Famous orphan turned auror, Ted Lupin's getting married and never-quite-anything Lucy Weasley has front-row tickets to the gig of her career. Returning to the place she fled five years ago she's facing more than just her editor. With a horde of angry Weasleys at her throat and the boy who once owned her heart refusing to hand it back, this sure is one for the headlines.
Besides, everyone wants to cover their ex's wedding, right?
: Just a warning: this is not going to be anything like what I've written previously - at all. The plot is teetering at clichéed, though I'm trying to make this my own. It's the first thing I've felt inspired to write for years, so I figured that must be a sign. It's my first ever attempt at writing a romantic comedy(ish), which is probably
the most daunting writing challenge I’ve ever done. All I've ever written in my life has been angst and romance and seriousness
. So bear with me. I’ll probably sneak some deeper stuff in, since I can’t really help myself, but this will be a fun, cheeky comedy - hopefully. Enjoy!
I own nothing you recognize.
To all my old readers: this used to be a Rose/Ted fic. Because of the huge age-gap, TOS and my re-evaluation of this story, I've changed the pairing into a Lucy/Ted fic. It's the same story, the same concept, just... a different name (and age). I hope you'll bear with me and trust me on this one: Luce is awesome
. There are two years between Lucy and Ted.
IN THE DISTANCE OF BRAVERY
CHAPTER IMAGE CREDITS SophieScarlette@TDA
August swung in slowly that year, and I was beginning to lose it.
It was a queer, sultry summer, with the bay shivering in the withdrawal of its partner and the sunflowers blossoming marvellously in a gaudy remembrance. With the heat came a letter, one whose arrival I had dreaded for years.
It was a surrender of sorts; it was my
surrender to the workings of the universe. Because star-crossed lovers or not, him and I belonged only to each other in between the shadows of summer. Even in the distance, with the ocean reaching far out into the corners of our hearts, the quiet sonata of his voice still reached me across borders. It called to me, like wishes passing you in a kaleidoscope parade; it was a quiet whisper that my heart was still too young to make a mantra of but I recognized it with an ancient familiarity.
I stare at the letter lying on my desk, half-expecting the jingle to begin playing again. The pink, heart shaped confetti billows gently to the floor around me, as reality starts hauling its iron fist at me. I’m slightly at a loss for words as silence takes its place, chokingly stiff as it presses on my throat like water.
Five years of nothing and now this?
I kind of preferred the silent treatment instead. Anything
is better than this. I’ve heard of singing birthday cards, but this is taking it just one step too far. The telegram morphs into a rose before my eyes, delicate and pink. I try to find him somewhere in the frilly ornament, but I’m forced to look away before the nostalgia burns me.
It’s too quiet for too long. Their names still stretch out in extravagant letters on the flower, pompous and formal, stinging my eyes. I wish they had been erased; each letter cuts shards of glass off my heart
You are cordially invited to –
Scorpius, my best friend, co-worker and ally, is leaning in across my cubicle, eyeing the delicate rose in my hand.
“That,” I brush away the confetti hearts from my desk, willing my hands to stop shaking, “was my invitation to hell.”
He glances at me over his dark rimmed glasses. “Sounds riveting.”
He’s wearing magenta robes and has his dirty blonde hair up in a ponytail that rivals every woman's hair-dos in the room. He looks like a fashionista who’s misguided his way into the journalists’ corner with his bulging arms and high-street clothes.
“It’s not. Trust me.”
I avoid his pale eyes, sweeping the paper rose into a drawer, shutting it quickly in a feeble attempt to keep the past from creeping out. When I look up Scorpius is still eyeing me.
He’s one of the few people who has dealt with so many fucked up things in his life that he has now come to depend on drama instead of the other way around. It’s been this way ever since we met, in the middle of Mumbai’s dusty streets, eyeing tourist maps and dreaming big. We're still dreaming big, we're just not traveling the world anymore.
He does not push it further, though, which I am grateful for.
“Come on,” he says, straightening up. “Catchlove’s called an emergency meeting. Best not be late."
Miranda Catchlove’s conference room is pink enough to fulfil every six-year-old girl’s fluffiest fantasies. Toothpick smiles blind us from the thousands of celebrity pictures on the wall, each smile and pose more provocative than the next. They are all waving frantically at us when we enter the room. We take a seat at the corner of the wide oak table, as far down the table from Miranda’s throne as possible.
Scorpius immediately pulls out quill and paper, scribbling across the paper in bold bulky letters, POSH JUICY ASSEMBLY.
Right across from us at the head of the table, is Miranda’s chair. It’s empty still, but attention seeking and outrageous even in its emptiness, much like its owner. Like all other things Catchlove, it’s pink and shaped like a beating hart. It’s an eerie tribute to my letter and life in general and I do not appreciate the reference.
“Love your nails,” Scorpius gushes, instantly making me feel better.
“Thanks.” I had them done yesterday with small sunflowers covering each long smooth surface. Now they’re nervously tapping against the smooth surface of the oak.
The room slowly fills as our crew takes their seat, each chattering loudly and carrying bucketful of coffee. Mostly women work here, delivering the juiciest gossip to the world. Scorpius is the only man working for Witch Weekly, an accomplishment he's sure to mention frequently.
At last, Miranda Catchlove enters the room, followed closely by her ever-faithful Quick-Quotes Quill. Immediately, the entire room of journalists fall silent at the telltale clickity-click of Miranda’s impossibly high shoes.
“Enchanted, enchanted as always,” Miranda peeps in her shrill voice, as the door slams closed behind her.
She is not big, nor loud, but there is something about a woman who’s both beautiful and ambitious that beckons people to listen to her.
“So.” Miranda's smile is wide, her signature burgundy lips, puckering delicately. “I’ve called you here as an announcement was made this morning.”
Scorpius is practically jumping up and down in his seat with excitement, his Quick-Quote Quill skipping across the page along with him, “I knew it –“ he hisses in my ear. “It’s the wedding!”
Catchlove’s yellow eyes find mine across the wide stretch of the table. “Ted Lupin, Godson of Harry Potter, announced his upcoming wedding today.”
An excited murmur passes through the crowd, buzzing like a hive of bees. I shift in my seat. Miranda silences the room with one manicured hand.
“We all know how – ahem –
secretive the Potters are - that, however, does not mean that we will not deliver juicy details about this wedding.” Her smile stretches wickedly. “We are, after all, Witch Weekly
, are we not?”
Every single head in the room is lifted in excitement. The Potters have always been considered front news, and with a guy like Teddy, who’s practically Harry’s son, the profit of such news, would be enough to pay our rent for a year.
“As an encouragement, I’ve decided to hold a teeny competition.” Miranda’s gaze sweeps the room, pausing for a second on me. “And with a competition, naturally, a prize must come.”
You can practically slice the tension in the room. Scorpius is leaning closer and closer to Miranda, practically lying across the table, his quill scribbling furiously behind him in jerky movements.
“The prize to whoever brings me the scoop, is a feature of your own choosing as well as a raise.”
There is a collective intake of air as the words leave her mouth. As the word-hungry journalists that we are, we are all dreaming of larger paychecks and greater recognition. Even Scorpius, who’s practically running the largest and most popular column in Witch Weekly, is hanging by her every word, his eyes glinting.
“So.” Miranda’s lips curl as she straightens. “Before we begin, I’d like to hear if anyone’s got anything?”
All hell breaks loose.
People are yelling at the top of their lungs, competing for attention.
“I have the number of Ted Lupin’s old classmate…”
“His ex-girlfriend, Victoire…”
“… his Auror mentor…”
“Ted’s dog sitter –“
I shrink further and further into my chair, watching with horror as my co-workers spit out name after name, one more useless than the next.
“Well, you certainly have ideas…
” Miranda rubs her face with her hands. “Do we even know the bride’s name?”
Immediately, the room falls silent. Miranda’s gaze follows me, her mouth soft. She does not call my name, but I reach forward nonetheless, involuntarily holding my breath.
She clucks her tongue, “So unprepared, so unprepared, really dreadful indeed… Disap-“
Every single head turns to look at me. I bite my lip, waiting. A smirk filters across Miranda’s mouth, so briefly that I almost think I’ve imagined it.
“Good.” She appraises me with the slightest nod. “It seems Weasley has brought her game today, at least.”
I can feel Scorpius’s gaze turned on me, gaping. I look straight ahead, meeting the hard stare of my boss.
“And how, may I ask, do you know this?” She presses her quill against the corner of her mouth, one perfectly shaped eyebrow raised quizzically. “Who are your sources?”
“A-anonymous – I don’t know – i-it’s hard to explain.“
I mumble the last bit, flustered and embarrassed as Miranda continues to study me.
“You’ll have to do better than that.” It comes off properly, stiffly. “Journalists can’t just know
I nod, looking up for a bit of effort. “I – I –“
“She’s invited to the wedding,” Scorpius chimes in beside me. “I saw the invite.” I stare at him and we catch each other in a moment, my eyes narrowed at his betrayal. He looks away first.
Miranda sets her eyes on me. “Is this true, Weasley?”
I hesitate before nodding. Every single face in the room is now glaring at me.
“Just got the invite.” My ears feel about ready to pop off with the heat.
“Perfect.” A slow smile spreads across her lips. “You’ll be our eyes and ears on location. This wedding will not go uncovered. Not this time.”
The entire room is sizzling with envy at this point. I smile softly, ignoring the glares.
“She has a Plus One,” Scorpius pipes up. My smile stiffens and I begin to wonder how long he has been spying at me. I thought I had muffled the song quite splendidly. Obviously, I was wrong.
“Malfoy, you’ll be Weasley’s Plus One, then.” Miranda nods. “I expect great moving stuff, guys. That means tear-jerking fluffiness. You know our readers; housewives, housewives and more housewives.”
She nails me with her yellow eyes. I nod and try to push some sort of smile. I’ve never really liked Miranda. Beside me, I can feel Scorpius’s smile radiating.
“Always, Miranda love!”
The meeting is adjourned and everyone files out of the office in a symphony of clicking heels. I stay behind, pretending to look through some papers. Miranda is idly flipping through our latest edition, obvious to my presence. I dry my sweaty palms on my skirt, clearing my throat,
“Yes, Weasley?” She does not glance up from the magazine and I step forward, the soft patter of my heels urging me on.
“Well – um. I – I wasn’t really planning on going
to that wedding, see?”
Finally, Miranda stops flipping through her magazine and looks at me, her cat-like eyes scrutinizing.
“And why would you do something as stupid as that?”
I shrink, reddening slightly. “I… personal reasons?”
Miranda stares at me in silence for a long time. Finally she packs away her stuff and gets to her feet. Standing, she barely reaches my shoulder, yet I feel like an ant being squashed slowly but surely underneath her feet.
“Weasley,” she sighs. “Do you want
to rate the best dressed celebrities at the Snitches for the rest of your life?”
“Then go to the wedding.”
She squeezes my shoulder. “Write a beautiful piece about the blushing bride with all the juicy details of the drama inside the Wizarding World’s golden family. I’ll give you all you want afterwards.”
She walks to the door, pausing half-way out. “Oh, and Wesley?” She smiles sweetly. “Don't bother coming back without a story.”
She leaves me standing in the pink room with my scream still lodged in a silent surrender in my throat.
I stand there for some time, reeling at the development, trying to master the clock, the seconds, the soft ticker of my life rolling back into place. I feel like I’m on a train, slowly returning to a place I had deemed ended; considered concluded.
When I finally exit the room, Scorpius is waiting for me by my desk, excitement jumping in his eyes. I make my way slowly to the pathetic excuse of a cubicle, avoiding his eyes. I’m just… not in the fucking mood.
Scorpius wasn't always like this. Just like I wasn't always a journalist writing Do's and Don't's on page 9. But he's constant, just like I am - because really, what else do we have?
“So, everyone hates you,” he tells me with ill-disguised glee when I get close enough.
“That’s hardly a cause for excitement.”
He laughs then, softly and amused and I can see my best friend in there again. The one who spent nights of crying in the bathrooms with me, trained me to become a proper capital woman and not the old Northerner I used to be, with my flat vowels, mumbled ‘ain’t’s and churned down nails.
–“ He grins. “we’re getting it! We’re
getting the promotion. Us!”
He says it like we’re a team, the two of us, and I feel guilty about being such a twat. Because we are. A team, that is. The two runaways in London, writing shitty, mindless gossipy stuff to see it to the next day. In some way I guess we have always been running; running from expectations and our predetermined destiny.
“Um, Scorpius?” I reach forward and touch his arm, allowing a smile to play along my lips. “We need to actually write
the damn thing –“
His smile is radiant as he senses the shift. He’s always been good at things like these. Silent understandings. Gentle touches that say more than a thousand words. It’s a trade taught down through generations of Malfoy dinners spent wordlessly, much like being academically brilliant and ambitious is a trade from my family. But whereas Scorpius excels at his family trait, I have sadly never lived up to the legacy of my name. I remain the black sheep of the Weasley family, and now Scorpius is going to notice, too. It’s hard not to. With the Merlin’s Degrees and fame that resides in my hometown of overachievers.
“Details, details.” He waves me off with a hand. “Honey, I can find drama in a monastery.”
That’s actually true. I think about it and figure that he is
the best man to help me with this, seeing as there’s no way I’m escaping this madness. Scorpius squeezes me tightly to his chest, his large form enveloping me completely.
“I’m going to be the best date ever, Lucy.”
5 years ago, Lucy aged 20
I press the button again, longer this time, tripping in my too large overcoat. In my hurry, I’ve grabbed the wrong one, so not only does the chill from the moist sea air inch itself closer to my body, burying me in the smell of fish and dirt, but I am also buried in the smell of him whenever I shrink closer into the folds. It was his favourite jacket. Now all I can grasp at is the smell of spearmint chewing gum and sweet cologne, and I begin to question my reasons for coming here. I’d never imagined that spearmint would be my undoing.
It’s beautiful here on the outskirts of town by the French lake, with the wide expands of French land, with the wind inking unuttered words onto my skin. Green stretches out far, further, until the edge between sky and ground is erased. People find themselves here; fall in love.
Finally, the door opens and reveals my beautiful cousin with her long hair flying everywhere around her head in a red burnt halo of gold. She looks like an angel caught in the midst of a storm. My storm.
“Pardon pour le –
Lucy -” Her cheery voice falters as she takes in my form. ”What are you doing here?”
”Hi Dom,” I sink.
We stand there on her porch for a while, eyeing each other. It’s been months since the last time we met and I begin to doubt my choice of coming here. Dom is wearing a baby blue dress, girly like always and I feel completely inadequate in my jeans and hoodie. It seems that those differences between us will always stand out blaringly against the confines of our friendship. I can still see the ghost of her, filmy and hazy around the edges, as the memory of her past warnings run through my mind. The irony is cold and unforgiving like the wind pressing against my back.
Her eyes travel my form, ending at my face. ”What happened?”
Her voice is soft and it’s not even a real question. She already knows.
”Can I come in?” I ask instead. ”It’s a bit nippy outside, see,”
”Of course, sorry –“ Dom opens the door further and steps aside. “I’ve been living in France for too long – French manners are getting to me.”
Entering her house is like stepping into a foreigner’s life. It’s the first time I’ve been here, despite our lifelong friendship. A wall decorated with photographs of our family at the end of the hallway greets me upon entering. I run my fingertips along the gilded frames, circling faces, caressing the slippery planes of glass.
“Beautiful.” I breathe to them, drawing maps across our youthful memories.
”I’ve missed you.” Her voice calls out from behind me, gentle as the breeze in here.
I turn to look at her, fingers falling from our faces. It’s the first real thing I’ve heard all day. A smile spreads slowly across her face. It’s like rediscovering a long lost gift, finding her again. The joy doesn’t leave me right away and it’s the first emotion that has lingered inside my body for all I care to remember. Like a mirror, my smile must greet hers in a widespread grin, teeth upon teeth.
“Tea?” She hovers in the doorway to the kitchen.
I take a seat in the living room. Thankfully, there are no more photographs of family members in here. Only a large painting covers the wall, the harsh strokes and soft curves recognized immediately. It’s a lake with a house in the background.
“You kept it.” I smile at her when she returns with the tea.
“It’s a masterpiece,” is her only answer.
We are silent for a while. I tug into the couch, hands enveloping the mug in the hopes of robbing it of some of its heat. I feel cold to the core. It’s a coldness that won’t be erased no matter how much I try. I can feel her staring but I refuse to raise my gaze.
Dom sets down her cup, regarding me carefully. ”What happened?”
Her voice is still as soft as daisies on a field, a summer’s day and melted butter. It’s the voice that has conquered hundreds of men’s hearts, melted the frowns off professors’ faces and rendered even the toughest nuts speechless. It’s tantalizing and I feel myself sinking into the lull of her oceanic tenor.
The conclusion seems inevitable, even to her.
”So you ran?”
I finger a thread in my hoodie, refusing to meet those sky-blue eyes. ”It seemed -” I sigh. “It seemed like the least dramatic action.”
Her bell like laughter rings out into the room, spreading across the space between us. It’s deafening against the blanket of sadness that has enveloped us.
“Lucy Weasley,” Dom giggles, ”since when have you been anything but dramatic?”
”Since now, hopefully.”
The mirth stiffens on her face. She casts a quick, searching glance at me, one that does not go unnoticed.
”Maman told me - ” she says finally in a much easier voice, a sadder one, seduction aborted. ”I’m so sorry, Luce.”
I stare at my painting for what seems like forever. I can see the brown of those eyes gleaming back at me in the depths of the whirling colours. It’s the same with all of my paintings. I could never rid myself of him and thus he followed me everywhere, even into the worlds I crafted upon white canvases. I can still recall the day I painted this one. All my paintings stick like glue to my fingers, forever merged to my skin from the first lick of paint until my very last breath. They are souls embedded into roaring shades, collecting dripping sorrow to form opuses.
”Could I stay here for a bit?”
”Here?” She arches one perfect eyebrow at me, her pink mouth puckering in worry, ”But Teddy –”
”Ted is where he should be.”
”Can I stay?”
She stares at me for a long time. Outside it has begun raining. The rain hits its raging fist against the windows as the ocean roars behind it. I eye the tears rolling down the mirror surface, those teardrops gathering like waterfalls, poetic in their beauty. I could live here. Merge myself into the sea; reinvent myself in-between patters of rain.
Dom is still unleashing her all too blue eyes on me. I force myself to meet them. She sighs, the telltale sign that I am winning,
”Sure. Yes. Okay.” Her bell laughter rings out again, the well-worn lines around her eyes familiar, almost comforting. “It gets so lonely here in the cottage, and Maman keeps on saying I should get myself a husband, and what’s the difference, really?”
I don’t answer since there isn’t really much to say. It’s not about being here. It’s not about the painting that’s tearing into my heart, or the small cottage or the loneliness. I am back at staring at Dom again, waiting for something to step back into making sense. It doesn’t come, not here.
“I meant to, you know.” She looks down for a second, studies her hands, the mug clasped between them, silent for a beat. “I meant to find a man.”
There are words I could say, twenty years old, we have time, youth – but the words remain lodged in my throat because even I have trouble believing those inside this house with his eyes burning into my neck from the corner.
“Ever since – ever since Darren – ” Her voice falters. ”It’s just not the same.”
My hands find her face, pressing into the crevices there. Her breath shudders against the back of my hand and she feels fragile underneath my fingertips, ready to be washed away with the rain, one whimsical tale of beauty swallowed whole by the sea. I rest my cheek against hers. There is wetness gathering there and I press my fingertips harder against her softness, closing my eyes.
”Nothing is,” I tell her and the words end there.
need to take that Apparation test.”
Scorpius eyes the cracked yellow paint dismally when I lead him to the car. I ignore him and unlock it swiftly. Inside, the air is hot and stale, with the smell of old lunchboxes and dirty socks. Scorpius rolls down his window immediately upon entering, huffing dramatically. I roll my eyes.
“It’s not that
“Oh no, it so
is. I don’t even know why I let you drive me in this Muggle contraption.” He juts the miniature motorbike hanging from the rear-view mirror idly, watching as it jitters from its place. “This is just an accident waiting to happen.”
The car sputters to life, hiccoughing and screeching loudly as I reverse out. “Betty’s served me well,” I snap, “so shut up.”
“My, my,” he laughs, “we are
in a mood today…”
During the fifteen-minute car-ride to my place, I tell Scorpius everything.
The sturdy stubbornness of my mother. Molly’s indifference. Inane talks over dinner. Hollow smiles. Ted, my best friend, soft and gentle like the wind. Gone. I tell him of ferries, of Grimsby and of the forest. And for the first time in five years, I can still see Him lying in the middle of the field of sunflowers, his smile endless and ancient in its familiarity. Ready for me. Only that I’m not there, I’m back in London, stuck in-between traffic jams and tall buildings that touch the sky.
Afterwards, Scorpius is silent for a while. I don’t try to break the silence and when we pass the Palace Theatre with its blinking lights and sea of people, signalling our arrival, it’s a relief. The chaos and blaring sounds fill some hole in me, comforting in their massiveness.
“It’ll be alright, Luce.”
Scorpius touch is gentle on my hand. I smile and focus on parking the car. Soon, the touchy moment is over, and he’s back at grumbling about Muggle contraptions. That’s the great thing about Scorpius. He never dwells on emotions for long.
I follow him slowly to my front door on Gerrard Street. Like all houses in Soho, the front door is painted in a bright colour. Mine is purple, situated right next to the Indian Deli. Right now, the sweet aroma of onions and duck is carried through the air. Scorpius hums, sniffing the air.
“That smells so good… I could use some Indian right about now.”
“I’ll order some when we get up, yeah?”
Grumpily, he agrees and we make it the 176 steps (yes, I’ve counted) up to my apartment before getting in. My next-door neighbour, Mr Gupta, peeks through a small crack in the door as I unlock the door, breathing hard. I’ve never seen him actually leave the apartment. He lives alone. I think.
Amar Gupta’s eyes widen comically and the door closes with a snap. Scorpius huffs beside me. “Don’t know why you bother, eh.”
With that he marches straight in and throws himself on my couch with a moan. My one and only love; my cat, Mr Gobbles, whisks across the room immediately, rubbing itself against my leg. I lift him into my arms and he purrs loudly in my ear. At least someone’s happy to see me.
drinking again,” Scorpius mutters into his hand from my sofa.
We were both out clubbing yesterday and both are feeling under the weather. He's watching me closely still. So closely that I know he's waiting for a breakdown; for a sign. He notices things about me. Just like I notice that he drinks a lot, and that he hasn't had a boyfriend all the time I've known him. And that sometimes, when he thinks I'm not looking, he'll browse the Famous Wizard Families column, searching for names. Sometimes he finds a familiar one. I'll watch him, holding my breath as every emotion thinkable crosses his face. He puts it down quickly after that. I always pretend not to notice, too afraid to approach the subject. Or maybe I'm too scared that we'll delve into my story, too.
“Yeah, that’s likely,” I snigger, dialling the number to our Indian takeout. "What happened with that bloke, anyways?"
"Which one?" he smirks.
"Funny." I shake my head at him, righting myself as the line clears on the phone. Mr Gobbles head-butts my face, purring loudly, as I place our order.
Soon, we are munching on onion rings, Chicken Tikka Masala and fajitas. It's our thing. Scorpius can't cook to save his life and he refuses to eat my organic cooking, so we order Indian every other night. Scorpius is moaning through every bite.
“This is so
A silence passes. The words Miranda said are still echoing, sticky and heavy in my mind. Dread fills me, its weight so astute it fills my chest and I find it hard to breathe. I don’t know how I’ll manage this. The fear in the room feels corporeal to me, as human and real as me.
“I’m not going.”
Scorpius lifts his head and stares at me.
“Lucy,” he says with a gruffness belied by a certain amount of tenderness and exasperation.
6 years ago, Lucy aged 19
“Lucy,” he says with a tenderness only he has ever accomplished perfecting.
“Lucy,” he says again, and then once more, for effort, “
“Huh?” I hum in between strokes of wonder. The paintbrush stretches across the white canvas, marring the innocence with swirls of colour. I can feel him watching me. His warm gaze envelops me in a warmth I have yet to associate with someone new.
“You’re forgetting yourself.”
The bristly fibres prick and spiral rainbows upwards in endless stretches. My hand is no longer my own as I paint the dear chocolate of his eyes. My fingers are tinged with blues, crimsons and yellows, but most of all sweet chocolate brown.
He places a series of fluttery kisses on the back of my neck, murmuring my name, while my paintbrush continues to kiss pieces of love in acrylic caresses.
“I’m busy.” We stand together, a tangle of limbs. I can feel the firm stutter of his heart against my back. It’s almost as if we’re one, exhaling in beats of music.
“Busy doing what?”
“Painting.” The brush skitters across valleys and hills of green, encircling the russet colour. I stretch further, reaching into the corners to smear spins of dye, drawing rainbows in the crevices of his eyes.
“Painting who?” his mouth slides across the small stretch of my shoulder and my breath is caught in the back of my throat. I steal a glance at him. His eyes are blue today, but I know better.
His lips brush the shell of my ear,
“Then paint me.”
He steals a kiss, woefully squeezing in underneath my outstretched arm. I gasp, smearing gold across the soft expand of his chin. His mouth gapes open in mock horror. His eyes are incredibly wide. He’s kind of precious like this.
His laugh rings out, full and heartfelt. I turn my brush on him instead. Laying brush strokes across limbs and smiles. He nibbles at my bottom lip and I gasp breathlessly into his mouth, smearing the side of his face in oceanic blue with my palm. This is us, stretching into forever with kaleidoscope bodies.
We sit cross-legged in our apartment, face to face. I run the bristly fibres across the smooth expand of his back and acres of skin, a loving caress to last a lifetime. At last, he coats his hand in burgundy, too. Smears it across the wide expand of my chest. He pushes away clothes, careful and gentle. Then he paints a sun on the corner of my hip.
We roll across paint, woven together in a mash. We fall onto the floor, tainting our bedroom a whirl of kaleidoscopic shades. We paint it with love.
Chocolate-brown tainted love.
“Please, I need you there – I can’t
Scorpius stares at me for a long time.
“This is a bad, bad idea,” I tell him.
“Mr Gobbles is coming too, though,” he tells me and lifts my beloved cat in the air. “Isn’t that right?” He meows softly as if to agree.
“I’ve trained her to go potty!” He says, “Look! Mr Gobbles, go potty in your tray, please.”
Mr Gobbles just blinks at him with his large grey eyes.
He begins licking his paw, ignoring Scorpius completely.
Finally, he lifts his fat bottom grudgingly and saunters to his tray before sitting down in it. Triumphantly Scorpius turns at me, grinning wickedly.
I don’t bother saying anything. We both know I’ll go. Scorpius is too much of a pushover to let me stay here and I need the money too much.
When night falls Scorpius leaves me, disapparating to his own place just down the street and I am left to my thoughts again. We’ll be leaving in the morning and Scorpius needs his sleep in order to be bearable during the ride to Grimsby. We're taking Betty, seeing as I don't apparate and it's way easier getting around this way.
I stand by the door after he leaves, my smile frozen in place as I stare blankly into the air. Mr Gobbles rubs his face against my leg in an attempt to get some loving, complaining loudly. I puff him aside, having not quite forgiven his betrayal from earlier.
The city lights can almost be mistaken for the moon out here. All the fog here in the city hides the moon, but I can still recall the exact shape and form of it from years of practice. The image has been drawn on the back of my skull, so familiar that I find it to be a piece missing from me. The tall buildings seem to reach up endlessly, stretching towards the skyline, much like the dreamers of this city, touching the stars. I find myself envious of their length. It’s like a stairwell to heaven, lighting the way to the clouds.
My feet carry me too easily forward until I’m at the window, resting a tired hand against the slippery surface of the window. The cold feels good against my palm. It’s the most real thing I’ve felt all day. The moon finally shows itself, slipping out of clouds, and my thoughts end up straying him like they’ve had a habit of doing these past five years. Wondering what he’s doing. If he’s happy. I do as always and push the thought down, reciting grocery lists in my mind until the soft sonata of his voice fades away to the beat of the city.
I sit there in the window sealing, staring at the city as it breathes. Mr Gobbles falls asleep draped across my feet, grumbling slightly as he tries to find a proper spot. I don’t sleep at night; instead I stare at the moon for hours, storing each curve and crater in my mind. London’s been my home for over half a decade, yet it still feels foreign at nights like these, like a shoe that’s a size too big. You’ll still be able to walk, but it never sits well with you. Not quite, anyways.
My mother told me London was too much of a city to me. That it would swallow me whole. It will kill her to know I am a journalist on a gossip magazine She believes in courage and in logistics. So does all of my family really. They believe in progress and in saving the world. My father fears it. Loathes it. He believes in solving crosswords and English breakfasts with nice sausages.
And then there's Ted.
Ted believed I could save the world all by myself. That I would stand a chance against the universe.
But sometimes, people are mistaken.
: Small note: There are two years between Lucy and Ted. Vic started a year early together with Ted because she wanted to, and Daddy's girl got what she wanted. Oh, and give It's Time
by Imagine Dragons a listen - trust me on this one. Enjoy!
I own nothing you recognize, not even the song It's Time by Imagine Dragons
THIS CITY NEVER SLEEPS AT NIGHT
CHAPTER IMAGE CREDITS INSPECTOR.@TDA
"If I could wake up in a different place, a different time, could I wake up as a different person?"
- Chuck Palahniuk
”Well, fuck me.”
“Honest, Betty just needs a few minutes to collect herself… She’s had a long trip,” I tell Scorpius, but immediately regret my words. Bare land stretches out far in every direction. We’re stranded on a lonely road, far from civilization in Northern England. The road isn’t even a real road, just a track of dirt, leading far out into the horizon.
We’re stuck here.
“Luce.” Scorpius glares at me from his seat on the ground. “There’s steam coming out from everywhere.
This car doesn’t need time, it needs a freaking miracle.”
I lean against my faithful car. “This is just… fuck.”
I try to adjust my pencil skirt, which has been twisted around my body uncomfortably. My designer blouse is no longer a sparkling white but a mucky brown, sticking to the back of my neck uncomfortably.
Scorpius takes off his shades and gives me a hard stare.
“What do you suppose we do now?”
Mr Gobbles is peeking through the window from the back seat, his white fur fuzzy in the heat, trying to gather why the car isn’t moving anymore. I glance at Scorpius, pushing around a stone on the ground.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, don’t just stand there,” he snaps, “call someone! We can’t be that far off from your village.”
It was true. Grimsby was mere hours away. But Scorpius did not realize just how far from civilization we’d come.
“Course you can. Just dial the number.”
“No. Scorpius,” I breathe. “Nobody’s got Muggle phones in Grimsby. That’s capital stuff.”
My best friend looks puzzled for a moment, it still baffles me how quickly he forgets how the rest of the Wizarding world lives.
“How do they contact each other then?”
” He wrinkles his nose. “That’s so dull
I shrug. “Works for them.”
Scorpius shakes his head and pulls out his quill. “Might as well get started on the article, then.” He leans back against Betty’s side. “Stranded on a desert road with a cat and a mad woman…”
I shoot him a dirty look and turn away from him, facing the never-ending road.
All around us fields of green line the road. The sight sends a pang through me. I could recognize those gangly plants anywhere. Sunflowers. They have yet to bloom and I thank Merlin that they aren’t sparkling with yellow everywhere. On the outskirts I can see the thick forest, dark and looming. It’s the beginning of the Irving woods, which stretches far across our entire land, ending well past Grimsby.
The proximity of home scares me a bit. This is the nearest we’ve been for five years. Each step I take, brings me closer and closer to home and a past I’ve had wrapped up in pretences for a very long time.
I step down the path, crossing into the green. The sunflowers reach my neck and soon enough the smell of the woods, flowers and dirt surrounds me. I spread my hands out and close my eyes, lulled by the smell of home.
I can almost see us here. Running through fields of sunflowers, playing hide and seek. The ghost of him flickers in and out of focus, a wide smile and the gap between his nine-year-old teeth. The image sticks, replaying again and again like a record gone awry, riding in the same tracks until they’re mere ridges in plastic, ceasing to hold any kind of meaning.
The memories are a bit like that. His smile becomes watery and the words that once meant so much become hollow. Then it all slips away and I’m left standing with a limp flower in my hand like a cheap skeleton imitation of happiness.
When I return to the road, Scorpius is eyeing me over the top of his notebook.
“So, are you going to tell me what’s the deal with you and this Ted, or am I just going to stick with my own version of the drama?” He drawls slowly, “you know my version’s always way juicier.”
He’s mocking me, but it’s covering over something graver, more serious. I recognize the smile playing in the corner of his lip as a dangerous one.
“Let’s hear it,” I sigh, stopping in my steps, the sunflower in my hand falling to the ground. One more broken promise of childhood innocence.
Scorpius leans back against the car. “You’re his dirty mistress. Pippa banished you. You were pregnant with his devil spawn and now the entire village knows what a scandalous whore you are.” His eyes challenge me. “Am I right?”
I force a weak smile. “You got me.”
Scorpius puts away his notebook and looks at me for a very long time. The silence is stifling and there’s a knot in my throat that won’t go away.
“Just –“ He gets up from the ground and walks towards me. “Be frank with me for a minute, yeah?”
I meet his eyes slowly. It’s a lot of work to feel nothing. For some reason, I remember it being more effortless for the past five years. Now, standing so close to where it all began, the feelings are slamming back into me like a punch in the gut.
“Who was he?”
“No one.” I sink and try to avoid his stare. Scorpius sees
me and right now I just want to be invisible. A tremor runs through my lower lip traitorously. I bite it in an effort to stop the emotions.
“Right,” Scorpius says, drawing out the word like he really means it. “Because the screaming like a banshee and not talking to me during a five hour ride is totally
normal Lucy behaviour. Usually you can't even get angry over a traffic jam.”
His hands smooth over mine, gently nudging the truth out of me.
“He’s my best friend.” I squeeze my eyes shut as my voice breaks. “Was –
He was my best friend.”
There’s a long pause before he speaks again. When I open my eyes there’s an emotion mirrored in his that I can’t really place.
“Is there really no one you could contact?”
He’s offering me an out from the emotional turmoil and I grab it like a lifeline. An idea forms in my head, stupid and frankly a bit rash, but with the sun scorching my skin, just about any plan will do.
They arrive at sunset.
The soft pops of two people apparating break the silence of the meadow. They’re mere dots in the horizon, but before long two tall figures near us, one with dark wild hair and the other brown-haired and bulky.
“And so the prodigal daughter returns.” The tallest form smiles when they’re close enough to make out our faces. “It’s good to see you, Lucy.”
“It’s good to see you too, Darren.” I smile widely as he wraps me up in his arms. My feet leave the ground and I bury my head in the crook of his neck, breathing in the scent of Darren. It’s sweat mixed with oil, and irrevocably him.
“Thought you’d forgotten about us,” he laughs. “I’m glad I kept that old Muggle phone-line after all. Imagine my surprise when it rings for the first time in five years.” He nudges me playfully with a tanned arm. “I was working on a motorcycle, too, you should see her – a right down beauty, she is.”
He’s still the same. It seems like nothing has changed with him, except for a single wrinkle that spreads across his forehead, and I begin to wonder what Darren Derby has to worry about. There’s a new tattoo added to the already large edition, spreading up the side of his neck. It’s been magically tampered with, pulsing in an intricate design to the beat of his teddy-bear heart.
It’s a relief, finding him again in the same place, still working as a mechanic in the Wizarding world, collecting motors. It’s more reassuring than any words he could ever say.
“I will,” I promise him, and mean it too. “Looks like I’m going to hang around for a bit.”
There’s a bit left unsaid there and I know Darren senses it too. His warm eyes are familiar, but it’s still like there’s something missing. I feel like asking about Ted, but I know it’s a bad idea attacking that hurdle only five minutes into our reencounter. So instead I squeeze his hand and gesture to Scorpius.
“This is my friend Scorpius.”
Darren greets him warmly, wrapping him up in a hug immediately. He’s always been like that. Warm. Forgiving. I laugh at Scorpius’s startled expression over Darren’s shoulder. He’s never been very affectionate or warm. Even his bulky form is nearly lost in Darren’s large arms.
Someone clears his throat behind me and I turn around, making an extra take as I recognize the face.
“You look different,” James Potter says gruffly. He doesn’t. He doesn’t look a day older, still lean and athletic with white burnt scars on his knuckles from hitting the ground flying too often. And young. So foolishly young. I touch a hand self-consciously to my short boy cut.
“I was trying something new. Do you like it?”
He makes a non-comment shrug, grunting slightly, “It’s different alright. I hardly recognized you in that skirt and those heels. Didn’t think I’d see the day Lucy Weasley grew into a woman.”
He smiles then and it’s like no time has passed between then and now. He’s still my starry-eyed cousin, no matter what.
"You didn't bring your flavour of the week?" I shake my head. "You disappoint me, Potter."
"I'm taking a break from beautiful supermodels." James winks. "They are so demanding
I make a retching sound. "Still the same, then."
I try not to notice the way his smile wavers in the corners. I’m not completely forgiven, not yet.
“What’s with the car?” He nods at Betty.
Wind stirs the hair around my face. “Haven’t you heard? I’m Lucy Weasley Muggle extraordinaire now.”
His head snaps up, and he observes me differently this time.
“Another project of yours, eh, Luce?”
“I do not
have projects.” I huff.
James laughs. “Are you kidding? That’s all you do.” He begins listing off former projects randomly, “There was the Japanese garden, the cleaning of the attic, and the vegetarian phase, oh, and the playhouse out back, and the collection of recipes you never used…”
“Fine,” I admit. “I like projects.”
“You don’t just like them, you’re addicted.”
I roll my eyes at him, but don’t respond. The silence stretches for a while until James breaks it again.
“Your mum’s made a grand dinner, you know.”
He’s staring at me with this unreadable expression again, as if he’s testing me to see how I’ll react. I check his face for sincerity before staring pointedly at the ground.
“Yup. Gone all the way. Even caught and roasted a turkey in your honour. Gathered the entire family, she did.” His mouth twists. “It’s not often Lucy Weasley returns her obnoxious arse home.”
He finally pauses, waiting for my rebuttal. There’s a harsh bitterness in his tone and I recognize the anger but not the depth.
“I’m sorry, James,” I tell him finally. “For running.”
He shrugs angrily. “Not my problem. Was your mother’s problem, though. Worried sick, she was.” He glances up at me. “We all were.”
“I’m sorry,” I say again, quietly.
James stares hard at me for a long time. “Should hope so. Can’t wait to hear what was so important that you were incapable of flooing or owling just once for five years straight.”
He and I meet eyes and I cringe at the distance in them. He’s angry, bitter even.
“It’s complicated.” I try and it’s an even shittier excuse than the previous one.
I ignore him and wordlessly set out to talk to Darren who’s begun working on Betty’s sorry arse. I’m just… not ready for him.
The sun is setting just behind the trees, painting Darren’s brown hair gold-streaked. He looks like his father, but I’m not telling him that.
Scorpius's snores are loud and annoying in the chilling air. He's lying in the cramp space of the backseat with his feet sticking out the window. I poke his pale feet idly in passing and he emits a rather girlish giggle involuntarily.
Sniggering, I continue to the back of the car. It smells like motor oil and home here and I close my eyes briefly at the stench, delight making me breathy.
“She’s a right mess, alright,” Darren tells me when I crouch beside him.
“But you’ll fix her, right?”
“Course. I’m amazing,” he says gruffly. “She’ll be running in ten.”
And sure enough, ten minutes later, we are driving down the road with two more passengers. Mr Gobbles is not in favour of the new additions but after some coaxing from Darren (and some biscuits), she finally settles in his lap. Scorpius is thrilled, barely containing his grin as James gingerly settles in the back seat with him.
We arrive at Grimsby with the rain.
As soon as the bay comes into view I stop the car and step out. James and Scorpius are both sleeping in the backseat, snoring loudly. It’s bitterly cold, the rain hitting mercilessly against my bare legs, but I walk to the edge nonetheless, watching my city. I can hear Darren grumble as he gets out into the down-pour. It reminds me of how Ted used to complain about the weather.
“Don’t you just hate this place?” He presses a hand against the window. Outside the rain has been coming down for ages. “The bay will flood.”
“It always floods, Ted.” I shrug and he turns to face the view once again, seemingly mesmerized by the storm or just disappointed by my answer.
“I’m leaving.” He turns to look at me again, gauging my reaction. He’s frowning, his expression grim. “As soon as I graduate, I’m moving out of this dump. Gonna find a warm place. Travel the world.”
He’s no longer watching me but staring past me, and I can’t help but watch him instead. He seems lost in thought, already miles away, draped in accents and mystery. My eyes travel his tall form, the bulging arms and the sharp jut of his jaw. The shadow of a beard is spreading from his lips. He looks older, like the father he never knew. Like the man I have always known he would become.
It’s like I’ve never seen him before this moment and I feel alienated. He’s standing at an arm’s length from me, yet he feels eons away. I try to imagine Grimsby without my best friend, but fail.
My whisper falls away with the rain. The room is lit in silver; it’s only the two of us here, standing inside the barn. It’s been our meeting point for seven years. Ted stares at me for a long time. I would do anything to know what he’s thinking. I want him here. He’s left once and that was enough. Now we’re finally at the same place again, at Hogwarts. But he’s only got a year left and I still have three more years left of this. It seems like whenever I start catching up, he does something that throws me off again.
Ted meets my eyes slowly. He’s serious.
“I have to.”
And that’s that.
I try to recall the exact look on his face but all I seem to recall is his full lips, smiling down at me. I discard the thought and look down beneath me. The Southern bank stretches out far into the dark horizon. The bridge is the only way off the island besides the ferry. Even in the darkness it lights up, leading the way like a stairwell to capitulation.
“It’s missed you.” Darren comes up behind me, his voice soft.
“You’re sweet.” I smile up at him. “But a liar.”
“It’s true.” He nudges me. “Grimsby hasn’t been the same since you left.”
“What, free of drama?”
“No." A slow smile spreads across his face. "Free of free lager.”
My laugh comes out sad and wrong. Darren furrows his brow at me. He looks off into the horizon.
“Have you spoken to him yet? To Ted?” He asks, not looking at me.
“Have you spoken to Dom?” My retort is icy and too harsh.
His eyes meet mine.
His smile is grim and I look away again, burnt by the sadness. We don’t say anything else for a long time.
“Okay, I get it.” Darren runs a large hand through his hair, glancing at me. “You got hurt. You ran. And now you don’t know what to tell him.”
“He’s getting married.”
The whisper is quiet, almost lost to the wind, but I know he’s heard the words.
“And it’s not you.“
My mistake is to look at his face. There’s a flash of emotions running across his face within seconds. Regret. Understanding. Hurt. The hurt is as ancient as our friendship and I feel like shrugging it off, laughing or running. Neither are options, really, so I decide for honesty.
“Everybody must hate me.”
Darren pauses, but shakes his head. “Nobody hates you, Luce. Mostly they’re just confused. And worried.”
He could be lying. I left in such a hurry that no one seemed to realize it before I was halfway across the globe. But I let his words calm my heart nonetheless.
“How would you feel?” I sneak a glance at his face, it’s in the dark and I can just make out the defiant jut of his jaw. “If it were –“
“I wouldn’t.” He cuts me off before I finish the sentence. “I just wouldn’t.”
." He turns away from the bay. “It’s not the same. She didn’t love me. She wants a rich bloke, not a poor fatherless mechanic.”
“Let’s just get your arse home, yeah?”
Darren’s fists are clenched. We stare at each other for a long minute.
“She did love you,” I tell him, my voice trembling traitorously. “She was just scared. We all were.”
He looks me in the eye. “I know.”
“And it is
Underneath us, the ferry makes its last trip of the day across the waters, its light casting a golden glow across the rippling water. I breathe the salty air in, almost feeling his touch sweep across my skin, carried by the breeze.
“He's missed you.” The way Darren says it lets me know that he’s been itching to tell me this ever since I called. “And he needs his best friend.”
“I’m not… his best friend any more.” I take a deep breath. ”I’m not sure I’m anything anymore.”
I avoid his eyes so that I won’t see the disappointment there. From here the ferry looks like a shooting star, inching its way across the sky slowly. I would make a wish, but they’ve never made a difference.
“He doesn’t need me,” I tell him again sternly, as if to prove a point.
Darren just looks at me sadly.
Lucy aged 9, 16 years ago
“What if I don’t get it?” My bottom lip tremors as I stare at his form.
Ted sighs, pulling hard at the oars. The small boat jitters gently in the water as it moves through it. The bridge is towering up in front of us, larger than anything I’ve ever seen in my life. Ted pauses for a moment, gauging its size, he glances back at me.
“You don’t know that.”
It’s been the same discussion for the past month, ever since three self-righteous owls arrived at the Weasley households in the early morning mist.
“You don’t! You got the letter, Molly got it,
Vicky got the letter –“ I try and let the discontent out of my voice but find it to be of no avail. “It’s not
“And you’ll get it! Stop being a baby.”
There’s something different to his voice. I eye him carefully, almost too afraid to look too closely. Ted has been quiet lately, he’s always been quiet, but this feels different. I‘ve been having trouble following ever since that letter. Something inside it changed him. I had only time to chance a look at the sinewy writing before Ted had pulled me out the door to play. But I know there is something fishy with it. It has stolen my best friend and I’m not about to be forgiving about that either.
“Stop saying I’m a baby.”
“You so are. I heard what Vicky said behind the shed.” I look away from him, letting my eyes run the wide expand of blue. “I wish…”
“Two years, Luce. They’ll pass right by you.” He reaches over to squeeze my arm, but I look away.
Two years. Two years is a lot. Baby Roxanne is two years old. That’s her entire life I have to wait. The number keeps beating around my head, again and again. It never used to make a difference and now it’s all that seems to matter.
“What if I’m a Squib? James is already teasing me for being a redhead, I don’t need anything more to make me a freak.”
“You’re not a squib.”
Around us, August is bleeding out, eroding into the skyline as the sea swallows the sun. It lights a halo around his purple hair, shadowing me in a warm glow. Shadowing me in Ted’s glow. We’ve run off, taking the old boat out onto the river. There’s a hole in the bottom of it and I cover it closely with my foot, afraid to move even the slightest. I focus my stare on it.
“When have I ever lied to you?”
Ted regards me for a long time, his mouth set in a straight line. I recognize the stare as determination and realize with another pang to my chest that this will be one of the last times I’ll see my best friend for months.
“You lied to me about the ghoul in the basement – there isn’t one!”
“That was just for laughs, Short Stuff.”
“It wasn’t funny.”
Ted stops rowing and leans over until his face is inches away from mine. I stare at my hand gripping the railing to avoid his gaze.
“Hey,” he says, reaching over and nudging my chin so that I meet his eyes. They’re his own colour today, something that hardly happens. It soothes me somehow, knowing this. “When have I lied to you about something
I aim for a smile, but it turns into a grimace instead. He hasn’t begun rowing again and we’re lying still in the middle of the bay, swaying softly in the water.
“You’ll get in. You’re filled to the brim with magic.”
I look up. “Really?”
“Yes, Lucy.” Ted smiles. “Really.”
“And you’re not just saying this because you’re my best friend?”
“I’m not, honest.”
“Okay.” I nod finally.
“Okay.” He smiles.
Above us, the moon has finally emerged, dim with clouds as it bathes us in a soft silver light. Ted is still smiling at me, his eyes filled with distance. I can see he’s already dreaming of Hogwarts and I feel the envy curling in my stomach.
“Do it again?” I ask him. He shifts in his seat,
I fidget with my hair, pouting slightly. “Come on, Ted, please?”
“Fine.” He sighs. I beam at him and watch in awe as he squeezes his eyes shut. Before long, his ears start squeaking loudly, dotted by purple polka dots.
I giggle madly and soon enough, Ted joins in, guffawing. He begins rowing again, long strides, as he takes us towards the shore. A silence settles between us, heavy with something I’m not sure I understand. We arrive at the harbour, gliding soundlessly into a free spot. Ted leans back against the boat, his eyes move across the expand of my face. His expression softens for a moment.
“I’m going to miss you, Short Stuff.”
The seriousness in his eyes lets me know that it’s all going to change now. I eye the distance between us in the boat. Even though it’s only about a feet, it feels larger, stretching far out.
“Do you think we’ll grow apart like Mum told me?” I blurt out, voicing the doubt left in me since the conversation my mother had with me this morning over breakfast.
“Course we won’t.” He sounds so sure. I swallow, and nod the smallest nod in the world.
“Because she’s nearly always right, you know.”
He looks down between us. “I know.” His voice is barely a whisper, ”But not… this time.”
This is how I know he’ll be fine. He’ll end up in Gryffindor like his parents, because he’s the bravest person I know. Even braver than Uncle Harry, and he’s a hero. I don’t exactly know what it was he did. Ted knows. I haven’t quite forgiven him for not telling me. We usually share all our secrets, but not lately. Lately, he's been eyeing me differently.
“She didn’t have to say that to you.”
He lifts an oar out of the water, not meeting my eyes. “There are many things your mother says that she doesn’t have to say.”
“Like when she told Aunt Hermione her new glasses were ugly?”
Ted looks up for a moment, smiling wryly. “A bit like that, yeah.”
"Come on." Darren rests a gentle hand on my arm. "It's getting late."
With a last withering look at the slumbering city below our feet, we walk back to the car and set for home.
In the back seat, Mr Gobbles purrs loudly as Betty scrambles to life with a tired roar. James's head is now resting awkwardly against Scorpius's shoulder. There's a wet patch of drool right underneath his mouth. Smiling, I turn to face my city.
My fingertips press against the steering wheel gently, but persistently. Ahead, the city seems to reach out in the darkness, stretching its arms outwards.
I can feel Darren staring at me silently. I push down the speeder, my shoulders giving as the car sets into motion.
“Let’s go home.”
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.
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. Ted’s missing, too. 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?”
“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,
I hiss, air quoting as I imitate his deep voice. “Please do enlighten me, since I’m so terribly
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? 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 a bit racist.”
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. “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
“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
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 – “
!” 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.
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.
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. 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, “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
“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.
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
“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. 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.
“You look well.” It’s a question, one whose answer will have to be a lie.
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 with her auburn hair loose.
“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 giggle, “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
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, “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?”
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.
“Yes,” 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. “Even if you’ve changed. 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?” She’s looking at me smiling, but there’s worry behind that.
“Because in France –“
“I’m fine.” Despite me trying, 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. I keep glancing at Scorpius, checking to see if he’s all right. He’s talking with 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.
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. It’s still new.
“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.
“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 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. My hand is resting on the door, pale and weak in the fluorescent light.
James shits 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 push open the door.
I thought I’d seen all there was to him. That he wouldn’t be able to numb me with his beauty.
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.
There’s a redhead 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.
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 what 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 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.
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.”
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.
“Um, hi,” I force out when he finally puts me down.
He pats me on the shoulder, as if I were a dog. 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.
: Remember to review! xxx
Hi there! I’m in the North, attending a wedding and trying to convince myself that wearing a hat isn’t the worst thing ever… Yeah. The weather’s bollocks, I’m staying at my grandad’s, who hasn’t got internet or anything, so I’m basically going to Nero’s, ordering coffee and writing there. I’m here dealing with my slightly erratic family who seems to believe that everything can be solved with a cup of tea. Can’t argue with that theory, now can you?
Various things have happened since last update. First of all I won Runner Up as Best Underground Author at the Golden Snitches, which is such an honour. So thank you so much to anyone who’s voted for me. Secondly, I’ve reached 70 favourites as an author. Quite a milestone. I can still remember when I only had 40, so this means so much to me.
Thanks for being awesome and supporting this story – you are awesome.
Give Just Be by Paloma Faith a listen – it’s gorge.
WE WERE HERE
CHAPTER IMAGE CREDITS SJOEKS@TDA
“With you, intimacy colours my voice. Even ‘hello’ sounds like ‘come here’.” - Warsan Shire
The entire room is silent.
The first thing I notice is Pippa's squeal. It sounds a bit like that sound the little piglets make just before they're slaughtered.
it!" She sings. "Oh, I had a feeling abou' you two!"
The second thing I notice is Ted's burning stare. It's imploring and confused and I look away from him. Scorpius and him are still holding hands. Scorpius seems to still be in shock. Finally, their hands break loose and I breathe a sigh of relief. It seems that the entire room relaxes somewhat after this and I begin to wonder how much people know.
"Really?" Ted runs a hand through his hair, a tiny tremor of tension giving some shape to his shoulders. "That's - that's -"
"PERFECT!" Pippa launches herself at me again.
A snigger escapes Scorpius's lips by my right and the tension falls from my shoulders. He can't be that angry.
"SHOPPING!" Pippa yells into my ear. "Shopping
! We'll have to go shopping, sweetie. I'll help you with a dress for the wedding."
"It's brilliant!" Pippa beams at me, her bony fingers gripping my shoulders.
"Listen, babe, I think Lucy might be a bit busy with settling in here." Ted steps forward, his fists knotted tight.
"Nonsense," she puffs. "Everyone's got time for shopping
"Amen, sister." Scorpius guffaws.
I send him a heated look.
"OH, WAIT I GOT IT!" Suddenly, Pippa's got me in a tight grip again. I don't know how she does it. I stare at her hot-pink nails, slightly amazed.
And then she really does me in.
"I don't -" I stammer uselessly.
"Nonsense!" Pippa giggles. "You'll be perfect - won't she, Teddybear?"
"Whatever my princess wants." Teddy smiles. I try to ignore the hurt that coils in my stomach at the dismissal of me. This sucks.
"That's such an amazing
idea," Scorpius gushes at her.
Pippa jumps up and down excitedly. "I know, right?"
I. Am. Going. To. Kill. Scorpius.
He meets my eyes and arches an eyebrow as if to say, you got me in this mess, deal with it
Pippa squeezes me into a tight embrace again. She pulls back and looks at me with those wide blue eyes.
"We're going to be the bestest of buddies, Lucille."
Oh, don't I know it, Hon.
“What the hell, Lucy?” Scorpius has cornered me by the bathroom as I’ve escaped the silent living room.
I stare up at him, goldfish-mouthing, “I… um… panicked?”
“Uh you could say that again! Boyfriend? You’re missing one viable organ for me, sugar.”
I cringe. “I know. Trust me, I know. I just – do this for me? Please
Scorpius eyes me for a very long time. I force myself to meet his gaze and keep eye contact. Finally, he sighs deeply.
“If I’m doing this, you’re telling me all of this –“ He pauses for a second, “mess.”
"And I'll have complete say over the article."
“And I ain’t going nowhere near your muffin, eh.”
I finally break a smile. “Even better.”
He stares at me for a while, as if he is seriously contemplating my sanity.
“I’ll do it.”
I breathe a sigh of relief. “Thank you. Thank you -
“You’re welcome,” Scorpius says. “But you’re spilling the beans when we get home, sweetheart.”
I nod silently, dreading our departure more and more. I feel like I’m slowly driving towards the end of a cliff, readying for the free-fall.
"Alright." Scorpius straightens. “I’m off to flirt with that yummy cousin of yours. Laters, babe!"
And with that he leaves me, blowing a kiss in my direction, which I grab...
Scorpius’s alliance calms me somehow, yet there’s nothing that will put my mind at ease. Flashbacks of myself five years ago keep on playing around in my mind and I feel like I’m slowly, but surely stepping into the shadow of my former self. I help Mum with the dishes, trying to escape Pippa and Ted’s fluffy bubble of love.
"Man, you've really done it good this time, eh. Nailing a Malfoy and
I glance up to find Rose leaning against the door to the living room, her smile smug. I turn away, busying myself with the plates.
"What do you want, Rose?"
"Want?" Rose tuts, "why does it always have to be business with you, Lucy?"
"When isn't it business with you? What. Do. You. Want?"
"Your help." Rose pushes against the door and walks up to me. She's standing so close that I can smell the sickly sweet odor of her perfume. "And by the looks of it, so do you."
I go rigid. "What are you talking about?"
"Ted," she offers simply. "You've been ogling him all night. Somebody’s yet to get over their childhood crush."
I'm relieved that she hasn't picked up on the article. Rose has always been too nosy for her own good, meddling in other people's businesses. I turn to the plates again.
"I have a boyfriend."
She rolls her eyes. "Yeah and I bet that his hand just accidentally happened to end up on James's lap because every other place was occupied..."
"Fine," I snap. "What do you suggest?"
"A deal," Rose answers evenly. "I'll help you with Pippa and Ted."
"What's in it for you?" I ask, but in that second Scorpius walks past the door and a pathetic look of love crosses Rose's face before she's had time to conceal it.
A slow smile spreads across my face. "I see."
"No, you totally don't see
," Rose hisses, her cheeks flushed a bright pink.
"So let me guess. Same year, both meant for greatness. The forbidden blond headed Slytherin caught your eye, yeah? He is
gay, you know. Mind you, the son of your father's arch nemesis."
"Just mind your own business -"
"Rose, Rose, Rose," I sigh. "I thought we were coming to an agreement here."
Rose's eyebrow arches. "We are. Just don't go around criticizing my preferences."
I ignore her biting comment, Rose has always had a mad temper, something you should always fear when she lashes out.
"Alright, alright... No need to get your knickers in a twist, sugar."
Rose crosses her arms petulantly. "Deal or no deal?"
I watch her for a second. It's dangerous waters, but I need all the help I can get. And Scorpius... Well there's no way Scorpius will ever agree to date that bushy haired spawn. Plus, if Rose is busy with this, maybe she won't notice my Quick-Spell Quill...
I sigh dramatically. "Alright then. Deal."
"Good." Rose smiles for perhaps the first time and I almost feel bad for her and her five year unresolved crush. If... it wasn't for the fact that she's such a pushover.
Mum sweeps in through the door, muttering about cookies, tea and tension. Rose escapes the madness, slipping into the shadows once again as I step into help my frantic mother.
"Oh Lucy, they hated
Oh, the wonders of a village-drama.
"It'll be fine, Mum..."
She looks up at me for a long time, her eyes large and wet. She touches me in a warm gesture that doesn't sit right me.
"I'm happy for you."
Her voice is teary and I try to push down the anger and hurt bubbling in my throat. I fight the urge to shrug her off, my skin crawling uncomfortably. I haven't been loved for almost a decade and it's difficult to start now. Her fingers squeeze tightly and I come to think of being disowned and that anger, which is festering, lodged beneath my chest in a decaying chamber of despair.
I pull my wrist from her hands. She stares up at me with large eyes, anger twitching in the corner of her frown. She's a head shorter than me and her form seems small in my shadow, fragile even. I've outgrown her in more ways than one and it seems that our shadows don't match anymore.
"Sorry," I say, and she looks away. I see Dad staring at us from the living room but it's too late for talks and those weak words. Sometimes words are just that. Words. It won't change the look in her eyes nor will it dislodge my anger. It won't change anything.
Just as quickly as she swept into the kitchen, my mum's out again, carrying trays of “home-cooked” muffins and beaming in a cheery voice. She pretends they’re her creation, but in reality Waitrose has quite the delivery service. The door swings back and forth after her exit and I watch the people as she serves them tea. She doesn't look back and I turn away after a while.
I busy myself by cleaning the dishes Muggle-style, soaking my hands in the warm water until they’re wrinkly raisins, trying not to think of summers and promises we never kept.
“You’re quite the house-wife, aren’t you? Or have you barricaded yourself in the kitchen in an attempt to escape me? In that case, it's failed.”
His presence in the room is unmistakable and I freeze in my spot. He doesn't call out my name anymore. I don't think I've heard my name fall from his lips for years. But I know it's him.
“You and I both know that I haven’t got a maternal bone in my body, Ted.”
His laughter rings out, slow and heartfelt and I watch the window, the pink light of twilight, spreading across the darkness. I can see the faintest outline of him in the reflection and my breath becomes uneven. It’s not fair. I thought we could overcome all this crap. I thought love meant that no matter the obstacles we would survive it. I thought being in love meant that we accepted each other, even if we didn’t always understand each other. Now he's standing by the door, squared shouldered, with the eyes of a foreigner.
“Do you still ride your bike?” I ask, the burning desire to get to know him again ever present.
“Yeah.” He’s stepped further into the room and closed the door shut behind him. “Your mum hates it still, says I’ll break my neck for sure.”
“Nothing’s changed, then.”
I pour out the water and dry my hands slowly before I turn to face him. I try to tune out Vic's voice telling me of how he's the daredevil now, overtaking my spot, running with wolves. He smiles that slow smile again, the one he’s always known how to tweak in his favour. Its effect hasn’t changed at all over the course of the years and I can see the ghost of my Ted playing in the crevice of his smile. My mouth goes dry.
“You know that’s not true, Luce.”
I just shrug in response, silently, my shoulders heavy against the moonlit sky. I don’t want to look at him. I’m so afraid of what I might find. I’m scared that he’ll be all right and that it’s just me who’s the broken girl. Ted clears his throat.
“Did you figure out the world?”
I look up at him involuntarily, his expression seems forcibly casual. I try to remember the last time I saw him. I can still recall the dark shadow of his form underneath the covers in the dark room as I packed my bags, the taste of regret ever present. He hadn't seen it then, but I'd known that he'd be okay without me. I've always known.
I slowly shake my head no. “But I like to kid myself and say that I did.”
His eyes are steady. “Don’t worry. You will.”
I look away again, trying to swallow the suffocating squeeze that fills my lungs and throat by the burn of his stare.
“I need to… go.”
I leave him standing in my childhood kitchen, his eyes wide as they follow me. He remains passively standing in the room, his face revealing nothing of his thoughts and I begin to wonder if he thinks about me as much as I think about him.
Ted 18, Lucy 16, 9 years ago
It was raining that year. The rain marred the ground with great big lashes of wetness, the cold seeping into the ground and numbing everything with its frigid wetness. It numbed me, too. The weather seemed to quietly appraise my mood, settling in to being the epic drumroll to my dismal revelation.
Summer came, like a piece finally falling into place. Inevitable as it was just like our aging, the day of Ted’s graduation arrived quickly, slipping in the door when we weren’t looking. With it, it brought a sadness that seemed to seep into my very core, and the coldness could simply not be repressed.
That night was particularly beautiful – one of the few good days in an otherwise pathetic excuse of a summer. The round moon was standing high on the night sky, almost shining as brightly as the sun. It was a subtle tribute to his parents, something which has not escaped Ted’s notice either. I try and recall his huge smile and summon one onto my pale face. It’s to no use; the reflection’s smile slips off quickly, washed out with the sunlight as night falls and people begin arriving.
I can hear people getting ready downstairs, laughter ringing out occasionally. Outside the window candles are hovering in the air, illuminating the huge banner that has been stretched across the midnight blue horizon. Congratulations Molly, Ted and Vic!
it reads in bold letters. I sink down the tears rising in my throat, brushing my hair once again with numb hands.
“You ready, pet?”
My mother shifts uncomfortably in the doorway. Her eyes flicker across the room, she’s never been great with feelings or anything that may differ from her picture perfect family. She stutters out the words, tripping over them as she refuses to meet my eyes. She’s always been better at grand speeches and winging the words just right. Small words are harder; the lies don’t snake around them quite as easily.
“Yeah.” I put down the hairbrush and smile up at my mother’s face as I tell the lie, “I’m coming down now.”
I walk briskly down the narrow path in the pale light. Colourful furled leaves and dazzling sunshine scourge my vision, but I walk on, eyeing the grey pale sea in the horizon. The sky is arsenic.
I catch Molly’s eyes when I step into the yard. She’s sitting in a corner, surrounded by her friends, her hand lodged in a tight hold with her boyfriend Paul. Her hair is plaited in an intricate design and there are flowers in her hair. She looks like Mum.
She tilts her head silently in acknowledgement when our eyes meet, nodding her approval of the dress she picked out for me. I patter past Dad and his barbeque-adventure, weaving past relatives only to squeeze to the one Weasley-head I’d like to talk to.
“Here’s to two more years of school.” James knocks a glass against my empty hand, seemingly not sensing that I do, in fact, not have a glass yet.
The amber liquid sloshes all over my hand and shoes, showering me in a stale smell of a harsh beverage that’s definitely not
“Let’s hope that this year Lushhhie will shhtop pining after Te –“
“I think you’ve had a bit too much to drink there, buddy.” I snatch the cup out of his hands, cutting him off before he finishes the sentence.
“Oh, don’t worry, Lushh.” James nudges me, winking so rapidly it looks like he’s got a twitch. “I
think you’re a hottie with a body.”
This would have been a lot more convincing if he hadn’t walked off to chat up a hedge, thinking it is one of our distant veela relatives.
“Stop it,” James hisses at me out of the corner of his mouth. “I’m in the zone –“
Victoire is a Greek Goddess, wearing a white flowery dress with lilies in her hair. Her golden hair is curling all around her, giving the illusion of virginity still. It’s her last day as a little girl, as today marks the finish to a chapter of her life.
“Did you know?” James leans forward and says in a stage whisper, “Lucy has a nickname for you. She calls you Vicky-dic-“
Thankfully, she merely raises a perfect eyebrow at us before billowing past us, not even offering a hello.
James giggles again, “Guess Vicky-Dicky really is a bit of a b-riched girl, isn’t she?”
I try to not look after Vic, but my eyes keep searching her out, the envy sizzling hot in my stomach. Instead, I drink. I throw down champagne flute after champagne flute in a vain attempt to escape this day. The two lovebirds of the house have been talking about buying houses. Vic catches my eye while she recounts all their plans to our aunt Hermione. And after that to Aunt Ginny. And my mother. And my uncles.
The ever consistent Rose is telling anyone who’d like to listen of her grand plans. She has a time table over the next decade, scheming her overtaking of the world. Dom’s going to France for an internship the year after this. James is planning on Quidditch and I’m as lost as I ever was. It’s unsettling, watching as everyone moves away me, their gazes already set on the slowly rising horizon years before it is to set.
I avoid Ted’s stare all night, refusing to see the goodbye that’s waiting for me there. I hate that he’s leaving me, more so than when he’s coming around. He tells everyone of his upcoming travels, praising multicultural experiences and seeing the world. I don’t care about seeing the world. I just want to see him.
It’s Ted. I look down into my lap. James is absolutely no help, snoring loudly into my ear, his mouth lying wide open against my shoulder as he sleeps away his high. I clench my hands.
“Lucy, come on. It’s my last night here.”
Ted opens his mouth to say something more, but Vic decides to make an appearance in that exact moment, resting her chin on his shoulder, her red lipstick staining the collar of his white shirt.
“Leave her alone, Teddy. If Lucy wants to sulk on your last day, let her sulk. I, for one, am going to celebrate you with style tonight, darling.”
And with that she whisks them both away in a swirl of white and Chanel no. 5. I’m alone again, taking care of James who’s oblivious to all the drama around him. I catch Dom’s eyes across the yard from us, her hands intertwined with Darren’s as always. There’s pity in the depth of her blue eyes and I look away before it catches up with me. Vic is feeding Ted cake, laughing heartily as she misses his mouth. I catch his eyes in a moment when she isn’t looking. He looks sad, but I am the one to look away first.
I look up to see Andromeda standing in front of me, her smile kind. I smile back at her, but the smile’s sad and pathetic and it slips off after a few seconds. Andromeda steps closer after that and I realize a second too late that I’m not ready for the intensity of the look between us when I meet her eyes. My eyes burn and I clench my teeth tightly.
“He must be getting heavy.” Her voice is soft.
I don’t answer right away and I can feel her stare on me for longer than I can bear. I bite my lip when the first tear slips down my cheek, its travel quick and unhindered.
“I’m getting used to it. For the record, Auntie, James Potter does not know how to hold his liquor. The idiot never learns.”
“They never do,” she says and I get the feeling that we're no longer talking about James.
The silence settles once more, only broken by James’s soft snores. I can still feel Andromeda’s eyes on me and I look away, watching Lily bicker with her mum. Andromeda’s always been as much of an aunt to me than anything. She’s getting on, her grey-streaked hair a telltale sign of times passed. She has got an air around her that both intrigues and intimidates me. She’s seen both of the Wars and lived through them, knows how to make a mean rhubarb-pie and raised Ted by herself – with the help of my uncle Harry, of course.
She furrows her brows, and looks at me closely, her eyes searching my face.
I stare straight ahead. “I’m not mad. Who said I was mad? I didn’t say I was mad.”
Her face tells me that she knows what’s going on. I look down, fingering at the soft fabric of the dress. I’ve always hated mothers’ intuitions. Made it a lot more difficult hiding stuff.
“I just got him back.” My voice is barely above a whisper, yet she seems to have no trouble making out the words. Her expression softens.
“You know, it’s not about leaving people, it’s about finding yourself. He’s not abandoning you, Luce. He just needs to become the person he’s going to be.”
“What if that person is someone who doesn’t have me as a friend?” I ask, uncertainty present in the tremor of my voice.
“You just have to trust him. He needs his best friend right now, Lucy.” The wind stirs her grey hair gently, “He needs to know that you’ll always be there whenever he comes back. No matter what. No matter who he becomes.”
In my heart I know I’ll always be here to wait for him, but I don’t tell her that. Instead, I let out a sigh that seems to come from my bones. “I think I need some time.”
“I’ll take this guy home.” Andromeda steps forward, grabbing James’s arm.
Thanking her, I get to my feet after rousing James. I quietly slip out the garden door, stepping down the cobblestone steps that lead into the forest. The noise of the party is slowly muffled as I thread down the moonlit path. I need time and there’s only one place where the distance will prove enough.
Scorpius hauls the suitcase higher, pushing his hair off his sweaty forehead. “Just because you’re afraid of flooing – you’re lucky I love you or I’d have transfiguered you into a teapot and brought you with me in my pocket.”
“I’m not… afraid - I just… get sick.” I thread carefully on the muddy ground, wincing as my expensive heels sink into the soft earth. “Besides, the car doesn’t enter through the woods – it’s too isolated here.”
Scorpius rolls his eyes at me, pulling the blue bicycle along him. He’s sweaty and his hair is all over his face. It’s the first time he’s been anything but perfect and I can’t keep the grin off my face as we circle the small lake, which leads to the house.
With a quick snap, my heel cuts clean off the rest of my shoe, and unprepared, my shoe slides further into the mud, now covered completely in rotten leaves and dirt.
I wince slightly as I pull the shoe free of the mud, opting for barefoot instead. The earth feels nice against my feet and I breathe the fresh air in deeply.
We make our way slowly across the forest-ground, mud squelching at our shoes as a lonely house appears behind the thicket of trees. The roof has holes in it and the wild seems to slowly be overgrowing its boundaries, slipping across the borders. A chubby older woman is jumping up and down in front of the yellow house, her grin large and inviting as it’s ever been. There’s something off about her face, with the large lips and small eyes and I see Scorpius stiffen beside me as he takes her in.
Clem has always been the black sheep of the Black family, and was never mentioned anywhere in journals. Illnesses such as Downs have never been gazed upon lightly and Andromeda took care of her sister ever since she was old enough to do so. And when the end came, Clem took care of Andromeda in return. When Ted’s parents died, he came to live with Clem, Ted and Andromeda and when his grandfather died, the trio stuck together like glue. Clem lives alone now, but Ted’s old room is still there, marked by the window facing the sea.
When I walk up, I can almost see his old motorcycle resting against the gable of the wooden house. The spot on the wall seems oddly bare in its absence, but I discard the thought expertly, focusing my attention on Clementine’s smiling face.
“Lucy!” She squeals and wraps me up in her large form. I sink into her embrace, breathing a sigh of relief as I feel everything drift slightly into place again.
“Clem’s missed you more,” the old woman croons, her wispy curls stirring in the wind. Over her shoulder I see Scorpius placing the bike gingerly in Ted’s old spot and I look away. I turn to face Clem, winking at Scorpius when he walks up to us.
All the joy on Clem’s face seems to disappear with the beat of a wand. I watch her carefully as she takes his large form in, together with the sunshine yellow robes and the long ponytail. He smiles largely, holding out a hand.
Clem ignores his hand, instead turning to face me, her eyes glittering in the light. Her full mouth twists, her eyebrows knotted together in a deep frown. I already know the words before they leave her mouth, but the shaky tremor to her saddened voice makes me close my eyes and bite the inside of my mouth hard enough to draw blood. The stale metallic taste fills my mouth, its sting nailing me to the ground as the word spreads across the silence.
Clementine Black’s house is the closest I ever got to home.
It’s not a fact shared with many people, in fact, it’s a fact hardly anyone knows. That doesn't make it any less true, though. I press a hand against the weathered door, entering with trepidation. I can feel his presence here even more so than anywhere. Funny how a place can be heaven and hell all in one.
It's not the same.
It would have been easier if the house had remained the same, but the passage of time has changed this place. The wallpaper is yellowing, curling at its edges and the floorboard is paler, worn away by the shuffling of shoes. My feet can feel each dent and curve in the tree as I thread barefoot towards the living room. There is a clear smell of decay and neglect pushing against my throat, nearly clogging it as I walk around. I try desperately to swallow the guilt that lies thick in my throat as I eye the state of things. We’ve been so busy with our own problems that we’ve forgotten Clem.
There are small things I notice. I notice the white larkspur struggling up out of the moss, the cracks on the walls, cutting over heartstrings and beheading flowers. I notice the empty fridge and Clem’s wrinkled hands. I notice the missing pictures and the ones that have remained. I also notice the absence of someone else.
“Who’s that?” Scorpius, having followed closely behind me, nods towards the large photograph above the fireplace as we enter the living room. It's much too large, covering nearly the entire wall. The image is a painted portrait of an elderly lady with large grey eyes and a small smile playing at her full lips. I eye the smiling lady before quickly looking away again.
“Andromeda,” I answer, “Clem’s sister. Ted’s... grandmother.”
I stumble over his name and curse myself. Scorpius nods but does not ask any more questions, thankfully. I see him look at a picture of a five year old Ted, taking in his toothy grin and the gap between his front teeth. There are many things I don’t tell him. I can tell he senses it, but he doesn’t turn to confront me, nor does he seem upset by it. I guess it’s a give and take. He has his secrets and thus he lets me have mine.
The trouble is, this place is a landmine of secrets. It’s as if wherever I turn there’s another anecdote, another twist to our story. On one wall hangs Ted’s graduation letter, on another a picture of Ted and I on his graduation day, limbs intertwined and big smiles. At the kitchen table sit Remus and Dora Lupin in a silver frame, a small toddler swaddled between them. A beautiful metal figure resembling a sunflower is standing right beside them on the table, delicate and beautiful.
I sink down my fear and take the stairs slowly. A painted flower covers the wall beside my hand, its stem circling lamps and frames, reminding me where I am. There are leaves stretching out towards the ceiling. I trace the outline of a tulip, caught fleetingly by a lost thought.
“What’s the deal with all the flowers?” Scorpius asks behind me, “They’re painted all over the house.”
I don’t answer, unsure of my voice and of the situation. I’d never imagined Scorpius would be here. Now my two worlds are merging and I'm unable to stop them from spiraling outwards, out of control.
“Lucy.” Clem beams from the top of the stairs. I meet her eyes briefly. The joy in there hurts my eyes and my stomach clenches painfully. I know I’m going to be the one who’ll put out that fire in her eyes. I always am.
I shrug. “I paint.”
Clem shakes her head disapproving, tapping her hand against her heart. “Painting good for heart. Instead heart breaks.”
I don’t answer her and merely offer her a weak smile in response before stepping into my designated room. I catch sight of Scorpius’s surprised face before I turn my back on him, trusting Clem to show him to his room.
The room is as familiar as the inside of my eyelids, so I don’t need to look at the ceiling in order to see the large tree spreading outwards. It’s the only room where I haven’t painted roses. Instead it’s a nightscape, the moon winking at me from the left-hand corner.
I stand there, beneath the starlit sky and spoiled clouds, the silence of the house almost ringing in my ears. I don’t know how it got to this. I have no idea how to retrace my steps. I don’t know when this place became a stranger and turned on me.
I assess the place slowly, vacillating between Technicolor nightmares and dulcet dreams. Snapshots of his hair on the pillow keep on flickering behind my eyelids, festering.
Nothing’s changed, yet everything has.
I sink down onto the bed, my eyes running over every furniture. His scent is burnt into the very core of this room and as soon as I lay down, I’m engulfed in his scent. I wonder if he ever returned to this place, if he’s pressed his skin against these white pressed sheets that caress my skin.
The memory is easy. It comes ignited in the far back corner of my mind before spreading like a fire, inching along my subconscious. The feelings are harder and difficult to swallow down with the bitter taste of regret. It still burns when I recall the sting of his lips and the way he used to smile.
I cross the room, pressing open the closet. I find it stuffed between a worn Weird Sisters t-shirt and an old pair of overalls. The dust hangs suspended in the stale air, backlit by the dirty window behind me as I peer into the tattered book.
I search through the pages of the old album, passing faded photographs of people I have never known. I go on. Searching. Looking. Checking to see, to know.
We were here.
Maybe this is what forgetting looks like.
It gets harder and harder to look at the book the longer I sit on the cold floor. It’s a bit too much as I feel Ted’s presence so palpably in this room, yet he feels eons away; a distant tale of a fabled prince and his honours. Finally, I snap the book closed with a sigh. Reminiscing will do me no good.
My feet are heavy as I walk to the desk by the window. A soft fluttering of wings announces the arrival of Baltimore, Miranda’s Barn Owl. He eyes me with large, solemn eyes, perched on the window sealing. Beneath him lie a fresh piece of parchment and a small quill.
The owl hoots softly in greeting, shifting his legs.
“I know why you’re here,” I assure him. “And I said I’d do it, so I’ll do it.”
Balti says nothing but merely stares at me with his big eyes.
I shift. “Okay. Yeah. I’ll do it now. It’s just… He’s my best former best friend, you know?”
Balti blinks slowly.
“Yeah.” I breathe out deeply. “You’re right. The job’s great. And he doesn’t care, right?”
At this, the owl hoots twice and that’s all the encouragement I need. I sit down at the table, quill poised.
I write for hours until the sun is slowly rising in the horizon, bleeding into the sky as light seeps into the shadows. Beside me, Balti shifts impatiently, but remains otherwise silent as I scribble.
With a sharp nip to my fingers, he takes off as soon as I’ve secured the letter to his feet. I stand by the window and watch his small silhouette disappear in the horizon, unease churning in my stomach.
The heat hangs heavy in the air, dense with humidity. I hear him arrive before I see him, his ever-clumsy self ruining the so called “mystery”. It gives me enough time to panic but not enough time to make a plan. My breath catches in the back of my throat despite my best efforts as I keep my back turned, facing the still water.
I open my mouth to say something snide, turning around to face him, but the look on his face stops me.
“So.” He steps further into the green, plucking a sunflower from the ground. “Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”
I watch his face for a long moment, trying to judge in which direction this will go, whether this is the end of everything. I kind of feel like I’m losing no matter what.
I end up staying quiet. It’s not a choice as much as it’s the inability to string a single sentence together. I have no idea of what to say.
“Fuck, Luce.” Ted throws the flower away in a sudden jerky motion of his hand, spitting out the words with distaste.
“Are we seriously playing this game again? Just – How can you just…” His words fade out and he steps closer. “It’s my last day. I’m leaving and man, I love you, but it’s not fair that I always have to keep up with your fucking mood swings. It’s my last day and I’d like for us to just be us for a moment.”
It’s dark by the lake, so dark that I can barely see more than the outline of his face. Ted steps even closer to me, the warmth of his body radiating at me. He runs a hand along my jaw, toying with a strand of hair.
“I’ve always loved this place.” I look down, watching my hands. The lake house has always been our haven. Ted presses a hand underneath my jaw, lifting my face to meet his again.
“Don’t shut me out.” He says it quietly and it’s all the pretend I can muster.
“I just want you to know that I’ll –“ I bite my lip as I try to keep my eyes on his steady ones. He’s smiling slightly, probably enjoying this. “I’ll still be your friend, even if you become a fancy old bugger and start wearing crocks or something. You know.” I shrug, ”You’re a good guy. One of the few.”
Ted grins, his smile large. “I’m going to miss you, short stuff.”
One hand slides up my back, pressing me forward into his arms. Involuntarily, I shiver as a tremor runs through my body. His chest is hard and hot underneath my hands and despite my better judgement I clutch his shirt in a tight grip.
The admission is hard, the words clinging to my tongue as I murmur them against his neck. Ted stops breathing. There’s a flash of seven years ago, his eyes warm and comforting and I can’t help but feel that this is so much different than the last time. He’s not a little kid anymore. He’s a young man now. His other hand comes up and now he’s gripping my face and bringing me in closer to him. He presses his lips hard against my forehead, still cradling my face. I close my eyes. I can feel the warmth of his body, pressing into mine. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.
“Pardon?” I ask distractedly as his fingers continue to draw imaginary maps on the small of my back. I can’t really think with him standing this close. I can’t really do anything. He presses his cheek against mine, his skin warm and soft.
“I broke up with Vic. I’m so tired of pleasing everyone, trying to be what they want me to do. I just want to do what I want to do.”
“And what’s that?” I ask, my breath catching in my throat.
He pulls back suddenly, watching my face. Something's in his eyes which I haven't seen before. The expression says things that I think we’ve needed to say for a long time now and I come to think how twelve months doesn’t have to be a death sentence. I miss his touch for a second before his hands are back on my skin, cupping my face. He presses his forehead against mine as his breath washes over me in a sharp gust of wind.
“This,” he whispers before closing the distance and touching his lips to mine breathlessly.