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Mother and son - complete

Who: Stebbins and OC Gisela Bettencourt
Where: Gisela's brand new mansion, Sintra, Portugal
When: Christmas Eve, after dinner
Rating: PG

Since the Diggorys had declined the invitation and his friends would only show up after Christmas, Stebbins travelled to Portugal by himself. That way, he felt, he'd have some time adjusting with his mother's presence after the Playwizard incident before anyone else noticed the inevitable uneasiness in his eyes - an uneasiness that probably would have been diluted by now if it wasn't for Merton Graves discovering yet another issue of that magazine and making comments about it all over his journal. And now that the incident was once again alive and strong inside his mind, he was having a very hard time trying to cope with being near Gisela, in spite of her joy in having her only son around after such a long absence and the fact that the magazine seemed to be as far from her mind as a long, faded memory.

So, there they were. Just the two of them. Alone.

It was hell.

First of all, there was the food. The Christmases at the Bettencourt farm had a wide range of dishes to choose from, in order to provide for the different tastes of the ten people that usually attended, and the Diggorys always served goose. Gisela, on the other hand, had decided that, since this year there would only be two people at the dinner table, it would be better to stick with one dish - and in order to stick with tradition, it would have to be the most popular Christmas dish in Portugal.

Boiled cod and cabbage.

Stebbins didn't care much for tradition, and boiled cod made him dislike it even more. It was like chewing on salted cardboard. With cabbages. Grandmother Iria's Octopus Surprise ("It tastes like rubber, Avó!" "That's the surprise, sweetheart!") felt like a delicacy compared to this.

Secondly, with the absence of friends and servants (with the exception of a narcoleptic house elf), the house seemed even bigger and, though in reality warm and looking like anybody's holiday dream home, it felt cold and heartless. An 18-room ghost mansion inhabited only by a woman recovering from a nasty break-up and a teenager trying to think happy thoughts and failing miserably.

After dinner, they sat on the living-room, drinking tea and staring at the flames on the fireplace. Stebbins couldn't take his eyes off them, as it looked as if they weren't moving, frozen in mid-air. It took a lot of squinting to realize they were indeed flames and not some elaborate glass reproduction.

"This is nice," Gisela said, as if she had been able to guess that, at that very moment, her son was wishing for something to happen that could take his eyes away from the fireplace.

"Hm," was his nearly inaudible reply.

"I'm glad you could come, Nico," she continued, smiling at her son, whose attention immediately switched to the bottom of his cup.


She sighed. "What's the problem?"

"No problem," he replied, his eyes still fixed on his tea.


A long and embarrassing silence followed this, before he finally forced himself to look at her and ask, "Remember when I was five, and you promised to take me to see this show with trained flying horses?"

She looked at him with a puzzled expression. "Not really."

"I thought as much," he said with a sad smile. "Well, I remember that something unexpected happened and you had to go to Egypt or something like that. I cried for days."

The puzzled expression in Gisela's face grew stronger. "So you're angry at me because I didn't take you out when you were five?"

"No, that's not it. It was the first time you broke a promise."

"And I did that again now?"

Stebbins' left hand travelled from his temple to the top of his forehead, a gesture he always did when he was nervous. "What about the Playwizard photoshoot?"

"The what?" Her eyes suddenly widened as she realized what he meant. "Oh, queridinho, I'm so sorry!"

"Yeah," he said laconically, his eyes back to his now cold tea.

"I am! I just... I had to do that shoot, you know?"

"You always have to. Even after you've promised you wouldn't."

"You're behaving like a child, Nico."

His eyes turned to her again. "Well, I am your child, Gi. And I might be seventeen now, but I still don't consider myself to be the mature and understanding adult you've always expected me to be. " He sighed and his eyes shifter back to the teacup. "As early as I can remember, you've expected me to act like an adult so that you wouldn't need to do it. I was the parent, and you were the kid - no responsibility, and no guilt."

He gave a quick glance at her expression, just to see if she was getting what he was trying to say. Now, it was her who was trying to look somewhere else, her face as still as a statue's. He continued.

"When I was a kid, the only time your actions hurt me was when you didn't show up. Your work didn't matter as long as it didn't take you away from me, as nobody else my age was old enough to understand what you did. Well, now they're no longer kids, and they're the right age to ogle at the Playwizard girls."

Her eyes didn't move, but her expression was no longer frozen. "I've embarrassed you?"

"Well, let's say I was able to minimize the damage, but some people still managed to see the photos."

She reached for his hand. "I'm sorry, Nico." She looked at him. "I truly am. You must think I'm a terrible mother, right?"

Stifling the yes that threatened to leave his lips, Stebbins sighed. "Bloody hell, Gi. What am I gonna do with you?"

She smiled. "Return me to the factory as faulty?"

He couldn't help but give a small laugh. "Too late now. I've become attached to you."

"Oh, good." She raised his chin with her index finger. "So, are we okay?"

"I don't know yet. We'll have to wait and see."

"Good. Because I have news I know will make you mad, and I didn't want you mad before I tell you."

The smile left his lips. If Gisela was aware that something she did would make her son mad, then it was bad news. "What?"

"Well, I..." She paused to think, clearly struggling to find the right words. "I'm... I'm... Ora bolas, I don't know the word. I'm... grávida?" She looked at Stebbins expectantly, hoping that he would have gotten the message.

And indeed he did, as his face fell. "You're telling me you're pregnant?!"

She slapped her forehead. "That's the word!"

His mouth fell, and he froze on the spot, looking like a fish.

"Are you mad now?" she asked. No reply. "Nico?"

Slowly, he turned his attention back to his mother, his mouth still comically opened. After a long struggle, he managed to speak, "Does Diogo know?"

Gisela snorted. "Why do you think he broke up?"

After another long period of silence, she decided to ask him again. "So, are you mad or not?"

He sighed and shook his head. "I don't know. I'm stunned, mostly."

"Is that good or bad?"

"Right now it's neutral." He sighed. "That bastard..."

"Que se lixe o Diogo," she said. "It's not like I could count on him for anything. But you..." She reached for his hand again. "I can count on you, right?"

He squeezed her hand. "Sure."

They smiled.

"Just promise me two things," he added.


"First, no more Playwizards. Or anything that might give me an early heart attack."

She smiled, embarrassed. "Okay."

"And second..."


"When that kid turns five, you've got to go see the flying horses."

"Is that so important?" she asked, surprised.

"Believe me, it will be."



Order of the Phoenix NEWTs

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