nat in the Entrance Hall and they climbed the Grand Staircase together towards the seventh floor. Nat was glad when the staircase they’d started climbing between the fourth and fifth floors suddenly started moving because it meant a reprieve from her hike.

She stopped as the staircase began its slow crawl towards another landing, her breathing ragged. She was getting annoyed at the inability to do any sort of exercise. Even climbing the stairs had become a chore for her. She got winded incredibly easy, and even going from dinner to the common room through the many secret passages of Hogwarts, she had to stop every so often to catch her breath. Of course Albus, who was always around her during the day, never seemed to mind. He’d often steal a kiss or three during these frequent breaks.

“Whoa,” she groaned, grabbing onto the railing as the stone staircase made a sudden lurch and swung quickly around.

“Shit,” Scorpius groaned as he was thrown against the railing and the book he was carrying, along with all of his notes, went flying over the railing and towards the floor below. “Look out!” he called, seeing a group of students in the path of the careening book.

There was a high pitched scream, a thud of a body hitting the floor, and then a smack as the book landed on the hard stone floor. The staircase finally came to a rest and the group of four made their way down the stairs to retrieve Scorpius’s book.

They arrived just in time to see a pissed-off looking Meghan Longbottom being helped to her feet by a girl who looked to be in the same year. Meghan brushed off non-existent dirt from her immaculately pressed robes, made sure each hair on her head was in its appropriate place, and then rounded on Scorpius.

“What the hell were you doing? Trying to kill me? I could have you arrested for attempted murder you son of a bitch!” she raged.

“Oh come off it,” Rose jumped in before Scorpius – whose grey eyes were flashing dangerously – could retort. “Stop being such a cow, Meghan. It was an accident. Get over it.”

Meghan was about to reply when she caught sight of Albus and Nat standing off to the side and holding hands. Nat leaned in to him slightly, still a bit woozy from the wayward staircase. Meghan’s hazel eyes caught Albus’s green and she smiled flirtatiously at him.

“Hey, Al,” she waved with a little twiddle of her fingers.

“Hey, Meg,” Albus smiled politely, sharing her stare for a moment. Then he squeezed Nat’s fingers and looked towards his friend and cousin. They were both looking at him with an odd look and he subtly shrugged. “You guys ready?”

Obviously not liking being snubbed, Meghan called after their retreating backs, “See you for rounds tomorrow night.”

Albus felt Nat stiffen beside him, and squeezed her fingers telling her that they were not having that conversation in the middle of a crowded corridor. They followed along behind Rose and Scorpius, back up the staircase they had been on previously, and continued on to the common room.

As they walked, Albus rubbed his thumb along Nat’s hand where they were joined, but he couldn’t help but notice her hand had slackened. He groaned inwardly. He could have just killed Meghan right then. That would solve all of his problems.

Rose gave the Fat Lady the password and the four entered a crowded common room. There was a banner over the fireplace that read ‘Welcome Back’ in scarlet and gold letters and a group of fifth years were hanging decorations.

“Party tonight in the common room for fifth years and up,” Rose read off of the announcement board as they passed.

“Means there’ll be alcohol,” Scorpius said as if they didn’t know that. Even if Professor Longbottom didn’t know it when he approved “fifth-year-and-up parties,” there was always alcohol.

Albus dropped his and Nat’s school bags by their favourite sofa by the fireplace and dragged Nat towards the boys’ dorms. He led her up the stairs to the seventh year dormitory, hoping that at that time of day it’d be empty.

It wasn’t. Arnie stood in front of an open wardrobe in only a pair of trousers. His chest was bare and Nat couldn’t help but grin. Who knew Arnold Longbottom was hiding that under his clothes?

“Erm, Arnie?” Albus asked, getting slightly annoyed that his girlfriend was ogling one of his best friends.

“Al!” Arnie jumped a foot in the air, obviously not expecting to be interrupted. “Erm, I was just, er, well…you know, changing…detention tonight…in the dungeons…erm, don’t want to get…er…”

“Dirty?” Nat offered and Arnie jumped again. He let out a loud scream and grabbed the closest shirt to him, quickly covering his chest. Nat smiled at his timidity.

“Nat!” He yelled, and the couple winced.

“We’re just going to talk. On my bed, okay? We’ll leave you alone.” Albus took Nat – who gave Arnie a little wave goodbye – by the wrist and led her to his bed. He drew the curtains around them and cast an imperturbable around the bed so they wouldn’t be interrupted or overheard.

“He does not have detention,” Nat said, a small smile on her face. “Arnie doesn’t get detention. I bet he’s got a girlfriend. He’s probably got a date.”

Albus cleared his throat.

“I mean, who wears their nicest trousers for detention in the dungeons? And did you see his shiny shoes? He’s dressed to impress! That’s why he was just standing there! He was trying to pick out a shirt!”

Albus cleared his throat again, a turned her head towards his by tilting her chin.

“I could help him! He looks like he needs some help. Poor Arnie; he must be so nervous!”

“Nat!” Albus stopped himself from jumping on her to keep her from leaving their private space as she had moved to do.

“What?” she asked, putting on her best innocent face so Albus would ignore the fact that she was trying to dodge the topic they were there to discuss.

“Don’t you want to ask me something?” She gave him a blank look. “About rounds?” he clarified.

Nat shrugged and looked at the quilt on the bed. It was scarlet with gold thread. His initials were stitched into one of the corners, she knew, because it was the same with the girls’ quilts. She lay face down on the bed and tugged at one corner hoping to find his initials. She found them on her first try and ran her finger over the ‘A’. She sighed loudly and moved on to ‘S’. She felt Albus move to lie down next to her as she traced ‘P’.

“It doesn’t bother me,” she said finally, turning to face Albus. They were nearly nose to nose on the small bed meant for one. “I trust you, Al.”

She quickly leaned forward and pressed her lips to his, meaning to give him a short kiss. But they hadn’t been alone in quite a while and before she knew it he was shirtless and her shirt was open, exposing a pale pink lacy bra. Albus groaned, trailing his lips down her neck.

His hand slid up her body to cup her breast. If he’d been paying more attention, he would’ve noticed the hiss she let out between her teeth. And when he squeezed her gently, he would’ve noticed her body tense up and her face screw up in pain. If he’d been paying more attention, that is.

But he was a male who hadn’t been laid in a while and he wasn’t paying much attention to anything other than what he was feeling. But then she pushed him off of her a bit and he looked into her crystal eyes and saw pain and instantly felt terrible.

“Oh my gosh, did I hurt you?” He was quick to ask, sitting up quickly and, consequently, dragging her with him.

“Only a little,” she whispered, pulling her shirt closed around her. “I’m just kind of…sore…around there. I’m sorry,” her eyes welled up with tears but she fought them down. “I don’t mean to be a tease, I swear it!”

Albus leaned forward and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “It’s okay, Love,” he told her truthfully.

“Can you just hold me for a bit?”

He nodded and fell backwards on the bed, causing the bed, and Nat, to bounce a couple of times. She laughed and then lay down next to him, resting her head on his chest as he wrapped his arm loosely around her back. They lay in silence for a while. Nat made a mental list of everything she needed to get done over the weekend, getting tired just thinking about it. Albus’s eyes widened, remembering something he’d read in the baby book his mum had gotten him.

“This, um, situation…you not wanting to be intimate…it doesn’t last the whole time, right?”

James sat at the kitchen table of his family home, a forgotten cup of tea in front of him. Jennifer, dressed in oversized pyjamas, sat in the chair next to his, her knees drawn to her chest. Tears leaked out of her eyes. She’d been crying so much lately that James was surprised she hadn’t shrivelled up from lack of hydration.

That was his mother’s doing. Of course Ginny couldn’t have lasted ten minutes with the two of them after their appointment without knowing something was wrong. James finally broke down and told her of the secrets he’d been hiding from her.

She was upset, that goes without saying. Because she’s Ginny, a temperamental redhead that speaks before she thinks. She was furious when she found out that the couple had suspected a pregnancy since Christmas Eve.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” She screeched at her son and then yelled at him for trying to answer her question, thus proving his point. Harry sat beside him, getting his share of reaming for keeping it from his wife. The whole time he sat with his head in his hands. It must’ve been the guilt of lying to his wife.

But that was two days ago and now Jennifer and James sat in the kitchen awaiting an important owl. Jennifer’d had an appointment with Healer Shru, an Oncological Healer, a healer who diagnoses and treats cancer patients. Healer Jacobson had found a large mass while doing Jennifer’s pelvic exam and she feared it could be cancerous so she referred Jennifer to Healer Shru.

Healer Shru was a nice looking thirty-something who was very polite and answered all of James’s and Jennifer’s questions, though they only had a few. She did another pelvic exam, this time taking a piece of the potential tumour for testing. Healer Shru said that the lab worked slowly, but she’d try to have the results to the couple by the end of the day.

It was either that or wait the whole weekend.

So they sat, waiting. It was only four in the afternoon. Harry and Ginny were both still at work. And the couple sat in complete silence.

The guilt James was feeling was eating away at him. There he was, wishing and hoping for Jennifer not to be carrying his child so he could dump her and not worry about it. Then, as it turns out, she could very well be dying. He had prayed for the ability to dump a dying woman. That was low, even for James.

The fireplace glowed green for a second, and in that time James shot straight up, felt Jennifer go tense beside him, and then relaxed. It was only his father coming home early from work. Boy did he look like shit.

His hair was messier than usual, probably the result of him running his hands through it too often, there were dark circles under his eyes, and the expression of pain permanently etched on his face. He walked past them as if he hadn’t even seen them, dropping his bag on the chair and heading straight for the stairs. That was odd, James thought.

There was a ‘crack’ from an apparition outside and a few seconds later the door opened and James’s mum stalked in. Her eyes were wild and she looked back and forth around the room.

“Have you seen your father?” Ginny demanded, her eyes finally resting on James. James, a bit taken back by the tone his mum used, nodded his head in the direction of the staircase. There was some stomping, and then a few seconds later a door slammed closed.

“Wonder what that was all about.”

Jennifer’s voice was soft, almost child-like, and she looked like a little girl all curled up on the chair. James sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He shrugged in answer to her question and then levelled his gaze with the floor.

He couldn’t look at her. It was just too painful. To think of all of the horrible things he had planned on saying to the poor girl. And here she was, probably dying right in front of him, her life slowly slipping away.

There was another sound of apparition outside the door and James bitterly thought about what family member it would be this time and what he could do to them. But then, instead of the door swinging open and a person walking inside, there was a short tap on the glass. Befuddled, James stood and walked to the door. Through the glass, James saw a tall woman with glasses and a rather large hat covering her ears.

“Oh no,” Jennifer groaned from directly behind him upon the realization that it was, in fact, Healer Shru.

James opened the door and allowed the Healer to enter. He sat her down, fixed her a cup of tea, and then slid into the seat beside Jennifer and they waited. The healer looked no worse for the ware, albeit a tad cold, but she wasn’t smiling. You’d think if she were about to tell someone they were cancer free she’d at least smile a little. Maybe she was just trying to be suspenseful.

But then, the words out of her mouth were anything to smile about. Though, they did confuse James a bit.

“I’m sorry, Jennifer.”

Arnold Longbottom tip-toed into a deserted classroom on the fifth floor and shut the door behind him. He had been mortified at one point already in the night, and it was only eight o’clock. Just after dinner he’d gotten ‘the nod’ and rushed up to the fifth floor to their rendezvous point.

It had been less than a month, and yet he was smitten. He couldn’t tell her that, though. He’d scare her off. Although she had approached him. It was quite a surprise, he’d admit, but a good one. Who would have thought she’d be interested in him?

There was a slight rap on the door and then it opened a crack. “Arnie?” she whispered, her voice velvety soft against his ears.

“Mhmm,” the noise came from the back of his throat, and he cleared it quickly, but she was already stepping into the room and closing the door behind her. She whispered a locking spell and then crossed the room to him.

He was leaning against the teacher’s desk at the front of the room and she hopped up next to him. She turned her head, as did he, and then he was kissing her. Her lips were painted with cherry lip gloss, the sweet yet bitter taste sending shockwaves to places that had yet to be explored by a member of the opposite sex.

They had been doing this for a while, meeting in secret, that is. He couldn’t get up the nerve to ask her to be his girlfriend, and she seemed to be content with the way things were.

She cupped the back of his head, pressing herself closer to him. Somehow he ended up sitting upright on the desk, her straddling his lap. She played with the hairs at the nape of his neck and his arms, which were around her waist, inadvertently squeezed her closer to him. She was pressed flush against his body, and could feel every inch of him. His hardness pressed against her thigh and she sat back.

He blushed crimson and stood up, dumping her unceremoniously on the floor. It had happened with they were snogging before. It was a natural response when kissing such a pretty girl, but she had never actually noticed before and he wished he could have kept it that way.

“Arnie…” she crawled forward on her knees, reaching for his hand.

“I’m sorry!” he burst out, dropping to the floor next to him.

“It’s okay, it happens to everyone,” she told him soothingly, and he felt like such a geek that, in all honesty, it had never happened to him before. He had never been close enough to a girl for it to have happened.

“Have you,” she started and then paused, looking down at the ground. She turned to sit next to him, their backs pressed against the back of the desk. “Have you ever been this far?”

“W-with a girl, you mean?” He asked her, his voice shaking slightly from embarrassment.

“No, silly. With a boy. Yes, with a girl!” She pressed a kiss to his cheek as if to tell him that it was okay and that he shouldn’t be embarrassed.

“Only with you,” he whispered, suddenly feeling mortified. Here he was, a seventh year and the most he’d ever done with a girl was a bit of kissing. He hadn’t even gotten to second base, if he was being honest.

“And how do you feel about me, Arnold?” She took his hand in his and rubbed circles on his palm with her thumb in a soothing sort of way.

“I like you…I like you a lot.”

She leaned forward and pressed a kiss to his lips. “I like you, too.” Her tongue snaked out of her mouth and caressed his lip, and he shrieked. Not from her tongue, but because her hand had travelled its way across his lap to rest on the front of his jeans.

She pulled her hand away as if she had been burned, but recovered quickly. Just as Arnie was about to suggest they stop, she leaned forward, tugged at the edges of her jumper, and pulled that over her head. She turned sideways facing him, her knee brushing the edge of the desk.

Arnie stared at her exposed flesh hungrily. He had never seen a girl in her bra, not even his sister, of which he was thankful. But looking at her, her creamy flesh, the lacy cups hiding her –

He was startled when she reached forward and touched the clasp on his trousers. He jumped, his head banged against the desk, and it was all he could do not to push her hand away. He was breathing heavy with anticipation as she flicked the button open lowered the zipper.

“You don’t have to do this,” he whispered, but it was already too late. He was unable to believe that this was happening to him. Him, of all people. He was sure that his dorm mates had experienced this particular feeling, in fact he had been an audible witness to this fact, but he never dreamt someone would be willing to do it to him.

He could feel the pressure rising in him, a pleasure he had never felt before, and it had only been thirty seconds! And five seconds later, he let a loud, “Lily!” and slumped against the desk.

Rose climbed the stairs to the boys’ dormitory. Well, more accurately, she heaved up the stairs to the boys’ dormitory. With two school bags full of books and parchment, quills and ink pots, she was getting quite the work out.

Of course it would be those two, Albus and Nat, to leave their things just lying around. So caught up in themselves, they were. No, she shook her head, that’s not fair to them. They are pregnant. They are having babies. More than one. She shook her head again, her annoyance growing. They needed time to themselves, she realized, but they had been up there for long enough. She didn’t much care if she walked in on them shagging.

She finally made it to the dorm which, in all actuality, wasn’t that far, it just seemed that way from lugging all that weight in books. She pushed the door open and saw Albus and Nat cuddled together on his bed.

“Awe,” she sighed. They made such a cute couple. It was some actions done recently that Rose didn’t much understand. They were perfect for each other! Then why…

No, she wasn’t going to think about it. As much as it pained her not to get involved, she had to be neutral. How do you choose between your best friend and your family? You can’t. You just can’t. And even if she were able, she didn’t know who she’d choose.

So she was staying neutral.

She dropped the bags on the end of the bed, inadvertently dropping one on Albus’s foot. He shot up in the bed, cursing up a storm with words that would make his mother blush – or beat him over the head with a broom handle. That, in turn, woke Nat up. She sat up, rubbing her eyes, while Albus howled about his broken toes.

“Oh shut up, you big baby,” Rose bit out, turning on her heel to walk away. As she got to the door she turned around and found Nat massaging Albus’s foot as they kissed on the bed. Awe, how cute. See? The perfect couple. Then why…

Nope. Not going there.

“Party in the common room, guys. You missed dinner, but there’s plenty of food.”

She wasn’t quite sure they even heard her. At that moment they only had eyes for each other. She left the room, shutting the door behind her, but not before whispering softly,

“Glad you guys are back to normal.”

A/N: Edited for content 12/16/08 

Chapter 16: 16..Full of Hope
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Defying Gravity
Chapter 16: Full of Hope

Ten minutes after Rose had left Nat and Albus alone in the boys’ dormitory to join the party, Albus and Nat strolled down the steps and into the common room, hand-in-hand. They found their seventh year friends and joined them by the fire.

Nat was surprised at how many students from other houses were at the party. Students from each of the other three houses were represented including, much to her dismay, Meghan Longbottom and a gaggle of her friends. They were grouped with three of the sixth year girls from Gryffindor. And because it was Meghan, her skirt was impossibly short and showed off smooth, toned thigh, her top was low cut giving view to her ample cleavage, and her makeup was flawless. She looked years older than she actually was.

And this was Professor Longbottom’s daughter?

Nerdy Professor Longbottom who wore suspenders under his robes to hold up his pants and thought no one knew. Boring Professor Longbottom who could go on and on about his precious plants but ask him to do a hovering charm, or a locator spell, and he would instantly get flustered and embarrassed.

How had he managed to produce such a social butterfly?

It didn’t seem like Albus was really all that bothered by Meghan’s presence, so Nat decided she would act nonchalant about it, too. She curled up next to Albus on a small sofa next to the fire, tucking her feet up under her, as her friends all talked and laughed around her.

Albus laughed at something someone said, and the sound reverberated through his chest where her head lay. She was glad that he was back to normal, don’t get her wrong; but what she didn’t understand was why.

What had caused the sudden change in his demeanour? One minute he was sullen and cross and not speaking much, and then after New Years he was happy and laughing again, he smiled more often. He touched her stomach without grimacing.

She knew he probably didn’t mean to, and that he didn’t think she noticed, but every time he’d look at or feel her lower abdomen, he would get this uncomfortable expression of terror on his face. And she hated it. She was glad it was gone, really.

She just couldn’t understand the reason for its disappearance.

Determined to let it go, to do like Rose said and let him deal with his inner turmoil in his own way no matter how crazy Nat thought it to be, she decided she would get herself some Pumpkin Juice.

On her way she caught sight of Hugo sitting in the corner in what was becoming his normal sulky way: slumped against the wall, his head down, his arms surrounding his head. Nat bit her lip and looked over to where Meghan was edging her group of friends toward Albus and the other seventh years; then she looked back at Hugo and felt saddened. She nodded firmly, picking up two cups of Pumpkin Juice and headed towards the fifth year. Albus could take care of himself, and she trusted him. She was carrying his children, after all.

She sat down next to Hugo, her skirt swishing around her, reminding her she had yet to change out of her school uniform. Nat elbowed Hugo in the arm. He didn’t respond. So she did it again, and again, until finally his head snapped up in annoyance.

Moody teenagers!

She smiled widely and held up the cup of juice. Hugo eyed it suspiciously for a moment before his gaze slid to hers. She felt like she was looking hopeful, if a bit sheepish, and he reluctantly took the cup.

They sipped in silence for a moment. During this time she had the sudden realization that she couldn’t see Albus from there. Then she reminded herself that it was alright, that she trusted him, that he was fine.

“You want to talk about the ring, don’t you?” she barely made out Hugo’s whisper, but even if she hadn’t heard it, she noticed when he held up his bare left hand.

“Only if you want to,” she told him back, bringing the red plastic cup to her lips and averting her eyes while drinking.

“Not here,” he told her firmly and she looked towards him. He had a frown on his face, and he was looking down, but he looked a bit optimistic which was a start. “Can we go for a walk?”

“Of course we can!” She jumped up, as well as one could in her condition (though she wasn’t showing that much), and offered her hand to Hugo. He took it and she helped him to his feet.

“That’s supposed to go the other way, you know. I’m supposed to help you up.”

“I don’t mind.”

“I just wanted you to know that my mum raised me right,” he refused to meet her gaze.

“I know, Hugo, I have met your mother before. It’s not as if she’d accept anything less.”

She followed him to the portrait hole, catching Rose’s eye from across the Common Room and gesturing with a nod of her head that she was leaving with him. Rose nodded and returned to her conversation with Bryce and Emileigh.

Nat stole a glance to where Albus had been sitting to find him gone from the sofa. She sighed, hoping against hope that he had made a trip to the loo. She didn’t see Meghan or her gaggle of friends and was hoping that she had left for her own Common Room.

The castle was dark and drafty and Hugo led Nat to a small alcove just away from the Fat Lady’s portrait. He leaned back against the wall, a dejected look on his face, a frown tugging at his lips. Nat leaned against the wall, too, crossing her stocking-clad legs and resting the side of her head against the frigid stones.

“Are you going to tell me what happened with Mattie?”

Hugo was silent for a moment, his frown deepening, his eyes cast down at the floor. His usually bright blue eyes were a darker, sullener blue that reminded Nat of the ocean. He turned suddenly, only leaning one shoulder against the wall, mimicking Nat’s stance, but facing her.

“When…when Mattie gave me that ring for Christmas…I just…I don’t know, I felt sort of trapped. I am fifteen years old and here’s this girl – don’t get me wrong she’s awesome…smart, funny beautiful… - but here’s this girl who’s also fifteen who I just practically promised to marry.” Nat nodded slightly, trying to take in everything that Hugo was saying though he was speaking quite fast. She could tell that this was the first time he’d talked about what happened and all of the emotions that he had been feeling for the past week at least were all coming out at that one moment.

“ – promised to stay a virgin. Why would she think I was a virgin to begin with? Am I perceived as that much of a loser that people just assume that I’ve never gotten laid? I know third years that’ve done it. It’s sad, I know,” he stopped to mention because of the look on her face, “and I don’t condone that kind of behaviour. But…I just don’t understand…”

“Hugo,” she said after he finished his tirade and looked down at her. “You are a great guy. You are funny and smart,” Nat felt awkward saying this because she didn’t really know him all that well, “and you don’t seem like the kind of person who would just sleep with a girl just to do it. You’re the kind of guy who waits until he’s in love, and then treats the girl with the respect and dignity that she deserves. You don’t do things on a whim.”

“That’s just it!” he exploded, shocking Nat, who jumped away from the wall and back a step. Hugo, in his outburst, had left the wall and began angry pacing back and forth in the alcove. “How do you know I’m that guy? Just because I don’t openly flirt with girls or make passes at them doesn’t mean that I don’t! It doesn’t mean that I’m a virgin! And when I told Mattie this she called me a hypocrite and a pig, demanded I give her the ring back, and then broke up with me!”

“Hugo,” said Nat tentatively. He stopped pacing and turned to her. They were standing less than a foot apart, but he seemed to fill the whole alcove. He didn’t look like Hugo, Rose’s dorky little brother the Quidditch star; he looked like a man – yes a man – with a mission. She was almost afraid to ask her next question. “Are you a virgin?”

“Yes,” he whispered, and if the music from the party had been a little louder she wouldn’t even have heard him. “But,” he continued, taking a step closer to her. She took a step back effectively trapping herself against the wall. “I don’t want to be one anymore.”

Then, in one quick motion, he closed the distance between them and sealed his lips over hers.

James closed the door behind Healer Shru and leaned his forehead against the cold wood. He had offered to let Healer Shru floo back to the hospital rather than apparating and then having to go through the multiple checkpoints, but she had another stop to make before heading back.

He couldn’t face her, so he was putting it off. He didn’t want to see the tears, the fear, the lost look on her face that comes with finding out you were about to die. He had never been in that situation before, and he wished he weren’t in it right now. Though he wasn’t in love with Jennifer, he sincerely felt for the woman.

She would want to talk and he really wouldn’t know what to say. What was he supposed to do? Keep up the façade that was their marriage until she died and then introduce himself as James Potter, Widower? That wasn’t necessarily fair to Jennifer.

She thought James loved her, and in some sort of weird way he probably did. Not as a wife, but as a friend, a person.

A person who was dying and had no one.

From what she had told him, her parents weren’t very accepting of most of her lifestyle choices throughout her schooling and had pretty much disowned her after she graduated from the Salem Witch Academy. She was an only child; her only friends were her fellow dancers.

And the worst part? She had no money for her medical bills. The prognosis was simple: they could keep her comfortable but the Endometrial Cancer (cancer of the uterus; he had to ask, too) had spread to her kidneys, lower intestines, and colon, and there was nothing else they could do. But still, even the “keeping her comfortable” part would be incredibly expensive.

For James that pretty much settled it. He had taken a vow to take care of her, to love her, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. He refused to lie to her anymore – she deserved at least that – but he would take care of her. Plain and simple.

James turned on his heel, ready to proclaim that very idea, but the kitchen behind him was empty.

Rose stood from the chair she’d been sitting in and walked nonchalantly towards to table that held the drinks. She picked up the bottle of whiskey and poured herself a shots worth into a paper cup. She turned and faced the common room, taking in the party around her.

There were a group of students in the corner crowded in a suspicious looking circle, huddled together. Rose felt the Head Girl in her want to march over there and bust whatever ‘party’ was going on.

Instead, she continued her sweep of the large room in front of her. A group of students were dancing, there were people eating a talking, Scorpius was bent over in laughter with Bryce and Emileigh. Albus was nowhere to be found.

Then she saw him descending the steps to the boys’ dormitories and join Scorpius by the fire. She fixed her gaze on the staircase, waiting. And waiting.

A sudden movement caught her eye and she turned slightly, seeing Nat had come into the common room via the portrait hole, her face bright red. She had a weird look on her face and Rose grew concerned immediately.

“Nat?” she asked as her best friend approached her.

Nat didn’t seem to hear her and continued right on past, up the stairs to their dorm room. She frowned, returning her gaze to the staircase. Out of the corner of her eye she saw her brother enter the common room, his steps slow and careful. His face looked red as well. He moved to walk past her, as if he didn’t see her at all, and she grabbed his wrist to stop him.

“What the hell?” He turned to her, his blue eyes blazing angrily. Rose caught sight of redness around his right eye, the upper and lower lid beginning to become a puffy mass, and her own anger spiked.

“Who the hell did this to you?” She gripped his chin roughly between her thumb and forefinger and tilted his head back and sideways towards the light of the torch near her head.

“Don’t worry about it,” he grumbled, jerking his chin out of her hand and turning to walk away. Unable to just let it go – as per Rose’s personality – she grabbed his arm and pulled him roughly back to her. “What the fuck, Rose?” He spat, catching the attention of students near them.

“I’m Head Girl, Hugo. Tell me who did this to you so I can take points, give detention, something. Students can’t just go around punching each other. It’s not right.”

“Yeah?” he frowned, which was disconcerting to her. “You should see the other guy.”

She recoiled slightly; she was nearly ready to send an owl to her mother. Hermione would never condone fighting and would force Hugo to rat the other guy out. And then, her mother would come down to the school and make sure the proper punishment was given.

“You don’t mean that,” she said in a low voice, aware that a majority of the people in the Common Room were looking their way.

“No?” He fixed her with a look, daring her to respond, and then turned and walked away, back out the portrait hole.

“Hey!” she called after him. “It’s after curfew!”

“So?” he called back just before the portrait slammed shut.

She glared at the hole in the wall he’d just disappeared into, the paper cup crumpling in her fist before falling to the floor. Then, seeming to realize she had captured the attention of forty or so people, she turned and spat, “What are you looking at?” before stomping up the girls’ staircase.

Not only had she not been able to take any house points from anyone, she’d missed the sight she knew she would see but didn’t want to. Meghan had been in the corner giggling with her friends when Hugo left and, for the life of her, Rose could not remember seeing her re-enter the Common Room.

She stomped into the room to find Nat struggling to button the tab on her jeans. The blond let out a frustrated cry and then fell back onto her bed.

“Wow, Nat. From this angle your boobs look huge!” She meant it as a compliment, but the bite in her tone from her anger at Hugo made it sound angry.

Nat sat up and looked towards her friend, and for the first time Rose realized that Nat was crying. Tears streamed down her face, and Rose fought the anger rising in her. Nat had found out; that had to be it. What else would make her cry like that?

“Nat? What’s wrong, sweetie?” Rose asked just in case she hadn’t found out. She would hate to rat out Albus.

“It’s nothing. Just hormones.” Nat brushed her tears away and stood, sliding the jeans back down her legs and tugging on a pair of comfy sweats. Rose raised an eyebrow. Nat would never refer to her hormonal imbalance. She got pissed every time anyone else did!

“Nat?” She fixed Nat with her ‘bossy’ gaze and Nat sighed. She climbed back up onto the bed and cross her legs, resting her elbows on her knees. With her growing belly, soon she wouldn’t be able to sit like that. Rose sat down next to Nat, Rose’s own jean-clad legs dangling off the edge, and turned to look at Nat.

“Well…um…I…er…well…” she refused to meet Rose’s gaze and instantly Rose knew her worst fears had come true.

“I’m sure he didn’t mean it, Nat,” Rose insisted before Nat could utter a multi-syllable word.

“You know?” Nat’s voice went up an octave from her usual pitch. Rose was surprised that Nat wasn’t bawling her eyes out at that moment in time. If Scorpius was cheating on her, Rose knew she would be throwing a bitch fit.


“He told you?” Nat couldn’t believe that Hugo would have blurted it out like that. Not after she’d decked him good and threatened him with an immense amount of pain if he told anyone. Now she’d have to hurt him.

“Not exactly…I kind of…witnessed it.” Rose bit her lip and looked away, ashamed. Now she would have to admit to Nat that she had known for two weeks and not told her. Nat would hate her just as much as she hated Albus at this point.

“You were there? But you were here!”

“What? I was in London for Christmas, you know that! Wait! What are you talking about?” Confusion etched Rose’s face. This was getting weird.

Just as Nat was about to speak, the door opened and Lily burst in, a wide smile on her face. The apples of her cheeks were tinted pink, her red hair in crinkly curls cascading down her back. Her shirt was crooked and, if either of the older girls had been paying attention they would have noticed a large love bite on the side of her neck.

“What are you guys talking about? I have something to tell you. I’ve been dying to tell you but I couldn’t tell you but now I can tell you and I want to tell you so bad. Can I tell you? Can I? Can I? Can I?”

“Lily!” Rose cried suddenly, breaking Lily from her speed-talking rant. “We were kind of in the middle of something here.”

“Sorry,” Lily’s eyes widened at the dried tears on Nat’s face. “What’s wrong?”

“I kissed Hugo!” Nat cried suddenly, and then covered her mouth with both hands. Her eyes were round and becoming misty.

“You what?” Lily and Rose simultaneously yelled. Rose jumped off the bed and rounded on Nat.

“You kissed my brother? Why in the hell would you do that?”

“You cheated on my brother!” Lily’s face was increasingly becoming a bright shade of angry red.

“I didn’t! H-he kissed me! I didn’t kiss him, that’s not what I meant! Hugo kissed me! We were just talking about Mattie and he…he leaned in…he was talking all crazy…” Nat’s breathing increased, and she felt light headed for a second. She moved to the edge of the bed and sat, trying to get oxygen into her lungs.

Rose, noticing her best friend’s distress, quickly leaned over and pushed the blonde’s head between her legs. “Slowly, through your nose, sweetie.”

Rose and Lily sat and watched while Nat took deep breaths into her lungs. As soon as her breathing was regular again, Rose let go of the back of her neck and Nat sat up straight, her hands on her knees.

“I have to tell Albus,” Nat said suddenly, turning to look at her best friend and boyfriend’s little sister. “I mean, I…he kissed me and I…I just…”

“Nat,” said Rose, hoping to calm her friend before she became too excited, “you absolutely cannot tell Albus.”

“What?” Lily gasped from her spot at the end of the bed, hip cocked, arms crossed. Rose was reminded of her Aunt Ginny when looking at Lily. Lily’s face was still blotchy and red from anger, causing her freckles to stand out.

“She can’t tell Al!” Rose reiterated for her cousin.

“And just why the hell not?”

“Is that a hickey?”

Lily spluttered for a second before, “That’s not the point right now!”

“She can’t tell Al because you know what he would do to Hugo. She doesn’t want to cause a rift between family members, right?” Rose realized that this could potentially work out well for her. “It was only a kiss. And she punched Hugo out, I’m guessing?”

“How’d you know that? How do you know everything?” Nat’s eyebrows rose.

“My keen sixth sense,” Rose replied smoothly. “Point is you can’t tell Al.”

“I don’t feel comfortable keeping this from him. I mean, I cheated…”

“No you didn’t! It was just a kiss!” Rose insisted. Both Nat and Lily looked sceptical still, but then Rose changed the subject. “What did you want to tell us, Lils?”

Lily’s eyes lit up, and she jumped up and down quickly, clapping her hands. “I had sex!”

“With who?” Rose and Nat shouted at the same time.


“Longbottom?” Again, in unison.

“Duh,” Lily answered. “How many ‘Arnie’s do you know in this school?”

“So, wait, you had sex, sex, with Arnold Longbottom? I didn’t know the bloke had it in him!” Lily slid onto Nat’s bed near the two and Rose pointed to the hickey. “I definitely didn’t know he had that in him.”

“How’d it happen?” Nat wondered aloud. “I didn’t even know you guys were dating!”

“We wanted to keep it a secret from my brothers,” Lily explained. “Albus would probably have a problem with it, seeing as Arnie’s his roommate and all.”

“Not to mention a close family friend,” Rose reminded her.

“Right,” Lily agreed.

“So you had sex with Arnie Longbottom?” Nat asked and she and Rose commenced staring at Lily.

“Well,” Lily sighed, looking away for a second. “It was sex. Not, like, sex sex, though.”

“Oh. So…” Rose made a nodding movement with her head.

“Yeah,” Lily seemed to get her meaning and answered.

“You or him?” Nat wondered.

“Me to him.” Then she paused, a smile crossing her face. “Then him to me.”

Rose sighed as the other two girls continued to giggle over Lily’s experience. She couldn’t help but think of what a close call she had just had with Nat. Rose had almost told her. That could’ve been disastrous. But it needed to be said. Nat didn’t deserve to have such guilt over a little kiss from Hugo she didn’t even want when Albus was going around snogging Meghan Longbottom whenever he wanted.

Rose looked over to Nat. She was smiling at the moment. But Rose knew her. The guilt would start eating away at her and eventually she would tell Albus. Rose needed to make sure that Nat had full disclosure before that point came.

Now she just had to figure out how to tell her.

A/N: edited for content 12/16/08

Chapter 17: 17..Skip a Beat
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Defying Gravity
Chapter 17: Skip a Beat

James, in his rush to find Jennifer, nearly ploughed his mother down as she exited the spare bedroom with a stack of linen napkins in her arms. He spun quickly and caught her around the waist, helping her stand upright.

“James!” Ginny gasped, pressing her free hand to her chest while clutching the napkins tightly to her body. “What the bloody hell is wrong with you?”

“Have you seen Jennifer?” He shifted, antsy, from foot to foot. He had to find her. He had to tell her. James remembered that his parents didn’t know about Jennifer’s most recent diagnosis when his mother’s eyebrows knitted together in concern.

“Is she alright? Did you hear from that special Healer you took her to?” James nodded and looked at the floor as the flood of emotions came roaring back. Ginny could tell that James didn’t love that woman; he was her son! But she had raised him to be caring and compassionate, so she knew that this must be killing him inside.

“Yeah,” James whispered, his head raised and eyes rested on his mother’s brown ones. He felt like a little boy wanting his mummy. “Oh, mum,” he sighed and was tugged into her embrace. She was a lot shorter than him, petite, and he had to bend and manoeuvre just to receive a proper hug from her.

“James, what are you going to do?” Ginny’s tears shone in her eyes. She hadn’t particularly liked the woman, especially knowing that her son wasn’t in love with her either, but that didn’t mean she wished her harm.

“Mum, she’s going to die.” Ginny gasped and took a step back, bringing her hand to her mouth.

“But, there-” Ginny stopped, a sudden single tear fell down her cheek. “But there must be something…they have to do something…we’re wizards for Merlin’s sake! How can there be nothing…”

“Mum.” This time James wrapped his arms around his mother, holding her close as she cried into his chest. Ginny had always been a compassionate person, even though she might not always show it, and truly felt for Jennifer.

It took him ten minutes to send his mum on her way, towards the master bedroom to tell Harry – who had taken off work early complaining of a headache – the news. James took this opportunity to continue his search for Jennifer.

He found her in his childhood room, sitting cross legged on the bed, staring straight at the wall. Well, what did he expect? She just found out she was going to die, after all. Her brownish-blonde hair had been tied up tightly at her head, and her comfy sweats were hanging off her already thin frame.

“Jen,” James whispered, closing the heavy door behind him. Jennifer looked up and James saw the tears shining in her eyes. He sat on the bed next to her.

“Hey,” she whispered when the bed dipped beneath his weight. “Sorry I just ran off. I kind of got freaked.”

He bent his head and kissed her cloth-covered shoulder. He wrapped his arm around her back and pulled her against him. She snuggled into the embrace, and for the second time that night, James allowed a woman to cry against his chest.

Eventually she cried herself to sleep. James laid her against the pillows and covered her with his Gryffindor quilt – it has his initials stitched into the corners. He stood from the bed, careful not to jostle her awake, and crossed to the en suite bathroom. He showered quickly and redressed in his pyjamas.

Walking back into the room, James noticed a mountain of paperwork beckoning from his desk. It seemed his Quidditch contract needed revising – as he was only signed for a partial-season trial period. Also, his solicitor had sent him numerous endorsement deals he need to review.

On the bottom of the stack of parchments he found a folded note with familiar enough scratchy scrawl on the front. He recognized it as soon as he opened the letter. It was from Rose.

“Marauder’s Map, huh?” he shook his head. No way was he going to contribute to the delinquency of a barely-of-age witch. Not again.

James crumpled the letter up into a ball and tossed it in the general direction of the bin. When he turned, he noticed Jennifer’s piercing brown eyes staring back at him. She smiled faintly, and then sat up.

“Hello, sleepy head.”

She pushed the quilt off of her body and scooted to the side of the bed closest to James. She tucked her hands underneath her legs and leaned forward slightly.

“James, we need to talk.”

“Okay,” said James, a hint of confusion in his voice. He’d wanted to talk when he first went up there, but now that it was at her request he wasn’t so sure it was a good idea. He was going to say the wrong thing, he could feel it. The walls were closing in on him. His collar was getting tighter. His mouth was suddenly dry. “I-I dun…” he cleared his throat and swallowed. “A-about what?”

Jennifer fixed him with a look that said, “You know what, dummy!” and then smiled softly at him. He didn’t understand why she was smiling. She was dying. She was about to die and here she was, sitting on his bed all…happy. Okay, a smile doesn’t necessarily mean happy, but it doesn’t mean unhappy.

Then she began staring at him with a funny look and he realized that he’d been stuck in his thoughts for quite some time and she might be getting little worried. “Okay, shoot.”

“James,” she started, reaching out her pale, small hand for him to take. He did, and she guided him to the bed next to her. “In the past month that we’ve been married, you’ve been the best husband a girl could ask for.”

James began to protest and she held up her hand to let her finish. It wasn’t true, though. He hadn’t been a good husband. He hoped that’d he’d be better his second time around and then felt incredibly guilty for thinking that in the presence of a dying person. Nope, can’t think like that either, James.

“Are you quite done?” Jennifer wore the look that she got when she was pissed that she wasn’t the centre of attention, but for some reason it didn’t bother James as much at that moment.

“Sorry,” he muttered and nodded for her to go on.

“Like I said, you’ve been a really great husband,” she continued. “You’ve been attentive, caring; you brought me all the way to England, where I’ve never been. I met your parents. I met Harry Potter,” she said the last part with a little squeal and James was suddenly horrified at the prospect of his wife having a crush on his dad. “But most importantly, James, you made me feel wanted. You made me feel human. You made me feel…alive.”

“Come again?”

“Truth is,” she looked down at her hands, which were clasped together at her fingers in her lap, “I’ve known about the tumour for a long time; that’s why I put off taking a home pregnancy test. I knew I couldn’t be pregnant, that I’ll never have my own kids, but it was nice to pretend for a while.

“I was diagnosed last year. There was nothing they could do for me. The prognosis then was three months tops. So I started doing everything I could. I went skydiving, I swam with dolphins, I played a whole game of Quidditch, I became an exotic dancer…”

“So, you knew when you married me…”

“I knew you didn’t love me, James. I know you don’t love me. And I love you, but not like that. You’re hot, don’t get me wrong, and a fantastic…err, how do you say it here? Shag?” James snorted and nodded slightly.

“But then,” James started after they both laughed at her last comment. “Why did you marry me?”


“Yes please.”

“I wanted to know what it was like to be married, to share your life with someone else. I wanted a European adventure. I like how I feel when I’m around you: no death talk, no white blood cell count…you were real with me, James. For the most part, at least.” Tears welled up in her eyes and James put a hand on her wrist.

“What do we do now?” He wondered aloud. Jennifer reached up and wiped her tears away, stood, and took out her wand.

“I’m going back to Las Vegas,” she whispered. James shot off of the bed.

“No! You can’t die alone, Jen. I may not be the best husband, and I may not be in love with you, but I do love you. I can’t let you go off on your own.”

Jennifer smiled widely and stood on her tip toes to reach him. She pressed a kiss to his lips. “You are so sweet,” she whispered and kissed him one last time.

“Please, Jen, don’t go.” She couldn’t stand to see him beg anymore.

“My parents are there. Well, in Carson City, the capitol of Nevada. My dad’s a Real Estate broker and my mom’s a housewife. I have two sisters, Jessica and Jamie – I know, all ‘J’s right? – And the family cat, Pooky Pumpkin Pie Smith. I won’t be alone, James. It’s time for me to face them.”

For the first time James noticed that all of Jennifer’s things were gone. It made him feel even worse that it took him all this time to even realize it. Now that he thought back on it, none of her makeup or hair potions were in the loo; her clothes were missing from the armoire. How had he missed this?

“You mean your family doesn’t know?” She shook her head, almost afraid to speak. She didn’t know what sound would actually make it out of her mouth. “And you want to tell them? Alone? I’ll go with you, Jennifer! I’ll take care of you, I swear!”

Tears were streaming down her face now, and she did nothing to stop them. “You are such a great man, James Sirius Potter. One day you will make some witch incredibly happy.” She tugged him into an embrace and he wrapped his arms tightly around her.

After a moment of silence, they pulled away and Jennifer bent over to the bed side table. She retrieved the object and took James’s hand, pressing the cold circle into his palm. “I hope I didn’t screw up your life too bad, James. I’m sorry if I did.” She walked to the edge of the room by the door.

She was nearly gone when James opened his palm and saw the glittering diamond of her wedding ring staring back at him. He spun quickly, a snap decision made in his mind, and told her to wait. She did, patiently in the doorway. He crossed to her in two steps, took her hand, and slipped the ring back on her finger.

“Keep it,” he whispered, bringing her left hand to his lips and kissing her ring finger. “It may not have been the most ideal of circumstances, Jen, and Merlin knows it wasn’t perfect. But we both stood up there, Elvis impersonator or not, and we took those vows. And we are husband and wife, till death do us part. Do not let anyone or anything make you think otherwise.”

They hugged again, a crushing embrace. Both were crying, tears of sadness, tears of joy. James couldn’t believe the situation he found himself in. After only a little over a month. First married, then becoming a dad, and now losing a wife.

“What did I do to deserve you, James? Jennifer Smith, exotic dancer –”

“Nope,” James smiled, interrupting her. “Jennifer Smith Potter, wife.”

Then they kissed one final time. She left the house a few minutes later, without saying goodbye to Harry or Ginny. Saying goodbye to James was hard enough; she couldn’t bear to see the pity on their faces. James didn’t look at her like that, not anymore. And she couldn’t have been happier.

James watched Jennifer activate her portkey and disappear in his back yard. He stood and stared at the spot she’d disappeared from for what seemed like hours. Then he heard clomping down the stairs and turned to see his parents in the doorway.

“Where’s Jennifer?” Ginny asked her eyes red rimmed. James felt horrible for that. It was his fault she had cried.

“She’s gone. Jennifer’s gone.”

“Hugo Arthur Weasley!” The voice of Rose Weasley reverberated through the staircase and all the way up to Hugo’s fifth year dorm, so he wasn’t surprised when she burst through the door a few seconds later.

It sure took her long enough to get up there. He’d left her in the common room nearly an hour ago. By the tone of her voice, though, he figured she’d gotten a chance to talk to Nat. If Nat was so adamant that he not tell anyone, why did she go spouting her mouth off the first chance she got?


Hugo sat up from his resting place – lying back on his bed with his head at the foot of the bed and his feet at the head – and turned to glare at Rose as she began shooing his dorm mates. From their own room!

“What the hell, Rose?” Hugo yelled at her once John Preston was out of the room and the room was empty – save for one bed that had a pretty powerful (especially for a fifth year) imperturbable charm surrounding it so whoever was in there wasn’t able to hear Rose’s demands that they leave.

“Why…what…” her face screwed up in anger and it reminded him of their mum. If she didn’t look like she would tear his balls off, he just might have laughed. “What in the world possessed you to kiss Nat? Your cousin’s girlfriend! Who, by the way in case you haven’t gotten the most recent family newsletter, is pregnant! With twins! Al’s twins!”

“I know!” Hugo yelled right back at her, standing and towering over her. Being Rose, though, she didn’t back down. She just stuck her nose in the air to be able to look into his eyes. She saw the defiance and the stubbornness he’d inherited from their father in those pretty blue depths.

“I know, okay?” She said softly, sitting down on his bed. “I’d have been blind not to notice.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Hugo slumped next to her on the bed, Rose bouncing a bit with the added weight.

“You’re in love with her.”

His mind suddenly flashed back to the day Mattie had dumped him. She’d said those exact words too, but with malice rather than Rose’s understanding with a hint of pity.

“You love her more than you’ll ever love me,” Mattie had said with a tense tone, her blood shot eyes standing out against the stark white of her skin. “It’s a shame that you’ll never get the girl.”

“You don’t know that,” he spat back, but it was true. He would never have Nat. She was with Albus, expecting babies. She was going to get her happily ever after.

Mattie had just raised her eyebrows in response, and then held out her hand, palm up, and waited. He’d known that it was going to happen, and when he slid the cold, white gold band off his finger he was almost happy.

“Don’t tell her about your feelings, Hugo,” Mattie warned as he turned for home. “She won’t understand.”

Tell Nat about his feelings for her?

That was exactly what he didn’t want. He didn’t want Nat to know that he’d loved her since his first year and that sometimes when he looked at her and Albus together he couldn’t eat for days because it hurt so much. He didn’t want her to know that when she smiled, his heart swelled and when she cried…he cried.

He just hoped that no one else figured it out. He’d been pretty good at making it all of these years, he thought. Only Rose had figured it out. All Rose had to do was keep her big mouth shut.

“It doesn’t matter,” he finally whispered to his sister. “She can’t be with me. She’s with Him. That’s that. It’s over.”

“Hugo,” she whispered, placing a warm hand on his shoulder. He felt tears filling his eyes and shrugged her hand away. “You need to get over her.”

“What do you think I’ve been trying to do?” he growled back. “I’m sorry that I lost control earlier. I kissed her because I wanted to. Because I never get what I want. I always give, give, give to other people. And I wanted to kiss Nat, so I did. Do I regret it? Hell no. Do I take it back? Hell no. Am I sorry about the circumstances in which said kiss happened? I sure am. But it’s done and there’s nothing I can do to change the past, even if I wanted to, which I don’t. I got what I wanted. Well, partially; my virginity’s still intact.”

“You selfish bastard!” Rose suddenly jumped off the bed and rounded on her brother, her only sibling. “Do you even care what Nat thinks about that? Obviously she was pissed that it happened because she punched you in the face! You know what I think? I don’t think you love her at all. I think because she’s pregnant you see her as an easy lay. You just want to lose your virginity and who better to do it than the loose pregnant chick?”

“That’s a lie!”

The siblings were both on their feet, toe to toe, Rose staring up angrily at Hugo, and Hugo looking down at Rose with equal malice.

“If you cared it wouldn’t have happened! If you knew Nat at all, you’d know that, at the moment, she’s happy as a clam being with Al. If you knew Nat at all, you’d know that, even if the kiss was unwanted – which is WAS – she will feel guilty about it. Guilty for being forced to cheat on her boyfriend, the father of her kids. So guilty that she might stop eating, cutting off the nutrient supply to her babies, who would die, and then what? All that’s on you, Hugo. Congratulations! Now was that one, teeny tiny, insignificant little kiss worth it?”

Hugo didn’t say anything, but looked down in shame. Rose, her job done, slowly turned and walked towards the door. Her hand perched on the knob; she stopped and turned to Hugo.

“Or,” she started softly, “she could just break and tell Albus. And I’m only saying this because mum and dad would hate to lose their only son, but you might not want to be around when Al finds out you kissed his girlfriend.”

Saturday morning brought lots of things for Albus Potter. First of all, it was the best breakfast of the week. Normally during school days breakfast consisted of dry cereal or porridge. But the weekends brought scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, spicy sausages, mountains of toast and plates of kippers. It was one thing that Albus always missed over holiday: his usual Saturday morning breakfast.

He rolled out of bed early, around eight, and took a long, hot shower. He hadn’t had any alcohol to drink the previous night at the party – he was surely in the minority on that one – and the rest of the dorm was still sleeping off their hangovers. Except for Arnie Longbottom, who was suspiciously missing. In fact, now that Albus thought about it, Arnie was gone a lot these days.

Albus had just been too busy to notice.

He grimaced at the thought, rinsing shampoo potion out of his hair. Too busy was right. Busy with school, Nat, Prefect duties…etcetera. He hardly had time to breathe, much less do homework or worry about the whereabouts of his friends.

Ever the dutiful father-to-be, Albus picked up his latest parenting book off his bedside table after dressing in jeans and a maroon jumper and left the dorm, shutting the door softly behind him as to not wake any of his dorm mates.

He didn’t meet anyone in the Common Room and, assuming they were all still asleep so early on a Saturday after such a late night, he continued on by himself down to the Great Hall. The hall was relatively empty, aside from a few Ravenclaws who were making exceptional use of their time by eating their breakfast over their textbooks while reading them. A few crumbs never hurt, right?

Albus made his way to Gryffindor table, narrowing his eyes a bit when he saw Arnie and Lily sitting next to each other, heads bent over a single piece of parchment. He didn’t worry about it too much, however, because Rose and Nat were with them, also.

“’Morning ladies,” he smiled, kissing Nat on the forehead and sliding onto the bench next to her and across from Arnie and Lily.

“Good morning, Love. Sleep well?” Nat smiled faintly at him. She was probably just tired, he reasoned. That was why she looked less than thrilled to see him; looked as if something was bothering her. It had nothing to do with anything. Just the pregnancy.

“You know I haven’t been sleeping as well as I was over holiday,” he flirted, earning a shy smile from the intended. “What are you guys looking at?” He gestured to Arnie and Lily’s parchment with the serving spoon he was using to shovel scrambled eggs onto a plate.

“The list of names for the babies that you and Nat talked about,” Lily replied, not looking up from the parchment. Albus stood and leaned over the table a bit to see the page of names they’d listed with periodic lines eliminating name possibilities.

“Oi! Remember who’s got the final say in that!” Albus bit into a piece of bacon before he realized that Nat was looking at him oddly. “You okay, Love?”

“Just feeling a little bit green around the edges. You know. Morning sickness and such.”

“Book says that should be going away soon, Nel,” he leaned over and kissed her temple, leaving a greasy lip print on her pale skin. He grinned sheepishly and wiped it away.

“I cannot wait,” Nat replied without a pause.

“Athena?” Lily looked up from the parchment. Albus narrowed his eyes at his sister and friend. He could see both of Lily’s hands, but the two were sitting oddly close together and one of Arnie’s was suspiciously missing. The right one to be precise; the hand that should’ve rested on the table next to Lily.

“What’s wrong with Athena?” Rose protested, making her presence known. Albus snorted into his eggs. Athena was Rose’s idea, and one he’d nixed from the beginning. But Nat wanted to keep it on the list so that Rose didn’t feel left out. As if Rose had any say. They were his kids.

“Nothing except for the fact that you have Zeus, Eros, Artemis, Apollo…shall I go on?”

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with those names! They are strong, beautiful names and any child would be lucky to receive them,” Rose’s eyes blazed and Albus thought Lily ought to stop. He was definitely not naming his kids any of those names, but he’d give Rose her peace.

“Yeah, strong and beautiful if you lived in Ancient Greece and wanted to please the Gods. Come on now, Rosie, those are ancient names and should’ve been buried with their predecessors.”

When did his little sister learn such big words?

“That’s st-”

“I think Nat and I agree,” Albus cut in, pushing away his plate just as Emileigh, Bryce, and Kate all showed up, looking equally tired, and slid into the surrounding seats, “that we will not be naming our children after Greek Gods. Sorry, Rosie.”

Rose harrumphed, folding her arms across her chest. “But,” Nat started, trying her best not to roll her eyes and to appease her friend at the same time, “think of it like this: by not naming are children these names, we’re leaving them open for you to name yours!”

“So no Greek Gods in your future,” Bryce said, pouring milk from the pitcher over his Corn Flakes. “Got any other names in mind then?”

“Well, we’ve got a couple that we really like,” Nat looked to Albus for confirmation, who nodded and smiled slightly.

“Don’t you think it’s a little soon to be talking about baby names?” Emileigh cut in, putting a spoonful of yogurt on her plate and then picking up her own spoon. “I mean, you’re what? Three months?”

Nat cleared her throat. “The books we’ve read mention that it’s never too early to start thinking about names. Think about it: the names we choose now, these babies will be stuck with for their entire lives. It’s not something to be taken lightly.”

“Then you end up with a name like Albus Severus.” Albus grabbed her hand underneath the table, “Besides once school and homework picks back up again, not to mention NEWTs this year, we’re not going to have much time to think about it.”

“So what were the names you guys like? Maybe we can help narrow it down even further.” Kate shovelled a spoonful of porridge into her mouth, her brown eyes staring widely at the couple in front of her.

Lily cleared her throat, picked up the list, and held it in front of her. “For girls we’ve got: Abigail, Madison, Chloe, Dakota, Cailyn, Natalie, Delaney, Bianca, and Abrianna.”

“I think Bianca sounds too bitchy,” Emileigh cut in right away, shoving her plate, now free of yogurt, away from her and leaning her elbows on the table.

“I like Delaney and Chloe. Chloe Potter. It’s got a nice ring to it,” Bryce interjected before drinking half a goblet of orange juice in two gulps.

“Have you decided to go with Potter, then?” Kate’s eyebrows rose, her eyes trained on Nat. The group of students all turned to look at the couple at this.

“Of course it’ll be Potter,” Nat replied smoothly. With a toothy grin she added, “Come on. Do you think I’d actually want their last name to be Long? With my family’s history? No thank you. I don’t even want my own last name to be Long.” Her mouth snapped shut at this and she turned to look apologetically at Albus.

“I think that was a clue, mate,” Bryce chuckled at his friend.

“I’m sorry,” Nat spoke low so only Albus could hear her. In response, he squeezed her knee under the table and then turned to Lily. “What’ve we got for boys?”

“Um, err, right. Ah hah, for boys you’ve narrowed it down to: Gabriel, Elijah, David, Tristan, Dylan, Holden, Micah, Matthew, and Benjamin.”

“You forgot Albus Junior,” Bryce teased.

“You certainly have opinions about everything today, don’t you?” Emileigh joked, and Bryce shrugged.

“I’ve got two sisters and a brother. I helped choose their names.”

Oh yes, Albus remembered. The triplets from Oliver Wood’s second marriage. Oliver had divorced Bryce’s mum when Bryce was only three and remarried during his fourth year. The triplets (Macy, Madena, and Macon) were born the past summer after Lainey Wood had undergone many fertilization treatments.

“Well, I like David Potter. It has a nice ring to it. Or Benjamin. Of course, if it’s a boy and a girl, you could name the boy Albus Severus Potter Junior.” Lily laughed. Albus let out a bark of sarcastic laughter.

“Hell no! I would never curse such a retched name on another human being, much less my own flesh and blood.”

“I like your name,” Nat told him honestly. “It’s unique. Not like Natalya.”

“So you want our kids’ names to be unique?” Albus asked, and the rest of the group realized that the open forum was now closed.

“It’d be nice,” Nat shrugged.

“Okay,” Albus conceded and Nat kissed him softly. “Unique it is. That pretty much eliminates David and Benjamin, Lil. Sorry.”

“S’okay. Guess I’ll just have to wait to have a little one of my own,” she patted her stomach playfully, but Albus suddenly felt protective.

“You’d better be waiting a long while, Lily Pad. I don’t think mum and dad could handle the stress.”

“Don’t worry, Al. I plan on being married before I have kids. No offense,” she added when she saw Nat’s eyes briefly get darker. That hormonal woman could be scary sometimes.

Breakfast came to an end with a flourish of owls overhead. The post coming was a sign to finish off your plates and quick because they would be disappearing soon. Bryce, Kate, and Arnie all got letters or packages from various owls, as well as Rose. Then, as some owls were heading off to the owlery, one final tawny brown owl swooped in, a large package grasped in its talons.

The owl plopped the package down on the table between Albus and Nat. Albus had known right away that the owl was Seabrain, his family owl (don’t ask him about the name, it was Lily and James being immature and his mother’s form of compromise). What he didn’t know was what in the world his parents would be sending him – them – that would need that big of a box.

“It’s addressed to both of us,” Nat told him, reading the top of the box that was tied shut with twine. There was a letter creeping out. Nat pulled it the rest of the way from the box, unfolded it, smoothed it between them, and ran her eyes down the full page of his mum’s messy scrawl.

“It seems your mum and aunt Hermione want us to pick stuff out now so that when it comes time for exams we aren’t so bogged down with this stuff,” Nat told him after reading the note.

Albus had already opened the box. There must’ve been a catalogue from every baby store in Britain, muggle and magical. How were they going to find time to go through all of them with school and Prefect duties and…

“I’m almost done with my Potions essay. Do you want to get started on these tonight?” Nat looked so excited, like she was itching to pick out baby furniture and clothes from the retched catalogues.

“I’ve got rounds tonight. But you and Rose should get started on these, anyway. Just narrow it down and we can choose from there, okay?”

Nat nodded as if she hadn’t even heard him and continued to stare into the box full of booklets.

He felt guilty for lying to her, but it was the only way to make sure everyone stayed happy.

A/N: Edited for content 12/16/08

Chapter 20: 19..Grow Up
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Defying Gravity
Chapter 19: Grow Up

Rose rolled over in her bed and groaned. The scarlet quilt was tangled around her so tightly one of her arms was pinned to her side, but she didn’t have the energy to care. It had been a rough three weeks to say the least.

First came the tears. Floods and floods of tears. The fact that she’d lost both her boyfriend – her love – and her best friend, all in the same night weighed heavily upon her. She had never really been the emotional sort; she’d rather swallow nails then let anyone see her at her weakest, so it came as a shock to her peers when she would burst out crying in the middle of lessons, in the corridors, or at meals.

It had gotten so bad, in fact, that she’d forgone most meals. Instead of joining her classmates for meals, Rose chose to sneak down to the kitchens after hours for her midnight gorge. This became the second phase of her post-breakup(s) breakdown: eating.

The house elves were nice to her and gave her chocolate. That was the only thing that got her by: the chocolate. It came in ice cream, cake, truffles, little individually wrapped candies…by the fifth night the house elves started getting creative. Then came soufflés, mousse, frousse, trimousse (which is just a fancy term for really, really chocolaty mousse).

Fizzy, a female house elf that Rose was particularly fond of (it was the ears), made the most to-die-for chocolate chip cookies using milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and white chocolate chips. Yum-O!

Then one morning a week in to phase two she got up just like every day: at five am to rush a shower, change quickly, and be the first one out of the tower. She was doing her part to avoid Nat. Not because she was sorry. No, but because she wanted to grab her and shake her for being so daft. Rose had proof! She’d given proof. Kate had given proof…of a sort.

But that morning something inside of her snapped. Well, the fact that her skirt strained to snap closed was more what pushed her over the edge. And for a moment, while she was standing there in the dark, squinting into a full length mirror only able to see because of a tiny sliver of moon light peeking through the drawn curtains, she looked at herself and hated what she saw.

She was one of the pathetic girls she and Nat had always made fun of. She let herself fall apart because of a boy. A stupid boy! There were plenty of other fish in the sea, so the saying goes. She was Rose-frickin’-Weasley. Head-frickin’-Girl. Who wouldn’t want her? And, until she’d gained her ‘chocolate weight’ she’d been rather dishy, too.

It was in that moment, around the time that she was doing an enlarging charm on her skirt, tights, and shirt, she decided: to hell with Scorpius Malfoy. All she needed was to convince Nat that Albus was cheating and then he’d see. He’d grovel at her feet; beg her to take him back.

And would she take him back?

Hell no!


Nat rubbed her lower abdomen with her left hand and shovelled scrambled eggs into her mouth with her right, her eyes moving over the parchment in front of her. Her Defence essay was due in twenty minutes and she hadn’t had the chance to proofread it the previous night.

It had been hard avoiding Rose for the past two and a half weeks. It was hard avoiding anyone when you share a dorm room with them.

Sure, Nat was sympathetic to the fact that Rose had just been dumped. But you don’t take it out on your best friend by trying to ruin her relationship, do you? No. And yes, Nat felt a pang of heartache every time Rose would break down crying in lessons, or in the corridor, or at meals. And she did care whether Rose was at dinner or not.

She just couldn’t talk to her. Rose hadn’t even tried to apologize, and Nat would not be the first to speak. So she was content to watch Rose’s breakdown from afar.

Rose gained weight; about as much weight as Nat had from being pregnant. Her clothes were getting tighter, her face a tad rounder…her boobs were bigger! If Nat didn’t know any better she’d say Rose was pregnant.

On top of her Rose troubles, she’d been having a hard time with Albus. He’d asked about the fallout, but Nat didn’t tell him the details. She couldn’t tell him the details. He’d be so upset to find out that Rose had accused him of cheating, and Nat didn’t want to cause a rift in the family…well, anymore than Rose already had.

Plus, Albus still didn’t know about Lily and Arnie’s relationship and Nat hated not being able to tell him. She didn’t think he’d mind too much, as long as Lily kept the sex out of the conversation.

Last week Nat’d had a long talk with Lily in the fifth year dorms – where she frequented after Albus left for rounds so she could avoid Rose – and Arnie and she had yet to go all the way. Lily was thinking about Valentine’s Day, which was just around the corner.

“Are you sure you’re ready?” Nat’d asked when Lily revealed this to her. Lily claimed she was, and had been on the potion for long enough, and that Rose had taught her the charm. At the mention of Rose, Nat’s eyes had darkened and Lily sighed.

“You know you are going to have to fight it out eventually,” Lily’d said. Nat didn’t say anything, just kept her jaw tight and eyes looking straight ahead at the foot of Lily’s bed. They’d been propped up against the pillows flipping through baby magazines and talking.

“Now, don’t get angry, okay? But…did you ever wonder…what if she was right?”

After a moment of arguing between the two, Nat had stormed out of the dorm and to the Common Room to sit with Emileigh (who was on her side, while Kate sided with Rose, and Lucy was blissfully neutral) and hadn’t spoken to Lily since.

Lily was lucky Nat was such a great person, or else she could’ve spilled her secret.

Nat sighed, spearing a sausage link with her fork and bringing it eye level. Her essay was flawless, as usual, and she pushed it out of the way with one hand so she didn’t get sausage grease on it.

Her appetite had returned, like the books said it would. Her morning sickness – which lasted all day, so why they called it morning sickness was beyond her – had dissipated and was practically non-existent now. She couldn’t be more thrilled. And what’s more: her sexual appetite had returned.

The book said that during the second trimester most couples have the best sex ever. Nat was three weeks in and she couldn’t wait. It had been too long for her, and helping Albus with his problem didn’t seem fair. He should get it all.

She had it all planned out. Valentine’s Day was the next day. They’d spend all day in Hogsmeade together, then he had rounds, and she would sneak into his room and spend all night with him, curfew be damned.

Nat was daydreaming about this, anticipation and excitement beginning to build up inside, when something was slammed down on the table in front of her, right on top of her leftover scrambled eggs. She put her fork, which still had the uneaten sausage link, down and looked to her left.

She saw Rose climbing onto the bench down the table next to Kate.

That was odd seeing Rose at breakfast. Rose usually didn’t eat at regularly scheduled meals, which is why it was weird that she had gained so much weight. No one knew how. Through osmosis?

Nat glanced down at the object in front of her. It was a magazine, opened to page one hundred thirty four. She glanced at the heading of the article on the page: 9 Signs He’s Cheating.

Nat scoffed and flipped the magazine closed. She wanted to pull out her wand and set it on fire, right there in the middle of the Great Hall. That would show Rose. Nat and Albus’s relationship was strong enough to withstand some jealous witch trying to sabotage their happy ending.

Nat would get her happy ending, damnit.

She was also having mood swings like crazy. One minute she was happy, the next she was seething mad, and the next she was bawling like a baby. This befuddled Albus during their time together, especially when he had no idea what he’d said or done to set her off.

“What’s that?” Albus asked, sliding into the seat next to her and piling eggs on his plate, short of breath. He was acting like he’d just run from the Gryffindor Common Room to the Great Hall. He didn’t look so hot, either. He had dark circles under his green eyes, which were dull and bloodshot.

He wasn’t sleeping.

“Maybe you should talk to Rose about Prefect duties,” Nat suggested, stuffing the magazine into her school bag at her feet.

“Maybe you should talk to Rose and be friends again. I don’t like you hanging around with Emileigh all the time. She’s making you paranoid.”

If you only knew, Nat thought, thinking back to Kate and Rose’s comments. In fact, Emileigh was the only one not making Nat paranoid.

“I’m not talking to her until she apologizes to me,” Nat snapped, turning away from him. She knew she was being unreasonable in snapping at him when he was just trying to help, but she really couldn’t help it.

“I’m going to let you guys fight it out. And you know I’d choose you if it came down to it, right? But Rose is my cousin. She’s family. She’ll be around. Because you’re family, now, too.”

For some reason – damn hormones – Nat’s eyes filled with tears and she excused herself to the bathroom. When she came back, breakfast was almost over. She spared a glance at Rose, who was reading a long piece of parchment. Lily was sitting near her – the traitor – with an identical parchment.

In fact, the other Weasley-Potter relations in the house all had similar looking letters. Nat wondered what all that was about. Nat slid back into the seat next to Albus and watched his expression.

He looked…shocked.

Lucy was sitting across from them, she’d come in while Nat was gone, and Roxanne Weasley, in Lily’s year, sidled up next to them. Her black hair was in artful tangles around her face and her makeup was flawless.

“Wow,” Albus muttered, putting the parchment down.

“What?” was Nat’s response.

“Jennifer has cancer,” Lucy answered for him, “A Grade Three Endometrial Carcinoma. She has uterine cancer,” she explained at Nat and Albus’s blank look. “It says here that she went back to America to be with her family that no one knew she had, and James is just torn up about it. This is from Aunt Ginny,” she waved the parchment in the air. “He’s pretty much waiting to hear from Jennifer’s mother when she dies, and has already made arrangements to get an international portkey to be able to attend her funeral.”

“That’s pretty morbid,” was Roxanne’s input before she scampered away to find her friends.

Lucy went back to munching on her toast and reading – she really should’ve been in Ravenclaw, her mannerisms were so similar – and Nat turned to Albus. “I hope James is okay. It doesn’t seem like he’s taking it well.”

“Mine, and probably Lily’s have an extra note at the bottom,” Albus told her, shaking his head slightly, disbelievingly, and then turning to her. “James resigned from the Magpies. He’s been in contact with Tim Henley, the coach of the English team.”

“James is going to play for England?”

“He’s to show up at spring practice March fifteenth.”

“Well this is good, right? That means he can live at home and be around family when…when…Jennifer dies. Wow, I just can’t believe it. Poor guy! I couldn’t even imagine losing you,” she leaned in to kiss his lips, but caught the corner of his mouth as he turned away.

She sat back, shocked at the brush off. What the hell was that? He’d never refused her kisses. It had to be his mother’s announcement for his brother. Finding out your sister-in-law is dying can’t be easy.

That had to be it.

“Are you ready?” Emileigh asked, linking arms with Bryce. They were standing in the Entrance Hall with Nat and Albus, waiting while Nat slid her red knit hat onto her head.

Nat’s curly blonde hair was in two braided plaits hanging down in front of her shoulders. She looked like a little girl. She hadn’t worn her hair in plaits in a long time.

Nat nodded, linking her fingers with Albus’s and the quartet headed towards Hogsmeade. She had seen Rose as she left the dorm. The red head had been adding the finishing touches to her makeup, her Head Girl badge shining brightly in the stream of sunlight coming in through the window by her bed. Nat nodded in greeting, and got a small smile in return.

It wasn’t an apology, but it was something.

Instead of dragging the boys all over the place, they split up and decided to meet at noon for lunch. Emileigh slid her arm through Nat’s and led her around the village, to shops she’d never been before.

“I know I’m a poor substitute for Rose,” Emileigh started as they rounded the cobblestone street and started down a path that contained no students. “I feel really bad about what happened.

“Don’t, it’s not your fault Rose went all psycho when Scorpius dumped her.”

“Well, yeah, see, that’s the thing,” Emileigh turned to her, stopping her in the middle of the street. There was no one else around, though, so it was okay. “It wasn’t my fault…but I’m not quite sure Rose went psycho.”

“Not you, too! Does no one have faith in Albus anymore?” Nat threw up her hands and backed away from her friend a step.

Talk me down, Em, ‘cuz I’m about to get irrational.

“It’s not that!” Emileigh was quick to amend. “It’s that…well, I heard a rumour about the fight Rose and Scorpius had. That little kid, I think he was a firstie, maybe a second, Arix or whatever, he overheard the whole thing. The little shit was spying, but anyway…Rose told Scorpius that Albus was cheating on you and that she didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want to tell you because she didn’t really want to get into the middle of it but she felt like you had the right to know and she just wanted someone else’s input on what she should do.

“Well,” after a short pause she continued at Nat’s insistent look, “Scorpius blew up at her saying she didn’t have any proof – when, really, you have to admit what she did say was kind of incriminating – and then turned it around on her, making it about their relationship rather than yours, saying she was always around and he didn’t have any freedom, and then, get this, he ended with ‘It’s over, Weasley.’”

“Ouch,” Nat winced. That didn’t sound at all like the Scorpius she knew and had come to love like a brother.

“I know, it doesn’t sound like Scorpius, does it? So I was thinking to myself, I said, ‘self, why would Scorpius say all these mean things to Rose and, especially, why would he say that she doesn’t have any proof when she so clearly does?’ and I came to the conclusion that either Albus has a secret that Scorpius is hiding, or Scorp is the one with the secret.”

“So do you think that Scorpius could have been cheating on Rose?” Nat wondered as they began to walk again, towards a shop at the end of the lane.

“I don’t know. I guess it’s possible, but they were, like, joined at the hip,” Emileigh shrugged, her voice not showing any hint at what she might be getting at.

“So,” Nat’s jaw clenched at the betrayal niggling at the back of her mind, “you’re saying that you think Albus is cheating and Scorpius knows and was covering for him?”

“I didn’t say that, either!” Emileigh was quick to assure her. Then she sighed. “All I’m saying, Nat, is that…well, if Albus were sneaking around behind your back – not saying that he is! – but if he were…wouldn’t it be better to know?”

Nat sighed in defeat. She was honestly tired of talking about it. There was really no way that Albus was cheating on her, even given the fact that he had plenty of opportunity and a willing participant – Meghan Longbottom – but she conceded.

“I guess I would want a friend to tell me. But I’d need hard proof. Like, I’d need to see it. Maybe not the actual act, but…you know…catch him in a lie or something.”

“Well then it’s a good thing you’ve got me for that, huh? Did you even read the article?”

Nat’s brows knitted together. She had no clue what her friend was talking about. What article? The cheating article?

“That was you yesterday?”

“Yep! Who’d you think it was?” There was a bench outside the shop at the end of the lane and they sat upon it, Nat tucking one leg under her and Emileigh turning fully sideways facing Nat.

“Um, well, Rose, actually. Because she was pushing…”

“So I guess you didn’t read it. Well, I’ve read it about ten times –”

“Why? Bryce isn’t cheating on you! He adores you!” Nat scoffed. They had almost as perfect of a relationship as she and Albus had. Or so it would seem…

“Of course not! But it’s an old issue and I did have a boyfriend or two before Bryce. Anyway, there were a few good ones that had valid points – he’s cheated before; he smells like a cheap whore…or more accurately, another woman; he disappears a lot,” at this Nat looked away and bit her lip, “he talks about another woman suddenly,” Albus hadn’t really talked much about Meghan, but she was suddenly thrown back into their lives. “And the big one, the one we’re going to deal with because we’re strong, empowered women and we’re using our powers of manipulation for good, not evil. Sex.”

“Sex?” Nat asked warily.

“Yep, less sex. And now is an especially good time because you guys haven’t really had the opportunity to do it lately.” Emileigh acted all nonchalant about it, picking at her nail polish on her left hand before looking up at Nat.

“So if he’s not interested in having sex, that means…”

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that he is cheating, okay? But because he’s a guy and a seventeen year old one at that, his mind is programmed to think about sex something like every four seconds or something. I know, it’s a lot.”

“How do you know all of this stuff?”

“My mum’s the editor of ‘Witches’ and writes for ‘Teen Witches’ too. Anyway,” she ignored Nat’s look of astonishment, Emileigh’d never mentioned it in all the years that they were friends, but it made sense. She was always so fashion savvy and had perfect, trendy hair…

Nat realized that Emileigh had been talking and thought she should probably start listening.

“…he’s cheating. It means that maybe, just maybe, the whole ex-best-friend thing was a little premature and that we should listen to what Rose has to say. It means that it’s possible. So either you get some great Valentine’s Day sex, or you get your best friend back…most likely.”

Nat sighed. She knew she’d give in, because everything that Emileigh was saying made sense, and Emileigh rarely made sense. It was just a hard pill to swallow, so to speak.

“Okay,” Nat audibly conceded. “What do we have to do?”

Emileigh glanced up at the sign above the door and Nat followed her gaze. Then she laughed inside her head, and put a smile on her face. The sign read, ‘Wonder Witches Wicked Wear’ and things were about to get crazy.

James saw stars explode behind his eyelids just as the rhythmic creaking of ancient bed springs came to a sudden halt. He breathed heavily for a moment, collapsing on the hot, sweaty body below him.

After he caught his breath, he rolled off the girl below him, stood, and went into the loo two steps away. He was out in less than a minute, cleaned up with his trousers on, and he reached into the pocket of his jeans. He pulled out a carton of muggle cigarettes and flicked one out of the package with practiced ease.

His parents may believe that he’s ‘dealing’ with his issues, but he wasn’t. He was hiding from them. He knew it; he just didn’t want to believe it. Jennifer had been gone for a month, and though he didn’t love her, she’d become a sort of constant in his life. Now that she was gone, he didn’t have anything.

He’d told his parents he’d resigned from the Magpies, when in reality he was let go. Not because of performance issues, but because he hadn’t been to a Magpies function since the Quidditch Expo the end of November. He hadn’t even told Sly, the manager, how to reach him.

Word had come via owl the day after Jennifer had left. That was just the icing on the cake for him. His grief struck him hard, and at the most inopportune moment. So he’d gone to the pub and, after way too much to drink, picked up his first one-night-stand, Tina. Then the next night, Marcy. It’d been a pretty constant flow since then.

This one’s name was Rina, short for Catarina (he’d remembered that much, at least), and he offered her a cigarette from the pack. Sated and smiling, she took the proffered fag and he lit it with his wand before igniting the tip of his own. He inhaled the sweet, sweet nicotine, and wondered how he’d ever given it up.

“You are a fantastic lover, James Potter,” Rina sighed, the sheet barely covering her. Her black hair fanned the pillow behind her and he sighed. It was about time to make his exit.

He’d made it a habit always to go to the girl’s place or a hotel, mainly because he still lived with his parents – who weren’t as naïve as he thought and knew exactly what he was doing to get through this particularly difficult juncture in his life. That, and it was an easy escape.

Rina put up the common declaration that he could spend the night, that there was plenty of room for him, blah, blah, blah. He declined politely and when she persisted, he just turned on his heel and disapparated.

He was married to a dying girl; he needed to find someone to have fun with who wasn’t looking for a commitment before someone got too clingy.

His father was at the table reading the Daily Prophet when he got home twenty minutes later, having miscalculated his apparition coordinates and walking quite a ways. The elder Potter looked up at his son with a look of contempt before going back to the paper.

James scoffed and then made his way up to his bedroom. He passed his parents’ bedroom where his mother was folding clothes on the bed. He caught her eye for a moment; at that moment he understood. He knew his parents knew about his new lifestyle choices. But he couldn’t bring himself to care.

He slammed the door to his room closed and cranked up the volume on the wireless radio. A punk rock band was singing about not wanting to grow up, and James smiled to himself.

Tomorrow he was getting a tattoo.

Nat wasn’t sure she was comfortable with her purchases, but Emileigh told her she looked great, and even the sales lady, Greta, had mentioned how slimming the lacy silk number Nat had bought looked on her.

She ended up walking away with thirty galleons worth of purchases, all courtesy of Emileigh’s mother’s store credit, and hoped that after that night she’d have a boyfriend to use them on.

At nine o’clock, an hour before Albus was supposed to be back from rounds, Nat picked up her bag and headed up to the boys’ dormitory. She locked herself in the bathroom and placed the bag on the counter top. She opened the drawstring, reached in, and fingered the lacy embroidery that would encase her breasts soon. Knowing Albus, and knowing he wasn’t cheating on her, she planned on being at it all night.

She dressed quietly, spritzed on some perfume she’d brought with her, took her tooth brush and hairbrush and placed them with Albus’s things in the bathroom, and secured her dressing gown around her waist.

She tiptoed into the room and to Albus’s bed, even though there was only one bed being occupied – Bryce’s (Emileigh had gotten a few pieces of her own at the shop), which glowed red from the privacy wards he’d placed around his bed. She stowed the bag with her change of clothes in it under the bed, climbed on top of the bed, and then looked at her watch.

It was only nine thirty, and there was no guarantee that Albus would be back right at ten. She decided to read a little, and, from her bag, pulled out a muggle romance novel she’d borrowed from Rose months ago and never got around to reading.

By the time ten thirty came around, her stomach was in knots and she couldn’t read anymore. She shrugged out of her dressing gown and tucked it under her pillow, lay down on her side, and propped her head up with her hand.

She tried a number of different positioning of her other hand – on her hip, behind her, over her stomach – trying to decide which was the most alluring. By the time she decided to drape her arm down her side, her other hand had fallen asleep from keeping her head propped up too long and it was after eleven.

Nat rolled over onto her back and sighed. This was not a good sign. She thought of getting under the covers and going to sleep. She also thought of just leaving. But she wanted – needed – to know what time Albus got back from rounds that night. She just had to know.

Staring at a scarlet coloured bed hanging got pretty boring, and eventually Nat dozed off. She dreamt of Albus and Meghan, kissing under the mistletoe, laughing together, Meghan being the one pregnant with Albus’s babies.

She woke suddenly and sat up straight. The bed was still empty, there was soft snoring come from the past the bed hangings, and that dream had scared her. She couldn’t take the not knowing, the dread, the anticipation. Where the hell was Albus?

There was a fumbling at the door she heard from behind the curtain and she lay down flat against the bed. If it was Professor Longbottom doing bed checks, certainly he wouldn’t open the curtains, right? And if it was Albus, she didn’t want to look like she’d been waiting up for him like the suspicious girlfriend she was.

She rolled onto her side, facing away from where the door was, and she heard footsteps approach the bed. She prayed it was Albus, though getting caught by Longbottom wouldn’t be so bad. She’d point out that Albus wasn’t back from patrols, and if Albus wasn’t back that meant Meghan wasn’t back, and Meghan was the professor’s daughter and he’d want to find her and he’d forget all about Nat.

The person whose head appeared through the curtain was Albus, though, and she breathed a sigh. Whether it was of relief or not, she still wasn’t sure.

He hadn’t seemed to notice her yet, and he unbuckled black trousers and let them fall to the floor. He climbed onto the bed, his hand stopping when it reached Nat’s silk-covered stomach, and his eyes widened behind his thin-framed glasses.

“Nat!” he cried, and then cringed when his voice rang out through the quiet dormitory.

Nat sat up and smiled sheepishly. She glanced down to where her breasts were nearly spilling out of her nightgown, and then back at Albus. He was looking down, but not at her. He was staring at the bed.

Then he suddenly said, “I need to take a shower.” He was gone so fast she couldn’t even offer to join him.

In his haste to leave, though, Nat did catch a whiff of him. He didn’t smell his usual piney-fresh smell, he smelled of cigarette smoke. And somehow Nat knew that if he came back to the bed at that moment and she smelled his breath, he’d smell like booze.

She glanced at her watch. It was nearly two in the morning. Where the hell was he, drinking and smoking at this time of night without the rest of his mates?

Cheating on her, that’s where.

She almost got up and left right then and there, but she wanted to wait and see if Emileigh’s whole ‘sex’ idea worked, so she got under the covers. If she was right, and Albus wasn’t cheating on her, he’d jump her as soon as he got back from his shower. She may have to throw herself at him a little because of how late it was, but she was willing to do it to save their relationship.

Almost twenty minutes later he slipped back into bed beside her. She was facing him, wide awake. She didn’t feel tired at all; her body was running on adrenalin.

He threw his arm over her waist and pulled her against him. His lips found hers in the darkness and she sighed. She knew she was right. He couldn’t cheat on her.

His mouth tasted like tooth paste so she couldn’t test her booze theory, but it didn’t bother her too much. Because she was about to get sex and prove Rose wrong.

She slid her hand down his hip and cupped him through his boxers, when suddenly his mouth wrenched away from hers and his hand grabbed hers, moved it back to his hip, and then held it there.

“Not now, babe, I’m tired.” He told her and took off his glasses, putting them on the headboard behind him. He rolled onto his back and threw an arm around her shoulder, but didn’t bother pulling her close.

He had never called her ‘babe’ in his life, and he never refused sex. Ever. Nat wanted to leave right then and there; she felt a surge of tears and her face heating up with embarrassment. She also wanted to roll over and smack him until he told her that he was screwing Meghan Longbottom just so she had a reason to hex him.

Instead she lay there. She didn’t fall asleep although her fatigue was creeping up on her and she knew it wasn’t good for the babies that she didn’t sleep. So she tried; she really tried. But the images of Albus and Meghan together came back into her mind every time she shut her eyes.

She had to get away from him.

Around dawn she rolled off the bed careful not to wake him, grabbed her bag, and changed right there in the middle of the dormitory. If someone was up, they were getting a full show.

She went over to Bryce’s bed in search of Emileigh, tiptoeing across the floorboards, hoping that the wards were down and they weren’t doing it. In fact, though, the curtains were open and Bryce was lying on his back one hairy leg sticking out from under the quilt, shirtless and snoring. She didn’t stick around to see if he was wearing boxers or not.

So much for Valentine’s Day sex.

Nat entered her own dorm a few minutes later, dropped her stuff on her bed, and then immediately crawled into the bed of the only person who’d be able to comfort her. She felt bad for waking her up, she really did, but it was absolutely necessary.

She shook her girl awake. Her tears had started falling before she closed the door to the boys’ dorm and hadn’t stopped since.

“Come on, wake up,” she whispered. Her hands were occupied, and she was unable to wipe her face, so a few tears dripped off her chin and landed on the other girl’s cheek. Brown eyes snapped open, and then she turned, a blur of red hair, and enveloped the blonde in a hug.

“I’m so sorry, Rosie,” Nat tried to whisper, but the sound came out more as a sob. Rose rocked her back and forth, like the best friend should, and whispered soothing words in her ear. The sobs wracked the blonde’s body, which eventually woke the other girls in the dorm.

“Nat!” Kate cried, crawling up onto Rose’s bed, worried about her friend. Emileigh sat behind Nat and rubbed her back while she cried into Rose’s shoulder. Lucy stood at the edge of the bed looking tired and grumpy but not saying anything.

“What happened?” Rose asked a moment later when Nat pulled away to wipe her tears.

“I believe you,” Nat whispered, harshly wiping at her face. “I believe that Albus is cheating on me.” Her jaw clenched as the anger she’d been feeling before her breakdown came rushing back to her.

“Did you guys not do it?” Emileigh whispered and Rose’s eyes snapped to her. Emileigh knew when to back off, as her role as stand-in-best-friend was over.

“He had rounds last night and he didn’t show up until almost two and when he did he smelled like an ash tray and before he’d even let me touch him he went to take a shower. I think I smelled booze, too.”

“So, what you’re saying is…” Kate prodded. Kate wasn’t one to gloat, but if she were, this would be her moment.

“You were right. Both of you.” Nat sighed, rubbing her tired eyes with the heels of her hand. “Now all I need is solid proof.”

A/N: edited for content 12/19/08

Chapter 21: 20..Taking Care of Business
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Defying Gravity 
Chapter 20: Taking Care of Business

“We need a plan,” Rose mentioned for the third time that afternoon.

Nat had finally fallen into a restless sleep somewhere around nine that morning, curled up next to Rose, drained of tears and emotion. When she woke up four hours later to the smell of vegetable beef soup and saw three bodies standing over her, the protective arm of her best friend still around her, the only thing she felt was empty.

She sipped the thick, creamy broth, munched on the chunky vegetables, and completely ignored the beef – it was a symptom of the pregnancy, her aversion to beef – all the while keeping her gaze trained down at the quilt beneath her. She couldn’t look up and see eight pitying eyes staring back at her.

Not that she cared much. She couldn’t bring herself to care. She couldn’t bring herself to feel anything at the moment. Nat felt like she was an empty shell of herself.

She wasn’t sure she could move on from this.

After the lunch dishes were cleared away, Kate left to return them to the kitchen and pick up a chocolate cake – Nat couldn’t bring herself to mention that the taste of spongy chocolate made her nauseous – and the group of seventh year Gryffindor girls gathered together, lounging on or near Rose’s bed. Rose spoke first.

“We need a plan.”

The first two times Rose said this, Nat wasn’t paying much attention. She wasn’t lost in her thoughts, she refused to think about anything. Because if she made the mental connection, her thoughts would undoubtedly turn to Albus, she’d see nothing but red, and end up castrating him with her bare hands.

The prick.

The third time Rose said, “We need a plan,” Rose snapped her fingers twice in front of Nat’s face. Nat’s hazy blue gaze snapped to her friend, and Rose smiled softly at her. The red head pushed a lock of Nat’s blonde hair behind her ear and then turned to the other two girls in the room.

“I think we should just tie him up and force Veritaserum down his throat,” Emileigh spat, vindictively. Nat quirked an eyebrow but didn’t open her mouth.

She pulled the quilt from her bed more tightly around her, sitting cross legged on the squishy mattress and listened while her friends offered ways to get a confession out of Albus.

“We can’t do that!” Lucy, ever the voice of reason, nearly shouted. “Veritaserum is illegal! It’s only to be used by specified personnel, namely Aurors and such, not revenge-seeking teenagers.”

“Not revenge-seeking,” Rose tsked, “truth-seeking.”

“So basically,” Emileigh’s jaw clenched and unclenched tightly, “what you’re saying is that we can ‘seek the truth,’ but we can’t break any school rules doing it?”

“That would be ideal,” Lucy replied primly, folding her hands in her lap. She narrowed her eyes at Emileigh’s loud snort, but didn’t say anything.

“Sorry, I’m back,” Kate burst into the room, a large pastry box carried in front of her. “Whew,” she breathed, plopping the box down in front of Nat and producing five forks from the pocket of her jeans. “You’d think all of Gryffindor hadn’t ever seen a pastry box in their lives! Practically the whole house was in the Common Room, and I nearly got trampled bringing in sweets! You’d better enjoy that cake, Natalya.”

Nat fought a grimace. Kate plopped onto the floor near the bed and gaze up to where Rose was laying on her stomach, her head at the foot of the bed, and Nat pulled the quilt even tighter around herself.

“What are we talking about?” Kate pulled the box of cake onto the floor, flipped the lid, and licked her lips. Inside was a chocolate-frosted cake with little pink, blue, and yellow sprinkles. Nat nearly gagged.

“We’re trying to develop a plan of attack, but little miss goody-two-shoes over there won’t let us break the rules.” Emileigh shot a look of contempt at Lucy before sliding over on the floor, picking up a fork, and taking a huge chunk out of the side. Kate began eating on the other side, watching with raised eyebrows as Emileigh…outwardly savoured the bite of cake on her fork.

Emileigh closed her eyes, enjoying the explosion of sugary-flavour on her tongue, the sponginess of the chocolate cake, the creamy chocolate frosting, the crunch of the sprinkles…she licked her lips after she swallowed and then opened her eyes to find her friends looking at her with interest.

“What?” she shrugged, setting the fork down and scooting away from the cake. “Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had a simple carbohydrate?”

“Seems like years,” Rose smirked.

“Probably has been,” said Emileigh, then she turned back to Kate. “Any suggestions. On the plan, I mean, not my carb intake.”

Kate laughed then said, “I’m not sure I’m too worried about your carb intake, there, Em. But the whole ‘plan’ thing…if we want to catch him in the act…why not follow him?”

“Follow him?” Nat spoke for the first time, her dull eyes wide. Follow him. Why hadn’t someone else thought of that? It was so simple!

“Yeah, follow him.”

“Yeah, like five girls sneaking around behind Albus Potter is even a little inconspicuous,” Emileigh snorted, her eyes trained on the chocolate cake. She licked her lips.

“I think I could help you with that,” a soft voice came from the doorway. Five heads turned to find Lily standing there, in the same clothes she’d been wearing the previous night, but her hair was limp and messy, her eyes dull, and there were black tear tracks down her face where she’d forgotten to use the waterproof mascara.

“Lily, what’s wrong?” Lucy spoke first. She seemed eagerly protective of her cousin.

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“How could you help?” Rose asked gently, steering them away from what was obviously a touchy subject. Nat remembered that Lily was planning on seducing Arnie last night. That apparently hadn’t gone well.

“Simple. I’ve got my dad’s invisibility cloak.”

Four girls gaped at her, while Rose nodded, remembering. Kate’s eyes were bugging out of her head. “How did your dad manage to get an invisibility cloak?”

With new charms and spells being invented every day, you’d think that invisibility items would become more and more common. After the Final Battle at Hogwarts, though, the Ministry of Magic had begun putting tight restrictions on exactly who could produce such items, what shops could sell them, and even began regulating who could buy them. The new ones even had special tracking charms on them to make sure they were never in the wrong hands.

It was rare to come across an invisibility product without such charm, and a one in a billion chance that it would happen at Hogwarts.

“It was his father’s,” Lily shrugged, sliding onto the bed next to Nat, putting her arm around her, and putting her head on her shoulder. “What are we following Albus for?”

“To prove that he’s cheating on Nat,” Rose replied.

“Good,” Lily nodded firmly. The way she saw it, either they would find that Albus truly was cheating on Nat - the bastard – or they could come to the conclusion that it’s all in Rose’s head and that she should apologize to everyone, including Scorpius. “And James has the map, and that’ll make it even easier.”

“I already asked James to borrow it. He hasn’t responded to me.”

“He’ll give it to me, I’m sure. I’ve got some blackmail material, anyway.”

“Why Lily Potter, I never pictured you the blackmailing type.”

Lily shrugged. “Last I knew, the map was tucked into the back of the bottom drawer of James’s desk, so if worse comes to worse, I’ll knick it during Easter hols.”

“We’d rather not wait that long.”

“Which is why I’ll write to James write now and ask for the map.”

“Um, excuse me,” Emileigh cleared her throat loudly, cutting off the conversation between the cousins, “I don’t want to ruin this cute, interesting little two-way conversation you’ve got going on, but could one of you please tell us what the hell this map is that you’re talking about?” Emileigh spoke what she, Lucy, Kate, and Nat were all thinking.

Rose smiled sheepishly. “The Marauder’s Map was invented by –”

“No need for all the particulars, hun, just tell us why we need it so bad,” Kate smiled.

“It’s a map of Hogwarts,” Lily said simply, falling to the floor to enjoy a bite of cake.

“It shows where every single student, teacher, staff, and ghost inside the grounds is at any given moment,” Rose said smugly.

“Whoa,” Nat muttered.

“My grandfather helped invent it,” Lily said before shoving a forkful of chocolaty goodness into her mouth.

“How come I’ve never heard of it?” Lucy wondered aloud.

“Your father was kind of a pompous prick back then – dad’s words, not mine – and probably wasn’t made privy to the information. After the war, I guess it was just kept in the Potter family,” Rose lowered her hands from where they raised in the air defensively back down to her lap.

“Hmm, so this map shows where every person is at any given moment inside the castle?”

“And most of the grounds, too,” Lily nodded, going back for her fourth bite. “So not only can we find out what Al is doing, but we can see if he’s sneaking around with that dirty, skanky, slut bitch Meghan Longbottom.”

As soon as Nat recovered from Lily’s vocabulary usage, she asked, “How soon can we get the map?” All eyes turned to Lily, who was aiming her fork at the cake for a fifth bite.

“I’ll send James a note,” Lily went forward for another bite, but Kate slapped Lily’s hand away. Lily looked up at Kate angrily and then sighed. “Fine, I’ll do it now.”

“In the mean time,” Rose started, making sure that Lily had a piece of parchment and a quill before turning back to her friends, “we could all keep an eye on Albus. I mean, watch who he talks to, his schedule…”

“Maybe you should do something about the amount of rounds you’re assigning him,” Kate suggested as she stood, brushed off the seat of her trousers, and bent to pick up the cake. She had every intention of hiding the rest from Lily.

“That might look a tad suspicious.” Emileigh stood as well, reaching up to fluff her hair while looking in the mirror across the room.

“We just need to keep a close watch on him,” Rose replied. Then she turned and looked pointedly at Lucy. “All of us. And without being seen.” Lucy sighed loudly.

“If I get detention…”

“You won’t,” Emileigh assured her. “We’re not doing anything wrong. Yet…”

Lily stretched the next morning, her arms raised high above her head and her toes touching the footboard at the bottom of her bed. She just couldn’t find the energy to get out of bed. She’d already missed half of breakfast, but she didn’t much care.

She hadn’t showered since Saturday afternoon before the shit of a night that should’ve been the best night of her life. She could feel a layer of dirt that covered her body and grimaced. Her hair was nice and greasy and could use a wash as well.

Reluctantly, she rolled out of bed and gathered her things for a shower. She padded across the cold stones to the communal shower the fifth and sixth year girls shared – it was down some steps, halfway between each of their dormitories. Only seventh years had their own bathroom.

She quickly shed her pyjamas and stepped under the hot spray, allowing the hot water to scald her body. She felt it deep in her aching bones. She tried hard to concentrate on the pain of her reddening skin, but found other things penetrating her mind.

Lily didn’t know how she would face him.

Thinking back to the Valentine’s Day night that she’d planned and the one that had unfolded before her, her already red cheeks reddened even further. She should be embarrassed; it was a horrifying situation.

She’d met Arnie in the Great Hall for supper, and then led him to an abandoned classroom on the sixth floor – one they hadn’t christened yet. It was a well-known fact that the sixth floor was the least patrolled, but with her brother patrolling she didn’t really want to take any chances. So she placed an incredibly strong locking charm on the door and then turned, capturing Arnie’s lips with hers.

Lily winced, remembering the event in horrid detail. The wandering hands, the deep, meaningful kisses, then the sudden abandonment. They’d fought. Bad. He wanted to tell Albus about their relationship. He was tired of hiding. He wanted to hold her hand in the corridors. He wanted to sit with her at meals without people getting suspicious. He wanted her.

And yet something was holding her back. She couldn’t give herself to him. So she told him a blatant lie. She wanted to keep their relationship secret. She wasn’t ashamed of him; she just didn’t want everyone to know.

He took it as her being ashamed of him and stormed off. He must be brilliant to get through such a locking charm. He’d left and he wasn’t in the Common Room when she got back.

But there was a singles party going on.

She’d found the most attractive boy there, a bloke by the name of Jared Wood – Bryce’s little brother – and began flirting shamelessly with him. He was attractive, sandy brown hair cropped close to his head, big brown eyes…but he was very skinny and tall, and he had an acne problem.

Lily didn’t seem to mind then, as Arnie entered the Common Room alone. She leaned over and gave Jared a passionate kiss. She would regret it later when Jared tried to feel her up around midnight, but at the moment her and Arnie’s eyes met, the flash of pain in his made her feel good.

Merlin, she’s evil.

She finished her shower and dressed in time to only be ten minutes late for Herbology, which was a miracle because she’d had to run all the way from Gryffindor Tower on the seventh floor, through the snow to the greenhouses.

She was met with a familiar piercing blue gaze and her eyes widened. What was he doing there? Wasn’t he supposed to be in class?

Probably not. Knowing her luck, this was probably his free period and he was helping out his father. Kate had been right those months ago. He was attached to his plants – and his father.

And yet, as Lily stood there, staring at the boy she had vowed to give herself – all of herself – to, she felt a tug at her heart. Her stomach clenched. She wanted to throw herself at him, tell him what a bitch she was, that they could go public with their relationship, Albus and his problems be damned.

Then his eyes slid into a cold, calculated look and she sighed. She’d screwed up, she was aware of that. She turned her gaze to the full classroom, the only empty seat next to Jared Wood. She groaned and rolled her eyes, sure that he’d – Jared – planned it that way.

She should’ve just gone to sit next to him, took notes, participated in whatever lesson Professor Longbottom had planned, and then try to catch Arnie after class to talk to him before he went off into his own little world.

Instead, she gave Arnie one last quick glance, mouthed ‘I’m sorry,’ turned on her heel, and left the greenhouse.

“Miss Potter!” she heard the professor yell just as the door snapped closed. She sighed; she’d undoubtedly get detention for that. But hopefully Arnie caught the meaning of that little display – that what’d happened between her and Jared was a fluke, a mistake – and he’d at least talk to her.

She headed back towards the castle, deciding she’d be better off telling her parents of her blatant ditch before Professor Longbottom did.

“Crouch,” Rose hissed, annoyed, as Lucy crept behind her in a semi-bent position. They were following Albus and Meghan down a dimly lit corridor on the first floor, pausing for the prefects to check an abandoned classroom.

They’d been tagging Albus and Meghan for nearly an hour and Rose felt like her calves were on fire from walking in the same position. She rolled her eyes, annoyed, at Lucy, who refused to hunker down anymore.

“Our feet are showing,” Rose whispered to her cousin, her frustration mounting.

“It’s dark,” Lucy whispered back. “They can’t see us anyway.”

Rose spun on her foot, her body so low to the ground she could feel her trainers digging into her butt. “If they were paying attention, which, fortunately for us they are not, then they would be able to make out the noisy wooden shoes you insisted on wearing-”

“Hey! They’re comfy!”

“-and the orange trousers you had to wear!”

“They’re fun!”

“They’re obvious!” Rose turned her head to make sure she could still see Albus before rounding on her cousin once more. “I said black, tight black clothes. Black shoes.”

“You also said no talking,” Lucy hissed back, finally lowering herself closer to the floor so that the edges of the cloak grazed stone.

“Whatever,” Rose mumbled before turning and starting forward.

“Hey!” Lucy suddenly yelled, and Rose felt the cool, silvery material against her back. She looked up to see Albus and Meghan turn around and point their wands at Lucy.

“Luce?” Albus’s tone conveyed his surprise. They walked towards her and Rose flattened herself against the wall to keep from being trampled and discovered. “Do you realize it’s past curfew?”

“Of course I do,” Lucy snapped at her cousin, suddenly feeling foolish in her blinding trousers and wooden shoes. “I’m not an idiot, you know.”

“Were you following us?” Meghan said, accusingly, giving her a snotty look.

Lucy snorted. “Ha! When are you going to realize that the whole world doesn’t revolve around you, Meghan Longbottom?”

How very un-Lucy.

“Bravery isn’t very becoming of you, Weasley,” Meghan stepped forward, threateningly.

“I’m in Gryffindor, aren’t I?” Lucy hissed through her teeth.

Albus, quickly becoming aware that this could very well escalate into a cat fight – and was astonished…Lucy! – stepped forward, putting himself between the two girls and nearly crushing Rose’s toes in the process.

“Lucy, go to your dormitory.”

“You’re not going to take points?” Meghan cried, outraged. “After the way she talked to us!”

“We’ve got to finish rounds, Meg.” They seemed to communicate with their eyes, Rose thought she saw Albus gesture down the hall with his emeralds, but she couldn’t be sure in the harsh lighting.

“Just go, Luce. I’d hate to report you.” Both Lucy and Rose watched, then, as Albus turned and led Meghan away, his hand at the small of her back.

“Whoa,” Rose breathed, her eyes glued to his hand.

As soon as they rounded the corner, Lucy stepped sideways to where she’d hoped Rose would be, and grasped around for the cloak. A second later she found it and Rose’s shelter was pulled away.

She didn’t seem to notice, though. Her brown eyes were glued to where Albus had led Meghan away.

“This is bad,” Rose told her cousin, finally glancing over to see Lucy’s face red – or what looked to be red – in anger.

“You almost got me detention,” Lucy hissed.

“Didn’t you see!” Rose stage whispered to her cousin. “The way he was touching her…”

“The nickname…Meg,” Lucy shivered as if she’d just seen a spider.

“I’m not quite sure it’s a fling anymore. I think it’s more than just him screwing around behind Nat’s back.”

“You mean–”

“I think they’re in a relationship.”

James reread the note from his sister one more time before shaking his head and tossing it onto the desk. Lily thought Albus was in trouble? Impossible. Trouble is what James would be in if his parents found out that he’d sent the Marauder’s Map off to Hogwarts for Lily to get into trouble with.

James wasn’t perfect in school. Aside from being Quidditch Captain for his last two years, he didn’t really have much going for him. His grades were abysmal, that was for sure. He barely scrapped by on the skin of his teeth during OWLs, there were very few classes he was allowed to even take.

Albus was always the perfect little snot, good grades, so-so at Quidditch (okay to play with when he was a last resort, but nowhere near good enough for the team at Hogwarts), got minimum detentions…the perfect child.

Lily started out like a mini-Albus and had slowly started turning into James the third. Once their parents cottoned on to this, and the fact that the Marauder’s Map was part of the reason Lily rarely got caught, they’d made James promise to keep it locked up at home, only allowing him to use it in case of an emergency.

Then again, this was the third time in as many days that he’d received a note from Lily pleading with him to send her the map. And what if Albus really was in trouble – not that there was much more that boy could do to piss off his parents more?

Then James shrugged. He was turning over a new leaf, introducing a new James Sirius Potter to the wizarding world. Why not let Lily have her fun? He had his share at Hogwarts.

James quickly penned a short note, a brief, “You owe me, squirt,” attached the letter and the map to the leg of the school owl that had delivered the note from Lily, and sent it on its way.

His good deed done for the day, he shrugged on his cloak and headed for the pub. He was going to get his drink on.

Thursday came all too soon for Nat. The next day was her monthly visit from Mediwitch Christensen and she was afraid that she’d gained too much weight for the month. She’d already broken into the box of maternity clothes that Victoire had sent with her to Hogwarts, and she was only going to get bigger.

She’d just slid onto the bench for a late breakfast when her friends suddenly surrounded her. She looked up, shocked, into Rose’s smiling face.

“What?” she asked suddenly.

“We got it.” Rose replied simply.

“Got what?”

“We got the map!”

A/N: I hope you enjoyed this filler chapter.  I'll try and have the next chapter up really soon.  It's what you've all been waiting for.  And because I'm mean, I think I'll start it in James's POV.  *insert evil cackle here*

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

Chapter 23: 22..Tied Up in Lies...Part Two
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A/N: This story is set in the UK which means that I’m using the UK’s spellings of things, so please don’t review saying I spelled something wrong. Still review! But because you like my story instead. 

I spent six hours straight on this chapter and it's going up unedited, so excuse any grammatical errors.  They will be fixed...eventually.

Defying Gravity
Chapter 22: Tied Up in Lies…Part Two

Kylie slid the chart to Kelly Cavis’s room into the chart holder beside the door and leaned against the wall, pulling her sweat-soaked scrub shirt away from her body in an effort to ventilate that part of her body.

The room had been stifling hot for one reason: Kelly’s unknown condition. The seven year old was suffering from strange rashes and cold flashes, and no one, not even the best healers in the Hospital, could figure out what was wrong with the poor girl.

Kylie thought it was probably something muggle. With the wizarding bloodlines becoming diluted as they were – meaning more and more wizards were marrying muggles or other witches and wizards with very little magical blood – muggle illnesses were becoming more commonly found in those with magical blood.

It was a shame that witches and wizards, young and old, were dying every day because the older population of healers and board members refused to accept the fact that muggle illness could even infiltrate such a higher power – their words, not hers.

And the Chief of Staff at the hospital was one-hundred and twelve years old and didn’t look to be croaking anytime soon, so that muddled perspective was sure to stay that way for a while. Unless someone like Kylie were to do something about it.

But she was only one person. What could she do?

One more, Kylie told herself, her eyes closing in sudden pain. She’d saved this one for last for a reason she didn’t remember. It would be the hardest to deal with, no doubt. She’d already made plans to go right home and sleep after work, whether or not her roommate was having a party, and the only thing standing in the way of her and her seventy-five galleon, custom made mattress was a little boy by the name of Braden Helmick.

She pushed herself away from the wall, smoothed her hand down her pale yellow scrubs – Paediatric Healers wore bright yellow robes and, subsequently, their interns wore a softer shade – and took a deep breath before pulling out the chart.

The chart was thicker and heavier than most: Braden had been at the hospital longer than most. She tapped her wand against the bulging book and the cover and pages suddenly flipped up to the last check point four hours ago, right after supper.

She knocked twice on the heavy door and pushed it open, taking a few steps into the dark room. She tried not to look at the boy on the bed, but her eyes strayed from the low numbers on the chart to the bed.

There was a tuft of brown hair peeking over a white, sterile looking blanket. Beneath the blanket, and next to the hair, was a brown teddy bear. Its beady eyes were pointed straight at her and she gulped.

Kylie felt somewhat responsible for this boy. She’d been the primary intern on the case as soon as he and his single mother had stepped through the doors at the bottom floor of the hospital three months. After she assessed that his condition was not emergent (that he wasn’t going to die in the next hour), she’d placed him in this very room in the Paediatric ward. He hadn’t seen the outside of the hospital since.

There was a squeak and her gaze turned from the boy who looked so small a fragile in the middle of the bed to the woman who was just sitting up on the sofa next to the bed. His mother, Karen, waitressed eight shifts a week and had obviously just come from work. The dress from the muggle restaurant she worked at was stained, her hair was a mess, but her green eyes – the eyes that matched Braden’s, the hopeful look included – were bright in the same trusting way that Braden always looked at her.

Kylie gave her a soft half smile, no more than a tilt of the right side of her mouth. It was hard to smile when someone you’d come to care about was so close to dying right before her eyes. She could only imagine how it was for Karen.

Kylie started to do her usual workup, a few intricate wand waves, some spells to take blood pressure and temperature. Without waking Braden, she drew a vial of his blood, glad that it was painless to do it magically. It also didn’t leave needle scars like she knew doing it the muggle way did.

Her father was a muggle doctor. Doctor Jacob Richt. He was famous in the muggle world for curing the most common type of Leukaemia, a cancer of the blood. He and her mother, Helen, were taking time off from work to travel. Last she’d heard they were in Brazil, but that was last week during their weekly phone calls.

She finished with the normal check-up, watching the six year old suck his skinny thumb in his sleep, and sighed. The last part would hurt, and she’d have to wake him for it. She dreaded doing it, but it was the only way to know whether or not his treatment was working. So far it hadn’t.

“Wait,” Karen said softly and Kylie brought her head up to look at her. “Before you wake him, I need to ask you…what if this next round doesn’t work?”

The tears shone in the woman’s eyes and Kylie struggled not to start crying herself. She took a deep breath and prepared to answer Karen’s question in the way she’d been coached to.

“We’ll start a more aggressive strain, ma’am. We’re so close,” she added when Karen’s face fell at the generic answer. She took a step forward and grasped Karen’s hand. “We just need to find the right combination that will jump start his immune system. We really are close. Once we get his white blood cell count up, we can start looking for causes of his symptoms.”

“But –”

“Miss Helmick, I’ve grown to care for Braden so much…please trust that I would never let anything happen that would hurt him.”

Karen nodded and Kylie turned back to the child. Pale green eyes greeted her and she smiled at the young boy. He blinked sleepily and hugged the teddy bear closer to him.

“We’re going to play the Chaser game, okay?” she asked, her voice full of false cheer. He shrugged his shoulders tiredly and she sighed. He slept most of the day, it was part of his condition, but he still looked exhausted. Those potions would do that to you.

She pulled out her wand, the cheeriness coming back into her voice. “Kylie’s got the Quaffle, she fakes left, ducks a bludger hit by Caleb, oh what a nasty man,” she made exaggerated movements with her wand in the air, which were really the wand swishes required for the spell but to a six year old looked like an imaginary Quidditch player about to score. “Here she comes, she’s going to get it!” with a gentle movement of her left hand, she lifted the blankets exposing the boy’s lower leg, and then her wand “landed” on the top of his chin and she quietly muttered the spell. She braced herself on his thigh, knowing the flinch of his muscles was coming.

Then he tensed up at the pain, the only other outward sign that it hurt was a barely audible gasp. She noticed he reached for his mother’s hand and suddenly tears sprung to her eyes. After the spell was done, she took her wand away and quickly bandaged the part of his bleeding leg.

Holding her breath and praying for positive results, she picked up the chart where the results of his test, his current white blood cell count, would appear. The numbers started a weak gray and became darker until the bold numbers stood out on the page.

She sighed.

“What?” Karen asked pleadingly, and Kylie didn’t waste another moment, not wanting to give them false hope.

“I’m sorry. The white blood cell count is down further from the last test.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means we’re going to have to be even more aggressive with his treatment,” she gave the generic answer before excusing herself. She shoved the chart back into its holder and nearly ran to the intern lounge, ignoring people calling her name or protesting as she pushed past them. Her job was done for the day. She had to get out of there.

She hadn’t lied to them, really. They did need a more aggressive potion to get Braden’s white blood cell count up. What she didn’t tell them was that if the count continued to drop as it was, then Braden was going to die. And by the looks of the numbers, it was going to happen soon.

She’d taken a half hour to shower, standing under the scalding spray, scrubbing her fingers hard over her scalp as a sort of punishment for living while Braden was laying there dying. The guilt that knotted in the pit of her stomach was overwhelming and, as she dried her hair and dressed for the trip home, she shook her head.

She needed a drink.

Kylie pulled on the cute pink top and lime green mini-skirt she’d brought with her to change in to. She always kept an extra change of clothes in her locker, amidst all of the different coloured scrubs that were required, and as she slipped on the matching pink flats, she was glad it was this outfit. It was a nice outfit to pick up a guy.

And she needed a night of mindless, meaningless sex to get her mind off of Braden Helmick.

Ten minutes later she pushed open the heavy door and entered ‘The Witch’s Brew’, a pub halfway between her two-bedroom flat and the hospital. For about two seconds she considered going someplace else, because most of the patrons there worked at the hospital, but she realized she just didn’t feel comfortable going any place else. This was the safest neighbourhood around, being muggle, and figured there must be some muggle around that she could seduce and take back to her flat or her to his.

Whichever. She wasn’t picky.

She shed her cloak and ordered a drink. Some liquid courage was in order. She downed the first one, a rum and cola, and ordered another: extra rum, not so much cola. She picked up her tumbler to down that one quickly as well when a sudden ruckus caught her attention down the bar.

Kylie couldn’t believe her eyes. She looked at the drink, looked towards the bartender, and then back at the man. Could that be? No, her eyes must be deceiving her. But it really looked like him.

Then he caught her eye for a split second and she knew it was. James Potter was sitting at a two-person table, surrounded by women. And what was worse, there was a woman perched on each one of his knees. He had his arms securely around their waists; his right hand was playing with the woman’s navel ring, flicking it back and forth against her tanned skin.

Kylie narrowed her eyes. That was not the James Potter she knew. His wife was going through a terrible ordeal. She’d seen the chart that day. Cancer. Healer Jacobson was rarely wrong. And she’d always thought of James as the sort to take care of what’s his. So why wasn’t he at home taking care of his sick wife?

The bartender, a hunky man was blonde hair and a tight shirt, came back to check on her even though he’d just refilled her drink a minute ago and there were more people down the bar waiting for him.

“What’s with him?”

“Ah, I believe his name is Potter,” the man shrugged, seemingly uncomfortable talking about the guy.

“As in Harry Potter’s son?” she gave no inclination that she knew James.

“Yeah,” the bartender’s resentment for the man showed in that one, hissed statement.

“What’s his story?”

“Heard his wife left him. He’s been making rounds of all the pubs in London, picking up girls. You don’t want to be his next conquest.” You want to be mine, he seemed to leave off, and Kylie smiled sweetly.

“Let me be the judge of that.”

She paid for her drink, downed it in a few gulps, and slammed the glass down on the bar. She wasn’t going to let James do this to his wife. She would get him home, where he belonged, and then find someone to screw. Even as she said that in her mind, the thought was already losing whatever appeal it had to begin with. Sharing something as intimate as sex with a stranger was something Kylie had never done before.

And she decided she didn’t want to start then.

She took two dozen steps to the table James was at. The two girls, both with dark hair and way too much makeup on, turned towards her as she approached. Their eyes were unfocused and it was easy to see they were drunk.

James’s own brown eyes were glazed and unfocused, but he had a huge smile on his face, and his dark eyes seemed to brighten when he spotted her.

“Ka-Ke-Kylie!” He seemed to grasp for her name, which wasn’t a good sign. She’d dealt with inebriated patients at the hospital, ones who spelled off body parts, one’s who’d just put their hand through a window, idiots who’d tried to apparate and got splinched…she knew what to do.

“Aguamenti,” she muttered while pointing her wand at James. A blast of cold water hit him square in the chest and he spluttered. The women around him scattered, letting out shrill screams as the icy water touched their alcohol-sensitised bodies.

“S-stop!” James’s stutter cut over the shrill screams and the blast of water ended. “What the hell?” he stood, his height towering over her. She wasn’t scared, though. She could handle her own. Her breath caught in her chest at the sight of his tee shirt clinging to his abdomen, the ripple of muscles under said skin-tight tee shirt as he took two steps toward her, and then the laugh that ripped through him and caused his chest to rise and fall rapidly.

Her eyes were trained on him the whole time, but his hand on her cheek shook her out of her reverie, and she looked up at him. His eyes were more focused, and he was smiling rather than angry like she’d thought he’d be.

“Why, Kylie, if you wanted a chance with me all you had to do was ask,” he said.

Then to her shock, he bent down and slanted his lips over hers.

Nat watched the map over Rose’s shoulder as Albus and Meghan’s dots disappeared off the map and then she slumped against the wall. Well, that was it. The only proof she needed. Albus was cheating on her. He’d rather be with Meghan-fucking-Longbottom than with her.

Hadn’t she had reservations about Meghan at the beginning? She could remember her fifth year when she first started developing a massive crush on Albus. He was her second best friend - second only to Rose - and dating Meghan then. She was only a fourth year, and Nat had figured they couldn’t be that serious. Everyone said they made a cute couple. Nat thought they looked horrible together.

Even then Meghan didn’t dress her age. She wore tight clothes and way too much makeup. The professors obviously – well, obvious to Nat – had a problem with it but she was Professor Longbottom’s daughter. What could they do?

Nat should’ve realized that nothing between her and Albus could work out right then. Meghan and he were together and their parents were happy about it. His parents didn’t even seem to mind that she dressed like a prostitute.

So she admired Albus from far away, while continuing her best friend duties (by remaining mum on the relationship topic), hoping that one day he’d realize that he didn’t love Meghan and then Nat could have her chance.

Her chance came in July before their sixth year. Albus and Meghan had still been together at the end of the year, and Nat dreaded going to Rose’s birthday party because she’d have to see them. She almost declined the invitation to spend the rest of the month with the Weasleys because she couldn’t stand to see Albus and Meghan together. But Rose was her best friend, so she couldn’t.

The girls went shopping for party dresses, and Nat found a green one that matched Albus’s eyes. It was knee-length and strapless exactly the kind of outfit for a sweet sixteen party. She paired it with navy heels that were sure to catch his attention. She was hoping that he would break up with Meghan for her.

Turns out she didn’t have to pray too hard. Albus and Meghan had broken up three weeks before the party, about a day after school ended.  They had a great romantic relationship from that point forward.

Or so Nat thought.

She should’ve realized that she was Albus’s “rebound girl” from the start. He had just gotten out of a nearly year-long relationship and found the first girl ready and willing. And he was too much of a gentleman to break up with her without a good reason.

Except that he obviously wasn’t, if he would cheat on his pregnant girlfriend.

At that thought, Nat looked down at her stomach and sighed. She was stupid to have even gotten caught up in anything with Albus. And with current situations with James, she was just now realizing that those Potter boys were trouble. Big trouble. And Albus’d sucked her right in.

“I can’t do this,” she whispered aloud, and four sets of eyes turned towards her. Tears welled in her eyes and she cursed her hormones, not for the first time. She didn’t need to cry at a time like this.

“Nat, it’ll be okay,” Rose placed a hand on her shoulder, urging her friend to stay calm. “We’ll help you get through this.”

“What’s the use of having friends if you can’t lean on them once in a while?” Emileigh asked, philosophically, and looked quite pleased with herself at that.

“What’s the use of being in love with a boy who doesn’t view you in the same way?” Nat spat back. Rose’s eyebrows knitted together in question. “It was obviously a mistake to get together with Albus at all.” She looked upwards towards the ceiling shielded by the cloak, trying to stop the tears from leaking from her eyes.

“Nat, think about what you’re saying,” Lily whispered. She and Nat had become close friends because of Nat’s relationship with her brother.

“Besides you, Lil,” Nat conceded. She slid to the floor and stretched her legs out in front of her since she could no longer pull them to her chest in a comforting position.

“But what if he apologizes?” Emileigh, once the sceptic, asked. She never would’ve believed Albus capable of cheating if she hadn’t seen it with her own two eyes.

“It doesn’t matter,” Nat’s head dropped into her hands. “It’s over.”

So over.

Rose sat beside her, Lily on the other side, both cuddling up to her in comfort. Kate and Emileigh sat on either side of her legs, rubbing soothing circles along her trousers. Aside from a random comment, no one talked. They just sat there, looking at each other for a long time.

Three hours, in fact. Three hours later, the statue of the humpback witch started to move and the four girls jumped up, Rose and Emileigh reaching down to help Nat up in her enlarged state.

Nat stared at the statue, not wanting to miss this. Her heart beat erratically in her chest; her palms were sweaty; her stomach clenched.

Albus’s head appeared, but they were all under the cloak so he didn’t see them. Then Meghan stepped one long leg out of the statue, followed by the rest of her body. Albus appeared just after that, both of their uniforms rumpled. Nat’s eyes teared at the sight of them together and their wrinkled clothes. There was no doubt in her mind that they’d been doing something after seeing that.

Then her mouth fell open when Albus grabbed Meghan around the waist and pulled her close to his body. She felt a sob bubble in her throat when she saw Meghan turn her head sideways and Albus place a kiss against her cheek.

“Oh, god,” she whispered, more tears rising in her eyes and bile rising in her throat.

The couple was walking away from them and Nat was happy to see them go so she could go back to her dorm and cry, when Rose and Lily simultaneously stepped from beneath the cloak.

She hoped he hadn’t seen them.

He had.

Emileigh and Kate were next to show themselves, and Nat told herself that this was her battle, not theirs. Although she’d wanted to confront him later, after she had a plan of attack and all the facts, she gathered her courage and lifted the cloak over her head, allowing it to pool in a pile of shimmery fabric on the stone floor behind her.

Seeing Albus face to face, the shock and surprise of getting caught, brought back a flood of feelings, betrayal, embarrassment, humiliation…before she could stop herself, she stepped forward to him.

Her hands automatically went to her stomach, as if she could protect their babies – her babies – from the heartache she was feeling. She was toe to toe with him when she reared back and slapped him.

It was a surprise to her as much as it was to him, and as soon as it was over, she ran back to her friends and buried her face in Kate’s shoulder. She heard the onslaught of words her friends yelled at Albus.

“What the hell were you thinking?” Lily yelled, wanting to slap her brother herself.

“How could you?” Emileigh’s voice was tight, pained, as if she were trying to hold her emotions in check before she throttled him herself.

“I cannot believe you,” Rose said sadly. Nat looked up at that, wanting to see the remorse, the guilt, on Albus’s face. There was none, which made her stomach hurt.

“What the hell are you talking about?” His cheek was red, but he didn’t move to rub it, and his piercing green gaze wasn’t on the girls currently attacking him, but on Nat.

“And you!” Rose rounded on Meghan suddenly, who stepped forward, a smug smile on her face. Then, making sure every could see her, she reached down and tried to smooth some of the wrinkles on her uniform.

Nat let out a chocked sob and buried her face against Kate again. She heard the sound of flesh against flesh – not a slap, but something else – and looked up in time to see Meghan hit the ground.

Realization had dawned on Albus’s face and he’d made a movement towards Nat. The pain on his face made Nat’s heart ache worse. But she knew it was only there because he’d hurt her, and not because he was sorry for his actions. He was just a good guy who made bad decisions; the first one was making Nat his rebound girl.

Meghan had picked herself up off the floor and Lily and Emileigh were blocking Albus’s path to Nat. Rose grabbed him by his shirt collar and tugged him away from them with surprising strength. He allowed her to push him against the stone wall near where Meghan had pulled herself up to.

Her eye was already beginning to swell shut and bruise. Good, Nat thought.

“I want your badges,” Rose said, holding out both of her hands to the prefects. “Right now.”

“What?” Meghan shrilled. “Why? We didn’t do anything wrong!”

“Slacking off on your duties for Merlin knows how long for starters,” Rose told her. Albus placed his badge in Rose’s hand without a fight, his penetrating gaze still placed firmly on Nat. She preferred to watch the scene, though, and refused to meet his eyes.

“What are you talking about?” Meghan demanded. “We completed all of our rounds, every single time.”

“We followed you,” Emileigh stepped forward even though it wasn’t really her fight. “You didn’t get past the third floor.”

“Tonight,” Meghan spat, gesturing widely in anger. “Tonight was the only acceptation! We were late!”

“Late for what?” Rose’s eyes narrowed. The girls had seemingly forgotten about Albus, their eyes focused on Meghan, and he’d managed to slip around them. Nat could feel that he was close, so she moved to stand beside Rose.

“For work, you bitch! Albus has been working with me at the Leaky Cauldron since New Years!”

Whatever Nat had been expecting, it wasn’t that. But when had she ever trusted Meghan Longbottom?

Rose didn’t seem to have a comeback to that, and wiggled her fingers in indication that she still wanted Meghan’s Prefect badge. Meghan let out a huff, pulled the badge out of her pocket, and threw it at Rose.

“My father will be hearing about this,” Meghan hissed before turning on her heel and stomping off.

Rose ran to catch up with her, the slip of paper already filled out. “What?” Meghan yelled when Rose tapped her shoulder. Rose thrust the detention slip at Meghan. Meghan took one look at it and then focused her angry toffee eyes on Rose.

“Are you kidding?”

“For being out way past curfew more than once,” Rose shrugged and turned on her heel, stomping back to her friends.

“Ugh!” Meghan ripped up the slip and threw it on the ground before walking away. Rose tsked, repaired the paper, and then charmed it to follow Meghan and bother her until she took it. Then Rose turned to Albus and handed him one as well.

Albus took it and tucked it into his rumpled robes before turning his eyes back to Nat. Nat stared at him, her head moving back and forth slowly. She couldn’t believe all of this was happening. Meghan said Albus got a job at the Leaky Cauldron. But when had Nat ever believed a word that girl said?


And now she couldn’t trust Albus.

“Can I please speak with Nat?” Albus’s voice cut through her like a knife and she shuddered.

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” Emileigh told him. Obviously she hadn’t believed Meghan’s story, either. It could be a plan that the new couple thought up in case Nat ever found out.

That didn’t make much sense either, if Albus was wanting to get rid of her but didn’t know how to do it.

Nothing made sense to Nat anymore.

Albus couldn’t believe this was happening. He’d had a relatively good night which turned into hell as soon as he stepped foot back inside the castle. Nat thought he was cheating on her? With Meghan Longbottom?

That was a laugh!

He’d dated Meghan in fifth year because she asked him out and the girl he really wanted – Nat – didn’t seem interested. He’d been friends with Meghan for a while, their families were close so it was kind of a no-brainer, and things just happened.

For nine months they dated, all the while he’d adored Nat from afar. He got closer to Meghan to make Nat jealous. Back then it was all he could think to do. Now he realized that it just might be the root of all of their problems.

He never thought about how Nat might feel about him and Meghan working together. He just assumed that once he finally told her she’d be happy and overlook the details. Now that he thought about it, that sounded ridiculous, because he knew that Nat hated anything to do with Meghan.

And he couldn’t help but think that that was his fault.

“Nat…” he stepped forward and reached for her, and his heart skipped a beat when she shrank back away from him.

No. This couldn’t be happening. She was pregnant with his kids. They were starting to build a life together. He couldn’t let one single mistake ruin it.

“Can we talk? Please?”

She nodded and he breathed a sigh of relief. And then she turned to her friends and did some weird, silent, talking with the eyes thing. He hoped those babies didn’t turn out to both be girls or else he’d never know anything around the house.

The girls, except for Rose, left without a fight (or a word spoken between them) and Albus turned to Rose.

“I’m not leaving,” she said before Albus could ask her to. “This whole situation is what broke Scorpius and me up, and I’m going to see it through. Then I’m going to throttle that damn boy.”

He turned to Nat and gave her a pleading look, but she shrugged her shoulders. “Rose stays.”

He sighed, knowing there was no use in arguing with either of them, and then angled his body so he could keep an eye on them both. This wasn’t hard, seeing as Rose took Nat’s hand when they came to rest side by side.

“I’ve been working at the Leaky Cauldron. This whole…thing…you’ve got it all wrong, Nel.” He sighed when Nat flinched at the use of his nickname for her; she bit her lip as if in pain. “I just-I can’t believe that you would think that I could ever cheat on you! I love you, so much. So, so much. So much I can’t even explain it. I could never do that to you, never hurt you like that.”

It was quiet for a moment and Nat took that as her turn to speak.

“I-I know I was your rebound girl –”

“What would make you think that?” Albus asked loudly over her talking so that he missed the next thing she said.

“– help but love you. And you promised that I had nothing to fear when it came to you and Meghan. Little did I know you were sneaking around with her behind my back.” Albus wanted to protest, but knew better to try it again, and pressed his lips tightly together to hold himself back. “I never believed you could cheat until I saw it with my own eyes, and trust me Albus, there was some pretty incriminating evidence.”

“Ask me, I can explain it all,” Albus pleaded.

“Don’t you see? It doesn’t matter anymore! It doesn’t much matter whether you were working at the Leaky Cauldron or getting a room there,” she sighed, and crossed her arms over her chest. “Trust, Albus.”

“Trust,” he whispered to himself, trying to catch her meaning. He did, and didn’t like where she was going.

“Trust is the single most important thing in a relationship. And you broke mine. You know my problem with Meghan. You knew my pain behind my mother leaving. And you turned around did the same thing. Maybe not physically,” she raised a hand when he protested, and he could see how hard she was trying to keep it together and get through her point. He didn’t like where this was going. “But you left me emotionally. By not telling me what was going on, where you were going every night, why you were leaving me all alone every night…and to be with Meghan Lon-why Meghan?”

He sensed that the question was rhetorical and didn’t answer it. She shook her head and bit her lip.

“So because I kept a secret…” he couldn’t bring himself to say the words aloud.

“We were building a life together. We were having babies, probably living together, eventual marriage. There should be no secrets, Albus. And you had a big one! Next you’re going to tell me you weren’t a virgin when we got together.”

Shit, Albus thought, and ran a hand through his hair. He looked away guiltily, but turned back when he heard Nat let out a sob. He wanted to go to her and hold her, rock her and soothe away all of her worries. The package he’d received earlier burned in his pocket and kept him rooted to the spot.

“Tell me, Albus, is anything you said to me during our relationship true? Did you even love me at all?”

“I still do,” he muttered, knowing it was no use, and she’d think what she wanted to after he royally screwed up.

The corridor was silent for a long stretch of time, and finally he looked up to find her glaring at him, jaw set. “Was it Meghan?”


“Did you sleep with Meghan before me?”

He sighed. “Once,” he whispered.

“And you didn’t tell me because…?”

“I knew how much you disliked her,” he answered simply. Before, he couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Now he couldn’t bear to look at her.

A tear trickled down her cheek and he wanted to reach out and wipe it away. But the way Rose was glaring at him menacingly from beside her made him want to take a step back.

“For the record, I never told you I was a virgin when we started dating.”

Wrong words to say.

“You never said you weren’t, either. So just because you don’t say something means it’s okay? You never told me you were working at the Leaky Cauldron, but you never said you weren’t, so it’s my bad? Well you never said you weren’t fucking Meghan Longbottom, did you?”

His heart stopped in his chest when she spun on her heel and started walking away. No, he couldn’t let her just walk away. He caught her arm and spun her around, not counting on the fact that her hand would come with it. She slapped him again, in the exact same spot, and this time he did reach up to rub his face.

“Don’t. Touch. Me.” She enunciated each word carefully, then turned around and began walking away again.

“So that’s it? You’re walking away from nearly two years together? You’re walking away from the father of your children?”

That made her stop. He just wished that she’d smile, come running back into his arms, and tell him that it was all right. That she forgave him.

But she turned around and gave him a cold, hard look.

“You walked away first,” she said, turned around and headed towards the stairwell.

Her final words would be ones that would echo in his head for long, sleepless nights to come. They caused his gut to clinch and tears to form in his eyes. They stung worse than both of her slaps, combined:

“I’m just following your lead.”

Scorpius Malfoy was having a fantastic dream. Rose was running along a wet-sanded beach, her…assets…were bouncing with each stride of her long, shapely, freckled legs, her black bikini bottoms slung low on her hips.

“Scorpius,” she said, though it came out more masculine than he remembered. Merlin, it had been too long since he’d been with her.

“Scorpius,” she stopped in front of him and puckered her lips for a kiss. He leaned forward to kiss her, and suddenly she wasn’t there anymore.


His eyes shot open to find himself sitting up in his bed, his own lips puckered in preparation of a kiss, and his best mate sitting by his bed.

Albus had a bemused expression on his otherwise sullen features. Scorpius’s mouth turned down in a frown as Albus slumped onto his bed.

“What’s wrong? And how did you get in here?”

Albus shrugged. “Some second year called Arix.”

Scorpius laughed. “That boy is so easy to manipulate,” he turned a wary eye to his friend. “What’s wrong?”

“Nat broke up with me last night.”

Scorpius leaned forward. Sure enough, it didn’t look like Albus had slept a wink. He looked exhausted. His eyes were dull, with dark circles beneath. His hair was messier than usual from running his hands through it.

“Damnit. I told Rose to let that whole cheating thing go!” Albus laughed cryptically.

“Get this. Nat knows I didn’t cheat on her and broke up with me anyway.”


“Said I had already left her emotionally, by keeping secrets from her, so she did it physically,”


“Actually, I don’t blame her.”
Albus looked defeated, and that scared Scorpius. He’d never seen than withdrawn, lost look on his friend’s face. He didn’t like it.

“Just, here,” Albus dug into his pocket and pulled out a small velvet box.

“It came?”

Albus nodded. “Yesterday. I wasn’t going to give it to her for a while, but I guess that’s null and void now anyway. Anyway, you paid for half of it, and seeing as I’m not working at the Leaky Cauldron anymore, that’s the only way I’ll be able to pay you back.”

“I told you–”

“That it would be a wedding present,” Albus finished for him, shaking his head sadly, as if the notion that that wouldn’t be taking place was just now hitting him. “But seeing as that’s not going to be happening now…just take it. Please?”

Albus left the room a split second later leaving Scorpius in the middle of his bed, shirtless, with a small box in his hand. Sighing, he opened the jewellery box, the unused hinge squeaking with the effort.

Nestled between folds of velvety softness was a ring unlike Scorpius had ever seen. The stone was big, for one. A princess cut diamond sheathed on either side by a total of twelve smaller diamonds embedded in the white gold band. He took it out of the box and held it up to see if there was an inscription.

There was. And he, macho Quidditch Captain Scorpius Malfoy, choked up a little. After reading that, and knowing Nat and Albus, he vowed to do whatever it took to get them back together. Because that inscription said it all:

A Lifetime is All That I Need – Al & Nel Forever

Chapter 24: 23..Silence is Golden...or is it Deadly?
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Defying Gravity
Chapter 23: Silence is Golden…or is it Deadly?

James woke slowly; his eyes opened for a moment before he realized that it was just too damn bright in his room, and they snapped closed. He couldn’t remember ever feeling such pain in his head before, and that was including all of the hangovers that he’d ever had in his entire life.

With his eyes closed tightly, he tried to remember back to the previous night. He was in a pub, he knew that, flirting with a couple of women, he remembered that. He remembered that one of the women – Veronica, Vanessa…started with a ‘V’ – had her navel pierced with a string of diamonds hanging from the ring and he couldn’t help but play with it all night.

Had he left with her?

He’d sure wanted to. He’d wanted to tug on that belly ring with his teeth; he’d wanted to lick the skin all around those jewels.

But he didn’t.

He remembered that he’d left with a girl, but not one of those girls. Merlin, he must’ve been hammered not to remember an entire night with a woman.

The only thing that sprang to mind was one hot, sizzling kiss. The kind that you only read about in books, where you feel a jolt of electricity through your entire body that makes your nerves stand on end with need and want and desire.

Had he left with her?

Then he remembered that he had curtains in his room, thick, heavy curtains that didn’t let a speck of light through, which is why he could sleep until four in the afternoon without being bothered by the sun. So why was it so bright in the room he was in currently?

His eyes shot open and pain seared through his head. He wasn’t in his own room, that’s why. James began to panic. He had no clue where he was, and, until that very moment, he never understood how scary that could be.

He couldn’t even open his eyes without fearing that his head would split in two, but he also had to know where he was.

He lifted his left eyelid a fraction: blurry. He tried to open his eye a little more, and the room around him began to come into focus. He saw blonde wood furniture, a muggle television, a painting of a seascape, and…

“No wonder it’s so bloody bright in here,” he bitched, “the walls are fucking yellow.”

“It’s sunflower, actually,” said a voice from the doorway, and James turned and saw, with one eye, Kylie Richt standing just inside the room wearing a low cut top. She was leaning against the doorjamb, her legs looking long and toned in her tight jeans. “And buttercup.”

“Come again?” James’s eyes slid from the sliver of toned belly peeking out from beneath her plum-coloured low-cut jumper, which stretched tight across her breasts, to her heart shaped face and brown eyes.

She pushed off from the wall and moved deeper into the room, closer to him, and for the first time he realized she was carrying something in her hands. It looked to be a potion vial. He hoped it was a hangover cure, because he could really use one at that moment.

He smiled triumphantly when she extended her hand and dropped the vial into his outstretched palm. He downed it in one go without even looking at the label. He tasted blueberries and smiled at the calming flavour.

“The stripes on the wall…the darker colour is Sunflower yellow and the lighter, paler colour is Buttercup yellow.”

He suddenly remembered that he was in her bedroom – at least he hoped it was her bedroom and not some stranger’s (then he remembered that Kylie practically was a stranger and mentally pinched himself) – and the thought scared him. He’d never slept over at one of his conquest’s place; hadn’t let himself stay past the sex part, and yet, here he was, laying fully clothed in a girl’s bed –

Wait, he had his clothes on. At least a shirt. Instead of doing the whole totally obvious picking up of the covers and checking beneath them to see if he had trousers on like actors do in the movies, he subtly moved his hand to touch his leg.

Yep, he still had his trousers on.

So either he redressed after the sex, preparing to leave, and she’d hit him with a curse and forced him to stay, or they hadn’t had sex at all. Gathering his courage, and without even realizing that she’d been talking to him about her room décor for as long as he’d been having a conversation with himself, he opened his mouth and asked what he thought was a stupid, embarrassing question:

“Did we have sex?”

Whatever he’d expected from her, laughter hadn’t been it. But she did, a high pitch, quaffing, knee slapping laugh, not one of those puny giggles that girls usually threw at him when he’d told a semi-funny joke. No, she looked as if she actually enjoyed laughing, and thought whatever had started that fit of hysteria actually was funny.

After a moment of this, he grew rather tired of being laughed at. She’d collapsed onto the foot of the bed, bent over her knees to try and catch her breath, and if he wasn’t enjoying the view of her exposed lower back, he’d have gotten up, gathered his shoes, and stormed off by then.

“I’m sorry,” she gasped for breath, turning to him sideways. “I’m not-It’s not like I’m l-laughing at you,” she put her head in her hands, calmed herself, and then sat up, running her hands through her hair. “Sorry,” she said again, finally looking at him.

James looked at Kylie expectantly, his question still having not been answered, and she cracked a smile. He almost dared her to laugh.

“It’s just,” she bit her lip – her plump, juicy, gloss-covered lip…James shook his head as if to get the thought out – and shrugged. “You don’t remember?”

“Duh,” James bit out and sighed at the wounded look that crossed her face. “I’m sorry,” he ran a hand through his dark hair. “I just don’t usually wake up in a woman’s bed the night after a drinking binge, and definitely not without knowing how I got there.”

“Really?” his eyes narrowed at her incredulous tone and she must’ve realized how surprised she sounded because she rebuttled with an, “I mean…it’s just…I guess your reputation precedes you.”

“Does it?” his eyebrows rose, and he awaited her explanation.

“Well, people talk. Especially people who’ve been drinking. I got the feeling that you were, well, kind of a man-whore.”

“Really? And how does that make you feel knowing you’ve got a man-whore sleeping in your bed?” He shot her an arrogant look, and she had the nerve to look haughty.

“It’s fine. I changed the sheets, I won’t miss those much when I burn them because they’re irreparable now, and I slept in another room, so it’s not as if I was anywhere near you.”

He scowled. That was a low blow. Insinuating that he was some sort of diseased freak. Well, he told himself, he could be. He’d had sex with Merlin knows how many women. Who knew what he’d picked up?

“I’m sorry,” she took his silence as anger and apologized.

“It’s fine,” he brushed off her concern. It wasn’t as if they were dating or anything. “Listen, do you have a floo or something? I’d kind of like to get out of here.”

She shook her head. “Sorry, James. This is a muggle building and do you know how much a flat with a fireplace costs? The closest apparition point is two blocks from here.”

She stood from the bed and stretched high above her head. He saw the expanse of her stomach, the jumper edging towards her breasts the higher she stretched, and he’d just caught the sight of pale pink lace when her arms dropped to her side.

“So how much of an ass did I make of myself last night?”

She looked as if she was about to go into one of her laughing fits again, but she just shrugged.

“If I’m being honest,” she told him, folding her arms across her chest, “a pretty big one.”

He threw his legs over the side of the bed, realizing he still had his shoes on, and sat up next to her. “Oh God,” he groaned, putting his hand over his face. At first she thought he might be in pain, but then he said, “What did I do? Come on, give it to me straight.”

“Well,” she shrugged, trying to keep things nonchalant. “You kissed me, for one.”

He grinned flirtatiously. “Where I come from, that’s not being an ass, that’s being smart…kissing pretty girls, that is.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

She scoffed, though, inside her heart thudded in her chest and heat gathered in the pit of her stomach.

“Then,” she exaggerated the word, drawing it out as two syllables, raising her eyebrows at James, “you threw up on me.”

“I did?” his face flamed red, and Kylie smiled. Embarrassed was a side of him she hadn’t seen before. Although, it didn’t nearly make up for the embarrassment of last night when’d she had to leave the pub, dragging him behind her, with puke down her shirt, skirt, and dripping onto her legs.

“Yep. Then you passed out and I had to drag you all the way back here because I don’t know where you live.”

“Oh god,” James put his head in his hands, mortified. After a moment, he looked at her as if to say, “Is there more?”

“I couldn’t get you up the steps, and you were mumbling about…something,” she hadn’t wanted to mention that it was Jennifer, “so I had to call my brother to help.”

“You have a brother?”

She nodded. “So he got there and wanted to leave you on the stoop, but I told him I couldn’t let you freeze after everything, so he picked you up like a baby and carried you in here…” she trailed, biting her lip, trying not to smile.


“You…uh…you kind of…kissed him.”

“Your brother?” he yelled, jumping off the bed. She nodded.

“He doesn’t hold it against you. You can take a punch like a man, and he respects you for that.”

That was why his stomach hurt, not from the nausea that came with a hangover, but because her brother had punched him in the gut.

“So, wait, back up…you have a brother?”

“A twin brother. Mark. He was a Ravenclaw in school.”

Of course, Mark Richt the Ravenclaw. He was his sister’s first crush – she was only a first year at that time.

“So, uh…” he paused, hoping to break the silence but coming up with nothing. He wanted to thank her for taking care of him. Nobody else in that bar would have. He’d be lying face down in a ditch somewhere if it were up to them. And he wasn’t all that sure he didn’t deserve that.

“Want to get some breakfast?” he blurted when she was just about to open her mouth to speak.

“You want to take me to breakfast? I thought you were just all gung-ho to leave.”

“So?” he shrugged as if it were no big deal, as if it weren’t a date – because it wasn’t. Just two people of the opposite sex eating breakfast together. “I owe you for taking care of me last night.”

“No one else would have,” she agreed with him at least. “It’s not like you’ve been hanging around a great circle of friends lately, huh?”

“Nope, I’ve got ‘loner’ tattooed on my forehead,” he grinned. “Breakfast?”

“Sure, let me just get my cloak.” She left the room and he followed her, noting a closed door across the hall with a ‘Keep Out’ sign at eye level. The short hallway opened into a common area with a dining room/living room/kitchen separation.

Kylie was at a counter in the kitchen flipping the switch on a complicated looking piece of muggle equipment. She turned, fixing the collar on her cloak, and looked at him. Her hands went to her pockets for gloves. She pulled on the multi-coloured striped gloves and matching hat. Her collar was still turned up in the back and he reached around her and turned it down.

They locked gazes for a long moment. He could stare into her chocolate brown depths forever. He could get lost in those eyes, and what scared him was he could actually see himself doing just that. And he actually wanted to. It had been a long time since he’d instigated a relationship with a girl. Even with Jennifer, she’d pursued him.

Was that what he was doing by asking her to breakfast? Courting her?

To get the thought out of his mind, he asked the first question that popped into his head. He realized he was grasping for straws here, but he had to do something to get the images of her lips, her naked in his bed, the sway of her hips in those jeans, out of his mind.

“If you didn’t sleep in your bed last night, where did you sleep?”

She smirked, and he couldn’t help but find it sexy. Her plump, glossed lips stretched over white teeth in a genuine smile, before she simply said, “My sister’s room.”

“You have a sister?”

Rose scowled into her pillow, hit the fluffy mass with her fist twice, and then slammed her head against it. Not bloody likely, she thought in reference to the owl she’d just received. Giving up on trying to go back to sleep, she threw her pyjama-clad legs over the edge of the bed and stood. She paced the seventh year girls’ dormitory floor, trying to remember to keep her steps light as to not wake the rest of the dorm, because it was only eight on a Saturday morning.

She couldn’t.

She was seething mad. The little bitch had turned her in. She glared at the balled up piece of parchment that she’d tossed near the bin. It was from the Headmistress. Rose didn’t need to reread it to know what it said. Headmistress McGonagall has requested Rose Weasley’s presence in the Headmistress’s office at noon for a meeting in regards to a punishment doled out the previous night.

And since the only punishment she’d given out had been taking Meghan and Albus’s prefect badges, that had to be it.

Well, she wasn’t going.

She hadn’t done anything wrong. She’d been well within her rights as Head Girl – she’d checked the rulebook!

“Are you okay?” came a voice from another bed and Rose spun on her heel and saw Kate sitting up in her four poster, stretching her arms out to the side.

“Fabulous,” Rose muttered, her pacing coming to a sudden stop.

“Is she okay?” Kate questioned, nodding her head towards Nat’s bed.

The blonde was curled up in the fetal position, having cried herself to sleep sometime around four in the morning. Her hair was a tangled mass over her pillow, and she still wore her black clothing.

Last night, as soon as she had Nat out of Albus’s sight, Nat’s knees had given out beneath her as she sobbed, and Rose’d had to practically carry her up to the tower. It hurt Rose to see Nat so distraught, but she was very proud that her friend stood up to Albus. In Rose’s opinion, he needed to get knocked down a peg or three.

She wasn’t one to gloat, but she couldn’t wait to tell Scorpius, “I told you so,” and stick her tongue out at him. She may not have been completely right, but she believed that what she’d done was for the best.

Now if only she could get McGonagall off her back without having to reinstate Meghan and Albus’s Prefect status.

“She will be,” Rose promised Kate, looking towards her best friend’s sleeping form. She would be, if Rose had to see to it herself.

Nat woke slowly, her eyes dry and bleary. She rolled onto her back, her arms at her side, and stared at the drape-covered top of her four poster. Last night’s events had never left her mind, not even in her dreams, and she felt like she hadn’t slept in ages.

She sat up, having to push herself with one hand, and climbed off the bed. She was getting bigger and bigger by the day. March would mark the beginning of her fifth month, but she looked as if she were already well into her seventh.

Twins’ll do that to you.

Rose and Kate were huddled on Rose’s bed, bent over what Nat could only assume to be homework. They hadn’t noticed she was awake yet, and that was fine by her.

That is, until she noticed the time.

“Oh shit, is it really ten till noon?” Nat asked, a hint of panic in her voice, as she ran a hand through her hair. It got tangled halfway down, and she rushed into the bathroom to use a brush.

“Yeah it is, why?” Kate asked just as Rose was shoving the parchment underneath her pillow. Nat didn’t have time to think about that, though. She was late.

“Christensen is going to be in the Infirmary at noon, expecting to examine my uterus, but at the rate I move around these days, it’ll take me twenty minutes just to walk there. And that’s if the bloody staircases don’t move.”

She unabashedly shucked off her black top and put on the first piece of maternity clothing out that she found, a pink long sleeved dress with a deep ‘v’ neck that showed off her expanding cleavage.

“Does Albus know about the appointment?” Kate asked what Rose had been wondering and Nat had been avoiding. Nat nodded as she pushed silver hoop earrings through the holes in her ears and slid her feet into black flats. She’d left her black trousers on under her dress for warmth, and since she didn’t plan on leaving the castle, she wouldn’t bother with a cloak.

“What if he shows up?”

Lily entered the room just as Kate asked the question, a determined look on her face, and just in time to see Rose shoot Kate a dirty look.

“What?” said Nat, looking back and forth between Kate and Rose. “What was that look for?”

Rose sighed, obviously peeved with Kate, and turned to Nat. “Albus hasn’t left his room, except for one trip to the Slytherin dungeons. He’s not in the Common Room, and he’s probably not going to your scan.”

“You have a scan?” Lily turned to Nat. “And Albus isn’t going to be there?” She got a hard, determined look on her face, one Rose had seen on her Aunt Ginny a time or two, and spun on her heel, stomping down the stairs and out of ear shot.

“She’s mental, that one,” Rose muttered, turning back to Nat. Her friend looked as if she were about to cry, like she would break down at any minute, and Rose rested a hand on her shoulder.

“It’s okay. We’ll be there for you.” She felt Kate nod beside her, and Nat gave them a half smile.

The trio left the room, walked down the stairs and out of the portrait hole with the entire room staring at them. No doubt the news of Albus and Nat’s break up had made its way through all of the houses; nothing was sacred in this school. Nat didn’t mind the staring; it was the sudden feeling of abandonment she was feeling.

She’d always known that people were talking about her. You can’t get pregnant in the middle of the school year and expect people to be talking about the weather when you’re the juicier news. But when she and Albus were together, even when he wasn’t around, she didn’t feel the eyes on her, she didn’t hear the words said, she didn’t notice the sudden halt in conversation when she was within earshot.

It hurt.

It was amazing how much could change in the time span of less than twelve hours. She still couldn’t believe it. Twelve hours ago she’d been close to catching Albus cheating, and now that he wasn’t cheating, she didn’t have a boyfriend anymore.

The thought made her want to crawl into a hole and sleep for a really long time.

On the staircase between the fifth and fourth floors, the girls ran into Hugo coming up the stairs for lunch. Hugo and Nat hadn’t talked much since the kissing incident at the Welcome Back party, but she welcomed the sight of a friendly face.

He smiled at her, understanding evident on his face. With that kind, subtle gesture, she knew that he, too, had heard the news of her social life. Nat had known it had spread through the castle, but she was still embarrassed at the attention.

She contemplated whether or not to ask him to her scan. She really did need all the support she could get, but she didn’t want to mislead him.

To hell with it. It wasn’t as if Albus could say anything about them hanging out anymore, and she really wanted his friendship.

“Come with us?” she’d asked after explaining their plans. Of course he accepted, because he’s Hugo and he’s nice and he cares about her. Unlike some people.

She slipped her arm through his, the first hint of a genuine smile playing on her lips as the foursome continued on to the Infirmary.

Amazingly, the tree girls and Hugo made it to the infirmary only five minutes late. Madame Grady was there, chatting with Mediwitch Christensen near the door to Grady’s office. When the girls walked in, Darlene Christensen turned towards them and smiled.

Nat tried to smile back.

“Where’s Albus?” Darlene asked, standing near a bed and gesturing for Nat to climb up. She did and lay down, but didn’t answer her question. “Is he ill?” Hugo propped himself against the bed next to Nat, and Rose and Kate stood at the foot of her bed.

“Albus isn’t having the best of days. None of us are, really,” Rose supplied. Darlene didn’t seem to accept the answer, but it appeased her for the moment.

She began the process, measuring Nat’s belly, her weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar. She did some complicated spells, working quietly and efficiently. Nat just wanted to get done.

Darlene’s swishy wand movements stopped suddenly, her eyes trained on the image projected above Nat’s swollen abdomen. Her eye brows nit together, her eyes moved around the picture, and then she pressed her hand against Nat’s belly.

“Ow!” Nat cried, and Rose rushed from her and Kate’s resting place at the foot of the bed to Nat’s side.

“That, my dear, is Baby number two’s foot.”

“Really?” Nat said in awe, and Darlene took her hand and placed it on the same spot on her belly. There was a little flutter of movement suddenly, and Nat snatched her hand away in shock. “Oh my goodness!”

“That was your baby moving,” Darlene told her, though the severe expression on her face hadn’t changed.

“Why hasn’t the other one moved?” Rose wondered while Nat took her hand and placed it on the spot the baby’s foot was at.

“It will. Twins are tricky. And it’s going to get unbearable after a while,” Darlene told her, giving Nat a look. “Once one baby settles, the other will move.”

Nat’s mouth was still open in awe. She didn’t care if they moved around for the entire rest of her pregnancy; she couldn’t believe she was feeling her baby move inside of her. She was ecstatic, she wanted to tell everyone.

Though, the one person she really wanted to tell was a liar and an emotional cheater and she couldn’t bear the thought of speaking to him. But he did have a right to know about their children.

When had her life become such a mess?

“Now, there are a couple things I can tell you. Mind, if you had gone to a muggle doctor they could’ve told you this a month ago. Do you want to know the sex?”

“No,” Nat said firmly. That was one thing she and Albus had talked about, not that she should be taking his feelings into consideration now, but she hadn’t wanted to know to begin with.

“Wait,” Rose said, bringing her eyes to Darlene’s. “Sex? As in singular?”

“Yes. It looks like you’ve got yourself a monozygotic pregnancy.” Nat shot Rose a look and Darlene nodded. “It means they come from the same egg. Identical. Your babies, whatever sex they are, are identical twins.”

“Identical!” Rose cried, jumping up and down excitedly.

“Oh!” Nat sat up halfway and touched a spot at her side. “Baby number one is kicking!” She waved her arm for Hugo to join them, and a second later felt his warm hand slide over the skin of her belly. He smiled down at her, and she beamed up at him, their eyes locking in understanding.

He wasn’t a replacement for Albus, but she knew they could be friends.

Darlene let Nat and her friends have their fun for a few minutes while she packed away her things, and then she placed a hand on Nat’s shoulder to get her attention. Nat turned to her, her blue eyes filled with trust and wonder and fear all at the same time. Darlene had helped enough young mothers to know when something was wrong with them emotionally, but she knew that then was neither the time nor the place.

“I will see you in two weeks, same time?”

“Two weeks? We were only doing monthly. Is something wrong?” The fear spiked within her and Darlene sighed. She didn’t want to scare the teen.

“There’s nothing wrong…yet. We just have to monitor your condition more closely now. I must insist,” she turned her eyes to Rose and Kate and then slowly to Hugo, as if judging his presence in the room, “minimal activity. I hate you having to trudge up all of those stairs, but that seems to be unavoidable. I’d prefer you have meals in your dorm so you only have to make that trip once, but you’ll do what you’ll do. Please try and stay as stress-free as possible.”

Rose and Kate exchanged a look, and Nat held onto her stomach with a hard expression on her face.

“I will see you in two weeks, Natalya.” She patted Nat’s hand in a matronly way and went into Grady’s office to use the floo.

“Identical twins! Can you believe it?” Hugo gushed excitedly. Nat smiled. She couldn’t believe it. Two little boys or two little girls.

With parents who weren’t even on speaking terms.

Lily was furious at her brother. Missing his children’s checkups because of a little argument with their mother? Okay, maybe a not so little argument. A catastrophic argument, really. But did he have to be such a pig headed git?

That was really the pot calling the kettle black in her eyes. Hadn’t she done the same thing? She’d lied to Arnie and let him break up the best thing that had ever happened to her. Granted, he didn’t know that she’d lied about why she had wanted to keep them a secret.

She had had just over a week to think about it, and she’d come to the conclusion that she was an idiot. She let the best thing in her life walk away from her because she was scared of rejection? And he’d proven her right.

But, really, she’d forced him to do it.

Resolved, she pushed into the seventh year boys’ dormitory. Albus was lying on his bed, his head towards the ceiling, but he looked up and sighed loudly as she entered.

“I don’t want to talk about it, Lily,” he muttered.

“He’s in a bad mood,” Bryce told her at the same time.

She ignored them, squared her shoulders, and walked right up to Arnie. He had climbed off of his own bed when she entered and was staring down at her with interest.

Lily took a deep breath, pressed her hands against his chest, raised up on her toes, and kissed him square on the mouth.

“Lily!” she heard Albus cry from behind her, but she became wrapped up in her kiss. Arnie stood still, shocked at first, and then slowly placed his hands on her waist, wrapped his arms around her back, pulled her to his chest, lifted her up off the ground, and then teased her bottom lip with his tongue, opening himself to the kiss.

She pulled back slightly, smiling, and loving the feeling of his arms around her. She could practically see Albus’s expression in her head – shocked, angry, disapproving – but she didn’t care. If Nat could stand up to him, why couldn’t she?

She grinned wickedly at Arnie, who returned her smile and squeezed her waist.

“How’s that for public?”

Rose kept her head down during dinner, noticing that Nat sipped at her soup gingerly between bits of conversation with Hugo. The two had become fast friends, which was a little odd to Rose. Just weeks ago Nat had punched him in the eye for putting the moves on her and now they were suddenly buddy-buddy?

Rose hoped Hugo knew what he was doing, and that, even though her relationship status had changed, Nat’s feelings for Albus hadn’t. She still cared for him, and she didn’t, no matter how much he prayed, love Hugo.


Rose opened her mouth to insert herself into the conversation, determined to keep things light in the group. She didn’t want Hugo to get Nat wrapped up in talking about feelings and emotions and heavy things like that, things that could very well drive her into his arms.

Just as she’d formulated something to say – “So, James is playing for England, isn’t that exciting?” – she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned slightly and saw Professor Longbottom standing behind her. She turned even further and found Meghan standing behind him, a haughty look on her face.

“No,” Rose said, turning away from the professor and back to her beef stew.

“Miss Weasley, come with me please,” Neville Longbottom commanded softly, his heavy hand lifting off of her shoulder in order for her to swivel around and stand.

“No,” Rose said again, looking up at him. She folded her arms over her chest and glared over his shoulder at Meghan. Neville sighed and put his hands on his hips.

“We shouldn’t do this in a public place, Miss Weasley,” he told her, looking left and right and becoming aware of just how much attention they were getting.

“I think this is the perfect place to do this, Professor,” she spat the word angrily but didn’t take her eyes off of Meghan.

“Rose,” he shot her a pleading look.

“Look,” she said, loud enough for those close to her to hear. You would normally never hear the Head Girl speak to a professor in a tone such as hers, and if she hadn’t had the gleaming gold badge pinned to her long sleeved shirt, you wouldn’t even be able to tell that she was Head Girl. “Your precious daughter broke the rules. I was well within my rights to take her badge.”

“She had permission to leave school grounds,” he told her before casting a look at his daughter which told Rose that Meghan hadn’t, in fact, had permission but that her father was covering for her.

“It doesn’t matter,” Rose told him haughtily, pissed that the bitch was getting special treatment. “She skived off her duties for Merlin knows how long. She’s not getting her badge back.”

“I am your Head of House,” he started to get angry, his face turned beet red, his voice began to rise. “You will do as I say or see the Headmistress. Give me her badge, now. And Albus Potter’s, too, for that matter.”

Rose was shocked. She’d never seen Neville Longbottom with a backbone. It was rather frightening. Then again, with parents like Ron and Hermione Weasley, a little anger was an everyday occurrence.


“Miss Weasley,” she heard the Headmistress say from behind her. “I’d hoped to have this conversation behind closed doors in my office, but since you refused to show up to our appointment, we must do it here. You will give Miss Longbottom back her Prefects badge. You had no right to take it.”

“No right?” she nearly yelled. She glanced around. The Great Hall was silent; the majority of eyes were on them. “Are you kidding me? She and Albus Potter have been sneaking out of the castle doing Merlin knows what for months! They have been skipping entire areas of the castle during rounds! Who knows what else has been going on during their rounds while they have been out?”

“Were you not in charge of prefect schedules? If you had a problem, why didn’t you come to me? You could have split them up. You should have checked their work.”

Rose balked. “You’re blaming this on me?” she screeched at the Headmistress, who looked down at her primly through half moon spectacles.

“I did not say that,” the elder said calmly. Rose took a deep breath.

“Fine,” she said, her teeth clenched in anger. “Have it your way, then.” She reached to her shirt, unclasped her badge, spun on her heel, and chucked it as hard as she could at Meghan Longbottom’s head.

The brunette screamed and ducked, but she was a little late, and the sharp edge of the badge grazed her forehead. Rose didn’t feel sorry at all as she watched the blood gush out of the younger girl’s head. In fact, she took a sadistic pleasure in watching her bleed for the second time in as many days because of her.

Just as Professor Longbottom rounded on her angrily, she felt someone take her elbow and drag her towards the doors to the Great Hall. One glance sideways told her Scorpius was at her aid, and her stomach clinched at the sight of him.

He was dressed in all black, pressed shirt and pleated trousers. His blond hair was slicked away from his face, and his jaw was set. His grey eyes looked straight ahead, and he pushed open the heavy door with one hand.

He continued to drag her down the corridor until they reached a small room. He pushed her inside and turned to close the door.

She caught her breath from being dragged around, and spun around to give him a piece of her mind. How dare he break up with her and then come in to play her knight in shining, er, shiny hair? She was about to ask him that, too, when he turned and gripped her arms almost to the point of pain.

He spun her around, pressed her body against the wall, and stared into her eyes. His were a stormy grey, a colour she’d only seen a handful of times, when he was angry and aroused at the same time. She didn’t have much time to contemplate anything else.

Before she knew what was happening, his lips crashed down onto hers.

A/N: Merry Christmas, everyone!  This was my gift to you, I hope you enjoyed it!  You can express your thanks in the form of a review in the big empty box below this Author's Note.  This will likely be the last chapter of the year.  See you in 2009!


Chapter 25: 24..Can it Get Any Worse?
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A/N: In the Author's Note at the end of the last chapter I said "See you in 2009!"...even I did realize how far into 2009 it would be.  I'm soooo sorry it's taken so long to get this chapter out to you.  I hope I haven't lost any loyal readers because of it...

If you would like a full explanation of my whereabouts during the last month (because I'm posting this chapter exactly one month after Chapter 23...fitting, right?) please go to my livejournal account.  The address it on my Author's Page.  Just click 'momoe' anywhere you see a link and it'll take you right there.

Thanks and enjoy!

Defying Gravity
Chapter 24: Can it Get Any Worse?

For a moment Rose didn’t know what was happening. One minute she was ready to yell, kick, and scream at Scorpius for dragging her out in the middle of the fight of her life – because she was prepared to go down against that little bitch – and the next her lips were covered by the pressing of velvety softness and her eyesight was filled with pale skin and blonde eyebrows.


He was kissing her.

Her heart rate accelerated as she closed her eyes and responded to the kiss. Her mind was a whirl. She wanted to fully concentrate on the movement of his lips over hers, especially as he touched the crease where her lips met with the tip of his tongue, but she just couldn’t.

Her head was spinning.

Why was Scorpius kissing her? Did he want to get back together? He must with the way he was kissing her. She had a brief vision of the two of them walking down the corridors, holding hands and behind happy, the God parents of her cousin and best friend’s babies, everyone smiling and secretly envious because she got the boy…

But did she want that? Was all of the heart ache and, ahem, chocolate weight, really worth it in the end?

His lips trailed across her jaw to below her ear. She shivered when he suckled the exact spot he knew would make her go crazy.

The only thing she really knew, concretely, was that she’d never stopped loving Scorpius. If it was a possibility that they could get past this, this…misunderstanding, then maybe they could be together again.

He wouldn’t be kissing her if he didn’t want her. Right?

She felt his hands grip her waist, her hips, and then fall to the edge of her jumper. One hand slid up beneath the woven fabric and pressed warm and flat against her skin.

She should stop him. She knew that. But it felt good to be with him like that again. It felt right. Like they belonged together.

So she didn’t stop him. She didn’t have the power, the will, even if she’d wanted to. Her heart was still his; her body might as well be, too. So, instead of pushing him away like she ought to, she thrust her hands into his hair and pulled his face back up to hers.

Rose got lost in their kisses for a long moment, unable to feel anything but the heat their connection generated and the love that swelled in her heart. She came back to her senses when she felt Scorpius’s hand go for the catch on her bra, the other hand at the small of her back bringing her as close to him as she could get. She felt herself lean forward, pressing her chest against him and arching her back wantonly, needing to feel every bit of him that she could.

Then, just as suddenly as his lips were upon hers, they were gone, and she opened her eyes to find him leaning against a desk – where were they? – breathing heavily and staring at her with hooded, desire-filled eyes. His fingers clutched the desk like a vice, white from the strain.

Rose brought her hand to her lips, feeling the swollen, tender flesh beneath her fingertips. She stared him straight in the eye. He suddenly looked worried, afraid, and her hands dropped to her sides.

“What are we doing?” she whispered almost to herself, needing to know what he was thinking, what he wanted. He looked away from her for a moment, and that look said it all.

“Look…Rose…” he started, trying to grasp the right words to use. He shoved a hand through his messy hair – thanks to her – and let out a long, drawn out breath. “I don’t…know…how to say…”

“Spit it out, Malfoy!” she folded her arms across her chest almost defensively, as if she were shielding her heart from the inevitable ache that was about to come from the lips she’d just tasted. She could already feel tears welling in her eyes, and she prayed that he’d hurry up and leave so she could cry alone.

She couldn’t believe it. One minute she was watching Meghan bleed from the head, getting ready for the fight that would undoubtedly ensue, then he’d distracted her, and now here he was, about to break her heart again.

“I love you, Rose,” he said softly, a surprised look covering his face once the words escaped from him.

But,” Rose whispered, having heard the extension in his voice whether or not he actually said it aloud.

“But,” he repeated and then paused, trying to gather his thoughts.

He never was very eloquent when speaking about his feelings.

“Icantbewithyou.” He spoke quickly, wincing away from the fit he expected to follow, but she felt surprisingly calm. Perhaps shielding her heart beforehand had been like adding an impenetrable layer to the already shattered pieces. Maybe, since her heart was already broken, his words couldn’t hurt her anymore.

Either way, her lack of response confused him, and he stood up straighter, finally looking her in the eye. Rose felt surprisingly calm and lifted her chin, challenging him to speak first.

“Aren’t you going to say something?”

“What would you like me to say?” she heard herself ask without even thinking. She smiled inwardly at the look that crossed his face.

“Don’t you want me back?” he asked, confusion clouding his features.

Desperately, a small voice inside Rose broke through, but she squashed the optimistic noise. She squared her shoulders and flashed him the most dazzling smile she could muster.

“Regardless of how I feel, you’ve just made it very clear that you don’t want me back. What I want doesn’t matter.”

“Oh,” he still sounded confused, and a tad…disappointed? “Well, I guess that’s a good thing,” he amended quickly, smiling a crooked grin at her.

The shield over her heart wavered for a moment, and then it steadied. It wouldn’t fall because of some stupid smile, a bundle of perfect, pouty lips and straight, white teeth. Nope, she wouldn’t allow that to happen. She was stronger than that.

“Okay,” Rose nodded, starting to turn for the door. “Well, if that’s all you wanted…”

“Wanted?” his eyes scrunched in confusion and Rose was momentarily stunned speechless at the adorable, boyish look. She regained herself soon enough.

“You grabbed me…” she answered, watching the recognition play across his features.

“Right.” He let out a long sigh and ruffled the hair at the back of his head with one hand. Then he shrugged. “Old habits die hard, I guess. You really shouldn’t be picking fights with McGonagall so close to NEWTs.”

She rolled her eyes and blew out a puff of air before turning on her heel and leaving the room. She wasn’t necessarily surprised when he caught up with her just seconds later, but she was confused at the close proximity of which he was walking. She was gathering courage to shoo him away, when a piercing voice rang out through the corridor.

“Weasley! Malfoy!” Rose stopped dead at the sound of the Headmistress’s voice. “What were you doing in the caretaker’s office?” McGonagall demanded.

“Um…” Scorpius searched for an excuse. Rose just stood there, beginning to count to keep from wheeling around and giving the old coot a piece of her mind.

“Never mind,” McGonagall said with a wave of her hand. “Detention, both of you.”

Rose’s hands turned into fists and she started back at one.

Nat’s books fell onto the table in the Common Room just as they were toppling from her arms. It was difficult to carry around the thick, heavy books along with her massive, ever expanding body. She slumped tiredly into the chair and leaned her head against the stack of books.

It had been a week and a half. A whole week and a half. Ten days had gone by without Albus in her life. That was a true statement. He’d practically dropped off the face of the earth, only leaving his dorm for a lesson here and there. He wasn’t even eating, to her knowledge.

Rose had been quite distant since her now-infamous fight involving her and Meghan Longbottom – and a slew of teachers. She’d been quite, withdrawn. It was Emileigh’s opinion that Rose was depressed because she’d given up her Head Girl status.

It wasn’t publicly known, but Rose did manage to tell Nat that during detention with the Head Mistress – that’s right, detention! – McGonagall had offered her the badge, but Rose had blatantly refused.

The school seemed to be functioning well without the Head Girl, but it was only a matter of time before McGonagall handed over the reins to someone else. She wasn’t going to hold out for Rose forever.

On top of Rose only having limited vocal practices in the last week and a half, the rift and split between her and Albus had divided up the seventh year Gryffindors as well. It was causing problems between the lot of them, and relationships were strained because of it.

Bryce was on Albus’s side, naturally. His opinion was that Albus was being incredibly romantic and any girl would be lucky to have such a softie for a boyfriend. Bryce didn’t see what the big deal was between Meghan and Nat, either, which made him biased in the girls’ eyes.

Emileigh sided with Nat and Rose, and shot evil glances at Albus whenever he decided to attend a lesson, which wasn’t often. The couple was on opposite sides, which caused problems in their relationship. Nat apologized profusely to Emileigh; she wanted her friend to be happy with her boyfriend. She didn’t see herself as a reason for another couple to break up.

Emileigh assured her that she and Bryce were fine, that they never even talked about the broken couple, and that Nat had no reason to worry. Nat knew, though, that when Emileigh would rather spend time studying with Kate and Rose than with her boyfriend during breaks, they were not as okay as Emileigh was letting on.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, Arnie was giving the boys the cold shoulder. Whether it had to do with the actual situation or the shiner that he was sporting the day after the news of his relationship with Lily became public was anybody’s guess. Nat figured it was both.

Nat had taken to studying in the Common Room at night because she was sure that Albus was in his own dorm, ignoring her, and it was too much work to drag her school stuff up the stairs after class and before dinner, and then take it all the way down to the library and back afterwards.

While she sat with her girl friends (and Arnie) during meals and lessons, they found the Commons to be too distracting to study in at night, what with all the little people practice spells or worse, filling the room with mindless chatter because their skills weren’t advanced enough for the assigning of enough out-of-class work to keep them busy. These vast stretches of time, usually three hours a night, were filled by the presence of her new friend, Hugo.

The dreaded Kiss, which warrants a capitol letter because of the sheer magnitude of the event in question, had been put behind them in lieu of their newfound camaraderie. Nat found Hugo easy to talk to, a good listener, and probably one of the better friends she’d ever had.

And, he assured her, he was definitely no longer in love with her.

“In fact,” he’d confided, three nights ago, as he was helping her put her books into her bag, “I’m thinking about seeing Mattie when we’re home for Easter.”

Easter. That brought up images that she did not want to think about. Easter break started next week. The train would be leaving on Saturday, and she had yet to put her name on the list of students leaving. Of course, she hadn’t added her name to list of students staying, either.

She knew that Albus’s parents were expecting her to stay with them. Lily had told her that much, never mind the near daily letters that she received from Ginny asking about her health and the babies and decisions on the nursery and shopping plans over the two week holiday.

Truth be told, Nat was a little bit scared of Ginny, and especially Ginny with a ton of plans.

Rose tried to convince her to stay with her family, because, as Rose pointed out, she really shouldn’t be alone in case she needed something or someone. Nat had bitten back her reply that the entire staff of teachers would be there, along with probably half the fifth years from Gryffindor who were staying to study for their OWLs. A confrontation with Rose in her current state was the last thing anyone, much less a pregnant teen, needed.

Nat pulled her head away from her books and rubbed her temples with two fingers. One thing was for sure, she needed to figure it all out. The signup sheets were to be taken down at the end of the weekend with detentions following for anyone who did not comply with the rules. The last thing she needed was to be on her knees scrubbing the dungeon floors as Hubbly the Caretaker liked to assign.

She felt warm hands at the small of her back and nearly groaned when the hands pressed harder, and moved outward in a circular motion. She was nearly in heaven and bit back a moan. The backrub continued for a few moments, Nat’s head falling into her hands from sheer lack of the ability to hold her own head up, and the moan slipped from between her lips.

“How are you feeling?”

The chair next to hers scrapped against the hard stone floor as it was pulled out, and a warm body slid onto the wood beside her. She looked up into the bright blue eyes and smiling face of Hugo and sighed. He was too good to her.

“Exhausted,” she muttered, rubbing her eyes tiredly with one hand before turning back to the blue eyed boy. “And I’ve got two feet on Flobberworm shit and its agricultural potion abilities due tomorrow, which I totally forgot about until dinner when Rose told me she only did two and a half feet rather than her usual three.”

“Gimme,” he reached his hand out, palm upward, and at first Nat thought he was actually going to do her assignment for her. Her heart leapt. Then she realized what he meant and sighed, raising her foot as best she could. He grabbed her ankle, relieved her of her sock and trainer in one fluid motion, and pressed his thumb into the arch of her foot.

That was so much better than doing a measly essay.

As Hugo was doing wonderful things to her foot, Nat opened her Potions book to the halfway point. Stuffed in there were a pile of letters, all of which were from Ginny Potter, and all happened to be dated within the past two weeks. The newest one, from this morning at breakfast (where there was also a letter addressed to Albus and one to Lily), begged Nat for a response on colour swatches, bedding pattern, wood stain, and that she would be joining the Potters for Easter.

“What do you think?” she asked Hugo, holding up two squares of fabric, one light blue and white chequered print, the other the same shades in stripes. The fabric had fallen out of one of the other letters and also came in pink.

Hugo looked up from her foot (she took the opportunity to withdraw her right foot and offer her left, plopping it down onto his jean-clad thigh) and contemplated for a moment. It wasn’t a hard decision. Squares or stripes.

She just didn’t feel right about making the decision on her own. Hugo was a poor substitute for Albus, but he was a guy and it worked.

Another reason she’d been putting off her response to Ginny, ignoring her being a better description, was because she was halfway positive that come babies time she wouldn’t even be living with the Potters.

In the few words that Rose had spoken to her, one comment she made was that she and Nat could afford a place of their own by the time the babies came if she got a loan from her parents and they did some odd jobs come Easter. No, it wouldn’t be a three-bedroom flat in the heart of London, but it wouldn’t be as if they were living in the Shrieking Shack, either.

Nat had a lot to think about.

“I like the chequered pattern,” Hugo finally answered after a moment’s contemplation, and then started working on her left foot.

Nat sighed. She liked the chequered pattern, too. Without another thought, she ripped off a piece of parchment from her pad, jotted a quick note to Ginny, folded the squares of fabric into the letter, quickly scribbled ‘Ginny Potter’ on the outside of the letter, and pushed it across the table at Hugo.

“Can you take this to the owlry for me? I’d do it, but stairs are hell on my back.”

“I’d think just moving would be hell on your back,” Hugo joked. He wasn’t far from the truth and even now, after a great backrub from the red head, her back muscles were screaming in pain from being in the same position, and have the same weight strain, for too long.

“Too true,” she muttered, taking her foot back and turning so she was facing the table. “I don’t think I can do this anymore, Hue.”

“You’re halfway there,” he mentioned, assuming she was talking about the pregnancy, and leaned towards her, rubbing soothing circles onto her back.

Tears filled Nat’s eyes. That should be Albus sitting there, rubbing her back and feet, reassuring her that everything would be alright. Albus should be the one helping her make decisions on patterns and colours and styles, not Hugo. It shouldn’t even be a question as to whether or not she would be spending Easter with the Potters.

But it was.

Everything in her life was going wrong.

“You’re on the downward climb. It’s all downhill from here. It’s like a Thursday and you’re almost at your weekend, that being the birth of your babies.”

She snorted at his silly analogy.

“Yeah, I suppose it can’t get any worse than it already is.”

James held the red tie from his left hand up to his white pressed button up shirt, dropped his arm, and brought the red and black stripped tie to his chest. Stripped or solid? It shouldn’t be that hard of a choice, and yet he’d been standing in front of the floor-length mirror on the back of the door to the bathroom for ten minutes trying to decide. There were other ties tossed carelessly over the toilet tank, seat, and one or two in the sink. Most of the ties he’d borrowed from his father and had to remember to put back into Harry’s walk-in closet before the older Potter noticed.

The two he held in his hands were his, gifts from his mother for one Ministry function or another, but he couldn’t decide. Red definitely brought out the golden flecks in his brown eyes, but black tied the whole suit together. He glanced down at his pressed black trousers and shiny black shoes and sighed.

He’d let his mother decide, he conceited, quickly finishing making himself presentable so that they had time for the debate. His hair was its fluffy, messiness, and he’d been playing Quidditch recently so he had a faint tan line around his neck from his tee shirts. He was a mess.

He and Kylie had been on a few dates since breakfast where he did all the talking and learned absolutely nothing about her. It had been a while since he’d actually been on a date seeing as it was hard to do proper courting at Hogwarts and afterwards he was so focused on his Quidditch career, but he wanted to do it right.

He hadn’t slept with Kylie yet. Wasn’t even thinking about it. Okay, that was a lie. When he’d taken her to the cinema and she wore that low cut blouse and mini skirt – she has fabulous legs – he thought about it. A lot. Through almost the entire movie.

But he would concentrate tonight. He was taking her to a yummy Italian restaurant near her home and planned to ask her to be his girlfriend. The sex would come after that. And even if it didn’t, for the first time he was content to just sit and talk to her.

He may not have been able to shut up on his breakfast date with her, but the dinner date and movie date they’d been on, he’d become quite enthralled by her. James was kicking himself for not noticing her in school. It definitely would’ve saved him a lot of trouble.

“Mum,” he called as he clomped down the stairs. He heard his parent’s voices in the kitchen and turned that direction, standing outside the closed swinging door as they quietly spoke.

“She’s probably just busy, Gin,” his father said to his mum. “There’s homework, NEWTs, not to mention carrying two babies.”

“I just wish she’d respond to one of my owls,” his mum spoke again, worry evident in her voice. “She hasn’t even confirmed Easter. Why hasn’t she confirmed Easter? She’ll be here for Easter, right?”

“I’m sure she will, Gin. She probably doesn’t think she really has to. It’s kind of a given, you know?”

“Why isn’t Albus answering any of my letters either?”

“For the same reasons, Ginny,” his dad was getting annoyed. “Homework, NEWTs, taking care of his pregnant girlfriend.”

“I don’t like all of this secretiveness.”

“I know.”

“He better not have done anything to piss her off, Harry, because if your son did something to the mother of my grandchildren, so help me…”

My son?”

James let out the breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding at his father’s playful tone. That exchange could easily have escalated into a full blown fight, but his dad was a quick study and knew when to pick his battles.

“I’m sure things are fine, mum,” James stepped into the room carrying his suit jacket and two ties.

“Going out again? That’s the second time this week.” His mother looked at him through her gold-framed reading glasses, her article for the Daily Prophet on the pre-season Quidditch plans for the national team spread out in front of her. He wanted to lean over her shoulder and check to see if he was mentioned, then felt the silkiness of the tie on his left and decided he’d rather read it in the newspaper…in the kitchen of Kylie’s flat in his boxers while she pranced around in nothing but his shirt…

He cleared his throat. “Yep. I’m going out again. Which tie?”

“I wish you would tell us about this girl,” she eyed him up and down before selecting the stripped tie. She stood, tossed the other tie at Harry, and began tying the tie around his neck.

“Mum, I can do this myself, you know.”

“I know,” she looped the tie through and pulled it tight. “You’re grown, married and on a date.”


“Just promise me you’re being safe.”

“As safe as one could possibly get.”

At his father’s raised eyebrows James knew at least he caught the meaning behind the statement.

“Where are you taking her?” Harry asked just as Ginny opened her mouth to undoubtedly give her opinion on pre-marital sex (or a replay of her infidelity speech, which had come before the last date).

“Luigie’s,” he answered simply. “Don’t wait up.”

Before he could hear his mother’s sharp replay he fled out the back door and disapparated. He appeared in the closet in the hallway of Kylie’s building and stepped out quickly. He didn’t want to have to explain why he was in the cupboard to any of Kylie’s neighbours, but he figured it would be a whole lot easier than explaining how he just appeared somewhere.

He knocked twice on Kylie’s door before it swung open. He sucked in a breath and let it out quickly.

“Come on in,” was the breathless reply and then the vision in black disappeared. He stepped inside to find the flat quiet despite the family that lived there. She lived with her sister and brother. She and her sister both had their own room and, judging by the pillow and folded blankets on the brown leather sofa, it seemed that her brother, Mark, had yet to find his own place.

“Where’s your brother and sister?” he called down the hall to where he could hear Kylie humming a song to herself in her yellow bedroom.

“It’s Jeanie’s birthday,” she called back as she extinguished the light in her room and smiled at him in the doorway. She was pushing a diamond stud through the hole in her ear as she walked toward him, the skirt of her black dress swishing around her thighs. “He’s taking her to dinner and a movie.”

“I didn’t know it was your sister’s birthday,” he mumbled, watching as she strapped a silver watch around her wrist. Her black heels made her taller, the top of her head reaching the tip of his nose, and her lips within kissing distance. He bent down and placed a gentle kiss on her lips.

“You could’ve gone out with your family.”

“That’s okay,” she shrugged, “Jean’s pissed because daddy didn’t cut his honeymoon short and come back from Australia early, and I didn’t feel like listening to her bitch through a two hour movie and an hour in a restaurant.”

“You’d much rather listen to me bitch?” James teased, only half serious. Her face suddenly became concerned.

“What happened?”

“We’ll miss our reservation. We’ll talk at the restaurant where I have to keep my temper in check.”

She conceded and they left the flat. She locked up behind her, tossing her keys (one key and three key chains: a duck, a monkey, and a bottle opener that said “yes, they’re real, and my eyes are up here”) into a small handbag. Kylie took his hand and he led her out of the building.

It was a cool night and she’d forgotten her jacket, so he placed his around her shoulders like a gentleman. The restaurant was close by, but she’d never been there before. They had to wait for their table to be ready, and they talked about Kylie’s job. She’d just gotten off of a twenty-four hour shift (“Ah, the life of an intern”) and was scheduled again the next night for another twenty-four hours.

“Where are you assigned?” He asked as the hostess motioned for them to follow her.

“Gynaecology,” she told him as he dragged her behind him. He nodded, and his lips fell into a grim line. They’d met while she was assigned to the ‘Gynae-squad’ as she liked to say, but he’d also been married and a potential father then.

They were seated at a table in the middle of the restaurant with absolutely no privacy. They sat next to each other at the four-person table and ordered a bottle of red wine. As soon as their wine arrived, they ordered a starter and their main dish, and the waiter, a tall red head who was not a Weasley, left them alone.

“So,” Kylie raised her glass to her lips and sipped her Merlot, “what do you want to bitch about?”

James sighed. “My parents are arguing again.”

Kylie didn’t seem too concerned about this and raised her eye brows. Her parents argued all the time. In fact, her father was working on his fifth marriage and her mother refused to be anywhere near the man because all they ever did was fight. Last Kylie’d hear, her mother was shacked up with a travelling gypsy and didn’t seem to remember she’d ever had kids.

“About Albus.”

“They still don’t know that he and Nat are having problems?” Having never met the people in question formally – although she’d seen the once-happy couple around at Hogwarts – she felt a little silly talking about them.

“No, the chicken shit hasn’t told them. He –”

They were interrupted by a little buzzing noise. It took James a moment to realize it was coming from their table and another couple of seconds to pinpoint the location: Kylie’s watch. She looked at it for a moment before turning back to him.

“He…” she gestured for him to continue.

He gave her a calculated look, but she seemed genuinely interested in where he was going, so he continued.

“I think he’s hoping that Nat’ll just come around and the ‘rents won’t ever have to know. What he isn’t banking on is Easter.”


“Mum’s expecting them both home and happy during Easter break, and I just don’t see that happening in a week.”

“Ah,” she nodded, looking distractedly at her watch again. Their food came and they dug in, eating in companionable silence for a few minutes. James had slurped down half of his linguini by then, wiped his face on his napkin, and turned his eyes towards Kylie.

She was busily eating her Eggplant Parmesan, but looked up when she felt his eyes on hers.

“Speaking of Easter…I had something I wanted to ask you.”

He was too nervous to wait until the end of the date. He wanted her to be his girlfriend and he couldn’t wait for her to say ‘yes’ as he knew she would. James reached for her hand just as the annoying buzzing went off again. He looked at her wrist and could literally see it vibrating, her whole arm moving from her force of it.

She looked down, her brown eyes widened, and then she was throwing her napkin on the table, standing, gathering her purse…

“I’m so sorry, I’ve got to go!” She leaned over to kiss his cheek and he caught a look at her watch. It wasn’t a normal watch with a minute and hour and second hand, displaying the time. The watch she wore was just a face with letters. Like a secret spy watch.

“Thank you for dinner. I’ll owl you!” she called as she nearly ran out of the restaurant.

James slumped into his seat, and shook his head. He drained his wine and hers, summoned the ginger waiter – who was smiling smugly – and asked for the bill.

He took the unfinished bottle of Merlot when he left.

Chapter 26: 25..I Can Wait Forever
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Defying Gravity
Chapter 25: I Can Wait Forever (a.k.a. Scorpius’s Plan)

“I don’t believe it,” Kate muttered from across the table. Nat quirked her eyebrow at her friend, briefly looking up from the asparagus spear she’d been pushing around on her plate for the past ten minutes.

Rose, who continued to look particularly glum even though the coming weekend was a Hogsmeade weekend, – the last before Easter holidays – barely shifted her head, which rested in her hand her elbow planted on the table. She sighed dramatically staring sullenly ahead – at the Slytherin table.

Emileigh was – finally – off with Bryce. They were having a special date for their three month anniversary, which consisted of hording the Room of Requirement. Not that anyone else at the table needed it, mind.

Lily paused her reading, using her finger to mark her place mid-page, and Arnie’s gaze slid from his girlfriend to Kate.

At the same time they realized that Kate was staring at something, or someone, and, as a group, their gazes moved from her to where her eyes were trained. Nat sucked in a deep breath, Rose gasped, and Lily may even have growled a little.

Albus walked slowly through the quieting Hall towards the Gryffindor table. He was attracting copious amounts of attention and kept his eyes down. He was paler, thinner, his muggle clothes hanging off of him like they were a size or two too big.

Nat gulped audibly. She wasn’t ready to see him; not like that. Of course she’d seen him since their breakup. In lessons. But they’d been few and far between, and she’d been flanked on either side by Rose and either Kate or Emileigh – sometimes even Lucy – so she hadn’t even had the opportunity to really look at him.

In that moment, her heart ached for him. She’d love nothing more than to take him into her arms – as best she could with her bulging belly – and never let him go.

But she couldn’t.

Not yet, at least.

As Albus neared the table, the hall fell fully silent. The students, as well as the teachers, watched him, waiting for him to make a move.

“It was only a matter of time before the string snapped, she had him wound so tight,” Nat heard an unfamiliar voice say from down the table, but she didn’t bother with responding.

A second later, a sound that resembled a smack to the back of the head echoed through the silence, and Nat smiled a bit. Hugo to the rescue. She didn’t dare take her eyes off of Albus to thank Hugo. She was afraid Albus would disappear.

He reached the end of the table and stopped.

So did Nat’s breathing.

His head rose. Slowly. As if he was deliberately moving in slow motion. Nat’s jaw clenched. Her eyes followed his head.

Then crystal blue met pale green.

Dark blotches lay beneath his dull, sad eyes giving the appearance as if he had two black eyes. The once vivid emerald green had faded into a dull, mossy colour that would look pretty on anyone except Albus. He looked how she felt: defeated.

Nat looked away first, not able to stand the pain etched into his features, and stared down at her vegetables. For the second time that night she felt the sudden, gripping urge to run to him.

She didn’t.

Because the Headmistress chose that moment to push away from the staff table.

The scrape of the heavy chair against the stone floor snapped the spectators out of their trance-like states, and soon enough their curious eyes turned to McGonagall. They watched as she made her way behind the rest of the teachers, whom were also looking at her curiously, and down the short steps or the dais that raised the staff up above the students.

She walked slowly yet deliberately across the front of the hall and down between the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables. She didn’t pause, but her sharp glances were enough to turn the heads of some of the younger students.

The Headmistress stopped when she reached Albus. He had seated himself at the very end of the table, the closest student two spaces down from him, and had put one piece of broiled chicken and one spoonful of potatoes onto his plate.

He turned his head slightly towards the Headmistress, who bent towards him and spoke to him in a low voice. There was a flash of gold, reflecting off the candle lights and the full moon in the faux sky above, and Nat realized what was happening.

McGonagall had offered Albus his Prefect badge back.

And he didn’t accept it.

After the quiet exchange, McGonagall turned on her practical heeled shoes and made her way back down the table. She stopped at Arnie and spoke in hushed tones. Arnie accepted the badge, no questions asked.

Then she moved on, to Nat’s surprise, and stopped behind Kate. Kate turned, her brown eyes wide, scared, and stared up at the Headmistress. Nat was within earshot this time and heard the exchange.

“Miss Corner, it seems the position of Head Girl is available,” McGonagall looked briefly at Rose, who was staring straight ahead, her back straight as an arrow, jaw clenched in anger. “Would you happen to be interested?”

Kate bit her lip and looked at Rose. Rose turned her eyes to the ceiling. Kate looked a Nat. Nat shrugged, stabbing the last asparagus spear with her fork.

“Well, Miss Corner?” McGonagall looked at her expectantly.

“N-no thank you, ma’am,” she answered, finally.

“No? Are you quite sure?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

McGonagall gave her a contemplative look and then moved down the aisle towards the Hufflepuff table.

Kate let out a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding.

“You could have accepted, you know,” Rose muttered, finally looking at her friend. She shrugged. “I wouldn’t have cared.”

“You deserved it when you were given it. You still deserve it. It should never have been taken from you in the first place.” Kate took a bite of a roll and shrugged. “Besides, it’s March. School’s out in June. It’d be a four month job, and where’s the fun in that?”

Rose tracked McGonagall with her eyes.

“Albus is gone,” Lily noted, before shutting her book and taking a gulp of water. Nat glanced down the table and, sure enough, the very last spot was empty, devoid of dirty plate and her former boyfriend.

“Did you see him? He looks horrible,” Kate groaned, pushing her plate away.

“He looks like he’s lost about ten pounds. And he’s tall, and was under weight to begin with. I don’t know, you guys. I’m really worried about him.” Lily folded her arms on the table in front of her, and Arnie put his chin on her shoulder and his arm across her back.

“You live with him,” Kate nodded at Arnie, “is he okay?”

Arnie sighed, flicking his head to get the fringe out of his eyes, and nodded. “He’s, uh, well, he’s doing better than he was, I suppose. The daily owls from his mum don’t help, but what’re you going to do? You know he’s the suffer-in-silence type. He kind of…I don’t know…he just sits there, mostly. He’s depressed, Kate, what do you want me to say? He sleeps a lot. He rarely showers. The only time he gets his arse up and moving is when Scorpius is around and forces him to go to lessons or when Bryce comes with news about you,” he angled his head towards Nat.

“News about me?”

“Of course, news about you. What else do you think he’d be keeping tabs on? When Bryce can get some news out of Emileigh he goes straight in and tells Al.”

“So, Al…knows?” Nat gestured to her stomach.

“It was so hard that day, Nat.” Arnie shook his head sadly. “When he found out that you had felt the kiddies move, he was so upset. It about killed him when Bryce told him that Hugo had been one of the first people to feel them.”

“Oh, Al.” Tears were quick to fill Nat’s eyes and spill over, and she brushed them away as best she could.

“I’m not telling you this to try and get you guys back together or anything,” Arnie shook his head, sadly. “But you all saw it for yourself. Albus is in a bad way.”

“Albus,” Lily spoke softly, her eyes on the Slytherin table, “also hasn’t left the Hall.”

Nat’s head whipped around to where Lily was gazing at the Slytherin table. Scorpius sat, his head turned towards a dark object resting on the table. Nat recognized the dark, messy hair of her babies’ daddy, and a sob caught in her throat.

“I can’t,” she spun quickly in her seat, tears making paths down her already streaked face. “I can’t just forget what he did. I just…can’t.”

“No one’s asking you to, sweetie,” Lily patted her hand from the other side of the table.

“Right, Nat. We’re all totally on your side here,” Arnie was quick to agree. “But…just don’t forget that you’re not the only one hurting here, okay?”

“Marsha Harper accepted the Head Girl badge,” Rose cut in, not able to take her angry glare off of McGonagall, whom was retaking her place at the staff table.

“Uh, bigger problems, Rosie. You wanted the job you should’ve accept it. Back to Nat…”

“Does anyone have any paper?”

Tap. Tap. Tap. Pause. Tap. Tap. Shuffle. Tap. Tap. Tap. Pause. Tap. Tap. Shuffle.

Albus turned on his heel and continued pacing in front of his trunk in the seventh year dormitory. He knew that attending dinner the previous night had been a bad idea, but he had to see for himself that she was alright.

He’d attended exactly three classes in the time since he and Nat’d had their fight and he unwillingly became her ex-boyfriend. Each attendance had one purpose and one purpose only: to make sure Nat was okay.

She’d been spending a lot of time with his cousin lately, and Albus was not okay with it. What was that little prick thinking? Hugo’d had a crush on Nat for as long as Albus had been dating her, but he wouldn’t make a move on a pregnant girl, would he? Not to mention the fact that she’s pregnant with his cousin’s twins.

Beyond that, though, Albus was glad that someone was there for her. Rose couldn’t be around all the time. And, yes, even though the whole situation was pretty much Rose’s doing, Albus was really the one to blame.

He’d been kicking himself for days for not telling Nat about his job at the Leaky Cauldron sooner. If he had, this whole mess could have been avoided and he could’ve been engaged by now.

Albus slumped onto his trunk and put his head in his hands.

No. He had no one to blame but himself. If he’d seen what Rose had told Scorpius who’d told him what she’d seen, Albus wouldn’t have hesitated to kick his own arse.

But it wasn’t even like that. He’d never cheat on Nat, especially not with Meghan Longbottom. No. He’d learned his lesson with her a long time ago. She was not someone he could ever be emotionally attached to. She was an okay friend, and she’d listened when he became near clinically depressed at the predicament he’d subjected not only himself, but Nat and his family to.

But kissing her would be like kissing his sister. No, worse than his sister. It’d be like kissing a hairy, bad breathed, dry lipped version of his sister, aka: the most disgusting thing on the planet to kiss.

Albus was no longer worried about the money; he hadn’t been since the first interest statement on the loan he’d gotten from his brother had come in before New Years. Only a week in a high-interest account and he’d made bank. James was right, his financial advisor was very good and James’s money was in good hands. Albus’s older brother’s great grandkids could still be living off the money James was making, even if James retired right this moment. After only a season’s playing.

Albus’d taken the job for two reasons. The first reason was a given: to get a good job, he needed work experience. No person in their right mind would hire someone straight out of school for the money that it would take to keep two babies fed, clothed, and sheltered. Not without a little experience, no matter who that person’s father was. He didn’t want to live off of his family forever, and, though he hadn’t thought much about it before that early December day, he needed a career to support his family.

The second reason he took the job was because he fully intended on marrying Nat, and, when the time came to pop the question, he wanted to be able to tell her that he spent his hard earned money, not his brother’s or his father’s, on the perfect ring for her. She’d said she didn’t want him to feel obligated to ask her to marry him because of the babies. He didn’t. He loved her and wanted to be with her. Forever.

Then he went and fucked it up.

He had to fix it. He just had to. But he had a feeling that a simple ‘I’m sorry’ wasn’t going to cut it.

He wanted to talk to her. He needed to see her. Up close and personal. Face to face. He had a dozen things he wanted to say, and at the top of the list was “I’m sorry.”

Albus paused. A muffled noise made its way into the dormitory through the half opened door, and then came a low growl. Suddenly shouts roared a rousing round of, “Fight! Fight!”

Albus was rolling his eyes and muttering about ‘childish antics’ when there was noise of thundering steps on the stairs and a short, blonde second year burst into the room, panting, his blue eyes wide and scared.

“M-Mr. Potter, your friend the S-Slytherin is downstairs b-beating up my brother.”

“Shit,” Albus muttered under his breath as he pushed past the little boy and took the stairs down two at a time. He entered the common room to find three sixth years holding Scorpius back as he struggled to break free from them and lunge at the boy across the room. Scorpius didn’t look too bad, his lower lip beginning to swell a tad.

The other boy, a taller version of the second year who’d come to find Albus, was being held back by a couple of fifth and sixth years also, but didn’t seem to be putting up much of a fight. They seemed to be holding the boy up. His eyes were slightly unfocused and blood gushed from his nose down the front of his robes. Albus recognized him – mostly from his robes and the badge pinned to them – as Marvin Wells, sixth year prefect.

“Say it again to my face, prick,” Scorpius spat at the sixth year as he struggled against the people holding him back. Marvin, obviously unable to answer, slumped against a tall girl who was helping to hold him up and closed his eyes.

“Don’t let him go to sleep!” Albus cried, pushing past people to get to him. “He could have a concussion. Merlin, mate, what did he do to deserve this?”

“He…uh…said some stuff,” Scorpius, appearing to come out of his anger-infused haze, shook off his captors, who gave up quite easily when they realized the action was over, and rubbed the back of his neck.

“Come on Marv, wake up,” Albus slapped to boy lightly on the face. His blue eyes fluttered open for a second before closing slowly. “Shit, we have to get him to the infirmary.”

“Fuck,” Scorpius sighed as he watched Albus pull the boy to his feet and throw an arm around him. Albus took the boy’s right arm and pulled it across his shoulders for leverage.

“A little help?” Albus asked no one in particular. Scorpius stepped forward. As it seemed, none of Marvin’s friends protested much, and Scorpius helped get an unconscious Marvin out of the portrait hole.

“What in Merlin’s name were you thinking?” Albus asked angrily as Scorpius helped him get Marvin down a flight of stairs. “You could have killed him! What could he have said to warrant a beating like that?”

“He said he slept with Rose,” Scorpius muttered, shaking his head sadly as they made it down another staircase. Albus thought seriously about laughing.

“Come on, Scorp, don’t you know how ridiculous that is? Rose has been so distraught over your breakup I doubt she’d even look at another guy, especially Marvin, the only person nerdier than Lucy. Now, if you told me Lucy slept with the guy, that I could believe.”

“You’ve been cooped up in your room for how long? How the hell do you know what Rose has been doing? Hell, ten minutes ago I didn’t even think she was…you know, at that point.”


“You know, after a breakup, when you feel the need to fill the void. It happens to everyone.”

“Happened to you?” Albus began to sweat with the exertion of carrying Marvin through the corridors. He frowned. He hadn’t used to tire that easily. Looking into his friend’s face, Albus thought he saw a flicker of something – regret? – before Scorpius’s face was once again masked with anger.

“You know it hasn’t. I’m beginning to think that I might be there, though. Who do you think I should pick? I’m thinking your friend, Kate. She’s kind of spunky. She’ll resist at first, but then I’ll charm her…”

“One, she doesn’t do casual relationships. Two, why not do a Hufflepuff? They seem pretty easy. And three, I know you’re hurting Scorp, maybe it’s not such a good idea to think about now.”

“Hell yes, I’m hurt! It hasn’t been that long! We were together for years, Al, years. Maybe not officially, but we knew. And then she just…with Marvin Wells? That’s who she picks to replace me?”

“Would it make a difference if it was someone from the Quidditch Team? You know, someone who you could match equally rather than pulverize in a fight?”

“No,” Scorpius admitted glumly.

“Besides, how do you know he wasn’t just jerkin’ your chain? Maybe he was lying.”

Scorpius shook his head. “No. He at least saw her naked.”

“How do you know?”

“He knew details,” Scorpius stressed, solemnly.

“What kind of details?” Albus stopped walking partly to hear what Scorpius had to say while talking to him face-to-face and partly because he needed a break from carrying the little twerp.

“Are you sure you want to know?”

“May as well.”

“Because you may not like the information I’m about to impart on –”


“He knew that, well, that Rose has a tattoo.”

“Rose has a tattoo?” Albus’s eyes widened.

“Yep, she got it on a dare over the summer.” Scorpius smirked.

“So she’s got a tattoo? Big deal. How does that prove that he slept with her?”

“Saw her naked,” he muttered through clenched teeth, as if the thought of Rose sleeping with someone else was upsetting enough to make him want to put his fist through the stone wall, or Marvin’s head, which was conveniently next to said fist.

“Fine,” Albus relented with a smile, “how does that prove that Marvin Wells saw Rose Weasley naked?”

“Because, that tattoo is in a place that most people don’t go around flaunting every day.”

“Naughty Rosie,” Albus muttered and Scorpius glared at him.

“Yuck it up, jerk-off. Just imagine how it’ll feel when it’s Nat’s first guy after you.”

Albus stopped laughing to glare at his friend.

“Yeah, you don’t like it either.” Scorpius shook his head, sadly. “It’s too late for me and Rose, but it’s not too late for you and Nat. Not yet. Wait too much longer, though, mate, and it will be.”

“What should I do?” Albus asked, a new feeling flooding over him at Scorpius’s inspiring words.

“Talking to her would be a good start.”

“She won’t listen to me.”

“Beg,” Scorpius shrugged. “Beg for a chance to be heard out. And keep begging until you annoy her so much she gives in. Tell her you’ll wait for her, until she’s ready to talk, and the ‘giving in’ may come sooner. But do something. Don’t mope like you Potters are known for. Be proactive.”

“Wow,” Albus muttered, shaking his head and smiling slightly. “For someone who just took a huge hit to the ego you sure are full of advice.”

Scorpius shrugged. “This talk has been a long time in coming. It just sucks that it was under these circumstances,” he motioned to Marvin, still unconscious, and they shared a laugh.

“Let’s get this little bugger to the infirmary so I can go find my woman.”

Scorpius took hold of his legs and Albus grabbed his arms. Five minutes later they were walking in to the hospital wing. Albus was walking backwards and failed to notice the group of people until he heard a gasp.

He turned and dropped Marvin’s arms, causing his head to bang against the stone floor. It landed with a thud, which would normally have made him wince, but he was distracted.

On a bed near the end of the centre aisle was Nat, surrounded by friends, all of whom were staring at him in disbelief. And then Lucy shrieked.


She ran down the centre aisle and dropped to her knees next to the boy’s head. She took his head and placed it on her lap, running a consoling hand down his cheek before glaring up at her cousin and his friend.

“What the hell did you do to him?”

Albus, though curious and confused, ignored her and confidently made his way up the aisle to where Nat was laying in the middle of white, starched sheets.

“Can I talk to Nat alone, please?” he asked as he neared the group, not able to take his eyes off of Nat’s face to see the reaction of the people around her. Bryce dragged Emileigh away and Kate followed. Rose and Hugo stood their ground on either side of the bed. “I’m going to say this with or without them here, Nat.”

“Just go. I’ll be right over here, you can keep watch,” she reassured Rose. “Just no listening in!”

Rose, reluctantly, walked away after a long, drawn out pause, and Hugo followed her equally as reluctant.

Finally Nat’s eyes met his and Albus sighed with relief. Under the hurt and confusion that he saw in their crystal blue depths, the sparkle that defined Nat’s happiness was still there.

They still had a chance.

“I’m going to your house for Easter,” Nat blurted out. Then her cheeks flamed and she broke their gaze. “If that’s why you’re here, if you’re mum’s nagging finally got to you…well, I’m going. I owled her last night after supper.”

“That’s great.” Albus was pleasantly surprised; he thought he was going to have to make up excuses or miss Easter himself. “But that’s not why I wanted to talk to you.” His voice was steady and calm, a feat for his heart was racing and his stomach was in knots.


Albus sat on the edge of the bed and reached for Nat’s hand, but she jerked it back at the last minute. Fear raced through him for a moment, but he shook it off and folded his hands on top of his leg.

“I suppose I deserve that.” He thought he heard an unladylike snort behind him, but ignored Rose and focused on Nat, who was biting her lip and looking away. “I love you, Nat.”

“Albus –”

“Please, let me finish. You may think you know what I’m going to say, but you don’t. You think I’m going to ask you to get back together with me, but I’m not.”

“You’re not?” Shock? Hurt? He didn’t have time to process the emotion in her voice or else he’d lose his nerve and forget what he’d wanted to say.

“No. Not yet,” she seemed to visibly relax at the addition and he continued, feeling like a weight was lifting off his shoulders as he spoke the words. “I love you, Nat. And I know I made a mistake. A bunch of mistakes. Mistakes that aren’t forgivable with a simple apology and a promise, because it seems that my promises have come to mean shit. With good reason.” He took a breath and cupped her chin with one hand, bringing her face towards his. “You don’t trust me, and that’s understandable. I’ll do whatever it takes for however long it takes for you to trust me again, so we can get back to being the happy couple we were. We’ll take it slow. Go back to when we were friends. Best friends. Whatever you need.”

“You want to be friends?” Nat asked, eyes narrowed, and the first thought that ran across Albus’s mind was, ‘she doesn’t want to be my friend?’

“Remember you’ve got my babies growing inside of you, Natalya.” He placed his hand on her bulging belly. His eyes grew wide when he felt a tiny flutter against his hand.

“That’s Snoogy.”


“Well we couldn’t keep calling them ‘baby one’ and ‘baby two’ and I didn’t want to ruin the surprise by finding out their sex so Rose and Emily helped me pick out nicknames. This one’s Snoogy,” she covered his hand and moved it to the other side of her belly, “and this one’s Snorky.”

“Snoogy and Snorky?” he grinned at her. “It’s kind of cute.”

“So you want to be friends?” She bit her lip and their eyes met.

“For now.”

“And what if I don’t want to be friends?”

“I’ll wait for you to be ready to be friends, and will pick up from there. And just so you know, I can wait forever. I will wait forever. You’re worth the wait.”

“Why don’t you want to get back together?”

“I do, Nat, more than anything. I want to just put all of this behind us and get back to how it used to be.” He pushed a strand of hair that had escaped from her ponytail behind her ear. “But I can see that you don’t trust me anymore. As much as it kills me, that’s not an ending point for me. I’ll wait as long as it takes for you to be ready.”

“And what if it’s years?”

“I’ll wait.”

“Are you sure?”

“Besides my love for you, I’ve never been surer of anything in my life.”

She seemed to contemplate this for a moment before a slow smile graced her lips.

“Why now?”

Albus made a nodding motion towards the entry to the infirmary. “It would kill me if you slept with Marvin Wells.”

Nat leaned over to look around him and laughed. The sound was like music to his ears.

“Where did that come from?”

He leaned as close as he dared and whispered, conspiratorially, “Rose slept with Marvin Wells.”

“Nu uh.”

“Yeah, Scorpius said he had proof. Rose has a tattoo in an unmentionable place and Marvin knew about it.”

“Oh, dear.” Nat brought her hand to her mouth to cover her laughs.

“What?” he looked at her, confused.

“It seems you have been duped, Al,” she shrugged apologetically, but she didn’t seem sorry.


Rose didn’t sleep with Marvin, Lucy did. Rose doesn’t have a tattoo, Lucy does. It’s a heart, it’s really tiny, and it’s on the inside of her right thigh. You can see it if you see her in her swimming suit.”

Albus turned toward the group of people milling about by the door pretending not to eavesdrop. Sure enough, Marvin and Lucy were leaning against the wall near the door, holding hands and speaking softly. Marvin’s face was clean, and he didn’t have a mark on him, which meant either Lucy had patched him up really well or his wounds were fake.

“Well I’ll be,” he muttered to himself and turned back to Nat only to get a hand shoved in his face.

“Friends?” Nat questioned, softly.

“Friends,” he agreed, shaking her hand shortly before her fingers unclenched and he dropped them.

“And you’ll wait?”

“As long as it takes.”

“No girlfriends on the side? No more sneaking around with Meghan?”

“I know my promises don’t mean much right now, but I promise.”


“And, just so you know, I can wait forever.”

“Albus, it’s been too long, dear.”

He turned on the bed and saw their mediwitch, Darlene Christensen, coming towards them with a grim look on her face and it dawned on Albus that he hadn’t bothered to ask Nat why she was in the Hospital Wing in the first place. By the looks of things, though, it was a check-up.

He frowned; it had only been two weeks since the last one.

“Hello, Healer Christensen. How are things?”

“Not good, I’m afraid.”


“Albus, Natalya…it looks like I have got some bad news.”

Chapter 27: 26..The Beginning of the End
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

A/N: PLEASE READ THIS FIRST!!  I have made a few changes to the last half of Ch. 25 to make it easier to read, so you may want to go back and reread the end of that.

I'm not dead, I'm not abandoning this story.  Real Life just happens and we have to deal with it.  I love these characters and I love this story and it will get finished.  Thank you for all of the reviews asking about my health (or, you know, saying that I'm dead or whatever) I really appreciate every single person who reads my stories.

Lastly, this chapter is broken up weird.  The first part happens the night of Ch. 25, the second part is the Friday before Easter and the third part is the Saturday before Easter.  Sorry if this is confusing.  Enjoy!

Defying Gravity
Chapter 26: The Beginning of the End 

The Gryffindor common room was unusually quiet for a Saturday night. Perhaps it was because the fifth years had commandeered two thirds of the floor space for an OWL study group and they were busily studying Charms and Potions.

Or, more likely, it was the red headed seventh year and the presence of a certain Slytherin that created a thick tension that blanketed them all. While a few fifth years were actually studying, most were pretending to while watching the ex-couple, waiting for the explosion.

Rose didn’t know why he was even there. This was her common room. She was a Gryffindor and he was a Slytherin; she had every right to be there, and he did not.

Not to mention the fact that she was royally pissed at him. How dare he use her like that? Making up some rumour about her that, while it served its ultimate purpose of getting Nat and Albus at least on speaking turns, made her look like some desperate trollop in front of her entire house.

She folded her arms across her chest, crossed her legs, and glared at him. He was leaning against the mantel over the fireplace, and he looked like some Greek god, all blond and strong and handsome, and she wanted to puke.

“Well I think it was sweet,” Kate said, pulling herself away from her book to enter the conversation that Rose had been ignoring.

“Yeah, you’re the best kind of friend, Scorpius.”

Okay, Emileigh was a traitorous bitch and could go jump off the Astronomy tower. She was supposed to be Rose’s friend, and yet there she was, batting her eye lashes at Scorpius with her boyfriend sitting right next to her!

Emileigh brought her hand to her eye and rubbed it gently and Rose realized the girl must’ve had something in her eye and wasn’t really flirting with Scorpius.

But still, it was on principle!

“It’s so great that you’d stop at nothing to get them back together,” a stray sixth year fawned over him and Rose nearly gagged. Since when were sixth years, aside from Lily who was technically a fifth year and not a sixth year at all, allowed into their conversations?

And there Scorpius was, eating it right up, the jerk. He smirked at the sixth year, who in turn fluttered her magically lengthened eye lashes.

Rose did gag.

“Alright, Rose?” Scorpius looked at her with raised eyebrow. He even looked sexy doing that. Damnit.

“Who the hell do you think you are?” Rose stood angrily. Scorpius seemed taken aback by her outburst and let his arm fall from the mantel. He turned fully towards her, crossing his arms and setting his stance for a row.

Rose, feeling his towering height was a disadvantage to her, rushed to her feet, took two steps forward, and fell into the same stance.

“Come on you two, take it outside,” Kate said, her nose in her book allowing her to miss the death glare Rose aimed at her.

“You used me. We aren’t even friends, and you used me,” Rose hissed dangerously at him. Scorpius only cocked his head. “You said I slept with Marvin-fucking-Wells. I wouldn’t touch Marvin Wells with a ten foot pole with your hand attached. Well, maybe…no definitely not. Not even your hand.”

“Are you finished?” Scorpius said slowly.

“No! You didn’t even make me aware of the situation! You didn’t tell Lucy or Hugo or anyone! Now everyone thinks that I slept with Lucy’s boyfriend and I have a tattoo in an unmentionable place and that you, you unfeeling bastard, were actually jealous of someone else sleeping with me! Excuse me, but I have the right to be a little pissed!”

Before she could say another word, Scorpius stepped forward, latched onto her arm, and proceeded to drag her out of the common room amidst snickers from most and the wide eyes of her friends.

“Help!” she screeched, fighting against his strong hold by kicking at his feet to try and trip him up, but no one moved. “You lot are no use! He’s kidnapping me! Help me!”

“Just go with it,” was called from the area she’d just been dragged from and she could almost see Emileigh’s face buried in Bryce’s neck, snickering like the little devil she is. Bitch.

Finally Rose stopped walking, stopped moving all together. They were already out of the common room when she became dead weight, refusing to even hold herself up anymore. She fell to her knees and would’ve fallen flat on her face if he hadn’t been holding on to her arm. If he wanted to get her alone – well, anymore alone than they already were – he would have to work.

Instead of dropping her and leaving her as she’d hoped, he scooped her up and carried her like a baby down the corridor and into an empty classroom. Then he dropped her unceremoniously into a heap on the floor, turned, and locked the door.

“What is it with you manhandling me?” she exploded as soon as she was out of his arms. “I’d like to file a formal complaint with the school. This has got to stop, you dragging me off in the middle of a row, and just when things start getting good. The second time in…not a very long time and there is definitely no logical reason for you to. It wasn’t even your common room, you could’ve left if you were embarrassed – ”

“Are you quite finished?” Scorpius cut her off with a glare, his voice the epitome of calm and patience, and it only made Rose scowl and narrow her eyes. No, she wasn’t finished.

“Where do you get off being so calm and level headed, huh? You formulated a plan that starred me, but did inform me of said plan so at least I could prepare for it? No! Then not only do you spread a rumour that I slept with some…boy, you act all jealous – ”

“I was jealous.”

“ – and then manhandle me again…wait, you were jealous?” Scorpius nodded. “Of a rumour? That you started? A very, very, infinitely very untrue lie that was started by you…caused you to be jealous?” He nodded again and she paced away from him. She walked the length of the room and then turned, fire in her eyes, and marched right up to him.

“You have no room to be jealous Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy! You broke up with me! I can sleep with whomever I want. Just because it wasn’t Marvin-fucking-Wells doesn’t mean it’s not someone or – ” she was effectively cut off by his lips slamming into hers.

He kissed her with a fierce passion that left her knees week and desire pooling in the pit of her stomach. Her hands moved up his chest to his shoulders with no intention of pulling away and his threaded into her hair, effectively causing it to become an entangled mess with one touch. His tongue touched hers and like a shot starting a race, the battle had begun.

He lifted her easily into his arms, her legs moving around his waist, and he moved them, one step at a time towards the teacher’s desk at the head of the room, their lips never parting. He set her down and took a step back, looking at her through heavily hooded eyes.

His face was flushed and his lips swollen, and his eyes had darkened into a pit of steel with the desire he felt. He stepped back towards her, between her still spread legs, and captured her lips again.

Her hands roamed his body as she was thoroughly snogged. Her heart beat raced and she pressed her hand against his chest; his heart was racing as well.

“Rose,” he whispered before attaching his lips to her neck. She groaned when he bit the tender spot just below her ear and felt his hands inching her shirt up.

“Scorpius,” her desire laced voice cut through him and, like a green light, the only thing he could think of was ‘go’.

A short time later, both breathing heavily, Scorpius stepped away from the desk, reached down, and tugged up his trousers and boxers. Rose smoothed her skirt down her thighs wishing she had brought her wand to clean up with.

She refused to look at him as she bent to pick up her knickers off the floor, suddenly angry all over again. Angry with him; angry with herself. She had no business being in an empty classroom alone with him, not to mention shagging him in aforementioned classroom. He broke up with her; he’d broken her heart.

And when he’d reached his peak not two minutes before, he’d muttered the words that had effectively shattered her heart once again. His breathy, “I love you, Rose,” as he’d filled her still spun around in her mind.

It wasn’t the first time since they’d split that he’d said it, but she couldn’t help but wonder…

“If you still love me,” she started slowly, watching him as he straightened his shirt that he hadn’t bothered to remove and yet refused to meet her gaze, “why did you break up with me?”

“We just…we can’t be together, Rose. It’s not possible.” He turned his back on her and headed for the door.

“But I love you, too!” she insisted, causing him to stop in his tracks. Thousands of thoughts were racing through her mind. Well, not thousands, have you ever tried to count your thoughts? It’d take forever to get to a thousand! But at least three ran across her mind, the one at the forefront being, ‘maybe you just didn’t say it enough, Rose, and he wants to hear it.’ That she could do.

“I love you so much it hurts,” she whispered. He slowly turned towards her, his liquid steel eyes of earlier having changed to a fuzzy gray like a cloudy day.

“It’s not enough, Rose. I’m sorry.”

Then she was alone in an unused classroom with a misbuttoned shirt, tears streaming down her face, and a, once again, broken heart.

Thank  you for dinner,” James muttered bitterly, recalling the last words Kylie had said to him almost a week ago. Gathering all of his strength, he pushed the metal rod with weights attached to each end from where it rested against his chest, extending his arms out above him, letting out a gush of air from the exertion. “I’ll owl you,” he ground out in a high-pitched voice meant to mimic Kylie’s.

She hadn’t. Owled him, that is.

He finished his last set of bench presses and sat up, using the bottom of his team training shirt to wipe the sweat off his forehead. That very week team practices had officially started. One would think that James would be too occupied, what with the four hours training in the sky and two in the weight room per day, to be thinking about Kylie.


He hadn’t even been able to enjoy his first week on a new team. He’d met the trainers, the assistant coaches, the medical staff, but he couldn’t honestly remember any of their names. He had a hard enough time remembering his new teammates’ names, which made the first week tough. Really tough. Let’s just say he wasn’t going to be voted Rookie of the Year based on popularity as of yet.

But he couldn’t get her off of his mind.

“Hey, Potter! Talking to yourself again?”

James glared at Rodney Brown, the team’s Keeper, who had just finished a set of pull ups and was grinning at him. James grunted in response and headed towards the locker room.

He showered quickly and walked to his locker. He muttered the password and the lock popped open. Inside, sitting on top of his fresh change of clothes, was his workout sheet and meal guide for the upcoming holiday.

The Magpies never told him what to eat.

Maybe that’s what made England the World Cup champions three years running.

He shook his head, scratched the back of his neck, and began to dress.

James ducked out of the stadium’s practice pitch long before anyone else, feeling the urge to get out before the coach came in for another lecture on the importance of strength training or some bullshit like they were fourth years or something.

As he neared the apparition point, he dug into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a muggle cell phone that he’d gotten shortly after becoming infatuated with Kylie. It was a quick way to get in touch with her that wouldn’t draw her neighbor’s attention to her, and she liked to talk on the phone like some teenage muggle.

He’d been trying to reach her all week and decided if he couldn’t get through tonight then he was going over there.

It was crap. If she was trying to blow him off, the least she could do was tell him to his face. He wanted to know why she was ignoring him, and, damnit, he wanted to know yesterday!

He punched in her speed dial number, listened to it ring one, two, three times, then:

“Hi! It’s Kylie and Jeanie! We can’t come to the phone –”

He folded the phone shut before he heard any more of Kylie’s voice.

Once he reached the apparition point, he pulled out his wand and frowned. He knew where he was going, he just didn’t know what to expect when he got there.

“Here goes nothing,” James muttered.

A second later he was face to face with a muggle hot water heater, tripped over a mop, and finally managed to step out of the hall closet. He moved to knock on Kylie’s flat door when it was flung open so hard it made a loud ‘bang’ as it hit the wall on the other side. A small girl with dark brown curls flew out of the flat, plowed straight in to him, and knocked them both off their feet.

James grunted as he hit the floor and the air wooshed out of his lungs; then he laid there trying to remember what happened. He’d just stepped out of the damn closet…

“Sorry,” the girl mumbled, pushing herself off of his chest. He looked up and his breath caught. Then he sighed. For a second there he thought he was staring at Kylie; that Kylie had landed on top of him.


Mark Richt stepped out of the door just then, two bulging suitcases in his hands, glaring down at his little sister.

“It was an accident, honest!”

James politely ignored the glimpse of Jeanie’s knickers under her skirt as she stood and climbed to his feet himself.

“Finally find your own flat, Mark?” He rubbed his stomach where a dull ache had settled from Jeanie’s attack.

“Ha! No, I cannot stand it here one more second. She’s driving me – us – crazy!”

“Who?” James turned towards Jeanie who was smoothing down her camisole.

“Ky, she’s gone mental. All she does is work and research, work and research. There are dumb medical books everywhere!”

“So we’re going to an Inn. Good luck, mate. You’re going to need it!”

Then the siblings disappeared down the stairs leaving the front door wide open. Even from the hallway James could see that they weren’t lying. Stacks of medical books and journals covered every available surface, some were open, most were closed.

He let himself in, closed and locked the door, and removed his cloak.

“Kylie?” he called softly.

The only sound in the entire apartment was the sound furious flipping of pages in a book. He followed the noise into the kitchen.

There Kylie stood, her long hair in a messy, tangled ponytail down her back, her pale yellow scrubs rumpled and looked as if she hadn’t changed in a day or two. Her back was to him, and she was scribbling furiously in a filled-to-the-brim notebook while simultaneously flipping a page in a heavy tome. Stray pieces of parchment were piled on the table along with medical journals and even more books.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen that many books in one place outside of the Hogwarts library and his Aunt Hermione’s house.

He took two steps to Kylie and put his hands on her hips, immediately regretting it when she gave him an elbow to the solar plexus, the same spot her younger sister had hit not three minutes ago.

“Oof!” he cried and fell onto his butt. He laid back, half on carpet and half on tile, and put his hands over his face.

“James!” She knelt down next to him and went immediately into Healer mode, lifting his shirt, feeling his stomach. “Are you alright? Oh, gosh, I’m so sorry!” Then, assessing that he was fine after a moment of fingering his defined abdomen, slapped him on the chest. “What are you doing? Why would you sneak up on me like that?”

She sat back on her haunches and folded her arms over her chest. He sat up halfway and leveled a glare at her.

“You said you would owl.” Then he thought: did that poor, pathetic, whimpering voice come from him?

“I planned to! It’s only been a few days. Jeez, I don’t know if I can date someone who can’t go two days –”

“Seven!” James corrected, pushing himself to his feet as he stood. “It’s been seven days!”

“That’s ridiculous! We went out last Friday…”

“Today is Friday! A week later. Next week’s Easter…” She cringed.

“Oh, James, I’m so sorry! I’ve been so busy!”

“I heard,” he muttered dryly. She stood on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his lips before turning back towards the table.

“Where are Jeanie and Mark?” Kylie asked as yet another page turned.

“They left. Went to an Inn. Apparently they aren’t excited about the company you’ve been lately.”

“I’ve just been busy,” she mumbled absently as yet another page flew. James sighed, realizing that this wasn’t going to be as easy as he thought.

He grabbed her wrist suddenly, and twisted her around so that they were chest to chest.

“Want to tell me about it?” he grinned down at her.

“James, really,” she muttered, pushing at his chest to get him to let her go. He wasn’t giving up that easily. “I have to work!”

“Work can wait a half hour. Have you eaten recently? I can cook us something.”

“Puh-lease,” she yanked on her hands one last time before giving up. “You can’t cook, James. You’ve tried before.”

“I enjoy being the damsel in distress, er, the male version that is. I can cook. Just go, relax, have a tea. I’ll have something whipped up in a half hour.”

“How about I’ll keep working while you cook and then stop to eat,” she compromised. He wasn’t having it.

“No deal. You sit, tell me what’s got you in a tizzy, and I’ll cook.”

She bit her lip as if contemplating, but ultimately gave up. “Fine.” She lowered herself onto a chair that he’d cleared for her, crossed her arms and legs, and stuck out her bottom lip.

“It’s not like you’re getting your teeth pulled!” he smiled from the kitchen, opening and closing cabinets trying to find a frying pan.

“No,” she looked forlornly at her books, “it’s worse!”

James placed the frying pan on the stove and grabbed a bottle of red wine out of the refridgerator. It was the cheap kind, with the screw on cap, but he didn’t care. He opened the bottle and found two wine glasses in the dish rack next to the sink. He poured them each a glass, set hers in front of her, and took a large sip from his.

“Now, how do you turn on the stove?”

Half an hour later there was a pot of white rice and a pan of baked chicken between the two as they sat on the floor in the middle of the living room, picnic style.

James raised his glass in a toast, smiling and chewing, and Kylie clinked his glass with hers.

“Delicious chicken,” she said around a bite.

“It gets the job done,” he shrugged. “So, tell me what all of this is about.” He waved his fork toward the pile of books before scooping up a huge bite of rice.

She put her fork down, picked up her wine, and looked longingly at the books. She hadn’t told anyone about him, about what had happened. She wanted to fix him, needed it with a passion. Sighing, she sipped, pulling her knees to her chest.

“Braden. Braden Helmick. He’s what that’s about.”

“Who’s Braden Helmick?” James asked with faux suspicion.

“My very first patient. A six year old little boy who’s going to die if I can’t figure out what’s wrong with him. The night you and I were out at dinner and I ran off…my watch went off…it’s a pager I had specially made that connects me to Braden. He stopped breathing that night. They had to put him on a monitor. They’ve pumped him full of more potions than I can name. And no one knows what’s wrong with him.”

“You’re smart. You will figure it out.”

“I know. That’s why I’ve been going nonstop for a week. I have to find out what’s wrong with him. I just have to.”

“You will. I can help you.”

She smiled and genuine smile but shook her head. “You’ve got your Quidditch and a life of your own. I can do this alone.”

“Pssh. I’ve got mandatory six hours a day, four in the sky and two in the weight room. If I’m doing my math right, that leaves eighteen unaccounted for hours. A lot can get done in eighteen hours.”

“I’m aware,” she stood and helped him clear plates from their picnic and began filling the sink for the dishes. “I also can’t ask you to do that.” She picked up a sponge to begin washing when he flicked his wrist and the sponge jumped out of her hand and began moving back and forth vigorously on the plate.

“You didn’t ask. I offered.”

She stepped away from the sink, but he moved forward, pinning her against the counter top.

“That’s very sweet of you,” she whispered, pressing a kiss to his lips. It was only fair, since he’d invaded her personal space and all.

“I’m a sweet guy,” he whispered before capturing her lips and easing them into a slow, but passionate kiss.

She swayed a little when he removed his lips from hers, a dreamily smile gracing her face. Then she leaned forward, pressing her face into his chest. She could smell his soap, his aftershave. Minty and fruity, an odd combination that seemed to work on him.

“Look at you. You’re dead on your feet. When’s the last time you slept?”

“A week ago,” she laughed but she wasn’t joking.

“Okay, off to bed with you.” He spun her around, hands on her shoulders, and began leading her towards her yellow bedroom.

“I have to do more research,” she mumbled half heartedly, nearly crying in outrage when her shirt was ripped over her head as she stepped through the door.

“Shush, I’m just trying to get you more comfortable.” He helped her into her pyjamas, catching her when she nearly toppled over. Dead on her feet indeed.

“I really need to keep looking, James. It’s so important that Braden doesn’t die. He can’t die.”

“I’ll stay. I’ll do your research. You just sleep.” He helped her into her bed and pulled the blanket up to her chin.

“You’ll stay?” she stared up at him with her big brown eyes and he knew. He’d fallen and fallen hard for Kylie Nicole Richt.

“I promise.”

“His file’s on the table; you should probably read up on his symptoms. And the books on the far left wall I’ve been through from beginning to end, so ignore those. I really appreciate this, James.”

“Go to sleep.” He bent over and kissed her forehead. She was asleep before he turned off the light.

He sighed loudly when the door clicked shut behind him, and he walked down the short hall and into the dining area. There were books everywhere.

It was going to be a long, sleepless night, he decided as he picked up the file marked ‘Helmick, Braden’.

Albus leaned his hip against the doorframe to the French doors that lead out to the garden. He crossed his arm and cocked his head as he stared at the most beautifully depressing sight.

She hadn’t moved, not really, from that spot in the two days since they returned from Hogwarts for Easter break. He couldn’t think of the reason, not when everything was so up in the air and heartbreaking at the same time. The pain that ripped through his chest when Christensen announced her findings was a ghost until he went back to the moment. Pain seared through him, from his heart to the pit of his stomach, just remembering.

He hoped she was wrong.

They would find out. Soon, hopefully. Even on a Saturday, she would still come by. It was that important.

But until then, he was intent on watching her, Natalya, Nat, his Nel, from a distance when what he wanted to do was hold her and stroke her hair and tell her it was all going to be okay.

It surprised him the most, though, that she hadn’t shed a tear. Not one. The tears had been a daily occurrence for the last five months and suddenly they disappeared when the situation arose that required tears.

It was very un-Nat-like, and that worried him. A lot.

Albus felt his father behind him before his hand clapped onto his shoulder. Albus turned slightly as Harry looked past him into the room. He raised his eyebrows to his son but said nothing and turned away. Albus took one last look at Nat, solemnly bent over in concentration, and followed his father, stepping out into the garden and softly closing the door behind him.

Harry had moved across the yard, designed and landscaped by Ginny Potter herself, to sit on a wrought iron bench in a small opening amidst the flowers. Albus sat next to him, elbows on his knees, hands dangling in front of him.

The garden was a curvy ‘L’ shape filled with twenty-seven different types of plants (yes, Ginny kept track) from pink Cosmos Primrose to Baby Blue Eyes. The ‘L’ shape filled a good portion of the yard with pebble path running through the center and the plants were Ginny’s pride and joy. No one messed with her flowers.

Albus cringed when Harry conjured a pair of pruning shears and snipped a Snapdragon and two Baby Blue Eyes and magic-ed them together with a small golden ribbon. He handed the miniature bouquet to Albus and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“You know your mother and I would help you if you just told us what the problem was,” he spoke softly, yet evenly, and guilt clinched in Albus’s stomach.

They hadn’t told his parents any of what had transpired between them recently, well Nat hadn’t said much of anything at all. Albus didn’t know what to say. “Nat and I aren’t together anymore and one of our babies is dying” just doesn’t seem like the right thing to say.

Rose suggested not even mentioning the breakup because it didn’t look like that would be sticking, but you never knew. Albus and Nat’s relationship was at a standstill. His parents had a right to know why. Maybe it would be better if they did. His father could knock some sense into him and get his mind off the “one of our babies is dying” part.

He knew he should tell his parents. But he couldn’t.

“What makes you think there’s a problem?” He tried to sound nonchalant and failed. So he twirled the flowers gently between his thumb and forefinger.

Harry sighed, realizing this would be harder than he thought.

“Well, for starters, your mother and I found it rather strange that Nat didn’t want to share your room with you, opting to sleep in the spare bedroom. Then there’s the whole you two not talking, Nat barely speaking at all, and her spending all of her time on that damn piano…I’m sorry Al, but there’s only so many times a man can hear ‘Clair de Lune’ without wanting to put his fist through something.”

“You’re tough; get some ear plugs.” Albus smiled. He could still hear the playing from where he was at. The slow, light notes strung together got kind of depressing after a while, and his smile slowly fell into a frown.

Harry nodded. “That addresses one issue. As to the others…”

“Nat and I are having some…problems,” Albus said carefully. Shame washed over him when he heard his father sigh heavily.

“Your mother will be pissed, you realize.”

“She’ll get over it when she finds out…” Albus trailed. He shouldn’t be talking about it until it was a sure thing. If Christensen would ever show up with the results…

“Finds out what?” Harry pressed, worry creasing his brow. “Is something wrong with the twins?”

“Maybe.” He couldn’t lie to his father. He did when he needed to, but he didn’t like it.

“Well? What’s wrong?”

“Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. I just don’t know.”

The music stopped. Nat stopped playing. Albus shot up off the bench and jumped to the two steps into the house from the garden.

Nat stood next to the piano, her arms wrapped beneath her stomach holding her dress firmly against her.

Mediwitch Christensen stood in the doorway, Ginny behind her looking between the two. But Albus was focused on Christensen. She looked old, much too old for her forty plus years, and tired. Her gaze caught his and he knew.

He moved quickly to Nat’s side and took her hand. The corner of her lip turned up in a hint of appreciation.

“What the hell is going on?” Ginny asked shrilly, obviously taking a dislike to being left out.

“We need to talk about what happens next,” Christensen spoke, ignoring Ginny.

“Please, come into the kitchen. Tea?”

As Harry situated their guest and Ginny around the table, Albus led Nat to a seat, kissed her knuckles, and slid down next to her. Harry and Ginny sat opposite them once Harry had gotten Christensen her tea, which left the head to the Mediwitch.

“I’d like to know what all this secrecy is about, please,” said Ginny.

Christensen cleared her throat; Nat clutched Albus’s hand.

“Natalya has, it seems, developed a case of TTTS, or Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome. It is not common in witches, and we don’t have any reason to make screening for it mandatory, but I did and she has it, and I’m so, so sorry. Usually it’s caught much earlier than this. I take the blame. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s not your fault,” Nat insisted at the same time Ginny said, “What exactly is TTTS?”

“Essentially it is when one of the twins is getting a significantly greater portion of the nutrients Natalya is taking in than the other twin,” she reached into her pocket and pulled out a stack of papers that shouldn’t have been able to fit into such a small space. “For this reason, one twin is greatly underdeveloped, and the other twin is getting much more nutrients than it needs or can handle.” She distributed sheets of paper with facts on TTTS to the four around the table.

“I’ve only seen four cases of this in my entire career and Natalya’s is the worst of the four. The donor twin, the twin who’s getting more of the oxygen and nutrients, is growing rapidly, but its kidneys are strained from excess work filtering and creating urine. On the opposite end, though, the recipient twin, the twin who’s getting essentially nothing, is severely underdeveloped and, without treatment, will…die.”

Nat sat frozen while Albus absorbed all of the new information. They’d been told the bare minimum in the infirmary, Christensen wanting to spare them the pain if she was wrong. But now the wheels were turning in his head.

“There’s a treatment?” he asked.

“Yes,” she nodded. “I’ve referred you to Doctor Nigel Whitehead, who has a medical degree in muggle medicine and is a licensed Healer specializing in Neo-natal surgery and Multiples. He’s asked me to outline the first step of this before he will meet with you on Monday.

“The first is a variation of the muggle Fetal Image-Guided Surgery. It’s painless, but mothers are sedated because of undue stress on the babies. What will happen is Dr. Whitehead will drain large volumes of amniotic fluid from the sack of the recipient, smaller, twin. The chances of fetal survival with this treatment is about sixty percent.”

“But without it it’s zero.” Nat stated softly, squeezing Albus’s hand painfully while tears formed in the corner of her eyes.

“I’m so sorry it has to be this way, Natalya.”

“It would’ve happened with or without you, Darlene,” Nat told her smiling through watery eyes. “I for one am so glad that it was with you. Who knows how long it would’ve taken some other Healer to figure it out.”

“Thank you.” They had a touching moment before Ginny broke it.

“What happens if this procedure isn’t successful?”

Christensen gave Ginny a look that told her what she needed to know and she sat back and digested the information.

“I don’t mean to keep piling on to a horrible situation, but there’s more.”

Harry put his arm around his wife and handed her a tissue.

“I know you’ve been feeling, emotional. More so than is normal,” she looked at Nat, who shrugged and nodded. “I believe you have Maternal Mirror Syndrome. This is rare, even in TTTS, which only happens in about fifteen percent of twin pregnancies. Maternal Mirror Syndrome is when the mother’s condition mimic’s the sick fetus’s. It’s the reason you’ve been feeling tired, depressed, overly emotional. I need to warn you, though, that if we can’t get this under control then you could develop pre-eclampsia.”

Ginny sucked in a large breath and let it out slowly. She had pre-eclampsia when she was pregnant with Lily, and it was one of the reasons she was told she couldn’t have any more children. She’d hate for Nat to be finished having children at eighteen.

“We can’t let that happen,” Ginny said finally.

“Good, then we’re agreed,” Christensen stuffed the last of the papers into her pocket and stood. The others stood with her. “I’ll have Dr. Whitehead owl you about you appointment.”

They followed as Ginny led her to the fireplace.

“Darlene,” Nat spoke just as the Mediwitch was dipping her hands into the floo powder pot. She turned startled eyes to the teenager. “What exactly did we agree on?” An apologetic smile flitted onto the healer’s face.

“That you cannot risk doing too much activity. That you can’t go back to Hogwarts.”

A/N: Please let me know if any of this chapter (especially the Nat/Albus part) was confusing.

Chapter 28: 27..Love & Loss
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Defying Gravity
Chapter 27: Love & Loss

The morning sunlight shone through the crack in his curtains and his eyelids seemed to ignore the fact that they weren’t supposed to let light through. He wanted to turn onto his side, to roll away from the damn light and go back to sleep for another couple of hours, but he couldn’t. Because there was a soft, warm body pressed against him. Curled so closely to him, he was sure he wouldn’t be able to move without waking her.

He didn’t care. He was just happy to be there, with her, curled up in his bed. She had come to him just after one in the morning, he didn’t know how she’d gotten there and she wasn’t offering up the information. She’d woke him up with a kiss and hadn’t stopped kissing him for a long time. He smiled at the memory. She’d fallen onto the bed, curled around him, a fallen asleep.

No talking. It didn’t matter. He didn’t need words to know what she was feeling. They were the same things he was. He was falling in love with her, was probably already in love with her except he’d never been in love and didn’t know what it felt like. But he was pretty sure there was love somewhere.

He felt wet lips on the side of his neck and turned into her face. She pressed a closed-mouthed kiss to his lips and slowly sat up. He’d noticed her attire last night when his hands slipped under her night shirt. That’s it, only a night shirt and knickers. And when she raised her arms above her head in a long stretch, he caught a peek of said knickers. They were dark blue.

“You should probably get me back home,” she said around a yawn and then dropped her arms to her side.

“I love you, Lily.”

He hadn’t really meant to say it, it had just sort of come out. He wanted to take it back, if only because he was only ninety-nine percent sure and because he would’ve wanted it to be special had he ever intended to tell her, but he couldn’t.

She didn’t seem to mind, though. A slow smile spread across her face. Then she got to her knees and crawled up to the head of the bed, leaned down, and kissed him slowly.

“I love you, too, Arnie.”

His heart was pounding, thrill ran through his veins at the news, but instead of jumping around and whooping for joy like he wanted to, he wrapped his arm around her waist and flipped her onto her back, pinned her below him, and proceeded to kiss her senseless.

Twenty minutes later, when they were both breathless and swollen lipped, they lay next to each other, staring up at the ceiling.

“I like the stars,” Lily muttered, referring to the array of stars that were plastered onto the ceiling above the bed. She smoothed a hand over her cloth-covered stomach. Arnie turned his head towards his girlfriend, linking their hands between them.

“I’ve always liked astronomy,” he told her. She turned her head, too.

“I could use a tutor,” she waggled her eyebrows suggestively. He laughed.

“I doubt we’d get any studying done.”

“That’s true.”

They both turned back towards the ceiling and lapsed into a comfortable silence, his thumb tracing circles on her hand. He bit his lip, trying to think of a way to breach the subject, and then he decided to just go with it.

“Not that I’m complaining,” he started, turning his head back and she followed suit, “but why did you show up at my room at one in the morning?”

She shrugged. He gave her a pointed look and she sighed.

“My house is just very depressing right now,” she admitted. “I mean, I don’t want to sound selfish, but everything is about Nat and Al nowadays. James didn’t come home last night, which isn’t so unusual that anyone’s worried, but it hasn’t happened in a while. Then there’s the twins…” she trailed off.

He tucked a stray strand of red hair behind her ear and said, “There’s something wrong with the twins?”

“She’s got some syndrome that pretty much means one of the babies is developing slower than the other. It might die…the smaller one. And Nat’s not allowed to go back to Hogwarts, so now Al is saying he’s not going back to Hogwarts either, and mum doesn’t like that because, I mean, at least one of them needs to finish their education, right? For the babies’ sakes. So they’ve fought about that. And Nat and Al are actually getting along, I saw them cuddling on the sofa last night, and Al was rubbing her belly and talking to the babies telling them it was all going to be okay, and mum was cooing over that, and, okay, I love my brother, I really do. And Nat’s one of my best friends. But there’s only so much of being ignored I can take.” She turned fully onto her side and propped her head in her hand and her elbow on a pillow.

“Did you know that last night mum forgot to call me for supper? I walked into the kitchen and there’s mum, dad, Nat, and Al sitting around the table like one big happy family. I feel like I’m invisible there. I needed to be somewhere where I don’t feel invisible.”

Arnie was silent for a moment, trying to process Lily’s monologue. Nat wasn’t going back to Hogwarts? Al wasn’t going back to Hogwarts? One of their babies might die? Realizing that bringing any of those questions up probably would only result in pain for him – he’s not only heard the legend of the infamous Ginny Weasley bat-bogey hex that was passed down to her daughter, he’d seen it firsthand the previous year when a third year decided to get fresh – so instead he grasped her hand and smiled, bringing the appendage to his lips and kissing each one of her fingertips punctuated with the words, “You are definitely not invisible.”

She smiled at him and opened her mouth to speak when there was a brief knock on the door and then it opened.

“Happy Eas–” Hannah Longbottom pushed into the room and froze, unsure that what she thought she saw was real. Never in her life had she expected to catch her son in bed with a girl, at least not until he was married, much less Lily Potter. “What is going on here?”

Arnie cringed. His mother never got angry, nor did she ever take that tone with him or his sister. It was kind of a shrill, demanding, tone that mothers use when little kids get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. He felt like a child, which was odd for the current situation he was in – having a half dressed girl in his bed.

“What’s all this noise?”

Lily groaned, tugging at the hem of her shirt to cover more of her legs. The last thing she’d intended was for Arnie’s mum to catch her in his room. It was even worse when his father, her professor and Head of House, appeared behind Mrs. Longbottom’s shoulder.

“Oh, my,” was all he said, and then promptly turned red and walked away.

“Mum –” Arnie started, but his mother held up her hand and took a deep breath to gather her composure.

“Lily, if you will follow me downstairs, Arnie, get some clothes on and meet us in the kitchen. You have two minutes.” She waited while Lily swung her legs over the edge of the bed and stood, then turned on her heel and walked into the hall.

Meghan was just coming out of the bathroom, wrapped in a fluffy purple towel with a toothbrush hanging out of her mouth, when Lily stepped out behind Mrs. Longbottom.

She gave Lily a smug look that told her that everyone at Hogwarts would know about this before they returned after break, and then turned and walked down the hall, presumably to her own room.

The kitchen was eerily quiet for the full two minutes. The entire time Lily watched the muscle in Mrs. Longbottom’s jaw clench and unclench. Finally, exactly two minutes after they’d left his bedroom, Arnie walked into the kitchen, directly to Lily, and took her hand.

“Mum, I just want you to know that I love Lily and she loves me, but nothing inappropriate happened last night.”

His mum stared at them for a few long seconds before calling out for his dad to come into the kitchen. When he did, she gestured for the group to follow her. Neville suddenly looked scared, but followed anyway.

Lily followed the Longbottom’s out into the garden, the icy-cold frost-covered grass causing her to slip twice as she wasn’t wearing shoes, the chilly bite in the air nipping at her bare legs.

“Where are we going?” Arnie asked, clutching Lily’s hand as she began to slip again and cursing himself for not insisting that she borrow a pair of sweatpants from his sister so she wouldn’t be half naked in front of his family.

“We are all going to pay a little good morning visit to the Potters,” she said smoothly and then disapparated. Arnie had no choice but to pull Lily to him and, along with his dad, follow suit.

“You and Nat looked pretty cosy this morning,” Harry remarked to his youngest son as he placed a plate of bacon ala Ginny onto the table. His wife swatted him with a spoon before placing a plate of scrambled eggs onto the table and sticking said spoon in the middle of it.

“Ew, mum, dad’s bum-germs!” Albus complained, his face flushing from his father’s comment. What did it matter? Yes, Nat had allowed him to sleep in the spare room with her. Probably because she hadn’t wanted to be alone. The revelation from the previous day was hard on both of them, but he was being positive. It would all be okay.

What’s meant to happen will happen.

He was ecstatic that Nat was allowing him to touch her again. She didn’t flinch when he hugged her, or when they sat in the sitting room the previous night and he’d wanted to feel her belly. That was mostly to make sure that his babies were both still alive, but when he felt them move each in turn, he hadn’t wanted to move.

“You should talk to them,” Nat’d suggested, and he had. He’d told them he was their daddy, and about how much he loved their mum, and that everything was going to be okay. When he’d looked back up at Nat she had tears in her eyes. He’d kissed her cheek and put his arm around her shoulders, keeping his other hand on her stomach.

Later on, he’d helped her up to bed, because stairs were trouble for her. She’d turned to him, a small smile on her face, and asked him to hold her. He’d felt his heart stop for a small second, scared she was going to take it back, but she didn’t, and he’d held her throughout the night.

He didn’t know what was going through her head to make her suddenly warm up to him, but he didn’t mind. He never wanted to deny her anything.

Then his father had poked his head into the room at seven-thirty that morning, because Albus hadn’t been in his own room, and seen the two of them cuddle together in the middle of the big bed. Albus, in totally clichéd fashion, was awake and staring down at a sleeping Nat, playing with a strand of her hair, and didn’t even notice his dad staring. Until he quietly cleared his throat, that is, and Albus reluctantly climbed out of bed allowing her to sleep more.

“We’re getting along,” he finally said after realizing his parents were waiting for a response. “Where’s Lily? Usually she’s the first one at the table.”

“Why don’t you go and wake her,” his mum suggested. No sooner had he stood from the table when the garden door opened and Lily walked inside.

“Lily, what –” Ginny stopped talking when Arnie Longbottom entered behind her, and his parents behind him. She pulled her dressing gown closer to her and turned a confused look towards Harry.

Harry was eyeing Arnie with suspicion, so she turned to Albus. Albus just stood with his eyebrows raised and his arms folded over his chest.

“Hannah, Neville, what’s this all about?”

“May we sit?” Hannah gestured to the empty chairs at the table, and Ginny nodded quickly.

“Of course. Tea? Coffee?”

“Nothing for me, thanks,” Hannah answered and slid smoothly onto a wooden chair. Neville shook his head and dropped into the chair beside her, looking extremely uncomfortable, and Lily and Arnie stayed standing but put some space between them.

“I’m sorry to barge in on your Easter morning breakfast,” Hannah started, folding her hands in front of her. “But it seems we have a bit of a…situation.”

“What’s going on?” Ginny turned to Lily, ignoring her husband, who’d stood and put as much distance between himself and Arnie as possible, moving to the other side of the kitchen next to Albus, as if anticipating the answer to that question.

“Do you want to tell them, Arnold Frank?” When he wasn’t forthcoming, she turned to Ginny. “I found your daughter in my son’s bed this morning.”

Ginny was shocked. Lily had never shown an ounce of rebellion, nor had she ever mentioned having a boyfriend, much less a family friend. Harry looked as if he was having a hard time keeping himself from throttling Arnie. Albus gave his dorm mate a stony look.

After a moment of silence, Lily looked at her mother. “Nothing happened, mum, honest.”

Ginny’s mind whirled with things she wanted to say to her daughter, things she knew she’d regret once her anger dissipated, so instead she pressed a hand to her forehead and looked at her only daughter.

“Go to your room, Lily, we will talk about this later.”

“Oh no,” Hannah jumped up, startling everyone in the room including her husband. “We have to talk about this now. Who knows if this was the first time? Who knows what the two of them have been doing? That girl needs some discipline and I will not leave here until I know that this situation is being taken care of properly.”

“Excuse me?” Ginny’s voice was deathly quiet, and every Potter in the room took an unconscious step back. “Are you insinuating that I am a bad mother? Are you saying that I don’t know how to discipline my own child?” Hannah didn’t answer, just raised her chin in defiance. “We have been friends for a long time, Hannah. Are you really sure you want to cross that line?”

They stared at each other for a long moment. Then Hannah stood, motioned for Neville to follow her, and took Arnie’s arm. “Let’s go,” she mumbled before mostly dragging her family from the house.

Ginny, who was seething and shaking in anger, turned to her daughter, shot her a dangerous look, and said, “Go to your room. Now.”

Lily obliged, and Albus was only a second behind. No way in hell he wanted to be in that kitchen at that moment. He just wished he’d had the foresight to take the plate of bacon with him.

Kylie felt something wet pressed against her neck, and when it disappeared she thought nothing of it. She was slipping back into sleep when it happened again at a spot a little lower. The second time there was a tiny bit of suction added to the wetness, and pinpricks of pleasure shot through her. Just the same, though, it disappeared, and she sighed in disappointment.

“Wake up, Sleeping Beauty.” The air from the breath of the masculine voice tickled her ear and she slowly opened one eye.

James’ face was right in front of her, split with a smile, brown eyes twinkling. She returned the smile and stretched, enjoying the pull of her rested muscles. She hadn’t slept this well in a while. It was, undoubtedly, because of the fact that James was helping her research and that he was, well, there. There was definitely something between them. She could feel it. If only he weren’t still married…

“What time is it?” she mumbled, pushing the thought of his dying wife out of her head.

“Just after noon,” he answered, pressing a cup of coffee into her palm. She smiled gratefully and sipped.

“Wow, I slept for a long time.”

“Not as long as last night, but a good amount.”

They sat in silence, sipping coffee and shooting smiles at each other like a couple of love sick teenagers. The thought gripped her heart. Love. She was most definitely in love with him. But, still, he was m – no, she wouldn’t think about it anymore. She put her feelings for him into a box and shut it away. Once his marriage was over, maybe, but until then…it was depressing to be waiting for a woman to die before she could get her man. Okay, Kylie, she thought, think of something else.

But good thing, she didn’t have to.

“Come to Easter dinner with me,” James said, his chocolaty gaze catching hers and her breath hitched. “Please,” he added, smiling sheepishly.

“James, I…I can’t.” She regretted it, she truly did.


“Because you’re still married.” Kylie hadn’t meant to bring it up, but she did, and she didn’t feel sorry for it. She wasn’t the type of woman to go running around with a married man whether the marriage was legitimate or not.

“That never seemed to bother you before,” he frowned into his coffee cup. She sighed.

“I just…I just can’t be the other woman. I’m sorry.”

“Okay,” he nodded, understanding, “come with me as a friend.”

She bit her lip and shook her head. “I can’t. I should stay and keep looking.”

James stood suddenly, jostling the bed, and spun to her. “You know, I never got that vibe from you, but it’s suddenly becoming clear to me. You don’t want to be seen with me? Fine. You don’t want to be my girlfriend? Okay, I’ll get over it. But don’t lead me on,” he spoke forcefully. Then he stood and stalked out of the room, leaving Kylie gaping.

She had no clue what had just happened. One minute she’s thinking love and the next he’s saying she’s leading him on and walking out on her.

“James!” she yelled, and was pushing the covers off her to stand when he stalked back in the room, a file folder clutched in his hands. He tossed it on the bed where her feet just were and she recognized Braden’s file.

“Braden Helmick has Leukemia. The potions you’re giving him are killing him.”

That was all he said before he left. Left Kylie there, staring in astonishment, at the file, at where he just was. She bit her lip, unsure of whether she should go after him, the man she loved, or contemplate the file. What if he’d been right? What if the potions she’d prescribed, the meds she’d put that six year old boy on, were killing him?

She flipped open the file and was surprised to see neat, precise notes in a manly script, about Leukemia, Dronoxapan – the potion that she’d prescribed for Braden, and his symptoms.

She read the notes, reread the notes, and twenty minutes later, was showered, dressed, and heading to St. Mungo’s, already on her mobile to her father.

She had a little boy to save.

Nat was enjoying her day. It had been quiet in the house all morning. Apparently Lily and Ginny’d had some big row and now neither of them was speaking to each other and Lily was banished to her room. Ginny had stayed in the kitchen and was banging around pots and pans, but, lucky for the foresight, Harry had already put a silencing spell around the doors to the kitchen so that the noise was blocked.

So Nat was enjoying her quiet Easter Sunday. Until…

“I slept with Scorpius.”

Whatever Nat had been expecting of her best friend when she arrived at the Potter’s for Easter dinner, it hadn’t been that. She’d been anticipating this moment, and she’d wanted to be the first to speak. Nat’d decided the easiest way to break the news was to blurt out her condition so she didn’t have to process it and string it into an eloquent sentence. Now it didn’t matter, because Rose had beaten her to the punch.

“Um…wow…okay…” she paused from the catalogue she was flipping through – she’d just circled an adorable teddy bear bedding set – and looked up at her friend. Rose looked exhausted, as if she hadn’t slept in a week, and was worrying her hands. She was dressed in her Sunday best, though, a must for Easter dinner. Her sundress was the only shade of pink that didn’t clash with her hair, and her white strappy heels looked new. Nat felt frumpy in a light blue dress that, she felt, made her look like a giant blue whale.

Beyond the doorway in which Rose was standing, Nat could hear the clatter of pots and pans in the kitchen along with more voices, so she knew that Rose’s family must have arrived as well.

Rose walked into the sunlit room and slumped onto the sofa beside Nat.

“I’m such a slut,” she muttered, allowing her head to fall into her hands.

“No you’re not,” Nat automatically responded, moving to rub her friend’s back.

“I don’t know what it is about him. I should hate him, you know? He broke my heart!”

Nat really didn’t want to see Rose cry. With the way her hormones were raging lately, all it would take would be one tear from Rose and Nat would be bawling like a baby. Luckily Rose seemed to compose herself before she started crying; then she just looked angry.

“If he doesn’t want to be with me, then why does he keep coming to me? Why does he save me from making a fool of myself and then kiss me senseless or shag me stupid? He told me he loved me, did you know that? More than once! Then he said we couldn’t be together! Well why the hell not?”

“You know, you can hear your ranting from the hall,” Lily walked into the room in a ruffely black skirt, short enough for her father to be worried, and white long sleeved blouse, firmly shutting the door behind her.

“Ugh!” Rose cried, throwing her arms in the air and then sitting back against the couch, folding her arms across her stomach.

Nat sighed, tossing the catalogue onto the side table and turning towards Rose. She shouldn’t tell her about it now, but there really wasn’t much time. Nat wanted to be the one to tell Rose she wouldn’t be going back to Hogwarts and she needed to do it then, before someone else did. She opened her mouth and started to speak, when Lily fell onto the sofa perpendicular to them and sighed. Loudly.

“Nice sneakers, they really go with your outfit,” Rose said sarcastically, nodding to the black trainers on Lily’s feet.

“Bugger off! Aren’t you going to ask me what’s wrong?” Lily threw her arm over the back of the overstuffed sofa and looked expectantly towards her cousin and Nat.

“I’ve got my own troubles,” Rose mumbled.

“I got caught with Arnie.” Lily knew that would get their attention, and, sure enough, Rose sat up quickly and Nat’s eyes widened.

“What happened?” Rose demanded.

“I snuck over to his house last night. I needed to see him; needed to get away from here. We just cuddled and snogged a bit, but do mum and dad believe me? No! I’m grounded practically ‘til Christmas, and dad’s looking at me all disappointed-like, and Mrs. Longbottom freaked out. She’s always liked me, I thought, and now I’m some sort of scarlet woman out to defile her precious son or something like that! We haven’t even had sex yet, not really…I mean, does oral really even count? I just needed some attention,” she paused dramatically and threw her arm across her forehead before continuing. 

“Mum had the talk with me, again. She’s all, ‘you’re still on the contraceptive potion, right?’ and I’m all, ‘please, mum, like I wouldn’t! But I’m not even having sex!’ and then she’s all ‘What’s gotten in to you lately, Lily?’ and I’m like, ‘Nothing!’ and she’s like, ‘Sneaking out in the middle of the night to see a boy is not like you!’ and then I get the ‘You’re only fifteen and he’s seventeen,’ speech from dad, who can’t bear to look at me and now I feel like I disappointed them even though I really didn’t do anything wrong!”

“Aunt Ginny will get over it, everything will blow over, and you can still see Arnie at Hogwarts, right? It’s not that big a deal.”

“Gah!” Lily cried out in frustration and stomped out of the room just as the doorbell rang.

“I’ll get it,” said Albus, who had been just coming into the room to gather the girls to go to the Burrow, as Lily completely ignored the door and stomped down the hall.

With great difficulty, Nat hoisted herself off the couch and followed Rose out into the foyer. Rose stopped suddenly and Nat ran into her back, the momentum pushing Rose forwards a bit, but she didn’t even notice.

At the door, talking to Albus, was Scorpius Malfoy.

Albus shoved something into his pocket and turned to find the girls looking between him and Scorpius. Scorpius cleared his throat and opened his mouth to speak, but before he could, Rose saw a hand wrap around Scorpius’s bicep and a very female body step from behind him.

“Scorpy, aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend? Oh! Friends,” she added the end when she noticed Nat and Rose standing in the foyer looking at her.

“Yes, Scorpy,” Rose spat, her face beginning to change to a bright shade of red, “aren’t you going to introduce us?” She sized the other girl up and felt her self confidence go down a notch or three. The girl, who looked to be about seventeen as well, had long, curly blonde hair, pale, nearly translucent skin, and big brown eyes. She had long legs and, Rose thought glumly, a very nice rack. That tight body was squeezed into an equally tight, short white dress and her perfect legs led to delicate ankles and nicely arched feet tipped in bright red polish and encased in strappy red sandals with impossibly high heels. And still the top of her head came to Scorpius’s shoulder.

Scorpius looked uncomfortable, like he wanted to climb under a rock and hide for a while, to make everyone go away. Instead he took a deep breath and wrapped his arm around the beauty, resting his hand on her hip.

“This is Bridget Prescott. Bridget, this is Albus, his girlfriend, Nat, and his cousin Rose.”

Rose clenched her teeth but didn’t comment on the ‘his cousin’ part, and instead, plastered a smile on her face. The smile ended up looking like a grimace, and showed too much teeth, but you couldn’t win them all.

“How long have you and Scorpius been dating, Bridget?” She said the name a little harder than she meant to, but Bridget didn’t seem to mind. Bridget giggled, putting her left arm over Scorpius shoulder, and looked at him adoringly.

“We met at the New Years Day ball my parents hosted and it was love at first sight, wasn’t it, Scorpy?”

Rose was holding back a retching noise when Bridget’s hand moved and the sunlight caught on a huge stone on her left ring finger. The diamond was almost the width of the girl’s skinny finger and Rose’s breath caught in her throat.

The act must’ve made a noise, because Bridget’s gaze slid to where Rose was looking and giggled, bringing her hand out in front of her as if to show the ring off to the girls.

“Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s a Malfoy family heirloom. Scorpius proposed the day before we went back to school. I go to Beauxbatons, you see, and it was just so romantic. He got down on one knee and everything.”

Rose hadn’t heard anything after “Scorpius proposed.” Blood was rushing past her ears and she couldn’t hear, couldn’t think. She wanted to jump across to Scorpius and pummel him with her fists. She wanted to curse his balls off. She wanted to throw up.

Instead she turned and walked out of the room, into the kitchen, and to her mum.

Harry, Ginny, and Ron were all seated at the table, while Hermione was stirring a pot of something at the stove, and they were having a conversation about what happened with Lily that morning. Rose walked right up to her mum and wrapped her arms around her waist.

“Mummy,” she whimpered before she dissolved into tears right there in front of everyone.

“Rose?” Hermione asked, shocked to find her daughter crying against her shoulder. Rose hadn’t come to her, crying and seemingly needing help, since she was thirteen and gotten her heart broken – and pushed in the mud – by the boy down the lane. “What’s wrong, baby?”

“I h-hate him!” She moved her head away from her mother’s bony shoulder enough to say before collapsing back against her.

“Who?” Ron demanded from the table, though he had a bad feeling he already knew.

“Sc-Scorpius is en-engaged!”

“What?” Ginny jumped up from the table.

“H-he got en-engaged while we were s-still dating!” Rose wailed. Her knees shook and suddenly, as if the reality of the spoken words finally hit her, her legs gave out on her and she slumped against the counter. Her mum caught her before she could hit the floor, and while Ginny helped Hermione get Rose settled into a chair, none of them saw Ron and Harry storm out of the room.

“That little tosser ran off,” Ron told them, his voice stony, as he walked back into the kitchen a moment later, Harry in tow behind him, and Albus, helping a waddling Nat, trailing behind them.

Hermione sat at the table, Rose gathered to her, rocking back and forth.

Hugo walked into the kitchen a moment later, a fist full of flowers from his Aunt Ginny’s garden for his grandmother in his hand, and was faced with angry and sympathetic expressions on his family’s faces and Rose, tears trickling out of her eyes, being rocked and soothed by his mother.

“I feel like I missed something…yes, I definitely missed something...”

“Well that evening was…interesting,” Ginny commented to her husband, watching her eldest sulkily climb the stairs to his room. He’d arrived at the Burrow late, smelling of cigarette smoke and looking depressed. He didn’t drink a drop of liquor at dinner, though, and that was saying something considering how much he’d been drinking since Jennifer left. Ginny wished he wouldn’t smoke so much.

“Interesting…try horrible. James is sullen and depressed again, Lily won’t talk to either of us…the only good thing is that Al and Nat seem to be doing better.” Harry slumped into a chair at the kitchen table while loosening his tie.

Ginny smiled, sliding onto the table in front of him and reaching up to help with his tie. When it hung free, she took the collar of his dress shirt and used it to pull him to her. She gave him a long, slow kiss that had him gripping her waist, and pulling her closer. She slid off the table and onto his lap, straddling him.

She felt like a teenager again, his hands gripping her bum, the possibility of getting caught only making the snog hotter, turning her on more. His hands slid down her thighs, inching their way underneath her skirt, pushing it up…

His fingertips just grazed the edge of her lace knickers when the doorbell rang. “Ignore them,” he murmured against her mouth, standing up with her and propping her on the edge of the table. She smiled against his lips and hurriedly tugged his shirt out of the waistband of his trousers. She was unbuttoning his shirt when the doorbell rang again.

Sighing, she pushed him away, giggling when he pouted, and scooted off the table. “Meet me upstairs,” she waggled her eyebrows at him and then padded barefoot to the front door.

She opened the door to a pretty brunette dressed all in pale yellow with a dark gray jumper clutched against her. The woman had a smile on her face that only faltered a little when she laid eyes on Ginny.

“Ahm, is, uh, is James home?”

Ginny eyed her up and down, and then knew. Call it mother’s intuition, call it whatever, but she knew that this woman was in love with her son.

“Come in,” she moved out of the way and the woman stepped into the foyer. “I’m Ginny, James’s mother. Harry!” out of the corner of her eye she saw her husband walking towards the stairs from the kitchen, carrying what suspiciously looked to be a can of whipped cream and a jar of chocolate sauce, and eyes twinkling, asked him to tell James he had a visitor.

“I’m Kylie,” the girl spoke once Harry, who’d turned bright red at being caught with the dessert items in the presence of the visitor, disappeared up the stairs.

“Kylie?” James’ voice came from the staircase and Ginny took that as her cue to leave.

“Hi,” Kylie whispered shyly. In the back of her mind she wondered if Ginny could be trusted not to eavesdrop. Then again, with the items her husband had been carrying, it seemed he would be keeping his wife quite occupied that night.

“What are you doing here?”

Was he angry? She couldn’t tell. “I just wanted to say thanks, and you were right. Not about everything. I’ve never used you nor intended to lead you on. Things are very complicated in your life, James. I just…but you were right. About Braden. He has Leukemia. The treatment…” she broke off, unable to vocalize the fact that she had just nearly killed the little boy she’d been trying to save.

He took her hand and led her into the sitting room and onto the comfy, overstuffed sofa. “I almost killed him,” she whispered, putting her head in her hands. Not the time for a pity party, she reasoned, she turned to him. “I have feelings for you, James. Strong feelings. Honestly, I’ve never felt anything like what I feel for you.”

“But,” he said, because he could feel it hanging in the air after her statement.

“But you’re married. And, as morbid as it is, our relationship can’t go anywhere until you’re not married. I know you’re not going to divorce her, and I don’t believe you should. That’s why it’s morbid. Because in order for us to happen, your wife has to die. I’m in the business of saving lives…I just can’t believe I’m actually wishing for someone to die.” She closed her eyes in shame and so she didn’t have to see the expression on his face.


“James, I love you. Please, please don’t make this harder –”

“Kylie!” Her eyes snapped to his at the sternness of his tone and she only then realized that at some point she’d risen from the couch. He stood then, forced her to look at him with a finger under her chin, and then kissed her nose.

“I got an owl today, after I left your flat. Jennifer passed away this morning.”

“So you’re not…”


“Oh my goodness.” Shocked, she was overwhelmed with two emotions, joy and sadness. Joy that she could have a chance at being with James, and sadness for the life lost. She wished it could’ve been another way.


“Oh my –” he sealed his lips over hers in a slow, closed mouth kiss, and then pulled her against his body, burying his face in her hair.

“Will you stay with me tonight? I don’t want to be alone.”

The vulnerability in his voice nearly broke her heart, and she nodded against his chest. Kylie realized that he didn’t love Jennifer, but he still had a connection to her. Someone close to him just died. And she loved him. Of course she was going to stay with him.

He led her by the hand up the stairs, a beautiful, hand carved, wooden staircase, and down a short hall to a bedroom. The room was a little messy, with Quidditch paraphernalia and clothes strewn about. But really, what else could you expect from a boy of twenty?

He gave her some clothes to wear as pyjamas and let her use the loo first. While she was in there, he quickly changed the sheets on the bed so at least those were clean. When she was finished, he took his turn, and walked out to find her under the top sheet wearing a white tee shirt with ‘England’ in black block letters across the chest.

It was erotic to say the least.

He climbed in next to her and spooned himself behind her. He liked the smell of her hair, florally-coconut, and buried his face in it. He wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her flush against his chest. They fit together perfectly, like two pieces of a puzzle, and his heart thudded in his chest.

“I love you, too,” he whispered, but she was already asleep.

“Can you believe Scorpius is engaged? Did you know?” It was a fair question, Nat reasoned, Albus being Scorpius’s best friend and all.

They entered the house alone, his parents, Lily, and James would be along soon, and headed for the stairs.

“I had no idea, honest! I can’t believe it’s been four months and he never told me.” Albus did feel put out by that fact. Best mates told each other stuff, right? Maybe he was just too caught up in his own situation, but, he realized, he never had talked to Scorpius about his breakup with Rose aside from their talk while dragging a fakely pummelled Marvin Wells to the Infirmary.

“And to think, he was engaged and still sleeping with Rose. What a bastard.” Albus nodded his agreement, realizing that if Nat generalized this situation, then it was only a step backwards for them as a couple. Not that he could ever do anything like that to her, but her realizing that it was physically possible for a man to do that to a woman would be a step in the wrong direction.

“No kidding,” she mumbled, slightly out of breath from the stairs.

Albus led Nat to the spare bedroom, kissing her forehead as a goodnight when it was clear he wasn’t going to be invited to stay again. It had been one hell of a day, that’s for sure, and she looked half dead on her feet. He made sure she was okay and then kept moving down the hall to his own bedroom.

He had just dropped his trousers and boxers, standing naked in his room and reaching for a towel, ready for a shower, when the door swung open and Nat stepped in wearing a short nightdress that clung to her expanding stomach and chest.

“Shit,” he muttered, hurriedly pulling up his boxers as Nat stood there, giggling into her hand.

“Sorry, I was just hoping we could…talk. It’s been so crazy lately…” she gestured aimlessly with her hand and he nodded knowingly, his embarrassment gone completely. It wasn’t like she’d never seen him in his birthday suit before.

“Sure!” he answered quickly. “We could go down to the sitting room or –”

“Maybe we could stay here,” she gestured towards the bed. “You know, in case I get so exhausted that I just fall asleep. It would be a pain in the behind for you to have to carry me up the stairs.”

“I’d do it,” he told her honestly.

“I know you would,” she answered, smiling.

She moved to the bed, the black sheets covered in a dark red comforter, and pulled the bedding back. She climbed beneath the covers like she belonged there, and settled herself in, tucking blankets around her.

Albus watched her making herself comfortable in his bed and felt a pang on longing. He wished this would happen every night. But he had to wait until she was ready; it was only right after the things he’d done, or, more accurately, the way he’d gone about doing them.

Deciding the shower was less important than talking to Nat, he climbed onto the bed next to her, turning sideways slightly so that they were facing each other, and pulling the comforter up to his hips.

“So, what did you want to talk about?”

She sighed and Albus’s heart plummeted. “What don’t we need to talk about?” she finally said. Then, to his astonishment, she reached into the top of her nightdress and pulled out a folded piece of parchment from beneath her breast. “I made a list.”

“Rose is rubbing off on you,” he muttered, and didn’t necessarily mean that as a bad thing. Nat shrugged.

“Okay, first, this whole me not going back to Hogwarts thing, I’m okay with it. But you should go back. Finish your –”

“Nope,” he interrupted her. “It’s non-negotiable.”

“But Al –”

“No. I’m sorry, Nat, I’d do anything to make you happy. Except that. I’m not leaving you with my parents, alone and pregnant. That’s not how I was raised. I’ve already made some bad choices when it comes to you, all of which started New Years Eve,” he said quickly when a sad look crossed her face. He didn’t want her to think that dating her, sleeping with her, knocking her up, had been a bad choice (although the latter could’ve waited a few years). “What happens if you get sick? What happens if this procedure tomorrow doesn’t work and you have to get that muggle one done? What happens if the babies come early, before the term ends? You expect me to sit around Hogwarts with my thumb up my arse while you’re here, doing all the hard stuff? I’ve missed enough of this already. I’m sorry, and I love you, but no. Next topic.”

He was surprised, incredibly surprised, when she leaned forward as best she could and kissed him square on the mouth. She hadn’t kissed him in months, and he’d missed it so.

She sat back and looked back at her list. “We’ve talked about it briefly in our relationship, and I know you’ve always wanted to be an Auror like your father. That takes three years of schooling with no pay. In order to be able to support ourselves, even with this little nest egg you’ve got set aside from James and his talented investor, we’re both going to have to work. That means child care, interviews, we’ll have to take our NEWTs…”

“Dad says we can take the NEWTs whenever we want to, we just have to go to the Ministry. I figured by Christmas we’d both have taken them. If you think about it, Nat, we’re only missing two months. We could probably take them now and both pass. As for being an Auror, well, that’s always something to think about, but I’m going to start looking for a job tomorrow. If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen, Nel. You’ve just got to believe.”

“And me?”

“You’ve always been a great writer. I know you wanted to do research…”

“I’ve been thinking about taking a job at the Prophet. Your mum says they’re always looking for good writers, and I can do freelance stuff and write from home, that way I can still look after the babies…” she trailed off, biting her lip and looking down, rubbing her hand over her stomach. “Oh, Merlin, Al…we’re going to be parents.”

He threw his arm around her and hugged her to him so they were hip to hip. “I know.” He kissed her forehead and laid his head atop hers. In the background, he heard the doorbell ring, but ignored it and kept his attention focused on Nat.

“What are we going to do? Where are we going to live? How are we going to get through this?”

There were no tears, surprisingly, and Albus took her hands in his.

“We’ll get through this together, Nel. I’m here every step of the way, I promise. Mum and Dad want us to stay here, at least for a little while, until we’ve got a steady income and can handle ourselves. We will get through this, Nat. We’ll have to take it one day at a time, but we will get through this. We are not the first people to have babies at such a young age and we won’t be the last; if they can do it, we sure as hell can. You’re the strongest woman I know, Nat. That’s part of the reason I love you so much.”

“Oh, Albus! I love you, too. Shit,” she wiped away two stray tears and then turned as well as she could to look straight at him. “I know I’ve been a shitty person the last few months. I mean, with the whole break-up thing and not trusting you…”

“I did a stupid thing.”

“No,” she said severely. She reached up and cupped his face in her hands. “You did an incredibly sweet, romantic thing and I was a bitch to you. Darlene…what she said yesterday…about the, uh, mirror thing, where I have symptoms that aren’t common in pregnancy…depression, excessively emotional…I mean, maybe that’s why I took it so hard. No, I know that’s why I took it so hard. I look back at how I acted and I know…that’s not me. That’s not who I am. I’m not paranoid; I don’t jump to conclusions. I rarely make irrational decisions. And I made the most irrational one by breaking up with you. I deprived you of your chance to go to scans, to feel the twins when they moved for the first time, to be there holding my hair back while I puked up my breakfast the final time I had morning sickness. And I will never forgive myself for that; you’ll never get that back.

“I don’t like Meghan and that’ll never change, but I trust you. You know that. Just because I don’t trust that slutty, boyfriend-stealing…I trust you and I love you and I really can’t imagine doing this, hell even living, without you. These past…months…have been pure torture and I never want to be without you again. I don’t want to be just friends. I don’t want to be with anyone else and I couldn’t stand the thought of you being with another girl.”

She paused, wiped away more tears, and took a shaky breath.

“Albus, will you marry me?”

A/N: OMG, right? I know; me, too. It wasn’t how I planned it, but that’s just how it goes. My fingers had a mind of their own and I was just the catalyst…

So in case the last part was confusing, the James/Kylie scene at the end and the Nat/Albus scene at the very end were going on simultaneously. Nat/Albus got back to the house first from Easter dinner, but, for obvious reasons, I wanted their part at the end.

I’m thinking it’ll probably be 3 more chapters and an Epilogue. Then the sequel. I’ve been having DREAMS about the sequel; I’m so stoked to write it! I’m going to try really, really hard to have this story done by Halloween, but no promises.

Love it?  Hate it?  Questions? Predictions?  Reviews are welcome and very much appreciated!


P.S. I'm loving this new layout, how about you?