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In the Distance of Bravery by Sunflower
Chapter 3: 3
A/N: This one was really hard to finish. It’s one of those chapters that you just want to feel right. Scenes have been cut out, added, mixed around and here it is. From now on the flashbacks will come chronologically, starting from when they’re 15 and 17 and Ted is about to start his last year at Hogwarts. And there will come answers, eventually. Be patient. All shall be revealed.
Give 9 Crimes by Damian Rice a listen. It’s sad, but so perfect.
JUST A WEE SCOTTISH GIRL
CHAPTER IMAGE CREDITS INSPECTOR.@TDA
Audrey Weasley barely reaches my shoulder and yet she still scares the crap out of me.
“Mum…” I trudge down to the door nervously, eyeing the broken face of my mother. It’s like watching a fuse burning down, watching her mood brew. Easy to predict and terrifying.
She seems baffled for a long time, just staring at us. Scorpius trips nervously beside me. The fame of my dear mother has preceded her to London and Scorpius now awaits the wrath of Audrey like a fallen soldier awaiting death.
“Lucy Weasley.” Colour is quickly replacing the whiteness of her neck and soon she resembles an odd coloured tomato with wispy hair curling everywhere. I really do hope I don’t resemble her in my late life. That is, if I ever live to see that day.
“Listen – “
“You’re not sleeping here, I can tell you that,” she informs me briskly, glancing at Scorpius once before turning to march inside my childhood home, mumbling something about “shady, capital hairstyles”.
Scorpius places my pink suitcase by the baby blue wood panelling on the side of the house and when he catches my eyes he shrugs, his smile never failing.
My eyes move across the wide expands of land, watching the sheep cover in the humid morning air. The sky is a taut canvas, smeared thick and heavy with oils. Burgundy, charcoal and lead. Releasing a sigh, I step further up towards the door.
The house looks the same with the high ceilings and the large deck with my granddad’s old midnight blue swinging chair gently swaying back and forth in an offbeat tune. Each of Mum’s tulips stand like matte coloured buttons sewn into the garden, each tip seemingly facing the same direction.
James has already escaped into the house with a peck on my mother’s cheek and a wink in my direction and Darren’s safe in his own home, having apparated the exact moment the defiant silhouette of my mother appeared in the distance. Their support is minimal, but then again, Audrey has always reserved the right to scold every time she sees fit, no matter the person.
“So, what do you suppose we do now?” Scorpius asks, walking past me and getting into the swinging chair with a soft huff. He throws a leg across the armrest, looking down his nose at me. “Can’t well stay out here, now can we?”
He looks so at ease it nearly kills me and I find myself wishing we were back in London at our local Soho-pub, drinking to bad days and evil hag-editors. Tequila shots I can handle, raging mothers I cannot.
Scorpius stares at me expectantly, one pale eyebrow quirked. My head hurts and I sigh deeply, taking another step toward the entrance.
“Mum – “
If my life were a movie the reunion with my family would go something like this:
My mother and father would tearfully embrace my form and my sister would want to know everything about London and my job and Scorpius. My cousins would all hug and embrace and gossip and Ted would sit in his favourite chair and appease me with his crooked smile.
My life is not a movie.
When we enter the living room complete silence falls. James wasn’t kidding when he said the entire village was invited. What probably used to be a turkey is standing in the centre of the grand table, the empty skeleton of the bird shivering in the tense air.
Every single one of my uncles and aunts are here. My mother’s nowhere to be seen and Molly is purposely staring into her plate. Dad and James are the only ones to meet my gaze, the rest are staring at Scorpius’s long ponytail. I know I should have explained to Scorpius how my family works. That here, I am plain-old-boring-Lucy. Nothing special. Modest. Wearing knee-long grey shirts and pullovers that cover my neck. If there was a tapestry, I'd blend right in. Everywhere I look around, wide eyes are eyeing us, eyeing my short skirt, my red lipstick, Scorpius's magenta robes.
Ted’s missing. His absence sends a pang through my chest as the finality of my new life begins to settle in. This is what I wanted to avoid.
Scorpius nudges me. I clear my throat and make a small wave. “Um, h-hi?”
With a snap everyone’s attention is on me. I shrink into Scorpius’s form under the watchful eyes. Nobody says anything.
James is snickering into his pumpkin juice. I throw him a dirty look.
Scorpius nudges me again and I take a step forward. James finally sobers up and scoots over, patting the empty spot. “Come sit here, sweet cheeks.”
With quivering legs I take a seat beside him, wanting nothing more than to sink into the floor. Scorpius follows closely and squeezes in next to me. He’s oddly quiet. I chance a glance at him and see a small flush creeping up around his neck. He’s studying something every interesting on his hands.
Everyone’s still completely silent. I try to search out Molly’s eyes, but she’s refusing to look at me, a muscle in her jaw twitching. Her youngest, Lucas, is staring at me with wide blue eyes. I smile at him with a quavering heart. It’s the first time I’ve seen my smallest nephew in real life and not portrayed through stolen photographs. The joy is slow but certain and I can’t quite make the smile slide off my face after that. Lucas’s hesitant smile in return makes it a full-on grin.
When I look away I find my dad’s steady gaze on me. He’s sitting right in front of me and is wearing some unreadable expression.
“So.” My father glances at Scorpius’s ponytail. “Guess you’ve been busy, huh, Luce?”
Lucy 15, Ted 17, 10 year ago.
“You know this is serious stuff, right?”
“So you can’t just go off telling anyone.”
“Not even Molly?”
“Definitely not Molly.”
“Fine?” Ted leans forward, eyes unblinking. “I’m serious, Luce. You can’t tell a soul.”
I roll my eyes at his antics and push around the damp sand with a foot.
“So theoretically I could tell a ghost if I wanted to, couldn’t I?” I grin.
“Luce, I’m serious –“
“Sheesh so am I. Calm down professor.” I shove his shoulder annoyed. ”Merlin, you’d think you didn’t trust me or something.”
The silence settles like falling snow and I watch as Ted’s face blanches before the slightest red tinge creeps into his cheeks.
There’s no air in my lungs. “You don’t trust me?”
He looks sheepish. “Listen, Luce, it’s got nothing to do with you, per say – “
I try to fight the rage inside me, but suddenly find myself overcome by the wave of hurt and indignancy that has been building over the pass of summer. I feel like I’m losing my best friend again. I watch Ted’s furrowed brows and frantic eyes and can’t help but feel there’s a stranger standing in front of me, masked in the adolescent body of my best friend.
“Nothing to do with me my arse,” I snort, the hurt coiling tightly in my stomach. “It’s got everything to do with me. It’s me we’re talking about!”
Ted cringes. “Mind lowering your voice? Your screech sounds like a cat dying –“
“Great, so now I’m a tattletale and a fur ball-retching mammal –“
“Luce – Jesus –“
“I’m so over this, Ted. I thought – shit – I thought you were different. That we were best friends.” I’m annoyed when a tinge of emotions creeps into my voice, making it quiver. “But you’re obviously not, so yeah. I’m done. Just. Eff you.”
Angry, I march off, rushing along the shore side. He’d thought going to the beach would be the safest place for this “secret” thing. Not that we were going to do it now.
My footsteps make great sloppy slurping noises in the sand as I hurry away from Ted’s tall form, the sand screeching at my fury. The bay is calm, its waters gently rushing towards me, never quite reaching me, before retreating. I stare pointedly at the thicket of trees, which is slowly nearing me.
“Luce, wait. Don’t be like that.” I can hear Ted's exasperated huff behind me. I continue on, not even chancing a glance back.
“No, Ted. I’m obviously much too frigid to be included.”
He finally catches up with me and I can sense his eyes in the back of my neck. It’s always been like this. Me sensing him before he’s even there. Ted grabs my elbow.
“Come on, mate, you know how it is.”
I whirl around. Ted nearly collides with me but stops just in time. We’re face to face and I’m seething. He’s never called me mate before. I’ve officially been defeminized.
“No, I don’t know how it is, mate -” I hiss, air quoting as I imitate his deep voice. “Please do enlighten me, since I’m so terribly ignorant.”
Ted seems to hesitate for the beat of a second. “You know, Vic was just saying that –“
“Oh, what did dear Vicky have to say?” I spit, trying to wrestle my arm out of his hand but he seems adamant at keeping me lodged in a death-grip. He looks annoyed.
“Jeesh Lucy, what has she ever done to you?”
“Besides being a wrecked witch? I swear if she wasn’t part Veela you wouldn’t be able to see her beauty for all that blackness inside her soul.“
I step on his foot, hard.
Ted barely winces, shaking my arm for effort as he hisses my name.
“Lucy,” he snaps, his voice low and hard. “She’s my girlfriend and you’re my best friend. I’d like for you to be friends. She’s your own cousin for Christ’s sake –“
That is exactly the problem. Why couldn’t he date someone who wasn’t my family? Me, plain-old Lucy and beautiful Victoire, good friends? She likes boys, quidditch and make-up. I like books and chess, rather spending my time inside with a canvas and paint sticking to my fingers. Now I have to live through family dinners with Ted and Vicky re-enacting the human centipede –
“Oh, please that means nothing.” I stomp my way all up to him, sticking my face right in his just to spite him. “My family tree resembles Peter the rabbit’s. It’s like saying you have to like Muggle-studies because you’re Muggleborn or that everyone likes cake. It’s double standard and frankly discriminating.”
His jaw clenches. “You grew up together! We grew up together. We were practically the Bradley Bunch of our generation! You adore Dom, why’s Vic so different?”
I stare at him but he refuses to meet my eyes, keeping his stare locked on the beginning of the forest ahead of us. I lose my patience.
“Case in point. Vic is nothing like her sister.”
He looks at me for the first time since we’ve stepped onto the beach. His eyes are soft. “Lucy –“
I try to ignore the softness of his voice and break the stare I’ve wanted so adamantly.
“What, you’ve been taking her on moon rides? Candlelit dinners and mushy dates with awkward hand-holding?”
He pauses, “That’s totally beside the point.”
His ears are red.
“Oh you have?” I raise an eyebrow. ”What, did you cite poems and talk about your itty bitty feelings?”
He picks at the grass, shuffling his feet. “Shut it, Luce. You know how it is.”
Again with the you know how it is.
“I don’t actually.“
My tone is clipped and Ted raises his head to look at me abruptly.
“What? What about that Dylan guy?”
“Dylan was just that, a guy. Just -” I rub my eyes, pushing away the memory of the nerdy chess-partner's advances. “Can we talk about something else, please?”
His face softens. “Okay.”
“I do trust you,” He adds then, squeezing my hand. “You’re my best friend. Been it for as long as I remember.”
It calms me somehow yet it’s not enough to quench the hot worry collecting in the pit of my stomach.
“Then why are you saying all this stuff? I’d never do that.”
“I know.” He rubs his face. “But Molly does. And well, she’s your sister and that kinda says a lot.”
“What, so I can’t keep a secret because of my sister’s big mouth?” I ask, a furrow lining my brows.
He stays silent.
I turn away from him, eyeing the edge between sea and sky in the horizon.
“That’s bullshit, Ted. I’m not my sister and Molly isn’t me.”
“Sorry. I know.” He steps closer to me, I can feel his breath on the back of my neck. He exhales deeply. “I know you. Just - sometimes Vic gets into my head, she’s so damn manipulative and untrusting.”
I know that too well. Victoire is many things but dumb is definitely not one of them.
“Then stop letting her into your head.”
Ted laughs. “She’s my girlfriend, she’s bound to get in there some time. Besides, I want her to get inside my head.”
In a moment of weakness, I turn around to face him. He’s closer to me than I think and I’m annoyed when I have to look up.
“Victoire Weasley isn’t one to get inside your mind.”
Ted stares at me for a long time.
“She’s actually really nice, Luce. I know you and her have never seen eye to eye, but she’s clever, witty and genuine.” He clears his throat lightly. “Reminds me a bit of you, actually.”
His words are quiet and he seems to have trouble looking me in the eyes. I nudge him, unable to conceal my grin.
“Now I know you’re lying. I’ve never been genuine or clever, smarty-pants, stop with the charm. I said I’d do it already.”
His grin is sheepish.
“Let’s get going.” I nod towards the hill.
Ted throws an arm around me. “Prepare yourself, short stuff, I’m going to blow your mind.”
“Been out finding yourself, have you?”
Scorpius’s knee jiggles in a rapid staccato and I place a gentle hand on it in order to still him. I glance up at my uncle Harry.
“That’s one way of putting it, I suppose.”
“She likes to call rating dresses in the country’s worst gossip-magazine soul searching.” Molly is pale and drawn with a tremor to her hands but she has a stubborn tilt to her chin. “Just a fancy way of saying that you were too lazy to get a proper career, if you ask me.”
It’s the first thing she’s said all night and even if the words are biting, they warm me nonetheless. I send a small smile to Lucas who’s hiding behind his mother’s legs. We’re sitting in the living room, surrounding a coffee table that’s flooded by sweets.
“Now, Molly -” my father begins, but is cut off by another voice.
“It’s true, though, isn’t it?”
Victoire Weasley hasn’t changed one bit throughout the years. Her beauty is just as startling as it was five years ago.
She leans against the doorway to the kitchen. “I mean, you had all these –“
“Shut up, Vic,” a rather large and pregnant Lily snaps. She’s leaning back against her husband’s legs, her enormous stomach nearly obscuring her from view. “It’s good to have yeh back, Luce,” she smiles.
“Yes, it’s quite the tragedy,” James drawls from his seat on the sofa. He’s drinking a cup of hot chocolate and has a milk-moustache. “The fallen daughter of Senior Minister Weasley, who could have had it all. Not that she wasn’t already disowned or anything – “
“James!” I look up to see that my mother has returned. “At least she’s doing something useful. It’s a right sight better than that painting-business; luckily that was only a phase –“
“It wasn’t a phase, Mum.”
“I told her right off, did I. Told her she didn’t have no business doodling on paper; there’s no future in artsy stuff –“
I groan, “Mum –“
“She listened, they eventually do, don’t they. She was a right mess. Mind you, they like to test boundaries, s’pose it’s only natural –“
“Oh, shush now, Lucille.” My mother looks at me sternly. “You’re quite right to feel embarrassed. I've campaigned about this for the past five years.”
Scorpius’s arm curves around me and gratefully I lean into his warmth, eyeing the wood panelling of the floor. I lift my eyes to meet James’s, and the look on his face is one that concerns me. He seems to be debating internally, his frown hard.
Their brother left, too. I hadn’t been the only one to run, only the only black sheep.
It’s the only excuse that’s been battering around my head all evening. Quidditch-mad Albus got signed in the US and left for good four years ago. He, too, escaped the tight confines of little wee Grimsby and its population of one hundred people. To this day he’s the only one who still sends me cards at Christmas and provides stolen family photographs of all things missed.
"It wasn't a phase," I repeat to no one.
Lucy 15, Ted 17, 10 years ago.
“Alright, mount it.”
“Mount it?” I eye the thing doubtfully. “It’s not a horse. You can’t just mount it.”
“That’s what you do.” Ted shrugs. “You mount motorbikes.”
“Fine,” I huff. The corners of Ted’s mouth twitches and I glare at him, daring him to laugh. He loves this bike. Uncle Harry gave it to him as a birthday-present on his seventeenth, letting him collect it himself. It's been his pride and joy ever since, as he and Darren take time off to nurse it, polishing it to no end. Mum still hasn't forgiven Uncle Harry for it.
Finally, I swing my leg up but halfway I stumble and nearly squat down on the damn thing. Hands grab me, lifting me off the metal-beast. A small whimper escapes my lips as his fingers curve around my body.
The closeness of his body sends a pang of heat coiling in my stomach and annoyed, I try to fight the blush in my cheeks. I've never been this close to a boy before. He smells of cinnamon and freshly cut grass.
“Easy there,” Ted chuckles. “Try again. Slower this time.”
“If I’d known you were teaching me how to ride motorbikes, I’m not sure I’d gone through all this trouble.”
I look up at his face again. He should know that I'm no good at this. I'm Lucy; I can't even hit a bludger five meters in front of me.
“Because this, Ted Lupin, is totally not worth the bother.”
“Try again, short stuff.”
It takes me five more tries before I can mount the motorbike properly without his help. His hands hover around me for a few more tries, but when he sees that I do not need his help anymore, he steps back. I try to ignore the disappointment that burns in my stomach.
“Great, now hold both handlebar grips firmly.” Ted’s voice is husky in my ear and I make a double take at his proximity.
“Firmer.” His hands squeeze my hands tightly. His fingers linger a moment longer than necessary. I glance up only to find his eyes lodged on our joined hands.
“Place your feet securely on the ground, Luce.”
“Geesh, I’m supposed to drive this darn thing, aren’t I?”
He finally meets my eyes, swiftly, his smile genuine.
“That’s the plan, yes.”
“Then let’s get going!” I raise an eyebrow and turn to face him, carefully balancing the heavy motorcycle between my legs.
The Saint Christopher medal that he never takes off hangs down his chest, skidding against his pale skin. It was his grandfather's, passed down by Andromeda and he wears it proudly, like a war wound. I suppose that’s what it is: his scar to showcase to the world. I fight the urge to let fingers trail down the golden chain that lies against his skin. Instead, I drag my eyes up to his face.
He swallows. “Okay.”
He straightens up suddenly and steps closer, leaning in against my form.
“W-what are you doing?”
“Relax.” His breath is hot against the side of my neck. “There’s no way I’m letting you ride this alone. You’ll break your neck for sure.”
I sit, jitter legged, as Ted slides into the spot behind me. His chest presses up against my back as he straddles me. He’s hot and warm and just a man. I try to block out the flutter in my chest, but succumb to simply breathing slowly. I’m not sure when he turned from being an awkward teenager to this adult who wears cologne and shaves.
“You smell nice.” His voice is soft in my ear as he reaches forward, folding his hands over mine on the handlebars. So does he, God, so does he. I breathe heavily, my chest rising and falling.
“Mum’s latest shopping-spree. Apparently Vanilla Essence is her new favourite?”
I can feel the small stubbles stretched across his jaw rubbing against my cheek and I close my eyes against the heat that coils in my chest.
Ted chuckles. “Tell her thanks for me; at least if we do crash and die I’ll smell nice.”
I roll my eyes. “Let’s just get going, dumbass.”
“Alright, lift your feet.”
Obediently, I lift my feet, reeling slightly as Ted pushes the machine forward. It wobbles violently before stabilizing once more.
“Hold on tight, small stuff,” his voice whispers.
I squeeze the handlebars tightly and Ted’s body shakes behind me with laughter. “Not that tight.”
“Sorry,” I mumble but it’s lost to a gasp as the motorcycle roars to life beneath me. And suddenly we’re off.
We pummel past the ocean, trees and bushes. Everything becomes blurry as we race with the wind. Behind me, Ted laughs loudly. He sounds happier than he’s done in a long time. Freer. A smile creeps onto my face, mirrored by his enthusiasm. The motorbike roars louder again, picking up speed. Tethering between terror and thrill, I cling to the handlebars, my knuckles turning white.
Fingers caress my knuckles. “Easy there, Tiger. Relax.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” I grumble. “You’re the one controlling this damn creature.”
Ted scoots even closer to me, his lips caressing my ear as he whispers, “Close your eyes.”
“What?” I stiffen. “No way.”
“No freaking way.”
“Lucy.” His voice turns low and it becomes impossible to refuse him. “Close your eyes.”
My throat tight, I squeeze my eyes closed.
“Lean back,” Ted orders softly.
Hesitantly, I ease back until I’m resting against his body, Ted’s arms encircling me. He rests his head on top of mine with a sigh.
“Now open your eyes. Trust me on this one.”
I do so and I don’t regret trusting him.
His mouth is millimetres from my ear and I squeeze his hand. Around us, the air is a whirl of silvered trunks and spear ferns, the colours bleeding together like one of my paintings.
It’s the view that steals my heart.
We have driven past the woods a long time ago and now bare land stretches out in front of us. Watching, as the wind pushes against my cheek, I am mesmerized as every emotion imaginable blasts through me. The sky is a war of colours, bleeding into the ocean as night falls. In front of us, a large cliff rises in the distance, backlit by the petal pink sky.
My lungs have no air. Ted reaches his fingers to my cheekbones, wiping away the tears that he somehow knew were coming.
And suddenly I know why he's brought me here.
“God Luce, give me some of your clothes –“
“What ‘appened to you? You are well fit.”
“Um, thanks Fred?”
“Cor, did you buy all this yourself?”
I walk away from the crowd of people to the table with biscuits. In minutes the crowd of accusers has been replaced with my younger cousins, all starry-eyed and fascinated with the City. I don't know what's worse. Being the black sheep of the family, or the Daughter Who Returned. A trembling hand pours tea into a flowery cup, the hot liquid scolds my tongue but I continue drinking, thirsting for something to calm my rigid stomach.
“I wish I could fit into your clothes, but as it is this little one isn’t making it easy.” Lily leans against the wall next to me with a tired sigh, one hand stroking her bulging stomach.
“You look well.” It’s a question, one to which the answer will have to be a lie.
“I am well.” I clear my throat.
“I envy you.”
“Don’t,” I smile, eyeing her from. “You’re glowing.” I press a hand against her stomach. It’s hard and hot and I stroke the skin there gently. I can’t quite fit Lily into the role of a mother. In my head she’s still James’s annoying little sister who likes to play with dolls and pick her nose. She looks beautiful, though. Wearing a summer dress and her auburn hair loose. She's inherited the Weasley charm, all delicate wrists and pouty lips, unlike me. I inherited the wide hips and the long noses.
“Thanks.” She places a hand over mine, the cold metal on her ring finger jarring against my skin. “I’m sorry you missed the wedding.”
I look away. “I think I missed a lot of things.”
“How – how are you doing with it all?” Lily’s voice is tentative.
“How do you think, Sherlock? Her bloke’s getting married to someone who’s not her and we kind of all thought those two were the only people in this world bound to have their happily ever after.” Vic slips past me, grabbing a biscuit. “That’s kind of a sucky situation.”
I want to say something witty and sarcastic but only one word passes my lips.
Lily shrugs. “Six months ago Ted shows up with this wee Scottish girl, says she’s great and all. Next thing you know they’re engaged to be married.”
“Just… like that?”
“Just like that.”
“Pippa Montjoy,” I taste the name.
I snort, “What kind of name is that anyways?”
“She’s very, um, chipper?” Lily shrugs.
“She’s right annoying, is what she is,” Vic grumbles. “She likes horoscopes and fluffy teddy bears.”
It warms me a bit to hear her say this and a small smile plays around the edges.
“I was never that chipper.”
A pregnant pause follows in which the girls refuse to meet my eyes.
“What?” I snap defensively. “I wasn’t!”
“Um, yes you were?” Vic shrugs. “With him, anyways. Without him you were a moping mess. You both were. Kind of like a train wreck.”
“Still, it wasn't that bad.” I argue, searching out Lily's assurance. “Right? Right?”
Lily shifts uncomfortably, “Hate to tell you so, but you were. I swear, it could be pissing down in fat streams or the toilet could be flooded and you could still find a silver lining.”
“Oh.” Is all I manage.
“It was endearing,” Lily offers, squeezing my arm.
“It was damn obnoxious, is what it was,” Vic grumbles.
“Stop being so mean,” Lily tuts at her. Vic rolls her eyes.
“I’m being honest, there’s a difference.”
“Not with you there ain’t.”
“Honest, who hasn’t caught those two having sex somewhere?”
“Just putting it out there.”
“Shut it, Vic, it’s not like you and Roger aren’t exactly the same.” Dom walks up to the group in her usual swagger, her lips red and her eyes black. It’s the first time I’ve seen her in five years. “Is this the new gossip corner? Thought you'd grown out of your girliness, Vic?”
She acts like this isn’t the first time in five years that we’re here. Two suitcases are standing in the doorway. She probably just arrived from France, too.
“We're catching up,” I tell her, stepping closer. She turns to look at me, a small smile on her lips. A green beret is quirked cheekily on the side of her head and she’s in ballerinas and a black dress; a French reincarnation of her grandfathers.
She presses a hand against my bob. “So short.” Her murmur is gentle.
I catch her hand, bringing it down. “À la mode.”
“Au contraire, ma petite.” Her blue eyes crinkle.
"Shush, let me live in the illusion a bit more."
I pull her into my arms, blinking rapidly as I squeeze her tightly to me. She’s all skin and bones, her shoulder blades hard underneath my fingers. I press my face into the crook of her neck and let go of a hollow breath.
I’ve missed her.
“You smell the same,” Dom sighs as she pulls back. She’s looking at me smiling, but there’s worry behind that. “Even if you’ve changed and become this femme fatale. It’s nice.”
“The years did you good,” I grin, despite myself. I would give anything to have changed our relationship if anything.
Dom peers at me, her expression softer. “Are you okay now, though? Because in France –“
“I’m fine.” Despite my efforts, my voice has a sharp edge to it. Her stare is intense and I look away, trying to stop my eyes burning.
We chitchat for a while over the coffee table, trying to bridge the rift of five years. Vic’s married and has two boys, Lily’s first is still refusing to pop out and Dom is single, still living by her French lake. They all ask about London and my job and I try to make it interesting, but fail. They don't seem to mind, though, gushing about my new look and wild life. Who would have thought plain-old Lucy would be the one to lead an interesting life?
I keep glancing at Scorpius, checking to see if he’s all right. He’s talking to James and Fred, charming his way through all the males, probably trying to gather intel. I don’t know why I ever worried about him.
Of course Vic’s the one to pose the question on everyone’s lips.
“So, do you have a plan?”
“A plan?” Lily looks confused. I’m not. I stare into Victoire’s eyes silently.
“That’s my girl.” I can tell she’s pleased but I don’t answer.
“You’re sabotaging the wedding?” Dom looks scandalized. Vic looks smug.
“Hallelujah.” She leans back against the wall gleefully. “About time something exciting happened around here. Things were getting boring.”
“But- but sabotaging?” Lily’s eyes are wide. “That’s so… extreme?”
“Sabotaging is such an ugly word… I prefer gently nudging or lovably altering… events.”
All three stare at me.
“Sabotaging,” Vic concedes.
“Can I talk with you for a second?”
I'm on my knees, searching through the kitchen cupboards while holding my Beetle the Bart cup between by teeth when he finds me. The cup's a bit tattered, but it will do well for hiding what I'm planning to put in there.
I may have been drooling a bit. James raises an eyebrow at me.
"Do you need me to get you anything?"
"A new mother, a bottle of the Captain's finest and a barrel full of self-confidence."
"Um. Pretty sure if I get you the bottle, the rest will take care of itself."
"Scorpius has been telling you stories about me, hasn't he?"
"Well. Yes. I'm impressed."
"Should hope so. I learnt from the best."
James smiles. It's small and slow, but it's something.
"The - the thing." James shifts nervously, his eyes flickering towards the door every few seconds. "It's kind of important, see."
“Oh? Sure.” I rummage through dusty bottles of vinegar in the search of something to quench my thirst. It's here somewhere.
“Did you –“ He clears his throat. “Did you tell anyone about the you know what?” At this his voice becomes less than a whisper.
I finally find the golden bottle hidden behind dusty flasks, and pull it out, "Aha!"
“Lucy?” James hisses.
“Huh?” I look up from the bottle. “Oh, no I haven’t.”
I pour myself a healthy portion and put away the bottle, hiding it behind bottles of vinegar as before.
“Seriously, this is important.”
So is getting drunk, but to each his own, James.
I glance at him before I throw back the glass of liquid gold and immediately feel relief at the burn. Somehow the old village-dramas hold little importance to me now.
“Could you just stop getting hammered for a moment and focus on me, please?” James takes away the glass with a forceful shove.
“Oi!” I protest. “I was drinking that!”
James just stares at me.
I sigh, leaning against the table. My fingers automatically find the small dent on the corner of it that I made at age ten. It's one of the few things around here that has stayed the same and I caress it with a love no one else seems to miss from me.
“Chillax, James. I’m not going to tell anyone. Now can I have my Beetle the Bart-glass back, please?”
His face seems to be a mixture of panic and shame. I squeeze his hand, trying to calm him with my brandy-breath.
“I pro-“ I pause immediately at the sound of a door slamming and then the sound of a man’s voice next door, perhaps greeting a guest. It’s unmistakably his; the cadence of his voice is as familiar as the sound of my own heart.
“Would you look at that,” James smiles, seemingly cheered on by my misery. “Would you look at that…”
Panic blisters my stomach and his name pants faster and faster in my head. I straighten my skirt, shivering fingers toying with the hemline. It's too short. It's much, much too short. My hand is resting on the door, pale and weak in the fluorescent light.
James shifts behind me but I pay him no mind. Instead, I eye the ridges in the tree underneath my fingers, breathing to the silence.
Laughter rings out, the sound muffled through the door. A light woman’s voice rivets through, the sound harsh to my ears. I clench my hand, the skin spread taut against weak knuckles as my breath catches in the back of my throat where I can still taste the bitterness of the Brandy.
“That door’s not gonna open by itself, you know.” James’s voice is soft.
“Shut up.” I don’t look up.
James chuckles but doesn’t say anything more.
Slowly, I nudge the door open.
I thought I’d seen all there was to him. That he wouldn’t be able to numb me with his eyes.
I was wrong.
He’s twice the size I remember, his eyes are the same but there are new crinkles around them. Tales of laughter without me. It sends an ache through me. He’s become the man I knew he’d be. He looks so much like his father it makes my knees weak.
My boy is beautiful.
There’s a blonde standing beside him, holding onto his arm with long red nails. Her smile is radiant and her boobs are big. I look away.
“Lucy –“ Lily’s voice rings out from the corner, warning. But it's too late.
In a flash he’s turned around to face me and I'm frozen in place.
His face is a mixture of all kinds of emotions. It’s like he has sucked the air from the room, burning like he always does. I have no air left in my lungs. All I can do is stare into his brown eyes.
Lucy 15, Ted 17, 10 years ago.
I raise my head to look at him. He has his eyes closed, head in my lap, twirling a strand of my hair between his fingers. I don’t feel like disturbing the peace that’s fallen here on the outskirts of town where the ocean eats into the land. He looks so peaceful here. But with the distance a sense of bravery has settled, making my blood liquid courage. He’s touchable here, underneath the giant cliff.
“Were you serious when you said you were going to leave?”
His hand stops caressing my hair. A silence presses into the air between us. It takes him a long time to answer me, so long that I almost think he isn't going to. When he does answer it's not the answer I want to hear.
I push away from him, angry at myself for getting upset. There’s a rumble of thunder as the skies open up and the downpour wets the earth around the cliff. The sky is grieving with me.
It takes a long while before I'm able to string another sentence together. Ted is silent behind me, the only sound that echoes is the sound of our heaving chests.
“What about Vic?”
Ted sits up, his hair flat on one side of his head and sticking up on the other.
“What about her?” His voice is thick with sleep. "She'll be fine. Vic's always fine. It's one of the great things about her."
I turn away to face the rain, my voice weak. “I mean – what – “ What about me, my heart stutters out. I can’t finish the sentence after that and it’s left echoing in the distance between us.
“I just – “ He steps closer to me. “Do you ever question it? All those expectations and visions of your future.“
His voice is quiet but his tone desperate. I look away from the rain to glance at his face. He looks heartbroken.
“Here.” He closes his hand around mine, pressing a cool metal into my palm.
I look into my hand and then look up. “Wow. Head boy? Congratulations.”
Ted exhales, looking off to the side, and it comes out in a disjointed stream. “Like father, like son.”
His tone is bitter and involuntarily I take a step forward, closing the space between us. I press the badge against his chest.
“Nobody thinks that. To them, you’re just a smart kid.”
“Am I?” He looks at me, and I have to fight to keep my composure. His stare is excruciatingly passionate and raw, but soon he looks away again. I never thought it would be hard to be on the other end. To have greatness thrust upon you instead of being the disappointment. I take a few steps closer, and wait.
“I have this dream where I’m standing in the middle of a room, being stuffed into suits and clothes that are too big." He takes a breath and looks up at me, the dark line of his brows and the wild twists of his hair gilded by the auburn burn of the sunset. "They never fit.”
“What’s your plan, then?”
The shadow of a smile passes his lips and he stuffs his hands into his trousers, “Nepal, India, France, Cambodia, Vietnam – anywhere and everywhere. I’ll travel the world and live off pot noodles.”
His eyes are wide and happy with a blush coating his cheeks. It's really cute.
“A mighty great plan that is. Mind some company?”
He presses a finger against my cheek, the touch feather light. “Finish school, then I’ll come get you.”
“You’re no fun,” I pout.
“Your mother would kill me if I took you out of school.”
“Exactly, it’s time she got some challenge. She’s been nagging me about grades all year, saying how much of a disappointment I am.”
We stare at each other for some time. I can feel my face slowly breaking. It’s inevitable and Ted’s face doesn’t change when the first tear comes.
“Don’t listen to them, Luce. Don’t listen to Molly or your mother. Don’t listen to any of them.”
“I know, sorry,” I smile, but it’s shaky and I have to bite the inside of my lip to stop the crying. “And I don’t expect you to be anything. Just you.”
It only takes him three steps to get to me. He picks me up so I can wrap my legs around him and we stay like that for a long time, wrapped around each other. I rest my head against his chest, feeling the rich thud of his heart in my palm.
He presses his lips against my forehead. “I know.”
The pictures did not do Pippa Montjoy justice.
They showed a stellar Scotsmen with wavy blond hair and a fetish for pink and glitter.
Pippa Montjoy is anything but stellar.
I try not to let my eyes linger on the cleavage, which James is so obviously still caught up in. She’s wearing a snug fit green dress and her head barely reaches Ted’s shoulder. She’s tiny. Her legs are impossibly skinny, accentuated by a pair of deadly heels, and her lips are plumb, coated with gloss. And she squeals. Squeals.
In a blur of green and white she claws me to her chest with a remarkable force, seeing as she’s half my size. I go rigid as James steps to a side.
“So excited!” She exclaims, squeezing me closer. She smells like cake and fucking sugarcanes. Sugarcanes. “I’ve been waiting ages for you to arrive!”
“You have?” I manage weakly, my arms smashed between our bodies.
She nods vigorously, finally stepping a bit back. She’s still way too close in my personal space. Even her teeth are shiny. Dammit.
“Ted’s told me all about you,” she gushes in a sing song voice, reaching forward to squeeze my arm. “This is just jolly.”
I can hear the Scottish lilt in her voice and I force a smile onto my face. “Funny.”
“Oh, you,” Pippa giggles. “You can call me Pip – I reserve that right for my special people.” At this, she winks at me.
This does not bode well for my plans.
“Um, wow,” I smile as panic slowly cripples me.
“Don’t I get to say hello to my friend, baby?”
“Silly me,” Pippa giggles. “Of course, Teddy bear, you know me – I just get so excited! Can’t help myself.”
She steps aside and in charges Ted Lupin. I involuntarily take a step back.
“Come here, you.” His voice is overly cheerful and I think about running. Fast.
I watch helplessly as I am lodged into another awkward hugging session. I grimace, holding my breath as Ted lifts me off my feet, laughing heartily to the silent crowd. His hands are all stiff and hard against my body as if I were a box he was lifting and not a human. I catch Lily’s eyes behind his back. She looks mortified. Vic is sniggering into her hands. Mum looks thrilled, talking animatedly to Auntie Mildred.
“Um, hi,” I force out when he finally puts me down.
He pats me on the shoulder, as if I were a dog, still not meeting my eyes. I stare at the hand silently. I've never regretted a decision like I have now.
Pippa squeezes underneath his arm and curls around his body, beaming at me.
“The wedding is officially ready to start off now!” she squeals. “The next two weeks are going to be the best of our lives. Aren’t they, sugar muffin?”
Ted smiles, “They sure are, baby.”
Fourteen days. That’s all I have to change this – or write the article. I don’t know anymore. I plaster on a smile as Pippa reaches up to kiss Ted on the lips, smudging gloss all over his lips. They giggle as she licks it off again, her pink tongue tasting him.
I want to vomit.
Suddenly Ted turns to me again, his smile wide and false. “Oh, I’m sorry, Luce! I should properly introduce you -”
He rubs his nose against Pippa’s, his eyes holding her. “This is Pippa Montjoy. My fiancée.”
“You’re being silly, baby,” Voldemort reincarnated giggles against his lips. “Lucille and I are going to be the bestest of buddies. I know it!”
I must not curse wrenched girls... I must not cur-
A hand slips into mine, its warmth comforting.
“Aren’t you going to introduce me, Luce?”
Scorpius’s smile is encouraging and I’m so grateful for his presence. Ted looks up, suddenly, stepping forward. He holds out his hand, the other still linked with Pippa’s.
“Who’s this?” He asks me. It’s strange to see Scorpius beside him. Ted actually looks small compared to him. I had somehow always thought Ted to be a giant, but he’s not.
“This is Scorpius.”
Scorpius shakes his hand. “Hi.”
Ted smiles, “Pleasure to mee-“
“ -- my boyfriend.”
Ted and Scorpius’s hands freeze mid-air.
A/N: Remember to review! xxx