The door to Shell Cottage was painted the darkest of blues. I remember painting it, all those years ago, with my father. I remember splashing around in the paint while Papa finished the door off with his wand. I had put my paint-covered hands in Victoire’s hair, and she had run to Teddy to complain. He wouldn’t touch her because she was a ‘girl’ and he thought, at the tender age of ten, that they ‘smelt funny’.
The bronze doorknocker was shining in the early evening light as I approached the quaint little cottage. I knocked twice and the door flung open at once. Mama was standing there, tall and beautiful with an apron wrapped around her waist. She pulled me inside, into the home I knew so well, and hurriedly took my coat and bag off me. I glanced at my reflection in the mirror by the door and retracted my gaze almost immediately. I looked ghostly. My skin was paler than it usually was, and my light auburn hair was lank and greasy. I still dressed in black, and I picked awkwardly at my large, baggy jumper. I pulled my gloves off my hands and lay them on the side table and made my way into the kitchen.
Papa and Teddy were sitting at the kitchen table, while Victoire and Mama were busy cooking. The delicious smells wafted from the oven and the bubbling saucepans. I tried to remember the last time I had a home cooked meal or felt this comfortable. I slumped onto one of the kitchen chairs, picking up the Evening Prophet.
“How are you, Dom?”
I looked up from the paper and saw my father staring down at me, his brown eyes bright. I smiled at him as he pulled out the chair next to me and sat down.
“I’m alright, thank you. How are you?”
“I’m well. Work has been a bit of a handful, but nothing huge. Do you want some wine?”
I nodded, and Papa poured me a glass before walking to the kitchen to help his wife. He slid his arms around her waist and she laughed, hitting his hands away. I felt supremely happy, seeing that they were still so in love after so many years of marriage. Teddy and Victoire had only been married for a year or so, but they had been friends since childhood and I was happy for them. I remembered the small crush I had on Teddy when he was in sixth year. Sometimes Victoire still joked about it.
I wished Lorcan were here.
“Is anyone else coming?” Victoire asked before taking a sip of wine, “Looks like you are going to feed an entire army.”
“I invited over a couple of Dominique’s friends,” Mama said, her old French accent still peeping through.
I seen had Rose briefly since the night Lysander left. She had given me a weary smile and we had talked about work for a few minutes. The conversation was stiff and uncomfortable, the weight of the secret still hanging over us. Then Noah had appeared and whisked her away to talk about wedding venues and the like, and I had decided to return to the safety of the living room where I was only accompanied by a sleeping Grandpa Weasley.
Scorpius had failed to talk to or see me in the entire week since that night. He was a fiercely loyal friend and that was something I had always admired in him. I guessed that his friendship with Lysander was more dependable than the one he shared with me. Lysander disappearing for two years and then proceeding to kill a man did not seem to wave Scorpius in the slightest.
“Which friends?” I choked, my wine glass clutched tightly in my hand.
“Rose, of course, and ‘er new fiancé,” Mama answered.
“Scorpius mentioned it at the office today as well,” Teddy chipped in. “He said he might stop by after work.”
“That’s nice,” Victoire said sweetly.
I proceeded to sip at my glass of wine while the others chatted cheerfully. Someone knocked at the door and Victoire went to answer it. Noah and Rose entered, Noah clutching a bottle of firewhisky that he gave to Bill before shaking hands. Rose and Victoire immediately began to talk of the wedding, while I sat awkwardly at this dinner party full of couples. I felt completely alone, besides all the smiles and the laughter. Noah even pulled out Rose’s chair for her, and suddenly the bottle of firewhisky he had given looked a lot more appealing. I wished Scorpius were there just so I could have someone to talk to, albeit awkwardly.
“So Dominique, how have you been?”
So engrossed in my loneliness, I woke from my reverie to Noah Bryant’s voice. I turned to look at him, quiet and confident in the chair next to me. I admired him for a second; the casual clothes, the classically handsome face and the large brown eyes. I hadn’t seen him this close in forever. I could see what Rose liked in him.
“Alright, thanks,” I mumbled in reply.
“And how are you coping?”
I could also see why I would prefer Scorpius to be Rose’s husband: the constant patronising tone associated with someone who thinks that they are better than you. Admittedly, Noah was the youngest Witch Weekly editor in a century or something ridiculous, but that didn’t mean he could talk to us mere mortals as if we were the dirt on his highly priced loafers.
“I’m coping perfectly well, thank you Noah.”
He smiled. A line of perfect, white teeth flashed out from behind his lips.
“That’s good,” he said, rubbing my arm in an attempt to comfort me. “That’s brilliant in fact. Rose has been having a hard time of it all.”
I clenched my jaw to refrain myself from telling him the real reason Rose was ‘having a hard time of it all’. I was not sure whether Noah knew about Scorpius’ feelings for his blushing bride-to-be, and I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be the one to tell him.
“How sad,” I said, and I couldn’t stop the slight hint of sarcasm that entered my voice. Luckily, Noah failed to spot it as he reached over to refill his wine glass. I saw his eyes flicker towards Rose, as if checking that she hadn’t burst into tears or done something too drastic.
Or maybe he was just looking after her, worried that she might be upset. Maybe he was secretly a good guy who loved his fiancée dearly, but it was just hidden underneath the condescending, self-important exterior.
“You know, Dominique, when I was made the youngest ever editor of Witch Weekly...”
I downed the remainder of my wine and sat listening to him, my brain slowly falling asleep. I was saved when Rose decided to walk over, placing her hand on her fiancé’s shoulder and standing behind his chair. Together, they looked as if they were posing for a family portrait - fake, stiff and forced. Perfect.
“Are you hungry, Dom?” Rose asked me, still smiling down at Noah.
The sight of you together makes me lose my appetite.
“Yeah, I’m starving. I think we are waiting for Scorpius though.”
The hand on Noah’s shoulder tensed and I saw a flash of jealously sweep over Noah’s dark brown eyes. His smile remained forced to his face. Rose’s softened considerably. I supposed that now the two of them had bonded over Lysander’s escape from the law, they would no longer be awkward around each other.
“I didn’t know that Scorpius was coming,” Noah said, and I was pleased that he fidgeted uncomfortably in his chair.
“Neither did I,” Rose said, and another faint smile traced across her beautiful features. Noah slipped his arm around her waist. She seemed to wake from her daydream and realised that her very real fiancé was sitting right beside her.
I sat smirking at her over the top of my wine glass. The couple had a whispered argument for a while, and the word ‘Scorpius’ was repeated several times over. I turned away from them to talk to Teddy and Victoire, but someone knocked at the door and I stood up quickly to answer, keen to get away from all these couples.
I opened the door to see Scorpius standing outside, his hair tousled from the sea wind and a large pile of paperwork under his arm. He brushed past me without a hello, dumping the files onto the side table and started to remove his coat and scarf.
“Thank Merlin you’re here,” I began. “I was getting sick of all the loved-up people in there.”
Silence followed my statement, and the wind rattled the windowpanes. Scorpius straightened the sleeve of his shirt. He ran his fingers through his hair and turned to look at me. His grey eyes were cold.
“Sorry, I must have completely blanked on the part where we decided we were talking.”
He started to walk towards the kitchen but I stopped him.
“Listen, I made my choice. If you decide to completely ignore the fact that one of your best friends was a murderer then that’s your problem.”
Scorpius closed the door to the kitchen so that the rest of the family could not hear us argue.
“That’s my problem, is it Dom?”
“That’s funny because Lysander is not a murderer.”
“I thought that we had this conversation before,” I said quietly. My fingers rubbed my forehead in despair.
“Listen, Dom,” Scorpius’ voice was quieter now, less threatening, “I know you’ve had a tough time. But Lorcan’s dead. You can’t blame Lysander for that just because there is no-one else to blame.”
“The Aurors think so too.”
“And that makes it real? Look at Sirius Black, they thought he killed twelve people and they were wrong.”
“They have evidence!” I choked, “and I know that he is capable of it.”
“You are just upset, Dom! You are upset that Lysander told you something that disrupted your perfect life. You’re just taking your anger out on him.”
The breath caught in my throat as I stood staring at Scorpius, disbelief and surprise etched all over my face.
“How did you... how did you know about that?”
“Oh come on, Dom. I’ve had my fill of unrequited love, and you think I wouldn’t recognise it?”
I sat down heavily on the spindly wooden chair in the narrow hallway, my eyes staring at my shoes. I couldn’t believe that Scorpius knew about Lysander’s feelings for me.
“It’s not about that,” I said quietly. “He’s still a murderer. That is why he did it.”
Scorpius gave the same dark, unbelieving look at he had given me the night Lysander went to France.
“Dominique? I’m meant to tell you that...oh hello, Scorpius.”
The door had opened, and Noah stood in the doorway. The three of us stood there for a moment, awkwardly cramped in the tiny hallway.
“Hello Noah. I didn’t know that you were coming.”
“Oh yes, Fleur invited me along.”
“Well that is nice,” Scorpius said. I didn’t understand how he could be so polite to the man who was marrying the love of his life, but I stayed silent. We could hear the sea washing up against the cliffs.
“Shall we go through, then? Dinner is almost ready.”
Scorpius and I followed Noah into the kitchen. The blond man hurriedly shook hands with Papa and Teddy and kissed Mama on both cheeks in typical French style. He and Rose danced awkwardly around each other, his arms darting up and down in an attempt to hug her. When he finally did, Scorpius’ arms lingered a little too long around her tiny frame.
I took my place next to Scorpius at the dinner table, Noah opposite him and Rose sitting next to her fiancé. Dinner was served and I ate heartily, grateful for this warm, home cooked meal that I had so missed.
“So how is the Auror office?” I asked.
“Not the same without you, Dom,” Teddy answered and he winked at me.
“We’ve been working on a new case, actually,” Scorpius explained, “some underground Muggle killers in Western Europe.”
“Way to dampen the mood, Scor. Congratulations,” I said sarcastically.
He laughed bitterly in response.
“And I’m pretty sure that it was confidential information,” Teddy added, “way to lose your job.”
“At least then I’d have someone to talk to,” I mumbled and Rose smiled sadly at me.
“You can always come and join me at the Ministry. I can talk to Mum if you want,” she said.
“Actually I’ve been offered a job.” I had completely forgotten about it until that moment. Iago Debole’s letter was still hidden away in my kitchen, the parchment yellowing from age. I had thought before that I was not ready to indulge in something, especially so soon after Lorcan’s death. It had taken me a week to discover how wrong I had been. Particularly now that Lysander was a murderer on the run, and that my friends and family had returned to their own routines. I supposed I needed something to distract me.
“That’s great, darling,” Papa said eagerly, “Where is it?”
Scorpius looked at me suspiciously. I could not answer my father. I still had not responded to the letter. I did not know that details of the job.
“Department of Mysteries,” I muttered.
“An Unspeakable, really? That’s exciting,” Rose said enthusiastically.
“That’s heavy work, Dominique,” Noah added warningly. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like a nice assistant’s job at the magazine? I’ve got a couple of spaces free.”
“That’s very nice of you, Noah,” I answered moodily. “But I’m not that interested in journalism.”
“Really? If you ever think of joining the business, my friend Agnes is doing a lecture at the Daily Prophet offices next week. I could get you in.”
“She said she wasn’t interested Noah,” Scorpius said darkly, attacking his piece of chicken with his knife. Noah merely shrugged and returned to his meal, whereas Rose stared dubiously at Scorpius.
“I might not even take it,” I said.
“Why not?” Scorpius said, and his voice was horribly patronising. “The Aurors are going to be looking for another suspect anyway and it is going to take them a long time. Lysander’s innocent, remember?”
I kicked him in the shin underneath the table and he yelped in pain.
“Are you well, Scorpius?” Mama asked.
“I’m grand, thanks Fleur,” Scorpius answered, his teeth gritted and he stared daggers at me.
“Bien. Now, Rose, Noah, tell me all about zis wedding.”
Scorpius immediately stopped cradling his possibly broken leg and looked up at Rose. She blushed furiously, before turning towards Mama and smiling brilliantly.
“Well it is going to be at Noah’s parent’s house in Kent. It is a massive country house,” Rose answered, and Noah shrugged innocently as if he couldn’t help being a pureblood.
“C’est beau. And ze colour scheme?”
I rolled by eyes and toyed with the leftover chicken on my plate. Suddenly I wasn’t very hungry. I felt Scorpius tense beside me when Mama decided to talk about vows and I grabbed hold of his hand and gave it a comforting squeeze. He turned and smiled down at me.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered.
I ruffled his hair fondly.
“Scorpius, are you coming to the wedding?” Noah asked him smugly. He had a superior glint in his eye and I wanted to hit him.
“Of course he is,” Rose said, “He’s a good friend,” she added uncertainly.
Scorpius choked on the wine that he was drinking and I clapped him on the back.
“Of course, how silly of me to forget,” Noah replied patronisingly. “Will you be bringing a date?”
“Noah!” Rose gasped, horrified. I almost laughed and Scorpius raised an eyebrow cynically.
“Err, well I haven’t really...”
“Did anyone hear about the break-in at the ministry a couple of weeks ago?” Rose interrupted hastily. Scorpius visibly deflated with relief. Noah still looked at him suspiciously when the rest of the table began to talk again.
“Apparently someone attempted to steal something out of the evidence stores,” Rose continued.
“When was this?”
“Two weeks ago, about the same time as Lorcan’s funeral,” Teddy said. “The whole office was buzzing by the time I got back from the mission.”
“And did they manage to steal anything?” I asked. I missed being back at the Auror office.
“Doesn’t look like it,” Teddy finished, and the room filled with silence. Scorpius watched angrily as Rose wiped gravy off Noah’s chin, and his hand found mine again.
The dinner continued slowly, with more talk of the wedding and goings on at Gringotts. The sun slowly set behind the sea as we finished our pudding, and we said our goodbyes. I apparated home to my cold and dark flat, and I found the letter from Debole and sat and reread it until I decided that I was going to accept it. I quickly drafted a letter in response and sent it off.
I watched my owl fly into the darkness as the wind caressed my face, then I looked at the stars and said goodnight to Lorcan.
Beta'd by kaityb, who is awesome!
Apologies for this chapter - it is a bit of a filler! And thanks to all the lovely readers and reviewers of this story, you make me want to write!