Gravity

Chapter 3

She spent the night in their room, hungry, exhausted, and upset. She paced a lot, finished her pack of cigarettes, and tried not to cry.

Ames had never been physical with her like that before, and it startled her deep to her core. He'd been rough with her in bed, but that was another thing entirely, and she'd always enjoyed that. But hurting her, bruising her- it just felt so demeaning. She couldn't think about it without her stomach turning inside out.

She tossed and turned in bed, unable to get comfortable or stop her mind from running. After midnight, the door unlocked, and Ames stuck his head around sheepishly.

"Love, you awake?"

"What do you want, Ames?"

He stepped in, and sat on the edge of the bed. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you. I just..."

She sat up, waiting to see what he was going to say. What words could possibly undo this?

"I don't even know what was going through my mind. Please forgive me?"

She was too tired to fight. "Sure."

He slipped under the covers and tried to cuddle with her, but she pushed his arms away. "I really just want to sleep tonight."

"Okay."

He was gone in the morning, but had left a long letter apologizing for his actions on the counter. Perhaps she had overreacted, last night. She had walked in the door with her mind going a million miles a minute...

She spent all weekend sorting through further information on the case, as Ames caught up with Quidditch. She was enjoying the solitary time to focus on what she needed to get done, and not think about Friday evening.

Monday morning came quickly, and she was excited to close out this case. It would be done this week. She could feel it in her bones, and her instincts were rarely wrong.

She was at her desk by eight on Monday morning, sorting through the six letters that had arrived from Hogwarts over the weekend.

"Wellwood," Potter said, leaning in over her cubicle.

"Good morning," she said, in an almost cheerful tone. Her demeanor was weird. He tilted his head. "So I was thinking-"

He clinked his mug against the top of the her cube, and she stopped speaking. "I'd like to take you up on your fantastic tea reading skills."

She laughed, and reached up for the mug. As she moved, the sleeve of her shirt fell down her wrist and he grabbed it.

"What happened to you?" He asked, referring to the fading bruise that was clearly at one point a handprint.

By now, her arm was a sour yellow with a spot of purple where Ames' thumb had dug into her arm. She retracted it from his touch quickly and pulled her sleeve back down. "I... closed it... in a door. Doesn't matter, it's fine."

He looked at her, a very discerning type of glance, but she wouldn't flinch. He leaned the empty mug down towards her so she could see.

She glanced at it for a moment, the random pattern of It telling a clear prediction that she didn't feel like getting into. "It says I'm very busy and have got to get back to work."

He studied the leaves himself for a moment, then realized what she'd said. "Fine, I'll be out of your hair in a moment. When do you want to go back out to the field?"

"Tomorrow?" she asked, not looking up from the pile of paperwork. She felt a deep, deep shame.

"Department wide meetings tomorrow and Wednesday," he said. "I can do Thursday."

"I don't really want to wait until Thursday," she said.

He shrugged, frustrated with her. "Oh well," he said, before walking back in the direction of his office.

She looked up, a pinched look on her face. She did not appreciate getting any snark from him. She might have given him loads, but being on the receiving end just made her feel even worse.

She stewed in her crappy mood all morning, not getting nearly as much done. She started throwing away all the papers she didn't need, because everything felt so cluttered and she was aggravated and in need of a release. She put her waste bin on the opposite side of her cube and began crumpling paper up and throwing it in.

"Wellwood," Kensington said, poking his head out of his office. "Could you declutter any louder?"

She flicked her wand at the trash can and amplified the sound. She heard him sigh audibly.

"Just following orders," she called.

When her desk was clear, she finally felt like she might be able to work again. She got up, poured herself a fresh cup of coffee, and got settled in to do some work. Finally.

Except she heard a familiar voice, and peeked her head up over her cubicle.

"Oh, he is just too cute!" Anne Beck, one of the secretaries for the Research department cooed.

Holly was here. Holly had brought the baby to work. And they were headed towards Liv...

She turned away and took a deep breath in, wondering why this week was trying to turn all her hairs gray.

"Surprise!" Holly said, her face exuberant as she spotted Liv.

"Oh, hi," Liv said, trying to smile but sure it looked more like a grimace.

"I'm so glad you are in the office today!" she said. "I was going to write but then I wasn't sure when I would be here but we came in to visit Cian so I thought I'd come down here and say hello."

Cian, Holly's husband, worked in the Department of International Magical Cooperation, working closely with Ireland. Liv didn't mind Cian, they'd gotten coffee a few times. He was witty, and always kind to Holly.

"Yeah, I'm in the office all day today," she said. She glanced at the baby Holly was carrying around his hip. His light hair and eyes made him look just like Cian.

"Hold him for a sec, yea?" Holly said, handing him off to Liv to hold. She had no idea what to do with him. Babies weren't really her thing.

Holly straightened her shirt and ran a hand through her full head of bouncy, light curls.

"He's beautiful, Holly. Really." Liv said, because she knew it was the right thing to say.

"Isn't he?" She sighed, stroking his cheek. "Doesn't he just make you want one of your own?"

Liv knew that nothing would make Holly happier than both of them pushing their kids together in prams and gossiping. She had considered them as close as sisters, once. "Maybe eventually..."

"How is everything? I know I've been an awful friend, just had a lot on my plate with the baby, but we've absolutely got to get together-"

"Absolutely." Liv handed the baby back to Holly.

"Oh, I know. You should come up to the cafeteria and we can catch up for a bit. Xavi's getting hungry, and it is lunch time."

"I dunno," Liv said, raising a hand and playing with the hair on the bottom of her neck nervously. "I've got a lot of work to do, I'm in the middle of a huge case-"

"Kensington," Holly said, leaning out of the cube and looking into his office. "Can you spare Liv for half an hour or so?"

"Please," Kensington said. "Get her away from that damn desk!"

Liv reluctantly grabbed her lunch and followed Holly upstairs to the cafeteria. Holly babbled the entire way up, mostly about the baby. In a way, it was familiar and Liv wanted to lean in to that feeling, but couldn't, because it was road blocked by unexpressed resentment.

Holly talked near endlessly about all sorts of things... the summer holiday she and Cian were planning, her uncertainty about her time frame to return to work, how she was considering working at least another year before thinking about another baby.

Liv picked at her lunch in between showing a bit of approval at everything Holly said.

Finally, after a good twenty minutes, Holly looked straight at her. "So how's everything with you?"

Liv finished chewing her bite of salad. If only she could answer that honestly… A year ago, she would have. Today, not so much. "Everything's good. No complaints."

"And how is Ames doing?" Holly said, always having been fond of him.

"Oh, very busy," she said. "You know, Quidditch season and all that. But he's well. The team's doing well."

"Tell him Cian and I send our best, we'll have to have you around soon for dinner, of course."

"Of course."

"Oh, gosh, I've talked your ear off!" She said, shoving another piece of cereal into the baby's mouth. "I told Cian we'd stop by again before we left."

"Oh, by all means!" Liv said, ready for a few moments of silence before heading back to work. "Don't let me hold you up."

"We'll see you soon, don't you worry," Holly said. "I'll write you this week- we'll make a plan."

"Good to see you."

Liv watched Holly hoist the baby up around her hip and trudge out of the cafeteria. She let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding in. She had a little time before she had to be back at her desk, so she took a tabloid out of her work bag and began to flip through it mindlessly.

"Mind if I sit here?"

Liv looked up, and saw Potter standing there. She shrugged.

He sat down. "I have never seen you up here.

"It wasn't by choice," she said, not glancing up from the magazine. "Did you know you're bankrupt?"

"What?" He asked.

"Oh yeah, turn to page nineteen to read all about it," she said, sliding the magazine towards him.

"Oh, don't tell me you read that garbage," he said, recognizing what it was. "I wouldn't have pegged you liking trash like that."

"Everyone's allowed a guilty pleasure or two."

There was a pause in conversation, and she was about to excuse herself when he began to speak. "Is your boyfriend mistreating you?"

"What?" Liv asked, indignantly.

"Your arm looks quite bad."

"I told you, I was clumsy and I did it myself."

She held his eye contact, staring at his dark green eyes full on. She would not waver.

"You're an awful liar," he said. "Truly, terrible."

"Did you come over here just to insult me?" She asked.

"No," he said, his tone apologetic. "I just... I didn't want to leave things how I walked away this morning. If you need help, there's resources for that sort of thing. We've had our differences, Wellwood-"

"I'm really all set. But, thank you, Potter," she said, sincerely. "Now, I've really got to get back to work."

"What time Thursday?" He asked.

"Ten o'clock. Meet me at the coffee shop two blocks south. Deja Brew or something kitschy."

He nodded, and she turned to get back to her desk.

When she walked in the door that evening, the flat smelled amazing. "What're you making?"

"Salmon, brown rice, and green beans," Ames said from the stove. She walked over to him and leaned up to kiss him. "How was your day, love?"

She sighed, putting her work bag down by the door and removing her shoes. "Long."

He waited to see if she'd speak more. "C'mon, I know you've got more to say than that."

"Holly was in the office today."

"She's back from leave already?" He asked, looking over his shoulder as he finished up dinner.

"Noooo," Liv emphasized. "Came to the Ministry to visit Cian and graced me with her presence."

"Would have been nice if she could've acknowledged you, I dunno, any time in the last six months?"

Liv took a seat at the table and he presented her with a beautifully plated dinner. Ames was the cook of the two- his dinners were always tasty, healthy, and most importantly: not burnt.

"What'd she have to say?"

"Lots about the baby, lots about Cian, lots about how of course we've got to get together."

"What's the baby called, again?"

"Xavier," she said. "And doesn't he just make me want one of my own?"

"Blech," he said, and she smiled. Ames had no desire to have children, and Liv was on pretty much the same page. "No babies."

"No babies," she affirmed. "How was your day?"

"Fine. Slept in, went to the gym, worked out with Simon for a few hours."

"How's he doing?" she asked. Simon Stillwater was Ames' best friend. He'd just returned from Portugal where he'd played in a summer exhibition Quidditch game.

"Great! Loved Portugal, couldn't stop raving about it, in fact. I was thinking perhaps we could make it our summer holiday."

"Sounds perfect to me."

"Oh, before I forget. Don't forget, Finnegan's wedding is Saturday," he said. "Such a git, scheduling his wedding on the only scheduled off Saturday of the summer."

"Oh right. I've got to pick a dress," she said. "Thanks for the reminder."

"Something summery, maybe?" Ames asked, his eyes twinkling. He knew her wardrobe contained very limited bright colors, and definitely nothing with a floral pattern.

"Yeah, maybe."

The week dragged, with most of the department in meetings, she was left with little work and little entertainment. Even Kensington was barely around.

She had her eyes set on Thursday. She could hardly sleep Wednesday night, with anticipation. She needed to get back on the field. She needed to get this done.

She woke up earlier than usual, way before Ames. Knowing that she would likely be in the field most of the day, she packed herself a sandwich, and grabbed an apple from the bowl of fruit on the counter. Then, she set out to where she had told Potter to meet her.

She was early, naturally, so grabbed a latte and read the morning paper while she waited. She eyed her watch as the time neared ten, and there was still no sign of Potter.

At two after, she saw him enter the shop. He looked extremely disheveled, his shirt wrinkly and his hair all mussed. He only wore one sock. "Let me just grab a cup of coffee and I'll be ready to go."

She nodded and collected her things, and he joined her when she walked out of the cafe. "Interesting fashion choices today, Potter."

"Yeah, well..." He said, noncommittally.

"Walk of shame?" She asked, smirking at him.

He chuckled, not enough daring to answer. "Where'd you like to get set up this morning?"

She noted his change of subject and didn't press further. "Let's do a quick walk by and see what we can find."

They settled on a bench about three houses down from their target, on the same side of the street this time. Potter sat closer to the house, while Liv settled with her back against the arm of the bench, her long legs crossed.

Potter sipped his coffee and began to look more like himself. He straightened his hair, and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. She occasionally looked up from lazily doodling in her notebook to glance at him and found the transformation endearing. He'd grown on her.

"I have a good feeling about today," he said.

She murmured her agreement. The typically overcast London morning was clearing into a delightfully sunny, summer day.

She observed every person that walked past, wondering if they were a client, or otherwise connected to the case. Tons of people passed her that morning, but not a single one hesitated by the location in question.

When the sun was high in the sky, she took her lunch out of her bag. "Want half a sandwich, Potter? Roast beef and cheese."

He looked over at the half she offered him. "How do I know you haven't tainted it?"

"I'll have you know," she said. "That I make an excellent sandwich. It's truly the height of my culinary expertise. You should feel honored that I've even offered."

A smile turned the corner of his lips up. To further prove her point, she took a bite out of the half she had offered him. He laughed, and accepted it.

"Can't believe you think I'd do that to you," she said, between bites.

"I dunno," he said. "You've never been my biggest fan."

"Nah, you can be a git," she said, slowly. "But you're growing on me."

"This is a good sandwich."

As the afternoon passed, the sky began to grow overcast again. They had lucked out so far and managed not to get rained on, but today their luck had run out. Fat drops started landing on them, and the skies opened up.

"To the bus shelter!" Potter yelled, and she grabbed her belongings and followed him down the block shielding her head with a newspaper.

"It'll pass," she said, having lived in this city for years. "I think it's worth sticking around for."

He looked down at his watch. She knew they were running out of hours in the day. But she was determined.

"If you have stuff to do at the office, feel free to head back," she said. "I'm perfectly used to scouting by myself."

"No," he said. His eyes were focused on the direction of their focus. "I'll stay."

The storm raged on for more than twenty minutes, and they stayed in the bus shelter the whole time. The rain was slowly coming to a stop when something piqued her attention.

"Potter," she said, as quietly as possible. "I think those are our suspects."

His eyes followed hers, to the two young men walking towards them from the opposite direction. Timothy Nimmo, the tall, lanky boy and his accomplice, Marcus McCain, a heavy set boy, were approaching the house from the other side.

"Definitely them," he said. "Don't move."

They watched as the two boys approached one of the houses. McCain took out his wand, and she looked to Potter as he noted every move McCain made.

This was the info they were waiting for.

A stoop appeared, and the two boys walked up it, opened the door, and disappeared.

But the entryway they had revealed did not disappear as it should.

"Wellwood," Potter said, without taking his eyes off it. "I know you are not trained for this sort of activity, but I'm going to need you to follow my lead."

A brief moment of panic washed over her, but she nodded. She was not trained for this. She had no idea what she was doing. There was a reason most of her job was at a desk...

But she followed him, down the street, through the rain, and up the stairs before she could think further. Once they were on the step, he closed the wards with them on the inside.

He spun a dial on his watch, tweaking it finely. "I'm shutting off their Floo network and ability to apparate so we don't have any issues."

She nodded.

"Just stay behind me and keep your wand up, okay?"

"Okay."

Author's Note: And here's chapter three! Let me know what you think :) Evergreen thanks to potter-reading-coastie for betaing. Next chapter will be up on Friday morning!