Chapter 1 : Only This
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This is for my dear friend and fellow Newsie, Leslie, who helped me title this and gave it a summary. *squishes*
Disclaimer: Only the plot is mine, sadly.
He hadn’t seen magic in a very long time. Eight years to be exact. Not since that night long ago when he had watched as his house disappeared from view and his cousin with it. Even before that there hadn’t been much magic in their house, his parents wouldn’t stand for it. But now, though it had been eight long years, he recognized it at once. There was no hesitation in his mind, he just knew. The girl was standing in an alley, muttering quietly to herself, pointing a stick, her wand, at something. Before he could say anything, reveal his presence to her, she had swung about and walked swiftly out of the other end of the alley away from him.
Some unknown force propelled him forward. Something inside him made him jog down the alley, made him want to follow. Need to follow. He knew that if he didn’t catch her, he’d have lost something forever that he’d never retrieve again. Pulling his long coat shut with one hand to avoid the smell of the alley, he hurried after her.
Coming out, he looked right, then left. There she was, hurrying away from him with a furious stride. The sidewalk was nearly empty in the gathering twilight; most people were already home, enjoying supper with their families. Not him, he wasn’t married and he lived alone. She didn’t seem to be with anyone either. His steps quickened as he went after her, determined to catch her. He didn’t know what he was going to say, didn’t really think about it, he just knew he had to catch her. That unknown urgency making his feet move faster.
Half a block later, he caught up to her. With one hand he reached out to snag her elbow, words of pardon on his lips. Before he could speak, she had whirled around and pressed the tip of her wand under his chin. He could feel the smooth wood jabbing the soft underside of his jaw, making him stand just a little taller. Dark brown eyes, black in the low light, flashed dangerously at him.
“Who are you? What do you want?” She demanded; her voice low and husky. Long, dark hair swung around her shoulders and he felt an odd urge to smooth it, tame it. He took a moment to look at her, even as she poked him and waited for an answer. Her nose was too small for her face, and her eyes too wide for any real beauty, but her flashing eyes captivated him in that moment. The brief flash of fear before the tough words.
“Sorry, it’s just... I saw you in the alley, just a couple of minutes ago, and I recognized your wand. You were doing magic, weren’t you?” He said, his blue eyes searching her contrasting dark ones, his tone not accusing but excited and hopeful.
“You’re a muggle!”
“Yes. You’re a witch.”
He told her bits of a story then. Of his story. About growing up with a cousin he didn’t understand, with a fear he couldn’t comprehend. The fears finally made them flee; him and his parents. Through the night, following directions from someone they didn’t know to somewhere far away. How at last they left for France, and relatives there. She watched this man, tall and blond; not fat, but thick and strong. With his sincere eyes, gleaming with child like wonder. Because of her magic, something she’d never been without. A comfort that set her apart from other people in the world, people like him, whom once upon a time she’d hated. Loathed. Now, looking up at him and his careless fascination, she struggled to remember that once she’d have called him lesser.
A little smile tugged at his mouth, beneath his neatly trimmed moustache. He watched her, no expression on her face, watching him. Studying his expressions and watching his words as if she could barely understand. She let him walk with her, through the streets to Charing Cross. They paused between two shops, his eyes drawn to the music posters in one window. Beneath the twinkling lights of London, they paused. His foot scuffed the ground and he looked at her with his head bent to one side, looking from under his hat. She stood straight, with posture bore of harsh lessons, but her eyes followed his movement. They fell silent and she began her retreat, away from the eyes that look so far into her.
Her feet turned to go, but a hand on her arm stopped her. She looked up at him through her hair, a question in her dark eyes. All he wanted is her name. She intrigues him, and it’s not just her magic. She pulled away again, giving the first hint of a smile, whispering her answer.
“Pansy. My name is Pansy.” She disappeared then, into air, leaving him behind and going where he cannot follow. To a place he cannot even see. She watched his face from the window for a moment, his baffled gaze as he struggled to see the space that isn’t there. He smiled, shook his head and walked away. She thinks of how different he is from other men of her acquaintance. It isn’t just that he’s a muggle and they’re not. He carries himself differently, as if the world holds challenges they’ll never face and he’s the stronger person for it. She watched him leave, then turned and walked away from the window, up the stairs to her rented room. She thinks of how different he is from her. His troubles will never be hers, and he will never understand.
She sees him again, loitering in front of the record shop next door. When he thinks no one can see, he peers into the space he cannot see. But she sees. She watches as he looks for her, and she knows he’s waiting. Not every day, but most, he stands and waits, scuffing at the ground with his shoe, and looking up through thick eyelashes. He doesn’t know if she sees him, but she thinks sometimes he sees her. For many days he comes back, waiting. One last day, she sees him come. He kicks the ground and looks into the space, shakes his head and walks away. She wishes he hadn’t left, but will not go.
When next she sees him, weeks have passed. He almost doesn’t pause, and then does, staring again into the space. She only almost smiles, but her boss still sees. The woman understands and tells her to go. Another girl might have skipped, but not her. She emerges slowly with a graceful gait. He smiles at her, as if he was expecting her, rather than just waiting for her. Their conversation is new, and shy. He teases her a little, but doesn’t know how, for he doesn’t know her. But he coaxes out a tiny smile. She doesn’t flirt, for it’s not her style, but he asks her out anyway.
“We’re very different, you and I.” She tells him.
“It’s only coffee.”
So she goes and she is glad she went. Perhaps differences are all right after all. He tells her about writing for a magazine, a thing she’d never do. She tells him about grand parties and expensive things. Things he’s never seen, but he doesn’t care. She envies him.
“We’re very different, you and I.” She tells him.
“It’s only dinner.”
So she goes and she is glad she went. It’s the first time she’s had food made by muggles. He laughs and she just smiles. He tells her about growing up in a modest house in Surrey, and meals made by his mother. She tells him about lavish feasts made by elfin servants. She doesn’t tell him her mother was rarely there.
“We’re very different, you and I.” She tells him.
“It’s only a weekend away.”
So she goes and she is glad she went. They go for walks and hold hands through dinner. They make love long into the night and sleep in. He tells her he was a terrible and spoiled child who always wanted more. She tells him she was a spoiled child who never got what she wanted. He laughs, but she smiles and kisses him. Still hoping one day she’ll get it.
“It’s only a few close friends.”
“It’s just my parents.”
“It’s only a flat.”
She goes along and never regrets it. His friends all like her, though sometimes they say she is a little stuck up. His mother compliments her dress and his father tells stories she doesn’t understand but she smiles anyway. He was always at her flat, or she at his, so it only made sense after all. She liked living with him. He told her about living in France and she told him about living in a mansion. He always asks about her family, and about the nightmares. She never tells.
He asks for her help one day, to find his cousin. To thank him. She agrees, until she hears the name. They have their first big argument and he doesn’t understand. How could he understand? He stares and stares into the spaces but he never sees what’s hiding there. They’re so different. She thinks about how different he is from her. Her troubles will never be his, and he will never understand. She leaves.
Without her help he finds his cousin. The reunion is awkward, but not bad, and he is happy. There are many years to catch up on; his cousin is married with a newborn son. It’s new for them, but they find a new way to know each other. Not quite friends, but at least family. His cousin knows there was a girl and when, months later, he asks for help to find her his cousin never hesitates.
She slams the door in his face.
The second time she blocks his entrance, her eyes tight upon her old acquaintance. Not quite enemy but no friend either. He makes his cousin explain their history. He thinks about the castle stories she spun and he starts to see the holes. He looks into the spaces and sees the hurt that’s there, the pain.
At last he talks his way inside, this time alone. He stares into her dark brown eyes and sees the beauty he fell in love with. She stares back with defiance, daring him to leave her too. Without a word she starts the tea. He watches her, watching like he couldn’t before. Now there is no barrier, and he sees who she is and loves her. He can see her looking back and smiles.
“We’re so very different, you and I.” She tells him.
“It’s only a cup of tea.”
So she gives him tea and doesn’t regret the invitation. He tells her about running in fear, about watching his cousin leave and wondering if he’d ever see him again. Tells her about knowing why the people were dying, because they were muggle, and being unable to do anything about it. She listens to the troubles, and thinks at last she understands. So she tells him about a mother who left and a father who fought against his kind. About an end of a war, of an era, and the calluses she grew on her heart and on her hands. He kisses each fingertip and smoothes her hair to tame it. They tell everything.
“We’re still so very different, you and I.”
He kisses her then, and smiles. When at last they come up for air, he holds her close against him, staring at the ceiling, and feeling the common cotton of her sheets beneath his head. He pulls her even closer, presses his lips on her brow and whispers, into the spaces of the night.
“We fit so well, you and I.”