The deep boom and crash of waves slamming against the shore has already become familiar, a noise I can only register at the edges of my consciousness. Except at times like now, when every sense is heightened almost unbearably.
I allow myself one more glance in the mirror. The girl staring back at me is so fair her freckles fairly scream out from her pointed face. She is not beautiful, with her too big mouth and long nose, but she is not ugly either, with wide brown eyes that have the potential to speak, if not charm. She fiddles with the badger claw hanging from her neck and runs her other hand through her short hair, a colour somewhere between red and brown before she departs with a swish of grey skirts.
I can’t help the slight flutter of my heartbeat as I push open my bedroom door and venture out onto the landing. Victoire glides from her room as I approach it and my jaw drops. I have always known that she is a pretty woman, but next to Dominique, that knowledge always fades away to unimportance. Stars shine brightly in the sky, but suns blaze, and push all pale imitation aside.
Victoire’s hair, normally a sheet of silk, has been twisted into shining coils and her slim body is sheathed in a soft translucent material which clings to her tall form and glimmers in the dusky light. With the simple circlet of ivy leaves topping her head, she looks like a faerie queen about to step out to call her court to order in the woods. She spares me a glance, her eyes flitting over my length and without a word she takes me by the wrist and pulls me along into her room.
“No,” I tell her but she fusses about me with pots and powders, a distant look in her eye.
“No,” I tell her, as she carelessly pulls off my simple grey shift dress and wraps a bit of deep blue gauze about me. It is like her, a thing of elegance with subtle, ever-changing embroidery, and it is fitting raiment for a lady, not a sparrow.
“No,” I tell her as she moves to replace my badger claw pendant with a gleaming oval gem. This time she humors me and steps back, a mysterious smile tugging her red lips.
I do not look around the bedroom, to see the unfamiliar signs of masculine habitation; the vintage Hawaiian shirt lying on the floor, the boxers thrown on the bed, like I do not look into the full length mirror before me to examine the stranger who will greet me. She is a construction for this night only, a myth that might as well never have been. She is neither real, nor me.
I force a smile for Victoire; a movement of muscles I am well accustomed to, and then I leave her to flee to the embrace of the night air. The unfamiliar weight of earrings burns my ears as I step out onto the verandah, as the surprise on Dom’s face burns my cheeks. She recovers quickly and chatters gaily as we wait for the others to join us. I only half listen to the steady stream of her conversation, my eyes fixed on the rhythmic motion of the sea the verandah looks out on. Dominique is in fine form tonight, when I turn back to her, her ivory face is flushed a delicate rose with excitement, her glorious eyes dilated and brilliant.
Scorpius, who is the first of the others to join us, stops in his tracks as he glimpses her. The longing on his face is so fierce I have to look away; it is more than painful to openly watch something so intimate, it is indecent. By the time I dare glance up from the faded wooden floorboards, Dominique is in his arms, for once deigning to be held close and still.
Teddy and Victoire emerge from the house at last, and if her face is pale under her flawless makeup and his mouth set in an unusually hard line, my tongue cleaving to the roof of my mouth would have prevented my commenting. If, of course, I had the courage to speak, which is increasingly rare.
The understanding hovering between them is layer upon layer of gossamer; shared hopes and dreams and memories all swirling together. It has been like that for as long as I can remember, and if there have ever been tears in the glowing threads flowing from one to another, encircling, embracing, defining, then those tears were not visible to mortal eyes. Where Teddy and Victoire led, the rest of us followed as best we could.
Dominique, unngled from Scorpius, waves her fingers in front of my face.
“What?” I ask blankly, my reverie broken.
“We’ll be late,” she laughs, though her eyes linger on the star like ornaments Victoire pinned in my hair.
I allow her to link her arms in mine, and we walk behind Ted and Victoire, Scorpius trailing a way behind us. The walk seems interminably long, but at last we arrive at a tall blue house decked out with fairy lights. The moment we slip around to the back, where sounds of music and laughter are already ringing through the air, it starts all over again. Dominique is hailed with shrieks of delight and catcalling, she dances off to kiss and coo and to hugged fiercely and lifted off her feet. I should not be surprised that in less than a week here she has found friends, admirers, old acquaintances and future lovers. For all her volatility, in some ways she is very predictable.
As is the scene before me. Rather than hover awkwardly, waiting for one of my family to remember me, or for one charitable soul to introduce themselves, and inflict at least ten minutes of empty and increasingly painful conversation on us both, I instead wander away from the groups of people scattered about the deck and garden. I find a drink, I find a wooden bench, and I sit in the almost darkness, listening to the sounds of mediocre mainstream music and unfeigned happiness and wondering if it can really be all it appears.
Even if this had not been a muggle party, still I would have felt out of place. Everyone here glitters, they glow with tans, with health, with the satisfaction of being young and beautiful. There is a couple kissing in the bushes some feet behind me, there is a tangle of limbs and laughs in open air sauna.
I could close my eyes, block out the noise and be at peace. My thoughts have always been the best of companions, they were my greatest amusement in my Hogwarts years. Albus gathered friends about him for his own sake, I on the other hand drove people away. If they were not jealous of my abilities, they were unable to handle my tongue. I don’t suffer fools gladly. I call it as I see it, and I cannot help it – nor should I care – if others are more short sighted, or willfully naïve.
Perhaps if I had been in another house, it would have been different. . the Ravenclaws might have appreciated my particular brand of humour if I had been one of them . . but I was not. I was in Hufflepuff, the home of ‘the rest’.
I push these musings aside. I have been down these pathways many times, I know how they circle and never end. None of it matters. I am here, school is at last behind me, and the future – frightening for it’s possibility, for it potential for further failure – awaits me.
A cough brings me back down to earth, and I glare automatically as someone seats themselves on my bench. Scorpius almost glows in the night, his white shirt only a few shades lighter than his fair hair. He is smoking again, as if it will not have him nauseous the next morning, and the whiff of his affectation mingles with the smell of salt and sea to burn my sensitive nostrils.
I ignore him – it worked well enough through all of school, and I suspect before this summer even unfurls that I will have seen enough of my cousins and their lovers. He does not take the hint, he is not as perceptive, or as sensitive, as a poet should be. But then, he is a new type of literati, this sharp featured youth with eyes of endless darkness. He drinks in beauty, but he does not reflect it, he swallows it whole.
“What are you doing in this corner, Rose?” he asks. The disgust mingled with pity in his tone sets my cheeks aflame. How dare he, the son of a Death Eater, look down on me?
“I’m fine,” I tell him as coolly as I am able. I pluck a carnation from the bush beside me and begin to tear strips methodically from its velvety petals.
He laughs, a snort of disbelief.
“No, you’re not. Why are you hiding?” he demands.
“I want to,” I say simply. If it is not the exact truth, it is not a lie.
“Why are you alone?”
That is the question, isn’t it? I do not answer, will not give him the satisfaction of hearing a tremble in my voice. I sit there, twisting the remnants of my flower, and he allows me, give me a brief moment of respite before he begins his attack again.
“Have you always done this?” he asks suddenly and I drop the flower in surprise.
“I don’t know what you are-”
“How long have you been pushing people away?” he presses. “At Hogwarts, I always thought it was just me, but you do it to Victoire, you do it to Ted, you even do it to Dominique.”
I stand up. I do not have to take this from a Malfoy, of all people.
“What are you running from Rose?” he asks. It is not a taunt but a serious question and when I glance at him, he could be a marble statue, so pale and motionless is he.
“I’m not running,” I say automatically, knowing myself that it the most transparent of lies. Running is what I do best; I ran from my family name at school, I ran from my mother across the channel and I will die before giving that ferret faced albino busybody the satisfaction of knowing I would run from him.
I do not sit down again, but nor do I move away. We remain trapped in our own little bubble of tension while in the distance people shriek with laughter and scream in delight.
“What happened?” he asks suddenly and I look up at him, surprised he was the first to break. “What made you like this?”
There is genuine curiosity in his voice, but it is the intensity in his eyes that infuriates me most. I have seen it before. It is the hunger of the writer within him to know, to understand, to analyse and capture in neat little words.
I am no clock piece, for mechanisms to be taken apart, cleaned and reassembled.
“Nothing,” I tell him, a sneer that feels worthy of him twisting my lips. “People can’t be boxed into neat little categories, Malfoy. I am who I am, and that is all there is to it.”
This time I begin to walk away, irritated at myself for having got into conversation with the idiot. He was never known for his conversation, quite the reverse, but if he was this abrasive when he did speak, it was a good thing his diatribes were rare.
You’re selfish, Rose,” he says with a calculated cruelty that stops me, as it was meant to. Unable to believe what I am hearing and I turn, my fingers itching to strike his cheek.
“What did you say?” I demand.
“I always thought you were a mystery. The one Weasley the whole world didn’t know about, the one girl in our year who didn’t care about who was dating who, who didn’t bother with the posturing and pretence. I thought there was more to you, darling, but clearly I was wrong. You’re just a selfish child, and you always will be.”
My hand scythes through the smoky air to hit him this time, but he catches my hand and forces it down. He is only inches away from me, and the intensity of his eyes, for once not empty or shadowed, almost mesmerize me. I remember to struggle to free myself but his long fingers remained encircled around my wrist, not hard enough to bruise, but strong enough that I cannot slip away.
“You little fool,” Malfoy says slowly, throwing his cigarette on the floor with his free hand and stamping on it. “So you have issues. So you’re scared. The world doesn’t stop for your problems, Rose. The stars don’t go out.”
"Who the hell do you bloody think you are, telling me-”
“What’s going on here?” breaks in a familiar voice.
Despite the edge to his voice, Teddy brings calm with him, as well as the realization that my voice had risen and more than a few eyes were on us. As Scorpius steps back and releases me, I flush automatically. I cannot explain even to myself why it is that Teddy, of all people, should not have been the one to find me here, loitering in a corner with Malfoy, my hand in his and his face inches away from mine, but even Dominique would have preferable, and not formed a false idea.
When I can lift my eyes from the ground, Teddy is still giving Scorpius a look compressing many volumes of threat, though it slides off the ferret’s back. I wonder if Teddy even remembers that is Scorpius, not the extended Weasley family whom he is actually related to. Regardless, he makes it clear where his allegiances lie.
“Alright, petal?” Teddy asks neutrally. I frown automatically at the nickname and he laughs and the tension is broken.
“I’m fine,” I say firmly, not looking behind at Malfoy as Teddy tucks my arm in his and begins to lead me away. “I’m fine.”
A.N Not a three month wait this time! XD Last super angsty chapter for a while, this was never supposed be (this) depressing! Did you like, or think things happened too fast? Let me know :)
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