Chapter 6 : (reaching)
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Molly waits and watches as ever.
One more Sunday. One more monotonous Sunday in the fan of her days.
Once, she looked forward to them. But now, her days are passing bleakly and she counts them as she does a rosary, prayerfully waiting for the day that she can smile again. She talks less and less because she is saving all her words, funneling them away for that one meaningful moment that may someday change it all.
She watches her sister from the corner of her eye. Lucy takes a sip of her butterbeer and turns back, a shadow of a smile on her face.
“What is it?” she whispers. “Is something wrong?”
“Nothing,” Molly says. And it’s true.
Nothing is wrong. Really.
Lucy smiles and pats her hand and Molly manages a faint trace of a grin.
Molly looks at her sister and tries to feel happy that Lucy’s found a job in Diagon Alley. She tries to remember what that light, bubbly feeling used to be like – butterflies stroking the sides of her stomach, enveloping her in a warm glow and pulling up the sides of her mouth. Lucy is bright, young and full of life. Lucy has everything in front of her. Lucy is lucky enough that her dreams are not already extinguished and that the one boy she has always fancied has not been someone else's for the majority of his life; Lucy has nothing set in stone and therefore, she has everything.
She knows that she should be happy for her sister, knows that her silly jealousy is tomorrow’s laughter. But none of will change the fact that she has to stay home again and watch everybody else be happy.
Molly carries her empty plate and puts it in the sink. On her way back to her seat, she passes Victoire, who gives her a small smile. Molly looks at her cousin, whose beautiful face has been marred by exhaustion and wonders what is happening to all of them.
“You okay, Molly?”
“Yes,” Molly whispers. “I’m fine. You?”
“I’m here and there,” Victoire says, her voice sounding like carousels and Ferris wheels and all the things that spin without reason. “Life’s been…hard…”
She trails off, looking lost. Molly feels a twinge of regret looking at Victoire. She feels a little regretful that Teddy's left her. And more than anything, Molly regrets that they have never been friends. Looking at the girl in front of her, she no longer sees the overachieving, stern Head Girl, but the someone lonely and a little afraid. It is a pity, she thinks, that their whole lives they have been unwittingly competing with each other, keeping each other at arm's length on some excuse without ever realizing that perhaps they could've had more than an obligatory relationship. Perhaps they could've been friends.
Molly sighs. “I know.”
“Still haven’t found a job?”
There is a pregnant pause.
“You and Teddy are – “
“Nothing,” Victoire says harshly. “We’re nothing, actually.”
“I’m – sorry – “
But Molly is slowly learning not to be.
“It’s okay,” Victoire says. She grabs her wand off the counter and begins walking away. Victoire may be too demanding, may be too much like Molly's mother and father, but if she is anything, Victoire is strong. Even among a chaotic family, even with a million voices always chiming in, telling her what to do, trying to influence her in a thousand ways, Victoire has always stayed quintessentially herself. And that, with all her listlessness and insecurities, Molly can appreciate. “It’s nothing now. I’m okay.”
Molly watches her cousin disappear into the folds of their family, gliding past Freddy and Aunt Angelina until she is completely out of sight.
She sighs and begins walking back to her seat, feeling at a loss for what more there is to say. Her mother comes to her with a grim smile.
“Come on darling, finish eating.”
“I’m not hungry, Mum.”
Her mother fusses briefly. “You’ll be hungry in an hour if you don’t eat.”
“Stop it. I’m okay. I'm not twelve years old.” She turns away quickly; a small flush of guilt washes through her as she catches a glimpse of her mother’s wounded expression. She knows that her mother only wants her to be happy, but it stings Molly to see herself like this.
Twenty years old and still living with her mother, still depending on her for a future.
Molly walks resolutely out of the kitchen and downstairs. The Burrow – the place of eternal Sundays. Everyone is five and then fifteen and then twenty five and nothing at all has changed. Rose still fights and Uncle George still makes everyone laugh. Molly catches sight of her father standing next to Uncle Bill; both of them are laughing at something Louis has done.
At least her family is still happy. At least they still have each other.
Molly takes a deep breath.
She keeps walking downstairs, bits and pieces of other people’s conversations floating down to her.
“ – and then he said that I wasn’t – “
“ – Victoire, could you pass the – “
“ – the Muggle Malice Act of 1905, proposed by – “
She finally reaches the place she did not know she was looking for: a chair by the window-side downstairs. Outside, the sky is a hazy mass of clouds; flecks of sunlight dance at the bottom, reflecting onto the field beyond her. The grey skies seem to make everything brighter – the plants swaying in the winds, the flowers that are losing their petals one by one. A clock chimes somewhere and Molly breathes. One, two, one, two.
She can hear the soft rush of a footfall near here.
“Oh.” Her voice automatically raises an octave. “What do you want?”
“Are you okay?”
She turns to meet him. There is a strange expression on his face. In his hands, he holds an orange and she rolls her eyes. He’s always eaten too many of those things. Her mind unhelpfully chooses this instance to remind her of a thousand little things about Teddy; a thousand little things that anybody would've forgotten if they hadn't secretly considered important and chosen to remember. A thousand little things that had taken ten years to learn. He ate so many oranges that he could get himself sick on them. He liked angsty, broody poetry. He supported the Montrose Magpies; Molly had let her drag him to a game so she could sit next to him for a whole three hours even though she couldn't tell apart a Bludger from a Quaffle. He wanted to have two daughters someday so he wouldn't have to choose between naming his child after his mother and grandmother.
“You were sitting alone all through dinner, Molly.”
At this, some irrational thing in Molly snaps. She feels it break inside of her; and out spews the memories of the thousand litlte things. The oranges, the Montrose Magpies, Andromeda and Nymphadora, the colour chartreuse, aubergines, his allergy to cats, that one time Madame Hooch had yelled herself hoarse, walks by the Black Lake at midnight... "Just leave it."
His eyebrows rise. “If I’ve done something wrong, you can just tell me – “
“It isn’t that." She exhales. "You wouldn’t understand.”
He takes a seat next to her and Molly looks pointedly away. Outside the window, she can see the faint outline of gnomes running through the wild grass and snorts lightly. Her grandfather never can keep them away for long.
“Is this about your family or something?”
“You’re making this hard, aren’t you?” He gives a shadowy sort of grin. Molly's in no mood to smile back. She feels her head pounding and something inside of her continues heaving and giving way. She feels a shot of cold nerves pulsate her and she wonders if this is it. If something is about to finally change and break.
“Nothing’s wrong. I told you. So you can just go now. Really. I’m okay.”
He snorts at this. He could always see through her, but he turns to rise.
Only after she hears his footsteps spin into the blur of sound and voices does she feel a heat spike to her cheeks.
Again. She’d messed it up again.
The first time they’d been alone for a while now.
She wants to tell him. She has already tried more times than she can count. But she knows he does not feel the same. He does not blush or look away or twist his hands. He does not look or smell or act different. There are no flowers in his hands or change in his eyes. He is Teddy Lupin, her friend.
She does not love him. She knows that it is not love with towers or princesses or roses. She does not need him to rescue her. She does not need a prince. It is not chocolates or tears or passion. It is laughter and gentle autumn days and lake breeze. It is not forgetting.
She does not love him. But she is Molly and he is Teddy and she thinks that she one day will.
And for that, she knows she must try.
To her, autumn once meant orange leaves and crumbling trees and the faint promises of springtime. Autumn now means Teddy Lupin. Autumn now means that she might be brave enough to do anything.
When she had first started fancying him in Hogwarts and he had fancied Victoire, she had known then that he had split his life into two possible paths. Victoire was a path filled with promise and beauty. A part-veela Head Girl with top marks didn't exactly need to compete with a bushy-haired redhead who had always been too timid. So Molly had encouraged him down that first path, thinking it for his own good.
To her, Teddy has remained a constant. Her friends from Hogwarts have come and gone. But Teddy has remained. To Teddy, she can be his second path. One that is not clean paved and built with clean, even bricks. One that has bumpy cobblestone on top of dirt, with vines scattered all about. Second paths will never buy back lost time, nor can they necessarily promise anything better, but second paths can let you traverse them with more confidence, with more experience, with more maturity.
She rises from her seat and turns towards the door.
She walks down a narrow hallway, her heart racing. She opens every door slightly until she reaches the one near the stairs. On the front of it, a sloppily written piece of parchment charmed to the door proudly proclaims that it’s her Uncle Ron’s room.
She pushes it open gently. There’s a burst of laughter from a floor below.
And there he is.
He sits on the bed, his head in his hands. He looks up when she enters, his expression unreadable.
Molly does not know much. She does not know much past her violin or her mother’s piano. She does not know of the world much past the winters spent in isolation, the days without heat, the nights without love. She knows of family and friendship and that they are the lone suns in the darkness.
“What is it?” he asks.
She does not know what to say. She catches sight of his disappointed expression and does not know what to say.
He has never understood or known or seen this – them for what they could be as she does.
He has always been her friend and she has always fancied him, but they have been oceans apart. She has waited and waited for him. For weeks and months and years, but possibly her whole life.
He stares at her and she stares back. She hears nothing – nothing of the shouts below or the wind playing through the trees – nothing more than her heart pounding against her. Ten years, it tells her, as if she needs reminding. Ten years...
Be brave, she tells herself.
He rises and stands over her. He has always been taller than her – too tall for her short frame.
She feels electricity settling on the layer of her skin. She feels as though if she really listens, she can hear stars being born and fireflies learning to fly and rain giving way to sun.
They have always been oceans apart, but now, finally, it draws to a close.
She stands on the tips of her toes and presses her lips gently to his. She feels him stiffen.
She is reaching over to him. She is reaching over ten years and down one whole road and informing him that another awaits. And she is at last, reaching him.
Author's Note: The lovely CI above is by Lady Asphodel @ TDA!
We're very nearly there! One more chapter to go! Again, I'd really like to thank everyone who has read/reviewed/favorited - it really does mean a lot.
Thank you for all the support!
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