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Chapter 1: One.
Sometimes I’m struck by a monsterous lucidity, a kind I never know I’m missing until I’m staring right through it. Suddenly it seems like everything is a little less perfect, as though someone’s ripped the ribbon from my favourite dress and left me wondering if it had ever really been there. For a minute my heart beats like mad, and I can almost hear myself screaming all the things I never really will. All the things we’d rather pretend we didn’t know. It’s always just when gets too much that I can breathe again, and only a few seconds later that I wonder why I’m feeling so unsettled. And why the ribbon slipping through my fingers doesn’t seem half as merry as I’d fancied it had. It is there though. No one’s got my ribbon. I can barely remember why I ever thought it was missing, but I know I know.
When I’m feeling my bravest, I let myself wonder if anyone else has noticed my ribbon and its unexplainable ambiguity. Because the ribbon is only the beginning, really. My dress doesn’t fit without it. My dress can’t stay together without it. But if no one admits to noticing, it hardly matters. It’s what people acknowledge that matters, nothing’s changed unless they admit to it; the Emperor pranced about naked, and his deciples pretended he had something they’d never seen before. It’s a bit like that. Without the belly, the knob, and the small child who didn’t understand it was best to leave some things unsaid.
This was a rotten way to begin. But I don’t trust myself to attempt anything neater, because I’d do about as well as a Muggle eraser; smudge my potty handwriting around and scatter the entire page in weird little rolled up bits of stuff. It’s not worth the trouble, because everyone can tell that they’re looking at a second attempt and all they’ll ever do is wonder about the first. And what was wrong about it. I always forget the beginning once I’ve reached the middle anyway, which is why I just jumped in here. I’ve got no idea how things started, or how we could have changed them. If we had wanted to, and I sort of doubt that. We’ve all become entwined in something that you can’t willingly abandon without leaving most of yourself behind to do so.
My sister and I were born less than two minutes apart. Ma says Hestia screamed enough for the both of us until she had me with her again. She had always prefered to stay a step behind me after that, as though nowhere I’d lead us would ever amount to her infantile act of heroics. I’ve never quite known if she preffered me taking the first step so she could be certain about her own, or if she took comfort in seeing that I was still with her without having to constantly glance back. It never seemed important, so I never asked. She’d probably say she couldn’t remember now anyway, we’ve both become too caught up in our own feet to care about things like that.
Everyone thinks we’re a world away from what we were. A world away from one another. I know I’d have to run if I wanted to catch her when she fell. And I would. If she needed me, I’d run. But it seems right really, it’s more like the little step grew with us-rather than us growing apart. It divides us. It connects us. We’re a step out, and it means we fit. Into different dresses, with the same goddamn ribbon. Or whatever.
Hestia is one of those tantalising sorts that just seem...perfect, I suppose. She and her friends honestly do gleam with an unplaceable ethereal quality, which is why I partly understand the girls that try so hard to imitate them. To become one of them. It’s worse than that though, because I’ve seen them watching Hestia. The way they devour her hungrily with their eyes, as though they’d use her very essence if they could only find it. I wouldn’t envy her that for the world.
It’s different for my friends and me. People don’t dream of being us, they just sort of wish they could be. If they were someone else, that is. We’re something that they can’t help but glamorise and envy, without ever really wanting to be part of it themselves. My sister stands for an existence that seems neater, safer. And we-we’re a tad more twisted. People know that we’re all one in the same, really, but they’ll never say it out loud. They’re old enough to know some things are best left unsaid.
Hestia’s sort will always have their sheen, so long as someone else is willing to admire it. And my friends and I’ll still be the dirty, pretty things that people stare at with rose-coloured glasses. They know we’re nothing to treasure, just as well as we do. But we can’t change, because it’s become everything. And they’re just as addicted to the fantasy as us. Which is why I’m still wearing my favourite dress, silky ribbon and all-I’m not sure there’s much of me left under it.
“Alight then, Evie?”
I nodded absently, pinning a stray curl back as I stepped lightly across the room. Clara wound her cold fingers around mine and together we navigated our way through the strange house, eyes dancing across the lacklustre reminents of the previous night.
I've always been fascinated by that silence. The morning after kind. Sometimes it’s lovely, as though everything that you remember happening never did. Like sleep devoured all the edges, and left an undescribeable serenity in its wake. With nothing but a jumbled illusion to indicate the mayhem that had preceeded it. It’s as though you’re the only person still living, but in the lovliest possible way, without any loneliness at all.
Or course, I have Clara, and the others. But my friends are just as lost in the silence as me. It's slightly daunting, I suppose; enough for us to tiptoe down the stairs, but nothing more.
"Alright, my lovers?" Hugh grinned on seeing us, pushing himself off the floor of the hallway as we joined him and dusting his trousers down without bothering to glance at the sleeping girl that slumped to the floor without him. Past him, I could see the front door, a dim stream of light filtering beneath it.
Once we stepped outside, everything would be different. Because once we stepped outside, we'd be nothing different to everyone else. Nothing half as dramatic as a few lone souls wondering through a menagerie of sleeping bodies, anyway. No one would know where we'd been. But maybe they wouldn't care if we felt as though we knew things they could never even fathom. Because their life had continued on as is always did, while we’ve skipped through three worlds and belonged to all of them. I wondered if they'd be envious as I gave a slight shiver and wrapped my arms around my middle. They shouldn't be, but they might not know any better.
Two warm arms snaked over mine as if encouraging me to chase the thought aside, and I gladly sank into them for a moment before pulling away to meet Felix's easy lopsided smirk with my own, "Put some clothes on, you tosser." And he did, tugging an unfamiliar shirt on over his head after a brief inspection as Hugh opened the door with a practised air of nonchalance.
We went to an awful lot of parties, but we were always gone before anyone sobered enough to realise it with any sort of certainty. Not that we ever admitted we did it out loud, even amoungst ourselves. It was another unspoken rule, one that we all understood with absolute clarity. If we kept ourselves slightly apart, the cracks wouldn't be as visible, and we would stay as unreachable as ever.
So we had learnt to flee elegantly. With smooth, casual steps and easy laughter that never meant much to any of us. The few people that had seen us leave before had believed it though, and I find myself slipping so easily into the act now that it doesn't irk me in the slightest.
“Merlin’s little panties, what a night!” Hugh whistled once we reached the street, throwing his arms out and scratching his stomach.
“Looks like you enjoyed yourself then, eh, Spunky?” Clara smirked as she wiped a red smear from Hugh’s cheek with her sleeve, pushing his face away as he made to bite her. “Get out of it.”
“You’re right,” Hugh pulled a face, “I’ve got no idea where you’ve been.”
“As if you can judge on those terms.”
“Always so volatile in the morning,” he commented lightly, and looped an arm around her.
“And you never cease to be ridiculously charming, right?”
“It’s all part of the package.”
“Your package can do with all the help it can get.”
“Are you offering? You must have helped a few lads out last night with-”
“Oh! Piss off will you?”
“Didn’t hear you say that once last night,” Hugh teased, “Prancing about with that weird come-hither thing you’ve got going.”
“Come hither?” laughed Clara, “Did someone gay you up?”
“You do sound a bit poncier than usual,” Felix gave his usual lop-sided smile, his hand messing his hair tiredly. I glanced at his expression, but he seemed fine.
“He’s just as manly as ever, though, aren’t you lovely?” I murmered sympathetically, causing Hugh to grin widely at me.
“That’s my girl!” He cried, releasing Clara and dashing over to give me a twirl.
“I never said how manly,” I whispered through my laughter.
“I know, but we’re pretending you’re on my side.”
“But we all know how small your package is, you twit,” Clar called. “You flash us every opportunity you get.” Hugh looked down at me for reassurance, and I merely shrugged.
“Oi! Is there anything left?” He called to Felix, rubbing his face vigourously. Felix gave the slightest nod, tossing a flask into the air which Hugh blindly caught and uncapped, taking a swig before Clara snatched it from him.
“As if you haven’t already had plenty,” she cried, laughingly.
“After that comment?” He grabbed it back, narrowing his eyes at her. “I think I’d like some more, thank you.”
“Naw, Hughsie, if you don’t want me looking, keep your sodding trousers on.” Mouth and all, Clara still managed to look something close to angelic. Her blonde hair glinting slightly in the early morning sun as her summer dress fluttered around her in pale folds, sillohuetting her slender form against the light.
I ducked my head, a small smile tugging at my lips. I lived for moments like these, because for a perfect instant, I could clearly see the dream we were willing to drown in. And I almost felt I could understand why it had become so important. Softly, I fell a step behind, admiring the scene that would help me keep my sanity later, when I found myself questioning again.
Hugh, with his own lithe step, seemed to belong at her side, his solid shoulders refusing to be morphed by Clara’s radience; a feat in itself. Slightly apart from the laughing pair was Felix, one hand thrust into his pocket as the other idly displayed a fresh cigarette.
“Evie? Quit thinking, would you? It’s too early.” Felix’s voice made me sigh aloud, and I realised he’s stopped to wait for me.
“I wasn’t thinking,” I replied. If I’d been thinking, I’d have mentioned Clara’s tousled hair and torn skirt, or the painful smear of blue around his eye. But they weren’t the pretty bits, so I hadn’t. “I wasn’t,” I repeated, leaning over and kissing his cheek as I plucked the smoke from his fingers. I took a puff, watching the smoke coil into the breeze before breaking the silence, “Lets go to the beach.”
“Three, two-” Clara counted, raising her eyebrow as she glanced over at me.
“One!” Felix and Hugh chorused. My fingers flew to the buttons fastening my dress, hastily undoing them until it was loose enough to pool around my bare feet. I stepped free almost instantaneously, darting towards the water as I shed my remaining layers across the sand behind me. We all let out a mad whoop once we splashed into the sea, relishing in the cold bite against our bare skin as we waded deeper.
I gave a squeal of laughter as Hugh hooked his arms around me and span me about, finally hoisting me up and throwing me. The water engulfed me and for a second time that day, I found myself lost in an eerie silence. Clara’s laughter still echoed in my mind, the last thing I’d heard. I kicked upwards, strangely fascinated by the image of my suspended hair as it followed the same sweeping currents I’d created around me.
I kicked out, smirking slightly when my foot collided with Hugh. He gave it a tweak as he slid beneath me, his blurry outline moving towards Clara who floated somewhere nearby. Suddenly she squealed, snapping upright to lunge after him with flailing arms that showered us all. I laughed, pushing Felix away with a splash as he moved to dunk me. We circled one another teasingly, twisting about until we all faced one another. Felix winked at me, and I bit my lip as Hugh broke the brief silence, “Ready mingers?”
“Wanker.” I grinned openly when he raised his eyebrow at me and mouthed ‘You’re on!’ He gave the choppy water around him a shove towards me, and I immediately retaliated, laughing wildly as the others joined the sudden, chaotic splashing. Clara managed to force Hugh under, struggling through her own mirth to stop him from throwing her off. She only lasted a few seconds before crashing heavily between us, soaking everyone all over again and surfaceing, still overcome with giggles. I drenched her in turn, easily twisting under the water to avoid her obvious answer.
I shook my head, revelling once again at the sensation of my hair loosing from its tangles, freely extending around me. And, feeling entirely unable to stop myself, I lingered. My eyes admiring the blueish tint across our limbs, and the dappled light darting across my skin. I loved water and its fluid, almost-whimsical distortions. The way it managed to change the very essence of a thing, to give it a beautiful, seamless grace. A grace I could never quite achieve anywhere else. It was with reluctance that I stopped fighting the natural upwards persuasion, and finally slid back into sunlit aether.
Clara bobbed towards me as the boys raced one another into deeper water, her blonde hair clinging to her bare shoulders. “That was a damn fit lad you had last night, E,” she laughed, glancing over at me as we reached water shallow enough to stand in. I grinned, tucking my dripping hair behind my ear.
“He was pretty lovely, for a Muggle, especially.”
She gave a sudden snort of mirth, “They must think we’ve got some wicked good spliff. Poor sods don’t know magic when it sends them arse over head. Can’t you just see them tripping over their own faces if Garrett actually gets The Jarvies to play tonight?” Her voice indicated she doubted there was much chance of it, and I absently agreed.
“But Gods! If he does...” I laughed lightly as I slid my knickers on and, ignoring the water still clinging to my skin stretched out beside her on the sand.
Clara gave a playful moan, throwing her head to the side with a giggle. “Oh! Ferd!” She breathed the lead singer’s name, and we both lapsed into laughter, our hands extended across the space dividing us, fingers lazily entwined. It was a kind of unspoken reassurance that I’d become so used to, I now barely realised the action. And my thoughts were far too happy to circle the band of wizard gods to bother wondering how I would manage without it. Or if Clar felt I was fastening her to me, as she did me. As though she’d never let me fall over the line, or lose myself in its blurry edges. Even if I half thought I’d like to.
I sighed softly, vanishing the thought as I sank comfortably into the silence. Clara and I never really spoke much, probably because we didn’t want to go too far, to end up somewhere we’d have to lie ourselves out of. It was easier to skim the surface, to dance around the pleasant trivialities without stating opinions on anything that mattered. We always stayed close though, when we were alone. I think it was nice to know the she was there with her own racing thoughts as our hands tied me to a small taste of reality. She felt the same, I think, because she hated me slipping my fingers from hers. The silence changed if I ever did.
“It’s days like this I think I’m unusually lucky,” Hugh commented, his voice tugging me from my thoughts. I shielded the sun from my eyes with my knees and raised a questioning brow. He just grinned down at me, “Care to alfresco it with me later?”
“Keep your sweaty nads away from the both of us,” grumbled Clara as I laughed.
“Just lucky then,” he muttered amusedly, lighting a cigarette before throwing himself down beside us. “Who said they were sweaty, anyway?” I rolled my eyes, lazily combing his fringe down from where it remained plastered to his forehead, trying to make him look slightly less like a complete goof.
“I’ll trim it when we get back to school. You’re starting to look like a proper sodding hippy, Hugh.”
“Maybe I’ve had an...an epiphany.”
“Decided to stop washing and become a complete fucking stoner?” asked Clara, her eyes still squeezed shut against the sun. “Sounds super profound, that does.”
“Yeah? Well that sounds like you need to open up your heart dosn’ it? Start loving an’ shit.”
“I love plenty.”
“You lust. It’s a whole different kettle of fish.”
“Now that,” I ginned, “that was profound.”
I stood, stretching my back for a minute before I rummaged through our clothing pile for a smoke. I found some in Felix’s jacket, sliding one free before carefully arranging the rest with my index finger so they lay in a lovely row. I tucked the pack back into the pocket I’d found it, gently to ensure they weren’t disturbed.
“-I don’t shag hippies, do I? When, in Merlin’s name have you seen me shag a hippy? I’d like to know, so I can go scrub myself clean.”
“I haven’t made a habit of keeping track. Might come across as creepy or somethin’.” He glanced over at me, “Where’re you off to, then?”
“Thought I’d go and try my hand at self-critical analysis...” I paused. “Oh! And Clar? I’m almost positive that Jimmy lad, when was that, the one that kept humming Baby Love? Two weeks ago? He was definitely on the verge, you know. Of Hippy-ism, I mean. Did you see the way he looked at everything? It was like he saw something completely different to us, prolly did, keeping that spliff to himself. You didn’t tell him to sod off anywhere, though, did you?” I gave an impish smile and, after tugging my camisole over my head, left, deciding to find Felix.
“-Just cut your hair, you look like a complete wanker, okay-”
I tilted my head back with an amused smile on my lips, expelling a twirling spiral of smoke for the wind to catch as their voices grew less and less decipherable. I scanned the beach, finally catching sight of Felix’s lean figure at the crest of a dune. He would be waiting for me, because it was the only time he really strayed. When he expected me to follow. And I always did, because I couldn’t really imagine not. He looked so lovely, sitting there siloueted against the sky, waiting for me.
I found the ridge itself was solid enough beneath my feet, but from habit, I tiptoed across it carefully. I knew it was silly, because no matter how light I dreamt I was, I’d still leave prints in the sand as I went. But little ones felt less destructive, and there was something so much nicer in it when the wind tugged at my skirt and hair. I wasn’t as tied to the ground as I thought I would be if my feet were buried with every step. Like Hugh seemed to fancy doing; shuffling his feet heavily into the cold under-layers, just to watch the sand kick away when he did.
Felix remained exactly where he was, staring out at the horizon as though he saw something entirely different to me. I paused behind him, letting my gaze drift in the same direction, half-wondering what his mood had flicked into while he’d waited. Finally he threw me my favourite lopsided grin over his shoulder and I sank to the grass-covered sand at his side, a smile tugging at my own lips as he stretched languidly, his knee shifting to touch mine.
Author's Notes and such. Ookay. So this one's been floating around for a while, and it's still quite flawed, but I didn't want to toy with it too much before hearing some response =] It's a bit of fiddling with popularity and house relations, set just before and around the time Voldemort was just starting to show face-1970, so yes, we shall see.
Umm, All the characters mentions to date are of my own making, but everything else is JKR's, and remain so for this whole tale, unless I make a note otherwise. Baby Love is intended to be the motown classic by the Supremes, which should be reasonably accurate to the time.