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Chapter 1: Part One
Disclaimer: J.K.R. owns everything you recognize.
A/N: Credit goes to cedriclover on the forums for the title. Thanks for the inspiration!
Walking through the golden shafts of sunlight on a summer’s afternoon, holding her hand as she spoke of life in her usual business-like manner, Xenophilius was convinced that he was falling in love.
There was nothing in this world that could beat the feeling of her warmth at his side as they walked underneath the downward-arching branches of the trees. She would talk and he would pretend to listen, all the while admiring the beauty in each of her perfectly carved features as the light moved across her face. And when he caught her eyes, he was a nervous schoolboy all over again, self-conscious and naïve.
There were times that he felt as though she didn’t quite understand him, when she would look at him as though they were nothing but friendly strangers, but Xenophilius knew that love wasn’t perfect. To expect a relationship without its ups-and-downs was downright foolish, especially since he was a wizard and she a Muggle. But he wouldn’t give up on their love because of a silly fairy tale notion. Whoever had said that love was supposed to be easy had never truly experienced it.
“Are you listening to me, Xeno?”
Her question barely registered, he was so caught up in his fancies. Dreamily, without even turning to look at her, Xenophilius Lovegood nodded. This didn’t please her, however, and no less than five seconds later, he felt a pair of soft hands grab his face and yank his attention away from the far away horizon and his ponderings of love.
“What were you looking at?” she asked, full lips pursing in agitation.
“I wasn’t really looking,” he responded honestly.
“You weren’t listening to me either, were you? Don’t tell me you were off in your head again,” she sighed. Xeno’s lack of response was all the affirmation she needed. “Where were you this time?”
Xeno missed the agitation in her voice, and happily replied, “I was thinking about fairy tales.”
She rolled her sparkling green eyes in vexation. Xenophilius was momentarily mesmerized by the dazzling patterns and depth of color that surrounded her pupils, and was about to comment on their beauty when she grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him desperately to her.
“Would you concentrate on me for once?” she breathed into his ear, moving her hands around to his back and inadvertently gathering the fabric of his shirt. She kissed his neck playfully and the familiar tickling began in his midsection, causing Xeno to exhale in a breathless laugh. She always knew how to steal his full attention, how to distract him from his foolish thoughts.
When she took a step backwards, Xeno mirrored her movement exactly, unwilling to fall out of her warm embrace. He held her gently against the chain link fence that bordered the neighbor’s property, breathing in her scent as the wind blew at her long, chestnut hair.
“Kiss me,” she insisted determinedly, moving a hand to the back of his neck.
Without hesitation, Xeno leaned forward—placing one hand on her cheek and the other around her waist—and brushed his lips against hers. She responded with a soft moan, and a tightening of her grip on his shirt.
Xeno had developed a habit of opening one eye to peek at her as they kissed. Some would say that it was rather strange what he did, but he couldn’t help it. Seeing the brightness of her countenance when their lips were entwined was an unparalleled delight. That was why, when he opened an eye to catch a glimpse of the joy written on her face, he was shocked to see something different, something darker.
Shocked, he tried to pull away, but she wouldn’t let him. She lurched forward and kissed him with more ferocity than before, digging her fingernails into his shoulders. This violent passion was neither familiar nor favorable, and it worried him. Something was passing between them, unsaid, and it made him question whether the thrill of love was as strong in her heart as it was in his.
When they finally broke away, Xenophilius was hesitant to look her in the eye. He was terrified of what he would find.
“Sorry,” he heard her whisper as she clung to the front of his shirt.
“F-f-for what?” he stammered nervously.
“I doubted you again,” she admitted sadly, burrowing her head into the curve of his shoulder.
Xenophilius felt his breath catch in his throat. He was at a loss for words, a painfully common occurrence for the twenty-one-year-old. While his brother held business meetings with confident ease, and his old school friends always knew exactly what to say, Xeno simply didn’t have the same control over his language. So, as he searched his mind for a proper response, he could feel himself begin to panic.
Thankfully, he was saved from the prospect of contriving an adequate response by three whispered words, “I love you.”
He felt rather than heard her, as she had spoken into the groove where his neck became his shoulder. As soon as the words had set his ear drums vibrating, Xenophilius forgot his worries and allowed himself to smile.
“I—” he began just as she pulled her head back to gaze up into his eyes. “I lo-lo-lo… I lo—”
“Xeno?” She stared at him questioningly.
“Sorry,” he murmured, feeling self-conscious. “I meant to say that I lo-lo-lo—”
Before he could get the words out, she pressed her palms against his chest and angrily pushed him away. Her lips formed a somber curve, and she looked upwards as though pleading with the heavens.
“Why can’t you just say you love me?” she asked, not meeting his gaze.
Xeno moved forward and grabbed at her hands, but she pulled away, letting out a tearless sigh.
“No, I need to hear you say it!” she ordered, her gaze stony.
Xenophilius took a deep breath, willing his tongue to cooperate. “I l-l-lo—”
“Go home, Xeno,” she interjected bitterly.
Once more, he tried to catch hold of her hands. Instead of batting his arms away again, she ducked deftly underneath them and, with one final dry sob, started down the dirt path, stirring up clouds of dust as she went.
Xeno was smart enough not to follow even though every cell in his body was burning for her forgiveness. Instead, he stood perfectly still, watching her walk away with his mouth hanging open. The dazed expression he was wearing might have led anyone who passed to guess that he had been slapped.
“That didn’t go well.”
A voice as soft as cotton, strange and lovely, fell from above. Xenophilius was not fearful when he scanned the trees for its source; instead, he was curious.
What he found was a young girl, perhaps a year or two younger than himself, perched on a tree branch. She was wearing a plain, navy blue dress that clung to her small figure, and was barefoot. Pale, knotted locks fell across her chest, intertwined with leaves and small bits of bark. Either she lived in the tree, Xeno thought, or she was so accustomed to climbing trees that the state of her hair did not bother her.
“I can help you with that stammer,” she told him, smiling.
“I don’t have a st-t-t—” Xenophilius shut his lips in defeat, and sighed.
“Come find me when you’re ready,” she continued, standing up and grabbing onto a branch just over her head. “I’ll be right here. Just look up.” With that, she swung herself onto a higher branch and disappeared with the rustling of leaves.
He flicked his wand towards the stove, and a small flame flickered to life. With another flick, a skillet removed itself from its home in the cupboard under the sink and floated onto the stove, where Xenophilius proceeded to crack eggs into its base.
“You write wonderfully,” his brother, Astrelius, commented from the kitchen table. He was sitting with a mug of steaming coffee, bent over a copy of Nature Fights Back, a magazine that informed the masses of the dangers that occurred naturally and gave advice on protecting oneself against them. Xenophilius often sent articles in to be published, and whenever he was lucky enough to get a piece into the magazine, his brother was sure to buy several copies.
“I never would’ve thought that Wrackspurts were causing all the clogging. I’ll have to take another look at the shower drain. Wouldn’t want them flying into my ears before a business meeting; I need my brain to be working at full-speed when I’m speaking with our foreign partners.”
“You’re just happy I got paid for it,” Xenophilius responded modestly. “I’m sorry I haven’t been paying rent lately.”
He heard his brother laugh as the bacon began to sizzle, and smiled at the coincidental timing of it all.
“You’re so stubborn, Xeno,” his brother replied affectionately. “You can live here for free, you know. Just as long as you keep that collection of yours in the attic. I don’t think I could explain why we have an entire boxful of butterbeer caps sitting around.”
Xeno prodded the bacon experimentally with the tip of his wand, and it gave a low hiss. “Just tell people that it keeps away the Nargles,” he responded matter-of-factly. “They won’t ask again.”
“Fair enough,” Astrelius laughed. He then held up the magazine, pointing to Xenophilius’s article. “And what is it that keeps Wrackspurts away?”
Holding a finger in the air, Xenophilius quickly responded, “You’ll find out in my follow-up article, Protecting Your Brain from Drain-Dwellers.”
“I’m looking forward to it,” his brother responded genuinely.
Smiling to himself, Xeno waved his wand towards the cabinet and two plates flew to his outstretched hand. He set them on the counter and delicately placed two eggs, sunny side up, onto each. After adding a few pieces of bacon as well, he brandished his wand and sent the breakfast-laden plates to the kitchen table along with the proper cutlery.
“You could make a career out of this, Xeno,” Astrelius mused as he caught the fork that had been levitated to him. “Have you ever tried writing a book?”
Xeno padded over to the refrigerator, glass in hand, and poured himself some orange juice. “No,” he responded, placing the now empty pitcher on the counter to be refilled later and moving toward the kitchen table. “I don’t want to write stories, I just want to warn people about what’s out there. They need to be informed, and to stay safe.”
“That’s very admirable of you,” his brother replied as Xeno joined him at the table.
The latter smiled and stabbed at his eggs hungrily.
“I still think you can turn this into a career,” he echoed. “Don’t let that talent go to waste.”
The warm wind carried the scent of lilac into his room. Xenophilius gulped down lungfuls of the night air, admiring the light of the moon that cast a silvery glow on the landscape. He wished for a moment that he were a painter so that he could capture the magic of this night. It would be gone far too soon, and he would have nothing but his memory to recreate its beauty. When morning came, the night would be remembered in flickers of blurred images, indistinct and surreal.
Morning. Xenophilius groaned at the thought, rolling onto his stomach and burying his face in the pillow. Tomorrow morning, he would be going to his girlfriend’s flat for lunch. She hadn’t mentioned his slip-up the other day, but he knew that her intentions were to speak about what had happened.
He wasn’t sure what he would say to her. He couldn’t admit to the truth, that he had a nervous stutter which made itself known at the most unfortunate of times. On top of everything else—his prematurely graying hair, his lazy eye, his eccentricities, his magic—she would deem him a lost cause, and leave him. Xeno wasn’t ashamed of who he was, but he knew that not everyone saw the world as simply as he did; they were always finding new ways to make things more complicated than they ought to be, which puzzled him greatly.
Xeno lifted his head to gaze out the window once again. He couldn’t bear to miss another second of such a picture perfect night while he was lost in his worries.
As he carefully scanned the horizon, a sense of serenity swept across him. Morning was still hours away, and his dreams were tugging at the edges of his mind, ready to whisk him away for a momentary escape from reality. With a sigh, Xeno allowed them to settle in. He marveled at their willingness to take over, and, just as he thought he saw a figure in a navy blue dress climbing agilely through the trees, Xenophilius fell asleep.
The next morning found Xenophilius walking along the familiar dirt path that ran straight through the town. He ran his hands across the fence as he walked, feeling the cold grooves in the metal and imagining that they were the scales of a large species of fish unknown to wizardkind. He envisioned himself writing up an article in which he explained his discovery, and sending it in to The Daily Prophet to be published. Just as he was picturing the look of joy on his brother’s face as he read the article aloud, Xenophilius tripped over a rock that was jutting out of the earth, and fell to the ground in a heap.
“Oof,” he groaned.
He rolled onto his back and breathed deeply, waiting for the pain to pass. It wasn’t unbearable, and was therefore gone after a few short minutes of peaceful cloud-watching. But the timely departure of pain was paired with the unwelcome arrival of guilt. It lodged itself in the hollow of his chest, reminding him that he was wrong to come back here, especially today, when he was supposed to be eating lunch with his girlfriend.
It was too late to turn back now, though. He was already more than halfway to his destination, and it would have been a half an hour wasted if he didn’t follow through. Time was a scarcity that Xenophilius could not bear to waste.
With a determined push, Xenophilius was on his feet, dusting the dirt off of his pants. He ran a hand through his wiry hair and set off down the dirt path which was hugged by trees on each side. Their branches joined overhead every so often, creating a tunnel of green and an escape from the burning sun. This was exactly what made living in a Muggle town worthwhile; while he sometimes missed Apparition, he was never opposed to a walk underneath the embrace of leafy boughs.
No more than five minutes had passed when he could sense a presence overhead. At first, he thought it to be a bird, for he was sure he heard the quiet humming of song. But instead of high-pitched chirping, he was greeted by a human voice.
“It’s about time.”
A familiar human figure jumped effortlessly from a low-hanging branch, sending a few leaves twirling through the air after her. She was wearing a plain shirt and a pair of shorts—stained with dirt and frayed at the ends—instead of the blue dress he had been expecting.
“I’m Capria Lindfield,” she informed him, holding out her hand for him to shake.
“Xenophilius Lovegood,” he responded, taking her offered hand.
“What a silly name!” she exclaimed before letting out a series of amused giggles.
When it appeared her laughter was coming to an end, he quickly added, in the hopes of prolonging her merriment, “My brother’s name is Astrelius.”
Just as he had hoped, this declaration made Capria laugh harder. She hunched over, grabbing at her sides as her eyes moistened with tears of mirth. Xenophilius did not join her in laughter, however. Instead, he watched her closely, analyzing her face with interest.
Now that she was right in front of him, he saw that she was quite plain. Her eyes were a pale gray that neither sparkled in the sun nor captured his attention. She had a small, curved nose that looked oddly disjointed with her other features, especially her chin, which was separated right down the middle with a subtle indent.
The only thing that struck him as noteworthy was the way in which she held herself. There was something different about her, something calm yet radiant. She seemed perfectly at ease, which was strangely soothing. He felt himself relaxing in her presence.
“Your mother must’ve wanted you to be remembered,” she declared, at which time Xenophilius realized she had stopped laughing.
He merely shrugged in response, but was secretly fond of her suggestion. His mother had explained to him the meaning behind his name—it signified a person who loved that which was different, or unique—but he had never pondered why she had made sure to choose such a long, extravagant name in the first place.
A moment of silence followed her comment, during which Capria stared unblinkingly at him with wide, glass-like eyes. He held her gaze unashamedly, waiting for her to speak.
When she finally broke their gaze, it was to hurry over to a small arrangement of flowers that had grown beside the fence. She immediately knelt down and began to run her hands through the them, pausing only once to tuck a daisy behind her ear. Xenophilius watched wordlessly, wondering what she was so intent on finding, and why.
Quite unexpectedly, Capria leapt up and ran back to him, her waist-length hair trailing behind her like a veil of straw. She came to an abrupt stop beside him and held out her hand to display a familiar purple flower.
“It’s a lilac,” she informed him with a smile.
“My favorite,” he said, gazing at the flower with consternation.
“I know,” she responded. “That’s why I need it.”
Xeno leaned forward to inhale the lilac’s perfumed scent, confident that she would explain its necessity. But, making no attempt to account for her strange behavior, she quickly deposited the flower into the bag she had slung over her shoulder and made to leave.
“Wait,” Xenophilius called to her before she had taken even two steps.
“Yes?” she asked, the picture of innocence.
“I thought you were going to help me with my… with my…”
“I am!” she said, seemingly hurt by his lack of faith. “I’ll come find you within the week. That’s how long I’ll need for the potion.”
Xenophilius’s eyes grew wide. “You’re a witch?” he asked, astounded by his luck. The odds of finding another person with magical blood in the middle of a small, Muggle town were astonishingly small. He had thought he and his brother were the only two.
“Of course I am, silly,” she giggled. And, with a loud crack, she Disapparated.
A/N: This is yet another of my stories that started out as a one-shot and became something more. I intended to finish it and return to my other WIPs, but now it seems that I've added another to my long list of stories in the works. (:
I can tell you that there will be four or five chapters in all, and that I've already got half of them written. Updates should be quick, and if they aren't, feel free to yell at me to get me moving. Oh, and reviews are greatly appreciated!