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Chapter 20: Disarm
DISCLAIMER: I own that which J.K. does not.
This is the final chapter! I know it’s been difficult to keep with this story, as it’s taken me entirely too long to finish it. I am truly sorry. But, I have loved writing this one. I will actually miss it a lot.
Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed this story. Your feedback and encouragement is dearly appreciated. Thank you so much. I love you all.
Title and Summary song:
“Disarm” by: Smashing Pumpkins
What’s a boy supposed to do?
The killer in me is the killer in you.
My love, I send this smile over to you.
Le Bleu, a Muggle café nestled between two other locally-owned boutiques, was a quiet dwelling for one to settle in for a late-night café au lait or another choice from their wide variety of nightcaps. It was a calm bistro, hardly willing to stay up to date with the other Muggle establishments that now had “Wi-fi” and hipsters forever plugged into their electronic devices. Le Bleu was a place for the tranquil at heart, the people who needed a place to rest their weary bones from another day in the hot sun, where they could wrap their hands around warm mugs to soothe their arthritis. It was a place where time stood still, allowing the regulars to peel the layers of age from their skin and laugh with their friends as they had years ago. They were ageless again, invincible.
The sun had long since disappeared behind the horizon where the turquoise waters met the rose-colored hues of sunset. The windows of Le Bleu faced west, so one could always witness another burning sun fading beneath the ocean.
I sat in a corner of the small café, situated between a wall and the front window, furthest from the bar. There was hardly any activity or noise, just the ticking of the clock hanging from the wall above my head and the gentle scraping of wooden chairs on hardwood as customers came and went. The café lacked an air of haste; people hung around, taking their time as they met old friends. The volume was barely above a soft murmur in the background; it was a crime to think about disrupting the peace.
My black coffee was still hot on my hands as it stared up at me from a mug the color of sand. I watched the steam as it curled up from the dark surface, dancing in the air before vanishing. I waited without impatience, enjoying the solitude and silence, content with my place. My visitor would soon appear, I was sure of it.
Thinking about this odd meeting about to occur, I slowly delved my hand into the pocket of my jacket, clasping my fingers around an ordinary envelope. There was nothing special about it, and I had gotten used to Muggle mail over the years, though I thought it took considerably longer without an owl. However, the fact that it had been sent through non-magical means was what perplexed me so.
It was so unusual, so impossible for him to have stooped down to the Muggle level to contact me. It had taken me days to reply only because I had debated so long on whether or not it had been a fake. Was someone trying to lure me out of my pleasant lifestyle? No, of course not. I’d be gone for over twenty years, no one even remembered me now. And anyone who wanted to make a fool of me would still never stoop as low as to use Muggle means. This letter had to be real.
I felt the tips of my fingers rapping the table top, tapping in a hurried rhythm. My brow furrowed, amazed at this sudden show of impatience. I hardly grew edgy anymore, living in France, one could never bother to be in a hurry. Plus, my circumstances were different now, I couldn’t afford to get annoyed easily.
My sudden change in demeanor shocked me. I could feel the old, young and foolish Capella creeping back into my skin. My skin prickled with irritation as I watched the minutes tick by in hours. I rubbed the back of my neck, embarrassment flushing my face a brilliant scarlet as the other customers of the café gave me stern looks at my tapping. How old was I anyway, seventeen? It’s not like I hadn’t learned some self-restraint and patience. I felt trapped as my lips pursed at their own accord and my arm folded themselves across my chest in a haughty defensive stance. What the hell was wrong with me?
Time slowed down into a crawl and I itched go to home in order to rid myself of this impulsive attitude. Maybe a hot shower could boil away this impatience? Anything would be better than this churning in my stomach, angry acid licking my insides.
I was about to get up and make a mad dash for the door when I saw a familiar figure enter Le Bleu, twelve minutes late. Twelve of the longest minutes of my life.
I watched as his eyes scanned the room for my face. He was looking for a young, seventeen-year-old version of me. One he would never again find. Finally, his gaze met my side of the room and he stared at me for a moment, processing my identity. I observed as his dark eyes registered my features, trying to add twenty-one years onto the last time he saw my face. Recognition flitted across his own visage and I knew he’d placed the correct identity.
He made his way toward me and I felt my heart speed up and my palms start to sweat. Why was I nervous? I had absolutely no reason to be, after all. He had contacted me, brought me out of my comfortable lifestyle of anonymity. I didn’t need to speak to anyone from Hogwarts again after I’d left. Why can’t I not care?
Regardless, my nerves began to get the better of me and I worried that he could perceive it on my face or my body language. That would be the worst thing, for him to know that I was anxious. He’d ask why and I’d never be able to give him a straight answer or even a good lie because I honestly didn’t know why I was anxious. It’s hard to lie about something you don’t know the truth to.
I took the chance to really look at him as he approached me in what seemed like slow motion. He looked utterly the same. Due to the fact that he’d never really looked “great”, he couldn’t have really gotten any worse, and therefore he looked the same. His black hair was a little longer, perhaps, even had some spots of gray where his age showed. His skin couldn’t have gotten any sallower or paler than he had been twenty-some years ago, so it remained the same. He was taller, maybe skinnier, definitely gaunter. Clearly life as a Death Eater wasn’t as glamorous as he’d always put out.
But despite all of this, I could still feel the chemistry that we had once had. That volatile, sinister attraction we had for each other. It had never been love, or even lust, but just this strange draw that two complete outcasts shared. Years had passed since I last felt this connection, and now that I knew the difference between that and real love, it hurt. He made me feel hollow, like I had spent the first half of my life. I felt angry and cynical, like the world was a total shit hole and humans were the foulest creatures on the planet. I felt like no one cared for me. No one but him, though in his own sociopathic way. That’s what we had been together, two psychopaths looking for counterparts. Which was kind of an oxymoron.
The case rested at the fact that I had chosen a healthier life. I now knew what love was, and his presence reminded me of what a horrible existence I had been leading. It reminded me of just how far I’d come and how hard I’d worked to be happy.
He sat down in the chair across from me, not even asking permission to join me. I inadvertently crossed my arms over my chest, vainly trying to protect myself from his venom. We sat in silence for what seemed like hours, and then, I broke the ice,
And that’s where we were. Two adults meeting up after twenty-one years and neither of us could come up with anything to say.
“You haven’t changed.” Was the first thing Severus said, his onyx orbs surveyed me. I cracked a smile.
“Ah, but I have.” I said, trying to avoid clichéd cryptic-ness. He rolled his eyes lazily, leaning back in his chair, “But you haven’t.”
I seemed to have hit a nerve with this comment as I saw his demeanor change immediately. His back stiffened and his lounging position in the chair straightened. His eyes narrowed infinitesimally, but I was able to sense his mood drop several degrees.
“It seems as though you’re mistaken as well.” I raised my eyebrows at this, taking a nonchalant sip of my now lukewarm coffee.
“It’s hard to be mistaken about your ah,...specialties.” Though I may have pretended not to care about Severus’ Death Eater status, in all truth I hated it. It wasn’t right, and he had to know that.
His hand, that rested on the table top, clenched as his jaw set, both actions that I had been too-familiar with in my childhood. I always knew when I pushed him too far, and that point didn’t appear to be too far away.
“The circumstances have changed.” He said finally, trying to keep his voice even. I could feel an acidic smile forming on my face.
“So, you don’t want to be a Death Eater anymore?” I asked, the smile fully overtaking my features, making my triumph obvious. He glared at me and then fixed his gaze to the table where I thought he was going to burn holes in it with his eyes. It wasn’t impossible, after all.
“He killed her.”
All it took was a moment for me to process this. And then I saw it, the raw pain that the man he had been following had inflicted upon him. Upon the girl that he would always love, yet never feel her love for him. It was tragic, and I was victorious.
“Are you surprised?” I asked, not even bothering to hide the I-told-you-so from my voice. I knew Lily Evans Potter was dead, I’d known it for years, “She was a filthy Mudblood-” I used his term for her kind just to rub salt in the wound, “-of course he was going to kill her-!”
“Don’t talk about her like that!”
The entire café went silent as Severus yelled this in my face. I don’t think he realized that he was standing up, breathing hard and looming menacingly over me. The other customers stared at Severus, wide-eyed, contemplating what the hell was wrong with him. And then they looked at me and saw my exultant half-smile. They turned back to their whispered conversations, which all now probably consisted of the strange couple by the window.
“I thought that was your credo.” I said evenly, making a gesture with my palms out in front of me, feigning innocence. His glare only intensified, add fuel to the fire in my stomach. Gradually, he lowered himself back down to his chair.
“I begged him not to,” Severus said slowly, staring at his clasped hands on the table top. His tone suggested that he still couldn’t believe it after all these years, “And he promised that he wouldn’t. He was only going to kill the boy and Potter-” He spat out the name “-but she got in the way.” Again, his manner changed. He was now just a broken man, still mourning after so many years.
But I was disgusted.
“You still wanted her? After that?” My tone couldn’t hide my outrage, “How could you? She would have been completely destroyed after losing her husband and her child! And you...you would have taken complete advantage of that. You would have been the rebound.” The revulsion was dripping from my tongue.
“I loved her more than Potter ever could!” He snapped back, his eyes back to molten obsidian. I rolled my own midnight blue orbs.
“Obsession isn’t love-”
“And clearly she loved him back. How could you want to be with someone who didn’t love you, but spent the rest of her life pining for her dead husband and child?” I was still utterly blown away by his logic, “Losing a child is not something a woman can get over.” He scoffed at this, mimicking my previous eye movement.
“Because you know.” I chose not to comment on this.
“So what, you’re not a Death Eater now?” I asked roughly, narrowing my eyes. Severus caught my subject change, but didn’t say anything about it, for which I was grateful.
“No...I am.” Now my brow furrowed in confusion.
“So you’re still working for the guy who killed the love of your life?” He grimaced at my bluntness, but continued,
“No...I’m getting my revenge.” Severus explained evenly, “I was playing both sides...until Dumbledore died-”
“Yeah, I heard you killed him.” My lack of delicacy didn’t phase him.
“I did what he asked me to do.” I could hear the edge in his voice, “I did everything he asked of me.”
“And now?” I prompted, still a little miffed about him murdering Dumbledore. I hadn’t adored the man or anything, but I had always considered him invincible, and well...clearly he wasn’t. And Severus destroying that illusion kind of pissed me off.
“I’m looking for the most sensitive place to hit him.” Severus said evenly. I rolled my eyes.
“Well that would clearly be his-”
“I’m waiting for the right moment.” He quickly cut off my vulgarity, “The last battle will be soon. I need to give Potter as much help as I can.”
“I bet you never thought you’d say those words.” I said with a grin, relishing in the fact that Severus was going to save the son of his worst enemy.
“The circumstances have changed.” He stated again, the annoyed crease in his brow returning.
“None of this would have happened if you hadn’t been such a spineless ass.”
“Sorry I wasn’t into a life of complete solitude and self-loathing like you were.” He bit back.
“It appears that you, not I, are the one living that life.” I snapped back, feigning a sugary sweet tone.
“You’re impossible.” Severus spat, wrinkling his nose in disgust as he looked at me.
I shook my head as he finally hit a nerve with me. And this time, I wasn’t backing down.
“I thought you understood...that you were like me,” I said with a twisted smile, running my finger lazily along the rim of my mug, “But I was wrong.”
His eyebrow arched ever-so-slightly, conveying what he thought he was too good to put into words, ‘How?’.
“You’re just like everyone else. Too cowardly to do what you want for a change. When it comes down to it, you’re just as pathetic as everyone else in this world.” He scowled with my words, his lips disappearing into an impossibly thin line as his brow creased in the middle.
“That’s an especially interesting observation. I was under the impression that you didn’t do anything because you wanted to, but because you didn’t care at all.” His statement caught me off guard. Momentarily, I flashed back to my teenage mindset where everything and everyone I saw made me want to get away from them as fast as possible, “That’s the kind of person you are, Capella. You don’t act out of some altruistic calling but because you truly do not care about anything in this world.”
I felt the blood in my veins flare up beneath my skin at this comment. I wasn’t angry, but I recoiled defensively, not for myself, but for another person entirely.
I dove my hand into my purse and I saw Severus flinch, worried that I was about to draw my wand and attack him. I didn’t give him enough time to arm himself, as the next second I was slamming a rectangle of paper on the table with such a force that my mug rattled on it’s saucer.
His furrowed brow gave the slightest change to show that now he was confused. I slid the paper to him and then leaned back in my chair, arms crossed in a triumphant pose. I made my point.
Severus studied the still photograph in front of him, uncertainty still obvious on his face. I could tell that he recognized my own visage in the picture, but not that of the other inhabitants. I watched as poorly veiled realization dawned over him and, without looking up at me said,
“She’s yours.” I nodded, knowing he’d see it from his periphery.
“The only thing I truly care about in this world.”
I stood up, finished with this meeting. I needed to get home and I was done playing this venomous back and forth with him. I didn’t bother to take the photograph back from him, he could keep it for all I cared.
He stood with me and I thought I saw him pocket the picture. We stood across from each other awkwardly and I began to lead us out of the café.
On the street, it was entirely silent. The sun had long since set and the stars winked down at us from their places in the heavens. We walked, side by side, aimlessly and silently. I felt him stop in mid stride behind me and I, too, came to a halt.
“I’m going back now.” He stated and I nodded, stuffing my hands in the pockets of my jacket.
We stood in an uncomfortable silence again for a few moments and neither of us made any movement of farewell. Finally, I approached him slowly, unsure of my next action.
His dark eyes glittered in the starlight and he knew what I was about to do. Severus urged me on, making no movement of escape. I gave a slight smile and still moved closer to him. When we were just a breath away, I wrapped my arms around him in the middle of the deserted street.
I felt his warm breath on the side of my cheek as his head lowered into the hollow of my neck. We both knew what this meant, what was ahead, and we savored the moment for all it was worth. My hands clasped behind his neck and my head came to a rest on his chest. It didn’t feel right, but it didn’t feel wrong either. He wasn’t mine and I didn’t want him to be.
“I did love you,” I whispered in his ear, feeling the moisture begin to collect in the corner of my eyes, “And I did need you.”
He stepped away from the embrace, looking down at me. His face wasn’t cynical or hard, but it wasn’t tender either.
“And now you don’t.” He stated simply, a partial smile creeping onto his face. I nodded in agreement.
“And now I don’t.”
“Goodbye.” Severus bid me a farewell, kissing my forehead. The tears now spilled over and I knew that he meant his words. We both knew of his imminent departure to another world. In his face, I saw that he wasn’t scared.
I Apparated outside the iron gate of a familiar apartment complex. The stars shimmered in the darkened windows and I saw the curtains rustle in the second floor balcony. I smiled to myself, making my way up the welcoming stone path and up through the complex. After a couple flights of stairs and some winding hallways, I found myself face to face with a front door that I would recognize a mile away. 4B.
4B was home.
Trying not to disturb the inhabitants, I turned the old doorknob as quietly as I could. Of course, like always, I thought I had it made when I wedged the door open and stepped inside. And that’s when the floorboard squealed like a freaking pig. Every time.
The next moment, I was attacked by a blond ball of fluff.
And then a second one with brown hair.
“Damnit Pomme, get down. Go away!” I couldn’t help but laugh as I shooed away the overly enthusiastic blond Pomeranian as it jumped and barked at the new visitor. The problem was, I wasn’t a new visitor, and the dog needed to learn some self-control. Besides, I much rather wanted to see the other being that had attacked me upon entry.
“Maman!” I smiled as I felt a familiar pair of little arms right around my waist. I reached my own arms down to her and picked her up in a huge hug.
“Therese! There’s my girl!” I exclaimed as the seven-year-old giggled when I spun her around.
“And zere’s both my girls.”
I turned at the new voice. A male voice, deeper and warm. I smiled at my husband as he approached his girls. First, he leaned down to kiss me and then to Therese. He took her from my arms and placed her on his hip, where she wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned her head on his shoulder.
“Isn’t it a little late for you to be up?” I asked Therese with a smile as I tickled her dangling foot. She gave another melodic giggle and kicked her foot away from me, hiding her face in her father’s neck.
“We were waiting pour vous.” She explained, giving me an angel’s smile as she pushed her brunette curls from her face. Therese’s French accent always melted my heart, just like her father’s.
Etienne leaned in closer to me and kissed my cheek, whispering in my ear,
“We will always wait for you, Capella. Toujours.” I smiled, looking up into the eyes of the man that I fell in love with. The one that loved me in return and over to our child, falling asleep on his shoulder. This was my family. The loves of my life.