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Chapter 73: True Romance
A/N: Ahh we are so close! I am so pumped for you all to read what I have in store.
So this is a combination of another chapter; HPFF has a rule where you can't have an entire chapter as letters/correspondence so I decided to condense the letters and mesh the two. I hope you guys enjoy it (this is a goodie!!!)
Firstly, thank you for allowing Avery and myself to use the Devous manor as the venue for our wedding and reception. I am enclosing in this letter the six-hundred Galleons Ambrose has mentioned, and I trust that you will spend it wisely. Your hospitality is commendable and makes planning my wedding an easier experience. As the day we are scheduled to wed approaches, I hope that we can speak more on the smaller details, such as tablecloths and other minutiae.
In response to your questions from Ambrose's previous letter: I believe that the boyfriend Ambrose was referring to was not Brady Scott, but my brother, Theodore Nott. I wish to say no more on the matter.
As for your second and third questions, I believe they can be answered at the same time. Ambrose, as well as I, have been wary about making any contact with the Devous family since it was discovered that your sister, Scarlett Devous, was having an affair with Sirius Black, the blood traitor. We have not spoken to her since and do not know her condition.
Please understand that since the incident we have decided not to confide in any pureblooded socialites, and as I am disclosing this information in trust, we expect you to do the same. If you do not, please understand that you would be putting the entirety of the Black, Nott, and Devous families in shame and disgrace. I say so as a formality, as doing so would not be of any benefit to you.
Again, Tiffany, thank you for allowing the wedding to take place at your manor. It is well appreciated.
I will not bother to write anything more because I don't know how capable I am of being articulate.
You know me all too well, Tiffany!
And I should apologize. Georgiana has been—well, not really at her best—since the whole messy event occurred. I hardly can get an enthusiastic response out of her anymore. On top of that, she has made it clear that she does not approve whatsoever of Theo and me. Which I don't really get. The boy has needed somebody besides Georgiana. She should be happy that she doesn't have to worry so much anymore.
Call me freaking callous, but I do have to admit that one of my motivations in pursuing Theo was to help Georgiana out. As my best friend, the one person that has stuck by me seven years in this hellhole, I hate to see her in pain over Theo. Plus, Theo has been letting himself go ever since he caught her and Sirius in a liplock. Not the way he looks—he looks better than ever, quite frankly—but just the way he is.
He's different than he was. Georgiana talks about it a lot, and I can't help but feel for her. He hardly ever speaks anymore, including to me (but that's fine, because we don't speak much anyway, if you catch my drift). In my opinion, he just needs somebody that he doesn't really need to feel inclined to love.
For the record, they've hit the rocks and split since the beginning of January, so I think my behavior is at least a little bit excusable. I'm a pretty perceptive person, I'd like to think. I noticed that there was a problem, fixed it, and, as a reward, got a damn intriguing boy in return.
Mmm. Definitely could have done worse.
Now, as for Scarlett, I don't know exactly what has been going on with her. I know as much as any observer would know. I don't like talking to her either, but, then again, we never really got on well, so it's not as if I feel any different about her.
I'm sorry if I'm ever harsh on your sister. I'm speaking as if you two aren't related, as friends do. Sorry.
Then again, I can't really disdain her for what she's done. Merlin knows I've cheated on people before. Maybe not blood traitors—honestly, Scarlett, have some taste—but definitely people. A lot of people. It's not like this is new territory for me.
If anything, I'm just...oh, this is going to sound so bad, but I really tire of her. So much hype over one human being! So much distress! It's very remarkable what one person can do nowadays. Poor Theo and Georgie.
Anyway, I digress again. Your sister... well, the days following the breakup were the days that I paid most attention to her, but then again, a ton of people did. It was a really interesting case; she was always considered one of the more virtuous Slytherins, and to see her and Theodore split was, really, a shocker. Everyone was confused for the whole day following. Theodore was scary. Georgiana was scary. Bella and Narcissa... well, they were, but they got over her pretty quickly.
Scarlett, from what I remember... was just there. You could tell that she was shaken up from everything, but she didn't do much to express this. It was just in the smaller things. She moved where she sat and leaned as far away from Theodore as possible during classes where she had doomed herself. She didn't look at anybody.
She faded into obscurity after a while, though. People got over it. After a bit, she just... I don't really know where she went. I remember there being some talk over her missing classes for days at a time—really, I don't know how she is still in school with what grades she must have—and that's me saying that—but otherwise, she was just nowhere. She was hardly seen in public.
At the end of last month, she did faint in the middle of Defense. It was weird. I have no idea how else to describe it. You could tell that she was exhausted and probably a little sick, but nobody really paid much attention to it until after she'd fainted. And then all of a sudden came up talks of how people had known for weeks... people are funny. Funny and just plain old strange.
The most recent I've seen her, she's been hanging around the other Black. Oh, what a scandal that was. Not that anybody outside of a select few know of her and Sirius; I don't even think Regulus knows, which is just sad, considering he's her best friend now.
But within our group of friends, you have no idea. Georgie threw a fit. She, out of all of us, is most against Scarlett now. I can't blame her.
It is depressing to watch Georgiana night after night sitting next to Theo and both of them not saying a word. This went on for months. Neither of them had anything to say, though. Georgie just wanted to be there.
Man, I love that girl.
Anyway, I suppose she's fine.
And there's me answering your question over a foot of parchment where Georgiana could manage a paragraph. I don't know how or why that girl writes so formally. She's something.
For that matter, so is her brother. What a figure.
Hope you think that's elaboration enough! Love you, Tiffany!
Ambrose told me. Make of that information however you wish. As far as my knowing, you don't have to worry about me confiding in anyone else. I am in awe that the rest of the Death Eaters don't know and wonder how you managed to keep Ambrose and her lack of filter from what she thinks to what she says quiet.
I wish you would have told me, Scarlett. I can't believe you didn't. It's not like you; I know that you keep to yourself mostly, and I can understand that with everything that supposedly happened in January, you would exaggerate that quality.
But...I'm disappointed, Scarlett. I thought we confided in each other.
Regardless, I feel obligated to tell you what I've been wondering since my correspondence with Ambrose began again. As you may or may not know, Georgiana is still very interested in using the Devous manor, and I agreed to it, seeing as Georgiana spoke it over with mother during your own wedding and I had no idea of anything else.
Here is what I want to know, Scarlett. I am pretty sure that you will have to go to the wedding now. I am sorry for that.
Will you be with Theodore, or will he be with Ambrose?
I know that it may seem like an incredibly undesirable task, but you should speak to one of them to clarify what you are going to do next if you are so concerned of keeping the entire matter quiet. I know that it will be difficult. But time has passed and I know you can do it.
I hope you're better. Please, write back.
I love you. Don't forget that.
She didn't want to do it, but there was absolutely no avoiding it.
She spent hours at a time staring at the letter Tiffany had sent her, a worn gleam in her eye and her true feelings masked with an expression of indifference, especially when Regulus was nearby. She flipped it over in her hands—she knew what the texture of the paper was, knew each and every word by heart—and tried to reason an excuse out of it.
However, no matter which excuse came to her mind, whether that it was not her responsibility or that her biggest threat already knew so there was nothing anymore to worry about, there was simply no way to avoid it. After all, the wedding was occurring at her manor; that, as well as her previous presence at weddings, made it mandatory that she attend. Not only that, but, as far as most everyone—from her mother to nameless Pureblood socialites—knew, she was still happily married to Theodore, she was still on good terms with Georgiana herself, and, most importantly, she had never had, nor had ever considered, a love affair with the Gryffindor blood traitor, let alone contemplated a future in the Order of the Phoenix.
It was extremely important to maintain that image, though it was not necessarily for her sake. After all, as she knew extremely well, Voldemort already was aware of the split, as well as her previous relations with Sirius. Her name in the eyes of the most important Pureblood was eternally besmirched. There was no way to redeem herself, nor was there any part of her that wished to. Although she had not yet felt open scorn and disappointment from the Pureblood community, it was easy to say that she had known enough punishment for her actions from the hands of one man, and such actions from the Purebloods would be much better in comparison to everything Voldemort had already done. The Purebloods having a negative image of her would be nothing of any importance.
There was, nevertheless, the issue of her family, as well as the Blacks and the Notts, receiving that same disappointment and scorn. Although it meant nothing to her the same was not to be said for them. She had seen with her own eyes the trouble each family took to maintain utmost perfection in the eyes of everyone else; she knew, as she had experienced within her own family, the pressure of being ideal. Hell, her own wedding had been planned years before it had actually occurred and had been in her parents' heads before she even knew the concept of marriage itself, let alone arranged marriage. They had tried so hard, so incessantly.
And if all of that was for naught, she would have to feel the repercussions from her own family. That was not the same as feeling them from the Purebloods. That was losing her family. That was an unbearable concept; she had, after all, only a slim amount of people that would talk to her without hostility in their voices...
As far as the Notts and the Blacks were considered, she did not at all want their names ruined, either. Despite Sirius having no concern on whether his family was the most exquisite of all Purebloods or not, Regulus was to be noted, as he still was held with high esteem in his family's and the society's eyes. The Notts, also, did not deserve the shame of being scorned; no matter how angry Theodore and Georgiana were at her, she didn't want to see their lives, especially Theodore's, affected even more by her presence.
She wanted to avoid it so, so much, in spite of every motivation urging her to not. She wanted to wave it off as she had everything else, because, though she knew what had happened as a result, she still retained the memory of bliss in ignorance. She wanted to never speak to Theodore again, to cross her fingers that Georgiana's wedding would just never occur, that it would never arrive like her own wedding had, suddenly, abruptly, with the burden of everything she had avoided with it at once...
She wanted to avoid Theodore.
Oh, how easily history repeats itself... how easily you fall into the same patterns...
Scarlett gritted her teeth at the voice, and it was those words—words by the one that had overcome her before and had been the source of every stress and conflict that had ever occurred in her lifetime—that caused her to turn her eyes to Theodore and stand up.
Unlike before, she knew what would happen if she did.
Theodore had gotten quite used to this sort of escapism.
It was just so easy with Ambrose, and perhaps that was why he liked her so much. She made it so easy to forget everything. Whether it was her physical presence—Merlin, was she stunning—or her desire to talk about the most trivial of things (though, Theodore conceded, they did not talk all that often)—she had made his life much easier. She provided distraction from any real thought with her chatter and her beauty and her remarkable talent for kissing. She also provided a shield from Georgiana's concern or, more recently, her irritation, and made it harder for what Georgiana had said to him—"famous last words"—to be contemplated at length.
For that, Theodore was very thankful, because when Ambrose wasn't around it hung over his head without cessation. Georgiana had, somehow, made Theodore feel worry and exasperation and pride and self-disdain all at once, and these emotions were only halted by the distracting Ambrose Katalina.
It was ironic, in a sad way, that the girl who had forced him to confront all that he'd avoided with Scarlett was helping him now to avoid confronting Georgiana's words, but Theodore supposed it made some sense. He knew now, in retrospect, that Ambrose had intentionally bewitched him, and had manipulated him so that his feelings on Scarlett were used to provide her with a moment of vulnerability. It was conniving, but how was Theodore supposed to know then that Ambrose was perfect for him—perfect for him, not in the sense he had thought Scarlett had been, not in the sense of marriage or commitment or any of that, but in the sense of what he needed.
What he needed was escapism, and he had gotten it.
Georgiana didn't appreciate what he was doing, though, and as a result the whole table suffered. She was sullen, so unlike what she had been in December, but, then again, Theodore had to wonder who hadn't changed since December. The evidence could be seen so obviously, too; all anyone had to do to know this was look at Ambrose, who had graciously taken Scarlett's place next to him.
Delving into the smaller things, it became more and more clear. Bellatrix was much more reserved, and spoke much less about things that were important, like she was worried to give them anything of substance. This treatment was inflicted on everyone, even Narcissa, who became troubled and just as distant as a result; her notes to Lucius suffered, and were curter, as if she had taken heed with Theodore's failed marriage and love.
Georgiana was just the worst. He spent the most time with her, so he was exposed to those changes more, but it was also true that she had taken Scarlett's betrayal the hardest. Scarlett had been one of her closer friends; additionally, her other friend, Ambrose, was beginning to spend more time with him than with her. This not only shortened the time Ambrose and Georgiana spent together, it also shortened the time Theodore and Georgiana spent together and elongated the time Georgiana spent alone.
The weirdest thing of all of that was that Theodore was beginning to notice—he still did have a keen eye—that, lately, Georgiana spent more and more time with none other than Remus Lupin. He had not been kidding when he had asked her if she fancied him. She had, after all, fancied him before, and he knew that, no matter how much she preached about never making the same mistake twice, there was always the risk that she would.
It was these kinds of thoughts, thoughts about what had changed, thoughts about what was changing, that Theodore liked to forget. They were too much, far too much, for him to handle, and, seeing as he was still having problems fully getting over all Scarlett had done to him, the task of having more problems on his mind was one that he liked to avoid, and avoid as frequently as he could.
This was why he liked Ambrose—she helped him do that. She was, though manipulative, honest in her motives, and she was simple. She helped him leave every problem that had been left unresolved, and every problem that was emerging, and allowed him to escape.
"Theodore, I need to speak to you about something."
The words were spoken rigidly, and were spoken so quietly Theodore wasn't sure that he had heard them at first. But then, once he realized that he had heard them, there was no way to incorrectly recognize the voice.
And no matter how much time had passed, no matter what Ambrose did, there was nothing, no manufactured scent of Amortentia, no seductive croon at whatever hour of the night, no shallow conversation, that could ever help him escape the tangled mess of emotions that arose within him from just that voice. Her voice.
The action of Theodore Nott leaving with Scarlett Devous left many gossiping students something to talk about.
But one, the one that mattered most, didn't talk at all. He didn't speak his opinion on the Scarlett and Theodore romance, because he couldn't. He couldn't even form a coherent sentence on how much it sickened him.
And all Sirius Black could do was scowl as he watched them leave. He could only scowl as words of a reviving romance were already touching his ears.
He could only scowl as he got the idea in his mind that maybe he had just been wrong about her all along.
The atmosphere that radiated from the only two in the hallway was staggering.
Both moved with an easy briskness, their arms hanging limply from their sides, and they did not look at each other, so that, were a stranger to pass them, he would have no clue that the two even knew each other, let alone that they were still married. Their sound of their steps echoed off of the walls, ricocheting from the scant lanterns that adorned each side of them, and the silence echoed throughout their bodies, bringing forth a strong urge for the one next to them to speak first.
They did not know where it was, exactly, that they were going, though they knew the corridors of Hogwarts better than most. Though the conversing was destined to be little, and the topic itself to be settled in an instant—Scarlett was determined to not speak to Theodore long—there was a pall over the entire event, as if it would be best for it to never exist. Such a feeling was only logically settled by distancing themselves from anyone, though, Scarlett realized, the feeling of being completely alone with her husband was hardly the more favorable option.
But she realized that it had to be done, and doggedly kept on.
After a while—neither was all too sure on how long they had been walking—they ceased their strides in a hallway that looked like most others, a hallway that had little significance to any student in Hogwarts. They eyed their surroundings for a while, trying to gain scope of their atmosphere before partaking in conversation, and after this moment had passed Scarlett chose to do the inevitable and speak first.
"Look, Theodore," she began, "I am entirely aware of how little you want to talk to me, and I want to make this conversation go by as quickly as possible." With difficulty she met his eyes. "I wanted to speak to you about Georgiana's wedding. I know that it is taking place at my family's manor over Spring Break, meaning that my attendance is most likely mandatory, unless I want to provoke questions about my whereabouts or, more importantly, our marriage.
"What I need to ask you about is whether we will be attending together, in order to keep our separation a secret, or if you will instead go with Ambrose—in which case I guess we will work something out. All I need to know is what you would most like to do and I hope you understand what could happen if our separation becomes public." She took a deep breath. "What do you think?"
Theodore did not say anything for a while; he preferred instead to stare her down. After a few moments of doing this, though, he finally responded. "Personally, I just think all of this is ridiculous."
Scarlett blinked. "Pardon?"
"It's just," he said, and he laughed, "I'm not used to you worrying about other people's concerns."
Scarlett wove a hand through her hair, taking another deep breath.
In all frankness, Scarlett felt that she had every right to bite back at what Theodore had said. She really did not want to speak to him for much longer, and she certainly did not need his attitude prolonging the experience. She did reason, however, that he had every right to be sarcastic and to give her attitude. After all, she knew from repeated exposure on Voldemort's part just how terribly she had affected him.
However, also in thanks to Voldemort, she did not need anything trying her temper or her patience.
"I understand," she said shortly. "But if you could just tell me what you think—"
"What I think?" he interrupted. "Here's what I think, Scarlett—why in the world would I ever want any reason to spend any amount of time with you?"
Scarlett ground her teeth together.
"I know you don't want to talk to me," she said, "but—"
"In that case, it's no wonder you approached me," he snidely interrupted, "seeing as you never cared about what I wanted anyway."
Scarlett took more deep breaths to try and calm herself, but she still felt the annoyance pinch at her as she said, "I'm doing this for your sister's sake!"
Theodore scoffed. "That's a lie," he accused. "You're doing this to keep your name out of the dirt."
She laughed derisively in response. "Don't worry about my name. Don't worry about my reputation. I got everything that I deserved! And, you know—" she shook her head—"I am truly, really sorry for what I did to you! Every day I am sorry! But I do not need your attitude!"
"My attitude?" Theodore asked skeptically.
She nodded. "I don't keep tabs on you, Theodore," she said, "but I am aware of how you act nowadays."
Now Theodore raised his eyebrows. "And how is that, exactly?"
As the opportunity presented itself, it was impossible for Scarlett not to let her temper get away from her. "You are just—refusing to get over it!" she said. "And it's at the expense of everyone, including, apparently, your sister, because you just refuse to be reasonable!"
The words were harsh enough that Scarlett recognized it as they fled her mouth, but they were impossible to retract, especially because she knew that they were true and needed to be spoken.
Theodore had no response to them, for a while; he seemed to be as stunned as she was. He finally said, with a nearly unbearable amount of malice in his voice, "Well, excuse me for having problems."
She crossed her arms. "Welcome to reality, Theodore," she said. "We all have them."
Theodore snickered darkly. "Of course you have problems," he said. "I'm sure life is difficult for you."
Those words, like the ones Voldemort had spoken to her, set something off in her, and despite the harshness of the words previously spoken Scarlett could not help the surge of anger that erupted within her. "You have no idea," she seethed. "You have no idea what I've dealt with, Theodore."
Theodore rolled his eyes at this. "I can't believe myself," he said. "I can't believe that I ever, that I still am, in love with you—hell, that I was ever deluded in the first place to think you were my friend! I obviously never knew you because, if I did, I would have known how all you ever do, all you have ever done, is look out for yourself!"
The anger was overwhelming now, his words feeding the fire, and Scarlett found that she could not even speak as she grasped the ring on her finger—Always and Forever—and took it off her finger, throwing it at his feet as she stormed away.
Theodore could not stop shaking.
His hand was nearly uncontrollable, trembling as he struggled to pick up the ring Scarlett had left at his feet. It was an even bigger struggle as the tremors made it harder for him to put the ring in his pocket; the feeling that the ring was on fire made it even worse.
His mind was fervent, out of control as it tried to fully grasp together what had happened. All he had known was that Scarlett had been trying to speak to him about escorts, and he had refused to cooperate because all he could think at the time was how much she had hurt him. After that he really didn't know what happened.
He could make no sense of the argument. He did not know what it was about. He had said things that had been on his mind, the angry thoughts he had refused to tell Georgiana, and it had all backfired and somehow led to Scarlett throwing the ring at him. He had belittled her problems—though, in his defense, he could not imagine any problems that she could have had, especially in comparison to his own—and had said that all she had ever done was look out for herself. He had said things that were unreasonable and had crossed the line but things that he had always wanted to say to her, things that he could not have formed together when she had first betrayed him.
And—he had told her that he was still in love with her.
She hadn't even noticed.
He tried to take deep breaths, but he couldn't concentrate. He felt as if he had run miles, and idly wondered if he were having a panic attack for his lack of composure.
He had never lacked this much composure in his life.
Theodore could not formulate why he still felt this strongly about her, why the ring still burned in his pocket. It had been months. Hell, he was with Ambrose now, and fancied her, and was happy, as happy as he had ever been, because Ambrose had been what he had needed...
Ambrose... had been his way to escape. She helped him go far, far away from remembering how much he hated feeling anything, anything at all, for Scarlett. She had helped him escape.
Or so he'd thought. He could not have known then... could not have known... that, no matter what, he would never be able to escape Scarlett...