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Chapter 12 : XII.
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They will see us waving from such great heights.
"Come down now," they'll say,
But everything looks perfect from far away
"Come down now," but we'll stay.
“Em? Where are you? What’s just happened? Are you okay? Where are we?” Albus exclaimed, somewhere in the darkness. He sounded alarmed, but not frightened. Which wasn't surprising. He was a Gryffindor after all, fear wasn't meant to be part of their vocabulary.
I grinned, feeling full of life.
I did not let myself be overcome with annoyance over his doubt and constant pessimistic questioning. I was finally free, and that was all that mattered.
“Does it matter?” I asked, spinning around in circles with my head thrown back in manic laughter. I knew that we are a in a tunnel, for there were no stars above and the unseen sun had yet to set. We had not left the country, which was rather excellent considering how dreadful I was at apparating – let alone sidelong apparating.
“Yes.” Albus urged in response, grabbing me tightly by the shoulders. “Yes, it does matter. Where are we? Why are we here? What’s going on?” His fingers were digging in to me, emphasising his urgency, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it one bit.
“Don’t touch me.” I snapped, pushing him away roughly. I couldn’t see him, and it made it all so much easier to be angry at him, and cruel - just as I had done before I’d truly got to know him. “We’re on an adventure, Albus! Just go with it!”
“I don’t understand. We – we need to go back. My family will wonder where we are and –fuck, Em, it’s Christmas. We can’t just up and go because we feel like it.” There was a profound tightness in his voice that made me stop being angry, stop being frustrated and stop being over the moon about escaping. It made me almost crash back down to reality for a brief, fleeting moment.
“Shh.” I whispered as I wrapped my arms around his tall frame. “It’ll be alright, I promise.”
“We need to go back.”
“No. Only you do. No one really wants me there – so if you want to go, then you’ll go alone.”
“Don’t make me choose, Em. I can’t.”
I pressed my selfish lips against his, hungrily.
“Then don’t. Stay with me.” I whispered, urged on by the hand that ran up and down my arm.
“You don’t have a choice. You’re my prisoner. I’ve kidnapped you.” I laughed as he returned my kiss, just as eagerly, and wrapped my arms around his neck.
“I never gave you your present.” He muttered against my lips, making me grin crookedly.
“I think you just did.”
“Where are we?” He asked me again, abruptly serious again, and I sighed. I gave up my attempt to distract him with kisses and rested my forehead against his lips.
“We’re in Wonderland.” He didn’t understand, of course he wouldn’t. He used to doze off during Muggle Studies, unlike me. “We’re in a place where we can be free.”
“Em...” He began, saying my name gravely, but continued with his serious tone replaced with a snobbishly disgusted one. “We’re somewhere that smells like piss, and cheapness.”
“You are such a killjoy, Albus Potter.” I rolled my eyes. “But I guess that’s why you’re with me.”
I kissed him again, firmly, as though stating a claim on him, and he returned it just as deeply.
I could feel his fingers in my hair, at the back of my neck, and I felt goose bumps rise on my sweater-clad arms. The split on my lip was burning with the pressure of his kiss and the bruises on my face were throbbing with the cold. I didn’t care though, all I wanted was him – and now I had him, all to myself. No one, and no thing, could take him from me.
History would not repeat itself, not with him.
“Oh yeah! Get in there, mate! Give it to ‘er good!” Someone hollered drunkenly as they stumbled out of a door I had not known existed, and preceded to throw up in a puddle. “Merry fucking Christmas!”
We quickly untangled ourselves from each other, smirking slightly as we did so. The feel of his lips lingered on my lips and as I lifted my hand to touch them, I felt blood run down my chin.
I hid my face, so that he could not see, and took hold of his hand possessively.
“We’re somewhere in London. I’m not very good at apparating so I don’t actually know where we are precisely.” I said as we continued to wander blindly down the darkened tunnel, which was suddenly becoming more and more like an alleyway that you saw in the news that Muggle people got murdered in.
“Why are we in London? Are you going to tell me?” He whispered softly into my ear, his abrupt proximately making me blush slightly.
“Escape from what?”
“Expectations. Life. Responsibilities. Life. Reality. Death.” I mumbled in response. We were coming to the end of the tunnel-stroke-alleyway and already I could hear the roar of cars and the commonplace sounds of Muggle life.
“If there’s something wrong, Em, you can tell me. You don’t have to run away from it. I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. So tell me – please. I want to understand.” Albus tugged on my hand, forcing me to stop in my tracks and face him. I didn’t want him to see the already drying blood on my face, so I held up my free hand as though I were biting my nails.
“It was too hard being there – there with your family. I’ve never had that.” I said, and it pleased me. I wasn’t lying, but I was hardly telling the truth either. “All I want is you, and they would have taken you from me.”
“Who’s ‘they’, Em?” His eyes were worried, and even in the darkness I could see that.
“You could us ‘star-crossed lovers’, Albus. Don’t you know what that means?” I pressed, blatantly avoiding his overly prying question, and tilted my face up towards his.
“It means that I love you.”
I kissed him forcefully then, in reaction to his words, and it caught him off guard. He stumbled back into the wall hard, hitting something, and quietly groaned in pain against my mouth. I was experiencing my own pain, coming from my bleeding lip, but I pushed through it. I didn’t see why he couldn’t do the same.
“Does that mean you love me too?” He said against my lips and I deepened the kiss, not quite ready to say those dreaded three little words to him. “I’ll take that as a ‘yes’.”
“Yes.” I whispered. “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.”
His arms were around my waist suddenly, lifting me half off of my feet. I giggled as he spun me in a circle and swayed almost drunkenly when he set me down, unexpectedly, on my feet.
“We need to get out of this place. As much as I enjoy – this, it still spells like piss and booze.” He critically said, making me want to laugh and snap at him all at the same time. He was right, of course, but leaving could endanger the perfection of the moment – and that was something I couldn’t let happen without a decent fight.
“Okay.” I murmured, brushing my lips against his for a fleeting moment. “Let’s go.”
“Where? The Leaky Cauldron?”
“Okay.” I was giving into his desires, as appalling as it sounded, because I knew I had to. We couldn’t stay where we were – if we did, he would be sure that something was wrong with me and would turn and run just like everyone else.
I knew that, in order to keep him, I had to be prepared to compromise.
He took hold of my hand affectionately and, with a parting smile that made me feel warm inside and out, apparated away with me latched along side him.
The blur of the world wasn’t so bad, not when he was in control of it, and we landed safely on our feet outside of the pub, which to us, was the entrance to the magical community, and for Muggles just some rundown dump that no one looked twice at.
It wasn’t snowing, but raining, and so we had to quickly run into the building without taking the time to stop and consider our options. They ran around my head rapidly, making me dizzy, and I depended upon him to guide me.
Did we really want to be there? Did we want to be seen? Did he really love me?
Albus took over once we entered the pub, wishing strangers who recognised his face a happy Christmas, and cheerily greeted the landlady who he casually called ‘Hannah’.
I might have recognised her too, if I had not honed in on the bottles of Firewhiskey behind her, and begun salivating at the mouth like some sort of animal.
“How’s Alice?” I heard Albus ask the landlady in a friendly way. “I haven’t seen her for quite a while. And Will too. What’s he been up to lately?”
“Alice and William are both well, thank you.” She replied, smiling widely. She was pretty, I noticed, and reminded me of someone. I couldn’t quite put my finger on who it was, so I just stared at her, waiting for that moment to come. “Alice is finding her O.W.Ls particularly stressful, so she is glad for the holiday. As for William, well, he is still chasing his dream of being a dragon keeper – he’s actually been spending a lot of him working with your Uncle Charlie, funnily enough.”
“Oh really?” Albus responded, his eyebrows high in disbelief. “What a small world this is, eh?”
“Yes. It really is.” The woman said, brushing her blonde hair from her smiling face. “Neville’s at home with them. They’ve been visiting his parents today at St. Mungo’s. I would have come but I couldn’t really close the pub... not on Christmas anyway.”
I pitied her then, seeing her face shift from happiness to sadness over her absence, and I touched Albus’s hand. I didn’t want to talk to her any more. I wanted to go back to having fun and forgetting.
“I’m surprised to see you here, Albus. I thought that you’d be at home? Your Dad said it was a big family Christmas this year – he invited us, which was lovely, but it just wasn’t possible.” She sighed at her words, and I saw that Albus had frowned.
“It’s not that big.” He muttered, avoiding having to tell a lie to this woman who I suddenly knew to be the wife of Professor Longbottom and mother to William Longbottom, the close friend of James, and former legendary Gryffindor Beater.
I remembered him well; he had always been a laugh. I knew his sister too, pretty little Alice Georgina, named, just like William, after her grandparents, who had either died or gone mad due to spell damage during the war. She was in Hufflepuff and someone I knew to be friends with Lily.
“We were hoping to get a room – I don’t know how full you are though?”
“Oh! Oh, of course. There are several rooms available. We had some Goblins rent some but they cancelled at last minute. I’m rather glad about that, actually. They never are friendly customers, and always pinch my silver cutlery, oddly enough.”
I let Albus take care of the room, and left him to go to the bar. Behind it was a good looking man, who had to be in his thirties, who didn’t even so much as blink an eye when I ordered three bottles of Firewhiskey ‘to go’. Normally I’d have been bothered with questions, and so I decided that I liked this man.
By the time I had finished paying; Albus had rented a room and was wearing a strange expression when I returned to him.
“Poor Hannah.” He said, looking upon the woman in the dirty apron with a solemn light to his green eyes. I took him by the hand, commanding his attention, and grinned mischievously.
“Look what I got.” I sang as I drew the bottles out from behind my back. I expected exhilaration but then I remembered that he was not me, and he was not James either.
“That’s great.” He said with a forced grin; however his melancholy eyes were still on Mrs Longbottom.
“Albus.” I snapped, drawing his attention away from her and back to me.
“Forget about her. If she really wanted to go, then she would. Don’t bother yourself with problems that you can’t solve.” I was being harsh – mean, almost – but it didn’t matter because it worked. His frown faded and he forced a smile onto his lips for me. “That’s better. You know how much I love your smile.”
He bent his head to kiss me, and I deepened it by pulling him closer.
“Come on.” I said, tauntingly, and snatched the key from his hand. He stared at me, dumbfounded, and seemingly confused over my breaking of our kiss and how easily I did so. I rolled my eyes and pressed my lips against his lightly. “Let’s go to our room. You know - the one we just rented?”
Realization hit him like a sack of bricks, and he grinned at me as he bent his head down next to mine.
“I really fucking love you.” He yelled into my ear above the noise of the pub. He was grinning as he circled his arms around my waist, and I laughed euphorically.
“I know!” I yelled back and turned to forcefully lock my lips against his.
I wouldn’t lose him.
I couldn’t lose him.
I’d die if I lost him.
The light was what woke me.
It was not the rush of the quarter-hourly train that rattled our room like an earthquake. It was not the drunken party next door that raged on until six thirty in the morning. It was not the owl screeching outside our window. And it was not the housekeeper that paid us a visit shockingly early.
It was the light.
It was the unwanted, unwelcome light that told me that my time with Albus was running out.
It streamed in through the half closed blinds and cast a bright light in sections through the room.
My face was one of those sections.
A groan slipped from my lips as one eyes reluctantly opened and I swore as the other followed.
Sitting up so that I leant back on my elbows, I surveyed the small room Albus and I had crashed, drunk of each other’s love and euphoria, into the evening prior. Bottles lay empty on the floor amongst our discarded clothes and I saw that my wand lay forgotten, half concealed by Albus’s ridiculous red jumper.
Beside me, Albus murmured quietly, and contentedly, in his sleep.
I looked down at him, and smiled softly. The white sheet, which had grown creased, poorly concealed his back, and revealed it to be bare and pale. He was unflawed, minus the few freckles on his shoulder, and muscular. I ran a finger along the length of his spine and bent to lay a light kiss upon his defined shoulder blade.
I slipped away then, and picked up his shirt from the floor. I pulled it on and hugged it to my slender frame. It fell almost to my knees and it smelt of him. As I pressed my nose to the material, I was reminded of the last person I had done this to. I recalled my Hufflepuff Beater with a subtle fondness and looked over my shoulder, back to Albus.
Albus was different. He loved me. He had told me that he loved me four times, and not just in the heat of the moment. He had meant it, and I had to hold on to that.
I sighed, and returned to the bed that the one I loved slept peacefully in.
Crawling in silently, I did not expect for him to wake.
“Em?” Albus sleepily murmured, and I smiled. I shifted myself close to him, and kissed the top of his head.
“I’m here.” I breathed, brushing the dark hair from his face as he turned it towards me. The sight of seeing me, staring down upon him so lovingly, made him smile so sweetly that it made my heart ache. I loved him, I knew that, clearer than anything else in the world, at that moment. I loved him so much, and it was killing me.
“Where are we?” He inquired, still groggily, and rolled onto his side so that he faced me.
“The Leaky Cauldron.” I whispered as I followed his suit and lay so that I was on my side, facing him only inches away
“Oh, right. I think I remember – bloody hell.” He groaned, clutching his head. It took me only a moment to realize that he was not as used to – and by that I mean immune – to alcohol as I was. He was most likely experiencing the worst hangover of his life.
After the three bottles had run out, I had stumbled out of the door and banged on the neighbours. They’d been having a party, and so, naturally, invited me in. After thirty minutes of dancing with people I didn’t know, I remembered Albus and stole as many bottles as I could and returned to him. He’d been half asleep, half mesmerised by the light show that we could see from our window. It was, as the Muggles liked to call, ‘fireworks’.
“I like waking up next to you.” He said after a long period of silence, and it surprised me.
“But you didn’t. I was standing over there.” I didn’t want to lie, not after he had said such a beautiful thing like that.
“I woke up before you, but went back to sleep.” He brushed a lock of hair from my face and his fingertips were a light caress upon my face. “You looked so at peace – whilst you were sleeping, I mean. I didn’t want to disturb that. I’ve never seen you like that when you’re awake, I thought that maybe – maybe it would be wrong of me to ruin that.”
He dropped his hand and shifted so that he lay on his back. He stared, his eyes troubled, up at the ceiling.
“Something is making you unhappy, and I can’t figure out what it is.”
“At first I thought it was me, but I don’t think it can be that. I know that you’re lonely, that you don’t have any friends in your house and I think that seeing Rose and Scorpius get together made you unhappy, even though it was something you wanted. But I don’t think that’s what it is.” He continued, acting as though I hadn’t said anything.
“Then I remembered what you said in Potions on that first day. You said you didn’t know who your father was and I just brushed it aside, believing that, like you, you didn’t care. But you do care. It’s as though a part of you is missing, and I understand now.” He was musing to himself mostly, but with that last sentence, he met my gaze. His eyes were sad. They were sad for me.
“You should try to find him. Even if he is a complete prick, at least then, you’d know and maybe then you could truly be happy.”
“No. You’re wrong. I am happy. I’ve got you, so I don’t need anything else.”
Whether he believed me or not, I never found out.
“Well, I’m happy too.”
“I love you.”
And then he was back, the Albus that I loved so dearly. My words – my three, precious little words – returned his joy and lightness and he kissed me feverishly.
“I really fucking love you.” I managed to say in one of the brief moments that we came up for air.
“I’m looking for ‘L. Scamander’ – have you seen him?”
“That’s me. What can I help you with, love?” He was good-looking if you ignored the smirk on his face and the arrogant way he was sitting with his feet on the desk. As though he owned the place.
“You’re my new tutor.” I stated, narrowing my eyes in contempt.
“Oh yes. Let’s hope I don’t turn out to be like the last one.”
“What? Unconscious in the hospital wing for two weeks due to being the biggest ass in the world?”
“Is that what happened? Funny, I thought you’d hexed him for touching you up under the table.”
“How can you be my tutor? You’re in my year. How can you possibly be any smarter than me, or anyone else in my class for that matter?”
“I’m smart, and they’re not. Slytherins are useless academics, all they care about is being bullies, looking good in their stupid green outfits and trying to convince themselves that they don’t secretly want to be the baddies.”
“If by ‘baddies’, you mean Death eaters – then fuck you.”
“Just sit down, Delacour. I can hardly teach you basic Potions, Transfiguration and Charms with you standing up and swearing at me. Here – I have food. Isn’t that enough to tempt you?”
I woke with a start, gasping for breath.
“Please. No.” I couldn’t have them coming back to me – the nightmares. I thought I had conquered them.
“Em?” Albus was suddenly there, his hands around my shoulders and it was then that I realised I had sat bolt upright and was dripping with sweat. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I just – I just had a nightmare.”
“Something I shouldn’t.”
He didn’t understand and I knew that he wouldn’t. He watched me with concerned eyes that made the hairs on my arms rise and caused a shiver to run down my spine.
“Can – can you please go get something for us to eat? I’m starving.”
He nodded his head, knowing better than to question me, and I watched him get dressed with tears in my eyes.
“I’ll be right back.” He said, kissing me on the forehead.
I was sobbing the minute the door had closed, and he had gone.
“You’ve asked me to teach you enough of these three subjects to do well in your O.W.Ls – is that right?” He asked, his tone serious but his eyes mocking.
“No. I didn’t ‘ask’ you. I was forced into putting up a notice on the wall and you, unfortunately, were the only one who replied to it.” I snapped in response, making him smile slightly.
“That’s because everyone is afraid of you, babe.”
“Or because you have a mental disorder and thus, for some odd reason, thought it would be amusing to make my life a living fucking hell.”
“That’s a little harsh. We’ve only just met, darling. You have no idea how annoying I can be.”
“You have lipstick on your collar that signifies that you have just been with someone exceedingly skanky and thus are of great irritation to me because all I can see when I look at you is the tart you gave it to you. Also, you are a prat on the Quidditch pitch because, for a joke, you like to fly upside down and act most inappropriately when playing Slytherin. You are annoyingly friendly with my cousin Dominique and I do not want you as a tutor.”
“Well, no one else will have you, so I am your only choice.”
“Yes, positively so. Now, shall we begin?”
“Right. I’ll take that as a ‘yes’”.
I smiled – it was impossible not to.
Albus returned quicker than I had expected, and as he wrapped his arms around me, I could not stop crying. Only, this wasn’t normal crying. This was much worse. Painful, even.
“You’ve got to stop hiding things from me, Em. You’ve got to tell me what’s going on in that head of yours.”
But that was just the thing. I couldn’t tell him, could I? He could never know. No one could. That was the beauty of our relationship, it had been a secret so that once it was over, we would have to pretend to feel nothing because if not then what were we? Two complete strangers mourning over something that was forbidden?
“I love you. I love you. I love you.” I was declaring through my tears, and Albus held me, unsure what else he could do. I wanted to stop, I wanted to smile and make love to him – but I couldn’t. I was too weak. It was as though he had stolen my strength and replaced it with useless nothingness. “I love you. I love you.”
“And I love you.” He said, his lips brushing away my tears. “So stop this. Eat something, and then tell me what’s wrong. I promise you, Em. I love you, and no matter what you say, I will always – always be here. Loving you.”
He was lying, and he didn’t even know it.
“I loved someone, and – and they left me.” I cried, my hands clenching into fists around his t-shirt. “He left me! He – he left me.”
“For someone else?” Albus softly inquired, making me sob even harder.
“Yes.” It was the truth, partially anyway.
“He’s insane then. How could anyone leave you by choice?”
I couldn’t hear him say any more, it hurt too much. I grabbed him desperately, and pushed him back onto the bed. I kissed him hard and didn’t care that it took him a long time to respond. It didn’t matter. Just touching him let me forget and drowned out all other thought in my head that wasn’t revolving around him. Us. The moment. Love.
“You’re not as bad at this as you think you are.” He said unexpectedly, glancing up from the two pages of work he had made me do in only ten minutes. “I think that, with a decent amount of work, your standards can be risen well above average and I am guessing that for your O.W.Ls you could expect at least an ‘E’ for all of these subjects.”
“Really?” I asked, hopeful. I had not expected that. Not so soon, anyway.
“But you’ve got to promise me that you’ll work, otherwise I’m not even going to bother trying.” He was being serious, and so I decided that I would forget being a horrid cow, and be just as professional.
“Good.” He replied, grinning widely. “I knew you had it in you.”
“Stop acting so damn smug, it’s making me feel ill.” I snapped, albeit teasingly, and he chuckled.
“I’m sorry, darling. Do you want us to go back to fighting and being rude to each other?”
“No, I don’t. But stop looking at me like that, it’s weird.”
“Nice comeback, moron.”
His grin was so honest, so cheerful; it made me stop and laugh. I hadn’t laughed like that in a while – and it felt good. Surprisingly so.
Sweat beaded at my forehead and my lips stung, but I was content. I rested in Albus’s arms, thinking about the past with such numbness I had never achieved before, and enjoyed the feeling of Albus’s fingers playing with my hair.
“You’re making me go mad.” I whispered, and I felt him laugh. Whose words were they now? Were they his, or mine?
“And I really fucking love you.” He whispered back, echoing our collective words, and I laughed.
“Hush grass eyes, you’re making me blush.”
His lips touched my temple and trailed down my face until they reached my lips. He pressed a light kiss to the split on my lower lip, and then kissed me gently on the mouth.
When he kissed me like that, that was when I knew that he truly loved me.
He wasn’t like the others boys. When he kissed me it wasn’t so that he could have sex with me, but to show me that he cared and that that was enough. A little kiss and that was enough for him.
It was enough because he loved me, not my body or my face.
My girlish, childhood dreams had come true at last, and there I was, with tears dried on my face and a heavy heart that was as cold as ice.
Em’s descending into madness a little, but hey, it’s as close to smut as I can go with these two. I hope you enjoyed this chapter – I did. I don’t usually, but something about this one, I liked. Maybe it was just the Albus/Em moments and the flashbacks. I love writing flashbacks so much. Anyway, like I always say, thanks for reading and I hope you liked it!
Lyrics: Iron and wine – Such great lengths.
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