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Chapter Fifteen
A Quick Acceptance


There have been numerous moments in my life when I’ve claimed speechlessness, but it wasn’t until Mara passed Jack to me that I understood the true meaning of the commonly used phrase. My breath hitched as I cautiously shifted him into a more comfortable position, one arm sporting the length of his spine, the other keeping him close to my chest. It was…well, it was bloody indescribable, cradling my son - my brilliant little boy - in my arms.

My son. My boy.

I was his father.

He was mine.

Mine.

Merlin pant’s, it was hard to believe, but so easy to accept.

He was so tiny, so small, compared to me. I could hardly grasp the concept of such a tiny someone, let another partaking in the act of creating one. I was much too absorbed, so caught up in the little wonder staring up at me with eyes so like my own, it was frightening, that I couldn’t even hate Mara, despite how much the rational part of my mind was telling me to. Perhaps it was because in that moment, gazing into Jack’s round face and recognising parts of myself as well as Mara, the unspoken bond was so powerful, I couldn’t think of much else save for how amazing he was.

I didn’t even notice the tear slipping out of my eye until it dripped off my chin and splashed on my arm.

“Circe, I feel like such a poof,” I chuckled lowly, not taking my eyes away from Jack.

Beside me, Mara laughed, a quiet, but warm sound. “You shouldn’t.”

“It’s just - well, he’s just so - what I mean to say is that -”

As always, she leapt to my rescue. “I know exactly what you mean, James,” she muttered gently, scooting closer. She pushed herself onto her tiptoes to look over my shoulder at Jack. However, she respected the newfound, yet undeclared boundaries erected between us and kept her distance. Though I couldn’t see her face, I could tell that she was smiling. It was difficult not to in Jack’s presence.

I knew I was supposed to be furious with her - every rational fibre in my body was screaming in protest as we stood side-by-side, watching our son, but as much as my subconscious wanted me to despise her, I couldn’t. Because, without her, the baby boy in my arms, the silver lining around a particularly dark storm cloud, wouldn’t exist.

And even though I had only know he was my son for a few hours, I couldn’t imagine my life without him.

- - -


Mara left the room some twenty minutes later, saying that I deserved to have some alone time with my son. Murmuring a quick thank you, I waited until the door clicked shut behind her before releasing a deep breath. While it wasn’t entirely unpleasant, there was an underlying tension between us, one that was easily distinguishable in the light words we exchanged and the casual glances.

As Jack drifted to sleep in my arms, I went over the scene in the empty room for perhaps the twelfth time since the incident. Like one of Grandmum Molly’s Celestina Warbeck records, Mara’s words played on a loop in my head.

“Because you left…gone without a bloody trace. No note, no nothing!”

Yes, I did leave and no, I didn’t leave a note. Why? Because after waking up to a cold spot in a rumpled bed, only to find myself completely alone in some second-rate hacienda in Panama, my ego was severely bruised. It was a rash decision - Merlin, it was a stupid one - but how I was to know that she had merely gone to a mandatory work meeting?

Guilt weighed heavy on my shoulders, even though the nagging voice in the back of my head shouted that the guilt belonged to no one but Mara. It was her decision to keep the secret, after all. She was also the one who failed to notify me of her absence. However, as much as I wanted to blame her, as much as I wanted to hate her guts, I couldn’t bring myself to do so. Despite all logic and reason, not that I had very much of either, I still thought of her as a close friend, if not my best mate in the entire world.

But she lied to you!

Glancing down at the dark-haired boy sleeping soundly in my arms, despite the angry red welts all over his body, I found it extremely easy to forgive her. And let me tell you, James Sirius Potter is not forgive very often, not without some binding contract or absurd promises. It escaped my notice that, in some ways, Jack was a binding contract, but by no means a burden. No, he was a blessing.

I didn’t even realise that I had begun to sway back and forth until I heard Albus say from somewhere behind me, “Oh, look, Mum, they’re dancing together. How very picturesque.”

Lily thwacked him on the back of the head and Mum chuckled appreciatively. “Let’s hope Jack didn’t inherit his father’s two left feet.”

“I’ll have you know that I’m a world-class ballroom dancer,” I said, tilting my chin defiantly.

Over Mum’s shoulder, Dad rolled his eyes. I inclined my head in greeting towards my father, who smiled back wearily. “All right, James?” he asked.

“More than all right,” I responded, returning my gaze to my son.

“He’s just the cutest thing. May I hold him?” Mum cooed as she shrugged out of her cloak and draped it over the back of a spare seat.

Though I wanted to tell her no, I had only just found out he was mine, I couldn’t deny her, not when she was looking at me with her wide brown eyes and that pitiful expression. No wonder why Dad gave her everything she asked for; her puppy dog eyes were damn near impossible to resist. Perhaps that’s where I got it from. Heaving a great sigh, I nodded. “Sure.”

Her entire face lit up as I transferred Jack into her arms, taking extra precaution as not to jostle him awake. The poor boy had only just fallen asleep. When tears began to well in Mum’s eyes, I had to look away. If she started crying, there was no guarantee that my eyes would remain dry. And I refused to cry in front of Albus. The last time I had, he told the whole bloody school about it. Of course, it was only because Trisha Rookwood kneed me in the family jewels, but he failed to mention that in the rumour that spread like wildfire throughout the halls of Hogwarts. James Sirius Potter, a pathetic sap.

As if.

Dad shuffled over to Mum and gazed down at Jack in much the same manner that Mara had earlier. A gentle smile touched his lips. As I watched my parents taking in the splendour of their grandson, I couldn’t help picturing them when I was born and wondering if they fawned over me with looks of such utter delight on their faces. I’m sure they had; it was impossible not to fall in love with a baby.

After some time, Mum passed Jack to Dad, who cradled him as though he was a precious treasure, which he was. “Hi, little guy.”

While Mum and Dad ‘ooh’ed and ‘awe’d over their grandson, I scooted over to the corner of the room where my two younger siblings were, for want of a better word, skulking. Albus looked particularly put out that he hadn’t had a chance to hold the baby yet.

“So,” Lily began, pinning me with a pointed stare, “how are you really doing?”

Tilting my head to the side, I considered her question. My earlier response had been truthful, I was more than fine. In fact, I was floating on Cloud Nine. Or at least, I had been until my little sister brought reality back into the picture.

“The truth?”

She nodded. Albus wasn’t paying attention, for he was too busy throwing daggers at Dad, who was still holding onto his grandchild and, by the looks of it, didn’t plan on relinquishing said hold until he felt like it.

“I…don’t know, really,” I confessed lowly. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m over the moon about Jack, but it’s just…it’s…well, confusing.”

Lily arched a brow sceptically. “That’s it? It’s confusing?”

“Yes, it’s confusing,” I insisted, my tone becoming petulant, “and complicated and unbelievably surreal. D’you know what it’s like to find out that you’ve fathered your best friend’s child?”

“No,” she deadpanned. “I can’t say that I do. Of course, that may because I’m still trying to get over the fact that you two shagged.”

“You and I both,” I muttered, pushing a hand through my hair.

Lily sent me a peculiar look and appeared as though she wanted to say something. She chewed on her bottom lip thoughtfully and opened her mouth to speak, but it was not her voice that emerged.

“Where is he?” a waspish voice demanded from the other side of the door.

There was a prolonged moment of silence. “In there,” said Molly.

Next came a shuffling of chairs against the linoleum, a chorus of hushed voices calling for quiet, and then -

“How dare you tell me that I’m not allowed in there!” Her voice was similar to nails on a chalkboard, grating and hair raising. “I’m his fiancée, for Merlin’s sake! NOW LET ME IN!”

I started.

Lily winced.

Mum threw me a nasty look full of contempt.

Dad and Albus were oblivious, too distracted by their quiet argument of whose turn it was to hold Jack. “But you’ve been holding him for fifteen minutes,” Albus whined.

“Shit.”

Shit was right. Seconds later, the door was forced open and my fiancé came stumbling into the room. Her bright eyes were narrowed into dangerous slits and scooped the room in a furious frenzy. Her blonde hair, which was usually perfectly coiffed and shining, was extremely bushy. Paired with her wide eyes and infuriated expression, she looked as though she had been electrocuted.

If possible, her gaze narrowed even further when her eyes found me.

“You!” she growled, sounding more monstrous than I thought humanly possible. She threw out an arm and pointed a bejewelled finger at me.

I blanched. “Sophie, dear,” I began, stumbling over my words, “I can explain -”

“You think I’m going to let you explain yourself, James?” Sophie screeched. “You left me - alone - at the winery! All by myself!”

“That’s generally what alone means,” Lily mumbled darkly under her breath.

As much as I appreciated my sister’s sense of humour, now was not the time to make such a statement, especially when I was on the borderline of laughing and pissing myself in fear of might happen should a chuckle escape. It was highly unlikely that Sophie would like being laughed at.

“Do you know how humiliating it was to have to explain to the hostess that none of my guests, including the love of my life,” she put heavy emphasis on this statement, one of her perfectly sculpted eyebrows rising ever so slightly as if challenging me to contradict her; I wasn’t stupid enough to do so, “were planning on coming back?”

“Look, Soph -”

“I’M. NOT. FINISHED,” she bellowed, her face turning an unnatural shade of puce.

Lily gasped.

Mum gnashed her teeth.

Dad looked up from his fawning, a furrow forming between his brows.

“Oi, James,” Albus said loudly, staring directly at Sophie, “put a muzzle on your bitch, will you? She'll wake the baby if she continues that mad barking.”

While Lily buried her face in her hands to muffle her outrageous laughter, Sophie sputtered stupidly before rounding on me, her face alight with an anger the likes of which I had never seen. Her expression looked harder than stone and her words were sketchily diced, the edges jagged and cutting. “James - do something! You’re not going to let him to talk to me like that, are you?”

I didn’t know what to do or what I should say. Albus wasn’t even paying attention anymore, instead focussed on his nephew. My parents and Lily were watching intensely, each wearing an array of expression. Dad looked highly uncomfortable whereas Mum appeared to be somewhat amused, obviously still relishing in Al’s remark, and Lily was red in the cheeks, her petite shoulders shaking with silent laughter.

Pushing a short sigh through my lips, I grabbed Sophie by the elbow and pulled her towards the door. “Let’s go somewhere private.”

She slammed her heels into the ground to prevent me from pulling her through the door. “You didn’t even tell that stupid arse off for calling me a -”

“My brother is not a stupid arse,” I countered rather unoriginally as I looked down at her, subconsciously tightening my grip on her arm. “Please, Sophie, don’t make things more difficult than they have to be by resisting; I want a chance to explain myself because I feel like you deserve an explanation for such unfair treatment.” My tone was light and loving and all-around pathetic, but it worked.

She relaxed underneath my hand and frowned. “Fine. But this doesn’t mean you’re out of trouble, mister,” she said, shaking her index finger in my face. Throwing a contemptuous look at my brother, she stalked out of the room.

Tugging a hand through my hair, I turned towards my family. “Don’t say it,” I said forcefully.

“I wouldn’t dream of it, mister,” Albus replied with a wide grin.

I picked up the nearest object - a jar of salve - and tossed it at his head. The following thump was reassuring and as I left the room, I felt a little better…

Until I realised that I had to explain to my fiancé, the woman I was due to marry in ten days’ time, that I was the father of my best friend’s - her maid of honour’s - child. Somehow, I didn’t think she would take the news very well.

- - -


In the end, it turned out a lot better than I expected it to, especially since I was anticipating the apocalypse. Sure, she was livid; the way I saw it, she had every right to be. Yeah, she may have Stunned me when the words “I’m Jack’s father,” came out of my mouth, but it wasn’t anything less than I deserved, and at least she didn’t perform an Unforgivable Curse. And maybe punching me in the nose when I mentioned the wedding was taking things a little too far, but at least she apologized for that.

Well, sort of.

Flicking her wand, Sophie conjured an ice pack and handed it to me.

“Cheers,” I said as I accepted it, pressing it to my nose. Immediately, I winced. It was fucking cold.

She didn’t look amused, though her expression was decidedly less severe and the kindness I had fallen in love with returned to her eyes. When she saw that I was smearing blood all over my face as I lightly dabbed at my nose, she took it from my hands and steered me over to a chair, forcing me to sit down. She knelt in front of me and cleaning up my face.

“You’re a mess,” Sophie commented, her tone possessing a certain iciness that stung. “Got blood all over your face. Honestly.”

“I’m sorry,” I apologized for what must have been the seventeenth time in the last ten minutes. Still, it didn’t make the words any less sincere.

She hesitated for a few seconds as though debating the best way to phrase her next words. Her fingers curled around my chin and she turned my head to the side, wiping at my cheek. “I know you are, Jimmy,” she said softly.

Spurred by her acceptance of my apology, I continued, “I would have told you sooner had I known, but I didn’t. I swear to Merlin that I had no idea whatsoever until a few hours’ ago that Jack is my son.”

“I know, I believe you,” Sophie replied, reaching into the pocket of her skirt and withdrawing a handkerchief.

My eyes widened considerably as she folded over a corner and scooted closer. “Really?” I asked, my voice cracking.

She laughed gently as she swiped underneath my nose. “Yes. You wouldn’t lie to me,” she said, though her brow furrowed. “Well, not about something this serious, anyway.” Her smile was tight-lipped and strained.

I couldn’t help beaming.

Knocking her hand away, I scooted nearer to her and cupped her face with my hands. At first, she didn’t seem to want the contact, but as the warmth radiated from my hands to her face and circulated between us, she nuzzled my palm.

“Oh, Jimmy,” she whispered.

I leaned forwards and kissed her shortly, but deeply. Pulling back, I rested my forehead against hers. “I love you,” I said, whether out of habit or not, I wasn’t sure. Deep down, I knew I meant them. I did love her, but the question remained: was it enough?

“I love you, too.” Sophie’s responding grin stretched from ear to ear and that curious bubbling sensation appeared in my stomach. I kissed her again, this time on the nose before I withdrew and rose to my feet. I held out a hand and she accepted it without pause.

Linking my hand with hers, I led her out of the tea room and down the stairs. As we walked, Sophie’s head resting against my arm, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right about this. Sophie should be angrier with me; she shouldn’t have accepted my apology so easily nor the fact that if we went through with this wedding - and I assumed we were as she was talking about rescheduling the wine tasting - she would become Jack’s stepmother, ergo he would be a constant presence in our lives, as would Mara. After all, you couldn’t have the son without his mother.

I tried to interrupt her steady flow of information - she was now talking about taking her ring to get polished - but she wasn’t having anything of it. She waved away my suggestion to just perform a simple cleaning spell, saying that the diamond was too delicate, too precious to do something so careless.

“It deserves love,” she said as we rounded the corner, my extended family coming into view.

As we approached, I noticed the absence of my grandparents and several of my female cousins. However, my parents and my siblings were perched just outside of the door. Dad looked to be in deep conversation with his best friends, Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione, that latter of which grinned widely when she saw me.

“Congratulations, dear,” she said, not so subtly nudging Sophie to the side to give me a sloppy hug. She was my godmother, after all, so her actions were excusable, if not welcomed. “You must be so excited!”

“’Mione,” Uncle Ron moaned at her side. “Leave the poor man alone. He’s been through Hell and back, haven’t you, James?”

“Er - yeah,” I agreed with a quick bob of my head.

“Still,” Aunt Hermione said as though I hadn’t even spoken. “He must be excited - he’s a father! If I remember correctly, you couldn’t get over the fact.” She nudged her husband in the side and, thankfully, a distraction arrived in the form of their remembrance of Rose’s birth.

Sighing, I dropped into the seat next to Dad.

“How did everything go with…” he trailed off, gesturing towards my fiancé, who was sitting alongside Victoire, bouncing a laughing Dora on her knee. For some reason, this made me smile; maybe she would be all right with becoming Jack’s stepmother. She had been taken with him from the moment she laid eyes on him at the Lovegoods’ house following Augusta Longbottom’s funeral, so why should it be any different now?

Maybe because she knows that he’s the result of you shagging your best friend.

Once again, I ignored my conscience and shrugged. “Fine, I guess. She got me with a Stunner when I told her that I’m Jack’s father and punched me when I brought up the wedding, but all in all, it went much better than expected.”

Dad guffawed, shaking his head. “So does that mean the wedding’s off?” The level of hopefulness in his voice was almost embarrassing.

“Oh no, it’s still on,” I said, pointing to Sophie, who was showing her rock to Victoire, who seemed very impressed, though not very interested. Good, the damned thing had cost me a fortune. That’s the last time I’ll ever take let her pick the diamond for the band.

“Oh. Well, I’m sure you’re tired of hearing it, but congratulations, James. You’re going to be a great father,” he said as he stood. “If your mother asks where I am, tell her I went to visit an old friend in the Janus Thickey Ward.”

“Okay.”

He clapped me on the shoulder before departing.

Most people might not consider the brief exchange very significant, but it was. Dad wasn’t the type to express his emotions - unless he was angry. Then he let the entire world know just how he felt. But when it came to more emotional things, he was a brick wall. Just like Uncle Ron. Of course I knew my father loved me, but it was the tiny reassurances that reminded me just how much he cared.




A/N: Yes, I know the chapter is a bit shorter than normal, but I feel like I got everything in that I needed to. Of course, you are all probably wondering why Sophie was so easy to accept James’ apology - and don’t worry, she does have an ulterior motive. She wouldn’t be Sophie if she didn’t!

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, drop a review! Thanks for reading!

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