Title: The Power of 'What If'
Rating: PG-13+ for a bit of language
Characters/Ships: Lisa/Terry with a side order of Angelina/Dean
Summary: A slip of paper found on the bathroom floor changes Terry and Lisa's life forever. Or maybe it's not actually the paper that does it at all.
Notes: My only regret is that I didn't have time to make this longer. I could have lived for a few more hours in this world. Hope you enjoy, annearchy. Post-Road Ahead canon speculation. Yes, I completely fail at anonymity. *sheepish smile* Oh, and I blame all crazy story inspiration on 54321sherry. *nods*
They found it after the third round of drinks, just as they’d decided to retire the Exploding Snap deck in favour of something a bit more mature. A bit older. They were in their mid-twenties now, hardly students any longer, and so Dean had produced a deck of Muggle cards and had proceeded to explain the rules of a game called Poker. A few of the blokes in attendance had played, and a few just raised an eyebrow. Michael joked that a game couldn’t possibly be any good if it didn’t singe one’s eyebrows for losing.
Terry had played a bit with his cousins in Bristol, but based on the rules they were currently attempting, either Dean had no idea what he was talking about, or Terry’s cousins had played it very wrong. He started to speak up and mention that he thought there was usually money involved, but then Anthony came out of the loo with a bit of paper stuck to his foot, and all attention was turned to taking the mickey out of him.
Anthony’s face was red, but he managed a rude gesture as he pulled the paper off his shoe. It wasn’t tissue, though, nor was it particularly dirty--other than a dark stain at one edge--or anything else embarrassing. But when he looked down at it, his eyes went wide. He looked to Terry, then Michael, then at the group of guys behind them before focusing on Terry again.
"Why didn’t you tell us?" he asked, something akin to a smile twitching at his lips.
"Tell you what?" Terry asked, his brow furrowed. The rest of the room had gone quiet, focusing on their conversation, but he didn’t know what Anthony was getting at. Was this an attempt to turn the teasing back on the host?
Michael stepped up and took the paper from Anthony, then turned his eyes on Terry, too. His jaw looked like it had come unhinged. "Bloody hell. Turpin’s gotten herself up the duff and you haven’t the decency to tell us right off?" He was trying to look offended, but his face had broken out into a wide grin. He slapped Terry on the back, grasping his shoulder. "Congrats, mate. Didn’t know you had it in you."
Terry felt numb, off-balance. What? He took the paper from Michael, trying to look as if his hands weren’t shaking too badly to actually grasp it properly. It was all a big joke. They were having a laugh at his expense. Wouldn’t be the first time, and he’d get them back in time....
Only it wasn’t a joke. He swallowed, reading the paper. It was only the bottom half of a piece of parchment, ripped as if someone really didn’t want it read by anyone else, or maybe was just upset in reading it. He very nearly ripped it again out of anxiety, his hands gripping the edges far more tightly than was necessary. He scanned the half-page, trying to get his brain to grasp what he was reading.
Approximately forty-two days.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he heard Anthony’s voice portraying a little bit of the shock he felt.
"Holy fuck, Mikey. He didn’t know."
He’d tried to explain the paper away. Lisa would have told him if she was pregnant, after all. She’d hosted a girl’s night at their flat only the night before the evening of liquor and card games, so obviously another woman had brought the paper with her, because she wanted to talk to her friends about it. Those women were their girlfriends, wives, friends, siblings...it could be any of them, really. Maybe it was their girl who was pregnant. Because Lisa would have told him.
But now, in the comfort of their bed--which was feeling rather lonely, because Lisa was spending the weekend with her sister-in-law and niece--he wasn't so sure. They had a really easy-going sort of relationship, one where the mere strength of their friendship had gotten them through a lot. Still, there were things they didn't talk about. Things they avoided for one reason or another.
Marriage, for one. They'd been friends for ages. Lovers for that much longer. They'd lived together since just after Lisa's twentieth birthday. Not once had she brought up the topic, except in reference to their friends or her brother. He'd thought about it a few times, wondered if maybe they should just go for it. But she hadn't mentioned it, so that meant it wasn't important to her.
Children they had discussed before. It had come up not long after he first told her he loved her, when they first realised that a future together was not only desirable, but inevitable. Lisa wanted children. Not yet, because they were still young. But she wanted them, and wanted them before she reached not-young. He had agreed on all points, especially that they were still young.
She'd brought it up one other time, much more recently, and he'd brushed it off. Jokingly, and she had simply smacked his arm and kissed him, but now he wondered if maybe it had been a hint. Lisa wasn't the type to stop taking her potions without discussing it with him, but accidents happened. Could it have been that recently? In the last few weeks, certainly, but Terry couldn't remember exactly when. Could she already have been pregnant then? Trying to test the waters for his reaction?
No. Lisa wasn't pregnant. She would have told him.
But why hadn't they talked about those things more? Why had he brushed it off like it wasn't an important topic? He loved Lisa. She hadn't even been gone twenty-four hours yet, and he already missed her. He couldn't picture life without her, so why was it so difficult for him to picture life with her beyond the right now?
It didn’t take a Ravenclaw to figure that the whole concept simply scared him senseless. And Terry was a Ravenclaw.
Well, fuck. So he was scared. Looked like he might have to get over that sooner rather than later.
"You're acting awfully strangely," Lisa told him Sunday night when she got home.
She was leaned back against the kitchen counter, watching as he washed up the dinner dishes. There weren't many, but she'd been tired after a long weekend carting around a two-year-old. She seemed happy, though, and he'd been more than willing to clean up while she rested. She hadn't actually rested, but he also didn't mind that she wanted to be in the room with him. Well, except maybe for that examining gaze of hers.
"Am I?" Terry asked, flicking his wand at the last dish as it dried itself and then settled into the stack in the cupboard.
Lisa closed the two steps between them and snaked her arms around him. "Yes, but I'll forgive you this once." She kissed him lightly on the lips. "Missed you."
He sighed, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and pulling her close. His cheek rested against hers for what seemed like forever while her fingers played in the hair at the nape of his neck. Should he just ask her about the paper? That was the most logical thing to do, but something stopped him.
Because it didn't matter, did it? The plan was still the same. He'd thought about it, and he knew what he needed to do. Not just needed, but wanted.
"Love you," he whispered, his voice thick and full of emotion.
Lisa pulled back almost immediately, her eyebrows knit in concern. "What is it? Is something wrong?"
Terry laughed shortly. God, was that how bad it had gotten? An earnest profession of love got him a worried look? He was worse at this than he'd even thought he was. And yet here Lisa was, still with him and still loving him. It made no bloody sense whatsoever, but he'd never been so glad for something so illogical. It only made him surer of his decision.
"Let's get married, Lise," he said, running a hand across her cheek.
"What?" she said, the look of concern intensifying. "Why?"
He laughed again, only this time it was rooted in nervousness. He'd spent the whole weekend agonising over that one little question, trying to plan how he'd ask it, but he hadn't even considered the possibility that she wouldn't say yes. His stomach clenched. "That wasn't exactly the answer I was expecting."
Lisa slid her arms tighter around his neck and kissed him, one of the long and deep sorts. It was almost enough to make him forget the question altogether and move her into their bedroom. Then she pulled back, trailing her lips across his jaw line before looking up at him again. "God, Terry, I'm sorry. That didn't come out how I meant it." She kissed him again, quicker this time. "Of course I'll marry you, if that's what you want. We just haven't ever talked about it before."
Relief coursed through him. It was natural for her to be surprised; he'd been surprised at himself when the thought came to him. But there was still something about her answer that bothered him. "If it's what I want?" Terry asked carefully, putting one arm around her waist. He didn't want her to pull away, if only because it would be a sign he'd been wrong about the whole thing. He wasn't wrong, and he knew it. But the fear was there all the same. "I don't want it if you don't want it. I'm happy here, like this. But this step feels...right. I don't want anyone else, Lisa, and I want you to know that. Hell, I want everyone to know that."
There was a noticeable change in her expression then, and her face broke out into a smile. Yes, he knew this was right, and that confirmed it. "Then yes," she said softly, pressing her lips to that spot just next to his ear. Her breath tickled his skin. "Just yes."
This time when he kissed her, Terry did carry her off to the bedroom.
Monday was a workday, but they both owled in sick. They never did that, but this was just special enough of an occasion that they felt justified. Terry had already lined Finnigan and Weasley up to cover for them anyway, but Lisa didn't need to know that. The look on her face late Sunday night at the idea of being crazy and spontaneous about it was too good to ruin.
Terry had been up at the normal time anyway, surprised to see that Lisa was still sleeping next to him with a tiny smile on her face. Usually she was up the crack of dawn for a run, but she'd had a busy weekend. He let her sleep. Once she finally did get up, later in the morning--and with only a bit of teasing from him about it--they discussed plans to go into London and look at rings. He hadn't had time to find one himself, and she seemed pleased that she would have some say in the choice.
But first, she wanted lunch. Terry had eaten breakfast, but Lisa claimed to be half-starved, despite devouring an apple as they talked.
"It's a shame to take off work and spend all day in the flat," she insisted. "We should eat out somewhere."
"Maybe that Indian place?"
Lisa immediately made a face. "God no. Don't you remember how sick I got last time we went there?"
Her expression was enough to jog his memory, though he wasn't sure how he'd forgotten. It had only been a couple of weeks ago. He blamed his preoccupation with other thoughts. "Blimey, that's right. Sorry."
She listed off a few other places, and Terry considered, but before he got a chance to answer, there was a tapping at the window. Lisa crossed and opened it, and a familiar-looking owl flapped once and then coasted to a landing on the table in front of Terry. He pulled the note from its talons and unfolded it.
Angelina's pregnant. Maybe Lisa's told you already, but I thought you should know. It was her. If they find me collapsed in an alley with a permanent look of shock on my face, that's why.
I think I'll need another bloke's night soon, yeah?
"What is it?" Lisa asked, putting a hand on his arm.
It was then that Terry realised there was a frown on his face. He fixed his lips into a smile. "It's fine. Dean says Angelina's pregnant. Did you know?"
Angelina. Not Lisa. Terry felt something akin to disappointment. It was stupid, because he'd already known it couldn't possibly be Lisa. And he wasn't even sure he was ready to be a father anyway. But there had been a part of him that was warming up to the idea. Maybe had even liked the thought.
But not now didn't mean not ever, right? His smile became a bit more genuine.
Slowly, Lisa nodded. "She told us Thursday night. Terry--"
"I thought for a bit that you were, you know." It felt important to tell her now, even though he'd been hesitant before. Maybe the owl was just the icebreaker he'd needed. "Goldstein found this piece of paper in the bathroom, but there was no name on it...."
Her face blanched noticeably. "Merlin, I thought we'd gotten rid of that. It was an extra copy anyway, and Cho spilled her wine all over it.... And Anthony found it?" She gave a little laugh. "You thought it was mine?"
Terry nodded, reaching for her hand and threading his fingers through hers. "The look on Corner's face was priceless, now I think about it. No doubt he was already deciding what sort of mischief he and the tyke could get into." He stroked his thumb across the back of her hand. "Scared me a little. No, a lot. But I do want that, Lise. I know it's another one of those things we don't talk about, but I do. Scares me shitless, but I'm ready when you are."
Lisa leaned over and kissed him softly, and the last bit of disappointment faded away. One thing at a time, Boot. You've got your whole lives ahead of you now.
Then he couldn't help it--he laughed aloud. "You should have seen me, Lise. I think Mikey was afraid I might have a heart attack. Spent half the night asking if I was sure I was all right. And to think it was Angelina's the whole time."
Lisa bit her bottom lip. "Yes, that was Angelina's report." She hesitated a moment, then dug something out of the pocket of her jeans and put it on the table. "This is mine."
Approximately thirty-eight days.