Chapter Four – First Meeting

Jack glanced over at the shopping list in his hand and at the top shelf where the flour he needed resided. He sighed in annoyance and looked around. There was only one other person in the aisle and, thankfully, he had on an apron. Great, Jack thought. Someone who works here.

"Excuse me," he said softly, tapping the teen on the shoulder. When he turned around, Jack's tongue nearly settled into his stomach. Flushing, he smiled politely.

"Can I help you?" the teen, whose name tag read Matt, asked.

"Yeah, I can't…uh…" Jack seemed to stutter slightly. "I can't seem to reach the flour. I was wondering if you could perhaps help me? Cuz, well, um…"

Matt chuckled when Jack gestured to his obvious height difference. "Yeah, no problem."

Jack's eyes took in Matt's form as he reached for the top shelf, enjoying the way his shirt rode up a little and showed a part of his back. He flushed brightly when he noticed Matt staring at him and smirking.

"Um, thanks," he said hurriedly as he took the flour from Matt. "I'm just going to leave right now." He turned to leave.

"Wait," Matt cried out, grabbing a hold of Jack's arm. "What's your name?"

"Jack Carpenter," Jack replied, still blushing as Matt scribbled something down on a pad.

"Well," Matt said, gesturing to his nametag, "I'm Matt. And, uh, here."

Thrusting a piece of paper into his hands, Matt turned and quickly walked out of the aisle. Dumbstruck, Jack opened the folded paper and felt a silly grin grow on his face. There, in neat cursive, were the words, "Call me." A warm feeling in the pit of his belly traveled to his face as he stared at the phone number in his hand.

"Yes!" he cried, doing a little dance. He walked out of the aisle and went to go purchase his items, not noticing Matt watching him walk from the opposite end of the aisle.

Matt's heart had ached when Lydia informed him of her suspicions of Harry's previous home life. It reminded him of memories he wished would be forgotten or, at the very least, recede into the dark corners of his mind. Life was just unfair sometimes and fate was cruel. Children deserved to be cherished and treated like gems. With his own past, he knew more than the average person just how much neglect can affect a child and his or her self-worth. This was just one of the reasons why Matt decided to become involved.

The other, well, Jack would avoid him otherwise. How else was he supposed to show Jack how great he would be as a father and that they were supposed to be together no matter what?

Jack entered the house closely after Matt, ignoring Lydia's questioning and somewhat smug look. He smiled at his parents, hugged both in greeting, and quickly made his way to the kitchen to pour himself something to drink. He would have preferred to drink whiskey or something of the like, but alas it was still too early for that. He rubbed his temples, sighing gently before taking a sip of the juice he served himself. The cool liquid traveling down his throat felt good and he felt himself smiling in contentment.

"Mind serving me some as well?"

Jack plastered on a small smile. "Sure," he said as he calmly lifted the jug and poured juice into Matt's awaiting cup. It was slightly awkward as they drank from their cups in silence, the noiseless atmosphere tense and heavy in the air.

"I want to help Harry out," Matt said softly.

Jack swallowed and nodded his head slowly. "I figured you would," he confessed, "considering the somewhat similar backgrounds and whatnot."

Matt smiled somewhat cynically. "Of course."

Jack winced slightly. "I didn't mean it like that," he amended. "Matt, I-I would never…"

"I know," Matt replied with a gentle sigh. "It's just still somewhat difficult to…to come to terms with it all."

Jack bit his lip. "You'll be good for Harry," he said with a semi-forced smile. "You're just what he needs."

"He'll need you, too, Jack," Matt responded. "Though Harry might be able to relate to me on some level, he also needs someone to show him all of the things he's been missing out on. The way you showed me…"

Jack opened his mouth to say something, but the words died on his lips when Lydia walked into the kitchen. She went into the fridge, grabbed a small boxed juice, and left the kitchen, winking at Jack. He quickly finished his drink, put his cup in the sink, and beamed at his friend. "I think I'll go into the living room now," he said before nodding politely at Matt.

Matt smirked at him. "I think I'll go with you," he said smoothly. "I'd like to speak more with Harry."

Jack forced a smile across his lips. "Of course."

They made their way to the living room where Harry was giggling next to Lydia. Emily smirked at her two favorite boys, a twinkle in her eyes. Beside her, Phil shook his head gently and wisely stuck his nose back in the newspaper he had been reading. Jack and Matt looked somewhat confused and sat on the unoccupied love seat.

"What's so funny?" Matt asked, to which Lydia erupted into a series of giggles.

"Oh, nothing," she said brightly. "Just Emily sharing some stories about when you were a child to Harry. Don't worry, though; it wasn't anything too embarrassing."

Jack wasn't sure if he trusted her.

"So, what are we going to do today?" Trust Matt to change the subject for the sake of his comfort.

"Well," Emily said, "I was going to make clam chowder with bread. Then, for dessert, I'll be making chocolate chip cookies with Harry. In the meantime, I've rented a couple of cassettes for us to watch and I was thinking we could also play some games. Does that sound good?"

"Sounds excellent," Matt complimented.

"Harry," Lydia said, "what would you like to do first? Watch a cassette or play a game?"

"Um," Harry started, wringing his hands together, "I don't know."

"Well," Jack said. "For games, we have Snakes and Ladders or we can go outside and play badminton, cricket, or croquet. For movies, we have Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—"

Harry gasped and his eyes twinkled. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a movie as well?" he asked, barely able to contain his excitement.

"Yes, it is," Matt said amusedly. "Would you like to watch that one?"

"Oh, yes, please!" Harry cried, his enthusiasm contagious.

Jack smiled as Matt put the movie on. Harry smiled widely as he waited impatiently for the movie to start, practically bouncing in his seat. Before, at the Dursleys, Harry had never been allowed to sit on the couch and watch the telly. He had had chores that needed to be completed before Uncle Vernon got home and Dudley didn't want him to sit on the same couch anyways. Thinking back on his relatives saddened him a little, but Harry focused on looking at the telly. Jack's mum decided he could sit on the couch and watch a movie; he didn't want to do anything to change her mind.

Emily put the soup she had made earlier on the stove to reheat before seating herself next to her husband. She smiled at the soft, caring look on her son's face. It was merely a matter of time before Jack realized that he was meant to be a parent and stopped being so stubborn. Now, Emily had no precognition or sixth sense of any sort, but it didn't take a genius to figure out that Harry was left at the orphanage for a reason. Matt already had his mind set on adopting and giving a homeless child the tender, loving care only a parent could ever truly provide. Harry was most definitely the child that would both rid Jack of his lack of confidence in his parenting skills as well as fix the rift in Matt and Jack's relationship. Emily sighed wistfully; the three of them would make such a lovely family.

Jack stood up, realizing they all were missing something very important. "Anybody want popcorn?" he asked.

Almost the entire room nodded.

"Hurry before the movie starts or you'll miss it!" Harry said enthusiastically, too excited to be timid or shy.

Jack smiled at him and nodded his head as he left to the kitchen. He leaned up to get the popcorn and placed it in the microwave. Turning to throw out the plastic covering, Jack nearly jumped a foot in the air. Matt's face had that same smirk it did when they had gone on their first date. Now that Jack thought about it, he looked pretty much the same as well.

Jack sighed as he took out the popcorn bag from the microwave. He reached for the bowl and met a familiar set of brown eyes. Swallowing slightly, he took the bowl from Matt and pretended he didn't see his ex-lover. Jack hummed a little, leaning over to smell the popcorn.

"Harry's waiting for us," Matt whispered, startling Jack with his close proximity. "Even though he's trying to hide it, I know he's impatient."

Jack forced a smile and nodded his head. Before he could leave the kitchen with the popcorn, Matt grabbed his arm and pulled him into him. "Matt—"

Matt's warm lips covered Jack's in a soft, loving kiss. Jack's lips quivered, missing the silky texture of his ex-lover's mouth. A part of him told him to pull away, to cut it off before it became too hard for him to leave later; told him that Matt deserved someone so much better than him. Another part of him, larger than the last, missed everything about Matt and clung to the offered comfort.

"Hurry up, guys!" Lydia called from the living room.

Jack's eyes widened and he broke apart, clutching the bowl of popcorn to his chest as he hurried out of the kitchen. His heart was beating a mile a minute and his breathing was a little labored, but he ignored Lydia's questioning look and passed her the bowl of popcorn. Matt walked into the living room a minute after and sat on the couch, his face betraying nothing. Jack felt horrible for just leaving, but he'd been so caught up in the moment. He just missed Matt so much that he welcomed the kiss, despite his feeling that Matt could do better. Matt deserved someone that could make him feel like the best man on the planet, that didn't make him want to cry, that could help him stay strong when his past ran to catch up with him.

Deserved everything Jack couldn't give him.

It wasn't for a lack of trying. For a while, things had been perfect. Matt was all Jack could think about and vice versa. They loved each other so much and Matt had gotten along so well with Jack's parents. Matt had turned out to be the accepting person Jack was looking for. He didn't mind Jack's magic, didn't care about the magical politics that didn't apply to him, didn't think any different of Jack as a person when Jack revealed all of his fears and insecurities. And, likewise, Jack thought the world of Matt. He'd look forward to their nightly talks, couldn't wait to spend the weekend with Matt, found the highlight of his days at Hogwarts to be opening letters from the love of his life. Everything was as perfect as it could get.

And then he discovered why Matt never revealed anything to him about his real parents.

Matt couldn't help but shiver in fear, feeling small and incredibly helpless. He stood still, trying desperately to gain some sort of control over his ragged breath. Tears trickled out of his eyes as the dreaded footsteps drew nearer and nearer, their dull echo a promise of what would soon transpire. Matt trembled, his heart beating in his ears as he swallowed thickly and desperately prayed. And then, to Matt's dismay, his bedroom door slammed open. A sob half escaped his lips before he slapped both of his hands to his mouth.

"Aw, Matt, don't you want to play?" the figure from the doorway taunted, blue eyes glittering coldly in the dark.

Matt's body shook harder and he was sure he'd end up wetting himself. "Please," he whimpered softly. "Please…no…"

The figure loomed closer, grinning in a way that shook Matt to his core. He hated it when Michael snuck out, because when Michael got loose, Father disappeared for hours. Michael chuckled coldly. "Come now, Mattey, I thought you enjoyed our games. Aren't they oh-so fun?"

Matt let out a scream as Michael's hand viciously grabbed his hair and yanked him from his hiding place in the dark corner. He didn't bother trying to fight, resigned to his damned fate, and shook harder as he was brought to his knees. "Please," he pleaded once more.

The searing pain on his back told him he wouldn't get the reprieve he requested.

"Mattey isn't enjoying this?" Michael let out a wicked laugh and held up the black leather belt that seemed to glint maliciously in the moonlight.

"I want Father!" Matt sobbed as the belt came down once more.

"Too bad," snarled Michael. "It's my time now, and we're going to play our game!"

Matt screamed once more and not for the final time that night.

To think someone as kind-hearted and perfect as Matt would be abused as a child was unthinkable. When Matt told Jack every single heart-breaking detail of the pain he had to endure as a child, Jack cried. He cried for the childhood Matt never had, cried for the knowledge that Matt had to suffer alone for so long, and he cried for the fear that became imbedded deeply in his heart. What if he said or did something that triggered such fear and pain in Matt that he ruined everything that they had? What if being together suddenly became the problem instead of the aid in dealing with it?

Jack glanced at Matt quickly, his heart constricting before he turned his attention to Harry. The small boy seemed to be enjoying both the movie and the popcorn. He sat nestled against Lydia, his attention firmly glued to the TV. Glancing at Matt again, Jack blinked. Harry seemed to be comfortable around Matt and Matt had a strong desire to help the little boy. Wouldn't Matt be the perfect choice as a father for Harry?

Jack continued to contemplate this until the movie was over and the soup had finished cooling off. He listened as Lydia and Matt engaged Harry in a conversation about the movie, one which the young boy enthusiastically took part in. Emily smiled and commented on what a polite boy Harry was when he expressed that her soup was the best he had ever tasted, causing him to blush. Jack was so lost in his thoughts that he nearly jumped when his name was called.

"Huh?" he asked unintelligently.

Harry giggled behind his hands.

"You finished the soup," Matt said, cocking an eyebrow at Jack. "In fact, we all are. How about we go play outside and then we'll have some ice cream?"

"I've never had ice cream before," Harry said softly, feeling excited. He seemed worried that now they wouldn't give him any ice cream.

"You'll love it!" Matt said enthusiastically. "But right now, let's go outside and play. I have to work off all of this food or my tummy will get bigger."

Harry smiled and, upon remembering something, saddened somewhat. He thought back on the Dursleys and, though they hated him and wanted nothing to do with him, he still longed for their acceptance. Maybe if they never gave him away, one day they would've done just that.

"Are you okay, Harry?" Lydia asked.

Harry nodded his head and ignored his thoughts about the Dursleys. He told Lydia he'd give this meeting a shot and that's what he had to do. He had time to think about the Dursleys later.

A/N: Super, mega, unbelievably long update—I know. I'm very sorry. I got caught up in the world of You Sang to Me (which will hopefully be updated ASAP) and then after September, things just happened. I had to concentrate on school and my job shadow along with my job outside of school. Yikes! Lots of things to do, lolz. Hope the new year finds everyone well and maybe this update, though it's definitely not the best thing on the face of the earth, will put a smile on your face.

Constructive criticism very much welcome. I'd love to hear what you liked about this chapter, what didn't seem right, what you would've done to make it better, etc. Thanks for reading!