Authors Note: This is it, the big one. The final big one, in fact. I hadn't planned to end it this quickly, but since we all know that I never plan anything, that's not too out of character for me :)
Thank you for all of your reviews, your support, your input and your help. A big thanks goes out to the numerous and sundry beta readers i've had thus far, and those that are about to dust this bad boy off and help me polish it up. Another thank you to the people who don't qualify as beta readers - but as something far more important - inspiration (or branding irons, you pick)
This story has been a long time in the making and a long time in coming. It was an experiment in flexing my muscle outside the realm of characters written by someone else and a stepping stone into a world entirely of my own. Unless you're looking here for updates to these chapters - changes and edits - best not to visit here anymore except, perhaps, for the occasional one-shot. From here on in, you can find me at FictionCentral working on OF.
That was not the best sex you’ve ever had. Or, at least, that’s what you were struggling to convince yourself of when you wriggled free of his grasp and slid into a mountain of soap bubbles so deep it would take the Hubble to pinpoint your whereabouts.
Skin scrubbed free from any telltale remnants – the scents, sights and slippery trails of sex - you stared absentmindedly as the cigarette burning in the ashtray flickered out, one final acrid trail of smoke wafting into the air as the edges of the filter ignited.
There were perks to an existence such as this and the thought was not lost on your exhausted mind. Still, where words like ‘stability’ and ‘home’ made some feel comforted and safe, your chest filled with dark matter when the prospect of a time release future fought its way to the surface.
Reaching for another cigarette to find the case empty, you found yourself dispelling more than your usual fatalistic mutterings into the evening.
“It’s always darkest before it’s totally black…” you whispered, pulling a stray piece of hair behind your ear. Soren could be heard shuffling papers in his office – a sure sign that the door was moments from bursting open to reveal your rushed…boyfriend?
Still can’t say those words, can you, Alexis?
“Lexi – ready to go?”
“Getting a Brazilian Bikini Wax. Being crucified. Potions Lessons. That guy…what was his name?...John. 3am Rounds.”
“What are you doing?” Soren hissed into your ear as you descended into the entryway.
“Listing all of the things I would rather be doing…” you muttered by way of response, taking care to end the sentence before the words ”then forcing myself to walk in here on your arm.”
spilled out. “What charity is this for again?” you asked, directing the conversation away from its’ dangerous territory before stepping gently down the gilded stairwell into a room overflowing with light and champagne.
“I have no idea but I made a donation significant enough to warrant a speech.”
“You’ve really got to have your secretary stop doing that.”
“You think?” he replied through a crack in his smile.
Were it not for the daring amount of exposed skin and the frigid metal and stone against your throat, you might have mistaken the moment for one of your childhood. You heard yourself, issuing greetings to faces you scarcely remembered – accepting compliments from people you knew to be thieves, adulterers, and liars.
Perhaps it was years spent far away from the throws of gala events like these, or perhaps it was the abundance of alcohol, so heavy in the air that you were certain simply inhaling could have a wondrous effect on your disposition, but you found yourself finding beauty in the frivolity around you, in spite of the circumstances. Shaking off even the chance of enjoyment, you shot a glance around the room, checking the ten trusty points of escape you’d painstakingly noted as a teenager. There was the false backed bookcase in the lavatory and of course the bay windows.
“Conspicuous, but quick.” You started nervously as a hand brushed your shoulder, slipping the stem of a crystal flute between your fingers. “Champagne?”
“Only if it’s made of gin,” you whispered, still looking politely forward.
Be careful, Alexis. Some foreign dignitary might have the audacity to call the two of you a lovely couple.
“It is,” he added, ignoring your unmoving eyes. Had it not been for the nervous tone in his voice, you might have carried on staring at the portrait of Merlin that hid a rickety stairwell to the roof. “You’ll need it.”
Getting a root canal. Listening to Tonks. Talking to your mothe --
Why hadn’t you expected it? Why hadn’t you predicted this – prepared yourself? Full facial reconstructive surgery. A paper bag. A disillusionment charm. These were all options available to you had you simply predicted this.
There were very few rules in the handbook of your life and you seemed to be breaking all of them. Avoid any social situation in which your mother might be present. Make no commitments. Never ever
get your hair cut after watching a Brat Pack movie and don’t mix vodka and rum. Simple rules. Easy rules. Rules that you, as a fully functional adult, ministry trained witch, and human being capable of forming multi-syllabic sentences should have been able to hold fast to and yet, with each panicked breath Eva Hitler was skillfully weaving her web of saccrin greetings across the room, never taking her venomous eyes off of you.
Only as a method of escape occurred to you did you notice the firm, doubtless brusing, grip Soren had on your elbow.
There it remained through each passive aggressive, thinly veiled remark she passed off as a witty observation. There it remained as she insisted on parading her hopefully
soon-to-be son-in-law and her gorgeous
daughter around to her friends. There it remained, holding you hostage for what seemed like an hour of mind-numbing, brain cell depleting, species ending chit-chat and your only reprieve – your shot for the door – crashed down before your very eyes as not one – not two – but three Daily Prophet employees guided you toward the staging area and waited, poised, to capture their fearless leaders speech and his adoring…girlfriend
as she applauded his generosity and charitable nature.
Soren was still pacing the study floor when you kicked off your sandals and slid lacquered toes into terry cloth rabbit slippers – only then, stepping out of your dress and into a ragged t-shirt. Visions of the evening played across your consciousness as you heard his assistant running through a list of things that still required approval. Exhaustion tugged at your eyelids, but your mind raced in spite of it. Not the kind of frantic, uncomfortable raving that was so much a part of who you were, but more structured – more collected.
Taking advantage of the momentary clarity, you drew the curtains back on the window and leaned heavily on the sill, watching as owls swooped in and out of their perches, letters wrapped around their legs. Footfalls in the next room had faded from your senses, leaving you only with the quiet chaos brewing just below the surface of your mind. Letting your forehead fall against the cool glass for only a moment, you straightened and padded across the room, sliding between the sheets.
The room had taken on a somewhat strange glow when you opened your eyes again, rubbing the haze out of them. Soren’s wrist lay uncomfortably under your neck and your stomach was growling even more painfully. Rolling over slightly to pry yourself free, an arm wrapped around your waist, twining it's fingers lazily over the contours of your waistline.
“Go back to sleep, Lexi.”
When did it hit you that what you were feeling was love?