Chapter 1 : Basil And Soft Winds
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Author's Note So, strangely enough, the banner came first, then the story. I had originally made the banner (it's now been edited) for a "Finish the Base" challenge over at TDA, so make of that what you will. I liked the picture of a pregnant woman, and slowly that grew into this one-shot. It's kind of short, but I don't want it any longer. Enjoy! And I'd love it if you took a care to review. :)
Basil And Soft Winds
She looks at her swollen belly. Nymphadora Lupin, soon-to-be mother of one, is facing a small window. Night is falling, and she rocks herself backwards in the chair. Her heels hit the ground, and a cool breeze comes in to kiss her body. She is alone, for now.
The thrill of an unborn child overwhelms her, and she smiles delicately. Papers curl in the fireplace, and stars begin to grin - kindly, cruelly - on the darkening horizon. She is at peace, for once in her life. Turmoil has been stilled within her. Quietly, she begins to hum, fingers trailing over her stomach. Her husband, she knows, will not tarry tonight. He will come to her, come to her bed, and be in love with her once more.
Or so she convinces herself.
It is Remus's baby she carries. But he has not seemed pleased nor elated at the prospect. Curtains flutter by her face. The unborn child in her belly whimpers and neighs.
"Shh, shh," Nymphadora murmurs. She rises from the chair and reaches a small lamp hiding behind a shadow. With a delicate flick of her arm, she lights it. Soon the room is awash with golds and whites. Nymphadora settles back into the chair. Mosquitoes will enter soon, she remarks, but keeps the window open. Clarity she desires above safety.
But this child - her son, her only. She lets her hands fall to her side and arches her back, her belly risen above. A halo for a forgotten angel. The patter of rain softly begins to fall above her head and she leans over the windowsill, watching as the earth shudders and thrives. Her mother, dear Andromeda, had visited earlier today. She had held Nymphadora's hand and sighed and had watched the sun rise from the same windowsill. And now the sun had died.
She hears her husband's keys in the lock and pulls away from the window, twisting her neck so that she might see him in the passageway.
"You're early," she says, smiling, and she sees him place his overcoat and hat on the stand. Her first sight of him is of his back. Lately, that has been the only thing she sees of him: his back as he rises from the bed and walks out the door, his back as he leaves her for another secret conference, his back as he warms his hands by the fire, his back as he does not speak to her.
But tonight, he turns his head, and she can see the tired lines that run down his face. His eyes flick from her to the window, and with quick strides, he comes to her and pulls the shutters closed. The night chill leaves, as quick as it had stolen inside.
He does not offer an explanation for his lateness, but nor does she expect one. Her marriage has decayed, and she has seen it through her own eyes. By her insistence, by her demand, by her request of honor - oh! that word! It meant nothing now - he'd married her.
"Leave it," she sighs. "I like to watch the world."
He does not protest as her small white hand reaches out to open the shutters. The cold air washes in once more, and she relaxes, happy, a girl - for that is all she is, no matter the lies, the inconsistencies, Nymphadora is but a girl - content in her own world.
Her husband settles himself on the couch, and with his wand conjures a steaming mug of tea.
"I could have made that for you myself," she says softly.
"I should not have liked to bother you, Dora."
A small smile graces her ever-changing features, and she laughs heartily. "But it wouldn't have. Remus, I would have been happy."
He looks up sharply, and in those dark eyes she cannot read she finds, for once, anger. He runs a hand through his hair and lets his head drop backwards.
"Tell me you are not happy now."
Her arms, for such a moment still, rise to cradle her stomach. She lifts herself out of the chair and slowly, once again, leans out over the windowsill. The rain has slowed, and she smells all of the scents of the earth.
"Is there anything more perfect than the rain and the moon, Remus?"
She was tactless. His jaw tightens. His glare falls, but he is not angry. Merely sad. Slowly he comes to her side at the window. He does not touch her. He does not need to.
Her lashes are suddenly heavy with tears. She lets them fall, unheeded, salty trails on stone and marble.
"Could we be any more different?" she pleads. He knows not to answer the question. Clouds and mist surround the moors. The world is her garden. She watches as the roses drink their fill and as the basil's soft fragrance fills the air again.
His fingers touch her shoulder - once! twice! - light as a fawn, and without a word, he leaves her. She knows what preoccupies him. Tomorrow is his night - his night to howl and destroy. Nymphadora's fingers curl into a fist at the base of her stomach.
The unborn child - the unborn son.
To the moon shall my son howl.
No - no, it couldn't be! No matter how hard she has fought, no matter how much she has destroyed of her life or sacrificed, she will not allow it. Not for her own flesh and blood. Not for her son.
His father, his father, his father.
Tomorrow is the full moon. And ripped from her womb a wolf will rise. Blood and anger. She fingers her hair, letting it curl as she does so. The cheap, fake silk of her robe slips as water down her skin, and she stumbles as she walks towards the desk in her husband's office. A quill - she needs a quill.
Settling herself down, she begins to write.
To my son;
Your father does not wish for you to be born, but I do. A curse perhaps lies above your head, but none will know until you are here and until you surprise us with your laugh and your smile. Will you gurgle, my darling?
Her thoughts dim. Images of her father begin to twine and twist in her mind.
Heart racing, she dips the quill in the ink once more.
I cannot promise you a life of luxury or happiness. I am neither graceful nor strong, my darling, just a humble girl. Your father is nearly twenty years my senior. But I love him still. Do not be afraid by what happens to him every moon. He loves you all the same, remember that, though perhaps he does not love me. A shadow falls over us now. My darling, my Ted, know that I adore you.
She sighs, and rolls her neck.
Always with love,
Her fingers tremble on the last word. Quickly, she places the quill back into its hold and leaves the sheet to dry. She hurries back to her bed, where her husband is fast asleep. Soon, she will dream, and her nightmares will fade away until morning.
The moon will rise tomorrow. Her husband's arm does not tighten around her waist. His eyes flutter in his sleep, his soft mouth forming words she cannot hear. They are not her name. She lives a lie.
But somehow, in a perfect way, she manages to hold. The rain still falls softly above her head. The basil still perfumes the air around her.
"Is there anything more perfect than the rain?" she murmurs.
And the wind answers her, No.