Chapter 2 : Chapter One - Bruises
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“Sit down,” he ordered, gesturing to the seat in front of his large, mahogany desk. He looked at the picture in front of him; he and Lavender were standing in front of the ocean, their hair blowing in the wind. Disgusted at the dusty photograph, he turned it face down.
“Did I do something wrong?” she asked, tugging at the collar of her wool turtleneck. He raised his eyebrow. Why would someone wear a sweater in the middle of July?
“Push up your sleeves.”
“It's July and it's warm in here. If you're cold, you should walk down to St. Mungo's and see a Healer.”
Her hands trembled in her lap as though she was frightened. She looked at him with the expression of a wounded puppy as a tear escaped one of her melancholy blue eyes. Still, she rebelled against his request and left her presumably itchy sleeves down.
Anger built in Seamus's heart. His breathing became heavy as he attempted to keep his cool and stop from yelling at her for letting someone hurt her. Though she never told him much about her boyfriend, something about the way she looked when she talked about him suggested that she hated him with so much passion that she could barely contain it.
“I'm fine,” she said, her voice wavering. Taking a deep breath, Seamus got up from his chair and made his way to Noelle to sit down in the chair next to hers. She didn't look at him as he did this. Her eyes remained fixated on the wall, her expression blank.
“You're crying,” he stated bluntly. She bit her lip as though it would stop the tears from coming.
In Seamus's opinion, Noelle was a rose still blooming. On the outside, she seemed normal and as though she was still figuring out who she was. But on the inside, she was bleeding and scared. On the inside, there was beauty that was being disguised by the overbearing petals protecting the inside of the flower.
To try and comfort her, Seamus placed a hand on her shoulder. She winced when he did this, causing the anger in his heart to bubble up even farther. He closed his eyes tightly as though the picture would disappear from his mind if he did. Unfortunately, this only made it more prominent. When he closed his eyes, on the black background of his eyelids he saw Noelle sitting helplessly next to him and in pain. He opened his eyes once more.
“Who's doing this to you?” he asked.
“No one. I fell down the stairs at my parents' house over the weekend.” She looked straight ahead, telling him that these words were rehearsed. Someone had instructed her to tell this lie and it was causing her pain. This pain was not only emotional, but physical. The tears she was crying were wiping away the makeup she had used to cover a bruise. His eyes bulged.
“Who...who is doing this to you?” he repeated. This time, Noelle looked at him. Her expression was no longer blank but full of fear, sadness, and confusion. The tears came thicker than blood from her eyes as she gasped for air and sobbed into the tissue that Seamus had just handed her. Determined to get a truthful answer from her, he flicked his wand to lock the door so that they wouldn't be disturbed.
After going to the front of where Noelle was sitting, Seamus propped himself up on one knee and handed her another tissue. He looked her in the eye, forcing her to listen to what he was trying to say.
“You are going to tell me what's going on at home and you're going to tell me now. I can't let you go on like this; I've let it slide for almost a year now.”
“I can't leave him,” she whispered.
“Is he hitting you?”
Noelle simply nodded and sobbed harder. Seamus couldn't think of anything to do except to embrace her and let her know that everything would be all right. If he had his way, everything would be perfect. Sighing, he held her hands between his. When he looked into her eyes, something clicked inside him. It was as though a time bomb had just exploded. It was as though he was meant to do this.
“Noelle?” he said meekly.
“You're going to stay at my house tonight.”
She shook her head in protest, but he placed his finger tip to her mouth to keep her from speaking.
“I have a guest room. I'll just tell my girlfriend that you're a colleague – which isn't a lie – and that the hotels were booked. She'll believe it. She doesn't give a damn about me anyway.”
“Your girlfriend doesn't care about you.”
“Not really. I've seen it coming for about a year and a half now.”
“Then why don't you split up with her?”
He sighed, for he had a feeling that this would be a long conversation. Knowing that it would, he got up and sat in his chair. Noelle sniffled, but kept her mouth shut while Seamus told of the ups and downs of his relationship with Lavender. Her eyes were wide with curiosity and wonder as he spoke, making him feel...loved and appreciated for the first time in a long time. In his sudden rage of anger and heartbreak, he ranted about how Lavender no longer cared about him and wondered if she ever had. Perhaps all she wanted was someone who made good money and could protect her from whatever evil still lurked.
“You feel stuck,” Noelle concluded, wiping the remainder of her tears from her cheeks as flawless as a china doll's. She took a deep breath and gathered the strength to stand up; surprise took him over when she sauntered over to his desk and sat upon its surface. In her tiny, fragile hand she took a snow globe that his mother had given him and looked at it with what seemed to be admiration. Seamus simply watched her, curious as to what she was planning to say.
“We're both stuck; just like the little city inside the snow globe,” she murmured, not making eye contact with him. She kept her eyes glued on the plastic flakes of snow as they fell to the bottom of the globe. A nearly silent sigh blew from her thin, red lips. “What're you thinking about?”
He didn't know whether or not to be honest. The honest truth was that he was thinking about the woman sitting before him. He was confused; his heart raced as he looked at her. This wasn't the way hearts were supposed to beat around friends. The beat was uneven and quick as he stood up so that he was at eye level with Noelle. Though a smile didn't come across her lips, her eyes were bright as though she was smiling.
“You,” he whispered in a gravelly voice. Her cheeks turned a brilliant shade of red and she looked down at her lap as she continued to shift the snow globe from one hand to another. Gently, he took the snow globe from her and then took her small hand in his large, strong one. She placed her vacant hand on the back of his neck and looked at him, waiting patiently for what each knew was about to come. Taking his spare hand, he touched her collar jaw line and then moved his hand to the small of her back.
At last, he leaned in and kissed her. Her lips tasted sweet, like sugar and vanilla. He felt as though he was in a fantasy world where everything was brightly colored and his world was simply perfect. Fireworks would have been going off in this imaginary land as Seamus's lips molded to Noelle's in a forbidden kiss. When the broke apart after what could have been hours, she gasped for breath and rested her head in his chest.
“This is wrong,” she muttered, but she didn't sound sorry.
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