Chapter 1 : One
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Her aunt’s voice is firm, heavily accented with a Gallic beauty to every word. Molly has always thought it suited her well for moments like these, moments where Uncle Bill’s gentleness would not garner a reaction, and she rises to her feet, draped in the blanket she brought out not an hour ago. She finds herself at the back of the group of six teenage bodies who had so wished to spend their midsummer party under the stars, their voices a rising murmur of dissatisfaction and disappointment at their host’s resistance.
Above all the hubbub comes a new voice. It stands out, soothing and deep against the trill of the five sopranos, and each of them melts a tiny bit at Teddy Lupin’s word, “Cold?”
“A little bit.”
She teases the words from her mouth, smiling up at him and pretending not to notice the way that Dominique and Fran’s heads turn in front of them. They do not stop what they’re doing but she knows they are listening intently, nonetheless. It would be food for gossip, this talk between the boy and the girl who is not supposed to be his.
The touch of his arm around her shoulders does not stir conversation from them. Molly knows full well that to open her mouth would be like signing a contract to admit that this is not normal. Instead, he rubs his hand down her arm and she feels her skin warm beneath his touch. She smiles behind their backs and it tugs on the air like it is rivalling gravity itself. At the front of the group, she watches Victoire walking on, naively oblivious as ever to the depth of even the most innocent of gestures.
“Non.” Her aunt’s voice is abrupt and sharp and Teddy’s arm fades away again when they stop upon the winding staircase. Victoire comes back into view, her hair shielding from sight everything that is not her mother but still her beauty shines. “No boys.” The blonde tucks her sheet of frail hair behind her ear and even though each face that stares at her is accustomed to it, Molly knows there is a distant echo of envious whispers materialising in each mind.
“But Maman,” Victoire says and she descends until Teddy’s wrist is firmly in her grasp. Molly shivers but nobody sees and she quietly pulls her blanket closer around her. “If you won’t let us sleep outside, at least let us all be together.”
The sweetness to her cousin’s voice sings out in a way that reads as convincingly as though she were speaking only truth and with a defeated look, Fleur concedes. There’s a squeal of content, a noise of immaturity that Victoire has always retained, and in single file they push into her room, squeezing together on the floor, the blonde’s head on the boy’s shoulder and Molly trapped between two cousins who she hears talking but cannot listen to.
They speak of nothing. Together, the six of them are old. They have a century between them and they could tell enough tales to span a millennium: moments, phases, girls and boys and pets that have come and gone but their constants sit in that room. Victoire relies on Ted and Dominique, Fran and Roxanne and Molly sits there in it all, thinking that her life could continue on without every single one of them. Almost, anyway.
Maybe there is something about the testosterone buzzing through Teddy, surrounded by five hormonal teenagers. Maybe it is the face that she has grown so accustomed to over time that brings a degree of comfort to him. Maybe it is because he is the only boy that she knows will never desert her. Or maybe it is because he is Teddy Lupin and if she didn’t find him perfect, then she would not be a true Weasley.
He sits opposite her, pulling the occasional face when nobody’s looking and when night becomes too deep to ignore, she lies on the floor, sandwiched between him and Fran. One by one, she listens to each of them fall asleep: Victoire’s breathing steadying on the bed, Dominique’s gentle snores next to her. Roxanne almost rocked the room with her tossing and turning but now she has settled and Fran smacks her lips every five seconds in content reverie. Molly squeezes her eyes shut tightly, too scared to move in case any flailing limb wakes them. She likes the silence of the night; a time of underappreciated beauty, seeming to pass without the limits of a ticking watch counting down to nothing but a never-ending cycle of empty life.
“Molly?” His voice is so hushed that she wonders whether she has accidentally fallen into a dream, that the noises around her are merely fabrications of her subconscious, that not one of these thoughts will be remembered in a minute’s time. “Molls, you awake?”
His foot nudges her shin lightly and she squeezes an eye open, pinching her wrist beneath the cover of her blanket, just in case. His silhouette is broken, deformed by the rise of the desk behind him, and he looks almost monstrous in the gentle light of the clouded moon rising on the waves below the cliff.
“What?” she says, sounding tired but not feeling it in the slightest. As carefully as though her body were made from glass, she shifts so she is facing him. He has sat up, holding out a single hand to her and she feels her inner romantic rearing its head; images of a chorus of champagne flutes, the unreachable end of rainbows, the colour of perfection that changes hue with every passing second as the future becomes the present, past, breaking out of the boundaries of memory and into oblivion. “Why?”
“We can’t talk with this lot here,” he says and there is a second where she feels like the most important in his life. He has told her that before now, that he doesn’t know where he’d be without her and she cannot deny him anything. “Come on.”
She doesn’t need his encouragement and when he pulls her to her feet, she wants to remember what it is like to be swept into the air by something greater than reality, greater than anything. She recalls the time that in Victoire’s absence, he chose her to sweep off her feet into two arms. She had screamed and he had laughed, bouncing her gently and murmuring, ‘You’re lighter than you look.’ She had slapped him lightly but when he set her down, there had been a dull hope that it might happen again. He has always been just a friend but sometimes, she is sure she does not imagine something more.
She shivers as they pass from the warmth of a familiar home into the bite of the night. He glances down at her shaking shoulders and mutters, “I’m not surprised,” with a smile that only pulls on one side of his lips. She crosses her arms across her chest, conscious of the delicacy of her nightwear, and looks away. He fiddles with the blanket on his bare back and drifts it over her too, his arm resting on her naked shoulders, fist curled around the cloth. When they sit down, just out of reach of the light that falls from the lanterns strung along the patio, they huddle together and even though it is the least comfortable she has ever been, there is a second of it that just feels right.
“What did you want to talk about?”
“Me?” he asks it as though it was not his idea to venture from the warmth of Victoire’s bedroom to the chill of a June night. “Nothing really.” She rolls her eyes and he whacks her softly with his arm. “It’s just we never get to speak anymore, do we?”
She cannot deny him that. Since his last day of school, little over a year ago now, she has barely seen the figure that was once a hefty part of a fixed routine. A year has changed him. He does not joke as much, a darkness in his eyes that makes him look grown up, the same shade as the ghost of the past that haunts her parents, aunts and uncles. The remnants of a war won but scarring nonetheless.
“Not really,” she says, tightening the closeness between the two of them. “You and Victoire, then?”
“Your conviction is spectacular as ever.” He doesn’t laugh. He doesn’t so much as move his head as if to concede. He sits and waits and thinks in a way that makes her want to take the comment back. “What?” She keeps her voice gentle, her hand resting on his leg, softly drifting against fine hair, cold in the breeze.
“Do you think it’s the right thing to do?” She finds it strange that he asks something so blunt, so subjective. “I mean, sometimes I feel like the entire world’s been waiting for us to get together since she was a twinkle in Bill’s eye.”
“Do you like her?”
The question seems silly but there are only a few coming to mind and it is the simplest, the most telling. She watches him through dark eyelashes, mulling over a statement that should have a one word answer that falls off the tongue.
“Of course I like her,” he says eventually, “everyone does.” He pulls the blanket tighter around them and she becomes almost instantly aware of her hand on his leg, intimate, tender and she removes it softly. Perhaps he notices because he carries on, “We don’t have much to talk about.”
“Yeah, from what I heard, your tongue’s been put to better use,” she says and he elbows her this time. She gives a short laugh but he presses a finger to his lips and it jars in her throat. He smiles and the way his eyes light up, the only thing in focus in the obscurity of a morning’s dream, makes her heart warm.
“Sometimes I feel my whole life’s been planned for me. The wife, the job, the kids, everything,” he says and he lets the blanket fall down on one side as he runs a hand back through his hair, thick and dark atop his head. “I reckon they’re overcompensating for me not having parents to give me direction.”
“They do it because they care,” Molly corrects, leaning over him to tug the blanket across him again. Her eyes trail down across his chest to the line of his boxers and she becomes ever conscious of the impropriety of her nightdress, selected for a girls’ night that he had a last-minute invite to. She tugs up the neckline and pulls the covers closer to her bare flesh. “They just want you to be happy.”
“And are you?” She thinks to the look in his eyes, the doubt, the worry lines paved across his forehead and she knows the answer.
“Sometimes,” he says. “When I don’t have to do what everyone expects me to. When I do what I want to do.”
“Like what?” She is searching for something for him to hold onto, something that he will always have and she expects a silence that never comes.
Her hand is jolted into the air and she cannot recall when it became entwined with his. Perhaps when she was fixing the blanket, or when she let go of his leg or maybe it has been like this all along and she just hasn’t noticed. Regardless, her cheeks heat and her breathing shallows and there is a second when she feels like everything around her is wrong.
It disappears at his word and when he tilts her head up for their first kiss, she thinks for a moment that it is the start and the end, the blush of tomorrow and the eradication of yesterday. She does not know what happens first: whether the blanket falls away or the rain begins to fall or she has slipped onto his lap but all she does know is that in that moment, there is nothing she wants more than to stay there. Her fingers slip through his hair, his against the cotton of her nightie, and her knees sink into the damp grass as he pulls her closer against him; there is nobody else that matters in that one minute until reality comes crashing down with the muted taste of raspberry lip gloss on him and she slips away.
“You’ve got a girlfriend,” she says. “I’ve got a boyfriend.”
It is edged in disappointment but in distant hope too and she gives him one last pointed look before shrugging off the blanket and running down the garden, her feet scratching against the gravelled patio. She buries herself in her blanket – her hair soaked to the roots, damp against her neck – and when he comes up five minutes later, he nudges her with his foot. She doesn’t respond and it is only when his breaths turn into snores that she deems it safe to turn around.
He sleeps like a child, his legs curled in and his thumb resting near his mouth. Softly, she teases her fingers through his hair, wet through and curling. There is a stab of regret as she lets him go, a moment of irritation at herself, at him, at Victoire and Ben and everyone else that she feels she has let down in the betrayal of two pairs of familiar lips.
When they wake up in the morning, it is as if nothing has changed. It is better that way, of that she is sure.
A/N: Having just 2 WIPs seemed like too few! However, with this I will admit now that updates might be quite spaced out. I usually write ahead of myself but with this, I haven't. Whilst I'm working on the second chapter now, I'd like to finish the third before I post the second.
Hopefully, this will be seven chapters long. I'd like to dedicate it to Marina - as always - because without her I'd not post anything and to Celeste for making me realise that whilst I accuse her of being ridiculous, I'm probably being just as bad.
Any thoughts you have on this, any confusion (pieces of this confuse me!), any CC - it's all very welcome. Thank you for reading!