It’s Just One Plethora of Misunderstandings
In the past, when someone dropped a bombshell on me, regardless of the size, I was able to digest the news rather quickly with little to no affect on my mental state. Usually, I’d have about a million and one things to say on the subject matter, be it congratulations or complaints. However, for the first time in quite some time, I was rendered speechless; I was absolutely gob-smacked.
No matter how hard I searched my brain - and believe you me when I say that I stood there like an idiot searching my now-vacant mind for any form of reasonable thought over the time allotted to form an intelligent, not to mention coherent, thought - I couldn’t find the right words to say. Hell, I didn’t even think there were such words in existence. I mean, what exactly could you say to someone who’s just announced their intention to marry the world’s most perfect woman?
Though I had never had a bucket of ice cold water dumped over my head, I was more than willing to bet that the strange, numbing sensation pushing itself sluggishly through my veins was eerily similar to the unpleasant act of freezing water trickling down one’s back. I shivered at the mere thought, could practically feel the frigid water creeping down the length of my spine.
My mouth opened and closed a few times, but no words came forth. At the back of my mind, I was tremendously glad that I was incapable of speech because it was more than likely that I would say something incredibly stupid and/or rude. People (specifically women if I’m being entirely honest here) tended to think that men were the only creatures on the face of this planet capable of saying the world’s most ridiculous yet slightly to moderately hurtful things. But I knew that if there were a list of all the unusually rude things said in awkward or uncomfortable situations, thirty seven percent of it would probably be things that I’ve said or have thought but was too cowardly to say out loud.
And that’s just a rough estimation.
So, instead of saying something directed at James and his beautiful, blonde, big-boobed fiancé, I decided to address the room at large. In translation: I couldn’t look at James or the woman standing next to him holding my baby without being attacked by the sudden urge to break down and sob my wimpy little heart out, which, as you might’ve guessed, left only Mum to stare at. I saw her eyes widened considerably when I spoke.
“I need a drink.”
You would’ve thought that someone had chased me out with a giant spider, I left the room so quickly. My cheeks burned with embarrassment, and I felt overwhelmed. I ducked my head, hoping that my hair would help hide my horribly pink face, but quickly remembered that I’d done something out of character and actually pulled my hair back into a low hanging ponytail on the car ride back to the Scamander residence. Grunting in annoyance, and scaring the Snargaluffs two elderly wizards standing near to the table where the refreshments were laid out, I snatched up a paper cup and stomped into the adjacent kitchen.
Being in the familiar kitchen brought about a strange sense of calm. Perhaps it was the vivid colour of the cabinets or the memory of all the days I’d spent in this kitchen, sitting at the table with Aunt Luna and drawing pictures of creatures neither of us had seen, but believed in so thoroughly, drinking that disgusting Gurdyroot extract and pretending to like it for the sake of Aunt Luna’s feelings. I highly doubt that her feelings would’ve been hurt, though, if I had told her about my distaste for the Gurdyroot extract. I was a kid back then. And kids say stupid, unintentionally hurtful things.
But apparently, so do adults, and I was proof of that.
At the moment, however, I was proud of myself. I hadn’t said anything overly idiotic yet - yet being the huge keyword here. Of course, excusing myself to get a drink after my best friend announces that he’s engaged and getting married might be considered a rude gesture, but at least I didn’t say that I thought she was much too young, pretty, and definitely not me enough for him.
That counted for something, didn’t it?
I began to rifle through the cabinets, wondering where in the hell Aunt Luna and Uncle Rolf kept their liquor. I tried to remember if they were some of those weird folks who didn’t drink or have all that much fun at all, but then I realised who I was thinking about and shook my head at my own stupidity. Though I’d never seen either of them with a drink in hand, I was sure that they snuck a few sips every now and then; how else would they come up with half of the things they did?
After nearly two minutes of searching, I found what I was looking for. The bottle of fire whisky was coated in a fine layer of dust, which I brushed off with three quick flicks of my wrist, and more than halfway full. Okay, so maybe Aunt Luna and Uncle Rolf didn’t drink all that much, and maybe they really were as nutty as everyone proclaimed them to be.
“Better nutty together than lonely,” I muttered to myself as I twisted tightened my grip on the bottle and twisted off the cap.
Though I was painfully aware of how angst-ridden I sounded, I couldn’t help bringing the bottle of my lips and tipping my head back, allowing a small amount of the grotesque liquor to travel down my throat, scalding the sides as it went down. Truth be told, I wasn’t lonely at all. In fact, I was quite happy with my life. Did I sometimes wish that I had someone to help raise Jack, to be some semblance of a father figure to him? Sure, all the time. Did I need someone else to make me happy? No, of course not. Not unless that someone was Jack. He was more than enough to get me through all of the shit life was bound to throw at me; he was more than I could ever hope for.
He was my own - partially James’s too, I guess - little miracle.
I had just gotten over the sour yet burning taste of the fire whisky and was about to pour some into my paper cup when someone rapped their knuckles on the side of the doorframe. Startled, I lost my grip on the bottle and it slipped from my hand. Since my reflexes sucked, I didn’t bother trying to grasp at the bottle as it fell to the floor. Naturally, it shattered, sending hundreds of tiny shards flying in every direction, the amber liquid inside drenching my shoes.
“Shit!” I yelled for the sake of yelling. It wasn’t like these shoes were anything to moan about - I’d gotten them nearly four years ago after attending some benefit or another for James’s then-Quidditch team, that being the only other time that I’d actually worn them.
Before I could bend down and start cleaning up the mess manually, James cleared it away with a swift wave of his wand. When I looked up at him to offer a disgruntled ’thank you’, he was not smiling. In fact, as soon as our gazes met, his eyes narrowed into dangerous slits and his mouth pulled into a very distinctive grimace.
Instead of doing the adult thing and accepting the inevitable - the inevitable being a conversation about my abrupt departure from the room, I decided to take act the part of a sixteen year old who’d just been caught trying to sneak back into the house after a night of, well, doing Merlin only knows what with only Circe knows who, and delay as much as possible.
“I could’ve gotten that, you know,” I said airily, hoping that this would be similar to all of the nights I’d been caught sneaking into the house, but knowing fully well that it wouldn’t because, simply put, James wasn’t as much of a dumbass as he so often appeared to be.
When he didn’t immediately respond or so much as crack a half-smile, I knew something was seriously wrong. As you might’ve guessed, James wasn’t always the most serious bloke in a room. Even when he was serious, it usually only lasted a few moments before it evaporated, overpowered by his irresistible charm and easy-going manner. However, at the moment, he looked anything but easy-going, not to mention so not amused by my attempt to distract him, the King Creator of All Distractions, from his initial purpose.
“Cut the bullshit, Mara,” were the first words out of James’s mouth.
Yep, I was in trouble.
“What bullshit? I honestly could’ve -”
“Now,” he growled through clenched teeth.
I felt obligated to obey. My shoulders slumped in defeat and I began to fidget with the dirty rag in my hands. “What, James?” I asked, suddenly exasperated. “What do you want from me?”
“Hm, I don’t know,” he began, adopting a decidedly innocence tone. He even had enough gall to tap his finger against his chin ostentatiously. “I think an explanation would be nice.”
I snorted, thoroughly amused. “You would like an explanation?” I drawled, rolling my eyes. “I think I’m the one who deserves the explanation here, James.” The slap of the rag against the metal sink made me jump; I hadn’t realised that I’d thrown it down.
His hazel eyes widened in disbelief. “Are you mental? You honestly think that you, the woman who shows up after a year and a half of absolutely no contact -”
“Which wasn’t entirely my fault!” I interrupted, my voice climbing slowly, but surely in volume with each syllable. “It takes two people to correspond!”
“And it also takes two people to have a baby,” James countered, causing my stomach to drop to the floor. Had he figured it out and just pretended to pass it up? Or was he just commenting on the fact that since we’d lost contact, I had had a baby that he didn’t know about and was the reason he was currently up in arms?
I hesitated, waiting for him to finish his sentence. I mentally prayed to all higher deities that his brain hadn’t connected the dots.
“Seriously, Mara, did you think I wouldn’t figure it out?” he asked.
I bowed my head, looking at my hands. This was it. This was when he’d let me have it for keeping the identity of his child a secret from him for so long.
“Look, James, I -”
“Honestly, I know that I’m not always the brightest hippogriff in the herd, but please, don’t insult me by assuming that I’m stupid enough to not see the obvious,” James continued, sounding angrier than he looked. His nostrils were even flaring, which meant he was borderline volcanic eruption.
As I was unable to raise my head in fear of how much my face would give away, I spoke to my hands. “I don’t think you’re stupid, James.”
“You’re sure as bloody hell treating me like I am,” he grumbled, obviously affronted by the way I‘d been treating him. Though, to be honest, I didn’t know what I had done wrong in the last hour of our re-acquaintance, but something told me that he was about to inform me. “Did you honestly think that you hide him from me forever? Me, your best mate in all the world?”
The sudden shift in his tone of voice made me snap my head upward in surprise. So, he didn’t know that Jack was his son. He hadn’t put two and two together and gotten the sum of four. No, instead he had veered in the entire opposite direction, obviously under the impression that, after his departure, I’d been so depressed that I repeated the exact same scenario I’d experienced with him only with a complete stranger and had gotten myself knocked up. I can’t say that he was the first person to think such a thought; Granny Gus had beaten him to the chase.
I was unable to hide my relief. The sigh that passed through me was so large, my entire body slumped forward after the fact. I wanted to curl up into a ball and die; this day had been absolutely horrible, packed to the brim with emotions that I didn’t want to experience nor did I need to experience. I had had enough of my fair share of emotions in the past few months.
“Well?” James pressed, not a single note of anger in his voice. In fact, he sounded quite curious.
Running a hand over my face in an attempt to rub the guilty expression away, I stopped when I reached my hairline, remembering that my hair was back in a ponytail, not hanging free around my shoulders.
“’Well’ what, James? What do you want me to say?” I licked my lips, looked at him beseechingly. “That I was embarrassed about what other people might think of me if I had a child yet was no longer attached to the significant other who’d partaken in the act of creating my son? That I couldn’t stand what you would say when you found out, that I actually feared what your reaction would be since I didn’t tell you from the get-go? That I’ve had nightmares about this very moment because you are and have always been my best friend and I don’t want anything, not even a child, to change that? That people might think that I’m a fat, ugly, lazy bint who doesn’t do anything aside from procreate with random men and then move back in with her parents because things aren’t going very well? That I’ve been worried sick about you, that I’ve resorted to writing your mum once a week just to get an update on how you’re doing, since you won’t return a single owl that I’ve sent you in the last thirteen months. That I’ve -”
I was cut off mid-rant by the crushing force of James’s arms. As soon as I’d revealed that I had been owling his mother for over a year now just to hear about him, James crossed the kitchen and pulled me into one of the tightest hugs in my life. The breath exited my lungs in a sudden whoosh, but I knew it wasn’t lack of breath that was causing my current bout of light-headedness. No, it was something else entirely.
Instinctively, my arms wound around him, clutching him as tightly as possible to my body. The last time we’d been this close, we were both naked, sweaty, and panting with effort. My breasts were pressed uncomfortably against the leanly muscled rock that was his upper chest, but even in my added discomfort, I couldn’t help noticing how wonderfully familiar the line of his body felt against mine nor could I ignore the way our close contact called to mind a spiral of dirty images and even more explicit sounds.
His cheek brushed against mine as he lowered his lips to my ear and whispered in a delicate voice, “I’ve missed you, Mara.”
Thankfully, I wasn’t overcome with the sudden desire to cry the Nile River, and was able to respond. “I’ve missed you, too, James.”
Then he gave me one final, rib-crushing squeeze before releasing me from his grasp.
As much as I would have liked to hold onto James, I knew that I, too, had to step back. I reclaimed my limbs and folded them over my chest as I returned to my position in front of the sink, my back to the window overlooking the overgrown garden.
It felt like I was floating on air, and not because I’d been swept into a hug by my best mate. Sure, it was one of the contributing factor, but mostly it was the relief that a) James hadn’t figured out the real secret yet and b) he’d missed me just as much as I’d missed him. It’s always good to know that you aren’t the only one alone in your misery.
A few beats of silence passed between us, but they weren’t awkward. If anything, it was pleasant, like our shared quiet was a respect for the dust settling between us, though that voice in the back of my head was nagging away ominously, suggesting that things were going to backfire in a very short time.
Ignoring it, I asked the first question that popped into my mind. “D’you want some tea?”
James grinned the grin that made his eyes crinkle in the corners, the one that made his full lips pull back and reveal all of his white teeth, and nodded his head. “I’d love some.”
We didn’t get a chance to discuss all that much over our tea.
For one, Percy Weasley came bursting into the kitchen alongside his wife, Audrey, holding a pink towel to his nose and shouting at the top of his rather annoying voice about how children were stupid and shouldn’t be allowed out of their play pens. Immediately fearing that Jack had gotten a hold of Percy’s nose and had accidentally performed a fancy bit of magic, I sprang out of my chair and was halfway out of the swinging door before James grabbed my wrist and told me to sit down; it was Teddy and Victoire’s daughter, Dora, who’d caused Percy’s nose to bleed; she and Lorcan Lysander, her godfather, had been tossing a Quaffle between them and she’d thrown it too hard and it’d hit Percy. Relieved, I sank back into my chair and we continued our discussion.
Or tried to, anyway.
Only minutes after Percy and Audrey’s departure from the kitchen - Audrey had fixed her husband’s nose right up with a quick wave of her wand and a kiss on the cheek - the next interruption came barging through the swinging door in the form of a very disgruntled Lily Potter. Her hands were planted firmly on her hips and she was glaring not at James as she usually was, but at me. Startled, I tried to think of any reason why she would be mad at me - I had been owling her nearly every week, telling her about everything except for the biggest detail - but then she broke out into an ear-to-ear grin and held her arms open for me.
As Lily was like a little sister to me, I rushed to hug her and we got sidetracked with our own conversation for a good fifteen minutes, updating each other on one another’s lives. She screamed when she discovered that I’d left out one very important detail over the course of our correspondence, and my eyes widened at the sight of the huge rock on her finger.
“Henry gave it to me,” she’d gushed, her freckled cheeks turning a brilliant shade of scarlet at the mention of her fiancée, one Henry Thomas. Apparently James wasn’t the only Potter with marriage on the mind.
It wasn’t until James cleared his throat loudly that Lily and I stopped our incessantly chatter, though the redhead made me promise to devote an entire day to her and her alone. Grinning, I informed her that I was available on Friday and would now be keeping the day open for Lily-filled activities. With one last hug and a look at her brother, Lily fluttered out of the kitchen as quickly as she’d come.
Thinking we were free of further disturbances, James and I tried to pick up the conversation, but found that we had absolutely no idea what we had been talking about before Percy and Lily had come bustling into the Scamanders’ brightly coloured kitchen. While James listed off everything we had talked about thus far, which wasn’t much, I refilled the kettle and heated up the water as the tea in our cups had gone nastily cold.
The kettle had just started whistling when the door swung open for a third time.
“Who is it now?” I asked, rolling my eyes heavenward.
It was my mother.
“I need you, love,” she said, looking oddly frazzled.
My brow furrowed as a wave of panic washed over me. “Is something wrong?” I swallowed and, my voice cracking, added, “Is Jack all right?”
“He’s not in mortal danger, if that’s what you mean,” Mum commented dryly, tossing her own eyes up at the ceiling. “But he is starting to get a bit fussy. We’ve been trying to stop his crying - I’m honestly surprised you couldn’t hear it, the racket that boy is producing -, but no matter who we pass him to, he keeps screaming his little head off.” She huffed out a long breath. “Anyway, I think you’d better come and see if your motherly touch will help him.”
I rose to my feet without question, draining the last of my tea and setting the cup on the table before departing. Turning, I flashed an apologetic smile at James. “I’m sorry, but -”
“Mummy duty calls,” he said, pushing his chair back from the table, the legs scraping against the floor. He stood. “I understand, Mara. I think our conversation was pretty much doomed from the start anyhow.”
I chuckled as Mum disappeared from the kitchen, but not before throwing a suspicious look at James and me. It didn’t take a genius to understand what she was inferring, but regardless, I didn’t like it. Thankfully, James didn’t seem to notice.
“Besides,” he added as he Levitated our cups over to the sink. “Sophie and I should probably head back to London. We’ve got a dinner date with some of her Muggle friends from America.” His nose wrinkled in distaste.
I stuck out my tongue. “Yuck. I hope they’re not too unbearable,” I responded, trying to express my sympathy. After Tayler with an ‘E’ and the sudden appearance of the beautiful Sophie, it was difficult for me to tolerate Americans.
“Well, I’ve met her parents and they’re decent folk,” he said as he pushed open the kitchen door, gesturing for me to go first. “A little stand-offish at first, but then again, I’m the one who’s marrying their daughter, and all parents seem to be wary of the fiancée.”
“I wouldn’t know,” I said. “I’ve never found myself in that particular situation.”
I meant it as a joke, but a guilty expression overcame James’s face. It confused me; what did he have to feel guilty over? Could he think that I was referring to the last time we’d seen each other and the lack of romantic relationship that’d formed between us? If that was the case, then I should probably set him straight. I hadn’t stopped contacting him because I wanted something more, no I had stopped talking to him because things were awkward between us and, though I didn’t know it until three and a half weeks after the fact, I was pregnant with his child.
“No, I didn’t mean it like that,” I amended quickly, placing a hand on his arm. The heat that bubbled underneath my fingertips was strange, but nowhere near as electric as it had been in the sitting room when I’d first touched him. Maybe the tea diffused the charge?
“What’re you talking about? You didn’t mean what like that?”
He was feigning ignorance, something that he should’ve been good at, but wasn’t. Or rather, he was good at it, but I’d learned long ago how to see through it.
“I didn’t mean what you thought I meant,” I said.
His brow pulled together. “What do you think I thought you meant?”
“Well, I -,” I stopped and shook my head to myself. “This is ridiculous. I don’t have time to explain. I have to get ou - I mean, my son, before his head explodes from crying too much.”
Bending my head in hopes of hiding my almost-mistake, I hurried past James into the sitting room, where Jack’s obnoxiously loud wails met my ears; somehow, I’d been impervious to them until I had entered the room. I didn’t waste any time plucking him out of a shocked Sophie’s arms or gathering all of his belongings, which wasn’t much as everything was still in the bag.
With a quick look at my mother, I said, “I’m going to take the Floo home. Is the house connected?”
“Yes, it is,” Mum answered. She must have seen the eagerness to get the hell out of there in my eyes because she snapped into alertness almost immediately. “I’ll come with you. Make sure that Jack doesn’t get too scared on the journey home.”
She Summoned her cloak, which zoomed into her waiting hand. She didn’t bother putting it on, rather she grasped my elbow and tugged me toward the open grate, grabbed a handful of the green powder from the small pot on the mantel, and tossed it into the fire. Without warning, she jerked me into the expanded grate beside her and before I could tuck Jack’s head against my shoulder, she was screaming, “14 Willoughby Way!” at the top of her lungs.
“He knows, Mum.”
“You’re putting too much stock in that boy’s smarts, Mara,” Mum said, trying to soothe me as I paced up and down the length of my bed.
“No, Mum,” I insisted, shaking my head. “You don’t know James. He may say some reasonably stupid things and act like an idiot, but he’s a smart idiot. A surprisingly, alarmingly smart idiot who managed to capsize all of my marks in school, if you’ll remember.”
But Mum was resilient. “Sure, James might be smart, dear, and one hell of a Quidditch player to boot,” she began, her eyes following my path. “But he’s a man, something that you keep forgetting.”
I snorted. “Obviously, I haven’t forgotten he’s a man, Mum. I think that Jack is proof enough of that.”
Ignoring my remark - she hated it when I brought up the night of Jack’s conception as she thought, and rightfully so, that I had acted very foolishly that evening - she ploughed on. “Yes, I know that you know that he’s a man, Mara, but you keep forgetting one important key factor.”
I was intrigued. I stopped mid-stride and pivoted toward her, an eyebrow raised in curiosity. “And what’s that?”
“He lacks common sense,” she said in a matter-of-factly voice. “Well, not common sense, but he’s not exactly a potions master, now is he? Like I said,” she added quickly when she saw me swelling up like a balloon to race to my newly-restored best mate’s defence, “there’s no denying that he’s smart, but unless you tell it to him in plain words, he won’t connect the dots.”
Mum rolled her eyes. “Honestly, you two deserve each other,” she mumbled under her breath, just loud enough for me to hear her.
“Hey! I resent that.”
“It’s true. If there were ever two more clueless people in this world than you two. . .,” Mum trailed off, shaking her head to herself.
“I’m not clueless!” I scoffed, folding my arms over my chest and glaring down my nose at her challengingly.
Again, Mum rolled her eyes and shifted her position on the foot of my bed. “Sure you are. You’re just too blind to see the truth of it.” She tucked a strand of reddish-gold hair behind her ear and continued, “What I was trying to say before you interrupted me was that unless you spell it out to him, unless you break it down word for word that he’s the father of your child, he won’t know. And even if he does guess it, which is highly unlikely, especially since he’s preoccupied with that skinny blonde bitch -”
“Mum!” I laughed loudly.
She ignored me. “Even if he does hazard a guess at the parental half of Jack’s parentage, he’ll refuse to believe it. He’ll tell himself that he’s thinking nonsense thoughts and eventually convince himself that he couldn’t be the boy’s father by some horrible, unbelievably confusing formula.”
“A formula?” I asked sceptically.
“The formula doesn’t matter,” she said dismissively. “What really matters is that you’re grasping the point of what I’m saying, Mara.” Her eyes raked over my face. “Do you understand?”
“Of course I do,” I assured her with a firm nod of my head.
As I turned my back to her to remove the uncomfortable blouse I’d been wearing since early this morning, I swore I heard her mutter under her breath, “No, love, I don’t think you do.”
A/N: Wow, I’m a really bad author! I forgot to add footnotes to the end of the last few chapters, thanking you all for your devoted reading and reviewing. Your responses mean the world to me, and the more I get, the more inspired and eager I am to write more chapters. I hope this was enjoyable and didn’t seem too repetitive or obnoxious or anything else it may have seemed like other than very entertaining as that is what I’m here to do. Anyway, aside from hoping that it was entertaining, I just wanted to thank you all again for reading and reviewing, and encourage you to keep it up! It keeps me going!
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